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Full text of "If Wishes Were Horses"

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IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



IF WISHES 
WERE HORSES 

BT 

THE COUNTESS BARCY^SKA 

AUTHOB or "the uttlx kotheb'who Bm aj boh^** 

"IBB BONCT-POT," BKL 



NEW YORE 

E. P. DUTTON & CO. 

981 FIFTH AVENUE 



THE HEW TOM 

POBUC LIBRARY 

762951 A 

ASTOR. LENOX AND 
TIU3.aw F0UN0AT10N8 
' '^ 1996 L 



COFTBIGHT, 1917, 

Bt E. p. DUTTON k CO 



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CONTENTS 



BOOK I 

CHAprm PAoa 

I. The Fbttit of the Tbee 9 

II. ''Vest Quietlt, Owing to a Death is the 

Bride's Faiolt" 16 

in. *'ROSALIA" 26 

IV. Mabtin Gets His Monet's Wobth ... 29 

y. RocTTH Villas 40 

VI. Mabtin Gets a Shock and Is Sent on a 

Shametul Ebrand 45 

VII. AxTNT Polly's Sebmon 64 

VIII. A FiBST Step to Gentility 61 

IX. Mabtin Entebs the Politioal Abena ... 70 

X. Aunt Polly Takes Offense 77 

XI. Repobted in Full 82 

XII. Mabtin Gets a Lesson in Values .... 86 

XIII. And Anotheb Lesson in Poucy . . 91 

XrV. And Assimilates What He Leabns fbom 

Both 98 

XV. Both Feet on the Lakjeb 105 

XVI. Rose Asks a Question 117 

XVII. Honeymoon Days 123 

XVIII. A Faiby Tale Gome Tbue 129 

*4$ XIX. Mabtin Lefflby, M.P 136 

BOOK II 

r: XX. The Twins 145 

§ XXI. Lady Lefflby 154 

XXII. In the Dabx 160 

# XXni. Edoab 170 

'J XXrV. Plain'^Maby Pbaoogk 179 

m 5 



3 



6 CONTENTS 

CHAPTBS PAOl 

XXV. Habris 186 

XXVI. Domestic Economy 191 

XXVII. DoBOTHT Becomes an Asset 201 

XXVIII. "Duds" 212 

XXIX. £ooAB Goes on Strike 220 

XXX. Martin's Haryestino 224 

XXXI. Martin Pays His Tithe 232 

XXXII. Tea on the Terrace 238 

XXXIII. The Price of a Commission 243 

XixrV. The Commercial Value op a Pretty Woman 253 

XXXV. Rose Consults a Specialist 262 

XXXVI. Dorothy Loses a Glove 269 

XXXVII. An Illustration in Class Distinctions . . 277 

XXXVIII. KoBLESSE Oblige 282 

XXXIX. Aunt Polly Goes Home 287 

XL. Purely Commercial 293 

XLI. "Spread Wings" 297 

XLII. The Woman Pays 304 

XLIII. Evensong 309 



IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



;{•:• 



IE I 



IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



THE FRUIT OF THE TBEE 

WHEN the office dock informed Martin that it was 
three minutes past five he methodically collected 
the papers that littered his desk, stowed them within it, 
closed the lid and locked it. He also shut the inkpots 
and arranged pens and pencils in parallel order in their 
tray. Then he carried half a dozen account books to the 
safe and locked that. 

The day's work was finished. Five o'clock was the 
canonical hour for leaving the office, but on principle 
Martin always gave the clock three minutes' grace. He 
felt it placed him at an advantage with the firm. It was 
his habit to make such tactical concessions. He was 
of the foreseeing kind that will forego a small oppor- 
tunity with a view to future profit. A species of ** hedg- 
ing," this; but the term was unknown to Martin. He 
hated the turf and all other forms of gambling with the 
cautious hatred of one who does not take risks. 

He passed out of the small dark office into the flagged 
yard, wet wit}i the constant stream of water that sup- 
plied the aerating machines in the adjoining shed. This 
was already closed and the operators gone. Unlike Mar- 
tin, they never conceded a single minute of labor to 
capital. Their Union did not approve of that sort of 

9 



10 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

thing. Neither did Martin for that matter, but having 
brains of his own his conduct was not guided by the hard 
and fast rules of any Trade Union. Rules were devised 
by the intelligent classes for the proper control of the 
rank and file, for the benefit, that is, of those who made 
them. Martin felt quite competent to frame rules for 
other people. Perhaps one day he would. 

Just now he was not thinking of these things. He was 
congratulating himself that by the time he got home 
his landlady's funeral would be well over. Sentiment 
was rather out of Martin's line. Tact would have en- 
joined solemnity in him at any grave-side ; but privately 
he regarded funerals and such-like conventions as fussy 
nuisances and waste of time. It was not that he had any 
dislike of the late Mrs. Metcalf . On the contrary, he 
had every reason for regretting her death. She had been 
a worthy soul. He had had proof of it for the last two 
years. She had never overcharged him nor neglected 
his comfort. Her merits as a cook had been consider- 
able, a rare capacity amongst landladies, of whom Mar- 
tin had previously had one or two sad experiences. For 
one of his class he had fastidious tastes in food. 

Indeed, Mrs. Metcalf 's demise would probably make 
a considerable difference to his life. He frowned at 
the thought. He had not had tinle to dwell on it before. 
She had given him great consideration : perhaps he had 
exacted it. Anyway, he was quite aware that the inter- 
est of her household had centered round himself. The 
two women of which it consisted had waited on him 
hand and foot, Mrs. Metcalf in the kitchen, priding her- 
self on cooking his meals to a turn, and Rose, her daugh- 
ter, who served them, made his bed, folded his clothes, 
and blacked his boots. 



THE FRUIT OP THE TREE 11 

Pending the funeral he had considerately gone for his 
midday dinner and also his tea to Mrs. Peacock's. She 
was his aunt, and lived close by. To-day, he intended 
going back to the normal state of things. Aunt Polly, 
the ignoble trade which she carried on, and her bibulous 
husband, jarred on his susceptibilities. Aunt Polly had 
no pretensions. She was slovenly in appearance and 
never quite dressed. In addition she had an unpleasant 
habit of speaking her mind, very often at the top of 
her voice. 

On his way home Martin had to pass her shop, whose 
window shamed the street with an agglomeration of 
disreputable articles— dilapidated furniture, odd lots of 
china, old spoons and forks, sad-looking engravings — ^the 
flotsam and jetsam that come into the hands of the 
general dealer. Through the doorway one saw vistas of 
discolored clothing, male and female ; and stacks of old 
boots and shoes stood on shelves and lay about in the 
comers. As though this exhibition were not enough 
to make Aunt Polly's shocking occupation patent to a 
censorious world it was emphasized in staring lettering 
over the shop window. That signboard caused Martin 
a lot of secret shame. 

MART PEACOCK 
DEALER IN SECOND-HAND GOODS 

Cast-off Clothing, Uniforms, Jewelry, False Teeth, 
Books, Pictures, etc., bought for CASH. 

He was hoping to slip by the shop unnoticed, but a 
violent drubbing at the window pane compelled him to 



12 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

turn his head. He responded to it with a furtive wave 
of the hand and would have passed on had not Mrs. 
Peacock's voice brought him to a halt. 

' ' Martin ! Martin LeflSey ! " idie shouted. ' ' Ain 't you 
comin' in to tea?'' 

It made his flesh creep to hear his name proclaimed 
like that. It put him on a level with the dogs in the 
street. He regarded names as private property, not 
public advertisements. There was no false shame about 
Mrs. Peacock. She thought nothing of sustaining a con- 
versation from a distance of ten yards. She began 
one now. Martin's only means of bringing it to a stop 
was to retrace his steps. He walked into the shop, flus- 
tered and frowning. He hated that shop. Its disreputa- 
ble contents offended his eyes ; the musty odor of it was 
an affront to his nostrils. 

Mrs. Peacock, an elderly little woman with dirty 
hands and sharp black eyes, was sorting a nondescript 
litter of clothes. Patting a second similar pile, she said 
invitingly : 

**Sit down here and I'll bring you a cup of tea. 
There's no room in the kitchen. Peacock's on the table 
sleepin' it off. I sold the sofa because a party took a 
fancy to it yesterday, and he ain't in no state to man- 
age with a chair. That man's a pig." 

Martin thought so too. Peacock was his aunt's second 
husband. Rumor had it that she had married him sud- 
denly and stealthily while he was under the influence of 
drink. 

**Well, you knew what he was like beforehand," said 
Martin, disdaining the pile of overcoats. 

**I had to marry him," asseverated Mrs. Peacock. 
**When a man next door but one to you is in the same 



THE FRUIT OF THE TREE 13 

trade as yourself and getting more of it than yourself, 
the only thing left is to marry him, same as the boa- 
constrictor at the Zoo who swallowed the other one. 
I've got more than I can manage now. That's what 
I wanted to speak to you about. I'll just get that cup 
of tea " 

''I'm a little late, Aunt Polly. I can't stop to tea. 
Miss Metcalf expects me." 

"Well, in a manner of speaking, what I've got to say 
concerns that girl too. Have you made any arrange- 
ments yet!" 

''What sort of arrangements f" Martin asked guard- 
edly. 

"To find fresh lodgings. Lodgings for a single young 
man, of course. You can't think of stopping on there 
alone with a pretty girl." 

"Why not?" he stared. "I daresay she can make 
me quite as comfortable as her mother did. I hope so, 
at any rate. ' ' 

Mrs. Peacock snorted. She hadn 't much patience with 
her nephew. Knowing him to be clever she mistrusted 
him when he showed denseness. 

"It's not what she can do. It's what she can't do," 
she said decidedly. "You mayn't have the feelings of 
a young man — ^you're too full of your mineral waters 
for that — ^but you wear trousers and you shave, and 
people don't look beyond that. You can't stop where 
you are with a person of the opposite sex to what you 



are." 



Martin looked disturbed. He had never thought of 
Rose Metcalf in that light before. He accepted the state- 
ment that she was pretty. He supposed she must be, 
because he liked looking at her. All the same, his views 



it 



14 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

about her had been quite detached. Until now, that is. 
What his aunt had just said was tantamount to giving 
him a bite of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. 
That's woke you up a bit," Mrs. Peacock observed. 

Well now, what I've got to propose is this. You can 
come and live with us if you like. There's the little 
back room empty, except for the uniforms, so you 
might as well have it, and nothing charged so long as 
you help me a bit with the sorting at nights. You could 
take all the gent's clothes off my hands. When will you 
come?" 

Martin was quick to see that, monetarily, the offer 
was not without its inducements, quicker still to calcu- 
late that its disadvantages outweighed the slight sav- 
ing to his pocket. Mrs. Peacock was an execrable cook. 
There were also times when, Peacock becoming too much 
for her, she was addicted to drowning her own troubles 
in strong waters. Domesticity, moreover, was not her 
forte, and not a single clock in the place. was in going 
order. Remembering all these things, he hung back. 

' ' It wouldn 't do. Aunt Polly, ' ' he said firmly. ' ' You 'd 
find me too much trouble. Meals punctual, and all that. 
And I shouldn't have time to help you with the clothes, 
because I 've reading to do at night. Thank you all the 
same though." 

Mrs. Peacock sniffed. 

"I see what it is, young Martin. We're not smart 
enough for you. You'd like the shop turned into a 
front room, and Peacock to get himself up in dress 
clothes, pretendin ' to be a footman, and your poor Aunt 
Polly to keep her dress buttoned." 

Martin made a gesture of repudiation. 

**0h, go along with you," she scoffed. ''You can't 



THE FRUIT OP THE TREE 16 

help yourself. You're bom to try and get above your- 
self. You're even ashamed of me bein' in the second- 
hand trade. Look at this coat here f 'r instance. You 
want another one bad. What's the matter with itt 
It come out of a good house. I fetched it myself. It's 
the best Melton cloth. Five pounds didn't buy it when 
it was new, and I'd sell it to you for twelve-and-six. 
But you — ^you'd rather wear a bit of new shoddy and 
pay a pound for it ! " She stroked the soft nap of the 
cloth with a caressing hand. '*And worn by a real gen- 
tleman! You don't understand that, Martin, my lad. 
You won't never make yourself any better than shoddy, 
however hard you try." 

She gave him an impatient little push towards the 
shop door and shut it upon him. But when he was 
half-way down the street she opened it again and put 
her head out. 

''Mar— tin! "she shrilled. "Don't forget! You can't 
stop along with a girl alone!" 

Then the door slammed. 

Martin's ears lit the street. 



II 



^'veby quietly, owing to a death in the bbids's 

family" 



IT was a wonder that Martin had not fallen in love 
with Rose Metcalf long ago. Any other young man 
in his position would have done so, or at least, have paid 
her attentions. Bose was not unlike a Christmas color- 
plate come to life. Her hair was bright brown with a 
wave in it, her complexion unusually pink and white. She 
had blue eyes of such soft expression that one had only 
to touch her sympathy to see them instantly fill with rap* 
ture or tears. Her one fault was that she had no vices. 
For all that, she was quite human, so human that she 
loved Martin. This was her secret, and no one had 
guessed it, least of all the object of her devotion. 

She idealized him. She thought him a being of a 
superior order. She never expected him to take any 
notice of her. It was an exquisite pleasure to make 
his bed, turn out his room, fold up his things, keep his 
drawers tidy. It would have been infinitely good for 
Martin if instead of anticipating his every want she had 
occasionally smacked his face. She would as soon have 
thought of smacking a policeman or a week-old baby. 
Still, she was no fool. She had realized some days 
since that Martin could not continue to live in the house 
alone with her without causing gossip; but being a 
woman and reckless where she loved, she had made up 

16 



ii 



VERY QUIETLY, OWING TO A DEATH" 17 



her mind to ignore gossip and keep Martin if she could. 

Such is the power of love, moreover, that within three 
hours of her mother's funeral, obsessed by the desire to 
satisfy his creature comforts, she had made a steak-and- 
kidney pie for his high tea, and some jam tartlets into 
the bargain. 

When Martin came in, considerably ruffled and per- 
turbed and still a little red about the ears, which was 
where he always blushed, he found the table in the par- 
lor ready laid, a good fire in the grate, and his carpet 
slippers put out to warm. Five minutes later Rose came 
in with the pie. The rims of her blue eyes were slightly 
red from recent weeping. She could not hide that evi- 
dence of grief, but she did control the quiver of her lips. 
It was a stoical concession to her feelings for Martin. 

Sitting in the armchair watching her he felt a distinct 
annoyance at the prospect of having to forego all this 
— ^warmed slippers, savory pies and all the rest of it — 
just because she was a girl, young and alone. It almost 
took his appetite away. 

''Good evening,'' he said solemnly. ''I'm glad to be 
back. Is it — ^too soont" 

Bose put the pie on the table. 

"Oh, no," she said. "I — I like to have you to do 
for." She placed a chair for him. "Your tea's quite 
ready." 

He looked at the pie and then at the table laid for 
one. There was enough pie for two, even if he took a 
second helping. 

"Won't you lay a place for yourself!" he asked awk- 
wardly. 

Bose had had no tea. There was no reason why she 



18 IP WISHES WEEE HORSES 

should not sit down with him. She had no mother now 
to keep her company in the kitchen. 

''Thank you/' she said. ''It vHmld be less lone- 
some." 

When she returned with an extra plate and cutlery, 
she had discarded her cooking-apron. This was out of 
respect to Martin. The plain black dress she wore 
showed her comely young figure to advantage. Martin 
had never seen her in black before, nor had he taken 
much notice of her physical charms. Their effect on him 
now was to distract his attention from the pie he had 
commenced to serve. 

"I*m glad you've taken your apron off," he said. 
''White against black makes you look like a servant 
— ^though a very nice one. Black by itself suits you," 
he added with a furtive look at those gracious curves. 

"I shall wear it for a year," she said with due solem- 
nity, and began pouring out the tea. 

Martin's powers of observation underwent a sudden 
increase. He noticed her hands. They were small, 
pretty and very clean. Considering the work she did 
this struck him as remarkable. They looked soft little 
hands. He pictured what they would look like with a 
ring or two on their fingers, perhaps manipulating a 
tea-set of real china on a plated tray. It showed the 
trend of his thoughts. 

"Don't you like rings. Miss Metcalf ?" he asked rather 
abruptly. 

"Oh, yes." 

"Why don't you wear some, thent" 

"Because I haven't got any." 

At that they both blushed, Rose especially. To hide 
his discomfiture,' Martin forgetfully swallowed a mouth- 



"VERT QUIETLY, OWING TO A DEATH'' 19 

fill of tea so hot that it hurt his throat. Rose had never 
previously inspired him with any feeling of nervousness. 
It seemed absurd. Besides, she was nervous herself. It 
was absolutely silly to be nervous of a person who was 
nervous of you. He did not appreciate that this was 
the nearest he had ever been to the illogical sentiment of 
love. He made haste to change the subject. 

**How did the funeral go off?" 

Bose was a little startled. Momentarily she had for- 
gotten her mother. The personal note in Martin's con- 
versation had fluttered her. Her eyes brimmed. 

**It was such a little funeral," she quavered. **You 
see, we've no relations. And there was only Miss Twil^ 
chett, mother's old friend, in the carriage with me. . . . 
There were four wreaths. Yours was. quite the most 
beautiful." 

Martin felt rewarded for the five shillings which he 
had spent on that tribute of respect. After all, as he 
had calculated at the time, the sum barely covered sun- 
dry breakages extending over the period of his sojourn 
in the house — ^breakages for which he had never been 
charged. He had been quite sincere in inscribing the 
card attached to the wreath '^With deepest sympathy"; 
but the sympathy had been for himself for the loss of 
a paragon among landladies. 

* * I 'm glad you liked it. ' ' The words were modest, but 
the tone hinted self-satisfaction. ''You were speaking 
of having no relations. Don't you think that's rather 
a blessing? When you have ambitions — ^want to get on 
in the world — ^relations are sometimes a bother. Rela- 
tions without the same ideas as yourself, I mean. Seems 
to me they've a way of thrusting themselves in where 
they're not wanted, just because of the tie of blood. 



it 



20 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

There's Mrs. Peacock, my aunt''— Mrs. Peacock's som- 
ming-up of her nephew's character still rankled — ^'^I 
can't help feeling ashamed of her. I wouldn't say that 
to anybody except you. But there it is." 

* ' She 's a character, ' ' was Rose 's excuse. * * People like 
her can afford to be themselves." 

She's never dressed," objected Martin. 
Oh, I've seen her dressed. Last time she came to 
tea with poor mother she had on a black satin dress with 
every hook and eye properly fastened. She wore an aw- 
fully good hat too, and a splendid feather boa. When 
I admired it, she wanted to give it to me." 

*'0h, well," said Martin grudgingly, ''perhaps she 
isn't as black — ^as when she isn't washed. I suppose it 
was a Sunday." 

Some days would have to elapse before he would be 
able to forgive Aunt Polly for her plain-speaking. He 
went on with his tea. When the meal was finish^ and 
there was no reason for prolonging it. Rose got up. 

''Ill clear away now," she said, and proceeded to 
do so. 

When the table-cloth was folded Martin ventured : 

"What are you going to do when you've washed up! 
Mending »" 

Rose nodded. 

"Then why not bring it in here! I — ^we ought to 
have a talk, I think." 

He fidgeted about the room until she rejoined him. 
She found that he had pulled the sofa forward, nearer 
the fire. Martin had made up his mind. The promi- 
nence of the sofa indicated the way it was working — 
a sort of tactical support to the proposal he was about to 
make. He felt terribly awkward. 



"VERY QXJIETLT, OWING TO A DEATH'' 21 

Bose took a comer of the sofa. She was a little tim- 
orous of Martin's rearrangement of it, vaguely conscious 
of something different in himself. But the change, 
whatever it was, was too subtle for her simple mind. 
She put it down to the effect of ''a death in the fam- 
ily" and what she called "company manners." 

Martin also sat on the sofa, looking at his boots and 
trying hard not to appear embarrassed. The mending 
Bose had brought in with her was not serving any good 
purpose. How, for instance, was he to obtain pos- 
session of her hand (a proceeding he deemed essential 
to what he wanted to say) when one of them was plying 
a formidable needle and the other was encased in a thick 
sockt 

"Are those minet" he temporized. 

"Yes. You do make holes. " Her attention was fixed 
ruefully on the heel which seemed to consist of one huge 
fissure. To repair it would be a labor, but a labor of 
love. How often had she not kissed his socks? 

"You do a lot of work for me," he said apprecia- 
tively. 

"I like work," she rejoined. She had not the faintest 
idea of the surprise he was going to spring on her. 

After a thoughtful pause he went on : 

"I shan't be able to stop on here." 

The abruptness of the statement startled her. She 
stopped working and looked up at him. 

"People would gossip," he explained. 

She said nothing. She had already discounted the 
gossip. 

' ' I don 't like gossip, ' ' he proceeded. ' ' I don 't believe 
in giving people the opportunity of discussing your pri- 
vate affairs. They always find something to be nasty 



22 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

about Besides, I don't want people saying things about 
you/' 

Rose darned furiously. If she lifted her eyes he 
would see the tears in them. So he was going — after 
alll 

"I'm going to be very frank," he said. "I didn't 
ever intend getting married to anybody. I didn't mean 
to think of it until I'd made a position. I'm not talk- 
ing of two-ten a week. I mean something you can really 
call an income/' He gave the word an unctuous inflec- 
tion. "But since I came in this evening, things some- 
how have changed. I don't want to lose you, and I don't 
want you to lose me. How would it be if I was to stay 
at the Temperance Hotel for a week or so until we can 
get married — ^very quietly, owing to a death in the 
bride's family?" 

Rose jerked her hand out of the sock. Her breath 
came fast 

"Martin!" she articulated. "You don't mean you — 
you — ^love met" 

He had moved nearer to her. If expediency had been 
the prime motive of his proposal, it was now succeeded 
by a more human one. Desire for the girl was foment- 
ing in him. She was so pretty. He knew she would 
make a good wife. He had a conviction that as he 
improved his position in life — ^which was what he meant 
to do — she would show a capacity for living up to that 
improvement. She would be able to adapt herself to 
circumstances. She would learn from him. Her voice 
had proclaimed her feelings for him, told him that she 
loved him. Her face was averted now. She was trem- 
bling. Martin was trembling too. He had gone rather 



it 



VERY QUIETLY, OWING TO A DEATH" 23 



pale, and his voice was unsteady when he answered 
her: 

"I do love yon. Oh, Rose!" 

Unwonted emotion brought a mist into his eyes. He 
groped for her hand and found it. It was soft, so soft. 
The touch of it made him feel extraordinarily tender. 
He recalled how willingly, how often, those soft hands 
had toiled for him. And now those little hands were the 
hands of his own new-found sweetheart, his future wife I 
Human nature had hold of him. He found himself 
stroking the soft little hand, carrying it to his lips, mov- 
ing it up and down against his cheek. . • . But he dared 
not kiss Rose 's lips. He simply dared not. 

Neither knew how long they sat on in this state of 
bliss. Rose was tongue-tied. She could only feel. She 
was engulfed in huge waves of feeling, an ecstasy too 
deep for words. Her head lay against Martin's shoul- 
der, and her eyes were closed. When Martin came back 
to earth, the proximity of Rose's face intensified his de- 
sire to kiss her. But even then he could not summon up 
courage enough. In the morning, he told himself, he 
would feel more confident. By then he would have had 
time to get used to things. . . . 

"WeU ... so we're to be married, dear," he said in 
the tone of one confirming a business transaction. ' ' I II 
get the ring to-morrow. We were talking about rings 
at tea, weren 't we ? Coming events, eh t " 

He got up, and Rose followed his example. 

"Don't go," said Martin. **I've got a little reading 
to do." 

He placed his books — sound educational works— on 
the table, and, resolutely keeping his eyes from the girl 's 



24 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES 

face BO as to avoid fhe temptation of kissing her, applied 
himself to their study. 

Martin never missed an opportunity of improving his 
mind. He had no particular love of knowledge for its 
own sake. At twenty-five he was a very self-contained 
young man, perfectly satisfied with himself, full of con- 
fidence in his abilities, imbued with a conviction that no 
man was warranted in regarding him as an inferior. 
Nevertheless, he saw plainly enough that if he was to 
impose his own estimate of himself on other people he 
must arm himself against them with knowledge, that he 
must know more than they did. With that object he 
read diligently and voraciously, cramming his mind with 
everything he could get hold of in the way of informa- 
tion. The result was the acquisition of an encyclopaedic 
smattering of disconnected facts, formulae, and theories. 
Every description of knowledge provided fish for his 
mental net — ^philosophy, art, political economy, statistics. 
They would all come in useful some day. 

Just now he was busy memorizing masses of figures 
bearing on tiie conditions of trade and labor in their 
relation to capital. It was not that he was dissatisfied 
with the wages he got. On forty-five shillings a week 
he had nothing to complain of. But that was no rea- 
son why he should not study the subject with the object 
of getting the better of capital. Martin was as ready to 
sweat capital as capital did labor. To put it briefiy, he 
was out to climb into the position of the top dog. 

Thus immersed in figures he forgot tune, everything. 
The hours passed. At ten o'clock Rose put her mending 
away. She moved quietly, fearful of interrupting the 
worker. 

' ' Good-night, ' ' she said softly. 



"VEBT QUIETLY, OWING TO A DEATH'' 25 

Martin was inattentive. He had made a mistake some- 
where in his calculations and was bent on correcting it. 

''Good-night, Miss Metcalf/' he answered absently. 

The door closed on Bose. Once outside she longed to 
go back. She did not resent Martin's inattention and 
his forgetful use of her surname. She thought she un- 
derstood him. But her mind was centered on that kiss 
which he had not accorded her, and she longed for it. 
She had been too shy to offer him her own lips, and he 
too shy to take them. She knew that, just as she knew 
intuitively that he had never before kissed any other 
girl. She wanted that kiss. She felt it was her due. 

She waited in her bedroom for half an hour without 
undressing. Then she heard him push back his chair 
and move about the room beneath. She could go down 
now without disturbing him. She would be bold. They 
would both sleep better with that kiss consummated. 
Without it she would not sleep at alL 

She stole downstairs and softly opened the door of 
the sitting-room. Her heart beat tempestuously. 

''Martin, you — ^we — haven't kiss " she faltered 

and stopped short. 

Martin was tasting something out of a bottle. 



m 



''bosalia" 



ANY ONE bat Bose would have jiimi>ed to the con- 
dusion that Martin was indnlging in a spirituous 
nightcap— any cme, that is^ of the class to which these 
young people belonged. Is it not the acknowledged priy- 
il^e of the wage-earner to take a ^'^ass of something" 
when the day's work is done? 

But Bose did not for a moment suppose that the bot- 
tle contained anything alcoholic She knew Martin too 
well. She would as soon have credited him with being 
an atheist. His two years' stay in her mother's house 
had convinced her of two things: his sobriety and his 
regular attendance at chapel. Martin, indeed, was an 
abstainer of the incorruptible tyi>e ; he had an unreason- 
ing detestation of strong drink. It was this view that 
had made him gravitate towards the mineral-water trade. 
Bose, moreover, noticed that the bottle was transparent, 
of the soda-water type, with a screw stopper, and the 
liquid in it rose-colored. 

^'I'm glad you came down," he said unconcernedly. 
**I thought you'd gone to bed. I had half a mind to 
knock you up. I want to know what you think of this. 
Now that we're going to be married I ought to try and 
get it on the market. I've had it up my sleeve for sev- 
eral months." 

20 






''ROSALIA'' 27 

He took a tumbler from the sideboard and poured 
some of the liquid into it. 

What is it?" Rose inquired. 

A non-alcoholic summer drink. My own invention. 
You're the first person besides myself who's seen it. 
Taste." 

She took a sip. 

''Well»" 

* * It 's delicious ! ' ' she declared. 

Her enthusiasm was perfectly genuine. If he had 
asked her opinion of a concoction of mustard and jam 
as a new condiment of his own devising she would have 
discovered something to like in it. The drink she was 
now sampling had a certain nutly sweetness that ap- 
pealed strongly to her uneducated palate. It seemed 
to have all the best qualities of the numerous temper- 
ance beverages with which she was familiar, and in ad- 
dition a peculiar flavor of its own. 

Do give me some more," she begged. 
I'm afraid I can't. I want the rest to try on Mr. 
Peacock." 

''But isn't he " 

'*Yes. I know. It's just that. You see, the opin- 
ion of a confirmed drunk — drinker on a non-alcoholic 
drink might be valuable." 

He had a suspicion that ''voluble" might be the bet- 
ter word. Still, it showed his faith in the new beverage 
to wish to submit it to Mr. Peacock's taste. He argued 
that if Mr. Peacock did not utterly condemn it, it would 
be sure to please any one else. 

"I'm glad you like it," he said. "I believe there's 
a fortune in it. All I want now is a good name for it. 
A good name's everything in pushing a new line." 






28 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

''How would 'Rosalia' dot" she ventured. She had 
not forgotten what had brought her downstairs, but it 
was evident that Martin's thoughts were far from en- 
dearments. 

' ' ' Ros-al-ia, ' " he enunciated experimentally. ' ' That 's 
not bad. 'Sort of ale, and it's rosy. Personally, I 
was rather taken with 'Liquorine' — spelt with a 'k,' 
you Jmow. I've got several others too. I must try 
them on some one. That's what made me think of Pea- 
cock. He comes out with a happy thought sometimes, 
without knowing it. By the way, be careful you don't 
let on about this new drink to any one." 

*'I won't breathe a word." 

He put the bottle away in the cupboard where he kept 
his books, locked it and pocketed the key. It was char- 
acteristic of him that he always kept his private belong- 
ings under lock and key. Then he turned to Rose. 

"There was something I wanted to say just before you 
came in," he said meditatively; ''but it's gone out of 
my head. Did you come down for anything particular t ' ' 

"Martin — yes!" she whispered, and lifted her face. 



it 



That was what I was trying to remember," he said. 



IV 



HABTIN GETS HIS MOKET'S WOBTR 

ONE of Martin's maxims was, ''Never let the grass 
grow tinder your feet" He quite approved of 
the advertisements which inculcate the doctrine of ''do- 
ing it now." He disliked Mr. Peacock excessively, but 
that did not prevent him from starting for his ofSce a 
quarter of an hour earlier than usual so that he might 
stop at Aunt Polly's on the way for the puri>ose of 
eliciting her husband's opinion of the new beverage. It 
did not strike him that there was a touch of irony in 
administering a non-alcoholic drink to. one who was 
chronically afllicted with a longing for potent liquors. 

He would have preferred to avoid Aunt Polly herself, 
but as the only entrance to her private abode was 
through the shop he was unable to do so. As usual, he 
found her engaged in the apparently endless occupa- 
tion of sorting cast-off clothing. 

"What's brought you round so early, young Martin t" 
she inquired. ' ' Thought better of it and come to live f ' ' 

"I came to see Mr. Peacock," he said. "I've got 
something to show him. ' ' 

"He isn't quite himself this morning. You'll find 
him in the kitchen havin' his breakfast." 

The statement was hardly accurate. Peacock, in 
effect, at that moment was sitting at the table regarding 
a fat rasher of bacon with concentrated disgust. He 



30 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

was a corpulent little man who looked what he generally 
felt) rather vile. On Martin's entrance he pushed his 
plate away with a shudder. 

' ' Good morning, ' ' said Martin brisHy . His own good 
breakfast and the hope of exploiting his new drink made 
him feel energetic. 

Peacock looked at him much as he had looked at 
the bacon, and gave another shudder. 

'^I just looked in to show you something/' continued 
Martin. 

His uncle by marriage did not pay any attention to 
the remark. He levered himself up from his chair and 
pointed a shaking finger at the shop door. 

''That old woman ought to have been a jailer," he 
asserted hoarsely. "She's locked up the Worcester 
sauce." 

''Don't you like tea for breakfast?" 

"Tea? Pahl" 

"Not thirsty, eh?" 

The word brought an angry gleam into Peacock's eyes. 
He resented Martin with all the inebriate's resentment 
of one who is openly ranged on the side of hidebound 
sobriety. Martin's professed abomination of alcohol in 
all its forms enraged him. But knowing something of 
the young man's financial resources, and especially of 
his customary possession of small change, he was cun- 
ning enough to hide his feelings. All the same, to be 
asked by an incarnadined teetotaler at a quarter to nine 
a.m. if he was thirsty provoked him horribly. It seemed 
to him to be absolute proof of the mental density of 
every water drinker he came across. 

For answer he clacked a parched tongue, gave a fur- 



MARTIN GETS HIS MONEY'S WORTH 31 

tive glance in the direction of the shop, and buttonholed 
Martin. 

' ' Qot sixpence about you t " he whispered. ' ' Pay you 
back to-morrow. '^ 

Under the same promise Martin had parted with six- 
pences on several previous occasions, and never seen 
them again. 

"Ill see," he temporized. "But if you're thirsty 
try this." 

Peacock watched him anxiously while he extracted a 
bottle from his office bag. 

"What is it! " he asked. 

"A new drink. Perhaps you 11 be able to give it a 
name." 

"I can give (vn/y drink a name," asserted Peacock 
with confidence. He regarded the liquid, some of which 
Martin poured into his unused tea-cup, with intense 
curiosity. "Looks as if it had a dash of port in it." 

"Try it." 

^ The habit of taking a copious dose of anything pre- 
sumably alcoholic made Peacock gulp down a goodly 
mouthful before his palate gave him any indication of 
its quality. Then an amazed expression came into his 
face. He alternately glared at Martin and choked. 

"What d'you mean by it?" he wheezed. "Oh, you 
wicked poisoner!" He advanced aggressively. 

"Don't get excited," said Martin. "What's wrong 
with it?" 

' ' Wrong ? You try and poison me and then ask what 's 
wrong? Ill have you up for it, you see if I don't! 
Makin' me take pink muck they give to ruddy babies 
when they've got the blue-black stomach-ache!" 



it 



32 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES 

His vehemence and the nasty spirit in which he took 
the experiment annoyed Martin. 

There *s no necessity for bad language/' he protested. 

The drink's perfectly wholesome. Miss Metcalf had 
some. She liked it ! " 

''I don't care if she did. She hasn't a delicate con- 
stitootion like me. I say I'm poisoned, and I mean to 
know what with, so's I can get a antidote." 

''I tell you it's a new drink. At present it's called 
Liquorine, if you must know." 

Peacock snorted. '^Strickemine's what it ought to 
be called. Strickemine! Only it's worse. It's filth, 
poisonous filth, that's what it is! You ought to be 
ashamed of yourself for bein' seen about with it." 

''You needn't shout," Martin expostulated. ''Here's 
sixpence." 

Peacock grabbed the coin and subsided, and Martin 
beat a retreat. He considered Peacock's behavior out- 
rageous. He would have shown his resentment of it 
but for an acquired habit of never allowing himself to 
lose his temper. He would boil iawardly at an affront 
and yet appear to be unaware of it. The slur Peacock 
had cast upon the new beverage rankled terribly. In 
his enthusiasm for it Martin had courted offensive treat- 
ment, and now regretted it. He also regretted sixpence 
wasted on the obnoxious little man. 

To his relief, Aunt Polly was engaged with a customer 
when he re-entered the shop, and he reached his ofiBice 
with a minute to spare. It was a small and uninviting 
room whose one window looked on to a courtyard full 
of dark corners. An atmosphere charged with moisture 
permeated it Across the yard, through double doors, 
now open, you got a view of several aerators at which 



MARTIN GETS HIS MONEY'S WORTH 33 

Grimwood Brothers' employees sat charging ''minerals" 
with gas. The short, sharp hiss of the machines went 
on interminably throughout the day, making a sound 
not unlike what you would expect from a number of 
snakes in a bad temper. This was accompanied by the 
clink of thick glass bottles, varied now and then by a 
burst from defective ones. A constant trickle of water 
from the works percolated into the yard, filling the 
interstices between the cobbles and overflowing into a 
gully under the office window. The whole aspect of 
the place was unutterably dreary. 

Quite indifferent to his surroundings, Martin set about 
his day's work. Mr. Alfred Grimwood, the junior mem- 
ber of the firm, looked after '*the works"; Mr. John, 
the senior, occupied the office with Martin. He had not 
come yet. Pending his arrival, Martin unlocked the 
safe, got the books out, and opened the letters. These 
he read with an open pocket-book beside him, making 
notes of customers' names and their orders. Occasion- 
ally he took down quantities and prices of various items 
quoted in wholesalers' invoices. Many pages of Martin's 
notebook were filled with such details, very neatly re- 
corded. They formed a fairly complete compendium of 
everything pertaining to the mineral-water trade. With 
characteristic foresight, he had equipped himself with 
much valuable data likely to come in handy if he should 
ever possess enough capital to start business on his own. 

It was his intention to ask for a rise in salary this 
morning, and also to try and interest the ** governor" 
in his new drink. After Peacock's unfortunate corrup- 
tion of ''Liquorine" into strychnine he thought it as 
well to avoid the use of that name for it. Instead, he 
would adopt ''Rosalia," the one suggested by Rose. 



34 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

But for an hour or more after his employer turned 
up he was too busy to introduce the subject of his own 
affairs. The correspondence of the first two posts had 
to be attended to. Luckily, among the letters arriving 
by the second of these 'was one containing an unex- 
pectedly large order. It put the governor in a good 
temper. Martin took advantage of it. 

^'Have you thought about raising my salary, sirf" 
he asked. 

"Can't say I have," returned Mr. Grimwood. *'Why 
should It" 

"I've only had two increases in four years." 

^'I only had one in three when I was a young man." 

Martin evaded the point. " I 'm going to be married, ' ' 
he said. 

"Oh, are yout Think you can afford it!" 

"On three pounds a week I can. I think I'm worth 
it, sir." 

"Well, 111 consider it," said Mr. Grimwood after a 
pause. 

"To begin this month, sir. The wedding's to be next 
week." 

"Oh!" 

"There's another matter I want to speak to you about. 
It's a new summer beverage. I want you to take it up," 
said Martin with directness. 

Mr. Grimwood shook his head. "It would have to 
be something uncommonly good to make me put money 
into it." 

" It « uncommonly good. ' ' 

Martin produced the bottle from his bag for the second 
time that morning. Mr. Grimwood held it up to the 



MARTIN GETS HIS MONET'S WOETH 35 

light. Then he unscrewed the stopper and smelt the 
contents. 

'' What's it made off" he asked carelessly enough. 

Martin had been expecting the question and had not 
the slightest intention of answering it. The drink might 
or might not turn out a success, but he knew that if he 
divulged the nature of its ingredients Orimwood, or for 
that matter any other man in the business, would be 
capable of using it for his own profit. 

**I shall be quite ready," he replied, ''to hand over 
the formula directly we come to a business arrange- 
ment." 

Grimwood quite understood the implication. He did 
not resent it. In Martin's place he would have taken 
£dmilar precautions. 

"And suppose we don't?" he said. 

''Then I shall offer it in some other quarter. To 
Ortwells' first, probably." 

Ortwells, Limited, were a rival firm with works in 
the vicinity. 

"Well," said Mr. Grimwood placably, "let's taste it 
Give me a glass." 

Martin fetched one from the office cupboard, and 
Grimwood began tasting the beverage. He took a long 
time over it, trying to make out individual savors. 
Roughly, he detected one or two of them. But there 
was something else, something decidedly delectable, that 
he could not put a name to. In any case, one thing 
about the drink seemed fairly certain: it had a taking 
flavor and ought to be popular. 

"What about the cost of manufacture?" he asked. 

"Absolutely no more than ginger-ale or any other 
similar mineral. ' ' 



36 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



**Tou guarantee thatr* 

''I do, sir. I know this business, and that it wouldn't 
pay to manufacture any drink that didn 't give the usual 
profits." 

* ' Of course, I shall have to discuss it with Mr. Alfred. 
The question is, How much do you want for the formula t 
We might — ^mind, I only say might — go to ten pounds." 

*'Then we can't deal, Mr. Grimwood." Martin 
screwed up the stopper, and made as though to replace 
the bottle in his bag. 

''What do you suggest, then," came the question. 

Martin had his terms all ready. The habit of taking 
notes of many transactions, from wholesale prices to 
agreement clauses, had educated all his business in- 
stincts. He at once propounded a scale of percentages 
on net profits, small at first but mounting on increased 
returns. 

Qrimwood whistled softly. "You're opening your 
mouth pretty wide, L^ey ! ' ' 

**It's a fair sliding scale." 

**A bit slippery, I call it. You forget liie cost of 
advertising a new thing. It'll mean putting down hun- 
dreds to push it" 

'' Whatever 's spent on this drink will come back a 
hundredfold," Martin asserted dogmatically. ''Look 
here, Mr. Orimwood, this drink's a sure seller. It's got 
something in it that everybody likes and nobody's 
thought of but me. A thing — a fruit flavor — ^that's 
never been used in a popular drink before. It comes to 
this : Do you want it or am I to take it to Ortwells' ? " 

Grimwood had already made up his mind that Martin 
must not be allowed to take it to Ortwells'; so he called 
in his brother, and after consultation with him and con- 



MABTIN GETS HIS MONEY'S WORTH 37 

mderable hag^rling with Martin, the latter got his terms 
with slight modifications. These he insisted on having 
in writing before he would disclose his formula. The 
Grimwoods were very curious about the baffling ingredi- 
ent. When Martin revealed it thejr stared at him. 

''Cocoanut milk!" exclaimed the elder. ''Why, itil 
take millions of nuts to give us the quantity we should 
want! All the profits would go in cracking 'em!" 

''Not if you get the milk fiynthetically," said Martin. 

"But can wet" 

Martin pointed to the drink. "There's the evidence 
of it, ' ' he declared. ' ' The process isn 't generally known, 
and the quieter it's kept the better." 

He went into details that satisfied the partners. Then 
he changed the subject. He wanted an hour off during 
the afternoon for a little matter of private business. 

"Can't it waitt" asked Mr. John. 

' ' Not after four o 'dock. I must be at Somerset House 
by then to get my agreement stamped." 

"Humph!" grunted the head of the firm. "There 
are no flies on you, young fellow!" 

It had not been a bad morning's work. Impending 
marriage, Martin decided, was a distinct stimulus to a 
young man's efforts at advancement in life. He rather 
flattered himself on the sagacity he had shown in making 
up his mind so quickly about Rose. Unconsciously she 
had already helped him to an increase in salary as well 
as possible profits. He patted the pocket that contained 
the agreement. Rose might certainly prove a real help- 
mate in the future. 

He took advantage of the " hour off ' ' accorded him to 
kill two birds with one stone. After getting his agree- 



38 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

ment stamped at Somerset House he went to a registrar's 
and gave notice of his matrimonial intentions. Of the 
two errands the former held the more important place 
in his mind. He did not exactly think of it as a form of 
insurance against future risk, but it certainly heartened 
him in approaching the registrar. 

A third measure — ^the purchase of an engagement 
ring— occurred to him, but he did not put it into execu- 
tion at once. Martin never bought anything in a hurry. 
He first wanted to make comparisons, to get his money's 
worth. So for a day or two he went about pricing rings 
at various jewelers and giving special attention to the 
windows of pawnbrokers' shops. In one of these he at 
length saw a half-hoop of small diamonds, marked £7. 
He got it for £6 10s. 

That Rose would not expect anything so Valuable 
he knew quite well. The aspirations of an engaged girl 
of her class would have been satisfied with what is 
termed a ''dress ring," a chased band of light gold set 
with cheap stones of the outside value of three pounds 
and generally not worth that. But Martin, in spending 
more than double that amount, had something else in 
view besides a gift to his betrothed. He considered he 
was making an investment. Rose herself was an invest- 
ment: at least he hoped so. 

Her awe, when he presented her with the ring, flat- 
tered his calculated judgment as much as it did his 
generosity. That she was impressed by his unexpected 
lavishness was what pleased him most. It placed him 
on a pedestal from whose height the exercise of domestic 
authority would come natural. 

''It's much, much too good for me, dear !" she insisted 
tremulously. 



MARTIN GETS HIS MONEY'S WORTH 39 

"Ten years hence it won't be," rejoined far-seeing 
Martin. 

He told her nothing of the price of the ring, nor 
whence it had come. In that he showed a curious in- 
consistency. Though he was ashamed of, and despised, 
Aunt Polly's traffic in second-hand goods, it never oc- 
curred to him that he had done an3rthing unsuitable in 
choosing for his pledge of love an unredeemed pledge. 



V 



BOUTH VILLAS 

SOON after their wedding the Leffleys moved. The 
new house — ^Martin's choice — ^reflected his taste. It 
was semi-detached, cost £26 a year, and, considering the 
quantity of stained glass in the hall door and the variety 
of architectural embellishment all over its frontage, 
looked a great deal for the money. Its most prominent 
feature was a small balcony projecting from the first 
floor level. All the other houses in Routh Villas had a 
similar balcony, but probably for the reason that they 
showed no visible signs of support nobody was ever seen 
on them. 

The windows, draped by the newest and whitest of 
starched lace curtains, completely discouraged the in- 
quisitive eyes of the passer-by. Only in the front room 
on the ground floor was this sign of privacy relaxed. 
There the curtains were slightly parted in order to reveal 
the indispensable window-pot of villadom. In every 
house along both sides of the street identical pots simi- 
larly placed were to be seen. Some contained an aspi- 
distra, some a flowering plant, some a fern. Martin's 
fern, or rather Rose 's fern in Martin 's pot, was a little 
fresher than the others, but the pot, of a crude yellow, 
had a hundred counterparts. 

The Leffley s ' furniture was all brand new. Rose had 
sold her mother's Victorian belongings, so as to be able 

40 



BOUTH VILLAS 41 

to contribute towards the installation of the new home. 
Martin had done all the purchasing while she stood by 
and approved his choice. Only once had she mildly dif- 
fered from him, expressing preference for a blue carpet 
for the **best room" in lieu of the drab-colored one he 
had selected. He pooh-poohed the blue carpet and she 
had at once given way. 

Still, she was very proud of her house when she moved 
into it, of the fumed oak in the dining-room, the plush 
''suite" of state — ^meant to be looked at rather than 
used — ^in the front room where the i)ot with its fern 
stood sentinel at the window ; the white furniture in her 
bedroom, and the bright little ground-floor kitchen with 
its shining new tin utensils and row of spotless enameled 
saucepans. 

It was a large house for her to manage single-handed, 
because it was badly planned. The scullery did not 
adjoin the kitchen, and the larder was a long way from 
both. The coal-cellar was outside. There were two steep 
flights of stairs and large expanses of linoleum to keep 
clean. Having a housewifely conscience, it kept her con- 
tinually on the go. Martin had no idea of the work it 
entailed. He only gloated over the general effect; the 
spotless linen, the shining brass, the polished linoleum. 

Even after six months of married life he was unob- 
servant of his wife's overworked condition. She was 
losing her color; her eyes looked tired. The change was 
not so obvious when he was with her. Then, love and 
pleasure at having him at home kept her bright and 
cheerful. 

As a wife she was all that a man could wish for. 
Always she reflected Martin's moods, anticipated his 
needs. In the morning she was all vigilance to get him 



42 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

off in good time for the office. His breakfast and his 
boots were never unready. At that hour of the day 
she seldom talked. She knew that his mind was occu- 
pied with the work before him, just as hers was con- 
cerned with the best way of cramming twelve hours of 
domestic labor into a ten-hour day. At one o'clock, when 
he came in to dinner, he only had time to eat and give a 
look at the newspaper. After office hours he sat and 
talked to her until supper-time ; but about nine he would 
get out his books and lose himself in the study of the 
moment. 

The increased salary he was drawing, combined with 
Rose's economies, permitted him to spend a considerable 
sum on books now. He was acquiring something of a 
library; text books and works of reference principally. 
With every desire in the world to get rich quick, Martir. 
knew that he must bide his time. But as far as the 
acquisition of knowledge was concerned he was not simi- 
larly handicapped. He could draw on the resources of 
his brain to an unlimited extent. He was blessed with 
an excellent memory, which permitted him to cram. up 
an immense variety of subjects in an astonishingly short 
time. To get an elementary knowledge of each, to be 
able to discuss its broad outlines with assurance, was all 
he considered necessary. Besides, text books were cheap 
and eminently quotable. 

Just now he was ''taking up" Socialism. In a way 
he was familiar enough with its propaganda. You can- 
not pass your days among artisans and operatives with- 
out picking up most of its shibboleth. But he had never 
been really interested in the politics of Socialism, and 
did not pretend to understand them. The cant of ** gov- 
ernment for and by the people ' ' did not appeal to him. 



EOUTH VILLAS 43 

nor did he believe in the equal rights of man. He was 
clear-sighted enough to see that that was a chimera, 
that there must always be a small intellectual class to 
lead and a large ignorant one to be led. He did hate 
the supremacy of rank and wealth, because he was envi* 
ous of the people who possessed them, and in that sense 
he was susceptible to Socialism. But that susceptibility 
was a good deal discounted by his ambitions. The belief 
that one day he would himself possess wealth was strong 
in him. He meant to attain it. The means might not 
at present be visible, but he felt they would come. It 
followed, therefore, that it would not be to his advantage 
to identify himself with a party whose policy was ad- 
mittedly robbery of the rich. As yet, he was too inex- 
perienced to appreciate that a man may give specious 
public support to measures with which his private inter- 
ests are quite at variance. 

But none of these prejudices hindered him from want- 
ing to acquire a working knowledge of the arguments 
for and against Socialism. With both at his fingers' 
ends, he would not only be able to judge between rival 
policies, but to fight the more securely against which- 
ever of the two should be antagonistic to his future 
prospects. 

Tough reading he found some of it; but his quick wits 
prevented him losing himself in the maze of philosophic 
reasoning. He just kept to essentials, and assimilated 
figures. After a month or so of this sort of study he 
felt equal to debating the merits and demerits of Social- 
ism with any one but an expert. 

Punctually every night at nine-thirty he would put 
his books away and invite Rose to sit on his knee. Then 
the housewife, the strenuous legal slave would once again 



44 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

become a woman, the soft, sweet, clinging mate. . • . 
There was a latent strain of sensuality in Martin which 
marriage had awakened. He rejoiced in his wife's 
charms. His mind often dwelt on them secretly, greed- 
ily. Once he had thought little of women, and specu- 
lated about them hardly at all. Now he would often 
look at a pretty girl in the street, taking in the whole 
of her femininity. 

Women had a new meaning for him. They were made 
pretty for the pleasure of men. They were soft because 
men were hard: curved because men were straight. 
They were the flowers of human creation, destined to 
bud, bloom, be fertilized, and to seed. And he, Martin 
Leffley, manager of Grimwood Brothers, part proprietor 
of '' Rosalia," student of economics, was as much a lord 
of creation as the first man who invented the title for 
himself, or the first cock that ever crowed. 



VI 



MABTIK GETS A SHOOK AND IS SENT ON A 
SHAKEFUL SBBAND 

IT is remarkable how willingly a woman, if so minded, 
will tackle a man's job. Probably the same spirit 
enables the ant to shoulder a burden disproportionate 
to its size, or the worker bee to carry on her unrewarded 
toil. Bose had set her heart on whitewashing the back 
room ceiling because Martin had observed that it was 
getting dingy. 

*'I'd do it myself if I were in in the daytime," he 
remarked. ' * It seems extravagance to pay a man. After 
all, it's not much more than a woman's job." 

''I'd love to do it," said Bose. 

''I wasn't meaning that," he demurred in rather a 
huriy. ''Though it might amuse you — give you some- 
thing to do while I'm out, eh?" 

