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Full text of "Second string"

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SECOND STRING 

BY ANTHONY HOPE 




THOMAS NELSON AND SONS 

LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN, 

LEEDS, AND NEW YORK 

LEIPZIG 135-37 Konigstrasse. PARIS: 61 Rue des Saints P^res. 



PR 



i-fyo 

First Published 1910. 



CONTENTS. 



I. HOME AGAIN 
II. A VERY LITTLE HUNTING 

III. THE POTENT VOICE 

IV. SETTLED PROGRAMMES 
V. BROADENING LIFE . 

VI. THE WORLDS OF MERITON 
VII. ENTERING FOR THE RACE 
VIII. WONDERFUL WORDS 
IX. "INTERJECTION" 
X. FRIENDS IN NEED . 
XI. THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW 
XII. CONCERNING A STOLEN Kiss . 

XIII. A LOVER LOOKS PALE . 

XIV. SAVING THE NATION 
XV. LOVE AND FEAR 

XVI. A CHOICE OF EVILS 



5 
27 

45 
66 

8? 
106 

128 
148 
169 
190 

212 

235 
256 

2 7 8 
300 
321 



iv CONTENTS. 

XVII. REFORMATION .... 342 
XVIII. PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS . . 362 

XIX. MARKED MONEY. . . . 384 
XX. No GOOD? .... 404 

XXI. THE EMPTY PLACE . . . 424 

XXII. GRUBBING AWAY .... 446 

XXIII. A STOP-GAP . . . .468 

XXIV. PRETTY MUCH THE SAME ! . . 490 
XXV. THE LAST FIGHT . . .512 

XXVI. TALES OUT OF SCHOOL FOR ONCE 533 
XXVII. NOT OF HIS SEEKING . . . 555 



SECOND STRING. 

Chapter I. 
HOME AGAIN. 

JACK ROCK stood in his shop in High Street. 
He was not very often to be seen there now- 
adays ; he bred and bought, but he no longer 
killed, and rarely sold, in person. These latter and 
lesser functions he left to his deputy, Simpson, for 
he had gradually developed a bye-trade which took 
up much of his time, and was no less profitable than 
his ostensible business. He bought horses, "made" 
them into hunters, and sold them again. He was 
a rare judge and a fine rider, and his heart was in 
this line of work. 

However to-day he was in his shop because the 
Christmas beef was on show. Here were splendid 
carcasses decked with blue rosettes, red rosettes, 
or cards of " Honourable Mention ; " poor bodies 
sadly unconscious (as one may suppose all bodies 



6 SECOND STRING. 

are) of their posthumous glories. Jack Rock, a 
spruce spare little man with a thin red face and a 
get-up of the most cc horsy" order, stood before 
them, expatiating to Simpson on their beauties. 
Simpson, who was as fat as his master was thin, 
and even redder in the face, chimed in ; they were 
for all the world like a couple of critics hymning 
the praise of poets who have paid the debt of 
nature, but are decorated with the insignia of fame. 
Verily Jack Rock's shop in the days before Christ- 
mas might well seem an Abbey or a Pantheon of 
beasts. 

"Beef for me on Christmas Day," said Jack. 
" None of your turkeys or geese, or such-like 
truck. Beef! " He pointed to a blue-rosetted 
carcass. "Look at him; just look at him! I've 
known him since he was calved. Cuts up well, 
doesn't he? I'll have a joint off him for my own 
table, Simpson." 

"You couldn't do better, sir," said Simpson, just 
touching, careful not to bruise, the object of eulogy 
with his professional knife. A train of thought 
started suddenly in his brain. "Them vegetarians, 
sir ! " he exclaimed. Was it wonder, or contempt, 
or such sheer horror as the devotee has for atheism? 
Or the depths of the first and the depths of the 
second poured into the depths of the third to make 
immeasurable profundity ? 



HOME AGAIN. 7 

A loud burst of laughter came from the door of 
the shop. Nothing startled Jack Rock. He pos- 
sessed in perfection a certain cheerful seriousness 
which often marks the amateurs of the horse. 
These men are accustomed to take chances, to 
encounter the unforeseen, to endure disappoint- 
ment, to withstand the temptations of high success. 
Mens Aequa ! Life, though a pleasant thing, is not 
a laughing matter. So Jack turned slowly and 
gravely round to see whence the irreverent inter- 
ruption proceeded. But when he saw the intruder 
his face lit up, and he darted across the shop with 
outstretched hand. Simpson followed, hastily 
rubbing his right hand on the under side of his 
blue apron. 

" Welcome, my lad, welcome home ! " cried 
Jack, as he greeted with a hard squeeze a young 
man who stood in the doorway. " First-rate you 
look too. He's filled out, eh, Simpson ? " He 
tapped the young man's chest appreciatively, 
and surveyed his broad and massive shoulders 
with almost professional admiration. " Canada's 
agreed with you, Andy. Have you just got 
here?" 

" No ; I got here two hours ago. You were 
out, so I left my bag and went for a walk round 
the old place. It seems funny to be in Meriton 
again." 



8 SECOND STRING. 

" Come into the office. We must drink your 
health. You too, Simpson. Come along." 

He led the way to a back room, where, amid 
more severe furniture and appliances, there stood 
a cask of beer. From this he filled three pint 
mugs, and Andy Hayes' health and safe return 
were duly honoured. Andy winked his eye. 

" Them teetotallers ! " he ejaculated, with a very 
fair imitation of Simpson, who acknowledged the 
effort with an answering wink as he drained his 
mug and then left the other two to themselves. 

" Yes, I've been poking about everywhere 
first up to have a look at the old house. Not 
much changed there well, except that everything's 
changed by the dear old governor's not being 
there any more." 

"Ah, it was a black Christmas that year four 
years ago now. First, the old gentleman ; then 
poor Nancy, a month later. She caught the fever 
nursin' him ; she would do it, and I couldn't stop 
her. Did you go to the churchyard, Andy ? " 

" Yes, I went there." After a moment's grave 
pause his face brightened again. "And I went 
to the old school. Nobody there it's holidays, 
of course but how everything came back to me ! 
There was my old seat, between Chinks and the 
Bird you know? Wat Money, I mean, and 
young Tom Dove." 



HOME AGAIN. 9 

"Oh, they're both in the place still. Tom 
>ove's helpin' his father at the Lion, and Wat 

toney's articled to old Mr. Foulkes the lawyer." 

" I sat down at my old desk, and, by Jove, 
I absolutely seemed to hear the old governor 
talking talking about the Pentathlon. You've 
heard him talk about the Pentathlon ? He was 
awfully keen on the Pentathlon ; wanted to have 
it at the sports. I believe he thought I should 
win it." 

" I don't exactly remember what it was, but 
you'd have had a good go for it, Andy." 

" Leaping, running, wrestling, throwing the 
discus, hurling the spear I think that's right. 
He was talking about it the very last day I sat at 
that desk eight years ago ! Yes, it's eight years 
since I went out to the war, and nearly five since 
I went to Canada. And I've never been back ! 
Well, except for not seeing him and Nancy again, 
I'm glad of it. I've done better out there. There 
wasn't any opening here. I wasn't clever, and if 
I had been, there was no money to send me to 
Oxford, though the governor was always dreaming 
of that." 

"Naturally, seem' he was B.A. Oxon, and a 
gentleman himself," said Jack. 

He spoke in a tone of awe and admiration. 
Andy looked at him with a smile. Among the 






io SECOND STRING. 

townsfolk of Meriton Andy's father had always 
been looked up to by reason of the letters after 
his name on the prospectus of the old grammar 
school, of which he had been for thirty years the 
hard-worked and very ill-paid headmaster. In 
Meriton eyes the letters carried an academical 
distinction great if obscure, a social distinction 
equally great and far more definite. They ranked 
Mr. Hayes with the gentry, and their existence 
had made his second marriage with Jack Rock 
the butcher's sister a mhalliance of a pronounced 
order. Jack himself was quite of this mind. 
He had always treated his brother-in-law with 
profound respect ; even his great affection for 
his sister had never quite persuaded him that 
she had not been guilty of gross presumption in 
winning Mr. Hayes' heart. He could not, even 
as the second Mrs. Hayes' brother, forget the first 
Andy's mother ; for she, though the gentlest 
of women, had always called Jack " Butcher." 
True, that was in days before Jack had won his 
sporting celebrity and set up his private gig ; but 
none the less it would have seemed impossible to 
conceive of a family alliance even a posthumous 
one with a lady whose recognition of him was so 
exclusively commercial. 

"Well, I'm not a B.A. Oxon. or otherwise," 
laughed Andy. " I don't know whether I'm 



HOME AGAIN. 



ii 



gentleman. If I am, so are you. Meriton 

rammar School is responsible for us both. And 

you're in trade, so am I. What's the difference 
between timber and meat ? " 

" I expect there's a difference between Meriton 
and Canada, though," Jack Rock opined shrewdly. 
"Are you goin' to stay at home, or goin' back ? " 

" I shall stay here if I can develop the thing 
nough to make it pay to have a man on this side, 
f not, pack up ! But I shall be here for the next 
ix months anyway, I expect." 

" What's it worth to you ? " asked Jack. 

"Oh, nothing much just now. Two hundred 

year guaranteed, and a commission if it's earned, 
ut it looks like improving. Only the orders 

ust come in before the commission does ! How- 

er it's not so bad ; I'm lucky to have found a 

rth at all." 

"Yes, lucky thing you got pals with that Cana- 
ian fellow down in South Africa." 

"A real stroke of luck. It was a bit hard 
to make up my mind not to come home with 
the boys, but I'm sure I did the right thing. 
Only I'm sorry about the old governor and 
Nancy." 

" The old gentleman himself told me he thought 

E" 1 done right." 
!t was an opening ; and it had to be taken or 



12 SECOND STRING. 

left, then and there. So here I am, and I'm going 
to start an office in London." 

Jack Rock nodded thoughtfully ; he seemed to 
be revolving something in his mind. Andy's eyes 
rested affectionately on him. The two had been 
great friends all through Andy's boyhood. Jack 
had been "Jack" to him long before he became a 
family connection, and "Jack" he had continued 
to be. As for the mesalliance well, looking back, 
Andy could not with candour deny that it had been 
a surprise, perhaps even a shock. It had to some 
degree robbed him of the exceptional position he 
held in the grammar school, where, among the sons 
of tradesmen, he alone, or almost alone, enjoyed a 
vague yet real social prestige. The son shared 
the father's fall. The feeling of caste is very 
persistent, even though it may be shamed into 
silence by modern doctrines, or by an environment 
in which it is an alien plant. But he had got over 
his boyish feeling now, and was delighted to come 
back to Meriton as Jack Rock's visitor, and to stay 
with him at the comfortable little red-brick house 
adjoining the shop in High Street. In fact he 
flattered himself that his service in the ranks and 
his Canadian experiences had taken the last of 
" that sort of nonsense " out of him. It was, 
perhaps, a little too soon to pronounce so confident 
a judgment. 



HOME AGAIN. 13 

Andy was smitten with a sudden compunction. 
Why, I've never asked after Harry Belfield ! " he 
cried. 

He was astonished at his own disloyalty. Harry 
Belfield had been the hero of his youth, his ideal, 
his touchstone of excellence in all things, the 
standard by which he humbly measured his own 
sore deficiencies, and contemptuously assessed the 
demerits of his- schoolfellows. Of these Harry 
had not been one. No grammar school for him ! 
He was the son of Mr. Belfield of Halton Park- 
Harrow and Oxford were the programme for him. 
The same favourable conditions gave him the 
opportunity which, of course, he took of excel- 
ling in all the accomplishments that Andy lacked 
and envied riding, shooting, games of skill that 
cost money. The difference of position set a gulf 
between the two boys. Meetings had been rare 
events to Andy always notable events, occa- 
sions of pleasure and of excitement, landmarks in 
memory. The acquaintance between the houses 
had been of the slightest. In Andy's earliest days 
Mr. and the first Mrs. Hayes had dined once a 
year with Mr. and Mrs. Belfield ; they were not 
expected to return the hospitality. After Andy's 
mother died and Nancy came on the scene, the 
annual dinner had gone on, but it had become a 
men's dinner ; and Mrs. Belfield, though she bowed 



I 4 SECOND STRING. 

in the street, had not called on the second Mrs. 
Hayes Nancy Rock that had been. It was not to 
be expected. Yet Mr. Belfield had recognized an 
equal in Andy's father ; he also, perhaps, yielded 
some homage to the B.A. Oxon. And Harry, 
though he undoubtedly drew a line between him- 
self and Andy, drew another between Andy and 
Andy's schoolfellows, Chinks, the Bird, and the 
rest. He was rewarded and to his worship- 
loving nature it was a reward by an adoration 
due as much, perhaps, to the first line as to the 
second. The more definite a line, the more 
graciousness lies in stepping over it. 

These boyish devotions are common, and com- 
monly are short-lived. But Andy's habit of mind 
was stable and his affections tenacious. He still 
felt that a meeting with Harry Belfield would be 
an event. 

" He's all right," Jack Rock answered, his tone 
hardly responding to Andy's eagerness. " He's a 
barrister now, you know ; but I don't fancy he does 
much at it. Better at spendin' money than makin' 
it ! If you want to see him, you can do it to-night." 

"Can I? How?" 

"There's talk of him bein' candidate for the 
Division next election, and he's goin' to speak 
at a meeting in the Town Hall to-night, him and 
a chap in Parliament." 



HOME AGAIN. 15 

"Good! Which side is he?" 
" You've been a good while away to ask that ! " 
" I suppose I have. I say, Jack, let's go." 
"You can go; I shan't," said Jack Rock. "You'll 
t back in time for supper and need it too, I 
should say. I never listen to speeches except when 
they put me on a jury at assizes. Then I do like 
to hear a chap fight for his man. That's racin', 
that is ; and I like specially, Andy, to see him 
bring it off when the odds are against him. But 
this politics in my opinion, if you put their names 
in a hat and drew 'em blindfolded, you'd get just 
as good a Cover 'ment as you do now, or just 
as bad." 

"Oh, I'm not going for the politics. I'm going 
to hear Harry Belfield." 

"The only question as particularly interests me," 
said Jack, with one of his occasional lapses into 
doubtful grammar, "is the matter of chilled 
meat. But which of 'em does anything for me 
there ? One says c Free Trade let it all come ! ' 
The other says, c No chilled meat, certainly not, 
unless it comes from British possessions ' which 
is where it does come from mostly. And it's ruin 
to the meat, Andy, in my opinion. I hate to see 
it. Not that I lose much by it, havin' a high-class 
connection. Would you like to have another look 
in the shop ? " 






1 6 SECOND STRING. 

" Suppose we say to-morrow morning ? " laughed 
Andy. 

Jack shook his head ; he seemed disappointed 
at this lack of enthusiasm. " I've got some 
beauties this Christmas," he said. " All the same 
I shan't be lookin' at 'em much to-morrow 
mornin' ! I've got a young horse, and I want just 
to show him what a foxhound's like. The meet's 
at Fyfold to-morrow, Andy. I wish I could 
mount you. I expect you ride fourteen, eh ? " 

" Hard on it, I fancy and I'm a fool on a horse 
anyhow. But I shall go on shanks' mare.'* 

" Will you now ? Well, if you're as good on 
your legs as you used to be, it's odds you'll see a 
bit of the run. I recollect you in the old days, 
Andy ; you were hard to shake off unless the goin' 
was uncommon good. Knew the country, you 
did, and where the fox was likely to make for. 
And I don't think you'll get the scent too good 
for you to-morrow. Come along and have tea. 
Oh, but you're a late-dinner man, eh ? " 

" Dinner when, where, and how it comes ! Tea 
sounds capital with supper after my meeting. I 
say, Jack, it's good to see you again ! " 

"Wish you'd stay here, lad. I'm much alone 
these days with the old gentleman gone, and 
poor Nancy gone ! " 

"Perhaps I shall. Anyhow I might stay here 



HOME AGAIN. 17 

for the summer, and go up to town to the 
office." 

"Aye, you might do that, anyhow." Again 
Jack Rock seemed meditative, as though he had 
an idea and were half-minded to disclose it. But 
he was a man of caution ; he bided his time. 

Andy nobody had ever called him Andrew 
since the parson who christened him seemed to 
himself to have got home again, very thoroughly 
home again. Montreal with its swelling hill, its 
mighty river, its winter snow, its Frenchness, its 
opposing self- defensive, therefore self-assertive, 
Britishness, was very remote. A talk with Jack 
Rock, a Conservative meeting with a squire in the 
chair (that was safely to be assumed), a meet of the 
hounds next morning these and a tide of intimate 
personal memories stamped him as at home again. 
The long years in the little house at the extreme 
end of Highcroft Highcroft led out of High 
Street, tending to the west, Fyfold way in the old 
grammar school, in the peace of the sleepy town 
had been a poignant memory in South Africa, a 
fading dream in the city by the great river. They 
sprang again into actuality. If he felt a certain 
contraction in his horizon he felt also a peace in 
his mind. Meriton might or might not admire 
" hustlers ; " it did not hustle itself. It was a 
parasitic little town ; it had no manufactures, no 



1 8 SECOND STRING. 

special industry. It lived on the country sur- 
rounding it on the peasants, the farmers, the 
landowners. So it did not grow ; neither did it 
die. It remained much as it had been for hundreds 
of years, save that it was seriously considering the 
introduction of electric light. 

The meeting was rather of an impromptu order ; 
Christmas holidays are generally held sacred from 
such functions. But Mr. Foot, M.P., a rising 
young member and a friend of Harry Belfield's, 
happened to be staying at Halton Park for shoot- 
ing. Why waste him ? He liked to speak, and 
he spoke very well. The more Harry showed 
himself and got himself heard, the better. The 
young men would enjoy it. A real good dinner 
beforehand would send them down in rare spirits. 
A bit of supper, with a whisky-and-soda or two, 
and recollections of their own "scores," would 
end the evening pleasantly. Meriton would not 
be excited it was not election time but it would 
be amused, benevolent, and present in sufficiently 
large numbers to make the thing go with tclat. 

There was, indeed, one topic which, from a 
platform at all events, one could describe as 
" burning." A Bill dealing with the sale of intoxi- 
cating liquor had, the session before, been intro- 
duced as the minimum a self-respecting nation 
could do, abused as the maximum fanatics could 



HOME AGAIN. 19 

clamour for, carried through a second reading 
considerably amended, and squeezed out by other 
matters. It was to be re-introduced. The nation 
was recommended to consider the question in the 
interval. Now the nation, though professing its 
entire desire to be sober it could not well do 
anything else was not sure that it desired to be 
made sober, was not quite clear as to the precise 
point at which it could or could not be held to be 
sober, and felt that the argument that it would, by 
the gradual progress of general culture, become 
sober in the next generation or so without feeling 
the change, so to say, and with no violent break 
in the habits of this generation (certainly every- 
body must wish the next generation to be sober) 
that this argument, which men of indisputable 
wisdom adduced, had great attractions. Also the 
nation was much afraid of the teetotallers, especially 
of the subtle ones who said that true freedom lay 
in freedom from temptation. The nation thought 
that sort of freedom not much worth having, 
whether in the matter of drink or of any other 
pleasure. So there were materials for a lively and 
congenial discussion, and Mr. Foot, M.P., was 
already in the thick of it when Andy Hayes, rather 
late by reason of having been lured into the stables 
to see the hunters after tea, reached the Town 
Hall and sidled his way to a place against the wall 



20 SECOND STRING. 

in good view of the platform and of the front 
benches where the big-wigs sat. The Town Hall 
was quite two-thirds full very good indeed for 
the Christmas season ! 

Andy Hayes was not much of a politician. Up 
to now he had been content with the politics of 
his metier , the politics of a man trying to build up 
a business. But it was impossible not to enjoy 
Mr. Foot. He riddled the enemy with epigram 
till he fell to the earth, then he jumped on to his 
prostrate form and chopped it to pieces with logic. 
He set his audience wondering this always 
happens at political meetings, whichever party may 
be in power by what odd freak of fate, by what 
inexplicable blunder, the twenty men chosen to 
rule the country should be not only the twenty 
most unprincipled but also the twenty stupidest in 
it. Mr. Foot demonstrated the indisputable truth 
of this strange fact so cogently before he had been 
on his legs twenty minutes that gradually Andy 
felt absolved from listening any longer to so plain 
a matter ; his attention began to wander to the 
company. It was a well-to-do audience there 
were not many poor in Meriton. A few old folk 
might have to go to " the house," but there were 
no distress or " unemployment " troubles. The 
tradesfolk, their families, and employees formed 
the bulk. They were presided over by Mr. 



1HOME AGAIN. 21 

Wellgood of Nutley, who might be considered to 
hold the place of second local magnate, after Mr. 
Belfield of Halton. He was a spare, strongly 
built man of two or three and forty ; his hair was 
clipped very close to his head ; he wore a bristly 
moustache just touched with gray, but it too was 
kept so short that the lines of his mouth, with its 
firm broad lips, were plain to see ; his eyes were 
light-blue, hard, and wary ; they seemed to keep a 
constant watch over the meeting, and once, when 
a scuffle arose among some children at the back of 
the hall, they gave out a fierce and formidable 
glance of rebuke. He had the reputation of being 
a strict master and a stern magistrate ; but he was 
a good sportsman, and Jack Rock's nearest rival 
after the hounds. 

Beside him, waiting his turn to speak and 
seeming rather nervous he was not such an old 
hand at the game as Mr. Foot sat Andy's hero, 
Harry Belfield. He was the pet of the town for 
his gay manner, good looks, and cheery accessibility 
to every man and even more to every woman. 
His youthful record was eminently promising, his 
career the subject of high hopes to his family and 
his fellow-citizens. Tall and slight, wearing his 
clothes with an elegance free from affectation, he 
suggested " class " and " blood " in every inch of 
him. He was rather pale, with thick, soft, dark 






22 SECOND STRING. 

hair ; his blue eyes were vivacious and full of 
humour, his mouth a little small, but delicate and 
sensitive, the fingers of his hands long and tapering. 
"A thoroughbred " was the only possible verdict 
evidently also a man full of sensibility, awake to 
the charms of life as well as to its labours ; that 
was in keeping with all Andy's memories. 

The moment he rose it was obvious with what 
favour he was regarded ; the audience was pre- 
disposed towards all he said. He was not so 
epigrammatic nor so cruelly logical as Mr. Foot ; 
he was easier, more colloquial, more confidential ; 
he had some chaff for his hearers as well as 
denunciation for his enemies ; his speech was 
seasoned now by a local allusion, now by a sporting 
simile. A veteran might have found its strongest 
point of promise in its power of adaptation to the 
listeners, its gift of creating sympathy between 
them and the speaker by the grace of a very 
attractive personality. It was a success, perhaps, 
more of charm than of strength ; but it may be 
doubted whether in the end the one does not carry 
as far as the other. 

On good terms as he was with them all, it soon 
became evident to so interested an onlooker as 
Andy Hayes that he was on specially good terms, 
or at any rate anxious to be, in one particular 
quarter. After he had made a point and was 



HOME AGAIN. 23 

waiting for the applause to die down, not once but 
three or four times he smiled directly towards the 
front row, and towards that part of it where two 
young women sat side by side. They were among 
his most enthusiastic auditors, and Andy presently 
found himself, by a natural leaning towards any 
one who admired Harry Belfield, according to 
them a share of the attention which had hitherto 
been given exclusively to the hero himself. 

The pair made a strong contrast. There was a 
difference of six or seven years only in their ages, 
but while the one seemed scarcely more than a 
child, it was hard to think of the other as even a 
girl there was about her such an air of self- 
possession, of conscious strength, of a maturity of 
faculties. Even in applauding she seemed also to 
judge and assess. Her favour was discriminating ; 
she let the more easy hits go by with a slight, 
rather tolerant smile, while her neighbour greeted 
them with outright merry laughter. She was not 
much beyond medium height, but of full build, 
laid on ample lines ; her features were rather large, 
and her face wore, in repose, a thoughtful tran- 
quillity. The other, small, frail, and delicate, with 
large eyes that seemed to wonder even as she 
laughed, would turn to her friend with each laugh 
and appear to ask her sympathy or even her 
permission to be pleased. 




24 SECOND STRING. 

Andy's scrutiny somewhat prolonged since it 
yielded him all the above particulars was ended 
by his becoming aware that he in his turn was the 
object of an attention not less thoroughgoing. 
Turning back to the platform, he found the chair- 
man's hard and alert eyes fixed on him in a gaze 
that plainly asked who he was and why he was so 
much interested in the two girls. Andy blushed 
in confusion at being caught, but Mr. Wellgood 
made no haste to relieve him from his rebuking 
glance. He held him under it for full half a 
minute, turning away, indeed, only when Harry 
sat down among the cheers of the meeting. What 
business was it of Wellgood's if Andy did forget 
his manners and stare too hard at the girls ? The 
next moment Andy laughed at himself for the 
question. In a sudden flash he remembered the 
younger girl. She was Wellgood's daughter 
Vivien. He recalled her now as a little child ; he 
remembered the wondering eyes and the timidly 
mirthful curl of her lips. Was it really as long 
ago as that since he had been in Meriton ? 
However childlike she might look, now she was 



grown-up ! 



His thoughts, which carried him through the 
few sentences with which the chairman dismissed 
the meeting, were scattered by the sudden grasp of 
Harry Belfield's hand. The moment he saw Andy 



HOME AGAIN. 25 

he ran down from the platform to him. His 
greeting was all his worshipper could ask. 

"Well now, I am glad to see you back ! " he 
cried. " Oh, we all heard how well you'd done 
out at the front, and we thought it too bad of you 
not to come back and be lionized. But here you 
are at last, and it's all right. I must take Billy 
Foot home now he's got to go to town at heaven 
knows what hour in the morning but we must 
have a good jaw soon. Are you at the Lion ? " 

" No," said Andy, " I'm staying a day or two 
with Jack Rock." 

"With Jack Rock?" Harry's voice sounded 
surprised. " Oh yes, of course, I remember ! 
He's a capital chap, old Jack ! But if you're going 
to stay and I hope you are, old fellow you'll 
want some sort of a place of your own, won't you ? 
Well, good-night. I'll hunt you up some time in 
the next day or two, for certain. Did you like my 
speech?" 

"Yes, and I expected you to make a good one." 

"You shall hear me make better ones than 
that. Well, I really must All right, Billy, I'm 
coming." With another clasp of the hand he 
rushed after Mr. Foot, who was undisguisedly in 
a hurry, shouting as he went, " Good-night, Well- 
good ! Good-night, Vivien ! Good-night, Miss 
Vintry ! " 




26 SECOND STRING. 

Miss Vintry that was the other girl, the one 
with Vivien Wellgood. Andy was glad to know 
her name and docket her by it in her place among 
the impressions of the evening. 

So home to a splendid round of cold beef and 
another pint of that excellent beer at Jack Rock's. 
What days life sometimes gives or used to ! 



Chapter II. 
A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 

TF more were needed to make a man feel at 
* home more than old Meriton itself, Jack 
Rock with his beef, and the clasp of Harry Bel- 
field's hand the meet of the hounds supplied it. 
There were hunts in other lands ; Andy could 
not persuade himself that there were meets like 
this, so entirely English it seemed in the manner 
of it. Everybody was there, high and low, rich 
and poor, young and old. An incredible coinci- 
dence of unplausible accidents had caused an 
extraordinary number of people to have occasion 
to pass by Fyfold Green that morning at that 
hour, let alone all the folk who chanced to have 
a "morning off" and proposed to see some of 
the run, on horseback or on foot. The trades- 
men's carts were there in a cluster, among them 
two of Jack Rock's : his boys knew that a blind 
eye would be turned to half an hour's lateness 
in the delivery of the customers' joints. For 



28 SECOND STRING. 

centre of the scene were the waving tails, the 
glossy impatient horses, the red coats, the Master 
himself, Lord Meriton, in his glory and, it may 
be added, in the peremptory mood which is tradi- 
tionally associated with his office. 

Andy Hayes moved about, meeting many old 
friends more, indeed, than he recognized, till 
a reminiscence of old days established for them 
again a place in his memory. He saw Tom Dove 
the Bird mounted on a showy screw. Wat 
Money Chinks was one of those who "hap- 
pened to be passing " on his way to a client's who 
lived in the opposite direction. He gave Andy 
a friendly greeting, and told him that if he 
thought of taking a house in Meriton, he should 
be careful about his lease : Foulkes, Foulkes, and 
Askew would look after it. Jack Rock was there, 
of course, keeping himself to himself, on the 
outskirts of the throng : the young horse was 
nervous. Harry Belfield, in perfect array, talked 
to Vivien Wellgood, her father on a raking hunter 
close beside them. A great swell of home-feeling 
assailed Andy ; suddenly he had a passionate hope 
that the timber business would develop ; he did 
not want to go back to Canada. 

It was a good hunting morning, cloudy and 
cool, with the wind veering to the north-east and 
dropping as it veered. No frost yet, but the 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 29 

weather-wise predicted one before long. The 
scent should be good a bit too good, Andy re- 
flected, for riders on shanks' mare. Their turn 
is best served by a scent somewhat variable and 
elusive. A check here and there, a fresh cast, 
the hounds feeling for the scent these things, 
added to a cunning use of short cuts and a know- 
ledge of the country shared by the fox, aid them 
to keep on terms and see something of the run 
just as they aid the heavy old gentlemen on big 
horses and the small boys on fat ponies to get 
their humble share of the sport. 

But in truth Andy cared little so that he could 
run run hard, fast, and long. His powerful 
body craved work, work, and work yet more 
abundantly. His way of indulging it was to call 
on it for all its energies ; he exulted in feeling 
its brave response. Fatigue he never knew at 
least not till he had changed and bathed ; and 
then it was not real fatigue : it was no more than 
satiety. Now when they had found and they 
had the luck to find directly he revelled in the 
heavy going of a big ploughed field. He was 

(at the game he loved. 

Yes, but the pace was good distinctly good. 
The spirit was willing, but human legs are but 
human, and only two in number. Craft was re- 
quired. The fox ran straight now but had he 




30 SECOND STRING. 

never a thought in his mind ? The field streamed 
off to the right, lengthening out as it went. Andy 
bore to his left : he remembered Croxton's Dip. 
Did the fox ? That was the question. If he 
did, the hunt would describe the two sides of a 
triangle, while Andy cut across the base. 

He was out of sight of the field now, but he 
could hear the hounds giving tongue from time 
to time and the thud of the hoofs. The sounds 
grew nearer ! A thrill of triumph ran through 
him ; his old-time knowledge had not failed him. 
The fox had doubled back, making for Croxton's 
Dip. Over the edge of yonder hill it lay, half 
a mile off a deep depression in the ground, 
covered with thick undergrowth. In the hope 
of catching up, Andy Hayes felt that he could 
run all day and grudge the falling of an over-hasty 
night. 

"Blown," indeed, but no more than a rest of 
a minute would put right, he reached the ledge 
whence the ground sloped down sharply to the 
Dip. He was in time to see the hunt race past 
him along the bottom leaders, the ruck, strag- 
glers. Jack Rock and Wellgood were with the 
Master in the van ; he could not make out Harry 
Belfield ; a forlorn figure looking like the Bird 
laboured far in the rear. 

They swept into the Dip as Andy started to 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 31 

race down the slope. But to his chagrin they 
swept out of it again, straight up a long slope 
which rose on his left, the fox running game, 
a near kill promising, a fast point-to-point secured. 
The going was too good for shanks' mare to-day. 
Before he got to the bottom even the Bird had 
galloped by, walloping his showy screw. 

To the left, then, and up that long slope ! 
There was nothing else for it, if he were so much 
as to see the kill from afar. This was exercise, 
if you like ! His heart throbbed like the engines 
of a great ship ; the sweat broke out on him. Oh, 
it was fine ! That slope must be won then 
Heaven should send the issue ! 

Suddenly even as he braced himself to face 
the long ascent, as the last sounds from the hunt 
died away over its summit he saw a derelict, 
and, amazed, came to a full stop. 

The girl was not on her pony ; she was standing 
beside it. The pony appeared distressed, and 
the girl looked no whit more cheerful. With a 
pang to the very heart, Andy Hayes recognized 
a duty, and acknowledged it by a snatch at his 
cap. 

" I beg your pardon ; anything wrong ? " he 
asked. 

He had been interested in Vivien Wellgood 
the evening before, but he was much more than 



32 SECOND STRING. 

interested in the hunt. Still, she looked forlorn 
and desolate. 

"Would you mind looking at my pony's right 
front leg ? " she asked. " I think he's gone lame." 

" I know nothing about horses, but he does 
seem to stand rather gingerly on his er right 
front leg. And he's certainly badly blown worse 
than I am ! " 

" We shall never catch them, shall we ? It's 
not the least use going on, is it ? " 

" Oh, I don't know. I know the country ; if 
you'd let me pilot you 

" Harry Belfield was going to pilot me, but 
well, I told him not to wait for me, and he didn't. 
You were at the meeting last night, weren't you ? 
You're Mr. Hayes, aren't you ? What did you 
think of the speeches ? " 

" Really, you know, if we're to have a chance 
of seeing any more of the " It was not the 
moment to discuss political speeches, however 
excellent. 

"I don't want to see any more of it. I'll go 
home ; I'll risk it." 

" Risk what ? " he asked. There seemed no 
risk in going home ; and there was, by now, small 
profit in going on. 

She did not answer his question. "I think 
hunting's the most wretched amusement I've ever 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 33 

tried ! " she broke out. " The pony's lameyes, 
he is ; I've torn my habit " (she exhibited a sore 
rent) ; " I've scratched my face " (her finger in- 
dicated the wound) ; " and here I am ! All I 
hope is that they won't catch that poor fox. How 
far do you think it is to Nutley ? " 

f" Oh, about three miles, I should think. You 
could strike the road half a mile from here." 

" I'm sure the pony's lame. I shall go 
back." 

" Would you like me to come with you ? " 

During their talk her eyes had wavered between 
indignation and piteousness the one at the so- 
called sport of hunting, the other for her own 
woes. At Andy's question a gleam of welcome 
flashed into them, followed in an instant by a 
curious sort of veiling of all expression. She 
made a pathetic little figure, with her habit sorely 
rent and a nasty red scratch across her forehead. 
The pony lame too if he were lame ! Andy hit 
on the idea that it was a question whether he were 
lame enough to swear by : that was what she was 
going to risk in a case to be tried before some 
tribunal to which she was amenable. 

" But don't you want to go on ? " she asked. 
"You're enjoying it, aren't you ?" The question 
carried no rebuke ; it recognized as legitimate 
the widest differences of taste. 



34 SECOND STRING. 

" I haven't the least chance of catching up with 
them. I may as well come back with you." 

The curious expression or rather eclipse of 
expression was still in her eyes, a purely negative 
defensiveness that seemed as though it could 
spring only from an instinctive resolve to show 
nothing of her feelings. The eyes were a dark 
blue ; but with Vivien's eyes colour never counted 
for much, nor their shape, nor what one would 
roughly call their beauty, were it more or less. 
Their meaning that was what they set a man 
asking after. 

" It really would be very kind of you," she said. 

Andy mounted her on the suppositiously lame 
pony her weight wouldn't hurt him much, any- 
how and they set out at a walk towards the 
highroad which led to Nutley and thence, half 
a mile farther on, to Meriton. 

She was silent till they reached the road. Then 
she asked abruptly, " Are you ever afraid ? " 

" Well, you see," said Andy, with a laugh, " I 
never know whether I'm afraid or only excited 
in fighting, I mean. Otherwise I don't fancy I'm 
either often." 

" Well, you're big," she observed. " I'm afraid 
of pretty nearly everything horses, dogs, motor- 
cars and I'm passionately afraid of hunting." 

"You're not big, you see," said Andy consol- 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 35 

ingly. Indeed her hand on the reins looked 
almost ridiculously small. 

"I've got to learn not to be afraid of things. 
My father's teaching me. You know who I am, 
don't you ? " 

" Oh yes ; why, I remember you years ago ! 
Is that why you're out hunting ? " 

"Yes." 

"And why you think that the pony ? " 

"Is lame enough to let me risk going home ? 
Yes." There was a hint of defiance in her voice. 
"You must think what you like," she seemed to say. 

Andy considered the matter in his impartial, 
solid, rather slowly moving mind. It was foolish 
to be frightened at such things ; it must be whole- 
some to be taught not to be. Still, hunting wasn't 
exactly a moral duty, and the girl looked very 
fragile. He had not arrived at any final decision 
on the case on the issue whether the girl were 
silly or the father cruel (the alternatives might 
not be true alternatives, not strictly exclusive of 
one another) before she spoke again. 

" And then I'm fastidious. Are you ? " 

" I hope not ! " said Andy, with an amused 
chuckle. A great lump of a fellow like him 
fastidious ! 

"Father doesn't like that either, and I've got 
to get over it." 



36 SECOND STRING. 

" How does it er take you ? " Andy made 
bold to inquire. 

"Oh, lots of ways. I hate dirt, and dust, and 
getting very hot, and going into butchers' shops, 
and" 

" Butchers' shops ! " exclaimed Andy, rather hit 
on the raw. " You eat meat, don't you ? " 

"Things don't look half as dead when they're 
cooked. I couldn't touch a butcher ! " Horror 
rang in her tones. 

" Oh, but I say, Jack Rock's a butcher, and 
he's about the best fellow in Meriton. You know 
him?" 

" I've seen him," she admitted reluctantly, the 
subject being evidently distasteful. 

For the second time Andy Hayes was conscious 
of a duty : he must not be or seem ashamed 
of Jack Rock, just because this girl was fastidious. 

" I'm related to him, you know. My stepmother 
was his sister. And I'm staying in his house." 

She glanced at him, a slight flush rising to her 
cheeks ; he saw that her lips trembled a little. 

"It's no use trying to unsay things, is it?" she 
asked. 

" Not a bit," laughed Andy. " Don't think I'm 
hurt ; but I should be a low-down fellow if I didn't 
stand up for old Jack." 

" I should rather like to have you to stand 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 37 

up for me sometimes," she said, and broke into 
a smile as she added, " You're so splendidly solid, 
you see, Mr. Hayes. Here we are at home you 
may as well make a complete thing of it and see 
me as far as the stables." 

" I'd like to come in I'm not exactly a stranger 
here. I've often been a trespasser. Don't tell 
Mr. Wellgood unless you think he'll forgive me, 
but as a boy I used to come and bathe in the lake 
early in the morning before anybody was up. 
I used to undress in the bushes and slip in for 
my swim pretty nearly every morning in the 
summer. It's fine bathing, but you want to be 
able to swim ; there's a strong undercurrent, where 
the stream runs through. Are you fond of 
bathing?" 

Andy was hardly surprised when she gave a 
little shudder. "No, I'm rather afraid of water." 
She added quickly, " Don't tell my father, or I 
expect I should have to try to learn to swim. He 
hasn't thought of that yet. No more has Isobel 
Miss Vintry, my companion. You know ? You 
saw her at the meeting. I have a companion now, 
instead of a governess. Isobel isn't afraid of 
anything, and she's here to teach me not to 
be." 

" You don't mind my asking your father to let 
me come and swim, if I'm here in the summer ? " 



3 8 SECOND STRING. 

" I don't suppose I ought to mind that," she said 
doubtfully. 

The house stood with its side turned to the 
drive by which they approached it from the 
Meriton road. Its long, low, irregular front it 
was a jumble of styles and periods faced the lake, 
a stone terrace running between the fa9ade and the 
water ; it was backed by a thick wood ; across the 
lake the bushes grew close down to the water's 
edge. The drive too ran close by the water, deep 
water as Andy was well aware, and was fenced from 
it by a wooden paling, green from damp. The 
place had a certain picturesqueness, but a sadness 
too. Water and trees trees and water and 
between them the long squat house. To Andy 
it seemed to brood there like a toad. But 
his healthy mind reverted to the fact that 
for a strong swimmer the bathing was really 
splendid. 

" Here comes Isobel ! Now nothing about 
swimming, and say the pony's lame ! " 

The injunction recalled Andy from his medita- 
tions and also served to direct his attention to 
Miss Vintry, who stood, apparently waiting for 
them, at the end of the drive, with the house on 
her right and the stables on her left. She was 
dressed in a business-like country frock, rather 
noticeably short, and carried a stick with a spike 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 39 

at the end of it. She looked very efficient and 
also very handsome. 

Vivien told her story : Andy, not claiming 
expert knowledge, yet stoutly maintained that the 
pony was or anyhow had been lame. 

" He seems to be getting over it," said Miss 
Vintry, with a smile that was not malicious but 
was, perhaps, rather annoyingly amused. " I'm 
afraid your having had to turn back will vex your 
father, but I suppose there was no help for it, and 
I'm sure he'll be much obliged to " 

" Mr. Hayes." Vivien supplied the name, and 
Andy made his bow. 

" Oh yes, I've heard Mr. Harry Belfield speak of 
you." Her tone was gracious, and she smiled at 
Andy good-humouredly. If she confirmed his 
impression of capability, and perhaps added a new 
one of masterfulness, there was at least nothing to 
hint that her power would not be well used or that 
her sway would be other than benevolent. 

Vivien had dismounted, and a stable-boy was 
leading the pony away, after receiving instructions 
to submit the suspected off fore-leg to his chief's 
inspection. There seemed nothing to keep Andy, 
and he was about to take his leave when Miss 
Vintry called to the retreating stable-boy, "Oh, 
and let Curly out, will you ? He hasn't had his 
run this afternoon." 



40 SECOND STRING. 

Vivien turned her head towards the stables with 
a quick apprehensive jerk. A big black retriever, 
released in obedience to Isobel Vintry's order, ran 
out, bounding joyously. He leapt up at Isobel, 
pawing her and barking in an ecstasy of delight. 
In passing Andy, the stranger, he gave him 
another bark of greeting and a hasty pawing ; then 
he clumsily gambolled on to where Vivien stood. 

" He won't hurt you, Vivien. You know he 
won't hurt you, don't you?" The dog certainly 
seemed to warrant Isobel's assertion ; he appeared 
a most good-natured animal, though his play was 
rough. 

" Yes, I know he won't hurt me," said Vivien. 

The dog leapt up at her, barking, frisking, 
pawing her, trying to reach her face to lick it. 
She made no effort to repel him ; she had a little 
riding-whip in her hand, but she did not use it ; 
her arms hung at her side ; she was rather pale. 

"There! It's not so terrible after all, is it?" 
asked Isobel. " Down, Curly, down ! Come 
here ! " 

The dog obeyed her at her second bidding, and 
sat down at her feet. Andy was glad to see that 
the ordeal for that was what it looked like was 
over, and had been endured with tolerable forti- 
tude ; he had not enjoyed the scene. Somewhat 
to his surprise Vivien's lips curved in a smile. 



A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 41 

" Somehow I wasn't nearly so frightened to-day/' 
she said. Apparently the ordeal was a daily one- 
perhaps one of several daily ones, for she had 
already been out hunting. " I didn't run away 
as I did yesterday, when Harry Belneld was here." 

"You are getting used to it," Isobel affirmed. 
" Mr. Wellgood's quite right. We shall have you 
as brave as a lion in a few months." Her tone 
was not unkind or hard, neither was it sympathetic. 
It was just extremely matter-of-fact. " It's all 
nerves," she added to Andy. " She overworked 
herself at school she's very clever, aren't you, 
Vivien ? and now she's got to lead an open-air 
life. She must get used to things, mustn't she ? " 

Andy had a shamefaced feeling that the ordeals 
or lessons, if they were necessary at all, had better 
be conducted in privacy. That had not apparently 
occurred to Mr. Wellgood or to Isobel Vintry. 
Indeed that aspect of the case did not seem to 
trouble Vivien herself either ; she showed no signs 
of shame ; she was smiling still, looking rather 
puzzled. 

"I wonder why I was so much less frightened." 
She turned her eyes suddenly to Andy. " I know. 
It was because you were there ! " 

" You ran away, in spite of Mr. Harry's being 
here yesterday," Isobel reminded her. 

" Mr. Hayes is so splendidly big so splendidly 






42 SECOND STRING. 

big and solid," said Vivien, thoughtfully regarding 
Andy's proportions. "When he's here, I don't 
think I shall be half so much afraid." 

" Oh, then Mr. Wellgood must ask him to come 
again," laughed Isobel. "You see how useful 
you'll be, Mr. Hayes ! " 

" I shall be delighted to come again, anyhow, 
if I'm asked whether I'm useful or not. And 
I think it was jolly plucky of you to stand still 
as you did, Miss Wellgood. If I were in a funk, 
I should cut and run for it, I know." 

" I thought you'd been a soldier," said Isobel. 

" Oh, well, it's different when there are a lot 
of you together. Besides " He chuckled. 
" You're not going to get me to let on that I was 
in a funk then. Those are our secrets, Miss 
Vintry. Well now, I must go, unless >J 

" No, there are no more tests of courage to-day, 
Mr. Hayes," laughed Isobel. 

Vivien's eyes had relapsed into inexpressiveness ; 
they told Andy nothing of her view of the trials, 
or of Miss Vintry, who had conducted the latest 
one ; they told him no more of her view of 
himself as she gave him her hand in farewell. He 
left her still standing on the spot where she had 
endured Curly 's violent though well-meant atten- 
tions again rather a pathetic figure, in her torn 
habit, with the long red scratch (by-the-by Miss 






A VERY LITTLE HUNTING. 43 

Vintry had made no inquiry about it that was 
part of the system perhaps) on her forehead, and 
with the background, as it were, of ordeals, or 
tests, or whatever they were to be called. Andy 
wondered what they would try her with to-morrow, 
and found himself sorry that he would not be there 
to help her with his bigness and solidity. 

It was difficult to say that Mr. Wellgood's 
system was wrong. It was absurd for a grown 
girl a girl living in the country to be frightened 
at horses, dogs, and motor-cars, to be disgusted by 
dirt and dust, by getting very hot and by butchers' 
shops. All these were things which she would 
have to meet on her way through the world, as 
the world is at present constituted. Still he was 
sorry for her ; she was so slight and frail. Andy 
would have liked to take on his broad shoulders 
all her worldly share of dogs and horses, of dust, 
of getting very hot (a thing he positively liked), 
and of butchers ; these things would not have 
troubled him in the least ; he would have borne 
them as easily as he could have carried Vivien 
herself in his arms. As he walked home he had 
a vision of her shuddering figure, with its pale face 
and reticent eyes, being led by Isobel Vintry 's firm 
hand into Jack Rock's shop in High Street, and 
there being compelled to inspect, to touch, to 
smell, the blue-rosetted, red-rosetted, and honour- 



44 SECOND STRING. 

ably mentioned carcasses which adorned that Valhalla 
of beasts nay, being forced, in spite of all horror, 
to touch Jack Rock the butcher himself! Isobel 
Vintry would, he thought, be capable of shutting 
her up alone with all those dead things, and with 
the man who, as she supposed, had butchered them. 
" I should have to break in the door ! " thought 
Andy, his vanity flattered by remembering that she 
had seen in him a stand-by, and a security which 
apparently even Harry Belfield had been unable to 
afford. True it was that in order to win the rather 
humble compliment of being held a protection 
against an absolutely harmless retriever dog he had 
lost his day's hunting. Andy's heart was lowly ; 
he did not repine. 



Chapter III. 
THE POTENT VOICE. 

A FTER anxious consultation at Halton it had 
4^! been decided that Harry Belfield was justified 
in adopting a political career and treating the 
profession of the Bar, to which he had been called, 
as nominal. The prospects of an opening and 
an opening in his native Division were rosy. 
His personal qualifications admitted of no dispute, 
his social standing was all that could be desired. 
The money was the only difficulty. Mr. Belfield's 
income, though still large, was not quite what it 
had been ; he was barely rich enough to support 
his son in what is still, in spite of all that has 
been done in- the cause of electoral purity, a 
costly career. However the old folk exercised 
economies, Harry promised them, and it was 
agreed that the thing could be managed. It was, 
perhaps, at the back of the father's mind that 
for a young man of his son's attractions there was 
one obvious way of increasing his income quite 



46 SECOND STRING. 

obvious and quite proper for the future owner of 
Halton Park. 

For the moment political affairs were fairly 
quiet next year it would be different and Harry, 
ostensibly engaged on a course of historical and 
sociological reading, spent his time pleasantly 
between Meriton and his rooms in Jermyn Street. 
He had access to much society of one kind and 
another, and was universally popular ; his frank 
delight in pleasing people made him pleasant to 
them. With women especially he was a great 
favourite, not for his looks only, though they 
were a passport to open the door of any drawing- 
room, but more because they felt that he was a 
man who appreciated them, valued them, needed 
them, to whom they were a very big and precious 
part of life. He had not a shred of that 
indifference that independence of them which 
is the worst offence in women's eyes. Knowing 
that they counted for so much to him, it was as 
fair as it was natural that they should let him 
count for a good deal with them. 

But even universal favourites have their partic- 
ular ties. For the last few months Harry had 
been especially attached to Mrs. Freere, the wife 
of a member of Parliament of his own party who 
lived in Grosvenor Street. Mr. Freere was an 
exceedingly laborious person ; he sat on more 



THE POTENT VOICE. 47 

committees than any man in London, and had 
little leisure for the joys of home life. Mrs. 
Freere could take very good care of herself, and, 
all question of principles apart, had no idea of 
risking the position and the comforts she enjoyed. 
Subject to the limits thus clearly imposed 1 on her, 
she had no objection at all to her friendship with 
Harry Belfield being as sentimental as Harry had 
been disposed to make it ; indeed she had a taste 
for that kind of thing herself. Once or twice he 
had tried to overstep the limits, elastic as they were 
he was impulsive, Mrs. Freere was handsome 
but he had accepted her rebuke with frank peni- 
tence, and the friendship had been switched back 
on to its appointed lines without an accident. The 
situation was pleasant to her ; she was convinced 
that it was good for Harry. Certainly he met at her 
house many people whom it was proper and useful 
for him to meet ; and her partiality offered him 
every opportunity of making favourable impres- 
sions. If her conscience needed any other salve 
it probably did not feel the need acutely she 
could truthfully aver that she was in the constant 
habit of urging him to lose no time in looking out 
for a suitable wife. 

" A wife is such a help to a man in the House," 
she would say. " She can keep half the bores 
away from him. I don't do it because Wilson 



48 SECOND STRING. 

positively loves bores being bored gives him a 
sense of serving his country but I could if he'd 
let me." 

Harry had been accustomed to meet such prudent 
counsels with protests of a romantic order ; but 
Mrs. Freere, a shrewd woman, had for some weeks 
past noticed that the protests were becoming rather 
less vehement, and decidedly more easy for her 
to control. When she repeated her advice one 
day, in the spring after Andy Hayes came back 
from Canada, Harry looked at her for a moment 
and said, 

"Would you drop me altogether if I did, 
Lily ? " He called her Lily when they were 
alone. 

" I'm married ; you haven't dropped me," said 
Mrs. Freere with a smile. 

" Oh, that's different. I shouldn't marry a 
woman unless I was awfully in love with her." 

" I don't think I ought to make that a reason 
for finally dropping you, because you'll probably 
be awfully in love with several. Put that difficulty 
if it is one out of your mind. We shall be 
friends." 

" And you wouldn't mind ? You you wouldn't 
think it ? " He wanted to ask her whether she 
would think it what, on previous occasions, he had 
said that he would think it. 



THE POTENT VOICE. 49 

Mrs. Freere laughed. " Oh, of course your 
wife would be rather a bore just at first, anyhow. 
But, you know, I can even contemplate my life 
without you altogether, Harry." She was really 
fond of him, but she was not a woman given to 
illusions either about her friends or about herself. 

Harry did not protest that he could not con- 
template his life without Mrs. Freere, though he 
had protested that on more than one of those 
previous occasions. Mrs. Freere leant against the 
mantelpiece, smiling down at him in the armchair. 

" Seen somebody ? " she asked. 

Harry blushed hotly. " You're an awfully good 
sort, Lily," he said. 

She laughed a little, then sighed a little. Well, 
it had been very agreeable to have this handsome 
boy at her beck and call, gracefully adoring, 
flattering her vanity, amusing her leisure, giving 
her the luxury of reflecting that she was behaving 
well in the face of considerable temptation she 
really felt entitled to plume herself on this exploit. 
But such things could not last Mrs. Freere knew 
that. The balance was too delicate ; a topple over 
on one side or the other was bound to come ; she 
had always meant that the toppling over, when it 
came, should be on the safe side on to the level 
ground, not over the precipice. A bump is a 
bump, there's no denying it, but it's better than 



50 SECOND STRING. 

a broken neck. Mrs. Freere took her bump 
smiling, though it certainly hurt a little. 

"Is she very pretty ? " 

He jumped up from the armchair. He was 
highly serious about the matter, and that, perhaps, 
may be counted a grace in him. 

" I suppose I shall do it if I can. But I'm 
hanged if I can talk to you about it ! " 

"That's rather nice of you. Thank you, 
Harry." 

He bowed his comely head, with its waving hair, 
over her hand and kissed it. 

" Good-bye, Harry," she said. 

He straightened himself and looked her in the 
face for an instant. He shrugged his shoulders ; 
she understood and nodded. There was, in fact, 
no saying what one's emotions would be up to 
next what would be the new commands of the 
Restless and Savage Master. Poor Harry ! She 
knew his case. She herself had " taken him" from 
her dear friend Rosa Hinde. 

He was gone. She stood still by the mantel- 
piece a moment longer, shrugged shoulders in her 
turn really that Savage Master ! crossed the 
room to a looking-glass not much wrong there 
happily and turned on the opening of the door. 
Mr. Freere came in between committees. He 
had just time for a cup of tea. 



THE POTENT VOICE. 51 

"Just time, Wilson?" 

" I've a committee at five, my dear." 

She rang the bell. " Talk of road-hogs ! You're 
a committee-hog, you know." 

He rubbed his bald head perplexedly. " They 
accumulate," he pleaded in a puzzled voice. " I'm 
sorry to leave you so much alone, my dear." He 
came up to her and kissed her. " I always want 
to be with you, Lily." 

" I know," she said. She did know and the 
knowledge was one of the odd things in life. 

" Goodness, I forgot to telephone ! " He 
hurried out of the room again. 

" Serves me right, I suppose ! " said Mrs. 
Freere ; to which of recent incidents she referred 
must remain uncertain. 

Mr. Freere came back for his hasty cup of tea. 

The Park was gay in its spring bravery a fine 
setting for the play of elegance and luxury which 
took place there on this as on every afternoon. 
Harry Belfield sought to occupy and to distract 
his mind by the spectacle, familiar though it was. 
He did not want to congratulate himself on the 
thing that had just happened, yet this was what 
he found himself doing if he allowed his thoughts 
to possess him. " That's over anyhow ! " was the 
spontaneous utterance of his feelings. Yet he felt 
very mean. He did not see why, having done 



52 SECOND STRING. 

the right thing, he should feel so mean. It seemed 
somehow unfair as though there were no pleasing 
conscience, whatever one did. Conscience might 
have retorted that in some situations there is no 
" right thing ; " there is a bold but fatal thing, 
and there is a prudent but shabby thing ; the right 
thing has vanished earlier in the proceedings. 
Still he had done the best thing open to him, and, 
reflecting on that, he began to pluck up his spirits. 
His sensuous nature turned to the pleasant side ; 
his volatile emotions forsook the past for the 
future. As he walked along he began to hear 
more plainly and to listen with less self-reproach 
to the voice which had been calling him now for 
many days ever since he had addressed that 
meeting in the Town Hall at Meriton. Meriton 
was calling him back with the voice of Vivien 
Wellgood, and with her eyes begging him to 
hearken. He had "seen somebody," in Mrs. 
Freere's sufficient phrase. Great and gay was 
London, full of lures and charms ; many were 
they who were ready to pet, to spoil, and to 
idolize ; many there were to play, to laugh, and 
to revel with. Potent must be the voice which 
could draw him from all this ! Yet he was 
listening to it as he walked along. He was free 
to listen to it now free since he had left Mrs. 
Freere's house in Grosvenor Street. 



THE POTENT VOICE. 53 

Suddenly he found himself face to face with 
Andy Hayes not a man he expected to meet in 
Hyde Park at four o'clock in the afternoon. But 
Andy explained that he had " knocked off early 
at the shop " and come west, to have a last look 
at the idle end of the town everybody there 
seemed idle, even if all were not. 

" Because it's my last day in London. I'm 
going down to Meriton to-morrow for the summer. 
I've taken lodgings there going to be an up-and- 
downer," Andy explained. " And I think I shall 
generally be able to get Friday to Monday down 
there." 

To Meriton to-morrow ! Harry suffered a 
sharp and totally unmistakable pang of envy. 

" Upon my soul, I believe you're right ! " he 
said. " I'm half sick of the racket of town. What's 
the good of it all ? And one gets through the 
devil of a lot of money. And no time to do 
anything worth doing ! I don't believe I've 
opened a book for a week." 

" Well, why don't you come down too ? It 
would be awfully jolly if you did." 

" Oh, it's not altogether easy to chuck everything 
and everybody," Harry reminded his friend, who 
did not seem to have reflected what a gap would 
be caused by Mr. Harry Belfield's departure from 
the metropolis. " Still I shall think about it. 



54 SECOND STRING. 

I could get through a lot of work at home." 
The historical and sociological reading obligingly 
supplied an excellent motive for a flight from the 
too-engrossing gaieties of town. " And, of course, 
there's no harm in keeping an eye on the Divi- 
sion." The potent voice was gathering allies 
apace ! Winning causes have that way. " I 
might do much worse," Harry concluded thought- 
fully. 

Andy was delighted. Harry's presence would 
make Meriton a different place to him. He too, 
for what he was worth (it is not possible to say 
that he was worth very much in this matter), 
became another ally of the potent voice, urging 
the joys of country life and declaring that Harry 
already looked " fagged out " by the arduous pleas- 
ures of London life. 

"I shall think about it seriously," said Harry, 
knowing in himself that the voice had won. "Are 
you doing anything to-night ? I happen for once 
to have an off evening." 

" No ; only I'd thought of dropping into the pit 
somewhere. I haven't seen * Hamlet ' at the " 

"Oh lord!" interrupted Harry. "Let's do 
something a bit more cheerful than that ! Have 
you seen the girl at the Empire the Nun ? Not 
seen her ? Oh, you must ! We'll dine at the club 
and go ; and I'll get her and another girl to come 



THE POTENT VOICE. 55 

on to supper. I'll give you a little fling for your 
last night in town. Will you come ? " 

"Will I come ? I should rather think I would ! " 
cried Andy. 

" All right ; dinner at eight. We shall have 
lots of time she doesn't come on till nearly ten. 
Meet me at the Artemis at eight. Till then, old 
chap ! " Harry darted after a lady who had 
favoured him with a gracious bow as she passed 
by, a moment before. 

Here was an evening-out for Andy Hayes, whose 
conscience had suggested "Hamlet" and whose 
finances had dictated the pit. He went home to 
his lodgings off Russell Square all smiles, and 
spent a laborious hour trying to get the creases 
out of his dress coat. "Well, I shall enjoy an 
evening like that just for once," he said out 
loud as he laboured. 

" I've got her and another girl," Harry an- 
nounced when Andy turned up at the Artemis. 
"The nuisance is that Billy Foot here insists on 
coming too, so we shall be a man over. I've 
told him I don't want him, but the fellow will 
come." 

" I'm certainly coming," said the tall long-faced 
young man for Billy Foot was still several years 
short of forty to whom Andy had listened with 
such admiration at Meriton. In private life he 




56 SECOND STRING. 

was not oppressively epigrammatic or logical, and 
not at all ruthless ; and everybody called him 
" Billy," which in itself did much to deprive him 
of his terrors. 

The Artemis was a small and luxurious club 
in King Street. Why it was called the "Artemis " 
nobody knew. Billy Foot said that the name had 
been chosen just because nobody would know 
why it had been chosen it was a bad thing, he 
maintained, to label a club. Harry, however, 
conjectured that the name indicated that the club 
was half-way between the Athenaeum and the 
Turf which you might take in the geographical 
sense or in any other you pleased. 

Andy ate of several foods that he had never 
tasted before and drank better wine than he had 
ever drunk before. His physique and his steady 
brain made any moderate quantity of wine no 
more than water to him. Harry Belfield, on the 
contrary, responded felicitously to even his first 
glass of champagne ; his eyes grew bright and 
his spirit gay. Any shadow cast over him by 
his interview with Mrs. Freere was not long in 
vanishing. 

They enjoyed themselves so well that a cab had 
only just time to land them at their place of enter- 
tainment before the Nun, whose name was Miss 
Doris Flower, came on the stage. She was having 



THE POTENT VOICE. 



57 



a prodigious success because she did look like a 
nun and sang songs that a nun might really Se 
supposed to sing and these things, being quite 
different from what the public expected, delighted 
the public immensely. When Miss Flower, whose 
performance was of high artistic merit, sang about 
the baby which she might have had if she had not 
been a nun, and in the second song (she was on 
her death-bed in the second song, but this did not 
at all impair her vocal powers) about the angel 
whom she saw hovering over her bed, and the 
angel's likeness to her baby sister who had died 
in infancy, the public cried like a baby itself. 

" Jolly good ! " said Billy Foot, taking his cigar 
out of his mouth and wiping away a furtive tear. 
" But there, she is a ripper, bless her ! " His tone 
was distinctly affectionate. 

But supper was the great event to Andy : that 
was all new to him, and he took it in eagerly while 
they waited for the Nun and her friend. Such a 
din, such a chatter, such a lot of diamonds, such a 
lot of smoke and the white walls, the gilding, the 
pink lampshades, the band ever and anon crashing 
into a new tune, and the people shouting to make 
themselves heard through it Andy would have sat 
on happily watching, even though he had got no 
supper at all. Indeed he was no more hungry 
than most of the other people there. One does 






58 SECOND STRING. 

not go to supper there because one is hungry 
that is a vulgar reason for eating. 

However supper he had, sitting between Billy 
Foot and the Nun's friend, a young woman named 
Miss Button, who had a critical, or even sardonic, 
manner, but was extremely pretty. The Nun her- 
self contrived to be rather like a nun even off the 
stage ; she did not talk much herself, but listened 
with an innocent smile to the sallies of Billy Foot 
and Harry Belfield. 

" Been to hear her ? " Miss Button asked Andy. 
Andy said that they had, and uttered words 
of admiration. 

" Sort of thing they like, isn't it ? " said Miss 
Button. " You can't put in too much rot for 
them." 

" But she sings it so " Andy began to plead. 
"Yes, she can sing. It's a wonder she's suc- 
ceeded. How sick one gets of this place ! " 
" Bo you come often ? " 
" Every night with her generally." 
" I've never been here before in my life." 
" Well, I hope you like the look of us ! " 
Harry Belfield looked towards him. "Bon't 
mind what she says, Andy. We call her Sulky 
Sally don't we, Sally ? But she looks so nice 
that we have to put up with her ways." 

Miss Button smiled reluctantly, but evidently 



THE POTENT VOICE. 59 

could not help smiling at Harry. " I know the 
value of your compliments," she remarked. 
" There are plenty of them going about the 
place to judge by ! " 

" Mercy, Sally, mercy ! Don't show me up 
before my friends ! " 

Miss Dutton busied herself with her supper. 
The Nun ate little ; most of the time she sat with 
her pretty hands clasped on the table in front of 
her. Suddenly she began to tell what proved to 
be a rather long story about a man named Tommy 
everybody except Andy knew whom she meant. 
She told this story in a low, pleasant, but some- 
what monotonous voice. In truth the Nun was 
a trifle prolix and prosy, but she also looked so 
nice that they were quite content to listen and to 
look. It appeared that Tommy had done what 
no man should do ; he had made love to two 
girls at once. For a long time all went well ; 
but one day Tommy, being away from the sources 
of supply of cash (as a rule he transacted all his 
business in notes), wrote two cheques the Nun 
specified the amounts, one being considerably 
larger than the other placed them in two en- 
velopes, and proceeded to address them wrongly. 
Each lady got the other lady's cheque, and " Well, 
they wanted to know about it," said the Nun, with 
a pensive smile. So, being acquaintances, they laid 



60 SECOND STRING. 

their heads together, and the next time Tommy 
(who had never discovered his mistake) asked lady 
number one to dinner, she asked lady number two, 
"and when Tommy arrived," said the Nun, "they 
told him he'd find it cheaper that way, because 
there'd only be one tip for the waiter ! " The 
Nun, having reached her point, gave a curiously 
pretty little gurgle of laughter. 

"Rather neat!" said Billy Foot. "And did 
they chuck him ? " 

" They'd agreed to, but Maud weakened on it. 
Nellie did." 

" Poor old Tommy ! " mused Harry Belfield. 

It was not a story of surpassing merit whether it 
were regarded from the moral or from the artistic 
point of view ; but the Nun had grown delighted 
with herself as she told it, and her delight made 
her look even more pretty. Andy could not keep 
his eyes off her ; she perceived his honest admiration 
and smiled serenely at him across the table. 

" I suppose it was Nellie who was to have the 
small cheque ? " Billy Foot suggested. 

" No ; it was Maud." 

" Then I drink to Maud as a true woman and a 
forgiving creature ! " 

Andy broke into a hearty enjoying laugh. 
Nothing had passed which would stand a critical 
examination in humour, much less in wit ; but 



THE POTENT VOICE. 61 

Andy was very happy. He had never had such 
a good time, never seen so many gay and pretty 
women, never been so in touch with the holiday 
side of life. The Nun delighted him ; Miss 
Button was a pleasantly acid pickle to stimulate 
the palate for all this rich food. Billy Foot and 
Harry looked at him, looked at one another, and 
laughed. 

"They're laughing at you," said Miss Button 
in her most sardonic tone. 

" I don't mind. Of course they are ! I'm such 
an outsider." 

"Worth a dozen of either of them," she re- 
marked, with a calmly impersonal air that reduced 
her compliment to a mere statement of fact. 

"Oh, I heard!" cried Harry. "You don't 
think much of us, do you, Sally ? " 

" I come here every night," said Miss Button. 
" Consequently I know." 

The pronouncement was so confident, so con- 
clusive, that there was nothing to do but laugh 
at it. They all laughed. If you came there 
every night, " consequently " you would know 
many things ! 

"We must eat somewhere," observed the Nun 
with placid resignation. 

" We must be as good as we can and hope for 
mercy," said Billy Foot. 



62 SECOND STRING. 

" You'll need it," commented Miss Button. 

" Let's hope the law of supply and demand will 
hold good ! " laughed Harry. 

" How awfully jolly all this is ! " said Andy. 

He had just time to observe Miss Button's 
witheringly patient smile before the lights went out. 
" Hullo I " cried Andy ; and the rest laughed. 

Up again the lights went, but the Nun rose 
from her chair. 

" Had enough of it ? " asked Harry. 

" Yes," said the Nun with her simple, candid, 
yet almost scornful directness. " Oh, it's been all 
right. I like your friend, Harry not Billy, of 
course the new one, I mean." 

When they had got their cloaks and coats and 
were waiting for the Nun's electric brougham, 
Harry made an announcement that filled Andy 
with joy and the rest of the company with 
amazement. 

"This is good-bye for a bit, Boris," he said. 
" I'm off to the country the day after to-morrow." 

" What have we done to you ? " the Nun in- 
quired with sedate anxiety. 

" I've got to work, and I can't do it in London. 
I've got a career to look after." 

The Nun gurgled again for the second time 
only in the course of the evening. " Oh yes," she 
murmured with obvious scepticism. " Well, come 



THE POTENT VOICE. 63 

and see me when you get back." She turned her 
eyes to Andy, and, to his great astonishment, asked, 
" Would you like to come too ? " 

Andy could hardly believe that he was himself, 
but he had no doubt about his answer. The Nun 
interested him very much, and was so very pretty. 
" I should like to awfully," he replied. 

" Come alone not with these men, or we shall 
only talk nonsense," said the Nun, as she got into 
her brougham. " Get in, Sally." 

" Where's the hurry ? " asked Miss Button, 
getting in nevertheless. The Nun slapped her 
arm smartly ; the two girls burst into a giggle, 
and so went off. 

" Where to now ? " asked Harry. 

Andy wondered what other place there was. 

"Bed for me," said Billy Foot. "I've a 
consultation at half-past nine, and I haven't opened 
the papers yet." 

"Bed is best," Harry agreed, though rather 
reluctantly. " Going to take a cab, Billy ? " 

" What else is there to take ? " 

"Thought you might be walking." 

" Oh, walking be ! " He climbed into a 

hansom. 

" 111 walk with you, Harry. I haven't had 
exercise enough." 

Harry suggested that they should go home by 



64 SECOND STRING. 

the Embankment. When they had cut down a 
narrow street to it, he put his arm in Andy's and 
led him across the road. They leant on the 
parapet, looking at the river. The night was 
fine, but hazy and still a typical London night. 

" You've given me a splendid evening," said 
Andy. "And what a good sort those girls were ! " 

"Yes," said Harry, rather absently, "not a bad 
sort. Doris has got her head on her shoulders, 
and she's quite straight. Poor Sally's come one 
awful cropper . She won't come another ; she's 
had more than enough of it. So one doesn't 
mind her being a bit snarly." 

Poor Sally I Andy had had no idea of anything 
of the sort, but he had an instinct that people who 
come one cropper and one only feel that one 
badly. 

"I'm feeling happy to-night, old fellow," said 
Harry suddenly. " You may not happen to know 
it, but I've gone it a bit for the last two or three 
years, made rather a fool of myself, and well, one 
gets led on. Now I've made up my mind to chuck 
all that. Some of it's all right at any rate it 
seems to happen ; but I've had enough. I really 
do want to work at the politics, you know." 

" It's all before you, if you do," said Andy in 
unquestioning loyalty. 

"I'm going to work, and to pull up a bit all 



THE POTENT VOICE. 65 

round, and " Harry broke off, but a smile was on 
his lips. There on the bank of the Thames, fresh 
from his party in the gay restaurant, he heard the 
potent voice calling. It seemed to him that the 
voice was potent enough not only to loose him 
from Mrs. Freere, to lure him from London 
delights, to carry him down to Meriton and peace- 
ful country life ; but potent enough, too, to trans- 
form him, to make him other than he was, to change 
the nature that had till now been his very self. He 
appealed from passion to passion ; from the soiled 
to the clean, from the turgid to the clear. A new 
desire of his eyes was to make a new thing of his 
life. 



Chapter IV. 
SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 

l\/r ARK WELLGOOD of Nutley had a bugbear, 
* an evil thing to which he gave the name of 

sentimentality. Wherever he saw it he hated it 
and he saw it everywhere. No matter what was 
the sphere of life, there was the enemy ready to 
raise its head, and Mark Wellgood ready to hit that 
head. In business and in public affairs he warred 
against it unceasingly ; in other people's religion 
he had very little of his own he was keen to 
denounce it ; even from the most intimate family 
and personal relationships he had always been 
resolved to banish it, or, failing that, to suppress its 
manifestations. Himself a man of uncompromising 
temper and strong passions, he saw in this hated 
thing the root of all the vices with which he had 
least sympathy. It made people cowards who 
shrank from manfully taking their own parts ; it 
made them hypocrites who would not face the facts 
of human nature and human society, but sought to 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 67 

cover up truths that they would have called "ugly" 
by specious names, by veils, screens, and fine para- 
phrases. It made men soft, women childish, and 
politicians flabby ; it meant sheer ruin to a nation. 

Sentimentality was, of course, at the bottom of 
what was the matter with his daughter, of those 
things of which, with the aid of Isobel Vintry's 
example, he hoped to cure her her timidity and 
her fastidiousness. But it was at the bottom of 
much more serious things than these since to make 
too much fuss about a girl's nonsensical fancies 
would be sentimental in himself. Notably it was 
at the bottom of all shades of opinion from 
Liberalism to Socialism, both included. Harry 
Belfield, lunching at Nutley a week or so after 
his return to Meriton, had the benefit of these 
views, with which, as a prospective Conservative 
candidate, he was confidently expected to sym- 
pathise. 

" I've only one answer to make to a Socialist," 
said Wellgood. "I say to him, c You can have my 
property when you're strong enough to take it. 
Until then, you can't.' Under democracy we count 
heads instead of breaking them. It's a bad system, 
but it's tolerable as long as the matter isn't worth 
fighting about. When you come to vital issues, 
it'll break down it always has. We, the governing 
classes, shall keep our position and our property 



68 SECOND STRING. 

just as long as we're able and willing to defend 
them. If the Socialists mean business, they'd 
better stop talking and learn to shoot." 

"That might be awkward for us," said Harry, 
with a smile at Vivien opposite. 

" But if they think we're going to sit still and be 
voted out of everything, they're much mistaken. 
That's what I hope, at all events, though it needs a 
big effort not to despair of the country sometimes. 
People won't look at the facts of nature. All 
nature's a fight from beginning to end. All through, 
the strong hold down the weak ; and the strong 
grow stronger by doing it never mind whether 
they're men or beasts." 

"There's a lot of truth in that; but I don't 
know that it would be very popular on a platform 
even on one of ours ! " 

" You political fellows have to wrap it up, I 
suppose, but the cleverer heads among the working 
men know all about it trust them ! They're on 
the make themselves ; they want to get where we 
are ; gammoning the common run helps towards 
that. Oh, they're not sentimental ! I do them the 
justice to believe that." 

" But isn't there a terrible lot of misery, father ?" 
asked Vivien. 

" You can't cure misery by quackery, my dear," 
he answered concisely. " Half of it's their own 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 



69 



fault, and for the rest hasn't there always been ? 
So long as some people are weaker than others, 
they'll fare worse. I don't see any particular 
attraction in the idea of making weaklings or 
cowards as comfortable as the strong and the 
brave." His glance at his daughter was stern. 
Vivien flushed a little ; the particular ordeal of that 
morning, a cross-country ride with her father, had 
not been a brilliant success. 

"To him that hath shall be given, eh ?" Harry 
suggested. 

" Matter of Scripture, Harry, and you can't get 
away from it ! " said Wellgood with a laugh. 

Psychology is not the strong point of a mind 
like Wellgood's. To study his fellow-creatures 
curiously seems to such a man rather unnecessary 
and rather twaddling work ; in its own sphere it 
corresponds to the hated thing itself, to an over- 
scrupulous worrying about other people's feelings 
or even about your own. It had not occurred to 
Wellgood to study Harry Belfield. He liked him, 
as everybody did, and he had no idea how vastly 
Harry's temperament differed from his own. Harry 
had many material guarantees against folly his 
birth, the property that was to be his, the career 
opening before him. If Wellgood saw any signs 
of what he condemned, he set them down to youth 
and took up the task of a mentor with alacrity. 






yo SECOND STRING. 

Moreover he was glad to have Harry coming to 
the house ; matters were still at an early stage, but 
if there were a purpose in his coming, there was 
nothing to be said against the project. He would 
welcome an alliance with Halton, and it would be 
an alliance on even terms ; for Vivien had some 
money of her own, apart from what he could leave 
her. Whether she would have Nutley or not 
well, that was uncertain. Wellgood was only forty- 
three and young for his years ; he might yet marry 
and have a son. A second marriage was more than 
an idea in his head ; it was an intention fully 
formed. The woman he meant to ask to be his 
wife at the suitable moment lived in his house and 
sat at his table with him his daughter's companion, 
Isobel Vintry. 

Isobel had sat silent through Wellgood' s talk, 
not keenly interested in the directly political aspect 
of it, but appreciating the view of human nature 
and of the way of the world which underlay it. 
She also was on the side of the efficient of the 
people who knew what they wanted and at any rate 
made a good fight to get it. Yet while she listened 
to Wellgood, her eyes had often been on Harry ; 
she too was beginning to ask why Harry came so 
much to Nutley ; the obvious answer filled her 
with a vague stirring of discontent. An ambitious 
self-confident nature does not like to be " counted 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 71 

out," to be reckoned out of the running before the 
race is fairly begun. Why was the answer obvious ? 
There was more than one marriageable young 
woman at Nutley. Her feeling of protest was 
still vague ; but it was there, and when she looked 
at Harry's comely face, her eyes were thoughtful. 

Though Wellgood had business after lunch, 
Harry stayed on awhile, sitting out on the terrace 
by the lake, for the day was warm and fine. The 
coming of spring had mitigated the grimness of 
Nutley ; the water that had looked dreary and 
dismal in the winter now sparkled in the sun. 
Harry was excellently well content with himself 
and his position. He told the two girls that things 
were shaping very well. Old Sir George Millington 
had decided to retire. He was to be the candidate ; 
he would start his campaign through the villages of 
the Division in the late summer, when harvest was 
over ; he could hardly be beaten ; and he was 
" working like a horse " at his subjects. 

" The horse gets out of harness now and then ! " 
said Isobel. 

" You don't want him to kill himself with work, 
Isobel ? " asked Vivien reproachfully. 

" Visits to Nutley help the work ; they inspire 
me," Harry declared, looking first at Vivien, then 
at Isobel. They were both, in their different ways, 
pleasant to look at. Their interest in him in all 



72 SECOND STRING. 

he said and did, and in all he was going to do- 
was very pleasant also. 

<c Oh yes, I'm working all right ! " he laughed. 
" Really I have to, because of old Andy Hayes. 
He's getting quite keen on politics reads all the 
evening after he gets back from town. Well, he's 
good enough to think I've read everything and 
know everything, and whenever we meet he pounds 
me with questions. I don't want Andy to catch 
me out, so I have to mug away." 

"That's your friend, Vivien," said Isobel, with 
a smile and a nod. 

" Yes, the solid man." 

" Oh, I know that story. Andy told me himself. 
He thought you behaved like a brick." 

" He did, anyhow. Why don't you bring him 
here, Harry?" 

" He's in town all day ; I'll try and get him 
here some Saturday." 

" Does he still stay with the with Mr. Rock ? " 
asked Vivien. 

" No ; he's taken lodgings. He's very thick 
with old Jack still, though. Of course it wouldn't 
do to tell him so, but it's rather a bore that he 
should be connected with Jack in that way. It 
doesn't make my mother any keener to have him 
at Halton, and it's a little difficult for me to 
press it." 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 73 

" It does make his position seem just rather 
betwixt and between, doesn't it ? " asked Isobel. 

" If only it wasn't a butcher ! " protested Vivien. 

" O Vivien, the rules, the rules ! " " Nothing 
against butchers," was one of the rules. 

" I know, but I would so much rather it had 
been a draper, or a stationer, or something some- 
thing clean of that sort." 

"I'm glad your father's not here. Be good, 
Vivien ! " 

" However it's not so bad if he doesn't stay 
there any more," Harry charitably concluded. 
" Just going in for a drink with old Jack every- 
body does that ; and after all he's no blood 
relation." He laughed. "Though I dare say 
that's exactly what you'd call him, Vivien." 

Just as he made his little joke Vivien had risen. 
It was her time for " doing the flowers," one of 
the few congenial tasks allowed her. She smiled 
and blushed at Harry's hit at her, looking very 
charming. Harry indulged himself in a glance 
of bold admiration. It made her cheeks redder 
still as she turned away, Harry looking after her 
till she rounded the corner of the house. In 
answering the call of the voice he had found 
no disappointment. Closer and more intimate 
acquaintance revealed her as no less charming 
than she had promised to be. Harry was sure 



74 SECOND STRING. 

now of what he wanted, and remained quite sure 
of all the wonderful things that it was going to 
do for him and for his life. 

Suddenly on the top of all this legitimate and 
proper feeling to which not even Mark Well- 
good himself could object, since it was straight 
in the way of nature there came on Harry 
Belfield a sensation rare, yet not unknown, in his 
career a career still so short, yet already so 
emotionally eventful. 

Isobel Vintry was not looking at him she 
was gazing over the lake nor he at her; he 
was engaged in the process of lighting a cigarette. 
Yet he became intensely aware of her, not merely 
as one in his company, but as a being who in- 
fluenced him, affected him, in some sense stretched 
out a hand to him. He gave a quick glance at 
her ; she was motionless, her eyes still aloof from 
him. He stirred restlessly in his chair ; the air 
seemed very close and heavy. He wanted to 
make some ordinary, some light remark ; for the 
moment it did not come. A remembrance of 
the first time that Mrs. Freere and he had passed 
the bounds of ordinary friendship struck across 
his mind, unpleasantly, and surely without rel- 
evance ! Isobel had said nothing, had done 
nothing, nor had he. Yet it was as though some 
mystic sign had passed from her to him he could 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 75 

not tell whether from him to her also a sign 
telling that, whatever circumstances might do, 
there was in essence a link between them, a 
reminder from her that she too was a woman, 
that she too had her power. He did not doubt 
that she was utterly unconscious, but neither did 
he believe that he was solely responsible, that he 
had merely imagined. There was an atmosphere 
suddenly formed an atmosphere still and heavy 
as the afternoon air that brooded over the un- 
ruffled lake. 

Harry had no desire to abide in it. His mind 
was made up ; his heart was single. He picked 
up a stone which had been swept from somewhere 
on to the terrace and pitched it into the lake. 
A plop, and many ripples. The heavy stillness 
was broken. 

Isobel turned to him with a start. 

