Part 2 out of 3
"Well, then!" said Dolly.
"But," I ventured to observe, "it's rather an expensive one."
"Then you mustn't have it very often."
"And it is shared by so many people."
"Then," said Dolly, smiling indulgently, "you must have it--a
little oftener. Home, Roberts, please."
I am not yet allowed at Mrs. Hilary Musgrave's.
A VERY DULL AFFAIR
"To hear you talk," remarked Mrs. Hilary Musgrave--and, if any
one is surprised to find me at her house, I can only say that
Hilary, when he asked me to take a pot-luck, was quite ignorant
of any ground of difference between his wife and myself, and that
Mrs. Hilary could not very well eject me on my arrival in evening
dress at ten minutes to eight--"to hear you talk one would think
that there was no such thing as real love."
She paused. I smiled.
"Now," she continued, turning a fine, but scornful eye upon me,
"I have never cared for any man in the world except my husband."
I smiled again. Poor Hilary looked very uncomfortable. With an
apologetic air he began to stammer something about Parish
Councils. I was not to be diverted by any such maneuver. It was
impossible that he could really wish to talk on that subject.
"Would a person who had never eaten anything but beef make a
boast of it?" I asked.
Hilary grinned covertly. Mrs. Hilary pulled the lamp nearer, and
took up her embroidery.
"Do you always work the same pattern?" said I.
Hilary kicked me gently. Mrs. Hilary made no direct reply, but
presently she began to talk.
"I was just about Phyllis's age--(by the way, little Miss Phyllis
was there)--when I first saw Hilary. You remember, Hilary? At
"Oh--er--was it Bournemouth?" said Hilary, with much
"I was on the pier," pursued Mrs. Hilary. "I had a red frock on,
I remember, and one of those big hats they wore that year.
"Blue serge," I interpolated, encouragingly.
"Yes, blue serge," said she fondly. "He had been yachting, and
he was beautifully burnt. I was horribly burnt--wasn't I,
Hilary began to pat the dog.
"Then we got to know one another."
"Stop a minute," said I. "How did that happen?" Mrs. Hilary
"Well, we were both always on the pier," she explained.
"And--and somehow Hilary got to know father, and--and father
introduced him to me."
"I'm glad it was no worse," said I. I was considering Miss
Phyllis, who sat listening, open-eyed.
"And then you know, father wasn't always there; and once or twice
we met on the cliff. Do you remember that morning, Hilary?"
"What morning?" asked Hilary, patting the dog with immense
"Why, the morning I had my white serge on. I'd been bathing, and
my hair was down to dry, and you said I looked like a mermaid."
"Do mermaids wear white serge?" I asked; but nobody took the
least notice of me--quite properly.
"And you told me such a lot about yourself; and then we found we
were late for lunch."
"Yes," said Hilary, suddenly forgetting the dog, "and your mother
gave me an awful glance."
"Yes, and then you told me that you were very poor, but that you
couldn't help it; and you said you supposed I couldn't
"Well, I didn't think--!"
"And I said you were a silly old thing; and then--" Mrs. Hilary
"How lovely," remarked little Miss Phyllis in a wistful voice.
"And do you remember," pursued Mrs. Hilary, laying down her
embroidery and clasping her hands on her knees, "the morning you
went to see father?"
"What a row there was!" said Hilary.
"And what an awful week it was after that! I was never so
miserable in all my life. I cried till my eyes were quite red,
and then I bathed them for an hour, and then I went to the pier,
and you were there--and I mightn't speak to you!"
"I remember," said Hilary, nodding gently.
"And then, Hilary, father sent for me and told me it was no use;
and I said I'd never marry any one else. And father said,
'There, there, don't cry. We'll see what mother says.'"
"Your mother was a brick," said Hilary, poking the fire.
"And that night they never told me anything about it, and I
didn't even change my frock, but came down, looking horrible,
just as I was, in an old black rag--no, Hilary, don't say it was
Hilary, unconvinced, shook his head.
"And when I walked into the drawing room there was nobody there
but just you; and we neither of us said anything for ever so
long. And then father and mother came in and--do you remember
after dinner, Hilary?"
"I remember," said Hilary.
There was a long pause. Mrs. Hilary was looking into the fire;
little Miss Phyllis's eyes were fixed, in rapt gaze, on the
ceiling; Hilary was looking at his wife--I, thinking it safest,
was regarding my own boots.
At last Miss Phyllis broke the silence.
"How perfectly lovely!" she said.
"Yes," said Mrs. Hilary, reflectively. "And we were married
three months afterwards."
"Tenth of June," said Hilary reflectively.
"And we had the most charming little rooms in the world! Do you
remember those first rooms, dear? So tiny!"
"Not bad little rooms," said Hilary.
"How awfully lovely," cried little Miss Phyllis.
I felt that it was time to interfere.
"And is that all?" I asked.
"All? How do you mean?" said Mrs. Hilary, with a slight start.
"Well, I mean, did nothing else happen? Weren't there any
complications? Weren't there any more troubles, or any more
opposition, or any misunderstandings, or anything?"
"No," said Mrs. Hilary.
"You never quarreled, or broke it off?"
"Nobody came between you?"
"No. It all went just perfectly. Why, of course it did."
"Hilary's people made themselves nasty, perhaps?" I suggested,
with a ray of hope.
"They fell in love with her on the spot," said Hilary.
Then I rose and stood with my back to the fire.
"I do not know," I observed," what Miss Phyllis thinks about
"I think it was just perfect, Mr. Carter."
"But for my part, I can only say that I never heard of such a
dull affair in all my life."
"Dull!" gasped Miss Phyllis.
"Dull!" murmured Mrs. Hilary.
"Dull!" chuckled Hilary.
"It was," said I severely, "without a spark of interest from
beginning to end. Such things happen by thousands. It's
commonplaceness itself. I had some hopes when you father assumed
a firm attitude, but--"
"Mother was such a dear," interrupted Mrs. Hilary.
"Just so. She gave away the whole situation. Then I did trust
that Hilary would lose his place, or develop an old flame, or do
something just a little interesting."
"It was a perfect time," said Mrs. Hilary.
"I wonder why in the world you told me about it," I pursued.
"I don't know why I did," said Mrs. Hilary dreamily.
"The only possible excuse for an engagement like that," I
observed, "is to be found in intense post-nuptial unhappiness."
Hilary rose, and advanced towards his wife.
"Your embroidery's falling on the floor," said he.
"Not a bit of it," said I.
"Yes, it is," he persisted; and he picked it up and gave it to
her. Miss Phyllis smiled delightedly. Hilary had squeezed his
"Then we don't excuse it," said he.
I took out my watch. I was not finding much entertainment.
"Surely it's quite early, old man?" said Hilary.
