Part 7 out of 8
about with her own hands, and other hours she devoted almost
as regularly to supervising the wholesale alterations
that had been begun in the gardens outside. There were
to be new paths, new walls with a southern exposure,
new potting sheds, new forcing pits, new everything--and
in the evenings she often worked late over the maps
and plans she drew for all this. Thorpe's mind found it
difficult to grasp the idea that a lady of such notable
qualities could be entirely satisfied by a career among
seeds and bulbs and composts, but at least time brought
no evidences of a decline in her horticultural zeal.
Who knew? Perhaps it might go on indefinitely.
As for himself, he had got on very well without any special
inclination or hobby. He had not done any of the great
things that a year ago it had seemed to him he would
forthwith do--but his mind was serenely undisturbed
by regrets. He did not even remember with any distinctness
what these things were that he had been going to do.
The routine of life--as arranged and borne along by the
wise and tactful experts who wore the livery of High
Thorpe--was abundantly sufficient in itself. He slept well
now in the morning hours, and though he remained still,
by comparison, an early riser, the bath and the shaving
and slow dressing under the hands of a valet consumed
comfortably a good deal of time. Throughout the day
he was under the almost constant observation of people
who were calling him "master" in their minds, and watching
to see how, in the smallest details of deportment,
a "master" carried himself, and the consciousness of this
alone amounted to a kind of vocation. The house itself
made demands upon him nearly as definite as those of
the servants. It was a house of huge rooms, high ceilings,
and grandiose fireplaces and stairways, which had seemed
to him like a royal palace when he first beheld it,
and still produced upon him an effect of undigestible
largeness and strangeness. It was as a whole not so old
as the agents had represented it, by some centuries,
but it adapted itself as little to his preconceived notions
of domesticity as if it had been built by Druids. The task
of seeming to be at home in it had as many sides to it as
there were minutes in the day--and oddly enough, Thorpe found
in their study and observance a congenial occupation.
Whether he was reading in the library--where there was
an admirable collection of books of worth--or walking
over the home-farms, or driving in his smart stanhope
with the coachman behind, or sitting in formal costume and
dignity opposite his beautiful wife at the dinner-table,
the sense of what was expected of him was there,
steadying and restraining, like an atmospheric pressure.
Thus far they had had few visitors, and had accepted
no invitations to join house-parties elsewhere.
They agreed without speaking about it that it was
more their form to entertain than to be entertained,
and certain people were coming to them later in the month.
These were quite wholly of Edith's set and selection,
for Thorpe had no friends or acquaintances outside her
circle for whose presence he had any desire--and among
these prospective guests were a Duke and a Duchess.
Once, such a fact would have excited Thorpe's imagination.
He regarded it now as something appropriate under
the circumstances, and gave it little further thought.
His placid, satisfied life was not dependent upon the stir
of guests coming and going, even though they were the
great of the earth. He walked on his spacious terrace
after luncheon--a tall, portly, well-groomed figure
of a man, of relaxed, easy aspect, with his big cigar,
and his panama hat, and his loose clothes of choice fabrics
and exquisite tailoring--and said to himself that it was
the finest view in England--and then, to his own surprise,
caught himself in the act of yawning.
From under the silk curtains and awning of a window-doorway
at the end of the terrace, his wife issued and came toward him.
Her head was bare, and she had the grace and fresh beauty
of a young girl in her simple light gown of some summery
"What do you say to going off somewhere--tomorrow
if you like--travelling abroad?" he called out, as she
approached him. The idea, only a moment old in his mind,
had grown to great proportions. "How can we?" she asked,
upon the briefest thought. "THEY are coming at the end
of the week. This is Monday, and they arrive on the
12th--that's this Saturday."
"So soon as that!" he exclaimed. "I thought it was later.
H-m! I don't know--I think perhaps I'll go up to London
this evening. I'm by way of feeling restless all at once.
Will you come up with me?"
She shook her head. "I can't think of anything in London
that would be tolerable."
He gave a vague little laugh. "I shall probably hate it
myself when I get there," he speculated. "There isn't
anybody I want to see--there isn't anything I want to do.
I don' t know--perhaps it might liven me up."
Her face took on a look of enquiring gravity. "Are you
getting tired of it, then?" She put the question gently,
He reflected a little. "Why--no," he answered,
as if reasoning to himself. "Of course I'm not.
This is what I've always wanted. It's my idea of life
to a 't.' Only--I suppose everything needs a break
in it now and then--if only for the comfort of getting
back into the old rut again."
"The rut--yes," she commented, musingly. "Apparently there's
always a rut."
Thorpe gave her the mystified yet uncomplaining glance
she knew so well in his eyes. For once, the impulse
to throw hidden things up into his range of view prevailed
"Do you know," she said, with a confused half-smile at the
novelty of her mood for elucidation, "I fancied a rut was
the one thing there could be no question about with you.
I had the notion that you were incapable of ruts--and
conventional grooves. I thought you--as Carlyle puts it--I
thought you were a man who had swallowed all the formulas."
Thorpe looked down at his stomach doubtfully. "I see
what you mean," he said at last, but in a tone without
any note of conviction.
"I doubt it," she told him, with light readiness--"for I
don't see myself what I mean. I forget indeed what it
was I said. And so you think you'll go up to town tonight?"
A sudden comprehension of what was slipping away
from his grasp aroused him. "No--no," he urged her,
"don't forget what it was you said! I wish you'd talk
more with me about that. It was what I wanted to hear.
You never tell me what you're really thinking about."
She received the reproach with a mildly incredulous
smile in her eyes. "Yes--I know--who was it used to
scold me about that? Oh"--she seemed suddenly reminded
of something--"I was forgetting to mention it. I have
a letter from Celia Madden. She is back in England;
she is coming to us Saturday, too."
He put out his lips a trifle. "That's all right,"
he objected, "but what has it got to do with what we
were talking about?"
"Talking about?" she queried, with a momentarily
blank countenance. "Oh, she used to bully me about
my deceit, and treachery, and similar crimes. But I shall
be immensely glad to see her. I always fight with her,
but I think I like her better than any other woman alive."
"I like her too," Thorpe was impelled to say, with a kind
of solemnity. "She reminds me of some of the happiest
hours in my life."
His wife, after a brief glance into his face, laughed pleasantly,
if with a trace of flippancy. "You say nice things,"
she observed, slightly inclining her head. "But now that
Celia is coming, it would be as well to have another man.
It's such dreadfully short notice, though."
"I daresay your father could come, all right,"
Thorpe suggested. "I'd rather have him than almost
anyone else. Would you mind asking him--or shall I?"
An abrupt silence marked this introduction of a subject
upon which the couple had differed openly. Thorpe,
through processes unaccountable to himself, had passed
from a vivid dislike of General Kervick to a habit of
mind in which he thoroughly enjoyed having him about.
The General had been twice to High Thorpe, and on each
occasion had so prolonged his stay that, in retrospect,
the period of his absence seemed inconsiderable.
The master now, thinking upon it in this minute of silence,
was conscious of having missed him greatly. He would
not have been bored to the extremity of threatening
to go to London, if Kervick had been here. The General
was a gentleman, and yet had the flexible adaptability
of a retainer; he had been trained in discipline, and hence
knew how to defer without becoming fulsome or familiar;
he was a man of the world and knew an unlimited number of
racy stories, and even if he repeated some of them unduly,
they were better than no stories at all. And then,
there was his matchless, unfailing patience in playing
chess or backgammon or draughts or bezique, whatever he
perceived that the master desired.
"If you really wish it," Edith said at last, coldly.
"But that's what I don't understand," Thorpe urged upon
her with some vigour. "If I like him, I don't see why
his own daughter----"
"Oh, need we discuss it?" she broke in, impatiently.
"If I'm an unnatural child, why then I am one, and may it
not be allowed to pass at that?" A stormy kind of smile
played upon her beautifully-cut lips as she added:
"Surely one's filial emotions are things to be taken
for granted--relieved from the necessity of explanation."
Thorpe grinned faintly at the hint of pleasantry, but he
did not relinquish his point. "Well--unless you really
veto the thing--I think I'd like to tell him to come,"
he said, with composed obstinacy. Upon an afterthought he
added: "There's no reason why he shouldn't meet the Duke,
"No specific reason," she returned, with calm coolness
of tone and manner. "And certainly I do not see myself
in the part of Madame Veto."
"All right then--I'll send him a wire," said Thorpe.
His victory made him uneasy, yet he saw no way of abandoning
it with decorum.
As the two, standing in a silence full of tacit constraint,
looked aimlessly away from the terrace, they saw at the
same instant a vehicle with a single horse coming rather
briskly up the driveway, some hundreds of yards below.
It was recognizable at once as the local trap from
Punsey station, and as usual it was driven by a boy
from the village. Seated beside this lad was a burly,
red-bearded man in respectable clothes, who, to judge
from the tin-box and travelling-bags fastened on behind,
seemed coming to High Thorpe to stay.
"Who on earth is that?" asked Thorpe, wonderingly.
The man was obviously of the lower class, yet there
seemed something about him which invited recognition.
"Presumably it's the new head-gardener," she replied
Her accent recalled to Thorpe the fact that there
had been something disagreeable in their conversation,
and the thought of it was unpleasant to him.
"Why, I didn't know you had a new man coming," he said,
turning to her with an overture of smiling interest.
"Yes," she answered, and then, as if weighing the proffered
propitiation and rejecting it, turned slowly and went
into the house.
The trap apparently ended its course at some back
entrance: he did not see it again. He strolled indoors,
after a little, and told his man to pack a bag for London,
and order the stanhope to take him to the train.
