The Fortunate Youth
William J. Locke
Part 4 out of 6
any high-born youth in the land might well have been fluttered by
signs of peculiar favour from Princess Sophie Zobraska. Why' then,
should Paul be blamed for walking on air instead of greasy pavement
on the way from Berkeley Square to Portland Place? Moreover, as
sanity returned to him, his quick sense recognized in his Princess's
offer to support him, a lovely indiscretion. Foreign ladies of high
position must be chary of their public appearances. Between the
row-boat on the Serpentine and the platform in the drill hall,
Hickney Heath, the difference was but one of degree. And for him
alone was this indiscretion about to be committed. His exultation
was tempered by tender solicitude.
At dinner that evening--he was dining alone with the Winwoods--
he said: "I've persuaded the Princess to come to our meeting on
Friday. Isn't it good of her?"
"Very good," replied Colonel Winwood. "But what interest can she
take in the lower walks of English politics?"
"It isn't English politics," said Paul. "It's world politics. The
Princess is an aristocrat and is tremendously keen on the
Conservative principle. She thinks our scheme for keeping the youth
of the nation free from the taint of Socialism is magnificent."
"H'm!" said the Colonel.
"And I thought Miss Winwood would be pleased if I inveigled Her
Highness on to the platform," said Paul.
"Why, of course it's a good thing," assented the Colonel. "But how
the deuce did you get her?"
"Yes, how?" asked Miss Winwood, with a smile in her straight blue
"How does one get anything one wants in this world," said Paul,
"except by going at it, hammer and tongs?"
A little later, when Paul opened the dining-room for her to pass
out, she touched his shoulder affectionately and laughed. "Hammer
and tongs to Sophie Zobraska! Oh, Paul, aren't you a bit of a
Perhaps he was. But he was ingenuous in his desire to shield his
Princess's action from vain conjecture. It were better that he
should be supposed, in vulgar phrase, to have roped her in, as he
had roped in a hundred other celebrities in his time. For there the
matter ended. On the other hand, if he proclaimed the lady's
spontaneous offer, it might be subjected to heaven knew how many
interpretations. Paul owed much of his success in the world to such
instinctive delicacies. He worked far into the night, composing his
speech on England's greatness to the beautiful eyes of his French
The Young England League was his pet political interest. It had been
inaugurated some years before he joined the Winwoods. Its objects
were the training of the youth, the future electorate of England, in
the doctrines of Imperialism, Constitutionalism and sound civicism,
as understood by the intellectual Conservatives. Its mechanical aims
were to establish lodges throughout the country. Every town and
rural district should have its lodge, in connection wherewith should
be not only addresses on political and social subjects, but also
football and cricket clubs, entertainments for both sexes such as
dances, whist-drives, excursions of archaeological and educational
interest, and lantern (and, later, cinematographic) lectures on the
wide aspects of Imperial Britain. Its appeal was to the young, the
recruit in the battle of life, who in a year or two would qualify
for a vote and, except for blind passion and prejudice, not know
what the deuce to do with it. The octogenarian Earl of Watford was
President; Colonel Winwood was one of a long list of
Vice-Presidents; Miss Winwood was on the Council; a General Hankin,
a fussy, incompetent person past his prime, was Honorary Secretary.
Paul worked with his employers for a year on the League thinking
little of its effectiveness. One day, when they spoke despairingly
of progress, he said, not in so many words, but in effect: "Don't
you see what's wrong? This thing is run for young people, and you've
got old fossils like Lord Watford and General Hankin running it. Let
me be Assistant Secretary to Hankin' and I'll make things hum."
And thinking the words of the youth were wise, they used their
influence with the Council, and Paul became Assistant Secretary, and
after a year or two things began to hum so disconcertingly that
General Hankin resigned in order to take the Presidency of the
Wellingtonian Defence Association, and almost automatically Paul
slipped into his place. With the instinct of the man of affairs he
persuaded the Council to change his title. An Honorary Secretary is
but a dilettante, an amateur carrying no weight, whereas an
Organizing Secretary is a devil of a fellow professedly dynamic. So
Paul became Organizing Secretary of the Young England League, and
made things hum all the louder. He put fresh life into local
Committees and local Secretaries by a paternal interest in their
doings, making them feel the pulsations of the throbbing heart of
headquarters. If a local lodge was in need of speakers, he exercised
his arts of persuasion and sent them down in trainloads. He visited
personally as many lodges as his other work permitted. In fact, he
was raising the League from a jejune experiment into a flourishing
organization. To his secret delight, old Lord Watford resigned the
chairmanship owing to the infirmities of old age, and Lord Harbury,
a young and energetic peer whom Paul had recently driven into the
ranks of the Vice-Presidents, was elected in his stead. Paul felt
the future of the League was assured.
With a real Member of Parliament to preside, a. real dean to propose
the vote of thanks, another Member of Parliament and two ex-mayors
of the borough to add silent dignity to the proceedings, well-known
ladies, including, now, a real Princess to grace the assembly, this
meeting of the Hickney Heath Lodge was the most important occasion
on which Paul had appeared in public.
"I hope you won't be nervous," said Miss Winwood. on the morning of
"I nervous?" He laughed. "What is there to be nervous about?"
"I've had over twenty years' experience of public speaking, and I'm
always nervous when I get UP."
"It's only because you persistently refuse to realize what a
wonderful woman you are," he said affectionately.
"And you," she teased, "are you always realizing what a wonderful
man you are?"
He cried with his sunny boldness: "Why not? It's faith in oneself
and one's destiny that gets things done."
The drill hall was full. Party feeling ran high in those days at
Hickney Heath, for a Liberal had ousted a Unionist from a safe seat
at the last General Election, and the stalwarts of the defeated
party, thirsting for revenge, supported the new movement. If a child
was not born a Conservative, he should be made one. That was the
watchword of the League. They were also prepared to welcome the new
star that had arisen to guide the younger generation out of the
darkness. When, therefore, the Chairman, Mr. John Felton, M.P., who
had held minor office in the last administration, had concluded his
opening remarks, having sketched briefly the history of the League
and intro duced Mr. Paul Savelli, in the usual eulogistic terms, as
their irresistible Organizing Secretary, and Paul in his radiant
young manhood sprang up before them, the audience greeted him with
enthusiastic applause. They had expected, as an audience does expect
in an unknown speaker, any one of the usual types of ordinary
looking politicians--perhaps bald, perhaps grey headed, perhaps
pink and fat--it did not matter; but they did not expect the
magnetic personality of this young man of astonishing beauty, with
his perfect features, wavy black hair, athletic build and laughing
eyes, who seemed the embodiment of youth and joy and purpose and
Before he spoke a word, he knew that he bad them under his control,
and he felt the great thrill of it. Physically he had the
consciousness of a blaze of light, of a bare barn of an ungalleried
place, of thickly-set row upon row of faces, and a vast confused
flutter of beating hands. The applause subsided. He turned with his
"Mr. Chairman, Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen," to the circle
behind him, caught Miss Winwood, his dearest lady's smile, caught
and held for a hundredth part of a second the deep blue eyes of the
Princess--she wore a great hat with a grey feather and a
chinchilla coat thrown open, and looked the incarnation of all the
beauty and all the desires of all his dreams--and with a flash of
gladness faced the audience and plunged into his speech.
It began with a denunciation of the Little Englander. At that period
one heard, perhaps, more of the Little Englander than one does
nowadays--which to some people's way of thinking is a pity. The
Little Englander (according to Paul) was a purblind creature, with
political vision ice-bound by the economic condition of the
labouring classes in Great Britain. The Little Englander had no
sense of patriotism. The Little Englander had no sense of Empire. He
had no sense of India, Australia, Canada. He had no sense of foreign
nations' jealousy of England's secular supremacy. He had a distinct
idea, however, of three nationalities; those of Ireland, Scotland
and Wales. The inhabitants of those three small nations took
peculiar pains to hammer that idea into his head. But of England he
had no conception save as a mere geographical expression, a little
bit of red on a map of Europe, a vague place where certain sections
of the population clamoured for-much pay and little work. His dream
was a parochial Utopia where the Irish peasant, the Welsh farmer and
the Scottish crofter should live in luxury, and when these were
satisfied, the English operative should live in moderate comfort.
The Little Englander, in his insensate altruism, dreamed of these
three nations entirely independent of England, except in the trivial
matter of financial support. He wanted Australia, Canada, South
Africa, to sever their links from him and take up with America,
Germany, Switzerland--anybody so long as they did not interfere
with his gigantic scheme for providing tramps in Cromarty with motor
cars and dissolute Welsh shepherds with champagne. As for India, why
not give it up to a benign native government which would depend upon
the notorious brotherly love between Hindoo and Mussulman? If
Russia, foolish, unawakened Russia, took possession of it, what
would it matter to the miner of Merthyr Tydvil? As for England,
provided such a country existed, she would be perfectly happy. The
rich would provide for the poor--and what did anyone want further?
Paul took up the Little Englander in his arms and tossed him in the
air, threw him on the ground and jumped upon him. He cast his
mutilated fragments with rare picturesqueness upon a Guy Fawkes
bonfire. The audience applauded vociferously. He waited with a gay
smile for silence, scanning them closely for the first time; and
suddenly the smile faded from his face. In the very centre of the
third row sat two people who did not applaud. They were Barney Bill
He looked at them fascinated. There could be no mistake. Barney
Bill's cropped, shoe-brush hair was white as the driven snow; but
the wry, bright-eyed face was unchanged. And Jane, quietly and
decently dressed, her calm eyes fixed on him, was--Jane. These two
curiously detached themselves against the human background. It was
only the sudden stillness of the exhausted applause that brought him
to consciousness of his environment; that, and a heaven-sent fellow
at the back of the audience who shouted: "Go on, sonny!"
Whereupon he plucked himself together with a swift toss of the head,
and laughed his gay laugh. "Of course I'm going on, if you will let
me. This is only the beginning of what I've got to tell you of the
Englishman who fouls the nest of England--who fouls the nest of
all that matters in the future history of mankind."