"I thought you were going to sleep, Miss 
Vintry. I couldn't think of anything to say, so 
I threw a stone into the water. I'm afraid you 
were finding me awfully dull 1 " 

" You dull ! You're a change from what some- 
times does seem a little dull life at Nutley. 
But perhaps you can't conceive life at Nutley 
being dull ? " Her eyes mocked him with the 
hint that she had discovered his secret. 

"Well, I think I should be rather hard to 



76 SECOND STRING. 

please if I found Nutley dull," he said gaily. 
" But if you do, why do you stay ? " 

"Perpetual amusement isn't in a companion's 
contract, Mr. Harry. Besides, I'm fond of Vivien. 
I should be sorry to leave her before the natural 
end of my stay comes." 

"The natural end?" 

" Oh, I think you understand that." She smiled 
with a good-humoured scorn at his homage to 
pretence. 

"Well, of course, girls do marry. It's been 
known to happen," said Harry, neither "cornered" 
nor embarrassed. " But perhaps " he glanced 
at her, wondering whether to risk a snub. His 
charm, his gift of gay impudence, had so often 
stood him in stead and won him a liberty that 
a heavy-handed man could not hope to be allowed ; 
he was not much afraid " Perhaps you'd be asked 
to stay on in another capacity, Miss Vintry." 

" It looks as if your thoughts were running on 
such things." She did not affect not to under- 
stand, but she was not easy to corner either. 

" I'm afraid they always have been," Harry con- 
fessed, a confession without much trace of penitence. 

" Mine don't often ; and they're never supposed 
to in my position." 

" Oh, nonsense ! Really that doesn't go down, 
Miss Vintry. Why, a girl like you, with such " 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 77 

" Don't attempt a catalogue, please, Mr. Harry." 
"You're right, quite right. I'm conscious how 
limited my powers are." 

Harry Belfield could no more help this sort 
of thing than a bird can help flying. In childhood 
he had probably lisped in compliments, as the poet 
in numbers. In itself it was harmless, even grace- 
ful, and quite devoid of serious meaning. Yet it 
was something new in his relations with Isobel 
Vintry ; though it had arisen out of a desire to 
dispel that mysterious atmosphere, yet it was a 
sequel to it. Hitherto she had been Vivien's 
companion. In that brief session of theirs alone 
together by the lake she had assumed an inde- 
pendent existence for him, a vivid, distinctive, 
rather compelling one. The impressionable mind 
received a new impression, the plastic feelings 
suffered the moulding of a fresh hand. Harry, 
who was alert to watch himself and always knew 
when he was interested, was telling himself that 
she was such a notable foil to Vivien ; that was 
why he was interested. Vivien was still the centre 
of gravity. The explanation vindicated his interest, 
preserved his loyalty, and left his resolve unshaken. 
These satisfactory effects were all on himself; the 
idea of effects on Isobel Vintry did not occur to 
him. He was not vain, he was hardly a conscious 
or intentional "lady-killer." He really suffered 



78 SECOND STRING. 

love affairs rather than sought them ; he was 
driven into them by an overpowering instinct to 
prove his powers. He could not help "playing 
the game " the rather hazardous game to the 
full extent of his natural ability. That extent was 
very considerable. 

He said good-bye to her, laughingly declaring 
that after all he would prepare a catalogue, and 
send it to her by post. Then he went into the 
house, to find Vivien and pay another farewell. 
Left alone, Isobel rose from her chair with an 
abrupt and impatient movement. She was a 
woman of feelings not only more mature but 
far stronger than Vivien's ; she had ambitious 
yearnings which never crossed Vivien's simple 
soul. But she was stern with herself. Perhaps 
she had caught and unconsciously copied some 
of Wellgood's anti- sentimental attitude. She 
often told herself that the feelings were merely 
dangerous and the yearnings silly. Yet when 
others seemed tacitly to accept that view, made 
no account of her, and assumed to regard her 
place in life as settled, she glowed with a deep 
resentment against them, crying that she would 
make herself felt. To-day she knew that some- 
how, to some degree however small, she had 
made herself felt by Harry Belfield. The dis- 
covery could not be said to bring pleasure, but 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 79 

it brought triumph triumph and an oppressive 
restlessness. 

Wellgood strolled out of the house and joined 
her. " Where's Harry ? " he asked. 

"He went into the house to say good-bye to 
Vivien ; or perhaps he's gone altogether by now." 

Wellgood stood in thought, his hands in his 
pockets. 

" He's a bit inclined to be soft, but I think we 
shall make a man of him. He's got a great 
chance, anyhow. Vivien seems to like him, 
doesn't she ? " 

" Oh, everybody must ! " She smiled at him. 
" Are you thinking of match-making, like a good 
father?" 

" She might do worse, and I'd like her to marry 
a man we know all about. The poor child hasn't 
backbone to stand up for herself if she happened 
on a rascal." 

Isobel had a notion that Wellgood was over- 
confident if he assumed that he, or they, knew 
all about Harry Belfield. His parentage, his 
position, his prospects yes. Did these exhaust 
the subject ? But Wellgood' s downright mind 
would have seen only " fancies " in such a 
suggestion. 

" If that's the programme, I must begin to think 
of packing up my trunks," she said with a laugh. 



8o SECOND STRING. 

He did not join in her laugh, but his stern lips 
relaxed into a smile. "Lots of time to think 
about that," he told her, his eyes seeming to 
make a careful inspection of her. " Nutley would 
hardly be itself without you, Isobel." 

She showed no sign of embarrassment under 
his scrutiny; she stood handsome and apparently 
serene in her composure. 

"Oh, poor Nutley would soon recover from 
the blow," she said. "But I shall be sorry to 
go. You've been very kind to me." 

"You've done your work very well. People 
who work well are well treated at Nutley ; people 
who work badly " 

" Aren't exactly petted ? No, they're not, Mr. 
Wellgood, I know." 

" You'd always do your work, whatever it might 
be, well, so you'd always be well treated." 

" At any rate you'll give me a good character ? " 
she asked mockingly. 

"Oh, I'll see that you get a good place," he 
answered her in the same tone, but with a hint 
of serious meaning in his eyes. 

His plan was quite definite, his confidence in the 
issue of it absolute. But " one thing at a time " 
was among his maxims. He would like to see 
Vivien's affair settled before his own was under- 
taken. His idea was that his declaration and 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 81 

acceptance should follow on his daughter's en- 
gagement. 

Isobel was not afraid of Mark Wellgood, as 
his daughter was, and as so many women would 
have been. She had a self-confidence equal to 
his own ; she added to it a subtlety which would 
secure her a larger share of independence than 
it would be politic to claim openly. She had not 
feared him as a master, and would not fear him 
as a husband. Moreover she understood him far 
better than he read her. Understanding gives 
power. And she liked him ; there was much 
that was congenial to her in his mind and modes 
of thought. He was a man, a strong man. But 
the prospect at which his words hinted she was 
not blind to their meaning, and for some time 
back had felt little doubt of his design did not 
enrapture her. At first sight it seemed that it 
ought. She had no money, her family were poor, 
marriage was her only chance of independence. 
Nutley meant both a comfort and a status beyond 
her reasonable hopes. But it meant also an end 
to the ambitious dreams. It was finality. Just 
this life she led now for all her life or at least 
all Wellgood' s ! He was engrossed in the occupa- 
tions of a country gentleman of moderate means, 
in his estate work and his public work. He 
hardly ever went to London ; he never travelled 






82 SECOND STRING. 

farther afield; he visited little even among his 
neighbours. Some of these habits a wife might 
modify ; the essentials of the life she would hardly 
be able to change. Yet, if she got the chance, 
there was no question but that she ought to take 
it. Common sense told her that, just as it told 
Wellgood that it would be absurd to doubt of 
her acceptance. 

Common sense might say what it liked. Her 
feelings were in revolt, and their insurrection 
gathered fresh strength to-day. It was not so 
much that Wellgood was nearly twenty years her 
senior. That counted, but not as heavily as 
perhaps might be expected, since his youthful 
vigour was still all his. It was the certainty 
with which his thoughts disposed of her, his 
assumption that his suit would be free from 
difficulty and from rivalry, his matter-of-course 
conclusion that Harry could come to Nutley only 
for Vivien's sake. If these things wounded her 
woman's pride, the softer side of her nature 
lamented the absence of romance, of the thrill 
of love, of being wooed and won in some poetic 
fashion, of everything she found her thoughts 
insensibly taking this direction that it would be 
for Harry Belfield's chosen mistress to enjoy. 
Nobody least of all the man who was content 
to take her to wife himself seemed to think of 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 83 

her as a choice even possible to Harry. He was, 
of course, for Vivien. All the joys of love, all 
the life of pleasure, the participation in his career, 
the moving many -coloured existence to be led 
by his side- all these were for Vivien. Her 
heart cried out in protest at the injustice; she 
might not even have her chance ! It would be 
counted treachery if she strove for it, if she 
sought to attract Harry or allowed herself to be 
attracted by him. She had to stand aside ; she 
was to be otherwise disposed of, her assent to the 
arrangement being asked so confidently that it 
could hardly be said to be asked at all. Suppose 
she did not assent ? Suppose she fought for 
herself, treachery or no treachery ? Suppose she 
followed the way of her feelings, if so be that 
they led her towards Harry Belfield ? Suppose 
she put forth what strength she had to upset 
Wellgood's plan, to fight for herself? 

She played with these questions as she walked 
up and down the terrace by the lake. She declared 
to herself that she was only playing with them, but 
they would not leave her. 

Certainly the questions found no warrant in 
Harry Belfield's present mood. He had made 
up his mind, his eager blood was running apace. 
That very evening, as his father and he sat alone 
together after dinner, in the long room graced by 



84 SECOND STRING. 

the two Vandykes which were the boast of Halton, 
he broached the matter in confidence. Mr. Belfield 
was a frail man of sixty. He had always been 
delicate in health, a sufferer from asthma and 
prone to chills ; but he was no acknowledged 
invalid, and would not submit to the rbk. He 
did his share of county work ; his judgment was 
highly esteemed, his sense of honour strict and 
scrupulous. He had a dryly humorous strain in 
him, which found food for amusement in his son's 
exuberant feelings and dashing impulses, without 
blinding him to their dangers. 

"Well, it's not a great match, but it's quite 
satisfactory, Harry. You'll find no opposition 
here. I like her very much, and your mother 
does too, I know. But" he smiled and lifted 
his brows" it's a trifle sudden, isn't it ? " 

"Sudden?" cried Harry. "Why, I've known 
her all my life ! " 

"Yes, but you haven't been in love with her 
all your life. And, if report speaks true, you 
have been in love with some other women." 
Mr. Belfield was a man of the world ; his tone 
was patient and not unduly severe as he referred 
to Harry's adventures of the heart, which had 
reached his ears from friends in London. 

"Yes, I know," said Harry; "but those were 
only well, passing sort of things, you know." 



SETTLED PROGRAMMES. 85 

" And this isn't a passing sort of thing ? " 

" Not a bit of it ; I'm dead sure of it. Well, 
a fellow can't tell another not even his father 
what he feels." 

" No, no, don't try ; keep all that for the lady. 
But if I were you I'd go a bit slow, and I wouldn't 
tell your mother yet. There's no particular hurry, 
is there ? " 

Harry laughed. " Well, I suppose that depends 
on how one feels. I happen to feel rather in a 
hurry." 

" Go as slow as you can. Passing things pass : 
a wife's a more permanent affair. And undoing 
a mistake is neither a very easy nor a very savoury 
business." 

" I'm absolutely sure. Still I'll try to wait and 
see if I can manage to get a little bit surer still, 
just to please you, pater." 

" Thank you, old boy ; I don't think you'll 
repent it. And, after all, it may be as well to 
give the lady time to get quite sure too eh ? " 
His eyes twinkled. He was fully aware that 
Harry would not think a great deal of time neces- 
sary for that. "Oh, by-the-bye," he went on, 
"I've a little bit of good news for you. I've 
interceded with your mother on Andy Hayes' 
behalf, and her heart is softened. She says she'll 
be very glad to see him here " 



86 SECOND STRING. 

" Hurrah ! That's very good of the mater." 

" when we're alone, or have friends who we 
know won't object." He laughed a little, and 
Harry joined in the laugh. "A prudent woman's 
prudent provisoes, Harry! I wish both you and 
I were as wise as your mother is." 

" Dear old Andy he's getting quite the fashion ! 
I'm to take him to Nutley too." 

" Excellent ! Because it looks as if Nutley 
would be coming here to a certain extent in the 
immediate future, and he'll be able to come when 
Nutley does." He rose from his chair. " My 
throat's bothersome to-night ; I'll leave you alone 
with your cigarette." 

Harry smoked a cigarette that seemed to emit 
clouds of rosy smoke. All that lay in the past 
was forgotten ; the future beckoned him to glitter- 
ing joys. 

" Marriage is his best chance, but even that's a 
considerable chance with Master Harry ! " thought 
his father as he sat down to his book. 

The one man who had serious fears or at least 
doubts about Harry Belfield's future was his own 
father. 

" I probably shan't live to see the trouble, if 
any comes," he thought. "And if his mother 
does she won't believe it's his fault." 



Chapter V. 
BROADENING LIFE. 

all, and deuce!" cried Wellgood, who 
had taken on himself the function of 
umpire. He turned to Isobel and Vivien, who 
sat by in wicker armchairs, watching the game. 
" I never thought it would be so close. Hayes 
has pulled up wonderfully ! " 

" I think Mr. Hayes'll win now," said Vivien. 

An " exhibition single " was being played, by 
request, before the audience above indicated. 
Andy Hayes had protested that, though of course 
he would play if they wished, he could not give 
Harry a game he had not played for more than 
a year. At first it looked as if he were right : 
Harry romped away with the first four games, so 
securely superior that he fired friendly chaff at 
Andy's futile rushes across the court in pursuit 
of a ball skilfully placed where he least expected 
it. But in the fifth game the rallies became very 
long ; Andy was playing for safety playing 



88 SECOND STRING. 

deadly safe. He did not try to kill ; Harry did, 
but often committed suicide. The fifth, the sixth, 
the seventh game went to Andy. A flash of 
brilliancy gave Harry the eighth five, three ! 
The ninth was his service he should have had 
it, and the set. Andy's returns were steady, low, 
all good length, possible to return, almost im- 
possible to kill. But Harry tried to kill. Four, 
five. Andy served, and found a " spot " at least 
Harry's malevolent glances at a particular piece 
of turf implied a theory that he had. Five all ! 
And now " Deuce " ! 

" He's going to lick me, see if he isn't ! " cried 
Harry Belfield, perfectly good-natured, but not 
hiding his opinion that such a result would be 
paradoxical. 

Andy felt terribly ashamed of himself he 
wanted to win so much. To play Harry Belfield 
on equal terms and beat him, just for once ! 
This spirit of emulation was new to his soul ; it 
seemed rather alarming when it threatened his 
old-time homage in all things to Harry. Where 
was ambition going to stop ? None the less, 
eye and hand had no idea of not doing their best. 
A slashing return down the side line and a clever 
lob gave him the game six, five ! 

Harry Belfield was the least bit vexed amusedly 
vexed. He remembered Andy's clumsy elephantine 



BROADENING LIFE. 89 

sprawlings (no other word for them) about the 
court when in their boyhood he had first under- 
taken to teach him the game. Andy must have 
played a lot in Canada. 

" Now I'll take three off you, Andy," he 
cried, and served a double fault. The " gallery " 
laughed. " Oh, damn it ! " exclaimed Harry, 
indecorously loud, and served another. Andy 
could not help laughing the first time he had 
ever laughed at Harry Belfield. Given a handicap 
of thirty, the game was, barring extraordinary 
accidents, his. So it proved. He won it at forty- 
fifteen, with a stroke that a child ought to have 
returned ; Harry put it into the net. 

" Lost your nerve, Harry ? " said the umpire. 

" The beggar's such a sticker ! " grumbled 
Harry, laughing. "You think you've got him 
licked and you haven't ! " 

" I'm glad Mr. Hayes won." This from Vivien. 

" Not only defeated, but forsaken 1 " Harry 
cried. " Andy, I'll have your blood ! " 

Andy Hayes laughed joyously. This victory 
came as an unlooked-for adornment to a day 
already notable. A Saturday half-holiday, down 
from town in time to lunch at Nutley, tennis 
and tea, and the prospect (not free from piquant 
alarm) of dinner at Halton this was a day for 
Andy Hayes ! With an honest vanity a vanity 




90 SECOND STRING. 

based on true affection he thought how the ac- 
count of it would tickle Jack Rock. His life 
seemed broadening out before him, and he would 
like to tell dear old Jack all about it. Playing 
lawn -tennis at Nutley, dining at Halton here 
were things just as delightful, just as enlightening, 
as supping at the great restaurant in the company 
of the Nun and pretty sardonic Miss Dutton. 
He owed them all to Harry he almost wished he 
had lost the set. At any rate he felt that he ought 
to wish it. 

" It was an awful fluke ! " he protested apolo- 
getically. 

"You'd beat him three times out of five," 
Wellgood asserted in that confident tone of his. 

Harry looked a little vexed. He bore an occa- 
sional defeat with admirable good-nature : to be 
judged consistently inferior was harder schooling 
to his temper. Triumphing in whatever the con- 
test might be had grown into something of a 
custom with him. It brooked occasional breaches : 
abrogation was another matter. But " Oh no ! " 
cried both the girls together. 

Harry was on his feet again in a moment. 
Women's praise was always sweet to him, and 
not the less sweet for being open to a suspicion 
of partiality which is, after all, a testimony to 
achievement in other fields. 



BROADENING LIFE. 91 

Such a partiality accounted for the conviction 
of Harry's superiority in Vivien's case at least. 
She had grown up in the midst of the universal 
Meriton adoration of him as the most accom- 
plished, the kindest, the merriest son of that soil, 
the child of promise, the present pride and the 
future glory of his native town. Any facts or 
reports not to the credit of the idol or reflecting 
on his divinity had not reached her cloistered ears. 
Wellgood, like Harry's own father, had heard 
some, but Wellgood held common-sense views 
even more fully than Mr. Belfield ; facts were 
facts, and all men had to be young for a time. 
Now, if signs were to be trusted, if the idol's own 
words, eyes, and actions meant what she could 
not but deem they meant (or where stood the 
idol's honesty ?), he proposed to ask her to share 
his throne ; he, the adored, offered adoration 
an adoration on a basis of reciprocity, be it under- 
stood. She did not grumble at that. To give 
was so easy, so inevitable ; to receive to be asked 
to accept so wonderful. It could not enter her 
head or her heart to question the value of the 
gift or to doubt the whole-heartedness with which 
it was bestowed. It was to her so great a thing 
that she held it must be as great to Harry. Really 
at the present moment it was as great to Harry. 
His courtship of her seemed a very great thing, 



92 SECOND STRING. 

his absolute exclusive devotion a rare flower of 
romance. 

But she had been glad to see Andy win. Oh 
yes, she was compassionate. She knew so well 
what it was not to do things as cleverly as other 
people, and how oppressive it felt to be always 
inferior. Besides Andy had a stock of gratitude 
to draw on ; somehow he had, by his solidity, 
caused Curly to appear far less terrible. With 
a genuine gladness she saw him pluck one leaf 
from Harry's wreath. It must mean so much to 
Mr. Hayes ; it mattered nothing to Harry. Nay, 
rather, it was an added chance for his graces of 
manner to shine forth. 

They did shine forth. " Very good of you, 
ladies, but I think he holds me safe," said Harry. 

" I shouldn't if you'd only play steady," Andy 
observed in his reflective way. " Taking chances 
that's your fault, Harry." 

"Taking chances why, it's life ! " cried Harry, 
any shadow of vexation utterly gone and leaving 
not the smallest memory. 

"Well, ordinary people can't look at it like 
that," Andy said, with no touch of sarcasm, amply 
acknowledging that Harry and the ordinary were 
things remote from one another. 

Was life taking chances ? To one only of the 
party did that seem really true. Harry had said 



BROADENING LIFE. 93 

it, but he was not the one. He was possessed 
by a new triumphant certainty ; Wellgood by the 
thought of a mastery he deemed already estab- 
lished, and waiting only for his word to be 
declared ; Vivien by a dream that glowed and 
glittered, refusing too close a touch with earth ; 
Andy by a stout conviction that he must not think 
about chances, but work away at his timber (he 
still called it lumber in his inner mind) and his 
books, pausing only to thank heaven for a won- 
derful Saturday holiday. 

But life was taking chances ! Supine in her 
chair, silent since her one exclamation in champion- 
ship of Harry Belfield, Isobel Vintry echoed the 
cry. Life was taking chances ? Yes, any life 
worth having perhaps was. But what if the 
chances did not come one's way ? Who can take 
what fate never offers ? 

All the present party was to meet again at 
Halton in the evening. It seemed hardly a separa- 
tion when Harry and Andy started off together 
towards Meriton, Harry, as usual, chattering 
briskly, Andy listening, considering, absorbing. 
At a turn of the road they passed two old friends 
of* his, Wat Money, the lawyer's clerk, and Tom 
Dove, the budding publican "Chinks" and "The 
Bird " of days of yore. 

" Good afternoon, Mr. Harry ! Hullo, Andy ! " 






94 SECOND STRING. 

said Chinks and the Bird. When they were past, 
the Bird nudged Chinks with his elbow and winked 
his eye. 

"Yes, he's getting no end of a swell, isn't 
he?" said Chinks. " Hand-and-glove with Harry 
Belfield ! " 

" I suppose you don't see much of those chaps 
now ? " Harry was asking Andy at the same 
moment. There was just a shadow of admonition 
in the question. 

" I'm afraid I don't. Well, we're all at work. 
And when I do get a day off 

" You don't need to spend it at the Lion ! " 
laughed Harry. cc As good drink and better com- 
pany in other places ! " 

There were certainly good things to drink and 
eat at Halton, and Andy could not be blamed if he 
found the company at least as well to his liking. 
He had not been there since he was quite a small 
boy in the days before Nancy Rock migrated 
from the house next the butcher's shop in High 
Street to preside over his home but he had never 
forgotten the handsome dining-room with its two 
Vandykes, nor the glass of sherry which Mr. 
Belfield had once given him there. Mrs. Belfield 
received him with graciousness, Mr. Belfield with 
cordiality. Of course he was the first to arrive, 
being very fearful of unpunctuality. Even Harry 






BROADENING LIFE. 95 

was not down yet. Not being able, for obvious 
reasons, to ask after her guest's relations her 
invariable way, when it was possible, of opening a 
conversation Mrs. Belfield expressed her pleasure 
at seeing him back in Meriton. 

" My husband thinks you Ye such a good com- 
panion for Harry," she added, showing that her 
pleasure was genuine, even if somewhat interested. 

"Yes, Hayes," said Mr. Belfield. "See all you 
can of him ; we shall be grateful. He wants just 
what a steady-going sensible fellow, as everybody 
says you are, can give him a bit of ballast, eh ? " 

"Everybody" had been, in fact, Jack Rock, 
but again for obvious reasons the authority was 
not cited by name. 

" You may be sure I shall give him as much of 
my company as he'll take, sir," said Andy, in- 
finitely pleased, enormously complimented. 

Placidity was Mrs. Belfield' s dominant note a 
soothing placidity. She was rather short and 
rather plump by no means an imposing figure ; 
but this quality gave her a certain dignity, and 
even a certain power in her little world. People 
let her have her own way because she was so 
placidly sure that they would, and it seemed 
almost profane to disturb the placidity. Even her 
husband's humour was careful to stop short of 
that. Her physical movements were in harmony 




96 SECOND STRING. 

with her temper leisurely, smooth, noiseless ; her 
voice was gentle, low, and even. She seemed to 
Andy to fit in well with the life she lived and 
always had lived, to be a good expression or 
embodiment of its sheltered luxury and sequestered 
tranquillity. Storms and stress and struggles 
these things had nothing to do with Mrs. Belfield, 
and really ought to have none ; they would be 
quite out of keeping with her. She seemed to 
have a right to ask that things about her should 
go straight and go quietly. There was perhaps 
a flavour of selfishness about this disposition ; 
certainly an inaccessibility to strong feeling. For 
instance, while placidly assuming Harry's success 
and Harry's career, she was not excited nor 
what would be called enthusiastic about them 
not half so excited and enthusiastic as Andy 
Hayes. 

The dinner in the fine old room, under the 
Vandykes, with Mrs. Belfield in her lavender silk 
and precious lace, the girls in their white frocks, 
the old silver, the wealth of flowers, seemed rather 
wonderful to Andy Hayes. His life in boyhood 
had been poor and meagre, in manhood hard and 
rough. Here was a side of existence he had not 
seen ; as luxurious as the life of which he had 
caught a glimpse at the great restaurant, but far 
more serene, more dignified. His opening mind 



BROADENING LIFE. 97 

received another new impression and a rarely 
attractive one. 

But the centre of the scene for him was Vivien 
Wellgood. From his first sight of her in the 
drawing-room he could not deny that. He had 
never seen her in the evening before, and it was in 
the evening that her frail beauty showed forth. 
She was like a thing of gossamer that a touch 
would spoil. She was so white in her low-cut 
frock ; all so white save for a little glow on the 
cheeks that excitement and pleasure brought, save 
for the brightness of her hair in the soft candle 
light, save for the dark blue eyes which seemed to 
keep watch and ward over her hidden thoughts. 
Yes, she was why, she was good enough for 
Harry good enough for Harry Belfield himself ! 
And he, Andy, Harry's faithful follower and wor- 
shipper, would worship her too, if she would let 
him (Harry, he knew, would), if she would not be 
afraid of him, not dislike him or shrink from him. 
That was all he asked, having in his mind not only 
a bashful consciousness of his rude strength and 
massive frame they seemed almost threatening 
beside her delicacy but also a haunting recollection 
that she could not endure such a number of things, 
including butchers' shops. 

No thought for himself, no thought of trying 

to rival Harry, so much as crossed his mind. If 

4 



98 SECOND STRING. 

it had, it would have been banished as rank 
treachery ; but it could not, for the simple reason 
that his attitude towards Harry made such an idea 
utterly foreign to his thoughts. He was not 
asking, as Isobel Vintry had asked that afternoon, 
why he might not have his chance. It was not 
the way of his nature to put forward claims for 
himself and, above all, claims that conflicted 
with Harry's claims. The bare notion was to him 
impossible. 

He sat by her, but for some time she gave 
herself wholly to listening to Harry, who had 
found, on getting home, a letter from Billy Foot, 
full of the latest political gossip from town. But 
presently, the conversation drifting into depths of 
politics where she could not follow, she turned to 
Andy and said, " I'm getting on much better with 
Curly. I pat him now 1 " 

" That's right. It's only his fun." 

"People's fun is sometimes the worst thing 
about them." 

"Well now, that's true," Andy acknowledged, 
rather surprised to hear the remark from her. 

" But I am getting on much better. And well, 
rather better at riding." She smiled at him in 
confidence. "And nobody's said anything about 
swimming. Do you know, when I feel myself 
inclined to get frightened, I think about you ! " 



BROADENING LIFE. 99 

" Do you find it helps ? " asked Andy, much 
amused and rather pleased. 

" Yes, it's like thinking of a policeman in the 
middle of the night." 

" I suppose I do look rather like a policeman," 
said Andy reflectively. 

"Yes, you do! That's it, I think." The 
vague " it " seemed to signify the explanation of 
the confidence Andy inspired. 

" And how about dust and dirt, and getting very 
hot ? " he inquired. 

" Isobel says I'm a bit better about courage, but 
not the least about fastidiousness." 

" Fastidiousness suits some people, Miss Well- 
good." 

" It doesn't suit father, not in me," she mur- 
mured with a woeful smile. 

" Doesn't thinking about me help you there ? 
On the same principle it ought to." 

" It doesn't," she murmured, with a trace of 
confusion, and suddenly her eyes went blank. 
Something was in her thoughts that she did not 
want Andy to see. Was it the butcher's shop ? 
Andy's wits were not quick enough to ask the 
question ; but he saw that her confidential mood 
had suffered a check. 

Her confidence had been very pleasant, but 
there were other things to listen to at the table. 




ioo SECOND STRING. 

Andy was heart-whole and intellectually vora- 
cious. 

They, the rest of the company, had begun on 
politics imperial politics and had discussed them 
not without some friction. No Radical was 
present Procul, procul este, profani ! but Well- 
good had the perversities of his anti-sentimental 
attitude. A Tory at home, why was he to be a 
democrat or a Socialist at the Antipodes? 
Competition and self-interest were the golden rule 
in England ; was there to be another between 
England and her colonies ? The tie of blood 
one flag, one crown, one destiny Wellgood 
suspected his bugbear in every one of these cries. 
Nothing for nothing and for sixpence no more 
than the coin was worth with a preference for 
five penn'orth if you could get out of it at that ! 
He stood steady on his firmly-rooted narrow foun- 
dation. 

All of Harry was on fire against him. Was 
blood nothing race, colour, memories, associa- 
tions, the Flag, the Crown, and the Destiny ? A 
destiny to rule, or at least to manage, the planet ! 
Mother and Daughters nothing in that ? 

Things were getting hot, and the ladies, who 
always like to look on at the men fighting, much 
interested. Mr. Belfield, himself no politician, 
rather a student of human nature and addicted to 



BROADENING LIFE. 101 

the Socratic attitude (so justly vexatious to prac- 
tical men who have to do something, good, bad, or 
if not better, at least more plausible, than nothing) 
interposed a suggestion. 

" Mother and daughters ? Hasn't husband and 
wives become a more appropriate parallel ? " He 
smiled across the table at his own wife. " No 
personal reference, my dear ! But an attitude of 
independence, without any particular desire to pay 
the bills ? Oh,- I'm only asking questions ! " 

Andy was listening hard now. So was Vivien, for 
she saw Harry's eyes alight and his mouth eager 
to utter truths that should save the nation. 

" If we could reach," said Harry, marvellously 
handsome, somewhat rhetorical for a small party, 
" if only we could once reach a true understanding 
between ourselves and the self-governing " 

" Oh, but that's going beyond my parallel, my 
dear boy," his father interrupted. " If marriage 
demanded mutual understanding, what man or 
woman could risk it with eyes open ? " 

" Doesn't it ? " Isobel Vintry was the ques- 
tioner. 

" Heavens, no, my dear Miss Vintry ! Some- 
thing much less, something much less fundamen- 
tally impossible. A good temper and a bad 
memory, that's all ! " 

" Well done, pater ! " cried Harry, readily 



102 SECOND STRING. 

switched off from his heated enthusiasm. "Which 
for the husband, which for the wife ? " 

" Both for both, Harry. Toleration to-day, and 
an unlimited power of oblivion to-morrow." 

"What nonsense you're talking, dear," placidly 
smiled Mrs. Belfield. 

" I'm exactly defining your own characteristics," 
he replied. " If you do that to a woman, she 
always says you're talking nonsense." 

"An unlimited supply of the water of Lethe, 
pater ? That does- it ?" 

" That's about it, Harry. If you mix it with 
a little sound Scotch whisky before you go to 
bed-" 

Andy burst into a good guffaw ; the kindly 
mocking humour pleased him. Vivien was alert 
too ; there was nothing to frighten, much to 
enjoy ; the glow deepened on her cheeks. 

But Wellgood was not content ; he was baulked 
of his argument, of his fight. 

"We've wandered from the point," he said 
dourly. ("As if wanderings were not the best 
things in the world ! " thought more than one 
of the party, more or less explicitly.) "We give, 
they take." He was back to the United Kingdom 
and the Colonies. 

" Could anything be more nicely exact to my 
parallel ? " asked Belfield, socratically smiling. 



BROADENING LIFE. 103 

" Did you ever know a marriage where each 
partner didn't say, c I give, you take ' ? Some 
add that they're content with the arrangement, 
others don't." 

"Pater, you always mix up different things," 
Harry protested, laughing. 

" I'm always trying to find out whether there 
are any different things, Harry." He smiled at 
his son. " Wives, that's what they are ! And 
several of them ! Harry, we're in for all the 
difficulties of polygamy ! A preference to one 
oh no, I'm not spelling it with a big P ! But 
well, the ladies ought to be able to help us here. 
Could you share a heart, Miss Vintry ? " 

Isobel's white was relieved with gold trimmings ; 
she looked sumptuous. " I shouldn't like it," she 
answered. 

" What has all this got to do with the practical 
problem?" Wellgood demanded. "Our trade 
with the Colonies is no more than thirty per 



cent" 



" I agree with you, Mr. Wellgood. The gentle- 
men had much better have kept to their politics," 
Mrs. Belfield interposed with suave placidity. 
"They understand them. When they begin to 
talk about women " 

" Need of Lethe whisky and Lethe-water ! " 
chuckled Harry. " In a large glass, eh, Andy ? " 



io 4 SECOND STRING. 

Wellgood turned suddenly on Andy. " You've 
lived in Canada. What do you say ? " 

Andy had been far too much occupied in listen- 
ing. Besides, he was no politician. He thought 
deeply for a moment. 

" A lot depends on whether you want to buy or 
to sell." He delivered himself of this truth quite 
solemnly. 

" A very far-reaching observation," said Mr. 
Belfield. " Goes to the root of human traffic, and, 
quite possibly, to that of both the institutions which 
we have been discussing. I wonder whether either 
will be permanent ! " 

" Look here, pater, we're at dessert ! Aren't 
you starting rather big subjects ? " 

" Your father likes to amuse himself with curious 
ideas," Mrs. Belfield remarked. " So did my 
father ; he once asked me what I thought would 
happen if I didn't say my prayers. Men like 
to ask questions like that, but I never pay much 
attention to them. Shall we go into the drawing- 
room, Vivien ? It may be warm enough for a turn 
in the garden, perhaps." She addressed the men. 
" Bring your cigars and try." 

The men were left alone. " The garden would 
be jolly," said Harry. 

Mr. Belfield coughed, and suddenly wheezed. 
" Intimations of mortality ! " he said apologetically. 



BROADENING LIFE. 105 

"We've talked of a variety of subjects to little 
purpose, I suppose. But it's entertaining to survey 
the field of humanity. Your views were briefly 
expressed, Hayes." 

"Everybody else was talking such a lot, sir," 
said Andy. 

Belfield's humorous laugh was entangled in a 
cough. " You'll never get that obstacle out of the 
way of your oratory," he managed to stutter out. 
" They always are ! Talk rules the world eh, 
Wellgood ? " He was maliciously provocative. 

" We wait till they've finished talking. Then 
we do what we want," said Wellgood. " Force 
rules in the end the readiness to kill and be 
killed. That's the ultima ratio , the final argument." 

" The women say that's out of date." 

" The women ! " exclaimed Wellgood contempt- 
uously. 

"They'll be in the garden," Harry opined. 
<c Shall we move, pater ? " 

"We might as well," said Belfield. "Are you 
ready, Wellgood ? " 

Wellgood was ready in spite of his contempt. 



Chapter VI. 
THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 

/ TT V HE garden at Halton was a pleasant place on 
* a fine evening, with a moon waxing, yet not 
obtrusively full, with billowing shrubberies, clear- 
cut walks, lawns spreading in a gentle drabness that 
would be bright green in to-morrow's sun a place 
pleasant in its calm, its spaciousness and isolation. 
They all sat together in a ring for a while ; smoke 
curled up ; a servant brought glasses that clinked 
as they were set down with a cheery, yet not 
urgent, suggestion. 

"I suppose you're right to go in for it," said 
Wellgood to Harry. " It's your obvious line." 
(He was referring to a public career.) "But, 
after all, it's casting pearls before swine." 

" Swine ! " The note of exclamation was large. 
" Our masters, Mr. Wellgood ! " 

" A decent allowance of bran, and a ring through 
their noses that's the thing for them ! " 

" Has anybody got a copy well, another copy 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 107 

of c Coriolanus' ? " Harry inquired in an affectation 
of eagerness. 

" Casting pearls before swine is bad business, 
of course," said Belfield in his husky voice he 
was really unwise to be out of doors at all ; " but 
there are degrees of badness. If your pearls are 
indifferent as pearls, and your swine admirable as 
swine ? And that's often the truth of it." 

" My husband is sometimes perverse in his talk, 
my dear," said Mrs. Belfield, aside to Vivien, to 
whom she was being very kind. " You needn't 
notice what he says." 

" He's rather amusing," Vivien ventured, not 
quite sure whether the adjective were respectful 
enough. 

"Andy, pronounce! " cried Harry Belfield; for 
his friend sat in his usual meditative absorbing 
silence. 

" If I had to, I'd like to say a word from the 
point of view of the swine." Had the moon 
been stronger, he might have been seen to blush. 
" I don't want to be oh, well, serious. That's 
rot, I know- after dinner. But well, you're all 
in it insiders I'm an outsider. And I say that 
what the swine want is pearls ! " 

" If we've got them ?" The question, or insinua- 
tion, was Belfield's. He was looking at Andy with 
a real, if an only half-serious, interest. 



io8 SECOND STRING. 

" Swine are swine," remarked Wellgood. "They 
mustn't forget it. Neither must we." 

" But pearls by no means always pearls ? " 
Belfield suggested. " Though they may look 
the real thing if a pretty woman hangs them 
round her neck." 

Their talk went only for an embellishment of 
their general state so comfortable, so serene, so 
exceptionally fortunate. Were not they pearls ? 
Andy had seen something of the swine, had perhaps 
even been one of them. A vague protest stirred 
in him ; were they not too serene, too comfortable, 
too fortunate ? Yet he loved it all ; it was beauti- 
ful. How many uglies go to make one beautiful ? 
It is a bit of social arithmetic. When you have 
got the result, the deduction may well seem diffi- 
cult. 

" It doesn't much matter whether they're real 
or not, if a really pretty woman hangs them round 
her neck," Harry laughed. "The neck carries the 
pearls ! " 

" But we'd all rather they were real," said Isobel 
Vintry suddenly, the first of the women to inter- 
vene. " Other women guess, you see." 

"Does it hurt so much if they do?" Belfield 
asked. 

"The only thing that really does hurt," Isobel 
assured him, smiling. 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 109 

" Oh, my dear, how disproportionate ! " sighed 
Mrs. Belfield. 

"I'd never have anything false about me 
pearls, or lace, or hair, or or anything about 
me," exclaimed Vivien. " I should hate it ! " 
Feeling carried her into sudden unexpected speech. 

Very gradually, very tentatively, Andy was find- 
ing himself able to speak in this sort of company, 
to speak as an equal to equals, not socially only, 
but in an intellectual regard. 

" Riches seem to me all wrong, but what they 
produce, leaving out the wasters, all right." He 
let it out, apprehensive of a censuring silence. 
Belfield relieved him in a minute. 

" I'm with you. I always admire most the 
things to which I'm on principle opposed a 
melancholy state of one's mental interior ! Kings, 
lords, and bishops crowns, coronets, and aprons 
all very attractive and picturesque ! " 

"We all know that the governor's a crypto- 
Radical," said Harry. 

" I thought Carlyle, among others, had taught 
that we were all Radicals when in our pyjamas 
or less," said Belfield. " But that's not the point. 
The excellence of things that are wrong, the 
narrowness of the moral view ! " 

" My dear ! Oh, well, my dear ! " murmured 
Mrs. Belfield. 



no SECOND STRING. 

" I've got a touch of asthma I must say what I 
like." Belfield humorously traded on his infirmity. 
" A dishonest fellow who won't pay his tradesmen, 
a flirtatious minx who will make mischief, a spoilt 
urchin who insists on doing what he shouldn't 
all rather attractive, aren't they? If everybody 
behaved properly we should have no 'situations.' 
What would become of literature and the drama ? " 

" And if nobody had any spare cash, what would 
become of them, either ? M asked Harry. 

"Well, we could do with a good deal less 
of them. I'll go so far as to admit that," said 
Wellgood. 

Belfield laughed. " Even from Wellgood we've 
extracted one plea for the redistribution of wealth. 
A dialectical triumph ! Let's leave it at that." 

Mrs. Belfield carried her husband off indoors ; 
Wellgood went with them, challenging his host 
to a game of bezique ; Harry invited Vivien 
to a stroll ; Isobel Vintry and Andy were left 
together. She asked him a sudden question : 

" Do you think Harry Belfield a selfish man ? " 

"Selfish! Harry? Heavens, no! He'd do 
anything for his friends." 

" I don't mean quite in that way. I daresay he 
would and, of course, he's too well-mannered to 
be selfish about trifles. But I suppose even to ask 
questions about him is treason to you ? " 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. in 

"Oh, well, a little bit," laughed Andy. "I'm 
an old follower, you see ! " 

" Yes, and he thinks it natural you should be," 
she suggested quickly. 

"Well, if it is natural, why shouldn't he 
think so ? " 

" It seems natural to him that he should always 
come first, and and have the pick of things." 

" You mean he's spoilt ? According to his 
father, that makes him more attractive." 

" Yes, I'm not saying it doesn't do that. Only 
do you never mind it ? Never mind playing 
second fiddle ? " 

" Second fiddle seems rather a high position. I 
hardly reckon myself in the orchestra at all," he 
laughed. "You remember I'm accustomed to 
following the hunt on foot." 

"While Harry Belfield rides! Yes! Vivien 
rides too and doesn't like it ! " 

She was bending forward in her chair, handsome, 
sumptuous in her white and gold (Wellgood had 
made her a present the quarter-day before), with 
her smile very bitter. The smile told that she 
spoke with a meaning more than literal. Andy 
surveyed, at his leisure, possible metaphorical 
bearings. 

" Oh yes, I think I see," he announced, after an 
interval fully perceptible. " You mean she doesn't 



ii2 SECOND STRING. 

really appreciate her advantages ? By riding you 
mean ? " 

" Oh, really, Mr. Hayes ! " She broke into vexed 
amused laughter. " I mustn't try it any more 
with you," she declared. 

" But I shall understand if you give me time to 
think it over," Andy protested. " Don't rush me, 
that's all, Miss Vintry." 

" As if I could rush any one or anything ! " she 
said, handsome still, now handsomely despair- 
ing. 

To Andy she was a problem, needing time to 
think over ; to Wellgood she was a postulate, 
assumed not proved, yet assumed to be proved ; 
to Harry she was save for that subtle momentary 
feeling on the terrace by the lake Vivien's com- 
panion. She wanted to be something other than 
any of these. Follow the hounds on foot ? She 
would know what it was to ride ! Know and not 
like in Vivien's fashion ? Andy, slowly digesting, 
saw her lips curve in that bitter smile again. 

From a path near by, yet secluded behind a thick 
trim hedge of yew, there sounded a girl's nervous 
flutter of a laugh, a young man's exultant merri- 
ment. Harry and Vivien, not far away, seemed 
the space of a world apart to Isobel ; Andy was 
normally conscious that they were not more than 
twenty yards off, and almost within hearing if they 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 113 

spoke. But he had been getting at Isobel's meaning 
slowly and surely. 

"Being able to ride having the opportunity 
and not caring that's pearls before ?" 

" I congratulate you, Mr. Hayes. I can imagine 
you making a very good speech after the election 
is over ! " 

Andy laughed heartily, leaning back in his 
chair. 

"That's jolly good, Miss Vintry ! " he said. 

" Ten minutes after the poll closed you'd begin 
to persuade the electors ! " She spoke rather lower. 
" Ten minutes after a girl had taken another man, 
you'd" 

" Give me time ! I've never thought about 
myself like that," cried Andy. 

No more sounds from the path behind the yew 
hedge. She was impatient with Andy would 
Harry never come back from that path ? 

He came back the next moment he and Vivien. 
Vivien's face was a confession, Harry's air a self- 
congratulation. 

<c I hope you've been making yourself amusing, 
Andy ? " asked Harry. His tone conveyed a 
touch of amusement at the idea of Andy being 
amusing. 

" Miss Vintry's been pitching into me like 
anything," said Andy, smiling broadly. " She says 



ii 4 SECOND STRING. 

I'm always a day after the fair. I'm going to think 
it over and try to get a move on." 

His good -nature, his simplicity, his serious 
intention to attempt self- improvement, tickled 
Harry intensely. Why, probably Isobel had wanted 
to flirt, and Andy had failed to play up to her ! 
He burst into a laugh ; Vivien's laugh followed as 
an applauding echo. 

" A lecture, was it, Miss Vintry ? " Harry asked 
in banter. 

" I could give you one too," said Isobel, colour- 
ing a little. 

" She gives me plenty ! " Vivien remarked, with 
a solemnly comic shake of her head. 

" It's my business in life," said Isobel. 

Just for a second Harry looked at her ; an 
impish smile was on his lips. Did she think that, 
was she honest about it ? Or was she provocative ? 
It crossed Harry's mind past experiences facilita- 
ting the transit of the idea that she might be 
saying to him, " Is that all a young woman of my 
looks is good for ? To give lectures ? " 

"You shall give me one at the earliest oppor- 
tunity, if you'll be so kind," he laughed, his eyes 
boldly conveying that he would enjoy the lesson. 
Vivien laughed again ; it was great fun to see 
Harry chaffing Isobel ! She liked Isobel, but was 
in awe of her. Had not Isobel all the difficult 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 115 

virtues which it was her own woeful task to learn ? 
But Harry could chaff her Harry could do anything. 

" If I do, I'll teach you something you don't 
know, Mr. Harry," Isobel said, letting her eyes 
meet his with a boldness equal to his own. Again 
that subtle feeling touched him, as it had on the 
terrace by the lake. 

" I'm ready to learn my lesson," he assured her, 
with a challenging gleam in his eye. 

She nodded rather scornfully, but accepting his 
challenge. There was a last bit of by-play between 
their eyes. 

" It's really time to go, if Mr. Wellgood has 
finished his game," said Isobel, rising. 

The insinuation of the words, the by-play of 
the eyes, had passed over Vivien's head and 
outside the limits of Andy's perspicacity. To both 
of them the bandying of words was but chaff ; by 
both the exchange of glances went unmarked. 
Well, the whole thing was no more than chaff to 
Harry himself ; such chaff as he was very good at, 
a practised hand and not ignorant of why the 
chaff was pleasant. And Isobel ? Oh yes, she 
knew ! Harry was amused to find this knowledge 
in Vivien's companion this provocation, this 
freemasonry of flirtation. Poor old Andy had, of 
course, seen none of it ! Well, perhaps it needed 
a bit of experience besides the temperament. 



n6 SECOND STRING. 

Indoors, farewell was soon said hours ruled 
early at Meriton. Soon said, yet not without some 
significance in the saying. Mrs. Belfield was 
openly affectionate to Vivien, and Belfield paternal 
in a courtly way ; Harry very devoted to the same 
young lady, yet with a challenging " aside " of his 
eyes for Isobel ; Andy brimming over with a vain 
effort to express adequately but without gush 
his thanks for the evening. Belfield, being two 
pounds the better of Wellgood over their bezique, 
was in more than his usual good-temper it was 
spiced with malice, for the defeat of Wellgood (a 
bad loser) counted for more than the forty shillings 
and gave Andy his hand and a pat on the back. 

" It's not often one has to tell a man not to 
undervalue himself," he remarked. " But I fancy 
I might say that to you. Well, I'm no prophet ; 
but at any rate be sure you're always welcome at 
this house for your own sake, as well as for 
Harry's." 

Getting into the carriage with Isobel and her 
father, Vivien felt like going back to school. But 
in all likelihood she would see Harry's eyes again 
to-morrow. She did not forget to give a kindly 
glance to solid Andy Hayes not exciting, nor 
bewildering, nor inflaming (as another was !), but 
somehow comforting and reassuring to think of. 
She sat down on the narrow seat, fronting her 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 117 

father and Isobel. Yes but school wouldn't 
last much longer ! And after school ? Ineffable 
heaven ! Being with Harry, loving Harry, being 
loved by ? That vaulting imagination seemed 
still almost nay, it seemed quite impossible. 
Yet if your own eyes assure you of things im- 
possible well, there's a good case for believing 
your eyes, and the belief is pleasant. Wellgood 
sore over his two pounds, Isobel dissatisfied with 
fate but challenging it, sat silent. The young girl's 
lips curved in sweet memories and triumphant 
anticipations. The best thing in the world was 
it actually to be hers ? Almost she knew it, though 
she would not own to the knowledge yet. 

Happy was she in the handkerchief flung by her 
hero ! Happy was Harry Belfield in the ready 
devotion, the innocent happy surrender, of one 
girl, and the vexed challenge of another whom he 
had whom he had at least meant to ignore ; he 
could never answer for it that he would quite 
ignore a woman who displayed such a challenge in 
the lists of sex. But there was a happier being 
still among those who left Halton that night. It 
was Andy Hayes, before whom life had opened so, 
who had enjoyed such a wonderful day-off, who 
had been told not to undervalue himself, had 
been reproached with being a day after the fair, 
had undergone (as it seemed) an initiation into a 



n8 SECOND STRING. 

life of which he had hardly dreamt, yet of which 
he appeared, in that one summer's day, to have 
been accepted as a part. 

Yes, Andy was on the whole the happiest 
happier even than Harry, to whom content, triumph, 
and challenge were all too habitual ; happier even 
than Vivien, who had still some schooling to endure, 
still some of love's finicking doubts, some of hope's 
artificially prudent incredulity, to overcome ; 
beyond doubt happier than Wellgood, who had 
lost two pounds, or Isobel Vintry, who had 
challenged and had been told that her challenge 
should be taken up some day ! Mrs. Belfield 
was intent on sleeping well, as she always did ; Mr. 
Belfield on not coughing too much as he generally 
did. They were not competitors in happiness. 

Andy walked home. Halton lay half a mile 
outside the town ; his lodgings were at the far end 
of High Street. All through the long, broad, 
familiar street in old days he had known who lived 
in well-nigh every house his road lay. He 
walked home under the stars. The day had been 
wonderful ; they who had figured in it peopled his 
brain delicate dainty Vivien first ; with her, 
brilliant Harry ; that puzzling Miss Vintry ; Mr. 
Belfield, who talked so whimsically and had told 
him not to undervalue himself; Wellgood, grim, 
hard, merciless, yet somehow with the stamp of a 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 119 

man about him ; Mrs. Belfield serenely matching 
with her house, her Vandykes, her garden, and the 
situation to which it had pleased Heaven to call 
her. Soberly now soberly now had he ever 
expected to be a part of all this ? 

High Street lay dark and quiet. It was eleven 
o'clock. He passed the old grammar school with 
a thought of the dear old father B.A. Oxon, which 
had something to do with his wonderful day. He 
passed the Lion, where " the Bird " officiated, and 
Mr. Foulkes' office, where " Chinks " aspired to 
become "gentleman, one etc" so runs the formula 
that gives a solicitor his status. All dark ! Now 
if by chance Jack Rock were up, and willing to 
listen to a little honest triumphing ! It had been 
a day to talk about. 

Yes, Jack was up ; his parlour lights glowed 
cosily behind red blinds. Yet Andy was not to 
have a clear field for the recital of his adventures ; 
it was no moment for an exhibition of his honest 
pride, based on an unimpaired humility. Jack 
Rock had a party. The table was furnished with 
beer, whisky, gin, tobacco, and clay pipes. Round 
it sat old friends Chinks and the Bird ; the Bird's 
father, Mr. Dove, landlord of the Lion ; and Cox, 
the veterinary surgeon. After the labours of the 
week they were having a little " fling " on Saturday 
night convivially, yet in all reasonable temperance. 



120 SECOND STRING. 

The elder men Jack, Mr. Dove, and Cox greeted 
Andy with intimate and affectionate cordiality ; a 
certain constraint marked the manner of Chinks 
and the Bird they could not forget the afternoon's 
encounter. His evening coat too, and his shirt- 
front ! Everybody marked them ; but they had 
a notion that he might have caught that habit in 
London. 

Andy's welcome over, Mr. Dove of the Lion 
took up his tale at the point at which he had left 
it. Mr. Dove had not Jack Rock's education 
he had never been at the grammar school but 
he was a shrewd sensible old fellow, who prided 
himself on the respectability of his " house " and 
felt his responsibilities as a publican without 
being too fond of the folk who were always 
dinning them into his ears. 

" I says to the girl, c We don't want no carry- 
ings-on at the Lion/ That's what I says, Jack. 
She says, c That wasn't nothing, Mr. Dove - only 
a give and take o' nonsense. The bar between 
us too ! Were's the 'arm ? ' c I don't like it, Miss 
Miles,' I says, <I don't like it, that's all.' c Oh, 
very good, Mr. Dove ! You're master 'ere, o' 
course ; only, if you won't 'ave that, you won't 
keep up your takings, that's all ! ' That's the way 
she put it, Jack." 

" Bit of truth in it, perhaps," Jack opined. 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 121 

"There's a lot of truth in it," said the Bird 
solemnly. " Fellers like to show off before a good- 
looking girl whether she's behind a bar or whether 
she ain't." 

" If there never 'adn't been barmaids, I wouldn't 
be the one to begin it," said Mr. Dove. " I knows 
its difficulties. But there they are all them nice 
girls bred to it ! What are ye to do with 'em, 
Jack ? " 

"A drink doesn't taste any worse for being 
'anded handed to you by a pretty girl," said 
Chinks with a knowing chuckle. 

"Then you give 'er one then you stand me 
one then you 'ave another yourself just to say 
' Blow the expense ! ' Oh, the girl knew the way 
of it I ain't saying she didn't ! " Mr. Dove 
smoked fast, evidently puzzled in his mind. 
" And she's a good girl 'erself too, ain't she,Tom ?" 

Tom blushed blushed very visibly. Miss 
Miles was not a subject of indifference to the 
Bird. 

" She's very civil-spoken," he mumbled shame- 
facedly. 

" That she is and a fine figure of a girl too," 
added Jack Rock. " Know her, Andy ? " 

Well, no ! Andy did not know her ; he felt 
profoundly apologetic. Miss Miles was evidently 
a person whom one ought to know, if one would 



122 SECOND STRIN'G. 

be in the world of Meriton. The world of 
Meriton ? It came home to him that there was 
more than one. 

Mr. Cox was a man who listened in that 
respect rather like Andy himself; but, when he 
did speak, he was in the habit of giving a verdict, 
therein deviating from Andy's humble way. 

" Barmaids oughtn't to a' come into existence," 
he said. "Being there, they're best left under 
supervision." He nodded at old Dove, as though 
to say, "You won't get any further than that if 
you talk all night," and put his pipe back into 
his mouth. 

" The doctor's right, I daresay," said old Dove 
in a tone of relief. It is always something of a 
comfort to be told that one's problems are insol- 
uble ; the obligation of trying to solve them is 
thereby removed. 

Jack accepted this ending to the discussion. 

" And what have you been doing with yourself, 
Andy? "he asked. 

Andy found a curious difficulty in answering. 
Tea and tennis at Nutley, dinner at Halton it 
seemed impossible to speak the words without 
self-consciousness. He felt that Chinks and the 
Bird had their eyes on him. 

" Been at work all the week, Jack. Had a day- 
off to-day." 






THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 123 

Luckily Jack fastened on the first part of his 
answer. He turned a keen glance on Andy. 
" Business doin' well ? " 

"Not particularly," Andy confessed. "It's a 
bit hard for a new-comer to establish a connection." 

" You're right there, Andy," commented old 
Mr. Dove, serenely happy in the knowledge of an 
ancient and good connection attaching to the 
Lion. 

" Oh, not particularly well ? " Jack nodded with 
an air of what looked like satisfaction, though it 
would not be kind to Andy to be satisfied. 

" Playing lawn-tennis at Nutley, weren't you ? " 
asked Chinks suddenly. 

All faces turned to Andy. 

" Yes, I was, Chinks," he said. 

" Half expected you to supper, Andy," said 
Jack Rock. 

" Sorry, Jack. I would have come if I'd been 
free. But" 

" Well, where were you ? " 

There was no help for it. 

" I was dining out, Jack." 

Andy's tone became as airy as he could make 
it, as careless, as natural. His effort in this kind 
was not a great success. 

" Harry Belfield asked me to Halton." 

A short silence followed. They were good 






i2 4 SECOND STRING. 

fellows, one and all of them ; nobody had a jibe 
for him ; the envy, if envy there were, was even 
as his own for Harry Belfield. Cox looked round 
and raised his glass. 

" 'Ere's to you, Andy ! You went to the war, 
you went to foreign parts. If youVe learned a 
bit and got on a bit, nobody in Meriton's goin' 
to grudge it you least of all them as knew your 
good father, who was a gentleman if ever there 
was one and I've known some of the best, conse- 
quent on my business layin' mainly with 'orses." 

" Dined at Halton, did you ? " Old Jack Rock 
beamed, then suddenly grew thoughtful. 

"Well, of course, I've always known Harry 
Belfield, and " He was apologizing. 

" The old gentleman used to dine there once 
a year reg'lar," Jack reminded him. " Quite right 
of 'em to keep it up with you." But still Jack 
looked thoughtful. 

Eleven-thirty sounded from the squat tower of 
the long low church which presided over the west 
end the Fyfold end of High Street. Old Cox 
knocked out his pipe decisively. " Bedtime ! " 
he pronounced. 

Nobody contested the verdict. Only across 
Andy's mind flitted an outlandish memory that 
it was the hour at which one sat down to supper 
at the great restaurant with Harry, the Nun, 






THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 125 

sardonic Miss Button, Billy Foot, and London 
at large and at liberty. 

" You stop a bit, my lad," said Jack with affec- 
tion, also with a touch of old-time authority. " I've 
something to say to you, Andy." 

Andy stayed willingly enough ; he liked Jack, 
and he was loth to end that day. 

Jack filled and pressed, lit, pressed, and lit again, 
a fresh clay pipe. 

" You like all that sort of thing, Andy ? " he 
asked. " Oh, you know what I mean what you've 
been doin' to-day." 

" Yes, I like it, Jack." Andy saw that his dear 
old friend dear Nancy's brother had something 
of moment on his mind. 

"But it don't count in the end. It's not busi- 
ness, Andy." Jack's tone had become, suddenly 
and strangely, persuasive, reasonably persuasive 
almost what one might call coaxing. 

" I've never considered it in the light of business, 
Jack." 

" Don't let it turn you from business, Andy. 
You said the timber was worth about two hundred 
a year to you ? " 

" About that ; it'll be more or less before 
I'm six months older. It's sink or swim, you 
know." 

" You've no call to sink," said Jack Rock with 






126 SECOND STRING. 

emphasis. "Your father's son ain't goin' to sink 
while Jack Rock can throw a lifebelt to him." 

" I know. Jack. I'd ask you for half your 
last crust, and you'd soak it in milk for me as 
you used to if you had to steal the milk ! But 
well, what's up ? " 

"I'm gettin' on in life, boy. I've enough to 
do with the horses. I do uncommon well with 
the horses. I've a mind to give myself to 
that. Not but what I like the meat. Still I've 
a mind to give myself to the horses. The meat's 
worth Oh, I'll surprise you, Andy, and don't let 
it go outside o' this room the meat's worth nigh 
on five hundred a year ! Aye, nigh on that ! 
The chilled meat don't touch me much, nor the 
London stores neither. Year in, year out, nigh 
on ^five hundred ! Nancy loved you ; the old 
gentleman never said a word as showed he knew 
a difference between me and him. Though he 
must have known it. I'm all alone, Andy. While 
I can I'll keep the horses Lord, I love the 
horses ! You drop your timber. Take over the 
meat, Andy. You're a learnin' chap ; you'll soon 
pick it up from me and Simpson. Take over the 
meat, Andy. It's a safe five hundred a year ! " 

So he pleaded to have his great benefaction 
accepted. He had meant to give in a manner 
perhaps somewhat magnificent ; what he gave was 



THE WORLDS OF MERITON. 127 

to him great. The news of tea and tennis at 
Nutley, of dinner at Halton, induced a new note. 
Proud still, yet he pleaded. It was a fine business 
the meat ! Nor chilled meat, nor stores mattered 
seriously ; his connection was so high-class. Five 
hundred a year ! It was luxury, position, import- 
ance ; it was all these in Meriton. His eyes 
waited anxiously for Andy's answer. 

Andy caught his hand across the table. c< Dear 
old Jack, how splendid of you ! " 

"Well, lad?" 

For the life of him Andy could say nothing 
more adequate, nothing less disappointing, less 
ungrateful, than " I'd like to think it over. And 
thanks, Jack ! " 






Chapter VII. 
ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 

ANDY HAYES had never supposed that he 
would be the victim of a problem, or ex- 
posed to the necessity of a momentous choice. 
Life had hitherto been very simple to him doing 
his work, taking his pay, spending the money 
frugally and to the best advantage, sparing a small 
percentage for the Savings Bank, and reconciling 
with this programme the keen enjoyment of such 
leisure hours as fell to his lot. A reasonable, 
wholesome, manageable scheme of life ! Or, rather, 
not a scheme at all Andy was no schemer. That 
was the way life came the way an average man 
saw it and accepted it. From first to last he 
never lost the conception of himself as an average 
man, having his capabilities, yet strictly conditioned 
by the limits of the practicable ; free in his soul, 
by no means perfectly free in his activities. Andy 
never thought in terms of " environment " or 
such big words, but he always had a strong sense 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 129 

of what a fellow like himself could expect ; the 
two phrases may, perhaps, come to much the same 
thing. 

In South Africa he had achieved his sergeant's 
stripes not a commission, nor the Victoria Cross, 
nor anything brilliant. In Canada he had not 
become a millionaire, nor even a prosperous man 
or a dashing speculator ; he had been thought a 
capable young fellow, who would, perhaps, be 
equal to developing the English side of the busi- 
ness. Andy might be justified in holding himself 
no fool : he had no ground for higher claims, no 
warrant for anything like ambition. 

Thus unaccustomed to problems, he had ex- 
pected to toss uneasily (he had read of many 
heroes who "tossed uneasily") on his bed all 
night through. Lawn-tennis and a good dinner 
saved him from that romantic but uncomfortable 
ordeal ; he slept profoundly till eight-thirty. Just 
before he was called probably between his land- 
lady's knock and her remark that it was eight- 
fifteen (she was late herself) he had a brief vivid 
dream of selling a very red joint of beef to a very 
pallid Vivien Wellgood a fantastic freak of the 
imagination which could have nothing to do with 
the grave matter in hand. 

Yet, on the top of this, as he lay abed awhile 
in the leisure of Sunday morning, with no train 



1 30 SECOND STRING. 

to catch, he remembered his father's B.A. Oxon ; 
he recalled his mother's unvarying designation 
of old Jack as " the butcher ; " he recollected 
Nancy's pride in marrying " out of her class " 
it had been her own phrase, sometimes in boast, 
sometimes in apology. Though Nancy had a 
dowry of a hundred pounds a year charged on 
the business, and now returned to Jack Rock since 
Nancy left no children she never forgot that she 
had married out of her class. And into his 
father's ? And into his own ? " I'm a snob ! " 
groaned Andy. 

He grew a little drowsy again, and in his 
drowsiness again played tennis at Nutley, again 
dined at Halton, again saw Vivien in the butcher's 
shop, and again was told by Mr. Belfield not to 
undervalue himself. But is to take nigh on five 
hundred pounds a year to undervalue yourself you 
who are making a precarious two ? And where lies 
the difference between selling wood and selling meat 
wood from Canada and meat in Meriton ? Andy's 
broad conception of the world told him that there 
was none ; his narrow observation of the same 
sphere convinced him that the difference was, in 
its practical bearings, considerable. Nay, confine 
yourself to meat alone : was there no difference 
between importing cargoes of that questionable 
" chilled " article and disposing of joints of un- 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 131 

questionable " home-bred " over the counter ? All 
the argument was for the home-bred. But to 
sell the home-bred joints one wore a blue apron 
and carried a knife and a steel or, at all events, 
smacked of doing these things ; whereas the 
wholesale cargoes of " chilled " involved no such 
implements or associations. Once again, Canada 
was Canada, New Zealand New Zealand, Meriton 
Meriton. With these considerations mingled two 
pictures dinner at Halton, and Jack Rock's con- 
vivial party. 

" I'll get up," said Andy, too sore beset by his 
problem to lie abed any more. 

Church ! The bells rang almost as soon as 
Andy he had dawdled and lounged over dressing 
and breakfast in Sunday's beneficent leisure was 
equipped for the day. In Meriton everybody went 
to Church, except an insignificant, tolerated, almost 
derided minority who frequented a very small, 
very ugly Methodist chapel in a by-street for 
towns like Meriton are among the best preserves 
of the Establishment. Andy always went to church 
on a Sunday morning, answering the roll-call, 
attending parade, accepting the fruits of his fathers' 
wisdom, as his custom was. " Church, and a slice 
of that cold beef, and then a jolly long walk ! " 
he said to himself. He had a notion that this 
typical English Sunday the relative value of 



132 SECOND STRING. 

whose constituents he did not, and we need not, 
e:*actly assess might help him to settle his problem. 
The cold beef and the long walk made part of the 
day's character the "Church" completed it. 
This was Andy's feeling ; it is not, of course, put 
forward as what he ought to have felt. 

So Andy went to church in a cut-away coat 
and a tall hat, though it drizzled, and he would 
sooner have been in a felt hat, impervious to the 
rain. He sat just half-way down the nave, and 
it must be confessed that his attention wandered. 
He had such a very important thing to settle in 
this world ; it would not go out of his mind, 
though he strove to address himself to the issues 
which the service suggested. He laboured under 
the disadvantage of not being conscious of flagrant 
iniquity, though he duly confessed himself a 
miserable offender. He looked round on the 
neighbours he knew so well ; they were all con- 
fessing that they were miserable offenders. Andy 
believed it it was in the book but he considered 
most of them to be good and honest people, and 
he was almost glad to see that they did not look 
hopelessly distressed over their situation. 

The First Lesson caught and chained his 
wandering attention. It was about David and 
Jonathan ; it contained the beautiful lament of 
friend for friend, the dirge of a brotherly love. 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 133 

The Rector's voice was rather sing-song, but it 
would have needed a worse delivery to spoil the 
words : " How are the mighty fallen in the midst 
of the battle ! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in 
thine high places ! I am distressed for thee, my 
brother Jonathan : very pleasant hast thou been 
unto me ; thy love for me was wonderful, passing 
the love of women. How are the mighty fallen 
and the weapons of war perished ! " Thus ended 
the song, so rich in splendour, so charged with 
sorrow. 

" Clinking ! " was Andy's inward comment. 
Then in a flash came the thought, "Why, of 
course, I must ask Harry Belfield ; he'll tell me 
what to do all right." 

The reference of his problem to Harry ought 
to have disposed of it for good, and left Andy 
free to perform his devotions with a single mind. 
But it only set him wondering what Harry would 
decide, wondering hard andthere was no escaping 
from it jealously. His service in the ranks, 
his residence in communities at least professedly 
democratic, had not made him a thorough demo- 
crat, it seemed. He might have acquired the side 
of democracy the easier of the two to acquire ; 
he might be ready to call any man his equal, what- 
ever his station or his work. He stumbled at the 
harder task of seeing himself, whatever his work 



i 3 4 SECOND STRING. 

or station, as any man's equal at claiming or 
assuming, not at according, equality. And in 
Meriton ! To claim or assume equality with any 
and every man in Meriton would, if he accepted 
Jack Rock's offer, be to court ridicule from equals 
and unequals all alike, and most of all from his 
admitted inferiors. Surely Harry would never 
send him to the butcher's shop ? That would 
mean that Harry thought of him (for all his kind- 
ness) as of Chinks or of the Bird. Could he risk 
discovering that, after all, Harry and Harry's 
friends thought of him like that ? A sore pang 
struck him. Had he been at Nutley at Halton 
only on sufferance ? He had an idea that Harry 
would send him to the butcher's shop would do 
the thing ever so kindly, ever so considerately, 
but all the same would do it. "Well, it's the 
safe thing, isn't it, old chap ? " he fancied Harry 
saying ; and then returning to his own high 
ambitions, and being thereafter very friendly 
whenever he chanced to pass the shop. Andy 
never deceived himself as to the quality of Harry's 
friendship : it lay, at the most, in appreciative 
acceptance of unbounded affection. It was not 
like Jonathan's for David. Andy was content. 
And must not acceptance, after all, breed some 
return ? For whatever return came he was 
grateful. In this sphere there was no room 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 135 

even for theories of equality, let alone for its 
practice. 

For some little time back Andy had been sur- 
prised to observe a certain attribute of his own 
that of pretty often turning out right. He ac- 
counted for it by saying that an average man, 
judging of average men and things, would fairly 
often be right on an average ; men would do 
what he expected, things would go as he expected 
on an average. Such discernment as was im- 
plied in this Andy felt as no endowment, no 
clairvoyance ; rather it was that his limitations 
qualified him to appreciate other people's. He 
would have liked to feel able to except Harry 
Belfield who should have no limitations only 
he felt terribly sure of what Harry Belfield would 
say : Safety, and the shop ! 

By this time the church service was ended, the 
cold beef eaten, most of the long walk achieved. 
For while these things went straight on to an end, 
Andy's thoughts rolled round and round, like a 
squirrel in a cage. 

" A man's only got one life," Andy was think- 
ing to himself for the hundredth time as, having 
done his fifteen miles, he came opposite the entry 
to Nutley on his way home after his walk. What 
a lot of thoughts and memories there had been 
on that walk ! Walking alone, a man is the victim 



136 SECOND STRING. 

or the beneficiary of any number of stray 
recollections, ideas, or fancies. He had even 
thought of and smiled over sardonic Miss 
Button's sardonic remark that he was worth ten 
of either Billy Foot or Harry Belfield ! Well, 
the poor girl had come one cropper ; allowances 
must be made. 

Cool, serene, with what might appear to the 
eyes of less happy people an almost insolently 
secure possession of fortune's favour, Harry Bel- 
field stood at Nutley gate. Andy, hot and dusty, 
winced at being seen by him ; Harry was so 
remote from any disarray. Andy's heart leapt at 
the sight of his friend and seemed to stand still 
in the presence of his judge. Because the thing 
the problem must come out directly. There was 
no more possibility of shirking it. 

Vivien was flitting her touch of the ground 
seemed so light down the drive, past the deep 
dark water, to join Harry for a stroll. His invita- 
tion to a stroll on that fine still Sunday afternoon 
had not been given without significance nor re- 
ceived without a thousand tremblings. So it would 
appear that it was Andy's ill-fortune to interrupt. 

Harry was smoking. He took his cigar out 
of his mouth to greet Andy. 

" Treadmill again, old boy ? Getting the fat 
off?" 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 137 

"You're the one man I wanted to see." Then 
Andy's face fell ; it was an awful moment. " I 
want to ask your advice." 

" Look sharp ! " said Harry, smiling, " I've 
an appointment. She'll be here any minute." 

"Jack Rock's offered to turn the shop over to 
me, as soon as I learn the business. I say, I I 
suppose I ought to accept ? He says it's worth 
hard on five hundred a year. I say, keep that 
dark ; he told me not to tell anybody." 

" Gad, is it ? " said Harry, and whistled softly. 

Vivien came in sight of him, and walked more 
slowly, dallying with anticipation. 

" Splendid of him, isn't it ? I say, I suppose 
I ought to to think it over ? " He had been 
doing nothing else for what seemed eternity. 

Harry laughed that merry irresponsible laugh 
of his. " Blue suits your complexion, Andy. It 
seems damned funny but five hundred a year ! 
Worth that, is it now, really ? And he'd probably 
leave you anything else he has." 

Silently-flitting Vivien was just behind Harry 
now. Andy saw her, Harry was unaware of her 
presence. She laid her finger on her lips, making 
a confidant of Andy, in her joy at a trick on her 
lover. 

" Of course it well, it sort of defines matters 
ties you down, eh?" Harry's laugh broke out 



138 SECOND STRING. 

again. "Andy, old boy, you'll look infernally 
funny, pricing joints to old Dove or Miss 
Pink ! Oh, I say, I don't think you can do it, 
Andy!" 

" Don't you, Harry ? " Andy's tone was eager, 
beseeching, full of hope. 

"But I suppose you ought." Harry tried to 
be grave, and chuckled again. "You'd look it 
uncommon well, you know. You'd soon develop 
the figure. Old Jack never has doesn't look as 
if his own steaks did him any good. But you 
we'd send you to Smithfield in no time ! " 

" What are you two talking about ? " asked 
Vivien suddenly. 

" Oh, there you are at last ! Why, the funniest 
thing ! Old Andy here wants to be a butcher." 

" I don't want " Andy began. 

" A butcher ! What nonsense you do talk 
sometimes, Harry ! " She stood by Harry's side, 
so happy in him, so friendly to Andy. 

" Fact ! " said Harry, and acquainted her with 
the situation. 

Vivien blushed red. " I I'm very sorry I said 
what what I did to you. You remember ? " 

" Oh yes, I remember," said Andy. 

" Of course I I never knew I never thought 
Of course, somebody must Oh, do forgive me, 
Mr. Hayes ! " 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 139 

Harry raised his brows in humorous astonish- 
ment. "All this is a secret to me." 

"I I told Mr. Hayes I didn't like well- 
places where they sold meat raw meat, Harry." 

"What do you think really, Harry?" Andy 
asked. 

Harry shrugged his shoulders. " Your choice, 
old man," he said. "You've looked at all sides 
of it, of course. It's getting latish, Vivien." 

Andy would almost rather have had the verdict 
which he feared. " Your choice, old man "and 
a shrug of the shoulders. Yet his loyalty inter- 
vened to tell him that Harry was right. It was 
his choice, and must be. He found Vivien's eyes 
on him those distant, considering eyes. 

" I suppose you couldn't give me an opinion, 
Miss Wellgood ? " he asked, mustering a smile 
with some difficulty. 

Vivien's lips drooped ; her eyes grew rather sad 
and distinctly remote. She gave no judgment ; 
she merely uttered a regret a regret in which 
social and personal prejudice (it could not be ac- 
quitted of that) struggled with kindliness for 
Andy. 

" Oh, I thought you were going to be a friend 
of ours," she murmured sadly. She gave Andy 
a mournful little nod of farewell of final farewell, 
as it seemed to his agitated mind and walked off 






140 SECOND STRING. 

with Harry, who was still looking decidedly 
amused. 

That our great crises can have an amusing side 
even in the eyes of those who wish us well is one 
of life's painful discoveries. Andy had expected 
to be told that he must accept Jack Rock's offer, 
but he had not thought that Harry would chaff 
him about it. He tried, in justice to Harry and 
in anxiety not to feel sore with his hero, to see 
the humorous side for himself. He admitted that 
he could not. A butcher was no more ridiculous 
than any other tradesman. Well, the comic papers 
were rather fond of putting in butchers, for some 
inscrutable reason. Perhaps Harry happened to 
think of some funny picture. Could that idea 
give Andy a rag of comfort to wrap about his 
wound ? The comfort was of indifferent quality ; 
the dressing made the wound smart. 

He was alone in the road again, gay Harry and 
dainty Vivien gone, thinking little of him by now, 
no doubt. Yes, the choice must be his own. On 
one side lay safety for him and joy for old Jack ; 
on the other a sore blow to Jack, and for himself 
the risk of looking a sad fool if he came to grief 
in London. So far the choice appeared easy. 

But that statement of the case left out every- 
thing that really tugged at Andy's heart. For the 
first time in his existence he was, vaguely and 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 141 

dimly, trying to conceive and to consider his life 
as a whole, and asking what he meant to do with 
it. Acutest self-reproach assailed him ; he accused 
himself inwardly of many faults and follies of 
ingratitude, of snobbishness, of a ridiculous self- 
conceit. Wasn't it enough for a chap like him 
to earn a good living honestly ? Oughtn't he to 
be thankful for the chance ? What did he expect 
anyhow ? He was very scornful with himself, 
fiercely reproving all the new stirrings in him, yet 
at the same time trying to see what they came to ; 
trying to make out what they, in their turn, asked, 
what they meant, what would content them. He 
could not satisfy himself what the stirrings meant 
nor whence they came. When he asked what 
would content them he could get only a negative 
answer ; keeping the shop in Meriton would not. 
In regard neither to what it entailed nor to what 
it abandoned could the stirrings find contentment 
in that. 

He had been walking along slowly and moodily. 
Suddenly he quickened his pace ; his steps became 
purposeful. He was going to Jack Rock's. Jack 
would be just having his tea, or smoking the pipe 
that always followed it. 

Jack sat in his armchair. Tea was finished, and 
his pipe already alight. When he saw Andy's 
face he chuckled. 




i 4 2 SECOND STRING. 

" Ah, that's how I like to see you look, lad ! " 
he exclaimed joyfully. "Not as you did when 
you went away last night." 

"Why, how do I look ?" asked Andy, amazed 
at this greeting. 

"As if you'd just picked up a thousand pound ; 
and so you have, and better than that." 

All unknown to himself, Andy's face had an- 
swered to his feelings to the sense of escape 
from bondage, of liberty restored, of possibilities 
once more within his reach. The renewed light- 
ness of his heart had made his face happy 
and triumphant. But it fell with a vengeance 
now. 

"Well?" asked Jack, to whom the change of 
expression was bewildering. 

"I'm sorry I've never been so sorry in my 
life_but I I can't do it, Jack." 

Jack sat smoking silently for a while. "That 
was what you were lookin' so happy about, was 
it ? " he asked at last, with a wry smile. " I've 
never afore seen a man so happy over chuckin' 
away five hundred a year. Where does the fun 
come in, Andy ? " 

"O lord, Jack, I can't I can't tell you about 
it. I" 

" But if it does do you all that good, I suppose 
you've got to do it." 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 143 

Andy came up to him, holding out his hand. 
Jack took it and gave it a squeeze. 

" I reckon I know more about it than you think. 
I've been goin' over things since last night and 
goin' back to old things too about the old gentle- 
man and Nancy." 

" It seems so awfully Lord, it seems every- 
thing that's bad and rotten. Jack." 

"No, it don't," said old Jack quietly. "It's 
a bit of a facer for me I tell you that straight 
but it don't seem unnatural in you. Only I'm 
sorry like." 

" If there was anything in the world I could do, 
Jack ! But there it is there isn't." 

" I'm not so sure about that." He was- smoking 
very slowly, and seemed to be thinking hard. 
Andy lit a cigarette. His joy was quenched in 
sympathy with Jack. 

"You've given me a disappointment, Andy. 
I'm not denyin' it. But there, I can't expect 
you to feel about the business as I do. Comin' 
to me from my father, and havin' been the work 
o' the best years of my life ! And no better 
business in any town of the size o' Meriton all 
the country through I'll wager that ! No, you 
can't feel as I do. And you've a right to choose 
your own life. There's one thing you might do 
for me, Andy, though." 




i 4 4 SECOND STRING. 

" Well, if there's anything else in the world" 

" I loved Nancy better than anybody, and the 
old gentleman well, as I've told you, he never 
let me see a difference. I've got no kin unless 
I can call you kin, Andy. If you want to make 
up for givin' me this bit of of a facer, as 1 say, 
I'll tell you what you can do. There's times in 
a young chap's life when bein' able to put up 
a bit o' the ready makes all the difference, eh ? 
If so be as you should find yourself placed like that, 
I want you to promise to ask me for it. Will you, 
lad ? " Jack's voice faltered for a moment. " No 
call for you to go back across half the world for 
it. It's here, waitin' for you in Martin's bank in 
High Street. If you ever want to enter for an 
event, let me put up the stakes for you, Andy. 
Promise me that, and we'll say no more about 
the shop." 

Andy was touched to the heart. " I promise. 
There's my hand on it, Jack." 

" You'll come to me first you won't go to any 
one before me ? " old Jack insisted jealously. 

" I'll come to you first and last," said Andy. 

"Aye, lad." The old fellow's eyes gleamed 
again. " Then it'll be our race. We'll both be in 
it, won't we, Andy ? And if you pass the post first, 
I shall have a right to throw up my hat. And why 
shouldn't you ? The favourite don't always win." 






ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 145 

" I'm not expecting to do anything remarkable, 
Jack. I'm not such a fool as that." 

" You're no fool, or you'd never have been put 
to the trouble of refusin' my shop," observed Jack 
with emphasis, "And in the end I'm not sure 
but what you're right. I've never tried to rise 
above where I was born ; but I don't know as 
there's any call for you to step down. I don't 
know as I did my duty by the old gentleman in 
temptin' you. I'm not sure he'd have liked it, 
though he'd have said nothing ; he'd never have 
let me see not him ! " He sighed and smiled 
over his reverential memories of the old gentleman, 
yet his eyes twinkled rather maliciously as he said 
to Andy, " Dinin' at Halton again to-night ? " 

" No," laughed Andy, " I'm not. I'm coming 
to supper with you if you'll have me. What 
have you got?" 

" Cold boiled aitch-bone, and apple-pie, and a 
Cheshire in good condition." 

" Oh, that's prime ! But I must go and change 
first. I've walked fifteen or sixteen miles, and 
I must get into a clean shirt." 

" We don't dress for supper not o' Sundays," 
Jack informed him gravely. 

" Oh, get out, Jack ! " called Andy from the 
door. 

" Supper at nine precise, carriages at eleven," 



1 46 SECOND STRING. 

Jack called after him, pursuing his joke to the 
end with keen relish. 

Andy walked back to his lodgings, in the old 
phrase " happy as a king," and infinitely the happier 
because old Jack had taken it so well, had under- 
stood, and, though disappointed, had not been hurt 
or wounded. There was no breach in their affection 
or in their mutual confidence. And now, he felt, 
he had to justify himself in Jack's eyes, to justify 
his refusal of a safe five hundred pounds a year. 
The refusal became, as he thought over it, a spur 
to effort, to action. " I must put my back into 
it," said Andy to himself, and made up his mind 
to most strenuous exertions to develop that rather 
shy and coy timber business of his in London. 

