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THE CHRONICLES OF CLOVIS by SAKI (H. H. MUNRO)
Mrs. Packletide's Tiger
The Stampeding of Lady Bastable
Hermann the Irascible
The Jesting of Arlington Stringham
The Easter Egg
The Music on the Hill
The Story of St. Vespaluus
The Way to the Dairy
The Peace Offering
The Peace of Mowsle Barton
The Talking-out of Tarrington
The Hounds of fate
A Matter of Sentiment
The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope
``Ministers of Grace''
The Remoulding of Groby Lington
``All hunting stories are the same,'' said Clovis; ``just
as all Turf stories are the same, and all---''
``My hunting story isn't a bit like any you've ever
heard,'' said the Baroness. ``It happened quite a while
ago, when I was about twenty-three. I wasn't living apart
from my husband then; you see, neither of us could afford to
make the other a separate allowance. In spite of everything
that proverbs may say, poverty keeps together more homes
than it breaks up. But we always hunted with different
packs. All this has nothing to do with the story.''
``We haven't arrived at the meet yet. I suppose there was
a meet,'' said Clovis.
``Of course there was a meet,'' said the Baroness; ``all
the usual crowd were there, especially Constance Broddle.
Constance is one of those strapping florid girls that go so
well with autumn scenery or Christmas decorations in church.
`I feel a presentiment that something dreadful is going to
happen,' she said to me; `am I looking pale?'
``She was looking about as pale as a beetroot that has
suddenly heard bad news.
`` `You're looking nicer than usual,' I said, `but that's
so easy for you.' Before she had got the right bearings of
this remark we had settled down to business; hounds had
found a fox lying out in some gorse-bushes.''
``I knew it,'' said Clovis; ``in every fox-hunting story
that I've ever heard there's been a fox and some
``Constance and I were well mounted,'' continued the
Baroness serenely, ``and we had no difficulty in keeping
ourselves in the first flight, though it was a fairly stiff
run. Towards the finish, however, we must have held rather
too independent a line, for we lost the hounds, and found
ourselves plodding aimlessly along miles away from anywhere.
It was fairly exasperating, and my temper was beginning to
let itself go by inches, when on pushing our way through an
accommodating hedge we were gladdened by the sight of hounds
in full cry in a hollow just beneath us.
`` `There they go,' cried Constance, and then added in a
gasp, 'In Heaven's name, what are they hunting?'
``It was certainly no mortal fox. It stood more than
twice as high, had a short, ugly head, and an enormous thick
`` `It's a hy<ae>na,' I cried; `it must have escaped from
Lord Pabham's Park.'
``At that moment the hunted beast turned and faced its
pursuers, and the hounds (there were only about six couple
of them) stood round in a half-circle and looked foolish.
Evidently they had broken away from the rest of the pack on
the trail of this alien scent, and were not quite sure how
to treat their quarry now they had got him.
``The hy<ae>na hailed our approach with unmistakable
relief and demonstrations of friendliness. It had probably
been accustomed to uniform kindness from humans, while its
first experience of a pack of hounds had left a bad
impression. The hounds looked more than ever embarrassed as
their quarry paraded its sudden intimacy with us, and the
faint toot of a horn in the distance was seized on as a
welcome signal for unobtrusive departure. Constance and I
and the hy<ae>na were left alone in the gathering twilight.
`` `What are we to do?' asked Constance.
`` `What a person you are for questions,' I said.
`` `Well, we can't stay here all night with a hy<ae>na,'
`` `I don't know what your ideas of comfort are,' I said;
`but I shouldn't think of staying here all night even
without a hy<ae>na. My home may be an unhappy one, but at
least it has hot and cold water laid on, and domestic
service, and other conveniences which we shouldn't find
here. We had better make for that ridge of trees to the
right; I imagine the Crowley road is just beyond.'
``We trotted off slowly along a faintly marked cart-track,
with the beast following cheerfully at our heels.
`` `What on earth are we to do with the hy<ae>na?' came
the inevitable question.
`` `What does one generally do with hy<ae>nas?' I asked
`` `I've never had anything to do with one before,' said
`` `Well, neither have I. If we even knew its sex we might
give it a name. Perhaps we might call it Esm<e'>. That
would do in either case.
``There was still sufficient daylight for us to
distinguish wayside objects, and our listless spirits gave
an upward perk as we came upon a small half-naked gipsy brat
picking blackberries from a low-growing bush. The sudden
apparition of two horsewomen and a hy<ae>na set it off
crying, and in any case we should scarcely have gleaned any
useful geographical information from that source; but there
was a probability that we might strike a gipsy encampment
somewhere along our route. We rode on hopefully but
uneventfully for another mile or so.
`` `I wonder what the child was doing there,' said
`` `Picking blackberries. Obviously.'
`` `I don't like the way it cried,' pursued Constance;
`somehow its wail keeps ringing in my ears.'
``I did not chide Constance for her morbid fancies; as a
matter of fact the same sensation, of being pursued by a
persistent fretful wail, had been forcing itself on my
rather over-tired nerves. For company's sake I hulloed to
Esm<e'>, who had lagged somewhat behind. With a few springy
bounds he drew up level, and then shot past us.
``The wailing accompaniment was explained. The gipsy
child was firmly, and I expect painfully, held in his jaws.
`` `Merciful Heaven!' screamed Constance, `what on earth
shall we do? What are we to do?'
``I am perfectly certain that at the Last Judgment
Constance will ask more questions than any of the examining
`` `Can't we do something?' she persisted tearfully, as
Esm<e'> cantered easily along in front of our tired horses.
``Personally I was doing everything that occurred to me at
the moment. I stormed and scolded and coaxed in English and
French and gamekeeper language; I made absurd, ineffectual
cuts in the air with my thongless hunting-crop; I hurled my
sandwich case at the brute; in fact, I really don't know
what more I could have done. And still we lumbered on
through the deepening dusk, with that dark uncouth shape
lumbering ahead of us, and a drone of lugubrious music
floating in our ears. Suddenly Esm<e'> bounded aside into
some thick bushes, where we could not follow; the wail rose
to a shriek and then stopped altogether. This part of the
story I always hurry over, because it is really rather
horrible. When the beast joined us again, after an absence
of a few minutes, there was an air of patient understanding
about him, as though he knew that he had done something of
which we disapproved, but which he felt to be thoroughly
`` `How can you let that ravening beast trot by your
side?' asked Constance. She was looking more than ever like
an albino beetroot.
`` `In the first place, I can't prevent it,' I said; `and
in the second place, whatever else he may be, I doubt if
he's ravening at the present moment.'
``Constance shuddered. `Do you think the poor little
thing suffered much?' came another of her futile questions.
`` `The indications were all that way,' I said; `on the
other hand, of course, it may have been crying from sheer
temper. Children sometimes do.'
``It was nearly pitch-dark when we emerged suddenly into
the high road. A flash of lights and the whir of a motor
went past us at the same moment at uncomfortably close
quarters. A thud and a sharp screeching yell followed a
second later. The car drew up, and when I had ridden back
to the spot I found a young man bending over a dark
motionless mass lying by the roadside.
`` `You have killed my Esm<e'>,' I exclaimed bitterly.
`` `I'm so awfully sorry,' said the young man; `I keep
dogs myself, so I know what you must feel about it. I'll do
anything I can in reparation.'
`` `Please bury him at once,' I said; `that much I think I
may ask of you.
`` `Bring the spade, William,' he called to the chauffeur.
Evidently hasty roadside interments were contingencies that
had been provided against.
``The digging of a sufficiently large grave took some
little time. `I say, what a magnificent fellow,' said the
motorist as the corpse was rolled over into the trench.
`I'm afraid he must have been rather a valuable animal.'
`` `He took second in the puppy class at Birmingham last
year,' I said resolutely.
Constance snorted loudly.
`` `Don't cry, dear,' I said brokenly; `it was all over in
a moment. He couldn't have suffered much.'
`` `Look here,' said the young fellow desperately, `you
simply must let me do something by way of reparation.'
``I refused sweetly, but as he persisted I let him have my
``Of course, we kept our own counsel as to the earlier
episodes of the evening. Lord Pabham never advertised the
loss of his hy<ae>na; when a strictly fruit-eating animal
strayed from his park a year or two previously he was called
upon to give compensation in eleven cases of sheep-worrying
and practically to re-stock his neighbours' poultry-yards,
and an escaped hy<ae>na would have mounted up to something
on the scale of a Government grant. The gipsies were
equally unobtrusive over their missing offspring; I don't
suppose in large encampments they really know to a child or
two how many they've got.''
The Baroness paused reflectively, and then continued:
``There was a sequel to the adventure, though. I got
through the post a charming little diamond broach, with the
name Esm<e'> set in a sprig of rosemary. Incidentally, too,
I lost the friendship of Constance Broddle. You see, when I
sold the brooch I quite properly refused to give her any
share of the proceeds. I pointed out that the Esm<e'> part
of the affair was my own invention, and the hy<ae>na part of
it belonged to Lord Pabham, if it really was his hy<ae>na,
of which, of course, I've no proof.''
The grill-room clock struck eleven with the respectful
unobtrusiveness of one whose mission in life is to be
ignored. When the flight of time should really have
rendered abstinence and migration imperative the lighting
apparatus would signal the fact in the usual way.
Six minutes later Clovis approached the supper-table, in
the blessed expectancy of one who has dined sketchily and
``I'm starving,'' he announced, making an effort to sit
down gracefully and read the menu at the same time.
``So I gathered,'' said his host, ``from the fact that you
were nearly punctual. I ought to have told you that I'm a
Food Reformer. I've ordered two bowls of bread-and-milk and
some health biscuits. I hope you don't mind.''
Clovis pretended afterwards that he didn't go white above
the collar-line for the fraction of a second.
``All the same,'' he said, ``you ought not to joke about
such things. There really are such people. I've known
people who've met them. To think of all the adorable things
there are to eat in the world, and then to go through life
munching sawdust and being proud of it.''
``They're like the Flagellants of the Middle Ages, who
went about mortifying themselves.''
``They had some excuse,'' said Clovis. ``They did it to
save their immortal souls, didn't they? You needn't tell me
that a man who doesn't love oysters and asparagus and good
wines has got a soul, or a stomach either. He's simply got
the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.''
Clovis relapsed for a few golden moments into tender
intimacies with a succession of rapidly disappearing
``I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion,''
he resumed presently. ``They not only forgive our
unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on
being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at the
supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit
of the thing. There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism
that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an
oyster. Do you like my new waistcoat? I'm wearing it for
the first time tonight.''
``It looks like a great many others you've had lately,
only worse. New dinner waistcoats are becoming a habit with
``They say one always pays for the excesses of one's
youth; mercifully that isn't true about one's clothes. My
mother is thinking of getting married.''
``It's the first time.''
``Of course, you ought to know. I was under the
impression that she'd been married once or twice at least.''
``Three times, to be mathematically exact. I meant that
it was the first time she'd thought about getting married;
the other times she did it without thinking. As a matter of
fact, it's really I who am doing the thinking for her in
this case. You see, it's quite two years since her last
``You evidently think that brevity is the soul of
``Well, it struck me that she was getting moped, and
beginning to settle down, which wouldn't suit her a bit.
The first symptom that I noticed was when she began to
complain that we were living beyond our income. All decent
people live beyond their incomes nowadays, and those who
aren't respectable live beyond other people's. A few gifted
individuals manage to do both.''
``It's hardly so much a gift as an industry.''
``The crisis came,'' returned Clovis, ``when she suddenly
started the theory that late hours were bad for one, and
wanted me to be in by one o'clock every night. Imagine that
sort of thing for me, who was eighteen on my last
``On your last two birthdays, to be mathematically
``Oh, well, that's not my fault. I'm not going to arrive
at nineteen as long as my mother remains at thirty-seven.
One must have some regard for appearances.''
``Perhaps your mother would age a little in the process of
``That's the last thing she'd think of. Feminine
reformations always start in on the failings of other
people. That's why I was so keen on the husband idea.''
``Did you go as far as to select the gentleman, or did you
merely throw out a general idea, and trust to the force of
``If one wants a thing done in a hurry one must see to it
oneself. I found a military Johnny hanging round on a loose
end at the club, and took him home to lunch once or twice.
He'd spent most of his life on the Indian frontier, building
roads, and relieving famines and minimizing earthquakes, and
all that sort of thing that one does do on frontiers. He
could talk sense to a peevish cobra in fifteen native
languages, and probably knew what to do if you found a rogue
elephant on your croquet-lawn; but he was shy and diffident
with women. I told my mother privately that he was an
absolute woman-hater; so, of course, she laid herself out to
flirt all she knew, which isn't a little.''
``And was the gentleman responsive?''
``I hear he told some one at the club that he was looking
out for a Colonial job, with plenty of hard work, for a
young friend of his, so I gather that he has some idea of
marrying into the family.''
``You seem destined to be the victim of the reformation,
Clovis wiped the trace of Turkish coffee and the beginnings
of a smile from his lips, and slowly lowered his dexter
eyelid. Which, being interpreted, probably meant, ``I don't
It was a chill, rain-washed afternoon of a late August
day, that indefinite season when partridges are still in
security or cold storage, and there is nothing to
hunt---unless one is bounded on the north by the Bristol
Channel, in which case one may lawfully gallop after fat red
stags. Lady Blemley's house-party was not bounded on the
north by the Bristol Channel, hence there was a full
gathering of her guests round the tea-table on this
particular afternoon. And, in spite of the blankness of the
season and the triteness of the occasion, there was no trace
in the company of that fatigued restlessness which means a
dread of the pianola and a subdued hankering for auction
bridge. The undisguised open-mouthed attention of the
entire party was fixed on the homely negative personality of
Mr. Cornelius Appin. Of all her guests, he was the one who
had come to Lady Blemley with the vaguest reputation. Some
one had said he was ``clever,'' and he had got his
invitation in the moderate expectation, on the part of his
hostess, that some portion at least of his cleverness would
be contributed to the general entertainment. Until tea-time
that day she had been unable to discover in what direction,
if any, his cleverness lay. He was neither a wit nor a
croquet champion, a hypnotic force nor a begetter of amateur
theatricals. Neither did his exterior suggest the sort of
man in whom women are willing to pardon a generous measure
of mental deficiency. He had subsided into mere Mr. Appin,
and the Cornelius seemed a piece of transparent baptismal
bluff. And now he was claiming to have launched on the
world a discovery beside which the invention of gunpowder,
of the printing-press, and of steam locomotion were
inconsiderable trifles. Science had made bewildering
strides in many directions during recent decades, but this
thing seemed to belong to the domain of miracle rather than
to scientific achievement.
``And do you really ask us to believe,'' Sir Wilfrid was
saying, ``that you have discovered a means for instructing
animals in the art of human speech, and that dear old
Tobermory has proved your first successful pupil?''
``It is a problem at which I have worked for the last
seventeen years,'' said Mr. Appin, ``but only during the
last eight or nine months have I been rewarded with
glimmerings of success. Of course I have experimented with
thousands of animals, but latterly only with cats, those
wonderful creatures which have assimilated themselves so
marvellously with our civilization while retaining all their
highly developed feral instincts. Here and there among cats
one comes across an outstanding superior intellect, just as
one does among the ruck of human beings, and when I made the
acquaintance of Tobermory a week ago I saw at once that I
was in contact with a `Beyond-cat' of extraordinary
intelligence. I had gone far along the road to success in
recent experiments; with Tobermory, as you call him, I have
reached the goal.''
Mr. Appin concluded his remarkable statement in a voice
which he strove to divest of a triumphant inflection. No
one said ``Rats,'' though Clovis's lips moved in a
monosyllabic contortion which probably invoked those rodents
``And do you mean to say,'' asked Miss Resker, after a
slight pause, ``that you have taught Tobermory to say and
understand easy sentences of one syllable?''
``My dear Miss Resker,'' said the wonder-worker patiently,
``one teaches little children and savages and backward
adults in that piecemeal fashion; when one has once solved
the problem of making a beginning with an animal of highly
developed intelligence one has no need for those halting
methods. Tobermory can speak our language with perfect
This time Clovis very distinctly said, ``Beyond-rats!''
Sir Wilfrid was more polite, but equally sceptical.
``Hadn't we better have the cat in and judge for
ourselves?'' suggested Lady Blemley.
Sir Wilfrid went in search of the animal, and the company
settled themselves down to the languid expectation of
witnessing some more or less adroit drawing-room
In a minute Sir Wilfrid was back in the room, his face
white beneath its tan and his eyes dilated with excitement.
``By Gad, it's true!''
His agitation was unmistakably genuine, and his hearers
started forward in a thrill of awakened interest.
Collapsing into an armchair he continued breathlessly: ``I
found him dozing in the smoking-room and called out to him
to come for his tea. He blinked at me in his usual way, and
I said, `Come on, Toby; don't keep us waiting'; and, by Gad!
he drawled out in a most horribly natural voice that he'd
come when he dashed well pleased! I nearly jumped out of my
Appin had preached to absolutely incredulous hearers; Sir
Wilfred's statement carried instant conviction. A
Babel-like chorus of startled exclamation arose, amid which
the scientist sat mutely enjoying the first fruit of his
In the midst of the clamour Tobermory entered the room and
made his way with velvet tread and studied unconcern across
to the group seated round the tea-table.
A sudden hush of awkwardness and constraint fell on the
company. Somehow there seemed an element of embarrassment
in addressing on equal terms a domestic cat of acknowledged
``Will you have some milk, Tobermory?'' asked Lady Blemley
in a rather strained voice.
``I don't mind if I do,'' was the response, couched in a
tone of even indifference. A shiver of suppressed
excitement went through the listeners, and Lady Blemley
might be excused for pouring out the saucerful of milk
``I'm afraid I've spilt a good deal of it,'' she said
``After all, it's not my Axminster,'' was Tobermory's
Another silence fell on the group, and then Miss Resker,
in her best district-visitor manner, asked if the human
language had been difficult to learn. Tobermory looked
squarely at her for a moment and then fixed his gaze
serenely on the middle distance. It was obvious that boring
questions lay outside his scheme of life.
``What do you think of human intelligence?'' asked Mavis
``Of whose intelligence in particular?'' asked Tobermory
``Oh, well, mine for instance,'' said Mavis, with a feeble
``You put me in an embarrassing position,'' said
Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest
a shred of embarrassment. ``When your inclusion in this
house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you
were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that
there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the
care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your
lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned
you your invitation, as you were the only person she could
think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car.
You know, the one they call `The Envy of Sisyphus,' because
it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it.''
Lady Blemley's protestations would have had greater effect
if she had not casually suggested to Mavis only that morning
that the car in question would be just the thing for her
down at her Devonshire home.
Major Barfield plunged in heavily to effect a diversion.
``How about your carryings-on with the tortoise-shell puss
up at the stables, eh?''
The moment he had said it every one realized the blunder.
``One does not usually discuss these matters in public,''
said Tobermory frigidly. ``From a slight observation of
your ways since you've been in this house I should imagine
you'd find it inconvenient if I were to shift the
conversation on to your own little affairs.''
The panic which ensued was not confined to the Major.
``Would you like to go and see if cook has got your dinner
ready?'' suggested Lady Blemley hurriedly, affecting to
ignore the fact that it wanted at least two hours to
``Thanks,'' said Tobermory, ``not quite so soon after my
tea. I don't want to die of indigestion.''
``Cats have nine lives, you know,'' said Sir Wilfrid
``Possibly'', answered Tobermory; ``but only one liver.''
``Adelaide!'' said Mrs. Cornett, ``do you mean to
encourage that cat to go out and gossip about us in the
The panic had indeed become general. A narrow ornamental
balustrade ran in front of most of the bedroom windows at
the Towers, and it was recalled with dismay that this had
formed a favourite promenade for Tobermory at all hours,
whence he could watch the pigeons---and heaven knew what
else besides. If he intended to become reminiscent in his
present outspoken strain the effect would be something more
than disconcerting. Mrs. Cornett, who spent much time at
her toilet table, and whose complexion was reputed to be of
a nomadic though punctual disposition, looked as ill at ease
as the Major. Miss Scrawen, who wrote fiercely sensuous
poetry and led a blameless life, merely displayed
irritation; if you are methodical and virtuous in private
you don't necessarily want every one to know it. Bertie van
Tahn, who was so depraved at seventeen that he had long ago
given up trying to be any worse, turned a dull shade of
gardenia white, but he did not commit the error of dashing
out of the room like Odo Finsberry, a young gentleman who
was understood to be reading for the Church and who was
possibly disturbed at the thought of scandals he might hear
concerning other people. Clovis had the presence of mind to
maintain a composed exterior; privately he was calculating
how long it would take to procure a box of fancy mice
through the agency of the Exchange and Mart as a species of
Even in a delicate situation like the present, Agnes
Resker could not endure to remain too long in the
``Why did I ever come down here?'' she asked dramatically.
Tobermory immediately accepted the opening.
``Judging by what you said to Mrs. Cornett on the
croquet-lawn yesterday, you were out for food. You
described the Blemleys as the dullest people to stay with
that you knew, but said they were clever enough to employ a
first-rate cook; otherwise they'd find it difficult to get
any one to come down a second time.''
``There's not a word of truth in it! I appeal to Mrs.
Cornett---'' exclaimed the discomfited Agnes.
``Mrs. Cornett repeated your remark afterwards to Bertie
van Tahn,'' continued Tobermory, ``and said, `That woman is
a regular Hunger Marcher; she'd go anywhere for four square
meals a day,' and Bertie van Tahn said---''
At this point the chronicle mercifully ceased. Tobermory
had caught a glimpse of the big yellow Tom from the Rectory
working his way through the shrubbery towards the stable
wing. In a flash he had vanished through the open French
With the disappearance of his too brilliant pupil
Cornelius Appin found himself beset by a hurricane of bitter
upbraiding, anxious inquiry, and frightened entreaty. The
responsibility for the situation lay with him, and he must
prevent matters from becoming worse. Could Tobermory impart
his dangerous gift to other cats? was the first question he
had to answer. It was possible, he replied, that he might
have initiated his intimate friend the stable puss into his
new accomplishment, but it was unlikely that his teaching
could have taken a wider range as yet.
``Then,'' said Mrs. Cornett, ``Tobermory may be a valuable
cat and a great pet; but I'm sure you'll agree, Adelaide,
that both he and the stable cat must be done away with
``You don't suppose I've enjoyed the last quarter of an
hour, do you?'' said Lady Blemley bitterly. ``My husband and
I are very fond of Tobermory---at least, we were before this
horrible accomplishment was infused into him; but now, of
course, the only thing is to have him destroyed as soon as
``We can put some strychnine in the scraps he always gets
at dinner-time,'' said Sir Wilfrid, ``and I will go and
drown the stable cat myself. The coachman will be very sore
at losing his pet, but I'll say a very catching form of
mange has broken out in both cats and we're afraid of its
spreading to the kennels.''
``But my great discovery!'' expostulated Mr. Appin;
``after all my years of research and experiment---''
``You can go and experiment on the short-horns at the
farm, who are under proper control,'' said Mrs. Cornett,
``or the elephants at the Zoological Gardens. They're said
to be highly intelligent, and they have this recommendation,
that they don't come creeping about our bedrooms and under
chairs, and so forth.''
An archangel ecstatically proclaiming the Millennium, and
then finding that it clashed unpardonably with Henley and
would have to be indefinitely postponed, could hardly have
felt more crestfallen than Cornelius Appin at the reception
of his wonderful achievement. Public opinion, however, was
against him---in fact, had the general voice been consulted
on the subject it is probable that a strong minority vote
would have been in favour of including him in the strychnine
Defective train arrangements and a nervous desire to see
matters brought to a finish prevented an immediate dispersal
of the party, but dinner that evening was not a social
success. Sir Wilfrid had had rather a trying time with the
stable cat and subsequently with the coachman. Agnes Resker
ostentatiously limited her repast to a morsel of dry toast,
which she bit as though it were a personal enemy; while
Mavis Pellington maintained a vindictive silence throughout
the meal. Lady Blemley kept up a flow of what she hoped was
conversation, but her attention was fixed on the doorway. A
plateful of carefully dosed fish scraps was in readiness on
the sideboard, but sweets and savoury and dessert went their
way, and no Tobermory appeared either in the dining-room or
The sepulchral dinner was cheerful compared with the
subsequent vigil in the smoking-room. Eating and drinking
had at least supplied a distraction and cloak to the
prevailing embarrassment. Bridge was out of the question in
the general tension of nerves and tempers, and after Odo
Finsberry had given a lugubrious rendering of ``M<e'>lisande
in the Wood'' to a frigid audience, music was tacitly
avoided. At eleven the servants went to bed, announcing
that the small window in the pantry had been left open as
usual for Tobermory's private use. The guests read steadily
through the current batch of magazines, and fell back
gradually on the ``Badminton Library'' and bound volumes of
Punch. Lady Blemley made periodic visits to the pantry,
returning each time with an expression of listless
depression which forestalled questioning.
At two o'clock Clovis broke the dominating silence.
``He won't turn up tonight. He's probably in the local
newspaper office at the present moment, dictating the first
instalment of his reminiscences. Lady What's-her-name's
book won't be in it. It will be the event of the day.''
Having made this contribution to the general cheerfulness,
Clovis went to bed. At long intervals the various members
of the house-party followed his example.
The servants taking round the early tea made a uniform
announcement in reply to a uniform question. Tobermory had
Breakfast was, if anything, a more unpleasant function
than dinner had been, but before its conclusion the
situation was relieved. Tobermory's corpse was brought in
from the shrubbery, where a gardener had just discovered it.
From the bites on his throat and the yellow fur which coated
his claws it was evident that he had fallen in unequal
combat with the big Tom from the Rectory.
By midday most of the guests had quitted the Towers, and
after lunch Lady Blemley had sufficiently recovered her
spirits to write an extremely nasty letter to the Rectory
about the loss of her valuable pet.
Tobermory had been Appin's one successful pupil, and he
was destined to have no successor. A few weeks later an
elephant in the Dresden Zoological Garden, which had shown
no previous signs of irritability, broke loose and killed an
Englishman who had apparently been teasing it. The victim's
name was variously reported in the papers as Oppin and
Eppelin, but his front name was faithfully rendered
``If he was trying German irregular verbs on the poor
beast,'' said Clovis, ``he deserved all he got.''
MRS. PACKLETIDE'S TIGER
It was Mrs. Packletide's pleasure and intention that she should
shoot a tiger. Not that the lust to kill had suddenly descended on
her, or that she felt that she would leave India safer and more
wholesome than she had found it, with one fraction less of wild
beast per million of inhabitants. The compelling motive for her sudden
deviation towards the footsteps of Nimrod was the fact that
Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an
aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked of nothing else; only a
personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of Press photographs
could successfully counter that sort of thing. Mrs. Packletide
had already arranged in her mind the lunch she would give at her
house in Curzon Street, ostensibly in Loona Bimberton's honour,
with a tiger-skin rug occupying most of the foreground and all of
the conversation. She had also already designed in her mind the
tiger-claw broach that she was going to give Loona Bimberton on
her next birthday. In a world that is supposed to be chiefly swayed
by hunger and by love Mrs. Packletide was an exception; her
movements and motives were largely governed by dislike of Loona
Circumstances proved propitious. Mrs. Packletide had offered a
thousand rupees for the opportunity of shooting a tiger without over-much
risk or exertion, and it so happened that a neighbouring
village could boast of being the favoured rendezvous of an animal
of respectable antecedents, which had been driven by the increasing
infirmities of age to abandon game-killing and confine its appetite
to the smaller domestic animals. The prospect of earning the
thousand rupees had stimulated the sporting and commercial instinct
of the villagers; children were posted night and day on the
outskirts of the local jungle to head the tiger back in the unlikely
event of his attempting to roam away to fresh hunting-grounds, and
the cheaper kinds of goats were left about with elaborate carelessness
to keep him satisfied with his present quarters. The one great
anxiety was lest he should die of old age before the date appointed
for the memsahib's shoot. Mothers carrying their babies home
through the jungle after the day's work in the fields hushed their
singing lest they might curtail the restful sleep of the venerable
The great night duly arrived, moonlit and cloudless. A platform
had been constructed in a comfortable and conveniently placed
tree, and thereon crouched Mrs. Packletide and her paid companion,
Miss Mebbin. A goat, gifted with a particularly persistent
bleat, such as even a partially deaf tiger might be reasonably expected
to hear on a still night, was tethered at the correct distance.
With an accurately sighted rifle and a thumb-nail pack of
patience cards the sportswoman awaited the coming of the quarry.
``I suppose we are in some danger?'' said Miss Mebbin.
She was not actually nervous about the wild beast, but she had
a morbid dread of performing an atom more service than she had
been paid for.
``Nonsense,'' said Mrs. Packletide; ``it's a very old tiger. It couldn't
spring up here even if it wanted to.''
``If it's an old tiger I think you ought to get it cheaper. A thousand
rupees is a lot of money.''
Louisa Mebbin adopted a protective elder-sister attitude towards
money in general, irrespective of nationality or denomination. Her
energetic intervention had saved many a rouble from dissipating itself
in tips in some Moscow hotel, and francs and centimes clung
to her instinctively under circumstances which would have driven
them headlong from less sympathetic hands. Her speculations as to
the market depreciation of tiger remnants were cut short by the
appearance on the scene of the animal itself. As soon as it caught
sight of the tethered goat it lay flat on the earth, seemingly less from
a desire to take advantage of all available cover than for the purpose
of snatching a short rest before commencing the grand attack.
``I believe it's ill,'' said Louisa Mebbin, loudly in Hindustani, for
the benefit of the village headman, who was in ambush in a neighbouring
``Hush!'' said Mrs. Packletide, and at that moment the tiger commenced
ambling towards his victim.
``Now, now!'' urged Miss Mebbin with some excitement; ``if he
doesn't touch the goat we needn't pay for it.'' (The bait was an
The rifle flashed out with a loud report, and the great tawny
beast sprang to one side and then rolled over in the stillness of
death. In a moment a crowd of excited natives had swarmed on
to the scene, and their shouting speedily carried the glad news
to the village, where a thumping of tom-toms took up the chorus
of triumph. And their triumph and rejoicing found a ready echo in
the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that luncheon-party in Curzon
Street seemed immeasurably nearer.
It was Louisa Mebbin who drew attention to the fact that the
goat was in death-throes from a mortal bullet-wound, while no
trace of the rifle's deadly work could be found on the tiger. Evidently
the wrong animal had been hit, and the beast of prey had
succumbed to heart-failure, caused by the sudden report of the rifle,
accelerated by senile decay. Mrs. Packletide was pardonably annoyed
at the discovery; but, at any rate, she was the possessor of a
dead tiger, and the villagers, anxious for their thousand rupees,
gladly connived at the fiction that she had shot the beast. And
Miss Mebbin was a paid companion. Therefore did Mrs. Packletide
face the cameras with a light heart, and her pictured fame reached
from the pages of the _Texas Weekly Snapshot_ to the illustrated
Monday supplement of the _Novoe Vremya_. As for Loona Bimberton,
she refused to look at an illustrated paper for weeks, and her
letter of thanks for the gift of a tiger-claw brooch was a model of
repressed emotions. The luncheon-party she declined; there
are limits beyond which repressed emotions become dangerous.