There was more applause. It was the orator's appeal to the mass. It
set Paul back into the stream of his argument. He forgot Barney Bill
and Jane, and went on with his speech, pointedly addressing the
young, telling them what England was, what England is, what
Englishmen, if they are true to England, shall be. It was for the
young, those who came fresh to life with the glories of England
fresh in their memories, from Crecy to the Armada, from the Armada
to Waterloo, to keep the banner of England flying over their topmost
It was a fighting, enthusiastic, hyperbolic speech, glowing, as did
the young face of the speaker, with the divine fire of youth. It
ended triumphantly. He sat down to an ovation. Smiles and handshakes
and words of praise surrounded him on the platform. Miss Winwood
pressed his hand and said, "Well done." The Princess regarded him
with flushed cheeks and starry eyes. It was only when silence fell
on the opening words of the Dean of Halifax that he searched the
rows in front for Barney Bill and Jane. They were still there.
Impulsively he scribbled a few lines on a scrap of paper torn from
his rough notes: "I must see you. Wait outside the side entrance for
me after the meeting is over. Love to you both. Paul." A glance
round showed him an attendant of the hall lurking at the back of the
platform. He slipped quietly from his seat by the Chairman's side
and gave the man the paper with directions as to its destination.
Then he returned. just before the Dean ended, he saw the note
delivered. Jane read it, whispered its contents to Bill and seemed
to nod acquiescence. It was fitting that these two dear ghosts of
the past should appear for the first time in his hour of triumph. He
longed to have speech with them, The Dean of Halifax was brief, the
concluding ceremonies briefer. The audience gave Paul a parting
cheer and dispersed, while Paul, the hero of the evening, received
the congratulations of his friends.
"Those are things that needed saying, but we're too cautious to say
them," remarked the Chairman.
"We've got to be," said Colonel Winwood.
"The glory of irresponsibility," smiled the Dean.
"You don't often get this kind of audience," Paul answered with a
laugh. "A political infants' school. One has to treat things in
"You almost persuade me to be an Englishwoman," said. the Princess.
Paul bowed. "But what more beautiful thing can there be than a
Frenchwoman with England in her heart? Je ne demande pas mieux."
And the Princess did not put her hands to her ears.
The group passed slowly from the platform through a sort of
committee room at the back, and reached the side entrance, Here they
lingered, exchanging farewells. The light streamed dimly through the
door on the strip of pavement between two hedges of spectators, and
on the panelling and brass-work of an automobile by the curb. A
chauffeur, with rug on arm, stepped forward and touched his cap, as
the Princess appeared, and opened the door of the car. Paul,
bare-headed, accompanied her across the pavement. Halt way she
stopped for a second to adjust a slipping fur. He aided her quickly
and received a bright smile of thanks. She entered the car--held
out her hand for, his kiss.
"Come and see me soon. I'll write or telephone."
The car rolled away. The Winwoods' carriage drove up.
It was a fighting, enthusiastic, hyperbolic speech, glowing with the
divine fire of youth.
"Can we give you a lift home, Paul?" asked Miss Winwood.
"No thanks, dearest lady. There are one or two little things I must
do before I go."
"Good night, Paul," said Colonel Winwood, shaking hands. "A
thundering good speech."
PAUL looked from side to side at the palely lit faces of the
spectators, trying to distinguish Barney Bill and Jane. But he did
not see them. He was disappointed and depressed, seized with a
curious yearning for his own people. Vehicle after vehicle drew up
and carried away the remainder of the platform group, and Paul was
left in the doorway with the President and Honorary Secretary of the
local lodge. The little crowd began to melt away. Suddenly his heart
leaped and, after a hasty good night to the two officials, he sprang
forward and, to their astonishment, gripped the hand of a bent and
wizened old man.
"Barney Bill! This is good. Where is Jane?"
"Close by," said Bill.
The President and Honorary Secretary waved farewells and marched
away. Out of the gloom came Jane, somewhat shyly. He took both her
hands and looked upon her, and laughed. "My dear Jane! What ages
since we lost each other!"
"Seven years, Mr. Savelli."
"'Mr. Savelli I' Rubbish! Paul."
"Begging your pardon," said Barney Bill, "but I've got a pal 'ere
what I've knowed long before you was born, and he'd like to tell yer
how he enjoyed your speech."
A tall man, lean and bearded, and apparently very well dressed, came
"This is my old pal, Silas Finn," said Bill.
"Delighted to meet you, Mr. Finn," said Paul, shaking hands.
"I too," said the man gravely.
"Silas Finn's a Councillor of the Borough," said Bill proudly.
"You should have been on the platform," said Paul.
"I attended in my private capacity," replied Mr. Finn.
He effaced himself. Paul found himself laughing into Barney Bill's
twinkling eyes. "Dear old Bill," he cried, clapping his old friend
on the shoulder. "How are things going? How's the caravan? I've
looked out for it on so many country roads."
"I'm thinking of retiring," said Bill. "I can only do a few summer
months now--and things isn't what they was."
"And Jane?" He turned to her.
"I'm Mr. Finn's secretary."
"Oh," said Paul. Mr. Finn, then, was an important person.
The drill hall attendant shut the door, and save for the street
lamps they were in gloom. There was an embarrassed little silence.
Paul broke it by saying: "We must exchange addresses, and fix up a
meeting for a nice long talk."
"If you would like to have a talk with your old friends now, my
house is at your disposal," said Mr. Finn, in a soft, melancholy
voice. "It is not far from here."
"That's very kind of you--but I couldn't trespass on your
"Gor bless you," exclaimed Barney Bill. "Nothing of the kind. Didn't
I tell yer I've knowed him since we was lads together? And Jane
Paul laughed. "In that case--"
"You'll be most welcome," said Mr. Finn. "This way."
He went ahead with Barney Bill, whose queer side limp awoke poignant
memories of the Bludston brickfield. Paul followed with Jane.
"And what have you been doing?" he asked.
"Typewriting. Then Bill came across Mr. Finn, whom he hadn't seen
for years, and got me the position of secretary. Otherwise I've been
doing nothing particular."
"If you knew what a hunt I had years ago to find you," he said, and
began to explain the set of foolish circumstances when they turned
the corner of the drill hall and found a four-wheeled cab waiting.
"I had already engaged it for my friends and myself," Mr. Finn
explained. "Will you get in?"
Jane and Paul and Mr. Finn entered the cab. Barney Bill, who liked
air and for whom the raw November night was filled apparently with
balmy zephyrs, clambered in his crablike way next the driver. They
"What induced you to come to-night?" Paul asked.
"We saw the announcement in the newspapers," replied Jane. "Barney
Bill said the Mr. Paul Savelli could, be no one else but you. I said
"Why?" he asked sharply.
"There are heaps of people of the same name."
"But you didn't think I was equal to it?"
She laughed a short laugh. "That's just how you used to talk. You
haven't changed much."
"I hope I haven't," replied Paul earnestly. "And I don't think
you've changed either."
"Very little has happened to change me," said Jane.
The cab lumbered on through dull, dimly lit, residential roads. Only
by the swinging gleam of an occasional street lamp could Paul
distinguish the faces of his companions. "I hope you're on our side,
Mr. Finn," he said politely to his host, who sat on the small back
"I don't disagree with much that you said to-night. But you are on
the side of wealth and aristocracy. I am on the side of the
downtrodden and oppressed."
"But so am I," cried Paul. "The work of every day of my life tends
to help them."
"You're a Conservative and I'm a Radical."
"What do labels matter? We're both attacking the same problem, only
from different angles."
"Very likely, Mr. Savelli; but you'll pardon me if, according to my
political creed, I regard your angle as an obtuse one."
Paul wondered greatly who he could be, this grave, intelligent
friend of Barney Bill's, who spoke with such dignity and courtesy.
In his speech was a trace of rough accent; but his words were chosen
"You think we glance off, whereas your attack is more direct,"
"That is so. I hope you don't mind my saying it. You were the
"I was. But anyhow we're not going to be enemies."
"God forbid," said Mr. Finn.
Presently the cab stopped before a fairly large detached house
standing back from the road. A name which Paul could not decipher
was painted on the top bar of the gate. They trooped through and up
some steps to the front door, which Mr. Finn opened with his
latchkey. The first impression that Paul had on entering a wide
vestibule was a blaze of gilt frames containing masses of bright,
fresh paint. A parlour-maid appeared, and helped with hats and
"We are having a very simple supper, Mr. Savelli. Will you join us?"
said Mr. Finn.
"With the greatest pleasure," said Paul.
The host threw open the dining-room door on the right. Jane and Paul
entered; were alone for a few moments, during which Paul heard
Barney Bill say in a hoarse whisper: "Let me have my hunk of bread
and beef in the kitchen, Silas. You know as how I hates a fork and I
likes to eat in my shirt sleeves."
Paul seized Jane by the arms and regarded her luminously. He
murmured: "Did you hear? The dear old chap!"
She raised clear, calm eyes. "Aren't you shocked?"
He shook her. "What do you take me for?"
Jane was rebellious. "For what girls in my position generally call a
"You're horrid," said Paul.
"The word's horrid, not me. You're away up above us."
"'Us' seems to be very prosperous, anyhow," said Paul, looking
round him. Jane watched him jealously and saw his face change. The
dining room, spaciously proportioned, was, like the vestibule, a
mass of gilt frames and staring paint. Not an inch of wall above the
oak dado was visible. Crude landscapes, wooden portraits, sea
studies with waves of corrugated iron, subject pictures of
childishly sentimental appeal, blinded the eyes. It looked as if a
kindergarten had been the selecting committee for an exhibition of
the Royal Academy. It looked also as if the kindergarten had
replaced the hanging committee also. It was a conglomerate massacre.
It was pictorial anarchy. It was individualism baresark, amok,
crazily frantic. And an execrably vile, nerve-destroying
individualism at that.
Paul released Jane, who kept cool, defiant eyes on him.
"What do you think of it?"
He smiled. "A bit disconcerting."
"The whole house is like this."