Yet, after he had changed, as he sat listening to 
the church bells ringing for evening service, a softer 
strain of meditation mingled with these stern re- 
solves. Memories of his " Saturday-off " glided 
across his mind, echoes of this evening's encounter 
with Harry and Vivien sounded in his ears. There 
was, as old Jack Rock himself had ended by 
suggesting, no call for him to step down. He 
could take the place for which he was naturally 
fit. He need not renounce that side of life of 
which he had been allowed a glimpse so attractive 
and so full of interest. The shop in Meriton 
would have opened the door to one very comfort- 



ENTERING FOR THE RACE. 147 

able little apartment. How many doors would it 
not have shut ? All doors were open now. 

" I thought you were going to be a friend of 
ours." Andy, sitting in the twilight, listening 
to the bells, smiled at the echo of those regretful 
words. He cherished their kindliness, and smiled 
at their prejudice. The shop and Vivien were 
always connected in his mind since the first day 
he had met her. Her words came back to him 
now, summing up all that he would have lost by 
acceptance, hinting pregnantly at all that his refusal 
might save or bring. 

He stretched his arms and yawned ; mind and 
body both enjoyed a happy relaxation after effort. 

"What a week-end it's been!" he thought. 
Indeed it had a week-end that was the beginning 
of many things. 



Chapter VIII. 
WONDERFUL WORDS. 

"pULLY aware of his son's disposition and partly 
acquainted with his experiences, Mr. Belfield 
had urged Harry to "go slow" in his courting 
of Vivien Wellgood. An opinion that marriage 
was Harry's best chance was not inconsistent with 
advising that any particular marriage should be 
approached with caution and due consideration, 
that a solid basis of affection should be raised, 
calculated to stand even though the winds of time 
carried away the lighter and more fairy -like 
erections of Harry's romantic fancy. To do 
Harry justice, he did his best to obey the paternal 
counsel ; but ideas of speed in such matters, and 
of cautious consideration, differ. What to Harry 
was sage delay would have seemed to many others 
lighthearted impetuosity. He waited a full fort- 
night after he was absolutely sure of well, of the 
wonderful thing he was so sure of a fortnight 
after he was absolutely sure that Vivien was 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 



149 



absolutely sure also. (The fortnights ran con- 
currently.) Then he began to feel rather foolish. 
What on earth was he waiting for ? A man could 
not be more than absolutely sure. Yet perhaps, 
in pure deference to his father, he would have 
waited a week longer, and so achieved, or sunk 
to, an almost cold-blooded deliberation. (He had 
known Mrs. Freere only a week before he declared 
and abjured a passion!) He was probably 
right ; it was no good waiting. No greater 
security could be achieved by that. Whether 
the pursuit were deliberate or impetuous, an end 
must come to it. It was afterwards when the 
chase was over and the quarry won that the 
danger came for Harry and men like him. Sage 
delay and a solid basis of affection could not 
obviate that peril ; the born hunter would still 
listen to the horn that sounded a new chase. 
Somewhere in the world so the theory ran 
there must live the woman who could deafen 
Harry's ears to a fresh blast of the horn. On 
that theory monogamy depends for its personal 
as distinguished from its social -justification. 
So Mr. Belfield reasoned, with a smile, and 
counselled delay. But there were no means of 
ransacking the world, and even the theory itself 
was doubtful. Harry was an eager advocate of 
the theory, but thought that there was no need 



150 SECOND STRING. 

to search beyond little Meriton for the woman. 
At any rate, if Meriton did not hold her, she did 
not exist the theory stood condemned. Still 
he would wait one week more to please his 
father. 

A thing happened, a word was spoken, the like 
of which he had never anticipated. To defend 
himself laughingly against comparisons with the 
proverbial Lothario, to protest with burlesque ear- 
nestness against charges of susceptibility, fickleness, 
and extreme boldness of assault Harry played 
that part well, and was well-accustomed to play 
it. But to suffer a challenge, to endure a taunt, 
to be subjected to a sneer, as a slow-coach, a faint- 
heart, a boy afraid to tell a girl he loved her, 
afraid to snatch what he desired! This was a 
new experience for Harry Belfield, new and un- 
bearable. And when he had only been trying 
to please his father ! Hang this pleasing of one's 
father, if it leads to things like that ! 

He dashed up to Nutley one fine afternoon on 
his bicycle ; he was teaching Vivien the exercise, 
and she was finding that even peril had its charms. 
But he was late for his appointment. Isobel 
Vintry sat alone on the terrace by the water. 

" How are you, Miss Vintry ? I say, I'm afraid 
I'm late. Where's Vivien ? " 

" You're nearly half an hour late." 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 151 

"Well, I know. I couldn't help it. Where 
is she?" 

" She got tired of waiting for you, and went for 
a walk in the wood." 

" She might have waited." 

" Well, yes. One would think she'd be accus- 
tomed to it by now," said Isobel. Her tone was 
lazily indolent, but her eyes were set on him 
in mockery. 

Harry looked at her with a sudden alertness. 
He looked at her hard. " Accustomed to waiting 
for me ? " 

" Yes." She was exasperating in her malicious 
tranquillity, meaning more than she said, saying 
nothing that he could lay hold of, quite grave, 
and laughing at him. 

" Any hidden meanings, Miss Vintry ? " For, as 
a fact, Harry had generally been punctual, and 
knew it. 

"Nothing but what's quite obvious," she re- 
torted, dexterously fencing. 

" Or ought to be, to a man not so slow as 
lam?" 

" You slow, Mr. Harry 1 You're Meriton's 
ideal of reckless dash ! " 

" Meriton's ? " 

" That's the name of the town, isn't it ? Or did 
you think I said London's ? " 



152 SECOND STRING. 

Harry laughed, but he was stung ; she put 
him on his mettle. " Oh no, I understood your 
emphasis." 

" You needn't keep her waiting any longer 
while you talk about nothing to me. You'll find 
her in the west wood if you want to. She left 
you that message." 

Harry had no doubt of what she meant, yet she 
had not spoken a word of it. The saying goes 
that words are given us to conceal our thoughts ; 
has anybody ever ventured to say that lips and eyes 
are ? Her meaning carried without speech ; under- 
standing it, Harry took fire. 

" I won't be late again, Miss Vintry," he said. 
" It would be a pity to disappoint Meriton in its 
ideal ! " 

He would have liked to speak to her for a 
moment sincerely, to ask her if she really thought 
But no, it could not be risked. She would make 
him feel and look ridiculous. Asking her opinion 
about the right moment to to to come up to the 
scratch (he could find no more dignified phrase) ! 
Her eyes would never let him hear the end of that. 

"Still lingering?" she said, stifling a yawn. 
" While poor Vivien waits ! " 

There are unregenerate atavistic impulses ; Harry 
would dearly have liked to box her ears. " Meri- 
ton's ideal " rankled horribly. What business was 






WONDERFUL WORDS. 153 

it of hers ? It could not concern her in the least 
a conclusion which made matters worse, since 
disinterested criticism is much the more formidable. 

" I can find her in a few minutes." 

" Oh yes, if you look ! Shall you be back to 
tea ? " 

" Yes, we'll be back to tea, Miss Vintry. Both 
of us together ! " 

Isobel smiled lazily again. " Come, you are 
going to make an effort. Nothing of the laggard 
now ! " 

" Oh, that's the word you've been thinking suits 
me ? " 

" It really will if you don't get to the west wood 
soon." 

" I'll get there and be back in half an hour." 

The one thing he could not endure was that any 
woman above all, an attractive woman should 
find in him, Harry Belfield, anything that was 
ridiculous. She might chide, she might admire ; 
laugh she must not, or her laugh should straight- 
way be confounded. Isobel's hint that he had 
been a laggard in love banished, in a moment, 
the uncongenial prudence which he had been 
enforcing on himself. 

She watched him with a contemptuous smile as 
he strode off on his quest. Why had she mocked, 
why had she hinted ? In part for pure mockery's 




154 SECOND STRING. 

sake. She found a malicious pleasure in giving his 
complacency a dig, in shaking up his settled good 
opinion of himself. In part from sheer impatience 
of the simple obvious love affair, to which she was 
called by her situation to play witness, chaperon, 
and practically accomplice. It was quite clear how 
it was going to end better have the end at once 1 
Her smile of contempt had been not so much for 
Harry as for the business on which he was en- 
gaged ; yet Harry had his share of it, since her 
veiled banter had such power to move him. But 
that same thing in him had its fascination ; there 
was a great temptation to exercise her power when 
the man succumbed to it so easily. In this case 
she had used it only to send him a little faster 
whither he was going already ; but did that touch 
the limits of it ? 

So she speculated within herself, yet not quite 
candidly. Her feeling for Harry was far from 
being all contempt. She mocked him with her 
" Meriton ideal," but she was not independent 
of the Meriton standard herself. To her as to 
the rest of his neighbours he was a bright star ; 
to her as to them his looks, his charm, his accom- 
plishments appealed. In her more than in most 
of them his emotions, so ready and quick to take 
fire, found a counterpart. To her more than to 
most of them indifference from him seemed in 






WONDERFUL WORDS. 155 

some sort a slight, a slur, a mark of failure. 
Unconsciously she had fallen into the Meriton 
way of thinking that notice from Harry Belfield 
was a distinction, his favour a thing marking off 
the recipient from less happy mortals. She had 
received little notice and little favour a crumb 
or two of flirtation, flung from Vivien's rich table ! 

To Vivien, after all the person most intimately 
concerned, Harry had seemed no laggard ; she 
would have liked him none the worse if he had 
shown more of that quality. Nothing that he 
did could be wrong, but some things could be 
and were alarming. Her fastidiousness was not 
hurt, but her timidity was aroused. She feared 
crises, important moments, the crossing of Rubicons, 
even when the prospect looked fair and delightful 
on the other side of the stream. 

To-day, in the west wood, the crossing had to 
be made. It by no means follows that the man 
who falls in love lightly makes love lightly ; he 
is as much possessed by the feeling he has come 
by so easily as though it were the one passion 
of a lifetime. In his short walk from Isobel 
Vintry's side to Vivien's, Harry's feelings had 
found full time to rise to boiling-point. Isobel 
was far out of his mind ; already it seemed to 
him inconceivable that he should not, all along, 
have meant to make his proposal to declare his 



156 SECOND STRING. 

love to-day. How could he have thought to 
hold it in for an hour longer ? 

" I know I was late, Vivien," he said. " I'm so 
sorry. But well, I half believe I was on pur- 
pose." He was hardly saying what was untrue ; 
he was corning to half-believe it or very nearly. 

" On purpose ! O Harry ! Didn't you want 
to give me my lesson to-day ? " 

" Not in bicycling," he answered, his eyes set 
ardently on her face. 

She was sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, 
which had been stripped of its bark and shaped 
into a primitive bench. He sat down by her 
and took her hand. 

" Your hand shakes ! What's the matter ? 
You're not afraid of me ? " 

"Not of you no, not of you, Harry." 

" Of something then ? Is it of something I 
might do or say ? " He raised her hand to his 
lips and kissed it. 

It was no use trying to get answers out of her ; 
she was past that ; but she did not turn away from 
him, she let her eyes meet his in a silent appeal. 

"Vivien, I love you more than all my life ! " 

"You you can't," he could just hear her 
murmur, her lips scarcely parted. 

" More than everything in the world besides ! " 

What wonderful words they were. " More 



I 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 157 

than everything in the world besides ! " " More 
than all my life ! " Could there be such words ? 
Could she have heard and Harry uttered them ? 
Her hands trembled violently in his ; she was sore 
afraid amidst bewildering joy. Anything she had 
foreshadowed in her dreams seemed now so faint, 
so poor, against marvellous reality. Surely the 
echo of the wonderful words would be in her 
ears for all her life ! 

She had none wherewith to answer them ; her 
hands were his already ; for the tears in her eyes 
she could hardly see his face, but she turned her 
lips up to his in mute consent. 

" That makes you mine," said Harry, " and me 
your s y ours only for ever." 

She released her hands from his, and put her 
arm under his arm. Still she said nothing, but 
now she smiled beneath her dim eyes, and pressed 
his arm. 

" Not frightened now ?" he asked softly. "You 
need never be frightened again." 

She spoke at last just to say " No " very softly, 
yet with a wealth of confident happiness. 

" The things we'll do, the things we'll see, the 
times we'll have ! " cried Harry gaily. " And to 
think that it's only a month or two ago that the 
idea occurred to me ! " He teased her. " Oc- 
curred to us, Vivien ?" 






158 SECOND STRING. 

"Oh no, Harry. Well, then, yes." She laughed 
lightly, pressing his arm again. " But never that 
it could be like this." 

" Is this nice ? " he asked in banter. 

" Is it real ? " she whispered. 

"Yes, it's real and it's nice real nice, in fact," 
laughed Harry. 

" Don't talk just for a little while," she begged, 
and he humoured her, watching her delicate face 
during the silence she entreated. " You must tell 
them," she said suddenly, with a return of her 
alarm. 

" Oh yes, I'll do all the hard work," he promised 
her, smiling. 

She fell into silence again, the wonderful words 
re-echoing in her ears " More than everything in 
the world besides ! " " More than all my life ! " 

" I promised Miss Vintry we'd be back to tea. 
Do you think you can face her ? " asked Harry. 

" Yes, with you. But you've got to tell. You 
promised." 

" You'll have somebody to help you over all the 
stiles now and hereafter." 

The suggestion brought a radiant smile of 
happiness to her lips ; it expressed to her the 
transformation of her life. So many things had 
been stiles to her, and her father's gospel was 
that people must get over their own stiles for 






WONDERFUL WORDS. 



themselves ; that was the lesson he inculcated, 
with Isobel Vintry to help him. But now well, 
if stiles were still possible things at all, with Harry 
to help her over they lost all their terrors. 

"We'll remember this old tree-trunk. In fact 
I think that the proper thing is to carve our initials 
on it two hearts and our initials. That's real 
keeping company ! " 

"Oh no," she protested with a merry little 
laugh. " Keeping company 1 Harry ! " 

" Well, I'll let you off the hearts, but I must 
have the initials very, very small. Do let me 
have the initials ! " 

"Somewhere where nobody will look, nobody 
be likely to see them ! " 

" Oh yes ; I'll find a very secret place ! And 
once a year on the anniversary, if we're here 
we'll come and freshen them up with a penknife." 

He had his out now, and set about his pleasant 
silly task, choosing one end of the tree-trunk, near 
to the ground, where, in fact, nobody who was not 
in the secret would find the record. 

" There you are a beautiful monogram ; c H ' 
and c V ' intertwined. I'm proud of that ! " 

" So am I very proud, Harry ! " she said softly, 
taking his arm as they moved away. Was she not 
blessed among the daughters of women ? To say 
nothing of being the envy of all Meriton ! 




160 SECOND STRING. 

And for Harry the past was all over, the dead 
had buried its dead. The new life- -and the life 
of the new man had begun. 

Wellgood was back from a ride round his farms 
a weekly observance with him. He had been 
grimly encouraging the good husbandmen, badly 
scaring the inefficient, advising them all to keep 
their labourers in order, and their womankind as 
near to reason as could be hoped for. Now he had 
his hour of relaxation over tea. He was a great 
tea-drinker four or five cups made his allowance. 
Tea is often the libertinism of people otherwise 
severe. He leant back in his garden-chair, his 
gaitered legs outstretched, and drank his tea, 
Isobel Vintry replenishing the swiftly-emptied cup. 
She performed the office absent-mindedly with an 
air of detachment which hinted that she would fulfil 
her duties, routine though they might be, but must 
not be expected to think about them. 

"Where's Vivien ?" he asked abruptly. 

" In the west wood with Mr. Harry. He said 
they'd be back for tea." 

" Oh ! " He finished his third cup and handed 
the vessel over to her to be refilled. "Things 
getting on ? " 

" Yes, I think so. Here's your tea." 

" Why do you think so ? Give me another 
lump of sugar." 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 



161 



" Sugar at that rate '11 make you put on too much 
weight. Well, I gave him a hint that the pear 
was ripe." 

You did ? Well, I'm hanged ! " 

" You think I'm very impudent ? " 

" What did you say ? But I daresay you said 
nothing. You've a trick with those eyes of yours, 
Isobel." 

" I've devoted them solely to supervising your 
daughter's education, Mr. Wellgood." 

" Oh yes ! " he chuckled. He liked impudence 
from a woman ; to primitive man Wellgood had 
a good leaven of the primitive it is an agreeable 
provocation. 

" I'll bet you," she said with her challenging 
indolence that seemed to say " Disturb me if you 
can ! " " I'll bet you we hear of the engagement 
in ten minutes." 

" You know a lot about it ! What '11 you 
bet me?" 

"Anything you like from a quarter's salary 
downwards ! " said Isobel. She sat facing the path 
from the west wood. On it she saw two figures, 
arm in arm. Wellgood had his back turned that 
way. The situation was favourable for Isobel's 
bet. 

A light hand in flirtation could not be expected 
from a man to whom the heavy hand the strong 




1 62 SECOND STRING. 

decisive grip was gospel in matters public and 
private. Besides, he had grown impatient ; his 
affair waited on Harry's. 

" From a quarter's salary downwards ? Will you 
bet me a kiss ? " 

" Yes/' she smiled, " if losing means the kiss. 
Because I know I shall win, Mr. Wellgood." 

Harry and Vivien came near, still exalted in 
dreams, the new man and the girl transformed. 
Wellgood had not noticed them, perhaps would 
have forgotten them anyhow. 

" If winning meant the kiss ? " he said. 

" I don't bet as high as that, except on a cer- 
tainty," smiled Isobel. "Another cup ?" 

"No, but I tell you, Isobel " He leant over 
the table towards her. 

" Don't tell me, and don't touch me ! They're 
just behind you, Mr. Wellgood." 

He swore under his breath. A plaguy mean 
trick this of women's defying just when they are 
safe ! He had to play the father and the father- 
in-law to be ; to seem calm, wise, benevolent, 
paternally affectionate, patronizing to young love 
from the sage eminence of years that he was just, 
a second ago, forgetting. 

Since she had come into his house, to be Vivien's 
companion and exemplar, a year ago, they had had 
many of these rough defiant flirtations. He was 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 163 

not easily snubbed, she not readily frightened. 
They had worked together over Vivien's rather 
severe training in a matter-of-fact way ; but there 
had been this diversion for hours of leisure. Why 
not ? Flirtation of this order was not the con- 
ventional thing between the girl's father and the 
girl's companion. No matter ! They were both 
vigorously self-confident people ; the flirtation 
suited the taste of at least one of them, and served 
the ends of both. 

The near approach of the lovers the imminence 
of a declared engagement made a change. Well- 
good advanced more openly ; Isobel challenged 
and repelled more impudently. The moment for 
which he had waited seemed near at hand ; she 
suffered under an instinctive impulse to prove that 
she too had her woman's power and could use 
it. But, deep down in her mind, the proof was 
more for Harry's enlightenment than for Well- 
good's subjugation. She had an overwhelming 
desire not to appear, in Harry's conquering eyes, a 
negligible neglected woman. She mocked the 
Meriton standard but shared it. 

"Look round!" 

He obeyed her. 

" Arm in arm ! " 

He started, and glowered at the approaching 
couple. Vivien hastily dropped Harry's arm. 



1 64 SECOND STRING. 

"Oh, that's nothing she's just afraid! It's 
settled all the same. And within my ten minutes ! " 

" Aye, you're a ! " He smiled in grim fierce 
admiration. 

" Shall I take three months' notice, Mr. Well- 
good ? " She was lying back in her chair again, 
insolent and serenely defiant. "I might have 
betted after all, and been quite safe," she said. 

Harry victorious in conquest, Vivien with her 
more precious conquest in surrender, were at Well- 
good's elbow. He had to wrench himself away 
from his own devices. 

" Well, what have you got to say, Vivien ? " he 
asked his daughter rather sharply. She was look- 
ing more than usually timid. What was there to 
be frightened at ? 

" She hasn't got anything to say," Harry inter- 
posed gaily. " I'm going to do the talking, 
Are you feeling romantic to-day, Mr. Well- 
good?" 

Wellgood smiled sourly. "You know better 
than to try that on me, Master Harry." 

"Yes ! Well, I'll cut that, but I just want to 
mention as a matter of business, which may affect 
your arrangements that Vivien has promised to 
marry me." 

Vivien had stolen up to her father and now laid 
her hand lightly on his shoulder. He looked at 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 165 

her with a kindly sneer, then patted her hand. 
" You like the fellow, do you, Vivien ? " 

Yes, father." 

" Then I daresay we can fix matters up. Shake 
hands, Harry." 

Vivien kissed his forehead ; the two men shook 
hands. 

" I daresay you're not exactly taken by surprise," 
said Harry, laughing. " I've been calling rather 
often ! " 

" It had struck me that something was up." 

Wellgood was almost genial ; he was really 
highly pleased. The match was an excellent one 
for his daughter ; he liked Harry, despite a lurking 
suspicion that he was " soft ; " and the way now lay 
open for his own plan. 

" You haven't asked me for my congratulations, 
Vivien," said Isobel. 

Vivien went over to her and kissed her, then sat 
down by the table, her eyes fixed on Harry. She 
was very quiet in her happiness ; she felt so peace- 
ful, so secure. Such was the efficacy of those 
wonderful words ! 

"And I wish you all happiness too, Mr. Harry," 
Isobel went on with a smile. " Perhaps you'll for- 
give me if I say that I'm not altogether taken by 
surprise either ? " 

Harry did not quite like her smile ; there seemed 



1 66 SECOND STRING. 

to be a touch of ridicule about it. It covertly 
reminded him of their talk before tea, before he 
went to the west wood. 

" I never had much hope of blinding your eyes, 
so I didn't even try, Miss Vintry." 

" I was thinking it must come to a head soon," 
she remarked. 

Harry flushed ever so slightly. She was hint- 
ing at the laggard in love again ; it almost seemed 
as if she were hinting that she had brought the 
affair to a head. In the west wood he had for- 
gotten her subtle taunt ; he had thought of 
nothing but his passion, and how impatient it was. 
Now he remembered, and knew that he was being 
derided, even in his hour of triumph. He felt 
another impulse of anger against her. This time 
it took the form of a desire to show her that he 
was no fool, not a man a woman could play with 
as she chose. He would like to show her what a 
dangerous game that was. He was glad when, 
having shot her tiny sharp-pointed dart, she rose 
and went into the house. " You'll want to talk it 
all over with Mr. Wellgood ! " He did not want 
to think of her ; only of Vivien. 

" Poor Isobel ! " said Vivien. " She's very nice 
about it, isn't she ? Because she can't really be 
pleased." 

Both men looked rather surprised ; each was 



WONDERFUL WORDS. 167 

roused from his train of thought. Both had been 
thinking about Isobel, but the thoughts of neither 
consorted well with Vivien's " Poor Isobel ! " 

"Why not?" asked Harry. 

" It means the loss of her situation, Harry." 

" Of course ! I never thought of that." 

"Don't you young people be in too great a 
hurry," said Wellgood, with the satisfied smile of 
a man with a secret. "You're not going to be 
married the day after to-morrow ! There's lots of 
time for something to turn up for Isobel. She 
needn't be pitied. Perhaps she may be tired of 
you and your ways, young woman, and glad to 
be rid of her job ! " 

"Lucky there's somebody ready to take her 
place, then, isn't it?" laughed Harry. 

Wellgood laughed too as he rose. " It seems 
very lucky all round," he said, smiling again as he 
left them. He was quite secure that they would 
spend no time in thinking about good luck other 
than their own. 

The lovers sat on beside the water till twilight 
fell, talking of a thousand things, yet always of one 
thing of one thing through which they saw all 
the thousand other things, and saw them trans- 
figured with the radiance of the one. Even the 
bright hues of Harry's future grew a hundredfold 
brighter when beheld through this enchanted 



1 68 SECOND STRING. 

medium, while Vivien's simple ideal of life seemed 
heaven realized. Visions were their only facts, and 
dreams alone their truth. Neither from without 
nor from within could aught harm the airy fabric 
that they built Vivien out of ignorance, Harry by 
help of that fine oblivion of his. 

For a long while Isobel Vintry fled to her 
room lest Wellgood should seek her watched 
them from her window with envious eyes. For 
them the dreams ; for her, most uninspiring 
reality ! At last she turned away with a weary 
impatient shrug. 

"Well, it's a good thing to have it over and 
done with, anyhow ! " she exclaimed, and smiled 
once more to think how she had stung Harry 
Belfield with her insinuations and her " Meriton 
ideal." If we cannot be happy ourselves, it is a 
temptation to make happy people a little un- 
comfortable. In that lies an evidence of power 
consolatory to the otherwise unfortunate. 



Chapter IX. 
"INTERJECTION." 

CETTLING the question of the butcher's shop 
had seemed to Andy Hayes like a final solu- 
tion of life's problems. Therein he showed the 
quality of his mind. One thing at a time, settle 
that. As he had learnt to say c on the other 
side,' "Don't look for trouble!" He had yet to 
realize what the man of imagination knows in- 
stinctively that the problems of life end only 
with life itself. 

An eight-ten train to town is not, however, 
favourable to such a large and leisurely survey as 
a consideration of life in its totality. It involved 
a half-hour's race for the station. And this morn- 
ing the Bird standing at the door of his father's 
hostelry delayed a hard-pressed man who had 
absolutely no time to stop. 

"Heard the news about Mr. Harry?" cried the 
Bird across the street. 

Andy slowed down. "About Harry ?" 



i yo SECOND STRING. 

"Engaged to Miss Wellgood!" shouted the 
Bird. 

" No, is he ? " yelled Andy in reply. " Hurrah ! " 

It was but two days after the great event had 
happened. Recently Andy had seen nothing of 
his Meriton friends. He had been working early 
and late in town ; down at seven-thirty, up to work 
again at eight-ten. He had been a very draught- 
horse, straining at a load which would not move 
straining at it on a slippery slope. Business was 
so "quiet." Could not work command success? 
At present he had to be content with the meagre 
consolation proffered to Sempronius. He must 
be at the office not a second later than nine. If 
the American letters came in, replies could get off 
by the same day's mail. 

Yet the news of the engagement he wished he 
could have had it from Harry's own lips cut 
clean across his personal preoccupations. How 
right! How splendid! Dear old Harry! And 
how he would like to congratulate Miss Vivien ! 
All that on Saturday afternoon or Sunday. Andy 
was one of the world's toilers ; for them works of 
charity, friendship, and love have for the most part 
to " wait for Saturday afternoon or Sunday ; the 
other five days and a half it's the struggle for life, 
grimly individual. 

He loved Harry Belfield, and stored up untold 



"INTERJECTION." 171 

enthusiasm for Saturday afternoon or Sunday 
those altruistic hours when we have time to con- 
sider our own souls and other people's fortunes. 
But to-day was only Thursday ; Thursday is well 
in the zone of the struggle. Andy's timber 
business was -just turning the corner ! So many 
businesses always are. Shops expensively installed, 
hotels over-built, newspapers above all, news- 
papers started with a mighty flourish of heavy 
dividends combined with national regeneration 
they are all so often just turning the corner. The 
phrase signifies that you hope you are going to 
lose next year rather less than you lost last year. 
If somebody will go on supplying the deficit in 
that sanguine spirit which is the strength of a 
commercial nation or can succeed in inducing 
others to supply it in a similar spirit, the corner 
may in the end be turned. If not, you stay this 
side of the magical corner of success, and presently 
find yourself in another to be described as 
" tight." A life-long experience of questions of 
problems and riddles- was not, for Andy Hayes, 
to stop short at the felicitous solution of the 
puzzle about Jack Rock's butcher's shop in 
Meriton High Street. 

Andy had to postpone reflection on Harry 
Belfield's happiness and Vivien's emancipation. 
Yet he had a passing appreciation of the end of 



172 SECOND STRING. 

ordeals of Curly, cross-country rides, and the 
like. Would the mail from Montreal bring a 
remittance for the rent of the London office ? The 
other business men in the fast morning train were 
grumpy. Money was tight, the bank rate stiff, 
times bad. No moment to launch out! There 
were sounded all the familiar jeremiads of the City 
train. What could you expect with a Liberal 
Government in office ? The stars in their courses 
fought against business. Nobody would trust 
anybody. It was not that nobody had the money 
nobody ever has but hardly anybody was 
believed to be able, in the last resort, to get it. 
That impression spells collapse. The men in the 
first-class carriage Andy had decided that it was 
on the whole "good business" to stand himself a 
first-class " season " seemed well-fed, affluent, 
possessed of good cigars ; yet they were pro- 
foundly depressed, anticipative of little less than 
imminent starvation. One of them explicitly 
declared his envy of a platelayer whom the train 
passed on the line. 

"Twenty-two bob a week certain," he said. 
" Better than losing a couple of hundred pounds, 
Jack. Not much longer hours either, and an 
open-air life ! " 

"Well, take it on," Jack, who had a cynical 
turn of humour, advised. "He (the platelayer 



"INTERJECTION." 173 

he meant) couldn't very well lose more than you 
do ; and you'll never make more than he does. 
Swap ! " 

The first speaker retired behind the Telegraph 
in some disgust. It is hard to meet a rival wit 
as early as eight-thirty in the morning. 

The American mail was not in when Andy 
reached Dowgate Hill, in which important locality 
he occupied an insignificant attic. A fog off the 
coast of Ireland accounted for the delay. But 
on his table, as indicated by the small boy who 
constituted his staff the staff would, of course, 
be larger when that corner was turned lay a 
cable. There was no other correspondence. Things 
were quiet. Andy could not suppress a reflection 
that a rather later train would have done as well. 
Still there was a cable ; no doubt it advised 
the remittance. The remittance was a matter of 
peremptory necessity, unless Andy were to empty 
his private pocket. 

" Incontestable Incubation Ineffective." So 
ran the cable. 

Andy scratched his nose and reached for the 
code. 

If ever a digression were allowable, if expatiation 
on human fortune and vicissitudes were still the 
fashion, what a text lies in the cable code ! This 
cold-blooded provision for all emergencies, this 



174 SECOND STRING. 

business-like abbreviation of tragedy ! "Asbestos " 
means " Cannot remit." " Despairing " signifies 
" If you think it best." (Could despair sound 
more despairing?) "Patriotic Who are the 
heaviest creditors ? " Passing to other fields of 
life : " Risible Doctor gives up hope." " Re- 
freshing Sinking steadily ; prepare for the worst/' 
" Resurrection There is no hope of recovery." 
" Resurgam Realization of estate proceeding 
satisfactorily." 

The cable code is a masterly epitome of life. 

However Andy Hayes was not given to di- 
gression or to expatiation. Patiently he turned 
the leaves to find the interpretation of his own 
three mystic words. 

The result was not encouraging. 

"Incontestable Incubation Ineffective." 

Which being interpreted ran : " Most essential 
to retrench all unnecessary expense. Cannot see 
prospects of your branch becoming paying proposi- 
tion. Advise you to close up and return as soon 
as possible." 

There was a fourth word. The "operator" 
Andy still chose in his mind the transatlantic 
term had squeezed it into a corner, so that it did 
not at first catch the reader's notice. " Infusoria." 
Andy turned up " Infusoria." It was a hideously 
uncompromising word, as the code rendered it ; 



"INTERJECTION." 175 

the code makes a wonderful effort sometimes. 
"Infusoria" meant: "We expect you to act on 
this advice at once, and we cannot be responsible 
for expenditure beyond what is strictly necessary 
to wind up." 

Andy did not often smoke in his office in 
business hours, but he had a cigarette now. 

" Well, that's pretty straight," he thought. The 
instructions were certainly free from ambiguity. 
" Made a failure of it ! " The cigarette tended 
to resignation. "Needed a cleverer fellow than 
I am to make it go." This was his usual sobriety 
of judgment. "Rather glad to be out of it." 
That was the draught-horse's instinctive cry of joy 
at being released from a hopeless effort. They 
were right on the other side it was not a " paying 
proposition." He was good at seeing facts ; they 
did not offend him. So many people are offended 
at facts really a useless touchiness. 

" All right ! " said Andy, flinging the end of 
the cigarette into the grate, and taking up that 
fateful code again. 

" Passionately " met his need : " Will act on 
instructions received without delay and with all 
possible saving of expense." 

"Yes," said Andy, his stylograph moving in 
mid-air. He turned over the pages again, 
seeking another word, thinking very hard 



176 SECOND STRING. 

whether he should send that other word when 
he found it. 

The word was " Interjection." It meant : " My 
personal movements uncertain. Will advise you 
of them at the earliest moment possible." 

To cable " Interjection " would mean an admis- 
sion of considerable import, both to his principals 
in Montreal and to himself. It would imply that 
he was thinking of cutting adrift. Andy was 
thinking terribly hard about it. It might cause 
his principals to consider that he was taking too 
much on himself. Andy was not a partner ; he 
was only on a salary, with a small contingent profit 
from commissions. It seemed complimentary 
and delusive now to call the profit contingent ; 
the salary was all he had in the world. Such an 
independently minded word as " Interjection " in- 
curred a risk. Before he had done thinking about 
cutting adrift, he might find himself cut adrift. 
The principals were peremptory men. In view of 
his failure to make the London branch a " paying 
proposition," perhaps he was lucky in that he had 
not been cut adrift already. There was a code 
word for that "Seltzer." It meant, "We shall 
be able to dispense with your services on the - 
prox." 

" Seltzer thirtieth " would have thrown and 
might still throw Andy on the mercy of the 



"INTERJECTION." 177 

world. Turning up the code (if you are not 
thoroughly familiar with it) may be interesting 
work "as exciting as any novel," as reviewers 
kindly say of books of travel. 

Andy had suddenly, and with some surprise, 
become aware how very much he wished not to 
go back to Montreal, pleasant city as it is. When 
he was puzzling about the Meriton shop, Canada 
had stood for freedom, scope, and opportunity. 
Why should it not stand for them still, just as 
well as, or better than, London ? Canada and 
London had ranked together then, in sharp 
opposition to the narrow limits of his native town. 
Nobody could deny the scope and the opportunities 
of Canada. But Andy did not want to go back. 
He was profoundly apologetic to himself about 
the feeling ; he would not have ventured to j ustify 
it ; it was wrong. But, after his long exile, his 
native land had laid hold on him England with 
her ripe rich sweetness, London baited with a 
thousand lures. He had no pluck, no grit, no 
go ; so he said to himself. There were fortunes 
to be made over there a mighty nation to help 
in building up. That was all true, but he did not 
want to go. The stylograph hung longingly over 
the cable form ; it wanted to write " Interjection." 

The fog had apparently been very persistent in 
the Irish Channel, for no mail came ; the principals 



1 78 SECOND STRING. 

in Montreal seemed quite right about the London 
branch, for no business offered. At half -past 
twelve Andy determined to go out for lunch and 
a walk. By the time he got back the mail might 
have come and he might have made up his mind 
whether or not to cable " Interjection." 

A man who has it in mind to risk his livelihood 
often decides that he may as well treat himself 
liberally at lunch or dinner. Monte Carlo is a 
terribly expensive place to stay at if you do not 
gamble ; if you do, it costs nothing at least, 
what it costs does not matter, which comes to the 
same thing. Andy decided that, having two hours 
off, he would go west for lunch. His thoughts 
were on the great restaurant by the river. If he 
were really leaving London in a week (obedient to 
" Infusoria "), it would be interesting to go there 
once again. 

Entering the grill-room, on his left as he came 
in from the Strand (at the last moment the main 
restaurant had struck him as absurd for his chop), 
he was impressed by the air of habituality worn 
by his fellow -guests. What was humdrum to 
them was a treat to him, their routine his adven- 
ture. They knew the waiters, knew the maltre 
d'h6tel, and inquired after the cook. They knew 
one another too, marking who was there to-day, 
who was an absentee. Andy ate his chop, with 



"INTERJECTION." 179 

his mouth healthily hungry, with his eyes voracious 
of what passed about him. 

He sat near a glass screen some six or seven 
feet high, dividing the room in two. Suddenly 
from the other side of it came a voice : 

" Hallo, is that you, Hayes ? Come and have 
your coffee with us. Where have you been all 
this time ?" 

There they sat and there they might have 
been sitting ever since Andy parted from them, 
so much at home they looked Billy Foot, the 
Nun, and Miss Button. Another young man was 
with them, completing the party. He was plump, 
while Billy was thin placid, while Billy always 
suggested a reserve of excitement ; but he had a 
likeness to Billy all the same. 

" Oh, I say, may I come ? " cried Andy, boyishly 
loud ; but the luck of meeting these friends again 
was too extraordinary. He trotted round the 
glass screen with his tumbler in his hand ; he had 
not quite finished his lager beer. 

"Chair and coffee for Mr. Hayes," said Billy 
Foot. " You remember him, girls ? My brother, 
Hayes Gilly, Mr. Hayes. How did you*leave 
Harry ? " 

" How awfully funny I should meet you ! " 
gasped Andy. 

"It's not funny if you ever come here," ob- 



i8o SECOND STRING. 

served Miss Button ; " because we come here 
nearly every day with somebody." She was 
more sardonic than ever. 

The Nun she was not, by the way, a Nun any 
longer, but a Quaker girl ("All in the same line,'* 
her manager said, with a fine indifference to the 
smaller theological distinctions), and now sang of 
how, owing to her having to wear sombre gar- 
ments (expressed by a charming dove -tinted 
costume that sent the stalls mad), she had lost 
her first and only love the Nun smiled at Andy 
in a most friendly fashion. 

"I'd quite forgotten you," she remarked, "but 
I'm glad to see you again. Let's see, you're ?" 

" Harry Belfield's friend." 

"Yes, you're Mr. Hayes. Oh, I remember 
you quite well. Been away since ? " 

" No, I've been here. I mean at work, and 
so on." 

" Oh, well ! " sighed the Nun (Andy ventured 
to call her the Nun in his thoughts, though she 
had changed her persuasion). She seemed to 
express a gentle resignation to not being able to 
keep track of people ; she met so many, coming 
every day to the restaurant. 

" I ask five, I want four, but with just the right 
fellow I'd take three," said Billy's brother Gilly, 
apparently continuing a conversation which seemed 



"INTERJECTION." 181 

to interest nobody but himself ; for the Nun was 
looking at neighbouring hats, Miss Button had 
relapsed into gloomy abstraction, and Billy was 
thoughtfully revolving a small quantity of old 
brandy round a very large glass. Gilly had an old 
brandy too, but his attitude towards it was one 
of studied neglect. His favourite vintage had 
given out the year before, so his life was rather 
desolate. 

" Harry's engaged," Andy volunteered to the 
Nun, glad to possess a remark of such commanding 
interest. 

" To a girl ? " asked the Nun, absently and 
without turning her face towards him. 

"Well, of course!" said Andy. What else 
could one be engaged to ? 

"Everybody comes to it," said Billy Foot. 
" Take three, if you must, Gilly." 

"At a push," said his brother sadly. 

" I hate that hat on that woman," said the Nun 
with a sudden vehemence, nodding her head at a 
fat woman in a large purple erection. Hats moved 
the Nun perhaps more than anything else in the 
world. 

"Rot, Doris," commented Miss Button. "It's 
what they're wearing." 

"But they aren't all as fat as that," the Nun 
objected. 



1 82 SECOND STRING. 

" Flourishing, Hayes ? " asked Billy Foot. 

"Well, I rather think I've just lost my job,'' 
said Andy. 

" If you're looking out for a really sound way of 
investing five thousand pounds " Gilly began. 

" Four to a gentleman," said Billy. 

"Three to a friend," corrected the Nun. 

" Oh, what the devil's the good of trying to talk 
business here ? " cried Gilly in vexation. " Only 
a chance is a chance, you know." 

Billy Foot saw that Andy was puzzled. " Gilly 
my brother, you know I suppose I introduced 
you ? has unfortunately come here with a problem 
on his mind. I didn't know he had one, or I 
wouldn't have asked him, because problems bore 
the girls." 

"No, they don't. It interests me to see you 
trying to think." This, of course, from Miss 
Button. The Nun, now imbibing an iced green 
fluid through a straw, was sublimely abstracted. 

" My brother," Billy resumed, with a glance of 
protest towards his interrupter, "has, for some 
reason or another, become a publisher. That's all 
right. Not being an author, I don't complain. 
Having done pretty badly ' : 

" The public's no good," said Gilly gloomily. 

" He wants to drag in some unfortunate person 
to be his partner. I understand, Gilly, that, if 



"INTERJECTION." 183 

really well recommended, your accepted partner 
can lose his time, and the rest of his money, for no 
more than three thousand pounds paid down on 
the nail without discount ? " 

" You've a charming way of recommending the 
project to Mr. Hayes' consideration," said Gilly, 
in reproachful resignation. 

" To my consideration," Andy exclaimed, laugh- 
ing. " What's it got to do with me ? " 

" It's a real chance," Gilly persisted. " And if 
you're out of a job, and happen to be able to lay 
your hands on five " 

"Three !" whispered Billy. 

" thousand pounds, you might do worse 
than look into it. Now, I must go," and with no 
more than a nod to serve as farewell to all the 
party he rose and sauntered slowly away. He had 
not touched his brandy ; his brother reached over 
thoughtfully and appropriated it. " I may as well, 
as I'm going to pay for it," he remarked. 

Suddenly Andy found himself telling the Nun 
all about his cable and his affairs. The other two 
listened ; all three were very friendly and sym- 
pathetic ; even Miss Button forbore to sneer. 
Andy expanded in the kindly atmosphere of 
interest. " I don't want to go back, you know," 
he said with a smile that appealed for understanding. 
" But I must, unless something turns up." 




1 84 SECOND STRING. 

"Well, why not talk to Gilly ? " the Nun 
suggested. 

" Yes, you go round and talk to Gilly," agreed 
Billy. " Rotting apart, he's got a nice little 
business, and one or two very good schemes on, 
but he wants a bit more capital, as well as somebody 
to help him. He doesn't look clever, but in five 
years he's built up yes, a tidy little business. 
You wouldn't come to grief with Gilly." 

" But I haven't got the money, or anything like 
it. I've got nothing." 

The Nun and Billy exchanged glances. The Nun 
nodded to Billy, but he shook his head. Miss 
Button watched them for a moment, then she 
smiled scornfully. 

" I don't mind saying it," she observed, and to 
Andy's astonishment she asked him, "What 
about your old friend the butcher ? " 

" How did you hear of that ? " 

" Harry Belfield was up one day last week 
lunching here, and 

" We were awfully amused," the Nun interrupted, 
with her pretty rare gurgle. " If you'd done it, 
we were all coming down to buy chops and give 
you a splendid send-off. I rather wish you had." 
The imagined scene amused the Nun very much. 

" Jack Rock ? Oh, I couldn't possibly ask him, 
after refusing his offer ! " 



" INTERJECTION." 



185 

the Nun 



" What did you say his name was ? 
inquired. 

Andy repeated the name, and the Nun nodded, 
smiling still. Andy became portentously thoughtful. 

"We have sown a seed!" said Billy Foot. 
" I'll drop a word to Gilly to keep the offer open. 
Now you must go, girls, because I've got some 
work to do in the world, though you never seem 
to believe it." 

" Heavens, I must go too ! " cried Andy, with a 
horrified look at his watch. 

" All right, you go," said Miss Button. " We 
promised to meet a man here at half-past three and 
go motoring." 

"Did we? I don't believe we did," objected 
the Nun. " I don't think I want to go." 

"Then don't," said Miss Button. "I shall 
go anyhow." 

"Well, I'll wait and see the car," the Nun 
conceded. She did not appear to have any 
curiosity about its owner. " You really must come 
and see me and don't go back to Canada ! " she 
called after Andy. Then, when she was alone with 
her friend, she said, " No, I shan't come motoring, 
Sally, I shall go home and write a letter. So 
much trouble is caused in this world by people 
being afraid to do the obvious thing. Now I'm 
never afraid to do the obvious thing." 




1 86 SECOND STRING, 

" That's just what you said the night you found 
me and took me home with you," said Miss 
Button. She spoke very low, and her voice was 
strangely soft. 

"It was the obvious thing to do, and I did it," 
the Nun pursued, shaking her head at Sally in 
mild rebuke of an uncalled-for touch of sentiment. 
" I shall do the obvious thing now. I shall write 
to Mr. Jack Rock." 

" You'll get yourself into a row, meddling with 
other people's business." 

"Oh no, I shan't," said the Nun serenely. "I 
shall insist on a personal interview before my 
action is condemned. I generally come out of 
personal interviews all right." 

"Arts and tricks ! " said Sally scornfully. 

"Just an innocent and appealing manner," 
smiled the Nun. " At any rate, this very afternoon 
I write to Mr. Rock. He'll produce three 
thousand pounds, Gilly will get a good partner, 
Andy Hayes can stay in England, I shall feel I've 
done a sensible thing. All that just by a letter ! " 
A thought struck her. "I may as well write it 
here." She called a waiter and asked for notepaper 
and the ABC railway guide. " Don't wait for me, 
Sally. This letter will take some time to write." 

" Not going to take it down yourself, are you ?" 
asked Sally, pointing to the ABC. 



" INTERJECTION." 



187 



" Oh no. Messenger boy. With any luck, it'll 
get there before Andy Hayes does. Rather fun if 
Jack Rock plays up to me properly ! " and she 
allowed herself the second gurgle of the afternoon. 

Sally stood looking at her with an apparently un- 
willing smile. She loved her better than anybody 
in the world, and would have died for her at that 
or any other moment ; but nothing of that sort 
was ever said between them. They were almost 
unsentimental enough to please Mark Wellgood 
himself. Only the Nun did like her little plans to 
be appreciated. Sally gave her all she wanted a 
sharp little bark of a laugh in answer to the gurgle 
before she walked away. The Nun settled to 
her task in demure serenity, seeming (yet not 
being) entirely unconscious of the extreme slowness 
with which most of the young men passed her 
table as they went out. 

Billy Foot had walked with Andy as far as the 
Temple and had reasoned with him. Yet Billy 
himself admitted that there was great difficulty in 
the case. Asked whether he himself would do what 
he advised, he was forced to admit that he would 
hesitate. Still he would not give up the idea ; he 
would see Gilly about it ; perhaps the payment 
could be " spread." 

" It would have to be spread very thin before 1 
could pay it," smiled Andy ruefully. He gave 



1 88 SECOND STRING. 

Billy Foot's hand a hearty squeeze when they 
parted. c< It's so awfully good of you to be so 
interested and of those nice girls too." 

" Well, old chap, if we can help a pal ! " said 
Billy with a laugh. " Besides, it's good business 
for Gilly too." 

Andy went back to Dowgate Hill and climbed 
up to his attic. The staff reported no callers in 
his absence ; the baleful cable lay still in possession 
of the table. But Andy refused to be depressed. 
His lunch had done him good. Steady and sober 
as his mind was, yet he was a little infected by the 
gay confidence that had reigned among his company. 
They seemed all so sure that something would 
turn up, that what they wanted would get itself 
done somehow. Spoilt children of fate, the 
brothers Foot and the Nun ! Things they wanted 
had come easily to them ; they expected them to 
come easily to their friends. The Nun in particular 
appeared to treat fortune absolutely as a slave ; 
she was not even grateful ; it was all too much a 
matter of course that things should happen in the 
way she wanted. He did not appreciate yet the 
way in which the Nun assisted the course of events 
sometimes. 

Well, his reply to the cable must go. He took 
up the form and read "Passionately." It was 
significant of his changed mood of what the 



"INTERJECTION." 189 

atmosphere of the lunch-party had done for him 
that he hesitated hardly more than one minute 
before he added the possibly fateful " Interjection," 
and sent off the despatch before he had time again 
to waver. 

"If they choose to take offence well, I can 
make a living somehow, I suppose." 

Andy's confidence in himself was slowly but 
steadily ripening. 



Chapter X. 
FRIENDS IN NEED. 

Jack Rock was, in his own phrase, " fair 
tickled to death " at the whole thing. The 
messenger boy reached him soon after five, just as 
he was having his tea. It was not long before the 
boy was having tea too such a tea as seldom came 
his way. Butter and jam together why, jam on 
cake, if he liked and cream in his tea I Some- 
thing in that letter pleased the old gentleman 
uncommon, thought the boy, as he watched Jack 
chuckling over it, his forgotten bread-and-butter 
half-way between plate and mouth. 

"Doris Flower! Well now, that's a pretty 
name," murmured Jack. "And I'll lay she's a 
pretty girl ! " He asked the boy whether she was 
a pretty girl. 

" 'Er ? Why, they're all mad about 'er," the 
boy told him. " She's out o' sight, she is ! " 

"Writes a pretty letter too," said Jack, and 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 191 

started to read it all afresh. It was, indeed, a 
persuasive letter": 

" DEAR MR. ROCK, I have heard so much that 
is nice about you from our friends Harry Belfield 
and your nephew (isn't he ?) Mr. Hayes, that I 
feel quite sure you will not mind my writing to 
you. I know it is rather an unusual thing to do, 
but I don't mind doing unusual things when 
they're sensible, do you ? Mr. Hayes was lunch- 
ing with us to-day, and he told us that something 
had gone wrong with his business, and that he 
would have to go back to Canada. I'm sure you 
don't want him to go back to Canada any more 
than we do. We like him so much, and you must 
be very fond of him, aren't you ? Well, by the 
most wonderful chance, Billy Foot's brother (you 
know Billy, don't you ? He has been down to 
Meriton, I know) was at lunch too Gilly Foot. 
Gilly has got a most tremendously good business 
as a publisher, and he wants a partner. Wasn't it 
lucky ? Just as Mr. Hayes wants a new business, 
Gilly Foot wants a partner ! It might have been 
arranged on purpose, mightn't it ? And they took 
to one another directly. I'm sure Gilly will be 
delighted to take Mr. Hayes (That does sound 
stiff I think I shall say 'Andy'), and Andy (!) 
would be delighted to join Gilly. There's only 




1 92 SECOND STRING. 

one thing Gilly must have a partner with some 
money, and Andy says he hasn't got any. We 
knew about you and all you had wanted to do for 
him, so of course we said he must ask you to give 
it to him or lend it to him ; but he said he couldn't 
possibly, as he had refused your previous offer. But 
I'm sure you don't feel like that about it, do you ? 
I'm sure you would like to help him. And then 
we could keep him here instead of his going back 
to Canada ; we should all be so pleased with that, 
and so would you, wouldn't you ? Do please do 
it, dear Mr. Rock ! 

"I wonder if you know who I am. Perhaps 
you've seen my picture in the papers ? I'm 
generally done as a Nun. Have you ? I wonder 
if you would ever care to hear me sing ? If you 
would, do let me know when you can come, and I 
will send you a box. And you won't forget to 
come round and see me in my dressing-room after- 
wards, will you ? It is so pleasant to see one's 
friends afterwards ; and I'll sing, oh, ever so 
much better than usual for you ! 

" I told the boy to wait just in case you wanted 
to send an answer. I'm very excited and anxious 1 
It's three thousand pounds Gilly wants. It seems 
to me an awful lot, but I don't know much about 
publishing. Do forgive me, dear Mr. Rock, but 
I was sure you would like to know, and I don't 






FRIENDS IN NEED. 193 

believe Andy would have told you himself. Mind, 
when you come to town don't forget ! I am, 
dear Mr. Rock, yours very sincerely, 

" DORIS FLOWER. 

P.S. Some day soon, when I'm out motoring, 
I may stop and see you if youVe been nice ! " 

Jack Rock's heart was very soft ; his vanity was 
also tickled. " Excited and anxious, is she ? Bless 
her ! There'll be a rare talk in Meriton if she 
comes to see old Jack ! " He chuckled. " Me 
go and sit in a box, and hear her sing ! Asked to 
her dressing-room too ! " 

The novel picture of himself was altogether too 
much for Jack. 

" As soon as you've done your tea, my lad, you 
can take an answer." 

Jack's epistolary style was of a highly polite but 
rather unpractised order. He struggled between 
his punctilious recognition of his own station and 
the temptation of the Nun's friendliness also 
(perhaps by consequence) between the third, second, 
and first grammatical persons : 

" Mr. John Rock presents his respectful com- 
pliments to Miss Doris Flower. Mr. Rock has 
the matter of which Miss Flower is good enough 

to write under his careful consideration. Mr. Rock 

7 



194 SECOND STRING. 

begs to assure you that he will do his best to 
meet Miss Flower's wishes. There is nothing I 
would not do for Andy, and I am sure that the 
boy will prove himself deserving of Miss Flower's 
kind interest. When next visiting London, Mr. 
Rock will feel himself highly honoured by availing 
himself of Miss Flower's much-esteemed invitation. 
If Miss Flower should visit Meriton, he would be 
very proud to welcome you at his house, next 
door to the shop in High Street anybody in 
Meriton knows where that is ; and I beg to remain, 
dear madam, your most obedient servant to 
command, JOHN ROCK." 

"You can take it," said Jack to the messenger 
boy. " And here's half a crown for yourself." 

The messenger boy was a London boy ; his 
professional belt was tight with tea ; and half a 
crown for himself! He put on his cap and stood 
on the threshold. Escape was easy ; he indulged 
his native humour. 

" From this " he exhibited the halt-crown 
" and your looks, gov'nor," he said, " I gather 
that she's accepted ye ! My best wishes for yer 
'appiness ! " 

" Damn the boy ! " said Jack, charging for the 
door in an explosion of laughter. The boy was 
already half-way down the street. "Hope my 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 195 

letter was all right," Jack reflected, as he came 
back, baulked of his prey. " May stop and see me, 
may she ! Bless her heart ! " 

Jack Rock felt that he had the chance of his life. 
He also felt that he would like to obliterate what, 
in his humility, he now declared to have been a 
sad blunder the offer of his butcher's shop. A 
man like Andy, a lad with friends like that Mr. 
Harry Belfield, Mr. Foot, M.P., Mr. and Miss 
Wellgood, above all this dazzling Miss Doris 
Flower to be the Meriton butcher ! Perish the 
thought ! Publishing was a gentleman's business. 
Aye, and his Andy should not go back to Canada. 
If he did, old Jack felt that the best part of his 
own life would be carried far away across the seas. 

The thing should be done dramatically. "I'd 
like Andy to have a story to tell her ! " It was 
not at all doubtful whom he meant by "her." 

Nearly six the bank was shut long ago. But 
George Croton was a friend as well as a bank 
manager ; he would just have had tea. Jack 
crossed the street and dropped in. 

" Why, of course I can, Jack," said Mr. Croton, 
wiping his bald head with a red handkerchief. 
" You've securities lodged with us that more than 
cover it. Draw your cheque. We won't wrong 
you over the interest till you adjust the account. 
Going to buy a Derby winner ? " 



196 SECOND STRING. 

"I ain't so sure I'm not goin' to enter one," 
said Jack. He wrote his cheque. " That'll be all 
right to-morrow morning ?" 

" Unless our shutters are up, it will, Jack," Mr. 
Croton jestingly replied. 

"Thank God I've been a careful man," thought 
old Jack. " One that knows a horse too ! Her 
talkin' about 'Andy' !" The Nun continued to 
amuse and delight him immensely. Why, he'd 
seen her picture on the hoardings last time he went 
up to Tattersall's, to sell that bay filly ! Lord, 
not to have thought of that ! That was her the 
Nun ! He thought much more about Miss Flower 
than about Andy as he took his way to Andy's 
lodgings. 

Andy was at home ; he had been back from 
town nearly an hour. But his own concerns 
were quite out of his head. Harry Belfield had 
been waiting for him actually waiting, Harry the 
Great ! and had hailed him with " I had to come 
and tell you all about it myself, old fellow ! " 

In Andy's great devotion to Harry there was 
mingled an element which seemed to himself 
absurd, but which held its place obstinately dim 
and denied, yet always there. It was a sense of 
something compassionate, something protective, 
not diminishing his admiration but qualifying it ; 
making him not only believe that all would, but 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 197 

also urgently pray that all might, go well with 
Harry, that Harry might have everything that he 
wished, possibly that Harry might wish the things 
that he ought to have, though Andy's conscious 
analysis of the feeling did not reach as far as this. 
He would not only set his hero on a pedestal, he 
would have the pedestal securely fenced round, 
barricaded against danger, ensured against bombs ; 
even a screen against strong and sudden winds 
might be useful to the statue. 

The statue, it now appeared, had taken all these 
precautions for itself. Vivien Wellgood was each 
and all of these things fence, screen, and barri- 
cade. And many other things besides, such as 
an ideal, an incentive, an inspiration. It was 
among Harry's attractions that he was not in the 
least ashamed of his emotions or shy about them. 

" With the girls one meets in town it's a bar- 
gain," said Harry. "With her oh, I can talk 
to you, old man ! it really does seem a sort of 



sacrament." 



" I know. 1 mean I can imagine." 

" Not things a fellow can talk about to every- 
body," Harry pursued. "Too well, sacred, 
you know. But when for absolutely the first 
time in your life you feel the real thing, you 
know the difference. The pater told me not to 
be in a hurry about it ; but a thing like that's just 



198 SECOND STRING. 

the same now or a thousand years hence. It's 
there and that's all about it ! " 

Andy felt a little out of his depth. He had had 
one fancy himself, but it had been nothing like so 
wonderful as this. It was Harry's privilege to be 
able to feel things in that marvellous way. Andy 
was not equal even to commenting on them. 

" When are you going to be married ?" he asked, 
sticking to a matter-of-fact line of sympathy. 

" Going to wait till October rather a bore ! 
But here .it's nearly July, and I've got my tour of 
the Division fixed for September. After all, things 
aren't so bad as they might be. And when I'm 
through with the campaign a honeymoon in Italy ! 
Pretty good, Andy ? " 

" Sounds all right," laughed Andy. " I expect I 
shall have to send you my blessing from Montreal." 

" From Montreal? What you're not going 
back?" 

" The business is a frost in London, Harry ; 
and I've nothing else to look to." 

" Lord, now, what a pity ! Well, I'm sorry. 
We shall miss you, Andy. Still, it's a ripping fine 
country, isn't it ? Mind you cable us congratula- 
tions ! " 

" I'm not quite certain about going yet," said 
Andy. He felt rather like being seen off by the 
train very kindly. 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 199 

" Oh, well, I hope you won't have to, old chap, 
I really do. But it'll be better than the shop ! I 
say I told Billy and the girls about that. They 
roared." 

" I know they did I met them at lunch to-day." 

" Had they heard about me ? " Harry asked 
rather eagerly. " Or did you tell them ? What 
did they say ? " 

" Oh er awfully pleased," said Andy, rather 
confused. It seemed strange to remember how 
very little had been said on the wonderful topic. 
Somehow they had wandered off to other things. 

" I must give them all one more dinner," said 
Harry, smiling, " before I settle down." 

" Foot's brother was there Gilly Foot and " 

" Did they ask what she was like ? " 

"I I don't quite remember everybody was 
talking. Gilly Foot " 

"I expect they were a bit surprised, weren't 
they ? " 

" Oh yes, they seemed surprised." Andy was 
really trying to remember. " Yes, they did." 

"I don't think I've got the character of a 
marrying man," smiled Harry. "I hope you 
told them I meant business?" Harry rose to his 
feet with a laugh. " They used to rot a lot, you 
know." 

Harry was not to be got off the engrossing sub- 



200 SECOND STRING. 

ject of himself, his past, and his future ; evidently 
he could not imagine that the lunch-party had kept 
off these subjects either. With a smile Andy made 
up his mind not to trouble him with the matter of 
Gilly Foot. 

"Til walk back with you as far as Halton gates," 
he said. 

" No, you won't, old chap," laughed Harry. 
" Vivien's been in the town and is going to call for 
me here, and I'm going to walk with her as far as 
Nutley gates at least." 

Voices came from outside. "Wish you good 
evening miss ! " and a very timid "Good evening, 
Mr. Rock." Vivien and Jack ! How was Vivien 
bearing the encounter ? 

" There she is ! " cried Harry, and ran out of 
the house, Andy following. 

"Ah, Jack, how are you ? Why, you're looking 
like a two-year-old 1 " 

Jack indeed looked radiant as he made bold to 
offer his congratulations. He gave Harry his hand 
and a hearty squeeze, then looked at Vivien ten- 
tatively. She blushed, pulled herself together, 
and offered Jack her hand. The feat accomplished, 
she glanced quickly at Andy, blushing yet more 
deeply. He knew what was in her mind, and 
nodded his head at her in applause. In Harry's 
cause she had touched a butcher. 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 



2.01 



" I like to see young folks happy. I like to see 
'em get what they want, Mr. Harry." 

" You see before you one at least who has, Jack. 
I wonder if I may say two, Vivien ? And I wish 
I could say three, Andy." 

" Maybe you wouldn't be so far wrong, Mr. 
Harry," chuckled Jack. " But that's neither here 
nor there, and I mustn't be keepin' you and your 
young lady." 

With blithe salutations the lovers went off. 
Andy watched them ; they were good to see. He 
felt himself their friend Vivien's as well as 
Harry's, for Vivien trusted him with her shy con- 
fidences. They were hard to leave even as were 
the delights of London with its lunch-parties and 
the like. 

" Going for a walk, Jack ? " 

" No, I want a talk with you, Andy." He led 
the way in, and sat down at the table. " I've been 
thinkin' a bit about you, Andy ; so have some 
others, I reckon. Mr. Belfield he speaks high of 
you and there's others. There's no reason you 
shouldn't take your part with the best of 'em. 
Why, they feel that they make you one of them- 
selves. So you shall be. I can't make you a rich 
man, not as they reckon money, but I can help a bit." 

" O Jack, you're always at it," Andy groaned 
affectionately. 



202 SECOND STRING. 

The old fellow's eyes twinkled as he drew out a 
cheque and pushed it across the table. 

" Put that in your pocket, and go and talk to 
Mr. Foot's brother," he said. 

Andy's start was almost a jump ; old Jack's pent- 
up mirth broke out explosively. 

" But this this is supernatural ! " cried Andy. 

c< Looks like it, don't it ? How did I find out 
about that ? Well, it shows, Andy, that it's no 
use you thinkin' of tryin' not to keep a certain 
promise you made to me because I find you 
out ! " 

" Dear old Jack ! " Andy was standing by him 
now, his hand on his shoulder. " I don't believe 
I could have kept the promise in this case. I think 
I should have gone back since the thing's no go 
in London." 

"Yes, you'd have gone back just like your 
obstinate ways. But I found out. I've my 
correspondents." 

" But there's been no time ! Well, you are one 
too many for me, Jack ! " 

Jack's pride in his cunning was even greater 
than his delight in his benevolence. " Perhaps 
I've had a wireless telegram ? " he suggested, wag- 
ging his head. " Or a carrier pigeon ? Who 
knows ? " 

" But who was it told you ? " 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 203 

" You've got some friends I didn't know of, up 
there in London. Havin' your fling, are you, 
Andy ? That's right. And very good taste you 
seem to have too." He nodded approvingly. 

"Oh, I give it up," said Andy. "You're a 
wizard, Jack." 

" If you talk about a witch, you'll be a bit nearer 
the point, I reckon. Not meanin' me, I need 
hardly say ! Well, I must let you into the secret." 
With enormous pride he produced Miss Doris 
Flower's letter. " Read that, my lad." 

" The Nun ! " cried Andy, as his eye fell on the 
signature. " Who'd have thought of that ? " 

He read the letter ; he listened to Jack's en- 
raptured story of how it had arrived. " And you're 
not goin' to shame her by refusin' the money now, 
are you ? " asked cunning Jack. "If you do, you'll 
make her feel she's been meddlin'. Nice thing to 
make her feel that ! " 

Andy saw through this little device, but he only 
patted Jack's shoulder again, saying quietly, " I'll 
take the money, Jack." All the kindness made his 
heart very full whether it came from old-time 
friends or these new friends from a new world who 
made his cause theirs with so ready a sympathy. 

"You're launched now, lad fair launched! 
And I know you'll float," said old Jack, grave at 
last, as he took his leave, his precious letter most 



204 SECOND STRING. 

carefully stowed away in his breast-pocket. It had 
been a great day for Jack, great for what he had 
done, great for the way in which his doing it had 
come about. 

Within less than twenty-four hours Montreal 
had been written to, Gilly Foot had been written 
to- and Andy was at the Nun's door. 

She dwelt with Miss Button in a big block of 
flats near Sloane Street, very high up. Her sitting- 
room was small and cosy, presenting, however, one 
marked peculiarity. On two of the walls the paper 
was red, on the other two green. Seeing Andy's 
eyes attracted by this phenomenon, the Nun ex- 
plained : " We quarrelled over the colour to such 
an extent that at last I lost my temper, and, when 
Sally was away for a day, had it done like this to 
spite her. Now she won't let me alter it, because 
it's a perpetual warning to me not to lose my 
temper. But it does look a little queer, doesn't it ?" 

She had received him with her usual composure. 
" I knew you'd come, because I knew Mr. Jack 
Rock would do as I wanted, and I was sure he 
couldn't keep the letter to himself. Well, that's 
all right ! It was only that the obvious thing 
wanted doing." 

"But I don't see well, I don't see why you 
should care." 

She looked at him, a lurking laugh in her eye. 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 205 

"Oh, you needn't suppose that it was life and 
death to me ! It was rather fun, just on its own 
account. You'll like Gilly ; he's a good sort, 
though he's rather greedy. Did you notice that ? 
Billy's really my friend. I'm very fond of Billy. 
Are you ambitious ? Billy's very ambitious." 

"No, I don't think I am." 

The Nun lay back on a long chair ; she was cer- 
tainly wonderfully pretty as she smiled lazily at 
Andy. 

" You look a size too large for the room," she 
remarked. " Yes, Billy's ambitious. He'd like to 
marry me, only he's ambitious. It doesn't make 
any difference to me, because I'm not in love 
with him ; but I'm afraid it's an awfully uncom- 
fortable state of affairs for poor Billy." 

" Well, if he'd have no chance anyhow, couldn't 
you sort of let him know that ? " Andy suggested, 
much amused at an innocent malice which marked 
her description of Billy's conflict of feeling. 

" No use at all. I've tried. But he's quite sure 
he could persuade me. In fact 1 don't think he 
believes 1 should refuse if it came to the point. 
So there he is, always just pulling up on the 
brink ! He can't like it, but he goes on. Oh, 
but tell me all about Harry Belfield. Now I've 
got you off my mind, I'm awfully interested about 
that." 



206 SECOND STRING. 

Andy was not very ready at description. She 
assisted him by a detailed and skilful cross-examina- 
tion, directed to eliciting full information about 
Vivien Wellgood's appearance, habits, and char- 
acter how old she was, where she had been, what 
she had seen. When the picture of Vivien had 
thus emerged of Vivien's youth and secluded life, 
how she had been nowhere and seen nothing, how 
she was timid and shy, innocent and trustful, above 
all, how she idolized Harry the Nun considered 
it for a moment in silence. 

" Poor girl ! " she said at last. Andy looked 
sharply at her. She smiled. "Oh yes, you 
worship Harry, don't you ? Well, he's a very 
charming man. I was rather inclined to fall in 
love with him once myself. Luckily for me I 
didn't." 

" I'm sure he'd have responded," Andy laughed. 

"Yes, that's just it; he would have! When 
did you say they were going to be married ? " 

" October, I think Harry said." 

" Four months ! And he dotes on her ? " 

" I should think so. You should just hear 
him ! " 

"I daresay I shall. He always likes talking 
to one girl about how much he's in love with 
another." 

The Nun's matter-of-fact way of speaking may 






FRIENDS IN NEED. 207 

have contributed to the effect, but in the end the 
effect of what she said was to give the impression 
that she regarded Harry Belfield's present passion 
as one of a series far from the first, not at all 
likely to be the last. The inflection of tone with 
which she had exclaimed " Four months ! " implied 
that it was a very long while to wait. 

"You'd understand it better if you saw them 
together," said Andy, eager, as always, to champion 
his friend. 

" You're very enthusiastic about her, anyhow," 
smiled the Nun. " It almost sounds as if you 
were a little in love with her yourself." 

" Such a thing never occurred to me." Then 
he laughed, for the Nun was laughing at him. 
"Well, she would make every man want to 
well, sort of want to take care of her, you know." 

"Well, there's no harm in your doing that in 
moderation ; and she may come to want it. Have 
you ever been in love yourself ? " 

"Yes, once," he confessed ; "a long while ago, 
just before I left South Africa." 

" Got over it ? " she inquired anxiously. 

"Yes, of course I have, long ago. It wasn't 
very fatal." 

" Fickle creature ! " 

Andy gave one of his bursts of hearty laughter 
to hear himself thus described. 



208 SECOND STRING. 

" I like you," she said ; " and I'm glad you're 
going in with Gilly, because we shall often see you 
at lunch-time." 

" Oh, but I can't afford to lunch at that place 
every day ! " 

" You'll have to with Gilly ; because lunch is 
the only time he ever gets ideas he always says 
so and unless he can tell somebody else he for- 
gets them again, and they're lost beyond recall. 
He used to tell them to me, but I always forgot 
them too. Now he'll tell you ; so you'll have 
to be at lunch, and put it down as office expenses." 

Andy had risen to go. The Nun sat up. " 1 
can only tell you once again how grateful I am for 
all your kindness," he said. 

She gave him a whimsically humorous look. 
" It's really time somebody told you," she said ; 
" and as I feel rather responsible for you, after my 
letter to Mr. Jack Rock, I expect I'm the proper 
person to do it. If you're not told, you may 
go about doing a lot of mischief without know- 
ing anything about it. Prepare for a surprise. 
You're attractive ! Yes, you are. You're attractive 
to women, moreover. People don't do things 
for you out of mere kindness, as they might be 
kind to a little boy in the street or to a lost 
dog. They do them because you're attractive, 
because it gives them pleasure to please you. 



I 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 209 

That sort of thing will go on happening to you ; 
very likely it'll help you a good deal." She 
nodded at him wisely, then broke suddenly into 
her gurgle. " Oh, dear me, you do look so much 
astonished, and if you only knew how red you've 
got!" 

" Oh, I feel the redness all right ; I know that's 
there," muttered Andy, whose confusion was in- 
deed lamentable. " But when a a person like 
you says that sort of thing to me " 

" A person like me ? " She lifted her brows. 
" What am I ? I'm the fashion for three or four 
seasons that's what I am. Nobody knows where 
I come from ; nobody knows where I'm going to ; 
and nobody cares. I don't know myself, and I'm 
not sure I care. My small opinion doesn't count 
for much. Only, in this case, it happens to be 
true." 

" Where do you come from ? " asked Andy, in 
a sudden impulse of great friendliness. 

She looked him straight in the face. " Nobody 
knows. Nobody must ask." 

" I've got no people belonging to me either. 
Even Jack Rock's no relation or only a c step.' ' 

Her eyes grew a little clouded. " You mustn't 
make me silly. Only we're friends now, aren't 
we ? We don't do what we can for one another 
out of kindness, but for love ?" She daintily blew 



210 SECOND STRING. 

him a kiss, and smiled again. "And because 
we're both very attractive aren't we ? " 

" Oh, I'll accept the word if I'm promoted to 
share it with you. But I can't say I've got over 
the surprise yet." 

"You've stopped blushing, anyhow. That's 
something. Good-bye. I shall see you at lunch, 
I expect, to-morrow." 

Andy was very glad that she liked him, but he 
was glad of it because he liked her. His head was 
not turned by her assurance that he was attractive 
in a general sense : in the first place, because he 
remained distinctly sceptical as to the correctness 
of her opinion, sincere as it obviously was ; in the 
second, because the matter did not appear to be 
one of much moment. No doubt folks sometimes 
did one a good turn for love's sake, but, taking 
the world broadly, a man had to make his way 
without relying on such help as that. That sort 
of help had given him a fair start now. He was 
not going to expect any more of it. It seemed 
to him that Jack Rock or Jack and the Nun 
between them ? had already given him more than 
his share. It was curious to associate her with 
Jack Rock in the work ; a queer freak of chance 
that she had come into it ! But she had come into 
it by chance and her own wilful fancy. Odd her 
share in it certainly was, but it was not unpleasant 



FRIENDS IN NEED. 



21 I 



to him. He felt that he had gained a friend, as 
well as an opening in Gilly Foot's publishing 
house. 

" But I wish/' he found himself reflecting as he 
travelled back in the Underground, "that she 
understood Harry better." 

Here he fell into an error unusual with him ; 
he overrated his own j udgment, led thereto by old 
love and admiration. The Nun had clear eyes ; 
she had seen much of Harry Belfield, and no small 
amount of life. She had had to dodge many 
dangers. She knew what she was talking about. 
In all the side of things she knew so well, Andy, 
with his one attachment before he left South Africa 
long ago, was an innocent. Perhaps it was some 
dim consciousness of this, some half-realized feeling 
that he was on strange ground where she was on 
familiar, which made him find it difficult to get 
what she had said or hinted out of his head. It 
was apt to come back to him when he saw Vivien 
Wellgood ; an unlooked-for association in his 
mind of people who seemed far remote from one 
another. Thus the Nun had come into the old 
circle of his thoughts ; henceforward she too be- 
longed, in a way, to the world of Meriton. 



Chapter XI. 
THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 

TT'IVIEN and Isobel were alone at Nutley. It 
had been Wellgood's custom to go every 
summer to Norway by himself, leaving his daughter 
at school, to the care of her governess, or, for the 
last year or two, of her companion. He saw no 
reason against following his practice this year ; 
indeed he was glad to go. The interval before 
the wedding dragged for him, as perhaps it did 
for others. He had carried matters with Isobel 
as far as .he well could, unless he meant to carry 
them to the end and it was not his intention 
to do that just yet. A last bachelor excursion 
he told himself confidently that it was to be his 
last had its attraction. Early in July he packed 
his portmanteau and went, leaving instructions 
with Isobel that her chaperonage was to be vigilant 
and strict. "Err on the safe side," he said. "No 
harm in that." 

"I shall bore them very much," Isobel suggested. 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 213 

"That's what you're here for." He added, 
with his hard confident smile, "Later on we'll 
try to give you a change from it." 

She knew well what he meant, and was glad 
to see the last of him for a while ; nay, in her 
heart would have been glad to see the last of him 
for ever. She clung to what his words and acts 
promised, from no affection for him, but because 
it saved her from the common fate which her pride 
despised being dismissed, turned off, now that 
she was to become superfluous. She had been 
in effect Vivien's governess, her schoolmistress, 
invested with power and authority. She hated to 
step down ; it was open to her to step up. (A 
case not unlike Andy's.) Here was the secret 
which maintained her pride. In the strength of 
it she still ruled her charge with no lessening of 
prestige. It was no more in Vivien's nature than 
in her position to wonder at that ; her eyes were 
set on a near sure liberty. Temporary restraint, 
though it might be irksome, seemed no more than 
a natural passing incident. Harry noticed and was 
amused. He thought that Wellgood must have 
said a word to Isobel ; hinted perhaps that Vivien 
was wax in her lover's hands, and that her lover 
was impetuous. That Wellgood, or Isobel her- 
self, or anybody else, should harbour that idea 
did not displease Harry Belfield; not to be able 



2i 4 SECOND STRING. 

to resist him would be a venial sin, even in 
Vivien. 

It was an empty season in the little circle of 
Meriton society. Harry's father and mother were 
away, gone to Switzerland. Andy came down for 
week-ends generally ; all the working days his nose 
was close to the grindstone in the office of Messrs. 
Gilbert Foot and Co. He was learning the busi- 
ness, delighting in his new activity. Harry would 
not have been in Meriton either, had he not been 
in love in Meriton. As it was, he had his early 
ride, then read his books, then went over to Nutley 
for lunch, and spent all the rest of the day there. 
Often the curate would come in and make a four 
at tennis, but he did not stay to dinner. Almost 
every evening the three were alone, in the house 
or on the terrace by the water. One night in the 
week Harry might be in town, one night perhaps 
he would bring Andy. Four or five nights those 
three would be together ; and the question for 
Isobel was how often, for how long, how com- 
pletely she was to leave the engaged couple to 
themselves. To put it more brutally how much 
of a bore was she to make herself? 

To be a spy, a hindrance, a clog, to know that 
joy waited on the closing of the door behind her 
back, to listen to allusions half-intelligible, to turn 
a blind ear to words too tender, not to notice a 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 215 

furtive caress, to play the dragon of convention, 
the old-maid duenna that was her function in 
Vivien's eyes. And the same in Harry's? Oh 
yes ! the same in Harry Belfield's handsome, 
mischievous, deriding eyes ! He laughed at her 
for what she did for what she did in the dis- 
charge of her duty, earning her bread-and-butter. 
Earning more than he thought, though ! Because 
of the derision in Harry's eyes, again she would 
not let Wellgood go. Vivien should awake to 
realize that she was more than a chaperon, tire- 
some for the moment, soon to be dismissed ; 
Harry should understand that to one man she 
was no old -maid duenna, but the woman he 
wanted for wife. While she played chaperon at 
Nutley she wrote letters to Wellgood letters 
keeping his passion alive, playing with his con- 
fidence, transparently feigning to ignore, hardly 
pretending to deny. They were letters a lover 
successful in the end would laugh at. If in the 
issue the man found himself jockeyed, they would 
furnish matter for fury as a great deceit. 

Harry Belfield was still looking forward to his 
marriage with ardour ; it would not be fair even 
to say that he was getting tired of his engagement. 
But he would have been wise to imitate Wellgood 
take a last bachelor holiday, and so come back 
again hungry for Vivien's society. Much as he 



216 SECOND STRING. 

liked the fare, he could not be said to hunger for 
it now, it came to him so easily and so constantly. 
The absence of his parents, the emptiness of the 
town, his own want of anything particular to do, 
prevented even the small hindrances and inter- 
ruptions that might have whetted appetite by 
thwarting or delaying its satisfaction. Love- 
making became the business of his days, when it 
ought to have been the diversion. Harry must 
always have a diversion by preference one with 
something of audacity, venture, or breaking of 
bounds in it. His relations with Vivien, legitimate 
though romantic, secure yet delightful, did not 
satisfy this requirement. His career might have 
served, and would serve in the future (so it was 
to be hoped), but the career was at a temporary 
halt till the autumn campaign began. He took 
the diversion which lay nearest to hand ; that also 
was his way. Isobel Vintry possessed attractions ; 
she had a temper too, as he knew very well. He 
found his amusement in teasing, chaffing, and 
challenging her, in forcing her to play duenna 
more and more conspicuously, and in laughing at 
her when she did it ; in letting his handsome eyes 
rest on her in admiration for a second before he 
hastily turned them back to a renewed contempla- 
tion of their proper shrine ; in seeming half-vexed 
when she left him alone with Vivien, not altogether 






THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 217 

sorry when she came back. He was up to a dozen 
such tricks ; they were his diversion ; they flavoured 
the sweetness of his love-making with the spice of 
mischief. 

He saw that Isobel felt, that she understood. 
Vivien noticed nothing, understood nothing. 
There was a secret set up between Isobel and 
himself; Vivien was a stranger to it. Harry 
enlarged his interests ! His relations with Vivien 
were delightful, with Isobel they had a piquant 
flavour. Well, was not this a more agreeable 
state of things than that Isobel should be simply 
a bore to him, and he simply a bore to Isobel ? 
The fact of being an engaged man did not 
reconcile Harry Belfield to being simply a bore 
to a handsome woman. 

Among Wellgood's orders there was one that 
Vivien should go to bed at ten o'clock sharp, and 
Harry depart at the same hour. Wherever they 
were, in house or garden, the lovers had to be 
found and parted Vivien ordered upstairs, Harry 
sent about his business. Isobel's duty was to 
enforce this rule. Harry found a handle in it ; 
his malice laid hold of it. 

" Here comes the strict governess ! " he cried. 
Or, " Here's nurse ! Bedtime ! Won't you really 
let us have ten minutes more ? I believe you sit 
with your watch in your hand." 



218 SECOND STRING. 

Vivien rebuked him. " It's not poor Isobel's 
fault, Harry. She's got to." 

" No, she likes doing it. She's a born martinet ! 
She positively loves to separate us. You've no 
sympathy with the soft emotions, Miss Vintry. 
You're just a born dragon." 

"Please come, Vivien," Isobel said, flushing 
a little. " It's not my fault, you know." 

" Do you never break rules, Miss Vintry ? It's 
what they're made for, you know." 

"We've not been taught to think that in this 
house, have we, Vivien ? " 

"No, indeed," said Vivien with marked emphasis. 

Harry laughed. " A pattern child and a pattern 
governess ! Well, we must kiss good-night. You 
and I, I mean, of course, Vivien. And I'm sent 
home too, as usual ? " 

" You don't want to stay here alone, do you ? " 
asked Isobel. 

"Well, no, that wouldn't be very lively." His 
eyes rested on her a moment, possibly -just pos- 
sibly hinting that, though Vivien left him, yet 
he need not be alone. 

One evening, a very fine one when it seemed 
more absurd than usual to be ordered to bed or to 
be sent home so early Harry chaffed Isobel in 
this fashion, yet with a touch of real contempt. 
He did feel a genuine contempt for people who 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 219 

kept rules just because they were rules. Vivien 
again interceded. " Isobel can't help it, Harry. 
It's father's orders." 

