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JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



JULIA TAKES HER 

CHANCE 



BY 



CONCORDIA MERREL 

_j 




NEW YORK 

THOMAS SELTZER 

1921 



*ic 




I'l 










•^>"T((!: i.i:\.,v ^»;j, 



Copyright, 1921, by 

Thomas Seltzer, Inc. 



All Rights Reserved 






* •. ' 



^^tr.i 



x/;./>;> 



Printed in the United States of America 







JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



Julia Takes Her Chance 



CHAPTER I 

Friday at three! 

I just can't realize it. But here it is in black and 
white. A letter from Pelman Barclay, the great actor- 
manager, asking me to call on him at His Highness' 
Theatre, on Friday at three. 

I feel as if I'd been shot into the very middle of the 
craziest dream. Especially as this letter came by the 
same post as one from my tiresome guardian, telling me 
that not only can I not act now, but that I never will be 
able to I 

You see, last night, I, Julia Grey — Judy, for short — 
quite an ordinary, humdrum sort of a girl, without one 
single relation to call my own in the whole wide world, 
existing on the income from a tiny legacy, and plodding 
away at typewriting and shorthand, in the blind con- 
viction that nothing more exciting than a secretaryship 
could ever, ever be my career, last night, as I was about 
to say, I played a small part in a play done by the Little 
Uppington Amateur Dramatic Society and — ^I made a 
hit. 

I did, so it would be downright silliness to pretend I 

5 



6 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

didn't. This morning the Little Uppington Eagle came 
out with a glowing notice of my performance — not that 
tJiat amounts to much ; our own pet Eagle is an unfledged 
•sort of a bird, at best — ^but now comes this letter from 
Pdman Barclay, saying that he happened to be in the 
audience last night with his friends the Delameres — ^Little 
Uppington 's nobbiest nobs — and had noticed my acting, 
and would I be so kind — so kind, mark you — ^as to call 
at His Highness' Theatre on Friday at three. 

**Yes," I said to myself, "and this is where I wake 
up." 

But I crumpled the letter up in my hand, shut my eyes 
and turned round three times. Then read the letter 
again. 

**It's true, then.'' I gasped faintly and sat down 
rather suddenly, all shaky with excitement. 

And now Mr. Guardian Penticott, I thought — ^and I 
tell you I thought this in three-foot capitals — ^how much 
ice does your letter cut? All the time you were forming 
your uncomplimentary opinions about your ward, some- 
one, who is really qualified to know something about act- 
ing, was making up his mind to ask her to call on Friday 
at three. 

Can't act now and never will be able to, indeed! But 
Mr. Pelman Barclay, the great Pelman Barclay, the one 
and only Pelman Barclay, noticed my acting. . . . 

But goodness, the thought made me break off; if I'd 
known that he was in the audience last night, I'd have 
gone solid with stage fright. 

Friday at three! Should I go? Would I ever dare? 
I asked myself. 

And myself, my settled-down-never-to-be-uprooted sort 
of Self, replied instantly: 

**0f course not! The idea's absurd. You'll do some- 






• « 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 7 

thing silly, make a complete ass of yourself — ^why you're 
not even pretty!'* 

And for a moment I was crushed, but lo and behold I 
a New Self seemed suddenly to take possession of me, a 
Self that asked : 

'*Why shouldn't I take this chance! And if I choose 
to take it, even if I choose to risk making an ass of myself, 
just what is going to stop me, any old wayf 

''But,'* argued the Old Self, bent on raising obstacles, 
"you've nothing on earth to wear!" 

''Great Peter!" replied the New Self, "haven't I my 
blue taffeta f It's last year's, I know, and needs new 
collar and cuffs and a hair-cut round the hem, but hang 
it all, I 'm not going to be beaten by a little thing like that. 
It's my acting he's interested in, not my clothes." 

"Your acting," scoffed the Old Self. "Pooh! who 
d'you think you are all of a sudden — Sarah Bernhardt 
and Mary Pickford rolled into one?" 

But my New Self was just glowing with one of those 
fear-no-foe-in-shining armor sort of feelings, and it was 
up and at it in a second. 

"I don't think I'm any old thing in particular, but I 
do know that this is the first and only chance I've ever 
had, and that I'm jolly well going to take it!" 

So I did. 

And I went. 

All on my own. I hadn't told a soul about it, because, 
if you tell one Little Uppingtonian anything, it sort of 
gets Marconied round to all the rest, and I thought, sup- 
posing it should all turn out to be a howling fiasco, how 
""Tv>rf ectly awful I 'd feel if everyone knew about it. 

I didn't look so bad, either. Not that I looked any- 
thing to shout about; I didn't. My Old Self was right 
when it said I wasn't even pretty; I'm not, but the old 



» JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

blue taffeta came to the scratch like a good 'tin, and 
my little close-fitting hat had been awarded a new woolly- 
bob — ^f or conspicuous gallantry in the face of three sea- 
sons and all sorts of weather. 

I got to the theatre with five minutes to spare. Then 
I realized that I hadn't a notion as to where I ought to 
apply. I wasted a lot of precious time in finding out, 
and finally fetched up at the stage door. 

The potentate in charge was large and fat, and he'd 
a dear little sort of a partitioned-off place all to himself, 
with pigeon-hole shelves behind him, and a counter — for 
leaning on — ^in front. He was busy reading the tabs of 
a big bunch of keys he held, and looked up casually and 
tilted up his chin by way of inquiring my business. 

"I w-want to see Mr. Barclay, please — ^Mr. Pelman 
Barclay," I said, hoping that my voice wasn't betraying 
my undignified excitement. 

*'Mr. Pelman Barclay is Mr. Barclay," he observed. 
"There ain't but one of 'im," and he returned his atten- 
tion to the keys. **'Erbert," he suddenly yelled, "nip 
up with this 'ere key, an' give it to Mrs. Judd in the 
wardrobe." 

A grimy hand was thrust through a doorway at one 
side ; it took the key and disappeared. * * Yes, ' ' said the 
fat man, "there's only one of 'im, but there's plenty of 
your sort — ^the sort that wants to see 'im." 

This was distinctly not the sort of reception I had 
anticipated. It was past three now, and the precious 
moments were steadily ticking away — ^a habit moments 
have — and I was already late for my appointment! 
"I — ^I'm Miss Julia Grey," I explained. 
His answer was not encouraging. 
"What if you are?" he inquired amiably. 
Now I hadn't by any means pictured everyone con- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 9 

nected with the theatre lining up and waving flags in 
my honor, but I certainly had thought that my name 
would awaken some sort of an echo. But not it! The 
potentate went on looking like an amiable feather-bed. 

**IVe an — an appointment to see Mr. Barclay at 
three,'* I said. 

'*So 'ave' alf a roomful of others!'' he said cheerfully. 
Then: ** Let's have a look at your card." 

''My — card? Oh, you mean " and I produced a 

personal visiting card, but he took it and flung it on the 
counter. 

*'No, no, no!" he said, each negative more scornfully 
weary than the last. *'Your appointment card. Didn't 
you bring it with you f You 'ad one, I suppose f ' ' 

I shook my head. 

"No, it was a letter — a letter from Mr. Barclay, just 
asking me to call. Please do let me go in. I shall be 
late." 

* ' Oh, there 's no 'urry for a couple of hours yet. You 've 
got the letter with you, I presume?" 

Alas! He presumed too much. I hadn't. It was on 
my dressing-table in far-off Little Uppington. I really 
nearly cried with vexation. 

*' No-no. I left it behind," I stuttered. 

The potentate's face changed and became very severe. 

"Mr. Barclay ain't seein' anyone 'cept strictly by ap- 
pointment. Sorry, miss, I have me orders," and he eyed 
me suspiciously. 

Good gracious! Did he dare to think I'd invented 
the letter so as to wangle an interview with Mr. Barclay ? 
I looked at him indignantly. 

"You couldn't nip back 'ome and fetch it along and 
nip back 'ere, I suppose? Where d'you live?" He 
evidently had a heart, but what a dismal suggestion! 



10 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Little Uppington seemed as far distant as the Fiji 
Islands. 

'* There — ^there's no sort of question of n-nipping/' I 
faltered out, swallowing hard and grinding my teeth 
fiercely. It was necessary, I can tell you, with things 
just all going wrong! 

But suddenly I observed that the potentate's fat face 
was seriously damaged all across by a beaming smile. He 
was looking down at that card of mine. 

''Little Uppington!" he said, in a new tone. ''That 
where you come fromf 

I nodded, mystified. 

'*Why, bless me, miss, d'yoti know Sam Tonkins? Fat 
chap — ^has the corner grocery." 

I nodded yet again, utterly bewildered. 

**Well, I'm own brother to him!" he said, in a tone 
of one who imparts simply stupendous news. 

Light and hope began to dawn. 

* ' Own brother ! Ever heard him speak of Ted ? Well, 
that's me, Ted Tonkins — ^that's my name!" he further 
enlightened me. 

'*0h, Mr. Tonkins, how very, very pleased I am to meet 
you here," I cried, almost hysterical with relief. **0f 
courise I know your brother! Why, I'm registered for 
butter and sugar with him!" 

To think I should ever live to bless those ration 
cards! 

Across the little counter we shook hands like long-lost 
reunited pals. 

''Ere, 'Erbert !" he yelled, so suddenly that I jumped. 
The owner of the grimy hand appeared. ''Now, then, 
'Erb, nip up with this young lady and tell His Nibs that 
she 'as a very special appointment to see Mr. B. Mind, 
now, very special!" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 11 

"Oh, thank you! Thank yon very much, Mr. Ton- 
kins," I said gratefully. 

''That's all right, miss; any friend of Sam's a friend 
o' mine, as the saying is. You go on up, and good luck 
to you, too!" 

I followed my grubby guide up a great many stairs and 
into a large room. A slight, fair young man was stand- 
ing just inside. 

' * This young lady, with a very special appointment to 
see Mr. Barclay," my guide said in a low voice, and I 
advanced into the room, where, it seemed to my first 
dizzy impression, at least a hundred girls, all better 
dressed, all better looking than myself, were waiting. 

"Name?" said the fair young man — ^"His Nibs," I 
supposed. 

I gave my name. He wrote it down in a little book. 

"Appointment?" he asked again. 

"Three o'clock, please. Mr. Barclay wrote for me to 
come and see him." And I told him about the letter. 
He put it all in his little book, but made no sort of com- 
ment. No one seemed to be expecting me ; it was really 
most depressing. This young man merely looked wise 
and secretive and mysterious, as if the fate of nations 
depended on his discretion, and said unemotionally : 

"Sit down, please, Miss Grey, and I'll tell you when 
Mr. Barclay can see you." And he moved off. 

Lots of the girls caught at him as he went through, and 
there was a buzzing of: 

I say, I've been here for ages." 

Isn't it my turn yet?" 

Three o'clock my card says." 

Look here, old bird, how much longer, what?'^ 

To all of which he answered: "I'm doings the best I 
can, to be fair to everyone. It's not my fault, dearie; 



it 
((I 

(< 



12 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

it's no good blaming me. Be patient, blue-eyes. . . .*' 
And so on and so on, detaching clinging fingers from his 
arms, as he went across to a door with Mr. Barclay's name 
written on it, and disappeared. 

The girls all subsided, talking and grumbling together 
in little groups. They powdered their noses, arranged 
their side curls, fixed their hats, admired each other's 
clothes and talked shop, and what a buzz it all was to me ! 
Such an utterly foreign atmosphere, and suddenly I be- 
gan to realize how isolated I was. 

These girls all seemed to have come in pairs. Ought 
I to have brought someone with mef I went hot all over 
as the thought struck me that perhaps it wasn't con- 
sidered *'good form" to keep an appointment like this all 
alone. Of course, I ought to have got someone to come 
with me. I could have got Norah Malone, my one and 
only chum, to come, if I'd had the sense to think of it 
and give her sufiicient notice. 

How utterly idiotic of me! 

There wasn't one other girl in the room quite alone! 

Evidently it made me conspicuous, too, because they all 
looked me up and down. 

Or was that on account of my clothes? And at that 
thought I went one shade hotter. Which is a confession, 
isn't it? 

I mean, I went hotter at the thought of being badly 
dressed than I had at the idea of doing something that 
might be bad form, or might even be considered, for all 
I knew, not quite proper! 

Altogether, I was more miserably uncomfortable than 
I'd ever been in my life! 

Then, every other girl seemed to be going in to see Mr. 
Barclay before me! Finally, I was absolutely the last 
one left. Really, it did seem strange. Then — oh, hor- 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 13 

rors! — ^throngli the open door I heard a fretful voice say: 
"No more to-day, Denville; I really can't ** 

Then the tactful voice of *'His Nibs'': 

"You really do want to see this Miss Grey, guv 'nor.** 

"Do I, Denville? Are you sure! Who the devil is 
she, anyway!" 

My heart was thumping with anxiety. Wasn't he go- 
ing to see me, after all? Oh, how awful that wotdd be! 
How perfectly awful ! And although he'd specially sent 
for me, he didn't seem to so much as know my name I 
Certainly listeners aren't encouraged! 

But, at last, there was "His Nibs" beckoning to me 
from the doorway, and in another moment I was stand- 
ing in the presence of the great Pelman Barclay. 

Well, he is a great man, but I can't honestly say that 
he looked it at that moment. 

He was sitting hunched up in his chair in a peevish, 
shivery sort of way that simply made me glance down to 
see whether his feet were in a tub of mustard and water. 
They weren't ; they were in patent-leather boots, but he'd 
a cold-in-the-head sort of look. 

He looked at me vaguely; hadn't the remotest idea 
that he'd ever seen me before ; waved a hand in the direc- 
tion of a chair, and I sat down, feeling a fool, looking 
a fool, and praying for the floor to open and swallow me 
whole! 

"Miss Grey is the lady you saw in The Danger Zone/^ 
explained "His Nibs," in that tactful, conciliatory tone 
that people use towards spoilt children with uncertain 
tempers. 

At that Pelman Barclay sat straight and swept the 
lank, dark hair from his forehead with a characteristic 
gesture of his fine, white hand. 

''Now, why couldn't someone have told me that be- 



14 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

fore?** he demanded. *'You were very good, Miss Grey. 
Very good indeed. You cry with your throat and chin 
and eyes, and most girls just wrinkle up their foreheads. 
Ever noticed that?" 

I shook my head. 

"No," I replied, wonderingly. 

"Well, I want someone who can cry. Denville, get 
Miss Grey to read Sybil Martin for me." 

Heavens! I'd got to read a part! I clutched at my 
little handbag so that it never afterwards wholly re- 
covered, and was on the point of protesting wildly that 
I couldn't — ^that I hadn't meant to come, anyway — ^that 
all I wanted was to get away and hide, when "His Nibs" 
shoved a brown-covered "script" into my hands and in 
a quiet voice said : 

"You are to read the part of Sybil Martin — 111 give 
you your cues." 

Horror heaped upon horror! How I got through I 
simply don't know. I seemed to be blind and deaf and 
dumb, and yet I suppose I was reading the part, for from 
some remote distance I heard my voice saying things, 
and from a distance remoter still I heard Mr. Denville 
mumbling other things. The room whirled round me in 
red and black speckles. 

Suddenly I heard myself crying, sobbing and implor- 
ing, as if my life depended upon it. 

Then— dizzy silence. 

"AU right, eh, Denville?" 

Prom miles away Pelman Barclay's voice came through 
to me, bringing back reality with it. I sort of * ' came to, ' ' 
and things steadied round me. 

"Thank you. Miss Grey. That's all I need trouble 
you for. •Denville, fix things up, please. Good-by( 
and thank you so much for coming to see me." 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 15 

I followed Mr. Denville out, across the general room 
and into another office, not knowing whether I were on 
my head or my heels, whether I'd succeeded or failed. 

Through a fog of bewilderment I managed to gather 
that I was engaged to play the part of Sybil Martin, 
a small but important part, in Pelman Barclay's next 
production at His Highness'; that I might consider it 
all quite settled; that I'd get my contract in a day or 
two; that I hadn't read the part at all badly; that re- 
hearsals began next Monday ; and that my salary would 
be eight pounds a week ! 

I reeled out of the theatre, tottered to the station, fell 
into a homeward-bound railway carriage, and collapsed 
into a comer. At least, that was what I felt I did ; and 
all the way home the rhythm of the wheels made a song 
that went : 

''You've been an' gone an' done it — You've been an' 
gone an' done it!" 



CHAPTER n 

I LOOKED down at the thin, brown-covered book of my 
''lines'' that I held, labeUed ''Sybil Martin'^on the out- 
side, and stamped in one comer, *' Property of Pelman 
Barclay, His Highness' Theatre," and scribbled across 
in pencil with — ^my own name ! 

". . . . been an' gone an' done it!'* went the clank- 
ing iron song. 

I should just say I jolly well had ! 

And now, Mr, Guardian Penticott, Esquire, what will 
you say when you hear this? Can't act, can't I ? Never 
will be able to, won't I? Well, well wait and seel 

First thing I did when I got home was to write to my 
guardian and tell him the great news. Was I tempted 
to crow triumphantly, or am I above such pettiness? I 
was and I'm not — ^but, I didn't, which is one up to me, 
isn't it? Because, in face of my guardian's letter to me, 
there were just dozens of snappy, scathing little things 
I might have said, and — oh, yes, I tJiought of them all 
right, but I resolutely took the "strong and silent" line; 
simply told him the news without any reference to his 
letter at all. It was a lovely composition, simply brim- 
ming with the virtuous beauty of restraint, but I'm bound 
to confess that it had a sting in its postscript. I simply 
couldn't resist saying: 

"P. S. — Of course, it's a splendid start to have won 

16 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 17 

the good opinion of Mr. Pelman Barclay. Because he 
really is a good judge, isnH he?'* 

I 'd just finished this literary effort, and was trying to 
persuade my jazzed-up brain to come down to tacks and 
settle on some really useful plans, when my chum Norah 
Malone turned up. 

I saw her from the window, and rushed to meet her, 
and fell on her neck, and poured the whole story of my 
adventures into her ear and down her collar, and when 
I'd got the beginning at the end, and the end in the 
middle, and was gasping for breath, she stopped me 
firmly and said : 

'*Come into the sitting-room and let's hear your symp- 
toms. You may be sickening for something." 

Norah is a professional nurse, Irish, and the absolute 
dear of creation. 

I lugged her into the sitting-room, laughing, and when 
she satisfied herself that I wasn't coming out in any 
kind of spots, she said: 

'*Well, now, Judy, do your song and dance again, and 
this time, let's hear the words." 

So I began again, and unwound, for her benefit, the 
first reel of that thrilling drama. My Sudden Leap to 
Fame ! and Norah was simply no end thrilled ; but, how- 
ever much she's thrilled, she always manages to keep that 
clear-brained head of hers firmly on her neck. 

She has a do-nothing-to-excite-the-patient sort of man- 
ner, and just slogs out straight for essentials — ^partly 
nature, partly training, I suppose. Whichever it was, a 
jolly good thing for me, for whereas I was using up no 
end of mental energy in wondering what color my first- 
act frock should be, and how on earth I'd ever dare to 
face real actors and actresses, and how awful it would 
be if I got cold feet and ' ' dried up ' ' bang in the middle 



18 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

of a scene, dear old Norah went straight to the first real 
point and said: 

'*Well, now, that's fine, Judy. And listen to me, my 
dear — ^yonll have to live in town." 

I just stared. 

*'In town?" I echoed idiotically. 

*'Well, are you proposing to trek to Little Uppington 
every evening after the theatre?" 

I hadn't been proposing to do anything of a practical 
nature; I'd simply been allowing my fancy to go gather- 
ing the most glorious wool as ever came off the backs of 
a flock of dream sheep. 

*'Last train leaves town at ten-fifteen, doesn't it?" 
she added, in her very best bedside manner. 

**Yes — ^why, of course! I couldn't possibly I never 

thought And, Norah, what am I to do? They say 

it's impossible to get rooms anywhere, and an hotel's out 
of the question, and " 

''Ramble on, kid, if you want to, but there's really no 
two ways about it," cut in Norah, laughing. ''Naturally, 
and of course, you come to me." 

Now, isn't that a pal to have? 

"Oh, but can I? May I? Shan't I be most fearfully 
in the way?" I said, too excited to stop jabbering al- 
though I knew what the answer would be, because Norah 's 
little flat in Chelsea is open house to all her friends. 

They are welcome to come and go as they please, and 
some of them even have keys, so that if Norah should be 
away at a case, they can get in to camp and forage. 

"I don't quite know how many there are in occupa- 
tion just at the moment," she said cheerfully. *'But 
you won't mind being rolled in a blanket on the kitchen 
floor if there's no more congenial spot still vacant, will 
you?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 19 

I laughed happily. 

"Old darling, I'll curl np in the copper if necessary." 

"Well, my case here finishes to-morrow, and I'm going 
to have a little while at home before taking up my next, 
so shall we go up together to-morrow afternoon by the 
three o'clock train?" 

Three o'clock! My fateful hour! I could never hear 
it again without seeing a special significance in it ! 

"Righto!" I agreed. "Ill go down to the station 
and order the fly to call for you first and fetch me on the 
way, shall I?" 

Well, so it was settled, and I did all my packing that 
evening to be sure and be in good time, and undid it all 
again next morning to be sure I'd got everything in. 

And I went round and round my little cottage to be 
sure that everything was clean — ^scrubbed the saucepans, 
scalded the milk-jugs, burnt up scraps — jolly nearly 
burnt my lunch by mistake — and had no end of a hectic 
time, feeling as if the jolly old world had suddenly turned 
a somersault and I was more or less suspended in space 
till it settled again. 

The station fly — ^a wheezy vehicle that was running a 
race for disintegration with the quadruped that drew it 
— ^rattled up to the gate, and I tore upstairs, jammed on 
my hat, and tore down again. 

Hadn't got my gloves — ^tore up again. Couldn't find 
my bag — ^tore all over the place — found it in my hand 
all the time. 

Got, gasping, into the fly and fell into Norah's devoted 
lap — suddenly remembered that I 'd completely forgotten 
to post that letter to my guardian. I'd left it on the 
table. 

More tearing! But I'd almost rather have missed the 
train than have let my guardian miss getting that letter. 



20 JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 

At last, though, we really were off. Reached the sta- 
tion, boarded the train. The train got a move on, and 
there I was on my way to London and the first great 
chance. 



The army of occupation at Norah's flat was evidently 
— and fortunately — on a peace footing, for it consisted 
only of Madeline and Clairette Longman, twin daughters 
of that Joshua Longman whose teashops ''stand as mile- 
stones round the earth'' {vide the advertisements!). 

They were the weirdest-looking girls you ever saw — all 
dressed up in beads and embroidery scarfs and short 
hair and long necks, and thick stockings and sandals, and 
they were known respectively as ''Bun'' and "Butter," 
as a tribute to the teashops, and collectively as the "But- 
tered Buns." 

They welcomed Norah to her own flat with touching 
cordiality, and said how pleased they were to have her 
stop with them for a bit! 

"You know, darling," they wailed in chorus, "we're 
turned out of the studio for not having paid rent for two 
years, and we've had to write to father, which goes hor- 
ribly against the grain, because he cut us off with a 
shilling when we 'took to art,' as he calls it. And you 
won't mind, will you, but we're painting each other's 
portraits in the kitchen, just behind the larder door. 
There's such a lovely light there. Of course, you can't 
get in the larder while there's a sitting on." 

"Oh, a detail — a mere detail!" said Norah cheerfully. 
"Come along, Judy, and get your things off." 

"Don't you want to see the portraits?" asked Made- 
line reproachfully. 



L 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 21 

* ' Not tiU we Ve had tea, ' ' said Norah firmly. " ITl be 
fit for anything then." 

*' She's as bad as the landlord," cried Clairette. '* Isn't 
she, Bun? When we told him that we'd been too busy 
thinking of Art to consider rent, he replied that he'd 
been too busy thinking of rent to consider Art!" 

Norah took me to her room. 

' ' I 'm glad they 're here. I 'd not like to leave you here 
alone, and Bun and Butter are two of the very best, in 
spite of their funny little ways. I'll ask them to stay a 
bit." 

The invitation was received with enthusiasm over tea 
a little later. 

''Not only do we fly to Norah for shelter, but we are 
welcome and useful," said Madeline. "Butter, old dear, 
we have a mission to fulfil. We are to do the dragon act 
to this sweet young thing. She has supplied us with a 
really good excuse for staying, and staying, and staying, 
in face of all outside opposition. Butter, you must spread 
yourself. That's the family joke," she added to me. 

They babbled on like this all through tea, and after- 
wards I went down to the theatre to give my friend Mr. 
Tonkins my new address and to ask him to spread it 
around in the proper quarters, but when I got there the 
stage-door was deserted. 

So I thought I'd go in and try to find ''His Nibs," 
because it was important that they should have my ad- 
dress, naturally, for rehearsal "calls" and other com- 
munications. 

I was just pushing open the narrow swing-doors that 
led to the interior when the door was pushed violently 
from the other side by someone coming out, and evidently 
in a hurry. 

For the door banged towards me, knocked my hat 



22 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

crooked and only just missed damaging my precious nose. 

* ' Oh ! ' ' I gasped out, stepping back. ' ' Oh, do, please, 
be not quite so " 

But my ungrammatical protest was cut short by the 
appearance round the door of a tall man, who came out 
looking as if he couldn't make out where the noise came 
from. 

I just sort of crumpled half behind the door, wonder- 
ing what was the correct thing to do, or if there is a 
correct thing to do when an impetuous man nearly brains 
you with a swing-door. But he'd seen me now and re- 
alized what had happened, and he was apologizing in the 
nicest, sincerest way, and asking if he'd hurt me, and 
saying how awfully careless it was of him, and could he 
do anything for me? 

He'd an awfully nice face, with very straight, hazel 
eyes and a charming, easy, pleasantly-man-of-the-worldly 
sort of manner, and I was so dazed and confused that I 
just blurted out what the trouble was, without thinking. 

'*You see, I've moved, and I know they'll have to 
write to me about rehearsals and things, and they haven't 
my address, and Mr. Tonkins isn't here. I'm at 47 ^^ 

I'd babbled this all out like so many beads on a string, 
but at this point he stopped me. 

''Let's go and see if we can find Denville. He's the 
one to give your new address to.'* 

The last sentence seemed to me just ever so slightly 
pointed, and I felt my face go pink. There I was start- 
ing in to give my address to a complete stranger. Just 
because he was at the theatre I'd taken it for granted 
that he was of the theatre, and of course he might be the 
merest outsider. Was there ever such a blithering little 
fool? But he was looking at me with a half -amused but 
rather sweet expression in his eyes as he said; 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 23 

''Come inside and wait just a minute while I find out 
if Denville is still here." 

He left me and returned almost at once. 

*'Yes, he's in the office along the corridor. Sure I 
didn't do any serious damage?'* 

I reassured him, thanked him, and he smiled, lifted his 
hat and was gone. 

I told Norah about it when I got back to the flat, and 
she said, in a sharp sort of way : 

''Well, he seems all right, but, kid, remember, you 
mustn't ever give your address away like that to anyone 
strange." 

I laughed 

*'0f course I mustn't I know that. It was just the 
confusion of the moment that made me so utterly silly. 
And anyway, I think he was something to do with the 
theatre, because he just marched into Denville 's office 
as if he owned it." 

"Still," said Norah, obstinately, "I'm very glad the 
Buns are going to be with you. You know, Judy, I'm 
not out to throw bouquets or anything of that sort, but 
there distinctly is a kind of something about you . . . 
that is rather attractive. ..." 

"Oh, rot!" I said lightly. "I've no illusions about 
my appearance. I never have been a howling beauty and 
never will be." 

"I didn't say anything about beauty, howling or other- 
wise," she retorted. "I merely remarked. . . Ah, well, 
it doesn't matter. I was just telling you, that's all." 

"But you haven't told me. What is the kind of a 
something ? ' ' 

She looked up at me. 

"Charm, I think it would be called," she said slowly. 

"But look at my eyes! So wide-set that they're abso- 



24 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

lately one at eacli corner ! And my nose, every kind of 
shape, and my mouth from here to there. The only thing 
about me is my hair, and I must say I do rather like the 
goldeny-brown of my hair . . . and it curls, too, which 
is so obliging of it. . . .'' 

"All that has nothing to do with charm. Charm is a 
thing apart. It just happens, or it doesn't. In your 
case it happened. In spite of aU such obstacles as eyes, 
nose and mouth. And 111 tell you another thing too, 
Judy, if you like," she added. 
''Go ahead." 
**Men will see it." 

"I've never noticed them," I scoffed, • 
'*You don't know many men, do you? Isn't Mr. Pen- 
ticott the only one really?" 

''Goodness, if no man ever shows more eagerness to get 
to know me than Nickolas Penticott, I may as well go 
into a convent right away! Judging by him, I should 
think I must be repellent to the whole species. Do you 
know when I last saw him?'* 
"No, when?" 

"September, 1914! He came to say good-by before 
he went to France. And such a solemn, unimpression- 
able young man you never saw!" 

"Oh, weU, you were only a kid then," began Norah, 
but I laughed the question out of court. 

Still, it's rather nice to be told pleasant things about 
your looks, isn't it? 'Specially by such an utterly un- 
emotional old thing as Norah. 

However, I hadn't much time to think about it, for I 
was deep in my part all Sunday, and Monday morning's 
first post brought me that thrilling document — ^my first 
call to a real professional rehearsal! Eleven o'clock I'd 
got to be there, so, behold me, on the very tick of the ap- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 25 

pointed hour finding my way down to the stage almost 
sick with excitement. 

But this wasn't a rehearsal, after all. It was just a 
reading of the play by the author. 

By ones and twos the company straggled in. 

Chairs were brought and arranged in a semicircle on 
the stage, and everyone knew everyone else, except me; 
and everyone found a chair, except me ; and everyone was 
joUy and contented and familiar and at home, except me ! 
And I was the miserablest and loneliest that I'd ever been 
in my life. 

Mir. Barclay sat in a chair down by the footlights, sunk 
into his collar and oblivious to everyone. Then the 
author, Murray Austen, arrived, small, bird-like, with 
large, round, tortoiseshell-framed spectacles, and he was 
followed by Denville and my friend of the swing-door. 

They all went down and sat by Mr. Barclay, and then, 
catching sight of me, the swing-door man raised his hand 
and nodded and smiled, and I was so gratefull for that 
one friendly oasis in a veritable desert of frigidity that I 
waved to him and smiled and nodded back like anything, 
just as if we were the oldest pals. 

And instantly two young men sprang up and dis- 
covered that I was chairless, and they each brought me a 
chair and apologized profusely for not having noticed 
before that I was standing. 

And the leading lady even said graciously: 

''There's room here by me, Miss — er " 

**Grey," I said, wondering who on earth my swing- 
door man could be that his greeting me should have this 
remarkable effect. 

Then Mr. Barclay announced that the author would 
read his play to us — as if it were no end of a grievance — 
and sank back into his collar again. 



26 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

And when the play had been read, and everyone had 
buzzed about it, Mr. Barclay brought the swing-door man 
up to me, saying, "Lord Henry Penryth wants to be 
introduced. ' * 

So he was a lord, was het And . • . why, of course, 
I'd often seen his name in the papers among lists of 
guests at various society functions, and during the war 
he'd won some decorations, and I remember it being said 
of him that he was one of the richest men in England, 
but a confirmed bachelor, and, oh, well, you know the 
sort of thing that well-known people get written about 
them. 

So that's why everyone was suddenly so polite to me, 
when he waved to me. 

He was awfully nice to me, and we stood chatting for 
quite a while, and he said I'd got a splendid chance, and 
was to grab it with both hands. 

And as the days went by we became very good f riendfl, 
and I confided to him how it was the first, the very first 
chance of anything that had ever come my way, and I 
told him about my guardian writing and telling me I 
couldn't act, and he laughed and said: 

"Oh, I suppose he's a snuffy old chap who doesn't 
approve of the stage?" 
I looked up at him, rather amused. 
"Must a guardian always be a crotchety old invalids 
all dressed up in bath-chairs and respirators!" 
He laughed slightly. 

"Well, no, I suppose not, only that's the sort of pic- 
ture the world conjures up." 
"As it happens, he's quite young." 
"Is he, by Jove? And how does he come to be your 
guardian then?" 
"I was bequeathed to him. My father bequeathed me 



JXJLIA TAKES HER CHANCE 27 

when I was quite a tiny, to old Mr. Niekolas Penticott, 
and when he died, he handed me on to his son, young 
Mr. Niekolas Penticott. I'm a sacred trust and a solemn 
responsibility, and all that kind of thing.'* And I fin- 
ished with a little grimace. 

*'And he's quite young, is he?'* said Lord Henry, as 
if that were the point that chiefly struck him. 

*'Tes, and not bad-looking, of his type. I can't say 
that it's a type I absolutely adore." 

He laughed again. 

**What is a type you absolutely adore. Miss Grey! *' 

*'I don't think I've met it yet." 

**Do you see much of him, this guardian of yours?" 

**Why, I hardly ever see him. I think he's so terrified 
of me. Well, wouldn't any man be terrified of a sacred 
trust and a solemn responsibility!" 

*'Then I'm afraid he doesn't take the responsibility 
very seriously." 

*'0h, doesn't he, though! He keeps my accounts and 
pays me my income, and sends his two elderly cousins 
to stay with me, and when the burden of me gets really 
oppressive and he gets more terrified than usual he writes 
me the most beautiful letters, full to the edges with wis- 
dom and warnings and dull old admonitions." 

Lord Henry broke in teasingly : 

**Whew! Don't ever annihilate me with such scorn, 
please! I'd simply shrivel up! If you could only see 
your eyes snapping contempt ! 1 11 have to get Austen to 
write you in a scene, so that you can " 

**0h — ^well," I said, laughing, a bit ashamed of my- 
self, *'it is aggravating to be told you can't act 
when " 

'*You know you can, eh?" 

**That sounds sweU-headed. But what I was going 



28 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

to say was, when people who really do know are nice to 
you about if 

**It's a fine little part, and you're going to be a suc- 
cess in it,'* he said generously. 

*'I mean to, if only to prove my guardian wrong,'' I 
answered gaUy. 



CHAPTER m 

But that was in the very early days of rehearsals, when 
everything was going swimmingly, and everyone was so 
pleasant and sweet and pleased with themselves and po- 
lite to everyone else. 

Later on I got a taste of the advanced stages, when 
time was getting short and tempers shorter, and every- 
thing seemed to be in hopeless chaos, and nerves began 
to fray at the edges. At first it had been: 

**Mis8 Grey, move down a little further, will you?" 
or *'Give just a trifle, Miss Grey, will you? Thanks, so 
much!" Now it was, **Miss Grey, for the love of Heaven 
get down stage at that point!" and "Miss Grey, will you 
give a bit ? How many times am I to tell you? It's the 
simplest little thing! Just a step back! A baby could 

do it, and yet you Ton my soul, I don't know why 

half of you go on the stage!" And so on and so on, and 
then: 

*'You're hiding Miss Carstairs!" and "It's Miss Car- 
stairs the people want to see, not you!" 

This was the producer, Bennington-Stewart, a terrifi- 
cally important person, with a habit of striding distract- 
edly about the stage, rumpling up his hair and using the 
most impolite language. His aim in life seemed to be to 
paralyse everyone with his biting sarcasms and criticisms, 
everyone, that is, with the exception of Barclay and Miss 
Carstairs, the leading lady and a big "star" with a huge 

29 



30 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

name. When he had roared instructions at one from the 
footlights or the stalls, nntil he'd simply made one nnmb 
with confusion, he'd come thundering on to the stage, 
grab me by the arms, pinning them to my sides, and pro- 
ceed to push me about the stage as if I were a refresh- 
ment wagon, then he'd tell me to make a gesture! I'd 
feebly wag one hand, the rest of my arm feeling cold and 
lifeless with the grip he had on it, and he'd release me, 
to ramp for a bit, shouting out: 

''This is a big stage! One of the biggest in London! 
And you flap your hands like a kitten drowning in a 
half -pint jug!" 

Goodness ! How wretched I was ! I began to feel that 
I couldn't do a thing; that I was ntterly incapable; that 
with an enormous chance like this simply flung at me, I 
was failing through sheer idiocy! I never knew how 
awkward one could be, and once Bennington-Stewart 
picked on you, he never let up. It was one continual 
nag. I simply couldn't help blundering, and as for ges- 
tures, I just felt all hands and feet and elbows. 

All my confidence was evaporating. The Longman 
girls told me cheerfully that that was quite all right, re- 
hearsals always went that way, and I wasn't to take any 
notice of anyone, but just go right ahead and "express 
my art as my soul dictated." A good phrase, but the 
worst of it was that my soul didn't dictate. 

I felt as if I hadn't got a soul. And if it hadn't been 
for Lord Henry my stage career would have wilted away 
before jny first public appearance from sheer bewilder- 
ment and nervousness and depression. 

But he kept my spirits going by being most sweet and 
encouraging. 

''You're going along fine," he said. "And — a hint 
in your ear — ^Barclay thinks so, too." 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 31 

''Does hef I asked incredulously. '*Well, he doesn't 
show it!" I added, grumbling. But Lord Henry only 
laughed and told me to carry on. 

Then eame the first night ! Oh, that first night ! Shall 
I ever, ever, ever forget the agony I went through! 

We'd had a perfectly appalling dress rehearsal. Every- 
thing had gone wrong, but everyone said that was a good 
omen, but it wasn't a good omen for me. I felt if only I 
could have had a real show beforehand I wouldn't feel 
so appalling now. As it was, I was miserable with nerves ; 
cold and dizzy and — oh, just awful. 

Norah was away at her case by now, but the twins in- 
sisted upon buying two stalls, and sitting in them, too, 
dressed up to the nines in weird striped silks and amber 
beads and things. I knew I'd have hysterics if I saw 
them from the stage. 

The company were all very tense and ready to snap 
anybody's head off on the slightest provocation. They 
wished each other luck in a mournful sort of way — all 
except Miss Carstairs. She was radiant, seeing friends 
and talking and laughing and getting telegrams and 
bouquets every other minute. 

Then the cry of the call-boy rang down the corridor: 
"Half -hour! Half-hour!" and I began to tremble. 
When he called the * 'Quarter!" I was shaking from head 
to foot. His yell of *' Overture!" made me jab a large 
chunk of eye-black right in my eye, and it wept and 
washed the black in a streak down my face. Then, like 
a relentless Fate, came his high-voiced, "First act, be- 
ginners!" 

That applied to all those who were on at the open- 
ing of the play. I was one of them. 

How I got into the rest of my clothes and make-up I 
can't tell you, any more than I can tell you how I per- 



32 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

suaded my shaking knees to carry me down four flights 
of stairs from my dressing-room to the stage. 

Somehow they did it; somehow I was on the stage 
waiting for the curtain to go up. 

Lord Henry came up to me, squeezed my cold hand 
in both his, and said, close to my ear : 

*'Good luck, little lady!*' and went off again. 

Then up went the curtain, and the glare of the foot- 
lights struck me full in the eyes, and beyond them a vast 
blackness, dotted with white faces. 



I hadn't much to do or say, but the few lines I had 
to speak came from me in a flat, uninteresting way that 
seemed to let the whole scene down with a thump. 

I was rotten, absolutely rotten ! 

The scene was sort of going by me, and I seemed to be 
chasing after it, but never, never catching up and get- 
ting a grip on it. I came off limp as a rag, and dragged 
myself up to my room, knowing that I'd failed. 

Everyone I met was awfully kind, but in a horrible 
consoling sort of way. A **poor-little-girl-I-know-what- 
it-is" sort of way that just shrivelled me. 

The second act was worse still. There wasn't a spark 
in me. I felt as if I were tagging after the rest, a regu- 
lar *'also ran," and I noticed — oh, horrors! — that when- 
ever I had to speak the audience thought it a splendid 
opportunity for getting a lot of coughing and fidgeting 
done. 

This time, when I went off, there was a distinctly ''I- 
thought-you-were-going-to-be-so-good" air about everyone 

I met. 

The third act was my big scene — ^the crying, pleading 
scene which was my one really important bit; in fact, 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 33 

it was the big thing of the third act. Moreover, it was 
all with Barclay Mmself . And I was bound to fail ! 
Bound to! I felt that "failure'* was stamped on every 
bone in me. 

I hadn't seen Lord Henry since he shook hands with 
me at the beginning. He'd been in front, I suppose, wit- 
nessing my awful performance. I changed for my big 
scene. My heart like lead, hands and feet like ice, head 
like fire, and beginning to feel a maudlin, mushy self- 
pity. After all, it was my first part. I was so young 
and inexperienced, and all that sort of utter bilge. 

Like a lamb led to the slaughter, or a martjrr to the 
stake, I went and stood in the ''wings," waiting to go on 
for my great scene. And as I stood there Lord Henry 
came towards me. He will be kind! He will under- 
stand ! He will give me sympathy ! I told myself mush- 
ily and turned to him quite confidently to get it alL 

And did If Inn) not! 

''What's the meaning of this!" he demanded, in a 
tense whisper. "Do you realize that you're rotten to- 
night ? That everyone is disgusted, that Barclay is f uri- 

* 

ous, and Austen nearly off his head, and the audience 
wondering who on earth the dud ist" 

I stopped before him aghast. Here was pretty sym- 
pathy indeed! 

' ' I — I can 't help it I " I said, beginning to snivel. " I 'm 
so young and inexperienced and — oh, it's cruel of you 
to talk like that!" 

"Cruel be hanged! Have I got to stand by and see a 
good sound venture wrecked by a little fool who never 
ought to have gone near any stage in this world!" 

Something that was not self-pity began to rise in me. 

"Lord Henry " I began gaspingly. 

"Don't talk to me!" he went on furiously. "You 



a- 
it 



34 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

came here putting on airs, patting yourself on the back 
as Barclay's great new find. By the living Moses, hell 
wish he'd left you back there where you came from!" 
'Lord Henry!" I gasped again. 
Oh, keep quiet! Here's your cue coming! Go on! 
Go on and make a mess of it ! Your guardian was right. 
You can't act, and never will be able to!" 

At that something snapped. The ice went out of my 
hands and feet, the fire out of my head. I turned on 
him furiously: 

''Ican'tactI Can't I» Oh, 1 11 show you ! Ill just 
show you!" 

I heard my cue, and went on all wrought up to the 
sky, and I flung myself into that scene and fairly bathed 
in it. 

I forgot I'd failed. I forgot it was the great Barclay I 
was acting with. I just cried and prayed and beseeched, 
and I let my voice break, and the tears came squelching 
down, and I finished with my head down on my armSy 
sobbing and sobbing and sobbing 

I didn 't hear the curtain come down, I just lay there 
in the tensest silence I've ever known. Then a sort of a 
roar broke out, a rattling of thunder, and someone pulled 
me up and took my hand. And I saw it was Barclay. 

** They 're calling! Don't you hear? They're calling 
for us!" 

For us ! For the great Barclay and me ! 

When he said that ^^us" it was as if he'd pinned a 
medal on me. 

I saw that the curtain was up and the applause was 
thundering round the theatre, and Barclay and I stood 
in the centre of the stage hand-in-hand. And the cur- 
tain went up and down six times, and still the people 
called. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 35 

And at last we went oiSP, and in the wings, right in front 
of everyone, Barclay, all worked up, caught me and 
kissed me on both cheeks, and I was laughing and crying 
and behaving like an idiot, and, turning, I saw Lord 
Henry. 

He had the colossal cheek to hold out his hand to me. 
After all he'd said! But I wasn't having any. I steadied 
myself down and mustered up a look of killing 
scorn, 

^'You said I couldn't act," I said slowly. "You said 
my guardian was right " 

To my intense surprise and indignation he laughed 
softly. 

"Ah," he said, highly satisfied, "I thought that would 
do it, and it did." 

I stared up at him, unable quite to take it in. 

"W-what?" I stammered. 

He laughed again, extremely pleased with himself evi- 
dently. 

"I somehow thought that would do it. . . ." 

"You did all that on purpose?" I cried indignantly. 

"Well, little lady, something had to be done, hadn't 
it?" 

"You mean to say that you went for me like that, 
ticked me off in that appalling way just to rouse me into 
going on and being good in that third act bit?" 

"I was absolutely at my wit's end. You were failing, 
do you realize that? And I knew you only needed sting- 
ing into it. I knew it was there, if we could only strike 
the spark." 

"Well, you did that all right," I admitted, half- laugh- 
ing. "I never was so utterly furious in my life!" 

Lord Henry laughed, too. 
You were, weren 't you ? I never saw the sparks fly 



n 



36 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

so! Regular rockets and catherine-wheels of 'em. But, 
you know, it wasn't really I that did it/' 

The coolness of him! 

*'Now," I said severely, **how can you stand there and 
tell such — such whoppers?" 

"Wasn't it my saying that you couldn't act now, and 
never would be able to, that really did the trick?* 

''Yes, but '' 

**And wasn't that a quotation from that youthful 
guardian of yours, who is quite good-looking in his way- 
even if it is a way you don't adore?" 

•*Tes," I said again; "but " 

"Well, then, obviously it was ]fce who did it, not I. 
That's logic, isn't it?" 

"What a wickedly tricky argument!" I cried. "But 
it's no earthly good talking logic to me to-night. I'm 
not feeling the least bit logical. I'm feeling — oh, I 
don't just know how I'm feeling!" 

And I drew a deep breath and did a sort of a duet be- 
tween a sigh and a laugh. 

"Then shake hands and forgive me, and allow me to 
congratulate you," he said, holding out his hand. 

I put mine into it, suddenly feeling aU shaky and in- 
dined to cry. 

"Forgive you?" I said shyly. "I think 'bless you' 
is more what I'd like to say to you!" 

He looked down at me, his nice face sobered to a very 
sweet kindness, and said quietly: 

"Thank you, little lady. I shall remember that." 

I know I'd have disgraced myself by howling if I 
hadn't escaped and gone to my dressing-room, because I 
felt all sort of frothy and worked up. You can imagine 
it, can't you, after all that had happened? 

I'd only a wee little bit in the last act. I had to burst 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 37 

on to the stage and disturb a love scene between Barclay 
and Miss Carstairs, and then say a few lines about being 
sorry, and so on. Well, when I went on, to my utter 
amazement, I got a ** round" of applause, which hung up 
the scene for quite a second or two. I was so utterly 
taken aback that I ''dried up,'* and simply stood, stutter- 
ing in absolute confusion. And that got a laugh, a good 
hearty, approving laugh, too, as if it were an intentional 
touch of comedy, and that laugh brought me to my senses, 
and I went on as if there 'd been no sort of hitch. And 
there hadn't, really, because, although it seemed eter- 
nities to me, it was aU over in a few seconds really. 

When the curtain came down for the last time, there 
was thunderous applause, and goodness knows how many 
curtain ''calls." Barclay and Miss Carstairs bowed and 
bowed again, then the other chief members of the com- 
pany went on and bowed too ; and then I heard her say, 
in her fascinating, caressing sort of way: 

"Where's the little haymaker! We mustn't leave her 
out." And seeing me, she came and linked her arm in 
mine, and said, "Come along, little harvester — ^the house 
clamors for you ! ' ' 

And when the curtain went up again for the umpteenth 
time, there was I, arm-linked with the leading lady, and 
as the applause swelled up she even pushed me forward 
towards the footlights and pointed me out, and made a 
regular "feature" of me, laughing all the time. 

I felt like nothing on earth, and only prayed for the 
stage to open and let me disappear like the demon in a 
pantomime ; but I thought it awfully, awfully nice of her. 
I'd never have thought she could have been so unbend- 
ing and human and jolly. She was such a very great 
actress. 

But I coudn't help wondering what she meant by call- 



38 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

ing me "the little haymaker *' and ** little harvester." 
Some stage slang, I suppose, that I didn't know yet. 

All this went through my head as we stood together 
on the stage, she bowing and smiling, and laughing and 
gesticulating; I as if I were made of solid wood. I was 
jolly glad when it waa over and I was once more on my 
way to my room. 

It really was a sort of triumphal procession, if one can 
be a procession all on one's own, for everyone was too 
kind for any words. 

And I thought gratefully that, although I'd heard a 
whole heap about the jealousy of stage folk, there didn't 
seem any sign of it here. I had made a hit, and no one 
grudged it to me. 

Only one girl said, "Of course, it's a glorious little 
part," but she was instantly hooted down by about a 
dozen others, and there were cries of "Cat!" "Miaow!" 
and so on. 

These were the very small parts and "walk on" people, 
but the important ones were just as nice in a less bois- 
terous way, and I was on the point of melting away with 
gratitude and depth of feeling, when, back in my dress- 
ing-room, I happened to ask the girl who shared my room 
just what "haymaking" and "harvesting" signified. 

"Making hay while the limelight shines," she replied. 
"In olher words, writing up your part, grabbing ap- 
plause, swelling a small part up to look like a big one, 
making more than the legitimate most of your part, and 
so on. Why?" 

But I was suddenly too hot and furious to tell her. 

So that was what Miss Carstairs had meant! 

That was what she accused me of doing! 

So that when she had apparently been so nice to me 
she was all the time making game of me. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 39 

Tears of chagrin smarted in my eyes. It was too bad, 
too cruel, because I hadn't deliberatdy been ** haymak- 
ing/' I hadn't! 

But just then a message came to the door from the 
twins, asking if they could come round to see me. Of 
course, I had to send my dresser to get permission ; got 
it, and round came the twins, visions in sage green and 
amber beads and rainbow-striped scarfs. 

**Judyf'' they cried out in unison, and then fell on 
my neck, one on each side, and poured incoherent en- 
thusiasm into each ear. 

"Darling, how glorious you werel'' 

''You're famous! D'you realize it!" 

''Perched up on the absolute tip-top of the tree!" 

"And oh, darling, how romantically grease-painty you 
smeU!" 

This, and a lot more, beside, they got off their chests 
before I shook them off, introduced them to my room- 
mate, and told them to let me get dressed. 

"Oh, do let us help I Can't I take off your shoes, or 
something ' ' 

"Can't we do the handmaidens attending genius stunt? 
Well simply go pop if we aren't allowed to bathe in the 
reflected glory." 

And they were off again. "Of course," said Bun at 
last, fetching up breathlessly, "we must take this darling 
of the gods to supper, eh. Buttercup?" 

"Naturally, Honeybun, and toast her in brimming 
bumpers. ' ' 

"And charge it up to dad." 

"What a blessing his name is good in every restaurant 
in town!" 

"Will you come, Judy?" 

"Rather!" I was beginning, when a knock sounded 



40 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

at the door and the dresser went and fetched a note that 
had been handed in by the call-boy. 

It was from Lord Henry, asking me to join his supper 
party. He'd got everyone coming — ^Barclay, Miss Car- 
stairs, the author, and now he wanted me. 

Oh dear I And I'd just said I'd go with the twins. 
I loved them dearly, but it would have been more thrill- 
ing to gd with Lord Henry's party. But I wouldn't 
have hurt their precious feelings for the world, so I sent 
a little scribble explaining. 

The answer to that was another knock at the door. 
** Letters, telegrams, diamonds, bouquets and proposals 

of marriage " Bun was beginning ecstastically to 

murmur, when the dresser opened the door and Lord 
Henry's own voice said: 

''Can I see Miss Grey a moment?'* 

"Why, Buttercup!" cried Bun. "It's Harry Beau- 
fort!" 

And the twins made a dive for Lord Henry, each 
grasped a hand, and said : 

"Harry, you dear old darling! How are you? What 
ages and ages since we shook your cheerful old paw!" 

Harry Beaufort? What on earth were they talking 
about? I thought, mystified. 

"Good heavens!" said Lord Henry. "It's the Long- 
man twins! But you — ^you were kids when war broke 
out. Is it you Miss Grey is going to supper with?" 

"Yes." 

' * But I want her in my party. ' ' 

"That's all right, old pin," said one of them easily. 
"We'll all come." 