"It's nearly eleven. We've spent half-an-hour on the thing,"
said I peevishly, holding out my hand to my hostess.
"Oh, are you going? Good night, Mr. Carter."
I turned to Miss Phyllis.
"I hope you won't think all love affairs are like that," I said;
but I saw her lips begin to shape into "lovely," and I hastily
left the room.
Hilary came to help me on with my coat. He looked extremely
apologetic, and very much ashamed of himself.
"Awfully sorry, old chap," said he, "that we bored you with our
reminiscences. I know, of course, that they can't be very
interesting to other people. Women are so confoundedly
"Don't try that on me," said I, much disgusted. "You were just
as bad yourself."
He laughed, as he leant against the door.
"She did look ripping in that white frock," he said, "with her
"Stop," said I firmly. "She looked just like a lot of other
"I'm hanged if she did!" said Hilary.
Then he glanced at me with a puzzled sort of expression.
"I say, old man, weren't you ever that way yourself?" he asked.
I hailed a hansom cab.
"Because, if you were, you know, you'd understand how a fellow
"Good night," said I. "At least I suppose you're not coming to
"Well, I think not," said Hilary. "Ta-ta, old fellow. Sorry we
bored you. Of course, if a man has never--"
"Never!" I groaned. "A score of times!"
"Well, then, doesn't it--?
"No," said I. "It's just that that makes stories like yours so
"What?" asked Hilary; for I had paused to light a cigarette.
"Uninteresting," said I, getting into my cab.
STRANGE, BUT TRUE
The other day my young cousin George lunched with me. He is a
cheery youth, and a member of the University of Oxford. He
refreshes me very much, and I believe that I have the pleasure of
affording him some matter for thought. On this occasion,
however, he was extremely silent and depressed. I said little,
but made an extremely good luncheon. Afterwards we proceeded to
take a stroll in the Park.
"Sam, old boy," said George suddenly, "I'm the most miserable
"I don't know what else you expect at your age," I observed,
lighting a cigar. He walked on in silence for a few moments.
"I say, Sam, old boy, when you were young, were you ever--?" he
paused, arranged his neckcloth (it was more like a bed-quilt--oh,
the fashion, of course, I know that), and blushed a fine crimson.
"Was I ever what, George?" I had the curiosity to ask.
"Oh, well, hard hit, you know--a girl, you know."
"In love, you mean, George? No, I never was."
"No. Are you?"
"Yes. Hang it!" Then he looked at me with a puzzled air and
"I say, though, Sam, it's awfully funny you shouldn't have--don't
you know what it's like, then?"
"How should I?" I inquired apologetically. "What is it like,
George took my arm.
"It's just Hades," he informed me confidentially.
"Then," I remarked, "I have no reason to regret--?"
"Still, you know," interrupted George, "it's not half bad."
"That appears to me to be a paradox," I observed.
"It's precious hard to explain it to you if you've never felt
it," said George, in rather an injured tone. "But what I say is
"I shouldn't think of contradicting you, my dear fellow," I
hastened to say.
"Let's sit down," said he, "and watch the people driving. We may
see somebody--somebody we know, you know, Sam."
"So we may," said I, and we sat down.
"A fellow," pursued George, with knitted brows, "is all turned
upside down, don't you know?"
"How very peculiar?" I exclaimed.
"One moment he's the happiest dog in the world, and the
next--well, the next, it's the deuce."
"But," I objected, "not surely without good reason for such a
"Reason? Bosh! The least thing does it."
I flicked the ash from my cigar.
"It may," I remarked, "affect you in this extraordinary way, but
surely it is not so with most people?"
"Perhaps not," George conceded. "Most people are cold-blooded
"Very likely the explanation lies in that fact," said I.
"I didn't mean you, old chap," said George, with a penitence
which showed that he had meant me.
"Oh, all right, all right," said I.
"But when a man's really far gone there's nothing else in the
world but it."
"That seems to me not to be a healthy condition," said I.
"Healthy? Oh, you old idiot, Sam! Who's talking of health?
Now, only last night I met her at a dance. I had five dances
with her--talked to her half the evening, in fact. Well, you'd
think that would last some time, wouldn't you?"
"I should certainly have supposed so," I assented.
"So it would with most chaps, I dare say, but with me--confound
it, I feel as if I hadn't seen her for six months!"
"But, my dear George, that's surely rather absurd? As you tell
me, you spent a long while with the young person--"
"You've not told me her name, you see."
"No, and I shan't. I wonder if she'll be at the Musgraves'
"You're sure," said I soothingly, "to meet her somewhere in the
course of the next few weeks."
George looked at me. Then he observed with a bitter laugh:
"It's pretty evident you've never had it. You're as bad as those
chaps who write books."
"Well, but surely they often describe with sufficient warmth
"Oh, I dare say; but it's all wrong. At least, it's not what I
feel. Then look at the girls in books! All beasts!"
George spoke with much vehemence; so that I was led to say:
"The lady you are preoccupied with is, I suppose, handsome?"
George turned swiftly round on me.
"Look here, can you hold your tongue, Sam?"
"Then I'm hanged if I won't point her out to you?"
"That's uncommon good of you, George," said I.
"Then you'll see," continued George. "But it's not only her
looks, you know, she's the most--"
He stopped. Looking round to see why, I observed that his face
was red; he clutched his walking stick tightly in his left hand;
his right hand was trembling, as if it wanted to jump up to his
hat. "Here she comes! Look, look!" he whispered.
Directing my eyes towards the lines of carriages which rolled
past us, I observed a girl in a victoria; by her side sat a
portly lady of middle age. The girl was decidedly like the lady;
a description of the lady would not, I imagine, be interesting.
The girl blushed slightly and bowed. George and I lifted our
hats. The victoria and its occupants were gone. George leant
back with a sigh. After a moment, he said:
"Well, that was her."
There was expectancy in his tone.
"She has an extremely prepossessing appearance," I observed.
"There isn't," said George, "a girl in London to touch her. Sam,
old boy, I believe--I believe she likes me a bit."
"I'm sure she must, George," said I; and indeed, I thought so.
"The Governor's infernally unreasonable," said George, fretfully.
"Oh, you've mentioned it to him?"
"I sounded him. Oh, you may be sure he didn't see what I was up
to. I put it quite generally. He talked rot about getting on in
the world. Who wants to get on?"
"Who, indeed?" said I. "It is only changing what you are for
something no better."
"And about waiting till I know my own mind. Isn't it enough to
look at her?"
"Ample, in my opinion," said I.
George rose to his feet.
"They've gone to a party, they won't come round again," said he.
"We may as well go, mayn't we?"
I was very comfortable, so I said timidly:
"We might see somebody else we know."
"Oh, somebody else be hanged! Who wants to see em?"