From Curzon Street the tiger-skin rug travelled down to the
Manor House, and was duly inspected and admired by the
county, and it seemed a fitting and appropriate thing when
Mrs. Packletide went to the County Costume Ball in the
character of Diana. She refused to fall in, however, with
Clovis's tempting suggestion of a primeval dance party, at
which every one should wear the skins of beasts they had
recently slain. ``I should be in rather a Baby Bunting
condition,'' confessed Clovis, ``with a miserable
rabbit-skin or two to wrap up in, but then,'' he added, with
a rather malicious glance at Diana's proportions, ``my
figure is quite as good as that Russian dancing boy's.''
``How amused every one would be if they knew what really
happened,'' said Louisa Mebbin a few days after the ball.
``What do you mean?'' asked Mrs. Packletide quickly.
``How you shot the goat and frightened the tiger to
death,'' said Miss Mebbin, with her disagreeably pleasant
``No one would believe it,'' said Mrs. Packletide, her
face changing colour as rapidly as though it were going
through a book of patterns before post-time.
``Loona Bimberton would,'' said Miss Mebbin. Mrs.
Packletide's face settled on an unbecoming shade of greenish
``You surely wouldn't give me away?'' she asked.
``I've seen a week-end cottage near Darking that I should
rather like to buy,'' said Miss Mebbin with seeming
irrelevance. ``Six hundred and eighty, freehold. Quite a
bargain, only I don't happen to have the money.''
Louisa Mebbin's pretty week-end cottage, christened by her
``Les Fauves,'' and gay in summer-time with its garden
borders of tiger-lilies, is the wonder and admiration of her
``It is a marvel how Louisa manages to do it,'' is the
Mrs. Packletide indulges in no more big-game shooting.
``The incidental expenses are so heavy,'' she confides to
THE STAMPEDING OF LADY BASTABLE
``It would be rather nice if you would put Clovis up for
another six days while I go up north to the MacGregors',''
said Mrs. Sangrail sleepily across the breakfast-table. It
was her invariable plan to speak in a sleepy, comfortable
voice whenever she was unusually keen about anything; it put
people off their guard, and they frequently fell in with her
wishes before they had realized that she was really asking
for anything. Lady Bastable, however, was not so easily
taken unawares; possibly she knew that voice and what it
betokened--- at any rate, she knew Clovis.
She frowned at a piece of toast and ate it very slowly, as
though she wished to convey the impression that the process
hurt her more than it hurt the toast; but no extension of
hospitality on Clovis's behalf rose to her lips.
``It would be a great convenience to me,'' pursued Mrs.
Sangrail, abandoning the careless tone. ``I particularly
don't want to take him to the MacGregors', and it will only
be for six days.''
``It will seem longer,'' said Lady Bastable dismally.
``The last time he stayed here for a week---''
``I know,'' interrupted the other hastily, ``but that was
nearly two years ago. He was younger then.''
``But he hasn't improved,'' said her hostess; ``it's no
use growing older if you only learn new ways of misbehaving
Mrs. Sangrail was unable to argue the point; since Clovis
had reached the age of seventeen she had never ceased to
bewail his irrepressible waywardness to all her circle of
acquaintances, and a polite scepticism would have greeted
the slightest hint at a prospective reformation. She
discarded the fruitless effort at cajolery and resorted to
``If you'll have him here for these six days I'll cancel
that outstanding bridge account.''
It was only for forty-nine shillings, but Lady Bastable
loved shillings with a great, strong love. To lose money at
bridge and not to have to pay it was one of those rare
experiences which gave the card-table a glamour in her eyes
which it could never otherwise have possessed. Mrs.
Sangrail was almost equally devoted to her card winnings,
but the prospect of conveniently warehousing her offspring
for six days, and incidentally saving his railway fare to
the north, reconciled her to the sacrifice; when Clovis made
a belated appearance at the breakfast-table the bargain had
``Just think,'' said Mrs. Sangrail sleepily; ``Lady
Bastable has very kindly asked you to stay on here while I
go to the MacGregors'.''
Clovis said suitable things in a highly unsuitable manner,
and proceeded to make punitive expeditions among the
breakfast dishes with a scowl on his face that would have
driven the purr out of a peace conference. The arrangement
that had been concluded behind his back was doubly
distasteful to him. In the first place, he particularly
wanted to teach the MacGregor boys, who could well afford
the knowledge, how to play poker-patience; secondly, the
Bastable catering was of the kind that is classified as a
rude plenty, which Clovis translated as a plenty that gives
rise to rude remarks. Watching him from behind
ostentatiously sleepy lids, his mother realized, in the
light of long experience, that any rejoicing over the
success of her man<oe>uvre would be distinctly premature.
It was one thing to fit Clovis into a convenient niche of
the domestic jig-saw puzzle; it was quite another matter to
get him to stay there.
Lady Bastable was wont to retire in state to the
morning-room immediately after breakfast and spend a quiet
hour in skimming through the papers; they were there, so she
might as well get their money's worth out of them. Politics
did not greatly interest her, but she was obsessed with a
favourite foreboding that one of these days there would be a
great social upheaval, in which everybody would be killed by
everybody else. ``It will come sooner than we think,'' she
would observe darkly; a mathematical expert of exceptionally
high powers would have been puzzled to work out the
approximate date from the slender and confusing groundwork
which this assertion afforded.
On this particular morning the sight of Lady Bastable
enthroned among her papers gave Clovis the hint towards
which his mind had been groping all breakfast time. His
mother had gone upstairs to supervise packing operations,
and he was alone on the ground-floor with his hostess---and
the servants. The latter were the key to the situation.
Bursting wildly into the kitchen quarters, Clovis screamed a
frantic though strictly non-committal summons: ``Poor Lady
Bastable! In the morning-room! Oh, quick!'' The next moment
the butler, cook, page-boy, two or three maids, and a
gardener who had happened to be in one of the outer kitchens
were following in a hot scurry after Clovis as he headed
back for the morning-room. Lady Bastable was roused from
the world of newspaper lore by hearing a Japanese screen in
the hall go down with a crash. Then the door leading from
the ball flew open and her young guest tore madly through
the room, shrieked at her in passing, ``The jacquerie!
They're on us!'' and dashed like an escaping hawk out
through the French window. The scared mob of servants burst
in on his heels, the gardener still clutching the sickle
with which he had been trimming hedges, and the impetus of
their headlong haste carried them, slipping and sliding,
over the smooth parquet flooring towards the chair where
their mistress sat in panic-stricken amazement. If she had
had a moment granted her for reflection she would have
behaved, as she afterwards explained, with considerable
dignity. It was probably the sickle which decided her, but
anyway she followed the lead that Clovis had given her
through the French window, and ran well and far across the
lawn before the eyes of her astonished retainers.
Lost dignity is not a possession which can be restored at
a moment's notice, and both Lady Bastable and the butler
found the process of returning to normal conditions almost as
painful as a slow recovery from drowning. A jacquerie, even
if carried out with the most respectful of intentions,
cannot fail to leave some traces of embarrassment behind it.
By lunch-time, however, decorum had reasserted itself with
enhanced rigour as a natural rebound from its recent
overthrow, and the meal was served in a frigid stateliness
that might have been framed on a Byzantine model. Half-way
through its duration Mrs. Sangrail was solemnly presented
with an envelope lying on a silver salver. It contained a
cheque for forty-nine shillings.
The MacGregor boys learned how to play poker-patience;
after all, they could afford to.
``That woman's art-jargon tires me,'' said Clovis to his
journalist friend. ``She's so fond of talking of certain
pictures as `growing on one,' as though they were a sort of
``That reminds me,'' said the journalist, ``of the story
of Henri Deplis. Have I ever told it you?''
Clovis shook his head.
``Henri Deplis was by birth a native of the Grand Duchy of
Luxemburg. On maturer reflection he became a commercial
traveller. His business activities frequently took him
beyond the limits of the Grand Duchy, and he was stopping in
a small town of Northern Italy when news reached him from
home that a legacy from a distant and deceased relative had
fallen to his share.
``It was not a large legacy, even from the modest
standpoint of Henri Deplis, but it impelled him towards some
seemingly harmless extravagances. In particular it led him
to patronize local art as represented by the tattoo-needles
of Signor Andreas Pincini. Signor Pincini was, perhaps, the
most brilliant master of tattoo craft that Italy had ever
known, but his circumstances were decidedly impoverished,
and for the sum of six hundred francs he gladly undertook to
cover his client's back, from the collar-bone down to the
waist-line, with a glowing representation of the Fall of
Icarus. The design, when finally developed, was a slight
disappointment to Monsieur Deplis, who had suspected Icarus
of being a fortress taken by Wallenstein in the Thirty
Years' War, but he was more than satisfied with the
execution of the work, which was acclaimed by all who had
the privilege of seeing it as Pincini's masterpiece.
``It was his greatest effort, and his last. Without even
waiting to be paid, the illustrious craftsman departed this
life, and was buried under an ornate tombstone, whose winged
cherubs would have afforded singularly little scope for the
exercise of his favourite art. There remained, however, the
widow Pincini, to whom the six hundred francs were due. And
thereupon arose the great crisis in the life of Henri
Deplis, traveller of commerce. The legacy, under the stress
of numerous little calls on its substance, had dwindled to
very insignificant proportions, and when a pressing wine
bill and sundry other current accounts had been paid, there
remained little more than 430 francs to offer to the widow.
The lady was properly indignant, not wholly, as she volubly
explained, on account of the suggested writing-off of 170
francs, but also at the attempt to depreciate the value of
her late husband's acknowledged masterpiece. In a week's
time Deplis was obliged to reduce his offer to 405 francs,
which circumstance fanned the widow's indignation into a
fury. She cancelled the sale of the work of art, and a few
days later Deplis learned with a sense of consternation that
she bad presented it to the municipality of Bergamo, which
had gratefully accepted it. He left the neighbourhood as
unobtrusively as possible, and was genuinely relieved when
his business commands took him to Rome, where he hoped his
identity and that of the famous picture might be lost sight
``But he bore on his back the burden of the dead man's
genius. On presenting himself one day in the steaming
corridor of a vapour bath, he was at once hustled back into
his clothes by the proprietor, who was a North Italian, and
who emphatically refused to allow the celebrated Fall of
Icarus to be publicly on view without the permission of the
municipality of Bergamo. Public interest and official
vigilance increased as the matter became more widely known,
and Deplis was unable to take a simple dip in the sea or
river on the hottest afternoon unless clothed up to the
collar-bone in a substantial bathing garment. Later on the
authorities of Bergamo conceived the idea that salt water
might be injurious to the masterpiece, and a perpetual
injunction was obtained which debarred the muchly harassed
commercial traveller from sea bathing under any
circumstances. Altogether, he was fervently thankful when
his firm of employers found him a new range of activities in
the neighbourhood of Bordeaux. His thankfulness, however,
ceased abruptly at the Franco-Italian frontier. An imposing
array of official force barred his departure, and he was
sternly reminded of the stringent law which forbids the
exportation of Italian works of art.
A diplomatic parley ensued between the Luxemburgian and
Italian Governments, and at one time the European situation
became overcast with the possibilities of trouble. But the
Italian Government stood firm; it declined to concern itself
in the least with the fortunes or even the existence of
Henri Deplis, commercial traveller, but was immovable in its
decision that the Fall of Icarus (by the late Pincini,
Andreas) at present the property of the municipality of
Bergamo, should not leave the country.
``The excitement died down in time, but the unfortunate
Deplis, who was of a constitutionally retiring disposition,
found himself a few months later once more the storm-centre
of a furious controversy. A certain German art expert, who
had obtained from the municipality of Bergamo permission to
inspect the famous masterpiece, declared it to be a spurious
Pincini, probably the work of some pupil whom he had
employed in his declining years. The evidence of Deplis on
the subject was obviously worthless, as he had been under
the influence of the customary narcotics during the long
process of pricking in the design. The editor of an Italian
art journal refuted the contentions of the German expert and
undertook to prove that his private life did not conform to
any modern standard of decency. The whole of Italy and
Germany were drawn into the dispute, and the rest of Europe
was soon involved in the quarrel. There were stormy scenes
in the Spanish Parliament, and the University of Copenhagen
bestowed a gold medal on the German expert (afterwards
sending a commission to examine his proofs on the spot),
while two Polish schoolboys in Paris committed suicide to
show what _they_ thought of the matter.
``Meanwhile, the unhappy human background fared no better
than before, and it was not surprising that he drifted into
the ranks of Italian anarchists. Four times at least he was
escorted to the frontier as a dangerous and undesirable
foreigner, but he was always brought back as the Fall of
Icarus (attributed to Pincini, Andreas, early Twentieth
Century). And then one day, at an anarchist congress at
Genoa, a fellow-worker, in the heat of debate, broke a phial
full of corrosive liquid over his back. The red shirt that
he was wearing mitigated the effects, but the Icarus was
ruined beyond recognition. His assailant was severely
reprimanded for assaulting a fellow-anarchist and received
seven years' imprisonment for defacing a national art
treasure. As soon as he was able to leave the hospital
Henri Deplis was put across the frontier as an undesirable
``In the quieter streets of Paris, especially in the
neighbourhood of the Ministry of Fine Arts, you may
sometimes meet a depressed, anxious-looking man, who, if you
pass him the time of day, will answer you with a slight
Luxemburgian accent. He nurses the illusion that he is one
of the lost arms of the Venus de Milo, and hopes that the
French Government may be persuaded to buy him. On all other
subjects I believe he is tolerably sane.''
HERMANN THE IRASCIBLE---A STORY OF THE GREAT WEEP
It was in the second decade of the Twentieth Century,
after the Great Plague had devastated England, that Hermann
the Irascible, nicknamed also the Wise, sat on the British
throne. The Mortal Sickness had swept away the entire Royal
Family, unto the third and fourth generations, and thus it
came to pass that Hermann the Fourteenth of
Saxe-Drachsen-Wachtelstein, who had stood thirtieth in the
order of succession, found himself one day ruler of the
British dominions within and beyond the seas. He was one of
the unexpected things that happen in polities, and he
happened with great thoroughness. In many ways he was the
most progressive monarch who had sat on an important throne;
before people knew where they were, they were somewhere
else. Even his Ministers, progressive though they were by
tradition, found it difficult to keep pace with his
``As a matter of fact,'' admitted the Prime Minister, ``we
are hampered by these votes-for-women creatures; they
disturb our meetings throughout the country, and they try to
turn Downing Street into a sort of political picnic-ground.''
``They must be dealt with'' said Hermann.
``Dealt with,'' said the Prime Minister; ``exactly, just
so; but how?''
``I will draft you a Bill,'' said the King, sitting down
at his type-writing machine, ``enacting that women shall
vote at all future elections. _Shall_ vote, you observe; or,
to put it plainer, must. Voting will remain optional, as
before, for male electors; but every woman between the ages
of twenty-one and seventy will be obliged to vote, not only
at elections for Parliament, county councils, district
boards, parish-councils, and municipalities, but for
coroners, school inspectors, churchwardens, curators of
museums, sanitary authorities, police-court interpreters,
swimming-bath instructors, contractors, choir-masters,
market superintendents, art-school teachers, cathedral
vergers, and other local functionaries whose names I will
add as they occur to me. All these offices will become
elective, and failure to vote at any election falling within
her area of residence will involve the female elector in a
penalty of <L>10. Absence, unsupported by an adequate
medical certificate, will not be accepted as an excuse.
Pass this Bill through the two Houses of Parliament and
bring it to me for signature the day after tomorrow.''
From the very outset the Compulsory Female Franchise
produced little or no elation even in circles which had been
loudest in demanding the vote. The bulk of the women of the
country had been indifferent or hostile to the franchise
agitation, and the most fanatical Suffragettes began to
wonder what they had found so attractive in the prospect of
putting ballot-papers into a box. In the country districts
the task of carrying out the provisions of the new Act was
irksome enough; in the towns and cities it became an
incubus. There seemed no end to the elections. Laundresses
and seamstresses had to hurry away from their work to vote,
often for a candidate whose name they hadn't heard before,
and whom they selected at haphazard; female clerks and
waitresses got up extra early to get their voting done
before starting off to their places of business. Society
women found their arrangements impeded and upset by the
continual necessity for attending the polling stations, and
week-end parties and summer holidays became gradually a
masculine luxury. As for Cairo and the Riviera, they were
possible only for genuine invalids or people of enormous
wealth, for the accumulation of <L>10 fines during a
prolonged absence was a contingency that even ordinarily
wealthy folk could hardly afford to risk.
It was not wonderful that the female disfranchisement
agitation became a formidable movement. The
No-Votes-for-Women League numbered its feminine adherents by
the million; its colours, citron and old Dutch-madder, were
flaunted everywhere, and its battle hymn, ``We Don't Want to
Vote,'' became a popular refrain. As the Government showed
no signs of being impressed by peaceful persuasion, more
violent methods came into vogue. Meetings were disturbed,
Ministers were mobbed, policemen were bitten, and ordinary
prison fare rejected, and on the eve of the anniversary of
Trafalgar women bound themselves in tiers up the entire
length of the Nelson column so that its customary floral
decoration had to be abandoned. Still the Government
obstinately adhered to its conviction that women ought to
have the vote.
Then, as a last resort, some woman wit hit upon an
expedient which it was strange that no one had thought of
before. The Great Weep was organized. Relays of women, ten
thousand at a time, wept continuously in the public places
of the Metropolis. They wept in railway stations, in tubes
and omnibuses, in the National Gallery, at the Army and Navy
Stores, in St. James's Park, at ballad concerts, at Prince's
and in the Burlington Arcade. The hitherto unbroken success
of the brilliant farcical comedy ``Henry's Rabbit'' was
imperilled by the presence of drearily weeping women in
stalls and circle and gallery, and one of the brightest
divorce cases that had been tried for many years was robbed
of much of its sparkle by the lachrymose behaviour of a
section of the audience.
``What are we to do?'' asked the Prime Minister, whose
cook had wept into all the breakfast dishes and whose
nursemaid had gone out, crying quietly and miserably, to
take the children for a walk in the Park.
``There is a time for everything,'' said the King; ``there
is a time to yield. Pass a measure through the two Houses
depriving women of the right to vote, and bring it to me for
the Royal assent the day after tomorrow.''
As the Minister withdrew, Hermann the Irascible, who was
also nicknamed the Wise, gave a profound chuckle.
``There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it
with cream,'' he quoted, ``but I'm not sure,'' he added
``that it's not the best way.''
On the rack in the railway carriage immediately opposite
Clovis was a solidly wrought travelling bag, with a
carefully written label, on which was inscribed, ``J. P.
Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough.''
Immediately below the rack sat the human embodiment of the
label, a solid, sedate individual, sedately dressed,
sedately conversational. Even without his conversation
(which was addressed to a friend seated by his side, and
touched chiefly on such topics as the backwardness of Roman
hyacinths and the prevalence of measles at the Rectory), one
could have gauged fairly accurately the temperament and
mental outlook of the travelling bag's owner. But he seemed
unwilling to leave anything to the imagination of a casual
observer, and his talk grew presently personal and
``I don't know how it is,'' he told his friend, ``I'm not
much over forty, but I seem to have settled down into a deep
groove of elderly middle-age. My sister shows the same
tendency. We like everything to be exactly in its
accustomed place; we like things to happen exactly at their
appointed times; we like everything to be usual, orderly,
punctual, methodical, to a hair's breadth, to a minute. It
distresses and upsets us if it is not so. For instance, to
take a very trifling matter, a thrush has built its nest
year after year in the catkin-tree on the lawn; this year,
for no obvious reason, it is building in the ivy on the
garden wall. We have said very little about it, but I think
we both feel that the change is unnecessary, and just a
``Perhaps,'' said the friend, ``it is a different
``We have suspected that,'' said J. P. Huddle, ``and I
think it gives us even more cause for annoyance. We don't
feel that we want a change of thrush at our time of life;
and yet, as I have said, we have scarcely reached an age
when these things should make themselves seriously felt.''
``What you want,'' said the friend, ``is an Unrest-cure.''
``An Unrest-cure? I've never heard of such a thing.''
``You've heard of Rest-cures for people who've broken down
under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well,
you're suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you
need the opposite kind of treatment.''
``But where would one go for such a thing?''
``Well, you might stand as an Orange candidate for
Kilkenny, or do a course of district visiting in one of the
Apache quarters of Paris, or give lectures in Berlin to
prove that most of Wagner's music was written by Gambetta;
and there's always the interior of Morocco to travel in.
But, to be really effective, the Unrest-cure ought to be
tried in the home. How you would do it I haven't the
It was at this point in the conversation that Clovis
became galvanized into alert attention. After all, his two
days' visit to an elderly relative at Slowborough did not
promise much excitement. Before the train had stopped he
had decorated his sinister shirt-cuff with the inscription,
``J. P. Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough.''
Two mornings later Mr. Huddle broke in on his sister's
privacy as she sat reading Country Life in the morning room.
It was her day and hour and place for reading Country Life,
and the intrusion was absolutely irregular; but he bore in
his hand a telegram, and in that household telegrams were
recognized as happening by the hand of God. This particular
telegram partook of the nature of a thunderbolt. ``Bishop
examining confirmation class in neighbourhood unable stay
rectory on account measles invokes your hospitality sending
``I scarcely know the Bishop; I've only spoken to him
once,'' exclaimed J. P. Huddle, with the exculpating air of
one who realizes too late the indiscretion of speaking to
strange Bishops. Miss Huddle was the first to rally; she
disliked thunderbolts as fervently as her brother did, but
the womanly instinct in her told her that thunderbolts must
``We can curry the cold duck,'' she said. It was not the
appointed day for curry, but the little orange envelope
involved a certain departure from rule and custom. Her
brother said nothing, but his eyes thanked her for being
``A young gentleman to see you,'' announced the
``The secretary!'' murmured the Huddles in unison; they
instantly stiffened into a demeanour which proclaimed that,
though they held all strangers to be guilty, they were
willing to hear anything they might have to say in their
defence. The young gentleman, who came into the room with a
certain elegant haughtiness, was not at all Huddle's idea of
a bishop's secretary; he had not supposed that the episcopal
establishment could have afforded such an expensively
upholstered article when there were so many other claims on
its resources. The face was fleetingly familiar; if he had
bestowed more attention on the fellow-traveller sitting
opposite him in the railway carriage two days before he
might have recognized Clovis in his present visitor.
``You are the Bishop's secretary?'' asked Huddle, becoming
``His confidential secretary,'' answered Clovis. ``You may
call me Stanislaus; my other name doesn't matter. The
Bishop and Colonel Alberti may be here to lunch. I shall be
here in any case.''
It sounded rather like the programme of a Royal visit.
``The Bishop is examining a confirmation class in the
neighbourhood, isn't he?'' asked Miss Huddle.
``Ostensibly,'' was the dark reply, followed by a request
for a large-scale map of the locality.
Clovis was still immersed in a seemingly profound study of
the map when another telegram arrived. It was addressed to
``Prince Stanislaus, care of Huddle, The Warren, etc.''
Clovis glanced at the contents and announced: ``The Bishop
and Alberti won't be here till late in the afternoon.'' Then
he returned to his scrutiny of the map.
The luncheon was not a very festive function. The
princely secretary ate and drank with fair appetite, but
severely discouraged conversation. At the finish of the
meal he broke suddenly into a radiant smile, thanked his
hostess for a charming repast, and kissed her hand with
deferential rapture. Miss Huddle was unable to decide in
her mind whether the action savoured of Louis Quatorzian
courtliness or the reprehensible Roman attitude towards the
Sabine women. It was not her day for having a headache, but
she felt that the circumstances excused her, and retired to
her room to have as much headache as was possible before the
Bishop's arrival. Clovis, having asked the way to the
nearest telegraph office, disappeared presently down the
carriage drive. Mr. Huddle met him in the hall some two
hours later, and asked when the Bishop would arrive.
``He is in the library with Alberti,'' was the reply.
``But why wasn't I told? I never knew he had come!''
``No one knows he is here,'' said Clovis; ``the quieter we
can keep matters the better. And on no account disturb him
in the library. Those are his orders.''
``But what is all this mystery about? And who is Alberti?
And isn't the Bishop going to have tea?''
``The Bishop is out for blood, not tea.''
``Blood!'' gasped Huddle, who did not find that the
thunderbolt improved on acquaintance.
``Tonight is going to be a great night in the history of
Christendom,'' said Clovis. ``We are going to massacre every
Jew in the neighbourhood.''
``To massacre the Jews!'' said Huddle indignantly. ``Do
you mean to tell me there's a general rising against them?''
``No, it's the Bishop's own idea. He's in there arranging
all the details now.''
``But---the Bishop is such a tolerant, humane man.''
``That is precisely what will heighten the effect of his
action. The sensation will be enormous.''
That at least Huddle could believe.
``He will be hanged!'' he exclaimed with conviction.
``A motor is waiting to carry him to the coast, where a
steam yacht is in readiness.''
``But there aren't thirty Jews in the whole
neighbourhood,'' protested Huddle, whose brain, under the
repeated shocks of the day, was operating with the
uncertainty of a telegraph wire during earthquake
``We have twenty-six on our list,'' said Clovis, referring
to a bundle of notes. ``We shall be able to deal with them
all the more thoroughly.''
``Do you mean to tell me that you are meditating violence
against a man like Sir Leon Birberry,'' stammered Huddle;
``he's one of the most respected men in the country.''
``He's down on our list,'' said Clovis carelessly; ``after
all, we've got men we can trust to do our job, so we shan't
have to rely on local assistance. And we've got some
Boy-scouts helping us as auxiliaries.''
``Yes; when they understood there was real killing to be
done they were even keener than the men.''
``This thing will be a blot on the Twentieth Century!''
``And your house will be the blotting-pad. Have you
realized that half the papers of Europe and the United
States will publish pictures of it? By the way, I've sent
some photographs of you and your sister, that I found in the
library, to the _Matin_ and _Die Woche_; I hope you don't
mind. Also a sketch of the staircase; most of the killing
will probably be done on the staircase.''
The emotions that were surging in J. P. Huddle's brain
were almost too intense to be disclosed in speech, but he
managed to gasp out: ``There aren't any Jews in this
``Not at present,'' said Clovis.
``I shall go to the police,'' shouted Huddle with sudden
``In the shrubbery,'' said Clovis, ``are posted ten men,
who have orders to fire on any one who leaves the house
without my signal of permission. Another armed picquet is
in ambush near the front gate. The Boy-scouts watch the
At this moment the cheerful hoot of a motor-horn was heard
from the drive. Huddle rushed to the hall door with the
feeling of a man half-awakened from a nightmare, and beheld
Sir Leon Birberry, who had driven himself over in his car.
``I got your telegram,'' he said; ``what's up?''
Telegram? It seemed to be a day of telegrams.
``Come here at once. Urgent. James Huddle,'' was the
purport of the message displayed before Huddle's bewildered
``I see it all!'' he exclaimed suddenly in a voice shaken
with agitation, and with a look of agony in the direction of
the shrubbery he hauled the astonished Birberry into the
house. Tea had just been laid in the hall, but the now
thoroughly panic-stricken Huddle dragged his protesting
guest upstairs, and in a few minutes' time the entire
household had been summoned to that region of momentary
safety. Clovis alone graced the tea-table with his
presence; the fanatics in the library were evidently too
immersed in their monstrous machinations to dally with the
solace of teacup and hot toast. Once the youth rose, in
answer to the summons of the front-door bell, and admitted
Mr. Paul Isaacs, shoemaker and parish councillor, who had
also received a pressing invitation to The Warren. With an
atrocious assumption of courtesy, which a Borgia could
hardly have outdone, the secretary escorted this new captive
of his net to the head of the stairway, where his
involuntary host awaited him.
And then ensued a long ghastly vigil of watching and
waiting. Once or twice Clovis left the house to stroll
across to the shrubbery, returning always to the library,
for the purpose evidently of making a brief report. Once he
took in the letters from the evening postman, and brought
them to the top of the stairs with punctilious politeness.
After his next absence he came half-way up the stairs to
make an announcement.
``The Boy-scouts mistook my signal, and have killed the
postman. I've had very little practice in this sort of
thing, you see. Another time I shall do better.''
The housemaid, who was engaged to be married to the
evening postman, gave way to clamorous grief.
``Remember that your mistress has a headache,'' said J. P.
Huddle. (Miss Huddle's headache was worse.)
Clovis hastened downstairs, and after a short visit to the
library returned with another message:
``The Bishop is sorry to hear that Miss Huddle has a
headache. He is issuing orders that as far as possible no
firearms shall be used near the house; any killing that is
necessary on the premises will be done with cold steel. The
Bishop does not see why a man should not be a gentleman as
well as a Christian.''
That was the last they saw of Clovis; it was nearly seven
o'clock, and his elderly relative liked him to dress for
dinner. But, though he had left them for ever, the lurking
suggestion of his presence haunted the lower regions of the
house during the long hours of the wakeful night, and every
creak of the stairway, every rustle of wind through the
shrubbery, was fraught with horrible meaning. At about
seven next morning the gardener's boy and the early postman
finally convinced the watchers that the Twentieth Century
was still unblotted.
``I don't suppose,'' mused Clovis, as an early train bore
him townwards, ``that they will be in the least grateful for
THE JESTING OF ARLINGTON STRINGHAM
Arlington Stringham made a joke in the House of Commons. It
was a thin House, and a very thin joke; something about the
Anglo-Saxon race having a great many angles. It is possible
that it was unintentional, but a fellow-member, who did not
wish it to be supposed that he was asleep because his eyes
were shut, laughed. One or two of the papers noted ``a
laugh'' in brackets, and another, which was notorious for
the carelessness of its political news, mentioned
``laughter.'' Things often begin in that way.
``Arlington made a joke in the House last night,'' said
Eleanor Stringham to her mother; ``in all the years we've
been married neither of us has made jokes, and I don't like
it now. I'm afraid it's the beginning of the rift in the
``What lute?'' said her mother.
``It's a quotation,'' said Eleanor.
To say that anything was a quotation was an excellent
method, in Eleanor's eyes, for withdrawing it from
discussion, just as you could always defend indifferent lamb
late in the season by saying ``It's mutton.''
And, of course, Arlington Stringham continued to tread the
thorny path of conscious humour into which Fate had beckoned
``The country's looking very green, but, after all, that's
what it's there for,'' he remarked to his wife two days
``That's very modern, and I daresay very clever, but I'm
afraid it's wasted on me,'' she observed coldly. If she had
known how much effort it had cost him to make the remark she
might have greeted it in a kinder spirit. It is the tragedy
of human endeavour that it works so often unseen and
Arlington said nothing, not from injured pride, but
because he was thinking hard for something to say. Eleanor
mistook his silence for an assumption of tolerant
superiority, and her anger prompted her to a further gibe.
``You had better tell it to Lady Isobel. I've no doubt
she would appreciate it.''
Lady Isobel was seen everywhere with a fawn-coloured
collie at a time when every one else kept nothing but
Pekinese, and she had once eaten four green apples at an
afternoon tea in the Botanical Gardens, so she was widely
credited with a rather unpleasant wit. The censorious said
she slept in a hammock and understood Yeats's poems, but her
family denied both stories.
``The rift is widening to an abyss,'' said Eleanor to her
mother that afternoon.
