The Fortunate Youth
William J. Locke
Part 3 out of 6
later to the doctor.
"We'll have to wait a long time," said he.
THE London physician arrived, sat up with Paul most of the night,
and went away the next morning saying that he was a dead man. Dr.
Fuller, however, advanced the uncontrovertible opinion that a man
was not dead till he died; and Paul was not dead yet. As a matter of
fact, Paul did not die. If he had done so, there would have been an
end of him and this history would never have been written. He lay
for many days at the gates of Death, and Miss Winwood, terribly
fearful lest they should open and the mysterious, unconscious shape
of beauty and youth should pass through, had all the trouble
promised her by the doctor. But the gates remained shut. When Paul
took a turn for the better, the London physician came down again and
declared that he was living in defiance of all the laws of
pathology, and with a graceful compliment left the case in the hands
of Dr. Fuller. When his life was out of danger, Dr. Fuller
attributed the miracle to the nurses; Ursula Winwood attributed it
to Dr. Fuller; the London physician to Paul's superb constitution;
and Paul himself, perhaps the most wisely, to the pleasant-faced,
masterful lady who had concentrated on his illness all the resources
of womanly tenderness.
But it was a long time before Paul was capable of formulating such
an opinion. It was a long time before he could formulate any opinion
at all. When not delirious or comatose, he had the devil of pleurisy
tearing at the wall of his lung like a wild cat. Only gradually did
he begin to observe and to question. That noiseless woman in coot
blue and white was a nurse. He knew that. So he must be in hospital.
But the room was much smaller than a hospital ward; and where were
the other patients? The question worried him for a whole morning.
Then there was a pink-faced man in gold spectacles, Obviously the
doctor. Then there was a sort of nurse whom he liked very much, but
she was not in uniform. Who could she be? He realized that he was
ill, as weak as a butterfly; and the pain when he coughed was
agonizing. It was all very odd. How had he come here? He remembered
walking along a dusty road in the blazing sun, his head bursting,
every limb a moving ache. He also vaguely remembered being awakened
at night by a thunder storm as he lay snugly asleep beneath a hedge.
The German Ocean had fallen down upon him. He was quite sure it was
the German Ocean, because he had fixed it in his head by repeating
"the North Sea or German Ocean." Mixing up delirious dream with
fact, he clearly remembered the green waves rearing themselves up
first, an immeasurable wall, then spreading a translucent canopy
beneath the firmament and then descending in awful deluge. He had a
confused memory of morning sunshine, of a cottage, of a
hard-featured woman, of sitting before a fire with a blanket round
his shoulders, of a toddling child smeared to the eyebrows with dirt
and treacle whom he had wanted to wash. Over and over again, lately,
he had wanted to wash that child, but it had always eluded his
efforts. Once he had thought of scraping it with a bit of hoof-iron,
but it had turned into a Stilton cheese. It was all very puzzling.
Then he had gone on tramping along the high road. What was that
about bacon and eggs? The horrible smell offended his nostrils. It
must have been a wayside inn; and a woman twenty feet high with a
face like a cauliflower--or was it spinach?--or Brussels
sprouts?--silly not to remember--one of the three, certainly--
desired to murder him with a thousand eggs bubbling up against rank
reefs of bacon. He had escaped from her somehow, and he had been
very lucky. His star had saved him. It had also saved him from a
devil on a red-hot bicycle. He had stood quite still, calm and
undismayed, in the awful path of the straddling Apollyon whose head
was girt around with yellow fire, and had seen him swerve madly and
fall off the machine. And when the devil had picked himself up, he
had tried to blast him with the Great Curse of the Underworld; but
Paul had shown him his cornelian heart, his talisman, and the devil
had remounted his glowing vehicle and had ridden away in a spume of
flame. The Father of Lies had tried to pass himself off as a
postman. The memory of the shallow pretence tickled Paul so that he
laughed; and then he half fainted in pleuritic agony.
After the interlude with the devil he could recollect little. He was
going up to London to make his fortune. A princess was waiting for
him at the golden gate of London, with a fortune piled up in a
coach-and-six. But being very sick and dizzy, he thought he would sit
down and rest in a great green cathedral whose doors stood
invitingly open . . . and now he found himself in the hospital ward.
Sometimes he felt a desire to question the blue-and-white nurse, but
it seemed too much trouble to move his lips. Then in a flash came
the solution of the puzzle, and he chuckled to himself over his
cunning. Of course it was a dream. The nurse was a dream-nurse, who
wanted to make him believe that she was real. But she was not clever
enough. The best way to pay her out for her deception was to take no
notice of her whatsoever. So comforted, he would go to sleep.
At last one morning he woke, a miserably weak but perfectly sane
man, and he turned his head from side to side and looked wonderingly
at the fresh and exquisite room. A bowl of Morning Glow roses stood
by his bedside, gracious things for fevered eyes to rest upon. A few
large photographs of famous pictures hung on the walls. In front of
him was the Santa Barbara of Palma Vecchio, which he recognized with
a smile. He had read about it, and knew that the original was in
Venice. Knowledge of things like that was comforting.
The nurse, noticing the change, came up to him and spoke in a
soothing voice. "Are you feeling better?"
"I think so "said Paul. "I suppose I've been very ill."
"Very ill," said the nurse.
"This can't be a hospital?"
"Oh, no. It's the house of some very kind, good friends. You don't
know them," she added quickly, seeing him knit a perplexed brow.
"You stumbled into their garden and fainted. And they're very
anxious for you to get well and strong."
"Who are they?" asked Paul.
"Colonel and Miss Winwood. T hey will be so glad to see you better--at
least Miss Winwood will; the Colonel's not at home."
She lifted his head gently and smoothed his pillows, and ordained
silence. Presently the doctor came, and spoke kindly. "You've had a
narrow shave, my friend, and you're not out of the wood yet," said
he. "And you'll have to go slow and take things for granted for some
Then came Miss Winwood, whom he recognized as the puzzling but
pleasant nurse out of uniform.
"I don't know how to thank you for taking me in, a stranger, like
this," said Paul.
She smiled. "It's Providence, not me, that you must thank. You might
have been taken ill by the roadside far away from anybody.
Providence guided you here."
"Providence or Destiny," murmured Paul, closing his eyes. It was
absurd to feel so weak.
"That's a theological question on which we won't enter," laughed
Miss Winwood. "Anyhow, thank God, you're better."
A little later she came to him again. "I've been so anxious about
your people--you see, we've had no means of communicating with
"My people?" asked Paul, surprised.
"Yes. They must be wondering what has become of you."
"I have no people," said Paul.
"No people? What do you mean?" she asked sharply, for the moment
forgetful of the sick room. She herself had hundreds of relations.
The branches of her family tree were common to half the country
families of England. "Have you no parents--brothers or sisters--?"
"None that I know of," said Paul. "I'm quite alone in the world."
"Have you no friends to whom I could write about you?"
He shook his head, and his great eyes, all the greater and more
lustrous through illness, smiled into hers. "No. None that count. At
least--there are two friends, but I've lost sight of them for
years. No--there's nobody who would be in the least interested to
know. Please don't trouble. I shall be all right."
Miss Winwood put her cool hand on his forehead and bent over him.
"You? You, alone like that? My poor boy!"
She turned away. It was almost incredible. It was monstrously
pathetic. The phenomenon baffled her. Tears came into her eyes. She
had imagined him the darling of mother and sisters; the gay centre
of troops of friends. And he was alone on the earth. Who was he? She
"Will you tell me your name?"
"Savelli. Paul Savelli."
"I thought so. It was in the two books in your knapsack. A
historical Italian name."
"Yes," said Paul. "Noble. All dead."
He lay back, exhausted. Suddenly a thought smote him. He beckoned.
She approached. "My heart--is it safe?" he whispered.
"At the end of my watch-chain."
"Could I have it near me?"
Paul closed his eyes contentedly. With his talisman in his hand, all
would be well. For the present he need take thought of nothing. His
presence in the beautiful room being explained, there was an end of
the perplexity of his semi-delirium. Of payment for evident devoted
service there could be no question. Time enough when he grew well
and able to fare forth again, to consider the immediate future. He
was too weak to lift his head, and something inside him hurt like
the devil when he moved. Why worry about outer and unimportant
matters? The long days of pain and illness slipped gradually away.
Miss Winwood sat by his bedside and talked; but not until he was
much stronger did she question him as to his antecedents. The
Archdeacon had gone away after a week's visit without being able to
hold any converse with Paul; Colonel Winwood was still at
Contrexeville, whence he wrote sceptically of the rare bird whom
Ursula had discovered; and Ursula was alone in the house, save for a
girl friend who had no traffic with the sick-chamber. She had,
therefore, much leisure to devote to Paul. Her brother's scepticism
most naturally strengthened her belief in him. He was her discovery.
He grew almost to be her invention. just consider. Here was a young
Greek god--everyone who had a bowing acquaintance with ancient
sculpture immediately likened Paul to a Greek god, and Ursula was
not so far different from her cultured fellow mortals as to liken
him to anything else--here was a young Phoebus Apollo, all the
more Olympian because of his freedom from earthly ties, fallen
straight from the clouds. He had fallen at her feet. His beauty had
stirred her. His starlike loneliness had touched her heart. His
swift intelligence, growing more manifest each day as he grew
stronger, moved her admiration. He had, too, she realized, a sunny
and sensuous nature, alive to beauty--even the beauty of the
trivial things in his sickroom. He had an odd, poetical trick of
phrase. He was a paragon of young Greek gods. She had discovered
him; and women don't discover even mortal paragons every day in the
week. Also, she was a woman of forty-three, which, after all, is not
wrinkled and withered eld; and she was not a soured woman; she
radiated health and sweetness; she had loved once in her life, very
dearly. Romance touched her with his golden feather and, in the most
sensible and the most unreprehensible way in the world, she fell in
love with Paul.
"I wonder what made you put that Santa Barbara of Palma Vecchio just
opposite the bed," he said one day. He had advanced so far toward
recovery as to be able to sit up against his pillows.