"Just what I was going to suggest," he said, laughing, 
and he called out to me : 

"That suit you. Miss Grey?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 41 

*'0h, lovely!'' I cried out. 

"Right, then; twenty minutes from now. Au 'voir! 
Au 'voir, you crazy kids!*' and he went away. 

** Crazy kids, indeed!'' they said indignantly, coming 
back. ''But, Judy, you never told us you knew Harry 
Beaufort." 

''1 didn't know I did,^^ I replied. "That's Lord 
Henry Penryth." 

"Oh, of course, I remember. He was a lord, wasn't 
he, Bunny? But he always called himself 'Harry Beau- 
fort' at the dramatic society we all belonged to before 
the war. We've known him for ages and ages, but we 
haven't seen him since war was declared. But Judy, 
he's a pal worth having, the best and whitest — ^isn't he, 
Buttercup?" 

"You can bet your sweet life on that. Honey-bun!*' 
was the emphatic reply. 

And, somehow, it pleased me enormously to hear Lord 
Henry spoken of like this. 



The supper party was a big success; very "exclusive," 
of course — ^by which I mean that only the important 
members of the company were present. That sounds like 
one for myself, doesn 't it ? So perhaps I 'd better say that 
everyone else was important. Pelman Barclay — and, of 
course, Denville — Cynthia Carstairs, Murray Austen, the 
author, and a few friends that I never really succeeded 
in sorting out. 

Everyone was in high spirits, and as jolly as could be 
over the success of the play, and we had no end of a time 
of it. The only cloud in the proceedings, so far as I was 
concerned, was that Miss Carstairs was so super-amiable 
to me. 



42 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

After the incident about haymaking I began to look 
with a wary eye on her pleasantness. 

But she gave me nothing to really get hold of; she 
joined in the congratulations, and when Barclay very 
sweetly raised his glass to me and said a kind little word 
or so, she swelled the incident into a general toast of what 
she was pleased to call *'the success of the evening," and 
then called for a speech from me; and I couldn't for the 
life of me tell whether she was doing it just to embarrass 
me and make me make a fool of myself or not. 

But, after all, what reason had she to resent me, or to 
grudge me my one little bit of glory? She was such a 
great and wonderful actress, and had such an absolutely 
unassailable position, and — ^why, I was less than nothing 
compared ! 

I couldn't make it out at all, but I might have spared 
myself all my puzzling and questioning for I was all too 
soon to find out the real significance of her charming 
manner towards me. 

It was late when we got back ; later still when I man- 
aged to persuade the twins, now wrapped in wondrous 
kimono wraps, that they could not take up their abode 
permanently perched upon my bed, and close on dawn 
when my over-excited brain decided to shut up and let 
me sleep. 



CHAPTER W 

I AWOKE to the sound of a loud knocking on the front 
door and sprang up, flinging a wrap around me. But 
the twins were before me, and came in together, bringing 
a telegram. 

"Here's an offer of a leading part from some rival 
management!'* they cried excitedly. '*And here are all 
th^ papers. Such topping notices!" 

But I was reading the telegram. Gracious ! a rehearsal 
call for noon, and here it was past eleven already! 

**No answer!" I said, beginning to hustle up. What 
on earth could they want to rehearse any more for! I 
wondered. I dressed quickly, and while I hastily drank 
a cup of tea, the twins read me the notices. They'd been 
out and got a copy of every paper ever published I should 
imagine from the heaps they were surrounded by. 

''Topping notices, aren't they?" they asked beamingly. 
And they were, too. Of course Barclay and Cynthia 
Carstairs got most of the nice things, but practically all 
the critics had managed to find that they had a few 
glowing adjectives left over to bestow upon me. And it 
was a jolly feeling. The Little Uppington Eagle seemed 
a very unfledged sort of a bird, now. 

My spirits rose so that they broke all previous alti- 
tude records as I wended my way blithely to the theatre. 

43 



44 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Barclay, Miss Carstairs, Lord Henry, the author, and 
one or two others were on the stage. 

"All here?" rapped out Barclay. ''Then let's begin. 
First act, please!" 

Well, I 'd had little enough to do in the first act, but I 
had considerably less at the end of that rehearsal. 

Quite half my lines were cut clean out, others short- 
ened, altered, modified, the humor wiped out of them. 

Second act the same. Because I was so bad in these 
two acts, I thought to myTself . WeU, I deserved it. 

But when it came to the third act, it was just the same. 
More so, if anything. Aiid I hadn't been bad in that 
act. Utterly bewildered, I read through the new version, 
a skeleton thing, which seemed to be nothing but gaps. 
I tried it this way and that way, and it seemed to fall as 
flat as a pancake. 

**Much better— much, much better!'' called out Miss 
Carstairs from where she was sitting near the footlights. 
**Now it takes its proper place in the play. And, Miss 
Grey, if, when you begin to realize that Mr. Barclay is not 
going to allow you to see your lover again, you could 
turn your back to the audience, it would be so much more 
effective; less stagey, more actual!" she said sweetly — 
oh, so sweetly! 

"And, Pelman, don't you think those lines, *Tou don't 
mean it — ^you canH mean it!' are unnecessary?" 

Oh, she was simply carving up my part into little 
snips ! There was absolutely nothing left of it. I knew 
that my expression of horror was one of the most effective 
things in it. And she ordained that I was to turn my 
back! 

I knew that those lines were some of my very, very 
best, and she just sat there and cut them out! The 
cruelty of it! The utter, cold-blooded cruelty of it! 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 45 

But suddenly Murray Austen got up, running his fin- 
gers distractedly through his hair. 

''Hang it all, I wrote those lines because they fit the 
part, and I want the part to speak them. With all due 
reverence for your art, Miss Carstairs, I do want the 
part to speak them!'* he repeated doggedly. 

''Yes, really, Cynthia,'* put in Barclay, "you are leav- 
ing the child nothing to handle.'* 

"Oh, well," said Miss Carstairs calmly, "if she can't 
handle the part, I've no doubt there are others who can. 
Miss Glidden, for example, seems a clever, intelligent 
girl!" 

My heart stood still while this great actress so spite- 
fully tried to wreck my first and only chance. The Miss 
Glidden she mentioned was a nondescript sort of girl 
who'd be what's called "safe" in almost any part, but 
good in none. 

"I, for one, shall be extremely sorry if Miss Grey 
doesn't play the part," said Murray Austen instantly. 
' ' Bless his heart ! " I thought gratefully, for mine, by this 
time, seemed just broken in two. 

After all my success, all the jolly-niceness of every- 
one, to find myself up against this ! 

"Oh, I've no sort of objection to Miss Grey in the part, 
so long as she maintains a sense of proportion. But you 
must admit that her show last night was distinctly lack- 
ing in this quality," said Miss Carstairs. Then to me, in 
that slow, caressing way, smiling sweetly: "I'm quite 
sure that Miss Grey realizes that I am speaking only for 
the good of the play as a whole." 

And everyone murmured politely: 

"Oh, quite!" "Of course!" "Naturally!" and I 
thought, oh, if only I dared to say right out just what I 
thought ! 



46 JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 

Well, the end of it was that my poor little part was cut, 
altered, modified, reduced to utter insignificance, all to 
fit a jealous whim of this great actress. 

While I stood, dumb and hot with fury and nearly 
choking with unshed tears, and tried to be thankful that 
I was allowed to play what remained of the part at all. 

And everyone just calmly submitted to it. Just sat 
down and let her ride rough-shod over them! Even 
Barclay himself. I found out the reason later, but at that 
moment I ragingly wondered how they could all be such 
cowards. The rehearsal over, they drifted away. Lord 
Henry had scarcely spoken to me, and now just nodded 
casually to me as he went out with Cynthia Carstairs. 

^'Why couldn't he have stood by me?" I thought an- 
grily. 

Only the author came up and sympathized, and he was 
moved mostly by the fact that it was his play that had 
been so ruthlessly mangled. 

*' She's jealous — ^jealous of you, Miss Grey. You com- 
mitted the unpardonable offence — ^you made a striking 
success — and my poor play has to suffer in consequence ! ' * 

*'And my poor part,'* I said, my lips trembling. 

**Ah, welll Ah, well!'* he said angrily, and took him- 
self off. 

I went back to the flat, broke the news to the twins, 
and then shut myself in my room and cried and cried 
and cried! 

And no stage effects about it this time, you'd better 
believe. My spirits may have broken altitude records an 
hour or two ago, but they'd crashed badly since and were 
chanting **in memoriams*' now. 



I €U:dn't see, I just absolutely did not see, how I was 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 47 

going to go on the stage and play that awful travesty of 
my darling little part. I went down to the theatre feel- 
ing utterly wretched, and tried to console myself with 
moral reflections, such as '* pride goeth before a fall," 
and so on, but they didn't bring any consolation because, 
as I told myself fiercely, it hadn't been pride — gladness, 
gratitude and a jolly, heady feeling of having got 
through, won, made good, but not pride. 

My head had been among the stars perhaps in the first 
giddy moments of success, but it hadn't been turned. 

Oh, it was bitterly, bitterly unfair ! And to think that 
Lord Henry, who'd been so friendly, should have calmly 
stood and let it happen ! 



Everyone was pretty flat that night. They mostly are 
on the second night — ^reaction from the excitement of the 
first, I suppose. 

Barclay ''dried up ;" Miss Carstairs was '* fluffy," and 
there's nothing so infectious — ^it ran like 'flu through the 
whole company. My big scene went for absolutely no- 
thing. The curtain went down on wretched, aimless, 
half-hearted applause. BarcUy fumed away to his room,^ 
and the slamming of his dressing-room door echoed all 
through the theatre. 

A few minutes later he sent for me. 

He had nearly twenty minutes' rest at this point, and 
when I was shown into his dressing-room he was before 
the mirror, touching up his make-up. 

' ' Sit down. Miss Grey, ' ' he said, and I sat on the edge 
of a couch. His dressing-room was beautifully appointed. 

Denville and the dresser, Barclay's own personal man, 
withdrew to an ante-room. 

"Miss Grey, you realize, of course, that you have made 



48 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

a very favorable impression with your playing of this 
part. Well, as a little token of my appreciation, I want 
to make your salary twelve instead of eight pounds. It 
gives me great pleasure to tell you of this personally,'* 
he added, but he didn't look as if it gave him great 
pleasure. He looked downright discomfited, and kept his 
eyes on his own reflection in the mirror. 

I was wretched and hurt and angry, and this was the 
last straw. My voice shook, as I said: 

** Thank you, Mr. Barclay, but I'd very much rather 
not take it.'' 

*'Come, don't be proud — ^that's foolish," he said, with 
an attempt at raillery. 

*'0h, it isn't pride," I replied; "but I am perfectly 
satsified with my present salary, thank you, very much." 

And I rose to go, but he said impatiently: 

* ' Sit down ! Sit down ! " So I sat down. 

*'Now," he said, *'tell me why you won't accept this 
offer?" 

And then out it all came, all, every bit, in a single 
sentence. 

' ' Do you think that four pounds a week extra is any 
— any — ^any compensation?" I cried out hotly. 

He was silent, and I half expected him to be angry, but 
he wasn't. When he spoke again, it was very gently. 

"No, child, I know it's not," he said, as simply as if we 
weire fellow-workers on a level with each other. - 

And as I looked at him I knew perfectly well who'd 
thought of giving me this rise in salary— Miss Carstairs! 

And I tell you the thought burned hot and strong in 
me. Of course, one couldn^t say anything more direct, 
and, anyway, it wasn't necessary, for we both knew that 
we completely understood each other. 

This time, when I rose, he let me go, just saying: 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 49 

**It hurts, I know it hurts, but everything passes, and 
even the sting of this will in time." 

He had a fine, melancholy-toned voice, and it rang very 
truly kind as he spoke to me. I blessed him, too, for his 
'tact in not pressing the salary question. He realized 
that the offer was tantamount to an attempt at '* buying 
me off," and that such an offer seemed nothing more or 
less than an insult to me. So he just accepted my refusal 
without further comment and with perfect understand- 
ing. However others may have found Pelman Barclay — 
and there are always stories against great men — ^he was 
always the best ever to me. Somehow, my little inter- 
view with him cheered me up a good deal. I wasn't quite 
so devastatingly miserable after that, and when I left 
the theatre later on, I felt almost cheerful. 

I got round the corner to the nearest tube, and to my 
astonishment found it closed, and a placard, "No trains," 
hung on to the gate. ** What's it all about?" I thought 
to myself ; evidently not so very much to myself, though, 
for a woman standing by said excitedly, **It's the strike I 
They said they'd do it all of a sudden like this ! And now 
they've been and done it! There ain't no 'buses neither, 
and I 've got to get all the way to Hoxton ! Pad the hoof, 
I suppose," and she moved off. 

I supposed so, too, and, oh dear, Chelsea seemed the 
very dickens of a long way off ! Partly because I wasn't 
very familiar with the way, of course. Still, there was 
nothing for it, so off I set. And now it was just the time 
when people were leaving the theatres, and there was a 
regular stream of them beginning to pour along the 
streets, and such a lot of chattering and excitement, and 
laughing and joking, everyone taking it as a sort of a 
picnic. 

Motor cars went by absolutely crammed inside, and 



50 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

with all sorts and conditions of people clinging on out- 
side, apparently just '* sticking" like flies to a honey- 
pot. 

One gallant little two-seater was carrying nine people. 
How it did it goodness only knows. It all began to be 
so interesting and amusing that I was half-way down 
Piccadilly before I realized it Then suddenly I heard 
a voice call out : 

' * There 's that girl ! Bless us, what 's her name ! Hi I 
Stop! Jenkins! Go and ask her to come and have a 
lift. No, not that one — ^the one in the grey hat — ^the 
little one '^ 

And a moment later someone touched my elbow. I 
turned and found a chauffeur standing there. 

'*Her ladyship says can she give you a lift, missf he 
said. And looking round bewildered I saw a fine, big car 
draw up at the curb, and a mannish-looking, grey-haired 
woman, leaning out, saying: 

*'Come along! Here's a jolly business, isn't itf '^ 

I went towards her, still utterly bewildered, and she 
opened the door of the car and said: 

**Get in and let me take you home. Far to go?'* 

**Only Chelsea,'* I replied, thinking that this stranger 
had one of the nicest, **squarest," most confidence-inspir- 
ing faces I'd ever seen. 

''I saw you on the stage last night. Harry told me to 
watch out for Barclay's new find. I'm Harry's aunt — 
Cordelia Beaufort. Squash in ! " 

So I did, and squash was the right word, for the car 
was crammed. 

*'Such luck to meet you this way," she went on. 
"Find room ? That's right. I was going to write to you 
— ^Miss — ^what is your name ? There 's Harry been talMng 
of no one else for the past three weeks and I've such a 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 51 

rotten head for names. I can't '' she broke off, laugh- 
ing jokily. 

*'Grey,'' I said, through a mouthful of ermine from 
the collar of her evening wrap. 

**Well, Miss Grey, I was going to write you to call on 
me. Will you do it?'' 

I hardly knew what to say. Harry, of course, was 
Lord Henry, and this was his aunt, Cordelia Beaufort — 
Lady Cordelia Beaufort. IVe often seen her name in 
the paper ; she organized a huge canteen for overseas men 
in the early days of the war, among other things. But 
to be asked to call on her was rather overwhelming. Be- 
sides, I was angry with Lord Henry. 

''Oh, thank you — ^it's very kind of you," I stammered 
out. After all, I wasn't angry with Lord Henry's aunt 
— ^I shouldn't think anybody ever could be. 

''Well, when will you come?" 

"Whenever " I began. 

' ' Oh, have a mind of your own ! ' ' she laughed. ' ' What 
day do you like best? See, this is Thursday. Friday's 
unlucky, Saturday's matinee, Sunday I'm full-up, Mon- 
day I'm recovering from Sunday. Say Tuesday next, 
at four, shall we?" 

"I — ^I'd love it," I said, joining in her friendly 
laugh. 

"That's settled then. Now, is Jenkins going right? 
You give him wireless directions through the glass, while 
I see if I've a card in my bag." 

I directed the chauffeur to turn down a narrow little 
street off King's Road, Chelsea, and then turn again into 
the stiU narrower street in which was Norah's flat 

' * Quite close to me, ' ' said Lady Cordelia. ' ' See, here 's 
my card. Don't forget, will you? And send me your 
home address to put in my book, will you?" 



52 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

The car drew np, and I squashed my way out to the 
pavement. 

**Good night, and thank you so very much,*' I said. 

* * Good night ! So glad to have met you. Home, Jen- 
kins!" 

The car backed and ''chunked" and shunted and fin- 
ally turned and went humming off, and I went into the 
flat. 

By the light in the hall I looked down at the card in 
my hand. 

Lady Cordelia Beaufort, 
16 Cadogan Terrace, S. W. 

What a day of adventure! I breathed a deep sigh. 
Then the twins came out of their room, fell upon me, 
chattering nineteen to the dozen, and peaceful meditation 
was impossible. 

The twins, wrapped in gorgeous kimonos, welcomed 
me as if I were the long-lost heroine in the fifth act of a • 
melodrama. 

' * Darling ! We Ve been wondering where on earth you 
could be " 

**And what on earth could have happened!" they 
said, doing their celebrated duet act, one in each ear. 

*'And why the car?" 

"And whose?" 

I clapped my hands over my ears. 

"King off at the exchange, for mercy's sake!" I said, 
laughing. "The lines are crossed!" 

"Bunny, she mocks us! I suppose she's been having 
luxurious suppers with the sons of multi-profiteers, while 
we poor, ill-used lambs " 

"Have been taking the temperature of the humble hot- 
water dish every five minutes." 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 53 

** Cheers!'' I said. ** Because I haven't been having 
supper; I've been having adventures instead, and I'm 
starving." 

They hustled up at that, and in the nice, little sitting- 
room I started on my nice, little supper, telling them the 
story of my life between mouthfuls. 

There's one great thing about the twins — ^no one could 
truthfully call them lethargic ; they are always ready to 
go all up in the air at the first hint of anything out of 
the usual. And up they went at the first half-dozen 
words, their highly colored fancy caught instantly. 

**0h, Buttercup!" cried Bun. *'And to think we 
weren 't there to see it all ! I do think they might have 
arranged their old strike when we were miles from 

home " 

Shut up, Bun! Yes, Judy, and then?" 
Oh, then I was picked up and given a lift home by 
Lady Cordelia Beaufort," I said very casually. 

The twins stared. 

*' Cordelia Beaufort!" they cried. **Why, that's 
Harry's cousin, or grandmother, or — or something." 

''His aunt," I told them, as if I'd known Lady Cor- 
delia all my life. 

*'But what an extraordinary coincidence!" 

*'No coincidence at all. She'd seen me on the stage 
the first night, and recognized me, and sent her chauf- 
feur after me." 

**0h. Bun, why can't we make a sudden wild leap for 
fame, and be recognized by the peerage as we slink along 
Piccadilly?" 

They sighed deeply, and I proceeded to pile up the 
agony of the situation. 

"I'm going to have tea with her on Tuesday," I an- 






54 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

nounced. That did it ! They were fairly off their heads 
with excitement. 

''Why, Ju, you're made; you're simply made if she 
takes you up!" 

"She knows absolutely everybody who is anybody!'* 

*' Except us. You forget that, Bun." 

They broke off, laughing. 

''Of course, she'd heard of me from Lord Henry," I 
added. 

"Did she say so?' ' 

And, absolutely without thinking, I told them what 
Lady Cordelia had said about forgetting my name, in 
spite of Lord Henry having talked of "no one else for 
weeks." 

But the effect of this perfectly innocent remark upon 
the twins was most surprising. » 

"He's been talking of nobody but you for weeks?" 
asked Bun. 

I laughed. 

"Lady Cordelia said so," I replied. 

The twins looked at each other, hesitated, and finally 
said: 

"We feel like mothers towards Judy, don't we, Bun?" 

"Like — ^like grandmothers. Buttercup." 

"Shall we teU her, then?" 

"I think we ought." 

"She may be thinking — oh, all sorts of things!" 

She was right there! I was! I was thinking, in the 
forcible vernacular of the day, that they must suddenly 
have gone sheer up the pole! 

"You know, darling," began Madeline, in the tone of 
one saying, "Look at the pretty dentist! He wouldn't 
hurt you, would he?" "You know, darling, he doesn't 
mean anything!" 



il 



it 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 55 

"Doesn't mean anything! ''I replied. "What doesn't f 
Who doesn't!" 

Harry doesn't," she replied. 
You see," put in Clairette hastily, "it's your acting 
he's interested in, not you. I don't mean to be offensive, 
and of course he may like you a good deal ; we fed sure 
he does, don't we, Bun!" 

"Quite sure." 

"But we know Harry, and although he is, without 
doubt, one of the very, very best, we know that ..." 

"He's a confirmed bachelor." 

I stared at them, wondering what on earth they were 
driving at. 

A confirmed bachelor," I echoed. 
Most confirmed," said Madeline. 

"The confirmedest ever," added Clairette, with more 
and more emphasis. 

I just stared and stared and stared. Had they really 
gone crazy! 

"Half the girls in town have been trying to marry him 
for ages," went on one of them, really, I don't remem- 
ber which. 

"And heaps of times," went on the other, "the rumor's 
gone round that he really was beginning to like some par- 
ticular one better than another, but " 

"Nothing has ever come of it!" 

"Well — ^I'm — ^blowed!" I said, sort of "coming to" 
out of my utter amazement. Then I felt my face go hot, 
and, really, I was rather furious. 

"Do you imagine for one single second that I've been 
trying to marry him, or have ever dreamt of trying, or 
would ever want to try!" 

And I rose in my wrath and thumped the table in the 
very best Hyde Park orator style. 



56 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



It 



Whew!" said Bun. "We've been an' gone an' 
dropped a bomb in the ammunition dump this time, and 
no mistake!" 

She said it so comically that we were all obliged to 
laugh, and I sat down again, laughing limply. 

''Darling," they implored, ** don't be angry. Only 
we'd hate you to go and smash up your heart for a con- 
firmed bachelor, or anything of that sort." 

"We were impelled by the best intentions." 

" Blitherers ! " I said, laughing again. "Don't be so 
too utterly ridiculous again!" 

"Very well," they said meekly. '*We won't." 

And peace was declared. 

But, oh. Great Peter! Has he been thinking things 
of me? 

Has he been watching out for signs — danger-signals — 
that I am trying to marry him? 

And it only occurred to me then that, of course, he was 
a terrific match for almost any girl who wasn't actually 
a princess of the blood. And, of course, he's had a fear- 
ful lot of spoiling and attention, and there's been heaps 
of speculation about him, and dozens of girls, and girls' 
mothers, must have hoped and schemed and angled for 
him. How utterly horrid! Enough to make any man 
a confirmed bachelor. But bother the twins! I wish 
they hadn't told me! 

The next great thrill in my programme was going to 
have tea with Lady Cordelia Beaufort on Tuesday. Oh, 
no ; the very next really great thrill was getting my salary 
on Friday night. My first salary — and not a bad one, 
either. 

Then there were one or two minor ones. For instance, 
to my absolute surprise. Lady Cordelia sent a car to take 
me to the theatre and to fetch me back, as the strike 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 57 

seemed likely to continue. I wrote and thanked her of 
course, really rather overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness, 
while the twins ecstatically declared that I'd *' clicked — 
clicked good and proper with one of the most influential 
hostesses in London!" 

I hadn't seen Lord Henry at the theatre since my part 
was cut — at least, not to talk to ; just once or twice in the 
distance, but we merely nodded to each other^ and neither 
made any effort to speak. 

I don't know what his reason was, but to be quite truth- 
ful about mine, I must confess that I was the tiniest bit 
huffed with him. I did think he might have stuck up for 
me a little and not let Miss Carstairs take all the innerds 
out of my part. Surely he could have done something 
about it, made some sort of protest. 

Especially as he had always seemed anxious to help 
me and to give me every chance to shine my very 
brightest. 

I wondered whether I'd see him at Lady Cordelia *s on 
Tuesday. 

The twins said I was sure to, because Lady Cordelia 
absolutely idolized Harry, and he practically lived at her 
house. I half hoped I would see him there, and half 
hoped I wouldn't. I didn't like feeling huffed with him, 
because we'd been really good friends in a superficial 
sort of way, and it's horrid when things get upset like 
that. 

Especially at a theatre. It makes such a difference to 
you if you can count on a smile from everyone ; and I 
could, so far — even Hiss Carstairs showed her teeth when 
we met. 

Behold me, then, setting forth, on that famous Tues- 
day, in my best bib and tucker, for my first adventure 
into Society with the big S. 



58 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Behold me approaching Lady Cordelia's rather im- 
posing door, being admitted by a regular old pomposo of 
a footman, and being solemnly announced by him from 
the drawing-room door in a non-committal tone that 
clearly said that he took no sort of responsibility for me. 
To my horror, and more than horror, the room was full 
of people! 

I'd expected a quiet, informal little tea with Lady 
Cordelia alone, but here was a veritable sea of faces, 
worse, far worse than those faces one saw each night from 
the stage. At least, there one had a row of friendly 
footlights between oneself and them; here there was a 
long stretch of highly-polished floor, islanded with small 
rugs, and I had visions of stepping on one of them and 
sliding for miles. 

From a remote distance Lady Cordelia's jolly voice 
came to me. 

*'Nice one! I'm so glad you've come. Don't be 
afraid of the floor. Most people make a comedy entrance 
into my drawing-room the first time!" 

She came toward me, holding out her hand. The 
friendly clasp of her rather mannish hand made things 

steady round me. Even the shining floor seemed less 
formidable, and the number of faces distinctly shrank to 
half. 

''Here she is!" she went on, introducing me in a gen- 
eral sort of way to the company. ''Everyone's dying 
to meet Pelman Barclay's great new find." 

I sat down in a daze, conscious of friendly smiles and 
interest on all the faces round me. 

I was given tea and things. I haven't a notion what 
they were. I only knew that I ate them and made an 
unholy lot of crumbs, and Lady Cordelia had me to sit 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 59 

beside her on the couch. I couldn't think of a thing to 
say, and was very hot and miserable. 

It hadn't occurred to me that everyone was watching 
me with real interest, and that, although I was so utterly 
floored with shyness, in their eyes I was a person who'd 
really done something, and in whom shyness or any other 
characteristic was all sort of part of the fun, as it were. 

It made me realize what a quite considerable success I 
had made on that first night of the play. I, in the in- 
most me of me, didn't feel the slightest bit different I 
was still the unsophisticated little Jane from Little Up- 
pington. But here — and as I drank my tea and spread 
those awful crumbs, the thought came to me in a flash — - 
here I was simply a new actress, backed by the weight of 
Barclay's name, hailed by the critics as having *' brilliant 
powers," the cause of the most sensational applause of 
the evening. And most of the people here had been in 
front on the flrst night. 

And the thought gave me courage. I felt my face cool 
down, and raised my eyes to look around me. 

At that the ice broke, and for the next hour I went 
through a solid course of real petting. It was an extraor- 
dinary sensation, I can tell you. 

I got asked so many questions about my work, and 
what I felt and how I liked it, and what Barclay was like 
to play with, and whether I was happy, and what I in- 
tended to do next, and so on and so on, that I felt there 
would soon be a shortage of answers. 

A little group of people got me sort of cornered, and 
ringed around me till I began to wonder whether I ought 
to wear a ruff round my neck and hop on my hind legs 
and answer to the name of Toby, and die for the King 
and balance a lump of sugar on my nose. Honestly, they 
all looked at me as if they expected me to do tricks. 



60 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'My dear," whispered Lady Cordelia, in a quiet mo- 
ment, ''everyone's crazy about you. So let them buzz, 
and when they are gone well have a nice, quiet little 
chat to ourselves." 

The guests did begin to thin out after a bit; most of 
them gave me their cards and begged me to come and 
see them. I got shoals of invitations and heard scraps 
of their comments to our hostess as they made their 
adieux. 

*'My dear 'Delia! Too scrumptiously artless for 
words!" 

''Perfectly 'lightful to meet a success who is unaffect- 
edly shy!" 

' * Charming, Cordelia — ^utterly charming ! ' ' 

My head began to buzz, but I kept it straight and level, 
in spite of a feeling that it was all rather ripping to be 
made such a fuss of. 

Presently Lady Cordelia called me to her and said : 

*'Geraldine Maidstone has just come, and she's fright- 
fully excited to meet you." 

"Oh, I thought to myself, "this means more parlor 
tricks!" And, really, I felt the tiniest bit tired of the 
idea. I'd gone through an afternoon of it, and it had 
been a new, heady sort of sensation; but, honestly, I 
felt I'd had enough for one day. I didn't mean to be 
ungrateful, or to pretend that I hadn't liked it, and, yes, 
been flattered by it; but — oh, well, I'd better get it over, 
I suppose. And that was the frame of mind I was in as 
I confronted Miss Geraldine Maidstone, and Lady Cor- 
delia introduced us to each other. 



CHAPTER V 

Geraldine Maidstone was quite a young girl, a few 
years, I guessed, older than myself; tall, frank-eyed, 
good-looking in a boyish sort of way, and awfully well- 
tailored. 

She held out a direct, well-formed hand, smiled and 
said in a breezy sort of way : 

"IVe only just come. IVe simply been aching to 
meet you." And she made room for me beside her on 
the sort of window-seat she was sitting on. 

We sat side by side, half -turned towards each other. 

"You gave a ripping show the other evening, if you 
will let me say so." 

"Thank you," I said. 

"Ripping — simply great I I don't howl easily, but you 
made me howl all right." 

I laughed. 
Did you howl yourself?" she went on. 
Oh!" I groaned inwardly. "It is going to be just 
the same old ' Toby ' business. ' ' 

"Well, yes," I said aloud. "It makes you, you know." 

But Miss Maidstone was regarding me with absent sort 
of eyes. 

"You know," she confessed suddenly, "why I'm so 
keen to know you is that you are Nicko Penticott's ward. 
Nicko is a great — er — pal of mine." 

"Oh!" I thought, my attention stiffening suddenly, 

61 






it 



62 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

"this is something new, after all!" And, perverse and 
small as it may seem, now that I found I wasn't to be the 
centre of attraction, I was just the smallest bit in the 
world peeved. 

How very strange!*^ I said aloud. 
Yes, isn 't it ? " she agreed. * ' He took me to see your 
show on the first night. Had the dickens of a job to get 
seats; but when Nicko is set on anything, he generally 
sticks at it till he gets it. Haven't you noticed that?'* 

''I — ^really, I don't know him well enough to say." 

* * But he 's your guardian, isn 't he ? " Her eyes looked 
a bit surprised. 

'* Yes; but he's never done much guarding,'* I replied, 
laughing. 

'*0h!" she said, and there was a tinge, I thought, of 
relief in the word as she said it. ' * Well, he was absolutely 
determined to take me to that show that night, and to 
get good seats, and he got them." 

It gave me such a funny feeling to hear my. guardian 
talked of in this way. My rather "stodgy" guardian, 
as I'd always called him in my inmost thoughts. 

Miss Maidstone didn't seem to think him stodgy. 

"Nicko," too! Fancy anyone in this world ever hav- 
ing such a frivolous pet name as "Nicko" for that sober, 
fully-alive-to-his-responsibility sort of man! Somehow, 
it had never occurred to me that he might be a perfectly 
human person, even though he was my guardian.w 

"How did he like the play?" I asked casually. It had 
been on my tongue's tip to say "me," but I changed it 
quickly to "the play." I wasn't going to display the 
slightest interest in his opinion. 

"He thought Barclay simply great, and Miss Carstairs, 
too ; and he liked the play, and said he thought the man 
who played the lawyer very good." 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 63 

* ' He 's a lawyer himself, so he ought to know, ' ' I said, 
laughing slightly. 

"And he liked the girl who played the maid, and 
thought the man who did the sort of second-most-impor- 
tant part most excellent; and, of course, no one could 
help adoring Miss Carstairs' snippety little dog.'* 

So, I thought, he'd criticized everyone in the cast but 
me, right down to Miss Carstairs' ** snippety" dog! 

He was no end of a critic, evidently. 

*'And it wasn't until the end of the third act — ^your 
big crying scene — ^that he turned to me and said, *That 
girl's my ward. ' And I was all up in the air and longing 
to meet you, because Nicko didn't seem able to teU me 
anything much about you, and, you see, it came as a bit 
of a jar, because, although I knew him so well, I'd no 
idea, up to that minute, that he'd got a ward.*' 

*'I guess, perhaps, he likes to forget it," I said gaily. 
She laughed. 

*' Nicko 's awfully clever, don't you think?" 

"I believe so. I've always heard that he's a wiz at his 
work." 

*'It's true, too. And he's such a delightful, amusing 
creature." 

*'Y-yes, I suppose so, when you get to know him," I 
said hastily. 

''It's too absurd to think of him being a guardian." 
Miss Maidstone looked at me critically. ''I simply can't 
get over it. He's so young and jolly, and — oh, all that 
sort of thing!" 

I gave her a quick look, and as she met my eye, to my 
astonishment, she flushed. 

Gk)odness, I thought, I've hit on a Romance — ^with a 
capital E ! This girl is in love with my guardian ! 



64 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

The sheer idea of my guardian and Romance! It 
simply took my breath away. 

"He's extraordinarily handsome, too, isn't he?*' went 
on Geraldine. 

"Oh, very," I hastened to agree. "In his way," I 
added. "But, really, you know him much better than I 
do. I'm only his ward by special bequest, and, to tell 
the truth, I fancy he finds it an unholy nuisance, being 
guardian to anyone." 

"Yes," she said candidly, a touch of eagerness in the 
agreement. ' ' He certainly did seem to be the most casual 
kind of guardian. But it was so odd — ^really ridiculous 
of him not to tell me sooner about you. He sat and 
watched you act for two whole acts, as mum as an oyster 
on the subject, then all of a sudden burst out with the 
news, as if he'd just remembered it." 

"At the end of the third act, did you say?" 

"Yes." 

"Oh!" 

I didn't say any more, for that had given me an idea, 
and told me something I rather wanted to know. 

Now, I had heard nothing from him, hadn't known up 
to now that he'd ever been in front, and I did just the 
least bit in the world want to know whether he had 
changed his mind about my acting. Wouldn't you? 

After such a letter as he wrote to me? 

Well, this told me. Because, you see, up to my success 
in the third act, he hadn't even owned to knowing me at 
all. But after that he claimed me as his ward. So per- 
haps he thought that, after all 



n 



Miss Grey, do come and see me." 
Geraldine broke in on my thoughts. 
"Thanks, I'd love to!" I said, coming out of my 
abstraction. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 65 



t( 



IVe a flat in Knightsbridge, and I'm at home on 
Thnrsdays. Do come one Thursday, will you?*' 
I repeated that I'd be charmed. 
"Don't forget, now," she added. '' Thursday !'' 
"I'll remember," I said, and we exchanged cards. She 
rose, and once again repeated the invitation for one 

Thursday, and with a very decided accent on the day. 
I thought she seemed a trifle insistent upon the Thurs- 
day, and was a bit puzzled. 

"It's the only day that I'm really certain to be there,'* 
she added, as if she herself felt that her insistence needed 
a little explanation. And then it suddenly dawned on 
me. 

Of course, of course ! Thursday is her regulation At- 
home day, and it is the one day that Nickolas Penticott 
avoids. Most men avoid At-home days. 

She didn't want me to meet him, yet she wanted to 
know more of me. 

I nearly laughed aloud. 

If she only knew the utterly dull, uninteresting light 
that her fascinating "Nicko" appeared in to me! How 
utterly ludicrous ! Besides, he was evidently sufficiently 
attracted by her to satisfy her, you'd think. 

I mean, he'd fussed a good deal to get those good seats 
at the theatre for her, and I can well believe he had 
trouble to get them — ^had to wait until some were re- 
turned, or something, because Pelman Barclay's "first 
nights" are huge social events; and he was evidently on 
the best of terms with her, and certainly, if he were at- 
tracted by her, there could be no possible danger in me, 
because we were such utterly, utterly different types. 
Besides, it was all too absurd ! To me, he wasn't a person 
at all; he was just "my guardian," an abstract quantity 



66 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

who only materialized, as far as I was concerned, in tjie 
form of irritating letters of advice and admonition. 

When Geraldine Maidstone had gone, Lady Cordelia 
and I had the room to ourselves, and she was so nice to 
me. Her interest in me, I saw at once, was something 
more than mere curiosity in someone who'd made a 
"hit.'' After we'd been talking a moment, I said: 

**I really must thank you again for sending the car 
for me every night; it was most kind." 

"Oh, my dear, you force me to confess that it wasn't 
my idea at all; it was Harry's. So don't fit me up with 
a halo I don't deserve." 

"Oh," I said, suddenly stammering, "that w-was 
kind of him." 

And what made me stammer in such confusion was a 
memory of what those wretched twins had said about 
him being the confirmedest-ever bachelor! And just at 
that palpitating moment in he came, his very self. 

He saluted his aunt very affectionately, and then shook 
hands with me. I was still feeling a bit frigid with him, 
and conversation lagged. I rose to go, and Lady Cor- 
delia wanted me to have the car, but it was such a little 
way and I really preferred to walk. Then Lord Henry 
said he'd come along with me if he might, and I had to 
say he might, of \course, so along he came. 

We'd walked a short distance when he said: 

"Now, please, I want to hear everything." 

"Everything about what?" I asked. 

"Your part, and all that," he replied. 

"Oh, you saw what happened; you were there," I 
said, with a touch of resentment in my voice. 

"And I stood aside and let it happen, eh?" he put in 
quickly. * . 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 67 

I flushed and hesitated, then: 

*'Well, you did let it happen, didn't you?" 

*'Yes, I did. And, do you know, I'd let it happen 
again. I'd be obliged to, and I'll tell you just exactly 
why.'' 

We walked in silence for a moment; then he said: 

*'If I hadn't allowed it to happen, it would have meant 
that Cynthia Carstairs just walked straight out of the 
theatre and didn't come into it again. She's done it 
before, and I knew she'd do it again. And we can't 
afford to lose Miss Carstairs." 

"Why should she resent me so much?" I cried. "I'm 
nothing — nobody ! ' ' 

"But you are very definitely a potential somebody, 
and as such you are a menace to all established some- 
bodies." 

"But Mr. Barclay didn't mind my success. He was 
lovely to me about it." 

"Barclay is a very rare man; in the first place, he is 
a man, and in the second he is, perhaps, the supreme 
dramatic artist of his day. He is far, far greater than 
Miss Carstairs could ever be; great enough to be above 
jealousy. And, anyway, the success of an actress doesn't 
menace an actor in anything like the same degree that it 
menaces another actress. Now, there's no one just like the 
Carstairs, and she knows it, so she can do anything she 
likes." 

"WeU, it's cruel, unfair, and — and unworthy," I said 
hotly. 

"I know, I know ; but, unfortunately, it's so, and we've 
all got to lump it, and just at the moment you've got 
more to pliti^yil^^jjij^g^o oly e." He gave me a quick 
look. 

"BeliJv?fiftflfttW^5^^rtnow ^m^iBf?^^^ feet 



ABWt, UNOX AND 



r. V ■ 'V 



- V 

I 



68 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

ing," he said kindly; so kindly, that tears started sud- 
denly in my eyes. 

''You can't know!" I said fiercely. **No one could 
know. It just appears to other people as if I were mad 
at losing the praise and the applause, but it isn't that. 

It's something — something Oh, much more — ^much 

bigger — something right inside me that feels as if it must 
be allowed to express itself the right way. I have to 
deliberately be bad in my part! Tou can't possibly 
know!" 

He let me get it all off my chest without interruption ; 
then he said : 

"Well, perhaps I don't absolutely know, but anjrway, 
I'm sorry, so is Austen, and so is Barclay. But Cynthia 
Carstairs has a big box-office following ; also, she has big 
backing for this part. That's a little bit of secret history 
— that everyone knows, as a matter of fact I So, you see, 
we can't afford to offend her. Barclay has had a long 
run of wretched luck, and this has just got to turn the 
tide, or there won't be any tide left to turn. We've had 
a splendid reception and ought to go well, but without 
Carstairs we'd be nowhere. You see how it is, don't 
you?" 

**Yes," I said, in a low voice. *'I see how it is, but I 
can't help minding — minding. Oh, most awfully." 

" 'Course you can't ; but just stick it. Everyone recog- 
nizes that you're the real stuff, and you 11 have better 
luck next time. I knew this would happen — ^I know what 
Carstairs is. That was one reason why I was so anxious 
that you should make your success good and solid on the 
first night. I knew she'd never allow you a second!" 

''Isn't it horrid! Isn't it absolutely horrid!" I ex- 
claimed 

He nodded, then : 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 69 

"And just another thing. I want to be quite frank 
with you. Why did you turn down Barclay's offer of a 
riser' 

''Oh, did he tell you!'* I asked quickly. 

''I knew he was going to make it, because I was present 
when Carstairs proposed it," he began, but I put in 
sharply : 

"Then that's why!" 

"What's why?" 

"Because it was Miss Carstairs who proposed it!" 

"But you didn't know thatl" 

"I guessed it." 

"And, anyway " 

"Can't you see that money is no sort of compensa- 
tion?" 

"Yes, I can." 

"But if I were to take it, it would be as good as ad- 
mitting that it was, and that I was satisfied." 

"That's so." 

"Why," I added, laughing just a wee bit bitterly, "it 
wouldn't even have been judicious from the standpoint 
of business policy, to be so cheaply bought!" 

He turned to look at me very straight. 

"Don't get too worldly-wise, little lady. I didn't like 
to hear that tone in your voice. It doesn't suit you !" 

I felt my face go hot under the friendly scrutiny of 
his nice eyes. 

"But I do like you for refusing that offer; that was 
entirely like you. And from every point of view you were 
perfectly right," he added. 

We turned down the narrow little street that was no- 
table for being the home-street of me. 

"I'm glad you think I was right. And — and I'll try 



70 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

not to get that tone in my voice — ^truly." I laughed 
slightly, and we reached the main door of the flats. 

We paused. 

**Will you come up and see the twinsT' I asked. 

*'No, thanks. I have to see Barclay for dinner.'* 

He raised his hat and held out his hand. I put mine 
into it, and he looked down at me smiling. 

''Have you forgiven me?' 

' * Oh, yes, of course. I was just sore about it all, that's 
aU.'' 

'*Then we are friends again?*' 

''Yes." 

"Thank you, au 'voir!^* and he left me, and I went 
upstairs with a feeling that all in a sudden second of 
time something had definitely happened to my friendship 
with Lord Henry Penryth. 

It is one thing to be friendly with a person at the 
theatre, in the theatre, and simply because of the theatre, 
but quite another thing to be friendly with them away 
from it. He'd evidently felt it, too, because his manner 
was dijQferent in a subtle sort of way. My world was cer- 
tainly opening out before me. "What an afternoon ! Lady 
Cordelia — ^that buzz of people, Geraldine Maidstone — ^my 
guardian! And Lord Henry Penryth. 

"Little Uppington," I said to myself as I opened the 
door with my key. "You're fairly going it!" 

The next few weeks simply buzzed by. 

Such a whirl that I can hardly remember what it was 
all about. 

I seemed to be tremendously occupied with social func- 
tions, and went from one festive affair to another. Lady 
Cordelia had a huge circle of the most varied acquaint- 
ances. There were enormously rich people, compara- 
tively poor people, titled people, smart people, go-ahead 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 71 

people, old-fashioned people, actors, actresses, writers, 
painters. Oh, it was a fiberal education in humanity just 
to go to one of her big receptions. 

''My dear,*' she used to say to me. ''Study everyone; 
you never know what sort of parts you may be called 
upon to play, and all the hot air that ever was blown 
about stage art condenses down to this: that youVe got 
to go to Nature for your types. '* 

Well, I had any amount of opportunity for acting 
upon her words of wisdom, for everyone was most kind, 
and I got invitations for luncheons, shopping expeditions, 
teas; cosy little early dinners before the theatre, gay little 
late suppers after ; nobody seemed to mind that I couldn't 
repay hospitality on anything like the same scale. 

The twins and I used to give small rags up at the flat, 
but nothing very ambitious, naturally. 

Still, they were very good fun, and everyone enjoyed 
them. It was so different, they used to say. 

Lord Henry said he wouldn't miss one of our parties 
for anything, and certainly he won top marks for regular 
attendance. 

And for being a real, helpful dear, too. I got abso- 
lutely to depend on that man. He was the kind of man 
you could go to in any difficulty and be sure of respectful 
attention and sound advice. 



It was all extremely jolly, being a success and a "per- 
sonality,'* and all that sort of thing, and I'd be a hypo- 
crite of the deepest dye if I pretended otherwise, but I 
jolly soon found out that success isn't everything by a 
very long shot. 

It began by a sort of a fed-up feeling, a feeling that 
I'd had enough of the sweets and would be glad of a 



72 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

plain, wholesome diet of good old *' roast and boiled.'* 

And once that feeling set in, others rushed to back it 
up. 

For instance, it suddenly occurred to me that if I were 
still Judy Grey, of Little Uppington, very few of these 
people who made such a fuss of me would have noticed 
me at all. 

It was simply because I had made a success on the stage 
that they were so interested. I looked round at all these 
new friends who were so willing to be kind, and said to 
myself : 

''It's all very well, and some of them are dears, but 
they're none of them my own folk.'* 

And it's a lonely sort of feeling that you've no one 
kin to you in the whole world, not even so much as a 
cousin four or five times removed. Especially when your 
life begins to get exciting and eventful. You feel the 
need of ''people" then, to share things with. I've heard 
girls grouse about their families, how bothering and tire- 
some they are, and all that sort of thing, but if they knew 
what it felt like to be without a family, without a rela- 
tion, with no blood-tie in the world, as I was, I guess 
they'd make the most of the families they'd got, and see 
the best in them, instead of the worst. 

The only person who remotely "belonged" to me was 
my guardian, and he took no notice of me ! 

Coming to think of it, that struck me as being distinctly 
rotten luck. How dared he be so casual about me ! No 
one else was, and it wasn't that he felt no interest in the 
stage; he did, or he wouldn't have taken such trouble to 
go to the "first night." And it wasn't that he couldn't 
be charming enough when he tried, to other people, any- 
way. Geraldine Maidstone appeared to find him most 
attractive. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 73 

Now, what earthly right had he to go around being 
charming to everyone but me! 

Even if he'd written to me, slating me fiercely, it would 
at least have argued that the only person who *' belonged*' 
to me felt some interest. But not to send a line of any 
isort ! As his one and only ward I felt that I distinctly 
*'owed him one!" 

And when I paid my promised visit to Gkraldine Maid- 
stone I felt it more than ever. Because the very first 
thing I saw when I entered her drawing-room was a large 
framed photograph of my guardian — ^Nickolas Penticott, 
dressed in flannels, and with a tennis racquet and a broad 
and beaming smile. 

And the next thing I noticed was another photograph 
of him sitting on a breakwater, dangling his legs in the 
sea. 

And the third thing I noticed was a silhouette portrait 
— ^you know, one of those little profile affairs, all black 
on a white ground — of him, very sedate and respectable. 
Certainly, his profile is his best aspect; in fact, it was 
rather above the averagely good. 

The fourth thing I noticed was Miss Maidstone herself, 
holding out her hand and saying how pleased she was to 
see me. 

Goodness! How long had I been staring round the 
walls at pictures of my guardian? Not long, evidently, 
for no one appeared to notice anything strange in my be- 
havior. Geraldine Maidstone was very jolly to me, but 
certainly did try her very level best to pump me about 
Nickolas Penticott. She seemed to think that I could 
tell her heaps about him if only I would. 

She supposed, in a rather over casual way, that he must 
have been in love heaps of times. Was he generally con- 
sidered susceptible? And so on and so on, and when I 



74 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

assured her that I knew nothing, she said, petulantly: 

''Really, it hardly seems possible that you, being his 
ward, should know so little of him!'' 

Honestly, I think she almost didn't believe me. Any- 
way she dropped the subject ; but if only she could have 
known what I was thinking, as I wended my way home 
again, she might have been convinced, for it went some- 
thing like this : How dare he, how positively dare he — 
my one and only guardian — give photographs of all 
shapes and sizes to other people, when he is so utterly 
neglectful of me ! 

And I felt awfully humpy and sort of homesick. You 
can't be really homesick when you've never had a real 
home, I know, but it's the only word that comes near to 
describing the feeling I had. And anyway, I had a home^ 
in my dreams, a lovely home in the country, all got up in 
sprigged muslin and chintz, and ingle-nooks and window- 
seats, and big, airy rooms with low-beamed ceilings and 
leaded windows. And there were smooth lawns and neat 
paths all round it and borders all a riot of color, and the 
scent of roses and lavender and the hum of bees and the 
song of birds were in the air. And there was a family 
in that home, too; the father and mother that I only 
knew by the faded pictures of them in an old-fashioned 
locket . . . and brothers and sisters that I'd never 
had. . . • 

So perhaps I was homesick for these. Silly? Well, 
I'm willing to admit it; but a dream is better than 
nothing. 



CHAPTER VI 

That evening at the theatre, the girl who shared my 
dressing-room asked me suddenly : 

' ' Seen the Daily Pictorial to-day t ' ' 

'*No/' I replied. ^'Why?'' 

''Oh — ^thought perhaps you might have " she said 

casually. 

And when I went on the stage, and was standing in the 
wings, the man who played the sort of second part said : 

''Nice notice you got this morning. Miss Grey!'' 

*'Noticer' I said. "When?'' 

' ' Innocence ! " he scoffed. ' ' What a thing it is to have 
a friend at court! Especially at the dramatic critic's 
court!" 

I hadn't the remotest notion what it was all about, but 
no one seemed to believe that, although quite a number 
spoke to me about the mysterious notice, and when I got 
back to the flat that night I found the twins in kimonos 
and a high state of excitement, and they each flourished 
a paper in my face and began the usual incomprehensible 
duet; then they read extracts from the two papers at 
once, and finally calmed down and told me what it was 
all about. 

Boiled down, it came to this : That the dramatic critic 
on the Daily Pictorial had revisited His Highness' Thea- 
tre, and after a glowing appreciation of Barclay's acting, 

75 



76 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

he desired to know why the part of Sybil Martin, played 
by a "new and brilliant young actress, whose acting was 
certainly one of tJie outstanding successes of (he first 
night, ^^ had been so mutilated as to be almost unrecog- 
nizable? 

When Madeline had read this out to me, flushed and 
shiny-eyed with elation, Clairette started in to do her bit. 
She'd got a copy of Round Town in her hand, and read 
out these cryptic words : 

*' Things we are dying to know. Just what the young 
actress who recently scored a brilliant success at one of 
our foremost theatres thinks of the leading lady, and 
precisely what the leading lady thinks of the young act- 
ress!" 

*' There, Ju! If that doesn't mean you and the Car- 
stairs woman. 111 eat my very newest hat, and Bun's 

too I ' ' cried Clairette in huge glee. They wore the most 
unselfishly appreciative creatures I've ever seen. The 

way they gloated over the successful moments of my 

career was quite touching. 

**0h, Judy, you lucky one! How famous you are 
getting to be! Personal 'pars,' what? And fancy hav- 
ing real live critics fighting your battles for you this 
way!" 

''You'll be snapshotted on your way to the theatre, 
and have strangers coming up and snipping buttons off 
your coat for souvenirs! Oh, it won't end here, you'll 
see!" 

And it didn't. Not by miles. This was only the be- 
ginning. Nearly every day after this some little com- 
ment was made, either quite openly or very thinly veiled, 
about the situation between Miss Carstairs and myself! 
Fancy! That great actress and — ^me! 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 77 

I soon began heartily to wish that my champions in the 
Press would in mercy leave me alone, because no one 
believed that I hadn't *' fixed" it, and it was most un- 
comfortable for me at the theatre. 

Even Barclay himself looked at me in a curious way, 
as if he were trying to make up his mind whether I were 
a designing minx or not. One day I heard him say to 
Miss Carstairs: "You'll do it once too often, Cynthia." 
And Miss Carstairs said something I didn't catch. 