"I'm sure I don't." said I hastily, as I rose from my armchair,
which was at once snapped up.
We were about to return to the club, when I observed Lady
Mickleham's barouche standing under the trees. I invited George
to come and be introduced.
He displayed great indifference.
"She gives a good many parties," said I; "and perhaps--"
"By Jove! Yes, I may as well," said George. "Glad you had the
sense to think of that, old man."
So I took him up to Dolly and presented him. Dolly was very
gracious; George is an evidently presentable boy. We fell into
"My cousin, Lady Mickleham," said I, "has been telling me--"
"Oh, shut up, Sam!" said George, not, however, appearing very
"About a subject on which you can assist him more than I can,
inasmuch as you are married. He is in love."
Dolly glanced at George.
"Oh, what fun!" said she.
"Fun!" cried George.
"I mean, how awfully interesting," said Dolly, suddenly
transforming her expression.
"And he wanted to be introduced to you because you might ask her
and him to--"
George became red, and began to stammer an apology.
"Oh, I don't believe him," said Dolly kindly; "he always makes
people uncomfortable if he can. What were you telling him, Mr.
"It's no use telling him anything. He can't understand," said
"Is she very--?" asked Dolly, fixing doubtfully grave eyes on my
"Sam's seen her," said he, in an excess of shyness.
Dolly turned to me for an opinion, and I gave one:
"She is just," said I, "as charming as he thinks her."
Dolly leant over to my cousin, and whispered, "Tell me her name."
And he whispered something back to Dolly.
"It's awfully kind of you, Lady Mickleham," he said.
"I am a kind old thing," said Dolly, all over dimples. "I can
easily get to know them."
"Oh, you really are awfully kind, Lady Mickleham."
Dolly smiled upon him, waved her hand to me, and drove off,
"Do try to make Mr. Carter understand!"
We were left along. George wore a meditative smile. Presently
he roused himself to say:
"She's really a very kind woman. She's so sympathetic. She's
not like you. I expect she felt it once herself, you know."
"One can never tell," said I carelessly. "Perhaps she
George fell to brooding again. I thought I would try an
"Not altogether bad-looking, either, is she?" I asked, lighting a
"What? Oh, well, I don't know. I suppose some people might
He paused, and added, with a bashful, knowing smile--
"You can hardly expect me to go into raptures about her, can you,
I turned my head away, but he caught me.
"Oh, you needn't smile in that infernally patronizing way," he
"Upon my word, George," said I, "I don't know that I need."
THE VERY LATEST THING
"It's the very latest thing," said Lady Mickleham, standing by
the table in the smoking room, and holding an album in her hand.
"I wish it had been a little later still," said I, for I felt
"You promise, on your honor, to be absolutely sincere, you know,
and then you write what you think of me. See what a lot of
opinions I've got already," and she held up the thick album.
"It would be extremely interesting to read them," I observed.
"Oh!" but they're quite confidential," said Dolly. "That's part
of the fun."
"I don't appreciate that part," said I.
"Perhaps you will when you've written yours," suggested Lady
"Meanwhile, mayn't I see the Dowager's?"
"Well, I'll show you a little bit of the Dowager's. Look here:
Our dear Dorothea is still perhaps just a thought wanting in
seriousness, but the sense of her position is having a sobering
"I hope not," I exclaimed apprehensively. "Whose is this?"
"May I see a bit--?"
"Not a bit," said Dolly. "Archie's is--is rather foolish, Mr.
"So I suppose," said I.
"Dear boy!" said Dolly reflectively.
"I hate sentiment," said I. "Here's a long one. Who wrote--?"
"Oh, you mustn't look at that--not at that, above all!"
"Why above all?" I asked with some severity.
Dolly smiled; then she observed in a soothing tone.
"Perhaps it won't be 'above all' when you've written yours, Mr.
"By the way," I said carelessly, "I suppose Archie sees all of
"He has never asked to see them," answered Lady Mickleham.
The reply seemed satisfactory; of course, Archie had only to ask.
I took a clean quill and prepared to write.
"You promise to be sincere, you know," Dolly reminded me.
I laid down my pen.
"Impossible!" said I firmly.
"O, but why, Mr. Carter?"
"There would be an end of our friendship."
"Do you think as badly of me as all that?" asked Dolly with a
I leant back in my chair, and looked at Dolly. She looked at me.
She smiled. I may have smiled.
"Yes," said I.
"Then you needn't write it quite all down," said Dolly.
"I am obliged," said I, taking up my pen.
"You mustn't say what isn't true, but you needn't say everything
that is--that might be--true," explained Dolly.
This, again, seemed satisfactory. I began to write, Dolly
sitting opposite me with her elbows on the table, and watching
After ten minutes' steady work, which included several pauses for
reflection, I threw down the pen, leant back in my chair, and lit
"Now read it," said Dolly, her chin in her hands and her eyes
fixed on me.
"It is, on the whole," I observed, "complimentary."
"No, really," said Dolly. "Yet you promised to be sincere."
"You would not have had me disagreeable?" I asked.
"That's a different thing," said Dolly. "Read it, please."
"Lady Mickleham," I read, "is usually accounted a person of
considerable attractions. She is widely popular, and more than
one woman has been known to like her."
"I don't quite understand that," interrupted Dolly.
"It is surely simple," said I; and I read on without delay. "She
is kind even to her husband, and takes the utmost pains to
conceal from her mother-in-law anything calculated to distress
"I suppose you mean that to be nice?" said Dolly.
"Of course," I answered; and I proceeded: "She never gives pain
to any one, except with the object of giving pleasure to somebody
else, and her kindness is no less widely diffused than it is
hearty and sincere."
"That really is nice," said Dolly, smiling.
"Thank you," said I, smiling also. "She is very charitable; she
takes a pleasure in encouraging the shy and bashful--"
"How do you know that?" asked Dolly.
"While," I pursued, "suffering without impatience a considerable
amount of self-assurance."
"You can't know whether I'm patient or not," remarked Dolly.
"She thinks," I read on, "no evil of the most attractive of
women, and has a smile for the most unattractive of men."
"You put that very nicely," said Dolly, nodding.
"The former may constantly be seen in her house--and the latter
at least as often as many people would think desirable." (Here
for some reason Dolly laughed.) "Her intellectual powers are not
"Thank you, Mr. Carter."
"She can say what she means on the occasions on which she wishes
to do so, and she is, at other times, equally capable of meaning
much more than she would be likely to say."
"How do you mean that, Mr. Carter, please?"
"It explains itself," said I, and I proceeded: "The fact of her
receiving a remark with disapprobation does not necessarily mean
that it causes her displeasure, nor must it be assumed that she
did not expect a visitor merely on the ground that she greets him
Here I observed Lady Mickleham looking at me rather suspiciously.