"Don't you like it?" She turned in her chair by his bedside.
"I worship it. Do you know, she has a strange look of you? When I
was half off my head I used to mix you up together. She has such a
generous and holy bigness--the generosity of the All-woman."
Ursula flushed at the personal tribute, but let it pass without
comment. "It's not a bad photograph; but the original--that is too
"It's in the Church of Santa Maria Formosa in Venice," said Paul
He had passed through a period of wild enthusiasm for Italian
painting, and had haunted the National Gallery, and knew by heart
Sir Charles Eastlake's edition of Kugler's unique textbook.
"Ah, you know it?" said Ursula.
"I've never been to Venice," replied Paul, with a sigh. "It's the
dream of my life to go there."
She straightened herself on her chair. "How do you know the name of
Paul smiled and looked round the walls, and reflected for a moment.
"Yes," said he in answer to his own questioning, "I think I can tell
you where all these pictures are, though I've never seen them,
except one. The two angels by Melozzo da Forli are in St. Peter's at
Rome. The Sposalia of Raphael is in the Breza, Milan. The Andrea del
Sarto is in the Louvre. That's the one I've seen. That little child
of Heaven, playing the lute, is in the predella of an altar-piece by
Vittore Carpaccio in the--in the--please don't tell me--in the
Academia of Venice. Am I right?"
"Absolutely right," said Miss Winwood.
He laughed, delighted. At three and twenty, one--thank goodness!--
is very young. One hungers for recognition of the wonder-inspiring
self that lies hidden beneath the commonplace mask of clay. "And
that," said he--"the Madonna being crowned--the Botticelli--is
in the Uffizi at Florence. Walter Pater talks about it--you know--in
his 'Renaissance'--the pen dropping from her hand--'the
high, cold words that have no meaning for her--the intolerable
honour'! Oh, it's enormous, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid I've not read my Pater as I ought," said Miss Winwood.
"But, you must!" cried Paul, with the gloriously audacious faith of
youth which has just discovered a true apostle. "Pater puts you on
to the inner meaning of everything--in art, I mean. He doesn't
wander about in the air like Ruskin, though, of course, if you get
your mental winnowing machine in proper working order you can get
the good grain out of Ruskin. 'The Stones of Venice' and 'The Seven
Lamps' have taught me a lot. But you always have to be saying to
yourself, 'Is this gorgeous nonsense or isn't it?' whereas in Pater
there's no nonsense at all. You're simply carried along on a full
stream of Beauty straight into the open Sea of Truth."
And Ursula Winwood, to whom Archbishops had been deferential and
Cabinet Ministers had come for, guidance, meekly promised to send at
once for Pater's 'Renaissance' and so fill in a most lamentable gap
in her education.
"My uncle, the Archdeacon," she said, after a while, "reminded me
that the great Savelli was a Venetian general--of Roman family;
and, strangely enough, his name, too, was Paul. Perhaps that's how
you got the name."
"That must be how," said Paul dreamily. He had not heard of the
great general. He had seen the name of Savelli somewhere--also
that of Torelli--and had hesitated between the two. Thinking it no
great harm, he wove into words the clamour of his cherished romance.
"My parents died when I was quite young--a baby--and then I was
brought to England. So you see"--he smiled in his winning way--
"I'm absolutely English."
"But you've kept your Italian love of beauty."
"I hope so," said Paul.
"Then I suppose you were brought up by guardians," said Ursula.
"A guardian," said Paul, anxious to cut down to a minimum the
mythical personages that might be connected with his career. "But I
seldom saw him. He lived in Paris chiefly. He's dead now."
"What a poor little uncared-for waif you must have been."
Paul laughed. "Oh, don't pity me. I've had to think for myself a
good deal, it is true. But it has done me good. Don't you find it's
the things one learns for oneself--whether they are about life or
old china--that are the most valuable?"
"Of course," said Miss Winwood. But she sighed, womanlike, at the
thought of the little Paul--(how beautiful he must have been as a
child!)--being brought up by servants and hirelings in a lonely
house, his very guardian taking no concern in his welfare.
Thus it came about that, from the exiguous material supplied by
Paul, Miss Winwood, not doubting his gentle birth and breeding,
constructed for him a wholly fictitious set of antecedents. Paul
invented as little as possible and gratefully accepted her
suggestions. They worked together unconsciously. Paul had to give
some account of himself. He had blotted Bludston and his modeldom
out of his existence. The passionate belief in his high and romantic
birth was part of his being, and Miss Winwood's recognition was a
splendid confirmation of his faith. It was rather the suppressio
veri of which he was guilty than the propositio falsi. So between
them his childhood was invested with a vague semblance of reality in
which the fact of his isolation stood out most prominent.
They had many talks together, not only on books and art, but on the
social subjects in which Ursula was so deeply interested. She found
him well informed, with a curiously detailed knowledge of the
everyday lives of the poor. It did not occur to her that this
knowledge came from his personal experience. She attributed it to
the many-sided genius of her paragon.
"When you get well you must help us. There's an infinite amount to
"I shall be delighted," said Paul politely.
"You'll find I'm a terrible person to deal with when once I've laid
my hands on anybody," she said with a smile. "I drag in all kinds of
people, and they can't escape. I sent young Harry Gostling--Lord
Ruthmere's son, you know--to look into a working girls' club in
the Isle of Dogs that was going wrong. He hated it at first, but now
he's as keen as possible. And you'll be keen too."
It was flattering to be classified with leisured and opulent young
Guardsmen; but what, Paul reflected with a qualm, would the kind
lady say if she learned the real state of his present fortunes? He
thought of the guinea that lay between him and starvation, and was
amused by the irony of her proposition. Miss Winwood evidently took
it for granted that he was in easy circumstances, living on the
patrimony administered during his boyhood by a careless guardian. He
shrank from undeceiving her. His dream was beginning to come true.
He was accepted by one of the high caste as belonging to the world
where princes and princesses dwelt serene. If only he could put the
theatre behind him, as he had put the rest, and make a
stepping-stone of his dead actor self! But that was impossible, or
at least the question would have to be fought out between himself
and fortune after he had left Drane's Court. In the meanwhile he
glowed with the ambition to leave it in his newly acquired
splendour, drums beating, banners flying, the young prince returning
to his romantic and mysterious solitude.
The time was approaching when he should get up. He sent for his
luggage. The battered trunk and portmanteau plastered with the
labels of queer provincial towns did not betray great wealth. Nor
did the contents, taken out by the man-servant and arranged in
drawers by the nurse. His toilet paraphernalia was of the simplest
and scantiest. His stock of frayed linen and darned underclothes
made rather a poor little heap on the chair. He watched the
unpacking somewhat wistfully from his bed; and, like many another
poor man, inwardly resented his poverty being laid bare to the eyes
of the servants of the rich.
The only thing that the man seemed to handle respectfully--as a
recognized totem of a superior caste--was a brown canvas case of
golf clubs, which he stood up in a conspicuous corner of the room.
Paul had taken to the Ancient and Royal game when first he went on
tour, and it had been a health-giving resource during the listless
days when there was no rehearsal or no matinee--hundreds of
provincial actors, to say nothing of retired colonels and such-like
derelicts, owe their salvation of body and soul to the absurd but
hygienic pastime--and with a naturally true eye and a harmonious
body trained to all demands on its suppleness in the gymnasium,
proficiency had come with little trouble. He was a born golfer; for
the physically perfect human is a born anything physical you please.
But he had not played for a long time. Half-crowns had been very
scarce on this last disastrous tour, and comrades who included golf
in their horizon of human possibilities had been rarer. When would
he play again? Heaven knew! So he looked wistfully, too, at his set
of golf clubs. He remembered how he had bought them--one by one.
"Do you want this on the dressing table?" The nurse held up a little
It was his make-up box, luckily tied round with string.
"Good heavens, no!" he exclaimed. He wished he could have told her
to burn it. He felt happier when all his belongings were stowed away
out of sight and the old trunk and portmanteau hauled out of the
Colonel Winwood came home and asked his sister pertinent questions.
He was a bald, sad-looking man with a long grizzling moustache that
drooped despondently. But he had a square, obstinate chin, and his
eyes, though they seldom smiled, were keen and direct, like Miss
Winwood's. Romance had passed him by long since. He did not believe
"I gather, my dear Ursula," said he in a dry voice, "that our guest
is an orphan, of good Italian family, brought up in England by a
guardian now dead who lived in France. Also that he is of
prepossessing exterior, of agreeable manners, of considerable
cultivation, and apparently of no acquaintance. But what I can't
make out is: what he does for a living, how he came to be half-
starved on his walking tour--the doctor said so, you remember--
where he was going from and where he is going to when he leaves our
house. In fact, he seems to be a very vague and mysterious person,
of whom, for a woman of your character and peculiar training, you
know singularly little."
Miss Winwood replied that she could not pry into the lad's private
affairs. Her brother retorted that a youth, in his physically
helpless condition, who was really ingenuous, would have poured out
his life's history into the ears of so sympathetic a woman, and have
bored her to tears with the inner secrets of his soul.
"He has high aspirations. He has told me of them. But he hasn't
bored me a bit," said Ursula.
"What does he aspire to?"
"What does any brilliant young fellow of two or three and twenty
aspire to? Anything, everything. He has only to find his path."
"Yes, but what is his path?"
"I wish you weren't so much like Uncle Edward, James," said Ursula.
"He's a damned clever old man," said Colonel Winwood, "and I wish he
had stayed here long enough to be able to put our young friend
through a searching cross-examination."
Ursula lifted her finger-bowl an inch from the doiley and carefully
put it down again. It was the evening of Colonel Winwood's arrival,
and they were lingering over coffee in the great, picture-hung and
softly lighted dining room. Having fixed the bowl in the exact
centre of the doiley, she flashed round on her brother. "My dear
James, do you think I'm an idiot?"
