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Title: Rich Relatives
Author: MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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RICH RELATIVES

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

  THE PASSIONATE ELOPEMENT
  CARNIVAL
  SINISTER STREET: VOL. I
  SINISTER STREET: VOL. II
  GUY AND PAULINE
  SYLVIA SCARLETT
  SYLVIA AND MICHAEL
  POOR RELATIONS
  THE VANITY GIRL

[Copyright: Martin Secker]

RICH RELATIVES

_By COMPTON MACKENZIE_

LONDON: MARTIN SECKER

NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI MCMXXI


TO ALICE AND CHRISTOPHER STONE THIS THEME IN A MINOR

NOVEMBER 15TH, 1920



_Chapter One_


It may have been that the porter at York railway station was irritated
by Sunday duty, or it may have been that the outward signs of wealth in
his client were not conspicuous; whatever the cause, he spoke rudely to
her.

Yet Jasmine Grant was not a figure that ought to have aroused the
insolence of a porter, even if he _was_ on Sunday duty. To be sure, her
black clothes were not fashionable; and a journey from the South of
Italy to the North of England, having obliterated what slight
pretensions to cut they might once have possessed, had left her
definitely draggled. Although the news of having to wait nearly five
hours for the train to Spaborough had brought tears of disappointment
into her eyes, and although the appeal of tears had been spoilt by their
being rubbed off with the back of a dusty glove, Jasmine's beauty was
there all the time--a dark, Southern beauty of jetty lashes curling away
from brown eyes starry-hearted; a slim Southern charm of sunburnt,
boyish hands. Something she had of a young cypress in moonlight,
something of a violoncello, with that voice as deep as her eyes. But for
the porter she was only something of a nuisance, and when she began to
lament again the long wait he broke in as rudely as before:

"Now it's not a bit of good you nagging at me, miss. If the 4.42 goes at
4.42, I can't make it go before 4.42, can I?"

Then perhaps the thought of his own daughters at home, or perhaps the
comforting intuition that there would be shrimps for tea at the close of
this weary day, stirred his better nature.

"Why don't you take a little mouch round the walls? That's what people
mostly does who get stuck in York. They mouch round the walls if it's
fine, like it is, and if it's raining they mouch round the Minister. And
I've known people, I have, who've actually come to York to mouch round
the walls, so you needn't be so aggravated at having to see them whether
you like it or not, as you might say. And now," he concluded, "I suppose
the next thing is you'll want to put your luggage in the cloak-room!"

He spoke with a sense of sacrilege, as if Jasmine had suggested laying
her luggage on the high altar of the Minster.

"Well, that means me having to go and get a truck," he grumbled,
"because the cloak-room's at the other end of the station from what we
are here."

The poor girl was already well aware of the vastness of York railway
station, a vastness that was accentuated by its emptiness on this fine
Sunday afternoon. Fresh tears brimmed over her lids; and as in mighty
limestone caverns stalagmites drop upon the explorer, so now from the
remote roof of glass and iron a smutty drop descended upon Jasmine's
nose.

"Come far, have you?" asked the porter, with this display of kindly
interest apologizing as it were for the behaviour of the station's roof.

"Italy."

"Organland, eh?"

The thought of Italy turned his mind toward music, and he went whistling
off to fetch a truck, leaving his client beside a heap of luggage that
seemed an intrusion on the Sabbath peace of the railway station.

From anyone except porters or touring actors accustomed all their lives
to the infinite variations of human luggage, Jasmine's collection, which
alternately in the eyes of its owner appeared much too large and much
too small, too pretentious and too insignificant, too defiant and too
pathetic, might have won more than a passing regard. But since the
sparse frequenters of the station were all either porters or actors,
nobody looked twice at the leather portmanteau stamped SHOLTO GRANT, at
the hold-all of carpet-bagging worked in a design of the Paschal Lamb,
at the two narrow wooden crates labelled with permits to export modern
works of art from Italy, or at a decrepit basket of fruit covered with
vine leaves and tied up with bunches of tricoloured ribbon; and as for
the owner, she was by this time so hopelessly bedraggled by the effort
of bringing this luggage from the island of Sirene to the city of York
only to find that there was no train on to Spaborough for five hours
that nobody looked twice at her.

Somewhere outside in the sheepish sunlight of England an engine screamed
with delight at having escaped from the station; somewhere deep in the
dust-eclipsed station a retriever howled each time he managed to wind
his chain round the pillar to which it was attached. Then a luggage
train ran down a dulcimer scale of jolts until it finally rumbled away
into silence like the inside of a hungry giant before he falls asleep;
after which there was no sound of anything except the dripping of
condensed steam from the roof to the platform. Jasmine began to wonder
if there would ever be another train to anywhere this Sunday, and if the
porter intended to leave her alone with her luggage on the platform
until to-morrow morning. Everything in England was so different from
what she had been accustomed to all her life; people behaved here with
such rudeness and such evident dislike of being troubled that perhaps
... but her apprehensions were interrupted by the whining of the
porter's truck, which he pushed before him like a truant child being
thumped homeward by its mother. The luggage was put on the truck, and
the porter, cheered by the noise he was making, broke into a vivacious
narrative, of which Jasmine did not understand a single word until he
stopped before the door of the cloak-room and was able to enunciate this
last sentence without the accompaniment of unoiled wheels:

"...and which, of course, made it very uncomfortable for her through
her being related to them."

At the moment the difficulty of persuading a surly cloak-room clerk,
even more indignant than the porter at being made to work on Sunday
afternoon, that the two crates were lawful luggage for passengers,
prevented Jasmine's attempting to trace the origin of the porter's last
remark; but when she was blinking in the sunlight outside the station
preparatory to her promenade of the walls of York, it recurred to her,
and its appropriateness to her own situation made her regret that she
had not heard more about _Her_ and _Them_. Was not she herself feeling
so uncomfortable on account of her relationship to _Them_, so miserable
rather that if another obstacle arose in her path she would turn back
and ... yes, wicked though the thought undoubtedly was, and imperil
though it might her soul should she die before it was absolved ... yes,
indeed she really would turn back and drown herself in that _puzzo nero_
they called the English Channel. Here she was searching for a wall in a
city that looked as large as Naples. Well, if she did not find it, she
would accept her failure as an omen that fate desired her withdrawal
from life. But no sooner had Jasmine walked a short way from the station
than she found that the wall was ubiquitous, and that she would
apparently be unable to proceed anywhere in York without walking on it;
so she turned aside down a narrow passage, climbed a short flight of
steps, and without thinking any more of suicide she achieved that
prospect of the city which had been so highly recommended by the porter.

It was the midday Sabbath hour, when the bells at last were silent; and
since it was fine August weather, the sky had achieved a watery and
pious blue like a nun's eyes. Before her and behind her the river of the
wall flowed through a champaign of roofs from which towers and spires
rose like trees; but more interesting to Jasmine's lonely mood were the
small back gardens immediately below the parapet on either side, from
which the faintly acrid perfume of late summer flowers came up mingled
with beefy smells from the various windows of the small houses beyond,
where the shadowy inmates were eating their Sunday dinners. She felt
that if this were Italy a friendly hand would be beckoning to her from
one of those windows an invitation to join the party, and it was with
another grudge against England that she sat down alone on a municipal
bench to eat from a triangular cardboard box six triangular ham
sandwiches. The restless alchemy of nature had set to work to change the
essences of the container and the contents, so that the sandwiches
tasted more like cardboard and the cardboard felt more like sandwiches;
no doubt it would even have tasted more like sandwiches if Jasmine had
eaten the box, which she might easily have done, for her taste had been
blunted by the long journey, and she would have chewed ambrosia as
mechanically had ambrosia been offered to her. The sandwiches finished,
she ate half a dozen plums, the stones of which dropped on the path and
joined the stones of other plums eaten by other people on the same bench
that morning. Jasmine's mind went swooping back over the journey, past
the bright azure lakes of Savoy, past the stiff and splendid
_carabinieri_ at the frontier, pausing for a moment to play
hide-and-seek with olives and sea through the tunnels of the _riviera di
levante_ ... and then swooped down, down more swiftly until it reached
the island of Sirene, from which it had been torn not yet four full days
ago; the while Jasmine's foot was arranging the plum stones and a few
loose pebbles into first an S and then an I and then a decrepit R, until
they exhausted themselves over an absurdly elongated E.

The weathercock of the nearest church steeple found enough wind on this
hot afternoon to indicate waveringly that what wind there was blew from
the South. Some lines of Christina Rossetti often quoted by her father
expressed, as only remembered poetry and remembered scents can, the
inexpressible:

    _To see no more the country half my own,_
      _Nor hear the half-familiar speech,_
    _Amen, I say; I turn to that bleak North_
        _Whence I came forth--_
      _The South lies out of reach._
    _But when our swallows fly back to the South,_
      _To the sweet South, to the sweet South,_
      _The tears may come again into my eyes,_
        _On the old wise,_
      _And the sweet name to my mouth._

She evoked the last occasion at which she had heard her father murmur
these lines. They had been dining on the terrace until the last rays of
a crimson sunset had faded into a deep starry dusk. Mr. Cazenove had
been dining with them, and from the street below a mandolin had
decorated with some simple tune memories of bygone years. The two old
friends had talked of the lovely peasant girls that haunted the Sirene
of their youth, a Sirene not yet spoiled by tourists; an island that in
such reminiscence became fabulous like the island of Prospero.

"But the loveliest of them all was Gelsomina," Mr. Cazenove had
declared. Jasmine was thrilled when she could listen to such tales about
her mother's beauty, that mother who lived for herself only as a figure
in one of her father's landscapes, whose image for herself was merged in
a bunch of red roses, so that even to this day, by dwelling on that
elusive recollection of childhood, the touch of a red rose was the touch
of a human cheek, and she could never see one without a thought of
kisses.

"Yes, indeed she was! The loveliest of them all," Mr. Cazenove had
repeated.

Her father had responded with these lines of Christina Rossetti, and she
knew that he was thinking of a fatal journey to England, when the
unparagoned Gelsomina had caught cold and died in Paris of pneumonia on
the way North to attend the death of Grandfather Grant.

And now her father was dead too.

In a flood of woeful recollections the incidents of that fatal day last
month overwhelmed her. She felt her heart quicken again with terror; she
saw again the countenance of the fisherman who came with Mr. Cazenove to
tell her that a squall had capsized the little cutter in the Bay of
Salerno, and that the only one drowned was her father. Everybody in
Sirene had been sympathetic, and everybody had bewailed her being alone
in the world until letters had arrived from uncles and aunts in England
to assure her that she should be looked after by them; and then nearly
everybody had insisted that she must leave the island as soon as
possible and take advantage of their offers. Yet here she was, more
utterly alone than ever in this remote city of the North, with only a
few letters from people whom she had never seen and for whom she felt
that she should never have the least affection. She was penitent as soon
as this confession had been wrung from her soul, and penitently she felt
in her bag for the letters from the various relatives who had written to
assure her that she was not as much alone in the world as this Sunday in
York was making her believe.

Among these envelopes there was one that by its size and stiffness and
sharp edges always insisted on being read first. There was a crest on
the flap and a crest above the address on the blue notepaper.

     317 Harley Street, W.,

     _July 29th._

     _My dear Jasmine,_

     _Your Uncle Hector and I have decided that it would be best for you
     to leave Italy at once. Even if your father's finances had left you
     independent, we should never have consented to your staying on by
     yourself in such a place as Sirene. Your uncle was astonished that
     you should even contemplate such a course of action, but as it is,
     without a penny, you yourself must surely see the impossibility of
     remaining there. Your plan of teaching English to the natives
     sounds to me ridiculous, and your plan of teaching Italian to
     English visitors equally ridiculous. I once had an Italian woman of
     excellent family to read Dante with Lettice and Pamela during some
     Easter holidays we once spent in Florence, and I distinctly
     remember that her bill after three weeks was something under a
     sovereign. At the time I remember it struck me as extremely
     moderate, but I did not then suppose that a niece of mine would one
     day seriously contemplate earning a living by such teaching. No,
     the proper course for you is to come to England at once. Your uncle
     has received a letter from the lawyer (written, by the way, in most
     excellent English, a proof that if the local residents wish to
     learn English they can do so already) to say that when the
     furniture, books, and clothes belonging to your father have been
     sold, there will probably be enough to pay his debts, and I know it
     will be a great satisfaction to you to feel that. The cost of your
     journey to England your Uncle Hector is anxious to pay himself, and
     the lawyer has been instructed to make the necessary arrangement
     about your ticket. You will travel second class as far as London,
     and from London to Spaborough, where we shall be spending August,
     you had better travel third. The lawyer will be sent enough money
     to telegraph what day we may expect you. Grant, Strathspey House,
     Spaborough, is sufficient address. We have had a great family
     council about your future, and I know you will be touched to hear
     how anxious all your uncles and aunts have been to help you. But
     your Uncle Hector has decided that for the present at any rate you
     had better remain with us. How lucky it is that you should be
     arriving just when we shall be in a bracing seaside place like
     Spaborough, for after all these years in the South you must be
     sadly in need of a little really good air. Besides, you will find
     us all in holiday mood, just what you require after the sad times
     through which you have passed. Later on, when we go back to town, I
     daresay I shall be able to find many little ways in which you can
     be useful to me, for naturally we do not wish you to feel that we
     are encouraging you to be lazy, merely because we do not happen to
     approve of your setting up for yourself as a teacher of languages.
     By the way, your uncle is not_ Dr. _Grant any longer._ _Indeed he
     hasn't been Dr. Grant for a long time._ _Didn't your father tell
     you even when he was knighted?_ _But he is now a baronet, and you
     should write to him as Sir Hector Grant, Bt._ _Not Bart._ _Your
     uncle dislikes the abbreviation Bart._ _And to me, of course, as
     Lady Grant, not Mrs. Grant._

     _Love from us all,_

     _Your affectionate_

     _Aunt May._

The few tears that Jasmine let fall upon the blue notepaper were
swallowed up in the rivulets of the watermark. Although she was on her
way to meet this uncle and aunt and to be received by them as one of the
family, she felt more lonely than ever, and hurriedly laying the
envelope beside her on the bench, she dipped into the bag for another
letter.

     The Cedars,

     North End Road,

     Hampstead,

     _July 22nd_.

     _Dear Jasmine,_

     _I had intended to write you before on the part of Uncle Eneas and
     myself to say how shocked we were at the thought of your being left
     all alone in the world._ _Your Aunt May writes to me that for the
     present at any rate you will be with her, which will be very nice
     for you, because the honour which has just been paid to the family
     by making your Uncle Hector a baronet will naturally entail a
     certain amount of extra entertaining._ _I am only afraid that after
     such a merry household The Cedars will seem very dull, but Uncle
     Eneas has a lot of interesting stories about the Near East, and if
     you are fond of cats you will have plenty to do._ _We are great cat
     people, and I shall be glad to have someone with me who is really
     fond of them, as I hope you are._ _It is quite the country where we
     live in Hampstead, and the air is most bracing, as no doubt you
     know._ _I wonder if you ever studied massage?_

     _Love from us both,_

     _Your affectionate_

     _Aunt Cuckoo._

Jasmine tried to remember what her father had said at different times
about his second brother, but she could only recall that once in the
middle of a conversation about Persian rugs he had said to Mr. Cazenove,
"I have a brother in the East, poor chap," and that when Mr. Cazenove
had asked him where, he had replied, "Constantinople or Jerusalem--some
well-known place. He's in the consular service. Or he was." He had not
seemed to be much interested in his brother's whereabouts or career. And
then he had added meditatively, "He married a woman with a ridiculous
name, poor creature. She was the daughter of somebody or other somewhere
in the East." But her father was always vague like that about
everything, and he always said "poor chap" about every man and "poor
creature" about every woman. He had a kind and generous disposition, and
therefore he felt everybody was to be pitied. Jasmine wished now that
she had asked more about Uncle Eneas and Aunt Cuckoo. Cuckoo! Yes, it
was a ridiculous name. Such a ridiculous name that it sounded as remote
from reality as Rumplestiltzkin. No girl, however large the quantity of
flax she must spin into gold before sunrise, could have guessed Aunt
Cuckoo.

    _To-day I brew, to-morrow I bake,_
    _And to-morrow the King's daughter I shall take,_
    _For no one from wheresoever she came_
    _Could guess that Aunt Cuckoo was my name._

Jasmine was feeling that she ought not to be laughing at her father's
relatives like this so soon after he had died, when suddenly she woke up
to the fact that they were just as much, even more, her relatives too.
It was like waking up on Monday morning during the year in which she was
sent to school with the Sisters of the Seven Dolours in Naples and could
only come back to Sirene for the week-ends. With a shudder she placed
Aunt Cuckoo on the bench and picked up Aunt Mildred.

     23 The Crescent,

     Curtain Wells,

     _July 20th.:

     _My dear Jasmine,_

     _Uncle Alec and I were terribly shocked to hear of your father's
     accident. Only a few weeks before I was suggesting a little visit
     to Rome, a place which Uncle Alec knows very well indeed, for he
     was military attaché there for six months in 1904, and was rather
     surprised that your father never took the trouble to come and visit
     him. Unfortunately, however, His Serene Highness was not well
     enough to make the journey this spring. Of course you know that for
     some time now Prince Adalbert of Pomerania has been living with us.
     You will like him so much when you pay us your visit. He is as
     simple as a child. We thought at first that he might be difficult
     to manage, but he has been no trouble and when the Grand Duke
     graciously entrusted his son to our keeping without an A.D.C., it
     was quite easy, because it left us a spare room. Baron Miltzen,
     the Chamberlain, runs over occasionally to see how the Prince is
     getting on, but the Grand Duchess, who never forgets that she was
     an English princess, prefers to make her younger son as English as
     possible, and will not allow any German doctors to interfere with
     the treatment prescribed by your Uncle Hector. Of course the poor
     boy will never be well enough to take an active part in the affairs
     of his country, and as he is not the heir, there is not much
     opposition in Pomerania to his being educated abroad. Indeed Baron
     Miltzen said to me only the last time he ran over that he thought
     an English education was probably the best in the world for anyone
     as simple as the dear Prince. If we cannot get away to the Riviera
     this winter you will have to pay us a visit and help to keep the
     Prince amused. We have dispensed with ceremony almost entirely,
     because we found that it excited the Prince too much. In fact it
     was finally decided to entrust him to us, because after the first
     levee he attended the poor fellow always wanted to walk backwards,
     and it took us quite a little time to cure him of this habit_.

     _Love from us both,_

     _Your affectionate_

     _Aunt Mildred._

Indeed Jasmine had heard about the Prince, because her father always
told everybody he met that one of his brothers had been fool enough to
take charge of a royal lunatic. She remembered thinking that he seemed
proud of the fact, and she could never understand why, particularly as
he spoke so contemptuously of his brother's part in the association.
"Here's pleasant news," her father used to say, "my brother the Colonel
has turned himself into a court flunkey. That's a pretty position for a
Grant! Yes, yes.... He's taken charge of Prince Adalbert of Pomerania,
the second son of the Grand Duke of Pomerania. You remember, who married
Princess Caroline, the Duke of Gloucester's third daughter? I'm ashamed
of my brother. I suppose he had to accept, though; I know it's hard to
get out of these things when you mix yourself up with royalty. I really
believe that I'm the only independent member of the family--the only one
who can call his life his own."

Jasmine quickly took out Aunt Ellen's letter, lest she should seem to be
criticizing her dead father by thinking any more about Prince Adalbert.

     The Deanery,

     Silchester,

     _July 21 st._

     _My dear Jasmine,_

     _When your Uncle Arnold, wrote to you about your father's sad
     death, he forgot to add an invitation to come and stay with us
     later on. Now your Aunt May writes to me that it is definitely
     decided that you should come to England, and your six boy cousins
     are most eager to make your acquaintance. I say "boy" cousins, but
     alas! some of them are very much young men these days. I fear we
     are all growing old, though your poor father might have expected to
     live many more years if he had not been so imprudent. But even as a
     boy he was always catching cold through standing about sailing
     boats in the Round Pond when your grandfather was Vicar of St.
     Mary's, Kensington. However, we must not repine. God's wisdom is
     often hidden from us, and we must trust in His fatherly love. I
     wonder if you have learnt any typewriting? Uncle Arnold so dislikes
     continuous changes in his secretaries, and his work seems to
     increase every year. He only intended to do a short history of
     England before the Norman Conquest, but the more he goes on, the
     further he goes back, and if you were at all interested in Saxon
     life I do think it would be worth your while to see if you liked
     typewriting. Ethelred has been learning it in the morning instead
     of practising the piano, but he does not seem to want to make a
     great deal of progress. It's so difficult to understand what
     children want sometimes. I suppose our Heavenly Father feels the
     same about all of us. When I am tempted to blame Ethelred I
     remember this. Of course as a Roman Catholic you have not been
     taught a very great deal about God, but we are all His children,
     and you must not grieve too much over your loss. "Not lost but gone
     before," you must say to yourself. I remember you every night in my
     prayers._

     _Your loving_

     _Aunt Ellen._

Jasmine was asking herself how to set about learning to typewrite, and
making resolutions to check a faint inclination to regret that she had
so many rich relatives anxious to help her, when the languid puffs of
air from the South swelled suddenly into a real wind and blew all the
paper on the bench up into the air and down again into one of the little
back gardens below the parapet--all the paper, that is, except Lady
Grant's blue envelope, which even a gale could scarcely have disturbed.

Jasmine, brought up in Sirene, was not accustomed to conceal her
feelings in the way that a well-educated English girl would have known
how to conceal them. The loss of the letters dismayed her, and she
showed as much by climbing on the parapet of the wall and gazing down
into the garden below.

At that moment a much freckled young man with what is called sandy hair
came along, and without looking to see if he was observed immediately
scrambled up beside her. Even a Sunday school teacher on his way to
class might have been forgiven for doing as much; but this young man was
evidently nothing of the kind. Indeed, with his grey flannel trousers
and Norfolk jacket, he imparted to the atmosphere of Sunday a distinct
whiff of the previous afternoon; standing up there beside Jasmine, he
looked like a golfer who had lost his ball.

"What have you dropped? A hairpin?" he asked.

Jasmine could not help laughing at the notion of bothering about a
hairpin, and she pointed to Mrs. Eneas Grant's letter nestling among the
branches of a sunflower; to where Mrs. Alexander Grant's invitation to
amuse Prince Adalbert of Pomerania twitched nervously on the neat gravel
path; and to where Mrs. Lightbody's suggestions, ghostly and practical,
clung for a moment to a drain-pipe, before they collapsed into what was
left on a broken plate of the cat's dinner.

The twelve-foot drop into the garden below was nothing: the young man
accomplished it with an enthusiastic absence of hesitation. To gather up
the letters was the labour of a minute. But to get back again was
impossible, because the owner of the house, disgusted by the untidiness
of Roman and mediæval masonry, had repaired and pointed that portion of
the wall which bounded his garden.

"There isn't one niche for your foot," murmured Jasmine, almost tenderly
solicitous.

"I must ring the bell and borrow a ladder," said the stranger. After a
moment's search he announced in an indignant voice that the house
apparently did not possess a bell.

A man in shirt sleeves, interrupted at the second or third of his forty
Sabbath winks, leaned out of an upper window and asked Jasmine what she
thought she was doing jibbering and jabbering on his garden wall; before
she had time to explain, he perceived the young man in the garden, and
asked him what he thought he was doing havering and hovering about among
his flowers.

"I was looking for the bell."

"Bell! You long-legged fool! What d'you think I should keep a bell in my
back garden for, when the children won't let the bells in front have a
moment's peace?" Then he made a noise like a dog shut in a door. "Ough!
Take your great feet out of my petunias, can't you! If I want my flowers
trampled on, I can get a steam-roller to do it. I don't want your help."

"This lady dropped something in your garden," the young man explained,
and the owner smiled bitterly.

"Aye," he went on, "that's what they all say. Please, mister, our Amy's
dropped her damned doll in your garden, can she come round and fetch it
back? It's like living in a dustbin. A scandal, that's what I say it is.
A public scandal."

Then began one of those long arguments in which people roused from sleep
seem to delight, provided always that they have been sufficiently roused
to feel that it is not worth while going to sleep again. What occurred
to lead up to the trespass was swept away as having occurred while the
owner was still asleep; no amount of explanation as to why the young man
was in his back garden was of any avail; no suggestions as to how he was
to get out of it had any effect; and the argument might have continued
until the 4.42 train from York to Spaborough had left the station, if in
some inner room a child's voice had not begun to sing to the
accompaniment of a harmonium:

    _There is a green hill far away_
    _Without a city wall_

"Aye, you silly little fool, that's right! Sing that now! It's a pity
your dad doesn't live on a green hill without a city wall, and not in
York."

The young man, who by this time had been rendered as argumentative as
the owner, remarked that 'without' meant 'outside.'

"What's it matter what it means, if there wasn't a city wall?" retorted
the owner, and vanished from the window before the young man could
reply. From inside one of the rooms there was a fresh murmur of
argument, which lasted until a noise between a moan and a thud was
followed by a silence faintly broken by sobs. The slamming down of the
lid of the harmonium had evidently relieved the feelings of the man in
shirt sleeves, for when presently he came out into the garden and found
himself at close quarters with the intruder, he became genial and
talkative, and began to point out the superiority of his dahlias.

"I reckon they're grand, I do," he said. "Like cauliflowers. Only, of
course, cauliflowers wouldn't have the colour, would they?"

"Not if they were fresh," the young man agreed.

And then he began flatteringly to smell one of the dahlias. He seemed to
be attributing to the flower as much importance as he would have
attributed to a baby; it was easier to deal with a dahlia, because the
dahlia did not dribble, although had it really been a baby, its mother
would have been much more annoyed at its being smelt like this than was
the man in shirt sleeves, who laughed and said:

"I wouldn't bother about the smell if I was you. Dahlia's don't have any
smell. Size is what a dahlia's for."

"No, I was thinking it was a rose," the young man explained
apologetically. The incident which had begun so rudely was ended, and
except for the unseen child practising its little hymn, was ended
harmoniously. The young man was taken through the house and conducted
along the street as far as the next ingress to the walls. When he met
Jasmine coming towards him, he felt as if he had known her for a long
time, and that they were meeting like this by appointment.

"Well, that's finished," said the young man, after Jasmine had put the
letters safely back in her bag. He eyed for a moment her black clothes.

"I suppose you're going to Sunday-school and all that?" he ventured.

"No, I'm just walking round the walls."

"Curious coincidence! So was I."

"Waiting for a train," she went on.

"Still more curious! So am I."

"Waiting for the 4.42."

"The final touch!" he cried. "So am I. Let's wait in unison."

They moved across to a circular bench set in an embrasure of the walls,
overgrown here with ivy from which the sun drew forth a faint dusty
scent. On this bench they sat down to exchange more coincidences. To
begin with, they discovered that they were both going to Spaborough;
soon afterward that they were both going to stay with uncles; and, as if
this were not enough, that both these uncles were baronets, which even
with the abnormal increase of baronets lately was, as the young man
said, the most remarkable coincidence of all.

"And what's your name?" Jasmine asked.

"Harry."

She felt like somebody who had been offered as a present an object in
which nothing but politeness had led her to express an interest.

"I meant your other name," she said quickly, rejecting as it were the
offer of the more intimate first name.

"Vibart. My uncle is Sir John Vibart."

"Of course, how stupid of me," Jasmine murmured with a blush. "My name's
Grant, of course," she hastened to add.

"Sir Hector Grant," the young man went on musingly. "Isn't he some kind
of a doctor?"

"A nerve specialist," said Jasmine.

"I know," said the young man in accents that combined wisdom with
sympathy.

The discovery of the baronets had removed the last trace of awkwardness
which, easy though his manners were, was more perceptible in Mr. Vibart
than in Jasmine, who in Sirene had never had much impressed upon her the
sacred character of the introduction.

"I shall come and call on you at Spaborough," he vowed.

"Of course," she agreed; people called with much less excuse than this
in Sirene.

"We might do some sailing."

She clapped her hands with such spontaneous pleasure of anticipation
that Mr. Vibart remarked how easy it was to see that she had lived
abroad. But almost before the echo of her pleasure had died away her
eyes had filled with tears, for she was thinking how heartless it was of
her to rejoice at the prospect of sailing when it was sailing that had
caused her father's death. Anxious not to hurt Mr. Vibart's feelings,
Jasmine began to explain breathlessly why she was looking so sad. The
young man was silent for a minute when she stopped; then, weighing his
words in solemn deliberation, he said:

"And, of course, that's why you're wearing black."

Jasmine nodded.

"I've brought with me all that were left of father's pictures. For
presents, you know." She sighed.

"I know," said the young man wisely. He had in his own valise a
cigar-holder for Sir John Vibart, the expense of procuring which he
hoped would be more than covered by a parting cheque.

"And I should like to show them to you," Jasmine went on. "Perhaps we
could get one out and look at it in the train."

"Hadn't we better wait until I come and call?" he suggested. "It's not
fair to look at things in the train. Trains wobble so, don't they?"

Conversation about Sholto Grant's pictures passed easily into
conversation about Jasmine's mother, because nearly all the pictures had
been of her.

"She was a beautiful _contadina_, you know," Jasmine shyly told him.

Mr. Vibart, who supposed that her shyness was due to an attempt to avoid
giving an impression of snobbishness in thus announcing the nobility of
her ancestry, asked of what she was _contadina_. Jasmine, delighted at his
mistake, laughed gaily.

"_Contadina_ means country girl. Her name was Gelsomina, and she was the
most beautiful girl in the island. Everybody wanted to paint her."

Mr. Vibart, struggling in the gulf between a baronet's niece and an
artist's model had nothing to say, but he made up his mind to ask his
uncle something about Italy. It was always difficult to find anything to
talk about with the old gentleman; Italy as a topic ought to last
through the better part of two bottles of Burgundy.

"And what's your name?" he asked at last.

"I was called after my mother."

"Oh, you were? Well, would you mind telling me your mother's name again,
because I lost the last dozen letters?"

"Gelsomina--only I was always called Jasmine, which is the English for
it."

As she spoke, all the bells in York began to ring at once, from the
mastiff booming in York Minster to the rusty little cur yapping in a
Methodist chapel close to where they were sitting, and with such
gathering insistence in their clamour as to destroy the pleasure of
these sunlit reminiscences.

"I suppose we ought to have a look at the Minster," Mr. Vibart suggested
in the tone of voice in which he would have announced that he must open
the door to a pertinacious caller. "Of course I'm not exactly dressed
for Sunday afternoon service, but you're all right. Black's always all
right for Sunday."

Jasmine's conception of going to church had nothing to do with dressing
up, but it did seem to her extraordinary to go to church at this hour of
the day. However, the evidence of the bells was unmistakable, and
without a qualm she followed her companion's lead.

The strangeness of the hour for service was only matched by the
strangeness of the congregation assembled for worship and the
astonishing secularity of the interior. She could remember nothing as
solemn and gloomy since she and her father had made a mistake in the
time of the performance at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples and had
arrived an hour early. She did not recognize the smell of immemorial
respectability, and it almost choked her after the frank odours in the
Duomo of Sirene--those frank odours of candles, perspiration, garlic,
incense, and that indescribable smell which the skin of the newly peeled
potato shares with the skin of the newly washed peasant. She did not
think that the mighty organ, booming like a tempestuous midnight in
Sirene, was anything but a reminder of the terrors of hell, and as a
means of turning the mind toward heavenly contemplation she compared it
most unfavourably with the love scenes of Verdi's operas that in Sirene
provided a tremulous comment upon the mysteries being enacted at the
altar. If there had been a sound of sobbing, she could have thought that
she was attending a requiem; but, however melancholy the appearance of
the worshipping women around, they were evidently enjoying themselves,
and, what was surely the most extraordinary of all, actually taking part
in the distant business of the priests, bobbing and whispering and
mumbling as if they were priests themselves.

"I think I can smell dead bodies," said Jasmine to her companion.

Mr. Vibart was probably not a religious young man himself, but he had
already affronted the religious sense of his neighbours by presenting
himself before Almighty God in grey flannel trousers and a Norfolk
jacket, and he was not anxious positively to flout it by letting
Jasmine talk in church. People in the pews close at hand turned round to
see what irreverent voice had interrupted their devotion, and Mr. Vibart
tried to pretend that her remark had a religious bearing by offering her
a share of his Prayer Book. This was too much for Jasmine. To stand up
in front of the world holding half a book seemed to her as much an
offence against church etiquette as when once long ago at school she had
quarrelled with another little girl over the ownership of a rosary and
they had tugged against each other until the rosary broke in a shower of
tinkling shells upon the floor of the convent chapel.

The best solution of the situation was to go out, and out she went,
followed by Mr. Vibart, who looked as uncomfortable as a man would look
in leaving a stall in the middle of the row during Madame Butterfly's
last song.

"I say, you know, you oughtn't to have done that," he murmured
reproachfully.

"Done what?"

"Well, talked loudly like that, and then gone out in the middle of the
service. Everybody stared at us like anything."

"Well, why did you joke with that Prayer Book?"

"I wasn't joking with the Prayer Book," Mr. Vibart affirmed in horror.

An emotion akin to dismay invaded Jasmine's soul. If she could so
completely misunderstand this not at all alarming, this freckled and
benevolent young man, how was she ever to understand her English
relatives? She had been sufficiently depressed by England throughout the
journey, but it was only now that she grasped what a profound difference
it was going to make to be herself only half English. She was evidently
going to misunderstand everything and everybody. Serious things were
going to seem jokes, and, what was worse, real jokes would seem serious.
She should offend with and in her turn be offended by trifles.

"I'm sorry," she said to Mr. Vibart. "You see, it was quite different
from everything to which I've been accustomed all my life. Oh, do let's
go and have an ice."

"Rather, if we can find a sweet-shop open."

Incomprehensible country, where ices were found in sweet-shops, and
where sweet-shops were closed on Sunday! Jasmine gave it up. However,
they did find a sweet-shop open, where she ate what tasted like a pat of
butter frozen in an old box of soap, cost fourpence, and was called a
vanilla ice-cream. She criticized it all the time she was eating it, and
then found to her mortification that Mr. Vibart supposed that he should
pay for it.

"In Sirene," Jasmine protested, "we all go and have ices when we have
money, but we always pay for ourselves. And if I'd thought that you were
going to pay, I should have pretended I thought it was very good."

The argument lasted a long time with illustrations and comparisons taken
from life at Sirene, which were so vividly related that Mr. Vibart
announced his intention of going there as soon as possible. Jasmine was
so much gratified by her conversion of an Englishman that she
surrendered about the payment for the ice, and when they got back to the
station she allowed him to manage everything. It was certainly much
easier. The surly cloak-room clerk handled the picture crates as
tenderly as a child, and even said "upsi-daisy" when he delivered them
back into their owner's possession. As for the porter with one hand he
trundled his barrow along like a jolly hoop.

"I say, let's travel First," Mr. Vibart proposed, apparently the prey to
a sudden and irresistible temptation towards extravagance.

"My ticket is third class," Jasmine objected.

"I know, so's mine," he said mysteriously. "But they know me on this
line."

And by the way the porter and the cloak-room clerk and the guard and a
small boy selling chocolates all smiled at him, Jasmine felt sure that
he was telling the truth.

The journey from York to Spaborough took about two hours and a half, and
the bloom of dusk lay everywhere on the green landscape before they
arrived. For the first half Jasmine had been contented and gay, but now
toward the end she fell into a pensive twilight mood, so that when at
last Mr. Vibart broke the long silence by announcing "Next station is
Spaborough" she was very near to weeping. She did not suppose that she
should ever see again this companion of a few hours. She realized that
she had served to while away for a time the boredom of his Sunday
afternoon; but, of course, he would forget about her. Already with what
a ruthlessly cheerful air he was reaching up to the rack for his
luggage.

"What are those funny tools in that bag?" she asked.

"Those?" he laughed. "Those are golf clubs."

Jasmine looked no wiser.

"Haven't you ever played golf?"

"Is it a game?"

He nodded, and she sighed. How could a man who carried about with him on
his travels a game be expected to remember herself? But it would never
do for her to let him think that she considered his remembering her of
the least importance one way or the other. Jasmine's knowledge of human
nature was based upon the aphorisms in circulation among the young
women of Sirene, few of which did not insist on the fact that to men the
least eagerness in the opposite sex was distasteful. Jasmine had all the
Latin love of a generalization, all the Latin distrust of the exception
that tried its accuracy.

"I'll be very cold with him," she decided. But her coldness was tempered
by sweetness, and if Mr. Vibart had ever tasted a really good ice-cream,
he might have compared Jasmine with one when she said good-bye to him on
the Spaborough platform.

"But isn't there anybody to meet you?" he asked, looking round.

"It doesn't matter. Please don't bother any more about me. I'm sure I've
been enough of a bother already."

At that moment she caught sight of a chaise driven by a postilion in an
orange jacket.

"Oh, I should like to ride in that!"

"But your people have probably sent a carriage."

"No, no!" Jasmine cried. "Let me ride in that," and before Mr. Vibart
could persuade her to wait one minute while he enquired if any of the
waiting motor-cars or carriages were intended for Miss Jasmine Grant,
she had packed herself in and was waiting open-armed for the porter to
pack her trunk in opposite.

"I shall see you again," Mr. Vibart prophesied confidently.

"Perhaps," she murmured. "Thank you for helping me at York. Drive to
Strathspey House, South Parade," she told the postilion.

Then she blushed because she fancied that Mr. Vibart might suppose that
she had called out the address so loudly for his benefit. She did not
look round again, therefore, but watched the orange postilion jogging up
and down in front, and the street lamps coming out one by one as the
lamp-lighters went by with their long poles.



_Chapter Two_


The origin of the house of Grant, like that of many another Scots
family, is lost in the Scotch mists of antiquity. The particularly thick
mist that obscured the origin of that branch of the family to which
Jasmine belonged did not disperse until early in the nineteenth century,
when the figure of James Grant, who began life nebulously as an
under-gardener in the establishment of the sixth Duke of Ayr, emerged
well-defined as a florist and nursery gardener in the Royal Borough of
Kensington. The rhetorical questioning of the claims of aristocracy
implied in the couplet:

    _When Adam delved, and Eve span_
    _Who was then the gentleman?_

was peculiarly appropriate to this branch, for Jamie, besides being a
gardener himself, married the daughter of a Lancashire weaver called
Jukes, who later on invented a loom and, what is more, profited by his
talent. Although Jamie Grant's rapid rise was helped by the success of
old Mr. Jukes' invention, he had enough talent of his own to take full
advantage of the capital that his wife brought him on the death of her
father; in fact by the year 1837 Jamie was as reputable as any florist
in the United Kingdom. A legend in the family said that on the fine June
morning when Archbishop Howley and Lord Chamberlain Conyngham rode from
the death-bed of William IV at Windsor to announce to the little
Princess in Kensington Palace her accession, the Archbishop begged a
bunch of sweet peas for his royal mistress from old Jamie whose garden
was close to the highway. If legend lied, then so did Jamie's son
Andrew, who always declared that he was an eye-witness of the incident,
and indeed ascribed to it his own successful career. Inasmuch as Andrew
Grant died in the dignity of Lord Bishop Suffragan of Clapham, there is
no reason to suppose that he was not speaking the truth. According to
him the incident did not stop with the impulse of the loyal Archbishop
to stand well with his queen on that sunny morning in June, but a few
days later was turned into an event by Jamie's sending his son with
another bunch of sweet peas to Lambeth Palace and asking his Grace to
stand godfather to a splendid purple variety he had just raised. In
these days when sweet peas that do not resemble the underclothing of
cocottes without the scent are despised, the robust and strong-scented
magenta _Archbishop Howley_ no longer figures in catalogues; but at this
period it was the finest sweet pea on the market. The Archbishop, who
was a snob of the first water, liked the compliment; yes, and,
anti-papist though he was, he did not object to the suggestion of
episcopal violet in the dedication. He also liked young Andrew, and on
finding that young Andrew wished to cultivate the True Vine instead of
the Virginia creeper, he promised him his help and his patronage. James,
who all his life had been applying the principle of selection to
flowers, realizing that what could be done with sweet peas could be done
equally well with human beings, gave Andrew his blessing, dipped into
his wife's stocking, and contributed what was necessary to supplement
the sizarship that shortly after this his son won at Trinity College,
Cambridge.

Andrew Grant, during his career as a clergyman, was called upon to
select with even more discrimination and rigour than his father before
him. He had first to make up his mind that the Puseyite party was not
going to oust the Evangelical party to which he had attached himself. He
had later on to decide whether he should anathematize Darwin or uphold
Bishop Colenso, a dilemma which he dodged by doing neither. He had also
to choose a wife. He chose Martha Rouncivell, who brought him £1000 a
year from slum rents in Sheffield and presented him with five children.
Apart from the continual assertions of scurrilous High Church papers
that he had ceased to believe in his Saviour, Andrew Grant's earthly
life was mercifully free from the bitterness, the envy, and the
disillusionment that wait upon success. His greatest grief was when the
spiritual power that he fancied was perceptible in his youngest son
Sholto, a spiritual power that might carry him to Canterbury itself,
turned out to be nothing but an early manifestation of the artistic
temperament. But that disappointment was mitigated by his consecration
in 1890 as Lord Bishop Suffragan of Clapham, in which exalted rank he
guarded London against the southerly onslaughts of Satan even as his
brothers of Hampstead, Chelsea, and Bow were vigilant North, West, and
East. It was a powerful alliance, for if the Bishop of Hampstead was
High, the Bishop of Bow was Low, and if the Bishop of Chelsea was Broad,
the Bishop of Clapham was Deep; although he preferred to characterize
himself as Square.

When Archdeacon Grant was consecrated, he had to find a suitable
episcopal residence, and this was not at all easy to find in South
London. At last, however, he secured the long lease of a retired
merchant's Gothic mansion on Lavender Hill, which after three years of
fervid Lenten courses was secured to Holy Church by three appeals to the
faithful rich. As soon as the Bishop was firmly installed in Bishop's
House, he who had observed with displeasure the number of empty shields
in the roll of Suffragan Bishops in Crockford's clergy list, applied for
a grant of arms. He came from an old Scots family, and he felt strongly
on the subject of coat-armour. When he first went up to Cambridge he had
interested himself in heraldry to such purpose that he had been
convinced of old Jamie's right to the three antique crowns of the House
of Grant. And though the old boy said he should think more of three new
half-crowns, he offered to use them as his trade-mark if Andrew really
hankered after them. Andrew discouraged the proposed sacrilege, but all
the way up from curate to vicar, from vicar to rural dean, from rural
dean to archdeacon, from archdeacon to suffragan bishop, he did hanker
after them, for the shadows of mighty ancestors loomed immense upon that
impenetrable Scotch mist. When his eldest son was born, instead of
calling him Matthew after his wife's brother, a safe candidate for
future wealth, he called him Hector, because Hector was a fine old
Scottish name, and most unevangelically he christened the three sons who
followed Eneas, Alexander, and Sholto. When he became a bishop, he was
more Caledonian than ever; perhaps the apron reminded him of the kilt.
With his empty shield in Crockford's staring at him he went right out
for the three antique crowns and applied to Lyon Court for a
confirmation of these arms. His mortification may be imagined when he
was informed that he was actually not armigerous at all, and that the
coat which he proposed to wear, of course with a difference, was not his
to wear. It was useless for the Bishop to claim, like Joseph, that the
coat had been given to him by his father. The Reubens, Dans, and
Naphtalis of the house of Grant were not going to put up with it; the
three antique crowns were disallowed. For a while the Bishop pretended
to exult in his empty shield. After all, he might hope to become a real
bishop and contemplate one day the arms of the see against his name; in
any case he felt that his mind should be occupied with a heavenly crown.
But the ancestral ghosts haunted him; he could not bear the thought of
Crockford's coming out year by year with that empty shield, and at last
he applied for arms that should be all his own. On his suggestion Lyon
granted him _Or, three chaplets of peaseblossom purpure, slipped and
leaved vert;_ but when for crest the Bishop demanded _A Bible displayed
proper_, even that was disallowed, because another branch of the Grants
had actually appropriated the Bible in the days of Queen Anne. "Then I
will have the Book of Common Prayer displayed proper," said the Bishop.
And the Book of Common Prayer he got, together with the Gaelic motto
_Suas ni bruach_, which neither he nor his descendants ever learnt to
pronounce properly, though they always understood that it meant
something like _Excelsior_.

With such a motto it was not surprising that Sholto Grant's refusal to
climb should upset his relations. Old Jamie must have dealt with many
throwbacks when he was selecting his sweet peas; but it is improbable
that any of them refused to climb at all, and though there is now a
variety inappropriately called "Cupid" with scarcely more ambition than
moss, these dwarfs have a commercial value. Sholto Grant had no
commercial value. Sholto indeed had so little sense of profit that he
actually failed to arrive in time to see his father die, and if the old
gentleman's paternal instinct had not been much developed by his
episcopate, and if he had not imbibed every evangelical maxim on the
subject of forgiveness, he would probably have cut Sholto off with a
shilling. As it was, he divided his money equally between his five
children, and it can be readily imagined how indignant Hector, Eneas,
and Alexander, who had all married well, had all worked hard to justify
the family motto, and not one of whom could count on less than £2000 a
year, felt on finding that the £20,000; which was all that the Bishop of
Clapham's devotion to the Gospel had allowed him to leave to his family,
was to be robbed of £4000 for Sholto, who had married an Italian peasant
girl and spent his whole life painting unsaleable pictures in the island
of Sirene. "Besides," as they acutely said, "Sholto does not appreciate
money. He will only go and spend it." And spend it Sholto did, much to
the disgust of his brothers, Sir Hector Grant, Bart., K.C.V.O., C.B.;
Eneas Grant, Esq., C.M.G.; Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Grant, D.S.O.;
and even of his sister, Mrs. Arnold Lightbody, the wife of the Very
Reverend the Dean of Silchester. Thus far had they climbed in the ten
years that succeeded the Bishop of Clapham's death. Perhaps if they had
reached such altitudes ten years before they might have been more
willing to share with Sholto; but Dr. Grant of Harley Street, Mr. Grant
of the Levant Consular Service, Captain Grant of the Duke of Edinburgh's
Own Strathspey Highlanders (Banffshire Buffs), and Mrs. Lightbody, the
wife of Canon Lightbody, were not far enough up the pea-sticks to
neglect such a stimulus to growth as gold. Mrs. Hector, Mrs. Eneas, and
Mrs. Alexander had their own grievance, for, as they reasonably asked,
what had Sholto's wife contributed to the family ascent? They, who had
followed the example set by Miss Jukes and Miss Rouncivell before them,
were surely entitled to reproach the unendowed Gelsomina. It seemed so
extraordinary too that a bishop should have nothing better to occupy a
mind on the brink of eternity than speculating whether his youngest son
would arrive in time to see him die. They had never yet observed the
death of a prelate, but they could imagine well enough what it ought to
be to know that a continental Bradshaw was not the book to prepare for a
heavenly journey. And when a double knock sounded on the studded door of
Bishop's House, the Bishop had actually sat up in bed, because he
thought that it was his youngest son, arrived in time after all. But it
was not Sholto, and the old man had had no business to sit up in bed and
grab at the telegram like that. _"Wife dying in Paris forgive delay,"_
he read out, gasping. After which with a smile he murmured, "Perhaps I
shall meet poor Sholto's wife above," and without another word died. It
was all very well for the chaplain to fold his arms upon his breast, but
the assembled family felt that a bishop ought to have died in the hope
of meeting his Maker, not an Italian daughter-in-law of peasant
extraction.

