The Obstacle Race
Ethel M. Dell
Part 2 out of 7
instant's pause, lifted her hand with absolute gentleness away from the
quivering Robin, and laid it in her lap.
"Get up, old chap!" he said. "And don't be an ass!"
There was no questioning the kindness of his voice. Robin lifted his
head, stared a moment, then blundered to his feet. He stood awkwardly, as
if unwilling to go but expecting to be dismissed.
"He is staying to tea with me," said Juliet.
"Oh, I think not," Green said. "Another time--if you are kind enough.
He spoke very decidedly. Robin, with his head hanging, turned away.
Green, with a brief gesture of farewell, turned to follow. But in that
moment Juliet spoke in that full rich voice of hers that was all the more
arresting because she did not raise it.
"Mr. Green, I want to speak to you."
He stopped at once. She thought she caught a glint of humour behind the
courteous attention of his eyes.
"Forgive me for interfering!" she said. "But I must say it."
"Pray do!" said Green.
Yet she found some difficulty in continuing. It would have been easier if
he had shown resentment, but quizzical tolerance was hard to meet.
She looked up at him doubtfully for a moment or two. Then, hesitatingly,
she spoke. "Please--don't--punish Robin for coming here!"
She saw his brows go up in surprise. He was about to speak, but she went
on with more than a touch of embarrassment. "Perhaps it sounds
impertinent, but I believe I could help him in some ways,--if I had the
chance. Anyhow, I should like to try. Please let him come and see me as
often as he likes!"
"Really!" said Green, and stopped. The amusement had wholly gone out of
his look. "I don't know what to say to you," he said in a moment. "You
are so awfully kind."
"No, I'm not indeed." Juliet's smile was oddly wistful. "I assure you I
am selfish to the core. But there's something about Robin that goes
straight to my heart. I should like to be kind to him--for my own sake.
So don't--please--try to keep him out of my way!"
She spoke very earnestly, her eyes under their straight brows, looking
directly into his,--honest eyes that no man could doubt.
Green stood facing her, his look as kind as her own. "Do you know, Miss
Moore," he said, "I think this is about the kindest thing that has ever
come into my experience?"
She made a slight gesture of protest. "Oh, but don't let us talk in
superlatives!" she said. "Fetch Robin back, and both of you stay to tea!"
He shook his head. "Not to-day. I am very sorry. But he doesn't deserve
it. He has been getting a bit out of hand lately. I can't pass it over."
Juliet leaned forward in her chair. Her eyes were suddenly very bright.
"This once, Mr. Green!" she said.
He stiffened a little. "No," he said.
Juliet's look went beyond him to the figure of Robin leaning
disconsolately against a distant tree. She sat for several moments
watching him, and Green still stood before her as if waiting to be
"Poor boy!" she said softly at length, and turned again to the man in
front of her. "Are you sure you understand him?"
"Yes," said Green.
"And you are not hard on him? You are never hard on him?"
"I have got to keep him in order," he said.
"Yes, yes, I know. A man would say that." Juliet's face was very
pitiful. "Let him off sometimes!" she urged gently. "It won't do him
Green smiled abruptly. "A woman would say that," he commented.
She smiled in answer. "Yes, I think any woman would. Don't be hard on
him, Mr. Green! He has been shedding tears over your wrath already."
"He came here in direct defiance of my orders," said Green.
"I know. He told me. Please never give him such orders again!"
"You are awfully kind," Green said again. "But really in this case, there
was sufficient reason. Some people--most people--prefer him at a
"I am not one of them," Juliet said.
"I see you are not. But I couldn't risk it. Besides, he was in a towering
rage when he started. It isn't fair to inflict him on people--even on
anyone as kind as yourself--in that state."
"I should never be afraid of him," Juliet said quietly. "I think I
know--partly--what was the matter. Someone made a rather cruel remark
about him, and someone else maliciously repeated it. Then he was
angry--very angry--and lost his self-control, and I suppose more cruel
things were said. And then he came here--he asked me--he actually asked
me--if I was sure I didn't mind him!"
A deep light was shining in her eyes as she ended, and an answering gleam
came into Green's as he met them.
"I know," he said, in a low voice. "It's infernally hard for him, poor
chap! But it doesn't do to let him know we think so. As long as he lives,
he's got to bear his burden."
"But it needn't be made heavier than it is," Juliet said. "No, it
needn't. But it isn't everyone that sees it in that light. I'm glad you
do anyway, and I'm grateful--on Robin's behalf. Good-bye!"
He lifted his hand again in a farewell salute, and turned away.
Juliet watched him go, watched keenly as he approached Robin, saw the
boy's quick glance at him as he took him by the arm and led him to the
gate. A few seconds later they passed her on the other side of the
hedge evidently on their way to the shore, and she heard Robin's voice
as they went by.
"I'm--sorry now, Dicky," he said.
She turned her head to catch his brother's answer, for it did not come
immediately and she wondered a little at the delay.
Then, as they drew farther away, she heard Green say, "Why do you
"She told me to," said Robin.
She felt her colour rise and heard Green laugh. They were almost out of
earshot before he said, "All right, boy! I'll let you off this time.
Don't do it again!"
She leaned back in her chair, and re-opened her book. But she did not
read for some time. Somehow she felt glad--quite unreasonably glad
again--that Robin had been let off.
"Well, it ain't none of my business," said Mrs. Rickett, with a sniff.
"Nor it ain't yours either. But did you ever know anyone as wore anything
the likes of that before?"
She shook out for her husband's inspection a filmy garment that had the
look of a baby's robe that had grown up, before spreading it on her
kitchen table to iron.
"Ah!" said Rickett, ramming a finger into the bowl of his pipe. "What
sort of a thing is that now?"
"What sort of a thing, man? Why, a night-dress--of course! What d'you
think?" Mrs. Rickett chuckled at his ignorance. "And that flimsy--why I'm
almost afraid to touch it. It's the quality, you see."
"Ah!" said the smith vaguely.
Mrs. Rickett tested the iron near her cheek. "And it's only the quality,"
she resumed, as she began to use it, "as wears such things as these. Why,
I shouldn't wonder but what they came from Paris. They must have cost a
mint of money."
"Ah!" said Rickett again.
"She's as nice-spoken a young lady as I've met," resumed his wife. "No
pride about her, you know. She's just simple and friendly-like. Yet I'd
like to see the man as'd take a liberty with her all the same."
Rickett pulled at his pipe with a grunt. When not at work, it was
usually his role to sit and listen to his wife's chatter.
"She ain't been brought up in a convent," continued Mrs. Rickett.
"That's plain to see. With all the gentle ways of her, she knows how to
hold her own. Young Robin Green, he's gone just plumb moon-crazy over
her, and it wouldn't surprise me"--Mrs. Rickett lowered her voice
mysteriously--"but what some day Dick himself was to do the same."
"Ah!" said the smith.
"She's so taking, you know," said Mrs. Rickett, as if in extenuation of
this outrageous surmise. "And there isn't anyone good enough for him
about here. Of course there's the infant teacher--that Jarvis girl--she'd
set her cap at him if she dared. But he wouldn't look at her. Young
Jack's a deal more likely, if ever he does settle down--which I doubt.
But Dick--he's different. He's--why if that ain't Mr. Fielding a-riding
up the path! What ever do he want at this time of night? Go and see,
George lumbered to his feet obediently. "Happen he's come to call on our
young lady," he ventured, with a slow grin.
"Well, don't bring him in here!" commanded his wife. "Take him into the
front room, while I put on a clean apron!" She hastened to shut the door
upon her husband, then paused, listening intently, as Mr. Fielding's
riding-whip rapped smartly on the door.
"Happen it is only the young lady he's after," she said to herself.
It was. In a moment, Mr. Fielding's voice, superior, slightly over
bearing, made itself heard. "Good evening, Rickett! I think Miss Moore is
lodging here. Is she in?"
"Good evening, sir!" said Rickett, and waited a moment for reflection.
"She was in, but I can't say but what she may have gone out again with
"Well, find out, will you!" said Mr. Fielding. "Wait a minute! You'd
better take my card."
Mrs. Rickett returned to her ironing. "What ever he be come for?"
The Squires' horse stamped on the tiled path. It was eight o'clock, and
he wanted to get home to his supper. The squire growled at him
inarticulately, and there fell a silence.
The evening light spread golden over the apple-trees in the orchard.
Someone was wandering among the falling blossoms. He heard a low voice
softly singing. He flung his leg over his horse's back abruptly and
dropped to the ground.
The voice stopped immediately. The squire fastened his animal to the
porch and turned. The next moment Columbus burst barking through the
"Columbus! Columbus!" called Juliet's voice. "Come back at once!"
"May I come through?" said Mr. Fielding.
She arrived at the orchard-gate, flushed and apologetic. "Oh, pray do!
Please excuse Columbus! He always speaks before he thinks."