"I don't think that's quite nice of you, Mr. Carter," she said
"Lady Mickleham is, in short," I went on, coming to my
peroration, "equally deserving of esteem and affection--"
"Esteem and affection! That sounds just right," said Dolly
"And those who have been admitted to the enjoyment of her
friendship are unanimous in discouraging all others from seeking
a similar privilege."
"I beg your pardon?" cried Lady Mickleham.
"Are unanimous," I repeated, slowly and distinctly, "in
discouraging all others from seeking a similar privilege."
Dolly looked at me, with her brow slightly puckered. I leant
back, puffing at my cigarette. Presently--for there was quite a
long pause--Dolly's lips curved.
"My mental powers are not despicable," she observed.
"I have said so," said I.
"I think I see," she remarked.
"Is there anything wrong?" I asked anxiously.
"N-no," said Dolly, "not exactly wrong. In fact, I rather think
I like that last bit best. Still, don't you think--?
She rose, came round the table, took up the pen, and put it back
in my hand. "What's this for?" I asked.
"To correct the mistake," said Dolly.
"Do you really think so?" said I.
"I'm afraid so," said Dolly.
I took the pen and made a certain alteration. Dolly took up the
" 'Are unanimous,'" she read, " in encouraging all others to seek
a similar privilege.' Yes, you meant that, you know, Mr.
"I suppose I must have," said I rather sulkily.
"The other was nonsense," urged Dolly.
"Oh, utter nonsense," said I.
"And you had to write the truth!"
"Yes, I had to write some of it."
"And nonsense can't be the truth, can it, Mr. Carter?"
"Of course it can't, Lady Mickleham."
"Where are you going, Mr. Carter?" she asked; for I rose from my
"To have a quiet smoke," said I.
"Alone?" asked Dolly.
"Yes, alone," said I.
I walked towards the door. Dolly stood by the table fingering
the album. I had almost reached the door; then I happened to
"Mr. Carter!" said Dolly, as though a new idea had struck her.
"What is it, Lady Mickleham?"
"Well, you know, Mr. Carter, I--I shall try to forget that
mistake of yours."
"You're very kind, Lady Mickleham."
"But," said Dolly with a troubled smile, "I--I'm quite afraid I
shan't succeed, Mr. Carter."
After all, the smoking room is meant for smoking.
AN UNCOUNTED HOUR
We were standing, Lady Mickleham and I, at a door which led from
the morning room to the terrace at The Towers. I was on a visit
to the historic pile (by Vanbrugh--out of the money accumulated
by the third Earl--Paymaster to the Forces--temp. Queen Anne).
The morning room is a large room. Archie was somewhere in it.
Lady Mickleham held a jar containing pate de foie gras; from time
to time she dug a piece out with a fork and flung the morsel to a
big retriever which was sitting on the terrace. The morning was
fine, but cloudy. Lady Mickleham wore blue. The dog swallowed
the pate with greediness.
"It's so bad for him," sighed she; "but the dear likes it so
"How human the creatures are," said I.
"Do you know," pursued Lady Mickleham, "that the Dowager says I'm
extravagant. She thinks dogs ought not to be fed on pate de foie
"Your extravagance," I observed, "is probably due to your having
been brought up on a moderate income. I have felt the effect
"Of course," said Dolly, "we are hit by the agricultural
"The Carters also," I murmured, "are landed gentry."
"After all, I don't see much point in economy, do you, Mr. Carter?"
"Economy," I remarked, putting my hands in my pockets, "is going
without something you do want in case you should, some day, want
something which you probably won't want."
"Isn't that clever?" asked Dolly in an apprehensive tone.
"Oh, dear, no," I answered reassuringly. "Anybody can do
that--if they care to try, you know."
Dolly tossed a piece of pate to the retriever.
"I have made a discovery lately," I observed.
"What are you two talking about?" called Archie.
"You're not meant to hear," said Dolly, without turning round.
"Yet, if it's a discovery, he ought to hear it."
"He's made a good many lately," said Dolly.
She dug out the last bit of pate, flung it to the dog, and handed
the empty pot to me.
"Don't be so allegorical," I implored. "Besides, it's really not
just to Archie. No doubt the dog is a nice one, but--"
"How foolish you are this morning! What's the discovery?"
"An entirely surprising one."
"Oh, but let me hear! It's nothing about Archie, is it?"
"No, I've told you all Archie's sins."
"Nor Mrs. Hilary? I wish it was Mrs. Hilary!"
"Shall we walk on the terrace?" I suggested.
"Oh, yes, let's," said Dolly, stepping out, and putting on a
broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat, which she caught up from a chair
hard by. "It isn't Mrs. Hilary?" she added, sitting down on a
"No," said I, leaning on a sundial which stood by the seat.
"Well, what is it?"
"It is simple," said I, "and serious. It is not, therefore, like
you, Lady Mickleham."
"It's like Mrs. Hilary," said Dolly.
"No; because it isn't pleasant. By the way, you are jealous of
Dolly said nothing at all. She took off her hat, roughened her
hair a little, and assumed an effective pose. Still, it is a
fact (for what it is worth) that she doesn't care much about
"The discovery," I continued, "is that I'm growing middle-aged."
"You are middle-aged," said Dolly, spearing her hat with its long
I was, very naturally, nettled at this.
"So will you be soon," I retorted.
"Not soon," said Dolly.
"Some day," I insisted.
After a pause of about half a minute, Dolly said, "I suppose so."
"You will become," I pursued, idly drawing patterns with my
finger on the sundial, "wrinkled, rough, fat--and, perhaps,
"You're very disagreeable today," said Dolly.
She rose and stood by me.
"What do the mottoes mean?" she asked.
There were two; I will not say they contradicted one another, but
they looked at life from different points of view.
"Pereunt et imputantur," I read.
"Well, what's that, Mr. Carter?"
"A trite, but offensive, assertion," said I, lighting a
"But what does it mean?" she asked, a pucker on her forehead.
"What does it matter?" said I. "Let's try the other."
"The other is longer."
"And better. Horas non numero nisi serenas."
"And what's that?"
I translated literally. Dolly clapped her hands, and her face
gleamed with smiles.
"I like that one," she cried.
"Stop!" said I imperatively. "You'll set it moving!"
"It's very sensible," said she.
"More freely rendered, it means, I live only when you--"
"By Jove!" remarked Archie, coming up behind us, pipe in mouth,
"there was a lot of rain last night. I've just measured it in
"Some people measure everything," said I, with a displeased air.
"It is a detestable habit."
"Archie, what does Pereunt et imputantur mean?"
"Eh? Oh, I see. Well, I say, Carter!--Oh, well, you know, I
suppose it means you've got to pay for your fun, doesn't it?"
"Oh, is that all? I was afraid it was something horrid. Why did
you frighten me, Mr. Carter?"
