The Chronicles of Clovis
Saki [H. H. Munro]
Part 3 out of 4
"It wasn't that sort of return;" explained Clovis it was a home-
"I thought you said it was a tragedy."
"Well, it was. He was killed in his bathroom, you know."
"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
"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. Particularly
"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
"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 want's
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 circumstances?"
"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 is she?"
"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 should have wanted to kill her."
"As Clytemnestra I believe you gratify that very natural wish."
"Then it has a happy ending, in spite of it being a tragedy?"
"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
"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
"And what sort of end do I have? I mean, what curtain do I get?"
"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
After several minutes of painful brain-searching, Cassandra smiled
"I know. I'll predict a long and happy reign for George the
"My dear girl," protested Clovis, "have you reflected that
Cassandra specialized in foretelling calamities?"
There was another prolonged pause and another triumphant issue.
"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 rôle 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 transposed into:
"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
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 rôle 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
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 tactlessness.
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 Lockyer 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 had 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
"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
"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 witch!"
"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 neighbourhood.
"'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 on
"Vote for Soarker," he responded, with the craven boldness of the
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 farm-house. 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 to-day 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
"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 on her."
"It must boil in time," protested Crefton, ignoring the
suggestions of foul influences. "Perhaps the coal is damp."
"It won't boil in time for supper, nor for breakfast to-morrow
morning, not if you was to keep the fire a-going 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 trouble comes."
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 practical sway.
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
through 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 rage:
"'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
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 to-day
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. Spurfield.
"He'll go away, for sure," the voice was saying; "there are those
as runs away from one as soon as real misfortune shows itself."
Crefton felt that he probably was one of "those," and that there
were moments when it was advisable to be true to type.
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 country."
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 sedative.
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 scrutinized.
"I expect you don't know me with my moustache," said the new-
comer; "I've only grown it during the last two months."
"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 recognition.
"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
The new-comer smiled weakly, as one who is not to be put off by
mere flippancy, and began again with patient persistence:
"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 coldly.
"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 pink.
"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 DÉCOLLETÉ 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 happy memory--"
The defeated Tarrington had by this time retreated out of ear-
shot, 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 be invaluable."
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
"Come in, Master Tom. I knew you would come back one of these
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
"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 return.
"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
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 ne'er-do-well, and get safely away before
anyone 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
"'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 be desired.
"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 door."
"I've got no riding things," stammered the castaway, almost
laughing as he looked down at his one suit of well-worn clothes.
"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
"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 hisself
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
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
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 by adoption.
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
alternative 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 entitled.
"Will you have cold pork for your supper," asked the hard-faded
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 he 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 his 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. Aye, 'tis a sad
business, a sad business."
And never could he be got to say anything more enlightening.
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 he 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
"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
"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 this."
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 lighthearted 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 denied.
Clovis sat in the hottest zone but two of a Turkish bath,
alternately inert in statuesque contemplation and rapidly
manoeuvring 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 deathless 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
"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 elderly and
hidebound. 'So clever of you, dear Loona,' the Packletide
remarked when she had read it; 'of course, anyone 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 he one of the gifted few."
"It's rather late in the day for a Coronation Ode, isn't it?" said
"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
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
"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 Durbar participants:
'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 Ascot."
"You said they were going back to the Himalayas," objected Bertie.
"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 country."
Clovis could at least flatter himself that he had infused some of
the reckless splendour of the East into his mendacity.
"Is it all going to be in blank verse?" asked the critic.
"Of course not; 'Durbar' comes at the end of the fourth line."
"That seems so cowardly; however, it explains why you pitched on
"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 indefinitely."
"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
"I've got rather a nice bit," resumed Clovis with unruffled
serenity, "giving an evening scene on the outskirts of a jungle
'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 gloating about."
"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
'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 Brahma-putra 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 compartment.
"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:
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
. . . . . . . . . .
The SMOKY CHIMNEY duly published the "Recessional," but it proved
to be its swan song, for the paper never attained to another
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 Brahma-
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 clubland 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
"Undoubtedly. But with what?" demanded Clovis for the twentieth
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
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
"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
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.
"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
"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
"I hope you don't mind dinner being a quarter of an hour late to-
night," 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 motor."
"How very kind of you! Of course we don't mind dinner being put
off." The assurances came with unanimous and hearty sincerity.
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 servants'
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 annoyance.
"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 outside chance."
"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 actually won."
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 suddenly.
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
"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 life."
"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
"Dullness 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
"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 point."
"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
"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 he 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 already
"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 abruptly
"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 than 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 the doubt."
"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 again.
"Further evidence!" exclaimed her hostess; "do tell me!"
"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 paper."
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.
"At any rate he appears to be truthful," commented Clovis.
"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. Troyle.
"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 he
"Perhaps he sells spurious transepts to American enthusiasts,"
"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 do."
"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
"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
"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 a lorikeet?"
"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
"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 with lorry."
Septimus still looked uneasy.
"I believe you know more," he 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 he
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 repressing
"Do you mean to say you get money out of--Florrie?" he asked.
"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 him.
"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 the others:
'Lively little Lucie
With her naughty nez retroussé.'
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, there is:
'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
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 anyone 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
"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 refusing."
Later in the afternoon Clovis found his aunt and Mrs. Riversedge
indulging in gentle exercise in the Jacobean garden.
"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 have 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 easygoin', 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
SOUPÇON 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 satisfactory."
"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 of as dead Hannibal than as living
Haldane, for instance."
"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 waste-
"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 h 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
"But good Heavens, Eugène," 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
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 understudy 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 onlookers sometimes."
"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
"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
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 wore 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
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 PATÉ DE FOIE dissembled in a
bowl of bread and milk, would he 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
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 veerrings-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
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