He took his cigar from his lips and looked at her with not
unhumorous dryness. "When the world was very young, my dear," said
he, "I've no doubt I called you so. But not since."
She stretched out her hand and tapped his. She was very fond of him.
"You can't help being a man, my poor boy, and thinking manly
thoughts of me, a woman. But I'm not an idiot. Our young friend, as
you call him, is as poor as a church mouse. I know it. No, don't
say, 'How?' like Uncle Edward. He hasn't told me, but Nurse has--a
heart-breaking history of socks and things. There's the doctor's
diagnosis, too. I haven't forgotten. But the boy is too proud to cry
poverty among strangers. He keeps his end up like a man. To hear him
talk, one would think he not only hadn't a care in the world, but
that he commanded the earth. How can one help admiring the boy's
pluck and--that's where my reticence comes in--respecting the
"H'm!" said Colonel Winwood.
"But, good gracious, Jim, dear, supposing you--or any of us--
men, I mean--had been in this boy's extraordinary position--
would you have acted differently? You would have died rather than
give your poverty away to absolute strangers to whom you were
indebted, in the way this boy is indebted to us. Good God, jim"--
she sent her dessert knife skimming across the table--"don't you
see? Any reference to poverty would be an invitation--a veiled
request for further help. To a gentleman like Paul Savelli, the
Colonel Winwood selected a fresh cigar, clipped off the end, and lit
it from a silver spirit lamp by his side. He blew out the first
exquisite puff--the smoker's paradise would be the one first full
and fragrant, virginal puff of an infinite succession of perfect
cigars--looked anxiously at the glowing point to see that it was
exactly lighted, and leaned back in his chair.
"What you say, dear," said he, "is plausible. Plausible almost to
the point of conviction. But there's a hole somewhere in your
argument, I'm sure, and I'm too tired after my journey to find it."
Thus, as the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, so did
they fight for Paul; and in both cases they used a woman as their
Colonel Winwood, in spite of a masculine air of superiority, joined
with the Archbishops and Cabinet Ministers above referred to in
their appreciation of his sister's judgment. After all, what
business of his were the private affairs of his involuntary guest?
He paid him a visit the next day, and found him lying on a couch by
the sunny window, clad in dressing gown and slippers. Paul rose
politely, though he winced with pain.
"Don't get up, please. I'm Colonel Winwood."
They shook hands. Paul began to wheel an armchair from the bedside,
but Colonel Winwood insisted on his lying down again and drew up the
chair himself. "I'm afraid," said Paul, "I've been a sad trespasser
on your hospitality. Miss Winwood must have told you it has scarcely
been my fault; but I don't know how to express my thanks."
As Paul made it, the little speech could not have been better.
Colonel Winwood, who (like the seniors of every age) deplored the
lack of manners of the rising generation, was pleased by the ever so
little elaborate courtesy.
"I'm only too glad we've pulled you round. You've had a bad time, I
Paul smiled. "Pretty bad. If it hadn't been for Miss Winwood and all
she has done for me, I should have pegged out."
"My sister's a notable woman," said the Colonel. "When she sets out
to do a thing she does it thoroughly."
"I owe her my life," said Paul simply.
There was a pause. The two men, both bright-eyed, looked at each
other for the fraction of a second. One, the aristocrat secure of
his wealth, of his position, of himself, with no illusion left him
save pride of birth, no dream save that of an England mighty and
prosperous under continuous centuries of Tory rule, no memories but
of stainless honour--he had fought gallantly for his Queen, he had
lived like a noble gentleman, he had done his country disinterested
service--no ambition but to keep himself on the level of the ideal
which he had long since attained; the other the creation of nothing
but of dreams, the child of the gutter, the adventurer, the
vagabond, with no address, not even a back room over a sweetstuff
shop in wide England, the possessor of a few suits of old clothes
and one pound, one shilling and a penny, with nothing in front of
him but the vast blankness of 'life, nothing behind him save
memories of sordid struggle, with nothing to guide him, nothing to
set him on his way with thrilling pulse and quivering fibres save
the Vision Splendid, the glorious Hope, the unconquerable Faith. In
the older man's eyes Paul read the calm, stern certainty of things
both born to and achieved; and Colonel Winwood saw in the young
man's eyes, as in a glass darkly, the reflection of the Vision.
"And yours is a very young life," said he. "Gad! it must be
wonderful to be twenty. 'Rich in the glory of my rising sun.' You
know your Thackeray?"
"'Riche de ma jeunesse,'" laughed Paul. "Thackeray went one better
than Beranger, that time."
"I forgot," said Colonel Winwood. "My sister told me. You go about
with Beranger as a sort of pocket Bible."
Paul laughed again. "When one is on the tramp one's choice of books
is limited by their cubical content. One couldn't take Gibbon, for
instance, or a complete Balzac."
Colonel Winwood tugged at his drooping moustache and again
scrutinized the frank and exceedingly attractive youth. His
astonishing perfection of feature was obvious to anybody. Yet any
inconsiderable human--a peasant of the Campagna, a Venetian
gondolier, a swaggering brigand of Macedonia--could be
astonishingly beautiful. And, being astonishingly beautiful, that
was the beginning and end of him. But behind this merely physical
attractiveness of his guest glowed a lambent intelligence, quick as
lightning. There was humorous challenge in those laughing and lucent
"Do you know your Balzac?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," said Paul.
"I wonder if you do," said Colonel Winwood. "I'm rather a Balzacian
"I can't say I've read all Balzac. That's a colossal order," said
Paul, rather excited-for, in his limited acquaintance with
cultivated folk, Colonel Winwood was the only human being who could
claim acquaintance with one of the literary gods of his idolatry--
"but I know him pretty well. I can't stand his 'Theatre'--that's
footle--but the big things--'Le Pere Goriot,' 'La Cousine Bette,'
'Cesar Birotteau'--what a great book 'Cesar Birotteau' is!--"
"You're right," said Colonel Winwood, forgetful of any possible
barriers between himself and the young enthusiast. "It's one of the
four or five great books, and very few people recognize it."
"'Le Lys dans la Vallee,'" said Paul.
And they talked for half an hour of the Baron Nucingen, and
Rastignac, and Hulot, and Bixiou, and Lousteau, and Gobsec, and
Gaudissart, and Vautrin, and many another vivid personage in the
"That man could have gone on writing for a hundred years," cried
Paul, "and he could have exhausted all the possibilities of human
Colonel Winwood smiled courteously. "We have a bond in Balzac," said
he. "But I must go. My sister said I mustn't tire you." He rose.
"We're having a lot of people down here this week for the shooting.
There'll be good sport. Pity you're not well enough to join us."
Paul smiled. He had one of his flashes of tact, "I'm afraid," said
he modestly, "that I've never fired off a gun in my life."
"What?" cried the Colonel.
Colonel Winwood looked at him once more. "It's not many young men,"
said he, "who would dare to make such a confession."
"But what is the good of lying?" asked Paul, with the eyes of a
"None that I know of," replied the Colonel. He returned to his chair
and rested his hand on the back. "You play golf, anyhow," said he,
pointing to the brown canvas bag in the corner.
"Oh, yes," said Paul.
"Fair to middling."
"What's your handicap?" asked the Colonel, an enthusiastic though
inglorious practitioner of the game.
"One," said Paul.
"The deuce it is!" cried the Colonel. "Mine is fifteen. You must
give me a lesson or two when you pull round. We've a capital course
"That's very kind of you," said Paul, "but I'm afraid I shall be
well enough for ordinary purposes long before I'm able to handle a
"What do you mean?"
"This silly pleurisy. It will hang about for ages!"
"I'll have to go my ways from here long before I can play."
"Any great hurry?"
"I can't go on accepting your wonderful hospitality indefinitely,"
"That's nonsense. Stay as long as ever you like."
"If I did that," said Paul, "I would stay on forever."
The Colonel smiled and shook hands with him. In the ordinary way of
social life this was quite an unnecessary thing to do. But he acted
according to the impulses common to a thousand of his type--and a
fine type--in England. Setting aside the mere romantic exterior of
a Macedonian brigand, here was a young man of the period with
astonishingly courteous manners, of--and this was of secondary
consideration--of frank and winning charm, with a free-and-easy
intimacy with Balzac, of fearless truthfulness regarding his
deficiencies, and with a golf handicap of one. The Colonel's hand
and heart went out in instinctive coordination. The Colonel
Winwoods of this country are not gods; they are very humanly
fallible; but of such is the Kingdom of England.
"At any rate," said he, "you mustn't dream of leaving us yet."
He went downstairs and met his sister in the hall.
"Well?" she asked, with just a gleam of quizzicality in her eyes,
for she knew whence he had come.
"One of these days I'll take him out and teach him to shoot," said
THE shooting party came, and Paul, able to leave his room and sit in
the sunshine and crawl about the lawn and come down to dinner,
though early retirement was prescribed, went among the strange men
and women of the aristocratic caste like one in a dream of bliss.
Much of their talk, sport and personalities, was unintelligible;
every man seemed to have killed everything everywhere and every
woman seemed to know everybody and everybody's intimate secrets. So
when conversation was general, Paul, who had killed nothing and knew
nobody, listened in silent perplexity. But even the perplexity was a
happiness. It was all so new, so fascinating. For was not this world
of aristocrats--there were lords and ladies and great personages
whose names he had read in the newspapers--his rightful
inheritance, the sphere to which he had been born? And they did not
always talk of things which he did not understand. They received him
among them with kind welcome and courtesy. No one asked him whence
he came and whither he was going. They took him for granted, as a
guest of the Winwoods. Of course if Paul had seen himself on the way
to rival the famous actor whose photograph in the window of the
London Stereoscopic Company had inspired him with histrionic
ambitions, he would have been at no pains to hide his profession.