"It's so new," said Paul.
He looked about him again. The long table was plainly laid for three
at the far end. The fare consisted of a joint of cold beef, a cold
tart suggestive of apple, a bit of Cheshire cheese, and celery in a
glass vase. Of table decoration of any kind there was no sign. A
great walnut monstrosity meagrely equipped performed the functions
of a sideboard. The chairs, ten straight-backed, and two easy by the
fireplace, of which one was armless, were upholstered in saddlebag,
yellow and green. In the bay of the red-curtained window was a huge
terra-cotta bust of an ivy-crowned and inane Austrian female. There
was a great fireplace in which a huge fire blazed cheerily, and on
the broad, deep hearth stood little coloured plaster figures of
stags, of gnomes, of rabbits, one ear dropping, the other ear
cocked, of galloping hounds unknown to the fancy, scenting and
pursuing an invisible foe.
She watched him as he scanned the room.
"Who is Mr. Finn?" he asked in a low voice.
"Many years ago he was 'Finn's Fried Fish.' Now he's 'Fish Palaces,
Limited.' They're all over London. You can't help seeing them even
from a motor car."
"I've seen them," said Paul.
The argument outside the door having ended in a victory for the
host, he entered the room, pushing Barney Bill gently in front of
him. For the first time Paul saw him in the full light. He beheld a
man sharply featured, with hair and beard, once raven-black,
irregularly streaked with white--there seemed to be no
intermediary shades of grey--and deep melancholy eyes. There hung
about him the atmosphere of infinite, sorrowful patience that might
mark a Polish patriot. As the runner of a successful fried fish
concern he was an incongruity. As well, thought Paul, picture the
late Cardinal Newman sharpening knife on steel outside a butcher's
shop, and crying, "buy, buy," in lusty invitation. Then Paul noticed
that he was oddly apparelled. He wore the black frock-coat suit of a
Methodist preacher at the same time as the rainbow tie, diamond
tie-pin, heavy gold watch-chain, diamond ring and natty spats of a
professional bookmaker. The latter oddities, however, did not
detract from the quiet, mournful dignity of his face and manner.
Paul felt himself in the presence of an original personality.
The maid came in and laid a fourth place. Mr. Finn waved Paul to a
seat on his right, Barney Bill to one next Paul; Jane sat on his
"I will ask a blessing," said Mr. Finn.
He asked one for two minutes in the old-fashioned Evangelical way,
bringing his guest into his address to the Almighty with an almost
pathetic courtesy. "I am afraid, Mr. Savelli," said he, when he sat
down and began to carve the beef, "I have neither wine nor spirits
to offer you. I am a strict teetotaller; and so is Miss Seddon. But
as I knew my old friend Simmons would be unhappy without his
accustomed glass of beer--"
"That's me," said Barney Bill, nudging Paul with his elbow.
"Simmons. You never knowed that afore, did yer? Beg pardon, guv'nor,
"Well, there's a jug of beer--and that is all at this hour, except
water, that I can put before you."
Paul declared that beer was delicious and peculiarly acceptable
after public speaking, and demonstrated his appreciation by draining
the glass which the maid poured out.
"You wanted that badly, sonny," said Barney Bill. "The next thing to
drinking oneself is to see another chap what enjoys swallering it."
"Bill!" said Jane reprovingly.
Barney Bill cocked his white poll across the table with the
perkiness of a quaint bird--Paul saw that the years had brought a
striation of tiny red filaments to his weather-beaten face--and
fixed her with his little glittering eyes. "Bill what? You think I'm
'urting his feelings?" He jerked a thumb towards his host. "I ain't.
He thinks good drink's bad because bad has come of it to him--not
that he ever took a drop too much, mind yer--but bad has come of
it to him, and I think good drink's good because nothing but good
has come of it to me. And we've agreed to differ. Ain't we, Silas?"
"If every man were as moderate as you, and I am sure as Mr. Savelli,
I should have nothing to say against it. Why should I? But the
working man, unhappily, is not moderate."
"I see," said Paul. "You preach, or advocate--I think you preach--total
abstinence, and so feel it your duty to abstain yourself."
"That is so," said Mr. Finn, helping himself to mustard. "I don't
wish to bore you with my concerns; but I'm a fairly large employer
of labour. Now I have found that by employing only pledged
abstainers I get extraordinary results. I exact a very high rate of
insurance, towards a fund--I need not go into details--to which
I myself contribute a percentage--a far higher rate than would be
possible if they spent their earnings on drink. I invest the whole
lot in my business--their stoppages from wages and my
contributions. I guarantee them 3 per cent.; I give them, actually,
the dividends that accrue to the holders of ordinary stock in my
company. They also have the general advantages of insurance--
sickness, burial, maternity, and so forth--that they would get
from an ordinary benefit society."
"But that's enormous," cried Paul, with keen interest. "On the face
of it, it seems impossible. It seems entirely uneconomic.
Co-operative trading is one thing; private insurance another. But
how can you combine the two?"
"The whole secret lies in the marvellously increased efficiency of
the employee." He developed his point.
Paul listened attentively. "But," said he, when his host concluded,
"isn't it rather risky? Supposing, for the sake of argument, your
Mr. Finn held up the lean, brown hand on which the diamond sparkled.
"My business cannot fail."
Paul started. The assertion had a strange solemnity. "Without
impertinence," said he, "why can't it fail?"
"Because God is guiding it," said Silas Finn.
The fanatic spoke. Paul regarded him with renewed interest. The
black hair streaked with white, banging over the temples on the side
away from the parting, the queerly streaked beard, the clear-cut
ascetic features, the deep, mournful eyes in whose depths glowed a
soul on fire, gave him the appearance of a mad but sanctified
apostle. Barney Bill, who profoundly distrusted all professional
drinkers of water, such as Mr. Finn's employees, ate his cold beef
silently, in the happy surmise that no one was paying the least
attention to his misperformances with knife, fork and fingers. Jane
looked steadily from Paul to Silas and from Silas to Paul.
Paul said: "How do you know God is guiding it?"
At the back of his mind was an impulse of mirth--there was a touch
of humorous blasphemy in the conception of the Almighty as managing
director of "Fish Palaces, Limited"--but the nominal earthly
managing director saw not the slightest humour in the proposition.
"Who is guiding you in your brilliant career?" he asked.
Paul threw out his hands, in the once practised and now natural
foreign gesture. "I'm not an atheist. Of course I believe in God,
and I thank Him for all His mercies--"
"Yes, yes," said his host. "That I shouldn't question. But a
successful man's thanks to God are most often merely conventional.
Don't think I wish to be offensive. I only want to get at the root
of things. You are a young man, eight-and-twenty--"
"How do you know that?" laughed Paul.
"Oh, your friends have told me. You are young. You have a brilliant
position. You have a brilliant future. Were you born to it?"
There was Jane on the opposite side of the table, entirely
uninterested in her food, looking at him in her calm, clear way. She
was so wholesome, so sane, in her young yet mature English
lower-class beauty. She had broad brows. Her mass of dark brown hair
was rather too flawlessly arranged. He felt a second's irritation at
not catching any playfully straying strand. She was still the Jane
of his boyhood, but a Jane developed, a Jane from whom no secrets
were hid, a searching, questioning and quietly disturbing Jane.
"A man is born to his destiny, whatever destiny may be," said Paul.
"That is Mohammedan fatalism," said Mr. Finn, "unless one means by
destiny the guiding hand of the Almighty. Do you believe that you're
under the peculiar care of God?"
"Do you, Mr. Finn?"
"I have said so. I ask you. Do you?"
"In a general way, yes," said Paul. "In your particular sense, no.
You question me frankly and I answer frankly. You would not like me
to answer otherwise."
"Certainly not," said his host.
"Then," Paul continued, with a smile, "I must say that from my
childhood I have been fired with a curious certainty that I would
succeed in life. Chance has helped me. How far a divine hand has
been specially responsible, it isn't for me to conjecture. But I
know that if I hadn't believed in myself I shouldn't have had my
small measure of success."
"You believe in yourself?"
"Yes. And I believe in making others believe in me."
"That is strange--very strange." Mr. Finn fixed him with his deep,
sorrowful eyes. "You believe that you're predestined to a great
position. You believe that you have in you all that is needful to
attain it. That has carried you through. Strange!" He put his hand
to his temple, elbow on table, and still regarded Paul. "But there's
God behind it all. Mr. Savelli," he said earnestly, after a slight
pause, "you are twenty-eight; I am fifty-eight; so I'm more than old
enough to be your father. You'll forgive my taking up the attitude
of the older man. I have lived a life such as your friends on the
platform to-night--honorable, clean, sweet people--I've nothing
to say against them--have no conception. I am English, of course--London
born. My father was an Englishman; but my mother was a
Sicilian. She used to go about with a barrel-organ--my father ran
away with her. I have that violent South in my blood, and I've lived
nearly all my days in London. I've had to pay dearly for my blood.
The only compensation it has given me is a passion for art"--he
waved his lean, bediamonded hand towards the horrific walls. "That
is external--in a way--mere money has enabled me to gratify my
tastes; but, as I was saying, I have lived a life of strange
struggle, material, physical, and"--he brought down his free hand
with a bang on the table--"it is only by the grace of God and the
never-ceasing presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ by my side, that--
that I am able to offer you my modest hospitality this evening."
Paul felt greatly drawn to the man. He was beyond doubt sincere. He
wore the air of one who had lived fiercely, who had suffered, who
had conquered; but the air of one whose victory was barren, who was
looking into the void for the things unconquerable yet essential to
salvation. Paul made a little gesture of attention. He could find no
words to reply. A man's deep profession of faith is unanswerable.
"Ah," said Barney Bill, "you ought to have come along o' me, Silas,
years ago in the old 'bus. You mightn't have got all these bright
pictures, but you wouldn't have had these 'ere gloomy ideas. I don't
say as how I don't hold with Gawd," he explained, with uplifted
forefinger and cocked head; "but if ever I thinks of Him, I like to
feel that He's in the wind or in the crickle-crackle of the earth,
just near and friendly like, but not a-worrying of a chap, listening
for every cuss-word as he uses to his old horse, and measuring every
half-pint he pours down his dusty throat. No. That ain't my idea of
Gawd. But then I ain't got religion."
