Frances Hodgson Burnett
Part 4 out of 13
medallions had faded almost from view.
Lady Anstruthers, looking shy and awkward as she fingered
an ornament on a small table, seemed singularly a part of her
background. Her evening dress, slipping off her thin shoulders,
was as faded and out of date as her carpet. It had once been
delicately blue and gauzy, but its gauziness hung in crushed
folds and its blue was almost grey. It was also the dress of
a girl, not that of a colourless, worn woman, and her
consciousness of its unfitness showed in her small-featured face
as she came forward.
"Do you--recognise it, Betty?" she asked hesitatingly. "It
was one of my New York dresses. I put it on because--
because----" and her stammering ended helplessly.
"Because you wanted to remind me," Betty said. If she
felt it easier to begin with an excuse she should be provided
Perhaps but for this readiness to fall into any tone she chose
to adopt Rosy might have endeavoured to carry her poor
farce on, but as it was she suddenly gave it up.
"I put it on because I have no other," she said. "We never
have visitors and I haven't dressed for dinner for so long that
I seem to have nothing left that is fit to wear. I dragged this
out because it was better than anything else. It was pretty
once----" she gave a little laugh, "twelve years ago. How long
years seem! Was I--was I pretty, Betty--twelve years ago?"
"Twelve years is not such a long time." Betty took her hand and
drew her to a sofa. "Let us sit down and talk about it."
"There is nothing much to talk about. This is it----"
taking in the room with a wave of her hand. "I am it.
Ughtred is it."
"Then let us talk about England," was Bettina's light skim
over the thin ice.
A red spot grew on each of Lady Anstruthers' cheek bones
and made her faded eyes look intense.
"Let us talk about America," her little birdclaw of a hand
clinging feverishly. "Is New York still--still----"
"It is still there," Betty answered with one of the adorable
smiles which showed a deep dimple near her lip. "But it is
much nearer England than it used to be."
"Nearer!" The hand tightened as Rosy caught her breath.
Betty bent rather suddenly and kissed her. It was the easiest
way of hiding the look she knew had risen to her eyes.
She began to talk gaily, half laughingly.
"It is quite near," she said. "Don't you realise it?
Americans swoop over here by thousands every year. They come
for business, they come for pleasure, they come for rest. They
cannot keep away. They come to buy and sell--pictures and
books and luxuries and lands. They come to give and take.
They are building a bridge from shore to shore of their work,
and their thoughts, and their plannings, out of the lives and
souls of them. It will be a great bridge and great things
will pass over it." She kissed the faded cheek again. She
wanted to sweep Rosy away from the dreariness of "it." Lady
Anstruthers looked at her with faintly smiling eyes. She did
not follow all this quite readily, but she felt pleased and
"I know how they come here and marry," she said. "The
new Duchess of Downes is an American. She had a fortune
of two million pounds."
"If she chooses to rebuild a great house and a great name,"
said Betty, lifting her shoulders lightly, "why not--if it is an
honest bargain? I suppose it is part of the building of the
Little Lady Anstruthers, trying to pull up the sleeves of
the gauzy bodice slipping off her small, sharp bones, stared at
her half in wondering adoration, half in alarm.
"Betty--you--you are so handsome--and so clever and
strange," she fluttered. "Oh, Betty, stand up so that I can
see how tall and handsome you are!"
Betty did as she was told, and upon her feet she was a young
woman of long lines, and fine curves so inspiring to behold that
Lady Anstruthers clasped her hands together on her knees in
an excited gesture.
"Oh, yes! Oh, yes!" she cried. "You are just as
wonderful as you looked when I turned and saw you under the
trees. You almost make me afraid."
"Because I am wonderful?" said Betty. "Then I will not
be wonderful any more."
"It is not because I think you wonderful, but because other
people will. Would you rebuild a great house?" hesitatingly.
The fine line of Betty's black brows drew itself slightly
"No," she said.
"How could the man who owned it persuade me that he
was in earnest if he said he loved me? How could I persuade
him that I was worth caring for and not a mere ambitious fool?
There would be too much against us."
"Against you?" repeated Lady Anstruthers.
"I don't say I am fair," said Betty. "People who are
proud are often not fair. But we should both of us have seen
and known too much."
"You have seen me now," said Lady Anstruthers in her
listless voice, and at the same moment dinner was announced
and she got up from the sofa, so that, luckily, there was no
time for the impersonal answer it would have been difficult to
invent at a moment's notice. As they went into the dining-
room Betty was thinking restlessly. She remembered all the
material she had collected during her education in France and
Germany, and there was added to it the fact that she HAD
seen Rosy, and having her before her eyes she felt that there
was small prospect of her contemplating the rebuilding of any
great house requiring reconstruction.
There was fine panelling in the dining-room and a great
fireplace and a few family portraits. The service upon the
table was shabby and the dinner was not a bounteous meal.
Lady Anstruthers in her girlish, gauzy dress and looking too
small for her big, high-backed chair tried to talk rapidly, and
every few minutes forgot herself and sank into silence, with
her eyes unconsciously fixed upon her sister's face. Ughtred
watched Betty also, and with a hungry questioning. The man-
servant in the worn livery was not a sufficiently well-trained
and experienced domestic to make any effort to keep his eyes
from her. He was young enough to be excited by an innovation
so unusual as the presence of a young and beautiful
person surrounded by an unmistakable atmosphere of ease and
fearlessness. He had been talking of her below stairs and felt
that he had failed in describing her. He had found himself
barely supported by the suggestion of a housemaid that sometimes
these dresses that looked plain had been made in Paris
at expensive places and had cost "a lot." He furtively
examined the dress which looked plain, and while he admitted that
for some mysterious reason it might represent expensiveness, it
was not the dress which was the secret of the effect, but a
something, not altogether mere good looks, expressed by the
wearer. It was, in fact, the thing which the second-class
passenger, Salter, had been at once attracted and stirred to
rebellion by when Miss Vanderpoel came on board the Meridiana.
Betty did not look too small for her high-backed chair, and
she did not forget herself when she talked. In spite of all
she had found, her imagination was stirred by the surroundings.
Her sense of the fine spaces and possibilities of dignity
in the barren house, her knowledge that outside the windows
there lay stretched broad views of the park and its heavy-
branched trees, and that outside the gates stood the neglected
picturesqueness of the village and all the rural and--to her--
interesting life it slowly lived--this pleased and attracted her.
If she had been as helpless and discouraged as Rosalie she could
see that it would all have meant a totally different and
depressing thing, but, strong and spirited, and with the power
of full hands, she was remotely rejoicing in what might be done
with it all. As she talked she was gradually learning detail.
Sir Nigel was on the Continent. Apparently he often went
there; also it revealed itself that no one knew at what moment
he might return, for what reason he would return, or if he
would return at all during the summer. It was evident that
no one had been at any time encouraged to ask questions as to
his intentions, or to feel that they had a right to do so.
This she knew, and a number of other things, before they left the
table. When they did so they went out to stroll upon the
moss-grown stone terrace and listened to the nightingales
throwingminto the air silver fountains of trilling song. When
Bettinapaused, leaning against the balustrade of the terrace that
she might hear all the beauty of it, and feel all the beauty of
the warm spring night, Rosy went on making her effort to talk.
"It is not much of a neighbourhood, Betty," she said. "You
are too accustomed to livelier places to like it."
"That is my reason for feeling that I shall like it. I don't
think I could be called a lively person, and I rather hate
"But you are accustomed--accustomed----" Rosy harked
"I have been accustomed to wishing that I could come to
you," said Betty. "And now I am here."
Lady Anstruthers laid a hand on her dress.
"I can't believe it! I can't believe it!" she breathed.
"You will believe it," said Betty, drawing the hand around
her waist and enclosing in her own arm the narrow shoulders.
"Tell me about the neighbourhood."
"There isn't any, really," said Lady Anstruthers. "The
houses are so far away from each other. The nearest is six
miles from here, and it is one that doesn't count.
"There is no family, and the man who owns it is so poor.
It is a big place, but it is falling to pieces as this is.
"What is it called?"
"Mount Dunstan. The present earl only succeeded about three
years ago. Nigel doesn't know him. He is queer and not liked.
He has been away."
"No one knows. To Australia or somewhere. He has odd
ideas. The Mount Dunstans have been awful people for two
generations. This man's father was almost mad with wickedness.
So was the elder son. This is a second son, and he came
into nothing but debt. Perhaps he feels the disgrace and it
makes him rude and ill-tempered. His father and elder brother
had been in such scandals that people did not invite them.
"Do they invite this man?"
"No. He probably would not go to their houses if they
did. And he went away soon after he came into the title."
"Is the place beautiful?"
"There is a fine deer park, and the gardens were wonderful
a long time ago. The house is worth looking at--outside."
"I will go and look at it," said Betty.
"The carriage is out of order. There is only Ughtred's cart."
"I am a good walker," said Betty.
"Are you? It would be twelve miles--there and back. When I was
in New York people didn't walk much, particularly girls."