"I think it is rather horrid," said I.
"Why, it isn't even true," said Dolly scornfully.
Now when I heard this ancient and respectable legend thus
cavalierly challenged, I fell to studying it again, and presently
"Yes, you're right! If it said that, it wouldn't be true; but
Archie translated it wrong."
"Well, you have a shot," suggested Archie.
"The oysters are eaten and put down in the bill," said I. "And
you will observe, Archie, that it does not say in whose bill."
"Ah!" said Dolly.
"Well, somebody's got to pay," persisted Archie.
"Oh, yes, somebody," laughed Dolly.
"Well, I don't know," said Archie. "I suppose the chap that has
"It's not always a chap," observed Dolly.
"Well, then the individual," amended Archie. "I suppose he'd
have to pay."
"It doesn't say so," I remarked mildly. "And according to my
"I'm quite sure your meaning is right, Mr. Carter," said Dolly in
an authoritative tone.
"As for the other motto, Archie," said I, "it merely means that a
woman considers all hours wasted which she does not spend in the
society of her husband."
"Oh, come, you don't gammon me," said Archie. "It means that the
sun don't shine unless it's fine, you know."
Archie delivered this remarkable discovery in a tone of great
"Oh, you dear old thing!" said Dolly.
"Well, it does you know," said he.
There was a pause. Archie kissed his wife (I am not complaining;
he has, of course, a perfect right to kiss his wife) and strolled
away toward the hothouses.
I lit another cigarette. Then Dolly, pointing to the stem of the
"Why, here's another inscription--oh, and in English?"
She was right. There was another--carelessly scratched on the
old battered column--nearly effaced, for the characters had been
but lightly marked--and yet not, as I conceived from the tenor of
the words, very old.
"What is it?" asked Dolly, peering over my shoulder, as I bent
down to read the letters, and shading her eyes with her hand.
(Why didn't she put on her hat? We touch the Incomprehensible.)
"It is," said I, "a singularly poor, shallow, feeble, and
undesirable little verse."
"Read it out," said Dolly.
So I read it. The silly fellow had written:
Life is Love, the poets tell us, In the little books they sell
us; But pray, ma'am--what's of Life the Use, If Life be Love?
For Love's the Deuce.
Dolly began to laugh gently, digging the pin again into her hat.
"I wonder," she said, "whether they used to come and sit by this
old dial just as we did this morning!"
"I shouldn't be at all surprised," said I. "And another point
occurs to me, Lady Mickleham."
"Oh, does it? What's that, Mr. Carter?"
"Do you think that anybody measured the rain gauge!"
Dolly looked at me very gravely.
"I'm so sorry when you do that," said she pathetically.
"I really am," said dolly. "But you don't mean it, do you?"
"Certainly not," said I.
"No more than he did!" said I, pointing to the sun dial.
And then we both smiled.
"Will this hour count, Mr. Carter?" asked Dolly, as she turned away.
"That would be rather strict," said I.
"I know exactly what your mother wants, Phyllis," observed Mrs.
"It's just to teach them the ordinary things," said little Miss
"What are the ordinary things?" I ventured to ask.
"What all girls are taught, of course, Mr. Carter," said Mrs.
Hilary. "I'll write about it at once." And she looked at me as
if she thought that I might be about to go.
"It is a comprehensive curriculum," I remarked, crossing my legs,
"if one may judge from the results. How old are your younger
sisters, Miss Phyllis?"
"Fourteen and sixteen," she answered.
"It is a pity," said I, "that this didn't happen a little while
back. I knew a governess who would have suited the place to a
Mrs. Hilary smiled scornfully.
"We used to meet--" I continued.
"Who used to meet?" asked Miss Phyllis.
"The governess and myself, to be sure," said I, "under the old
apple tree in the garden at the back of the house."
"What house, Mr. Carter?"
"My father's house, of course, Miss Phyllis. And--"
"Oh, but that must be ages ago!" cried she.
Mrs. Hilary rose, cast one glance at me, and turned to the
writing table. Her pen began to scratch almost immediately.
"And under the apple tree," I pursued, "we had many pleasant
"What about?" asked Miss Phyllis.
"One thing and another," I returned. "The schoolroom windows
looked out that way--a circumstance which made matters more
comfortable for everybody."
"I should have thought--" began Miss Phyllis, smiling slightly,
but keeping an apprehensive eye on Mrs. Hilary's back.
"Not at all," I interrupted. "My sisters saw us, you see. Well,
of course they entertained an increased respect for me, which was
all right, and a decreased respect for the governess, which was
also all right. We met in the hour allotted to French
lessons--by an undesigned but appropriate coincidence."
"I shall say about thirty-five, Phyllis," called Mrs. Hilary from
the writing table.
"Yes, Cousin Mary," called Miss Phyllis. "Did you meet often,
"Every evening in the French hour," said I.
"She'll have got over any nonsense by then," called Mrs. Hilary.
"They are often full of it."
"She had remarkably pretty hair," I continued; "very soft it was.
Dear me! I was just twenty."
"How old was she?" asked Miss Phyllis.
"One's first love," said I, "is never any age. Everything went
very well. Happiness was impossible. I was heartbroken, and the
governess was far from happy. Ah, happy, happy times!"
"But you don't seem to have been happy," objected Miss Phyllis.
"Then came a terrible evening--"
"She ought to be a person of active habits," called Mrs. Hilary.
"I think so, yes, Cousin Mary; oh, what happened, Mr. Carter?"
"And an early riser," added Mrs. Hilary.
"Yes, Cousin Mary. What did happen, Mr. Carter?"
"My mother came in during the French hour. I don't know whether
you have observed, Miss Phyllis, how easy it is to slip into the
habit of entering rooms when you had better remain outside. Now,
even my friend Arch--However, that's neither here nor there. My
mother, as I say, came in."
"Church of England, of course, Phyllis?" called Mrs. Hilary.
"Oh, of course, cousin Mary," cried little Miss Phyllis.
"The sect makes no difference," I observed. "Well, my sisters,
like good girls, began to repeat the irregular verbs. But it was
no use. We were discovered. That night, Miss Phyllis, I nearly
"You must have been--Oh, how awful, Mr. Carter!"
"That is to say, I thought how effective it would be if I drowned
myself. Ah, well, it couldn't last!"
"And the governess?"
"She left next morning."
There was a pause. Miss Phyllis looked sad and thoughtful; I
smiled pensively and beat my cane against my leg.
"Have you ever seen her since?" asked Miss Phyllis.
"Shouldn't--shouldn't you like to, Mr. Carter?"
"Heaven forbid!" said I.