She assented eagerly, and on the following morning 
he left her with a pail of whitewash and a brush. 

"Don't tire yourself," he said, as he kissed her. 
"Wonder if you 11 get it done by the time I'm homet 
Still, don't hurry. I shan't be back to dinner. Grim- 
wood has asked me to lunch. He wants to have a talk 
about the best way of advertising 'Rosalia.' So you 
won't have any cooking to do, for a change." 

It did not occur to him that her own dinner might 

45 



46 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

require cookmg. Women, he understood, liked to finish 
up the "cold bits*' when they were alone. 

With the whole day before her, Rose set to work with 
her usual will. It was not her way to scamp any of the 
ordinary housework, so not until the early afternoon was 
she able to commence the whitewashing. To reach the 
ceiling she had to stand on the top step of the folding 
ladder. She thought it was the height that made her 
giddy, but she kept on, valiantly plying the big brush 
until her arms ached. When she was halfway through 
her task she began to feel dreadfully sick. Yet, to leave 
off on that account seemed selfish. Martin would be so 
uncomfortable if he had to sit in a disordered room only 
partially whitewashed. If she could get it done by five 
o'clock she would have time to wipe over the linoleum 
and put down the rugs again. 

But at five she was still on the steps, wielding her 
brush with ever-lessening strength. Her arms felt 
numbed : her eyeballs ached. Nothing short of an earth- 
quake or a dead faint would have made her give in then. 
A mania to keep on until she had used up the last drop 
of whitewash on the last square inch of ceiling took 
possession of her. What did her headache matter so long 
as she could please Martin? 

At last the whole expanse above her, except one small 
discolored patch, was finished. As she mounted the steps 
for the last time her knees gave way under her. Quite 
suddenly the room went dark. A wave of sickly heat 
surged over her. The brush dropped from her nerveless 
fingers, and she tumbled off the steps, falling heavily. 

Martin found her on the floor when he came in. At 
first he thought she must be dead, so inert was she. Only 
when he felt the feeble beat of her heart did that fear 



MARTIN GETS A SHOCK 47 

leave him. In a bewildered way he understood that 
she had fainted. This was alarming enough, for, try as 
he might, he could not bring her to. Her face was 
absolutely bloodless and her lips blue. He dragged her 
on to the sofa and kept on calling her by name. At last 
she opened her eyes, moaning painfully. 

** Martin," she whispered, '*I want — a woman." 

At short notice the only woman he could think of was 
Aunt Polly. He had hardly been near her since his 
marriage. Had he had his wits about him he would have 
hit on some other female. 

"Ill run for Aunt Polly," he said nervously. **Can 
you wait alone for five minutes!" 

She nodded faintly, and he sped off. 

The moment Mrs. Peacock understood that Rose was 
ill she cut Martin short. She grasped what was amiss, 
and wanted no lengthy explanatory details. 

"Ill come along at once," she said. '*You^d better 
go and fetch the doctor. I can guess what's the matter 
with the poor thing. I Ve had my suspicions. ' ' 

Martin looked dense. 

"Hadn't you better tell Mr. Peacock you'U be out for 
a little?" he suggested, anxious lest that individual 
should want to come in search of her. 

' ' Rubbish ! He 11 know I 'm out when he finds I 'm 
not in. We aren't softies, like you and Rose. Gome 
along." 

At all hours of the day Aunt Polly wore a bonnet — 
if yqu could call the disreputable head-dress which she 
affected by that name — so she required no preparation 
for going out. She went off at once in the direction of 
Martin's house, leaving him to fetch the doctor. 

Rose was slowly dragging herself upstairs when she 



48 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

arrived. By the time Martin got back with the doctor 
8he had undressed the girl and put her to bed. Martin 
was told to go down to the kitchen. 

He was worried at his wife's sudden illness, but he 
did not understand why she was ill. Now that he had 
done all he could for her he felt a certain resentment at 
her condition. She had never been ill before, at least 
not since he had known her. He could not conceive 
what had upset her. That was the worst of women, 
even the best of them: they got ill, and then every- 
thing in the house was disturbed. There was Aunt 
Polly . . . o£Scious . . . ordering him about. It was 
most annoying. He wandered about the kitchen feeling 
badly treated. The singing of the kettle reminded him 
that he h&d not had his tea. Then he saw that it was 
ready for him. After he had gone out to fetch his aunt 
Rose had contrived somehow to see to it. 

He sat down to it, telling himself that it would be 
foolish to go without his tea because Rose felt ill. Be- 
sides, she had put it there for him. That seemed to 
show that she could not be so very bad. He was filling 
a second cup when Aunt Polly came into the room. He 
did not like the look of her. She stood with her alms 
akimbo regarding him maliciously. 

''Martin LeflBey," she said severely, '*if you ask me 
what I think of you, you're too mean for a man!" 

''I don't understand," he rejoined uncomfortably. 

''To think of your letting that poor girl go and nearly 
work herself to death ! Whitewashing, of all things, at 
a time like this ! It 's next to murder ! ' ' 

He put down the teapot. He was quite nonplused. 

"Where's the doctor!" he mumbled. 
The doctor's gone. But I've got to stay — ^for to- 



m 



MAETIN GETS A SHOCK 49 

night at least. To-morrow you 11 have to get a woman 
in. Bose is not to set foot to the ground for a week. 
If she gets better at all, that is." 

Martin's mouth dropped. 

''Is— is she really ill?" he faltered. ''What is itt 
Don't stand staring at me, Aunt Polly." 

"And you a married man!" Mrs. Peacock's contempt 
was withering. ' ' Where do you look for babies t In the 
parsley-bed, I suppose!" 

Martin was staggered. A baby ! In spite of his gen- 
eralizing concerning women and their functions, he had 
never consciously considered the possibility of Bose hav- 
ing a baby. At least not yet. He went hot all over. 
Aunt Polly 's question had sounded like an accusation. 

'Tou don't mean — she has a baby," he stammered. 
"When was it bomt" 

"Listen to the idiot! It won't ever be bom now. At 
least, not this one. Oh, you wicked young manl" 

She shook Martin angrily by the arm. Never in his 
life had he felt less master of a situation. 

"But she didn't tell me " 

"Seems to me you're both too innocent to live," she 
interrupted. "Bose hadn't any experience. Girls don't 
always take notice. But that's no excuse for you. 
You've worked her like a willing horse, and now i^e's 
dropped. I've seen! I've guessed! Now I'm going 
back upstairs. No, you can't come." 

"D-did you say you were going to sleep here to- 
nightt" 

Mrs. Peacock nodded. 

"And — ^what about Mr. Peacock t" 

"Well, if he's a mind to come round too, I suppose he 
can. He don't like being left alone long. He's been 



50 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

seeing lizards lately, he says. Green ones with spotted 
taUs." 

Martin shuddered. Suppose Peacock did come! He 
would have to entertain him alone in the kitchen, tie 
tried to persuade Aunt Polly to let him go up and sit 
with Rose, but she refused positively. 

"There's something you can do, though," she said. 
"The doctor says that later on Rose ought to have cham- 
pagne and some good brandy. You can go out and buy 
some now. Best to have it ready in the house." 

Martin hesitated. "I can't do that. Aunt Polly," he 
said uncomfortably. "You know I'm a strict abstainer. 
Wine and spirits are against my principles." 

Mrs. Peacock almost swelled to peacock-like dimen- 
sions in her wrath. 

"Principles! Pah!" she ejaculated. "What do you 
know about such things as wine and spirits f You, who 
haven 't got a taste for anything better than ginger-beer ! 
Is it against your principles to let your wife get better? 
Don't let me hear any more of it." She pointed to the 
door. "Mind, one bottle of three-star brandy and two of 
champagne. There's a wine merchant's in the main 
road, or you can go to the pub. next door to us. Put 
some coal on the fire and be off." 

Martin saw nothing for it but to do as he was told. 
If the doctor had really ordered wine and brandy he 
supposed they would have to be got. The worst of it 
was he couldn't absolutely rely on Aunt Polly's asser- 
tion that this was so. He knew Aunt Polly. She was 
quite capable of multiplying the doctor's prescription 
of a small bottle of champagne into two large ones, and 
of adding the brandy while she was about it. It seemed 
an inordinately large order for an invaUd. Up there in 



MARTIN GETS A SHOCK 51 

the bedroom, how was he to know how the liquor would 
go f Besides, he had a conviction that Aunt P0II7 would 
derive much grim satisfaction from making him put his 
hand in his pocket for strong drink. 

He was in such a depressed state of mind when he 
went out that he passed the wine merchant's without 
noticing it. A little further on was the public-house 
adjoining the Peacocks'. He thought he might as well 
get what he wanted there. In the saloon bar a young 
woman, whose elaborate coiffure of straw-colored hair 
overawed him, languidly handed him what he asked for 
and watched superciliously while he stowed the bottles 
into his various pockets. He was poorer by the best 
part of a sovereign when he came out, his coat bulging 
suspiciously. 

Imagine his annoyance, therefore, when his eyes lit 
on the ineffable Peacock. The little unshaven man was 
standing on his doorstep thirstily surveying ''The 
Feathers." When he caught sight of Martin emerging 
from its convivial doors he was transfixed with astonish- 
ment. Martin almost bolted back again. 

''Bless my soul!" exclaimed Peacock, as he came for- 
ward. "Is it you, Leffleyt" 

Martin nodded moodily, and tried to pass on ; but Pea- 
cock stood in the way. 

"What's the matter!" he asked. "Anything 
WTongt" 

"Nothing to interest you." 

The grumpy reply did not shake Peacock off. He 
took it to mean that Martin did not like being caught 
issuing from a public-house. It also satisfied him that 
Polly's nephew was not the irreproachable teetotaler 



52 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

he pretended to be. He was not going to waste sucli a 
tactical advantage. 

''Sly dog!" he winked, and then put on an expression 
of preternatural wariness. ''All right. I'm mum. 
Shan 't give you away. Come on in again. ' ' 

Martin shook his head. "I'm in a hurry/' he ob- 
jected. 

Peacock was easily able to credit that. Had he been 
weighted down with several bottles of good liquor — ^the 
neck of one of them, bearing the heavenly device of a 
constellation, protruded from one of Martin's pockets — 
he, too, would have been in a hurry. 

"I don't mind if I come a bit of the way with you," 
he said ingratiatingly. 

"I'm going home, and I shan't be able to ask you in. 
My wife's ill. Aunt Polly's with her. She's going to 
stay the night." 

Peacock jumped to conclusions. "Oh, so you're all 
going to make a night of it!" 

"Nothing of the sort The — er — wine I've got here 
was ordered for my wife by the doctor. ' ' 

"Good Lord!" Peacock's face was a study. "D'you 
think he'd order me three-star brandy if I was took illt 
What's his addresst" 

"I don't remember. I can't stop now. Look here," 
said Martin in desperation, "if you're short of 
change " 



"I am— chronic." 
''Well " 



The half-crown change out of Martin's sovereign, the 
only coin he had left in his pocket, disappeared into the 
little man's unwashed paw. 



MARTIN GETS A SHOCK 58 

''Martin," he declared emotionally, ''you're a good 
feller. Go ' bless you ! See you later. ' ' 

The swing-door of "The Feathers" fell to behind the 
toper. Martin felt pretty sure he would see nothing 
more of him that night 



vn 



AT7MT folly's SERMON 

IN the days tiiat followed, Aunt Polly ruled at 17 
South Villas. Martin found it most unpleasant. 
When he was not ordered about he was ignored. He 
resented the loneliness forced on him, the necessity of 
getting his own meals, his obvious unimportance in the 
domestic scheme. 

Aunt Polly was also firm in preventing him seeing 
Bose. When he rebelled she flew at him. ''That was 
all the thanks she got for neglecting her business in 
order to do him and his wife a kindness ! The ingrati- 
tude of it!" Martin could hold his own with most 
people, but Aunt Polly was too many for him. She 
had an extraordinary capacity for putting a half-truth 
in a nutshell, and firing it off on the least provocation. 
He was never ready for this kind of offensive. It was 
like being sniped at. 

There is no knowing when he would have seen Bose 
but for the accidental absence of his aunt. A message 
came informing her that Peacock was making free with 
the contents of the shop and investing the proceeds at 
* ' The Feathers. ' ' Aunt Polly 's misfortune was Martin 's 
opportunity. The moment she was out of the house he 
stole up to the sick room. Bose was asleep, but with 
an infelicitous expression in her face, as though her 
dreams were not quite happy ones. Martin could see 

54 



AUNT POLLY'S SEEMON 55 

fhat she had been very ill. She had grown much thinner. 
He stood looking at her with mixed feelings. That she 
had escaped maternity through an accident was his chief 
thought. It provided him with a curious sensation that 
was something of a thrill of emotion, but still more a 
feeling of relief. Until his financial position had become 
more assured he was glad to have avoided the responsi- 
bilities of fatherhood. 

The creaking of his boots as he tiptoed about the 
room woke Rose up. Directly she saw who it was the 
troubled look left her face, giving place to one of blissful 
surprise. 

* ' I was dreaming of you, ' ' she murmured. " I 've been 
lying worrying how you were managing all this time." 

/'Silly girl," he mumbled, as he bent down and kissed 
her. *' Peeling better t You've given us no end of a 
time. Rose." 

"I'm so sorry, dear. You see, I — didn't know." 

**It mustn't occur again." 

''Oh!" She hid her face in the pinow. 

"We've married young," he went on, sitting on the 
edge of the bed; "but we mustn't be hampered with 
a family. At least, not yet." 

She did not argue with him. Whatever he decreed 
was right in her eyes. She was ready to be the fruitful 
vine or the barren fig-tree, whichever he wished. He 
was so wise. 

"After all, this ought to be a rest for you," he said. 

"I can't rest. I lie and worry. I wish Aunt Polly 
would let me get up. It's the day for waxing the 
linoleum; and to-morrow it's the flues." She looked 
distressed. "And what did you have for your dinner t ' ' 

"Bread and jam." 



56 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

He kept self -commiseration out of his ttme, but he 
made no effort to conceal a look of martyrdom. 

''Is that allf " she asked in a horrified tone. 

''I made some tea, but there was no milk." 

''Goodness!" She reached for the bowl of beef -tea 
that stood among the medicine bottles on her bed-table. 
"Take this," she urged. "I don't want it really. 
Please, do drink it!" 

"Sure you can't take itf" 

"I'm not hungry. You never get hungry lying in 
bed." 

As a matter of fact her appetite was returning. She 
knew it as she watched him taste the beef -tea. There 
was toast in it. He was very partial to broth and toast. 
He did not hurry over the delicacy. Between spoonfuls 
he told her of the chaos downstairs, and listened to her 
regret at being the cause of it. He was still sitting on 
the bed with the bowl all but empty when Mrs. Peacock 
unexpectedly came back. At sight of him she came to 
an indignant stop, and then with a quick movement 
snatched it out of his hand. 

"Well, I never did!" she exclaimed. "You're like 
a greedy dog eating up the cat's dinner ! Out you go ! " 

She drove him before her to the door, ignoring his 
protests as well as Rose's. When a last push had 
effected his exit and the door was shut in his face she 
turned on Rose. 

' * Giving him your invalid food ! What 11 you be doing 
nextf " she demanded. 

Rose's lip quivered. "He can't live on bread and 
jam. Aunt Polly. B-brain-workers want more." 

"Brain-worker indeed! W(Wmwi- worker's more the 
word. Why, I'd sooner have a husband like Peacock, 



AUNT POLLY'S SERMON 57 

who drinks, than one like Martin, who only thinkst 
It's no use your getting your dander up, my girl. I 
won't have him taking advantage of you. I told him 
he wasn't to see you yet awhile, and the moment my 
back's turned up he comes. The doctor knows what's 
best for you, and so do I, and I say I won't have it." 

Trading on the doctor's orders and her own auto- 
cratic will, she was as good as her word. For a week 
more Martin had a miserable time. A charwoman was 
imported iato the house to **do" for him, so that Mrs. 
Peacock might divide her time between Rose and the 
shop. The charwoman's cooking was deplorable. Mar- 
tin was unable to eat what she set before him ; and being 
too superior to cook for himself he had to put up with 
sardines and cheese and jam at nearly every meal. It 
made his mouth water to see the wholesome and delicious 
things that were taken up to Bose's room. Besides the 
champagne, she had jars of beef-tea and jelly, chicken 
and expensive-looking grapes. Martin worried about the 
cost of these delicacies, and at last summoned up courage 
to speak to Aunt Polly about them. 

''Of course I want Rose to have strengthening 
things," he said; ''but I hope you'll consider the ex- 
pense. I never like to have what I can't afford to pay 
for." 

"You're not asked to pay for them," rejoined Mrs. 
Peacock tartly. ' ' At least, not for the grapes and such- 
like. Mrs. Wybrow sent them." 

"Who's Mrs. Wybrow t" he demanded suspiciously. 

"The Vicar's wife. St. Gregory's." 

Martin was disturbed. His hatred of intemperance 
was only equaled by his abhorrence of "the Church." 
The goings on at St. Gregory's were the talk of his 



58 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

chapel-going world. At St. Gregory 's they had candles 
— ^tall Romish candles — ^incense, mass and other abom- 
inations. 

''If I'd known that I wouldn't have allowed it," he 
said nastily. "I object to being under obligations to 
those people. I " 

"Those people! That'll do, young Martin. And 
don't you start giving me advice. I belong to St. 
Gregory's myself; and seeing that your chapel folk 
didn't do anything I told Mrs. Wybrow I had a niece 
lying ill through her husband letting her whitewash 
ceilings when she was in a delicate state of health." 

Martin opened his mouth in protest, but Mrs. Peacock 
went on the louder : 

"And don't you say nothing against St. Gregory's. 
I've heard your remarks about the 'hellish reek of 
incense,' and I'm not going to listen to any more of it. 
It'd do your nasty chapel good if they used it there; 
though, if you ask me, a good wholesome disinfectant 
would be better. I tell you the incense at St. Gregory's 
on Sundays is that good it makes me forget the smell of 
old clothes all the week. Yes, and the bell that's rung 
before the bread and wine puts me in mind of the bell 
they ring before meals in gentry's houses." 

Martin's face was white with suppressed indignation. 
That's blasphemy!" he said in a shocked tone. 
Nothing of the sort! If the Almighty has a house 
— ^and the Bible says He's lots of them — ^it's only fitting 
there should be servants and bells and bowings as well. 
But there, you don't understand anything about gentry, 
and never will, as I've told you before. That's why 
I don't hold with your religion. There's no proper re- 
spect in it." (Mrs. Peacock gave a disparaging sniff.) 






AUNT POLLY'S SERMON 59 



II 



Shakin' hands with Qod and calling Him your Friend 
and Brother, like the Kaiser used to. Fancying your- 
selves and thinking yourselves the elect, mucky cocoa 
and all! That's blasphemy, if you like!" 

All this had been rankling in Aunt Polly's bosom for 
a long time. She welcomed the opportunity of unbur- 
dening her feelings. Martin had turned his back. He 
was staring out of the window, controlling his tongue 
between tight lips ; but he raged inwardly. 

'*I'm going to confession on Sunday," proceeded 
Aunt Polly, rubbing it in. 

Martin whipped round. 

**I want advice. I'm going to put before Father 
Wybrow about you and Rose: how you work her and 
how she'll fall ill again as sure as fate. Don't blame 
me for going to him. It's not a bit of use talking to 
you/' 

Martin writhed at the idea of his private relations 
with Bose being discussed by a stranger. That such 
confidences were to be made under the seal of confession 
aggravated the indiscretion into an offense against 
decency and religion. He felt he must put a stop to 
it at all costs, even though that meant humbling himself 
before Aunt Polly. 

*'I'm quite ready to hear what you have to say," he 
said with forced mildness. 

*'Then 111 say it. What help are you going to give 
Bose when she comes downstairs? Are you going to 
clean your own boots! I've noticed there hasn't been 
much shine about them since she was took ill. Are you 
going to do windows and flues t Are you going to cart 
up the coals of a morning? Not you! You wouldn't 
lift a finger so long as somebody else'd slave for you! 



60 IF WISHES WEBB HORSES 

You ought to have been a blackamoor — one of those 
heathens who takes to his bed when his wife has a baby, 
and makes her go on with the work. You ain't white 
at heart, Martin." 

Her tongue hurt him like a lash ; all the more because 
he knew that what she said had a substratum of truth 
in it. He had anticipated something of the sort from 
her, so he took it lying down. 

**What do you want me to do?" he asked placably. 

''Have a woman in regular for two or three hours 
every day." 

He thought of the state of the kitchen at that moment. 
The charwoman had left the range unblacked, the sink 
coated with filth, the crockery greasy and finger-marked. 
There was evidence of the dirt and disorder she had 
created wherever he looked. And for that she had had 
to be paid eighteenpence a day and regaled with two 
solid meals! He did some quick calculating. 

**Bose wouldn't put up with a charwoman any more 
than I should," he said. ''And if I did the rough work 
I should be tired out when I got to the office. You 
can't expect me to neglect the work by which I get 
my living. I must see if I can't think of some alter- 
native. ' ' 

To herself Aunt Polly had to admit there was some 
reason in this. If Martin could find an alternative, 
well and good. She saw that she had brought him to 
heel, and that mollified her. 

''P'raps 111 put oflE going to confession," she con- 
ceded. ' ' Depends on that alternative of yours, though. ' ' 



vm 



A FIRST STEP TO GENTILITY 



a J the morning when Rose felt well enough to get 
up she promised herself a busy day. She said 
nothing of her intentions to Martin ; in f act, she agreed 
to lie in bed until she had had her breakfast. He brought 
it up himself and left her eating it before he started 
for the office. Aunt Polly had gone to her own home 
the night before, and this was the first time he had been 
able to do anything for Rose without his aunt's super- 
vision. Partly because that was now withdrawn and 
especially because of the appetizing look of the break- 
fast tray, for which she gave him all the credit, Bose 
could not thank him enough for waiting on her. Martin 
accepted her gratitude as though it were his due, merely 
remarking : 

**Youll find a bit of a surprise when you get down- 
stairs. No, I can't stop to answer questions. Wait and 



see." 



He kissed her and departed. Bose thought she heard 
voices downstairs, but the sound of the hall door being 
shut came to her immediately, and she supposed Martin 
had been speaking to some one in the street. As she got 
out of bed and began to dress she distinctly heard move- 
ments in the house. Not unnaturally she connected 
Martin's vague hint of a surprise with those mysterious 
movements. She could not imagine what caused them, 

61 



62 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

and hurried. Every now and then she had to rest, as 
sudden weakness, due to her illness and several days in 
bed, assailed her. Her lack of strength disappointed 
her. She began to fear that she would not be able to 
undertake any work when she got downstairs. 
. All but dressed, she was sitting on the edge of the 
bed, when there came a knock at the door. The un- 
accustomed sound made her hold her breath. Then the 
door opened, and her astonishment was complete. 

A maidservant stood on the threshold. Not a slip 
of a girl such as she had seen at some of the front gates 
of thef more prosperous residents in the street, but a 
capable-looking young person in the twenties, in a neat 
print dress, white apron and cap. The cap, more than 
anything else, held Rose's gaze. It was not a mere 
rosette of muslin and make-pretense of the badge of 
servitude, tucked out of sight amidst a mass of hair, but 
a proper and simple cap without any false pride about 
it. It impressed her very little less than livery would 
have done, supposing she could have imagined herself 
being waited on by a manservant at all. The girl carried 
a small tray with a glass on it. 

'^Oood morning, ma'am," she said. ''I thought you 
might like a glass of egg and milk. I didn't know you 
were getting up.*' 

''Good morning. . . . Thank you," Rose stammered. 
''Who are youf I thought I heard some one down- 
stairs, but Mr. Le£9ey didn't say who it was." 

"I'm the new maid, please 'm — Jane. Mr. Leffley 
engaged me last night at the registry." She smiled 
pleasantly. "I'm sorry you've been ill, 'm. The kitch- 
en's quite straight and the brasses done and the front 



A FIRST STEP TO GENTILITY 63 

step. How much milk would you like taken in for the 
afternoon?" 

'*A pint and a half, please. And — ^and don't trouble 
to do any more." Rose was flustered and shy. ''I — 
I suppose Mr. Leffley engaged you by the day, until I'm 
stronger!" 

' ' Oh, no, 'm. I 've come a month on trial. The master 
said if I suited you I was to stay on. I'm sure 111 do 
my best, 'm." 

** Thank you." Rose felt terribly embarrassed and 
quite bewildered. '*It's rather a surprise. I've never 
had a servant, and didn't expect one," she added 
naively. 

She drank the egg and milk. It was nicely warmed 
and flavored with nutmeg. Jane took the empty 
glass. 

"Would you mind telling me what the master will 
have for his tea! He said he wouldn't be able to be 
in to dinner." 

" 1 11 see to that, ' ' said Rose. She did not intend to 
relinquish all her household duties at one fell blow, even 
if Martin had done such an amazing thing as to engage 
a servant. A servant ! The idea overpowered her. As 
she had said, she had never had a servant and, what 
is more, never expected to have one. So unused was 
she to the idea of being a mistress that she felt quite un- 
comfortable in the presence of the deferential and well- 
mannered young woman. She began drawing compari- 
sons between herself and Jane, and found herself coming 
to the conclusion that socially there could be little dif- 
ference in their position. A recognition of that fact 
prompted her next word& 



64 IF WISHES WEBB HORSES 

''And as he won't be in to dinner we may as well 
have it together — ^in the kitchen." 

Jane got a little red. 
/'Hadn't I better lay it for you in the parlor, 'mt" 

"Oh, no. That would be unsociable. I can't have 
you feeling lonely if you're going to stay with us." She 
gave Jane a bright smile, glad to have made it clear 
that she was no upholder of class distinctions. "We 
must work together and be friends," she went on. 
"Why, you're about my own age, aren't yout Twenty- 
onet" 

"Twenty, 'm." 

' ' Then I 'm a year older. ' ' 

After that Rose quite recovered her equanimity. It 
did not occur to her that she was adopting a particularly 
democratic attitude towards Jane, or one which Martin 
might object to. As yet. Rose had not assimilated Mar- 
tin's ambitions or even his worldly views. Directly she 
had recognized that Jane belonged to the same grade 
of life as herself she had no intention of treating her 
as an inferior just because she was "in service." Rose 
would probably have gone into service herself had her 
mother not needed her at home. Supposing Jane were 
to stay on, a matter that could not be decided until 
Martin came home, that would be no reason why she, 
Rose, should give up housework. She liked the idea of 
having the companionship and help of a girl of her own 
age during the hours when Martin was at the ofiSce. 

Her first sensation on getting downstairs was one of 
relief to find everything in spick and span order. Pres- 
ently came the almost unbelievable but gratifying reve- 
lation that housework could he accomplished without 
personal effort. She understood for the first time in her 



A FIRST STEP TO GENTILITY 65 

life what it felt like to be an employer of labor. The 
novel sensation of possessing a maid struck her as the 
height of luxury. 

There was nothing for her to do. Brass twinkled a 
welcome to her. The linoleum had a surface like. par- 
quet. The kitchen looked as if it had never been used. 
Even the window-plant in the front room had been 
watered. Jane seemed a marvel. No one but Martin 
could have made such a selection. Rose's loving heart 
swelled with pride in him. She thanked God for having 
given her such a husband. He had done this out of 
love and consideration for her. The thought made her 
feel unworthy of him, more humble of heart than ever. 
She would have been astonished had anybody told her 
that she underestimated herself and credited Martin with 
virtues which he did not possess. But then Rose was 
one of those gentle-hearted women who are bom to be 
dominated by a man of cold intellect. Hers was the 
individuality of small steady candle-light which is ob- 
scured directly it comes into proximity with the garii^ 
glitter of gas. 

So, without any loss of self -respect, she took dinner 
in the kitchen with Jane, and afterwards held counsel 
with her concerning a multitude of domestic details. 
With Jane's help, too, she prepared a particularly appe- 
tizing dish of macaroni for Martin's tea. Then she 
sat still and waited for him. There was nothing else 
to do. 

When he came in die was very nearly inarticulate 
in her endeavor to make him understand how gratified 
she was at his thoughtfulness in providing her with a 
servant. She was all demonstrative affection. Martin 
felt very pleased with himself. Here was Rose, well 



66 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

again, a competent maidservant in the house, and Aunt 
Polly once more at a safe distance. ''Rosalia," more- 
over, was making headway. That afternoon he had paid 
into the bank his first considerable share of the profits 
derived from it. Sitting now in the comfort of his own 
home with eversrthing once more going smoothly, he felt 
in the best of humors. 

**I thought you'd like Jane," he said. **Her char- 
acter was excellent. We're to pay her eighteen pounds 
a year, but I can afford that." 

Such wages staggered Rose. In her walk of life ten 
to twelve pounds were considered ample for a general 
servant. Then there was her keep : say a further fifteen 
pounds a year at least. And Martin appeared to regard 
the additional expense a trifling matter ! How could he 
possibly afford HI 

''Has anything happened? Has your salary been 
raised?" she asked, full of wonder. 

"No, not my salary. It's better than that. Money's 
coming in from 'Rosalia.' I had a check to-day from 
it. Thirteen pound six. My share on the sale of seven 
hundred dozen. And, mind you, that's only a beginning. 
The stuff's caught on. Grimwoods' are awfully pleased. 
Directly the hot weather begins they expect the sales 
will go up enormously. There 's no knowing what they 11 
amount to. That's why Mr. John asked me to lunch 
to-day. He took me to the 'Contadini.' Really it was 
a dinner — hors d'cRUvre" (Martin stumbled over the 
French words, Greek to Rose), "soup, fish, something 
like a small steak with sauce and vegetables round it — 
awfully good; camembert cheese and as much delicious 
French bread as you liked to take. There was a wine 
called Chianti, in a funny-shaped bottle done up in 



A FIRST STEP TO GENTILITY 67 

wickerwork. Of course I only drank water. And then 
we had black coffee. One-and-six each, without count- 
ing the wine and coffee, but of course Mr. John paid. I 
thought it wonderful at the price. We must go there 
one day." 

Bose's eyes had been growing rounder and rounder. 

'^ Martin! It sounds splendid! And 'Rosalia' tool 
I never thought . . .'* 

''I always knew it was a good thing. I shouldn't be 
surprised if it brought us in a regular income before 
long. That's why I engaged Jane." 

''Not altogether. You did it partly because of me. 
I know." She gave him a look of adoration. "You 
wanted me to take it easier. It was sweet of you, dear ; 
but directly I'm strong again I can do without a servant. 
I love work. Really I do. I should be lost without it. 
Not that it isn't nice to have a respectable girl in the 
house. It's company. Jane and I had dinner together." 

Martin stopped eating. If Rose had not been con- 
vinced that he was the best-tempered man on earth she 
would have seen that the expression on his face was one 
of intense annoyance. 

"You oughtn't to have done that," he said in a tone 
of suppressed irritation. "Servants should be taught 
to keep their place. It's a bad beginning. It mustn't 
occur again. You've got to think of your position." 

Rose 's face clouded over. 

"I didn't think you'd mind, Martin." After a little 
pause she said: "It isn't as if we were gentry." 

"We're gentry to her, or what comes to the same 
thing, a lot better than she is. But that's not the point. 
If we're to get on we've got to keep separate from her 
class. Money's the only thing that counts nowadays. 



68 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

I mean to have money ; but that won 't get me the posi- 
tion I want if you don 't learn to be a lady. * ' 

The harsh tone and the arrogance which it expressed 
made Rose wince. Martin, in this vein, was new to her. 

''Aren't you satisfied with mef ^' she asked in a trou- 
bled voice. 

''Of course I am. But I'm not going to be satisfied 
with staying on in a small semi-detached villa within a 
stone's throw of Aunt Polly all my life. I only think of 
this as a beginning — ^a small beginning." 

"It's like a nest. ..." Rose's lips trembled. *'I 
don't want anything better." 

"Yes, you do," he insisted; "only you don't realize 
it. You don't realize that I'm working for the future. 
If we're not gentry now we're going to be as good as 
gentry later on. What do you think I 've been educating 
myself for, except thatt A man with brains and ap- 
plication can get anywhere nowadays, even into Parlia- 
ment. Look at the Labor Party there. Not one of 
them's got more ability than I have, and most of them 
can't pronounce their h's. I don't make that mistake. 
And I'm not going to make the mistake of looking like 
one of them. Directly I can afford it I'm going to dress 
like a gentleman, and you're going to dress like a lady. 
We don't want flash things, but they must be good stuff, 
not ready-mades. Once upon a time a gentleman was 
known by his suit of armor. Now good clothes and a silk 
hat mean the same thing — ^the trappings of knighthood, 
so to speak. Wouldn't you like to be seen in silks and 
furs and hear people whisper as you pass, 'Her hus- 
band's M.P. for So-and-so'?" 

Rose shook her head. Such ambitions were quite 



A FIRST STEP TO GENTILITY 69 

beyond her. She lifted soft eyes to meet Martin 's hard, 
calculating ones. 

'*I'd rather hear them just say, * That's the wife of 
Martin Leffley, ' ' ' she answered humbly. 



IX 



MABTIN ENTERS THE FOUTIGAL ARENA 

ONCE Martin had let Rose into the secret of his 
ambitions it came easier to him to talk about them. 
He often did so now, telling her of what he hoped and 
meant to do. Talk helped to illuminate the road to 
success and to stiffen his determination to travel it. Hose 
got used to it. She thought of it as a sort of magnificent 
dream, a grown-up make-believe, like dressing up when 
you are a child and pretending to be somebody else. 

Of course she knew Martin was in earnest when he 
spoke so ardently of the future, but his talk of money 
and position and getting into Parliament never really 
moved her. Such prospects were not real to her. They 
might carry her away while she listened ; but so did an 
exciting novel, until she put it down to see to something 
in the kitchen. After all, she and Martin were quite 
young, and it was good for young people to have en- 
thusiasms. 

But Martin was very much in earnest. Talk was only 
his safety-valve ; it let off the steam of his superabundant 
energy: the real pressure within drove him along the 
political road. He attended meetings and got into touch 
with Organizations — ^those of the local Labor and Rad- 
ical parties. They both regarded him as an ''earnest 
young man." The reputation was easily acquired by a 
few helpful ''Hear, hears" and the occasional seconding 

70 



MARTIN ENTERS THE POLITICAL ARENA 71 

of a resolution that hung fire. Martin was never at a 
loss for words, and though his views at this period were 
expressed in hackneyed phrases they were not much 
worse than the torrent of platitudes which fell from the 
lips of his political associates. 

One night he made a speech at a Radical meeting. 
He had not gone to it with that intention, but in putting 
a question to the ''Chair" and getting an unsatisfactory 
answer, he let himself go in a rambling but fluent state- 
ment of his view of the matter under discussion. He 
was ''out of order" in speaking from the body of the 
hall, but his characteristic assertiveness secured him a 
hearing. It was something in the nature of a "rights 
of man" speech, and more truculent than he was 
aware of. 

When the meeting broke up he was accosted by one 
of its chief supporters, a man who had occupied a seat 
on the platform. All Martin knew of him was his name, 
that he was a well-to-do retail chemist and a person of 
prominence in local political circles. 

"Allow me to congratulate you on the remarks you 
made, my dear sir," he said, with a warm grasp of the 
hand. "Very able, very able indeed." 

Martin felt flattered. It was the first time the trite 
adjective had been applied to himself. To speak of a 
man as "able" was high praise among the local orators. 
They used it indiscriminately in eulogy of Cabinet 
Ministers and County Councilors. 

"Thank you, Mr. Liversidge," he said. "You can't 
say much in five minutes, though." 

Liversidge, who had no oratorical ability, thought 
differently. He envied Martin his gift of the gab. All 
he said was: 



72 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



tl 



Are we going the same wayf 

Bouth Villas lay in the direction of his own brand-new, 
red-brick dwelling, which contained twelve rooms and a 
conservatory and was called ''Myholme/' Martin fell 
into step with his new acquaintance. 

^'I'm a plain man," said the latter, when they had got 
out of the crowd surrounding the doorway, ^'and I hope 
you won't take offense if I say what's in my mindt The 
fact is, I want to give you a bit of advice. Don't take 
it if you'd rather not. It's well-meant, though. Now 
unless I 'm wrong — say straight out if I am — ^you 've not 
taken up with politics very longt" 

''To-night was the first time I've spoken." 

''So I thought. Not that what you said wasn't to 
the point. Quite the contrary. In fact, as I said before, 
your remarks were most able." 

Martin mumbled acknowledgment. He wondered 
what was coming. 

''Still, is it altogether wise of you to identify yourself 
so strongly with the policy of reaction t " 

"I wasn't aware r" 

"Just so. Nobody in a first speech quite does himself 
justice. I felt sure you weren't as socialistic as your 
words made out." 

"No, I'm not a Socialist. At least, not in the 
accepted sense." 

"Oh, we're all Socialists in theory/' admitted Liver- 
sidge speciously. "All Liberals, that is. Equal oppor- 
tunities and justice for everybody according to his posi- 
tion is a very proper view. But you went further than 
that, my young friend. You rather gave the impression 
of wanting to make an attack on the— ^r — commercial 
interests of the country. Mind you, I'm no supporter 



MARTIN ENTERS THE POLITICAL ARENA 73 

of vested interests. People who don't work for their 
living have no sympathies from me. I've been a hard- 
working man myself, and " 

**But," Martin put in, a little perplexed, *'my attack 
was only against vested interests: the land-owner, the 
mine-owner, and such-like." 

''Yes, but you didn't discriminate. Now take a man 
like me. I own chemist and druggist shops: a strictly 
cash business; small profits and quick returns. Well, 
I make a little money, and I have to invest it — ^a bit of 
land or household property here, a few shares in a good 
colliery there. You don't want to rob me, you don't 
want to tax me out of existence, simply because I invest 
legitimately?" 

Martin shook his head in polite negation. 

''And it's not only me; it's thousands of others in 
my position. I daresay I might even go so far as to 
include yourself. You're doing well at Grimwood 
Brothers, I understand — ^I know something about you, 
you see. Well, that'll lead to other things in time. 
You 11 get on and you'll make money. There aren't too 
many safe investments, mind you. Take land. It 
doesn't depreciate and it can't run away. It's safe. 
You'll want to buy your own house one day, and per- 
haps a little place in the country, or take an interest in 
a likely building estate. Well, you 11 want to keep it, 
whichever it is. Anyway, you 11 not want to see it taxed 
twenty shillings in the pound!" 

Among the hopes that Martin nourished was that of 
the possession, one day, of a house of his own. He had 
not dwelt on it unduly because of the many other aims 
that filled him. But now that Liversidge — a man of 
ripe commercial knowledge — gave it concrete expression. 



74 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

he had an uncomfortable feeling that he had allowed 
political ardor to clash with his private interests. For 
once in a way he felt rather an ass. He was debating 
the extent of this indiscretion when he suffered another 
mental shock. Coming towards them, under the glare 
of a street-lamp, he beheld Aunt Polly and her husband. 
Peacock was more than usually inebriated. He swayed 
about the pavement. He was unmelodiously whining 
the chorus of a popular song. 

A more ill-timed incident Martin could not conceive. 
It made him ashamed and indignant. How he was to 
avoid the disgusting encounter he did not know. Pea- 
cock was never too drunk to recognize his only respect- 
able relation-in-law. It was too much to hope that the 
Peacocks would pass on without speaking. Martin de- 
liberately averted his eyes. Beyond a glassy stare from 
the tippler and one of indignation from Aunt Polly 
nothing happened. The nightmare vision receded. Ap- 
parently Liversidge had not observed it. Still, it was 
all Martin could do to pick up the broken thread of their 
conversation. 

*'I wasn't altogether considering myself," he prevari- 
cated, without for a moment deceiving the astute trades- 
man. 

**No, no, of course not. But you must. You're mar- 
ried, and later on no doubt you'll have a family to con- 
sider. The women and the little children should always 
come first." (This in an unctuous tone.) *'We must 
consider those that come after us. And remember, God 
helps those who help themselves." 

'* It's difficult to reconcile our duty to ourselves as 
well as to others," admitted Martin. 

What he really meant was the difficulty of reconciling 



MARTIN ENTERS THE POLITICAL ARENA 75 

preaching with practice, which was just the dilemma 
Liversidge wanted him to appreciate. 

"It is," he rejoined. "It's the problem we've aU 
got to face, LefSey. I Ve had to straggle with it myself. 
Thank God, I've seen my way to solve it." 

Martin, very interested, was about to ask how when 
Liversidge changed the subject. 

"By the way," he said, "you don't attend my chapel 
— ^the new one in Marchmont Street? You ought to. 
Mr. Whipple, our minister, is very sound and extremely 
eloquent." He stopped and held out his hand. "I 
fancy we part here. I'm very glad to have made your 
acquaintance. We must see more of each other." 

"Thank you," said Martin. "I should like to." 

They said good-night, and Liversidge crossed the road. 

It had been a memorable evening to Martin, even 
allowing for the danger he had run in encountering the 
Peacocks. An encouraging impression of being on the 
borderline of good fortune pervaded him. His speech 
had gone well. It seemed to him to compare favorably 
with some others delivered from the platform. At any 
rate, he had showed no hesitation — ^none of the ha-ing 
and hum-ing so frequent with more experienced speak- 
ers. Much reading and his good memory had been of 
incalculable aid to his delivery. There were bits that he 
had quoted wholesale, the cream of the text-books. They 
had gone down as his own, and been received with that 
unanimous murmur of appreciation which is often more 
satisfying than vociferous applause. 

But what convinced him more than anything else that 
he had made a hit was the recognition Liversidge had 
given him. It gratified him immensely. He felt it had 
significance, though in what respect he was not sure. It 



76 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

was enough for the moment to know that a man of 
importance had gone ont of his way to be amiable. That 
he was the '^ biggest '"man in the locality, and the chief 
supporter of the Marchmont Street chapel was common 
knowledge. So was his influence in Radical political 
circles. To have interested Liversidge without seeking 
to do so was a distinct feather in Martin's cap. All the 
same, he could not help being puzzled by the wealthy 
chemist's unorthodox views concerning taxation. It was 
curious. 
Martin could not make it out 



AUNT POLLY TAKES OFFENSE 

ANY excuse was good enough for Peacock to delay 
putting on his collar of a morning. If he intended 
remaining at home he saw no necessity for wearing one 
at all. It constricted his neck. Perhaps that was why 
Mrs. Peacock insisted on his appearing in one when he 
went out. It might possibly diminish his thirst. 

At eleven o'clock on the morning after Martin's meet- 
ing with Liversidge, Peacock was still coUarless. It was 
a Saturday. The Sentinel, the leading newssheet of the 
district, appeared on that day, and it was Peacock's 
rule to make himself acquainted by means of its columns 
with local happenings. He had it outspread before him 
now. Mrs. Peacock was doing something over the 
kitchen fire. 

**Well, of all the !" Peacock's voice and his un- 
finished remark indicated stupefaction. 

''What's wrong nowt" demanded his wife without 
turning. 

**I s'pose there ain't tfvo Martin Leffleys?" 

* ' Let 's hope not. One 's enough. Why ? ' ' 

' ' It says here he 's made a speech. ' ' 

''Sort of thing he would do. Young Martin must 
have been bom talkin'." 

"But this here speech of his is printed!'' pursued 
Peacock in excited tones. "All about what he'd do 

77 



78 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

different to everybody else if he had his way ! Nearly 
half a column of it! That's why he had the dam cheek 
to pass us last night without stoppin' to offer me a 
drink!" 

Mrs. Peacock came and looked over his shoulder. 
Unlike Peacock, she was not impressed by seeing her 
nephew's name in print. She merely wanted to satisfy 
herself of the curious fact that anything he had said 
should have been considered of sufficient importance to 
be reported in a newspaper. Her opinion of Martin was 
a low one. In her estimation he was something of a 
pious fraud. 

''That's Martin, right enough/' she said disparag- 
ingly. **I'll run round directly and see what's the 
meaning of it all." 

She had the truculent look of one who meant to ''stand 
no nonsense" when she went out carrying the Sentinel 
folded tightly like a baton. Rose was surprised to see 
her so early in the day. 

"So Martin's got into the papers," was her opening 
remark. The sound of it seemed to imply he had got 
into trouble. 

Rose looked blank. Mrs. Peacock opened the paper 
and pointed out the column. 

"Didn't you know?" she asked. "No? Then 
read it. ' ' 

Rose took the paper. When she saw Martin's name 
she was first agitated, then awed, and finally overcome 
with pride. And he had told her nothing about having 
made a speech! How like his modesty! She was not 
at all surprised at his ability to make a speech. He 
was so clever, studying all sorts of things about politics. 
To see his dear name in the paper and to read his very 



AUNT POLLY TAKES OFFENSE 79 

own words was nothing less than rapturous. Every 
phrase he had used seemed to her the very pearls of 
wisdom. 

*'How wonderful of him ! " she exclaimed. 

''Wonderful?'' snapped Aunt Polly. '*If you ask 
me, he's getting too big for his boots. Speeehmaking at 
his age! What next? And a dirty Radical too!" 

A flood of indignant color came into Rose's cheeks. 

''I don't think you understand my Martin," she said 
with considerable asperity. ''And I don't tiiink you 
like him either." 

" It 's because I understand him that I don 't like him. 
I tell you what, my girl; if Martin isn't properly sat 
on hell grow into a nuisance. It's not so much the 
speechmakin' I object to, though all the same he's a 
regular windbag. Somebody's got to make speeches, I 
daresay, but who's he to set himself up to teach 
people?" 

Often as Mrs. Peacock had shown herself inimical to 
Martin, Rose had never known her so bitter in her de- 
nunciation of him. It nettled her. 

"I'm Martin's wife," she reminded the angry old 
woman. 

"More's the pity for you." 

"But why shouldn't he get on? And why are you 
so set against him? You're his own aunt. You ought 
to be doing your best to help him instead of standing 
in his way. His speech shows how clever he is. I'm 
proud of him for making it. There's not a word in it, 
either, about teaching people; but it shows plain 
enough that it's sensible men like him who are wanted 
to represent them." 

Even this temperate argument — one which Rose would 



pi 



80 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

not have been capable of expressing except under the 
influence of strong feeling^-nlid nothing to allay Mrs. 
Peacock's irritation. 

Him represent people!" she scoffed. ''He'd never 
represent anybody or anything except himself ! ' ' 
I can't think why you're so angry with him." 
Well, 1 11 tell you. And you can tell your precious 
husband. Last night in the street he was too stuck up 
to take any notice of me and Peacock. We passed him 
close as I am to you. Peacock fell off the curb with the 
shock, though I daresay he might have done that any- 
way. Martin saw us right enough. But because he was 
with Mr. Liversidge he went on with his nose in the 
air, much as to say we wasn't good enough to share the 
pavement with him. That's what riles me. Ashamed of 
his own relations I Silly of him too. I visits the Liver- 
sidges myself." 

It was a distinct grievance. Rose had to admit it 
to herself. Although Martin had not told her about 
his speech, he had mentioned having walked part of 
the way home with Mr. Liversidge. The circumstance 
had duly impressed her. Now its importance was very 
much discounted by Mrs. Peacock's assertion that she, 
too, was on visiting terms with the Liversidge family. 
Rose could hardly credit it. 

''Do you?" she asked in surprise. 

"On business. I buy their cast-offs. Next time I go 
there I '11 let them know I 'm Martin 's aunt. P 'raps it 11 
take him down a peg or two." 

"Oh, please don't," Rose begged. "I'm sure he 
couldn't have seen you last night. I'll tell him, and 
he'll come round and explain." 

"Oh, yes, he's good at explaining," was the unmol- 



AUNT POLLY TAKES OFFENSE 81 

lified rejoinder. "But he needn't put himself out to 
come round. What you can tell him, though, is that it's 
a mistake to put on swank. And there's another thing 
you can tell him: there's more money in the second-hand 
trade than meets the eye, but" — ^Mrs. Peacock paus^ 
long enough to let the words sink in — * * it won't come his 
way." 



XI 



REPORTED IN FUUj 

MARTIN'S silence about his speech was not due to 
any modest reticence, but because he had a small 
opinion of Rose's intelligence. She lauded everything 
he did, often without reason, and he was getting tired 
of what he considered her uncritical praise. It was a 
self-complacent attitude and it made him underestimate 
her. That she was not without a certain clear-headed 
sagacity was a discovery he was not to make until 
later on. 

Moreover, he had no expectation of seeing his speech 
in print. Remarks made by members of the audience 
were seldom recorded in the Sentinel. Last night, while 
under the glamor of excitement, and animated by Liver- 
sidge's affability, he had possibly overrated his oratorical 
effort. Now, in the cold light of morning, he was not 
so sure about it. He was, accordingly, all the more sur- 
prised when, on getting to his office, he opened the paper 
and made the gratifying discovery that he was reported 
in full. His step was very jaunty when he came in to 
dinner with the paper under his arm. 

''I've seen it," Rose said, in rather a lifeless tone, 
when he laid it before her. '*Aunt Polly brought it 
round." 

"You look annoyed. Has it anything to do with my 
speech?" 

82 



REPORTED IN FULL 83 

*'In a way, yes. I wish you'd told me about it your- 
self. I felt so silly not knowing what my own husband 



was doing." 

'*Do you mean that Aunt Polly was rude about it? 
I don't see why she should be. It isn't everybody 
who'd be reported first time he spoke." 

''She seemed to think you'd no call to go making 
speeches," said Rose, still seething with resentment 
against Mrs. Peacock and unconsciously venting it on 
Martin. 

**Don't say 'no call,' " he frowned. 

The correction recalled Mrs. Peacock's charge against 
him of wanting to "teach people." 

"I can only speak as I've learnt," she said a little 
crossly. "But it wasn't your speech that upset her so 
much as taking no notice of her and Mr. Peacock when 
you met them with Mr. Liversidge. Didn't you see 
them?" 

"Oh, that's it, is it? Of course I saw them. They 
took care I should. She was half -dragging that drunken 
brute along, and he was singing at the top of his voice. 
I did what any self-respecting man would do: I cut 
them. I wasn't going to be shamed more than I could 
help before Mr. Liversidge. What else did she say?" 

"She said lots. And she ended up by saying that I 
was to tell you there was more money than meets the 
eye in her trade, and that it wouldn't come your way." 

A thoughtful look came into Martin's face. 

"I've often fancied the old woman is better off than 
she pretends to be," he said. "I don't want to offend 
her. ..." He relapsed into reflective silence. 

Now that Rose had heard his version of the unpleasant 
incident she sided with him for ignoring his aunt and 



84 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

her husband. All her ill-humor disappeared. That she 
should have vented it on Martin surprised her. The 
psychology of complex emotions and their effects were 
too elusive for her simple mind. What filled it now 
was contrition. Martin had distinguished himself, said 
nothing about it, and in a manner of speaking turned the 
other cheek to Aunt Polly. She crossed the room and 
put her arms round his neck. 

''Oh, Martin, how wonderful you are!" she said. 
" I Ve been horrid. It was a beautiful speech. It 's made 
me ever so proud of you, dear, and I haven't given you 
a single word of praise. Oh, I do love you!" She 
kissed him strenuously. 