"Still the same old pagan," laughed Paul.
"No, not the same, sonny," said Barney Bill, holding up his knife,
which supported a morsel of cheese. "Old. Rheumaticky. Got to live
in a 'ouse when it rains--me who never keered whether I was baked
to a cinder or wet through! I ain't a pagan no more. I'm a crock."
Jane smiled affectionately at the old man, and her face was lit with
rare sweetness when she smiled. "He really is just the same," she
"He hasn't changed much in forty years," said Mr. Finn.
"I was a good Conservative then, as I am now," said Bill. "That's
one thing, anyhow. So was you, Silas. But you had Radical leanings."
Barney Bill's remark set the talk on political lines. Paul learned
that his host had sat for a year or more as a Progressive on the
Hickney Heath Borough Council and aspired to a seat in Parliament.
"The Kingdom of Heaven," said he, not unctuously or hypocritically,
but in his grave tone of conviction, "is not adequately represented
in the House."
Paul pointed out that in the House of Lords one had the whole bench
"I'm not a member of the Established Church, Mr. Savelli," replied
Mr. Finn. "I'm a Dissenter--a Free Zion'st."
"I've heard him conduc' the service," said Barney Bill. "He built
the Meeting House close by, yer know. I goes sometimes to try and
get converted. But I'm too old and stiff in the j'ints. No longer a
pagan, but a crock, sonny. But I likes to listen to him. Gorbli--
bless me, it's a real bean feast--that's what it is. He talks
straight from the shoulder, he does, just as you talked to-night.
Lets 'em 'ave it bing-bang in the eye. Don't he, Jane?"
"Bill means," she explained, with the shadow of a smile, for Paul's
benefit, "that Mr. Finn is an eloquent preacher."
"D'yer suppose he didn't understand what I meant Y' he exclaimed,
setting down the beer glass which he was about to raise to his lips.
"Him, what I discovered reading Sir Walter Scott with the cover off
when he was a nipper with no clothes on? You understood, sonny.
"Of course I did." He laughed gaily and turned to his host, who had
suffered Barney Bill's queer eulogy with melancholy indulgence. "One
of these days I should like to come and hear you preach."
"Any Sunday, at ten and six. You would be more than welcome."
The meal was over. Barney Bill pulled a blackened clay pipe from his
waistcoat pocket and a paper of tobacco.
"I'm a non-smoker," said Mr. Finn to Paul, "and I'm sorry I've
nothing to offer you--I see little company, so I don't keep cigars
in the house--but if you would care to smoke---" he waved a
courteous and inviting hand.
Paul whipped out his cigarette case. It was of gold--a present
last Christmas from the Winwood fitting part of the equipment of a
Fortunate Youth. He opened it, offered a cigarette to Barney Bill.
"Garn!" said the old man. "I smokes terbakker," and he filled his
pipe with shag.
Mr. Finn rose from the table. "Will you excuse me, Mr. Savelli, if I
leave you? I get up early to attend to my business. I must be at
Billingsgate at half-past five to buy my fish. Besides, I have been
preventing your talk with our friends. So pray don't go. Good-night,
As he shook hands Paul met the sorrowful liquid eyes fixed on him
with strange earnestness. "I must thank you for your charming
hospitality. I hope you'll allow me to come and see you again."
"My house is yours."
It was a phrase--a phrase of Castilian politeness--oddly out of
place in the mouth of a Free Zionist purveyor of fried fish. But it
seemed to have more than a Castilian, more than a Free Zionist
significance. He was still pondering over it when Mr. Finn, having
bidden Jane and Barney Bill good-night, disappeared.
"Ah!" said Barney Bill, lifting up the beer jug in order to refill
his glass, and checked whimsically by the fact of its emptiness.
"Ah," said he, setting down the jug and limping round the table,
"let us hear as how you've been getting on, sonny."
They drew their chairs about the great. hearth, in which the idiotic
little Viennese plaster animals sported in movement eternally
arrested, and talked of the years that had passed. Paul explained
once more his loss of Jane and his fruitless efforts to find her.
"We didn't know," said Jane. "We thought that either you were dead
or had forgotten us--or had grown too big a man for us."
"Axing your pardon," said Barney Bill, taking his blackened clay
from his lips and holding it between his gnarled fingers, "you said
so. I didn't. I always held that, if he wasn't dead, the time would
come when, as it was to-night, the three of us would be sitting
round together. I maintained," he added solemnly after a puff or
two, "that his heart was in the right place. I'm a broken-down old
crock, no longer a pagan; but I'm right. Ain't I, sonny?" He thrust
an arm into the ribs of Paul, who was sitting between them.
Paul looked at Jane. "I think this proves it."
She returned his look steadily. "I own I was wrong. But a woman only
proves herself to be right by always insisting that she is wrong."
"My dear Jane," cried Paul. "Since when have you become so
"Gorblime," said Barney Bill, "what in thunder's that?"
"I know," said Jane. "You"--to Paul--"were good enough to begin
my education. I've tried since to go on with it."
"It's nothing to do with edication," said Barney Bill. "It's fac's.
Let's have fac's. Jane and I have been tramping the same old
high-road, but you've been climbing mountains--yer and yer gold
cigarette cases. Let's hear about it."
So Paul told his story, and as he told it, it seemed to him, in its
improbability, more like a fairy-tale than the sober happenings of
"You've said nothing about the princess," Jane remarked, when he had
"Yes. Where does she come in?"
"The Princess Zobraska is a friend of my employers."
"But you and she are great friends," Jane persisted quietly. "That's
obvious to anybody. I was standing quite close when you helped her
into the motor car."
"I didn't see you."
"I took care you didn't. She looks charming."
"Most princesses are charming--when they've no particular reason
to be otherwise," said Paul. "It is their metier--their
There was a little silence. Jane, cheek on hand, looked thoughtfully
into the fire. Barney Bill knocked' the ashes out of his pipe and
thrust it in his pocket. "It's getting late, sonny."
Paul looked at his watch. It was past one o'clock. He jumped up. "I
hope to goodness you haven't to begin work at half-past five," he
said to Jane.
"No. At eight." She rose as he stretched out his hand. "You don't
know what it is to see you again, Paul. I can't tell you. Some
things are upsetting. But I'm glad. Oh, yes, I'm glad, Paul dear.
Don't think I'm not."
Her voice broke a little. They were the first gentle words she had
given him all the evening. Paul smiled and kissed her hand as he had
kissed that of the princess, and, still holding it, said: "Don't I
know you of old? And if you suppose I haven't thought of you and
felt the need of you, you're very much mistaken. Now I've found you,
I'm not going to let you go again."
She turned her head aside and looked down; there was the slightest
movement of her plump shoulders. "What's the good? I can't do
anything for you now, and you can't do anything for me. You're on
the way to becoming a great man. To me, you're a great man already.
Don't you see?"
"My dear, I was an embryonic Shelley, Raphael, Garrick, and Napoleon
when you first met me," he said jestingly.
"But then you didn't belong to their--to their sphere. Now you do.
Your friends are lords and ladies and--and princesses--"
"My friends," cried Paul, "are people with great true hearts--like
the Winwoods--and the princess, if you like--and you, and Barney
"That's a sentiment as does you credit," said the old man. "Great
true hearts! Now if you ain't satisfied, my dear, you're a damn
criss-cross female. And yer ain't, are yer?' She laughed and Paul
laughed. The little spell of intensity was broken. There were
"I'll set you on your road a bit," said Barney Bill. "I live in the
neighbourhood. Good-bye, Jane."
She went with them to the front door, and stood in the gusty air
watching them until they melted into the darkness.
BETWEEN the young man of immaculate vesture, of impeccable manners,
of undeniable culture, of instinctive sympathy with the great world
where great things are done, of unerring tact, of mythological
beauty and charm, of boundless ambition, of resistless energy, of
incalculable promise, in outer semblance and in avowed creed the
fine flower of aristocratic England, professing the divine right of
the House of Lords and the utilitarian sanctity of the Church of
England--between Paul, that is to say, and the Radical,
progressive councillor of Hickney Heath, the Free Zionist dissenter
(not even Congregationalist or Baptist or Wesleyan, or any
powerfully organized Non-conformist whose conscience archbishops
consult with astute patronage), the purveyor of fried fish, the man
of crude, uncultivated taste, there should have been a gulf fixed as
wide as the Pacific Ocean. As a matter of fact, whatever gulf lay
between them was narrow enough to be bridged comfortably over by
mutual esteem. Paul took to visiting Mr. Finn. Accustomed to the
somewhat tired or conventional creeds of his political world, he
found refreshment in the man's intense faith. He also found pathetic
attraction in the man's efforts towards self-expression. Mr. Finn,
who lived a life of great loneliness--scarcely a soul, said Jane,
crossed his threshold from month's end to month's end--seemed
delighted to have a sympathetic visitor to whom he could display his
painted treasures. When he was among them the haunting pain vanished
from his eyes, as sometimes one has seen it vanish from those of an
unhappy woman among her flowers. He loved to take Paul through his
collection and point out the beauties and claim his admiration. He
had converted a conservatory running along one side of the house
into a picture gallery, and this was filled with his masterpieces of
pictorial villainy. Here Paul was at first astonished at recognizing
replicas of pictures which hung in other rooms. Mr. Finn explained.
"These," said he, "are the originals."
Paul pondered over the dark saying for a moment or two until he came
upon a half-finished canvas on an easel. It was the copy of a
landscape on the wall. He turned questioningly to his host. The
"I'm a bit of an artist myself," he said. "But as I've never had
time for lessons in painting, I teach myself by copying good
pictures. It's a Saunders"--a name unknown to Paul--"and a very
good example. It's called Noontide. The cow is particularly good,
isn't it? But it's exceedingly difficult. That fore-shortening--I
can't get it quite right yet. But I go on and on till I succeed. The
Paul acquiesced and asked him where he had picked up his Saunders.