``I should not tell that to any one,'' remarked her
mother, after long reflection.
``Naturally, I should not talk about it very much,'' said
Eleanor, ``but why shouldn't I mention it to any one?''
``Because you can't have an abyss in a lute. There isn't
Eleanor's outlook on life did not improve as the afternoon
wore on. The page-boy had brought from the library _By Mere
and Wold_ instead of _By Mere Chance_, the book which every
one denied having read. The unwelcome substitute appeared
to be a collection of nature notes contributed by the author
to the pages of some Northern weekly, and when one had been
prepared to plunge with disapproving mind into a regrettable
chronicle of ill-spent lives it was intensely irritating to
read ``the dainty yellow-hammers are now with us, and flaunt
their jaundiced livery from every bush and hillock.''
Besides, the thing was so obviously untrue; either there
must be hardly any bushes or hillocks in those parts or the
country must be fearfully overstocked with yellow-hammers.
The thing scarcely seemed worth telling such a lie about.
And the page-boy stood there, with his sleekly brushed and
parted hair, and his air of chaste and callous indifference
to the desires and passions of the world. Eleanor hated
boys, and she would have liked to have whipped this one long
and often. It was perhaps the yearning of a woman who had
no children of her own.
She turned at random to another paragraph. ``Lie quietly
concealed in the fern and bramble in the gap by the old
rowan tree, and you may see, almost every evening during
early summer, a pair of lesser whitethroats creeping up and
down the nettles and hedge-growth that mask their
The insufferable monotony of the proposed recreation!
Eleanor would not have watched the most brilliant
performance at His Majesty's Theatre for a single evening
under such uncomfortable circumstances, and to be asked to
watch lesser whitethroats creeping up and down a nettle
``almost every evening'' during the height of the season
struck her as an imputation on her intelligence that was
positively offensive. Impatiently she transferred her
attention to the dinner menu, which the boy had thoughtfully
brought in as an alternative to the more solid literary
fare. ``Rabbit curry,'' met her eye, and the lines of
disapproval deepened on her already puckered brow. The cook
was a great believer in the influence of environment, and
nourished an obstinate conviction that if you brought rabbit
and curry-powder together in one dish a rabbit curry would
be the result. And Clovis and the odious Bertie van Tahn
were coming to dinner. Surely, thought Eleanor, if
Arlington knew how much she had had that day to try her, he
would refrain from joke-making.
At dinner that night it was Eleanor herself who mentioned
the name of a certain statesman, who may be decently covered
under the disguise of X.
``X.,'' said Arlington Stringham, ``has the soul of a
It was a useful remark to have on hand, because it applied
equally well to four prominent statesmen of the day, which
quadrupled the opportunities for using it.
``Meringues haven't got souls,'' said Eleanor's mother.
``It's a mercy that they haven't,'' said Clovis; ``they
would be always losing them, and people like my aunt would
get up missions to meringues, and say it was wonderful how
much one could teach them and how much more one could learn
``What could you learn from a meringue?'' asked Eleanor's
``My aunt has been known to learn humility from an
ex-Viceroy,'' said Clovis.
``I wish cook would learn to make curry, or have the sense
to leave it alone,'' said Arlington, suddenly and savagely.
Eleanor's face softened. It was like one of his old
remarks in the days when there was no abyss between them.
It was during the debate on the Foreign Office vote that
Stringham made his great remark that ``the people of Crete
unfortunately make more history than they can consume
locally.'' It was not brilliant, but it came in the middle
of a dull speech, and the House was quite pleased with it.
Old gentlemen with bad memories said it reminded them of
It was Eleanor's friend, Gertrude Ilpton, who drew her
attention to Arlington's newest outbreak. Eleanor in these
days avoided the morning papers.
``It's very modern, and I suppose very clever,'' she
``Of course it's clever,'' said Gertrude; ``all Lady
Isobel's sayings are clever, and luckily they bear
``Are you sure it's one of her sayings?'' asked Eleanor.
``My dear, I've heard her say it dozens of times.''
``So that is where he gets his humour,'' said Eleanor
slowly, and the hard lines deepened round her mouth.
The death of Eleanor Stringham from an overdose of
chloral, occurring at the end of a rather uneventful season,
excited a certain amount of unobtrusive speculation.
Clovis, who perhaps exaggerated the importance of curry in
the home, hinted at domestic sorrow.
And of course Arlington never knew. It was the tragedy of
his life that he should miss the fullest effect of his
Conradin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced
his professional opinion that the boy would not live another
five years. The doctor was silky and effete, and counted
for little, but his opinion was endorsed by Mrs. De Ropp,
who counted for nearly everything. Mrs. De Ropp was
Conradin's cousin and guardian, and in his eyes she
represented those three-fifths of the world that are
necessary and disagreeable and real; the other two-fifths,
in perpetual antagonism to the foregoing, were summed up in
himself and his imagination. One of these days Conradin
supposed he would succumb to the mastering pressure of
wearisome necessary things---such as illnesses and coddling
restrictions and drawn-out dulness. Without his
imagination, which was rampant under the spur of loneliness,
he would have succumbed long ago.
Mrs. De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have
confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she
might have been dimly aware that thwarting him ``for his
good'' was a duty which she did not find particularly
irksome. Conradin hated her with a desperate sincerity
which he was perfectly able to mask. Such few pleasures as
he could contrive for himself gained an added relish from
the likelihood that they would be displeasing to his
guardian, and from the realm of his imagination she was
locked out---an unclean thing, which should find no
In the dull, cheerless garden, overlooked by so many
windows that were ready to open with a message not to do
this or that, or a reminder that medicines were due, he
found little attraction. The few fruit-trees that it
contained were set jealously apart from his plucking, as
though they were rare specimens of their kind blooming in an
arid waste; it would probably have been difficult to find a
market-gardener who would have offered ten shillings for
their entire yearly produce. In a forgotten corner,
however, almost hidden behind a dismal shrubbery, was a
disused tool-shed of respectable proportions, and within its
walls Conradin found a haven, something that took on the
varying aspects of a playroom and a cathedral. He had
peopled it with a legion of familiar phantoms, evoked partly
from fragments of history and partly from his own brain, but
it also boasted two inmates of flesh and blood. In one
corner lived a ragged-plumaged Houdan hen, on which the boy
lavished an affection that had scarcely another outlet.
Further back in the gloom stood a large hutch, divided into
two compartments, one of which was fronted with close iron
bars. This was the abode of a large polecat-ferret, which a
friendly butcher-boy had once smuggled, cage and all, into
its present quarters, in exchange for a long-secreted hoard
of small silver. Conradin was dreadfully afraid of the
lithe, sharp-fanged beast, but it was his most treasured
possession. Its very presence in the tool-shed was a secret
and fearful joy, to be kept scrupulously from the knowledge
of the Woman, as he privately dubbed his cousin. And one
day, out of Heaven knows what material, he spun the beast a
wonderful name, and from that moment it grew into a god and
a religion. The Woman indulged in religion once a week at a
church near by, and took Conradin with her, but to him the
church service was an alien rite in the House of Rimmon.
Every Thursday, in the dim and musty silence of the
tool-shed, he worshipped with mystic and elaborate
ceremonial before the wooden hutch where dwelt Sredni
Vashtar, the great ferret. Red flowers in their season and
scarlet berries in the winter-time were offered at his
shrine, for he was a god who laid some special stress on the
fierce impatient side of things, as opposed to the Woman's
religion, which, as far as Conradin could observe, went to
great lengths in the contrary direction. And on great
festivals powdered nutmeg was strewn in front of his hutch,
an important feature of the offering being that the nutmeg
had to be stolen. These festivals were of irregular
occurrence, and were chiefly appointed to celebrate some
passing event. On one occasion, when Mrs. De Ropp suffered
from acute toothache for three days, Conradin kept up the
festival during the entire three days, and almost succeeded
in persuading himself that Sredni Vashtar was personally
responsible for the toothache. If the malady had lasted for
another day the supply of nutmeg would have given out.
The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni
Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an
Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest
knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately
hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. Mrs. De
Ropp was the ground plan on which he based and detested all
After a while Conradin's absorption in the tool-shed began
to attract the notice of his guardian. ``It is not good for
him to be pottering down there in all weathers,'' she
promptly decided, and at breakfast one morning she announced
that the Houdan hen had been sold and taken away overnight.
With her short-sighted eyes she peered at Conradin, waiting
for an outbreak of rage and sorrow, which she was ready to
rebuke with a flow of excellent precepts and reasoning. But
Conradin said nothing: there was nothing to be said.
Something perhaps in his white set face gave her a momentary
qualm, for at tea that afternoon there was toast on the
table, a delicacy which she usually banned on the ground
that it was bad for him; also because the making of it
``gave trouble,'' a deadly offence in the middle-class
``I thought you liked toast,'' she exclaimed, with an
injured air, observing that he did not touch it.
``Sometimes,'' said Conradin.
In the shed that evening there was an innovation in the
worship of the hutch-god. Conradin had been wont to chant
his praises, tonight be asked a boon.
``Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.''
The thing was not specified. As Sredni Vashtar was a god
he must be supposed to know. And choking back a sob as he
looked at that other empty comer, Conradin went back to the
world he so hated.
And every night, in the welcome darkness of his bedroom,
and every evening in the dusk of the tool-shed, Conradin's
bitter litany went up: ``Do one thing for me, Sredni
Mrs. De Ropp noticed that the visits to the shed did not
cease, and one day she made a further journey of inspection.
``What are you keeping in that locked hutch?'' she asked.
``I believe it's guinea-pigs. I'll have them all cleared
Conradin shut his lips tight, but the Woman ransacked his
bedroom till she found the carefully hidden key, and
forthwith marched down to the shed to complete her
discovery. It was a cold afternoon, and Conradin had been
bidden to keep to the house. From the furthest window of
the dining-room the door of the shed could just be seen
beyond the corner of the shrubbery, and there Conradin
stationed himself. He saw the Woman enter, and then be
imagined her opening the door of the sacred hutch and
peering down with her short-sighted eyes into the thick
straw bed where his god lay hidden. Perhaps she would prod
at the straw in her clumsy impatience. And Conradin
fervently breathed his prayer for the last time. But he
knew as he prayed that he did not believe. He knew that the
Woman would come out presently with that pursed smile he
loathed so well on her face, and that in an hour or two the
gardener would carry away his wonderful god, a god no
longer, but a simple brown ferret in a hutch. And he knew
that the Woman would triumph always as she triumphed now,
and that he would grow ever more sickly under her pestering
and domineering and superior wisdom, till one day nothing
would matter much more with him, and the doctor would be
proved right. And in the sting and misery of his defeat, he
began to chant loudly and defiantly the hymn of his
Sredni Vashtar went forth,
His thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white.
His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death.
Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.
And then of a sudden he stopped his chanting and drew
closer to the window-pane. The door of the shed still stood
ajar as it had been left, and the minutes were slipping by.
They were long minutes, but they slipped by nevertheless.
He watched the starlings running and flying in little
parties across the lawn; he counted them over and over
again, with one eye always on that swinging door. A
sour-faced maid came in to lay the table for tea, and still
Conradin stood and waited and watched. Hope had crept by
inches into his heart, and now a look of triumph began to
blaze in his eyes that had only known the wistful patience
of defeat. Under his breath, with a furtive exultation, he
began once again the p<ae>an of victory and devastation.
And presently his eyes were rewarded: out through that
doorway came a long, low, yellow-and-brown beast, with eyes
a-blink at the waning daylight, and dark wet stains around
the fur of jaws and throat. Conradin dropped on his knees.
The great polecat-ferret made its way down to a small brook
at the foot of the garden, drank for a moment, then crossed
a little plank bridge and was lost to sight in the bushes.
Such was the passing of Sredni Vashtar.
``Tea is ready,'' said the sour-faced maid; ``where is the
mistress?'' ``She went down to the shed some time ago,''
said Conradin. And while the maid went to summon her
mistress to tea, Conradin fished a toasting-fork out of the
sideboard drawer and proceeded to toast himself a piece of
bread. And during the toasting of it and the buttering of
it with much butter and the slow enjoyment of eating it,
Conradin listened to the noises and silences which fell in
quick spasms beyond the dining-room door. The loud foolish
screaming of the maid, the answering chorus of wondering
ejaculations from the kitchen region, the scuttering
footsteps and hurried embassies for outside help, and then,
after a lull, the scared sobbings and the shuffling tread of
those who bore a heavy burden into the house.
``Whoever will break it to the poor child? I couldn't for
the life of me!'' exclaimed a shrill voice. And while they
debated the matter among themselves, Conradin made himself
another piece of toast.
A Chapter in Acclimatization
His baptismal register spoke of him pessimistically as
John Henry, but he had left that behind with the other
maladies of infancy, and his friends knew him under the
front-name of Adrian. His mother lived in Bethnal Green,
which was not altogether his fault; one can discourage too
much history in one's family, but one cannot always prevent
geography. And, after all, the Bethnal Green habit has this
virtue---that it is seldom transmitted to the next
generation. Adrian lived in a roomlet which came under the
auspicious constellation of W.
How he lived was to a great extent a mystery even to
himself; his struggle for existence probably coincided in
many material details with the rather dramatic accounts he
gave of it to sympathetic acquaintances. All that is
definitely known is that he now and then emerged from the
struggle to dine at the Ritz or Carlton, correctly garbed
and with a correctly critical appetite. On these occasions
he was usually the guest of Lucas Croyden, an amiable
worldling, who had three thousand a year and a taste for
introducing impossible people to irreproachable cookery.
Like most men who combine three thousand a year with an
uncertain digestion, Lucas was a Socialist, and he argued
that you cannot hope to elevate the masses until you have
brought plovers' eggs into their lives and taught them to
appreciate the difference between coupe Jacques and
Mac<e'>doine de fruits. His friends pointed out that it was
a doubtful kindness to initiate a boy from behind a drapery
counter into the blessedness of the higher catering, to
which Lucas invariably replied that all kindnesses were
doubtful. Which was perhaps true.
It was after one of his Adrian evenings that Lucas met
his aunt, Mrs. Mebberley, at a fashionable teashop, where
the lamp of family life is still kept burning and you meet
relatives who might otherwise have slipped your memory.
``Who was that good-looking boy who was dining with you
last night?'' she asked. ``He looked much too nice to be
thrown away upon you.''
Susan Mebberley was a charming woman, but she was also an
``Who are his people?'' she continued, when the
prot<e'>g<e'>'s name (revised version) had been given her.
``His mother lives at Beth---''
Lucas checked himself on the threshold of what was perhaps
a social indiscretion.
``Beth? Where is it? It sounds like Asia Minor. Is she
mixed up with Consular people?''
``Oh, no. Her work lies among the poor.''
This was a side-slip into truth. The mother of Adrian was
employed in a laundry.
``I see,'' said Mrs. Mebberley, ``mission work of some
sort. And meanwhile the boy has no one to look after him.
It's obviously my duty to see that he doesn't come to harm.
Bring him to call on me.''
``My dear Aunt Susan,'' expostulated Lucas, ``I really
know very little about him. He may not be at all nice, you
know, on further acquaintance.''
``He has delightful hair and a weak mouth. I shall take
him with me to Homburg or Cairo.''
``It's the maddest thing I ever heard of,'' said Lucas
``Well, there is a strong strain of madness in our family.
If you haven't noticed it yourself all your friends must
``One is so dreadfully under everybody's eyes at Homburg.
At least you might give him a preliminary trial at
``And be surrounded by Americans trying to talk French?
No, thank you. I love Americans, but not when they try to
talk French. What a blessing it is that they never try to
talk English. Tomorrow at five you can bring your young
friend to call on me.''
And Lucas, realizing that Susan Mebberley was a woman as
well as an aunt, saw that she would have to be allowed to
have her own way.
Adrian was duly carried abroad under the Mebberley wing;
but as a reluctant concession to sanity Homburg and other
inconveniently fashionable resorts were given a wide berth,
and the Mebberley establishment planted itself down in the
best hotel at Dohledorf, an Alpine townlet somewhere at the
back of the Engadine. It was the usual kind of resort, with
the usual type of visitors, that one finds over the greater
part of Switzerland during the summer season, but to Adrian
it was all unusual. The mountain air, the certainty of
regular and abundant meals, and in particular the social
atmosphere, affected him much as the indiscriminating
fervour of a forcing-house might affect a weed that had
strayed within its limits. He had been brought up in a world
where breakages were regarded as crimes and expiated as
such; it was something new and altogether exhilarating to
find that you were considered rather amusing if you smashed
things in the right manner and at the recognized hours.
Susan Mebberley had expressed the intention of showing
Adrian a bit of the world; the particular bit of the world
represented by Dohledorf began to be shown a good deal of
Lucas got occasional glimpses of the Alpine sojourn, not
from his aunt or Adrian, but from the industrious pen of
Clovis, who was also moving as a satellite in the Mebberley
``The entertainment which Susan got up last night ended in
disaster. I thought it would. The Grobmayer child, a
particularly loathsome five-year-old, had appeared as
`Bubbles' during the early part of the evening, and been put
to bed during the interval. Adrian watched his opportunity
and kidnapped it when the nurse was downstairs, and
introduced it during the second half of the entertainment,
thinly disguised as a performing pig. It certainly looked
very like a pig, and grunted and slobbered just like the
real article; no one knew exactly what it was, but every one
said it was awfully clever, especially the Grobmayers. At
the third curtain Adrian pinched it too hard, and it yelled
`Marmar'! I am supposed to be good at descriptions, but
don't ask me to describe the sayings and doings of the
Grobmayers at that moment; it was like one of the angrier
Psalms set to Strauss's music. We have moved to an hotel
higher up the valley.''
Clovis's next letter arrived five days later, and was
written from the Hotel Steinbock.
``We left the Hotel Victoria this morning. It was fairly
comfortable and quiet---at least there was an air of repose
about it when we arrived. Before we had been in residence
twenty-four hours most of the repose had vanished `like a
dutiful bream,' as Adrian expressed it. However, nothing
unduly outrageous happened till last night, when Adrian had
a fit of insomnia and amused himself by unscrewing and
transposing all the bedroom numbers on his floor. He
transferred the bathroom label to the adjoining bedroom
door, which happened to be that of Frau Hofrath Schilling,
and this morning from seven o'clock onwards the old lady had
a stream of involuntary visitors; she was too horrified and
scandalized it seems to get up and lock her door. The
would-be bathers flew back in confusion to their rooms, and,
of course, the change of numbers led them astray again, and
the corridor gradually filled with panic-stricken, scantily
robed humans, dashing wildly about like rabbits in a
ferret-infested warren. It took nearly an hour before the
guests were all sorted into their respective rooms, and the
Frau Hofrath's condition was still causing some anxiety when
we left. Susan is beginning to look a little worried. She
can't very well turn the boy adrift, as he hasn't got any
money, and she can't send him to his people as she doesn't
know where they are. Adrian says his mother moves about a
good deal and he's lost her address. Probably, if the truth
were known, he's had a row at home. So many boys nowadays
seem to think that quarrelling with one's family is a
Lucas's next communication from the travellers took the
form of a telegram from Mrs. Mebberley herself. It was sent
``reply prepaid,'' and consisted of a single sentence: ``In
Heaven's name, where is Beth?''
A strange stillness hung over the restaurant; it was one
of those rare moments when the orchestra was not discoursing
the strains of the Ice-cream Sailor waltz.
``Did I ever tell you,'' asked Clovis of his friend, ``the
tragedy of music at mealtimes?
``It was a gala evening at the Grand Sybaris Hotel, and a
special dinner was being served in the Amethyst dining-hall.
The Amethyst dining-hall had almost a European reputation,
especially with that section of Europe which is historically
identified with the Jordan Valley. Its cooking was beyond
reproach, and its orchestra was sufficiently highly salaried
to be above criticism. Thither came in shoals the intensely
musical and the almost intensely musical, who are very many,
and in still greater numbers the merely musical, who know
how Tschaikowsky's name is pronounced and can recognize
several of Chopin's nocturnes if you give them due warning;
these eat in the nervous, detached manner of roebuck feeding
in the open, and keep anxious ears cocked towards the
orchestra for the first hint of a recognizable melody.
`` `Ah, yes, Pagliacci,' they murmur, as the opening
strains follow hot upon the soup, and if no contradiction is
forthcoming from any better-informed quarter they break
forth into subdued humming by way of supplementing the
efforts of the musicians. Sometimes the melody starts on
level terms with the soup, in which case the banqueters
contrive somehow to hum between the spoonfuls; the facial
expression of enthusiasts who are punctuating potage St.
Germain with Pagliacci is not beautiful, but it should be
seen by those who are bent on observing all sides of life.
One cannot discount the unpleasant things of this world
merely by looking the other way.
``In addition to the aforementioned types the restaurant
was patronized by a fair sprinkling of the absolutely
non-musical; their presence in the dining-hall could only be
explained on the supposition that they had come there to
``The earlier stages of the dinner had worn off. The wine
lists had been consulted, by some with the blank
embarrassment of a school-boy suddenly called on to locate a
Minor Prophet in the tangled hinterland of the Old
Testament, by others with the severe scrutiny which suggests
that they have visited most of the higher-priced wines in
their own homes and probed their family weaknesses. The
diners who chose their wine in the latter fashion always
gave their orders in a penetrating voice, with a plentiful
garnishing of stage directions. By insisting on having your
bottle pointing to the north when the cork is being drawn,
and calling the waiter Max, you may induce an impression on
your guests which hours of laboured boasting might be
powerless to achieve. For this purpose, however, the guests
must be chosen as carefully as the wine.
``Standing aside from the revellers in the shadow of a
massive pillar was an interested spectator who was assuredly
of the feast, and yet not in it. Monsieur Aristide Saucourt
was the chef of the Grand Sybaris Hotel, and if he had an
equal in his profession he had never acknowledged the fact.
In his own domain he was a potentate, hedged around with the
cold brutality that Genius expects rather than excuses in
her children; he never forgave, and those who served him
were careful that there should be little to forgive. In the
outer world, the world which devoured his creations, he was
an influence; how profound or how shallow an influence he
never attempted to guess. It is the penalty and the
safeguard of genius that it computes itself by troy weight
in a world that measures by vulgar hundredweights.
Once in a way the great man would be seized with a desire
to watch the effect of his master-efforts, just as the
guiding brain of Krupp's might wish at a supreme moment to
intrude into the firing line of an artillery duel. And such
an occasion was the present. For the first time in the
history of the Grand Sybaris Hotel, he was presenting to its
guests the dish which he had brought to that pitch of
perfection which almost amounts to scandal. Canetons <a`>
la mode d'Ambl<`e>ve. In thin gilt lettering on the creamy
white of the menu how little those words conveyed to the
bulk of the imperfectly educated diners. And yet how much
specialized effort had been lavished, how much carefully
treasured lore had been ungarnered, before those six words
could be written. In the Department of Deux-S<e`>vres
ducklings had lived peculiar and beautiful lives and died in
the odour of satiety to furnish the main theme of the dish;
champignons, which even a purist for Saxon English would
have hesitated to address as mushrooms, had contributed
their languorous atrophied bodies to the garnishing, and a
sauce devised in the twilight reign of the Fifteenth Louis
had been summoned back from the imperishable past to take
its part in the wonderful confection. Thus far had human
effort laboured to achieve the desired result; the rest had
been left to human genius---the genius of Aristide Saucourt.
``And now the moment had arrived for the serving of the
great dish, the dish which world-weary Grand Dukes and
market-obsessed money magnates counted among their happiest
memories. And at the same moment something else happened.
The leader of the highly salaried orchestra placed his
violin caressingly against his chin, lowered his eyelids,
and floated into a sea of melody.
`` `Hark!' said most of the diners, `he is playing ``The
``They knew it was `The Chaplet' because they had heard it
played at luncheon and afternoon tea, and at supper the
night before, and had not had time to forget.
`` `Yes, he is playing ``The Chaplet,'' ' they reassured
one another. The general voice was unanimous on the
subject. The orchestra had already played it eleven times
that day, four times by desire and seven times from force of
habit, but the familiar strains were greeted with the
rapture due to a revelation. A murmur of much humming rose
from half the tables in the room, and some of the more
overwrought listeners laid down knife and fork in order to
be able to burst in with loud clappings at the earliest
``And the Canetons <`a> la mode d'Ambl<e`>ve? In
stupefied, sickened wonder Aristide watched them grow cold
in total neglect, or suffer the almost worse indignity of
perfunctory pecking and listless munching while the
banqueters lavished their approval and applause on the
music-makers. Calves' liver and bacon, with parsley sauce,
could hardly have figured more ignominiously in the
evening's entertainment. And while the master of culinary
art leaned back against the sheltering pillar, choking with
a horrible brain-searing rage that could find no outlet for
its agony, the orchestra leader was bowing his
acknowledgments of the hand-clappings that rose in a storm
around him. Turning to his colleagues he nodded the signal
for an encore. But before the violin had been lifted anew
into position there came from the shadow of the pillar an
`` `Noh! Noh! You do not play thot again!'
``The musician turned in furious astonishment. Had he
taken warning from the look in the other man's eyes he might
have acted differently. But the admiring plaudits were
ringing in his ears, and he snarled out sharply, `That is
for me to decide.'
`` `Noh! You play thot never again,' shouted the chef, and
the next moment he had flung himself violently upon the
loathed being who had supplanted him in the world's esteem.
A large metal tureen, filled to the brim with steaming soup,
had just been placed on a side table in readiness for a late
party of diners; before the waiting staff or the guests had
time to realize what was happening, Aristide had dragged his
struggling victim up to the table and plunged his head deep
down into the almost boiling contents of the tureen. At the
further end of the room the diners were still spasmodically
applauding in view of an encore.
``Whether the leader of the orchestra died from drowning
by soup, or from the shock to his professional vanity, or
was scalded to death, the doctors were never wholly able to
agree. Monsieur Aristide Saucourt, who now lives in
complete retirement, always inclined to the drowning
An unwonted peace hung over the Villa Elsinore, broken,
however, at frequent intervals, by clamorous lamentations
suggestive of bewildered bereavement. The Momebys had lost
their infant child; hence the peace which its absence
entailed; they were looking for it in wild, undisciplined
fashion, giving tongue the whole time, which accounted for
the outcry which swept through house and garden whenever
they returned to try the home coverts anew. Clovis, who was
temporarily and unwillingly a paying guest at the villa, had
been dozing in a hammock at the far end of the garden when
Mrs. Momeby had broken the news to him.
``We've lost Baby,'' she screamed.
``Do you mean that it's dead, or stampeded, or that you
staked it at cards and lost it that way?'' asked Clovis
``He was toddling about quite happily on the lawn,'' said
Mrs. Momeby tearfully, ``and Arnold had just come in, and I
was asking him what sort of sauce he would like with the
``I hope he said hollandaise,'' interrupted Clovis, with a
show of quickened interest, ``because if there's anything I
``And all of a sudden I missed Baby,'' continued Mrs.
Momeby in a shriller tone. ``We've hunted high and low, in
house and garden and outside the gates, and he's nowhere to
``Is he anywhere to be heard?'' asked Clovis; ``if not, he
must be at least two miles away.''
``But where? And how?'' asked the distracted mother.
``Perhaps an eagle or a wild beast has carried him off,''
``There aren't eagles and wild beasts in Surrey,'' said
Mrs. Momeby, but a note of horror had crept into her voice.
``They escape now and then from travelling shows.
Sometimes I think they let them get loose for the sake of
the advertisement. Think what a sensational headline it
would make in the local papers: `Infant son of prominent
Nonconformist devoured by spotted hy<ae>na.' Your husband
isn't a prominent Nonconformist, but his mother came of
Wesleyan stock, and you must allow the newspapers some
``But we should have found his remains,'' sobbed Mrs.
``If the hy<ae>na was really hungry and not merely toying
with his food there wouldn't be much in the way of remains.
It would be like the small-boy-and-apple story---there ain't
going to be no core.''
Mrs. Momeby turned away hastily to seek comfort and
counsel in some other direction. With the selfish
absorption of young motherhood she entirely disregarded
Clovis's obvious anxiety about the asparagus sauce. Before
she had gone a yard, however, the click of the side gate
caused her to pull up sharp. Miss Gilpet, from the Villa
Peterhof, had come over to hear details of the bereavement.
Clovis was already rather bored with the story, but Mrs.
Momeby was equipped with that merciless faculty which finds
as much joy in the ninetieth time of telling as in the
``Arnold had just come in; he was complaining of
``There are so many things to complain of in this
household that it would never have occurred to me to
complain of rheumatism,'' murmured Clovis.
``He was complaining of rheumatism,'' continued Mrs.
Momeby, trying to throw a chilling inflection into a voice
that was already doing a good deal of sobbing and talking at
high pressure as well.
She was again interrupted.
``There is no such thing as rheumatism,'' said Miss
Gilpet. She said it with the conscious air of defiance that
a waiter adopts in announcing that the cheapest-priced
claret in the wine-list is no more. She did not proceed,
however, to offer the alternative of some more expensive
malady, but denied the existence of them all.
Mrs. Momebys temper began to shine out through her grief.
``I suppose you'll say next that Baby hasn't really
``He has disappeared,'' conceded Miss Gilpet, ``but only
because you haven't sufficient faith to find him. It's only
lack of faith on your part that prevents him from being
restored to you safe and well.''
``But if he's been eaten in the meantime by a hy<ae>na and
partly digested,'' said Clovis, who clung affectionately to
his wild beast theory, ``surely some ill-effects would be
Miss Gilpet was rather staggered by this complication of
``I feel sure that a hy<ae>na has not eaten him,'' she
``The hy<ae>na may be equally certain that it has. You
see, it may have just as much faith as you have, and more
special knowledge as to the present whereabouts of the
Mrs. Momeby was in tears again. ``If you have faith,'' she
sobbed, struck by a happy inspiration, ``won't you find our
little Erik for us? I am sure you have powers that are
denied to us.''
Rose-Marie Gilpet was thoroughly sincere in her adherence
to Christian Science principles; whether she understood or
correctly expounded them the learned in such manners may
best decide. In the present case she was undoubtedly
confronted with a great opportunity, and as she started
forth on her vague search she strenuously summoned to her
aid every scrap of faith that she possessed. She passed out
into the bare and open high road, followed by Mrs. Momeby's
warning, ``It's no use going there, we've searched there a
dozen times.'' But Rose-Marie's ears were already deaf to
all things save self-congratulation; for sitting in the
middle of the highway, playing contentedly with the dust and
some faded buttercups, was a white-pinafored baby with a mop
of tow-coloured hair tied over one temple with a pale-blue
ribbon. Taking first the usual feminine precaution of
looking to see that no motor-car was on the distant horizon,
Rose-Marie dashed at the child and bore it, despite its
vigorous opposition, in through the portals of Elsinore.
The child's furious screams had already announced the fact
of its discovery, and the almost hysterical parents raced
down the lawn to meet their restored offspring. The
<ae>sthetic value of the scene was marred in some degree by
Rose-Marie's difficulty in holding the struggling infant,
which was borne wrong-end foremost towards the agitated
bosom of its family. ``Our own little Erik come back to
us,'' cried the Momebys in unison; as the child had rammed
its fists tightly into its eye-sockets and nothing could be
seen of its face but a widely gaping mouth, the recognition
was in itself almost an act of faith.