She opened the gate with the words, and held out her hand.
She was aware of his eyes looking at her very searchingly as he took it.
"I hope you don't mind a visitor at this hour," he said.
She smiled. "No. I am quite at liberty. Come and sit down!"
She led the way to a bench under the apple-trees, and the squire tramped
after her with jingling spurs.
"I'm afraid you'll think me very unconventional," he said, speaking with
a sort of arrogant humility as she stopped.
"I like unconventional people best," said Juliet.
He dropped down on the seat. "Oh, do you? Then I needn't apologize any
further. You've been here about a week, haven't you?"
"Yes," said Juliet.
His look dwelt upon the simple linen dress she wore. "You came
"Yes," she said again.
He began to frown and to pull restlessly at the lash of his riding-whip.
"Do you think me impertinent for asking you questions?" he said.
"Not so far," said Juliet.
He uttered a brief laugh. "You're cautious. Listen, Miss Moore! I don't
care a--I mean, it's nothing whatever to me where you've come from or
why. What I really came to ask is--do you want a job?"
Juliet stiffened a little involuntarily. "What sort of a job?" she said.
His fingers tugged more and more vigorously at the leather. She realized
quite suddenly that he was embarrassed, and at once her own
"Have you come to offer me a job?" she said. "How kind of you to
think of it!"
"You don't know what it is yet," said Fielding, biting uncomfortably at
his black moustache. "It may not appeal to you. Quite probably it won't.
You've been a companion before--so Green tells me."
"Oh!" Juliet's straight brows gathered slightly. "Did Mr. Green tell you
I was wanting a job?"
"No, he didn't. Green sticks to his own business and nothing will turn
him from it." The squire suddenly lashed with his whip at the grass in
front of him, causing Columbus to jump violently and turn a resentful eye
upon him. "I'll tell you what passed if you want to know."
"Thank you," said Juliet simply.
She leaned forward after a moment and pulled Columbus to her side;
fondling his pricked ears reassuringly.
"It was on Sunday," said Fielding. "My wife saw you in church. She took
rather a fancy to you. I hope you don't object?"
"Why should I?" said Juliet.
"Exactly. Why should you? Well, after Green's introduction, when you had
gone, I asked him if he knew anything about you. He said he had only made
your acquaintance the day before, that you had told him that you had held
the post of companion to someone, he didn't say who. And I wondered if
possibly you might feel inclined to see how you got on with my wife in
that capacity. She is not strong. She wants a companion."
Juliet's grey eyes gazed steadily before her as she listened. The evening
light shone on her brown head, showing streaks of gold here and there.
Her attitude was one of grave attention.
As he ended, she turned towards him, still caressing the dog at her feet.
"Wouldn't it be better," she said, "if Mrs. Fielding knew me before
offering me such a post?"
The squire smiled at her abruptly. "No, I don't think so. It wouldn't be
worth while unless you mean to consider it."
"Is that her point of view?" asked Juliet.
"No; it's mine. If she gets to know you and sets her heart on having you,
and then you go and disappoint her--I shall be the sufferer," explained
Fielding, with another cut at the grass in front of him.
It was Juliet's turn to smile. "But I can't--possibly--decide until we
have met, can I?" she said.
"Does that mean you'll consider it?" asked the squire.
"I am considering it," said Juliet. "But please give me time! For I have
only just begun."
"That's fair," he conceded. "How long will it take you?"
She began to laugh. There was something almost boyishly naive about him,
notwithstanding his obvious bad temper. "You haven't told me any details
yet," she said.
"Oh, you mean money," he said. "I leave that to you. You can name your
"Thank you," said Juliet again. "That would naturally appeal to me
very much. But as a matter of fact, I was not referring to money at
He gave her a keen look. "I didn't mean to offend you. Are you offended?"
She met his eyes quite squarely. "On second thoughts--no!"
"Why second thoughts?" he demanded.
Her colour rose faintly. "Because I think second thoughts are--kinder."
Fielding turned suddenly crimson. "So I'm a cad and a bounder, am I?" he
Juliet's eyes contemplated him without a hint of dismay. There was even
behind their serenity the faint glint of a smile. "I think that is
putting it rather strongly," she said. "But I really don't know you yet.
I am not in a position to judge--even if I wished to do so."
Fielding sat for a moment or two quite rigid, as if on the verge of
springing to his feet and leaving her. Then with amazing suddenness he
broke into a laugh, and the tension was past.
"By Jove, I like you for that!" he said. "You did it jolly well. You've
got pluck, and you know how to keep your temper. You'll have to forgive
me, Miss Moore. We're going to be friends after this."
There was something very winning about this overture, and Juliet was not
proof against it. He was evidently of those who consider that an apology
condones any offence, and, though she was far from agreeing with him on
this point, it was not in her to be churlish.
She smiled at him without speaking.
"Sure you're not angry with me?" urged the Squire.
She nodded. "Yes, quite sure. Won't you go on where you left off?"
"Where did I leave off?" He frowned. "Oh yes, you asked for details.
Well, what do you want to know? My wife always breakfasts in bed, so she
wouldn't want you before ten. But you'd live with us of course. I'd see
that they made you comfortable."
"If my duties did not begin before ten, there would be no need for that,"
pointed out Juliet.
He looked at her in surprise. "Of course you'd live with us! You can't
want to stay here!"
"But why not?" said Juliet. "They are very kind to me. I am very
"Oh, nonsense!" said the squire. "You couldn't do that. I believe you're
afraid I want to make a slave of you."
"No, I am not afraid of that," said Juliet. "But go on, if you don't
mind! What happens after ten o'clock?"
"Well, she opens her letters," said the squire. "Tells you what wants
answering and how to answer it. P'raps you read the papers to her for a
bit before she gets up, and so on."
"Does that take the whole morning?" asked Juliet.
"No. She's down about twelve. Sometimes she goes for a ride then, if she
feels like it. Or she walks about the grounds, or drives out in the
dog-cart. She's very keen on horses. Then either she goes out to lunch
or someone lunches with us. And after that she's off in the car for a
fifty-mile run--or a hundred if the mood takes her. She's never
quiet--except when she's in bed. That's what I want you for. I want you
to keep her quiet."
"Oh!" said Juliet.
This was shedding a new light upon the matter. She looked at him somewhat
"Come! I know you can," he said. "You've been through the treadmill. You
know all about it and it doesn't attract you. This infernal chase after
excitement--it's like a spreading fever. There's no peace for anyone
now-a-days. I want you to stop it. You've got that sort of influence. I
sensed it directly I saw you. You've got that priceless possession--a
quiet spirit. She wouldn't go tearing over the country racing and
gambling and then card-playing far into the night if you were there to
pull her up. She'd be ashamed--with anyone like you looking on."
"Would she?" said Juliet. "I wonder. And how do you know that that sort
of thing doesn't attract me?"
"Of course I know it. You carry it in your face. You're a woman--not a
dancing marionette. You wouldn't despise a woman's duties because they
interfered with pleasure. You were made in a different mould. Anyone can
Juliet was smiling a little. "I can't claim to be anything very great,"
she said. "But certainly, I was never very fond of cards."
"Of course you weren't. You've too much sense to do anything to excess.
Now look here, Miss Moore! You're coming, aren't you? You'll give the
thing a trial. I promise you, you shan't be bullied or overworked. It's
such an opportunity, for my wife really has taken a fancy to you. And she
can be quite decent to anyone when she likes. You can bring the dog
along," continued the squire. "You can have your own sitting-room--your
own maid, if you want one. You can come and go as you choose. No one
will interfere with you. All I want you to do is to put the brake on my
wife, make her take an interest in her home, make her take life
seriously. She's not at all strong. She doesn't give herself a chance.
Unless I fetch in a doctor and practically keep her in bed by main force
she never gets any decent rest. Why, she's hardly ever in her room before
two in the morning. It's almost a form of madness with her, this
ceaseless round. I can't prevent it. I'm a busy man myself." He suddenly
got to his feet with a jerk and stood looking down at her with sombre
eyes. "I'm a busy man," he repeated. "I have my ambitions, and I work for
them. I work hard. But the one thing I want more than anything else on
earth is a son to succeed me. And if I can't have that--there's nothing
else that counts."
He spoke with bitter vehemence, beating restlessly against his heel with
his whip. But Juliet still sat silent, looking out before her at the
golden pink of the apple-trees in the sunset light with grave quiet eyes.
He went on morosely, egotistically, "I don't know what I've done that I
shouldn't have what practically every labourer on my estate has got. I
may not have been absolutely impeccable in my youth. I've never yet met a
man who was--with the single exception of Dick Green who hasn't much
temptation to be anything else. But I've lived straight on the whole.
I've played the game--or tried to. And yet--after five years of
marriage--I'm still without an heir, and likely to remain so, as far as I
can see. She says I'm mad on that point." He spoke resentfully. "But
after all, it's what I married for. I don't see why I should be cheated
out of the one thing I want most, do you?"