IN the early morning, long before any of the hotel people
had made themselves heard moving about, Thorpe got up.
It was a long time since he had liked himself and his
surroundings so little. The bed seemed all right to the eye,
and even to the touch, but he had slept very badly in it,
none the less. The room was luxuriously furnished, as was
the entire suite, but it was all strange and uncomfortable
to his senses. The operation of shaving and dressing
in solitude produced an oppression of loneliness.
He regretted not having brought his man with him for
this reason, and then, upon meditation, for other reasons.
A person of his position ought always to have a servant
with him. The hotel people must have been surprised at
his travelling unattended--and the people at High Thorpe
must also have thought it strange. It flashed across
his mind that no doubt his wife had most of all thought
it strange. How would she explain to herself his sudden,
precipitate journey to London alone? Might she not quite
naturally put an unpleasant construction upon it? It
was bad enough to have to remember that they had parted
in something like a tiff; he found it much worse to be
fancying the suspicions with which she would be turning
over his mysterious absence in her mind.
He went downstairs as speedily as possible and, discovering no
overt signs of breakfast in the vicinity of the restaurant,
passed out and made his way to the Embankment.
This had been a favourite walk of his in the old days--but
he considered it now with an unsympathetic eye.
It seemed a dry and haggard and desolate-looking place
by comparison with his former impressions of it.
The morning was grey-skied, but full of a hard quality
of light, which brought out to the uncompromising
uttermost the dilapidated squalor of the Surrey side.
The water was low, and from the mud and ooze of the
ugly opposite shore, or perhaps from the discoloured
stream itself, there proceeded a smell which offended
his unaccustomed nostril. A fitful, gusty wind was
blowing from the east, and ever and again it gathered
dust in eddying swoops from the roadway, and flung it in his face.
He walked on toward the City, without any conscious purpose,
and with no very definite reflections. It occurred to him
that if his wife did impute to him some unworthy motive
in stealing off to London, and made herself unhappy in doing
so--that would at least provide the compensation of showing
that she cared. The thought, however, upon examination,
contained very meagre elements of solace. He could not in
the least be sure about any of the workings of her mind.
There might be more or less annoyance mixed up this morning
with the secret thoughts she had concerning him--or
she might not be bothering her head about him at all.
This latter contingency had never presented itself
so frankly to him before. He looked hard at it, and saw
more semblances of probability about it than he liked.
It might very well be that she was not thinking about him
one way or the other.
A depressing consciousness that practically nobody need
think about him pervaded his soul. Who cared what he said
or did or felt? The City had forgotten his very existence.
In the West End, only here and there some person might
chance to remember his name as that of some rich bounder
who had married Lady Cressage. Nowhere else in England,
save one dull strip of agricultural blankness in a backward
home county, was there a human being who knew anything
whatever about him. And this was his career! It was
for this that he had planned that memorable campaign,
and waged that amazing series of fortnightly battles,
never missing victory, never failing at any point of the
complicated strategy, and crowning it all with a culminating
triumph which had been the wonder and admiration of the
whole financial world! A few score of menials or interested
inferiors bowed to him; he drove some good horses,
and was attentively waited upon, and had a never-failing
abundance of good things to eat and drink aud smoke.
Hardly anything more than that, when you came to think
of it--and the passing usufruct of all these things could
be enjoyed by any fool who had a ten-pound note in his
What gross trick had the fates played on him? He had
achieved power--and where was that power? What had he
done with it? What COULD he do with it? He had an excess
of wealth, it was true, but in what way could it command
an excess of enjoyment? The very phrase was a paradox,
as he dimly perceived. There existed only a narrow margin
of advantage in favour of the rich man. He could eat and
drink a little more and a little better than the poor man;
he could have better clothes, and lie abed later in the morning,
and take life easier all round--but only within hard
and fast bounds. There was an ascertained limit beyond
which the millionaire could no more stuff himself with food
and wine than could the beggar. It might be pleasant
to take an added hour or two in bed in the morning,
but to lie in bed all day would be an infliction.
So it ran indefinitely--this thin selvedge of advantage
which money could buy--with deprivation on the one side,
and surfeit on the other. Candidly, was it not true that
more happiness lay in winning the way out of deprivation,
than in inventing safeguards against satiety? The poor
man succeeding in making himself rich--at numerous stages
of the operation there might be made a moral snap-shot
of the truly happy man. But not after he had reached
the top. Then disintegration began at once. The contrast
between what he supposed he could do, and what he finds
it possible to do, is too vast to be accepted with equanimity.
It must be said that after breakfast--a meal which he
found in an Italian restaurant of no great cleanliness
or opulence of pretension, and ate with an almost
novel relish--Thorpe took somewhat less gloomy views
of his position. He still walked eastward, wandering into
warehouse and shipping quarters skirting the river,
hitherto quite unknown to him, and pursuing in an idle,
inconsequent fashion his meditations. He established in
his mind the proposition that since an excess of enjoyment
was impossible--since one could not derive a great block
of happiness from the satisfaction of the ordinary appetites,
but at the most could only gather a little from each--the
desirable thing was to multiply as much as might be those
tastes and whims and fancies which passed for appetites,
and thus expand the area of possible gratification.
This seemed very logical indeed, but it did not apply
itself to his individual needs with much facility.
What did he want to do that he had not done? It was
difficult for him to say. Perhaps it was chandlers'
signs and windows about him, and the indefinable seafaring
preoccupation suggested by the high-walled, narrow streets,
which raised the question of a yacht in his mind.
Did he want a yacht? He could recall having once dwelt
with great fondness upon such a project: doubtless it
would still be full of attractions for him. He liked
the water, and the water liked him--and he was better able
now than formerly to understand how luxurious existence
can be made in modern private ships. He decided that he
would have a yacht--and then perceived that the decision
brought no exhilaration. He was no happier than before.
He could decide that he would have anything he chose
to name--and it would in no whit lighten his mood.
The yacht might be as grand as High Thorpe, and relatively
as spacious and well ordered, but would he not grow as tired
of the one as he had of the other?
He stopped short at this blunt self-expression of something
he had never admitted to himself. Was he indeed
tired of High Thorpe? He had assured his wife to the
contrary yesterday. He reiterated the assurance to his own
mind now. It was instead that he was tired of himself.
He carried a weariness about with him, which looked at
everything with apathetic eyes, and cared for nothing.
Some nameless paralysis had settled upon his capacity
for amusement and enjoyment, and atrophied it.
He had had the power to expand his life to the farthest
boundaries of rich experience and sensation, and he had
deliberately shrunk into a sort of herbaceous nonentity,
whom nobody knew or cared about. He might have had London
at his beck and call, and yet of all that the metropolis
might mean to a millionaire, he had been able to think
of nothing better than that it should send old Kervick
to him, to help beguile his boredom with dominoes
and mess-room stories! Pah! He was disgusted with himself.
Striking out a new course, with the Monument as his guide,
he presently came into a part of the City which had a certain
familiarity for him. He walked up St. Swithin's Lane,
looking at the strange forms of foreign fruit exposed
at the shop-doors, and finding in them some fleeting
recurrence of the hint that travel was what he needed.
Then he stopped, to look through the railings and open
gateway at an enclosure on the left, and the substantial,
heavily-respectable group of early Victorian buildings beyond.
Some well-dressed men were standing talking in one of
the porches. The stiff yellowish-stucco pilasters of
this entrance, and the tall uniformed figure of the porter
in the shadow, came into the picture as he observed it;
they gave forth a suggestion of satisfied smugness--of
orderly but altogether unillumined routine. Nothing could
be more commonplace to the eye.
Yet to his imagination, eighteen months before,
what mysterious marvels of power had lurked hidden
behind those conventional portals! Within those doors,
in some inner chamber, sat men whose task it was to
direct the movements of the greatest force the world had
ever known. They and their cousins in Paris and Frankfort,
or wherever they lived, between them wielded a vaster
authority than all the Parliaments of the earth.
They could change a government, or crush the aspirations
of a whole people, or decide a question of peace or war,
by the silent dictum of their little family council.
He remembered now how he had stood on this same spot,
and stared with fascinated gaze at this quadrangle of
dull houses, and pondered upon what it must feel like to
be a Rothschild--and that was only a little over a year ago!
There was no sense of fascination whatever in his
present gaze. He found himself regarding instead,
with a kind of detached curiosity, the little knot of men
in frock-coats and silk-hats who stood talking in the doorway.
It was barely ten o'clock, yet clearly business was
proceeding within. One of these persons whom he beheld
might be a Rothschild, for aught he knew; at any rate,
it was presumable that some of them were on the premises.
He had heard it said that the very head of the house listened
to quotations from the tape while he ate his luncheon,
and interrupted his conversations with the most important
of non-commercial callers, to make or refuse bargains
in shares offered by brokers who came in. What impulse
lay behind this extraordinary devotion to labour? Toward
what conceivable goal could it be striving?
To work hard and risk great things for the possession
of a fortune, in order to enjoy it afterward--he could
understand how that attracted men. But to possess
already the biggest of human fortunes, and still work--
that baffled him. He wished he knew some of those men
in there, especially if they belonged to the place.
It would be wonderfully interesting to get at the inner
point of view of New Court.
A little later, in Colin Semple's office, he sat down to
await the coming of that gentleman. "Then he doesn't get
here so early nowadays?" he suggested to the head-clerk who,
with instant recognition and exaggerated deference,
had ushered him into this furthermost private room.
