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\ r\)s./^5v>A^ ^/s/^ww.
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IF WISHES WERE HORSES
THE COUNTESS BARCY^SKA
AUTHOB or "the uttlx kotheb'who Bm aj boh^**
"IBB BONCT-POT," BKL
E. P. DUTTON & CO.
981 FIFTH AVENUE
THE HEW TOM
ASTOR. LENOX AND
' '^ 1996 L
Bt E. p. DUTTON k CO
• • • ► *
• • •
•VwIihCw hi SDK VHHBO ■PHhCv QS mUnWB
" ^ *^ • «
• • » * fc * » ^
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
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
r: XX. The Twins 145
§ XXI. Lady Lefflby 154
XXII. In the Dabx 160
# XXni. Edoab 170
'J XXrV. Plain'^Maby Pbaoogk 179
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
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
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
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.
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
**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
**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-
''What sort of arrangements f" Martin asked guard-
"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
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
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
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
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.
^'veby quietly, owing to a death in the bbids's
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
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
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
He looked at the pie and then at the table laid for
one. There was enough pie for two, even if he took a
"Won't you lay a place for yourself!" he asked awk-
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-
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
"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
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.
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
When the table-cloth was folded Martin ventured :
"What are you going to do when you've washed up!
"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
"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-
"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
' ' 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
Rose darned furiously. If she lifted her eyes he
would see the tears in them. So he was going — after
"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
Rose jerked her hand out of the sock. Her breath
"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
VERY QUIETLY, OWING TO A DEATH" 23
pale, and his voice was unsteady when he answered
"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
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
' ' 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.
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-
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.
She took a sip.
* * 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.
''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-
' ' ' 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.
That was what I was trying to remember," he said.
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
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
''Don't you like tea for breakfast?"
"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
' ' 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
"Ill see," he temporized. "But if you're thirsty
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
"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."
^ 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
' ' 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!"
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
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"
"Can't say I have," returned Mr. Grimwood. *'Why
"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, ' '
"Oh, are yout Think you can afford it!"
"On three pounds a week I can. I think I'm worth
"Well, 111 consider it," said Mr. Grimwood after a
"To begin this month, sir. The wedding's to be next
"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
" 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
'' 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-
Grimwood quite understood the implication. He did
not resent it. In Martin's place he would have taken
"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
"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
* ' 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
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
MARTIN GETS HIS MONEY'S WORTH 39
"Ten years hence it won't be," rejoined far-seeing
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
MABTIK GETS A SHOOK AND IS SENT ON A
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
*'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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
"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
''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-
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
"I am— chronic."
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
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
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
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
* ' 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
"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
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
"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-
''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
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
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
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. ' '
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
**Youll find a bit of a surprise when you get down-
stairs. No, I can't stop to answer questions. Wait and
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,
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
'*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
' ' 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
She drank the egg and milk. It was nicely warmed
and flavored with nutmeg. Jane took the empty
"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-
' ' 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
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
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-
''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,
'*I'd rather hear them just say, * That's the wife of
Martin Leffley, ' ' ' she answered humbly.
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-
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
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
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
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
"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
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
*'I wasn't altogether considering myself," he prevari-
cated, without for a moment deceiving the astute trades-
**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
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
**Well, of all the !" Peacock's voice and his un-
finished remark indicated stupefaction.
''What's wrong nowt" demanded his wife without
**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
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
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
''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
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
*'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
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
"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
80 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
not have been capable of expressing except under the
influence of strong feeling^-nlid nothing to allay Mrs.
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-
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
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
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
"You look annoyed. Has it anything to do with my
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
'*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
**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
"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
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
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
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-
*'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."
"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.
MARTIN GETS A LESSON IN VALUES 89
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
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
"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^
"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
But in the dark of the street he stared at the shuttered
shop, hating her.
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
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
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-
"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-
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-
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 —
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
'^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."
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.
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
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
100 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
be ''in'' with these people had a great fascinatibn for
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
did no more than glance at the others — glance and
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
*'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 "
102 IP WISHES WERE HORSES
''It's the younger generation I'm thinking of/' he
''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"
"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.
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
**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
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
104 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES
memory, and the broken lower comer was there as
well. After a little hesitation he went in and inquired
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-
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
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
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
' * 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
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
*'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
'^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-
Martin bowed diffidently.
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.
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
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
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
**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
"It might be to a single man. You must remember
"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-
"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-
"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-
114 IP WISHES WERE HORSES
cem, but his heart thumped with anxiety lest the two
men should see that he was blufiSng. The moments
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-
Sir Alfred shook his head, but Martin pretended not
to see the gesture.
** Twice what a Labor member gets!" Liversidge ex-
''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 ' '
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 "
''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"
"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
"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.
116 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
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
Liversidge went to the street door with Martin. When
he came back he noticed that Sir Alfred's face wore a
"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."
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
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-
**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.
''To further efforts. Making more money, and so
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
''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'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.
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,
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
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
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
''Not exactly a secret," she said. ''Only he doesn't
like his affairs talked about. Yes, it's quite true he's
"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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
"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-
"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
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
"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
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-
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.
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
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-
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
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
Rose, in sudden agony, caught at the knob of the
''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
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
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
''Martin Leffley, MP. I" she murmured, and fell
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
It was a good-sized house of rather pretentious build.
Overlooking the garden, to which access could be had
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
''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
<<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.
''"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
"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
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.
"I suppose they cost a lot," Edgar grudgingly ad-
mitted. He balanced himself on the arm of Rose's chair.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
''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
''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.
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
''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."