During the ten years that had elapsed since then, Sholto had behaved
exactly as his family had foreseen that he would behave. He had lost his
wife, his money, and then most carelessly his own life, leaving an
orphan to be provided for by her relatives. Luckily Sir Hector Grant,
because he was the head of the family and because he had climbed a
little higher than the rest, was willing to see what could be done with
and what could be made of poor Sholto's daughter. Not that the others
were slow in coming forward with offers of hospitality. Their letters to
Jasmine were a proof of that. But they all felt that Strathspey House
was the obvious place for the experiment to begin.

Strathspey House occupied what is called a commanding position on the
fashionable South Cliff of Spaborough, looking seaward over the
shrubberies of the Spa gardens. Sir Hector Grant had bought it about
fifteen years ago, to the relief of the many ladies whom in a
professional capacity he had advised to recuperate their nerves at the
famous old resort. That trip to Spaborough had become such a recognized
formula in his consultations that it would hardly have been decent for
Dr. Grant himself to seek anywhere else recreation from his practice. In
his Harley Street consulting room a coloured print of the eighteenth
century entitled _A Trip to Spaborough_ hung above the green marble
clock that had been presented to him by a ruling sovereign for keeping
his oldest daughter moderately sane long enough to marry the son of
another ruling sovereign, and, what is more, cheat an heir presumptive
with an heir apparent. In the caricaturist's representation a line of
monstrously behooped and bewigged ladies and of gentlemen with bulbous
red noses stood upon a barren cliff gazing at the sea. "Even in those
days," Dr. Grant used to murmur, "you see, my dear lady ... yes ... even
in those days ... but of course it's not quite like that now. No,
it's--not--quite--like--that--now." The neurasthenic lady would
certainly have made the prescribed trip even if it had been; but before
she could express her complete subservience Dr. Grant would go on: "Air
... yes, precisely ... that's what you require ... air!... plenty of
good--fresh--air! Bathing? Perhaps. That we shall have to settle later
on. Yes, a little--later--on." And Dr. Grant's patients were usually so
much braced up by their visit that they would begin telegraphing to him
at all hours of the day and night to find out the precise significance
of various symptoms unnoticed before the cure began to work its
wonders.

But the claims of exigent ladies were not the only reason that
determined Dr. Grant to acquire a house at the seaside. As a
prophylactic against his two daughters', Lettice and Pamela, ever
reaching the condition in which the majority of his female patients
found themselves, their mother, who had an even keener instinct than her
husband for the mode, suggested that he should build a house in the
country, choosing a design that could be added to year by year as his
fame and fortune increased. But when Mrs. Grant suggested building, the
doctor replied, "Fools, May, build houses for wise men to live in," and
forthwith bought Strathspey House to conclude the discussion. In this
case the fool was a Huddersfield manufacturer whose fortunes had
collapsed in some industrial earthquake and left him saddled with a
double-fronted, four-storied, porticoed house, in which he had planned
to meditate for many years on a successful business career put behind
him. Actually he spent his declining years in a small boarding-house on
the unfashionable north side of Spaborough, where he existed in a
miserable obscurity, except as often as he could persuade a
fellow-pensioner to walk with him all the way up to South Parade for the
purpose of admiring the exterior of the house that had once been his--a
habit, by the way, that vexed the new owner extremely, but for which,
under the laws of England, he could discover no satisfactory remedy.

It is scarcely necessary to add that the Huddersfield manufacturer never
called it Strathspey House. That was Dr. Grant's way of saying "My
heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer," for it was down the dim
glens of Strathspey that the prehistoric Grants had hunted in the mists
of antiquity.

Although Mrs. Grant had never tried to persuade her husband into
anything like the baronial castle that would have so well become him,
she had never ceased to protest against a country seat in a popular
seaside resort; but she had to wait fifteen years before she was able to
say "I told you so" with perfect assurance that her husband would have
to bow his head in acknowledgment of her clearer foresight. The actual
date of her triumph was the first of August in the year before Jasmine's
arrival, when the very next house in South Parade, separated from
Strathspey House by nothing but a yard of sky and a hedge of ragged
aucubas, was turned into a boarding-house and actually called Holyrood.
Sir Hector Grant, K.C.V.O., C.B., would have found the proximity of a
boarding-house irritating enough as he was; but a few months later he
was created a baronet, and what had been merely irritating became
intolerable. How could he advertise himself in Debrett as Sir Hector
Grant, of Strathspey House, Spaborough, when next door was a boarding
establishment called Holyrood? And if he described himself as Sir Hector
Grant, of Harley Street, Borough of Marylebone, all the flavour would be
taken out of the fine old Highland name and title. There was only one
course of action. He must change Strathspey House to Balmoral, sell it
to another boarding establishment, remove _A Trip to Spaborough_ from
his consulting room, buy a small glen in Banff or Elgin with a good
Gaelic sound to its name, and send his patients to Strathpeffer. Yet
after all, why should he bother? He had no male heir. What did it matter
if he was Sir Hector Grant, of Harley Street, Borough of Marylebone? Sir
Hector Grant, Bt., was good enough for anybody; he need not waste his
money on glens. If old Uncle Matthew Rouncivell died soon and left him
his fortune, and the old miser owed as much to his nephew's title, he
should be able to buy a castle and retire from practice. Meanwhile his
business was to make the most of that title while he was alive to enjoy
it.

"Yes, perhaps it was a mistake to settle so definitely in Spaborough,"
he admitted to his wife. "But it's too late to begin building now. You
and the girls won't want to keep up an establishment when I'm gone.
Extraordinary thing that Ellen"--Ellen was his only sister--"should have
six boys. However," he went on hurriedly, "we mustn't grumble."

The result of having no heir was that Sir Hector had to make the most of
his title in his own lifetime, and he used to carry it about with him
everywhere as a miner carries his gold. Journeys which a long and
successful life should have made arduous at fifty-eight were now
sweetened by his being able to register himself in hotel books as
_Hector Grant, Bart_. Once a malevolent wit added an _S_ to the _Bart_,
in allusion to the hospital that produced him, and Sir Hector, gloating
over the hotel book next morning, was so much shocked that he insisted
upon the abbreviation _Bt_. ever afterwards. It was the second time that
verbal ingenuity had made free with his titles. For his voluntary
services to his country during the Boer war as consulting
physician--people used to say that he had been called in to pronounce
upon the sanity of the British generals on active service--he was made a
Companion of the Bath, and when soon after appeared _Traumatic
Neuroses_. _By Hector Grant, C.B._, one reviewer suggested that the
initials should be put the other way round, so old and out of date were
the distinguished doctor's theories.

In appearance Sir Hector was extremely tall, extremely thin, extremely
fair, with prominent bright blue eyes and a nodulous complexion. His
manner, except with his wife and daughters, was masterful. Old maids
spoke of his magnetism: women confided to him their love affairs: girls
disliked him. It would be unjust to dispose of his success as lightly as
the frivolous and malicious critic mentioned just now. He was not
old-fashioned; he did keep abreast of all the Teutonic excursions into
the vast hinterland of insanity; even at this period he was clicking his
tongue in disapproval of the first stammerings of Freud. He was
sensitive to the popular myth that alienists end by going mad
themselves, and with that suggestion in view he was on his guard against
the least eccentricity in himself or his family. _Mens sana in corpore
sano_, he boasted that he had never worn an overcoat in his life.

He was once approached by the proprietors of a famous whisky for
permission to put his portrait if not on the bottle at least on the
invoice. Although he felt bound to refuse, the compliment to his
typically Caledonian appearance pleased him, and now on his holiday, in
a suit of homespun with an old cap stuck over with flies, Sir Hector
regretted that the necessity for keeping one hand in his patients'
pockets prevented his setting more than one foot upon his native heath,
and even that one foot only figuratively.

Lady Grant, who had been the only daughter of a retired paper-maker and
had brought her husband some two thousand pounds a year, was at fifty a
tall fair woman with cheeks that formerly might not unludicrously have
been compared to carnations, but which now with their network of little
crimson lines were more like picotees. She was one of those women whom
it is impossible to imagine with nothing on. Inasmuch as she changed her
clothes three times a day, went to bed at night, got up in the morning,
and in fact behaved as a woman of flesh and blood does behave, it was
obvious that she and her clothes were not really one and indivisible.
Yet so solid and coherent were they that if one of her dresses had
hurried downstairs after her to say that she had put on the wrong one,
it might not have surprised an onlooker with any effect of strangeness.
At fifty her best feature was her nose, which of all features is least
able to call attention to itself. Women with pretty complexions, women
with shapely ankles, women with beautiful hair, women with liquid or
luminous eyes, women with exquisite ears, women with lovely mouths,
women with good figures, women with snowy arms, women with slim hands,
women with graceful necks, all these have a property that bears a steady
interest in becoming gestures. Powder-puffs, petticoats, combs,
ear-rings, and a hundred other excuses are not wanting; but the only way
of calling attention to a nose, at any rate in civilized society, is by
blowing it, which, however delicate the laced handkerchief, is never a
gesture that adds to the pleasure of the company. Lady Grant could do
nothing with her magnificent nose except bring it into profile, and this
gave her face a haughty and inattentive expression that made people
think that she was unsympathetic. Enthusiasm cannot display itself
nasally except among rabbits, and of course elephants. Lady Grant,
resembling neither a rabbit nor an elephant, became more impassive than
ever at those critical moments which, had she been endowed with good
eyes, might have changed her whole character. As it was, her nose just
overweighted her face, not with the effect of caricature that a toucan's
nose produces, but with the stolidity and complacency of a grosbeak's.
She was, for instance, as much gratified to be the wife of a baronet as
her husband was to be a baronet itself; that intractable feature of hers
turned all the simple pleasure into pompousness. It is true that by
calling attention to her daughters' noses she was sometimes able to
extract a compliment to her own; but at best this was a vicarious
satisfaction, and when one day a stupid woman responded by suggesting
that Pamela and Lettice had noses like their father, Lady Grant had to
deny herself even this demand on the flattery of her friends, because
Sir Hector's nose was hideous, really hideous.

Lady Grant had grumbled a good deal about her niece's arrival; actually
she was looking forward to it. Several people had told her how splendid
it was of her, and how like her it was to be so ready, and what a
wonderful thing it would be for the niece. In fact in the ever-widening
circle of her aunt's acquaintance Jasmine had already reached the
dimensions of a large charitable organization. For some time Lady Grant
had been protecting a poor cousin of her own, a Miss Edith Crossfield,
who was so obviously an object for charity that the glory of being kind
to her was rather dimmed. Miss Crossfield was so poor and so humble and
so worthy that her ladyship would have had to own a heart as impassive
as her nose not to have protected her. At first it had been interesting
to impress poor Edith; but as time went on poor Edith proved so willing
to be impressed by the least action of dear May that it became no longer
very interesting to impress her. Moreover, now that she was the wife of
a baronet, Lady Grant was not sure that it reflected creditably upon her
to have such a poor relation. There was no romance in Edith; to speak
bluntly, even harshly, she gave the show away. No, Edith must find
herself lodgings somewhere in a nice unfashionable seaside town and be
content with a pension. Sholto's existence in Sirene, his romantic and
unfortunate marriage, his career as a painter, his death in the Bay of
Salerno, such a history added to the family past, and if poor Jasmine
would be more expensive than poor Edith, she would be more useful to
her aunt, and more useful to darling Lettice and Pamela.

Lady Grant's daughters were tall blondes in their mid-twenties who had
always hated each other, and whose hatred had never been relieved by
being able to disparage each other's appearance, owing to their both
looking exactly alike. They too, perhaps, were fairly pleased at the
notion of Jasmine's arrival, because Cousin Edith was no use at all as a
contrast to themselves; she merely lay untidily about the house like a
duster left behind by a careless maid. Pamela and Lettice wanted to get
married well and quickly; but since either was afraid of the other's
getting married first, it began to seem as if neither of them would get
married at all. Their passion was golf, and it was a pity that the
pre-matrimonial methods of savages were not in vogue on the Spaborough
links; Lettice and Pamela would have willingly been hit on the head by a
suitor's golf club if they could have found themselves married on
returning to consciousness. Such was the family to whose bosom Jasmine
was being jogged along through the lamp-lit dusk of Spaborough.

It may be easily imagined that Lady Grant, after taking the trouble to
send Nuckett with the car to meet her niece's arrival at Spaborough, was
not pleased to find that she had driven up to Strathspey House behind an
orange postilion.

"Didn't you see Nuckett?" she asked of Jasmine, whose attempt to kiss
her aunt had been rather like biting hard on a soft pink sweet and
finding nougat or some such adamantine substance within. Jasmine,
wondering who Nuckett might be, assured her aunt that she had not seen
him.

"Which means that he will wait down there for the 9.38. Hector!" she
called to her husband, who was at that moment bending down to salute
his niece, "Nuckett will be waiting at the station for the 9.38. What
can we do about it?"

Sir Hector recoiled from the kiss, blew out his cheeks, and looked at
his niece with the expression he reserved for wantonly hysterical young
girls. There ensued a long discussion of the methods of communication
with Nuckett, during which Jasmine's spirits, temporarily exhilarated by
the ride behind the orange postilion, sank lower than at any point on
the journey. Nor were they raised by the entrance of her two cousins,
who were looking at her as if one of the servants had upset a bottle of
ink which had to be mopped up before they could advance another step. At
last the problem of Nuckett's evening was solved by entrusting the
postilion with authority to recall him.

"You mustn't bother to dress for dinner to-night," conceded Lady Grant,
apparently swept by a sudden gust of benevolence. "Pamela dear, take
Jasmine to her room, will you?"

"Do you get much golf in Sirene?" enquired Pamela on the way upstairs.

Jasmine stared at her, or rather she opened wide her eyes in alarm,
which had the effect of a stare on her cousin.

"No, I've never played golf."

It was Pamela's turn to stare now in frank horror at this revelation.

"Never played golf?" she repeated. "What did you do at home then?"

"I played picquet sometimes with father."

This was too much for Pamela, who could think of nothing more to say
than that this was a chest of drawers and that that was a wardrobe,
after which, with a hope for the success of her ablutions, she left
Jasmine to herself.

Presently a maid tapped at the door.

"Please, miss, her ladyship would like to know where you would prefer
the packing-cases put."

"Oh, couldn't you bring them up here?" Jasmine asked eagerly. "That is,
of course," she added, "if it isn't too much trouble."

The maid protested that it would be no trouble at all; but her looks
belied her speech.

"And if you could bring them up at once," added Jasmine quickly, "I
should be very much obliged."

She had a plan in her head for softening her relatives, the successful
carrying out of which involved having the crates in her room. After a
few minutes they arrived.

"I'm afraid I can't open them with my umbrella," she said. She was not
being facetious, for in her impetuousness she had tried, and broken the
umbrella. "I wonder if you could find me a screw-driver?"

"Oh yes, miss, I daresay I could find a screw-driver."

"And a hammer," shouted Jasmine, rushing out of her room to the landing
and calling down the stairs to the housemaid.

"I think I shall change my frock all the same," she decided. "Or at any
rate I shall unpack; because if I don't unpack now, I shall never
unpack."

In order not to lose the inspiration, Jasmine began to unpack with such
rapidity that presently the room looked like the inside of a
clothes-basket. Then she undressed with equal rapidity, mixing up washed
clothes with unwashed clothes in her efforts to find a clean chemise.
She found several chemises, but by this time it was impossible to say
which or if any of them were clean, and when the housemaid came back
with the screw-driver and the hammer, she spoke to her with Southern
politeness:

"I say, I wonder if you could lend me a chemise. And, I say, what is
your name?"

The housemaid winced at the request; but the traditions of service were
too strong for her, and with no more than the last vibrations of a
tremor in her voice, she replied:

"Oh yes, miss, I daresay I could find you a chemise. And, please, I'm
called Hopkins, miss."

"Yes, but what's your other name?"

"Amanda, miss."

"What a pretty name!"

"Yes, miss," the housemaid agreed after a moment's hesitation. "But it's
not considered a suitable name for service, and her ladyship gave orders
when I came that I was to be called Hopkins."

"Well, I shall call you Amanda," said Jasmine decidedly. No doubt
Hopkins thought that a young lady who was capable of borrowing a chemise
from a housemaid was capable of calling her by her Christian name, and
since she did not wish to encourage her ladyship's niece to thwart her
ladyship's express wishes, she hurried away without replying.

While Hopkins was out of the room Jasmine attacked the crates, tearing
them to pieces with her slim, brown, boyish hands as a monkey sheds a
coconut. Then she took out the pictures and set them up round the room
in coigns of vantage, two or three on the bed, one leaning against the
looking-glass, one supported between the jug and the basin, and several
more on chairs. This happened in the days before the Germans bombarded
Spaborough and destroyed its tonic reputation; but between that date and
this no room in Spaborough could have conveyed so completely the
illusion of having been bombarded. Yet, as often happens with really
untidy people, it is only when they have reduced their surroundings to
the extreme of disorder that they begin to know where they are, and as
soon as the room was littered with pictures, packing-case wood, and
clothes, all jumbled and confused together, Jasmine was able to find not
only the clean chemise she required, but all the other requisite
articles of attire, so that when Hopkins came back Jasmine was able to
wave at her in triumph one of her own chemises.

"Never mind, Amanda; I've found one."

"Oh yes, miss, but please, miss, with your permission I'd prefer you
called me Hopkins. I wouldn't like it to be said I was going against her
ladyship's wishes in private."

"Well, I like Amanda," persisted Jasmine obstinately.

"Yes, miss, and it's very kind of you to say so, I'm sure, and it would
have pleased my mother very much. But her ladyship particularly passed
the remark that she had a norrer of fancy names, so perhaps you'd be
kind enough to call me Hopkins."

"All right," agreed Jasmine, who, having only just arrived at Strathspey
House, found it hard to sympathize with such servility. "But look here,
the washing-stand's all covered with chips and nails. What shall I do?"

A moral struggle took place in Hopkins' breast, a struggle between the
consciousness that dinner must inevitably be ready in five minutes and
the consciousness that she ought to show Miss Grant where the bathroom
was. In the end cleanliness defeated godliness--for punctuality was the
god of Strathspey House--and she proposed a bath.

"Oh, can I have a bath?" cried Jasmine. "How splendid! But you are sure
that you can spare the water? Oh, of course, I forgot. This isn't
Sirene, is it?"

"No, miss," the housemaid agreed doubtfully. After seeing Jasmine's room
security of location had somehow come to mean less to Hopkins; in fact
she said, when she got back to the kitchen: "I give you my word, cook, I
didn't know where I was."

It was a wonderful bath, and while Sir Hector downstairs kept taking his
watch out of his pocket--with every passing minute it slid out more
easily--Jasmine spent a quarter of an hour in delicious oblivion. At the
end of it, Pamela came tapping at the door to tell her that dinner was
ready, if she was. Jasmine was so full of water-warmed feelings that she
leaped out of the bath, flung open the door, and all dripping wet and
naked as she was assured her cousin that she herself was just ready.

"Is the island of Sirene inhabited by savages?" asked Pamela
superciliously when she brought back news to the anxious dining-room.

This was considered a witty remark. Even Lettice smiled, for she already
despised her cousin more than she hated her sister.

"And now," said Jasmine to herself when another quarter of an hour had
gone by and she was dressed, "and now which picture shall I give them?"

She pulled down the cord of the electric light to illuminate better her
choice, pulled it down so far that it would not go up again, but stayed
hovering above the billowy floor like a sea-bird about to alight upon a
wave. It was easy, or difficult, to choose for presentation one of
Sholto Grant's pictures, because in subject and treatment they were all
much alike. In every foreground there was a peasant girl among olive
trees, in every middle distance olive groves, and in every background
the rocks and sea of Sirene. The choice resolved itself into whether you
wanted a bunch of anemones, a bunch of poppies, an armful of broom, or a
basket of cherries; it was really more like shopping at a greengrocer's
than choosing a picture. In the end Jasmine, who by now was herself
beginning to feel hungry, chose fruit rather than flowers, and went
downstairs with a four-foot square canvas.

"I ought to have warned you that in the country we always dine at
half-past seven. It was my fault," said Lady Grant.

Penitence is usually as unconvincing as gratitude, and certainly nobody
in the room, from Jasmine to Hargreaves the parlourmaid waiting to
announce dinner, supposed for a moment that her ladyship was really
assuming responsibility for the long wait.

"I thought perhaps you might like one of father's pictures," Jasmine
began.

"Oh dear me ... oh yes," hemmed Lady Grant, who, to do her justice, did
not want to hurt her niece's feelings, but who felt that the
lusciousness of the scene presented might be too much for her husband's
appetite. Sir Hector, craning at the picture, asked what the principal
figure was holding in her basket.

"Cherries, aren't they?" suggested Lettice.

"Ah, yes, so they are," her father agreed. "Cherries.... Precisely....
Come, come, we mustn't let the soup get cold. The dessert can wait."

On the wings of a dreary little titter they moved toward the
dining-room; Sir Hector, leading the way like a turkey-cock in a
farmyard, murmured, whether in pity for the dead brother who could no
longer feel hungry or in compassion for his art:

"Poor old Sholto. We must get it framed."



_Chapter Three_


Jasmine woke up next morning to a vivid acceptance of the fact that from
now onward her life would not be her own. She had been too weary the
night before to grasp fully what this meant. Now, while she lay watching
the sun streaming in through the blind, the value of the long fine day
before her was suddenly depreciated. On an impulse to defeat misgiving
she jumped out of bed, sent up the blind with a jerk that admitted
Monday morning to her room like a jack-in-the-box, stared out over the
wide expanse of pale blue winking sea, sniffed the English seaside
odour, clambered up on her dressing-table to disentangle the blind,
failed to do so, descended again, and began to wonder how she should
occupy herself from six o'clock to nine. And after the long morning,
what a day stretched before her! A little talk with Uncle Hector about
her father, a little talk with Aunt May on the same subject, a lesson in
golf from her cousins, and, worst of all, the heavy foundation stones of
the threatened intimacy between her and Miss Crossfield to be placed in
position.

"We must get to know each other very well," Miss Crossfield had murmured
when she said good night. "We must pull together."

And this had been said with such a gloating anticipation of combined
effort and with such a repressed malignity beneath it all that if Miss
Crossfield had added "the teeth of these rich relatives," Jasmine would
not have thought the phrase extravagant.

She opened her door gently and looked out into the passage. Not even
the sound of snoring was audible; nothing indeed was audible except a
bluebottle's buzz on a window of ground glass that seemed alive with
sunlight. She wandered on tiptoe along the pale green Axminster pile,
went into the bathroom, crossed herself, and turned on the tap. The
running water sounded so torrential at this hour of the morning that she
at once clapped her hand over the tap to throttle the stream until she
could cut it off; during the guilty quiet that succeeded, she hurried
back to her bedroom, which by now was extremely hot. Before Jasmine
stretched years and years of silent sunlit vacancy, in which she would
be walking about on tiptoe and throttling every gush of spontaneous
feeling just as she had throttled that bath tap.

"And I can't stand it," she said, banging her dressing-table with the
back of her hairbrush.

She stopped in dismay at the noise, half expecting to hear cries of
"Murder!" from neighbouring rooms. The pale blue sea winked below; the
sun climbed higher. Jasmine sat down before the looking-glass to brush
her hair. A milk-cart clinked; rugs were being shaken below. Jasmine
still sat brushing her hair. The voices of gossiping servants were heard
above the steady chirp of sparrows. When Jasmine's hair was more
thoroughly brushed than it ever had been, she took her bath, and when
her hair was dry she brushed it all over again.

At a quarter to nine Sir Hector found her waiting in the dining-room,
the first down. His pleasure at such unexpected punctuality almost
compensated him for the fact that she had dared to open his paper and,
like all women, even his own wife, that she had turned an ordinary
sixteen-page newspaper into a complicated puzzle.

"Well," he said pompously, "you wouldn't find better weather than this
in Italy, would you?"

He managed to suggest that the glorious morning was Uncle Hector's own
little treat, a little treat, moreover, that nobody but Uncle Hector
would have thought of providing, or at any rate been able to provide.

"Yes," he went on, "and what a crime that all this should be
vulgarized." He included the firmament in an ample gesture. "I expect
your aunt told you that this will be our last summer in Spaborough? We
didn't come here to be pestered by trippers. That boarding-house next
door is a disgrace to South Parade. They were playing a gramophone last
night--laughing and talking out there on the steps until after one
o'clock. How people expect to get any benefit from their holidays I
don't know. We'd always been free from that sort of rowdiness until they
opened that pernicious boarding-house next door, and now it's worse than
Bank Holiday. Some people seem blind to the beauty round them. I suppose
when the moon gets to the full we shall hear them jabbering out there
till dawn. What _have_ you been doing to my paper? It's utterly
disorganized!"

Jasmine diverted her uncle's attention from the newspaper to the basket
of prickly pears that she had brought from Sirene, and invited him to
try one.

Sir Hector examined his niece's unnatural fruit as the night before he
had examined his brother's unnatural fruit.

"Well, I don't know," he hemmed. "We're rather old-fashioned people
here, you know."

"I think the prickles have all been taken out," said Jasmine
encouragingly, "but you'd better be careful in case they haven't."

Sir Hector had been on the verge of prodding one of the pears, but at
his niece's warning he drew back in alarm; and just then the clock on
the mantelpiece struck nine. Before the last stroke died away the whole
family was sitting down to breakfast. Jasmine's punctuality was
evidently a great satisfaction to her relatives, and if she did look
rather like a chocolate drop that had fallen into the tray reserved for
fondants, she felt much more at home now than she had at dinner last
night. Nothing occurred to mar the amity of the breakfast-table until
Lady Grant's fat fox-terrier began to tear round the room as if
possessed by a devil, clawing from time to time at his nose with both
front paws and turning somersaults. Lady Grant, who ascribed all the
ills of dogs to picking up unlicensed scraps, rang the bell and asked
severely if Hargreaves, whose duty it was to supervise the dog's early
morning promenade, had allowed him to eat anything in the road; but it
was Jasmine who diagnosed his complaint correctly.

"I think he has been sniffing the prickly pears," she said.

"But what dangerous things to leave about!" exclaimed her aunt.
"Hargreaves, take the basket out into the kitchen and tell cook to empty
them carefully--carefully, mind, or she may hurt herself--into the
pineapple dish. She had better wear gloves. And if she can't manage
them," Lady Grant called after the parlourmaid, who was gingerly
carrying out the basket at arm's length, "if she can't manage them, they
must be burnt. On no account must they be thrown into the dustbin. I'm
sorry that we don't appreciate your Italian fruit," she added, turning
to her niece, "I'm afraid you'll find us very stay-at-home people, and
you know English servants hate anything in the least unusual."

"How they must hate me!" Jasmine thought.

"And what is the programme for to-day?" asked Sir Hector suddenly,
flinging down the paper with such a crackle that Jasmine would not have
been more startled if like a clown he had jumped clean through it into
the conversation.

"Well, we _were_ going to play golf," said Lettice disagreeably.

"Oh then, please do," said Jasmine hurriedly, for she felt that a future
had been mutilated into imperfection by the responsibility of
entertaining herself.

"Jasmine and I have a little business to talk over after breakfast," Sir
Hector announced. "So you girls had better be independent this morning,
and give Jasmine her first lesson this afternoon."

The girls looked at their father coldly.

"We've got a foursome on with Dick Onslowe and Claude Whittaker this
morning, and if George Huntingford turns up this afternoon," said
Lettice, "I've got a match with him. But if Pamela isn't engaged, I
daresay she will look after Jasmine, that is if she can find her way to
the club-house."

"But Roy Medlicott said he might get to the links this afternoon,"
protested Pamela. "And if he does, I shan't be able to look after
Jasmine."

"Well, we might get Tommy Waterall to give her a lesson," proposed
Lettice. Something in her cousin's intonation made Jasmine realize that
Tommy Waterall was the charitable institution of that golf club, and she
vowed to herself that she at any rate would not be beholden to him, even
if she were successful in finding her way to the club-house, which was
unlikely.

Jasmine's little talk with her uncle was the smallest ever known. Sir
Hector, as a consulting nerve specialist, was accustomed to ask more
questions than he answered, and since the only positive information he
had to impart to his niece was the fact that she had not a penny in the
world, the theme did not lend itself to eloquence.

"Yes, that's how your affairs stand," said Sir Hector. "But you mustn't
worry yourself." He was just going to dilate on the deleterious effects
of worry, as though Jasmine were a rich patient, when he remembered that
whether she worried or not it was of no importance to him. His
observations on worry, therefore, those very observations which had won
for him a fortune and a title, were not placed at his niece's disposal.
The little talk was over, and Sir Hector strode from the study to
proclaim the news.

"We've had our little talk," he bellowed. Lettice and Pamela,
delightfully equipped for golf in shrimp-pink jerseys, passed coldly by.
It was one of those moments which do give a nose an opportunity of
showing off, and Sir Hector, afraid of being snubbed, drew back into his
study. When he heard the front door slam, he emerged again, and shouted
louder than ever: "We have had our little talk!"

Lady Grant appeared from another door further along the hall, her hand
pressed painfully to her forehead.

"Couldn't you wait a little while, dear, until I have finished doing the
books?"

"Sorry," said Sir Hector, retreating again. He was wishing that he had
at Strathspey House his Harley Street waiting-room into which he could
have pushed Jasmine to occupy herself there with illustrated papers a
month old and not disturb him by her presence. "Perhaps you might care
to go and wait for your aunt in the drawing-room," he suggested
finally. "I know she's very anxious to say a few words to you about your
father--your poor father." The epithet was intended to be sympathetic,
not sarcastic, but Jasmine bolted from the room with her handkerchief to
her eyes.

"A leetle overwrought," murmured Sir Hector, as if he were talking to a
patient. But soon he lighted a cigar and forgot all about his niece.

There are few places in this world that cast a more profound gloom upon
the human spirit than a sunny English drawing-room at 9.45 a.m. Its
welcome is as frigid as a woman who fends off a kiss because she has
just made up her lips.

"If I feel like this now," said Jasmine to herself, "_Dio mio_, what shall
I feel like in a month's time?"

She put away the handkerchief almost at once, for even grief was frozen
in this house, and memories that yesterday would have brought tears to
her eyes were to-day so hardly imaginable that they had no power to
affect her. "I'm really just as much dead as father," she sighed to the
Japanese blinds that rustled faintly in a faint breeze from the sea. On
an impulse she rushed upstairs to her bedroom, took off her black
clothes, and came down again to the dining-room in a yellow silk jersey
and a white skirt.

"My dear Jasmine!... Already?..." ejaculated her aunt, when the
household accounts were finished and she found her niece waiting for her
in the drawing-room. "I don't know that your uncle will quite approve,
so very soon after his brother's death."

"I don't believe in mourning."

"My dear child, are you quite old enough to give such a decided opinion
on a custom which is universally followed--even by savages?"

"Father would perfectly understand my feelings."

"I daresay your father would understand, but I don't think your uncle
will understand."

And one felt that Sholto's comprehension in Paradise was a poor thing
compared with his brother's lack of it on earth.

"Anyway, I'm not going to wear black any longer," said Jasmine curtly.

"As you will," her aunt replied with grave resignation. "Oh, and before
I forget, I have told Hopkins to show you exactly how the blind is
pulled up in your room. I'm afraid you didn't keep hold of the lower
tassel this morning. They're still trying to get it down, and I am very
much afraid we shall have to send for a carpenter to mend it. If you
pull the string on the right without holding the lower tassel----"

"I know," Jasmine interrupted. "I'm rather like that blind myself."

Lady Grant hoped inwardly that her niece was not going to be difficult,
and changed the subject. "You have no doubt gathered by now exactly how
you stand," she went on. "I know you've been having a little talk with
your uncle, and I know that there is nothing more galling than a sense
of dependency. So I was going to suggest that when we went back to
Harley Street in September you should take Edith Crossfield's place and
help me with my numerous--well, really I suppose I _must_ call them
that--my numerous charities. At present Cousin Edith only answers all my
letters for me; but I daresay you will find many ways of making yourself
much more useful than that, because you are younger and more energetic
than poor Edith. Though, of course, while we are at Spaborough I want
you to consider yourself as much on a holiday as we all are. Do make up
your mind to get plenty of good fresh air and exercise. The girls are
quite horrified to hear that you have never played golf, especially as
they're so good at it themselves. Lettice is only four at the Scottish
Ladies'. Or is it five? Dear me, I've forgotten! How angry the dear
child would be!"

"I'm D--E--A--D, dead," Jasmine was saying to herself all the time her
aunt was speaking.

And perhaps it was because she looked so much like a corpse that her
aunt recommended a course of iron to bring back her roses. Lady Grant
was so much accustomed wherever she looked, even if it were in her own
glass, to see roses that Jasmine's pallor was unpleasant to her.
Besides, it might mean that she really was delicate, which would be a
nuisance.

"It's almost a pity," she said, "that your uncle did not postpone his
little talk, so that you could have gone with the girls to the links.
They have such wonderful complexions, I always think."

"Please don't worry about me," said Jasmine quickly. "I can amuse myself
perfectly well by myself."

"My dear," said Lady Grant, asserting the purity of her motives with
such a gentle air of martyrdom as Saint Agnes may have used toward
Symphronius, "you misunderstand me. You are not at all in the way; but
as I have some private letters to write, I was going to suggest that you
and Cousin Edith should take a little walk and see something of
Spaborough."

"Little walks, little talks, little talks, little walks," spun the
jingle in Jasmine's mind.

At this moment the companion proposed for Jasmine floated into the room.
Miss Crossfield was so thin, her movements and gestures were so
indeterminate, and her arms wandered so much upon the air, that indoors
she suggested a daddy-longlegs on a window-pane, and out of doors a
daddy-longlegs floating across an upland pasture in autumn. It was
perhaps this extreme attenuation that gave her subservience a kind of
spirituality; with so little flesh to clog her good will, she was almost
literally a familiar spirit. She materialized like one of those obedient
genies in the Arabian Nights whenever Lady Grant rang the bell, and she
endowed that ring with as much magic as if it had been the golden ring
of Abanazar.

"Edith," said Lady Grant magnanimously, "I am writing my own letters
this morning to give you the opportunity of taking Jasmine for a little
walk. You had better take Spot with you--on the lead, of course."

That at any rate would tie Cousin Edith to earth, Jasmine thought, for
Spot was so fat and so porcine that he was unlikely to run away and
carry Cousin Edith with him in a Gadarene rush down the face of the
cliff. Yes, with Spot to detain her, not much could happen to Cousin
Edith.

But Jasmine was wrong. Spot had a fetish: the sensation of twigs or
leaves faintly tickling his back gave him such exquisite pleasure that
to secure it he would use the cunning of a morphinomaniac in pursuit of
his drug. He would put back his ears and creep very slowly under the
lower branches of a shrub, so that Cousin Edith, who in her affection
for the family felt bound to indulge the dog to the whole length of his
lead and even further, was lured after him deep into the chosen bush, so
that finally, immaterial as she was, she was herself entangled in the
upper branches.

"I think I'm getting rather scratched," she would cry helplessly to
Jasmine, who would have to come to the rescue with a sharp tug at Spot's
lead. This used to give such a shock to the bloated fox-terrier that,
torn from his sensation of being scratched by canine houris, he would
choke, while Cousin Edith, dancing feebly on the still autumn air, would
beg Jasmine never again to be so rough with him.

The music of the Spa band grew louder while they were descending the
winding paths of the cliff, until at last it burst upon Jasmine with the
full force of an operatic finale and gave a throb of life to her
hitherto lifeless morning. The music stopped before they reached the
last curve of the descent, where they paused a moment to watch the
movement of the dædal throng, above which parasols floated like great
butterflies. From the sands beyond, above the chattering, came up the
sound of children's laughter, and beyond that the pale blue winking sea
was fused with the sky in the silver haze of August so that the furthest
ships were sailing in the clouds.

And then, just when it really was beginning to seem worth while to be
alive again, Cousin Edith's hand alighted uncertainly like a
daddy-longlegs on Jasmine's arm and jigged up and down as a prelude to
whispering in what, were that insect vocal, would certainly have been
the voice of a daddy-longlegs:

"Do you think we can communicate with the dead?"

"No, I don't," said Jasmine sharply. "And if we could, I shouldn't want
to."

Cousin Edith opened wide her globular eyes, which, like those of an
insect, were set apparently on her face rather than in it. But before
she could combat the blasphemy she had been lured by Spot deep into a
privet bush, so deep that the old rhyme came into Jasmine's head about
the man of Thessaly who scratched out his eyes in bushes and at his own
will scratched them in again in other bushes. He must have had eyes like
Cousin Edith's--external and globular.

"Poor old Spot," she murmured, disengaging her lips from a cobweb as
genteelly as possible. "He so enjoys his little walk. Up here now,
dear," she added, seeing that Jasmine was preparing to go down to the
promenade.

"But shan't we go and listen to the music?"

"We have Spot with us."

"Well?"

Cousin Edith came very close to her and whispered:

"Dogs are not allowed on the promenade."

"Then let's tie him up and leave him here," suggested Jasmine.

Cousin Edith laughed. At least Jasmine supposed it was a laugh, even if
it did sound more like the squeaking of a slate pencil. Indeed she was
pretty sure that it was a laugh, because when it was finished Cousin
Edith's fingers danced along her arm and she said:

"How droll you are! We'll go out by the north gate. Unless," she added,
"you would like to sit in this summer-house for a little while and
listen to the band from here."

There was a summer-house close at hand which, with the appearance of a
decayed beehive, smelt of dry-rot and was littered with paper bags.

"I often sit here," Cousin Edith explained. Jasmine was tempted to reply
that she looked as if she did; but a sense of inability to struggle any
longer against the withering influence of the Grants came over her, and
she followed Cousin Edith into the summer-house. There on a semicircular
rustic seat they sat in silence, staring out at the dim green world,
while Spot seduced a few strands of the tangled creeper round the
entrance to play upon his back paradisal symphonies. Then Cousin Edith
began to talk again; and while she talked a myriad little noises of
insect life in the summer-house, which had been temporarily disturbed,
began again--little whispers, little scratches, little dry sounds that
were indefinable.

"You have no idea how kind Cousin May is. But, of course, she isn't
Cousin May to you, she's Aunt May, isn't she?" Again the desiccated
titter of Cousin Edith's mirth sounded. The myriad noises stopped in
alarm for a moment, but quickly went on again. "Already she has planned
for you a delightful surprise."

Jasmine's impulsive heart leaped toward the good intention of her aunt,
and with an eager question in her eyes she jumped round so energetically
that she shook the fabric, bringing down a skeleton leaf of ivy, which
fluttered over Spot's back and gave him the finest thrill of the
morning.

"What can it be?" she cried, clapping her hands. This was too much for
the summer-house. Skeleton leaves, twigs, dead flies, mummied earwigs
began to drop down in all directions.

"It's quite dusty in here," said Cousin Edith in a perplexed tone. "I
think perhaps we had better be moving along."

"But the surprise?" Jasmine persisted.

Cousin Edith trembled with self-importance, and her long forefinger
waved like an antenna when she bade Jasmine follow her in the direction
of the promised revelation. They strolled along the winding paths of the
shrubberies above the promenade until they reached the main entrance of
the Spa.

"Will you hold Spot for a tiny minute? I have a little business here,"
Cousin Edith pleaded. Having adjured Spot to be a good dog, and promised
him that she would not be long, Cousin Edith engaged the ticket clerk in
a conversation, and so much did she appear to be pecking at her purse
and so nearly did she seem to be ruffling her feathers when she bobbed
her hat up and down that if she had presently flown into the office
through the pigeon-hole and perched beside her mate on the desk inside
it would have appeared natural. Jasmine might have wondered what Cousin
Edith was doing if she had not been too much occupied with Spot, who in
default of a convenient bush was trying to extract his dorsal sensations
from a little girl's frock. When he was jerked away by a heavier hand
than Cousin Edith's he began to growl, whereupon Jasmine smacked him
with her glove, which so surprised the fat dog that he collapsed in the
path and breathed stertorously to attract the sympathy of the
passers-by. Cousin Edith came back from her colloquy with the clerk, and
in a rapture of esoteric benevolence she pressed into Jasmine's palm a
round green cardboard disk.

"Your season ticket," she murmured. "Cousin May--I mean Aunt May--asked
me to buy you one while we were out."

Jasmine felt that she ought to jump in the air and embrace the
gate-keeper in the excess of her joy. As for Cousin Edith, she watched
her as one watches a child that has been given a sweet too large for its
mouth. She seemed afraid that Jasmine would choke if she swallowed such
a benefaction whole.

"And now," she said, as if after such a display of generosity it were
incredible that there might be more to come, "and now Aunt May--there, I
said it right that time!--Aunt May suggested that we might have a cup of
chocolate together at the Oriental Café afterwards."

"Hullo!" cried a cheerful voice, which brought Jasmine back to earth
from the dazzling prospects being offered by Cousin Edith. "Why, we've
met even sooner than I hoped we should."

Jasmine's sandy-haired railway companion, looking delightfully at ease,
every freckle in his face twinkling with geniality and pleasure, shook
hands. For the first time she regretted that it was Cousin Edith's duty
to hold Spot. If Cousin Edith had not been detained by the fat
fox-terrier, she might have floated away like a child's balloon, such
evident dismay did Mr. Vibart's irruption create in one who was under
the obsession that all the young men in the world fit to be known were
already friends of Lettice and Pamela. Jasmine introduced Mr. Vibart
without any explanation, and poor Cousin Edith, who was too genteel, and
had been too long dependent to know how to escape from an
acquaintanceship she did not wish to be forced on her, allowed Mr.
Vibart to shake her hand. When, however, he calmly suggested that they
should all turn back and listen to the band, she pulled herself together
and declared that it was quite impossible.

"The dog...." she began.

"Oh, we'll leave the dog with the gate-keeper," said Mr. Vibart.

"I'm afraid, Jasmine, your friend doesn't understand that dear old Spot
is quite one of the family." And turning with a bitter-sweet smile to
the intrusive young man: "Spot is a great responsibility," she added.

"I should think so," Mr. Vibart agreed, regarding with unconcealed
disgust the fox-terrier, who, having been rolling on his back in the
dust, looked now more like a sheep than a pig. Jasmine understood at
once what Mr. Vibart wanted, and as she wanted the same thing so much
herself she nearly answered his unspoken invitation by saying, "Very
well, Mr. Vibart and I will go and listen to the band for half an hour,
and when you've finished your chocolate at the café, we'll meet you
here." She felt, however, that such independence of action was too
precipitate for Spaborough.

"I'm afraid that we were just going to the Oriental Café," Cousin Edith
had begun, when Mr. Vibart interrupted her.

"Capital! Just what I should like to do myself!"

Before Cousin Edith could do anything about it they were all on their
way to the town; but by the time the café was reached she had perfected
her strategy.

"Thank you very much for escorting us," she murmured. "Miss Grant and I
are much obliged to you. You, of course, will prefer the smoking-room.
We always go into the ladies' room."

The Oriental Café included among its appropriate features a zenana,
outside the door of which, marked _LADIES ONLY_, Mr. Vibart was left
disconsolate, although before it closed Jasmine had managed to whisper,
"Strathspey House, South Parade."

Within the zenana, to which Spot was admitted as little boys under six
are admitted to ladies' bathing-machines, Cousin Edith warned a young
girl against the wiles of men.

"I shan't say anything to Aunt May about this unpleasant little
business," she promised Jasmine, who was convinced that she would take
the first opportunity to tell her aunt everything. "No, I shan't tell
Aunt May," Cousin Edith went on, "because I think it would pain her.
She's so particular about Lettice and Pamela, and we always have such
nice men at Strathspey House." But lest Jasmine should suppose that the
presence of nice men there implied a chance for her in the near future,
she made haste to add:

"Though, of course, we must always be careful, even with the nicest men.
I must say that it seems to me a dreadful idea that a young girl like
you should be able to meet a man in the train, travel with him
unprotected, and actually be accosted by him the next day. Ugh! I'm so
glad we had Spot with us! Brave old Spot!" And in her gratitude to Spot
for the preservation of their modesty she gave him half of one of the
free biscuits that the Oriental Café allowed to the purchaser of a cup
of chocolate.

"Do you know," went on Cousin Edith, flushed by the thought of their
narrow escape and by the deliciously hot chocolate, "do you know that
once, nearly five years ago, a man winked at me in a bus? I was quite
alone inside, and the conductor was taking the fares on the top."

"What did you do?" Jasmine asked with a smile.

"Why, of course I rang the bell, got out almost before the bus had fully
stopped, and walked the rest of the way. But it made such an impression
on me that when I reached my friend's house she had to give me several
drops of valerian, my heart was in such a state, what with walking so
fast and being so frightened. Perhaps I oughtn't to have told you such a
horrid story. But I'm older than you, and I want you to feel that I'm
your friend. Oh yes, the things men do! Well, I was brought up very
strictly, but I have a very strong imagination, and sometimes when I'm
alone I just sit and gasp at the wickedness of men. And now," Cousin
Edith concluded with an uneasy glance round the zenana, "I think we
ought to hurry back as fast as we can. Come, Spot! Good old Spot! I'll
show you the Aquarium, dear, as we go home. You can see the roof quite
well when we turn round the corner from Marine Crescent."