But between the darling of the London stage and a seedy member of a
fit-up company lies a great gulf. He shrank from being associated
with Mr. Vincent Crummles. One thing, however, of invaluable use he
had brought with him from Theatreland--the dress suit which formed
part of his stage wardrobe. There were other things, too, which he
did not appreciate--ease of manner, victory over the lingering
Lancastrian burr, and a knowledge of what to do with his feet and
One day he had a great shock. The house party were assembling in the
drawing-room, when in sailed the great lady, the ever-memorable
great lady, the Marchioness of Chudley, who had spoken to him and
smiled on him in the Bludston factory. Fear laid a cold grip on his
heart. He thought of pleading weakness and running away to the safe
obscurity of his room. But it was too late. The procession was
formed immediately, and he found himself in his place with his
partner on his arm. Dinner was torture. What he said to his
neighbours he knew not. He dared not look up the table where Lady
Chudley sat in full view. Every moment he expected--ridiculous
apprehension of an accusing conscience--Colonel Winwood to come
and tap him on the shoulder and bid him begone. But nothing
happened. Afterwards, in the drawing-room, Fate drove him into a
corner near Lady Chudley, whose eyes he met clear upon him. He
turned away hurriedly and plunged into conversation with a young
soldier standing by. Presently he heard Miss Winwood's voice.
"Mr. Savelli, I want to introduce you to Lady Chudley."
The fear gripped him harder and colder. How could he explain that he
was occupying his rightful place in that drawing-room? But he held
himself up and resolved to face the peril like a man. Lady Chudley
smiled on him graciously--how well he remembered her smile!--and
made him sit by her side. She was a dark, stately woman of forty,
giving the impression that she could look confoundedly cold and
majestic when she chose. She wore diamonds in her hair and a broad
diamond clasp to the black velvet round her throat.
"Miss Winwood has been telling me what an awful time you've had, Mr.
Savelli," she said pleasantly. "Now, whenever I hear of people
having had pneumonia I always want to talk to them and sympathize
"That's very kind of you, Lady Chudley," said Paul.
"Only a fellow-feeling. I nearly died of it once myself. I hope
you're getting strong."
"I'm feeling my strength returning every day. It's a queer new joy."
They discussed the exhilaration of convalescence. It was a
'wonderful springtide. They reverted to the preceding misery.
"You're far luckier than I was," she remarked. "You've had a comfy
English house to be ill in. I was in a stone-cold palazzo in
Florence--in winter. Ugh! Shall I ever forget it? I don't want to
speak evil of Italy to an Italian--"
"I'm only Italian by descent," exclaimed Paul, with a laugh, his
first frank laugh during the whole of that gloomy evening. And he
laughed louder than was necessary, for, as it suddenly dawned upon
him that he did not in the least recall to her mind the grimy little
Bludston boy, the cold hand of fear was dissolved in a warm gush of
exultation. "You can abuse Italy or any country but England as much
as you like."
"Why mustn't I abuse England?"
"Because it's the noblest country in the world," he cried; and,
seeing approval in her eyes, he yielded to an odd temptation. "If
one could only do something great for her!"
"What would you like to do?" she asked.
"Anything. Sing for her. Work for her. Die for her. It makes one so
impatient to sit down and do nothing. If one could only stir her up
to a sense of her nationality!" he went on, less lyrically, though
with the same fine enthusiasm. "She seems to be losing it, letting
the smaller nations assert theirs to such an extent that she is
running the risk of becoming a mere geographical expression. She has
merged herself in the Imperial Ideal. That's magnificent; but the
Empire ought to realize her as the great Motherheart. If England
could only wake up as England again, what a wonderful thing it would
"It would," said Lady Chudley. "And you would like to be the
"Ay!" said Paul--"what a dream!"
"There was never a dream worth calling a dream that did not come
"Do you believe that, too?" he asked delightedly. "I've held to it
all my life."
Colonel Winwood, who had been moving hostwise from group to group in
the great drawing-room, where already a couple of bridge tables had
been arranged, approached slowly. Lady Chudley gave him a laughing
glance of dismissal. Paul's spacious Elizabethan patriotism, rare--
at least in expression--among the young men of the day, interested
and amused her.
"Have you dreamed all your life of being the Awakener of England?"
"I have dreamed of being so many things," he said, anxious not to
commit himself. For, truth to say, this new ambition was but a
couple of minutes old.
It had sprung into life, however, like Pallas Athene, all armed and
"And they have all come true?"
His great eyes laughed and his curly head bent ever so slightly.
"Those worth calling dreams," said he.
A little later in the evening, when on retiring to an early bed he
was wishing Miss Winwood good night, she said, "You're a lucky young
"I know--but--" He looked smiling inquiry.
"Lady Chudley's the most valuable woman in England for a young man
to get on the right side of."
Paul went to bed dazed. The great lady who had recognized the divine
fire in the factory boy had again recognized it in the grown man.
She had all but said that, if he chose, he could be the Awakener of
England. The Awakener of England! The watchword of his new-born
ambition rang in his brain until he fell asleep.
The time soon came when the prospective Awakener of England awoke to
the fact that he must fare forth into the sleeping land with but a
guinea in his pocket. The future did not dismay him, for he knew now
that his dreams came true. But he was terribly anxious, more anxious
than ever, to leave Drane's Court with all the prestige of the
prospective Awakener. Now, this final scene of the production could
not be worked for a guinea. There were golden tips to servants,
there was the first-class railway fare. Once in London--he could
pawn things to keep him going, and a Bloomsbury landlady with whom
he had lodged, since the loss of Jane, would give him a fortnight or
three weeks' credit. But he had to get to London-to get there
gloriously; so that when the turn of Fortune's wheel enabled him to
seek again these wonderful friends in the aristocratic sphere to
which he belonged, he could come among them untarnished, the
conquering prince. But that miserable guinea! He racked his brains.
There was his gold watch and chain, a symbol, to his young mind, of
high estate. When he had bought it there crossed his mind the silly
thought of its signification of the infinite leagues that lay
between him and Billy Goodge. He could pawn it for ten pounds--it
would be like pawning his heart's blood--but where? Not in
Morebury, even supposing there was a pawnbroker's in the place. He
had many friends in his profession, scattered up and down the land.
But he had created round himself the atmosphere of the young
magnifico. It was he who had lent, others who had borrowed.
Rothschild or Rockefeller inviting any of them to lend him money
would have produced less jaw-dropping amazement. Even if he sent his
pride flying and appealed to the most friendly and generous, he
shrank from the sacrifice he would call upon the poor devil to make.
There was only his beautiful and symbolic watch and chain. The
nearest great town where he could be sure of finding a pawnbroker
was distant an hour's train journey.
So on the day before that for which, in spite of hospitable
protestations on the part of Colonel and Miss Winwood, he had fixed
his departure, he set forth on the plea of private business, and
returned with a heavier pocket and a heavier heart. He had been so
proud, poor boy, of the gold insignia across his stomach. He had had
a habit of fingering it lovingly. Now it was gone. He felt naked--
in a curious way dishonoured. There only remained his cornelian
talisman. He got back in time for tea and kept his jacket closely
buttoned. But in the evening he had perforce to appear stark and
ungirt--in those days Fashion had not yet decreed, as it does now,
the absence of watchchain on evening dress--and Paul shambled into
the drawing-room like a guest without a wedding garment. There were
still a few people staying in the house--the shooting party
proper, and Lady Chudley, had long since gone--but enough remained
to be a social microcosm for Paul. Every eye was upon him. In spite
of himself, his accusing hand went fingering the inanity of his
waistcoat front. He also fingered, with a horrible fascination, the
dirty piece of card that took the place of his watch in his pocket.
One must be twenty to realize the tragedy of it. Dans un grenier
qu'on est bien a vingt ans! To be twenty, in a garret, with the
freedom and the joy of it! Yes; the dear poet was right. In those
"brave days" the poignancy of life comes not in the garret, but in
To-morrow, with his jacket buttoned, he could make his exit from
Drane's Court in the desired splendour--scattering largesse to
menials and showing to hosts the reflected glow of the golden
prospects before him; but for this evening the glory had departed.
Besides, it was his last evening there, and London's welcome
tomorrow would be none too exuberant.
The little party was breaking up, the ladies retiring for the night,
and the men about to accompany Colonel Winwood to the library for a
final drink and cigarette. Paul shook hands with Miss Winwood.
"Good night--and good-bye," she said, "if you take the early
train. But must you really go to-morrow?"
"I must," said Paul.
"I hope we'll very soon be seeing you again. Give me your address."
She moved to a bridge table and caught up the marking block, which
she brought to him. "Now I've forgotten the pencil."
"I've got one," said Paul, and impulsively thrusting his fingers
into his waistcoat pocket, flicked them out with the pencil. But he
also flicked out the mean-looking card of which he had been
hatefully conscious all the evening. The Imp of Mischance arranged
that as Miss Winwood stood close by his side, it should fall,
unperceived by him, on the folds of her grey velvet train. He wrote
the Bloomsbury address and handed her the leaf torn from the pad.
She folded it up, moved away, turning back to smile. As she turned
she happened to look downward; then she stooped and picked the card
from her dress. A conjecture of horror smote Paul. He made a step
forward and stretched out his hand; but not before she had
instinctively glanced first at the writing and then at his barren
waistcoat. She repressed a slight gasp, regarding him with steady,
His dark face flushed crimson as he took the accursed thing,
desiring no greater boon from Heaven than instant death. He felt
sick with humiliation. The brightly lit room grew black. It was in a
stupor of despair that he heard her say, "Wait a bit here, till I've
got rid of these people."
He stumbled away and stood on the bearskin rug before the fireplace,
while she joined the lingering group by the door. The two or three
minutes were an eternity of agony to Paul. He had lost his great
Miss Winwood shut the door and came swiftly to him and laid her hand
on his arm. Paul hung his head and looked into the fire. "My poor
boy!" she said very tenderly. "What are you going to do with
If it had not been for the diabolical irony of the mishap he would
have answered with his gay flourish. But now he could not so answer.
Boyish, hateful tears stood in his eyes and, in spite of anguished
effort of will, threatened to fall. He continued to look into the
fire, so that she should not see them. "I shall go on as I always
have done," he said as stoutly as he could.