Then the ''publicity" man — ^the man who arranges the 
"booms" and "puffs" in the papers — came and asked 
me for a photograph. I hadn't got one, and so had to 
go and have one taken. I went through all the ordeal 
of doing a dozen different poses, some smiling, some soul- 
ful, some merely passive, you know the sort of thing, and 
when the proofs arrived for me to choose from, only one 
came along. A letter with it explained that an assistant 
had dropped the case in which the negatives were placed, 
and this was the only one that had survived the treat- 
ment ! 

Of course, he offered to make another appointment, 
but seeing that the publicity man was entirely satisfied 
with the one, I ordered a dozen copies of it and let it go 
at that. 

I thought it was a horrid thing. So touched up and 
smoothed out and sweet and characterless; pretty, of 
course, a photographer can make almost anything pretty, 
but not the least typical of me. 

Lord Henry all this time kept rather aloof, and I didn't 
see him to talk to until one afternoon, when he called 
unexpectedly at the flat. 

Then, after greeting me very gravely, he said abruptly : 

"Are the twins out?" 

"Yes; they've gone to the Melton Galleries to see the 



78 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

exhibition of Cubist war pictures. Did you want to see 
them?'' 

"No; I really didn't to-day — I wanted to see you!" 

''Well, come in and have tea/' I said, and led the way 
into the sitting-room. 

As a rule, Lord Henry used to sink into his favorite 
chair, an adoring twin on each arm of it, and looking 
round the room, used to say, '*What a nice room it is!" 
But to-day he went across to the window and stood look- 
ing out. 

''Anything serious?" I asked, after a silence. He 
turned quickly. 

'''I want to know something." 

"What is it about?" 

He paused, and in that pause I knew. It was the 
wretched newspaper business. 

"Oh, I know!" I broke in. "You needn't tell me. 
You want to ask me just how much I know about the 
comments in the papers!" 

"Yes," he admitted frankly; "I do. The critics have 
been very busy on your behalf lately, haven 't they ? ' ' 

"I know they have, and I do wish I knew how to stop 
them. I don't like it one bit." 

"You don't, eh?" 

"WeU, did you think I would?" 

"That's what I wanted to be sure about. It's been 
worrying me a good deal. 

"Worrying you?" 

"Well, such advertisement often does more harm than 
good, and I don't want you to wreck your career by any 
mistakes." 

"Then you've been thinking, too, like everyone else, 
that I've friends among the critics, and that it's to please 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 79 

me they've been making attacks on Miss Carstairs, have 
you?'' 

There was a silence, then he said, his face rather 
flushed: 

''I didn't exactly think it." 

**If you didn't, why did you have to come to me for 
assurance?" 

He reddened more deeply still. 

''Well " he began; but I interrupted. 

"Don't you think you might have trusted me, after 

all that you told me, not to be so utterly mean as to '^ 

I began ; but he broke in : 
All I told you?" 

Yes, about Miss Carstairs being so essential to the 
play and all that. Don't you think that my gratitude 
to Mr. Barclay alone is sufficiently sincere to keep me 
from doing anything that might dish his plans? Let 
alone my friendship for you!" 

Lord Henry looked at me a moment, his nice eyes 
troubled and sorry. 

''Do you know," he said at last, "that all that never 
occurred to me?" 

"Then it ought to have occurred to you!" I flashed. 

"I realize it. And I'm sorry — frightfully sorry. 
There's no excuse. But I wish you would believe that I 
was thinking more of you than of anyone. I was afraid 
that this Press business might do you harm with Bar- 
clay." 

He looked at me again then. 

"Are you going to forgive me?" He asked it so 
straightly, without a hint of persuasion, just simply as a 
direct question, that my crossness vanished all of a sud- 
den* 






80 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

* ' Of course I am, ' ' I said, laughing slightly. ' ' Oh, but 
it isn't a question of forgiveness — it hurt, that's all.'' 

''I'm sorry," he said again; then, in a slow, puzzled 
way, as if he didn't understand it himself: ''But I'm 
glad, too." 

Glad that you hurt me !" I cried, in indignation. 
No; glad I was able to. It's rather nice to feel that 
someone minds sufficiently to be hurt." 

I stared at him a minute. 

"But you've got heaps of people, haven't yout Rela- 
tions, I mean." 

"Oh, yes; but — ^well, that's hardly the same thing, 
somehow." 

"Well, think of me. I've only got a guardian, who 
never even comes near enough to be hurt!" 

He laughed. 

*'I think you're entitled to choose another and more 
satisfactory guardian," he said. "How would I dot" 

"Ah, you've set up a new standard, and I must know 
first whether you are capable of being hurt by me," I 
replied teasingly. 

But his mood didn't follow mine. He just continued 
to look at me, and then said, in the same puzzled way, 
very slowly: 

"I believe I am." 

"You've passed with honors," I told him gaily. 
"And, honestly, I've often thought lately, that you are 
much more what Ae ought to be than he is!" 

"That's settled then," he said, and he held out his 
hand. We solemnly shook hands, then our eyes met and 
we laughed together. 

"Oh, I'm forgetting tea;" I cried suddenly. "Clean 
forgetting it. Do sit down, and I'll get it in two min- 
utes!" And I vanished into the kitchen. 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 81 

When I brought in the tea and had dispensed it, he 
fifaid: 

*'Now, listen here. I want you to understand. I was 
very worried about this Press business, because I par- 
ticularly don't want your popularity with Barclay upset 
just now." 

Do you think it has been?" I asked anxiously. 
'No; I don't think so. And, anyway, I'll tell him 
how you ticked me ofif this afternoon about it." He 
looked at me, laughing. **You know, it's possible that 
A Voice from the Past may come off comparatively 
soon. . • ." 

*'0h!" I cried in dismay. 

*' You've nothing to worry about," he went on, ''be- 
cause, like a good, attentive guardian, I've my eye on a 
topping part for yoij; and this time Cynthia Carstairs 
won't have things so much her own way, because Barclay 
has been the biggest draw in this thing. So buck up, 
little lady, and hit out for the high places with all your 
might." 

I did buck up at that. He was a real comforting, en- 
couraging dear ; and we had one of those jolly half -hours 
that are entirely occupied in making ripping plans for 
the future. 

When he left, he just said: 

''This is all quite between ourselves, and nothing has 
been definitely arranged. But you can depend upon your 

guardian, little lady, to watch over your career " 

He broke off, laughing, and we shook hands again and 
parted. 

He evidently did speak to Mr. Barclay about the news- 
paper business, because, although the great man said 
nothing definite, he was suddenly more friendly than he'd 
ever been, and so long as he knew that I hadn't been so 



82 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

sneaky, I didn't care what anybody else thought, much. 
Of course, it all served to get me well known, to make 
me something of a figure in the theatrical world. Cer- 
tainly there must have been few people by that time who 
read the theatrical news at all who hadn't at least read 
my name. It gave me an odd feeling every time I 
thought of this. When you've been a perfectly ordinary, 
everyday sort of girl all your life, it gives you a funny 
sort of start to realize that in a small sort of way you're 
quite well known ; that thousands know your name, and 
some even recognize you in the street or in tea-shops or on 
board the humble bus, or any other old where. I/wonder, 
if ever I get famous, whether I shall ever be able to feel 
famous. Don't believe I shall, and it must be a queer 
feeling anyway; rather uncomfortable, I should think; 
like always remembering what the etiquette book says 
about good manners, when you're at a party. No, I 
don't think I could ever feel famous. I believe Miss 
Carstairs does, though; but then, of course, she is, and 
that may make all the difference. Anyway, she seems to 
have forgotten how to be a real person any more. I won- 
der whether being a famous one is a really satisfactory 
substitute? I wish we could have days of being some- 
body else, really being them, thinking their thoughts, 
seeing with their eyes, then we'd really be able to under- 
stand what they felt, and I'd dearly love to know just 
what Cynthia Carstairs felt the day she spoilt my part 
for me. And I'd like her to be able to know just what 
I felt too. She might have seen then, that I wasn't try- 
ing to grab, that I was only honestly bent on doing the 
very best in my power; and I might have seen that it 
wasn't all spite in her, but just the vain whim of a thor- 
oughly spoilt woman. If ever I am famous, I'll remem- 
ber what I went through, or at least I hope I shall. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 83 

But just then I began to get rather anxious about my 
chances of being famous, because very soon after, the 
rumor that the play was coming oflE began to trickle 
round and grew and grew until it became a settled piece 
of theatrical news. And still I heard nothing at all 
about the part Lord Henry had said was to be mine. 

The great Barclay began seeing people up in that sky- 
high office of his during the morning, and one was always 
meeting strangers when one went to fetch letters or hap- 
pened to arrive early on matinee days. But I heard 
nothing of acutely personal interest to myself. My con- 
fidence in Lord Henry was great, but the question meant 
so much to me that I couldn't help getting anxious as 
the days slipped by and nothing happened. 

One evening Barclay said: *'I shall be wanting an in- 
terview with you soon, Miss Grey,'' and smiled in an 
understanding way, so my spirits rose again; then they 
hadn't forgotten, and everything was all right. But a 
fortnight passed, and the '* notice" — that the play would 
end in a fortnight's time — ^was posted, and I wasn't called 
for that all-important interview. 

Then I began to notice all sorts of things that seemed 
full of significance, especially with regard to Lord Henry. 

Something certainly seemed to have happened to Lord 
Henry. His manner was changed in some subtle way 
that I couldn't understand. He was much more often 
at the theatre now, and I saw a great deal of him, but 
he was ever so silent and serious always; not a bit like 
his usual genial self. 

Could I have offended him in any way, I wondered? 
But searching in my mind and going over and over our 
conversations together, trying to remember faithfully 
each word and look, I honestly couldn't see in what way 
I could possibly have hurt him. 



84 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Then I suddenly hit upon what I thought must be the 
truth ; that he had begun to doubt my ability to play the 
part he'd promised me, and didn't know how to break 
it to me. . . . Yes, that must be it, for nearly all the 
time that I was on the stage he would stand in the wings 
watching me, with his eyebrows all frowned together over 
his nice hazel eyes, and he had a deeply thoughtful, con- 
sidering sort of look. And it wasn 't a pleased look at all, 
so I felt sure he was noticing new faults in my acting, 
faults, perhaps, that didn't matter so very much in this 
part, but that might show up dreadfully in the other one. 

Three or four evenings and two matin6es of this sort 
of thing began to wear my nerves. I don't know any- 
thing more harrowing than to play a part feeling that 
criticizing, disapproving eyes are on you from the wings. 
I'd much rather that the whole audience rose in a body 
and hooted. 

As I came off the stage after my last scene at the Sat- 
urday matinee he stopped me and asked me to have din- 
ner with him between the shows. Now I'd often had tea 
with him, and once or twice dinner, so there was nothing 
strange or out of the ordinary in the suggestion, but 
to-day he asked me so seriously, so almost solemnly, that 
I saw it must be a special occasion. And I knew why it 
was special, too ! He was going to screw up his courage 
to tell me that I wasn't good enough for that new part! 
Well, anything to get it over and be sure, so I said I'd go. 

That dinner for two was one of the dullest affairs im- 
aginable. Lord Henry hardly spoke a word except to 
the waiter. He just sat staring down at the table-cloth, 
or across at me in a funny, fixed, reflective sort of way. 
Oh, if only he'd say it and have donel Being kept in 
suspense like this was awful. Once or twice he opened 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 85 

his lips and drew in a breath as if he really were going 
to np and at it, but the effort faded before it properly 
began, and he didn't say anything. When it was time to 
get back to the theatre he drove me round, and we parted, 
he going to the office, I up to my dressing-room, feeling 
pretty blue, I can tell you. 

I didn't see him again until just as I was leaving; it 
was in the corridor leading to the stage door and I had a 
hand on the famous swing door, when I heard him com- 
ing along behind me. I turned, and on an impulse I 
said abruptly: 

"I know what you wanted to say this evening at dinner, 
Lord Henry, and . . /' 

'*Do you?" he broke in quickly. 

I nodded. 

"Yes; and I know it's difficult to say it, but you 
needn't be afraid to ... to tell me. . . . You needn't 
really. ..." And with that I slipped through the door 
and out into the street. 

Well, I told myself. His Highness' isn't the only theatre 
in London, nor its management the only management, 
and if I wasn't wanted there, there were others to go to. 
And surely, the success I had made would be a recom- 
mendation and a help. Even if I had to tour, I oughtn't 
to have any diflSculty in getting some sort of a living on 
the stage with the good start I'd made. But I didn't 
want to leave His Highness'. I loved it and was happy 
there. And I 'd counted on getting that new part. Lord 
Henry oughtn't to have promised it to me so definitely 
if he only meant to take it away from me later. And 
what had I done so suddenly to make him change his 
mind? My part went better than it had when it was 
first cut to bits ; I 'd worked it up into something, at least 
now. Yes, certainly it went better; I was playing it 



86 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

better; I felt sure I was. Then what had I done? And 
why the change? 

I could hardly sleep that night with thinking of all 
this. Everything had seemed so straightforward and 
certain, and now it was all up in the air and uncertain 
again. I told myself I'd been a fool to expect a repeti- 
tion of the tremendous luck I'd had in getting taken on 
at His Highness'. An absolute, inexperienced fool. This 
was the sort of history that so rarely repeats itself. 

And I 'd got my living to make in sober earnest. With 
prices going up and up, my little income from my father's 
legacy seemed a most inadequate one, but it was all I had 
in the world to depend on. I simply must supplement 
it in some way, and my chances had seemed so gloriously 
good. 

By the time I'd put in an hour or so of this kind of 
thinking that leads simply nowhere, I was so sleepy that 
I couldn't think any more. 

I turned over and snuggled down into the pillows, say- 
ing wearily: 

*'0h, well, I'm not really sure; perhaps that wasn't 
what he meant, after all." 

And — ^it wasn't. 



CHAPTER VII 

The twins were going to spend Sunday with "father/* 
the celebrated Joshua Longman of teashop fame, and they 
had a great time from eight to eleven getting into per- 
fectly ordinary, well-cut coats and skirts, high-heeled, 
patent boots of fashionable shape, and modish hats. 

''Father doesn't approve of art in any form," they 
explained, ''so we have to do this kind of thing occasion- 
ally, just to please the old boy. He likes us to look just 
like everybody else — respectable, he calls it." 

"You look extremely nice," I said. 

"Oh, do you think so?" said Madeline, disappointed 
in me. 

"Without the vestige of a scarf or the sign of a bead?" 
said Clairette. 

"Yes," I said firmly. 

"What rotten taste. We excuse father because he 
started life as the proprietor of a coffee-stall. ..." 

"He thought he'd reached the pinnacle of success when 
he started a good pull-up for carmen. ..." 

"And of course that makes him awfully particular. 
But you've no such dazzling past to live up to. . . ." 

"So there's no excuse for you. ... 

"Bun, these unholy boots!" 

"Buttercup . . . this collar!" 

They wailed together for some time, and finally de- 

87 



88 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

parted, pulling on the most lovely long white gloves, 
which must have cost pretty nearly the price of a coffee- 
stall per pair ! 

I leaned out of the window to wave to them, and looked 
down, straight on to the top of Lord Henry's sleek head, 
as, hat in hand, he met and greeted them. 

All three looked up, nodding and smiling, and after 
a moment the girls weijt off down the street arm in arm, 
and he turned into the entrance of the flats. 

I came away from the window and stood for a second 
stock still in the middle of the room, until his ring at the 
door made me move with a start. 

''Now for it," I said, as I went out into the hall. 

He was nervous as he came in, and began talking very 
quickly about more-or-less nothing at all, which wasn't 
the least typical of him, and then when we were in the 
little sitting-room together, he stopped abruptly and was 
suddenly as silent as he had been talkative. 

I longed to say: 

"Just tell me, and get it over and put me out of my 
misery as quickly as you can ! '' But I didn't ; I just sat 
opposite to him and waited. 

Suddenly he leaned towards me, laid his hand on mine, 
and said in an odd, low note : 

''I've got to ask you ... got to tell you. . . . And 
you said I might, didn't you?" 

"Yes, you may, of course ..." I said, wishing he 
wouldn't try to be kind about it. It seemed to make it 
just so much the harder to bear. 

"It . . . it's difficult . . ."he began. 

"But you must do it, mustn't you?" I broke in. "I 
mean, it's a thing that's just got to be done . . . just 
got to be said, isn't it?" And I tried to smile naturally. 

He raised his face and looked up at me. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 89 

"Yes," he said quietly. ''IVe tried not to say it, but 
I have to ... I can't help myself. . . .'' 

* ' Oh, I know ! I know ! " I broke out. ' ' Please, please 
just tell me. Don't, for mercy's sake, try to be nice 
about it. However you say it, it means the same!'' 

And, to my disgust, the tremble of tears was in my 
voice — ^just the one thing I didn't want — ^to appeal to his 
pity. But I couldn 't help them — ^they would come ! 

Lord Henry's face wore a look I never want to see in 
any man's face again — so incredulous, so puzzled, and 
through it all, so awfully, awfully hurt. 

He drew his hand from mine sharply. 

''I'd no idea you'd take it like that," he said, his voice 
unsteady. 

"Did you expect me to be glad?" I cried out, all the 
nerves of the last few days quivering out. 

"Well, naturally, I'd hoped you would," he said, with 
a funny little twisted smile. "Especially when you told 
me that I might . . . that I needn't be afraid to teU 
you. ..." 

I stared, and my heart seemed to turn over and bob 
up again with a thump. 

"Isn't it — ^haven't you been wanting to — ^to tell me 
about the part?" I stammered out at last. 

* ' Well, yes, ' ' he admitted. ' ' I did want to speak about 
the part, for one thing. ' ' 

"I knew it! You don't want me to play it, do you?" 

"No, I don't," he confessed. 

"What have I done? How have I changed? Has 
my acting gone off? Or — or what?" I asked. 

"Your acting has improved, if anything." 

"Then why am I no longer to have the part? Why 
don't you want me to play it?" 

"I don't think there's any reason now;," he said, try- 



90 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

ing to speak quite steadily, and not succeeding very welL 
*'I hadn't thought the idea would be so — well, so re- 
pellent to you, that 's all ! " 

"Goodness! did you expect me to like losing it?" I 
cried out nervily. *' After all I've hoped and after all 
you said about it?'' 

He leaned over and caught my hand again. 

"Was it only the part you were thinking off" he 
asked. 

"What else were you talking of?" I retorted. 

He laughed shakily. 

"Oh, a whole world of other things!" he replied; and 
then again: "Was it only the part you were thinking oft 
Really? Truly?" 

"Of course it was! I've been thinking of it for days 
and days and days. I could see that there was something 
up. I could see you'd changed your mind and didn't 
want me to have the part. And I just wish you'd teU 
me why and have done with it!" 

"I will!" he replied, rising to his feet. "It's true, 
I don't want you to play that or any other part " 

"Why?" I put in. 

"Because I want you to marry me instead!" 

I sat perfectly still, not daring to look up. Was I 
awake or dreaming? Real or unreal? The little room 
echoed with his last words. 

"Marry me instead. . . . Marry me instead. ..." 

I had thought last night that perhaps, after all, it 
wasn't about the part that he'd tried to speak, but I 
hadn't remotely dreamed of this. 

"Marry me instead. ..." How those three words 
went ringing through my head, so clear and insistent that 
they seemed to ding my very brain away. . . . Just when 
I wanted to think as I never had thought before ! 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 91 

Just as I wanted my mind to be its very best and surest, 
and my emotions their clearest. And all I could think 
of saying was : 

^'W-what?" in a voice so low that the stillness was 
hardly fluttered. 

And I looked up as I said it, and he looked down at me, 
and quite quietly he said : 

''Didn't you know I love you, little lady?'' 

I swallowed hard, and shook my head. 

"Well, how should you? I didn't know it myself 
until quite a few days ago,^' he went on. "Are you 
going to send me away, or make me the happiest man 
alive?" 

Send him away? Was I? I didn't know — ^I didn't 
really! Send him away? What would my life lately 
have been if it hadn't been for him? What would it 
be if I sent him away? Shouldn't I miss him most fear- 
fully? 'Course I should! But, marry him! Oh, dear, 
my heart was thumping so that I couldn't seem to hear 
or think or see. 

"But, you — ^you can't want to m-marry me," I blurted 
out at last. 

"Can't I? Why?" he asked, still standing there aloof, 
unmoving. 

"Because you're such a confirmed bachelor — ^the con- 
firmedest ever," I went on, like a fool. 

He was down on his knees beside me in a moment, his 
shaky laughter close to my ear, his arms ringing round 
me, but not holding me close. 

"You blessed darling — so I was! Mayn't a man 
change? Mayn't he, when the sweetest eyes in all the 
world look up into his? Oh, Judy, you've got my heart 
right in your two little hands. What are you going to 
do with it, dear?" 



92 JULIA TAKES HEB CHANCE 

He always had tbe nicest kind of voice, bnt now, when 
it was all oat of control and very low, and breaking 
slightly as he finished, it jnst lifted me np on a wave of 
feeling and swept me along. 

''Oh, I— I didn^t know,'^ I whispered. 

"Couldn't you care for met Couldn't you? Lord! 
you sweet thing, how I love you! Couldn't you care 
for me a little?" 

And before I knew what I was saying, I said: 

''You know I like you — ^you know I always have liked 
you — only — but— oh dear! This is all so — so awfully — " 

But marry him? No! I couldn't — ^I wouldn't! I 
didn't want to! The thought filled me with sudden, 
unexplainable panic. I wanted to get up and run. 

But somehow I didn't have the courage or the strength ; 
his arms were closing round me like fate. His eager, 
ardent eyes were looking into mine with a little touch of 
fear that plucked at my heart, and his shaken voice, with 
all his soul in every broken note of it, throbbed through 
and through me. 

"Am I too late, dear? Is there some other, some 
luckier, man?" 

I shook my head. 

"Then you are going to give me hope? You are not 
going to be angry with me for telling you? You said I 
might, you know." He smiled as he spoke, and his voice 
was so low that I only just caught what he said, and some- 
how, just as he said them, the words were the loneliest, 
most pleading things I'd ever heard, and raising my eyes, 
I saw in his face all that this meant to him. For all his 
friends, his busy, brilliant life, his riches and his interests, 
if I sent him away he 'd be just utterly lonely. . . . And 
loneliness is the most awful thing. ... A realization of 
my power over him made me catch my breath. . . . How 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 93 

awful . . . how perfectly awful to be able to give pain 
or joy by the mere utterance of a yes or no ! And to this 
utter dear of a man, above all others. This man who'd 
been so perfectly good to me. . . . Oh, which was I to 
say? 

I didn't want to say either. I wanted to think — ^to go 
right away all by myself — away from those pleading eyes 
of his — out of hearing of that lonesome tone. 

But his arms closed round me, and he crushed me all 
up anyhow till I could hardly breathe, I'd never been 
loved before and it was almost terrifying. 

''Oh, please," I faltered out, and he loosed me quickly. 

''My dear," he said tenderly, "wa. I rough and hor- 
rid? I love you so, that it's gone clean to my head." 

I tried to draw my hand away — ^tried to utter some 
sort of — oh, I really don 't know what. Some sort of plea 
for breathing space, perhaps, but he was saying: 

" I 'm proposing dreadfully badly, aren 't I ? But what 
can you expect from the confirmedest ever bachelor?" 
and he laughed again. 

"Well, they did say that of you," I said, feebly de- 
fensive. 

"They reckoned without you. Oh, my dear, I know 
I've never done a single thing in the world to make me 
worthy of your sweetness ; I 'm older than you, Judy, too 
. . . ages older, darling . . , but give me the chance and 
m make you happy. ... I will really. , . , Tell me I 
haven't missed the best in life. . . . Tell me . . . ah, 
everything I want to hear. . . . Judy . . . Judy . . . 
isitto be . . . yes?" 

And touched beyond all endurance, I stammered out : 

"It's ... oh, it's yes ... if you want it to be, so 
dreadfully badly. ' ' 

He held me for a moment in silence ; a long, long mo- 



94 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

ment, as if he couldn't believe what had happened and 
were trying to; then he laughed unsteadily and drew 
away. ^ 

**6ive me your hand — your left hand. Does this rin^ 
fit you?" And he slid a seal ring from his little finger, 
and tried it on my third one. ''Not so bad, is it? We'll 
go and get another one to-morrow. This is just to show 
that you're mine, my very own girl, and that I've the 
right to punch anyone's head who dares dispute it!'* 

He bent his head and kissed the ring, and then the 
finger it was on, then, lifting my face in his two hands, 
he very gently touched my forehead with his lips. 

'*I think I'm the thankfullest man alive, Judy; that's 
all," he said quietly. 



And that's the secret history of that great social event, 
the engagement of Lord Henry Penryth and Miss Julia 
Grey. And almost anyone could have told me more 
clearly than I could tell myself, just how it had come 
about. It seemed to have just happened ; something had 
caught me up, swept me along at a pace too quick to re- 
alize and here I was, engaged; the future Lady Henry 
Penryth. Nothing I could do could make it seem real. 

''It can't be true ... it simply can't be," I'd say to 
myself, and then, with a look at the big cluster of dia- 
monds and sapphires that had taken the place of the 
little old seal ring: 

''But it is; this is the outward and visible proof." 

Still, in my heart of hearts I didn't, somehow, believe 
it. 

Harry — ^yes, I called him Harry now — ^was a perfect 
dear of a fiance. The better I knew him the more sweet 
and good and altogether fine he appeared. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 95 

**I always thought Harry would be the most complete 
Benedict some day," Lady Cordelia said to me, *^but 
really, I began to wonder when. And, child, I'm glad 
it's you that have worked the miracle, and not one of the 
petted spoilt beauties, whose main idea in life is to have 
a good time. Harry's too good for that." 

''Harry's too good for almost anyone," I replied, teas- 
ing her. 

But Lady Cordelia pinched my cheek, and looked down 
very kindly into my face. 

''You can't perhaps realize just all you mean to him, 
but give him all you can, child ; for he's terribly hard hit ; 
and his isn't the first mad passion of a boy — it's the great, 
big love of a man, and of a very fine man, too." 

Somehow, when she said that, I drew a quick little 
breath, and didn't feel like teasing any more, and some- 
how, too, I wished she wouldn't. 

"You know, dear, Harry hasn't ever been a waster, 
and he doesn't give his emotions lightly. He always has 
taken things seriously — from measles upwards." 

She paused and laughed slightly, then added : 

' ' So now that he cares, I know he cares with every atom 
of him; with his whole heart and strength. . . . Some- 
thing to have won, eh, Judyt" 

"Yes. . . . Oh, I realize it. Aunt Cordelia. ... I do 
indeed ..." I said uneasily. I did wish she wouldn't. 
I didn't want to be told how dreadfully much he loved 
me. "Was it shyness or . . . what? Don't most girls 
like to be told how deeply their lovers care? Or do they 
all feel as I felt then? 

For I had that funny little panicky feeling that I'd 
had the day I got engaged . . . that little feeling that I 
wanted to get up and run. . . . Why, I couldn't have 
told. 



96 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'I think he's the best man I've ever, ever met, and 
111 truly try to do ... to be ... to make ..." I fal- 
tered and stopped. 

''I know you will, dear. ... I know you will," she 
said tenderly, and her mannish face quivered as she leant 
forward and kissed me. 

She did love Harry. 

Of course, the twins were absolutely ecstatic with de- 
light, and equally of course they'd "known it all along." 
They would! 

"But, Judy, what are we going to do?" they cried. 

*'0h, I know you'll miss me " I began. 

*'row/" they interrupted. ''Yes, so we shall; but we 
meant him! It's been the scandal of the season the way 
we adore that man, and well never jSnd another like 
him." 

I laughed. 

**0h, well, you couldn't both have married him, you 
know, so the question would probably only have sown dis- 
sension in the family. ' ' 

"That's true," agreed Madeline, winding her arms 
tight round Clairette. "It might have caused a rift be- 
tween us, Buttercup, and no man, not even Harry, would 
be worth that, would he?" 

"Certainly not," said Clairette, winding her arms 
round Madeline. "So on the whole we are very glad to 
have the question settled for us out of court, so to speak. 
And, Ju darling, you 11 let us be first bridesmaids, won't 
you?" 

But, of course, that was a question I had to settle with 
Aunt Cordelia, and naturally there were dozens of un- 
married Beaufort and Penrjrth cousins and things who'd 
got to be considered as well. 
I got shoals of letters and telegrams and telephone mes- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 97 

sages congratulating me. One, a perfectly charming 
little note, from Nickolas Penticott liimself . And a most 
fervent long letter from Geraldine Maidstone. I think 
she was thoroughly relieved that her beloved ''Nicko's'* 
tiresome ward was safely engaged to another man ! 

Of course, this finished my stage career ; it ended with 
the end of the run at His Highness' Theatre. 

''And now," Lord- Henry remarked, as he drove me 
home from the theatre on the last night, ''you can just 
go right ahead and apply yourself to preparations for 
becoming Lady Henry Penryth without delay, because 
if you think I'm going to wait long, you are highly mis- 
taken." 

' ' Lady Henry Penryth ! " I thought, and my heart gave 
a little hop of excitement. 

"Lady Henry Penryth! Tour ladysMp!" 

How queer it was to look ahead and hear myself in 
imagination being addressed in this impressive fashion. 
What a very great lady I'd got to be ; should I ever, ever 
be able to live up to it all? The huge establishments, 
and tribes of servants, and dinner-parties and house- 
parties, and balls and receptions, and — goodness only 
knows what beside. 

Oh, Little Uppington! Funny, stodgy, stick-in-the- 
mud Little Uppington! How very, very far away you 
seem now! 

Lady Cordelia was determined that my wedding with 
Lord Henry was to be the event of the autumn, so, con- 
sequently, before I knew where I was, I found myself up 
to the eyes in plans and preparations. 

First and foremost, as far as I was concerned, came 
trousseau. Oh, visions of crSpe-de'CMne, tailor-mades, 
and the latest thing in hats ! Ceremony, reception, guests, 



98 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

and so on, I left to Aunt Cordelia, who simply waded in 
up to the neck and revelled in it. 

Before I could start, though, I had to find out how 
my money matters stood. During the war I 'd earned my 
living in various more or less dull war-works, so I thought 
that if my guardian would arrange for me to draw on my 
capital I 'd be able to manage quite nicely. I 'd an old- 
fashioned prejudice against running up trousseau bills 
to be paid by my husband after our marriage. I wanted 
to manage it all on my own. 

So I rang up my guardian on the telephone and asked 
him about it, and this conversation proved to be one of 
the biggest surprises of my life. I began with the usual 
greetings and inquiries after his health, to which he re- 
sponded formally with all his characteristic stiff sort of 
courtesyi Then I told him my little trousseau difficulty, 
and when he had had time to digest the situation I added : 

*'I was thinking that perhaps I might draw on my 
capital for such a very special event." 

There was just the slightest pause before he said : 

*'It is not a procedure that I regard with any favor, 
as a general rule '* 

"I wasn't thinking of making a general rule of It,'* I 
put in. 

**No, and seeing that you are so soon to be in a position 
in which money matters won't count, perhaps ..." 

**0h, thank you. ... I felt sure you would agree with 



me." 



''Please remember, though, that it is only the very 
special circumstances that make me approve of this 



course." 



''I do . . . indeed, I do. And I'm perfectly sure 
that if you say it is all right, it is all right." This wasn't 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 99 

flattery ; it was simply the truth, but quite suddenly, and 
with an entire change of tone, he challenged it : 
Now, what makes you think that?" 
Oh,'* I began, slightly taken aback, ''because you 
are so tremendously wise and . . . and business-like and 
cautious and . . .'* 

''Everything else that is dull and depressing, eh?" he 
broke in. 

I nearly gasped with surprise. 

"Well, no, not everything," I replied, quite uncon- 
scious of the fact that I'd emphasized the everything in 
a most uncomplimentary way. 

*'But most of 'em. All right. I accept the verdict." 

It never had occurred to me that any conversation with 
my guardian could make me sit up and take notice, but 
I quite began to enjoy this little encounter. 

* ' No, no, " I protested. * ' You are wilfully taking what 
I said the wrong way." 

"I have a legal, and therefore an accurate mind," he 
said. 

"Still, you might fenow I wouldn't be so ... so im- 
polite. . . ." 

"I don't see why I should know that; I don't know 
much of you, do I ? " 

"No, but you know I'm a good and dutiful ward." 

He didn't answer immediately, so I went on: 

"You do know that, don't you?" 

"I was just trying to remember how you have ever 
proved it," he said. 

"Are you frowning very severely as you say that, or 
smiling?" I demanded, really not quite sure. 

"I utterly decline to answer such an irrelevant ques- 
tion. But what I was going to point out was that before 
you can be dutiful you must have some duty imposed. . ." 



100 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*' Goodness !' ' I interrupted. **Yon have got a legal 
mind! That sounds like a dictionary on its best be- 
havior. . . . Haven't I always done everything youVe 
ever told me to dot' ^ 

**0h, everything/' he admitted. 

**Well then?" I said in triumph. 

*' But I've never told you to do anything/' he reminded 
me quietly. 

Could this be my guardian? My rather ** stodgy" 
guardian? But at least that made one thing quite clear 
to me ; he certainly wasn't frowning severely. Very well 
then, I might take it that he was smiling. . . • My 
guardian! 

*'I met a very great friend of yours the other day," I 
said suddenly, the remark coming out of a clear sky, and 
prompted by goodness knows what; I didn't. 

^'Geraldine Maidstone?" he inquired. 

'"Um." 

''Yes, she told me. She has taken a great fancy to 
you, by the way." 

' ' That so ? How could you tell ? " 

*'She was so tremendously interested in you; wanted 
to know all about you." 

"And asked a heap of questions?" 

*'Yes." 

**And you say she likes me?" 

''Well, you needn't dispute it." 

"You have a legal and accurate mind, Mr. Guardian," 
I reminded him. "It would ill become me to dispute ..." 

"I say, you're quite grown-up now, aren't you?" he 
broke in. 

"Quite," I replied, laughing. 

"Funny, isn't it?" 

"Funny?" I said questioningly, and then something 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 101 

came to me in a flash, and without giving myself time to 
think, I'd said it. 

''Funny, well, perhaps. But not half so terrifying, 
isitT'* 

He laughed; a small, self-conscious laugh it was, too. 

''Well, this isn't business, is it t*' he remarked, switch- 
ing off, after the cowardly manner of man when he is 
disconcerted. 

"No, and that isn't an answer," I retorted. 

"What was it you said that required an answer?" 

"That's sheer evasion. . . ." 

"Oh, yes, something about being terrified, wasn't itT 
Who was supposed to be terrified t" 

"You." 

"And about what!" 

"Me." 

He was silent so long that I said : 

"Welir' 

"Oh, nothing," he said casually. "I was giving you 
the last word, that's all." 

"Politeness! Or because you couldn't think of one to 
say yourself?" 

He laughed again. 

"Your cross-examination is most able," he remarked. 

"Yes, but it fails in one essential," I replied. 

"And that is?" 

"That it never manages to elicit an answer." 

"Well, really you ask such awkward questions. You 
want to make a m^n, who has been a soldier for over 
four years, confess to being terrified by ..." He paused. 

'* A horrid little flapper wearing pigtails and long, thin, 
black-lisle legs," I finished for him. 

"Exactly — ^I mean, not at all." 



i 



102 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Somewhere along the wire our laughter mingled. After 
which we settled down to business. 

'* Trousseaux are tolerably expensive affairs, aren't 
they?" 

''Tolerably.'' 

' ' How much would you like to ^ . . er . . . draw from 
your capital ? " 

*'May I leave that to you, please, Mr. Guardian? Then 
you can draw any sum that, in your judgment, I can 
afford. Is it a very complicated procedure?'' 

*'0h, no, not at all. ... If you will leave it entirely 
to . . . my discretion, I can easily manage it for you." 

''That is so kind of you. Won't you come up one day 
and have tea with me?" 

"I'd be delighted. . . ." 

"Are you very busy now?" 

"Up to my eyes." 

"Then ring up later on, and fix a day when things 
slack up a bit. ..." 

"Right — and thanks." 

"Good-by,then." 

"Good-by." 

It was quite a long time before I could really convince 
myself that it had been my guardian, my grave, my seri- 
ous, my rather stodgy guardian, that I'd been talking to. 



CHAPTER Vin 

Thinking of it afterwards, I couldn't help comparing 
this conversation with the last I'd had with Nickolas 
Penticott, that fateful September of Nineteen-fourteen, 
when he'd come down to Little Uppington, dressed in very 
new and very smart and very correct khaki, to say a 
formal and dutiful good-by to his sacred trust and solemn 
responsibility. 

Miss Georgina Kennedy, his cousin, a spinster of doubt- 
ful age and an unimpeachably orthodox outlook upon 
life, was living with me, doing the dragon stunt, and we 
all three sat stiflBy in my little "parlor" and drank tea, 
and talked hopefully about the war being over in six 
months. At least, Miss Kennedy talked thus, in good, 
stilted phrases, while my guardian, balancing a tea-cup 
and saucer on his knee, made monosyllabic replies, and 
I fidgeted and munched bread and butter, and hadn't 
one word to say for myself. 

When he left, he just told me briefly that he'd left my 
affairs all in order, and that if he shouldn't happen to 
come back I'd find them so. Then we shook hands, feel- 
ing awkward and solemn, and he went. And when he 
came home a year later on leave, Miss Georgina had gone 
home to nurse her sister, Miss Amelia, who had some- 
times shared the Sragon responsibilities with her, but 
who now had developed into a sort of permanent invalid, 

103 



104 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

and I'd gone on the land, and was way down on a farm 
in Wales. 

So to-day's little exeliange of lively comments was no 
end of a surprise to me. How he had changed ! Or was 
it more that I had changed f Looking back to that fare- 
well tea-party, I guess I must have been a fairly gawky 
proposition. I certainly wasn't a brilliant conversation- 
alist. I laughed as I remembered his sudden discovery 
that I was quite grown-up now. It was evidently an 
enormous relief to him. 

He called the very next morning while I was out shop- 
ping, and when I came back and the twins told me about 
it I was quite disappointed. I'd been really quite thrilled 
at the idea of meeting him again. 

It was rather a scoop for me having turned into such 
a dazzling success, and I thought I'd like to show myself 
off before him a little. A ward who had suddenly blos- 
somed into the future Lady Henry Penryth was some 
ward, wasn't she? 

Evidently the twins had made him very welcome, and 
begged him to wait for me, but he couldn't. He left a 
fat envelope and a message for them to give to me. 

The eiivelope contained a wad of bank-notes, and the 
message was that he'd brought it in this form as he 
thought probably it would be more convenient for me, and 
that he'd fixed it quite satisfactorily, and that I could 
now just go ahead. 

Ahead I went, and the ecstatic twins went with me, 
whenever Harry would let them. Life became one daz- 
zling round of dressmakers, shoemakers, furriers, hat 
shops, "undie" emporiums and jewellers; these, with 
Harry, who simply wanted to give me every blessed thing 
I liked the look of. He absolutely took charge of me, 
drove me about, did everything, saw to everything, 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 105 

thought of everything, until I felt that I was being lux- 
uriously carried through life. 

And it was going to last, too ! For the rest of my life 
I was going to be absolutely safe and eared for, with no 
peace-disturbing questions as to careers and incomes, and 
how to make last season's one and only gown look like 
next season's, and all those sorts of worries. And with 
this perfect dear of a man, who was so utterly thoughtful 
and considerate and kind. Oh, life seemed pretty good 
these days — good and easy and care-free. 

And — ^this is an awful confession — ^it was rather nice 
to think of being Lady Henry Penryth. Yes, it was! 
And I must confess to the truth, even if you do think me 
a snob. I'm not, truly — at least, I'm not a snobby snob ; 
but when you've been nobody all your life, the thought 
of being somebody, all of a sudden like this, is rather 
thrilling, and I didn't stop to think or to look ahead into 
the future. 

I'd had enough of having to do that, and now I didn't 
have to, I wasn't going to ! I never seemed to have time, 
anyway, for all the time Aunt Cordelia was planning the 
most gorgeous wedding for me, she was training me to be 
that all-important creature, a Society bride. She drilled 
me about the guests at the reception; you know the sort 
of thing — ^who took precedence of who, and all that, and 
when I was to receive congratulations, and who I was to 
be most particular not to offend — ^touchy old aunts and 
great-aunts and cousins of Harry's. 

And then we got to the important question of who was 
to give me away. 

There was only one person qualified to do it; my 
guardian. Of course. So I rang him up again. 

His consternation when I told him what I required of 
him was positively comic. 



1 



106 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

"Oh, but I say — ^I can't, really. It isn't a bit in my 
line!" he said. 

''But," I argued, ''there isn't anyone else qualified to 
do it. There's no one else I belong to!" 

"That's all very well, but it's a frightful responsi- 
bility. Besides, I've never given anyone away before." 

I laughed lightheartedly into the mouthpiece. 

"Well, seeing you've only one ward, you'll probably 
never have to do it again. Isn't that a great consola- 
tion?" 

"Please, I say, don't laugh!" came his voice again. 
"It's a frightfully serious question!" 

"After all, you know, you are my guardian," I re- 
minded him. 

"Yes, I know I am, but . . ." 

' ' And it 's the last thing I shall ever ask of you in your 
official capacity." 

"Yes ... but . . ." 

'* Besides, think how awfully relieved you'll be to get 
rid of me." 

"That isn't quite fair," he protested. 

"Indeed, I've always sympathized with you about it. 
It must have been most irritating for you to have a 
sacred trust thrust upon you in this way. ' ' 

"Not at all," he murmured, politely conventional. 
"The whole point is that I've never had to do anything 
of the sort before, and ..." 

"But it celebrates your happy release. ... No more 
sleepless nights; no more anxious days; no more grey 

hairs ..." 

' ' Oh, if you won 't consider the question seriously. . . " 

he said, annoyed. 

"No, please . . . please, I didn't mean it; I'm sorry, 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 101 

and 1 11 be as serious as the very . . . That is, I 'U be as 
serious as you are," I said, correcting myself hastily. 

''Not very happily put," he remarked, his tone still a 
little huify. 

** Please, Mr. Penticott, do this for me. You see, I've 
no one else,'' I said, as seriously as even he could have 
wished, 

*'Well, if you are so set on it . . /' he began, capitu- 
lating grudgingly. 

*'I am,'' I broke in quickly. ''You see, before you 
can be given away, you must belong to someone, mustn't 
yout" 

"Sounds good logic." 

*' Well, and you're the only person I ever have belonged 
to since I can remember. ... I've got no one else, you 
know, Mr. Guardian . . . and it's so soon now . . . 
and ..." 

**Very well," he interrupted. ''I'll do it, of course. 
But I warn you that I shall probably make a complete ass 
of myself, and be a blot on the whole show. ' ' 

"Don't worry," I soothed him. "Lady Cordelia as- 
sures me that no one will look at anyone but the bride. 
And thank you so much. Good-by, Mr. Penticott." 

"Good-by . . . but, hang it all, I wish ..." 

But just what it was he wished, I didn't hear — though 
I guessed — ^because he put down the receiver, and that 
finished things. 

What a funny, surprising sort of man my guardian 
seemed to be! I'd never have thought he'd have taken 
that attitude towards the business. I fancied that he 
would be simply no end elated at the idea of getting rid 
of his ward, and willing to do anything to help. You 
never do know what people will do or say or think until 
they've done it, or said it, or thought it, do you? 



108 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

EverytWng went swimmingly right up to the very day 
before the wedding. Oh, that day before ! Shall I ever, 
ever, ever forget it? It was one long series of little dis- 
tracting worries and disasters. 

Lady Cordelia had told me to rest, so that I should 
look radiant on the day. Rest! Ye gods! With a 
telephone in the house and everyone on earth apparently 
using it! 

The twins brought me breakfast in bed, and left me, 
with the blind drawn down, to sleep, while they went out 
to get some of the final touches for their dresses. And 
no sooner were they out of the house than ting-a-ling-a- 
ling! went the 'phone. Up I got to answer it. 

A distracted bridesmaid informed me that her dress 
had come home at least two sizes too small. She could 
hardly get into it, and certamly couldn't appear in 
public in it. I took this with calmness and good cheer — 
it was the first mishap — and rang up the perpetrators 
of the outrage, telling them how important it was, and 
begging them to do what they could. My bridesmaid, in 
a very bad temper, had evidently already been on to them, 
giving them * ' what for. ' ' So they were in none too sweet 
a mood, and took a good deal of persuading. However, I 
mollified them at last, and as the future Lady Henry Pen- 
ryth, no doubt my word carried weight, and they prom- 
ised to do their utterest. I breathed again and got back 
to bed. No sooner was I safely there than: 

Ting-a-ling-ling ! 

Up I got again, and put the receiver to my ear. 

''Hallo!'' 

Madame Jonquil, who was making the wedding-dress, 
this time. In voluble half-French, half-English, she 
almost sobbed into the 'phone that some never-to-be par- 
doned fool in her work-room had cut — Hon Dieu! — 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 109 

actually cut the exquisite old lace that Lady Cordelia had 
lent for the dress! A mistake— of course a mistake I 
The girl mistook it for the modem variety that was to 
flounce the underskirt. But that such idiocy should be 
allowed to live I And in Tier work-rooms ! Holy blue I 
That 

I nearly howled myself. That exquisite lace that had 
trimmed the wedding frocks of various feminine Beau- 
forts for goodness only knows how many generations! 
What would Lady Cordelia say? Cut! Good heavens I 
Cut! 

''And it is unlucky — oh, of an unluck most misfor- 
tunate!" went on the distracted Jonquil, piling on the 
agony, in her Entente-Cordiale language. 

I jammed down the receiver, not wanting to hear any 
more, and wishing I hadn't heard as much. Unlucky? 
Well, of course, it was unlucky to cut a piece of centuries- 
old-lace ! 

I couldn't go back to bed after this, so I lit the geyser 
and started my bath. 

Ting-a-ling-a-lingI Ting-a-ling-ling-ling ! I flung a 
Turkish towel bath-gown round my dripping form and 
went to the 'phone again. 

It was Lady Cordelia. Now for it ! I thought. Natur- 
ally, she'd be furious — of a fury great and to be under- 
stood, as poor Jonquil would have put it. 

"Hallo! Yes, it's Judy speaking.'' 

"Oh, my darling child," came her wailing voice. 
"Have you heard t 

"Yes, I have." 

"Isn't it too, too awful?" 

"Indeed and indeed it is!" 

"What shall we do? It will utterly spoil the effect." 



110 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Of course it would! Oh, I didn't know — ^I simply 
didn't know! 

* * Find someone else, I suppose ; but, Judy, who 1 That 's 
the question!" 

*'Yes, and that won't mend it! Oh, Aunt Cordelia, I 
wouldn't have had it happen for the world!" 

''Mendit? Mend what?" 

''The lace — the lovely, darling old lace!" 

**0h, child, don't worry about that. That's done and 
can't be helped. But listen here. Teresa Beaufort won't 
let her little boy be Cupid! She's afraid of draughts — 
at the last moment like this. Isn't it too, too bad ! " 

*'Then you're not furious abou^t the lace!" I cried, 
picking a wet wisp of hair out of my eye. ''What a 
darling you are. Aunt Cordelia!" 

"Nonsense, dear ! Besides, I am furious, and Jonquil's 
an old fool; an old fool and a fat one into the bar- 
gain. ..." 

I laughed, on the verge of hysterics. 

"Oh, my dear, don't laugh!" her distracted voice im- 
plored. "It's nothing in the whole, wide world to laugh 
at, I assure you. There's not another boy in England 
like little Beau. Besides, he's the smart thing for 
weddings." 

"I know, dear Aunt Cordelia, I'm dreadfully sorry 
about it." 

"Lady Melicent Goode, Gtenevieve Preston, the Talbot 
woman, Jenny Jutland . . . they all had him at their 
weddings. And ncrw, shall it be said that they had 
smarter, more picturesque weddings than Harry Pen- 
ryth? Afraid of draughts, indeed! At the last minute 
like this!" 

And in sheer exasperation, she rang off, and I went 
back and finished my bath. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 111 

I was just doing my hair, when ting ... ! it began 
again. I flew and picked np the receiver, almost shak- 
ing it with irritation. 

*'HaUo!" 

Another bridesmaid this time. 

**I say, Jndy, they can't get the shoes to match the 
frocks, and they've never let me know till now. What 
are we to do?" 

*'Wear boots!" I cried in desperation. '*No, no! I 
didn't mean it. Get ordinary pale blue satin, and if 
they can't be all alike, they must be different!" And I 
rang off, utterly refusing to enter into any argument. 

** Goodness!" I groaned. ''This is worse than a dress 
rehearsal ! Oh, who would be a Society bride ? ' ' 

There was nothing further to report on the line in that 
section for quite some time. I got a teeny-tiny lunch 
ready, even had time to eat it, before the enemy started 
activities again. 

This time a familiar voice sounded. 

''Hallo! That my girl? I haven't rung up before 
because Aunt Cordelia told me you were to rest!" 

"Rest! Oh, Harry!" And I told him. 

"Then I'm coming right around to take you out to 
tea!" he said firmly. "This time to-morrow, darling, 
the awful busines will be over, so cheer up!" 

"Ill get my things on," I replied, gratefully. 

But, before he arrived, I learned that the florist who 
was responsible for the birdesmaids' bouquets, and my 
own, couldn't get the "Golden Glories" all one shade — 
that another bridesmaid had suddenly discovered that 
shepherdess hats were the one kind she never had been 
able to wear, and that she wasn 't going to appear looking 
a fright for anyone, forgetful of the fact that styles and 



112 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

colors had been most carefully discussed and agreed 
upon weeks ago ! 

Then Lady Cordelia rang up again to say that the best- 
man was down with '* 'flu," and that if something didn't 
happen quite according to plan soon, she'd be in her little 
green grave. And where was Harry? Was he with met 
If so, would I tell him about it at once ? He was probably 
on his way to me, so I said I would. Then the twins came 
in, footsore and weary, having scoured London for — oh, 
something, I 've really forgotten what, but they were very 
upset and voluble about it. I told them I didn't care if 
they never got anything again, I wasn't going to hear 
another word about it. And when Harry appeared, I 
cried out: 

*'0h, Harry; don't ever ask me to get married again, 
will you?" 

And, laughingly, he promised not to. We went out to- 
gether, to a tiny, quiet little tea-place, where there wasn't 
the least sign of bustle, and we just sat side by side and 
drank tea without speaking at all, hardly. 

Somehow one does feel silent and shaky on one's wed- 
ding eve, and Harry was a dear; so awfully sweet and 
understanding. We had a really peaceful two hours to- 
gether, and he took me home again in the early evening, 
just as it was getting dark. He only stayed a moment 
or two, to say good-night. 

* * The last time, sweet ! " he whispered. * ' The last time 
I ever have to say good-by to you. Do you realize it?" 

I didn't I hadn't realized anything. I'd just gone 
on being whirled along without being really clear about 
anything. Perhaps I ought to have thought more. Per- 
haps I ought to have considered. But then — ^I wonder 
if any girl ever can? 

* * After to-day you 're mine ! " he went on. ' * Ah, Judy, 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 113 

can you ever know what you are to me T ' And standing 
there in the dim, unlighted hallway, my hands held fast 
in his, he told me — ^but I'm not going to tell that bit; it 
wouldn't be cricket. But I can tell you this, that I felt 
small and awed, and awfully solemn, and horribly inclined 
to cry, for I was looking right into the heart of hearts 
of as fine a man as ever breathed. And I had the queer- 
est feeling that I'd no right to hear it; that I was eaves- 
dropping; listening to something utterly sacred that was 
meant for someone else — a sort of ** third person" feeling. 
Then he was bending his tall head and pressing his lips 
to my hands, and then he was holding me close in his 
arms covering my face with kisses. 