Perhaps Cousin Edith thought that Jasmine's indiscretion would be more
valuable as a weapon for herself if it was unrevealed, for she did not
say a word to Lady Grant about the meeting at the gates of the Spa;
indeed all the way home she talked about nothing except the wonder of
possessing a season ticket of one's own, ascribing to the round green
cardboard disk a potency such as few talismans have possessed.

"You will be able to go and see the fireworks on gala nights," she
explained, "and you'll be able to go and hear concerts--though, of
course, if you want to sit down you have to pay extra--and you'll be
able to go and drink the waters--though, of course, you have to pay a
penny for the glass--and you'll be able to take a short cut from South
Parade to the beach--though, of course, you won't care for the beach,
because it's apt to be a little vulgar--and then the promenade is far
the best place to hear the pierrots from--though I'm afraid that even
they have been getting vulgar lately. I'm so glad that Cousin May
thought of making you this present. It makes me so happy for you, dear."

While Cousin Edith was extolling its powers, the green cardboard disk,
which was originally about the size of a florin, seemed to be growing
larger and larger in Jasmine's glove, until by the time South Parade was
reached it seemed the size of a saucer. In fact it was only after
Jasmine had warmly thanked her aunt for the kind thought that it shrank
back into being a small green cardboard disk again. At least she was no
longer aware of its burning her palm; but when she came to take off her
gloves she found that this was because the ticket was no longer there.
The loss of the Koh-i-nur diamond could not have been treated more
seriously. The house was turned upside down, and small parties were sent
out into South Parade to examine carefully every paving stone and to
peer down the gratings of the drains. Sir Hector, who had been in
charge of the operations conducted inside the house, suddenly became
overheated and announced that it was useless to search any longer, but
that when he paid his own afternoon visit to the Spa he would go into
the question with the authorities, and if necessary actually buy another
ticket.

"And perhaps your uncle will take you with him," said Lady Grant.

Cousin Edith clasped her hands in envious amazement. "Jasmine!" she
exclaimed. "Do you hear that? Perhaps Sir Hector will take you with
him!"

Lettice and Pamela did not come back to lunch, and at four o'clock Sir
Hector sent Hargreaves up to Jasmine's room to inform her that he was
ready. Two minutes later he sent Hargreaves up to say that he was
waiting. Four minutes later he sent Hargreaves up to say that he would
walk slowly on. Six minutes later, Jasmine, not quite sure which way her
hat was facing or whether her dress was properly fastened, found Sir
Hector, watch in hand, at the nearest entrance of the gardens.

"If there is ever any doubt about the time," he told her, "we always
follow the clock in my room. Let me see. You have lost your season
ticket, so that at this entrance you will have to pay. Wait a minute,
however; I will see if the gate-keeper will let you through for once."

The gate-keeper was perfectly willing to trust Sir Hector's account of
the accident to the season ticket, and Sir Hector, carrying himself more
upright even than usual, observed to Jasmine as they walked along
towards the main entrance, "You see they know me here."

"Now where are you going to keep this ticket so that you don't lose it
like the other one?" asked Sir Hector when he had presented Jasmine with
the second small green disk, for which the management had regretfully
but firmly exacted another payment.

Jasmine proposed to put it in her purse.

"Yes," said Sir Hector judicially, "that might be a good place. But be
very careful that you don't drop it when you want to take out any
money."

"There's only tenpence halfpenny to take out," said Jasmine. "But I can
put the ticket in the inside compartment, which is meant for gold."

"Good Heavens! I hope you don't carry much gold about with you,"
exclaimed her uncle.

"No, not very much," she replied. "A broken locket, that's all."

On the way to the promenade Sir Hector was saluted respectfully by
various people; and several ladies sitting on sunny benches quivered as
he went by, with that indescribable tribute of the senses which they
accord to a popular Lenten preacher who passes them on the way to the
pulpit.

"Some of my patients," Sir Hector explained.

Jasmine wondered if it would be more tactful to say that they looked
very well or that they looked very ill; not being able to decide, she
smiled. At that moment Sir Hector stopped beside a bath-chair.

"Duchess," he proclaimed in a voice sufficiently loud to be heard by all
the passers-by, most of whom turned round and stared, first at the
Duchess, then at Sir Hector, then at Jasmine, and finally at the
chairman, "you are looking definitely better."

"Ah, Sir Hector, I wish I felt better."

"You will.... You will...." Sir Hector prophesied, and, raising his hat,
he passed on.

"That," he said to Jasmine, "is Georgina, Duchess of Shropshire. Yes
... yes ... it's odd.... They're all my patients.... The Duchess of
Shropshire, ... Georgina, Duchess of Shropshire, ... Eleanor, Duchess of
Shropshire."

Jasmine, who came from Sirene, where any summer Italian duchesses
bathing are to be found as thick as limpets on the rocks, was less
impressed than she ought to have been.

"What's the matter with her?" she enquired.

Sir Hector never encouraged his patients to ask what was the matter with
themselves, and he certainly did not approve of his niece's enquiry.

"You would hardly understand," he said severely, and then relapsed into
silence, to concentrate upon threading his way through the crowd of the
Promenade.

Sir Hector, who wished to be the cynosure of the promenaders floating
with the opposite current, kept on the extreme edge of the downward
stream, so that Jasmine, with two feet less height than her uncle and no
title, found it difficult to make headway, so difficult indeed that in
trying to keep up with him she got too much to the left and was swept
back by the contrary stream, in which, though she managed to keep her
season ticket, she lost herself. Several times during this promenade
eternal as the winds of hell, she caught sight of her uncle's neck
lifted above the swirl like a cormorant's, and once she managed to get
to the outside of the stream and actually to pluck at his sleeve as he
went by in the opposite direction; but her voice was drowned by the
music, and he did not notice her. She was beginning to feel tired of
walking round and round like this, and at last, finding herself working
across to the right of the current, she struggled ashore, or in other
words went into the concert room.

The concert room of the Spa looked like a huge conservatory full of
dead vegetation. The hundreds of chairs stacked one upon another in rows
seemed a brake of withered canes; the music-stands on the platform
resembled the dried-up stalks of small shrubs; while the few palms and
foliage plants that preserved their greenery only served to enhance the
deadness all round, and were themselves streaked with decay. Outside,
the gay throng passing and repassing like fish added a final touch to
the desolation of the interior. Two small boys, with backward uneasy
glances, were creeping furtively through the maze of chairs. Jasmine
thought that they like herself had been overcome by the mystery haunting
this light and arid interior, until a dull boom from the direction of
the platform, followed by the screech of hurriedly moved chairs and the
clatter of frightened feet made her realize that their cautious advance
had been the preliminary to a daring attempt to bang, if only once, the
big drum muffled in baize. No sooner had the boys successfully escaped
than Jasmine was seized with a strong desire to bang the drum for
herself, to bang it, however, much more loudly than those boys had
banged it, to raise the drumstick high above her and bring it down upon
the drum as a smith brings his hammer down upon the anvil. The longer
she sat here, the harder she found it to keep away from the platform.
Finally the temptation became too strong to be resisted; she snatched
the baize cover from the instrument, seized the drumstick, and brought
it down with a crash.

"I wish I could do that at Strathspey House," she sighed; and then,
hearing a voice at the back of the hall, she turned round to see an
indignant man in a green baize apron looking at her over folded arms.

"Here! you mustn't do that," he was protesting.

"I'm sorry," said Jasmine. "I simply couldn't help it."

"It isn't as if I didn't have to spend half my time as it is chasing
boys out of here, but I never reckoned to have to go chasing after young
ladies."

"No; I'm sorry," said Jasmine. She hesitated for a moment what to do;
then she thought of her talisman and fumbled in her purse. The attendant
wiped his hands on the apron in preparation for the half-crown that he
estimated was the least remuneration he could receive for the loudest
bang on that drum he had ever heard, and when Jasmine produced nothing
but a season ticket he was inclined to be nasty.

"You needn't think you can come in here and rattle all the windows and
fetch me away from my work just because you're a season ticket holder,
which only makes it worse in my opinion, and I'll have to take your name
and number, miss, and complain to the management. That's all there is to
it. I've been asking to have this place closed when not in use, and now
perhaps they'll do it. Only this morning I barked my shins something
cruel trying to catch hold of a boy who was playing the banjo on the
double bass. I've got your number, miss, 17874, and you'll hear from the
management about it; and that's all there is to it."

He wiped his other hand on the apron and waited a moment; when Jasmine
did not seem to understand what he wanted, he invited her to leave the
hall forthwith, and retired to formulate his complaint. As for Jasmine,
she rejoined the throng; but by now, in whatever direction she looked,
she could not even see Sir Hector's long red neck, much less meet him
face to face. She began to be bewitched by the continuous circling round
the bandstand. It was really delicious on this golden afternoon to be
borne round upon these mingled perfumes of scent and asphalt. The
asphalt, softened by the heat, was pleasant to walk on, like grass, and
it was only after circling for about half an hour that she realized how
tiring it was to the feet. At this moment the music stopped; the opening
bars of _God Save the King_ were played; a patriotic gentleman next to
her planted his foot on her own in his desire to remind people that he
was an old soldier. Two minutes later the Promenade was empty, and
Jasmine, with any number of chairs to choose from now, sat down.

She had not been there more than five minutes when round the corner came
Mr. Vibart, walking in the way people walk when they have an object.

"I hoped I should find you on the Spa," he said. "I've just called at
your home. Don't be frightened," he went on at Jasmine's expression of
alarm, "I didn't ask for you. I rang the bell and asked if they had a
vacant apartment, and how much the board was a day. Luck was on my side.
The maid was just coming to from her swoon when an old boy looking like
a turkey that's nearly had its neck wrung came shouting through the
garden that he had lost Jasmine on the Promenade. I didn't wait to hear
any more, but hurried down as fast as I could. And here I am, full of
schemes. But I decided not to put any of them into practice until I'd
seen you again."

"Oh, but it's all turned out much worse than what I expected," said
Jasmine hurriedly. "You mustn't come and call or do anything like that.
Why, I'm almost frightened to ring the bell myself, and if I heard any
of my friends ring a bell I don't know what I should do. I'm not a bit
of a success. I heard my aunt say _sotto voce_ that she distrusted dark
people. I lost a season ticket this morning which cost I don't know how
many shillings. I've lost my uncle now. If you come and call, _sarò
perduta io_. And now I must say good-bye and go back."

"Well, don't break into Japanese like that. Let's sit down and talk over
the situation."

"No, no, no! I must say good-bye and hurry back."

"I don't want to compromise you and all that," the young man protested,
"but it seems a pity not to enjoy this weather."

"No, please go away," Jasmine begged. "It's all perfectly different to
anything I ever imagined. Quite different. I'm sorry I gave you my
address this morning."

Jasmine was getting more and more nervous. She had an idea that Cousin
Edith would be sent to look for her; if Cousin Edith found her talking
to Mr. Vibart by the deserted bandstand she would suppose that the
assignation had been made that morning. All sorts of ideas swirled into
Jasmine's mind, and she began to hurry towards the winding path up the
cliff.

"At any rate you might let me walk back with you as far as the
entrance," he suggested.

"No, please, really. You make me nervous. You don't in the least
understand my position."

Mr. Vibart looked so sad that Jasmine hesitated.

"Don't you play a game called golf?" she asked.

"Yes, I do play a game called golf," he laughed.

"Well, I believe they're going to teach me, so perhaps we might meet on
the golf grounds," said Jasmine. "My cousins went there this morning and
didn't come back for lunch, and I think they go every day."

"I see the notion. I must get to know them, what?"

"Yes, I don't think it will be very difficult," Jasmine answered. She
was speaking simply, not maliciously. "They seem to know lots of people
who play this game. But if you do meet them, for goodness' sake don't
say you know me. Turn round! Turn round!" she cried in agony. "Turn
round straight away in the other direction without looking back! Do what
I tell you! Do what I tell you!"

Round the next bend of the laurel-edged walk Jasmine met Cousin Edith,
who, unencumbered by Spot, was floating towards her as a daddy-longlegs
floats towards a lamp.

Jasmine found it difficult to make her uncle understand how she had been
lost.

"I cannot think where you got to," he said. "I looked about everywhere.
Most extraordinary!"

"I'm sure she didn't mean to get lost, Sir Hector," Cousin Edith put in
with just enough accent on the intention to create a suspicion of
Jasmine's sincerity.

"No, of course she didn't mean to get lost," Sir Hector gobbled. "Nobody
means to get lost. But you'll have to learn to keep your head, young
lady. However, all's well that ends well, so we'll say no more about it.
Where are the girls?"

Just then the girls came in, and Jasmine hoped that she was going to be
invited to partake of the mysterious game that occupied so much of their
time. All indeed promised well, for several allusions were made in the
course of dinner to the necessity of introducing her to the joys of
golf. Next morning, however, Lettice and Pamela went off as usual, and
as an intoxicating treat for Jasmine it was proposed that Cousin Edith
should show her the Castle.

"It might be a little far for Spot," Cousin Edith humbly objected.

"Yes, I think you are right," Lady Grant agreed. "So Spot shall take a
little walk with his mother."

It was supposed to be necessary for Cousin Edith to translate into baby
language for Spot his mother's wishes, after which she turned to Lady
Grant and proclaimed intensely:

"He knows."

Spot was standing on three legs and scratching himself with the fourth,
which was presumably his method of acknowledging the success of Cousin
Edith's interpretation.

The walk up to the Castle was long and hot; the Castle was a little more
uninteresting than most ruins are. Cousin Edith poetized upon the
romance of the past; Jasmine counted two hundred and nine paper bags.

When they got back to Strathspey House it was obvious that something
unpleasant had occurred during their absence. Cousin Edith tried all
through lunch to give her impression of the delight Jasmine had tasted
in going to the Castle; but her account of the morning's entertainment
was received so coldly by her patrons that in the end she was silent,
shrinking into such insignificance and humility that the faint clicking
of her false teeth was her only contribution to actuality. After lunch a
few whispers were exchanged between her and Lady Grant, at the
conclusion of which she danced on tiptoe out of the dining-room, and
Lady Grant turned to her niece.

"Your uncle wishes to speak to you," she announced gravely.

Sir Hector, who during these preliminaries had been hiding behind the
newspaper, jumped up and took a letter from his pocket.

"Can you explain this?" he demanded.

His wife had moved over to the window and was looking out at the sky in
the way that ladies look at the East window when something in the
preacher's sermon is particularly applicable to a neighbour. Jasmine
read the letter, which was from the director of the Spa:

     Spa Gardens Company, Limited,

     Spaborough,

     _August 15th._

     _Dear Sir Hector Grant,_

     _I am writing to you personally and confidentially to ask you
     whether season ticket 17874 is really held by one of your family
     party. The caretaker of the Concert Room has complained to me that
     a young lady holding season ticket 17874, which was traced to the
     name of Miss Jasmine Grant, Strathspey House, removed the green
     baize cover from the big drum yesterday afternoon the 14th inst.
     and struck it several times. We have not been able to trace any
     reason for her behaviour, and I should be much obliged if you would
     give the matter your kind attention. The Company has of course no
     wish to take any action in the matter, and is content to leave all
     the necessary steps in your hands. I may add that the drum has been
     examined carefully, and I am glad to be able to assure you that it
     is quite uninjured. At the same time we rely on our season ticket
     holders to set an example to the casual visitors, and I am sure you
     will appreciate the delicacy of my position._


     _Believe me, my dear Sir Hector Grant,_

     _Yours very faithfully,_

     _John Pershore,_

     _Managing Director._

"Yes, I did bang the drum," Jasmine confessed.

Now if Sir Hector Grant had been asked by one of his patients to cure an
uncontrollable impulse to beat big drums he would have known how to
prescribe for her, and within a week or two of her visit ladies would
have been going round each asking the other if she had heard of Sir
Hector Grant's latest and most wonderful cure. His niece, however, did
not present herself to him as a clinical subject; he had no desire to
analyse her psyche for her own benefit or for the elucidation of the
Flatus Complex.

"No wonder you were lost," he said bitterly. "I don't suppose you
expected me to look for you among the drums? I don't wish to make a
great fuss about nothing, but I should like to point out that you cannot
accuse me of being backward in coming forward to ... er ... show our ...
er ... affection, and we look, not unreasonably, I hope, for a little
... er ... sympathy on your side. I shall write to Mr. Pershore and
explain that you were brought up in Italy and did not appreciate the
importance of what you were doing. That will, I hope, close the matter.
I cannot think why you don't go and play golf with the girls," he added
fretfully.

"I should love to go and play golf," Jasmine declared.

Lady Grant now came forward from the window: perhaps, during this
painful scene she had made up her mind that her niece must be added to
the list of her charities.

"You must try to realize, my dear child," she said, shaking her head,
"that our only idea is for you to be happy. Have you already forgotten
that you lost your first season ticket? Have you forgotten even that it
was your Uncle Hector himself who immediately offered to buy you another
one? He has not said very much about the drum; but his restraint does
not mean that he has not felt it all dreadfully. And he has had other
things to upset him this morning. Only yesterday one of his oldest
patients jumped out of a fourth storey window and was dashed to pieces.
So we must all be a little considerate. Don't you think that you're too
old to play with drums? What would you think if I went about beating
drums? However, enough has been said."

Sir Hector blew his nose very loudly, and Jasmine on her way up to her
room thought that if she could trumpet like that with her nose, she
should be content to let drums alone.



_Chapter Four_


It seemed to be the general opinion of Strathspey House that Jasmine was
reckless, and in order to counteract a propensity that might one day
cause serious trouble to her protectors it was decided to sow the seeds
of prudence by making her a quarterly allowance of £10, on which she was
to dress and provide herself with pocket money. The announcement of the
largesse was made in such a way that if the first ten golden sovereigns
had lain within her reach Jasmine would have been tempted to pick them
up and fling them back at the donors. In order, however, that the
possession of wealth might bring with it a sense of wealth's
responsibilities it had been decided to open an account for her at the
Post Office Savings Bank, and without even so much as an account book to
throw, Jasmine found that all her verbal protestations were interpreted
as a becoming sign of gratitude.

To say that Jasmine longed for the freedom of Sirene is to express
nothing of the fierce ache she suffered every moment of the day for that
happy island. Adam and Eve when their sons first began to quarrel could
not have looked back with a sharper bitterness of desire to their
childless Eden. The possibility of ever being able to go back there did
not present itself even in the most distant future, and the thought that
with each year the sound of Sirenian mandolins, the scent of Sirenian
roses, and the brilliance of Sirenian moonlight would grow fainter
dabbled Jasmine's pillow with tears when she fell asleep in the
sentimental night-time, and when she woke made of the sun a heavy brass
dish that extinguished instead of illuminating the new day.

Jasmine's last hope was that her cousins would offer to take her to the
links; but a fortnight passed, on every evening of which it was decided
that she should accompany Lettice and Pamela the following morning, and
on every morning of which it was decided at the last moment that she had
better wait until to-morrow. Her time was spent partly in dreary walks
with Cousin Edith, partly in what Lady Grant euphemistically called
checking her accounts, a process that consisted in Jasmine's having to
be at her elbow for whatever assistance she required in managing the
household and several of her exacting charities. In a rash moment
Jasmine alluded to Aunt Ellen's suggestion about learning to typewrite.
Aunt May declared that this was a capital notion, and presently Cousin
Edith, on one of what she called her little expeditions, discovered in
an obscure part of the town a second-hand typewriter that was really
very cheap. A long discussion ensued whether or not Lady Grant was
justified in spending the £3 10s. asked by the shopman. Cousin Edith for
three successive days wrestled with him penny by penny until for £3 7s.
6d. she secured that typewriter, of which she was as proud as she would
have been proud of her eldest child, that is, of course, with marriage
previously understood. Once she even described it as graceful; and she
used to play upon it ghostly sonatas, occasionally by mistake pressing
too hard upon one of the stops and uttering a rudimentary scream of
affright when she beheld an ambiguous letter take shape upon the paper.
Jasmine, who was seriously expected to become proficient upon this
machine, was not so fond of it. She put forward a theory that, when it
had ceased to be a typewriter, it had been used by children as a toy,
which shocked Cousin Edith.

"Or perhaps it was saved from a wreck," Jasmine went on.

"Oh, hush!" Cousin Edith breathed. "How can you say such things?"

Gradually Jasmine mastered some of the whims of the instrument; she
learnt, for instance, that if one wanted a capital A, the birth of a
capital A had to be helped by pressing down S at the same time; she also
learnt to control the self-assertiveness of the Z, which used to butt in
at the least excuse as if for years it had resented the infrequency of
its employment and, thriving on idleness, was able now when the more
common stops rattled like old bones to dominate them all.

Jasmine's mastery of the instrument was fatal to her. Nobody else could
use it; and Lady Grant was so pleased with the effect of typewritten
correspondence upon the dignity of her charities that Cousin Edith,
deposed from whatever secretarial state was left to her, found herself
betrayed by her own purchase. Sir Hector, with what was impressed upon
Jasmine as unusual magnanimity even for Sir Hector, had invited his
niece to accompany him once more upon his afternoon walks; but the
arrival of the typewriter kept her so busy that Lady Grant began to say
'To-morrow' to these walks as her daughters said 'To-morrow' to the
links. Finally Jasmine, in a rage, decapitated the Z stop, thereby
producing such a perfect specimen of correspondence that her aunt, much
moved, announced that she really should go to the links on the very next
day, and that she herself would go with her. What happened to the
typewriter between five o'clock that evening and the following morning
was never known; but that epistle was its swan-song. Perhaps the
execution of the Z stop, on whom the others had come to rely so
completely, put too great a strain on their old bones, or perhaps
Cousin Edith in the silence of the night severed the machine's spinal
cord. Anyway, next morning, when Lady Grant, having proposed for the
fifteenth time that visit to the links, asked Jasmine if she would be so
kind as to type out a schedule of the rules of her club for Tired
Sandwichmen, Jasmine announced that the machine was no longer working.
Her aunt seemed unable to believe her, and insisted that the schedule
should be done. Jasmine showed her the first four lines, which looked
like a Magyar proclamation, and Lady Grant exclaimed, "What a waste of
£3 7s. 6d.!" Cousin Edith, whose _amour propre_ was wounded by this
imputation, observed with the bitter mildness of pale India ale:

"Not altogether wasted, May. Jasmine has learnt typewriting. I wish that
when I was young I had had such an opportunity."

"Well, perhaps we can go to the links after all," Lady Grant sighed.
"The girls always take the tram, but we'll drive in the car. I don't
think that you had better come, Edith. The last time, don't you
remember, you received that nasty blow with the ball. Hector," she
called, "you wouldn't mind if Cousin Edith gave you your lunch?"

Sir Hector bowed gallantly, and vowed that he should be delighted to be
given his lunch by Cousin Edith. He was in a good temper that morning,
for he had just been reading the obituary of a rival baronet of
medicine. Cousin Edith did her best to make Jasmine sensible of the
gratitude she owed to her aunt for this wonderful treat, and herself
came as far as the front gate, holding Spot by the collar and waving
until the car was out of sight.

Jasmine did not much enjoy her drive, because every time they turned a
corner or a child crossed the road a quarter of a mile ahead, or a dog
barked, or a sparrow flew up in front, her aunt gasped and clutched her
wrist. And even when the road was straight and clear as far as they
could see the drive was tiresome, because her aunt could talk about
nothing except Nuckett's carefulness.

"Nuckett is such a careful driver. But of course he knows that your
uncle would not keep him for a moment otherwise. We hesitated for a long
time before we bought the car, and in fact it wasn't until we had given
Nuckett a month's trial.... Oh, now there's a flock of sheep! Thank
goodness it's Nuckett, who's always particularly careful with sheep ...
ah!..."

And so on, in a mixture of complacency and terror, until they reached
the links and Jasmine was really there.

Travellers have often related the alarm they felt at first when some
savage chief, wishing to pay his distinguished visitors a compliment,
arranged for a war-dance by the young men of his tribe. It was that kind
of alarm which Jasmine felt when she found herself for the first time on
golf links. She knew that it was a game. She kept assuring herself that
it was only a game. But the Italian strain in her was continually
asserting itself and making her wonder whether people who behaved thus
in jest might not at any moment be seized with an extension of their
madness and take to behaving thus in earnest.

Lady Grant, however, made her way calmly toward the club-house and put
her name down for lunch with one guest, explaining to Jasmine that no
doubt the girls would have arranged a luncheon party on their own
account. Then she went into the ladies' room, picked up a ladies' paper,
advised Jasmine to do the same, and ensconced herself comfortably in a
wicker chair on the verandah, where she seemed inclined to stay for the
rest of the morning. Half an hour later she looked up from the fifth
paper and asked Jasmine how she liked golf.

"I don't think I understand it very well yet."

"It's an interesting game," said her aunt. "Your uncle wanted me to take
it up last year, and I did have two lessons; but I think it's really
more a game for young people, and your uncle decided that it was bad for
my rheumatism. Still, I was beginning to realize its fascination--the
holes, you know, and all that--and I believe that when you actually do
hit the ball each time it's much less tiring. I tried to persuade your
uncle to take it up himself, but he felt it was too late to begin,
although of course he's a member of the club and plays bridge here every
Thursday afternoon."

Another half-hour went by.

"Really," Lady Grant declared, "I think the advertisements nowadays are
wonderful. Dear me, how you'll enjoy your first visit to London. You
mustn't spend your allowance too quickly, my dear. You mustn't believe
everything you see in the advertisements."

While Lady Grant was speaking, the rich voice of Lettice close at hand
was unmistakably heard.

"He stimied me on the ninth."

Jasmine looked up apprehensively on an impulse to warn Lettice of her
mother's presence before she gave herself away any more; but at that
moment Lettice saw them and exclaimed rather crossly:

"Hullo, mother! Are _you_ here?"

"Yes, dear, I have paid our long-promised visit. Did you have a good
game?"

Lettice made a gesture of indifference, and there was a short pause. "I
suppose you'll be going home for lunch?" she enquired.

"No, I've ordered lunch for Jasmine and myself here. But don't let that
disturb you, dear. We shall amuse each other if you and Pamela are
already engaged. We shall understand, shan't we, Jasmine?"

"As a matter of fact," said Lettice, "we are lunching with Harry Vibart
and Claude Whittaker. We've a foursome on afterwards."

"Delightful," said her mother genially. "Don't you bother about us. I
don't think I've looked at this week's _Country Life_ yet; have you
finished with it?" she asked Jasmine, who, having for some time been
listlessly turning over the pages had suddenly found _Country Life_ to
be of such absorbing interest that she had buried her face in its faint
oily smell. Lady Grant never really enjoyed looking at a paper unless
she had taken it away from somebody else, and when her niece surrendered
it she smiled at her.

"My dear Jasmine, how pale you are!" she exclaimed, and bade her ring
the bell for a glass of water.

Jasmine, with a reproach for her treacherous Southern heart, tried to
appear composed.

"No, really please, Aunt May," she murmured.

"But I insist, Jasmine. If you won't look after yourself, I must look
after you. Ring the bell at once, there's a good girl, and you shall
have a glass of water."

Jasmine, to conceal her emotion, accepted the excuse that her aunt
offered, and did as she had been told.

"A glass of water for my niece, please, Frank," said Lady Grant to the
waiter, and she managed to convey in the tone of her command that a
glass of water for her niece would be different somehow from ordinary
water. Perhaps it was, for when Frank brought it, all the people round
looked up to watch Jasmine drinking it; and everyone who has drunk water
in similar circumstances will know that it does then have a peculiar
taste of its own, rather like that positive nothingness which is the
flavour of permanganate of potash and peroxide of hydrogen.

Soon after this Pamela came out on the verandah, and she, like her
sister, had to be reassured of the sanctity of her lunch.

"But at least," Jasmine thought, "he'll be able to see me, and perhaps
when he sees me he'll ask to be introduced to Aunt May."

At this moment Frank appeared again and asked Lady Grant in an
awe-struck whisper if she had not ordered cold chicken.

"Yes, Frank. Cold chicken for two."

"The head steward asks me to say, my lady, that unfortunately there is
no more cold chicken left."

"Dear me," Lady Grant exclaimed, "what a disappointment! Well, perhaps
Jasmine and I had better go home to lunch after all."

Neither Lettice nor Pamela made any attempt to detain her; and Jasmine
decided to forget all about Mr. Vibart, and all about everything indeed
that could ever for one moment lighten her future.

But Frank protested:

"I beg pardon, my lady, only the head steward requested me to inform
your ladyship that there is cold duck."

"Then in that case I think we may as well stay," said her ladyship.

"The ducks are very tough," Lettice snapped.

"I beg pardon, Miss Grant," Frank respectfully argued, "the head
steward is now procuring our ducks for the club from another farm. Will
you take apple sauce, my lady?"

Lady Grant nodded decidedly.

"Very good, my lady."

And Frank glided away, leaving in Jasmine's mind the thought of a
powerful and sympathetic personality.

Ten minutes later they went into the dining-room of the club, where a
quantity of women with bright woollen jerseys and bright harsh voices
shouted across the room the tale of their prowess, or gobbled down their
food in a hurry to get off before the links became crowded. The men too
seemed much excited by what they had achieved so far that morning. For
the first time since she had been in England Jasmine divined that
underneath the stolid Anglo-Saxon exterior palpitated ambition and
romance and the dark emotions of Southern passion. These rosy barbarians
who vied with one another in making their legs ridiculous with fantastic
knickerbockers, whose cheeks were rasped by east winds, who illustrated
with knife and fork and salt-cellar the vicissitudes of their pastime,
became intelligible to her as the leaders of civilization. In Sirene she
had always been proud of being English; but hitherto in Spaborough she
had congratulated herself on being far more Italian. Now with the
consciousness that one of these paladins had turned aside from his
purposeful sport to observe herself, she was eager to join in all this;
and if to smite a ball farther than other women was to be accounted
desirable in the eyes of men, or if to stand on a hillock looking like a
scarecrow in a gale was an invitation to love, then so be it; she should
not disdain such wiles.

Lady Grant had chosen a small table in the window, one of those small
tables with such a large vase of flowers in the middle that the feeder
is left with the impression that he is eating off the rim of a
flower-pot. Moreover, with the excuse that she did not like so much
light, she had placed herself in a recess of the window, with the result
that Jasmine had her back to the room and the light full in her eyes.

"I'm afraid you've got the light in your eyes," said her aunt, and she
made signs with her nose that her niece should move over to the left,
where at the next table a fat man with a back like the nether part of a
rhinoceros was taking up so much space that it was obviously impossible
for Jasmine to squeeze her chair between his back and the side of their
table. She hesitated for a moment, hoping that her aunt would indicate
the other side of the table where she herself had been sitting; but she
did not offer to move her bag, which took up what space was left by the
vase of flowers, and Jasmine was too anxious to have a view of the room
to take the risk by moving it herself of being advised to stay where she
was.

Frank, the waiter, who had come to her rescue once already, was the
instrument chosen by destiny to preserve her a second time from
disappointment. For just as he was handing the duck to Lady Grant, the
fat man at the next table, outraged by some piece of news in the paper
he was reading, threw himself back in his chair so violently that he
swept the dish out of Frank's hand. The noise made everybody look in
their direction, and Lady Grant and Jasmine, who had jumped up in
affright, were conspicuous to the world. It was thus that Mr. Vibart,
lunching at the far end of the room, perceived Jasmine, learned who Lady
Grant was, and without a moment's hesitation came across and insisted
that they should all lunch at his table. Lettice and Pamela did not dare
to look as disagreeable as they felt, for each knew from her sister's
countenance how ugly ill-temper made her. The host was so boisterously
cheerful that the luncheon party appeared to be going splendidly, and
when about two o'clock Lettice glanced at her watch and asked if they
ought not to be getting along with the foursome before the links filled
up, Jasmine thought that she could have no idea how old such fussiness
made her seem.

"I say, Claude, do you know," Mr. Vibart said gravely to his companion,
a young man to find any other adjective for whom would be a waste of
time, "I say, Claude, I believe I did strain my leg in the ravine before
the eighth. Most extraordinary! It's gone quite stiff." He called to
another friend who was passing out of the dining-room unaccompanied.
"Ryder! Are you engaged this afternoon? I wish you'd take my place in a
foursome, like a good chap. I've strained my leg."

"Oh, let's postpone it," Lettice begged, with a desperate attempt to
hide with an expression of concern the chagrin she felt.

"Oh no, don't do that," said Vibart. "Ryder might think you were trying
to snub him. He's an awful sensitive fellow."

Claude Whittaker, whom Vibart had been kicking under the table with his
strained leg, urged the prosecution of the foursome, and the two
sisters, with a reputation of jolly good-fellowship to maintain, had to
yield. When they were gone, Vibart turned to Lady Grant and asked if he
could come and sit with her on the verandah. He said that he thought he
could manage to limp as far as that.

"But how are you going to get home?" she asked.

"Oh, I shall get a lift in a car from somebody."

Lady Grant hesitated. She was wondering if she should offer to drive
him in hers, or rather she was wondering if she could not manage to get
him and Lettice into the car.

"Didn't I see you at York railway station about a fortnight ago?" Mr.
Vibart was saying to Jasmine. "On a Sunday afternoon it was."

"My niece did pass through York," Lady Grant admitted unwillingly.

"I thought I recognized her. Are you staying long at Spaborough?"

"My niece is staying with us indefinitely," said Lady Grant. "But how
long we stay in Spaborough will depend rather upon the weather. Besides,
my husband's patients are waiting for him."

"They will become impatients if he doesn't go back soon," the young man
laughed.

Lady Grant had never heard anybody make a joke about Sir Hector's
profession, and if Mr. Vibart had not been the heir of an older
baronetcy than her husband's she might have resented it.

"How long will it be before my daughters get back?" she asked after a
while, when she found that the conversation between Jasmine and Mr.
Vibart was steadily leaving her behind.

"I should guess in about an hour and a half."

"Well, in that case I think my niece and I ought to be getting home
now," said Lady Grant. "Perhaps if I sent back the car," she added, "you
would let my daughters drive you home?"

"Thank you very much," said Mr. Vibart. "I really think I ought not to
wait so long as that. My leg seems to be getting stiffer every second.
But that's all right. I shall get a lift. May I come and call on you
one afternoon, as soon as my leg's a little better?"

"But of course we shall be delighted," said Lady Grant graciously.
"Perhaps you will arrange a day with my daughter Lettice so that we are
sure to be in? Good-bye, Mr. Vibart. I do hope your leg will soon be all
right."

"Oh yes, I think it will," said Mr. Vibart. Nor was his optimism
unjustified, for the very next afternoon it was well enough for him to
call at Strathspey House, where, having forgotten to make any
arrangement with Lettice, he found that Sir Hector had just gone out,
that Lady Grant was lying down, and that Jasmine was by herself in the
drawing-room. He knew that Lettice and Pamela were safely engaged on the
links, and before Cousin Edith divined that something was going on in
the house, he had had five minutes alone with Jasmine.

Mr. Vibart spent most of that five minutes in telling Jasmine how much
he disliked her cousins; he was just going to demonstrate how much he
must like her in order to put up with the company of such cousins for a
whole fortnight of foursomes when Cousin Edith came in. Naturally in
what she called her intimate heart-to-heart talks with the dear girls,
and what they called keeping Cousin Edith from feeling too keenly her
position, she had been told a good deal about young Mr. Vibart, nephew
and heir of Sir John Vibart; and in her anxiety to stand well with
Lettice and Pamela she had committed a kind of vicarious bigamy, so
earnestly had she encouraged both of the girls to believe that she was
the chosen of Mr. Vibart. The moment she heard--and she heard these
things by being as tactful with the servants as she was with the
family--that Mr. Vibart was in the house and was shut up in the
drawing-room with Miss Jasmine, she was alert to defend the honour of
her patrons. She knew, of course, that such an insignificant girl as
Jasmine had no chance of rivalling either dearest Lettice or darling
Pamela; but at the same time Cousin Edith's profound distrust of all men
disinclined her to run any risks. Besides, she saw no reason why Jasmine
should be puffed up with an undue sense of her own importance by being
allowed to suppose that she was capable of entertaining anybody like Mr.
Vibart.

It may well be imagined, therefore, with what dismay Cousin Edith
discovered that Mr. Vibart was identical with what had already been
magnified by time's distorting hand into an agent of White Slavery,
which was the only kind of appeal she could allow Jasmine to be capable
of making.

She was now in a dilemma: if she revealed the secret of that meeting in
the Spa, she would have implied that the impression made by Jasmine was
capable of enduring, though it had been stamped and surcharged over and
over again by the images of Lettice and Pamela; on the other hand, if
she kept quiet, and if by any inconceivable chance--and men were
men--this young man should really prefer Jasmine to her cousins, she
would run the risk of being suspected as an accomplice. On the whole,
Cousin Edith decided that it was far safer to betray both parties. She
resolved, while assuring Jasmine of her intention to keep the secret of
her previous acquaintance with Mr. Vibart, to do her best to prevent its
ripening into anything more permanent, and at the first opportunity, by
somehow involving Jasmine with her aunt, to procure her banishment from
the family, and thus remove what seemed likely to be a rival to Lettice,
Pamela, and herself. Thanks to Cousin Edith's discretion nobody
suspected that the two young people were interested in one another.
Indeed it would have needed a considerable display of affection to have
convinced Lettice and Pamela Grant that anybody so foreign-looking as
Jasmine was capable of attracting anybody so English-looking as Harry
Vibart. So Lettice and Pamela supposed that his now daily visits were
paid for them, and though they would have been better pleased to observe
his admiration wax daily on the links, they were much too fond of him to
let him play golf a moment before his leg was completely healed;
moreover, since they did not want him to feel that he was depriving them
of a pleasure, they protested that as a matter of fact they were growing
tired of golf, and that one round in the morning was enough for anybody.
There was a charming display of sisterly affection when Lettice
entreated Pamela and Pamela implored Lettice not to give up golf on her
account.

"Poor Claude Whittaker will feel quite deserted," Lettice declared
spitefully.

"Yes," Pamela replied. "Only this morning he asked me why you always
went home for lunch nowadays."

"I don't know why he should ask that," Lettice exclaimed.

"Don't you, dear?" her sister sweetly marvelled.

"For he can't be missing me," said Lettice, "because he's so devoted to
you."

"Oh no, my dear, he's much more devoted to you," replied Pamela.

"They're such affectionate girls," Lady Grant whispered to Mr. Vibart.
"They really do admire each other, and that's so rare in sisters
nowadays." Lady Grant always implied by her disapproval of the present
that she and all to do with her were survivals of the Golden Age. "And
really," she went on in a low voice, "everybody likes them. I know that
as a mother I ought not to talk so fondly, but I do believe that they
are the most popular girls anywhere."

Mr. Vibart nodded in absent-minded sagacity.

"I never met your uncle, Mr. Vibart," Sir Hector said importantly.

"No, sir, he keeps very much to himself."

"Quite so. Quite so." Sir Hector wanted Vibart to realize that baronets
had certain instincts and habits which he, as one of the species,
emphasized in his own manner of life. "No, when I get away for a few
weeks' rest," he went on, "I like to rest; and as I know that your uncle
comes to Spaborough for the same reasons as myself, I haven't disturbed
him with a card. A fine name, a fine name! Fourteenth in precedence, I
believe? A Jacobean creation? Yes, to be sure." Sir Hector wished that
he were a Jacobean creation himself, and he often thought when he saw
himself in the glass that he looked like a Jacobean creation. So he did,
just as Jacobean furniture in Tottenham Court Road looks very like the
real thing.

"My title dies with me," he sighed, "and to me there's always something
very sad in the thought of a title's becoming extinct. You, I believe,
are the last representative?"

Vibart nodded.

"You ought to marry," said Sir Hector, and though the advice was given
by the baronet, it sounded as though it were given by the doctor.

"I certainly must," Vibart agreed lightly. "By the way, you haven't
forgotten that to-night's a gala night at the Spa?"

"Indeed no," said Lady Grant. "Aren't we expecting you to dinner, so
that you can escort us afterwards to see the fireworks?"

Later, when the composition of the evening's party was being discussed,
Jasmine perceived a suggestion hovering on her aunt's lips that she
should stay at home and keep her uncle company. But Sir Hector on this
occasion was somewhat obtuse for a man who had won rank, money, and
reputation by his ability to indulge feminine whims, and he decided that
contrary to his usual custom he would himself attend the gala.

"I like Vibart," he affirmed when the guest had gone home to dress. "A
very decent fellow indeed. It must be a great consolation to Sir John to
feel that the title will be in good hands. A very fine young fellow
indeed! I shall quite enjoy going to the fireworks with him."

There was only the problem of Spot's loneliness to be considered, which
it was decided that Cousin Edith should be called upon to solve.

"Poor old Spot," said Cousin Edith deprecatingly. "Spot shall stay with
me. Yes, he shall, the good old dog! Poor Spot! Good old Spot! I shall
be able to see the rockets beautifully from my window. And Spotticums
will be able to see the rockets too. Yes, he will, the clever old Spot!"

It was a fine night; the gardens of the Spa were crowded with people,
the sky with stars. Sir Hector, who was tall enough to be independent of
his place in the largest crowd, kept ejaculating, "What a splendid view
we have got! We really are remarkably lucky to have found such an
excellent place! By Jove, that was a magnificent shower of gold! Upon my
soul, I'd forgotten how good the Spa fireworks were."

Every time Sir Hector applauded a new pyrotechnic effect, the people in
his immediate neighbourhood all stretched their necks and stood on
tiptoe to see if they too could not catch a glimpse of what had aroused
his enthusiasm. The result of this continual straining and struggling
by the crowd was to separate one from another the various members of the
Strathspey House party.

"Don't bother about the fireworks," said Vibart to Jasmine when one of
Sir Hector's loud expressions of approval had been followed by a kind of
panic of curiosity in his neighbourhood and Jasmine, in order not to be
swept down over the slope of the cliff, had been compelled to catch hold
of Mr. Vibart's arm. "Let's get out of this squash and take a breather."

It was only when they had pushed their way through to the outskirts of
the crowd that they discovered the full enchantment of the night. A
hump-backed moon, the colour of an old guinea, was lying large upon the
horizon; fairy lamps bordered the paths that wound about the bosky
cliffs; and from time to time bursting rockets were reflected in streaks
of colour upon the tranquil and hueless sea. They strolled along until
they found a deserted corner of the promenade, where, leaning over the
parapet, they watched swarming on the sands below the people who were
come to watch the fireworks as freely as they might watch the stars
every night of their lives. Beyond the crowd stretched a wide expanse of
wet sand, already glimmering faintly in response to the rising moon.
From the beach below a shadow under the parapet breathed up to them in a
hoarse voice:

"Lovely night for a sail, sir."

"Why, there's not a breath of wind," Vibart contradicted.

"Lovely breeze about half a mile out, sir. Better have a couple of
hours' nice sail, sir."

"It would be rather jolly," Vibart suggested with a glance at Jasmine.
She, her eyes brimming with memories of the South, could not gainsay
him.

"The whiting's biting something lovely to-night, sir," tempted the
hoarse voice again. "There's a party just come in, sir, took 'em by the
dozen in half an hour."

A tempting exit to the sands was visible close to where they were
standing, the tall iron turnstile of which was like a gate to the moon.
Vibart hurried through.

"And now you must come," he pointed out, "because I can't get back."

"That's right, lady," breathed the voice. "He can't get back."

A maroon crashed overhead, and before the echoes had died away Jasmine
was on the free side of the turnstile. The voice, which belonged to a
burly longshoreman, led the way seaward, and when they were clear of the
crowd on the beach shouted:

"_Mermaid_, ahoy! Jonas Pretty is my own name," he added.

Some of the crew flopped toward them like walruses and helped them along
planks over the ribbed and rippling sands to the _Mermaid's_ dinghy; and
presently they were aboard with the crew grunting over the oars to catch
the legendary breeze half a mile off shore.

In the last act of _The Merchant of Venice_ Shakespeare has said all
that there is to say about moonlight and its effect upon young people,
and if Harry Vibart was less expressive than young Lorenzo, Jasmine
Grant was at least as susceptible as pretty Jessica. She had a moment's
sadness in the recollection of her father's death after such a night in
the Bay of Salerno; but it was no more than a transient gloom, like a
thin cloud that scarcely dims the face of the moon in its swift voyage
past. Indeed, the sorrowful memory actually added something to her joy
of the present; for fleeting though the emotion was, it endured long
enough to stir the depths of her heart and to make her more grateful to
her companion for the beauty of this night.

The skipper of the _Mermaid_ had spoken the truth: the light breeze he
had promised did arrive, and presently the grunt of oars gave place to
the lisp and murmur of water and to airy melodies aloft.

"Magnificent, eh what?" Vibart asked.

"Glorious," Jasmine agreed.

Pointing to a small craft half a mile away to starboard, he quoted two
lines of verse:

    _A silver sail on a silver sea_
      _Under a silver moon._

"That really exactly expresses it, don't you think?"

"Perfectly," she agreed.

"Funny that those lines should come so pat. I don't usually spout
poetry, you know. It really is awfully good, isn't it?--

    _A_ sil_ver sail on a_ sil_ver sea_
      _Under a_ sil_ver moon!_"

He marked the beat more emphatically at the second time of quoting.
"It's really awfully musical. You know, I admire a chap who can write
poetry like that. Some people rather despise poets, but if you come to
think what a lot of pleasure they give....

    _A_ silver _sail on a_ silver _sea_
      _Under a silver_ moon!"

"Who wrote it?" asked Jasmine idly.

"Oh, great Scott, don't ask me. It's extraordinary enough that I should
remember the lines. I must have learnt them at my dame's school. Years
ago. Quite fifteen years ago. Terrific, isn't it? I'm twenty-four, you
know. That's the worst of being an heir. I wanted to go out and try my
hand at coffee in British East, but my old great-uncle kicked up a fuss.
He's a funny old boy. Likes to have me around, and then grumbles all the
time because I'm not doing anything. Says my conversation would cure a
defaulting solicitor of insomnia. I bucked him up rather, though, by
talking about Italy. Do you know, I think he'd rather like you.

    A _silver_ sail on a _silver_ sea
    Under _a silver moon_.