Juliet's eyes came up to his, slowly, somewhat reluctantly. "I'm afraid I
haven't much sympathy with you," she said.
"You haven't?" he looked amazed.
"No." She paused a moment. "It was a pity you told me. You see, a woman
doesn't care to be married--just for that."
"And what do you suppose she married me for?" he demanded indignantly.
"Do you think she was in love with me--a man thirty years older than
herself? Oh, I assure you, there were never any illusions on that score!
I had a good deal to offer her, and she jumped at it."
Juliet gave a slight shiver, and abruptly his manner changed.
"I'm sorry. Put my foot in it again, have I? You'll have to forgive me,
please. No, I shouldn't have told you. But you've got such a kind look
about you--as if you'd understand."
She was touched in spite of herself. She got up quickly and faced him.
"What I can't understand," she said, a ring of deep feeling in her
voice, "is how anyone can possibly barter their happiness, their
self-respect, all that is most worth having, for this world's goods,
this world's ambitions, and expect to come out of it anything but
losers. Oh, I know it's done every day. People fight and scramble--yes,
and grovel in the mud--for what they think is gold; and when they've got
it, it's only the basest alloy. Some of them never find it out. Others
do--and break their hearts."
He stared at her. "You speak as one who knows."
"I do know," she said. "Since I've been here, had time to think, I've
realized it more and more. This dreadful fight for front places, for
prosperity--this rooted, individual selfishness--the hopeless materialism
of it all--the ultimate ruin--." She broke off. "You'll take me for a
street ranter if I go on. But it's rather piteous to see people straining
and agonizing after what, after all, can never bring them any comfort."
"But that's just what I was saying," he protested.
Her frank eyes looked straight into his. "But you're doing it yourself
all the same," she said. "You're playing for your own hand all the time
and so you're a loser and always will be. It's the chief rule of the
game." She smiled faintly. "Please forgive me for telling you so, but
I've only just found it out for myself; so I had to tell someone."
"You're rather a wonderful young woman," said the squire, still staring.
She shook her head. "Oh, no, I'm not. I've just begun to use my brains,
that's all. They're nothing at all out of the ordinary, really."
He laughed. "Well, you've given me a pretty straight one anyway. Have you
got a home anywhere--any home people?"
"None that count," said Juliet.
"Been more or less of a looker-on all your life, eh?" he suggested.
"More or less," smiled Juliet.
He held out his hand to her abruptly. "Look here! You're coming,
"I don't know," said Juliet.
"Well, make up your mind quick!" He held her hand, looking at her.
"What's the objection? Tell me?"
She freed her hand gently but with decision. "I can't tell you entirely.
You must let me think. For one thing, I want more freedom of action than
I should have as an inmate of your house. I want to come and go as I
like. I've never really done that before, and I'm just beginning to
"That's a selfish reason," said the squire, with a sudden boyish
grin at her.
She coloured slightly. "No, it isn't--or not wholly."
"All right, it isn't. I unsay it. But that reason won't exist as far as
you are concerned. You will come and go exactly as you like always. No
one will question you."
"You're very kind," said Juliet.
He bowed to her ceremoniously. "That's the first really nice thing you
have said to me. I must make a note of it. Now would you like my wife to
call upon you? If so, I'll send her round to-morrow at twelve."
"If she would care to come," said Juliet.
"Of course she would. She shall come then--and you'll talk things over,
and come to an understanding. That's settled, is it? Good-bye!"
He turned to go, pausing at the gate to throw her another smiling
farewell. She had not thought that gloomy, black browed countenance could
look so genial. There was something curiously elusive, almost haunting,
about his smile.
"Columbus!" said Juliet. "I'm not sure that he's a very nice man, but
there's something about him--something I can't quite place--that makes me
wonder if I've met him somewhere before. Would you like to go and live at
the Court, Columbus?"
Columbus leaned against her knee in sentimental silence. He evidently did
not care where he went so long as he was with the object of his
She stooped and kissed him between the eyes. "Dear doggie!" she murmured.
"I wonder--are we happier--here?"
When the great high-powered car from Shale Court stopped at the gate of
the blacksmith's cottage on the following morning Mrs. Rickett, who was
feeding her young chicks in the yard outside the forge, was thrown into a
state of wild agitation. Everyone in Little Shale stood in awe of the
She went nervously to enquire what was wanted, and met the chauffeur
at the gate.
"It's all right, Mrs. Rickett. Don't fluster yourself!" he said. "It's
Miss Moore we're after. Go and tell her, will you?"
Mrs. Rickett looked at the bold-eyed young man with disfavour.
"Well, you're not expecting her to come out to you, are you?" she
He smiled. "Yes, I rather think we are, Mrs. Fielding doesn't want to get
out. Where is she?"
Mrs. Rickett drew in her breath. "But Miss Moore is a lady born!" she
objected. "Haven't you got a card I can take her?"
Mrs. Rickett had lived among the gentry in her maiden days, and, as she
was wont to assert, she knew what was what as well as anybody. She had,
moreover, a vigorous dislike for young Jack Green the chauffeur who,
notwithstanding his airs,--perhaps because of them,--occupied a much
lower plane in her estimation than his brother the schoolmaster. But
Jack was one of those people whom it is practically impossible to snub.
He merely continued to smile.
"Well, you'd better let me go and find her if you won't," he said, "or
madam will be getting impatient."
It was at this point that Juliet came upon the scene, walking up from the
shore with her hair blowing in the breeze. She carried a towel and a
bathing dress on her arm. Columbus trotted beside her, full of cheery
She quickened her pace somewhat at sight of the car, and its occupant
leaned forward with an imperious motion of the hand. Her pale face
gleamed behind her veil.
"Miss Moore, I believe?" she said, in her slightly insolent tones.
Juliet came to the side of the car. The sun beat down upon her uncovered
head. She smiled a welcome.
"How do you do? How kind of you to come and see me! I am sorry I wasn't
here to receive you, but it was so glorious down on the shore that I
stayed to dry my hair. Do come in!"
"Oh, I can't--really!" protested Mrs. Fielding. "I shall die if I don't
get a little air. I thought perhaps you would like to come for a little
spin with me. But I suppose that is out of the question."
"My hair is quite dry," said Juliet. "It won't take me long to put it up.
I should like to come with you very much."
"I can't wait," said Mrs. Fielding plaintively. "This heat is so
fearful--and the glare! I will go for a short round, and come back for
you if you like."
"Thank you," said Juliet. "I can be ready in five minutes."
"I should be grilled by that time," declared Mrs. Fielding. "Jack, we
will go round by the station and back by the church. It is only three
miles. We can do that easily. In five minutes then, Miss Moore!"
"Look out for the schoolchildren!" exclaimed Juliet almost
involuntarily. "They are sure to be all over the road."
"Oh, really!" said Mrs. Fielding, sinking back into the car, as it
Juliet and Mrs. Rickett looked at one another.
"That young Jack Green fair riles me," remarked the latter. "I can't
abide him. He's not a patch on his brother, and never will be. It's
funny, you know, how members of a family vary. Now you couldn't have a
more courteous and pleasant spoken gentleman than Dick. But this Jack,
why, he hasn't even the beginnings of a gentleman in him."
Juliet's thoughts were more occupied with Mrs. Fielding at the moment,
but she kept them to herself. "I may be late back, Mrs. Rickett," she
said. "Let me have a cold lunch when I come in!"
"Oh, dearie me!" said Mrs. Rickett. "I do hope, miss, as young Jack'll
drive careful when he's got you in the car."
Juliet hoped so too as she hastened within to prepare for the expedition.
She did not feel any very keen zest for it, but, as she told Columbus,
they need never go again if they didn't like it.
It was nearly ten minutes before the Fielding car reappeared, and they
were both waiting at the garden-gate as it drew up.
"Yes, we were delayed," said Mrs. Fielding pettishly, "by those little
fiends of children. I do think Mr. Green might teach them to keep to
the side of the road. Pray get in, Miss Moore! Oh, do you want to bring
"He is used to motoring," said Juliet. "Do you mind if he sits in front?"
Mrs. Fielding shrugged her shoulders to indicate that if was a matter of
supreme indifference to her, and Columbus was duly installed by the
driver's side. Juliet took her place beside Mrs. Fielding, and in a few
seconds they were whirling up the road again, leaving clouds of dust in
"It's the only way one can breathe on a day like this," said Mrs.
Juliet said nothing. She was watching the village children scatter like
rabbits before their lightning rush.
In the schoolhouse garden she caught sight of a heavy, shambling figure,
and waved a swift greeting as she flashed past.
"Oh, do you know that revolting youth?" said Mrs. Fielding. "He's
half-witted as well as deformed. His brother!" with a nod towards her
chauffeur's back. "He's a great trial to Jack, I believe. My husband has
offered a hundred times to have him put into a home, but the other
brother--Green, the schoolmaster--is absolutely pig-headed on the
subject, and won't hear of it."