" Surely some discretion is left to the trusty 
guardian ? " 

"It's no pleasure to me to be a nuisance, I 
assure you," said Isobel rather hotly. "Please 
come in, Vivien ; it's well past ten o'clock." 

Vivien rose directly. 

" You've hurt Isobel, I think," she whispered to 
Harry. " Say something kind to her. Good- 
night, dear Harry ! " 

She ran off, ahead of Isobel, who was about to 
follow, with no word to Harry. 

" Oh, wait a minute, please, Miss Vintry ! I 
say, you know, I was only joking. Of course I 
know it's not your fault. I'm awfully sorry if I 
sounded rude. I thought you wouldn't mind a bit 
of chaff." 

She stood looking at him with a hostile air. 

" Why does it amuse you ? " she asked. 

The square question puzzled Harry, but he was 
apt at an encounter. He found a good answer. 
"I suppose because what you do what you 
have to do seems somehow so incongruous, com- 
ing from you. I won't do it again, if you don't 
like it. Please forgive me and walk with me to the 
gate to prove it. There's no rule against that ! " 



220 SECOND STRING. 

For half a minute she stood, still looking at him. 
The moonlight was amply bright enough to let 
them see one another's faces. 

" Very well," she said. " Come along." 

Harry followed her with a pleasant feeling of 
curiosity. It was some little while before she spoke 
again. They had already reached the drive. 

" Why do you say that it's incongruous, coming 
from me ? " she asked. 

"I'm afraid I can't answer that without being 
impertinent again," laughed Harry. 

She turned to him with a slight smile. " Risk 
that ! " 

It was many days since he had been alone with 
her so devoted had he been to Vivien. Now 
again he felt her power ; again he did not know 
whether she put it forth consciously. 

" Well, then, you playing sheep-dog when you 
ought to be " He broke off, leaving his eyes to 
finish for him. 

" So your teasing is to be considered as a 
compliment ? " 

" I'll go on with it, if you'll take it like that." 

" Does Vivien take it like that, do you think ? " 

" I don't believe she thinks anything about it 
one way or the other. She's partial to my small 
efforts to be amusing, that's all." 

"Well, if it's a compliment, I don't want any 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 221 

more of it. I think you'd better, under the cir- 
cumstances, keep all your compliments for Vivien 
till you're married, at all events ! " 

Harry lifted his brows. 

" Rules ! Oh, those rules ! " he said with mock 
ruefulness. 

"Is there any good in breaking them for 
nothing ? " 

He turned quickly towards her. She was smil- 
ing at him. " For nothing ? " 

" Yes. Here we are at the gate. Good-night, 
Mr. Harry." 

"What do you mean by ?" 

" I really can't stay any longer." She was doing 
the mockery now ; his eagerness had given her the 
advantage. " You can think over my meaning if 
you like. Good-night ! " 

Harry said good-night. When he had gone 
fifty yards he looked back. She was still there, 
holding the gate half open with her hand, looking 
along the road. After him ? As he went on, his 
thoughts were not all of Vivien. Isobel Vintry 
was a puzzling girl ! 

The next evening he brought Vivien into the 
drawing-room punctually at ten. 

" We're good children to-night ! " he said gaily. 
"We've even said good-night to one another 
already, and Vivien's ready to run up to bed." 



222 SECOND STRING. 

" There, Isobel, aren't we good ? " cried Vivien, 
with her good-night kiss to Isobel. 

" Any reward ? " asked Harry, as the door closed 
behind hisjiancee. 

" What do you ask ? " 

"A walk to the gate. And perhaps an ex- 
planation." 

"Certainly no explanation. I don't mind five 
minutes' walk to the gate." 

This time very little was said on the way to the 
gate. A constraint seemed to fall on both of them. 
The night felt very silent, very still ; the lake 
stretched silent and still too, mysteriously tranquil. 

At last Harry spoke. "You've forgiven me 
quite?" 

" Oh yes. Naturally you didn't think how 
how it seemed to me. It isn't always easy to " 
She paused for a moment, looking over the water. 
" But it's my place in life for the present, at all 
events." 

" It won't be for long. It can't be." He laughed. 
" But I must take care compliments barred ! " 

" From you to me yes." 

Again her words or the way she said them 
stirred him to an eager curiosity. She half said 
things, or said things with half-meanings. Was 
that art or accident ? She did not say " from an 
engaged man to hisfanceis companion," but " from 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 223 

you to me." Was the concrete the personal 
form significant ? 

No more passed, save only, at the gate, " Good- 
night." But with the word she gave him her hand 
and smiled at him and ever so slightly shook her 
head. 

The next day, and the next, and the next, she 
left Vivien and him entirely to themselves, save 
when meals forced her to appear ; and on none of 
the three nights would she walk with him to the 
gate, though he asked twice in words and the third 
time with his eyes. Was that what the little shake 
of her head had meant ? But the two walks had 
left their mark. Harry chaffed and teased no 
more. 

Vivien praised his forbearance, adding, " I really 
think you hurt her feelings a little, Harry. But 
it was being rather absurdly touchy, wasn't it ? " 

" She seems to be sensitive about her position." 

Vivien made a little grimace. She was thinking 
that Isobel's position in the house had been at least 
as pleasant as her own till Harry came to woo. 

<c Oh, confound this political business ! " Harry 
suddenly broke out. " But for that we could get 
married in the middle of August as soon as your 
father and my people are back. I hate this waiting 
till October, don't you ? Now you know you do, 
Vivien ! " 



224 SECOND STRING. 

She put her hand on his and pressed it gently. 
" Yes, but it's pleasant as it is. I'm not so very 
impatient so long as I see you every day." 

But Harry was impatient now, and rather restless. 
The days had ceased to glide by so easily, almost 
imperceptibly, in the company of his lover. There 
was a feeling in him which did not make for peace 
a recrudescence of those impulses of old days 
which his engagement was utterly to have banished. 
Marriage was invoked to banish them utterly now. 
The sooner marriage came, the better ! Harry was 
ardent in his love-making that afternoon, and Vivien 
in a heaven of delight. If there was no chaff, there 
was no appeal to Isobel for a walk to the gate 
either. 

" I wish she wasn't there," he said to himself 
as he walked down, alone, to the gate at a punctual 
ten o'clock. Somehow his delight in his love for 
Vivien, and in hers for him, was being marred. 
Ever so little, ever so faintly, yet still a little, his 
romance was turning to duty. A delightful duty, 
of course, one in which his whole heart was en- 
gaged, but still no longer just the one thing the 
spontaneous voluntary thing which filled his life. 
It had now an opposite. Besides all else that it 
was, it had also even now, even before that mar- 
riage so slow in coming taken on the aspect of the 
right thing. In the remote corners of his mind 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 225 

banished to those hovered the shadowy image of 
its opposite. Quite impossible that the image 
should put on bones and flesh should take life ! 
Yes, Harry was sure of that. But even its phan- 
tom presence was disturbing. 

" I thought I'd got rid of all that ! " Some such 
protest, yet even vaguer and less formulated, stirred 
in his thougkts. He conceived that he had become 
superior to temptation. Had he ? For he was 
objecting to being tempted. Who tempted him ? 
Did she or only he himself, the man he was ? 
The question hung doubtful, and thereby pressed 
him the closer. He flattered himself that he knew 
women. What else had he to show for a good 
deal of time to say nothing of wear and tear of 
the emotions ? Here was a woman whose mean- 
ing, whose feeling towards himself, he did not 
know. 

Andy Hayes was free the next afternoon his 
half-holiday. Harry picked him up at his lodgings 
and carried him with him to Nutley. Harry was 
glad to have him, glad to hear all about Gilbert 
Foot and Co., even more glad to see his own 
position through Andy's eyes. Andy's vision was 
always so normal, so sane, so simple ; his assump- 
tions were always so right. A man really had only 
to live up to Andy's assumptions to be perfectly 
right. He assumed that a man was honest, straight, 



226 SECOND STRING. 

single-minded unreservedly and exclusively in 
love with the girl he was going to marry. Why, 
of course a man was ! Or why marry her ? Even 
foolishly in love with her ? Rather spoonily, as 
some might think ? Andy, perhaps, went so far as 
to assume that. Well, it was a most healthy 
assumption eminently right on the practical side ; 
primitive perhaps, but tremendously right. 

" I'll take Miss Vintry off your hands. Don't 
be afraid about that ! " laughed Andy. 

" I don't know that you'll be allowed to. 
You're no end of a favourite of Vivien's. She 
often talks about you. In fact I think I'm a bit 
jealous, Andy 1 " 

Andy's presence seemed to restore his balance, 
which had seemed shaken even if very slightly. 
He found himself again dwelling on the charms of 
Vivien, recalling her pretty ways and the shy 
touches of humour that sometimes ornamented her 
timidity. 

" I asked her the other day I was playing the 
fool, you know what she would do if I forsook 
her. What do think she said ? " 

Andy was prepared for anything brilliant, but, 
naturally, unable to suggest it. 

" She said, c Drown myself in the lake, Harry 
or else send for Andy Hayes.' ' 

"Did she say that?" cried Andy, hugely de- 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 227 

lighted, blushing as red as he had when the Nun 
told him that he was attractive. 

If Andy's simplicity and ready enthusiasm were 
congenial to some minds and some moods, to 
others they could be very exasperating. To have 
it assumed that you are feeling just what you 
ought to feel or even rather more than could in 
strictness be expected from you may be a strain 
on your patience. Harry had welcomed in Andy 
an assumption of this order ; at the moment it 
helped him. Isobel gave a similar assumption 
about her feelings a much less hearty welcome. 
While Harry and Vivien took a stroll by them- 
selves after lunch, Andy sat by her and was en- 
thusiastic about them ; he had forgotten the Nun's 
unjust hints. 

Isobel chafed. "Oh, yes, it's all very ideal, 
I daresay, Mr. Hayes. Let's hope it'll last ! 
But Mr. Harry's been in love before, hasn't 
he?" 

" Most people have had a fancy or two." (Even 
he himself had indulged in one.) " This is quite 
different to him, I know. And how could any- 
body help being fond of her ?" 

" At any rate she's pretty free from the dangers 
of competition down here." She looked at Andy 
with a curious smile. 

He laughed heartily. "Yes, that's all right, 



228 SECOND STRING. 

anyhow ! Not that it would make any difference, 
I'm sure." 

" If it were only to show this simpleton " 
The angry thought was in her heart. But there 
was more. Harry's devotion was seeming very 
whole-hearted that day. Had she lost her power 
to disturb it ? Was Andy in the end right in 
leaving her utterly out of consideration ? Every 
day now and every hour it hurt her more to see 
Harry's handsome head ever bowed to Vivien, his 
eyes asking her love and receiving the loving 
answer. A wave of jealousy and of defiance swept 
over her. Andy need not know she could afford 
to leave him in his folly. Vivien must not know 
that would be too inconvenient. But Harry 
himself was he quite to forget those two walks 
to the gate ? She burned to use her power. A 
letter from Wellgood had reached her that morn- 
ing ; it was not a proposal of marriage, but by his 
talk of future plans of what was to happen after 
Vivien left them it assumed that she was still to 
be at Nutley. The implication was definite ; 
matters only awaited his return. 

" I haven't had a single word with you by our- 
selves all day," said Vivien to Andy after dinner. 
"You'll walk with me, won't you?" 

" For my part I don't think I want to walk at 
all," said Harry. " It's rather chilly. Will you 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 229 

keep me company indoors, and forgive my cigar, 
Miss Vintry?" 

Isobel assented rather coldly, but her heart beat 
quicker. Now that the chance came by no con- 
trivance of hers and unexpectedly she was 
suddenly afraid of it, and afraid of what seemed 
a sudden revelation of the strength of her feeling 
for Harry. She had meant to play with him, to 
show him that, if she was to be left out of the 
reckoning, it was by her own choice ; to make him 
see her power fully for once before she hid it for 
ever. Could she carry out her dangerous pro- 
gramme ? Harry had been at his gayest that 
night, just in the mood which had carried him to 
most of his conquests gaily daring, skirting topics 
of gallantry with defiant ease, provoking, yet 
never offending. If his eyes spoke true, he was 
in the mood still. 

<c Only a week more ! " he said. " Then papa- 
in-law comes back, and I go electioneering. Well, 
I suppose weVe had enough of what they call dal- 
liance.'* He sank into an armchair by the fireplace, 
sighing in pleasant indolence, lolling gracefully. 

The long windows were open to the terrace ; 
the evening air came in cool and sweet. She 
looked out on the terrace ; Vivien and Andy had 
wandered away ; they were not in sight. Vivien's 
wrap lay on a chair close to the window. 



230 SECOND STRING. 

"Vivien ought to have taken her wrap," said 
Isobel absently, as she came back and stood by the 
mantelpiece opposite Harry. Her cheeks were a 
little flushed and her eyes bright to-night ; she 
responded to Harry's gaiety, his mood acted on 
hers. 

"What are you going to do after we're after 
the break-up here?" he asked suddenly. 

She smiled down at him, pausing a moment 
before she answered. " You seem quite sure that 
there will be a complete break-up," she said. 

He looked hard at her ; she smiled steadily. 
"Well, I know that Vivien won't be here," he 
said. 

" Oh, I know that much too, Mr. Harry. But 
I suppose her father will." 

"I suppose that too. Which leaves only one 
of the party unaccounted for." 

" Yes, only one of us unaccounted for." 

" One that may be Miss Wellgood's com- 
panion, but could hardly be Mr. Wellgood's. 
He can scarcely claim the privileges of old age 
yet." 

"You think I ought to be looking out for 
another situation ? But supposing merely sup- 
posing Mr. Wellgood didn't agree?" 

Harry flung his cigar into the grate. "Do you 
mean ?" he said slowly. She gave a little laugh. 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 231 

He laughed too, rather uneasily. cc I say, you 
can't mean ?" 

" Can't I ? Well, I only said * supposing.' 
And I think you chaffed me about it yourself once. 
You forget what you say to women, Mr. Harry." 

"Should you like it?" 

" Beggars mustn't be choosers. We can't all be 
as lucky as Vivien ! " 

"Was I serious? No I mean are you? 
Wellgood ! " 

" Why shouldn't I be ? Or why shouldn't Mr. 
Wellgood ? It seems absurd ? " 

" Not in Wellgood, anyhow." 

"Beggars mustn't be choosers." 

" You a beggar ! Why, you're 

"What am I?" 

"Shall I break the rules?" 

She gave him a long look before answering. 
" No, don't." Her voice shook a little, her com- 
posure was less perfect. 

Harry was no novice ; the break in the voice 
did not escape him. He marked it with a thrill 
of triumph ; it told him that she was not merely 
playing with him ; he was holding his own, he had 
his power. The fight was equal. He rose to his 
feet and stood facing her, both of them by the 
mantelpiece. 

" I don't want you to say anything about this to 



232 SECOND STRING. 

Vivien, because it's not definite yet. If the oppor- 
tunity were offered to me, don't you think I 
should be wise to accept?" 

"Are you in love with him?" He looked in 
her eyes. " No, you can't be ! " 

" Your standard of romance is so high. I like 
him and perhaps I don't like looking out for 
another situation." Her tone was lighter ; she 
seemed mistress of herself again. But Harry had 
not forgotten the break in her voice. 

" Have you considered that this arrangement " 
"Which we have supposed " 
" Would make you my mother-in-law ? " 
" Well, your stepmother-in-law. That doesn't 
sound quite so oppressive, I hope?" 

" They both sound to me considerably absurd." 
" I really can't see why they should." 
Their eyes met in confidence, mirthful and 
defiant. They fought their duel now, forgetful 
of everybody except themselves. His old spirit 
had seized on Harry ; it carried him away. She 
gave herself up to the delight of her triumph 
and to the pleasure that his challenge gave 
her. Out of sight, out of mind, were Vivien and 
Andy. 

" But relationship has its consolations, its privi- 
leges," said Harry, leaning towards her, his face 
alight with mischievous merriment. He offered 



THE SHAWL BY THE WINDOW. 233 

her his hand. "At all events, accept my con- 
gratulations." 

She gave him her hand. "You're premature, 
both with congratulations and with relationship." 

" Oh, I'm always in a hurry about things," 
laughed Harry, holding her hand. He leant 
closer yet ; his face was very near hers now his 
comely face with its laughing luring eyes. She 
did not retreat. Harry saw in her eyes, in her 
flushed cheeks and quickened breath, in her 
motionlessness, the permission that he sought. 
Bending, he kissed her cheek. 

She gave a little laugh, triumphant, yet depre- 
catory and nervous. Her face was all aflame. 
Harry's gaze was on her ; slowly he released her 
hand. She stood an instant longer, then, with a 
shrug of her shoulders, walked across the room 
towards the windows. Harry stood watching her, 
exultant and merry still. 

Suddenly she came to a stand. She spoke 
without looking round. "Vivien's shawl was on 
that chair." 

The words hardly reached his preoccupied brain. 
"What? Whose shawl?" 

She turned round slowly. "Vivien's shawl was 
on that chair, and it's gone," she said. 

Harry darted past her to the window, and 
looked out. He came back to her on tiptoe and 



234 SECOND STRING. 

whispered, "Andy! He's about two-thirds of 
the way across the terrace with the thing now." 

" He must have come in just a moment ago," 
she whispered in return. 

Harry nodded. "Yes just a moment ago. 
I wonder ! " He pursed up his lips, but still 
there was a laughing devil in his eye. "Lucky 
she didn't come for it herself!" he said. "But- 
well, I wonder ! " 

She laid her finger on her lips. They heard 
steps approaching, and Vivien's merry voice. 
Harry made a queer, half-puzzled, half-amused 
grimace. Isobel walked quickly on to the terrace. 
Inside the light fell too mercilessly on her cheeks ; 
she would meet them beneath the friendly cover 
of the night. 






Chapter XII. 
CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 

A STOLEN kiss may mean very different things 
4 almost nothing (not quite nothing, or why 
steal it?), something yet not too much, or well- 
nigh everything. The two parties need not give 
it the same value ; a witness of it is not, of necessity, 
bound by the valuation of either of them. It may 
be merely a jest, of such taste as charity can allow 
in the circumstances ; it may be the crown and end 
of a slight and passing flirtation ; it may be the 
first visible mark of a passion destined to grow 
to fierce intensity. Or it may seem utterly evasive 
in its significance at the moment, as it were in- 
decipherable and imponderable, waiting to receive 
from the future its meaning and its weight. 

The last man to find his way through a maze 
of emotional analysis was Andy Hayes ; his mind 
held no thread of experience whereby to track the 
path, his temperament no instinct to divine it. 
He could not assign a value or values to the 



236 SECOND STRING. 

incident of which chance had made him a witness ; 
what Harry's impulse, Isobel's obvious acceptance 
of it, the intensity and absorption that marked the 
bearing of the two in the brief moment in which 
he saw them as he lifted Vivien's shawl, stood 
looking for a flash of time, and quickly turned 
away what these things meant or amounted to 
he could not tell. But there was no uncertainty 
about his feelings ; he was filled with deep distaste. 
He was not a man of impracticable ideals his 
mind walked always in the mean but he was 
naturally averse from intrigue, from underhand 
doings, from the playing of double parts. They 
were traitors in this thing ; let it mean the least 
it could, even to mere levity or unbecoming 
jocularity (their faces rose in his mind to contradict 
this view even as he put it), still they were so far 
traitors. The first brunt of his censure fell on 
Isobel, but his allegiance to Harry was also so 
sorely shaken that it seemed as though it could 
never be the same again. The engagement had 
been to Andy a sacrosanct thing ; it was now 
sacrilegiously defaced by the hands of the two 
most bound to guard it. " Very low-down ! " was 
Andy's humble phrase of condemnation at least 
very low-down ; how much more he knew not 
but that in the best view of the case. At the 
moment his heart had gone out to Vivien in a 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 237 

great pang of compassion ; it seemed such a shame 
to tamper with, even if not actually to betray, a 
trust like hers. His face, like Isobel's, had been 
red but red with anger under the cover of the 
night. He was echoing the Nun's " Poor girl ! " 
which in loyalty to his friend he had before 
resented. 

His first impulse had been to shield Vivien 
from any suspicion ; it taught him a new cunning, 
an hypocrisy not his own. If Isobel delayed their 
return to the brightly lighted room, he did not 
hurry it let all the faces have time to recover ! 
But his voice was calm and unmoved ; for him 
he was even talkative and exuberant. When they 
went in, he met Harry with an unembarrassed air. 
Relief rose in Isobel ; yet Harry doubted. So far 
as Harry could reason, he must have all but seen, 
probably had actually seen. And in one thing 
there was significance. He went on devoting 
himself to Vivien ; he did not efface himself in 
Harry's favour, as his wont was. He seemed to 
make his presence a fence round her, forbidding 
her lover's approach. Harry, now talking trifles 
to Isobel, watched him keenly, hardly doubting, 
hardly venturing to hope. 

"Till lunch to-morrow, Harry," said Vivien 
gaily, when the time for good-night came. "You'll 
come too, won't you, Mr. Hayes ?" 



238 SECOND STRING. 

" Thanks awfully, but I'm off for a big tramp." 

" To dinner then ? " asked Isobel very graciously. 

" Thanks awfully, but I I really must sup with 
old Jack." 

The quickest glance ran from Harry to Isobel. 

What was to be done ? Take the chance the 
bare chance that he had not seen anything, or not 
seen all ? Or confess the indiscretion and plead 
its triviality with a vow of penitence, serious if 
Andy must be serious over such a trifle, light if he 
proved man of the world enough to join in laughing 
it off ? No, Harry would take the chance, poor 
as it was. Even if Andy had seen, how could he 
interfere ? To confess, however lightly, would be 
to give him a standing in the case, a right to put 
his oar in. It would be silly to do that ; as 
matters stood now, his title could be denied if he 
sought to meddle. He knew Andy well enough 
to be sure that he would do nothing against him 
without fair warning. If he meant to tell tales to 
Vivien or to Wellgood, he would warn Harry first. 
Time enough to wrestle with him then ! Mean- 
while they he was coupling Isobel with himself 
would stand on the defensive ; nothing should be 
admitted, everything should be ignored. 

So much for Andy ! He was assessed a 
possible danger, a certain cause for vigilance, also, 
it must be confessed, rather an uncomfortable 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 239 

presence, an embarrassing witness of his friend's 
orthodox love-making, as he had been an unwilling 
one of his heterodox. Meanwhile Harry's tact 
was equal to the walk back to Meriton, Andy 
proving inclined to silence but not unfriendly or 
morose, still less actively aggressive or reproachful. 
And he would not be at Meriton to-morrow. The 
word could be passed to Isobel be careful but say 
nothing! Very careful in Andy's presence but 
no admissions to be made ! 

Aye, so much for Andy! But besides the 
witness there are the parties. Besides the person 
who catches you kissing, there is the person you 
kiss. There is also you, who kiss. All questions 
of value are not decided by the impression you 
chance to make on the witness. The bystander 
may see most of the game ; the players settle the 
stakes. 

" Perverse ! " was Harry's verdict on the whole 
affair, given from his own point of view ; not only 
perverse that he should have been caught if he 
had been but no less perverse that he should 
have done the thing, that he should have wanted 
to do it, and that he should feel as he now did 
about it. Perhaps the last element was really the 
most perverse of all, because it set up in his mind 
an opposition to what was plainly the only course 
open to him from Isobel's point of view. (Here 



2 4 o SECOND STRING. 

the question of the third value came in.) That 
was surely open and avowed penitence a sincere 
apology, as serious or as light as was demanded or 
would be accepted. She could not pretend that 
she felt outraged. In truth they had shared in the 
indiscretion and been partners in the peccadillo. 
An apology not too abject, a hint at the temptation, 
gracefully put, to serve for excuse, a return to the 
safe ground of friendship and a total oblivion of 
the incident ! Or, if they must think of it at all, 
it would be without words with a smile, maybe, 
in a few days' time ; that is how we feel about 
some not serious, by no means unpleasant, little 
scrape that is well over. Harry had been in a 
good many such perverse but not fatal, annoying 
at the time, not necessarily things on which the 
memory dwelt with pain in after days ; far from it 
sometimes, in fact. 

That was the right thing to do, and the right 
way to regard the episode. But Harry was con- 
scious of a complication in the circumstances and 
in his own feelings. Owing to his engagement 
with Vivien he must go on frequenting Isobel's 
society; owing to the memory of his kiss the 
necessity was not distasteful. Well, these little 
complications must be unravelled ; the first diffi- 
culty faced, the second ignored or overcome. He 
arrived at so clear, sound, and prudent a resolution 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 241 

thus to minimise the effects of his indiscretion that 
he felt almost more virtuous than if he had been 
discreet. 

So the parties, as well as the witness, were 
assessed. But who had put into his hand the 
standard whereby to assess Isobel ? She might 
measure by another rule. 

The confession and absolution thus virtuously 
and comfortably planned did not take place the 
next day, for the simple reason that Miss Vintry 
afforded no opportunity for them ; she was ill and 
invisible. On the following day she was on a sofa. 
Immediately on his appearance, Harry was sent 
home again, Vivien declaring that she must be in 
unremitting attendance on her friend. The third 
day matters seemed back on their usual footing ; 
but still he got no private word with Isobel. Once 
or twice he caught her looking at him in what 
seemed a thoughtful way ; when observed, she 
averted her glance, but without embarrassment. 
Perhaps this avoidance of all chance of private talk 
of all possibility of referring to the incident 
was her way of treating it ; perhaps she meant to 
dispense with apology and go straight to oblivion. 
If that were her intention, she misjudged Harry's 
feelings. He felt baulked of his scheme of con- 
fession and absolution baulked and tantalized. 
He felt almost insulted did she not think him 



242 SECOND STRING. 

gentleman enough to apologise ? He felt curious 
did she not feel the desire for an apology herself ? 
He felt amazed had she no anxiety about Andy ? 
The net result was that he could think of little 
else than of her and of the incident. And under 
these circumstances he had to carry on his orthodox 
love-making ! The way of trangressors is said to be 
hard ; at moments Harry felt his worse than that ; 
it had a tendency to become ridiculous. 

Against this abhorred peril he struck back 
vigorously and instinctively on effective lines. He 
could hold his own in a duel of the sexes. His 
court of Vivien not only seemed but became more 
ardent in these matters the distinction between 
being and seeming runs very thin, since the acting 
excites the reality. If one woman teased him, 
occupying his thoughts without satisfying his desire, 
he turned to the adoration of another, and gave 
her of his own that hers might be more complete. 
Adoring Vivien found herself adored; Harry's 
worship would break out even in Isobel's presence ! 
He who had been rather too content to accept now 
asked; she could not do enough to witness her 
love. Half-unconsciously fighting for a victory he 
less than consciously desired, he struck at Isobel 
through Vivien and made Vivien supremely 
happy. Happiness gave her confidence ; con- 
fidence gave her new charm, a new vivacity, a 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 243 

daring to speak her gay and loving thoughts. 
Who should not listen if Harry loved to hear ? 
Her growth in power to allure made Harry 
wonder that he could not love single-heartedly, 
why his recollection of the incident remained so 
fresh and so ever-present. If Isobel would give 
him a chance to wind it up ! It was troublesome 
now only because it hung in a mystery created by 
her silence, because the memory of it was irritated 
by a curiosity which her evasion of him maintained. 
Did she think it nothing ? Or could she not bear 
to speak of it, because it was so much more ? At 
any rate she should see how he loved Vivien ! 

The three had this week to themselves Andy 
engulfed in town and Gilbert Foot and Co., 
Wellgood not due back till the Saturday. So 
they passed it Vivien in a new ecstasy; Harry 
ardent, troubled, wondering ; Isobel apart, thought- 
ful, impossible to read. Thus they came to the 
Friday. To-morrow Wellgood would be back. 
Harry, thinking on this, thought suddenly of what 
had led up to the incident what had been the 
excuse, the avenue, for his venture. It had been 
absorbed in the incident itself. Wellgood's coming 
gave it back to independent life. If what Isobel 
had said were true, another lover entered on the 
scene Isobel's ! 

That night when Harry had gone Vivien 



244 SECOND STRING. 

came to Isobel and kissed her, saying, " It's 
wonderful, but to-night I'm sure ! " 

Isobel was looking at an illustrated paper. She 
let her hand rest in Vivien's, but she did not raise 
her eyes from the pictures. " Silly child, you've 
been sure all along ! " 

" Not as I am to-night. I've been sure I pleased 
him, that he liked me, that he liked my love. I've 
never been sure that he really wanted it till the last 
two or three days." She paused a moment, and 
added softly, " Never sure he must have it, as 
much as I must have his ! " 

Isobel's paper slipped from her knees on to the 
floor, but still she did not look at Vivien. 

" It's a wonderful feeling that," the girl went 
on; "to feel he must have it that he must 
have my love as I must have his. Before he 
seemed to be doing all the giving and I could 
hardly believe! Now I'm giving too we're 
sharing. Somehow it makes a woman of me." 
She playfully caressed Isobel's hand, running 
fingers lightly over fingers. "I don't believe 
I'm afraid even of you any more ! " Her tone 
was gay, affectionately bantering. 

Now Isobel looked up at her as she leant over 
her shoulder. "It makes you look very pretty." 

"It makes me feel prettier still," laughed 
Vivien. She put her face close to her friend's and 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 245 

whispered, blushing, " He kisses me differently 
now." 

Isobel Vintry sharply drew her hand away. 
Vivien's blush grew painfully bright. 

" Oh, I I oughtn't to have said that. You're 
right, Isobel. It's it's too sacred. But I was so 
happy in it. Do forgive me, dear. I've got no 
mother to talk to, Isobel. Not even a sister ! I 
know what you felt, but you must forgive me." 

"There's nothing to forgive, child. I meant 
nothing when I took my hand away. I was going 
to pick up the paper." 

"Then kiss me, Isobel." 

Isobel slowly turned her head and kissed the 
girl's cheek. " I know what you mean, Vivien," 
she said with a smile that to the girl seemed 
wistful, almost bitter. 

" You dear ! " she whispered. " Some day you 
must be very happy too." Her voice carolled in 
song as she sped upstairs. 

" The good which I would I do not : but the 
evil which I would not, that I do." That and 
possibly one other reminiscence of the Scriptures 
came back to Isobel Vintry when, with a kiss, she 
had dismissed Vivien to her happy rest. There 
was another law, warring against the law of her 
mind the law of the Restless and Savage Master. 
He broke friendship's power and blurred the mirror 



246 SECOND STRING. 

of loyalty. He drove her whither she would not 
go, commanded her to set her hand to what she 
would not touch, forced love to mate with loathing. 
"The child is so beautifully happy," her spirit 
cried. "Aye, in Harry Belfield's kisses," came 
the Master's answer. "Wouldn't she be? You've 
tasted them. You know." She knew. They 
were different now ! From those he had given 
Vivien before ? Yes. From the one he had 
given her ? Or like that one ? Her jealousy 
caught fresh flame from Vivien's shy revelation- 
fresh flame and new shame. Harry was repenting 
with smiles of memory. She was sinning still, 
with groans, with all her cunning, and with all 
her might. Pass the theory that it is each man 
for himself in this fight, and each woman for her 
own hand. No doubt ; but should not the fight 
be fair ? The girl did not so much as know there 
was a fight, and should not and must not, unless 
and until it had gone irrevocably against her. 
"All's fair in love and war." Yet traitors suffer 
death from their own side and the enemy's contempt. 
His kisses were different now that set her 
aflame. Aye, and to mark how under their new 
charm Vivien opened into new power and took 
hold on new weapons ! The new kisses somehow 
made a woman of her ! It might be tolerable 
to see him make his marriage of convenience, 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 247 

doing no more than somewhat indolently allowing 
himself to be adored. But to see him adoring 
this other that was to be worsted on the merits 
not merely to be impossible, but to be undesired. 
Was that coming about ? Had it come about so 
soon after the stolen kiss ? Then the kiss had 
been all failure, all shame ; he had mocked while 
he kissed. She was cheapened, yet not aided. 
The cunning of the last six days had been bent 
to prove that she had been aided her value not 
cheapened but enhanced. 

Looking again out of the window whence she 
had watched the pair at their love-making, looking 
over the terrace, now empty, across the water (water 
seems ever to answer to the onlooker's mood), she 
exclaimed against the absence of safeguards. Were 
she a wife or were Vivien ! That would be a 
fence, making for protection a sturdy fence, which 
to breakdown or to leap over would be plain trespass- 
ing, a profanation, open offence. Were she or were 
Vivien a mother ! The Savage Master himself 
must own a worthy foe in motherhood one that 
gave him trouble, one that he vanquished only 
after hard fighting, and then saw his victory 
bitterly grudged, piteously wept over, deplored 
in a heart-rending fashion ; you could see that 
in the morning's paper. She chanced to have 
read such a case a day or two before. The letter 



248 SECOND STRING. 

of confession was signed " Mother the outcast." 
To have to sign like that if you let the Master 
beat you was a deterrent, a safeguard, a shield. 
Such defences she had not. Vivien was neither 
wife nor mother ; no more was she. The engage- 
ment seemed but victory in the first bout ; was 
it forbidden to try the best of three ? Nothing 
was irrevocable yet on either side. " At lovers' 
vows ! " Or a stolen kiss ! Or a stolen vic- 
tory ? 

Suddenly she remembered, and with the same 
quality of smile as Vivien had marked, that she 
had been an exemplary child, ever extolled, never 
punished ; a pattern schoolgirl, with the highest 
marks, Queen on May-day (a throne not to be 
achieved without the Principal's congt d'tlire /), a 
model student at Cambridge. Hence the unex- 
ceptionable credentials which had introduced her 
to Nutley, had made her Vivien's preceptress, 
Vivien's bulwark against fear and weakness, 
Vivien's shield and destined to be a shield to 
successive young ladies after Vivien. Who first 
had undermined that accepted view of destiny, 
had disordered that well-schooled, almost Sunday- 
schooled, scheme of her life ? Vivien's father, 
who came back to-morrow. At whose challenge 
was the shaken fortress like to fall ? Vivien's 
lover, who came yesterday and the day before, 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 249 

to-morrow and the day after, every day till he 
went out of life with Vivien. 

As with minds greatly preoccupied, the ordinary 
traffic of the hours passed unnoticed ; bed, sleep, 
breakfast, were a moment. She found herself 
greeting Wellgood, newly arrived, ruddy and 
robust, confident, self-satisfied as she saw in a 
moment, eager. His kiss to his daughter was 
carelessly kind, and with it he let her go, she 
not unwilling ; Harry was due at the gate. 
Wellgood's real greeting was for the woman 
whom to see was his home-coming. He led 
her with him into his study ; he laid his hand 
on her arm as he made her sit down near him. 

" Well, have the lovers bored you to death with 
their spooning since I've been away ? " 

" There's been a good deal of it, and not much 
relief. Only Andy Hayes now and then." 

" Rather tiresome to be the onlooker all the time. 
Wouldn't you like a little on your own account ? " 

" I'm in no hurry." She looked him straight in 
the face, rather defiantly. 

" I've made up my mind since I've been away. 
I'm not a good hand at speeches or at spooning, 
but I'm fond of you, Isobel. I'll make you a good 
husband and it's for you to consider whether you'll 
ever get a better chance." 

" I should like more time to think it over." 



250 SECOND STRING. 

"Oh, come, don't tell me you haven't been 
thinking it over for weeks past. What's the 
difficulty?" 

" I'm not in love with you that's all." 

"I don't expect to inspire a romantic passion, 
like young Harry." 

" Can't you leave Harry Belfield out of it ? " she 
asked irritably. 

" I see he has bored you," chuckled Wellgood. 
" But you like me ? We get on together ? " 

" Yes, I like you, and we get on together. But 
I don't want to marry yet." 

" No more do I just yet ! " He rose and went 
to the mantelpiece to choose a pipe. " Have you 
got any friends you could stay a month with ? " 

His back was to her ; he was busy filling the pipe. 
He saw neither the sudden stiffening of her figure 
nor the fear in her eyes. Was he going to send 
her away now ? But she answered coolly, " Yes, 
I think I could arrange it, if you wish." 

" Somehow a man feels rather a fool, being 
engaged himself while his girl's getting married. 
We should have all the idiots in the neighbour- 
hood buzzing about with their jokes and con- 
gratulations. I've made a plan to avoid all that. 
We keep it quite dark till Vivien's wedding ; then 
you go off, ostensibly for good. I stay here and 
give the place an overhauling ; then I'll join you 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 251 

in town, we'll be married there, and go for a jaunt. 
By the time we come back they'll have cooled 
down and they'll be jolly glad to have shirked 
their wedding presents." By now he had turned 
round ; the strain and the fear had passed from 
Isobel ; the month's visit to friends was not to come 
now. " How do you like the scheme ? " he asked. 

" I like the scheme very much, and I'm all for 
keeping it quiet till Vivien is disposed of." 

He stood before her, smoking his pipe, his 
hands in his pockets. " Shall we call it settled ? " 

" I don't want to call it settled yet." 

He put down his pipe. "Look here, Isobel, 
because I can't make pretty speeches, don't you 
think I don't feel this thing. I want you, and 
I want the thing settled. You ought to know 
your mind by now. If you want to say no, you 
can say it now, but I don't believe you do. Then 
why can't you say yes ? It's devilishly uncom- 
fortable to go on living in the house with you 
while the thing's unsettled." 

Would the visit come into play after all, unless 
she consented ? Isobel sat in thought. 

i"Just understood between ourselves that's what 
I mean. I shan't bother you with much love- 
making, as I daresay you can guess." 

She had cried out for a fence, a protection. 
Did not one offer itself now ? It might prove 



252 SECOND STRING. 

of service. She saw that the man loved her in 
his rough way ; his love might help her. For 
the time, at least, his honest sincerity of affection 
touched her heart. His " I want you " was grate- 
ful to her. That other thing the thing to which 
the stolen kiss belonged was madness. Surely 
she had resolution to withstand it and to do what 
was wise ? Surely she could be honest ? If only 
because, in all likelihood, dishonesty led nowhere. 

" Suppose I said yes and changed my mind ? " 
She was trying to be honest or perhaps to put 
herself in a position to maintain that she had been 
honest, if need arose. 

"I must take my chance of that, like other men," 
laughed Wellgood. " But, like other men too, I 
don't suppose I should be very pleasant about it. 
Especially not if there was another fellow ! " 

" No, I don't suppose you would." She smiled 
at him for a moment ; he showed there a side of 
him that she liked his courage, his self-confidence, 
his power to stand up for himself. 

" You leave it to me to keep you when once I've 
got you," he went on, smiling grimly. "That's 
my affair ; you'll find I shall look after it." 

She smiled back at him defiance in return for 
his grimness. "Very well, I'll leave it to you to 
keep me. After all, there's no reason to expect 
competition." 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 253 

" Not in Meriton, perhaps ! But what of 
London, Miss Isobel ? I must keep an eye on 
you there ! " He took hold of her hands and 
pulled her to her feet. " It's a promise ? " 

" In the way I've told you yes." 

" Oh, that's good enough for me ! " He drew 
her to him and kissed her. "We shan't have 
many chances of kissing or we should give the 
thing away. But give me one now, Isobel ! " 

She did as she was bid in a very friendly fashion. 
His kiss had been hearty but not passionate, and 
hers was an adequate response. It left Wellgood 
entirely content. 

"That's all right! Gad, I feel ten years 
younger ! You shan't repent it. I'll look after 
you well while I'm alive and after I'm gone too. 
Don't be afraid about that. Perhaps there'll be 
somebody else to look after you, by the time I get 
notice to quit. I'd like to leave a Wellgood of 
Nutley behind me." 

"Do you know, that's sentimental ?" said Isobel. 
" Mere sentiment ! " 

" Not a bit of it, miss. It's a sound natural 
instinct, and I'm proud of it." He kissed her 
again. " Now be off, there's a good girl. I've 
got a thousand things to do, and probably every- 
thing's been going to the devil while I've been 
away." 






254 SECOND STRING. 

" I rather pity everybody now you've come 
back ! " 

" Don't you worry. I know I shall find your 
department in good order. Be off!" Retook 
her by the shoulders in a rough playfulness and 
turned her towards the door. She left him chuck- 
ling to himself. He was very content with the 
issue of his suit. 

Was her department in good order ? Her lips 
twisted in a wry smile. 

As she approached the drawing-room door, 
Harry Belfield came out of it. He started a little 
to see her not that it was strange she should be 
there, but because he had not seen her alone since 
the night of the stolen kiss. He closed the door 
behind him and came to her. 

"Vivien" a jerk of his head told that Vivien 
was in the drawing-room " has sent me to say 
c How do you do ? ' to Mr. Wellgood." 

"He's in his study, Mr. Harry. Don't stay 
long. He's very busy." She drew aside, to let 
him pass, but Harry stood still. 

"Are you never going to give me an oppor- 
tunity ? " he asked in a low voice. 

"An opportunity for what ?" 

Harry jumped at the chance of his confession 
and absolution. "Why, of saying how awfully 
sorry and and ashamed I am that I yielded 



CONCERNING A STOLEN KISS. 255 

" What's the use of saying anything about it ? 
It's best forgotten." 

" Now Wellgood's back?" he whispered, with 
a flash of his eyes. 

"Certainly best forgotten, now that Vivien's 
father is back." 

He shook his head at her with a smile, owning 
her skilful parry. " You won't give me one chance ? " 

" Does the dashing Mr. Harry Belfield need to 
have chances given him ? I thought he made 
them for himself." 

Harry's eyes gleamed. " I'll take you at your 
word in that ! " 

" You've been in no hurry about it up to now 
and you seem in none to say c How do you do ? ' 
to Mr. Wellgood." She motioned him to go 
on, adding, " It was very silly, but no harm's 
done. We'll forget." 

Harry gave her a long look. She met it with 
a steady smile. He held out his hand. 

Thank you. We'll forget. There's my hand 
on it." 

She gave a little laugh, shook her head, and put 
her hands behind her back. 

"I seem to remember it began that way before," 
she said, and darted past him swiftly. 

That was how they set about forgetting the 
stolen kiss. 



Chapter XIII. 
A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 

TT speedily appeared that Gilly Foot had other 
* than pecuniary reasons for wanting a partner ; 
he wanted a pair of hands to work for him. He 
was lazy, at times even lethargic ; nothing could 
make him hurry. He hated details, and, above all 
other details, figures. His work was to hatch 
ideas ; somebody else had to bring up the chickens. 
Andy could hardly have allowed the cool shuffling- 
off of all the practical business work on to his 
shoulders which was what happened as soon as 
he had learnt even the rudiments of it had it not 
been that the ideas were good. The indolent 
young man would sit all the morning not that 
his morning began very early apparently doing 
nothing, then spend two hours at lunch at the 
restaurant, come back smoking a large cigar, and 
after another hour's rumination be delivered of an 
idea. The budding business Andy wondered 
how it had even budded under a gardener who no 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 257 

doubt planted but never watered lay mainly with 
educational works ; and here Gilly's ingenuity 
came in. He was marvellously good at guessing 
what would appeal to a schoolmaster ; how or 
whence he got this instinct it was impossible to 
say ; it seemed just a freak of genius. The 
prospectus of a new " series," or the " syllabus " 
of a new course of study (contained in Messrs. 
Gilbert Foot and Co.'s primers) became in hrs 
hands a most skilful bait. And if he hooked one 
schoolmaster, as he pointed out to Andy, it was 
equivalent to hooking scores, perhaps hundreds, 
conceivably thousands, of boys. Girls too perhaps ! 
Gilly was all for the higher education of girls. 
Generations of the youth of both sexes rose before 
his prophetically sanguine eye, all brought up on 
Gilbert Foot and Co.'s primers. 

"A single really good idea for a series may 
mean a small fortune, Andy," he would say im- 
pressively. " And now I think I may as well go 
to lunch." 

Andy accepted the situation and did the hard 
work. He also provided his partner with a note- 
book, urging him to put down (or, failing that, to 
get somebody else to put down) any brilliant idea 
which occurred to him at lunch. For himself he 
made a rule lunch at the restaurant not more than 

once a week. Only ideas justified lunch there 

9 



258 SECOND STRING. 

every day. Lunch there might be good for ideas ; 
it was not good for figures. 

So Andy was working hard, no less hard than 
when he was trying to drag his poor timber busi- 
ness out of the mud, but with far more heart, hope, 
and zest. He buckled to the figures ; he bar- 
gained with the gentlemen who wrote the primers, 
with the printers, and the binders, and the adver- 
tisement canvassers ; he tracked shy discounts to 
their lairs, and bagged them ; his eye on office 
expenses was the eye of a lynx. The chickens 
hatched by Gilly found a loving and assiduous 
foster-mother. And in September, after the new 
primers had been packed off to meet the boys going 
back to school, Andy was to have a holiday ; he 
was looking forward to it intensely. He meant to 
spend it in attending Harry Belfield on his autumn 
campaign in the Meriton Division an odd idea of 
a holiday to most men's thinking, but Harry was 
still Harry, and Andy's appetite for new experiences 
had lost none of its voracity. Meanwhile, for 
recreation, there was Sunday with its old pro- 
gramme of church, a tramp, and supper with Jack 
Rock ; there was lunch on Friday at the restau- 
rant with the Nun she never missed Andy's day 
and other friends ; and on both the Saturdays 
which followed the Belfields' return home he was 
bidden to dine at Halton. 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 259 

That the Nun had taken a fancy to him he had 
been informed by that candid young woman her- 
self ; her assurance that he was "attractive " held 
good as regarded Belfield at least ; even Andy's 
modesty could not deny that. Belfield singled 
him out for especial attention, drew him out, 
listened to him, advised him. It was at the first 
of the two evenings at Halton that he kept Andy 
with him after dinner, while the rest went into the 
garden Wellgood and Vivien were there, but not 
Isobel, who had pleaded a cold and insisted on 
hearing all about his business, listening with evi- 
dent interest to Andy's description of it and of his 
partner, Gilly Foot. 

"And in your holiday you Ye going to help 
Harry, I hear?" 

" Help him ! " laughed Andy. " I'm going to 
listen to him." 

" I recommend you to try your own hand too. 
You couldn't have a better opportunity of learning 
the job than at these village meetings." 

" I could never do it. It never entered my 
head. Why, I know nothing ! " 

" More than your audience ; that's enough. If 
you do break down at first, it doesn't matter. 
After a month of it you wouldn't mind Trafalgar 
Square." 

" The the idea's absolutely new to me." 



260 SECOND STRING. 

" So have a lot of things been lately, haven't 
they ? And they're turning out well." 

A slow smile spread over Andy's face. " I 
should look a fool," he reflected. 

" Try it," said Belfield, quite content with the 
reception of his suggestion. He saw that Andy 
would turn it over in his mind, would give it full, 
careful, impartial consideration. He was coming 
to have no small idea of Andy's mind. He passed 
to another topic. 

" You were at Nutley two or three times when 
we were away, Harry tells me. Everything seems 
going on very pleasantly ? " 

Andy recalled himself with a start from his 
rumination over a possible speech. 

" Oh, yes er it looks like it, Mr. Belfield." 

"And Harry's not been to town more than once 
or twice ! " He smiled. " He really seems to have 
said farewell to the temptations of London. An 
exemplary swain ! " 

"1 think it's going on all right, sir," said 
Andy. 

Belfield was a little puzzled at his lack of 
enthusiasm. Andy showed no actual signs of 
embarrassment, but his tone was cold, and his 
interest seemed perfunctory. 

" I daresay you've been too busy to pay much 
attention to such frivolous affairs," he said ; but 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 261 

to Andy's ears his voice sounded the least bit 
resentful. 

" No ; I I assure you I take the keenest in- 
terest in it. I'd give anything to have it go all 
right." 

Belfield's eyes were on him with a shrewd kind- 
ness. "No reason to suppose it won't, is there?" 

"None that I know of." Now Andy was 
frowning a little and smoking rather fast. 

Belfield said no more. He could not cross- 
examine Andy ; indeed he had no materials, even 
if he had the right. But Andy's manner left him 
with a feeling of uneasiness. 

"Ah, well, there's only six weeks to wait for the 
wedding ! " 

The next Saturday found him again at Halton. 
One of the six weeks had passed ; a week of 
happy work, yet somewhat shadowed by the recol- 
lection of Belfield's questions and his own poor 
answers. Had he halted midway between honest 
truth and useful lying ? In fact he knew nothing 
of what had been happening of late. He had not 
visited Nutley again since that night. Suddenly 
it struck him that he had not been invited. Then 
did they suspect ? How could they have timed 
his entrance so exactly as to suspect ? He did not 
know that Harry had seen his retreating figure. 
Still it would seem to them possible that he might 



262 SECOND STRING. 

have seen possible, if unlikely. That might be 
enough to make him a less desired guest. 

The great campaign was to begin on the follow- 
ing Monday, though Andy would not be at leisure 
to devote himself to it till a week later. The talk 
ran on it. Wellgood, who seemed in excellent 
spirits, displayed keen interest in the line Harry 
meant to take, and was ready to be chairman when- 
ever desired. Even Mrs. Belfield herself showed 
some mild excitement, and promised to attend one 
meeting. The girls were to go to as many as 
possible, Vivien being full of tremulous anticipa- 
tion of Harry's triumph, Isobel almost as en- 
thusiastic a partisan. She had met Andy with a 
perfection of composure which drove out of his 
head any idea that she suspected him of secret 
knowledge. 

" I'm afraid Harry's been overworking himself 
over it, poor boy," said Mrs. Belfield. "Don't 
you think he looks pale, Mr. Wellgood ? " 

" I don't know where he's found the time to 
overwork," Wellgood answered, with a gruff 
laugh. "We can account for most of his time 
at Nutley." 

Harry burst into a laugh, and gulped down 
his wine. He was drinking a good deal of 
champagne. 

"I sigh as a lover, mother," he explained. 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 263 

"That's what makes me pale if I am pale." 
His tone turned to sudden irritation. " Don't 
all look at me. There's nothing the matter." 
He laughed again ; he seemed full of changes of 
mood to-night. '"The speeches won't give me 
much trouble." 

" I'm sure you need have no other trouble, 
dear," said Mrs. Belfield, with an affectionate glance 
at Vivien. 

" He'll have much more trouble with me, won't 
he ? " Vivien laughed. 

Andy stole a look at Isobel. He was filled with 
admiration ; a smile of just the right degree of 
sympathy ornamented her lips. A profane idea 
that she must be in the habit of being kissed 
crossed his mind. It was difficult to see how she 
could be, though at Nutley. Kissing takes two. 
He did not suspect Wellgood, and he was innocent 
himself. 

Another eye was watching shrewder and more 
experienced than Andy's watching Harry, watch- 
ing Isobel, watching while Andy stole his glance at 
Isobel. It was easy to keep bluff Wellgood in the 
dark ; his own self-confidence hoodwinked him. 
Belfield was harder to blind ; for those who had 
anything to conceal, it was lucky that he did not 
live at Nutley. 

" Well, waiting for a wedding's tiresome work 



264 SECOND STRING. 

for all concerned, isn't it ? " he said to Isobel, who 
sat next him. 

" Yes, even waiting for other people's. It's 
such a provisional sort of time, Mr. Belfield." 

" You've forsworn one set of pleasures, and 
haven't got the other yet. You've ceased to be a 
rover, and you haven't got a home." 

" You don't seem to consider being engaged a 
very joyful period ? " she smiled. 

"On the whole, I don't, Miss Vintry, though 
Vivien there looks pretty happy. But it's telling 
on Harry, I'm sure." 

She looked across at Harry. "Yes, I think it 
is a little," came apparently as the result of a 
scrutiny suggested by Belfield's words. " I hadn't 
noticed it, but I'm afraid you're right." 

" If there's anything up, she's a cool hand," 
thought Belfield. " You must try to distract his 
thoughts," he told her. 

" I try to let them see as little of me as pos- 
sible." 

"Too complete a realization of matrimonial 
solitude a deux before marriage Is that advis- 
able ? " 

"You put too difficult questions for a poor 
spinster to answer, Mr. Belfield." 

He got nothing out of her, but from the corner 
of his eye he saw Harry watching him as he talked 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 265 

to Isobel. Turning his head sharply, he met his 
son's glance full and straight. Harry dropped his 
eyes suddenly, and again drank off his champagne. 
Belfield looked sideways at the composed lady on 
his right, and pursed up his lips a little. 

Wellgood stayed with him to-night after dinner, 
the young men joining the ladies in the garden for 
coffee. 

" Our friend Miss Vintry's in great good looks 
to-night, Wellgood. Remarkably handsome girl ! " 

" That dress suits her very well. I thought so 
myself," Wellgood agreed, well-pleased to have his 
secret choice thus endorsed. 

Belfield knew nothing of his secret, nothing 
of his plans. He was only trying to find out 
whether Vivien's father were fully at his ease ; 
of Isobel's lover and his ease he took no account. 

" Upon my word," he laughed, " if I were en- 
gaged, even to a girl as charming as your Vivien, 
I should almost feel it an injury to have another 
as attractive about all day. c How happy could I 
be with either ! ' you know. The unregenerate 
man in one would feel that good material was 
being wasted ; and my boy used to be rather 
unregenerate, I'm afraid." 

Wellgood smiled in a satisfied fashion. " Even 
if Master Harry was disposed to play tricks, I 
don't think he'd get much encouragement from " 



266 SECOND STRING. 

" c T'other dear charmer ? ' Of course you've 

perfect confidence in her, or she wouldn't be where 

i 
she is. 

"No, nor where she's going to be," thought 
Wellgood, enjoying his secret. 

" My licentious fancy has wronged my son. 
I must have felt a touch of the old Adam myself, 
Wellgood. Don't tell my wife." 

" You wouldn't tell me, if you knew a bit 
more," thought triumphant Wellgood. 

"I think Harry's constancy has stood a good 
trial. Oh, you'll think I don't appreciate Vivien ! 
I do ; but I know Harry." 

Wellgood answered him in kind, with a bludgeon- 
like wit. " You'll think I don't appreciate Harry. 
I do ; but I know Miss Vintry, and she doesn't 
care a button about him." 

"We proud parents put one another in our 
places ! " laughed Belfield. 

Wellgood saw no danger, and he had been 
home a fortnight ! True, he had, before that, 
been away six weeks. But such mischief, if it 
existed, would have grown. If it had been there 
during the six weeks, it would have been there, in 
fuller growth, during the fortnight. Belfield felt 
reassured. He had found out what he wanted, 
and yet had given no hint to Vivien's father. 
But one or two of his remarks abode in the mind 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 267 

of I sobers lover, to whom he did not know that 
he was speaking. Wellgood's secret position to- 
wards Isobel at once made Belfield's fears, if the 
fears were more than a humorous fancy, absurd, 
and made them, even though no more than a fancy, 
stick. He recked nothing of them as a father ; 
he remembered them as a lover, yet remembered 
only to laugh in his robust security. He thought 
it would be a good joke to tell to Isobel, not 
realizing that it is never a good joke to tell a 
woman that she has been, without cause and 
ridiculously, considered a source of danger to 
legitimate affections. She may feel this or that 
about the charge ; she will not feel its absurdity. 
She is generally right. Few women pass through 
the world without stirring in somebody once or 
twice an unruly impulse a fact which should incline 
them all to circumspection in themselves, and to 
charity towards one another, if possible, and at any 
rate towards us. 

"And what," asked Belfield, with an air of turn- 
ing to less important matters, "about the life of 
this Parliament ? " 

Wellgood opined that it would prove much 
what a certain philosopher declared the life of 
man to be nasty, short, and brutish. 

In the garden Mrs. Belfield, carefully enfolded 
in rugs, dozed the doze of the placid. Isobel 




268 SECOND STRING. 

and Harry whispered across her unconscious 
form. 

" You shouldn't drink so much champagne, 
Harry." 

" Hang it, I want it ! 1 said nothing wrong, 
did I ? " 

" You don't keep control of your eyes. I 
think your father noticed. Why look at me ? " 

" You know I can't help it. And I can't stand 
it all much longer." 

" You can end it as soon as you like. Am I 
preventing you ? " 

" I beg your pardon. Miss Vintry ? I'm afraid 
I'm drowsy." 

"I was just saying I hoped I wasn't preventing 
Mr. Harry from strolling with Vivien, Mrs. Bel- 
field." 

"Oh yes, my dear, of course ! " The placid lids 
fell over the placid eyes again. 

"End it? How?" 

"By behaving as Vivien's fiand ought." 

" Or by not being Vivien's fiand any longer ? " 

" What, Harry love ? What's that about not 
being Vivien's fiance any longer ? " Mrs. Belfield 
was roused by words admitting of so startling an 
interpretation. 

" Well, we shall be married soon, shan't we, 
mother ?" 




A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 269 

" How stupid of me, Harry dear ! " Sleep again 
descended. Harry swore softly ; I sobel laughed low. 

" This is ridiculous ! " she remarked. " Couldn't 
you take just one turn with Vivien's companion ? 
Your mother might hear straight just once." 

" I'll be hanged if I chance it to-night," said 
Harry. " I'll take Wellgood on at billiards." 

" Yes, go and do that ; it's much better. It may 
bring back your colour, Harry." 

Harry looked at her in exasperation and in 
longing. " I wish there wasn't a woman in the 
world ! " he growled. 

" It's men like you who say that," she retorted, 
smiling. " Go and forget us for an hour." 

He went without more words with only such a 
shrug as he had given when he said good-bye to 
Mrs. Freere. Isobel sat on, by dozing Mrs. 
Belfield, the picture of a dutiful neglected com- 
panion, while Wellgood and Harry played billiards, 
and Belfield, wheezing over an unread evening 
paper, honoured her with a tribute of distrustful 
curiosity. Left alone in the flesh, she could boast 
that she occupied several minds that evening. 
Perhaps she knew it, as she sat silent, thoughtfully 
gazing across to where Vivien and Andy sat 
together, their dim figures just visible in en- 
shrouding darkness. " He saw but he won't 
speak ! " she was thinking. 



270 SECOND STRING. 

" How funny of Harry to say he sighed as a 
lover ! " Vivien remarked to Andy. 

Andy had the pride and pleasure of informing 
her that her lover was indulging in a quotation 
from another lover, more famous and more 
temperate. 

" c I sighed as a lover. I obeyed as a son.' I 
see ! How funny ! Do you think Gibbon was 
right, Mr. Hayes ? " 

"The oldest question since men had sons and 
women had lovers, isn't it ? " 

" Doesn't love come first when once it has 

3 " 

come r 

"After honour, the poet tells us, Miss Well- 
good.'; 

Vivien knew that quotation, anyhow. " It's 
beautiful, but isn't it just a little priggish ?" 

" I think we must admit that it's at least a very 
graceful apology," laughed Andy. 

Their pleasant banter bred intimacy ; she was 
treating him as an old friend. He felt himself 
hardly audacious in saying " How you've grown ! " 

She understood him nay, thanked him with a 
smile and a flash, revealing pleasure, from her 
eyes, often so reticent. " Am I different from the 
days of the lame pony and Curly ? Not altogether, 
I'm afraid, but I hope a little." She sat silent for 
a moment. " I love Harry well, so do you." 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 271 

"Yes, I love Harry." But he had a sore 
grudge against Harry at that moment. Who at 
Halton had once talked about pearls and swine ? 
And in what connection ? 

"That's why I'm different." She laughed 
softly. " If you'd so far honoured me, Mr. Hayes, 
and I had responded, I might never have become 
different. I should just have relied on the 
policeman." 

" The Force is always ready to do its duty," said 
Andy. 

"Take care; you're nearly flirting!" she ad- 
monished him merrily ; and Andy, rather proud of 
himself for a gallant remark, laughed and blushed 
in answer. She went on more seriously, yet still 
with her serene smile. " First I've got to please 
him ; then I've got to help him. He must have 
both, you know." 

" Please him, oh, yes ! Help him, how ? " 

" I'm sure you know. Poor boy ! His ups and 
downs ! Sometimes he comes to me almost in 
despair. It's so hard to help then. Isobel can't 
either. He's not happy, you know, to-night." 

She had grown. This penetration was new ; 
should he wish that it might become less or 
greater ? Less for the sake of her peace, or greater 
for her enlightenment's ? 

" It seems as if a darkness swept over him 




272 SECOND STRING. 

sometimes, and got between him and me." Her 
voice trembled a little. " I want to keep that 
darkness away from him ; so I mustn't be afraid." 

" Whether you're afraid or not, you won't run 
away. Remember Curly ! " 

She turned to him with affectionate friendliness. 
" But you'll be there in this too, so far as you can, 
won't you ? Don't forsake me, will you ? It's 
sometimes very difficult." Her face lit up in a 
smile again. " I hope it'll make a man of me, as 
father used to say of that odious hunting." 

It had, at least, made an end of the mere child 
in her. The discernment of her lover's trouble, 
the ignorance of whence it came, the need or 
fighting it she faced these things as part of her 
work. Her engagement was no more either 
amazement merely, or merely joy. She might 
still be afraid of dogs, or shrink from a butcher's 
shop. She knew a difficulty when she saw one, 
and for love's sake faced it. Andy thought it 
made the love dearer to her ; with an inward groan 
he saw that it did. For he was afraid. What she 
told of Harry told more than she could fathom for 
herself. 

Andy was a partisan. He cried whole-heartedly, 
"The pity for Vivien ! " He could say, " The pity 
for Harry ! " for old Harry's sake, and more for 
Vivien's. No, " The pity for Isobel \ " was breathed 




A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 273 

n his heart. The case seemed to him a plain one 
there ; and he was not of the party who would 
have the Recording Angel as liberal with tears as 
with ink, sedulously obliterating everything that he 
punctiliously wrote in the end, on that view, a 
somewhat ineffectual registrar, who might be spared 
both ink and tears, and provided with a retiring 
pension by triumphant believers in Necessity. It 
may come to that. 

<c I think Harry may be wanting me." She rose 
in her slim grace, and held out a hand to him not 
in formal farewell, but in an impulse of good-will. 
She had come into her heritage of womanhood, and 
bore it with a shy stateliness. " Thank you " 
a pause rather merry than timid "Thank you, 
policeman Andy." 

" No, but I thank you and you seem to me 
rather like the queen of the fairies." 

She smiled, and sighed lightly. " If 1 can make 
the king think so always ! " 

Then she was gone, a white shadow gliding over 
the grass a woman now, still in a child's shape. 
She flitted past Isobel Vintry, kissing her hand, and 
so passed in to where " Harry wanted her." 

Politeness dictated that Andy, thus left to 
himself, should join his hostess ; he did not know 
that she was asleep, quite sound asleep by now. 

Having sat down before he discovered this state 






274 SECOND STRING. 

of affairs, he found himself committed to a virtual 
tete-d-tete with Isobel Vintry, quite the last thing he 
desired. He did not find it easy to open the 
conversation. 

"Oh, we can talk! We shan't disturb her," 
Miss Vintry hastened to assure him with a smile. 
"You've been quite a stranger at Nutley. Did 
you find the atmosphere too romantic ? Too much 
love-making for your taste ? " 

" I did feel rather in the way now and then." 

" Perhaps you were once or twice ! When you 
attached yourself to Vivien after dinner, and left 
Mr. Harry no resource but poor me ! " 

Surely if she spoke like that actually recalling 
the critical occasion she could have no suspicion ? 
Either she must never have noticed the shawl 
at all, or feel sure that it had been removed 
before her talk with Harry reached the point of 
danger. 

" I'm sure you entertained him very well. I 
don't think he'd complain." 

" Well, sometimes people like talking over their 
affairs with a third person for a change as I dare- 
say Vivien has been doing with you just now ! 
And, after all, because you're engaged, everybody 
else in the world needn't at once seem hopelessly 
stupid." 

Certainly Isobel Vintry could never seem 










A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 275 

pelessly stupid, thought Andy. Rather she was 
superbly plausible. 

" And perhaps even Mr. Harry may like a rest 
from devotion or will you be polite enough to 
suggest that a temporary change in its object is a 
better way of putting it ? " 

Precisely what it had been in Andy's mind to 
suggest but not exactly by way of politeness ! 
It was disconcerting to have the sting drawn from 
his thoughts or his talk in this way. 

" That might be polite to you in one sense ; 
it might sound rather unjust to Harry," he 
answered. 

" Am I the first person who has ever dared to 
make such an insinuation ? How shocking ! 
But I've even dared to do it to Mr. Harry himself, 
and he hardly denied that he was an incorrigible 
flirt." 

Andy knew that he was no match for her. For 
any advantage he could ever win from her, he must 
thank chance or surprise. 

" Don't be so terribly strict, Mr. Hayes. If you 
were engaged, would you like every word 
absolutely every word you said to another girl to 
be repeated to yourjiancje ? " 

Andy, always honest, considered. "Perhaps I 
shouldn't and a few pretty speeches hurt nobody." 
Why, really you're becoming quite human ! 




276 SECOND STRING. 

You encourage me to confess that Mr. Harry has 
made one or two to me and I've not repeated 
them to Vivien. I'm relieved to find you don't 
think me a terrible sinner." 

She was skilfully pressing for an indication of 
what he knew, of how much he had seen without 
letting him, if he did know too much, have a chance 
of confronting her openly with his knowledge. 
Must he be considered in the game she was playing, 
or could he safely be neglected ? 

Andy's temper was rather tried. She talked of 
a few idle words, a few pretty speeches ordinary 
gallantries. His memory was of two figures tense 
with passion, and of a lover's kiss accepted as 
though by a willing lover. 

" How far would you carry the doctrine ? " he 
asked dryly. 

There was a pause before she answered ; she 
was shaping her reply so that it might produce the 
result she wanted information, yet not confronta- 
tion with his possible knowledge. 

" As far as a respectful kiss ? " Peering through 
the darkness, she saw a quick movement of Andy's 
head. Instantly she added with a laugh, " On the 
hand, I mean, of course ! " 

<c You won't ask me to go any further, if I admit 
that ? " asked Andy. 

"No. I'll agree with you on that," she said. 



A LOVER LOOKS PALE. 



277 
I'm 



Mrs. Belfield suddenly woke up. "Yes, 
sure Harry's looking pale," she remarked. 

Isobel had got her information ; she was sure 
now. The sudden movement of Andy's head had 
been too startled, too outraged, to have been 
elicited merely by an audacious suggestion put 
forward in discussion ; it spoke of memories 
roused ; it expressed wonder at shameless effrontery. 
Andy had revealed his knowledge, but he did not 
know that he had. He had parted with his secret ; 
yet it had become no easier for him to meddle. If 
he had thought himself bound to say nothing, not 
to interfere, before, he would seem to himself so 
bound still. And if he tried to meddle, at least 
she would be fighting now with her eyes open. 
There might be danger there could be no 
surprise. 

When Harry Belfield put on her cloak for her in 
the hall, she whispered to him : " Take care of 
Andy Hayes ! He did see us that first night." 



Chapter XIV. 
SAVING THE NATION. 

a fine afternoon Jack Rock stood smoking 
his pipe on the pavement of High Street. 
His back was towards the road, his face turned to 
his own shop-window, where was displayed a poster 
of such handsome dimensions that it covered nearly 
the whole of the plate glass, to the prejudice of 
Jack's usual display of mutton and beef. He took 
no account of that ; he was surveying the intruding 
poster with enormous complacency. It announced 
that there would be held, under the auspices of the 
Meriton Conservative and Unionist Association, 
an open-air Public Meeting that evening on Fyfold 
Green. Chairman The Rt. Hon. Lord Meriton 
(his lordship was rarely " drawn ; " his name in- 
dicated a great occasion). Speakers William 
Foot, Esq., K.C., M. P. (very large letters) ; Henry 
Belfield, Esq., Prospective Candidate etc. (letters 
not quite so large) ; and Andrew Hayes, Esq. 
(letters decidedly smaller, but still easily legible 



SAVING THE NATION. 279 

from across the street). Needless to say that it 
was the sight of the last name which caused Mr. 
Jack Rock's extreme complacency. He had put 
up the stakes ; now he was telling himself that the 
" numbers " were up for the race. Andy was in 
good company too good, of course, for a colt like 
him on the present occasion ; but in Jack's mind 
the race comprised more than one meeting. There 
was plenty of time for the colt to train on ! Mean- 
while there he was, on a platform with Lord Meri- 
ton, with Mr. Foot, King's Counsel, Member of 
Parliament (Jack's thoughts rehearsed these titles 
the former of which Billy had recently achieved 
at full length, for all the world like the toastmaster 
at a public dinner), and Mr. Henry Belfield, 
Prospective Candidate etc. Mr. Rock hurled at 
himself many contemptuous and opprobrious 
epithets when he recollected the career which he 
had once offered for the grateful acceptance of 
Andrew Hayes, Esq. To him the poster was a 
first and splendid dividend on the three thousand 
pounds which Miss Doris Flower had so prettily 
extracted from his pocket. Here was his return ; 
he willingly left to Andy the mere pecuniary fruits 
of the investment. 

Thus immensely gratified, Jack refused to own 
that he was surprised. The autumn campaign had 
now been in progress nearly three weeks, and, 



280 SECOND STRING. 

although Andy had not been heard before in 
Meriton, reports of his doings had come in from 
outlying villages with which Jack had business 
dealings. Nay, Mr. Belfield of Halton himself, 
who had braved the evening air by going to one 
meeting to hear his son, found time to stop at the 
shop and tell Jack that he had been favourably im- 
pressed by Andy. 

"No flowers of rhetoric, Jack," he said with 
twinkling eyes, " such as my boy indulges in, but 
good sound sense knows his facts. I shouldn't 
wonder if the labourers like that better. He knows 
what their bacon costs 'em, and how many loaves 
a week go to a family of six, and so on. 1 heard 
one or two old fellows saying c Aye, that's right ! ' 
half a dozen times while he was speaking. I wish 
our old friend at the grammar school could have 
heard him ! " 

" Yes, Mr. Belfield ; the old gentleman would 
have been proud, wouldn't he ? " 

" And you've a right to be proud, Jack. I know 
what you've done for the lad." 

"He's a good lad, sir. He comes to supper 
with me every Sunday, punctual, when he's in 
Meriton." 

" You've every reason to hope he'll do very well 
a sensible steady fellow ! It'd be a good thing 
if there were more like him." 



SAVING THE NATION. 



281 



Then Chinks and the Bird had made an excur- 
sion on their bicycles to hear Andy, and brought 
back laudatory accounts this though Chinks was 
suspected of Radical leanings, which he was not 
allowed by his firm to obtrude. And old Cox had 
heard him and pronounced the verdict that, though 
he might be no flyer like Mr. Harry, yet he had 
the makings of a horse in him. "Wants work, 
and can stand as much as you give him," said 
Mr. Cox. 

Immersed in a contemplation of the placard and 
in the reflections it evoked, Mr. Rock stepped 
backwards into the road in order to get a new view 
of the relative size of the lettering. Thereby he 
nearly lost his life, and made Andy present pos- 
sessor of a tidy bit of money for which, in the 
natural course, he would have to wait many years. 
(This is trenching on old Jack's darling secret.) 
The agitated hoot of a motor-car sent him on a 
jump back to the pavement, just in time. The car 
came to a standstill. 

" I didn't come all this way on purpose to kill 
you, Mr. Rock ! " 

Jack had turned round already, in order to swear 
at his all but murderer, who might reasonably have 
pleaded contributory negligence. Angry words 
died away. A small figure, enveloped in a dust 
cloak, wrapped about the head with an infinite 






282 SECOND STRING. 

number of yards of soft fabric, sat alone in the back 
of the car. The driver yawned, surveying Meriton 
with a scornful air, appearing neither disturbed by 
Mr. Rock's danger nor gratified by his escape. 

"'It's so convenient," the small figure proceeded 
to observe, " when people have their names written 
over their houses. Still I think I should have 
known you without that. Andy has described you 
to me, you see." 

" Why, it's never ? " The broadest smile spread 
on Jack Rock's face. 

" Oh yes, it is ! I always keep my word. I'm 
taking a holiday, and I thought I'd combine my 
visit to you with " She suddenly broke off her 
sentence, and gave a gurgle. Jack thought it a 
curiously pleasant sound. " Why, there it is ! " 
the Nun gurgled, pointing a finger at the wonder- 
ful placard in Jack's window. 

" You're you're Miss Flower ? " gasped Jack. 

" Yes, yes but look at it ! Those three boys ! 
Billy, and Harry and Andy ! Andy ! Well, of 
course, one knows they do do things, but somehow 
it's so hard to realise. I shall certainly stay for the 
meeting ! Seymour, let me out ! " 

Seymour got down in a leisurely fashion, hiding 
a yawn with one hand and a cigarette in the other. 
" I suppose there isn't a hotel in this place, 
Miss Flower ? " he remarked. (Seymour always 



SAVING THE NATION. 283 

called the Nun " Miss Flower," never merely 
" Miss.") 

" Oh yes ; the Lion, Seymour. Excellent hotel, 
isn't it, Mr. Rock ? Kept by Mr. Dove, who's 
got a son named the Bird ; and the Bird's got a 
friend named Chinks, and " 

" Well, you do beat creation ! " cried Jack. 
"How do you ?" 

" Secret sources of information ! " said the Nun 
gravely. "Have I got to go to the Lion, Mr. 
Rock ? Or or what time do you have tea ? " 

"You'll have tea with me, miss ? " cried Jack. 

"At what hour will you require the car, Miss 
Flower ? " asked Seymour. 

" You're goin' to the meetin', miss ? Tell the 
young chap to be round at six, and mind he's 
punctual." 

"Do as Mr. Rock says, Seymour," smiled the 
Nun. It was part of the day's fun to hear Seymour 
ordered about and called a young chap ! by the 

[butcher of Meriton. But she could not get into 
the house without another look at the poster. 
Billy, Harry and Andy ! I wonder if those 
boys really imagine that what they say or think 
matters ! " 

Miss Flower was already a privileged person. 
Jack had no rebuke for her profanity. She took 
s arm, saying, 



284 SECOND STRING. 

" I want to see the shop. You wanted Andy to 
have the shop, didn't you ? " 

" I was an old fool. I I meant it well, Miss 
Flower." 

The Nun squeezed his arm. 

" Were these nice animals when they were alive, 
Mr. Rock?" 

" Prime uns, alive or dead ! " chuckled Jack. 
" You come back to supper, after the meetin', miss, 
and taste ; but maybe you'll be goin' back to 
London, or takin' your supper at Halton ? " 

" I'm sorry, but I've promised to take Billy Foot 
back to town. Oh, but tea now, Mr. Rock ! " 

Not even the messenger boy whom she had sent 
enjoyed Jack Rock's tea more than the Nun herself. 
For a girl of her inches, she ate immensely ; even 
more heartily she praised. Jack could hardly eat 
at all, she was so daintily wonderful, her being 
there at all so amazing. Seeking explanation of 
the marvel, the simple affectionate old fellow could 
come only on one. She must be very fond of 
Andy ! She had written to plead for Andy ; she 
came and had tea with the old butcher because he 
had given Andy help. And now she was lauding 
Andy, telling him in her quiet way that his lad was 
much thought of by her and her smart friends in 
London. Jack had, of course, a very inadequate 
realisation of what " smartness " in London really 



SAVING THE NATION. 



285 



meant a view which some might have called both 
inadequate and charitable. 

" Yes, he's a fine lad, miss. I say, the girl as 
gets Andy '11 be lucky!" (That "as" always 
tripped Jack up in moments of thoughtlessness.) 

The Nun deliberately disposed of a piece of 
plum cake and a sip of tea the latter to wash the 
former down. 

<c I don't fall in love myself," she observed, in a 
tone decided yet tolerant as though she had said, 
" I don't take liqueurs myself but if you like to 
risk it ! " 

"You miss the best thing in life, miss," Jack 
cried. 

"And most of the worst too," added the Nun 
serenely. 

"Don't say it, miss. It don't come well from 
your pretty lips." 

" Have I put you on your mettle ? I meant to, 
of course, Mr. Rock." 

Old Jack slapped his thigh, laughing immensely. 
Now wasn't this good that she should be here, 
having tea, getting at him like that ? 

It was a happy conjuncture, for the Nun was 
hardly less well pleased. She divided her life into 
two categories ; one was " the mill," the other was 
" fun." The mill included making a hundred and 
eighty pounds by singing two silly songs eight times 






286 SECOND STRING. 

each every week, being much adored, and eating 
meals at that restaurant ; " fun " meant anything 
rather different. Having tea with Jack Rock, the 
Meriton butcher, was rather different, and Miss 
Flower (as Seymour called her almost the only 
person who did) was enjoying herself. 

" I should like to take a walk along the street 
before we go to the meeting, Jack." 

"Jack," casually dropped, with no more than a 
distant twinkle, finished Mr. Rock. 

" Your letter was pretty good, but you, miss ! " 

"I'm considered attractive on a postcard. It 
costs a penny," said the Nun, rising, fully refreshed, 
from the table. "Take me to the Lion, please. 
I must see that Seymour isn't dissatisfied. He's a 
gentleman by birth, you know, and a chauffeur by 
profession. So he rather alarms me, though his 
manner is always carefully indifferent." This re- 
mark of hers suddenly pleased the Nun. She 
gurgled ; her own rare successes always gratified 
her witness that somewhat stupid story about the 
two ladies and Tommy, told a long while ago. 

Accompanied by proud Jack Rock, she traversed 
Meriton High Street, greatly admiring the church, 
the grammar school, and that ancient and respect- 
able hostelry, the Lion. Indeed she fell so much 
in love with the Lion that she questioned Jack as 
to the accommodation it provided, and was assured 



SAVING THE NATION. 287 

that it boasted a private sitting-room, with oak 
panelling and oak beams across the ceiling (always 
supposed to be irresistible attractions to London 
visitors), and bedrooms sufficient in case she and 
Miss Dutton should be minded to spend a part of 
their holiday there. Room also for a maid and 
for Seymour and the motor. "It's rather a nice 
idea. I'll think it over," she said. 

Then it was time to think about the meeting ; 
and Jack must come with her in the car, sit with 
her, and tell her all about it. " Oh yes, you 
must ! " 

" I shall never hear the last of it, long as I 
live ! " Jack protested, half in delight, half in a real 
shyness. 

Behold them, then, thus installed on the out- 
skirts of the meeting, with a good view of the 
platform where "the boys" were seated, together 
with Wellgood, supporting the great Lord Meriton. 
Vivien and Isobel also had chairs at the back. The 
Nun produced a field-glass from a pocket in the 
car, and favoured these ladies with a steady in- 
spection. " Which did you say was Harry's ? " 
she asked. 

" The fair one, miss that's Miss Wellgood." 

" The other's quite good-looking too," the Nun 
pronounced. 

The salient features of Mr. Foot's oratory have 



288 SECOND STRING. 

been indicated on a previous occasion. This even- 
ing he surpassed himself in epigram and logic ; no 
doubt he desired to overcome the Nun's obstinate 
scepticism as to his career, no less than to maintain 
his popularity in Meriton. For the Nun he had 
a special treat a surprise. He told them her 
story of Tommy and the two ladies, slightly adapt- 
ing it to the taste of a general audience ; the 
cheques were softened down to invitations to tete- 
h-tfae dinners, couched in highly affectionate lan- 
guage. In Billy's apologue the Ministry was 
Tommy, one of the ladies was Liberalism, the 
other Socialism. The apologue took on very well ; 
Billy made great play with Tommy's double flirta- 
tion, and the Ministry's double flirtation, ending 
up, "Yes, gentlemen, there will be only one tip 
to pay the waiter, but that'll be a tip-over, if I'm 
not much mistaken ! " (Cheers and laughter.) 

The Nun was smiling all over her face. " That 
really was rather clever of Billy." She felt herself 
shining with reflected glory. 

But Billy astute electioneerer meant to get 
more out of the Nun than just that Tommy story. 
When he had finished a wonderful peroration, in 
which he bade Meriton decide once and for all 
it would probably never have another chance 
before it was too late between Imperial greatness 
and Imperial decay, he slipped from the platform, 






SAVING THE NATION. 289 

and made his way round the skirts of the meeting 
to her motor-car. Lord Meriton's compliments, 
and would Miss Flower oblige him and delight 
the meeting by singing the National Anthem at the 
close of the proceedings ? The Nun was so 
agitated by this request that she lost most of 
Andy's speech ; he was sandwiched in between the 
more famous orators. As Andy from what she 
did hear appeared to be talking about loaves, and 
sugar, and bacon, and things of that sort, she was 
of opinion that she was not missing very much, 
and was surprised to see the men listening and the 
bareheaded women nodding approvingly and nudg- 
ing one another in the ribs. "He's jolly good ! 
Upon my word, he is," said Billy Foot suddenly, 
and old Jack chuckled delightedly. When Andy 
sat down, without any peroration, she said to Billy, 
"Was he good? It sounded rather dull to me. 
Yours was fine, Billy ! " 

" Awfully glad you liked it. But they'll forget 
my jokes ; they'll talk about old Andy's figures 
when they get home. Every woman in the place '11 
want to prove 'em right or wrong. Gad, how he 
must have mugged all that up ! " 

Then came H arry ; to him she listened, at him 
she looked. Whatever the difficulties of his 
private life might be, they did not avail to spoil 

his speaking ; it is conceivable that they improved 

10 



290 SECOND STRING. 

it, since nerves on the strain sometimes result in 
brilliant flashes. And he looked so handsome, 
with pale, eager, excited face. He could fall in 
love with a subject almost as deeply, almost as 
quickly, as with a woman, and for the moment be 
hardly less devoted to it, heart and soul. Perhaps 
he was a little over the heads of most of his 
audience, but they knew that it was a fine perform- 
ance and were willing to take for granted some 
things which they did not understand. 