"They do now," Betty answered. "They have learned to
do it in England. They live out of doors and play games.
They have grown athletic and tall."
As they talked the nightingales sang, sometimes near,
sometimes in the distance, and scents of dewy grass and leaves
and earth were wafted towards them. Sometimes they strolled up
and down the terrace, sometimes they paused and leaned
against the stone balustrade. Betty allowed Rosy to talk as
she chose. She herself asked no obviously leading questions and
passed over trying moments with lightness. Her desire was
to place herself in a position where she might hear the things
which would aid her to draw conclusions. Lady Anstruthers
gradually grew less nervous and afraid of her subjects. In the
wonder of the luxury of talking to someone who listened
with sympathy, she once or twice almost forgot herself and
made revelations she had not intended to make. She had often
the manner of a person who was afraid of being overheard;
sometimes, even when she was making speeches quite simple in
themselves, her voice dropped and she glanced furtively aside
as if there were chances that something she dreaded might step
out of the shadow.
When they went upstairs together and parted for the night, the
clinging of Rosy's embrace was for a moment almost convulsive.
But she tried to laugh off its suggestion of intensity.
"I held you tight so that I could feel sure that you were
real and would not melt away," she said. "I hope you will
be here in the morning."
"I shall never really go quite away again, now I have come,"
Betty answered. "It is not only your house I have come into.
I have come back into your life."
After she had entered her room and locked the door she
sat down and wrote a letter to her father. It was a long
letter, but a clear one. She painted a definite and detailed
picture and made distinct her chief point.
"She is afraid of me," she wrote. "That is the first and
worst obstacle. She is actually afraid that I will do something
which will only add to her trouble. She has lived under
dominion so long that she has forgotten that there are people
who have no reason for fear. Her old life seems nothing but
a dream. The first thing I must teach her is that I am to
be trusted not to do futile things, and that she need neither be
afraid of nor for me."
After writing these sentences she found herself leaving her
desk and walking up and down the room to relieve herself.
She could not sit still, because suddenly the blood ran fast and
hot through her veins. She put her hands against her cheeks
and laughed a little, low laugh.
"I feel violent," she said. "I feel violent and I must get
over it. This is rage. Rage is worth nothing."
It was rage--the rage of splendid hot blood which surged
in answer to leaping hot thoughts. There would have been a
sort of luxury in giving way to the sway of it. But the self-
indulgence would have been no aid to future action. Rage
was worth nothing. She said it as the first Reuben Vanderpoel
might have said of a useless but glittering weapon. "This gun
is worth nothing," and cast it aside.
IN THE GARDENS
She came out upon the stone terrace again rather early in the
morning. She wanted to wander about in the first freshness
of the day, which was always an uplifting thing to her. She
wanted to see the dew on the grass and on the ragged flower
borders and to hear the tender, broken fluting of birds in the
trees. One cuckoo was calling to another in the park, and
she stopped and listened intently. Until yesterday she had
never heard a cuckoo call, and its hollow mellowness gave
her delight. It meant the spring in England, and nowhere else.
There was space enough to ramble about in the gardens.
Paths and beds were alike overgrown with weeds, but some
strong, early-blooming things were fighting for life, refusing
to be strangled. Against the beautiful old red walls, over
which age had stolen with a wonderful grey bloom, venerable
fruit trees were spread and nailed, and here and there showed
bloom, clumps of low-growing things sturdily advanced their
yellowness or whiteness, as if defying neglect. In one place
a wall slanted and threatened to fall, bearing its nectarine
trees with it; in another there was a gap so evidently not of
to-day that the heap of its masonry upon the border bed was
already covered with greenery, and the roots of the fruit tree it
had supported had sent up strong, insistent shoots.
She passed down broad paths and narrow ones, sometimes
walking under trees, sometimes pushing her way between
encroaching shrubs; she descended delightful mossy and broken
steps and came upon dilapidated urns, in which weeds grew
instead of flowers, and over which rampant but lovely, savage
little creepers clambered and clung.
In one of the walled kitchen gardens she came upon an
elderly gardener at work. At the sound of her approaching
steps he glanced round and then stood up, touching his forelock
in respectful but startled salute. He was so plainly
amazed at the sight of her that she explained herself.
"Good-morning," she said. "I am her ladyship's sister,
Miss Vanderpoel. I came yesterday evening. I am looking
over your gardens."
He touched his forehead again and looked round him. His
manner was not cheerful. He cast a troubled eye about him.
"They're not much to see, miss," he said. "They'd ought to be,
but they're not. Growing things has to be fed and took care of.
A man and a boy can't do it--nor yet four or five of 'em."
"How many ought there to be?" Betty inquired, with business-like
directness. It was not only the dew on the grass she had come
out to see.
"If there was eight or ten of us we might put it in order
and keep it that way. It's a big place, miss."
Betty looked about her as he had done, but with a less
"It is a beautiful place, as well as a large one," she said.
"I can see that there ought to be more workers."
"There's no one," said the gardener, "as has as many enemies as a
gardener, an' as many things to fight. There's grubs an' there's
greenfly, an' there's drout', an' wet an' cold, an' mildew, an'
there's what the soil wants and starves without, an' if you
haven't got it nor yet hands an' feet an' tools enough, how's
things to feed, an' fight an' live--let alone bloom an' bear?"
"I don't know much about gardens," said Miss Vanderpoel,
"but I can understand that."
The scent of fresh bedewed things was in the air. It was
true that she had not known much about gardens, but here
standing in the midst of one she began to awaken to a new,
practical interest. A creature of initiative could not let such
a place as this alone. It was beauty being slowly slain. One
could not pass it by and do nothing.
"What is your name?" she asked
"Kedgers, miss. I've only been here about a twelve-month.
I was took on because I'm getting on in years an' can't ask
"Can you spare time to take me through the gardens and
show me things?"
Yes, he could do it. In truth, he privately welcomed an
opportunity offering a prospect of excitement so novel. He
had shown more flourishing gardens to other young ladies in
his past years of service, but young ladies did not come to
Stornham, and that one having, with such extraordinary
unexpectedness arrived, should want to look over the desolation
of these, was curious enough to rouse anyone to a sense of a
break in accustomed monotony. The young lady herself mystified
him by her difference from such others as he had seen.
What the man in the shabby livery had felt, he felt also, and
added to this was a sense of the practicalness of the questions
she asked and the interest she showed and a way she had of
seeming singularly to suggest by the look in her eyes and the
tone of her voice that nothing was necessarily without remedy.
When her ladyship walked through the place and looked at
things, a pale resignation expressed itself in the very droop of
her figure. When this one walked through the tumbled-down
grape-houses, potting-sheds and conservatories, she saw where
glass was broken, where benches had fallen and where roofs
sagged and leaked. She inquired about the heating apparatus
and asked that she might see it. She asked about the village
and its resources, about labourers and their wages.
"As if," commented Kedgers mentally, "she was what
Sir Nigel is--leastways what he'd ought to be an' ain't."
She led the way back to the fallen wall and stood and
looked at it.
"It's a beautiful old wall," she said. "It should be rebuilt
with the old brick. New would spoil it."
"Some of this is broken and crumbled away," said Kedgers,
picking up a piece to show it to her.
"Perhaps old brick could be bought somewhere," replied
the young lady speculatively. "One ought to be able to buy
old brick in England, if one is willing to pay for it."
Kedgers scratched his head and gazed at her in respectful
wonder which was almost trouble. Who was going to pay for
things, and who was going to look for things which were not
on the spot? Enterprise like this was not to be explained.
When she left him he stood and watched her upright figure
disappear through the ivy-grown door of the kitchen gardens
with a disturbed but elated expression on his countenance. He
did not know why he felt elated, but he was conscious of
elation. Something new had walked into the place. He stopped
his work and grinned and scratched his head several times after
he went back to his pottering among the cabbage plants.
"My word," he muttered. "She's a fine, straight young
woman. If she was her ladyship things 'ud be different. Sir
Nigel 'ud be different, too--or there'd be some fine upsets."
There was a huge stable yard, and Betty passed through
that on her way back. The door of the carriage house was
open and she saw two or three tumbled-down vehicles. One
was a landau with a wheel off, one was a shabby, old-fashioned,
low phaeton. She caught sight of a patently venerable cob in
one of the stables. The stalls near him were empty.
"I suppose that is all they have to depend upon," she
thought. "And the stables are like the gardens."
She found Lady Anstruthers and Ughtred waiting for her upon the
terrace, each of them regarding her with an expression
suggestive of repressed curiosity as she approached. Lady
Anstruthers flushed a little and went to meet her with an
"You look like--I don't know quite what you look like,
Betty!" she exclaimed.
The girl's dimple deepened and her eyes said smiling things.
"It is the morning--and your gardens," she answered. "I
have been round your gardens."
"They were beautiful once, I suppose," said Rosy deprecatingly.
"They are beautiful now. There is nothing like them in
America at least."