Indeed, where had he picked up all the others? Not an exhibition in
London would have admitted one of them. This "Saunders" represented
a wooden cow out of drawing lying in the shade of a conventional
tree. It was peculiarly bad.
"I bought it direct from the artist," replied Mr. Finn. "He's an
unrecognized genius, and now he's getting old, poor fellow. Years
ago he offended the Royal Academy, and they never forgot it. He says
they've kept him under all his life. I have a great many of his
pictures." He looked admiringly at the cow for a while, and added:
"I gave him four pounds ten for this one."
Paul could not forbear saying, though his tone betrayed no irony: "A
"I think so," replied Mr. Finn. "That's what he asked. I could never
haggle with an artist. His work is of the spirit, isn't it?"
And Paul marvelled at the childlike simplicity of the man, the son
of the Sicilian woman who went about with a barrel-organ, who,
starting in the race on a level with Barney Bill, had made a fortune
in the exploitation of fried fish. To disturb his faith in the
genius of Saunders were a crime--as base a crime as proving to a
child the non-existence of fairies. For Paul saw that Silas Finn
found in this land of artistic illusion a refuge from many things;
not only from the sordid cares of a large business, but perhaps also
from the fierce intensity of his religion, from his driving and
compelling deity. Here God entered gently.
There was another reason, which Paul scarcely confessed to himself,
for the pleasure he found in the older man's company. The veil which
he had thrown so adroitly over his past history, which needed
continuous adroitness to maintain, was useless in this house. Both
Barney Bill and Jane had spoken of him freely. Silas Finn knew of
Bludston, of his modeldom, of his inglorious career on the stage. He
could talk openly once more, without the never-absent subconscious
sense of reserve. He was still, in his own, eyes, the prince out of
the fairy-tale; but Silas Finn and the two others alone of his
friends shared the knowledge of the days when he herded swine. Now a
prince out of a fairy-tale who has herded swine is a romantic
figure. Paul did not doubt that he was one. Even Jane, in spite of
her direct common sense, admitted it. Barney Bill proclaimed it
openly, slapping him on the back and taking much credit to himself
for helping the prince on the way to his kingdom. And Mr. Finn, even
in the heat of political discussion or theological asseveration,
treated him with a curious and pathetic deference.
Meanwhile Paul pursued his own career of glory. The occasional
visits to Hickney Heath were, after all, but rare, though distinct,
episodes in his busy life. He had his parliamentary work for Colonel
Winwood, his work for Miss Winwood, his work for the Young England
League. He had his social engagements. He had the Princess Zobraska.
He also began to write, in picturesque advocacy of his views, for
serious weekly and monthly publications. Then Christmas came and lie
found himself at Drane's Court, somewhat gasping for breath. A large
houseparty, however, including Lord Francis Ayres, the chief
Opposition Whip, threatened to keep him busy.
The Princess drove over from Chetwood Park for dinner on Christmas
Day. He had to worship from afar; for a long spell of the evening to
worship with horrible jealousy. Lord Francis Ayres, a bachelor and a
man of winning charm, as men must be whose function it is to keep
Members of Parliament good and pleased with themselves and
sheeplike, held the Princess captive, in a remote corner, with his
honeyed tongue. She looked at him seductively out of her great,
slumberous blue eyes, even as she had looked, on occasion, at him,
Paul. He hated Lord Francis, set himself up against him, as of old
he had set himself up against Billy Goodge. He was a better man than
Frank Ayres. Frank Ayres was only a popinjay. Beneath the tails of
his coat he snapped his fingers at Frank Ayres, while he listened,
with his own agreeable smile, to Mademoiselle de Cressy's devilled
He was very frigid and courtly when he bade the Princess good night
at the door of her limousine.
"Ah, que vous etes bete!" she laughed.
He went to bed very angry. She had told him to his face that he was
a silly fool. And so he was. He thought of all the brilliantly
dignified things he might have said, if the relentless engine had
not whirred her away down the drive. But the next morning Lord
Francis met him in the wintry garden and smiled and held out a
winning hand. Paul hid his hatred beneath the mask of courtesy. They
talked for a few moments of indifferent matters. Then Frank Ayres
suddenly said: "Have you ever thought of standing for Parliament?"
Paul, who had been sauntering between flowerless beds with his
companion, stood stock still. The Chief Whip of a political party is
a devil of a fellow. To the aspiring young politician he is much
more a devil of a fellow than the Prime Minister or any Secretary of
State. If a Chief Whip breathes the suggestion that a man might
possibly stand for election as a Member of Parliament, it means that
at any suitable vacancy, or at a general election, be will, with
utter certainty, have his chance as a candidate with the whole force
of his party behind him. It is part of the business of Chief Whips
to find candidates.
"Of course," said Paul, rather stupidly. "Eventually. One of these
Paul's head reeled. What did he mean by soon? "Well," Lord Francis
laughed, "not to-morrow. But pretty soon. Look here, Savelli. I'm
going to speak frankly. The party's in for a long period out of
office. That's obvious. Look at the majority against us. We want the
young blood--not the old hacks--so that when we come in again we
shall have a band of trained men in the heyday of their powers. Of
course I know--it's my business to know--what generally you have
done for the Young England League, but I missed your speech at
Flickney Heath in the autumn. You had an immense success, hadn't
"They seemed pleased with what I had to say," replied Paul modestly.
"When did you hear about it?"
"The Winwoods are the dearest people in the world," said Paul,
walking warily, "but they are prejudiced in my favour."
"It wasn't the Winwoods."
The beautiful truth flashed upon Paul.
"Then it was the Princess Zobraska."
The other laughed. "Never mind. I know all about it. It isn't often
one has to listen to speeches at second-hand. The question is: Would
you care to stand when the time comes?"
"I should just think I would," cried Paul boyishly.
All his jealous resentment had given place to exultation. It was the
Princess who had told Frank Ayres. If she had been laying him under
the spell of her seduction it was on his, Paul's, account. She had
had the splendid audacity to recite his speech to the Chief Whip.
Frank Ayres was suddenly transformed from a popinjay into an
admirable fellow. The Princess herself sat enthroned more adorable
"The only difficulty," said Paul, "is that I have to earn my
"That might be arranged," said Lord Francis.
So Paul, as soon as he found an opportunity, danced over to Chetwood
Park and told his Princess all about it, and called her a tutelary
goddess and an angel and all manner of pretty names. And the
Princess, who was alone, poured for him her priceless Russian tea
into egg-shell China tea-cups and fed him on English crumpets, and,
in her French and feminine way, gave him the outer fringe of her
heart to play with--a very dangerous game. She had received him,
not as once before in the state drawing room, but in the intimacy of
her own boudoir, a place all soft lights and cushions and tapestries
and gleaming bits of sculpture. After tea and crumpets had been
consumed, the dangerous game proceeded far enough for Paul to
confess his unjust dislike of Frank Ayres.
"Gros jaloux," said the Princess.
"That was why you said que vous etes bete," said he.
"What were the other reasons?"
"Any woman has a thousand reasons for calling any man stupid."
"Tell me some of them at any rate."
"Well, isn't it stupid of a man to try to quarrel with his best
friend when he won't be seeing her again for three or four months?"
"You're not going away soon?"
"Ohl" said Paul.
"Yes. I go to Paris, then to my villa at Mont Boron. I have the
nostalgia of my own country, you see. Then to Venice at Easter."
I Paul looked at her wistfully, for life seemed suddenly very blank
and dismal. "What shall I do all that time without my best friend?"
"You will probably find another and forget her."
She was lying back among cushions, pink and terra-cotta, and a round
black cushion framed her delicate head.
Paul said in a low voice, bending forward: "Do you think you are a
woman whom men forget?"
Their eyes met. The game had grown very perilous. "Men may remember
the princess," she replied, "but forget the woman."
"If it weren't for the woman inside the princess; what reason should
I have for remembering?" he asked.
She fenced. "But, as it is, you don't see me very often."
"I know. But you are here--to be seen--not when I want you, for
that would be every hour of the day--but, at least, in times of
emergency. You are here, all the same, in the atmosphere of my
"And if I go abroad I shall no longer be in that atmosphere? Did I
not say you would forget?"
She laughed. Then quickly started forward, and, elbow on knee and
chin on palm, regarded him brightly. "We are talking like a couple
of people out of Mademoiselle de Scudery," she said before he had
time to reply. "And we are in the twentieth century, mon pauvre ami.
We must be sensible. I know that you will miss me. And I will miss
you too. Mais que voulez-vous? We have to obey the laws of the world
we live in."
"Need we?" asked Paul daringly. "Why need we?"
"We must. I must go away to my own country. You must stay in yours
and work and fulfill your ambitions." She paused. "I want you to be
a great man," she said, with a strange tenderness in her voice.
"With you by my side," said he, "I feel I could conquer the earth."
"As your good friend I shall always be by your side. Vous voyez, mon
cher Paul," she went on quickly in French. "I am not quite as people
see me. I am a woman who is lonely and not too happy, who has had
disillusions which have embittered her life. You know my history. It
is public property. But I am young. And my heart is healed--and it
craves faith and tenderness and--and friendship. I have many to
flatter me. I am not too ugly. Many men pay their court to me, but
they do not touch my heart. None of them even interest me. I don't
know why. And then I have my rank, which imposes on me its
obligations. Sometimes I wish I were a little woman of nothing at
all, so that I could do as I like. Mais enfin, I do what I can. You
have come, Paul Savelli, with your youth and your faith and your
genius, and you pay your court to me like the others. Yes, it is
true--and as long as it was amusing, I let it go on. But now that
you interest me, it is different. I want your success. I want it
with all my heart. It is a little something in my life--I confess
it--quelque chose de tres joli--and I will not spoil it. So let
us be good friends, frank and loyal--without any Scudery." She
looked at him with eyes that had lost their languor--a sweet
woman's eyes, a little moist, very true. "And now," she said, "will
you be so kind as to put a log on the fire."