" That's talking, that is ! " said a man near the 
car. " Mr. Harry's the one to give ye that." 

Of course the Nun was persuaded in the matter 
of the National Anthem. Billy led her round to 
the platform, where Lord Meriton welcomed her, 
and introduced her to the meeting as Miss Doris 
Flower, the famous London singer, who had 
kindly consented to sing the National Anthem. 
For once in her life the Nun was very nervous, 
but she sang. Her sweet voice and her remark- 
able prettiness stormed the meeting. They would 
have another song. The applause brought back 
her confidence. Before she had become a nun or 
a Quaker she had once been, in early days, a 
Cameron Highlander. A couple of martial and 
patriotic ditties remained in her memory ; she 
gave them one, and excited enthusiasm. They 
cried for more more ! An encore was insisted 



SAVING THE NATION. 291 

upon. In spite of the brilliant speakers, the Nun 
was the heroine of the evening. She bowed, she 
smiled, she fell altogether in love with Meriton. 
Thoughts of the Lion rose strongly in her mind. 

" A great success, and we owe a great deal of it 
to you, Miss Flower," said the noble chairman. 
"You just put the crown on it all. I wish we 
could have you here at election time ! " 

The whole platform besought the Nun to come 
down at election time with more patriotic songs. 
Most urgent was the pretty, slight, fair girl who 
was Harry Belfield's fiancee. Her eyes were so 
friendly and gentle that the Nun could refuse her 
nothing. 

cc At one bound, Doris, you Ve become a person- 
age in Meriton," laughed Billy Foot. 

" She's a personage wherever she goes," said 
Andy in frank and affectionate admiration. 

The Nun gurgled happily. But where was her 
old friend Harry with his congratulations ? He 
had greeted her, but not with much enthusiasm ; 
he was now talking to the other girl Miss Vintry 
in a low voice, with a frown on his face ; he 
looked weary and spent. She moved over to him 
and laid her hand on his arm ; he started violently. 

"Ill never laugh at you about your speeches 
again, Harry. But, poor old fellow, how done up 
you look ! " 



292 SECOND STRING. 

" Doing this sort of thing every night's pretty 
tiring." 

"Besides all the other things you have to do 
just now! I think I must come and stay at the 
Lion and look after you." 

Harry looked at her with an expression that 
puzzled her ; it almost seemed like resent- 
ment, though the idea was surely absurd. Miss 
Vintry said nothing ; she stood by in silent com- 
posure. 

"You're thinking of of coming to Meriton?" 

" I had an idea of it, for a week or two. I'm 
doing nothing, you know. Sally would come 
with me." 

"I should think you'd find it awfully dull," 
said Harry. 

The Nun could not make him out. Was he 
ashamed of her ? Did he not want her to know 
Miss Wellgood, his fiancee! It almost looked 
like that. The Nun was a little hurt. She was 
aware that certain people held certain views ; but 
Harry was an old, old friend. "Well, if I do 
come and find it dull, you needn't feel responsible. 
You haven't pressed me, have you?" and with a 
little laugh she went back to more expansive 
friends. 

" That'd make another of them, and she's in- 
fernally sharp ! " Harry said to Isobel Vintry, in 



SAVING THE NATION. 293 

that low careful voice to which he was nowadays 
so much addicted. 

" Oh well, we can't keep it up this way long 
anyhow," she answered, and sauntered off to join 
Vivien. 

With Billy, with Andy, as with old Jack, the 
Nun found enthusiasm enough and to spare. 

"How perfectly ripping an idea!" cried Billy. 
" Because Harry's governor had asked me to stay 
a fortnight at Halton, and do half a dozen more 
meetings ; and I'm going to. And Andy'll be 
down here too. Why, we shall all be together ! 
You come, Doris ! " 

Her hurt feelings found expression. " Harry 
didn't seem to want me when I spoke to him 
about it." 

Billy Foot looked at her curiously. " Oh, didn't 
he?" Andy had moved off with Jack Rock. 
" It's a funny thing, but I don't think he wants 
me at Halton. He was far from enthusiastic. If 
you ask me, Doris, there's something wrong with 
him. Overworked, I suppose. Oh, but he can't 
be ; these little meetings are no trouble." 

" If I want to come, I shall. Only one doesn't 
like the idea that one's friends are ashamed " 

"Oh, rot, it can't be that! That's not a bit 
like Harry." 

" He's engaged now, you know." 



294 SECOND STRING. 

" Well, I can't see why that should make any 
difference. He's got the blues over something or 
other ; never mind him. You come, you and 
Sally." 

She lowered her voice. " Can it be because of 
poor old Sally ?" 

"Oh, I don't think so. He's always been 
awfully kind about that wretched old business." 

" It's something," she persisted with a vexed 
frown. 

Vivien Wellgood came up to them with Andy. 
" Mr. Hayes tells me you may possibly come to 
Meriton for a stay, Miss Flower. I do hope you 
will. The Lion's quite good, and we'll all do all 
we can to amuse you, if only you'll sing to us j ust 
now and then. Do say you'll come ; don't only 
think about it ! " 

" Your being so kind makes me want to come 
more," said the Nun. " Oh, and I do congratulate 
you, Miss Wellgood. I hope you'll be ever so 
happy." 

"Thank you. I hope so," said Vivien softly, 
her eyes assuming their veiled look. 

The car was waiting ; Seymour was yawning 
and looking at his watch. The Nun said her 
farewells, but not one to Harry Belfield, who had 
already strolled off along the road. Not very 
polite of Harry ! 



SAVING THE NATION. 295 

" Did you like the speeches, Seymour ? " she 
inquired. 

" Mr. Foot, of course, is a good speaker. The 
other gentlemen did very well for such a meeting as 
this, Miss Flower. Mr. Belfield is very promising." 

" Was I in good voice ? " 

" Very fair. But you had better not use it 
much in the open air. Not good for the chords, 
Miss Flower." 

Meanwhile he had skilfully tucked her in with 
Billy Foot, and off they went, Billy comforting 
himself after his labours with a pull at his flask 
and a very big cigar. 

" I've made you do some work for the good 
cause to-night, Doris," he remarked. "A song 
or two goes jolly well at a meeting." 

"Thinking of enlisting me in your own service ?" 
she asked. 

"You'd be uncommon valuable. The man 
they're putting up against me has got a pretty 
wife." Billy allowed himself a glance ; it met 
with inadequate appreciation. 

" Oh, I'll come and sing for you if you ask me, 
Billy." Her voice sounded absent. She was 
enjoying the motion and the air, but her thoughts 
were with Vivien Wellgood, the girl who had been 
so kind, and whose eyes had gone blank when the 
Nun wished her happiness. 




296 SECOND STRING. 

"Yes, Harry's off colour," said Billy, puffing 
away with much enjoyment. "He can't take any- 
thing right ; didn't even like your story ! " 

" Why, you brought it in so cleverly, Billy ! " 

" Harry asked me what I thought they'd make 
of that kind of rot. It seemed to me they t x)k it 
all right. Rather liked it, didn't they ?" 

The Nun turned to him suddenly. " That girl 
isn't happy." 

" There's something up ! " Billy concluded. 

" Do you know that Miss Vintry well ?" 

Billy took his cigar out of his mouth and looked 
at her. "You do jump to conclusions." 

" Oh, I know Harry better than any of you." 

" Do you ?" he asked, seeming just a little dis- 
turbed. 

The Nun marked his disturbance with a side 
glance of amusement, but she was not diverted 
from the main line of her thoughts. " He doesn't 
want me to come to Meriton " 

" I say, Doris, did Harry Belfield ever try 
to?" 

" Tales out of school ? I thought you knew me, 
Billy." 

The reproach carried home to Billy. There had 
been one occasion when, over-night, his career had 
seemed not so imperative, and Doris had seemed 
very imperative indeed, demanding vows and pro- 



SAVING THE NATION. 297 

testations of high fervour, bearing only one legiti- 
mate interpretation. This happened long before 
Billy was K.C. or M.P., and when his income was 
still meagre. The morning had brought back 
counsel, and thoughts of the career. Billy had 
written a letter. The next time they met, she had 
taken occasion to observe that she always burnt 
letters, just as she never fell in love. The episode 
was not among Billy's proudest recollections. In 
telling Andy that Billy had always pulled himself 
up on the brink, the Nun had been guilty of just 
this one suppression. No tales out of school was 
always her motto. 

" If he does come to grief, it'll be over a 
woman," said Billy. He took a big puff. "That's 
the only thing worth coming to grief over, either," 
he added, looking into his companion's eyes. 

" What about the great cause I sang for ? " she 
asked, serenely evasive. Sentiment in a motor- 
car at night really does not count. 

Billy laughed. " I do my best for my client." 

"But you believe it?" 

" Honestly, I believe we've got, say, seven points 
out of ten. So we ought to get the verdict." 

" I suppose that's honest enough. You leave 
the other side to put their three points ? " 

"That oughtn't to be over-straining them," 
Billy opined. 



298 SECOND STRING. 

"Politics are rather curious. I might go to 
another meeting or two while I'm at Meriton ; but 
I won't sing out of doors any more. Seymour 
doesn't approve of it." 

" You're really going to take rooms there ?" 

"Yes, if Sally consents." She turned round to 
him. " Do you know what it is to see somebody 
asking for help ?" 

"To me they always call it temporary assistance." 

"Yes. Well, I think I saw that to-night." 
She was silent a minute, then she gurgled. "And 
really they're all great fun, you know." 

" I look forward to our stay at Meriton with the 
gravest apprehension," said Billy Foot. 

The Nun looked at him, smiled, looked away, 
looked back once more. 

" Well, I shall have nothing else to do in the 
way of recreation," she said. 

A long silence followed. Billy threw away the 
stump of his cigar. 

" Hang it, he's got the style, that fellow has ! " 

" Who's got what style ?" asked the Nun. Her 
voice sounded drowsy. 

" What the House likes Andy." 

"What house?" drawled the Nun, terribly and 
happily sleepy. 

" Oh, you're a lively girl to drive home with in 
a motor at night ! " 



SAVING THE NATION. 



299 



Her eyes were closed, her lips ever so little 
parted. Half asleep, still she smiled. He made 
a trumpet of his hands and shouted into her ear. 
" The House of Commons, stupid ! " 

"Don't tickle my ear," said the Nun. "And 
try if you can't be quiet ! " 



Chapter XV. 
LOVE AND FEAR. 

TI7ELL might Harry Belfield be subject to fits 
of temper and impatience ! Well might 
he show signs of wear and tear not to be accounted 
for by the labours of a mild political campaign, 
carried on under circumstances of great amenity ! 
He had fallen into a state of feeling which forbade 
peace within, and made security from without im- 
possible. He was terribly at war in his soul. If 
he could have put the case so simply as that, 
being pledged to one girl, he had fallen in love 
with another, he would have had a plain solution 
open to him : he could break the engagement, 
facing the pain that he gave and the discredit that 
he suffered. His feelings admitted of no such 
straightforward remedy. The beliefs and the aspira- 
tions with which he had wooed Vivien were not 
dead ; they were struggling for life against their 
old and mighty enemy. For him Vivien still 
meant happiness, and more than happiness a 



LOVE AND FEAR. 



301 



haven for anything that was good in him, a refuge 
from all that was bad. With all his instincts of 
pure affection, of loyalty and chivalry, still he 
loved her and clung to her. She it was still who 
had power to comfort and soothe him, to send 
him forth able to do his work again. She was 
the best thing in his life ; she seemed to him well- 
nigh his only chance against himself. Was he to 
throw the last chance away ? 

Then why not be true ? Why deceive when he 
loved ? Every day, nay, every hour, that question 
had to be asked in scorn and answered in bitter- 
ness. His happiness lay with one ; the present 
desire of his eyes was for another. His mind 
towards Isobel was strange : often he hardly 
liked her ; sometimes his hatred for what she 
was doing to his life made him almost hate 
her ; always his passion for her was strong and 
compelling. Since the stolen kiss had set it 
aflame, it had spread and spread through him, 
fed by their secret interviews, till it seemed now 
to consume all his being in one fierce blaze. 
How could affectionate and loyal instincts stand 
against it ? Yet he hated it. All the good of his 
nature his kindliness, his amiability, his chivalry 
hated it. He was become as it were two men ; 
and the one reviled the other. But when he 
reviled the passion in him as the murderer of all 



302 SECOND STRING. 

his happiness, it answered with a fell insinuation. 
Why these heroics and this despair ? Why talk 
of happiness being murdered ? There was another 
way. " Don't murder happiness for me," passion 
urged slyly. "I am violent, but I am a passing 
thing. You know how often 1 have come to you, 
and raged, and passed by. There's another way." 
That whisper was ever in his ears, and would not 
be silenced. That it might gain its end, his 
passion subtly minimized itself; it sought to enter 
into an unnatural alliance with his better part ; 
it prayed in aid his purer love, his tottering 
loyalty, his old-time chivalry. A permanent re- 
conciliation with these it could not, and dared not, 
ask ; but a modus vivendi till it, transitory thing as 
it was, should pass away ? So the tempter tempted 
with all his cunning. 

Avoiding plain words for what that way was, 
he was seduced into asking whether it were open. 
He could not answer. Through all the stolen 
interviews, through other stolen kisses, he had 
never come to the knowledge of Isobel's heart and 
mind. He could read no more than she chose 
to let him read. She allowed his flirtation and 
his kisses, but almost scornfully. When he de- 
clared his state to be intolerable, she told him it 
was easy to end it easy to end either the engage- 
ment or the flirtation at his option. She had not 



LOVE AND FEAR. 303 

owned to love. A certain sour amusement seemed 
to lie for her in the affair. "We're a pair of 
fools," her eyes seemed to say when he embraced 
her, " but it doesn't much matter ; nothing can 
come of it, and it'll soon be all over." When he 
saw that look, his old desire for conquest came 
over him ; he was impelled at any cost to break 
down this indifference, to make his sway complete. 
Of her relations towards Wellgood she had flatly 
refused to say another word. " The less we talk 
about that just now the better." In some such 
phrase she always forbade the topic. There again 
he was left in an uncertainty which stung his 
pride and bred a fierce jealousy. By what she 
gave and what she withheld, by her silence no 
less than by her words, she inflamed his passion. 
She yielded enough to fill him with desire and 
hope of a full triumph ; but even though she 
yielded, though her voice might falter and her 
eyes drop, she did not own love's mastery yet. 

Thus torn and rent within, from without he 
seemed ringed round with enemies. Eyes that 
must needs be watchful were all about him. 
There was Andy Hayes with his chance know- 
ledge of the first false step ; Wellgood, who must 
have a jealous vigilance for the woman whom he 
had at least thought of making his wife ; his own 
father, with his shrewd estimate of his son and 



304 SECOND STRING. 

acquaintance with past histories ; Vivien herself, 
to whom he must still play devoted lover, with 
whom most spare hours must still be spent. To 
add to all these, now there came this girl from 
London ! She had knowledge of past histories 
too ; she had the sharpest of eyes ; he feared even 
the directness of her tongue. Andy had seen, but 
not spoken ; he did not trust Doris, if she saw, 
not to speak. He was terribly afraid of her. 
Small wonder that the suggestion of her stay at 
the Lion had called forth no enthusiasm from 
him ! She took rank as an enemy the more. And 
Billy Foot was to be at Halton ! She and Billy 
would lay their heads together and talk. Out of 
talk would come suspicion, out of suspicion more 
watchfulness. It was no business of theirs, but 
they would watch. 

Political campaigning amidst all this ! Well, in 
part it was a relief. The speeches and their pre- 
paration perforce occupied his mind for the time ; 
on his platforms he forgot. Yet to go away to 
leave Nutley for so many hours seemed to his 
overwrought fancy a sore danger. What might 
happen while he was away ? To what state of 
things might he any evening come back ? Vivien 
might have revealed suspicions to Wellgood, or 
Wellgood might have challenged Isobel and com- 
pelled an answer. Once when Andy did not come 



LOVE AND FEAR. 305 

to the meeting, he made sure that he had stayed 
behind on purpose to reveal his knowledge to 
Vivien or her father, and the evening was a long 
torture which no speeches could deaden, no ap- 
plause allay. 

In this fever of conflict and of fear his days 
passed. At this cost he bought the joy of the 
stolen interviews that joy so mixed with doubt, 
so tainted by pain, so assailed by remorse* Yet 
for him so tense, so keen, so surcharged with the 
great primitive struggle. Ten minutes stolen once 
a day it seldom came to more than that. Now 
and then, when he had no political excursion, a 
second ten, late at night, after his ostensible de- 
parture from Nutley. When he had "gone home,'* 
when Vivien had been sent to bed, and Wellgood 
had repaired to his pipe in the study, Isobel would 
chance to wander down the drive, looking into the 
waters of the lake, and he, lingering by the gate, 
see her and come back. Whether she would 
saunter out or not he never knew. Waiting to see 
whether she would seemed waiting for the fate of 
a lifetime. 

One night a week after the Fyfold Green 
meeting, a day after the Nun had taken possession 
of her quarters at the Lion Harry had dined at 
Nutley and gone home. 

Isobel stole stealthily out ; she had a quarter 



306 SECOND STRING. 

of an hour before doors would be locked. She 
strolled down the drive, a long dark cloak hiding 
the white dress which would have shown too con- 
spicuously. As she went she dropped a letter ; 
coming back she would pick it up. If any one 
asked why she had come out, the answer was to 
find that letter, accidentally dropped. There had 
never been need of the excuse yet ; it was still 
available. 

Harry came swiftly, yet warily, back from the 
gate. For a fleeting instant all his being seemed 
satisfied. But she stretched out her arms, holding 
him off. 

" No, I want to say something, Harry. This 
this has gone on long enough. To-morrow I 
want you to know only Miss Vintry ! " There 
was the break in her voice ; it was too dark to see 
her eyes. 

" That's impossible," he answered, very low. 

<c Everything else is impossible, you mean." 
Her voice faltered again into a tenderness new 
to him, filling him with rapture. " You're dying 
of it, poor boy I End it, Harry ! I watched you 
to-night. Oh, you're tired to death do you ever 
sleep ? End it, Harry because I can't." 

So she had broken at last, her long fencing 
ended, her strong composure gone. " I can't 
bear it for you any longer. Have the strength. 



LOVE AND FEAR. 307 

Go back to " She broke into tremulous laughter. 
"Go back to duty, Harry and forget this 
nonsense." 

" Come to me, Isobel ! " 

"No, I daren't. From to-morrow there is 
nothing." 

He caught the arms that would have defended 
er face. " You love me ? " 

Her smile was piteous. " Not after to-night ! " 

His triumph rose on the crest of passion. "Ah, 
ou do ! " He kissed her. 

" That's good-bye," she said. " I shall go 
through it all right, Harry. You'll see no signs, 
would you rather I went away ? " 

"What made you tell me you loved me to- 
night ? " 

" So many things are tormenting you, poor boy ! 
Must I go on doing it ? Oh, I have done it, I 
know. It was my self-defence. Now my self- 
defence must be forgetfulness." The clock over 
the stables struck a quarter past ten. " I must go 
back. I've told you." 

" Do you see Wellgood before you go to bed ? " 

" Yes, always." 

" What happens ? " 

" Don't, don't, Harry ! What does it matter ?" 

" Are you going to marry him ? " 

" You're going to marry Vivien ! I must go 



3 o8 SECOND STRING. 

or the door will be locked." A smile wavered at 
him in the darkness. " It's back to the house or 
into the lake ! " 

" Swear you'll manage to see me to-morrow ! " 

" Yes, yes, anything. And good-bye." 

He let her go without another kiss. His 
mind was all of a whirl. She sped swiftly up the 
avenue. He made for the gate with furtive haste. 

Isobel came to a stop. As the shawl had gone 
once, the letter had gone. Whither ? Had the 
wind taken it ? She had heard no tread, but what 
could she have heard save the beating of her own 
heart ? No use looking for it. 

" Ah, miss," said the butler, who had just come 
to lock up, " so you'd missed it ? I saw it blowing 
about, and went and picked it up. And you've 
been searching for it, miss ? " 

" Yes, Fellowes. Thanks. I must have dropped 
it this afternoon. Good-night." 

She went in ; the hall door was bolted behind 
her. The letter had served its purpose, but she 
was hardly awake to the fact that anything had 
happened about the letter. She had told Harry ! 
The great secret was out. Oh, such bad tactics ! 
Such a dangerous thing to do ! But everybody 
had a breaking-point. Hers had been reached 
that night for herself as well as for his sake. 
Nobody could live like this any longer. 



LOVE AND FEAR. 309 

Now it was good-night to Wellgood ; another 
ten minutes there the one brief space of time in 
which he played the lover, masterfully, roughly, 
secure from interruption. 

" I can't do it to-night ! " she groaned, leaning 
against the wall of the passage between drawing- 
room and study, as though stricken by a failure 
of the heart. 

There she rested for minutes. The lights were 
left for Wellgood to find his way by when he went 
to bed ; Fellowes would not come to put them 
out. And there the truth came to her. She 
could not play that deep-laid game. She could 
no more try for Harry, and yet keep Wellgood 
in reserve. It was too hard, too hideous, too 
unnatural. She dared not try any more for 
Harry; she had lost confidence in herself. She 
could not keep Wellgood it was too odious. 
Then what to do? To tell Wellgood, too, that 
from to-morrow there was only Miss Vintry ? 
Yes ! And to try to tell Harry so again to- 
morrow ? Yes ! 

She had sought to make puppets and to pull 
the strings. Vivien, Wellgood, Harry all the 
puppets of her cool, clever, contriving brain. It 
had been a fine scheme, bound to end well for 
her. Now she was revealed as a puppet herself; 
she danced to the string. The great scheme 



310 SECOND STRING. 

broke down because Harry had looked tired and 
worried, because Wellgood's rough fondness had 
grown so odious. 

" I won't go to him to-night. He can't follow 
me if I go straight upstairs." The thought came 
as an inspiration ; at least it offered a reprieve till 
to-morrow. 

The study door opened, and Wellgood looked 
out. Isobel was behind her time ; he was waiting 
for his secret ten minutes, his stolen interview. 

" Isobel ! What the deuce are you doing there ? 
Why didn't you come in ? " 

The part she had been trying to play, and had 
backed herself to play, seemed to have become 
this evening, of a sudden on this evening, more 
than hopeless. It had turned ridiculous ; it must 
have been caught from some melodrama. She 
had been playing the scheming dazzling villain 
of a woman, heartless, with never a feeling, intent 
only on the title, or the money, or the diamonds, 
or whatever it might be, single in purpose, des- 
perate in action, glitteringly hard, glitteringly 
fearless. What nonsense ! How away from 
human nature ! She was now terribly afraid. 
Playing that part, which seemed now so ridiculous 
because it assumed that there was no real woman 
in her, she had brought herself into a perilous 
pass between one man's love and another man's 



LOVE AND FEAR. 311 

wrath. She knew which she feared the more ; 
but she feared both. Somehow her confession 
to Harry had taken all the courage out of her. 
She felt as if she could not stand any more by 
herself. She wanted Harry. 

She could not tell Wellgood that henceforth 
there was to be only his daughter's companion, 
only Miss Vintry; she could not tell him that 
to-night. Neither could she play the old part 
to-night suffer his fondness, and defend herself 
with the shining weapons of her wit and her 
provocative parries. 

" I I think I turned faint. I was coming in, 
but I turned faint. My heart, I think." 

"I never heard of anything being the matter 
with your heart." His voice sounded impatient 
rather than solicitous. 

"Please let me go straight to bed to-night. 
I'm really not well." 

He came along the passage to her. He took 
her by the shoulders and looked hard in her 
face. Now she summoned her old courage to 
its last stand and met his gaze steadily. 

" You look all right," he said with a sneer, yet 
smiling at her handsomeness. 

" Oh, of course, yes ! At least I shall be to- 
morrow morning. Let me go now." Really, 
at the moment, to be let go was her only desire. 



3 i2 SECOND STRING. 

" Be off with you, then," he said, smartly tap- 
ping almost slapping her cheek. "But you'll 
have to give me twice as long to-morrow." 

He turned on his heel. With a smarting cheek 
she fled down the passage. 

Though disappointed of his ten minutes, Well- 
good was on the whole not ill -pleased. The 
calm composure, the suppression of emotion which 
he admired so much in theory and as exhibited 
in Vivien's companion he had begun to find 
a little overdone for his taste in his own lover. 
To-night there was a softness about her, a gentle- 
ness signs of fear. The signs of fear were 
welcome to his nature. He felt that he had 
taken a step towards asserting his proper position, 
and she one towards acknowledging it. He was also 
more than ever sure that he need pay no heed 
to Belfield's silly hints. The old fellow seemed 
to assume that his precious son was irresistible ! 
Wellgood chuckled over that. He chuckled again 
over the thought that, if Isobel were going to be 
like this, they might have a difficulty in keeping 
their secret till the proper time. 

Isobel's confession to Harry was a confession 
to herself also. If it left her with one great 
excuse, it stripped her of all others. She could 
no longer say that she was making her woman's 
protest against being reckoned of no account, or 



LOVE AND FEAR. 313 

that she was merely punishing Harry for daring 
to think that he could play with her and come 
off scathless himself. Even the great excuse 
found its force impaired, because she had brought 
her state upon herself. Led by those impulses 
of pride or of spite, she had set herself to tamper 
with Vivien's happiness ; in the attempt she had 
fatally involved her own. 

Some of her old courage her old hardness 
remained, not altogether swept away by the new 
current. " I shall get over it in time," she told 
herself impatiently. " These things don't last a 
lifetime." True, perhaps ! But meanwhile the 
time before the wedding ? To-morrow, when she 
had promised to meet Harry ? Every day after 
that when he must come to woo Vivien ? There 
had been protection for her in pretences. Pre- 
tences were over with Harry ; they had to go 
on with Vivien and with Wellgood. On both 
sides of her position she felt herself now in a sore 
peril ; it had become so much harder to blind 
the others, so infinitely harder to hold Harry 
back, if it were his mind to advance. Tasks 
like these perhaps needed the zest of pride and 
spite to make them possible to make them toler- 
able anyhow. She loathed them now. 

Next day she kept her room. Courage failed. 
Wellgood grumbled about women's vapours, but 



3H SECOND STRING. 

in his caution asked no questions and showed 
no concern. Harry, coming in the afternoon, in 
his caution risked no more than a polite inquiry 
and a polite expression of regret. Yet he had 
come hot of heart, resolved resolved on what ? 
To break his engagement ? No, he was not 
resolved on that. To know in future only 
Vivien's companion, Miss Vintry ? No. He 
had been resolved on nothing, save to see Isobel 
again, and to hear once more her love. To 
what lay beyond he was blind; his heart was 
obstinately set on the one desire, and had eyes 
for nothing else. But Isobel was not to be seen ; 
he accused her of her old tactics making advances, 
then drawing back. The whole thing had begun 
that way ; she was at it again ! Was he never to 
feel quite sure of her ? She paid the price of past 
cunning, she who now lay in simple fear. 

Vivien watched her lover's pale face and fretful 
gestures. Harry seemed always on a strain now, 
and the means he adopted to relieve it would not 
be permanently beneficial to his nerves ; whisky- 
and-soda and cigarettes in quick succession were 
his prescription this afternoon. In vain she tried 
to soothe him, as she still sometimes could. He 
was now merry, now moody, often amusing, gay, 
gallant. He was everything except the contented 
man he had been in the early days. 



LOVE AND FEAR. 315 

" The dear old Rector's a little tiresome, Harry, 
isn't he ? He won't fix the date of his return 
within a week. And 1 couldn't be married by 
anybody else, he'd be so hurt. Naturally he 
doesn't think a few days one way or the other 
matter. He doesn't think of my frocks ! " 

" Nor of my feelings either," said Harry, gal- 
lantly kissing her hand. 

" Do you mind very much ? " she asked shyly. 

"I'll do anything you like about it." He 
caressed her hand gently, kindly. He had at 
least the grace to feel shame for himself, pity 
for her when he was with her. 

" Harry, are you quite quite happy ? " 

He made his effort. " I should be as happy 
as the day's long if it weren't for those wretched 
meetings that take up half my time." His voice 
grew fretful. " And they worry me to death." 

"They'll soon be over now, and then we can 
have all the time to ourselves together." She 
looked at him with a smile. " If only you won't 
get tired of that ! " 

He made his protest. Suddenly a memory of 
other protests swept over him of how they had 
begun by being wholehearted and vehement, and 
had sunk first to weakness, then to insincerity, at 
last to silence. He hoped his present protest 
sounded all right. 



3 i6 SECOND STRING. 

" Oh, you needn't be too vehement ! " she 
laughed, with a little shake of her head. " I 
know myself, and I believe I know more about 
you than you think. I'm quite aware that you'll 
sometimes be bored with me, Harry." 

" Who's put that idea in your head ? " he asked 
rather sharply. His mind was on those enemies, 
that ring of watching eyes. 

" Nobody except yourself who else should ? " 
she asked in surprise. "After all I've seen of 
you, I ought to know that you have your moods 
I suppose clever men have and that I don't 
suit all the moods equally well." She squeezed 
his hand for a second. " But I'm going to be 
very wise Isobel's taught me to be wise, among 
other things, you know I'm going to be very 
wise, and not mind that ! " 

The true affection rose in him. "Poor little 
sweetheart ! " he murmured. " I'm afraid you 
haven't taken on an easy job." 

"No, I don't think I have," she laughed. "All 
the more credit if I bring it off! There'd be 
nothing to be proud of in making oh, well, Andy 
Hayes, for instance happy. He just is happy as 
long as he can be working at something or walking 
somewhere it doesn't matter where at five miles 
an hour in the dust by preference. A girl would 
have nothing to do but just smile at him and send 



: 



LOVE AND FEAR. 317 

im for a walk. But you're different, aren't you, 
arry ? " 

" By Jove, I am ! Andy's one of the best 
lows in the world." 

" Yes, but I think oh, it's only my view that 
ou're more interesting, Harry. Only, when you 
e bored, I want you 

" Now don't say you want me to tell you so ! 
o let us be decently polite, even if I am your 
usband." 

She laughed. " I won't strain your manners so 
far as that ; I'm proud of their being so good 
myself. No, I want you just to go away and 
amuse yourself somewhere else till the fit's over, 
ou may even flirt just a little, if you feel it really 
ecessary, Harry ! You needn't be quite so 
ligiously strict all your life as you've been 
tely." 

" Religiously strict ? How do you mean ? " 
"Well, all this time I don't believe you've 
owed yourself one good look at Isobel, though 
he's very good-looking ; and I know you haven't 
called at the Lion yet, though Miss Flower has 
been there two days, and she such an old friend of 
yours in London." 

" Have you called there ? " 
" Yes, I went yesterday. I like her so much, 
and I like that odd friend of hers too." 






318 SECOND STRING. 

" Oh, Sally Button ! I suppose she got her 
knife into me, didn't she ? " 

" She got her knife, as you call it, into every- 
body who was mentioned. Oh yes, including 
you ! " Vivien laughed merrily. 

" It's rather a bore those girls coming down 
here. I hope we shan't see too much of them." 
He rose. " I'm afraid I must go, Vivien. We're 
due at Medfold Crossways to-night, and it's a good 
long drive, even with the motor. I've got to have 
some abominable hybrid of a meal at five." 

She too rose and came to him, putting her hands 
in his. Her laughing face grew grave and tender. 

" Dear, you really are happy ? " she asked softly, 
yet rather insistently. 

He looked into her eyes ; they were not veiled 
or remote for him. " Honestly I believe you're 
the only chance of happiness I've got in the world, 
Vivien. Is that enough ? " 

" I think it's really more than being happy, or 
than being sure you will be happy." She smiled. 
"It gives me more to do, at all events." 

"And if I made you unhappy ? " 

" Don't be hurt, please don't be hurt, but just 
a little of that wouldn't surprise me. Oh, my 
dear, you don't think I should change to you just 
because of a little unhappiness ? When you've 
given me all the happiness I've ever had ! " 



LOVE AND FEAR. 319 

"All you've ever had ? Poor child ! " 

" It wasn't quite loyal to let that slip out. And 
it was my own fault, of course, mostly. But they 
they were sometimes rather hard on me." She 
smiled piteously. " For my good ? Perhaps it 
was. Without it, you mightn't have cared for 
me." 

"Is it as much to you as that ? " he asked, a 
note of fear, almost of distress, in his voice. 

She marked it, and answered gaily, "It wouldn't 
be worth having if it wasn't, Harry ! " 

He kissed her fondly and tenderly, praying in 
his heart that he might not turn all her happiness 
to grief. 

Her presence had wrought on him at last in its 
old way ; if it had not given him peace, yet it had 
shown him where the chance of peace lay, if he 
would take it. It had again made him hate the 
thing he had been doing, and himself for doing 
it ; again it had made him almost hate the woman 
whom and whom only he had, in truth, that day 
come to see. It had made the right thing seem 
again within his reach, made the idea of giving up 
Vivien look both impossibly cruel to her and im- 
possibly foolish for himself. Yet he was, like 
Isobel, in great fear in almost hopeless fear. 
These two, with their imperious desire for one 
another, became, each to the other, a terror in 






320 SECOND STRING. 

themselves terrors, and the source of every danger 
threatening from outside. 

" She gave me the chance of ending it last night. 
If only I could take her at her word ! " 

"Not after to-night!" she had said. He re- 
membered the words in a flash of hope. But he 
remembered also that his answer had been, "Ah, 
you do ! " and a kiss. If she said again, " Not 
after to-night ! " aye, said it again and again 
would not the answer always be, "Ah, but to-night 
at least ! " Such words ever promised salvation, 
but brought none ; they were worse than useless. 
Under a specious pledge of the future, they 
abandoned the present hour. 






Chapter XVI. 
A CHOICE OF EVILS. 

'"T^HE best parlour the private sitting-room at 
* the Lion was on the ground floor, just oppo- 
site the private bar, and boasted a large bay window, 
commanding a full view of High Street. A low 
broad bench, comfortably cushioned, ran round the 
window, and afforded to Miss Flower a favourable 
station from which to observe what was doing in 
the town. On fine days, such as ruled just now, 
when the window was thrown up, the position also 
served as a rendezvous to which her growing band 
of friends and admirers could resort to exchange 
compliments, to post her in the latest news, or 
just to get a sight of her. Jack Rock would stroll 
across from his shop three or four times a day ; 
Andy would stop a few minutes on his way to or 
from his lodgings ; Billy would stretch his long 
legs over the sill and effect an entry ; Vivien ask 
if she might come in for a few minutes ; Chinks 

cast an eye as he hurried to his office ; the Bird 

11 



322 SECOND STRING. 

find an incredible number of occasions for passing 
on his daily duties. There the Nun sat, survey- 
ing the traffic of Meriton, and fully aware that 
Meriton, in its turn, honoured her with a flatter- 
ing attention. Within the Lion itself she already 
reigned supreme ; old Mr. Dove was at her feet, 
so was old Cox and the other habitues of the private 
bar ; the Bird, as already hinted, was " knocked 
silly " this contemptuous phrase for a sudden 
passion was Miss Miles*. Yet even Miss Miles 
was affable, and quite content to avenge her- 
self for the Bird's desertion (which she justly 
conceived to be temporary) by a marked increase 
in those across-the-counter pleasantries which she 
had once assured her employer were carried on 
wholly and solely for the benefit of his business. 
The fact was that Miss Miles had once officiated 
at the bar of a " theatre of varieties," and this 
constituted a professional tie between the Nun and 
herself, strong enough to defy any trifling awk- 
wardness caused by a wavering in the Bird's 
affections. 

But the Nun's most notable and complete con- 
quest was over Mr. Belfield. Billy Foot had 
brought him not his son Harry and speedily 
thereafter he called on his own account, full of 
courtly excuses because his wife, owing to a touch 
of cold, was not with him ; he hoped that she 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 



3 2 3 



would be able to come very soon. (Mr. Belfield 
was engaged on another small domestic struggle, 
such as had preceded Andy Hayes' first dinner at 
Halton.) Serenely indifferent to the minutiae of 
etiquette, Miss Flower allowed it to appear that 
she would just as soon receive Mr. Belfield by 
himself. 

He interpreted her permission as applying to 
more than one visit ; somehow or other, most 
days found him by the bay window, and generally, 
on being pressed, at leisure to come in and rest. 
They would chat over all manner of things to- 
gether, each imparting to the other from a store 
of experiences strange to the listener ; or to- 
gether they would discuss their common friends 
in Meriton. She liked his shrewd and humorous 
wisdom ; her directness and simplicity charmed 
him no less than the extreme prettiness of her 
face. 

"Well, Miss Flower," he said one morning, 
"the boys finish their speechifying to-morrow, 
and then they'll be more at liberty to amuse you, 
instead of leaving it so much to the old stagers." 

"And then you'll all be getting busy about the 
wedding. In three weeks now, isn't it ? " 

"Just a few days over three weeks. Individually 
I shall be glad when it's over." 

" Have they done well with their speeches ? " 



324 SECOND STRING. 

she asked. " After all my good intentions, I only 
went once." 

" They think they Ve made the seat absolutely 
safe for Harry. Parliament and marriage the 
boy's taking on responsibilities ! " 

" It seems funny, when one's just played about 
with them ! It's a funny thing to be just one of 
people's amusements off the stage as well as 
on it." 

" Oh, come ! " He smiled. " Is that all you 
claim to be to any of those boys ? " 

" That's the way they look at me in their sober 
moments. Except Andy ; he's quite different. 
He's never been about town, you see. For him 
girls and women are all in the same class." 
. "1 was once about town myself," Belfield re- 
marked thoughtfully. 

" Yes, and you take your son's view and Billy 
Foot's." He smiled again, and she smiled too, 
meeting his glance directly. " Oh yes, Billy too 
though he may have his temptations ! Squarely 
now, Mr. Belfield, if for the sake of argument 
your son treated Miss Wellgood badly, or even 
Miss Vintry, it would seem a different thing from 
treating Sally or me badly, wouldn't it ? " 

" You do put it pretty squarely," said Belfield, 
twisting his lips. 

"A glass of beer gives you the right to flirt with 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 325 

poor Miss Miles. It's supposed to be champagne 
with us. When you were about town don't you 
remember ? " 

" I suppose it was. It's not a tradition to be 
proud of." 

" There are compensations which some of us 
like. If Sally or I behave badly, who cares ? But 
if Miss Wellgood or Miss Vintry ! Oh, dear 
me, the heavens would fall in Meriton ! " 

"By the way, I'm afraid I drive your friend 
away ? Miss Dutton always disappears when I call." 

" She generally disappears when people come. 
Sally's shy of strangers. Well, you know, as I 
was saying, Andy Hayes hasn't got that tradition. 
I think if I ever fell in love I never do, Mr. 
Belfield I should fall in love with a man who 
hadn't that tradition. But they're very hard to 
find." 

" Let's suppose it's one of those thousand things 
that are going to change," he suggested, with his 
sceptical smile. 

"Do things between men and women change 
much, in spite of all the talk ? You've read 
history, I haven't." 

" Yes, I have to a certain extent. I don't know 
that I'm inclined to give you the result of my 
researches. Not very cheerful ! And, meanwhile, 
there's Andy Hayes ! " 



326 SECOND STRING. 

" I never do it," the Nun repeated firmly. 
" Besides, in this case I've not been asked. I'm 
not the sort of girl he would fall in love with." 

" Will you forgive an old man's compliment, 
Miss Flower, if I say I don't know the sort of man 
who wouldn't I'll put it mildly, I'll say mightn't 
fall in love with the sort of girl you are ? " 

" I forgive it, but it's not as clever as you 
generally are. Andy always wants to help. Well, 
I don't want anybody to help me, you see." 

cc The delight of the eyes ? " he suggested. 
a What ? That doesn't count ? .Only such as you 
can afford to say so ! " 

" I don't think it counts much with Andy. He 
appreciates, oh yes ! He almost stared me out of 
countenance the first time we met; and that's 
supposed to be difficult in London ! But I 
don't think it really counts for a great deal. 
Andy's not a love-making man ; he's emphatically 
a marrying man." 

" You draw that distinction ? But the love- 
making men marry ? " 

" In the end perhaps generally rather by 
accident. They haven't the instinct." 

"You've thought about these things a good 
deal, Miss Flower." 

"I live almost entirely among men, you see," 
she answered simply. " And they show me more 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 



32? 



than they show girls of of that other class. Shall 
I call again on your reminiscences ? " She smiled 
suddenly and brightly. " Miss Wellgood's being 
awfully nice to me. She's been here twice, and 
I'm going to tea at Nutley to-morrow." 

"She's one of the dearest girls in the world," 
said Belfield. "Harry's a lucky fellow." He 
glanced at the Nun. "I hope he appreciates it 
properly. I believe he does." 

She offered no comment, and a rather blank 
silence followed. If Belfield had sought a re- 
assurance, he had not received it. On the other 
hand she gave away no secrets. She, like the 
silence, was blank, looking away from him, down 
High Street. 

The Bird passed the window ; Jack Rock trotted 
by on a young horse ; one of his business equipages 
clattered along not far behind him ; the quiet old 
street basked and dozed in the sun. 

" What a dear rest it is this little town ! " said 
the Nun softly. " Surely nothing but what's happy 
and peaceful and pleasant can ever happen here ? " 

Sally Button came by, returning from a stroll 
to which she had betaken herself on Belfield' s 
arrival. 

"Well, Sally, been amusing yourself?" the 
Nun called. 

"The streets present their usual gay and 



3 28 SECOND STRING. 

animated aspect," observed Miss Button, as she 
entered the Lion. 

" There are the two sides of the question," 
laughed Belfield. "The line between peace and 
dullness each man draws it for himself in pencil 
with india-rubber handy ! I'm really afraid 
we're not amusing Miss Dutton ? " 

" Oh yes, she's all right. That's only her way." 
She smiled reflectively ; Sally always amused her. 

Belfield rose to take leave. "We can't let 
Nutley beat us," he said. "We must have you 
at Halton too ! " He was led into assuming that 
his little domestic struggle would end in victory. 

She looked at him, still smiling. "Wait and 
see how I behave at Nutley first. If Harry gives 
a good report of me I suppose he'll be there ? 
ask me to Halton ! " 

He laughed, and so let the question go. After 
all, it would not do to be too sudden with his wife. 

" You needn't be afraid of Harry. But Well- 
good's rather a formidable character." 

" And Miss Vintry ? Is she alarming ? " 

He pursed up his lips. " I think she might be 
called a little alarming." 

" I'll have a good look at her and perhaps I'll 
let you know what I think of her," said the Nun, 
with no more than the slightest twinkle in her eyes. 
It was enough for Belfield's quickness ; it was 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 



329 






much more informing than the blank silence 
though even that had set him thinking. 

But the Nun's account of her first visit to 
Nutley chanced or perhaps it was not chance 
to be rendered not to Belfield, but to Andy Hayes. 
After the last meeting of the campaign, he had 
gone round to smoke a pipe with Jack Rock. 
Leaving him hard on midnight there had been 
much to be wormed out of Andy concerning his 
speeches, their reception, the applause he saw a 
light still burning in the window at the Lion. As 
he drew near, he perceived that the window was 
open, and he heard a voice crooning softly. He 
made bold to look in. The Nun was alone ; she 
sat in the window, doing nothing, singing to 
herself. " Boo ! " said Andy, putting his big head 
in at the window. 

" Andy 1 " she cried, her face lighting up. 
" Jump in I You've come to scare the devils ! 
There are a hundred of them, and they won't go 
away for all my singing. And Sally's gone to 
bed, prophesying a breaking of at least six out 
of the Ten Commandments 1 And only yesterday 
I told Mr. Belfield that nothing unpleasant could 
happen in Meriton ! Where is one to go for quiet 
if things happen in Meriton ? " 

An outburst like this was most unusual with the 
Nun. It produced on Andy's face such a look of 



330 SECOND STRING. 

mild wonder as may be seen on a St. Bernard's 
when a toy-terrier barks furiously. 

" What's happened ? " 

" I've been at Nutley." 

" Oh yes ! Harry came on from there in the 
car got to the meeting rather late," 

"Something's happened or is happening in 
that house." She looked at him sharply. " You've 
been here longer than I have do you know 
anything ? Go on with your pipe." 

Andy considered long, smoking his pipe. 

"You do know something! " she exclaimed. 

" I've ground for some uneasiness," he admitted. 

She nodded. " It was all sort of underground," 
she said. " Really most uncomfortable ! They'd 
try to get away from it, and yet come back to it 
those three Mr. Wellgood, Harry, and that Miss 
Vintry. Poor Vivien seemed quite outside of it 
all, but somehow conscious of it and unhappy. 
She saw there was what shall I say ? antagonism, 
you know. And she didn't know why. Have 
you seen anything that would make Mr. Wellgood 
savage if he saw it ? " 

" He didn't see what I saw." 

" Not that time anyhow ! " she amended quickly. 

Andy frowned. " That time, I mean, of course. 
If he's seen anything of that sort, or suspected it, 
naturally, as Vivien Wellgood' s father " 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 331 

" Vivien's father ! " Her tone was full of 
impatience for his stupidity. " I suppose no 
woman has ever been to Nutley lately ? Oh, 
Vivien's not one ; she's a saint and that's neither 
male nor female. Vivien's father ! " 

" I've been there off and on," said Andy. 

" You ! Have you ever seen not that I 
suppose you'd notice it a woman keeping two 
men from one another's throats, trying to make 
them think there's nothing to quarrel about, trying 
to say things that one could take in one way, and 
the other in the other and third persons not take 
in any way at all ? Oh, it's a pretty game, and I'm 
bound to say she plays it finely. But she's on 
thin ice, that woman, and she knows it. Vivien's 
father ! " 

" Why do you go on repeating c Vivien's father ' ? " 

"I won't." She leant forward and laid her 
small hand on his arm. "Isobel Vintry's lover, 
then ! The man's in love with her, Andy, as sure 
as we sit here. In love and furious 1 " 

" I'd never thought of that. Do you feel sure 
of it?" 

"You have thought of the other thing and 
you're sure of that ? " 

" You know Harry. I hoped it would all all 
come to nothing. How much do you think 
Wellgood knows, or suspects ? " 



332 SECOND STRING. 

"Hard to. say. I think he's groping in the dark. 
He's had a check, I expect, or a set-back. Men 
always think that's due to another man I suppose 
it generally is. Well, it's not you, and it's not 
Billy. Who else sees her who else goes to 
Nutley ? " 

"But he'd never suspect his own daughter's " 

"You do!" 

" I had the evidence of my eyes." 

" Jealousy's quicker than the eyes, Andy." She 
leant forward again. " What did you see ? " 

"It seems disloyal to tell disloyal to Harry." 

My loyalty's for Vivien ! " she said. " What 
about yours ? " 

"Take it that what I saw justifies your fears 
about Harry," said Andy slowly. "I think I'm 
not surer I think he suspects I saw. I don't 
know whether she does." He was not aware that 
Isobel had made herself quite certain of his know- 
ledge. " But it's nearly a month ago. You know 
Harry. I hoped it was all over. Only he seemed 
a little queer." 

"'Come and spend a quiet afternoon in the 
garden ' that was her invitation. Poor girl ! " 

" That's what you called her the first time I told 
you of their engagement." 

" A nice quiet afternoon sitting on the top of 
a volcano ! With an eruption overdue ! " 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 333 

" It isn't possible to feel quite comfortable about 
it, is it ? " said Andy. 

The Nun laughed a little scornfully. "Not 
quite. Going to do anything about it ? " 

Andy raised his eyes to hers. " I owe almost 
everything I value most in the world to Harry, 
directly or indirectly ; even what I owe to you and 
Jack came in a way through him." 

" And he's never taken ten minutes' real trouble 
about you in his life." 

" I'm not sure that makes any difference even 
if it's true. He stands for all those things to me. 
As for Miss Vintry He shrugged his ponder- 
ous shoulders. 

" Oh, by all means to blazes with Miss Vintry ! " 
the Nun agreed pleasantly. 

Miss Button put her head in at the door her 
hair about her shoulders. " Ever coming to bed ? " 

" Not yet. I'm talking to Andy. Don't you 
see him, Sally?" 

" It's not respectable." 

"The window's open, there's a street lamp 
opposite, and a policeman standing under it. 
Good-night." 

" Well, don't come into my room and wake me 
up jawing." Miss Dutton withdrew. 

The Nun looked at Andy. " I wonder if it's 
quite fair to say c To blazes with Miss Vintry ! ' 



334 SECOND STRING. 

cc You said it with a good deal of conviction a 
moment ago. What makes you ?" His eyes 
met hers. 

" Who told you about Sally ? I never did," the 
Nun exclaimed. 

" Harry, after our first supper." 

" Here was rather the same case only, of course, 
she never knew the other girl. I think that makes 
a difference. And she never really had a chance. 
That makes no difference, I suppose. The police- 
man's gone. I expect you'd better go too, Andy." 

Andy swung his legs over the window-sill. 
" Are you going to try and put your oar in ? " 
he asked. 

" Would you think me wrong if I did ? " 

Andy sat quite a long while on the window-sill, 
dangling his legs over the pavement of High Street. 

"I've thought about it a good deal," he answered. 
" Especially lately." 

She knelt on the broad low bench just behind 
him. " Yes, and the result when you're ready ? " 

"I think a row would be the best thing that 
could happen." He turned his face round to her 
as he spoke. 

The Nun gasped. "That's thorough," she 
remarked. " So much for your opinion about 
Harry ! " 

"Yes, so much for that," Andy admitted. 






A CHOICE OF EVILS. 335 

" If there is a row, I hope you'll be there.'* 

" Oh, I don't ! " exclaimed Andy with a natural 
and human sincerity. 

"To prevent bloodshed ! " She laid her hand 
on his arm. " I'm not altogether joking. I didn't 
like Mr. Wellgood's eyes this afternoon." She 
patted his arm gently before she withdrew her 
hand. " Good -night, dear old Andy. You're 
terribly right as a rule. But about this " She 
broke off, impatiently jerking her head. 

With a clasp of her hand and a doleful smile, 
Andy let his legs drop on the pavement and 
departed. 

So that was his verdict, given with all his 
deliberation, with all the weight of his leisurely 
broad - viewing judgment. The real thing to 
avoid was not the "row ;" that was his conclusion. 
There was a thing, then, worse than the " row " 
the thing for which Halton and Nutley nay, all 
Meriton, would soon be making joyful preparation. 
His calm face had not moved even at her word 
"bloodshed." Oh yes, Andy was thorough ! Not 
even that word swayed his mind. Perhaps he did 
not believe in her fears. But his look had not been 
scornful ; it had been thoughtfully interrogative. 
He had possessed that knowledge of his for a long 
while ; he had never used it. At first from loyalty 
to Harry even now that would, she thought, be 



336 SECOND STRING. 

enough to make him very loth to use it. But 
another reason was predominant, born of his long 
silent brooding. He had come to a conclusion 
about his hero ; the court had taken time for 
consideration ; the judgment was advised. ; There 
was no helping some people. They must be left 
to their own ways, their own devices, their own 
doom. To help them was to harm others ; to 
fight for them was to serve under the banner of 
wrong and of injustice. Friendship and loyalty 
could not justify that. 

The conclusion seemed a hard one. She stood 
long at the big window a dainty little figure thrown 
up by the light behind her painfully reaching for- 
ward to the understanding of how what seems 
hardness may be a broader, a truer, a better-directed 
sympathy, how it may be a duty to leave a wastrel 
to waste, how not every drowning man is worth the 
labour that it takes to get him out of the water 
for that once. At all events, not worth the risk of 
another, a more valuable life. 

And that was his conclusion about his hero, the 
man to whom he owed, as he had said, almost 
everything he prized ? Had he, then, any right 
to the conclusion, right in the abstract though it 
might be ? It was a hard world that drove men 
to such hard conclusions. 

The case was hard and the conclusion. But 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 337 

not, of necessity, the man who painfully arrived 
at it. Yet the man might be biassed ; sympathy 
for the deceived might paint the deceiver's conduct 
in colours even blacker than the truth demanded. 
Doris did not think of this, in part because the 
judgment had seemed too calm and too reluctant 
to be the offspring of bias, more because, if there 
were any partiality in it, she herself had become 
a no less strong, and a more impetuous, adherent 
of the same cause. Vivien had won all her fealty. 
The one pleasant feature of the afternoon had been 
when Vivien walked home with her and, wrought 
upon by the troubled atmosphere of Nutley even 
though ignorant of its cause, had opened her heart 
to Harry's old friend, to a girl who, as she felt, 
must know more of the world than she did, and 
perhaps, out of her experience, could comfort and 
even guide. With sweet and simple gravity, with a 
delicacy that made her confidence seem still reserved 
although it was well-nigh complete, she showed to 
her companion her love and her apprehension a 
love so pure in quality, an apprehension based on 
so rare an understanding of the man she loved. 
She did not know the things he had done, nor the 
thing he was now doing ; but the man himself she 
knew, and envisaged dimly the perils by which he 
was beset. Her loving sympathy tried to leap 
across the wide chasm that separated her life and 



338 SECOND STRING. 

her nature from his, and came wonderfully little 
short of its mark. 

" I really knew hardly anything about him when 
I accepted him ; he was just a girl's hero to me. 
But I have watched and watched, and now I know 
a good deal." 

An excellent mood for a wife, no doubt or for 
a husband excellent, and, it may be, inevitable. 
But for a lover yet unmated, a bride still to be, 
a girl in her first love ? Should she not leave 
reverend seniors to prate to her quite vainly of 
difficulties and dangers, while her fancy is roaming 
far afield in dreamy lands of golden joy ? To 
endeavour, by an affectionate study of and con- 
sideration for your partner, to avoid unhappiness 
and to give comfort such is wont to be the 
text of the officiating minister's little homily at 
a wedding. Is it to be supposed that bride and 
bridegroom are putting the matter quite that 
way in their hearts ? If they were, a progressive 
diminution in the marriage-rate might be expected. 

So ran the Nun's criticism, full of sympathy 
with the girl, not perhaps quite so full of sympathy 
for what seemed to her an over-saintly abnegation 
of her sex's right. The bitterest anti-feminist will 
agree that a girl should be worshipped while she is 
betrothed ; he will allow her that respite of domin- 
ion in a life which, according to his opponents, his 



I 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 339 



theories reduce, for all its remaining years, to 
servitude. Vivien was already serving serving 
and watching anxiously amid all her love. At 
this Doris rebelled she who never fell in love. 
But she was quicker to grow fond of people than 
to criticize their points of view. Vivien's over- 
saintliness did sinful Harry's cause no service. 
If this were Vivien's mood in the light of her 
study of what her lover was, how would she 
stand towards the knowledge of what he did ? 

Yet Andy Hayes thought that the best thing 
now possible was that she should come to the 
knowledge of it that was what he meant by 
there being a "row." That opinion of his was 
a mightily strong endorsement of Vivien's anxiety. 

" Don't you now and then feel like backing out 
of it ? " the Nun had asked with her usual direct- 
ness. 

Vivien's answer came with a laugh, suddenly 
scornful, suddenly merry, "Why, it's all my 
life!" 

The Nun shook her sage little head ; these 
things were not all people's lives oh dear, no ! 
She knew better than that, did Doris ! But then 
the foolish obstinate folk would go on believing 
that they were, and thereby, for the time, made 
the trouble just as great as though their delusion 
were gospel truth. 



340 SECOND STRING. 

Then Vivien had turned penitent about her 
fears, and remorseful for the expression of them. 
By an easy process penitence led to triumph, and 
she fell to singing Harry's praises, to painting 
again that brightly coloured future the marvel- 
lous things to be seen and done by Harry's side. 
She smiled gently, rather mysteriously ; the sound 
of the wonderful words was echoing in her ears. 
Doris saw her face, and pressed her hand in a holy 
silence. 

The result of her various conversations, of her 
own reflections, and of her personal inspection of 
the situation at Nutley was to throw Miss Doris 
Flower into perhaps the gravest perplexity 
under which she had ever suffered. When you 
are accustomed to rule your life and other 
people's, on occasion by the simple rule of doing 
the obvious thing, it is disconcerting to be con- 
fronted with a case in which there appears to be 
no obvious thing to do, where there is only a 
choice of evils, and the choice seems balanced 
with a perverse and malicious equality. From 
Vivien's side of the matter Doris troubled herself 
no more with her old friend Harry's- the marriage 
was risky far beyond the average of matrimonial 
risks ; but the " row " was terribly risky too, with 
the girl in that mood about "all her life." If 
she had that mood badly upon her, she might 



A CHOICE OF EVILS. 341 

[p well, girls did do all sorts of things some- 
times, holding that life had nothing left in it. 

Though there was nothing obvious, there must 
something sensible ; at least one thing must 
more sensible than the other. Was it more 
sensible to do nothing which was to favour the 
"row" or to attempt something which was to 
work for the marriage ? Her temperament asserted 
itself, and led her to a conclusion in conflict with 
Andy's. She was by nature inclined always to do 
something. In the end the " row " was a certain 
evil ; the marriage only a risk. Men do settle 
down sometimes ! (She wrinkled her nose as 
she propounded, and qualified, this proposition.) 
The risk was preferable to the certainty. After 
all, her practical sense whispered, in these days 
even marriage is not wholly irrevocable. Yes, 
she would be for the marriage and against the 
" row " and she would tell Andy that. 

Something was to be done then. But what ? 
That seemed to the Nun a much easier question 
a welcome reappearance of the obvious thing. 

" I must find out what the woman really wants. 
Until we know that, it's simply working in the 
dark." 

So she concluded, and at last turned on her side 
and went to sleep. 



Chapter XVII. 
REFORMATION. 

T N very truth the atmosphere at Nutley was heavy 
* with threatening clouds ; unless a fair wind 
came to scatter them, the storm must soon break. 
Isobel had fled within her feminine barricades 
the barricades which women are so clever at con- 
structing and at persuading the conventions of life 
to help them to defend. A woman's solitudes may 
not be stormed ; with address she can escape 
private encounters. In sore fear of Harry because 
sore afraid of herself, she gave him no opportunity. 
In sore fear of Wellgood, she shrank from facing 
him with a rupture of their secret arrangement. 
Both men were tricked out of their stolen inter- 
views Wellgood out of his legitimate privilege, 
Harry out of his trespassing. Each asked why ; 
in each jealousy harked back to its one definite 
starting-point Harry's to her suggestions about 
her relations with Vivien's father, Wellgood's to 



Ctl 

" 



REFORMATION. 343 

;lfield's hints that, as a companion, Isobel was 
teedlessly good looking. To each of them matter 
f amusement at the time when they were made, 
ey took on now a new significance ; so irony 
ves to confront our past and present moods. 
But Wellgood held a card that was not in Harry's 
hand a card which could not win the game, but 
could at least secure an opening. He was em- 
ployer as well as lover. Vivien's father could 
command the presence of Vivien's companion 
not indeed late at night, for that would be a 
scarcely judicious straining of his powers, but at 
any reputable business-transacting hour of the day. 
or two nights and that day of which the Nun 
had been a witness he suffered the evasion of his 
rights ; then, with a suavity dangerous in a man 
so rough, he prayed Miss Vintry's presence in the 
study for ten minutes (the established period !) 
fore dinner ; there were ways and means to be 
iscussed, he said, matters touching the trousseau 
d the wedding entertainment. Vivien was 
idden to run away and dress. "We're prepar- 
ing one or two surprises for you, my dear," he 
said to her, with a grim smile which carried for 
Isobel a hidden reference. 

Thus commanded in Vivien's presence, Isobel 
was cleverly caught between the duty of obedience 
d the abandonment of her ostensible position in 






344 SECOND STRING. 

the house. Her barricade was being outflanked ; 
she was forced into the open. 

She was in fear of him, almost actual physical 
fear ; whether more of his fondness or of his 
roughness she could not tell ; she felt that she 
could hardly bear either. Since her avowal to 
Harry, her courage had never returned, her 
weapons seemed blunted, she was no more mistress 
of all her resources. Yet in the end she feared the 
fondness more, and would at all costs avoid that. 
She summoned the remnants of her once brilliant 
array of bravery. 

Alone with her, he wasted no time on the artifice 
which had secured him privacy. 

" What's this new fad, Isobel ? You're wilfully 
avoiding me. One evening you turn faint ; another 
you dodge me, and are off to bed ! Though I 
don't think I've ever made exacting claims on your 
time, considering ! " 

" I've been afraid you'd better hear the truth 
to speak to you." 

" I should like ^the truth, certainly, if I can get 
it. What have you been afraid to speak to me 
about ? " 

" Our engagement." She made the plunge, her 
eyes fixed apprehensively on his face. c< I I can't 
go on with it, Mr. Wellgood." 

He had schooled himself for this answer ; he 



REFORMATION. 345 

,de no outburst. His tone was mild ; the 
unning of jealousy gave him an alien smoothness. 

." Sit down, my dear, and tell me why.'* 

She sat facing him, his writing-table between 
them. 

" My feelings haven't haven't developed as I 
hoped they would." 

" Oh, your feelings haven't developed ? " he 
repeated slowly. "Towards me ? " 

" 1 reserved the right to change my mind you 
remember ? " 

"And 1 the right to be unpleasant about it." 
He smiled under intent eyes. 

" I'll leave the house to-morrow, if you like," 
he cried, eager now to accept a banishment she 
once dreaded. 

" Oh, no ! I'm not going to be unpleasant. 
We needn't do things like that." 

" I I think 1 should prefer it." 

" I'm sorry you should feel that. There's no 
need ; you shan't be annoyed." 

"That's good of you. I thought you'd be 
very, very hard to me." 

" Would that be the best way to win you back ? 
I don't know at any rate I don't feel like follow- 
ing it. But really you can't go off at a moment's 
notice and just now ! What would Vivien think ? 
What are we to say to her ? What would every- 



346 SECOND STRING. 

body think ? And how are Vivien and I to get 
through all this business of the wedding ? " 

" I know it would be awkward, and look odd, 
but it might be better. Your feelings " 

" Never mind my feelings ; you know they're 
not my weak spot. Come, Isobel, you see now 
you've no cause to be afraid of me, don't you ? " 

"You're behaving very kindly more kindly 
than perhaps I could expect." Down in her 
mind there was latent distrust of this unwonted 
uncharacteristic kindness. Yet it looked genuine 
enough. There was no reference to the name she 
dreaded ; no hint, no sneer, about Harry Belfield. 
She rose to a hope that her tricks and her fencing 
had been successful, that he was quite in the dark, 
that the issue was to his mind between their two 
selves alone, with no intruder. 

Wellgood's jealousy bade him be proud of his 
effort, and encouraged him to persevere. The 
natural temper ,of the man might be raging, almost 
to the laying of hands on her ; it must be kept 
down ; the time for it was not yet. Rudeness or 
roughness would give her an excuse for flight ; he 
would not have her fly. A plausible kindness, a 
considerate smoothness that was the card j ealousy 
selected for him to play. 

" You shan't be troubled, you shan't be annoyed. 
I'll give up my evening treat. We'll go back to 



REFORMATION. 347 

our old footing before I spoke to you about this. 
I'll ask nothing of you as a lover well, except not 
to decide finally against me till the wedding. 
Only three weeks ! But as my friend, and 
Vivien's, I do ask you not to leave us in the lurch 
now at this particular moment and not to risk 
setting everybody talking. If you insist on leav- 
ing me, go after the wedding. That means no 
change in our plan, except that you won't come 
back. That'll seem quite natural ; it's what they 
all expect." 

Still never a word of Harry, no hint of resent- 
ment, nothing that could alarm her or give her a 
handle for offence ! Whether from friend or lover, 
his request sounded most moderate and reasonable. 
Not to leave the friend in the lurch, not to decide 
with harsh haste against a patient lover who had 
been given cause for confident hope, almost for 
certainty ! He left her no plausible answer, for 
she could adduce no grievance against him. He 
had but taken what for her own purposes she had 
been content to allow first in his bluff flirtation, 
then in his ill-restrained endearments. There was 
no plausibility in turning round and pretending 
to resent these things now. She dared not take 
false points in an encounter so perilous ; that 
would be to expose herself to a crushing reply. 

"If you go now all of a sudden, at this 



348 SECOND STRING. 

moment I can't help thinking you'll put yourself 
under a slur, or else put me under one. People 
know the position youVe been in here practically 
mistress of the house, with Vivien in your entire 
charge. Very queer to leave three weeks before 
her wedding ! You may invent excuses, or we 
may. An aunt dying something of that sort ! 
Nobody ever believes in those dying aunts ! " 

It was all true ; people did not believe in those 
dying aunts, not when sudden departures of hand- 
some young women were in question. People 
would talk ; the thing would look odd. His 
plausible cunning left her no loophole. 

cc If you wish it, I'll stay till the wedding, on 
our old footing as we were before all this, I 
mean. But you mustn't think there's any chance 
of my my changing again." 

"Thank you." He put out his hand across the 
table. She could not but take it. Though he 
seemed so cool and quiet, the hand was very hot. 
He held hers for a long while, his eyes intently 
fixed on her in a regard which she could not 
fathom, but which filled her anew with fear. She 
fell into a tremble ; her lips quivered. 

"Let me go now, please," she entreated, her 
eyes unable to meet his any longer. 

He released her hand, and leant back in his 
chair. He smiled at her again, as he said, " Yes, 



REFORMATION. 349 

go now. I'm afraid this interview has been rather 
trying to you perhaps to us both." 

Of all the passions, the sufferings, the under- 
goings of mankind, none has so relentlessly been 
put to run the gauntlet of ridicule as jealousy. It 
is the sport of the composer of light verses, the 
born material of the writer of farce especially 
when it is well founded. It is perhaps strange to 
remark could any strangeness outlast familiarity 
that the supreme study of it treats of it as utterly 
unfounded, and finds its highest tragedy in its 
baselessness. Ridiculous when justifiable, tragic 
when all a delusion ! Is that nature's view, even 
as it is so often art's ? Certainly the race is 
obstinate in holding real failure in the con- 
flict of sex as small recommendation in a hero, 
imagined as the opportunity for his highest effect. 
King Arthur hardly bears the burden of being 
deceived ; on the baseless suspicion of it the 
Moor rides through murder to a triumphant death 
and a general sympathy unless nowadays 
women have anything to say on the latter point. 

Yet this poor passion commonly so ridiculous, 
even more commonly, among the polite, held ill- 
bred must be allowed its features of interest. 
It is remarkably alert, acute, ingenious, even 
laborious, in its sweeping of details into its net. 
It works up its brief very industriously, be the 



350 SECOND STRING. 

instructions never so meagre somehow it invites 
legal metaphor, being always plaintiff in the court 
of sex, always with its grievance to prove, generally 
faced with singularly hard swearing in the witness 
box. It has its successes, as witnessed by notable 
phrases ; there is the " unwritten law," and there 
are " extenuating circumstances." The phrases 
throw back a rather startling illumination on the 
sport of versifiers and the material of farce. But 
the exceptional cases have a trick of stamping 
themselves on phraseology. Most of us are 
jealous with no very momentous results. We 
grumble a little, watch a little, sulk a little, and 
decide that there is nothing in it. Often there is 
not. Likewise we are ambitious without convul- 
sing the world or even our own family circle. So 
with our lives, our loves, our deaths history, 
poetry, elegy find no place for them. Only 
nature has and keeps a mother's love for the 
ordinary man, and holds his doings legitimate 
matter for her interest, nay, essential to her eternal 
unresting plan. She may be figured as investing 
the bulk of her fortune in him, as in three per 
cents. genius being her occasional " flutter." 

Mark Wellgood was an ordinary man, and he 
was proud of the fact ; that must, perhaps, be 
considered a circumstance of aggravation. He 
refused the suggestions of civilization to modify, 



REFORMATION. 351 

and of sentiment to soften, his primitive instincts ; 
he was proud of them just as they were. If any 
man had come between him and his woman 
primitive also were the terms his thoughts used 
that man should pay for it. If there were any 
man at all, who could it be but Harry Belfield ? 
If it were Harry Belfield, Wellgood refused to 
hold him innocent of an inkling of how matters 
stood between Isobel and Vivien's father he must 
have pretty nearly guessed, even if she had not 
told him. At least there were relations between 
Vivien herself and the suspected trespasser. Did 
they not give cause enough for a father's anger, 
deep and righteous, demanding vengeance ? They 
gave cause and they gave cover. The jealous 
suitor could use the indignant father's plea, the 
indignant father's weapons. The lover's revenge 
would make the father's duty sweet. He was not 
indifferent to the wrong done to Vivien ; yet he 
almost prized it for the advantage it gave him in 
his own quarrel. It was not often that jealousy 
could plume itself on so honourable and so useful 
an ally ! 

Single-hearted concern for Vivien would have 
let Isobel go, as she prayed, and given Harry 
either his dismissal or the chance to mend his 
ways in the absence of temptation. Jealousy 
imperiously vetoed such suggestions. Isobel 



352 SECOND STRING. 

should not go. Harry should neither be dis- 
missed nor given a fair chance and a fresh start. 
If he could, Wellgood would still keep Isobel ; 
at least he would punish Harry, if he caught him. 
For the sake of these things he compromised his 
daughter's cause, and made her an instrument for 
his own purposes. And he did this with no sense 
of wrong-doing. So masterful was his self-regard- 
ing passion that his daughter's claim fell to the 
status of his pretext. 

So he smoothed his face and watched. 

But Isobel too was now on the alert. She was 
no longer merely resolved that she would behave 
herself because she ought ; she saw that perforce 
she must. At least, no more secret dealings ! 
Harry must be told that. The hidden hope that 
his answer would be, " Open dealings, then, at any 
cost," beat still in her heart, faintly, yet without 
ceasing. But if that answer came not, then all 
must be over. Word must go to him of that 
before he next came to Nutley. Such consolation 
as lay in knowing that she would not marry Well- 
good should be his also. Then, perhaps, things 
would go a little easier, and these terrible three 
weeks slip past without disaster. Terrible yes ; 
but, alas, the end of them seemed more terrible yet. 

Even had the post seemed safe, there was none 
which could reach Harry before he was due at 



REFORMATION. 353 

Nutley again. She had to find a messenger. She 
decided on Andy Hayes. He was a safe man ; he 
would not forget to fulfil his charge. The very 
fact of that bit of knowledge he possessed made 
him in her eyes the safest messenger ; if he had 
not talked about that other thing, he was not 
likely to talk about the letter ; unlikely to men- 
tion it in malice, certain not to refer to it in 
innocence or inadvertence. And she knew where 
to find him. Andy had, with Wellgood's per- 
mission, resumed his practice of bathing before 
breakfast in Nutley lake. The stripes of his 
bathing-suit were a familiar object to her as he 
emerged from the bushes or plunged into the 
water ; from her window she could watch his 
powerful strokes. His hour was half-past seven ; 
before eight nobody but servants would be about. 

Andy, then, emerging from the shrubbery dressed 
after his dip, found Miss Vintry strolling up and 
down. 

" You're surprised to see me out so early, Mr. 
Hayes ? But I know your habits. My window 
looks out this way." 

" I'm awfully careful to keep well hidden in the 
bushes." 

" Oh yes ! " she laughed. " I've not come to 
warn you off. Are you likely to see Mr. Harry 
this morning ? " 

12 



354 SECOND STRING. 

" I easily can ; I shall be passing Halton." 

" I specially want this note to reach him early 
in the morning. It's rather important. I should 
be so much obliged if you'd take it ; and will you 
give it to him yourself ? " 

Andy stood silent for a moment, not offering to 
take the letter from her hand. She had foreseen 
that he might hesitate, knowing what he did ; she 
had even thought that his hesitation might give 
her an opportunity. Feigning to notice nothing 
in his manner, she went on, " I must add that I 
shall be glad if you'll give it to him when he's 
alone, and if you won't mention it. It relates to 
a private matter." 

Andy spoke slowly. " I'm not sure you'd 
choose me to carry it if you knew " 

" I do know ; at least I never had much 
doubt, and I've had none since a talk we had 
together at Halton. Do you remember ? " 

" I didn't say anything about it then, did I ? " 
asked Andy. 

She smiled. "Not in so many words. You 
saw a great piece of foolishness the first and 
last, I need hardly tell you. I'm very much 
ashamed of it. In that letter I ask Mr. Harry 
to forget all about it, and to remember only 
that I am, and want to go on being, Vivien's 
friend." 



REFORMATION. 355 

It sounded well, but Andy was not quite convinced. 

" It's some time ago now. Mightn't you just 
ignore it ? " 

"As far as he's concerned, no doubt I might ; 
but I rather want to get it off my own conscience, 
Mr. Hayes. It'll make me happier in meeting 
him. 1 shall be happier in meeting you too, 
after this little talk. Somehow that wretched bit 
of silliness seems to have made an awkwardness 
between us, and I want to leave Nutley good 
friends with every one." 

She sounded very sincere ; nay, in a sense she 
was sincere. She was ashamed ; she did want to 
end the whole matter unless that unexpected 
answer came. At any rate she was or sounded 
sincere enough to make Andy hold out his hand 
for the letter. 

"I'll take it and give it to him as you wish, 
Miss Vintry. I'm bound to say, though, that, if 
apologies are being made, I think Harry's the one 
to make them." 

"We women are taught to think such things 
worse in ourselves than in men. Men get carried 
away ; they're allowed to, now and then. We 
mustn't." 

The appeal to his chivalry another wrong to 
woman ! touched Andy. " That's infernally un- 
fair ! " 



356 SECOND STRING. 

" It sometimes seems so, just a little. I'm 
sincerely grateful to you, Mr. Hayes." She held 
out her hand to him. " You won't think it neces- 
sary to mention to Mr. Harry all I've told you ? 
I don't think he was so sure as I was about about 
your presence. And somehow it makes it seem 
worse if he knew that you " 

" I shall say nothing whatever, if he doesn't," 
said Andy, as he shook hands. 

"Thank you again. I don't think I dare risk 
asking you to be friends real friends yet ; but 
I may, perhaps, on the wedding day." 

" I've never been your enemy, Miss Vintry." 

"No; you've been kind, considerate" her 
voice dropped "merciful. Thank you. Good- 
bye." 

She left Andy with her letter in his hands, and 
her humble thanks echoing in his ears words 
that, in thanking him for his silence, bound him 
to a continuance of it. Andy felt most of the 
guilt suddenly transferred to his shoulders, because 
he had told the Nun well, very nearly all about 
it ! That could not be helped now. After all, it 
was Miss Vintry's own fault ; she should have 
done sooner what she had done now. "All the 
same," thought chivalrous Andy, "I might give 
Doris a hint that things look a good bit better." 

Certainly Isobel Vintry had cause to congratulate 



REFORMATION. 357 

herself on a useful morning's work Harry safely 
warned, Andy in great measure conciliated. She 
felt more able to face Wellgood over the teapot. 

The first round had gone in her favour ; the 
zone of danger was appreciably contracted. Her 
courage rose ; her conscience, too, was quieter. 
She felt comparatively honest. With Wellgood 
she had gone as near to absolute honesty as the 
circumstances permitted. She had broken the 
engagement ; she had even prayed to be allowed 
to go away, with all that meant to her. Wellgood 
made her stay. Then, so far as he was concerned, 
the issue must be on his own head. If that unex- 
pected answer should come in the course of the 
weeks still left for it, it would be Wellgood's own 
lookout. As for Vivien well, she was perceptibly 
more honest even in regard to Vivien. If she 
fought still, in desperate hope, for Vivien's lover, 
she fought now in fairer fashion, by refusing, not 
by accepting, his society, his attentions, his kisses. 
She would be nothing to him unless he found 
himself forced to cry, " Be everything ! " She 
would abide no longer on that half-way ground ; 
there were to be no more sly tricks and secret 
meetings. The kisses, if kisses came, would 
not be stolen, but ravished in conquest from 
a rival's lips. If sin, that was sin in the grand 
manner. 






358 SECOND STRING. 

At lunch-time a note came for Vivien, brought 
by a groom on a bicycle. 

" Oh, from Harry ! " she exclaimed, tearing it 
open. 

Isobel, sitting opposite Wellgood, set her face. 
She had expected a note to come for Vivien from 
Harry. She was on her mettle, fighting warily, 
risking no points. No note should come to her 
from Harry, to be opened perhaps under Well- 
good's eyes ; he had been known to ask to see 
letters, in his matter-of-course way assuming that 
there could be nothing private in them. Harry's 
answer to the note Andy delivered was to come 
to Isobel through Vivien, and to come in terms 
dictated by Isobel, terms that she alone would 
understand. She could always contrive to see 
Vivien's letters ; generally they were left about. 

a He's so sorry he can't bring Mr. Foot to 
tennis with him this afternoon ; they're going to 
play golf," Vivien announced, rather disappointed. 
But she cheered up. " Oh well, it's rather hot for 
tennis ; and I shall see him to-night, at dinner at 
Halton." 

" Does he say anything else ? " asked Isobel 
carelessly. 

" Only that he's bored to death with politics." 
She laughed. " What's worrying him, I wonder ?" 

For a moment Isobel sat with eyes lowered ; 



I 



REFORMATION. 359 

then she raised them and looked across to Well- 
good. He was not looking at her ; he was carving 
beef. Then it did not matter if her face had 
changed a little when she heard that Harry was 
bored with politics. Neither Wellgood nor Vivien 
had seen any change there might possibly have 
been in her face. 

That trivial observation about politics was the 
answer the expected answer, not that unexpected 
one. It meant, " I accept your decision." 

Oddly enough her first feeling, the one that rose 
instinctively in her mind, was of triumph over 
Wellgood. Had she expressed it with the primi- 
tive simplicity on which he prided himself, she 
would have cried, " Sold again ! " She had got 
out of her great peril ; she had settled the whole 
thing. He had not scored a single point against 
her. She had regained her independence of him, 
and without cost. There was no longer anything 
for him to discover. He had no more rights over 
her ; he had to renew his wooing, again to court, 
to conciliate. He had no way of finding out the 
past ; Andy Hayes was safe. The future was 
again in her hands. Her smile at Wellgood was 
serene and confident. She was retreating in per- 
fect order, after fighting a brilliantly successful 
rearguard action. 

Even of the retreat itself she was, for the 




360 SECOND STRING. 

moment at least, half glad. Fear and longing 
had so mingled in her dreams of 'that unexpected 
answer. To be free from that crisis and that 
revelation ! They would have meant flight for her, 
pursued by a chorus of condemning voices. They 
would have meant at least days, perhaps weeks, of 
straining vigilance, of harrowing suspense never 
sure of her ground, never sure of herself ; above 
all, never sure of Harry. Who, if not she, should 
know that you never could be sure of Harry ? 
Who, if not she, should know that neither his 
plighted word nor his hottest impulse could be 
relied upon to last ? Yes, she was half glad ; 
almost more than half glad, when she looked at 
Vivien. In the back of her mind, save maybe 
when passion ran at full flood for those rare 
minutes, the stolen ten that had come for so few 
days, had been the feeling that it would be a 
terrible thing to be to be "shown up" to Vivien. 
The sage adviser, the firm preceptress, the model 
of the virtues of self-control how would she have 
looked in the eyes of Vivien, even had the open, 
the triumphant victory come to pass ? Really that 
hardly bore thinking of, if she had still any self- 
respect to lose. 

She walked alone in the drive after lunch 
where she had been wont to meet him. Let it all 
go ! At least it had done one thing for her it had 



REFORMATION. 361 

saved her from Wellgood. It had taught her love, 
and made the pretence of love impossible the 
suffering of unwelcome caresses a thing unholy. 
Then it was not all to the bad ? It left her with a 
dream, a vision, a thing unrealized yet real ; some- 
thing to take with her into that new, cold, unknown 
world of strange people into which, for a liveli- 
hood's sake, she must soon plunge must plunge 
as soon as she had seen Harry married to Vivien ! 

The sun was on the lake that afternoon ; the 
water looked peaceful, friendly, consoling. She sat 
down by the margin of it, and gave herself to 
memories. They came thick and fast, repeating 
themselves endlessly out of scant material full of 
shame, full of woe ; but also full of triumph, for 
she had been loved at least for the time desired 
by the man of her love and desire. Bought at a 
great cost ? Yes. And never ought to have been 
bought ? No. But now by no means to be 
forgotten. 

She was alone ; everything was still, in the calm 
of a September afternoon. She bowed her head to 
her hands and wept. 

The Nun walked up the drive and saw the figure 
of a woman weeping. 




Chapter XVIII. 
PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 

' I V HE Nun stopped, walked on a few paces, came 
to a stand again. She was visiting Nutley 
in pursuance of her plan of doing, if not that 
undiscoverable obvious, yet the more sensible 
thing of preventing the " row " and, incidentally 
thereto, of finding out "what the woman really 
wanted." 