Then he was gone. And I was left standing in the 
dark, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, and saying 
almost out loud : 

' * Harry, Harry ! I didn 't know you loved me like that 
— oh, I didn't really!" And my heart was pounding 
as if I were suddenly afraid of something, and didn't 
know what. 



It must have been just on ten o'clock that night when 
the telephone bell rang for the last time. The twins had 
gone to bed, and I was in a silk wrapper, sitting before 
the fire, toasting my toes, when the shrill sound made 
me start. 

''Hallo? Julia Grey speaking. Who is it, please?" 

And the voice of my guardian replied : 
I rang you up this afternoon, but you were out." 
Oh, I'm so sorry. I was having tea with Harry. 
Was it anything important?" 

''Well, yes, rather." 

"What about?" 






114 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 






This giving-away question." 

Oh, goodness ! Mr. Penticott, you're not going to let 
me down, are you?" 

''Let you down! Well, I'd be sorry to, only " 

''Only what?" 

There was a pause, so long a pause that at last I said: 

"Are you there?" 

"Yes. See here, Julia, I don't want to preach, but it's 
a frightfully serious matter — getting married, I mean." 

"I know it is. But, after all, it's I that am getting 
married, not you." 

' ' That 's just it ! If it were I, I should at least know 
what I was about." 

"Don't you think I do?" 

He replied, doubtfully, "I suppose you do.'* 

"Well, then?" 

"Oh, well, this idea of having to give you away has 
brought it home to me very forcibly that, really, I don't 
know what I'm giving you away to." 

"You're quite depressing. Have you any grudge 
against Harry?" 

' ' Great goodness, no ! For any sake, don't take it that 
way. I've always heard of him as one of the best." 

"He is," I put in. "One of the best!" 

"Even so, I wonder if you fully realize what you are 
doing? I mean. Lord Henry Penryth is a great and daz- 
zling match for any girl " 

"Mr. Penticott!" I cried indignantly. "Are you sug- 
gesting that I am marrying Harry for those reasons?" 

"No, no, no! Don't take everything the wrong way. 
Only I'm worried. Are you sure you really care the 
right way? It's got to last a lifetime, you know. Any 
girl might be carried away, dazzled, and all that sort of 
thing, hy the prospects of such a life as you will lead. 



n 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 115 

Only — oh, just try to understand what I'm trying to say, 
and understand it the right way." 

I was so surprised that I couldn't think of anything 
to say. It was his turn to inquire: 

'*Are you there?'* 

*'Yes, I'm heref My voice sounded very subdued. 

''Well, d'you get what I'm driving at?" 

''Yes, I get it." 

"And is the marriage really for your happiness?" 

"Yes, yes; of course it is." 
Are you happy?" he persisted. 
Yes ; of course I am ! " This with a touch of sharp- 
ness. 

"But it's got to be something more than just 'happy.' 
Julia, it's the biggest thing there is. I must know that 
it's all right before I have a hand in it . . ." 

His voice was very earnest, and as he said that a big, 
vague feeling arose in me ; a big, vague longing for . . . 
oh, I didn't know what . . . and a big, vague rebellion 
against . . . oh, something . . . nothing . . . everything! . . . 

I caught my breath sharply, and a whole tangle of 
words clamored on my lips . . . but they died away, too 
confused and muddled up and incomprehensible for ut- 
terance. 

I laughed shakily. 

"It's . . . it's all right. . . . Only, how did you know 
. . . what it's got to ... to be? . . . And ... all 
xnaD. ... 

"Men have their ideals," he growled. 

A vision of Harry's face as I'd seen it that evening 
through the half-light rose before me. 

"Please stand by me. . . . Please . . . oh, please don't 
fail me," I faltered. 

A pause, then: 



116 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

'*Very well. And forgive me, won't jouV^ 

"Forgive you? I . . • I think it was rather nice of 
you . . /' 

I winked a tear out of each eye. One's wedding-eve 
is a most emotional time. And how seriously he took it. 
He was right, of course, but who'd taught him? Geral- 
dine Maidstone ? The thought scurried through my mind. 

"Then I may depend on you?" I said aloud. 

"You may." 

"Then, good-night, Mr. Guardian!" I said, smiling 
uncertainly, forgetting that a smile wouldn't "get over" 
on the 'phone. But he evidently heard it in my voice 
and knew just the kind of smile it was, for his tone an- 
swered it exactly as he said, gently : 
Good-night — and — all the best!" 
Th-thank you," I faltered, and slammed down the 
receiver, turned out the light, and fled to my room. 

I crept into bed in the dark, and as I lay staring up 
into it, a confusion of words went ringing in my ears. 

Bridesmaids' grumbles, dressmakers' despair, florists' 
apologies, then my guardian's voice: 

"It's the biggest thing there is . . ." 

And Harry's, all tender and broken with deep feeling. 
. . . Aunt Cordelia's, saying: 

"His isn't the first mad passion of a boy — it is the 
great big love of a man. ..." 

And at last, my own, trembling with tears, and on an 
odd note of apology : 

"Harry, oh, Harry!" 

And I pulled the bedclothes up over my face. . . . 






CHAPTER IX 

1 AWOKE with a start to find that it was full day, and 
that the mellow autumn sunlight was pouring a stream 
of gold through my window. 

My wedding-day! 

The remembrance came to me with a jolt, and I sat 
perfectly still, not thinking exactly, but sort of caught up 
by it and trying to realize it. My wedding-day! My 
brain turned the three words round and round and round 
again. 

"It's a dream,*' I said to myself, half aloud. ** Just 
nothing but a dream." And then, still half aloud, still 
in that murmuring only half -conscious way, I found my- 
self adding: "Nothing but a dream — a bad dream." 

I'd said it so absently, sort of oflf-handedly, as one 
does say these hackneyed things, that for a second I didn't 
seem to know I 'd said it at all. Then I caught my breath 
sharply, and said, in a whisper: 

"Bad? Bad? Did I say bad?" 

And then it burst over me like a storm of awfulness 
that not only had I said it, but I'd meant it. 

I clapped a hand over my mouth and stared wide- 
eyed, utterly horrified, before me, and I couldn't think 
or move — ^I seemed just struck dumb all through. 

I 'd meant it. I 'd meant that my marriage with Harry 
was like a bad dream. . . . Well, then . . . I didn't want 

in 



118 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

to marry him. . • . Yes, that's what it amounted to, and 
could anything be more dreadful? How can I ever make 
you understand what I went through that morning, when, 
with no earthly reason to back me up, I suddenly realized 
that I didn 't want to marry Lord Henry Penryth, 

There wasn't a word to be said against him; not the 
least vestige of a syllable . . . but I just didn't want to 
marry him ; that was all there was to it, and, my good- 
ness, it was enough ! 

Oh, I kndw what you 11 say — and you have justice all 
on your side — ^that I'm whimmy and moody and didn't 
know my-own mind, and never ought to have let him 
think that I cared. . . . 

That thought made me hide my hot face in my hands. 

I'd let him think I was glad and happy. And, surely 
— oh, surely I had been glad — surely I had! If I hadn't 
I never could have done it. Surely — surely 

Oh, but there's no surely about it — ^I just hadn't con- 
sidered, just hadn't thought. I'd let myself be caught 
up on a wave of feeling — ^let myself be swept along on it 
until here I was in this awful position. 

And there was no reason for it. Harry was every- 
thing he should have been — except the right man for me. 
And just think how wonderfully lovely Aunt Cordelia 
had been to me! 

And how all their friends and relations had taken me 
to their hearts in the most welcoming way. How could 
I be so ungrateful, so horridly, cold-bloodedly ungrate- 
ful ! I railed at myself in this way, trying to bring my- 
self to a different frame of mind, but all my brain could 
answer was : 

' ' I can 't help it ! I don 't want to marry him I I don 't 
— oh, how I don't!" 

Wbj^ don 't II I did once, surely 1 Or have I ikftv^c 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 119 

wanted to, without knowing it? And, anyway — ^why, 
why? There's no reason. 

"Yes, there is," said my brain again. "I don't love 
him; never have; never could." 

And I took my face out of my hands again and sat 
very still, thinking. The perfectly awful tumult in my 
mind stilled, too, and I said, almost calmly: 

"No, I don't love him." 

And then, after another long thinking pause: 

"That's why I felt as if I oughtn't to hear what he was 
saying last night — as if it wasn't really mine to hear. 
That's what I wanted to say to Nickolaa Penticott — ^that 
vague, terrifying feeling I had when he asked if I were 
really happy, meant all this — it was this trying to make 
itself clear, trying to put itself into words." 

Oh, if ever any of you have been carried away as I 
had, by all those mixed emotions that assail you when a 
man you like most awfully suddenly tells you that he 
loves you so much that he wants to marry you; if ever 
any of you have let yourselves drift this way, without 
looking into the future, without realizing that just liking 
a man most awfully isn't even first cousin to loving him 
enough to make it last for always, you'll understand just 
what I was feeling that sunny autumn morning of my 
wedding-day. 

I hadn't meant to play fast and loose — ^indeed and 
indeed I hadn't. I thought I was happy, I did really, 
and all those little half -feelings I had which, I see now, 
ought to have warned me, seemed so faint and vague, so 
utterly indistinct and unrecognizable, as if they'd been 
buried all this time so deeply that they'd only just come, 
with this terrifying rush, to the surface. If only one 
could see things at the time as clearly as one t!^^\yiks.^^^«si. 
later} 



120 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

What was I to do? And why couldn't I love Harry 
as he wanted me to love him ? There didn 't seem to be 
any reason, except that I just didn't, and had only this 
moment known it. There wasn't one vestige of a griev- 
ance. He'd been the best and dearest. I just didn't, 
that's all. And that's no reason, is it? How could I 
go to a man and tell him that? Besides, it was too late 
now — ^this was my wedding-day. Besides, again, I'd 
promised — given my word! No, there was nothing, no- 
thing in the world to be done but to go through with it. 

How was I ever, ever going to forgive myself! 



A knock at the door roused me with a start. I dashed 
my hands over my eyes and lay down, every instinct in 
me calling out to me to hide the awful truth. 

*'0h. Bun dear," I called, as steadily as I could, ''is 
that you? Come in, of course!" 

The door opened a bit and a head appeared round it, 
a head in a neat nurse's bonnet. 

"Norah!" I cried, and I flung out of bed, ran across 
the room all in my striped slumber-suit, dragged her into 
the room, and gave her a regular bear's hug. ''Norah! 
Oh, you utter darling! I am so glad, so-hso terrifically 
glad to see you ! ' ' 

Then, all of a sudden, the tension in my mind snapped, 
and I burst into tears, my head down on her shoulder, 
and I couldn't say a word, while she stroked my hair 
and said: 

**There, there, little old kid!" over and over again till 
I calmed down a bit 

''Oh, I'm such a f-fool!" I stammered at last, remem- 
bering desperately that I mustn't give myself away. 

''I was ao afraid yon wouldn't be able to g-get herel" 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 121 

I don't know whether Norah accepted that as the rea- 
son for my display of overwrought feeling. I think that 
all she thought was that it was the natural upsetness and 
excitement of a bride-to-be on that nerve-racking occa- 
sion — ^her wedding-day. Anyway, all she said was, in the 
old professional sort of way: 

*'6et into a dressing gown at once. And just look at 
your bare feet!'* 

I laughed shakily. It was so refreshing to hear her 
friendly bullying again, but was that all those clear, sens- 
ible eyes of hers had seen? My dressing-gownless state 
and slipperless feet? I didn't know and couldn't guess. 
I only knew that I wrapped a kimono round me, jabbed 
my feet into shoes, and swung round on her, unable to 
endure silence. 

^'ITl have to get a move on, you know," I said, my 
voice quavering with feverish excitement, with which I 
fondly hoped to mask the dreadful truth. * ' Oh, Norah, 

to think it's my wedding-day! Doesn't it all seem '* 

I began bravely enough, but couldn't get on — ^just 
couldn't; the words stuck fast in my throat and refused 
to be uttered. *' Anyway, I'm glad — oh, so awfully glad 
that you are here," I ended feebly. 

*'I couldn't let you know," she said, in her comfort- 
ingly, ordinary, common-sense sort of way. **You see, 
I had to arrange for a nurse to take my place, and she 
only turned up last thing last night." 

''So long as you're here, I don't care. Everything, 
absolutely everything, has been going wrong." 

And I rattled out the story of yesterday's disasters as 
fast as I could, dreading above all things — silence. I 
didn't want to think, or to let her see. I just wanted, 
since there was nothing else to be done, to go through, 
with it without dwelling on. my owa ^JcLWi^gD^s^ 



122 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



"Oh, well," she said comfortingly, '*so long as it all 
comes right in the end '' 

I was startled by this; it came so aptly into my 
thoughts, but she didn't seem to mean anything special. 

"Oh, it'll all come right in the end," I cried. "Of 
course it will ! It must ! ' ' 

I was conscious of talking rather wildly, so I snatched 
up sponge and .towel and whirled away to the door. 

"I must go and tub," I cried. "The car is coming 
for me at nine. I'm going to Aunt Cordelia's to — ^to 
dress, you know, and I simply mustn't be late. Oh, and 
Norah darling, shout to me and tell me all the news while 
I'm having my bath, and 111 — ^I'll shout back." 

And I went out. 

"It's a dream — ^just only a dream. Oh, if only I could 
wake out of it and find that it hadn't happened!" were 
the words that went swinging through my mind. But 
what was the good of that? It had happened, it had, 
and I'd got just to abide by it. 



When I was dressed, Norah and the twins pestered me 
to eat some breakfast, but could I? I could not. The 
toast nearly choked me, and the coffee wouldn't go down. 

It wasn't one bit of good; I just absolutely couldn't. 

Punctually at nine came Lady Cordelia's car, and 
Norah and I bundled in. The twins were going straight 
to the church. 

The church! How the very thought of it caught me 
up and made me gulp. I had visions of crowds and 
crowds of guests inside, and rows and rows of casual 
sightseers outside, and myself making some awful, ridicu- 
lous blunder, saying the wrong thing at the wrong mo- 
ment, or tripping ov^r my train. 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 123 

I found myself squeezing tight on to Norah's hand as 
she sat beside me in the car. 

Aunt Cordelia made Norah welcome in her own jolly, 
cordial way, and took me wholly into her arms. 

** Everything's aU right, child,'' she said. ** Major 
Brereton has been roped in to do best-man duty. Beau 

Beaufort's mother has relented. The bouquets are glori- 
ous, the dress a dream, and the bridesmaids don't seem to 
know what ill-humor means! So rest assured, little 
bride. The sun is shining. '* And she kissed me tenderiy. 

And I flung my arms round her neck and kissed her 
with more feeling than I ever had, and my heart aching 
and aching as if it couldn't bear much more. 

I have a recollection of going upstairs, feeling as if 
my feet were lead, an awful, wild impulse in me to cry 
out: "I can't — ^I can't — ^I won't be married!" And 
knowing that all the time they were the very last words 
in the world that I should utter. 

Lady Cordelia was lending me Marie, her French maid, 
for the dressing operations; she said she could manage 
for herself. 

Norah sat in a deep chair to watch the transformation 
of an ordinary girl into that dazzling, fairy-like thing — 
a Society bride. And it was a transformation, too ! 

Marie was an artist at her job; she had that ''knack" 
that is simply everything in dressing, and as I watched 
in the long, three-fold mirror, the slow, sure changes 
her deft fingers wrought, I became so interested and fas- 
cinated with her cleverness that I almost forgot my 
troubles. But Aunt Cordelia coming in, swaddled in a 
dressing-gown, her hair every way, brought them back 
with a rush, by holding up her hands in amazement and 
saying: 



124 JULIA TAKES HEB CHANCE 

**"WTiy, child, you're simply lovely! I don't wonder 
that boy of mine loves you so. Well show everyone that 
the bride of his choice can knock them all higher than a 
kite, even if she isn't a Beaufort or a Penrythl" 

Dear Aunt Cordelia, if you could only have known how 
each word stabbed right through and through me. I felt 
my face go hot, then pale, and I had to look down ; my 
eyes couldn't meet the admiration and affection in hers. 
Her boy ! How she did love Harry. Oh, if only — ^if only 
I could love him, too I 

**Look at yourself in the mirror, little one," she went 
on. ''Aren't you a vision?" 

I looked, and then nodded, trying to smile, for she 
was right. I did look a vision, and the dress was a dream. 
A shadowy, pearly, misty dream of indescribable loveli- 
ness. Softest satin, cloudy tulle, little glints of silver, 
like a pool showing through morning haze, and cascades, 
sheer from neck to far beyond heel, of the lovely, mellow, 
old lace. The veil was an elf-embroidered, cobwebby 
thing, caught by a wreath of blossom and silver leaves 
around my head and right down to the very tips of my 
silver-worked shoes — ^high-heeled and dainty. There 
wasn't one thing at fault, except the heart that beat be- 
neath the snowy, gleaming folds. 

"WTiy couldn't I be happy? I thought rebelliously. 
Why should I look so radiant and be so wretched? Why 
should it be that I, of all girls, had to miss the best and 
highest life has to offer? Why couldn't I have known 
my own heart sooner? 

A final touch to the veil, a dexterous twist to a fold 

liere, a little pat there, from Marie's hand, and I was 

finished. The transformation was complete; the quite 

ordinary girl had been turned into a Society bride, to be 

petted and made much of. Envied — envied! It was 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 125 

such a great match. Harry was a dear. Oh, if only he 
wasn't! If only I could give myself one reason for not 
loving him! 

Aunt Cordelia brought me to earth again. 

**Now, dear, I must carry off Marie, just to finish me. 
Oh, I know I am of small importance, but I must be just 
presentable, mustn't I, little bride?'' 

And she smiled as she went out, followed by Marie. 

Somehow, I don't exactly know why, I was afraid of 
being alone with Norah ; perhaps because I knew her so 
intimately and there was no sort of restraint between us, 
and I feared that this sheer lack of strangeness might 
enable her to see all that I was striving to hide. So, as 
soon as I was alone with her, I turned from the mirror 
and said rapidly: 

"Do I really look nice, darling? Or is that just a 
part of the dream, too?" 

That last was out before I could stop it, and I bit my 
lip quickly. 

''The dream, kid?" she asked. 

I laughed unsteadily. 

"Oh, well, it doesn't seem real, does it? Not one least 
little bit. Lady Henry Penryth. Me! Imagine it, if 
you can." 

I felt a spot of color burning in each cheek, and knew 
that I looked unnaturally bright and "sparkly." 

"And do you think I'll get through all right? And 
not make any idiotic mistakes? And remember every- 
one's proper titles and ranks and precedences and things? 
Oh, Norah, doesn't it make Little Uppington seem miles 
and miles and miles away?" 

Suddenly I became aware that Norah was looking at 
me steadily, a curious little "thinking" look that made 
me catch a sharp breath. 



126 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

The sparkle all gone, I just fdt as if all of a sudden I 
sort of tumbled all to bits. 

'* Don't!" I cried sharply. 

"Don't what?" asked Norah slowly. 

''Don't look at me like that! For goodness' sake 
don 't ! " And my voice was shrill and harsh and ragged. 
I've never heard anyone's voice sound just the same, and 
it'll ring in my ears just as long as ever I live. 

For an instant a little fear flickered in Norah 's eyes; 
then she said, not quite in the old matter-of-fact way : 

''What's up, kidf" 

I pulled myself together with an effort. 

"Nothing; nothing, of course! What could be up? 
And what made you think anything was?" 

"You," she replied. "You looked and sounded a 
trifle odd." 

There was a silence; try as I would, I couldn't make 
my brain think of anything to say to break it. 

Suddenly Norah 's voice again: 

"Judy, are you happy?" 

Again I caught my breath. 

"Why, of — of course! Haven't I everything to make 
me?" I managed to say. "Haven't I?" 

Then Norah came towards me, something inexorable 
and fate-like in her determined step. She caught me, a 
hand on each shoulder, looked down steadily into my 
eyes, and said: 

"Judy, do you want to marry Lord Henry?" 

I tried to look up at her; tried to steady voice and 
lips to tell the concealing fib, and couldn't. 

"I — of course — ^I " I began, but Norah shook me 

roughly, 

"The truth, please! The truth now, if you aever 
£ipeak it again!" she said intensely. 



til 
li 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 127 

And out came the truth ; out came all I felt all I suf- 
fered, all I dreaded, in one word: 

''No!" 

We stood together, breathing quickly, her hands still 
gripping my shoulders, for one of the longest moments 
I Ve ever lived through. Then she relaxed her hands and 
released me ; she moved a step away, and quite smoothly 
through the silence came her voice — ^matter-of-fact, pro- 
fessional as ever: 

Then, of course, you mustn't!'' she said. 
Mustn't?" I whispered through unsteady lips. 
* ' Mustn 't ? Why, I 'm due at the church in half an hour. ' * 
My voice trembled on the very brink of an hysterical 
laugh. 

''If you were due at the church in half a minute, I'd 
still say you mustn't," she replied. 

"Norah, you can't mean that! I've promised — it's 
all arranged — ^I can't! Oh, I can't do anything now!'* 

And I clenched my hands tight together, high up at 
my throat- 

*' Something has got to be done, Judy. You have just 
to steady yourself and think, and," she added, "face it.'* 

"But what am I to do? What can I do? There's 
nothing to be done now. Don't you see that there isn't?" 

"The door to freedom is not closed yet," she said. 

' ' Oh, but it is ! " I cried. " It 's closed by my promises, 
closed by all those waiting guests, all that array of pres* 
ents. All this, and this, and this." And I touched my 
veil, my engagement ring, and my gown. 

"No, it's not!" she replied decisively. But I went on, 
unheeding. 

"And it's closed most of all by everyone's wonderful- 
ness to me — ^Aunt Cordelia's utter dearness, and — and 



128 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

because — oh, Norah, because I've let Hany love me so/* 
And I covered my face with my hands. 

"He does love me, Norah," I faltered through my 
jGbagers. **You don't know, but I've seen it in his eyes, 
heard it in his voice, and I've let him, I've let him " 

''I know all that," she said stubbornly. 

''And it isn't the calf-love of an impressionable boy, 
it's the steady, hurting sort of love of — of a man." 

All unconsciously I quoted Aunt Cordelia, and it 
seemed as if I really understood what she meant for the 
first time, now. Now, at this eleventh hour. 

'*0h, I can't do anything now! But isn't it awful, 
Norah? I never knew I didn't want it till this morning 
— ^I didn't, honestly. I thought I was perfectly happy, 
and I'm not. I'm wretched. But I can't do anything 
now — so late — ^I'd be too utterly, dreadfully ashamed." 

*'Judy," she said very seriously, "you can do almost 
anything — almost anything — do you understand? — ^with 
less shame than you can marry a man who loves you, 
letting him think you love him, when you don't. That 
is one of the great, unpardonable deceits. You mustn't 
be guilty of it." 

I'd known Norah for ages, but I'd never before heard 
her speak like this, with such deep feeling and convic- 
tion. It steadied me a lot, and I raised my face. 

"I believe you're right," I said slowly. "But what 
can one do? It seems awful, impossible, to fail him now. 
He's been so splendid to me. To — ^to turn him down 
at the last minute like this is to make — ^a fool of him. 
How can I do it?" 

"Isn't it failing him still more and making a still 
greater fool of him to marry him, pretending to care?" 
said Norah. 

I was silent, then : 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 129 

"But the people will all be there, and the presents — 
hundreds of them, Norah, and the gossip and wonder and 
comment. Oh!" I shuddered. 

''What do they count beside your life and his? Re- 
adjust your sense of values, Judy, and you 11 see that 
they are all superficial trivialties compared with the fun- 
damental question of 'for better or worse.' '* 

"But he will suffer, he will be so desperately hurt!'' 

"I'm afraid he is destined to be hurt; that cannot be 
avoided; better now than later." 

"Then there is Aunt Cordelia " 

"Yes, but it is you and Lord Henry who chiefly count. 
You have got to do the straight thing by him, and by 
yourself. Not the thing that is said to be straight accord- 
ing to superficial codes of honor, but the thing that 
really and truly and deeply is straight." 

Again I was silent. I could find no answer. And I 
knew that what she said was true. Of course, there 
would be gossip and comment, and a nine days' wonder, 
but what was a nine days' wonder against a whole life- 
time of mistake? 

I dropped my hands to my sides. 

"Well," I said, in limp surrender, "tell me what to 
do." 

Norah sat looking at me thoughtfully, saying, only half 
aloud: 

"If you start explanations, they'll be countered by 
shocked incredulity, appeals to your sense of fairness, 
and the worthless, but nevertheless terribly strong argu- 
ment of 'What will people say?' Even the best of women, 
even Lady Cordelia herself, wouldn't be able to resist 
using them. And you'd give in; I know you would." 

I laughed — a miserable sound, quite shockingly unlike 
a real laugh. 



130 JULIA TAKES HEB CHANCE 

''The straightest thing to do would be to tell Lord 
Henry quite squarely that you don't want to marry him. 
But that 's impossible. * ' She glanced at her wrist watch. 
''Hell be on his way to the church.** 

With what utter calm she discussed it, as if she were 
diagnosing a case ! But it was the very best attitude she 
could have taken, because it cut out sentimentality, over- 
wrought emotion, and all those unsteadying things that 
make clear thinking impossible, and if I never thought 
clearly again, I'd got to now. 

''Now, Judy, you are quite sure you don't want this 
marriage to take place?" 

' ' I wish — oh, how I wish I weren 't I Yes, I 'm sure — " 

"Then there's only one thing to do." And she rose 
from the bed, crossed the room, locked the door, then came 
quietly to me. 

' ' Now, then, ' ' she said sharply, ' ' get out of those things 
at the double. Hurry I There 's not an instant to wait ! ' ' 

Mechanically, as if I were hypnotized by her command, 
I obeyed her and began ruthlessly tearing off that white, 
misty loveliness that had been my wedding-gown, while 
Norah unhitched my veil and flung it aside. 

The dress slid from my shoulders and crumpled to a 
ring round my feet. I stepped out of it, leaving it lying, 
kicked my little Cinderella slippers off, and stripped off 
my stockings. 

"Now get into your ordinary things," she ordered, and 
I obeyed. 

"Not your hat," she went on, helping me into my cos- 
tume coat. "You 11 wear this." And she took off her 
nurse's bonnet and put it on me, pushing my hair back 
with quick fingers, and deftly tying the strings into a 
great spreading bow beneath my chin. 

"Now my cloak — quick — and you're ready." 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 131 

Her cloak was ofE her own shoulders and round mine 
almost as she spoke. 

''Let the veil come round and fall across your face 
carelessly, ' ' she said, arranging it for me. ''Now go, 
and leave the explanations to me ! '' 

She unlocked the door, looked out into the corridor, 
and then took me in her arms and kissed me. 

* ' God bless you, kid ! ' ' she said, her voice a little un- 
even. "Good-by, dear!** 

I clung to her an instant, then darted ofE along the cor- 
ridor, and down the wide staircase. 

Half-way to the hall I stopped suddenly, with my 
heart thumping up into my throat, for, down below, a 
manservant had just admitted — ^my guardian! And he 
was all dressed up 4n frock-coat and shiny hat and things, 
all ready for the "giving away" part of the ceremony 
that had so disturbed his peace of mind. 

I crushed back against the wall, praying and praying 
that he wouldn't raise his eyes, and saying sillily to my- 
self in that way one does say utterly irrelevant things at 
tense moments: 

"He looks more like the bridegroom than the 'giving- 
away' person!'' 

Oh, goodness! What would he say if he saw me? 
After the way he'd protested against "having a hand" 
in the ceremony. After the way I 'd forced him to against 
his better judgment. After all the warnings he'd tried 
to give me over the 'phone! 

"And I believe it was you," I said to myself, address- 
ing his unconscious back. "I believe it was you who 
really brought the trouble to a head, with your doubts 
and questions!" 

All this went through my head as, with eyes absolutely 
glued to him, I watched and watched. 



132 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

He didn't look np, and as the man showed him into the 
morning-room, the hall was, for the moment, deserted. 

Plucking tip all my courage, I made a dash for it, 
gained the front door, opened it soundlessly, and pulled 
it to again without quite shutting it. Then, once in the 
street, as if all the imps of misfortune were after me, 
I took to my heels and ran and ran and ran! 



CHAPTER X 

I JUST ran blindly for a time without stopping to think 
where I was going and without stopping to wonder what 
people would think of me. 

Nothing mattered, save that I wasn't going to be mar- 
ried after all; at this moment that was the only point 
that counted. 

The only thing I did do instinctively was to go away 
from Aunt Cordelia's house, along sundry little side 
streets, places that I hardly knew. 

Turning a corner, I found myself in Sloane Street, and 
there, looking towards the square, I saw the church! 

The church I was to have been married at. 

And just lines and lines of cars arriving and driving 
off again to wait. 

And an ever-increasing crowd gathering outside, wait- 
ing to catch a glimpse of the bride. 

Waiting to admire her gown— waiting to wish her luck 
— ^waiting to envy her — ^waiting for me ! 

I gave a little gasp and fled up towards Knightsbridge, 
the veil of Norah's bonnet flapping round in front, hiding 
half my face. 

A crawling taxi came my way and I frantically hailed 
it. 

''Just take me into the Park and drive round a bit,'' 
I said breathlessly. 

133 



134 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I leaned back into the comer, with tears of relief cours- 
ing slowly down my cheeks. 

It felt so safe to be hiding in the dimness of this rather 
musty taxi, which was soon meandering round the Park 
at the regulation eight miles an hour. 

I bucked up presently, wiped the tears from my face, 
pressed my hands over my eyes and said : 

*'Now, then, pull yourself together and think, think, 
think.'* 

And, believe me, I fhought. 

Sheer pressure of the awful circumstances made my 
brain work nineteen to the dozen. 

First of all, I went through the details of the dreadful 
thing I 'd done — ^looking at it squarely in the face, seeing 
it in all its enormity, and honestly, not even trying to 
excuse myself. 

There was no excuse, I knew that, but there was no 
going back now, even if I'd wanted to. And I didn't 
want to; I knew that much, as surely and definitely as 
I 'd ever known anything. 

I'd run away at the last minute and landed a lot of 
people who loved me, and whom I loved, in the most em- 
barrassing position. 

I'd dreadfully hurt a man who'd never been anything 
but perfectly sweet to me, whose only fault was that I 
didn't, couldn't love him. 

I did, just then, begin saying to myself: ''Perhaps 
after all, he won't feel it so very badly," but I stopped 
right there, knowing that it was just a cowardly shirking 
of my responsibility in the matter ; just a feeble attempt 
at a get-out and not the least true. 
He would be hurt. 

Terribly hurt. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 135 

Last night had told me that. 

But '*to marry a man who loves you, allowing him to 
think you love him when you don't, is one of the big, un- 
pardonable treacheries/' What was it Norah had said? 
Anyway, it was true. Anything was better than that. 
Even this. And that brought me round to the present 
and the question of how I was to proceed. A few min- 
utes' reflection brought me to this conclusion: that I had 
so utterly and completely done for myself that I could 
never show my face again! A knock-down sort of con- 
clusion to be forced to, as you may imagine. But true. 
Oh, yes, beyond all question, true. 

Everyone concerned would be so terribly upset and 
angry. 

What could I ever say to make them understand? 

And then — another startler ! — ^if I go back to the flat, 
how am I to avoid meeting people? 

I couldn't, of course. I'd be meeting them all over the 
place. 

Even the baker-boy and the milkman knew of my en- 
gagement! Everyone knew of it. 

It wasn't as if I'd been engaged to marry Mr. George 
Jones. Harry was Lord Henry Penryth ; quite another 
matter. And at Chelsea I'd always be seeing Lady Cor- 
delia, and heaps and heaps of people I'd met at her house. 
So, another knock-down conclusion — ^I couldn't go back 
to the flat! 

I paused a moment to let that sink in. "Well, wTiat 
then?" I asked myself. Another period of thought. 

If I remained anywhere in London, I was bound to be 
recognized, I knew so many stage people beside all Aunt 
Cordelia's friends. And — awful thought — ever so many 
people I didn 't know at all knew me ! Yo\l <5».\>J\» ^^-^'^^2ix.> 



136 JlHilA TAKES HER CHANCE 

with, or without, success, on the most famous stage in 
London without that happening. 

Goodness! How the situation was piling up around 
me! 

Hundreds and hundreds of people I'd never seen or 
dreamed of knew me by sight. And not only right in 
London, but from the suburbs all around. 

And that wretched Press campaign had made my name 
conspicuous and forced me on to the attention of the 
people, quite apart from the announcements and chatty 
little comments that had appeared from day to day con- 
cerning my engagement. 

So, you see, one way and another, I'd hit the popular 
imagination from almost every possible angle. I 'd simply 
been forced to hit it, and now, just at a time when I 
simply prayed to be able to go away and hide, I had to 
realize that I was probably one of the most talked-of , one 
of the best-known girls in town. My brain began to 
reel with the difficulties that were besetting me. 

''How am I ever to get away from it all?" I said, half 
aloud. 

And that sprung another conclusion on me. 

I just must somehow or other get away from it all. I 
must really run away; not only from a marriage cere- 
mony, but from all my life as it had been lately. 

I must go into new surroundings — start a new liveli- 
hood somehow. 

I had it! Typewriting! 

I sat suddenly straight, beginning to see daylight. 

Of course, I'd be a bit out of practice, but I was good 
at it, and I'd soon get back my speed. But, and I 
slackened all limp and crumply again. Typewriting 
meant London. There was no particular chance for it 
anywhere else. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE I'M 

Suddenly, like a flash of light, the idea came to me. 

I must become someone else ! Take another name, put 
on, as far as possible, another appearance. Change my- 
self in every possible way. Make Julia Grey do a van- 
ishing trick, and let — ^who should it be, rise up in her 
place ? 

Yes, who? 

That was an important question — ^to choose a ne^ 
name. See, it had better be a name that fitted my initials, 
because of the markings on my things. Julia . . . some- 
thing beginning with J. . . . Well, say '*Jane''; that's a 
good sound name. And to take the place of Grey? (God- 
frey? Green? No, I had it: Graham. Sounded some- 
thing like my own, and if at some tense moment I should 
forget and blunder into Grey, I could easily add the 
*'ham" to it. That looks ridiculous written, but you 
know what I mean, don't you? 

Jane Graham! A good, sensible, no-sort-of-nonsense- 
about-it kind of name ; excellent for a business girl in its 
untrimmed severity. Well, that's one thing settled, any- 
way. 

I opened my bag and took out my note-case and 
counted my fortune. 

I'd a goodly little wad of paper money left from my 
trousseau expenses, and jolly glad I was at that moment 
that Nickolas Penticott had let me have it in notes. Ready 
money would come in very handy, and I'd enough to 
carry me on for some time, if I went as carefully as I 
could. But I foresaw expenses; for one thing — clothes. 

I parted the nurse's cloak and looked down at the pale 
grey costume I was wearing, perfectly cut, beautifully 
braided and buttoned, with a finish that simply yelled 
Hanover Square, for I'd gone a \.«tTv&R\sKi^ ^\>L*iXs^ ^^'^ 



138 JULIA TAKES HEB CHANCE 

tume. A lovely suit, but no earthly use for my purpose. 
Well, I'd have to get something else, then. 

Something plain and serviceable and undistinguished. 
Something that would make me, outwardly at least, just 
like a hundred thousand other wage-earning girls. 

Then I looked at myself in my little vanity mirror. 
What could I do about my face? Could I do anything? 
No, one can't, you know. There you are, as Nature made 
you, for better or worse, and this morning my face was 
distinctly my misfortune. Not that it was a bad face in 
its way, but — it was too well known. Far, far too well 
known for my peace of mind. Other aspects of one's 
appearance one can alter, but your face ye have always 
with you, so to speak, and sometimes it becomes a nui- 
sance. 

But, wait a minute. What about one 's hair ? I pushed 
back the little nurse's bonnet. My hair was certainly 
distinctive, with its gold lights among the brown, and its 
obliging habit of curling without assistance. 

Suppose, only just suppose, that I redded it? What 
would I look like? I tried to picture it, and decided that 
it would make an enormous difference to my appearance. 
Well, I 'd have it done, then . . . but oh, my nice goldy- 
locks! . . . Couldn't be helped. And what was a little 
matter of color going to be allowed to count, against 
the situation I was in? Not a great deal, you may be- 
lieve. Moreover, when it had been henna 'd to a flat, un- 
varying red, I'd plaster it down with brilliantine and 
brush the curl out of it and wear it dragged off my face ; 
right off, so that not the trace of a bend was left in it. 
Now, where should I go and have it done? 

One of the girls at the theatre used to go with me to 
Truefitt's, but that wouldn't suit this occasion. Then 
where? Once you have anything to hide, how awfully 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 139 

difficult life becomes ! Each step of the way has to be 
thought out and seems simply beset with problems, and 
of course my dread of being recognized made me ex- 
aggerate things. 

However, finally I decided that the City was the part 
of London least likely to be dangerous, and I told the 
driver to go citywards. 

When I saw a small, decent-looking hairdresser's, I 
stopped him, got out, paid and dismissed him, and went 
into the shampoo department, and, as casually as I could, 
demanded a good, strong henna shampoo. 

Tense as the situation was, I jolly nearly wept when 
I looked in the glass and saw what the henna had done ! 
These little vanities die hard, don't they? Still, I'd other 
things to think of, and allowing a wee drift of the new 
red hair to show from the edge of my bonnet, I went out 
of the shop as coolly as if it were the most everyday sort 
of occurrence. I was seized with a sort of desperate 
calm, that made me set about working out my plan in a 
cool and methodical way that surprised me when I looked 
back on it alL 

There's no telling what depths of cunning one can 
descend to, until one simply has to. 

Happening to pass a clock, I saw that it was twelve 
o'clock, and my heart gave a bound. It was just an hour 
and a half since I'd fled from Lady Cordelia's. They 
knew now. The wedding had been stopped and some 
explanation made. The guests had wondered, exclaimed, 
gossiped, conjectured, and gone on their various ways. 

Poor Norah ! Poor, dear, sweet, plucky, loyal Norah, 
to take on such a ghastly job ! 

Harry? He knew now, too. 

The thoughts went racing through my mind. 

What had he said? 



140 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

How had he looked? 

Oh, one could guess easfly enough. How awful to have 
the power to hurt anyone so! 

My next move was to buy one or two papers that were 
likely to advertise rooms to let, and take them into a 
Lyons' teashop to study them over a cup of coffee. 

One was the TelegrapTi, and I scanned its long columns 
of ''To Lets" without seeing a useful thing. But, in 
turning the paper, a headline caught my eye. It ran, 
in big type : 



it 



Marriage of Lord Henry Penryth to-day'' 



I felt my face go scarlet, and eagerly read all that was 
said about it. Just a statement of time, place, and per- 
sonalities. Who he was, who I was, who the bridesmaids 
were, and so on. 

My other paper was a picture paper. In that — ^my 
heart did a somersault — ^I saw a reproduction of that 
photograph I'd taken for the publicity man at the 
theatre. 

* ' Miss JuoA Grey, to marry Lord Henry Penryth to- 
day/* was the legend underneath it. 

Oh goodness, wasn't it awful? 

Why had they got to make such a fuss of it just be- 
cause Harry happened to be a lord? 

Still, one thing comforted me a good deal. The photo- 
graph wasn't, and never had been, the least bit like me! 

''And," I reflected, ''it's the only one there is, so that's 
good." 

I didn't find anything satisfactory about rooms to let, 
but I did see an advertisement of a firm in Holloway 
which, judging by the little sketches displayed, could pro- 
vide me with exactly the type of outfit I wanted. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 141 

So, my coffee finished and my bill paid, I made my way 
to Holloway. 

It seemed an awful long way, because I only knew the 
West End of London. 

Straight from Little Uppington I'd gone there, and 
there I'd stayed. However, I went to Holloway, pene- 
trated the very interior, and then I found the outfitters 
I sought. 

A look at the windows showed me that they could give 
me what I required to a T. But how was I to go in, in 
a Hanover Square costume, and get one of these neat 
little, comparatively cheap suits, without arousing curi- 
osity and comment? 

Well, it had got to be done, that was all, so in I went, 
made for the girl I best liked the look of, and said : 

**Do you think it would be possible to buy a coat and 
skirt for — for a friend, without her having to come and 
try it on?'' 

Taking her into my confidence in this way brought 
out all the girl's instinct to be helpful, and she answered 
brightly: 

"Oh, yes, I think so, miss. Come this way and I'll 
show you some." 

I followed her to a big department full of racks and 
racks and racks of coats and skirts. 

''What was it your friend was wanting?" she asked. 

**Just a plain, business-like coat and skirt for — for 
office wear," I answered. 

''Something in brown or navy?'* 

"Navy, I think." 

She showed me one or two styles, then said : 

"You can tell me the measurements, I suppose — ^bust, 
hip, length?" 

Mercifully I could. My trousseau-getting had im- 



142 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

pressed my own measurements unforgettably on my 
memory. 

I gave them glibly. 

* ' Oh, then I 'm sure I can find you something suitable. 
Quite a stock size you'll want. Here's a neat little cos- 
tume, serviceably made, and — ^how much did you want 
to give?" 

She was such a nice, helpful, friendly girl, and took 
so much trouble, so cheerfully, that I quite enjoyed the 
buying of that rather scrubby little suit. And I never 
had to open my cloak and display my swanky Hanoverian 
get-up once. That mythical friend and knowing my own 
measurements got me out of that difficulty. 

I left the shop dangling the big parcel on my finger. 

Then I went to a draper's and bought some under- 
clothes, and to a second-hand trunk shop, and got an 
imitation leather suit-case — one couldn't go to rooms 
without any luggage — ^and having put all my parcels into 
my second-hand suit-case, I stood on the pavement, won- 
dering what to do next. I hadn't the foggiest notion 
where I was in relation to any other part of London, but 
a 'bus came along and drew up quite close to me, and 
looking up, I saw BigKbury on it, and on the impulse of 
the moment I boarded it, and hoped for the best. 

I alighted at Highbury Station, thinking that sounded 
likely, somehow, and took a ticket to Hackney. I didn't 
know a thing about Hackney, except that I felt sure no 
friend of Lady Cornelia's did, either. 

I looked about for rooms at Hackney, but though I 
tramped and tramped, there was nothing doing. 

Not a room to be had. So I went back to the station 
and took a ticket to Forest Gate, because it sounded so 
cool and refreshing and nice. And it was nice, and I 
quite decided to live there, only Forest Gate didn't want 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 143 

me. I had no better luck there than I 'd had at Hackney. 

But at Forest Gate a landlady asked me if I'd tried 
Wanstead. No, I hadn't. 

She suggested that I might do so. Wanstead Flats, she 
said, was as likely a place as any. 

Wanstead Flats ! 

*'But," I said, *'I don't want a flat, only rooms!" 

"Oh, that's the name of the place! You passes through 
the Flats on your way to Wanstead." 

Goodness, didn't it sound depressing? Wanstead Flats! 
And at first sight it was, rather. Rows and rows of little 
houses all alike; rows and rows of privet hedges; rows 
and rows of little gates; rows and rows of slate roofs; 
rows and rows of Nottingham lace curtains, parted in the 
middle to show a depressed-looking plant in a painted 
bowl. Rows and rows of — oh, I don't know; but with 
free, unbuilt, and open Little Uppington and picturesque 
Chelsea in my memory, it seemed as if everything here 
was in rows. 

Still, I found a room — a little bow-windowed room, 
with an uncheerful outlook, no furniture, very ancient 
raggy-looking carpet on the floor, much-mended scraps of 
lace curtain at the window, but, none the less, a room I 

And clean and sweet-smelling into the bargain. 

This Eldorado was owned by a stout, clean, cheery 
woman, who told me that her husband was out of work 
and that she'd been fairly put to it to make ends meet, 
and had had to sell the furniture, and hadn't been able 
to afford to have anything done to the room, but such as 
it was I was welcome to it for six shillings a week. 

''I'll fix you up with a bed and a few things till you 
could get your own bits of sticks in," she suggested. 
There was a hearty, straightforward air about her that 



144 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I liked, and as a beginning, she fetched a plain little 
cane-bottomed chair. 

' ' What about — about references ? ' ' I asked uncertainly. 

*'Been nursing, haven't you? Well, I can take your 
Bort on trust," she answered. I felt my face go hot. 

'*0h, but I'm not *' I began, but stopped. Even 

if it was deceitful I'd got to make the most of it, but I 
Tiaie fibbing, don't you? 

Still, my landlady saved me a lot by taking many 
things for granted. 

"Giving it up, are you?" she said. '*WeU they do 
say it's very tiring work, and you don't look all that 
strong, if you'll 'scuse me mentioning it." 

''It's very nice of you," I began. 

*'0h, I'm not a bad sort, taking me all round," she 
broke in with a jolly laugh. ''And it's a good way round, 
too, ain't it?" she added, looking down at her consider- 
able bulk. "You do the level by me and 111 do the level 
by you, eh?" 

It dawned on me then that six shillings a week would 
mean a lot to her, and that she wasn't disposed to raise 
difficulties in the way of a "let/* Jolly lucky for me! 

"All right," I said, suddenly deciding, "I'll take it." 

And I sat down somewhat abruptly on the scrubby 
little chair, realizing with a shock how deadly tired I was. 

"A good old cup of tea is what *ud do you good," said 
my landlady, "and if you 11 just step down into the 
parlour you shall *ave it." 

Over tea, Mrs. Henty — ^that was her name— and I be- 
came quite well acquainted. 

"Anjrthing you like you can do to that room. I ain't 
a one to raise objections. Be *appy your own way, that's 
what I always say. I can put you in a good, clean bed, 
which you're welcome to till you gets your own.** 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 145 

I thanked her. 

**I'll have to look around for something/' I said. **You 
see, I did want to find a furnished room. ' ' 

**I know, but things is difficult these days, ain't they? 
It's a question of take it or leave it in everything now. 
Now, 111 run and light you up a bit of a fire; that'll 
make your room a bit more cheerio, won't it? You stay 
here till I fix it up a bit." 

''Oh, Mrs. Henty," I said. *' Suppose I pay you a 
week's rent down now, in advance, shall I?" 

''Well, it never comes amiss, does it?" she said, smil- 
ing broadly. "Ill write you out a receipt for it." 

That little business matter settled, she went off and 
attended to my room, and when she called me to go and 
look, I found a bright little fire burning in the grate, and 
a highly-colored hearthrug before it, made of bits of 
colored rags ; a box in lieu of a chest-of -drawers, covered 
with a colored tablecloth, with fuzzy bobs round the 
edge, and a crinkly mirror standing on it ; and a narrow, 
humpy-looking bed, furnished with poor but spotlessly 
clean coverings, against the wall at one side. 

Oh, memories of Lady Cordelia's stately rooms and 
priceless old furniture ! What a contrast was here ! 

"Now 111 leave you to tidy up. Oh, an' use of bath 
goes in with the room. There's always plenty of hot 
water, because, not 'aving a gas cooker, I uses the range." 

Now that really was good news. I thanked her and 
she left me. 

I looked at my watch and found that it was just on 
five. And I'd been trapseing about all this time. No 
wonder I felt just ready to drop. I hadn't noticed it 
while I was on the go, but now I simply ached in every 
limb and every muscle. 

I took off the nurse's cloak and bonnet, stripped off 



146 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Hanover Square, fetched Holloway out of the suit case, 
and put it on. It didn't fit — ^how could it? But it was 
a spruce enough little suit. I laid one of my new, thick 
nightgowns on my pillow, put the other things in the 
box Mrs. Henty had provided, and packed my grey cos- 
tume and Norah's cloak and bonnet in the suit case, and 
locked it. Then, Julia Grey being no more, Jane Gra- 
ham suddenly collapsed face downward on to the hum- 
mocky bed, and the strain and tension of this awful day 
gave way to a flood of tears. 



In spite of all my troubles, I slept like a log that night. 

My bed wasn't awfully comfy, but when I'd learnt 

the trick of avoiding the hummocks and nestling myself 

into the valleys, I soon discovered that it was comfy 
enough ; and it seemed to me that no sooner had my head 
touched the pillow than there came a pounding at my 
door and a voice saying : 

*'I've just brought you a bite of breakfast. It's gone 
the 'alf -hour ! ' ' And I woke with a start, to find that it 
was to-morrow morning. It took me a second or two to 
remember where I was, then I called out: 

* ' Oh, how good of you ! Please come in. You shouldn 't' 
have troubled! Am I dreadfully late?"— all in one 
breath. 

Mrs. Henty put a breakfast tray beside me on the bed. 

** Thought you'd be feelin' a bit peckish by this time- 
it's getting on for nine." 

*'0h, goodness, what a time I've slept! But I was so 
tired!" And I stretched and yawned. 

'* That's all right. Miss Graham. I know yon had a 
trapse yesterday. Here's the Daily Picture for you to 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 147 

look at while you eat your breakfast, and there'll be 
plenty of hot water when you want it." 

She hustled round the room in that fussy little way 
some women have, putting things straight which were 
already straight, and flicking imaginary dust off things. 
If there wasn't something to clean, that woman was per- 
fectly miserable; she just fairly cleaned things thread- 
bare. 

When she left me, I opened the paper eagerly, and 
my heart sank to see the whole of the middle page de- 
voted to pictures of Harry, of Lady Cordelia, of the 
church, the guests arriving, the guests leaving, and all 
the rest of it ; with me in the centre, the fold of the paper 
right down my face. 

*'Lord Henry Penryth's Wedding Postponed Through 
Sudden Indisposition of the Bride!" *' Dramatic Post- 
ponement of Penryth Wedding!" Those were the head- 
lines. 

I sat looking at the pictures and thinking. 

*'I suppose they'll keep up the indisposition spoof 
until the nine days' wonder is over, and then just let the 
whole thing slide," I said to myself. ** There'll just not 
be a wedding. But what are they thinking and saying 
to themselves?" 

My face looked up at me out of the middle of the page, 
smiling and ever so sugary-sweet — ^thank goodness for the 
umpteenth time that it isn't a bit like me! Although 
the mouth and chin, perhaps, are a little suggestive of 
my own. 

I covered the top of the face and examined the lower 
part critically. 

Then hopped out of bed, got my mirror and hopped 
back again ; and then I compared my own true-bill face 
with the saccharine presentation of it. 



148 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I was fairly satisfied ; but, oh, my goodness, the moment 
one does anything out of the narrow rut of convention, 
what a — well, almost a criminal one begins to fed ! 

And how artful and tricky one gets! 

For instance, hearing Mrs. Henty^s step outside on the 
stairs, I hastily hid the mirror, turned the page of the 
paper, and became dead nuts on my breakfast. And 
I'm sure the hurried little performance was quite worthy 
of my reputation as a ** promising young actress !'* 

And this was the same girl who'd been, only a few 
months before, so utterly unsophisticated and ** green" 
as to be on the point of giving her address to a complete 
stranger, on the strength of his having nearly stunned 
her with a swing door. 

Oh, Harry — dear, dear Harry, how I do wish Fate 
hadn't brought you through that swing door at just that 
moment! If only Fate didn't have to go and do these 
awkward things! If only — oh, a whole heap of things 
which didn't help in the least. 

Above all, if only I could have seen him and explained. 
Would he have understood? What was he thinking 
and saying? And suddenly it came to me that, above 
everything, he'd be worrying. Everybody would; by 
this time they'd be worried sick about me. 

Norah would explain as well as she could, and she'd 
think I'd gone back to the flat. They'd all think that. 
Perhaps Harry or someone would go to the flat to see me, 
and I wouldn't be there; then they'd think that I'd just 
gone for a walk to think things over, and that I'd be 
back later, and all day they'd be thinking that. And 
then, round about late afternoon, they'd stop thinking 
and begin hoping. Hoping I wouldn't be long; hoping 
I 'd be back by supper-time ; then just hoping I was all 
right, safe, well, and that nothing had happened to me. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 149 

For, in spite of all I'd done, they did love me; and even 
if they hadn't, they wouldn't want any harm to come to 
me, and would be most frightfully anxious. 