"Poor Robin!" said Juliet gently. "Yes, I know him. He is certainly not
normal, but scarcely half-witted, do you think?"
Mrs. Fielding turned her head to bestow upon her a brief glance of
surprise. "I said half-witted," she observed haughtily.
Juliet turned her head also, and gave her companion a straight and level
look. "And I did not agree with you," she said quietly.
Mrs. Fielding uttered a laugh that had a girlish ring despite its
insolence. "Have you said that to my husband yet?" she asked.
"Not quite that," said Juliet.
"Well, if you ever do, may I be there to hear!" she rejoined flippantly.
"He's like a raging bull when he's crossed. I hear he came to see you
"He did," said Juliet.
"Did he talk about me?" asked Mrs. Fielding.
"He told me that you were not very strong," said Juliet.
"And that I wanted someone to look after me--coerce me, when he wasn't
there to do it himself. Was that it?"
"Surely you know better than that!" said Juliet.
"Oh, I know him awfully well," said Mrs. Fielding, with her reckless
laugh. "Are you really thinking of coming to live with us?"
"You haven't asked me yet," said Juliet.
"Oh, that doesn't matter. You'll come if you think you will; and if you
don't, nothing will induce you. But--let me tell you--my husband will be
furious--with me--if you don't."
"Oh, surely not!" said Juliet.
"Yes, he is that sort. If he doesn't get what he wants, it's always
someone else's fault--generally mine. I warn you--we have most frightful
rows sometimes. He has only just begun to speak to me again since last
Sunday. We quarrelled that day over Green. You know Green--the
"Yes, I think I might call him a friend of mine," said Juliet,
with a smile.
"Oh, really! I didn't know that," Mrs. Fielding's tone was suddenly
extremely cold. "Hence your championship of Robin, I suppose?"
"No, I made friends with Robin separately. He is coming to tea with me
to-day, or rather, we are going down to the shore with it. I love the
shore in the evening."
"I wonder you care to mix with people like that," remarked Mrs.
Fielding. "I think it is such a mistake to take them out of their own
class. Green the schoolmaster is a constant visitor up at the Court, and
I object to it very strongly. I cannot understand my husband's attitude
in the matter."
"But he is a gentleman!" said Juliet.
"Who? Green? Oh yes, of sorts. I am glad to say his brother has no
aspirations in that direction." Mrs. Fielding glanced again towards her
chauffeur's unconscious back. "Or if he has, I don't get the benefit of
them. As for Robin, he gives me the cold shudders every time I see him."
"Poor Robin!" said Juliet again. "I think he feels his deformity
"Of course he does! He ought to be in a home among his own kind. It would
be far better for everyone concerned. Frankly, the Green family
exasperate me," declared Mrs. Fielding. "I can put up with Jack. He's
such a smart, good-looking boy, and he can drive like the devil. But I've
no use for the other two, and never shall have. I think Green's a humbug.
Is he going to join your picnic-party on the shore?"
"He hasn't been invited," said Juliet.
"Oh, you won't find he needs much encouragement. As Dene Strange puts it,
he is always hovering on the outside edge of every circle and ready to
squeeze in at the very first opportunity."
"I should imagine my circle is hardly important enough to attract anyone
in that way," remarked Juliet. "Strange is very caustic. I am not sure I
like him much."
"Oh, I enjoy him," said Mrs. Fielding. "He is so brilliant. He always
gets right there. You have never met him, I suppose?"
Juliet shook her head. "Not under that name, anyway. They say he is a
barrister. But I haven't much sympathy with a man who hides behind a
pseudonym, have you? It looks as if he hasn't the courage of his
"I shouldn't think anyone ever accused Dene Strange of lack of courage,"
said Mrs. Fielding. "I read all he writes. He is so intensely clever."
"Some people think he's a woman," said Juliet.
"Oh, I don't believe that. Neither do you. No woman ever had a brain like
that. It's quite Napoleonic. I'd give a good deal to meet him."
"And be horribly disappointed," said Juliet.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because lions always are disappointing when they're hunted down. The
ones that roar are quite insufferable, and the ones that don't are
Mrs. Fielding looked at her with interest for the first time. "You've
seen a good deal of life," she remarked.
"Oh, no!" said Juliet lightly. "But enough to realize that the torch of
genius burns best in dark places. Perhaps Strange is right after
all--from his own point of view at least. That lion-hunting business is
"You speak as one who knows," said Mrs. Fielding.
Juliet smiled. "I have watched from the outside edge, as Dene Strange
puts it. I expect you have heard of the Farringmores, haven't you? I am
distantly related to them. I was brought up with Lady Joanna. So I know a
little of what London people call life."
"I saw you had been in society," said Mrs. Fielding half enviously.
"Yes, I have had five seasons--nearly six. And I never want another."
Juliet spoke with great emphasis. "That's why I'm here now."
"I wonder you never married," said Mrs. Fielding.
"Do you?" Juliet spoke dreamily. They were running swiftly up a steep and
stony road leading to High Shale Point. "Lady Jo used to wonder that. But
I've never yet met a man who was willing to wait, and I couldn't do a
thing like that in a hurry."
"You could if you were in love," said Mrs. Fielding.
"Yes, perhaps you're right. In that case, I have never been enough in
love to take the leap." Juliet spoke with a half smile. Her eyes were
fixed upon the top of the hill. "But anyhow Lady Jo couldn't talk, for
she has just jilted Ivor Yardley the K. C. and gone to Paris to buy
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Fielding. "Why, I saw the description
of the wedding-dress in the paper the other day. It must have been a
"It was," said Juliet soberly. "They were to have been married to-day."
"And she broke it off! That must have taken some pluck!"
"But she didn't stay to face the music," Juliet pointed out. "That was
what I hated in her. She ought to have stayed."
"Was she afraid of him then?"
"Afraid? Yes, she was afraid of him--and of everybody else. I know that
perfectly well, though you would never get her to admit it. She was
terrified in her heart--and so she bolted."
"Why didn't you go with her?" asked Mrs. Fielding.
Juliet made an odd gesture of the hands that was somehow passionate. "Why
should I? I have disapproved of her for a long time. Now we have finally
quarrelled. She behaved so badly--so very badly. I don't want to meet
her--or any of her set--again!"
Mrs. Fielding was silent for a moment. She had not expected that
intensity. "Do you know, that doesn't sound like you somehow?" she said
at length, speaking with just a hint of embarrassment.
"But how do you know what I am really like?" said Juliet. "Ah! There is
the sea again--and the wonderful sky-line! Is he going to stop? Or are
we going to plunge over the edge?"
She spoke with a little breathless laugh. They had reached the summit of
the great headland, and it looked for the moment as if the car must leap
over a sheer precipice into the clear green water far below. But even as
she spoke, there came a check and a pause, and then they were standing
still on a smooth stretch of grass not twenty feet from the edge.
The soft wind blew in their faces, and there was a glittering purity in
the atmosphere that held Juliet spell-bound. She breathed deeply, gazing
far out over that sparkling sea of wonder.
"Oh, the magic of it!" she said. "The glorious freedom! It makes you
feel--as if you had been born again."
Her companion watched her in silence, a certain curiosity in her look.
After many seconds Juliet turned round. "Thank you for bringing me here,"
she said. "It has done me good. I should like to stay here all day long."
Her eyes travelled along the line of cliff towards that distant spot that
had been the scene of her night adventure, and slowly returned to dwell
upon a long deep seam in the side of the hill.
"That's the lead mine," observed Mrs. Fielding. "It belongs to your
aristocratic relatives, the Farringmores. They are pretty badly hated by
the miners, I believe. But your friend Mr. Green is extremely popular
with them. He rather likes to be a king among cobblers, I imagine."
"How nice of him!" said Juliet. "And where do the cobblers live?"
"You can't see it from here. It's just on the other side of the
workings--a horribly squalid place. I never go near it. It's called High
Shale, but it's very low really, right in a pocket of the hills, and very
unhealthy. You can see the smoke hanging over there now. The cottages are
wretched places, and the people who live in them--words fail! Ashcott,
the agent and manager of the mines, says they are quite hopeless, and so
they are. They are just like pigs in a sty."
"Poor dears!" said Juliet.
"Oh, they're horrors!" declared Mrs. Fielding. "They fling stones at the
car if we go within half-a-mile of them. And they are such a drunken set.
Go round the other way, Jack,--round by Fairharbour! Miss Moore will
"Thank you," said Juliet, with her friendly smile. "I am enjoying it
They travelled forty miles before they ran back again into Little Shale,
and the children were reassembling for afternoon school as they neared
the Court gates.
"Put me down here!" Juliet said. "I can run down the hill. It isn't worth
while coming those few yards and having to turn the car."
"I want you to lunch with me," said Mrs. Fielding.