Here was the woman. Whatever she might 
really want, apparently she was very far from having 
got it yet. She also looked very different from 
the adversary with whom Miss Flower had pictured 
herself as conducting a contest of wits quite un- 
like the cool, wary, dexterous woman who had 
played her difficult game between the two men 
so finely, and who might be trusted to treat her 
opponent to a very pretty display of fencing. The 
position seemed so changed that the Nun had 
thoughts of going back. To discover a new, and 
what one has considered rather a hostile, acquaint- 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 363 

ance in tears is embarrassing ; and the acquaintance 
may well share the embarrassment. 

Fortunately Isobel stopped crying. She dried 
her eyes and tucked away her handkerchief. The 
Nun advanced again. Isobel sat looking drearily 
over the lake. 

" Dropped your sixpence in the pond, Miss 
Vintry ? " the Nun asked. 

Isobel turned round sharply. 

"Because I mean you're not looking very 
cheerful." 

I sobel' s eyes hardened a little. 

" Have you been there long ? " 

" I saw you were crying, if that's what you mean. 
I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. People should cry 
in their own rooms if they want to keep it quiet." 

" Oh, never mind ; it doesn't matter whether 
you saw or not. Every woman is entitled to cry 
sometimes." 

"I don't cry myself," observed the Nun, "but 
of course a great many girls do." 

" I daresay I shouldn't cry if I were the great 
Miss Doris Flower." 

The Nun gurgled. That ebullition could usually 
be brought about by any reference to the greatness 
of her position, not precisely because the position 
was not great rather because it was funny that it 
should be. She sat down beside Isobel. 




364 SECOND STRING. 

" Please don't tell Vivien what you saw. I don't 
want her to know I've been crying. She's remorse- 
ful enough as it is about her marriage costing me 
my c place.'" 

" Was that what you were crying about ? " 

"It seems silly, doesn't it? But I've been 
happy here, and and they've got fond of me. 
And finding a new one well, it seems like plung- 
ing into this lake on a cold day. So quite suddenly 
I got terribly dreary." 

" Well, you've had it out, haven't you ? " sug- 
gested the Nun consolingly. 

" Yes ; and much good it's done to the situation ! " 
laughed Isobel ruefully. "Oh, well, I suppose 
my feelings are the situation at any rate there's 
no other." 

"Then if you feel better, things are better 
too." 

The Nun did not feel that she was getting on 
much with the secret object of her visit ; she even 
felt the impulse to get on with it weakened. She 
was more inclined just to have a friendly, a consol- 
ing chat. However business was business. To 
get on she must take a little risk. She dug the 
earth on the edge of the pond with the point of her 
sunshade and observed carelessly, " If you very 
particularly wanted to stay at Nutley, I should 
have thought you might have the chance." 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 365 

" Oh, are people gossiping about that ? Poor 
Mr. Wellgood ! " 

" It was the observation of my own eyes," said 
the Nun sedately. " Oh, of course you can deny 
it if you like, though I don't see why you should 
and I shan't believe you." 

"If youVe such confidence in your own eyes as 
that, Miss Flower, it would be wasting my breath 
to try to convince you. Have it your own way. 
But even that would be a new place. And I've 
told you that I'm afraid of new places." 

"All plunges aren't into cold water," the Nun 
observed reflectively. 

"That one would be colder, 1 think, than a 
quite strange plunge away from Nutley." 

" It's a great pity we're not built so as to fall in 
love conveniently. It would have been so nice for 
you to stay in the new place." 

" I'm only letting you have it your own way, 
Miss Flower. I've admitted nothing." 

" All that appears at present is that you needn't 
go if you don't like and yet you cry about 
going ! " 

Isobel smiled. 

" I might cry at leaving all my friends, especially 
at leaving Vivien, without wanting to stop with 
Mr. Wellgood, as you insist on having it. Is that 
comprehensible ? " 



366 SECOND STRING. 

a Well, I expect I've asked enough questions," 
said the cunning Nun, wondering hard how she 
could contrive to ask another and get an answer 
to it. " But in Meriton there's nothing to do but 
gossip to and about one's friends. That's what 
makes it so jolly. Why, this wedding is simply 
occupation for all of us ! What shall we do when 
it's over ? Oh, well, I shall be gone, I suppose." 

" And so shall I so we needn't trouble about 
that." 

The Nun was baffled. A strange impassivity 
seemed to fall on her companion the moment that 
the talk was of Harry's wedding. She tried once 
again. 

" I do hope it'll turn out well." 

Isobel offered no comment whatever. In truth 
she was not sure of herself ; her agitation was too 
recent and had been too violent it might return. 

" I've known Harry for so long and I like 
Miss Wellgood so much." She gave as inter- 
rogative a note as she could to her remarks with- 
out asking direct questions. " I think he really is 
in love at last ! " Surely that ought to draw some 
question or remark that " at last " ? It drew 
nothing. " But well, we used to say one never 
knew with poor Harry ! " (" Further than that," 
thought the Nun, "without telling tales, I can- 
not go.") 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 367 

Isobel sat silent. 

The result was meagre. Isobel would talk 
about Wellgood, evasively but without embarrass- 
ment ; references to Harry Belfield reduced her to 
silence. It was a little new light on the past ; its 
bearing on the future, if any, was negative. She 
would not, it seemed, stay at Nutley with Well- 
good. She would not talk of Harry. She had 
been crying. The crying was the satisfactory 
feature in the case. 

The Nun rose. 

" I must go in and see Miss Wellgood." 

" She's gone out with her father, I'm afraid. 
That's how I happen to be off duty." 

"And able to cry?" 

" Oh, I hope you'll forget that nonsense. I'm 
quite resigned to everything, really." She too 
rose, smiling at her companion. " Only I rather 
wish it was all over and the plunge made ! " 

The Nun reported the fact of her interview and 
the results, such as they were to Miss Button 
when she returned home. 

" Her crying shows that she doesn't think she's 
got much chance," said the Nun hopefully. 

" It shows she'd take a chance, if she got one," 
Miss Button opined acutely. 

" You mean it all depends on Harry, then ? " 

" In my opinion it always has." 






368 SECOND STRING. 

That indeed seemed the net result. It all de- 
pended on Harry not at first sight a very satis- 
factory conclusion for those who knew Harry. 
However, Andy, who came into the Lion later in 
the afternoon, was hopeful nay, confident. He 
had mysterious reasons for this frame of mind 
information which he declared himself unable to 
disclose ; he could not even indicate the source 
from which it proceeded, but he might say that 
there were two sources. He really could not say 
more which annoyed the Nun extremely. 

" But I think we may consider all the trouble 
over," he ended. 

For had not Harry, when he got his note, dealt 
quite frankly with Andy well, with very consider- 
able frankness as to the past, with complete as to 
the future ? He admitted that he had " more or 
less made a fool of himself," but declared that it 
had been mere nonsense, and was altogether over. 
Absolutely done with ! He gave Andy his hand 
on that, begged his pardon for having been sulky 
with him, and told him that henceforward all his 
thoughts would be where his heart had been all 
through with Vivien. If Isobel had convinced 
Andy, Harry convinced him ten times more. 
Andy had such a habit of believing people. He 
was not, indeed, easily or stupidly deceived by a 
wilful liar ; but he fell a victim to people who 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 369 

believed in themselves, who thought they were 
telling the truth. It was so hard for him to under- 
stand that people would not go on feeling and 
meaning what they were sincerely feeling and 
meaning at the moment. They could convince 
him, if only they were convinced themselves. 

" Let's think no more about it, and then we can 
all be happy," he said to the Nun. It really made 
a great difference to his happiness how Harry was 
behaving. 

After all, it was rather hard and rather hard- 
hearted not to believe in Harry, when Harry 
believed so thoroughly in himself. The strongest 
proof of his regained self-confidence was the visit 
he paid to the Nun a visit long overdue in 
friendship and even in courtesy. Harry asked for 
no forgiveness ; he seemed to assume that she 
would understand how, having been troubled in 
his mind of late, he had not been in the mood 
for visits. He was quite his old self when he 
came, so much his old self that he scarcely cared 
to disguise the fact that he had given some cause 
for anxiety any more than he expected to be met 
with doubt when he implied that all cause for 
anxiety was past. He had quite got over that 
attack, and his constitution was really the stronger 
for it. Illnesses are nature's curative processes, so 
the doctors tell us. Harry was always more 



370 SECOND STRING. 

virtuous after a moral seizure. The seizure being 
the effective cause of his improvement, he could 
not be expected to regard it with unmixed regret. 
If, incidentally, it -witnessed to his conquering 
charms, he could not help that. Of course he 
would not talk about the thing ; he did not so 
much mind other people implying, assuming, or 
hinting at it. 

If the Nun obliged him at all in this way, she 
chose the difficult method of irony in which not 
her greatest admirer could claim that she was very 
subtle. 

" My dear Harry, I quite understand your not 
calling. How could you think of me when you 
were quite wrapped up in Vivien Wellgood ? I 
was really glad ! " 

Now that Harry had come, he found himself 
delighted with his visit. 

" Country air's agreeing with you, Doris. You 
look splendid." His eyes spoke undisguised ad- 
miration. 

" Thank you, Harry. I know you thought me 
good-looking once." The Nun was meek and 
grateful. 

Harry laughed, by no means resenting the 
allusion. That had been an illness, a curative 
process, also though her curative measures had 
been rather too summary for his taste. 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 371 

" Whose peace of mind are you destroying down 

? 

c I've a right to destroy peace of mind if I want 
to. It's not as if I were engaged to be married 
as you are. I think Jack Rock's in most danger 
or perhaps your father." 

"The pater inherits some of my weaknesses," 
said Harry. " Or shares my tastes, anyhow." 

" Yes, I know he's devoted to Vivien." 

"You never look prettier than when you're 
trying to say nasty things." 

"I'll stop, or in another moment you'll be 
offering to kiss me." 

"Should you object?" 

" Hardly worth while. It would mean nothing 
at all to either of us. Still I'm not a poacher." 

" You don't seem to me to be able to take a joke 
either." Harry's voice sounded annoyed. "But 
we won't quarrel. I've been through one of my 
fits of the blues, Doris. Don't be hard on a 
fellow." 

" It would be so much better for you if people 
could be hard on you, Harry. Still you'll have 
to pay for it somehow. We all have to pay for 
being what we are somehow. Perhaps you won't 
know you're paying you'll call it by some other 
name ; perhaps you won't care. But you'll have 
to pay somehow."" 






372 SECOND STRING. 

The Nun made a queer figure of a moralist ; 
she was really far too pretty. But her words got 
home to Harry the new, the recovered, Harry. 

" I have paid," he said. " Oh yes, you don't 
believe it, but I have ! The bill's paid, and re- 
ceipted. I'm starting fair now. But you never 
did do me justice." 

" I've always done justice to what you care most 
about Harry the Irresistible ! " 

" Oh, stop that rot ! " he implored. " I'm 
serious, you know, Doris." 

" I know all the symptoms of your seriousness. 
The first is wanting to flirt with somebody fresh." 

Harry's laugh was vexed but not of bitter 
vexation. " Give a fellow a chance ! " 

"The whole world's in league to do it again 
and again ! " 

"This time the world is going to find me 
appreciative. You don't know what a splendid 
girl Vivien is ! If you did, you'd understand 
how how well, how things look different." 

The Nun relented. " I really think it may last 
you over the wedding and perhaps the honey- 
moon," she said. 

The extraordinary thing to her indeed to all 
his friends who did not share his most mercurial 
temperament was that this change of mood was 
entirely sincere in Harry, and his satisfaction with 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 373 

it not less genuine. For two painful hours from 
his receipt of Isobel's note to his dispatching of 
that sentence about being bored with politics- 
he had struggled, keeping Andy in an adjoining 
room solaced by newspapers and tobacco, in case 
counsel should be needed. Then the right had 
won and all was over ! When all was over, it 
was with Harry exactly as if nothing had ever 
begun ; his belief in the virtue of penitence 
beggared theology itself. What he had been doing 
presented itself as not merely finished, not merely 
repented of, but as hardly real ; at the most as 
an aberration, at the least as a delusion. Certainly 
he felt hardly responsible for it. An excellent 
comfortable doctrine for Harry. It rather left 
out of account the other party to the transaction. 

What a right he had to be proud of his return 
to loyalty ! Because Isobel Vintry was really a 
most attractive girl ; it would be unjust and un- 
grateful to deny that, since she had well, it was 
better not to go back to that ! With which re- 
flection he went back to it, recovering some of 
the emotions of that culminating evening in the 
drive ; recovering them not to any dangerous 
extent Isobel was not there, the thrill of her 
voice not in his ears, nor the light of her eyes 
visible through the darkness but enough to make 
him pat his virtue on the back again, and again 



374 SECOND STRING. 

excuse the aberration. Oh, they had all made 
too much of it ! A mere flirtation ! Oh, very 
wrong ! Yes, yes ; or where lay the marvel of 
this repentance ? But not so bad as all that ! 
They had been prejudiced to think it so serious- 
prejudiced by Vivien's charms, her trust, her 
simplicity, her appeal. Yes, he certainly had been 
a villain even to flirt when engaged to a girl like 
that. However he thoroughly appreciated that 
aspect of the case now ; it had needed this little 
adventure to make him appreciate it. Perhaps 
it had all been for the best. Well, that was going 
too far, because Isobel felt it deeply, as her words 
in the drive had shown. Yet perhaps Harry 
achieved his climax in the thought that even 
for her it might have been for the best if it 
stopped her from marrying Wellgood. By how 
different a path, in how different a mood, had poor 
Isobel attained to laying the same unction to her 
smarting soul ! 

Wellgood did not know at all how quickly 
matters had moved. He was still asking about 
the sin the aberration ; he was not up to date 
with Isobel's renunciation or Harry's comfortable 
penitence. Nor was he of the school that accepts 
such things without sound proof. " Lead us not 
into temptation " was all very well in church ; 
in secular life, if you suspected a servant of dis- 






PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 375 

honesty, you marked a florin and left it on the 
mantelpiece. Had Isobel been already his wife, 
he would have locked her up in the nearest ap- 
proach to a tower of brass that modern conditions 
permit ; if Vivien had been already Harry's wife, 
he would no doubt have been in favour of 
Harry's being kept out of the way of dangerous 
seductions. But now, whether as father or as 
lover and the father continued to afford the lover 
most valuable aid, most specious cover he had 
first to know, to test, and to try. He had to leave 
his marked florin on the mantelpiece. 

It must not, however, be supposed that Meriton 
lacked problems because Harry Belfield seemed, 
for the moment at all events, to cease to present 
one. For days past Billy Foot had been grappling 
with a most momentous one, and Mrs. Belfield's 
mind was occupied, and almost disturbed, by another 
of equal gravity. Curiously enough, the two 
related to the same person, and were to some 
degree of a kindred nature. Both involved the 
serious question of the social status or perhaps 
the social desirability would be a better term 
of Miss Doris Flower. 

In the leisure hours and the autumn sunshine 
of Meriton an atmosphere remote from courts, 
whether of law or of royalty, and inimical to 
ambition Billy was in danger of forgetting the 



376 SECOND STRING. 

paramount claims of his career and of remembering 
only the remarkable prettiness of Miss Flower. 
He was once more "on the brink" ; the metaphor 
of a plunge found a place in his thoughts as well 
as in Isobel Vintry's ; some metaphors are very 
maids-of-all-work. He was deplorably perturbed. 
Now that the great campaign was over he aban- 
doned himself to the great question. He even 
went up to London to talk it over with Gilly, 
entertaining his brother to lunch by no means 
a casual or haphazard hospitality, for Gilly's meals 
were serious business in order to obtain his most 
inspired counsel. But Gilly had been abominably, 
nay, cruelly disappointing. 

" I shouldn't waste any more time thinking 
about that, old chap," said Gilly, delicately dissect- 
ing a young partridge. 

" You're not going out of your way to be 
flattering. It appears to me at least to be a matter 
of some importance whom I marry. I thought 
perhaps my brother might take that view too." 

" Oh, I do, old chap. I know it's devilish 
important to you. All I mean is that in this 
particular case you needn't go about weighing the 
question. Ask the Nun right off." 

" You really advise it ? " Billy demanded, wrink- 
ling his brow in judicial gravity, but inwardly 
rather delighted. 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 377 

"I do," Gilly rejoined. "Ask her right off- 
get it off your mind ! It doesn't matter a hang ? 
because she's sure to refuse you." He smiled at 
his brother across the table a table spread by that 
brother's bounty in a fat and comfortable fashion. 

Billy preserved his temper with some difficulty. 
"Purely for the sake of argument, assume that 
I am a person whom she might possibly accept." 

" Can't. There are limits to hypothesis, beyond 
which discussion is unprofitable. 1 merely ask 
you to note how much time and worry you'll be 
saved if you adopt my suggestion." 

" You'll look a particular fool if I do and she 
says yes." 

"Are you quite sure they brought the claret 
you ordered, Billy ? What's that you said ? " 

" I'm sure it's the claret, and I'm sure you're 
an idiot ! " Billy crossly retorted. 

His journey to London, to say nothing of a 
decidedly expensive lunch, brought poor Billy no 
comfort and no enlightenment, since he refused 
his brother's plan without hesitation. His problem 
became no less harassing when brought into con- 
tact with Mrs. Belfield's problem at Halton. She 
also discussed it at lunch, Harry being an absentee, 
and Andy Hayes the only other guest. She had 
forgotten by now that a similar question had once 
arisen about Andy himself; his present position 



378 SECOND STRING. 

would have made the memory seem ridiculous ; 
it had become indisputably equal to dinner at 
Halton, even in Mrs. Belfield's most conservative 
eyes. 

cc I have written the note you wished me to, my 
dear," she remarked to her husband. " To Miss 
Flower, you know, for Wednesday night. And I 
apologized for my informality in not having called, 
and said that I hoped Miss Miss well, the 
friend, you know, would come too." 

"Thank you, my dear, thank you." Belfield 
sounded really grateful ; the struggle had, in fact, 
been rather more severe than he had anticipated. 

" It's not that I'm a snob," the lady went on, 
now addressing herself to Billy Foot, " or pre- 
judiced, or in any way illiberal. Nobody could 
say that of me. But it's just that I doubt how far 
it's wise to attempt to mix different sections of 
society. I mean whether there's not a certain 
danger in it. You see what I mean, Mr. Foot?" 

Belfield winked covertly at Andy ; both had 
some suspicion of Billy's feelings, and were 
maliciously enjoying the situation. 

" Oh yes, Mrs. Belfield, I er see what you 
mean, of course. In ordinary cases there might 
be yes a sort of well, a sort of danger to 
to well, to something we all value, Mrs. Belfield. 
But in this case I don't think " 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 379 

" So Mr. Belfield says. But then he's always so 
adventurous." 

Belfield could not repress a snigger ; Andy 
made an unusually prolonged use of his napkin ; 
Billy was rather red in the face. Mrs. Belfield 
gazed at Billy, not at all understanding his feelings, 
but thinking that he was looking very warm. 

"Well, Harry's .engaged !" she added with a 
sigh of thanksgiving. Billy grew redder still ; the 
other two welcomed an opportunity for open 
laughter. 

"They may laugh, Mr. Foot, but I'm sure 
your mother would feel as I do." 

A bereavement several years old saved Billy 
from the suggested complication, but he glared 
fiercely across the table at Andy, who assumed, 
with difficulty, an apologetic gravity. 

" All my wife's fears will vanish as soon as she 
knows the lady," said Belfield, also anxious to 
make his peace with Billy. 

" I always yield to Mr. Belfield, but you can't 
deny that it's an experiment, Mr. Foot." She 
rose from the table, having defined the position 
with her usual serene and gentle self-satisfaction. 

Billy rose too, announcing that he would finish 
his cigar in the garden. His face was still red, and 
he was not well pleased with his host and Andy. 
Why will people make our own most reasonable 



380 SECOND STRING. 

thoughts ridiculous by their silly way of putting 
them ? And why will other stupid people laugh 
at them when so presented? These reflec- 
tions accompanied poor Billy as he walked and 
smoked. 1 

Belfield smiled. " More sentimental complica- 
tions ! I hope Billy Foot keeps his face better than 
that when he's in court. Do you think he'll rush 
on his fate ? And what will it be ?" 

" Oh, I don't know, sir," Andy answered. " I 
really haven't thought about it. I don't think she 
cares for him in that sort of way, though they're 
awfully good friends." 

"You seem to manage to keep heart-whole, 
Andy?" 

" Oh, I've no time to do anything else," he 
laughed. 

" Take care ; Cupid resents defiance. I've a 
notion you stand very well with the lady in 
question yourself." 

" I ? Oh, the idea's never entered my head." 

" I don't say it's entered hers. The pretty 
rogue told me she never fell in love, and made me 
wish I was thirty years younger, and free to test 
her. But she's very fond of you, Andy." 

" I think what she told you about herself is true. 
She said something like it to me too. But I'm 
glad you think she likes me. I like her immensely. 






PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 381 

Outside this house, she's my best friend, I think, 
not counting old Jack Rock, of course." 

" I believe Vivien would dispute the title with 
her. She thinks the world of you/' 

"I say, Mr. Belfield, you'll turn my head. 
Seriously, I should be awfully happy to think that 
true. There's nobody well, nobody in the world 
I'd rather be liked by." 

"Yes, I think I know that," said Belfield. 
"And I'm glad to think she's got such a friend, 
if she ever needs one." 

A silence followed. Belfield was thinking of 
Vivien, thinking that she would have been in 
safer hands with Andy than with his son Harry ; 
glad, as he had said, to know that she would have 
such a friend left to her after his own precarious 
lease of life was done. Andy was thinking too, 
but not of Vivien, not of sentimental complica- 
tions not even of Harry's. Yet the thought 
which he was pursuing in his mind was not 
altogether out of relation to Harry, though the 
relation was one that he did not consciously trace. 

" Back to work next week, sir ! " he said. 
" Gilly's clamouring for me. I've had a splendid 
holiday." 

" You've put in some very good work in your 
holiday. Your speeches are thought good." 

"I somehow feel that I'm on my own legs 



3 82 SECOND STRING. 

now," said Andy slowly. " I hope I've not grown 
bumptious, but I'm not afraid now to think for 
myself and to say what I think. I often find 
people agree with me more or less." 

"Perhaps you persuade them," Belfield sug- 
gested ; he was listening with interest, for he had 
watched from outside the growth of Andy's mind, 
and liked to hear Andy's own account of it. 

" Well, I never set out to do that. I just give 
them the facts, and what the facts seem to me to 
point to. If they've got facts pointing the other 
way, I like to listen. Of course lots of questions 
are very difficult, but by going at it like that, and 
taking time, and not being afraid to chuck up your 
first opinion, you can get forward or so it seems 
to me at least." 

" Chucking up first opinions is hard work, both 
about things and about people." 

" Yes, but it's the way a man's mind grows, isn't 
it ?" He spoke slowly and thoughtfully. " Unless 
you can do that, you're not really your own mental 
master, any more than you're your own physical 
master if you can't break off a bad habit." 

" You've got to be a bit ruthless with yourself 
in both cases, and with the opinions, and with 
the people." 

" You've got to see," said Andy. " You must 
see that's it. You mustn't shut your eyes, or 



PENITENCE AND PROBLEMS. 383 

turn your head away, or let anybody else look for 

it 
you. 

"You've come into your kingdom," said Bel- 
field with a nod. 

" Perhaps I may claim to have got my eyes open, 
to be grown up." 

He was grown up ; he stood on his own legs ; 
he sat no more at Harry's feet and leant no more 
on Harry's arm. Harry came into his life there, 
as he had in so many ways. Harry's weakness 
had thrown him back on his own strength, and 
forced him to rely on it. Relying on it in life, he 
had found it trustworthy, and now did not fear to 
rely on it in thought also. His chosen master 
and leader had forfeited his allegiance, though 
never his love. He would choose no other ; he 
would think for himself. Looking at his capacious 
head, at his calm broad brow, and hearing him 
slowly hammer out his mental creed, Belfield 
fancied that his thinking might carry him far. 
The kingdom he had come into might prove a 
spacious realm. 



Chapter XIX. 
MARKED MONEY. 

CO far as she could and dared, Isobel Vintry 
S? withdrew herself from the company of Harry 
Belfield. She relaxed her supervision of the 
lovers when they were together ; she tried to avoid 
any risk of being alone with Harry. She knew 
that Wellgood was watching her, and was deter- 
mined to give no new handle to his suspicion. 
Her own feelings agreed in dictating her line of 
action. In ordinary intercourse she was sure of 
herself ; she was not anxious to seek extraordinary 
temptation. She had more resolution than Harry, 
but not the same power of self-delusion, not the 
same faculty of imagining that an enemy was finally 
conquered because he had been once defeated or 
defied. She was careful not to expose herself to 
danger, either from herself or from Wellgood. 
Harry had decided that all chance of danger was 
over ; he laughed at it now, almost literally 
laughed. Yet while he derided the notion of 



MARKED MONEY. 385 

peril, he liked the flavour of memory. He kept 
turning the thing over in a mood nicely com- 
pounded of remorse and self-esteem ; of penitence 
for the folly, and self-congratulation over the end 
that had been put to it ; of wonder at his aberra- 
tion, and excuse of it in view of IsobeFs attractions. 
Gone as it all was in fact, it was not banished from 
retrospect. 

Wellgood grew easier in his mind. He had 
marked some florins opportunities for private 
meetings rather clumsily offered ; they had not been 
taken. His suspicions of the past remained, but 
he thought that he had effectually frightened 
Isobel. He had good hopes for his own scheme 
again. If she did not come round before the 
wedding now only a fortnight off he believed 
that she would afterwards. Harry finally out of 
reach, his turn would come. He continued his 
smoothness, and did not relax his vigilance ; but, 
as the days passed by, his hopes rose to confidence 
again. 

The dinner-party at Hal ton in the Nun's 
honour went off with great success ; she com- 
ported herself with such decorum and ease that 
Mrs. Belfield felt her problem solved, while Billy 
Foot found his even more pressing. Vivien was 
the only representative of Nutley. Wellgood had 

gone to the county town to attend a meeting of 

13 



3 86 SECOND STRING. 

the County Council ; the trains ran awkwardly, 
and, unless the business proved very brief, he 
would have to dine at the hotel, and would not 
reach home till late at night. Isobel had excused 
herself, pursuant to her policy of seeing as little as 
possible of Harry. But the party was reinforced 
by Gilly Foot, who had come down for a couple 
of days 1 rest, and was staying at the Lion the 
great publishing house being left to take care of 
itself for this short space. 

The party was pleasant Belfield flirting with 
the Nun, Gilly discoursing in company with Mrs. 
Belfield, who thought him a most intelligent young 
man (as he was), Harry and Billy both in high 
spirits and full of sallies, for which Vivien and 
Andy, both ever choosing the modest r$/e y made 
an applauding audience. Yet for most of the 
company dinner was but a prelude to the real 
business of the evening. The Nun had no opinion 
of evenings which ended at ten-thirty. For this 
reason, and in order to welcome Gilly and, if 
possible, please his palate, she had organized a 
supper at the Lion, and exhorted Mr. Dove, and 
Chinks, and the cook in a word, everybody con- 
cerned to a great effort. One thing only marred 
the anticipations of this feast ; Vivien had failed to 
win leave to attend it. 

" What do you want with supper after a good 



MARKED MONEY. 387 

dinner ? " asked Wellgood brusquely. " Come 
home and go to bed, like a sensible girl." 

So Harry was to take Vivien home, and come 
back to supper with all reasonable speed. The 
Nun pressed Mr. Belfield to join her party after 
his own was over, but gained nothing thereby, save 
a disquisition on the pleasures appropriate to youth 
and age respectively. "Among the latter I rank 
going early to bed very high." 

" Going to bed early is a low calculating sort of 
thing to do," said Harry. " It always means that 
you intend to try to take advantage of somebody 
else the next morning." 

" In the hope that he'll have been up late," said 
Billy. 

"And eaten too much," added Gilly sadly. 

" Or even drunk too much ? " suggested Belfield. 

"Anyhow, being sent to bed is horrid," 
lamented unhappy Vivien. 

" You've a life of suppers before you, if you 
choose," Billy assured her consolingly. 

"When I was a girl, we always had supper," 
said Mrs. Belfield. 

" Quite right, Mrs. Belfield," said Gilly, in high 
approval. 

" Instead of late dinner, I mean, Mr. Foot." 

Gilly could do no more than look at her, finding 
no adequate comment. 



388 SECOND STRING. 

" Supper should be a mere flirtation with one's 
food," said Billy. 

"A post-matrimonial flirtation ?" asked Belfield. 
" Because dinner must be wedlock ! We come 
back to its demoralizing character." 

" Having established that it's wrong, we've given 
it the final charm, and we'll go and do it," laughed 
Billy. Mrs. Belfield had already looked once at 
the clock. 

Amid much merriment Vivien and Harry were 
put into the Nutley brougham, and the rest started 
to walk to the Lion, no more than half a mile from 
the gates of Halton. Belfield turned back into the 
house, smiling and shaking his head. The old, 
old moralizing was upon him again, in its hoary 
antiquity, its eternal power of striking the mind 
afresh. How good it all is and how short ! 
Elderly he said good-night to his elderly wife, 
and in elderly fashion packed himself off to bed. 
He was " sent " there under a sanction stronger, 
more ruthless, less to be evaded, than that which 
poor Vivien reluctantly obeyed. He chid himself; 
nobody but a poet has a right to abandon his mind 
to universal inevitable regrets, since only a poet's 
hand can fashion a fresh garland for the tomb of 
youth. 

Half Harry's charm lay in perhaps half his dan- 
gers sprang from an instinctive adaptability ; he 



MARKED MONEY. 389 

was seldom out of tune with his company. With the 
bold he was bold ; towards the timid he displayed 
a chivalrous reserve. This latter had always been 
his bearing towards Vivien, even in the early days 
of impulsive single-hearted devotion. It did not 
desert him even to-night, although there was a 
stirring in his blood, roused perhaps by the mimic 
reproduction of old-time gaieties with which the 
Nun proposed to enliven Meriton a spirit of riot 
and revolt, of risk and adventure in the realm of 
feeling. He had little prospect of satisfying that 
impulse, but he might find some solace in merry 
revelry with his friends. Somehow, when more 
closely considered, the revelry did not satisfy. 
Good-fellowship was not what his mood was ask- 
ing ; for him at least the entertainment at the 
Lion offered no more, whatever tinge of romance 
might adorn it for Billy Foot. 

But he talked gaily to Vivien as they drove to 
Nutley of the trip they were to make, of the house 
they were to hire for the winter and the ensuing 
season (he would in all likelihood be in Parliament 
by then), of their future life together. There was 
no woman save Vivien in his mind, neither Isobel 
nor another. He had no doubts of his recovered 
loyalty ; but he was in some danger of recognizing 
it ruefully, as obligation and necessity, rather than 
as satisfaction or even as achievement. 



390 SECOND STRING. 

Vivien had grown knowing about him. She 
knew when she, or something, or things in general, 
did not satisfy his mood. " I'm glad you're going 
to have a merry evening to-night," she said. "And 
I'm almost glad I'm sent to bed ! It'll do you 
good to forget all about me for a few hours." 

"You think I shall ?" he protested gallantly. 

" Oh yes ! " she answered, laughing. " But I 
shall expect you to be all the more glad to see me 
again to-morrow." 

He laughed rather absently. "I expect those 
fellows will rather wake up the old Lion." 

They had passed through Nutley gates and were 
in the drive. Harry was next to the water, and 
turned his head to look at it. Suddenly he gave 
the slightest start, then looked quickly round at his 
companion. She was leaning back, she had not 
looked out of the window. Harry frowned and 
smiled. 

When they stopped at the door, the coachman 
said, " Beg pardon, sir, but I've only just time to 
take you back, and then go on to the station to 
meet Mr. Wellgood. He didn't come by the 
eight-o'clock, so I must meet the eleven-thirty." 

For one moment Harry considered. "All right. 
I'll walk." 

" Very good, sir. I'll start directly and take the 
mare down quietly." The station lay on the other 



MARKED MONEY. 391 

side of Meriton, two miles and a half from Nutley. 
The man drove off. 

"Oh, Harry, you might as well have driven, 
because I daren't ask you in ! Father's not back, 
and Isobel is sure to have gone to bed." The rules 
were still strict at Nutley. 

For a moment again Harry seemed to consider. 
" I thought a walk would do me good. I may 
even be able to eat some supper ! " he said with a 
laugh. " I shall get you into trouble if I come in, 
shall I ? Then I won't. Good-night." 

" Father won't be here for an hour, nearly but 
he might ask.'* 

"And you're incorrigibly truthful ! " 

" Am I ? Anyhow I rather think you want to 
go back to supper." 

She would have yielded him admission risk- 
ing her father's questions and perhaps her own 
answer to them if he had pressed. Harry did 
not press ; in his refraining she saw renewed 
evidence of his chivalry. She gave him her cheek 
to kiss ; he kissed it lightly, saying, " Till to- 
morrow what there's left of me after a night of 
dissipation ! " 

She opened the door with her key, waved a last 
good-night to him, and disappeared into the dimly 
lighted hall 

She was gone ; the carriage was gone ; Wellgood 



392 SECOND STRING. 

would not come for nearly an hour. Harry had 
not told what he had seen in the drive, nor dis- 
puted Vivien's assurance that Isobel Vintry would 
have gone to bed. Chance had put a marked 
florin on the mantelpiece for Wellgood ; what 
were the chances of its being stolen, and of the 
theft being traced ? 

To have moods is to be exposed to chances. 
Many moods come and go harmlessly free, at 
least, from external consequences. Sometimes 
opportunity comes pat on the mood, and the 
mood is swift to lay all the blame on oppor- 
tunity. 

"Well, it's not my fault this time," thought 
Harry. "And if I meet her, I can hardly walk 
by without saying good-night." 

The little adventure, with its sentimental back- 
ground, had just the flavour that his spirit had 
been asking, just what the evening lacked. A 
brief scene of reserved feeling, more hinted than 
said, a becoming word of sorrow, and so farewell ! 
No harm in that, and, under the circumstances, less 
from Harry would be hardly decent. 

Isobel did not seem minded even for so much. 
She came up to him with a quick resolute step. 
She wore a low-cut black gown, and a black lace 
scarf twisted round her neck. She bent her head 
slightly, saying, " Good-night, Mr. Harry." 



MARKED MONEY. 393 

He stepped up to her, holding out his hand, but 
she made no motion to take it. 

" I've no key I'll go in by the back door. It's 
sure to be open, because Fellowes is up, waiting 
for Mr. Wellgood." 

" He won't be here for ever so long. Won't 
you give me just three minutes ? " 

The lamp over the hall door showed him her 
face ; it was pale and tense, her lips were parted. 

" I think I'd sooner go in at once." 

" I want you to know that I didn't send that 
answer lightly. It it wasn't easy to obey you." 

"Please don't let us say a single word more 
about it. If you have any feeling, any considera- 
tion for me, you'll let me go at once." 

The moment was a bad one for her too. She 
had spent an evening alone with bitter thoughts ; 
she had strolled out in a miserable restlessness. 
Seeing the carriage pass, feeling sure that Harry 
was in it, she had first thought that she would 
hide herself till he had gone, then decided to try 
to reach the house before he had parted from 
Vivien. Her wavering landed her there at the 
one wrong minute. 

Harry glanced up at the house ; every window 
was dark. Vivien's room looked over the lake, 
the servants' quarters to the back. There was 
danger, of course ; somebody might come ; but 



394 SECOND STRING. 

nobody was there to see now. The danger was 
enough to incite, not enough to deter. And what 
he had to say was very short. 

" I only want to tell you how deeply sorry I 
am, and to ask you to forgive me." 

"That's soon said and soon answered. 1 for- 
give you, if I have anything to forgive." 

Her voice was very low, it broke and trembled 
on the last words of the sentence. 

" I had lost the right to love you, and I hadn't 
the courage to regain my freedom, with all that 
meant to to poor Vivien and others. But at 
least I was sincere. I didn't pretend " 

" Please, please ! " Her tones sank to a whisper ; 
he strained forward to catch it. " Have some mercy 
on me, Harry ! " 

The old exultation and the old recklessness 
seized on him. He suffered a very intoxication of 
the senses. Her strength made weakness, her 
stateliness turned to trembling for his sake the 
spectacle swept away his good resolves as the wind 
blows the loose petals from a fading rose. Spring- 
ing forward, he tried to grasp her hands. She put 
them behind her back, and stood thus, her face 
upturned to his, her eyes set on him intently. He 
spoke in a low hoarse voice. 

" I can't stand any more of it. I've tried and 
tried. I love Vivien in a way, and I hate to hurt 



MARKED MONEY. 395 

her. And I hate all the fuss too. But I can't do 
it any more. You're the girl for me, Isobel ! It 
comes home to me right home every time I see 
you. Let's face it it'll soon be over ! A minute 
with you is worth an hour with her. I tell you I 
love you, Isobel." He stooped suddenly and 
kissed the upturned lips. 

" You think that to-night. You won't to- 
morrow. The the other side of it will come 
back." 

" Face the other side with me, and I can stand 
it. You love me you know you do ! " 

The trees swayed, murmured, and creaked under 
the wind ; the water lapped on the edge of the 
lake. The footsteps of a man walking up the 
drive passed unheard by the engrossed lovers. 
The man came to where he could see their figures. 
A sudden stop ; then he glided into the cover of 
the bushes which fringed the lake, and began to 
crawl cautiously and noiselessly towards the house. 
To save Wellgood from kicking his heels for an 
idle hour after dinner in the hotel, and again for 
an idle half-hour at the station where he had to 
change, Lord Meriton had performed, at the cost 
of a detour of seven or eight miles, the friendly 
office of bringing his colleague home in his motor- 
car. It is to little accidents like this that impetu- 
ous lovers are exposed. So natural when they 



396 SECOND STRING. 

have happened this thing had even happened 
once before so unlikely to be thought of before- 
hand, they are indeed florins marked by the 
cunning hand of chance. 

Isobel made no effort to deny Harry's chal- 
lenge. 

"Yes, I love you, and you know it. If I didn't, 
1 should be the most treacherous creature on earth, 
and the worst ! Even as it is, I've nothing to 
boast about. But I love you, and if there were 
no to-morrow I'd do anything you wish or ask." 

" There is no to-morrow now ; it will always be 
like to-night." He bent again and softly kissed 
her. 

" 1 daren't think so, Harry ! I daren't believe 
it." Unconsciously she raised her voice in a little 
wail. The words reached Wellgood, where he was 
now crouching behind a bush. He dared come 
no nearer, lest they should hear his movements. 

Harry had lost all hold on himself now. The 
pale image of Vivien was obliterated from his mind. 
He had no doubt about to-morrow how had he 
ever doubted ? and he pleaded his cause with a 
passion eloquent and infectious. It was hard to 
meet passion like that with denial and doubt ; 
sorely hard when belief would bring such joy and 
triumph ! 

"If you do think so to-morrow " She slowly 



MARKED MONEY. 397 

put her hands out to him, a happy tremulous smile 
on her face. 

But before he could take her to his arms, a rapid 
change came into her eyes. She held up a hand 
in warning. The handle of the door had turned. 
Both faced round, the door opened, and Vivien 
looked out. 

" Oh, there you are, Isobel ! " she exclaimed in 
a tone of relief. " I couldn't think what had 
become of you. I went into your room to tell 
you about the dinner." 

" I saw the carriage pass as I was strolling in 
the drive, but when I got to the door you'd gone 
in." Her voice shook a little, but her face was 
now composed. 

" It's my fault. I kept Miss Vintry talking on 
the doorstep." 

" I must go in now," said Isobel. " Good-night, 
Mr. Harry." 

Vivien looked at them in some curiosity, but 
without any suspicion. A thought struck her. 
" I believe I caught you talking about me," she 
said with a laugh. "And not much good about 
me either because you both look a little flustered." 

Wellgood stepped out from behind his bush. 

" 1 think I can tell you what they've been talk- 
ing about, Vivien, and I will. I've had the pleasure 
of listening to the last part of it." 






398 SECOND STRING. 

He stood there stern and threatening, struggling 
to keep within bounds the rage that nearly mastered 
him the rage of the deceived lover trying still to 
masquerade as a father's indignation. The father 
should have sent his daughter away ; the lover was 
minded at all costs to heap shame and humiliation 
on his favoured rival and on the woman who had 
deceived him. 

" Not before Vivien ! " Harry cried impul- 
sively. 

Vivien turned eyes of wonder on him for a 
moment, then the old look of remoteness settled 
on her face. She stood holding on to the door, 
for support perhaps, looking now at none of them, 
looking out into the night. 

"This man, your lover, was making love to 
this woman, whom I employed to look after you." 
He laughed scornfully. "Oh yes, a rare fool I 
look ! But don't they look fools too ? They're 
nicely caught at last. I daresay they've had a 
good run, a lot of c I love you's,' a lot of kisses 
like the one I saw to-night. But they're caught 
at last." 

Vivien spoke in a low voice. "Is it true, 
Isobel ? " For Harry she had neither words 
nor eyes. 

" It's true," said Isobel ; now her voice was 
calm. " There's no use saying anything about it." 



MARKED MONEY. 399 

" And you let him do it ! " cried Wellgood, his 
voice rising in passion. " You her friend, you her 
guardian, you who " His words seemed nearly 
to choke him. He turned his fury on to Harry. 
" You scoundrel, you shall pay for this ! I'll 
make Meriton too hot to hold you ! You try 
to swagger about this place as youVe been doing, 
you try to open your mouth in public, and I'll 
be there with this pretty story ! I'll make an 
end of your chances in Meriton ! You shall find 
out what it is to make a fool of Mark Wellgood ! 
Yes, you shall pay for it ! " 

From the beginning Harry had found nothing 
to say ; what was there ? His face was sunk 
in a dull despair, his eyes set on the ground. 
He shrugged his shoulders now, murmuring 
hoarsely, " You must do as you like." 

Suddenly Isobel spoke out. "This is your 
doing. If you had let me go, as I wanted to, 
this wouldn't have happened. You suspected it, 
and yet you kept me here. I begged you to let 
me go. You wouldn't. I tried to do the honest 
thing to end it all and go. You wouldn't let 
me you know why." 

" You wanted to go, Isobel ? " asked Vivien 
gently. " And father wouldn't let you ? " 

"Yes. If he likes to tell you the reason, he 
can. But I say this is his doing his ! He's 



400 SECOND STRING. 

been waiting and watching for it. Well, he's got 
it now, and he must deal with it." 

Her taunts broke down the last of Wellgood's 
self-control. " Yes, I'll deal with it ! " The lover 
forgot the father, the father forgot his daughter. 
"And I'll deal with him the blackguard who's 
interfered between me and you ! " 

Vivien turned her head towards her father with 
a quick motion. His eyes were set on Isobel in 
a furious jealousy. Vivien gave a sharp indrawing 
of her breath. Now she understood. 

" He shall pay for it ! " cried Wellgood, and 
made a dart towards Harry, raising the stick 
which he had in his hand. 

In an instant Vivien was across his path, and 
caught his uplifted arm in both of hers. " Not 
that way, father ! " 

" Go into the house, Vivien." 

"For my sake, father ! " 

" Go into the house, I say. Let me alone." 

" Not till you promise me you won't do that." 

He looked down into her pleading face. His 
own softened a little. "Very well, my girl, I 
promise you I won't do that." 

Neither Isobel nor Harry had moved ; they 
made no sign now. Vivien slowly loosed her grasp 
of her father's arm and turned back towards the 
door. Suddenly Harry spoke in a hoarse whisper. 



MARKED MONEY. 401 

" I'm sorry, Vivien, awfully sorry." 

Then she looked at him for a moment ; a smile 
of sad wistfulness came on her lips. 

"Yes, I'm sure you're awfully sorry, Harry." 

She passed into the house, leaving the door 
open behind her. Harry heard her slow steps 
crossing the hall. 

"There's no more to be said to-night," said 
Isobel, and moved towards the door. Wellgood 
was beforehand with her ; he barred the way, 
standing in the entrance. 

" Yes, there's one more thing to be said." He 
was calmer now, but not a whit less angry or less 
vicious. " From to-night I've done with both of 
you I and my house. If you want her, take her. 
If you can get him, take him and keep him if you 
can. Let him remember what I've said. I keep 
my word. Let him remember! If he doesn't 
want this story told, let him make himself scarce 
in Meriton. If he doesn't, as God's above us, 
he shall hear it wherever he goes. It shall never 
leave him while I live." He turned back to 
Isobel. "And I've done with you I and my 
house. Do what you like, go where you like. 
You've set your foot for the last time within my 
threshold." 

Harry looked up with a quick jerk of his head. 
" You don't mean to-night ? " 



402 SECOND STRING. 

A grim smile of triumph came on Wellgood's 
face. "Ah, but I do mean to-night. You're in love 
with her you can look after her. I'll leave you 
the privilege of lodging her to-night. Rather late to 
get quarters for a lady, but that's your lookout." 

"You won't do that, Mr. Wellgood ? " said 
Isobel, the first touch of entreaty in her voice. 

With an oath he answered, "I will, and this 
very minute." 

He stood there, with his back to the door, 
a moment longer, his angry eyes travelling from 
one to the other, showing his teeth in his vicious 
smile. He had thought of a good revenge ; 
humiliation, ignominy, ridicule should be the 
portion of the woman who had cheated him and 
of the man who took her from him. There was 
little thought of his daughter in his heart, or he 
might have shown mercy to this other girl. 

" I wish you both a pleasant night," he said with 
a sneering laugh, then turned, went in, and banged 
the door behind him. They heard the bolt run 
into its socket. 

Isobel came up to Harry. Stretching out her 
arms, she laid her hands on his shoulders. Her 
composure, so long maintained, gave way at last. 
She broke into hysterical sobbing as she stammered 
out, "O Harry, my dear, my dear, I'm so sorry ! 
Do forgive ! " 



MARKED MONEY. 



403 



Harry Belfield took her face between his two 
hands and kissed it ; but under her embracing 
hands she felt his shoulders give a little shrug. 
It was his old protest against those emotions. 
They had played him another scurvy trick ! 

The bolt was shot back again, the door opened. 
Fellowes, the butler, stood there. He held a hat 
and a long cloak in his hand. 

" Miss Vivien told me to give you these, miss, 
and to say that she wasn't allowed to bring them 
herself, and that she has done her best." 

Harry took the things from him, handed the 
hat to Isobel, and wrapped her in the cloak. 

Fellowes was an old family servant, who had 
known Harry from a boy. 

" I dare do nothing, sir," he said, and went in, 
and shut the door again. 

"It was good of Vivien," said Isobel, with 
a choking sob. 

Harry shrugged his shoulders again. " Well, 
we must go somewhere," he said. 



Chapter XX. 
NO GOOD? 

A T supper the fun waxed fast and harmlessly 
** furious. The party had received an un- 
expected accession in the person of Jack Rock. 
He had been caught surveying the " spread " in 
company with Miss Button (she had declined the 
alarming hospitality of Hal ton), old Mr. Dove, 
and the Bird a trio who had been working for 
its perfection most of the day and all the evening. 
Having caught Jack, the Nun would by no means 
let him go. She made him sit down by her in 
Harry's vacant place, declaring that room could 
be found for Harry somewhere when he turned 
up, and in this honourable position Jack was en- 
joying himself honestly, simply, knowing that 
they were "up to their fun," neither spoilt nor 
embarrassed. Old Mr. Dove, the Bird, and Miss 
Miles (when the bar closed she condescended to 
help at table, because she too had been in the 
profession) humoured the joke, and served Jack 






NO GOOD? 405 

with a slyly exaggerated deference. Billy Foot 
referred to him as " the eminent sportsman," and 
affected to believe that he belonged to the Jockey 
Club. Gilly, who knew not Jack, perceiving the 
sportsman but missing the butcher, had a success 
the origin of which he did not understand when 
he proceeded to explain to Jack what points were 
of really vital importance in a sweetbread. 

"You gentlemen from London seem to study 
everything ! " exclaimed Jack admiringly. 

"This one does credit to the local butcher," said 
Gilly solemnly, and looked round amazed when all 
glasses were lifted in honour of Jack Rock. 

" Food is the only thing Gilly studies," remarked 
Miss Dutton. The supper proving satisfactory, 
she felt at liberty to indulge her one social gift 
of a sardonic humour. 

" Quite right, Sally," Billy agreed. " Food for 
his own body and for the minds of children. 
What he makes out of the latter he spends on 
the former. That both are good you may see 
at a glance." 

" I find myself with something like an appetite," 
Gilly announced. 

"That's how I likes to see folks at the Lion," 
said old Mr. Dove, easily interposing from behind 
his chair. " A trifle more, sir ? Miss Miles, your 
eye seems to have missed Mr. Gilbert Foot's glass." 



4 o6 SECOND STRING. 

"La, now, I was looking at Miss Flower's 
frock ! " 

" Why, you helped to put it on me ! You 
ought to know it." 

"It sets that sweet on you, Miss Flower." 

All was merry and gay and easy a pleasant 
ending to a pleasant holiday. They all hoped to 
come back for the wedding, to run down for that 
eventful day, but work claimed them on the 
morrow. London clamoured for the Nun new 
songs to be rehearsed now and sung in ten days. 
Billy Foot had a heavy appeal at Quarter Sessions ; 
Gilbert Foot and Co. demanded the attention of 
its constituent members. 

"Harry's a long time getting back," Andy 
remarked, looking at his watch. 

"He's dallying," said Billy. "I should dally 
myself if I had the chance." 

" Perhaps he found Wellgood back ; I know he 
wanted to speak to him something about the 
settlements." 

"And what might you be going to sing in 
London next, miss ? " asked Jack, gratefully 
accepting a tankard of beer which Mr. Dove, in 
silent understanding of his secret wishes, had placed 
beside him. 

" I'm going to be Joan of Arc," said the Nun. 
" Know much about her, Mr. Rock ? " 






NO GOOD ? 407 

" Surely, miss ! Heard of her at school. The 
old gentleman used to talk about her too, Andy. 
Burnt to death for a witch, poor girl, wasn't she ? " 

" It seems a most appropriate part for our 
hostess," remarked Billy Foot. 

" Silly ! " Miss Button shot out contemptously. 

"It's rather daring, but the Management put 
perfect reliance in my good taste," the Nun 
pursued serenely. " In the first song I'm just 
the peasant girl at at well, I forget the name 
of the village, somewhere in France it'll be on 
the programme. In the second I'm in armour 
silver armour exhorting the King of France. 
They wanted me to be on a horse, but I wouldn't." 

" The horse might be heard neighing ? " Billy 
suggested. " Off, you know." 

" Then the horse would be where I was afraid 
of being," said the Nun, and suddenly gurgled. 

" Silver armour ! My ! Don't you want to 
take me up to see her ? " This came, in a perfectly 
audible aside, from Miss Miles to the Bird. Old 
Mr. Dove coughed, yet benevolently. 

" Much armour ? " asked Gilly, suddenly emerg- 
ing from a deep attention to his plate. His hopes 
obviously running towards what may be styled a 
classical entertainment, the question was received 
with merriment. 

Completely encased, Gilly. I shall look like 



4 p8 SECOND STRING. 

a lobster. Still, Mr. Rock will come and see me, 
if the rest of you don't." 

"There are possibilities about Joan of Arc," 
Gilly pursued. " Not at all bad to lead off with 
Joan of Arc. Andy, you might make a note of 
Joan." 

" If a frontispiece is of any use to you, Gilly ?" 
the Nun suggested politely. 

" What can have become of Harry ? " Again 
it was Andy Hayes who asked. 

The Nun turned to him and, under cover of 
Billy's imaginative description of the frontispiece, 
said softly, " Can't you be happy unless you know 
Harry Bemeld's all right ? " 

" He's a very long time," said Andy. " And 
they're early at Nutley, you know. Perhaps he's 
decided to go straight home to bed." 

She looked at him for a moment, but said 
nothing. The tide of merry empty talk gone 
in the speaking, like the wine in the drinking, yet 
not less pleasant flowed on ; only now Miss 
Flower to some degree shared Andy's taciturnity. 
She was not apprehensive or gloomy ; it seemed 
merely that some sense of the real, the ordinary, 
course of life had come back to her ; the hour 
of careless gaiety was no longer, like Joan of Arc, 
" completely encased " in silver armour. 

Jack Rock turned to her, bashful, humble, yet 



NO GOOD? 409 

sure of her kindness. " I must be goin', miss ; 
I've to be up and about by seven. But would 
you sing to us, miss, same as you did at that 
meetin' ? " 

It was against etiquette to ask the Nun to sing 
on private occasions ; if she chose, she volunteered. 
But Jack was, naturally, innocent of the etiquette. 

" Of course I'll sing for you. Any favourite 
song, Jack ? " 

" What pleases you'll please me, miss," said old 
Jack. 

" I'll sing you an old Scotch one I happen to 
know." 

Silence obtained from Billy Foot with some 
difficulty, since he had got into an argument with 
Sally Button the Nun began to sing : 

" My Jeany and I have toiled 

The livelong Summer's Day : 
Till we were almost spoiPd 

At making of the Hay. 
Her Kerchy was of holland clear, 

Tied to her bonny brow, 
I whispered something in her ear ; 

But what is that to you ? " 

The Bird, who had been dispatched to get Gilly 
Foot a whisky-and-soda, came in, set it down, and 
moved towards Andy. " Be still with you, Tom ! " 
said Jack Rock imperiously. 



4 io SECOND STRING. 

" Her stockings were of Kersey green, 

And tight as ony silk ; 
O, sic a leg was never seen ! 

Her skin was white as milk. 
Her hair was black as ane could wish, 

And sweet, sweet was her mou' ! 
Ah ! Jeany daintily can kiss ; 

But what is that to you ? " 

" She has a way of giving those two wretched 
last lines which is simply an outrage," Billy Foot 
complained to the now silent Sally Dutton. 

Again the Bird tried to edge towards Andy. 
Jack Rock forbade. 

" But I've a message," the Bird whispered 
protestingly. 

" Damn your message ! She's singin' to us ! " 

" The Rose and Lily baith combine 

To make my Jeany fair ; 
There is no Benison like mine, 

I have a'maist no care, 
But when another swain, my fair, 
Shall say ' You're fair to view,' 
Let Jeany whisper in his ear, 
' Pray, what is that to you ? ' " 

There was loud applause. 

" I only sang it for Mr. Rock," said the Nun, 
relapsing into a demureness which had not con- 
sistently marked her rendering of the song. 

Released from Jack's imprisoning eye, the Bird 



NO GOOD? 411 

darted to Andy and delivered his delayed message. 
" Mr. Harry Andy, if you'd step into the street, 
sir Andy, I mean (the Bird was confused as to 
social distinctions) he's waiting and looking 
infernally put out ! " 

"He wants me outside? Why doesn't he 
come in ? Well, I'll go." Andy rose to his feet. 

" You've fired his imagination ! " remarked 
Gilly to the Nun. " He goes to seek adventures. 
Yet your song was that of a moralist." 

"A moralist somewhat too curious about a 
stocking," Billy opined. 

" Oh, well, I never think anything of a girl who 
lets her stockings get into wrinkles," the Nun 
observed, as she resumed her seat. "Do you, 
Jack?" 

Her eyes had followed Andy as he went out. 
To tell the truth, they had chanced to fall on him 
once or twice as she sang her song. But Andy 
had looked a little preoccupied ; that fact had not 
made her sing worse and at last Andy had gently 
drummed three fingers on the table. 

" You've a wonderful way of puttin' it, miss," 
said old Jack Rock. 

She laid her hand on his arm, saucily affectionate. 
" Pray what is that to you ? " she asked. 

" I'm off, miss. Thank you kindly. It's been 
an evenin' for me ! " 



4 i2 SECOND STRING. 

She let him go, with the kindest of farewells. 
A salvo of applause from the company honoured 
his exit. She rested her chin in her hands, her 
elbows on the table. Jack Rock was to be heard 
saying his good - nights merry chaff with old 
Dove, with the Bird, with Miss Miles. Why 
had Andy gone out and Harry Belfield not 
come in ? 

Billy Foot rose, moved round the table, and sat 
by her. " Where did you find it ? " 

"In an old book a friend gave me." 

" I like it." Billy sounded quite convinced of 
the song's merit. 

" It has got a little bit of of the feeling, hasn't 
it?" 

" The feeling which I've always understood you 
never felt ? " 

She was securely evasive. " It's supposed to be 
a man who sings it, Billy." 

"That accounts for the foolishness of the 
sentiments ? " 

" Makes them sound familiar, anyhow," said the 
Nun, preferring experience to theory. 

Andy came in. He went quickly to the Nun 
and bent down over her chair. 

" Harry's outside with Miss Vintry. He 
wants to know if he may bring her in," he said, 
speaking very low. 



NO GOOD? 413 

Surprise got the better of the Nun's discretion. 
Her voice was audible to them all, as she ex- 
claimed : 

" Miss Vintry with him ! At this time of night ! " 

" I think perhaps as weVe finished supper 
we'd better break up," said Andy, apologetically 
addressing the company. 

" Why ? Has anything happened ? " asked 
Billy Foot. 

"I think so." He bent down to the Nun 
again. " Miss Vintry has got to sleep here 
to-night." His voice was low, but they were all 
very still, and the voice carried. 

" There's no room for her with Gilly here as 
well as us," the Nun protested rather fretfully. 

" You must make room somehow," he returned 
firmly. " I'm going to bring them in now." He 
looked significantly at Billy Foot. " We're rather 
a large party." 

Billy turned to his brother. " I'm off home. 
Will you stroll with me as far as Halton ? " 

Gilly nodded in a bewildered fashion he was 
not up in Meriton affairs and slowly rose. 

"And when I come back I'll go straight to 
bed," he said, looking at Andy to see whether 
what he suggested met with acceptance. 

Andy nodded approval ; Gilly would be best 
in bed. 



4H SECOND STRING. 

With the briefest farewell the brothers passed 
out. As they went, they saw Harry Belfield, with 
a woman on his arm, walking slowly up and down 
on the other side of the street. 

Sally Button rose. " I'll go to bed too." As 
she reached the door she turned round and said, 
"At least I'll wait in my room. She she can 
come in with me, if she likes, Andy." 

" Thank you," said Andy gravely. 

" What is it, Andy ? " the Nun asked. 

"A general break-up," he answered briefly, as 
he followed Sally Dutton out of the room. 

The Nun sat on amidst the relics of her feast 
the fruit, the flowers, the empty bottles. Somehow 
they all looked rather ghastly. She gave a little 
shiver of disgust. 

Andy came in with Isobel Vintry clinging to his 
arm, Harry following and carefully closing the 
door. 

Andy made Isobel sit down at the table and 
offered her some wine from a half-emptied bottle. 
She refused with a gesture and laid her head 
between her hands on the table. Harry threw his 
hat on a chair and stood helplessly in the middle 
of the room. The Nun sat in a hostile silence. 

" She'd better go straight to bed," said Andy. 

" She can have my room. I'll go in with 
Sally." 



I 



NO GOOD? 415 

e looked at her. " She'd better have some- 
body with her, I think. Will you call Sally ? " 

The Nun obeyed, and Sally came. As she 
passed Harry, she smiled in her queer derisive 
fashion, but her voice was kind as she took hold 
of Isobel's arm and raised her, saying , " Come, 
you're upset to-night. It won't look half so bad 
in the morning." 

Harry met Isobel and clasped her hands. Then 
she and Sally Button went out together. 

Harry sat down heavily in a chair by the table 
and poured out a glass of wine. 

" Do you two men want to be alone together ? " 
the Nun asked. 

Harry shook his head. " I'm just off home." 

" It's all arranged," said Andy. " Harry goes to 
London by the early train to-morrow. I shall get 
her things from Nutley directly after breakfast and 
bring them here. You and Sally will look after 
her till twelve o'clock. Then I'll take her to the 
station. Harry will meet her at the other end, and 
well, they've made their plans." 

Harry lit a cigarette and smoked it very quickly, 
between gulps of wine. Andy had begun to smoke 
too. His air was calm, though grave ; he seemed 
to have taken charge of the whole affair. 

" Are you going to marry her ? " the Nun 
suddenly inquired, with her usual directness. 



4 i 6 SECOND STRING. 

" You might have gathered that much from what 
Andy said," Harry grumbled in an injured tone. 

" Does Vivien know yet ? " 

He dropped his cigarette-end into his emptied 
glass. 

" Yes," he answered, frowning. " For God's sake, 
don't put me through a catechism, Doris ! " He 
rose from his chair, looking round for his hat. 

" Shall I walk back with you ? " Andy asked. 

" No, thanks. I'd rather be alone." His tone 
was still very injured, as though the two were in 
league with one another, and with all the world, to 
persecute him. He came up to the Nun. " I 
shan't see you again for a bit, 1 expect. Good-bye, 
Doris." He held out his hand to her. The Nun 
interlaced her hands on the table in front of her. 

" I won't ! " she said. " I won't shake hands 
with you to-night, Harry Belfield. You've broken 
the heart of the sweetest girl I ever met. You've 
brought shame and misery on her you who aren't 
fit to black her shoes ! You've brought shame on 
your people. I suppose you've pretty well done 
for yourself in Merit on. And all for what ? 
Because you must philander, must have your 
conquests, must always be proving to yourself that 
nobody can resist you ! " 

Harry looked morosely resentful at the indict- 
ment. " Oh, you can't understand. Nobody can 



NO GOOD? 417 

understand who who isn't made that way. You 
talk as if I'd meant to do it !" 

" I think I'd rather you had meant to do it. 
That'd be rather less contemptible, I think." 

" Gently, gently, Doris ! " Andy interposed. 

She turned on him. " Oh yes, it's always 
< Gently, gently ! ' with Harry Belfield. He's to 
be indulged, and excused, and forgiven, and all the 
rest of it. Let him hear the truth for once, Andy. 
Even if it doesn't do him any good to hear it, it 
does me good to say it lots of good ! " 

" You'd better go, Harry. You won't find her 
good company to-night. I'll be at the station to 
see you off to-morrow before I see about the 
things at Nutley." 

" I'm going ; and I'm much obliged to Doris 
for her abuse. She's always been the same about 
me sneering and snarling ! " 

" I've never made a fool of myself about you. 
That's what you can't forgive, Harry." 

" Go, my dear fellow, go," said Andy. "What's 
the use of this ? " 

Harry moved off towards the door. As he 
went out, he said over his shoulder, " At any rate 

you can't say I'm not doing the square thing 

1 

They heard the " Boots " open the door of the 

inn for him ; a moment later his step passed the 

14 






4 i 8 SECOND STRING. 

window. Andy came and sat down by the Nun ; 
she caught his big hand in hers. 

" I'm trying hard not to cry. I don't want to 
break my record. How did it all happen ? " 

" Wellgood came back before they expected him. 
Harry met her by chance, he says after he'd left 
Vivien, and he was carried away, he says. Some- 
how or other I don't quite understand how 
Vivien came on the scene again. Then Wellgood 
was on to them, and had the whole thing out, 
before his daughter. It seems that he's in 
love with Miss Vintry himself so I understood 
Harry. That, of course, didn't make him any 
kinder." 

" It's cruel, cruel, cruel ! " 

" Yes, but do you remember a talk we had about 
it once ? " 

"Yes. You thought this this sort of thing 
would really be the best." 

" I was thinking of Miss Wellgood. Of course, 
for poor Harry Wellgood' s a dangerous enemy I " 
He paused a moment. " And the thing's so bad. 
He wasn't square with either of them, and they're 
both in love with him, I suppose ! " 

" This woman here in love with him ? Really ? 
Not only for the match ? " 

" I think so." 

"I'm sorry for her then. She'd much better 



NO GOOD? 419 

not be ! Oh, I daresay he'll marry her. How 
much will that mean with Harry Belfield ? " 

Feeling in less danger of breaking her record, 
she loosed her hold of Andy's hand. He rose. 

" I must be off. I've a lot to do to-morrow. 
Gilly'll have to look after the office. I've got to 
see Mr. Belfield among other things ; and Harry 
wants me to see Vivien Wellgood and, well, try 
to say something for him." 

"Just like him! He breaks the pitcher and 
leaves you to sweep up the pieces ! " 

"Well, he can't see her himself, can he ?" 

" He'd make love to her again if he did. You 
may be sure of that ! " 

The door opened, and Sally Dutton came in in 
her dressing-gown, with her pretty hair all about 
her shoulders. 

" She's asleep sound asleep. So I may I stay 
a few minutes with you, Doris ? I I've got the 
blues awfully badly." She came to the Nun and 
knelt down beside her. Suddenly she broke into 
a torrent of sobs. Andy heard her say through 
them, " Oh, it reminds me ! " 

Doris looked at him and nodded. " I shall see 
you soon in London, Andy?" 

He pressed her hand and left the two girls 
together. 

Gilly Foot was smoking a reflective pipe outside 



4 2o SECOND STRING. 

the door ; he had possessed himself of the key and 
sent the sleepy " Boots " to bed. Andy obtained 
leave of absence for the morrow. 

" Rather a disturbed evening, eh, Andy ? " said 
Gilly, smoking thoughtfully. "Lucky it didn't 
happen till we'd done supper ! Fact is one 
doesn't like to say it of an old friend but Harry 
Belfield's no good." 

Andy had a whimsical idea that at such a senti- 
ment the stones of Meriton High Street would cry 
out. The pet and the pride of the town, the man 
of all accomplishments, the man who was to have 
that wonderful career here he was being cavalierly 
and curtly dismissed as " no good." 

" Come, we must give him another chance," 
Andy urged. 

Gilly knocked out his pipe with an air of 
decision. 

" Rotten rotten at the core, old boy, that's it," 
he said, as with a nod of good-night he entered the 
precincts of the Lion. 

Andy Hayes was sore to the heart. He had 
thought that a catastrophe such as this, a "row," 
would be the best thing the best for Vivien Well- 
good. He was even surer of it now even now, 
when to think of the pain she suffered sent a pang 
through his heart. But what a light that increased 
certainty of his threw on Harry Belfield ! And, 



NO GOOD? 421 

as he said to himself, trudging home from the 
Lion, Harry had always been a part of his life in 
early days a very big part and one of the most 
cherished. Harry's hand had been the source 
whence benefits flowed ; Harry's example had 
been an inspiration. Whatever Harry had done 
now, or might do in the future that future now 
suddenly become so much less assured, so much 
harder to foresee the great debt remained. Andy 
did not grudge " sweeping up the pieces." Alas, 
that he could not mend the broken pitcher ! Sore 
as his heart was for the blow that had fallen on 
Vivien on her so frail that the lightest touch of 
adversity seemed cruel yet his sorest pain was 
that the blow came from Harry Belfield's hand. 
That filled him with a shame almost personal. He 
had so identified himself with his friend and hero, 
he had so shared in and profited by the good in 
him his kindness, his generosity, his champion- 
ship that he could not rid himself of a feeling of 
sharing also in the evil. In the sullying of Harry's 
honour he saw his own stained even as by 
Harry's high achievements he would have felt his 
own friendship glorified. 

"Without Harry I should never have been 
where or what I am." That was the thought in 
his mind, and it was a sure verity. Harry had 
opened the doors, he had walked through. What- 



422 SECOND STRING. 

ever Harry had done or would do with his own 
life, he had done much for his friend's, and done it 
gaily and gladly. Doris Flower might chide and 
despair ; Gilly Foot's contemptuous verdict might 
dismiss Harry to his fate. That could not be Andy's 
mood nor Andy's attitude. Gratitude forbade 
despair ; it must be his part still to work, to aid, 
to shelter ; always, above all, to forgive, and to try 
at least to try to comprehend. 

Love or friendship can set no higher or harder 
task than in demanding the comprehension of a 
temperament utterly diverse, alien, and incom- 
patible. That was the task Andy's heart laid on 
his brain. "You must not give up," was its 
command. Others might take their pleasure in 
Harry's gifts, might enjoy his brilliance, or reap 
benefit from his ready kindness and then, when 
trouble came, pass by on the other side. There 
was every excuse for them ; in the common traffic 
of life no more is asked or expected ; men, even 
brilliant men, must behave themselves at their 
peril. Andy did not stand so. It was his to try 
to assess Harry's weakness, and to see if anywhere 
there could be found a remedy, a buttress for the 
weak wall in that charming edifice. Such a pity if 
it fell down, with all its beauties, just because of 
that one weak wall ! But, alas, poor Andy was 
ill-fitted for this exacting task of love's. He might 



NO GOOD? 423 

tell himself where his duty lay ; he might argue 
that he could and did understand how a man might 
have a weak spot, and yet be a good man one 
capable of useful and high things. But his instinct, 
the native colour of his mind, was all against these 
arguments. The shame that such a man should do 
such things was stronger. The weak spot seemed 
to spread in ever-widening circles ; the evil seemed 
more and more to invade and infect the system ; 
the weak wall doomed the whole edifice. Reason, 
argue, and pray for his friend as he might, in his 
inmost mind a voice declared that this day had 
witnessed the beginning of the end of the Harry 
Belfield whom he had loved. 

" Harry Belfield's no good 1" " How are the 
mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished ! " 



Chapter XXI. 
THE EMPTY PLACE. 

"DELFIELD rubbed his hands against one 
*^ another with a rueful smile. " Yes, yes, 
he's a hard fellow. He's hard on us ; hard in 
taking a course that makes scandal inevitable. 
Meriton High Street will be breast-high in gossip 
about the midnight expulsion in a few hours. 
And hard in this I suppose I'm not entitled to 
call it persecution this punishment with which he 
threatens Harry. Still, if a man had treated my 
daughter in that way, and that daughter Vivien " 
He spread out his hands, and added, " But then 
he's always been as hard as nails to the poor girl 
herself. You think there's that other motive ? If 
you're right there, I put my foot in it once." 
He was thinking of certain hints he had given 
Wellgood at dinner one evening. 

" There's no doubt about it, I think, sir, but it 
doesn't help us much. It may show that Well- 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 



425 



good's motives aren't purely paternal, but it doesn't 
make matters better for Harry." 

" It's terribly awkward with us at one end of 
the town and Nutley at the other. Most things 
blow over, but " he screwed up his face wryly 
" meeting's awkward ! And there's the politics 1 
Wellgood's chairman of his Association. Oh, 
Harry, Harry, you have made a mess of it ! I 
think I'll go and talk it over with Meriton make 
a clean breast of it and see what he says. He 
might be able to keep Wellgood quiet. You don't 
look as if you thought there was much chance 
of it." 

" I don't know whether Harry would come back 
and face it, even if Wellgood were managed. A 
tough morsel for his pride to swallow ! And if he 
did, could he bring her at all events so long as 
Miss Wellgood's at Nutley ? Yet if they marry 
and I suppose they will " 

" 1 think we may take it that he'll marry her. 
The boy's ungoverned and untrustworthy, but he's 
not shabby, Andy." A note of pleading for his 
son crept into his voice. 

"It's the right thing for him to do, but it'll 
make it still more difficult to go on as if nothing 
had happened. However I hope you will see 
Lord Meriton and get his opinion." 

" I should like you to talk to Wellgood and find 



426 SECOND STRING. 

out what his terms really are. I can't ask favours 
of him, but I want to know exactly where we stand. 
And Vivien no 3 I must write to her myself, poor 
dear girl. Not a pleasant letter to write." He 
paused a moment and asked, with an air of being 
rather ashamed of the question, " Is the sinner 
himself very desperate ? " 

" Last night he was, I think ; at any rate terribly 
angry with himself, and I'm afraid I must add 
with his bad luck. When I saw him off this 
morning he was in one of his defiant moods, saying 
he could get on without Meriton's approval, and 
wishing the whole place at the devil." 

" Yes, yes, that's Harry ! Because he's made 
a fool and worse of himself, you and I and 
Meriton are to go to the devil ! Well, I suppose 
it's not peculiar to poor Harry. And you saw him 
off? I can't thank you for all your kindness, 
Andy." 

" Well, sir, if a man can feel that way, I'd 
almost rather have done the thing myself! I've 
got to ask her to see me on his behalf." 

Belfield shook his head. " Not much to be said 
there. And I've got to tell my wife. Not much 
there either." 

"I'm afraid Mrs. Belfield will be terribly 
distressed." 

" Yes, yes ; but mothers wear special spectacles, 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 



427 



you know. She'll think it very deplorable, but 
it's quite likely that she'll find out it's somebody 
else's fault. Wellgood's, probably, because she 
never much liked him. If it helps her, let her 
think so." 

" It was partly his fault. Why didn't he own 
up about Miss Vintry ? " 

" Not much excuse, even if you'd been the tres- 
passer. With Harry engaged to Vivien, no excuse 
at all. How could it be in any legitimate way 
Harry's business what Wellgood wanted of Isobel 
Vintry ? Still it may be that the argument '11 be 
good enough for his mother." 

"Well, sir, I'll see Wellgood to-day, and let 
you know the result. And Miss Wellgood too, if 
she'll see me. I positively must go to London 
to-morrow." 

"Yes, yes. You go back to work, Andy. 
You've your own life. And that pretty girl, Miss 
Flower does she go back too ? " 

" She goes this afternoon. And Billy Foot with 
them, I think." 

"Yes, so he does. I forgot. Give her my 
love. I'd come and give her a nosegay at the 
station, only I don't feel like facing people to-day." 
He sighed wearily. "A man's pride is easily 
hit through his children. And I suppose we've 
cracked Harry up to the skies ! Nemesis, Andy, 



428 SECOND STRING. 

Nemesis ! There, good-bye. You're a thorough 
good fellow." 

Billy Foot waylaid Andy as he left Halton. 
Billy's view of the matter was not ideal or exalted, 
but it went to a practical point. 

" Did you ever know such a fool ? " cried Billy. 
" What does he want to do it down here for ? 
He's got all London to play the fool in, if he must 
play the fool ! Nobody knows there, or if they do 
they don't care. Or if A cares B doesn't, and B's 
just as amusing to dine with probably more so. 
But in this little hen-roost of a place ! All the 
fowls '11 cackle, and all to the same tune. I'll lay 
you six to four he's dished himself for good in 
Meriton. Where are you off to ? " 

"I've got to see Miss Vintry off, then I'm 
going to Nutley. By-the-bye, how did you hear 
about it ? " 

" It wasn't hard to guess, last night, was it ? 
However, to inform my mind better, Andy, I took 
occasion to call at the Lion. I didn't see Miss 
Vintry, but I did see Miss Flower. Also I saw 
old Dove, and young Dove, and Miss Miles, all 
with faces as long as your arm and enjoying them- 
selves immensely ! You can no more keep it dark 
in a place like this than you can hide the parish 
church under your pocket-handkerchief. They'll 
all know there was a row at Nutley ; they'll all 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 429 

know Miss Vintry was turned out and slept at the 
Lion ; they'll all know that Harry and she have 
gone to London, and, of course, they'll know the 
engagement's broken. They're not clever, I admit 
I've made speeches to them but I suppose 
they're not born idiots 1 They must have a rudi- 
mentary inductive faculty." 

The truth of these words was clearly shown to 
Andy's mind when he called at the Lion to pick up 
Isobel. She was alone in the Nun's sitting-room ; 
the two girls had already said good-bye to her and 
gone out for a last walk in Meriton. When she 
came into the hall to meet him she was confronted 
by a phalanx of hostile eyes Miss Miles', old 
Dove's, the Bird's, two chambermaids', the very 
" Boots " who had officiated at the door on the 
previous night. Nobody spoke to her. Her 
luggage, sent down from Nutley in answer to 
Andy's messenger, was already on the cab. Andy 
was left himself to open the door. Nobody even 
wanted a tip from her. Could unpopularity go 
further or take any form more glaring ? 

Before the hostile eyes (she included Andy's 
among them) Isobel was herself again calm, 
haughty, unabashed, her feelings under full control. 
There were no signs of the tempest she had passed 
through ; she was again the Miss Vintry who had 
given lessons in courage and the other manly 



430 SECOND STRING. 

virtues. Andy was unfeignedly glad that this was 
her condition ; his practical equipment included 
small aptitude for dealing with hysterics. 

For the better part of the way to the station she 
said nothing. At last she looked across at Andy, 
who sat opposite to her, and remarked, "Well, 
Mr. Hayes, you saw the beginning ; now you see 
the end/' 

" Since it has happened, I can only hope the end 
will be happy for you and for him." 

"I'm getting what I wanted. If you want a 
thing and get it, you can hardly complain, what- 
ever happens." 

" That sounds very reasonable, but " 

" The best thing to hope about reason is to hope 
you won't need it ? Yes ! " 

It seemed that the news had not yet spread so 
far afield as to reach the station. The old station- 
master was friendly and loquacious. 

" Quite a break-up of you all to-day, sir," he 
said. " Mr. 'Any gone by the first train, the 
stout gentleman by the next, now Miss Vintry, 
and a carriage engaged for Miss Flower's party 
and Mr. Foot this afternoon ! A real break-up, I 
call it ! " 

"That's about what it comes to, Mr. Par- 
sons," said Andy, as he handed Isobel into the 
train. 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 431 

"Well, 'olidays must 'ave an end. A pleasant 
journey and a safe return, miss." 

Isobel smiled at Andy. "You'd stop at the 
first part of the wish, Mr. Hayes ? " 

Andy put out his hand to her. With the slightest 
air of surprise she took it. " We must make the 
best of it. Do what you can for him." 

" I'll do all he'll let me." Her eyes met his ; 
she smiled. " I know all that as well as you do. 
Surely I, if anybody, ought to know it ? " It 
seemed to Andy as if that were what her eyes and 
her smile said. " I want you to deliver one 
message for me," she "went on. " Don't be 
alarmed, I'm not daring to send a message to 
anybody who belongs to Meriton. But when 
you next see Miss Dutton, will you tell her I 
shan't forget her kindness ? I've already thanked 
Miss Flower for the use of her sitting-room. Ah, 
we're moving ! Good-bye ! " 

She was smiling as she went. Andy was smil- 
ing too ; the degree of her gratitude to Sally 
Dutton and to the Nun respectively had been 
admirably defined. 

The fire of Wellgood's wrath was still smoulder- 
ing hotly, ready to break out at any moment if the 
slightest breath of passion fanned it. He received 
Andy civilly enough, but at the first hint that he 
came in some sort as an ambassador from Harry's 



432 SECOND STRING. 

father, his back stiffened. His position was 
perfectly clear, and seemed unalterable. So far as 
it lay in his power he would banish Harry Belfield 
from Meriton and put an end to any career he 
might have there. He repeated to Andy more 
calmly, but not less forcibly, what he had shouted 
in his fury the evening before. 

" Of course I want it kept as quiet as possible ; 
but I don't want it kept quiet at the cost of that 
fellow's going unpunished getting off scot-free ! 
We've nothing to be ashamed of. Publicity won't 
hurt us, little as we may like it. But it'll hurt him, 
and he shall have it in full measure straight in 
the face. Is it a possible state of things that he 
should be here, living in the place, taking part in 
our public affairs, being our Member, while my 
daughter is at Nutley ? I say no, and I think 
Belfield his father, I mean ought to be able to 
see it for himself. What then ? Are we to be 
driven out of our home ? " 

" That would be absurd, of course," Andy had 
to admit. 

"It seems to me the only alternative." He rose 
from his chair, and walked up and down like an 
angry tiger. He faced round on Andy. "Fora 
beginning, the first step he takes in regard to the 
seat, I shall resign from the committee of the 
Association, and state my reasons for my action in 






THE EMPTY PLACE. 433 

plain language and I think you know I can speak 
plainly. I shall do the same about any other public 
work which involves meeting him. I shall do the 
same about the hunt, the same about everything. 
And I'll ask my friends I'll ask decent people- 
to choose between Harry Belfield and me. To 
please my daughter, I didn't break his head, as I 
should have liked to, but, by heaven, I'll spoil his 
game in Meriton ! I'm afraid that's the only 
message I can give you to take to Halton." 

"In fact you'll do your best to get him boy- 
cotted ? " Andy liked compendious statements. 

" That's exactly what I mean to do, Hayes. A 
man going to be married to my daughter in a fort- 
night parted from her the moment before on the 
footing of her lover found making violent love 
to another inmate of my house, her companion, 
almost within my very house itself sounds well, 
doesn't it ? Calculated to recommend him to his 
friends, and to the constituency ? " 

Andy tried a last shot. "Is this action of yours 
really best for Miss Wellgood, or what she would 
wish?" 

Wellgood flushed in anger, conscious of his 
secret motives, by no means sure that he was not 
suspected of them. " I judge for my daughter. 
And it's not what she may wish, but what is proper 
in regard to her that I consider. On the other 



434 SECOND STRING. 

hand, if he lets Meriton alone, he may do what he 
likes. That's not my affair. I'm not going to 
hunt him over the whole country." 

"Well, that's something," said Andy with a 
patient smile. " I'll communicate your terms to 
Mr. Belfield." He paused, glancing doubtfully 
at his most unconciliatory companion. " Do you 
think it would be painful to Miss Wellgood to see 
me ? " 

He stopped suddenly in his prowling up and 
down the room. "That's funny! She was just 
saying she would like to see you." 

"I'm glad to hear that. I want to be quite 
frank. Harry has asked me to express to her his 
bitter regret." 

" Nothing more than that ? " 

" Nothing more, on my honour." 