It came home to me then how fearfully unfair I was 
being. Apart from the first big, necessary cruelty of 
letting a man who loved me so, down so dreadfully, there 
was no sort of need to inflict these other hurts, anxiety 
and fear. . . . 

But what was I to do? There was only one thing; 
I must write, without giving an address, just explaining 
all I possibly could. Who was I to write to? Harry 
himself? Yes, I thought so. In the first place, I believed 
he'd be the most ready of them all to understand, and to 
believe that I hadn't just been playing fast and loose 
with him. And, anyway, didn't I owe him at least some 
sort of first-hand explanation and apology? I did, in- 
deed. ... If only he could have known how deeply I was 
sorry. 

I dressed quickly, borrowed writing materials from 
Mrs. Henty, and on very cheap notepaper, with a per- 
fectly villainous pen, I began a letter to Harry. And, 
oh, it was the most difficult letter I've ever written in 
my life ! 

It was only the fact that the penholder had already 
been chewed by some person or persons unknown that 
prevented me from making a meal of it, and the amount 
of paper I wasted in making false starts ! 

How could I begin? '*My dear Harry." No, he 
wasn't mine any longer. Then how about just ''Harry"? 
I thought it over. 

No; it sounded offended as if I'd a grievance. Then 
it would have to be just *'Dear Harry," like an ordinary 
friend that you'd never had any sort of crisis with. But, 
somehow, when I began to write, the words turned them- 



150 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

selves round the other way, and I found I'd put ** Harry 
dear." And that seemed right; he was stiU Harry, and 
he was still dear to me, and even if he were too furious 
to care any more, I wanted him to know that. 

I'm not going to tell you word for word what I wrote, 
but I told him that I had no excuse to offer, except that 
I truly, truly hadn't realized what I was doing till that 
last morning. How, even then, I'd meant to go through 
with it, and how it was only at the very last moment that 
Norah had shown me how treacherous and impossible 
it would be to marry him without wholly loving him. I 
told him how very much I cared for him, and always 
would, and how he'd been the very, very best in the world 
to me, but that in spite of all his goodness and kindness 
and utter darkness, I didn't love him, and knew now that 
I never could. 

Then I just told him that, although I sent no address, 
he wasn't to worry about me, that I was quite all right; 
but that I was never, never, never going to show myself 
in his circle again. 

And I asked him to tell Lady Cordelia this, and to give 
her my heartfelt apologies for the trouble I'd caused. It 
was ever such a long letter, and I tried as hard as I could 
to explain clearly what I felt ; at least I owed him honesty. 

When I'd finished this composition and addressed and 
sealed the envelope over it, I felt almost light-hearted 
again, and the thankfulness I felt that I was still Judy 
Grey — or, rather, Jane Graham — made me realize more 
and more clearly what an utter and tragic mistake my 
marriage to Harry would have been. Better to hurt him 
bitterly for a time than to wreck both our lives for al- 
ways. 

I put on my coat and a black velvet tam I'd bought, 
and slipping the letter into my pocket I went downstairs. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 151 

I had a short discussion of ways and means with Mrs. 
Henty, and told her I 'd have my lunch out as I 'd be some 
little time. You see, I meant to go into town to post 
my letter, so that the post-mark should be Charing Cross 
or Piccadilly, or something utterly non-committal like 
that. 

That decided, Mrs. Henty produced a photograph, and 
with great pride showed it to me. 

''That's Minty,'' she said. ''My girl— doing well for 
herself she is, doing short-hand and typewriting for a 
wholesale tinware firm in the Midlands." 

I duly admired the picture of a rather plain but clever- 
looking girl. 

"She's a sharp one, she is. 'I mean to get on, mother,' 
she says to me, and get on she has, though I says it." 

' ' She looks as if she 'd get on, " I said politely. ' * Short- 
hand typewriting is what I've got to do," I added. 

"Ever done any?" she asked me. 

"Oh, yes. I'm fairly good at it. I expect I've lost 

my speed while I've been on the " I pulled up 

sharply. 

"On the nursing business," she said. 

I gulped, which stood for agreement in her eyes evi- 
dently, for she went on : 

Where you going to start?" 

I haven't got a post yet," I replied. "But I must 
set to and look for one. ' ' Then I added : " I 've got just 
a little money to be going on mth that I saved out of 
my " I pulled up again. 

"Your nursing job — ^just so " And she sat think- 
ing a moment. Then she said: "You won't be too proud 
to take a suggestion then, I'm reckoning?" 

"Indeed I wont! Have you one to make?" 

"Well, my Minty started with the 'Stanmore Type- 






152 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

writing Exchange, ' in Robsart Street, ofiP Holbom. They 
taught her, and then let her work in the oflSce. And then 
they began hiring her out to different firms, and one way 
an' another she got in touch with these tinware people 
she's with now, and they found her that satisfactory that 
they wanted to make a permanency of her, and there she 
is to this day.'' 

*'She did do well," I said admiringly. ''Do you think 
it would be any good going to the Stanmore people 
myself?" 

''Don't see why not! 'Course, there's not every girl 
as'U do as well as my Minty — ^but you can't expect every- 
thing, can you?" 

"I'll go there this very day, and could I mention you? 
Tell them that you sent me?" 

' ' That 's right — ^you do, ' ' she said heartily. ' ' Tell 'em 
I'm Minty Henty's mother; they'll know who you mean 
all right. "Wait a minute, I've got the name of the man- 
ager somewhere." And she began rummaging in the 
table drawer — ^we were in her neat little parlor — and 
took out an old-fashioned "blotter." In this she found 
what she wanted. 

"Here you are — ^Mr. Josiah Kendrick. Ask for 'im. 
Best to go to headquarters straight away. An' you say 
you're a friend of Minty Henty's mother. He'll know 
her all right." 

"Thank you. It's very, very good of you. I am so 
grateful." 

"That's all right. We got to do what we can for each 
other in this world. Would you like me to get you a 
kipper or somethin' for your tea? A kipper's tasty." 

Oh, memories of Aunt Cordelia's elegant spreads! A 
kipper ! 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 153 

But I said quickly that I'd love a kipper; and she 
wished me luck, and out I went. 

I felt that I'd distinctly struck lucky with regard to 
Mrs. Henty. Her little house might be shabby, her idea 
of something *' tasty'' might go no further than the 
humble kipper, but I felt that within her more than ample 
bosom beat a heart of solid gold. And, after all, before 
the days of Aunt Cordelia's caviare sandwiches, the 
humble kipper had been a star turn on my Little Upping- 
ton supper table. 



CHAPTER XI 

When I got near town and the old haunts, I was miser^ 
able with the fear of meeting someone who might recog- 
nize me, and the **criminal-hiding-from- justice" feeling 
was strong upon me again. The first thing I did was to 
post my letter to Hany at a pillar-box off Piccadilly, 
then I went Citywards, had a very moderate lunch, and 
then hied me to Holbom and the somewhat dingy-looking 
offices of the ''Stanmore Typewriting Exchange." 

The offices certainly did look dingy, but inside they had 
a promising air of briskness and business that looked 
good. 

I asked for Mr. Josiah Kendrick, and was taken to his 
room. 

Mr. Kendrick was a keen-eyed, ferrety little man, with 
sandy hair, a hook nose, and a thin-lipped, cautious sort 
of mouth. He had a snappy way of talking, too, cal- 
culated to inspire terror in any but the bravest of the 
brave. 

He asked me what I wanted, as if my going there at 
all were a personal affront. 

I told him as briefly as I could what I'd come for, and 
who had sent me, and he said: 

''Henty? Henty? Don't know the name!" 

*'Miss Henty. Minty Henty was with you for some 
time, I believe." 

154 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 155 

"Minty Henty! Sounds like a beauty chorus! Oh, 
ah, yes. I remember — ^she left about six months ago," 
he added suddenly. ''Well, so she sent you, did she?" 

* ' Her mother, it was, ' ' I replied. 

''AH the same to me. Well, what can you do?" 

"Typewriting and shorthand." 

"What is your speed?" 

I thought it only fair to confess. 

"It used to be pretty good, but I'm out of practice 
now," I replied. 

"What do you think you can do now? Shorthand. 
A hundred and twenty?" 

"A hundrd and twenty words a minute! Oh, no!" I 
cried, utterly aghast. 

"Well, what then? A hundred? Eighty? Here 
take this down and let's see." 

He shoved a scribbling pad and a pencil across his desk 
towards me, took out his watch, looked at it a minute or 
so, then said: 

"Ready? Then go!" 

And he dictated a fictitious business letter to me. I 
was fearfully out of practice, but I did my best. Sud- 
denly he stopped, put up his watch, took the pad from 
me, and counted the rather meagre result. 

"H'm, seventy. Not much good, but you're careful, 
anyway." 

"I'd soon pick up on my speed," I said. 

"Think you would?" He snapped the question at me, 
but behind the snappiness was a tone that was not un- 
kind, and his small eyes looked at me in a summing-up 
sort of way that was yet not unfriendly. 

"I'm sure I would," I replied, more confidently. "I 
was fairly good at it — ^not so long ago. It will just mean 
pegging away at it for a bit." 



156 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

**Type this for me," was all he said, and once again he 
took out his watch. **Use that machine over there/' 
And he pointed to the one he meant. 

I fixed the paper in and waited; then he did some more 
dictation, stopped, took the page from me and counted 
again. 

*'H'm — only forty. Still, it's well done, and you're 
careful. No mistakes and a good touch. Some people 
count that above speed. And I'm bound to admit that 
speed ain't everything. When can you start? Monday 
weekt" 

*'Yes — ^any time.'* 

** All right ; Monday week at nine. Salary, two pounds 
a week as a beginning. May as well give you a month's 
trial, anyway — ^you're the sort of looking girl we want. 
What name?" 

Coming so suddenly, I was off my guard. 

** Ju-Jane Graham," I stammered. 

**JuJane? Curious name. Can't you make it plain 
Jane? Better for business, you know." 

'* Yes. Plain Jane — so it is — plain Jane," I explained 
eagerly. He wrote it down with Mrs. Henty's address. 
Then said: 

**A11 right. Monday week at nine. Good-day!" 

Thoroughly fuzzled up and furious with myself for 
making a hash of my name, I said : 

''Th-thank you — er " And then I was attacked 

by one of those ridiculous spells of tongue-tiedness that 
comes upon you at moments when you particularly wish 
to be at least lucid, if you can't be actually impressive. 
I have a vague memory of wondering whether I ought to 
say : * ' Good-morning, " ' ' Good-afternoon, " * ' Good-day, ' ' 
or ''Good-by," and ended by saying something that 
sounded perilously like *'Good boy!" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 157 

I got out into the street as quickly as ever I could, and 
just as my face was beginning to cool down, I turned the 
corner and ran into a newsboy calling out an early edition 
of an evening paper, and there on the newsbill he carried 
in front of him I read: 

''Sudden postponement of Society wedding!^' in big 
letters. 

Goodness ! How I hopped I I bought a paper, and it 
was the same old story. Hadn't the papers anything 
more interesting to get excited about? I thought resent- 
fully, and I got back to Wanstead just as fast as ever 
I could. 

*'Here, at least, I'm safe!" I thought gratefully, as I 
opened the door. Mrs. Henty had given me a key, but 
she called to me as I went past the parlor. 

I went in and found her with this morning's Daily 
Picture on the table before her. 

"What a to-do about this 'ere wedding," she began, 
and I felt like wilting away in my tracks. ''Taken ill 
on her way to church, the bride was ; fainted right away, 
they say she did. An ' him a lord an ' all ! Don 't it seem 
too bad? An' see this picture" — she showed me the all 
too familiar picture of myself. 

"Yes," I said, as casually as I could. 

"Well, can't you see the likeness?" 

"The likeness?" I echoed, swallowing hard. 

"Yes; well, probably you wouldn't see it, but, my 
word, I do. " 
D-do you?" 

'Spechully about the lower 'alf of the face — there!" 
She covered up the top of my pictured face, just as 
I'd done it this morning. "That mouth and chin. If it 
ain't the spit!" And she looked at me, expecting me to 
see what she meant, and I saw, oh, yes, I saw! The 



(t u 






15B JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

likeness around the mouth and chin seemed positively 
pronounced now, as I stood with my heart pounding fast 
and my face very hot. 

*' Y-yes. I suppose there — there is a likeness/' I stam- 
mered. 

Why, it might be 'er,'' she cried. 
Her? WTiof' I asked sharply. 
Why, my Mintyl 'Sprised you can't see it. Just 
such another refined, superior-looking girl she is as this 
pore young thing in the photo.'' 

"Why, of course I" I cried, weak with relief and past 
caring whether my agreement was strictly true and in 
accordance with my private opinion, or whether it wasn't. 
"How stupid of me I But, of course, I've only seen 
the photograph of her, and that isn't the same as seeing 
her herself," I went on. 

"Ah, I thought you'd see it when it was pointed out. 
Well, 'ow d'you get on?" 

I told her of my interview with Mr. Josiah Kendrick. 
"There, ain't that great! I knew if you was to men- 
tion Minty, you'd get took on," and she just beamed 
with pleasure. 

I didn't tell her that Minty had had little or nothing 
to do with my success, or that it had taken Mr. Kendrick 
several minutes to recall her to his memory, and as we 
sat down to our kippery tea we discussed my plans, her 
plans, and the remarkable talents of her Minty with the 
greatest friendliness. 

Next day I broached the subject of reconstruction with 
regard to my room, and found Mrs. Henty as good as her 
word. She'd said I could do what I liked to the room, 
and sbe'd meant it. 
So behold me, enveloped in a "h-Uge apxcwi, ^S^^^n^-^Njol^^ 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 159 

up, doing great deeds with a large brush, a pail of dis- 
temper, and a pair of steps. 

The walls had, fortunately, been distempered before, 
but they were that billions yellow hue that house-painters 
call a ''nice, bright stone/* It may once have deserved 
both adjectives, now it deserved neither; it was simply 
and unaffectedly horrid. Still, I found that a pleasant 
grey ''took" on the yellow ground most excellently, and 
with Mrs. Henty's occasional help and more than occa- 
sional advice, and by dint of working till I was ready 
to drop, I managed to get the walls done. And very nice 
they looked, too. 

Friday and Saturday I spent in running up some 
bright chintz into curtains, and getting them, with their 
poles and rings, fixed at the window. This was an enor- 
mous improvement. When it came to getting a few "bits 
of sticks'' for myself, my heart nearly broke and my 
bank account along with it! The price of things was 
simply appalling. I managed to buy an "arty" sort of 
bed, made of wood, broad and low and with curious 
curved ends, "after the Greek style" the man in the shop 
where I bought it assured me it was. He hazarded this 
from the fact that the bed had been built for an artist 
who had used it in a picture, for girls in flowing draperies 
to recline on. Anyway I got it, and it had quite a pretty 
effect and didn't look the least like a bed in the daytime, 
when it had a discreet covering of brown casement cloth 
and a few brilliant cushions thrown around. I got some 
matting for the floor, a rocking chair — cheap, because 
rocking chairs are not in fashion ; this one must have been 
the original one that Mrs. Noah rocked the baby animals 
to sleep in — and two very gay little rugs, all bright reds 
and blues and blacks, called, as a mere matter of form, 
Turkish, 



160 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I worked like a black, in the way one does work when 
one is trying to ''down*' memories. I had to forget 
that I had ever been on the stage, that I'd ever made 
any sort of a success, that I'd been petted by crowds of 
people who were only out to give me a good time ; and I 
had to forget that success had been well within my grasp, 
because if I didn't forget that, I could never reconcile 
myself to the sort of unexciting life that I 'd just started 
on. Above all, I had to forget that I 'd hurt a dear friend 
and a dear man ; the tone of her voice as she told me how 
that man cared ; and the look in his eyes as he told me the 
same thing himself. Oh, I 'd a heap to forget, so I worked 
away at my room, telling myself that all my glorious 
prospects were to be cut out from now on. I must start 
afresh and plod away at my new job, and — ^hope for the 
best. 

So, you see, I'd been right in those far-off Little Up- 
pington days, when I'd reckoned on a secretaryship as 
the very highest I could attain to. 

"And you 11 be lucky if you're ever anything more 
than a clerk," I told myself. 

What with one thing and the other, as Mrs. Henty 
would say, my week and a half just skimmed by, and 
almost before I realized, ''Monday week" was here, and 
I was starting forth upon my first day of my new job. 

The first few days were just as awful as the first few 
days in any new job always are and always must be. 
You feel such a silly sort of outsider. Every other girl 
in the place seems at home there and cleverer than you, 
and you think, in despair, that never, never, never will 
you be able to adopt that air of easy familiarity with your 
surroundings that they have ; never will it seem natural 
to you to come slamming into those swing doors every 
morning and out again every evening, never will you 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 161 

cease to be awed cold by the mere mention of "the boss." 

And yet in a week's time the atmosphere seems just as 
much yours to breathe as anybody else's, you slam the 
doors as merrily as the next one, and you sometimes refer 
to that terrifying great one, the boss, as **old something 
or other/' In this case it was '* Candy," a corruption 
of Kendrick, and because, as one girl explained to me, 
he was so singularly sweet tempered — ^she didn't think. 

In spite of that unpromising tag, I didn't find him 
such a bad one to deal with, a bit strict and inclined to 
slave-drive in a wild, hectoring sort of way, but when 
you got used to it and learned the dodge of steering 
clear of the danger spots in his temper, you managed all 
right. 

In three or four weeks' time things were going swim- 
mingly. I worked very hard and carefully, and soon 
found my *'pace," both in typewriting and shorthand, 
coming back to me, so that presently I was quite a pro- 
ficient clerk. In fact, I don't want to blow my own 
trumpet, but I soon realized, by the fact that Mr. Ken- 
drick gave me so much work that needed especial accur- 
acy, that he looked upon me as one of his good invest- 
ments. 

At first I was awfully bucked about this ; one likes to 
do things well, sgmehow, whatever the things may hap- 
pen to be, so it seemed to me that I 'd struck lucky, and 
for three or four weeks I moved between Wanstead and 
the ofiice, the office and Wanstead, like a well-regulated 
pendulum that wouldn't have dreamed of wanting any- 
thing that wasn't strictly in order. 

I really began to settle down in good earnest. 

That adventurous person, Judy Grey, was safely buried 
in the limbo of the past — whatever a limbo may be — and 
that sedate, entirely well-behaved ^crosi^ ^^ccccl^^ "^"ks^ 



162 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Graham, had resolutely and definitely taken her place. 
I handed myself daily bouquets for my smartness in hav- 
ing hidden myself so securely away from all my old life 
and its associations. My ''old life!" How absurd that 
sounds! Simple, ordinary, everyday me, having an "old 
life," as if I were the heroine of a problem drama and 
had just got to the great moment in the third act ! 

But — and now begins the great grouse — at the end of 
six weeks, or perhaps two months, my work had become 
so much a matter of routine that, really, it cost me no 
more thought ; at least, no more thought that was in any 
way interesting. The newness was off the whole thing 
now, and one or two stark facts of the situation began 
to stick through. One was that there wasn't one girl 
among the crowd at the Stanmore offices of whom I could 
make a real, close pal. They were interesting, amusing 
and ever so varied in type, but somehow I didn't find 
one that I could get beyond superficial with ; not one that 
I could picture myself going in for a real good ''heart 
to heart" with. 

And one does long to get it all off to someone, some- 
times, doesn't one? You know what I mean by "it" — 
all those little things you think and say and feel and 
plan to do, and discuss with some friendly person, if 
there is one handy; not necessarily things of any very 
impressive importance, but things that, if you have to 
keep them all to yourself, get sort of heaped up in your 
brain and become a real burden to you. And then, being 
a careful worker, about which I'd been so bucked, car- 
ried, I was soon to find, its own, peculiar penalty. It 
made Mr. Kendrick give me all the stuffiest kind of things 
to do; balance sheets, company reports, contractors' esti- 
mates ; things that are too dull for any description, and 
jret that cannot be dashed at; they have to be deadly 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 163 

precise and neat. In fact they are simply sheer, xin- 
adulterated grind, and I seemed to get miles and miles 
and miles of them to do. 

Days of grind are all very well if there's someone eon- 
genial waiting to welcome you at the end of them. Some- 
one you can talk to and laugh with and get refreshed by, 
but who did I have? Mrs. Henty ! A good, dear, motherly 
soul, and a brick to me always, but not ... oh, well, 
you know what I mean. I talked, of course; that is to 
say, I used my tongue, but you can do a lot of that with- 
out every saying anything, can't you? And that's what 
I seemed to be doing all the time. The only real talks I 
ever had were with myself, and one does get so deadly 
sick of one's own conversation after a few weeks of noth- 
ing else. 

'*You ain't lookin' over bright," said Mrs. Henty to 
me one evening, as she was cooking the kippers for tea. . . . 

* ' Oh, I 'm all right, ' ' I replied, trying to make the words 
sound sincere. 

*'You don't never seem to go out anywheres; I always 
thinks it does a body good to get out and about a bit." 

''There doesn't seem anywhere particular to go," I 
said. * * And the weather isn 't at its best just now, is it ? " 

'*0h, I goes up to London and has a look around the 
shops sometimes. Up west, you know, where you can 
see the fashions and so on. And Henty and me we goes 
to the pictures when he feels up to it. Pore fdlar, he 
don't often feel up to much; gassed, he was, you know. 
And the effects is cruel lasting." 

''It's dreadful. I think you're wonderful; the way 
you get on with things and . . . and go on . . . getting 
on with them, if you know what I mean." I laughed 
slightly at a loss to know just how to express my meaning. 
Keep on keepin' on — that's tha icvaut\fc^ \wsi x^&^^ck^j 



a 



164 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

dear. But what I was goin' to say is, you oughter get 
out a bit more. 'Ave a bit of pleasure while you're 
young; it don't last so almighty long, all said and done. 
Ain't you got a boy?" 

I shook my head. 

^'No," I said. 

*'Well, there; a nice-looking girl like you, too. Don't 
that seem odd, now. But ain 't you ever kep ' company ? ' ' 

I hesitated. '*Kep' company!" Lord Henry Penryth! 
The phrase seemed ridiculously incongruous. And yet, 
what a good expression it was after all, and what a sens- 
ible plan too. ''Walking out," ''keeping company," 
"getting engaged"; three stages of courtship . . . well, 
at least the first two gave you a chance of getting to know 
the man, and, incidentally, your own mind. ... If I'd 
walked out and kept company, I'd never have got en- 
gaged. I'd have had time to find out that I didn't care 
enough. . . . And I'd still be on the stage, and on the 
high-road to success. . . . And none of the tiresome dis- 
asters that had befallen my career would have happened. 
... I was silent so long that Mrs. Henty spoke again. 

"I didn't mean no ofifense, I'm sure," she said. 

I started. 

"Oh, I was thinking, that's all. . . . I wasn't offended, 
truly; only thinking and . . . and remembering." 

"Ah, then there 'as been a boy. ... I'm sorry. . . , 
But never mind. Miss Graham, dear, there's as good fish 
in the sea as ever • . ." 

"Oh, yes, I'm not unhappy at all ..." I put in 
hastily. 

"What 'appened? Was it another girl?" she asked 
with mingled curiosity and sympathy. 

"No. . . . Oh, goodness, no . . . nothing of that sort. 
. ^ . . I just didn't want to get married, that's all. At 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 165 

least, I didn't want to marry that particular — er — 
boy. ..." 

' * Well, it don 't do to be in a 'urry. . . . The offers my 
Minty's 'ad and 'er only just turned nineteen, too, you'd 
never believe ! But she ain 't in a 'urry ; so much so, that 
I always tells her, 'You'll get left, my girl, that's what,' 
I says. But it ain't just any boy as is good enough for 
my Minty. Was he in a good persition?" 

''Yes . . . very. ..." 

"Good money?" 

"Oh . , . yes . . . quite. . . . But money isn't every- 
thing, is it?" 

"Not by long chalks and that's a fac'. Look at me 
an' Henty. Never a wry word betwixt us, these getting 
on for twenty years. It's the man as counts in the long 
run ; not but what a tidy bit put by for a rainy day ain't 

very 'andy " 

That's so, of course." 

But all said an' done, it's the man that counts. You 
may lose your money — ^an' of course, you may lose your 
man . . . but I 've generly noticed that the ones anybody 
'ud be glad to lose is just the ones that's everlasting in 
the way. It's the good ones as get took." 

She sighed deeply, and then a curious expression came 
into her jolly, round face ; an expression almost dreamily 
tender, and yet with its usual background of matter-of- 
f actness — an altogether indescribable expression, and she 
said : 

"If you can find a man as you'll be proud to give his 
meals and his children to, you're all right. These kip- 
pers is done to a turn." 

And the meals and the children and the kippers were 
all in one breath. And if it hadn 't been for that curious 
look, that sort of shining look that lit u^ l^e.^ t^\2^\^^^> 






166 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

she might, from her mere tone, have been discussing 
whether it wasn't about time to have the chimneys swept. 

I fled to my room with an odd, tight feeling in my 
throat and a stinging in my eyes. Eomance and Mrs. 
Henty ! Romance and that good-natured, matter-of-fact, 
hard-working, grinding woman ! Plain, too, and far too 
fat. . . . And Henty . . . Whom I scarcely ever saw 
. . . thin, sallow, sandy-haired, with a comical '*01d 
Bill" sort of moustache to match! Romance, and that 
couple! Yet it had lasted **this getting on for twenty 
years!*' Some Romance! 

"When she came up bearing my modest tea on a tray, 
the shine was all gone from her face, she was just her 
ordinary self again, but her words stayed with me. And 
stayed with me and stayed with me ! At all sorts of odd 
moments during the following days, they'd suddenly go 
ringing through my head. . . . 

Romance! Precious little of it in my life! Why 
couldn't I have loved Harry? Didn't it seem sheer per- 
verseness of destiny, to offer me romance accompanied 
by every worldly comfort, and then to make it fail in the 
most essential thing of all? To show me the gracious 
figure of romance; to let it come to me, hands bounti- 
fully laden, and then to make me rub my dazzled eyes 
and find that after all it wasn't my romance at all. His, 
perhaps, but not mine. Poor Harry ! 

Oh, for that dream-home of mine. With its lawns and 
fragrant borders, its neatness and sweetness and sense 
of peace. With brothers to tease and sisters to pet and 
a father to wheedle. And a mother with gentle eyes, 
wise lips and a kind breast to cry on. 

If romance, with a big R, didn't come my way, it 
certainly was all around me. I hadn't noticed it par- 
ticularly before, but now other people's romances seemed 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 167 

to be thrust npon my notice. The girls at the office all 
seemed to have their **boy8," and they were always dis- 
cussing jaunts that were going to happen, or that had 
happened or that might happen. 

One girl left to get married, and there was a whip 
round for a present for her ; and she showed us the pat- 
terns of stuffs for her wedding-dress and her trousseau 
things, and how many she was having of each, and all 
that sort of thing. She hadn't been able to find a house, 
but they were going to start in rooms and *' chance it.'* 

''Well, my dear, what's the good of waiting for the 
houses that don't get built?" she observed. ''You're 
only young once, and what's the good of letting time get 
on till you 're old ; that 's what I say. ' ' 

And that evening I looked long and earnestly in my 
mirror. Was time getting on with me? After all, I'm 
twenty-one. . . . And at that I shook myself and laughed 
aloud. . . . Goodness! what a Methuselah, with a face 
as lineless as a babe's! 

Another girl got engaged, and another was at that dis- 
quieting point in her romance when she might get en- 
gaged at any moment, and made no bones about letting 
everyone know that she'd be engaged if the particular 
man in question gave her half a chance ; she openly con- 
fessed to being crazy about him. She always seemed to 
be getting interesting 'phone messages, and no one could 
help hearing her cheery replies ; they usually went some- 
thing like this : 

''The Coliseum? Won't I just! I adore the Russian 
dancers ! Where shall I meet you ? Call for me ? Right- 
oh ! I '11 be ready at seven ! Will I be ready ? Course 
I will ! What ? Well, I like your cheek ! Good-by ! ' ' 

One girl arrived in a huge state of eyL<»\l<^\si^^£^^Ni^^'s»afc 



168 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

she was going to two dances in one evening. There was 
a regular buzz about it. 

"Who you going with?" 

*'0h, Gterald, of course. Him and meVe danced to- 
gether all the season." 

''Anything in it?" 

"What, Gerald and me?" 

"Oh, no!" very sarcastically. "You an' Gerald, of 
course." 

A general laugh. 

"Ask no questions and you Til be told ..." 

"Stuck-up cat! What you going to wear, anyway?" 

"What ho! . . ." very mysteriously. 

"No, come on; tell us." 

"Pink crepe, dearie, with silver fringe and forget-me- 
nots. ..." 

"Sweet, my dear. Won't you have a time?" 

"Trust this baby!" 

"Two dances in one evening! Some gets all the luck!" 

And then a whole chorus of laughs, and sighs of envy, 
and I joined in that chorus, too. Not that I particularly 
wanted to go to two dances in one evening, but . . . Oh, 
well, I never did anything, any evening. . . . 

Wanstead — ofSce; ofSce — ^Wanstead. Tick-tock; tock- 

XICK. • • • 

Goodness! how monotonous it all became! 

I'd never been particularly sentimental before; about 
love and all those things, I mean. Of course I had my 
ideals and my hazy sort of hero, who was to come along 
some day, some far distant day, and oh, aU the sort of 
dreams and hopes that all girls know, but I 'd never been 
in any sort of hurry for my hero to come along. I'd been 
fairly busy since I was grown-up, and never had been the 
slightest morbid— too jolly healthy, I suppose. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 169 

But now, I began to feel that if that hero of mine didn't 
buck up and come along soon and rescue me, there *d 
be precious little of me left to rescue. I^d just wither 
away in cold despair. 

And that nice little dream-house of mine suddenly de- 
veloped a dream-gate; a dear, little gate, simply made 
for a dream-girl to wait at. And sitting, staring into 
the fire, I'd see that girl waiting by that gate, looking up 
along the straight white road that led right away to the 
rim of the world, right into the blaze of the setting sun. 
And sheer out of the heart of the sunset, a dream man 
would presently come riding. . . . 

He rode in such a blur of happy radiance that she 
could never see his face, but he was making straight down 
that road — ^to her. . . . 

And she knew that this was real romance ; her romance, 
his romance, their romance. . . . 

Here was the man she could be proud to give . . . 

Oh, Mrs. Henty, bother you ! Why did you ever say 
it? And the dreams were scattered by a shaky little 
laugh. . . . 

And what's the matter with me, anyway? 



CHAPTER XII 

I'm LONELY; that's what it is; just utterly, starkly, 
unrelievedly lonely. 

It was the mashed potatoes that brought it home to 
me. That doesn't sound sense, but it's true, nevertheless. 
And things often happen that way, now that I think of 
it. We've most of us got camels' backs, when it comes 
to the last straw, and the mashed potatoes were the last 
straw. Liqueurs and metaphors shouldn't be mixed, I 
know, but oh, dear, good-tempered, kind-hearted, willing 
Mrs. Henty, I hope some day that you will find someone 
to forgive you for those mashed potatoes, because I don't 
feel that I ever can. 

I had borne everything else without noticing how 
threadbare my nerves were getting. The discomforts of 
my makeshift home were many and varied. Winter 
brought draughts that I simply couldn't get rid of. I'd 
sit bang over the fire, wrapped up as if for a polar 
expedition, and freeze on one side and scorch on the other. 
When a week of rain brought the damp through my ceil- 
ing, I had visions of having to hoist my umbrella as well. 

Then it became plain to me that, with regard to break- 
fast and tea, Mrs. Henty 's mind began with kippers, 
went on with kippers and ended with kippers, except 
when it did a rash leap, as a stupendous treat, to sprats. 

I woke in the morning to a gas attack of cookix^ kip- 

170 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 171 

per, and returned in the evening to be ansBSthetized by 
frizzling sprats. . . . But I bore this. I also bore my 
every Saturday's midday meal of fried chop, smothered, 
as nothing since Desdemona ever has been smothered, in 
a made-up gravy composed of paste, heavily disguised 
in Worcester sauce. That Worcester sauce ! Hrs. Henty 
told me, beamingly, that she ''swore by Worcester sauce," 
and I nearly bit my tongue off trying not to retort that 
I swore at it. All this I bore with calmness and for- 
titude. 

But when it came to those mashed potatoes, watery, 
not enough cooked, soaked, soggy, and dotted with grey- 
ish, semi-translucent lumps that simply stuck in. your 
gizzard ; when it came to having to eat those lumps time 
after time ; when it came to there never not being lumps 
. . . Well, that finished me. 

I rose from my lunch one Saturday with tears stream- 
ing down my face, saying weakly : 

"I can't stick it ... I just can't. . • . I'm wretched, 
and uncomfortable, and just utterly and absolutely 
lonely!" 

And that was the first time I'd ever put a name to it, 
so you see, it was the mashed potatoes that did it. When 
you discover a name for a thing, it sometimes sort of 
settles it. I just sank into loneliness, sheer, dreary, drab 
loneliness, as if there was no further hope for me. I got 
caked in it, caked to the very eyes. No need even to won- 
der why I didn't feel the least inclined to skip like the 
little lambkins for joy in living; I knew; I was lonely. 
And there's no cure for loneliness if you get no chance of 
seeing other people. . . . Ergo, there was no chance for 
me. Any spirit of adventure that may have existed in 
Julia Grey was weighed down beneath the sense of hope- 
lessness that filled poor Jane Graham. Poor Jane! 



172 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Office — ^Wanstead; Wanstead — office, that was the bur- 
den of her song of life. 

Yes, and what a merry, exciting little jig it all of a 
sudden became! 

Especially the office theme! For one afternoon, one 
cold crisp afternoon about five o'clock, who should come 
into the office but — ^my guardian. My guardian! My 
goodness ! When I saw his good-looking profile through 
the glass entrance door I felt my face go hot and my 
jaw drop ; most unbecoming, but it did, really. 

And what do you think my first crazy impulse was? 
Why, to jump up and go to him and shake his hand, or 
fling my arms round his neck — ^I can't guarantee that it 
wasn't that — and say: 

''Mr. Guardian Penticott, take me away, take me far 
away, and don't let me ever come back!" But I didn't, 
of course. All that fine impulse dwindled down to noth- 
ing, and I just sat and. stared. And stared, and stared. 
Luckily for me, all the other girls were staring, too! — 
my guardian certainly was a good-looker-Hso there was 
nothing outstandingly conspicuous in my performance. 

He had to go bang through the office where we all 
worked in order to get to Mr. Kendrick's room, and as 
he evidently knew his way about here, he went straight 
ahead without turning to the right or to the left. Which 
was another bit of luck for me, because there I was for 
him to see, if he happened to look. He disappeared into 
Mr. Kendrick's room, and I was still staring, open- 
mouthed after him. 

A growing chorus of whispering and giggles brought 
me back to the present, and I became conscious that the 
girls were making fun of something, and looked round 
puzzled to discover what. I soon did. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 173 

** Struck all of a heap, wasn't she?" said one, in a 
whisper. 

''Well, dear, he's some boy, isn't he?" said another. 

''Never know which I like best — ^young Mr. Penticott, 
or Wallace Reid on the pictures ..." said a third. 

''She knows," laughed the first one again. "Young 
Reid wouldn't have a look in with her . . . judging by 
the seraphic 'spression of her. ..." 

"Bit of an oodle-oodle, isn't he, dearie?" 

This question was directed straight at me. 

"What on earth are you . . . t-talking about?" I de- 
manded, endeavoring to speak naturally. 

"Mr. P-Penticott, my innocent sweet one," came the 
reply, with an imitation of my inadvertent stutter. 

"Don't talk rot!" I retorted. But they kept it up 
with whispers and looks and smothered laughs and 
nudges, until I felt inclined to shriek. I just wanted to 
get up and say: 

"If you really want to know — ^he*s my guardian!" 

And I'm not at all sure that I mightn't have actually 
done it, if Mr. Kendrick hadn't come out of his room 
carrying a sheaf of papers. 

Instantly every girl in the office was intent on her work. 

He came to me, saying : 

"Here, Miss Graham, get these letters done at the 
double, and in your best style. Penticott and Penticott, 
you know; very important clients." 

He lowered his voice for this last bit of information; 
he had a way of taking us into his confidence like this, 
which, somehow, made the girls do their best. 

But that I should have been chosen! 

When my hands were shaking with nervousness, and 
my head spinning with excitement ! » 



174 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

However, nothing to do but to take the letters and set 
to. 

Penticott and Pentieott, solicitors! 

Goodness! Did I need telling! But how the name 
danced on the page before me, so that I almost spelt it 
wrong ! 

And, horror piled upon horror, should I have to take 
the letters in to Mr. Kendrick when I'd finished them? 

Or would he, by some kindly miracle, happen to come 
for them himself? 

I clicked away, these awful questions ripping through 
my brain, and had finished them and was putting them 
together, thinking, with my heart in my boots, that I 
would have to go, when Mr. Kendrick appeared, and I 
went limp with relief. 

** Finished them. Miss Graham?" he asked, a bit 
sharply. I suppose I had been a fair time over them, 
but he didn't know what I was going through. 

**Yes, Mr. Kendrick,** I replied — gave them to him — 
and he took them back into his office. 

A moment later Nickolas Penticott reappeared, and I 
didn't have any mad impulses this time; I'd come to my 
senses since his first entrance, and only prayed now that 
he wouldn't see me. 

He didn't; he didn't look my way; I was watching 
him, although I was bent low over my machine, intently 
examining its innerds. Anyway, he'd only have seen 
the top of my new red head, which wouldn't have been 
much of a give-away. 

He went straight out, jamming on his soft hat as he 
went, and with his going the tension in me snapped; 
something in my brain seemed suddenly to give way and 
I nearly burst out laughing. Believe I would have done 
so, too, if I hadn't been so dreadfully near to crying. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 175 

Why couldn't he have been the sort of guardian he 
might have been ? A guardian I could go to with all my 
troubles? I could have gone to him about Harry then, 
and he could have seen me through it, so that all this 
needn't have happened. Even now, if he'd been that kind 
of guardian, I really could have followed my impulse 
and gone to him, and begged him to get me out of all this 
rotten dullness, if it were only to the extent of a jolly 
little lunch or dinner and theatre . • . or some other 
quite ordinary little treat. 

I was so sick of hearing the girls talking of tJieir treats 
and having none myself. I was so sick of the dull work 
of this dingy office, of the kipper breakfasts and sprat 
teas, of the daily journey to and fro, of the penny-careful 
way I had to live, of the lack of some stimulating brain 
to sharpen my own against, of the . . . Oh, of the every- 
thing and everything and everything ! 

For a second the office spun round me, and the great 
rebellion against the narrowness and loneliness of it all 
started throbbing and tumbling and pounding through 
and through me. 

Jane Graham had to take a back seat while Judy Grey 
came out of the past and stormed and ranted and fairly 
swopped up the centre of the stage. There was no deny- 
ing her. She 'd got to do her little bit, and she did it, and 
she never stopped doing it, either, and she and Jane Gra- 
ham were scrapping all the way home. 

''You must be careful and circumspect and do nothing 
rash,*' said Jane. 

''Careful and circumspect be bothered!" said Judy. 
"If something doesn't happen soon to break the dull 
monotony of it all I'll go sheer, stark, staring mad! I'll 
tell 'em all who I am, or something — anything to create 
some sort of sensation ! ' ' 



176 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

And all night long I could hardly sleep. There does 
come a time when you simply want to open your mouth 
and yell, doesn 't there ? Well, it had come to me. I was 
fed up, and it didn't seem fair, and I didn't see how I 
was to stick it. 

The sight of my guardian and the thought of the lovely 
little jaunts he could plan for me, if he'd been the sort of 
guardian one could have conjSded in, made my present 
loneliness rise up all round me as if it would crush me. 

Naturally, I raged and stormed against it. 

Say, kid, ' ' said one of the girls to me next morning, 
have you swallowed a rocket? You look as if you 
might go all up in the air any minute!" 

And I felt like going, then and there. 



I'd prayed for ''something to happen," hadn't I? 
Well, it happened ! Oh, it happened cJl right, like a bolt 
from the blue, and that very day, too I 

Mr. Kendrick called me into the office, just about eleven 
o'clock, and said: 

*'I've just had an urgent call over the 'phone for a 
typist. I want you to go, as it's important work and 



it 



requires care." 

"Yes, Mr. Kendrick," I said, and awaited further 
orders. 

*' Their typist has failed them, and it's up to you to 
make good as a substitute. See?" 

Yes, Mr. Kendrick," I said again. 

'Mind you, it's particularly important, and I don't 
want you to go letting me down." 

=No, Mr. Kendrick." 

'Well, go at once then; quick as you can make it. 
Here's the address. Tell 'em where you come from, and 



€1 
H' 



ti' 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 177 

take the 'Corona' with you in case they use a machine 
you don't know." 

I took the letter-heading he handed me and looked 
down at it. 

If I had swallowed a rocket I'd have sworn that it 
went off at that moment, for I was * ' all up in the air, ' ' I 
tell you. The room simply buzzed and whirled, and 
sparks and stars were going off in showers around me — 
so it seemed — ^but presently they stopped and things 
began to settle down and get steady round me, and I 
found that all I 'd been doing actually was looking down 
aghast at that letter-heading. And I was still doing it 
as if hypnotized by what I read, which was this: 

''Penticott and Penticott, Solicitors, 60 East Temple 
Chambers," and beneath that decorous engraving a scrib- 
ble in Mr. Kendrick's writing: *'Ask for Mr. Nickolas 
Penticott." 

Oh, something was happening all right! Well, I'd 
asked for it, hadn't I? But, gracious, I hadn't meant 
this ! What on this earth should I do? 

Should I go on strike, defy my employer, and flatly 
refuse to take the job on? 

Or should I put on my hat and coat and make a wild 
dash for it? 

Disappear again? 

Or — ^weU, or what? 

But through this wild tangle of absurdly-fantastic al- 
ternatives some part of my brain was evidently keeping 
quite cool, for I heard, as if it didn't belong to me, my 
own voice saying calmly: 

''Very well, Mr. Kendrick." 

And still, to aU outward appearances, quite cool, I 
turned and left him. But if I appeared cool I didn't 
feel it, believe me. I was bang in the middle of one of 



178 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

the biggest panics of my life. I got on my things, packed 
my dinky little *' Corona" typewriter, and started off, 
feeling that if I didn't start I'd make some sort of a scene 
in the office — ^lose my nerve or something. As I walked 
through the crowded street my brain was working sixteen 
to the dozen, but in a wild, crazy sort of way. 

My guardian of all people! And I'd got to go and 
type his wretched letters for him! What should I say? 

How should I explain? 

Should I ever, ever be able to arouse enough sympathy 
in him to make him understand why I fled from my wed- 
ding with Lord Henry? Especially as I'd made a fool 
of him, too, by being so insistent that he should give me 
away, and letting him turn up all dressed up and no bride 
to give away, after all. 

Goodness, what explanations to have to make to a man 
when you were proposing to be his secretary for a day! 
And I'd thought myself so safe! Could any scrape that 
I could ever have imagined equal this one for downright 
awkwardness? What would he say when he saw me? 
The run-away bride! 

I'd reached the entrance to his chambers, had read his 
name on the plate, and had just made up my mind that 
I couldn't — ^I couldn't — ^I must turn tail and run for it — 
when suddenly my own pet spirit of adventure popped 
up its head and started my heart beating a beat or so 
quicker, and through the racket in my pulses I heard it 
hurry me on with words that came into my brain some- 
thing like this : 

*'Go on with it! No matter what happens, or what 
he says! Go right on with it! It's a change! It's a 
break! It's an adventure! It's something even more; 
it's a chance ... a chance you may never get again; 
so waltz in and take it, and trust to luct" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 179 

I forgot that I was angry with my guardian for not 
being the kind of guardian I thought he ought to be; in 
fact, I forgot that he wasn't that kind! I only remem- 
bered that here was an adventure. After weeks and 
months of appalling, soul-destroying dullness, here was 
the gleam of excitement. 

So — ^in I waltzed. 

A few moments later a small boy in buttons was show- 
ing me into the presence of Mr. Nickolas Penticott. 

Now, you know, if I live to be a hundred, and if I 
spend from now to then trying, I '11 never be able to give 
you a real adequate idea of what I felt when I went into 
that office and, standing just inside the door, stared across 
the room at Nickolas Penticott, and found, what was ten 
thousand times worse, that Nickolas Penticott, seated be- 
fore his desk, was staring across the room at mel 

And I'll never forget it, either! 

It seemed as if that room was the longest room in the 
whole wide world, and everything in it graded down in 
lines of perspective to that brown-haired, grey-eyed man 
at the other end of it, who just sa,t and looked at me as 
if he'd nothing else to do in all creation. 

It was all very well to be full of courage and beans, and 
to put on a devil-may-care air while I was still on the 
other, the outside, of the office door; but quite another 
to be this side, face to face with discovery and the ne- 
cessity for explanations. Then it became a really pal- 
pitating moment, and I wasn't quite so cock-a-hoop. I 
felt my heart beginning to go it at the double, and my 
knees had that silly feeling of not being quite sure what 
their job was. 

When I saw him open his mouth to speak I just shut 
my eyes, gritted my teeth, clenched my hands, and said 
to myself, ''Now for it!" 



180 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Prom what seemed like at least a mile distant came 
my guardian's voice, and his first words were: 

**Good morning!" — ^very pleasantly spoken. 

I drew in such a gasp of surprise that I think I must 
have absorbed half the atmosphere of the room, opened 
my eyes once more, and emitted a sigh of relief. 

** Good-morning!*' I replied, as steadily as I could. 

And with the snapping of the tension that room seemed 
suddenly to telescope down to an ordinary-sized office, 
the floor felt real and solid beneath my feet, and look- 
ing once more full at Mr. Nickolas Penticott, I saw that 
in his wide-set, grey eyes there wasn't the ghost of a 
shadow of recognition! 

The truth came through to me like a flash of light. 

My guardian, my one and only guardian, didn't know 
me ! Could it be true t Could it t 

Feeling dizzy and relieved arid bewildered and sur- 
prised, and a lot of other mixed up things besides, I ven- 
tured nearer to the desk. 

*'Tou are Miss " he said, putting it as a question. 

•'Graham," I replied, supplying the name with praise- 
worthy self-possession. 

•'Prom Mr. Kendrick," I added. 

"Quite so," said my guardian. "Was it you who did 
some letters for me yesterday afternoon, when I came to 
your office?" 

"Yes." 

' ' Good. I asked specially for you — ^whoever you might 
be." He looked up, smiling nicely. "I was delighted 
with the way you did the letters. They are so clean and 
clear — ^really quite excellent." 

"I'm glad to have satisfied you," I murmured. 

"My secretary was taken ill very suddenly yesterday 
afternoon, and had to go home, so I'm rather lauded." 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 181 

*' Exactly!" I said, because he seemed to pause for me 
to say something. 

His manner was most awfully nice ; he must have seen 
that I was nervous about something — ^if only he could 
have guessed what! — ^when I came in, and he seemed to 
be doing his best to put me at ease. 

"I'll do my best,'' I said suddenly. 

He looked up quickly. 

* ' Thank you. Er — ^yes ; I feel sure you will ! " he said 
courteously. 

Was there ever such a situation? 

Such a ridiculous^ crazy, upside-down sort of situation ! 
All this time I'd been standing quite near him, and yet 
he didn't know me! Didn't know me from Adam — ^I 
mean the real me. He, my guardian, took me, his ward, 
to be his legal, paid secretary, for one day, at least, with- 
out having the remotest suspicion of who I really was! 

''Naturally," he said, ''I shall keep your work as 
simple as possible, seeing that you are to be here so very 
temporarily." 

*'The less you have to teach me, the greater value my 
day's work will be to you, of course," I replied. 

"Yes, that's what I mean. Well keep to ordinary 
letters and things of that sort. There's enough of 'em, 
anyway — Jove, how the stuff does accumulate!" 

He looked round his huge desk rather distractedly, 
wh^re two big bunches of letters were piled. 

"Last night's — this morning's," he said briefly, indi- 
cating first one, and then the other, heap. "We'd better 
tackle them in their order. But wait just a moment." 

He pressed a bell on his desk and in response a door 
was opened in the shinily- varnished partition that divided 
his office from the outer one, and a young man, whose 
pale, wise-looking face suggested lumps of dough put 



182 JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 

haphazard together, thrust his head and shoulders into 
the office. 

'*Yes, sir?'' 

**0h, Lester, this is Miss Graham, who has come to 
take Miss Selwyn's place for to-day. Do what you can 
to help her and put her wise, will you?'' 

The doughy one said he would, and beckoned me with 
a jerk of the head. 

I followed him into the outer office, and he introduced 
me to the table, the typewriter, the pen, pencil, and 
eraser, as well as the note-books and divers other effects 
of the lamented Miss Selwyn. 

Then he proceeded to point out to me various books, 
ponderous-looking volumes, on different aspects of our 
venerable law questions, which might be wanted, and at 
the same time he coached me as to some of the peculiar- 
ities of my employer. It all seemed so absurd, so dream- 
like, that I'm afraid I didn't pay quite all the attention 
that my grave, pasty-faced colleague seemed to expect. 

Mr. Penticott liked this or that ; Mr. Penticott wanted 
things done so, and not so; Mr. Penticott generally saw 
his clients privately, and only called his secretary should 
he happen to want her. 

And should a client be announced at a moment when 
she was engaged in Mr. Penticott 's office, Mr. Penticott 
would almost certainly expect her to leave him, unless he 
definitely said anything to the contrary. Mr. Penti- 
cott Goodness ! How that man seemed to love that 

name! I nearly shouted out: 

''Shut up, for any sake! Why, he's my guardian !'* 

But I didn't, and the stream of instructions flowed 
merrily on. 

I took off my hat and coat and began hanging them 
on the peg behind the door. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE, 183 

Mr. Lester was well into the question of deed boxes, 
their habits and customs; but I wasn't listening, I was 
thinking and wondering. I was thinking furiously, and 
wondering just how it had happened that Niekolas Pen- 
ticott hadn't instantly recognized and claimed me as his 
ward. And that put the wilting thought into my head 
that perhaps he had, and was just biding his time; or 
perhaps he wasn't quite positive, and was just waiting to 
make sure. 

If that were so, I'd be on pins all day. Oh, to be at 
the other end of this day, with it all over and done with 
one way or the other ! Surely he must know me ! 

My red hair couldn't have changed me to that extent. 
Besides, very little of my new red hair showed beneath 
my close-fitting velvet hat, but all my face did — ^and 
after all, he'd seen that before. . . . 

But steady on, was it so all-fired marvellous, after aU? 

When I came to think of it, just exactly when had my 
guardian last seen me? 

On the stage at His Highness' Theatre! 

Of course ! 

In a rather heavy make-up, my eyes lengthened and 
blackened by art, my lips curved into a Cupid's bow that 
was certainly made and not born; my color heightened 
and my gold-brown hair curling in a tendrilly way all 
around my face. 

And the time before? On the stage, too. At the fa- 
mous performance of the Little Uppington Dramatic 
Society! And, of course, I was made up on that occa- 
sion, too. 

And before that ? Why, goodness, not since that awful 
tea-party when he came down to Little Uppington to say 
good-by — September, 1914 ! 

Naturally, I must be enormously changed, for it's just 



184 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

the years between flapperdom and twenty that change 
you most, isn't it? 

For instance, my nose didn't know what a bridge was 
in those days, and it has a most imposing silhouette now ; 
and my face was merely round and pink, and more or less 
without form or void five years ago. And now — well, 
I'd worked on the land since then; I'd used my hands 
and my brain, and I'd got tanned and hardened and 
generally honed to keener edges. 

Oh, yes, I was a very different person now! "Whereas 
Nickolas Penticott was already a man five years ago, so 
naturally he hadn't changed nearly as much. 
Wasn't it all too utterly mad? 
And how was I ever, ever, ever going to get through 
the day without giving myself away? 