Paul rose and threw a log on the glowing embers, and stood by her
side. He was deeply moved. Never before had she so spoken. Never
before had she afforded a glimpse of the real woman. Her phrases, so
natural, so sincere, in her own tongue, and so caressive, stirred
the best in him. The glamour passed from the royal lady; only the
sweet and beautiful woman remained.
"I will be what you will, my Princess," he said.
At that moment he could not say more. For the first time in his life
he was mute in a woman's presence; and the reason was that for the
first time in his life love for a woman had gripped his heart.
She rose and smiled at him. "Bons amis, francs et loyaux?"
"Francs et loyaux."
She gave him her hand in friendship; but she gave him her eyes in
love. It is the foolish way of women.
"May a frank and loyal friend write to you sometimes?" he asked.
"Why, yes. And a frank and loyal friend will answer."
"And when shall I see you again?"
"Did I not tell you," she said, moving to the bell, for this was
leave-taking--"that I shall be in Venice at Easter?"
Paul went out into the frosty air, and the bright wintry stars shone
down on him. Often on such nights he had looked up, wondering which
was his star, the star that guided his destiny. But to-night no such
fancy crossed his mind. He did not think of the stars. He did not
think of his destiny. His mind and soul were drenched in thought of
one woman. It had come at last, the great passion, the infinite
desire. It had come in a moment, wakened into quivering being by the
caressive notes of the dear French voice--"mais je suis jeune, et
mon coeur est gueri, et il lui manque affreusement de la foi, de la
tendresse, de--de"--adorable catch of emotion--"de l'amitie."
Friendship, indeed! For amitie all but her lips said amour. He
walked beneath the wintry stars, a man in a perfect dream.
Till then she had been but his Princess, the exquisite lady whom it
had amused to wander with him into the pays du tendre. She had been
as far above him as the now disregarded stars. She had come down
with a carnival domino over her sidereal raiment, and had met him on
carnival equality. He beau masque! He, knowing her, had fallen
beneath her starry spell. He was Paul Kegworthy, Paul Savelli, what
you like; Paul the adventurer, Paul the man born to great things.
She was a beautiful woman, bearing the title of Princess, the title
that had haunted his life since first the Vision Splendid dawned
upon him as he lay on his stomach eavesdropping and heard the words
of the divinely-smelling goddess who had given him his talisman, the
cornelian heart. To "rank himself with princes" had been the intense
meaning of his life since ragged and fiercely imaginative childhood.
Odd circumstances had ranked him with Sophie Zobraska. The mere
romance of it had carried him off his feet. She was a princess. She
was charming. She frankly liked his society. She seemed interested
in his adventurous career. She was romantic. He too. She was his
Egeria. He had worshipped her romantically, in a mediaeval, Italian
way, and she had accepted the homage. It had all been deliciously
artificial. It had all been Mademoiselle de Scudery. But to-day the
real woman, casting off her carnival domino, casting off too the
sidereal raiment, had spoken, for the first time, in simple
womanhood, and her betraying eyes had told things that they had told
to no other man living or dead. And all that was artificial, all
that was fantastic, all that was glamour, was stripped away from
Paul in the instant of her self-revelation. He loved her as man
loves woman. He laughed aloud as his young feet struck the frozen
road. She knew and was not angry. She, in her wonder, gave him leave
to love her. It was obvious that she loved him to love her. Dear
God! He could go on loving her like this for the rest of his life.
What more did he want? To the clean man of nine-and-twenty,
sufficient for the day is the beauty thereof.
An inspired youth took his place at the Winwoods' dinner table that
evening. The elderly, ugly heiress, Miss Durning, concerning whom
Miss Winwood had, with gentle malice, twitted him some months
before, sat by his side. He sang her songs of Araby and tales of far
Cashmere--places which in the commonplace way of travel he had
never visited. What really happened in the drawing room between the
departure of the ladies and the entrance of the men no one knows.
But before the ladies went to bed Miss Winwood took Paul aside.
"Paul dear," she said, "you're never going to marry an old woman for
money, are you?"
"Good God, no! Dearest lady, what do you mean?"
His cry was so sincere that she laughed.
"Nothing," she said.
"But you must mean something." He threw out his hands.
"Are you aware that you've been flirting disgracefully with Lizzle
"I?" said Paul, clapping a hand to his shirt-front.
He smiled his sunny smile into the clear, direct eyes of his dearest
lady--all the more dear because of the premature white of her
hair. "I would flirt to-night with Xantippe, or Kerenhappuch, or
Queen Victoria," said he.
He laughed, and although none of the standing and lingering company
had overheard them, he gently led her to the curtained embrasure of
the drawing-room window.
"This is perhaps the biggest day of my life. I've not had an
opportunity of telling you. This morning Frank Ayres offered me a
seat in Parliament."
"I'm glad," said Ursula Winwood; but her eyes hardened. "And so--
He took both her elbows in his hands--only a Fortunate Youth, with
his laughing charm, would have dared to grip Ursula Winwood's elbows
and cut her short. "Dearest lady," said he, "to-day there are but
two women in the world for me. You are one. The other--well--it
isn't Miss Durning."
She searched him through and through, "This afternoon?"
"Paul!" She withdrew from his grasp. In her voice was a touch of
"Dearest lady," said he, "I would die rather than marry a rich
woman, ugly or beautiful, if I could not bring her something big in
return--something worth living for."
"You've fold me either too much or too little. Am I not entitled to
know how things stand?"
"You're entitled to know the innermost secrets of my heart," he
cried; and he told thereof as far as his love for the Princess was
"But, my poor boy," said Ursula tenderly, "how is it all going to
"It's never going to end," cried Paul.
Ursula Winwood smiled on him and sighed a little; for she remembered
the gallant young fellow who had been killed in the Soudan in
IT would never end. Why should it? Could a Great Wonder be merely a
transient thrill? Absurd. Dawn followed night, day after day, and
the wonder had not faded. It would never fade. Letter followed
letter, each more precious than the last.
She began with "Mon cher Paul." Then "Mon cher," then sometimes
"Paul." She set the tone of the frank and loyal friendship in a
style very graceful, very elusive, a word of tenderness melting away
in a laugh; she took the friendship, pulled it to pieces and
reconstructed it in ideal form; then she tied blue ribbon round its
neck, and showed him how beautiful it was. She sat on the veranda of
her villa and looked' out on the moonlit Mediterranean and wanted to
cry--"J'avais enbie de Pleurer"--because she was all alone,
having entertained at dinner a heap of dull and ugly people. She had
spent a day on the yacht of a Russiarr Grand-Duke. "Il m'a fait une
cour effrenee"--Paul thirsted immediately for the blood of this
Grand-Duke, who had dared to make violent love to her. But when, a
few lines farther on, he found that she had guessed his jealousy and
laughed at it, he laughed too. "Don't be afraid. I have had enough
of these people." She wanted une ame sincere et candide; and Paul
laid the flattering unction to his own sincere and candid soul. Then
she spoke prettily of his career. He was to be the flambeau
eveilleur, the awakening torch in the darkness before the daybreak.
But he musn't overwork. His health was precious. There was a blot
and erasure in the sentence. He took the letter to the light,
lover-wise, and looked at it through a magnifying glass--and his
pulses thrilled when it told him that she had originally written,
"Votre sante m'est precieuse," and had scrabbled out the "m." "Your
health is precious to me." That is what her heart had said. Did
lover ever have a dearer mistress? He kissed the blot, and the thick
French ink coming off on his lips was nectar.
And he began his letters with "My dear Princess;" then it was
"Dearest Princess;" then "My Princess." Then she rallied him on the
matter. It came to "Mais enfin j'ai un petit nom comme tout le
monde." In common with the rest of humanity she had a Christian
name--and she was accustomed to be called by it by her frank and loyal
friends. "And they are so few." Paul heard the delicate little sigh
and saw the delicate rise and fall of the white bosom. And again he
fed on purple ink. So he began his next letter with "Dear Sophie."
But he could not pour the same emotion into "Dear Sophie" as he
could into "My Princess"--and "My Sophie" was a step beyond the
bounds of frank and loyal friendship. So it came to his
apostrophizing her as "Dear" and scattering "Sophies" deliciously
through the text. And so the frank and loyal friendship went on its
appointed course, as every frank and loyal friendship between two
young and ardent souls who love each other has proceeded since the
beginning of a sophisticated world.
The first three months of that year were a period of enchantment. He
lived supremely. The daily round of work was trivial play. He rose
at seven, went to bed at two, crowded the nineteen hours of
wakefulness with glorious endeavour. He went all over the country
with his flambeau eveilleur, awakening the Youth of England, finding
at last the great artistic gift the gods had given him, the gift of
oratory. One day he reminded Jane of a talk long ago when he had
fled from the studios: "You asked me how I was going to earn my
living. I said I was going to follow one of the Arts."
"I remember," said Jane, regarding him full-eyed. "You said you
thought you were a poet--but you might be a musician or painter.
Finally you decided you were an actor."
He laughed his gay laugh. "I was an infernally bad actor," he
Then he explained his failure on the stage. He was impatient of
other people's inventions, wanting to play not Hamlet or Tom or Dick
or Romeo or Harry, but himself. Now he could play himself. It was
acting in a way. Anyhow it was an Art; so his boyish prophecy had
come true. He had been struggling from childhood for a means of
self-expression. He had tried most of them save this. Here he had
found it. He loved to play upon a crowd as if they were so many
notes of a vast organ.
On this occasion Jane said: "And my means of self-expression is to
play on the keys of a typewriter."
"Your time hasn't come," he replied. "When you have found your means
you will express yourself all the more greatly."