"She wants to say something to you." He 
frowned in hesitation. " If I thought there was 
the smallest chance of her being induced to enter 
into direct communication with him, I'd say no at 
once. But there's no chance of that. And she 
wants to see you. Yes, you can see her, if you 
like. She's in the garden, by the lake, I think. 
She's taken this well, Hayes ; she's showing a 
thousand times more pluck than I ever thought 
she had." His voice grew gentle. " Poor little 
girl ! Yes, go ! She wants to see you.'* 






THE EMPTY PLACE. 435 

Andy had taken nothing by his first mission ; he 
felt quite hopelessly unfit for his second. To offer 
the apologies of a faithless swain was no more in 
his line than to be a faithless swain himself; the 
fleeting relics of Harry's authority had imposed a 
last uncongenial task. Perhaps his very mum- 
chanceness was his saving. Glib protestations 
would have smacked too strongly of the principal 
to commend the agent. Vivien heard his stammer- 
ing words in silence, seeming wrapped in an aloof- 
ness that she took for her sole remaining protection. 
She bowed her head gravely at the " bitter regret," 
at the "unguarded moment," at the "fatal irresolu- 
tion "- Andy's memory held fast to the phrases, 
but refused to weld them into one of Harry's 
shapely periods. On " fatal irresolution " he came 
to a full stop. He dared not look at her it would 
seem an intrusion, a brutality ; he stared steadily 
over the lake. 

" I knew he had moods like that," she said after 
a long silence. " I never realized what they could 
do to a man. I daresay it would be hard for me 
to realize. I'm glad he wanted to to say a 
word of regret. There's one thing I should 
like you to tell him ; that's why I wanted to see 
you." 

Now Andy turned to her, for her voice com- 
manded his attention. 



436 SECOND STRING. 

" How fagged-out you look, Miss Wellgood ! " 
he exclaimed impulsively. 

" Things aren't easy/' she said in a low steady 
voice. " If I could have silence ! But I have to 
listen to denunciation. You'll understand. Did 
he tell you what what passed ? " 

"The gist of it, I think." 

"Then you'll understand that I mayn't have the 
power to stop the denunciations, or or the other 
steps that may be threatened or taken. I should 
like him to know that they're not my doing. And 
I .should like him to know too that I would a 
thousand times sooner this had happened than that 
other thing which I believe he meant to happen 
honestly meant to happen but for this accident." 

" I'm with you in that, Miss Wellgood. It's far 
better." 

" 1 accept what he says an unguarded moment. 
But I I thought he had a guard." She sat silent 
again for a minute. " There's one other thing I 
should like to say to him, through you. But 
you'll know best whether to say it or not, I think. 
I should like to tell him that he can't make me 
forget almost that he can't make me ungrateful. 
He gave me, in our early days together, the first 
real joy I'd ever had I expect the only perfect 
joy I ever shall have. What he gave then, he 
can't wholly take away." She looked at Andy 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 437 

with a faint melancholy smile. " Shall you tell 
him that ? " 

"If you leave it to me, I shan't tell him that." 

"Why not?" 

"You want it all over, don't you?" he asked 
bluntly. 

" Yes, yes, a thousand times yes ! " 

"Then don't tell Harry Belfield that. Think 
it, if you like. Don't tell him." 

A look of sheer wonder came into her eyes. 
" He's like that ? " she murmured. 

"Yes, like that. That's the trouble. He'd 
better think you're hopelessly disgusted." 

" I'm hopelessly at sea, anyhow," she said, turn- 
ing her eyes to the lake again. But she turned 
back to him quickly, still with her faint smile. 
" Disgusted ? Oh, you're thinking of the fastidi- 
ousness ? Ah, that seems a long time ago ! You 
were very kind then ; you're very kind now." 
She laid her hand lightly on his arm ; for the first 
time her voice shook. " You and I can sometimes 
talk about him as he used to be just we two 
together ! " 

" Or as we thought he was ?" Andy's tones were 
blunt still, and now rather bitter. 

" Or as we thought he was and, by thinking 
it, were so happy ! Yes, we'd better not talk about 
him ar all. 1 don't think I really could. You'll 



438 SECOND STRING. 

be seeing Mr. Belfield soon ? Give him my dear 
love, and say I'll come and see him and Mrs. 
Belfield as soon as they want me. He sent me a 
note this morning. I can't answer it just yet." 

" I'll tell him." Andy rose to go. 

" Oh, but must you go just yet ? I don't want 
you to." She glanced up at him, with a sad 
humour. " Curly's out, you know, and terribly 
big and rampageous ! " 

" But you're not running away now, any more 
than you did then." 

" I'm trying to stand still, and and look at it 
at what it means about life." 

" You mustn't think all life's like that or all 
men either." 

"That's the temptation to think that." 

" Men are tempted to think it about women 
too, sometimes." 

She nodded. " Yes, of course, that's true. 
I'm glad you said that. You are good against 
Curly ! " 

They had Wellgood in their minds. It was 
grievance against grievance at Nutley ; the charge 
of inconstancy is eternally bandied to and fro 
between the sexes Varium et mutabile semper 
Femina against " Men were deceivers ever " 
Souvent femme vane against the sorrowfully ridicu- 
lous chronicles of breach of promise of marriage 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 439 

cases. Plenty of matter for both sides ! Probably 
both sides would be wise to say as little as possible 
about it. If misogyny is bad, is misandry any 
better ? At all events the knowledge of Well- 
good's grievance might help to prevent Vivien's 
from warping her mind. Hers was the greater, 
but his was of the same order. 

The world incarnated itself to her in the image 
of the big retriever dog, being so alarming, mean- 
ing no harm consciously, meaning indeed affection 
with its likelihood of paws soiling white raiment. 
Andy again stood dressed as the guardian, the 
policeman. He was to be " good against Curly." 

"And Isobel?" she asked. 

" I saw her off all right by the twelve-fifteen, 
Miss Wellgood to London, you know." 

" Yes, to London." To both of them London 
might have been spelt " Harry." 

" She was never really unkind to me," said 
Vivien thoughtfully. " I expect it did me good." 

" Never a favourite of mine even before this," 
Andy pronounced, rather ponderously. 

She shot a side glance at him. " I believe you 
thought she beat me ! " 

" I think I thought that sometimes you'd 
sooner she had done that than stand there 
smiling." 

" Oh, you're prejudiced ! She wasn't unkind ; 



440 SECOND STRING. 

and in this thing, you see, I know her temptation. 
Surely that ought to bring sympathy ? Tell me 
you saw her off well how ? " She spoke in jerks, 
now seeming agitated. 

" Very calm quite her own mistress seeming 
to know what her job was. Confound it, Miss 
Wellgood, I'd sooner not talk about her any 
more ! " 

" Shall you see Harry ? " 

"I don't want to till till things have settled 
down a bit. I shall write about what you've 
said." 

"About part of what I've said," she reminded 
him. " You've convinced me about that." 

Andy rose again, and this time she did not seek 
to hinder him. 

" I'm off to town to-morrow ; back to work." 
He paused a moment, then added, " If I get 
down for a week-end, may I come and see 
you?" 

" Do always, if you can. And remember me 
to Miss Flower and to Billy Foot ; and tell them 
that I am " she seemed to seek a word, but ended 
lamely "very well, please." 

Andy nodded. She wanted them to know that 
her courage was not broken. 

On his way out he met Wellgood again, moodily 
sauntering in the drive by the lake. 



i 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 441 

"Well, what do you think of her ?" Wellgood 
asked abruptly. 

" She's feels it terribly, but she's taking it 
splendidly." 

Wellgood nodded emphatically, saying again, 
" I never thought she had such pluck." 

" I should think, you know," said Andy, in his 
candid way, " that you could help her a bit, Mr. 
Wellgood. It does her no good to be taken 
over it again and again. Least said, soonest 
mended." 

Wellgood looked at him suspiciously. " I'm 
not going back on my terms." 

" Wait and see if they are accepted. Let him 
alone till then. She'd thank you for that." 

"I want to help her," said Wellgood. His 
tone was rather surly, rather ashamed, but it 
seemed to carry a confession that he had not 
helped his daughter much in the past. " You're 
right, Hayes. Let's be done with the fellow for 
good, if we can ! " 

From all sides came the same sentiment : from 
Wellgood as a hope, from Vivien as a sorrowful 
but steadfast resolution, from Billy Foot as a con- 
sidered verdict on the facts of the case. Andy's 
own reflections had even anticipated these other 
voices. An end of Harry Belfield, so far as 
regarded the circle of which he had been the 



442 SECOND STRING. 

centre and the ornament ! Would Harry accept 
the conclusion ? He might tell Meriton to " go 
to the devil'" in a moment of irritated defiance ; 
but to abandon Meriton would be a great root- 
ing-up, a sore break with all his life past, and with 
his life in the future as he had planned it and 
his friends had pictured it for him. Must he 
accept it whether he would or not ? Wellgood's 
pistol was at his head. Would he brave the shot, 
or what hand would turn away the threatening 
barrel ? 

Not Lord Meriton's. When Belfield, possessed 
of Wellgood's terms, laid them before him, together 
with an adequate statement of the facts, the great 
man disclaimed the power. Though he softened 
his opinion for Harry's father, it was very doubtful 
if he had the wish. 

" I'm sorry, Belfield, uncommon sorry well, 
you know that both for you and for Mrs. Bel- 
field. I hope she's not too much cut up ? " 

" She's distressed ; but she blames Wellgood 
and the other woman most. I'm glad she does." 

Meriton nodded. "But it's most infernally 
awkward ; there's no disguising it. You may say 
that any man at any rate, many a man is liable 
to come a mucker like this. But happening just 
now and with Wellgood's daughter! Well- 
good's our right hand man, in this part of the 






THE EMPTY PLACE. 443 

Division at all events. And he's as stubborn a 
dog as lives ! Said he'd resign from the hunt if 
your boy showed up, did he ? By Jove, he'd do 
it, you know ! That's the deuce of it ! I suppose 
the question is how much opinion he'd carry with 
him. He's not popular that's something ; but 
a father fighting in his daughter's cause ! They 
won't know the other side of it you've told me 
about ; and if Harry marries the woman, he can't 
very well tell them. Then is she to come with 
him ? Awkward again if Wellgood, or somebody 
put up by him, interrupts ! If she doesn't come, 
that's at once admitting something fishy." 

"The woman's certainly a serious added diffi- 
culty. Meriton, we're old friends. Tell me your 
own opinion." 

" I don't give an opinion for all time. The 
affair will die down, as all affairs do. The girl '11 
marry somebody else in time, I suppose. Well- 
good will get over his feelings. I'm not saying 
your son can't succeed you at Halton in due 
course. That would be making altogether too 
much of it. But now, if the moment comes any- 
where, say, in the next twelve months well, I 
question if a change of air and another constitu- 
ency wouldn't be wiser." 

" I think so too in his own interest. And I 
rather think that I, at least, owe it to Vivien to 






444 SECOND STRING. 

throw my weight on the side that will save her 
from annoyance.'* 

" That was in my mind too, Belfield ; but I 
knew you'd think of it without my saying it." 

" I believe I do really believe that he will 
look at it in that light himself. Any gentleman 
would ; and he's that, outside his plaguy love 
affairs." 

" I know he is ; I know it. They bring such 
a lot of good fellows to grief and pretty women 
too." 

" Well, I must write to him ; and you must look 
out for another candidate." 

cc By Jove, we must, and in quick time too ! 
Apart from a General Election, I hear old Milling- 
ton's sadly shaky. Well, good-bye, Belfield. My 
regards to your wife." He shook hands warmly. 
" This is hard luck on you ; but he's got lots of 
time to pick up again. He'll end in the first flight 
yet. Cheer up. Better have a Prodigal than no 
son at all, like me ! " 

" I imagine a good deal might be said on both 
sides in that debate." 

" Oh, stuff and nonsense ! You wouldn't dare 
to say that to his mother ! " 

" No ; and I don't suppose I really think it 
myself. But this sort of thing does make a man 
a bit nervous, Meriton." 



THE EMPTY PLACE. 445 

" If the lady's attractions have led him astray, 
perhaps they'll be able now to keep him straight." 

"They won't be so great in one particular. 
They won't be forbidden fruit." 

" Aye, the best fox is always in the covert you 
mayn't draw. Human nature ! " 

"At all events, my boy Harry's." 

And for that nature Harry had to pay. The 
present price was an end of his career in Meriton. 
One more voice joined the chorus, a powerful 
voice. Belfield bowed his head to the decision. 
It was final for the moment ; in his depression of 
spirit he felt as though it were final for all time, as 
though his native town would know Harry no 
more. At any rate, now his place was vacant -the 
place from which he by transgression fell. It must 
be given to another. Only in Vivien's memory 
had he still his niche. 




Chapter XXII. 
GRUBBING AWAY. 

FOOT'S mind was so inventive, and his 
demand for ministerial assistance in carrying 
out his inventions so urgent, during the next three 
weeks that Andy had little leisure for his own or 
anybody else's private affairs. The week-ends at 
Meriton had to be temporarily suspended, and Meri- 
ton news reached him now by a word from Billy, who 
seemed to be in touch with Belfield, now through 
Jack Rock. Thus he heard from Billy that Harry 
Belfield was married and had gone abroad ; while 
Jack sent him a copy of the local paper, with a 
paragraph (heavily marked in blue pencil) to the 
effect that Mr. Harry Belfield, being advised by his 
doctor to take a prolonged rest, had resigned his 
position as prospective candidate for the Meriton 
Division. Decorous expressions of regret fol- 
lowed, and it was added that probably Mr. Mark 
Wellgood, Chairman of the Conservative Associa- 



GRUBBING AWAY. 447 

tion, would be approached in the matter. Jack 
had emphasized his pencil-mark with a large note 
of exclamation, in which Andy felt himself at 
liberty to see crystallized the opinion of Harry's 
fellow-citizens. 

Still, though Meriton had for the time to be 
relegated mainly to memory, there it had a specially 
precious pigeon-hole. It had regained for him all 
its old status of home. When he thought of holi- 
days, it was of holidays at Meriton. When his 
thoughts grew ambitious the progress of Gilbert 
Foot and Co. began to justify modest ambitions 
they pictured a small house for himself in or near 
Meriton, and a leisure devoted to that ancient 
town's local affairs. To himself he was a citizen 
of Meriton more than of London ; for to Andy 
London was, foremost of all, a place of work. Its 
gaieties were for him occasional delights, rather 
than a habitual part of the life it offered. Talks 
with Jack Rock and other old friends, visits to 
Halton and Nutley, completed the picture of his 
future life at home. He was not a man much 
given to analysing his thoughts or feelings, and 
perhaps did not realize how very essential the set- 
ting was to the attractiveness of the picture, nor that 
one part of the setting gave the picture more charm 
than all the rest. Yet when Andy's fancy painted 
him as enjoying well-earned hours of repose at 



448 SECOND STRING. 

Meriton, the terrace by the lake at Nutley was 
usually to be seen in the foreground. 

Let Gilly clamour never so wildly for figures to 
be ready for him by the next morning, in order 
that he might know whether the latest child of his 
genius could be reared in this hard world or must 
be considered merely as an ideal laid up in the 
heavens, an evening had to be found to go and 
see the Nun as Joan of Arc first as the rustic 
maid in that village in France (its name was on the 
programme), and then, in silver armour, exhorting 
the King of France (who was supposed to be on 
horseback in the wings). The question of the 
Nun's horse was solved by an elderly white animal 
being discovered on the stage when the curtain 
rose the Nun was assumed to have just dis- 
mounted (voluntarily) and being led off to the 
blare of trumpets. This was for the second song, 
of course, and it was the second song which 
brought Miss Doris Flower the greatest triumph 
that she had ever yet achieved. Its passing refer- 
ences to the favour of Heaven were unexception- 
able in taste so all the papers declared ; its 
martial spirit stirred the house ; its tune caught 
on immensely ; and, by a happy inspiration, Joan 
of Arc had (as she was historically quite entitled 
to have) a prophetic vision of a time when the 
relations between her own country and England 






GRUBBING AWAY. 449 

would be infinitely happier than they were in the 
days of Charles VII. and Henry VI. This vision 
having fortunately been verified, the public ap- 
plauded Joan of Arc's sentiments to the echo, 
while the author and the management were very 
proud of their skill in imparting this touch of 
"actuality" to the proceedings. Finally, the Nun 
was in excellent voice, and the silver armour suited 
her figure prodigiously well. 

"Yes, it's a great go," said Miss Flower con- 
tentedly, when Andy went round to her room to 
see her. She draped a Japanese dressing-gown 
over the silver armour, laid her helmet on the 
table, and lit a cigarette. " It knocks the Quaker 
into a cocked hat, and makes even the Nun look 
silly. The booking's enormous ; and it's some- 
thing to draw them here, with that Venus-rising- 
from-the-foam girl across the Square. I'm told, 
too, that she appears to have chosen a beach where 
there are no by-laws in force, Andy." 

Andy explained that he had not much leisure for 
even the most attractive entertainments. 

" Do you know," she proceeded, " that some- 
thing very funny I shan't want you for ten 
minutes, Mrs. Milsom " (this to her dresser, who 
discreetly withdrew) "has happened about Billy 
Foot ? I don't mind telling you, in confidence, 

that at Meriton I thought he was going to break 

15 



450 SECOND STRING. 

out. With half an opportunity he would have. 
Since we came back I've only seen him twice, and 
then he tried to avoid me. His usual haunts, 
Andy, know him only occasionally, and then in 
company which, to my mind, undoubtedly has 
its home in Kensington." 

" What's the matter with him, I wonder ? 
Now you remind me, I've hardly seen him 
either." 

" He was here the other night, in a box, with 
Kensington ; but he didn't come round. Took 
Kensington on to supper, I suppose." 

"What have you against Kensington?" Andy 
inquired curiously. 

"Nothing at all. Only I've observed, Andy, 
that taking Kensington out is a prelude to matri- 
mony. I could tell you a dozen cases in my 
own knowledge. You hadn't thought of that ? 
In certain fields my experience is still superior 
to yours." 

" Oh, very much so ! Do you suspect any 
particular Kensingtonian ? " 

" There was a tall dark girl, rather pretty ; but 
I couldn't look much. Well, we shall miss Billy 
if it comes off, but I imagine we can rely implicitly 
on Gilly." 

"You've heard that Harry's married to Miss 
Vintry ? " 






GRUBBING AWAY. 451 

" Serve her right ! " said the Nun severely. " I 
never had any pity for that woman." 

"And he's chucked the candidature. So our 
great campaign was all for nothing ! " 

"Well, Billy must always be talking some- 
where, anyhow. And I should think it did you 
good?" ' 

" Oh yes, it did. . I was thinking of Harry." 

" In my opinion it's about time you got out of 
that habit. Now you must go, or you'll make me 
too late to get anything to eat. As you may guess, 
wearing this shell involves a fundamental recon- 
struction before I can present myself at supper." 

Andy took her hand and pressed it. " I'm so 
jolly glad you've got such a success, Doris. And 
the armour's ripping I " 

There followed three weeks of what Gilly Foot, 
over his lunch at the restaurant and his dinner at 
the Artemis, used to describe as " incredible grind 
for both of us." Then a day of triumph ! The 
outcome of the latest brilliant idea, the new scientific 
primer, was accepted as the text-book in the County 
Council secondary schools. Gilly wore a Nunc 
Dimittis air. 

" Eton and Harrow ! Pooh ! " said he. " A 
couple of hundred copies a year apiece, perhaps. 
Give me the County Council schools ! The young 
masses being bred on Gilbert Foot and Co. that's 






452 SECOND STRING. 

what I want. The proletariat is our game ! If 
this spreads over the country, and I believe it will, 
we shall be rich men in no time, Andy." 

Andy was smiling broadly not that he had any 
particular wish to be rich, but because successful 
labour is marvellously sweet. 

"Do you happen to remember that it was you 
who gave me the germ of that idea ? " 

" No, surely I didn't ? I don't remember. I 
can't have, Gilly." 

"Oh yes, you did. That arrangement of the 
tables of comparison ? " 

" Oh, ah ! Yes well, I do remember something 
about that. But that's only a trifle. You did all 
the rest." 

" That's what's fetched them, though ; I know it 
is." He gave a sigh. "Andy, I shall grudge you 
that all the rest of my life." He put his head on 
one side, and regarded his partner with a peaceful 
smile. " You're a remarkable chap, you know. 
Some day or other I believe you'll end by making 
me work ! Sometimes I kind of feel the infection 
creeping over me. I distinctly hurried lunch to- 
day to come back and talk about this." 

" I believe we have got our foot in this time," 
said Andy. 

" I shan't, however, do anything more to-day," 
Gilly announced, rising and putting on his hat. 



GRUBBING AWAY. 453 

" My nerves are somewhat over-stimulated. A 
walk in the park, a game of bridge, and a quiet 
little dinner are indicated. You'll attend to any- 
thing that turns up, won't you, old chap ? " 

Slowly and gradually Andy Hayes was growing 
not only into his strength but also into the con- 
sciousness of it. He was measuring his powers 
slowly, suspiciously, distrustfully. His common 
sense refused to ignore what he had done and was 
doing, but his modesty ever declined to go a step 
beyond the facts. All through his life this charac- 
teristic abode with him a sort of surprise that the 
simple qualities he recognised in himself should 
stand him in such good stead, combined with an 
unwillingness rashly to pledge their efficacy in the 
greater labours of the future. Thus it came about 
that he was, so to say, a day behind the world's 
estimate in his estimate of himself. When the 
people about him were already sure, he was grad- 
ually reaching confidence never the imperious 
self-confidence of commanding genius, which makes 
no question but that the future will be as obedient 
to its sway as the past, but a very sober trust in a 
proved ability, a trust based on no inner instinct 
of power, but solely on the plain experience that 
hitherto he had shown himself equal to the business 
which came his way equal to it if he worked very 
hard at it, took it seriously, and gave all he had to 



454 SECOND STRING. 

give to it. The degree of self-confidence thus 
achieved was never sufficient to make him seek 
adventures ; by slow growth it became enough to 
prevent him from turning his back on any task, 
however heavy, which the course of his life and 
the judgment of his fellows laid upon him. So 
step by step he moved on in his development and 
in his knowledge of it. He recognised now that it 
would have been a pity to pass his life as a butcher 
in Meriton that it would have been waste of 
material. But he was still quite content to regard 
as a sufficient occupation, and triumph, of that life 
the building-up of Gilbert Foot and Co.'s educa- 
tional publishing connection ; and he was still 
surprised to be reminded that he had contributed 
anything more than hard work to that task, that it 
owed to him even the smallest scintilla of original 
suggestion. Still there it was. Perhaps he would 
never do a thing like that again. Very likely not. 
Still he had done it once. It passed from the 
impossibles to the possibles a possible under 
strict and distrustful observation, but a possible 
that should be put to the proof. 

Nothing in the business line turned up after 
Gilly had departed to recruit his nerves. Having 
made one bold and successful leap, the educational 
publishing concern of Gilbert Foot and Co. seemed 
disposed to sit awhile on its haunches. Andy was 






GRUBBING AWAY. 455 

the last man to quarrel with it for that ; he had all 
the primitive man's fear of things looking too rosy. 
Things had looked too rosy with Harry. And 
" Nemesis ! Nemesis ! " old Belfield had cried. 
By all means let the educational publishing concern 
rest on its haunches for awhile ; the new scientific 
primer, with the quite original arrangement of its 
comparative tables, supplied a comfortable cushion. 
It was five o'clock ; Andy made bold to light his 
pipe. 

" Mr. Belfield 1 " announced the office-boy, 
twisting his head between the door and the jamb 
with a questioning air. 

What brought Belfield to town ? " Oh, show 
him in ! " said Andy, laying down his pipe. 

Not Harry's father, as Andy had concluded, but 
Harry himself was the visitor Harry radiantly 
handsome, in a homespun suit of delicate gray 
with a blue stripe in it, a white felt hat, a light blue 
tie a look of perfect health and happiness about 
him. 

" I was passing by been in the City and 
thought I must look you up, old chap," said 
Harry, clasping Andy's hand in unmistakably 
genuine affection. " Seems years since we met ! 
Well, a lot's happened to me, you see. You 
didn't know I was in town, did you ? Only 
passing through ; Isobel and I have been in Paris 



456 SECOND STRING. 

went there after the event, you know and 
we're off to Scotland to-morrow for some golf. 
She's got all the makings of a player, Andy. And 
how are you ? Grubbing away ? " 

" Grubbing away " most decidedly failed to 
express Gilbert Foot and Co.'s idea of what had 
happened in their office that day, but Andy found 
no leisure to dwell on any wound to his firm's 
corporate vanity. Here was the old Harry ! 
Harry as he had been in the early days of his 
engagement ! The Harry of that brief spell of 
good resolution, after Andy had delivered to him 
a certain note ! There was no trace at all by 
way either of woe or of shame of the Harry who 
had come to the Lion, seeking a place where 
Isobel Vintry might lay her head, craving for her 
the charity of a night's lodging, and no questions 
asked! 

Andy's intelligence was brought to a full stop 
sheer up against the difficult question of whether 
it is worth while to worry about people who are 
not worrying about themselves. Theologically, 
socially, politically, it is correct to say yes ; faced 
with an individual case, the affirmative answer 
seems sometimes almost ridiculous ; rather like 
pressing an overcoat or half your cloak, after the 
example of St. Martin of Tours on a vagabond 
of exceptionally caloric temperament. He is 



GRUBBING AWAY. 457 

naked, and neither ashamed nor cold. Must you 
shiver, or blush, for him ? 

" I er ought to congratulate you, Harry." 

" Thanks, old chap ! Yes, it's very much all 
right. Things one's sorry for, of course oh, 
don't think I'm not sorry ! but the right road 
found at last, Andy ! I suppose a fellow has to 
go through things like that. I'm not justifying 
myself, of course ; I know I'm apt to well, to 
put off doing the necessary thing if it's likely to 
cause pain to anybody. That's a mistake, though 
an amiable one perhaps. But all that's over no 
use talking about it. When we get back to town, 
you must come and see us." 

Andy remembered an old-time conversation 
about Lethe water. Harry seemed disposed to 
stand treat for a bottle. 

" I'm awfully sorry about about the seat, Harry," 
he said. 

A faint frown of vexation marred Harry's comely 
contentment. " Yes, but I don't know that one 
isn't best out of it. A lot of grind, making your- 
self pleasant to a lot of fools ! Oh, perhaps it's a 
duty ; but it'll wait a bit." 

" You're not looking out elsewhere ? " Andy 
asked. 

" Give a fellow time ! " Harry expostulated. 
" I've only been married a fortnight ! You must 



458 SECOND STRING. 

let me have a bit of a holiday. Oh, you needn't 
be afraid I shan't tackle it again soon Isobel's 
awfully keen ! And I hope to find a rather less 
dead-alive hole than Meriton." The faint frown 
persisted on his face ; it seemed to hint that his 
mind harboured a grudge against Meriton some- 
thing unpleasant had happened there. A percept- 
ible, though slight, movement of his shoulders 
dismissed the ungrateful subject. In a moment 
he had found a more pleasant one a theme for 
his kindliness to play on, secure from perturbing 
recollections. His old friendly smile of encourage- 
ment and patronage beamed on Andy. 

" So you and Gilly are making it go ? That's 
right ! He's a lazy devil, Gilly, but not a fool. 
And you're a good plodder. You remember I 
always said you'd make your way ? I thought 
you would, even if you'd taken on old Jack's 
shop. But I expect you've got a better game 
here. Gilly pleased with you ? " He laughed in 
his pleasantly conscious impudence. 

" He hasn't given me the sack yet," said Andy. 

" You did a lot of work for me, old fellow," 
Harry pursued. " Sorry that, owing to circum- 
stances, it's all wasted ! Still it taught you a 
thing or two, I daresay ? " 

"That's just what the Nun was saying the 
other night, when I went to see her show." 



GRUBBING AWAY. 459 

Harry's faint frown showed again. His recol- 
lection of Miss Flower's behaviour at Meriton 
accused her of a want of real sympathy. 

" Ah yes ! I don't know who they'll get ; but I 
must have made the seat safe. Just the way one 
works for another fellow sometimes 1 It doesn't 
do to complain." 

The office-boy put his head in again and his 
hand in front of his head. " Wire just come, sir," 
he said to Andy, delivered the yellow envelope, 
and disappeared. 

" Open it, old fellow," said Harry, putting an 
exquisitely shod foot on the table. " Yes, another 
fellow will take my place ; I've done the work, 
he'll reap the reward. And he'll probably think 
he's done it all himself! " 

Andy fingered his telegram absently, not in 
impatience ; nothing very urgent was to be ex- 
pected, the great coup had already been made. 
He laid it down and listened again to Harry 
Belfield. 

" Upon my soul," Harry went on, " I rather 
envy you your life. A good steady straight job 
and only got to stick to it. Now I'm no sooner 
out of one thing well out of it -than they begin 
to kick at me to start another. The pater and 
Isobel are in the same story about it." 

Harry's face was now seriously clouded and his 



460 SECOND STRING. 

voice peevish. He had been through a great deal of 
trouble lately ; he seemed to himself to be entitled 
to a rest, to a reasonable interval of undisturbed 
enjoyment. And he was being bothered about 
that career of his ! 

" Well, I suppose you oughtn't to miss the next 
election. The sooner you go in the better, isn't 
it?" 

" It's not so easy to find a safe seat." Harry 
assumed that the constituency which he honoured 
should be one certain properly to appreciate the 
compliment. " I sometimes think I'd like to chuck 
the whole thing, and enjoy my life in my own 
way. Oh, I'm only joking, of course ; but when 
they nag, I jib, you know." 

Andy nodded, relit his pipe, and opened his 
telegram. 

"That's why I think you're rather lucky to 
have it all cut and dried for you. Saves a lot of 
thinking ! " 

Andy had been reading his telegram, not listen- 
ing to Harry for the moment. " I beg pardon, 
Harry ? " he said. 

"Oh, read it. I'm only gassing," said Harry 
good-humouredly. 

Andy read again ; he always liked to read 
important documents twice. He laid it down 
on the office table, looking very thoughtful. 



GRUBBING AWAY. 



461 



" That's funny ! " he observed. " It's from your 
father." 

" Well, I don't see why the pater shouldn't send 
you a telegram, if he wants to," smiled Harry. 

" Asking me to go down to Meriton on Saturday 
and meet Lord Meriton, Wigram, and himself." 
He took up the telegram and read the rest of the 
message "to discuss important suggestion of 
public nature affecting yourself. Personal discus- 
sion necessary." 

" To meet Meriton and Wigram ? " Wigram 
was the Conservative agent in the Division. 
" What the devil can they want ? " 

"I don't know," said Andy, "unless unless 
it's about the candidature." 

" About what ? " Harry sharply withdrew the 
shapely foot from the table and sat upright in his 
chair. 

" Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it ? Still I don't 
see what else it can be about. What else can there 
be of a public nature affecting me ? c Affecting 
yourself doesn't sound as if they only wanted 
my advice. Besides, why should they want my 
advice ? " 

"Let's see the thing." Harry took it, read it, 
and flung it down peevishly. " Why the deuce 
can't he say what he means ? " 

" Well, a wire's not always absolute secrecy in 



462 SECOND STRING. 

small towns, is it ? And I daresay they'd want 
the matter kept quiet till it was settled." 

Harry's mood of gay contentment, clouded once 
or twice before, seemed now eclipsed. He sat 
tapping his boot impatiently with his stick. His 
father's telegram or Andy's interpretation of it 
clearly did not please him. In the abstract, of 
course, he had known that he would have a suc- 
cessor in the place which he had given up, or from 
which he had fallen. It had never entered his 
head that anybody would suggest Andy Hayes, 
his old-time worshipper and humble follower. 
He was not an ungenerous man, but this idea de- 
manded a radical readjustment of his estimate of 
the relative positions of Andy and himself. If 
Andy were to succeed to what he had lost, it 
brought what he had lost very sharply before his 
eyes. 

" Well, if that is the meaning of it, it certainly 
seems rather rather a rum start, eh, Andy ? New 
sort of game for you ! " He tried to make his 
voice pleasant. 

" It is it would be awfully kind of them to 
think of it," said Andy, now smiling in candid 
gratification. "And Wigram, as well as your 
father, was highly complimentary about some of 
my speeches. But it would be quite out of the 
question. I've neither the time nor the money." 



GRUBBING AWAY. 463 

" It's a deuced expensive game," Harry re- 
marked. "And, of course, no end of work, 
especially in the next few months. And when 
you're in, it's not much good in these days, unless 
you can give all your time to it." 

" I know," said Andy, nodding grave apprecia- 
tion of all these difficulties. " It seems to me 
quite out of the question. Still, if that is what 
they mean, 1 can hardly refuse to discuss it. You 
see, it's a considerable compliment, anyhow." 

He was thinking the idea over in his steady way, 
and had not paid heed to Harry's altered mood. 
The objections Harry put forward were so in tune 
with his own mind that it did not strike him as at 
all odd that his friend should urge them even 
zealously. " In any event," he added, " I should 
have to be guided entirely by what Gilly Foot 
thought." 

"What Gilly thought?" 

" I mean whether he thought it would be com- 
patible with the claims of the business." 

" What, you'd really think of it ? " 

There was such unmistakable vexation, even 
scorn, in his voice now that Andy could not 
altogether miss the significance of the tone. He 
looked across at Harry with an air of surprise. 
"There's no harm in thinking a thing over. I 
always like to do that." 



464 SECOND STRING. 

"Well, of all the men I thought of as likely to 
step into my shoes, I never thought of you." 

" It's the last thing I should ever have thought 
of either. You've something in your mind, haven't 
you ? I hope you'll say anything you think quite 
candidly." 

" Oh well, since you ask me, old fellow, from 
the party point of view I think there are er 
certain objections. I mean, in a place like Meriton 
family connections and so on still count for a good 
cleal on our side, anyhow." 

Andy nodded, again comprehending and ad- 
mitting. " Yes, I'm nobody ; and my father was 
nobody, from that point of view." He smiled. 
"And then there's Jack Rock ! " 

" Don't be hurt with me, but I call myself a 
Tory, and I am one. Such things do count, 
and I'm not ashamed to say I think they ought 
to. I've never let them count in personal rela- 
tions." 

" I know that, Harry. You may be sure I 
recognise that. And you're right to mention 
them now. I suppose they must have reckoned 
with them, though, before they determined if 
they have determined to make me this offer." 

"Well, thank heaven I'm out of it, and I wish 
you joy of it," said Harry, rising and clapping on 
his hat. 






GRUBBING AWAY. 465 

" Oh, it's not at all likely it'll come to anything. 
Must you go, Harry?" 

" Yes, I'm off." He paused for a moment. 
" If it is what you think, you'd better look at it 
carefully. Don't let them persuade you against 
your own judgment. I consider Wigram an ass, 
and old Meriton is quite out of touch with the 
Division." He forbore to comment on his own 
father, and with a curt "Good-bye" departed, 
shutting the door rather loudly behind him. 

This great day the day which had both witnessed 
the triumph of the new text-book and brought the 
telegram from Meriton was a Thursday. Andy 
sent his answer that he would be at Halton on 
Saturday afternoon. He could find no other 
possible interpretation of the summons, surprising 
as his first interpretation was. He was honestly 
pleased ; it could not be said that he was much 
puzzled. His answer seemed pretty plain the 
thing was impossible. What did surprise him 
rather was the instinctive regret with which he 
greeted this conclusion. Such an idea had never 
occurred to his mind ; when it was presented to 
him, he could not turn away without regret nay, 
not without a certain vague feeling of self-reproach. 
If he seemed to them a possible leader, ought he 
to turn his back on the battle ? But of course 
they did not know his private circumstances or the 



466 SECOND STRING. 

business claims upon him. Harry had been quite 
right about those, just as he had been about the 
desirability of family connections but not of 
family connections with Jack Rock. 

It was quite out of the question ; but, Andy 
being human and no more business offering itself, 
he indulged in half an hour's reverie over it. He 
shook his head at himself with a reproving smile 
for this vanity. But it would be pleasant to have 
the offer, and pleasant if they let him mention it 
to one or two friends. Jack Rock would be proud 
of it, and he could not help thinking that perhaps 
Vivien Wellgood would be pleased. His brow 
knit when he remembered that Harry Bel field had 
not seemed pleased. Well, could he be expected 
to be pleased ? " To step into my shoes " had 
been his phrase. Well, if men choose to take off 
fine new shoes and leave them lying about ? 
Somebody will step into them. Why not a friend ? 
So he argued. A friend in regard to whom 
Harry had never allowed anything to interfere 
with his personal relations. That was just it. 
If a friend, he had also been a protegt, the recipient 
of a kindly generous patronage, an equal by grace 
and not by right. Credit Harry Belfield with a 
generosity above the average, and yet he might 
feel a pang at the idea of his former humble friend 
stepping into his shoes, taking his place, becoming 



GRUBBING AWAY. 



467 



successor to what his folly had left vacant. Andy 
understood ; and from that point of view he felt it 
was rather a relief that the thing was in itself an 
impossibility. There was a triple impossibility 
the money, the time and Gilly Foot ! 

Still the text-book and the telegram had given 
him an interesting day. 






Chapter XXIII. 
A STOP-GAP. 

A NDY felt that he ought not to go to Meriton 
*f-^ without having possessed himself of his 
partner's views. Any reluctance even a reluctant 
assent from Gilly would put an immediate end 
to the project. He was rather nervous about 
bringing the matter forward, fearing lest the mere 
idea of it, entertained by the junior partner, might 
seem treason in the eyes of his senior in the grow- 
ing business of Gilbert Foot and Co. 

The interview held one or two surprises for 
him. In this affair Andy was to learn the worth 
of a band of resolute friends, and to begin to 
understand how much men will do for a man who 
has convinced them that he can do things for 
himself also. For such a man the way is cleared 
of all but inevitable difficulties. There is a con- 
spiracy, partly self-interested, partly based on 
appreciation, to set him free to do the work for 
which he is fitted ; the conspirators both want 



A STOP-GAP. 469 

the work done and are glad to help a fine 
worker. 

The first surprise was that Gilly Foot was not 
at all surprised when Andy put before him a 
contingent case in terms carefully hypothetical. 
Indeed his first words went far to abolish any con- 
tingent or hypothetical character in the discussion. 

" So they've done it, have they ? " he drawled 
out. "I thought they would, from something 
Billy said." 

" What does Billy know about it ? " 

" Oh yes, Billy knows. I expect they consulted 
him, in fact." 

"I want to be able to tell them that you agree 
with me ; that's why I've spoken to you about it." 

"By all means tell them I agree with you," 
yawned Gilly ; he seemed more than ordinarily 
lazy that morning the reaction from the triumph 
of the text-book still on him, no doubt. Yet there 
was a lurking gleam of amusement in his eye. 

"Apart from the money and I haven't got it 
it would take far too much time. I'm pretty 
hard worked as it is, with the business opening 
up in this way. I'm quite clear that it wouldn't 
be fair to the business and not fair to you either. 
I've slept on it, and I'm quite clear about it." 

" Oh, are you ? Then by no means tell them 
I agree with you." 



470 SECOND STRING. 

Surprise the second ! " You don't ? " Andy 
ejaculated ; there was a note of pleasure in his 
voice. 

"I'm a lazy hound, I know," Gilly pursued. 
" If there is another fellow to do the work, I let 
him do it. Perhaps some day, if we go on 
booming, we can take in another fellow. If so, 
I shall certainly incite him to do the work. Mean- 
while I'm not such a lazy beast as to let you miss 
this chance on my account. My word, I should 
get it hot from Billy and Doris ! " He stretched 
himself luxuriously. " There's a perfectly plain 
way out of this ; I must work." He looked up 
at his partner humorously. " Though you mayn't 
believe it, I can work, when I want a thing very 
much." 

"But what is there for you to want here?" 
asked Andy. 

"Well, in the first place, we believe in you 
perhaps we're wrong, but we do. In the second 
and there's no mistake about this we think 
you're a good chap, and we want you to have 
your chance. I shouldn't forgive myself if I stood 
in your way here, Andy and the others wouldn't 
forgive me either." 

Andy was standing by him ; he laid his hand 
on his shoulder. "You're a good chap yourself, 
Gilly." 






A STOP-GAP. 471 

" So, as far as Gilbert Foot and Co. are con- 
cerned, you may consider the matter settled. It's 
for you to tackle the other end of it the Meriton 
end. And since you are here to-day, at all events, 
perhaps you won't take it ill if I linger a little 
longer than usual over lunch for which meal it 
seems to me to be nearly time ? I feel to-day a 
barely perceptible stirring of the brain which, 
properly treated, encouraged by adequate nourish- 
ment, might produce an idea. You wouldn't like 
to come too ? " 

" No, no. I've really got more than enough 
to do here." 

Gilly strolled off, smiling serenely. He was 
ready to do himself violence in the way of work 
when the time came, but there was really no need 
to anticipate matters. 

Gilly 's knowledge and assent it was more than 
assent ; it was advocacy made the project real 
and present. Only the question of ways and 
means and of his own inclination remained. As 
to the latter Andy was no longer able to doubt. 
His pleasure at Gilly's attitude was indeed due in 
part to the affection for himself which it displayed, 
but it had been too eager to be accounted for 
wholly by that. His heart rejoiced because Gilly 
set him free, so far as the business was concerned, 
to follow his desire. Only that little book from 



47 2 SECOND STRING. 

the bank still held up its finger in its wonted 
gesture of cautious admonition. When it reckoned 
the figures involved, the little white book might 
be imagined to turn paler still. 

At Meriton where Andy arranged to spend 
the Saturday night with Jack Rock the conspiracy 
ruled, even as in London. Lord Meriton, Bel- 
field, and Wigram met him with the air of men 
who had already considered and overcome all 
difficulties. 

"The fact is, Mr. Hayes," said his lordship, 
" we were fools over this business, till Foot put 
us right. We tried the three or four possible 
men in the Division, and for one reason or another 
none of them could accept. So, much against my 
will indeed against my vote ; I hate a carpet- 
bagger it was decided to approach headquarters 
and ask for a man. Luckily Belfield wrote first 
to Foot" 

"And Billy Foot wrote back, asking what the 
dickens we wanted a man from London for, when 
we had the very man for the job under our noses 
down here ! " He smiled rather sadly. " Meriton 
has more than one string to its bow, Andy." 

" I've taken every pains to sound opinion, Mr. 
Hayes," said Wigram. " It's most favourable. 
Your speeches made an excellent impression. 
There will be no difficulty in obtaining adoption 



I 



A STOP-GAP. 473 



by the Association, if you come forward under 
the proper auspices." 

" Oh, we'll look after the auspices," said Meri- 
ton. That'll be all right." 

"But I've no influence, no connections, no 
standing " 

" We haven't flattered you, Mr. Hayes," Meri- 
ton interrupted, smiling. "We've told you that 
we made efforts in other quarters." 

" If it pleases you, Andy, you shall regard your- 
self as Hobson's choice," said Belfield, with a 
chuckle. 

" Better than an outsider, anyhow ! " Mr. Wigram 
chimed in. 

Andy's modesty was again defeated. The Jack 
Rock difficulty, which had seemed so serious to 
Harry Belfield, was acknowledged but acknow- 
ledged only to be brushed on one side by a deter- 
mined zeal. 

" But I I can't possibly afford it ! " Andy was 
in his last ditch, but then it was a wide and 
formidable one. The conspirators, however, at- 
tacked it without the least dismay. 

"Ah, now we can get down to business ! " said 
Belfield in a tone of relief. "This conversation 
is, of course, entirely confidential. We've looked 
at matters from that point of view, and er -taken 
some advice. Wigram here says it can be done 






474 SECOND STRING. 

comfortably for twelve hundred that's two hun- 
dred within the maximum. You needn't shake 
your head before I've finished ! We think you 
ought to put up some of it, and to guarantee a 
certain sum annually towards Wigram's expenses. 
I'll tell you what we've decided to ask you for 
two-fifty for the contest, and a hundred a year." 

"Now just think it over, Mr. Hayes, and tell 
us if you see your way to that." 

" But the rest ? " asked Andy, half-bewildered ; 
for the last great ditch looked as if it were being 
stormed and crossed. Because yes, he might be 
able to yes, with care, and prosperity at Gilbert 
Foot and Co.'s, he could manage that ! 

Belfield wrote on a bit of paper : " Meriton, 
250 ; Rock, 250 ; Belfield, 500." He pushed 
it across the table. " That leaves a little margin. 
We can easily raise the balance of the annual 
expenses." 

" Oh, but I couldn't possibly ! " 

" My dear Andy, it's constantly being done," 
Belfield expostulated. 

" Our friend Belfield, for reasons that you'll 
appreciate, feels that he would like to bear a share 
of the expenses of this fight, which under well, 
other circumstances would naturally have fallen 
entirely on him. My contribution is given for 
public reasons, Mr. Hayes, though I'm very glad 



A STOP-GAP. 475 

:hat it should be of service to you personally." 
Meriton broke into a smile. " I expect I needn't 
tell you why old Jack Rock's name is there. We 
should have got into pretty hot water if we hadn't 
let him into it ! " 

Belfield leant over to Andy, and said in a 
lowered voice, "Atonement's too strong a word, 
Andy, but I don't want the party to suffer 
through anything that's occurred. I don't want 
it left in the lurch. I think you'd like to help me 
there, wouldn't you ? " 

Harry's father was against Harry. Harry's 
father urged him to step into Harry's shoes. 

" I think we've made you a practical proposition ; 
it tides us over the next election anyhow, Mr. 
Hayes. By the time another Parliament has run 
its course, I hope you'll be in a position where 
ways and means will present no difficulty. Soon 
enough to think about that when the time comes, 
anyhow." 

"I think I can guarantee you success, Mr. 
Hayes," said Wigram. 

All the difficulties seemed to have vanished 
if only he could take the offered help. 

" 1 feel rather overwhelmed," he said slowly. 

Meriton shrugged his shoulders. "We must 
hold the seat. If you don't let us do this for you 
we shall probably have to do it for some fellow 



476 SECOND STRING. 

we never saw> or else put up with some bounder 
who's got nothing to recommend him except his 
money. I don't want to press you unduly, Mr. 
Hayes, but in my opinion, if your private affairs 
don't make it impossible, it's your duty to accept. 
Would you like time to consider ? " 

"Just five minutes, if you don't mind, Lord 
Meriton." 

Belfield winked at Meriton. If he had asked for 
a week ! Five minutes meant a favourable answer. 

All the factors were before him ; they could 
be judged in five minutes. It was a venture, but 
Meriton said it was his duty. Nobody could tell 
where it would lead, but it was honourable work, 
for which responsible men thought him fitted. It 
was Harry's shoes, but they were empty. That 
last thought made him speak. 

" If I accept, and win, 1 hold the seat at the 
disposal of those who've chosen me for it." Half- 
consciously he addressed himself especially to Bel- 
field. " If at any time" 

" I knew you'd feel that way about it ; but at 
present, at all events, it's not a practical question, 
Andy." 

" I'm grateful for your confidence," Andy said, 
now turning to Meriton. " Since you think me 
fit for it, I'll take it and do my best with it, 
Lord Meriton." 



A STOP-GAP. 



477 



-" Capital ! " his lordship exclaimed, Wigram's 
ice was wreathed in smiles. Belfield patted Andy 
on the shoulder affectionately. 

"I don't believe either party to the bargain 
will regret it." 

" I know Mr. Hayes will have an honourable, 
and I believe he will have a distinguished, career," 
Meriton said, and, rising from his chair, broke 
up the council. 

Andy lingered for a little while alone with 
Belfield, to thank him again, to make some 
arrangements for the future, to tell him that he 
had seen Harry, and that Harry was well and 
in good spirits. 

" You saw him on Thursday ? After you got 
my wire ? Did you say anything about it ? " 

" It came while he was there, and I showed it 
to him. He was surprised." 

" You mean he wasn't pleased ? " 

" I can understand how he must feel. I feel 
just the same thing myself terribly strongly some- 
times." 

Belfield pressed his arm. " You mustn't give 
way to that feeling. It's loyal, but it's not reason- 
able. Never let that weigh with you in anything." 

The feeling might not be reasonable ; it seemed 
to Andy inevitable. It must weigh with him. 
Yet it could not outweigh his natural and legit- 



478 SECOND STRING. 

imate satisfaction that day. His mind reached 
forth to the new work, fortified by the confidence 
that his friends gave him. The thought of Harry 
seemed now rather a sobering reminder that this 
thing had come to him, in part at least, by accident. 
He was the more bound to do well with it, that 
the evil effects of the accident might be minimized. 

He made for Jack Rock's house in High Street, 
where he was to lodge. Jack had just got off his 
horse at the door, and was standing facing his 
shop, apparently regarding his sign. Andy came 
up and clapped him on the back. 

" 1 know what you've been doing," he said. 
" At it again, Jack ! " 

" You've not refused ? " 

" No ; I've accepted." 

Jack wrung his hand hard. "That takes a 
weight off my mind," he said with a sigh. 

"But it seems a low-down thing to take all 
that money more of yours too ! " 

Jack smiled triumphantly. "Well, I happen 
to be a bit flush o' cash just now that's the truth, 
Andy so you needn't mind. D'ye see that 
sign?" 

"Of course I do, Jack. What's the matter 
with it?" 

"Well, in a month that sign'll come down." 
He cocked his head on one side as he regarded 



A STOP-GAP. 479 

it. " Yes, down in a month ! Seems strange, 
don't it ? Been there sixty year." His sigh 
was evenly compounded of sorrow and pride. 

" What, are you going to retire, Jack ? " 

"No, I'm not pressin' it on you again ! Don't 
be afraid. To think of my havin' done that ! 
You as are goin' to Parliament ! Lord, it's a- 
great day, Andy ! Come in and have a glass 
o' beer." He led the way to his back room, and 
the cask was called upon to do its duty. " I've 
sold out, Andy," Jack announced. "Sold out 
to a concern that calls itself the National, Colonial, 
and International Purveyors, Limited. That'll look 
well on the sign, won't it ? Four thousand pound 
they're payin' me, down on the nail, besides pen- 
sionin' off old Simpson. Well, it's worth the 
money, if they can do as well with it as I've done. 
The house here is thrown in they mean to 
enlarge the shop." 

" But where are you going to set up house, 
Jack ? " 

Jack winked in great enjoyment. " Know of 
a certain house where a certain old gentleman 
used to live him as kept the grammar school 
Mr. Hayes, B.A. Oxon I The old house in 
Highcroft, Andy ! It's on the market, and I'm 
goin' to buy it to say nothin' of a nice range 
of stablin' opposite. And there, if you'll accept 



480 SECOND STRING. 

of 'em, Andy, you'll have your own pair o' rooms 
always ready for you, when you're down at 
Meriton over your politics. Parlour and bed- 
room, there they'll be, and I shan't disturb you. 
And when I'm gone, there's the old house for 
you. There's nobody poor Nancy would have 
been so glad to see in it." 

There was a lump in Andy's throat, and he was 
not ashamed of it. The regard and love of his 
friends seemed to have been very much with him 
in the last few days, and to have done great things 
for him. Old Jack Rock's affectionate cunning 
touched him closely. 

" I really think I'm the luckiest beggar alive ! " 
he exclaimed. 

" Folks mostly make their luck," said Jack. 
" You've made yours. There was no call on 
any of us to fret ourselves about you. You 
could have gone back to Canada and made your 
way for yourself if it hadn't been that we got 
to want to keep you, Andy." He paused, drank 
his beer, and added, "Aye, but I shall feel a bit 
strange the day that sign comes down, and I've 
no more to say to the meat only the horses ! 
I've lived with the meat, man and boy, nigh on 
sixty year." 

With a promise to return in good time for 
supper for no risks must be run with what might 






A STOP-GAP. 481 

be one of the last of Mr. Rock's own joints of 
beef that he would ever be privileged to eat 
Andy left him and took the road to Nutley. He 
remembered Vivien's invitation ; he looked forward 
to telling her his news, the great things that had 
been happening to him in the last three days. 
But he wanted yet more to meet her again ; he 
had not seen her since the day after the catastrophe. 
Harry he had seen, and Harry had been happy, 
in high spirits, quite self-contented, until that 
untoward telegram eclipsed his gaiety. Would 
the interval of a few brief weeks have wrought 
a like change in her ? It could not be looked for. 
Harry effected such transformations with a celerity 
peculiar to himself. Still there was room to hope 
for some lightening of her sorrow. Andy hoped 
to find it, and would approve of it. His mind 
was for the mean, for moderation, in all emotions. 
If he resented Harry's gaiety, unending unlifting 
woe was hardly more congenial to his temper, and 
certainly much more troublesome to deal with tact- 
fully. Harry's implicit negation of responsibility 
had at least the merit of inviting other people not 
to make too much of his mischances. 

What his changing moods his faculty of 
emotional oblivion did in truth for Harry, pride 
effected in outward seeming for Vivien. Some 

credit, too, must be given to Wellgood's training 

16 




482 SECOND STRING. 

and Isobel's able co-operation. The discipline of 
the stiff upper lip redeemed some of its harshness 
by coming to her rescue now. Never had she 
held her head so high in Meriton as in the days 
that followed the announcement of Harry Belfield's 
marriage with Isobel Vintry. A poor, maimed, 
stunted announcement, compared with the column 
and a half of description, guests, presents, and 
felicitations which would have chronicled her 
wedding ! Five lines in the corner of the local 
paper an item of news for such of the population 
as did not see the London papers it was enough 
to make Vivien fence herself about against any 
show of pity. To do Meriton justice, it under- 
stood which of the pair had suffered the greater 
loss. That Miss Wellgood was "well out of it," 
but that Mr. Harry had " done for himself," was 
the prevailing verdict ; somewhat affected, it is to 
be feared, by the adventitious circumstance that 
Isobel was " the companion " a drop to obscurity 
for brilliant Mr. Harry ! 

But the marriage dug deeper than to affect mere 
seeming. Besides erecting the useful barrier of 
impossibility, it raised the fence of an inward pride 
or, rather, of that fastidiousness which Wellgood 
and Isobel had striven to eradicate. In that matter 
it was good for Vivien that they had failed. To 
allow herself to remember, to muse, to long for 



A STOP-GAP. 483 

whom ? No more simply for Harry Belfield. In 
that name there were allurements for musing and 
for longing. But the bearer of it had contracted 
for himself now a new designation. It did him 
and his memory no good. Isobel Vintry's husband! 
The new character did much to strip him of his 
romantic habiliments. He was brought down to 
earth ; he could no more float before the eyes, a 
dazzling though unprofitable figure, proceeding in 
a brilliant callousness to the wrecking of other 
hearts. There is always a touch of the ridiculous 
about Don Juan married, or Sir Gawain Light-of- 
Love bound in chains in whose forging the Church 
has lent a hand to Cupid. And married to Isobel 
Vintry, who had stolen kisses behind the door ! 
In a moral regard perhaps it is sad to say, but we 
easier forgive our own romantic wrongs when they 
may be supposed to form but a link in a series. 
She would have found it harder to despise Harry, 
if he had served Isobel after the same fashion as 
he had served herself. She knew it not, but 
perhaps Harry was entitled to ask her to wait for 
just a little while ! As the case stood to weep for 
Isobel's husband ! The stiff upper lip which had 
been inculcated joined forces with the fastidiousness 
that had never been uprooted. She chid herself 
for every memory of Harry ; every pang of envy 
for Isobel demanded from herself a discipline more 



484 SECOND STRING. 

stern than Isobel's own had ever supplied to meet 
Wellgood's theories of a manly training. 

Wellgood was proud of his daughter and of his 
theories, readily claiming for his system of education 
the joint result of its success and of its failure of 
the courage and of the fastidiousness alike. But 
the plague of it was that the thought of the training 
brought with it the memory of the preceptress who 
had so ably carried out his orders. Wellgood 
admired his daughter and envied her. He burned 
still with a fierce jealousy ; for him no appeasement 
lay in the marriage. 

Yet between Vivien and Andy Hayes silence 
about the past could be no more than silence- 
merely a refraining from words, no real forgetful- 
ness, no true putting aside. For with that past 
would go their old relationship to one another ; 
its roots had grown from that soil, and it flourished 
still by the strength of it. At the start their 
common memories could envisage no picture 
without Isobel's face finding a place on the 
canvas ; later, Harry was inevitably the central 
figure of the composition. If Andy had pitied 
and sought to comfort, if Vivien had given con- 
fidence and accepted sympathy, it had always, in 
some sort or another, been in regard to one of 
these two figures in the later days, to both of 
them. Still they met, as it were, encumbered by 



A STOP-GAP. 485 

these memories, she to him Isobel's pupil, Harry's 
lover, he to her Harry's follower, even though her 
own partisan against Isobel. It was hard to get 
their relations on to an independent footing ; to 
be interested in one another for one another's sake, 
without that outside reference, which had now 
become mere matter of memory and best not 
remembered ; to find in one another and not 
elsewhere the motive of their intercourse and 
the source of a new friendship. The old kind- 
liness must be transplanted to a fresh soil if it 
were to blossom into a life self-sufficient and 
underived. 

The line of thought was hers rather than his, 
at least more explicit and realized for her than for 
him. When he thought of Harry or of Isobel 
and Harry it was with intent to avoid giving 
pain by an incautious reference ; her mind demanded 
a direct assertion that the pair of them were done 
with, and that she and he met on the ground of a 
new and strictly mutual interest. 

She had no thought, no dream, of more than 
friendship. The past was too recent, her heart 
still too sore. Yet the sore heart instinctively 
seeks balm ; the wounded flower of pride will 
raise its head in grateful answer to a gleam of 
sunshine or a drop of rain. Andy's shy surety 
that she would rejoice in his luck, because 






4 86 SECOND STRING. 

aforetime he had grieved for her tribulation, struck 
home to a heart hungry for comradeship. 

Thus by her pride, and by her will answering 
the call of her pride, she was different. She no 
longer merely suffered, was no longer passive to, 
kindness or cruelty. He knew the change as soon 
as she came to him, in that very room which had 
witnessed the first stolen kiss, and, holding her 
hand out to him, cried, " Mr. Andy, youVe not 
refused ? There's no welcome for you in this 
house if youVe refused. Father and I are quite 
agreed about it 1 " 

Andy pressed her hand Harry would have 
kissed it. " You know ? I couldn't refuse their 
kindness. If I had, yours would have made me 
sorry." 

" It's good of you to spare time to come and 
tell us." 

Andy's answer had the compelling power of 
unconscious sincerity. "That seemed about the 
first thing to do," he said, with a simple un- 
embarrassed laugh. 

The girl blushed, a faint yet vivid colour came 
on her cheeks. She drew back a little. Andy's 
words were, in their simplicity, bolder far than his 
thoughts. Yet in drawing back she smiled. But 
Andy had seen the blush. Successful man as he 
had now become big with promise as he was, at 



A STOP-GAP. 487 

all events in this field he was a novice. His 
blush answered hers and was of a deeper tint. 
" I'm afraid that's awfully presumptuous ? " he 
stammered. 

" Why, we've all been waiting to hear the news ! 
Father had the offer you know that ? But he 
couldn't stand London. Then they asked Mr. 
Foot's advice. He said it ought to be you. You 
do your best to prevent people thinking of you, 
but as soon as you're suggested why, it's obvious." 

"You really think I shan't make a fool of 
myself?" asked Andy. 

The delicate flush was still on her cheeks. 
" You'll make me very much ashamed of myself 
if you do," she answered. " Is my opinion to 
be as wrong as all that ? Haven't I always trusted 
you?" 

His surroundings suddenly laid hold on him. 
It was the very room she stood on the very spot 
where he had witnessed Harry's first defection, 
her earliest betrayal. 

" It seems it seems " he stammered " it 



seems treason." 



She was silent for a minute. The colour glowed 
brighter on her cheeks. 

" I don't care to hear you say that," she told 
lim, daintily haughty. " I was waiting here to 
>ngratulate you yes, I hoped you'd come. I've 



48-8 SECOND STRING. 

nothing to do with anybody except the best 
candidate ! They say you're that. I had my 
good wishes ready for you. Will you take them 
without reserve ? " 

" I I say things wrong," pleaded poor Andy. 
" I'll take anything you'll give." 

Her face flashed into a smile. " Your wrong 
things are well, one can forgive them. It's all 
settled then and you're to be the M.P. ? " 

Andy was still apologetic. "They know what 
to do, I suppose. It seems curious. Wigram 
says it's a certainty too. They've all joined in to 
help Lord Meriton, Mr. Belfield, and old Jack. 
I'm much too poor by myself, you know." 

"The man who makes friends makes riches." 
She gave a light laugh. " May I be a little bit of 
your riches ? " 

Andy's answer was his own. " Well, I always 
remember that morning the hunt and Curly." 

" I'm still that to you ? " she asked quickly, her 
colour rising yet. 

He looked at her. " No, of course not, but I 
had a sort of idea that then you liked me a bit." 

She looked across the room at him Andy was 
a man who kept his distance. " You've been a 
refuge in time of trouble," she said. Her voice 
was soft, her eyes bright. " We won't talk of the 
old things any more, will we ? " 



A STOP-GAP. 489 

Wellgood stood in the window. " Well, is it 
all right ? " he asked. 

" He's said yes, father ! " she cried with a glad 
merriment. 

" I thought he would. It's a change for the 
better ! " 

His blunt words in truth they were brutal 
according to his brutality brought silence. Andy 
flushed into a painful red not for his own sake 
only. 

" I've got to try to be as good a stop-gap as 
I can," he said. 

" Something better than that ! " Vivien mur- 
mured softly. 



Chapter XXIV. 
PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 

TN the spring of the following year Miss Doris 
-^ Flower returned from an extensive professional 
tour in America. She had enjoyed great success. 
The Nun and the Quaker proved thoroughly to 
the taste of transatlantic audiences ; Joan of Arc 
did not at first create the same enthusiasm in the 
United States as she had in London, the allusion 
to the happier relations between France and 
England naturally not exciting quite equal interest. 
However an ingenious gentleman supplied the 
Maid with a vision of General Lafayette instead ; 
though not quite so up-to-date, it more than 
answered expectations. Across the Canadian 
border-line the original vision was, of course, re- 
stored, and went immensely. It was all one to 
Miss Flower what visions she had, so that they 
were to the liking of the public. She came back 
much pleased with herself, distinctly affluent, and 
minded to enjoy for awhile a well-earned leisure. 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 491 

Miss Sally Dutton returned with her, charged with 
a wealth of comment on American ways and 
institutions, the great bulk of which sensible 
people could attribute only to the blackest 
prejudice. 

The lapse of six months is potent to smooth 
small causes of awkwardness and to make little 
changes of feeling or of attitude seem quite 
natural. Billy Foot had undoubtedly avoided the 
Nun for the last few weeks before her departure ; 
he saw no reason now why he should not be 
among the earliest to call and welcome his old 
friend. It was rather with a humorous twinkle 
than with any embarrassment that, when they 
settled down to talk, he asked her if she happened 
to know the Macquart-Smiths. 

" Of Kensington ? " asked the Nun in a tone of 
polite interest. 

" Yes, Kensington Palace Gardens," Billy replied, 
tranquilly unconscious of any other than the 
obvious bearing of the question. " I thought you 
must have heard of them." (The Nun never had, 
though she had seen at least one of them.) "The 
old man made a pile out in Mexico. They're 
very good sort of people." 

" You brought one of the girls to hear me one 
night, didn't you?" 

"Yes. Well, she's the only girl, in fact 



492 SECOND STRING. 

Amaranth's her name. Rather silly, but that's 
not her fault, is it ?" He seemed anxious to fore- 
stall criticism. 

" You can call her Amy or even Aimee," sug- 
gested the Nun consolingly. 

Billy laughed. " Have you heard it, or did 
you guess, Doris?" 

" Guessed it. I can guess any conundrum, how- 
ever baffling. I'm awfully glad, Billy. I'm sure 
you'll be tremendously happy. When did it 
happen and when is it going to happen ? " 

"About a month ago and in about three 
months' time. Didn't you think her pretty?" 

" Very pretty," said the Nun, presuming on a 
somewhat cursory inspection of Miss Amaranth. 
" And I suppose that since the old man made his 
pile?" 

" Oh, well, there are two sons. Still yes, 
that's all right." 

" It all sounds splendid. I don't fall in love 
myself, as I've told you 

" Oh, I know that very well," said Billy. "No- 
body knows it better." 

Her eyes danced as she shook her head at him 
demurely. "But I like to see young people 
settling down happily." 

" You are rather a queer girl in that way, Doris. 
Never feel that way?" 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME ! 493 

The Nun considered. " I might go so far as to 
admit that I've an ideal." 

" Rather a silly thing to have in this world, 
isn't it?" 

" Happiness makes you unsympathetic, Billy. 
There's no harm in an ideal if you're careful to 
keep it as an ideal. Of course if you try to make 
it practical there are awful risks." 

"And what, or who, is your ideal ?" 

" c Pray what is that to you ?' " the Nun quoted, 
under the circumstances rather maliciously. "I 
find having an ideal a most comfortable arrange- 
ment. It doesn't worry either him or me and 
Sally can't possibly object to it. How are things 
at Meriton ? Andy wrote me his great news, and 
of course I never answered. But isn't it 
splendid?" 

" I haven't had time to go down lately." 

" Oh, of course not now ! " 

" But I hear he's doing magnificently. Sure to 
get in. But Gilly's the best fun. When Andy 
is ofT electioneering, Gilly works like a horse. 
Sandwiches in the office for lunch, with a glass of 
sherry from the pub round the corner ! I caught 
him at it once ; he was awfully disgusted." 

" Gilly lunching on sandwiches and a glass of 
sherry from the pub!" Her voice was full of 
wondering amazement. 



494 SECOND STRING. 

: " Yes, he won't hear the last of that in a hurry 1 
When he did come to lunch the other day, we all 
went early and had a nice little pile of ham sand- 
wiches and a liqueur glass of Marsala ready for 
him when he came in. You should have seen his 
face and not heard his language ! " The un- 
natural brother laughed. " You see, Andy didn't 
want to stand because of neglecting the business, 
and Gilly backed himself to take on the work so as 
not to stand in Andy's way. And he's doing it." 

" But that's awfully fine of Gilly, I think." 

" So it is, of course. That's why he gets so 
riled when anybody says anything about it." 

The Nun nodded in understanding. "And 
Harry?" she asked. 

" They were abroad or in Scotland all the 
winter ; came back to town about a month ago. 
They've taken a flat in Clarges Street for the 
season, I believe." 

" Have you been to call on Mrs. Harry Bel- 
field?" 

"Well, no, I haven't. I don't know what he 
wants. I think I'll leave him to begin. It seems 
to be the same old game with him. One sees him 
everywhere." 

"With her?" 

" Sometimes with her. I don't think he's doing 
anything about another constituency ; seems to 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 495 

have chucked it for the present. But he does 
appear to be having a very good time in 
London." 

" Is he friendly when you meet ?" 

"Yes, he's friendly and jolly enough." Billy 
smiled. "It's true that he's generally in a hurry. 
When I met him with her once, he was in too 
much of a hurry to stop ! " 

" It's very sad, but I'm afraid his memories of 
us are not those of unmixed pleasure." 

" I'm afraid not. Andy says he never goes 
down to Meriton." 

"Well, really I don't very well see how he 
could with her ! " 

" I suppose he and his people have some under- 
standing about it. One's sorry for them, you 
know." 

" I think I shall go down to Meriton again this 
autumn. Any chance of your being there as a 
family man ?" 

" I've promised to speak for Andy, so we may 
put in a few days there. Most of the time 1 shall 
have to be preaching to my own flock. I say, will 
you come and meet Amaranth ?" 

" Of course I will. But really I think I should 
make it c Amy ' ! " 

" It's worth considering ; but I don't know 
how she'll feel about it," said Billy cautiously. 






496 SECOND STRING. 

" Oh, said in the way you'll say it, it'll sound 
sweet," remarked the Nun flippantly. 

Billy still looked doubtful ; perhaps "Amaranth " 
already sounded sweet. 

When left alone, Miss Flower indulged herself 
for awhile in a reverie of a pensive, hardly melan- 
choly, character hot unpleasant, rather philo- 
sophical. Billy Foot's new state was the peg from 
which it hung, its theme the balance of advantage 
between the single and the married state. It was 
in some degree a drawback to the former that 
other people would embrace the latter. Old 
coteries were thus broken up ; old friendships, if not 
severed, yet rendered less intimate. New comrades 
had to be found, not always an easy task. There 
was a danger of loneliness. On the other hand, 
there were worse things than loneliness ; enforced 
companionship, where companionship had become 
distasteful, seemed to her distinctly one of 
them. Being so very much in another person's 
hands also was a formidable thing ; it involved 
such a liability to be hurt. The balance thus 
inclined in favour of the single life, in spite 
of its liability to loneliness. The Nun gave 
her adhesion to it, with a mental reservation 
as to the case of an ideal. And even then the 
attempt to make it practical ? She shook her 
head with a little sigh, then smiled. "I wonder 






PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 497 

if Billy had any idea whom I had in my head ! " 
she thought. 

Sally Dutton came in and found her friend in 
this ruminative mood. Doris roused herself to 
communicate the news of Billy Foot's engagement. 
It was received in Sally's usual caustic manner. 
" Came to tell you about it, did he ? I wonder 
how much he's told her about you ! " 

" I can't complain if my want of responsiveness 
hasn't been emphasised, Sally. You couldn't 
expect him to." 

"I've been having a talk with Mrs. Harry 
Belfield," said Sally, taking off her hat. 

This announcement came rather pat on the 
Nun's reflections. She was interested. 

" Well, how is she ? What happened ? " 

" In my opinion it's just another of them," Sally 
pronounced. 

Being engaged in shopping at certain " stores " 
which she frequented, she had gone into the tea- 
room to refresh her jaded energies, and had found 
herself at the next table to Isobel. Friendly greet- 
ings had passed ; the two had drunk their tea to- 
gether with other company, as presently appeared. 

" What made you think that ? " There was no 
need to inquire what it was that Sally thought 
when she spoke of " another of them ; " she did 
not refer to ideally successful unions. 



498 SECOND STRING. 

Sally wrinkled her brow. " She said they'd had 
a delightful winter, travelling and so on, and that 
she was having a very gay time in. London, going 
everywhere and making a heap of friends. She 
said they liked their flat, but were looking out for 
a house. She said Harry was very well and 
jolly." 

"Well, that sounds all right. What's the 
matter, Sally ? Not that I pretend to be par- 
ticularly anxious for her unruffled happiness. I 
don't want anything really bad, of course, but " 

" Set your mind at ease ; she won't be too happy 
to please you and she knows it." Miss Dutton 
considered. " At least she's a fool if she doesn't 
know it. Who do you think came in while we 
were at tea ? " 

" Harry ? " suggested the Nun, in an obviously 
insincere shot at the answer. 

"Harry at Harrod's ! Mrs. Freere ! You re- 
member Mrs. Freere ? Mrs. Freere, and a woman 
Mrs. Freere called c Dear Lady Lucy.' ' Sally's 
sarcastic emphasis on the latter lady's title surely 
a harmless social distinction ? was absolutely 
savage. 

" Did they join you ? " asked the Nun, by now 
much interested. 

" Join us ? They swallowed us ! Of course 
they didn't take much notice of me. They'd never 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 499 

heard of c Miss Button,' and I didn't suppose I 
should make a much better impression if I told 
them that 1 lived with you." 

" No, of course not, Sally," said the Nun, and 
drew up on the edge of an ill-timed gurgle. 
" Mrs. Freere 's an old story. Who 's Lady 
Lucy ? One of the heap of friends Mrs. Harry 
is making ? " 

"Lady Lucy's young younger than Isobel. 
Mrs. Freere isn't young not so young as Isobel. 
Mrs. Freere 's the old friend, Lady Lucy's the 
new one." 

"Did you gather whether Lady Lucy was a 
married woman ? " 

" Oh yes. She referred to c our money troubles,' 
and c my motor-car.' She's married all right ! But 
nobody bothered to tell me her name. Well, as I 
say, Mrs. Freere's the old friend, and she's the new 
friend. They're fighting which of them shall run 
the Belfields I don't know what else they may 
be fighting about ! But they unite in sitting on 
Isobel. Harry's given her away, I gathered told 
them what she was before he married her. So, of 
course, she hasn't got a chance ! The only good 
thing is that they obviously hate one another like 
poison. In fact I don't think I ever sat at a table 
with three women who hated one another more 
though I've had some experience in that line." 






500 SECOND STRING. 

" She hates them both, you think ? Well, I 
shouldn't have thought she was the kind of woman 
to like being sat upon by anybody." 

" Oh, she's fighting ; she's putting up a good 
fight for him." 

" Well, we know she can do that ! " observed 
the Nun with a rather acid demureness. 

" I'm not asking you to sympathise. I'm just 
telling you how it is. c Harry likes this,' says 
Mrs. Freere. c He always did.' c Did he, dear ? 
He tells me he likes the other now,' says Lady 
Lucy. ' I don't think he's really fond of either of 
them,' says Isobel. c Oh yes, my dear. Besides, 
you must, if you want to do the right thing,' say 
both of them. I suppose that, when they once get 
her out of the way, they'll fight it out between 
themselves." 

"Will they get her out of the way ? It's rather 
soon to talk about that." 

" They'll probably both of them be bowled over 
by some newcomer in a few months, and Isobel go 
with them if she hasn't gone already." 

" Your views are always uncompromising, 
Sally." 

" I only wish you'd heard those two women this 
afternoon. And, in the end, off they all three 
went together in the motor-car. Going to pick up 
Harry somewhere ! " 






PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 501 

" Rather too much of a good thing for most 
men. And it might have been Vivien ! " 

" It's a woman, and one of God's creatures, any- 
how," said Sally with some temper. 

" Yes," the Nun agreed serenely. " And Mrs. 
Freere 's a woman and so, I presume from your 
description, is Lady Lucy. And I gather that they 
have husbands ? God's creatures too, we may 
suppose ! " 

Sally declined the implied challenge to weigh, in 
the scales of an impartial judgment, the iniquities 
of the two sexes. Her sympathies, born on the 
night when she had given shelter to Isobel at the 
Lion, were with the woman who was fighting for 
her husband, who had a plain right to him now, 
though she had used questionable means to get 
him. If Doris asked her to discern a Nemesis in 
Isobel's plight as Belfield had in the fall of his 
too well admired son to see Vivien avenged by 
Mrs. Freere and Lady Lucy, Sally retorted on the 
philosophic counsel by declaring that Doris, a 
partisan of Vivien's, lacked human pity for Vivien's 
successful rival, whose real success seemed now so 
dubious. 

Whatever the relative merit of these views, and 
whatever the truth as to the wider question of 
the iniquities of the sexes, Sally's encounter at least 
provided for her friend's contemplation an excellent 



502 SECOND STRING. 

little picture of the man whose name had been so 
bandied about among the three women at the tea- 
table. Her dislike of Isobel enabled the Nun to 
contemplate it rather with a scornful amusement 
than with the hot indignation with which she had 
lashed Vivien's treacherous lover. Her feelings 
not being engaged in this case, she was able to 
regain her favourite attitude of a tolerant, yet open- 
eyed, onlooker, and to ask what, after all, was the 
use of expecting anything else from Harry Belfield. 
What Mrs. Freere nay, what prehistoric Rosa 
Hinde had found out, what Vivien had found 
out, what Isobel was finding out, that, in due time, 
Lady Lucy would find out also. Perhaps some 
women did not much mind finding out. Vivien 
had renounced him utterly, but here was Mrs. 
Freere back again ! And no doubt Lady Lucy 
had her own ideas about Mrs. Freere besides the 
knowledge, shared by the world in general, of the 
brief engagement to Vivien and the hurried mar- 
riage with Isobel. Some of them did not mind, or 
at least thought that the game was worth the candle. 
That was the only possible conclusion. In some 
cases, perhaps, they were the same sort of people 
themselves ; in others, Harry's appeal was too 
potent to be resisted, even though they knew that 
sorrow would be the ultimate issue. 

That was intelligible enough. For the moment, 






PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 503 

to the woman of the moment, his charm was well- 
nigh irresistible. His power to conquer lay in 
the completeness with which he was conquered. 
He had the name of being a great flirt ; in the 
exact sense of words, he did not flirt save as a mere 
introduction of the subject ; he always made love 
to the woman of the moment. He did not pay 
attentions ; he was swept into a passion for the 
woman of the moment. It was afterwards, when 
that particular moment and that particular woman 
had gone by, that Harry's feelings passed a retro- 
spective Act by which the love-making and passion 
became, and were to be deemed always to have 
been, flirtation and attention. Amply accepting 
this legislation for himself, and quite convinced of 
its justice, he seemed to have power to impose it 
for the moment on others also. And he would 
go on like that indefinitely ? There seemed no 
particular reason why he should stop. He would 
go on loving for a while, being loved for a while ; 
deserting and being despaired of ; sometimes, per- 
haps, coming back and beginning the process over 
again ; living the life of the emotions so long as it 
would last, making it last, perhaps, longer than it 
ought or really could, because he had no other life 
adequate to fill its place. The Nun's remorseless 
fancy skipped the years, and pictured him, Harry 
the Irresistible, Harry the Incorrigible, still pur- 



504 SECOND STRING. 

suing the old round, still on his way from the 
woman of the last moment to the woman of the 
next ; getting perhaps rather gray, rather fat, a 
trifle inclined to coarseness, but preserving all his 
ardour and all his art in wooing, like a great 
singer grown old, whose voice is feeble and 
spent, but whose skill is still triumphant over his 
audiences still convinced that each affair was 
" bigger " than any of the others, still persuading 
his partner of the same thing, still suffering pangs 
of pity for himself when he fell away, still respond- 
ing to the stimulus of a new pursuit. 

A few days later chance threw him in her way ; 
in truth it could scarcely be called chance, since 
both, returned from their wanderings, had resumed 
their habit of frequenting that famous restaurant, 
and had been received with enthusiasm by the 
presiding officials. Waiting for her party in the 
outer room, suddenly she found him standing 
beside her, looking very handsome and gay, with a 
mischievous sparkle in his eye. 

" May I speak to you or am I no better than 
one of the wicked ? " he said, sitting down beside 
her. 

"You're looking very well, Harry. I hope 
Mrs. Belfield is all right ? " 

" Oh yes, Isobel's first-rate, thank you. So am 
I. How London agrees with a man ! I was out 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 505 

of sorts half the time down at Meriton. A country 
life doesn't agree with me. I shall chuck it." 

" You seemed very well down there physically," 
the Nun observed. 

" Sleepy, wasn't it ? Sleepy beyond anything. 
Now here a man feels alive, and awake ! " 

It was not in the least what he had thought 
about Meriton, it was what he was feeling about 
Meriton now. He had passed a retrospective Act 
about Meriton ; it was to be deemed to have been 
always sleepy and dull. 

"No," he pursued, "when I come into Halton 
I hope it won't be for a long while I think I 
shall sell it. I can't settle down as a country 
squire. It's not my line. Too stodgy ! " 

" What about Parliament ? Going to find another 
place?" 

" If I do, it'll be a town constituency. When I 
think of those beastly villages ! Really couldn't 
go through with it again ! The fact is, I'm rather 
doubtful about the whole of that game, Doris. No 
end of a grind and what do you get out of it ? 
More kicks than ha'pence, as a rule. Your own 
side doesn't thank you, and the other abuses you 
like a pickpocket." 

She nodded. " I think you're quite right. Let 
it alone." 

He turned to her quite eagerly. "Do you 






506 SECOND STRING. 

really think so ? Well, I'm more than half 
inclined to believe you're right. Isobel's always 
worrying me about it talks about letting chances 
slip away, and time slip away, and I don't know 
what the devil else slip away till, hang it, my 
only desire is to imitate time and chances, and slip 
away myself! " He laughed merrily. 

The old charm was still there, the power to 
make his companion take his point of view and 
sympathise with him, even when the merits were 
all against him. 

" You see now what it is to give a woman the 
right to lecture you, Harry ! " 

" Oh, it's kind of her to be ambitious for me," 
said Harry good-naturedly. " I quite appreciate 
that. But " His eyes twinkled again, and his 
voice fell to a confidential whisper. " Well, you've 
been behind the scenes, haven't you ? My last 
shot in that direction has put me a bit off." 

It was his first reference to the catastrophe ; 
she was curious to see whether he would develop 
it. This Harry proceeded to do. 

"You were precious hard on me about that 
business, Doris," he said in a gentle reproach. 
" Of course I don't justify what happened. But 
my dear old pater and Wellgood pressed matters a 
bit too quick oh, not Vivien, I don't mean that 
for a moment. There's such a thing as making the 






PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 507 

game too easy for a fellow. I didn't see it at the 
time, but I see it now. They had their plan. 
Well, I fell in with it too readily. It looked 
pleasant enough. The result was that I mistook 
the strength of my feelings. That was the 
beginning of all the trouble." 

Vastly amused, the Nun nodded gravely. " I 
ought to have thought of that before I was so down 
on you." 

He looked at her in a merry suspicion. " I'm 
not sure you're not pulling my leg, Doris ; but all 
the same that's the truth about it. And at any 
rate I suppose you'll admit I did the right thing 
when when the trouble came ? " 

" Yes, you did the right thing then." 