"I don't remember any gardens in America," Lady
Anstruthers owned reluctantly, "but everything seemed so cheerful
and well cared for and--and new. Don't laugh, Betty. I
have begun to like new things. You would if you had watched
old ones tumbling to pieces for twelve years."
"They ought not to be allowed to tumble to pieces," said
Betty. She added her next words with simple directness. She
could only discover how any advancing steps would be taken
by taking them. "Why do you allow them to do it?"
Lady Anstruthers looked away, but as she looked her eyes
"I!" she said. "There are so many other things to do.
It would cost so much--such an enormity to keep it all in
"But it ought to be done--for Ughtred's sake."
"I know that," faltered Rosy, "but I can't help it."
"You can," answered Betty, and she put her arm round her as they
turned to enter the house. "When you have become more used to me
and my driving American ways I will show you how."
The lightness with which she said it had an odd effect on Lady
Anstruthers. Such casual readiness was so full of the suggestion
of unheard of possibilities that it was a kind of shock.
"I have been twelve years in getting un-used to you--I feel as if
it would take twelve years more to get used again," she said.
"It won't take twelve weeks," said Betty.
THE FIRST MAN
The mystery of the apparently occult methods of communication
among the natives of India, between whom, it is said,
news flies by means too strange and subtle to be humanly
explainable, is no more difficult a problem to solve than that
of the lightning rapidity with which a knowledge of the
transpiring of any new local event darts through the slowest,
and, as far as outward signs go, the least communicative
English village slumbering drowsily among its pastures and trees.
That which the Hall or Manor House believed last night,
known only to the four walls of its drawing-room, is discussed
over the cottage breakfast tables as though presented in detail
through the columns of the Morning Post. The vicarage, the
smithy, the post office, the little provision shop, are
instantaneously informed as by magic of such incidents of
interest as occur, and are prepared to assist vicariously at any
future developments. Through what agency information is given no
one can tell, and, indeed, the agency is of small moment. Facts
of interest are perhaps like flights of swallows and dart
chattering from one red roof to another, proclaiming themselves
aloud. Nothing is so true as that in such villages they are the
property and innocent playthings of man, woman, and child,
providing conversation and drama otherwise likely to be lacked.
When Miss Vanderpoel walked through Stornham village
street she became aware that she was an exciting object of
interest. Faces appeared at cottage windows, women sauntered
to doors, men in the taproom of the Clock Inn left beer
mugs to cast an eye on her; children pushed open gates and
stared as they bobbed their curtsies; the young woman who
kept the shop left her counter and came out upon her door
step to pick up her straying baby and glance over its shoulder
at the face with the red mouth, and the mass of black hair
rolled upward under a rough blue straw hat. Everyone knew
who this exotic-looking young lady was. She had arrived
yesterday from London, and a week ago by means of a ship from
far-away America, from the country in connection with which
the rural mind curiously mixed up large wages, great fortunes
and Indians. "Gaarge" Lunsden, having spent five years of his
youth labouring heavily for sixteen shillings a week, had gone
to "Meriker" and had earned there eight shillings a day. This
was a well-known and much-talked over fact, and had elevated
the western continent to a position of trust and importance
it had seriously lacked before the emigration
of Lunsden. A place where a man could earn eight shillings
a day inspired interest as well as confidence. When Sir
Nigel's wife had arrived twelve years ago as the new Lady
Anstruthers, the story that she herself "had money" had
been verified by her fine clothes and her way of handing out
sovereigns in cases where the rest of the gentry, if they gave
at all, would have bestowed tea and flannel or shillings. There
had been for a few months a period of unheard of well-being
in Stornham village; everyone remembered the hundred pounds
the bride had given to poor Wilson when his place had burned
down, but the village had of course learned, by its occult means,
that Sir Nigel and the Dowager had been angry and that there
had been a quarrel. Afterwards her ladyship had been dangerously
ill, the baby had been born a hunchback, and a year had
passed before its mother had been seen again. Since then she
had been a changed creature; she had lost her looks and
seemed to care for nothing but the child. Stornham village
saw next to nothing of her, and it certainly was not she who
had the dispensing of her fortune. Rumour said Sir Nigel
lived high in London and foreign parts, but there was no high
living at the Court. Her ladyship's family had never been near
her, and belief in them and their wealth almost ceased to exist.
If they were rich, Stornham felt that it was their business to
mend roofs and windows and not allow chimneys and kitchen boilers
to fall into ruin, the simple, leading article of faith being
that even American money belonged properly to England.
As Miss Vanderpoel walked at a light, swinging pace
through the one village street the gazers felt with Kedgers that
something new was passing and stirring the atmosphere. She
looked straight, and with a friendliness somehow dominating, at
the curious women; her handsome eyes met those of the men
in a human questioning; she smiled and nodded to the bobbing
children. One of these, young enough to be uncertain on its
feet, in running to join some others stumbled and fell on the
path before her. Opening its mouth in the inevitable resultant
roar, it was shocked almost into silence by the tall young
lady stooping at once, picking it up, and cheerfully dusting its
"Don't cry," she said; "you are not hurt, you know."
The deep dimple near her mouth showed itself, and the
laugh in her eyes was so reassuring that the penny she put into
the grubby hand was less productive of effect than her mere
self. She walked on, leaving the group staring after her
breathless, because of a sense of having met with a wonderful
adventure. The grand young lady with the black hair and the
blue hat and tall, straight body was the adventure. She left
the same sense of event with the village itself. They talked of
her all day over their garden palings, on their doorsteps, in the
street; of her looks, of her height, of the black rim of lashes
round her eyes, of the chance that she might be rich and ready
to give half-crowns and sovereigns, of the "Meriker" she had
come from, and above all of the reason for her coming.
Betty swung with the light, firm step of a good walker out
on to the highway. To walk upon the fine, smooth old Roman
road was a pleasure in itself, but she soon struck away from
it and went through lanes and by-ways, following sign-posts
because she knew where she was going. Her walk was to take
her to Mount Dunstan and home again by another road. In
walking, an objective point forms an interest, and what she
had heard of the estate from Rosalie was a vague reason for
her caring to see it. It was another place like Stornham, once
dignified and nobly representative of fine things, now losing
their meanings and values. Values and meanings, other than
mere signs of wealth and power, there had been. Centuries
ago strong creatures had planned and built it for such reasons
as strength has for its planning and building. In Bettina
Vanderpoel's imagination the First Man held powerful and moving
sway. It was he whom she always saw. In history, as a child
at school, she had understood and drawn close to him. There
was always a First Man behind all that one saw or was told,
one who was the fighter, the human thing who snatched weapons
and tools from stones and trees and wielded them in the
carrying out of the thought which was his possession and his
strength. He was the God made human; others waited, without
knowledge of their waiting, for the signal he gave. A
man like others--with man's body, hands, and limbs, and eyes--
the moving of a whole world was subtly altered by his birth.
One could not always trace him, but with stone axe and spear
point he had won savage lands in savage ways, and so ruled
them that, leaving them to other hands, their march towards
less savage life could not stay itself, but must sweep on; others
of his kind, striking rude harps, had so sung that the loud
clearness of their wild songs had rung through the ages, and echo
still in strains which are theirs, though voices of to-day repeat
the note of them. The First Man, a Briton stained with woad
and hung with skins, had tilled the luscious greenness of the
lands richly rolling now within hedge boundaries. The square
church towers rose, holding their slender corner spires above
the trees, as a result of the First Man, Norman William. The
thought which held its place, the work which did not pass
away, had paid its First Man wages; but beauties crumbling,
homes falling to waste, were bitter things. The First Man,
who, having won his splendid acres, had built his home upon
them and reared his young and passed his possession on with a
proud heart, seemed but ill treated. Through centuries the
home had enriched itself, its acres had borne harvests, its trees
had grown and spread huge branches, full lives had been lived
within the embrace of the massive walls, there had been loves
and lives and marriages and births, the breathings of them
made warm and full the very air. To Betty it seemed that the
land itself would have worn another face if it had not been
trodden by so many springing feet, if so many harvests had not
waved above it, if so many eyes had not looked upon and loved it.
She passed through variations of the rural loveliness she had
seen on her way from the station to the Court, and felt them
grow in beauty as she saw them again. She came at last to a
village somewhat larger than Stornham and marked by the
signs of the lack of money-spending care which Stornham
showed. Just beyond its limits a big park gate opened on to
an avenue of massive trees. She stopped and looked down it,
but could see nothing but its curves and, under the branches,
glimpses of a spacious sweep of park with other trees standing
in groups or alone in the sward. The avenue was unswept and
untended, and here and there boughs broken off by wind
storms lay upon it. She turned to the road again and followed
it, because it enclosed the park and she wanted to see more of
its evident beauty. It was very beautiful. As she walked on
she saw it rolled into woods and deeps filled with bracken; she
saw stretches of hillocky, fine-grassed rabbit warren, and
hollows holding shadowy pools; she caught the gleam of a lake
with swans sailing slowly upon it with curved necks; there were
wonderful lights and wonderful shadows, and brooding stillness,
which made her footfall upon the road a too material thing.