That night when Martin had settled down to his read- 
ing she sat with her mending-basket on her knees, stitch- 
ing and watching him. She was in her customary ador- 
ing frame of mind. She loved these silent hours. They 
permitted her to revel unobserved in a close scrutiny of 
her beloved. Ever3i:hing about him was perfect in her 
eyes. His unathletic figure had all the strength and 
grace of virile manhood. She was blind to the hard- 
ness of his mouth and the calculating expression of his 
eyes. She even thought his thick stubbly hair beautiful. 
The tinge of dull red in it shone in the lamplight. At 
these times, Rose, full of sentiment, always pictured 
herself in the years to come sitting at his feet with a 
heart full of love for a white-haired Martin. He was 
her very own husband. A gentle rapture pervaded her 
whenever she told herself that. 

As the clock on the mantelpiece struck nine Martin 
got up and put his books away. As a rule, he read 



it 



REPORTED IN FULL 85 

for another half -hour. Its non-observance on this oc- 
casion made her give him an inquiring look« 

111 just go round and see Aunt Polly," he said. 

I daresay it's rather dull for her being alone in the 
evening. Peacock's always at 'The Feathers' or some 
other low drinking house. I'd go and cheer her up 
oftener if she'd keep her tongue more under control." 

''You are an unselfish darling!" Rose exclaimed. 
She followed him out into the hall to help him on with 
his coat. As she kissed him good-by she added mentally : 
"I told her she didn't understand my Martin." 



HABTIN GETS A LESSON IN VALUES 

THOUGH the shutters were up, the gas was full on 
inside the shop. Amidst the chaos of old boots 
and clothes and deplorable-looking fumitore Mrs. Pear 
cock was busy over a packing-case. It contained odds 
and ends which she had bought at auction a few days 
previously. 

When Martin knocked at the door she left these things 
exposed while she went to open it. Although his visit 
was unexpected — ^never before had he turned up at this 
time of night — she showed no surprise. All the same, 
she thought she could hazard a fairly accurate guess 
at his reason for coming, assuming that Bose had re- 
peated her closing remark of the itiorning. 

''Well, you are in a hurry, I must say," she remarked 
equably. *'I haven't made my will yet." 

Martin's look of pained surprise availed him nothing. 
She was too full of guile herself to be deceived by it. 
And Martin she could read like a book. 

*'Your will?" he echoed. **I'm sorry you should 
imagine anything of the sort was in my mind. I've 
come round to explain about last night." 

** Explain away." A resigned look came into Mrs. 
Peacock's face. She sat down on the nearest bundle 
and folded her arms. ''Tou can make speeches at 
public meetings and fill folks up with long words; but 

86 



MARTIN GETS A LESSON IN VALUES 87 

no amount of that sort of soft sawder will make me 
believe you didn't see me and Peacock when you were 
walking along of Mr. Liversidge. Peacock wasn't a 
credit to me just then, I daresay; but that's no reason 
why you shouldn't have given your respectable aunt 
a hand home with her unfortunate husband." 

Martin had come prepared to assert entire uncon- 
sciousness of having seen either his ''respectable aunt" 
or her "unfortunate husband." With anybody else he 
would have made such a denial unblushingly and prob- 
ably convincingly. But after the uncompromising way 
in which his aunt had tackled him, he saw the futility of 
subterfuge. The only thing to do under the circum- 
stances, he decided, was to speak the truth and trust 
that she would believe it. 

*'I'm very sorry. Aunt Polly," he said. '*I did see 
you both. I was so ashamed of Peacock's state that I 
simply didn't know which way to look." 

**0h, you weren't in any doubt where to look. You 
looked the other way. It strikes me you're the sort 
that if you'd lived in the New Testament you'd have 
been like Bible Peter and denied the Lord three times. 
Only you wouldn't have wept about it when the cock 
crew. Not you!" 

The simile was too candid — and to Martih's mind too 
blasphemous — ^to take notice of. 

' * I 'm really sorry, ' ' he repeated. 

Aunt Polly let it go at that. She had extracted an 
apology, and although she did not altogether believe 
in its genuineness she was sufficiently mollified to re- 
frain from further contesting the unpleasant incident. 
A short pause, in the nature of an armistice, ensued. 



88 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

*'So you're playing up to old Liversidge," she re- 
marked presently. 

*'Not at all/' he objected. **He went out of his way 
to speak to me, and invited me to walk part of the 
way with him." 

"That's odd. . Wonder what fort" 

Martin ignored the unflattering problem. Casting 
about for a subject of conversation that would not 
result in unsatisfactory argument, his eyes fell on the 
objects that Mrs. Peacock had been unpacking. They 
consisted of a pair of ormolu candlesticks, one broken; 
two blue-and-white Nankin ginger-jars ; a Sheffield plate 
tray and snuffers; some mezzotints and a color-print. 
Of none of these subjects had he any knowledge. 

''You don't generally deal in things of that sort, 
do youT" he asked. 

The shrewd look she gave him was plainly meant to 
discover whether he knew anything about antiquities. 

''Like them?" she asked in return. 

"Can't say I do. Too old and dirty for me. That 
candlestick could do with a good brass polishing." 

Mrs. Peacock gave a supercilious grunt. 

"That's ormerloo, that is," she asserted, "and worth 
fifty shillings by itself, not counting the broken one." 

"You're joking!" 

"All right; think so if you like. But fifty shillings 
is what any dealer would be willing to give me for it." 

Martin looked more closely at the candlestick. Under 
the dirt that coated it the highly-finished chasing would 
have been observable to the trained eye. He could find 
nothing to admire in it. 

"What's ormerloo?" he inquired. 

"A French word, meaning gilt. 



79 



MARTIN GETS A LESSON IN VALUES 89 



it 






He was still unimpressed. 

''Mean to say you don't know anything about an- 
tiques f Aunt Polly demanded. 
Can't say I do." 

Op old Nankin! Or old prints!" She indicated 
them. ''Well, I didn't think there was anybody with 
any gumption who didn't, nowadays. And you a reader 
of books!" 
He picked up a ginger-jar. 
What's this worfli, then!" 
Three pounds is my price for it." 
But surely you didn't give anything like that for 
it!" 

"What I gave for it is my business." Mrs. Peacock's 
mouth shut with a snap. 
The values mentioned were arousing Martin's interest. 
But who buys them ! " he asked. 
People who know good things when they see 'em. 
Mr. Liversidge among the rest." 

"Oh, really!" Mrs. Peacock could not have men- 
tioned a name more likely to stir him to a proper appre- 
ciation of antiques. He did a quick mental sum in pro- 
portion. If it was good enough for Liversidge to invest 
in such things it would be well worth his own while 
to do the same. His aunt watched the speculative ex- 
pression in his face. She thought the opportunity a good 
one for increasing her prestige. Martin must be made to 
see that other people had their importance as well a^ 
himself. 

"I s'pose you thought I got my living by dealing in 
old clothes!" she sniffed. 
Don't you!" he queried. 
Oh, I deal in old clothes right enough. They pay 









90 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

the rent of the shop and keep Peacock in drinks. But 
it's the antiques that bring the real money in." 

**Have you always dealt in ihemV 

**A good few years. I daresay I could retire on what 
I've made out of them, if I cared to." 

He was thunderstruck. He understood now why she 
had given him the impression of being a woman of 
means. Her independent manner was accounted for 
by the possession of money. . . . And then came the 
thought, cold and depressing, of what she had said to 
Rose: her money wouldn't come his way. He gave her 
a furtive glance, trying to estimate her age. She might 
be fifty-five; perhaps sixty-two or three. . . . 

He stayed a few minutes longer talking casually of 
one thing and another. Then he said good-night and 
went out. 

But in the dark of the street he stared at the shuttered 
shop, hating her. 



XTTT 

AND ANOTHER LESSON IN POLIOY 

THE three years during which the LefSeys lived in 
Bouth Villas saw great changes in Martin's for- 
tunes. In the first place, '^Rosalia," now floated as a 
limited company, was earning big dividends. Martin's 
holding in it brought him in £200 a year. He was also 
a junior partner in Grimwood Brothers. His share of 
the business came to no more than he had received 
before his promotion, but the change was all to the 
good. It took him out of the ranks of the employed into 
those of the employers. 

These better times brought about a noticeable im- 
provement in the appearance of the young couple. Mar- 
tin now wore good clothes. In the old days he had 
been obliged to content himself with ready-made suits 
and to trust to time to adapt them to his figure. Lat- 
terly he had been able to go to a tailor who made to 
measure. The day came when he went to chapel in a 
frock coat and a silk hat, the outward signs of worldly 
progress and spiritual soundness. 

Bose, too, reflected the family prosperity by dis- 
carding the apron she had been in the habit of wearing 
all day long. Now she came down to breakfast in a 
neat blouse and skirt, and afterwards did a little lei- 
surely dusting in the front room — renamed the drawing- 
room. She only went into the kitchen to superintend 

91 



92 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

or to concoct some special dish for Martin's dinner. 
She could wear her diamond engagement ring and an- 
other which Martin had since given her without incon- 
gruous effect. Sometimes she missed the old simplicity 
and unpretentiousness, but she did her best to live up 
to the new order of things. She had afternoon tea, 
and called upon her neighbors. 

Socially, the LefSeys had made great strides. They 
were on friendly terms with the Liversidges, and had 
got to know the families of other well-to-do tradespeople. 
Martin and the prosperous chemist were particularly 
intimate. The latter had taken his young friend in 
hand and superintended his political education. 

For Martin needed a political mentor. Like all those 
who rise from the ranks, or want to, his difKculty had 
been how to reconcile his contempt of the latter with 
his hatred of the upper classes. As one of the people 
he had no alternative but to begin by identifying himself 
politically with the people. But the bond irked him. 
He was convinced he had the brains of those on the 
higher plane, and he had no real sympathy with the 
masses. It was Liversidge, long past the inexperienced 
stage of political scrupulousness, who taught him the 
virtue of necessity, showed him how to run wiih the 
hare and hunt with the hounds. 

He did it with considerable subtlety. At his instiga- 
tion Mrs. Liversidge invited Mr. and Mrs. Le£9ey to 
dinner. Seven-thirty was the hour named, and Martin 
and Rose were immediately in a dilemma as to the 
proper clothes to wear. Would the Liversidges expect 
them to be in evening dress? It would be very trying 
if they made the mistake of appearing in the wrong 
things. Martin possessed a suit of dress clothes. He 



AND ANOTHER LESSON IN POLICY 93 

had only worn it once at a public dinner. In the end 
he decided on going in his frock coat. Hose's dress, 
a blue silk summer one, turned down at the neck, was 
a compromise about which she had less misgivings. 

Martin was accordingly very uncomfortable when he 
found Liversidge in a swallow-tail coat and a white 
tie. He saw he had made a social blunder. It took 
all his host's cordiality to put him at his ease. It 
seemed to him that the parlormaid eyed him disparag- 
ingly. Every time he looked at Liversidge he felt an 
unpleasant inferiority. It even put him at a moral 
disadvantage when, dinner finished and his hostess and 
Bose had retired, he was left alone with the master of 
the house. 

With his political views still in flux, Martin had lately 
been expressing them publicly with some of the strenu- 
ous indefiniteness that had marked his first speech. 
Liversidge began by a little gentle reproof on what he 
called his indiscretion. He once more maintained that 
Martin was going too far. 

'^But what can I do?" Martin demanded. ^'I feel 
most strongly about class distinctions. The poor man 
hasn't a chance. Look at the public services. From 
top to bottom they're filled by the upper classes, irre- 
spective of ability. Natural ability by itself hasn't q 
chance. The country's governed by well-bred nincom- 
poops. I've been to the House and listened to the 
speeches there. Leaving out the Labor members, they're 
all delivered in a superior haw-haw tone. I'm told it's 
the Oxford manner. It makes me sick! It makes me 
want to fight its insolence. Why should there be a 
privileged class at all f" 

''I know how you feel," Liversidge responded. ''I 



94 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

was the same once. But I've got over it. It don't 
help to let your feelings get the better of you. There 's 
one thing you mustn't do if you want to get on: you 
mustn't get shirty with the upper classes or their way 
of talking. Anyhow, you musta't show it. That's 
where they have the pull over people like us. They 
don't get excited and they hardly ever lose their tem- 
per." 

"Well, what do you advise thent" 

Liversidge drew at his cigar for a while. 

"Of course it's a fight between us and them," he 
answered thoughtfully. "It always has been. There 
was Wat Tyler, and the Chartists, and the Stuart Revo- 
lution. The working-classes got their own back then, 
but it didn't last. The toffs always have the best of it 
in the end. And why t Because of the very thing that 
gets your back up so— the Oxford manner. Its only 
another name for confidence — ^the confidence of those 
that have the power. You may take it there's always 
been an 'Oxford manner' with the ruling classes. Moses 
had it, I daresay. How's it got? Education and ex- 
dusiveness. " 

Martin fidgeted in his chair. This was only a demon- 
stration of an objectionable state of affairs, not advice. 
Liversidge saw his irritation and held up his hand, ask- 
ing for patience. 

"There's nothing like getting at the truth of things," 
he said. "Then you know how to deal with them. I 
could give you examples from my business. But let's 
stick to the point. Education and exdusiveness. Two 
great advantages. You agree, ehY Well, the first isn't 
bavond us and the other don't matter. Education's 



AND ANOTHER LESSON IN POLICY 95 

coming, if it hasn't come already. It only wants dis- 
ciplining." 

Martin mnmbled something about time. 

''Tes, I know it's a question of time. Sort of evolu- 
tion. You can't hurry a thing like that. If you do you 
spoil it. As for ezdusiyeness it doesn't count thaV 
— ^Liversidge snapped his fingers contemptuously — ^''in 
face of money. There's an aristocracy of trade rising 
up with more exdusiveness in it — a more powerful ez- 
dusiyeness — ^than what the nobility ever had. What's 
a duke with a paltry fifty thousand pounds a year com- 
pared with Cadbury or Lever with millions bringing 
them in from ten to twenty per cent.t Which of 'em's 
got the power t I tell you, the power 's come to the big 
trader — ^to dry goods, to meat-extracts, to oil, as well as 
to bacon and soap. It's come to pills and emulsions and 
ointments; and soon it's coming to the retail chemist. 
He's only got to import largely himself at dumping 
prices instead of going to the home producer.'' 

''But that isn't good i>olitical economy," ventured 
Martin. ''It means money going out of the country." 

"Then let it go, say I. Am I to refuse good Qerman 
drugs because they're cheaper than home-made onesf 
If the English manufacturer won't or can 't compete with 
Germany it's his own lookout. I should be a fool to 
be patriotic at the expense of my pocket ! ' ' 

''I see that; but where do I come int" 

Liversidge bent forward and laid a finger impres- 
sively on Martin 's knee. 

"Hasn't it struck you that the commercial dasses 
want men like yourself to represent them politically T 
Don't you see the opening for Ueutenants of industry! 



96 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

So far, labor's the only section properly organized — 
in Parliament." 

The significance of the words were not lost on Martin. 
They meant that he might aspire to a seat in Parlia- 
ment in the interests of a class controlling more wealth 
and power than any other in the country. They also 
hinted that Liversidge was a mouthpiece of that class. 

"Yes, I see that," he stammered. ''But — ^but" — 
the white expanse of Liversidge 's shirtfront and his 
dress clothes almost destroyed his confidence — ^"how 
could I afford to think of Parliament? Of course, I 
feel competent enough — ^as competent, that is, as many 
other men who've got in," he went on, anxious not to 
cheapen himself. ''In fact, I may say, getting mto 
Parliament has always been in my mind. Still, it's a 
question of money, Mr. Liversidge." 

"If the Trades Unions can pay their members so 
can we. Look here, Leffley, it's early yet to go into 
that. Think it over. You've got a lot to learn first, 
and to remember the interests you'd have to represent.'* 

"I dont see that they'd be against my convictions," 
said Martin, easily convinced that they would not. 

And then it was that Liversidge presented a political 
platform for his young friend. 

"They'd be your own interests: the raising up of 
the masses; putting a check on the power of the nin- 
compoops you were speaking of. Both results can be 
brought about without creating friction between labor 
and capital. That's what wants avoiding most — ^trade 
disputes. What comes of them? The curtailing of 
business and impoverishment of the working classes. 
Absolutely nothing else. Now I ask you, LefSey, what 
can a working man live on comfortably?" 



AND ANOTHER LESSON IN POLICY 97 

''It never cost me more than seventeen-and-six a 
week." 

'^And few of the single ones get less than twenty- 
five shillings. What do they do with the difference? 
Spend it on beer and dissipation. As abstainers — ^you 
and I — ought we to countenance a Tninimum wage of 
thirty shillings a week when we know that over a 
third of it would go in drink T* 

Martin shook his head in vigorous negation. 

''Well, what I say is that the working man's got to 
be educated out of his wasteful and pernicious habits. 
Not in so many words, of course. If you take him 
to task about what he's always been used to he won't 
listen. You've got to manage him a cleverer way than 
that. You've got to bring it home to him that what 
stands in his way is the want of education; that it's 
education that gives the upper classes their hold over 
him — ^keeps him down, keeps hinx poor. You've got 
to preach a crusade in favor of the education of the 
masses. Not only Council-school teaching, but some- 
thing as good as university education, and paid for out 
of the rates. You've got to make him see that it's only 
when he 's on the same educational level as the man with 
' the Oxford manner ' that he '11 be worth as many pounds 
as he is shillings at present. " 

Martin 's sharp eyes rested for a moment incredulously 
on his well-fed, comfortable-looking host. 

"Wouldn't it take generations to bring about that 
result?" he asked. 

"Very likely," replied Liversidge, calmly sucking at 
his cigar. "But think how good it would be for trade 
in the meantime." 



XIV 



AND AflSnnTfATBS WHAT HB LEABNB FROM BOTH 

NEITHER Martin nor Liversidge had any illusions 
about each other. A very little reflection satisfied 
the former that his wealthy friend's interest in the 
working classes was assumed the better to enable him 
to exploit them, nor was he at all shocked by this dis- 
covery. Its wiliness appealed to him. Like a piano 
string, the streak of craft in his own nature instantly 
vibrated to the artful note struck by Liversidge. 

Clever in a way as Martin might be, he was no match 
for Liversidge. The chemist had made a study of using 
men and getting the most out of them at the least 
possible expense to himself. It was that gift of selec- 
tion which, properly employed, benefits the chooser and 
the chosen alike, but which prostituted to business pur- 
poses drops to the level of sweating with all the profit 
to the sweater. What Liversidge paid for plate-glass 
windows and the mahogany fittings of his many shops he 
took out of his employees' wages. The more he econ- 
omized in this way the more he spent on decoration and 
advertisement. He bought cheaply, principally in the 
German market, because he bought largely, and though 
he undersold his smaller competitors his profits were 
larger than theirs. There was no waste in Liversidge 'a 
system of trading. 

98 



AND ASSIMILATES WHAT HE LEARNS 99 

He had long seen that Martin's abilities might be 
made of value to the oommercial plutocracy to which 
he belonged. He had no intention of making his pro- 
tege's fortune, or anybody else's for that matter. It 
was only a question of getting work done at the least 
cost, in other words, of securing Martin at considerably 
less than he was worth. So he began by flattering his 
vanity and impressing him with the importance of the 
interests which it was proposed he should represent. 
All the while Martin lacked capital of his own, while 
he was unfamiliar with the principles of commercial 
exploitation, he would remain a profitable investment. 
When in time he discovered these things he could be 
dropped in favor of a cheaper man. That was only 
business. 

In a dim way Martin saw all this. He took it for 
granted that Liversidge had no philanthropic views 
on his behalf. Deep down within him he entirely ap- 
proved of playing on the credulity of the masses. He 
had the satisfaction of knowing that the offer made 
him was a tribute to his merits. Also, the position 
squared with his ambitions. Liversidge, he knew, was 
associated in business with a lot of ''big" people, 
knighted Captains of Industry. He had, for instance, 
heard his name connected with that of Sir Alfred Gam- 
mel, the millionaire storekeeper. Another associate of his 
was Sir James Witt, the contractor, a man who had once 
been a dustman and who had risen to wealth out of the 
by-products of household refuse. There were others, 
soap and cocoa manufacturers, jam and sweetmeat mak- 
ers, dyers and cleaners, sardine and soup canners — ^the 
purveyors of the countless conmiodities one sees adver- 
tised in all the newspapers and on every hoarding. To 



762951 A 



100 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

be ''in'' with these people had a great fascinatibn for 
Martin. 

Of course he saw through the education dodge. At 
first it had rather staggered him. To cite the lack of 
education as an argument against strikes and the keep- 
ing down of wages was a height of casuistry to which, 
by himself, he would never have dared to aspire, even if 
he had had the boldness to devise it. He saw the* 
feasibility of such a policy. Properly carried out it 
would have an air of great genuineness. That was 
what he liked most about it. He saw the value of ' ' Educa- 
tion" as a crusade, with himself as its ostensible pro- 
tagonist. It would put him on a higher political plane 
than the men who only preached" the customary eco- 
nomics. It would give him an ethical advantage over 
them. He had often noticed that all the public men who 
were strong on education were respected. He rather sus- 
pected that a good many of them used education with 
that object. And it was such a cheap way of getting 
oneself thought well of. That was another reason why 
he took such a liking to it. 

But the pedagogic strain in him had a good deal to 
do with the predilection. As Mrs. Peacock had often 
remarked, he gave people the impression that he was 
out to teach them. That was peculiarly annoying to 
those who did not want to be taught. Peacock, for 
instance, resented the tone of a succession of speeches 
which Martin made about this time. They all concerned 
education and its advantages. Peacock read them in 
the Sentinel. At least, after reading the first one he 

r 

did no more than glance at the others — glance and 
sniff. 
And when Martin made his next duty call, with an 



AND ASSIMILATES WHAT HE LEARNS 101 

eye to propitiating his aunt and to learn something 
more of the trade in antiques, Peacock rallied him on 
these speeches. 

*'What are you doin' it fort" he asked. ''What's 
the good of education, anyway?" 

Martin said he was trying to be helpful to the masses, 
and explained some of the advantages of knowledge, 
but without convincing Peacock in the least. 

"There's money in it, I s'poseT" 

Martin shook his head. 

"Don't understand it. Far as I can see, it don't 
do you no good, nor anybody else. It's not as if you 
was one of those professor chaps paid to jaw about 
dictionaries and what not. You're in the temperance 
drink trade. Why don't you stick to itt" 

Here Aunt Polly joined in: "I can't think where 
you get it from, Martin. Readin' and writin' was good 
enough for your father and mother, same as it is for 
Peacock and me. Them Board schools, where you was 
brought up, has a deal to answer for, teachin' boys 
Latin and Science, and girls the planner. But that 
ain't enough, accordin' to you. Everybody's got to leave 
off eamin' their livin' and stuff 'emselves full of book- 
knowledge. Seems to me trade 'd be at a standstill if 
you had your way." 

Martin found it difficult to explain his motives. To 
talk altruism to the Peacocks would have been useless. 
They wouldn't have believed him. He saw they were 
suspicious, wondering, if he got nothing out of it, what 
his object could be. 

"They say charity begins at home," Aunt Polly 
remarked. "Same with education, I s'pose. Are you 
goin' to have a governess for Bosef " 



it 



102 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

''It's the younger generation I'm thinking of/' he 
rejoined. 

''That's a blessing," mumbled Peacock. "Makes you 
glad you're gettin' on in life." 

"You're seein' a good deal of the Liversidges just 
now, I hear," said Aunt Polly ineonsequently. 
We go there sometimes," Martin admitted. 
Was it him as put you on to this education stuntt" 
inquired Peacock. 

"Well, he's naturally interested in the subject. Of 
course, every one who has the welfare of the people at 
heart must be." 

Peacock snorted. "I know all about Liversidge. 
All the welfare he has at 'art he wants for himself. 
A teetotaler like him don't do things without hopin' 
to make something out of it. F'rinstance, it's a hund^^d 
to one he sells you the chemicals for that strikernjie 
drink of yours. As for this here education it's all talk. 
Talkin' makes me thirsty." 

He got up, making noises with his tongue, and pres- 
ently passed into the shop. A moment later he returned 
and said to his wife : 

' ' That chap what has the walnut chest says he 11 take 
three pounds for it. I told him to bring it round." 
Then he disappeared for good, presumably in the direc- 
tion of "The Feathers." 

To be discredited by his own relations was no new 
experience to Martin. He had almost anticipated that 
he would be, so he consoled himself for Peacock's rude- 
ness by remembering how seldom a man can expect to be 
a prophet in his own country. So far, his good faith 
on the educational question had not been impugned in 
any other quarter. The Peacocks, after all, did not 



AND ASSIMILATES WHAT HE LEAENS 103 

constitute his world; he was even inclined to think he 
had overestimated his aunt's knowledge of the antique 
business. She had gone into the shop, and Martin, 
watching from the doorway, found it difficult to believe 
that its piles of debris could represent anything of value. 
Still, there was the old woman's cryptic insinuation 
about the money she would leave behind her. How was 
that to be explained? 

Just then a man drew up a handcart at the open 
door. On it was a carved wooden chest. It was grimed 
with dirt and age ; one of its lower comers was broken 
off. To Martin it looked mere lumber. He would not 
have put it in Jane's bedroom. 

When the man, after much exertion, had brought 
it into the shop and been paid for it. Aunt Polly stood 
over it, rubbing her hands complacently. 

Ever heard of Glenevra, Martin?" she asked. 
No, whyt" 

Young woman who hid in a chest on her weddin' 
day, and never was seen no more. Saved her some 
trouble with husbands, I reckon. Might have been a 
chest like this one, too." 

"Three pounds seems a lot to give for it," ventured 
Martin. 

**I wouldn't have give three pounds if I could have 
got it for less," said Aunt Polly, with a smile so subtle 
that Martin could not help pondering on it when he 
went away. 

That week he happened to be in the West End where 
something in a shop window attracted his attention. 
Among a number of antiquities of evident value was 
Aunt Polly's chest. He couldn't be mistaken about it. 
Certain peculiarities of the carving were fresh in his 



it 



104 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

memory, and the broken lower comer was there as 
well. After a little hesitation he went in and inquired 
the price. 
It was thirty guineas! 



BOTH FEET ON THE LADDBB 

WITH a discreet nudge Liversidge directed the at- 
tention of the man next to him to the speaker 
who had just risen. It was Martin. Besides these three, 
there were a dozen others on the platform. 

The air of the hall was close. Among its audience of 
several hundreds, working men predominated. The 
meeting had been convened ostensibly to protest against 
certain Government measures. In reality it was but 
one of several gatherings which tiie Liversidge party 
had been recently inaugurating with the object of fur- 
thering their covert war against the wage-earner. 

The chemist's companion watched Martin intently. 
He had come for that purpose. He was middle-aged, 
of prosperous appearance, and he gave the impression 
of being a successful business man ; which he was. 

As a public speaker Martin by this time had greatly 
improved. He had an easy delivery and he was free 
from the irritating habit of repetition. Nobody could 
have guessed that every word he uttered had been 
carefully committed to memory beforehand. Always 
able to learn anything by heart quickly he now relied 
entirely on his memory. It was a gift that permitted 
him a choice of expression and a consecutiveness of 
argument that not only suggested eloquence above the 
average, but gave many a platitude the value of origi- 

105 



106 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

nality* In consequence, many people spoke of his ora- 
torical abilities and some thought him scholarly. 

Now as always his theme was the social defenseless- 
ness of the working classes. It gave him the sympathy 
of his audience from the outset. A carefully calculated 
note of compassion was in his voice as he dealt with the 
conditions of labor, suppressed feeling in every illustra- 
tion that he gave to prove the disabilities by which 
the toiler is surrounded. To the mind of all present 
his tone and manner left no doubt that his championship 
of the poor and oppressed was a heartfelt one. To point 
his arguments he relied on bathos and Biblical metaphor 
whenever he could. It was when he came to speak of 
the distress caused by constant friction between em- 
ployers and employed that his scriptural parallels came 
most into play. He had to thank the many years of 
close and constant' attendance at chapel for the effect 
these gave to his words. They provided him with end- 
less touching similes that went straight to the emotions 
of an unsophisticated audience, and often discounted 
the criticism of a more enlightened one. Martin had 
early gauged the value of such appeals. In an unctuous 
reference to the sorrows of ''the women and the little 
children '' and the effect of pious beneficence which they 
created he had nq superiors on a public platform. 

That was the point at which he always went on to 
discountenance economic strife. He did so now. He 
drew a subtle distinction between those who exploit 
labor in order to create what he called waste- wealth, and 
tiiose who employ it legitimately in commercial enter- 
prise. The text was Liversidge 's but the sermon was his 
own. In the one case, the profits, he maintained, were 
locked up or only partially spent for the self-gratifica- 



BOTH FEET ON THE LADDEB 107 

tion of the few ; in the other, a continnal reinvestment 
was occurring so that the major portion of it came 1)ack 
to the people. The former section were the enemies of 
labor; tilie latter its benefactors. It was also a mistake 
to be antagonistic to such large employers of labor as 
railway companies and mine-owners. It was obvious 
from the small dividends derived from such concerns 
that they paid a fair wage. Even the land-owner was a 
much-maligned person, and for the same reason. The 
waste of wealth did not lie with any of these ; it lay with 
a system by which the people's money, the accumulated 
funds of the country, were controlled by a select few who 
took care to keep it in their own hands. These were 
the parasites that fed on the blood and bone of the 
working classes — ^the countless overpaid bureaucrats who 
swarmed in the public ofSces and were the recipients 
of endowments under a State church. All these posts 
were sinecures, deliberately created for the support of 
the younger sons of the aristocracy. But that was not 
all. Free state-insurance, denied to the masses, had for 
centuries been provided for their betters in the guise 
of national armaments and pensions. The Army and the 
Navy were nothing else than a Tom Tiddler's ground 
for the idle rich. The people paid millions for these two 
services — services which had been instituted solely to 
provide lucrative posts for men who were incapable 
of earning their bread by honest toil. 

A hearty roll of applause gave Martin time to men- 
tally con his next point. So far, what he had said was 
the usual claptrap subtlety twisted to distract atten- 
tion from the methods of monopolists like Liversidge. It 
meant that Martin had been properly disciplined. 

And what qualification was required of this legion 



108 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

of bloodsuckers f lie demanded. One only — education; 
the advantage of a training at public schools and uni- 
versities from which the masses were carefully excluded. 
What working or middle-class man had a chance of get- 
ting his son into Eton or Harrow or Rugby? He could 
not afford the heavy fees demanded at any of them. 
For the same reason, Oxford and Cambridge were barred 
to him. And if a man had not passed through this par- 
ticular apprenticeship he could hardly hope to get into 
the Government service, the law, or the Church, or rise 
to a commission in the Army or Navy, or be employed 
in any lucrative capacity under the State, no matter 
what his merits might be. It amounted to legalized 
monopoly. 

That was what the people ought to fight against; 
not against the manufacturers and the traders, but the 
system of privilege that kept them uneducated. 

**You think yourselves well enough off with your 
Council and Technical schools," he proceeded. **But 
you're not. The State only pays for the upkeep of 
these institutions to excuse itself from admitting you into 
its colleges and universities. And until you break down 
the barriers that keep you out of them, until you stand 
on an educational equality with the privileged classes, 
you cannot hope to better yourselves. Don't listen to 
people who tell you it can't be done. It's been done 
in isolated instances. There are men who by sheer 
determination have augmented by private study the 
knowledge they acquired at Council schools, and so won 
open scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge. And what 
one can do all can do. But apart from individual effort, 
what is needed is that the state should give the working- 



BOTH FEET ON THE LADDER 109 

man's son the same instruction as it does to the son of 
a duke.'* 

Here the applause was rapturous. When it subsided 
he was ready with his peroration. 

'' Education is power. I see a time when education 
will be no man's privilege; when no man will feel in- 
ferior for the want of it; when every man with ability 
will be in a position to demand what is due to his 
special qualifications. We talk of government by the 
people. At present it is only talk. But when the 
people, by virtue of general and equal education, are 
capable, as they will be, of governing as well as being 
governed, then social distinctions will disappear, and 
with them every atom of the friction that to-day is wast- 
ing the energies of the two pillars of the soci|d system — 
labor and the employers of labor." 

Cheers and clapping went on for half a minute after 
he had resumed his seat. His platitudes and half- 
truths had clearly been appreciated. He felt very satis- 
fied with himself. Another speaker got up and began 
stammering banalities. 

' * Well, what do you think of him t ' ' Liversidge whis- 
pered to the properous-looking man.' 

''Hell do," was the reply. **Were those views his 
own?" 

Liversidge grinned. *'Not always. They are now, 
though. I've schooled him." 

**I see. We'll have a talk with him afterwards." 

A little later a resolution was put and carried, and 
the proceedings terminated. Liversidge beckoned to 
Martin. 

*'Very good speech," he said. *'Sir Alfred thinks so 



110 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

too. Ill introduce you to him/' he added in the tone 
of one about to confer a favor. 

The patient way in which he waited while Sir Alfred 
bade good-night to several leading lights on the platform 
helped to make Martin sensible of the honor awaiting 
him. 

'^Big pot, Sir Alfred Gammel/' said Liversidge be* 
hind his hand. ''Shouldn't wonder if he's worth a cou- 
ple of millions." 

The "big pot" turned. 

''Allow me to introduce Mr. Leffley to you. Sir Al- 
fred." 

Martin bowed diffidently. 

"How d'do." 

The greeting sounded to Martin rather grudging. 
His fingers had been ready, for a handshake which was 
not forthcoming. Sir Alfred's eyes had rested on him a 
bare instant. He felt quite uncomfortable when the 
millionaire, without a pause, addressed Liversidge. 

"We may as well be going." 

"Very good, Sir Alfred." A sudden thought seemed 
to strike Liversidge. "Do you mind my bringing Mr. 
Leffley»" 

Sir Alfred's nod was an indifferent affirmative. 

"Gome on," Liversidge signaled rather than said 
over his shoulder as he followed the big man out. 

A brougham, whose dull body and unpolished brass- 
work was in keeping with the slovenly-looking coach- 
man in charge of it, stood at the entrance of the hall. 
Martin, unconversant with the attitude of the servant 
who knows himself to be as good as his master, was sur- 
prised that the man did not touch his hat when Sir Al- 
fred got in and, with Liversidge, to<^ the back seat. 






BOTH FEET ON THE LADDER 111 

Martin was left to make himself as comfortable as he 
eonld on the narrow one facing them. It was too dark 
for him to see Sir Alfred's face distinctly, yet he was 
conscious of being steadily looked at. The brougham had 
been in movement a few minutes when a question was 
shot at him abruptly. 

Do you always speak without notes f" 

Generally," said Martin. 

H'm, you must have a good memory." 

After that there was silence. The effect of the taci- 
turn knight on Martin was one of repulsion. It seemed 
to him that his manner was unduly guarded, not to say 
suspicious. Never having previously been brought into 
contact with a millionaire of the industrial world he 
did not know how nearly correct this view was ; nor that 
men of the stamp of Sir Alfred Gammel, whose whole life 
is spent in getting the better of the community at large, 
are intensely and characteristically distrustful of 
strangers. 

Being about to make Martin a certain proposition 
the two business-men deliberately meant to reduce him 
to a malleable state of mind first. He was to be made 
to recognize his own inferiority and be grateful for any 
patronage. The days of practical enslavement being 
past, the modem commercial Legree employs moral dis- 
cipline to reduce his victim to the proper degree of sub- 
servience. Hence Sir Alfred's offensive manner. Liver- 
sidge's part was that of the jackal. 

Accordingly, on their arrival at the latter 's house 
they did not at once broach what they had brought 
Martin there to hear. For half an hour he had to sit 
and listen to matters that did not at aU concern him 
— ^industrial and financial ventures in which it was ap- 



112 % IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

parent that Sir Alfred and Liversidge were jointly 
interested. ^'Gammers, Limited," huge stores, where 
you might buy anything that the world produced, was 
the main topic; but things relating to the drug trade 
appeared to be equaUy familiar to the head of that 
concern. 

Martin found his thoughts straying in these unfamil- 
iar fields. It was past his usual bed-time and he was 
a little sleepy. It was with something of a start, there- 
fore, that he sat up on being suddenly addressed by 
Sir Alfred. 

**How would you like to represent Hemford in Par- 
liament, Mr. Leffleyt" 

Luckily for Martin his habitually impassive face 
hardly indicated an3i:hing of the delighted surprise 
which the question aroused in him. Now he knew why 
Sir Alfred had come down to hear him speak and why 
the present meeting had been arranged. Liversidge 's 
propaganda — the long process of familiarizing Martin 
with the prospect of a seat in Parliament — ^was going to 
materialize. The thing had been planned in advance, 
in anticipation of an electoral vacancy. Sir Alfred's 
mention of Hemford made it clear that one was about 
to occur there. 

Never so much as now had Martin needed all the 
commercial instinct of which he was possessed. Intui- 
tion told him that he would have to bargain. He had 
done it successfully with the Grim woods over the ** Ro- 
salia" transaction. He must be equally firm now, 

**Mr. Liversidge and I have had several talks about 
my standing for Parliament, Sir Alfred," he replied. 
'*He knows my views. The whole question is one of 
money. ' ' 



BOTH FEET ON THE LADDER 113 



''I should have thought political advancement would 
have most weight with a young man like you." 

'*! am quite sensible of what that means, but I can't 
afford to give up everything else for it." 

'*We don't want you to," Liversidge put in. "I've 
suggested to Sir Alfred that we pay you two hundred a 
year if you're returned. I think that's a generous 
offer." 

"It might be to a single man. You must remember 
I'm married." 

"Any family?" inquired Sir Alfred. 

"Not at present. Of course there may be. There 
probably will be," Martin added hurriedly, regretting 
the absence of such an asset as a means to increase his 
terms. "Is the vacancy at Hemford officially an- 
nounced?" 

"No, it's not generally known there will be one. In 
fact, the sitting member hasn't thought of retiring yet." 

Martin naturally showed surprise. He couldn't under- 
stand the offer of a seat which the present occupant had 
not thought of relinquishing. 

"That'll be all right," Liversidge assured him. "In 
strict confidence we don't mind telling you that we— or, 
rather, Sir Alfred, owing to his big interests in Hem- 
ford, controls the party organization there. The present 
member is to all intents and purposes his nominee." 

' * As you would be, ' ' observed Sir Alfred dryly. 

Martin had expected as much. He nodded acquies- 
cence. 

"But," Sir Alfred continued, "of course if you don't 
feel inclined to accept two hundred " 

"I don't," was Martin's quick but quiet interruption. 

He sat staring at the ceiling with apparent uncon- 



it 



114 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

cem, but his heart thumped with anxiety lest the two 
men should see that he was blufiSng. The moments 
dragged. 

How much do you want?" snapped Sir Alfred. 
What I'm worth. Without vanity, I think I'm 
worth four hundred a year — ^in your interests, Sir Al- 
fred." 

Sir Alfred shook his head, but Martin pretended not 
to see the gesture. 

** Twice what a Labor member gets!" Liversidge ex- 
claimed. 

''I put my value at more than twice that of a Labor 
member," said Martin. 

There was a pause. Martin's unexpected firmness 
was having the usual effect. The more he stood out 
the more his value increased in the estimation of the 
two business-men. Besides, they really wanted him. 

"Look here, Mr. Leffley," said Sir Alfred at last, ^'ITl 
be quite frank. We think well of you, and we'd like to 
have you with us. But you're a speculation. Another 
thing, you're very young for Parliament." 

' ' Did you think that when I was speaking to-night f ' ' 
asked Martin. 

Ill go to three hundred," was the indirect reply. 
Will you accept?" 

Although asking more, three hundred was the amount 
Martin had meant to stand out for. He would have 
to give up his salary at Grimwoods', but with what he 
got out of "Rosalia" he would have in all over five 
hundred a year. A very comfortable feeling was in 
the thought. He appeared to give Sir Alfred's offer a 
moment or two of careful consideration. 






BOTH FEET ON THE LADDEE 115 

^'If that's exclusive of my election expenses — ^private 
ones, such as hotel bills " 

''Well find those." 

''Very well, I accept," said Martin; and his tone 
was that of a man making a considerable concession. 

*'We shall of course expect you to have no political 
views of your own. We pay for the goods. It's for 
you to deliver them. Is that quite understood f " 

''Quite." 

''I mention it because the present member isn't doing 
all he should in our interests— our special interests. We 
can't afford to support any one under those conditions. 
In fact we make a point of putting an immediate stop 
to disloyalty. That's plain, I hope?" 

It was not only plain, but plainly a threat, and 
Martin knew it. He would have to do as he was 
told. He had no quarrel with control of that kind, and 
he said so. 

''When do you expect the election to take placet" 
he asked. 

"Not for some months. The usual time will have to 
elapse to allow for resignation and the adoption of a 
new candidate. All that's a mere matter of form. But 
we shall want you to go down to Hemford to work up 
the constituency during the next few weeks. So hold 
yourself in readiness." 

"I shall be ready as soon as I have a letter from you 
embodying the terms we've just agreed on." 

"A letter?" Sir Alfred looked disturbed. "It isn't 
usual." 

"I think it's necessary," said Martin. "Without 
it I can't see my way to give up the assured position 
I hold at present. 



99 



116 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



H 



Oh, very well, ' ' was the grudging rejoinder. 

Liversidge said something in an undertone. All 
Martin caught of it were the words, *' pretty woman." 
Sir Alfred got up. 

''That's settled then," he said. ''Liversidge will see 
to everjrthing. By the way, Leffley, the domestic touch 
is often valuable in politics. You might take your wife 
down to Hemford when you go. Gk)od-night. Best 
wishes." 

Liversidge went to the street door with Martin. When 
he came back he noticed that Sir Alfred's face wore a 
moody look. 

"Liversidge," said the millionaire, "I'm inclined to 
think that young man's abilities are wasted on politics. 
He ought to have b^en in business." 



XVI 



ROSE ASKS A QUESTIOK 

RIGHT up to the street-door, with Liversidge able 
to watch his face, Martin contrived to hide his 
feelings. Once outside in the dark he gave them full 
vent. They eflEervesced with excitement at his good for- 
tune and the terms he had extracted from Gammel. 
At one stride he had jumped halfway up the ladder of 
his ambitions. He didn't care whether he got in ton 
Hemford or not. Considering what he had been told 
of Sir Alfred's influence there he probably would; but 
if not it would not matter. The fact that he would 
shortly be fighting the constituency was enough for the 
moment. It would give him a place in practical politics. 
It would be in every newspaper in the kingdom. After 
that, even if the election went against him, he instinc- 
tively felt that it would only be a question of time before 
he had a seat in Parliament. 

But, curiously enough, that was not his dominant 
thought. Success stimulated his mind, giving it a sense 
of enlarged powers. He was brimful of confidence. 
He felt capable of surmounting the biggest obstacles 
of life that might come in his way. He strode the 
pavement like a conqueror. And the reason was Rose. 
That furtive phrase of Liversidge 's, '* pretty woman," 
must have referred to her. Sir Alfred's suggestion con- 
cerning her confirmed it. The former had extolled 

117 



118 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

her good looks; the latter had probably speculated 
about them! The effect on Martin was one of sexual 
exaltation. He had never felt like that about Rose 
before. Sometimes, when he had watched a pretty 
girl in the street, something of the sort had affected 
him, but not to the same degree. This was a new and 
much profounder sensation. 

She was sitting up for him when he got in. She 
saw the change in him, the exaltation, and put it down 
to oratorical achievement at the meeting. 

'*You made a splendid speech, dear," she cried. **I 
can see it in your face! Do tell me all about it." 

And Martin told her. Of the speech he made light. 
He knew it was no better and no worse than many 
others he had made. He went straight to his inter- 
view with Oammel and its outcome. That, as he told 
her, spelt success — Success with a giant capital. 

^'I told you I was going to get on, Rose!" he said, 
reaching for her hand. ''This is half the battle. You'll 
help me to win it, won't you, my wife?" 

Martin was unconscious of the theatricalism of the 
sentence and the action accompanying it. He was fast 
forming the habit of playing to the gallery, even in 
private life. The more he did it the easier it became 
to deceive himself into believing in his own sincerity. 
Rose was blind to both faults. She held his hand tight 
as she answered emotionally : 

"You know I don't live for anything else." 

He drew her on to his knee and looked at her more 
intently than he had done for years. Yes, she tvus 
pretty, much prettier than he had ever imagined. That 
another man should have been the cause of his making 
the discovery did not disconcert him in the least. It 



BOSE ASKS A QUESTION 119 

even increased his respect for Liversidge 's powers of 
observation. He would have felt just the same if Liver- 
sidge had pointed out the beauties of some inanimate 
possession of his, a picture or a sofa. Indeed it was 
the pride of possession that brought him most gratifica- 
tion. It flattered his choice of a wife. It did not occur 
to him that he might have appreciated her good looks 
more in the past. He did not blame himself for neg- 
lecting her, although he knew he had done so lately. 
He never condemned himself on moral grounds. Be- 
sides, he could make up for it, now that his good fortune 
was assured. The desire to do so was strong in him — 
that new desire which had come into being while he 
was walking home. 

He must have shown something of the sort, for Rose, 
looking at him, felt an emotion that was almost bride- 
like. She laid her cheek against his in soft rapture. 

*'I do thank God for you," she murmured. ** There 
wouldn't be any unfaithful wives if they all had Mar- 
tins.'' 

**I'm glad you're contented with me. It's good to 
be appreciated. It spurs me on." Nott for long could 
Martin forget the material side of things. 

''How?" 

''To further efforts. Making more money, and so 
on. 

Hose sighed ever so faintly. 

''I suppose women look at things differently to men. 
I don't want anything better than I've got. Aren't you 
afraid of thinking too much about money, Martin — ^in 
case it took our happiness away?" 

"One can't have too much. The more money one 



120 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

has the happier one can be. You 11 understand that 
in time." 

''I don't know.'' Rose shook her head doubtfully. 
'' Sometimes I ask myself what it's all for. Don't think 
I'm discontented. I couldn't be with you. Only, 
flometimeSy when I see you working so hard and looking 
tired, I wonder whether it's worth it. It isn't as if you 
were doing it for somebody." 

She was wrong there. All Martin's /efforts were 
wholeheartedly incurred on behalf of somebody of su- 
preme importance — ^himself, to wit. 

''I don't think I understand," he said tolerantly, 
as though desirous of getting her point of view. It was 
the tolerance he had acquired by listening with apparent 
interest to the question of a heckler while he was speech- 
making. ''A man must do something. He can't stop 
still. If he doesn't go forwards and make a way it 
shows he has no ambition or no ability. If every one 
were contented with what they had there would never 
have been any successful men — ^no Caesars or Napoleons, 
or people like Cadbury or Northcliffe or Gammel. It's 
my belief that, at the beginning, Caesar and Napoleon 
weren't thinking of making history. It was their pri- 
vate, personal ambitions that made it for them. Power 
is the thing to aim at. If a man has ambition and knows 
how to make money he'll get power." 

**I expect you're right. I can't argue cleverly like 
you do. It isn't that I don't like money. I'd gladly 
have more than I want, so as to be able to spend it on 
making soup for poor people and helping to dress rag- 
ged children. What I meant was that to make money for 
somebody else seems more — ^what one ought to do." 

**Well, I want to make it for you." 



ROSE ASKS A QUESTION 121 

''I knoWy dear. But I want such a little." 

''Well — one makes it for one's children." 

Subtle Bose! She had deliberately led him up to 
that admission. 

''That's what I mean," she said. "But are we ever 
going to have any children?" 

Since her illness they had never discussed that ques- 
tion. Martin had simply not concerned himself with 
it until Sir Alfred's inquiry had brought it into his 
mind again. Now, the trembling appeal in Rose's voice 
as she emphasized the millionaire's question gave it 
new force. He did not answer for a moment, and she 
asked it a second time, with more insistence, less shyly. 

Of late, she had come to know herself. While she 
was ill and for some time afterwards the cause of it 
had made her sad and regretful. As her strength re- 
turned these feelings gathered intensity. She hungered 
to be a mother. At times the yearning was so strong 
that she had to shut herself in her room and grapple 
with it in solitude. It was her only personal desire, an 
unselfish one since it was the outcome of her love for 
Martin. Without knowing it, she was in the grip of the 
recreative impulse, the world-force which concerns itself 
with the continuation of the race and not at all with 
the transitory life of the individual. She wanted a 
child. Her nature demanded a child. She knew it to be 
' her right, her heritage. She was a woman born for 
motherhood less than passion. Lacking motherhood, her 
whole system suffered. 

"Martin," she went on urgently, "I must tell you 
what I feel. I can't keep it to myself. I daresay lots 
of women without children know what it is. Before 
I was married, whenever I saw another woman who 



122 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

was going to have a baby, I used to feel sorry for her 
and wonder how she could possibly want to go through 
the pain that people say is so dreadful. I didn't under- 
stand it any more than I understood — marriage. But 
now eversrthing's different. When I see a tiny baby 
I know there's nothing in the world I want so much or 
so badly. When I see a woman who is going to be a 
mother I long to know what it's like. It's just as much 
a mystery as love. Even when you know what love is 
it doesn't give you any idea of the other — only — only a 
mad longing for it." 

She stopped suddenly. Never had she been so articu- 
late. Martin's head' was bent. She could not see his 
face. She was horribly afraid he had not understood. 

*'Are you cross with met" she asked fearfully. 

He turned then. He looked at her in a way he had 
never looked before. He was actually moved. Even 
worldly Martin was moved at the idea of a woman de- 
siring, nay, importuning, to go down into the dark valley 
of motherhood, full of its unknown terrors and pains, 
for the chance of being suffered to come back from it with 
a living treasure in her arms! 

Only a woman who stood for all that was wholesome 
and good could have made a man like Martin feel like 
that. For one single second he was touched by the 
Divine. And in that second Rose had her answer. 



xvn 



HONEYMOON DAYS 



HOLIDAYS were among the many pleasures which 
Martin seldom indulged in. He prided himself 
on his strength of mind in abstaining from them. He 
regarded holidays with much the same dislike that he 
had for strong drink, music-halls, card-playing, and simi- 
lar diversions that ordinary people indulge in. 

But the turning point in his career changed his views 
about many things. Perhaps it was the new com- 
jugal phase, perhaps the promised letter that shortly 
came from Sir Alfred. Anyhow, he decided on a holi- 
day and took Rose down to Brighton. 

How this suddenly conceived pleasure affected her 
may be imagined. She had never had a hone3rmoon; 
she had never had any leisure, any relief from house- 
hold duties, any change of scene or air, since her mar- 
riage. The sea, the sun (it was early September and 
unusually hot), her first taste of hotel life, the sudden 
change into a new world full of new incidents, almost 
intoxicated her. She was a girl again, but a girl with 
the happy completeness of womanhood. She reveled 
in all their jaunts — ^the brake drive to the Devil's Dyke, 
the tram ride to Blackrock, the sail on the Skylark, the 
music on the pier, picnics on the blazing shingle. 

They stayed at a second-rate temperance hotel where 
Martin was able to bargain for out-of-season terms, 

123 






124 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

They drank ''Rosalia" on principle and as an advertise- 
ment, and were recompensed for their alle^ance by 
the pleasure they got in seeing it blazoned on many 
hoardings. Oddly enough, the principal feature of the 
poster was a pretty girl not unlike Rose. In it there 
was the same rich coloring, the same ripeness of figure, 
the same winning smile. Except that the lithograph 
revealed an indiscreet amount of limb, and that the 
figure was drawn in a coquettish pose very foreign to 
Rose, the resemblance was considerable. Once, while 
they were looking at it, the remarks of a couple of 
young men rather upset Rose. 

Expect she sat for it. Very fetching, eht" 
Ripping! Most of these models are." 