It pleased him to assume that prosperity had relaxed the
"Oh yes, sir," the clerk replied. "A bit earlier if anything,
as a rule. But I think he is stopping at his solicitors
on his way to the City. I hope you are very well, sir."
"Yes--I'm very fit--thanks," Thorpe said, listlessly,
and the other left him.
Mr. Semple, when at last he arrived, bustled into
the room with unaffected gratification at the news
he had heard without. "Well, well, Thorpe man!"
he cried, and shook hands cordially. "This is fine!
If I'd only known you were in town! Why wouldn't you
have told me you were coming? I'd never have kept you waiting."
Thorpe laughed wearily. "I hardly knew I was in town myself.
I only ran up last night. I thought it would amuse me
to have a look round--but things seem as dull as ditchwater."
"Oh no," said Semple, "the autumn is opening verra
well indeed. There are more new companies, and a better
public subscription all round, than for any first
week of October I remember. Westralians appear bad
on the face of things, it's true--but don't believe
all you hear of them. There's more than the suspicion
of a 'rig' there. Besides, you haven't a penny in them."
"I wasn't thinking of that," Thorpe told him,
with comprehensive vagueness. "Well, I suppose
you're still coining money," he observed, after a pause.
"Keeping along--keeping along," the broker replied,
cheerfully. "I canna complain." Thorpe looked at him with a
meditative frown. "Well, what are you going to do with it,
after you've got it?" he demanded, almost with sharpness.
The Scotchman, after a surprised instant, smiled. "Oh, I'll
just keep my hands on it," he assured him, lightly.
"That isn't what I mean," Thorpe said, groping after what
he did mean, with sullen tenacity, among his thoughts.
His large, heavy face exhibited a depressed gravity
which attracted the other's attention.
"What's the matter?" Semple asked quickly. "Has anything
gone wrong with you?"
Thorpe slowly shook his head. "What better off do you
think you'll be with six figures than you are with five?"
he pursued, with dogmatic insistence.
Semple shrugged his shoulders. He seemed to have grown
much brighter and gayer of mood in this past twelvemonth.
Apparently he was somewhat stouter, and certainly there was
a mellowed softening of his sharp glance and shrewd smile.
It was evident that his friend's mood somewhat nonplussed him,
but his good-humour was unflagging.
"It's the way we're taught at school," he hazarded, genially.
"In all the arithmetics six beats five, and seven beats six."
"They're wrong," Thorpe declared, and then consented
to laugh in a grudging, dogged way at his friend's facial
confession of puzzlement. "What I mean is--what's the good
of piling up money, while you can't pile up the enjoyments
it will buy? What will a million give you, that the fifth
of it, or the tenth of it, won't give you just as well?"
"Aye," said Semple, with a gleam of comprehension in his glance.
"So you've come to that frame of mind, have you?
Why does a man go on and shoot five hundred pheasants,
when he can eat only one?"
"Oh, if you like the mere making of money, I've nothing
more to say," Thorpe responded, with a touch of resentment.
"I've always thought of you as a man like myself,
who wanted to make his pile and then enjoy himself."
The Scotchman laughed joyously. "Enjoy myself! Like you!"
he cried. "Man, you're as doleful as a mute at a laird's
funeral! What's come over you? I know what it is.
You go and take a course of German waters----"
"Oh, that be damned!" Thorpe objected, gloomily. "I tell
you I'm all right. Only--only--God! I've a great notion
to go and get drunk."
Colin Semple viewed his companion with a more sympathetic
expression. "I'm sorry you're so hipped," he said,
in gentle tones. "It can't be more than some passing whimsy.
You're in no real trouble, are you?--no family trouble?"
Thorpe shook his head. "The whole thing is rot!"
he affirmed, enigmatically.
"What whole thing?" The broker perched on the edge
of his desk, and with patient philosophy took him up.
"Do you mean eighty thousand a year is rot? That depends
upon the man who has it."
"I know that well enough," broke in the other, heavily.
"That's what I'm kicking about. I'm no good!"
Semple, looking attentively down upon him, pursed his lips
in reflection. "That's not the case," he observed with
argumentative calmness. "You're a great deal of good.
I'm not so sure that what you've been trying to do is
any good, though. Come!--I read you like large print.
You've set out to live the life of a rich country
squire--and it hasn't come off. It couldn't come off! I
never believed it would. You haven't the taste for it
inbred in your bones. You haven't the thousand little
habits and interests that they take in with their
mother's milk, and that make such a life possible.
When you look at a hedge, you don't think of it as
something to worry live animals out of. When you see
one of your labourers, you don't care who his father was,
or which dairymaid his uncle ought to have married,
if he had wanted to get a certain cottage. You don't want
to know the name of everybody whose roof you can see;
much less could you remember them, and talk about them,
and listen to gossip about them, year after year.
It isn't a passion in your blood to ride to hounds,
and to shoot, and all that. It doesn't come to you by
tradition--and you haven't the vacancy of mind which might
be a substitute for tradition. What are you doing in
the country, then? Just eating too much, and sitting about,
and getting fat and stupid. If you want the truth,
there it is for you."
Thorpe, putting out his lips judicially, inclined upon
reflection to the view that this was the truth.
"That's all right, as far as it goes," he assented,
with hesitation. "But what the hell else is there?"
The little Scotchman had grown too interested in his diagnosis
to drop it in an incomplete state. "A year ago," he went on,
"you had won your victories like a veritable Napoleon.
You had everything in your own hands; Napoleon himself was
not more the master of what he saw about him than you were.
And then what did you do? You voluntarily retired
yourself to your Elba. It wasn't that you were beaten
and driven there by others; you went of your own accord.
Have you ever thought, Thorpe, of this? Napoleon was
the greatest man of his age--one of the greatest men
of all ages--not only in war but in a hundred other ways.
He spent the last six years of his life at St. Helena--in
excellent health and with companions that he talked
freely to--and in all the extraordinarily copious reports
of his conversations there, we don't get a single sentence
worth repeating. If you read it, you'll see he talked
like a dull, ordinary body. The greatness had entirely
evaporated from him, the moment he was put on an island
where he had nothing to do."
"Yes-s," said Thorpe, thoughtfully. He accepted the
application without any qualms about the splendour of the
comparison it rested upon. He had done the great things,
just as Semple said, and there was no room for false modesty
about them in his mind. "The trouble is," he began,
"that I did what I had always thought I wanted to do most.
I was quite certain in my mind that that was what I wanted.
And if we say now that I was wrong--if we admit that that
wasn't what I really wanted--why then, God knows what it
is I DO want. I'll be hanged if I do!"
"Come back to the City," Semple told him. "That's where
"No--no!" Thorpe spoke with emphasis. "That's where
you're all off. I don't belong in the City at all.
I hate the whole outfit. What the devil amusement would
it be to me to take other men's money away from them?
I'd be wanting all the while to give it back to them.
And certainly I wouldn't get any fun out of their taking
my money away from me. Besides, it doesn't entertain me.
I've no taste at all for it. I never look at a financial
paper now. I could no more interest myself in all that
stuff again than I could fly. That's the hell of it--to be
interested in anything."
"Go in for politics," the other suggested, with less warmth.
"Yes, I know," Thorpe commented, with a lingering tone.
"Perhaps I ought to think more about that. By the way,
what's Plowden doing? I've lost all track of him."
"Abroad somewhere, I fancy," Semple replied. His manner
exhibited a profound indifference. "When his mother
died he came into something--I don't know how much.
I don't think I've seen him since--and that must have been
six months and more ago."
"Yes. I heard about it at the time," the other said.
"It must be about that. His sister and brother--the
young Plowdens--they're coming to us at the end of
the week, I believe. You didn't hit it off particularly
with Plowden, eh?"
Semple emitted a contemptuous little laugh. "I did
not quarrel with him--if you mean that," he said,
"but even to please you, Thorpe, I couldn't bring myself
to put my back into the job of making money for him.
He was treated fairly--even generously, d'ye mind.
I should think, all told, he had some thirty thousand
pounds for his shares, and that's a hundred times as much
as I had a pleasure in seeing him get. Each man can
wear his own parasites, but it's a task for him to stand
another man's. I shook your Lord Plowden off, when the
"THAT'S all right," Thorpe assured him, easily. "I never
told you that he was any good. I merely felt like giving
him a leg up--because really at the start he was of use
to me. I did owe him something....It was at his house
that I met my wife."
"Aye," said Semple, with dispassionate brevity.
WHEN he had parted with Semple, at a corner where
the busy broker, who had walked out with him,
obviously fidgeted to get away, Thorpe could think
of no one else in the City whom he desired to see.
A call upon his bankers would, he knew, be made an occasion
of extremely pleasant courtesy by those affable people,
but upon reflection it seemed scarcely worth the trouble.
He was in a mood for indolent sauntering, and he made the long
stretch of the Holborn thoroughfare in a leisurely fashion,
turning off when the whim seized him into odd courts and
alley-ways to see what they were like. After luncheon,
he continued his ramble, passing at last from St. Giles,
through avenues which had not existed in the London
of his boyhood, to the neighbourhood of the Dials.
Here also the landmarks seemed all changed, but there
was still enough ostentatious squalor and disorder
to identify the district. He observed it and its
inhabitants with a certain new curiosity. A notable
alteration for the better had come over his spirits.
It might be the champagne at luncheon, or it might
be the mere operation of a frank talk with Semple,
that had dissipated his gloom. At all events it was
gone--and he strolled along in quite placid contentment,
taking in the panorama of London's more intimate life with
the interest of a Londoner who has obtained a fresh country eye.