Suddenly Mrs. Hilary pushed back her chair, and turned round to
"Well, I declare," said she, "I must be growing stupid. Here
have I been writing to the Agency, when I know of the very thing
myself! The Polwheedles' governess is just leaving them; she's
been there over fifteen years. Lady Polwheedle told me she was a
treasure. I wonder if she'd go!"
"Is she what mamma wants?"
"My dear, you'll be most lucky to get her. I'll write at once
and ask her to come to lunch tomorrow. I met her there. She's
an admirable person."
Mrs. Hilary wheeled round again. I shook my head at Miss
"Poor children!" said I. "Manage a bit of fun for them
Miss Phyllis assumed a staid and virtuous air.
"They must be properly brought up, Mr. Carter," said she.
"Is there a House Opposite?" I asked; and Miss Phyllis blushed.
Mrs. Hilary advanced, holding out a letter.
"You may as well post this for me," said she. "Oh, and would you
like to come to lunch tomorrow?"
"To meet the Paragon?"
"No. She'll be there, of course; but you see it's Saturday, and
Hilary will be here; and I thought you might take him off
somewhere and leave Phyllis and me to have a quiet talk with
"That won't amuse her much," I ventured to remark.
"She's not coming to be amused," said Mrs. Hilary severely.
"All right; I'll come," said I, taking my hat.
"Here's the note for Miss Bannerman," said Mrs. Hilary.
That sort of thing never surprises me. I looked at the letter
and read "Miss M. E. Bannerman." "M. E." stood for "Maud
Elizabeth." I put my hat back on the table.
"What sort of a looking person is this Miss Bannerman?" I asked.
"Oh, a spare, upright woman--hair a little gray, and--I don't
know how to describe it--her face looks a little weather-beaten.
She wears glasses."
"Thank you," said I. "And what sort of a looking person am I?"
Mrs. Hilary looked scornful. Miss Phyllis opened her eyes.
"How old do I look, Miss Phyllis?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said uncomfortably.
"Guess," said I sternly.
"F-forty-three--oh, or forty-two?" she asked, with a timid upward
"When you've done your nonsense--" began Mrs. Hilary; but I laid
a hand on her arm.
"Should you call me fat?" I asked.
"Oh, no; not fat," said Mrs. Hilary, with a smile, which she
strove to render reassuring.
"I am undoubtedly bald," I observed.
"You're certainly bald," said Mrs. Hilary, with regretful candor.
I took my hat and remarked: "A man has a right to think of
himself, but I am not thinking mainly of myself. I shall not
come to lunch."
"You said you would," cried Mrs. Hilary indignantly.
I poised the letter in my hand, reading again "Miss M(aud)
E(lizabeth) Bannerman." Miss Phyllis looked at me curiously,
Mrs. Hilary impatiently.
"Who knows," said I, "that I may not be a Romance--a Vanished
Dream--a Green Memory--an Oasis? A person who has the fortune to
be an Oasis, Miss Phyllis, should be very careful. I will not
come to lunch."
"Do you mean that you used to know Miss Bannerman?" asked Mrs.
Hilary in her pleasant prosaic way.
It was a sin seventeen years old; it would hardly count against
the blameless Miss Bannerman now. "You may tell her when I'm
gone," said I to Miss Phyllis.
Miss Phyllis whispered in Mrs. Hilary's ear.
"Another?" cried Mrs. Hilary, aghast.
"It was the very first," said I, defending myself.
Mrs. Hilary began to laugh. I smoothed my hat.
"Tell her," said I, "that I remembered her very well."
"I shall do no such thing," said Mrs. Hilary.
"And tell her," I continued, "that I am still handsome."
"I shan't say a word about you," said Mrs. Hilary.
"Ah, well, that will be better still," said I.
"She'll have forgotten your very name," remarked Mrs. Hilary.
I opened the door, but a thought struck me. I turned round and
"I dare say her hair's just as soft as ever. Still--I'll lunch
some other day."
A VERY FINE DAY
"I see nothing whatever to laugh at," said Mrs. Hilary coldly,
when I had finished.
"I did not ask you to laugh," I observed mildly. "I mentioned it
merely as a typical case."
"It's not typical," she said, and took up her embroidery. But a
moment later she added:
"Poor boy! I'm not surprised."
"I'm not surprised either," I remarked. "It is, however,
"It's your own fault. Why did you introduce him?"
"A book," I observed, "might be written on the Injustice of the
Just. How could I suppose that he would--?"
By the way, I might as well state what he--that is, my young
cousin George--had done. Unless one is a genius, it is best to
aim at being intelligible.
Well, he was in love; and with a view of providing him with
another house at which he might be likely to meet the adored
object, I presented him to my friend Lady Mickleham. That was on
a Tuesday. A fortnight later, as I was sitting in Hyde Park (as
I sometimes do), George came up and took the chair next to me. I
gave him a cigarette, but made no remark. George beat his cane
restlessly against the leg of his trousers.
"I've got to go up tomorrow," he remarked.
"Ah, well, Oxford is a delightful town," said I.
"D----d hole," observed George.
I was about to contest this opinion when a victoria drove by.
A girl sat in it, side by side with a portly lady.
"George, George!" I cried. "There she is--Look!"
George looked, raised his hat with sufficient politeness, and
remarked to me:
"Hang it, one sees those people everywhere."
I am not easily surprised, but I confess I turned to George with
an expression of wonder.
"A fortnight ago--" I began.
"Don't be an ass, Sam," said George, rather sharply. "She's not
a bad girl, but--" He broke off and began to whistle. There was
a long pause. I lit a cigar, and looked at the people.
"I lunched at the Micklehams' today," said George, drawing a
figure on the gravel with his cane. "Mickleham's not a bad fellow."
"One of the best fellows alive," I agreed.
"I wonder why she married him, though," mused George; and he
added, with apparent irrelevance, "It's a dashed bore, going up."
And then a smile spread over his face; a blush accompanied it,
and proclaimed George's sense of delicious wickedness. I turned
"Out with it!" I said.
"It's nothing. Don't be a fool," said George.
"Where did you get that rose?" I asked.
"This rose?" he repeated, fondling the blossom. "It was given to
Upon this I groaned--and I still consider that I had good reason
for my action. It was the groan of a moralist.
"They've asked me to stay at The Towers next vac.," said George,
glancing at me out of the corner of an immoral eye. Perhaps he
thought it too immoral, for he added, "It's all right, Sam." I
believe that I have as much self control as most people, but at
this point I chuckled.
"What the deuce are you laughing at?" asked George.
I made no answer, and he went on--
"You never told me what a--what she was like, Sam. Wanted to
keep it to yourself, you old dog."
"George--George--George!" said I. "You go up tomorrow?"
"Yes, confound it!"
"And term lasts two months?"
"Yes, hang it!"
"All is well," said I, crossing my legs. "There is more virtue
in two months than in Ten Commandments."