Rose's face scorched; but Martin quite relished the 
criticism. The doubtful tribute to her good looks flat- 
tered his taste. He never resented the admiring glances 
directed at her by people on the front; and if a hus- 
band can tolerate the insolent stare of the Brighton 
promenaders, he must have great confidence in his wife 
or himself. 

Over-confidence indeed was Martin's weakness. 
Brought up on text-books he was full of a smattering 
of many subjects without a sound knowledge of any. 
Except for a capacity to drive a hard bargain this over- 
confidence led him into many mistakes. The fact is he 
had little power of observation and no taste. Just 
as he had undervalued Rose, so he was apt to miss or 
overestimate the merits of inanimate things. 

The many spurious '* curio" shops which abound in 
Brighton were his undoing. He went about * ' collecting ' ' 
antiques in these shops. He did not spend much; in 
fact, the limit of his outlay in each case was half a 



HONEYMOON DAYS 125 

crown. Guided by a shilling text-book entitled ** Hints 
to Curio Hunters," he bought Baxter prints, Toby jugs 
and English brasswork of alleged antiquity. It never 
occurred to him that the compiler of the text-book might 
have no first-hand knowledge of his subject, that the 
authoritative statements contained in it were only the 
boiled-down dicta of other writers. After careful peru- 
sal of it he thought he had mastered all the acumen 
of the expert in collecting. Had he been told that the 
Baxters, the Toby jugs, and the rest of his purchases 
were all fresh from the fake-manufacturer who caters 
for the amateur collector and the amateur expert^ he 
would not have believed it. 

This was the beginning of his attempt to emulate 
Aunt Polly's profitable way of trading. If for three 
pounds she could buy a chest worth thirty guineas he 
felt equally competent to do the same. It was only a 
question of luck in coming across it. Who knew but 
that his half-crown Toby jug was not a rare specimen 
by Voyez worth ten pounds? Not that he would be in 
such a hurry to resell as Aunt Polly was. The longer 
you kept antiques the more they were worth. The au- 
thor of ''Hints to Curio Hunters" was insistent about 
what he called ''the appreciation of values" and the 
advantages of "buying for investment." 

Bose had to pretend to share in this enthusiasm for 
old things. They were nothing more than that to her. 
The hours she spent in back-street shops while Martin 
ferreted about with a magnifying glass, looking for 
"finds," frankly bored her. It seemed waste of time 
to ransack second-hand dealers' shops in beautiful 
Brighten when he could have done the same in London 
at his leisure. But she was too good a wife to grumble 



126 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

openly. She put up with it^ sighing sometimes when 
she contemplated the ''ugly things" he brought away 
with him. She did not look forward to seeing them 
among the crimson plush ornaments of her drawing- 
room, which, he informed her, was to be their ultimate 
destination. 

When, some weeks later. Aunt Polly saw them there 
poor Hose's mortification was complete. Ugly as she 
thought them, she at least assumed them to be genuine. 
Aunt Polly shattered that belief. 

''Where did you get 'emt" she wanted to know, and 
laughed when Rose told her. ' ' My word I They must 
have seen Martin comin'I It just shows you how Mr. 
Clever can be took in when he tries his hand at some- 
thing he doesn't understand." 

Rose was up in arms at once. 

"But he does understand. He's got books and books 
about antiques," she protested. 

' ' You can 't buy antiques by books, my girl. It wants 
experience and knowing what's what. It took me years 
and years. And here's Martin tryin' to do it in five 
minutes I Bound to waste his money. ' ' 

* ' Do you mean — ^really — ^they 're not worth anything t ' ' 

"That's about it. I know the wholesale houses where 
all this lot come from. Beverley's and Lysons'. They're 
made by the thousand — ^marks, chips, dents and all — ^just 
to take people in. Duds, that's what they are." 

"Duds?" echoed Rose. "What does that mean?" 

"Fakes, imitations, wrong 'uns," translated Aunt 
Polly. "Same as Martin," she added to herself. 

When the voice of truth is unmistakable a sensible 
person does not argue against it. Rose, being sensible, 
accepted Aunt Polly's opinion without a murmur. But 



HONEYMOON DAYS 127 

her disappointment was none the less keen on that ac- 
count. What would Martin's be if he knew? 

** Please, Aunt Polly, don't tell Martin what you've 
just said," she begged. '*He — ^he wouldn't like it." 

''I wasn't goin' to. He wouldn't believe it, so what's 
the use. That reminds me. Peacock's heard that he's 
leavin' Grimwoods'. Is it truet" 

*'I — ^I believe so," Rose hesitated. 

*'Is it a secret!" 

Again Rose hesitated. Martin had not pledged her 
to silence about his affairs. Any day now it might be 
common knowledge that he was to be the new candidate 
for Hemford. There could be no harm in admitting so 
much to Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly, she knew, was to be 
trusted. 

''Not exactly a secret," she said. ''Only he doesn't 
like his affairs talked about. Yes, it's quite true he's 
leaving Qrimwoods'." 

"But why? Ain't he doin' well there? Or is he 
goin' to set up for himself f" 

A gentle flush was coming into Bose's face. If she 
said any more she knew it would lead to a full admis- 
sion of Martin's rapid rise in the world. Her pride in 
him* was preventing her repressing the splendid news 
even now. 

"Yes, he's going to set up for himself," she nodded. 

By her manner Aunt Polly saw that there was some 
special significance in the words. Why that hesitation, 
that tell*tale color in the girl's face? For a single in- 
stant she had the startling conviction .that Martin must 
be about to take a public-house. But only for an instant. 

"Don't tell me if you don't want to, my dear," she 
said, curbing her curiosity. 



126 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

''But that's what I do want, Aunt Polly. I can't 
keep it in any longer ! Only promise you won 't say a 
word — ^for the present." 

"You know me, don't yout I'm no chatterbox." 

Rose nodded. ^'Martin's going into Parliamentl" she 
whispered. 

It took a long, sit-do¥m conversation to make the as- 
toundiag news clear to Aunt Polly, though afterwards 
she wondered at its necessity. Parliament meant speech- 
ifying, and Martin had always been one to talk. For 
months he had done nothing else. What she could 
not fathom was how he could afford to give up his salary 
at Orimwoods'. She put a straight question to this 
effect, but Rose, who knew nothing of Martin's monetary 
arrangement with Gammel and Liversidge, was unable 
to answer it. Aunt Polly was more mystified than ever. 

Nearly three months had elapsed since she had seen 
Rose. Looking at her now, with her mind full of the 
changed conditions imminent in the young people's lives, 
she became aware of a corresponding change in Rose. 
What was itY The question was not asked aloud, but 
Rose, meeting her eyes, saw it there and answered it 
with a shy nod. 

''Whatever will Martin sayt" broke involuntarily 
from the old woman. 

"Martin said 'Yes,' " rejoiaed Rose, off her guard. 

Then a dreamy contentment fell upon her. She sat 
quite still, with her pretty plump hands idle in her lap. 
Aunt Polly remaiaed silent; but an expression of un- 
wonted softness came into her face. In the remote days 
when she was twenty-five, and life had not become all 
drab-colored and sordid with ceaseless transactions in sec- 
ond-hand goods, she, too, had known what it is to dream. 



XVIII 



A FAIBY TALE GOME TRUE 



HOW Gammel and Liversidge managed to rid them- 
selves and Hemford of its parliamentary repre- 
sentative does not concern this story. That they did 
it without any consideration for that gentleman's feel- 
ings may be taken for granted. Knowing his new em- 
ployers, Martin could guess at their methods ; but as the 
result left him on the upward grade he did not see any 
necessity to inquire closely into its causes. He con- 
fined himself to going about with sedate speed on his 
own affairs. 

Twice already, accompanied by Liversidge, he had 
paid covert visits to Hemford to be introduced to the 
local party leaders. On the second of these the nomina- 
tion had been provisionally offered him and duly ac- 
cepted. Not until then had the deposition of the sitting 
member been effected. 

It was a great day for Martin when the papers, from 
the Times to the Sentinel, announced the resignation, 
and in the same paragraph made it known that he would 
contest the vacant seat. This first taste of real publicity 
stirred him to his depths. To be known, to be talked 
about, to be in the papers, was infinitely more to him 
than the performance or achievement of anything. Fame 
was foreign to him; he never thought about it, had no 
desire for it. Notoriety he understood, because there was 

129 



130 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

money in it. Millionaires were always notorious, never 
famous. He hungered for notoriety. 

So that when the office boy of the Sentinel called at 
Routh Villas with a column-long proof -slip detailing Mar- 
tin 's career, and the editor's compliments and request 
that he would pass it for publication, he could have 
hugged the dirty urchin with delight. Frankly, he 
hardly recognized himself in the laudatory notice.* From 
it a stranger would have gathered that Martin possessed 
all the special qualities that make for statesmanship. 
A discreet silence was maintained concerning his hum- 
ble beginnings, his Board-school education, and his 
youthful avocation of errand boy to a grocer. As to 
his origin, he discovered that his father (a small plumber 
and an indifferent one at that) had been known and 
respected as an engineer of originality and sMU. Rose, 
too, shared in the unctuous fable : she was the beautiful 
daughter of the late Mrs. Metcalf , a lady of independent 
means! Three press-cutting agencies made subsequent 
use of the flattering tale to draw Martin's attention to 
their services. The subscription he took out with one 
of them and continued ever after fed his egotism without 
surfeiting it. 

The day at last came, one in late spring, when, ac- 
companied by Rose, he set out to make his public entry 
into Hemford, there to open his canvass of the con- 
stituency. In the cab on the way to the station, Rose 
felt mildly excited, but when Martin bought first-class 
tickets something like awe took hold of her. She had 
never traveled first-class in her life before. In the com- 
partment, which they had to themselves, all she could 
do was to sit and survey its well-upholstered comfort. 



A FAIRY TALE COMB TBUE 131 

**My dear!" said Martin. "Don't look so astonished, 
or people will think you're not used to it.*' 

*'Are we always going first-class in future?" she asked 
in wonder. 

"On special occasions — occasions like this, when we 
shall be met by important people. I want you to look 
quite at your ease when we get to Hemford." 

"It's all very well for you. You're always at your 
ease. It comes natural to you, somehow." Martin's 
frock coat and silk hat, not to speak of the new and 
glossy tan gloves he had purchased for the occasion, were 
always enough to make Rose attribute gentility to their 
wearer. "But this is all so strange to me. I'm afraid 
of doing the wrong thing." 

"You needn't be. You've got a new dress on, and 
you look a lady. Do you remember what I prophesied 
years ago? — ^that one day you'd be dressed in silk, and 
hear people you passed whisper, 'There goes the wife of 
Leffley, the M.P.' It's all but come true! In another 
month or so it tuUl be true!" 

She had almost forgotten the occasion. His reminder 
of it and the fulfillment of his words struck her as almost 
uncanny. He took no notice of the discomfort in her 
face. 

"Just try and feel like a lady," he went on. "You 
won't find it diflScult. It's so important we should make 
the right sort of impression in Hemford." 

"Ill try, dear," she sighed. 

She had the vaguest idea of what was before her. She 
was proud of sharing Martin's importance, but not a 
little fearful of the terra incogmta of politics and the 
new social plane which she was approaching. 

"By the way," he said, "we'll be staying at 'The 



132 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

Crown.' It's the best hotel. We mustn't consider ex- 
pense there." 

"But how are you going to afford itt The bill — ^and 
going about first-class ! " 

*' Don't bother about that," he replied, without in- 
forming her that their expenses were guaranteed by 
Gammel. "You see, it's essential for us to spend money. 
It's expected of me as candidate. I shall have to support 
local industries and subscribe to local charities. I've 
figured it all out. You must spend money, too. You 
can lay out twenty pounds at drapers and milliners." 

It was more than would have sufficed her for eighteen 
months. So that was why he had bought her a new 
dress-basket, lettered "R.L." 

"Really and truly!" she exclaimed. 

"Yes. You'd better find out from Mrs. Wickett — 
Wickett's the chairman of my committee; we're going 
to lunch with them first — ^find out from her which are 
the best shops to go to. Don't let her think you need 
any new clothes. Let it look as if you thought you 
ought to patronize the Hemford shops. And when you 
buy anything, be sure you don't offer to pay for it. 
Just mention that you're staying at 'The Crown 
Hotel.'" 

Rose wondered how she would have the hardihood 
to order dresses on credit in a strange shop — she who 
all her life had paid ready money for everything, over 
the counter or at her own doori She nodded compre- 
hension, but all the same the immediate future seemed 
to her to be full of pitfalls. And here was another 
in the form of a luncheon party unexpectedly sprung 
on her. 

"Are they gentry — ^the Wickettsf" she faltered. 



A FAIRY TALE COMB TRUE 133 



<<- 



'Well — ^not exactly. Mr. Wickett's one of Hemford's 
leading men, an ironmonger, in a large way of business." 

''Oh, I'm so glad!" she cried, a load of care off her 
mind. 

Her matronly appearance notwithstanding, Bose had 
never looked prettier than she did at this period. More- 
over, she felt remarkably well. Only the very discerning 
would have noticed her condition. Occasionally it made 
her languid, but not unbecomingly so. That she should 
lack confidence in herself at such a time was not sur- 
prising. 

Martin, characteristically wanting in sensitiveness, 
had none of Hose's qualms. . Over-sure of himself, he 
was able to impose on others a sense of capacity which 
he did not really possess. But for his habitual gravity 
it would have been recognized as colossal conceit. It 
is a curious fact that men like Martin and Gammel and 
Liversidge — ^the men who get on above their deserts — 
are invariably proof against ridicule. 

So that when the train ran into Hemford station, 
where Wickett and others of Martin's political support- 
ers were awaiting his arrival, he accepted their presence 
as his due. The ironmonger had brought his wife and 
daughter, the latter a frizzy-haired child, encumbered 
with a huge bouquet. The moment Bose alighted little 
Miss Wickett was pushed towards her. 

''Oh, is it for me?" Bose exclaimed. She was be- 
wildered by the attention, which she associated with 
the reception of royalty. 

"Yes; kiss her," prompted Martin in a quick aside. 

Bose did so, murmuring confused thanks. Then came 
introductions, platitudinous remarks from the little 
deputation, and shy, agonized rejoinders from Bose. Not 



134 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

tmtil she made the surprising discovery that Mrs. 
Wickett was as nervous as herself did her self-possession 
come back. Incredible as it might seem, Mrs. Wickett 
showed her a deference that is only accorded by an in- 
ferior to one of high station. Rose's ears would have 
tingled if she had known of Martin's exaggerations, pur- 
posely made to create this effect on their hostess. 
. Still, she did not feel happy in the open carriage that 
took them from the station. The management of a 
bouquet would at any time have incommoded her, but in 
a carriage and in public it seemed to grow and magnify 
until it attained dimensions that made her horribly con- 
spicuous. It also seemed to her that everybody in Hem- 
ford had eyes for her alone. She and Mrs. Wickett 
occupied the back seat; that lady's husband and Martin 
faced them ; the small child, dressed in white, sat on the 
box with the coachman. Rose had a conviction that a 
private carriage, so filled, would at any time have created 
a sensation in the grimy manufacturing town. But 
Martin smiled contentedly throughout the drive. He 
would rather have liked the addition of flags. 

The lunch was one of those formal affairs to which 
Rose in after years became so inured that they not 
only brought her no sense of discomfort but sometimes 
a positive one of satisfaction, because either they were 
given in honor of Martin or graced by his presence. 
But formality at this period kept her attention on the 
stretch. She was for ever tryiag to do and say the right 
thing without being quite sure whether she succeeded. 
Afterwards, at ''The Crown," she had another ordeal. 
Everybody there knew who she and Martin were, and 
made no effort to conceal their curiosity. The way Rose 
was looked at made her feel unclothed. 



A FAIEY TALE COME TRUE 135 

Still, unknown to herself, she possessed a great deal 
of latent adaptability. Very soon her nervousness wore 
off. She went shopping with Mrs. Wickett, and in a 
seven-guinea costume and a new hat bought at that 
lady's favorite draper's made her. first appearance on a 
public platform. The occasion was the opening meet- 
ing of Martin's political campaign. Liversidge and Sir 
Alfred Gammel had both come down, for it. The mil- 
lionaire's austere manner underwent a complete change 
towards Rose. It might almost be said of him that he 
gave her the ''glad eye" when he thought Martin was 
not looking. It was wasted on her, if not on Martin. 

The big platform had not a vacant seat ; the hall was 
packed, and Martin spoke for nearly an hour, including 
the time taken up with cheers. Before her marriage 
Rose had occasionally been taken to theaters and en- 
joyed them ; but the pleasures of the pit or gallery and 
the glamor of the stage of those days were as nothing 
to the transports she experienced at this meeting. It had 
a twofold fascination for her, that of the stage and the 
auditorium combined. Every word that Martin uttered 
that night seemed part of herself; every burst of ap- 
plause that he got was the crystallization of her own 
admiration for him. 

It only wanted this to make Rose an ideal canvasser 
for the man she loved. 



XTX 



MABTIN LEFFLEY, M.P. 

THANKS to better organization and the slim tactics 
of the Gammel party, Martin had several days' 
start of his opponent. While the Unionists, caught nap- 
ping as usual, were frantically engaged in getting their 
electoral machinery into gear he was busy canvassing 
and holding meetings. 

As a canvasser, Bose was of inestimable value. She 
got votes on her face. Martin was well enough liked, 
but not for the same reason. People who judged by 
first impressions were apt to find something unsym- 
pathetic about him. The staidness of his manner ended 
by making them think they were mistaken. After all, 
he had come down with the reputation of being not only 
a ''people's man" but Gammel's man; and in Hemford, 
where the Gammel and allied interests almost controlled 
the working-class vote, his apparent sympathy with the 
cause of the people was accordingly taken for granted. 
His way of referring to **the women and the little 
children" was enough to discount any criticism on that 
score. 

Then, his artful nostrum of "Education" as a 
panacea for all their economic disabilities was regarded 
as something new. It sounded right to their unenlight- 
ened ears. The very obscurity of its many-trumpeted 
advantages had the same attraction for them as a popu- 

136 



MARTIN LEPPLEY, M. P. 137 

lar patent medicine. They swallowed it in blind faith. 
Of course Martin had not forgotten to rail at ''the 
Oxford manner/' in itself a plausible way of getting 
credit for the new and misleading doctrine. Besides, 
irony of this sort helped in another way: the Unionist 
candidate was an Oxford man ! 

But Rose went blandly into the fray with only love 
as a weapon. She did not ask for support for Martin 
because of his views or his capacity, but just because 
he was her husband. She did not cajole; she made 
it a personal matter. Her directness, her simplicity and 
her winning ways were worth a thousand specious argu- 
ments. Men of undecided opinions hardly tried to with- 
stand her appeal; she won over many a staunch sup- 
porter of the opposite camp; all the mothers were on 
her side; she was of their Eosterhood; every wife felt 
something in common with her. She worked wonders 
without knowing it. 

Though she was with Martin heart and soul through- 
out these days she lived another life apart from him. 
It was spent in the charmed world of expectant mother- 
hood — a world of tender and poetic thoughts, gentle 
imaginings, deep contentment. In the midst of a 
crowded political meeting, while she was sitting on the 
platform within arm's length of him, listening enrap- 
tured to every word that fell from his lips, she would 
drift off into a soft day-dream of her own and become 
oblivious of her surroundings, of everything except the 
one coming miracle that held her mind entranced. 

Without knowing it she was overtaxing her strength. 
She grew more languid, more tired every day. Martin, 
unsparing of himself because of what the issue meant 
to him, keen to get the last ounce out of everybody who 



138 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

was working for him, and for once sufficiently observant 
of Rose as a piece of electoral machinery to see that 
she was relaxing her efforts, spurred her on to fresh ones. 
The poll was less than a week off. Any slackening of 
energy might be fatal to his chances. 

So he kept her at it, telling himself that driving about 
in a carriage, canvassing, was easy work, beneficial to 
her health and instructive to her mind. Indeed, the 
political arena into which he had dragged her seemed to 
him to offer her a healthy interest at a period when most 
women would be apt to give way to morbidity and vague 
dreads. 

It was perhaps unfortunate, in fact rather an incon-r 
venience, that the election and Rose's approaching con- 
finement should so nearly coincide. He did not know 
when the latter event was exactly due. He had not 
inquired very closely about it. The Puritan in him made 
him avoid the subject. So long as Rose did not com- 
plain — and women always complained when they did not 
feel well — ^tihere could be nothing to worry about. Be- 
sides, the election gave him quite enough to think of. 
In a few days they would be home again. Meanwhile, it 
did not occur to him that in overtaxing Rose 's strength 
he might be precipitating matters. 

On the morning of the poll he was too excited to 
notice how she looked. He swallowed his breakfast and 
hurried off to his Committee room, taking it for granted 
that she would follow him. He hardly thought about 
her for the rest of the day. He did not miss her. His 
mind had room for one thought only; to hear himself 
acclaimed M.P. for.Hemford. He kept on the rush, 
going from polling station to polling station, conferring 
with Wiekett, with Liversidge, with one and other of the 



MARTIN LBFFLET, M. P. 139 

crowd of supporters and sympathizers who made tip his 
present world. That he was going to get in he had no 
doubt. What he was bent on was to get in with a bigger 
majority than his predecessor's. 

Hose sat on at the breakfast table. She had eaten 
nothing. She had no appetite. Martin hadn't noticed 
that; neither had he noticed that she looked ill. She 
had purposely done her best to hide it. She knew how 
he felt. She did not want to distract his mind from 
the business of the day. If he knew she was unwell 
it would upset him; it might make a difference to the 
result of the election. No doubt she would feel better 
soon and be able to go on to the Committee room and 
encourage him. She didn't think she would be up to 
doing more than that. 

But instead of getting better she got worse. She 
was in pain. She tried to forget it by busying herself 
with Martin's press-cuttings. There were such a lot, 
all about his speeches and parliamentary prospects. 
They had accumulated during the last few days, and 
wanted pasting in the big book which he had bought 
for the purpose. It was extraordinary how large the 
scissors seemed, how heavy they felt. Her eyes found 
a difficulty in following the columns of print. She 
felt sick and shivery, and had to give up the task. She 
was forcibly reminded of the time when she had at- 
tempted to whitewash the ceiling. The same nausea was 
upon her, aggravated by an intensifying pain. She 
thought she had better go to her bedroom and lie down. 
Perhaps it was the excitement that made her feel so 
bad. No doubt she would be all right again when she 
knew that Martin was safely '"in." But that wouldn't 



140 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

be for hours. She couldn't help wishing he were with 
her. She was lonely and afraid. 

She got upstairs at last. A chambermaid was in the 
room just finishing making the bed. Rose almost fell 
towards it. The girl turned a startled face on her. 

**0h, ma'am!" she cried. *' Don't you — ^want a 
doctor?" 

Rose, in sudden agony, caught at the knob of the 
bedstead. 

''I — ^I believe I do," she gasped. 

Martin was sent for, but the message never reached 
him. The evening was far advanced before Rose came 
fully to herself. The taste of chloroform was in her 
mouth. She was too dazed and weak to realize what 
had happened to her. Strange people were in the room, 
a doctor and a nurse ; but for a long time their presence 
made no perceptible impression on her mind. When at 
last it did she just wondered in a vague way what had 
been the matter with her, and then her thoughts went 
to Martin. It seemed late. The election must surely 
be over. In a tired voice she said she would like to 
know the result. 

The doctor misunderstood her. 

"The best of results," he chirped. "One of each! 
Wouldn't you like to look at them, Mrs. Leffleyf " 

Rose pondered the statement. It seemed meaningless. 
She lay still, trying to think it out. Quite abruptly 
understanding came to her — came with a sense of small 
bodies, warm, soft, very close to her. 

"Twins!" she faltered, looking in bewilderment from 
downy head to downy head. "Oh! . . . What will 
Martin say? 



J9 



MAETIN LBPPLEY, M. P. 141 

And yet, over and above the problem of what Martin 
would say was the surprise and joy of this double glory. 
All the past months she had held love in her heart for 
one child ; now, because its source was infinite, it gushed 
and welled over in adoration of both her babies. Martin 
had given her one of himself; she had given him one of 
herself! A boy and a girl, the nurse said. It was just 
perfect, and — ^and — she was very tired. Her cheeks 
were wet. Tears were coursing down them. 

' ' There now, dear ! ' ' soothed the nurse. ' ' There now ! 
Don't cry. It's all over!" 

Bose tried to tell her that she was crying for joy, but 
words were such a trouble. She wondered whether her 
babies felt as weak as she did. They looked so red and 
strong. 

Outside in the street the clatter of feet and the sound 
of many voices had been continuous. Accustomed to it 
Bose had not noticed it. But now a distant clamor 
arose, growing in strength and volume as it drew nearer. 
She knew it at once as the voice of a 'crowd — cheering. 
Instantly she was wide awake, listening. 

''Open the window, please — ^wide. I — ^want — ^to 
hear," she said with a catch in her voice. 

The doctor nodded and the nurse obeyed. Instantly 
the room was full of a babel of sound, the uproar of a 
surging crowd shouting itself hoarse. But through the 
discord a dominant note canoie to Bose's eager ears: 

' * Leflaey ! Lefl9ey ! LefSey for ever ! ' ' 

It was like music to her. A look of peace came into 
her face. 

''Martin Leffley, MP. I" she murmured, and fell 
asleep. 



BOOK II 



THE TWINS 

ALTHOUGH it was only the end of March the son 
shone on lawn and flower-beds with the- suave 
warmth of a fine May day. . From the house, double- 
fronted and detached, mature laurels and leafy trees 
made the garden look larger than it was. Through this 
screen you could see very little of the low brick walls 
that separated it from the adjoining gardens. Only 
from its further end were the houses flanking ''Tivoli" 
observable. Martin had so named his new home in 
remembrance of a ten days' tour (at the rate of seven 
guineas per person) which he and Rose had made in 
Italy some years previously. At the time it escaped 
him that a London music-hall had anticipated him in 
the use of the name. When the fact was brought to 
his notice he was extremely annoyed. It was then too 
late to alter it. He had already laid in two reams of 
headed notepaper and a supply of visiting cards, to 
waste which he could not reconcile himself. So * ' Tivoli ' * 
it had remained, and thanks to his ostrich-like capacity 
for ignoring anything he did not like or understand the 
unfortunate music-hall association was dismissed from 
his mind. 

It was a good-sized house of rather pretentious build. 
Overlooking the garden, to which access could be had 

146 



146 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

through. long double casements now wide open, was the 
Ubraiy, the largest of its rooms and the one in most 
use. Here, on this pleasant afternoon, Rose sat darning. 
Darning socks was a task she had never been able to 
bring herself to leave to a subordinate. She regarded 
it as a sacred duty to her family. Her basket contained 
a diversified pile of socks and stockings — ^Martin's, her 
own, and the twins'. It was quite easy to distinguish 
which were which. Good black Lisle thread on the one 
hand, black cashmere on the other, denoted the elder 
couple's hosiery; light hues and bright colors those of 
the twins. The former might have been labeled circa 
1890, the latter 1914. On the work-basket were also a 
small pile of tradesmen's books, the top one spread 
open. As Rose plied her darning needle she conned the 
column of items enumerated in it. The housewifely 
virtues were still strong in her. 

A bonny-looking woman was Rose. The years had 
not brought a line to her face. It was fuller and a little 
deeper in color than when the twins were born, and 
her figure, always on the exuberant side, had expanded. 
But no gray showed in her abundant brown hair: she 
was the same Rose as of yore, fully matured, irradiating 
contentment and cheerfulness. 

That her frame of mind was still of the calm order 
was shown by her inattention to a succession of heavy 
bumps which shook the ceiling overhead. They indi- 
cated the movements of a vigorous young person full 
of boisterous youth. Even when the bang of a door 
and quick patter of feet coming down the staircase fol- 
lowed the overhead bumping she did no more than turn 
a smiling face over her shoulder. The pattering feet 
came to a stop in the hall. There was a short silence. 



THE TWINS 147 

Then the library door opened and a big girl of seventeen 
bounced in witii a letter in her hand. 

A beam of motherly love lighted up Rose's face. She 
had every reason to feel proud of this well-favored 
daughter of hers. She was what Bose herself had been 
at seventeen, but taller and consequently shapelier. In 
addition to these advantages she had a personality want- 
ing in Rose. Nor was it derived from her father. The 
first things noticeable about her were her high spirits 
and patent look of frankness. Both the twins had these 
qualities in common. The high spirits showed now in the 
boisterous hug which she gave her mother. 

''Well, my lady, darling, getting used to it?" she 
asked playfully. 

''Dorothy!" remonstrated Hose, not at all seriously. 
"I shall never get used to your hugs. You squeeze 
the breath out of me ! If you mean my new title I like 
it, except when the servants get mixed between 'ma'am' 
and 'my lady.' Who's the letter fort" 

' ' You. It looks as if Aunt Polly wrote it directly after 
cleaning flues. ' ' 

"Where's your father t" Rose asked guardedly as 
she took it She was always a little afraid lest Martin 
should put a stop to the correspondence which she kept 
up with his old aunt. As he had got on in the world 
so, in equal degree, had he tried to drop Aunt Polly. 
He thought of her now as the bar sinister on the 
scutcheon of his week-old knighthood. Rose, quite un- 
affected by the change of circumstances, kept up the 
intimacy. She never forgot the brusque kindnesses 
which the old woman had always shown her, her skill 
in getting Dorothy over infantile complaints, nor her 
constant generosity to her son, Edgar, expressed in half- 



148 . IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

sovereigns at frequent intervals. Indeed, the twins were 
great favorites of Aunt Polly's. Peacock had long since 
succumbed to the strong spirits which had been his weak- 
ness, and his widow no longer carried on the shop. She 
lived in a small private house, and was not ostensibly 
engaged in trade. 

Dorothy quite understood why her mother wanted 
to know where her father was. A tacit understanding 
existed between Rose and her children on the subject 
of Aunt Polly. The old, common and ill-dressed but 
amiable member of the family was only discussed in the 
absence of its head. 

' * Sir Martin LefSey is in his study cleaning his antique 
brasses with his special duster and private tin of Blue^ 
bell polish, ' ' she answered cheekily. ' ' Do let 's see what 
Aunt Polly says, mother. She's always so amusing. 
Isn't it funny having a relation like that when we're 
getting such awful swells? I wonder if Daddy means 
to end in an old Norman castle and go about in a suit 
of armor. He's great on helmets and battle-axes just 
now. ' ' 

''Your father is a very wonderful man, and you're 
not to make fun of him. I'm sure he'd look splendid 
in armor if he had a fancy that way," was Rose's re- 
proof as she opened the letter. 

She did not see Dorothy's comic grimace. The girl 
was behind her, reading over her shoulder. Aunt Polly 's 
envelope, if not exjictly suggestive of flues, had a de- 
cidedly second-hand appearance which illiterate hand- 
writing did nothing to ameliorate. It was addressed to 
* * Lady Leffley , The Tivoli, Grange Gardens, Cricklewood, 
N.W." (Aunt Polly always gave Martin's house the 



THE TWINS 149 

benefit of the definite article), and the letter ran as 
follows: 

<<Mt dear Boss, — 

*^1 suppose Martin wonldnt take it aa a complement if I was 
to write and congraterlate him so I dont. I saw it in the paper 
yesterday though what he done to go and get nighted I cant 
imagine the paper dont say. If its something he dont want 
talked about well and good Im not the one to ask questions. Of 
course if you like being a Lady Im glad hes made Sir though 
it will always sound funny to me. This is to say that I hope it 
wont make any difference between me and you and that youll 
come and see me jest the same next time Martin's away for the 
day which isnt offen enough. My love to Dolly and Edgar and 
congraterlations if you want it. Tour affect. 

"Mabt Peacock. 

''"PJB. — My leg dont heel. The doctor say its Poverty of the 
Blood. Tell the children I got something for their birthday when 
they come to see me.'' 

Bose folded up the letter. 

''I'd better not leave it lying about," she said medi- 
tatively, and was about to put it in her workbox when 
Dorothy took it from her and tore it into small pieces. 

'*We do have to be circumspect about the poor old 
thing/' she remarked. ** Daddy's so awfully clever that 
I can't understand why he doesn't see that the higher 
one is the less prestige one loses by taking notice of 
people who are a step lower down. After all. Aunt 
Polly's his own blood relation." 

''Daddy has always the best of reasons for every- 
thing he does. You do stand up to him, Dolly dear. 
It vexes him sometimes." 

** Compared with some girls I'm awfully meek. You 
know, Mummy, there's something about Daddy that 
makes my knees shake. Edgar feels the same. He looks 



150 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

at us sometixiies just as if we were jellies that had 
turned out of a mold the wrong 8hai>e to what he 
intended — ^a sort of ' can these be nuy children f ' expres- 
sion. It's rather freezing/' 

Rose felt it was time to administer a rebuke. 

''I don't like to hear you criticizing your father like 
thaty" she said. "When you think of all you owe him 
— a first-class education at one of the best schools, with 
extras like your expensive drawing lessons, and the dress 
allowance he's made you, and Edgar's holiday in (Ger- 
many, you ought to think yourselves very lucky children. 
Although he's been knighted he hasn't a thought except 
for you two—" 

"That's just it, darling. He thinks about us too 
much. Not what we eat or drink — ^though I must say 
'Rosalia' at dinner as well as supper is a bit thick — 
nor how we're clothed, but what we're doing all the time. 
It makes us want to do things without his knowing, 
just because he wa/nts to know. Take Aunt Polly for 
instance. What harm is there in going to see her f And 
yet we have to do it on the quiet. ' ' 

**Aunt Polly has tried your father very much." 

* * And then there 's to-night. We 've got to be deceitful 
again." 

"What about to-night Y" Rose asked uneasily. 

"Well, you and father are going to a banquet to 
celebrate his knighthood, aren 't you f ' ' 

Rose sighed and began rolling up the socks. "Oh, 
dear, yes, I suppose so. And it's time I began to think 
what I'm to wear. I would much rather have stopped 
at home. And on your birthdays, too ! " 

"We're going to a theater." 

Again a serious look came into Rose's face. Success 



THE TWINS 151 

had not relaxed any of Martin's rigid views about dis- 
sipation. If anything, it had increased them. Theaters 
were one item in a long black-list of forbidden things. 
Remembering this, Dorothy had avoided saying any- 
thing about going to one until now, trusting to her 
mother not to veto it or to tell. A man may not be 
able to serve two masters, but a woman frequently can 
and does. Rose did. Her allegiance was divided be- 
tween Martin and her children. 

''Oh, my dear, I wish you hadn't told me," was all 
she said. ''It seems so unkind to stop your pleasure 
on your birthday." 

"You wouldn't stop it for worlds, you dear," the 
girl laughed. "There goes the front door. It must be 
Edgar.'' 

Bose listened. She heard her son mounting the stairs, 
and then the opening of Martin's study door on the 
first landing. Something was said. Edgar, seemingly, 
replied to it with thanks. Almost immediately he came 
down again and opened the library door, carrying four 
big new books. 

"Father's present," he observed, putting them down 
before kissing his mother. 

Are they nice books, darling f" she asked. 
Oh, I expect so," he replied captiously. "I rather 
wanted Hamel and Turner on Aeronautics, but I daresay 
111 read these some day." 

Dorothy picked up the books. " 'Hodgson on Porce- 
lain, "Old Dutch Delft, "Wanklyn's English Furniture,' 
' Eighteenth Century Engravers, ' ' ' she read out. 
"What stodge!" 

"I suppose they cost a lot," Edgar grudgingly ad- 
mitted. He balanced himself on the arm of Rose's chair. 



it 



162 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

''I say, Mom, the fellows have heen chipping me no end 
because of this beastly knighthood of the governor's. 
I don't know that I like it. They keep on pestering to 
know what he got it for." 

"Yes, what has he got it fort" echoed Dorothy. 

Poor Rose looked rather helpless. ''My dears," she 
said, ''those who gave it to him could tell you better 
than I can. All that we need think about is that it's 
an honor only given to the very deserving." 

' ' The Tories don 't think so, ' ' mumbled Edgar. ' ' One 
of the fellows in my form showed me a paper he'd got. 
'Old England,' it's called, and it wanted to know about 
the governor. It said something about his mediocrity, 
and the reckless way the Government had of debasing 
the fountain of honor. It was a .beastly thing to have 
to read about him." A scowl was on the boy's face, 
but quite suddenly it disappeared. A doting look took 
its place. He put his arms round Rose and said: "I 
don't care if they have made a howler over father. It's 
you, mother, who ought to have had the title. If you 
ever want a champion you count on me. I'm your own 
true knight." 

For a moment Rose did not know whether to look 
shocked or pleased. To her, Martin's knighthood was 
the reward of unalloyed merit. The fact that it had 
been conferred on him was all the proof she wanted. 
She would no more have questioned his deserts than she 
would have doubted the inspiration of the Scriptures. 
And yet it was apparent that the twins did not seem 
quite convinced that their father's knighthood was a 
matter for unrestrained rejoicing. She could only sup- 
pose that this want of enthusiasm was explained by the 
standing up" attitude which they frequently adopted 



It 



THE TWINS 153 

towards him — a sort of juyenile pugnacity. She knew 
their sentiments towards herself were those of whole- 
hearted adoration. On Edgar's part especially so. So, 
with eyes full of love, she got up and stood between 
her two children. She was immensely proud of these 
wonderful beings who towered a good four inches over 
her. They made her feel such a little mother. 
''Oh| children I" she cried, and held out loving arms. 



^m A I 



LADY LEFFLE7 

ROSE did not boast a maid of her own. Martin's 
income did not permit of such a luxury. Moreover, 
she would have felt uncomfortable with a personal at- 
tendant about her. A woman who darns her own stock- 
ings from choice prefers to do her own dressing. 

The L^Beys lived what they liked to call a plain and 
wholesome life, which meant plenty to eat without much 
variety, and very English cooking. The principal meal 
of the day, by courtesy called lunch, was served at the 
old hour of one o'clock. Supper at eight was called 
dinner. Neither Martin nor Rose had outlived the cus- 
toms of their youth. They only made believe to do so 
when they had ** company." 

So when Hose went up to dress for the ceremonial 
dinner for which they were engaged that evening she 
managed for herself, except for faithful and now middle- 
aged Jane's assistance with some refractory hooks and 
eyes which refused to accommodate themselves to their 
wearer's embonpoint. This increase of plumpness, to 
which Rose had always been prone, was becoming a 
growing anxiety to her. Martin did not approve of it. 
With increasing age his tastes ran to the more youthful 
and slenderer charms of womanhood, and he contrived 
to let Bose know of it. It meant that, to satisfy it, 
she had to lace tighter than was comfortable. Also to 

154 



LADY LEFFLEY 155 

please him she wore dresses considerably more decoUetS 
than she cared about. To-night, in a black sequin gown, 
bare-necked and bare-armed, she was not at all satisfied 
with her appearance, and glad that the twins were out 
of the way, A sense of propriety made her feel that 
it was not ''quite nice" for Edgar to see his mother so 
much exposed. 

Coming out of his dressing-room in full evening rig, 
Martin surveyed his wife with the same bland approval 
that he had just given to his own reflection in the glass. 
The wearing of dress clothes was an exception with him, 
not a custom; and like most men of his condition of 
life, he did not look at home in them. Of this he was 
quite insensible. In fact, he considered he was at his 
best in dress clothes — as much a gentleman as a gentle- 
man can look. He might be conscious of an indefinable 
difference between himself and men of brieeding, but it 
did not affect him as a comparison unfavorable to him- 
self. It only annoyed him in the same way as the 
** Oxford manner" annoyed him. 

The only fault he could find with Rose was her over- 
plumpness. Rose did very nearly look a lady. Her 
amiable disposition, her transparent honesty, her pride 
in being Martin's wife, and above aU her modesty, con- 
tributed to a gentle air of dignity that made her seem 
at ease when she often felt the reverse. In a way she 
had repose. Although she frequently quaked inwardly 
she had become an adept in the small affairs of public t 
life that fell to her lot — ^the making of a little speech 
on behalf of a charity, the opening of a minor bazaar, 
an address to working girls. She accomplished these 
duties with a sweet reasonableness that was very taking. 

Although she could not see it, time had dealt less 



156 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

kindly with Martin. Twenty years of strained effort 
had not taken him very far, not nearly so far as he had 
hoped to get. He had managed to keep his Hemford 
seat and also Gammel's yearly subsidy, until parlia- 
mentary jobbery had given him a salary of £400 a year 
in place of it. He also had money in ''Liversidge, 
Limited," now an enormous concern with branches all 
over the country, which paid a dividend of thirty per 
cent. ''Rosalia" still brought him in a considerable 
sum, but it was not the money-maker it had been. In 
all, his income slightly exceeded a thousand a year. 

But none of ''the soft things" he had looked for, no 
€h)vemment sinecure, had come his way. It was not 
for the want of asking. He had pestered the patronage 
departments of his party for this and that post without 
avail. The fact is, in Parliament Martin had quickly 
found his level. He was neither esteemed nor liked 
there. In that acute-minded assembly his abilities were 
not rated above their true value. The Whips knew all 
about his first election for Hemford: they knew all 
about Oammel. They might engineer jobs of their own, 
and distribute favors among the tried supporters of 
the Government, but the sweets of office were not for 
such as Martin Leffley. The Gammel crowd had since 
become a thorn in the Government's flesh. They knew 
them for what they were, a hard and grasping lot whose 
motto was, "It's your money we want"; men who would 
let the country go to the devil so long as their own 
private ends were served. And although of late years 
it had been apparent that Martin no longer enjoyed 
their confidence and that he claimed to be an orthodox 
Liberal, the Whips regarded him as a political Ishmael 
no more to be trusted than his old masters. So, as a 



LADY LEFPLBY 157 

cheap way of getting rid of his imi>ortunities, they had 
given him a knighthood. It was a barren honor, as 
Martin knew, but with Liversidge in possession of it, as 
he now was, and because of the sop to his vanity which 
it provided, he was glad enough to accept it. 

Many of Martin's fond illusions had vanished since he 
had got into Parliament. One of them had been his 
belief that Cabinet rank implied the soul of virtue and 
probity. "When he made the discovery that two promi- 
nent members of the Ministry were just as hard drinkers 
as Peacock, and that the moral reputation of another — 
the one he most revered — ^was about as dingy as Aunt 
Polly's time-honored bonnet, he could not at first credit 
it. And to find that these lapses were the talk of the 
House and the cause of quiet amusement in the Lobbies, 
put a finishing touch to his amazement. 

Martin, in fact, was a soured man. His perpetual 
itch for money had gone unsatisfied. Politics had 
brought him no power and knighthood no respect. In 
the House he already felt it to be a satire on him : only 
the tradespeople in Gricklewood gave it face value. 

In point of appearance Martin had not changed much 
in the last seventeen years. He weighed more, but he 
was just as angular; his hair was gray, his clean-shaven 
face more lined, his eyes just as watchful as of yore. He 
was narrower than ever in his views and harder to deal 
with. 

To-night, however, he felt more expansive than usual. 
He would be the shining light at a gathering of unim- 
portant people who would accord full honor to the new 
handle to his name. He patted Hose's bare shoulder 
approvingly. 

"You're a fine woman, my dear," he said. 



15S IF WISHSB WERE H0BSB8 

She blushed like a girL 

''Oh, Martini Don't you think I'm just a little " 

An upward hitch of the low-cut bodice finished the 
sentence. 

''Not at alL When a woman has a neck and shoulders 
like yours she's justified in showing them." 

"I shall never get used to these banquets," she de- 
clared, picking up her gloves. "It seems such a funny 
idea eating one's dinner half undressed." 

He helped her on with her doak. 

"You ought to have got over that sort of thing," he 
said in a superior way. " It 's plebeian. You must think 
of your rank now." 

Jane put her head in at the door. 

"The motor's come, ma'am — ^my lady," she corrected 
herself, and retired reddening. 

It was a hired landaulet. One of Martin's grievances 
against circumstance was his inability to afford a motor- 
car of his own. If wishes were horses — or horse "power, 
to be precise — ^he would have owned a fleet of cars long 
ago. No footsore beggar had a greater desire to ride in 
state than he. He had always been full of wishes and 
ambitions which somehow he had never been able to 
realize to their full extent. He considered the twins 
answerable for this deprivation. If it had not been for 
them he might have had a car years ago. It was no 
deprivation to Rose. She could be perfectly contented 
with a motor-bus or get enjoyment out of a taxi ride. 
As they drove along she slipped her plump hand into 
Martin's and gave it an affectionate squeeze. It seemed 
more like a fairy tale than ever to think that he and 
she, mere nobodies to start with, now belonged to the 
upper classes (a belief which her simplicity did not 



LADY LEFFLEY 159 

permit her to doubt), and were driying in a nearly 
private ear to dine with important and distinguished 
people, another illusion of her homely eredulity. But 
she wished she felt some of the joy that fairy people 
were supposed to experience. If only she and Martin 
were on their way to diae alone together ! Just a simple 
meal in a country cottage somewhere out of London! 
Bose's mind always reverted to the country when in 
pursuit of the ideal. 

The warmth of the evening made the air of the closed 
carriage oppressive. The smell of the asphalt added to 
its fustiness. She felt stifled. 

^'Too hotf" Martin asked, lowering the window an 
inch or two. 

^'A little. It will be hotter at dinner, though, Mar- 
tin!" She squeezed his unresponsive hand again. ''I 
was just wishing we were driving through country lanes 
in an open cab on a night like this, and the smell of 
hedge-flowers and dew " 

'* Where f" he asked unimaginatively. 

''Anywhere, miles from London. Or— or I was wish- 
ing we were a happy couple who'd never been out of 
their pretty village, and just grown old together in a 
little thatched cottage with a tiny garden all flowers 
and a few beehives " 

He withdrew his hand. Contact with hers made it 
unpleasantly warm. 

''And a dinner of bread and potatoest" he asked, 
untouched by such futile imaginings. 

A line from the Bible was running in Bose's mind: 
"Better a dinner of herbs where love is. . . .*' 

But Martin was thinking of turtle-soup. 



xxn 



IN THB DABK 



MABTIN pat out the light and got into bed. 
''A very pleasant evening/' he observed. 

''Yes, dear," agreed Bose. 

''I was particularly gratified by the flattering way in 
which I was toasted. Some of the sentiments were very 
well expressed. The one concerning the Government's 
recognition of my long career in the people's service 
especially so." 

''Yes. But what I liked best was your speech. It 
was so modest and yet so — so dignified. It seemed in a 
way to put you so much higher up than the other people 
who were there." 

Martin mumbled something about the intellectual 
standard and its automatic way of asserting itself. After 
a dignified pause he added: 

"After all, it's a pleasant reflection to realize that 
one hasn't stood still all these years." 
Yes, dear. You hcvoe worked ! ' ' 
The only thing I have to complain of is that money 
hasn't come in as fast as it might have done. I'm 
inclined to think that my long association with the 
Liversidge lot has had something to do with that." 

"Why?" 

"Well, they're rather a thorn in the side of the Gov- 

160 






IN THE DABK 161 

emment- They've got too much influence, and they 
adopt a selfish policy. I've suflfered from it." 

**But if they've got influence, and you're in with 
them, why is it " 

'*I'm not in with them now. Not actually, that is. 
I vote with them for the sake of expediency. If I did 
not I might not hold Hemford. As a party they're 
strong enough to do without me. It makes my position 
rather difficult." 

Which meant that he had reached the stage of the dog 
that is ready to bite the hand that feeds it and is only 
restrained by fear of the consequences. 

"They couldn't do you any harm, could they?" 
Bose asked. She sensed unspoken danger in Martin's 
tone. 

' * You never know with people of their sort. They 're 
absolutely ruthless in crushing any kind of opposition. 
And they're extremely secretive. Even the Government 
have to handle them very carefully. You see, they con- 
trol so many interests, and they've got the press behind 
them. That's why they don't need to make speeches in 
the House. Their own newspapers do it for them, and 
those they don't own can't afford to attack them because 
of their immense outlay on advertisement. There's 
Liversidge, for instance, with a whole page in some 
* daily' or other every day in the week! The same with 
Oammel and Witt and a dozen others. Their money 
absolutely ties the hands of the press. Of course, it 
means that they exercise the worst kind of monopoly, 
because it's not direct, not obvious to the public. That's 
what the (Jovemment don't like. They have constantly 
to be prepared against pressure from the Gammel section 
whenever it's a question of something running counter 



162 IF WISHES WEBB HORSES 

to their personal interests. The only good they do is to 
prevent public money being wasted on armaments. I'm 
against that sort of extravagance myself, and keep in 
with them by voting against the Army and Navy esti- 
mates, and also Tariff Reform. Still, I confess the rest 
of their policy is purely one of feathering their own nests 
at the expense of every other class. ' ' 

''How shocking!" declared Rose. ''But surely they 
were not like that at first f" 

"They were, but I didn't know it. At least, I didn't 
know how clever they were." 

' ' They must have been clever to have got hold of you. 
Still, if they hadn't given you the chance of getting 
into Parliament you mightn't have got another." 

"I don't know so much about that." 

His tone did not carry much conviction. Of late he 
had often wondered whether, without Liversidge's back- 
ing, he would have reached his present position. Twice 
his majority at Hemford had shown a dangerous de- 
cline. Would there be any majority at all if the Gammel 
support were withdrawn t At forty-five he had nothing 
like the confidence that had distinguished him at twenty- 
eight 

"I think — ^I think very few men would have got on 
like you have, dear," came Rose's voice out of the dark- 
ness. 

' ' Probably not. Still, there 's the future. What with 
keeping up appearances, and two children to educate 
instead of one, I've saved very little money in all these 
years. We should have been better off without Edgar." 

The callous observation smote Rose's tender heart. 
It seemed to her sometimes that Martin blamed her for 
having brought twins into the world. This was not 



IN THE DARK 163 

the first time he had implied that one of them was saper- 
fluous. Sometimes it was Dorothy, but more often 
Edgar. Martin and Edgar were antagonistic by tem- 
perament. In disposition the boy was remarkably like 
Aunt Polly. He had her direct, blunt manner, and 
occasionally evinced flashes of sardonic humor, curiously 
reminiscent of her sharp tongue. That was probably 
the reason why he and his father were sometimes at 
varia^ice. Martin had no patience with people who 
showed a sense of humor. It seemed to him that they 
utterly failed to appreciate the seriousness of life, and 
that their laughter was a personal affront. Dorothy too, 
with her high spirits, often disconcerted him. 

"By the way,'' he said, "this will be Edgar's last 
term at school. I shall soon have to be thinking what 
to do with him." 

Bose sat up in bed. 

"You won't put him in 'Bosalia,' will yout" 

"Not sure." 

"B-because he won't like it." 

Martin said nothing. He sometimes made it extremely 
di£Scult for Bose to pursue a subject. 

' ' Have you any special plans for our boy f ' ' she asked 
timidly. 

"Business of some sort. I don't much care what. 
Something that pays." 

Under the bed-clothes Bose clasped and unclasped 
her hands. "Martin dear," she said, "he's set his heart 
on something so different. He wants to learn to fly." 

Martin grunted. "I hope you discouraged such non- 
sense." 

"I did at first. But not lately. He's really made 
up his mind." 



164 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 



"Has heT'' said Martin sententiously. 

''But yonll listen to what he has to say about it, 
won't you, deart" 

''Children nowadays are allowed to say a great deal 
too much. You know, I often think we should have 
done better without any. One has to devote a great 
deal of thought to their future, which would be much 
better employed if concentrated on one's own« The only 
people who benefit by having children are tiie really 
poor. When they get too old to work their children are 
earning a living and able to keep them. ' ' 

' ' Oh, dear ! ' ' Bose demurred. ' ' But one only wants 
to love one's children, not to benefit by them." 