Which was ingenious on the part of Paul, but ironically consoling to
One week-end during the session he spent at the Marchioness of
Chudley's place in Lancashire. He drove in a luxurious automobile
through the stately park, which once he had traversed in the
brakeful of urchins, the raggedest of them all, and his heart
swelled with pardonable exultation. He had passed through Bludston
and he had caught a glimpse of what had once been his brickfield,
now the site of more rows of mean little houses, and he had seen the
grim factory chimneys still smoking, smoking. . . . The little
Buttons, having grown up into big Buttons, were toiling away their
lives in those factories. And Button himself, the unspeakable
Button? Was he yet alive? And Mrs. Button, who had been Polly
Kegworthy and called herself his mother? It was astonishing how
seldom he thought of her. . . . He had run away a scarecrow boy in a
gipsy van. He came back a formative force in the land, the lover of
a princess, the honoured guest of the great palace of the
countryside. He slipped his hand into his waistcoat pocket and felt
the cornelian heart.
Yes, in the great palace he found himself an honoured guest. His
name was known independently of his work for the Winwoods. He was
doing good service to his party. The word had gone abroad--perhaps
Frank Ayres had kindly spoken it--that he was the coming man. Lady
Chudley said: "I wonder if you remember what we talked about when I
first met you."
Paul laughed, for she did not refer to the first meeting of all.
"I'm afraid I was very young and fatuous," said he. "It was years
ago. I hadn't grown up."
"Never mind. We talked about waking the country from its sleep."
"And you gave me a phrase, Lady Chudley--'the Awakener of
England.' It stuck. It crystallized all sorts of vague ambitions.
I've never forgotten it for five consecutive minutes. But how can
you remember a casual act of graciousness to an unimportant boy?"
"No boy who dreams of England's greatness is unimportant," she said.
"You've proved me to be right. Your dreams are coming true--see, I
"I owe you far more than you could possibly imagine," said Paul.
"No, no. Don't. Don't exaggerate. A laughing phrase--that's
"It is something. Even a great deal. But it's not all," said he.
"What else is there?"
"You were one of the two or three," he said earnestly, thinking of
the Bludston factory, "who opened new horizons for me."
"I'm a proud woman," said Lady Chudley.
The next day, Sunday, old Lord Chudley dragged him into his own
private den. He had a very red, battered, clean-shaven face and very
red hair and side whiskers; and he was a very honest gentleman,
believing implicitly in God and the King and the House of Lords, and
Foxes, and the Dutch School of Painting, and his responsibility as a
great landowner toward the two or three thousand human beings with
whom he had business relations.
"Look here, Savelli. I've looked into your League. It's a damned
good thing. About the only thing that has been invented which can
stem the tide of Socialism. Catch 'em young. That's the way. But you
want the sinews of war. You get subscriptions, but not enough; I've
seen your last balance sheet. You want a little army of--what the
devil shall we call 'em?"
"Big Englanders," Paul suggested at a venture.
"Good. We want an army of 'em to devote their whole time to the
work. Open a special fund. You and Ursula Winwood will know how to
work it. What Ursula Winwood doesn't know in this sort of business
isn't worth knowing--and here's something to head the list with."
And he handed Paul a cheque, which after a dazed second or two he
realized to be one for five thousand pounds.
That was the beginning of the financial prosperity and the real
political importance of the Young England League. Paul organized a
great public dinner with the Leader of the Opposition in the chair
and an amazing band of notables around the tables. Speeches were
made, the Marquis of Chudley's patriotism extolled, and subscription
lists filled up and handed to a triumphant organizing secretary.
A powerful daily newspaper took up the cause and made strong appeal.
The Lodges made simultaneous efforts in their respective districts.
Money flowed into the League's coffers.
When Parliament rose for the Easter recess Paul, the most tired, yet
the most blissful, youth among the Fortunate, flew straight to
Venice, where a happy-eyed princess welcomed him. She was living in
a Palazzo on the Grand Canal, lent to her--that is the graceful
Italian way of putting it--by some Venetian friends; and there,
with Mademoiselle de Cressy to keep off the importunate, she
received such acquaintance as floated from the ends of the earth
through the enchanted city.
"I have started by seeing as few people as I can," she said. "That's
all on account of you, monsieur."
He pressed her hand. "I hope we don't see a single soul we know as
long as I'm here," he declared.
His hope was gratified, not completely, but enough to remove grounds
for lover's fretfulness. He passed idyllic days in halcyon weather.
Often she would send her gondola to fetch him from the Grand Hotel,
where he was staying. Now and then, most graciously audacious of
princesses, she would come herself. On such occasions he would sit
awaiting her with beating heart, juvenis fortunatus nimium, on the
narrow veranda of the hotel, regardless of the domed white pile of
Santa Maria della Salute opposite, or the ceaseless life on the
water, or the sunshine, or anything else in Venice, his gaze fixed
on the bend of the canal; and then at last would appear the tall
curved prow, and then the white-clad, red-sashed Giacomo bending to
his oar, and then the white tenda with the dear form beneath,
vaguely visible, and then Felipe, clad like Giacomo and bending,
too, rhythmically with the foremost figure. Slowly, all too slowly,
the gondola would near the steps, and beneath the tenda would smile
the dearest face in the world, and the cheeks would be delicately
flushed and the eyes tender and somewhat shy. And Paul would stand,
smiling too, a conquering young figure with green Marienbad hat
tilted with ever so tiny a shade of jauntiness, the object of
frankly admiring and curious glances from a lone woman or two on the
veranda, until the gondola was brought up to the wave-washed steps,
and the hotel porter had fixed the bridge of plank. Then, with
Giacomo supporting his elbow, he would board the black craft and
would creep under the tenda and sink on the low seat by her side
with a sense of daring and delicious intimacy, and the gondola would
glide away into fairyland.
"Let us be real tourists and do Venice thoroughly," she had said. "I
have never seen it properly."
"But you've been here many times before."
"Je ne peux pas le dire. Il faut deviner."
"Will you forgive me if I guess right? Our great Shakespeare says:
'Love lends a precious seeing to the eye.'"
"That--that's very pretty," said the Princess in French. "I love
much your Shakespeare."
Whereupon Paul recognized her admission of the correctness of his
conjecture; and so, with the precious vision they had borrowed, they
went about tourist-wise to familiar churches and palaces, and
everything they saw was lit with exceeding loveliness. And they saw
the great pictures of the world, and Paul, with his expert
knowledge, pointed out beauties she had not dreamed of hitherto, and
told her tales of the painters and discoursed picturesquely on
Venetian history, and she marvelled at his insight and learning and
thought him the most wonderful man that had ever dropped,
ready-made, from heaven. And he, in the flush of his new love, was
thrilled by her touch and the low tones of her voice when she
plucked him by the sleeve and murmured: "Ah, Paul, regardez-moi ca.
It is so beautiful one wants to weep with joy."
They spoke now half in French, half in English, and she no longer
protested against his murderous accent, which, however, lie strove
to improve. Love must have lent its precious hearing too, for she
vowed she loved to hear him speak her language.
In the great Council Chamber of the Ducal Palace they looked at the
seventy-six portraits of the illustrious succession of Doges--with
the one tragic vacant space, the missing portrait of Marino Faliero,
the Rienzi of Venice, the man before his time.
"It seizes one's heart, doesn't it?" said the Princess, with her
impulsive touch on his sleeve. "All these men were kings--
sovereigns of a mighty nation. And how like they are to one another--in
this essential quality one would say they were brothers of a
"Why, yes," he cried, scanning the rows of severe and subtle faces.
"It's true. Illuminatingly true."
He slid up his wrist quickly so that his hand met hers; he held it.
"How swift your perception is! And what is that quality--that
quality common to them all--that quality of leadership? Let us try
to find it."
Unconsciously he gripped her hand, and she returned his pressure;
and they stood, as chance willed it, alone, free from circumambulant
tourists, in the vast chamber, vivid with Paul Veronese's colour on
wall and ceilings, with Tintoretto and Bassano' with the arrogant
splendour of the battles and the pomp and circumstance of victorious
armies of the proud and conquering republic, and their eyes were
drawn from all this painted and riotous wonder by the long arresting
frieze of portraits of serene, masterful and subtle faces.
"The common factor--that's what we want, isn't it?"
"Yes," she breathed.
And as they stood, hand in hand, the unspoken thought vibrating
between them, the memory came to him of a day long ago when he had
stood with another woman--a girl then--before the photographs in
the window of the London Stereoscopic Company in Regent Street, and
he had scanned faces of successful men. He laughed--he could not
help it--and drew his Princess closer to him. Between the
analogous then and the wonderful now, how immense a difference! As
he laughed she looked swiftly up into his face.
"I know why you laugh."
"No, my Princess. Impossible."
"Mais oui. Tell me. All these great princes"--she swept her little
gloved hand toward the frieze. "What is their common factor?"
Paul, forgetful of his mirth, looked round. "'Indomitable will,"
said be seriously. "Unconquerable ambition, illimitable faith. They
all seem to be saying their creed. 'I believe in myself almighty,
and in Venice under my control, and in God who made us both, and in
the inferiority of the remnant of the habitable globe.' Or else: 'In
the beginning God created Venice. Then He created the rest of the
world. Then He created Me. Then He retired and left me to deal with
the situation.' Or else: 'I am an earthly Trinity. I am myself. I am
Venice. I am God.'"
"It is magnificent!" she cried. "How you understand them! How you
understand the true aristocratic spirit! They are all, what you
call, leaders of men. I did not expect an analysis so swift and so
true. But, Paul"--her voice sank adorably--"all these men lack
something--something that you have. And that is why I thought you
He smiled down on her. "Do you think I was measuring myself with
"Naturally. Why should you not?" she asked proudly.
"And what have I got that they lack?"
"Happiness," said the Princess.
Paul was silent for a while, as they moved slowly away to the
balcony which overlooks the lagoon and San Giorgio Maggiore glowing
warm in the sunshine, and then he said: "Yet most of those men loved
passionately in their time, and were loved by beautiful women."
"Their love was a thing of the passions, not of the spirit. You
cannot see a woman, that is to say happiness, behind any of their
He whispered: "Can you see a woman behind mine."
"If you look like that," she replied, with a contented little laugh,
"the whole world can see it." And so their talk drifted far away
from Doges, just as their souls were drifting far from the Golden
Calf of the Frank and Loyal Friendship which Sophie the Princess had
How could they help it--and in Venice of all places in the world?