George regarded me with a dispassionate air.
"You're an awful ass sometimes," he observed critically, and he
rose from his seat.
"Must you go?" said I.
"Yes--got a lot of things to do. Look here, Sam, don't go and
"Talk about what?"
"Anything, you old idiot," said George, with a pleased smile, and
he dug me in the ribs with his cane, and departed.
I sat on, admiring the simple elements which constitute the
happiness of the young. Alas! With advancing years, Wrong loses
half its flavor! To be improper ceases, by itself, to satisfy.
Immersed in these reflections, I failed to notice that a barouche
had stopped opposite to me; and suddenly I found a footman
"Beg your pardon, sir," he said. "Her ladyship wishes to speak
"It is a blessed thing to be young, Martin," I observed.
"Yes, sir," said Martin. "It's a fine day, sir."
"But very short," said I. Martin is respectful, and said
nothing--to me, at least. What he said to the coachman, I don't
And then I went up to Dolly.
"Get in and drive round," suggested Dolly.
"I can't," said I. "I have a bad nose."
"What's the matter with your nose?" asked Dolly, smiling.
"The joint is injured," said I, getting into the barouche. And I
added severely, "I suppose I'd better sit with my back to the
"Oh, no, you're not my husband," said Dolly. "Sit here;" and she
made room by her, as she continued, "I rather like Mr. George."
"I'm ashamed of you," I observed. "Considering your age--"
"Considering, I say, his age, your conduct is scandalous. I
shall never introduce any nice boys to you again."
"Oh, please do," said Dolly, clasping her hands.
"You give them roses," said I, accusingly. "You make them false
to their earliest loves--"
"She was a pudding-faced thing," observed Dolly.
I frowned. Dolly, by an accident, allowed the tip of her finger
to touch my arm for an instant.
"He's a nice boy," said she. "How like he is to you, Mr. Carter!"
"I am a long way past that," said I. "I am thirty-six."
"If you mean to be disagreeable!" said she turning away. "I beg
your pardon for touching you, Mr. Carter."
"I did not notice it, Lady Mickleham."
"Would you like to get out?"
"It's miles from my club," said I discontentedly.
"He's such fun," said Dolly, with a sudden smile. "He told
Archie that I was the most charming woman in London! You've
never done that!"
"He said the same about the pudding-faced girl," I observed.
There was a pause. Then Dolly asked:
"How is your nose?"
"The carriage exercise is doing it good," said I.
"If," observed Dolly, "he is so silly, now, what will he be at
"A wise man," said I.
"He suggested that I might write to him," bubbled Dolly.
Now when Dolly bubbles--an operation which includes a sudden turn
towards me, a dancing of eyes, a dart of a small hand, a hurried
rush of words, checked and confused by a speedier gust of
gurgling sound--I am in the habit of ceasing to argue the
question. Bubbling is not to be met by arguing. I could only
"He'll have forgotten by the end of the term."
"He'll remember two days later," retorted Dolly.
"Stop the carriage," said I. "I shall tell Mrs. Hilary all about
"I won't stop the carriage,"said Dolly. "I'm going to take you
home with me."
"I am at a premium today," I said sardonically.
"One must have something," said Dolly. "How is your nose now,
I looked at Dolly. I had better not have done that.
"Would afternoon tea hurt it?" she inquired anxiously.
"It would do it good," said I decisively.
And that is absolutely the whole story. And what in the world
Mrs. Hilary found to disapprove of I don't know--especially as I
didn't tell her half of it! But she did disapprove. However,
she looks very well when she disapproves.
THE HOUSE OPPOSITE
We were talking over the sad case of young Algy Groom; I was
explaining to Mrs. Hilary exactly what had happened.
"His father gave him, said I "a hundred pounds, to keep him for
three months in Paris while he learnt French."
"And very liberal too," said Mrs. Hilary.
"It depends where you dine," said I. "However, that question did
not arise, for Algy went to the Grand Prix the day after he
"A horse race?" asked Mrs. Hilary with great contempt.
"Certainly the competitors are horses," I rejoined. "And there
he, most unfortunately, lost the whole sum, without learning any
French to speak of."
"How disgusting!" exclaimed Mrs. Hilary, and little Miss Phyllis
gasped in horror.
"Oh, well," said Hilary, with much bravery (as it struck me),
"his father's very well off."
"That doesn't make it a bit better, declared his wife.
"There's no mortal sin in a little betting, my dear. Boys will
"And even that," I interposed, "wouldn't matter if we could only
prevent girls from being girls."
Mrs. Hilary, taking no notice whatever of me, pronounced
sentence. "He grossly deceived his father," she said, and took
up her embroidery.
"Most of us have grossly deceived our parents before now," said
I. "We should all have to confess to something of the sort."
"I hope you're speaking for your own sex," observed Mrs. Hilary.
"Not more than yours," said I. "You used to meet Hilary on the
pier when your father wasn't there--you told me so."
"Father had authorized my acquaintance with Hilary."
"I hate quibbles," said I.
There was a pause. Mrs. Hilary stitched; Hilary observed that
the day was fine.
"Now," I pursued carelessly, "even Miss Phyllis here has been
known to deceive her parents."
"Oh, let the poor child alone, anyhow," said Mrs. Hilary.
"Haven't you?" said I to Miss Phyllis.
I expected an indignant denial. So did Mrs. Hilary, for she
remarked with a sympathetic air:
"Never mind his folly, Phyllis dear."
"Haven't you, Miss Phyllis?" said I.
Miss Phyllis grew very red. Fearing that I was causing her pain,
I was about to observe on the prospects of a Dissolution when a
shy smile spread over Miss Phyllis's face.
"Yes, once," said she with a timid glance at Mrs. Hilary, who
immediately laid down her embroidery.
"Out with it," I cried, triumphantly. "Come along, Miss Phyllis.
We won't tell, honor bright!"
Miss Phyllis looked again at Mrs. Hilary. Mrs. Hilary is human:
"Well, Phyllis, dear, said she, "after all this time I shouldn't
think it my duty--"
"It only happened last summer," said Miss Phyllis.
Mrs. Hilary looked rather put out.
"Still," she began.
"We must have the story," said I.
Little Miss Phyllis put down the sock she had been knitting.
"I was very naughty," she remarked. "It was my last term at
"I know that age," said I to Hilary.
"My window looked out towards the street. You're sure you won't
tell? Well, there was a house opposite--"
"And a young man in it," said I.
"How did you know that?" asked Miss Phyllis, blushing immensely.
"No girls' school can keep up its numbers without one," I
"Well, there was, anyhow," said Miss Phyllis. "And I and two
other girls went to a course of lectures at the Town Hall on
literature or something of that kind. We used to have a shilling
given us for our tickets."