"You women always ignore the economic side of 
things," he objected. "I'm not saying I don't love 
our children, in spite of the fact that they've turned 
out so unlike either of us. I wonder they didn't wait 
up for us to-night. Did they go to bed early ? ' ' 

"I — ^I haven't been to see," Bose faltered. She was 
very much afraid that the twins were not in yet. 

For once in a way Martin was not curious enough 
to pursue the subject. He wanted to turn over and 
compose himself for sleep. 
Qood-night," he yawned. 

Ood bless you, sweetheart." Bose never closed her 
eyes without that formula. 

A touch of indigestion, due to the good dinner to 
which he had done full justice, tended to keep Martin 
awake. In the darkness he began reviewing his parlia- 
mentary position. It was somewhat disturbing. With- 
out undue exercise of foresight it was apparent to him 
that a dissolution was not very remote. The trend of 
popular feeling was against the Oovemment. Gradual 






IN THE DARK 165 

estrangement from the Gammel parly made him realize 
that Hemf ord was no longer to be counted on as a safe 
seat. Once defeated there he might remain in ''the 
wilderness" for an indefinite period. That would mean 
Ihe loss of £400 a year, the chief adjunct to his income. 
How he would do without it he did not know. To 
reduce his expenses, move into a smaller house, curtail 
allowances to Rose and the children, do with one servant, 
give up the many little amenities of life to which he had 
become accustomed — ^all such changes would be a trying 
reflection on his new rank. The prospect of having to 
make them stabbed his stiff-necked vanity. In the black 
stillness of the night his somnolent brain became the prey 
of that supersensitiveness that eats into and tortures the 
spirit. 

Rose could not settle herself to sleep either. She was 
hungry. At a dinner party or banquet her appetite 
invariably failed her. She found it impossible to main- 
tain a running conversation and consume her food at 
the same time. Moreover, her evening dresses were 
always too tight for comfort. As a result she only made 
a pretense of eating. 

Lying there wide-eyed it was not long before her 
thoughts went to the twins. She wondered whether 
they were hungry too. Coming in late, they might be. 
She wanted to assure herself of their well-being. A 
motherly longing to go and ''tuck them up" besieged 
her. Although she had long given up the fond habit 
to-night she yearned to revive it. It was their birth- 
day night too; and although it was certain they had 
enjoyed themselves, she felt something like self-reproach 
for being the cause of their seeking entertainment away 
from their own home. She felt she ought to have stayed 



166 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

in on such an occasion; a few friends ou^t to have 
been asked in ; there should have been something in tiie 
nature of a jolly birthday supper. . . . 

Presently, when Martin's even breathing told her that 
he was asleep, she slipped out of bed, put on her dress- 
ing-gown and slippers, and tiptoed out of the room. On 
the landing she lit a candle and proceeded to Dorothy's 
room. Finding it empty, she went on to Edgar's. That 
was empty too. They were really very late. And she 
had wanted to kiss them so badly. All she could do in 
their absence was to console herself by pressing her lips 
to the pillows where their dear heads would rest. Then 
she went downstairs to get a biscuit. She was so 
hungry that she could think of nothing but to-morrow's 
breakfast. 

A pencil of light coming from beneath the kitchen 
door caught her eye as she was about to turn into the 
dining-room. Simultaneously her nostrils were assailed 
by the appetizing smell of hot bacon. Rose went into 
the kitchen. 

At the table sat the twins, between them a big plate 
of eggs and bacon. More bacon was cooking on the 
gas stove. 

' ' Oh, mother, do have some ! ' ' they chorused. ' * You 've 
no idea how delicious eggs and bacon taste at this time 
of night!" 

Poor Rose! The temptation of this feast as against 
a dry biscuit was irresistible. The twins read capitula- 
tion in her face. In another minute they had her sitting 
at the table and were helping her to curly bacon, crisp 
from the frying-pan. 

''It only wanted mother to come in to make it per- 
fect!" Dorothy declared. 



IN THE DARK 187 

''Bather!" agreed the boy. '*Miims, what are you 
going to drink? 'Rosalia' or some of our ' Monsters 't 
We brought in two with us. With all due deference 
to the governor we didn't like the idea of undermining 
our constitutions with 'Rosalia' so late as this." 

In all her life Rose had never enjoyed a meal so much 
as this stolen midnight feast with her two children. The 
only thing that marred her pleasure was the certainty 
that if Martin could see her sitting there "guzzling" 
(Edgar's expression) eggs and bacon in a dressing* 
go^ with her hair flowing all over her shoulders he 
would consider her totally lacking in dignity. But as 
the merry meal progressed she forgot all about dignity. 
She felt young and happy and — ^yes, irresponsible. 
"Monsters" made her positively effervesce. Egged on 
by the twins she gave them imitations of some of the 
speeches made by ponderous bores at the banquet from 
which she had returned so empty. She had a certain gift 
for mimicry. 

Upstairs Martin had fallen into a troubled sleep. 
Soon this developed into nightmare, brought on by indi- 
gestion. He dreamt that the pursuivants of the Heralds' 
College had got him down in one of the vaults beneath 
the House of Commons and were torturing him in the 
most approved medieval fashion. They were "putting 
the question," not in customary parliamentary language, 
but with the assistance of molten lead. Rouge Dragon 
poured the fiery metal over his bare chest; Portcullis 
scorched him with a blowpipe. They demanded to know 
what he, a small plumber's son, meant by his audacity 
in considering himself worthy of the honor of knight- 
hood and the privilege of bearing arms. They hammered 
his joints with a shaping mallet as if he were a length 



168 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

of compo piping full of bends. With hot irons they 
seared his flesh, explaining it as the operation of 
''blazoning his coat." They called him a false knight, 
and then put out their torches and left him in the dark. 
It took him several minutes to throw off the horrible ob- 
session, to know where he was, and to discover that Bose 
was no longer by his side. 

He called her. Getting no answer, he scrambled out 
of bed and bent over the banisters, listening. Hearing 
sounds from the lower floor, he went cautiously down- 
stairs. The sounds led him to the kitchen. The door, 
slightly ajar, permitted him to witness the dumbfound- 
ing spectacle within. He saw Bose, his wife, the mother 
of his children, at dead of night, sitting at a common 
kitchen table drinking something out of a kitchen 
tumbler that was certainly not ''Bosalia," and larking 
— ^yes, there was no other word for it — ^positively larking 
with the twins! The monstrous sight reminded him of 
her indiscretion of years ago in sitting down to dinner 
with Jane. He felt deceived, set at nought in his own 
house. He stood trying to keep his anger within bounds, 
mentally revolving the most scathing reproof he could 
employ. Even in anger he knew the value of an effective 
opening sentence. *'You, Bose!" in the cold tone which 
she so dreaded, would probably meet the case and bring 
the trio to their senses — ^Bose ashamed, Edgar and 
Dorothy speechless with fear of the consequences. As 
he put his hand out to push open the door Edgar rapped 
on the bare table with his knife-handle. 

.''And now," he declaimed in imitation of the tone 
of a toastmaster, "I call on Lady Lefiley to return 
thanks on behalf of the ladies. Applause ! ' ' 



IN THE DARK 169 

"Hear, hear! Cheers!" Dorothy seconded, joining 
in with her knife-handle. 

'*Go'on, mother, you must," Edgar insisted. 

Rose stood up bashfully, gathering her dressing-gown 
around her. 

' ' Oh, children ! ' ' she protested, ' ' I 'm no good at mak- 
ing speeches. I can 't do anything properly except love. 
But I will say this : I ha/ve so enjoyed supper with you 
to-night, although I ought to know better at my age. 
I really was hungry, or I couldn't have managed three 
slices of bacon and two eggs and a glass and a half of 
'Monster' as well. We ought to have drunk 'Rosalia.' 
But I won't say anything more about that, as it's your 
birthday. Now, darlings, we must really go to bed. But 
before we do just let me remind you, and I'm serious 
now, that for all we have and for all we are, we've got 
to thank Daddy. If it were not for all he has done for 
us we should be in a very different position to what we 
are now; and if you're ever inclined to be ungrateful or 
discontented you must try and remember that. He's the 
very best husband and the dearest father in the world 
and — ^what was that?" 

**Only a mouse," said Edgar. ''Hear, hear!" 

"I thought I heard footsteps," said Rose, going 
nervously to the door. 

But when she opened it, nobody was there. Martin 
had crept silently away. 



xzin 



EDQAB 



MOST people reason from the general to the par- 
ticular. Martin had too much of the Ego in him 
to do that. A German proverb has it, ''Der Esel fangt 
immer mit Mir an/' but though a keen admirer of 
everything German he probably was not acquainted with 
it nor aware how very symbolic it was of his attitude 
towards the rest of the world. 

Since he had been able to reason at all he had always 
done so from the particular to the general; in other 
words, from himself outwards. He took it for granted 
that any course of action or system of ideas of which 
he approved must of necessity appeal to other people. 
This was not entirely due to vanity. He really believed 
in his own judgment. He might admit the capacity of 
men of proved ability, admire the eloquence of some, 
the administrative genius of others — ^there were men on 
his side of the House who had his distinct approval — ^but 
he reckoned himself the intellectual equal of any of 
them. To put it concisely Martin was a bounder, and 
he did not know it. 

At home he ruled in the spirit of bounderism. He 
did not know he was an unnatural parent. Had ha 
been told so he would have retorted that he had un- 
natural children. He considered them assertive and 
much too independent. He hardly thought of them as 

170 



EDGAB 171 

creatures with personalities and souls of their own. In 
his eyes they had no value, just as Rose had no particular 
▼alue, except as a wife and a housekeeper. In fact, 
he thought of children as unavoidable evils entailing 
regrettable expense. That the twins should show a desire 
for individual expression and a need for individual con- 
sideration struck him as preposterous. As babies they 
had neither amused nor interested him; as they grew 
up habit made him tolerate them. Of the two, because of 
her good looks, he had least objection to Dorothy; but 
he disapproved of her high spirits and her ready tongue. 
The latter reminded him unpleasantly of Aunt Polly. 

Another thing he discouraged in her was a hankering 
for art. While she was at school he had been per- 
suaded to allow her special instruction, but when she 
shook free from the freehand stage and developed a 
startling facility for caricature he put his foot down. 
He had himself been wickedly caricatured at one of 
the Hemford elections, and he was not going to foster 
so pernicious a facidty in his own daughter. So the 
drawing lessons had abruptly ceased. In place of them 
Dorothy was now learning (and loathing) shorthand and 
typewriting — ^in Martin's opinion sensible accomplish- 
ments which had a definite value. 

Edgar's case was different. At present he was at one 
of the big London day-schools which call themselves col- 
leges. All Martin's past talk — ^almost forgotten now — 
about a university education for ^'the people" had re- 
sulted in nothing better than this. Seventeen years of 
Parliament had not brought him an inch nearer to the 
upper classes. He hated them more than ever, writhed 
under their aloofness and cool disregard of the existence 
of men like himself. Edgar was the sufferer. 



172 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

father's class hatred had defrauded him of the advan- 
tages of mixing with the sons of gentlemen. Now his 
schooldays were drawing to an end. He would have to 
be started in some career. That meant more expendi- 
ture. Martin's face hardened whenever he thought of it. 

So, when, one day about this time, he called Edgar 
into his study, his main idea was to settle the boy's 
future as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Rose 
had given Edgar a hint of the coming interview, and 
in her endeavors to make him amenable to whatever 
Martin should deem best only succeeded in putting him 
on his guard. For Edgar secretly dreaded his father. 
The intuition of youth had created this feeling. He 
could not explain why he felt it. All he knew was that 
it was there. He showed it ever so slightly by a sort of 
expressionless density — ^the schoolboy's mask of feeling — 
when he came into the room. 

Martin was seated in a revolving chair at his desk. 
Edgar kept near the door. Hot and disheveled after 
a bicycle ride, he felt at a disadvantage. He noticed 
that his father looked authoritative and calmly dispas- 
sionate. It was not his future he was going to settle, 
but somebody else's. He could keep his hair on. 

'*Tou look warm," Martin observed. **Very soon 
now you won't have so much time for bicycling and 
games. You are leaving school at the end of this term. 
You know that, of course." 
Yes, father." 

I understand that you've done fairly well there. 
I hope you appreciate that I have spent a great deal 
on your education. I also hope you will profit by it." 

Edgar offered no remark to this preamble. It made 
him nervous. He wished his father would '*cut the 



<( 
<< 



EDGAR 173 

cackle and come to the 'osses," a phrase he had picked 
up from a sporting novel, read surreptitiously. 

"Because/* Martin pursued, *'your future greatly 
depends on the use you make of your educational advan- 
tages. It's your future that I want to speak about. I 
intend to give you a good start in life." 

* * Thank you, father. ' ' Immediately after that tribute 
of prescribed filial respect, Edgar blurted out: '*I — ^I'd 
like to tell you what it is I want to " 

Martin's uplifted hand stopped the rush of words. 

*' Fortunately I can give you a choice of careers. As 
a director of 'Bosalia, Limited,' I can get you a position 
in Grimwood Brothers, or into any of the Liversidge 
stores, provided you pass the necessary examination. 
Alternatively, I could probably secure an opening for 
you with Sir Alfred Gammel, or I might even put you 
into the antique trade. You can think it over and let 
me know which you prefer. It should be obvious to 
you that with application and assiduity on your part, 
and helped by the influence I shall be able to exercise 
on your behalf, it wrill be your own fault if you don't 
get on. That's all I want to say." 

He picked up a pen to show that the interview was 
ended. Edgar fidgeted with his feet. 

''That's all, my boy," Martin reiterated. 

Edgar took a step forward. '*It's no good, father," 
he said. ''I needn't think it over. I can tell you now. 
I don't want to go into any of those things. I shouldn't 
be any good at them, and — ^and I've got reasons for 
wanting to do something else." 

' ' Indeed ! ' ' Martin laid down his pen. ' ' To save time, 
perhaps you'll be good enough to let me hear your 



174 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

objections to my proposals. To Orimwoods', for 
instance." 

"Oh, now you're asking for it! It doesn't interest 
me — ^mineral waters and all that. And I don't like 
'Bosalia' — ^the taste, I mean. I prefer beer." 

The indiscreet admission was out before the boy knew 
it. Its effect on Martin was stupe^3ring. He went white 
with indignation. 

''Do you know what you are saying Y" he demanded. 
"You admit to being a beer drinker! You — ^my son — 
brought up to the strictest temperance ! ' ' 

''I never said I was a beer drinker," protested Edgar 
sullenly. "I only said I liked it better than 'Bosalia.' 
I've tasted it twice, that's all. What I meant to say, 
only it's so difficult, is that it wouldn't be cricket to 
go into a temperance trade like that when I think 
there's no harm in beer. It — ^it would be against my 
convictions." 

He thought the use of the last word, a favorite one 
with his father, would have a propitiatory effect. In- 
steadj it increased Martin's ire. To hear it used in 
connection with beer sounded to his ears almost 
sacrilegious. 

"I'm afraid you don't appreciate the value of words, " 
he said cuttingly. "And I don't propose to argue the 
question of sobriety with you. Well turn to the drug 
trade. Have you anything against that?" 

The contemptuous tone set Edgar's blood simmering. 

"Certainly. Drugs stink. And as for the antique 
trade — ^weU, I daresay it's aU right, but it's not what 
I'm interested in. You've got to be interested in a 
thing to get on in it. I want to be an aviator. I know 
a bit about mechanics, and I'm dead keen. I want to 



it 



SDOAR 175 

learn from the very begiiming, and it doesn't cost much. 
Not much, that is, if you go through the works and 
don't mind mucking yourself. I shouldn't. I should 
be learning all the time." 

You might moderate your language." 
I beg your pardon, father, but I'm so dead keen. 
I don't know how. to tell you how keen. I've always 
wanted to be an engineer, and especially an aviator. 
Mother knows. I'd really slog at it. Do let me! I'd 
be grateful to you. I — ^I can't tell you how keen I 
really am, ' ' he finished urgently. 

''Your vocabulary seems rather limited. I can com- 
prehend tiiat you are 'keen,' as you call it, without 
your using the unsuitable word so many times." 

That was all Martin's dignity allowed him to vouch- 
safe. He picked up his pen again, expecting Edgar to 
take the hint and go. But Edgar stood his ground. 

"What do you say, father?" 

Martin looked up, his face full of simulated incmnpre- 
hension. 

About — about flying," pleaded Edgar. 
Oh, that ! If you were a rich man's son there might 
be nothing against it. You will have to make your own 
way in the world. There's no money to be made at 
flying, only in teaching other people to fly. It would be 
another matter if you crowed strong commercial instincts 
of the Grahame White order, for example. He, I un- 
derstand, was wise enough to apply himself to the com- 
mercial side of aviation while the thing was in its 
infancy. As a consequence he has got on. But I don't 
think you have ability of that sort. I don't suppose 
you have enough commercial instinct to draft the sim- 
plest of advertisements. You see, I'm not altogether 



Hi 



176 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

uninformed about aviation. There would be nothing in 
it for you. . . . I'm busy now.*' 

He turned again to his desk. Disappointed and dis- 
gusted, Edgar went slowly out of the room. 

Left alone, Martin no longer feigned interest in the 
papers on his desk. He sat staring before him, savagely 
chewing the end of his pen. At that moment he found 
himself actually disliking his son. When Edgar had said 
that he liked beer Martin had involuntarily conjured up 
a vision of the defunct Peacock — ^Peacock who had also 
been offensive about ' ' Bosalia. ' ' Edgar, too, had shown 
some of his great-aunt's assertiveness. That was quite 
enough to make Martin put his foot down about flying. 
Bose had probably encouraged the boy. Rose was so 
weak where Edgar was concerned. 

Bose tapped quietly at Edgar's bedroom door. She 
had heard him go there after leaving the study. No 
sound came from within. She tried the handle. It 
would not give. 

**Tou can't come in," said a stifled voice. 

**It's only me, darling," she pleaded. 

Then the door was unlocked. Edgar, looking suspi- 
ciously bright-eyed, had evidently just risen from the 
bed where he had flung himself. 

"It's n-no good!" he choked. **I knew it wouldn't 
be. What an ass I am ! " 

He hid his face on his mother's shoulder till the weak- 
ness he was ashamed of had passed. It did a fellow 
good to have a mother like her. She made up for two 
fathers. A fellow could tell her things. She didn't 
ask questions. She understood. She was dead against 
his flying, herself, because she thought it was dangerous 



EDGAE 177 

and he inight hurt himself, but she knew how awfully 

keen he was ; and when a fellow is simply dead keen 

Oh, she was a ripping mother! 

A little later on Martin sought Rose. His face was 
extremely grave. He knew exactly how to strike the 
right note in her, knew perfectly well that she studied 
every variation in his expression, and that for the rest 
of the day she would be influenced by the mood she read 
there. So now he wore the look of a man laboring under 
the stress of deep parental disappointment. 

*'I think it as well to tell you," he said, **that Edgar 
and I have had our talk. At least, he did most of the 
talking. He has shown himself willful and obstinate. 
I'm very worried about him. And morally, too, I fear 
for him. We shall have to keep a very strict watch over 
him. He has, unwittingly perhaps, revealed things 
to me this afternoon which indicate only too clearly 
that he cannot lay claim, as we have hoped and believed, 
to the white flower of a blameless youth." 

Edgar's aspersion of '^ Rosalia" and his suspicious 
preference for beer were responsible for this highly col- 
ored statement. 

' * Oh, dear, whatever has he done 1 ' ' Bose asked f ear- 
fuUy. 

^'That I cannot discuss with his mother. Only mark 
this, Bose: Edgar is not so young nor so innocent as 
you would believe." 

Bose could not in the least make out what he was 
driving at. But it sounded mysterious and alarming, 
and so unlike anything she could associate with her 
boy. For a moment she felt inclined to doubt Martin's 
judgment of him. For the Edgar she had so recently 



178 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

come from, who had wept on her breast, had shown 
her the clean and simple heart of a boy. 

**Are you— quite sure you understand himt" she 
faltered. ''He's difficult to understand sometimes." 

Martin's smile was very kind and yery superior. 

''When a man has made the study of character as 
closely as I have," he said, "it is unlikely that he can 
be mistaken in his own son. But that's neither here 
nor there. The point is that Edgar has got to go into 
business, and that I will not be coerced by any silly 
boyish predilections. I want you as well as him to 
understand that from now onwards the subject of his 
future career is settled and closed. ' ' 

For once Rose did not answer with her customary 
submissiveness. In fact, she said nothing until Martin 
asked her if she had heard. Then she raised her eyes 
to his, and Martin's shifted under her clear, direct gaze. 

' ' I heard, ' ' she said quietly, ' ' and I '11 not take sides 
with Edgar, if that's what you mean. But I can't 
treat him any differently because whatever he did — 
and I can't feel he has done anything so very wrong — 
I shoidd love him just the same. He's my son." She 
made the words sing. 

"Emotional creatures, women," thought Martin, turn- 
ing away. 



XXIV 

PLAIN ICABY FBAOOOK 

TIME had not quarreled with Mrs. Peacock. After 
ten years of widowhood her age seemed as doubtfol 
as ever. Neither Bose nor the twins troubled to esti- 
mate it. She had always been old to them and now was 
very old, that was all. Martin, being prejudiced, thought 
her too old to be alive. 

Except in years the change in her was hardly notice- 
able. She was as sharp-witted and as alert as ever. 
After giving up her shop and burying Peacock, both 
of which proceedings she carried out with the same 
impartial conscientiousness, she paid more attention 
to her appearance. She cultivated more tidiness and 
wore better clothes. The only feature reminiscent of 
the past was her black bonnet, but that had improved 
in quality and was always festooned with crape, pre- 
sumably in memory of her late husband. 

For the sake of occupation she still carried on a little 
business in antiques and ladies' cast-off apparel, using 
her front room as a miniature showroom. The antiques 
were few and select — some Georgian silver, bits of jew- 
elry, old lace, a few pictures. The dresses and acces- 
sories were of fine quality and finish. This semi-private 
trade was by no means unprofitable, and in addition it 
gave her an impish satisfaction. She knew that it made 
Martin squirm to think that, in spite of his social eleva- 

17i^ 



180 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

tion, he had an aunt who was only an old-do' woman, 
and who would remain one until the end of her days. 

This afternoon Aunt Polly was expecting^ the twins 
to tea. The feast was already laid in her sittings-room 
at the back. Gold fried fish, crisp and golden, was its 
central attraction. A dish of spring onions and another 
of new bread and butter flanked the fish. A big birth- 
day cake, iced and decorated, dominated the board. The 
tea-kettle was in readiness on a spirit lamp, and a jug 
of thick cream stood in the slop basin. It was the last 
word in teas, specially provided for the twins. At home 
spring onions were vetoed ; the fish of commerce, cooked 
in an odoriferous shop round the comer, would have 
staggered the respectability of "Tivoli''; cream there 
was a Sunday luxury. Hence it was that tea at Aunt 
Polly 's alwajrs took on the aspect of a stolen orgy. She 
herself gloried in providing it. The only drawback 
to her satisfaction in doing so was Martin's inability to 
see the gusto with which the twins tucked into it. 

At four o'clock die was at her front door watching 
the trains that passed the comer. When one stopped, 
and she saw the twins climbing down from the roof, 
she waved demonstrative greetings until they got to 
the house. In the passage she kissed them boisterously, 
and then from a capacious pocket produced their birth- 
day presents, two small packets done up in paper. Dor- 
othy was delighted with hers, a little seed-pearl brooch 
from the front-room stock. Edgar's was a gold signet 
ring with a crest on it. 

''Why, it's a peacock I" he exclaimed when he had 
thanked her. 

*'0f course. It's poor Peacock's very own crest. 
Didn't you know he come of a very old family f He 



PLAIN MABY PEACOCK 181 

t 

used to wear that ring when it wasn't left in pledge at 
*The Feathers.' Fits you nicely, don't it! Well, how's 
things at home, now you're all so high up in the world?" 

'*0h, everything's the same," answered Dorothy; 
''only we don't get mother to ourselves so much." 

''If she's not at banquets with the governor she's 
always on committees or opening bazaars," Edgar com- 
plained. "She looks awfully tired sometimes; but I 
believe she'd go on till she dropped." 

"Same as poor Peacock. He used to go on till he 
dropped — outside 'The Feathers' mostly. As long as he 
was there he was happy; and as long as your mother's 
with Martin or doin' anything for him, she's happy 
too. Drinkin' too much or lovin' too much is a kind of 
disease. I don't see much difference myself." 

The twins let it go at that. They had not come for 
metaphysics, but what they called a ' ' blow-out. ' ' When 
they had had it they found plenty of news of their own 
to talk about. Aunt Polly liked them to. air their griev- 
ances, especially when Martin was the cause of them. 
She harbored similar ones of her own against him, and 
understood theirs. That was what made her such a 
sympathetic listener, so different to tiieir mother. When- 
ever the twins opened their hearts to Rose on the subject 
of their father they had an uncomfortable feeling that 
they were making her unhappy. With Aunt Polly it 
seemed to have the reverse effect. 

It was not long before Aunt Polly had heard all about 
Martin's obstructive attitude towards Edgar's dearest 
project, and the way he was coercing Dorothy to master 
shorthand and typewriting instead <of art. 

"We wouldn't mind so much," the girl explained, 
"if he would only give us reasons why we can't have 



182 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

the things we've set oar hearts on. It makes ns feel 
as if he doesn't care, really." 

''What does your mother sayT" asked Adht Polly, 
without committing herself to any opinion. 

"Oh, she's a brick," Edgar declared. "She's always 
putting little things right for us, only she can't dictate 
about the big ones like flying or art. She hasn't the 
dibs, you see. Father pays the piper. ' ' 

"Huh I There's others can call the tune as well as 
himi" 

After that restrained conmient Aunt Polly became 
unusually thoughtful. The twins couldn 't make her out. 
She interrupted Edgar's description of a recent cricket 
match in which he had distinguished himself, and again 
when Dorothy was rhapsodizing about a new muslin 
dress in process of home manufacture, with some close 
questioning about flying and art and where such ac- 
complishments could be best learned. Of course the 
twins had all the necessary information at their fingers' 
ends, and she absorbed it with her usual quickness. 

"I've a good mind to help you meself," she presently 
observed. "Only if I did, what's to stop your father 
knowin't It wouldn't even do to tell your mother." 

The twins exchanged startled glances. Quite apart 
from the underhandedness of such a proceeding they 
were at a loss to understand how Aunt Polly could af- 
ford the expense. Unlike Martin, they had never specu- 
lated about her means. 

* ' Oh, but aunt, dear, it would cost too much, ' ' Dorothy 
objected. "I daresay even father would find it too ex- 
pensive for the two of us. ' ' 

"What your father can or can't afford hasn't nothing 
to do with me. My house don't cost eighty pounds a 



PLAIN MAEY PEACOCK 183 

year and taxes. I don't keep three servants and live 
swanky. I'm plain Mary Peacock, but I'm worth more 
than my clothes. I look at it this way. I don't want 
to put the young against their parents, but when one 
of 'em won't do what he ought he's either got to be 
made or shown how." 

'^Oh, I'm sure father means awfully well and all 
that," argued Edgar, trying hard to be loyal. "I dare- 
say he thinks it's us who are ungrateful." 

Aunt Polly took no notice of this half-hearted attempt 
at a charitable view of the matter. She put her elbows 
on the table and, supporting her chin in her hands, sat 
thinking. Like a gargoyle, Dorothy thought she looked, 
and itched to make a sketch of the impish old face. 

**0f course if I learnt you to fly," she went on dubi- 
ously, ''you might come to an end sudden; and then if 
they knew — ^Martin and Rose — ^that I'd had a hand in 
it they'd say I done it on purpose." 

''Edgar wouldn't smash himself up," was Dorothy's 
confident assertion. ' ' His nerves are like steel. ' ' 

"I don't know about that," disclaimed Edgar mod- 
estly. * ' But I 'm not afraid, and I 'd love it. The worst 
of it is I can't prove that flying's my line until I've 
learnt how. Dorothy 's only got to pick up a pencil and 
show what she can do. Look at this. Aunt Polly." 

He took a half-sheet of paper out of his pocket-book 
and passed it across the table. Ostensibly it was a seri- 
ous pencil portrait of Martin, but in making it Dorothy 
had unconsciously allowed all her talent for caricature 
full play. A gurgle of amusement came from Aunt Polly 
as she looked at it. 

"Well, I never I You have hit him off and no mis- 



184 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

take! A regular sketch! Just like them comic things 
in the illustrateds!'' 

^^It's only a study for a proper portrait/' said Dor- 
othy with becoming modesty. ''You can keep it if you 
like.'' 

Aunt Polly precipitately passed it back. 

"Now let's get talkin'," she said. 



XXV 

jSABKIS 

SIR ALFRED GAMMEL had not been far out when 
he gave it as his opinion that Martin ought to have 
been in business instead of politics. Politics was a busi- 
ness to him. He did not think of it as the science of 
government. Its catchwords, its rant and its shibboleths 
were merely the parallels of trade technicalities and jar- 
gon. In short, he only thought of politics in simple 
terms of pounds, shillings and pence. 

In spirit he was a small trader. He would have liked 
to deal in politics over the counter by the pound; and 
he would have g^ven short weight. Had he not been 
lucky enough to get into Parliament his factious nature 
might have made a demagogue of him, not because of 
any sympathy with the masses, but because he had seen 
that by windy speech and altruistic verbiage money was 
to be made out of them. The unscrupulousness that 
permitted him to flatter the mob would have been of 
equal value to hun in defrauding a customer in a shop. 

There was something about a shop that had a great 
fascination for Martin. Very few people know the trade 
price of general commodities; none can be sure of the 
cost of anything of unsettled value. Who, for instance, 
is to decide what a picture or a work of art is worth Y 
It would depend on what you liked to ask for it or 
what the purchaser woidd give. Martin had learnt that 

185 



186 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

lesson at Aunt Polly's. Behind a oonnter his predatory 
instincts would have had full play. Unfortunately, as 
a member of Parliament and the Order of Knighthood 
he would have felt it beneath him to go into retail trade. 
But Edgar could. And if he provided the money to set 
Edgar up it would mean that he himself would, to all 
intents and purposes, run the business and take the 
profits. 

That was what made him think of Harris. Harris 
called himself a marine-store dealer, but he dealt in 
antiques in a small way as well. He was a Jew, with 
the perception of his race for better things than scrap 
iron and broken metal; but being a Jew he did not 
disdain to earn the better part of his living out of such- 
like waste products. Martin, who liked poking about 
the Caledonilin Market and the small shops of men like 
Harris, looking for bargains, had bought things from 
him: bits of brasswork, pewter, Japanese tsubas. He 
had got them cheap because Harris, having a wife and 
young family to keep and very little capital, believed in 
small profits and quick returns. In thinking of him as a 
likely man with whom Edgar might be started in busi- 
ness Martin saw security in Harris's wife and family. 
The possession of these gives a man a certain stability. 
He isn 't here to-day and gone to-morrow. In Jews, more- 
over, the domestic virtues are known to be strongly de- 
veloped. Jews were a sober race and good at business. 
Altogether, Harris seemed just the man to suit him. 

Quite casually he made his proposal over the purchase 
of a pair of plated candlesticks. 

**Are these old?" he asked. 

**No, sir," said Harris; ''copies, I reckon.'' 

**How do you know the difference!" 



HABBI8 , 187 

• 

'^By the feel. The fed of the silver isn't solid enough 
for old Sheffield plate." 

Martin knew the text-book test of old plate — ^the sep- 
arate skin of silver over the copper — ^but like most amar 
teurs he didn't know how to apply it. He could also 
talk glibly about hard and soft paste china and the 
feel of it under the glaze; but it was only talk. Now, 
when he was told that old plate could be recognized by 
the f eely he was no wiser than before. 

**With your knowledge why don't you confine your- 
self to the trade in antiques f" he asked. 

**A11 very well, Sir Martin, but how about capital Y 
You want money for antiques, and a shop in the right 
quarter." 

^'What amount could a man start ont" 

'^ Depends on the man. I know what I could start 
on, only I haven't got it." 

''Would a couple of hundred be enough!" 

''For me, it would, because I should go for a quick 
turnover. ' ' 

And your stock would be small, of course." 
It'd have to be, unless I got it on commission from 
one of the big houses. You can always make a show 
that way, you know." 

"Of course there are fakes," Martin observed in a 
pensive tone that was all innocence on the surface. "I 
suppose there are big profits in fakes f" 

"Yes, but I don't hold with that sort of trade. It 
gives you a bad name. It doesn't lead to anything; not 
regular custom, I mean." 

"Quite so. I only mentioned it incidentally . " Martin 
leant against the counter in the leisurely attitude of 
one who is ready for a chat. "It's extraordinary how 






188 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

cleverly things are copied nowadays — ^porcelain, Shef- 
field plate, prints, pictures— everything in fact. I sap- 
pose even the trade get taken in sometimest'' 

Harris shook his head. ''Only if they want to be. 
You see, it's like this, Sir Martin. We know where the 
fakes come from.'' He mentioned the names of three 
wholesale firms. ''Their travelers are always coming 
round pestering ns to do business with them. Now, if 
you buy at auction or a private sale you know more or 
less that you're getting genuine articles. You've got to 
use discretion, of course. Sometimes even then you get 
taken in. But there's a difference between selling a 
doubtful article in good faith and laying in a stock of 
duds with your eyes open." 

Martin showed himself to be in complete accord with 
that view. Indeed, for a minute or two he enlarged 
on the subject of trade morality. But while he talked 
he made brief notes in a pocket-book. They consisted 
of three names — ^the wholesale houses which Harris had 
mentioned, and the memo, "Look up addresses in the 
P.O. Directory." Then he harked back to Harris's ad- 
mission of want of capital. 

' ' Then if you could afford it you would like to confine 
yourself to the antique trade?" 

"I could do all right at it. Not here, of course. One 
day, perhaps, I shall be able to give up the marine-store 
business and open a small shop in the West End. ' ' 

"I would like to help you," Martin said cautiously. 
"I'm not a rich man, and I couldn't afford to speculate, 
but I might be able to find a couple of hundred or so. ' ' 

"Do you mean that — ^firm. Sir Martin f A partner- 
shipt" 

Martin made an airy gesture. He didn't want Harris 



HABBIS 168 

to see that he was trying to engineer a business deal, 
and he was equally anxious that his motive should not 
be misconstrued as a philanthropic one. 

' * Yes. Not exactly a partnership, though. I couldn 't 
possibly have my name appear in the matter. And 
then, again, I'm not a business man." 

**No, sir, of course not. At least " 

*'Stiir' — ^Martin smiled the bland smile of the man 
who wishes to make it clear that he is not entirely unin- 
formed — ^'^ still, I think I ought to be secured in some 
way. What would you suggest?" 

'^ There 'd be the stock, and the joint signature to 
checks," Harris began meditatively. 

**It wouldn't do for me to sign checks." After a 
thoughtful pause Martin continued: "Now, if I could 
prevail on my son to go into the business and represent 
my interests in it, it would simplify matters. I don't 
know, though. He's rather — ^keen" — ^this time his smile 
was peculiar — ^"on starting under my friend, Sir Alfred 
Gammel." 

**Well, Sir Martin, I don't mind which way it is. I'd 
be pleased enough to be associated with any son of yours. 
In fact, I'd consider it an honor." 

That was all Martin wanted. It only remained to bind 
Harris down to terms. 

"I don't know that it mightn't be best for him," 
he said. "He's very interested in antiques. Now, sup- 
posing he's agreeable, and I think we may take it that 
he will be, how about the * terms of reference,' as we 
say in parliamentary circles?" he added jocularly. 

They did not take long to settle. Harris showed him- 
self agreeable to nearly everything that was proposed, 
and Martin took advantage of his docility to drive as 



190 IF WISHES WSBE HORSES 

hard a bargain as he coiild. It was so eaqr for him to 
imply that a man of his social position was bound to be 
ignorant of commercial affairs. Harris felt unequal to 
haggling with a member of Parliament and a gentleman 
of title. An honest man himself , he attributed complete 
honesty to Martin. 

''Then well consider it settled," said Martin in con- 
clusion. ''Ill let you hear from me." He laughed 
genially as he prepared to leave the shop. "Business 
is a terrible strain. I wish I understood it better. Good- 
day to you." 



XXVI 

DOMESTIC ECONOMY 

IT'S my belief there's going to be changes," observed 
the housemaid, perspicacionsly, as she came into the 
kitchen. 

Jane, counting forks and spoons into the plate-basket, 
heard but did not look up. She was too old and tried 
a servant to show curiosity, although it was quite clear 
from Ada's tone that she was referring to something 
she had heard ' * upstairs. ' ' Twenty years of service with 
her present employers were behind Jane. She never 
forgot that she was the first maid Mrs. Leffley ever had. 
But the cook, comparatively a newcomer to **Tivoli," 
pricked up her ears. 

What makes you say thatt" she asked. 
I went into my lady's room to dust under the sofa 
which I'd forgot, and she was there with Sir Martin, 
and 111 swear she'd been crying. What I heard was: 
* Oh, Martin, not Jane ! ' " 

Jane could not ignore this deliberate allusion to her- 
self. The color came into her face and then left it. 

''Tales!" she exclaimed contemptuously. 

**Well, something's going to happen," the girl went 
on; ''and it's to do with economy. I heard them say 
that too." 

' ' That woutd be nothing new, ' ' scoffed the cook. " I 've 
heard nothing else except economy ever since I took on 

191 






192 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

here. Thongfat I was going to get into a 
family when I came, and instead of that it's not much 
different from my first place with people who'd made 
their money in the shoe trade. Jnmjied up nobodies, I 
call these Leffl^s." 

''I don't like to hear her ladyship spoken of like 
that,'' objected Jane quietly. 

''Oh, she's all right," conceded cook. '"Only she's 
too soft. With her it's always Sir Martin says this and 
Sir Martin says that, or Sir Martin can't understand 
how the milk bill's so high, or Sir Martin don't like 
calves' head done that way, until I'm fair sick." 

A thoughtful l(X}k had come into Ada's face. ''I've 
got nothing to say against Sir Martin except that he 
watches you in a funny sort of way. But he gave me 
half a crown last week to buy myself something with. ' ' 

The cook shot a quick glance at the girl. ''You 
shouldn't have took it. Tips at Christmas is all right 
for gentlemen, but otherwise not promiscuous-like, unless 
he's a visitor.. I shouldn't have thought it of Sir Mar- 
tin." 

"You're making a lot of talk about nothing," said 
Ada airily. "There goes the bell." 

Jane got up. "It's for me," she said quietly. But 
her face was troubled as she shut the kitchen door be- 
hind her. The housemaid's words had filled her with 
vag^e foreboding. 

While the servants talked in the kitchen Bose, up- 
stairs, was trying hard to break down her husband's 
obduracy. 

"It's like turning away an old friend," she said 
sadly. 



DOMESTIC ECONOMY 193 

"Rubbish! Who ever heard of a servant being con- 
sidered as a friend ?' ' 

'*I do when I think of Jane going. I can't help it. 
I know old families do too. They sometimes put it 
in the papers when their old servants die." 

"Well, we're a new family. And anyhow, Jane isn't 
dead. Why we should consider her I can't see. If you 
reckon it lip we've paid her hundreds of pounds while 
she's been with us." 

"Twenty years!" murmured Rose. 

"Twenty, is it? H'm." Martin made a mental cal- 
culation. "Then she's ha«i at least four hundred. Most 
of it, I expect, is in the savings bank. There's her in- 
terest on it too." 

"Twenty years of devoted service. Think of it, Mar- 
tin. All these years willing and hard-working and never 
a fault to find with her!" 

Martin's shoulders went up. "I thought we were 
agreed that with the expense I'm incurring for Edgar 
a saving has to be made somewhere." 

"Yes, I know. But let me try and do it out of the 
housekeeping. I'd do anything rather " 

"You know very well you can't economize more than 
you do on the housekeeping. There's absolutely no 
other way of cutting expenses except by getting rid of 
a superfluous servant. Jane is superfluous.. She's get- 
ting old. And to be quite frank with you. Rose, it's very 
inadvisable for us in our present position to retain a 
servant who knew us in our smaller days." 

It was at this juncture that Rose had rung the bell. 
She did it with very great reluctance. She did not 
agree with any of Martin 's arguments, the last one least 
of all. 



194 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 



tt' 



if 
it 



You'd better go/' was all she said. ''I can say it 
best alone with her. And as it's yon who want Ada in 
Jane's place you'd better arrange that part." 

"Just as you like. I don't expect any difficulty with 
Ada. She won't refuse a rise of two pounds in her 
wages." 

Martin left the room as Jane reached the door. He 
did not look at her as he passed out. She noticed that. 
It helped to prepare her for what was coming. 
You rang, my ladyf " she asked. 
Yes, Jane." Bose had to moisten her lips. They 
were trembling. ''I've something very difficult to say. 
I can 't bear to say it. But — but Sir Martin — ^that is, we 
have decided that we must only keep two servants — ^and 
that means I — ^I've got to give you notice." 

Jane stood quite still, quite silent. Suddenly she 
burst into tears. This was too much for Bose. Her 
own eyes filled and overflowed. Impulsively she went 
up to Jane and took her two hands. 

* * Oh, Jane ! ' ' she sobbed. ' * You know I wouldn 't let 
you go if I could help it. Please believe that — though 
I don't see how you can. I've done my very best to put 
it oflE. It's not me. It 11 be dreadful without you. But 
^^on't you understand? — ^I can't help it!" 

It cost her a struggle to make the admission. It 
meant acknowledging that Martin was responsible for 
a proceeding of which she disapproved; that she was 
in opposition to him. She had never done such a thing 
before. She felt a traitor. Jane did not mistake her. 
Although no name had been mentioned Martin's implica- 
tion in the dreadful decision was clear to her. 

*'Yes, my lady," she gulped. "And — and I'd never 
think hard of you. You're the best mistress any one 



DOMESTIC ECONOMY 195 

could have. But, oh, not to be wanted after all these 
years 1" 

The two women stood blinking at one another through 
a mist of tears. Their thoughts were back in the days 
when the class distinction between them had been almost 
inappreciable. They were both of the servant class. 
Bank and comparative wealth on the one side, long years 
of service on the other, had not altered their natures nor 
lessened the innate link of caste. All that was in Bose's 
mind. In friendship as well as in justice to Jane she 
did not hesitate to speak what was in it. She pleaded 
a case of necessity. If she unduly used Edgar's future 
to point her argument it was Martin's fault. She really 
believed that to meet the new expense some drastic econ- 
omy had to be made. All that was left for her to do was 
to sympathize with the victim of it. She faltered over it. 

* ' Please, my lady, don 't say any more, ' ' Jane begged 
at last. ''I know what you mean. It hurts me to hear 
you having to make excuses. I'm ready to go whenever 
you want me to ; and if I might come and see you some- 
times " 

''As often as you like, Jane. And I hope you'll get 
a better place than this. And" — ^Rose had quite forgot- 
ten Martin's strictures on class differences — ^''always 
count on me for your friend." 

''That's for you, Ada," said cook, looking at the bell 
indicator. "Sir Martin's study. Wonder if it's got 
to do with what Jane's been sent for." 

"I'll tell you when I come back," replied Ada. "Is 
my cap on straight!" 

"Yes; but don't go setting it at Sir Martin or you 
might have to 'throw it over the windmill 



9 9> 



196 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

''Windmill! What's that meant" 

''Why, that there's always danger when there's men 
about. I wouldn't trust none of them, old or young, 
married or single." 

But cook, as Ada knew, had been "disappointed in 
love," and being over thirty was something of a ndsoga- 
mist. 

"I don't believe in being suspicious of everybody," 
said the girl as she went off to answer the bell. 

She was only nineteen, and though vivacious and 
pretty she knew nothing of coquetry and was totally 
inexperienced in masculine wiles. Martin's eyes took 
her in from head to foot when she came into his room. 
He found something provocative in the trim figure in 
its close-fitting print dress. He thought her girlish 
nervousness very attractive as she stood listening to the 
proposition which he began making to her. 

He unfolded it in a tangle of specious words calcu- 
lated to impress her simple mind. He made Jane's dis- 
missal sound rather like a change in the Ministry, and 
Ada's elevation to the vacant post as if it were a matter 
of national importance. He emphasized the valuable 
experience she would gain in undertaking the extra 
work. He dwelt ostentatiously on the generous advance 
of two pounds per annum which he proposed to make 
in her wages. It all sounded very seductive. 

"And I want you to understand, Ada," he said, "that 
in asking you to undertake the double duties of house- 
parlormaid her ladyship and I do not want you to think 
that we are only considering our own interests. There 
are plenty of competent servants who would be only too 
glad to enter our service. But we prefer to give you 
the first refusal of the place. 



99 



DOMESTIC ECONOMY 197 



it 



Thank you, indeed, Sir Martin,*' was the breathless 
reply. "I've always wanted to learn parlor-work, but'* 
— consideration for a fellow-servant prompted the next 
words — ^''but I shouldn't like to be taking the bread out 
of Jane's mouth." 

If Martin had no use for unselfishness himself he 
could admire it in other people. He thought the senti- 
ment very creditable, if stupidly quixotic. It was suit- 
able for a pretty girl to nourish pretty sentiments. 

"The thought does you credit," he said. "But you 
need have no fear on that score. Neither I nor her lady- 
ship should ever let Jane want. To provide for their de- 
pendents is an unwritten law amongst the upper classes, 
a pleasant duty we owe to ourselves. You might re- 
member that. Well, then it's understood that you would 
like to undertake Jane's duties as well as your own 
from the time she leaves T ' 

"Yes, please. Sir Martin. And I'm sure 111 try and 
do my very best." 

"I'm sure you will," said Martin patronizingly. 

A gleam of sunlight lit up Ada's fair hair. The 
bloom of youth was in her cheek. How very pleasant, he 
thought, to have a nice-looking girl like this about one. 
He compared her favorably with certain made-up society 
women whom he had seen at tea on the Terrace. He 
had observed many a well-known M.P. indulging in a 
flirtation during that function. He was by no means 
uninformed concerning the clandestine liaisons which ru- 
mor attributed to certain highly respected Ministers. 
If these things happened in Cabinet circles there could 
be little harm in his taking a mild interest in a pretty 
dependent. 

Not that he harbored sinister intentions towards her. 



198 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

He made that reservation to himself. It was a censorious 
world, prone to make the worst of everythii^. But tiiat 
need not prevent him unbending a little towards a mem-: 
ber of his own household. It was natural that she should 
please his eye. She possessed a shapeliness quite out of 
the common. Her coloring was so fresh. Of course she 
respected and looked up to him, which was as it should 
be. It would be a pleasant change (from Jane) to see 
her flitting about in a neat black dress and a frilly white 
apron. 

"By the way," he said in parenthesis, "do you dust 
my room!" 

"Tes, Sir Martin. Every morning before breakfast." 

"You don't find it a rush? I mean, you can manage 
without hurrying!" 

"Oh, no, thank you, Sir Martin, except on the days 
I turn out the library and drawing-room. Tuesdays and 
Fridays." 

Martin seemed to consider. 

"On those days there's no reason why you shouldn't 
finish dusting here after breakfast. You will not disturb 
me, even if I am in the room." 

"Thank you. Sir Martin." 

Again the sunbeam played witii Ada's hair. Martin 
experienced a quite strong desire to touch a strand of 
it, to feel its texture. He got up and took a step towards 
her, regarding her narrowly. She could stand looking 
into. Her complexion was like a child's; the soft curve 
of her cheek was delightful ; and there was a dimple in 
her chin. 

"Do you know, Ada," he said, "you're a very pretty 
girl! 



yy 



it 



DOMESTIC ECONOMY 199 

Ada blushed. The unexpected compliment, coming 
from so high a quarter, flattered her. 

**I don't think about my looks, Sir Martin," she re- 
plied modestly. 

*' That's right. What I meant was, you ought to be 
careful with the young men — ^the tradesmen and so on — 
who come to the house. I daresay, now" (a jocular note 
came into Martin's voice), ''some of them pay you atten- 
tions at the back door, ehf" 

I don't take notice if they do." 
And you don't walk out with any one!" 
Oh, no, Sir Martin." 

I'm glad to hear it. A girl of your age has to be 
on her guard with young men." The adjective was just 
sufficiently emphasized. ''They're not always to be 
trusted. By the way, that reminds me. I hope you are 
not a talker, Ada t ' ' 

"Oh, no, Sir Martin." 

"I mean about other people's concerns. Some serv- 
ants have a very reprehensible habit of discussing with 
their friends — ^and even in the kitchen — ^what they hear 
in the dining- or drawing-room. You should always 
avoid retailing conversations, like this one, for instance. 
But you're a good girl, and I'm sure you understand." 

With that he patted her shoulder paternally and dis- 
missed her with an encouraging smile. When she 
reached the kitchen she found Jane there. She stood 
listlessly, making pretense to help the cook. Her eyes 
were red. Ada went and stood by her, anxious to ex- 
press sympathy, but shy of doing so. The two women 
remained stolidly silent. Cook, fond of Jane, was too 
indignant for speech. Ada had to break the uncom- 
fortable silence. 



200 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

"They've asked me to take your place, Jane/' she 
stammered. "At least. Sir Martin did. I don't want to 
do nothing behind your back, though." 

Jane raised patient, watery eyes. 

"You'll do better than me," she said quietly. "Don't 
let's talk about it. You said there 'd be changes, and 
they've come. I'll show you how to set the table for 
dinner now, if you like, and the way the napkins are 
folded when there's visitors. Sir Martin's particular 
about the shape. ' ' 

"And why?" snorted cook contemptuously. "Be- 
cause he sees it done at the cheap restorongs he goes to, 
and at his trashy tradesmen's banquets! He don't know 
it's not the proper thing in good houses, and he wouldn't 
be any wiser if he was told. Thinks himself a gentleman ! 
Pah 1 Gentlemen know how to treat their servants 1 ' ' 



XXVII 



DOBOTHT BECOMES AN ASSET 



'l^fELL, I never! Whatever can the man want?" 
V V Mrs. Peacock's question was addressed to her- 
self. A knock at the door had taken her to the window, 
where she stood peeping behind the lace curtain. To her 
astonishment Martin stood on the doorstep. 

''What's up?" asked Edgar, who had come in on 
his way home from the flying ground where he was 
learning aviation. 

"I don't know. It's your father!" 

He jumped up, intending to bolt. But Mrs. Peacock's 
small servant, admitting the visitor, made that imprac- 
ticable. 

Martin came in with the assurance of a man who is 
conferring a social favor on a poor relation. His circum- 
stances had altered so much since he had last seen Aunt 
Polly that he no longer felt the old-time awe of her ; at 
least, he deluded himself that he did not. Moreover, 
he had come to assert his authority and to call her to 
account, a position he had never been able to rise to in 
the past. But Mrs. Peacock was in no way embarrassed. 
Although she had not seen him for quite sixteen years 
she knew her Martin. She observed the air of import- 
ance he gave himself and discounted it ; she guessed what 
he had come for. She felt as capable as ever of facing 

201 



202 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

twenty Martins in wordy warfare and holding her own 
with them, 

"How-de-dof she said. ''I won't ask why you're 
honoring me with a visit. You've got the reason all 
ready, I can see." 

''Gk)od afternoon," Martin responded in a superior 
tone. "It took me a long while to find my way here." 