``Is he glad to get back to Daddy and Mummy again?''
crooned Mrs. Momeby; the preference which the child was
showing for, its dust and buttercup distractions was so
marked that the question struck Clovis as being
``Give him a ride on the roly-poly,'' suggested the father
brilliantly, as the howls continued with no sign of early
abatement. In a moment the child had been placed astride
the big garden roller and a preliminary tug was given to set
it in motion. From the hollow depths of the cylinder came
an earsplitting roar, drowning even the vocal efforts of the
squalling baby, and immediately afterwards there crept forth
a white-pinafored infant with a mop of tow-coloured hair
tied over one temple with a pale blue ribbon. There was no
mistaking either the features or the lung-power of the new
``Our own little Erik,'' screamed Mrs. Momeby, pouncing on
him and nearly smothering him with kisses; ``did he hide in
the roly-poly to give us all a big fright?''
This was the obvious explanation of the child's sudden
disappearance and equally abrupt discovery. There remained,
however, the problem of the interloping baby, which now sat
whimpering on the lawn in a disfavour as chilling as its
previous popularity had been unwelcome. The Momebys glared
at it as though it had wormed its way into their short-lived
affections by heartless and unworthy pretences. Miss
Gilpet's face took on an ashen tinge as she stared
helplessly at the bunched-up figure that had been such a
gladsome sight to her eyes a few moments ago.
``When love is over, how little of love even the lover
understands,'' quoted Clovis to himself.
Rose-Marie was the first to break the silence.
``If that is Erik you have in your arms, who is---that?''
``That, I think, is for you to explain,'' said Mrs. Momeby
``Obviously,'' said Clovis, ``it's a duplicate Erik that
your powers of faith called into being. The question is:
What are you going to do with him?''
The ashen pallor deepened in Rose-Marie's cheeks. Mrs.
Momeby clutched the genuine Erik closer to her side, as
though she feared that her uncanny neighbour might out of
sheer pique turn him into a bowl of gold-fish.
``I found him sitting in the middle of the road,'' said
``You can't take him back and leave him there,'' said
Clovis; ``the highway is meant for traffic, not to be used
as a lumber-room for disused miracles.''
Rose-Marie wept. The proverb ``Weep and you weep alone,''
broke down as badly on application as most of its kind.
Both babies were wailing lugubriously, and the parent
Momebys had scarcely recovered from their earlier lachrymose
condition. Clovis alone maintained an unruffled
``Must I keep him always?'' asked Rose-Marie dolefully.
``Not always,'' said Clovis consolingly; ``he can go into
the Navy when he's thirteen.'' Rose-Marie wept afresh.
``Of course,'' added Clovis, ``there may be no end of a
bother about his birth certificate. You'll have to explain
matters to the Admiralty, and they're dreadfully
It was rather a relief when a breathless nursemaid from
the Villa Charlottenburg over the way came running across
the lawn to claim little Percy, who had slipped out of the
front gate and disappeared like a twinkling from the high
And even then Clovis found it necessary to go in person to
the kitchen to make sure about the asparagus sauce.
The Gr<a:>fin's two elder sons had made deplorable
marriages. It was, observed Clovis, a family habit. The
youngest boy, Wratislav, who was the black sheep of a rather
greyish family, had as yet made no marriage at all.
``There is certainly this much to be said for
viciousness,'' said the Gr<a:>fin, ``it keeps boys out of
``Does it?'' asked the Baroness Sophie, not by way of
questioning the statement, but with a painstaking effort to
talk intelligently. It was the one matter in which she
attempted to override the decrees of Providence, which had
obviously never intended that she should talk otherwise than
``I don't know why I shouldn't talk cleverly,'' she would
complain; ``my mother was considered a brilliant
``These things have a way of skipping one generation,''
said the Gr<a:>fin.
``That seems so unjust,'' said Sophie; ``one doesn't
object to one's mother having outshone one as a clever
talker, but I must admit that I should be rather annoyed if
my daughters talked brilliantly.''
``Well, none of them do,'' said the Gr<a:>fin consolingly.
``I don't know about that,'' said the Baroness, promptly
veering round in defence of her offspring. ``Elsa said
something quite clever on Thursday about the Triple
Alliance. Something about it being like a paper umbrella,
that was all right as long as you didn't take it out in the
rain. It's not every one who could say that.''
``Every one has said it; at least every one that I know.
But then I know very few people.''
``I don't think you're particularly agreeable today.''
``I never am. Haven't you noticed that women with a
really perfect profile like mine are seldom even moderately
``I don't think your profile is so perfect as all that,''
said the Baroness.
``It would be surprising if it wasn't. My mother was one
of the most noted classical beauties of her day.''
``These things sometimes skip a generation, you know,''
put in the Baroness, with the breathless haste of one to
whom repartee comes as rarely as the finding of a
``My dear Sophie,'' said the Gr<a:>fin sweetly, ``that
isn't in the least bit clever; but you do try so hard that I
suppose I oughtn't to discourage you. Tell me something:
has it ever occurred to you that Elsa would do very well for
Wratislav? It's time he married somebody, and why not
``Elsa marry that dreadful boy!'' gasped the Baroness.
``Beggars can't be choosers,'' observed the Gr<a:>fin.
``Elsa isn't a beggar!''
``Not financially, or I shouldn't have suggested the
match. But she's getting on, you know, and has no
pretensions to brains or looks or anything of that sort.''
``You seem to forget that she's my daughter.''
``That shows my generosity. But, seriously, I don't see
what there is against Wratislav. He has no debts---at
least, nothing worth speaking about.''
``But think of his reputation! If half the things they say
about him are true---''
``Probably three-quarters of them are. But what of it?
You don't want an archangel for a son-in-law.''
``I don't want Wratislav. My poor Elsa would be miserable
``A little misery wouldn't matter very much with her; it
would go so well with the way she does her hair, and if she
couldn't get on with Wratislav she could always go and do
good among the poor.''
The Baroness picked up a framed photograph from the table.
``He certainly is very handsome,'' she said doubtfully;
adding even more doubtfully, ``I dare say dear Elsa might
The Gr<a:>fin had the presence of mind to laugh in the
Three weeks later the Gr<a:>fin bore down upon the
Baroness Sophie in a foreign bookseller's shop in the
Graben, where she was, possibly, buying books of devotion,
though it was the wrong counter for them.
``I've just left the dear children at the Rodenstahls',''
was the Gr<a:>fin's greeting.
``Were they looking very happy?'' asked the Baroness.
``Wratislav was wearing some new English clothes, so, of
course, he was quite happy. I overheard him telling Toni a
rather amusing story about a nun and a mousetrap, which
won't bear repetition. Elsa was telling every one else a
witticism about the Triple Alliance being like a paper
umbrella---which seems to bear repetition with Christian
``Did they seem much wrapped up in each other?''
``To be candid, Elsa looked as if she were wrapped up in a
horse-rug. And why let her wear saffron colour?''
``I always think it goes with her complexion.''
``Unfortunately it doesn't. It stays with it. Ugh.
Don't forget, you're lunching with me on Thursday.''
The Baroness was late for her luncheon engagement the
``Imagine what has happened!'' she screamed as she burst
into the room.
``Something remarkable, to make you late for a meal,''
said the Gr<a:>fin.
``Elsa has run away with the Rodenstahls' chauffeur!''
``Such a thing as that no one in our family has ever
done,'' gasped the Baroness.
``Perhaps he didn't appeal to them in the same way''
suggested the Gr<a:>fin judicially.
The Baroness began to feel that she was not getting the
astonishment and sympathy to which her catastrophe entitled
``At any rate,'' she snapped, ``now she can't marry
``She couldn't in any case,'' said the Griffin; ``he left
suddenly for abroad last night.''
``For abroad! Where?''
``For Mexico, I believe.''
``Mexico! But what for? Why Mexico?''
``The English have a proverb, `Conscience makes cowboys of
us all.' ''
``I didn't know Wratislav had a conscience.''
``My dear Sophie, he hasn't. It's other people's
consciences that send one abroad in a hurry. Let's go and
THE EASTER EGG
It was distinctly hard lines for Lady Barbara, who came of
good fighting stock, and was one of the bravest women of her
generation, that her son should be so undisguisedly a
coward. Whatever good qualities Lester Slaggby may have
possessed, and he was in some respects charming, courage
could certainly never be imputed to him. As a child he had
suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish
funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for
others which were more formidable from the fact of having a
carefully-thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of
animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the
Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion
of life belts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to
require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for
clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse
soothingly on the neck. Lady Barbara no longer pretended
not to see her son's prevailing weakness; with her usual
courage she faced the knowledge of it squarely, and,
mother-like, loved him none the less.
Continental travel, anywhere away from the great tourist
tracks, was a favoured hobby with Lady Barbara, and Lester
joined her as often as possible. Eastertide usually found
her at Knobaltheim, an upland township in one of those small
princedoms that make inconspicuous freckles on the map of
A long-standing acquaintanceship with the reigning family
made her a personage of due importance in the eyes of her
old friend the Burgomaster, and she was anxiously consulted
by that worthy on the momentous occasion when the Prince
made known his intention of coming in person to open a
sanatorium outside the town. All the usual items in a
programme of welcome, some of them fatuous and commonplace,
others quaint and charming, had been arranged for, but the
Burgomaster hoped that the resourceful English lady might
have something new and tasteful to suggest in the way of
loyal greeting. The Prince was known to the outside world,
if at all, as an old-fashioned reactionary, combating modern
progress, as it were, with a wooden sword; to his own people
he was known as a kindly old gentleman with a certain
endearing stateliness which had nothing of standoffishness
about it. Knobaltheim was anxious to do its best. Lady
Barbara discussed the matter with Lester and one or two
acquaintances in her little hotel, but ideas were difficult
to come by.
``Might I suggest something to the gn<a:>dige Frau?''
asked a sallow high-cheekboned lady to whom the Englishwoman
had spoken once or twice, and whom she had set down in her
mind as probably a Southern Slav.
``Might I suggest something for the Reception Fest?'' she
went on, with a certain shy eagerness. ``Our little child
here, our baby, we will dress him in little white coat, with
small wings, as an Easter angel, and he will carry a large
white Easter egg, and inside shall be a basket of plover
eggs, of which the Prince is so fond, and he shall give it
to his Highness as Easter offering. It is so pretty an
idea; we have seen it done once in Styria.''
Lady Barbara looked dubiously at the proposed Easter
angel, a fair, wooden-faced child of about four years old.
She had noticed it the day before in the hotel, and wondered
rather how such a tow-headed child could belong to such a
dark-visaged couple as the woman and her husband; probably,
she thought, an adopted baby, especially as the couple were
``Of course Gn<a:>dige Frau will escort the little child
up to the Prince,'' pursued the woman; ``but he will be
quite good, and do as he is told.''
``We haf some pluffers' eggs shall come fresh from Wien,''
said the husband.
The small child and Lady Barbara seemed equally
unenthusiastic about the pretty idea; Lester was openly
discouraging, but when the Burgomaster heard of it he was
enchanted. The combination of sentiment and plovers' eggs
appealed strongly to his Teutonic mind.
On the eventful day the Easter angel, really quite
prettily and quaintly dressed, was a centre of kindly
interest to the gala crowd marshalled to receive his
Highness. The mother was unobtrusive and less fussy than
most parents would have been under the circumstances, merely
stipulating that she should place the Easter egg herself in
the arms that had been carefully schooled how to hold the
precious burden. Then Lady Barbara moved forward, the child
marching stolidly and with grim determination at her side.
It had been promised cakes and sweeties galore if it gave
the egg well and truly to the kind old gentleman who was
waiting to receive it. Lester had tried to convey to it
privately that horrible smackings would attend any failure
in its share of the proceedings, but it is doubtful if his
German caused more than an immediate distress. Lady Barbara
had thoughtfully provided herself with an emergency supply
of chocolate sweetmeats; children may sometimes be
timeservers, but they do not encourage long accounts. As
they approached nearer to the princely dais Lady Barbara
stood discreetly aside, and the stolid-faced infant walked
forward alone, with staggering but steadfast gait.
encouraged by a murmur of elderly approval. Lester,
standing in the front row of the onlookers, turned to scan
the crowd for the beaming faces of the happy parents. In a
side-road which led to the railway station he saw a cab;
entering the cab with every appearance of furtive haste were
the dark-visaged couple who had been so plausibly eager for
the ``pretty idea.'' The sharpened instinct of cowardice
lit up the situation to him in one swift flash. The blood
roared and surged to his head as though thousands of
floodgates had been opened in his veins and arteries, and
his brain was the common sluice in which all the torrents
met. He saw nothing but a blur around him. Then the blood
ebbed away in quick waves, till his very heart seemed
drained and empty, and he stood nervelessly, helplessly,
dumbly watching the child, bearing its accursed burden with
slow, relentless steps nearer and nearer to the group that
waited sheep-like to receive him. A fascinated curiosity
compelled Lester to turn his head towards the fugitives; the
cab had started at hot pace in the direction of the station.
The next moment Lester was running, running faster than
any of those present had ever seen a man run, and---he was
not running away. For that stray fraction of his life some
unwonted impulse beset him, some hint of the stock he came
from, and he ran unflinchingly towards danger. He stooped
and clutched at the Easter egg as one tries to scoop up the
ball in Rugby football. What he meant to do with it he had
not considered, the thing was to get it. But the child had
been promised cakes and sweetmeats if it safely gave the egg
into the hands of the kindly old gentleman; it uttered no
scream but it held to its charge with limpet grip. Lester
sank to his knees, tugging savagely at the tightly clasped
burden, and angry cries rose from the scandalized onlookers.
A questioning, threatening ring formed round him, then
shrank back in recoil as he shrieked out one hideous word.
Lady Barbara heard the word and saw the crowd race away like
scattered sheep, saw the Prince forcibly hustled away by his
attendants; also she saw her son lying prone in an agony of
overmastering terror, his spasm of daring shattered by the
child's unexpected resistance, still clutching frantically,
as though for safety, at that white-satin gew-gaw, unable to
crawl even from its deadly neighbourhood, able only to
scream and scream and scream. In her brain she was dimly
conscious of balancing, or striving to balance, the abject
shame which had him now in thrall against the one compelling
act of courage which had flung him grandly and madly on to
the point of danger. It was only for the fraction of a
minute that she stood watching the two entangled figures,
the infant with its woodenly obstinate face and body tense
with dogged resistance, and the boy limp and already nearly
dead with a terror that almost stifled his screams; and over
them the long gala streamers flapping gaily in the sunshine.
She never forgot the scene; but then, it was the last she
Lady Barbara carries her scarred face with its sightless
eyes as bravely as ever in the world, but at Eastertide her
friends are careful to keep from her ears any mention of the
children's Easter symbol.
FILBOID STUDGE, THE STORY OF A MOUSE THAT HELPED
``I want to marry your daughter,'' said Mark Spayley with
faltering eagerness. ``I am only an artist with an income
of two hundred a year, and she is the daughter of an
enormously wealthy man, so I suppose you will think my offer
a piece of presumption.''
Duncan Dullamy, the great company inflator, showed no
outward sign of displeasure. As a matter of fact, he was
secretly relieved at the prospect of finding even a
two-hundred-a-year husband for his daughter Leonore. A
crisis was rapidly rushing upon him, from which he knew he
would emerge with neither money nor credit; all his recent
ventures had fallen flat, and flattest of all had gone the
wonderful new breakfast food, Pipenta, on the advertisement
of which he had sunk such huge sums. It could scarcely be
called a drug in the market; people bought drugs, but no one
``Would you marry Leonore if she were a poor man's
daughter?'' asked the man of phantom wealth.
``Yes,'' said Mark, wisely avoiding the error of
over-protestation. And to his astonishment Leonore's father
not only gave his consent, but suggested a fairly early date
for the wedding.
``I wish I could show my gratitude in some way,'' said
Mark with genuine emotion. ``I'm afraid it's rather like
the mouse proposing to help the lion.''
``Get people to buy that beastly muck,'' said Dullamy,
nodding savagely at a poster of the despised Pipenta, ``and
you'll have done more than any of my agents have been able
``It wants a better name,'' said Mark reflectively, ``and
something distinctive in the poster line. Anyway, I'll have
a shot at it.''
Three weeks later the world was advised of the coming of a
new breakfast food, heralded under the resounding name of
``Filboid Studge.'' Spayley put forth no pictures of massive
babies springing up with fungus-like rapidity under its
forcing influence, or of representatives of the leading
nations of the world scrambling with fatuous eagerness for
its possession. One huge sombre poster depicted the Damned
in Hell suffering a new torment from their inability to get
at the Filboid Studge which elegant young fiends held in
transparent bowls just beyond their reach. The scene was
rendered even more gruesome by a subtle suggestion of the
features of leading men and women of the day in the
portrayal of the Lost Souls; prominent individuals of both
political parties, Society hostesses, well-known dramatic
authors and novelists, and distinguished aeroplanists were
dimly recognizable in that doomed throng; noted lights of
the musical-comedy stage flickered wanly in the shades of
the Inferno, smiling still from force of habit, but with the
fearsome smiling rage of baffled effort. The poster bore no
fulsome allusions to the merits of the new breakfast food,
but a single grim statement ran in bold letters along its
base: ``They cannot buy it now.''
Spayley had grasped the fact that people will do things
from a sense of duty which they would never attempt as a
pleasure. There are thousands of respectable middle-class
men who, if you found them unexpectedly in a Turkish bath,
would explain in all sincerity that a doctor had ordered
them to take Turkish baths; if you told them in return that
you went there because you liked it, they would stare in
pained wonder at the frivolity of your motive. In the same
way, whenever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia
Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out
``under orders'' from somewhere or another; no one seems to
think that there are people who might like to kill their
neighbours now and then.
And so it was with the new breakfast food. No one would
have eaten Filboid Studge as a pleasure, but the grim
austerity of its advertisement drove housewives in shoals to
the grocers' shops to clamour for an immediate supply. In
small kitchens solemn pig-tailed daughters helped depressed
mothers to perform the primitive ritual of its preparation.
On the breakfast-tables of cheerless parlours it was
partaken of in silence. Once the womenfolk discovered that
it was thoroughly unpalatable, their zeal in forcing it on
their households knew no bounds. ``You haven't eaten your
Filboid Studge!'' would be screamed at the appetiteless
clerk as he turned weariedly from the breakfast-table, and
his evening meal would be prefaced by a warmed-up mess which
would be explained as ``your Filboid Studge that you didn't
eat this morning.'' Those strange fanatics who
ostentatiously mortify themselves, inwardly and outwardly,
with health biscuits and health garments, battened
aggressively on the new food. Earnest spectacled young men
devoured it on the steps of the National Liberal Club. A
bishop who did not believe in a future state preached
against the poster, and a peer's daughter died from eating
too much of the compound. A further advertisement was
obtained when an infantry regiment mutinied and shot its
officers rather than eat the nauseous mess; fortunately,
Lord Birrell of Blatherstone, who was War Minister at the
moment, saved the situation by his happy epigram, that
``Discipline to be effective must be optional.''
Filboid Studge had become a household word, but Dullamy
wisely realized that it was not necessarily the last word in
breakfast dietary; its supremacy would be challenged as soon
as some yet more unpalatable food should be put on the
market. There might even be a reaction in favour of
something tasty and appetizing, and the Puritan austerity of
the moment might be banished from domestic cookery. At an
opportune moment, therefore, he sold out his interests in
the article which had brought him in colossal wealth at a
critical juncture, and placed his financial reputation
beyond the reach of cavil. As for Leonore, who was now an
heiress on a far greater scale than ever before, he
naturally found her something a vast deal higher in the
husband market than a two-hundred-a-year poster designer.
Mark Spayley, the brainmouse who had helped the financial
lion with such untoward effect, was left to curse the day he
produced the wonder-working poster.
``After all,'' said Clovis, meeting him shortly afterwards
at his club, ``you have this doubtful consolation, that 'tis
not in mortals to countermand success.''
THE MUSIC ON THE HILL
Sylvia Seltoun ate her breakfast in the morning-room at
Yessney with a pleasant sense of ultimate victory, such as a
fervent Ironside might have permitted himself on the morrow
of Worcester fight. She was scarcely pugnacious by
temperament, but belonged to that more successful class of
fighters who are pugnacious by circumstance. Fate had
willed that her life should be occupied with a series of
small struggles, usually with the odds slightly against her,
and usually she had just managed to come through winning.
And now she felt that she had brought her hardest and
certainly her most important struggle to a successful issue.
To have married Mortimer Seltoun, ``Dead Mortimer'' as his
more intimate enemies called him, in the teeth of the cold
hostility of his family, and in spite of his unaffected
indifference to women, was indeed an achievement that had
needed some determination and adroitness to carry through;
yesterday she had brought her victory to its concluding
stage by wrenching her husband away from Town and its group
of satellite watering-places and ``settling him down,'' in
the vocabulary of her kind, in this remote wood-girt manor
farm which was his country house.
``You will never get Mortimer to go,'' his mother had said
carpingly, ``but if he once goes he'll stay; Yessney throws
almost as much a spell over him as Town does. One can
understand what holds him to Town, but Yessney---'' and the
dowager had shrugged her shoulders.
There was a sombre almost savage wildness about Yessney
that was certainly not likely to appeal to town-bred tastes,
and Sylvia, notwithstanding her name, was accustomed to
nothing much more sylvan than ``leafy Kensington.'' She
looked on the country as something excellent and wholesome
in its way, which was apt to become troublesome if you
encouraged it overmuch. Distrust of townlife had been a new
thing with her, born of her marriage with Mortimer, and she
had watched with satisfaction the gradual fading of what she
called ``the Jermyn-Street-look'' in his eyes as the woods
and heather of Yessney had closed in on them yesternight.
Her will-power and strategy had prevailed; Mortimer would
stay. Outside the morning-room windows was a triangular
slope of turf, which the indulgent might call a lawn, and
beyond its low hedge of neglected fuschia bushes a steeper
slope of heather and bracken dropped down into cavernous
combes overgrown with oak and yew. In its wild open
savagery there seemed a stealthy linking of the joy of life
with the terror of unseen things. Sylvia smiled
complacently as she gazed with a School-of-Art appreciation
at the landscape, and then of a sudden she almost shuddered.
``It is very wild,'' she said to Mortimer, who had joined
her; ``one could almost think that in such a place the
worship of Pan had never quite died out.''
``The worship of Pan never has died out,'' said Mortimer.
``Other newer gods have drawn aside his votaries from time
to time, but he is the Nature-God to whom all must come back
at last. He has been called the Father of all the Gods, but
most of his children have been stillborn.''
Sylvia was religious in an honest, vaguely devotional kind
of way, and did not like to hear her beliefs spoken of as
mere aftergrowths, but it was at least something new and
hopeful to hear Dead Mortimer speak with such energy and
conviction on any subject.
``You don't really believe in Pan?'' she asked
``I've been a fool in most things,'' said Mortimer
quietly, ``but I'm not such a fool as not to believe in Pan
when I'm down here. And if you're wise you won't disbelieve
in him too boastfully while you're in his country.''
It was not till a week later, when Sylvia had exhausted
the attractions of the woodland walks round Yessney, that
she ventured on a tour of inspection of the farm buildings.
A farmyard suggested in her mind a scene of cheerful bustle,
with churns and flails and smiling dairymaids, and teams of
horses drinking knee-deep in duck-crowded ponds. As she
wandered among the gaunt grey buildings of Yessney manor
farm her first impression was one of crushing stillness and
desolation, as though she had happened on some lone deserted
homestead long given over to owls and cobwebs; then came a
sense of furtive watchful hostility, the same shadow of
unseen things that seemed to lurk in the wooded combes and
coppices. From behind heavy doors and shuttered windows came
the restless stamp of hoof or rasp of chain halter, and at
times a muffled bellow from some stalled beast. From a
distant comer a shaggy dog watched her with intent
unfriendly eyes; as she drew near it slipped quietly into
its kennel, and slipped out again as noiselessly when she
had passed by. A few hens, questing for food under a rick,
stole away under a gate at her approach. Sylvia felt that
if she had come across any human beings in this wilderness
of barn and byre they would have fled wraith-like from her
gaze. At last, turning a corner quickly, she came upon a
living thing that did not fly from her. Astretch in a pool
of mud was an enormous sow, gigantic beyond the town-woman's
wildest computation of swine-flesh, and speedily alert to
resent and if necessary repel the unwonted intrusion. It
was Sylvia's turn to make an unobtrusive retreat. As she
threaded her way past rickyards and cowsheds and long blank
walls, she started suddenly at a strange sound---the echo of
a boy's laughter, golden and equivocal. Jan, the only boy
employed on the farm, a tow-headed, wizen-faced yokel, was
visibly at work on a potato clearing half-way up the nearest
hill-side, and Mortimer, when questioned, knew of no other
probable or possible begetter of the hidden mockery that had
ambushed Sylvia's retreat. The memory of that untraceable
echo was added to her other impressions of a furtive
sinister ``something'' that hung around Yessney.
Of Mortimer she saw very little; farm and woods and trout-
streams seemed to swallow him up from dawn till dusk. Once,
following the direction she had seen him take in the
morning, she came to an open space in a nut copse, further
shut in by huge yew trees, in the centre of which stood a
stone pedestal surmounted by a small bronze figure of a
youthful Pan. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship, but
her attention was chiefly held by the fact that a newly cut
bunch of grapes had been placed as an offering at its feet.
Grapes were none too plentiful at the manor house, and
Sylvia snatched the bunch angrily from the pedestal.
Contemptuous annoyance dominated her thoughts as she
strolled slowly homeward, and then gave way to a sharp
feeling of something that was very near fright; across a
thick tangle of undergrowth a boy's face was scowling at
her, brown and beautiful, with unutterably evil eyes. It
was a lonely pathway, all pathways round Yessney were lonely
for the matter of that, and she sped forward without waiting
to give a closer scrutiny to this sudden apparition. It was
not till she had reached the house that she discovered that
she had dropped the bunch of grapes in her flight.
``I saw a youth in the wood today,'' she told Mortimer
that evening, ``brown-faced and rather handsome, but a
scoundrel to look at. A gipsy lad, I suppose.''
``A reasonable theory,'' said Mortimer, ``only there
aren't any gipsies in these parts at present.''
``Then who was he?'' asked Sylvia, and as Mortimer appeared
to have no theory of his own she passed on to recount her
finding of the votive offering.
``I suppose it was your doing,'' she observed; ``it's a
harmless piece of lunacy, but people would think you
dreadfully silly if they knew of it.''
``Did you meddle with it in any way?'' asked Mortimer.
``I---I threw the grapes away. It seemed so silly,'' said
Sylvia, watching Mortimer's impassive face for a sign of
``I don't think you were wise to do that,'' he said
reflectively. ``I've heard it said that the Wood Gods are
rather horrible to those who molest them.''
``Horrible perhaps to those that believe in them, but you
see I don't,'' retorted Sylvia.
``All the same,'' said Mortimer in his even, dispassionate
tone, ``I should avoid the woods and orchards if I were you,
and give a wide berth to the horned beasts on the farm.''
It was all nonsense, of course, but in that lonely
wood-girt spot nonsense seemed able to rear a bastard brood
``Mortimer,'' said Sylvia suddenly, ``I think we will go
back to Town some time soon.''
Her victory had not been so complete as she had supposed;
it had carried her on to ground that she was already anxious
``I don't think you will ever go back to Town,'' said
Mortimer. He seemed to be paraphrasing his mother's
prediction as to himself.
Sylvia noted with dissatisfaction and some self-contempt
that the course of her next afternoon's ramble took her
instinctively clear of the network of woods. As to the
horned cattle, Mortimer's warning was scarcely needed, for
she had always regarded them as of doubtful neutrality at
the best: her imagination unsexed the most matronly dairy
cows and turned them into bulls liable to ``see red'' at any
moment. The ram who fed in the narrow paddock below the
orchards she had adjudged, after ample and cautious
probation, to be of docile temper; today, however, she
decided to leave his docility untested, for the usually
tranquil beast was roaming with every sign of restlessness
from corner to corner of his meadow. A low, fitful piping,
as of some reedy flute, was coming from the depth of a
neighbouring copse, and there seemed to be some subtle
connection between the animal's restless pacing and the wild
music from the wood. Sylvia turned her steps in an upward
direction and climbed the heather-clad slopes that stretched
in rolling shoulders high above Yessney. She had left the
piping notes behind her, but across the wooded combes at her
feet the wind brought her another kind of music, the
straining bay of hounds in full chase. Yessney was just on
the outskirts of the Devon-and-Somerset country, and the
hunted deer sometimes came that way. Sylvia could presently
see a dark body, breasting hill after hill, and sinking
again and again out of sight as he crossed the combes, while
behind him steadily swelled that relentless chorus, and she
grew tense with the excited sympathy that one feels for any
hunted thing in whose capture one is not directly
interested. And at last he broke through the outermost line
of oak scrub and fern and stood panting in the open, a fat
September stag carrying a well-furnished head. His obvious
course was to drop down to the brown pools of Undercombe,
and thence make his way towards the red deer's favoured
sanctuary, the sea. To Sylvia's surprise, however, he
turned his head to the upland slope and came lumbering
resolutely onward over the heather. ``It will be
dreadful,'' she thought, ``the hounds will pull him down
under my very eyes.'' But the music of the pack seemed to
have died away for a moment, and in its place she heard
again that wild piping, which rose now on this side, now on
that, as though urging the failing stag to a final effort.
Sylvia stood well aside from his path, half hidden in a
thick growth of whortle bushes, and watched him swing
stiffly upward, his flanks dark with sweat, the coarse hair
on his neck showing light by contrast. The pipe music
shrilled suddenly around her, seeming to come from the
bushes at her very feet, and at the same moment the great
beast slewed round and bore directly down upon her. In an
instant her pity for the hunted animal was changed to wild
terror at her own danger; the thick heather roots mocked her
scrambling efforts at flight, and she looked frantically
downward for a glimpse of oncoming hounds. The huge antler
spikes were within a few yards of her, and in a flash of
numbing fear she remembered Mortimer's warning, to beware of
horned beasts on the farm. And then with a quick throb of
joy she saw that she was not alone; a human figure stood a
few paces aside, knee-deep in the whortle bushes.
``Drive it off!'' she shrieked. But the figure made no
The antlers drove straight at her breast, the acrid smell
of the hunted animal was in her nostrils, but her eyes were
filled with the horror of something she saw other than her
oncoming death. And in her ears rang the echo of a boy's
laughter, golden and equivocal.
THE STORY OF ST. VESPALUUS
``Tell me a story,'' said the Baroness, staring out
despairingly at the rain; it was that light, apologetic sort
of rain that looks as if it was going to leave off every
minute and goes on for the greater part of the afternoon.
``What sort of story?'' asked Clovis, giving his croquet
mallet a valedictory shove into retirement.
``One just true enough to be interesting and not true
enough to be tiresome,'' said the Baroness.
Clovis rearranged several cushions to his personal solace
and satisfaction; he knew that the Baroness liked her guests
to be comfortable, and he thought it right to respect her
wishes in that particular.
``Have I ever told you the story of St. Vespaluus?'' he
``You've told me stories about grand-dukes and lion-tamers
and financiers' widows and a postmaster in Herzegovina,''
said the Baroness, ``and about an Italian jockey and an
amateur governess who went to Warsaw, and several about your
mother, but certainly never anything about a saint.''