But I shook myself impatiently at that thought. 
Goodness! Wasn't I a promising young actress? 
Hadn't the Press, the great and mighty Press, given 
me permission to call myself talented? Certainly it had! 
Hadn't the theatre rung with the plaudits of the "vast 
and glittering throng" when I'd done my little bit? 
Again, certainly it had! 

Well then, was I going to cave in at the idea of a trifling 
little job of this sort? No! Couldn't I pass a simple 
little test of my histrionic abilities such as this would be 
without making the fool of creation of myself? Yes! 
And, likewise, 'course I could! 

Besides, hadn't he said that I couldn't act and never 
would be able to? And didn't I distinctly *'owe him 
one" for that? 

And at that point I gave vent to a little excited giggle, 
and pobby-faced Mr. Lester looked at me in pained sur- 
prise, and I suddenly realized that I'd been thinking all 
this in the few seconds that I stood by the door hanging 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 185 

up my hat and coat and patting my sunsetty hair into 
demure and Janelike order. 

The bell rang at that moment, two little trills, and 
Lester whispered, with the air of one who is simply 
weighed down with matters of more than national im- 
portance : 

**That means you!'* 

I ''collected myself," as the phrase has it, and marched 
towards the dividing door. 

''After all," I consoled myself, "even if he should 
tumble to who you are, he can't eat you!" 

And in I went. 

We began on the piles of letters, last evening's first. 
I sat beside the desk and opened the envelopes one by 
one. If he held out his hand, I gave him the letter ; if 
he said ' ' Read it, " I read it. And then he 'd tell me what 
to do with it. The majority of them were quite easily 
answered and I made shorthand notes as to their an- 
swers, as we went ; but some were set aside, to be attended 
to later. 

One made me pull up with a start. As soon as I opened 
it out, I recognized the writing — Geraldine Maidstone's. 

"Who's it from? asked my guardian. 

I started. 

"From Miss . . . that is . . . it's signed Gerry," I 
replied. 

His thoughts were on business evidently, for he said 
absently. 

"What does she say?" 

This was most awkward. I'd not been able to help 
seeing the beginning, which was, "Nicko, dear." I cer- 
tainly wasn't keen to read that out aloud, and goodness 
only knows what the rest might be ! 

Oh, of course, that's probably personal," he said 



*ii 



186 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

hastily, and held out a quick hand. I gave him the em- 
barrassing document, and he laid it aside, his face a little 
hot. 

"I'll see to that one myself,'' he said, and we con- 
tinued as before. 

Eomance again, I thought. What an awful lot there is 
of it knocking around. But Geraldine Maidstone and 
my guardian . . . ? Now that I was here with him, and 
he was really being very nice to me and was turning into 
quite a human human-being, did I quite approve of this 
one? Quite a short while ago, I was bitterly reproach- 
ing my guardian, in my thoughts, for not being the kind 
of guardian he might have been. But now, I wasn't at 
all prepared to admit that Geraldine Maidstone was good 
enough for him. After all, he was my guardian. The 
only human belonging I possessed in the world. 

And Geraldine had really been rather absurd. Her 
jealousy had been quite ridiculous. The way she had 
questioned me about him, and tried to pump me. Eeally, 
it almost amounted to spying on him, which is horrid. 
But then, jealous people are apt to be horrid where the 
object of their jealousy is concerned ; they seem capable 
of descending to almost any depths. . . . 

Nickolas Penticott's voice brought me back. 

*'Take these answers, please," he said. 

And for nearly an hour he was dictating. Huge long 
letters some of them were, too ; but, absolutely, I had to 
admire the way that man handed it out. Such polished 
sentences and rounded phrases; I've never seen anyone 
get over the job as he did. Sitting all the time with his 
legs thrust out, hands in his pockets, chin down in his 
collar and his eyes tight shut ! 

When the letters were done, he straightened up and 
said: 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 187 

*'Eead them over, please." 

*'Aloudt" I asked. 

He nodded, and I did as he 'd told me, and he listened 
attentively. 

When I'd finished, I looked up to find that his eyes 
were fixed on my face. 

I was so startled, because in the interest of my work 
I 'd forgotten almost all those other disturbing questions, 
and my guilty conscience bringing them all back to me 
with a rush, I was idiot enough to blush. 

I felt my face grow hot, and knew that I was looking 
startled and disconcerted, and what I was thinking was : 

*'Now I'm in for it. It's really coming this time I 
Here goes!'* 

But Nickolas Penticott didn't say anything. 

He just turned away quickly, looking a little discon- 
certed himself ; a movement that was an apology in itself. 
His good-looking face had gone rather grave, and he sat 
looking out of the window quite silently a moment. 

He certainly had got a good profile, there could be no 
question about that ; in fact, he was a very good-looking 
man, in his way, even if it was a way I didn't adore. 
Great Peter! What am I thinking about? 

Sitting there studying his profile, when all the time I 
ought to be thinking of my work and getting along with 
it! 

I gathered the letters quickly and laid them before him 
on his desk, and he turned round almost with a start and 
glanced through them. 

*'Yes, quite right, thank you. Will you take them and 
get them ready for the post, please?" 

I took them again, and departed into the outer office, 
wondering what he had been thinking of. 



CHAPTEE XIII 

When I was leaving ronnd about half -past five that 
afternoon, Mr. Pentieott said: 

''If I can arrange it with Kendriek, would you be 
willing to come to me for the rest of the week, Miss 
Graham?" 

''Why, yes, of course," I replied, thinking it was jolly 
of him to put it that way, for, of course, my arrangement 
with the Stanmore Typewriter Office was that I was 
pretty well at the disposal of Mr. Kendriek, and, natur- 
ally, my guardian knew this, so it was very considerate 
of him to make it a personal matter with me before going 
to my employer. 

"Good! Wait a minute; I'U ring up Kendriek and 
arrange it now." 

Which he did, to everyone's satisfaction. 

"Miss Selwyn sent a message this afternoon, saying 
that the doctor has forbidden her to return to me before 
the beginning of next week," he said by way of explana- 
tion. 

"It is very tiresome for you," I murmured sympa- 
thetically. 

"Well, she has been with us a long time and knows 
the work thoroughly. ' ' 

"That must make such a difference to you." 

"But you've done splendidly to-day. Miss Graham. 
I'm — er — grateful to you." 

188 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 189 

Simple words, simply, almost shyly, spoken, but as he 
said them I realized just what it was about him that made 
Mr. Lester speak of him with such awed devotion. There 
was that something in his manner that is known as the 
personal touch. 

Some employers have it, others haven *t. Nickolas 
Penticott was one of them who had. 

It's something you can't explain, but it makes you 
feel, well, I'U do my best for this man or go pop! 

"When I got home that evening Mrs. Henty greeted me 
with a long stare, and then said: 

*' Anyone been an' left you a fortune?" 

*'No, why?" I asked, not ''getting it." 

"Well, you look that pleased with yourself, that's all." 

I laughed and went up to my room. Happening to 
catch sight of my reflection in the mirror, I, too, stopped 
and stared. The change in me was almost incredible. 

''You aren't lonely any more," I told my image by 
way of explanation. "And you won't be for the rest of 
the week, either." 

And that was one of the best feelings I 'd experienced 
for ages. 

"And I'm bound to admit that it's my guardian who's 
done it," I went on as I prepared for tea. "He's a dear 
to work for, but what shall I do when this week's up and 
I have to go back to the old grind?" 

The thought damped me for just about a second, then 
another took its place^ 

"Anyway, you've a week before you. Take what's 
given and be thankful/* 

And I was. 

• # • • • • 

How I did enjoy that week! I began to feel quite 
my own self again. The work was interesting, and I 



190 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

was treated as a living, breathing creature. Not as the 
merest cog in a huge machine, like one was at Kendrick's 
office. And Nickolas Penticott certainly wasn't the 
stodgy, dull young man I 'd taken him for. Not knowing 
that I was his ward relieved him of that depressing sense 
of responsibility towards me, and we got on famously 
together; we sure did. I couldn't help seeing that he 
liked me, and I knew that I liked him all right ; I simply 
couldn't help it, he was so awfully nice to me. I never 
meant to like my guardian. 

The pasty-faced Lester used to go out every day for his 
lunch punctually at twelve o'clock, and used to be back 
again punctually at a quarter to one. He never would 
take more than three-quarters of an hour for lunch, and 
nothing in this world, I believe, could have ever made 
him anything but punctual to the very tick. 

My guardian used to go at about one with Mr. Penti- 
cott senior, his uncle, and the present head of the show, 
who had his office across the landing. He didn't worry 
me, though, on the score of recognition and that sort of 
thing, because I'd never seen him; but I'd heard that he 
was an odd old chap, and he'd a reputation for saying un- 
conventional and, at times, even quite outrageous things. 
I went about the same time and the solemn Lester was 
left in charge. 

My third or fourth day there, when I was getting well 
into the work and beginning to feel quite at home, just 
as Lester had taken his blameless departure, the tele- 
phone bell rang and I lifted the receiver. 

''Yes?" I asked. 

*'Is that Penticott and Penticott?" inquired a femi- 
nine voice. 

Heavens! Geraldine Maidstone! What the dickens 
did she want? 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 191 



*^Yes/' I replied. 

''Mr. Niekolas Pentieott there?" 






''Senior or junior?" I inquired wickedly. 

"Junior, of course/' she answered, with a little laugh. 

"I'll just find out if he's disengaged. Hold the line, 
please." 

And I was on the point of getting on to the private 
office wire when she said suddenly: 
I say, don't I know your voice?" 
I'm Mr. Pentieott, junior's, secretary," I said de- 
murely. 

"Miss Selwyn?" she replied, in a puzzled way. "But 
you don't sound a bit as usual." 

"No; Miss Selwyn is not here to-day." 

"Oh;" a pause, then: "Has Mr. Pentieott engaged a 
new secretary?" 

Oh, jealous Geraldine! Do you think I couldn't hear 
the anxiety beneath that careless, off-hand tone of yours? 
But I certainly wasn't there to discuss my employer's 
business with you or anyone else, so I said again : "Hold 
the line and I'll find out if he can speak to you." 

But she wasn't having any. She'd scented a possible 
new rival, and she stopped me with : 

"Here, wait a minute! Where have I heard your 
voice? This is Miss Maidstone speaking — Geraldine 
Maidstone. Do we happen to know each other?" 

She was determined to find out who the strange secre- 
tary was, if she could. 

"It is hardly likely, is it?" I replied, more coolly than 
I was actually feeling. And without waiting for more, 
I switched off to Mr. Niekolas Pentieott 's line. 

"Miss Maidstone is on the 'phone, sir," I said, in my 
best secretarial manner. "Can you speak to her?" 

Oh — ^well, yes, put her through. And, Miss Graham, 



i< 



192 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

bring your note-book and 'Test Cases/ vol. three, please.'* 

I put Miss Maidstone through to him and rose to find 
the volume he wanted, found it, gathered note-book and 
pencil, and went to his office. I paused in the doorway, 
seeing that he was still engaged on the 'phone. 

* ' Yes, come in, I 'm just ready, ' ' he said to me in paren- 
thesis, then into the 'phone : 

''Very well, Wednesday evening, eight o'clock, thank 
you, and — what?" 

A pause, while he listened ; then : 

"Yes, Miss Selwyn is away for a week; ill. What?" 

Another pause. 

Then he laughed. 

"Scarcely likely, is it?" 

So she was asking if I were anyone she'd met ! Scarcely 
likely! Oh, Mr. Guardian, if you only knew! But he 
was speaking again. 

"This afternoon? No, I'm afraid I couldn't see you 
here this afternoon ; too busy. The matter isn't absolutely 
pressing, is it? I mean, you've got the first refusal of 
the house, and . . . What? You weren't referring to 
the house? Oh, I thought you were. ..." 

No, Mr. Nickolas Penticott, she was really referring 
to me. She wanted to come up and see this new secretary 
of yours. She wanted to see whether she were pretty or 
plain; nice or nasty; safe or — dangerous. 

"So sorry, I absolutely haven't time. 'Bye, Gerry." 

My guardian finished resolutely and put the telephone 
down, a touch, just the merest touch, of irritation in the 
action. The sort of irritation that is apt to happen at 
the end of a busy morning. Certainly, Geraldine had 
definitely made up her mind about him. Had he made 
up his about her? That was the question. Goodness, 
my dear Mr. Guardian, you're in for a life of it, if you 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 193 

seriously think of going into double-harness with her! 
Did he think of it, thought I couldn't be sure. And 
did he realize that she was thinking of it? Men are such 
funny, blind things in these ways. Except, of course, 
the conceited ass type of man who thinks every woman 
is in love with him, and he is blind in the opposite direc- 
tion. I wonder what he really did think of her? Still, 
it was no business of mine. I hadn't any interest in 
it. . . . Hadn't I, though? On thinking it over, I wasn't 
quite so sure. 

Mr. Penticott was looking through that musty-looking 
volume I'd brought him, and I was thinking all this as 
I stood by waiting his instructions. He gave them, after 
a moment or two. 

*'Miss Graham, will you just take this book across to 
Mr. Penticott, senior, please, and say that I've marked 
the relevant passage and ask him to let me know if that 
is what he wanted? Thank you." 

I did as he told me and went across with the book and 
knocked at Penticott senior's door and entered. 

The old man was sitting at his desk writing, and I 
stood quite quietly beside him, waiting for him to be 
ready to see me. 

He stopped writing after a moment and looked up. 

The most extraordinary expression came into his face, 
mystified, incredulous and something sort of pathetic 
behind it. . . . 

*' Julia," he said, in a curious abrupt way, and half 
rose from his chair. I nearly dropped the book, and for 
a second looked round wildly, my impulse being to turn 
and run for it. . . . How did he know me? I'd never 
seen him before. . . . The last person in the world I 
thought would recognize me. . . . What should I do? 
What should I say? . . . Had the time come when I'd 



194 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

got to 'fess up ? But I didn't like the idea of being sort 
of caught out in this way. . . . There was something 
sneaky in it. . . . But what was I to do? I was on the 
point of speaking when Mr. Penticott sank back into his 
chair, passing a hand over his eyes as if he'd but just 
waked up, then he looked at me again and snapped out : 

''And who the devil may you bet" 

Then he didn't know me? . . . What was it all about? 

''I'm Mr. Penticott junior's secretary," I stammered 
out. 

"Well, you've changed in a remarkable manner since 
I saw you last," he said. 

When Jiad he seen me last? Never, as far as I knew. 
But this last remark was explained by his next words: 

"Penticott junior's secretary last week was a tall, thin 
woman, with an extremely clever face," he said. "That's 
not a description of you, is it?" 

"Not . . . not quite ..." I agreed. 

"An extremely clever face and an unconscionably plain 
( one," he added. "And that's not a description of you 
either, is it ? " 

I didn't know what to say. He'd called me Julia and 
yet now he didn't seem to know me. He was talking as 
if we were the complete strangers I 'd always thought we 
were. . . . Yet he'd called me Julia. . . . The two things 
didn't fit. . . . 

"Well, what do you want? What have you come to 
disturb me for?" he asked testily. 

"This book . . . from Mr. Penticott, junior. . . . 
With the relevant passage marked ..." I managed to 
get out, and I laid the book on his desk, open, as my 
guardian had given it to me. 

He ignored the book, gave me a quick look and said : 

"How long have you been here?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 195 

Challenged suddenly, I simply couldn't remember how 
long I had been there. If he'd asked me the date of my 
birthday, I couldn't have told him at that moment. 

''About . . . about . . . Oh, just about ..." I be- 
gan, and feeling I was making a fool of myself, I rushed 
on: 

''Miss Selwyn is ill; I'm only to be here till the end of 
the week." 

"The end of the week? Why only till the end of the 
week?" he said in his odd, staccato way. 

"Well, of course, Mr. Penticott, junior, hopes that 
Miss Selwyn will be back by then." 

"Does he?" He shot the question at me, his face 
wrinkling up and his eyes gimletting right through me ; 
then: "Oh, he does, does he?" and he turned to the 
book on the desk. 

"Mr. Penticott, junior," I ventured, after a moment's 
silence, while he had been looking down at the open pages, 
"was anxious to know whether the passage he marked 
was what you wanted. Can I take him a message from 
you?" 

"Yes, you can," he said crisply. "You can tell Penti- 
cott, junior, from me, not to be a damn young fool." 

I stood stock still, staring. He looked up at me sharply. 
Did you hear?" he rasped out. 
Yes ... oh, yes ..." I stammered. 
Then go and tell him." He waved his parchmenty 
hands in a touchy sort of way, as if he were irritated by 
my presence, so I got out of his office as quick as I could. 
Word for word, mind," he called after me. 
Y-yes, sir, ' ' I replied dutifully, and I closed his door. 
But I had to wait on the landing for quite a minute be- 
fore I could go in and face my guardian. 

What had it all been about? My head was reeling. 






it 



196 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

If he knew I was Julia Grey, why hadn't he challenged 
me to own it 1 If he didn't — and after that first exclama- 
tion of his, it really seemed that he didn't — ^why had he 
called me Julia? The two things certainly did not fit. 
However, I could not stand out there all day, so I went in 
to Nickolas Penticott's office. 

''Well?" he inquired. ''Was it aU right?'' 

I again didn't know what on earth to say. I'd been 
given instructions by my superior to deliver a certain 
message, and it wasn't mine to question why, mine merely 
to do or die — or both, for at that moment I really felt 
that I'd expire. 

"I . . . really I don't quite know," I replied. 

"Didn't he send any message?" 

"Yes ... in a sort of way . . . but ..." I hed- 
tated. 

"What was it?" 

"I hardly ... If I give it . . . please remember that 
I am only repeating his words as he . . . told me to,'' 
I said hurriedly. 

"This sounds very mysterious. . . . What's it all 
about ? 

"He said, tell him from me not to be a . . . a . . .'* 

"Yes?" 

"A d-damn young f-fool," I faltered to the finish. 

My guardian stared, just as I had stared, looked 
puzzled, smiled slightly, and finally threw back his good- 
looking head and laughed ; then : 

"Was that all?" 

"Yes." 

"A propos of . . .? 

I shook my head. 

"I don't know." 

He looked up at me, his lips quivering. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 197 

*'Do smile, Miss Graham," he said. 

*'0h, may I?" I said, much relieved that he took it 
that way. 

''You certainly deserve to be allowed to for your sheer 
courage. . . .'* 

So I smiled, broadly, and then laughed, and he laughed 
with me. 

And it was a relief, I can tell you, after the various 
disconcerting little things that had happened during the 
last twenty minutes. 

**I haven't the remotest idea what he's driving at, but 
in get it out of him over lunch,*' he said, still a good 
deal amused. 

Whether he did get it out of the old man or not, he 
didn't say anything to me about it; but after that there 
was a distinctly new air between us. He was tremen- 
dously more easy with me ; took a sort of friendly atti- 
tude of having complete confidence in me, as if I really 
were his permanent confidential secretary and utterly 
to be relied upon, instead of an outsider who was just in 
for the week. Certainly, any of the first stiff formality 
between us that remained was definitely done in. By 
this, I don't mean that his manner was ever anything 
beyond the manner of an employer towards his secretary 
but you can't. go in and call your boss a . . . well, any 
kind of a young fool, and laugh with him about it, and 
still fed that inhuman sense of distance with which you 
began your career; the thing's impossible. 

The question as to whether Mr. Penticott, senior, really 
recognized me, and how on earth he could do so, nagged 
at me a good deal, but evidently he didn't intend to say 
anything to my guardian about it, for obviously if he had, 
Nickolas Penticott wouldn't have let the matter go by. 
Nothing happened, though. So I didn't know what to 






198 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

make of it. And as the end of the week approached I 
was too choked up with thinking how wretched it was 
to have to leave here, just as I was so comfortable and 
happy and interested, to have room for any other feeling. 

The dull old routine of Kendrick's oflSce was a night- 
mare to me, now. I heard nothing about the return of 
Miss Selwyn though, until my last day but one, when I 
asked Mr. Penticott whether he'd heard how she was. 

'*She seems to be getting on splendidly," he told me. 

My heart sank. 

*'I'm so glad," I said, trying to sound enthusiastic. 
"Will she be back next week?" 

He looked away as he replied: 
Yes ... I suppose she will." 
That will be good . . . for you ..." I said. 

''Well . . . yes ... I suppose it will." He seemed 
to have but few conversational ideas that afternoon. As 
for me, I was utterly depressed. I 'd never have dreamed 
that I could have minded so much. I just dreaded leav- 
ing. Just absolutely and utterly dreaded it. 

My last day was awful. I was depressed and tried not 
to show it, and something was the matter with my guar- 
dian too. He was awfully touchy. I didn't seem able 
to do a thing right. I suppose I was a bit stupid; I 
know I was miserable. Three times he handed back let- 
ters to me, finding fault each time. 

"I say, surely I didn't say that the 'best policy would 
be to completely ignore . . .' etc, etc. That's a split 
infinitive . . . looks rotten." 

He had said it, but I didn't tell him so. Neither did 
I remind him that he wasn't usually so deadly particular, 
but the merest comma out of place to-day brought down 
his wrath in bucketfuUs upon my poor red head. 

He actually said, at one hectic moment: 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 199 



** Really, Miss Graham, I'd be so mnch obliged if you 
would pay better attention to what I say ..." 

Goodness, what a wretched day it was ! I jolly nearly 
said: 

''Well, you 11 have your dear Miss Selwyn back on 
Monday, then perhaps you 'U be satisiSed. ' ' But I didn't. 
I was too miserable to have sufficient spirit. 

We'd just got to this point when Miss Selwyn herself 
rang up, and my guardian took up the 'phone. 

"Yes? Miss Selwyn? Oh, yes. . . . How are you, 
Miss Selwyn? Better? That's good." 

Now as he said all that, he was frowning and looking as 
cross as the proverbial bear with a sore head. But as he 
listened, the crossness lifted slowly, slowly, like light com- 
ing from behind clouds, until, actually, he was very 
nearly smiling. 

Ugh! I thought, that means she's coming back on 
Monday . . . and I'm back at Kendrick's. . . . But he 
needn't look so almighty bucked about it. I've done 
fairly well . . . and the work isn't easy, and . . . But 
there I pulled up sharp, for he was saying in an eager 
sort of way : 

''No, no! Don't you consider me. I'm getting along 
famously. You just go right ahead and get married. . . . 
Impatient? Of course he is. . . . When? Next week? 
Quick work, but I'll be in time with the silver toast- 
rack." He laughed! The first laugh I'd heard from 
him that day! What was happening? My heart beat 
quickly with hope and anxiety. . . . 

"Yes, 111 tell Mr. Penticott, senior. . . . Now, don't 
you worry about me one bit. ... Of course, I shall miss 
you. . . . But I 'm not the first in importance quite, am 
I . . . ?" Another laugh, and then : "That's all right, 
then. Good-by, and the very best of luck. . • •" 



200 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

He slammed down the receiver and turned to me, 
beaming, positively beaming. 

'*Miss Selwyn isn't coming back. . . . She's going to 
get married instead . . ."he said, in a funny, breathless 
sort of way, and I was so overjoyed and relieved that I 
said: 

''Oh, I am so glad . • . so very, very glad!*' 

He looked at me, then, his nice, sudden smile showing 
his white teeth, he said: 

'*Then I take it you'd be willing to take her place 
permanently — if I asked you to?" And there was the 
most absolutely human little touch of fun in his grey eyes 
as he emphasized the last words. 

My face went hot, as I realized that he hadn't asked me 
yet. But I laughed; I simply couldn't help it, and he 
laughed too, and said: 

''Why, you must know I'd be only too jolly glad to get 
you ; it would be absurd for you to pretend not to know 
that your work is exceptionally good, wouldn't it?" 

''Well, you certainly have let me understand that it 
was satisfactory. . . •" 

"Wouldn't say much for my perception if I hadn't 
realized that it was, would it?" 

He had an odd little habit of tacking on a question in 
this way. 

"Naturally, you must know what you want," I said. 
**You must know the work that suits you and is most 
helpful." 

"There, that's just it; you've hit it. Some people 
work well and correctly, and you can find no fault with 
them, but they. don't help; they don't stimulate one's 
own work, rouse it up and egg it on. There's no sort 
of 'spark' to it, if you know what I mean." 

"I think I know," I said. 



JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 201 

*'It's because they make a routine of it; their routine; 
their work. They think they are there to work for a man, 
not to help him. Makes such a difference, you know, Miss 
Graham." 

' * I 'm sure it must, ' ' I said, interested. * * But I Ve never 
heard it put like that before." 

*'Well, come to think of it, IVe never before put it 
that way myself," he said, with a slightly self-conscious 
laugh. '*But I think I've always felt that it could be 
found. It's the old question of the personal touch again, 
I suppose." 

Just what I 'd been thinking of him ! Wasn 't it odd 
he should have said it, too? And I wonder if he really 
knew quite how much he'd said? I mean, it would have 
been downright idiocy to pretend to myself, after that, 
that I didn't realize that unconsciously he was compar- 
ing me with his late secretary, and very much to my 
credit, too! 

''In spite of the . . . the split infinitive? . • . and the 
awful punctuation? • • • and • • ."I said, forgetting to 
be professional. 

He reddened and laughed again. 

"Oh, I don't know what's been the matter with me 
to-day. I've been feeling rotten. Touch of liver, I sup- 
pose. Going to forgive me?" 

**0f course." 

*'Then, about this secretary business; shall we — er — 
call it a go?" 

And, because at that moment I was feeling consider- 
ably more Julia Grey than Jane Graham, I replied 
instantly : 

''It's a go." 

Which is an unprofessional way of accepting a business 
job, to say the least of it. 



202 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

''I mean,'' I corrected myself, *'I11 be very glad to 
accept. ..." 

"No, you don't,'' he interrupted vigoroudy. *'You 
mean it's a go." 

We shook hands and a go it was. 

I was quite absurdly happy that evening. Even my 
draughty little room seemed a dear, cosy little place. No 
more Kendrick, no more loneliness ; and as my guardian 
was giving me a considerable ''raise," no more kippers 
for breakfast, or sprats for tea. I could afford to make 
other suggestions, now. Oh, cheerio ! Life was beginning 
to look up a bit 

I settled down before the fire to think things over, and 
as the future unrolled before me, I pictured myself re- 
vealing my true identity to my understanding guardian ; 
I pictured him enjoying the joke as much as I. ''Couldn't 
act now and never would be able to ! " And all this time 
I've been acting right under his very nose! How we 
would laugh together over it all. And how jolly it would 
be to have him for a friend. I shan't ever be all alone in 
the world again; well have the rippingest times together, 
as a guardian and his ward should. Even if I wanted to, 
it was utterly impossible to keep the truth from him for 
ever. Something was bound to happen to reveal it to 
him, and I felt I didn't much mind now when it hap- 
pened. Now that I'd discovered what a real, under- 
standing sort of person Nickolas Penticott was. Not^et, 
perhaps. I'll keep up the joke a little longer, but some 
day, I'll tell him. ... I'd like first to prove to him that 
I can be a solidly useful sort of person, though. From 
what he knows of me, my sudden appearance on the 
stage, my engagement to Harry, and what must have ap- 
peared — to anyone judging solely from the superficial 
standpoint of appearances — my scatter-brained, impul- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 203 

sive flight on the day of my wedding ; he probably thinks 
of me as lacking in the most enduring qualities of charac- 
ter, and honestly, one couldn't blame him. But now 
he'd been so nice about the help I gave him; about rous- 
ing up his work and egging it on, and all that, that I was 
loth to disturb his good opinion of me, right at its very 
beginning, by any revelations that might make him think 
my working so well for him was just another passing 
whim. I'd prove it was a real and permanent desire on 
my part to help. And it was, too. 

Is there a girl in the world who isn't flattered and 
thrilled at the idea of being able to inspire a career? 
There may be dozens, but I'm not one of them. As I 
remembered what he'd said and how he looked as he 
said it, I was just filled to the brim with the glorious de- 
sire to help. Nickolas Penticott was admittedly extremely 
good at his job ; the sort of man everyone said would be 
sure to get to the very head of his profession some day. 
Well, I was going to help him to get there ; like the ladies 
of old who bound their ribands to their knight's sleeve 
before the tourney, and bade him ''Go in, old son, and 
win," or whatever the medieval equivalent of that in- 
spiring injunction may have been. They had their job, 
I had mine: Nickolas Penticott. I was going to watch 
over that man like a baker's dozen of guardian angels 
rolled into one. I was going to help him in all sorts of 
ways that he'd never imagined. (I didn't quite imagine 
them myself yet. I was just filled with the enthusiasm 
of being an inspiration.) 

Oh, when it came to a question of ribands, those far- 
away beauties of the Middle Ages couldn't put a thing 
over me. Even if mine was only the riband of a type- 
writer. 

Nickolas Penticott was a lonely sort of man; he'd no 



204 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

particular relations beyond those two elderly cousins who 
used to look after me way down in Little Uppington, 
and that crabby little old uncle of his across the landing, 
so I'd got, as it were, a clear field, for taking his career 
in hand. Beyond this, though, he seemed to have no 
near tie, unless, of course, he were thinking . . . When 
I got to that point I pulled up short. Whatever he were 
thinking, I knew what I was thinking — Geraldine Maid- 
stone. 

Now, if I were going to watch his career, I'd got to be 
very careful to see that he didn't go and make a mess of 
things right at the start and in such an all-important 
matter as marriage. • . . The sort of wife that a promis- 
ing career marries is of vital importance. She must not 
only make a man happy, but she must help the career as 
well. Miss Maidstone was an attractive sort of girl ; yes, 
I had to allow her that. She'd any amount of that jolly- 
good-fellowship about her, that pally, comradely way with 
her, that men appear to like. I suppose it seems to them 
like a guarantee that there's no nonsense about the girL 
But what worried me was that there was nonsense about 
Geraldine. The nonsense of jealousy. Why, she was 
the sort of girl who'd choose only the plainest maids for 
the household; encourage only the plum-duflfiest of their 
women friends ; and probably end by kicking up squalid 
scenes about his clients and his secretaries or any other 
specimen of the genus girl, that he so much as looked at. 

Strictly from the point of view of his career, this 
wouldn't do. This certainly would not do at all. 

What would do, when it came to that? 

Ah, that was the question. And I didn't find the 
answer to it that evening. 



CHAPTER XIV 

Although he was such a queer, crabby old chap, Mr. 
Penticott senior had contrived to make Penticott junior 
very good pals with him. There was a strong bond of 
affection between the two. I don't think, though, that 
herds of wild horses would have persuaded the old boy to 
confess this, in so many words, but I saw it in his eyes. 
Sometimes, at unguarded moments, stirred, perhaps, by 
some thought or memory, there would come to his steely 
old eyes, as he looked at my guardian, something like the 
expression that used to come into Lady Cordelia's, as she 
looked at Harry. He used to snap and snarl and swear 
at my guardian like billy-o; but my guardian never 
seemed to mind, hardly even to notice it. He'd just 
smile indulgently and let the old man have his head. As 
this seemed to be the best method, I tried to adopt it too, 
but I must say it didn't come easy. There were times 
when I simply had to ' ' answer back. ' ' Not that Penti- 
cott senior used to swear at me exactly, but we had one 
or two lively skirmishes. I never could tell how much 
he was in earnest, or how much he was only quizzing me. 

The first time I saw him, after the very first time, 
when he'd sent me across with that preposterous message 
to my guardian, he looked up in his quick way and said : 

"StiU here, I see." 

**I'm Mr. Penticott junior's permanent secretary 

205 



206 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

now, * ' I replied, but I 'm sure he knew that, really. * * Miss 
Selwyn, of course, isn't coming back." 

''Bit of a blow for Penticott junior, ain't it?'* 

''A blow?" 

''Well, he was hoping she'd be back, wasn't he?" 

Now, Nickolas Penticott hadn't seemed exactly heart- 
broken when he learned that Miss Selwyn was not coming 
back, but it was too delicate a point for me to dilate upon. 
Tactless old wretch to harp on it, anyway! 

"Miss Selwyn was very competent," I murmured non- 
committally. 

"Competence ain't everything." 

"Oh, surely, in a secretary it is of first importance." 

' ' Don 't contradict, ' ' he snapped. ' ' Do you know what 
the whole duty of woman is?" 

"To ... to be useful?" I ventured. 

' ' Useful ! " he sneered. ' ' The w6rld 's gone all to pieces 
on wompn insisting upon being useful." 

"To . . . hold their tongues, perhaps?" I went on 
boldly, thinking that that was just about what the can- 
tankerous old boy would be likely to say, and hoping to 
take the wind out of his sails by forestalling him. 

"Well, that's part of it, perhaps," he admitted. But 
it evidently wasn't what he'd meant. 

"Then, I give it up. I don't know." 

"D'you know anything?" he demanded impolitely. 

"Not much, evidently, but ..." 

"But . . . but . . . but," he broke in irritably. 
"Don't stand there wasting my time. Get away, get 
away!" 

And he fussed and fumed over the papers on his desk. 

I went to the door, very much on my dignity. Horrid, 
unfair old thing, always putting one in the wrong and at 
a disadvantage. He just delighted in it. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 207 

"To be ornamental,** he called out suddenly. "Ain't 
it obvious?'* 

I had to laugh, but "You wait," I thought to myself, 
"111 pay you out." And if I hadn't bitten my lip hard 
I'd have said it out aloud. 

But there certainly is no accounting for anything in 
this world, because although our next encounter certainly 
didn't go quite so merrily for him, I hadn't any impulse 
to pay him out at all. 

We met downstairs in the main doorway of the office 
buildings. He was returning from his lunch; I from 
mine. He'd been having lunch all on his lone this day 
because Nicholas Penticott was lunching with Geraldine 
Maidstone, which, somehow, didn't please me too fright- 
fully. Geraldine Maidstone was buying a house ; a jolly 
place in the country, and my guardian was attending 
to all the legal part of it. It was a perfectly simple, 
straightforward transaction, without any of the compli- 
cations that sometimes happen in these cases, but she 
made it the excuse for ringing him up, calling on him at 
all sorts of odd times, pestering him to go out to lunches 
and teas and dinners to "talk things over," or because 
she'd "just remembered something she wanted to dis^ 
cuss with him," and all that sort of thing. Perhaps 
though, it didn't pester him. He didn't seem to be 
exactly pestered by it. Which also didn't please me any 
too frightfully. Anyway, that was why I happened on 
Penticott senior in the doorway. He peered at me closely 
for a moment, as if the light dazzled him, and then said : 

"It's Penticott junior's secretary. Well, this weather 
seems to suit you all right; sharp, though, ain't it?" 

"Very," I replied, thinking that he didn't look as if 
the weather suited him-. He looked as if the cold had 
shrivelled him, and I noticed that he breathed a bit 



208 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

quickly as we started upstairs together side by side. 

I'd noticed that my guardian always contrived to take 
the old chap 's arm going upstairs, and give him a bit of 
a leg-up, with an air of not doing anything deliberately 
to help anyone. If Penticott senior suspected him of 
showing any deference to his age, he'd snarl out: 

*'6o to the devil, boy! Think I'm in my dotage, or 
what?" So carefully following the example of my guar- 
dian, I also gave the old chap a casual arm to lean on. 
He pretended not to notice it, just as I did, because, 
though he wouldn't own it, he really needed the help it 
gave him. He didn't say anything until we got to the 
landing between the two offices ; there he stood a mom«iit, 
looking at me with twinkly old eyes. 

''And when are you going to leave to get married!" 
he asked. 

''I?" I laughed. ''I'm not even thinking of it." 

"Ain't there someone thinking of it?" 

"Not that I know of. If there is, he's keeping it 
very dark," I answered lightly. 

"Now you tell Penticott junior from me, that if I were 
forty years younger, I'd marry you myself." 

I laughed again. 

"Is that a business message?" I inquired. 

"That means you don't intend to deliver it." 

"Yes." I said, suddenly very brave. "It does." 

"I'll have you sacked for insubordination," he threat- 
ened, but he smiled as he said it. 

"It isn't exactly that," I explained. "It's really be- 
cause there's no truth in the message and so . . . well, 
it isn't a message at all. You see, even if you were forty 
years younger ..." 

"You'd turn me down for a better looking fellow, eh? 
Well, I never was much to look at; never • . ." 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 209 

And right there he sighed. 

** You 're all alike . . . all alike. . . . The whole weight 
of a man's love is nothing against a pair of handsome 
eyes. . . .'* But although he was looking at me, he 
wasn't speaking to me. • . . He was speaking to himself. 
. . . Or was it to someone else? Some other girl? 

Someone he'd loved? Someone who'd turned him down 
^*for a better looking fellow?" I wondered. Romance in 
that funny, wizened little old man? The romance of 
disappointed love, lifelong fidelity ? The sorrow of being 
unable to forget? I wondered. 

**Well, get along with you. Don't stand here wasting 
the valuable time of Penticott and Penticott," he 
growled, and turned abruptly into his office. I didn't 
fed a bit on my dignity this time. I was too busy think- 
ing what a funny proposition life is. There don't seem 
to be any rules or regulations about it somehow. The 
thing you least expect is generally the thing that happens. 
And it happened good and plenty that afternoon, I can 
tell you! 

When my guardian came back, he brought Miss Maid- 
stone with him. I heard him speak to her, as he let her 
into his office. The dividing door between my office and 
his was open and I could hear what they said ; something 
about a letter from her new landlord that she wanted. 

A glance through the open doorway showed me her 
seated in my secretarial chair, drawn close to his, and 
their two heads almost touching as they looked over a 
bunch of letters together. She said something which I 
didn't hear, and he looked up and smiled; that nice, rare 
smile of his, that came in a sudden, sunshiny way to his 
lips, and made things seem brighter for its happening. 
I sat stock still, looking into his office, forgetful of the 
fact that I was eavesdropping, and that at any moment 



210 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Geraldine might turn her head and see me. I don't think 
I cared, anyway. I was filled with a sudden boiling re- 
sentment that they should be on such good terms. Good- 
ness, they looked almost like— lovers. And isn't that 
just what I'd planned mustn't happen? Hadn't I de- 
cided that Geraldine 's jealousy was enough to ruin any 
man's life, and his career along with it? Was he to be 
allowed to marry a woman who'd nag at him, and insult 
him by mistrust . . . who'd make his life one long cross- 
examination as to where he'd been, whom he'd seen, what 
she had said and so on and so on to desperation? 

My goodness! Not if I had anything to do with it! 

And hadn't I? Wasn't I his ward? His own legal 
left-to-him-in-a-wiU ward? 

And wasn't it my duty, my plain, unmistakable duty 
to — to 

But there my noble attitude went wobbly, and I bent 
over my typewriter with a funny, shaky little feeling. 

No, of course, I hadn 't any duties of that sort. If I did 
do anything to prevent his marrying Geraldine Maid- 
stone, it would be plain, unvarnished interference. There 
was no other name for it. I realized that in a sudden, 
disconcerting way. 

I realized something else too. 

That whereas Geraldine Maidstone was his friend, I 
was only his secretary. If I had any influence over him, 
it was only during business hours and strictly with re- 
gard to business matters. Whereas, she . . . She in- 
influenced his pleasure hours; his free hours; her in- 
fluence was all for the softer side of life ; concerned with 
all the light and pretty things that life affords. She 
stood on the charming, ornamental, care-free side of 
things ; I, on the side of sheer grind. . . . 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 211 

Beside . . . she's jealous. . . . And jealousy is the 
very . . . 

'*0h, rot!" broke in another thought, so definitely, so 
clearly, that I could almost have sworn that the words 
were spoken aloud. 

*'Tou can't talk. Why, you're jealous yourself!" 

I glanced round the room in hasty fear that perhaps 
in my concentration on my thoughts I'd spoken the words 
myself, but Lester, the only other occupant of the room, 
was bent over his desk, his pale face unmovedly express- 
ing grave diligence. 

''It's all right, you only thought it," I told myself, 
with relief, but . . . what a . . . ridiculous thing to 
have thought! 

But at that moment I heard my guardian and Miss 
Maidstone move. 

Heavens ! Suppose they came this way ! I bent over 
my machine, suddenly fearfully engrossed and busy. Yes, 
they were coming; the door between the offices opened. 

''Come through here — ^it's nearer the stairs," said my 
guardian's nice voice. And what a nice voice it was, too, 
and what a ripping manner he had — so frank, and un- 
affected, and friendly, and courteous, and — oh, well, more 
or less everything that a man's manner should be. 

"To-morrow evening, don't forget, will you?" Miss 
Maidstone was sajdng. "Come and have dinner at the 
flat first. Do you good; you work too hard, Nicko." 

They paused by the intervening door. Out of the tail 
of my eye — ^I didn't mean to watch them, but somehow 
I couldn't help it — ^I saw that she had her hand on his 
arm. . . . 

What was he going to answer? Suddenly it became a 
matter of first importance to me. . . . 



212 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



*'No, I won't forget. ... Of course, I won't. Why, 
it's compensation for a hard day's grind." 

Compensation ! Geraldine Maidstone ! Compensation 
for a day with me. . . . 

** Seven o'clock?" he asked. 

"Yes — as usual," she replied. 

As usual ! Then he often dined at her flat. . . . 

They went across the office and he saw her out. 

A moment later he returned, closed the door and stood 
for a moment, his good, effective-looking head thought- 
fully bent. 

Then slowly he raised his face, and across the room his 
eyes looked straight into mine. 

One look ; just one look, but it sent the table and the 
books, and the office and the grave, imperturbable Lester 
— all reality, in fact — spinning into space. 

I was conscious only of those nice eyes of his, and an 
odd throbbing that seemed to be beating out a rhythm 
in my brain. 

Somebody caught a sharp breath; whether it was I 
or my guardian, or both of us, I don't to this day know, 
but it broke the spell. 

Things whirled back to life, and solidified around me 
again, and I felt once more the ground beneath my feet. 
Only the throbbing went on just the same, and it was the 
thump-thumping of my heart. 

Then he moved, and, plunging his hands deep into his 
pockets, strode across the room and into his office with- 
out a word. 

And I sat on just as he'd left me, and there was a regu- 
lar storm in that quickly beating heart of mine — a storm 
of some new feeling; new, and rather wild, and a little 
exultant. And quite suddenly I knew; quite suddenly 
I understood. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 213 

I was in love. 

I in love with Nickolas Pentieott; in love with my 
guardian, my *' tiresome" guardian, my ** rather stodgy" 
guardian. . . . 

I put it to myself in every conceivable way in an en- 
deavor to disbelieve it, but it was true ; and I knew it. 

All in a single second of time, the most ridiculously 
unexpected thing in the world had happened. 

I shook myself, to be sure that I was awake. And be- 
gan arguing it out to myself. 

''I can't be really in love ..." 

''Yes, you are, though ..." 

'*But when I set out this morning I had no sort of 
intention of falling in love during the day ..." 

''StiU, you've done it." 

**And, anyway, I never, never, never, meant to fall in 
love with my guardian, of all men in the world ..." 

''For all that, he's the only man you ever could love. 
. . . . That's clear enough now." 

"Well . . . what am I going to do about it?" 

"There's nothing to be done." 

"But I can't go on loving him!" 

"Question is, can you stop?" 

"No, of course, I can't. . . . Andl wouldn't if I could. 
I'm in love ... for the first and only time in my life 
and . . ." 

"Yes, and what about Geraldine?" 

"Oh, Geraldine be bothered!" 

"She'll probably bother you." 

"Well, let her. ..." 

"No, don't let her. . . . You've just as much right to 
happiness as she has. • . . Make a bid for it." 

"How?" 



214 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'Tell him who you are. . . . Then yonll have a right 
to his leisure hours. . . ." 

"Then, perhaps, III be compensation for a day's 
grind. . . .*' 

"Jealous?*' 

"No . . . honestly, no . . .'* 

"But you were a few minutes ago.'* 

"Ah, I didn't know then. . . . Now I do . . . and it's 
something deeper than jealousy could ever be . . . much 
much deeper. . . . Something big, conquering, and 
reaL . . ." 

"My! . . . but you are in love, aren't youT . . ." 

"In love, and in love, and in love." 

"€k) in, then, and win . . ." 

"Miss Graham!" Lester's pained voice came through 
to me and brought me to earth with a bxunp. "There's 
Mr. Penticott's bell, . . . And he's rung three times." 



CHAPTER XV 

I don't quite know how I got through the rest of that 
afternoon, I felt sure that I couldn't fail to make a 
complete idiot of myself, but somehow, I didn't. I sup- 
pose most women are consummate actresses, off the stage ; 
anyway, my performance that afternoon certainly would 
have taken some beating. But I didn't tell Nickolas 
Penticott who I really was; the fitting moment never 
seemed to arrive. We were pretty busy, for one thing, 
and I hadn't quite decided how to do it, for another. It 
was rather a difficult sort of thing to do when it came 
to the point. Of course, I could simply have got up and 
announced, ''I'm Julia Grey," without comment or in- 
troduction, but that seemed a very plain, bald statement. 
I hate being plain and bald. ... So evening came; 
Nickolas Penticott went off to keep his appointment with 
Geraldine Maidstone ; I went home to Wanstead and Mrs. 
Henty and the great revelation had not been made. 

*'But it's got to be done," I said to myself. ''Or are 
you just going to stand aside and see the man you love 
throw himself away? ..." 

How do I know he'd be throwing himself away if he 
married Geraldine? Oh, but he would! No one could 
care for him and help him and understand his trials and 
difficulties and triumphs as I could. Geraldine didn't 

215 



216 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

seem out to help ; she only seemed out for a ''good time." 
A pretty poor foundation for a lifetime's bargain. 

I decided that to-morrow at tea-time would be an ex- 
cellent opportunity. About half-past four, I always 
brewed a cup of tea all round, and if we were particularly 
busy, I used to drink mine with my guardian and con- 
tinue our work at the 'same time. To-morrow, I 'd see 
that there was something to be done at that time, some- 
thing that would give me an excuse for taking my tea 
in his office, and while we drank it, I'd tell him. 

The plan was all fixed, and at tea-time I 'd got the little 
job all ready; it was a letter that wouldn't take long 
and didn't need frightfully serious attention. Just right, 
for when we slacked up on it, out would come my secret, 
and then . .. . T 

All the rest was on the knees of the gods. I think 
if we could only remember that everything is, we'd stop 
wasting time over making plans of any sort whatever! 

I took in Nickolas Penticott's tea and the letter I 
wanted to ask him about, and he looked at it and said : 

''Oh, yes; let's see to this. Bring your tea in here, 
Miss Graham, and we'll do it." 

That was all entirely according to plan, so I fetched 
my tea along and we settled to it. We went all through 
it, and I was just thinking, now it's my turn, when he 
said: 

"You'd better just refer this to my uncle. He has the 
previous history of the case. I've only just taken it on. 
Do you mind going across with it?" So I went; and I 
hurried, too, because I wanted to be back again before he 
finished his tea. 

When I entered Penticott senior's office, I had a shock. 
For the old man was huddled up all anyhow in his chair, 
his head down on his breast and one clenched hand out- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 217 

flung. For a second my heart stopped beating . . . was 
he asleep . . . or . . . t 

**Mr. Penticott!" I called sharply ; he didn't reply, but 
now I noticed that he was breathing. . . . 

I didn't want to raise a scene or do anything wild and 
hysterical, so I went to him and touched his shoulder. . . . 
He didn't arouse. I was trembling as I went back to my 
guardian's room, but I tried hard to be and to speak 
perfectly calmly. 

Evidently, though, my face showed that something had 
happened, for Nickolas Penticott sprang up. 

"Good God! What's the matter?" he said. ''You 
look ghastly." 

*'Your uncle ... he's ill, I think ..." I got so far, 
before my guardian pushed me aside and went out; I 
recovered and followed. Penticott senior's own secretary 
and clerk had been aroused by now, and came, looking 
very scared, out of their room. They were both men and 
while one telephoned a doctor, the other helped my guar- 
dian to get the old man into a deep-seated leather covered 
chair, with another for his feet. He was quite uncon- 
scious, appeared to be in a dead faint. We tried brandy 
and water and did everything we could, but he didn't 
pull round. 

I was kneeling beside him chafing his clenched hand, 
when what it held fell suddenly to the floor. A gold 
locket, and out of it looked . . . my own mother's face. 

I stared down at it, startled. It was the same picture 
as the little one I had in my locket ; a full-face, with big 
eyes slightly lowered and bands of smooth hair parting 
over the forehead . . . My own mother, when she was 
just a girl like me ! 

Like me? Yes, it was like me . . . very like , . . 
now that I wore my hair in smooth bands too . . . 



218 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

A memory of Penticott senior's voice as he had called 
me *' Julia '* that first day, rang through my mind now. 
... Of course, why, of course ! She was Julia too. . . . 
So it was my mother who had so enslaved the heart of 
this old man that he never, never forgot. . . . She, who 
had turned him down ''for a pair of handsome eyes." 
. . . My father had been quite celebrated for his looks 
. . . but she hadn't turned her unlucky lover down for 
that. . . . They had been divinely happy, my parents 
. . . and my mother's death, when I was bom, really 
killed my father. . . . How small the world is . . . how 
strange. . . . 

I came back to the present to find myself still chafing 
that old wrinkled hand. . . A moment later, the doctor 
came, and made an examination. 

Mr. Penticott senior had had a stroke. 

The rest was one big confusion. Remembering back, 
it seems as if the only thing that impressed itself on my 
mind was my guardian's face, pale and set and anxious. 
When I shut my eyes, I could see it stamped before me, 
white against a dark ground. He was terribly cut up, I 
could see. If only I could have done something to help I 
If only I 'd had the right to . . . 

Later on Penticott senior came round, slowly, slowly 
and, oh, so terribly weakly. When it was considered safe 
— ^by this time his own doctor had been sun^noned and 
was in attendance — ^he was carried down to a closed car, 
the doctor and my guardian going with him. 

Not until then did it dawn on me that not only had I 
picked up that gold locket when it fell from Penticott 
senior's hand, but that I was still holding it tight in my 
own hand and — ^that it wasn't my property. I ran down- 
stairs after them and caught my guardian in the doorway. 

''This ..." I said, breathlessly. "It fell from his 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 219 

hand ... I quite forgot . . ."I stopped and held ont 
the locket. 

He took it, looked down at it, and said hurriedly : 

''Yes, it's his ... he may ask for it ... I believe he 
cared once. . . i Thank you, and . . . good-by ..." 

To my surprise, he caught my hand and wrung it hard. 
Then turned and left me without another word. I leaned 
back against the doorway, shaking, a thundering in my 
pulses, tears running down my face. 

The car departed, slowly, smoothly, and I watched it 
till it disappeared. Then I looked down at the hand 
Nickolas Penticott had crushed; it was still streaked 
redly, where his fingers had closed round it. From that 
moment, that hand was sort of promoted ; it could never 
be quite the same ordinary, every-day hand it had been. 



Mr. Penticott senior made a good recovery ; at least, it 
w«is good all things considered. He would never be his 
old self again and would have to retire finally from busi- 
ness, but, within very definite limits, he would be able 
to get about again all right. My guardian sent him down 
to a jolly little place in Hertfordshire, in charge of two 
nurses, a valet, a cook, and a housekeeper. And I don't 
mind betting he led them a jolly old life of it. And oh, 
my goodness, the work his sudden illness had landed on 
us. ''Us" being the junior department of Penticott and 
Penticott. The old man had just embarked upon a fear- 
fully complicated transfer of property case. A huge 
Dorset estate was changing hands, and the business in 
connection with it was simply appalling. Especially as 
it had to be concluded with all possible dispatch. How 
we worked; I think during a fortnight we didn't leave 
the ofiice before nine every evening, and then my guar- 



220 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

dian worked at home, I know. He began to look awfully 
worn and fagged. But througli it all he was the utterest 
brick to everyone working for him. 