''H'm. Sixteen years or thereabouts. Well, it's gone 
quickly." 

Martin turned to Edgar. 

"Why aren't you at business}" 

The boy reddened. "I don't go every day, father." 

"So I understand." 

"Harris is always there. Besides, I'm not much use 
while I'm learning." 

"Here, I suppose!" snapped Martin. 

"Well," interposed Mrs. Peacock, "isn't there any- 
thing about the antique trade that he can pick up 
heret" 

I didn't come to talk about the antique trade." 
Then you cut along, Edgar. You're not wanted." 

And Edgar, glad of the opportunity to escape further 
cross-examination, rose in a hurry. He did not forget 
to kiss Mrs. Peacock before he went. Martin watched 
the attention austerely. 

"He's a good boy," said the old woman, when the 
door was shut. 

I haven't found him particularly so." 
That's not surprising. You never see good in any- 
body. You'd pick holes in an Aubusson carpet. Now, 
what's it all about? Let's have it. Would you like to 
sit down, or can't you bend!" 

Martin sat down. As he did so his eye fell on a picture 






n 



DOROTHY BECOMES AN ASSET 203 

in an old frame that hung on the wall facing him. It 
depicted a slim-figured girl in the tall powdered wig 
and brocade dress of the eighteenth century. Narrow, 
sloping shoulders, bare neck, demure expression, ample 
dark background, were all in keeping with a portrait 
of the period. The canvas was quite small, about fifteen 
inches by nine. 

"Nice bit, isn't it f" observed Mrs. Peacock slyly, fol- 
lowing his glance. ''Who would you put it down tot" 

''I haven't come to talk about old paintings," Martin 
fretted, his interest in the picture evaporating. He 
had a suspicion that she was trying to lay a trap for 
him. 

''It isn't an old painting," she grinned. "But there ! 
You never did know anything about art. More's the 

pity/' 

Martin fidgeted under her uncompromising candor. If 
there was one thing more than another on which he liked 
to be thought an authority it was art. On the strength 
of an article in The Connoisseur on Primitives, which he 
had carefully read up, he liked to pose as an expert 
on pictures. Moreover, he had imagined this one to be 
a Bomney or a Gainsborough. All he could do now was 
to ignore his mistake. 

"At the present moment," he said, "I am extremely 
concerned about Dorothy. It is she whom I have come 
to talk about. I have discovered that, strictly against 
my wishes, she has been studying what yon call art, 
and that I am in your debt for the expensive lessons she 
has incurred." 

"Gracious! Fancy your ownin' up to bein' in my 
debtl" declared Mrs. Peacock with amused surprise. 
"But about Dolly. You don't owe me nothing. What 



204 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

I give ber mostly is encouragement, and that's cheap." 
'^ Excuse me. This morning I ran up against her in 
a public art gallery — ^painting. I didn't speak to her 
then, you understand. There were students about. I 
passed on. But at home, after din — ^lunch, I had a talk 
with her. She is not particularly good at subterfuge, 
and I did not find it a difficult matter to extract from 
her the information that she had been taking painting 

lessons, and that the delinquent was " 

'*MeT Oh, you and your long words! Can't you 
speak plain f Why don't you call me a liar and have 
done with itt Much I'd mind what you say! So you 
went on naggin' the poor child because I bought her 
some paints and sent her to where she could get good 
teachin'. Well, if I like to do that, what business is 
it of yours? Can't I use my money as I like? It's 
come by honestly, which is more than some people can 
say — people who go and get knighted mysterious! What 
you want to come and argue about it for I don't under- 
stand. We ain't so bound up in each other that we want 
excuses to meet. And straight out, Martin, it's just as 
well you should know that I haven't any better opinion 
of you than when you was a dirty-nosed little boy in 
the grocery. If that makes your ears burn I can't help 
it. It's true. It's no good your putting on airs with 
me. As for the way you're treatin' your children, it's a 
scandal — preventin' them doing this and that just be- 
cause they like it. It's only your cussedness makes you 
talk about owin' me anything on Dolly's account. When 
did you ever want to pay more than you could help? 
You leave me and her alone. She'll be eamin' her own 
livin ' soon. Surprises you to hear that, doesn 't it ? Well, 
it is surprising that anything to do with you should be 



It 
tl 



DOROTHY BECOMES AN ASSET 205 

talented. Something of me about the twins, I expect. 
Look at that *01d Master' once more. It's her work. 
Done on old canvas. I put her up to it. And when 
one of my West-end picture-buyers comes in and sees 
ity he 11 take it for an original if I 'm not mistaken. ' ' 

While he listened to this tirade the expression in 
Martin's face gradually changed. Anger gave way to 
surprise, surprise to curiosity. It seemed incredible that 
the painting should be Dorothy's work. It had com- 
pletely taken him in; in Mrs. Peacock's opinion it would 
probably take in an expert. If that was the case, 
then. ... He got up, put on his pince-nez, and examined 
it closely. Mrs. Peacock maintained a dramatic silence. 
I had no idea," he murmured meekly. 
Of course you hadn't. How can you tell what a 
person can do till you give 'em a chance? All you 
did was to put stumbling blocks in the girl's way." 

** There's considerable merit in it." 

*'0h, yes, merit! But you have to come to me to 
find it out. And when you say merit, you mean money. 
Martin, you're as easy to see through as glass!" 

Martin felt her penetrating eyes on his turned back. 
They made it creep. 

''It's an eye-opener to you, I reckon," the accusing 
voice went on. 

''It is an agreeable surprise, I admit. If I had ex- 
pected genuine talent in Dorothy I should have en- 
couraged it myself.'* He turned from the picture and 
made an effort to look his aunt in the face. "You take 
an entirely wrong view of my attitude towards the chil- 
dren. I confess I was angry with Dorothy. I dislike 
anything in the nature of deceit. It hurt me to find that 
she had taken up an occupation without asking my ad- 



206 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

vice. I'm afraid I may have upset her. It was an un- 
fortunate misunderstanding, and I 'm sorry for it. Now 
that you have explained matters I am ready and willing 
to express my regret to her and to offer her every facility 
for studying art. I may even think about a studio for 
her/' 

Mrs'. Peacock gave him a look full of derision. 

*'0h, Martin!" she jeered, "you haven't changed. 
Always ready with a get-out! I don't believe you have 
the pluck of a louse!" 

Martin shifted uneasily on his feet. 

"You have always misunderstood me," he mumbled. 
"One day, perhaps, if you should ever need it and I 
am able to help you " 

"Oh, don't waste your breath," she interrupted iras- 
cibly. * ' The only thing you 'd help me to gladly would 
be the workhouse, and I shan't have to come to you or 
anybody else for that. You'd best be going before I 
lose my temper. Good-by. Don't come again too soon." 

Martin went. He was quite glad to go. Mrs. Peacock 
shut the door viciously, almost snapping it on his coat- 
tails, leaving him to juggle with the front door latch 
and get out as best he could. But she put her head out 
of the window to give him a parting word of advice. 

* * Mar — tin ! ' ' she shrilled. * ' Take the green tram and 
change into number eight when you get past the 'Coach 
and Horses.' " 

"Thanks. There's a taxi at the end of the street," 
he answered. 

But the turning was not in sight of Mrs. Peacock's 
windows. Had it been, she would have seen Martin get 
into the green tram, as he had aU along meant to do. 



DOROTHY BECOMES AN ASSET 207 

He did not consider a visit to his aunt was worth a two- 
shilling cab fare. 

Ada opened the door to him. If nobody was abont 
he generally found time to speak to her. But this 
afternoon he barely noticed her. He was thinking of 
Dorothy's clever little imitation of eighteenth-century 
portraiture, trying to appraise its value. The girl's eyes 
followed him wistfully. Something of an expression of 
misgiving came into them. A very neat and pretty par- 
lor-maid she looked as she stood in the hall, watching 
him mount the stairs. Jane had been gone three months. 

"Tell Miss Dorothy to come up to my study," he 
threw over his shoulder when he was halfway up. 

And presently Dorothy presented herself. She wore 
a smudged painting-apron and she had been crying. 
Her father was the last man she desired to see. She 
had not the faintest notion that he was going to eat 
the hard words he had spoken to her that morning. 

**I have come from your Aunt Mary's," he began. 
"I think I have made it clear that I can't let her con- 
tribute to the expense of your art studies." 

*'I — I did so want to " the girl choked. 

He patted her arm encouragingly. 

''Wait a minute, my dear child. I'm not angry with 
you any longer. In fact I was about to say that we 
were at cross purposes this morning. It was partly 
your own fault.* You didn't express yourself very 
happily. And I was busy. If you had given me some 
idea of your progress in painting, or, better still, shown 
me some of your work, I shouldn't have jumped to the 
conclusion that you were wasting your time. Luckily, 
I happened to see the little picture you gave your aunt, 






208 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES 

and I immediatelj recognized its merit. If you had 
shown it to me first all this misunderstanding would not 
have occurred. I was only too glad to see the progress 
you had made. Now, I haven't time to go into details, 
but I want you to put out of your mind all that I said 
this morning and to understand that far from wishing to 
stand in your light, I am anxious to help you." 
Oh, Daddy!" exclaimed Dorothy. 
Only it must be understood that I bear the expense 
of your studies, not your aunt. Later on I might 
perhaps build on a studio to the house. You would 
likethatt" 

She could hardly believe her ears. Martin's abrupt 
change of attitude came as such a pleasant surprise 
that she had to acknowledge it with an unaccustomed 
hug. 

**0h, do forgive me!" she cried contritely. ''I've 
been saying and thinking the most horrid things about 
you. I've made mother quite miserable. I thought you 
were unkind and tyrannical, and I said so. And aU 
the while you were only waiting for an opportunity to 
be sweet. I don't deserve you a bit!" 

''That's all forgiven and forgotten," he said magnan- 
imously. "Always remember you can trust me to do 
what is best." He unwound her arms from his neck. 
"By the way, if you have any more copies like the one 
at your aunt's you might show them to me. I might be 
able to dispose of them for you." 

"I've got three in my bedroom. Unframed, though. 
Two Greuzes and an Ostade. Come and see them now." 

She linked her arm in his and, deliciously elated, 
took him to her bedroom. It was in a state of disorder 
that at any other time would have aroused his ire. The 



DOROTHY BECOMES AN ASSET 209 

bed was pushed into a comer. The curtains had been 
removed from the window. The blind was wound up to 
the top of the sash. A folding easel, holding a small can- 
vas, stood in the center of the room. A palette and an 
open box of twisted tubes littered the chair beside it. 
Paint-rags lay on the floor. Paint-brushes fiUed the 
toothbrush-vase on the washstand. The Greuzes and the 
Ostade stood in a row on the chest of drawers. The at^ 
mosphere of the room reeked of oil and varnish. 

Martin went straight to the three paintings. They 
were on panels. Like the Georgian portrait, they looked 
old. Dorothy had copied the tone and reproduced the 
brush-work of the originals with remarkable exactitude. 
It struck him that with a very little treatment and the 
addition of old frames they would deceive an unin- 
structed picture-buyer. He could see them hanging in 
Harris's shop, surrounded by antiques, masquerading 
as old masters. He felt a glow of satisfaction at the 
thought. 

'*You certainly have a talent for reproduction," he 
observed. '*I should confine myself to it, if I were you. 
Where did you copy these, my dear?" 

*'At the Wallace Collection. A girl I know showed 
me how to square them from photographs. It makes 
the work awfully easy. Do you really think they're 
worth selling r' 

He looked at the back of the panels. Ammonia and 
a coating of dirt would age them considerably. 

' * I think so, ' ' he said and turned to go. By the door 
a larger canvas brought him to a stop. *'What is 
thatf " he asked. 

**0h, nothing," Dorothy hesitated. "I was doing it 
for mother's birthday, but she doesn't like it. 



>> 



210 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

He tamed the canvas round. It was an unfinished 
|>ortrait of himself. Even so, the likeness was striking 
enough to startle him. He surveyed it as impartially 
as he could, wondering why it gave him a feeling of being 
stripped. Bums' searching words came to his mind — 
''To see ourselves as others see us." The words and 
something about the portrait made him uncomfortable. 
Stilly the flattering feeling of satisfaction which most 
people experience when viewing a portrait of themselves 
for the first time took hold of him. It seemed to in- 
crease his importance. As his eyes grew accustomed to 
the face on the canvas his power of criticism of it as a 
likeness gradually declined. The stripped feeling left 
him. The subtle individuality which Dorothy, with un- 
conscious insight into his character, had conveyed into 
her drawing escaped him. He thought only of her 
motive in painting it. He assumed it to have been re- 
spect. 

"It's quite good," he said. "I should like you to 
finish it. It would look well in the dining-room. It 
might even be exhibited first." 

" Really » Then you don't think it so bad?" 

It would have gratified him greatly to see his portrait 
on the walls of an exhibition. In the palmy days of 
his Hemf ord popularity there had occasionally been talk 
among his constituents of presenting him with his por- 
trait. It had only wanted some prominent person to 
take the lead in carrying out this work of recognition, 
but somehow no one had come forward. 

"I have no doubt I shall like it when you've finished 
it," he replied. "But — ^isn't there something a trifle 
wrong about the eyes — ^too close together t" 

"Are theyt You see," she explained, "the study I 



DOROTHY BECOMES AN ASSET 211 

made for the portrait was done one evening when you 
were half asleep." 

''Curious/' ruminated Martin. ''It looks so wide- 
awake/' 



XXVIII 



"dudb" 



THREE hundred pounds, bowever judiciously laid 
out, will not go far in stocking a shop with old fur- 
niture and works of art. Martin had found it necessary 
to realize that sum to make anything of a show. As a 
compensation for the outlay of the additional hundred 
he had insisted on Harris finding the first quarter's rent 
of the new premises and paying it in advance. 

Martin himself had selected the shop — ^a ground-floor 
in a side street which by courtesy only could be said to 
be in Mayfair, a locality he deemed best for the new 
venture. Harris and his family occupied the top floor. 

The show-room was the reverse of overcrowded. Its 
contents consisted of what the trade caU ''furnishing 
pieces" as distinct from exhibition and collector's pieces. 
For the present the latter were beyond the firm's means. 
But Harris had bought wisely. He had confined him- 
self to Georgian mahogany and a small quantity of 
unimportant Jacobean oak. With the addition of all 
that was best of his old stock of plate, china and other 
decorative objects, he had achieved as good a display as 
could be expected. Any one else but Martin would have 
congratulated him on the result. 

In shop hours Martin kept tactfully away. But two 
or three times a week in the evening he would turn up, 
look at the books, and debate the question of sales and 

212 



(( 



DUDS" 213 



purchases. Concerning the latter he and Harris were 
constantly at variance. Harris, profiting by experience, 
made a principle of investing three-fourths of the takings 
in additional stock. As, for some time, these were very 
limited, the balance was hardly sufiGicient to cover the 
thirty shillings a week which he drew for living pur- 
poses. 

Martin had not allowed for this drain on profits, nor 
for the policy of a continual turnover. He had dreamt 
of constant sales at top prices and subsequent purchases 
on credit. His discovery that in the antique business 
credit is practically never given to **the trade," but that 
**the trade" has sometimes to give it to the customer, 
came as an unpleasant surprise. He had to put up with 
another disappointment as well. Customers were scarce. 
The street in which the shop was situated was not pre- 
cisely a busy one. People on the lookout for antiques 
seemed to miss it. 

At the end of two months he was daily becoming more 
impatient at the meager results Harris was able to show. 
He knew Harris was not a knave, but he feared he might 
be a fool. In his heart he believed that had he person- 
ally been able to look after things he would have done 
much better than his partner. What he disliked about 
Harris was that he showed no impatience. He himself 
wanted to make money with indecent haste. It seemed 
to him that all his life he had been waiting for this very 
opportunity. To miss it might be fatal as well as foolish. 
Such another might never arise. He would have scouted 
the suggestion that he had no real capacity for business. 
He would have argued the very opposite by citing his 
success in driving a hard bargain with the Grimwoods 
and a satisf actoiy one with Gammel. He did not know 



214 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

that the old aptitude was gone from him with the cir- 
cumstances that had given it birth. He would not have 
believed that twenty unfertile years had left him in- 
capable of judging a monetary transaction with his old 
acuteness and courage. 

'^You're not making enough show, Harris/' he said 
one day. "With the exception of my daughter's pic- 
tures, which, by the way, we seem to depend on mainly 
for sales, the stock is most unattractive. I thought you 
would do better than this. You led me to think so. It's 
deplorable. Your sales only show a profit of twenty 
pounds in two months." . 

''It's as much as we can expect. Sir Martin," Harris 
replied patiently. ''We're hardly known yet. Things 
will get better later on. I'm doing my best. So is 
Mr. Edgar. He's a good salesman," he added loyally, 
with the mental reservation, "when he's here." 

"I should like to see more evidence of his capacity," 
Martin grumbled. 

"The customers like his 'take-it-or-leave-it' manner. 
It's friendly and gentlemanly." 

"Then we must give him more scope — more things to 
sell — ^a change of stock to make the place look more 
attractive from the outside. We're very short of small 
ornamental things— china, colored prints, Sheffield plate. 
I'll see about getting them myself." After a moment 
or two of hesitation he added : "When they come don't 
estimate their value by the invoice. Sell them at the 
usual trade prices. I can't aflford to go on like this." 

And he went away. He had the address of the firms 
which Harris had casually referred to during their first 
business talk. A visit to them resulted in the arrival at 
the shop a few mornings later of cases containing a large 



tl 



DUDS'* 215 



assortment of *' curios.'' They consisted of Bow 'and 
Chelsea figures, highly colored Lowestoft vases, SSvres 
plaques, all bearing their respective marks ; pewter with 
the ''touch" and date of good periods; candlesticks, bas- 
kets, snuffers and tea-caddies in plate of Old Sheffield 
design ; color-prints after Morland and Cipriani ; enam- 
eled wine-tickets, brass chestnut-roasters and Indian 
gods, cloisonne ware, Wedgwood medallions — a collection 
of wide variety cuid effective appearance. Edgar helped 
to unpack them. 

'*The governor's been spending some," he exclaimed. 
** These things will brighten up the shop a lot." 

But Harris was frowning. 

''It's a bit thick, using them for window-dressing 
even, ' ' he said moodily. 

"Why? What's the matter with themt They look 
almost new." 

' ' That 's what they are, Mr. Edgar. Quite new. Duds, 
in fact." 

Edgar looked up from the recesses of a packing-case. 

* ' Well, why not ? Anything does for window-dressing. 
Not half a bad idea of my father's, I call it." 

Harris shook his head. He liked Edgar. Two months 
of association with the pleasant-mannered boy had suf- 
ficiently informed him of his straightforward character. 

"They're not for show only; they're for sale," he 
said presently. "Sir Martin was here the other evening. 
He said we've got to make quicker sales and show more 
profit." 

"Ohl" 

Harris scratched his head. 

"Whether honesty pays or not in politics I don't 



216 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

know. But in fhe antique line it 's a sure thing. You 're 
fair doomed if you start selling duds as genuine old." 

''But, my dear chap," protested Edgar, a shade in- 
dignantly, ''surely you don't mean to imply that my 
father wants you to do such a thing f Ton 've got hold 
of the wrong end of the stick. My father's a martinet 
and lots of other things a chap of my age finds difficult 
to live with, but he'd draw the line at crooked dealing. 
Why, if I so much as let him guess you thought he meant 
us to sell this stuff as a take-in he 'd be mad. Of course 
we're not going to do that. Come on, let's stick 'em in 
the window. Which shall we do? Mark them in plain 
figures and label them duds, or what? I like that 
word. ' ' 

"Ah, now you've opened a problem!" was the dubious 
reply. "Here's the invoice. We've either got to admit 
they're fakes and sell them at a small profit, or charge 
the prices they'd fetch if they were what they pretend 
to be. There's no halfway. And, see here, Mr. Edgar, 
it's not a case to argue about. Your father did mean us 
to do the latter. I'm bound to say it even if you're 
angry with me for doing so." 

'*I'm sure you're wrong. Anyway, they won't be 
sold as anything except reproductions while I'm in the 
business." 

An inflexil)le expression came into the boy's face. 
With a subtle difference it made him look very like his 
father. 

No more was said on the controversial subject. Harris, 
obviously depressed, helped to make a display of the new 
stock in the window. While this was proceeding a cus- 
tomer came in, attracted by two Nankin jars which Ed- 
gar had placed to the best advantage on an oak chest. 



It 



DUDS'' 217 



''They 're fifty shillings the pair," he said, after look- 
ing up the wholesale price. ''Let me get them out for 
you. Of course," he went on, "they're not old— only 
reproductions, as I daresay you've noticed for yourself. 
Naturally, they would be worth a good ten pounds if 
they were the real thing." 

The inquirer, who was handling one of the jars, 
promptly put it down. 

''Thanks," he said. "I thought they were old. That 
is why I asked to see them. I don't care to buy anything 
modem. I appreciate your frankness. Good morning." 

Harris emerged mournfully from the back of the shop 
to which he had retreated when the customer had en- 
tered. 

"There 11 be trouble over these things, I'm afraid," 
he said. "Sir Martin's sure to object to your giving 
them away. ' ' 

' ' Oh, rats ! ' ' laughed Edgar. ' * Look out ! Here comes 
a buyer. Leave him to me. I'll sell him something." 

On this occasion he was successful and also with a few 
other customers who were tempted by moderate prices. 
From a business point of view, however, these sales meant 
very little in the aggregate. 

Two days later Martin looked in. The changed aspect 
of the window pleased him. He entered in a good humor. 
Where's Mr. Edgar t" he asked. 
He left five minutes ago. It's just on closing time," 
Harris replied, following him into the small back room 
where the books were kept. 

"And how's business?" was Martin's next question, 
as he turned the leaves of the day book. "Hullo, what 
does this mean ? Bow figure, fifteen shillings ! Set of 
six pewter plates, seventeen-and-six ! Two Leeds bas- 



i4 



it 



218 IF WISHES WERE H0BSE3 

ketSy thirty shillings ! ' * He tamed in surprise on Harris. 

Why these ridiculous prices t" 
They show twenty-five per cent, on the cost. It's 
as much as we could expect to get." 

Indignation came into Martin's face. 

''A paltry profit of fifteen shillings on things that 
should have fetched almost ten pounds!" he fumed. 
''Are you dreaming, Harris t" 

''No, Sir Martin. Those articles weren't sold as gen- 
uine pieces^ only as reproductions. We" — ^Harris hesi- 
tated over the pronoun — ^"we didn't think you wished 
us to take people in. ' ' 

Martin began to grow red about the ears. 

* ' You 're shuflBing, ' ' he said angrily. ' ' You know per- 
fectly well that in business a certain amount of license is 
permissible. You were not told to guarantee the articles 
as genuine. You were told to ask the same prices as 
other firms get for them. I suppose you think because 
it's only my money that's involved you can afford to be 
generous. You forget that, by the terms of our agree- 
ment, I can turn you out of the business any time I 
choose." 

' ' You can do what you think best, sir, ' ' Harris replied 
sturdily. "But about these dud goods, there was no 
misunderstanding of your meaning on my part. I told 
Mr. Edgar what you wanted, and he wouldn't believe 
you meant to palm them off as genuine. In fact» he 
regular jumped on me for hinting as much." 

"I don't like your way of expressing yourself," 
snapped Martin. "You had better not put things like 
that, Harris. It's a scurrilous statement. The fact of 
the matter is you have shown yourself utterly incompe- 
tent. You allow yourself to be overruled by a mere boy. 



tt 



DUDS'' 219 



and then to excuse yourself you insult me. I shall speak 
to Mr. Edgar when I get home. And if I have any more 
of this double-dealing, for that is what it amounts to, 
I shall wash my hands of the whole business." A plain- 
tive note came into his voice and his eyes went sancti- 
moniously upward. ''I financed you because I thought 
you were an honest man and would prove yourself a just 
steward and a help to my son. But I won't be duped." 

A strong rejoinder was on the tip of Harris's tongue, 
but he saw it was not worth while, and refrained from 
making it. When Martin had left he drew down the 
blinds and locked up the shop. He was very depressed. 
All the way up the unlighted stairs to his living rooms 
he thought with regret of the little marine store which 
he had relinquished for the unsubstantial luster of asso- 
ciation with a man whom he had assumed to be a gentle- 
man. He had seen his mistake for some time past. 
Now he was absolutely certain of Martin's unscrupu- 
lousness. 

* ' Him duped ! " he exclaimed disgustedly. ' ' Might as 
well try to dupe a money-lending solicitor!" 



EDGAB GOES ON STBIKB 

THE only thing that seriouBly upset Martin was be- 
ing found out. It hurt his vanily. And yet all 
his life through, every one of his humiliations had been 
caused by other people seeing him in his true colors. 
Aunt Polly had been the first. He hated her for it. 
Liversidge and Gammel mistrusted him. He hated them. 
In the House of Commons his singleness of purpose was 
under suspicion. He was one of the Ishmaels of that 
company. 

Now Harris had found him out and he hated Harris. 
His reputation with the Jew had been exceptionally 
short-lived. To have to face him constantly, knowing 
he was discredited — ^and by an inferior — ^was a galling 
prospect. It made him doubt whether he had the capac- 
ity of impressing any given person for long. It made 
him feel small. That was what enraged him. He was 
too Pharisaical to look within himself for the cause of his 
unpopularity and non-success, too egotistical to be 
ashamed of his own shabby venality. He refused to see 
that it was that which had limited his achievements and 
discredited him in all eyes save those of Rose, the one 
being who remained steadfastly blind to his faults. 

Consumed by his own pregnant feelings he ignored 
Ada when she opened the door to him on his return. 
(Generally her smiling face was apt to put him in a good 

220 



EDGAB GOES ON STRIKE 221 

humor. But she was not smiling now. She looked white 
and scared. 

'*0h, Sir Martin,'* she whispered, "may I speak to 
youf' 

"Not now," he answered curtly. "Later on, perhaps. 
Ill ring for you." 

He went straight on to the library. The calm scene 
which he there blundered on did nothing to assuage 
his fit of ill-temper. It was Rose's hour, the time of day 
when the twins usually sought her. Then, with all 
thought of the round of household duties dismissed until 
the morrow, she loved to give herself up to complete 
enjoyment of her children. Just now Dorothy was 
sprawling over her mother. Edgar sat cross-legged at 
her feet. The domestic picture had no attractions for 
Martin. His entrance seemed to have the effect of mak- 
ing the atmosphere of the room several degrees cooler. 

* ' Get up. I want you, ' ' he said. 

His peremptory tone made the boy feel as though he 
were being addressed by a vacuum cleaner about to gulp 
down a speck of dust. It put him on the defensive at 
once. 

I have just come from Harris," proceeded Martin. 

He teUs me that you ignored my instructions about 
the new stock, and sold things at a trifling profit over 
cost price." 

"Why, yes. That is, if you mean the fake stuff. I 
was a bit down on Harris for thinking you wanted to 
palm it off as old. A chap couldn't stand that sort 
of insinuation about his father. I told him he was talk- 
ing nonsense. ' ' 

Exasperated by a monetary loss, as he regarded it, 
and sore at the prospect of having to cut a sorry figure 






222 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

before Harris, Martin made the further mistake of let- 
ting his temper get the better of his discretion. 

''You were not put into the business to teach other 
people how to conduct it. Your interference was offi- 
cious. You have not only been foolish but dishonest" 

''Whatt" the boy flushed. 

''Yes, dishonest. And to me, your father. My in- 
structions were that the things should be sold at the 
best price they would command. You seem to forget 
you owe your first duty to me, not to credulous cus- 
tomers who expect to be deluded." 

"Martin — ^please!" implored Rose. She put out a 
hand to Edgar as though to control his rising temper. 

"Mother," he said, "you and DoUy had better leave 
us for a bit. Or shall we go into the dining-room f 
Father and I must thrash this out by ourselves." 

"Yes, dear, we'll go. But do remember Ihat your 
father's much older than you are, and knows best." 

Directly the door was closed on his mother and sister, 
Edgar stood squarely up to his father. 

"Do you mean to tell me, sir, that you really expected 
me to sell that rubbish as genuine f" 

"I do," Martin snapped. "I not only expect you 
to, but I say you've got to." 

Edgar kept his eyes fixed on his father's face. Into 
his own there crept a curious change of expression — 
complete disillusionment. Although his nature had often 
made him at variance with ^Martin he had hitherto habit- 
uated himself to regard him as a superior being, albeit 
a difficult one to get on with. But now, with painful 
suddenness, he realized how much he had been mistaken. 
That his father, who had always posed as the most rigid 



EDGAB QOES ON STRIKE 223 

of moralists, should deliberately advocate petty dishon- 
esty appalled him. 

'*I refuse, father," he rejoined coldly. **I think it's 
a mean trick to do people down." 

'*Then you can go," Martin burst out. **Do you 
understand? You leave my house. I give you twenty- 
four hours to think it over." 

''I don't want twenty-four hours. I've nothing to 
think over. I can go now." 

Bage had made Martin say rather more than he meant. 
It was the kind of bluff that can only be justified by 
more bluster. 

''Very well," he said. '*You needn't expect another 
penny from me." 

''I wouldn't take it. As a matter of fact, I don't 
need your money. I only stuck to the beastly shop be- 
cause I thought I owed it to you. Thanks to that old 
trump. Aunt Polly, I 'm in a fair way to getting my C. 
Av. — ^my flying ticket. I shall be able to make my living 
that way — decently. This is damned upsetting for poor 
mother, but it's the best thing that could have happened 
for me. I can strike out for myself now." 

Like a card-player who is ''called" on a weak hand, 
Martin made a belated attempt to vindicate himself. 
With just the right touch of paternal emotion in his 
voice he said : 

"Edgar, I'm hurt. I'm disappointed in you," and 
waited to see what effect it would have. 

The boy winced under the reproach. 

"It's worse to be disappointed in one's father," he 
said gruffly, and made blindly for the door. 






XXX 

mabtik's habvbshno 

THE study bell rang violently. Ada nearly dropped 
the butler's tray she was about to carry to the 
dining-room. Her face grew pallid, and she said, ''Oh, 
my I" The cook shot a look at her. Discernment and 
sympathy were in her glance. 

''You'd better wait a minute before you answer that 
bell," she advised. "You look like a specter." 

The color slowly came back into Ada's cheeks. 
It 's the stairs that make me bad, ' ' she mumbled. 
No, it ain't. Think I haven't got eyes in me headf 
Years ago I was a silly weak thing like you. If I was 
you I should tell the missis." 

Ada hung her head. "I haven't told her, but she 
knows," she moaned. "She was that kind! Oh, why 
did I ever ? ' ' 

Martin's bell rang again. 

' ' Listen to that I ' ' scoflfed cook. ' ' Tantrums ! There 's 
been ructions between the governor and Mr. Edgar, and 
the old-'un's taking it out of the bells. This is a ter- 
rible house for quarreling, and it's all along of him. 
You'd better not let Mr. Hard-face guess what's the 
matter with you. Then you'd get the kick-out and no 
mistake, my girl." 

Ada said nothing as she went to the door. Her 

224 



MABTIN'S HARVESTING 225 

steps dragged. She mounted the stairs to the study 
wearily. 

''Well," said Martin when she came in, ''what do 
you want to see me about, Ada! I'm busy and I'm 
worried, so don't be long over it." 

His tone was sharper than usual. The furtive, hun- 
gry look which she was used to seeing in his face was 
absent from it. Martin's amour propre was still smart- 
ing. He felt he had not scored in his encounter with 
Edgar. Moreover, Rose and Dorothy were in tears, 
and he had just been very unkind to the former. Mother 
and daughter were in Edgar's room now, crying and 
helping him to pack. 

If Ada had looked bright and comely her presence 
might have done something to allay Martin's irritability. 
But her complexion for once looked unhealthy ; her hair 
had lost its gloss; her eyes were red-rimmed, and her 
general expression was one of extreme dolor. 

"Oh, Sir Martin," were her first words, "whatever 
shall we do f It can 't be hid, soon. And my lady — she 's 
so kind!" 

Martin went gray and cold. His body stiffened de- 
fensively. 

"Ada, what — ^what are you talking about?" he asked 
aggressively. 

"You know very well," she said in an agonized voice, 
and hid her face in her hands. 

But if she expected sympathy or kindness or even 
an expression of concern from Martin she was disap- 
pointed. All he said was: 

"Tou mustn't talk as though I were responsible for 
your — ^plight." 

She took her hands from her face. For one long 



226 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

moment she stared at him, stared into implacable eyes 
which, such a little while ago, had softened and subju- 
gated her. 

''Oh, Qod I" she cried. ''You can't mean that. You 
told me I could trust a gentleman. Oh, don't look at 
me like that, as if I was making up the words. You 
know you did — ^that night as her ladyship went to Hem- 
ford with Miss Dorothy — that night " Sobs choked 

her. 

Marfin was in a cold sweat. He was frightened, 
but with Rose downstairs, with his reputation at stake, 
it would be fatal to admit anything. No, he must bluff 
it out He must keep cool and not exaggerate the diffi- 
culty. Other men had had to face it. It was not a 
criminal matter. Besides, Ada had acted as she had 
with her eyes open. She had no right to put the whole 
responsibility upon him. It was not as if he were 
a practiced libertine and had deliberately deceived her. 
Indeed, he had never previously erred in this way. In 
that respect he was not like other men. The comparison 
gave him courage. Yes, he must decidedly bluff it out. 
He knew Ada to be a simple girl, not calculating, cer- 
tainly not vicious. If he kept his head she could be 
managed. 

"You must be mistaken," he said. 

Dumbly she shook her head. 

"Mistaken," he supplemented, "in attributing this to 



me. 



"You know there's no one else," she asseverated. 

"Oh, come, come! Remember you are talking to a 
man of the world. You must not expect me to credit 
that. You 're in trouble, and 1 11 help you if I can. But 
not if you make a charge of that sort." 



It 
tl 



ti 



MABTIN'S HARVESTING 227 

The disclaimer took her aback. She caught at his 
arm frenziedly. 

. **0h, how can you talk like that!" she cried. *'A11 
these weeks. . . . And now you want to make me believe 
there was nothing!" 

Not so loud. Do you want others to heart" 
It wouldn't matter if they did hear, so long as it 
wasn't true, would itt" she flashed back. Involuntarily 
her primitive mind fell back on a phrase which, though 
it smacked of cheap drama, was nevertheless intensely 
real to her. ''It means the river for me. But if I do 
111 show you up first!" 

Now, listen to me," said Martin persuasively. 
You're excited and talking wildly. First of all, people 
who threaten suicide seldom commit it. Secondly, if you 
'showed me up,' as you put it, who would believe yout 
It's notorious that servants in a desperate state of mind 
habitually bring charges of that sort against their mas- 
ters. They are always discredited. Believe me, you 
would simply be cutting the ground from under your 
own feet. Think now— don't interrupt — ^you remember 
you told me about the young man in the drapery busi- 
ness who wanted to marry you. Well, why not accept 
him at once and — ^and so end all your worries T" 

Ada's amazement at the insidious advice deprived her 
of speech. 

"Well!" said Martin. 

A horrified look was in the girl's eyes. She shrank 
from him, physically and mentally. 

"Not for — ^no one!" she exclaimed. "Take in a 
young fellow who means honestly by me so that you 
may get off scot free? A mean trick like that? No, 
I'd rather die!" 



228 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

Inwardly Martin was qnaldng at her fierceness. It 
portended trouble. But he was careful not to look per- 
turbed. He gave a little indifferent shrug of the shoul- 
ders and looked at his watch. 

''You beast!'' she flamed out ''You're not even 
thinking about me ! You're thinking about your blessed 
old supx)er ! Oh, why didn 't I listen to cook f She knew 
all about you after she 'd been five minutes in the house. ' ' 

She turned away in disgust and took a step towards 
the door. Martin's guilty conscience made him jump 
to the conclusion that her departure would immediately 
be followed by a kitchen cabal, in which his wrong-doing 
would figure prominently and loudly. 

"Wait a minute," he said anxiously. "You must calm 
yourself before you go. You're a little hysterical, that's 
all. It's foolish of you to go on like that, or to lose your 
temper, particularly with me. Why you should assume 
I'm not sympathetic, I don't know. On the contrary, 
I'm thinking how I can help you. If it's money, you 
can count on me for as much as I can spare." 

"I wouldn't touch your money! Money won't take 
away my shame. I am ashamed now. I might have 
taken it different and not blamed you, seeing as it takes 
two to do some kinds of wrong. But to see you standing 

there lying and looking at me as if you could Oh, 

let me go and take in your beastly supper, you — you 
hjrpocrite ! ' ' 

Before he could guess her intention, indeed, almost 
before she was aware of it herself, she stepped up to 
him, and struck him smartly on the cheek, and fled from 
the room. 

Martin stood stupefied. 



MARTIN'S HARVESTING 229 

Supper that night was an ordeal to Martin. Neither 
Rose nor Dorothy put in an appearance, and he had to 
eat alone, waited on in dreadful silence by Ada. He 
hurried through it and escaped to his study. He did 
not know whether Edgar had gone or not. He had not 
the courage to inquire. The house was abnormally 
still. He tried to read, but his mind wandered. The 
whole evening had been made up of harassing scenes. 
First with Harris, then Edgar, then Rose and Dorothy, 
then Rose alone, and finally with Ada. The one with 
Ada disturbed him most of all. For hours he paced 
up and down the room, turning her case over in his mind. 
He had been weak, imprudent, but that was all. He 
used the slips of other men to palliate his fault. Were 
there not stories and whispers going about the Lobbies 
of the House concerning the indiscretions of men in high 
political positions? Their moral plane was no higher' 
than his. He overlooked the fact that rumor had never 
imputed to them the seduction of servant-girls. He did 
not trouble to argue whether those men were the hus- 
bands of loving and utterly faithful wives. But he got 
very little relief from all this special pleading. 

Towards eleven o'clock Rose came in. 

''Edgar's gone," she said, and commenced to cry 
quietly. 

Martin continued pftcing to and fro. Rose sat in the 
armchair, utterly dejected. Presently she ceased crying 
and stared in front of her miserably. She wanted Martin 
to say something about Edgar. If he would only speak ! 

' ' WeU, it 's bed-time, " he at last yawned. ' ' Coming ? ' ' 

"Martin," she beseeched. **8ay something. Don't 
you care? Edgar's gone. Say you'll have him back. 
He's too young to be turned out. It isn't as if he'd done 



230 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

anything really wrong. He was trying to do right. Oh, 
my dear, my dear, for my sake won't you send for him 
in a day or two?" 

''Do you know where he's gonet" he asked, pausing 
in his walk. 

''Where could he go at a moment's notice except 
to " 

"That old woman's?" 

"I begged him to, myself. I knew there would be a 
bed, and sheets aired — and " 

"If you are not coming yet, will you put the lights 
outf " he said curtly, and left the room. 
^ She put the lights out and sat down again in the dark. 
Her heart was bleeding. Martin, she argued, was not 
really adamantine. Principle made him severe. No 
doubt he was quite right — he was always right — but 
Edgar was gone, and . . . they had quarreled like men. 
. . . Edgar had dwelt on that just before he said good- 
by. "Don't try and patch it up, dearest. It's a man's 
quarrel this time," he had said. 

Quarrel ? Why should they quarrel at all, father and 
son, flesh and blood Y All her poor tortured heart was 
one big ache of anxiety and love. 

Presently she got up. After all, there was the morn- 
ing to be faced, and the next morning . . . life. . . . 
One must sleep. Sleep gave one courage and strength 
to go on. She felt suddenly tired and old — qxute fifty, 
and she was not that yet by nearly ten years. 

She groped her way along the dark corridor. Her 
fingers came into contact with Edgar's door-knob and 
lingered there. 

She went in, switching on the light. There were lots 
of things he had not taken with him, scattered about. 



MARTIN'S HARVESTING 231 

Everything was untidy, except the bed, turned-down, 
creaseless, inviting sleep . . . only he would never sleep 
in it again. Somehow she was dreadfully sure of that. 

Years and years ago, when he was a small boy, stiU 
very plump and cuddleable, it had been his habit to 
beseech her to sleep with him for one night, just for a 
treat. When Martin was away from home she had taken 
it in turns to sleep with her growing babies. They had 
lovingly squabbled over her. 

"It's my night with mummy to-night" . . . **No, it 
isn't" . . . ''Yes, it is. . . ." 

Rose was back in the past. She undressed and got 
into the small bed, stretching out impotent arms. • • • 
It was Edgar's turn to-night. 



it 



MARTIN PATS HIS TITHE 

SHUT the door, Ada," said Bose gently. ''You can sit 
down while I talk to you.*' 

Ada gratefully but nervously took the edge of a chair. 
She was trembling. Bose looked at her compassionately. 
I am so sorry for you," she began in her soft voice. 
You mustn't think you have no friends now. I'm 
quite sure you must have been terribly tempted be- 
fore " 

''Oh, my lady!" Ada gulped. 

"Will you tell me in confidence who it is! It is just 
possible, if you wished it, I could talk to the young man 
and put things right for you. He ought to marry you. 
Won't he»" 

"He can't, my lady," was the shamefaced reply. 
"He's not free. And he wouldn't if he could, and I 
wouldn't neither," she added in a changed tone. "I 
hate him now. He's a bad, cruel man." 

"I'm sorry," said Rose again. "Does your mother 
know?" 

Ada shook her head. "I daren't tell her. Oh, what 
am I going to do?" 

"You're going to do what is best. I've been making 
inquiries. I know of a woman who will take you in 
and look after you cheaply for the next few months. 

232 



MARTIN PAYS HIS TITHE 233 

And afterwards, when you're strong enough, you can 
come back to us if you like. I won't preach to you, 
because I can see you're dreadfully unhappy as it is, and 
I'm sure this will be a lesson to you all your life." 

**It will indeed, my lady," Ada wept. **I'm sure I 
don't deserve that you should be so good to me." 

**I think I can sympathize with unhappy people be- 
cause I have had such a happy life myself," Rose went 
on. **0f course I have mjr worries — one does when one 
has children and responsibilities — ^but I've had a good 
husband by my side all these years, and that is a tre- 
mendous thing to a woman, my dear. I hope you may 
one day know such happiness yourself." 

The kindly words were almost more than Ada could 
bear. She could not answer them. But she found her- 
self wondering whether it was not better for a woman 
to remain unwed and embittered by the shame that had 
overtaken her, than go through life like this sweet mis- 
tress of hers, duped by a false belief, wasting her love 
on an unworthy man. It seemed incredible to her that 
Rose could have shared her husband's life all these years 
and borne his children without getting to know the 
manner of man he was. Untutored servant-girl as she 
was, she appreciated that Rose had always lived with 
an ideal of her own creation and that the man who had 
betrayed her, by whose side she had slept for twenty odd 
years, was an utter stranger to her. 

She listened mutely while Rose proceeded to give her 
details of what she had arranged. Ada was to leave in 
a few days. Rose would come and see her sometimes. 
Rose would help her with money. She was not to worry. 
Rose, later on, if necessary, would see the girl's mother. 
It would be a dear little baby. Her manner was sweet 



234 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

and tender, devoid of any touch of condemnation, en- 
tirely human* 

Ada went away worshiping her. She worshiped 
her all the more because she was convinced that, even if 
Rose knew the truth, if the whole fabric of her life were 
shattered by it, she would still be compassionate. For 
that reason Martin's secret was safe. Ada would have 
killed herself rather than reveal it 

Meanwhile, every night on her knees she prayed to 
the Ood who understands women, that the child, for 
Rose's sake as well as her own, might be bom dead. 

Martin withdrew more into himself than ever. He 
did not miss Edgar, but he rankled under a sense of 
injury because the boy made no overtures. He would 
ask Rose no questions about him, but Dorothy had a 
way of imparting information without being pressed for 
it. Through her he heard that Edgar was making steady 
progress at the flying-school and that he had been living 
with Aunt Polly ever since he left home. It was evident 
that Aunt Polly must be glorying in this her last and 
most triumphant score over him. 

Once he met his son in the city. Edgar's hand went 
instantly to his hat, but Martin passed on without a 
sign. The grievance he nursed was like an aching 
tooth ; he was forever conscious of it, feeling it with his 
tongue, as it were. 

Harris was sent back to the marine-store business — 
he went gladly enough — ^and the ''antiques" were sold 
off at a sacrifice. The loss preyed on Martin's mind. 
It was not the only one he had to endure. ''Rosalia" 
was bringing him in very little. A new beverage had 
ousted it in the public taste. His parliamentary salary 



MAETIN PAYS HIS TITHE 235 

and his dividends in Liversidge, Limited, were all he 
could count on now. Owing to the increase in the cost 
of living he found them barely enough for his expenses. 
He had anxieties too about Hemford. The General 
Election was only a year off, and he was by no means 
sure of being returned again there. 

He was very irritable these days, and Eose propor- 
tionately patient. He never confided in her, so, when- 
ever he showed a cold and frowning front, she attributed 
it to money worries and refrained from aggravating 
them by asking questions. In the matter of Ada she 
also kept her own counsel. On his part, Martin assidu- 
ously avoided the girl, putting off the day of reckoning, 
if it had to come. But the thought of it kept him awake 
at night. 

Were Bose to know of it, he doubted whether she 
would actually leave him. Probably not while Dorothy 
remained at home. But she would never believe in him 
again. He dreaded the idea of exposing to her horrified 
eyes his feet of clay. 

Then he suddenly missed Ada. A new parlor-maid 
waited at table. He felt as tiliough a load of care had 
been lifted from his shoulders. He wanted to know 
what had become of Ada, but when it came to asking 
his courage failed him. Yet to avoid remarking on the 
change might look curious. 

''Where's Adat (Jot a holiday!*' he at length man- 
aged to inquire in a casual tone, when Dorothy had gone 
to bed. Bose and he were on the veranda. It was 
very hot indoors, and he was glad of the outdoor coolness 
and the kindly darkness. Bose drew her chair a little 
nearer to his. 

''I've been wondering whether I ought to tell you," 






it 

ii 

ii 



236 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

ahe said in a troubled voiee; ''but I decided tiiere was 
no need unless you asked. Do you askt" 

Well, if it's an3rthing I should know/' he fenced. 

Ada's gone away for several months. I thought it 
best Of course you 've been too bufify to notice, but she 's 
been looking ill. Martin, can 't you guess T ' ' 
Martin decided it was wisest to be dense. 

Don't talk in conundrums, my dear," he said. 

She's going to have a baby," Rose whispered. 
Don't be shocked or angry, please, darling. Poor girl ! 
She's so sorry and unhappy. I'm as sorry for her as I 
can be. So I — I said I'd look after her and take her 
back if she couldn't get married." 

She tried to peer into his face, but the darkness hid 
it from her. 

What did she say to that?" he asked quickly. 

She was very grateful, but she seemed dazed. She 's 
so young — ^poor little thing ! 

And you're helping herf 

I must. Don't prevent me. 111 squeeze it out of 
my dress money, somehow. 



it 

'oue was very gruieiui, l 
ii 

J. UULUBU UK31L 1/ prCVCill 

"You can't do that." Even Martin's skin was not 
thick enough to let Rose's money go to pay the wages 
of his sin. He cleared his throat. ''After all, the girl 
has been a good servant, and you're certainly the best 
judge as to whether she's deserving or not. What are 
you paying her t ' ' 

"Ten shillings a week." 

"Well — ^you can count on me for it. Don't take it 
out of your own money." 

Rose groped for his hand. "You dear, generous dar- 
ling ! " she exclaimed. 



MAETIN PAYS HIS TITHE 237 

Martin's cane chair creaked as he shifted uncomfort- 
ably in it. 

''Oh, well, my dear '' 

**YouVe a heart of gold," came Rose's worshiping 
voice out of the darkness. ''And I actually thought 
you might be annoyed with me." . 

' ' Annoyed ! " He squeezed her hand. ' ' You 're a little 
brick." 

Praise of any kind from him was as unusual as it was 
unexpected. It fell on her parched soul like water in a 
desert. She kept her hand in his and sat on clasping 
it tightly. It seemed to her in this quiet hour that she 
and Martin were in very close communion. 

The long silence that fell upon them was broken by 
Martin. A weight was beginning to lift from his mind. 
It seemed highly likely that the unpleasant incident was 
going to end satisfactorily — in oblivion. But he would 
like to make sure. 

"I suppose you don't know — she didn't give you any 
indication as to who — ^the culprit was?" 

"No." Hose hesitated. "I think he must be a mar- 
ried man. She feels very bitter about it." After a 
pause she added: "I didn't press her to confide in me. 
It's such a delicate matter. She must have her rea- 
sons " 

' ' Quite so, quite so. And besides, servants, even good 
servants, are so addicted to lying. You're a very wise 
woman. Rose." 

"Love makes one wise, I think," Rose answered softly. 



JiWll 



OK 

DO you know that many father! He keeps on look- 
ing at ns/' 

Martin followed the direction of Dorothy's glance. 
At a little distance from them (they were having te^ 
on the terrace of the House of Commons) sat a dean- 
shaven, youthfully dressed man of fifty. He had thin 
lips and a bald head. Dorothy thought he looked rather 
unpleasant. That, and his fixed gaze at herself and 
Martin, had riveted her attention. 

"Who is het" she asked. 

*' That's Sir Abel Main. No. I— «r— don't exactly 
know him." 

He wished he did. Main was a member of the very 
rich and influential class to which Qammel and Liver- 
sidge belonged, but better educated, more influential, 
and socially a cut above them. Bon vivevr, and pos- 
sessed of a worldly type of geniality, he had plenty of 
friends among the more easy-going members of the 
House. Martin 's rigidity had always precluded intimacy 
with this set. He was hardly on nodding terms with 
Sir Abel. The latter, moreover, had a nose for men of 
Martin's stamp. He assiduously avoided them.. Yet, 
just now, he was patently trying to catch Martin's eye. 

"I'm sure he wants to speak to you," said Dorothy. 
She was beginning to feel uncomfortable under the 

238 



TEA ON THE TERRACE 239 

stare which the stranger was directing at her as well 
as at Martin. 

''I don't think so, surely." Martin looked up again, 
and as he did so Main rose and came up to their table. 

* * How d 'you do t " he said, with easy effrontery. ' * I 've 
been wanting to congratulate you on your criticism of 
the Navy Estimates the other night. May I join youf 
He glanced at Dorothy for consent. 

* ' Pray do, ' ' said Martin, trying not to look too grati- 
fied. The criticism referred to had been nothing but one 
of the shallow and obstructive questions which he period- 
ically indulged in as a protest against any form of mar- 
tial expenditure and in order to see his name mentioned 
in debate. That it had been contemptuously ignored 
by the Minister to whom it was addressed was too much 
of a commonplace to upset his equanimity. '*Pray do," 
he repeated effusively. * ' My daughter — ^Sir Abel Main. ' ' 

Dorothy acknowledged the introduction with an amia- 
ble smile and a flash of white teeth that detracted 
nothing from her good looks. Sir Abel's eyes missed 
none of these, but his controlled expression was that of 
a man who had just seen her for the first time and had 
not been almost knocked off his feet by her prettiness. 

''I had no idea you possessed a grown-up daughter," 
he said affably. ''I don't think I can have met you 
anywhere. Miss LefSey, or surely I should remember 
you. Perhaps you have only come out this year." 

'*0h, I'm not a society girl," she laughed. *'We 
haven't the money for a triumphal d^but, have we, 
father?" 

Martin thought her tomboy frankness unnecessary, 
and the admission of want of money a tactless remark. 
He regretted having brought her down to the House. 