"Your prospects are not very bright, I fear."
"I shall keep my head above water," said Paul. "Oh, please don't!"
he cried, shivering. "You have been so good to me. I can't bear you
to have seen that thing. I can't stand it."
"My dear boy," she said, coming a little nearer, "I don't think the
worse of you for that. On the contrary, I admire your pluck and your
brave attitude towards life. Indeed I do. I respect you for it. Do
you remember the old Italian story of Ser Federigo and his falcon?
How he hid his poverty like a knightly gentleman? You see what I
mean, don't you? You mustn't be angry with me!"
Her words were Gilead balm of instantaneous healing.
His voice quavered. In a revulsion of emotion he turned blindly,
seized her hand and kissed it. It was all he could do.
"If I have found it out--not just now," she quickly interjected,
seeing him wince, "but long ago--it was not your fault. You've
made a gallant gentleman's show to the end--until I come, in a
perfectly brutal way, and try to upset it. Tell me--I'm old enough
to be your mother, and you must know by this time that I'm your
friend--have you any resources at all--beyond--?" She made
ever so slight a motion of her hand toward the hidden pawn ticket.
"No," said Paul, with his sure tact and swiftly working imagination.
"I had just come to an end of them. It's a silly story of losses and
what-not--I needn't bother you with it. I thought I would walk to
London, with the traditional half-crown in my pocket"--he flashed
a wistful smile--"and seek my fortune. But I fell ill at your
"And now that you're restored to health, you propose in the same
debonair fashion to--well--to resume the search?"
"Of course," said Paul, all the fighting and aristocratic instincts
returning. "Why not?"
There were no tears in his eyes now, and they looked with luminous
fearlessness at Miss Winwood. He drew a chair to the edge of the
bearskin. "Won't you sit down, Miss Winwood?"
She accepted the seat. He sat down too. Before replying she played
with her fan rather roughly--more or less as a man might have
played with it. "What do you think of doing?"
"Journalism," said Paul. He had indeed thought of it.
"Have you any opening?"
"None," he laughed. "But that's the oyster I'm going to open."
Miss Winwood took a cigarette from a silver box near by. Paul sprang
to light it. She inhaled in silence half a dozen puffs. "I'm going
to ask you an outrageous question," she said, at last. "In the first
place, I'm a severely business woman, and in the next I've got an
uncle and a brother with cross-examining instincts, and, though I
loathe them--the instincts, I mean--I can't get away from them.
We're down on the bedrock of things, you and I. Will you tell me,
straight, why you went away to-day to--to"--she hesitated--"to
pawn your watch and chain, instead of waiting till you got to
Paul threw out his arms in a wide gesture. "Why--your servants--"
She cast the just lighted cigarette into the fire, rose and clapped
her hands on his shoulders, her face aflame. "Forgive me--I knew
it--there are doubting Thomases everywhere--and I'm a woman who
deals with facts, so that I can use them to the confusion of
enemies. Now I have them. Ser Federigo's watch and chain. Nicht
Remember, you who judge this sensible woman of forty-three, that she
had fallen in love with Paul in the most unreprehensible way in the
world; and if a woman of that age cannot fall in love with a boy
sweetly motherwise, what is the good of her? She longed to prove
that her polyhedral crystal of a paragon radiated pure light from
every one of his innumerable facets. It was a matter of intense joy
to turn him round and find each facet pure. There was also much pity
in her heart, such as a woman might feel for a wounded bird which
she had picked up and nursed in her bosom and healed. Ursula was
loath to let her bird fly forth into the bleak winter.
"My brother and I have been talking about you--he is your friend,
too," she said, resuming her seat. "How would it suit you to stay
with us altogether?"
Paul started bolt upright in his chair. "What do you mean?" he asked
breathlessly, for the heavens had opened with dazzling
"In some such position as confidential secretary--at a decent
salary, of course. We've not been able to find a suitable man since
Mr. Kinghorne left us in the spring. He got into Parliament, you
know, for Reddington at the by-election--and we've been muddling
along with honorary secretaries and typists. I shouldn't suggest it
to you," she went on, so as to give him time to think, for he sat
staring at her, openmouthed, bewildered, his breath coming quickly--"I
shouldn't suggest it to you if there were no chances for you
in it. You would be in the thick of public affairs, and an ambitious
man might find a path in them that would lead him anywhere. I've had
the idea in my head," she smiled, "for-some time. But I've only
spoken to my brother about it this afternoon--he has been so busy,
you see--and I intended to have another talk with him, so as to
crystallize things--duties, money, and so forth--before making
you any proposal. I was going to write to you with everything cut
and dried. But"--she hesitated delicately--"I'm glad I didn't.
It's so much more simple and friendly to talk. Now, what do you
Paul rose and gripped his hands together and looked again into the
fire. "What can I say? I could only go on my knees to you--and
"That would be beautifully romantic and entirely absurd," she
laughed. "Anyhow, it's settled. Tomorrow we can discuss details."
She rose and put out her hand. "Good night, Paul."
He bowed low. "My dearest lady," said he in a low voice, and went
and held the door open for her to pass out.
Then he flung up his arms wildly and laughed aloud and strode about
the room in exultation. All he had hoped for and worked for was an
exit of fantastic and barren glory. After which, the Deluge--
anything. He had never dreamed of this sudden blaze of Fortune. Now,
indeed, did the Great Things to which he was born lie to his hand.
Queerly but surely Destiny was guiding him upward. In every way
Chance had worked for him. His poverty had been a cloak of honour;
the thrice-blessed pawn ticket a patent of nobility. His kingdom lay
before him, its purple mountains looming through the mists of dawn.
And he would enter into it as the Awakener of England. He stood
thrilled. The ambition was no longer the wild dream of yesterday.
From the heart of the great affairs in which he would have his being
he could pluck his awakening instrument. The world seemed suddenly
to become real. And in the midst of it was this wonderful,
beautiful, dearest lady with her keen insight, her delicate
sympathy, her warm humanity. With some extravagance he consecrated
himself to her service.
After a while he sat down soberly and took from his pocket the
cornelian heart which his first goddess had given him twelve years
ago. What had become of her? He did not even know her name. But what
happiness, he thought, to meet her in the plenitude of his greatness
and show her the heart, and say, "I owe it all to you!" To her alone
of mortals would he reveal himself.
And then he thought of Barney Bill, who had helped him on his way;
of Rowlatt, good fellow, who was dead; and of Jane, whom he had
lost. He wished he could write to Jane and tell her the wonderful
news. She would understand. . . . Well, well! It was time for bed.
He rose and switched off the lights and went to his room. But as he
walked through the great, noiseless house, he felt, in spite of
Fortune's bounty, a loneliness of soul; also irritation at having
lost Jane. What a letter he could have written to her! He could not
say the things with which his heart was bursting to anyone on earth
but Jane. Why had he lost Jane? The prospective Awakener of England
ONE morning Paul, with a clump of papers in his hand, entered his
pleasant private room at Drane's Court, stepped briskly to the long
Cromwellian table placed in the window bay, and sat down to his
It was gusty outside, as could be perceived by the shower of yellow
beech leaves that slanted across the view; but indoors a great fire
flaming up the chimney, a Turkey carpet fading into beauty, rich
eighteenth century mezzotints on the walls, reposeful
leather-covered chairs and a comfortable bookcase gave an atmosphere
of warmth and coziness. Paul lit a cigarette and attacked a pile of
unopened letters. At last he came to an envelope, thick and faintly
scented, bearing a crown on the flap. He opened it and read:
DEAR MR. SAVELLI:
Will you dine on Saturday and help me entertain an eminent
Egyptologist? I know nothing of Egypt save Shepheard's Hotel, and
that I'm afraid wouldn't interest him. Do come to my rescue. Yours,
Paul leaned back in his chair, twiddling the letter between his
fingers, and looked smilingly out or, the grey autumn rack of
clouds. There was a pleasant and flattering intimacy in the
invitation: pleasant because it came from a pretty woman; flattering
because the woman was a princess, widow of a younger son of a Royal
Balkan house. She lived at Chetwood. Park, on the other side of
Morebury, and was one of the great ones of those latitudes. A real
Paul's glance, travelling back from the sky, fell upon the brass
date indicator on the table. It marked the 2nd of October. On that
day five years ago he had. entered on his duties at Drane's Court.
He laughed softly. Five years ago be was a homeless wanderer. Now
princesses were begging him to rescue them from Egyptologists. With
glorious sureness all his dreams were coming true.
Thus we see our Fortunate Youth at eight-and-twenty in the heyday of
success. If he had strutted about under Jane's admiring eyes, like a
peacock among daws, he now walked serene, a peacock among peacocks.
He wore the raiment, frequented the clubs, ate the dinners of the
undeservingly rich and the deservingly great. His charm and his
self-confidence, which a genius of tact saved from self-assertion,
carried him pleasantly through the social world; his sympathetic
intelligence dealt largely and strongly with the public affairs
under his control. He loved organizing, persuading, casting skilful
nets. His appeal for subscriptions was irresistible. He had the
magical gift of wringing a hundred pounds from a plutocrat with the
air of conferring a graceful favour. In aid of the Mission to
Convert the Jews he could have fleeced a synagogue. The societies
and institutions in which the Colonel and Ursula Winwood were
interested flourished amazingly beneath his touch. The Girls' Club
in the Isle of Dogs, long since abandoned in despair by the young
Guardsman, grew into a popular and sweetly mannered nunnery. The
Central London Home" for the Indigent Blind, which had been
languishing for support, in spite of Miss Winwood's efforts, found
itself now in a position to build a much-needed wing. There was
also, most wonderful and, important thing of all, the Young England
League, which was covering him with steadily increasing glory. Of
this much hereafter. But it must be remembered. Ursula complained
that he left her nothing to do save attend dreary committee
meetings; and even for these Paul saved her all the trouble in
hunting up information. She was a mere figurehead.