"Oh, thank you very much. Not to-day. I really must get back. I've got to
buy cakes for tea," laughed Juliet.
Mrs. Fielding stopped the car abruptly. "I'm not going to press you, or
you'll never come near me again," she said. "I never press people to do
what they obviously don't want to. Do you think you would hate living
with me, Miss Moore? Or are you still giving the matter your
There was a hint of wistfulness in the arrogant voice that somehow
She sat silent for a moment; then: "If I might come to you for a week on
trial," she said. "You won't pay me anything of course. I think we
should know by that time if it were likely to answer or not."
"When will you come?" said Mrs. Fielding.
"Just when you like," said Juliet.
"Yes, to-morrow, if that suits you."
"And if you don't hate me at the end of a week you'll come for good."
Juliet laughed. "No, I won't say that. I'll leave you a way of escape
too. We will see how it answers."
Mrs. Fielding held out her hand. "Good-bye! Next time you take your tea
on the shore, I want to be the guest of honour."
"You shall be," said Juliet.
"Everyone to his taste," remarked Green. "But I'd rather be anything
under the sun than Mrs. Fielding's paid companion." He glanced at
Juliet with a smile as he spoke, but there was a certain earnestness
in his speech that told her he meant what he said. He sat with his
back to a rock, smoking a cigarette. His attitude was one of repose,
but in the strong light his dark face showed a tenseness that did not
wholly agree with it.
"Do you really think you'll like it?" he asked, as Juliet did not speak.
She also had a cigarette between her lips, and there was genuine
relaxation in her fashion of lounging on the shingle.
"I really don't know," she said. "I've got to find out."
"Don't let them bully you!" said Green.
She smiled. "No, they won't do that, I think it is rather kind of them to
take me without references, don't you?"
"No," said Green.
She turned and surveyed him with a gleam of amusement in her look. "You
sound cross! Are you cross about anything?"
His eyes flashed down to hers with a suddenness almost startling. He did
not speak for a moment, then again he smiled abruptly with his eyes still
holding hers. "I believe I am," he said.
"I wonder why," said Juliet.
He laughed. "Yes, you do, don't you? Great impertinence on my part of
course. It's nice of you to put it so mildly."
"I don't think you impertinent," said Juliet; "only rather silly."
"Oh, thanks!" said Green. "Kinder and kinder. Silly to be cross on your
account, is that it? Well, it certainly sounds silly."
Juliet smiled. "No, silly to think I am not capable of taking care
"Oh!" said Green. "Well, I have some reason for thinking that,
"None whatever," said Juliet.
"All right. I haven't," he said, and looked away.
"You are cross!" ejaculated Juliet, and broke into a laugh.
Green smoked steadily for some seconds with his eyes upon the sea. A
few yards below them Robin wandered bare-footed along the shore,
accompanied by Columbus who had bestowed a condescending species of
friendship upon him.
Green's dark, alert face looked strangely swarthy against the rock behind
him. His expression was one of open discontent.
"I hate to think of you turning into that woman's slave," he said
abruptly. "To be quite honest, that was what brought me along to-day,
intruding upon your picnic with Robin. I want to warn you, I've got to
"You have warned me," said Juliet.
"Without result," he said.
"No, not without result. I am very grateful to you, and I shall remember
"But you won't profit by it," Green's voice was moody.
"I think I shall," she said. "In any case, I am only going for a week on
trial. That couldn't hurt anyone."
He did not look at her. "You're going out of the goodness of your
heart," he said. "And--though you won't like it--you'll stay for the
"Oh, don't you think you are rather absurd?" said Juliet. "I am not at
all that sort of person, I assure you."
"I think you are," said Green.
She laughed again. "Well I am told you are quite a frequent visitor
there. Why do you go--if you don't like it?"
"That is different," he said. "I can hold my own--anyway with Mr.
She lifted her brows. "And you think I can't?"
"I think you'll lead a dog's life," he said.
"Oh, I hope not. It won't be on a chain anyhow. I've provided
"You'll hate it," Green said with conviction.
"I don't think I shall," she answered quietly. "If I do, I shall
"It'll be too late then," he said.
"Too late!" Juliet's soft eyes opened wide. "What can you mean?"
He made a gesture which though half-restrained was yet vehement "It's a
hostile atmosphere--a hateful atmosphere. She will poison you with her
sneers and snobbery!"
A light began to break upon Juliet. She sat up very suddenly. "That sort
of poison doesn't have any effect upon me," she said, and she spoke with
a stateliness that brought the man's eyes swiftly down to her. "I
"She won't sneer at you," said Green quickly.
With her eyes looking straight up to him, she laughed.
"Oh, I quite catch your meaning, Mr. Green. But--really I am not in the
position of listening to sneers against my friends. Now will you be
He laughed also though still with a touch of restraint. "Yes, I feel
better for that. You are so royal in your ways. I might have known I was
"'Loyal' is a better word I think," said Juliet quietly. "Why should a
paid companion aspire to be any higher in the social scale than a village
schoolmaster? Do you think occupation really makes any difference?"
"Theoretically--no!" said Green.
"Neither theoretically nor practically," said Juliet. "I detest snobbery,
so do you. If you came to the Court to sweep the kitchen chimney, I
should be just as pleased to see you. What a man does is nothing. How
could it make any difference?"
"It couldn't--to you," said Green.
"Or to you?" said Juliet.
He laughed a little, his black brows working comically. "Madame, if I met
you hawking stale fish for cat's meat in the public street, I couldn't
venerate you more or adore you less. Whatever you do--is right."
"Good heavens!" said Juliet, and flushed in spite of herself. "What a
magnificent compliment! It's a pity you are not wearing a slouch hat with
an ostrich plume! You really need a plume to express that sort of
"Yes, I know," said Green. "But--I imagine you are not attracted by
plumes. In fact, you have just told me so. Proof positive of your
royalty! It is only crowned heads that can afford to despise them
"Mine isn't a crowned head," protested Juliet.
He looked at her searchingly. "Have you never been to Court?"
She snapped her fingers airily. "Of course! Dozens of times! Poor
companions always go to Court. How often do you go!"
"As often as you admit me to your most gracious presence," he said.
She clapped her hands softly. "Why, that is even prettier than the stale
fish one! Mr. Green, what can have happened to you?"
"I daren't tell you," he said.
A sudden silence fell upon the words. Juliet puffed the smoke from her
cigarette, and watched it rise. "Well, don't spoil it, will you?" she
said, as it vanished into air.
Green's hand suddenly gripped a handful of shingle and ground it
forcibly. He did not speak for a second or two. Then: "No, I won't spoil
it," he said, in a low voice.
A moment later he flung the stones abruptly from him and got up.
"You're not going?" said Juliet.
"Yes, I've got work to do. Shall I take Robin with me?"
There was a dogged note in his voice. His eyes avoided hers.
Juliet rose slowly. "Never mind Robin! Walk a little way with me!" she
"I think I'd better go," said Green restlessly.
"Please!" said Juliet gently.
He turned beside her without a word. They went down the shingle to the
edge of the sand and began to walk along the shore.
For many seconds they walked in silence. Juliet's eyes were fixed upon
the mighty outline of High Shale Point that stood out like a fortress,
dark, impregnable, against the calm of the evening sky. Her companion
sauntered beside her, his hands behind him. He had thrown away his
She spoke at length, slowly, with evident effort. "I want to tell
"Something I really don't know?" asked Green, his dark face flashing
to a smile.
There was no answering smile on Juliet's face. "Yes, something you don't
know," she said soberly. "It's just this. I have much more in common with
Mrs. Fielding than you have any idea of. I have lived for pleasure
practically all my life. I have scrambled for happiness with the rest of
the world, and I haven't found it. It's only just lately that I've
realized why. I read a book called The Valley of Dry Bones. Do you know
it? But of course you do. It is by Dene Strange. I hate the man--if it is
a man. And I hate his work--the bitter cynicism of it, the merciless
exposure of humanity at its lowest and meanest. I don't know what his
ideals are--if he has any. I think he is probably very wicked, but
detestably--oh, damnably--clever. I burnt the book I hated it so. But I
felt--afterwards--as if I had been burnt, seared by hot
irons--ashamed--most cruelly ashamed." Juliet's voice sank almost to a
whisper. "Because--life really is like that--one vast structure of
selfishness--and in many ways I have helped to make it so."
She stopped. Green was looking at her attentively. He spoke at once with
decision. "I know the book. I've read it. It's an exaggeration--probably
intentional. It wasn't written--obviously--for the super-sensitive."
"Wasn't it?" Juliet's lips were quivering. "Well, it's been a positive
nightmare to me. I haven't got over it yet."
"That's curious," he said. "I shouldn't have thought it could have
touched you anywhere."
"That is because you have a totally wrong impression of me," she said.