340 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

It was a treat he gave her seldom enough, but he 
wished he had deferred it on this occasion. To have 
been alone to respond to Main's gratifying overtures 
would, he felt, have been far more advantageous. His 
self-esteem prevented him from perceiving that Doro- 
thy and not himself was responsible for the rich man's 
friendly advances. He appreciated that she looked 
very nice in a sprigged muslin arrangement and a 
babyish shady hat, but that she should have bewitched 
a man of the world was altogether beyond him. And 
inwardly he was on tenterhooks as to what she might do 
or say next. He deemed it essential to say something 
to discount her impulsiveness. 

** Dorothy is rather a serious young person," he ex- 
plained. ''I don't think an aimless life would suit 
her at alL" 

'* Really t" smiled Sir Abel. '*If I may say so, Miss 
Leffley, you look too charming to have any very serious 
leanings. ' ' 

** Thanks awfully," said Dorothy. ''That means my 
dress is a success. I made it myself. Yes, honestly ! 
That's a proof of seriousness, isn't it? Besides, I do 
work in the house. I shelled peas for dinner before I 
came out. And then there's my painting. Oh, there's 
lots to do in life!" 

Main liked her spirited artlessness. It accentuated 
her physical charms. It seemed odd to him that a 
calculating and pushing person like Leffley should have 
such an unsophisticated daughter. Unsophistication in 
good-looking girls had special allurement for him. 

"You interest me," he said. ''Art is one of my re- 
laxations. I have quite a good collection of old pic- 
tures. Perhaps you have heard of them. You must 



a 
It 



TEA ON THE TERRACE 241 

come and see them one day. But I would like to im- 
pose a condition.*' 

''What condition!" 
That you let me see some of your own work first." 
Oh, my work! It's so piflSing at present. I only 
copy old masters. It makes one rather slick. And of 
course it's awfully good training for one's taste. Daddy 
and I do a itegular trade." 

Martin suddenly found the air of the Terrace un- 
comfortably warm. He must stop Dorothy's tongue at 
all hazards. A frown contracted his brows and he tried 
to catch her eye, but he only caught Main's. The twin- 
kle of derision in it made him look away quickly. He 
prayed that Dorothy's indiscreet admissions might not 
arouse more than amusement in the man's mind. 

"What sort of a trade?" The tone in which Main 
asked the question sounded innocent enough, but its 
object was to pump the girl. 

''Oh, faking! I paint an old master on old canvas 
and we buy an old frame. Then Daddy does the rest. 
Where do you sell them, Daddy f" 

Privately, privately," Martin rapped out hurriedly. 

Only you mustn't let Sir Abel think you mean faking 
in the dishonest sense. That wx>uld be giving a very 
wrong impression." 

"It wasn't my impression at all," was Sir Abel's dis- 
claimer. "I'm quite sure Miss LefSey would not take 
any one in. But you would," he aaded to himself. He 
turned to Dorothy again. "Do you know, it's quite a 
coincidence. I have actually been inquiring for some 
one like yourself to make copies of one or two of my 
pictures down at Chister Castle. I wonder if you would 
care to—'* 






242 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES 



il 



it 



She would be delighted!" 

Martin jumped at the invitation. It was like a god- 
send after his fears. 

Dorothy nodded. * ' Of course I should. But I advise 
you to see my work first." 

Ill do that with pleasure. Have you a studio T" 
You should see it I I paint in my bedroom. It 
looks an awful mix-up sometimes!" 

Martin's ears smarted. He could never account for 
the awful transparency of his children. 

''Dorothy is only using her bedroom pending the 
building of a studio. By the way, there's a portrait 
of myself in my study at home. Any time you care 
to see it " 

''No time like the present. Can we go nowt My 
car is outside." 

"Certainly." 

Martin called a waiter and paid for the tea. He 
also tipped the man a sixpence, fourpence more than 
he had intended. He thought the occasion warranted 
it. He had made an influential acquaintance who was 
going to commission Dorothy. That might be worth 
a considerable sum. Besides, a free ride home would 
save him eighteenpence. 

"I'm afraid you're a hustler," teased Dorothy, as 
Sir Abel followed her into the landaulet and took 
the seat beside her. Martin faced them. It seemed 
to her that the castle-owner kept rather close to her. 
It made her feel a little uncomfortable. Their knees 
touched. She moved hers away, but presently they 
touched again. 

"A hustler? Not exactly. But I always know what 
I want," answered Sir Abel, looking steadily at her. 



xxxin 

THE PRICE OF A COMlCISSiaN 

IT'S a rum go," remarked Mrs. Peacock. **And I 
don't like the look of it either. There's something 
fishy somewhere." 

Fresh herrings were cooking for Edgar's supper, and 
their odor permeated the small house, but the reference 
was not to the fish. 

''Hadn't you better begin from the beginning, old 
dear?" suggested Edgar. 

''Yes.. P'r'aps I had. Tour sister's just been and 
gone. Regular fairy story she had to tell. Yesterday 
they was having tea — ^her and Martin— outside Parlia- 
ment, when they got into talk with Sir Abel Somebody. 
Sort of millionaire, I gather. They gets chatting about 
art — trust your father for that — and take him off home, 
if you please, to show him Dolly's pictures. And the 
long and the short of it is that Dolly's to copy three 
of his old masters down at a castle of his at a hundred 
pounds apiece! Pretty stiff, I call it Why, Sargent 
wouldn't get much more for makin' copies." 

Edgar sat up. "That's extraordinary," he said. 
"Who fixed the price?" 

"Martin, I'll lay. And Dorothy's to go down there 
this very week-end. To-morrow, that is, by the ten- 
something from Paddington." 

"Where!" 

243 



244 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



tt 



To this here castle. Chester or Ohister was the 

99 



name. 

"With mother, of course t" 
it 



No." Aunt Polly looked hard at Edgar. ''What 
d'you think of that!" 

* ' Well, she can H go then — ^naturally. Father wouldn 't 
dream of it, surely.'* 

''He's not dreamin'. He ain't even asleep, but he's 
sendin' her there all the same. What d'you know 
about this Sir Abel what's-his-name¥" 

"Sir Abel Main f Is that it t" Edgar looked thought- 
ful. "Not much good." 

"H'm. Go on." 

"You see, Aunt Polly, down at the flying ground 
one meets men of all sorts and one hears about others. 
I've heard this about Sir Abel — ^he's no good to women. 
There was something about a tea-shop lately. Pretty 
near the bone, they say it was. Well, he was in that, 
though it didn't come out in the papers. If you ask 
me, he's a regular bad egg. If Dolly's going down to 
his place, mother must go there too. That's all there 
is to it. Girls can't stay in men's houses, alone, even 
to paint pictures. It isn't done. The governor knows 
that." 

'^I wonder Eose wasn't asked. When there's money 
in the air your father fair loses his head. My opinion 
is, he's just chancin' things — ^happenin' to Dorothy, 
I mean. I'm speakin' plain, Edgar." 

"I'm going to speak plainly too. I'm not going to 
see my sister made cheap. Even if the man was straight, 
which he isn't, it would be doing for her reputation 
if it got about. Perhaps I'd better see mother first." 

"I shall be surprised if that's any good." 



THE PRICE OP A COMMISSION 245 

''Then I shall talk to father." 

**I expect you 11 have to/' said Aunt Polly dryly. 

Edgar had not set foot in his father's house since 
he had been turned out of it. He did not relish the 
idea of going there now, but he put his pride in his 
pocket for his sister's sake. The afSnity of twinship 
would have been enough to make him champion her at 
any time. Now he was moved to do so for an addi- 
tional reason. Her innocence seemed to be in danger. 
Brotherly solicitude magnified his fears. He boiled 
with indignation at the thought of her running such a 
risk. The full facts of the situation were unknown to 
him, but that it should have arisen at all appeared 
to be his father's fault. He was in a white heat of 
exasperation when he reached the house. 

His luck was out. Neither his mother nor Dorothy 
was at home. It followed that his father must be 
bearded. He went straight to his room. Martin was 
disconcerted by the unexpected visit. 

''What has brought you heref " he demanded, deter- 
mined not to concede anything the boy might have come 
to ask. 

I don't want anything for myself," retorted Edgar. 

And I've not come for pleasure. I've come to ask 
if it's true that Dorothy's going down to stay at a man's 
house alone. Also if it's true that she's to be paid 
a suspiciously large sum of money for going." 

Martin almost jumped out of his chair. 

"You impertinent young jackanapes!" he spluttered. 
"How dare you come and ask questions like that? Are 
you my keeper!" 

"I've got to be my sister's keeper if you won't," 
Edgar rejoined hotly. " So it 's true. Well, then, father. 






246 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

all I want to say is that if you let Dorothy go away 
like that you're — you're not fit to be a father. I dare- 
say I am beastly young to say that^ and I hate having 
to. But I'm old enough to know that men like Main 
mean no good to young girls, and— damn it, sir, can't 
you see, you're simply chucking her at himt" 

Martin pointed to the door. 

''Do you see that?" he said, his voice shaking with 
passion. 

''Yes; I'm going in a minute. Look here, father, 
I don't mean to be impertinent. I don't want to think 
hard things of you. It doesn't matter how you treat 
me. I'm tough and can stand it. But Dorothy's a 
girl, and I don't think you've any idea how absolutely 
dead innocent she is. D'you want her to find things 
out in the beastliest wayf" 

Edgar's insistence was mastering his father's ob- 
stinacy. Intolerable as Martin felt it to be called to 
account like this, he saw plainly that Edgar was not 
going to be put off by any intemperate show of au- 
thority. The case called for more subtle methods. In 
effect, Martin felt himself beaten, but he hid his defeat 
by a dignified counter-attack. 

"You ought to know," he said, "that I put Dorothy's 
moral welfare before everything. For some abstruse 
reason, which is quite beyond me, you take an exactly 
opposite view of my motives. No doubt you mean 
well. Ill give you credit for so much. I should like 
to make it plain to you that Sir Abel Main is greatly 
impressed with Dorothy's work and is prepared to pay 
her well for it. Do you suppose that I am going to 
stand in her light? You wrong me. In your impetu- 
osity you do not even realize that Dorothy will not need 



THE PRICE OF A COMMISSION 247 

a chaperon at Chister Castle, for the simple reason 
that no one will be there except the housekeeper and 
serv^ts. Sir Abel tactfully laid stress on that and on 
the fact that Dorothy would therefore be able to give' 
herself unrestrainedly to the work. And if this is not 
enough for you, you must realize that Sir Abel is an 
elderly man — ^more than old enough to be Dorothy's 
father." 

Edgar snorted. ''And don't you know, father, that 
elderly men of his sort are walking horrors when they 
happen to get keen on a girl? Elderly men of a certain 
type do think of young girls and — ^prey on them. It's 
true. Oh, all right, I'm off." 

He left the house, boiling with indignation. 

"I didn't think it would be any use," Mrs. Peacock 
commented when he reported the interview. 

''The only thing I can do is to write to Dorothy her- 
self," was the decision Edgar came to. 

His letter arrived as she was preparing for her de- 
parture. When she had read it she handed it to Rose. 
Edgar had not the gift of lucid expression, but Rose 
could read the brotherly solicitude between the lines. 
Did she not feel a little anxious herself? 

<<Deabest D., 

''I went to see father. It's rot your going down alone. Don't 
go without mother. Make mother go. I wish 70U knew more 
about things^ or you'd smell a rat. Be careful. No man, who 
is keen on a girl decently, puts her in a compromising position. 

Don't be a little ass. If mother can't go with you, d the 

money and stop at home. Do^ old girL 

"P.S. — ^Aunt P< agrees with every word, and you know there 
are no flies on her." 



248 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



<<, 



Oh, dearl" said Rose. ''I wish I could come with 
yon. But Edgar must be mistAfceUi or Daddy wouldn't 
let you go.'* 

"We shall miss the train if we don't start." 

Martin came in to say the same thing. He seemed 
anzioui} to get Dorothy out of the house. Perhaps he 
was afraid that Edgar or Aunt Polly might turn up 
and prevent her going. Aunt Polly was quite capable 
of creating a scene. 

"Take care of yourseU, my dear/' he said as he kissed 
her. 

"Yes, Daddy," said Dorothy, and wondered a little 
why Aunt Polly and dear old Edgar, and even her 
mother, should think this business trip a mistake. Who 
was right, they or her father? 

She was really an amenable girl. Left to herself, she 
would have reasoned the matter out and thought little 
of the money at issue. But Martin was not to be trifled 
with. If she did not go she would offend him, and 
perhaps Sir Abel as well, with whom he wanted to keep 
in. She had gathered so much. Had she refused to go 
a stop might have been put to her art studies, to say 
the least of it. And then, of course, it was rather fun 
to go down to an old castle and spend one's time amongst 
splendid pictures in beautiful surroundings. . . . She 
had almost forgotten Edgar's note by the time she and 
Rose reached the station. The train was on the point of 
starting. 

"Remember what Daddy said," Rose enjoined at the 
carriage window. "Look after yourself, darling. I do 
wish you weren't going, somehow," she added. 

The train began to move. Rose stepped back from 
the window and waved a last good-by, then turned at 



THE PRICE OF A COMMISSION 249 

the sound of running feet. Towards her came Edgar, 
kit-bag in hand, tearing along the platform. 

** Which carriage?" he panted. 

*'That one — second-class!" cried Rose. 

"Right! Good-by, mother. Don't let on to the gov- 
ernor." He wrenched open the carriage door and swung 
himself in. ** Hullo, Dolly! I'm coming too." 

His cyclonic irruption into the compartment filled her 
with delighted surprise. 

' * Really ? ' ' she exclaimed. * * All the way t How rip- 
ping! But — ^what will father say?" 

Edgar shrugged. '^He can't say more than he has. 
Anyway, it's too late to bother about that now." He 
settled himself in the seat opposite her. The train 
roared through a couple of short tunnels. **The ques- 
tion is, what will the great Sir Abel Main's face look 
like when he sees me?" 

"He won't be there to see you. But do you mean 
you're coming to the Castle too?" 

"That was the idea." 

Dorothy looked puzzled. "I suppose it wiU be all 
right. What a funny letter you wrote me." 

"It wasn't meant to be funny. Some one had to 
tell you. Never mind that now. I 'm here and I 'm going 
to look after you. At the last moment I decided I 
ought to come. Awful rush I had, too. How are things 
at home? Governor on the rampage?" 

"Not a bit. He's been lovely to me lately. He's 
going to invest the money I shall get for the pictures, 
and I'm to have twenty-five whole pounds of it to spend 
on clothes!" Dorothy waxed enthusiastic, "And I'm 
to have a studio. Do you know, I'm beginning to think 
we 've never really understood father. ' ' 



250 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

Edgar looked out of the window. 

With their limited experience of country seats, the 
twins were deeply impressed by their first view of Clus- 
ter Castle. They had seen Windsor and Hampton Court, 
and also Hatfield House at a discreet distance; but 
this was the first occasion on which they had driven 
in as visitors at the ornate gates of a Norman castle 
adapted as a country-house to the uses of a millionaire. 

In the limousine that had been sent to meet them, 
they rolled up the vast tree-bordered drive, getting 
glimpses of shaven lawns and vistas of landscape garden- 
ing on a scale hitherto unknown to them. The imposing 
dimensions of the Castle and the gray majesty of its 
Keep roused Dorothy to enthusiasm. 

'^ Isn't it lovely! Isn't it perfect!" she exclaimed. 
''Just like olden times! It only wants a figure or two 
strolling about in armor and things to make it " 

' ' Well, there 's a figure in shooting rig. At least, that 's 
what I suppose it is," interrupted Edgar, whose eyes 
had detected some one standing before the main en- 
trance. "Left his suit of mail indoors on account of 
the heat, I expect," he added facetiously. 

"It's Sir Abel!" she declared. "He must have come 
down on purpose to — ^to make me feel at home!" 

"I shouldn't wonder," observed Edgar dryly. 

The car stopped. Sir Abel opened the door. 

"Welcome ! " he said gayly ; and then his face changed 
on discovering that she was not alone. 

"How d'you do?" Dorothy returned shyly. "Sir 
Abel, this is my brother, Edgar." 

As a self-invited guest, Edgar felt at a disadvantage, 



THE PRICE OF A COMMISSION 251 

but he had already discounted the awkwardness of the 
meeting, and showed no discomposure. 

*'My mother couldn't manage to bring my sister 
down," he said, "so I came instead." 

Sir Abel's face cleared. 

''Quite natural she should like some one to look 
after her on a long journey. You 11 stay to dinner, of 
course? There's a very good train back at nine-thirty. 
You'll easily be able to catch it" 

''Will you?" Edgar asked amiably. 

Sir Abel had started to lead the way indoors. He 
swung round to scrutinize Edgar. But the boy's face 
told him nothing. It looked devoid of guile. 

"I have business down here," he answered, hardly 
hiding the annoyance he was beginning to feel. "I 
may have to remain a day or two." 

"Oh, that's all right. I can stay as long as my sister 
needs me. I suppose you have no married lady stop- 
ping in the house. Sir Abel? Of course, if you have, 
I could catch the nine-thirty." 

The question mcensed Sir Abel. It also put him in 
a quandary. He could not mistake the boy's intention 
to play a man's part on his sister's behalf. 

His inclination was to act summarily with him, to 
pack him off without more ado. But he did not know 
how Dorothy would take it. He was particularly anxious 
not to offend her. She seemed quite unconscious of 
the undercurrent of antagonism that was brewing un- 
der her eyes. Apparently she had no idea that her 
brother's presence was the very last thing her host 
desired. Much to his disgust, Sir Abel saw that the 
only thing left for him to do was to disarm any sus- 
picions the boy might be harboring. 



252 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 



<<' 



No; unfortunately I have no lady visitors at all," he 
said. ''So if you prefer to stop, pray do so. Chaperons 
are only de rigueur in suburban circles nowadays, I 
understand. Still, so long as your sister isn 't disturbed 
at her painting . . . She has come, as you know, pri- 
marily, on business," he added pointedly. 

It was the sort of reminder that no one but a man 
of coarse fiber would have made. Bancor instigated 
it. He wanted to make it clear that Dorothy was not 
so much a guest as a temporary employee, and that he 
expected her brother to bear the distinction in mind, and 
behave accordingly. The remark incensed Edgar. It 
convinced him that Sir Abel believed that his money 
could buy anything, that he had priced his sister in 
with her work. 

''We all seem to be here on business," he said with a 
touch of sarcasm. 

"Indeed? And what is yours t" inquired Sir Abel 
insolently. 

"Oh, nothing pressing — ^unless the need arises. I 
suppose it might be called the business of a gentleman, ' ' 
said Edgar. 



XXXIV 

THE COMMEBCIAL VALUE OF A PRETTY WOMAN 

THE keenness which he invariably displayed about 
any project dear to his heart made Edgar a very 
efficient watch-dog. Without obtrusiveness he exercised 
a vigilance over Dorothy which gave Sir Abel few op- 
portunities of carrying out any sinister designs against 
her. And he did it with an air of bland innocence 
which the millionaire found it difficult to resent openly. 
He sought in vain for an excuse to shorten the boy's 
visit. With no woman-chaperon provided for Dorothy, 
he had a legitimate right to stay on. 

After the first day or two Edgar was frankly bored. 
The change from the active life of an aerodrome to 
sitting still in a picture gallery (with the smoking of 
innumerable cigarettes as his only distraction) was a 
trying one. And yet there was nothing for it but to 
stick it out. Sir Abel did his best to rid himself of 
the incubus. He offered his car : Edgar politely declined 
it ; a gun : Edgar didn 't shoot ; a trout-rod : Edgar didn 't 
fish. Sir Abel regretted he hadn't a monoplane (of pe- 
culiarly unreliable construction) on the premises, though 
the probabilities were that Edgar would have declined 
that too. 

With nothing to distract her, Dorothy painted as- 
siduously, copying a half-length Hoppner. All Sir Abel 
could do was to sit by her moodily at intervals. Talk 

253 



254 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 

of the intimate kind which he had promised himself 
was out of the question in the presence of an unde- 
sirable third person who shared their talks, their walks, 
their meals and every interval of leisure. 

A week of this sort of thing was enough for him. 
He was ''fed up" with Edgar. He also came to the 
conclusion that to pay a hundred pounds apiece for 
copies which he did not particularly want, and at the 
same time be deprived of a diversion which he ardently 
desired, was a waste of good money. His pursuit of 
the feminine had never before been made under similar 
difficulties. Dorothy gave him no encouragement. Ed- 
gar was maddeningly obtuse— or artful. He felt he was 
being fooled. Once that notion got into his head he 
thought it time to come to an understanding with the 
girl. He waited until she had completed her copy of 
the Hoppner. Then he sent for her and presented her 
with a check for the stipulated amount. She took it 
diffidently. 

"Thank you very much," she said; ''but you needn't 
have paid me until the other two were done." 

A silver paper-knife lay on the table between them. 
Its handle was in the form of a nude female figure. 
He picked it up and rather obtrusively trifled with it. 

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," he said slowly, "but 
I have had to reconsider my offer. One picture will 
be sufficient." 

"Oh, dear!" The exclamation was involuntary. 
"Daddy will be vexed." 

"I hope not" 

"Oh, but he will. Do tell me, please* Is it because 
my work is not as good as you thought T" 

"It has nothing to do with your work. Come, now. 



THE VALUE OP A PRETTY WOMAN 255 

don't look so ba£9ed. You're a dear little girl and all 
that, but you're Martin Leffley's daughter, and it would 
be surprising if you were quite guileless." 

Dorothy's eyes grew round. 

''Won't you explain?" she asked plaintively. "I 
must give Daddy some reason." 

"I don't think your father will want much explana- 
tion if you tell him your brother has been here all the 
time." 

" But I thought Then it 's Edgar you object to » " 

"Not in himself. He has some admirable qualities. 
One of them is pertinacity. I daresay I should admire 
it — ^in different circumstances. Only I can't get to know 
you very well while he's here, can If" 

"But I didn't know you wanted to get to know me. 
I thought it was — ^pictures." 

"It wasn't only pictures. Don't you know that I 
could get all the copies I want for ten pounds eacJiT 
Don't you know that I was offering you a fancy price!" 
It was generous, but — ^why did you offer itt" 
Because you're so pretty, and I thought it would 
be pleasant — ^for both of us — ^to have the place to our- 
selves." 

The inflexion he gave the words put an unmistakable 
meaning into them. Like a hot wind it seared her mod- 
esty. Waves of color surged into her face. Sir Abel's 
eyes feasted on her, seeing a new attraction in her vivid 
looks. They prompted him to say more than he had 
intended. He held the paper-knife with its gleaming 
handle suggestively towards her. 

"Why do you think I bought this? It's an expen- 
sive toy. Because it struck my fancy. Live things strike 
my fancy too, sometimes. You did. ' ' 






256 IF WISHES WERE HOBSEB 



it 



Yesf . . . But then you couldn't buy me.'' 
Couldn't If Isn't it true, then, that every woman 
has her price t Perhaps you haven 't thought much about 
the commercial value of being — a pretty woman. It's 
worth while, you know. It's as good as having a big 
sum of money to invest" 

His tone, the look in his eyes, the expression of his 
sensual mouth, put her on her guard. But because she 
remained silent, he pursued his cruel enlightenment. 

''It amounts to this, my dear. You can make more 
money in a year by your looks than your father could 
in ten by his brains. Let me prove it to you. Send 
that young brother of yours away and you can ask 
for an3rthin^ you want. You can have a pretty little 
house and a studio in St. John's Wood, and a hand- 
some allowance. What would you say to that?" 

Dorothy stood very still. Every bit of color had 
drained out of her face. 

I never cared much about novels," she said slowly. 
They seemed so impossible and unreal — ^most of them. 
In some of them the rich men — the blackguards and 
the beastly ones — ^talk like you do. I never took much 
notice of that either. They offer to — ^to keep girls, and 
give them furs and flats and motor-cars. And the girls 
in return give them something — and they're never happy 
afterwards. They end in smash and everything goes 
to pieces. ... It used to amuse me — that rot. But 
now I know" — she was struggling to express herself — 
''there are such men and such girls, and it's true. And 
I know you've insulted me and I hate you. And 
I know why Edgar came, and why mother didn't seem 
quite happy in her mind. The only thing I don't know 
is how father could let me. . . . Put that beastly paper- 






THE VALUE OF A PRETTY WOMAN 257 

knife down. . . . You may be rich — a pig may have a 
nice sty — ^but if you only knew what you are! There's 
your money! Don't come near me; I'm going — naw!'^ 

He stood in her way, not at all put out of countenance 
by her disparaging opinion of him. Indeed, he rather 
liked her spirit. It made her all the more worth win- 
ning. 

''Come, now! Don't be silly. You don't mean all 
that." 

But she pushed past him and went out, slamming the 
door behind her. Making fast for the picture gallery 
where she had left Edgar, she came across one of the 
footmen. 

*'Tell a maid to pack my box and have it ready at 
once, please. And my brother's too," she stopped to 
say. 

''Yes, miss. Would you like the cart" 

"Is there a cab in the village? I would rather have 
that. In a quarter of an hour?" 

At the end of the long corridor she met Edgar on his 
way to find her. 

"Come on," she panted. "We're going. I shall 
suffocate if I stop in this house. I'll just get my 
hat " 

Edgar did not stop to ask questions. Her white face 
and excited manner made it clear to him that the very 
thing he had come down to shield her from had hap- 
pened. 

"The dirty cad!" he muttered to himself. 

They waited in the grounds until the hired cab came 
for them. Sir Abel kept out of sight. Neither on the 
way to the station nor in the train did Dorothy say more 
than that he had been rude to her, and Edgar was 



258 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

thankful that she refrained from details. As it was, 
he could only with difficulty restrain voicing his savage 
resentment against the man who had insulted his sister. 
Unpleasant hours they were, spent in moody silence; 
but they were compensated for by the relief both felt 
at having shaken free of Chister Castle and its owner. 

As the train drew in at Paddington Dorothy bent 
forward and kissed Edgar. 

''Thank you for being with me, twin," she said fer- 
vently. 

Edgar got a little red. "Oh, that's all right," he 
mumbled. "There are some sweeps about in this world. 
I warned father. You'll have to take a taxi with that 
box." 

He put her in one and then took the Tube in another 
direction. 

On getting home Dorothy went straight to her mother. 
All her pent-up feelings overflowed into those sympa- 
thetic ears. What she could not discuss with Edgar 
she could pour out to Rose. They were together a 
long time. Rose wanted to be the intermedium for con- 
veying the news of Dorothy's return and its reason to 
Martin, but the girl insisted on doing this herself. The 
day's happenings had entirely changed her feelings 
towards him. Nothing he could do or say now would 
ever make her afraid of him again. 

"I've come back," she said composedly, as she shut 
the study door behind her. "I did one copy of a Hopp- 
ner for Sir Abel and he gave me a check for it. I re- 
turned it because of something he said. I daresay you 
can guess what. He seemed to think ycu knew why he 
had offered me such a big price." Her cheeks burnt. 



THE VALUE OF A PRETTY WOMAN 259 



(( 



Never send me away like that again, father. I didn't 
think it of you.'' 

Martin could not face the accusation in her eyes. 

*'What do you mean!" he shuflBed. 

Dorothy's head took a disdainful lift. **If you don't 
understand, ask mother. I've just come from her." 

She turned to go. 

*'One moment." Martin spoke sharply. "Do you 
mean to tell me that you've simply washed your hands 
pf the whole commission f" 

' * Not exactly ; but Sir Abel didn 't want the other two 
copies done when he found out I wasn't — ^what he im- 
agined. He only gave me a check for the one I had 
done." 

"Where is the check?" 

"I told you. I gave it back to him." 

"You will have to write for another." 

"I wouldn't dream of it." 

"Then I shall write for you." 

"I won't touch his money." 

Martin took no exception to that. 

"You are behaving most irrationally," he continued. 
"From what you have said I gather Sir Abel showed 
that he was slightly attracted by you." 

Dorothy's lips curled. "If you like to put it that 
way." 

"And you, instead of behaving like a sensible girl, 
lost your temper. Quite apart from the harm you have 
done your own pocket, you cannot be unaware that you 
have put an end to all possible intimacy between Sir 
Abel and myself. After this exhibition of your ingrat- 
itude to me and your rudeness to an influential man, 



260 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

I take no farther interest in your art. So far as I am 
concerned, your studies are at an end/' 

''They're not the only thing that has come to an end/' 
she rejoined in a dead voice. ''There's my respect for 
you. That's gone too." 

"Your opinion of me is not of the slightest import- 
ance," he said coldly, and turned away. 

He was bitterly disappointed and extremely nettled. 
To give him his due, he did not realize that Dorothy 
had been the attraction to Sir AbeL Blinded by his 
own self-esteem, he had taken all the credit for it to 
himself. He had to admit that perhaps at Chister Castle 
Dorothy's youth and looks may have made an impres- 
sion on its rich owner. Youth and good looks were 
apt to appeal to a man of mature age. Ada had af- 
fected Martin himself like that. He could not exactly 
blame Sir Abel. But he did blame Dorothy for play- 
ing her cards badly. It was obvious that in some way 
she must have ruined her chances by her inexperience. 
She might have succeeded in marrying the man. He 
wondered what sort of proposition Sir Abel had made 
her. He discounted her implied suggestion that it was 
an insulting one. Coming from a man of his wealth and 
importance, it was absurd of her to take offense, what- 
ever it was. Had she been reasonably wide-awake she 
ought to have been able to turn it to advantage. In- 
stead of that she had spoiled a good prospect of securing 
a millionaire husband, and also thrown away three hun- 
dred pounds. He had nothing but contempt for such 
unworldliness. 

The question was, could he do anything to retrieve 
the situation? He might apologize to Sir Abel for his 
daughter's conduct, but he doubted the wisdom of doing 



THE VALUE OF A PRETTY WOMAN 261 

80. Perhaps it would be more dignified to appear igno- 
rant of any misunderstanding. . . . There was always 
a chance it might blow over. . . . But concerning that 
check for a hundred pounds. . . . Dorothy's refusal to 
take it in a fit of temper could not alter the fact that 
it was due to her for work done. Sir Abel could not 
fail to see that. 

Martin picked up a pen and wrote a nice little letter, 
asking for it. Its wording gave the impression that 
Dorothy had forgotten to take it, and that the writer was 
quite ignorant of any reason why she should not have 
done so. 

He felt better after that. 



XXXV 

BOSS 00NSX7LTS A SPBCIAIilST 

ROSE had no idea she could feel so calm. Diffidence, 
if not timidity, had always been one of her fail- 
ings. Tet, full of misgivings though she was about her 
healthy she faced the specialist in his somber consulting- 
room without nervousness. She feared his verdict but 
meant to endure it stoically. Only a self-denying nature 
could have shown such fortitude. Whatever it might 
be it would, she reasoned, only concern herself. For 
herself Bose was never afraid. 

''I want you to be quite open with me," she said, 
when she had detailed her symptoms. ''I know there 
is something wrong, so whatever you may say, it will 
not frighten me." 

The doctor asked questions. 

''You must have been feeling ill for a considerable 
time," he said at length. '*Why have you delayed con- 
sulting a medical manf " 

For all Rose's simplicity she could sometimes read an 
unexpressed thought. 

''You mean I've left it too long!" 

"Unwisely so." 

"Is there a remedy?" 

"The usual one." 

"An operation?" 

2G2 



ROSE CONSULTS A SPECIALIST 263 

**Yes; but it would be dangerous. A complete cure 
is remote in any case, I^m sorry to say." 

''I see." She thought for a little. **ShaU I be able 
to hide itf " 

' * It depends on the sort of life you lead. If you could 
have absolute quiet, freedom from all worry, and espe- 
cially country air, the malady might not develop dan- 
gerously for some years." 

* * The country ? Unfortunately our home is in London. 
We are seldom able to leave it." Unostentatiously she 
placed his fee on the table and rose to go. '^I haven't 
the least doubt that what you say is correct," she said. 
*'The only thing is, I must forego the operation and — 
hope for the best. One can always do that, can't one?" 

Her smile was the most heroic thing the specialist had 
seen for a long time. 

From Wimpole Street she went straight home. She 
wanted to think. Up in her bedroom she shut and 
locked her door. It was the first time in her life that she 
had put a lock between herself and her loved ones. 
But just for a little while she needed privacy. She 
took off her hat and smoothed her hair. The tidings 
she had brought home were not written in her face. 
She was thankful she had such a high color. Martin 
never looked beyond that. In his estimation if one had 
a good color one was well. 

Ought she to tell him? She could not decide whether 
it was her duty or not. He had enough cares on his 
shoulders without her adding to them. Dear Martin! 
Because he was so dear the contemplation of having 
to part from him brought a pang to her heart. A few 
more years together at most and then . . • What would 
he do without hert . . . What would he do? Never 



264 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

before had she regretted being indispensable to him. 
She did now. Perhaps — ^in the time die had left — she 
might somehow teaeh him to do without her. She would 
like him to feel sorry if she died. But only sorry, not 
inconsolable. . • • 

She knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed. 
She prayed with all her strength — ^for strength. She 
prayed to the Qod who had never failed her, who had 
given her the priceless gift of a loving and devoted 
husband, that in some way, God's own good way, He 
would spare her as long as possible to Martin, on whom 
her loss would fall so heavily. She prayed that if it were 
possible the cup might pass from her : not as she willed 
but as Ood willed. . . . 

And then the pain came, sharper than any spiritual 
pangs, the knife-like agony that had been growing more 
acute for months and at last had driven her to the 
specialist. When it had abated she got up and unlocked 
the door. Martin stood there. 

"I've been looking for you," he said. ''Have you 
been out!" 

''Yes, dear." 

"You haven't forgotten we're going to the opening 
of the new wing of the Cancer Hospital at three, and 
to dinner with the Witts at eight? You may have to 
speak a few words at the hospital." 

"I hadn't forgotten, Martin. I shall be ready." 

"Look your best, old lady." He rested his hand on 
her shoulder for a moment. "You know, your robust 
appearance is very inspiring at functions of that sort." 

"Is it, dearest? I'm afraid I shall never get really 
used to them." 

"Perhaps you won't have to. 



99 






ROSE CONSULTS A SPECIALIST 265 

He sat down rather heavily in the chair by the dress- 
ing-table. She noticed how old and tired he looked. 

'*Are you worrying about anything?'* she asked, with 
ever-ready sympathy. 

*'In a way, yes. I don't like the look of things. I 
haven't for a long time." 

She might have taken his words to apply to her ill- 
ness, but she knew he had no inkling of it. He was 
thinking politically. ''Those Sarajevo murders are go- 
ing to lead to trouble, I believe. Did you see the paper 
this morning t" 

"Yes, but I didn't read much. I — ^I was bothered 
about something else. Is the news badf " 

''Yes, not only that, but there were a lot of significant 
rumors going about the House last night. There's talk 
of war — ^Austria and Russia, perhaps Germany. That 
would set Europe in a blaze." Martin brought his hand 
down violently on the dressing-table. "It's this cursed 
militarism! We've been nearly dragged into war by it 
already." 

"But you don't think we " 

"I don't know. Every Jingo in the country would 
be glad if we joined in. Some of ihe Opposition papers 
are hinting at it already. It's disgraceful! I loathe 
war! It's so bad for trade." 

"If that's all," said Rose, to whom the prospect of 
war seemed remote enough, "why should you worry? 
You're not in trade now. The antique business, I 
mean. 

Martin sighed. "It's not only that. This Parlia- 
ment only has another eighteen months to run. If I 
don't get in again— and I've reason to think I may not 



266 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

— ^I shall have nothing but my Liversidge dividends to 
live on; and that practically would mean ruin." 

''Martin!'* 

''Welly perhaps not quite that. But we should have 
to give up this house and go back to the same position 
we were in twenty years ago. Dorothy would have to 
do something for herself. Judging by her behavior 
lately, that's what she is asking for/' he added bitterly. 

"Poor Dolly ! Martin, I wish you and she were better 
friends. If only you had explained to her the other 
day, when she asked you for her dress money, that you 
really couldn't afford it just then! You only make 
her think you're thwarting her purposely. There aren't 
many girls in her position who haven't one ball-dress. 
And she had set her heart on this dance. It's to-night, 
and she can't go." 

He made an impatient gesture. "I don't need re- 
minding of that. She's rubbed it in enough already. 
In any case, dress or no dress, I should have set my 
face against it on account of its being an artists' af- 
fair." 

"But, Martin, if she has to make money by paint- 
ing " 

"She won't. Who is to sell her pictures for herf 
You can't expect me to encourage her after the ridicu- 
lous way she behaved at Chister Castle. To go back to 
what I was talking about — ^the future. Think of our 
having to keep up our position on three hundred a year 
at the most! Think of it! I don't know how it strikes 
you, Rose, but to me it's an appalling prospect." 

It would have amazed him to know that, far from 
daunting her, it was a prospect at which she almost 
rejoiced. To her frugal mind £300 a year was more 



ROSE CONSULTS A SPECIALIST 267 

than enough to live on. For herself she could have 
asked nothing better. A return to the position of ti^nty 
years ago! The condition of life she had never ceased 
to miss! Was this God's answer to her prayers? No, 
it could not be, since such a change would make Martin 
unhappy. She must not even hunger for it. Yet, if 
only he could see things with her eyes, be contented 
with a little I 

''Don't you think we could be happy like thatt" she 
asked wistfully. ''We're not as young as we were, Mar- 
tin. Would it not in some ways be a relief to live more 
simply — ^to be just ourselves f" 

He shook his head. "You can't expect me to see it 
like that. My whole life has been a struggle to get on 
in the world. To feel that it has all been waste work is 
dreadful. I haven't deserved su'^h disappointment I 
can't reconcile myself to it — ^to ending my days in ob- 
scurity." 

"Oh, Martin, dear, please don't take it like ];hat. It's 
hard on you, I know, after all you've done. But I feel 
— ^I'm sure — ^we could live contentedly on a small income 
if we tried." 

Her tone of sincerity almost gave him courage to face 
the dismal future. 

"You really mean you wouldn't mind!" he asked in 
real surprise. 

' ' Mind f " A joyous little laugh punctuated by a sob 
broke from her. "Why, with you, dear, to share it, I 
wouldn 't mind a garret ! I could be utterly happy in a 
little country cottage, amongst dear, simple people in 
whose day nothing more important happens than the 
rising and setting of the sun — ^people who are happy be- 
cause they don't know what ambition is. Ambition and 



268 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

publicity and titles don 't help one to be contented, Mar- 
tin." Her voice was full of fervent pleading. "Think 
of it, dear; nothing to do but to keep a little house 
and garden looking neat and tidy ! And peace ! I could 
die happy like that ! ' ' 

Martin passed his hand wearily across his eyes. For 
one fleeting, unpleasant moment he had an unaccount- 
able fancy that a third person was in the room with 
them — a mystical, unwanted Third. 

''Don't talk about dying," he said gruflBy. "I— I 
don't believe I could do without you now." 

''Martini" she choked. 



XXXVI 



DOROTHY LOSES A GLOVB 



MARTIN'S share in the afternoon's ceremony at 
the hospital was ixot as prominent as usual. True, 
he made a speeeh, but his personal anxieties robbed it 
of point. For once in a way Rose eclipsed him. She 
was called upon to say a few words on behalf of the 
nursing st€iff, and instead of relying on the customary 
little set speech (which, with alterations, could be made 
to fit most occasions), she spoke at some length with an 
unexpected depth of feeling. Martin had never known 
her make such a moving address. One or two of the 
doctors present listened in wonder to the extraordinary 
but reticent accuracy with which she depicted the suf- 
ferings of cancer victims, and of the merciful treatment 
the new wing would afford them. Unseen by her, the 
specialist whom she had consulted that same morning 
was also present. He did not wonder. He understood. 

On the way home Martin complimented her. 

''You quite surprised me," he said. "Had you 
thought out what you were going to say beforehand?" 

"No, dear. I felt very keenly, that's all," she an- 
swered. "Cancer is such a cruel, inscrutable disease." 

"Well, I never heard any one speak so feelingly about 
a matter of which they could have no experience." He 
did not see the sudden tightening of her lips. ' ' I hope 
you're not tired." 

260 



270 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

''Not veiy/' she Ued bravely. ''It's aU in the day's 
work." 

"Directly we get in yon had better lie down. I shall 
take a nap in my study." 

But when she got in she did not lie down. She took 
two evening dresses out of her wardrobe and carried 
them to Dorothy's room. 

"Darling, do you think you could manage with either 
of these t" she asked. "The black doesn't seem quite 
suitable, but the heliotrope isn't so bad." 

Dorothy looked at them doubtfully. A number of 
her own dresses lay scattered about. She had been try- 
ing to adapt some of them, but without success. 

"Thank you awfully, pet," she sighed, "but it's no 
good. Your things would just double round me. I'm 
resigned now more or less. Father says one must get 
used to disappointments. He does g^ive one a lot of 
practice, though. ' ' 

"Father is very worried. It's a question of money, 
darling." 

"Oh, I daresay. It's always a question of money now 
with him. I'm rather fed up with it. He doesn't con- 
sider pleasure necessary for young people " She 

broke off. "Mother, you do look fagged. Must you go 
out to-night? Can't we spend the evening quietly to- 
gether?" 

'*I wish we could," Rose said regretfully. "I am 
tired. And we shan't be in till late." 

"I shall go round to Aunt Polly's." 

'*Do, dear. Give my love to Edgar." She kissed 
Dorothy and went back to her room. 

When her father and mother had left the house 
Dorothy went off too. Aunt Polly knew all about the 



DOROTHY LOSES A GLOVE 271 

dress difiSculty and Martin's objection to the dance. 
His strained relations with Dorothy were more than a 
fortnight old. 

'*I was hopin' you'd come," she said. **Qot the 
ticket?" 

"For the dance?' Yes. It's still in my purse. But 
why?" 

** 'Cos I got an idea. It's not eight yet. What's 
to stop your going if you had a proper dress? I reckon 
Martin's overlooked the fac' that his aunt's a high-class 
wardrobe dealer. I've a costume upstairs that came 
from a titled lady's this morning that'll suit you a treat. 
Bun up to my room and wait for me, Edgar, you whisUe 
for a taxi when We're ready." 

"Aunt Polly! You don't mean " exclaimed Dor- 
othy. 

"Yes, I do. Ain't I your godmother? Well, now 
I'm goin' to do the pumpkin trick. Get along with 
you. ' ' 

When she joined Dorothy in her bedroom her arms 
were full of clothing with the sheen of silk upon it. Her 
old face wore a crafty expression as she spread them 
upon the bed. 

"Can't ask to wear anything better than what's been 
on a duchess's back just once," she observed. "You 
look on it as an omen, my girl. I've got everything 
you want here — silk stockings, shoes your size if you 
stick a bit of cotton-wool in the toe, and I shouldn't 
wonder if I'd a string of real pearls put away some- 
where. I won't do you up myself because I was peelin' 
onions this evenin'." 

Dorothy dressed without her aid. When she saw her 
reflection in the looking-glass she hardly knew herself. 



11 
n 



272 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

The dress fitted her; it was good and expensive and 
looked new. Aunt Polly held out an opera cloak, per- 
haps a trifle less pristine. 

I don 't believe Martin would know you, ' ' she crowed. 

Here's gloves your size, six and a quarter. Be careful 
how you put 'em on. I bought a dozen at sixpence 
apiece because the thumbs was defective. Edgar ! ' ' She 
put her head outside the door. ''Call the taxi!" She 
surveyed her handiwork with a pride for which she 
certainly had an excuse. ''Ain't yer goin' to give me 
a kiss, DoUyt" 

Dorothy nearly fell on her old brown neck. 

"You dear!" she exclaimed. "I don't know how 
to thank you. And I feel so excited I don't care what 
happens! There will be ructions when I get back to- 
night! Shall I come here and change first Y" 

"No; that'd make you too late. Better go straight 
home. And you can keep those things for another time. 
Bless the child, you needn't strangle me ! Do you think 
I don't understand T One can only be young once. Tell 
Martin so, if you like. He's never been young him- 
self for half a minute." 

"But suppose mother and father are in before me, and 
father refuses to let me in?" 

"Don't think he'll dare do that. Leave a little before 
the dance is over. If there's trouble at home come 
straight back here. Here's the taxi now. Enjoy your- 
self and don't think about nothin' else." She hurried 
the girl downstairs and bundled her into the waiting 
vehicle. But she paid for it first. Aunt Polly could be 
very gentlemanly when she liked. 

Back in the sitting-room with Edgar she rubbed her 
hands exultantly. 



DOROTHY LOSES A GLOVE 273 

"Seems to me I'm always scorin' off Martin/' she 
chuckled. 

At eleven o'clock next morning an exceedingly good- 
looking young m^n stood on Mrs. Peacock's doorstep. 
She surveyed him through the curtain with approval. 
He was well dressed. The impression she got was that 
he looked somebody. Then the small servant brought 
in a card. In addition to the stranger's name — ^Mr. 
Claud Bastaple — ^it bore a well-defined thumb-mark, ob- 
viously not his. 

Aunt Polly read it ruminatively. The name was a 
euphonious one. Of the addresses beneath it one was 
distinctly '' high-class," the other that of a West-end 
club. 

'*Whereishe»" 

''I left him in the hall, mum." 

''Show the gentleman in." 

The gentleman came in. He was nervous — ^nervous 
of half -dressed, plain old Aunt Polly, and she liked him 
all the better for it. 

''I'm afraid you will think I have come on a strange 
errand," he said with considerable hesitation; "but — 
I was directed here. I want to find the owner of this 
glove." He produced a long white kid glove and held 
it out. 

"Thumb's split bad," she remarked. "I thought it 
would. Still, now you've brought it you can leave it." 

"I don't think you quite understand," he said. "I 
am very anxious to return the glove myself in — in spite 
of the split thumb. Last night at a dance my partner 
dropped it. I didn't catch her name. You know the 
sort of casual way people are introduced. And the mu- 



274 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

sic was going top speed. I meant to have asked her, of 
course, but she disapi>eared rather suddenly, and I was 
just left with the glove." 

*'H'm. I see. What did you do then!*' 

''I went to the makers in Bond Street, and they di- 
rected me here. I don't quite understand how *' 

''How a young girl like the one you met last night 
could have anything to do with mef" supplied Aunt 
Polly. ''It's a bit surprisin' on the face of it. 111 ad- 
mit. She happens to be a relation. / sent her along to 
that dance last night and I'm responsible, so to speak, 
that she isn't trifled with." 

"I assure you I don't want to trifle with anybody," 
Mr. Bastaple protested. "I want to meet her again, 
that's all. It's — ^it's important to me that I should." 

Aunt Polly glanced at his card again. "One of your 
addresses is respectable enough," she observed; "but 
how about the clubt I don't hold with them night 
places." 

"Great Scott! The Savile isn't a night-club I" he 
declared with great amusement. "It's quite the oppo- 
site — rather dull and proper." 

"Oh, I daresay. I don't doubt your word. But 1 
got to be careful. In a manner o' speakin' my niece 
ain't your class. I'm her aunt, just as you see me, an' 
I'm no duchess." 

"I'm sure you're a very good aunt and would possibly 
make an excellent duchess." 

He had a winning way with him. Aunt Polly was a 
connoisseur of character as well as old clothes, and it 
seemed to her that the visitor was quite obviously the 
right stuff. 



DOROTHY LOSES A GLOVE 275 

'^S'pbse you want me to be what they call a de ex 
machdne," she remarked. 

''Something like it/' he admitted. ''Will you?" 

The Lnp of Perversity was nudging her elbow. Why 
shouldn't she countenance friendly intercourse between 
Dorothy and so well-favored a young manf She al- 
ready had his word for it that they had been intro- 
duced, presumably by somebody who knew them both. 
True, Martin would probably object, but that was all 
the more reason why she shouldn't consider him. 

"If I do, you'd best keep my name out of it," she 
said, after a little thought. "Not that I mind, but her 
father and me aren't exactly bosom friends. He reckons 
himself somebody, and I'm the disreputable member of 
the family, you understand. I don't count. Only Dolly 
likes me. Dolly's no snob." 

Dolly ! Mr. Bastaple committed the name to memory. 
"Dorothy," he said aloud. "What else?" 

"Dorothy Leffley, daughter of Sir Martin Leffley, 
M.P. Don't forget the 'Sir.' He can't. But if you 'D 
take my advice you won't call at the house unless Dolly 
says so, else it might come out about this dance and 
other things. She went there last night without her 
father knowing, and got let in by the cook. Her brother 
was over there this morning and heard so. Tell you 
what. You know the Wallace Collection?" 
I fancy I've heard of it." 

Well, then, be there at three o'clock this afternoon, 
downstairs in the SSvres Boom. And now if you 11 ex- 
cuse me — ^it's washing-day. That's all right. I don't 
want any thanks — ^yet. You act on the square, that's 
all." 



n 
If 



276 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

Just before dinner-time she went out to the nearest 
call-office and rang np the Leffley number. 

''You the TivoliT . . . Tell Miss Dorothy she's 
wanted. The name don't matter. . . . Say a friend. 
. • • All right, 111 hold the line." A minute of silence 
ensaed. ''Hello, that you, Dolly t Yes, Aunt PoUy 
speakin'. I want you to meet me at the Wallace Col- 
lection at a quarter to three. Qot somethin' nice to 
show you. • • . What! No, I haven't time to explain 
now. Mind, don't be late. Qood-by." 

They entered the Sdvres Boom with five minutes to 
spare, but Mr. Bastaple was already there waiting for 
them. Dorothy had come expecting to be introduced 
to nothing more animate than a Watteau or a Fragonard 
to be copied for purposes of sale. Aunt Polly had re- 
frained from mentioning the real object of their visit, 
and Dorothy did not therefore associate Mr. Bastaple 's 
presence with it. She was certainly surprised to see 
him, and, as Aunt Polly noticed by the color that came 
into her cheeks, not a little pleased. For a young man 
who had shown the determination of a capable detective 
in tracking down his quarry by means of a stray glove 
he made his approach in quite a timorous manner. 

"By Jove, this is jolly," he stammered. *'I'm aw- 
fully glad to meet you again — ^Miss Leffley." 

**So am I," blushed Dorothy. "Only I didn't ex- 
pect — ^Aunt didn't say " 

She looked around, but Aunt Polly had disappeared. 
That discreet old woman was in the next room, leaning 
over a Louis XVI. marquetry clock in the attitude of 
one whispering some confidential pleasantry. 



AN ILLUSTRATION IN CLASS DISTINCTIONS 

IXTHEN want of success makes a man harbor a griev- 
V V ance against the world he always finds a means 
of venting his spleen on some inoffensive person. So 
with Martin. It manifested itself in petty irritability 
which he hardly tried to control. All the issues of his 
life, he felt, were coming to a head. An uncomfortable 
premonition of approaching disaster made his days in- 
tolerable. Conscience, perhaps, nascent but not yet fully 
awakened, was beginning to stir within him. He would 
not have admitted it for worlds, but he felt as though 
he were being dogged by a pursuing Nemesis from 
which there was no escape. 

Instead of bracing himself to meet the strain of fu- 
ture calamity if it had to come, he expended all his 
nervous energy in bemoaning his fate and harassing 
other people. He could not help it. It was simply the 
outward expression of an inward and innate pettiness of 
soul. Martin had no appreciation of the eternal justice 
embodied in the phrase, '*He hath put down the mighty 
from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek." 