"Dash it, I can't get those lines out of my head. It's worse than a tune.
Yes, I think he'd rather like you, Miss Grant. Miss Grant! That sounds
absurd on a night like this. Now, I think Jasmine's a charming name.
Jasmine! It seems to fit in so well with ... _a silver sail_ ... look,
here, do you mind stopping me if I begin again? Jasmine! Would you jump
overboard if I called you Jasmine?"

"I'd rather you called me Jasmine."

"And of course you'll return the compliment? My name's Harry. It's a
perfectly normal name, so you needn't blush."

Mr. Jonas Pretty interrupted any embarrassment with the news that the
whiting were biting. Presently the boat was in a confusion of fish. As
fast as they dropped the lines they had to tug them in again with half a
dozen iridescent victims squirming and leaping and flapping on the
hooks, and in half an hour the bottom of the boat was aglow with silver
fire.

"Well, I think we've caught enough," said Harry Vibart. "And I mustn't
keep you out late, Jasmine. Better sail back now, Skipper."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Mr. Pretty shouted a number of unintelligible and raucous commands, and
the breeze immediately died away.

"Lost that nice little wind we had," he grumbled. "That means a bit of a
pull back. You wouldn't like to stay out all night, sir, with the
whiting biting so lovely? There's a lot of gentlemen likes to do that
and come back with the sunrise."

"No, no, this lady has to get home."

Mr. Pretty shook his head reproachfully at such a lack of adventurous
spirit.

"It'll be a long pull back, sir."

Indeed the lights of Spaborough did look very far away.

"Can't be helped. We must get back. How long will it take?"

"About a couple of hours, sir."

"What?"

"We'd better steer for the harbour."

Jasmine did not blame Harry--in the excitement of pulling up her line
she had fallen easily into calling him by his Christian name--for the
flight of the wind.

"I say, it's awfully sporting of you to be so decent about it," he said,
turning her behaviour into an excuse to take her hand.

"It's not your fault."

During the long pull back to the harbour Harry Vibart quoted no more
poetry; indeed he hardly seemed to notice the moonlight, so deeply was
he engaged in telling Jasmine all about his early life and his present
life, and what he should do when he inherited his uncle's title and
estate.

"Of course I shall have to get married."

"Of course," she agreed.

They looked at each other for a brief instant; but almost
simultaneously they looked away again and began to count the whiting.
Soon afterward they reached the harbour.

The clocks of Spaborough were striking the apprehensive hour of one when
Jasmine and Harry Vibart, each carrying a large bunch of fish,
disembarked at the pier of the old harbour.

"I'm afraid that they really will be very cross," said Jasmine. "But
never mind, I've had a glorious evening, and I've enjoyed myself, more
than I ever have since I left Sirene."

"They might be cross if we hadn't got these whiting," Harry pointed out.
"But you can't go against evidence like this. I don't see a carriage
anywhere, do you?"

"Perhaps it's too late."

From the old fishing town to South Parade was at least an hour's walk
uphill all the way. The whiting began to weigh rather heavily. It was
obvious that Jasmine would not be able to carry her bunch, and Harry
relieved her of it. After climbing for about five minutes he began to
feel that the bunches were more than even he could manage, and pulling
off four fish as he would have pulled off four bananas, he offered them
to a policeman who was standing at the corner.

"Just caught," he explained cheerfully.

"Thank you, sir," said the constable. "I'll wrap them up and leave them
on this window-sill."

"Don't lose them," said Vibart. "They're fresh."

"That's all right, sir. I'll wrap them up in the evening paper. I'm not
off duty till six."

"They'll still be quite fresh then," said Vibart encouragingly.

He looked round to see if there was anybody else to whom he could make a
present of fresh fish; as there was nobody else in sight, he advised the
constable to have two more, and so make up the half-dozen. Another five
minutes of slow ascent passed, during which the whiting seemed to have
grown into cod. A wretched old woman asleep in an archway, her head
bowed in her lap, offered a good opportunity for charity, and Harry was
just going to lay a couple of whiting in her lap when Jasmine suggested
that if the old woman put her head down any lower she would touch them
with her face, which might startle her too much and spoil the pleasure
of the surprise.

"Well, I'll lay them on the pavement beside her," said Harry. He also
put a couple on her other side, so that she would be sure to see them
and not miss her breakfast.

"It's jolly to think how happy she'll be when she wakes up."

"But if she hasn't got anywhere to sleep," Jasmine objected, "I don't
suppose she's got anywhere to cook whiting."

"Oh yes," he assured her, "she'll get them cooked all right. Oh, rather!
She'll find some workmen who are mending the road."

"But how will that help her to cook whiting?"

"Oh, they always have a fire. I don't know why, but they always do.
Still not a carriage to be seen!"

The clocks struck a quarter-past one. The whiting had grown from cod to
sharks. They toiled on without meeting a soul till the clocks struck the
half-hour, and the whiting from sharks were become whales.

"It would be a pity to go back without these confounded fish," said
Vibart, "because it really was a remarkable catch. Besides, fresh
whiting's tremendously good for breakfast. It does seem a most
extraordinary thing that there's not a carriage anywhere. I think I'll
try another way of carrying them--one on each end of my stick, and then
I'll put my stick over my shoulder like a milkmaid."

He was demonstrating how much easier it was to carry whiting in this
way, and saying what an extraordinary thing it was that he had not
thought of doing so before, when both bunches slipped forward, the front
one falling into the road and the second one only being prevented from
joining its companion by Vibart's shoulder.

"That's a pity," he said. "But I don't think we ought to pick them up,
do you? They're rather dusty, and I really think we've got enough. There
must be at least sixty left. Only it seems rather wasteful to leave a
lot of whiting in a road."

"Come along," Jasmine urged. "For goodness' sake let's leave them and
get back. Now, if you give me one end of the stick and take the other
yourself we can easily carry the rest between us."

Just as the clock struck two they reached Strathspey House. It seemed as
dead in the moonlight as a spent firework; and Jasmine's heart sank.

"It does look as if they were very angry indeed," she said.

"They'll soon cheer up when they see the whiting," Vibart prophesied.
"I'll ring."

He rang repeatedly, but there was no answer.

"Perhaps I'd better knock."

He knocked repeatedly; several windows in Balmoral were opened, and dim
heads stared down inquisitively; but Strathspey House remained mute.

"Why doesn't that beastly dog bark?" complained Vibart. "It barks all
day long. Perhaps I'd better shout."

"Oh no, don't shout."

"Will you ring the bell while I knock again?"

The orchestral effect achieved what the solo had failed to achieve. Sir
Hector put out his long neck and asked severely if that were his niece.

"We got slightly becalmed, sir," said Vibart. "But we had a splendid
catch. You'll be delighted when you see all the whiting we've brought
back for you. Between sixty and seventy. They're so fresh that you'll be
able to have them for breakfast both to-morrow and the day after."

But Sir Hector did not reply, and for nearly ten minutes Strathspey
House gave no further sign of recognition. Then the front door was
opened by Hargreaves, so completely dressed that it was hard to believe
that she had really been roused from bed by Sir Hector's method of
internal communication.

From a landing above Lady Grant's voice was heard. "You'd better go up
to bed at once, Jasmine, and we will talk about your escapade in the
morning."

"I'm afraid there's not much I can do," said Harry, somewhat abashed by
the discouraging reception. "But I'll get round as soon as I can in the
morning and explain that it was all my fault. You mustn't be angry with
Miss Grant, Lady Grant," he called up. "I'm the only person to blame.
Can you see our haul of whiting? You ought to have a look at them before
they're cooked."

The slamming of a distant door was Lady Grant's reply to this.

"Bit annoyed, I'm afraid," he said, shaking his head, and then, turning
to the parlourmaid, he asked her where she would like to put the fish.

The question was answered by the fish, because the main string broke,
and they went slithering all over the hall.

"I don't know, sir, I'm sure where they'd better be put," said
Hargreaves, looking rather frightened.

"Can't you get a dish or something from the kitchen?"

"No, sir, I'm afraid I can't. Cook always has her ladyship's orders to
take the key of the basement door up to bed with her, and she's rather
funny about being woke up."

"But look here," Vibart protested, "we can't leave all these splendid
fish to get trodden on. They're whiting! You know, those fish they
usually serve like kittens running after their tails. They won't have
any tails left if they're going to be walked over by everybody."

He looked round the hall, and his eye fell upon the card-tray.

"Here's the very thing," he cried, and emptying the cards into the
umbrella stand, he began to heap as many whiting as he could on the
tray. "Well, that's saved enough for breakfast. We'll put the rest in a
corner. Lend me your apron."

The prim Hargreaves was as much taken aback by this suggestion as her
colleague Hopkins had been taken aback by Jasmine's attempt to borrow a
chemise on the evening of her arrival. But mechanically she divested
herself, and the whiting were hung up in a bundle on the hat-rack.

"I'll be round very early," Harry promised Jasmine. "Sorry I've let you
in for trouble. I enjoyed myself--well, tremendously."

"So did I," she said. "Tremendously."

Hargreaves without her apron seemed scarcely willing to open the door
for him; but she managed to do it somehow, and Jasmine went slowly
upstairs to the sound of bolts being driven home, of chains clanking,
and latches clicking. It was like being taken back to prison.

Immediately after breakfast the next morning Lady Grant showed her sense
of the gravity of the occasion by postponing her household duties until
she had had what she called an explanation with her niece about her
behaviour last night. As soon as they were closeted in the drawing-room,
Jasmine, supposing that she really was anxious for an explanation, began
to give a perfectly straightforward account of the misadventure. Lady
Grant, however, cut her short before she had time even to explain the
accident by which she and Vibart were separated from the rest of the
party.

"I am sorry, my dear Jasmine, to find that your only object is to make
excuses for your behaviour. There is nothing I dislike so much as
excuses."

"But I haven't begun to excuse myself yet," Jasmine retorted.

Her aunt smiled patiently. "Perhaps you will allow me to say without
interruptions what I was going to say. I am willing to make every
allowance for you, remembering that you have been brought up in a wild
island in the south of Italy, and remembering that your poor father had
odd notions about the education of young girls. But you are old enough
to realize that Spaborough is not Sirene, and that to come back at two
o'clock in the morning after spending the whole night sailing about with
a young man on the open sea is not a very kind way of showing your
affection for your relations, who have been only too anxious to do
everything on their side to help you. You cannot complain of the warmth
of your welcome in England, and you must admit that your Uncle Hector
and I showed ourselves ready to do all we could to rescue you from the
condition in which you found yourself after your father's death. I do
not wish to say too much about Mr. Vibart's conduct. I can only express
my surprise that Sir John Vibart's nephew should so absolutely deceive
us in this way. And I blame Cousin Edith greatly. Please do not think
that I have not already spoken to her very severely for the part she
played in what I can only call a vulgar intrigue. She should, of course,
have let me know at once that you and this young man had made each
other's acquaintance at a railway station. The idea of it! I should have
thought that your natural nice-minded feelings, if not your conscience,
would have told you that casual conversation with young men at railway
stations is not the way in which young girls in your position behave."

"I don't see any difference between speaking to a young man at a railway
station and speaking to a young man at a golf club," Jasmine argued.

"Please do not add to your faults by being rude," Lady Grant begged.
"Your rudeness only shows that you are, as I suspected, insensible to
kindness. I have had so much ingratitude in the course of my various
charities from all sorts and conditions of people whom I have tried to
help that I no longer expect gratitude. But if I do not expect gratitude
I certainly do not expect rudeness. I do not wish to recapitulate what
your uncle has done for you; but I hope that when you come to yourself
and think over what he has done for you you will realize how much there
has been. Who was it sent you your fare from Sirene to Spaborough? Your
uncle. Who was it, when you lost your season ticket before you had even
used it once, bought you another one? Your uncle. Who was it that was so
glad to give you an opportunity of learning the typewriter? Your uncle.
Who was it that did his utmost to get us the best view of the fireworks
yesterday evening? Your uncle. Finally, who was it, when the servants
had gone to bed and the house was locked up, rang the bell in
Hargreaves' room? Your uncle. I shall not go on, Jasmine, because I see
by your face that you are hardening your heart. Well, luckily you have
other uncles and aunts who have come forward to help you. I have just
telegraphed to your Aunt Cuckoo at Hampstead to find out if she will be
ready to receive you to-morrow. And although I think that you deserve
that she should be told of your behaviour here, I am not going to tell
her anything about it. I am not going to say a single word to prejudice
your Aunt Cuckoo against you. But I most earnestly beg you, my dear
Jasmine, to behave a little differently in Hampstead. Your Uncle Hector
and I, who have daughters of our own, will always understand girls
better than your Uncle Eneas or your Aunt Cuckoo can. Frankly, I do not
think you will enjoy yourself as much in Hampstead as you have enjoyed
yourself here, or as you might have enjoyed yourself here, if you had
not displayed such a wilful spirit. What puzzles me is your
unwillingness to make friends with Lettice and Pamela. It cannot be
_their_ fault, because they are friends with everybody. Even Mr. Vibart,
who must be almost without any decent feelings of any kind whatsoever,
liked Lettice and Pamela. Well, I am glad we have had this little
explanation. When next you come to stay with us--for although at present
your uncle is so much annoyed at being woken up last night that he has
said quite positively that he will never have you to stay with us again,
I am sure, knowing his goodness as I do, that he will ask you--when next
you come to stay with us, I say, perhaps in London, I hope you won't go
sailing about with young men half through the night. Of course you would
not be able to do any actual sailing in London, but I mean the
equivalent of sailing, like riding about on the outside of omnibuses at
all hours. I fear that in your present hardened mood nothing can touch
you, but I think that at least you might express your sorrow at making
poor Spot so ill."

"Is Spot ill?" asked Jasmine.

"He is not ill any longer," said her aunt. "But you know how careful I
am about his diet. Apparently he found one of those fish which you left
lying about in the hall and was sick seven times this morning."

The explanation was over. The next morning Jasmine left Strathspey
House, and late that afternoon was met at King's Cross by her Aunt
Cuckoo. Cousin Edith shook her head a great deal at Jasmine's disgrace,
but she was so glad to see the last of her that she could not resist
waving her handkerchief to the departing car. As for Mr. Vibart, he
called five times during the day, and every time Hargreaves, thinking of
her apron, was glad to be authorized to inform him with cold politeness
that nobody was at home.



_Chapter Five_


Jasmine's first experience of being succoured by rich relatives might
have discouraged her from expecting a happy result from the second. Yet,
although the Eneas Grants would be as much her patrons as the Hector
Grants, there was something in the sound of 'Aunt Cuckoo' that suggested
to her mind the anticipation of a positively more congenial atmosphere.
It showed considerable elasticity to feel even subconsciously cheerful
on this journey, with the weather south of York becoming overcast and a
hundred miles of London breaking into a drench of rain, which turned to
dripping fog on the outskirts of the city and made King's Cross an
inferno of sodden gloom. In the first confusion of alighting from the
train, Jasmine felt like a twig precipitated toward the drain of a
gutter. In this din, in this damp and dusky chill made more obscure by
fog and engine smoke and human breath, it hardly seemed worth while to
have an opinion of one's own upon destination. Swept along toward the
exits, Jasmine would soon have found herself astray in the
phantasmagoria of the great squalid streets outside had she not been
rescued by a porter whose kindly interest and paternal manner persuaded
her to consider with due attention the advantages and disadvantages of
the various routes from King's Cross to Hampstead.

A complicated but economical itinerary had no sooner been settled than a
woman glided up to Jasmine with what in the press of the traffic seemed
an almost ghostly ease of movement and asked in an appropriately
toneless voice if she were her niece.

Jasmine, without thinking that amid the incalculable permutations and
combinations of city life it was at least as probable that she was not
this woman's niece as that she was, replied without hesitation that she
was.

"Then how do you do?" said Aunt Cuckoo, offering first her right hand,
then her left hand, and finally a cheek, the touch of which was like
menthol on Jasmine's warm lips.

"I'm very well, thank you," she assured her aunt, transforming the
conventional greeting into an important question by the gravity with
which she answered it.

"Yes, it's a pity you got a porter," Aunt Cuckoo continued. "A great
pity. Because I've got a porter as well. And it doesn't seem worth
while, does it, to have two porters?" Jasmine agreed helplessly. "Unless
your luggage is very heavy indeed," Aunt Cuckoo added, "and if it _is_
very heavy indeed, we can't take it back with us in the brougham, and
then I don't know what to do. Yes, it's a pity really you got a porter
so quickly. Aunt May wrote us that you were rather impulsive."

She sighed; the rival porters waiting for a decision sighed too. Finally
Jasmine took a shilling from her bag, presented it to her porter, and
said "Thank you very much."

"Thank _you_ very much, miss," said the porter, respectfully touching
his cap and retiring from the contest. Aunt Cuckoo without commenting
upon Jasmine's action, asked wearily if her luggage was in the back or
the front of the train. By good luck Jasmine did know this, because Sir
Hector's last bellowed words at Spaborough had been: "Don't forget that
your luggage will be in the back part of the train! You are in a through
carriage!"

By this time Jasmine's luggage had been reduced to one trunk. The crates
with her father's pictures had on her uncle's advice been left at
Strathspey House to be brought to London with the rest of the furniture
when the family moved. The carpet bag had been presented to Hopkins as a
parting gift, because Hopkins had once said how much it would appeal to
a little niece of hers in Battersea. The basket of prickly pears had
long ago been burnt, because Aunt May had supposed it capable of
introducing subtropical insects into Strathspey House. There was
therefore nothing left but her trunk, which Aunt Cuckoo decided was
neither too large nor too heavy for the brougham. In fact, as a piece of
luggage she made light of it altogether, and only gave her porter
twopence, at which he said: "I shan't argue about it, mum. It's not
worth arguing about."

"Are you dissatisfied?" asked Aunt Cuckoo.

The porter called upon Heaven with upturned eyes to witness his
treatment and invited Aunt Cuckoo to keep her twopence.

"You want it more than I do, mum," he said.

The drive from King's Cross to Hampstead took a long time. No doubt the
horse and the coachman were both tired, for Aunt Cuckoo explained that
she had been shopping in London all day and that really she ought to
have gone home much earlier. The small brougham looked like one of those
commercial broughams in which old-fashioned travellers drive round to
exhibit their wares to old-fashioned firms. Nor did the coachman look
like a proper coachman, because he had a moustache, which somehow made
the cockade in his hat look like a moustache too. When he stood up to
push the trunk into place, Jasmine noticed that he was wearing baggy
trousers under his coat, and for a moment she wondered if it could
possibly be Uncle Eneas himself who was driving them. Afterward she
discovered that he was really the gardener who consented to drive the
brougham occasionally, because the horse was useful to his horticulture.

The climb up to the summit of the Heath seemed endless; Jasmine was glad
when they got on to level ground again and the cardboard boxes fell back
into place. Every time the rays of a passing lamp splashed the brougham
Jasmine felt that she ought to say something, but before she had time to
think of anything to say it was dark again; and the next splash of light
always came as a surprise, so that in the end she gave up trying to
think of anything to say and counted the lamp-posts instead. Driving in
a brougham with Aunt Cuckoo reminded her of playing hide-and-seek in a
wardrobe, when, although one was delighted to have found a good place in
which to hide, one hoped that the searchers would not be long in finding
it out.

Half-way down the tree-shaded slope of North End Road on the far side of
the Heath the brougham turned aside down a short drive and pulled up
before an irregular and what appeared in the darkness a rather
attractive house. When the door was opened by a sallow butler, Jasmine
perceived that the reason for her aunt's prolonged silence during the
drive back was a large black respirator, of which she unmuzzled herself
before she asked the butler something in a language which Jasmine did
not understand, but which she afterwards found was Greek. Then, turning
to her niece, she divulged as if it was a family secret that Uncle Eneas
had gone to dine at his club that night.

Jasmine was not sorry to be spared the anxiety of another introduction
so soon, and she eagerly accepted her aunt's proposal to dine earlier
than usual so that she could get a good night's rest after the tiring
journey.

"I've ordered _pilau_ for you," Aunt Cuckoo announced. Jasmine wondered
what this was and hoped it would not be too rich a dish. The oriental
hangings in the dining-room portended an exotic type of food, and she
had been rather shaken by the train.

"But it's just like our own _risotto_," she exclaimed when the heap of
well-greased rice sown with morsels of meat was put before her.

"Very likely," said Aunt Cuckoo, and the tone in which she accepted
Jasmine's comparison was so remote and vague that if Jasmine had likened
the _pilau_ to anything in the scale of edibility between Chinese birds'
nests and ordinary bread and butter, she would probably have assented
with the same toneless equanimity.

Jasmine liked her bedroom at The Cedars much better than her bedroom at
Strathspey House. Uncle Eneas' consular career had naturally set its
mark on his possessions. Strathspey House had been furnished first with
all the things that were not wanted in Harley Street and then with the
new and inexpensive suites that were considered appropriate to a holiday
house. Moreover, Strathspey House itself was a creation not much older
than Sir Hector's baronetcy. The Cedars was a century and a half years
old, a rambling irregular countrified house with a large garden leading
directly to the Heath; it possessed externally a colour and character of
its own which in combination with the oriental taste of Eneas Grant
produced an effect that Jasmine much esteemed after the newness of
Strathspey House. In this bedroom there were Turkish and Persian rugs,
thread-bare, but rich in hues; photographs with cypresses and minarets
along the sky-line; paintings on rice-paper of bashi-bazouks and many
other elaborate old Eastern costumes; and hanging by the fireplace a
horse's tail set in an ivory handle to whisk away the flies. The Cedars
was not Italy, but at least it seemed to recognize that somewhere there
was sunlight. Jasmine fell asleep almost happily, and coming down to
breakfast next morning after a struggle with punctuality she found to
her relief that breakfast at The Cedars consisted of the civilized
coffee taken in bed and that she alone was expected to devour eggs and
bacon at the unnatural hour of nine a.m. After this first breakfast she,
like her uncle and aunt, kept to her room.

Eneas Grant was obviously the brother of Sir Hector; and when Jasmine
found that there was a tendency among her relatives to insist upon the
importance and value of this family likeness, so much so indeed that it
was crystallized into a phrase: 'A Grant! Oh yes, he's obviously a
Grant,' she realized that her father had probably alienated himself from
the esteem of his family as much by his outward dissimilarity as by the
divergence of his tastes. Eneas was tall and thin; but neither his
tallness nor his thinness ever reached the impressive ungainliness of
angularity that was Sir Hector's outstanding characteristic. Eneas, like
his brother, was intensely proud of his good health, and in the
contemptuous way he alluded to anybody who lacked good-health he
suggested that the ill-health was due to a moral lapse. He was a
non-smoker and a teetotaller, and to both abstentions he attributed the
moral value that so many ascetics attribute to any abstention from
life's minor comforts. He was good enough, however, to allow as much to
human weakness as not to condemn any man for moderate indulgence in
either nicotine or alcohol, although to any man who fell a prey to the
major human failings, like women or cards, he was merciless.

"I see no reason why a man should run after women," Uncle Eneas used to
declare; and there hung about Mrs. Grant after twenty years of married
life such an aura of antique virginity that one felt quite sure he was
speaking the truth. Like many men who boast of their immunity from all
the fleshly attacks of the tempter, Eneas Grant was greedy; indeed he
was more than greedy, he was a glutton. A dish of curried prawns roused
the glow of concupiscence in his milky blue eyes. Jasmine found it
embarrassing at first to watch her uncle's tongue rubescent with all
that vaunted good-health titillate itself in anticipation along the
sparse hairs of his grey moustache, just as Spot titillated his back
upon the leaves of shrubberies. Uncle Hector had been greedy with the
frank greed of a man who at the beginning of a meal sharpens his knife
upon the steel with a preliminary bravura and gusto. This greed of Uncle
Eneas was colubrine. It really did seem as if he actually were
fascinating the new dish; as if the curried prawns would presently rise
of their own accord and abjectly, one after another, jump into his
mouth. Jasmine would look up apprehensively to see if Niko the butler
were not observing contemptuously this display of greed. But Niko seemed
to encourage his master; one felt that, if the curried prawns should
presume to show the slightest hesitation at coming forward to be
devoured, Niko would complete with his fingers what his master's snakish
eyes had failed to effect.

Like most teetotallers and non-smokers Eneas was a ruthless talker. He
had innumerable stories of his career which, to do him justice, were at
a first hearing entertaining enough; but after one had wandered with him
on his famous expedition to negotiate with the Mirdite clan in Albania,
had watched the eagles soaring above the gorges of the Black Drin or the
passes of the Brseshda, had noticed curiously the mediæval costumes of
the inhabitants, had been regaled with gigantic feasts by hospitable
chieftains, and had heard mass said by moustachioed priests whose rifles
were leaning against the altar, one tired of Albania; at the third time
of hearing one became as it were mentally saddle-sore and yearned to be
back home. It was entertaining, for the first time, to hear him tell how
once, in the old days, while walking like God in his garden at Salonika,
inhaling the perfumed breeze of the Balkan dusk, there had suddenly
fallen at his feet, flung over the garden wall, a matchbox which when
opened was discovered to contain a human ear. That story, heard for the
first time, provided a genuine shudder. But when one had heard it six or
seven or eight or nine times one was stifled by the preliminary
perfumes, dazzled by the preliminary sunset, and prayed for some change
in the weather and some new bit of anatomy in the matchbox, a human eye
or a human finger--anything rather than a human ear.

"A perfectly ordinary matchbox," Mr. Grant used to say. "I just stooped
down to open it and found inside a human ear. You of course see the
point of that?"

The first time Jasmine had not seen the point, and had been interested
to be told that the ear belonged to some British subject under the
protection of her uncle who had refused to pay his ransom to the
brigands that held him captive on Mount Olympus. But once the point had
been seized, and repetition gave the poor gentleman as many ears as the
breasts of the Ephesian Diana, the story became grindingly,
exasperatingly tiresome.

Even more tiresome were those stories that turned upon the listener's
acquaintance with official etiquette. Uncle Eneas cherished the
memories of former grandeur, and he was never tired of counting over for
Jasmine the number of guns to which a consul was entitled when he paid a
visit of ceremony to any warship that visited the port to which he was
accredited. The echoes of their booming still rumbled among the files
and dockets of his brain. He had preserved even more vividly the memory
of one or two occasions on which these grandeurs had been denied him by
mistake, for like most consuls of the Levant service, whether they be or
be not teetotallers and non-smokers, Eneas Grant was an aggrieved and
disappointed man who had retired with that disease of the mental outlook
which is known as consulitis. Yet Eneas Grant had less to complain of
than most of his colleagues. The bitterness of finding himself in a post
where he must come into direct competition with embassies or legations
had not often fallen to his lot. He had indeed spent two galling years
as Chief Dragoman at Constantinople, where he was responsible for all
the practical work of the Embassy and considered that he was treated
with less respect than an honorary attaché. But he had had Salonika; he
had taken an important part in the Aden demarkation; he had reported a
massacre of Christians in Southern Asia Minor and had been commended by
the Foreign Office for his diligence; his name had been blessed by the
fig merchants of Smyrna. He had eaten rich food in quantity for a number
of years, and he possessed a rich wife, who had never given him a moment
of uneasiness, neither when the bulbuls were singing to the roses of
Constantinople nor amid the murmurous gardens of Damascus.

Aunt Cuckoo was a daughter of the wealthy old Levantine family of
Hewitson, who brought her husband such a handsome dowry that he was able
ever afterward to claim by some obscure process of logic that he had
really served his country for nothing.

"The point is," he used to argue, "the point is that I can give up my
consular career when I choose." And the student-interpreters,
vice-consuls, and consuls of the Levant service, some of whom had rashly
married lovely but penniless Greeks, wondered why the deuce he didn't
hurry up and do so and thus give them a lift all round.

Aunt Cuckoo, being without children, had devoted herself to cats--Angora
cats, a breed to which she became attached during the time that her
husband was consul in that city. Angora cats lack even as much humanity
as Persian cats; compared with Siamese or Javanese cats they are not
human at all. Indeed, as a substitute for the emotions and cravings of
womanhood they are not much more effective than bundles of cotton-wool
would be. In the eyes of the world Aunt Cuckoo's childlessness was
atoned for by the purity and perfection of her Angora breed; but she
herself had to satisfy her own maternal instincts more profoundly by
coddling, almost by cuddling for twenty years a bad arm. And really what
better substitute for a baby could a childless woman find than a bad
arm? Sometimes, of course, it really does hurt; but then sometimes a
baby cuts its teeth, has convulsions or croup, is prone to flatulence
and breaks out into spots. An arm exhibits the phenomena of growth and
decay, and if a baby becomes an inky little boy, and an inky little boy
becomes an exigent young man, an arm gets older and becomes as exigent
as its owner will allow it to be. A bad arm can be shown to people even
by an elderly lady without blushing, whereas children after a certain
age cannot be exhibited in their nudity. Aunt Cuckoo's bad arm was the
chief consolation of her loneliness, and it was only natural that the
morning after Jasmine's arrival she should take her niece aside and
enquire in a whisper if she should like to see her bad arm. Jasmine
welcomed the introduction with an unspoken hope that there was nothing
nasty to see. Nor was there. It was apparently the perfectly normal arm
that any woman over fifty might possess. Age had blunted the contours;
twenty years of testing the efficiency of various lotions and liniments
had gradually stained its pristine alabaster; but there was nothing
whatever to see, no tumour malignant or benign, no ulcer indolent or
irritable.

"I am going to try a new system of massage," Aunt Cuckoo confided. "And
I can't help thinking how nice it would be if you could have a few
lessons."

And as Uncle Eneas for his part was convinced that a more valuable
lesson would be the art of jiu-jitsu, in whatever direction she looked
Jasmine could see nothing before her but muscular development.

"The point about jiu-jitsu," Uncle Eneas explained, "is the independence
it gives you. My own feeling is that women should be as far as possible
independent."

Aunt Cuckoo looked up at this. It had never struck her before that such
was her husband's opinion.

"Now don't _you_ suggest learning jiu-jitsu," he said quickly.

"I don't think my arm would let me," his wife replied.

"And you ought to get plenty of walking," Uncle Eneas added, turning to
Jasmine. "At your age I always walked for an hour and a half before
breakfast. I remember once at Broussa...." and he was off on one of his
entirely topographical stories, dragging his listeners through
landscapes that for them were as shifting, as uncertain, as nebulous and
confused as the landscapes of other people's dreams.

Perhaps Aunt Cuckoo yielded less to her husband than superficially she
appeared. Certainly nothing more was said about jiu-jitsu, whereas the
massage scheme made considerable progress. Two days later a gaunt
blonde, with that look professional nurses sometimes have of being nuns
who have succumbed to the temptations of the flesh, invested The Cedars.
She advanced upon poor Aunt Cuckoo with such a grim air that Jasmine
began to think that it was rather a pity that she had not learnt
jiu-jitsu in order to defend herself against this barbarian.

"This is Miss Hellner," said Aunt Cuckoo, timorously offering the
introduction in the manner of a propitiatory sacrifice. "Miss Hellner,"
she went on imploringly, "who has made such a wonderful improvement in
my bad arm. I want my niece to get a few hints from you, Miss Hellner.
She is anxious to take up massage professionally."

Miss Hellner's cold blue eye, as cold and blue as one of her
Scandinavian fjords, was fixed upon the victim; no amount of talk about
Jasmine's future was going to deter her from her duty.

"Will you please unbutton the sleeve?" she requested in a guttural
voice, which Aunt Cuckoo prepared to obey.

"The arm has been rather better the last few days," the patient
suggested. "So perhaps it won't be necessary to repeat last week's
treatment."

"Three times that treatment is repeated," said Miss Hellner inexorably.
"That is the rule."

"Oh dear," Aunt Cuckoo murmured with a dolorous little giggle. "I'm
afraid I'm going to have rather a painful time. But don't go away,
Jasmine. It's going to hurt me very much, but it will be very
interesting for you to watch. Miss Hellner is so expert."

But flattery was impotent against Miss Hellner, who by now had seized
the arm and was kneading it, pinching it, digging her knuckles into
it--and bony knuckles they were too--trying to tear it in half
apparently with her thumbs, burrowing and boring, while all the time
Aunt Cuckoo ejaculated "Ouch!" or "Ah!" and to one viciously penetrating
use of the forefinger as a gimlet "Yi! Yi!"

At last Miss Hellner stopped, and Aunt Cuckoo lay back on the sofa with
a sigh, occasionally giving a glance of ineffable tenderness to where
her bad arm, as red as a new-born baby, lay upon her breast.

"If your arm is not well after one more treatment...."

"One more treatment," echoed Aunt Cuckoo dutifully, "Yes?"

"You will have to take the oil cure."

"The oil cure?" asked the patient, pleasantly excited at the prospect of
a new treatment. "What does that consist of?"

"First you take an ice bath."

"Yes," said Aunt Cuckoo, "our bathroom is _very_ nice."

"Ice bath," repeated the nurse severely.

"Oh, I see," said Aunt Cuckoo with less enthusiasm. "You mean a cold
bath."

"Ice bath," Miss Hellner almost shouted. "With lumps of ice to float.
Then I rub you with oil of olives."

Aunt Cuckoo nodded gratefully; after the ice such a proceeding sounded
luxurious.

"Then with nothing on you will do the gymnastic. Up and down the room.
Backwards and forwards. So."

"Dear me, with nothing on? Absolutely nothing? Couldn't I keep a small
towel?"

"Nothing on," repeated the masseuse obstinately. "Then you sit for ten
minutes in the window with the fan."

"But surely not with nothing on except a fan?"

"With nothing on," the masseuse insisted. "Then----" She paused
impressively, while Aunt Cuckoo looked excessively agitated, and Jasmine
wondered what ultimate ordeal she was going to prescribe. Surely she
could not intend to make the patient sit in the garden or drive in the
brougham with nothing on?

"Then you will drink a large glass of lemonade and absorb the oil," Miss
Hellner announced.

"Good gracious! Not a very large glass of oil?"

"It is the lemons who drink the oil. It was not you yourself," Miss
Hellner explained scornfully.

"Jasmine," said Aunt Cuckoo with one finger lifted in solemn admonition,
"don't let me forget to order the lemons in good time."

The lemonade was such a simple and peaceable climax that Aunt Cuckoo was
evidently anxious to try it; she did not ask her niece to remind her
about the ice, and in order to prevent Miss Hellner's reminding her she
suggested that Jasmine should have a short lesson in the art of massage.

"Oh, but I think watching you has been enough lesson for to-day"
objected Jasmine, who feared the example that is better than the
precept. "I don't think I could take in any more at first."

"She must come to the school of Swedish culture," Miss Hellner decided.

Thus it was that Jasmine found herself engaged on Mondays, Wednesdays,
and Fridays to travel from Hampstead to Baker Street, with every
prospect, unless fate should intervene to save her, of becoming by
profession a masseuse, the last profession she would ever have chosen
for herself.

On the days when she did not go to Baker Street she had to comb the
cats. To comb seven Angora cats was almost as tiring as massage.

"I suppose this is the way your arm got bad?" she once suggested to her
aunt.

"Oh, no, dear," said Aunt Cuckoo. "When I was young I used to write a
great deal. I wrote six novels about life in the Levant, and then I had
writer's cramp."

That evening when she went up to her bedroom Jasmine found her aunt's
novels waiting to be read--eighteen volumes published in the style of
the early 'nineties and the late 'eighties, with titles like _The
Sultan's Shadow_ and _The Rose of Sharon_. She read bits of each one in
turn, and then abruptly felt that she had had enough, just as one feels
that one has had enough Turkish-delight. Unfortunately Aunt Cuckoo said
there was nothing she liked better than really intelligent criticism. So
between reading the novels, learning massage, and combing the cats there
was not much leisure for Jasmine, and what leisure she had was more than
filled by rapid walks with Uncle Eneas over the Heath. Sirene is not a
place that predisposes people to walk fast, and Uncle Eneas was
continually being amazed that a niece thirty-five years younger than
himself should be unable to quicken her pace to suit his own. Sometimes
he said this in such a severe tone that Jasmine was half afraid that he
would buy a lead and compel her to keep up with him. Luckily she was not
expected to talk, and she soon discovered that she was only expected to
say once in every ten minutes 'What an extraordinary life you have had,
Uncle Eneas,' to maintain him in a perfectly good temper.

Aunt May had written Jasmine a long letter from Spaborough expressing
her delight at the news that she was treating Uncle Eneas and Aunt
Cuckoo with more consideration than she had shown towards Uncle Hector
and herself, announcing the imminent return of the family to Harley
Street and magnanimously offering to give Jasmine lunch on her 'massage
days,' inasmuch as Harley Street was, as no doubt she knew, quite close
to Baker Street. Cousin Edith also wrote warmly and effusively; but the
paleness of the ink, the thinness of the pen, and the flimsiness of the
paper made the letter seem like an old letter found in a secret drawer
and addressed to somebody who had been dead a century. She did not hear
from Harry Vibart, and she wondered if he had written to her at
Strathspey House and if her relatives there had kept back the letter.
She supposed that she should never see him again, and she began to fear
that she, like so many other girls, should drift into a profession to
which she was not particularly attracted, or into a marriage for which
she was not particularly anxious, or perhaps, worst of all, that she
should merely shrink and shrink and shrink into a desiccated old maid
like Cousin Edith. It was not an exhilarating prospect; Mustapha, the
patriarch of the Angora cats, had his fur combed out less gently than
usual that morning.

Life was seeming unutterably dreary when Aunt Cuckoo came into the room,
her eyes flashing with anticipation, her being rejuvenated by
excitement, to say that one of the maids had a stiff neck, and to ask if
Jasmine would immediately go to her room and operate on it.

Jasmine followed her aunt upstairs, and expressed her sense of life's
disillusionment by the vigour with which she manipulated, man-handled
indeed, the neck and shoulders of the young woman, who after numerous
vain protests burst into hysterical tears and gave a month's notice.

"Funny, isn't it," said Aunt Cuckoo when they left the room, "what
little gratitude you find among the lower classes nowadays?"

"I think I did rather hurt her," said Jasmine, who was by now feeling
rather penitent.

"_I_ think you did it very well," said Aunt Cuckoo, "and _I_ am very
pleased with you. And of course her shoulders are so much harder than my
poor arm."

Aunt Cuckoo, for all her folly, had for Jasmine a certain pathos, and
during the late autumn and winter while she stayed at The Cedars she to
some extent grew accustomed to the atmosphere of cold storage which
prevailed there; she began to contemplate the slow freezing of herself
during the years to come into an Aunt Cuckoo; she preferred the notion
of a frozen self, which after all would always be liable to melt, to the
notion of a withered self like Cousin Edith's, which would indubitably
never bourgeon again. She did sometimes lunch with the Hector Grants at
Harley Street, and she found them more insufferable every time she went
there. Aunt Cuckoo could not help feeling gratified by this, because for
many years now she had been jealous of Lady Grant.

"Of course I should not like to appear as if I was criticizing her," she
would say to Jasmine. "But I understand what you mean about Lettice and
Pamela, and I can't help feeling that they have been spoilt. It's the
same with cats," she murmured, in a vague effort to elucidate the moral
atmosphere.

When Aunt Cuckoo talked like this, Jasmine began to wonder if she could
confide in her about Harry Vibart; but when she had to frame the words,
her account of the affair began to seem so pretentious and exaggerated
that she could not bring herself to the point, would blush in
embarrassment, and hide her confusion by an energetic combing of
Mustapha.

In the middle of the winter Aunt Cuckoo began to throw out hints of what
Jasmine might expect from herself and Uncle Eneas in the future. She
never went so far as a definite statement that they intended to make her
their heiress; the prospect of future wealth was merely hinted at like
the landscape under a false dawn. Yet even this glimmer over something
beyond was enough to alarm Jasmine with the idea that her uncle and aunt
would suppose that she was aiming at an inheritance. She tried by
diligent combing of cats, by concentration upon the massage of Aunt
Cuckoo's arm, and by the rapidity of her walking pace, to show that she
appreciated what was being done for her in the present; but the moment
Aunt Cuckoo began to talk of the future she was discouragingly rude.
Nevertheless these hints, notwithstanding Jasmine's reception of them,
would probably have taken a more definite shape if on the anniversary of
the conversion of Saint Paul Aunt Cuckoo had not taken shelter from a
sudden storm of rain in a small Catholic mission church at Golders
Green. Here she felt vague aspirations at the sight of half a dozen poor
people praying in the rich twilight of imitation glass windows; but she
was more particularly and more deeply impressed by the behaviour of a
woman in rusty mourning in bringing a pallid little boy to the feet of a
saintly image that was attracting Aunt Cuckoo's attention and
everybody's attention by lifting his habit and pointing to a sore on his
leg. After praying to an accompaniment of maternal prods the child was
bidden to deposit at the base of the image a bandage of lint, after
which he stuck six candles on the pricket, lighted them, and followed
his mother out of the church with many a backward glance to observe the
effect of his illumination. Aunt Cuckoo was puzzled by all this, and
overtaking the woman in the porch asked what it meant. She was told that
the saint's name was Roch and that he had miraculously cured her little
boy of an ulcerous leg. Aunt Cuckoo's arm immediately began to pain her
acutely. On feeling this pain she went back into the church and prayed
shyly, for she was not a Catholic and she had only heard the saint's
name for the first time. The pain vanished as abruptly as it came, and
Aunt Cuckoo, thrilled by the miracle, hurried home to tell Jasmine all
about it. As soon as her mind had turned its attention to miracles Aunt
Cuckoo began to fancy that she was being specially favoured by Heavenly
manifestations.

"Of course one has said 'How miraculous!' before," she assured her
niece. "But one employs terms so loosely. I learned that when I used to
write." Aunt Cuckoo's voice, from many years of tonelessness, was, now
that she was able to feel a genuine excitement, full of astonishing
little squeaks and tremolos which had she been a clock would have led
the listener to oil the works at once. "And the healing of my bad arm
wasn't the only miracle," she hurried on. "Oh no, dear. I assure you it
stopped raining the moment I came out of church, and you know how
difficult it is to find a taxi when one requires one. Well, would you
believe it, lo and behold, one pulled up just outside the church, and
the moment I was inside it started to pour again. I'm so glad that
you're a Catholic, dear. There, you see I'm already learning not to say
Roman Catholic...."

It was at this point that Jasmine became discouraging. Her religion had
always been such a matter-of-fact business in Sirene and the existence
of Protestants so natural in a world divided into rich touring English
folk and poor dear predatory Italians that her aunt's intentions shocked
her.

"You're not thinking of becoming a Christian--I mean a Catholic," she
gasped.

"Who knows?" said Aunt Cuckoo in the vague and awful tones of a Sibyl.
"And I should have thought, Jasmine, that you would have been the first
to rejoice."

Jasmine felt that her aunt was presenting her out of a profusion of
miracles with one all for herself; but realizing what everybody would
say she was so ungracious that Aunt Cuckoo went and offered it to the
parish priest instead.

Father Maloney was at first inclined to resent Aunt Cuckoo's suggestion
that St. Roch should have healed a Protestant; but when her ardour and
humility had been sufficiently tried, he agreed to receive her into the
Church, and though he did not encourage her to believe in any more
miracles, he was privately inclined to hold the pious opinion that a
well-to-do convert's arrival in the unfinished condition of the new
sacristy was as nearly miraculous as anything in his career.

A month later, notwithstanding Uncle Eneas' severe indictment of the
crimes of the papacy, Aunt Cuckoo became a Catholic. Miss Hellner was
dismissed; Jasmine was bidden to consider massage an invention of the
devil; the Angora cats were sold; Aunt Cuckoo was confirmed. Her husband
who in the course of their married life had successfully cured her of
singing after dinner, of writing novels, of spiritualism, of Christian
science, of a dread of premature burial, of a belief in the immortality
conferred by sour milk, and of eating nuts the last thing at night and
the first thing in the morning, was defeated by this craze; her ability
to resist her husband's disapproval convinced Aunt Cuckoo more firmly
than ever that she was the recipient of a special dose of grace. Yet
although Catholicism supplied most of Aunt Cuckoo's emotional needs, it
could not entirely stifle her unsatisfied maternal instinct, so that
sometimes, when St. Roch was busy with other patients, she looked back
regretfully to the days when her arm really hurt, and her faith was
exposed to the insinuations of the Evil One. She turned her attention to
juvenile saints and became much wrapped up in St. Aloysius Gonzaga until
she found that he objected to his mother's seeing him undress when he
was eight years old and that he had fainted because a footman saw him
with one sock off at the age of four. St. Aloysius evidently did not
require her maternal love, and she lavished it on St. Stanislas Kostka
instead; but even with him she felt awkward, until at last St. Teresa,
most practical of women, came to her rescue in the middle of the Sursum
Corda. Three months after her conversion Aunt Cuckoo arrived home from
mass on Lady Day with an expression in her pale blue eyes that would
have required the cobalt of Fra Angelico to represent.

"Eneas," she announced, "I have decided to adopt a baby."

To the consular mind of Mr. Grant such a procedure evoked endless
complications in the future. His mind leaped forward twenty years to the
time when this baby would require a passport, and he wondered if there
were a special form for adopted babies. He seemed to fancy vaguely that
there was, and he asked what the nationality of the baby would be.

"A Catholic baby," Aunt Cuckoo proclaimed.

Her husband explained to her that she must not confuse religion with
nationality, and then suddenly with a grimace of real ferocity he said:

"I hope you don't intend to adopt an Irish baby?"

"A Catholic baby," Aunt Cuckoo repeated obstinately.

"This kipper is rather strong," said Eneas.

But it was not strong enough to divert Aunt Cuckoo from her own trail.

"I spoke to Father Maloney about it this morning after mass," she
persisted.

"Damn Father Maloney!" said Eneas.

Jasmine was wondering to herself what part she would be called upon to
play with regard to the baby. But whatever she had to do would be less
tiring than combing Angora cats or trying to keep up with Uncle Eneas on
the slopes of Hampstead Heath. Uncle Eneas protested all day for a week
against the baby; Aunt Cuckoo appealed to St. Teresa, secured her
support by a novena, and defeated him once more. Father Maloney
discovered a Catholic bank-clerk, the victim of chronic alcoholism, who
with the help of a tuberculous wife had brought into the world twelve
children, the youngest of which, now ten months old, he secured for Aunt
Cuckoo. At the formal conveyance of the baby Uncle Eneas asked whether
it were a boy or a girl, and when Aunt Cuckoo replied that she did not
know, he, apostrophizing heaven, wondered if ever since the world began
a vaguer woman had walked the earth.