Suddenly she heard a stirring in the bracken a yard or two
away from her. Something was moving slowly among the
waving masses of huge fronds and caused them to sway to and
fro. It was an antlered stag who rose from his bed in the
midst of them, and with majestic deliberation got upon his feet
and stood gazing at her with a calmness of pose so splendid, and
a liquid darkness and lustre of eye so stilly and fearlessly
beautiful, that she caught her breath. He simply gazed as her
as a great king might gaze at an intruder, scarcely deigning
As she had passed on her way, Betty had seen that the enclosing
park palings were decaying, covered with lichen and falling
at intervals. It had even passed through her mind that here
was one of the demands for expenditure on a large estate, which
limited resources could not confront with composure. The
deer fence itself, a thing of wire ten feet high, to form an
obstacle to leaps, she had marked to be in such condition as to
threaten to become shortly a useless thing. Until this moment
she had seen no deer, but looking beyond the stag and across
the sward she now saw groups near each other, stags cropping
or looking towards her with lifted heads, does at a respectful
but affectionate distance from them, some caring for their
fawns. The stag who had risen near her had merely walked through
a gap in the boundary and now stood free to go where he would.
"He will get away," said Betty, knitting her black brows.
Ah! what a shame!
Even with the best intentions one could not give chase to
a stag. She looked up and down the road, but no one was
within sight. Her brows continued to knit themselves and
her eyes ranged over the park itself in the hope that some
labourer on the estate, some woodman or game-keeper, might
"It is no affair of mine," she said, "but it would be too
bad to let him get away, though what happens to stray stags
one doesn't exactly know."
As she said it she caught sight of someone, a man in
leggings and shabby clothes and with a gun over his shoulder,
evidently an under keeper. He was a big, rather rough-looking
fellow, but as he lurched out into the open from a wood Betty
saw that she could reach him if she passed through a narrow
gate a few yards away and walked quickly.
He was slouching along, his head drooping and his broad
shoulders expressing the definite antipodes of good spirits.
Betty studied his back as she strode after him, her conclusion
being that he was perhaps not a good-humoured man to
approach at any time, and that this was by ill luck one of his
less fortunate hours.
"Wait a moment, if you please," her clear, mellow voice
flung out after him when she was within hearing distance. "I
want to speak to you, keeper."
He turned with an air of far from pleased surprise. The
afternoon sun was in his eyes and made him scowl. For a
moment he did not see distinctly who was approaching him,
but he had at once recognised a certain cool tone of command
in the voice whose suddenness had roused him from a black
mood. A few steps brought them to close quarters, and when
he found himself looking into the eyes of his pursuer he made
a movement as if to lift his cap, then checking himself, touched
it, keeper fashion.
"Oh!" he said shortly. "Miss Vanderpoel! Beg pardon."
Bettina stood still a second. She had her surprise also. Here
was the unexpected again. The under keeper was the red- haired
second-class passenger of the Meridiana.
He did not look pleased to see her, and the suddenness of
his appearance excluded the possibility of her realising that
upon the whole she was at least not displeased to see him.
"How do you do?" she said, feeling the remark fantastically
conventional, but not being inspired by any alternative.
"I came to tell you that one of the stags has got through a
gap in the fence."
"Damn!" she heard him say under his breath. Aloud he
said, "Thank you."
"He is a splendid creature," she said. "I did not know
what to do. I was glad to see a keeper coming."
"Thank you," he said again, and strode towards the place
where the stag still stood gazing up the road, as if reflecting
as to whether it allured him or not.
Betty walked back more slowly, watching him with interest.
She wondered what he would find it necessary to do. She
heard him begin a low, flute-like whistling, and then saw the
antlered head turn towards him. The woodland creature
moved, but it was in his direction. It had without doubt
answered his call before and knew its meaning to be friendly.
It went towards him, stretching out a tender sniffing nose, and
he put his hand in the pocket of his rough coat and gave it
something to eat. Afterwards he went to the gap in the fence
and drew the wires together, fastening them with other wire,
which he also took out of the coat pocket.
"He is not afraid of making himself useful," thought Betty.
"And the animals know him. He is not as bad as he looks."
She lingered a moment watching him, and then walked
towards the gate through which she had entered. He glanced
up as she neared him.
"I don't see your carriage," he said. "Your man is
probably round the trees."
"I walked," answered Betty. "I had heard of this place
and wanted to see it."
He stood up, putting his wire back into his pocket.
"There is not much to be seen from the road," he said.
"Would you like to see more of it?"
His manner was civil enough, but not the correct one for
a servant. He did not say "miss" or touch his cap in making
the suggestion. Betty hesitated a moment.
"Is the family at home?" she inquired.
"There is no family but--his lordship. He is off the place."
"Does he object to trespassers?"
"Not if they are respectable and take no liberties."
"I am respectable, and I shall not take liberties," said Miss
Vanderpoel, with a touch of hauteur. The truth was that she
had spent a sufficient number of years on the Continent to have
become familiar with conventions which led her not to approve
wholly of his bearing. Perhaps he had lived long enough in
America to forget such conventions and to lack something
which centuries of custom had decided should belong to his
class. A certain suggestion of rough force in the man rather
attracted her, and her slight distaste for his manner arose from
the realisation that a gentleman's servant who did not address
his superiors as was required by custom was not doing his
work in a finished way. In his place she knew her own
demeanour would have been finished.
"If you are sure that Lord Mount Dunstan would not
object to my walking about, I should like very much to see
the gardens and the house," she said. "If you show them to
me, shall I be interfering with your duties?"
"No," he answered, and then for the first time rather glumly
"I am interested," she said, as they crossed the grass
together, "because places like this are quite new to me. I have
never been in England before."
"There are not many places like this," he answered, "not
many as old and fine, and not many as nearly gone to ruin.
Even Stornham is not quite as far gone."
"It is far gone," said Miss Vanderpoel. "I am staying
there--with my sister, Lady Anstruthers."
"Beg pardon--miss," he said. This time he touched his cap
Enormous as the gulf between their positions was, he knew
that he had offered to take her over the place because he was
in a sense glad to see her again. Why he was glad he did not
profess to know or even to ask himself. Coarsely speaking, it
might be because she was one of the handsomest young women
he had ever chanced to meet with, and while her youth was
apparent in the rich red of her mouth, the mass of her thick,
soft hair and the splendid blue of her eyes, there spoke in
every line of face and pose something intensely more interesting
and compelling than girlhood. Also, since the night they had
come together on the ship's deck for an appalling moment, he
had liked her better and rebelled less against the unnatural
wealth she represented. He led her first to the wood from
which she had seen him emerge.
"I will show you this first," he explained. "Keep your
eyes on the ground until I tell you to raise them."
Odd as this was, she obeyed, and her lowered glance showed
her that she was being guided along a narrow path between
trees. The light was mellow golden-green, and birds were
singing in the boughs above her. In a few minutes he stopped.
"Now look up," he said.
She uttered an exclamation when she did so. She was in a
fairy dell thick with ferns, and at beautiful distances from
each other incredibly splendid oaks spread and almost trailed
their lovely giant branches. The glow shining through and
between them, the shadows beneath them, their great boles and
moss-covered roots, and the stately, mellow distances revealed
under their branches, the ancient wildness and richness, which
meant, after all, centuries of cultivation, made a picture in
this exact, perfect moment of ripening afternoon sun of an
almost unbelievable beauty.
"There is nothing lovelier," he said in a low voice, "in
Bettina turned to look at him, because his tone was a
curious one for a man like himself. He was standing resting
on his gun and taking in the loveliness with a strange look
in his rugged face.
"You--you love it!" she said.
"Yes," but with a suggestion of stubborn reluctance in the
She was rather moved.
"Have you been keeper here long?" she asked.
"No--only a few years. But I have known the place all my life."
"Does Lord Mount Dunstan love it?"
"In his way--yes."
He was plainly not disposed to talk of his master. He was
perhaps not on particularly good terms with him. He led her
away and volunteered no further information. He was, upon
the whole, uncommunicative. He did not once refer to the
circumstance of their having met before. It was plain that he
had no intention of presuming upon the fact that he, as a
second-class passenger on a ship, had once been forced by
accident across the barriers between himself and the saloon deck.
He was stubbornly resolved to keep his place; so stubbornly
that Bettina felt that to broach the subject herself would verge
But the golden ways through which he led her made the
afternoon one she knew she should never forget. They wandered
through moss walks and alleys, through tangled shrubberies
bursting into bloom, beneath avenues of blossoming horse-
chestnuts and scented limes, between thickets of budding red
and white may, and jungles of neglected rhododendrons;
through sunken gardens and walled ones, past terraces with
broken balustrades of stone, and fallen Floras and Dianas, past
moss-grown fountains splashing in lovely corners. Arches,
overgrown with yet unblooming roses, crumbled in their time
stained beauty. Stillness brooded over it all, and they met
no one. They scarcely broke the silence themselves. The
man led the way as one who knew it by heart, and Bettina
followed, not caring for speech herself, because the stillness
seemed to add a spell of enchantment. What could one say,
to a stranger, of such beauty so lost and given over to ruin
"But, oh!" she murmured once, standing still, with in-
drawn breath, "if it were mine!--if it were mine!" And she
said the thing forgetting that her guide was a living creature
and stood near.