He who had seen most of the world, and not cared much
about the spectacle, found himself now consciously enjoying
observation as he had not supposed it possible to do.
He surrendered himself to the experience with a novel
sense of having found something worth while--and
found it, moreover, under his very nose. In some dull,
meaningless fashion he had always known this part
of London, and been familiar with its external aspects.
Now suddenly he perceived that the power had come to him
of seeing it all in a different way. The objects he beheld,
inanimate and otherwise, had specific new meanings for him.
His mind was stirred pleasurably by the things they said
He looked at all the contents of the windows as he passed;
at the barrows of the costers and hawkers crowding up
the side-streets; at the coarse-haired, bare-headed
girls and women standing about in their shawls and big
white aprons; at the weakling babies in their arms or
about the thick, clumsy folds of their stained skirts;
at the grimy, shuffling figures of their men-folk, against
the accustomed background of the public-house corner,
with its half-open door, and its fly-blown theatre-bills
in the windows; at the drivers of the vans and carts,
sleepily overlooking the huge horses, gigantic to the
near view as some survival from the age of mammoths,
which pushed gingerly, ploddingly, their tufted feet over
the greasy stones; at foul interiors where through the
blackness one discerned bent old hags picking over refuse;
at the faces which, as he passed, made some special human
appeal to him--faces blurred with drink, faces pallid
with under-feeding, faces worn into masks by the tension
of trouble, faces sweetened by resignation, faces aglow
with devil-may-care glee...he looked, as it were,
into the pulsing heart of something which had scarcely
seemed alive to him before.
Eventually, he found himself halting at the door of his
sister's book-shop. A new boy stood guard over the stock
exposed on the shelf and stands outside, and he looked stonily
at the great man; it was evident that he was as far from
suspecting his greatness as his relationship. It pleased
Thorpe for a little to take up one book after another,
and pretend to read from it, and force the boy to watch
him hard. He had almost the temptation to covertly slip
a volume into his pocket, and see what the lad would do.
It was remarkable, he reflected with satisfaction--this
new capacity within him to find drama in trifles.
There floated into his mind the recollection of some absurd
squabble he had had with his sister about the sign overhead.
He stepped back a few paces and looked up at it.
There were the old words--"Thorpe, Bookseller"--right enough,
but they seemed to stand forth with a novel prominence.
Upon a second glance, he saw that the board had been repainted.
At this he laughed aloud. The details of the episode
came back to him now. For some reason, or no reason
at all--he could not now imagine what on earth could
have prompted him--he had last spring caused his sister
to be informed of his wish that her own name, Dabney,
should be substituted for that of Thorpe on her sign.
It was to Julia that he had confided this mission,
and it was Julia who, in a round-about way, had disclosed
to him presently her mother's deep resolution to do
nothing of the sort. He laughed again at the added
defiance that this refurbishing of the old sign expressed,
and still was grinning broadly as he entered the shop
and pushed his way along to the rear.
She stood beside her desk as she seemed to have stood ever
since he could remember her--tall, placid, dull-eyed,
self-sufficient, exhaling as it were a kind of stubborn
yet competent listlessness. Her long, mannish countenance
expressed an undoubted interest in his presence, when she
recognized him, but he had no clear perception whether it
was pleased or otherwise. In their infrequent latter-day
encounters he had dropped the habit of kissing her,
and there was certainly no hint in her manner of expecting,
much less inviting, its renewal now--but upon a sudden
impulse he drew her to him with an arm flung round her
gaunt waist, smacked his lips with effusion upon her cheek.
Her surprise, as she withdrew herself somewhat forcefully
from his embrace, was plain enough. "Well!" she exclaimed
vaguely, and then looked at him. "You're getting fatter."
"No I'm not," he rejoined, with the earnestness belonging
to an important topic. "People think I am--but it's
merely the looseness of these clothes. There's really
no difference since I was here last."
The glance they exchanged was so full of the tacit comment
that this last visit was a long time ago, that Thorpe put
it into words. "Let's see--that was just before Christmas,
wasn't it?" he said.
"Something like that," she responded. "You were going
to get married in a week or two, I remember, and THAT
was in January, wasn't it? I was taking stock, I know."
He nodded in turn. The thought that his only sister recalled
his marriage merely as a date, like a royal anniversary
or a bank-holiday, and held herself implacably aloof from
all contact with his domestic life, annoyed him afresh.
"You're an awful goat, not to come near us," he felt impelled,
in brotherly frankness, to tell her.
She put out her lips, and wagged her head a little,
in a gesture which it flashed across him his own mirror
might often have recorded. "I thought that was all settled
and done with long ago," she said, moodily.
"Oh, I won't worry you with it, Lou," he observed,
with reassuring kindness of tone. "I never felt so much
like being nice to you in my life."
She seemed surprised at this, too, and regarded him
with a heavy new fixity of gaze. No verbal comment,
apparently, occurred to her.
"Julia and Alfred all right?" he queried, cheerfully.
"I daresay," she made brief answer.
"But they write to you, don't they?"
"SHE does--sometimes. They seem to be doing themselves
very well, from what she says."
"She'd write oftener, if you'd answer her letters,"
he told her, in tones of confidential reproach.
"Oh, I don't write letters unless I've got something to say,"
she answered, as if the explanation were ample.
The young people were domiciled for the time being at Dusseldorf,
where Alfred had thought he would most like to begin his
Continental student-career, and where Julia, upon the more or
less colourable pretext of learning the language, might enjoy
the mingled freedom and occupation of a home of her own.
They had taken a house for the summer and autumn, and would
do the same in Dresden or Munich, later on, for the winter.
"What I would really have liked," Thorpe confided to his
sister now, "was to have had them both live with me.
They would have been as welcome as the day is long.
I could see, of course, in Alfred's case, that if he's
set on being an artist, he ought to study abroad.
Even the best English artists, he says, do that at
the beginning. So it was all right for him to go.
But Julia--it was different with her--I was rather keen
about her staying. My wife was just as keen as I was.
She took the greatest fancy to Julia from the very start--and
so far as I could see, Julia liked her all right.
In fact, I thought Julia would want to stay--but somehow
"She always spoke very highly of your wife," Mrs. Dabney
affirmed with judicial fairness. "I think she does
like her very much."
"Well then what did she want to hyke off to live among
those Dutchmen for, when one of the best houses in England
was open to her?" Thorpe demanded.
"You mustn't ask me," her mother responded. Her tone
seemed to carry the suggestion that by silence she could
best protect her daughter's interests.
"I don't believe you know any more about it than I do,"
was his impulsive comment.
"I daresay not," she replied, with indifference.
"Probably she didn't fancy living in so big a house--
although heaven knows her ideas are big enough about
"Did she say so?" Thorpe asked abruptly.
The widow shook her head with dispassionate candour.
"She didn't say anything to me about it, one way or the other.
I formed my own impressions--that's all. It's a free country.
Everybody can form their impressions."
"I wish you'd tell me what you really think," Thorpe urged her,
mildly persuasive. "You know how fond I am of Julia,
and how little I want to do her an injustice."
"Oh, she wouldn't feel THAT way," Louisa observed, vaguely.
"If you ask me plain, I think it was dull for her."
"Well," said Thorpe, upon reflection, "I shouldn't
be surprised if it was. I hadn't thought of that.
But still--why she and my wife could be company for
"You talk as if life was merely a long railway journey,"
she told him, in an unexpected flight of metaphor.
"Two women cooped up in a lonesome country house may be
a little less lonely than one of them by herself would
be--but not much. It's none of my business--but how your
wife must hate it!"
He laughed easily. "Ah, that's where you're wrong,"
he said. "She doesn't care about anything but gardening.
That's her hobby. She's crazy about it. We've laid out
more in new greenhouses alone, not counting the plants,
than would rebuild this building. I'm not sure the heating
apparatus wouldn't come to that, alone. And then the plants!
What do you think of six and eight guineas for a single
root? Those are the amaryllises--and if you come to orchids,
you can pay hundreds if you like. Well, that's her passion.
That's what she really loves."
"That's what she seizes upon to keep her from just dying
of loneliness," Louisa retorted, obstinately, and at a sign
of dissent from her brother she went on. "Oh, I know what
I'm talking about. I have three or four customers--ladies
in the country, and one of them is a lady of title,
too--and they order gardening books and other books through me,
and when they get up to town, once a year or so, they come
here and they talk to me about it. And there isn't one
of them that at the bottom of her heart doesn't hate it.
They'd rather dodge busses at Charing Cross corner all
day long, than raise flowers as big as cheeses, if they
had their own way. But they don't have their own way,
and they must have something to occupy themselves with--and
they take to gardening. I daresay I'd even do it myself
if I had to live in the country, which thank God I don't!"
"That's because you don't know anything about the country,"
he told her, but the retort, even while it justified itself,
had a hollow sound in his own ears. "All you know outside
of London is Margate."
"I went to Yarmouth and Lowestoft this summer,"
she informed him, crushingly.
Somehow he lacked the heart to laugh. "I know what you mean,
Lou," he said, with an affectionate attempt at placation.
"I suppose there's a good deal in what you say. It is dull,
out there at my place, if you have too much of it.
Perhaps that's a good hint about my wife. It never
occurred to me, but it may be so. But the deuce of it is,
what else is there to do? We tried a house in London,
during the Season----"
"Yes, I saw in the papers you were here," she said impassively,
in comment upon his embarrassed pause.