``This story happened a long while ago,'' he said, ``in
those uncomfortable piebald times when a third of the people
were Pagan, and a third Christian, and the biggest third of
all just followed whichever religion the Court happened to
profess. There was a certain king called Hkrikros, who had
a fearful temper and no immediate successor in his own
family; his married sister, however, had provided him with a
large stock of nephews from which to select his heir. And
the most eligible and royally-approved of all these nephews
was the sixteen-year-old Vespaluus. He was the best
looking, and the best horseman and javelin-thrower, and had
that priceless princely gift of being able to walk past a
supplicant with an air of not having seen him, but would
certainly have given something if he had. My mother has
that gift to a certain extent; she can go smilingly and
financially unscathed through a charity bazaar, and meet the
organizers next day with a solicitous `had I but known you
were in need of funds' air that is really rather a triumph
in audacity. Now Hkrikros was a Pagan of the first water,
and kept the worship of the sacred serpents, who lived in a
hallowed grove on a hill near the royal palace, up to a high
pitch of enthusiasm. The common people were allowed to
please themselves, within certain discreet limits, in the
matter of private religion, but any official in the service
of the Court who went over to the new cult was looked down
on, literally as well as metaphorically, the looking down
being done from the gallery that ran round the royal
bear-pit. Consequently there was considerable scandal and
consternation when the youthful Vespaluus appeared one day
at a Court function with a rosary tucked into his belt, and
announced in reply to angry questionings that he had decided
to adopt Christianity, or at any rate to give it a trial.
If it had been any of the other nephews the king would
possibly have ordered something drastic in the way of
scourging and banishment, but in the case of the favoured
Vespaluus he determined to look on the whole thing much as a
modern father might regard the announced intention of his
son to adopt the stage as a profession. He sent accordingly
for the Royal Librarian. The royal library in those days
was not a very extensive affair, and the keeper of the
king's books had a great deal of leisure on his hands.
Consequently he was in frequent demand for the settlement of
other people's affairs when these strayed beyond normal
limits and got temporarily unmanageable.
`` `You must reason with Prince Vespaluus,' said the king,
`and impress on him the error of his ways. We cannot have
the heir to the throne setting such a dangerous example.'
`` `But where shall I find the necessary arguments?' asked
`` `I give you free leave to pick and choose your
arguments in the royal woods and coppices,' said the king;
`if you cannot get together some cutting observations and
stinging retorts suitable to the occasion you are a person
of very poor resource.'
``So the Librarian went into the woods and gathered a
goodly selection of highly argumentative rods and switches,
and then proceeded to reason with Vespaluus on the folly and
iniquity and above all the unseemliness of his conduct. His
reasoning left a deep impression on the young prince, an
impression which lasted for many weeks, during which time
nothing more was heard about the unfortunate lapse into
Christianity. Then a further scandal of the same nature
agitated the Court. At a time when he should have been
engaged in audibly invoking the gracious protection and
patronage of the holy serpents, Vespaluus was heard singing
a chant in honour of St. Odilo of Cluny. The king was
furious at this new outbreak, and began to take a gloomy
view of the situation; Vespaluus was evidently going to show
a dangerous obstinacy in persisting in his heresy. And yet
there was nothing in his appearance to justify such
perverseness; he had not the pale eye of the fanatic or the
mystic look of the dreamer. On the contrary, he was quite
the best-looking boy at Court; he had an elegant, well-knit
figure, a healthy complexion, eyes the colour of very ripe
mulberries, and dark hair, smooth and very well cared for.''
``It sounds like a description of what you imagine
yourself to have been like at the age of sixteen,'' said the
``My mother has probably been showing you some of my early
photographs,'' said Clovis. Having turned the sarcasm into
a compliment, he resumed his story.
``The king had Vespaluus shut up in a dark tower for three
days, with nothing but bread and water to live on, the
squealing and fluttering of bats to listen to, and drifting
clouds to watch through one little window slit. The
anti-Pagan section of the community began to talk
portentously of the boy-martyr. The martyrdom was
mitigated, as far as the food was concerned, by the
carelessness of the tower warden, who once or twice left a
portion of his own supper of broiled meat and fruit and wine
by mistake in the prince's cell. After the punishment was
over, Vespaluus was closely watched for any further symptom
of religious perversity, for the king was determined to
stand no more opposition on so important a matter, even from
a favourite nephew. If there was any more of this nonsense,
he said, the succession to the throne would have to be
``For a time all went well; the festival of summer sports
was approaching, and the young Vespaluus was too engrossed
in wrestling and foot-running and javelin-throwing
competitions to bother himself with the strife of
conflicting religious systems. Then, however, came the
great culminating feature of the summer festival, the
ceremonial dance round the grove of the sacred serpents, and
Vespaluus, as we should say, `sat it out.' The affront to
the State religion was too public and ostentatious to be
overlooked, even if the king had been so minded, and he was
not in the least so minded. For a day and a half he sat
apart and brooded, and every one thought he was debating
within himself the question of the young prince's death or
pardon; as a matter of fact he was merely thinking out the
manner of the boys death. As the thing had to be done, and
was bound to attract an enormous amount of public attention
in any case, it was as well to make it as spectacular and
impressive as possible.
`` `Apart from his unfortunate taste in religions,' said
the king, `and his obstinacy in adhering to it, he is a
sweet and pleasant youth, therefore it is meet and fitting
that he should be done to death by the winged envoys of
`` `Your Majesty means---?' said the Royal Librarian.
`` `I mean,' said the king, `that he shall be stung to
death by bees. By the royal bees, of course.'
`` `A most elegant death,' said the Librarian.
`` `Elegant and spectacular, and decidedly painful,' said
the king; `it fulfills all the conditions that could be
``The king himself thought out all the details of the
execution ceremony. Vespaluus was to be stripped of his
clothes, his hands were to be bound behind him, and he was
then to be slung in a recumbent position immediately above
three of the largest of the royal beehives, so that the
least movement of his body would bring him in jarring
contact with them. The rest could be safely left to the
bees. The death throes, the king computed, might last
anything from fifteen to forty minutes, though there was
division of opinion and considerable wagering among the
other nephews as to whether death might not be almost
instantaneous, or, on the other hand, whether it might not
be deferred for a couple of hours. Anyway, they all agreed,
it was vastly preferable to being thrown down into an evil
smelling bear-pit and being clawed and mauled to death by
imperfectly carnivorous animals.
``It so happened, however, that the keeper of the royal
hives had leanings towards Christianity himself, and
moreover, like most of the Court officials, he was very much
attached to Vespaluus. On the eve of the execution,
therefore, he busied himself with removing the stings from
all the royal bees; it was a long and delicate operation,
but he was an expert beemaster, and by working hard nearly
all night he succeeded in disarming all, or almost all, of
the hive inmates.''
``I didn't know you could take the sting from a live
bee,'' said the Baroness incredulously.
``Every profession has its secrets,'' replied Clovis; ``if
it hadn't it wouldn't be a profession. Well, the moment for
the execution arrived; the king and Court took their places,
and accommodation was found for as many of the populace as
wished to witness the unusual spectacle. Fortunately the
royal bee-yard was of considerable dimensions, and was
commanded, moreover, by the terraces that ran round the
royal gardens; with a little squeezing and the erection of a
few platforms room was found for everybody. Vespaluus was
carried into the open space in front of the hives, blushing
and slightly embarrassed, but not at all displeased at the
attention which was being centred on him.''
``He seems to have resembled you in more things than in
appearance,'' said the Baroness.
``Don't interrupt at a critical point in the story,'' said
Clovis. ``As soon as he had been carefully adjusted in the
prescribed position over the hives, and almost before the
gaolers had time to retire to a safe distance, Vespaluus
gave a lusty and well-aimed kick, which sent all three hives
toppling one over another. The next moment he was wrapped
from head to foot in bees; each individual insect nursed the
dreadful and humiliating knowledge that in this supreme hour
of catastrophe it could not sting, but each felt that it
ought to pretend to. Vespaluus squealed and wriggled with
laughter, for he was being tickled nearly to death, and now
and again he gave a furious kick and used a bad word as one
of the few bees that had escaped disarmament got its protest
home. But the spectators saw with amazement that he showed
no signs of approaching death agony, and as the bees dropped
wearily away in clusters from his body his flesh was seen to
be as white and smooth as before the ordeal, with a shiny
glaze from the honey-smear of innumerable bee-feet, and here
and there a small red spot where one of the rare stings had
left its mark. It was obvious that a miracle had been
performed in his favour, and one loud murmur, of
astonishment or exultation, rose from the onlooking crowd.
The king gave orders for Vespaluus to be taken down to await
further orders, and stalked silently back to his midday
meal, at which he was careful to eat heartily and drink
copiously as though nothing unusual had happened. After
dinner he sent for the Royal Librarian.
`` `What is the meaning of this fiasco?' he demanded.
`` `Your Majesty,' said that official, `either there is
something radically wrong with the bees---'
`` `There is nothing wrong with my bees,' said the king
haughtily, `they are the best bees.'
`` `Or else,' said the Librarian, `there is something
irremediably right about Prince Vespaluus.'
`` `If Vespaluus is right I must be wrong,' said the king.
``The Librarian was silent for a moment. Hasty speech has
been the downfall of many; ill-considered silence was the
undoing of the luckless Court functionary.
``Forgetting the restraint due to his dignity, and the
golden rule which imposes repose of mind and body after a
heavy meal, the king rushed upon the keeper of the royal
books and hit him repeatedly and promiscuously over the head
with an ivory chess-board, a pewter wine-flagon, and a brass
candlestick; he knocked him violently and often against an
iron torch sconce, and kicked him thrice round the
banqueting chamber with rapid, energetic kicks. Finally, he
dragged him down a long passage by the hair of his head and
flung him out of a window into the courtyard below.''
``Was he much hurt?'' asked the Baroness.
``More hurt than surprised,'' said Clovis. ``You see, the
king was notorious for his violent temper. However, this
was the first time he had let himself go so unrestrainedly
on the top of a heavy meal. The Librarian lingered for many
days---in fact, for all I know, he may have ultimately
recovered, but Hkrikros died that same evening. Vespaluus
had hardly finished getting the honey stains off his body
before a hurried deputation came to put the coronation oil
on his head. And what with the publicly-witnessed miracle
and the accession of a Christian sovereign, it was not
surprising that there was a general scramble of converts to
the new religion. A hastily consecrated bishop was
overworked with a rush of baptisms in the hastily improvised
Cathedral of St. Odilo. And the
boy-martyr-that-might-have-been was transposed in the
popular imagination into a royal boy-saint, whose fame
attracted throngs of curious and devout sightseers to the
capital. Vespaluus, who was busily engaged in organizing
the games and athletic contests that were to mark the
commencement of his reign, had no time to give heed to the
religious fervour which was effervescing round his
personality; the first indication he had of the existing
state of affairs was when the Court Chamberlain (a recent
and very ardent addition to the Christian community) brought
for his approval the outlines of a projected ceremonial
cutting-down of the idolatrous serpent-grove.
`` `Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to cut down
the first tree with a specially consecrated axe,' said the
`` `I'll cut off your head first, with any axe that comes
handy,' said Vespaluus indignantly; `do you suppose that I'm
going to begin my reign by mortally affronting the sacred
serpents? It would be most unlucky.'
`` `But your Majesty's Christian principles?' exclaimed
the bewildered Chamberlain.
`` `I never had any,' said Vespaluus; `I used to pretend
to be a Christian convert just to annoy Hkrikros. He used
to fly into such delicious tempers. And it was rather fun
being whipped and scolded and shut up in a tower all for
nothing. But as to turning Christian in real earnest, like
you people seem to do, I couldn't think of such a thing.
And the holy and esteemed serpents have always helped me
when I've prayed to them for success in my running and
wrestling and hunting, and it was through their
distinguished intercession that the bees were not able to
hurt me with their stings. It would be black ingratitude to
turn against their worship at the very outset of my reign.
I hate you for suggesting it.'
``The Chamberlain wrung his hands despairingly.
`` `But, your Majesty,' he wailed, `the people are
reverencing you as a saint, and the nobles are being
Christianized in batches, and neighbouring potentates of
that Faith are sending special envoys to welcome you as a
brother. There is some talk of making you the patron saint
of beehives, and a certain shade of honey-yellow has been
christened Vespalussian gold at the Emperor's Court. You
can't surely go back on all this.'
`` `I don't mind being reverenced and greeted and
honoured,' said Vespaluus; `I don't even mind being sainted
in moderation, as long as I'm not expected to be saintly as
well. But I wish you clearly and finally to understand that
I will not give up the worship of the august and auspicious
``There was a world of unspoken bear-pit in the way he
uttered those last words, and the mulberry-dark eyes flashed
`` `A new reign,' said the Chamberlain to himself, `but
the same old temper.'
``Finally, as a State necessity, the matter of the
religions was compromised. At stated intervals the king
appeared before his subjects in the national cathedral in
the character of St. Vespaluus, and the idolatrous grove was
gradually pruned and lopped away till nothing remained of
it. But the sacred and esteemed serpents were removed to a
private shrubbery in the royal gardens, where Vespaluus the
Pagan and certain members of his household devoutly and
decently worshipped them. That possibly is the reason why
the boy-king's success in sports and hunting never deserted
him to the end of his days, and that is also the reason why,
in spite of the popular veneration for his sanctity, he
never received official canonization.''
``It has stopped raining,'' said the Baroness.
THE WAY TO THE DAIRY
The Baroness and Clovis sat in a much-frequented corner of
the Park exchanging biographical confidences about the long
succession of passers-by.
``Who are those depressed-looking young women who have
just gone by?'' asked the Baroness; ``they have the air of
people who have bowed to destiny and are not quite sure
whether the salute will be returned.''
``Those,'' said Clovis, ``are the Brimley Bomefields. I
dare say you would look depressed if you had been through
``I'm always having depressing experiences,'' said the
Baroness, ``but I never give them outward expression. It's
as bad as looking one's age. Tell me about the Brimley
``Well,'' said Clovis, ``the beginning of their tragedy
was that they found an aunt. The aunt had been there all
the time, but they had very nearly forgotten her existence
until a distant relative refreshed their memory, by
remembering her very distinctly in his will; it is wonderful
what the force of example will accomplish. The aunt, who
had been unobtrusively poor, became quite pleasantly rich,
and the Brimley Bomefields grew suddenly concerned at the
loneliness of her life and took her under their collective
wings. She had as many wings around her at this time as one
of those beast-things in Revelation.''
``So far I don't see any tragedy from the Brimley
Bomefields' point of view,'' said the Baroness.
``We haven't got to it yet,'' said Clovis. ``The aunt had
been used to living very simply, and had seen next to
nothing of what we should consider life, and her nieces
didn't encourage her to do much in the way of making a
splash with her money. Quite a good deal of it would come
to them at her death, and she was a fairly old woman, but
there was one circumstance which cast a shadow of gloom over
the satisfaction they felt in the discovery and acquisition
of this desirable aunt: she openly acknowledged that a
comfortable slice of her little fortune would go to a nephew
on the other side of her family. He was rather a deplorable
thing in rotters, and quite hopelessly top-hole in the way
of getting through money, but he had been more or less
decent to the old lady in her unremembered days, and she
wouldn't hear anything against him. At least, she wouldn't
pay any attention to what she did hear, but her nieces took
care that she should have to listen to a good deal in that
line. It seemed such a pity, they said among themselves,
that good money should fall into such wortless hands. They
habitually spoke of their aunt's money as `good money,' as
though other people's aunts dabbled for the most part in
``Regularly after the Derby, St. Leger, and other notable
racing events they indulged in audible speculations as to
how much money Roger had squandered in unfortunate betting
`` `His travelling expenses must come to a big sum,' said
the eldest Brimley Bomefield one day; `they say he attends
every race-meeting in England, besides others abroad. I
shouldn't wonder if he went all the way to India to see the
race for the Calcutta Sweepstake that one hears so much
`` `Travel enlarges the mind, my dear Christine,' said her
`` `Yes, dear aunt, travel undertaken in the right
spirit,' agreed Christine; `but travel pursued merely as a
means towards gambling and extravagant living is more likely
to contract the purse than to enlarge the mind. However, as
long as Roger enjoys himself, I suppose he doesn't care how
fast or unprofitably the money goes, or where he is to find
more. It seems a pity, that's all.'
``The aunt by that time had begun to talk of something
else, and it was doubtful if Christine's moralizing had been
even accorded a hearing. It was her remark, however---the
aunt's remark, I mean---about travel enlarging the mind,
that gave the youngest Brimley Bomefield her great idea for
the showing-up of Roger.
`` `If aunt could only be taken somewhere to see him
gambling and throwing away money,' she said, `it would open
her eyes to his character more effectually than anything we
`` `My dear Veronique,' said her sisters, `we can't go
following him to race-meetings.'
`` `Certainly not to race-meetings,' said Veronique, `but
we might go to some place where one can look on at gambling
without talking part in it.'
`` `Do you mean Monte Carlo?' they asked her, beginning to
jump rather at the idea.
`` `Monte Carlo is a long way off, and has a dreadful
reputation,' said Veronique; `I shouldn't like to tell our
friends that we were going to Monte Carlo. But I believe
Roger usually goes to Dieppe about this time of year, and
some quite respectable English people go there, and the
journey wouldn't be expensive. If aunt could stand the
Channel crossing the change of scene might do her a lot of
``And that was how the fateful idea came to the Brimley
``From the very first set-off disaster hung over the
expedition, as they afterwards remembered. To begin with,
all the Brimley Bomefields were extremely unwell during the
crossing, while the aunt enjoyed the sea air and made
friends with all manner of strange travelling companions.
Then, although it was many years since she had been on the
Continent, she had served a very practical apprenticeship
there as a paid companion, and her knowledge of colloquial
French beat theirs to a standstill. It became increasingly
difficult to keep under their collective wings a person who
knew what she wanted and was able to ask for it and to see
that she got it. Also, as far as Roger was concerned, they
drew Dieppe blank; it turned out that he was staying at
Pourville, a little watering-place a mile or two further
west. The Brimley Bomefields discovered that Dieppe was too
crowded and frivolous, and persuaded the old lady to migrate
to the comparative seclusion of Pourville.
`` `You won't find it dull, you know,' they assured her;
`there is a little casino attached to the hotel, and you can
watch the people dancing and throwing away their money at
``It was just before _petits chevaux_ had been supplanted
``Roger was not staying in the same hotel, but they knew
that the casino would be certain of his patronage on most
afternoons and evenings.
``On the first evening of their visit they wandered into
the casino after a fairly early dinner, and hovered near the
tables. Bertie van Tahn was staying there at the time, and
he described the whole incident to me. The Brimley
Bomefields kept a furtive watch on the doors as though they
were expecting some one to turn up, and the aunt got more
and more amused and interested watching the little horses
whirl round and round the board.
`` `Do you know, poor little number eight hasn't won for
the last thirty-two times,' she said to Christine; `I've
been keeping count. I shall really have to put five francs
on him to encourage him.'
`` `Come and watch the dancing, dear,' said Christine
nervously. It was scarcely a part of their strategy that
Roger should come in and find the old lady backing her fancy
at the _petits chevaux_ table.
`` `Just wait while I put five francs on number eight,'
said the aunt, and in another moment her money was lying on
the table. The horses commenced to move round; it was a
slow race this time, and number eight crept up at the finish
like some crafty demon and placed his nose just a fraction
in front of number three, who had seemed to be winning
easily. Recourse had to be had to measurement, and the
number eight was proclaimed the winner. The aunt picked up
thirty-five francs. After that the Brimley Bomefields would
have had to have used concerted force to get her away from
the tables. When Roger appeared on the scene she was
fifty-two francs to the good; her nieces were hovering
forlornly in the background, like chickens that have been
hatched out by a duck and are despairingly watching their
parent disporting herself in a dangerous and uncongenial
element. The supper-party which Roger insisted on standing
that night in honour of his aunt and the three Miss Brimley
Bomefields was remarkable for the unrestrained gaiety of two
of the participants and the funereal mirthlessness of the
`` `I do not think,' Christine confided afterwards to a
friend, who re-confided it to Bertie van Tahn, `that I shall
ever be able to touch _p<a^>t<e'> de foie gras_ again. It
would bring back memories of that awful evening.'
``For the next two or three days the nieces made plans for
returning to England or moving on to some other resort where
there was no casino. The aunt was busy making a system for
winning at _petits chevaux_. Number eight, her first love,
had been running rather unkindly for her, and a series of
plunges on number five had turned out even worse.
`` `Do you know, I dropped over seven hundred francs at
the tables this afternoon,' she announced cheerfully at
dinner on the fourth evening of their visit.
`` `Aunt! Twenty-eight pounds! And you were losing last
`` `Oh, I shall get it all back,' she said optimistically;
`but not here. These silly little horses are no good. I
shall go somewhere where one can play comfortably at
roulette. You needn't look so shocked. I've always felt
that, given the opportunity, I should be an inveterate
gambler, and now you darlings have put the opportunity in my
way. I must drink your very good healths. Waiter, a bottle
of _Pontet Canet_. Ah, it's number seven on the wine list;
I shall plunge on number seven tonight. It won four times
running this afternoon when I was backing that silly number
``Number seven was not in a winning mood that evening.
The Brimley Bomefields, tired of watching disaster from a
distance, drew near to the table where their aunt was now an
honoured habitu<e'>e, and gazed mournfully at the successive
victories of one and five and eight and four, which swept
`good money' out of the purse of seven's obstinate backer.
The day's losses totalled something very near two thousand
`` `You incorrigible gamblers,' said Roger chaffingly to
them, when he found them at the tables.
`` `We are not gambling,' said Christine freezingly; 'we
are looking on.'
`` `I _don't_ think,' said Roger knowingly; `of course
you're a syndicate and aunt is putting the stakes on for all
of you. Any one can tell by your looks when the wrong horse
wins that you've got a stake on.'
``Aunt and nephew had supper alone that night, or at least
they would have if Bertie hadn't joined them; all the
Brimley Bomefields had headaches.
``The aunt carried them all off to Dieppe the next day and
set cheerily about the task of winning back some of her
losses. Her luck was variable; in fact, she had some fair
streaks of good fortune, just enough to keep her thoroughly
amused with her new distraction; but on the whole she was a
loser. The Brimley Bomefields had a collective attack of
nervous prostration on the day when she sold out a quantity
of shares in Argentine rails. `Nothing will ever bring that
money back,' they remarked lugubriously to one another.
``Veronique at last could bear it no longer, and went
home; you see, it had been her idea to bring the aunt on
this disastrous expedition, and though the others did not
cast the fact verbally in her face, there was a certain
lurking reproach in their eyes which was harder to meet than
actual upbraidings. The other two remained behind,
forlornly mounting guard over their aunt until such time as
the waning of the Dieppe season should at last turn her in
the direction of home and safety. They made anxious
calculations as to how little `good money' might, with
reasonable luck, be squandered in the meantime. Here,
however, their reckoning went far astray; the close of the
Dieppe season merely turned their aunt's thoughts in search
of some other convenient gambling resort. `Show a cat the
way to the dairy---' I forget how the proverb goes on, but
it summed up the situation as far as the Brimley Bomefields'
aunt was concerned. She had been introduced to unexplored
pleasures, and found them greatly to her liking, and she was
in no hurry to forgo the fruits of her newly acquired
knowledge. You see, for the first time in her life the old
thing was thoroughly enjoying herself; she was losing money,
but she had plenty of fun and excitement over the process,
and she had enough left to do very comfortably on. Indeed,
she was only just learning to understand the art of doing
oneself well. She was a popular hostess, and in return her
fellow-gamblers were always ready to entertain her to
dinners and suppers when their luck was in. Her nieces, who
still remained in attendance on her, with the pathetic
unwillingness of a crew to leave a foundering treasure ship
which might yet be steered into port, found little pleasure
in these Bohemian festivities; to see `good money' lavished
on good living for the entertainment of a nondescript circle
of acquaintances who were not likely to be in any way
socially useful to them, did not attune them to a spirit of
revelry. They contrived, whenever possible, to excuse
themselves from participation in their aunt's deplored
gaieties; the Brimley Bomefield headaches became famous.
``And one day the nieces came to the conclusion that, as
they would have expressed it, `no useful purpose would be
served' by their continued attendance on a relative who had
so thoroughly emancipated herself from the sheltering
protection of their wings. The aunt bore the announcement
of their departure with a cheerfulness that was almost
`` `It's time you went home and had those headaches seen
to by a specialist,' was her comment on the situation.
``The homeward journey of the Brimley Bomefields was a
veritable retreat from Moscow, and what made it the more
bitter was the fact that the Moscow, in this case, was not
overwhelmed with fire and ashes, but merely extravagantly
``From mutual friends and acquaintances they sometimes get
glimpses of their prodigal relative, who has settled down
into a confirmed gambling maniac, living on such salvage of
income as obliging moneylenders have left at her disposal.
``So you need not be surprised,'' concluded Clovis, ``if
they do wear a depressed look in public.''
``Which is Veronique?'' asked the Baroness.
``The most depressed-looking of the three,'' said Clovis.
THE PEACE OFFERING
``I want you to help me in getting up a dramatic
entertainment of some sort,'' said the Baroness to Clovis.
``You see, there's been an election petition down here, and
a member unseated and no end of bitterness and ill-feeling,
and the County is socially divided against itself. I
thought a play of some kind would be an excellent
opportunity for bringing people together again, and giving
them something to think of besides tiresome political
The Baroness was evidently ambitious of reproducing
beneath her own roof the pacifying effects traditionally
ascribed to the celebrated Reel of Tullochgorum.
``We might do something on the lines of Greek tragedy,''
said Clovis, after due reflection; ``the Return of Agamemnon,
The Baroness frowned.
``It sounds rather reminiscent of an election result,
``It wasn't that sort of return,'' explained Clovis; ``it
was a homecoming.''
``I thought you said it was a tragedy.''
``Well, it was. He was killed in his bathroom, you
``Oh, now I know the story, of course. Do you want me to
take the part of Charlotte Corday?''
``That's a different story and a different century,'' said
Clovis; ``the dramatic unities forbid one to lay a scene in
more than one century at a time. The killing in this case
has to be done by Clytemnestra.''
``Rather a pretty name. I'll do that part. I suppose you
want to be Aga-whatever his name is?''
``Dear no. Agamemnon was the father of grown-up children,
and probably wore a beard and looked prematurely aged. I
shall be his charioteer or bath-attendant, or something
decorative of that kind. We must do everything in the
Sumurun manner, you know.''
``I don't know,'' said the Baroness; ``at least, I should
know better if you would explain exactly what you mean by
the Sumurun manner.''
Clovis obliged: ``Weird music, and exotic skippings and
flying leaps, and lots of drapery and undrapery.
``I think I told you the County are coming. The County
won't stand anything very Greek.''
``You can get over any objection by calling it Hygiene, or
limb-culture, or something of that sort. After all, every
one exposes their insides to the public gaze and sympathy
nowadays, so why not one's outside?''
``My dear boy, I can ask the County to a Greek play, or to
a costume play, but to a Greek-costume play, never. It
doesn't do to let the dramatic instinct carry one too far;
one must consider one's environment. When one lives among
greyhounds one should avoid giving life-like imitations of a
rabbit, unless one wants one's head snapped off. Remember,
I've got this place on a seven years' lease. And then,''
continued the Baroness, ``as to skippings and flying leaps;
I must ask Emily Dushford to take a part. She's a dear good
thing, and will do anything she's told, or try to; but can
you imagine her doing a flying leap under any
``She can be Cassandra, and she need only take flying
leaps into the future, in a metaphorical sense.''
``Cassandra; rather a pretty name. What kind of character
``She was a sort of advance-agent for calamities. To know
her was to know the worst. Fortunately for the gaiety of
the age she lived in, no one took her very seriously.
Still, it must have been fairly galling to have her turning
up after every catastrophe with a conscious air of `perhaps
another time you'll believe what I say.' ''
``I should have wanted to kill her.''
``As Clytemnestra I believe you gratify that very natural
``Then it has a happy ending, in spite of it being a
``Well, hardly,'' said Clovis; ``you see, the satisfaction
of putting a violent end to Cassandra must have been
considerably damped by the fact that she had foretold what
was going to happen to her. She probably dies with an
intensely irritating `what-did-I-tell-you' smile on her
lips. By the way, of course all the killing will be done in
the Sumurun manner.''
``Please explain again,'' said the Baroness, taking out a
notebook and pencil.
``Little and often, you know, instead of one sweeping
blow. You see, you are at your own home, so there's no need
to hurry over the murdering as though it were some
disagreeable but necessary duty.''
``And what sort of end do I have? I mean, what curtain do
``I suppose you rush into your lover's arms. That is
where one of the flying leaps will come in.''
The getting-up and rehearsing of the play seemed likely to
cause, in a restricted area, nearly as much heart-burning
and ill-feeling as the election petition. Clovis, as
adapter and stage-manager, insisted, as far as he was able,
on the charioteer being quite the most prominent character
in the play, and his panther-skin tunic caused almost as
much trouble and discussion as Clytemnestra's spasmodic
succession of lovers, who broke down on probation with
alarming uniformity. When the cast was at length fixed
beyond hope of reprieve matters went scarcely more smoothly.
Clovis and the Baroness rather overdid the Sumurun manner,
while the rest of the company could hardly be said to
attempt it at all. As for Cassandra, who was expected to
improvise her own prophecies, she appeared to be as
incapable of taking flying leaps into futurity as of
executing more than a severely plantigrade walk across the
``Woe! Trojans, woe to Troy!'' was the most inspired
remark she could produce after several hours of
conscientious study of all the available authorities.
``It's no earthly use foretelling the fall of Troy,''
expostulated Clovis, ``because Troy has fallen before the
action of the play begins. And you mustn't say too much
about your own impending doom either, because that will give
things away too much to the audience.''
After several minutes of painful brain-searching,
Cassandra smiled reassuringly.
``I know. I'll predict a long and happy reign for George
``My dear girl,'' protested Clovis, ``have you reflected
that Cassandra specialized in foretelling calamities?''
There was another prolonged pause and another triumphant
``I know. I'll foretell a most disastrous season for the
``On no account,'' entreated Clovis; ``do remember that
all Cassandra's predictions came true. The M.F.H. and the
Hunt Secretary are both awfully superstitious, and they are
both going to be present.''
Cassandra retreated hastily to her bedroom to bathe her
eyes before appearing at tea.