Afterwards her memories of it all seemed to her like the
memories of a dream. The lack of speech between herself and
the man who led her, his often averted face, her own sense of
the desertedness of each beauteous spot she passed through, the
mossy paths which gave back no sound of footfalls as they
walked, suggested, one and all, unreality. When at last they
passed through a door half hidden in an ivied wall, and crossing
a grassed bowling green, mounted a short flight of broken
steps which led them to a point through which they saw the
house through a break in the trees, this last was the final
touch of all. It was a great place, stately in its masses of
grey stone to which thick ivy clung. To Bettina it seemed
that a hundred windows stared at her with closed, blind eyes.
All were shuttered but two or three on the lower floors. Not
one showed signs of life. The silent stone thing stood sightless
among all of which it was dead master--rolling acres,
great trees, lost gardens and deserted groves.
"Oh!" she sighed, "Oh!"
Her companion stood still and leaned upon his gun again,
looking as he had looked before.
"Some of it," he said, "was here before the Conquest. It
belonged to Mount Dunstans then."
"And only one of them is left," she cried, "and it is like
"They have been a bad lot, the last hundred years," was the
surly liberty of speech he took, "a bad lot."
It was not his place to speak in such manner of those of
his master's house, and it was not the part of Miss Vanderpoel
to encourage him by response. She remained silent, standing
perhaps a trifle more lightly erect as she gazed at the rows
of blind windows in silence.
Neither of them uttered a word for some time, but at length
Bettina roused herself. She had a six-mile walk before her
and must go.
"I am very much obliged to you," she began, and then
paused a second. A curious hesitance came upon her, though
she knew that under ordinary circumstances such hesitation
would have been totally out of place. She had occupied the
man's time for an hour or more, he was of the working class,
and one must not be guilty of the error of imagining that a man
who has work to do can justly spend his time in one's service
for the mere pleasure of it. She knew what custom demanded.
Why should she hesitate before this man, with his not too
courteous, surly face. She felt slightly irritated by her own
unpractical embarrassment as she put her hand into the small,
latched bag at her belt.
"I am very much obliged, keeper," she said. "You have
given me a great deal of your time. You know the place so
well that it has been a pleasure to be taken about by you. I
have never seen anything so beautiful--and so sad. Thank you
--thank you." And she put a goldpiece in his palm.
His fingers closed over it quietly. Why it was to her great
relief she did not know--because something in the simple act
annoyed her, even while she congratulated herself that her
hesitance had been absurd. The next moment she wondered if
it could be possible that he had expected a larger fee. He
opened his hand and looked at the money with a grim steadiness.
"Thank you, miss," he said, and touched his cap in the
He did not look gracious or grateful, but he began to put
it in a small pocket in the breast of his worn corduroy shooting
jacket. Suddenly he stopped, as if with abrupt resolve.
He handed the coin back without any change of his glum look.
"Hang it all," he said, "I can't take this, you know. I suppose
I ought to have told you. It would have been less awkward for us
both. I am that unfortunate beggar, Mount Dunstan, myself."
A pause was inevitable. It was a rather long one. After
it, Betty took back her half-sovereign and returned it to her
bag, but she pleased a certain perversity in him by looking
more annoyed than confused.
"Yes," she said. "You ought to have told me, Lord Mount
He slightly shrugged his big shoulders.
"Why shouldn't you take me for a keeper? You crossed
the Atlantic with a fourth-rate looking fellow separated from
you by barriers of wood and iron. You came upon him tramping
over a nobleman's estate in shabby corduroys and gaiters,
with a gun over his shoulder and a scowl on his ugly face. Why
should you leap to the conclusion that he is the belted Earl
himself? There is no cause for embarrassment."
"I am not embarrassed," said Bettina.
"That is what I like," gruffly.
"I am pleased," in her mellowest velvet voice, "that you
Their eyes met with a singular directness of gaze. Between
them a spark passed which was not afterwards to be extinguished,
though neither of them knew the moment of its kindling,
and Mount Dunstan slightly frowned.
"I beg pardon," he said. "You are quite right. It had a
deucedly patronising sound."
As he stood before her Betty was given her opportunity to
see him as she had not seen him before, to confront the sum
total of his physique. His red-brown eyes looked out from
rather fine heavy brows, his features were strong and clear,
though ruggedly cut, his build showed weight of bone, not of
flesh, and his limbs were big and long. He would have wielded
a battle-axe with power in centuries in which men hewed their
way with them. Also it occurred to her he would have looked
well in a coat of mail. He did not look ill in his corduroys
"I am a self-absorbed beggar," he went on. "I had been
slouching about the place, almost driven mad by my thoughts,
and when I saw you took me for a servant my fancy was for
letting the thing go on. If I had been a rich man instead of
a pauper I would have kept your half-sovereign."
"I should not have enjoyed that when I found out the
truth," said Miss Vanderpoel
"No, I suppose you wouldn't. But I should not have cared."
He was looking at her straightly and summing her up as
she had summed him up. A man and young, he did not miss
a line or a tint of her chin or cheek, shoulder, or brow, or
dense, lifted hair. He had already, even in his guise of keeper,
noticed one thing, which was that while at times her eyes were
the blue of steel, sometimes they melted to the colour of
bluebells under water. They had been of this last hue when she
had stood in the sunken garden, forgetting him and crying low:
"Oh, if it were mine! If it were mine!"
He did not like American women with millions, but while
he would not have said that he liked her, he did not wish her
yet to move away. And she, too, did not wish, just yet, to move
away. There was something dramatic and absorbing in the
situation. She looked over the softly stirring grass and saw
the sunshine was deepening its gold and the shadows were
growing long. It was not a habit of hers to ask questions, but
she asked one.
"Did you not like America?" was what she said.
"Hated it! Hated it! I went there lured by a belief that
a man like myself, with muscle and will, even without experience,
could make a fortune out of small capital on a sheep
ranch. Wind and weather and disease played the devil with
me. I lost the little I had and came back to begin over again--
on nothing--here!" And he waved his hand over the park
with its sward and coppice and bracken and the deer cropping
in the late afternoon gold.
"To begin what again?" said Betty. It was an extraordinary
enough thing, seen in the light of conventions, that they
should stand and talk like this. But the spark had kindled
between eye and eye, and because of it they suddenly had
forgotten that they were strangers.
"You are an American, so it may not seem as mad to you as it
would to others. To begin to build up again, in one man's life,
what has taken centuries to grow--and fall into this."
"It would be a splendid thing to do," she said slowly, and
as she said it her eyes took on their colour of bluebells,
because what she had seen had moved her. She had not looked at
him, but at the cropping deer as she spoke, but at her next
sentence she turned to him again.
"Where should you begin?" she asked, and in saying it
thought of Stornham.
He laughed shortly.
"That is American enough," he said. "Your people have
not finished their beginnings yet and live in the spirit of them.
I tell you of a wild fancy, and you accept it as a possibility
and turn on me with, `Where should you begin?' "
"That is one way of beginning," said Bettina. "In fact,
it is the only way."
He did not tell her that he liked that, but he knew that he
did like it and that her mere words touched him like a spur.
It was, of course, her lifelong breathing of the atmosphere of
millions which made for this fashion of moving at once in the
direction of obstacles presenting to the rest of the world
barriers seemingly insurmountable. And yet there was something
else in it, some quality of nature which did not alone suggest
the omnipotence of wealth, but another thing which might be
even stronger and therefore carried conviction. He who had
raged and clenched his hands in the face of his knowledge of
the aspect his dream would have presented if he had revealed
it to the ordinary practical mind, felt that a point of view like
this was good for him. There was in it stimulus for a fleeting
moment at least.
"That is a good idea," he answered. "Where should you begin?"
She replied quite seriously, though he could have imagined
some girls rather simpering over the question as a casual joke.
"One would begin at the fences," she said. "Don't you
"That is practical."
"That is where I shall begin at Stornham," reflectively.
"You are going to begin at Stornham?"
"How could one help it? It is not as large or as splendid
as this has been, but it is like it in a way. And it will belong
to my sister's son. No, I could not help it."
"I suppose you could not." There was a hint of wholly
unconscious resentment in his tone. He was thinking that the
effect produced by their boundless wealth was to make these
people feel as a race of giants might--even their women
unknowingly revealed it.
"No, I could not," was her reply. "I suppose I am on
the whole a sort of commercial working person. I have no
doubt it is commercial, that instinct which makes one resent
seeing things lose their value."