If she had determined on maintaining the friendship calm and
austere, why in Minerva's name had she bidden him hither? Sophie
Zobraska passed for a woman of sense. None knew better than she the
perils of moonlit canals and the sensuous splash of water against a
gondola, and the sad and dreamy beauty which sets the lonely heart
aching for love. Why had she done it? Some such questions must
Mademoiselle de Cressy have asked, for the Princess told him that
Stephanie had lectured her severely for going about so much in
public alone with a beau jeune homme.
"But we don't always want Stephanie with us," she argued, "and she
is not sympathetic in Venice. She likes restaurants and people.
Besides, she is always with her friends at Danielli's, so if it
weren't for you I should be doing nothing all by myself in the
lonely palazzo. Forcement we go about together."
Which was all sophistical and nonsensical; and she knew it, for
there was a mischievous little gleam in her eye as she spoke. But
none the less, shutting her ears to the unsympathetic Stephanie, did
she continue to show herself alone in public with the beautiful
youth. She had thrown her crown over the windmills for a few happy
days; for a few happy days she was feeding her starved nature,
drinking in her fill of beauty and colour and the joy of life. And
the pair, thus forcibly thrown together, drifted through the narrow
canals beneath the old crumbling palaces, side by side, and hand in
hand while Giacomo and Felipe, disregarded automata, bent to their
One afternoon, one mellow and memorable afternoon, they were
returning from Murano. Not a breath of wind ruffled the lagoon. The
islands in their spring verdure slumbered peacefully. Far away the
shipping in the bacino lay still like enchanted craft. Only a
steamer or two, and here and there the black line of a gondola with
its standing, solitary rower, broke the immobility of things. And
Venice, russet and rose and grey, brooded in the sunset, a city of
dreams. They murmured words of wonder and regret. Instinctively they
drew near and their shoulders touched. Their clasp of fingers
tightened and their breath came quickly, and for a long time they
were silent. Then at last he whispered her name, in the old foolish
and inevitable way. And she turned her face to him, and met his eyes
and said "Paul," and her lips as she said it seemed to speak a kiss.
And all the earth was wrapped in glory too overwhelming for speech.
It was only when they entered the Grand Canal and drew up by the
striped posts of the palazzo that she said: "I have those Roman
people and the Heatherfields coming to dinner. I wish I hadn't." She
sighed. "Would you care to come?"
He smiled into her eyes. "No, my Princess, not to-night. I should do
silly things. To-night I will go and talk to the moon. To-morrow,
when can I come?"
"Early. As early as you like."
And Paul went away and talked to the moon, and the next morning, his
heart tumultuous, presented himself at the palazzo. He was shown
into the stiff Italian drawing-room, with its great Venetian glass
chandelier, its heavy picture-hung walls, its Empire furniture
covered in yellow silk. Presently the door opened and she entered,
girlish in blouse and skirt, fresh as the morning. "Bon jour, Paul.
I've not had time to put on my hat, but--"
She did not end, for he strode toward her and with a little laugh of
triumph took her in his arms and kissed her. And so what had to be
came to pass.
I LOVE you too much, my Sophie, to be called the Princess Zobraska's
"And I love you too much, dear, to wish to be called anything else
than Paul Savelli's wife."
That was their position, perfectly defined, perfectly understood.
They had arrived at it after many arguments and kisses and lovers'
"Such as I am I am," cried Paul. "A waif and stray, an unknown
figure coming out of the darkness. I have nothing to give you but my
"Are there titles or riches on earth of equal value?"
"But I must give you more. The name Paul Savelli itself must be a
title of honour."
"It is becoming that," said the Princess. "And we can wait a little,
Paul, can't we? We are so happy like this. Ah!" she sighed. "I have
never been so happy in my life."
"Nor I," said Paul.
"And am I really the first?"
"The first. Believe it or not as you like. But it's a fact. I've
told you my life's dream. I never sank below it; and that is why
perhaps it has come true."
For once the assertion was not the eternal lie. Paul came
fresh-hearted to his Princess.
"I wish I were a young girl, Paul."
"You are a star turned woman. The Star of my Destiny in which I
always believed. The great things will soon come."
They descended to more commonplace themes. Until the great things
came, what should be their mutual attitude before Society?
"Until I can claim you, let it be our dear and beautiful secret,"
said Paul. "I would not have it vulgarized by the chattering world
for anything in life."
Then Paul proved himself to be a proud and delicate lover, and when
London with its season and its duties and its pleasures absorbed
them, he had his reward. For it was sweet to see her in great
assemblies, shining like a queen and like a queen surrounded by
homage, and to know that he alone of mortals was enthroned in her
heart. It was sweet to meet her laughing glance, dear
fellow-conspirator. It was sweet every morning and night to have the
intimate little talk through the telephone. And it was sweetest of
all to snatch a precious hour with her alone. Of such vain and
foolish things is made all that is most beautiful in life.
He took his dearest lady--though Miss Winwood, now disclaimed the
title--into his confidence. So did the Princess. It was very
comforting to range Miss Winwood on their side; and to feel
themselves in close touch with her wisdom and sympathy. And her
sympathy manifested itself in practical ways--those of the woman
confidante of every love affair since the world began. Why should
the Princess Zobraska not interest herself in some of the
philanthropic schemes of which the house in Portland Place was the
headquarters? There was one, a Forlorn Widows' Fund, the presidency
of which she would be willing to resign in favour of the Princess.
The work was trivial: it consisted chiefly in consultation with Mr.
Savelli and in signing letters. The Princess threw her arms round
her neck, laughing and blushing and calling her delicieuse. You see
it was obvious that Mr. Savelli could not be consulted in his
official capacity or official letters signed elsewhere than in
"I'll do what I can for the pair of you," said Miss Winwood to Paul.
"But it's the most delightfully mad and impossible thing I've ever
put my hand to."
Accepting the fact of their romance, however, she could not but
approve Paul's attitude. It was the proud attitude of the boy who
nearly six years ago was going, without a word, penniless and
debonair out of her house. All the woman in her glowed over him.
"I'm not going to be called an adventurer," he had declared. "I
shall not submit Sophie to the indignity of trailing a despised
husband after her. I'm not going to use her rank and wealth as a
stepping-stone to my ambitions. Let me first attain an unassailable
position. I shall have owed it to you, to myself, to anybody you
like--but not to my marriage. I shall be somebody. The rest won't
matter. The marriage will then be a romantic affair, and romantic
affairs are not unpopular dans le monde ou l'on s'ennuie."
This declaration was all very well; the former part all very noble,
the latter exhibiting a knowledge of the world rather shrewd for one
so young. But when would he be able to attain his unassailable
position? Some years hence. Would Sophie Zobraska, who was only a
few months younger than he, be content to sacrifice these splendid
and irretrievable years of her youth? Ursula Winwood looked into the
immediate future, and did not see it rosy. The first step toward an
unassailable position was flight from the nest. This presupposed an
income. If the party had been in power it would not have been
difficult to find him a post. She worried herself exceedingly, for
in her sweet and unreprehensible way she was more than ever in love
with Paul. Meeting Frank Ayres one night at a large reception, she
sought his advice.
"Do you mind a wrench?" he asked. "No? Well, then--you and Colonel
Winwood send him about his business and get another secretary. Let
Savelli give all his time to his Young England League. Making him
mug up material for Winwood's speeches and write letters to
constituents about football clubs is using a razor to cut butter.
His League's the thing. It can surely afford to pay him a decent
salary. If it can't I'll see to a guarantee."
"The last thing we see, my dear Frank," she said after she had
thanked him, "is that which is right under our noses."
The next day she went to Paul full of the scheme. Had he ever
thought of it? He took her hands and smiled in his gay, irresistible
way. "Of course, dearest lady," he said frankly. "But I would have
cut out my tongue sooner than suggest it."
"I know that, my dear boy."
"And yet," said he, "I can't bear the idea of tearing myself away
from you. It seems like black ingratitude."
"It isn't. You forget that James and I have our little ambitions
too--the ambition of a master for a favourite pupil. If you were a
failure we should both be bitterly disappointed. Don't you see? And
as for leaving us--why need you? We should miss you horribly.
You've never been quite our paid servant. And now you're something
like our son." Tears started in the sweet lady's clear eyes. "Even
if you did go to your own chambers, I shouldn't let our new
secretary have this room"--they were in what the household called
"the office"--really Paul's luxuriously furnished private sitting
room, which contained his own little treasures of books and pictures
and bits of china and glass accumulated during the six years of
easeful life--"He will have the print room, which nobody uses from
one year's end to another, and which is far more convenient for the
street door. And the same at Drane's Court. So when you no longer
work for us, my dear boy, our home will be yours, as long as you're
content to stay, just because we love you."
Her hand was on his shoulder and his head was bent. "God grant,"
said he, "that I may be worthy of your love."
He looked up and met her eyes. Her hand was still on his shoulder.
Then very simply he bent down and kissed her on the cheek.
He told his Princess all about it. She listened with dewy eyes. "Ah,
Paul," she said. "That 'precious seeing' of love--I never had it
till you came. I was blind. I never knew that there were such
beautiful souls as Ursula Winwood in the world."
"Dear, how I love you for saying that!" cried Paul.
"But it's true."
"That is why," said he.
So the happiest young man in London worked and danced through the
season, knowing that the day of emancipation was at hand. His
transference from the Winwoods to the League was fixed for October
i. He made great plans for an extension of the League's, activities,
dreamed of a palace for headquarters with the banner of St. George
flying proudly over it, an object-lesson for the nation. One day in
July while. he was waiting for Colonel Winwood in the lobby of the
House of Commons, Frank Ayres stopped in the middle of a busy rush
and shook hands.
"Been down to Hickney Heath again? I would if I were you. Rouse 'em
As the words of a Chief Whip are apt to be significant, Paul
closeted himself with the President of the Hickney Heath Lodge, who
called the Secretary of the local Conservative Association to the
interview. The result was that Paul was invited to speak at an
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