" I'm glad you admit that much ! I say I 
suppose you you haven't heard anything of Vivien 
Wellgood?" ' 

" I hear she's in excellent health and spirits." 

" I've never been so cut up about anything. 
Still, of course, she was a mere girl, and well, 
things pass ! " 

" Luckily things pass. I've no doubt she'll soon 
console herself." 

" He'll be a very lucky fellow," said Harry 
handsomely. After all, he himself had admired 
Vivien, and his taste was good. 

" He will. In fact I think I know only one 



508 SECOND STRING. 

man good enough for her and that's Andy 
Hayes." 

Harry's face was suddenly transformed to a 
peevish amazement. 

" My dear girl, are you out of your mind ? 
Don't say such silly things ! Old Andy's a good 
chap, but the idea that Vivien would look at him ! 
He's not her class ; and she's the most fastidious 
little creature alive as dainty and fastidious as can 
be ! " He smiled again probably at some remi- 
niscence. 

" I don't see why her being fastidious should 
prevent her liking Andy." 

Harry broke into open impatience. " I like old 
Andy well, I think I've done something to prove 
that but, upon my soul, you all seem to have gone 
mad about him. You all ram him down a man's 
throat. It's possible to have too much of him, 
good fellow as he is. He and Vivien Wellgood I 
Well, it's simply damned ridiculous ! " He took 
out his watch and, as he looked at it, exclaimed 
with great irritation, " Why the devil doesn't this 
woman come ? " 

" I thought Mrs. Belfield was always so 
punctual ? " 

" It's not Mrs. Belfield," Harry snapped out. 

" Well, don't be disagreeable to the poor woman 
simply because I said something you didn't like." 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 509 

Something I didn't like ? That's an absurd 
ray of putting it. It's only that to be for ever 
tearing of nobody but ' 

" That tall young woman over there seems to be 
staring rather hard at you and me, Harry." 

By gad, it is her ! I must run." His smiles 
>roke out again. " I say, Doris, I shall get into 
trouble over this ! You're looking your best, my 
dear, and she's as jealous as I must run ! 
Au revoir ! " 

" It's not Mrs. Freere so I suppose it's Lady 
Lucy," thought the Nun. She was in high good 
temper at the result of her casual allusion to Andy 
Hayes. The shoe pinched there, did it ? She 
was not vicious towards Harry ; she wished him no 
harm indeed she wished him more good than he 
would be likely to welcome but the extreme 
complacency of his manner in the earlier part of 
their talk stirred her resentment. Her sug- 
gestion about Andy Hayes put a quick end to 
that. 

Lady Lucy had an impudent little face, with an 
impudent little turned -up nose. She settled 
herself cosily into her chair on the balcony and 
peeled off her gloves. 

" I'm so glad we're just by ourselves I mean, 
since poor Mrs. Belfield wasn't well enough to 
come. I was afraid of rinding Lily Freere ! " 



cumc. 



510 SECOND STRING. 

" What made you afraid of that ? " asked Harry, 
smiling. 

" Well, she is about with you a good deal, isn't 
she ? Does your wife like being managed so 
much ? Or is it your choice ? " 

" Mrs. Freere's an old friend." 

" So I've always understood ! " 

" You mustn't listen to ill-natured gossip. Just 
an old friend ! But it's not very likely I should 
have asked her to come to-day." 

The Nun and her party entered, and sat down at 
the other end of the balcony. 

"There's that girl you were talking to. Look 
round ; she's sitting facing me." 

"Oh yes, Doris Flower!" 

" An old friend too ? You seemed to be having 
a very confidential conversation at least." 

"On the most strictly unsentimental footing. 
Really there you may believe me ! " Harry's 
voice fell to an artistic whisper. " Did you come 
only to tease me ? " 

" I don't think you care much whether I tease 
you or not," said Lady Lucy. 

He was helping her to wine ; he held the 
bottle, she held the glass. Somehow it chanced 
that their hands touched. Lady Lucy blushed a 
little and glanced at Harry. "How shall I 
persuade you that I care ? " asked Harry. 



PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! 511 

The Nun's host at the other end of the balcony 
turned to her. " You're not very talkative 
to-day. Miss Doris ! " 

"Oh, I'm sorry: There's always so much to 
look at at the other tables, isn't there ? " 

" Pretty much the same old lot ! " remarked the 
host an experienced youth. 

"Pretty much ! " agreed the Nun serenely. 






Chapter XXV. 
THE LAST FIGHT. 

a fine Sunday evening in the following 
autumn Belfield and Andy Hayes sat over 
their wine, the ladies having, as usual, adjourned 
to the garden. Among their number were included 
the Nun and Sally Button ; a second stay at Meri- 
ton had broken down Sally's shyness. Belfield and 
his wife were just back from London, whither they 
had gone to see their grandchild, Harry's first-born 
son. All had gone well, and Belfield was full of 
impressions of his visit. His natural pleasure in 
the birth of the child was damped by Harry's refusal 
to promise to take up his residence at Halton when 
his turn came. 

" But I did get him to promise not to sell only 
to let ; so his son may live here, though mine 
won't." He looked older and more frail ; his 
mind moved in a near future which, near as it 
was, he would not see. 

" I sometimes think," he went on, " that the 



THE LAST FIGHT. 513 

professional moralists, all or most of our preachers 
of one sort and another and who doesn't preach 
nowadays ? take too narrow a view. Their table 
of virtues isn't comprehensive enough. Now my 
boy Harry, with all his faults, is never disagreeable. 
What an enormous virtue ! Negative, if you like, 
but enormous ! What a lot of pain and discomfort 
he doesn't give ! All through this domestic busi- 
ness his behaviour has been admirable so kind, 
so attentive, so genuinely concerned, so properly 
gratified. Upon my word, seeing him in his own 
home, you'd think he was a model ! That's a 
good deal. His weakness comes in to save him 
there ; he must be popular even in his own 
house ! " 

" Oh, this event'll do them no end of good, sir," 
said Andy, ever ready to clutch again at the elusive 
skirts of optimism. 

" Some, no doubt," Belfield cautiously agreed. 
"And she's a brave woman I'll say that for her. 
She understands him, and she loves him. When 
I saw her, we had a reconciliation on that basis. 
We let the past alone I wasn't anxious to meet 
her on that ground and made up our minds to 
the future. Her work is to keep things going, to 
prevent a smash. She must shut her eyes some- 
times pretty often, I'm afraid. He'll always be 
very pleasant to her, if she'll do that. In fact, the 

17 




5 1 4 SECOND STRING. 

worse he's behaving the pleasanter the rogue will 
be. I know him of old in that." 

" Has he any plans ? " asked Andy. 

Belfield smiled. " Oh yes. He's got a plan for 
wintering in Algeria ; they'll go as soon as she's 
well enough, stopping in Paris en route. Yes, he's 
really full of plans for enjoying himself and meet- 
ing friends he likes. There's a Lady Lucy Some- 
body who's got the finest motor-car on earth. She's 
going to be in Paris. Oh, well, there it is ! Plans 
of any other sort are dropped. He's dropped 
them ; she's had to drop them after a good deal 
of fighting, so she told me. He makes no definite 
refusals ; he puts her off, laughs it off, shunts it, 
you know, and goes on his own way. One didn't 
understand how strong that had grown in him 
the dislike of any responsibilities or limits. Being 
answerable to anybody seems to vex him. I think 
he even resents our great expectations, though we 
go out of our way to let him see that we've honestly 
abandoned them ! A pleasant drifting over summer 
seas, with agreeable company, and plenty of variety 
in it ! That's the programme. We shall probably 
be wise to add a few storms and a good many minor 
squalls to get a true idea of it." 

" It doesn't seem to lead to much." 

" Oh, the mistake's ours 1 For many men I 
say nothing against the life. I'm not one of the 



THE LAST FIGHT. 

preachers, and there's something to be said for it 
for some people. We made our own idol, Andy ; 
it's our fault. We saw the capacities, we didn't 
appreciate the weakness. I can't be hard on poor 
old Harry, can you ? We parted capital friends, 
I'm glad to say though he was distinctly in a 
hurry to keep an appointment at a tea-shop. 
Somebody passing through London, he said and 
through his fancy too, I imagine." He looked 
across at Andy. "I suppose it all seems un- 
common queer to you, Andy ? " 

" It's a bit of a waste, isn't it ? " 

" So we think, we at Meriton. That's our old 
idea, and we shan't get over it. Yes, a bit of a 
waste ! But it's nature's way, I suppose. A fine 
fabric with one unsound patch ! It does seem a 
waste, but she's lavish ; and the fabric may be very 
pleasing to the eye all the same, and serve all right 
so long as you don't strain it ! " 

In the garden Mrs. Belfield discoursed placidly 
to Miss Doris Flower ; it was perhaps fortunate 
that the veil of night rendered that young lady's 
face hard to read. 

" Yes, my dear, we must let bygones be bygones. 
I took a very strong view, a stronger view than I 
generally take, of her conduct down here though 
I can't acquit Mr. Wellgood of a large part of the 
blame. But now she's trying to be a good wife to 






516 SECOND STRING. 

him, I'm sure she is. So I made up my mind to 
forgive her ; it's a very fine boy, and like my 
family, I think. As for the politics and all that, 
I'm sure Harry is right, and his father is wrong to 
regret his withdrawal. Harry is not fit for that 
rough work ; both his mind and his feelings are 
too fine and sensitive. I hope he will be firm and 
keep out of it all. Mr. Hayes is much more fit 
for it, much coarser in fibre, you know, dear Miss 
Flower ; and though, of course, we can't expect 
from him what we did from Harry if only his 
health had stood it Mr. Wigram tells me he is 
doing really very well. The common people like 
him, I understand. Oh, not in the way they 
thought of Harry ! That was admiration, almost 
worship, my dear. But they think he understands 
them, and naturally they feel on easy terms with 
him. His stepmother was an excellent woman, 
and I'm sure we all respect Mr. Rock. Of course 
in my young days he'd never have done for a 
county member ; but we must move with the times, 
and I'm really glad that he's got this chance." 

The Nun listened to the kindly patronizing old 
dame in respectful silence. It was really a good 
thing that she could look at the matter like that 
evidently aided by the fine boy and the fine boy's 
likeness to her family. It was hard to grudge 
Harry his last worshipper ; yet Miss Flower's 



THE LAST FIGHT. 

smile had not been very sympathetic under the 
veil of night. 

" Of course there's poor Vivien such a sweet 
girl, and so nice to us ! She's never let it make 
any difference as far as we're concerned. I am 
sorry for her, and her father's very wrong in keep- 
ing her all alone there at Nutley to brood over it. 
He ought to have given her a season in London 
or taken her abroad somewhere where she could 
forget about it, and have her chance. What chance 
has she of forgetting Harry here at Meriton ? " 

" You can never tell about that, can you, Mrs. 
Belfield ? These things happen so oddly." 

"Oh, but, my dear, the poor child never sees 
anybody ! Now you see quite a number of young 
men, I daresay ? " 

"Yes, quite a number, Mrs. Belfield," the Nun 
admitted dumurely. 

" She sees absolutely nobody, except Mr. Hayes 
and Mr. Gilly Foot. I don't think she's very likely 
to be taken with Mr. Gilly Foot ! Oh no, my^dear, 
it's a sad case." 

"You ought to talk to Mr. Wellgood about 
it." 

" I never talk to Mr. Wellgood at all now, my 
dear, if I can help it. I don't like him, and I think 
his attitude has been very hard quite unlike dear 
Vivien's own ! Well, Harry did no more than 



5i 8 SECOND STRING. 

hint at it, and Isobel, of course, said nothing ; but 
we may have our own opinions as to whether it's 
all for Vivien's sake ! " Mrs. Belfield almost 
achieved viciousness in this remark. "And it 
may seem selfish of me to say it if she married 
and went away, Harry might be more inclined to 
come down here. As it is, he feels it would be 
awkward. He's so sensitive ! " 

Belfield and Andy came out the old man 
muffled in shawls and, even so, fearing his wife's 
rebuke, Andy drawing the fresh air eagerly into 
his lungs. He had dined for the first time since 
the Sunday before ; the miles he had covered, the 
speeches he had made, defied calculation. He had 
hardly any voice left. His work was nearly done ; 
the polling was on the morrow. But he was due 
in a neighbouring constituency the day after that 
for one more week. Then back to Gilbert Foot 
and Co., to make up arrears. Surveying the work 
he had done and was about to do, he rejoiced in 
his strength, as formerly he had rejoiced to follow 
Lord Meriton's hounds on his legs and to anticipate 
the fox's wiles. 

He sat down by Mrs. Belfield. Vivien and 
Sally, who had been strolling, joined the group, 
of which he made the centre. 

"Yes, it looks all right," he said, continuing 
his talk with Belfield. "Wigram promises me a 



THE LAST FIGHT. 519 

thousand. A strong candidate would get that. I 
hope for about six hundred. " 

" You think it's safe, though, anyhow ? " asked 
Vivien. 

"Yes, I think it's safe." He broke into a 
laugh. " If anybody had told me this ! " 

They discussed the fight in all its aspects, 
especially the last great meeting in the Town Hall 
the night before. The Nun mimicked Andy's 
croaking notes with much success, and Miss 
Dutton commented on popular institutions with 
some severity. They were full of excitement as 
to the morrow, when the three girls meant to 
follow Andy's progress through the Division. 
Mrs. Belfield gave tokens of an inclination to 
doze. Belfield sat listening to the girls' voices, to 
their eager excited talk, and their constant appeals 
to the hero of the day. 

The hero of the day ! It was Andy Hayes, son 
of old Mr. Hayes of the Grammar School, protege, 
for his stepmother's sake, of Jack Rock the butcher. 
He had nearly gone back abroad in failure ; he had 
nearly taken on the shop. He stood now the 
winner in the fight, triumphant in a contest which 
he had never sought, from the idea of which he 
would have shrunk as from rank folly and rank 
treason. Into that fight he had been drawn un- 
consciously, insensibly, irresistibly, by another 



520 SECOND STRING. 

man's doings and by his own, by another man's 
character and by the character that was his. His 
conscious part had always been to help his adver- 
sary ; his adversary unconsciously worked all the 
while for him. What his adversary had bestowed 
in ready kindness stood as nothing beside what he 
had given unwittingly, by accident, never thinking 
that the results of what he did would transcend 
the limits of his own fortunes, and powerfully 
mould and shape another's life. Whom Andy 
loved he had conquered ; whom he followed he 
had supplanted. The cheers and applause which 
had rung out for him last night had, a short year 
ago, been the property of another. His place was 
his by conquest. 

So mused Belfield, father of the vanquished, as 
he sat silent while the merry voices sounded in his 
ears. A notable example of how each man finds 
his place, in spite of all the starts, or weights, or 
handicaps with which he enters on the race ! These 
things tell, but not enough to land an unsound 
horse at the post before a sound one. The 
unsound falters ; slowly and surely the sound 
lessens the gap between them. At last he takes 
the lead. Then the cry of the crowd is changed, 
and he gallops on to victory amidst its plaudits. 
Jack Rock had made no mistake when he entered 
his horse and put up the stakes. 



THE LAST FIGHT. 521 

The hero of that day, the victor in that fight, 
yes ! Against his wishes, without premeditation, 
so he stood. There was another day of strife, 
another fight to be waged, one that could not be 
unmeant or unconscious. Here the antagonism 
must come into the open, must be revealed to the 
mind and heart of the fighter. Here he must not 
only follow, he must himself drive out ; he must 
not only supplant, he must strive to banish, nay, 
to annihilate. There was a last citadel which, 
faithful to faithlessness and true against desertion, 
still flew the flag of that loved antagonist. Would 
the flag dip and the gates open at his summons ? 
Or would the response to his parley be that, though 
the faithless might be faithless, yet the faithful 
must be faithful still ? Before that answer his arm 
would be paralyzed. 

"Well, I'm sure you'll deserve your success, 
Mr. Hayes," said Mrs. Belfield, rising and prepar- 
ing to retreat indoors. " I hear you've worked very 
hard and made an extremely good impression." 

A quiet smile ran round the circle. The speech, 
with its delicate, yet serenely sure, patronage would 
have sounded so natural a year before. In the 
darkness Andy found himself smiling too. A 
sense of strength stirred in him. The day for en- 
couragement was past ; he did not need it. Save 
for that last citadel ! There still he feared and 



522 SECOND STRING. 

shrank. With his plain mind, in his strenuous 
days, he had done little idealising. Only two 
people had he ever treated in that flattering exact- 
ing fashion. His idealising stood in his path now. 
The weak spot of his sturdy common-sense had 
always been about Harry ; it was so still, and he 
had an obstinate sense of trying to kick his old 
idol, now that it was overthrown. And for her 
how if his approach seemed a rude intrusion, the 
invasion of a desolate yet still holy spot, sacrilege 
committed on a ruined shrine ? On the one side 
was Harry, or the memory of Harry, stronger 
perhaps than Harry himself. On the other he 
himself stood, acutely conscious of his associations 
for her, remembering ever the butcher's shop, 
recollecting that what favour he had won had been 
in the capacity of a buffer against the attack of 
others. How if the buffer, forsaking its protective 
function, encroached on its own account ? 

Yet in the course of the months past they had 
grown into so close a friendship, so firm an alliance. 
On his part there had been no wooing, on hers 
neither coquetry nor sentiment displayed. To 
Harry Belfield their relations to each other would 
have appeared extremely dull, unpermissibly stag- 
nant, reflecting no credit on the dash of the man 
or the sensibility of the lady. Sally Button, 
suspecting Andy's hopes, had a caustic word of 






THE LAST FIGHT. 523 

praise for his patience the sort of remark which, 
repeated to Harry about himself, would have sent 
him straight off to a declaration (the like had 
happened once by the lake at Nutley). But 
through these long days, as Andy came and went 
on his twofold work, from Division to business, 
from business to Division, they had become 
wonderfully necessary to one another. For her 
not to expect him, for him not to find her, would 
have taken as it were half the heart out of life. 
Who else was there ? Vivien had drawn a little 
nearer to that dour father of hers, but nearness to 
him carried the command for self-repression, for 
reticence. Andy seemed to have no other with 
whom to talk of himself and his life, as even the 
strongest feel a craving to talk sometimes. Per- 
haps there was one other ready to serve. He did 
not know it ; she ranked for him among the 
cherished friends of his lighter hours. He craved 
an intimate companionship for the deeper moments, 
and seemed to find it only in one place. 

At his own game, his speciality, Harry Belfield 
could give away all the odds, and still be a formid- 
able opponent. The incomparable love-maker 
could almost overcome his own treasons ; he left 
such a memory, such a pattern. Isobel loved still ; 
Mrs. Freere was ready to come back ; Lady Lucy 
owned to herself that she was in danger of being 



524 SECOND STRING. 

very silly. Even the Nun was in the habit of 
congratulating herself on a certain escape, with the 
implication that the escape was an achievement. 
To resist him an achievement ! To forget him 
what could that be ? To Andy it seemed that for 
any woman it must be an impossibility. In the 
veiled distance of Vivien's eyes, when the talk 
veered towards her unfaithful lover, he could find 
no dissent. Was oblivion a necessity ? Here he 
was in Harry's place. Did he forget ? 

They let him rest with his thoughts ; they saw 
that the big fellow was weary. The old Belfields 
conducted one another into the house ; Vivien took 
Sally off again with her. Only Doris Flower sat 
on by him, silent too, revolving in her mind the 
chronicles of Meriton, the little town with which 
her whim had brought her into such close touch, 
from which she was not now minded wholly to 
separate herself. It seemed like an anchorage in 
the wandering sea of her life. It offered some 
things very good a few firm friends, a sense of 
home, a place where she was Doris Flower, not 
merely the Nun, the Quaker, or Joan of Arc. Did 
she wish that it offered yet more ? Ah, there she 
paused ! She was a worker born, as Andy himself 
was. No work for her lay in Meriton. Perhaps 
she desired incompatibles, like many of us ; being 
clear-eyed, she saw the incompatibility. And she 



THE LAST FIGHT. 



5*5 



was not subjected to temptation. She was taken 
at the valuation which she so carefully put on 
herself the good comrade of the lighter hours. 
No cause of complaint then ? None ! She did 
not cry, she did not fall in love. She did not break 
her records. There is small merit in records unless 
they are hard to make, and sometimes hard to 
keep. 

She stretched out her hand and laid it on his 
arm. He turned to her with a start, roused from 
his weariness and his reverie. 

" Dear Andy, have you learnt what we have, I 
wonder ? Not yet, I expect ! " 

"What do you mean, Doris ? " 

" Trust in you. A certainty that you'll bring it 
off!" She laughed a little [nervously. " I've a 
professional eye for a situation. Try for a double 
victory to-morrow ! Make a really fine day for 
yourself one to remember always ! " She drew 
her hand away with another nervous laugh ; her 
clear soft voice had trembled. 

Andy's inward feelings leapt to utterance. 
" Have you any notion of what I feel ? I I'm 
up against him in everything ! It's almost un- 
canny. And I think he'll beat me in this. At 
least I suppose you mean ?" 

"Yes, I mean that." Her voice was calm again, a 
little mocking. " But I shall say no more about it." 



526 SECOND STRING. 

Andy pressed her hand. " I like to have your 
good wishes more than anybody's in the world," 
he said, " unless, perhaps, it were his, Doris. Don't 
say I told you, but he grudges me the seat. He'd 
grudge me the other thing worse, much worse." 

" Oh, but that's quite morbid. It's all his own 
fault." 

"Yes, I suppose so. But he's never been to you 
what he has to me." He smiled. "We at 
Meriton still have to please Harry, and to have 
him pleased with us. The old habit's very strong." 

" Heavens, Andy, you wouldn't think of sacri- 
ficing yourself and perhaps her to an idea like 
that?" 

"No, that would be foolish, and wrong as 
you say, morbid. But it can't be whatever she 
says to me it can't be as if he had never existed 
as if it all hadn't happened." 

" Some people feel things too little, some feel 
them too much," the Nun observed. " Both bad 
habits ! " 

"I daresay the thing's a bit more than usual 
on my mind to-night because of to-morrow, you 
know." He was silent for a moment ; then he 
broke into one of his simple hearty laughs. "And 
I am such an awful duffer at making love ! " 

"You certainly have no great natural talent 
for it and, as you've told me, very little practice. 



THE LAST FIGHT. 527 

Oh, I wonder how big your majority will be, 
Andy ! " 

Andy readily turned back to the election. Yet 
even here the attitude she had reproved in him 
seemed to persist. "I expect, as I said, about 
six hundred. Harry would have got a thousand 
easily." 

Andy escorted t Vivien back to Nutley. He 
had it in mind to speak his heart at least to 
sound her feeling for him ; but she forestalled his 
opening. 

" Mr. Belfield's been talking to me about Harry 
to-night, for the first time. He wrote me a letter 
once, but he has never spoken of him before. 
He was rather pathetic. Oh, Andy, why can't 
people think what they are doing to other people ? 
And poor Isobel I'm afraid she won't be happy. 
I used to feel very hard about her. I can't any 
more, now that the little child has come. That 
seems to make it all right somehow, whatever has 
happened before. At any rate she's got the best 
right now, hasn't she ?" She was silent a moment. 
" It was like this that I came home with him that 
last evening. He was so gay and so kind. Then 
in a flash it happened ! " 

" I've been thinking about him too to-night. 
It seemed natural to do it over this election." 

They had reached Nutley, but Andy pleaded 



528 SECOND STRING. 

for a walk on the terrace by the lake before she 
bade him good-night. 

" Yes," she said, " I know what you must feel, 
because you loved him. I loved him, and I feel 
it too. But we must neither of us think about 
it too much. Because it's no use. What Mr. 
Belfield told me makes it quite clear that it's no 
use." She spoke very sadly. They had not to 
do with an accident or an episode ; they had to 
recognise and reckon with the nature of a man. 
" When once we see that it's no use, it seems to 
me that there's something well, almost something 
unworthy in giving way to it." She turned round 
to Andy. "At least I don't want you to go on 
doing it. You've made your own success. Take 
it whole-heartedly, Andy ; don't have any regrets, 
any searchings of heart." 

" There may be other things besides the seat at 
Meriton that I should like to take. When I 
search my heart, Vivien, I find you there." 

Through the darkness he saw her eyes steadily 
fixed on his. 

" I wonder, Andy, I wonder ! Or is it only 
pity, only chivalry ? Is it the policeman again ? " 

"Why shouldn't it be the policeman?" he 
asked. " Is it nothing if you think you could 
feel safe with me ? " 

" So much, so much ! " she murmured. "Andy, 



I THE LAST FIGHT. 529 

'm still angry when I remember still sore and 
ingry again with myself for being sore. I oughtn't 
still to feel that." 

R" You'd guessed my feelings, Vivien ?. You're 
not surprised or or shocked ? " 
" I think I've known everything that has been 
in your heart both about him and about me. 
No, I'm not surprised or shocked. But I 
wonder ! " She laughed sadly. " How perverse 
our hearts are poor Harry's, and poor mine ! 
And how unlucky we two should have hit on 
one another ! That for him it should be so easy, 
and for me so sadly difficult ! " 

" I won't ask you my question to-night," said 
Andy. 

"No, don't to-night." She laid her hand on 
his arm. " But you won't go away altogether, 
will you, Andy ? You won't be sensible and firm, 

d tell me that you can't be at my beck and call, 

d that you won't be kept dangling about, and 
that if I'm a silly girl who doesn't know her own 
luck I must take the consequences ? You'll go 
on being the old Andy we all know, who never 
makes any claims, who puts up with everybody's 
whims, who always expects to come last ? " Her 
voice trembled as she laughed. " You won't upset 
all my notions of you, because you've become a 
,t man now, will you, Andy ? " 




530 SECOND STRING. 

" I don't quite recognise myself in the picture," 
said Andy with a laugh. " I thought I generally 
stood up for myself pretty well. But, anyhow, 
I've no intention of going away. I shall be there 
when I mean if you want me." 

She gave him her hand ; he gripped it warmly. 
" You're you're not very disappointed, Andy ? 
Oh, I hate to cloud your day of triumph to- 
rn orrowl " Her voice rose a little, a note almost 
of despair in it. " But I can't help it ! The old 
thing isn't gone yet, and, till it is, I can do 
nothing." 

Andy raised the hand he held to his lips and 
kissed it lightly. "I see that I'm asking for an 
even bigger thing than I thought," he said gently. 
" Don't worry, and don't hurry, my dear. I can 
wait. Perhaps it's too big for me to get at all. 
You'll tell me about that at your own time." 

They began to walk back towards the house, 
and presently came under the light of the lamp 
over the hall door. Her face now wore a troubled 
smile, amused yet sad. How obstinate that 
memory was ! It was here that Harry had given 
her his last kiss here that, only a few minutes 
later, she had seen him for the last time, and 
Isobel Vintry with him ! Their phantoms rose 
before her eyes and the angry shape of her father 
was there too, denouncing their crime, pronouncing 



THE LAST FIGHT. 

by the same words sentence of death on the young 
happiness of her heart. 

"Good-night, Andy," she said softly. "And 
a great triumph to-morrow. Over a thousand ! " 

A great triumph to-morrow, maybe. There 
was no great triumph to-night, only a long hard- 
fought battle the last fight in that strangely-fated 
antagonism. Verily the enemy was on his own 
ground here. With everything against him, he 
was still dangerous, he was not yet put to the 
rout. The flag of the citadel was not yet dipped, 
the gates not opened, allegiance not transferred. 

Andy Hayes squared his shoulders for this last 
fight with good courage and with a single mind. 
The revelation she had made of her heart moved 
him to the battle. It was a great love which 
Harry had so lightly taken and so lightly flung 
away. It was worth a long and a great struggle. 
And he could now enter on it with no searchings 
of his own heart. As he mused over her words ? 
the appeal of memory of old loyalty and friend- 
ship grew fainter. Harry had won all that, and 
thrown all that away had been so insensible to 
what it really was, to what it meant, and what it 
offered. New and cogent proof indeed that he 
was "no good." The depths of Vivien's love 
made mean the shallows of his nature. He must 
go his ways ; Andy would go his from to-morrow. 






532 SECOND STRING. 

With sorrow, but now with clear conviction, he 
turned away from his broken idol. From the lips 
of the girl who could not forget his love had 
come Harry's final condemnation. The spell 
was broken for Andy Hayes ; he was resolute 
that he would break it from the heart of Vivien. 
Loyalty should no more be for the disloyal, or 
faith for the faithless. There too Andy would 
come by his own and now with no remorse. At 
last the spell was broken. 

But no double victory to-morrow ! The loved 
antagonist retreated slowly, showing fight. The 
next day gave Andy a victory indeed, but did not 
yield the situation which the Nun's professional 
eye had craved for its satisfaction. 



Chapter XXVI. 
TALES OUT OF SCHOOL FOR ONCE. 



^T^HE inner circle of Andy Hayes' friends, who 
* were gradually accustoming themselves to 
see him described as Mr. Andrew Hayes, M. P., 
included some of a sportive, or even malicious, 
turn of wit. It cannot be denied that to these the 
spectacle of Andy's wooing it never occurred to 
him to conceal his suit presented some material 



career, even 



for amusement. All through his 

after he had mounted to eminences great 



and 



imposing, it was his fate to bring smiles to the lips 
even of those who admired, supported, and fol- 
lowed him. To the comic papers, in those later 
days when the Press took account of him, he was 
always a slow man, almost a stupid man, inclined 
to charge a brick wall when he might walk round 
it, yet, when he charged, knocking a hole big 
enough to get through. For the cartoonists 
when greatness bred cartoons, as by one of the 
world's kindly counterbalances it does he was 






534 SECOND STRING. 

always stouter in body and more stolid in coun- 
tenance than a faithful photograph would have 
recorded him. The idea of him thus presented 
did him no harm in the public mind. That a 
career is open to talent is a fact consolatory 
only to a minority ; flatter mere common-sense 
with the same prospect, and every man feels him- 
self fit for the Bench of Judges, Bishops, or 
Ministers. 

But as a lover a wooer ? Passion, impetuosity, 
a total absorption, great eloquence in few words, the 
eyes beating the words in persuasion such seemed, 
roughly, the requisites, as learnt by those who had 
sat at Harry Belfield's feet and marked his prac- 
tical expositions of the subject. Andy was neither 
passionate nor eloquent, not even in glances. Nor 
was he absorbed. Gilbert Foot and Co. from 
nine-thirty to two-thirty : the House from two- 
thirty to eleven, with what Gilly contemptuously 
termed " stoking " slipped in anywhere : there was 
hardly time for real absorption. He was as hard- 
worked as Mr. Freere himself, and, had he 
married Mrs. Freere, would probably have made 
little better success of it. He was not trying to 
marry Mrs. Freere ; but he was trying to win a 
girl who had listened to wonderful words from 
Harry Belfield's lips and suffered the persuasion 
of Harry Belfield's eyes. 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 535 

In varying fashion his friends made their jest- 
ing comments, with affection always at the back 
of the joke ; nay more, with a confidence that 
the efforts they derided would succeed in face of 
their derision like the comic papers of future 
days. 

" He wants to marry, so he must make love ; 
but I believe he hates it all the time," said the 
Nun compassionately. 

" That shows his sense," remarked Sally Button. 

" He's a natural monogamist," opined Billy 
Foot, "and no natural monogamist knows any- 
thing about making love." 

"He ought to have been born married," Gilly 
yawned, "just as I ought to have been born retired 
from business." 

Mrs. EillyKnee Amaranth Macquart-Smith) was 
also of the party. Among these sallies she spread 
the new-fledged wings of her wit rather timidly. 
To say the truth, she was not witty, but felt bound 
to try a case somewhat parallel to his at whom her 
shaft was aimed. She was liked well enough in the 
circle, yet would hardly have entered it without 
Billy's passport. 

"He waits to be accepted," she complained, "as 
a girl waits to be asked." 

" Used to ! " briefly corrected Miss Button. 

Billy Foot cut deeper into the case. " He's 






536 SECOND STRING. 

never imagined before that he could have a chance 
against Harry. He's got the idea now, but it takes 
time to sink in." 

" Harry's out of it anyhow," drawled Gilly. 

" Out of what ? " asked the Nun. 

Billy's nod acknowledged the import of the 
question. Out of reason, out of possibility, out 
of bounds ! Not out of memory, of echo, of the 
mirror of things not to be forgotten. 

"He still thinks he can't compete with Harry," 
she went on, " and he's right as far as this game 
is concerned. But he'll win just by not competing. 
To be utterly different is his chance." With a 
glance round the table, she appealed to their experi- 
ence. " Nobody ever begins by choosing Andy 
well, except Jack Rock perhaps, and that was to 
be a butcher ! But he ends by being indispens- 
able." 

" You all like him," said Amaranth. " And yet 
you all give the impression that's he terribly 
dull ! " Her voice complained of an enigma. 

" Well, don't you know, what would a fellow 
do without him ?" asked Gilly, looking up from 
his patL 

" Gilly has an enormous respect for him. He's 
shamed him into working," Billy explained to his 
wife. 

"That's it, by Jove!" Gilly acknowledged 






TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 537 

sadly. " And the worst of it is, work pays ! 
Pays horribly well ! We're getting rich. I've got 
to go on with it." He winked a leisurely moving 
eyelid at the Nun. " I wish the deuce I'd never 
met the fellow ! " 

" I must admit he points the moral a bit too 
well," Billy confessed " But I'm glad to say we 
have Harry to fall back upon. I met Harry in 
the street the other day, and he was absolutely 
radiant." 

"Who is she ?" asked Sally Button. 

" Not a bit, Sally ! He's just given up Lady 
Lucy. Going straight again, don't you know ? 
Off to the seaside with his wife and kid." 

" How long has Lady Lucy lasted ? " asked 
Gilly. 

The Nun gurgled. " I should like to have that 
set to music," she explained. "The alliteration 
is effective, Gilly, and I would give it a pleasing 
lilt." 

U I don't wish to hear you sing it," said Billy, 
in a voice none too loud. Amaranth was looking 
about the room, and an implied reference to by- 
gones was harmlessly agreeable. 

" With his wife and his kid, to the Bedford at 
Brighton," Billy continued, after his aside. " From 
something he let fall, I gathered that the Freeres 
were going to be at the Norfolk." 



538 SECOND STRING. 

Amaranth did not see the point. " I don't 
know the Freeres," she remarked. 

"We do," said Gilly. "In fact we're in the 
habit of turning them to the uses of allegory, 
Amaranth. I may say that we are coming to 
regard Mrs. Freere as a comparative reformation 
as the irreducible minimum. If only Harry 
wouldn't wander from Freere's wife ! " 

" But the man's got a wife of his own ! " cried 
Amaranth. 

"Yes, but we're dealing with practical possi- 
bilities," Gilly insisted. "And, from that point 
of view, his own wife really doesn't count." 

"And yet Vivien Wellgood !" The Nun 
relapsed into a silence which was meant to express 
bewilderment, though she was not bewildered, 
having too keen a memory of her own achieve- 
ment. 

" Oh, you really understand it better than that, 
Doris," said Billy. " Harry can make it seem a 
tremendous thing while it lasts. Andy's fault is 
that he never makes things seem tremendous. He 
just makes them seem natural. His way is safer ; 
it takes longer, but it lasts longer too. Neither of 
them is the ideal man, you know. Andy wants an 
occasional hour of Harry " 

" Dangerously long ! " the Nun opined. 

" And Harry ought to have seven years' penal 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 539 

servitude of Andy. Then you might achieve the 
perfectly balanced individual." 

"I thing you're perfectly balanced, dear," said 
Amaranth, and thereby threw her husband into 
sorest confusion, and the rest of the company into 
uncontrolled mirth. Moreover the Nun must 
needs add, with her most innocent expression, 
" Just what I've always found him, Amaranth ! " 

" Oh, hang it when I was trying to talk sense ! " 
poor Billy expostulated. 

His bride's remark admirably bridal in character 
choked Billy's philosophising in its hour of birth. 
The trend of the conversation was diverted, the 
picture of the perfectly balanced man never painted. 
Else there might have emerged the interesting and 
agreeable paradox that the perfectly balanced man 
was he who knew when to lose his balance, when 
to kick the scales away for an hour, when to stop 
thinking of anybody except himself, when to sink 
consideration in urgency, pity in desire, affection in 
love. All this, of course, only for an hour and 
in the right company. It must be allowed that the 
perfect balance is a rare phenomenon. 

Isobel Vintry had not sought it ; it is to her 
credit that she refrained from accusing fate because 
she had not found what she did not seek. For- 
giving Harry over the Lady Lucy episode his 
penitence was irresistibly sincere and accepting 



540 SECOND STRING. 

Mrs. Freere as an orderly and ordinary background 
to married life, almost a friend, certainly an ally 
(for Mrs. Freere was now, as ever, a prudent 
woman), she recalled the courage that had made 
her a fit preceptress for Vivien, and Wellgood's 
ideal woman. She saw the trick her heart had 
played her, and knew with Harry himself that 
hearts would always be playing tricks. The 
poacher was made keeper, but the poaching did 
not stop. The thief was robbed, the raider raided. 
All a very pretty piece of poetical justice with the 
unusual characteristic of being quite commonplace, 
an everyday affair, no matter of melodrama, but 
just what constantly happens. 

She and Wellgood had so often agreed that 
Vivien must be trained to face the rubs of life, its 
ups and downs, its rough and smooth; timidity 
and fastidiousness were out of place in a world like 
this. The two had taught the lesson to an unwill- 
ing pupil ; they themselves had now to aspire to 
a greater aptitude in learning it. Wellgood conned 
his lesson ill. The gospel of anti-sentimentality 
fits other people's woes better than a man's own ; 
his seem so real as to defeat the application of the 
doctrine. The first and loudest to proclaim that 
no man or woman is to be trusted, that he who 
does not suspect invites deception and has himself 
to thank if he is duped that is the man who 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 541 

nurses bitterest wrath over the proving of his own 
theories. Aghast at having yourself the honour 
of proving your own theories ! The world does 
funny things with us. To be taken at your word 
like that ; really to find people about you as bad 
as you have declared humanity at large to be ; to 
stumble and break your knees over a justification 
of your cynicism it would seem a thing that 
should meet with acquiescence, perhaps even with 
a sombre satisfaction. Yet it does not happen so. 
The optimist fares better ; he falls from a higher 
chair but on to a thicker carpet ; and he himself is 
far more elastic. " With what measure you mete, 
it shall be measured to you again." Hard measure 
for hard people seems to fulfil the saying, and is 
not a just occasion for grumbling even for inter- 
nal grumbling, which is the hard man's only 
resource, since he has accustomed sympathy and 
confidence to hide their faces from his ridicule, and 
their tender hands to shrink from the grip of his 
contempt. 

Isobel Belfield possessed just what Isobel Vintry 
had stolen. Neither Church nor State, no, nor the 
more primitive sanction of the birth of a son, availed 
to give a higher validity to her title. In rebuking 
inconstancy she was out of court ; she was estopped, 
as the lawyers call it. How could she refuse to 
forgive the thing which alone gave her the right 



542 SECOND STRING. 

to be aggrieved ? Her possession was tainted 
in its origin. Or was she to arrogate to herself 
the privilege of being the only thief? Harry 
Belfield confessed new crimes to an old accomplice ; 
severity would have merited a smile. Stolen kisses 
acknowledged recalled stolen kisses that had been 
a secret. Condemned by the tribunal of the 
present, Harry's offences appealed to the past. 
" See yourself as Vivien see her (Lady Lucy, 
Mrs. Freere, or another) as yourself ! " Harry's 
deprecatory smile seemed to threaten some such 
disarming suggestion. Church and State and the 
little boy might say, " There's all the difference ! " 
Neither State nor Church nor little boy could 
deafen the echo of Wellgood's denunciation or 
blur the image of Vivien's stricken face. They 
were a pair of thieves ; the court of conscience 
would not listen to her plea if she complained of 
an unfair division of the plunder. Hands held up 
in petition for justice must be clean an old doctrine 
of equity ; an account will not be taken between 
two highwaymen on Hounslow Heath. 

Origins are obstinate, leaving marks whatever 
variations time may bring. She had begun as one 
of two and not the legitimate one. She was to 
be one of two always, so it appeared, through all 
the years until the Nun's pitiless vision worked 
itself out, and even Harry Belfield ceased to suffer 






TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 543 

new passions or, at least, to inspire them ; perhaps 
the latter ending of the matter was the more likely. 

He did nothing else than suffer passions and 
inspire them ; that was the hardest rub. Where 
was the brilliant career ? Where the great success 
of which Vivien had been wont to talk shyly ? 
Isobel was a woman of hard mettle, of high ambi- 
tion. She could have endured to be official queen, 
though queens unofficial came and went. But 
there was to be no kingdom ! There was abdica- 
tion of all realms save Harry's own. He grew 
more and more contented to specialise there. 
Irregularity in private conduct is partially condoned 
in useful men ; as a discreetly hidden diversion, 
it is left to another jurisdiction deorum injuriae dis 
curae but as the occupation of a life ? The widest 
stretch of philosophic contemplation of the whole 
is demanded to excuse or to justify. 

He made a strange thing of her life a restless, 
unpeaceful, interesting, and unhappy thing. The 
old idea of reigning at Nutley, of skilfully manag- 
ing stubborn Wellgood, of the seeming submission 
that was really rule (perhaps woman's commonest 
conception of triumph), did not serve the turn 
of this life* It was stranger work living with 
Harry ! Being so well treated and so well 
deceived I So courted and so flouted I The 
change was violent from the days when Vivien's 



544 SECOND STRING. 

companion stole kisses that belonged to her un- 
suspecting charge. A pretty irony to find her- 
self on the defensive ! A prettier, perhaps, to 
see her best resource in an alliance with Mrs. 
Freere ! But it came to that. Never in words, 
of course tacitly, in lifted brows and shoulders 
shrugged. So long as there was nobody except 
Mrs. Freere so long as there was nobody besides 
his wife things were not very wrong for the allies. 
A sense of security regained, precariously regained 
a current of silent but mutual congratulations 
ran between the Bedford and the Norfolk hotels at 
Brighton when Lady Lucy had received her conge. 
Harry's degrees of penitence and of confession 
at the two houses of entertainment must remain 
uncertain ; at both he was no doubt possessed by 
the determination to lead a new life ; he had been 
possessed by that when first he heard the potent 
voice calling him to Meriton. 

Harry Belfield the admired Harry of so many 
hopes was in process of becoming a joke ! It 
was the worst fate of all ; yet what other refuge 
had the despair of his friends ? Even to condemn 
with gravity was difficult ; gravity seemed to 
accuse its wearer of making too much of the 
ridiculous which was to be ridiculous himself. 
In old days they had laughed at Harry's love 
affairs as at his foible ; he seemed all foible now 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 545 

there was nothing else. His life and its possibilities 
had narrowed and dwindled down to that. Billy 
Foot had tried to be serious on the subject. What 
was the use, when there was only one question 
to be asked about him who was the latest woman ? 
An atmosphere of ridicule, kindly, tender, infinitely 
regretful, yet still ridicule, enveloped the figure 
of him who once had been a hero. This was a 
different quality of jest from that which found its 
occasion in Andy Hayes' patient wooing. Andy 
could afford to be patient ; once again his opponent 
was doing his work for him. 

Spring saw the Nun installed in a hired house 
of her own at Meriton, Seymour being kept busy 
conveying her to and fro between her new home 
and London, as and when the claims of her 
profession called her. But Sunday was always 
marked by a gathering of friends the Foots if 
they were at Halton, Andy, Vivien Wellgood from 
Nutley; often Belfield would drop in to see the 
younger folk. Jack Rock had his audiences to 
himself, for he sturdily refused to intrude on his 
" betters " aye, even though his sign was down, 
though the National, Colonial, and International 
Purveyors reigned in his stead, though the Member 
for the Division occupied rooms in his house. 
To Jack life seemed to have done two wonderful 

things for him one was the rise and triumph of 

18 



546 SECOND STRING. 

Andy ; the other was his friendship with Miss 
Doris Flower. He was, in fact, hopelessly in love 
with that young lady ; the Nun was quite aware 
of it and returned his affection heartily. Jack 
delighted to sit with her, to look and listen, and 
sometimes to talk of Andy of all that he had 
done, of all that he was going to do. Jack's 
hard-working, honest, and, it may be added, astute 
life was crowned by a very gracious evening. 

The Nun's new home stood in High Street^ 
with a pretty little front garden, where she loved 
to sit and survey the doings of the town, even 
as had been her wont from her window at the 
Lion. Here she was one morning, and Jack Rock 
with her. She lay stretched on a long chair, with 
her tiny feet protruding from her white frock, her 
hair gleaming in the sun, her eyes looking at Jack 
with a merry affection. 

" You do make a picture, miss ; you fair do 
make a picture 1 " said Jack. 

"Don't flirt, Jack," said the Nun in grave 
rebuke. "You ought to know by now that I 
don't go in for flirtation, and I can't let even you 
break the rules. Though I confess at once that 
you tempt me very much, because you do it so 
nicely. It's funny, Jack, that both you and I 
should have chosen the single life, isn't it ? " 

Jack shook his head reproachfully. "Ah, miss. 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 547 

that's where you're wrong ! I'm not sayin' any- 
thin' against Miss Vivien she's a sweet young 
lady." ' 

" What has Vivien got to do with single lives ? " 

" Well, miss, no offence, I hope ? But if it 
had been so as you'd laid yourself out so to 
speak for Andy." 

The Nun blushed just a little, and laughed just 
a little also. " Oh, that's your idea, Jack ? You 
are a schemer ! " 

" I've got nothin' to say against Miss Vivien. 
But I wish it had been you, miss," Jack persisted. 

" Oh, Jack, wouldn't you have been jealous ? 
Do say you'd have been jealous 1 " 

" Keepin' him waitin' too the way she does ! " 
Jack's voice grew rather indignant. " It don't 
look to me as if she put a proper value on him, 



miss." 






" Perhaps you're just a little bit partial to 
Andy ? " the Nun suggested. 

"And not a proper value on herself either, if 
she's still hankerin' after Mr. Harry. Him as 
is after half the women in London, if you can 
trust all you hear." 

The Nun's face was towards the street, Jack's 
back towards it. The garden gate was open. 

" Hush ! " said the Nun softly. " Here comes 
Vivien ! " 



54 8 SECOND STRING. 

Poor old Jack was no diplomatist. He sprang 
to his feet, red as a turkey cock, and turned round 
to find Vivien at his elbow. 

" I I beg your pardon, miss," he stammered, 
rushing at the conclusion that she had over- 
heard. 

Vivien looked at him in amused surprise. " But 
what's the matter, Mr. Rock ? Why, I believe 
you must have been talking about me ! " She 
looked at the Nun. "Was he?" she asked 
merrily. 

" I don't know that it's much good trying to 
deny it, is it, Jack ? " 

Jack was terribly ashamed of himself. " It 
wasn't my place to do it. I beg your pardon, 
miss." He stooped and picked up his hat, which 
he had taken off and laid on the ground by him. 
" Miss Flower's too kind to me, miss. She makes 
me forget my place and my manners." 

Vivien held out her hand to him ; she was grave 
now. " But we're all so fond of you, Mr. Rock. 
And I'm sure you weren't saying anything unkind 
about me. Was he, Doris ? " 

Jack took her hand. " It wasn't my place to do 
it. I ask your pardon." Then he turned to the 
Nun. cc You'll excuse me, miss ? " 

The Nun smiled radiantly at him. " I hate 
your going, Jack. Perhaps you'd better, though. 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 549 

Only don't be unhappy. There's no harm done, 
you know." 

Jack shook his head again sadly, then put his 
hat on it with a rueful air. He regarded Vivien 
for a moment with a ponderous sorrow, lifted his 
hat again, shook his head again, and walked out 
of the garden. The Nun gave a short gurgle, 
and then regained a serene and silent composure. 
It. was most certainly a case for allowing the other 
side to take first innings ! Vivien sat down in the 
seat that Jack had vacated in such sad confusion. 

"It was about Harry?" she asked slowly. 
" You all hear and know ! I hear nothing, I 
know nothing. Nobody mentions him to me. 
Not Andy, not my father any more. Mr. 
Belfield said a word or two once not happy 
words. Except for that well, he might be dead ! 
1 don't see the use of treating me like that. I 
think I've a right to know." 

"What Jack said was more about you really. 
There's no fresh news about Harry." 

While saying these words, the Nun allowed her 
look at Vivien to be very direct. "You must 
accept that as final " the look seemed to say. 

" Lots of men, good men, make a mistake, one 
mistake, about things like that. He'll be all 
right now with his boy." 

" He's had a love affair, repented of it and 



550 SECOND STRING. 

probably started another since that event. The 
child, if I remember, is about five months old." 
Still with her gaze direct, the Nun laughed. 
Vivien flushed. "There's no other way to take 
it," the Nun assured her. 

Vivien spoke low ; her cheeks red, her eyes 
dim. " I gave him all my heart, oh, so readily 
and such trust ! Doris, did he ever make love to 
you?" 

"As a general rule I don't tell tales. In this 
case I feel free to say that he did." 

Vivien's smile was woeful. " What, he wanted 
to marry you too once ? " 

" Oh no, he never wanted to marry me, Vivien." 
It was drastic treatment and the doctor paid 
for it as well as the patient. 

" But you went on being friends with him ! " 
" I became friends with him again presently," 
the Nun corrected. "I suppose I don't come 
well out of it, according to your views. I know 
the difference there is between us in that way. 
Look at your life and mine ! That's bound to 
make a difference. Besides, it would have been 
taking him much too seriously." 

" I think you're rather hard, Doris." 

" Thank God, I am, my dear ! I need it." 

" It's a terrible thing to make the mistake I did." 

" It's worse to go on with it." 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 551 

" I should have liked to go on with it. I feel 
as people must who've lost their religion." 

"Is that so sad, if the religion is proved not to 
be true?" 

"Yes, terribly sad/' Vivien's back was to the 
street. She wept silently ; none saw her tears 
save Doris. "I thought I had lost everything. 
It's worse to find that you never had anything, and 
have lost nothing." 

"It's good to find that out, when it's true," 
Doris persisted stoutly. "But I hope he won't 
happen on any more girls like you. With the 
proper people his Mrs. Freeres and Lady Lucies 
the thing's a farce. That's all right ! " 

Her bitter ridicule pierced the armour of Vivien's 
recollection. With the proper people it was all a 
farce. She had taken it as a tragedy. Her tears 
ceased to flow, but her colour came hot again. 

" I don't know anything about those women I 
never heard their names but he seems to have 
insulted me almost as much as he insulted you." 

The Nun was relentless. "In both cases he 
considered, and still considers, that he paid a very 
high compliment. And he'll find lots of women 
to agree with him." 

" Doris, be kind to me. I've nobody else ! " 

" The Lord forgive you for saying so ! You've 
the luck of one girl in ten thousand." Now the 



552 SECOND STRING. 

Nun's colour grew a little hot ; she raised herself 
on her elbow. " Here are your two men. One's 
going to lead a big life, while the other's chasing 
petticoats ! " 

"You think the world of Andy, don't you, 
Doris?" 

" I'd think the universe of him if he'd give you 
a shaking." 

Vivien smiled, rose, came to the Nun, and 
kissed her. The Nun's lips quivered. " He's 
coming down at the end of the week," said Vivien. 
Her voice fell to a whisper. " He's not quite so 
patient as you think." With another kiss she was 
swiftly gone. 

The Nun sat on, gazing at Meriton High 
Street. Sally Dutton came out of the house and 
regarded the same prospect with an air of criticism 
or even of disfavour. 

" I think it's all coming right about Vivien and 
Andy," the Nun remarked. 

Sally turned her critical eyes on her friend. 
" Have you been helping ?" 

"Just a little bit perhaps, Sally." She paused 
a moment. "I shall be rather glad to have it 
settled." 

The motor-car drew up at the door. 

"You'll not have more than enough time for 
lunch before your matinee, Miss Flower," Seymour 



TALES OUT OF SCHOOL. 553 

observed, with his usual indifferent air. Not his 
business whether she were in time, but he might 
as well mention the matter ! 

" My hat and cloak ! " cried the Nun, springing 
up. She took Sally's arm and ran her into the 
house with her. " Hurrah for work, Sally ! " 

Suddenly Sally threw her arms round her 
friend's neck and exclaimed, with something very 
like a sob, " Oh, my darling, if only you could 
have everything you want ! " 

The Nun's lips quivered again ; her bright eyes 
were a little dim. " But, Sally dear, I never fall 
in love ! " 

Miss Button relapsed, with equal abruptness, 
into her habitual demeanour. 

"Well, he's a man and a fool like all the rest 
of them ! " she remarked. 

The Nun gurgled. A record was saved at the 
last moment. Because she did not cry any more 
than she fell in love. 

The Nun came out, equipped for the journey. 
She was smiling still. "Do I look all right, 
Seymour?" 

"At the best of your looks, if I may say so, 
Miss Flower." 

" Thank you very much, Seymour. Get in with 
you, Sally ! You are a slow girl, always ! " 

She pressed Sally's hand as the car started. 



554 SECOND STRING. 

c< Much better like this, really. I have always 
Seymour's admiration." 

His name caught Seymour's ear. " I beg your 
pardon, Miss Flower?" 

"I only said you were an admirable driver, 
Seymour." 

" Naturally I drive carefully when you're in the 
car, Miss Flower." 

" There ! " said the Nun triumphantly. " I told 
you so, Sally!" 



Chapter XXVII. 
NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 

ANDY HAYES' dtbut in the House of 
* Commons was not, of course, sensational ; 
very tew members witnessed it, and nobody out- 
side took the smallest heed of it. Moreover, like 
other beginnings of his, it was unpremeditated, in 
a manner forced upon him. He had not intended 
to speak that afternoon, or indeed at all in his 
first session, but in Committee one day an honour- 
able gentleman opposite went so glaringly astray 
as to the prices ruling for bacon in Wiltshire in 
the year nineteen hundred and something which 
Andy considered a salient epoch in the chequered 
history of his pet commodity that he was on his 
feet before he knew what he was doing, and set 
the matter right, adding illustrative figures for the 
year before and the year after, with a modestly 
worded forecast of the run of prices for the current 
year. Engrossed in the subject, he remembered 
that the House was a formidable place only after 



556 SECOND STRING. 

he had sat down ; then he hurried home to his 
books, found that his figures were correct, and 
heaved a sigh of satisfaction. It was no small 
thing to get his maiden speech made without 
meaning to make it and to find the figures correct ! 
He attempted nothing more that session. He 
only listened. But how he listened ! A man 
might talk the greatest nonsense, yet Andy's steady 
eyes would be on him, and Andy's big head un- 
tiringly poised at attention. What was the use of 
listening to so much nonsense? Well, first you 
had to be sure it was nonsense ; then to see why 
it was nonsense ; thirdly, to see how, being non- 
sense, it was received; fourthly, to revolve how 
it should be exposed. There were even other 
things that Andy found to ponder over in all the 
nonsense to which he listened and many more, of 
course, in the sense. 

But even Andy took a holiday from public 
affairs sometimes, nay more, sometimes from the 
fortunes of Gilbert Foot and Co. He was in the 
office this morning the Saturday before Whit- 
sunday finishing up some odd jobs which his 
partner had left to him (Gilly had still a trick of 
doing that), but his thoughts were on Meriton, 
whither he was to repair in the afternoon. As he 
mused on Meriton, he slowly shook the big head, 
thereby indicating not despair or even despondency, 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 



557 



but a recognition that he was engaged on rather a 
difficult job, perhaps on a game that he was not 
very good at, but which had to be won all the 
same. This particular game certainly had to be 
won ; his whole heart was in it. Yet now he was 
accusing himself of a mistake ; he had been im- 
patient impatient that Vivien should still be less 
than happy, that she should still dwell in gloom 
with gloomy Wellgood, that she would not yet 
come into the sunshine. Well, he would put the 
mistake right that very day, for Vivien was to 
lunch with him, attended by the Nun, with whom 
she had been spending a night or two in town ; 
and then the three of them were to go to Meriton 
in the motor-car together. The Nun was not 
singing at this time. 

" I must go slow," concluded Andy, whose 
friends were already smiling at the deliberate gait 
with which he trod the path of love. " Hullo, 
there's an hour before lunch ! I may as well 
finish some of these accounts for Gilly." 

This satisfaction he was not destined to enjoy. 
He was interrupted by a visitor. 

Harry Belfield came in, really a vision to gladden 
an artist's eyes, in a summer suit of palest home- 
spun he affected that material with his usual blue 
tie unusually bright shirt and socks to match ; 
a dazzlingly white panama hat crowned his wavy 






558 SECOND STRING. 

dark locks. He looked immensely handsome, 
and he was gay, happy, and affectionate. 

"Thought I might just find you, old chap, 
because you're always mugging when everybody 
else is having a holiday. Look here, I want you 
to do something for me, or rather for Isobel. 
I'm off yachting for three or four months rather 
a jolly party and Isobel's going to take a house 
in the country for herself and the boy. She 
doesn't know much about that sort of business, 
and I wanted to ask you to let her consult you 
about the terms, and so on, to see she's not 
done, you know. That'll be all right, won't it? 
Because I really haven't time to look after it." 

" Of course. Anything I can do please tell 
her. She's not going with you ? " 

" No," said Harry, putting his foot on the table 
and regarding it fondly, as he had at a previous 
interview in Andy's office. " No, not this trip, 
Andy. She doesn't care much for the sea." The 
slightest smile flickered on his lips. "Besides, 
it's c Men only ' on board." The smile broadened 
a little. " At least we're going to start that way, 
and they're taking me a respectable married man 
along with them to help them to keep their 
good resolutions. Well, old boy, how do you 
like it in the House ? I haven't observed many 
orations put down to you ! " 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 559 

" I've only spoken once hardly a speech. But 
I'm working pretty well at it." 

" I'll bet you are ! And at it here too, I 
suppose ? Lazy beggar, Gilly Foot ! " 

" Gilly's woken up wonderfully. You'd hardly 
know him." 

Harry yawned. " Well, I'm wanting a rest," he 
said. " I've had one or two worries lately. Oh, 
it's all over now, but I shall be glad to get away 
for a bit. By Jove, Andy, the great thing in 
life is to be able to go where you like, and when 
you like " his smile flashed out again " and 
with whom you like, isn't it ? Are you off any- 
where for Whitsuntide ? " 

" Only down to Meriton. 

" Quiet ! " But Harry had not always found 
it so ; it was the quieter for his absence. 

" I like being there better than anywhere else," 
was Andy's simple explanation of his movements. 

A clerk came in and handed him a card. " I 
told the lady you had somebody with you, and 
asked her to take a seat in the outer room for 
a moment." 

Andy read the card. "I'll ring," he said 
absently, and looked across at Harry. 

" Lady ? Eminent authoress ? Or is this not 
business ? Have her in don't hide her, Andy ! " 

" It's Vivien Wellgood." 



560 SECOND STRING. 

Harry turned his head sharply. " What brings 
her here ? " 

" I don't know. I was to meet her and Doris 
Flower for lunch, and go down with them to 
Meriton afterwards. Perhaps something's hap- 
pened to stop it, and she's come to tell me." 

A curious smile adorned Harry's handsome 
features. He looked doubtful, yet decidedly 
interested. 

"I'd better go out and see her," said Andy. 
" I mustn't keep her waiting." 

Harry broke into a laugh, half of amusement, 
half of impatience. " You needn't look so in- 
fernally solemn over it ! It won't kill her to 
bow to me or even to shake hands." 

Andy came to a sudden resolution. Since chance 
willed it this way, this way it should be. 

" As you please ! " he said, and rang the bell. 

Harry rose to his feet, and took off the panama 
hat, which he had kept on during his talk with 
Andy. His eyes were bright ; the smile flickered 
again on his lips. He had not seen Vivien since 
that night and that night seemed a very long way 
off to Harry Belfield. 

In the brief space before the door reopened, 
a vision danced before Andy's eyes a vision of 
Curly the retriever, and of a girl standing motion- 
less in fear, and yet, because he was there, not 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 561 

so much afraid. In his mind was the idea which 
had suddenly taken shape under the impulsion 
of chance that she had better face the present 
than dream of the past, better see the man who 
was nothing to her, than pore over the memory 
of him who had been everything. She might 
nay, probably would resent an encounter thus 
sprung upon her. Andy knew it ; in this moment, 
with the choice suddenly presented, he chose to 
act for himself. Perhaps, for once in his life, he 
yielded to a sort of superstition, a feeling that 
the chance was not for nothing, that they three 
would not meet together again without result. 
Mingled with this was anger that Harry should 
take the encounter with his airy lightness, that 
his eyes should be bright and his lips bent in 
a smile. Andy was ready for the last round of 
the fight and ready to take his chance. Suddenly 
under the pressure of his thoughts perforce, as 
it were he spoke out to Harry. 

" None of this has been of my seeking," he said. 

" None of what ? What do you mean, old 
fellow?" 

There was no time for answer. Vivien was in 
the room, and the clerk closed the door after she 
had entered. 

She stood for a moment on the threshold and 
then moved quickly to Andy's side. 



562 SECOND STRING. 

" I knew/' she said. " I heard your voices." 

" I'm just going," said Harry. " I won't in- 
terrupt you. I had a hope that you wouldn't 
mind just shaking hands with an old friend. I 
should like it awfully ! " His smile now was 
pleading, propitiatory, yet with the lurking hint 
that there was sentimental interest in the situation ; 
possibly, though he could not be convicted of this 
idea it was too elusively suggested that there 
was, after all, a dash of the amusing. 

She paused long on her answer. At last she 
spoke quietly, in a friendly voice. "Yes, I'll 
shake hands with you, Harry. Because it's all 
over." She smiled faintly. " I'll shake hands 
with you if Andy will let me." 

"If Andy ?" 

" Yes ; because my hand belongs to him now. 
I came here to tell him so this morning." She 
passed her left arm through Andy's and held out 
her right hand towards Harry. Her lips quivered 
as she looked up for a moment at Andy's face. 
He patted her hand gently, but his eyes were set 
on Harry Belfield. 

The hand she offered Harry did not take. He 
stretched out his for his hat, and picked it up from 
the table in a shaking grip. The smile had gone 
from his lips ; his eyes were heavy and resentful ; 
he found no more eloquent, appropriate words. 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 563 

" Oh, so that's it ? " he said with a sullen sneer. 

" It's none of it been of my seeking," Andy 
protested again. In this last moment of the fight 
the old feeling came strong upon him. He pleaded 
that he had been loyal to Harry, that he was no 
usurper ; it had never been in his mind. 

Harry stood in silence, fingering his hat. He 
cast a glance across at them where they stood 
opposite to him, side by side, her arm in Andy's. 
Very fresh across his memory struck the look on 
her face the trustful happiness which had followed 
on the tremulous joy evoked by his wonderful 
words. It was not his nor for him any more, that 
look. He hated that it should be Andy's. He 
gave the old impatient protesting shrug of his 
shoulders. What other comment was there to 
make ? He was what he was and these things 
happened ! The Restless Master plays these dis- 
concerting tricks on his devoted servants. 

" Well, good-bye," he mumbled. 

" Good-bye, Harry," said both, she in her clear 
soft voice, Andy in his weightier note, both with a 
grave pity which recognised, even as did his shrug 
of the shoulders, that there was no more to be said. 
It was just good-bye, just a parting of the ways, a 
severing of lives. Even good wishes would have 
seemed a mockery ; from neither side were they 
offered. 



564 SECOND STRING. 

With one more look, another slightest shrug, 
Harry Belfield turned his back on them. They 
stood without moving till the door closed behind 
him. 

He was gone. Andy gave a deep sigh and 
dropped into the arm-chair by his office desk. 
Vivien bent over him, her hand on his shoulder. 

" Why did you let me meet him, Andy ? " ; 

Andy was long in answering. He was revolving 
the processes of his own mind, the impulse under 
which he had acted, why he had exposed her to 
such an ordeal as had once been in the day's work 
at Nutley. 

" It was a chance, your coming while he was 
here, we three being here together. But since it 
happened like that " he raised his eyes to hers 
"well, I just thought that neither of us ought to 
funk him." The utterance seemed a simple result 
of so much cogitation. 

But Vivien laughed softly as she daintily and 
daringly laid her hand on Andy's big head. 

" If I c funked him ' still, I shouldn't have come 
at all," she said. "I think I'm just getting to 
know something about you, Andy. You're like 
some big thing in a dim light ; one only sees you 
very gradually. I used to think of you as fetching 
and carrying, you know." 

Andy chuckled contentedly. "You thought 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 565 

about right," he said. "That's what I'm always 
doing, just what I'm fit for. I shall go on 
doing it all my life, fetching and carrying for 
you." 

" Not only for me, I think. For everybody ; 
perhaps even for the nation for the world, 
Andy ! " 

He caught the little hand that was playing over 
his broad brow. " For you first. As for the rest 
of it ! " He broke into a laugh. " I say, Vivien, 
the first time I saw you I was following the hounds 
on foot ! That's all I can do. The hunt gets out 
of sight, but sometimes you can tell where it's 
going. That's about my form. Now if I was a 
clever chap like Harry ! " 

With a laugh that was half a sob she kissed his 
upturned face. " Keep me safe, keep me safe, 
Andy I " she whispered. 

Andy slowly rose to his feet, and, turning, faced 
her. He took her hands in his. " By Jove, you 
kissed me ! You kissed me, Vivien ! " 

She laughed merrily. " Well, of course I did ! 
Isn't it usual ? " 

Andy smiled. " If things like that are going to 
be usual well, life's looking a bit different 1 " he 
said. 

Suddenly there were wild sounds in the outer 
office a door slammed, a furious sweet voice, a 



566 SECOND STRING. 

swish of skirts. The door of the inner office flew 
open. 

" What about lunch ? " demanded the Nun 
accusingly. 

" I'd forgotten it ! " Vivien exclaimed. 

<c So had I, but I'm awfully hungry, now I 
come to think of it," said Andy. " The usual 
place?" 

" No," said the Nun. " Somewhere else. 
Harry's there lunching alone ! The first time 
I ever saw him do that ! " She looked at the pair 
of them. Her remark seemed not to make the 
least impression. It did not matter where or how 
Harry Belfield lunched. She looked again from 
Vivien to Andy, from Andy to Vivien. 

"Oh!" she said. 

"Yes, Doris," said Vivien meekly. 

The Nun addressed Andy severely. " Mrs. 
Belfield will consider that you're marrying above 
your station, Andy." 

Andy scratched his big head. " Yes, Doris, and 
she'll be quite right," he said apologetically. " Of 
course she will ! But a fellow can only well, take 
things as they come." He broke into his hearty 
laugh. " What'll old Jack say ? " 

The Nun knew what old Jack would say very 
privately. " I wish it had been you, miss ! " But 
she had no envy in her heart. 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 567 

" For people who do fall in love, it must be 
rather pleasant," she observed. 

" The worst of it is, I've got so little time," said 
Andy. 

The two girls laughed. " I only want you to 
have time to be in love with one girl," Vivien 
explained reassuringly. 

"And, perhaps, just friends with another," the 
Nun added. 

Andy joined in the laughter. "I shall fit those 
two things in all right ! " he declared. 

The afternoon saw them back at Meriton ; it 
was there that Andy Hayes truly tasted the flavour 
of his good fortune. There the winning of Vivien 
seemed no isolated achievement, not a bit of luck 
standing by itself, but the master-knot among the 
many ties that now bound him to his home. The 
old bonds held ; the new came. In the greetings 
of friends of every degree from Chinks, the Bird, 
and Miss Miles, up to the great Lord Meriton 
himself in Wellgood's hard and curt, yet ready 
and in truth triumphant, endorsement of an arrange- 
ment that banned the very thought of the man he 
hated, in old Jack's satisfaction in the vision of 
Andy in due time reigning at Nutley itself (his bit 
of sentiment about the Nun was almost swallowed 
up in this) most of all perhaps in Belfield's cordial 
yet sad acceptance of his son's supplanter he found 



568 SECOND STRING. 

the completion of the first stage of his life's journey 
and the definition of its future course and of its 
goal. His face was set towards his destination ; 
the love and confidence of the friends of a lifetime 
accompanied, cheered, and aided his steady pro- 
gress. No high thoughts were in his mind. To 
find time for the work of the day, his own and 
what other people were always so ready to leave 
to him, and to move on a little that was his task, 
that bounded his ambition. Anything else that 
came was, as he had said to Harry Belfield, not of 
his seeking and never ceased rather to surprise 
him, to be received by him with the touch of 
simple wonder, which made men smile at him even 
while they admired and followed, which made 
women laugh, and in a sense pity, while they 
trusted and loved. He saw the smiles and 
laughter, and thought them natural. Slowly he 
came to rely on the love and trust, and in the 
strength of them found his own strength growing, 
his confidence gradually maturing. 

" With you beside me, and all the dear old set 
round me, and Meriton behind me, I ought to be 
able to get through,'* he said to Vivien as they 
walked together in the wood at Nutley before dinner. 

She stopped by a bench, rudely fashioned out of 
a tree trunk. " Lend me your knife, Andy, please." 

He gave it to her, and stood watching while she 



NOT OF HIS SEEKING. 569 

stooped and scratched with the knife on the side 
of the bench. Certain initials were scratched out. 

"What's that ?" he asked, pointing to the spot 
where they had been. 

" Only a memorandum of something I don't 
want to remember any more," she answered. She 
came back to him, blushing a little, smiling, yet 
with tears in her eyes. "Yes, Meriton, and the 
old friends, and I we're all with you now all of 
us with all our hearts now, dear Andy ! " 

Andy made his last protest. " I'd have been 
loyal to him all my life, if he'd have let me ! " 

" I know it. And so would I. But he wouldn't 
let us." She took his arm as they turned away 
from the bench. "The sorrow must be in our 
hearts always, I think. But now it's sorrow for 
him, not for ourselves, Andy." 

In the hour of his own triumph, because of the 
greatness of his own joy, tenderness for his friend 
revived. 

" Dear old chap ! How handsome he looked 
to-day ! " 

Vivien pressed his arm. " You can say that as often 
as you like ! There's no danger from him now ! " 

The shadow passed from Andy Hayes' face as 
he turned to his own great joy. 

THE END. 



Notes on 
Nelson's New Novels, 



No work of unwholesome character or 

of second-rate quality will be 

included in this Series. 



The novel is to-day the popular form of literary art. 
This is proved by the number of novels published, 
and by the enormous sales of fiction at popular prices. 

While Reprints of fiction may be purchased for a 
few pence, New Fiction is still a luxury. 

The author of a New Novel loses his larger audience, 
the public are denied the privilege of enjoying his 
latest work, because of the prohibitive price of 45. 6d. 
demanded for the ordinary " six shilling " novel. 

In another way both author and public are badly 
served under the present publishing system. At cer- 
tain seasons a flood of new novels pours from the press. 
Selection becomes almost impossible. The good novels 
are lost among the indifferent and the bad. Good 
service can be done to literature not only by reducing 
the price of fiction, but by sifting its quality. 

The number of publishers issuing new fiction is so 
great, that the entrance of another firm into the field 
demands almost an apology at least, a word of ex- 
planation. 

Messrs. Nelson have been pioneers in the issue of 
reprints of fiction in Library Edition at Sevenpence. 



Notes on Nelson's New Novels. 

The success of Nelson's Library has been due to the 
careful selection of books, regular publication through- 
out the whole year, and excellence of manufacture at a 
low cost, due to perfection of machinery. 

Nelson's Sevenpenny Library represents the best that 
can be given to the public in the way of Reprints under 
present manufacturing conditions. 

Nelson's New Novels (of which this book is one of 
the first volumes) represents the same standard of careful 
selection, excellence of production, and lowest possible 
price applied to New Fiction. 

The list of authors of Nelson's New Novels for 1910 
includes Anthony Hope, E. F. Benson, H. A. Vachell, 
H. G. Wells, " Q," G. A. Birmingham, John Masefield,' 
Mrs. W. K. Clifford, J. C. Snaith, John Buchan, and 
Agnes and Egerton Castle. Arrangements for subse- 
quent volumes have been made with other authors of 
equally high standing. 

Nelson's New Novels are of the ordinary " six shilling " 
size, but are produced with greater care than most of 
their competitors. They are printed in large, clear 
type, on a fine white paper. They are strongly bound 
in green cloth with a white and gold design. They are 
decorated with a pretty end-paper * and a coloured 
frontispiece. All the volumes are issued in bright 
wrappers. The books are a happy combination of 
substantial and artistic qualities. 
A new volume is issued regularly every month. 
The price is the very lowest at which a large New 
Novel with good material and workmanship, and with 
an adequate return to author, bookseller, and pub- 
lisher, can be offered to the public at the present time. 



^Descriptive Notes 
on the Volumes for 1910: - 

FORTUNE. /. C. Snaith. 

Mr. J. C. Snaith is already known to fame by his 
historical novels, his admirable cricketing story, his 
essay in Meredithan subtlety " Brooke of Covenden,^ 
and his most successful Victorian comedy " Araminta." 
In his new novel he breaks ground which has never be- 
fore been touched by an English novelist. He follows 
no less a leader than Cervantes. His hero, Sir Richard 
Pendragon, is Sir John Falstaff grown athletic and 
courageous, with his imagination fired by much ad- 
venture in far countries and some converse with the 
knight of La Mancha. The doings of this monstrous 
Englishman are narrated by a young and scandalized 
Spanish squire, full of all the pedantry of chivalry. Sir 
Richard is a new type in literature the Rabelaisian 
Paladin, whose foes flee not only from his sword but 
from his Gargantuan laughter. In Mr. Snaith's ro- 
mance there are many delightful characters a Spanish 
lady who dictates to armies, a French prince of the 
blood who has forsaken his birthright for the highroad. 
But all are dominated by the immense Sir Richard, 
who rights wrongs like an unruly Providence, and then 
rides away. 

THE HISTORY OF MR. POLLY. H. G. Wells. 

If the true aim of romance is to find beauty and 
laughter and heroism in odd places, then Mr. Wells is 
a great romantic. His heroes are not knights and ad- 
venturers, not even members of the quasi-romantic 
professions, but the ordinary small tradesmen, whom 
the world has hitherto neglected. The hero of the new 
book, Mr. Alfred Polly, is of the same school, but he 



Notes on Nelson s New Novels. 



is nearer Hoopdriver than Kipps. He is in the last 
resort the master of his fate, and squares himself de- 
fiantly against the Destinies. Unlike the others, he 
has a literary sense, and has a strange fantastic culture 
of his own; Mr. Wells has never written anything 
more human or more truly humorous than the adven- 
tures of Mr. Polly as haberdasher's apprentice, haber- 
dasher, incendiary, and tramp. Mr. Polly discovers 
the great truth that, however black things may be, 
there is always a way out for a man if he is bold enough 
to take it, even though that way leads through fire and 
revolution. The last part of the book, where the hero 
discovers his courage, is a kind of saga. We leave him 
in the end at peace with his own soul, wondering dimly 
about the hereafter, having proved his manhood, and 
found his niche in life. 

DAISY'S AUNT. E. F. Benson. 

It is Mr. Benson's chief merit that, without losing the 
lightness of touch which makes good comedy, he keeps 
a firm hold upon the graver matters which make good 
fiction. The present book is a tale of conspiracy 
the plot of a beautiful woman to save her young niece 
from a man whom she regards as a blackguard. None 
of Mr. Benson's women are more attractive than these 
two, who fight for long at cross-purposes, and end, as 
all honest natures must, with a truer understanding. 

THE OTHER SIDE. PI. A. Vachell. 

In this remarkable book Mr. Vachell leaves the beaten 
highway of romance, and grapples with the deepest 
problems of human personality and the unseen. It is 
a story of a musical genius, in whose soul worldliness 
conquers spirituality. When he is at the height of his 
apparent success, there comes an accident, and for a 
little soul and body seem to separate. On his return 
to ordinary life he sees the world with other eyes, 
but his clearness of vision has come too late to save his 
art. He pays for his earlier folly in artistic impotence. 
The book is a profound moral allegory, and none the 
less a brilliant romance. 



Notes on Nelsons New Novels. 

SIR GEORGE'S OBJECTION. Mrs. W. K. Clifford. 

Mrs. Clifford raises the old problem of heredity, and 
gives it a very modern and scientific answer. It is the 
story of a woman who, after her husband's disgrace 
and death, settles with her only daughter upon the shore 
of one of the Italian lakes. The girl grows up in 
ignorance of her family history, but when the in- 
evitable young man appears complications begin. As 
it happens, Sir George, the father of the lover, holds 
the old-fashioned cast-iron doctrine of heredity, and 
the story shows the conflict between his pedantry and 
the compulsion of fact. It is a book full of serious in- 
terest for all readers, and gives us in addition a charm- 
ing love story. Mrs. Clifford has drawn many de- 
lightful women, but Kitty and her mother must stand 
first in her gallery. 



PRESTER JOHN. John Buchan. 

This is a story which, in opposition to all accepted 
canons of romance, possesses no kind of heroine. There 
is no woman from beginning to end in the book, unless 
we include a little Kaffir serving-girl. The hero is a 
Scottish lad, who goes as assistant to a store in the 
far north of the Transvaal. By a series of accidents 
he discovers a plot for a great Kaffir rising, and by a 
combination of luck and courage manages to frustrate 
it. From the beginning to end it is a book of stark 
adventure. The leader of the rising is a black mission- 
ary, who believes himself the incarnation of the mediae- 
val Abyssinian emperor Prester John. By means of 
a perverted Christianity, and the possession of the ruby 
collar which for centuries has been the Kaffir fetish, 
he organizes the natives of Southern Africa into a 
great army. But a revolution depends upon small 
things, and by frustrating the leader in these small 
things, the young storekeeper wins his way to fame 
and fortune. It is a book for all who are young enough 
in heart to enjoy a record of straightforward adventure. 



Notes on Nelson's New Novels. 



LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING. 



"0." 



Sir Oliver Vyell, a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, 
is the British Collector of Customs at the port of Boston 
in the days before the American Revolution. While 
there he runs his head against New England Puritanism, 
rescues a poor girl who has been put in the stocks for 
Sabbath-breaking, carries her off, and has her edu- 
cated. The story deals with the development of Ruth 
Josselin from a half-starved castaway to a beautiful 
and subtle woman. Sir Oliver falls in love with his 
ward, and she becomes my Lady and the mistress of 
a great house ; but to the New Englanders she remains 
a Sabbath-breaker and " Lady-Good-for-Nothing." The 
scene moves to Lisbon, whither Sir Oliver goes on 
Government service, and there is a wonderful picture 
of the famous earthquake. The book is a story of an 
act of folly, and its heavy penalties, and also the 
record of the growth of two characters one from 
atheism to reverence, and the other from a bitter 
revolt against the world to a wiser philosophy. The 
tale is original in scheme and setting, and the atmos- 
phere and thought of another age are brilliantly re- 
produced. No better historical romance has been 
written in our times. 



PANTHER'S CUB. 



Agnes and Egerton Castle. 



This is the story of a world-famed prima, donna, 
whose only daughter has been brought up in a very 
different world from that in which her mother lives. 
When the child grows to womanhood she joins her 
mother, and the problem of the book is the conflict of 
the two temperaments the one sophisticated and 
undisciplined, and the other simple and sincere. The 
scenes are laid in Vienna and London, amid all types 
of society smart, artistic, and diplomatic. Against 
the Bohemian background the authors have worked 
out a very beautiful love story of a young diplomatist 
and the singer's daughter. The book is full of 
brilliant character-sketches and dramatic moments. 




Notes on Nelson's New Novels. 



TREPANNED. John Masefield. 

Mr. Masefield has already won high reputation as 
poet and dramatist, and his novel " Captain Margaret " 
showed him to be a romancer of a higher order. " Tre- 
panned " is a story of adventure in Virginia and the 
Spanish Main. A Kentish boy is trepanned and car- 
ried off to sea, and finds his fill of adventure among. 
Indians and buccaneers. The central episode of the 
book is a quest for the sacred Aztec temple. The 
swift drama of the narrative, and the poetry and 
imagination of the style, make the book in the highest 
sense literature. It should appeal not only to all 
lovers of good writing, but to all who care for the record 
of stirring deeds. 

THE SIMPKINS PLOT. George A. Birmingham. 

" Spanish Gold " has been the most mirth-provoking 
of Irish novels published in the last few years, and 
Mr. Birmingham's new book is a worthy successor. 
Once more the admirable red-haired curate, " J. J.," 
appears, and his wild energy turns a peaceful neigh- 
bourhood into a hotbed of intrigue and suspicion. 
The story tells how he discovers in a harmless lady 
novelist, seeking quiet for her work, a murderess whose 
trial had been a cause c&bre. He forms a scheme of 
marrying the lady to the local bore, in the hope that 
she may end his career. Once started on the wrong 
tack, he works out his evidence with convincing logic, 
and ties up the whole neighbourhood in the toils of 
his misconception. The book is full of the wittiest 
dialogue and the most farcical situations. It will be 
as certain to please all lovers of Irish humour as the 
immortal " Experiences of an Irish R. M." 



THOMAS NELSON AND SONS, 

London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and New York. 







PR 

4762 
S3 8 
1910 



Hawkins, (Sir) Anthony Hope 
Second string 



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