"I didn't look you up, because I didn't think you wanted much
to see me"--he explained with a certain awkwardness--"but
bye-gones are all bye-gones. We took a town house,
but we didn't like it. It was one endless procession
of stupid and tiresome calls and dinners and parties;
we got awfully sick of it, and swore we wouldn't try
it again. Well there you are, don't you see? It's stupid
in Hertfordshire, and it's stupid here. Of course one can
travel abroad, but that's no good for more than a few months.
Of course it would be different if I had something to do.
I tell you God's truth, Lou--sometimes I feel as if I
was really happier when I was a poor man. I know it's all
rot--I really wasn't--but sometimes it SEEMS as if I was."
She contemplated him with a leaden kind of gaze.
"Didn't it ever occur to you to do some good with your money?"
she said, with slow bluntness. Then, as if fearing a
possible misconception, she added more rapidly: " I don't
mean among your own family. We're a clannish people,
we Thorpes; we'd always help our own flesh and blood,
even if we kicked them while we were doing it--but I
mean outside, in the world at large."
"What have I got to do with the world at large? I didn't
make it; I'm not responsible for it." He muttered the
phrases lightly enough, but a certain fatuity in them
seemed to attract his attention when he heard their sound.
"I've given between five and six thousand pounds to
London hospitals within the present year," he added,
straightening himself. "I wonder you didn't see it.
It was in all the papers."
It was impossible to exaggerate the scorn which her
voice imported into the word. He looked at her with
unfeigned surprise, and then took in the impression that she
was upon a subject which exceptionally interested her.
Certainly the display of something approaching animation
in her glance and manner was abnormal.
"I said 'do some GOOD with your money,'" she reminded him,
still with a vibration of feeling in her tone. "You must
live in the country, if you think London hospitals are
deserving objects. They couldn't fool Londoners on that point,
not if they had got the Prince to go on his hands and knees.
And you give a few big cheques to them," she went on,
meditatively, "and you never ask how they're managed,
or what rings are running them for their own benefit,
or how your money is spent--and you think you've done
a noble, philanthropic thing! Oh no--I wasn't talking
about humbug charity. I was talking about doing some
genuine good in the world."
He put his leg over the high stool, and pushed his hat
back with a smile. "All right," he said, genially.
"What do you propose?"
"I don't propose anything," she told him, after a
moment's hesitation. "You must work that out for yourself.
What might seem important to me might not interest you
at all--and if you weren't interested you wouldn't
do anything. But this I do say to you, Joel--and I've
said it to myself every day for this last year or more,
and had you in mind all the time, too--if I had made
a great fortune, and I sat about in purple and fine linen
doing nothing but amuse myself in idleness and selfishness,
letting my riches accumulate and multiply themselves without
being of use to anybody, I should be ASHAMED to look
my fellow-creatures in the face! You were born here.
You know what London slums are like. You know what Clare
Market was like--it's bad enough still--and what the Seven
Dials and Drury Lane and a dozen other places round here
are like to this day. That's only within a stone's throw.
Have you seen Charles Booth's figures about the London
poor? Of course you haven't--and it doesn't matter.
You KNOW what they are like. But you don't care.
The misery and ignorance and filth and hopelessness of two
or three hundred thousand people doesn't interest you.
You sit upon your money-bags and smile. If you want the truth,
I'm ashamed to have you for a brother!"
"Well, I'm damned!" was Thorpe's delayed and puzzled
comment upon this outburst. He looked long at his sister,
in blank astonishment. "Since when have you been taken
this way?" he asked at last, mechanically jocular.
"That's all right," she declared with defensive inconsequence.
"It's the way I feel. It's the way I've felt from
He was plainly surprised out of his equanimity by this
unlooked-for demonstration on his sister's part.
He got off the stool and walked about in the little
cleared space round the desk. When he spoke, it was
to utter something which he could trace to no mental
process of which he had been conscious.
"How do you know that that isn't what I've felt too--from
the beginning?" he demanded of her, almost with truculence.
"You say I sit on my money-bags and smile--you abuse
me with doing no good with my money--how do you know
I haven't been studying the subject all this while,
and making my plans, and getting ready to act? You never
did believe in me!"
She sniffed at him. "I don't believe in you now,
at all events," she said, bluntly.
He assumed the expression of a misunderstood man.
"Why, this very day"--he began, and again was aware
that thoughts were coming up, ready-shaped to his tongue,
which were quite strangers to his brain--"this whole
day I've been going inch by inch over the very ground
you mention; I've been on foot since morning, seeing all
the corners and alleys of that whole district for myself,
watching the people and the things they buy and the way
they live--and thinking out my plans for doing something.
I don't claim any credit for it. It seems to me no more
than what a man in my position ought to do. But I own
that to come in, actually tired out from a tramp like that,
and get blown-up by one's own sister for selfishness and
heartlessness and miserliness and all the rest of it--I
must say, that's a bit rum."
Louisa did not wince under this reproach as she might have been
expected to do, nor was there any perceptible amelioration
in the heavy frown with which she continued to regard him.
But her words, uttered after some consideration, came in a
tone of voice which revealed a desire to avoid offense.
"It won't matter to you, your getting blown-up by me,
if you're really occupying your mind with that sort of thing.
You're too used to it for that."
He would have liked a less cautious acceptance of his
assurances than this--but after all, one did not look to Louisa
for enthusiasms. The depth of feeling she had disclosed
on this subject of London's poor still astonished him,
but principally now because of its unlikely source.
If she had been notoriously of an altruistic and
free-handed disposition, he could have understood it.
But she had been always the hard, dry, unemotional one;
by comparison with her, he felt himself to be a volatile
and even sentimental person. If she had such views
as these, it became clear to him that his own views
were even much advanced.
"It's a tremendous subject," he said, with loose largeness
of manner. "Only a man who works hard at it can realize
how complicated it is. The only way is to start with
the understanding that something is going to be done.
No matter how many difficulties there are in the way,
SOMETHING'S GOING TO BE DONE! If a strong man starts out
with that, why then he can fight his way through, and push
the difficulties aside or bend them to suit his purpose,
and accomplish something."
Mrs. Dabney, listening to this, found nothing in it
to quarrel with--yet somehow remained, if not skeptical,
then passively unconvinced. "What are your plans?"
she asked him.
"Oh, it's too soon to formulate anything," he told her,
with prepared readiness. "It isn't a thing to rush into in
a hurry, with half baked theories and limited information.
Great results, permanent results, are never obtained
"I hope it isn't any Peabody model-dwelling thing."
"Oh, nothing like it in the least," he assured her,
and made a mental note to find out what it was she had
"The Lord-Rowton houses are better, they say,"
she went on, "but it seems to me that the real thing
is that there shouldn't be all this immense number of
people with only fourpence or fivepence in their pocket.
That's where the real mischief lies."
He nodded comprehendingly, but hesitated over further words.
Then something occurred to him. "Look here!" he said.
"If you're as keen about all this, are you game to give up
this footling old shop, and devote your time to carrying
out my plans, when I've licked 'em into shape?"
She began shaking her head, but then something seemed
also to occur to her. "It'll be time enough to settle
that when we get to it, won't it?" she observed.
"No--you've got to promise me now," he told her.
"Well that I won't!" she answered, roundly.
"You'd see the whole--the whole scheme come to nothing,
would you?"--he scolded at her--"rather than abate a jot
of your confounded mulishness."
"Aha!" she commented, with a certain alertness of
perception shining through the stolidity of her mien.
"I knew you were humbugging! If you'd meant what you said,
you wouldn't talk about its coming to nothing because I
won't do this or that. I ought to have known better.
I'm always a goose when I believe what you tell me."
A certain abstract justice in her reproach impressed him.
"No you're not, Lou," he replied, coaxingly. "I really
mean it all--every word of it--and more. It only occurred
to me that it would all go better, if you helped.
Can't you understand how I should feel that?"
She seemed in a grudging way to accept anew his professions
of sincerity, but she resisted all attempts to extract
any promise. "I don't believe in crossing a bridge till I get
to it," she declared, when, on the point of his departure,
he last raised the question, and it had to be left at that.
He took with him some small books she had tied in a parcel,
and told him to read. She had spoken so confidently
of their illuminating value, that he found himself quite
committed to their perusal--and almost to their endorsement.
He had thought during the day of running down to Newmarket,
for the Cesarewitch was to be run on the morrow,
and someone had told him that that was worth seeing.
By the time he reached his hotel, however, an entirely
new project had possessed his mind. He packed his bag,
and took the next train for home.
"I DIDN'T ask your father, after all," was one of the things
that Thorpe said to his wife next day. He had the manner
of one announcing a concession, albeit in an affable spirit,
and she received the remark with a scant, silent nod.
Two days later he recurred to the subject. They were
again upon the terrace, where he had been lounging in an
easy-chair most of the day, with the books his sister
had bid him read on a table beside him. He had glanced
through some of them in a desultory fashion, cutting pages
at random here and there, but for the most part he
had looked straight before him at the broad landscape,
mellowing now into soft browns and yellows under the mild,
vague October sun. He had not thought much of the books,
but he had a certain new sense of enjoyment in the fruits
of this placid, abstracted rumination which perhaps they
had helped to induce.
"About your father," he said now, as his wife,
who had come out to speak with him on some other matter,
was turning to go away again: "I'm afraid I annoyed
you the other day by what I said."
"I have no recollection of it," she told him,
with tranquil politeness, over her shoulder.
He found himself all at once keenly desirous of a
conversation on this topic. "But I want you to recollect,"
he said, as he rose to his feet. There was a suggestion
of urgency in his tone which arrested her attention.