All thought of my own problems went sheer out of 
my head. I only knew that he needed help, and that, 
from me, he'd get it, to the uttermost ability in me. And 
my compensation was that he seemed to like to have me 
with him; seemed to find me helpful and in harmony 
with him. Once or twice, fagged and nervy, he got a 
bit snappy, blamed me for some little thing I wasn't re- 
sponsible for, and generally let his temper rip a bit, but 
I'd wait for the storm to pass, take the blame — ^what did 
it matter? — and when the luU came just go on straight 
ahead, as if nothing had happened. And when it came 
to the evenings of such days, he'd nearly always look at 
me, with a little self-conscious smile and say : 

"You have been very forbearing. . . . Good-night, 
Miss Graham." 

Easy enough to be forbearing, when all you ask is to 
be able to help ; when every beat of your heart is throb- 
bing to a refrain of love . . . when every grateful look 
is a reward, and every appreciative word rings in your 
ears, an endless echo . . . remaining to keep loneliness 
and longing at bay. 

One day he surprised me by saying suddenly: 

''Are you free on Sunday?" 

"Yes," I replied, wondering. 

"My uncle has asked me to take you down to see him. 
He seems to have taken a great fancy to you. Miss 
Graham." 

Because I'm like a woman he once loved, I thought; 
and aloud: "I'd love to go. . . . Next Sunday?" 

"As ever is. May I take you down in the car?" 

"Would you?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 221 

' ' Yes, rather, and we '11 have a holiday from this infer- 
nal grind." 

**That will be rather nice," I agreed. 

''I'm working you too hard. ... I feel awfully guilty. 
, . . But somehow, I don't get on as well with anyone 
else. . . . You've got such a knack of making things 
easy . , ."he said contritely. 

"I'm ... so glad," I said, not daring to look at him, 
lest he should see just how glad I was. 

**But you mustn't let me slave-drive. . . . Why don't 
you round on me? Go on strike, or something?" 

''Because ... I don't want to," I replied. 

''It's good of you to put it that way, but I'm afraid I 
rather pay you out for your loyalty. ..." 

"Is it loyalty to do what you like to do?" I asked 
quickly. "It could be called selfishness, couldn't it?" 

"Oh, yes, I've heard that argument before. Along 
those lines every act of service, from the smallest to the 
greatest, could be reduced to selfishness. ..." 

"Then, by all means, go on calling it loyalty — ^it's a 
far prettier word," I said lightly. 

He opened his lips to speak, shut them again with no- 
thing said, and turned away. Then, after a pause : 

"Well about Sunday. ..." And we fell to making 
arrangements for the expedition. 

How happy I was! And how hard I tried not to be 
so absurdly, unreasonably happy; it's nothing to him, I 
told myself. But it's a whole day with him, to me. One 
whole, glorious, un-business day! 

And it was a glorious day, too ; misty first thing in the 
morning, but clearing to gorgeous sunshine later on, and 
warm, with the fresh, capricious warmth of the first 
touch of spring. 

We had a jolly run. Nickolas Penticott had brought 



222 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

me a big fur coat of his own, and I sat beside him in the 
little two-seater, all snuggled up in it, my face swathed in 
a chiffon veil. I was glad of that veil ; there comes a time 
when you can't keep the insane happiness out of your 
eyes, and I felt then that, sitting beside him, wrapped up 
in his coat, the prospect of a whole day with him before 
me, that time had come to me. It was hard enough to 
keep it out of my voice, when all the time I just wanted 
to shout and sing out that whatever was to happen in the 
future, I was glad now. . • Glad, and glad, and glad. . • • 
And then some. , . , 

Especially was it difficult when my guardian said, as 
he got into the car: 

"Now then, it's a holiday. No thought of business, 
please; no thought of anything, except that it's a heav- 
enly day, that the world is a mighty good place, and that 
you and I are free for one whole day to enjoy it. See?" 

I saw, and said so, and we started off. 

An hcmr and a half brought us into the white and green 
of the fresh Hertfordshire country; white roads and 
green pastures. Lovely! And the air, and the trilling 
of the birds, and the first haze of green appearing on 
the hedgerows. . . . Goodness, who ever wants to live in 
cities? 

"We hardly spoke at all ; we were too busy enjoying it 
all. Once my guardian raised his head and sniffed the 
breeze. 

*'Lord! but it's goodl'' he said, in a voice of praise 
and thanksgiving. 

"We found Mr. Penticott reclining on a chaise-longue 
beside the open window of his big, light, airy room, 
swaddled to the chin in rugs and the two nurses and the 
valet trying to persuade him to take a cup of chicken 
broth. But he wasn't persuadable, and when we ap- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 223 

peared lie flapped everyone else unceremoniously away. 

''Well, Nick, well!" he began, in the old, grumbling 
way. ''You've been the deuce of a time getting down 
here ..." but he extended both his feeble old hands 
and just hugged my guardian's one big strong one. 

' ' Say, but it 's fine to see you looking so well, sir, ' ' my 
guardian replied, tactfully avoiding the reproach. I re- 
mained a little to one side, but the old chap called to me. 

"So you came, did youT It wasn't too much trouble 
to come and see the ugly old man, ehT" 

*'I was so glad to hear that you thought enough of me 
to ask me to come," I replied, taking the hand he offered. 

"Child, but it's like a breath of spring just to look at 
you. ..." He raised his wistful old eyes to my face. 

"A breath of spring and a ghost of youth," he added, 
with a sigh. "Sit down, both of you. What are you 
stamding about for. . . . Are you so anxious to run away 
from me. . . . T" 

We sat down. One each side of him. 

"Tell me how things are going, quick, before those 
infernal dry nurses are back to tell me I mustn't talk too 
much, or that I must have my sleep. They treat me like 
a damn babbling baby, Nick." 

His language hadn't improved any, I noticed. 

My guardian let him understand that the ofHce was 
running smoothly, not, of course, as smoothly as it used 
to when the old man was there — ^he wouldn't have liked 
that! — ^but that we were getting on all right. After 
which we sat and listened to his grousing and peevish 
grumbling, until one of the nurses came in and ordered 
us out, as it was time for the patient's mid-day sleep. 
He protested and fumed, but submitted because he was 
really tired. 

"Come back when I wake, ghost-girl," he said, pulling 



224 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

me down and looking into my face; then, pushing me 
away again : 

''XJgh, you're all alike ... all alike ... a pair of 
handsome eyes. . . . Qet away now . . . get away. . . . 
Can't you see I'm tired of ye? . . .'' 

So we left. 

We found out from the nurse that he would sleep until 
the early afternoon, say, about three o'clock; it was now 
just past noon. 

* 'We'll go for a spin, shall we?" suggested my guar- 
dian. 

I agreed. 

''Let's take lunch," he suggested further. ^ 

I agreed again, and he departed to the nether regions 
to make love to the cook and see what could be done. 

A large packet of sandwiches and a neatly dissected 
cold fowl was the result, and armed with these we went 
out to the little car and started off. 

"Jolly, isn't it?" he remarked, as we sped along the 
white road. 

Jolly? Oh, Nickolas Penticott, that is scarcely the 
word. But I replied that it was, extremely jolly, and 
on we went. 

Spying a lovely-looking pine wood, we stopped and got 
out to explore. 

Standing on a carpet of pine-needles he asked me: 

*'Good enough spot for lunch?" 

And I replied: 

*'Is it a good enough lunch for the spot?" Not a very 
brilliant joke, but we laughed as if it had been. A broad, 
grass road, characteristic of Hertfordshire country, ran 
sheer to the edge of the wood, and even penetrated it suf- 
ficiently for us to bring the car within sight. 

"Wrap up well and well feed," he said, and we -^ 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 225 

lected a straight fallen trunk to sit on, the packets of 
lunch between us. 

''What a mad day for a picnic/' he added, laughing. 

*'Why madt" 

''Well, to picnic sitting wrapped up in fur ..." 

"But it's a gorgeous day . . /' 

"Besides . . /'he began, and stopped. 

"Besides . . .t" I prompted. 

His head was bent over the packages, but he looked up 
with a quick smile. 

"It's good to be mad sometimes." 

Then, as I didn't reply: 

"Don't you think so?" 

"It is . . . generally rather refreshing," I said. 

"Gtenerallyt Are you often mad, then?" 

"No . . . not often." 

"But sometimes, eht" 

"No . . . not even sometimes." 

"Once, anyway," he persisted. 

"No," I said. "Not even once." 

"Then how can you know that it is generally ..." 

"I don't know . . ." 

"But you said . . ." 

"I know I did. . . . But I didn't mean anything." 

"You must have meant something. ..." 
I was just guessing." 

Oh, and fpunding your guess upon — ^what?" 
Just . . . oh . . . just . . . well . . . just . . ," He 
laughed 

"To-day?" 
Well, yes, I think it was to-day." 
Do you feel that to-day is refreshing you?" 

I nodded. 

"So do I," he said. 



it 



it 



226 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'Do you always cross-examine people like thisT" I 
inquired. 

*' Cross-examine T Was I cross-examining? I didn't 
realize. Awful cheek, but I suppose I was carried away 
by my interest in the subject . . /'he broke off, laugh- 
ing again, then: 

''Come on, let's begin.'' 

He stretched out a hand to the packet of sandwiches, 
and I did the same. He was a second before me; his 
hand closed on the packet, my hand upon his. Quick 
as thought his other hand was over mine, and for a mo- 
ment there we were, playing the child's game of piling up 
hands, breathing very quickly, and laughing rather ab- 
surdly. 

He drew his hand away hurriedly, and said casually: 

** There used to be words to that game. . . . Some- 
thing about pat-arcake and a baker's man, I think. . . . 
Or am I mixing things up?" 

**You are mixing them up a bit," I replied, as steadily 
as I could, and applied myself unaided to spreading out 
the foodstuffs. 

The chicken presented a problem, which Nickolas Pen- 
ticott put into words when, looking rather dismayed, he 
asked: 

"Are you going to . . . gnaw the bones . . . or . . . 
or what?" 

'*I'm going to gnaw the bones," I replied promptly. 
His face cleared. 

*'That clears away my last doubts of you," he said. 

**0h, what were your last doubts of me?" 

"I was afraid perhaps you wouldn't gnaw the bones," 
he replied, gravely. 

I laughed. 

He gave me a wing and presented himself with a drum- 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 227 

stick and we^ tackled them with the gusto and disregard 
of elegance that our very ancient forefathers might have 
shown. 

*' Jove, but I'm hungry," he said, after a few moments 
of hunger-appeasing silence. 

*'You look it,'' I replied, with conscious superiority, 
flourishing a dean-picked wing bone. 

*'We both seem to have very fair— er — appetites,'' he 
said delicately. ''Have you forgotten that there is such 
a thing as an oflSce anywhere!" 

I had; I'd also forgotten that there was such a person 
as Jane Graham. It seemed so perfectly right and na- 
tural to be picknicking in this wood with Nickolas Penti- 
cott that I was completely Judy Grey again. 
Yes, I had; you reminded me," I said. 
Sorry; forget it again, will you!" 
Wm you?" 



it 
it 
tt 

*'If you make me." 

''Can I?" 
it 



Can't you?" 

I was silent a moment, looking out through the lines 
of straight trunks, dappled with pale, spring sunlight. 
The oflSce, the work, Jane Graham, all seemed but a dream 
to me. . . . There was nothing for me in the world be- 
yond this wood, this sunlight and this man. . . Should 
I tell him now, who I really was, and make Jane Graham 
a dream to him too? And put Julia Grey, the reality, in 
her place? Julia Grey, his ward, not his secretary; his 
friend, not a girl he employed. . . . Was this the fitting 
moment? I wasn't sure . . . but I could, at least, sound 
the situation. I began, slowly, a little uncertainly : 

"Mr. Penticott . . . you said just now . . . something 
about your last doubts of me. ..." 

"Yes?" 



228 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

**Were they quite the last?" 

*'The very last," he assured me solemnly. 

''Then you've none left?" 

*'None at aU." 

"Whatever I do, or say, or . . . or , . . seemT" I 
persisted. He looked at me a moment. 

''Are you the crown princess of some tumble-down 
monarchy, in disguise?" he asked. 

''N-o," I said. ''Not quite, but . . ." 

^'Nearly?" 

I laughed. . . . Should IT Somehow, with the day so 
pleasant, with him so friendly and jolly, with business 
forgotten, and problems left behind, I was loth to jar in 
upon the peace and harmony with any startling, outside 
matters. . . . Couldn'tl just 6e Julia Grey, and see how 
he liked herT Without putting him to the awkwardness 
of having to re-adjust his attitude towards me. The 
next thing he said, though, seemed to give me an opening. 

' ' Can you explain, ' * he asked suddenly, ' ' why my uncle 
should have taken such a tremendous fancy for you?" 

"It oughtn't to need explanation," I replied, but he 
wasn't to be drawn. 

"Well, of course, the answer to that is, that it doesn't; 
for all that . . ." 

"You'd like it explained?" 

He laughed. 

"Yes, please." 

"He seems to think that I am like someone he once — 
cared for." I watched him as I spoke, to see whether 
the likeness struck any spark in his memory, too. But 
it didn't seem to. He gave me a look, meditatively 
twiddling the drumstick in his fingers, 

' ' That 's odd, ' ' he said, at last. 

"Why? Don't you think I am like that someone?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 229 

'^Well, no, not much. Of course, I never knew her 
when she was a girl, but I remember her later, I know 
whom you mean/' 

*'And there is no likeness?" 

I leaned a little towards him, offering my face for his 
inspection, intent only upon the question of whether I 
would make my revelation or not. 

He leaned forward quickly, too, and, as quickly, drew 
back again. 

*'No," he said shortly, ''I can't see it. . . ." 

**You didn't really look!" I protested. 

*'I can't see it," he repeated obstinately, without look- 
ing again. "As a matter of fact," he went on, *'the 
woman he is always supposed to have been keen on, was 
the mother of my ward. . . . Er . . . did you know I'd 
a ward?" 

**Yes," I said, and waited for him to ask how I knew. 

But he didn't; he took my knowledge of this fact as 
a matter of course. 

** Absurd idea, isn't it? I mean, do I look like a 
guardian?" 

I shook my head. 

"No. And yet, I don't know. . . . Have guardians 
any special look?" 

"Do you know how old I am?' he demanded. 

"No ... but . . ." 

"I'm not thirty-four yet." 

"And she is?" 

"I've forgotten . . . but she must be . . . Oh, any- 
way, she's quite grown-up." 

"I wonder if you are a good guardian?" I said, re- 
garding him judicially. 

"Do I strike you as one who'd be slack over such a 
thing?" 






230 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'No . . . you don't. Only I was wondering 
whether . . .*' 

I Ve always done my best to wateh her interests. . ." 
And to gain her confidence f 

I don't seem to have achieved that, judging by her 
behavior. . . .'' 

**That is onfe of a guardian's duties, isn't itf 

''Well, it's been so deuced awkward. It wasn't pos- 
sible, considering my comparatively youthful age, to have 
much to do with her. ... It wouldn't have been good 
for her. But I've done whatever I could." 

Now, that aspect of his guardianship and the diffi- 
culties of it, had never occurred to me. 

*'You see, I was about five and twenty, and she round 
about fifteen when the arrangement started. The world 
being what it is, and thinking what it does, I had to 
steer pretty clear of her. ..." 

So that was it, was it? That had certainly never oc- 
curred to me before. I sat thinking. 

*'Then the war came, and naturally I hadn't many 
opportunities for doing much guarding. ..." He 
frowned as he spoke, and looked worried ; then added : 

*'And lately she's made it impossible for anyone to 
do anything for her. She disappeared, you know; ran 
away from a very brilliant marriage. . . . Probably you 
saw something of it in the papers?" 

I nodded, unable to speak. Should I tell him? Should 
I? Tes; now or never, while he's on the subject. . . . 
I swallowed hard in preparation, and was just opening 
my mouth to speak when he broke out: 

''Well, don't let's waste time talking of her. She's 
business; this day is for pleasure and for freedom from 
worries ..." and, swinging the drumstick by its nobby 
end, he hurled it far away, high up into the trees. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANGE 231 

* * That well-conducted barndoor fowl never thought it 
would make a flight like that I" he said bo3dshly. 

Oh, she's business, is she? I thought, and my ardor 
for telling him was somewhat damped. . . . After all, 
he'd had a rotten grind lately ... let him have his day 
off. ... A day or two more won't make much difference. 
, . . And to-day is for pleasure ... it certainly is . . • 
and freedom from worries. ... If Julia Grey is a worry 
. . . that means freedom from Julia Grey. ... I don't 
want to turn Jane Graham into a worry. . . . She's get- 
ting on so well. . . . And she's happy and she's making 
him happy. . . . "Why disturb things? Take happiness 
when it offers, and . . . Oh, the arguments were good 
enough. . . . 

"I'd like to live in this part of the world," he said 
suddenly. *' Wouldn't it be jolly to build a house up 
on that big common we skirted on our way here?" 
Lovely." 

But surely you want a great big mansion bang in the 
middle of Mayf air, and simply seething with footmen and 
French maids and butlers and things. ' ' 

''Why should I?" 

''Isn't that the usual picture of feminine ambition?" 

"Perhaps, then, I'm not ambitious." 

"Oh, yes you are." 

"Then perhaps my ambitions don't run along the usual 
lines." 

"But you can't want a nice, quiet little place in the 
country, surely?" 

"Why shouldn't I?" 

"Well, but that's what I want." 

"Does that exclude the possibility of anyone else want- 
ing it too?" 

He laughed. 









232 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

''Or course, it would have to be in very special circum- 
stances. I don't mean anything akin to just vegetating.'' 

"Neither do I. But life in the country can be as wide 
and full as life anjrwhere else if . . . '' I broke off sharply. 

''Ifr' he asked. 

''Oh, just if,'' I said hurriedly. 

He kicked at the pine-needles a moment, looking down. 
There's moss underneath," he said absently. 
Yes," I agreed, as absent as he. 

A silence, then: 

"So you've a dream house, too, have you!" he said, 
slowly, still looking down. 

"Yes." 

Silence again, broken only by the bird-calls and the 
faiDt little stirrings of the wood. 

Then: 
I wonder if everyone has?" he said musingly. 
Probably, if one only knew." 

"If one only knew! But that would mean being able 
to read their thoughts and see into their hearts. ..." 

' ' Wouldn 't it be fine if we could ? ' ' 

"Isn't it possible sometimes to get near to it!" 

"It might be with some people. ..." 

"Just two? "Who were attune!" 

"Perhaps ... or ... oh, I don't know! Perhaps 
not!" I cried. 

' ' No, ' ' he said sharply. ' ' That 's too impossibly lonely ! 
I can't endure to think that. ... I must go on hoping 
that some day, somewhere, there is . . . some one." His 
voice dropped, and once again silence enfolded us. Sud- 
denly he laughed. 

"Tell me about your dream house. It can't be as nice 
as mine. Mine's got a wide lawn in front ..." 

Yes," I broke in. "And borders all round full 



it 



*( 



it 
it 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 233 

of sweet Williams and roses and candytuft and . . .'^ 
*'And larkspurs and wall-flowers ..." 
**And mignonette and cornflowers . . .'' 
**And . . . But how do you know? It's my house I'm 
talking about/' he said, looking at me, whimsically. 
Yes, and I'm talking about mine," I replied. 
Are you trying to pretend that yours is in the same 
street with mine?" 

''Mine isn't in a street," I said loftily. ''Mine's in a 
big, open place like that common we passed. ..." 
"No, hang it, mine's there. ..." 
'*I'm sorry, but mine has always been there." 
"I don't believe you'd ever even seen that common till 
to-day." 

Well, had you?" 

No, but . . ."he was forced to admit. 
Exactly!" I said triumphantly. 
So you do think that yours is very superior?" 
I don't know about being superior. ... It has its 
good points. ..." 
"For example?" 
"Oh, a big lilac bush . . ." 

"That's nothing! Mine's got a mulberry tree . . -." 
"Ah, but mine has a long, red-brick wall with plums 
and cherries nailed to it . . . you know, with little bits 
of felt ..." 

"Yes, but mine's got a big kitchen garden for growing 
cabbages and kings." 
"So has mine." 

"Forgive me if I point out that you didn't mention 
it," he said politely. 

"You didn't give me time. You kept chipping in so," 
I retorted. 

' ' Chipping in ! "Why, I 've been trying to speak of my 



ti' 

n 
it 
it 
It 



It 
if 
it 
it 



234 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

red-brick wall, and my plums, and cherries and my lilac 
bush, and you Ve never given me the glimpse of a chance. ' * 
' ' I don't believe you ever had a red-brick wall, or a lilac 
bush, or plums and cherries!" I cried accusingly. 

''Well, if it comes to that, did you ever have a kitchen 
garden?" 

''Do you mean to suggest that I invented the kitchen 
garden?" I demanded, with icy indignation. 
"Well, it certainly looks ..." 
"Why, I've always had a kitchen garden I" 
With cabbages?" — suspiciously. 
With cabbages" — ^firmly. 
And kings?"— stiU more suspiciously. 
And . . . Oh, don't be absurd!" The game ended 
with our mingling laughter, a joyous duet, that set the 
echoes ringing. Then I rose. 
We ought to go back," I said. 

Yes, I suppose we must," he said reluctantly. "En- 
joyed your lunch?" 
Yes, thanks." 

Is that all ? Isn 't it the best lunch you 've ever had ? ' ' 
It was hard to be practical, and prosaic and all these 
self-possessed sort of things, but I had to be. . . . 

"Oh, well, I'd hardly go as far as that . . ."I began, 
when his face changed and he broke in moodily : 
"All right — get along into the car." 
And, as he got in beside me : 

"It's the best lunch I've ever had, anjrway," he said, 
sulky as a big boy. . . . 

I gave him a quick look . . . everything in me clam- 
oring to say that it was the best, the very best lunch . . . 
but something in his face stopped me, and I turned away 
again, heart beating fast, and sat staring down at the rutty 
grass road, as he manoeuvred the car into the open again. 



it 



ti 
It 



CHAPTER XVI 

Oh, day of memories ! Oh, day of disturbing joy and 
happy thrill I Oh, day . . . But that's the sort of style 
it's going to be a strain to live up to. Get off these epic 
heights, Judy Grey; it was **some" day, that's all. 

Blessings on my likeness to that little mother o' mine, 
whose everlasting memory in an old man's heart had 
caused it to happen! Whatever the future held, that 
day was mine. Mine for keeps. 

But after Sunday, cometh Monday. I suppose every- 
one has noticed that. And Monday was a dreadfully 
different day. 

Nickolas Penticott was late, to begin with; work was 
a scramble ; however much you tried to catch up with it, 
it was always one ahead. Monday is so apt to be like 
this; but this was the most Mondayish Monday I've ever 
known. 

And Nickolas Penticott seemed to be an utterly dif- 
ferent person. Of course, one didn't expect pinewoods 
to grow in a lawyer's office, but . . . Anyway, he was 
different, and seemed anxious to impress me with the 
difference, too. So, naturally, I followed suit, and was 
different, too. And it didn't stop at Monday, either. 
Every day that week seemed to be a Monday, judging 
by its behavior. My guardian didn't seem to want me 
with him now. I seemed to get on his nerves. He didn't 
seem to find me helpful any more. Rather the reverse, 

235 



236 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

for once when I looked up, I found him staring at me 
moodily, and when my movement roused him, he said 
impatiently: 

"Oh, that'll do, Miss Graham, Send Lester to me, 
please.'* And I was dismissed. By Thursday I was 
tired, and nervy, and dispirited ; he was fagged out, and 
even the immovable Lester showed signs of wear. 

That heavenly Sunday seemed to have upset every- 
thing. I had to hug its memories very close into my 
heart, to get any comfort from them. 

Friday morning my guardian seemed to have reached 
snapping point. Nothing went right, and everything 
seemed to make him cross. I steered as clear of him as 
I possibly could. To be uncertain about anything, was 
to reduce him to the edge of weary despair; to ask a 
question was to ask for trouble, to wait for an answer 
was to get it. 

Heavens ! What a morning 1 Lester left as usual at 
twelve, and for the first time in my career as Nickolas 
Penticott's secretary I dreaded to be alone with him. I 
sat on pins, waiting for his bell to summon me to his 
overworked, irritable presence. But it didn't sound. 
I'd been doing some letters for him, and was to take 
them to him as soon as they were done, so when they 
were ready, I gathered all my courage and went into 
his office. To my surprise he was not at his desk. Look- 
ing round I saw the top of his head above the back of a 
huge, deep-seated leather-covered chair. I went across 
to him, and looked down at him, questioningly. 

He was asleep. His head back, hands peacefully 
crossed on his chest, legs outstretched toward the fire, 
utterly and absolutely whacked to the wide; he was 
asleep ! 

His face was rather pale, his mouth a little drawn at 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 237 

the comers, but his breathing was deep and even as a 
child's. 

I don't know which I wanted to do most, laugh or 
cry . . . but I didn't do either • . . or did I do a little 
of both as I whispered, shakily: 

'*0h, you poor dear," and crept out of the room again- 
Then I propped my door open and watched for possible 
disturbers 6f the peace. Only over my lifeless form 
should anyone reach that office of his till he elected to 
awake. If he never slept again, he should have his sleep 
out now, and all the King's horses and all the King's 
men couldn't have shaken that determination. 

What happened to the day's work, I didn't care. I 
wasn't going to start my machine, anyway; I'd stopped 
it, and the sound, suddenly restarted, might have been 
enough to rouse him. Although he certainly looked as 
if nothing short of the trump of doom could have caused 
the smallest flutter in his waking consciousness. 

Ten or fifteen minutes passed, so did an unwary page- 
boy, whistling! And jolly nearly got his neck wrung, 
too. And goodness, how everyone who had occasion to 
use those stairs did seem to be clumping about to-day. I 
never knew before that respectable city gentlemen wore 
hob-nailed boots, but nothing will ever convince me that 
they didn't all wear them that day. 

Another ten minutes, and a new step on the stairs; a 
step, and, as it approached, the faintest rustle of moving 
skirts. ... A woman. . . . Who? A sideways look 
through the open doorway showed me : Geraldine Maid- 
stone. I caught a sharp breath and drew back. . . . 
She'd know me ... be bound to. . . . WeU — couldn't 
be helped. Nickolas Penticott needed sleep, and by the 
living Jingo he should have it. . . . Here she comes . . . 
and here goes. ... I went out on to the dingy landing, 



238 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

where the light was far from good, and stood with my 
back towards the light of my room. 

'*Mr. Penticottr* inquired Geraldine formally. 
''Mr. Penticott is engaged," I said, as formally. 
''Just send my name in, please." 
Mr. Penticott is engaged," I repeated. 
But hell see me," she said, the accent well on the 



if 
it 



"me." 



<< 



It will not be possible for Mr. Penticott to see you 
just now," I said. 

"Are you Mr. Penticott 's secretary?" 

"Yes." 

"Oh, then it was you who went down into Hertford 
with him last Sunday." 

Oh, unsubtle Geraldine! 

"Yes," I said again. 

A pause, then: 

"Will you be so kind as to take my name in to him at 
once?" 

This, very politely, very chillingly, and with a sort of 
tired superiority. 

"I'm sorry, but Mr. Penticott cannot be disturbed," 
I said firmly. 

"Who's he with?" she asked sharply. 

"He is engaged." 

But her eyes were growing accustomed to the bad 
light of the dingy landing, and quite suddenly she leaned 
towards me. 

"I know you ..." she said. ... "I know you • • . 
wait a minute . . . Ill get it . . . Julia Grey!" 

Of course it had to come, I'd always known that; and 
somehow now that the fatal moment was here, it difdn't 
seem such an unholy shock as I 'd always thought it was 
going to be. I vaguely wondered, at the back of my mind» 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 239 

why I'd ever dreaded it, and why I wasn't more con- 
cemed about it now. For I heard my voice saying : 

**My name is Jane Graham, here," qmte unmoved, as; 
if nothing untoward had happened. 

''I don't care what it is here, it's Julia Grey every- 
where else. . . . Come into the light and let's look at 
you. ..." 

She caught my shoulder in her firm, boyish hand, and 
turned me back into my room. 

I kept her to the end of the room farthest from my 
guardian's door. And by keeping my own voice very 
low, set the key for hers. Somehow people always follow 
this lead. You can't shout, when the other fellow's talk* 
ing in a whisper. 

''Julia Grey," she repeated, looking at me in astonish- 
ment. ''But he said he didn't know where you were,"* 
she added. 

"He didn't," I said, meeting her eyes fairly and 
squarely. 

"He said he hadn't been able to find you," she went 
on. . . . 

"He hasn't found me." 

"Then what are you doing here?" 

"My name is Jane Graham here. I thought I told 
you." 

"D'you mean to tell me that he doesn't know wha 
you are?" 

"Yes." 

She made an exclamation of incredulity; an exclama- 
tion that plainly told me to tell that to the marines. 
Do you see any green in my eye?" she asked bitingly. 
I am not concerned with the color of your eyes!" 
I replied. "But I can see that you don't believe me.'*" 
I don't You are shielding him." 






it 



240 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

''Against what r' 

**The lie he told when he said he didn't know where 
to find you. ..." 

*'Nickolas Penticott doesn't lie." 

*'A11 men will lie when there's a woman in the case." 

*'But, as it happens, there isn't." 

Something of the simple truth must have got through 
to her, for she wavered. 

*'Can you stand there and tell me that Nickolas Pen- 
ticott, your own guardian, has been working with you 
day after day without recognizing you?" 

*'Tes." 

She drew a deep breath. 

**But it simply isn't possible!" 

*'It is true." 

**Well, it is strange, to say the least of it. You must 
confess that." 

"No, it isn't even so very strange. My guardian had 
not seen me for five years." 

"Hadn't he? Oh, but I thought . . ." 

"Yes, I know you did. You never believed me when 
I used to tell you that I really knew nothing of him. 
You are apt to be over suspicious. Miss Maidstone." 

She flushed hotly. 

"But why did you do it?" she asked. 

"That," I replied, "is entirely my affair." 

"Isn't it Harry Penryth^s too?" she retorted. 

"Anyway, it isn't Geraldine Maidstone's." 

"You're pretty cool, aren't you?" 

""Why should I be anything else? I've done nothing 
criminal, you know." 

"For all that you don't want Nickolas Penticott to 
know, do you?" 

It was a shrewd guess, but I countered it composedly. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 241 

"Yes, when I choose to tell him.*' 

*'It may be when I choose to tell him/' she threatened 
It was quite a polite threat; not theatrical in any way; 
more, indeed, a simple statement of a possibility than a 
threat, really. I shrugged. 

''Naturally, I have no influence over you." 

"Are you going to take my name in to himf she 
demanded. 

**No," I replied at once. 

"Then I shall just go in without formality. '^ She 
made a movement to cross the room, but I stopped her, 

"Mr. Penticott cannot see you or anyone else,'' I said. 

"Why? What's all this mystery?" she asked, show- 
ing real anger. • 

''No particular mystery; only Mr. Penticott is asleep." 

"Asleep!" 

I nodded. 

' ' Asleep ! " she repeated. ' ' But why ? ' ' 

"Because he felt sleepy, I imagine," I answered 
gravely. 

"Can't he be waked!" 

"I've no doubt he could be, but he isn't going to be." 

"Why not!" 

"Because you care too much for him to wake him at 
a time when he most desperately needs sleep." 

"But it's preposterous to go to sleep during business 
hours!" 

"Perhaps; but the poor man's human, you know." 

"Anyway, suppose I don't care enough not to have 
him waked!" she said, a touch of sulky rebellion in the 
words. 

"Then I do." 

She wheeled round on me. 

"What!" 



242 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 



it 



I said, then I do," I repeated. 
Look here, what is Nickolas Penticott to youf " 
Nickolas Penticott is my guardian. Yon know that, 
don't youT' 

''That's begging the question. You know perfectly 
well what I meant." 

"Yes, I do, and you put your question round the wrong 
way. What you really wanted to know was, what am I 
to Nickolas Penticott." 

She reddened again. 

**Well, perhaps I did. . . . Answer it that way . . . 
and m be satisfied. ..." 

''Miss Maidstone, do you think you'd ever be satis- 
fied!" 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean, if I were to tell you now, that as far as I 
know I am nothing more than a highly satisfactory secre- 
tary to Mr. Penticott, would you really be satisfied . . .?" 

She was silent a moment, then : 

"Ye-es ... I think so. ... I believe you are truth- 
ful. . . ." 

"Yet you have never been able to believe me," I put in. 

"Anyway, Mr. Penticott is hardly the type of man to 
make love to his secretaries." 

The words were stung from her ; so was the lofty, al- 
most sneering tone. To do her justice, she wouldn't, at 
any other moment, have spoken them. It annoyed her 
rather, when I laughed softly. 

"But you'll never really believe that, will you?" 

"I know Nickolas Penticott at least as well as you do, 
surely." 

"You may, with your intelligence; but, emotionally, 
you can't trust any man you — care for a good deal" 

"What right have you to say all this?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 243 

**I hadn't thought about it. . . . Perhaps I haven't 
any right. . . . Probably I ought to apologize, but some- 
hoWj I don't think I shall." 

Miss Maidstone gave a little gasp. 

'*I think it's the . • . the most awful cheek," she said, 
breathlessly. ** You've no right to keep me from seeing 
him, and he'll be very angry when he hears of it." 

''Well, that will hurt me, not you. And I'm willing 
to risk it." 

*'Do you think he will applaud you for it, then?" 

*'I know he needs that sleep." 

'*But I want to see him, most importantly." 

*'Then perhaps, you would like to sit down and wait 
till he wakes." 

"I can't; I've a luncheon date to keep." 

* ' I 'm sorry ; that 's the only suggestion I have to make. ' ' 

*'It's ludicrous! Utterly preposterous! He's no busi- 
ness to sleep in the middle of the morning!" 

"If you had seen, as I have, the amount of work that 
man has put in during the last fortnight, you'd under- 
stand him sleeping at any old time. And you'd be glad 
for him to do it, too." 

''WeU, I'm not glad. . . ." 

**I see you're not." 

"It's most inconvenient. . . . x especially wanted to 
see him . . . about to-morrow." 

"Will you leave a message?" 

"With you?" 
^ "Well, I'm the only one here." 

She hesitated, then: 

"No. . . . I'Ubeshot if Ido." 

"Very well." 

"I came here to see him and I mean to see him." 
And I am here to prevent it, and I tell you quite 



tt 



244 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

frankly that I intend to prevent if She gave another 
funny little gasp. 

"I think your behavior is simply abominable!*' she 
said, in a sort of tense, stagey whisper. 

My patience was fairly elastic, but it began to sag 
badly now. 

* ' And I think your selfishness is utterly amazing ! He 's 
been slaving and slaving because of his uncle's illness, 
and you can't have the ordinary consideration to let 
him rest. What d'you want to see him about, anyway? 
Some silly little faked-up detail about your house. Well, 
he doesn't want to be bothered any time with things like 
that and he certainly isn 't going to be waked up to hear 
about it." 

*'Well!" she said, round-eyed. 

"Oh, I don't care what you say! If you really care 
a penny-piece about him, you'll cut your head off before 
you '11 disturb him now ! " 

*'I suppose you care for him yourself," she said. **I 
suppose that's what it is all about." 

I laughed quietly. 

*'I suppose it is," I said. 

*'Do you know that everyone is expecting Nickolas 
Penticott and me to be engaged?" 

''Is he expecting it?" I retorted quickly. Catty? 
Well, yes, I know it was; and I'm not proud of it. If 
I'd thought half a second, I wouldn't have said it, but 
I didn't think. And I was sorry when I saw the look 
in her face. It was the most awfully hurt thing. And 
it showed me something I hadn't known before. That 
although she'd hoped and hoped that he cared, and had 
tried to persuade herself that he did, and had fooled 
herself into looking upon it as a settled thing, she had 
never in her heart of hearts, been sure. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 245 

She recovered quickly, and I must say, I admired her 
exit speech. She just said very quietly: 

''Perhaps you would be good enough to tell Mr. Pen- 
ticott when he wakes, that I am sorry to have missed 
him, but that our arrangement to go down to Painzey 
Vale to see my new house holds good, and that I shall 
expect him, as settled, at ten o'clock to-morrow morning." 

''I will tell him the moment he wakes." I promised her. 
She moved towards the door. Stopped there and turned. 

''Of course, you realize that I shall tell him about you? 
About who you really are?" 

"I couldn't expect you not to. It is sporting of you 
to tell me beforehand." 

She didn't quite like that but she didn't say anything 
about it. 

"Then, good-morning. Miss Grey," she said formally. 

"Good-by, Miss Maidstone," I replied, not quite as 
formally. 

And she went. 

Poor Geraldine! How she did put herself — ^and her 
acquaintances — through it ! The way she must fret and 
fume and suffer. Why was it? Because she cared too 
deeply? Or because she didn't care enough? She 
thought she cared, anyway, and as far as suffering is 
concerned, I suppose that's good enough. 

So she was going down to Painzey Vale with Nickolas 
Penticott to-morrow, at ten o'clock. She was going to 
show him her new house. How could it compare with 
those dream houses we had discussed that Sunday? How 
would the whole day compare with that one and only 
Sunday ? And would she really tell him about me ? Yes, 
I suppose I must count on that. Not that I really minded 
his knowing; I didn't. I wanted him to know, but I 
wanted to tell him myself, at my own time, entirely when 



246 JULIA TAKES HEE CHANCE 

I saw fit It was my joke and I didn't want anyone else 
barging into it. 

Besides, for anyone else to teU him seemed like being 
found oat, and I didn't like that. 

Another thing, too ; only the day before, my goardian 
had arranged with me to put in Saturday morning, here, 
clearing ofE a bunch of work. . . . And now, he had an 
engagement to go down to IGss Maidstone's new house. 
. . . When had he made that date with her? Before or 
after the arrangement with me ? Had he forgotten her, 
or had he forgotten — ^met 

Another thing still; did Qeraldine show to him quite 
all the jealous temper she allowed others to see t Suppose 
he were thinking of her as his wife, did he know just what 
he was letting himself in fort A memory of his hands 
upon mine, that day in the woods, when we fumbled over 
that absurd packet of sandwiches ; of his sulky face when 
it came to the ''best lunch'' question; and the little look 
in his eyes as we drove off again came to me suddenly. 
What had they meant, these things? Suppose it were 
possible for a time to come, when, liking two girls most 
awfully, a man were uncertain which he loved? Wouldn't 
it be possible then for quite a tiny thing to turn the scale? 
Suppose . . . Oh, I wished that he were not going on 
that expedition with Qeraldine to-morrow! Surely noth- 
ing but disaster could follow his marriage with Qeraldine ! 
Or did I only think that because I wanted to? 

My reverie was interrupted by the return of Lester. 
He always showed an absolutely pussy-footed respect for 
silence, but still, I said, ''Ssh!" with a finger raised 
wamingly. I explained, and he said: 

''OhI Ahl" 

**I thought it best to let him sleep it out," I added, 
and Mr. Lester was good enough to endorse this heartily. 



CHAPTER XVII 

NiCKOLAB Penticott slept bang throngh till four 
o'clock Then, hearing him stir, I gave him fifteen min- 
utes' grace; after which I took him in some tea and some 
sandwiches that I'd been out and bought, and a chunk 
of rather pleasant cake. 

He was at his desk by this time and looked up when 
I entered. 

*' Hullo," he said amiably. ''Have I been to sleep?" 

•'You have, rather," I admitted, and set the little 
tray before him. 

* ' I say, what 's all this t Is it a birthday or anything ? ' ' 

"No. I thought you might be hungry." 
So I am, by Jove. Ravenous. Anybody been?" 
A clerk from Caley and Co. with some papers you 
require, the post and . . . Miss Maidstone." 

"Oh, what did she want?" 

"To see you about something; in connection with the 
house, I gathered." 

"Lord, how she fusses about that house!" he laughed. 
* * You 'd think she were buying Buckingham Palace at the 
very least." 

He began on the sandwiches. 

"Why didn't you wake me up to see her?" 

"I thought you needed the sleep." 

247 






248 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

''I did. I feel a new man. . . . Say, have yon been 
doing the watch-dog act out there all this time?" 

**Well, I wasn't going to have anyone disturb you, if 
I could help it." 

**Been out to lunch?" 

'*0h," I said hastily, "Miss Maidstone left a mes- 
sage. . . ." 

**Been out to lunch?" he repeated. 

" She told me to tell you that she . . ." 

'*Been out to lunch?" he said again. 

"Oh, bother lunch!" I said at last. 

"That means you haven't. Look here, you oughtn't 
to do these things . . ."he paused, then handed me the 
plate of sandwiches. "Anyway, have a sandwich ..." 
he said. "And . . . why are you such a brick to me, 
Miss Graham?" he added, in an odd, abrupt way, his 
eyes not quite meeting mine. 

I took a sandwich, annoyed to notice that my hand 
wasn't quite steady. How the variations of that man's 
voice had the power to upset my equilibrium! 

"Am I one?" I said, smiling. 

"Aren't you?" 

"Hasn't it occurred to you that youVe been a brick 
to me ? And that you get what you invoke ? ' ' 

He flushed a little. 

"I don't see that I've done anything. . . ." 

"YouVe made it very pleasant to be here working for 
you. . . /' 

**And one gets what one invokes?" 

"Generally." 

"So when you are a brick to me, it's because you think 
IVe been a brick to you?'* 

"Oh," I said hastily. "Not perhaps such a definite 
bargain as that. • • /' 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 249 

*'This morning, for instance. ..." 

''Oh, I did that for the good of the office,'' I said, 
laughing. 

' ' The office ?' ' he repeated. 

I nodded. 

* ' Lester and me, ' ' I explained. ' * You see I did so hope 
it would improve your temper.'* 

He drew back laughing, and a little disconcerted. 

**A11 right, Miss Graham, I'll remember the motive of 
your kindness and endeavor to justify your hopes." 

Was he offended? I couldn't tell. Oh, Julia Grey, 
when will you remember that you must be Jane Graham 
in the o£&ce! 

**By the way, what was Miss Maidstone's message?" 
he asked, after a moment. 

I gave the message word for word. 

He struck his forehead with his hand in horrified re- 
membrance. 

''Great Scott I I'd clean forgotten it I When is it? 
Ten o'clock to-morrow? So it is! I remember now. . . . 
Then we shan't get our morning in. What a nuisance! 
Only I promised a week ago to go with her, so I can't 
very well not go, can I?" 

I laughed — I simply couldn't help it. Perhaps it was 
his funny, boyish manner that made me, or perhaps it 
was that I was glad — ^yes, glad — ^that he should have 
"clean forgot" that engagement with Geraldine. Or per- 
haps it was just pleasure at seeing him so much his old 
self again. 

Anyway, I laughed, and after a moment he laughed 
with me. 

"Oh, well, can't be helped. We might put in next 
Saturday perhaps?" 

"I'm sure it will do you heaps more good to go down 



250 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

into the country with Miss Maidstone,'' I said, resolutely 
cheerful about it. 

And the wretched man agreed with me! 

Did I like that? I did not. It gave me quite a shock 
to realize how much I didn't like it. 

He let everyone off early that day, and just as I was 
going, he said penitently: 

"I'm afraid I've been a bad-tempered beast the last 
few days." 

''You've been a very tired one," I said gently, and 
suddenly his whole face beamed. 

"You dear!" he said, and stopped, reddening. Caught 
up his hat and coat and made a dash for it out of the 
oflSce. 

And all at once the bird melodies of that pinewood on 
Sunday were nothing to the song that started ringing 
in my heart. . . . 

All the way home in the train that song kept up its 
lilting rhythm. Just two words . . . the last two he had 
said to me that day. . . . And the memory of his voice 
and his face as he'd said them. . . . With the stopping 
of the train at Wanstead, other memories jarred back 
into my mind. . . . Geraldine Maidstone, and that ex- 
pedition to-morrow, . . . Had I read his voice and his 
looks aright? Or . . . had I been hopelessly mistaken? 

And she was going to tell him about me. . . . How 
would she do it? Would she make out the very best 
case for me? Or would she allow him to gather that 
my ulterior motives were very deep? What could I 
expect of a woman as jealous and as angry as she was? 

How I wished he wasn't going on that expedition to- 
morrow! I turned away from the station and walked 
on, the thoughts chasing round and round in my mind 
like mice in a wheel. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 251 

But what earthly good would wishing do? And I 
couldn't stop him going to-morrow, and I couldn't stop 
her telling him . . . 

Couldn't I though? 

The question pulled me up short. What if I told him 
myself? And forestalled her . . . ? When? Right 
now. How? Over the 'phone. . . . The thoughts were 
ripping through my mind. . . . 

' ' All right ! I will then ! " I said that bit out aloud, 
but there was no one near to hear. 

Filled with this new resolution, I made for the nearest 
'phone office in a bee-line, and rang up Nickolas Penticott 
at his home address. 

''Hallo?" came a familiar voice over the wire. 

I gulped; more to gain time than anything, because, 
now it came to the point, my pulses were doing an ex- 
cited racket. 

''Is that Mr. Nickolas Penticott speaking?" I inquired 
unnecessarily. 

"Yes," was the reply. "Who is it, please?" 

And I shut my eyes and took the plunge. 

"Julia Grey," I said, as clearly and as steadily as I 
could. It seemed to take a second for the news to sink 
in; then: 

"What!" came his astonished cry, with rows of ex- 
clamations after it. 

"Julia Grey," I repeated. 

' * Good heavens ! Where have you been all this time ? ' ' 
he asked; but I didn't want any questions just yet, so 
I said hastily : 

"I want to see you, please. When can I?" 

"This evening?" he suggested at once. 

"No. Oh, no — impossible!" 

"Well, when, then? I have a most urgent reason for 



252 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

wanting to see you, too. I do wish you had let me hear 
from you sooner." 

His voice was quite aggrieved. And chilly, too ! The 
Nickolas Penticott that Jane Graham knew and — ^well, 
liked most awfully, had suddenly turned on the stiflE and 
formal guardian stunt again for the benefit of his tire- 
some ward — that erratic Julia Grey person! 

The imp of mischief — a pal of mine — ^began to sit up 
and take notice. 

**But since you have turned up again," went on my 
guardian in the same way, ''please make your own plan." 

And right there at that instant, I made it! Bight 
there, without stopping to think, I made it ! Right there 
on the craziest impulse of my life, I made it! 

"Half -past tep to-morrow morning at your office!" I 
said, very clearly, and then I rang off. 

Oh, Geraldine! Was I a cat? Was I? Or is ''all 
fair . . .?" You were going to split on me, you know. 
And, truly, I wasn't conscious of deliberately setting out 
to dish your little expedition. I wasn't honestly. Only, 
just as honestly, I'm bound to admit that, probably, way 
back of my mind, it was your little expedition that 
prompted me to make that appointment ! But, you know, 
Geraldine dear, it's just as important to me as it is to you. 
Nickolas Penticott means just as much to me as he does 
to you. Perhaps a bit more. . . . Perhaps it isn't pos- 
sible for him to mean as much to anyone as h^ does to 
me. . . . Besides • « . his voice and his look . . . and 
those two little words. . . . Oh, anyway, I'd done it. 

To-morrow at half-past ten, I should stand confessed 
before him . . . 

"Couldn't act now, and never would be able to. . . .'* 

Oh, Nickolas Penticott, you 11 have to give me best 
now! 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 253 

By bed-time I'd got the details of the dramatic scene 
all fixed. I was going to get to the office at ten, and be 
Jane Graham until half -past. 

Then, all in one palpitating moment, I was going to 
announce myself as Jiilia Grey. I teU you, I was all 
keyed up with excitement when I went to the office next 
morning. 

I was there at ten sharp, and at a quarter-past in came 
Nickolas Penticott. He seemed a bit nervous, I thought, 
and knowing all I knew, I really didn't wonder. 

When he saw me, he looked at me and said : 

**0h, good-morning, Miss Graham! I thought I told 
you that I wasn't going to be here this morning?'* 

*'Yes, you did; but there was something I wanted es- 
pecially to do, so I came along. I hope you don 't mind ? ' ' 

*'Mind? Good lord, no! It was very good of you. 
I was afraid I'd forgotten to tell you that I'd made an 
engagement for this morning, that was all !" 

"No, you told me all right.'* 

He paused a second, lingering by my little typewriting 
table. 

"I wasn't able to keep it, after all," he said, ''because 
I had suddenly to fix an appointment here at half -past 
ten. I am expecting my ward, Miss Grey. Please bring 
her to me as soon as she comes, will you?" 

He went into his room, but didn't quite close the door, 
and I heard him walking up and down. Evidently he 
couldn't settle down until his meeting with the prodigal 
Julia was over. 

But she'd said half -past ten, and she'd meant half -past 
ten. If I didn't know that, who should? So, to keep 
him occupied, I took in the morning mail. 

He glanced through it, and I cast an eye at the clock. 
Twenty minutes past! Only ten minutes more! I al- 



254 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

most began to qnake. Just as I was turning away, he 
called me back. He wasn't looking exactly cross; except 
when he was pretty considerably overworked, he very 
rarely was cross, but he'd a look of sort of justifiable 
indignation, a look of righteous upsetness, that made me 
wonder. 

*' Here's a notification from the Morning Mail and 
another from the Daily Post that my advertisement in 
the personal column has run out, and asking if they are 
to continue it in the same words. Tell 'em, thank heaven, 
no — in your own discreet language— and be bothered to 
them!" 

He tossed the letters across to me. I took them. 

** Really," he said, in the same injured way, ''when 
people elect to disappear they might take into considera- 
tion the trouble and anxiety they cost others." 

He paused, and I stared. I've never seen anyone look 
so deeply injured ; something had gone far past the point 
of merely making him cross. 

*'To say nothing of the expense," he went on. ''Those 
ads alone have cost me goodness knows how much, and 
haven't done a penn'orth of good, although they've been 
in those two papers and the Times every day for months.'* 

"Evidently Miss Grey doesn't read the papers, or else 
she wilfully ignored my appeal." 

I looked down at the letters in my hand. So, these 
advertisements were for me, and they'd run him into 
goodness knows how much ! I stared and stared, and felt 
myself sort of going solider and solider. Somehow, this 
didn 't seem a good beginning for a joke. 

"I suppose advertising is — ^is very — er — expensive 
these days?" I managed to say. 

"I resent those, because they never ought to have been 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 255 

necessary. One doesn't begrudge money if it's for any- 
thing within reason, but I'm hanged if I can see the 
force of chucking it away for a silly girl's cowardly 
whim ! After all, I 've done what I could. ' ' 

''You mean about these?" and I slightly lifted the 
letters. 

* ' Oh, no," he said. *'I must confess, those are an irri- 
tation, but the other was my obvious duty and t am glad 
enough to do it; only she ought to realize that I've done 
what I could. . . ." 

''The ... the other?" I faltered. 

He shifted slightly. 

"It isn't a thing I've told anyone al)Out, Miss Graham, 
only with you ..." He paused. 

I simply had to know. It was something obviously 
that concerned me. ... I simply had to know. . . . 

*'The other?" I questioned again. 

Little by little I drew it from him. Little by little the 
truth came trickling through to my congealing brain, 
until, finally, I knew and understood. 

He told me that, two years ago, the legacy I'd had from 
my father in the shape of investments, which by a con- 
dition of the will must remain untouched, had been lost 
in one of the big financial failures that the war brought, 
and that I'd had not a penny left. 

That made me catch a breath, you may imagine. Not 
a penny left! But my interest had been paid just the 
same, and I'd drawn a big sum from my capital for my 
trousseau expenses. Then what? How? 

*'Then . . . then how has she lived? Where has her 
. . . money come from ? " I asked faintly, trying to show 
only an outsider's interest in the financial troubles of 
Miss Grey. 

"Well, naturally, I couldn't let that happen," he said. 



V 



ii 



256 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

**Her father was my father's oldest friend and all that 
sort of thing. . . , Besides . . . one couldn't let such 
a thing. . . Oh, it was nothing, anyway.'' he broke off. 

He'd paid it himself! For two years Nickolas Pen- 
ticott had been paying me my little income, and he it was 
who supplied the money for my trousseau. 

From miles away, it seemed, his disgruntled voice came 
to me. 