"It's a boy," said Father Maloney soothingly.

"What's his name?" asked Aunt Cuckoo.

"Michael Francis Joseph Mary Aloysius," said Father Maloney.

"Good God!" exclaimed Uncle Eneas.

"We'll call him Frank," Aunt Cuckoo decided, and her husband was almost
appeased. He had not realized that anything so ordinary could be
extracted from that highly coloured mosaic of names.

At first Aunt Cuckoo was glad of Jasmine's help, and of the advice of
the very latest product in professional nurses. But when she found that
the nurse had theories in the bringing up of babies that by no means
accorded with her own sentimental views, and that Jasmine was inclined
to support the nurse, she began to be a little resentful of her niece.

"You don't understand, my dear," she said. "You see you aren't a
mother."

"Well, but nor are you," Jasmine pointed out. This retort so much
annoyed Aunt Cuckoo that she began to hint, much more obviously than she
had hinted at future prosperity, at the inconvenience of Jasmine's
presence in The Cedars.

Possibly Aunt Cuckoo's desire to be relieved of any responsibility for
her niece's future might not have matured so rapidly had not Uncle Eneas
been converted if not to the baby's religion at any rate of its company
by the obvious pleasure his entrance into the room caused the creature.
No man is secure against flattery; the cult of the dog as a domestic
animal proves that. No doubt if on its adopted father's entrance into a
room the baby had shrieked, turned black in the face or vomited, he
would have been tempted to take refuge in the society of his niece from
such implied contempt. But the baby always demonstrated rapture at the
approach of Uncle Eneas. Its toes curled over sensuously; its fingers
clutched at strings of celestial music; it dribbled and made that odd
noise which is called crowing. It said La-la-la-la-la very rapidly and
tried to leap in the air. Probably it was fascinated by a prominent and
brilliantly coloured red wen on Uncle Eneas' cheek, because if ever he
bent over to pay his respects the baby would always make distinct
efforts to grasp this wen with one hand, while with the other it would
try to grasp his tie-pin, a moderately large single ruby not unlike the
wen. Luckily for itself the baby could not express what exactly kindled
its young enthusiasm, and Uncle Eneas naturally began to believe that
the infant was exceptionally intelligent. His wife encouraged this
opinion; all the servants encouraged this opinion; even the professional
nurse encouraged this opinion. It was obvious that the baby would be
henceforth ineradicable. Moreover by acquiring a baby already ten months
old, what Uncle Eneas called the early stewed raspberry stage of
babyhood had been passed elsewhere, and the exciting first attempts at
conversation and locomotion were already in sight. As yet neither Uncle
Eneas nor Aunt Cuckoo had gone beyond hints about the problem of
Jasmine's future, but she began to feel sensitive about staying longer
at The Cedars and to ask herself what she was going to do presently. At
this point the baby, with what had it not been a baby might have been
called cynical coquetry, roused the demons of jealousy by suddenly
making shameless advances to Jasmine. Nothing would please the infant
now but that Jasmine should play with it continually: Uncle Eneas and
Aunt Cuckoo were greeted with yells of disapproval. With Spring rapidly
coming to the prime it was felt that such an unnatural preference
indicated the need for a change of air. Jasmine sensed an exchange of
diplomatic notes among her relatives. She shrank within herself at the
thought that none too much willingness was anywhere being displayed to
receive her.

"I thought it would be rather nice for you to go down to Curtain Wells
and stay with your Uncle Alexander for a while in this beautiful spring
weather," said Aunt Cuckoo. "But it appears that the only spare room is
in the hands of the decorators."

And on another day she said: "I am rather surprised that your Aunt May
doesn't invite you to stay with her in Harley Street for the season.
They have become so ultra-fashionable nowadays that one might have
supposed that they would have invited you to Harley Street to share in
the general atmosphere of gaiety. I do hope that dear little Frank is
not going to grow up quite so self-absorbed as Lettice and Pamela."

"If you want me to go away," said Jasmine desperately, "why don't you
say so? I never wanted to come to England. I'll go back to Sirene with
what massage I know and earn my living there."

"But who has given you the least idea that you are unwelcome?" said Aunt
Cuckoo. "It was of you I was thinking. I am afraid that dear baby's
arrival has made us less able to amuse you than we were. And I don't
like to suggest that you should take entire charge of him."

At this moment Uncle Eneas came blustering into the room.

"I've had a letter from Uncle Matthew," he proclaimed. "He's got an idea
into his head that he wants to go down to the seaside. Some fool of a
doctor's been stuffing him up with that notion. He says he thinks we
ought to go to the seaside, and says it would be a good idea to share
expenses, we paying two-thirds and he paying one-third. The mean old
screw! How like him that is! And if we take baby he'll only want to pay
a quarter."

"Oh, but I think Uncle Matthew would be too frightening for dear baby,"
said Aunt Cuckoo. "Why shouldn't Jasmine go and stay with him?" she
suggested.

"That wouldn't suit his plan," said Uncle Eneas. "If Jasmine went he
would have to pay for her as well as for himself."

"But don't you think that if Jasmine went to stay with him at Muswell
Hill, she would do as well as a change of air?"

"By Jove, that's quite a notion," said Uncle Eneas, looking at his niece
as people look at the sky to see if it is going to rain. Jasmine was
trying to remember what she knew about Uncle Matthew. He existed in her
mind as an incredibly old gentleman of boundless wealth who years ago
had bought a picture of her father.

"I think you would like Uncle Matthew so much," Aunt Cuckoo was saying
persuasively. "Of course he's very old and he's a little eccentric. I
think old people often are eccentric, don't you? But he's very well off,
and it really does seem a wonderful solution of the difficulty."

"You mean the difficulty of having me on your hands?" Jasmine bluntly
demanded.

"Please don't say that," Aunt Cuckoo begged. "Surely you heard what your
uncle said? Our difficulty is that we don't want to disturb Uncle
Matthew with precious Baboose. I don't think he would quite understand
how the little pet came to us."

So long as she was to be tossed about like a ball, Jasmine thought she
might just as well be tossed into an old gentleman's lap as anywhere
else, and soon after this, gathering from a fragment she overheard of a
low colloquy between her uncle and aunt that her introduction to Uncle
Matthew would intensely annoy the Hector Grants, she made up her mind
not to oppose, but even to press forward the proposed visit.

"Where is Muswell Hill?" she asked.

"Oh, it's on a hill," said Aunt Cuckoo vaguely. "I don't know what bus
you take. It's a large house, and as he has only one servant everything
gets a little dusty. Whenever I go there I always take a duster with
me, because Uncle Matthew so appreciates a little attention. At least
I'm sure he does really appreciate it, though of course he's reached
that age when people don't seem to appreciate anything. What do you
think, dear?" she turned to ask her husband. "We might invite him to
dinner."

It was extraordinary how much the baby's arrival had strengthened Aunt
Cuckoo's position in the household. In the old days she would never have
dreamed of asking anyone to dinner; but her vicarious maternity gave her
as much importance as if she had really borne a child at the age of
fifty-two. Eneas had correspondingly shrunk with regard to his wife,
though with everybody else he was as pompous as ever.

"Now I'm going to give you a few hints," said Aunt Cuckoo to Jasmine.
"Dear old Uncle Matthew is very fond of pictures."

"Yes, I remember he bought one of father's years and years ago."

"Oh, hush, hush!" Aunt Cuckoo breathed. "He's not at all fond of buying
anything now. You must _give_ him one of your father's pictures. In
fact, if I might suggest it, you had better give him all that you have
left. We shall send the brougham over to fetch him, and I don't see any
reason why you should not drive back with him to Muswell Hill after
dinner. We could put the pictures on the luggage rack, and your trunk
could be sent over by Carter Paterson the next day. You could put what
you wanted for the night in quite a small bag, which I will lend you."

Religion was making Aunt Cuckoo as practical as St. Teresa herself.
Perhaps it was lucky for Uncle Eneas that she had adopted a baby; he
would have found a new order of nuns much more expensive.

The invitation was sent to Uncle Matthew, and the next day the answer
came back written on the back of the same sheet of paper. In a
postscript he had added: "_I wish you wouldn't seal your envelopes to
me, as I cannot turn them so easily. People nowadays seem to have no
idea of economy. Every envelope should be used twice over._"

"It's really not avarice," Aunt Cuckoo explained. "It's only
eccentricity."

She was longing more than ever to get Jasmine out of the house. That
afternoon darling baby had pulled Uncle Eneas' moustache with a
suggestion of viciousness, and though Uncle Eneas had said in a fatuous
voice, "Poor little man, he doesn't know that it hurts," Aunt Cuckoo was
inclined to think that Baby did know it hurt, and that he had been
prompted to the outrage by Jasmine's influence.

Uncle Matthew was apparently a difficult person to entertain at dinner
because he liked to be well fed and at the same time he did not like to
see anything wasted. If the least bit too much was given him, he would
overeat himself rather than let anything be wasted, which often made him
ill afterwards. Aunt Cuckoo's dinners in the past had usually been
failures, because in those days her temperament was far too vague to
calculate nicely the necessary quantity of food. The development of her
practical qualities promised greater success now. Besides, now that
Jasmine was here, she could not make a mistake, because if there was too
much Jasmine could be given a larger helping than she wanted, and if
there was too little Jasmine could be given less. It was debated whether
it would be wise to warn Uncle Matthew in advance of Jasmine's
existence, of which he was probably unaware, inasmuch as the Hector
Grants had every interest in not telling him; and it was finally decided
to say nothing about her until she was introduced to him. Aunt Cuckoo
was anxious to explain that Jasmine had come all the way from Sirene to
lay at his feet her father's dying wish in the shape of four pictures;
but Uncle Eneas' more cautious consular nature did not approve of this
plan. There was also some discussion whether anything should be said
about Baby. Aunt Cuckoo in the pride of maternity had no doubts; but
Uncle Eneas with the approach of Uncle Matthew's visit was feeling more
and more like a nephew and less and less like a father.

"I don't think the old boy will understand our deliberately procuring a
child in that way. I know he has always regarded children as unpleasant
accidents."

"But suppose darling Baboose cries?"

"Well, he mustn't," the adopted father decided. "Or if he does, we must
say that it's a baby in the street outside. It's impossible really to
arrange a suitable reception in advance. That last tooth has been giving
him a good deal of trouble, you know, and he may ... well, he may in
fact take it out of the old gentleman. No, I feel sure that a meeting
between them would be most inappropriate."

Aunt Cuckoo gave way. She was too anxious to palm off Jasmine on Uncle
Matthew not for once to sacrifice Baby's dignity as the heir of The
Cedars.



_Chapter Six_


Uncle Matthew Rouncivell was not of course so old as his relatives
boasted that he was, but he was old enough to be considered incapable of
lasting much longer and old enough to justify any member of the family
in adding a few years to the correct total, which was seventy-six. He
had been fifteen years younger than the wife of the Bishop of Clapham,
and though he had scoffed at his sister for marrying a parson, he had to
admit in the end that Andrew had made the most of a poor profession.
Uncle Matthew's mean and acquisitive boyhood had been the consolation of
his father's declining years, and he started life with a comfortable
fortune notwithstanding what had been robbed from him as a dowry to
marry off his sister. Their father, Samuel Rouncivell, had invested
largely in property that seemed likely to put difficulties in the way of
far-off municipal improvements, or as he preferred to put it, lay along
the lines of future urban development. He and his son after him had a
remarkable flair for buying up decrepit slums that would afterward turn
out to be the only possible site for a new town hall or public library.
And then the keen eye old Samuel had for the arteries of traffic! Why,
it was as keen as an anatomist's for the arteries of the human body. In
whatever direction tramlines or railroads desired to flow, there stood
Samuel ready to apply his tourniquet, which was sometimes nothing more
than one tumbledown cottage plastered with signs of ancient lights. This
sense of direction was transmitted to Matthew, who when one of the big
London termini had to be enlarged trebled his fortune at a stroke. Now,
at seventy-six, he could not be worth less than fifteen thousand a year,
and as he did not spend five hundred, every year he lived was making him
wealthier. Long ago he had married a beautiful young woman who a few
months later was killed in a riding accident. Since then he had spent a
solitary and misanthropic life, grinding his tenants, amassing a
quantity of unusual walking-sticks and bad modern pictures, and
collecting what he called antiques. His only amusement was the malicious
delight he took in leading the various groups of his relations to
suppose one after another that he was contemplating them as his
beneficiaries. Thin-lipped and beaky, he had a fat flabby back and pale
flabby cheeks, and the skin of his neck was mottled and scaly as a
snake's slough. He usually wore a frock-coat that resembled the green
slime on London railings in wet weather; but when he dined out he took
with him a black velvet smoking cap worked in arabesques of yellow silk
and a pair of slippers made of leopard's fur to which moth had given a
mangy appearance. He liked to dine early, and it was six o'clock of a
fine evening in early May when he arrived at The Cedars, his frock-coat
reinforced by a grey muffler long enough and thick enough to have kept a
Zulu moderately warm at the North Pole. He did not seem in a good
temper, and when Niko helped him to disengage himself from the muffler,
he asked with a growl if the fool thought he was spinning a top.
However, when he entered the dining-room and saw poor Sholto Grant's
pictures all aglow in the rich horizontal sunlight, he cheered up for a
moment, until a suspicion that his nephew Eneas was proposing to sell
him the pictures intervened and spoilt his pleasure. He at once began to
criticize and cheapen the pictures so ruthlessly that Jasmine could
hardly keep back her tears. In Crispano's Café at Sirene she had once
heard a futurist painter criticizing her father's pictures, and she had
been so angry that she had upset the coffee over him on her way out. To
hear Uncle Matthew one might suppose that such bad pictures had never
been painted since the world began; yet she could say nothing.

"I'm sorry you don't like them," said Aunt Cuckoo, "because Jasmine has
brought them back for you all the way from Sirene."

"Eh? What's that?" demanded Uncle Matthew, twisting round on one of his
sticks and thumping the floor with the other. "Who's Jasmine?"

"Jasmine is poor Sholto's daughter."

"What? Another?" the old gentleman growled.

"No, he only had one."

"I can't think why people want to have children at all," Uncle Matthew
sniffed. Eneas congratulated his wife with a complacent glance on their
reserve about Baby. "So you brought back these pictures for me, did
you?" the old gentleman continued. "Humph! I did buy one of your
father's pictures a long time ago, and I don't say it was bad, but he
asked too much for it. And now if I accept these I shall have to buy
frames for them," he concluded indignantly.

But the insistency of Sholto's pictures, the indubitable, the positive
proclamation of their being what they were, the full value they gave of
blue water, bright flowers, and rosy cheeks, softened the old
gentleman's heart. They really did express for him his own taste in art,
and inasmuch as they were a present he could not quite conceal his
gratification.

"I hope you haven't gone and ordered a very extravagant dinner for me,"
he said gruffly to hide as far as possible the least amenity in his
manner.

Aunt Cuckoo reassured him, and, the gong ringing at that moment, they
moved toward the dining-room. Uncle Matthew disdained an arm, preferring
to rely upon his two sticks.

"Wonderful how he bears himself for an old gentleman, isn't it?"
whispered Uncle Eneas to Jasmine. "We're a long-lived family. There's no
doubt about that." He was too anxious for the success of the evening to
brag more particularly about his own athletic qualities.

The dinner consisted of various Eastern dishes, on all of which the old
gentleman looked with an approving eye, because each dish gave the
impression of being a hash of something unfinished the day before. The
richness of their flavouring appealed to his palate, and the zest with
which his nephew filled up his own plate had its effect upon his own
appetite. Jasmine got into disgrace early in the meal by leaving half a
plate of _pilau_ untouched, but she was able to recover some of her lost
ground by refusing wine.

"Good girl!" Uncle Matthew exclaimed, and turning to his nephew he asked
why there was wine on the table when he knew that there was nothing of
which he disapproved so much as wine. Eneas glared angrily at his wife.
It was only since Father Maloney had been dining with them occasionally
that wine had been seen at The Cedars. The offending decanter was
removed, and everybody finished what water was left in his tumbler with
an expression of critical enjoyment.

"Have you written about those rooms yet?" Uncle Matthew asked
presently.

Eneas shook his head weightily. "The trouble is I shall have to stay in
London until the end of July. I've been asked by the Foreign Office to
do some work for them--expert work in Turkish which nobody else can do
at present." Then he wavered. "But perhaps Cuckoo...."

His wife cut him short. "I shan't be able to get away until July," she
said; but she went on roguishly: "So we thought that perhaps if you were
very good, Uncle Matthew, we'd lend you Jasmine for a little while."

Eneas could not withhold a glance of admiration; he even resolved not to
allude to the mistake over the wine when Uncle Matthew was gone. He
admitted to himself that he should never have thought of suggesting that
Jasmine was a loan, or of putting Uncle Matthew in the position of a
little boy being given a treat.

"Lend me Jasmine?" the old gentleman repeated. "And what am I to do with
Jasmine, pray?"

"She's invaluable," said Aunt Cuckoo, leaning across the dining-table
and squeezing her niece's hand. "And I wouldn't lend her to anybody else
but you. Everybody's clamouring for her."

Uncle Matthew looked at his great-niece with the expression that for
many years he had been wont to accord to proffered bargains.

"You told us you wanted a change," Aunt Cuckoo persisted. "And as soon
as you told us we made up our minds that whatever it cost us _you_
should have Jasmine."

Throughout the evening Aunt Cuckoo made it appear that Jasmine really
was indispensable, and by dint of never committing herself to anything
without asking Jasmine if she agreed with her and of never formulating
any plan without asking Jasmine first if she approved of it and of
never wanting anything without asking Jasmine if she would fetch it for
her, she really did manage to impress Uncle Matthew that by taking away
Jasmine from The Cedars he would be robbing a nephew and niece. This was
too keen a pleasure for the old gentleman to deny himself, and when he
left that evening he went away with a solemn promise that Jasmine should
be delivered to him at eleven o'clock the following morning.

"We don't usually let the carriage go out two days running," said Aunt
Cuckoo in a final burst of abnegation, "but for dear Jasmine's sake we
will."

"A very successful evening, my dear," Uncle Eneas observed when the
visitor was gone.

"And that precious lamb upstairs never made a sound."

"The young rascal! He knew. _He_ knew," the adoptive father idiotically
chuckled.

Jasmine wondered what he was supposed to know--perhaps, she thought with
a shade of malice, that he might one day inherit Uncle Matthew's fortune
if Uncle Matthew died in ignorance of his existence. She could not bring
herself to imagine that any money would be left to Lettice and Pamela.
Ah, but there were others whom she had not yet seen, those six boy
cousins at Silchester, and Uncle Alexander with his lunatic prince. Why
had she ever consented to leave Sirene? Whichever way she looked in
England there was nothing to be seen except an endless vista of
servitude. Girls in books always struck out for themselves, but perhaps
they were the only girls who were written about. There must be hundreds
of others like herself who remained slaves. Not at all, they finally got
married; they worked hard and....

"It's really a ghastly prospect," she exclaimed aloud.

"_Uscirò pazza!_ I'm like some cheap novel in a circulating library
gradually getting more and more dog's-eared, more and more dirty and
greasy, and all the time being passed on and on--oh! I can't stand it
much longer...."

Jasmine did not set out to Muswell Hill with much hope in her heart. She
felt as if she was being posted to Matthew Rouncivell, Esq., and the
kisses of her uncle and aunt remained on her cheeks like postage stamps.

Rouncivell Lodge was a double-fronted, two-storied house which was built
of brown brick in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, probably
by some prosperous city merchant, as a country residence. It had
remained what was practically a country residence until a few years ago,
when old Matthew Rouncivell sacrificed the couple of acres of garden
behind the house and built on the site large blocks of bright red flats,
leaving no land to his own house except the shrubbery in front, which
was divided into three segments by a semicircular drive; in the largest
of these stood a Doric summer-house converted by Mr. Rouncivell into a
smoking-room. The proximity of the flats and the amount of sky they cut
off added to the gloom of the shrubbery, which was a mass of rank ivy
and euonymus bushes, of American rhododendrons, lilacs that never
flowered, privets, and Portuguese laurels. Moreover, although the flats
were what the agent called high-class residential flats, the landlord,
possibly with the vague notion of guarding what was left of the privacy
he had himself destroyed, had had them planned to present to anybody
entering the gates of Rouncivell Lodge their domestic windows, which,
with dish-cloths drying on every sill, gave them the squalid appearance
of tenement buildings.

The old gentleman himself, when, wearing his velvet smoking-jacket, his
tasselled smoking-cap, and a pair of goloshes over his fur slippers, he
visited the smoking-room to smoke his weekly cigar, found the flavour of
the cigar was enhanced by calculating how much a year each window in
sight brought him in. This meditation was so comforting that he used
really to enjoy his smoke, although the cigars, which were of poor
quality when he bought them, had not been improved by their storage in
the damp Doric summer-house. However, he smoked them literally to the
bitter end; this bitter end he used to stick upon a penknife, and even
when each puff nearly blistered his tongue he still enjoyed it, because
he had made a calculation that merely by the amount more of a cigar he
smoked than anyone else he had gained on the whole year two complete
cigars. He was always making calculations. He would even calculate how
much each spine of the shark's backbone that was the only decoration of
the walls of his smoking-room cost him. And as for the cost of Jasmine's
food, he could have told you to a spoonful of soup.

The centre of Rouncivell Lodge was occupied by a very wide staircase
lighted from above by a large skylight and bounded by walls the entire
area of which was covered with a collection of astonishingly banal
pictures. The visitor realized with a shock of knowledge that the
pictures from the exhibition of the Royal Academy went every year to
accommodation provided by staircases like this. The most rapid, the most
inattentive glance at these pictures was enough to produce a sense of
almost intolerable fatigue, because each picture was so obviously what
it set out to be that the eye was not allowed a blink between a Sussex
down, a Devonshire harbour, a Dorset pasture, and a London slum, and the
amount of narrative compressed into the space was as if a dozen bad
novelists had simultaneously read a dozen of their worst chapters. The
massed effect was as confused and brilliant as a wall covered with
varnished scraps. The brightness of the staircase and the gaudiness of
the pictures were accentuated by the comparative gloom of the rooms on
either side, particularly those at the back of the house, which from
having been designed to look over a spacious garden were some of them
now only six feet from the walls of the new flats. The still close
atmosphere created by windows that were never opened from one year's end
to the other was tainted by the odour of varnish and stale sunlight; the
rooms on the ground floor smelt perpetually of half-past-two on Sunday
afternoon, partly of clean linen, partly of gravy.

There were six bedrooms, all of them with large four-poster beds, and
all of them haunted by that strange frigidity, that frigidity almost of
death which is produced by the least superfluity of china. They were
furnished in an eclectic style, but the china was kept strictly to its
own kind; thus one bedroom would be red, blue, and gold with Crown
Derby; another, and this the most attractive, rose and lavender with
Lowestoft; and there was one nightmare of a room filled with black and
rose Sèvres.

"I don't like the idea of your sleeping in any of these rooms," Mr.
Rouncivell grumbled to Jasmine. She thought at first that he meant to
suggest their discomfort, but he went on: "You'll have to be very
careful not to break anything. Just because there are three toilet sets,
it doesn't mean that you can break what you like. This china has taken
me a long time to collect, and it has cost me a great deal of money,
what's more. Look at that slop-pail. You dare use that slop-pail!"

"Couldn't I have a less valuable set in my room?" Jasmine suggested.

"Less valuable?" the old man echoed fiercely. "What do you mean by less
valuable? Do you want me to provide you with china you can throw about
the room?"

"Which bedroom do you use?" she asked to change the subject.

"Bedroom? Did you say bedroom? I don't sleep in a bedroom. I sleep in
the bathroom."

He took her to the furthest door along the passage and showed her what
she thought was the most depressing room she had ever seen in her life.
It was such a small bathroom that having chosen it for a bedroom Uncle
Matthew had actually to sleep in the bath itself, or rather on a box
mattress which he had fixed on top of it. The window of the room,
already sufficiently gloomy from looking out on the flats, was made
still more gloomy by its panes being plastered with ferns and the faded
plumage of tropical birds. A board was nailed to the sill on which was a
brush with scarcely more bristles than Uncle Matthew had hairs, a comb
with four teeth, and a safety razor. Safety razors had brought a
peculiar pleasure into the old man's life, because since their
introduction he had been able to calculate every morning how many less
blades he used than anybody else would have used.

After seeing this room Jasmine began to be rather apprehensive where she
should sleep; but with many admonitions she was finally awarded the
Lowestoft room, which, if she had to live surrounded by china, was the
ware she would have chosen. There was only one servant in the house, an
elderly woman with a yellow face called Selina, to whom Uncle Matthew
presented Jasmine with a solemnity that was accentuated by a din of
multitudinous clocks striking noon all over the house with an
accompaniment of cuckoos, chimes, and musical voluntaries.

"Twelve o'clock," Uncle Matthew announced.

"At least," said Jasmine. And then she blushed, because she had not
meant to be anything more than anxious to please the old man by an
assumption of cheerful interest. "I meant ... I was surprised to find it
was so early."

"You'll be more surprised than that before you leave this house," said
Selina bitterly. "You'll be more surprised than that. You'll have the
surprise of your life. You'll be so surprised that you won't know
whether you're on your head or your heels."

After this prophecy, the application of which Jasmine could not guess,
Selina did not speak to the guest except in monosyllables, and she
passed a dreary enough week in being shown Uncle Matthew's antiques and
in trying to hold the balance between greediness and wastefulness at
their sombre meals. At the end of the week he chose from his collection
of walking-sticks a Jersey cabbage-stalk, which he offered to lend her
for promenades about the shrubbery.

"You've taken his fancy," said Selina, grabbing her arm when Jasmine,
cabbage-stalk in hand, was pretending to enjoy walking up and down the
drive.

"I wish I could take yours," she replied.

"You have," said the housekeeper. "And you're going to have tea with me
this blessed afternoon. It isn't the surprise I intended for you."

"But it's a very nice surprise," said Jasmine.

"It's a surprise to me. Which is God's way," she added more
enigmatically than ever.

Selina belonged to one of those small religious sects which have done so
much to solve, to their own satisfaction at any rate, the obscure
problems of eschatology. Ceaseless meditation upon the fact that
ninety-nine per cent of the human race were damned made Selina gloomy,
for she was not naturally a misanthropist and took no pleasure in the
thought. Sometimes, moreover, she had doubts even about her own
salvation, and on such days the household suffered. Jasmine's arrival at
Rouncivell Lodge induced her to proclaim her conviction that with no
exception at all the whole of the human race was to be damned eternally.
Gradually, however, she realized that in any case she could not hope to
inherit the whole of Uncle Matthew's fortune, and she decided that the
few years between Uncle Matthew's death and her own projection into
eternal torment would be more pleasantly and more profitably passed with
Jasmine than alone on what might be an inadequate pension. No sooner had
she reached this conclusion than she heard a voice in the night telling
her that she was saved; the following morning she cooked some cakes and
invited Jasmine to tea with her in the kitchen, the character of which
accounted, Jasmine felt, for the housekeeper's yellow complexion; the
room was as warm and nearly as dark as the inside of an oven. A large
American clock, which only had to be wound up annually, was ticking over
the high black mantelpiece; crickets were clicking somewhere behind the
range; a green Norwich canary was pecking at his seeds; the hostess was
rustling the tea in a canister.

Selina came to the point at once, and postponing the discussion of
Jasmine's chances in the eternal future asked her frankly how she
proposed to provide for the temporal future.

"That's a question we're both entitled to ask, as you might say. Don't
eat those cakes too fast, or you'll have indigestion. What I mean to say
is Mr. Rouncivell's rich and you're not. You'll excuse the familiarity?
As soon as I saw your box, I said to myself: 'She's not rich.' Well,
that's nothing, is it? I'm not rich myself. But that doesn't say we
shouldn't live in hope. And that doesn't mean that I'm not provided for
in a manner of speaking. Well, I like your looks, and I don't mind
telling you that a lady friend of mine in Catford has taken two rooms
for my retirement when Mr. Rouncivell's earthly troubles are over; for I
wouldn't have you think he's not going to have worse troubles in the
next world. That's neither here nor there. He can't expect to keep me
for ever, that's a sure thing. If I'm one of the elect, he must just
lump it. Only as soon as I heard you was coming I said to myself: 'Now,
don't take an instant dislike to her before you've seen her. Make
friends and talk things over quietly in your own kitchen.' You're eating
those cakes too fast. Oh yes, I know they're very light and eat
theirselves in a manner of speaking, but you're eating them too fast.
Wait a bit and you shall have a cup of tea before you eat another one.
You help me and I'll help you. That's all there is to it. Yes, now
you're choking, you see. Supposing Mr. Rouncivell was to leave you
everything, you _would_ take care, wouldn't you, that those two rooms of
mine in Catford which my lady friend is occupying at present was nicely
furnished with what you might call any little tit-bits I chose for
myself? Now, there's the clock in the hall, for instance. I've been
listening to that clock these twenty years, and I've a fancy I should
like to go on listening to it until I die. The beds you can have. Well,
I mean to say, I never really cared for sleeping in a four-post bed.
Too human altogether, I'm bound to say. The posts, I mean."

Jasmine had made several attempts to interrupt this stream of
conversation, and once she would have succeeded if Selina had not filled
her mouth at the moment of speech with a small tart. At last, however,
she managed to protest that she expected nothing from Uncle Matthew.

"And that's where you're quite right," said Selina. "Don't expect
nothing, and you won't be disappointed. If I expected, I shouldn't be
taking you into my confidence, as it were, like I am doing. But if
you'll only do what I say and follow my advice, you can have it all.
There's that Lettice and that Pamela coming down with their darling
Uncle Matthew here and their darling Uncle Matthew there. But he sees
through it. Oh yes, he sees through all of them, the same as anybody
else might see through glass. He wants to leave his money to somebody
who'll look after it and not go and spend it. All you've got to do is to
scrimp and scrape and let him see as you're like himself. I suppose you
think he paid for those cakes you're eating? Not at all. They're paid
for out of my savings to show you I'm your friend. You help me and I'll
help you; and you can't say that's going against the Gospel, can you? Do
unto others as you would they should do unto you. So what you've got to
do is keep on admiring the way I save money, and I won't let any chance
go by of whispering in his ear that his money is safer with you than
with any of them. All I ask for myself is a few tit-bits when the poor
old gentleman's in the ground. He's got _no_ religion; he hates dogs, he
hates poor people, he hates hospitals, he hates public parks, he hates
everything. So there you are. I've been very plain spoken with you, and
you can't say the contrary; very plain spoken, I've been. I'm one of
the elect, and I can afford to be plain spoken. It doesn't matter what I
say or what I do, our loving heavenly Father's waiting for me at this
very moment, because He told me so last night. So far as I can see at
present, you're not one of the elect. I'm sorry for it, because I've
taken a rare fancy to you. But if we don't meet, in the heavenly courts,
we can be friends so long as we're on earth. Oh yes, it's all in the
Gospel."

The housekeeper's frankness was not displeasing to Jasmine, although she
was much amused at the idea of inheriting money from anybody. However,
for the first month of her stay with Uncle Matthew she was, without
realizing it, quite a success, because having no money to spend, she
gave him the impression that she was of a saving disposition. It never
entered his head that anybody could be actually without one halfpenny,
and he applauded her disinclination to visit shops and theatres, her
habit of walking to where she wanted to go rather than of riding on
omnibuses, her transformation of a spring hat into a summer hat, as
admirable economies.

"You're doing a treat," whispered Selina cunningly. "Last night I peeped
through his keyhole, and he was reading his will."

It was a strange existence for a girl of nineteen, this life with Uncle
Matthew, and there were moments when she really did have daydreams about
inheriting a vast fortune and going back to Sirene. It was not so much
the idea of the money as of the return to her beloved island which
twined itself round her thoughts. There would be such delightful things
to do. She would buy that villa her father had always talked about
buying one day; she would buy up all the pictures of her father that she
could find and have a permanent exhibition of them in a large studio;
she would invite Lettice and Pamela to stay with her and make their
visit much more pleasant than they had made hers; she would invite Aunt
Cuckoo and Uncle Eneas to bring the baby to Sirene, and she would make
_their_ visit very pleasant; and, above all, she would always take care
that no people ever had to leave Sirene just because they could not
afford to go on living there. Oh yes, and then there was Cousin Edith.
She would certainly make an allowance to her so that she need never
again be snubbed by Aunt May. Poor Cousin Edith, how polite she would be
if she did inherit all Uncle Matthew's money. She would be so sorry
about the way she had behaved about Harry Vibart. Harry Vibart? What
could she do for him? She would never be able to marry him if she were
an heiress, because she would always be afraid that he only wanted to
marry her for her money. What a pity he did not propose to her before
she inherited. She would not accept him, of course, but if he did not
marry anybody else, and if he asked her again when she was rich, why
perhaps ... but what nonsense all this dreaming was! She ought to be
ashamed of herself.

And then she would jump up from the chair in which she was sitting, jump
up so abruptly that all the knick-knacks would rattle and clink, and
taking her Jersey cabbage-stalk, she would wander up and down the drive
and become interested by such dull little incidents. Far the most
exciting thing that happened all that month was a white butterfly that
went dancing past and seemed to be flying south; and once an errand boy
tried to stand on his head in his empty basket just outside the gates of
Rouncivell Lodge. But that was only moderately exciting. Sometimes Uncle
Matthew would come and stump up and down beside her and tell her how
much a square foot the wood of whatever walking-stick he was using that
morning fetched. And then he would think that it was too cold to be out
of doors, and she would have to go in with him and mount a crazy
step-ladder to lift down some ornament that he wanted to move. Or else
she would have to wind up all the twelve tunes in his musical box, an
elaborate instrument with little drums, the parchment of which was
illuminated with posies, as much unlike real drums as the tinkling music
from old operas was unlike a real band. When all the tunes had been
played, Uncle Matthew always told her to be careful how she closed the
lid, because the case was worth a lot of money and the tunes had been
favourites of his wife.

That young wife of Uncle Matthew who died so long ago! It was difficult
to think of her as his wife. Her portrait, in a full-skirted riding
habit and wearing a hat such as only undertakers and mutes wear
nowadays, hung over the mantelpiece in the dining-room, and Uncle
Matthew used to talk about her as Clara, which made it seem all the more
absurd to think that were she alive now Lady Grant would be calling her
Aunt Clara. Jasmine had never disliked Uncle Matthew, and his devotion
to the memory of his dead wife kindled the beginnings in her of a
genuine affection. She divined now why he slept in that bleak
uncomfortable bathroom, divined that it was due to a sentimental horror
of occupying any room that contained relics of her too intimate to be
spoken of. Jasmine used to ponder the old trunks, locked and strapped
and full no doubt of mouldering clothes, that stood in every bedroom
except her own. And even in her own bedroom the chests of drawers had
both of them two locked drawers, containing who should say now what
souvenirs of girlhood? Jasmine asked the housekeeper about Clara; but
Selina knew no more than herself.

"I've never caught so much as a tiny glimpse of anything," she said.
"And of course she was dead almost before I was born, though not before
I was thought of, because my Pa was set on having a little girl of his
own a considerable number of years before he actually did. Yes, Mr.
Rouncivell cherishes her memory very dearly, and if ever he unlocks any
of her boxes or drawers, he always takes care to bolt himself in first.
In the room that is, of course. She was well-born too. Oh yes, an
undoubted lady--the only daughter of an esquire."

One day Uncle Matthew took from the middle of his walking-sticks a slim
malacca cane, the silver handle of which was cut to represent a mailed
hand grasping a pistol.

"Loaded with lead," he observed, "just like a real pistol. That was
Clara's favourite stick, and it's stood in this stand ever since she had
it first. If you like...."

But he thought better of his offer and recommended Jasmine to look well
after her Jersey cabbage-stalk. Jasmine liked to think that the
unpleasant side of Uncle Matthew had not been developed until Clara's
death. She tried to get accustomed to his meanness, making all sorts of
excuses for it, and sometimes she actually encouraged him in it, as one
humours an invalid's petulance and selfishness. She never felt nearly so
much of a poor relation with him as with the others, and it was a
satisfaction to feel that he regarded all of them as every bit as much
poor relations as herself. Well, time was passing: already people were
writing less frequently from Sirene. The city sunlight glittered upon
the dusty leaves of the shrubs; Selina was a perpetual diversion;
Jasmine was as happy as a Java sparrow in a cage, and almost as happy as
the sparrows on the roof of Rouncivell Lodge. As for Uncle Matthew, he
became less grumpy every day.

"Which means you suit him," said Selina. "You suit him the same as I
suit him. Yes, in a manner of speaking, I fit that man like a glove."

Uncle Matthew had other reasons for supposing that in Jasmine he had
discovered a treasure, for no sooner had the information that she was
staying with him gone the round of her relatives than she received
pressing invitations to come and stay with them as soon as dear Uncle
Matthew could spare her. Perhaps Aunt Cuckoo, who had always been
considered the most foolish of the family, had proved herself the
wisest. The more the others wrote to ask Jasmine to stay with them, the
more Uncle Matthew expressed himself content with her company, and the
more Selina, with knowing looks and headshakes, implied her success.

"You'll be his heir, you'll be his heir, you'll be his heir!" she
breathed exultingly. "And I've written to Mrs. Vokins she can rent the
kitchen an extra two days a week as from per now. What did he do
yesterday? Sent me out for a bottle of indelible ink. Indelible ink is
only used for two things--wills and washing. Oh, there's not a doubt
about it."

The yellow-faced housekeeper was so confident of success that when Lady
Grant visited Rouncivell Lodge a few days later she alarmed her by open
references to Jasmine's good fortune. Lady Grant hurried home and told
Lettice and Pamela that, whatever their engagements during the crowded
end of June, they must be prepared to sacrifice themselves. Nothing
could be allowed to interfere with the affection they owed Uncle
Matthew. The poor old gentleman was in his dotage; he was on the edge of
the grave; he was being got at by that odious housekeeper and Jasmine.

"After all our kindness," Lady Grant lamented. "It does seem a little
hard that she should turn the poor old dear against us. It's a crime."

"It's worse than a crime," declared Cousin Edith fervidly, "it's a----"
But she could not think of anything worse than a crime except the sin
against the Holy Ghost, and fond though she was of Cousin May, she did
not think that Jasmine's behaviour was that--no, not quite that ... but
worse than a crime.... "it's an unnatural sin," she triumphantly
concluded after a little longer reflection.

"Don't be ridiculous!" This was from Sir Hector.

"Lettice and Pamela must go and stay with him," their mother decided.
"Now please, dear children, don't look so disagreeable."

Lady Grant sat down at once and wrote to propose the visit. Next morning
Uncle Matthew tossed the letter across the breakfast table to Jasmine.

     317 Harley Street, W.

     _June 20._

     _My dearest Uncle Matthew,_

     _Poor Lettice and Pamela are both getting so tired of gaiety that
     ever since they went and had tea with you last they've been at me
     to ask you to invite them to stay with you at Rouncivell Lodge. If
     three are too many for you (or even two) Jasmine could come here
     and stay with either Lettice and Pamela, whichever you didn't have
     with you. If Lettice came now, Pamela could come in July, and I
     thought that_ you _would like to come and spend the summer holidays
     with us wherever_ you _liked. We thought of going to Littlehampton,
     but anywhere will suit us. Do send a p.c. to say you expect either
     or both. I'll send you all our news by the girls. Hector has been
     awarded an honorary degree by the University of Cambridge. He has
     just been trying on his robes. How expensive such things are! And
     of course his brother's affairs cost him more than he could well
     afford. But he never grumbles, though sometimes after a hard day he
     talks of giving up his cigars._

     _Ever your affectionate niece,_

     _May Grant._

"Oh, I hope you won't send me away," Jasmine begged. She was not perhaps
actually enjoying herself at Rouncivell Lodge, but she greatly preferred
walking about the shrubbery with her Jersey cabbage-stalk to walking
round the Chamber of Horrors with Cousin Edith, which had been the last
dissipation provided for her at Harley Street.

Therefore, when Uncle Matthew told her to write and say he could not
have either Lettice or Pamela, she was overjoyed to do so. It did not
strike her that it was a good opportunity to score off the Hector
Grants, and she wrote so simply that her letter gave the impression of a
security that irritated her relations much more than an attempt on her
side to be clever.

"She's perfectly sure of herself," Lady Grant gasped. "She's wormed
herself in."

"I always thought she was deeper than she pretended," Cousin Edith said
with a shake of her head. "Do you remember, May, I said to you once:
'Still waters run deep'? Only of course she wasn't still. She was never
still really. She was always jumping up and...."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Edith, don't babble on like that!" Sir Hector
interrupted. "Eighty pounds for these robes, my dear. That's a nice sum
to pay for a morning's masquerade."

"Little beast," said Pamela loudly. "I detested her from the first. By
the way, I saw the Vibart youth at the Grave-Smiths' dance last night.
I didn't say anything about it at the time, because I was afraid that
Lettice might be upset."

"Me upset?" Lettice exclaimed angrily. "Why should I have been upset?"

"Now, please, darlings, don't quarrel," their mother begged. "This is
not the moment to quarrel among ourselves."

"I say, I've got rather a notion," Pamela announced. "Why shouldn't we
ask the Vibart youth here and tell him where dear Cousin Jasmine is to
be found? _That_ would annoy Uncle Matthew."

"What would annoy Uncle Matthew?" asked Lettice scornfully.

"Sorry you still can't bear the thought of your beloved's treachery,"
said Pamela with a malicious affectation of sympathy. "But if you could
calm your beating heart for the sake of the family, you'd see what I
meant."

"If Pamela thinks she can say what she likes to me just because...."

"Now hush, darling. Don't lose your temper, my pet. I see what Pamela
means," interposed Lady Grant soothingly.

"You always take Pamela's side."

"Now, my darling, I must entreat you not to argue so absurdly."

"I should have thought it would have been obvious to the meanest
intelligence," said Pamela with lofty sarcasm.

"Oh, would you, cleversticks?" her sister sneered.

"Obvious to anybody that if the Vibart youth hangs round Uncle
Matthew's, Uncle Matthew will think twice of being so fond of our sweet
cousin."

"Pamela, you're a genius," her mother declared proudly.

"Oh, she is, she is!" cried Cousin Edith, clapping her hands with
excitement, for the scheme appealed to the innate procuress within her.
"I should never have thought of anything half as clever. She's a...."

"Edith," her own rich cousin interposed, "I wish you wouldn't be quite
so enthusiastic."

"I'm so sorry," Edith murmured humbly. "Shall I go and give Spottles his
bath? Poor old boy, he's been rolling again, Cook says." And by the way
in which she washed her own hands as she went out of the room Cousin
Edith managed to suggest with suitable regret that she too had been
rolling.

Within three days of this conversation Harry Vibart called on Jasmine at
Rouncivell Lodge.

"Look here," he said reproachfully, "why didn't you ever write?"

"You never wrote to me." Jasmine tried to be cold and dignified, but she
was so glad to see him again that it was not a successful attempt.

"I wrote you six letters."

"I never got them. I expect my aunt wouldn't allow them to be
forwarded."

Vibart was sure that Jasmine was misjudging her. No one could have been
more anxious to help him find Jasmine. Why, she had taken the trouble to
write to Mrs. Grave-Smith for his address, had asked him to lunch and
then volunteered Jasmine's address, and, what is more, advised him to go
and call on her.

The Italian half of Jasmine was capable of being suspicious; it warned
her that people like Aunt May did not so abruptly change their point of
view. Why should she have sent him here? Why?... Why?... It must be that
Lettice and Pamela had a chance of being married at last and that in a
spasm of generosity she wished to help her niece ... or was it that she
was afraid of having her on her hands, and hoped to palm her off on
Harry Vibart? Such an idea froze her, and the young man, taken aback by
her change of expression, asked what was the matter.

"I'm afraid you must have found it a very long way up to Muswell Hill,"
she said stiffly.

"Longish. Longish," he agreed. "But I took a taxi."

At this moment the window of the room in which they were sitting was
darkened by a shadow, and there was Uncle Matthew with his face pressed
against the pane and wearing an expression of malevolence, ferocity, and
alarm. When they looked up, he waved his sticks above his head and
snarled at them.

"It's a lunatic," exclaimed Harry Vibart.

"No, no, it's my uncle."

"I say, I'm awfully sorry. Perhaps he's ill."

Uncle Matthew was still waving his sticks so oddly and making such
strange faces that Jasmine was alarmed and ran out to see what was
upsetting him.

"Are you ill?" she asked.

"Ill? Ill? No. But I shall be ill in a moment. Listen!"

From the direction of the gates of Rouncivell Lodge the engine of a taxi
throbbed upon the warm June air.

"He thinks it's an aeroplane," Vibart whispered. "Poor old chap, he's
probably afraid it's going to fall on the house. Old people who haven't
seen many of them do often get worried like that. It's all right, sir,"
he added in a louder voice, "it's only my taxi running up the
twopences."

"Take it away," the old gentleman screamed. "Take it away, and take
yourself away with it. Who are you? What do you mean by coming here and
visiting my niece and keeping a taxi buzzing outside the gate? Do you
realize that it's costing a penny a minute? Take it away!"

Harry looked at Jasmine, and she signed to him that it would be right to
humour her uncle. She really was afraid that he was going to have a fit.

"Perhaps I may call another day?" the young man suggested in a
despondent tone of voice.

"Certainly not. You'll be driving up next in a golden coach. If you want
to squander your money, squander it some other way."

It was useless to argue with the infuriated old gentleman, and Vibart
took himself off.

"That's the last I shall see of him," thought Jasmine, turning sadly to
follow her uncle into the house. Later on, however, when Uncle Matthew
had recovered from the shock to his parsimony, he enquired who her
visitor was, and she thought that she was able to reassure him.

"Well," said the old gentleman, "perhaps I was a little hasty. Yes, I
think I was. Does he smoke?"

"Not cigars," said Jasmine quickly. "At least I've never seen him
smoking a cigar."

"He can come and see you twice a week. Once in the morning and once in
the afternoon. And then perhaps later on we'll ask him to lunch. But
don't count on that. And now come and sit with me in the smoking-room.
Because I must smoke a cigar to calm my nerves after that shock."