"That is what I am trying to put right. I am the sort of person that
horrible book applies to, and I've fallen out with myself very badly in
consequence, Mr. Green. I haven't told anyone but you, but--somehow--I
feel as if you ought to know."
"Thank you," said Green. "But why?"
She met his eyes very steadily. "Because I'm trying to play the game now,
and--I don't want you to have any illusions."
"You don't want me to make a fool of myself," he said. "Is that it?"
She coloured very vividly, but she did not avoid his look. "I don't think
there is much danger of that, is there?" she said.
He stood still suddenly and faced her. His eyes burned with an amazing
brightness. "I don't know," he said, speaking emphatically and very
rapidly. "It depends of course upon the point of view. But I'll tell you
this. I'd give all I've got--and all I'm ever likely to get--to prevent
you going to Shale Court as a companion."
"Oh, but aren't you unreasonable?" Juliet said.
"No, I'm not." He made a vigorous gesture of repudiation. "Presumptuous
perhaps--but not unreasonable. I know too much of what goes on there.
Miss Moore, I beseech you--think again! Don't go!"
She looked at him in perplexity. "But it wouldn't be fair to draw back
now," she objected. "Besides--"
"Besides," he broke in almost fiercely, "you've got your living to make
like the rest of us. Yes, I know--I know! You regard this as a
Heaven-sent opportunity. It isn't. It's quite the reverse. If you were
unhappy in London, you'll be a thousand times more so there. And--and I
shan't be able to help you--shan't get anywhere near you there."
"It's very kind of you," began Juliet.
He cut her short again. "No, it isn't kind. You're the only woman of
your station I have ever met who has deigned to treat me as an equal.
It--it's a bit rash on your part, you know." He smiled at her abruptly,
and something sent a queer sensation through her--a curious feeling of
familiarity that held and yet eluded her. "And--as you see--I'm taking
full advantage of it. I hope you won't think me an awful cad after this.
I can't help it if you do. Miss Moore, forgive my asking,--are you really
obliged to work for your living? Can't you--can't you wait a little?"
Juliet was looking at him with wonder in her soft eyes. His sudden
vehemence was rather bewildering.
"I don't quite know," she said vaguely. "But I rather want to do
something, you know."
"Oh, I know--I know," he said. "But you're not obliged to do this.
Something else is bound to turn up. Or if it doesn't--if it
doesn't--" He ground his heel deep into the yielding sand, and ended
in a husky undertone. "My God! What wouldn't I give for the privilege
of working for you?"
The words were uttered and beyond recall. He looked her straight in the
face as he spoke them, but an instant later he turned and stared out over
the wide, calm sea in a stillness that was somehow more forcible even
than his low, half-strangled speech had been.
Juliet stood silent also, almost as if she were waiting for him to
recover his balance. Her eyes also were gazing straight before her to
that far mysterious sky-line. They were very grave and rather sad.
He broke the silence after many seconds. "You will never speak to me
again after this."
"I hope I shall," she said gently.
He wheeled and faced her. "You're not angry then?"
She shook her head. "No."
His eyes flashed over her with amazing swiftness. "I almost wish you
were," he said.
"But why?" she said.
"Because I should know then it mattered a little. Now I know it doesn't.
I am just one of the many. Isn't that it? There are so many of us that
one more or less doesn't count either way." He laughed ruefully. "Well, I
won't repeat the offence. Even your patience must have its limits. Shall
we go back?"
It was then that Juliet turned, moved by an impulse so strangely urgent
that she could not pause to analyse it. She held out her hand to him,
quickly, shyly, and as he gripped and held it, she spoke, her voice
tremulous, breathless, barely coherent.
"I am not--offended. I am--very--very--deeply--honoured. Only
He kept her hand closely in his own. His grasp vibrated with electric
force, but he had himself in check. "You are more generous than I
deserve," he said, his voice sunk to a whisper. "Perhaps--some
day--understanding will come. May I hope for that?"
She did not answer him, but for one intimate second her eyes looked
straight into his. Then with a little, sobbing breath she slipped her
"We--are forgetting Robin," she said, with an effort.
He turned at once. "By George, yes! I'm afraid I had forgotten
him," he said.
They walked back along the shore side by side.
THE WAND OF OFFICE
Robin was in disgrace. He crouched in a sulky heap in a far corner of the
schoolroom, and glowered across the empty desks and benches at his elder
brother who sat in the place of authority at his writing-table with a
litter of untidy exercise-books in front of him. There was a long, thin
cane also at his elbow that had the look of a somewhat sinister wand of
office. He was correcting book after book with a species of forced
patience, that was not without an element of exasperation.
The evening sunlight slanted through the leaded windows. They were open
to their widest extent, but the place was oppressively close. There was a
brooding sense of storm in the atmosphere. Suddenly, as if in some
invisible fashion a set limit had been reached and passed, Richard Green
lifted his head from his work. His keen eyes sent a flashing glance down
the long, bare room.
"Robin!" he said.
Robin gave a violent start, and then a shuffling, reluctant movement as
if prodded into action against his will.
"Get up and come here!" his brother said.
Robin, in the act of blundering to his feet, checked abruptly, as if
arrested by something in the peremptory tone. "What for?" he asked, in a
"Get up," Green repeated, with grim insistence, "and come here!"
Robin grabbed at the end of the row of desks nearest to him and dragged
himself slowly up. But there he hung irresolute. His heavy brows were
drawn, but the eyes beneath had a frightened, hunted look. They glared at
Green with a defiance so precarious that it was pathetic.
Green waited inexorably, magisterially, at his table. The sunlight had
gone and the room was darkening. Very slowly Robin moved forward,
dragging his feet along the bare boards. At the other end of the row of
desks he halted. His eyes travelled swiftly between his brother's stern
countenance and the wand of office that lay before him on the
writing-table. He shivered.
"Come here!" Green said again.
He crept a little nearer like a guilty dog. His humped shoulders looked
higher than usual. His eyes shone red.
Across the writing-table Green faced him. He spoke, very distinctly.
"Why did you throw that stone at Mrs. Fielding's car?"
Robin was trembling from head to foot. He drew a quivering breath between
his teeth, and stood silent.
"Tell me why!" Green insisted.
Robin locked his working hands together. Green waited.
"It--it--I didn't see--Mrs. Fielding," he blurted forth at last.
Green made a slight movement that might have indicated relief, but his
tone was as uncompromising as before as he said, "That's not an answer to
my question. I asked you why you did it."
Robin shrank from the curt directness of his speech. His defiance wilted
visibly. "I--didn't mean to break the window, Dicky," he said, twisting
and cracking his fingers in rising agitation.
"What did you mean to do?" said Green.
Robin stood silent again.
"Are you going to answer me?" Green said, after a pause.
Robin made a great effort. He parted his straining hands and rested them
upon the table behind which Green sat. Standing so, he glowered down into
his brother's grim face with something of menace in his own.
"I'll tell you one thing, Dicky," he said, with stupendous effort. "I'm
not going--to take a caning for it."
Green's eyebrows went up. He sat perfectly still, looking straight
up into the heavy face above him. For several seconds a tense
Then: "Oh yes, you will," he said quietly. "You will take--whatever I
decide to give you. Sit down there!" He indicated the end of the bench
nearest to him. "I'll deal with you presently."
Robin did not stir. In the growing gloom of the room his eyes shone like
the eyes of an animal, goaded and desperate. But the man before him
showed neither surprise nor anger. His clean-cut lips were closed in a
straight, unyielding line. For a full minute he looked at Robin and Robin
looked at him.
Then he spoke. "I've only one treatment for this sort of thing--as you
know. It isn't especially inspiring for either of us. I shouldn't qualify
for it if I were you."
Robin had begun to shake again. The cold, clear words seemed to deprive
him of the brief strength he had managed to muster. His eyes fell before
the steady regard that was fixed upon him. With an incoherent murmur he
turned aside, and dropped upon the end of the bench indicated, his
trembling hands gripped hard between his knees, his attitude one of
Green went back to his correcting with a frown between his brows, and a
deep silence fell.
Minutes passed. The room grew darker, the atmosphere more leaden. Pencil
in hand, Green went over book after book and put them aside. Suddenly he
looked across at the silent figure. The humped shoulders were heaving.
Slow tears were falling upon the clasped hands. There was no sound of any
sort. Green sat and watched, a kind of stern pity replacing the
unyielding mastery of his look. He moved at length, was on the verge of
speech, when something checked him. Footsteps fell beyond the open door,
and in a moment a man's figure appeared entering through the gloom.
"Hullo, Dick!" a voice said. "You here? There's going to be the devil of
a storm. Where's that scoundrel Robin?"
Robin stirred with a deep sound in his throat like the growl of an
Richard Green rose with a sharp movement. "Jack! I want a word with you.
He passed Robin and went to the new-comer, gripping him quickly by the
shoulder and turning him back by the way he had come.