The Baroness and Clovis were by this time scarcely on
speaking terms. Each sincerely wished their respective
r<o^>le to be the pivot round which the entire production
should revolve, and each lost no opportunity for furthering
the cause they had at heart. As fast as Clovis introduced
some effective bit of business for the charioteer (and he
introduced a great many), the Baroness would remorselessly
cut it out, or more often dovetail it into her own part,
while Clovis retaliated in a similar fashion whenever
possible. The climax came when Clytemnestra annexed some
highly complimentary lines, which were to have been
addressed to the charioteer by a bevy of admiring Greek
damsels, and put them into the mouth of her lover. Clovis
stood by in apparent unconcern while the words:
``Oh, lovely stripling, radiant as the dawn,'' were
``Oh, Clytemnestra, radiant as the dawn,'' but there was a
dangerous glitter in his eye that might have given the
Baroness warning. He had composed the verse himself,
inspired and thoroughly carried away by his subject; he
suffered, therefore, a double pang in beholding his tribute
deflected from its destined object, and his words mutilated
and twisted into what became an extravagant panegyric on the
Baroness's personal charms. It was from this moment that he
became gentle and assiduous in his private coaching of
The County, forgetting its dissensions, mustered in full
strength to witness the much-talked-of production. The
protective Providence that looks after little children and
amateur theatricals made good its traditional promise that
everything should be right on the night. The Baroness and
Clovis seemed to have sunk their mutual differences, and
between them dominated the scene to the partial eclipse of
all the other characters, who, for the most part, seemed
well content to remain in the shadow. Even Agamemnon, with
ten years of strenuous life around Troy standing to his
credit, appeared to be an unobtrusive personality compared
with his flamboyant charioteer. But the moment came for
Cassandra (who had been excused from any very definite
outpourings during rehearsals) to support her role by
delivering herself of a few well-chosen anticipations of
pending misfortune. The musicians obliged with
appropriately lugubrious wailings and thumpings, and the
Baroness seized the opportunity to make a dash to the
dressing-room to effect certain repairs in her make-up.
Cassandra nervous but resolute, came down to the footlights
and, like one repeating a carefully learned lesson, flung
her remarks straight at the audience:
``I see woe for this fair country if the brood of corrupt,
self-seeking, unscrupulous, unprincipled politicians'' (here
she named one of the two rival parties in the State)
``continue to infest and poison our local councils and
undermine our Parliamentary representation; if they continue
to snatch votes by nefarious and discreditable means---''
A humming as of a great hive of bewildered and affronted
bees drowned her further remarks and wore down the droning
of the musicians. The Baroness, who should have been
greeted on her return to the stage with the pleasing
invocation, ``Oh, Clytemnestra, radiant as the dawn,'' heard
instead the imperious voice of Lady Thistledale ordering her
carriage, and something like a storm of open discord going
on at the back of the room.
The social divisions in the County healed themselves after
their own fashion; both parties found common ground in
condemning the Baroness's outrageously bad taste and
She has been fortunate in sub-letting for the greater part
of her seven years' lease.
THE PEACE OF MOWSLE BARTON
Crefton Lockyer sat at his ease, an ease alike of body and
soul, in the little patch of ground, half-orchard and
half-garden, that abutted on the farmyard at Mowsle Barton.
After the stress and noise of long years of city life, the
repose and peace of the hill-begirt homestead struck on his
senses with an almost dramatic intensity. Time and space
seemed to lose their meaning and their abruptness; the
minutes slid away into hours, and the meadows and fallows
sloped away into middle distance, softly and imperceptibly.
Wild weeds of the hedgerow straggled into the flower-garden,
and wallflowers and garden bushes made counter-raids into
farmyard and lane. Sleepy-looking hens and solemn
preoccupied ducks were equally at home in yard, orchard, or
roadway; nothing seemed to belong definitely to anywhere;
even the gates were not necessarily to be found on their
hinges. And over the whole scene brooded the sense of a
peace that had almost a quality of magic in it. In the
afternoon you felt that it had always been afternoon, and
must always remain afternoon; in the twilight you knew that
it could never have been anything else but twilight.
Crefton Cockyer sat at his ease in the rustic seat beneath
an old medlar tree, and decided that here was the
life-anchorage that his mind had so fondly pictured and that
latterly his tired and jarred senses had so often pined for.
He would make a permanent lodging-place among these simple
friendly people, gradually increasing the modest comforts
with which he would like to surround himself, but falling in
as much as possible with their manner of living.
As he slowly matured this resolution in his mind an
elderly woman came hobbling with uncertain gait through the
orchard. He recognized her as a member of the farm
household, the mother or possibly the mother-in-law of Mrs.
Spurfield, his present landlady, and hastily formulated some
pleasant remark to make to her. She forestalled him.
``There's a bit of writing chalked up on the door over
yonder. What is it?''
She spoke in a dull impersonal manner, as though the
question had been on her lips for years and has best be got
rid of. Her eyes, however, looked impatiently over
Crefton's head at the door of a small barn which formed the
outpost of a straggling line of farm buildings.
``Martha Pillamon is an old witch'' was the announcement
that met Crefton's inquiring scrutiny, and he hesitated a
moment before giving the statement wider publicity. For all
he knew to the contrary, it might be Martha herself to whom
he was speaking. It was possible that Mrs. Spurfield's
maiden name had been Pillamon. And the gaunt, withered old
dame at his side might certainly fulfil local conditions as
to the outward aspect of a witch.
``It's something about some one called Martha Pillamon,''
he explained cautiously.
``What does it say?''
``It's very disrespectful,'' said Crefton; ``it says she's
a witch. Such things ought not to be written up.''
``It's true, every word of it,'' said his listener with
considerable satisfaction, adding as a special descriptive
note of her own, ``the old toad.''
And as she hobbled away through the farmyard she shrilled
out in her cracked voice, ``Martha Pillamon is an old
``Did you hear what she said?'' mumbled a weak, angry
voice somewhere behind Crefton's shoulder. Turning hastily,
he beheld another old crone, thin and yellow and wrinkled,
and evidently in a high state of displeasure. Obviously
this was Martha Pillamon in person. The orchard seemed to
be a favourite promenade for the aged women of the
``'Tis lies, 'tis sinful lies,'' the weak voice went on.
``'Tis Betsy Croot is the old witch. She an' her daughter,
the dirty rat. I'll put a spell on 'em, the old nuisances.''
As she limped slowly away her eye caught the chalk
inscription on the barn door.
``What's written up there?'' she demanded, wheeling round
``Vote for Soarker,'' he responded, with the craven
boldness of the practised peacemaker.
The old woman grunted, and her mutterings and her faded
red shawl lost themselves gradually among the tree-trunks.
Crefton rose presently and made his way towards the
farmhouse. Somehow a good deal of the peace seemed to have
slipped out of the atmosphere.
The cheery bustle of tea-time in the old farm kitchen,
which Crefton had found so agreeable on previous afternoons,
seemed to have soured today into a certain uneasy
melancholy. There was a dull, dragging silence around the
board, and the tea itself, when Crefton came to taste it,
was a flat, lukewarm concoction that would have driven the
spirit of revelry out of a carnival.
``It's no use complaining of the tea,'' said Mrs.
Spurfield hastily, as her guest stared with an air of polite
inquiry at his cup. ``The kettle won't boil, that's the
truth of it.''
Crefton turned to the hearth, where an unusually fierce
fire was banked up under a big black kettle, which sent a
thin wreath of steam from its spout, but seemed otherwise to
ignore the action of the roaring blaze beneath it.
``It's been there more than an hour, an' boil it won't,''
said Mrs. Spurfield, adding, by way of complete
explanation, ``we're bewitched.''
``It's Martha Pillamon as has done it,'' chimed in the old
mother; ``I'll be even with the old toad, I'll put a spell
``It must boil in time,'' protested Crefton, ignoring the
suggestions of foul influences. ``Perhaps the coal is
``It won't boil in time for supper, nor for breakfast
tomorrow morning, not if you was to keep the fire agoing all
night for it,'' said Mrs. Spurfield. And it didn't. The
household subsisted on fried and baked dishes, and a
neighbour obligingly brewed tea and sent it across in a
moderately warm condition.
``I suppose you'll be leaving us now that things has
turned up uncomfortable,'' Mrs. Spurfield observed at
breakfast; ``there are folks as deserts one as soon as
Crefton hurriedly disclaimed any immediate change of
plans; he observed, however, to himself that the earlier
heartiness of manner had in a large measure deserted the
household. Suspicious looks, sulky silences, or sharp
speeches had become the order of the day. As for the old
mother, she sat about the kitchen or the garden all day,
murmuring threats and spells against Martha Pillamon. There
was something alike terrifying and piteous in the spectacle
of these frail old morsels of humanity consecrating their
last flickering energies to the task of making each other
wretched. Hatred seemed to be the one faculty which had
survived in undiminished vigour and intensity where all else
was dropping into ordered and symmetrical decay. And the
uncanny part of it was that some horrid unwholesome power
seemed to be distilled from their spite and their cursings.
No amount of sceptical explanation could remove the
undoubted fact that neither kettle nor saucepan would come
to boiling-point over the hottest fire. Crefton clung as
long as possible to the theory of some defect in the coals,
but a wood fire gave the same result, and when a small
spirit-lamp kettle, which he ordered out by carrier, showed
the same obstinate refusal to allow its contents to boil he
felt that he had come suddenly into contact with some
unguessed-at and very evil aspect of hidden forces. Miles
away, down through an opening in the hills, he could catch
glimpses of a road where motor-cars sometimes passed, and
yet here, so little removed from the arteries of the latest
civilization, was a bat-haunted old homestead, where
something unmistakably like witchcraft seemed to hold a very
Passing out through the farm garden on his way to the
lanes beyond, where he hoped to recapture the comfortable
sense of peacefulness that was so lacking around house and
hearth---especially hearth---Crefton came across the old
mother, sitting mumbling to herself in the seat beneath the
medlar tree. ``Let un sink as swims, let un sink as swims,''
she was repeating over and over again, as a child repeats a
half-learned lesson. And now and then she would break off
into a shrill laugh, with a note of malice in it that was
not pleasant to hear. Crefton was glad when he found
himself out of earshot, in the quiet and seclusion of the
deep overgrown lanes that seemed to lead away to nowhere;
one, narrower and deeper than the rest, attracted his
footsteps, and he was almost annoyed when he found that it
really did act as a miniature roadway to a human dwelling.
A forlorn-looking cottage with a scrap of ill-tended cabbage
garden and a few aged apple trees stood at an angle where a
swift-flowing stream widened out for a space into a
decent-sized pond before hurrying away again trough the
willows that had checked its course. Crefton leaned against
a tree-trunk and looked across the swirling eddies of the
pond at the humble little homestead opposite him; the only
sign of life came from a small procession of dingy-looking
ducks that marched in single file down to the water's edge.
There is always something rather taking in the way a duck
changes itself in an instant from a slow, clumsy waddler of
the earth to a graceful, buoyant swimmer of the waters, and
Crefton waited with a certain arrested attention to watch
the leader of the file launch itself on to the surface of
the pond. He was aware at the same time of a curious
warning instinct that something strange and unpleasant was
about to happen. The duck flung itself confidently forward
into the water, and rolled immediately under the surface.
Its head appeared for a moment and went under again, leaving
a train of bubbles in its wake, while wings and legs churned
the water in a helpless swirl of flapping and kicking. The
bird was obviously drowning. Crefton thought at first that
it had caught itself in some weeds, or was being attacked
from below by a pike or water-rat. But no blood floated to
the surface, and the wildly bobbing body made the circuit of
the pond current without hindrance from any entanglement. A
second duck had by this time launched itself into the pond,
and a second struggling body rolled and twisted under the
surface. There was something peculiarly piteous in the
sight of the gasping beaks that showed now and again above
the water, as though in terrified protest at this treachery
of a trusted and familiar element. Crefton gazed with
something like horror as a third duck poised itself on the
bank and splashed in, to share the fate of the other two.
He felt almost relieved when the remainder of the flock,
taking tardy alarm from the commotion of the slowly drowning
bodies, drew themselves up with tense outstretched necks,
and sidled away from the scene of danger, quacking a deep
note of disquietude as they went. At the same moment
Crefton became aware that he was not the only human witness
of the scene; a bent and withered old woman, whom he
recognized at once as Martha Pillamon, of sinister
reputation, had limped down the cottage path to the water's
edge, and was gazing fixedly at the gruesome whirligig of
dying birds that went in horrible procession round the pool.
Presently her voice rang out in a shrill note of quavering
``'Tis Betsy Croot adone it, the old rat. I'll put a
spell on her, see if I don't.''
Crefton slipped quietly away, uncertain whether or no the
old woman had noticed his presence. Even before she had
proclaimed the guiltiness of Betsy Croot, the latter's
muttered incantation ``Let un sink as swims'' had flashed
uncomfortably across his mind. But it was the final threat
of a retaliatory spell which crowded his mind with misgiving
to the exclusion of all other thoughts or fancies. His
reasoning powers could no longer afford to dismiss these
old-wives' threats as empty bickerings. The household at
Mowsle Barton lay under the displeasure of a vindictive old
woman who seemed able to materialize her personal spites in
a very practical fashion, and there was no saying what form
her revenge for three drowned ducks might not take. As a
member of the household Crefton might find himself involved
in some general and highly disagreeable visitation of Martha
Pillamon's wrath. Of course he knew that he was giving way
to absurd fancies, but the behaviour of the spirit-lamp
kettle and the subsequent scene at the pond had considerably
unnerved him. And the vagueness of his alarm added to its
terrors; when once you have taken the Impossible into your
calculations its possibilities become practically limitless.
Crefton rose at his usual early hour the next morning,
after one of the least restful nights he had spent at the
farm. His sharpened senses quickly detected that subtle
atmosphere of things-being-not-altogether well that hangs
over a stricken household. The cows had been milked, but
they stood huddled about in the yard, waiting impatiently to
be driven out afield, and the poultry kept up an importunate
querulous reminder of deferred feeding-time; the yard pump,
which usually made discordant music at frequent intervals
during the early morning, was today ominously silent. In
the house itself there was a coming and going of scuttering
footsteps, a rushing and dying away of hurried voices, and
long, uneasy stillnesses. Crefton finished his dressing and
made his way to the head of a narrow staircase. He could
hear a dull, complaining voice, a voice into which an awed
hush had crept, and recognized the speaker as Mrs.
``He'll go away, for sure,'' the voice was saying; ``there
are those as runs away from one as soon as real misfortune
Crefton felt that he probably was one of ``those,'' and
that there were moments when it was advisable to be true to
He crept back to his room, collected and, packed his few
belongings, placed the money due for his lodgings on a
table, and made his way out by a back door into the yard. A
mob of poultry surged expectantly towards him; shaking off
their interested attentions he hurried along under cover of
cowstall, piggery, and hayricks till he reached the lane at
the back of the farm. A few minutes' walk, which only the
burden of his portmanteaux restrained from developing into
an undisguised run, brought him to a main road, where the
early carrier soon overtook him and sped him onward to the
neighbouring town. At a bend of the road he caught a last
glimpse of the farm; the old gabled roofs and thatched
barns, the straggling orchard, and the medlar tree, with its
wooden seat, stood out with an almost spectral clearness in
the early morning light, and over it all brooded that air of
magic possession which Crefton had once mistaken for peace.
The bustle and roar of Paddington Station smote on his
ears with a welcome protective greeting.
``Very bad for our nerves, all this rush and hurry,'' said
a fellow-traveller; ``give me the peace and quiet of the
Crefton mentally surrendered his share of the desired
commodity. A crowded, brilliantly over-lighted music-hall,
where an exuberant rendering of ``1812'' was being given by
a strenuous orchestra, came nearest to his ideal of a nerve
THE TALKING-OUT OF TARRINGTON
``Heavens!'' exclaimed the aunt of Clovis, ``here's some
one I know bearing down on us. I can't remember his name,
but he lunched with us once in Town. Tarrington---yes,
that's it. He's heard of the picnic I'm giving for the
Princess, and he'll cling to me like a lifebelt till I give
him an invitation; then he'll ask if he may bring all his
wives and mothers and sisters with him. That's the worst of
these small watering-places; one can't escape from
``I'll fight a rearguard action for you if you like to do
a bolt now,'' volunteered Clovis; ``you've a clear ten yards
start if you don't lose time.''
The aunt of Clovis responded gamely to the suggestion, and
churned away like a Nile steamer, with a long brown ripple
of Pekingese spaniel trailing in her wake.
``Pretend you don't know him,'' was her parting advice,
tinged with the reckless courage of the non-combatant.
The next moment the overtures of an affably disposed
gentleman were being received by Clovis with a
``silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien'' stare which denoted an
absence of all previous acquaintance with the object
``I expect you don't know me with my moustache,'' said the
new-comer; ``I've only grown it during the last two
``On the contrary,'' said Clovis, ``the moustache is the
only thing about you that seemed familiar to me. I felt
certain that I had met it somewhere before.''
``My name is Tarrington,'' resumed the candidate for
``A very useful kind of name,'' said Clovis; ``with a name
of that sort no one would blame you if you did nothing in
particular heroic or remarkable, would they? And yet if you
were to raise a troop of light horse in a moment of national
emergency, `Tarrington's Light Horse' would sound quite
appropriate and pulse-quickening; whereas if you were called
Spoopin, for instance, the thing would be out of the
question. No one, even in a moment of national emergency,
could possibly belong to Spoopin's Horse.''
The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put
off by mere flippancy, and began again with patient
``I think you ought to remember my name---''
``I shall,'' said Clovis, with an air of immense
sincerity. ``My aunt was asking me only this morning to
suggest names for four young owls she's just had sent her as
pets. I shall call them all Tarrington; then if one or two
of them die or fly away, or leave us in any of the ways that
pet owls are prone to, there will be always one or two left
to carry on your name. And my aunt won't _let_ me forget
it; she will always be asking `Have the Tarringtons had
their mice?' and questions of that sort. She says if you
keep wild creatures in captivity you ought to see after
their wants, and of course she's quite right there.''
``I met you at luncheon at your aunt's house once---''
broke in Mr. Tarrington, pale but still resolute.
``My aunt never lunches,'' said Clovis; ``she belongs to
the National Anti-Luncheon League, which is doing quite a
lot of good work in a quiet, unobtrusive way. A
subscription of half a crown per quarter entitles you to go
without ninety-two luncheons.''
``This must be something new,'' exclaimed Tarrington.
``It's the same aunt that I've always had,'' said Clovis
``I perfectly well remember meeting you at a
luncheon-party given by your aunt,'' persisted Tarrington,
who was beginning to flush an unhealthy shade of mottled
``What was there for lunch?'' asked Clovis.
``Oh, well, I don't remember that---''
``How nice of you to remember my aunt when you can no
longer recall the names of the things you ate. Now my
memory works quite differently. I can remember a menu long
after I've forgotten the hostess that accompanied it. When
I was seven years old I recollect being given a peach at a
garden-party by some Duchess or other; I can't remember a
thing about her, except that I imagine our acquaintance must
have been of the slightest, as she called me a `nice little
boy,' but I have unfading memories of that peach. It was
one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to
speak, and are all over you in a moment. It was a beautiful
unspoiled product of a hothouse, and yet it managed quite
successfully to give itself the airs of a compote. You had
to bite it and imbibe it at the same time. To me there has
always been something charming and mystic in the thought of
that delicate velvet globe of fruit, slowly ripening and
warming to perfection through the long summer days and
perfumed nights, and then coming suddenly athwart my life in
the supreme moment of its existence. I can never forget it,
even if I wished to. And when I had devoured all that was
edible of it, there still remained the stone, which a
heedless, thoughtless child would doubtless have thrown
away; I put it down the neck of a young friend who was
wearing a very _d<e'>collet<e'>_ sailor suit. I told him it
was a scorpion, and from the way he wriggled and screamed he
evidently believed it, though where the silly kid imagined I
could procure a live scorpion at a garden-party I don't
know. Altogether, that peach is for me an unfading and
The defeated Tarrington had by this time retreated out of
earshot, comforting himself as best he might with the
reflection that a picnic which included the presence of
Clovis might prove a doubtfully agreeable experience.
``I shall certainly go in for a Parliamentary career,''
said Clovis to himself as he turned complacently to rejoin
his aunt. ``As a talker-out of inconvenient bills I should
THE HOUNDS OF FATE
In the fading light of a close dull autumn afternoon
Martin Stoner plodded his way along muddy lanes and
rut-seamed cart tracks that led he knew not exactly whither.
Somewhere in front of him, he fancied, lay the sea, and
towards the sea his footsteps seemed persistently turning;
why he was struggling wearily forward to that goal he could
scarcely have explained, unless he was possessed by the same
instinct that turns a hard-pressed stag cliffward in its
last extremity. In his case the hounds of Fate were
certainly pressing him with unrelenting insistence; hunger,
fatigue, and despairing hopelessness had numbed his brain,
and he could scarcely summon sufficient energy to wonder
what underlying impulse was driving him onward. Stoner was
one of those unfortunate individuals who seem to have tried
everything; a natural slothfulness and improvidence had
always intervened to blight any chance of even moderate
success, and now he was at the end of his tether, and there
was nothing more to try. Desperation had not awakened in
him any dormant reserve of energy; on the contrary, a mental
torpor grew up round the crisis of his fortunes. With the
clothes he stood up in, a halfpenny in his pocket, and no
single friend or acquaintance to turn to, with no prospect
either of a bed for the night or a meal for the morrow,
Martin Stoner trudged stolidly forward, between moist
hedgerows and beneath dripping trees, his mind almost a
blank, except that he was subconsciously aware that
somewhere in front of him lay the sea. Another
consciousness obtruded itself now and then---the knowledge
that he was miserably hungry. Presently he came to a halt
by an open gateway that led into a spacious and rather
neglected farm-garden; there was little sign of life about,
and the farm-house at the further end of the garden looked
chill and inhospitable. A drizzling rain, however, was
setting in, and Stoner thought that here perhaps he might
obtain a few minutes' shelter and buy a glass of milk with
his last remaining coin. He turned slowly and wearily into
the garden and followed a narrow, flagged path up to a side
door. Before he had time to knock the door opened and a
bent, withered-looking old man stood aside in the doorway as
though to let him pass in.
``Could I come in out of the rain?'' Stoner began, but the
old man interrupted him.
``Come in, Master Tom. I knew you would come back one of
Stoner lurched across the threshold and stood staring
uncomprehendingly at the other.
``Sit down while I put you out a bit of supper,'' said the
old man with quavering eagerness. Stoner's legs gave way
from very weariness, and he sank inertly into the arm-chair
that had been pushed up to him. In another minute he was
devouring the cold meat, cheese, and bread, that had been
placed on the table at his side.
``You'm little changed these four years,'' went on the old
man, in a voice that sounded to Stoner as something in a
dream, far away and inconsequent; ``but you'll find us a
deal changed, you will. There's no one about the place same
as when you left; nought but me and your old Aunt. I'll go
and tell her that you'm come; she won't be seeing you, but
she'll let you stay right enough. She always did say if you
was to come back you should stay, but she'd never set eyes
on you or speak to you again.''
The old man placed a mug of beer on the table in front of
Stoner and then hobbled away down a long passage. The
drizzle of rain had changed to a furious lashing downpour,
which beat violently against door and windows. The wanderer
thought with a shudder of what the sea-shore must look like
under this drenching rainfall, with night beating down on
all sides. He finished the food and beer and sat numbly
waiting for the return of his strange host. As the minutes
ticked by on the grandfather clock in the corner a new hope
began to flicker and grow in the young man's mind; it was
merely the expansion of his former craving for food and a
few minutes' rest into a longing to find a night's shelter
under this seemingly hospitable roof. A clattering of
footsteps down the passage heralded the old farm servant's
``The old Missus won't see you, Master Tom, but she says
you are to stay. 'Tis right enough, seeing the farm will be
yours when she be put under earth. I've had a fire lit in
your room, Master Tom, and the maids has put fresh sheets on
to the bed. You'll find nought changed up there. Maybe
you'm tired and would like to go there now.''
Without a word Martin Stoner rose heavily to his feet and
followed his ministering angel along a passage, up a short
creaking stair, along another passage, and into a large room
lit with a cheerfully blazing fire. There was but little
furniture, plain, old-fashioned, and good of its kind; a
stuffed squirrel in a case and a wall-calendar of four years
ago were about the only symptoms of decoration. But Stoner
had eyes for little else than the bed, and could scarce wait
to tear his clothes off him before rolling in a luxury of
weariness into its comfortable depths. The hounds of Fate
seemed to have checked for a brief moment.
In the cold light of morning Stoner laughed mirthlessly as
he slowly realized the position in which he found himself.
Perhaps he might snatch a bit of breakfast on the strength
of his likeness to this other missing neer-do-well, and get
safely away before any one discovered the fraud that had
been thrust on him. In the room downstairs he found the
bent old man ready with a dish of bacon and fried eggs for
``Master Tom's'' breakfast, while a hard-faced elderly maid
brought in a teapot and poured him out a cup of tea. As he
sat at the table a small spaniel came up and made friendly
``'Tis old Bowker's pup,'' explained the old man, whom the
hard-faced maid had addressed as George. ``She was main
fond of you; never seemed the same after you went away to
Australee. She died 'bout a year agone. 'Tis her pup.''
Stoner found it difficult to regret her decease; as a
witness for identification she would have left something to
``You'll go for a ride, Master Tom?'' was the next
startling proposition that came from the old man. ``We've a
nice little roan cob that goes well in saddle. Old Biddy is
getting a bit up in years, though 'er goes well still, but
I'll have the little roan saddled and brought round to
``I've got no riding things,'' stammered the castaway,
almost laughing as he looked down at his one suit of
``Master Tom,'' said the old man earnestly, almost with an
offended air, ``all your things is just as you left them. A
bit of airing before the fire an' they'll be all right.
'Twill be a bit of a distraction like, a little riding and
wild-fowling now and agen. You'll find the folk around here
has hard and bitter minds towards you. They hasn't
forgotten nor forgiven. No one'll come nigh you, so you'd
best get what distraction you can with horse and dog.
They'm good company, too.''
Old George hobbled away to give his orders, and Stoner,
feeling more than ever like one in a dream, went upstairs to
inspect ``Master Tom's'' wardrobe. A ride was one of the
pleasures dearest to his heart, and there was some
protection against immediate discovery of his imposture in
the thought that none of Tom's aforetime companions were
likely to favour him with a close inspection. As the
interloper thrust himself into some tolerably well-fitting
riding cords he wondered vaguely what manner of misdeed the
genuine Tom had committed to set the whole countryside
against him. The thud of quick, eager hoofs on damp earth
cut short his speculations. The roan cob had been brought
up to the side door.
``Talk of beggars on horseback,'' thought Stoner to
himself, as he trotted rapidly along the muddy lanes where
he had tramped yesterday as a down-at-heel outcast; and then
he flung reflection indolently aside and gave himself up to
the pleasure of a smart canter along the turf-grown side of
a level stretch of road. At an open gateway he checked his
pace to allow two carts to turn into a field. The lads
driving the carts found time to give him a prolonged stare,
and as he passed on he heard an excited voice call out,
``'Tis Tom Prike! I knowed him at once; showing himself here
agen, is he?''
Evidently the likeness which had imposed at close quarters
on a doddering old man was good enough to mislead younger
eyes at a short distance.
In the course of his ride he met with ample evidence to
confirm the statement that local folk had neither forgotten
nor forgiven the bygone crime which had come to him as a
legacy from the absent Tom. Scowling looks, mutterings, and
nudgings greeted him whenever he chanced upon human beings;
``Bowker's pup,'' trotting placidly by his side, seemed the
one element of friendliness in a hostile world.
As he dismounted at the side door he caught a fleeting
glimpse of a gaunt, elderly woman peering at him from behind
the curtain of an upper window. Evidently this was his aunt
Over the ample midday meal that stood in readiness for him
Stoner was able to review the possibilities of his
extraordinary situation. The real Tom, after four years of
absence, might suddenly turn up at the farm, or a letter
might come from him at any moment. Again, in the character
of heir to the farm, the false Tom might be called on to
sign documents, which would be an embarrassing predicament.
Or a relative might arrive who would not imitate the aunt's
attitude of aloofness. All these things would mean
ignominious exposure. On the other hand, the alternatives
was the open sky and the muddy lanes that led down to the
sea. The farm offered him, at any rate, a temporary refuge
from destitution; farming was one of the many things he had
``tried,'' and he would be able to do a certain amount of
work in return for the hospitality to which he was so little
``Will you have cold pork for your supper,'' asked the
hard-faced maid, as she cleared the table, ``or will you
have it hotted up?''
``Hot, with onions,'' said Stoner. It was the only time
in his life that he had made a rapid decision. And as he
gave the order he knew that he meant to stay.
Stoner kept rigidly to those portions of the house which
seemed to have been allotted to him by a tacit treaty of
delimitation. When he took part in the farm-work it was as
one who worked under orders and never initiated them. Old
George, the roan cob, and Bowker's pup were his sole
companions in a world that was otherwise frostily silent and
hostile. Of the mistress of the farm he saw nothing. Once,
when he knew she had gone forth to church, he made a furtive
visit to the farm parlour in an endeavour to glean some
fragmentary knowledge of the young man whose place he had
usurped, and whose ill-repute he had fastened on himself.
There were many photographs hung on the walls, or stuck in
prim frames, but the likeness he sought for was not among
them. At last, in an album thrust out of sight, he came
across what he wanted. There was a whole series, labelled
``Tom,'' a podgy child of three, in a fantastic frock, an
awkward boy of about twelve, holding a cricket bat as though
be loathed it, a rather good-looking youth of eighteen with
very smooth, evenly parted hair, and, finally, a young man
with a somewhat surly dare-devil expression. At this last
portrait Stoner looked with particular interest; the
likeness to himself was unmistakable.
From the lips of old George, who was garrulous enough on
most subjects, he tried again and again to learn something
of the nature of the offence which shut him off as a
creature to be shunned and hated by hiss fellow-men.
``What do the folk around here say about me?'' he asked
one day as they were walking home from an outlying field.
The old man shook his head.
``They be bitter agen you, mortal bitter. Ay, 'tis a sad
business, a sad business.''
And never could he be got to say anything more
On a clear frosty evening, a few days before the festival
of Christmas, Stoner stood in a corner of the orchard which
commanded a wide view of the countryside. Here and there he
could see the twinkling dots of lamp or candle glow which
told of human homes where the goodwill and jollity of the
season held their sway. Behind him lay the grim, silent
farm-house, where no one ever laughed, where even a quarrel
would have seemed cheerful. As he turned to look at the
long grey front of the gloom-shadowed building, a door
opened and old George came hurriedly forth. Stoner heard
his adopted name called in a tone of strained anxiety.
Instantly be knew that something untoward had happened, and
with a quick revulsion of outlook his sanctuary became in
his eyes a place of peace and contentment, from which he
dreaded to be driven.
``Master Tom,'' said the old man in a hoarse whisper,
``you must slip away quiet from here for a few days.
Michael Ley is back in the village, an' he swears to shoot
you if he can come across you. He'll do it, too, there's
murder in the look of him. Get away under cover of night,
'tis only for a week or so, he won't be here longer.''
``But where am I to go?'' stammered Stoner, who had caught
the infection of the old man's obvious terror.
``Go right away along the coast to Punchford and keep hid
there. When Michael's safe gone I'll ride the roan over to
the Green Dragon at Punchford; when you see the cob stabled
at the Green Dragon 'tis a sign you may come back agen.''
``But---'' began Stoner hesitatingly.
``'Tis all right for money,'' said the other; ``the old
Missus agrees you'd best do as I say, and she's given me
The old man produced three sovereigns and some odd silver.