They passed out into the hall, and on his way through Uncle Matthew
cast a glance, as his custom was, at the numerous walking-sticks.

"Whose is this?" he asked, picking a malacca from the stand. "H. V." he
read. "This is your friend's. You see, my dear, he's careless through
and through. I never left a walking-stick in somebody else's house.
Never in all my life."

"I think you made him rather nervous," Jasmine explained apologetically.
But the old gentleman paid no attention: he was searching for something
he missed.

"Where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"Clara's silver-handled cane."

"I don't see it," Jasmine stammered apprehensively.

"It's gone. That villain must have stolen it."

"If Mr. Vibart has taken one of your sticks, Uncle Matthew, he must have
done so by mistake."

"The young scoundrel! The young blackguard!" He became incoherent with
rage.

"But, Uncle Matthew, if he has taken one of your sticks he'll bring it
back."

"Hers! Hers!" the old gentleman was gasping.

"Oh, dear Uncle Matthew, I'm so dreadfully sorry."

"My poor little wife's! He's taken my poor little wife's silver-handled
cane. And she was so fond of it. Her favourite. The ruffian!
The--the--tramp! He might have taken any other but that. Oh dear! Oh
damn! Why do you bring these people here, you abominable girl?"

That afternoon Jasmine arrived in Harley Street, and had to explain that
Uncle Matthew would not have her to stay with him any longer. The Hector
Grants welcomed her with something like friendliness, but the next day,
when Vibart brought back the missing stick, it was Pamela who claimed
the privilege of returning it to Uncle Matthew, and a few days later it
was thought advisable for Jasmine to pay her promised visit to Aunt
Ellen and Uncle Arnold at Silchester.



_Chapter Seven_


Jasmine had protested against the visit to Silchester; and this protest
was in the opinion of the Hector Grants conclusive evidence of a
thwarted intention to corrupt poor old Uncle Matthew. Her resentment of
the humiliating unconcern for her own dignity that was being displayed
in thus sending her round from one group of relatives to another was
brushed aside as no more than the expression of a natural chagrin at
finding that her schemes had miscarried. They did not, of course, accuse
her in so many words of being crafty; but Jasmine understood well enough
at what they were hinting, and the consciousness that she had allowed
Selina to discuss her prospects in the old gentleman's will, coupled
with the memory of her own dreams of what she should do if he did leave
his money to her, gave Jasmine a sufficiently acute sense of guilt to
cut short any further opposition to the Silchester visit.

"I simply cannot understand your prejudice against the Deanery," Aunt
May avowed. "There must be something else which you are trying to
conceal." One of Aunt May's foibles was to regard as potential jackdaws
everybody not situated so advantageously as herself. "It can't merely be
that you don't want to greet your Aunt Ellen. There must be some other
reason. I'm sorry your friend Mr. Vibart should have made such an
unfortunate impression on poor old Uncle Matthew. But that is not our
fault, is it?"

"I never said that anything was your fault, Aunt May," Jasmine
responded. "I know perfectly well that everything is my fault, and
that's why I don't want to upset any more of my relations by this
behaviour of mine that they seem to find so dreadful."

"Nobody has found your behaviour dreadful," Aunt May gently
contradicted. "Try not to exaggerate. I don't think I have ever called
you anything worse than inconsiderate."

"Well, but you hate having me on your hands," Jasmine burst out. "You
hate it. Why don't you let me go back to Sirene?"

"I've already explained to you," continued Aunt May more gently than
ever, "I've already explained to you that your uncle could not accept
such a responsibility. What would people say if a man in his position
allowed his niece aged nineteen to set up an establishment on her own in
a place like Italy?"

"People wouldn't say anything at all," Jasmine argued. "People are not
so violently interested in me as all that."

"No, dear, that may be. But they are interested in your uncle, and we
have to think of him, have we not? Besides, I should have supposed that
you would have been glad to meet your poor father's only sister. She is
the kindest of women, and Uncle Arnold is the kindest of men. I cannot
say how painful it is for me to feel that _I_ have not succeeded in
rousing the least little bit of affection. I was ready to make all kinds
of excuses for you last year when you first arrived. I realized that
excuses had to be made then. But now you have been nearly a year in
England, and it is surely not unreasonable to expect you to begin to
show a little self-control. I'm afraid your visit to Uncle Matthew has
done you no good. I was strongly opposed to it from the beginning and
told Aunt Cuckoo as much quite plainly. But Aunt Cuckoo gets Ideas into
her head. This turning Roman Catholic, this adopting a baby, this
packing you off to poor old Uncle Matthew. Ideas! However, it is not our
business to discuss Aunt Cuckoo.... You say you don't believe your
relations in Silchester want you. I contend they have shown quite
clearly that they do. And I should also like to point out that, if you
decline to go, you will grievously wound your Aunt Ellen, who is
not...."

"Very well, I'll go, I'll go! I'll do anything you want if you'll only
stop lecturing me!" Jasmine could almost have flung herself on her knees
before Aunt May if by doing so she could have stopped this conversation.
There had been a sweet-shop on the way to the School of Swedish Culture,
with an apparatus that went on winding endlessly round and round a skein
of fondant that apparently always remained of the same size and
consistency. Jasmine used to avert her head at last as she went by, so
depressing became the sight of that sweet and sticky mess being wound
round and round and round ... her aunt's little talks reminded her of
it.

Aunt May confided in Cousin Edith after this outburst that she had
wondered for a minute or two if Jasmine was really human. Cousin Edith
tried to look as though she still wondered if Jasmine was really human,
and all she got for her desire to be agreeable was to be asked if she
had a stiff neck.

It was quarter day by now, and Jasmine was advised to spend her
allowance on suitable summer frocks; she was also advised not to buy too
many, because next quarter day she would be requiring suitable autumn
frocks, and she was to bear in mind that clothes for autumn and winter
were more expensive. Jasmine longed to refuse her allowance, but her
vanity was too strong for her pride; unable to contemplate appearing
before her six boy cousins in the dowdy remains of last year's
wardrobe, she accepted the money, and despising herself for being so
weak, she bought a flowered muslin frock and a white linen coat and
skirt, the latter of which was condemned as an extravagance by Aunt May,
who had no belief in the English climate. Jasmine might have spared
herself the humiliation of accepting Uncle Hector's allowance, because a
day or two later Aunt Cuckoo, in a rapture over some alleged
conversational triumph of Baboose, sent her a present of five pounds,
over which Cousin Edith sizzled but a little less appetizingly than if
it had been a present from Aunt May herself.

"Well, I declare," she exhaled. "If you aren't a lucky girl!"

And as the lucky possessor of five pounds all her own, Jasmine set out
next day to meet another set of rich relatives.

The journey to Silchester in glowing blue midsummer weather through the
fat pasture lands of Berkshire and Hampshire gave Jasmine such a new and
such a pleasurable aspect of England that she began to wonder if she had
been suffering all this year from a jaundiced point of view, if indeed
Aunt May's assumption of martyrdom had any justification from her own
behaviour. This landscape through which the train was passing with such
an effect of deliberate and conscious enjoyment, with such an air of
luxuriousness really, soothed her mind, warmed her heart, put her soul
to bed and tucked it comfortably and safely in for some time to come.
She determined to meet her new uncle and aunt in the same spirit as the
train's; they were to be the natural products of such a landscape, and
whether they placidly accepted her arrival like those rotund sheep or
whether they threw their legs in the air and swished their tails like
those lean and spotted cows pretending to be frightened of the train,
she would survey them as amiably and as philosophically. Jasmine was
smiling at herself for using such a long word when they ran into a
tunnel, one of those long smelly tunnels in which the train seems to
bang itself from side to side in despair of ever getting out. Yes,
thought Jasmine, even if Uncle Arnold and Aunt Ellen were as stiff as
this window, as unreceptive and unsympathetic as this strap and as
ungenerous as the blue electric bulb in the roof of the compartment, she
would still be philosophical, oh yes, and very very amiable, she vowed
as the train escaped from the tunnel, and the air odorous with sun and
grass deliciously fanned her. As for Harry Vibart, it was absurd to go
on thinking of him. She might as well fall in love with a
jack-in-the-box. Fall in love? She detected a faster heart-beat, a
suggestion of creeping gooseflesh. Fall in love? Jasmine would have
liked to lecture her own self now; she felt as censorious of her
involuntary self as Aunt May. But it was no fun to lecture one's
involuntary self unless it were done viva voce, and if she did that the
woman on the other side of the carriage, who ever since Waterloo had
been fecklessly trying to separate the green gooseberries in her string
bag from the cracknel biscuits and French beans, might be alarmed. But
how could she have ... of course it wasn't really his fault about the
stick; in fact, he probably considered himself badly treated in the
matter. But he must not come down to Silchester and create another scene
there. Besides, what right or reason had she to let him come down there?
He had never given her the slightest justification for supposing that he
was anything more than mildly interested in her. To be sure, he had
insisted that he had written to her half a dozen times. But had he? The
proper course of action for herself, the dignified and in the
circumstances the easiest attitude for her to adopt, was one of kindly
discouragement. Yes, she would write to him from the Deanery and tell
him plainly that she hoped he would not think of coming down to visit
her there. She had just reached this decision when the train steamed
into Silchester station.

Jasmine was waiting on the platform in the expectation of being
presently accosted by any one of the several dowdy women round her when
both her arms were roughly grabbed and she found herself apparently in
the custody of two boy scouts.

"I say, are you Cousin Jasmine?" asked the smaller of the two in a
squeaky voice.

Simple and obvious though the question seemed, it had an extraordinary
effect on the other boy, who instantly let go of her arm in order to
engage in what to Jasmine's alarmed vision looked to be a life-and-death
struggle with his companion, which did not end until the smaller boy had
cried in his squeaky voice 'Pax, Edred,' several times. Edred, however,
was for prolonging the agonies of the requested armistice by twisting
his brother's arm--for the ferocity with which they had fought was
surely a sign that they were as intimately related--and making numerous
conditions before he agreed to grant a cessation of hostilities.

"Will you swear not to chisel again if I let go your arm?"

"Yes, I swear."

"Will you swear not to be a rotten little chiseller, and when I say
'bags I asking' next time not go and ask yourself straight off?"

"Yes, I swear. Oh, shut up, Edred. You're hurting my arm most
frightfully. You are a dirty cad!"

"What did you call me?" Edred fiercely enquired with a repetition of the
torture.

"I said you were a frightfully decent chap. Ouch! You devil! The
decentest chap in all the world."

"Well, kneel down and lick my boot," Edred commanded loftily, "and you
can have pax."

"No, I say, don't be an ass," protested the younger. "Ouch! Shut up!
You'll break my wrist if you don't look out, you foul brute!"

And then, in despair at the severity of the armistice conditions, he
wrenched himself free and returned with fury to the attack. The fresh
struggle continued until an old gentleman was knocked backward over a
luggage truck, after which Edred told his brother to shut up fighting,
because people were beginning to stare at them.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Cousin Jasmine," he said genially, "but I
had to give young Ethelred a lamming for being such a beastly little
cheat. He's too jolly fond of it."

"Speak for yourself," Ethelred retorted. "You know mother said I'd got
to come with you this time." And then he turned in explanation to
Jasmine. "The last time Edred bagged going to see Canon Donkin off from
the station he stood on the step outside the carriage door all the way
along the platform until the train was going too fast for him to jump
off, the consequence of which was he got carried on to Basingstoke.
Father was sick as muck about it."

"It was rather a wheeze," said Edred simply but proudly. "I very nearly
fell off. I would have, if old Donkin hadn't got hold of my collar. And
I had an ice at Basingstoke," he added tauntingly to his brother.

"Well, so could I have had an ice too if I'd done the same, greedy
guts," replied the brother.

"No, you couldn't."

"Yes, I could."

And the fight would have begun all over again if Jasmine had not
entreated them to find her luggage. As this process involved making a
nuisance of themselves in every direction they accepted the job with
alacrity. When the trunk was found, Edred suggested as rather a wheeze
that Ethelred should have it put on his back like a porter, and
Ethelred, in high approval of such a course, accepted the position with
zest. He was swaying about on the platform to the exquisite enjoyment of
his brother when an old lady, who was evidently a stranger to
Silchester, asked Jasmine if she was not ashamed to let a little boy
like that carry such a heavy trunk. At that moment Ethelred was carried
forward by the impetus of the trunk, which slid over his shoulders, and
cannoned into the stream of people passing through the ticket barrier.
The odd thing was that none of the station officials seemed to interfere
with the behaviour of her cousins until the ticket collector, from
having had most of his tickets knocked out of his hand, lost his temper
momentarily and aimed a blow at Ethelred with his clip.

"How are we going to the Deanery?" Jasmine enquired when at last to her
relief she found herself on the edge of the kerb outside the station.

"Edwy's going to drive us in the governess-cart," they informed her.
Jasmine had not the slightest idea what a governess-cart was; but it
sounded a fairly safe kind of vehicle.

"Edwy's rather bucked at driving you," said Edred. "He's going to
pretend it's a Roman chariot. You'll be awfully bucked too," he added
confidently to his cousin. "It's rather hard cheese we've got your
luggage, because it will make a squash. I say, why shouldn't we leave it
here?"

"Oh no, please," Jasmine protested.

"Right-o," said Edred. "But it would be quite safe here on the kerb. You
see, Ethel and I wanted to drive, and if you left your luggage here we
could come back and fetch it."

Jasmine, however, was firm in her objection to this plan, and at that
moment a fat boy of about fifteen, whose voice was at its breaking
stage, was seen standing up in a governess-cart shouting what Jasmine
recognized as the correct language of a Roman charioteer from _The Last
Days of Pompeii_. She asked the other two which cousin this was.

"I say, don't you know?" Edred exclaimed in incredulous surprise.
"That's old Edwy, only we call him Why, and we call me Because, and we
call Ethelred Ethel."

"No we don't, so shut up," contradicted Ethelred.

"Well, he looks like a girl, doesn't he, Cousin Jasmine?"

Jasmine was spared the embarrassment of a reply by Edwy's pulling up
with the governess-cart.

"Did you win?" both the younger brothers asked eagerly.

Edwy nodded absently; his whip had coiled itself round a lamp-post.
Greetings between herself and this third cousin over, Jasmine was
invited to get in and recommended to sit well forward and not get
tangled up with the reins. Her box was placed opposite her, and the
younger boys mounted.

"Good Gum," Edwy exclaimed with contempt. "We can't race anything with
this load, can we?"

Jasmine, perceiving the narrow High Street of Silchester winding before
her, was thankful for the news.

"I tell you what we could do," Edred suggested. "We could pretend that
it was three chariots, and that we were all three driving one against
the other."

Edwy considered this offer for a moment, then "Right-o" he agreed
calmly, and off they went. It might have been less dangerous if Edwy had
raced another cart as originally intended, because with the convention
they were then following both his younger brothers had to have a hand on
the reins. They also had to have a turn with the whip. The extraordinary
thing to Jasmine was that this reeling progress down the High Street did
not seem to attract a single glance. She commented on the public
indifference, and the boys explained that the natives were used to them.

"Monday and Tuesday were much worse than we are," said Edred.

"Monday and Tuesday?"

"Edmund and Edgar. The pater was only a Canon Residentiary in those
days. He's been Dean for six years now. He's the youngest Dean that ever
lived. Or the youngest Dean alive; I forget which. Then he was Regius
Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford."

"The youngest Dean that ever lived in Silchester, you ass," interposed
Edwy with a gruff squeak.

"Oh well, it's all the same, and ass yourself!"

Jasmine, who feared the effect of another fight in the cart, changed the
subject with an enquiry about Oxford.

"I can't remember being there," said Ethelred proudly. And his elder
brothers appeared quite jealous of what was evidently a family
distinction.

"Last lap!" Edwy shouted. "Don't go on jabbering about Oxford."

They were driving along a quiet road of decorous Georgian houses, at the
end of which was a castellated gateway.

"Here's the Close," Edred cried as they passed under the arch into a
green and grey world. "Blue leads! Blue leads!"

"Shut up, you fool, I'm Blue!" yelled the youngest.

While the rival charioteers punched each other behind their brother's
back, Purple in the personification of Edwy pulled up at the Deanery and
claimed to be the victor. The serenity of the Close after that
break-neck drive from the station was complete. The voices of the
charioteers arguing about their race blended with the chatter of the
jackdaws speckling the great west front of the Cathedral in a pleasant
enough discordancy of sound that only accentuated the surrounding
peacefulness. Upon the steps that led up to the west door the figures of
tourists or worshippers appeared against the legended background no
larger than birds. At no point did the world intrude, for the houses of
the dignitaries round their quadrangle of grass had nothing to do with
the world, and if a town of Silchester existed, it was hidden as
completely by the massed elm trees that rose up behind the low houses of
the Dean and Chapter as the ancient Roman city was hidden in the grass
that now waved above its buried pavements and long lost porticoes.

"It really is glorious here, isn't it?" Jasmine exclaimed.

"Yes, it's rather decent," Edred allowed. "We've got a swannery at the
back of our garden, and that's rather decent too. They get awfully waxy
sometimes. The swans, I mean," he supplemented. And in such
surroundings, Jasmine felt, even swans had no business to lose their
tempers.

The Deanery itself was externally the gravest and most impressive of the
many grave and impressive houses round the Close. Beheld thus it
presented such an imperturbable perfection of appearance that before he
knocked upon its door or rang its bright brass bell, the most
self-satisfied visitor would always accord it the respect of a momentary
pause. But when the door was opened--and it was opened by a butler with
all the outward and visible signs of what a decanal butler ought to
be--that air of prosperous comfort, of dignity and solid charm,
vanished. It was not that the entrance-hall was ill-equipped. Everything
was there that one could have expected to find in a Dean's hall; but
everything had an indescribably battered look, the irreverent mark that
an invading army passing through Silchester might have left upon the
Deanery, had some of the soldiers been billeted there. It was haunted by
a sense of everything's having served some other purpose from that for
which it was originally intended, and the farther one penetrated into
the house the more evident were the ravages of whatever ruinous
influence had been at work. Even Jasmine with her slight experience of
English houses was taken aback by the contradiction between the exterior
and the interior of the Deanery. She was used to entering Italian
palaces and finding interiors as bare and comfortless as a barrack; but
in them the discomfort and bareness had always been due to the
inadequate means of their owners. It was certainly not poverty that
caused the contradiction at the Deanery. The solution of the puzzle
burst upon her when with a simultaneous onrush her cousins, each
shouting at the top of his voice 'Bags I telling the mater Jasmine is
here,' stormed the staircase like troops. The butler, listening to their
yells dying away along the landing above, paused for a moment from the
gracious pomp of his ministrations and observed to Jasmine: "Very
high-spirited young gentlemen."

"But is the pony quite safe?" she asked, looking back to where the
governess-cart with her trunk still inside was waiting driverless
outside the door.

"Yes, miss, she's not a very high-spirited animal, and she's usually
very quiet after the young gentlemen have driven her."

Again the yells resounded, this time with increasing volume as the three
boys drew nearer, leaping, sliding, rolling, and cannoning down the
staircase abreast. Jasmine received a thump from Edred, who was the
first to reach her, a thump that was evidently the sign of victory,
because the other two immediately resigned her to his escort for the
necessary presentation to her aunt, while they went out to attend to the
pony.

Aunt Ellen's room had escaped the pillaged appearance which upstairs at
the Deanery was even more conspicuous than below; it was crowded with
religious pictures in religious Oxford frames, religious Gothic
furniture, and religious books. Apart from the fruit of her own
religious tastes, Aunt Ellen had directly inherited from the Bishop of
Clapham his religious equipment (accoutrements would be too highly
coloured a word for the relics of that broad-minded prelate); and
perhaps because she was fond of her episcopal father she had hesitated
to sacrifice his memory, together with her husband and the rest of the
household, upon the common altar of those six household gods, her sons.
At any rate, when she carefully explained to her niece that the room was
a sanctuary not so much for her own use as for old time's sake, Jasmine
accepted its survival as due to some sentimental reason. But if Aunt
Ellen's room had escaped, Aunt Ellen herself had certainly not. The
weather-beaten gauntness of Uncle Eneas and Uncle Hector was in Aunt
Ellen much exaggerated, although an aquiline nose preserved her from
being what she otherwise certainly would have been, a grotesque of
English womanhood, or rather, what English people would like to consider
a grotesque of English womanhood; Jasmine, however, with many years'
experience of English tourists landing at Sirene after a rough voyage
across the Bay of Naples, considered Aunt Ellen to be typically English.
She had acquired that masculine look which falls to so many women who
have produced a number of sons. When Jasmine knew her better she found
that her religious views and emotions resembled the religious views and
emotions that are so widely spread among men of action, such as sea
captains and Indian colonels. Her ignorance of anything except the
gentlemanly religion of the professional classes was unlimited; her
prejudice was unbounded. Jasmine soon discovered that the main reason
why she had not been invited to the Deanery before was her aunt's fear
of introducing a papist into the household. It was this, apparently,
that weighed much more with her than the accounts she had received from
Lady Grant of their niece's behaviour. True, she informed Jasmine that
she had been anxious to correct the looseness of her moral tone. But how
could she compete with priest-craft? She actually asked her niece this!
Her religious apprehensions were only overcome by the menace of waking
up one morning to find Jasmine the sole heiress of Uncle Matthew's
fortune, which, as she wrote to her sister-in-law, without presuming to
impugn the disposition of God, would be entirely unjust. It was not that
she dreaded a direct competition with her own boys, because, proud
though she was of them and of herself for having produced them, she
never deceived herself into supposing that a personal encounter between
them and their uncle would be anything but fatal, not merely to their
chances of ultimate wealth, but also to her own. On her own chances she
did build. She could not believe that her uncle (painfully without
belief in a future state as he was) would ignore the rights of a niece
married to the Dean of Silchester. After all, a Dean was something more
than a religious figure; he was a worldly figure. Aunt Ellen was sharply
aware of the might of a Dean, because that might was mainly exercised by
her, the Dean himself by now taking not the least interest in anything
except the history of England before the Conquest. Jasmine had derived
an entirely false impression of her aunt from her letters, which, filled
as they were with religious sentimentality, suggested that Aunt Ellen
was softer than the rest of the family, that perhaps she was even like
her own beloved father. She found, however, that except where her sons
were concerned Aunt Ellen was hard, fierce, martial, and domineering.
All her affection she had kept for her sons, all her duty for God.
Jasmine was not so much discouraged as she might have been by her aunt's
personality, because she found at any rate her three youngest cousins a
great improvement on Lettice and Pamela, and if the three eldest ones
turned out to be only half as amusing, she felt that she should not
dislike her visit to the Deanery. Besides, she had the satisfaction of
knowing that this was quite definitely only a visit, and that there was
no proposal pending to attach her permanently to the household as a poor
relation.

Jasmine did not discover all this about her aunt at their first meeting;
the conversation then was crammed with the commonplace of family news;
and how Aunt Ellen would have resented the notion that any news about
the Grants could be described as commonplace! She might have gone on
talking until tea-time if Edred's continuous kicking of the leg of her
father's favourite table had not suggested a diversion in the form of
Jasmine's long-delayed introduction to the Dean. She had hesitated to
interfere directly with her son's harmless if rather irritating little
pleasure; but the varnish was beginning to show signs of Edred's boots,
and she announced that, although Uncle Arnold was working, he would no
doubt in the circumstances forgive them for disturbing him.

Jasmine smiled pleasantly at the implied compliment, not realizing that
the circumstances were the table's, not hers.

"I say, need I go?" asked Edred. He dreaded these visits to the study,
because they sometimes ended in his being detained to copy out notes for
his father.

"No, dear, you need not go."

Edred dashed off with a whoop of delight, turning round in the doorway
to shout to Jasmine that he would be in the garden with Why and Ethel
should she wish presently to be shown the swans.

"Poor boy," sighed Aunt Ellen when he was gone, and upon Jasmine's
asking what was the matter with him, she told her that he had just
failed for Osborne.

"It's such a blow to him," she murmured in a plaintive voice that was
ridiculously out of keeping with her rockbound appearance. "If he had
passed, he had made up his mind to become an admiral, and now I suppose
we must send him back to school in September. Poor little boy, he's
quite heartbroken. I've had to be very gentle with him lately."

Jasmine supposed it might be tactless to observe that Edred showed no
signs of heartbreak, and instead of commenting she enquired
sympathetically what Ethelred was going to do.

"Ah, poor Ethelred's a great problem. He wants to be an engineer, and
really he is very clever with his fingers; but his father is quite
opposed to anything in the nature of technical education until he's had
an ordinary education. I think myself it is a pity, but Uncle Arnold is
quite firm on that point. Ethelred was at Mr. Arkwright's school until
Easter, but the school doctor wrote and told us that he thought the air
on the east coast was too bracing for him. In fact, he insisted on his
leaving for the dear boy's own sake."

"And Edwy?"

"Ah, poor Edwy! His heart is weak, and we can only hope that with care
he will become strong enough for the Army by the time he goes to
Sandhurst."

"Is his heart very weak?" Jasmine asked.

"Oh, very weak," her aunt replied, "and he has set it--his heart, I
mean--on being a soldier, and so he is working with Canon Bompas, one of
the minor canons. A great enthusiast of the Boy Scout movement. A
delightful man who was in the Army before he took Orders, and who, as he
often says jokingly, though of course quite reverently, still belongs to
the artillery. He is a bachelor, though of course," added Aunt Ellen,
"not from conviction. As you perhaps know, the Church of England is
opposed to celibacy of the clergy. Yes, poor Edwy! He had such a lovely
voice. I wish it hadn't broken just before you arrived."

It was hard to believe that Edwy's voice, which now alternated between
the high notes of a cockatoo and the low notes of a bear, had ever been
beautiful, and Jasmine was inclined to ascribe its alleged beauty to
maternal fondness.

"Edmund and Edgar won't be back from Marlborough until the end of the
month; but Edward is coming in a fortnight. He delighted us all by
winning a scholarship at Trinity. He's so happy at Cambridge, dear boy;
though I think everybody is happy at Cambridge, don't you?"

Jasmine agreed, though she really had no opinion on the subject.

"Well, come along," said her aunt, "and we'll go and find your uncle.
Quite a walk," she added, "for his study is at the far end of the top
storey. His library is downstairs, of course, but he found that it
didn't suit him for work, and though it's rather inconvenient having to
carry books backwards and forwards up and downstairs, we all realize how
important it is that he should be quiet, and nobody minds fetching any
book he wants."

This was said with so much meaning that Jasmine immediately visualized
herself carrying books up and down the Deanery stairs day in day out
through the whole of the summer.

"I told you about the difficulty he had with his typewriting, and how
anxious he was that Ethelred should learn, but the dear boy's mind was
so bent on mechanics that he was always taking the machine to pieces.
Very cleverly, I'm bound to say. But of course it occupied a good deal
of his time. So now he practises the piano again instead. People tell me
he's very musical."

While Aunt Ellen was talking, they were walking up and down short
irregular flights of stairs and along narrow corridors, the floors of
which were billowy with age, until at last they came to a corridor at
the head of which was a large placard marked SILENCE.

"The boys are not allowed along here," said their mother with a sigh, as
if by not being allowed along here they were being deprived of the main
pleasure of their existence.

"Uncle Arnold does not like us to knock," she explained when they came
to the door at the end of the corridor, on which was another label DO
NOT KNOCK. She opened the door, and Jasmine was aware of a long, low,
sunny room under a groined ceiling, the gabled windows of which were
shaded with lucent green. The floor was littered with docketed papers
and heaped high with books from which cardboard slips protruded. From
the fact that the windows looked out on the Close instead of on the
garden, Jasmine divined that the Cathedral Close was considerably
quieter than the Deanery garden. Seated at a large table at the far end
of the room was her uncle, or rather what she supposed to be her uncle,
for her first impression was that somebody had left a large ostrich egg
on the table.

"Jasmine," her aunt announced.

The ostrich egg remained motionless; but the scratching of a pen and the
slow regular movement of a very plump white hand across a double sheet
of foolscap indicated that the room contained human life. At the end of
a minute the egg lifted itself from the table, and Jasmine found herself
confronted by a very bright pair of eyes and offered that very plump
white hand. After meeting so many tall, gaunt relatives, it was a great
pleasure to meet one who was actually shorter than herself. It was not
merely that the Dean was shorter than herself which attracted her. He
was regarding her with an expression that, had she not been assured of
his entire attention's being concentrated upon Anglo-Saxon history, she
would have supposed to be friendly, even affectionate; at any rate it
was an unusually pleasant expression for a relative. It was probably
that first impression of the Dean's head as an ostrich egg which led her
to compare him to a bird; but the longer she looked at him--and she had
to look quite a long time because her uncle said nothing at all--the
more she thought he resembled a bird. His eyes were like a bird's,
small, bright, hard, and round; he put his head on one side like a bird;
and his thin legs, encased in gaiters beneath that distinct paunch,
completed the resemblance.

"Not finished yet, my dear?" his wife asked in the way in which one asks
an invalid if he should like to sit up for an hour or two while the sun
was shining.

"No, my dear, not quite," the Dean replied; and his voice had a trill at
the back of it like a bird's. "About six more volumes."

Mrs. Lightbody sighed. "The way he works! But don't forget, my dear,
that the Archdeacon is coming to dinner."

In some odd way Jasmine divined that the Dean thought 'Damn.' She felt
like somebody in a fairy tale who is granted the gift of understanding
the speech of animals and the tongues of birds. What he actually said
was: "Delightful! Don't open the '58 port. Foljambe has no palate."

He had put his head more than ever on one side by now, so that with one
eye he was able to read over what he had just been writing, looking at
the foolscap as a thrush contemplates a snail before he attacks it.

"I'm afraid that we--I mean that I've disturbed your work," Jasmine
murmured.

"Yes," agreed the Dean, and so rapidly did he sit down that his niece
was scarcely conscious of the movement until she saw the ostrich egg
lying on the table again.

"Now I must take Jasmine to her room," proceeded Aunt Ellen, and she
managed to convey in her tone that it was the Dean who had interrupted
her and not she the Dean. He did not reply vocally; but as his hand
travelled along the paper, a short white forefinger raised itself for a
moment in acknowledgement of her remark, and then quickly drooped down
to the penholder again.

Jasmine did not suppose that she had made any impression on her uncle,
and she felt rather sad about this, because she was sure that if he
would only give her an opportunity of being her natural self he would
find her sympathetic. She was surprised, therefore, when he and
Archdeacon Foljambe arrived in the drawing-room that evening after
dinner, to perceive her uncle making straight for herself, exactly like
a water wagtail with his funny little strut and funny little way of
putting his hands behind his coat and flirting his tail.

"Can you type?" he asked.

And the twinkle in his eyes seemed to endow his question with a
suggestion of daring naughtiness, so that when Jasmine told him that she
did type, she felt that she was admitting the presence of a lighter side
to her nature.

"Come up to my study to-morrow morning about half-past nine. I'll have a
chair cleared for you by then."

And thus it was that Jasmine found herself booked to help Uncle Arnold
every morning of the week. Yet in helping him she was not in the least
aware of being made use of; on the contrary the work had a delicious
flavour of impropriety. The machine itself was a good one, so good that
it had survived Ethelred's attempted dissection of it; and Uncle Arnold,
who when a difficult Anglo-Saxon problem required solution used to tap
upon the table with his fingers, did not seem to mind the noise the
typewriter made any more than a nuthatch on one branch might object to
the pecking of a yaffle at another. Jasmine, remembering that her aunt
had alluded in her first letter to the Dean's dislike of constantly
changing typists, asked him one day on their way down to lunch why he
had had so much trouble with his secretaries.

"One used a particularly vicious kind of scent. Another was continually
scratching at her garter. One used to breathe over my head when she came
across to give me what she had been doing. Another thought she knew how
to punctuate. And one who had studied history at Lady Margaret's quoted
Freeman against me! My clerical position forbade me to swear at them. My
brain in consequence became surcharged with blood. So I used to work
them to death, and when one of them who refused to be worked to death
and refused to give notice ... Jasmine! this must never go beyond you
and me...."

"No, Uncle Arnold," she promised eagerly. "But do tell me how you got
rid of her."

"I used to put drawing pins on her chair. Not a word to a soul! My wife
would suspect me of being a papist like yourself if she found out, and
the Bishop, who now thinks I'm mad, would then be sure of it. Never let
a bishop be sure of anything. He thrives on ambiguity."

Apart from her work with the Dean, Jasmine enjoyed herself immensely in
garden games with the three youngest boys. The Deanery garden was a
wonderful place, and to Jasmine it afforded a complete explanation of
the affection that English people had for England. She had been so
unhappy all this past year that she had come to think of Italy as having
the monopoly of earth's beauty. But this garden was as beautiful as
anything in Italy, this garden with wide green lawns, bird-haunted when
she looked out of her window in the lucid air of the morning,
bird-haunted when at dusk she would gaze at them from the candle-lit
dining-room. The shrubberies here were glossy and thick, not at all like
the shrubbery at Rouncivell Lodge. A high wall bright with snapdragon
bounded the garden on the side of the Cathedral, and beyond it loomed
the south transept and a grove of mighty elms. There was a lake in
which floated half a dozen swans that puffed themselves out with esteem
of their own white grace, while in the water they regarded those
mirrored images of themselves, the high-sailing clouds of summer, or
perhaps more proudly their own splendid ghosts. There was an enclosed
garden where fat vegetables were girdled with familiar flowers, blue and
yellow and red, an aromatic garden loud with bees. Finally there was an
ancient tower, the resort of owls and bats, which the Dean sometimes
spoke of restoring. But he never did; and the mouldering traceries, the
lattices long empty of glass, and the worm-eaten corbels of oak grey
with age went on decaying all that fine July. It would have been a pity
to restore the tower, Jasmine thought, and replace with sharp modern
edges that dim and immaterial building in its glade of larches. The dead
lower branches of the trees wove a mist for the paths, on the pallid
grass of which grew clusters of orange and vermilion toadstools; it
would be a pity to intrude on such a place with the tramp of restoring
workmen.

Jasmine's zest in the middle ages, her absorption in pre-Norman days,
her surrender to the essential England were at first faintly troubled by
having to attend mass at a little Catholic mission chapel built of
corrugated iron. But from being pestered by Aunt Ellen to compare the
facilities for worship in Silchester Cathedral with those in the church
of the Immaculate Conception, Bog Lane, she began to wonder if the
externals of history could effect as much as she had supposed. If the
Cathedral was spacious, the mind of Aunt Ellen was not; if the church of
the Immaculate Conception was tawdry ... but why make comparisons? She
had never noticed in Sirene how ugly sham flowers looked upon the altar;
when she made this discovery in Silchester, she was instantly ashamed
of herself; and when she looked again, it seemed as if the gilt daisies
in their tarnished vases were alive, as if they were nosegays gathered
in Italy. If the church of the Immaculate Conception, Bog Lane, was
hideous, what about the English church at Sirene? That was a poky enough
affair. But again, why make comparisons? There were rich relatives and
poor relations in churches just as much as in everything else.

Jasmine was fighting loyally against her inclination to criticize, when
one blazing day at the end of July the Dean proposed a visit to the
remains of Roman Silchester, at which his three sons expressed horror
and dismay.

"Why, what's the matter with Old Silchester?" she asked.

"Oh, it's a most stinking bore! A most frightful fag!" groaned Edred.

"Father makes us sweat ourselves to death digging in the sun," croaked
Edwy.

"And last time when I chivied a Holly Blue, or it may have been only a
Chalk Hill Blue, he cursed me like anything," lamented Ethelred.

The boys groaned again in unison.

"There's nothing to see."

"There's nothing to do."

"It's absolutely foul."

"Father jaws all the time about history, which I hate," said Edred. "I
say, can't you put him off taking us?"

But Jasmine declared that they were horribly unappreciative, and
declined to intervene.

"Well, anyway," said Ethelred hopefully, "Lord George Sanger's Circus is
coming the second week in August."

The thought of that sustained the boys to face a long summer's day among
the ruins of the ancient city.

In the end the day was delightful. The Dean preferred his niece as a
listener to his sons, and as Mrs. Lightbody had been unable to come, he
was not driven by her irritating crusade on behalf of the boys'
amusement to insisting upon their attention. The result was that they
vanished soon after lunch to hunt butterflies, while the Dean expounded
his theory of Old Silchester. Jasmine sat back enjoying the perfume of
hot grass, the murmurous air, the gentle fluting of a faint wind, while
the Dean proved conclusively that the Saxon invasion utterly swept away
every trace of Roman civilization in Britain. The Dean's shadow while he
wandered backward and forward among the scanty remains grew longer, and
beneath his exposition the Roman Empire, so far as its effect on England
was concerned, went down like the sun. Jasmine had been asleep, and she
woke up suddenly in the fresh airs of sunset. Half a mile away the boys
were coming back over the expanse of grey-green grass to display their
captures.

"And how pathetic it is," the Dean was saying, "to think of this outpost
of a mighty empire succumbing so easily to those invaders from over the
German ocean. The last time they excavated here at all systematically,
they turned over some of the rubbish heaps of the camp. Curiously enough
they actually found the skins of the nutty portion of the pine-cone from
_Pinus Pinea_, which is eaten to this day in southern Italy."

"_Pinocchi!_" cried Jasmine, leaping to her feet in excitement.

"Yes, _pinocchi_," the Dean confirmed. "The soldiers must have had
packets of them sent from Rome by their sweethearts and wives and
mothers. And that is one more proof that they remained strangers,
whereas the Saxons bred themselves into the soul of the country."

While they jogged back in the waggonette through the twilight, Jasmine
dreamed of those dead Roman soldiers, and herself longed for freshly
roasted _pinocchi_. The boys jabbered about butterflies. The Dean went
to sleep.

"I'm enjoying myself here comparatively," said Jasmine to herself that
night. "But only comparatively. I still love Italy best."

But she was enjoying herself, and she hoped that she should not have to
leave Silchester yet awhile.



_Chapter Eight_


Edward had written from Cambridge at the end of the term to say that his
friend Lord Gresham was urging him to explore Brittany in an extended
walking tour, and he had wondered in postscript if it would seem very
rude should he not arrive home until the beginning of August; in view of
the fact that the walking tour was to be in the company of Lord Gresham,
his mother had been positive that it would be much more rude if he did
arrive home, and she had telegraphed to him accordingly. Edmund and
Edgar came home from Marlborough at the end of July. It was Edmund's
last term at school, and he was going up to Cambridge in October with an
exhibition at Pembroke and a reputation as a good man in the scrimmage.
Edgar, who was seventeen, had another year of school before him. Jasmine
knew from the youngest boys that 'Monday' and 'Tuesday' in their day had
terrorized the inhabitants of Silchester much more ruthlessly and
extensively than their juniors. Golf, however, had of late attracted
their superfluous energy, and they spent the first fortnight of their
holidays in trying to make what they described as a 'sporting' four-hole
course in the Deanery garden. From their point of view the epithet was a
happy one, for during the first match they broke a window of the
dining-room and several cucumber frames, while in searching for lost
balls they spoiled the gardener's chance of a prize at the horticultural
show that year. The younger boys, jealous of such competent destruction,
filled a ginger-beer bottle with gunpowder and blew a hole in the bottom
of the lake. Jasmine, who was still working with her uncle, only heard
of these events as nuns hear a vague rumour of the outside world. The
proofs of the fifth volume were absorbing the Dean's attention; and even
when Edred shot a guinea-pig belonging to the Senior Canon's youngest
daughter he declined to interfere, much to the satisfaction of his wife,
who considered that the Senior Canon should be ashamed to own a daughter
young enough to take an interest in guinea-pigs. In fact it was not
until a model aeroplane, subscribed for unitedly by the three youngest
boys and flown by Ethelred from the ancient oak in the middle of the
Close, maintained a steady course in the direction of the Dean's window,
and to his sons' pride and pleasure flew right in to land on his table,
scatter his notes with the propeller, and upset the ink over his
manuscript, that he was moved to direct action. He then banished them to
work in an allotment garden attached to the Deanery, where on the
outskirts of Silchester for six hours a day they gathered what their
father called the fruits of a chastened spirit. The punishment was
ingenious and severe, because their enemy the head gardener benefited
directly by their labour, and because the allotment afforded no kind of
diversion except futile attempts to hit with catapults the bending forms
of labourers out of range in the surrounding allotments.

The Dean worked harder than ever when his youngest sons were removed;
and Jasmine, finding that she was being useful enough to be able to
shake off the thought that she was an infliction, and that there was no
hint of a wish for her departure from the Deanery, was anxious to
prevent anything's happening to upset what so far were the jolliest
weeks she had passed since she left Sirene. Although she had thought a
certain amount about Harry Vibart, she had not allowed herself to grow
sentimental over him, and after this sojourn at the Deanery, she had
quite convinced herself that it would be wiser not to see him again. She
had, of course, no reason to suppose that he wanted to see her again; at
the same time she had had no reason to suppose as much at Rouncivell
Lodge before he suddenly turned up with such disastrous results. His
interruption had not mattered so much there, because she was only
negatively happy at the time. Here she was something like positively
happy, and it seemed from every point of view prudent to write him a
letter and as sympathetically as possible to ask him not to disturb the
present situation. She wondered whether if she sent it to him in the
care of his uncle at Spaborough it would ultimately reach him. By a
series of roundabout questions she arrived at the discovery that by
looking up Sir John Vibart in Burke she could ascertain his address.
When she had found that Sir John Vibart lived at Whiteladies, near Long
Escombe in the North Riding of Yorkshire, she devoted herself to the
composition of the following letter:--

     The Deanery,

     Silchester,

     _August 6th._

     _Dear Harry,_

She had been tempted to go back to _Mr. Vibart_, but inasmuch as she was
writing to ask him not to see her again, the formal address seemed to
lend a gratuitous and unnecessary coldness to her request, and even to
give him the idea that she was offended with him.

_I am staying down here with my uncle the Dean, who is very nice and is
writing a history of England before the Norman Conquest. I went with
him to see the remains of the Roman city of something or other, a very
long name, but it is quite near here, and fancy, in the rubbish heaps of
the old Roman camp, they have actually found the skins--husks, I
mean--of pinocchi. In case you do not know what a pinocchio is, I must
tell you that they are the nutty part of the pinecombs from the big
umbrella pines that grow all round Naples and Rome. It made tears come
into my eyes to think of those Roman soldiers having those boxes of
pinocchi sent to them by their mothers and friends all the way to
England._

She had written _sweethearts_ at the first draft, but the word looked
wrong somehow in a letter that was meant to be discouraging.

     _I work quite hard at typewriting, and this is a very good machine.
     The only thing is that it won't do dipthongs, which is a pity,
     because Uncle Arnold gets very angry if Saxon names are not spelt
     with dipthongs. There are six cousins here who are called after the
     six boy kings. Uncle Arnold calls them Eadward, Eadmund, Eadgar,
     Eadwig, Ædred and Æthelred; but other people call them Eddy,
     Monday, Tuesday, Why, Because, and Ethel. Edward, who is the
     eldest, I haven't seen yet. He is at Cambridge. I hope you are
     enjoying yourself wherever you are, and that you haven't been
     taking any more people's walking-sticks!_

     _Kindest regards,_

     _Yours sincerely,_

     _Jasmine Grant._

     _P.S. I think it would be better if you didn't come down here and
     try to see me._

Jasmine was very proud of this postscript; it did not strike her that
the bee's sting is in its tail. She would have been astonished if
anybody had told her that it was unkind to end up with such an
afterthought, did she seriously mean to forbid Harry Vibart to see her
again. And she would have been still more astonished and a good deal
horrified if anybody had suggested that the prohibition put like that
might actually have the air of an invitation, should the recipient of
the letter choose to regard it cynically.

However, she did not receive so much as a bare acknowledgment of her
letter, and she convinced herself, perhaps a little regretfully, that
Harry Vibart, offended by her request, had decided not to bother any
more about her.

Meanwhile Edward had arrived. Edward was one of those young men of whom
it can be postulated immediately that he could never have been called
anything else except Edward. He was a tall and awkward, an extremely
industrious, a clever and an immensely conceited young man, who hid the
natural gloom established by years of nervous dyspepsia, or more bluntly
by chronic indigestion, under a pretentious solemnity of manner. His
arrival at Silchester coincided with a change of weather, and the rainy
days that attended in his wake created in Jasmine's mind an impression
that he was even more of a wet blanket than she might otherwise have
thought. For the first few days he hung about the rooms like a low
cloud, telling long stories about his tour in Brittany with Lord
Gresham, stories that for the most part were about taking the wrong road
and putting up at the wrong inn. When he had bored his family so
successfully that every member of it had reached the point of regarding
life from the standpoint of a nervous dyspeptic, he grew more cheerful
and aired his latest discoveries in modern literature. Then he decided
to keep a journal, with the intention, it was understood, of
immortalizing his spleen. Like most people who keep journals, he was
usually a day or two in arrears, and when people saw him pompously
entering the room with a notebook under his arm, they used to hasten
anywhere to escape being asked what he had done on Thursday morning
between eleven and one. At last the sun appeared again, and Edward,
looking at Jasmine--by the intensity of his regard it might have been
the first time he had seen her--divined, as if the sun had possessed the
power of X-rays, that she lacked education. Edward, whose success in
life had been the success of his education, considered that he owed it
to his cousin to remedy her deficiencies; keeping in view his principle
of never offering to give something for nothing, he suggested that, in
exchange for his teaching her Latin, she should teach him Italian.
Jasmine would have willingly taught him Italian without the advantage of
learning Latin; but she did not wish to appear ungracious, and the
bargain was made. Edward advanced much more rapidly in Italian than she
advanced in Latin, partly because he was better accustomed to study than
she was, and partly because of the four hours a day they devoted to
mutual instruction, three and a half hours were devoted to Italian and
only half an hour to Latin. The result of this was that by the end of
September he was reading Petrarch with fluency, while she had only
reached the first conjugation of verbs and the second declension of
nouns.

"You're very slow," Edward reproved her. "I can't understand why. It
ought to be just as easy for you to learn Latin as it is for me to learn
Italian. It's absolutely useless to go on to the third declension until
you remember the genitive plural of _dominus_. _Dominorum_, not
_dominurum_."

"I said _dominorum_."

"Yes, but you mustn't pronounce it like Italian."

"I'm not," Jasmine argued. "I think the trouble is that I've got a
slight Neapolitan accent, and you think I'm saying _urum_ when I'm
really saying _orum_. You forget that I've got to unlearn my
pronunciation to suit yours."