"Dearest lady," Paul would say, "if you send me about my business,
you'll write me a character, won't you, saying that you're
dismissing me for incorrigible efficiency?"
"You know perfectly well," she would sigh, "that I would be a lost,
lone woman without you."
Whereat Paul would laugh his gay laugh. At this period of his life
he had not a care in the world.
The game of politics also fascinated him. A year or so after he
joined the Winwoods there was a General Election. The Liberals,
desiring to drive the old Tory from his lair, sent down a strong
candidate to Morebury. There was a fierce battle, into which Paul
threw himself, heart and soul. He discovered he could speak. When he
first found himself holding a couple of hundred villagers in the
grip of his impassioned utterance he felt that the awakening of
England had begun. It was a delicious moment. As a canvasser he
performed prodigies of cajolery. Extensive paper mills, a hotbed of
raging Socialism, according to Colonel Winwood, defaced (in the
Colonel's eyes) the outskirts of the little town.
"They're wrong 'uns to a man," said the Colonel, despondently.
Paul came back from among them with a notebook full of promises.
"How did you manage it?" asked the Colonel.
"I think I got on to the poetical side of politics," said Paul.
"What the deuce is that?"
Paul smiled. "An appeal to the imagination," said he.
When Colonel Winwood got in by an increased majority, in spite of
the wave of Liberalism that spread over the land, he gave Paul a
gold cigarette case; and thenceforward admitted him into his
political confidence. So Paul became familiar with the Lobby of the
House of Commons and with the subjects before the Committees on
which Colonel Winwood sat, and with the delicate arts of
wire-pulling and intrigue, which appeared to him a monstrously fine
diversion. There was also the matter of Colonel Winwood's speeches,
which the methodical warrior wrote out laboriously beforehand and
learned by heart. They were sound, weighty pronouncements, to which
the House listened with respect; but they lacked the flashes which
lit enthusiasm. One day he threw the bundle of typescript across to
"See what you think of that."
Paul saw and made daring pencilled amendments, and took it to the
"It's all very funny," said the latter, tugging his drooping
moustache, "but I can't say things like that in the House."
"Why not?" asked Paul.
"If they heard me make an epigram, they would have a fit."
"Our side wouldn't. The Government might. The Government ought to
have fits all the time until it expires in convulsions."
"But this is a mere dull agricultural question. The Board of
Agriculture have brought it in, and it's such pernicious nonsense
that I, as a county gentleman, have to speak against it."
"But couldn't you stick in my little joke about the pigs?" asked
"What's that?" Colonel Winwood found the place in the script. "I say
that the danger of swine fever arising from this clause in the Bill
will affect every farmer in England."
"And I say," cried Paul eagerly, pointing to his note, "if this
clause becomes law, swine fever will rage through the land like a
demoniacal possession. The myriad pigs of Great Britain, possessed
of the, devils of Socialism, will be turned into Gadarene swine
hurtling down to destruction. You can show how they hurtle, like
this--" He flickered his bands. "Do try it."
"H'm!" said Colonel Winwood.
Sorely against his will, he tried it. To his astonishment it was a
success. The House of Commons, like Mr. Peter Magnus's friend, is
easily amused. The exaggeration gave a cannon-ball's weight to his
sound argument. The Government dropped the clause--it was only a
trivial part of a wide-reaching measure--the President of the
Board of Agriculture saying gracefully that in the miracle he hoped
to bring about he had unfortunately forgotten the effect it might
have on the pigs. There was "renewed laughter," but Colonel Winwood
remained the hero of the half-hour and received the ecstatic
congratulations of unhumorous friends. He might have defeated the
Government altogether. In the daily round of political life nothing
is so remarkable as the lack of sense of proportion.
"It was the Gadarene swine that did it," they said.
"And that," said Colonel Winwood honestly, "was my young devil of a
Thenceforward the young wit and the fresh fancy of Paul played like
a fountain over Colonel Winwood's and speeches.
"Look here, young man," said he one day, "I don't like it. Sometimes
I take your confounded suggestions, because they happen to fit in;
but I'm actually getting the reputation of a light political
comedian, and it won't do."
Whereupon Paul, with his swift intuition, saw that in the case of a
proud, earnest gentleman like Colonel Winwood the tempting
emendations of typescript would not do. In what Miss Winwood called
his subtle Italian way, he induced his patron to discuss the
speeches before the process of composition. These discussions,
involving the swift rapier play of intelligences, Colonel Winwood
enjoyed. They stimulated him magically. He sat down and wrote his
speeches, delightfully unconscious of what in them was Paul and what
was himself; and when he delivered them he was proud of the
impression he had made upon the House.
And so, as the years passed, Paul gained influence not only in the
little circle of Drane's Court and Portland Place, but also in the
outer world. He was a young man of some note. His name appeared
occasionally in the newspapers, both in connection with the Winwood
charities and with the political machine of the Unionist party. He
was welcomed at London dinner tables and in country houses. He was a
young man who would go far. For the rest, he had learned to ride and
shoot, and not to make mistakes about the genealogical relationships
of important families. He had travelled about Europe, sometimes with
the Winwoods, sometimes by himself. He was a young man of
cultivation and accomplishment.
On this fifth anniversary he sat gazing unseeingly at the autumn
rack, the Princess's letter in his band, and letting his thoughts
wander down the years. He marvelled how valiantly the stars in their
courses had fought for him. Even against recognition his life was
charmed. Once, indeed, he met at the house in Portland Place a
painter to whom he had posed. The painter looked at him keenly.
"Surely we have met before?"
"We have," said Paul with daring frankness. "I remember it
gratefully. But if you would forget it I should be still more
The painter shook hands with him and smiled. "You may be sure I
haven't the least idea what you're talking about."
As for Theatreland, the lower walks in the profession to which Paul
had belonged do not cross the paths of high political society. It
lay behind him far and forgotten. His position was secure. Here and
there an anxious mother may have been worried as to his precise
antecedents; but Paul was too astute to give mothers over-much cause
for anxiety. lie lived under the fascination of the Great Game. When
he came into his kingdom he could choose; not before. His destiny
was drawing him nearer and nearer to it, he thought, with slow and
irresistible force. In a few years there would be Parliament,
office, power, the awaking from stupor of an England hypnotized by
malign influences. He saw himself at the table in the now familiar
House of green benches, thundering out an Empire's salvation. If he
thought more of the awakener than the awakening, it was because be
was the same little Paul Kegworthy to whom the cornelian heart had
brought the Vision Splendid in the scullery of the Bludston slum.
The cornelian heart still lay in his waistcoat pocket at the end of
his watch chain. He also held a real princess's letter in his hand.
A tap at the door aroused him from his day-dream.
There entered a self-effacing young woman with pencil and notebook.
"Are you ready for me, sir?"
"Not quite. Sit down for a minute, Miss Smithers. Or, come up to the
table if you don't mind, and help me open these envelopes."
Paul, you see, was a great man, who commanded the services of a
To the mass of correspondence then opened and read he added that
which he had brought in from Colonel and Miss Winwood. From this he
sorted the few letters which it would be necessary to answer in his
own handwriting, and laid them aside; then taking the great bulk, he
planted himself on the hearthrug, with his back to the fire, and,
cigarette in mouth, dictated to the self-effacing young woman. She
took down his words with anxious humility, for she looked upon him
as a god sphered on Olympian heights--and what socially insecure
young woman of lower-middle-class England could do otherwise in the
presence of a torturingly beautiful youth, immaculately raimented,
who commanded in the great house with a smile more royal and
debonair than that of the master thereof, Member of Parliament
though he was, and Justice of the Peace and Lord of the Manor? And
Paul, fresh from his retrospect, looked at the girl's thin shoulders
and sharp, intent profile, and wondered a little, somewhat
ironically. He knew that she regarded him as a kind of god, for
reasons of caste. Yet she was the daughter of a Morebury piano
tuner, of unblemished parentage for generations. She had never known
hunger and cold and the real sting of poverty. Miss Winwood herself
knew more of drunken squalor. He saw himself a ragged and unwashed
urchin, his appalling breeches supported by one brace, addressing
her in familiar terms; and he saw her transfigured air of lofty
disgust; whereupon he laughed aloud in the middle of a most
unhumorous sentence, much to Miss Smithers' astonishment.
When he had finished his dictation he dismissed her and sat down to
his writing. After a while Miss Winwood came in. The five years had
treated her lightly. A whitening of the hair about her brows, which
really enhanced the comeliness of her florid complexion, a few more
lines at corners of eyes and lips, were the only evidences of the
touch of Time's fingers. As she entered Paul swung round from his
writing chair and started to his feet. I "Oh, Paul, I said the 20th
for the Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, didn't I? I made a mistake.
I'm engaged that afternoon."
"I don't think so, dearest lady," said Paul.
"Then you've told me nothing about it," said Paul the infallible.
"I know," she said meekly. "It's all my fault. I never told you.
I've asked the Bishop of Frome to lunch, and I can't turn him out at
a quarter-past two, can I? What date is there free?"
Together they bent over the engagement book, and after a little
discussion the new date was fixed.
"I'm rather keen on dates to-day," said Paul, pointing to the brass
"It's exactly five years since I entered your dear service," said
"We've worked you like a galley slave, and so I love your saying
'dear service,'" she replied gently.
Paul, half sitting on the edge of the Cromwellian table in the bay
of the window, laughed. "I could say infinitely more, dearest lady,
if I were to let myself go."
She sat on the arm of a great leathern chair. Their respective
attitudes signified a happy intimacy. "So long as you're contented,
my dear boy---" she said.
"Contented? Good heavens!" He waved a protesting hand.
"Of course," said he. "What Would be the good of me if I wasn't?"
"One of these days you'll be wanting to leave the nest and--what
shall we say?--soar upwards."
Paul, too acute to deny the truth of this prophecy said: "I probably
shall. But I'll be the rarissima avis, to whom the abandoned nest
will always be the prime object of his life's consideration."
"Pretty,"' said Miss Winwood.