All his spleen was vented on Dorothy. With the cur- 
tailment of her dress allowance, her simple pleasures 
stopped. He hardly ever spoke to her, and took no fur- 
ther interest in her concerns. Being high-spirited, she 
resented this treatment all the more because it was un- 

277 



278 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

deserved. She chafed, as so many girls before have 
chafed, for independence and the right to make her own 
life. Only consideration for her mother deterred her 
from insubordination. 

Then, when things were at their worst. Aunt Polly 
had come to the rescue, and a dance had transformed 
her life. Her little romance was nothing out of the 
common. She could count the days of its golden glamor 
upon the fingers of her two hands. She had partially 
taken her mother into her confidence. Rose had even 
gone so far as to meet her lover, and had lunched with 
him and Dorothy at a West-end restaurant. So far, 
nothing of all this was imparted to Martin. 

But Martin observed certain things for himself. Doro- 
thy suddenly became proof against his bitterest shafts. 
She was always singing ; she was out a great deal. There 
was. a certain expression in her eyes, almost beatific. 
He remembered long ago to have seen it in Rose's — 
a queer, shining ecstasy which sometimes makes the man 
who sees it feel unworthy. Yes, Rose had looked like 
that, only he had never felt unworthy. He decided to 
watch Dorothy. 

But he was saved the trouble. She came to him and 
divulged everything. Rose had offered to act as go- 
between, but Dorothy preferred to be her own mouth- 
piece, difficult as she expected to find it. 

**0h, well, father," she finished up, after one or two 
floundering admissions, ''Claud will explain things bet- 
ter than I can. He's going to call. He wants to see 
you. ' ' 

**Does he?" said Martin, suddenly furious. "Why 
does he want to callY I don't know him." 



ILLUSTRATION IN CLASS DISTINCTIONS 279 

"No," Dorothy hesitated. '*You see, he's not quite 
—cur sort/' 

That was enough for Martin. 

"I see," he said sternly, though he did not see at 
all. ''Well, I don't want you to bring that sort of per- 
son to my house. Do you understand?" 

''But, father " 

Martin held up his hand. 

"There is nothing to argue about. You tell me 
• you have met a young man and want to marry him. 
I don't ask his name. I had rather not hear it. It 
is sufficiently painful to know that he is not even, as 
you put it, our sort. In addition to this drawback, 
you tell me he is an artist with the ridiculously inade- 
quate income of £250 a year. I won't dwell on what 
you might have done for yourself if you had behaved 
sensibly. All I have to say is that the matter must 
end here and now. I will not open my doors to un- 
desirables, even though I have no very urgent wish to 
maintain you indefinitely." ^ 

' ' Oh, that '11 do, father, ' ' Dorothy flashed out. ' ' You 
needn't hurl a speech at me. What you've said let's 
me out, that's all. If you won't have Claud here I 
shall meet him somewhere else." 

"Where!" 

"In the street, I suppose. And tea-shops. In fact, 
anywhere I can." 

"I won't have you behaving like a housemaid." 

"Oh, I'll behave like a respectable one. I'll be in by 
ten o'clock." 

"I forbid you to carry on in that illicit manner. If 
you don't care about your own position you must con- 
sider mine. We are not nobodies. If you happen to 



280 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

have conceived a paasioii for the grocer's young man 
or somebody in that class of ** 

**I wonder you can talk like that, father, especially 
to me. You know perfectly well that if I chose to 
fancy the grocer 's young man I should not be marrying 
beneath me one little bit. He would be my class, be- 
cause he's your class. We have no real social position. 
Even our servants know that. We are nobodies. I don't 
want to remind you of your beginning — ^that's Aunt 
Polly's specialty — ^but it isn't very tactful of you to 
sneer at the grocer's young man considering you've 
carried round groceries yourself. I don't say it's any- 
thing to be ashamed of. It would be fine if you were 
proud of it. Although we're nobodies, we needn't be 
snobs. Tou can't hide that you began life in a humble 
way. I haven't hidden it from Claud. I told him the 
day I first met him that we were just pure plebs " 

'*Pure whatt" gasped Martin. 

''Pure plebeians. Aunt Polly was there to bear me 
out." 

''So that old woman is at the bottom of it," he raged. 
"I'll go and see her— I'll " 

"I shouldn't. It wouldn't be the slightest use. 
There's nothing more to be said. You've never been 
exactly kind to us children. You've driven Edgar away, 
you know. Even the servants don't stop since faithful 
old Jane went. Only mother stays. All I can say is, 
I thank God you're not unkind to her." 

Martin had an uncomfortable conviction that what 
she said was true. Besides, it was no good blu£Bng 
Dorothy. Edgar had passed beyond his control. Doro- 
thy was passing. 

"That will do," he said. "One day perhaps you 



ILLUSTRATION IN CLASS DISTINCTIONS 281 

may realize how sorely you have tried me. If you per- 
sist in this idea of an unsuitable marriage I can only 
repeat that it will not be from my house. Nor can 
you expect to enter it afterwards. And please also 
understand that if I have sprung from a working-class 
family, I have severed all associations with it. You 
cannot, therefore, expect me or your mother to stoop 
to the lowly one you seem to prefer." 

*'No, I can't see you condescending. But I shouldn't 
speak for mother. She would stoop to pick a drowning 
fly out of a gutter. It wouldn't make any difference 
to her if I'd married a dustman except that she'd give 
him twopence extra every time he came round to the 
back door, bless her! That's mother! But I don't ex- 
pect anything from you." ^ 

''I'm glad I have made my attitude clear," said Mar- 
tin stifBy. 



xxxvm 



MOBUBBSB OBLICB 



TEA was laid for three on the veranda. For weeks 
there had been no fourth cup. Rose was often 
painfully reminded of Edgar hy its absence, as she 
was hy the empty wicker chair to which he had been 
partial. To-day a second chair was unoccupied — ^Doro- 
thy 's. She was often out to tea now, and Rose took 
it for granted that she had gone somewhere with Claud 
Bastaple for the afternoon. She never mentioned the 
latter to Martin, nor had Martin referred to him since 
the day, now a fortnight ago, when Dorothy had had 
high words with him on the subject of her new ac- 
quaintance. 

It was a hot day towards the end of July — ^the third 
Saturday of the month to be precise — and with nothing 
to take him down to Westminster, Martin was spending 
the afternoon at home, sleepily reading the paper in the 
shadiest corner of the garden. Rose was sitting at the 
tea-table with her work-basket beside her. 

''Tea's ready, dear," she called, as the parlor-maid 
came out and placed the tea-tray and two letters on the 
table. ''And the post," she added. 

Martin came towards her. 

"For me!" 

"One." She handed him a letter, looking scared 
as she recognized the handwriting. It was Dorothy's. 

282 



NOBLESSE OBLIGE 283 

The other letter, addressed to herself, was also from 
Dorothy. 

They opened their envelopes simultaneously. After 
reading a line or two Martin sat down with an exclama- 
tion. His letter ran as follows : 

''234 Waton Place, S.W. 
<<Deab Fatheb, 

"I enclose my marriage eertifieate. We got married from 
Aunt Polly's. I am sorry, but you were quite definite about 
having nothing to do with it Although I don't suppose it will 
interest you in the slightest, I must of course let you know what 
I've done. We are staying with Claud's people until we can 
find a suitable flat Tou can find out aU about the family IVe 
married into in Debretty if you have one in the house. I think 
it is awfully good of them not to treat me as if I were a house- 
maid I 

''DOBOTHT BaSTAPLB." 

He sat gazing into space. His emotions were very 
mixed. One was of parental authority scorned. He 
disliked the indifference of the wording and the curt 
tone. The reference to Debrett galled him. It implied 
some sort of preeminence on Dorothy's part; inferiority 
on his. Who then were these Bastaples Y Their address 
sounded important. Before he came to any conclusion 
about them, perhaps he had better look them up. Ap- 
parently Dorothy did not know he possessed a copy of 
Debrett. He had invested in one when he was knighted. 

He looked up at Bose. She was engrossed in her 
letter, a much longer one than his own. 

''Look at this. I shall be back in a few minutes/' he 
said, handiQg it to her, and went indoors. 

In his study it took him more than five minutes to 
discover who the Bastaples were. Cross-references at 



284 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

last informed him that it was the family name of the 
fifth Baron Chaswayt of Sheen, and that the obnoxioufl 
Claud was the son of the Hon. Algernon Bastaple, heir 
presumptive to the ^arony. And Martin had spoken 
slightingly of him as a ''grocer's young man!" Doro- 
thy was sure to have repeated that. It made his blood 
tingle. What ought he to do about it f Apologize? Deny 
itf It was most awkward. And his own daughter two 
lives off a Barony I With a coat of arms and a pedi- 
gree I Only once removed from the distinction of an 
Honorable! He spoke the appellation aloud — ^''The 
Honorable Mrs. Bastaple." Then, ''Lady Bastaple." 
Lady Leffley sounded meaningless in comparison. His 
inclination was to go and breathe the aristocratic air of 
Wilton Place, to call on the Hon. Algernon, to make 
the acquaintance of the Hon. Mrs. Bastaple, to address 
the youngest Bastaple familiarly as Claud, to climb down 
to Dorothy. But his nerve was not equal to doing any 
of these things, except the last, and that only by letter. 
An inner conviction satisfied him that if he did he would 
he laying himself open to a certain snub. In imagina- 
tion he felt the discomfort of the future Baron's eye 
fixed upon him. No, his best policy would be a retiring 
one. It was safer, more discreet. Perhaps in time . . . 
He returned to the veranda, walking with a sprightly 
step. Rose's letter, four closely written pages of loving 
explanation, was tucked away in the bosom of her dress. 
She did not want Martin to see it, and he did not ask 
to do so. She was afraid that no explanation would 
render him less obdurate, less angry with Dorothy for 
marrying clandestinely and without his consent. She 
was accordingly surprised to see how calm, almost serene, 
his face looked. 



NOBLESSE OBLIGE 285 

'' Martin, you won't— you're not going to be angry 
with the dear girl," she ventured timidly. ''Think, we 
were young once ourselves, dear. We didn't care to 
wait " 

''I'm not angry," he said. 

"But I thought you told her " 

"Dorothy led me to think she contemplated making 
an ill-assorted match. She made some intemperate ref- 
erence to marrying a— quite common young man. A 
grocer's assistant, in fact. Of course it annoyed me. 
Now that I know she has done nothing to be ashamed 
of, I naturally bear her no ill-will. Although she has 
not made exactly a brilliant match, it is at any rate 
satisfactory from the social standpoint. ' ' Martin cleared 
his throat. "The Bastaples are distinguished, if a lit- 
tle impoverished. If my memory serves me, the head 
of the family is Lord Chaswa3rt, and Claud's father the 
next of kin. That of course means that Claud is pre- 
sumptive heir to the Barony." 

He purposely avoided looking at Rose, but he knew, 
without the exclamation that broke from her, that she 
appreciated Dorothy's new standing. Long as Dorothy's 
letter to her mother was, it contained nothing more 
illuminating about the Bastaples than she had vouch- 
safed to her father. 

"You mean," stammered Bose, "that one day Doro- 
thy will be — a baroness 1 ' ' 

Martin nodded. His face had the preoccupied look 
of one who is making a mental calculation. 

"It is possible we may live to see it," he said, and 
sighed a little. "But it may be years — ^many years. 
In the meantime we must think about a wedding pres- 



286 IF WISHES WESE HORSES 

ent Something in plate* We could have fheir crest 
put on." He glanced at the heavy gold ring on his 
little finger^ a present tronL Bose. '^And I might as 
well have mjr ring engraved with outb at the same time." 



AUNT POLLY GOES HOMX 



A PEW days after Dorothy's marriage Edgar, on 
returning home late one afternoon, noticed an 
unwonted quietness about the little house. Nowhere 
on the ground floor was there any sign of Aunt Polly. 
Edgar's hands were dirtier than usual. There were 
grease-marks on his clothes, the filtration of oil that 
had come through his overalls. But his face was cJight 
^nth pleasurable emotion. He was looking for Aunt 
Polly to impart it. While he stood in the passage 
listening for sounds of her the small servant came down 
the stairs on tiptoe. Her face was full of alarm. 

"I've set your tea in the back room, Mr. Edgar," 
she whispered. ''Don't make no noise. Mistress is 
took dreadful bad. I think she's asleep now; but all 
down one side she's as cold as death, and stiff-like. She 
wouldn't let me fetch the doctor." 

Without waiting to hear more Edgar ran noiselessly 
upstairs. Carefully he opened his aunt's door. She 
was not asleep. Her little black eyes opened and fas- 
tened on him. The sardonic lips parted in an affection- 
ate smile. 

**I'll lay you come up without your tea," she said 
feebly. ''You needn't look so scared. I ain't in pain. 
It's p'ralysis, that's all. I don't need a doctor to 
tell me that. I just crumpled up while I was countin' 

287 



288 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES 

your collars for the wash. Thank the Lord, He didn't 
put the Btillneas in me tongue. I can't move, but I can 
talk. I ahaU die talkin'/' she chudded. 

"Aunt P., can't I do anything*" 

"Nothin' whatsoever. Don't look like a foneraL 
Dyin'fl only a sort of change. I shan't be sorry to go. 
I believe it II rest me like. Fancy meetin' Peacock 
again!" The thought seemed to tickle her. "I s'pose 
Martin would say he was bumin' in Hell, but that's not 
my idea. Peacock liked his drop, but that don't make 
him a sinner. I reckon he's in a sort of heavenly 
'Feathers' where you don't have to pay for drinks. 
Now you run along and have your tea. You can come 
up afterwards, and by and by you can fetch Rose." 

Her animated manner, so unlike anything Edgar had 
associated with a death-bed, gave him the impression 
that she could not be so very ill, after all. Presently 
he would persuade her to see the doctor; but in the 
meantime, to humor her, he would have his tea. He 
went downstairs and brought it up on a tray to eat, 
sitting on her bed. 

''I can see you're burstin' to tell me something, Ed. 
What is itf" she asked. 

'*I've got my C. Av. — ^my flying certificate," he said 
with suppressed elation. 

"What, to-day!" 

He nodded. ''Went through all the tests without 
any trouble. I thought you'd like to know. They said 
I shaped well. There were some officers on the ground 
from the War Office. They took my name." 

"What's that mean?" she asked guardedly. 

"I hope it means they think I'm good enough for 
the R.F.C." 



AUNT POLLY GOES HOME 289 

''The Armyt" 

''Royal Flying Corps. The pay's jolly good. And 
if there's war " 

"I shan't live to see it. It's no good tellin' you ta 
take care of yourself, I s'pose. "Well, it's comforting 
to know you've got it. It's a good sign. Now you go on 
with your tea." 

Edgar did so. There was a short silence. 

"Think you can do without me, Ed?" she asked 
suddenly. ' ' The flyin ' certificate 's something. I 've left 
you enough to keep goin' on without your havin' to de- 
pend on Martin." 

The boy swallowed uncomfortably. "Don't talk like 
that. Aunt P.," he said gruffly. "I can't bear the idea 
of your — not being here. You're such a trump." 

"Well; I ain't done any real harm in me life, only 
lashed out with me tongue at times. . . . Wonder if 
you could get hold of Dolly when you go to fetch Hose. 
I'd like to kiss her good-by." 

"I'll get Dolly," he promised. 

Over the old woman's face a change was creeping — 
the change she had referred to. Edgar began to 
notice it. 

"Would you like me to fetch the others before it 
gets dark?" he asked with concern. 

"It's gettin' dark now, ain't it? I can't see as well 
as I did when you first came in. Yes, better fetch 'em." 
Ill send Matilda to sit with you while I'm gone." 
No, don't do that. I'm not afraid of bein' alone. 
There 's a murmurin ' in me ears I like listenin ' to. Re- 
minds me of the sea. Give me them beads over there. ' ' 

At the base of a sixpenny plaster cast of the Virgin 



It 



290 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

on the mantelpiece lay a rosary. Edgar placed it in 
the twitching brown fingers. 

''Ill hurry/' he said. He saw the need for it. 

He could not find Dorothy. She was out of London 
for the day with her husband. But Rose and Martin 
were in. Rose was shocked at his news. 

''Shall I be in time?" she asked, getting up at once. 

Martin had got up too. "Well try," he said. 
"Well have a taxi, of course." 

Edgar looked hesitatingly at his father. Aunt Polly 
had said nothing about him. 

"She— only asked for mother and Dolly," he stam- 
mered. 

"I daresay she thought I might not like to come after 
the bitterness she has expressed towards me. I am 
not so unforgiving as that. Come, Rose." 

Within twenty minutes or so the trio entered the old 
woman's bed-chamber. It was only seven o'clock and 
broad daylight, but gray twilight engulfed Aunt Polly. 
Although she could hear their footsteps, her eyes only 
discerned nebulous shapes. 

"Rose!" she called. "That you, my deart I want 
your hand. No, don't take that one. It's dead already 
. . . the other. That's right. Dolly couldn't comef 
That's a pity. Edgar, come and stand close, dearie." 
Her failing eyesight made an effort to pierce the gloom. 
"There's something in the room I don't like," she sud- 
denly whimpered. "Has a cat gpt in? I hate cats. 
Always make me creep — cats. Drive it out, Edgar. . . . 
Isn't there a cat? What is it?" 

Martin looked uncomfortable. 

"There's no cat in the room. Aunt Mary," he said 
uneasily, approaching the bed. 



AUNT POLLY GOES HOME 291 

'* Then— it's you, Martin!'' Her voice shook. **No 
wonder I felt something queer. ... I didn't ask you 
to come. Want to see the last o' me? Come to gloat T' 

Martin cleared his throat Even in death Aunt Polly 
was proving embarrassing. 

**Dear Aunt Mary, I came because I thought you 
might need me " 

"Need you? When have I ever needed you, Martin! 
You've never done anything but hate me." 

"Indeed, no. I've never hated you," he protested. 

"Oh, it don't matter, anyway. I've lasted my time 
just the same even if you have. You can stop, now 
you've come. It's all the same to me." 

She lay with closed eyes, muttering to herself. 

Rose bent over her. 

"Aunt Polly, dear, we've come to sit witii you, but 
you must lie quiet. You 11 make yourself excited if you 
talk too much." 

Martin took a small book out of his pocket. It was 
a Methodist volume of occasional prayer. He turned 
the leaves until he came to the page headed, "For those 
about to die," and then diffidently su^ested that he 
should "read something." 

Aunt Polly's eyes blinked threateningly. 

"No cant," she snapped. "I never could abide it. 
Give me the prayers of a good woman, if I've got to 
have prayers at all. Say something, Rose." 

Rose slipped to her knees. Her voice, devout and 
tremulous, rose in prayer, a simply worded supplication, 
heartfelt, not book-learnt. It showed that Rose was 
very used to talking to her God. She had never needed 
to say, "Lord, teach us how to pray aright." To pray 
had always come natural to her. To her, God was 



292 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

everywhere, accessible, loving. He was in the room now 
in the gaise of the Angel of Death. She asked Him to 
be very kind, to show His face mercifolly. 

''Thanks/' said the old woman. ''I'm comfortable 
now." She lay with closed eyes, holding Rose's hand. 
Edgar knelt at the other side of the bed. The room 
was very still. ' ' You 11 find I ain 't forgotten yon, Rose, ' ' 
she murmured. "You and the children — God bless you. 
You'd best kiss me now. I want to go to sleep." 

Rose kissed her. Edgar kissed her. Martin moved 
forward. 

"No, not you." 

He shrank back, mortified by the aversion she showed 
for him. 

"Have you nothing to say to me. Aunt Mary?" he 
appealed. 

There was no answer. He could not even tell whether 
she had heard his question. But just at the last she 
opened her eyes. 

"You'll be afraid to die, Martin LefBey," she 
croaked, "unless " 

She went to her last account with the sentence un- 
finished. 



XL 



PUBELY OOMMEBCIAL 






ABOABD meeting of ''Liversidge, Limited/' had 
just come to an end. Of the five directors who 
had been present, Liversidge and Martin alone remained 
sitting at the large mahogany table. Martin gloomily 
picked up the check for two guineas (his directorial 
honorarium) which lay before him on the blotting-pad, 
and folding it carefully placed it in his pocketbook. A 
curious smile flickered over Liversidge 's lips as he* 
watched the action. 

Don't look so downhearted, Leffley," he said. 

Think of me. I'm going to be hit to the tune of 
thousands a year." « 

**You can afford it. I can't," Martin retorted. **A 
ten per cent, dividend instead of the usual thirty means 
a big loss to me. I've been counting on three hun- 
dred a year from my investment in the business. Now, 
because of this wretched war, I don't even know that 
I'm going to get ten per cent, for long." 

' ^ No, I wouldn 't count on it. A large number of drugs 
wiU soon be unobtainable, or they'll be three times 
their present price with the German market closed. Still, 
I suppose we oughtn't to grumble. Thirty per cent, all 
these years from cheap imports I You should have done 
what I have — ^put all your savings into American in- 
vestments." 

293 



294 IP WISHES WERE HORSES 

''Savings!" Martin's tone was indignant. ''What 
have I had to save? After taking the cream off the 
business, you make yourself secure by floating it as a 
limited concern at an inflated price. Even now you'll 
get a rich man 's income out of your holding. ' ' 

"You're talking as if it were a crime to be well off. 
That wasn't your tone once. I don't see that you've 
much to complain of, or any reason for falling foul of 
me. If it hadn't been for me you probably wouldn't 
be in Parliament, and certainly not knighted." Liver- 
sidge selected a cigar from his case and lit it. "What's 
the matter with you, Leffley? You can't be hard up. 
There are the sales of that drink of yours and your 
parliamentary salary." 

"The drink's not selling anything to speak of. It 
hasn't for months. As for my parliamentary salary, 
how long is that likely to last?" Martin asked point- 
edly. "You ought to know, Liversidge." 

"You mean that the Hemford people are talking of 
supporting some one else at the next election," was the 
easy reply. "Yes, I know. Gammel told me. Well, 
why don't you look out for another constituency?" 

Martin was going to say something — something nasty, 
but thought better of it. He got up from his chair 
and vented his ill-humor in another direction. 

"This accursed war!" he raged. "We ought to have 
kept out of it. What is Serbia to us, or Belgium, either! 
God knows what it will cost the country." 

"Unless I'm mistaken, it will keep you in Parliament 
another couple of years," Liversidge observed, through 
a cloud of cigar-smoke. "There'll be no general elec- 
tion till it's over. Don't worry, Leffley. With your 
abilities you'll not come to grief. And the drug trade 



PURELY COMMERCIAL 295 

will be all right again directly we have peace. We can't 
compete with Germany in chemicals. We shan't try. 
There'll be a lot of talk about capturing the German 
market, but it won't go beyond talk. Our lot have taken 
care to queer production here. Good thing too, if you 
ask me. We don't want our working classes controlling 
all the sources of supply. It would only mean higher 
wages. That's why I'm a Freetrader and always 
shall be." 

Liversidge was in a ruminative mood. He could speak 
his mind before Martin. For years they had pulled in 
the same boat, Martin wielding a strenuous oar, Liver- 
sidge using his brains and conserving his strength. Al- 
though they were not now directly associated, Martin 
had gone too deeply into the conspiracy against labor, 
had been pledged too thoroughly to the cause of pacifi- 
cism to be able to expose his mentor. Besides, as Liver- 
sidge knew, he was done. His public career was ended. 
He was a negligible quantity. 

**This war was inevitable," he proceeded. *'The only 
thing to do was to make the utmost out of the cheap 
German market before it was closed. I never thought 
we should have so much time. Think of it, twenty years 
to prepare for a rainy day ! Twenty years of gorgeous 
profits out of the silly public! It was so easy to gull 
them into a sense of security by offering them a free 
breakfast-table, cheap drugs, low prices and all the rest 
of it. I shudder when I think of the millions our lot — 
the big importers — ^have made that might have been spent 
on the Army and Navy. Of course we preached peace 
at any price. Did they expect us to chuck away good 
money while it was coming in in sackfuls? They talked 
about national insurance by means of a big army — 



296 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

they, the professional and upper classes; the people who 
haven't the gumption to make money quickly! Well, 
we insured in a different way. We 're all right. We Ve 
scooped in the big profits and invested them out of the 
country, where they 're safe. And if the worst comes to 
the worst I shall he oS to America for safely too. It's 
each one for himself in this world!" 

Martin could only envy the position of Liversidge and 
his like. Personally, the war did not concern him any 
more than it did them. But he was going to be hit by 
it, and they, relatively, were not. With all the will in 
the world he had never been able to make money quickly. 
He was in the same case as those for whom Liversidge 
expressed such contempt. He knew it would be no use 
looking for sympathy from the successful druggist ; but 
he wanted to get out of him the truth about his position 
in Hemford. He could but hear the worst. 

''Shall I be able to count on Gammel's and your 
support at the next general election?" he asked. 

Liversidge laughed softly. ''We've done with poli- 
tics, my dear fellow. They've served our purpose. No, 
I don't think you'd be wise to count on us. After this 
war, too, when the truth's out, it's my opinion most of 
the electors will want to sack their candidates and ask 
for their money back." 



J 



XLI 



'^SPREAD WINGS*' 



MARTIN left the Board-room in a chastened spirit. 
He had long known that the Gammel party had 
used him as a tool, but he resented being told so to his 
face, as Liversidge had practically done. It had been 
a trying morning for hun. To be informed that his in- 
come from the drug stores would in future be reduced by 
two-thirds was heart-breaking enough, but to know that 
at the termination of the war his political career would 
certainly come to an end and his parliamentary salary 
cease, left his future looking terribly black. All the way 
home blank despondency took possession of hint 

He found Rose poring over an official-looking letter. 
Her face bore traces of tears. 

''What is it?" he asked. 

** About poor Aunt Polly's will,*' she answered, and 
handed him the document. 

A glance at the heading showed him that it came from 
the office of the Public Trustee. He subsided on a chair 
and read the typewritten page at speed. His own name 
was not mentioned in it; but it stated that Mrs. Peacock 
had bequeathed an annuity of two hundred a year to 
Lady Leffley with reversion to her children, to whom 
£500 each had also been left. 

The news struck more than one chord of emotion in 
Martin's breast. He was cheered, surprised, disap- 

297 



298 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

pointed* He had often tried to estimate Annt Polly's 
means, but never in his most sanguine moments had he 
imagined her to be worth so much as this. The value 
of her estate must be nearly six thousand pounds ! Vain 
regrets assailed him. If he had only known ! He was 
her nearest relative. The whole of her money might have 
eome to him ! And because he had not known, because 
he had never guessed, that she could have so much to 
leave, he had let his dislike of her spoil his chances of 
being her heir. . . . A hundred or two had been the 
most he had credited her with possessing. And here 
alone were legacies of £500 each to Edgar and Dorothy ! 
It was exasperating to think of such misplaced generos- 
ity. And to Rose merely the interest of a capital sum, 
and for life only! True, the amount was beyond his 
expectations, but the way it was left clearly showed that 
the old woman's purpose was to hamper him and to 
prevent him ultimately benefiting by her death. 

So engrossed was he with these unpleasant reflections 
that Rose had to speak twice before she could secure 
his attention. 

"What did you say t" he asked absently. 

''I was saying that I did think she might have left 
something to you, Martin. But probably she thought a 
legacy to me was the same thing." 

''Yes— probably." 

* ' And so well off as she was ! Who ever would have 
thought it! I hope it isn't wicked, but I can't help 
being glad for the dear children's sakes. And for ours 
too, considering you've been so worried about money 
lately. Poor dear old Aunt Polly! I know she was 
crotchety sometimes. Once or twice we nearly quar- 
reled because of the way she ran you down. I don't 



''SPREAD WINGS" 299 

think she really meant it. She was so good-hearted. 
Look how kind she always was to the children. And 
now to leave so much! Oh, Martin, we ought to be 
thankful 1 And just when you want it, too. Hadn 't I 
better make a will at once in your favor t Or would it 
come to you anyhow?'* 

Martin was staring at the carpet. At the last words 
he looked up, and with something like a snap in his 
voice said : 

** Don't you know what an annuity isT Money left 
for your lifetime only. You canH leave it to me. After 
your death it goes to Dorothy and Edgar. She meant 
to leave me out and she has, that's all." 

A look of alarm came into Rose's face. 

"But — ^Martin — supposing I died — sooner than 
most?" 

**I wish you wouldn't harp so much on death," he 
said irritably. ''You've been quite morbid on the sub- 
ject lately. Why shouldn't you last as long as other 
people? You ought to outlive me. Women make older 
bones than men, as a rule. Their lives are exempt from 
stress and strain." 

"Perhaps I ought to tell you — especially now. I'm 
not well. There's something the matter with me. I saw 
a specialist some weeks ago. It — ^it might be a very little 
while, dear." 

Martin looked incredulous, then frightened. Rose ill ! 
Rose, who had never complained of an ache or a pain, 
whom he had kept at her daily round of social duties 
without inquiry as to whether she felt fatigued or not 
because he regarded her as "strong as a horse." Rose, 
with her high color and plump figure — ill ! For a mo- 



it 
it 



aOO IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

meat sheer fear of losing her drove all thoughts of the 
legacy out of his head. 

You'd better tell me all — ^there is to tell," he quaked. 
I will, dear." 

She was glad to unburden her mind of the fateful 
secret ; sharing it with Martin seemed to rob it of half 
its poignancy. She made her confession with all the 
repression of feeling of which she was capable, but it did 
not deceive him. 

''I shouldn't have worried you about it at all," she 
said, "only — ^if things are going to be bad and you're 
not sure of being returned to Parliament you oughtn't 
perhaps to count on — on " 

He nodded. 

''And I must try and live as long as I can. . . . The 
specialist said if I could be in the country I might 
prolong my life — ^a good many years. But it wasn't to 
be thought of then. Now if you think " 

He reached for her hand. He put his arms round her. 
It was the uncontrollable impulse of a man grasping at 
something he feared to lose, something overwhelmingly 
necessary to him. Never before had he fully realized 
how much she meant to him. Her disclosure gave him 
much the same sense of shock as a man must experience 
when he is told he must be prepared to lose a limb. 

"My Qod," he groaned. "Rose — don't you know I 
can 't do without you ? ' ' 

Her head sought his shoulder. Tears filled her eyes. 

"Heaven wouldn't be heaven for me," she whispered 
brokenly, "until you got there." 

There was a long silence. It was a new sensation for 
Martin to have to struggle for composure. Until now he 
had never actually experienced what it was to have "a 



€€ 



SPBEAD WINGS" 301 



lump in one's throat" He found hinuself swallowing 
painfully. 

** About going into the country to live," he said at 
last. ^'As soon as possible, don't you think f Some- 
where within reasonable distance of town, so that I could 
occasionally get up to the House while I still represent 
Hemford. After that . . . retirement, I suppose." 
There was a note of fretfulness in his voice. To him 
retirement was equivalent to a confession of failure. 
Later on perhaps, when he had got used to it^ it mi^^t 
not be so galling. . . . 
Bose spoke. 

''I know of a cottage. It's in Kent. I saw an ad- 
vertisement, Martin, and I — I answered it. Everything 
about it sounded so tempting. I went down to see it 
one afternoon. I never thought there might be a possi- 
bility of our taking it. It was a feeling that I must see 
it — ^a craving like some people get for the sea. Shall I 
tell you about it?" A note of yearning came into her 
voice. ''It's three miles from a station." 

It was as weU she could not see the discouraged look 
in his face. 

''But there's a cab in the village; and a post-office 
where they sell home-cured bacon and groceries, and the 
proprietor kills meat twice a week. And there are fanus 
for milk and butter, and two bakers." 
He nodded grudging approval. 
"But the cottage! It stands back from the road on 
a small terraced lawn. It's long and low and has a 
thatched roof and latticed windows; two sitting-rooms, 
three bedrooms, and such immense cupboards, Martini 
You'd love the staircase — all old oak. There's an 
orchard too, and a pond with water-lilies, and shady 



3Q2 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

trees. The house is called ' Spread Wings. ' The land- 
lord would put in a bathroom and a new sink. And the 
chimneys don't smoke." 

"How much is itt" 

"Only twenty-four pounds a year, and hardly any 
rates! I've got a photograph of it." 

She went to her desk, found it and stood eagerly 
watching his face as he looked at it. He was agreeably 
surprised. The picture was inviting. It showed a pic- 
turesque, half-timbered house with a date above its porch. 
A little place, but just such a place as he well knew 
hundreds of people were seeking and few house-agents 
have on their books. "Spread Wings!" A nice-sound- 
ing name too. It suggested a country house more than 
a cottage. 

"Not bad at all; unpretentious," he commented. "If 
everything is as you say I think we ought to snap it up. 
An odd name for a house." 

"Yes, isn't it quaint f The owner explained it to 
me. There is a broken bit of tombstone let into one of 
the walls, and on it you can just read the words. It 
was part of a verse about 'love sitting there with spread 
wings.' I like it, don't you? Oh, Martin, to live there, 
to end our days in the deep, deep quiet — so tranquil! 
Only country people to talk to and take an interest in. 
A little church to go to — ever so old. Everything — 
simple." 

Martin sighed. Simplicity, stagnation, retirement. 
All these spelt the same to him. Retirement. ... A 
cottage and Rose's annuity. Twenty long years behind 
him of profitless scheming and wasted work. Rose had 
worked too, as hard as he had, but she did not feel the 
bitterness of failure because she was so unworldly. 



*' SPREAD WINGS" 303 

Belated consideration for her moyed him. He looked 
closely at her. No trace of her fatal malady showed in 
her face. It reflected no physical suffering. It was only 
illuminated by the spirit within her — sincere, indom- 
itable, devoted. He felt a queer pricking at his heart 
as he gazed at her. 

**Dear soul!'* he murmured. **I do need you.'* 

*'0h, Martin! Do yout I — ^I don't want to leave 
you. . . . And then there's the annuity. We — ^we must 
enjoy that together as long as possible. When I'm gone 
and it stops, what will you do?" 

Martin had thought of that too. For more reasons 
than one he needed Rose. 

"You must take care of yourself, my dear," he ex- 
horted her. ''Think of yourself first — ^for my sake." 






THB WOMAN PAYS 



THE eyening was drawing in. Deep wheel-rats in 
the gravel marked the passage of pantechnicons 
from the front door of '' Tivoli." The removal men had 
done their worst. Wheels had cut into the bordering 
sweep of grass verge. Straw and scraps of paper lit- 
tered the drive. Denuded of curtains and blinds^ the 
windows had a forbidding look. 

Within, all the rooms were dismantled. Two negli- 
gible kitchen chairs only remained in the library and 
on these Rose and Martin were resting themselves. 
All their other belongings were on the way to Kent. The 
servants had left. To-morrow **Tivoli" would be ten- 
antless. Among the laurels, facing the road, a board an- 
nounced that already. 

Martin had purposely busied himself all day with the 
object of trying to forget his worries in physical exer- 
tion. Rose, too, had done her share of packing, but he 
had spared her as much strenuous work as he could. She 
had gone out for a little in the afternoon. She was 
telling him about it now. 

**I went to see Ada. I wanted to tell her we were 
going away, but that we would look after her just the 



same.'' 



* * Yes f ' ' said Martin uncomfortably. ' * How was she f ' ' 

* * She wasn 't in. The woman where she lodges seemed 

304 



THE WOMAN PAYS 305 

anxious about her. She went out early this morning and 
said nothing about not being back. She says she has 
been in a very low state lately, eating hardly anything 
and crying a lot. I wish we could get her into the 
country. Perhaps I may be able to arrange it. She's 
country-bred. I'm so sorry for her. Aren't you, Mar- 
tin!" 

Martin's head was averted. He nodded without turn- 
ing it. Only once before had he referred to the painful 
subject of Ada, but his mind recurred to it often enough. 
He could not deny his culpability. His sense of respon- 
sibility for the undoing of a human soul had increased 
rather than diminished. At times he had employed 
sophistry to deaden his qualms, hoping always that the 
cloud might lift, the girl marry and forget the past in 
which he had had a part. 

111 write to her as soon as we're settled," said Rose. 

There 's the paper-boy coming down the street, Martin. 
Wouldn't you like onef Call him, dear." 

He opened the window, hailed the tattered human 
screech-owl and bought a halfpenny paper. He scanned 
the headlines for war news. Very little else interested 
him just now. 

'' There's nothing fresh," he said, passing it to her. 
He took out a letter from his pocket and placed it on her 
lap. **0h, by the way, I found this on the doormat 
this morning and forgot to give it to you." 

"It's the baker's bill, I expect. I told him to send 
it in." Bose was looking at the paper, letting the letter 
lie in her lap. An exclamation of dismay broke from 
her. 

''Whatisitf Some one we know in the casually list t" 
he asked. 






306 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 



it 



No, . • • Martini'' Her voice was horror-stricken. 
^'Listenl 'The body of a young woman was found in 
the Regent's Canal this afternoon and awaits identifica- 
tion. Certain articles of her clothing are marked A.M. 
Deceased also wore a silver brooch lettered ''Ada." No 
other clews to her identity have been discovered. The 
body had not been many hours in the water.' " She 
paused. She had grown very pale. So had Martin. 
"And we were just talking of Adal" she said in awed 
tones. "Do you think — could she have — ^Martin, speak! 
Say what you think!" 

"What's in that letter t" Martin's voice grated. 
"Hadn't you better open itt It may not be — ^from 
the baker." He reached a shaking hand for it. "Let 
me read it, Bose. If it were anything — unpleasant — 
you might be shocked. You're not well, remember." 

"Look at it first, then." 

He opened the envelope and took from it a sheet of 
cheap notepaper. The writing was unfamiliar, unedu- 
cated. Something prompted him to look at the signature. 
After seeing it, to read it under the direct gaze of Bose 's 
troubled eyes was a positive agony. 

*'Mt Ladt, 

"When you get this I expect they will have found me. I 
mean to slip it through the letter box first. I have tried hard 
to keep on and think more brightly of the future, but no use. 
I could not bear the child when it comes because of the father 
and it would he no good. If I wait till it comes then I would 
have to live if only to keep it, so better dead while there is only 
me. 

"Oh, how true is the Bible. It is always in my head. The 
wages of sin is death. Be sure your sin will find you out. First 
one and then the other. I get no rest. One of them is on the 



THE WOMAN PAYS 307 

wall of mj room opposite the bed so as I ean see it night and 
morning. 

''What made me sach a silly, weak girl. It was all so happj 
and innocent not long ago when I could work and sing at mj 
work, mj lady. 

* ' I cannot thank you properly, dearest mistress, for your loyely 
kindness. There is no one like you. Not one bit did I deserve 
it. But I do love you, and I pray you may never know all I 
know, because you are so real good. 

"Oh, mistress, I am afraid to die, but it is worse to live like 
this. If onfy it was all over now, but I must write to mother 
first. 

"Your affec. and respectful servant, 

"Ada.'' 



Remorse gnawed at Martin 's very vitals — ^remorse and 
fear. He had not only ruined a girl's happiness, but 
he had been the means of sending her to her death. 
His whole being sickened and shuddered. He passed 
through terrible moments of self -accusation. He was 
brought face to face with the evil within himself, the 
evil that had wrought this tragedy. 

Bose held out her hand for the letter. 

''I think I had better see it, dear,'' she said. ''I 
am prepared for it to be about — ^what we have read 
in the paper. I can see by your face that — 



No, no, you can't! You mustn't go by my face!" 
It was almost a challenge, wrung from him against 

his will. His voice was harsh with alarm lest she should 

have read too much in his face. But it was not in Bose 

to attribute any evil to him. 
''Darling, I meant that I can see you are dreadfully 

upset and sorry. No one could help liking the girl — ^I 

was very fond of her myself. ' ' 
Martin rose. The letter made him abject, hesitant. 



308 IF WISHES WEBE HORSES 



II 

ii 



I — ^lU bum it after youVe seen it," he stammered. 

We — we doii't want it made public at the inquest. 
There's sure to be one." 

After reading it Bose handed it back. She was too 
moved for speech. 

In silence Martin placed it in the grate and set a 
match to it. The thin paper flared and subsided like 
a dead thing. Then he put out a trembling forefinger 
and dissipated the charred remnants into dust 



xLm 



EVENSONG 



"1 X 7HITB plaster, gray oak, purple Idles, were the pre- 
V V vailing features of * ' Spread Wings. ' ' In the brick 
foundation near the entrance a square foot of gray stone 
bore the name in worn lettering. Most of the windows 
had latticed casements ; the eaves were low. The plaster 
over the porch was impressed with the date 1714. Al- 
though the absence of wings belied the name of the house, 
it was in other respects everything that Rose had de- 
scribed it. 

At the bottom of the two small terraces which divided 
it from the road — ^horizontal strips of green turf and 
flower-beds, divided by a brick path — ^Martin stood with 
his back to the white paling admiring the general aspect 
of his new home. It was as unlike ''Tivoli" as he was 
to his old self. His black morning coat was replaced by 
a tweed suit. He wore a straw hat and brown shoes. A 
week of the country had made an inward if a slower 
change in him as well. He was less fretful, less discon- 
tented. 

Town bom and bred, Martin had always associated 
the country with stagnation. It surprised him therefore 
to find that the days which he had expected to drag 
passed instead with astonishing swiftness. He found 
himself taking an interest in rural matters. He had 
arrived in time to see the carrying of the harvest, the 



310 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

one season of the year when country folk show to the 
greatest advantage. Their cheery voices, their energetic 
labors their quiet pride in a bounteous result, were 
pleasant things to hear and watch. Village life, the 
sweet field smells, even the thunderous transit of agri- 
cultural machinery past his door, provided him with 
new and agreeable sensations. 

More than anything else the social habits of the 
countryside impressed him. In London it had been the 
exception for him to know his neighbors; here they 
showed a ready friendliness which contrasted favorably 
with the hostile attitude of the suburban class from 
which he had just emerged. These people were free 
from suspicion, devoid of patronage or speculations as 
to a man's worldly position. They were just humanly 
pleasant Life to them was not one constant pursuit 
of things unattainable. They might be unambitious, 
but it was not because Uiey were devoid of intellectual 
gifts. On the contrary, although they took no active 
share in public affairs they were deeply interested in 
them. They had absorbing interests of their own. 

The discovery reacted on his mentality. In this new 
environment his own boundless discontent had nothing 
to feed on. It began to weaken. His unrealized ambi- 
tions no longer ate into his soul. At times he found 
himself almost looking forward to the day when his 
political career would end. After all, the position to 
which he had attained made him welcome among the 
males of his new circle. They cared nothing for his 
title — ^he saw that — ^but his parliamentary knowledge was 
respected. Rose too had made friends among both men 
and women without effort. They took her at her face 
value. 



EVENSONG 811 

She was so happy. Her constant expression of it gave 
Martin pleasurable emotions. She felt well, sometimes 
quite well. She was seldom depressed, even in spite of 
Edgar's absence in France. He had got his ''wings" 
and was serving in the Flying Corps. So many mothers' 
sons were in France. It was the common lot. Every 
woman showed a brave heart these days. And there had 
been reconciliation with his father before he left. They 
had seen him off at Victoria, and Rose had been so proud 
of him in uniform. He had looked so brave and hand- 
some. Some one had told her that he ran much less risk 
in the Air Service than he would have done in the 
trenches. She believed it, and only wiped away a furtive 
tear when the train had taken him from her. Dorothy's 
husband had gone too. Dorothy was coming to stay at 
"Spread Wings." Martin as well as Rose was looking 
forward to seeing her. 

He stood leaning on the gate pensively reviewing 
these matters. The sun was sinking. From half a 
mile away came the mellow note of a church bell. Rose 
came out and joined him. 

''Isn't it a perfect evening?" she said, slipping her 
arm through his. ' ' There 's going to be a gorgeous sun- 
set." 

He picked a spray of rambler roses that grew over 
the arch of the gate and gave it to her. She fastened 
it in her dress with as much delight as a young girl 
shows at a similar attention from her lover. He looked 
at the prayer-book in her hand questioningly. 

" I 'm going to evensong, ' ' she told him. ' ' There will 
be special prayers and hjmins every night now for the 
war. The rector has put our boy's name on the list of 



312 IF WISHES WERE HORSES 

those fifl^ting. It's nafled on the church door. Yonll 
see it on Sunday/' 
''lU walk with you," he said. 

He had only been to church twice before. A little 
to Rose's surprise he had shown no disposition to attend 
the village chapel. He had not mentioned it, but it 
struck him that to associate himself with those who sup- 
ported it — ^the lesser lights of the village community — 
would be discourteous to his equals, or those who had 
accepted him as such. Besides, the rector had called on 
them and shown himself to be a most amiable person, 
without, so far as Martin could gather, any ritualistic 
leanings. He chose ''church" out of policy now, the 
harmless policy of the man who does not want to be dif- 
ferent from his associates. 

Curiously enough, the placid service of the little 
church afforded him a sense of comfort. Here no fiery 
pastor stamped and stormed over the punishment of sin, 
the fierceness of Qod's wrath, and the perils of hell-fire. 
Here was a gentler creed which laid more stress upon 
forgiveness and the infinite mercy of a Power superior 
to eternal punishment. 

On the first of these occasions Rose and he had stopped 
for communion, though not to participate in it. Martin 
had followed it word for word : — 

Ye that do truly and eametily repent you of your tins and are 
in love and charity wUh your neighbours, and intend to lead a 
new life . . . 

Almighty Ood . . . Judge of aXl men . . . We do earnestly 
repent. We are heartily sorry for our misdoings; the remem- 
brance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intol- 
erahle. . • . Have mercy upon ust 



EVENSONG 313 

Were others similarly weighed down with the burden 
of guilt? Were these words for them as for him? Or 
were his sins— his greatest sin— of a hue too black for 
any cleansing? Aunt Polly had said he would be afraid 

to die unless "What had she meant by ''unless"? 

How had she meant to fill in the hiatus? And if he 
repented, as he did ; and if there was forgiveness, how 
was he to earn it? By confession? Confession to Rose? 

For days he turned it over in his mind, and was often 
on the very brink of it. There were so many opportuni- 
ties; quiet evenings, gentle walks through darkening 
perfumed lanes, her arm in his. Would she forgive? 
He knew she would. But would her dear human clem- 
ency reflect the Divine? He thought it would. There 
was a lot of the divine in Bose. 

One evening when they were walking in the garden 
together he braced himself for confession. 

''Bose," he began, "what would you think if some 
one told you that I was a man utterly different to what 
you have thought me all these years — a bad man?" 

"I shouldn't believe it," she answered promptly. "I 
have lived with you and I know that's impossible." 

"But supposing I told you so myself, gave you facts 
to prove it?" 

"I think it would break my heart," was all she said, 
and so for ever stayed confession. Divine compassion 
she might have, but while she remained his Bose in the 
flesh, he would not call upon the divinity in her to heal 
his hurts and in so doing wreck her happiness. 

Her trust in him that he had betrayed. . • . 

In these days he saw that this was the greatest sin 
of all, greater even in the Account against him than 
the betrayal of a little servant girl. 



314 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES 

He was sorry with all his heart As she stood by 
him now, a happy smile on her face, he realized with a 
stabbing pang of affection how much he loved her . . . 
immntably. In all the years they had lived together 
and slept side by side he had never cared for her like 
this. Now he hated her to suffer pain. He grieved 
to find her sometimes weeping quietly when she was 
thinking of Edgar. He loved her as men love early 
in life . . . now that it was too late • . . ever so late. 

And he had betrayed her. He could never get away 
from the torment of that reproach. It was his daily 
scourge. He thought of it now as she looked up into 
his face, her own so absolutely free from guile. 

''Ill walk with you/' he said again. ''Perhaps 111 
come in too. It's not a long service." 

He fell into step beside her. 
Dorothy comes to-morrow," she said contentedly. 
Yes, you 11 like that." He hesitated. "I hope she 
won't remember our differences. I — I should like to 
start afresh with her. I want her to be happy. " 

" I 'm sure she will be. Everything is so different down 
here. I even feel you're different, Martin. Dearer to 
me somehow, if such a thing could be." 

** Nearer to you, perhaps," he said almost inaudibly. 

A laborer passed them, touching his cap. Small chil- 
dren by the roadside dropped shy curtsies. A string 
of cattle, sauntering to their byres, turned trustful soft 
eyes on them. Here and there a cottage door stood open, 
revealing a lamp-lit interior ; a late tea spread for the 
returning breadwinner; children being put to bed; old 
people tranquilly seated with folded hands; a girl peer- 



ed 



EVENSONG 315 

ing out for her sweetheart . . . over all the scent of 
summer flowers not quite finished blooming, and the 
smoky fragrance of burning vegetation. 

They turned into the side-road leading to the church, 
a little road girt with pine trees, needle-strewn. The 
bell stopped ringing as they reached the old lychgate. 
Bose looked at Martin questioningly. He followed her 
1ip the flagged path flanked on one side by liie rectory 
garden, on the other by the trim and quiet churchyard, 
yew-set, sedulously tended. In the porch Bose stayed 
him by a touch on the arm. His eyes, following hers, 
went to the list of those fighting for their country for 
whom the prayers of the congregation were to be offered. 
''2nd Lieut. E. Leflley, B.F.C.," was among them. 

Martin held his head up. Although he did not alto- 
gether recognize the honorable necessity for war, it 
seemed right that Edgar should have gone • . . proved 
him English. He would like to pray for the boy. He 
wondered if he dared. 

The tiny congregation was already assembled. Bose, 
whose retiring nature always made her avoid promi- 
nence, led the way to a pew at the back of the church. 

A quiet service, more solemn than is usual at evensong, 
because of the passionate supplications for peace ; pray- 
ers for a nation's defenders, a nation's safety; women 
on their knees, a few of them weeping unobtrusively 
. . . women who could believe that though the Ood of 
battles sent men forth to be slain in their thousands, He 
would yet protect the individual, the loved one. Bose 
was of these. 

Kneeling there, she softly sang the closing hymn, 
rendered all the more impressive by the devout attitude 



316 IF WISHES WERE HORSES ' 

of the congregation. The chnrch was not well lit. Mar- 
tin could not see the small print of his hymn-book dis- 
tinctly, but Rose 's Toice supplied the want. 

OHM fiiortf *^ eveniide, and we 
0ppre88*d with variout iOa draw near; 

What if Thy Form we cannot eeef 
We know and feet thai Thou art here. 

Thy totteh has stm ito ancient power: 
No word from Thee ean fruUlese faU; 

Hear, in this solemn evening hour. 
And in Thy mercy hed us aXL 

Amen! 

Silence, rapt and brooding; prayers ascending as 
though borne upwards on wings. 

"The peace of Ood which paeeeth understanding he amongst 
you and remain with you aiways,** 

Rose was lost in prayer. Her eyes were closed. Mar- 
tin, waiting for the signal to rise, watched her through 
his fingers much as a wistful sinner might gaze through 
the barred gate of Heaven at a saint within. He knew 
she was praying earnestly and in simple words, as a 
child prays . . . for Edgar, for Dorothy, for him. 

He had never prayed like that. As a child, no one 
had taught him ; as a man, lip-service once a week had 
afforded him a sense of righteousness. Now the sources 
of communication between himself and his Gtod seemed 
dried up — cut off. 

He crouched awkwardly in his pew. His lips moved 
dumbly, attempting articulation. He could think of 



EVENSONG 317 

no form of prayer, no suitable words in which to express 
the travail of his soul. He struggled for expression, and 
it came at last. 



tt 



Lord, have mercy <m me, a tinner!'* 



His knees, stiff and unused to bending, trembled be- 
neath him. Then, as though a Hand forced them down, 
they sank to the hassock, and he buried his face in his 
arms.