She moved slowly toward the chair, and after a little
perched herself upon one of its big arms, and looked up
at him where he leant against the parapet.
"I've thought of it a good deal," he went on,
in halting explanation. His purpose seemed clearer to
him than were the right phrases in which to define it.
"I persisted in saying that I'd do something you didn't
want me to do--something that was a good deal more
your affair than mine--and I've blamed myself for it.
That isn't at all what I want to do."
Her face as well as her silence showed her to be at a loss
for an appropriate comment. She was plainly surprised,
and seemingly embarrassed as well. "I'm sure you always
wish to be nice," she said at last. The words and tone
were alike gracious, but he detected in them somewhere
a perfunctory note.
"Oh--nice!" he echoed, in a sudden stress of impatience
with the word. "Damn being 'nice'! Anybody can be
'nice.' I'm thinking of something ten thousand times
bigger than being 'nice.'"
"I withdraw the word immediately--unreservedly," she put in,
with a smile in which he read that genial mockery he knew
"You laugh at me--whenever I try to talk seriously,"
"I laugh?" she queried, with an upward glance of demurely
simulated amazement. "Impossible! I assure you I've
"Ah, now we get to it!" he broke out, with energy.
"You're really feeling about it just as I am.
You're not satisfied with what we're doing--with the
life we're leading--any more than I am. I see that,
plain enough, now. I didn't dream of it before. Somehow I
got the idea that you were enjoying it immensely--the
greenhouses and gardens and all that sort of thing.
And do you know who it was that put me right--that told
me you hated it?"
"Oh, don't let us talk of him!" Edith exclaimed, swiftly.
Thorpe laughed. "You're wrong. It wasn't your father.
I didn't see him. No--it was my sister. She's never seen you,
but all the same she knew enough to give me points.
She told me I was a fool to suppose you were happy here."
"How clever of her!" A certain bantering smile accompanied
the words, but on the instant it faded away. She went
on with a musing gravity. "I'm sorry I don't get to know
your sister. She seems an extremely real sort of person.
I can understand that she might be difficult to live with--I
daresay all genuine characters are--but she's very real.
Although, apparently, conversation isn't her strong point,
still I enjoy talking with her."
"How do you mean?" Thorpe asked, knitting his brows
"Oh, I often go to her shop--or did when I was in town.
I went almost immediately after our--our return to England.
I was half afraid she would recognize me--the portraits
in the papers, you know--but apparently she didn't. And
it's splendid--the way she says absolutely nothing more
than it's necessary to say. And her candour! If she
thinks books are bad she says so. Fancy that!"
He still frowned uneasily as he looked down at her.
"You never mentioned to me that you had gone there,"
he told her, as if in reproach.
"Ah, it was complicated," Edith explained. "She objects
to knowing me--I think secretly I respect her a great deal
for that--and therefore there is something clandestine
about my getting to know her--and I could not be sure
how it would impress you, and really it seemed simplest
not to mention it."
"It isn't that alone," he declared, grave-faced still,
but with a softer voice. "Do you remember what I said
the other day? It would make all the difference in the world
to me, if--if you were really--actually my other half!"
The phrase which he had caught at seemed, as it fell upon
the air, to impregnate it with some benumbing quality.
The husband and wife looked dumbly, almost vacantly at
one another, for what appeared a long time.
"I mean"--all at once Thorpe found tongue, and even a sort
of fluency as he progressed--"I mean, if you shared things
really with me! Oh, I'm not complaining; you mustn't
think that. The agreement we made at the start--you've kept
your part of it perfectly. You've done better than that:
you've kept still about the fact that it made you unhappy."
"Oh no," she interposed, gently. "It is not the fact
that it has made me unhappy."
"Well--discontented, then," he resumed, without pause.
"Here we are. We do the thing we want to do--we make
the kind of home for ourselves that we've agreed we
would like--and then it turns out that somehow it
doesn't come up to expectations. You get tired of it.
I suppose, if the truth were known, I'm by way of being
tired of it too. Well, if you look at it, that fact is
the most important thing in the world for both of us.
It's the one thing that we ought to be most anxious
to discuss, and examine frankly in all its bearings--in
order to see if we can't better it--but that's precisely
the thing that doesn't get talked about between us.
You would never have told me that you were unhappy----"
"You use the word again," she reminded him, a wan smile
softening her protest.
Thorpe stood up, and took a slow step toward the chair.
He held her glance with his own, as he stood then,
his head bent, gravely regarding her.
"Do you tell me that you are happy?" he asked,
with sober directness.
She fluttered her hands in a little restrained gesture
of comment. "You consider only the extremes," she told him.
"Between black and white there are so many colours and shades
and half-tones! The whole spectrum, in fact. Hardly anybody,
I should think, gets over the edge into the true black
or the true white. There are always tints, modifications.
People are always inside the colour-scheme, so to speak.
The worst that can be said of me is that I may be in the
blues--in the light-blues--but it is fair to remember
that they photograph white."
Though there was an impulse within him to resent this
as trifling, he resisted it, and judicially considered
her allegory. "That is to say"--he began hesitatingly.
"To the observer I am happy. To myself I am not unhappy."
"Why won't you tell me, Edith, just where you are?"
The sound of her name was somewhat unfamiliar to their discourse. The
intonation which his voice gave to it now caused her to look up quickly.
"If I could tell myself," she answered him, after an
instant's thought, "pray believe that I would tell you."
The way seemed for the moment blocked before him, and he
sighed heavily. "I want to get nearer to you," he said,
with gloom, "and I don't!"
It occurred to her to remark: "You take exception to my
phraseology when I say you always try to be 'nice,' but I'm
sure you know what I mean." She offered him this assurance
with a tentative smile, into which he gazed moodily.
"You didn't think I was 'nice' when you consented to
marry me," he was suddenly inspired to say. "I can't
imagine your applying that word to me then in your mind.
God knows what it was you did say to yourself about me,
but you never said I was 'nice.' That was the last
word that would have fitted me then--and now it's
the only one you can think of." The hint that somehow
he had stumbled upon a clue to the mysteries enveloping
him rose to prominence in his mind as he spoke.
The year had wrought a baffling difference in him.
He lacked something now that then he had possessed,
but he was powerless to define it.
He seated himself again in the chair, and put his hand
through her arm to keep her where she lightly rested
beside him. "Will you tell me," he said, with a kind
of sombre gentleness, "what the word is that you would
have used then? I know you wouldn't--couldn't--have
called me 'nice.' What would you have called me?"
She paused in silence for a little, then slipped from
the chair and stood erect, still leaving her wrist within
the restraining curve of his fingers. "I suppose,"
she said, musingly--"I suppose I should have said
'powerful' or 'strong.'" Then she released her arm,
and in turn moved to the parapet.
"And I am weak now--I am 'nice,'" he reflected, mechanically.
In the profile he saw, as she looked away at the vast
distant horizon, there was something pensive, even sad.
She did not speak at once, and as he gazed at her more
narrowly it seemed as if her lips were quivering.
A new sense of her great beauty came to him--and with it
a hint that for the instant at least her guard was down.
He sprang to his feet, and stood beside her.
"You ARE going to be open with me--Edith!" he pleaded, softly.
She turned from him a little, as if to hide the signs of
her agitation. "Oh, what is there to say?" she demanded,
in a tone which was almost a wail. "It is not your fault.
I'm not blaming you."
"WHAT is not my fault?" he persisted with patient gentleness.
Suddenly she confronted him. There were the traces of tears
upon her lashes, and serenity had fled from her face.
"It is a mistake--a blunder," she began, hurriedly. "I take
it all upon my own shoulders. I was the one who did it.
I should have had more judgment--more good sense!"
"You are not telling me, are you," he asked with gravity,
"that you are sorry you married me?"
"Is either of us glad?" she retorted, breathlessly.
"What is there to be glad about? You are bored to death--you
confess it. And I--well, it is not what I thought
it would be. I deceived myself. I do not reproach you."
"No, you keep saying that," he observed, with gloomy
slowness of utterance. "But what is it you reproach
yourself with, then? We might as well have it out."
"Yes," she assented, with a swift reversion to calm.
Her eyes met his with a glance which had in it an
implacable frankness. "I married one man because he
would be able to make me a Duchess. I married another
because he had eighty thousand a year. That is the kind
of beast I am. There is bad blood in me. You know
my father; that is quite enough. I am his daughter;
that explains everything."
The exaggeration of her tone and words produced a curious
effect upon him. He stared at her for a little,
perceiving slowly that a new personage was being revealed
to him. The mask of delicately-balanced cynicism,
of amiably polite indifference, had been lifted;
there was a woman of flesh and blood beneath it,
after all--a woman to whom he could talk on terms of intimacy.
"Rubbish!" he said, and his big face lightened into a genial,
paternal smile. "You didn't marry me for my money at all!
What nonsense! I simply came along and carried you off.
You couldn't help yourself. It would have been the same
if I hadn't had sixpence."
To his sharp scrutiny there seemed to flicker in her eyes
a kind of answering gleam. Then she hastily averted
her glance, and in this action too there was a warrant
for his mounting confidence.
"The trouble has been," he declared, "that I've been too
much afraid of you. I've thought that you were made of so
much finer stuff than I am, that you mustn't be touched.
That was all a mistake. I see it right enough now.
You ARE finer than I am--God knows there's no dispute
about that--but that's no reason why I should have hung up
signs of 'Hands off!' all around you, and been frightened
by them myself. I had the cheek to capture you and carry
you off--and I ought to have had the pluck to make you
love me afterward, and keep it up. And that's what I'm
going to do!"