"Shall you begin it for that reason?"
"Partly for that one--partly for another." She held out
her hand to him. "Look at the length of the shadows. I
must go. Thank you, Lord Mount Dunstan, for showing me
the place, and thank you for undeceiving me."
He held the side gate open for her and lifted his cap as
she passed through. He admitted to himself, with some
reluctance, that he was not content that she should go even yet,
but, of course, she must go. There passed through his mind
a remote wonder why he had suddenly unbosomed himself to
her in a way so extraordinarily unlike himself. It was, he
thought next, because as he had taken her about from one
place to another he had known that she had seen in things
what he had seen in them so long--the melancholy loneliness,
the significance of it, the lost hopes that lay behind it, the
touching pain of the stateliness wrecked. She had shown it in
the way in which she tenderly looked from side to side, in the
very lightness of her footfall, in the bluebell softening of her
eyes. Oh, yes, she had understood and cared, American as
she was! She had felt it all, even with her hideous background
of Fifth Avenue behind her.
When he had spoken it had been in involuntary response to
an emotion in herself.
So he stood, thinking, as he for some time watched her
walking up the sunset-glowing road.
THE PARTICULAR INCIDENT
Betty Vanderpoel's walk back to Stornham did not, long
though it was, give her time to follow to its end the thread of
her thoughts. Mentally she walked again with her
uncommunicative guide, through woodpaths and gardens, and stood
gazing at the great blind-faced house. She had not given the
man more than an occasional glance until he had told her his
name. She had been too much absorbed, too much moved,
by what she had been seeing. She wondered, if she had been
more aware of him, whether his face would have revealed a
great deal. She believed it would not. He had made himself
outwardly stolid. But the thing must have been bitter.
To him the whole story of the splendid past was familiar
even if through his own life he had looked on only at gradual
decay. There must be stories enough of men and women who
had lived in the place, of what they had done, of how they had
loved, of what they had counted for in their country's wars
and peacemakings, great functions and law-building. To be
able to look back through centuries and know of one's blood
that sometimes it had been shed in the doing of great deeds,
must be a thing to remember. To realise that the courage and
honour had been lost in ignoble modern vices, which no sense
of dignity and reverence for race and name had restrained--
must be bitter--bitter! And in the role of a servant to lead a
stranger about among the ruins of what had been--that must
have been bitter, too. For a moment Betty felt the bitterness
of it herself and her red mouth took upon itself a grim line.
The worst of it for him was that he was not of that strain
of his race who had been the "bad lot." The "bad
lot" had been the weak lot, the vicious, the self-degrading.
Scandals which had shut men out from their class and kind
were usually of an ugly type. This man had a strong jaw, a
powerful, healthy body, and clean, though perhaps hard, eyes.
The First Man of them, who hewed his way to the front,
who stood fierce in the face of things, who won the first lands
and laid the first stones, might have been like him in build
"It's a disgusting thing," she said to herself, "to think of
the corrupt weaklings the strong ones dwindled down to. I
hate them. So does he."
There had been many such of late years, she knew. She had
seen them in Paris, in Rome, even in New York. Things
with thin or over-thick bodies and receding chins and foreheads;
things haunting places of amusement and finding inordinate
entertainment in strange jokes and horseplay. She herself
had hot blood and a fierce strength of rebellion, and she
was wondering how, if the father and elder brother had been
the "bad lot," he had managed to stand still, looking on, and
keeping his hands off them.
The last gold of the sun was mellowing the grey stone of
the terrace and enriching the green of the weeds thrusting
themselves into life between the uneven flags when she reached
Stornham, and passing through the house found Lady
Anstruthers sitting there. In sustenance of her effort to keep
up appearances, she had put on a weird little muslin dress and
had elaborated the dressing of her thin hair. It was no longer
dragged back straight from her face, and she looked a trifle
less abject, even a shade prettier. Bettina sat upon the edge
of the balustrade and touched the hair with light fingers,
ruffling it a little becomingly.
"If you had worn it like this yesterday," she said, "I should
have known you."
"Should you, Betty? I never look into a mirror if I can
help it, but when I do I never know myself. The thing that
stares back at me with its pale eyes is not Rosy. But, of
course, everyone grows old."
"Not now! People are just discovering how to grow young
Lady Anstruthers looked into the clear courage of her laughing
"Somehow," she said, "you say strange things in such a
way that one feels as if they must be true, however--however
unlike anything else they are."
"They are not as new as they seem," said Betty. "Ancient
philosophers said things like them centuries ago, but
people did not believe them. We are just beginning to drag
them out of the dust and furbish them up and pretend they
are ours, just as people rub up and adorn themselves with
jewels dug out of excavations."
"In America people think so many new things," said poor
little Lady Anstruthers with yearning humbleness.
"The whole civilised world is thinking what you call new
things," said Betty. "The old ones won't do. They have
been tried, and though they have helped us to the place we have
reached, they cannot help us any farther. We must begin again."
"It is such a long time since I began," said Rosy, "such
a long time."
"Then there must be another beginning for you, too. The
hour has struck."
Lady Anstruthers rose with as involuntary a movement as
if a strong hand had drawn her to her feet. She stood facing
Betty, a pathetic little figure in her washed-out muslin frock
and with her washed-out face and eyes and being, though on
her faded cheeks a flush was rising.
"Oh, Betty!" she said, "I don't know what there is about
you, but there is something which makes one feel as if you
believed everything and could do everything, and as if one
believes YOU. Whatever you were to say, you would make it
seem TRUE. If you said the wildest thing in the world I should
Betty got up, too, and there was an extraordinary steadiness
in her eyes.
"You may," she answered. "I shall never say one thing
to you which is not a truth, not one single thing."
"I believe that," said Rosy Anstruthers, with a quivering
mouth. "I do believe it so."
"I walked to Mount Dunstan," Betty said later.
"Really?" said Rosy. "There and back?"
"Yes, and all round the park and the gardens."
Rosy looked rather uncertain.
"Weren't you a little afraid of meeting someone?"
"I did meet someone. At first I took him for a game-
keeper. But he turned out to be Lord Mount Dunstan."
Lady Anstruthers gasped.
"What did he do?" she exclaimed. "Did he look angry
at seeing a stranger? They say he is so ill-tempered and rude."
"I should feel ill-tempered if I were in his place," said
Betty. "He has enough to rouse his evil passions and make
him savage. What a fate for a man with any sense and
decency of feeling! What fools and criminals the last
generation of his house must have produced! I wonder how such
things evolve themselves. But he is different--different. One
can see it. If he had a chance--just half a chance--he would
build it all up again. And I don't mean merely the place, but
all that one means when one says `his house.' "
"He would need a great deal of money," sighed Lady Anstruthers.
Betty nodded slowly as she looked out, reflecting, into the
"Yes, it would require money," was her admission.
"And he has none," Lady Anstruthers added. "None whatever."
"He will get some," said Betty, still reflecting. "He will
make it, or dig it up, or someone will leave it to him. There
is a great deal of money in the world, and when a strong
creature ought to have some of it he gets it."
"Oh, Betty!" said Rosy. "Oh, Betty! "
"Watch that man," said Betty; "you will see. It will come."
Lady Anstruthers' mind, working at no time on complex
lines, presented her with a simple modern solution.
"Perhaps he will marry an American," she said, and saying
it, sighed again.
"He will not do it on purpose." Bettina answered slowly and with
such an air of absence of mind that Rosy laughed a little.
"Will he do it accidentally, or against his will?" she said.
Betty herself smiled.
"Perhaps he will," she said. "There are Englishmen who
rather dislike Americans. I think he is one of them."
It apparently became necessary for Lady Anstruthers, a
moment later, to lean upon the stone balustrade and pick off
a young leaf or so, for no reason whatever, unless that in doing
so she averted her look from her sister as she made her next
"Are you--when are you going to write to father and mother?"
"I have written," with unembarrassed evenness of tone.
"Mother will be counting the days."
"Mother!" Rosy breathed, with a soft little gasp. "Mother!" and
turned her face farther away. "What did you tell her?"
Betty moved over to her and stood close at her side. The
power of her personality enveloped the tremulous creature as
if it had been a sense of warmth.
"I told her how beautiful the place was, and how Ughtred
adored you--and how you loved us all, and longed to see New
The relief in the poor little face was so immense that Betty's
heart shook before it. Lady Anstruthers looked up at her
with adoring eyes.
"I might have known," she said; "I might have known
that--that you would only say the right thing. You couldn't
say the wrong thing, Betty."
Betty bent over her and spoke almost yearningly.
"Whatever happens," she said, "we will take care that mother is
not hurt. She's too kind--she's too good--she's too tender."
"That is what I have remembered," said Lady Anstruthers
brokenly. "She used to hold me on her lap when I was
quite grown up. Oh! her soft, warm arms--her warm shoulder!
I have so wanted her."
"She has wanted you," Betty answered. "She thinks of
you just as she did when she held you on her lap."