*'To go and disappear in this hysterical way! Really, 
she ought to be made to realize that such things are be- 
yond a joke.** 

Beyond a joket I should rather say so! 

I could only think of what he 'd told me. My income, 
my trousseau, this advertising — goodness ! How my debt 
to this guardian of mine had mounted up ! How was I 
ever going to pay it? It must be hundreds of pounds? 

And I must pay it. I wanted to start fair and square 
with him. 

A memory of that odd little look that had shown in his 
eyes yesterday made me repeat to myself: 

"I must pay it. I must start clear with him." Didn't 
it seem the rottenest kind of fate. Just as I — he — ^we — 
were beginning to understand each other. Just as I was 
beginning to dream of — oh, lovely times together — ^this 
comes. 

And I couldn*'t even tell him who I was now. I couldn't 
— ^it would be such a wretched start. For not only did 
I owe him all that money 3^ but he considered me a 
wretched, thoughtless, selfish girl, who'd gone and done a 
wretched, thoughtless, selfish thing ; all on the spur of a 
* * cowardly whim. ' ' 

** She's always been a load on my mind,*' he said, 
^fter a little silence. 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 257 

Ping, ping^ sang out the dock, and made us both 
jump. 

Half -past ten! 

My joke! Ah, where was it? "Ask of the winds, ^* 
and all that sort of thing, for, believe me, there was not 
the smallest trace of a joke left in my heart at this 
moment. 

Again, from miles away, my guardian's voice came 
through to me. 

*'Now, I hope to goodness she's going to be in time," 
he muttered, and after another longish pause: 

*'It will be the last straw if she doesn't turn up after 
all. Because I've got Lord Henry coming up in about 
two minutes, specially to see her. I arranged it on the 
'phone last night after speaking to her." 

Lord Henry! 

I stood petrified, rooted to the spot. Lord Henry com- 
ing here! But — ^but he'd know me, and ten to one he'd 
give me away. I certainly didn't want the truth to come 
out that way. What could I dot What could I sayt 
Where could I go and hide? As in a dream my guar- 
dian's voice went on: 

**Lord Henry wants to offer her a part in a new play 
he's interested in. A part, he says, no one could take so 
well as Julia Grey. It's hers for the asking, if she'd only 
turn up. . . . Listen! Who's that?" 

The sound of someone approaching! I knew only too 
well that it couldn't be Julia Grey. The chances were, 
then, that it was Lord Henry. . . . 

I looked round wildly, almost contemplating taking a 
header through the window. But it was too late to do 
anything practicable for the door behind me opened and 
the office boy's high voice announced **Lord Henry Pen- 
ryth." 



258 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

That sent the office, my guardian and me into a wild, 
chaotic whirl, and through it a well-remembered voice 
said: 

"Good-morning, Penticott. Everything all right f 

And the reply: 

'*Well, I hope so, but she hasn't turned up yet. I'm 
sorry. She said half-past ten. Do sit down. Have a 
cigar? We must allow her a few minutes' grace, I 
suppose." 

"It's very good news that you have heard from her," 
went on Harry. 

"Lord, yes; if she doesn't let us down again," replied 
my guardian, a little anxiously. 

"I suppose you are quite sure it was Miss Grey on the 
'phone last evening?" 

"Oh, yes; I'd know her voice anywhere. There's 

no doubt about that. Oh, Miss Graham " he called 

to me as if suddenly remembering my presence. 

The moment had come. I'd got to turn. 

Slowly, so slowly that it seemed to take eternities, I 
turned, and across the room I looked straight at Lord 
Henry. 

If ever eyes sent out an S S, my eyes did it then. 
But, of course, he couldn't be expected, in the shock of 
the moment, to understand. Of course, of course he 
couldn't; he'd blurt it out, call me Judy, or something. 
Ah, he'd be bound to give me away somehow. 

But the seconds ticked by and I was still looking 
straight into his eyes and his eyes were still looking 
straight into mine, and he wasn't doing any of these 
things; he wasn't blurting anything or calling me any- 
thing or giving me away. He was just staring at me 
with a startled, "breathless" sort of look, and then there 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 259 

came into his eyes a flick of something that seemed an 
answer to my desperate signal. 

Next minute he was saying something. 

"Hasn't turned up yet? That's too bad, but it's early 
still." 

It wasn't quite an answer to Niekolas Penticott's last 
words, but it was good enough, and the tension seemed 
suddenly to snap round me, and although it had seemed 
such ages to me, it could not have been more than seconds 
really, for my guardian went on as if there had been no 
break. 

''Just get those replies done for me, wiU you, Miss 
Graham?" 

And I knew myself dismissed. 

Somehow, I got through the doorway into the other 
ofiSce, and dropped into the chair before my table, limp 
with the reaction from the scene. 

''Oh, Harry, bless you for an understanding dear!" 

After a moment of blankness, while I recovered from 
the shock of things, I began to work, quite mechanically, 
my fingers doing their job on the typewriter, but my 
mind busy with a deluge of ideas. 

Gradually they began to sort themselves out and get 
into some sort of order, and boiled down to their essences 
they came out at something like this : 

Harry was here to see me, and to see me about a part, 
too, and he looked at me in a friendly way, surprised, 
of course, but not angry one bit. If he could be friends 
with me, after what I'd done, why shouldn't I be friends 
with him? 

And if we were friends, what was to prevent my having 
that part my guardian had mentioned? 

Nothing that I could see, from a sentimental stand- 
point. 



260 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

Well, then, I wanted that part, for one very special 
reason if for no other. 

I knew I had it in me to be a success on the stage ; well, 
I'd pretty well proved that, hadn't It 

And if I were a success I'd get pots of money. And 
I wanted money at that moment more than I wanted any- 
thing else in the world. It seemed to me I simply must 
have it. Because I wanted to pay back to my guardian 
all that I'd cost him. I wanted to clear all that up be- 
fore I told him who I was, so, when I did teU him, I could 
start clear and level with him. 

I didn't want all this wretched money business be- 
tween us. 

I didn't know whether it was exactly pride that made 
me feel so strongly about it, but I suppose that had 
something to do with it. Perhaps it was more that I 
didn't want things spoiled. 

Suppose, only just suppose that that little odd look 
in his face and that little odd tone in his voice when he'd 
said those two words that kept ringing in my ears ; just 
suppose that they really meant — oh, well, anjrthing . . . 
wouldn't it be horrid, wouldn't it spoil things dreadfully 
to start with this irritating money question between ust 

Yes, it would; it had got to be cleared off. . . . Or, 
anyway he'd got to see that I was at least making an 
effort to clear it. . . . 

So I wanted that part. 

But how could I get it? 

Because, although Harry had come to see me about it, 
and here I was, I couldn't reveal myself. The part was 
mine for the asking, and I couldn't ask for it. What 
an exasperating position ! Surely, though, there must hh 
some way out. Suppose I should call on Harry later? 
Or telephone ? It might be too late. Probably time was 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 2.1 

already getting pretty short. Well, it must be fearfully 
pressing, or Harry wouldn't have come posting up here 
to see me the very moment of my reappearance like this. 
Saturday morning is a favorite morning with Pelman 
Barclay for settling business of this sort. 

I don't know just how long I sat there thinking and 
clicking mechanically away at the typewriter, but it must 
have been a good twenty minutes or so. Then I was 
aroused by my guardian putting his head round the door, 
and saying, **Miss Graham, would you come here a mo- 
ment, please? I wish to speak to you at once.'' 

Goodness ! how frigid ! What had happened ? I sup- 
pose Harry must have gone and revealed the truth. 
Perhaps he'd been absolutely cornered and couldn't help 
himself. Well, now for it! 



CHAPTER XVin 

A MOMENT later I stood before the two men, feeling a 
good deal like **tlie accused" facing a couple of judges. 

''Perhaps you would explain to Miss— er '* began 

Harry, rising as I entered. 

''Certainly, if you'd rather, *' said my guardian, lean- 
ing back against his big desk. "I think I told you. Miss 
Graham, that Lord Henry Penryth was anxious to find 
my ward. Miss Grey, in order to offer her a part in the 
new play he is interested in?'* 

"Yes, you told me,*' I replied, my lips feeling dry and 
unwilling because I felt Harry's eyes were on my very 
pink face. 

"Well, Miss Grey hasn't turned up, and it's just 
eleven. Time is getting short." 

"Yes," broke in Harry. "We hope to start rehearsals 
the end of next week. — ^Monday week, at latest." 

"I see," I said, not seeing at all, and wondering what 
on earth it was all leading to. 

My guardian turned to me, smiling slightly. 

"Lord Henry has asked me to suggest that you might 
— ^well, briefly, he thinks you are exactly the type he 
requires, and wonders whether you'd care to try your 
hand at playing the part. Er — ^would you, Miss Gra- 
ham?" 

"I? Oh!" I cried, utterly taken aback, and amazed. 
I hadn't remotely foreseen this. 

262 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 263 

Oh, Harry ! What a muddle the whole thing is getting 
into ! So this was your way out of a situation you didn't 
understand. 

Niekolas Penticott seemed a good deal satisfied with 
my amazement : it was perfectly genuine, but didn 't quite 
spring from the cause he imagined. 

''Yes, I hinted to Lord Henry that I scarcely thought 
you altogether cut out to be an actress, temperamentally, 
I mean,'' he said. 

And ''Can't act now, and never wiU be able to" went 
singing through my head, and I only just kept myself 
from laughing hysterically. I just managed not to, and 
Harry saved me by laughing himself. 

"Don't let his gloomy view influence you. Miss Gra- 
ham; he said much the same to Julia Grey once, I be- 
lieve." 

My guardian joined in the laugh against himself. 

"Perhaps it is that I don't want to lose the very best 
secretary I ever had. Well, hang it! You can hardly 
expect me to be enthusiastic about that, can you?" he 
said, looking at me with his frank, friendly eyes. 

"No, it's very rough on you, I admit, that Miss Gra- 
ham should be— if she will forgive a personal remark- 
so much the same type as Miss Grey." 

Oh, Harry ! You utter wretch ! 

"I simply had to risk offending you," he added. "I 
hope the suggestion doesn't offend you, though?" 

The question was addressed to Julia Grey, not to Jane 
Graham. 

"Oh, please," I said quickly. "I think it was most 
awfully kind of you to offer me the chance. I hope you 
realize that I am very, very grateful." 

I raised my eyes to his as I spoke, and saw that he 
understood. 



264 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

**Then the question is entirely up to you, Miss Gra- 
ham/' said my guardian. 

* ' Then — I 'd like to try — ^the — ^the part, please, ' ' I said, 
stammering a little. 

''What! You mean youTl take it?" cried my guar- 
dian in a tone of almost comic dismay. 

"Oh, will it be dreadfully inconvenient to you?" I 
asked, with a horrid little achey feeling at the thought of 
leaving him in the lurch. 

**No, no, of course not! I didn't mean that at all. 
Please don't consider me," he said hastily, his good-look- 
ing face flushing slightly. 

Not consider him ! As if I could help it. 

There was still heaps of work to do ; I knew that. And 
yet ... I must make that money ... I thought dis- 
tractedly. I was never so torn in my life. If it hadn't 
been for the importance of the money, I'd have turned 
Harry's offer down flat, and been happy to do it. 

Harry was eager to clinch matters, and get away from 
a situation that might at any moment become very awk- 
ward for him. 

**I hoped you might be able to come along with me, 
now, and see Barclay about the part. I don't want him 
to settle with anyone else." 

''In that case you'd better get ready at once. Miss 
Graham," said my guardian. "You won't wait any 
longer for Miss Grey?" he added, turning to Harry. 

"Do you think it is much good?" gravely inquired 
Harry. 

"Quite frankly, judging by her erratic conduct, I think 
probably it isn't," said Nickolas Penticott dryly. 

"And as I promised to see Barclay at half -past eleven, 
bringing either Miss Grey, or, at least news of her, with 
me " .A 



.It' 



JXJLIA TAKES HER CHANCE 265 

"Yes, exactly; then you haven't much time, Miss 
Graham/' 

Oh, how perfectly calmly he said it! If it hadn't been 
for that sudden tone of dismay a few sentences earlier 
that was still ringing in my ears, I might have thought 
that he didn't care a twopenny jot who his secretary was. 

I fled into the other ofiSce to get my things on, and had 
put on my hat and was struggling into my coat when 
my guardian followed. 

He gave me a hand with my coat in an absent sort of 
way, and then said very earnestly: 

''Please don't think me interfering, but are you sure 
that you are wise in doing this?" 

*'I don't know about being wise," I replied, a little 
wildly, ''but I've just got to do it." 

"Got to?" he echoed, puzzled. 

"I mean — ^that is, I've always longed to make a career 
for myself on the stage." 

Which was a perfectly veracious statement of my feel- 
ings up to this very minute, but now, with Nicholas Pen- 
ticott standing before me looking at me with goodness 
only knows — ^I wonder if he knew himself? — ^what mix- 
ture of meanings in his eyes — ^well now, I simply knew 
that all I wanted to do in the whole world was to stay 
right here in the office, working for him, helping him, 
being with him. And if it hadn't been for that miserable 
money question that stood so gauntly between us I believe 
I 'd have blurted all this out then and there. But I must 
do something to settle that question first — ^I must. 

"Eeally?" His voice came to me through the tangle 
of my thought. "I'd no idea you felt anything of the 
kind. But, you know, it might be possible to feel all 
that and still have no talent for acting, mightn't it?" 

' ' Yes — oh, yes ! Of course it might. ' ' 



266 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

**And the stage, unless you really are marked out for 
such a career is — well, it's a wretched business, I always 
think," he went on. ''I mean, to be third rate in any of 
the arts is so — so very deplorable." 

'* Yes, but I don't mean to be third-rate — ^I mean to get 
to the very top.'' 

He didn't quite look at me as he broke in, saying: 

**I don't care for the idea of a stage career for any girl 
Hike." 

The utter dear! 

''You've been happy here, haven't you?" he demanded 
abruptly. 

''Awfully happy. It isn't that a bit," I assured him, 

"Then suppose — ^I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but 
just suppose you should fail to impress Pelman Barclay 
this morning, will you come back to me?" 

I looked up smiling to thank him, but the smile faded 
and the thanks faltered, for there, in his eyes, was that 
odd little look again; that look that had the power to 
make my heart give an extra hop. I lowered my eyea 
quickly. 

Jove, but I hate losing you!" he broke out suddenly, i 

I do, really!" He moved a step or two away, then 
wheeled round and came back again, his white teeth 
showing in that singularly sweet smile of his. 

"I've never had anyone so completely satisfactory to 
work with before," he added. 

Was it only that? Was it? I wish I could be sore, 
and then: 

"Idiot!" I said to myself. "Naturally, he doesn't 
want all the trouble of finding another new secretary. 
That odd little look in his nice eyes is nothing to do with 
you, as a private personality." 

"I'm so glad I have pleased you," I said, just as mat- 



it 



ii 
It 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 267 

ter-of-factly as ever I could, which wasn't much, any- 
way. *'And if I should fail with Mr. Barclay, ITl be 
only too glad to come back to you. In fact, I don't want 
to leave one bit/' 

I began bravely enough, but ended on an idiotic quiver. 

**Then why " began my guardian impulsively, but 

stopped, thrust his hands into his pockets, and said: 

''Naturally you don't want to lose such a glorious 
chance." His note of profound gloom didn't match the 
gloriousness of the chance at all. ''It's absolutely the 
chance of your life. Of course, 1 realize that. ' ' 

And," I went on, pulling myself together severely, 
suppose I should not fail to impress Mr. Barclay — sup- 
pose I should actually get this part, there used to be a 
girl at the Stanmore ofiSces who'd be just as competent a 
secretary as myself. ' ' 

His face changed. He reddened, and looked like a big, 
sulky boy. I went on hastily: 

"I happen to know that she is free just now, and I 
could speak to her myself if you like. I know she is 
really very competent." 

But at that he suddenly growled out : 

"Competence be hanged, and the girl, too!" 

So — so it wasn't only — it wasn't just — it wasn't — ^well 
what wasn't it? I didn't dare to stop to think. I just 
rushed ahead as quickly as I could. It was so very hard 
to feel any real enthusiasm for a stage career just at that 
moment. 

"And I mean to get on, right to the very tip-top. I 
believe I have talent, and I mean to make good," I said, 
fearing that in another moment my resolution and cour- 
age would all break up into little bits. 

"Then, of course I hope you will," he said slowly, 
sounding as if he di^xi 't hope it a bit. 



268 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

*'I— IVe just absolutely got to!'* I cried. It was 
harder to leave than I'd ever imagined it could be. 

He looked at me, puzzled again, then, with his char- 
acteristic simple directness, he added: 

"Miss Graham, why have you got to?' ' 

And before I had time to stop the words I stammered 
out: 

**IVe got to make money — ^I mean, I want '* But 

it was too late to catch back what I'd said, and I just 
stood before him blushing and furious with myself. 

My guardian took a few turns up and down the room, 
then came and halted before me. 

We've grown to be very good friends, haven't wet" 
Yes," I replied, hardly audible. 
And you'd understand anything I said and not take 
it wrongly, wouldn't you?" 
Yes," I said again. 

Then could you — do you think — ^just tell me why 
you've got to make money?" 

My mind stretched out in all directions for an answer, 
desperately searching, and could only come to this: 

''I — ^I owe someone a — a lot " 

*'You owe? You are in debt?" He looked at me 
incredulously, then his face changed, and he laughed. 
*'But it can't be anything very serious." 

**It is, desperately," I assured him. 

*'But — see here, don't worry. How much is it?" 

**I — ^I'm not absolutely certain to the very last penny, 
but it must be three or four hundred pounds," I faltered. 

His eyes opened round at that. 

** Three or four hundred! How in Heaven's name do 
you come to be involved to that extent?" 

"Oh, it isn't bridge or — or poker, or anything like 



it- 
it 



if 
ii\ 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 269 

that! It isn't anything horrid, really — ^honestly it isn't, 
only '* I broke off, catching a breath. 

To tell the truth, I was as near to tears as I 'd ever been 
in my life, so, rather abruptly, I crossed to my little table 
and began putting things in order. 

''Horrid?" he said. ''No, I didn't suppose it was, 
but '' And he broke off and turned away again. 

From the other side of the room he said : 

"Do you think the stage is going to clear this off for 
youf 

"It must. IVe got to make it.'* 

A silence, then : 

"You needn't," he said shortly. 

"Needn't?" I echoed, for lack of anything more in- 
spired to say. 

He faced me again. 

"Let me help you," he said, in the same short way. 
"Let me advance you what you need. I'd be glad 
to " 



"You!" I cried. ''You! Oh- 



97 



"You could repay me, if you felt you must, on very 
easy " 

' ' Oh, stop ! Stop ! You don 't know what you 're say- 
ing!" I interrupted him distractedly. 

' ' Yes, I do. Don 't be offended. Take it as I mean it, 
and do let me do it." 

Was there ever such irony ! Nickolas Penticott offering 
me the money with which to clear my debt to Nickolas 
Penticott ! 

"No, please don't! I couldn't really. Thank you 
ever so much, but I — ^you don't understand! I couldn't 
— ^indeed I couldn't!" I stammered out, scarcely knowing 
what I said. 

' ' Besides, ' ' I ended weakly, ' ' it wouldn 't be any good. ' ' 



270 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

' ' I can 't see the force of that, * ' he said. * * My Warren 
Fishers are of the same ever-reducing value as anyone 
else's/' He smiled, and spoke lightly, trying to put me 
at ease, evidently thinking that it was the mere natural 

awkwardness of the situation that embarrassed me, but 
I broke in quickly : 

*'No, they aren't in this case— I mean, of course they 
are, in any case, but I couldn 't take it from you. Please 
don't ever, ever suggest such a thing again." 

He reddened clear up to the roots of his smooth hair. 

''If you think I'm just trying to be cheeky, say so," 
he said bluntly, hurt. 

I felt my eyes fill stingingly. 

''I — I couldn't think such a thing of you. You ought 
to know that I couldn't!" I cried, my voice shaking. 
' ' And— oh, I 'd better go quickly ! ' ' And I turned blindly 
and went towards the door. 

The sound of quick steps, a hand on my shoulder, and 
a voice shaking like my own as it said : 

''Jane!" 

I was turned forcibly round so that I faced my guar- 
dian, but I kept my eyes down, not daring to look at him. 

"No, I didn't mean that I'm sorry. I didn't think 
you'd think that of me," he said jerkily. 

"Just don't go, though. Just stay with me always. 
Just give me the — ^the right to help you. Just — ^just 
marry me, will you, Jane?" 

The words tumbled out as if they couldn't come fast 
enough, but I was all keyed up with the events and emo- 
tions of the day, and I blurted out before I could stop 
myself: 

"You are just suggesting that out of kindness and — 
and pity, so that you can help me and " 




JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 271 

**No, I'm not/' he said, suddenly quiet, and his hand 
fell from my shoulder. 

^*I'm saying it because I love you. I Ve always loved 
you, and I always shall." 

Love me! How the words echoed in my heart! My 
guardian loved me ! Nickolas Penticott ! I nearly laughed 
aloud. 

''Oh, you haven't thought, you haven't considered," 
I began, not knowing in the least how to go on. I 'd got 
to tell him who I was now. I couldn't let him love me 
not knowing. 

His face changed sensitively, and he looked down. 

''I was forgetting," he said abruptly. '*I was for- 
getting that you have a career to make — perhaps a bril- 
liant career. I was forgetting that I mustn't ask you to 
give up that for me, even if you cared." 

If I cared ! Oh, Nickolas Penticott, if you could know 
how I cared! 

'*It isn't that," I said, faltering slightly. ''I'm not 
thinking of the — ^the stage." 

He raised his head quickly and his face was all alight. 

"Do you mean that you would give up that chance? 
Would you? For me?" He came towards me, but I 
spread out my hands to stop him. 

' ' No, don 't ! You mustn 't until ' ' I brok^ off, then 

desperately: "Nickolas Penticott, do you really — really 
love me?" 

Would I say so if I didn't?" 

No — oh, no, only you might think you did for the 
moment. It might be just a — a passing attraction," I 
stammered. 

He laughed shortly. 

"Well, it isn't," he said. "I knew something had 
happened that day you first came here. The moment I 






272 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

looked at you and you looked at me I knew that some- 
thing was changed. Only I didn't know what. But I 
have known for some time now. . . . And Sunday, you 
were so sweet ... I began to hope. . . . Lord, but IVe 
hardly been able to think or see with . . . with you work- 
ing right beside me. . . .*' He came a step nearer, but I 
still fended him off. 

*'Then you mustn't say a word until you know some- 
thing more,'' I s'^d. 

"Well?" he demanded, looking at me very straight. 

**0h, do help me to tell you! Do make it just a bit 
easier!" I cried out shakily. ''Don't you really recog- 
nize me t Don 't you, really ? ' ' 

He stared as if he thought I'd lost my wits, then 
slowly : 

'^No-o." 

"I'm Julia Grey," I said, and the silence snapped 
down upon us like a tangible thing. 

He went on staring as if he didn't understand, then 
I saw recognition creeping into his eyes — recognition and 
something else that it just made me go cold to see. 
You 're Julia Grey t " he said. 
Yes, can't you see that I am?" 

He just stared and stared. 

''So you are," he said at last very quietly, and again, 
"so you are." 

I laughed tremulously. 

"Can't act, and never will be able to," I blurted out. 
"You'll never be able to say that again, will you?" 

"No," be said, in the same utterly quiet way. "Ill 
never be able to say that again." 

"I mean,'' I went on, conscious that I was rushing 
on unthinkingly, but utterly unable to stop myself, "here 
I've been acting for weeks in your own ofiSce " 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 273 

"In my own office/' he repeated. 

*'And — and getting away with it/' I finished, his 
steady eyes making me nervous. 

'^Oh, yes, and getting away with it.'' 

*'Well, I have, haven't It" I said, because anything 
was better than silence. "I mean you were quite de- 
ceived, weren't you?" 

''Quite." 

*'0h, do say something original, for mercy's sake!" 
I cried out, near to tears. ''Wasn't it a good joke — 
wasn't it?" 

"Oh, splendid! Forgive me if my sense of humor 
isn't — ^isn't quite equal to it." 

There was a short silence; he didn't move, neither did 
I. We just stood and looked at each other. 

"So that was it; I see now," he said at last. "All 
the time you've been here winning my confidence, you've 
been laughing in your sleeve. I see now." 

"You don't, you don't!" I protested. And oh, how 
utterly he didn't! 

"I hate deceptions and I never should have thought 
you capable of practising them." 

"Can't you see how difficult it was for met I didn't 
know how you'd take it." 

"I think you might have trusted me. If not just at 
first, at least before this. Haven't we been good enough 
friends? Haven't I treated you with absolute trust and 
confidence?" 

"Yes, oh, you have, but " 

"Then you might have done the same with me." 

If only he'd been furious in a noisy sort of way ; if only 
he'd flared up and raved or done something violent, but 
he didn't; he just kept on that steady, quiet note that 
sounded so final and irrevocable, and — and finishing. 



S74 JIXIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

"No wiMider tosu fool tliat you have a career on the 
stas^. It *s roAsoiuiWe for one of London's most startling 
»\u\vifc«s to fool thai. And I'm sony I annoyed you by 
nuhor U^n^ n^y b«id just now. YouH soon be so very 
jr!\>«t a star that, of w^urse, what I Ve said will seem silly 
prtM^ninption, and — and all that sort of thing." He 
txirn^sl away slisrhtly, his face lowered and just a bit 
HuUeiK 

*'IIow you must ha\^ lau$!h€d just now when I was 
telling you all about Julia Grey. Oh, certainly, it's a 
very good joke!** 

Of coiirae, I oucsht to have realised that it all must have 
bci^n a bit of a facer to him, to be ardently proposing to 
a }^\r\ one minute and to find that she's quite a different 
person the nezt, 

"And last evening, over the *phone, when you made 
that appointment with me here this morning. Indeed; 
an excellent joke!'* 

There was a touch of a sort of two-fold contempt in his 
voice now, against me as a deceiver and against himself 
as a fool, that fairly fired the temper of me. It was hard 
for him to be fair, perhaps, but I was all worked up and 
nervy too. It hadn't been exactly an easy day for me, 
had itt And suddenly I was swept away on a wave of 
hasty feeling. 

'*You said just now that you loved me. I don't be- 
lieve you do. I don't believe you know what it means 
to — ^to love a — a person. If you did you'd understand, 
or — or try to, anyway." 

I caught a sharp breath and then, and then— oh, I'm 
always ashamed to think of this. I said a dreadful, 
dreadful unpardonable thing. It just tangled out before 
I could stop it. 

"I believe you're just thinking of those — ^those 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 275 

wretched old advertisements and all the money youVe 
spent on them ; you think I might have let you know and 
saved you the expenses of them." 

He turned round at that and his face was white and 
set, but his usually mild, grey eyes were blazing. 

**Take that back," he commanded in a perfectly ter- 
rible voice. 

But I wouldn't ; I was past caring, anyway, and I just 
went on recklessly disregarding the storm signals. 

''Well, let me tell you that it's just exactly to pay off 
that and — and all the rest, that I'm going on the stage. 
That's the debt I told you about. That's the money I 
owe, and that's why it wasn't any good for you to help 
me. And now I'll go back to Harry and I'll get that 
part, and I'll be a star — a great star, and I'll pay back 
every penny I owe you. And oh, I think you're horrid, 
horrid, horrid!" 

And without waiting for anything I flung open the 
door and went in to Harry. 

''I'm ready!" I said, a catch in my voice. "Quite 
ready." 

Nickolas Penticott, looking a bit queer, but trying to 
appear natural, followed me. 

I was still at boiling point but I didn't intend Harry 
to see anything. 

"Good-by," I said to my guardian, mustering a really 
brilliant smile. "And 111 speak to the girl I told you 
of ; I know she will make a most suitable secretary. She 
isn't the least like me." 

And of course poor Nickolas Penticott couldn't say a 
thing with Harry there. Oh, I'm not a bit proud of 
myself ; not a little bit, but I was all strung up and past 
caring. 

When it actually came to the minute of parting I would 



276 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

have given anything to take it all back, to go to him and 
beg him just to let me explain properly, and if he had 
made the smallest sign that he'd be glad to hear me, I'd 
have stayed. 

But I went towards the door, and he said nothing to 
stop me. My heart was praying and praying that he 
would, but he didn't. He just let me go. Let me go, 
when one word would have kept me. 

And he talked of love. Why, he didn't know the first 
thing about it. The first, simplest little rules. It didn't 
occur to me then that perhaps I'd forgotten them, too. 
I was just too utterably miserable to think of anything 
but how miserable I was. 

A moment later I was on the stairs with Harry ; then 
he was helping me into his big car and getting in and 
settling down beside me. And then we started off away 
from the office, away from the life I had liked so ; away 
from — oh, everything that meant anything to me. 

''Well, little ladyt" said Harry in the old friendly 
way. I swallowed hard, I had to, or I'd have choked, 
and blinked away the mist that was in my eyes. 

''Well, Harry?" I repUed. 



CHAPTER XIX 

And that brought me to a sense of the situation, and I 
remembered that here I was once again with this man 
that I'd treated so badly. I mustn't go on thinking of 
Nickolas Penticott and all my troubles. 

I must shake myself out of all that, and tell Harry how 
sorry I am for the way I treated him, and how I know 
that I'm the one to blame, and that he has every right 
in the world to blame me if he feels so inclined. 

But just in what words, I didn't know. 

Where were the words that would really fit the occa- 
sion? I'd have been something distinctly more than 
human if I'd found the situation easy, wouldn't It 

Especially when my mind was all muddled up with the 
scene in the oflSce with Nickolas Penticott, and I couldn't 
keep myself from wondering what he was thinking and 
doing, and whether he was just the least little bit sorry 
for having let me go, and whether it reaUy was true that 
he'd said he loved me and had asked me to marry him, 
or whether all that was a dream. 

I gave myself a shake and turned to Harry, but before 
I could say anything he said: 

* ' It 's good to see you again, Judy. ' ' And I stammered 
out: 

''It's good of you to say that after — after all that I've 
— done." 

277 



278 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

And in my voice was the apology I'd been wondering 
how I should make. It had just done itself, and Harry 
recognised it, too, for he said: 

'* After aU youVe done? And what have you done 
so very dreadful after all? Just found that the con- 
firmedest old bachelor that ever was, was no real mate 
for you.'* 

*'0h, Harry, it's sweet of you, and just like you, to 
take it that way!" 

''There's no other way to take it. Perhaps in his heart 
of hearts the old bachelor person knew it all along." 

*'If only I'd realized how utterly and unfailingly gen- 
erous you are, I'd never have done it all so — so crazily. 
I'd have come to you and told you. Only there seemed 
no time. I was so — so " I broke off. 

**0f course you were. Do you imagine that I could 
think you'd do such a thing simply on the spur of the 
moment? Or for any reason but the most serious one 
of all?" 

Nickolas Penticott did, I thought, stirring up the re- 
sentment in my heaii: as much as I could. For it was 
a very sore heart just at that moment. Harry under- 
stood, why couldn't Tie! 

"And, Harry, sometimes the biggest, deepest things 
come to you all in a moment, don't they? Come to you 
so overwhelmingly that they don't give you time to think; 
they just make you know that you must do one thing, 
or you mustn't do another, as the case may be, and you've 
just got to obey, somehow." 

''Obey, or suffer for it," he said soberly. "Best by 
far to obey, dear, as you did. Just tell me one thing. 
There's nothing in all that time — the time that we were 
engaged — that makes you — ^well, wish most fearfully that 
it hadn't happened, is there?" 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 279 

I was silent a moment, then : 

"Only that I — turned it all against yon and — made it 
into a — a hurtful thing for you," I said slowly. 

"No," he put in quickly. "You couldn't do that. 
Whatever happened after, nothing can take that time 
away from me ; its memories are mine for always, and — 
it was a very happy time for me, Judy. ' ' 

' * Oh, Harry, if you only knew how I blame myself ! ' ' 
I said remorsefully. 

"Don't, little lady; just let me be grateful to you for 
the happiness you gave me, will you?" 

And I whispered: 

"Of course — of course!" not knowing what to say. 

"Then it's *as you were' for us, eh?" he said, smiling. 
"Back to the days of the swing-door and the theatre. 
We are friends always, aren't we, Judy?" 

"Always and always, Harry," I said gratefully, and 
we shook hands on it. 

"Now then, let's talk real, solid, sober business," he 
said. 

And for the remainder of our drive he was giving me 
the details of the new play and the part he wanted me 
to play in it, and telling me what an enormous chance it 
was for me. That if I played it as he thought, and 
Pelman Barclay thought, I could play it, I 'd simply mop 
up London, get right away to the very tip-top, and be 
made for life. 

"By the way," he said, "I hope you don't mind the 
innocent little trick I played on Penticott. I was just 
a bit up a tree about it, not to say in a fog. I^could see, 
of course, that he didn't know who you were, and that 
you didn't want him to, but I just had to get you for 
that part." 

"Oh, it's all right. And, anyway, he does know now. 



280 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I — ^I told him," I stammered out, and very briefly I gave 
him a sort of idea of what I'd been doing since I dis- 
appeared that fatal wedding-day, and just how it hap- 
pened that I was secretary to Nickolas Penticott, and 
how it was he didn't know me. 

And when I 'd finished, I found Harry was looking at 
me intently. 

* * I see, ' ' he said slowly, and, after a little pause : * ' Good 
chap, Penticott, isn't het" 

"Yes — er — ^awfully good," I replied. 

*'I've had occasion to meet him several times just 
lately " 

''About me?" I asked. 

*'Well, yes — generally," he admitted. '*And I think 
he's a fine sound chap." 
I— I'm glad." 

And he's a good-looker, too, isn't he?" 
Yes — oh, yes," I agreed, wishing he'd talk of any- 
thing else in the world. 

**Even though he's not a type you — adore, eh?" he 
added, and there was the wickedest twinkle in his eyes. 
"Do you remember saying that?" he added. 

I turned and looked out of the window. 

"Yes." 

There was a little silence. Then : 

"I wonder," he began; and again, "I wonder." But 
what he wondered I didn't find out, for the car drew up 
outside His Highness' Theatre, and Harry got out and 
held out his hand to aid me. 

As we went up the well-remembered stairs to Pelman 
Barclay's room at the very tip-top, he said to me : 

"Now, remember, here's absolutely the part of your 
life, and it's yours for the asking. Wade right in, little 
lady, and justify our opinion of you." 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 281 

I answered gratefully that I truly would. 

But I began to feel a bit shaky as I approached the 
great man's door. What would he think of me for be- 
having as I had f Wouldn 't he be awfully digusted with 
me? Especially as Harry was an old friend of his. 
Wouldn't he probably ask questions, and show wonder, 
and be altogether disconcerting! I began to feel sure he 
would for he'd always been very free and friendly with 
me, and had always shown a personal interest in me. 

So when Harry went in, saying in a note of triumph: 

''Here she is!" 

I followed rather slowly, not too awfully sure of my- 
self. 

And there was the great Barclay sitting in his crunched- 
up way in his big chair, with **His Nibs" beside him as 
of old, and he got up when I appeared, and said kindly : 

*'So glad to see you again. Miss Grey. Now, you are 
going to play this part for us, aren't you? And may we 
use your dramatic disappearance as a 'puJBE' for your 
reappearance in the play?" 

I nearly gasped. So that was how it appeared to him, 
was it? As a good ^^ad." for the play! Suddenly I 
laughed. Not that I felt like laughing; I didn't. I'd 
never felt less like it in my life, but somehow it did all 
seem so queer to be back here, discussing a play and a 
part and a salary that seemed huge to me. Queer in 
ever so many ways. Because I hadn't done it for so long 
for one thing and because it was so awfully flat now that 
I was doing it. I ought to have been thrilled and de- 
lighted ; it was such a chance. 

But something tugged at my heart ; tugged and tugged 
till I could hardly endure the aching of it. 

I shook myself again. 

*'Now, Judy Grey, don't be a sentimental fool. He's 



282 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

not worth thinking of — ^if he couldn't understand any 
better than he did. YouVe just got to go right in, take 
this enormous chance, make a heap of money, pay him 
all you owe, and banish him from your mind for ever!*' 

Good, sound advice, no doubt — ^but did I follow it! I 
did not. I couldn't. Through all the arrangements 
about the part and all that business, thought and mem- 
ories kept weaving in and out. 

''What's he doing? Still stewing up in that wretched 
office! Oh, and there's ever so much work left un- 
finished." 

That's the sort of thing that my mind would be saying 
to itself while my lips were saying something quite other. 

Pelman Barclay was most awfully sweet to me. And 
he didn't ask me to read the part; he wanted me to take 
it away with me and look it over during the week-end, 
and see whether I'd care to play it, and as he told me 
that he added with a twinkle: 

** We must put her up to all the tricks of the real Lon- 
don star, mustn't we, Harry?" 

Rehearsals, he told me, were postponed for a week to 
accommodate the ''flu" germ acquired by the promising 
young "juvenile." 

In fact, everything was going wrong, he cheerfully in- 
formed me, which was why he was in such good spirits ; 
when things began all wrong, the "omen" was all right. 

I heard my voice doing a really brilliant laugh, but my 
brain was saying: 

"I know the girl I suggested to Nickolas Penticott 
won't be really satisfactory. No one will look after him 
and help him as / could. She's competent — oh, yes. 
But as he said, 'Hang competence, and the girl, too!' " 

Tien I awoke to find Barclay impressing upon me 
what an enormous chance tt^ ^^ lot Taa, How I could 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 283 

now make an absolutely tip-top name, and how I'd jolly 
nearly lost the chance, for he'd told Harry that if I 
wasn't conjured up by noon to-day, he'd give the part 
to someone else. There was someone ready to step right 
into it. 

Harry said: 

'*How tremendously lucky that you turned up just 
when you did!" 

' * Yes, wasn 't it ? " said Barclay. And 

*'Yes, wasn't it?" I echoed. But the words came 
flatly, for my thoughts were : 

''There's that awfully ticklish Brancombe versus Net- 
ley case only half prepared, and all that deadly contract 
business to go into — and Nickolas Penticott all on his 
own." 

I shook myself again, and said with all the enthusiasm 
I could muster: 

''It's such a magnificent case — ^I mean part. And it's 
so good of you to — to give me the — the chance." 

After that I was glad enough when I'd said good-by 
to Barclay and fled, the brown-covered script in my 
hands. 

Harry came with me, and wanted to give me lunch, 
but I couldn't; the mere thought of eating anything 
nearly choked me; I just wanted to get away and be 
alone and think, and get things sorted out in my mind. 

When I got back to my own scrubby little room, I flung 
the play on to the table and myself into a chair, and sat 
for ages and ages, thinking. But it wasn't any good; 
I didn't seem to come to any conclusion about — oh, about 
anything. So I drew the play towards me and began 
looking it over. 

It was a fine part, the one I was offered. Fine — and I 
could play it, too. I knew I could. And be a success. 



284 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

I knew it. And yet, do you know, I couldn't get up 
any great enthusiasm about the prospect. 

I simply couldn 't ; I read bits of it aloud to get my 
interest up. There was, of course, a big crying scene. 

''Lord, I could do a crying scene right now that would 
knock spots off any scene that I, or any one else, could 
ever do on any stage whatever!'' I said shakily. And 
then, annoyed by my own soppy conduct, I started argu- 
ing it out. 

*'You might take London by storm with a part like 
this, you little fool," I told myself angrily. 

*'I don't want London; I don't want anything ex- 
cept ..." myself told me, rebelliously. 

''But you must make money." 

"Oh, yes, of course ... I forgot." 

"And pay him back all you owe." 

"Yes, yes . . . every penny, I was only forgetting." 

"You can't be under an obligation to him." 

"No, never in this world ! I was only forgetting, I tell 
you. ' ' 

"WeU, don't forget." 

' ' I won 't. I mustn 't. I mean, of course, I couldn 't. ' ' 

The two sides of the argument ran side by side, fifty- 
fifty up to that point. 

Then came a sudden violent clash of opinion. 

"After the stuffy way he behaved over the expense of 
those advertisements, and the fuss he made at having to 
pay for them, it would be beneath your dignity " 

"He wasn't stuffy! The ads. were just the last straw, 
and the last straw is always a small thing, that's all; 
and he didn't make a fuss. He's been simply splendid 
to me, and — and I don't believe I've got any particular 
dignity, anyway. And there I've gone and left him in 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 285 

tlie lurch with a heap of work in hand, and — and — every- 
thing." 

And there I sniffed several times, which didn't prevent 
a large tear from trickling unromantically ofE the tip of 
my nose on to the' brown-covered script. 
*'0h, my part! I must study it. I must. . . ." 
But my head went down into my hands and the cry- 
ing scene had begun. 



It wasn't until the middle of Sunday that the awful 
thought burst on me that I hadn 't been to see that highly 
competent girl about the Nickolas Penticott secretarial 
job! 

Goodness! I'd really gone and left him in the lurch 
now! And it was Sunday. The Stanmore ofiSce was 
closed, I didn't know where to find the girl . . . and 
there was nothing to be done. He'd have to apply at the 
oflSce himself and take just any girl Kendrick sent . . . 
and . . . Oh, what a thoughtless pig I'd been! 

I went to bed late that night, and didn't sleep till ever 
so much later still, but force of habit woke me at my 
usually early hour. And I was up just as I always had 
been **in time for the office." 

"But there's no more office for me," I thought dis- 
consolately as I ate my breakfast. **No more office for 
me!" 

But even as I thought it, I said aloud : 

''Isn't there, though? And why not? Since I've 
left Nickolas Penticott in the lurch and forgotten to send 
that competent girl to him, isn't it my duty, my plain 
duty " 

And it's wonderful how splendid and lighthearted a 
sense of doing your duty makes you feel sometimes ! 



286 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 






But what about the money f the argument began. 
Oh, bother the money! I'll pay him back in service, 

or — or Oh, well, money isn't the only thing in the 

world that counts." 

*'But suppose he doesn't want you for his secretary 
any more? Suppose he won't have you, and turns you 
out?" 

The thought was a staggerer, and made my heart beat 
furiously for a second, and made me go hot all over with 
sheer fright, but I set my lips and said stubbornly, al- 
though there was the least suspicion of a quiver in the 
words: 

*'Well, if he does turn me out, he does; but if he 
doesn't — well, he doesn't, that's all. It's just a chance 
and I'm going to take it." 

And off I set, speeded by the stout and hearty Mrs. 
Henty, who was whoUy unaware of the storm of destiny- 
making emotion that had raged in the inmost heart of 
her outwardly calm and composed lodger. 

When I got to the office I met the buttons-boy on the 
stairs. 

"Mornin', miss! The guvnor's here already," he said 
confidentially. 

**Th-thank you!" I stammered, unprepared for this. 
I thought I 'd be first ; but I went resolutely in, albeit my 
heart thumped with every step that took me nearer to 
the office door. 

Just outside I hesitated, then gritted my teeth, turned 
the knob, flung open the door, and went in. 

Nickolas Penticott raised his head sharply, caught a 
quick breath, and stumbled up to his feet, an odd little 
cry escaping him. 

I stood for a second as I'd stood that first day, just 
staring; then I faltered out; 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 287 



if 



I said I'd send you a — a competent secretary. Well, 
I'm — ^I'm her — ^no, I mean I'm she — ^that is, I'm it." 

I stopped, and for another age we just stared at each 
other. 

Then Nickolas Penticott tilted back his good-looking 
head and laughed. Such a queer, triumphant sort of 
laugh. Then, in about two long-legged strides, he was 
before me, his eyes were looking down into mine, and his 
voice, shaken all to bits, was saying: 

'*YouVe come back to met YouVe forgiven me and 
come back?" 

*' Yes. My voice was less than a whisper. 

''Why— whyV 

** Because — oh, well, because " 

''My dear!" 

And his arms closed round me, and I was laughing 
and crying together, and trying to explain into the bar- 
gain. 

**No one will ever — ^help you as — as / can. And you 
said 'Competence be hanged and — the girl — too.' " 

He laughed again, bent his head quickly, and for a 
long, long moment my explanation couldn't carry on — 
and didn't matter, anyway. I was here, he was here, his 
arms were round me, and all the world stood breathless 
as our lips met. 

Paradise in an office! Yes, but paradise is anywhere, 
where the right two people are, isn't it? 

And since Nickolas Penticott had a habit of sitting on 
the edge of his big desk, I was presently perched up beside 
him, while we indulged in the rather incoherent explana- 
tions that usually rise to the surface on these occasions. 

"Darling," he said penitently, "what a brute I was, 
but I didn't really mean to be. It was just the surprise 



288 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

and shock of finding out suddenly like that — about who 
you really are, I mean." 

''Oh, it was my fault — it was, really. I ought to have 
told you. And even now — even now, I haven 't done what 
I meant to do," I broke in, as penitent as he. 

''About what, deart What did you mean to do?" 

"I mean to — to pay you back that — all that money that 
youVe let me have " 

He laid a hand on my mouth. 

"Please, please don't speak of that. IVe been going 
hot and cold every time I've thought of what I said that 
day. What a mean beast you must have thought me." 

"I didn't! I didn't! And you weren't! You were 
perfectly justified. But truly I didn't know that yon 
were spending money to find me, and I didn't know about 
the other, either. I thought I still had my income. And 
all the time it was yours." 

"That doesn't matter now, dear, does it? I mean, 
mine's going to be yours, isn't it? And " 

"But I wanted to make a heap of money and pay you 
back and start clear — so that there was nothing between 

r 

US. And I felt that I couldn't, I simply couldn't face 
you till it was paid. And that's why I was so keen on 
getting the part." 

Still, you did face me, darling," he put in softly. 
Oh, suddenly it came to me how silly, how silly, and 
— and sort of small it was to let a thing of that sort be so 
important. I saw things at their true values and the few 
hundred pounds that had seemed such a barrier suddenly 

dwindled down to nothing beside " 

"Beside?" 

"Oh, beside all the real things, the things that matter 

most I couldn't just let myself lose the best in the world 

for a miserable few TaundTeAa ot ^wrcAa, kW^^^ I'd got 






JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 289 

to make a bid for the best. And so I came this morning. 
And if you turned me out, well, you turned me out, and 
if you didn't- — " 

*'Andif Ididn't?'' 

''Of course you didn't.*' 

"How logical! And now I'll make my confession: 
I 've been kicking myself ever since Saturday for risking 
losing you for the sake of my idiotic pride, or dignity, or 
whatever it was that thought it had a right to be incensed 
by your deception. And as soon as you'd gone I got 
things down to their true values, too; they came down 
with a bump and I woke up and I tell you I've been the 
wretchedest man alive. As if it matters what you call 
yourself! It's you, and all the dear charm of you, that 
I love, and I'm bound to go on loving you, you know, 
"Whether you're Julia or Jane." 

** Please do," I murmured. 

''What?" 

"I didn't say anything — I mean, not anything of any 
importance." 

"Anyway, I heard," he added shamelessly, and went 
on: "You know it was just as much sheer fear of losing 
you that made me such a beast. Because if you were 
going to be a great star, I couldn't hope that you'd look 
at an everyday man like me." 

Now, I hadn't said that I wasn't going to be a great 
star yet! But he seemed to take it for granted that I 
wasn't, for one strong arm went round me and held me 
close to his side. , 

' ' Day before yesterday, ' ' I said, my face hidden on his 
sleeve, "you asked me to — to marry you. And judging 
by your, well, your behavior, to-day, I'm forced to the 
conclusion that — ^that you meant it." 

He laughed. 






290 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

* ' Meant it ? You blessed darling ! Well, rather ! ' ' 

*' Well, then, aren't love and marriage everyday things f 
I mean, haven't they got to be for always? And isn't 
always made up of everyday? And so, isn't an everyday 
man the very, very best kind of man to marry?" 

''You bet he is!" he agreed enthusiastically. "If it 
means me and you. It doesn't take five seconds to con- 
sider that verdict. But, darling, I quite forgot You 
haven't said you aren't going to take that part," he 
added anxiously, 

*'ButI'mnot,"Iputin. 

''Because of me?" 

"Because of you." 
Have you realized what you're giving up?" 
I've not given up anything. I've just found a better 
engagement, that's all. One that will have a lifetime's 
run. ' ' 

"But there's precious little glory in it, dear." 

"Isn't there? I'm not so sure." 

For a while we sat silently, looking out before us with 
eyes that took no note of the office around us, eyes that 
saw sheer through its walls into the future of our dreams, 
then through the stillness, his voice, not quite steady, 
broke suddenly : 

"Shall we . . . er . . . call it a go?" 

"It's a go!" I whispered, and our shaky laughter 
mingled. 



A ridiculously short time later we were married. 
"What is there to wait for?" demanded Nickolas 
Penticott, and the answer to that being "Nothing," we 

didn't wait. 
And it was a tiny, un-fussy wedding at a tiny, quiet 



JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 291 

church. Norah was my chief bridesmaid and the twins 
insisted upon attending me, too; they had forgiven me 
sufficiently by this time for doing them out of a "real, 
swagger wedding/* but I don't think they eveir forgave 
Nickolas Penticott for not being a lord. 

''You know, Judy, when your father began life as the 
proprietor of a coffe-stall, you do so love a lord," they 
explained. Still, they admitted that he was "adorably 
good-looking '* and said hopefully that "of course one 
day he might become a 'sir' — ^lawyers often did.*' 

It took Lady Cordelia longest of all to forgive me, but 
she did finally and wrote me the loveliest letter for my 
wedding-day, though she herself went out of England for 
the event. I tJiink, so that she couldn't possibly be pres- 
ent at it. 

Geraldine Maidstone, too, was "out of town, and there- 
fore unable to be present," which seemed to surprise 
Nickolas Penticott a good deal, but it didn't surprise me 
one bit. 

Penticott senior insisted upon being present, and was 
wheeled up the aisle in a bath-chair, and explained to 
all our friends that he had been the chief means of bring- 
ing about the happy event; and when I demanded to 
know how he'd worked it, he said: 

"Didn't you tell me he was hoping to have that horse- 
faced secretary of his back again? And didn't I tell him 
not to be a damn young fool?" 

So that was that. 

Harry was there, and the real dear of creation. He'd 
said it was to be "as you were," and he kept his word. 
He's about the best and closest friend we have, and the 
more he and my husband knew of each other, the better 
friends they became. And little Nick? . . . Oh, but 
that's going more than a year ahead • . . but little Nick 



292 JULIA TAKES HER CHANCE 

stands a chance of being the worst-spoilt kid in the world, 
between Aunt Cordelia, Uncle Harry, and Great-Uncle 
Penticott senior. To say nothing of Aunt Norah and 
Aunt Butter and Aunt Bun. 

Still, he's getting fat and jolly on it, and he's going 
to have Big Nick's eyes and nose and mouth and chin, 
but his mother's goldeny-brown hair, with the sunshiny 
lights in it. "Which shows what an exceptionally dis- 
criminating boy he is, and — yes, my hair is goldeny-brown 
again; the red all wore off, or grew off, or something; 
anyway, it's off, and I'm myself again. 

Pelman Barclay says sometimes, as he rides a wobbly 
but triumphantly crowing little Nick on his great and 
famous shoulders : 

''Mrs. Penticott, I'll never forgive you for leaving 
the stage; you'd have made a great name, and you had 
the chance of a lifetime." Then, with a look round, he 
adds: ''But, child, you chose the better part — ^the bet- 
ter part." 

And in the fine, melancholy voice that can sway thou- 
sands to laughter or to tears, there is the smallest little 
sigh of envy. 

And so, my dear guardian — my rather "tiresome" 
guardian; my somewhat "stodgy" guardian. . . . Oh, 
Nickolas Penticott ! Could it ever have been I who said 
these things? — ^And so ... . 

Well, anyway, here 's to you ! 

THE END 



THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBEABY 






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it«mB. u»fex AND I ¥>T - "i 

^"WJW PCHJNDATIONll I 



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