Stoner felt more of a cheat than ever as he stole away
that night from the back gate of the farm with the old
woman's money in his pocket. Old George and Bowker's pup
stood watching him a silent farewell from the yard. He
could scarcely fancy that he would ever come back, and he
felt a throb of compunction for those two humble friends who
would wait wistfully for his return. Some day perhaps the
real Tom would come back, and there would be wild wonderment
among those simple farm folks as to the identity of the
shadowy guest they had harboured under their roof. For his
own fate he felt no immediate anxiety; three pounds goes but
little way in the world when there is nothing behind it, but
to a man who has counted his exchequer in pennies it seems a
good starting-point. Fortune had done him a whimsically
kind turn when last he trod these lanes as a hopeless
adventurer, and there might yet be a chance of his finding
some work and making a fresh start; as he got further from
the farm his spirits rose higher. There was a sense of
relief in regaining once more his lost identity and ceasing
to be the uneasy ghost of another. He scarcely bothered to
speculate about the implacable enemy who had dropped from
nowhere into his life; since that life was now behind him
one unreal item the more made little difference. For the
first time for many months he began to hum a careless
light-hearted refrain. Then there stepped out from the
shadow of an overhanging oak tree a man with a gun. There
was no need to wonder who he might be; the moonlight falling
on his white set face revealed a glare of human hate such as
Stoner in the ups and downs of his wanderings had never seen
before. He sprang aside in a wild effort to break through
the hedge that bordered the lane, but the tough branches
held him fast. The hounds of Fate had waited for him in
those narrow lanes, and this time they were not to be
Clovis sat in the hottest zone but two of a Turkish bath,
alternately inert in statuesque contemplation and rapidly
man<oe>uvring a fountain-pen over the pages of a note-book.
``Don't interrupt me with your childish prattle,'' he
observed to Bertie van Tahn, who had slung himself languidly
into a neighbouring chair and looked conversationally
inclined; ``I'm writing death-less verse.''
Bertie looked interested.
``I say, what a boon you would be to portrait painters if
you really got to be notorious as a poetry writer. If they
couldn't get your likeness hung in the Academy as `Clovis
Sangrail, Esq., at work on his latest poem,' they could slip
you in as a Study of the Nude or Orpheus descending into
Jermyn Street. They always complain that modern dress
handicaps them, whereas a towel and a fountain-pen---''
``It was Mrs. Packletide's suggestion that I should write
this thing,'' said Clovis, ignoring the bypaths to fame that
Bertie van Tahn was pointing out to him. ``You see, Loona
Bimberton had a Coronation Ode accepted by the _New
Infancy_, a paper that has been started with the idea of
making the _New Age_ seem elder and hidebound. `So clever
of you, dear Loona,' the Packletide remarked when she had
read it; `of course, any one could write a Coronation Ode,
but no one else would have thought of doing it.' Loona
protested that these things were extremely difficult to do,
and gave us to understand that they were more or less the
province of a gifted few. Now the Packletide has been
rather decent to me in many ways, a sort of financial
ambulance, you know, that carries you off the field when
you're hard hit, which is a frequent occurrence with me, and
I've no use whatever for Loona Bimberton, so I chipped in
and said I could turn out that sort of stuff by the square
yard if I gave my mind to it. Loona said I couldn't, and we
got bets on, and between you and me I think the money's
fairly safe. Of course, one of the conditions of the wager
is that the thing has to be published in something or other,
local newspapers barred; but Mrs. Packletide has endeared
herself by many little acts of thoughtfulness to the editor
of the _Smoky Chimney_, so if I can hammer out anything at
all approaching the level of the usual Ode output we ought
to be all right. So far I'm getting along so comfortably
that I begin to be afraid that I must be one of the gifted
``It's rather late in the day for a Coronation Ode, isn't
it?'' said Bertie.
``Of course,'' said Clovis; ``this is going to be a Durbar
Recessional, the sort of thing that you can keep by you for
all time if you want to.''
``Now I understand your choice of a place to write it
in,'' said Bertie van Tahn, with the air of one who has
suddenly unravelled a hitherto obscure problem; ``you want
to get the local temperature.''
``I came here to get freedom from the inane interruptions
of the mentally deficient,'' said Clovis, ``but it seems I
asked too much of fate.''
Bertie van Tahn prepared to use his towel as a weapon of
precision, but reflecting that he had a good deal of
unprotected coast-line himself, and that Clovis was equipped
with a fountain-pen as well as a towel, he relapsed
pacifically into the depths of his chair.
``May one hear extracts from the immortal work?'' he
asked. ``I promise that nothing that I hear now shall
prejudice me against borrowing a copy of the _Smoky Chimney_
at the right moment.''
``It's rather like casting pearls into a trough,''
remarked Clovis pleasantly, ``but I don't mind reading you
bits of it. It begins with a general dispersal of the
`` `Back to their homes in Himalayan heights
The stale pale elephants of Cutch Behar
Roll like great galleons on a tideless sea---' ''
``I don't believe Cutch Behar is anywhere near the
Himalayan region,'' interrupted Bertie. ``You ought to have
an atlas on hand when you do this sort of thing; and why
stale and pale?''
``After the late hours and the excitement, of course,''
said Clovis; ``and I said their _homes_ were in the
Himalayas. You can have Himalayan elephants in Cutch Behar,
I suppose, just as you have Irish-bred horses running at
``You said they were going back to the Himalayas,''
``Well, they would naturally be sent home to recuperate.
It's the usual thing out there to turn elephants loose in
the hills, just as we put horses out to grass in this
Clovis could at least flatter himself that he had infused
some of the reckless splendour of the East into his
``Is it all going to be in blank verse?'' asked the
``Of course not; `Durbar' comes at the end of the fourth
``That seems so cowardly; however, it explains why you
pitched on Cutch Behar.''
``There is more connection between geographical
place-names and poetical inspiration than is generally
recognized; one of the chief reasons why there are so few
really great poems about Russia in our language is that you
can't possibly get a rhyme to names like Smolensk and
Tobolsk and Minsk.''
Clovis spoke with the authority of one who has tried.
``Of course, you could rhyme Omsk with Tomsk,'' he
continued; ``in fact, they seem to be there for that
purpose, but the public wouldn't stand that sort of thing
``The public will stand a good deal,'' said Bertie
malevolently, ``and so small a proportion of it knows
Russian that you could always have an explanatory footnote
asserting that the last three letters in Smolensk are not
pronounced. It's quite as believable as your statement
about putting elephants out to grass in the Himalayan
``I've got rather a nice bit,'' resumed Clovis with
unruffled serenity, ``giving an evening scene on the
outskirts of a jungle village:
`` `Where the coiled cobra in the gloaming gloats,
And prowling panthers stalk the wary goats.' ''
``There is practically no gloaming in tropical
countries,'' said Bertie indulgently; ``but I like the
masterly reticence with which you treat the cobra's motive
for gloating. The unknown is proverbially the uncanny. I
can picture nervous readers of the _Smoky Chimney_ keeping
the light turned on in their bedrooms all night out of sheer
sickening uncertainty as to _what_ the cobra might have been
``Cobras gloat naturally,'' said Clovis, ``just as wolves
are always ravening from mere force of habit, even after
they've hopelessly overeaten themselves. I've got a fine
bit of colour painting later on,'' he added, ``where I
describe the dawn coming up over the Brahmaputra river:
`` `The amber dawn-drenched East with sun-shafts kissed,
Stained sanguine apricot and amethyst,
O'er the washed emerald of the mango groves
Hangs in a mist of opalescent mauves,
While painted parrot-flights impinge the haze
With scarlet, chalcedon and chrysoprase.'' '
``I've never seen the dawn come up over the Brahmaputra
river,'' said Bertie, ``so I can't say if it's a good
description of the event, but it sounds more like an account
of an extensive jewel robbery. Anyhow, the parrots give a
good useful touch of local colour. I suppose you've
introduced some tigers into the scenery? An Indian landscape
would have rather a bare, unfinished look without a tiger or
two in the middle distance.''
``I've got a hen-tiger somewhere in the poem,'' said
Clovis, hunting through his notes. ``Here she is:
`` `The tawny tigress 'mid the tangled teak
Drags to her purring cubs' enraptured ears
The harsh death-rattle in the pea-fowl's beak,
A jungle lullaby of blood and tears.' ''
Bertie van Tahn rose hurriedly from his recumbent position
and made for the glass door leading into the next
``I think your idea of home life in the jungle is
perfectly horrid,'' he said. ``The cobra was sinister
enough, but the improvised rattle in the tiger-nursery is
the limit. If you're going to make me turn hot and cold all
over I may as well go into the steam room at once.''
``Just listen to this line,'' said Clovis; ``it would make
the reputation of any ordinary poet:
`` `and overhead
The pendulum-patient Punkah, parent of stillborn breeze.' ''
``Most of your readers will think `punkah' is a kind of
iced drink or half-time at polo,'' said Bertie, and
disappeared into the steam.
The _Smoky Chimney_ duly published the ``Recessional,''
but it proved to be its swan song, for the paper never
attained to another issue.
Loona Bimberton gave up her intention of attending the
Durbar and went into a nursing-home on the Sussex Downs.
Nervous breakdown after a particularly strenuous season was
the usually accepted explanation, but there are three or
four people who know that she never really recovered from
the dawn breaking over the Brahmaputra river.
A MATTER OF SENTIMENT
It was the eve of the great race, and scarcely a member of
Lady Susan's house-party had as yet a single bet on. It was
one of those unsatisfactory years when one horse held a
commanding market position, not by reason of any general
belief in its crushing superiority, but because it was
extremely difficult to pitch on any other candidate to whom
to pin ones faith. Peradventure II was the favourite, not
in the sense of being a popular fancy, but by virtue of a
lack of confidence in any one of his rather undistinguished
rivals. The brains of club-land were much exercised in
seeking out possible merit where none was very obvious to
the naked intelligence, and the house-party at Lady Susan's
was possessed by the same uncertainty and irresolution that
infected wider circles.
``It is just the time for bringing off a good coup,'' said
Bertie van Tahn.
``Undoubtedly. But with what?'' demanded Clovis for the
The women of the party were just as keenly interested in
the matter, and just as helplessly perplexed; even the
mother of Clovis, who usually got good racing information
from her dressmaker, confessed herself fancy free on this
occasion. Colonel Drake, who was professor of military
history at a minor cramming establishment, was the only
person who had a definite selection for the event, but as
his choice varied every three hours he was worse than
useless as an inspired guide. The crowning difficulty of
the problem was that it could only be fitfully and furtively
discussed. Lady Susan disapproved of racing. She
disapproved of many things; some people went as far as to
say that she disapproved of most things. Disapproval was to
her what neuralgia and fancy needlework are to many other
women. She disapproved of early morning tea and auction
bridge, of ski-ing and the two-step, of the Russian ballet
and the Chelsea Arts Club ball, of the French policy in
Morocco and the British policy everywhere. It was not that
she was particularly strict or narrow in her views of life,
but she had been the eldest sister of a large family of
self-indulgent children, and her particular form of
indulgence had consisted in openly disapproving of the
foibles of the others. Unfortunately the hobby had grown up
with her. As she was rich, influential, and very, very
kind, most people were content to count their early tea as
well lost on her behalf. Still, the necessity for hurriedly
dropping the discussion of an enthralling topic, and
suppressing all mention of it during her presence on the
scene, was an affliction at a moment like the present, when
time was slipping away and indecision was the prevailing
After a lunch-time of rather strangled and uneasy
conversation, Clovis managed to get most of the party
together at the further end of the kitchen gardens, on the
pretext of admiring the Himalayan pheasants. He had made an
important discovery. Motkin, the butler, who (as Clovis
expressed it) had grown prematurely grey in Lady Susan's
service, added to his other excellent qualities an
intelligent interest in matters connected with the Turf. On
the subject of the forthcoming race he was not illuminating,
except in so far that he shared the prevailing unwillingness
to see a winner in Peradventure II. But where he outshone
all the members of the house-party was in the fact that he
had a second cousin who was head stable-lad at a
neighbouring racing establishment, and usually gifted with
much inside information as to private form and
possibilities. Only the fact of her ladyship having taken
it into her head to invite a house-party for the last week
of May had prevented Mr. Motkin from paying a visit of
consultation to his relative with respect to the big race;
there was still time to cycle over if he could get leave of
absence for the afternoon on some specious excuse.
``Let's jolly well hope he does,'' said Bertie van Tahn;
``under the circumstances a second cousin is almost as
useful as second sight.''
``That stable ought to know something, if knowledge is to
be found anywhere,'' said Mrs. Packletide hopefully.
``I expect you'll find he'll echo my fancy for
Motorboat,'' said Colonel Drake.
At this moment the subject had to be hastily dropped.
Lady Susan bore down upon them, leaning on the arm of
Clovis's mother, to whom she was confiding the fact that she
disapproved of the craze for Pekingese spaniels. It was the
third thing she had found time to disapprove of since lunch,
without counting her silent and permanent disapproval of the
way Clovis's mother did her hair.
``We have been admiring the Himalayan pheasants,'' said
Mrs. Packletide suavely.
``They went off to a bird-show at Nottingham early this
morning,'' said Lady Susan, with the air of one who
disapproves of hasty and ill-considered lying.
``Their house, I mean; such perfect roosting arrangements,
and all so clean,'' resumed Mrs. Packletide, with an
increased glow of enthusiasm. The odious Bertie van Tahn
was murmuring audible prayers for Mrs. Packletide's ultimate
estrangement from the paths of falsehood.
``I hope you don't mind dinner being a quarter of an hour
late tonight,'' said Lady Susan; ``Motkin has had an urgent
summons to go and see a sick relative this afternoon. He
wanted to bicycle there, but I am sending him in the
``How very kind of you! Of course we don't mind dinner
being put off.'' The assurances came with unanimous and
At the dinner-table that night an undercurrent of furtive
curiosity directed itself towards Motkin's impassive
countenance. One or two of the guests almost expected to
find a slip of paper concealed in their napkins, bearing the
name of the second cousin's selection. They had not long to
wait. As the butler went round with the murmured question,
``Sherry?'' he added in an even lower tone the cryptic
words, ``Better not.'' Mrs. Packletide gave a start of
alarm, and refused the sherry; there seemed some sinister
suggestion in the butler's warning, as though her hostess
had suddenly become addicted to the Borgia habit. A moment
later the explanation flashed on her that ``Better Not'' was
the name of one of the runners in the big race. Clovis was
already pencilling it on his cuff, and Colonel Drake, in his
turn, was signalling to every one in hoarse whispers and
dumb-show the fact that he had all along fancied ``B.N.''
Early next morning a sheaf of telegrams went Townward,
representing the market commands of the house-party and
It was a wet afternoon, and most of Lady Susan's guests
hung about the hall, waiting apparently for the appearance
of tea, though it was scarcely yet due. The advent of a
telegram quickened every one into a flutter of expectancy;
the page who brought the telegram to Clovis waited with
unusual alertness to know if there might be an answer.
Clovis read the message and gave an exclamation of
``No bad news, I hope,'' said Lady Susan. Every one else
knew that the news was not good.
``It's only the result of the Derby,'' he blurted out;
``Sadowa won; an utter outsider.''
``Sadowa!'' exclaimed Lady Susan; ``you don't say so! How
remarkable! It's the first time I've ever backed a horse;
in fact I disapprove of horse-racing, but just for once in a
way I put money on this horse, and it's gone and won.''
``May I ask,'' said Mrs. Packletide, amid the general
silence, ``why you put your money on this particular horse?
None of the sporting prophets mentioned it as having an
``Well,'' said Lady Susan, ``you may laugh at me, but it
was the name that attracted me. You see, I was always mixed
up with the Franco-German war; I was married on the day that
the war was declared, and my eldest child was born the day
that peace was signed, so anything connected with the war
has always interested me. And when I saw there was a horse
running in the Derby called after one of the battles in the
Franco-German war, I said I _must_ put some money on it, for
once in a way, though I disapprove of racing. And it's
There was a general groan. No one groaned more deeply
than the professor of military history.
THE SECRET SIN OF SEPTIMUS BROPE
``Who and what is Mr. Brope?'' demanded the aunt of Clovis
Mrs. Riversedge, who had been snipping off the heads of
defunct roses, and thinking of nothing in particular, sprang
hurriedly to mental attention. She was one of those
old-fashioned hostesses who consider that one ought to know
something about one's guests, and that the something ought
to be to their credit.
``I believe he comes from Leighton Buzzard,'' she observed
by way of preliminary explanation.
``In these days of rapid and convenient travel,'' said
Clovis, who was dispersing a colony of green-fly with
visitations of cigarette smoke, ``to come from Leighton
Buzzard does not necessarily denote any great strength of
character. It might only mean mere restlessness. Now if he
had left it under a cloud, or as a protest against the
incurable and heartless frivolity of its inhabitants, that
would tell us something about the man and his mission in
``What does he do?'' pursued Mrs. Troyle magisterially.
``He edits the _Cathedral Monthly_,'' said her hostess,
``and he's enormously learned about memorial brasses and
transepts and the influence of Byzantine worship on modern
liturgy, and all those sort of things. Perhaps he is just a
little bit heavy and immersed in one range of subjects, but
it takes all sorts to make a good house-party, you know.
You don't find him _too_ dull, do you?''
``Dulness I could overlook,'' said the aunt of Clovis:
``what I cannot forgive is his making love to my maid.''
``My dear Mrs. Troyle,'' gasped the hostess, ``what an
extraordinary idea! I assure you Mr. Brope would not dream
of doing such a thing.''
``His dreams are a matter of indifference to me; for all I
care his slumbers may be one long indiscretion of unsuitable
erotic advances, in which the entire servants' hall may be
involved. But in his waking hours he shall not make love to
my maid. It's no use arguing about it, I'm firm on the
``But you must be mistaken,'' persisted Mrs. Riversedge;
``Mr. Brope would be the last person to do such a thing.''
``He is the first person to do such a thing, as far as my
information goes, and if I have any voice in the matter he
certainly shall be the last. Of course, I am not referring
to respectably-intentioned lovers.''
``I simply cannot think that a man who writes so
charmingly and informingly about transepts and Byzantine
influences would behave in such an unprincipled manner,''
said Mrs. Riversedge; ``what evidence have you that he's
doing anything of the sort? I don't want to doubt your word,
of course, but we mustn't be too ready to condemn him
unheard, must we?''
``Whether we condemn him or not, he has certainly not been
unheard. He has the room next to my dressing-room, and on
two occasions, when I dare say he thought I was absent, I
have plainly heard him announcing through the wall, `I love
you, Florrie.' Those partition walls upstairs are very thin;
one can almost hear a watch ticking in the next room.''
``Is your maid called Florence?''
``Her name is Florinda.''
``What an extraordinary name to give a maid!''
``I did not give it to her; she arrived in my service
``What I mean is,'' said Mrs. Riversedge, ``that when I
get maids with unsuitable names I call them Jane; they soon
get used to it.''
``An excellent plan,'' said the aunt of Clovis coldly;
``unfortunately I have got used to being called Jane myself.
It happens to be my name.''
She cut short Mrs. Riversedge's flood of apologies by
``The question is not whether I'm to call my maid
Florinda, but whether Mr. Brope is to be permitted to call
her Florrie. I am strongly of opinion that he shall not.''
``He may have been repeating the words of some song,''
said Mrs. Riversedge hopefully; ``there are lots of those
sorts of silly refrains with girls' names,'' she continued,
turning to Clovis as a possible authority on the subject.
`` `You mustn't call me Mary---' ''
``I shouldn't think of doing so,'' Clovis assured her;
``in the first place, I've always understood that your name
was Henrietta; and then I hardly know you well enough to
take such a liberty.''
``I mean there's a _song_ with that refrain,'' hurriedly
explained Mrs. Riversedge, ``and there's `Rhoda, Rhoda kept
a pagoda,' and `Maisie is a daisy,' and heaps of others.
Certainly it doesn't sound like Mr. Brope to be singing
such songs, but I think we ought to give him the benefit of
``I had already done so,'' said Mrs. Troyle, ``until
further evidence came my way.
She shut her lips with the resolute finality of one who
enjoys the blessed certainty of being implored to open them
``Further evidence!'' exclaimed her hostess; ``do tell
``As I was coming upstairs after breakfast Mr. Brope was
just passing my room. In the most natural way in the world
a piece of paper dropped out of a packet that he held in his
hand and fluttered to the ground just at my door. I was
going to call out to him `You've dropped something,' and
then for some reason I held back and didn't show myself till
he was safely in his room. You see it occurred to me that I
was very seldom in my room just at that hour, and that
Florinda was almost always there tidying up things about
that time. So I picked up that innocent-looking piece of
Mrs. Troyle paused again, with the self-applauding air of
one who has detected an asp lurking in an apple-charlotte.
Mrs. Riversedge snipped vigorously at the nearest rose
bush, incidentally decapitating a Viscountess Folkestone
that was just coming into bloom.
``What was on the paper?'' she asked.
``Just the words in pencil, `I love you, Florrie,' and
then underneath, crossed out with a faint line, but
perfectly plain to read, `Meet me in the garden by the yew.'
``There _is_ a yew tree at the bottom of the garden,''
admitted Mrs. Riversedge.
``At any rate he appears to be truthful,'' commented
``To think that a scandal of this sort should be going on
under my roof!'' said Mrs. Riversedge indignantly.
``I wonder why it is that scandal seems so much worse
under a roof,'' observed Clovis; ``I've always regarded it
as a proof of the superior delicacy of the cat tribe that it
conducts most of its scandals above the slates.''
``Now I come to think of it,'' resumed Mrs. Riversedge,
``there are things about Mr. Brope that I've never been able
to account for. His income, for instance: he only gets two
hundred a year as editor of the _Cathedral Monthly_, and I
know that his people are quite poor, and he hasn't any
private means. Yet he manages to afford a flat somewhere in
Westminster, and he goes abroad to Bruges and those sorts of
places every year, and always dresses well, and gives quite
nice luncheon-parties in the season. You can't do all that
on two hundred a year, can you?''
``Does he write for any other papers?'' queried Mrs.
``No, you see he specializes so entirely on liturgy and
ecclesiastical architecture that his field is rather
restricted. He once tried the _Sporting and Dramatic_ with
an article on church edifices in famous fox-hunting centres,
but it wasn't considered of sufficient general interest to
be accepted. No, I don't see how he can support himself in
his present style merely by what be writes.''
``Perhaps he sells spurious transepts to American
enthusiasts,'' suggested Clovis.
``How could you sell a transept?'' said Mrs. Riversedge;
``such a thing would be impossible.''
``Whatever he may do to eke out his income,'' interrupted
Mrs. Troyle, ``he is certainly not going to fill in his
leisure moments by making love to my maid.''
``Of course not,'' agreed her hostess; ``that must be put
a stop to at once. But I don't quite know what we ought to
``You might put a barbed wire entanglement round the yew
tree as a precautionary measure,'' said Clovis.
``I don't think that the disagreeable situation that has
arisen is improved by flippancy,'' said Mrs. Riversedge; ``a
good maid is a treasure---''
``I am sure I don't know what I should do without
Florinda,'' admitted Mrs. Troyle; ``she understands my hair.
I've long ago given up trying to do anything with it myself.
I regard one's hair as I regard husbands: as long as one is
seen together in public one's private divergences don't
matter. Surely that was the luncheon gong.''
Septimus Brope and Clovis had the smoking-room to
themselves after lunch. The former seemed restless and
preoccupied, the latter quietly observant.
``What is a lorry?'' asked Septimus suddenly; ``I don't
mean the thing on wheels, of course I know what that is, but
isn't there a bird with a name like that, the larger form of
``I fancy it's a lory, with one `r,' '' said Clovis
lazily, ``in which case it's no good to you.''
Septimus Brope stared in some astonishment.
``How do you mean, no good to me?'' he asked, with more
than a trace of uneasiness in his voice.
``Won't rhyme with Florrie,'' explained Clovis briefly.
Septimus sat upright in his chair, with unmistakable alarm
on his face.
``How did you find out? I mean how did you know I was
trying to get a rhyme to Florrie?'' he asked sharply.
``I didn't know,'' said Clovis, ``I only guessed. When
you wanted to turn the prosaic lorry of commerce into a
feathered poem flitting through the verdure of a tropical
forest, I knew you must be working up a sonnet, and Florrie
was the only female name that suggested itself as rhyming
Septimus still looked uneasy.
``I believe you know more,'' be said.
Clovis laughed quietly, but said nothing.
``How much do you know?'' Septimus asked desperately.
``The yew tree in the garden,'' said Clovis.
``There! I felt certain I'd dropped it somewhere. But you
must have guessed something before. Look here, you have
surprised my secret. You won't give me away, will you? It
is nothing to be ashamed of, but it wouldn't do for the
editor of the _Cathedral Monthly_ to go in openly for that
sort of thing, would it?''
``Well, I suppose not,'' admitted Clovis.
``You see,'' continued Septimus, ``I get quite a decent
lot of money out of it. I could never live in the style I
do on what I get as editor of the _Cathedral Monthly_.''
Clovis was even more startled than Septimus had been
earlier in the conversation, but he was better skilled in
``Do you mean to say you get money out of---Florrie?'' he
``Not out of Florrie, as yet,'' said Septimus; ``in fact,
I don't mind saying that I'm having a good deal of trouble
over Florrie. But there are a lot of others.''
Clovis's cigarette went out.
``This is very interesting,'' he said slowly. And then,
with Septimus Brope's next words, illumination dawned on
``There are heaps of others; for instance:
`` `Cora with the lips of coral,
You and I will never quarrel.'
That was one of my earliest successes, and it still brings
me in royalties. And then there is---`Esmeralda, when I
first beheld her,' and `Fair Teresa, how I love to please
her,' both of those have been fairly popular. And there is
one rather dreadful one,'' continued Septimus, flushing deep
carmine, ``which has brought me in more money than any of
`` `Lively little Lucie
With her naughty nez retrousee'.
Of course, I loathe the whole lot of them; in fact, I'm
rapidly becoming something of a woman-hater under their
influence, but I can't afford to disregard the financial
aspect of the matter. And at the same time you can
understand that my position as an authority on
ecclesiastical architecture and liturgical subjects would be
weakened, if not altogether ruined, if it once got about
that I was the author of `Cora with the lips of coral' and
all the rest of them.''
Clovis had recovered sufficiently to ask in a sympathetic,
if rather unsteady, voice what was the special trouble with
``I can't get her into lyric shape, try as I will,'' said
Septimus mournfully. ``You see, one has to work in a lot of
sentimental, sugary compliment with a catchy rhyme, and a
certain amount of personal biography or prophecy. They've
all of them got to have a long string of past successes
recorded about them, or else you've got to foretell blissful
things about them and yourself in the future. For instance,
`` `Dainty little girlie Mavis,
She is such a rara avis.
All the money I can save is
All to be for Mavis mine.'
It goes to a sickening namby-pamby waltz tune, and for
months nothing else was sung and hummed in Blackpool and
other popular centres.''
This time Clovis's self-control broke down badly.
``Please excuse me,'' he gurgled, ``but I can't help it
when I remember the awful solemnity of that article of yours
that you so kindly read us last night, on the Coptic Church
in its relation to early Christian worship.''
``You see how it would be,'' he said; ``as soon as people
knew me to be the author of that miserable sentimental
twaddle, all respect for the serious labours of my life
would be gone. I dare say I know more about memorial
brasses than any one living, in fact I hope one day to
publish a monograph on the subject, but I should be pointed
out everywhere as the man whose ditties were in the mouths
of nigger minstrels along the entire coast-line of our
Island home. Can you wonder that I positively hate Florrie
all the time that I'm trying to grind out sugar-coated
rhapsodies about her?''
``Why not give free play to your emotions, and be brutally
abusive? An uncomplimentary refrain would have an instant
success as a novelty if you were sufficiently outspoken.''
``I've never thought of that,'' said Septimus, ``and I'm
afraid I couldn't break away from the habit of fulsome
adulation and suddenly change my style.''
``You needn't change your style in the least,'' said
Clovis; ``merely reverse the sentiment and keep to the inane
phraseology of the thing. If you'll do the body of the song
I'll knock off the refrain, which is the thing that
principally matters, I believe. I shall charge half-shares
in the royalties, and throw in my silence as to your guilty
secret. In the eyes of the world you shall still be the man
who has devoted his life to the study of transepts and
Byzantine ritual; only sometimes, in the long winter
evenings, when the wind howls drearily down the chimney and
the rain beats against the windows, I shall think of you as
the author of `Cora with the lips of coral.' Of course, if
in sheer gratitude at my silence you like to take me for a
much-needed holiday to the Adriatic or somewhere equally
interesting, paying all expenses, I shouldn't dream of
Later in the afternoon Clovis found his aunt and Mrs.
Riversedge indulging in gentle exercise in the Jacobean
``I've spoken to Mr. Brope about F.,'' he announced.
``How splendid of you! What did he say?'' came in a quick
chorus from the two ladies.
``He was quite frank and straightforward with me when he
saw that I knew his secret,'' said Clovis, ``and it seems
that his intentions were quite serious, if slightly
unsuitable. I tried to show him the impracticability of the
course that he was following. He said he wanted to be
understood, and he seemed to think that Florinda would excel
in that requirement, but I pointed out that there were
probably dozens of delicately nurtured, pure-hearted young
English girls who would be capable of understanding him,
while Florinda was the only person in the world who
understood my aunt's hair. That rather weighed with him,
for he's not really a selfish animal, if you take him in the
right way, and when I appealed to the memory of his happy
childish days, spent amid the daisied fields of Leighton
Buzzard (I suppose daisies do grow there), he was obviously
affected. Anyhow, he gave me his word that he would put
Florinda absolutely out of his mind, and he has agreed to go
for a short trip abroad as the best distraction for his
thoughts. I am going with him as far as Ragusa. If my aunt
should wish to give me a really nice scarf-pin (to be chosen
by myself), as a small recognition of the very considerable
service I had done her, I shouldn't dream of refusing. I'm
not one of those who think that because one is abroad one
can go about dressed anyhow.''
A few weeks later in Blackpool and places where they sing,
the following refrain held undisputed sway:
``How you bore me, Florrie,
With those eyes of vacant blue;
You'll be very sorry, Florrie,
If I marry you.
Though I'm easy-goin', Florrie,
This I swear is true,
I'll throw you down a quarry, Florrie,
If I marry you.''
``MINISTERS OF GRACE''
Although he was scarcely yet out of his teens, the Duke of Scaw
was already marked out as a personality widely differing from others
of his caste and period. Not in externals; therein he conformed correctly
to type. His hair was faintly reminiscent of Houbigant, and
at the other end of him his shoes exhaled the right soup<c,>on of
harness-room; his socks compelled one's attention without losing
one's respect; and his attitude in repose had just that suggestion of
Whistler's mother, so becoming in the really young. It was within
that the trouble lay, if trouble it could be accounted, which marked
him apart from his fellows. The Duke was religious. Not in any of
the ordinary senses of the word; he took small heed of High Church
or Evangelical standpoints, he stood outside of all the movements
and missions and cults and crusades of the day, uncaring and uninterested.
Yet in a mystical-practical way of his own, which had
served him unscathed and unshaken through the fickle years of
boyhood, he was intensely and intensively religious. His family were
naturally, though unobtrusively, distressed about it. ``I am so afraid
it may affect his bridge,'' said his mother.
The Duke sat in a pennyworth of chair in St. James's Park, listening
to the pessimisms of Belturbet, who reviewed the existing
political situation from the gloomiest of standpoints.