"Well, they're rather a thorn in the side of the Gov-
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
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
' * 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-
"I think — ^I think very few men would have got on
like you have, dear," came Rose's voice out of the dark-
' ' 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"
"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
"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-
"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
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
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
At the table sat the twins, between them a big plate
of eggs and bacon. More bacon was cooking on the
' ' Oh, mother, do have some ! ' ' they chorused. ' * You 've
no idea how delicious eggs and bacon taste at this time
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
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
' ' 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.
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
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."
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
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
"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
''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
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
"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
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-
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
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
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-
' * Oh, dear, whatever has he done 1 ' ' Bose asked f ear-
^'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-
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-
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
*'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
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
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
Aunt Polly precipitately passed it back.
"Now let's get talkin'," she said.
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
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
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
^'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-
Martin made an airy gesture. He didn't want Harris
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
**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."
IT'S my belief there's going to be changes," observed
the housemaid, perspicacionsly, as she came into the
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 woutd be nothing new, ' ' scoffed the cook. " I 've
heard nothing else except economy ever since I took on
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-
"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
While the servants talked in the kitchen Bose, up-
stairs, was trying hard to break down her husband's
"It's like turning away an old friend," she said
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
194 IF WISHES WERE HOBSES
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
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
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-
''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
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-
"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.
DOMESTIC ECONOMY 197
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
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
"By the way," he said in parenthesis, "do you dust
"Tes, Sir Martin. Every morning before breakfast."
"You don't find it a rush? I mean, you can manage
"Oh, no, thank you, Sir Martin, except on the days
I turn out the library and drawing-room. Tuesdays and
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
"Do you know, Ada," he said, "you're a very pretty
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-
*' 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-
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 ' '
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
"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-
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
202 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
twenty Martins in wordy warfare and holding her own
"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
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
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
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
''It isn't an old painting," she grinned. "But there !
You never did know anything about art. More's the
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
"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
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
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,"
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
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
**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
'*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-
"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-
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
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-
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,"
"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
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
' ' That 's what they are, Mr. Edgar. Quite new. Duds,
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
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
An inflexil)le expression came into the boy's face.
With a subtle difference it made him look very like his
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.
''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-
"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-
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
' ' 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.
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-
* ' 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
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
EDGAB GOES ON STRIKE 221
humor. But she was not smiling now. She looked white
'*0h, Sir Martin,'* she whispered, "may I speak to
"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
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
"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
''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.
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
MABTIN'S HARVESTING 225
steps dragged. She mounted the stairs to the study
''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
Martin went gray and cold. His body stiffened de-
"Ada, what — ^what are you talking about?" he asked
"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-
''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
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
"You must be mistaken," he said.
Dumbly she shook her head.
"Mistaken," he supplemented, "in attributing this to
"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."
MABTIN'S HARVESTING 227
The disclaimer took her aback. She caught at his
. **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
"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
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
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
"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
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.
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-
''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.
"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
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.
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-
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
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,"
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.
'oue was very gruieiui, l
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
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-
' ' Quite so, quite so. And besides, servants, even good
servants, are so addicted to lying. You're a very wise
"Love makes one wise, I think," Rose answered softly.
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
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
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,
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
TEA ON THE TERRACE 241
come and see them one day. But I would like to im-
pose a 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
"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
242 IF WISHES WEBE HOBSES
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."
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
"A hustler? Not exactly. But I always know what
I want," answered Sir Abel, looking steadily at her.
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
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."
244 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
To this here castle. Chester or Ohister was the
"With mother, of course t"
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
'^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
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
''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
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?
''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
"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
"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
"Oh, nothing pressing — ^unless the need arises. I
suppose it might be called the business of a gentleman, ' '
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
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
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
"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
"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
" 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-
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
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-
''Come, now! Don't be silly. You don't mean all
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
*'Tell a maid to pack my box and have it ready at
once, please. And my brother's too," she stopped to
''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
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-
"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-
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
He put her in one and then took the Tube in another
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
"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
"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
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
He felt better after that.
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
''You mean I've left it too long!"
"Is there a remedy?"
"The usual one."
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
"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.
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
*'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
"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
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."
''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-
"But, Martin, if she has to make money by paint-
"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-
"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
' ' 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.
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."
270 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
''Not veiy/' she Ued bravely. ''It's aU in the day's
"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,
"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-
'*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
'*I was hopin' you'd come," she said. **Qot the
"For the dance?' Yes. It's still in my purse. But
** '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-
"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.
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
DOROTHY LOSES A GLOVE 273
"Seems to me I'm always scorin' off Martin/' she
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
''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
"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
"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
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
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-
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
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
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
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."
"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
"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
''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-
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-
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.
"One." She handed him a letter, looking scared
as she recognized the handwriting. It was Dorothy's.
NOBLESSE OBLIGE 283
The other letter, addressed to herself, was also from
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.
"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-
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
''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-
**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'
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.
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
AUNT POLLY GOES HOME 289
''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
"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
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-
"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
"No, not you."
He shrank back, mortified by the aversion she showed
"Have you nothing to say to me. Aunt Mary?" he
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-
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-
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
"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
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."
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-
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
"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."
* ' 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
**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
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-
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 "
''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
** 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. . . .
''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
"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 —
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
* * Yes f ' ' said Martin uncomfortably. ' * How was she f ' '
* * She wasn 't in. The woman where she lodges seemed
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-
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
''Whatisitf Some one we know in the casually list t"
306 IF WISHES WERE HORSES
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.
"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
"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
''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
"Your affec. and respectful servant,
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
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
"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-
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-
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
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-
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
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-
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
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
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.
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