"Well, that applies equally to me," Edward argued.

The result of these difficulties was that Edward gave up trying to teach
Jasmine Latin and confined himself entirely to learning Italian from
her. About this time he read somewhere that the only way to master a
language was to fall in love with somebody who speaks it. Such an
observation struck him as a useful tip, in the same way as when he was
at school he would remember the useful tip:

    _Tolle me, mi, mu, mis,_
    _Si declinare domus vis._

He therefore proceeded to fall in love with Jasmine in the same earnest
acquisitive way in which he would have proceeded to buy a highly
recommended new type of notebook. Edward's notion of falling in love was
that he should be able to introduce into an ordinary conversation
phrases that otherwise and outside his study of Petrarch would have
sounded extravagant. He made up his mind that if Jasmine showed the
least sign of taking him seriously--and he realized that he had to bear
in mind that cousins are marriageable--he would explain that it was
merely practice. At the same time he found her personable, even
charming, and if without involving himself or committing himself too far
he could for the rest of the summer establish between himself and her a
mildly sentimental relationship, which at the same time would be of
great benefit to his Italian, he should be able to go up to Cambridge
next term with the satisfactory thought that during the Long Vacation he
had improved his French, strengthened his friendship with Lord Gresham,
effected an excellent beginning with Italian, amused himself
incidentally, and made sufficient progress with his reading for the
first part of the Classical Tripos not to feel that he had neglected the
main current of his academic career.

Unfortunately for Edward's plans he found that Jasmine was inclined to
laugh at him when in the middle of rehearsing a dialogue from the
_Italian Traveller's Vade Mecum_ between himself and a laundress he
indulged in Petrarchan apostrophes. Now Edward was not inclined to
laughter either at his own expense or at the expense of life in general,
because his conception of the universe only allowed laughter to depend
upon minor mistakes in behaviour or scansion. Therefore in order to cure
Jasmine of her frivolity he was driven into being more serious and less
academic than he had intended. In other words, Edward, even if he was
already a perfectly formed prig, was not yet twenty-one, and to put the
matter shortly, he really did fall in love with Jasmine; so much so
indeed that he ceased to make love to her in Italian and began to make
love to her in English. Jasmine, apprehensive of all the trouble such a
state of affairs would stir up and knowing what an additional grievance
it would create against her in the minds of her relatives, begged him
not to be foolish. The more she begged him not to be foolish, the more
foolish Edward became, so foolish indeed that he began to let his
infatuation be suspected by his brothers, the result of which was that
he lost the authority hitherto maintained for him by his attitude of
discouraging gloom. In a weak moment he even allowed himself to bribe
Ethelred to leave him alone with Jasmine in the dusky garden one evening
after dinner, and Ethelred, realizing that Edwy and Edred would soon
discover for themselves such a source of profit from their eldest
brother, it might be to his own disadvantage, resolved to enter into a
formal compact of blackmail with both of them.

Thenceforth Edward found himself being gradually deprived of various
little possessions that however valueless in themselves had for him the
sentimental importance he attached to everything connected with himself.
In order to secure twilit walks with his cousin that she, poor girl,
with one eye on a jealous mother, did her best to avoid, Edward parted
with his choicest cricket bat, presented for the highest score in a
junior match in the days before dyspepsia cramped his style; with a
collection of birds' eggs made at the age of fourteen; in fact with
everything that, should he die now, would have led anybody to suppose
that he was once human. Finally he was reduced to forking out small sums
of money to purchase the good will of his three youngest brothers. Their
demands grew more exorbitant, and Edward, who had already decided to
become a Government servant after that triumphant university career
which was to crown his triumphant school career, tried to be firm.
Indeed he smacked Edwy's head, and when he had done so felt that he had
been firm. Unfortunately it was the worst moment he could have chosen to
be firm--yes, he was certainly intended to be a Government
servant--because the blackmailers had something up their sleeves, and of
what that was Jasmine received the first intimation in the shape of a
letter from Edwy.

     _Dear Jasmine,_

     _If you will meet the undersigned by the blasted elm at the corner
     of the heath to-night at half-past eight, you will hear of
     something to your advantage. I mean the elm that was struck by
     lightening last spring at the corner of the paddock. But in future
     I shall not call it the paddock. The enclosed token will tell you
     what._

     _(signed)_

     _A friend and well-wisher._

The enclosed token was a lock of hair tied up with the end of a
bootlace. Jasmine supposed that the three youngest cousins had
discovered a new kind of game in the pleasure and excitement of which
they wished her to share; glad of an excuse to escape Edward's
attentions after dinner, she presented herself at the blasted elm and
tried to appear as mysterious as the requirements of the game demanded.

She had not been waiting more than a minute when three cloaked figures
stealthily approached the trysting-place. They were all wearing what
Jasmine hoped were only discarded hats of the Dean, and when they drew
nearer she perceived that they were also wearing gaiters of the Dean.
She wondered if the Dean had so many gaiters to spare for his sons'
pranks, and she began to fear that some of his present wardrobe had been
requisitioned. Edwy's voice, in trying to assume the appropriate bass of
a conspirator, ran up to a high treble at the third word he uttered,
which set his brothers off laughing so unrestrainedly that in order to
conceal such an intrusion of their own modern personalities, they had to
pommel each other until Edwy at last rescued his voice from the heights
and called upon Jasmine to follow his lead. She, still supposing that
some game of buried treasure or capture by brigands was afoot followed
with appropriate caution along the winding paths of the shrubbery to
that favourite haunt of mystery, the ruined tower.

"Fair maiden," the eldest conspirator growled, "your betrothed awaitest
you within."

"You've surely never persuaded Edward to hide himself up there?" she
laughed.

"Edward avaunt!" he hissed. "The doom of Edward is sealed."

"Sealed!" echoed Edred, more successfully hoarse than his brother.

Ethelred was unable to take up his cue, being choked by laughter.

"I say, do you think she ought to climb up by the rope-ladder?" Edred
asked, falling back into his ordinary voice for the moment.

"Shut up, you ass," replied Edwy in the same commonplace accents.
"Maiden," he continued in a bass that was now truly diabolic, "the
ladder of knotted sheets for thy fell purpose awaitest thee."

"A terribly appropriate adjective," Jasmine observed with a smile. "I'm
not really to climb up that, am I?"

"No," said Edwy reluctantly. "An thou wilt, thou cannest enter by the
door."

"Poor Edward!" murmured Jasmine. "How he must be hating this!"

"Foolish maiden," Edwy reproached her. "It is not Edward who you
seekest, but one more near, no, I mean more dear, but one more dear to
thee. My trusty followers and me will watch without whilst thou speaketh
with him."

The air of Bartelmytide was moist and chill, and Jasmine, with
regretful thoughts of the Deanery fires which had just begun, hurried
into the tower to finish off her part of the performance. She was not to
be let off until she had mounted to the upper room, and though in the
darkness the ladder felt more than usually wobbly and the stones on
either side more than usually covered with cobwebs, she went boldly on,
and had no sooner reached the upper room than she was aware that there
was somebody there, somebody who did not greet her with the flash of a
dark lantern, but with the flicker of a cigar-lighter.

"Well, this is a rum way to meet you again," Harry Vibart exclaimed
genially.

"But...." Jasmine stammered, "I thought I told you not to come down
here."

Vibart was too tactful to say that he had supposed the forbidding
postscript was at least a suggestion if not an invitation that he should
come down, and looking as suitably penitent as he could by the wavering
beams of the cigar-lighter, he explained that he had only done so with
great caution, and added a hope that she would forgive him.

"Yes, but supposing my uncle and aunt find out that you have arranged to
meet me like this?"

"Oh, I didn't arrange to meet you like this," Vibart explained. "Those
three young sportsmen downstairs arranged that. The only thing I did was
to make enquiries beforehand where you were living, and somehow they got
it into their heads--of course you'll think it ridiculous, I know--but
... well, to put it shortly, they imagined ... that I was ... rather
keen on you."

"I suppose you realize that I am very angry indeed?" said Jasmine.

"Oh yes, I realize that," Vibart admitted. "I can see you're very angry.
But don't you think that to-morrow I might call in the ordinary way?
That's the main object of this interview. I've really rather enjoyed
sitting up here thinking about you. I should have enjoyed it even more
if something that was either a small bat or a large spider hadn't fallen
on my head. But what about to-morrow?"

"Oh no, please," she expostulated. "No, no, no, you really mustn't. I'm
quite enjoying myself here. I'm quite happy, and I know that if you
arrive on the scene, something's bound to happen to make everything go
wrong."

"That's very discouraging of you."

"I don't mean to be discouraging."

"You may not mean to be, but you certainly are. Look here, Jasmine, I've
been thinking a tremendous lot lately about you, and if you'll risk it,
I'll risk it."

"Risk what?"

"Well, you see ... confound this patent lighter; it's gone out."

The upper room of the tower was in complete darkness, and Jasmine was
inclined to hope that it would remain in darkness; she felt that even
the mild illumination of the cigar-lighter gave too intimate a
revelation of her countenance for any promise to be made. Harry was
gaining time for his reply by devoting himself to the cigar-lighter, and
Jasmine felt that if this tension was continued, she should presently
begin to emit white sparks herself.

"Risk what?" she repeated.

"Risk being cut off by my uncle and not having a penny to bless
ourselves with, and getting married on what I made this August. I've had
a topping August. I'm £84 10s. up on the bookies. And though of course
it's not much for two, it would give us enough for an economical
honeymoon, and I've got a friend who would give me a job in a teak
forest in Burmah. It's a very useful wood, you know. They make boats of
it and the better kind of packing-cases."

"Stop! Stop!" she exclaimed.

"What's the matter? Have you got a spider on you? Show me where it is
and I'll brush it off. I'm frightfully afraid of spiders, but I'm so
fond of you, you darling little girl, that I'll...."

"Oh, you mustn't call me that," Jasmine interrupted.

"Don't you like being called a darling little girl?" he asked with a
sigh of relief. "Well, I promise you I won't ever call you that again. I
assure you that it took a lot to work myself up to the scratch and get
off that term of endearment. But, Jasmine, I love you. Look here, murmur
something pleasant for goodness' sake. I'm feeling an awful ass now I've
said it."

But Jasmine could not murmur anything at all. By what she had read of
love and of the way people declared their love, she would have supposed
that Harry Vibart was making fun of her. And yet something in the tone
of his voice forbade her to think that. Moreover, the way her own heart
was beating prevented her wanting to think that. So she stayed silent,
while he occupied himself with the cigar-lighter in case her eyes should
tell him what her tongue refused to speak. He managed at last to kindle
the wick, and holding the little instrument of revelation above his head
so that from the vastness of the gloom around he could conjure her
beloved countenance, he stood waiting for the answer. In the few seconds
that had fluttered past, Jasmine felt that she had grown up, and now
when she looked at the freckled young man, so obviously fearful of
having made a fool of himself, she felt several years older than he, so
much older that she was able to speak to him with what it seemed was a
weight of worldly knowledge behind her.

"I'm afraid you've been rather impetuous," she said austerely. "I could
never dream of asking you to give up anything on my account." Jasmine
gained eloquence from not meaning a word of what she said, and unaware
that she was trying to persuade herself rather than Harry of the
imprudence of his project, she grew more eloquent with every word she
uttered. "You must remember that I have not a penny in the world, and
that you cannot afford to marry a girl without a dowry. I know that in
England men do marry even quite ordinary girls without a dowry, but I
should never feel happy if I were married like that."

"What on earth have dowries got to do with being in love? Do you love
me? Do you think you could get to love me?"

"You've no right to ask me that," said Jasmine, "unless you are able to
marry me."

"Well, I told you I was £84 10s. up on the bookies this August. I should
have proposed in July, but I had rather a rotten Goodwood, and...."

"Yes, but you can't afford a wife with only that. Why, even if my uncle
went on allowing me £10 a quarter...."

"I told you there was a risk. I asked you if you would risk it," he
interrupted in an aggrieved voice. "Anyway, the point I want to get at
is this: do you or do you not care for me?"

"I like you very much," Jasmine admitted politely.

"Yes, well, that sounds rather as if I was a mutton chop. Look here, you
know, you're driving me into making a scene. When I first saw you at
York, I fell in love with you. I didn't mean to tell you that, because
it sounds ridiculous. But I did. Then when you were such a little sport
on that mackerel hunt, I loved you more than ever. And then you were
whisked off. I felt desperate, and I tried to kill my love. Please don't
laugh. I know it's almost impossible not to laugh if a chap talks like
this, and I should have laughed myself a year ago. But do you realize
that you've driven me into reading books? That's a pretty desperate
state of affairs. I can't pass a railway book-stall now without buying
armfuls of the most atrocious rot. And the worse it is, the more I enjoy
it. About fifty darlings a page is my style now. Where was I? Oh yes, I
tried to kill my love. You know, playing golf, and all that sort of
thing. But as soon as I heard where you were, I came to see you. Well,
it was bad luck to drop that brick over the old boy's malacca, and I
felt desperate. And then when I got your letter on top of the worst
Goodwood anybody ever had, I said to myself that, unless I was fifty
pounds up by the end of August, I'd go out to the Colonies and work
myself to death. Well, I made more than that fifty pounds, and here I
am. I'd got a lot of jolly things all ready to say to you, but now I'm
here I can't say anything. Jasmine, I'm as keen as mustard on you.
There!"

He had spoken with such vehemence that the cigar-lighter had long ago
been puffed out; in the darkness Jasmine felt her hand grasped.

"What a topping little hand," he murmured. "It's as soft as a puppy's
paw. Topping!"

Jasmine had an impulse to let herself sigh out her happiness upon his
shoulder; she knew somehow that his arms were open, and that the touch
of his tweeds would be as refreshing to her tired spirit as if she were
to fling herself into the sunburnt scented grass of a remote meadow; she
could not summon to her aid a single argument against letting herself
be folded in his embrace. Then, just as she was surrendering to the
moment, a clod of earth was flung through the ruined oriel of the tower,
and from down below came hoarse cries of "Cavé! Cavé! Edward's coming
down the path! You'd better bunk!"

"What's up?" asked Vibart, making fresh efforts to kindle his
cigar-lighter. "Who's Edward?"

"Oh, I knew this would happen! I knew this would happen!" Jasmine
exclaimed distractedly. "I told you not to come down here."

"But who's Edward?" Vibart persisted.

"It's my cousin. He's dreadfully in earnest, and he thinks he's in love
with me."

"Well, I'm not particularly afraid of Edward; but if it's the fashion
here to be afraid of him, I'll pretend to be afraid of him too, and the
best way of showing our terror is to sit here holding each other's hands
until the dangerous fellow passes on. The closer we keep together, the
less frightened we shall be."

"It's nothing to joke about," she said. "He's evidently suspicious about
something, or he would never have come out into the garden to look for
me in the tower."

Jasmine was sure that the conspirators, in their desire for a more
dramatic climax than they might otherwise have secured, had conveyed a
mysterious warning to Edward, who, when she was nowhere to be found in
the house had, preserving his own dignity as far as possible, set out
upon a voyage of discovery.

Whatever the conspirators had done in the way of precipitating this
climax, they were now doing their best to deflect Edward from the path.
The methods they chose, however, were not sufficiently subtle, and they
only had the effect of putting their eldest brother in a very bad
temper, as was evident from the threats that were audible outside.

"Look here, young Edred, I'll give you the biggest thrashing you ever
had in your life if you fling any more of those toadstools at me. All
right, Edwy, I can recognize you, and you'll find out when you go
indoors again that you can't wear the pater's gaiters without trouble.
Where's Jasmine?"

And then, like the croak of a night-bird, Edwy's response was heard.

"Recreant knight, the maiden whom thou seekest is safe from thy lustful
arm. Beware of advancing another step."

"You young swine, I'll give you the biggest licking you ever had in your
life!" retorted Edward, still advancing in the direction of the door.

"Look here," Vibart whispered to Jasmine, "I think I ought to go out and
help those sportsmen."

At this moment Ethelred, who had retreated into the tower, came up the
ladder and told them not to worry, because he had invented something
that was going to put Edward out of action the moment he attempted to
advance beyond the first rung.

"No, please, Ethelred," Jasmine begged. "Don't make matters worse than
they are."

"No, really it's all right, I swear," Ethelred promised. "Don't get
excited. And if you want to elope to-night, Edwy's made all the
necessary arrangements. He's got the ladder hidden by the stable, and
the pony's harnessed, and if you're pursued, he's going to put people
off the scent by saying the house is on fire; or he may be trying to set
it on fire really, I can't remember; and he's only told Wilson"--Wilson
was one of the under-gardeners--"so you needn't be in a funk of being
found out. And look here," he added to Vibart, "you won't forget that
man-lifting kite, will you? Because Edwy's awfully keen to go up with
it."

"That's all right," Vibart promised. "You stave off Edward, and I'll
send you a kite that will lift an elephant."

"Don't encourage him," said Jasmine. "You don't understand how dreadful
all this is going to be for me."

By this time Edward, undeterred by the missiles of Edwy or Edred, had
reached the foot of the ladder, and was asking Jasmine in that academic
voice she so much disliked if she was in the tower.

"If those young brutes have been playing practical jokes on you,
_carissima_, just let me know and I'll give them a lesson they won't
forget."

"Will you, you stinking pig?" muttered Ethelred, bending over and
releasing a heavy weight on his brother's head.

"Heavens! What have you done?" Jasmine cried in apprehension.

"It's all right. It's only a bag of flour," Ethelred explained. "And I
think it hit him absolutely plum."

However it hit Edward, it had the effect of rousing him to fury; without
pausing to consider that the steps of the ladder were broken and that
the floor of the tower contained several holes and that his sense of
direction was considerably impeded by the flour in his eyes, he came
charging up the ladder. Just as he reached the top there was a crack of
giving wood, followed by a crash, a cry, a thud, and several groans.

"Great Scott! He's really damaged himself this time," said Vibart.

"I say, I didn't work that," Ethelred protested a little tremulously.

Edred and Edwy, who had followed in their brother's wake, were calling
up that he had broken his leg. Vibart's cigar-lighter refused to shed
even a momentary flicker on the scene, and there was nothing for it but
to send one of the boys below back to the house for help. Jasmine begged
Harry Vibart to escape if he could, but when he tried the floor with a
view to letting himself down, the rotten planking began to break off, so
that he had to draw back lest the whole floor of the room should
collapse and precipitate himself and Jasmine upon the prostrate and
groaning form of Edward underneath. He then attempted in response to
Jasmine's entreaties to escape from the oriel window, but no sooner had
he put himself into a position to make the drop than she begged him with
equal urgency to come back.

"You might break your leg too, and it would be so dreadfully
embarrassing to have you and Edward both in bed. My aunt would hate
looking after you, and I should never be allowed to look after you."

"Are you sure of that?" he asked.

"Sure, sure. But why do you ask?"

"Because, if I thought there was a chance of getting you as my nurse,
I'd break every bone in my body with the greatest pleasure."

The only one who escaped without damage moral or physical from that
evening was Ethelred. When the Dean and Mrs. Lightbody with Edgar and
Edmund, gardeners and lanterns and ladders, and an improvised stretcher,
arrived at the tower, Ethelred managed somehow to get back to the house
unperceived, and was able to claim, relying upon the loyalty of his
fellow-conspirators, that he had gone to bed immediately after dinner
with a bad headache. The rest of the family suffered in various degrees.
Edwy suffered from being caught wearing his father's best gaiters, Edred
from being caught wearing his father's best hat. The Dean suffered in
his character as owner of the gaiters and the hat. Mrs. Lightbody
suffered in her deepest feelings as a mother, as the wife of the Dean of
Silchester, and as an aunt. Harry Vibart suffered from the ridiculous
situation in which he found himself, and from the unpleasant situation
in which his imprudence had placed Jasmine. Edward suffered from a
broken leg, but derived some pleasure from the effort he had made to be
noble. His nobility of behaviour consisted in abstaining from any
comment on Vibart's presence in the tower, and the consciousness of his
nobility was so sharp that the pain of his fractured limb was dull in
comparison. Yet Jasmine was so unreasonable as to think him lacking in
generosity because he did not explain away Vibart's presence, explain
away his own accident, explain away the whole situation, in fact. She
even blamed him for what had occurred, ascribing the disaster to his
vanity in supposing that she would send him a message by the boys to
meet her in the tower. But then Jasmine had suffered most of anybody;
and it was she who was to discover that Aunt May at her worst was
angelic beside Aunt Ellen.

"I'm bound to say, Jasmine, that I did not imagine the existence of such
depravity. A servant would not behave like that. And what is so
lamentable is that the boys knew that you were up in the tower with that
young man. It seems to me almost criminal to put such ideas into their
little heads. I've been so strict with them. I've even wondered
sometimes if I could let them read the Bible to themselves. Your poor
uncle has aged twenty years in the last twenty-four hours."

What really had happened to Uncle Arnold was a bad cold from going out
in his slippers without a hat. But Aunt Ellen was enjoying herself too
much for accuracy. She was in the raptures of a grand improvisation.
Presently her fancy soared; she indulged in Gothic similes.

"It was like a witches' sabbath. And poor Edward! Not a word has he said
in blame of you. He lies there as patient as a martyr. And then I
suppose you'll go off this afternoon and confess to your priest down in
Bog Lane, and come back under the impression that you're as white as
driven snow. To me such a pretence of religion is disgusting."

"Perhaps you don't realize, Aunt Ellen," said Jasmine, "that Edward has
been making love to me for weeks, and that I've had to laugh at him to
prevent his doing something silly."

"What do you mean, doing something silly, you wicked and vulgar girl? I
cannot think where you got such a mind. A servant would not get such
disgusting ideas into her head. I suppose we must put it down to your
mother."

"Stop!" said Jasmine, white with anger. "Stop, will you? Or I shall
throw this inkpot at you." And when Aunt Ellen did stop, she was half
sorry, because she was hating her so much that she was really wanting to
throw the inkpot at her. However, she put it back on the table, rushed
from her aunt's presence up to her own room, where, after weeping for an
hour, she sat down and wrote to Harry Vibart.

_Dear Mr. Vibart,_

     _I hope you realize by now that you acted abominably in coming down
     here after what I said in my letter. I never want to see you
     again. Please understand that I mean it this time. However, I'm
     going back to Italy almost at once where people know how to behave
     themselves. I hate England. I've been miserable here, and you've
     made me more miserable than anybody._

Then she signed herself _Jasmine Grant_ and fiercely blotted him out of
her life.



_Chapter Nine_


After the scene with her aunt, Jasmine longed to leave the Deanery at
once, for she suffered torments of humiliation in having to stay on
there in a disgrace that was being published all over Silchester. The
Dean himself was kind, and perhaps it was because he understood the
difficulty of her position that he asked her to come and work with him.
But such an easy way out for Jasmine did not please his wife, who was
continually coming up to the study and worrying him with her fears about
the progress of Edward's fracture in order to impress both him and
Jasmine with their heartless conduct in thus working away regardless of
the martyr downstairs. The Dean was a kind-hearted man, but he
considered his work on pre-Norman Britain the most important thing in
life; finding it impossible to proceed under the stress of these
continual interruptions, he presently announced that he must go to
Oxford for a week or two and do some work in the Bodleian.

As soon as he had gone, Aunt Ellen's treatment of her niece became
something like a persecution. She forbade the youngest boys to play with
her; she took a delight in making the most cruel remarks to her before
Edmund and Edgar; she was rude to her in front of the servants. Jasmine
was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and she was by now so
passionately anxious to leave Silchester that she was actually on the
verge of writing to Aunt May to ask if she could not come back to
London. She did write to Aunt Cuckoo, who wrote back a pleasant little
letter iced over with conventional expressions of affection like the
pink mottoes on a white birthday cake. She was sorry to hear that
Jasmine was unable to appreciate Aunt Ellen. She realized that the
atmosphere in the higher circles of the Church of England was
unsympathetic, _but_ Baboose had shown symptoms of croup. She hoped that
later in the autumn Jasmine could come and spend a week or two at The
Cedars, _but_ just now it was advisable to keep Baboose at Torquay.
Uncle Eneas sent his love, _but_ he was not very well, and Jasmine would
understand how difficult it was to fit an extra person in seaside
lodgings. She was sorry that Jasmine was unhappy, "_but_ our wonderful
religion will console you better than my poor self," she wound up.

"But! But!" Jasmine cried aloud. "Butter would be the right word."

Such was the state of affairs at the Deanery when one morning about a
fortnight after Edward broke his leg, Cherrill the butler announced a
visitor to see Jasmine. After what she had suffered from that ill-timed
visit of Harry Vibart, her heart sank, particularly as Cherrill did not
announce the visitor in a way that would have led anybody to suppose
that his news would be welcome.

"For me?" Jasmine repeated. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, miss," said Cherrill firmly. "This, er...." he hesitated for a
moment, "...elderly person wishes to speak with you for a moment on
behalf of Miss Butt."

"Miss Butt?" Jasmine repeated. "Who's she?" For a moment she thought
that her nervous condition was developing insanity and that the name was
something to do with her outburst against the 'buts' of Aunt Cuckoo.

"Perhaps if you would come down, miss," suggested Cherrill, "to
ascertain from the ... person more in full what exactly she does
require, you could enquire from her who Miss Butt is."

Jasmine asked if the visitor had given her own name, and when Cherrill
said that she had given the name of Mrs. Vokins she remembered that Mrs.
Vokins was Selina's friend at Catford. It was all very odd, and without
more ado she went downstairs.

In the dining-room a small thin woman with a long red nose came forward
to shake hands with Jasmine in the serious way in which people who are
not accustomed to shaking hands very often do.

"You've been sent here by Selina?" asked Jasmine impulsively. The
question seemed to take Mrs. Vokins aback; she had evidently been primed
with a good deal of formality to undertake her mission.

"I am Miss Butt's lady friend from Catford," she explained with an
assumption of tremendous dignity.

"I remember her talking about you very often."

"Yes, miss," sighed Mrs. Vokins, taking out her handkerchief and dabbing
the corners of her eyes. She evidently supposed that any reference to
her in conversation must have included the sorrows of her past life, and
she now put on the air of one to whom a response to sympathy is the most
familiar emotion.

"And you have a message for me from Selina?"

"No, not a message, a letter. Miss Butt was unwilling to put it in the
pillar-box for fear your aunt should look at it."

"My aunt?"

"That was how Miss Butt came to send me in place of the pillar-box. She
wanted me to put the letter in my stocking for safety, but suffering as
I do from vericlose veins, I asked Miss Butt to kindly permit of it
being put in my handbag. You must excuse it smelling slightly of salts,
but I'm very subject to headaches ever since my trouble."

Jasmine opened the letter, which was strongly perfumed with gin. The
negotiations being conducted in such a ladylike polite spirit, Jasmine
was not surprised to find Selina's letter couched in the same style.

     _Dear Miss Grant,_

     _This is to inform you that poor old Mr. Rouncivell has been took
     very bad with inflammation of the bowls screaming and yelling
     himself hoarse fit to frighten anybody. I don't want to say more
     than I ought in a letter, but knowing what I know, I tell you you
     ought to come back with my lady friend Mrs. Vokins at once and not
     knowing if you have the money for your fare I take the liberty of
     enclosing a postal order for two pounds. Mrs. Vokins has a
     brother-in-law who is a fourwheeler and will drive you back to
     Muswell Hill as per arrangement._

"This is all very mysterious," Jasmine commented.

"Yes, miss, so it is, I'm sure," Mrs. Vokins agreed. "But then, as my
friend Miss Butt says, life's very mysterious. And I said, answering
her, 'Yes, Miss Butt, and death's very mysterious.' And she said,
'You're right, Mrs. Vokins, it is.' Miss Butt's very worried. Oh yes, I
can tell you she's very worried, because she's given up the kitchen
which I was using for her three times a week. If I might presume to give
advice as a married woman, which I was before my poor husband died, I'd
advise you to pack up your box and come along with me by the afternoon
train, which my brother-in-law will meet with his cab. You need have no
fear of familiarity, miss, because he was a coachman before he was a
cabman, and was hounded out of his job by one of these motor-cars.
Inventions of the Devil, as I call them."

"But does Selina want me to help her look after my poor uncle?"

"I'm sorry, miss, to appear stand-offish, and it's through no wish of
mine, I'm sure, but Miss Butt's last words to me was: 'Keep your mouth
shut, Mrs. Vokins.'"

Jasmine was too deeply moved by the thought of the poor old gentleman
lying in pain at Rouncivell Lodge, and too much touched by Selina's
kindly thought in enclosing her fare, to delay a moment in answering her
request. In any case it was obvious that she would have to leave the
Deanery almost at once, and it seemed an interposition of providence
that she should have such a splendid excuse to escape from the
ridiculous and humiliating position in which Edward's folly and Harry
Vibart's thoughtlessness had placed her.

It was dark when the cab pulled up a hundred yards away from the gates
of Rouncivell Lodge, and Jasmine hoped that the necessity for all this
caution would soon be finished, because she was finding the gin-scented
hushes of Mrs. Vokins that filled the interior of the dank old cab
trying to her fatigued and hungry condition. However, there was not long
to wait before Selina's voice, which always sounded to Jasmine as if the
housekeeper had been eating a lot of stale biscuits without being able
to obtain a drink of water after them, greeted her.

"Such goings on!" she snapped, and then turning to the cabman went on in
her dry voice: "Perhaps, Mr. Vokins, you'll have the goodness to carry
Miss Grant's trunk round to the back entrance without ringing."

"I suppose the horse will stand all right?" said the cabman doubtfully.

"Of course the horse will stand all right," said Selina. "My father was
a coachman before you knew the difference between a horse and a donkey,
Mr. Vokins."

"William," supplemented his sister-in-law, "remember what I told you on
your doorstep first thing this morning."

Mr. Vokins without another word went off to leave Jasmine's trunk where
he had been told to leave it. While he was gone, the conversation was
kept strictly to the minor incidents of Mrs. Vokins' mission.

"You got off then quite comfortably, Mrs. Vokins?" Selina enquired.

"Yes, Miss Butt, thank you. I had no trouble. Or I should say none but
what come from me being so silly as to break my smelling salts in my bag
by not noticing I had put my bag _under_ me on the seat instead of
_beside_ me as I had the intention of. Oh yes, when anyone makes up
their mind to it, you can get about nowadays and no mistake."

"And you gave Miss Grant the postal order all right, Mrs. Vokins?"
enquired Selina sharply.

"We haven't known each other all these years, Miss Butt," replied her
friend with elaborate haughtiness, "for you to have any need to ask me
_sech_ a question _now_."

"It was so kind of you, Selina, to think of that," said Jasmine, putting
out her hand to touch the yellow-faced housekeeper's arm. Selina blew
her nose violently, and then observed that a little quietness from
everybody would not come amiss.

It was not until the two Vokins had disappeared into the December night
and Selina had conducted Jasmine with the most elaborate caution along
the gloomy path known as the Tradesmen's Entrance and had seen her
safely seated by the kitchen fire that she allowed herself the luxury
of a complete explanation; and even then she broke off just when she had
gathered her skirts together before sitting down to observe that Jasmine
was looking very pale, and to ask if she was hungry.

"I haven't had any dinner," Jasmine explained.

"Well, there's nothing but muffins; but I suppose you wouldn't object to
muffins. If a Frenchman who isn't hungry can eat frogs and snails, you
can eat muffins when you are."

"I should love some muffins," said Jasmine, and she ate four while
Selina sat back and stared hard at her all the time. As soon as she had
finished, the narrative opened.

"Well, it's best to begin at the beginning, as they say, and when you
got into trouble over Her walking-stick, that there Pamela planted
herself down here. And now perhaps you'll understand why I said nothing
in front of Mrs. Vokins?"

Jasmine looked bewildered.

"Well, of course, she poisoned him. Oh, undoubtedly she poisoned him.
Well, I mean to say, people don't fall ill for nothing, do they?"

"Selina!" Jasmine gasped. "You're making the most dreadful accusation.
You really ought to be careful."

"That's what I am being. Careful. If I wasn't careful, I should have
gone and hollered it out in the streets, shouldn't I? But I know better.
Before I'd hollered it out once or twice I should have been asked to eat
my words, if you'll excuse the vulgar expression. And then where should
I have been?"

"Yes, but I don't think you ought to say things like that even to me.
After all...." Jasmine hesitated; she was debating indeed whether to say
'Miss Pamela' or 'Pamela.' If she used the former, she should seem to be
dissociating herself too much from Selina, which in view of having
accepted the loan of that money would be snobbish; and yet if she called
her simply 'Pamela' she should seem to be associating herself too
intimately with Selina, even perhaps to be endorsing the terrible
accusation, which was only one of Selina's ridiculous exaggerations, on
the level of her theory that the human race was without exception
damned. "After all," she had found the way to put it, "my cousin, you
see she _is_ my cousin."

"Well," Selina granted unwillingly, "if she didn't poison him with
arsenic, she poisoned his mind. The things she used to say at the
dinner-table! Well, I give you my word, I was in two twos once or twice
whether I wouldn't bang her on the head with the cover of the potato
dish. I give you my word, it was itching in my hand. Nasty sneering way
of talking! I don't know where people who calls theirselves ladies learn
such manners. And no sooner had that there Pamela gone than that there
Lettice appeared. Lettice, indeed! There's not much green about her.
Anyone more cunning I've never seen. Nasty insinuendos, enough to make
anyone sick! Small wonder the poor old gentleman had no appetite for his
food! And of course she attempted to set him against me. Well, on one
occasion he akcherly used language to me which I give you my word if
he'd of been a day younger I wouldn't have stood it. Language I should
be sorry to use to a convick myself. Well, there have been times when
I've wondered if the Lord wasn't a little bit too particular. You know
what I mean, a little too dictatorial and old-fashioned. But I give you
my word since I've had two months of them I sympathize with Him. Yes, I
sympathize with Him! And if I was Him, I'd do the same thing. Well, I
never expected to enjoy looking down out of Heaven at a lot of poor
souls burning; but if this goes on much longer, I shall begin to think
that it's one of the glories of Paradise. I could watch the whole lot of
them burning by the hour. And that's not the worst I've told you. Even
if they didn't akcherly poison him, they're glad he's ill, and I
wouldn't mind who heard me say that. I'd go and shout out that this very
moment in Piccadilly Circus. And their mother! Nosey, nasty,
stuck-up--well, it's no use sitting here and talking about what they
are. What we've got to do is to spoil their little game. If I go up to
see if he wants anything, I get ordered out of the room like the dirt
beneath their feet. 'We've got to be very careful,' says that smarmy
doctor they've got in to annoy me. 'Very careful.' says I, looking at
him very meaning. 'Terrible to hear anyone suffer like that,' he says.
'Yes, it is terrible,' says I. 'And the terrible thing is,' he says,
'that however much one wants to alleviorate the pain, we daren't do it.
And whyever won't he come out of that dreadful little room,' he says,
'when there's all those nice bedrooms lying empty?' 'You let him be
where he is,' I said, 'it's his house, isn't it?' And then, before I
could stop them, they started lifting the box mattress and trying to
move him out of the bathroom. And the way he screamed and carried on, it
was something shocking to hear him! And I know the reason perfectly
well. Underneath the mattress _in_ the bath he keeps his coffin. Many's
the time he's congratulated himself to me on getting that coffin so
cheap. 'It's oak, Selina,' he used to say, 'and I got it cheap for a
misfit, and it fills up the bath a treat.' Well, it stands to reason,
doesn't it, that now of all times he wants to keep it handy? 'No deal
coffins for me, Selina,' he used to say. Besides, it's my belief he's
got his will inside of that coffin. Depend upon it, he's got his own
reasons for not wishing to be moved. So I stood in the doorway, and I
said very fierce: 'If you want to move him, you'll have to move me
first.' And then it came over me all of a sudden that if I got you back
here to help we might be able to do something both together."

In spite of Selina's marvels and exaggerations and absurd
misconstructions, her tale convinced Jasmine of Uncle Matthew's hatred
of being taken charge of by the Hector Grants. Naturally she sympathized
with his point of view on this matter. To be helpless in the hands of
the Hector Grants struck her as a punishment far in excess of anything
that the old gentleman deserved. She did not feel that it was her duty
to interfere in the slightest degree with the normal process of his
will, but she did feel that she had a right if he were not comfortable
to protest her own anxiety to look after him, even more, to insist upon
looking after him. She supposed that her Aunt May would attribute the
lowest motives to this intention; Aunt May, however, always attributed
low motives to everybody, and the lowest motives of all to her niece.

"Well?" asked Selina sharply when Jasmine did not offer any remarks upon
her tale.

"I'm sorry," said Jasmine, pulling herself together. "I was wondering
what excuse I should be able to give my aunt for seeming to interfere."

"Excuse?" Selina repeated angrily. "No excuse is needed, I assure you,
for putting yourself forward on his behalf, as you might say. What he
requires is looking after. What he's getting is nothing of the kind."

At that moment a scream rang through the house. Jasmine looked at Selina
in horror.

"What did I tell you?" the housekeeper demanded triumphantly. "I told
you he carried on something awful, and you wouldn't believe me. It's a
wonder he hasn't started in screaming before. I've never known him quiet
for so long at a stretch. Bloodcurdling, I call it. You often read of
bloodcurdling screams. Now you can hear them for yourself. There he goes
again."

And it really was bloodcurdling to hear from that old man's room what
sounded like the shrieks of a passionate, frightened, tortured child. It
had the effect of rousing Jasmine to an immediate encounter with her
aunt, an encounter to brace herself up to which, until she had heard
Uncle Matthew scream, had been growing more and more difficult with
every moment of delay. Now she sprang out of her chair and hurried up
the wide central staircase, past the countless figures in the pictures
that stared at her when she passed like a frightened crowd. She ran too
quickly for Selina to keep up with her, and when she turned down into
the passage at the end of which was her uncle's little room, she beheld
what, without the real agony and pain at the back of it, would have been
a merely grotesque sight. The box-mattress on which Uncle Matthew was
lying was half-way through the door of his bedroom, carried by two men
of respectful and sober appearance whom she recognized as two male
nurses that she had once seen on the steps of Sir Hector's house in
Harley Street arming an old man with a shaven head into a brougham. The
old man's eyes had been wild and tragic, and their wildness and tragedy
had been rendered more conspicuous to Jasmine by the very respect with
which the attendants treated him and the very sobriety of their manner
and appearance; to such an extent indeed that the personalities of the
two men, if two such colourless individuals could be allowed to possess
personality, had been tinged, or rather not so much tinged as glazed
over, with a sinister aura. So now when she saw them for the second
time, struggling in the doorway while her uncle held fast to the frame
and tried to prevent the bed's being carried out, she had a swift and
sickening sensation of horror. She was hurrying down the passage to
protest against the old gentleman's being moved against his will, when
her aunt emerged from one of the nearer bedrooms and stood before her.

"What are you doing to Uncle Matthew?" demanded Jasmine furiously, not
pausing to explain her own presence. She had a moment's satisfaction in
perceiving that Lady Grant was obviously taken aback at seeing her
there; but her aunt soon recovered herself sufficiently to reply with
her wonted coldness:

"It scarcely seems to concern you, my dear; and may I enquire in my turn
what _you_ are doing _here_?"

"Oh, you needn't think you can put me off like that," Jasmine went on
apace. "I've left Silchester, and I'm going to stay here until Uncle
Matthew is better, and I'll answer no questions until he is better."

"Indeed? That will be for your uncle and me to decide."

"Oh no, it won't. You're not my guardians. You weren't appointed my
guardians, and you've got no say in the matter at all. If Uncle Matthew
doesn't want to be taken out of his own room, why should he be, when
he's ill?"

Another person now appeared, a sleek, pale, old young man, whom Jasmine
recognized from Selina's allusion as the 'smarmy' doctor. She took
advantage of his presence to run past her aunt and speak to the old
gentleman, who was so much occupied in holding on to the frame of the
door that he was apparently unconscious of his niece's arrival.

"If you please, miss," said one of the nurses, "you'd better not excite
the patient just now."

Jasmine paid no attention to this advice, but knelt down and with all
the force she could achieve kept on calling out to know what Uncle
Matthew wanted, until at last the old gentleman was induced to recognize
her. He was evidently pleased at her arrival, so much pleased that he
offered her his hand in greeting, a gesture which cost him his hold on
the frame of the door. The male nurses were quick to take advantage of
this, and while Jasmine was still on her knees, they hurried him along
the passage and vanished through the door from which Lady Grant had just
emerged. Jasmine realized that her interference had only succeeded in
helping the other side, and in a mist of mortification and self-reproach
she followed the bed into the room prepared to receive the sick man. She
was bound to admit to herself that the room was well chosen and
admirably prepared. Yet she knew that the more careful the preparations,
the more acutely would they aggravate her uncle's discomfort. The fire
burning lavishly in the grate, the flowers blooming wastefully on the
table, the sick room's glittering equipment, they would seem to him
detestable extravagances which in his feeble condition he was powerless
to prevent. As soon as Uncle Matthew was safely out of his little
bath-bedroom, Lady Grant locked the door and put the key in her bag; but
Selina arrived on the scene in time for this action by her ladyship, to
whom she proceeded to give, or rather at whom she proceeded to throw a
piece of her mind. When the housekeeper paused for breath, her ladyship
merely said coldly that if she did not behave herself, she would find
herself and her boxes in the street.

"This kind of thing has been going on long enough," Lady Grant
proclaimed to the world. "It was time for his relations to interfere."

Jasmine, when she made an effort to consider the situation calmly, could
not help acknowledging that by that world to which she had appealed all
the right and all the reason would be awarded to her aunt. An abusive
housekeeper trying to interfere between doctor and patient would stand
little chance of obtaining even a hearing for her point of view,
especially when that doctor was Sir Hector Grant. Moreover, she began to
ask herself, might not Selina have merely got a bee buzzing in her
bonnet about interference for the sake of interference? Had not her own
judgment been wrought up by Selina's mysterious way of summoning her to
Rouncivell Lodge and by the stifling atmosphere that enwrapped it to
imagining what was, after all, looked at sanely, a melodramatic and
improbable situation? One thing she was determined to do, however, and
that was to stay in the house herself, not for any purpose connected
with wills concealed in coffins under beds, but simply in order to be
able to devote herself to Uncle Matthew's comfort. If her aunt really
was trying to manipulate the old gentleman's end--and of course the idea
was absurd--but if she were, she would find her niece's presence an
obstacle to the success of her schemes, and if her wicked intentions
were nothing more than the creation of Selina's highflown fancy....
Jasmine broke off her thoughts and went back to her uncle's new room,
where, pulling up a chair beside his bed, she took his hand and asked if
he did not feel a little better. The effort he had made to resist
removal had exhausted him, and he was lying on the box-mattress
breathing so faintly and looking so pale that she rose again in alarm to
call the doctor, who was talking to Lady Grant outside. She had not
moved a step from the bed before Uncle Matthew called to her in a weak
voice, a voice, however, that still retained the accent of command, and
bade her sit down again. It was at least a satisfaction to feel that he
had grasped the fact of her presence and that he was evidently anxious
to keep her by his side. Presently, when the respectful and sober male
nurses had respectfully and soberly left the house, like two plumbers
who had accomplished their job, the doctor came back to ask softly if
Mr. Rouncivell could not bring himself to change his bed as well as his
room. The old gentleman made no further opposition, but allowed himself
to be lifted down from the box-mattress and tucked up in the big
four-poster, after which the box-mattress, upon which he had slept for
so many years in his bath, was carried away. Jasmine was now alone with
him, and he beckoned her to lean over to catch what she feared might be
his last whisper.

She was unnecessarily nervous.

"They think I'm going to die," he chuckled. "But I'm not. Ha! Ha!"

Five minutes afterward he was peacefully sleeping.

Downstairs Jasmine was allowed the pleasure of thoroughly and
extensively defying her aunt. Nothing that Lady Grant said could make
her flinch from her avowed determination not to leave Rouncivell Lodge
until her uncle was definitely better. Only when she was satisfied on
this point would she agree to go wherever she was sent. She even took a
delight in drawing such a heightened picture of the affair with Edward
and Harry Vibart at the Deanery as to call down upon her the epithet
'shameless.' She announced that if after she had visited Uncle Alec and
Aunt Mildred she found that she did not get on better with them than
with the rest of her relations, she should somehow borrow the money to
return to Sirene, whence nothing should induce her ever to return to
England.

"It occurs to me," said Lady Grant, "that you are trying to be
impertinent."

"I don't care what occurs to you," Jasmine retorted. "I am simply
telling you what I intend to do. I've got a kind of fondness for Uncle
Matthew--not a very deep fondness, but a kind of fondness--and although
you think me so heartless, I really am anxious about him, and I really
should like to stay here until he's better."

It must have been difficult for Lady Grant to refrain from giving
expression to the implication that was on the tip of her tongue; but she
did refrain, and Jasmine could not help admiring her for doing so.
However, she was determined to provoke a discussion about that very
implication, and of her own accord she assured her aunt that she need be
under no apprehension over Uncle Matthew's money, because she had no
intention of trying to influence him in any way whatever.

"Impudent little wretch!" Aunt May gasped. And Jasmine gloried in her
ability to have wrung from that cold and well-mannered woman such a
betrayal of her radical femininity.

Jasmine did not expect to have the house to herself; nevertheless, in
spite of continual visits from Lettice and Pamela, from Aunt Cuckoo and
Aunt Ellen--the last-named greeting Jasmine as an abbess might greet a
runaway nun--most of Uncle Matthew's entertainment fell upon her
shoulders. This was not that the others did not take their turn at the
bedside, but when they did, the old gentleman always pretended to be
asleep, whereas with Jasmine he was conversational, much more
conversational, indeed, than he had ever been when he was well. One day
she felt that she really was forgiven when he asked her to go down to
the hall and bring up his collection of sticks, all of which in turn he
looked at and stroked and fondled; after this he made Jasmine put down
in pencil the cost of each one, add up the sum, divide it by the number
of sticks, and establish the average cost of each. When he had
established the average cost, all the sticks that had cost more he made
her put on one side, and all the sticks that had cost less on the other.
After the sticks were classified, she was told to fetch various pieces
of bric-à-brac on which he was anxious to gloat, as a convalescent child
gloats over his long-neglected toys; finally one afternoon the
musical-box was brought up, and the whole of its twelve tunes played
through twice over.