"But if she saw me now--looking like this! If she saw
me! Sometimes I have even been glad to think she never
"She will." Betty's tone was cool and clear. "But before
she does I shall have made you look like yourself."
Lady Anstruthers' thin hand closed on her plucked leaves
convulsively, and then opening let them drop upon the stone of
"We shall never see each other. It wouldn't be possible,"
she said. "And there is no magic in the world now, Betty.
You can't bring back----"
"Yes, you can," said Bettina. "And what used to be
called magic is only the controlled working of the law and
order of things in these days. We must talk it all over."
Lady Anstruthers became a little pale.
"What?" she asked, low and nervously, and Betty saw
her glance sideways at the windows of the room which opened
on to the terrace.
Betty took her hand and drew her down into a chair. She
sat near her and looked her straight in the face.
"Don't be frightened," she said. "I tell you there is no
need to be frightened. We are not living in the Middle
Ages. There is a policeman even in Stornham village, and
we are within four hours of London, where there are thousands."
Lady Anstruthers tried to laugh, but did not succeed very
well, and her forehead flushed.
"I don't quite know why I seem so nervous," she said.
"It's very silly of me."
She was still timid enough to cling to some rag of pretence,
but Betty knew that it would fall away. She did the wisest
possible thing, which was to make an apparently impersonal
"I want you to go over the place with me and show me
everything. Walls and fences and greenhouses and outbuildings
must not be allowed to crumble away."
"What?" cried Rosy. "Have you seen all that already?"
She actually stared at her. "How practical and--and American!"
"To see that a wall has fallen when you find yourself
obliged to walk round a pile of grass-grown brickwork?" said
Lady Anstruthers still softly stared.
"What--what are you thinking of?" she asked.
"Thinking that it is all too beautiful----" Betty's look swept
the loveliness spread about her, "too beautiful and too valuable
to be allowed to lose its value and its beauty." She turned
her eyes back to Rosy and the deep dimple near her mouth
showed itself delightfully. "It is a throwing away of capital,"
"Oh!" cried Lady Anstruthers, "how clever you are!
And you look so different, Betty."
"Do I look stupid?" the dimple deepening. "I must try
to alter that."
"Don't try to alter your looks," said Rosy. "It is your
looks that make you so--so wonderful. But usually women--
girls----" Rosy paused.
"Oh, I have been trained," laughed Betty. "I am the
spoiled daughter of a business man of genius. His business is
an art and a science. I have had advantages. He has let me
hear him talk. I even know some trifling things about stocks.
Not enough to do me vital injury--but something. What I
know best of all,"--her laugh ended and her eyes changed
their look,--"is that it is a blunder to think that beauty is not
capital--that happiness is not--and that both are not the
greatest assets in the scheme. This," with a wave of her hand,
taking in all they saw, "is beauty, and it ought to be happiness,
and it must be taken care of. It is your home and Ughtred's----"
"It is Nigel's," put in Rosy.
"It is entailed, isn't it?" turning quickly. "He cannot
"If he could we should not be sitting here," ruefully.
"Then he cannot object to its being rescued from ruin."
"He will object to--to money being spent on things he
does not care for." Lady Anstruthers' voice lowered itself, as
it always did when she spoke of her husband, and she indulged
in the involuntary hasty glance about her.
"I am going to my room to take off my hat," Betty said.
"Will you come with me?"
She went into the house, talking quietly of ordinary things,
and in this way they mounted the stairway together and passed
along the gallery which led to her room. When they entered
it she closed the door, locked it, and, taking off her hat, laid
it aside. After doing which she sat.
"No one can hear and no one can come in," she said. "And
if they could, you are afraid of things you need not be afraid
of now. Tell me what happened when you were so ill after
Ughtred was born."
"You guessed that it happened then," gasped Lady Anstruthers.
"It was a good time to make anything happen," replied
Bettina. "You were prostrated, you were a child, and
felt yourself cast off hopelessly from the people who loved
"Forever! Forever!" Lady Anstruthers' voice was a
sharp little moan. "That was what I felt--that nothing
could ever help me. I dared not write things. He told me
he would not have it--that he would stop any hysterical
complaints--that his mother could testify that he behaved
perfectly to me. She was the only person in the room with us
"When?" said Betty.
Lady Anstruthers shuddered. She leaned forward and
caught Betty's hand between her own shaking ones.
"He struck me! He struck me! He said it never happened--
but it did--it did! Betty, it did! That was the one
thing that came back to me clearest. He said that I was in
delirious hysterics, and that I had struggled with his mother
and himself, because they tried to keep me quiet, and prevent
the servants hearing. One awful day he brought Lady
Anstruthers into the room, and they stood over me, as I lay in
bed, and she fixed her eyes on me and said that she--being
an Englishwoman, and a person whose word would be believed,
could tell people the truth--my father and mother, if
necessary, that my spoiled, hysterical American tempers had
created unhappiness for me--merely because I was bored by
life in the country and wanted excitement. I tried to
answer, but they would not let me, and when I began to shake
all over, they said that I was throwing myself into hysterics
again. And they told the doctor so, and he believed it."
The possibilities of the situation were plainly to be seen.
Fate, in the form of temperament itself, had been against her.
It was clear enough to Betty as she patted and stroked the
thin hands. "I understand. Tell me the rest," she said.
Lady Anstruthers' head dropped.
"When I was loneliest, and dying of homesickness, and so
weak that I could not speak without sobbing, he came to
me--it was one morning after I had been lying awake all
night--and he began to seem kinder. He had not been near
me for two days, and I had thought I was going to be left
to die alone--and mother would never know. He said he had been
reflecting and that he was afraid that we had misunderstood each
other--because we belonged to different countries, and had been
brought up in different ways----" she paused.
"And that if you understood his position and considered
it, you might both be quite happy," Betty gave in quiet
Lady Anstruthers started.
"Oh, you know it all!" she exclaimed
"Only because I have heard it before. It is an old trick.
And because he seemed kind and relenting, you tried to
understand--and signed something."
"I WANTED to understand. I WANTED to believe. What did
it matter which of us had the money, if we liked each other
and were happy? He told me things about the estate, and
about the enormous cost of it, and his bad luck, and debts he
could not help. And I said that I would do anything if--if we
could only be like mother and father. And he kissed me and
I signed the paper."
"He went to London the next day, and then to Paris. He
said he was obliged to go on business. He was away a month.
And after a week had passed, Lady Anstruthers began to be
restless and angry, and once she flew into a rage, and told
me I was a fool, and that if I had been an Englishwoman,
I should have had some decent control over my husband,
because he would have respected me. In time I found out what
I had done. It did not take long."
"The paper you signed," said Betty, "gave him control
over your money?"
A forlorn nod was the answer.
"And since then he has done as he chose, and he has not
chosen to care for Stornham. And once he made you write
to father, to ask for more money?"
"I did it once. I never would do it again. He has tried
to make me. He always says it is to save Stornham for Ughtred."
"Nothing can take Stornham from Ughtred. It may come
to him a ruin, but it will come to him."
"He says there are legal points I cannot understand. And
he says he is spending money on it."
"He--doesn't go into that. If I were to ask questions, he
would make me know that I had better stop. He says I know
nothing about things. And he is right. He has never allowed
me to know and--and I am not like you, Betty."
"When you signed the paper, you did not realise that
you were doing something you could never undo and that
you would be forced to submit to the consequences?"
"I--I didn't realise anything but that it would kill me to
live as I had been living--feeling as if they hated me. And
I was so glad and thankful that he seemed kinder. It was
as if I had been on the rack, and he turned the screws back,
and I was ready to do anything--anything--if I might be
taken off. Oh, Betty! you know, don't you, that--that if
he would only have been a little kind--just a little--I would
have obeyed him always, and given him everything."
Betty sat and looked at her, with deeply pondering eyes.
She was confronting the fact that it seemed possible that one
must build a new soul for her as well as a new body. In
these days of science and growing sanity of thought, one did
not stand helpless before the problem of physical rebuilding,
and--and perhaps, if one could pour life into a creature, the
soul of it would respond, and wake again, and grow.
"You do not know where he is?" she said aloud. "You
absolutely do not know?"
"I never know exactly," Lady Anstruthers answered. "He
was here for a few days the week before you came. He said
he was going abroad. He might appear to-morrow, I might
not hear of him for six months. I can't help hoping now that
it will be the six months."
"Why particularly now?" inquired Betty.
Lady Anstruthers flushed and looked shy and awkward.
"Because of--you. I don't know what he would say. I
don't know what he would do."
"To me?" said Betty.
"It would be sure to be something unreasonable and
wicked," said Lady Anstruthers. "It would, Betty."
"I wonder what it would be?" Betty said musingly.
"He has told lies for years to keep you all from me. If
he came now, he would know that he had been found out.
He would say that I had told you things. He would be
furious because you have seen what there is to see. He would
know that you could not help but realise that the money he
made me ask for had not been spent on the estate. He,--
Betty, he would try to force you to go away."