To this declaration she offered no immediate reply,
but continued to gaze with a vaguely meditative air
upon the expanse of landscape spread below them.
He threw a hasty glance over the windows behind him,
and then with assurance passed his arm round her waist.
He could not say that there was any responsive yielding
to his embrace, but he did affirm to himself with
new conviction, as he looked down upon the fair small head
at his shoulder, with its lovely pale-brown hair drawn
softly over the temples, and its glimpse of the matchless
profile inclined beneath--that it was all right.
He waited for a long time, with a joyous patience,
for her to speak. The mere fact that she stood beneath
his engirdling arm, and gave no thought to the potential
servants'-eyes behind them, was enough for present happiness.
He regarded the illimitable picture commanded from his
terrace with refreshed eyes; it was once again the finest
view in England--and something much more than that beside.
At last, abruptly, she laughed aloud--a silvery,
amused little laugh under her breath. "How comedy and
tragedy tread forever on each other's heels!" she remarked.
Her tone was philosophically gay, but upon reflection
he did not wholly like her words.
"There wasn't any tragedy," he said, "and there isn't
She laughed again. "Oh, don't say that this doesn't appeal
to your sense of humour!" she urged, with mock fervour.
Thorpe sighed in such unaffected depression at this,
that she seemed touched by his mood. Without stirring from
his hold, she lifted her face. "Don't think I'm hateful,"
she bade him, and her eyes were very kind. "There's more
truth in what you've been saying than even you imagine.
It really wasn't the money--or I mean it might easily have
been the same if there had been no money. But how shall I
explain it? I am attracted by a big, bold, strong pirate,
let us say, but as soon as he has carried me off--that
is the phrase for it--then he straightway renounces
crime and becomes a law-abiding, peaceful citizen.
My buccaneer transforms himself, under my very eyes,
into an alderman! Do you say there is no comedy in that--and
"Oh, put it that way and it's all right," he declared,
after a moment's consideration. "I've got as much fun
in me as anybody else," he went on, "only your jokes have
a way of raising blisters on me, somehow. But that's
all done with now. That's because I didn't know you--was
frightened of you. But I aint scared any more.
Everything is different!"
With a certain graciousness of lingering movement,
she withdrew herself from his clasp, and faced him with
a doubtful smile. "Ah, don't be too sure," she murmured.
"Everything is different!" he repeated, with confident emphasis.
"Don't you see yourself it is?"
"You say it is," she replied, hesitatingly, "but that
alone doesn't make it so. The assertion that life
isn't empty doesn't fill it."
"Ah, but NOW you will talk with me about all that,"
he broke in triumphantly. "We've been standing off with
one another. We've been of no help to each other. But we'll
change that, now. We'll talk over everything together.
We'll make up our minds exactly what we want to do,
and then I'll tuck you under my arm and we'll set out
and do it."
She smiled with kindly tolerance for his new-born enthusiasm.
"Don't count on me for too much wisdom or invention,"
she warned him. "If things are to be done, you are still
the one who will have to do them. But undoubtedly you
are at your best when you are doing things. This really
has been no sort of life for you, here."
He gathered her arm into his. "Come and show me your greenhouses,"
he said, and began walking toward the end of the terrace.
"It'll turn out to have been all right for me, this year
that I've spent here," he continued, as they strolled along.
There was a delightful consciousness of new intimacy
conveyed by the very touch of her arm, which filled his tone
with buoyancy. "I've been learning all sorts of tricks here,
and getting myself into your ways of life. It's all
been good training. In every way I'm a better man than I was."
They had descended from the terrace to a garden path,
and approached now a long glass structure, through the
panes of which masses of soft colour--whites, yellows,
pinks, mauves, and strange dull reds--were dimly perceptible.
"The chrysanthemums are not up to much this year,"
Edith observed, as they drew near to the door of this house.
"Collins did them very badly--as he did most other things.
But next year it will be very different. Gafferson is the
best chrysanthemum man in England. That is he in there now,
Thorpe stopped short, and stared at her, the while the
suggestions stirred by the sound of this name slowly
"Gafferson?" he asked her, with a blank countenance.
"My new head-gardener," she explained. "He was at Hadlow,
and after poor old Lady Plowden died--why, surely you
remember him there. You spoke about him--you'd known him
somewhere--in the West Indies, wasn't it?"
He looked into vacancy with the aspect of one stupefied.
"Did I?" he mumbled automatically.
Then, with sudden decision, he swung round on the gravel.
"I've got a kind of headache coming on," he said. "If you
don't mind, we won't go inside among the flowers."
THORPE walked along, in the remoter out-of-the-way parts
of the great gardens, as the first shadows of evening
began to dull the daylight. For a long time he moved
aimlessly about, sick at heart and benumbed of mind,
in the stupid oppression of a bad dream.
There ran through all his confused thoughts the exasperating
consciousness that it was nonsense to be frightened,
or even disturbed; that, in truth, nothing whatever
had happened. But he could not lay hold of it to any
comforting purpose. Some perverse force within him
insisted on raising new phantoms in his path, and directing
his reluctant gaze to their unpleasant shapes.
Forgotten terrors pushed themselves upon his recollection.
It was as if he stood again in the Board Room, with the
telegram telling of old Tavender's death in his hands,
waiting to hear the knock of Scotland Yard upon the door.
The coming of Gafferson took on a kind of supernatural aspect,
when Thorpe recalled its circumstances. His own curious
mental ferment, which had made this present week a period
apart in his life, had begun in the very hour of this
man's approach to the house. His memory reconstructed
a vivid picture of that approach--of the old ramshackle
village trap, and the boy and the bags and the yellow
tin trunk, and that decent, red-bearded, plebeian figure,
so commonplace and yet so elusively suggestive of something
out of the ordinary. It seemed to him now that he had at the
time discerned a certain fateful quality in the apparition.
And he and his wife had actually been talking of old
Kervick at the moment! It was their disagreement over
him which had prevented her explaining about the new
head-gardener. There was an effect of the uncanny in all this.
And what did Gafferson want? How much did he know? The idea
that perhaps old Kervick had found him out, and patched up
with him a scheme of blackmail, occurred to him, and in the
unreal atmosphere of his mood, became a thing of substance.
With blackmail, however, one could always deal; it was
almost a relief to see the complication assume that guise.
But if Gafferson was intent upon revenge and exposure
instead? With such a slug-like, patient, tenacious fool,
was that not more likely?
Reasonable arguments presented themselves to his mind
ever and again: his wife had known of Gafferson's work,
and thought highly of it, and had been in a position
to learn of his leaving Hadlow. What more natural than
that she should hasten to employ him? And what was it,
after all, that Gafferson could possibly know or prove? His
brother-in-law had gone off, and got too drunk to live,
and had died. What in the name of all that was sensible
had this to do with Thorpe? Why should it even be supposed
that Gafferson associated Thorpe with any phase of the
business? And if he had any notion of a hostile movement,
why should he have delayed action so long? Why indeed!
Reassurance did not come to him, but at last an impulse
to definite action turned his footsteps toward the cluster
of greenhouses in the deepening shadow of the mansion.
He would find Gafferson, and probe this business to
the uttermost. If there was discoverable in the man's
manner or glance the least evidence of a malevolent
intention--he would know what to do. Ah, what was it
that he would do? He could not say, beyond that it would
be bad for Gafferson. He instinctively clenched the fists
in the pockets of his jacket as he quickened his pace.
Inside the congeries of glazed houses he was somewhat at sea.
It was still light enough to make one's way about in the
passages between the stagings, but he had no idea of the
general plan of the buildings, and it seemed to him that he
frequently got back to places he had traversed before.
There were two or three subordinate gardeners in or about
the houses, but upon reflection he forbore to question them.
He tried to assume an idly indifferent air as he
sauntered past, nodding almost imperceptible acknowledgment
of the forefingers they jerked upward in salutation.
He came at last upon a locked door, the key of which had
been removed. The fact vaguely surprised him, and he looked
with awakened interest through the panes of this door.
The air inside seemed slightly thickened--and then
his eye caught the flicker of a flame, straight ahead.
It was nothing but the fumigation of a house; the burning
spirits in the lamp underneath the brazier were filling
the structure with vapours fatal to all insect life.
In two or three hours the men would come and open the doors
and windows and ventilate the place. The operation was
quite familiar to him; it had indeed interested him more
when he first saw it done than had anything else connected
with the greenhouses.
His abstracted gaze happened to take note of the fact
that the door-key was hanging on a nail overhead, and then
suddenly this seemed to be related to something else in his
thoughts--some obscure impression or memory which evaded him.
Continuing to look at the key, a certain recollection
all at once assumed great definiteness in his mind: it
came to him that the labels on this patent fumigator they
were using warned people against exposing themselves to its
fumes more than was absolutely necessary. That meant,
of course, that their full force would kill a human being.
It was very interesting. He looked through the glass again,
but could not see that the air was any thicker.
The lamp still burned brightly.
He turned away, and beheld a man, in an old cap and apron,
at the further end of the palm-house he was in,
doing something to a plant. Thorpe noted the fact that
he felt no surprise in seeing that it was Gafferson.
Somehow the sight of the key, and of the poison-spreading
flame inside the locked door, seemed to have prepared
him for the spectacle of Gafferson close at hand.
He moved forward slowly toward the head-gardener,
and luminous plans rose in his mind, ready-made
at each step. He could strangle this annoying fool,
or smother him, into non-resisting insensibility,
and then put him inside that death-house, and let it
be supposed that he had been asphyxiated by accident.