"I'm sure of it," she said pleasantly. "Besides, if you didn't leave
the nest and make a name for yourself, you wouldn't be able to carry
on our work. My brother and I, you see, are of the older generation--you
of the younger."
"You're the youngest woman I know," Paul declared.
"I shan't be in a few years, and my brother is a good deal older
"Well, I can't get into Parliament right away," said Paul. "For one
thing, I couldn't afford it."
"We must find you a nice girl with plenty of money," she said, half
"Oh, please don't. I should detest the sight of her. By the way,
shall you want me on Saturday evening?"
"No--unless it would be to take Miss Durning in to dinner."
Now Miss Durning being an elderly, ugly heiress, it pleased Miss
Winwood to be quizzical. He looked at her in mock reproof. "Dearest
lady that you are, I don't feel safe in your hands just now. I shall
dine with the Princess on Saturday."
An enigmatic smile flitted across Ursula Winwood's clear eyes. "What
does she want you for?"
"To entertain an Egyptologist," assured Paul. He waved his hand
toward the letter on the table. "There it is in black and white."
"I suppose for the next few days you'll be cramming hard."
"It would be the polite thing to do, wouldn't it?" said Paul
Miss Winwood shook her head and went away, and Paul happily resumed
his work. In very truth she was to him the dearest of ladies.
The Princess Zobraska was standing alone by the fireplace at the end
of the long drawing-room when Paul was announced on Saturday
evening. She was a distinguished-looking woman in the late twenties
brown-haired, fresh-complexioned, strongly and at the same time
delicately featured. Her dark blue eyes, veiled by lashes, smiled on
him lazily as he approached; and lazily, too, her left arm stretched
out, the palm of the hand downward, and she did not move. He kissed
her knuckles, in orthodox fashion.
"It is very good of you to come, Mr. Savelli," she said in a sweetly
foreign accent, "and leave your interesting company at Drane's
"Any company without you, Princess, is chaos," said Paul.
"Grand flatteur, va,--' said she.
"C'est que vous Res irresistible, Princesse, surlout dans ce
She touched his arm with an ostrich feather fan. "When it comes to
massacring languages, Mr. Savelli, let me be the assassin."
"I laid the tribute of my heart at your feet in the most
irreproachable grammar," said Paul.
"But with the accent of John Bull. That's the only thing of John
Bull you have about you. For the sake of my ears I must give you
"You'll find me such a pupil as never teacher had in the world
before. When shall we begin?"
"Aux Kalendes Grecques."
"Ah que vous etes femme!"
She put her hands to her ears. "Listen. Que-vous-etes-femme" she
"Que-vous-etes-femme," Paul repeated parrotwise. "Is that better?"
"I see the Greek Kalends have begun," said he.
"Mechant, you have caught me in a trap," said she.
And they both laughed.
From which entirely foolish conversation it may be gathered that
between our Fortunate Youth and the Princess some genial sun had
melted the icy barriers of formality. He had known her for eighteen
months, ever since she had bought Chetwood Park and settled down as
the great personage of the countryside. He had met her many times,
both in London and in Morebury; he had dined in state at her house;
he had shot her partridges; he had danced with her; he had sat out
dances with her, notably on one recent June night, in a London
garden, where they lost themselves for an hour in the discussion of
the relative parts that love played in a woman's life and in a
man's. The Princess was French, ancien regime, of the blood of the
Coligny, and she had married, in the French practical way, the
Prince Zobraska, in whose career the only satisfactory incident
history has to relate is the mere fact of his early demise. The
details are less exhilarating. The poor little Princess, happily
widowed at one-and-twenty, had shivered the idea of love out of her
system for some years. Then, as is the way of woman, she regained
her curiosities. Great lady, of enormous fortune, she could have
satisfied them, had she so chosen, with the large cynicism of a
Catherine of Russia. She could also, had she so chosen, have married
one of a hundred sighing and decorous gentlemen; but with none of
them had she fallen ever so little in love, and without love she
determined to try no more experiments; her determination, however,
did not involve surrender of interest in the subject. Hence the
notable discussion on the June night. Hence, perhaps, after a few
other meetings of a formal character, the prettily intimate
invitation she had sent to Paul.
They were still laughing at the turn of the foolish conversation
when the other guests began to enter the drawing-room. First came
Edward Doon, the Egyptologist, a good-looking man of forty, having
the air of a spruce don, with a pretty young wife, Lady Angela Doon;
then Count Lavretsky, of the Russian Embassy, and Countess
Lavretsky; Lord Bantry, a young Irish peer with literary ambitions;
and a Mademoiselle de Cressy, a convent intimate of the Princess and
her paid companion, completed the small party.
Dinner was served at a round table, and Paul found himself between
Lady Angela Doon, whom he took in, and the Countess Lavretsky. Talk
was general and amusing. As Doon did not make, and apparently did
not expect anyone to make any reference to King Qa or Amenhotep or
Rameses--names vaguely floating in Paul's brain--but talked in a
sprightly way about the French stage and the beauty of Norwegian
fiords, Paul perceived that the Princess's alleged reason for her
invitation was but a shallow pretext. Doon did not need any
entertainment at all. Lady Angela, however, spoke of her dismay at
the prospect of another winter in the desert; and drew a graphic
little sketch of the personal discomforts to which Egyptologists
"I always thought Egyptologists and suchlike learned folk were
stuffy and snuffy with goggles and ragged old beards," laughed Paul.
"Your husband is a revelation."
"Yes, he's quite human, isn't he?" she said with an affectionate
glance across the table. "He's dead keen on his work, but he
realizes--as many of his stuffy and snuffy confreres don't--that
there's a jolly, vibrating, fascinating, modern world in which one
"I'm glad to hear you say that about the modern world," said Paul.
"What is Lady Angela saying about the modern world?" asked the
Princess, separated from Paul's partner only by Count Lavretsky.
"Singing paeans in praise of it," said Paul.
"What is there in it so much to rejoice at?" asked the diplomatist,
in a harsh voice. He was a man prematurely old, and looked at the
world from beneath heavy, lizard-like eyelids.
"Not only is it the best world we've got, but it's the best world
we've ever had," cried Paul. "I don't know any historical world
which would equal the modern, and as for the prehistoric--well,
Professor Doon can tell us--"
"As a sphere of amenable existence," said Doon with a smile, "give
me Chetwood Park and Piccadilly."
"That is mere hedonism," said Count Lavretsky. "You happen, like us
all here, to command the creature comforts of modern wealthy
conditions, which I grant are exceedingly superior to those
commanded by the great Emperors of ancient times. But we are in a
small minority. And even if we were not--is that all?"
"We have a finer appreciation of our individualities," said the
Princess. "We lead a wider intellectual life. We are in instant
touch, practically, with the thought of the habitable globe."
"And with the emotive force of mankind," said Paul.
"What is that?" asked Lady Angela.
Why Paul, after the first glance of courtesy at the speaker, should
exchange a quick glance with the Princess would be difficult to say.
It was instinctive; as instinctive as the reciprocal flash of mutual
"I think I know, but tell us," she said.
Paul, challenged, defined it as the swift wave of sympathy that
surged over the earth. A famine in India, a devastating earthquake
in Mexico, a bid for freedom on the part of an oppressed population,
a deed of heroism at sea--each was felt within practically a few
moments, emotionally, in an English, French or German village. Our
hearts were throbbing continuously at the end of telegraph wires.
"And you call that pleasure?" asked Count Lavretsky.
"It isn't hedonism, at any rate," said Paul.
"I call it life," said the Princess. "Don't you?"--she turned to
"I think what Mr. Savelli calls the emotive force of mankind helps
to balance our own personal emotions," said be.
"Or isn't it rather a wear and tear on the nervous system?" laughed
"It seems so to me," said Count Lavretsky. "Perhaps, being a
Russian, I am more primitive and envy a nobleman of the time of
Pharaoh who never heard of devastations in Mexico, did not feel his
heart called upon to pulsate at anything beyond his own concerns. But
he in his wisdom at his little world was vanity and was depressed.
We moderns, with our infinitely bigger world and our infinitely
greater knowledge, have no more wisdom than the Egyptian, and we see
that the world is all the more vanity and are all the more
overwhelmed with despair."
"But--" said Paul.
"But--" cried the Princess.
Both laughed, and paused. Paul bowed with a slight gesture.
"I am not overwhelmed with despair," the Princess continued.
"Neither am I," said Paul.
"I am keeping my end up wonderfully," said Lady Angela.
"I am in a nest of optimists," Count Lavretsky groaned. "But was it
not you, Lady Angela, who talked of wear and tear.
"That was only to contradict my husband."
"What is all this about?" asked the Countess Lavretsky, who had been
discussing opera with Lord Bantry and Mademoiselle de Cressy.
Doon scientifically crystallized the argument. It held the octette,
while men-servants in powder and gold-laced livery offered poires
Zobraska, a subtle creation of the chef. Lord Bantry envied the
contemplative calm which unexciting circumstances allowed the
literary ancient. Mademoiselle de Cressy advanced the feminist view
in favour of the modern world. The talk became the light and dancing
interplay of opinion and paradox common to thousands of
"All the same," said Count Lavretsky, "they wear you out, these
emotive forces. Nobody is young nowadays. Youth is a lost art."
"On the contrary," cried Mademoiselle de Cressy in French.
"Everybody is young to-day. This pulsation of the heart keeps you
young. It is the day of the young woman of forty-five."
Count Lavretsky, who was fifty-nine, twirled a grey moustache. "I am
one of the few people in the world who do not regret their youth. I
do not regret mine, with its immaturity, its follies and subsequent
headaches. I would sooner be the scornful philosopher of sixty than
the credulous lover of twenty."
"He always talks like that," said the Countess to Paul; "but when he
met me first he was thirty-five--and"--she laughed--"and now
voila--for him there is no difference between twenty and sixty.
"It's very simple," declared Paul. "In this century the thirties,
forties, and fifties don't exist. You're either twenty or sixty."