``Where I think you political spade-workers are so silly,'' said the
Duke, ``is in the misdirection of your efforts. You spend thousands
of pounds of money, and Heaven knows how much dynamic force
of brain power and personal energy, in trying to elect or displace
this or that man, whereas you could gain your ends so much more
simply by making use of the men as you find them. If they don't
suit your purpose as they are, transform them into something more
``Do you refer to hypnotic suggestion?'' asked Belturbet, with
the air of one who is being trifled with.
``Nothing of the sort. Do you understand what I mean by the
verb to koepenick? That is to say, to replace an authority by a
spurious imitation that would carry just as much weight for the
moment as the displaced original; the advantage, of course, being
that the koepenick replica would do what you wanted, whereas
the original does what seems best in its own eyes.''
``I suppose every public man has a double, if not two or three,''
said Belturbet; ``but it would be a pretty hard task to koepenick a
whole bunch of them and keep the originals out of the way.''
``There have been instances in European history of highly successful
koepenickery,'' said the Duke dreamily.
``Oh, of course, there have been False Dimitris and Perkin Warbecks,
who imposed on the world for a time,'' assented Belturbet,
``but they personated people who were dead or safely out of the
way. That was a comparatively simple matter. It would be far easier
to pass oneself off as dead Hannibal than as living Haldane, for
``I was thinking,'' said the Duke, ``of the most famous case of all,
the angel who koepenicked King Robert of Sicily with such brilliant
results. Just imagine what an advantage it would be to have angels
deputizing, to use a horrible but convenient word, for Quinston
and Lord Hugo Sizzle, for example. How much smoother the
Parliamentary machine would work than at present!''
``Now you're talking nonsense,'' said Belturbet; ``angels don't exist
nowadays, at least, not in that way, so what is the use of dragging
them into a serious discussion? It's merely silly.''
``If you talk to me like that I shall just do it,'' said the Duke.
``Do what?'' asked Belturbet. There were times when his young
friend's uncanny remarks rather frightened him.
``I shall summon angelic forces to take over some of the more
troublesome personalities of our public life, and I shall send the
ousted originals into temporary retirement in suitable animal
organisms. It's not every one who would have the knowledge or
the power necessary to bring such a thing off---''
``Oh, stop that inane rubbish,'' said Belturbet angrily; ``it's getting
wearisome. Here's Quinston coming,'' he added, as there approached
along the almost deserted path the well-known figure of
a young Cabinet Minister, whose personality evoked a curious
mixture of public interest and unpopularity.
``Hurry along, my dear man,'' said the young Duke to the Minister,
who had given him a condescending nod; ``your time is running
short,'' he continued in a provocative strain; ``the whole inept
crowd of you will shortly be swept away into the world's wastepaper
``You poor little strawberry-leafed nonentity,'' said the Minister,
checking himself for a moment in his stride and rolling out his
words spasmodically; ``who is going to sweep us away, I should like
to know? The voting masses are on our side, and all the ability and
administrative talent is on our side too. No power of earth or
Heaven is going to move us from our place till we choose to quit it.
No power of earth or---''
Belturbet saw, with bulging eyes, a sudden void where a moment
earlier had been a Cabinet Minister; a void emphasized rather than
relieved by the presence of a puffed-out bewildered-looking sparrow,
which hopped about for a moment in a dazed fashion and then
fell to a violent cheeping and scolding.
``If we could understand sparrow-language,'' said the Duke
serenely, ``I fancy we should hear something infinitely worse than
`strawberry-leafed nonentity.' ''
``But good Heavens, Eug<e`>ne,'' said Belturbet hoarsely, ``what has
become of--- Why, there he is! How on earth did he get there?''
And he pointed with a shaking finger towards a semblance of the
vanished Minister, which approached once more along the unfrequented
The Duke laughed.
``It is Quinston to all outward appearance,'' he said composedly,
``but I fancy you will find, on closer investigation, that it is an
angel under-study of the real article.''
The Angel-Quinston greeted them with a friendly smile.
``How beastly happy you two look sitting there!'' he said wistfully.
``I don't suppose you'd care to change places with poor little us,''
replied the Duke chaffingly.
``How about poor little me?'' said the Angel modestly. ``I've got to
run about behind the wheels of popularity, like a spotted dog behind
a carriage, getting all the dust and trying to look as if I was an
important part of the machine. I must seem a perfect fool to you
``I think you are a perfect angel.'' said the Duke.
The Angel-that-had-been-Quinston smiled and passed on his way,
pursued across the breadth of the Horse Guards Parade by a tiresome
little sparrow that cheeped incessantly and furiously at him.
``That's only the beginning,'' said the Duke complacently; ``I've
made it operative with all of them, irrespective of parties.''
Belturbet made no coherent reply; he was engaged in feeling
his pulse. The Duke fixed his attention with some interest on a
black swan that was swimming with haughty, stiff-necked aloofness
amid the crowd of lesser water-fowl that dotted the ornamental
water. For all its pride of bearing, something was evidently ruffling
and enraging it; in its way it seemed as angry and amazed as the
sparrow had been.
At the same moment a human figure came along the pathway.
Belturbet looked up apprehensively.
``Kedzon,'' he whispered briefly.
``An Angel-Kedzon, if I am not mistaken,'' said the Duke. ``Look,
he is talking affably to a human being. That settles it.''
A shabbily dressed lounger had accosted the man who had been
Viceroy in the splendid East, and who still reflected in his mien
some of the cold dignity of the Himalayan snow-peaks.
``Could you tell me, sir, if them white birds is storks or halbatrosses?
I had an argyment---''
The cold dignity thawed at once into genial friendliness.
``Those are pelicans, my dear sir. Are you interested in birds? If
you would join me in a bun and a glass of milk at the stall yonder,
I could tell you some interesting things about Indian birds. Right
oh! Now the hill-mynah, for instance---''
The two men disappeared in the direction of the bun stall, chatting
volubly as they went, and shadowed from the other side of
the railed enclosure by a black swan, whose temper seemed to have
reached the limit of inarticulate rage.
Belturbet gazed in an open-mouthed wonder after the retreating
couple, then transferred his attention to the infuriated swan, and
finally turned with a look of scared comprehension at his young
friend lolling unconcernedly in his chair. There was no longer any
room to doubt what was happening. The ``silly talk'' had been
translated into terrifying action.
``I think a prairie oyster on the top of a stiffish brandy-and-soda
might save my reason,'' said Belturbet weakly, as he limped towards
It was late in the day before he could steady his nerves sufficiently
to glance at the evening papers. The Parliamentary report
proved significant reading, and confirmed the fears that he had been
trying to shake off. Mr. Ap Dave, the Chancellor, whose lively controversial
style endeared him to his supporters and embittered him,
politically speaking, to his opponents, had risen in his place to make
an unprovoked apology for having alluded in a recent speech to
certain protesting taxpayers as ``skulkers.'' He had realized on reflection
that they were in all probability perfectly honest in their
inability to understand certain legal technicalities of the new finance
laws. The House had scarcely recovered from this sensation
when Lord Hugo Sizzle caused a further flutter of astonishment
by going out of his way to indulge in an outspoken appreciation of
the fairness, loyalty, and straightforwardness not only of the Chancellor,
but of all the members of the Cabinet. A wit had gravely
suggested moving the adjournment of the House in view of the unexpected
circumstances that had arisen.
Belturbet anxiously skimmed over a further item of news printed
immediately below the Parliamentary report: ``Wild cat found in an
exhausted condition in Palace Yard.''
``Now I wonder which of them---'' he mused, and then an appalling
idea came to him. ``Supposing he's put them both into the same
beast!'' He hurriedly ordered another prairie oyster.
Belturbet was known in his club as a strictly moderate drinker;
his consumption of alcoholic stimulants that day gave rise to considerable
The events of the next few days were piquantly bewildering to
the world at large; to Belturbet, who knew dimly what was happening,
the situation was fraught with recurring alarms. The old
saying that in politics it's the unexpected that always happens received
a justification that it had hitherto somewhat lacked, and
the epidemic of startling personal changes of front was not wholly
confined to the realm of actual politics. The eminent chocolate
magnate, Sadbury, whose antipathy to the Turf and everything
connected with it was a matter of general knowledge, had evidently
been replaced by an Angel-Sadbury, who proceeded to
electrify the public by blossoming forth as an owner of race-horses,
giving as a reason his matured conviction that the sport was, after
all, one which gave healthy open-air recreation to large numbers
of people drawn from all classes of the community, and incidentally
stimulated the important industry of horse-breeding. His
colours, chocolate and cream hoops spangled with pink stars, promised
to become as popular as any on the Turf. At the same time, in
order to give effect to his condemnation of the evils resulting from
the spread of the gambling habit among wage-earning classes, who
lived for the most part from hand to mouth, he suppressed all
betting news and tipsters' forecasts in the popular evening paper
that was under his control. His action received instant recognition
and support from the Angel-proprietor of the _Evening Views_, the
principal rival evening halfpenny paper, who forthwith issued an
ukase decreeing a similar ban on betting news, and in a short while
the regular evening Press was purged of all mention of starting
prices and probable winners. A considerable drop in the circulation
of all these papers was the immediate result, accompanied, of
course, by a falling-off in advertisement value, while a crop of
special betting broadsheets sprang up to supply the newly created
want. Under their influence the betting habit became if anything
rather more widely diffused than before. The Duke had possibly
overlooked the futility of koepenicking the leaders of the nation
with excellently intentioned angel under-studies, while leaving the
mass of the people in its original condition.
Further sensation and dislocation was caused in the Press world
by the sudden and dramatic _rapprochement_ which took place between
the Angel-Editor of the _Scrutator_ and the Angel-Editor of the
_Anglian Review_, who not only ceased to criticize and disparage
the tone and tendencies of each other's publication, but agreed to
exchange editorships for alternating periods. Here again public
support was not on the side of the angels; constant readers of the
_Scrutator_ complained bitterly of the strong meat which was thrust
upon them at fitful intervals in place of the almost vegetarian diet
to which they had become confidently accustomed; even those who
were not mentally averse to strong meat as a separate course were
pardonably annoyed at being supplied with it in the pages of the
_Scrutator_. To be suddenly confronted with a pungent herring
salad when one had attuned oneself to tea and toast, or to discover
a richly truffled segment of _p<a^>r<e`> de foie_ dissembled in a bowl of
bread and milk, would be an experience that might upset the
equanimity of the most placidly disposed mortal. An equally vehement
outcry arose from the regular subscribers of the _Anglian Review_,
who protested against being served from time to time with
literary fare which no young person of sixteen could possibly want
to devour in secret. To take infinite precautions, they complained,
against the juvenile perusal of such eminently innocuous literature
was like reading the Riot Act on an uninhabited island. Both reviews
suffered a serious falling-off in circulation and influence.
Peace hath its devastations as well as war.
The wives of noted public men formed another element of discomfiture
which the young Duke had almost entirely left out of his
calculations. It is sufficiently embarrassing to keep abreast of the
possible wobblings and veerings-round of a human husband, who,
from the strength or weakness of his personal character, may leap
over or slip through the barriers which divide the parties; for this
reason a merciful politician usually marries late in life, when he has
definitely made up his mind on which side he wishes his wife to be
socially valuable. But these trials were as nothing compared to
the bewilderment caused by the Angel-husbands who seemed in
some cases to have revolutionized their outlook on life in the interval
between breakfast and dinner, without premonition or preparation
of any kind, and apparently without realizing the least need
for subsequent explanation. The temporary peace which brooded
over the Parliamentary situation was by no means reproduced in
the home circles of the leading statesmen and politicians. It had
been frequently and extensively remarked of Mrs. Exe that she
would try the patience of an angel; now the tables were reversed,
and she unwittingly had an opportunity for discovering that the
capacity for exasperating behaviour was not all on one side.
And then, with the introduction of the Navy Estimates, Parliamentary
peace suddenly dissolved. It was the old quarrel between
Ministers and the Opposition as to the adequacy or the reverse of
the Government's naval programme. The Angel-Quinston and the
Angel-Hugo-Sizzle contrived to keep the debates free from personalities
and pinpricks, but an enormous sensation was created
when the elegant lackadaisical Halfan Halfour threatened to bring
up fifty thousand stalwarts to wreck the House if the Estimates
were not forthwith revised on a Two-Power basis. It was a memorable
scene when he rose in his place, in response to the scandalized
shouts of his opponents, and thundered forth, ``Gentlemen, I glory
in the name of Apache.''
Belturbet, who had made several fruitless attempts to ring up his
young friend since the fateful morning in St. James's Park, ran him
to earth one afternoon at his club, smooth and spruce and unruffled
``Tell me, what on earth have you turned Cocksley Coxon into?''
Belturbet asked anxiously, mentioning the name of one of the pillars
of unorthodoxy in the Anglican Church. ``I don't fancy he _believes_
in angels, and if he finds an angel preaching orthodox sermons
from his pulpit while he's been turned into a fox-terrier, he'll
develop rabies in less than no time.''
``I rather think it was a fox-terrier,'' said the Duke lazily.
Belturbet groaned heavily, and sank into a chair.
``Look here, Eug<e'>ne,'' he whispered hoarsely, having first looked
well round to see that no one was within hearing range, ``you've got
to stop it. Consols are jumping up and down like bronchos, and
that speech of Halfour's in the House last night has simply startled
everybody out of their wits. And then on the top if it, Thistlebery---''
``What has he been saying?'' asked the Duke quickly.
``Nothing. That's just what's so disturbing. Every one thought it
was simply inevitable that he should come out with a great epoch-making
speech at this juncture, and I've just seen on the tape that
he has refused to address any meetings at present, giving as a reason
his opinion that something more than mere speech-making was
The young Duke said nothing, but his eyes shone with quiet
``It's so unlike Thistlebery,'' continued Belturbet; ``at least,'' he
said suspiciously, ``it's unlike the _real_ Thistlebery---''
``The real Thistlebery is flying about somewhere as a vocally industrious
lapwing,'' said the Duke calmly; ``I expect great things of
the Angel-Thistlebery,'' he added.
At this moment there was a magnetic stampede of members towards
the lobby, where the tape-machines were ticking out some
news of more than ordinary import.
``_Coup d'<e'>tat_ in the North. Thistlebery seizes Edinburgh Castle.
Threatens civil war unless Government expands naval programme.''
In the babel which ensued Belturbet lost sight of his young
friend. For the best part of the afternoon he searched one likely
haunt after another, spurred on by the sensational posters which
the evening papers were displaying broadcast over the West End.
General Baden-Baden mobilizes Boy-Scouts. Another _coup d'<e'>tat_
feared. Is Windsor Castle safe?'' This was one of the earlier posters,
and was followed by one of even more sinister purport: ``Will the
Test-match have to be postponed?'' It was this disquietening question
which brought home the real seriousness of the situation to the
London public, and made people wonder whether one might not
pay too high a price for the advantages of party government. Belturbet,
questing round in the hope of finding the originator of the
trouble, with a vague idea of being able to induce him to restore
matters to their normal human footing, came across an elderly
club acquaintance who dabbled extensively in some of the more
sensitive market securities. He was pale with indignation, and his
pallor deepened as a breathless newsboy dashed past with a poster
inscribed: ``Premier's constituency harried by moss-troopers. Halfour
sends encouraging telegram to rioters. Letchworth Garden City
threatens reprisals. Foreigners taking refuge in Embassies and National
``This is devils' work!'' he said angrily.
Belturbet knew otherwise.
At the bottom of St. James's Street a newspaper motor-cart,
which had just come rapidly along Pall Mall, was surrounded by a
knot of eagerly talking people, and for the first time that afternoon
Belturbet heard expressions of relief and congratulation.
It displayed a placard with the welcome announcement: ``Crisis
ended. Government gives way. Important expansion of naval programme.''
There seemed to be no immediate necessity for pursuing the
quest of the errant Duke, and Belturbet turned to make his way
homeward through St. James's Park. His mind, attuned to the
alarums and excursions of the afternoon, became dimly aware
that some excitement of a detached nature was going on around
him. In spite of the political ferment which reigned in the streets,
quite a large crowd had gathered to watch the unfolding of a
tragedy that had taken place on the shore of the ornamental water.
A large black swan, which had recently shown signs of a savage
and dangerous disposition, had suddenly attacked a young gentleman
who was walking by the water's edge, dragged him down under
the surface, and drowned him before any one could come to
his assistance. At the moment when Belturbet arrived on the spot
several park-keepers were engaged in lifting the corpse into a punt.
Belturbet stooped to pick up a hat that lay near the scene of the
struggle. It was a smart soft felt hat, faintly reminiscent of Houbigant.
More than a month elapsed before Belturbet had sufficiently recovered
from his attack of nervous prostration to take an interest
once more in what was going on in the world of politics. The
Parliamentary Session was still in full swing, and a General Election
was looming in the near future. He called for a batch of morning
papers and skimmed rapidly through the speeches of the Chancellor,
Quinston, and other Ministerial leaders, as well as those of
the principal Opposition champions, and then sank back in his chair
with a sigh of relief. Evidently the spell had ceased to act after the
tragedy which had overtaken its invoker. There was no trace of
THE REMOULDING OF GROBY LINGTON
``A man is known by the company he keeps.``
In the morning-room of his sister-in-law's house Groby
Lington fidgeted away the passing minutes with the demure
restlessness of advanced middle age. About a quarter of an
hour would have to elapse before it would be time to say his
good-byes and make his way across the village green to the
station, with a selected escort of nephews and nieces. He
was a good-natured, kindly dispositioned man, and in theory
he was delighted to pay periodical visits to the wife and
children of his dead brother William; in practice, he
infinitely preferred the comfort and seclusion of his own
house and garden, and the companionship of his books and his
parrot to these rather meaningless and tiresome incursions
into a family circle with which he had little in common. It
was not so much the spur of his own conscience that drove
him to make the occasional short journey by rail to visit
his relatives, as an obedient concession to the more
insistent but vicarious conscience of his brother, Colonel
John, who was apt to accuse him of neglecting poor old
William's family. Groby usually forgot or ignored the
existence of his neighbour kinsfolk until such time as he
was threatened with a visit from the Colonel, when he would
put matters straight by a burned pilgrimage across the few
miles of intervening country to renew his acquaintance with
the young people and assume a kindly if rather forced
interest in the well-being of his sister-in-law. On this
occasion he had cut matters so fine between the timing of
his exculpatory visit and the coming of Colonel John, that
he would scarcely be home before the latter was due to
arrive. Anyhow, Groby had got it over, and six or seven
months might decently elapse before he need again sacrifice
his comforts and inclinations on the altar of family
sociability. He was inclined to be distinctly cheerful as
he hopped about the room, picking up first one object, then
another, and subjecting each to a brief bird-like scrutiny.
Presently his cheerful listlessness changed sharply to
an attitude of vexed attention. In a scrap-book of drawings
and caricatures belonging to one of his nephews he had come
across an unkindly clever sketch of himself and his parrot,
solemnly confronting each other in postures of ridiculous
gravity and repose, and bearing a likeness to one another
that the artist had done his utmost to accentuate. After
the first flush of annoyance had passed away, Groby laughed
good-naturedly and admitted to himself the cleverness of the
drawing. Then the feeling of resentment repossessed him,
resentment not against the caricaturist who had embodied the
idea in pen and ink, but against the possible truth that the
idea represented. Was it really the case that people grew
in time to resemble the animals they kept as pets, and had
he unconsciously become more and more like the comically
solemn bird that was his constant companion? Groby was
unusually silent as he walked to the train with his escort
of chattering nephews and nieces, and during the short
railway journey his mind was more and more possessed with an
introspective conviction that he had gradually settled down
into a sort of parrot-like existence. What, after all, did
his daily routine amount to but a sedate meandering and
pecking and perching, in his garden, among his fruit trees,
in his wicker chair on the lawn, or by the fireside in his
library? And what was the sum total of his conversation with
chance-encountered neighbours? ``Quite a spring day, isn't
it?'' ``It looks as though we should have some rain.``
``Glad to see you about again; you must take care of
yourself.'' ``How the young folk shoot up, don't they?''
Strings of stupid, inevitable perfunctory remarks came to
his mind, remarks that were certainly not the mental
exchange of human intelligences, but mere empty parrot-talk.
One might really just as well salute one's acquaintances
with ``Pretty Polly. Puss, puss, miaow!'' Groby began to
fume against the picture of himself as a foolish feathered
fowl which his nephews sketch had first suggested, and which
his own accusing imagination was filling in with such
``I'll give the beastly bird away,'' he said resentfully;
though he knew at the same time that he would do no such
thing. It would look so absurd after all the years that he
had kept the parrot and made much of it suddenly to try and
find it a new home.
``Has my brother arrived?'' he asked of the stable-boy,
who had come with the pony-carriage to meet him.
``Yessir, came down by the two-fifteen. Your parrot's
dead.'' The boy made the latter announcement with the relish
which his class finds in proclaiming a catastrophe.
``My parrot dead?'' said Groby. ``What caused its
``The ipe,'' said the boy briefly.
``The ipe?'' queried Groby. ``Whatever's that?''
``The ipe what the Colonel brought down with him,'' came
the rather alarming answer.
``Do you mean to say my brother is ill?'' asked Groby.
``Is it something infectious?''
``Th' Coloners so well as ever he was,'' said the boy; and
as no further explanation was forthcoming Groby had to
possess himself in mystified patience till he reached home.
His brother was waiting for him at the hall door.
``Have you heard about the parrot?'' he asked at once.
``'Pon my soul I'm awfully sorry. The moment he saw the
monkey I'd brought down as a surprise for you he squawked
out, `Rats to you, sir!' and the blessed monkey made one
spring at him, got him by the neck and whirled him round
like a rattle. He was as dead as mutton by the time I'd got
him out of the little beggar's paws. Always been such a
friendly little beast, the monkey has, should never have
thought he`d got it in him to see red like that. Can't tell
you how sorry I feel about it, and now of course you'll hate
the sight of the monkey.''
``Not at all,' said Groby sincerely. A few hours earlier
the tragic end which had befallen his parrot would have
presented itself to him as a calamity; now it arrived almost
as a polite attention on the part of the Fates.
``The bird was getting old, you know,'' he went on, in
explanation of his obvious lack of decent regret at the loss
of his pet. ``I was really beginning to wonder if it was an
unmixed kindness to let him go on living till he succumbed
to old age. What a charming little monkey!'' he added, when
he was introduced to the culprit.
The new-comer was a small, long-tailed monkey from the
Western Hemisphere, with a gentle, half-shy, half-trusting
manner that instantly captured Groby's confidence; a student
of simian character might have seen in the fitful red light
in its eyes some indication of the underlying temper which
the parrot had so rashly put to the test with such dramatic
consequences for itself. The servants, who had come to
regard the defunct bird as a regular member of the
household, and one who gave really very little trouble, were
scandalized to find his bloodthirsty aggressor installed in
his place as an honoured domestic pet.
``A nasty heathen ipe what don't never say nothing
sensible and cheerful, same as pore Polly did,'' was the
unfavourable verdict of the kitchen quarters.
;One Sunday morning, some twelve or fourteen months after
the visit of Colonel John and the parrot-tragedy, Miss
Wepley sat decorously in her pew in the parish church,
immediately in front of that occupied by Groby Lington. She
was, comparatively speaking, a new-comer in the
neighbourhood, and was not personally acquainted with her
fellow-worshipper in the seat behind, but for the past two
years the Sunday morning service had brought them regularly
within each other's sphere of consciousness. Without having
paid particular attention to the subject, she could probably
have given a correct rendering of the way in which he
pronounced certain words occurring in the responses, while
he was well aware of the trivial fact that, in addition to
her prayer book and handkerchief, a small paper packet of
throat lozenges always reposed on the seat beside her. Miss
Wepley rarely had recourse to her lozenges, but in case she
should be taken with a fit of coughing she wished to have
the emergency duly provided for. On this particular Sunday
the lozenges occasioned an unusual diversion in the even
tenor of her devotions, far more disturbing to her
personally than a prolonged attack of coughing would have
been. As she rose to take part in the singing of the first
hymn, she fancied that she saw the hand of her neighbour,
who was alone in the pew behind her, make a furtive downward
grab at the packet lying on the seat; on turning sharply
round she found that the packet had certainly disappeared,
but Mr. Lington was to all outward seeming serenely intent
on his hymn-book. No amount of interrogatory glaring on the
part of the despoiled lady could bring the least shade of
conscious guilt to his face.
``Worse was to follow,'' as she remarked afterwards to a
scandalized audience of friends and acquaintances. ''I had
scarcely knelt in prayer when a lozenge, one of _my_ lozenges,
came whizzing into the pew, just under my nose. I turned
round and stared, but Mr. Lington had his eyes closed and
his lips moving as though engaged in prayer. The moment I
resumed my devotions another lozenge came rattling in, and
then another. I took no notice for a while, and then turned
round suddenly just as the dreadful man was about to flip
another one at me. He hastily pretended to be turning over
the leaves of his book but I was not to be taken in that
time. He saw that he had been discovered and no more
lozenges came. Of course I have changed my pew.''
``No gentleman would have acted in such a disgraceful
manner,'' said one of her listeners; ``and yet Mr. Lington
used to be so respected by everybody. He seems to have
behaved like a little ill-bred schoolboy.''
``He behaved like a monkey,'' said Miss Wepley.
Her unfavourable verdict was echoed in other quarters
about the same time. Groby Lington had never been a hero in
the eyes of his personal retainers, but he had shared the
approval accorded to his defunct parrot as a cheerful
well-dispositioned body, who gave no particular trouble. Of
late months, however, this character would hardly have been
endorsed by the members of his domestic establishment. The
stolid stable-boy, who had first announced to him the tragic
end of his feathered pet, was one of the first to give voice
to the murmurs of disapproval which became rampant and
general in the servants' quarters, and he had fairly
substantial grounds for his disaffection. In a burst of hot
summer weather he had obtained permission to bathe in a
modest-sized pond in the orchard, and thither one afternoon
Groby had bent his steps, attracted by loud imprecations of
anger mingled with the shriller chattering of
monkey-language. He beheld his plump diminutive servitor,
clad only in a waistcoat and a pair of socks, storming
ineffectually at the monkey which was seated on a low branch
of an apple tree, abstractedly fingering the remainder of
the boy's outfit, which he had removed just out of his
``The ipe's been an' took my clothes,'' whined the boy,
with the passion of his kind for explaining the obvious.
His incomplete toilet effect rather embarrassed him, but he
hailed the arrival of Groby with relief, as promising moral
and material support in his efforts to get back his raided
garments. The monkey had ceased its defiant jabbering, and
doubtless with a little coaxing from its master it would
hand back the plunder.
``If I lift you up,'' suggested Groby, ``you will just be
able to reach the clothes.''
The boy agreed, and Groby clutched him firmly by the
waistcoat, which was about all there was to catch hold of,
and lifted him clear of the ground. Then, with a deft swing
he sent him crashing into a clump of tag nettles, which
closed receptively round him. The victim had not been
brought up in a school which teaches one to repress one's
emotions---if a fox had attempted to gnaw at his vitals he
would have flown to complain to the nearest hunt committee
rather than have affected an attitude of stoical
indifference. On this occasion the volume of sound which he
produced under the stimulus of pain and rage and
astonishment was generous and sustained, but above his
bellowings he could distinctly hear the triumphant
chattering of his enemy in the tree, and a peal of shrill
laughter from Groby.
When the boy had finished an improvised St. Vitus
caracole, which would have brought him fame on the boards of
the Coliseum, and which indeed met with ready appreciation
and applause from the retreating figure of Groby Lington, he
found that the monkey had also discreetly retired, while his
clothes were scattered on the grass at the foot of the tree.
``They'm two ipes, that's what they be,'' he muttered
angrily, and if his judgment was severe, at least he spoke
under the sting of considerable provocation.
It was a week or two later that the parlour-maid gave
notice, having been terrified almost to tears by an outbreak
of sudden temper on the part of the master anent some under
done cutlets. ``'E gnashed 'is teeth at me, 'e did reely,''
she informed a sympathetic kitchen audience.
``I'd like to see 'im talk like that to me, I would,''
said the cook defiantly, but her cooking from that moment
showed a marked improvement.
It was seldom that Groby Lington so far detached himself
from his accustomed habits as to go and form one of a
house-party, and he was not a little piqued that Mrs.
Glenduff should have stowed him away in the musty old
Georgian wing of the house, in the next room, moreover, to
Leonard Spabbink, the eminent pianist.
``He plays Liszt like an angel,'' had been the hostess's
``He may play him like a trout for all I care,'' had been
Groby's mental comment, ``but I wouldn't mind betting that
be snores. He's just the sort and shape that would. And if
I hear him snoring through those ridiculous thin-panelled
walls, there'll be trouble.''
He did, and there was.
Groby stood it for about two and a quarter minutes, and
then made his way through the corridor into Spabbink's room.
Under Groby's vigorous measures the musicians flabby,
redundant figure sat up in bewildered semi-consciousness
like an ice-cream that has been taught to beg. Groby
prodded him into complete wakefulness, and then the pettish
self-satisfied pianist fairly lost his temper and slapped
his domineering visitant on the hand. In another moment
Spabbink was being nearly stifled and very effectually
gagged by a pillow-case tightly bound round his head, while
his plump pyjama'd limbs were hauled out of bed and smacked,
pinched, kicked, and bumped in a catch-as-catch-can progress
across the floor, towards the flat shallow bath in whose
utterly inadequate depths Groby perseveringly strove to
drown him. For a few moments the room was almost in
darkness: Groby's candle had overturned in an early stage of
the scuffle, and its flicker scarcely reached to the spot
where splashings, smacks, muffled cries, and splutterings,
and a chatter of ape-like rage told of the struggle that was
being waged round the shores of the bath. A few instants
later the one-sided combat was brightly lit up by the flare
of blazing curtains and rapidly kindling panelling.
When the hastily aroused members of the house-party
stampeded out on to the lawn, the Georgian wing was well
alight and belching forth masses of smoke, but some moments
elapsed before Groby appeared with the half-drowned pianist
in his arms, having just bethought him of the superior
drowning facilities offered by the pond at the bottom of the
lawn. The cool night air sobered his rage, and when he
found that he was innocently acclaimed as the heroic rescuer
of poor Leonard Spabbink, and loudly commended for his
presence of mind in tying a wet cloth round his head to
protect him from smoke suffocation, he accepted the
situation, and subsequently gave a graphic account of his
finding the musician asleep with an overturned candle by his
side and the conflagration well started. Spabbink gave his
version some days later, when he had partially recovered
from the shock of his midnight castigation and immersion,
but the gentle pitying smiles and evasive comments with
which his story was greeted warned him that the public ear
was not at his disposal. He refused, however, to attend the
ceremonial presentation of the Royal Humane Society's
It was about this time that Groby's pet monkey fell a
victim to the disease which attacks so many of its kind when
brought under the influence of a northern climate. Its
master appeared to be profoundly affected by its loss, and
never quite recovered the level of spirits that he had
recently attained. In company with the tortoise, which
Colonel John presented to him on his last visit, he potters
about his lawn and kitchen garden, with none of his
erstwhile sprightliness; and his nephews and nieces are
fairly well justified in alluding to him as ``Old Uncle
[End of The Chronicles of Clovis]