"Precisely," said I. "A hundred pounds!"
"No, a shilling," corrected Miss Phyllis. "A hundred pounds!
How absurd, Mr. Carter! Well, one day I--I--"
"You're sure you wish to go on, Phyllis?" asked Mrs. Hilary.
"You're afraid, Mrs. Hilary," said I severely.
"Nonsense, Mr. Carter. I thought Phyllis might--"
"I don't mind going on," said Miss Phyllis, smiling. "One day
I--I lost the other girls."
"The other girls are always easy to lose," I observed.
"And on the way there--oh, you know, he went to the lectures."
"The young dog," said I, nudging Hilary. "I should think he
"On the way there it became rather--rather foggy."
"Blessings on it!" I cried; for little Miss Phyllis's demure but
roguish expression delighted me.
"And he--he found me in the fog."
"What are you doing, Mr. Carter?" cried Mrs. Hilary angrily.
"Nothing, nothing," said I. I believe I had winked at Hilary.
"And--we couldn't find the Town Hall."
"Oh, Phyllis!" groaned Mrs. Hilary.
Little Miss Phyllis looked alarmed for a moment. Then she
"But we found the confectioner's," said she.
"The Grand Prix," said I, pointing my forefinger at Hilary.
"He had no money at all," said Miss Phyllis.
"It's ideal!" said I.
"And--and we had tea on--on--"
"The shilling?" I cried in rapture.
"Yes," said little Miss Phyllis, "on the shilling. And he saw me
"Details, please," said I.
Little Miss Phyllis shook her head.
"And left me at the door."
"Was it still foggy?" I asked.
"Yes. Or he wouldn't have--"
"Now what did he--?"
"Come to the door, Mr. Carter," said Miss Phyllis, with obvious
wariness. "Oh, and it was such fun!"
"I'm sure it was."
"No, I mean when we were examined in the lectures. I bought the
local paper, you know, and read it up, and I got top marks
easily, and Miss Green wrote to mother to say how well I had
"It all ends most satisfactorily," I observed.
"Yes, didn't it?" said little Miss Phyllis.
Mrs. Hilary was grave again.
"And you never told your mother, Phyllis?" she asked.
"N-no, Cousin Mary," said Miss Phyllis.
I rose and stood with my back to the fire. Little Miss Phyllis
took up her sock again, but a smile still played about the
corners of her mouth.
"I wonder," said I, looking up at the ceiling, "what happened at
the door." Then, as no one spoke, I added:
"Pooh! I know what happened at the door."
"I'm not going to tell you anything more," said Miss Phyllis.
"But I should like to hear it in your own--"
Miss Phyllis was gone! She had suddenly risen and run from the
"It did happen at the door," said I.
"Fancy Phyllis!" mused Mrs. Hilary.
"I hope," said I, "that it will be a lesson to you."
"I shall have to keep my eye on her," said Mrs. Hilary.
"You can't do it," said I in easy confidence. I had no fear of
little Miss Phyllis being done out of her recreations.
"Meanwhile," I pursued, "the important thing is this: my parallel
is obvious and complete."
"There's not the least likeness," said Mrs. Hilary sharply.
"As a hundred pounds are to a shilling, so is the Grand Prix to
the young man opposite," I observed, taking my hat, and holding
out my hand to Mrs. Hilary.
"I am very angry with you," she said. "You've made the child
think there was nothing wrong in it."
"Oh! Nonsense," said I. "Look how she enjoyed telling it."
Then, not heeding Mrs. Hilary, I launched into an apostrophe.
"O, divine House Opposite!" I cried. "Charming House Opposite!"
If only I might dwell forever in the House Opposite!"
"I haven't the least notion of what you mean," remarked Mrs.
Hilary, stiffly. "I suppose it's something silly--or worse."
I looked at her in some puzzle.
"Have you no longing for the House Opposite?" I asked.
Mrs. Hilary looked at me. Her eyes ceased to be absolutely
blank. She put her arm through Hilary's and answered gently--
"I don't want the House Opposite."
"Ah," said I, giving my hat a brush, "but maybe you remember the
House--when it was Opposite?"
Mrs. Hilary, one arm still in Hilary's, gave me her hand. She
blushed and smiled.
"Well," said she, "it was your fault; so I won't scold Phyllis."
"No, don't my dear," said Hilary, with a laugh.
As for me, I went downstairs, and, in absence of mind, bade my
cabman drive to the House Opposite. But I have never got there.
A QUICK CHANGE
"Why not go with Archie?" I asked, spreading out my hands.
"It will be dull enough, anyhow," said Dolly, fretfully.
"Besides, it's awfully bourgeois to go to the theater with one's
"Bourgeois," I observed, "is an epithet which the riffraff apply
to what is respectable, and the aristocracy to what is decent."
"But it's not a nice thing to be, all the same," said Dolly, who
is impervious to the most penetrating remark.
"You're in no danger of it," I hastened to assure her.
"How should you describe me, then?" she asked, leaning forward,
with a smile.
"I should describe you, Lady Mickleham," I replied discreetly,
"as being a little lower than the angels."
Dolly's smile was almost a laugh as she asked:
"How much lower, please, Mr. Carter?"
"Just by the depth of your dimples," said I thoughtlessly.
Dolly became immensely grave.
"I thought," said she, "that we never mentioned them now, Mr.
"Did we ever?" I asked innocently.
"I seemed to remember once: do you recollect being in very low
spirits one evening at Monte?"
"I remember being in very low water more than one evening there."
"Yes; you told me you were terribly hard-up."
"There was an election in our division that year," I remarked,
"and I remitted 30 percent of my rents."
"You did--to M. Blanc," said Dolly. "Oh, and you were very
dreary! You said you'd wasted your life and your time and your
"Oh, you mustn't suppose I never have any proper feelings," said
"I think you were hardly yourself."
"Do be more charitable."
"And you said that your only chance was in gaining the affection
"Surely, I was not such an--so foolish?" I implored.
"Yes, you were. You were sitting close by me--"
"Oh, then, it doesn't count," said I, rallying a little.
"On a bench. You remember the bench?"
"No, I don't," said I, with a kind but firm smile.
"Not the bench?"
Dolly looked at me, then she asked in an insinuating tone--
"When did you forget it, Mr. Carter?"
"The day you were buried," I rejoined.
"I see. Well, you said then what you couldn't possibly have
"I dare say. I often did."
"That they were--"
"That what were?"
"Why, the--the--what we're talking about."
"What we were--? Oh, to be sure, the--the blemishes?"
"Yes, the blemishes. You said they were the most--"
"Oh, well, it was a facon de parler."
"I was afraid you weren't a bit sincere," said Dolly humbly.
"Well, judge by yourself," said I with a candid air.
"But I said nothing!" cried Dolly.
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