"I hope I shall always be twenty," said the Princess lightly.
"Do you find your youth so precious, then?" asked Count Lavretsky.
"More than I ever did!" She laughed and again met Paul's eyes.
This time she flushed faintly as she held them for a fraction of a
second. He had time to catch a veiled soft gleam intimate and
disquieting. For some time he did not look again in her direction;
when he did, he met in her eyes only the lazy smile with which she
regarded all and sundry.
Later in the evening she said to him: "I'm glad you opposed
Lavretsky. He makes me shiver. He was born old and wrinkled. He has
never had a thrill in his life."
"And if you don't have thrills when you're young, you can't expect
to have them when you're old," said Paul.
"He would ask what was the good of thrills."
"You don't expect me to answer, Princess."
"We know because we're young."
They stood laughing in the joy of their full youth, a splendid
couple, some distance away from the others, ostensibly inspecting a
luminous little Cima on the wall. The Princess loved it as the
bright jewel of her collection, and Paul, with his sense of beauty
and knowledge of art, loved it too. Yet, instead of talking of the
picture, they talked of Lavretsky, who was looking at them
sardonically from beneath his heavy eyelids.
A FEW days afterwards you might have seen Paul dashing through the
quiet main street Of Morebury in a high dog-cart, on his way to call
on the Princess. A less Fortunate Youth might have had to walk,
risking boots impolitely muddy, or to hire a funereal cab from the
local job-master; but Paul had only to give an order, and the cart
and showy chestnut were brought round to the front door of Drane's
Court. He loved to drive the showy chestnut, whose manifold
depravities were the terror of Miss Winwood's life. Why didn't he
take the cob? It was so much safer. Whereupon he would reply gaily
that in the first place he found no amusement in driving woolly
lambs, and in the second that if he did not take some of the devil
out of the chestnut it would become the flaming terror of the
countryside. So Paul, spruce in hard felt hat and box-cloth
overcoat, clattered joyously through the Morebury streets, returning
the salutations of the little notabilities of the town with the air
of the owner not only of horse and cart, but of half the hearts in
the place. He was proud of his popularity, and it scarcely entered
his head that he was not the proprietor of his equipage. Besides, he
was going to call on the Princess. He hoped that she would be alone:
not that he had anything particular to say to her, or had any
defined idea of love-making; but he was eight-and-twenty, an age at
which desire has not yet failed and there is not the sign of a
burdensome grasshopper anywhere about.
But the Princess was not alone. He found Mademoiselle de Cressy in
charge of the tea-table and the conversation. Like many Frenchwomen,
she had a high-pitched voice; she also had definite opinions on
matter-of-fact subjects. Now when you have come to talk gossamer
with an attractive and sympathetic woman, it is irritating to have
to discuss Tariff Reform and the position of the working classes in
Germany with somebody else, especially when the attractive and
pretty woman does not give you in any way to understand that she
would prefer gossamer to such arid topics. The Princess was as
gracious as you please. She made him feel that he was welcome in her
cosy boudoir; but there was no further exchange of mutually
understanding glances. If a great lady entertaining a penniless
young man can be demure, then demure was the Princess Sophie
Zobraska. Paul, who prided himself on his knowledge of feminine
subtlety, was at fault; but who was he to appreciate the repressive
influence of a practical-minded convent friend, quickly formative
and loudly assertive of opinions, on an impressionable lady
awakening to curiosities? He was just a dunderhead, like any one of
us--just as much as the most eminent feminine psychologist
alive--which is saying a good deal. So he drove away disappointed, the
sobriety of the chestnut's return trot through Morebury contrasting
oddly with the dashing clatter of the former journey.
It was some time before he met the Princess again, for an autumn
session of Parliament required migration to Portland Place. The
Princess, indeed, came to London, shortly afterwards, to her great
house in Berkeley Square; but it was not till late November that he
was fortunate enough to see her. Then it was only a kiss of the hand
and a hurried remark or two, at a large dinner-party at the
Winwoods'. You see, there are such forces as rank and precedence at
London dinner-parties, to which even princesses and fortunate youths
have to yield.
On this occasion, as he bent over her hand, he murmured: "May I say
how beautiful you are to-night, Princess?"
She wore a costume of silver and deep blue, and the blue intensified
the blue depths of her eyes. "I am delighted to please monsieur,"
she said in French.
And that was their meeting. On parting she said again in French:
"When are you coming to see me, fickle one?"
"Whenever you ask me. I have called in vain."
"You have a card for my reception next Tuesday?"
"I have replied that I do myself the honour of accepting the
Princess's gracious invitation."
"I don't like London, do you?" she asked, allowing a touch of
wistfulness to inflect her voice.
"It has its charms. A row on the Serpentine, for instance, or a
bicycle ride in Battersea Park."
"How lovely it would be," she said, between laugh and sigh, "if only
it could be kept out of the newspapers! I see it from here under the
Fashionable Intelligence. 'The beautiful Princess Zobraska was
observed in a boat on the ornamental water in Regent's Park with the
well-known--tiens--what are you?--politician, say--with the
well-known young politician, Mr. Paul Savelli.' Quel scandale,
"I must content myself with kissing your finger tips at your
reception," said Paul.
She smiled. "We will find a means," she said.
At her reception, an assemblage glittering with the diamonds and
orders of the great ones of the earth, she found only time to say:
"Come to-morrow at five. I shall be alone."
Darkness descended on Paul as he replied: "Impossible, Princess.
Colonel Winwood wants me at the House."
The next morning, greatly daring, he rang her up; for a telephone
stood on the Fortunate Youth's table in his private sitting-room in
"It is I, Princess, Paul Savelli."
"What have you to say for yourself, Paul Savelli?"
"I am at your feet."
"Why can't you come to-day?"
"But tell Colonel Winwood that I want you"--the voice was
"Would that be wise, Princess?"
"Yes. Don't you see?"
He waited for an answer. There was blank electric current whirring
faintly on his ear. He thought she had rung off--rung off not only
this conversation, but all converse in the future. At last, after
the waiting of despair, came the voice, curiously meek. "Can you
"With joy and delight." The words gushed out tempestuously.
"Good. At five o'clock. And leave your John Bull wisdoril on the
She rang off abruptly, and Paul stood ruminating puzzlewise on the
On Friday he presented himself at her house in Berkeley Square. He
found her gracious, but ironical in attitude, very much on the
defensive. She received him in the Empire drawing room--very stiff
and stately in its appointments. It had the charm (and the intrinsic
value) of a museum; it was as cosy as a room (under present
arrangements) at Versailles. The great wood fire alone redeemed it
from artistic bleakness. Tea was brought in by portentous, powdered
footmen in scarlet and gold. She was very much the princess; the
princess in her state apartments, a different personage from the
pretty woman in a boudoir. Paul, sensitive as far as it is given man
to be, saw that if he had obeyed her and left his John Bull wisdom
on the doorstep, he would have regretted it. Obviously she was
punishing him; perhaps herself; perhaps both of them. She kept a
wary, appraising eye on him, as they talked their commonplaces.
Paul's attitude had the correctness of a young diplomatist paying a
first formal call. It was only when he rose to go that her glance
softened. She laughed a queer little laugh.
"I hear that you are going to address a meeting in the North of
London next week."
"That is so," said Paul; "but how can my unimportant engagements
have come to the ears of Your Highness?"
"I read my newspapers like everybody else. Did you not know that
there were announcements?"
Paul laughed. "I put them in myself. You see," he explained, "we
want our Young England League to be as widely known as possible. The
more lambs we can get into the fold, the better."
"Perhaps if you asked me very prettily," she said, "I might come
and bear you speak."
"Princess!" His olive cheek flushed with pleasure and his eyes
sparkled. "It would be an undreamed-of honour. It is such things
that angels do."
"Eh bien, je viendrai. You ought to speak well. Couldn't you
persuade them to give the place a better name? Hickney Heath! It
hurts the roof of one's mouth. Tiens--would it help the Young
England League if you announced my name in the newspapers?"
"Dear Princess, you overwhelm me. But--"
"Now, don't ask me if it is wise." She smiled in mockery. "You print
the names of other people who are supporting you. Mr. John Felton,
M.P., who will take the chair, Colonel Winwood, M.P., and Miss
Winwood, the Dean of Halifax and Lady Harbury, et cetera, et cetera.
Why not poor Princess Sophie Zobraska?"
"You have a good memory, Princess."
She regarded him lazily. "Sometimes. When does the meeting begin?"
"At eight. Oh, I forget." His face fell. "How can you manage it?
You'll have to dine at an unearthly hour."
"What does it matter even if one doesn't dine--in a good cause?"
"You are everything that is perfect," said Paul fervently.
She dismissed a blissful youth. The Princess Zobraska cared as much
for the Young England League as for an Anti-Nose-Ring Society in
Central Africa. Would it help the Young England League, indeed! He
laughed aloud on the lamp-lit pavement of decorous Berkeley Square.
For what other man in the world would she dine at six and spend the
evening in a stuffy hall in North London? He felt fired to great
achievement. He would make her proud of him, his Princess, his own
beautiful, stately, royal Princess. The dream had come true. He
loved a Princess; and she--? If she cared naught for him, why
was she cheerfully contemplating a six-o'clock dinner? And why did
she do a thousand other things which crowded on his memory? Was he
loved? The thought thrilled him. Here was no beautiful seductress of
suspect title such as he had heard of during his sojourn in the
Gotha Almanack world, but the lineal descendant of a princely house,
the widow of a genuinely royal, though deboshed personage. Perhaps
you may say that the hero of a fairy-tale never thinks of the mere
rank of his beloved princess. If you do, you are committing all
sorts of fallacies in your premises. For one thing, who said that
Paul was a hero? For another, who said this was a fairy-tale? For
yet another, I am not so sure that the swineherd is not impressed by
the rank of his beloved. You must remember the insistent, lifelong
dream of the ragged urchin. You must also reflect that the heart of
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