Jack submitted to the imperative touch. He was taller and broader than
his elder brother, but he lacked that subtle something--the distinction
of bearing--which in Richard was very apparent.
"Well, Dick! What do you want?" he said. "I'm pretty mad, I can tell you.
I hope you're going to thrash him well. Because if you don't, I shall."
Briefly and decidedly Dick made answer. "No, you won't. You'll not touch
him. I shall do--whatever is necessary."
"Shall you?" said Jack. "Then why don't you shut him up in a wild-beast
house? It's the only place he's fit for."
"Shut up, please!" Richard's tone was an odd mixture of tolerance and
exasperation. "I'll manage this affair my own way. But I've got to know
the truth of it first. What made him throw that stone? Have you been
baiting him again?"
"I?" Jack squared his shoulders; a sneer crossed his good-looking face.
"Oh, say I did it!" he drawled.
"Don't be an ass, Jack! Can't you see I want your help?" Richard spoke
with insistence; his hand gripped his brother's arm.
Jack's sneer turned to a self-satisfied smile. "I'll help you hammer him
if you like. There's nothing would please me better. Oh, all right, man!
Don't be impatient! That's my funny bone when you've done with it. I
don't mind telling you all about it if you want to know. He chucked that
stone at me out of sheer damned vindictiveness. He meant to break my
head, but he broke the window instead, and frightened Madam Fielding into
fits. In her own park too! It's a bit thick, you know, that. I don't
wonder that she came straight along to you to demand his blood. You'll
have the old man down next; also the beautiful Miss Moore. It's getting
beyond a joke, you know, Dick. You'll have to shut the beast up. You
can't let him run amuck like this."
"Shut up!" Dick said again. In the unnatural light his face looked drawn
and almost haggard. "I want to know why he did it. Can't you tell me?"
"Oh yes, I can tell you that. He's taken to haunting the place--the
Court, mind you--to lie in wait for the fair Juliet. She's been too kind
to him, unluckily for her, and now he dogs her footsteps whenever he gets
a chance. I caught him this afternoon, right up by the house, and I
ordered him off. You know the squire and madam both loathe the very sight
of him, and small wonder. I do myself. So I told him what he was and
where to go to, and I presume he thought he'd send me there first. There
you have it all--cause and effect."
"Thank you," said Dick. He paused a moment looking speculatively at
Jack's complacent face. "It was a pity you were so damned offensive,
but I suppose it's the way you're made. You were the sole cause of the
whole thing, and if there's any decency in you, you'll go and tell the
He spoke quickly, but with characteristic decision and wholly without
excitement. Jack jumped, and threw back his head as if he had received a
blow across the mouth. Swift temper sprang to his eyes.
"What the devil do you mean?" he demanded.
"Exactly what I have said," returned Dick briefly. "And perhaps a
"Confound you!" blustered Jack. "And you expect me to go to the squire
and tell him it was my fault, do you?"
"No. I don't expect it in the least." Dick almost laughed. "In fact,
nothing would surprise me more. Thank you for telling me the truth. Do
you mind clearing out now? I don't want you in here."
His curt, cold tones fell like ice on flame. Jack swore a muffled oath
and turned away. There was no one in the world who possessed the power to
humble him as did Dick, who with a few scorching words could make him
writhe in impotent fury. For there was no gainsaying Dick. He was always
unassailable in his justice, since in a fashion inexplicable but tacitly
acknowledged by both he occupied a higher plane altogether. Ignore it as
he might, deep in his inner soul Jack knew this man to be his master. He
might, and sometimes did, resist his control, deny his authority; yet the
power remained, and Dick knew how to exercise it if the need arose. They
were seldom at open variance, but practically never in sympathy.
The fate of poor Robin had been a matter of disagreement between them
ever since Jack had come to man's estate, but the issue did not rest
with Jack. No power on earth could move Dick in that direction. Robin
was his own peculiar property, and in this respect he permitted
interference from none.
He left Jack now, and turned back into the schoolroom with deep lines
between his brows, but implacable determination in his every movement, a
determination that was directed against the poor cowering form that
crouched still in the same position waiting for him.
Robin looked up at his coming, drawing himself together with a nervous
contraction of the muscles like the mute shrinking of an abject dog.
Dick stopped in front of him. "So you're not going to take a
caning!" he said.
There was no longer any rebellion in Robin's attitude. He dropped his
eyes swiftly from his brother's face, saying no word. In the silence
that followed, his hands began to work, straining ceaselessly against
Dick waited for a few seconds. "Going on strike, are you?" he asked then,
as Robin did not speak.
Robin shook his head dumbly.
"What does that mean?" Dick said.
Robin was silent. He was nearly dislocating his fingerjoints in his
Richard bent suddenly and laid a quieting hand upon him. "Robin, do you
know you've got me into bad trouble?"
Robin gave a violent jerk, and in a moment stumbled to his feet. He did
not look at his brother, but turned aside in his blundering pathetic
fashion, and went to the littered writing-desk.
Dick's wand of office still lay among the scattered exercise-books. He
pulled it out with a clumsy eagerness, tossing papers and books on the
floor in his haste. He turned and went back to Dick, thrusting the cane
"There, Dicky!" he said, and stood breathing heavily and trembling.
Dick reached out and took the cane. The lines of his face were oddly
softened. He stood for a moment looking at the boy, then very sharply he
moved, bent, and snapped the thing across his knee.
"Oh, dash it, Robin!" he said. "You're getting too much for me."
He tossed the fragments from him, and went to pick up the books that
Robin had scattered on the floor.
Robin came and grovelled by his side, helping him. "You aren't angry, are
you, Dicky?" he murmured anxiously.
"I ought to be," Dick said, as he sat down and began to straighten out
the muddle in front of him.
Robin knelt up by his side. "Please don't be, Dicky!" he said very
earnestly. "I won't ever do it again. I swear I won't."
Dick smiled somewhat wryly. "No. You'll probably think of some other
devilry even worse." He put his arm round the humped shoulders with the
words. "You'll forget--you always do--that it's I who have to pay."
Robin pressed against him, still dog-like in his contrition. "Will it
cost much?" he asked.
"Oh that! The window, you mean? Well, not so much as if you had broken
Jack's head--as you intended."
There was some hint of returning grimness in Dick's voice. Robin made an
ingratiating movement, leaning his rough head against his brother's arm.
Dick went on, ignoring the unspoken appeal. "You've got to stop it Robin.
If you don't, there'll be trouble--worse trouble than you've had yet.
You don't want to leave me, I suppose?"
"Leave you, Dicky?" Robin stared round in horror. "Leave you?" he
repeated incredulously. "Go to prison, do you mean?"
Dick nodded. "Something like it."
"Dick!" Robin stared at him aghast. "But--you--you'd never let
"If you were to damage Jack--or anyone else--badly, I shouldn't be able
to prevent it." Dick said rather wearily. "If it came to that--I
shouldn't even try."
"Dick!" Robin gasped again, then passionately; "But I--I--I couldn't
live--away from you! I'd--I'd kill myself!"
"No, you wouldn't. You wouldn't get the chance." Dick was staring
straight before him down the room, as if he watched some evil vision
against the darkness. "People aren't allowed to kill themselves in
prison. If they try to do anything of that sort, they're tied down till
they come to their senses. If they behave like brutes, they're treated as
such, till at last they turn into that and nothing else. And then--God
A sudden hard shudder caught him. He shook it off impatiently, and turned
to the quivering figure still kneeling in the circle of his arm.
He gripped it suddenly close. "That's the sort of hell these fiendish
tempers of yours might end in," he said. "You've got to save yourself, my
son. I can't save you."
Robin clung to him tensely, desperately. "You don't--want me to go,
Dicky?" he whispered.
"Good God!" Richard said. "I'd rather see you dead!"
In the silence that followed, Robin turned with a curious groping
movement, took the hand that pressed his shoulder, and pulled it
over his eyes.
An ominous darkness brooded over all things as Green walked up the long
avenue of Shale Court half-an-hour later. The storm had been long in,
gathering, and he judged that he would yet have time to reach his
destination before it broke. But it was nearer than he thought, and the
first dull roar of its coming reached him soon after he had passed the
gates. He shrugged his shoulders at the sound and hurried on, for he was
in no mood to turn back. The business before him was one that could not
be shirked, and the lines on his dark face showed unyielding
determination as he went.
He was half-way up the drive when the first flash of lightning glimmered
eerily across the heavy gloom. It was followed so swiftly by a burst of
thunder that he realized that he had no time to spare if he hoped to
escape the threatening deluge. He broke into a run, covering the ground
with the ease of the practised athlete, elbows at sides and head up,
going at an even pace which he knew he could maintain to the finish
But he was not destined to run to a finish. As he rounded a bend that
gave him a view of the house in the distance, he suddenly heard a voice
call to him from the deep shadow of the trees, and checking sharply he
discerned a dim figure coming towards him across the grassy ride that
bordered the road.