The men when they came back would find him there.
But ah! they would know that they had not left him there;
they would have seen him outside, no doubt, after the
fire had been lighted. Well, the key could be left
in the unlocked door. Then it could be supposed that he
had rashly entered, and been overcome by the vapours.
He approached the man silently, his brain arranging the
details of the deed with calm celerity.
Then some objections to the plan rose up before him:
they dealt almost exclusively with the social nuisance
the thing would entail. There was to be a house-party,
with that Duke and Duchess in it, of whom his wife talked
so much, and it would be a miserable kind of bore to have
a suffocated gardener forced upon them as a principal topic
of conversation. Of course, too, it would more or less
throw the whole household into confusion. And its effect
upon his wife!--the progress of his thoughts was checked
abruptly by this suggestion. A vision of the shock
such a catastrophe might involve to her--or at the best,
of the gross unpleasantness she would find in it--flashed
over his mind, and then yielded to a softening,
radiant consciousness of how much this meant to him.
It seemed to efface everything else upon the instant.
A profoundly tender desire for her happiness was in
complete possession. Already the notion of doing anything
to wound or grieve her appeared incredible to him.
"Well, Gafferson," he heard himself saying, in one
of the more reserved tones of his patriarchal manner.
He had halted close to the inattentive man, and stood
looking down upon him. His glance was at once tolerant
Gafferson slowly rose from his slouching posture,
surveyed the other while his faculties in leisurely
fashion worked out the problem of recognition, aud then
raised his finger to his cap-brim. "Good-evening, sir,"
This gesture of deference was eloquently convincing.
Thorpe, after an instant's alert scrutiny, smiled upon him.
"I was glad to hear that you had come to us," he said
with benevolent affability. "We shall expect great things
of a man of your reputation."
"It'll be a fair comfort, sir," the other replied,
"to be in a place where what one does is appreciated.
What use is it to succeed in hybridizing a Hippeastrum
procera with a Pancratium Amancaes, after over six
hundred attempts in ten years, and then spend three years
a-hand-nursing the seedlings, and then your master won't
take enough interest in the thing to pay your fare up
to London to the exhibition with 'em? That's what 'ud
break any man's heart."
"Quite true," Thorpe assented, with patrician kindliness.
"You need fear nothing of that sort here, Gafferson. We give
you a free hand. Whatever you want, you have only to let
us know. And you can't do things too well to please us."
"Thank you, sir," said Gafferson, and really, as Thorpe
thought about it, the interview seemed at an end.
The master turned upon his heel, with a brief,
oblique nod over his shoulder, and made his way out into
the open air. Here, as he walked, he drew a succession
of long consolatory breaths. It was almost as if he had
emerged from the lethal presence of the fumigator itself.
He took the largest cigar from his case, lighted it,
and sighed smoke-laden new relief as he strolled back
toward the terrace.
But a few minutes before he had been struggling
helplessly in the coils of an evil nightmare.
These terrors seemed infinitely far behind him now.
He gave an indifferent parting glance backward at them,
as one might over his after-breakfast cigar at the
confused alarms of an early awakening hours before.
There was nothing worth remembering--only the shapeless
and foolish burden of a bad dream.
The assurance rose within him that he was not to have any
more such trouble. With a singular clearness of mental
vision he perceived that the part of him which brought
bad dreams had been sloughed off, like a serpent's skin.
There had been two Thorpes, and one of them--the Thorpe
who had always been willing to profit by knavery, and at
last in a splendid coup as a master thief had stolen nearly
a million, and would have shrunk not at all from adding
murder to the rest, to protect that plunder--this vicious
Thorpe had gone away altogether. There was no longer
a place for him in life; he would never be seen again
by mortal eye....There remained only the good Thorpe,
the pleasant, well-intentioned opulent gentleman;
the excellent citizen; the beneficent master, to whom,
even Gafferson like the others, touched a respectful forelock.
It passed in the procession of his reverie as a kind of
triumph of virtue that the good Thorpe retained the fortune
which the bad Thorpe had stolen. It was in all senses a
fortunate fact, because now it would be put to worthy uses.
Considering that he had but dimly drifted about heretofore on
the outskirts of the altruistic impulse, it was surprisingly
plain to him now that he intended to be a philanthropist.
Even as he mentioned the word to himself, the possibilities
suggested by it expanded in his thoughts. His old dormant,
formless lust for power stirred again in his pulses.
What other phase of power carried with it such rewards,
such gratitudes, such humble subservience on all sides
as far as the eye could reach--as that exercised by the
intelligently munificent philanthropist?
Intelligence! that was the note of it all. Many rich people
dabbled at the giving of money, but they did it so stupidly,
in such a slip-shod fashion, that they got no credit
for it. Even millionaires more or less in public life,
great newspaper-owners, great brewer-peers, and the like,
men who should know how to do things well, gave huge
sums in bulk for public charities, such as the housing
of the poor, and yet contrived somehow to let the kudos
that should have been theirs evaporate. He would make
no such mistake as that.
It was easy enough to see wherein they erred.
They gave superciliously, handing down their alms from a top
lofty altitude of Tory superiority, and the Radicals down
below sniffed or growled even while they grudgingly took
these gifts--that was all nonsense. These aristocratic
or tuft-hunting philanthropists were the veriest duffers.
They laid out millions of pounds in the vain attempt
to secure what might easily be had for mere thousands,
if they went sensibly to work. Their vast benefactions
yielded them at the most bare thanks, or more often no
thanks at all, because they lacked the wit to lay aside
certain little trivial but annoying pretensions, and waive
a few empty prejudices. They went on, year after year,
tossing their fortunes into a sink of contemptuous ingratitude,
wondering feebly why they were not beloved in return.
It was because they were fools. They could not, or they
would not, understand the people they sought to manipulate.
What could not a man of real brain, of real breadth
and energy and force of character, do in London with two
hundred thousand pounds? Why, he could make himself master
of the town! He could break into fragments the political
ascendency of the snob, "semi-detached" villa classes,
in half the Parliamentary divisions they now controlled.
He could reverse the partisan complexion of the
Metropolitan delegation, and lead to Westminster a
party of his own, a solid phalanx of disciplined men,
standing for the implacable Democracy of reawakened London.
With such a backing, he could coerce ministries at will,
and remake the politics of England. The role of Great
Oliver himself was not too hopelessly beyond the scope
of such a vision.
Thorpe threw his cigar-end aside, and then noted that it
was almost dark. He strode up to the terrace two steps
at a time, and swung along its length with a vigour and
exhilaration of movement he had not known, it seemed to him,
for years. He felt the excitement of a new incentive
bubbling in his veins.
"Her Ladyship is in her sitting-room, sir," a domestic
replied to his enquiry in the hall. The title arrested
his attention from some fresh point of view, and he
pondered it, as he made his way along the corridor,
and knocked at a door. At the sound of a voice he pushed
open the door, and went in.
Lady Cressage, looking up, noted, with aroused interest,
a marked change in his carriage. He stood aggressively erect,
his big shoulders squared, and his head held high.
On his massive face there was the smile, at once buoyant
and contained, of a strong man satisfied with himself.
Something impelled her to rise, and to put a certain
wistfulness of enquiry into her answering smile.
"Your headache is better then?" she asked him.
He looked puzzled for a moment, then laughed lightly.
"Oh--yes," he answered. Advancing, he caught her suddenly,
almost vehemently, in his arms, aud covered the face
that was perforce upturned with kisses. When she was
released from this overwhelming embrace, and stood panting
and flushed, regarding him with narrowed, intent eyes,
in which mystification was mellowed by the gleam of
not-displeased curiosity, he preferred a request which
completed her bewilderment.
"Mrs. Thorpe," he began, with significant deliberation,
but smiling with his eyes to show the tenderness
underlying his words--"would you mind if we didn't dress
for dinner this evening, and if we dined in the little
breakfast-room--or here, for that matter--instead
of the big place?"
"Why, not at all, if you wish it, "she answered
readily enough, but viewing him still with a puzzled glance.
"I'm full of new ideas," he explained, impulsively impatient
of the necessity to arrange a sequence among his thoughts.
"I see great things ahead. It's all come to me in a minute,
but I couldn't see it clearer if I'd thought it out for
a year. Perhaps I was thinking of it all the time and
didn't know it. But anyhow, I see my way straight ahead.
You don't know what it means to me to have something to do.
It makes another man of me, just to think about it.
Another man?--yes, twenty men! It's a thing that can be done,
and by God! I'm going to do it!"
She beheld in his face, as she scrutinized it, a stormy
glow of the man's native, coarse, imperious virility,
reasserting itself through the mask of torpor which this
vacuous year had superimposed. The large features
were somehow grown larger still; they dominated the
countenance as rough bold headlands dominate a shore.
It was the visage of a conqueror--of a man gathering
within himself, to expend upon his fellows, the appetites,
energies, insensibilities, audacities of a beast of prey.
Her glance fluttered a little, and almost quailed,
before the frank barbarism of power in the look he bent
upon her. Then it came to her that something more was
to be read in this look; there was in it a reservation
of magnanimity, of protection, of entreating invitation,
for her special self. He might tear down with his claws,
and pull to pieces and devour others; but his mate he
would shelter and defend and love with all his strength.
An involuntary trembling thrill ran through her--and then she
smiled up at him.
"What is it you're going to do?" she asked him, mechanically.
Her mind roved far afield.
"Rule England!" he told her with gravity.
For the moment there seemed to her nothing positively
incongruous in the statement. To look at him, as he
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