"I wonder what he would do?" Betty said again musingly.
She felt interested, not afraid.
"It would be something cunning," Rosy protested. "It
would be something no one could expect. He might be so
rude that you could not remain in the room with him,
or he might be quite polite, and pretend he was rather glad
to see you. If he was only frightfully rude we should be
safer, because that would not be an unexpected thing, but if
he was polite, it would be because he was arranging something
hideous, which you could not defend yourself against."
"Can you tell me," said Betty quite slowly, because, as she
looked down at the carpet, she was thinking very hard, "the
kind of unexpected thing he has done to you?" Lifting her
eyes, she saw that a troubled flush was creeping over Lady
"There--have been--so many queer things," she faltered.
Then Betty knew there was some special thing she was afraid
to talk about, and that if she desired to obtain illuminating
information it would be well to go into the matter.
"Try," she said, "to remember some particular incident."
Lady Anstruthers looked nervous.
"Rosy," in the level voice, "there has been a particular
incident--and I would rather hear of it from you than from him.
Rosy's lap held little shaking hands.
"He has held it over me for years," she said breathlessly.
"He said he would write about it to father and mother. He
says he could use it against me as evidence in--in the divorce
court. He says that divorce courts in America are for women,
but in England they are for men, and--he could defend himself
The incongruity of the picture of the small, faded creature
arraigned in a divorce court on charges of misbehaviour would
have made Betty smile if she had been in smiling mood.
"What did he accuse you of?"
"That was the--the unexpected thing," miserably.
Betty took the unsteady hands firmly in her own.
"Don't be afraid to tell me," she said. "He knew you
so well that he understood what would terrify you the most. I
know you so well that I understand how he does it. Did he do
this unexpected thing just before you wrote to father for the
money?" As she quite suddenly presented the question, Rosy
"How did you know?" she said. "You--you are like a
lawyer. How could you know?"
How simple she was! How obviously an easy prey!
She had been unconsciously giving evidence with every word.
"I have been thinking him over," Betty said. "He
interests me. I have begun to guess that he always wants
something when he professes that he has a grievance."
Then with drooping head, Rosy told the story.
"Yes, it happened before he made me write to father for
so much money. The vicar was ill and was obliged to go away
for six months. The clergyman who came to take his place
was a young man. He was kind and gentle, and wanted to
help people. His mother was with him and she was like him.
They loved each other, and they were quite poor. His name
was Ffolliott. I liked to hear him preach. He said things
that comforted me. Nigel found out that he comforted me,
and--when he called here, he was more polite to him than
he had ever been to Mr. Brent. He seemed almost as if he
liked him. He actually asked him to dinner two or three
times. After dinner, he would go out of the room and leave
us together. Oh, Betty!" clinging to her hands, "I was so
wretched then, that sometimes I thought I was going out of
my mind. I think I looked wild. I used to kneel down and
try to pray, and I could not."
"Yes, yes," said Betty.
"I used to feel that if I could only have one friend, just
one, I could bear it better. Once I said something like that
to Nigel. He only shrugged his shoulders and sneered when
I said it. But afterwards I knew he had remembered. One
evening, when he had asked Mr. Ffolliott to dinner, he led
him to talk about religion. Oh, Betty! It made my blood
turn cold when he began. I knew he was doing it for some
wicked reason. I knew the look in his eyes and the awful,
agreeable smile on his mouth. When he said at last, `If
you could help my poor wife to find comfort in such things,'
I began to see. I could not explain to anyone how he did it,
but with just a sentence, dropped here and there, he seemed
to tell the whole story of a silly, selfish, American girl,
thwarted in her vulgar little ambitions, and posing as a martyr,
because she could not have her own way in everything.
He said once, quite casually, `I'm afraid American women are
rather spoiled.' And then he said, in the same tolerant way--
`A poor man is a disappointment to an American girl. America
does not believe in rank combined with lack of fortune.'
I dared not defend myself. I am not clever enough to think
of the right things to say. He meant Mr. Ffolliott to understand
that I had married him because I thought he was grand
and rich, and that I was a disappointed little spiteful shrew. I
tried to act as if he was not hurting me, but my hands trembled,
and a lump kept rising in my throat. When we returned to
the drawing-room, and at last he left us together, I was praying
and praying that I might be able to keep from breaking down.
She stopped and swallowed hard. Betty held her hands
firmly until she went on.
"For a few minutes, I sat still, and tried to think of some
new subject--something about the church or the village. But
I could not begin to speak because of the lump in my throat.
And then, suddenly, but quietly, Mr. Ffolliott got up. And
though I dared not lift my eyes, I knew he was standing
before the fire, quite near me. And, oh! what do you think
he said, as low and gently as if his voice was a woman's.
I did not know that people ever said such things now, or even
thought them. But never, never shall I forget that strange
minute. He said just this:
" `God will help you. He will. He will.'
"As if it was true, Betty! As if there was a God--and--
He had not forgotten me. I did not know what I was doing,
but I put out my hand and caught at his sleeve, and when
I looked up into his face, I saw in his kind, good eyes, that
he knew--that somehow--God knows how--he understood
and that I need not utter a word to explain to him that he
had been listening to lies."
"Did you talk to him?" Betty asked quietly.
"He talked to me. We did not even speak of Nigel. He
talked to me as I had never heard anyone talk before. Somehow
he filled the room with something real, which was hope
and comfort and like warmth, which kept my soul from
shivering. The tears poured from my eyes at first, but the lump
in my throat went away, and when Nigel came back I actually did
not feel frightened, though he looked at me and sneered quietly."
"Did he say anything afterwards?"
"He laughed a little cold laugh and said, `I see you have
been seeking the consolation of religion. Neurotic women
like confessors. I do not object to your confessing, if you
confess your own backslidings and not mine.' "
"That was the beginning," said Betty speculatively. "The
unexpected thing was the end. Tell me the rest?"
"No one could have dreamed of it," Rosy broke forth.
"For weeks he was almost like other people. He stayed at
Stornham and spent his days in shooting. He professed that
he was rather enjoying himself in a dull way. He encouraged
me to go to the vicarage, he invited the Ffolliotts here. He
said Mrs. Ffolliott was a gentlewoman and good for me.
He said it was proper that I should interest myself in parish
work. Once or twice he even brought some little message
to me from Mr. Ffolliott."
It was a pitiably simple story. Betty saw, through its
relation, the unconsciousness of the easily allured victim, the
adroit leading on from step to step, the ordinary, natural,
seeming method which arranged opportunities. The two had been
thrown together at the Court, at the vicarage, the church
and in the village, and the hawk had looked on and bided his
time. For the first time in her years of exile, Rosy had begun
to feel that she might be allowed a friend--though she lived in
secret tremor lest the normal liberty permitted her should
suddenly be snatched away.
"We never talked of Nigel," she said, twisting her hands.
"But he made me begin to live again. He talked to me of
Something that watched and would not leave me--would never
leave me. I was learning to believe it. Sometimes when
I walked through the wood to the village, I used to stop among
the trees and look up at the bits of sky between the branches,
and listen to the sound in the leaves--the sound that never
stops--and it seemed as if it was saying something to me.
And I would clasp my hands and whisper, `Yes, yes,' `I
will,' `I will.' I used to see Nigel looking at me at table
with a queer smile in his eyes and once he said to me--`You
are growing young and lovely, my dear. Your colour is
improving. The counsels of our friend are of a salutary nature.'
It would have made me nervous, but he said it almost good-
naturedly, and I was silly enough even to wonder if it could
be possible that he was pleased to see me looking less ill. It
was true, Betty, that I was growing stronger. But it did not
"I was afraid not," said Betty.
"An old woman in the lane near Bartyon Wood was ill. Mr.
Ffolliott had asked me to go to see her, and I used to go.
She suffered a great deal and clung to us both. He comforted
her, as he comforted me. Sometimes when he was called away
he would send a note to me, asking me to go to her. One
day he wrote hastily, saying that she was dying, and asked
if I would go with him to her cottage at once. I knew it
would save time if I met him in the path which was a short cut.
So I wrote a few words and gave them to the messenger.
I said, `Do not come to the house. I will meet you in
Bartyon Wood.' "
Betty made a slight movement, and in her face there was a
dawning of mingled amazement and incredulity. The thought
which had come to her seemed--as Ughtred's locking of the
door had seemed--too wild for modern days.
Lady Anstruthers saw her expression and understood it.
She made a hopeless gesture with her small, bony hand.
"Yes," she said, "it is just like that. No one would
believe it. The worst cleverness of the things he does, is
that when one tells of them, they sound like lies. I have a
bewildered feeling that I should not believe them myself if
I had not seen them. He met the boy in the park and took
the note from him. He came back to the house and up to
my room, where I was dressing quickly to go to Mr. Ffolliott."
She stopped for quite a minute, rather as if to recover breath.
"He closed the door behind him and came towards me
with the note in his hand. And I saw in a second the look
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