He diverted his course without a moment's thought, and went to meet it.
"Ah, how kind of you!" said Juliet. "And there's going to be such a
downpour in a minute."
"What is the matter?" he said, her hand in his.
She was smiling a difficult smile. "Nothing very much. Not enough to
warrant my extreme selfishness in stopping you. I have given my foot a
stupid twist, that's all, and it doesn't like walking."
"Take my arm!" said Green.
She took it, her white face still bravely smiling. "Thank you, Mr.
"Lean hard!" he said.
She obeyed him, and he led her, limping, to the road, Columbus, the
ever-faithful, trudging behind.
"It really is a shame," she said. "We shall both be drenched now."
He glanced at the threatening sky. "It may hold off for a bit yet. What
were you doing?"
"I was coming to see you," she said.
"To see me!" His look came swiftly to her. "What about?"
"About Robin," she answered simply. "I wasn't in the car when it
happened, but I heard all about it when Mrs. Fielding came in. Mr. Green,
I hope you haven't been very hard on him."
Green was silent for a moment. "And you started straight off to come to
the rescue?" he said then.
"Oh, I felt sure that he acted on impulse, not realizing. You can't
judge him by ordinary standards. It isn't fair," pleaded Juliet. "There
was probably some extenuating circumstance in the background--something
we don't know about. I hope you haven't been very severe. You haven't,
Green began to smile. "You make me out an awful ogre," he said. "Is it my
trade that does it? No, I haven't punished him at all. As you say, we
must be fair, and I found he wasn't the person most to blame. Can you
guess who was?"
"No," said Juliet.
"I thought not. Well, I have traced it to its source, and it lies--at
"At mine!" ejaculated Juliet.
"At yours, yes. You've been too kind to him. It's just your way, isn't
it? You spoil everybody." Again for an instant his look flashed over her.
"With the result that Robin, not hampered by convention as are the rest
of us, lies in wait on forbidden ground for a glimpse of his divinity.
Being caught and roundly abused for it by his brother Jack, he naturally
took offence and trouble ensued. That is the whole story."
"Oh, dear," said Juliet. "But surely that was very unnecessary of your
brother Jack. He might have made allowances."
"My brother Jack often does unnecessary things," said Green drily. "And
he never makes allowances for anyone but himself."
"And you have to bear the consequences!" Juliet's voice was quick with
sympathy. "But that's too bad!"
"I'm used to it," said Green, and laughed. "How are you getting on?
Enjoying life at the Court?"
Juliet smiled. "Do you know--I am rather? They have been very good to
"So far," said Green. "Are you still on probation?"
"The week is up to-morrow," she told him.
"And you're staying on--of course?"
She looked at him. "Don't you want me to stay on?"
"You know my sentiments," said Green.
A sudden vivid flash rent the gloom over them, and Juliet caught her
breath. There followed a burst of thunder that seemed to shake the very
foundation of the earth.
She tried to break into a hobbling run, but he held her back.
"Better not. You'll only hurt yourself. It isn't raining yet. You're
She laughed a little, breathlessly. "I don't admit it. I should never
dare to show the white feather in your presence. Oh, look at that!"
She shrank in spite of herself as another intolerable flare darted
across the sky.
"We're nearly in," said Green, but his words were drowned in such a
volume of sound as made further speech impossible. He awoke to the fact
that Juliet was clinging to his arm with both hands, and in a second his
free hand was on the top of them holding them tightly.
The thunder rolled away, and a deeper darkness fell. Great drops of rain
began to splash around them.
"Quick!" gasped Juliet. "We can't--possibly--reach the house now. There
is an arbour--by the garden gate. Let's go there!"
He turned off the road on to a side-path that led to a shrubbery. The
rush and roar of the coming rain was sweeping up from the sea. Juliet
Again a jagged line of light gleamed before them. Again the thunder
crashed. They found the little gate and the arbour beyond.
"Thank goodness!" gasped Juliet.
She stumbled at the step of the summer-house, and he thrust an arm
forward to catch her. He almost lifted her into shelter. The darkness
within was complete. She leaned upon him, trembling.
"You're not hurt?" he said.
"No, not hurt, only--shaken--and--and--stupid," she answered, on the
verge of tears.
His arm still held her. It closed about her, very surely, very steadily.
He did not utter a word.
The rain swept down in a torrent, as if the skies had opened. Great
hail-stones beat upon the laurels around them with tropical violence.
The noise of the downpour seemed vaster, more overwhelming, even than
Juliet was palpitating from head to foot. She leaned upon the supporting
arm, her eyes closed against the leaping lightning, her two hands pressed
hard upon her breast. Columbus crouched close to her, shivering.
And ever the man's arm drew her nearer, nearer, till she felt the strong
beating of his heart. The storm raged on about them, but they two stood,
as it were, alone, wrapped at its very centre in a great silence. For
minutes they neither moved nor spoke.
Slowly the turmoil abated. The downpour lessened. The storm passed. And
"How--disgraceful of me!" she murmured. "I'm not generally so foolish as
this. But--it was so very violent."
"I know," he said. His hold slackened. He let her go. And then suddenly
he stayed her. He took her hand, and bending pressed it closely,
burningly, to his lips.
She stood motionless, suffering him. But in a moment, as he still held
her, very gently she spoke. "Mr. Green, please--don't be so terribly
in earnest! It's too soon. I warned you before. You haven't known
He stood up and faced her, her hand still in his. A light was growing
behind the storm-clouds, revealing his dark clean-cut features, and the
look half humorous, half-tense, that rested upon them.
"Yes, I know you warned me," he said rather jerkily. "I quite realize
that it's my funeral--not yours. I shan't ask you to be chief mourner
either. I've always considered that when a man makes a fool of himself
over a woman it's up to him to bear the consequences without asking her
to share them."
"But we're not talking of--funerals," said Juliet.
"Aren't we?" His hand tightened for a moment upon hers. "I thought we
were. What is it then?"
She smiled at him with a whimsical sadness in the weird storm-light. "I
think there are a good many names for it," she said. "I call it midsummer
He made a quick gesture of protest. "Do you? Oh, I know a better name
than that. But you don't want to hear it. I believe you are afraid of me.
It sounds preposterous. But I believe you are."
Her hand stirred within his, but not as though seeking to escape. "No, I
don't think so," she said, and in her voice was a sound as if laughter
and tears were striving together for the mastery. "But I'm trying--so
dreadfully hard--to be--discreet. I don't want you to let yourself go too
far. It's so difficult--you don't know how difficult it is--to get back
"Good heavens!" he said. "Don't you realize that I passed the
turning-back stage long ago."
"Oh, I hope not!" she said quickly. "I hope not!"
"Then I am afraid you are doomed to disappointment," he said, with a
touch of cynicism. "But I am sure you are far too sensible--discreet, I
mean--to let that worry you. And anyway," he smiled abruptly, "I don't
want you to be worried--just when you're having such a jolly time at the
"You're very sarcastic," said Juliet.
He laughed a little. "No. That's not me. It's only the armour in which I
encase myself. I hope it doesn't offend you. I can always take it off.
Only--I am not sure you'd like that any better."
He won his point. She smiled, though somewhat dubiously. And at length
her hand gently freed itself from his.
"Well, I don't like hurting people," she said. "And I don't want to hurt
you. You understand that, don't you?" There was pleading in her words.
"Yes, perfectly," he said.
She glanced at him, for his tone was baffling. "And you don't think
He bent towards her. "No," he said, and though he smiled as in duty bound
she caught a deep throb in his voice that pierced straight through her.
"I love you all the better for it." Then, before she could find words to
protest, "I say, I believe it's left off raining. Hadn't we better go
while we can?"
She turned to look. A pale light was shining from the western sky. The
storm was over. The raindrops glittered in the growing radiance. The
whole earth seemed transformed. "Yes, let us go!" she said, and stepped
down into a world of crystal clearness.
He followed her, his face uplifted to the scattering drops, moving with a
free and faun-like spring that seemed to mark him as a being closely
allied to Nature, curiously vital yet also curiously self-restrained.
She did not look at him again, but as they passed together through the
wonderland which with every moment was growing to a more amazing
brightness, she told herself that there was little of midsummer madness
about this man's emotions. Jest as he might, she knew by instinct that he
was vitally in earnest and she had a strange conviction that it was for
the first time in his life. The certainty disquited her. Had she fled
from one danger to another--she who only asked for peace?
But she reassured herself with the thought that he had held her against
his heart, and he had not sought to take her. That forbearance of his
gave him a greatness in her eyes to which no other man had ever attained.
And gradually a sense of security to which she was little accustomed came
about her heart and comforted her. She had warned him. Surely he
A DRAWN BATTLE
Almost in silence they passed up through the dripping garden to the house
side by side, Columbus trotting demurely behind. Juliet was still
limping, but she would not accept support.
"I suppose you are going to beard the lion in his den," she said as they
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