Next morning he announced that he should get up.

"Oh no, I'm not dead yet," he said. "And, after all, why should I be?
I'm only seventy-six. I've got a lot more years to live before I die."

Since the old gentleman had been out of danger, Selina had ceased to
worry; but she still insisted that his will was in the coffin, and that
time would prove her words true one of these days.

"Depend upon it," she told Jasmine, "they meant him to die without
leaving any will at all. They meant him to die untested. Oh yes, that's
what they meant him to do, and her ladyship--though why she should call
herself a ladyship any more than Mrs. Vokins is beyond me, and I've
known many real ladyships in my time--oh yes, her ladyship had worked it
all out. She knew she couldn't expect to get it all, the cunning Isaacs.
So she thought she'd have it divided amongst the lot, thinking as half a
loaf's better than no bread. You'd have been a loser and I'd have been
a loser by that game. And depend upon it the old gentleman saw through
her, and made up his mind he would not die. Oh dear, if he'd only make
up his mind to get salvation, there's no reason why he should worry
about anything at all. No reason whatever. Think how nice it would be if
we could all meet in Heaven one day and talk over all this. Oh, wouldn't
it be nice? Think of the lovely weather they must always get in Heaven.
I suppose we should be sitting about out of doors half the time. Or
that's my notion anyway. But you and he won't be there, so what's the
use in making plans to meet?"



_Chapter Ten_


Jasmine was not even yet cynical enough to keep herself from feeling
hurt when Uncle Matthew on his recovery did not press her to stay on
with him at Rouncivell Lodge, and, what was even more pointed, did not
suggest that she might accompany him to Bournemouth, where in accordance
with the prescription of Sir Hector Grant he was to regain all the
vigour possible for a man of his age to enjoy. The Hector Grants, in
their eagerness to help the old gentleman's convalescence, had taken a
furnished house among the pines, the superb situation of which, with a
great show of deference and affection, he had been invited to enjoy.
Perhaps the old gentleman, who had been for several weeks the unwilling
host of so many anxious relations, wanted to get back some of the
expenses of hospitality. Jasmine thought that he owed as much to her
devotion as to insist on her company; Uncle Matthew, however, did not
appear sensible of any obligation, and he accepted Lettice and Pamela as
his companions for alternate weeks without a murmur on behalf of
Jasmine. Lettice and Pamela themselves were furious. They would have
much preferred to sacrifice any prospects in Uncle Matthew's will to the
dances of the autumn season; nor were they appeased by their mother's
suggestion that separation from each other for a time might lead to many
offers of marriage from young men who had hitherto been perplexed by the
difficulty of choosing between them.

"I suppose you want me to go and stay with Uncle Alec and Aunt Mildred?"
Jasmine asked one day when Lady Grant was demanding from the world at
large what was the wisest thing to do with Jasmine and when Cousin Edith
was apparently sunk in too profound an abyss of incertitude to be able
to reply for the world at large.

"Why should you suppose that?" Lady Grant enquired gently.

"Well, they're the only relatives left to whom I haven't been passed
on," said Jasmine. She was still able to hold her own against Aunt May
in the bandying of words; but the failure of Uncle Matthew to appreciate
her services had been fatal to any advance toward a real independence,
and she was already beginning to wonder if it was worth while being rude
to Aunt May, and if she might not be more profitably occupied in ousting
Cousin Edith and securing for herself Cousin Edith's humiliating but
superficially comfortable position in the household at Harley Street.

"What curious expressions you do employ, Jasmine. When I was your age, I
should never have dreamed of employing such expressions. But then in my
young days we were taught manners."

"And deportment," Cousin Edith added. "Don't you remember, Cousin May,
how strict about that the Miss Watneys used to be in the dear old days
at school?"

But Lady Grant did not wish to remember that she was once at school with
Cousin Edith, and in order to snub Cousin Edith she had to forgo the
pleasure of lecturing Jasmine upon her curious use of verbs.

"It is quite a coincidence," she went on, "that you should mention Uncle
Alec and Aunt Mildred, because only this morning I received an
invitation for you to go and stay with them at Curtain Wells. The
trouble is that since the unfortunate affair at your Aunt Ellen's I
feel some responsibility for your behaviour. Uncle Alec and Aunt Mildred
are very strict about the Prince. They have to be. And inasmuch as one
of the reasons for entrusting him to them was the advantage of being
given Uncle Hector's particular attention, really I don't know...."

At this moment Sir Hector himself came into the room, and his wife broke
off to ask him what he thought.

"What do you think, my dear, about this proposed visit to Alec and
Mildred? Could you recommend Jasmine in the circumstances? I know that
in many ways she might make herself very useful. You must learn ludo,
Jasmine, if we let you go. The Prince is very fond of ludo. But----"
Lady Grant paused, and Jasmine, who did not at all want to entertain the
royal lunatic, hurriedly suggested that she should go and live with
Selina at Rouncivell Lodge while Uncle Matthew was recuperating at
Bournemouth.

"What extraordinary notions you do get hold of," her aunt declared.

"Extraordinary!" Cousin Edith echoed.

Both ladies looked at Sir Hector as if they supposed that he would at
once certify his niece insane after such a remark. He did not seem to
find the notion so extraordinary, and his wife went on hurriedly, for
she was realizing that Jasmine's suggestion of living with Selina
attracted her husband.

"I'm inclined to think that Selina will not stay long at Rouncivell
Lodge," she said. "After her behaviour during poor old Uncle Matthew's
illness you may be sure that she will receive no help from me. Frankly,
I shall do my best to persuade Uncle Matthew that she is an unsuitable
person."

How glad Jasmine would have been to retort with a sarcastic remark
about Aunt May's behaviour! But she could not; she was falling back into
complete dependency; she would soon begin to wither, and she gazed at
Cousin Edith as if she were a Memento Mori, a skeleton whose fingers
pointed warningly at the future.

"Anyway," said Jasmine to herself when she took her seat in the train at
Paddington, "this is the last lot. And if they're worse than the others
it won't be so bad to come back to Harley Street."

Colonel Alexander Grant was and always had been outwardly the most
distinguished of the Grants. He had escaped the excessive angularity of
his elder brothers, and although he was much better looking than Sholto,
Jasmine's father, there was between them a family likeness, by which
Jasmine was less moved than she felt she ought to be. In fact, the
amount she had lately had to endure of family duties, family influence,
family sensibilities, had made her chary of seeming to ascribe any
importance at all even to her own father so far as he was a relation.
The Colonel, in addition to being an outwardly distinguished officer in
a Highland regiment of repute, had married one of the daughters of old
Sir Frederick Willoughby, who was Minister at the Court of the Grand
Duke of Pomerania at the time when Captain Grant, as he then was, found
himself in Pomerania on matters connected with his profession. He had
not been married long when the Boer War broke out, his success in which
as an intelligence officer put into his head the idea of becoming a
military attaché, an ambition that with the help of his father-in-law,
then Ambassador at Rome, he was able to achieve.

His wife may not have brought him as much money as the wives of Hector
and Eneas, but she brought him quite enough to sustain without
financial worries the semi-political, semi-military positions that he
found so congenial, and through his success in which, coupled with his
double relationship to Sir Frederick Willoughby and Sir Hector Grant, he
was given the guardianship of the lunatic Prince Adalbert of Pomerania.

Enough pretence of state was kept up at 23, The Crescent, Curtain Wells,
to make the Colonel and his wife feel their own importance. He had the
Distinguished Service Order, could still reasonably turn the pages of
the _London Gazette_ two or three times a year with a good chance of
finding himself with the C.M.G., and had not yet quite given up hope of
the Bath. He had picked up in Rome the Crown of Italy, in Madrid the
Order of Isabella the Catholic, while from Pomerania he had received the
cordon of St. Wenceslaus, and the third class of the Order of the Black
Griffin (with Claws). His responsibility for the younger son of a royal
house gave him in Curtain Wells, after the Mayor, the Member, and the
Master of Ceremonies at the Pump Room, the most conspicuous position
among his fellow-townsmen, and when the barouche which by the terms of
the guardianship had to be maintained for His Serene Highness made a
splendid progress past the arcades and along the dignified streets of
the old watering-place, Colonel Grant, observing the respectful glances
of the citizens, felt that his career had been a success.

Aunt Mildred, even as a girl, had been considered eccentric for a
Willoughby; her marriage with a soldier of fortune had done nothing to
cure this reputation; association with Prince Adalbert had done a great
deal to develop it. To this eccentricity was added a strong squint.

Military attachés are notorious for the cynical way in which they
sacrifice everybody to their careers, and it might be argued in favour
of Colonel Grant that he had sacrificed himself as cynically as any of
his friends.

Jasmine's visit opened inauspiciously, because by mistake she travelled
down to Curtain Wells by an earlier train than the one to which she had
been recommended by her aunt; she therefore arrived at The Crescent
about two o'clock without having been met at the station. When her aunt
came to greet her in the drawing-room, Jasmine had an impression that
she was still eating, and apologized for interrupting her lunch.

"Lunch?" repeated Aunt Mildred, still making these curious sounds of
eating. "We finished lunch at twelve, and we dine at four." The sound of
eating continued, and made Jasmine so shy that she was speechless until
she suddenly realized that what she had mistaken for incomplete
mastication was merely the automatic play of Aunt Mildred's muscles on a
loosely fitting set of false teeth. Mrs. Alexander Grant, unaware that
she was making this noise, did not pay any attention to her niece's want
of tact; but Jasmine was so much embarrassed that she evidently did not
make a favourable first impression.

The spacious Georgian proportions of the drawing-room at 23, The
Crescent, were destroyed by a mass of marquetry furniture,
antimacassars, and photographs in plush and silver frames of royal
personages, the last of which gave the room an unreal and uninhabited
appearance like the private parlour of a public-house where respectable
groups of excursionists take tea on Sunday afternoon; for these people
with ridiculous coiffures and costumes, signing themselves Albertina or
Frederica or Adolphus, were as little credible as a publican's
relatives.

However, Jasmine was too anxious about her presentation to His Serene
Highness to notice anything very much, and if she had offended her aunt
by arriving too soon or by not knowing the time for dinner, she made up
for it by asking how she was to address the Prince. This was a topic on
which her aunt obviously liked to expatiate, and she was delighted to be
asked to instruct Jasmine how to curtsey, and to inform her that he was
always addressed as 'Sir' in the English manner, because his mother, the
Grand Duchess, had expressed a wish that the more formal German mode of
salutation should be dispensed with in order to provide a suitable
atmosphere of simplicity for the simple soul of her youngest son.

"Is he very mad?" asked Jasmine.

"Good heavens, child," her aunt gasped, "I beg you will not use that
word here. Mad? He's not mad at all."

At that moment the door opened to admit a diminutive figure in livery.
Jasmine was just going to curtsey under the impression that it was the
Prince, when she heard her aunt say, "What is it now, Snelson?" in time
to realize that it was the butler.

"His Serene Highness is being rather troublesome, madam," said Snelson.

"Oh? What is the matter?"

"Well, madam, when he got up this morning he would put on his evening
dress, and now he wants to go for a drive in evening dress."

"Why, Snelson?"

"I think he wants to go to the theatre again. He enjoyed himself very
much last night. Quite a pleasure to hear him chuckling when he got
home. I told him if he was a good boy he should go again next week, but
he went and lost his temper, and now he's gone and thrown all his
lounge suits into the area. The maids are picking them up as fast as
they can. Perhaps you could come up and speak to him, madam? He's got it
into his head I'm trying to keep him from the theatre."

"Such a boy!" sighed Aunt Mildred, and her intense squint gave Jasmine a
momentary illusion that she was referring to Snelson. "Such a boy! You
see what a boy he is. He's as interested in life as a sparrow. _You're_
going to be devoted to him, of course. You'll rave about him."

Jasmine was wondering why this was so certain, when one of the maids
came in to say that it was not a bit of good her collecting His Serene
Highness's clothes, because as fast as they were collected, he was
throwing them out of the window again.

"And he's started screaming," added the maid.

"Snelson, you ought never to have left him," Aunt Mildred said severely.
"You ought to have known he would start screaming. You should have sent
for me to come up."

"I've locked him in his room, madam."

"Yes, and you know that always makes him scream. He hates being locked
in his room."

Aunt Mildred went away with Snelson, and Jasmine was left to herself,
until Uncle Alexander came in and got over the awkwardness of avuncular
greetings by asking her what all the fuss was about. She told him about
the Prince's throwing his clothes out of the window, which her uncle
attributed to excitement over her visit.

"No, I don't think it's that," said Jasmine. "I think he wants to go to
the theatre again."

"Oh no, he's excited about your visit. You must humour him. Very nice
fellow really. Very nice chap. And as sane as you or me if you take him
the right way. I think Snelson irritates him. If he wants to put on
evening dress, why shouldn't he put on evening dress? So silly to thwart
him about a little thing like that. I can always manage him perfectly
well. I spoke to my brother Hector about it, and he agreed with me that
there are only two ways to deal with lunatics ... with patients, I mean
... either to give way to them in everything or to give way to them in
nothing."

Jasmine thought this sounded excellent if ambiguous advice.

"Now I humour him," said the Colonel. "The other day he heard some
tactless people talking about electric shocks, and he got it into his
head that he couldn't touch anything without getting an electric shock.
Well, you can imagine what a nuisance that was to everybody. What did I
do? I humoured him. I put a saucer on his head and told him he was
insulated, and he went about carrying that saucer on his head for a week
as happy as he could be. He's forgotten all about electricity now. Take
my advice: humour him." At this point Snelson came down again.

"If you please, sir, Mrs. Grant says His Highness insists on wearing his
evening dress."

"Well, let him wear his evening dress, damme, let him wear it," the
Colonel shouted. "Let him wear it. Let him wear his pyjamas if he wants
to wear his pyjamas."

"Very good, sir," said Snelson in an injured voice as he retired.

A few minutes later the subject of all this discussion appeared in the
drawing-room.

Prince Adalbert Victor Augustus of Pomerania was a tall and very thin
young man, though on account of his habit of walking with a furtive
crouch he did not give an impression of height. He had a sparse beard,
the hairs of which seemed to wave about upon his chin like weeds in the
stream of a river. This beard did not add the least dignity to his
countenance, but he was allowed to keep it because it was considered
unsafe to trust him with a razor, and he would never allow Snelson to
shave him. He walked round an ordinary room as if he were crossing a
narrow and dangerous Alpine pass, and he would never let go his hold of
any piece of furniture until he was able to grasp the next piece along
the route of his progress. Owing to this way of moving about, Jasmine,
when he first came into the room, thought he was going to attack her.
She supposed that it would be discourteous to watch him all the way
round the room, and she could not help feeling nervous when she heard
him behind her. Mrs. Grant, perhaps because she was nearly as idiotic as
the Prince himself, assumed the airs of a mother with him, and always
addressed him as Bertie.

"Now, Bertie, be a good boy," she said, "and come and shake hands with
my niece. You've heard all about her. This is little Miss Jasmine."

The Prince suddenly released the piece of furniture he was holding, and
just as some child makes up its mind to venture upon a crucial dash in a
game like Puss-in-the-corner, he rushed up to Jasmine, and after
muttering "I like you very much, thank you, little Miss Jasmine," he at
once rushed back to his piece of furniture so rapidly that Jasmine had
no time to curtsey. She was not yet used to the direction of her aunt's
eyes, and now observing that they were apparently fixed upon herself in
disapproval, she began her obeisance. The Prince evidently liked her
curtsey, for he began curtseying too, until the Colonel said in a sharp
whisper: "For goodness' sake don't excite him. The one thing we try to
avoid is exciting him with unnecessary ceremony." So evidently her aunt
had not been looking at her, and this was presently obvious, because
while she was telling Snelson to order the barouche, her eyes were still
fixed on Jasmine.

"Are you coming for a drive, dear?" she asked her husband. "It was quite
sunny this morning when I woke up."

The Colonel shook his head.

"And now, Bertie," she went on, "be a good boy and put on your other
suit."

"I want to go to the theatre," the Prince argued.

"Well, you shall go to the theatre to-night."

"I want to go now," the Prince persisted.

"Now come along, your Serene Highness," said Snelson. "Try and not give
so much trouble, there's a good chap. You can go to the theatre
to-night."

However, the Prince did not go to the theatre that night, for after a
stately drive through Curtain Wells, from which Jasmine on the grounds
of untidiness after a journey excused herself, they sat down to play
bridge after dinner. Jasmine did not know how to play bridge. Her uncle
told her that her ignorance of the game did not matter, because she
could always be dummy, the Prince also being perpetual dummy. Even as a
dummy, the Prince wasted a good deal of time, because he had to be
allowed to play the cards that were called for, and it took him a long
time to distinguish between suits, let alone between court cards and
common cards. He had a habit, too, of suddenly throwing all his cards up
into the air, so that Snelson was kept in the room to spend much of his
time in routing about on the floor for the cards that his royal master
had flung down. The Prince had other obstructive habits, like suddenly
getting up in order to shake hands with everybody in turn, which, as
Mrs. Grant said, expressed his delightful nature, although it rather
interfered with the progress of the game.

When the Colonel, with Jasmine as his dummy partner, had beaten his wife
and the Prince, he became jovial, and there being still half an hour
before the Prince had to compose his excitement prior to going to bed, a
game of ludo was suggested. This would have been a better game if Prince
Adalbert had not wanted to change the colour of his counters all the
time, which made it difficult to know who was winning, and impossible to
say who had really won. The Colonel, after humouring him in the first
game, grew interested in a big lead he had established with Red in the
second game and objected to the Prince's desire to change him into
Green. It was in vain that Jasmine and her aunt offered him Yellow or
Blue: he was determined to have Red, and when the Colonel declined to
surrender his lead, the Prince decided that the game was tiddly-winks,
which caused it to break up in confusion.

Prince Adalbert was really too idiotic to be bearable for long. Living
in the same house with him was like living on terms of equality with a
spoilt monkey. There were times, of course, when his intelligence
approximated to human intelligence, one expression of which was a
passion for collecting. It began by his going down to the kitchen when
the servants were occupied elsewhere and collecting the material and
utensils for the preparation of dinner. Not much damage was done on this
occasion, except that the unbaked portion of a Yorkshire pudding was
concealed in the piano. On another occasion he collected all Jasmine's
clothes and hid them under his bed. Aunt Mildred evinced a tendency to
blame Jasmine for this, even going so far as to suggest that she had
encouraged him to collect her clothes, though in what way this
encouragement was deduced except from Jasmine's usual untidiness was
not made clear. Snelson was ordered to keep a sharper look out on his
master, as it was feared that from collecting inside the house, he might
begin to collect outside the house, which, as the Colonel said, would be
an intolerable bore. The passion for collecting was soon after this
exchanged for a desire to cohabit with owls, the Prince having observed
on one of his drives a tame owl in a wicker cage outside a small
fruiterer's shop. The owner of the bird was persuaded to part with it at
a price, and the Prince drove home in a state of perfect bliss with his
pet on the opposite seat.

"It's really lovely to watch him," said Aunt Mildred.

"Never known him so mad about anything as His Serene Highness is now
about owls," said Snelson. "He'll sit and talk to that owl by the hour
together."

The Prince's devotion to the bird occupied his mind so completely that
it was thought prudent to import two more owls in case anything should
happen to the particular one upon which he was lavishing such love. The
first owl remained his favourite, however, and it really did seem to
return his affection, in a negative kind of way, by never actually
biting the Prince, although it bit everybody else in the house. Jasmine
had no hesitation about encouraging him in this passion, because it kept
him so well occupied that bridge, ludo, and tiddly-winks were put on one
side, and the Prince himself no longer screamed when he had to go to
bed. In fact, he was only too anxious after dinner to get back to his
room in order to pass the evening saying, 'Tu-whit, tu-whoo!' to his
owls. Unfortunately there was begotten from this association an ambition
in the Prince's mind to become an owl himself, and when one evening the
Colonel found him with six feathers stuck in his hair, perched on the
rail of the bed and trying to eat a mouse he had caught, the owls were
banished. The Prince's desire to be an owl was not so easily disposed
of. For some time after his pets had disappeared he replied to all
questions with 'Tu-whit, tu-whoo!' and once when the Colonel impatiently
told him to behave himself like a human being, he rushed at him and bit
his finger.

"Who started him off in this ridiculous owl idea?" the Colonel demanded
of his wife irritably. "Nice thing if the Baron comes over to find out
how he's getting on, and finds that he believes himself to be an owl.
You know perfectly well that they don't really approve of his being
looked after in England, and I can't understand why Jasmine doesn't make
herself more pleasant to him. We all thought before she came that she
would be a recreation for him. It seems to me that he's much madder now
than he's ever been yet."

"Oh, hush, dear!" Aunt Mildred begged her husband, having vainly tried
with signs to fend off the threatened admission of the Prince's state of
mind.

But the Colonel's finger was hurting him acutely, and he would not agree
to keep up the pretence of the Prince's sanity.

"You can't expect me to go about pretending he's not mad. Why, the
people come out of the shops now in order to hear him calling out
'Tu-whit, tu-whoo!' as he drives past. Supposing he starts biting people
in the street? I really do think," he added, turning to Jasmine, "that
you might put yourself out a little bit to entertain him. Of course, if
he bites you, we shall have to do something about it, but I don't think
he will bite you."

Luckily the Prince's memory was not a strong one, and a week after the
owls had been banished, he had forgotten that such birds existed.

From envying the life and habits of an owl His Serene Highness passed on
to imitating Mrs. Alexander Grant's squint. This was an embarrassing
business, because evidently neither the Colonel nor Snelson liked to
correct him too obviously for fear of hurting Mrs. Grant's feelings. As
for her, either she did not notice that he was manipulating his eyes in
an unusual manner, or she supposed that he was paying her a compliment.
She was such a conceited and idiotic woman that she would have been
flattered even by such imitation. When he first began to squint across
the table at Jasmine, she supposed that it was an old habit of his
temporarily revived; but in the passage the next day Snelson came up to
her and asked if she had noticed anything wrong about His Serene
Highness's eyes. Jasmine suggested that he was squinting a little bit,
and Snelson replied: "It's those owls."

"I thought he had forgotten all about them."

"He's for ever now trying to make his eyes look like an owl's."

"Oh," said Jasmine doubtfully, "I hadn't realized that. I thought that
perhaps...." and then she stopped, for it could not be her place to
comment to the butler on his mistress's squint.

"You think he's trying to imitate the old lady?" asked Snelson in that
hoarse whisper that clung to his ordinary method of speech from his
manner of asking people at dinner what wine they would take. "Oh no, he
wouldn't ever imitate her. He might imitate you, though!"

"In what way?" asked Jasmine, rather alarmed.

"Oh, you never can tell," said Snelson. "He's that ingenious, he'd
imitate anybody. He started off imitating me once, and, of course,
through me not being very tall, I didn't quite like it. The Colonel
thought he was imitating a frog when he came into the room like me, and
if I hadn't been here so long, I should have left. I wish you'd take him
up a bit--you know, encourage him a bit, and all that. Time hangs very
heavy on his hands, poor chap. I got the cook's little nephew once to
come in and amuse him of an afternoon, but it was stopped. Etiquette you
know, and all that. Of course, etiquette's all very well in its way, and
I'm not going to say etiquette isn't necessary within bounds; but he
wants amusing. If you can bring him in a toy now and again when you go
out for a walk. I don't mean anything as looks as if it could be eaten,
because he'll start in right off on anything as looks as if it could be
eaten. But any little nice toy, not that small as he can get it right
into his mouth, and not that big as he can hurt himself with it."

Jasmine supposed that Snelson knew what he was talking about, and next
day she bought the Prince a small clockwork engine. He enjoyed this for
about two minutes; then he got angry with it and stamped on it; and when
Snelson told him to behave himself, he pulled Snelson's hair, upon which
the Colonel intervened and reproved Jasmine for exciting His Serene
Highness. The atmosphere at 23, The Crescent, began to get on Jasmine's
nerves. It seemed to her pitiable that for the sake of the honour of
being guardians of a royal imbecile her uncle and aunt should abandon
themselves to a mode of life that in her eyes was degrading. The long
dinners dragged themselves out in the November twilights, and though the
Prince ate so fast that if only he had been concerned dinner would have
been over in ten minutes, a pretence of ceremony was maintained, and
the endless courses must have put a strain on the china of the
establishment, for there used to be long waits, during which the Colonel
had a theory that His Serene Highness's moral stability would be
increased by twiddling his thumbs.

"You may have noticed," he used to say to Jasmine, "how much I insist on
his using his thumbs. You no doubt realize that the main difference
between men and monkeys is that we can use our thumbs. The Prince has a
tendency always to carry his thumbs inside his fingers. I'm sure that if
I could only get him to twiddle them long enough every day, it would be
of great benefit to his development."

After dinner the old round of double dummy bridge followed by ludo had
begun again, and though an attempt was made to vary the games by the
introduction of halma, halma had to be given up, because once when the
Colonel had succeeded in establishing an impregnable position, His
Serene Highness without any warning popped into his mouth the four
pieces that were holding that position.

Nor were the drives on fine mornings in the royal barouche much of a
diversion. Jasmine could not help feeling ashamed to be sitting opposite
His Serene Highness when he made one of his glibbering progresses
through Curtain Wells. It seemed to her that by accepting a seat which
marked her social inferiority she was endorsing the detestable servility
of the tradesmen who came out and fawned upon what was after all no
better than a royal ape. She felt that presently she should have to
break out--exactly in what way she did not know, but somehow, she was
sure. Otherwise she felt that the only alternative would be to become as
mad as the Prince himself. Indeed, so much did he get on her nerves that
she found herself imitating him once or twice in front of her glass,
and she began to realize that the proverbial danger of associating with
lunatics was not less great than it was reputed to be.

Then came the news that the mother of Prince Adalbert, the Grand Duchess
herself, proposed to pay a visit to England shortly, and, what was more,
intended to honour The Crescent, Curtain Wells, by staying in it one
whole night. This news carried Aunt Mildred to the zenith of
self-congratulation, at which height the prospect of the world at her
feet was suddenly obscured by a profound pessimism about the behaviour
of her household during the royal visit.

"She is travelling strictly incognito, and is not even to bring a
lady-in-waiting," she lamented.

"Incognita, my dear," corrected the Colonel, who had once added an extra
hundred pounds a year to his pay by proficiency in one European
language.

"I have it," cried Aunt Mildred, and in the pleasure of her inspiration
she squinted so hard that Jasmine for a moment thought she had something
far more serious than an inspiration. "I have it: you shall act as
parlourmaid when the Grand Duchess comes!"

"Me?" echoed the Colonel, who in the vigour of her declaration had
forgotten to allow for the squint. However much he owed to his wife for
advancement in his profession, he could not quite stand this.

"Not you, silly," she said, "Jasmine."

"What on earth is that going to effect?" he asked.

"Now don't be so hasty, Alec. You've always tried to snub my little
ideas. I am much more sensible than you think. And more sensible than
anybody thinks," she added. "Ada is an excellent parlourmaid, but she is
a nervous, highly strung girl, and I'm quite sure that the mere
prospect of entertaining the Grand Duchess...."

"But _she's_ not going to entertain the Grand Duchess," interrupted the
Colonel.

"Now please don't muddle me up with petty little distinctions between
one word and another," said Aunt Mildred. "You know perfectly well what
I mean. 'Look after' if you prefer it. Ada has never been trained to
look after royalty."

"Nor have I," Jasmine put in. "Snelson's the only person in this house
who has been trained to look after royalty."

"Jasmine, I'd rather you were not vulgar," said Aunt Mildred
reprovingly. "It's extraordinary the way girls nowadays don't respect
anything. If you and Uncle Alec would only wait a moment and not be so
ready both of you to pounce on me before I have finished what I was
going to say, you might have understood that the suggestion was made
partly because I appreciate your manners, partly because I have
travelled a great deal and don't find your little foreign ways so
irritating as your other relations did.... Where was I? If you and your
uncle _will_ argue with me, I can't be expected to plan things out as I
should like. Where was I, Alec?"

"I really don't know," said the Colonel almost bitterly. "All I know is
that Ada's a perfectly good parlourmaid fit to wait on anybody. If the
Grand Duchess comes without a lady-in-waiting, she comes without a
lady-in-waiting to please herself. Really, my dear, you give the
impression that you are unused to royalty."

To what state the hitherto tranquil married life of Colonel and Mrs.
Alexander Grant might have been reduced if the discussion about the
fitness of Jasmine to act as temporary parlourmaid during the Grand
Duchess's visit had gone on much longer, it would be hard to say. The
problem was solved, for Jasmine at any rate, by two telegrams arriving
within half an hour of one another, one from Aunt May to say that
Lettice and Pamela were both ill with scarlet fever, and another from
Aunt Cuckoo to say that her little son was ill without specifying the
complaint. Both telegrams concluded with the suggestion that Jasmine
should pack up at once and come to the rescue. Jasmine would have
preferred to go straight away to Aunt Cuckoo; but aware as she was of
Aunt Cuckoo's fickleness and knowing that, if she did go to Aunt Cuckoo
in preference to Aunt May, Aunt May would never forgive her, a prospect
that a short time ago she would not have minded, but which now she
rather dreaded, for since her visit to Curtain Wells she was feeling
afraid of the future, she tried to avoid making a decision for herself
by consulting Uncle Alec and Aunt Mildred. Both of them were sure that
she should go to Aunt May, and Aunt Mildred pointed out with what for
her was excellent logic: "Lettice and Pamela are both ill and they are
both her daughters, whereas this infant is not Aunt Cuckoo's son, and if
Aunt Cuckoo deliberately adopts sons she ought to be able to look after
them herself."

"In fact," the Colonel said, "I should not be surprised to receive a
telegram from Eneas asking _me_ to look after Aunt Cuckoo. Well, we
shall miss you here," he added; but Jasmine could see that he was really
very glad that she was going. Aunt Mildred too was evidently not sorry
to escape from the argument about the parlourmaid. Now she could go on
believing for the rest of her life that if Jasmine had stayed she would
have had her way and turned her into a temporary parlourmaid for the
benefit of the Grand Duchess.

The Prince, whose capacity for differentiating the various human
emotions was most indefinite, danced up and down with delight at hearing
that Jasmine was going away. Aunt Mildred tried to explain that he was
really dancing with sorrow; but it appeared presently that the Prince
had an idea that he was going away with her, and that he really had been
dancing with delight, his capacity for differentiating the human
emotions not being quite so indefinite as it was thought to be. When he
found that Jasmine was going away without him, he could not be pacified
until Snelson had got into a large clothes-basket, and pretended to be
something that Jasmine never knew. Whatever it was, the Prince was
reconciled to her departure, and the last she saw of him he was sitting
cross-legged in front of the clothes-basket with an expression on his
face of divine content. She thought to herself with a laugh as she drove
off that Snelson would probably spend many hours in the clothes-basket
during the next two or three weeks. In fact, he would probably spend
most of his time in that clothes-basket, until the Prince found another
pet upon which to lavish his admiration, or until he grew envious of
Snelson's lot and decided to occupy the clothes-basket himself.



_Chapter Eleven_


There is no doubt that if Lady Grant could have found the smallest
pretext for blaming her niece, she would have held her responsible for
the scarlet fever which had attacked her daughters. As it was, she had
to be content with dwelling upon the inconvenience of Jasmine's
succumbing to the malady.

"You so easily might catch it," she pointed out, "that I do hope you'll
bear in mind what a nuisance it would be for us all if you did catch it.
Of course, those who understand about these things may decide it would
be more prudent if you did not expose yourself to any risk by going to
visit the poor girls." Lady Grant could never miss an opportunity to
emphasize the mysterious and sacerdotal omniscience that belonged to the
profession of medicine. "Those who understand about these things will
tell us what we must do. But meanwhile, although I am only speaking as
an ignoramus in these matters, I should say that if you always
remembered to disinfect your clothes and all that sort of thing and were
very careful to follow the doctor's directions, there would be no danger
of your catching scarlet fever yourself. I need not tell you what a
terrible blow it was to me when I had to give my consent to their being
taken away from Harley Street to a nursing home. A terrible blow! But
your uncle felt that it would not be fair to his patients if they stayed
in the house. That's the worst of being a doctor. He has to think of
everybody. Poor dear children, and there's so little one can do! In fact
there's really nothing one can do except take the darlings grapes every
day."

The rules of the nursing home were more strict than Lady Grant had
expected, and, much to her indignation, permission to visit the patients
was denied to Jasmine, who thereupon suggested that, since she could not
be of any use in nursing her cousins, she ought to go and help Aunt
Cuckoo with the illness of her adopted son.

"And what about me?" demanded her aunt. "You seem to forget, my dear
child, and your Aunt Cuckoo seems to forget, that I have a slight claim
to consideration. As if the girls' illness was not enough, Cousin Edith
must needs go and carelessly visit some friend of hers at Enfield and
bring back with her a violent cold, so that what with her sniffling and
sneezing and snuffling it's quite impossible to stay in the same room
with her. So, at this moment of all others, I am left entirely at the
mercy of the servants, who after all have quite enough work of their own
to run the house properly, and really I'm afraid I cannot see why you
should go to Aunt Cuckoo."

It was thus that Jasmine found herself after what Aunt May now called
her adventures of the last eighteen months in that very position which
Aunt May had no doubt arranged in her mind when she first wrote and
insisted on her niece's leaving Sirene and coming to England. Cousin
Edith's cold, which Jasmine had to admit was one of the most aggressive,
the most persistent, the most maddening colds she had ever listened to,
was ascribed by Aunt May to the London climate in winter, and as soon as
Jasmine was fairly at work on her aunt's correspondence, Cousin Edith
was sent away to recuperate in Bognor, where it was generally understood
at 317, Harley Street she would remain for the rest of her life. If
anything more than the cold had been needed to confirm Aunt May in her
resolve to get rid of Cousin Edith, it was the death of Spot.

"So long as poor old Spot was alive," she said to Jasmine, "I never
liked to send poor Edith away. The poor old dog was very devoted to her,
and I'm bound to say that poor Edith with all her faults was very
devoted to dear old Spot. But Spot has gone now, and I don't feel
inclined to form fresh ties by getting a puppy. Puppies have to be
trained, and I very much doubt if Cousin Edith is capable of training a
puppy nowadays. She seems to have gone all to pieces since she caught
this cold. I told her at the time that I could not understand why she
wanted to make that long journey to Enfield. She came back on the
outside of the tram, you know. It's all so unnecessary."

Spot had died when the famous cold was at its worst, and the grief
Cousin Edith had tried to express was not more effective than a puddle
in a deluge. The body was sent to the Dogs' Cemetery, and through having
to represent Cousin Edith at the funeral Jasmine nearly caught a cold
herself. She did sneeze once or twice when she got home; but Aunt May
talked at such length about colds that Jasmine made up her mind that she
simply would not have a cold, and she actually succeeded in driving it
away, for which her aunt took all the credit.

The night before Cousin Edith left to recuperate at Bognor she invited
Jasmine up to her room, when Jasmine realized that the poor relation was
perfectly aware what a long convalescence hers was going to be, and
perfectly aware that her visit to the seaside would only be terminated
by her death.

"In many ways, of course," she said, "I shall enjoy Bognor, and in many
ways I shall probably be happier at Bognor than I have ever been here.
I quite understand that Cousin May requires somebody more active than
myself. She is a woman of immense energy, and when I look at her nose I
sometimes think that there may after all be something in character
reading by the face. I often meant to take it up seriously. I once
bought a book on physiognomy when I was a girl and gave readings at a
bazaar. I made quite a lot of money, I remember--sixteen shillings. It
was for a new set of bells for my uncle's church at Market Addleby. As
his curate said to me, very beautifully and poetically, I thought, when
I handed him the sixteen shillings: 'You will always be able to think,
Miss Crossfield'--my uncle never encouraged him to call us by our
Christian names on account of the parish--'always able to think every
time the new bells ring out for one of our great Church festivals, that
your little labour of love this afternoon and this evening has
contributed a melodious note to one of the most joyful chimes.' I
remember my uncle, who was a very jocular man for a clergyman, observed
when this was repeated to him that if I had only made a little more
money it might have been called Edith's five-pound note. I remember we
all laughed very much at this at the time. But as I was saying to you,
my dear ... let me see, what was I saying to you?... oh yes, I remember
now, I wanted to give you this little brooch which contains some of my
grandmother's hair when she was a baby. I've often noticed that you've
very few little mementoes; I noticed it because I haven't very many
myself. Now with regard to this room, which you will probably occupy
when I've gone, it really is a delightful room, in fact the only little
fault it has is that the bell doesn't ring. In some respects that is not
a bad fault, because no doubt the servants do not like answering bells
all the time, and I think I have been rather tactful in never once
suggesting that it should be mended. I'm only telling you this so that
you shall not go on ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing under
the impression that the bell is making the least sound. I remember it
was quite a long time before I found out that it was broken, and I
derived an impression at first that the servants were deliberately not
answering this particular bell. I shall miss poor old Spot very much,
but Hargreaves has a married sister whose cat has a very nice kitten
which she wants to give away, and her little boy is meeting me with it
in a basket at Victoria to-morrow. If you are ever down at Bognor at any
time, of course I shall be very glad to see you and give you a cup of
tea. My address will be 88, Seaview Terrace. You can see the sea from
the corner of the road, so you won't forget the name of the road. But
how will you remember the number? Of course, it's eleven times eight,
but you might forget that too."

"I'll write it down," said Jasmine brightly.

Cousin Edith looked dubious. "Of course, yes, to be sure you can do
that. But supposing you mislay the address?"

"Well, I don't think I shall ever forget eighty-eight," Jasmine affirmed
with conviction.

Cousin Edith had worn black ever since it was settled that she was to
leave Harley Street, or perhaps it was a tribute to the late Spot.
Jasmine, looking at her, thought that she resembled a daddy-longlegs
less nowadays and more one of those wintry flies that survive the first
frosts of autumn and spend their time walking up and down window panes
in an attempt to suggest that if the window were open they would be out
and about, delighting in the brisk wintry weather.

"Well, good-bye," Cousin Edith was saying. "I shall be in such
confusion to-morrow morning that I may not have time then to say
good-bye to you properly. I won't kiss you on the mouth because of my
cold. I wonder if you will be as sorry to leave 317, Harley Street as I
am, when _you_ have been here fifteen years."

Jasmine thought for a moment that Cousin Edith was being malicious and
sarcastic; but apparently she meant exactly what she had said.

The next day Jasmine moved into the vacant room, and if Cousin Edith's
mourning brooch had contained a lock of her own hair instead of a
grandmother's she would not have thought it inappropriate, for the
departure of the poor relation had impressed her mind like a death more
than a visit to the seaside.

It is hardly possible to picture anybody who lives between Baker Street
and Portland Road, however happy he may be, however much in love with
life he may feel, as able to maintain an attitude toward life more vital
than the exhibition of waxworks in the galleries of Madame Tussaud.
There were moments when Jasmine felt that the waxworks were the real
population of this district, and sometimes when in the late dusk or at
night she was walking down Harley Street or any of the neighbouring
streets she would receive a strong impression that all the houses were
serving like stage scenery to give nothing but an illusion of reality.
This morbid fancy might be justified by the fact that so many of the
houses actually were unoccupied at night, and that in the daytime they
were haunted not inhabited by figures in the world of medicine who by
the uniformity and convention of their gestures and observations had no
more life than waxworks. Moreover, passers-by in Harley Street and the
neighbourhood had among them such a large proportion of sick men and
women that even if one ignored the successive brass plates of the
doctors, their presence alone would be enough to cast a gloom on any
observer that happened to come into daily contact with such a procession
of afflicted individuals.

Jasmine's window, high up in the front of the house, never contributed
anything to the gaiety of her private meditations, and she used to think
that if a famous prisoner, he of Chillon or any other, had been invited
to change his outlook with her own, he would soon have begged to be put
back in his dungeon. Many human beings, ailing, miserable,
poverty-stricken, victims of misfortune or suppliants of fate, have
found in a window their salvation. Jasmine was not one of these. She
never seemed able to look out of her window without seeing some
hunched-up man or wrapped-up woman who was being helped up a flight of
steps, at the head of which the conventionally neat parlourmaid would
admit them to their doom; and she used to picture these patients when
the sleek doors closed behind them being greeted by the various doctors
in attitudes like those of the poisoners in the Chamber of Horrors.
There was one figure, that of Neil Cream, a gigantic man with a ragged
beard and glasses, who stood for her behind every door in Harley Street.
In fact, Jasmine was suffering now when she was twenty the kind of
nervous distortions of imagination and apprehension through which most
London children pass at about eight. And really, considering her
experiences in England since she arrived from Italy, so many of them had
to do with disease and death and madness that her morbid condition was
excusable. When she was staying with Uncle Alec and Aunt Mildred she had
been amused by Prince Adalbert, but now, looking back at that
experience, she began to feel frightened, just as when one sees a
ghost, one is more frightened when the ghost has vanished than when it
is actually present. Looking back now on Uncle Matthew's illness she was
again seized by a fear and repulsion which at the time had been merged
in indignation. Looking back on her visit to Aunt Cuckoo and Uncle
Eneas, the whole of it was now shrouded in an atmosphere of
unhealthiness; and looking back further still to her last memory of
Sirene, even that was blackened by the sorrow of her father's sudden
death. As for the house she was living in at the moment, her sensitive
mind could not fail to be affected by the thought that so many of the
people who passed along that spacious hall and waited round that sombre
table littered with old _Punches_ and _Tatlers_ and odd numbers of
unusual magazines were either mad or moving in the direction of madness.
Sir Hector Grant's waiting-room was probably one of the most oppressive
in Harley Street, because it had no window, but was lighted from above
by a green dome of glass, to Jasmine curiously symbolical of the kind of
imprisonment to which madness subjects the human soul. The absence of
Lettice and Pamela at the nursing home, although Jasmine had not the
slightest desire to see them or hear them ever again, added in its own
way to the general air of depression. When Lettice and Pamela were in
the house the sense of contact with the ordinary frivolities of the
world was never absent; but without them the house became nothing but a
cul-de-sac, a kind of condemned cell, so deep did it lie under the spell
of dreadful verdicts.

In addition to these influences that spoilt her leisure time, Jasmine's
work with her aunt did not encourage her to look upon the brighter side
of life. Those numerous charities were no doubt a pleasure and a pride
to their originator, but Jasmine, who lacked the sustenance of the
egotism that inspired them, was only impressed by the continuous
reminder they gave her of the world's misery. The Club for Tired
Sandwichmen was for Aunt May something upon which to congratulate
herself, an idea that had occurred to no other prominent philanthropist.
It was Jasmine's duty to harrow subscribers' feelings with details of
the private lives of sandwichmen in order to extract from them as much
as would help to maintain the three bleak rooms in a small street off
Leicester Square, where these wrecks and ruins of human endeavour could
take refuge from the rain and cold outside. Upon Lady Grant herself the
individual made not the least impression unless he came into the Club
drunk and broke one of the chairs, in which case she interested herself
sufficiently in his future to banish him from the paradise she had
created.

When Jasmine first again took up secretarial work for her aunt, she
wrote all the letters.

"But really I think I shall have to find you another typewriter," said
Aunt May after a week of this. "I always understood that
convent-educated girls were taught to write well; but your handwriting
resembles the marks made by a fly that has fallen into the ink-pot."

"I think I feel rather like a fly that has fallen into the ink-pot,"
said Jasmine.

Her aunt did not pay any attention to this retort; but a few days later
the new typewriter arrived, and it was conferred upon her as if it was a
motor-car for her own use.

"I really do think that with this beautiful new machine you might do
some of Sir Hector's work too," suggested Aunt May. "That is, if he can
be persuaded to send a typewritten letter."

Luckily for Jasmine Sir Hector's ideas of the courtesy owing from a
medical baronet did not allow him to do this. He continued to employ a
clerk with a copper-plate hand to send in his bills, so Jasmine was not
called upon to help him in any way.

"You will have a lot of time on your hands," Aunt May regretfully sighed
after her husband had declined the use of the typewriter for himself.
"Don't I remember your once saying that you sewed very well? That,
surely, they must have taught you at the convent. Cousin Edith used
sometimes to sew for me, and there is always her machine standing idle."

Perhaps Cousin Edith's ingratiating touch had spoilt that machine for
another. When Jasmine tried her hand on it, it behaved like an angry
dog, gathering up the piece of work, the hem of which it was being
invited to stitch, worrying it and pleating it and tearing pieces off it
and chewing up these pieces, until first the needle snapped and then
some of the mechanism made a noise like a half empty box of bricks. It
was plain that nothing more could be done with it.

"Ruined," declared Aunt May when she came upstairs to see how Jasmine
was getting on. "Well, I hope you'll take a little more trouble over the
flowers for the dinner-table to-night."

The only mechanical device that Jasmine could think of in connection
with flowers was a lawn-mower, so she felt safe in promising that the
dinner-table should present an appearance of a little more trouble
having been taken with it than with the piece of work in the
sewing-machine. These dinner parties were by no means the least
irritating products of her cousins' illness, which had struck Lady Grant
as an excellent opportunity for inviting all their most ineligible
acquaintances while her daughters were away; and Jasmine, who did not
enjoy even the pleasure of being able to choose between more than two
evening frocks, felt bored by these dreary men and women, for whose
existence she could not imagine any possible reason, let alone discover
a reason for asking them out to dinner. Two or three days before one of
these occasions Aunt May's invariable formula was that Jasmine was going
to be put next to a most interesting man, and always half an hour before
the gong sounded she would decide that she must take Mrs. So-and-so's or
Miss What's-her-name's place next to somebody who was not interesting at
all. She was used, in fact, by her aunt very much as umbrellas are used
to reserve seats in a train.

A month or five weeks passed thus, after which Lettice and Pamela
emerged from hospital, unable to talk of anything for several days
except the details of their peeling. It was now decided that they
required change of air, and the question of Jasmine's ability to look
after her uncle while his wife and daughters went to Mentone was debated
at some length.

"It would be such an opportunity for you to learn housekeeping," said
Aunt May. "And if you were a success, who knows, I might even let you
take entire charge of the house when I come back. I wonder...." She
hesitated, awe-struck by her vision of the future. "I don't want to move
Cousin Edith from Bognor. Her cold is quite well now, and it would be
such a pity to start her off with it again. And she's apt to irritate
your uncle in little things. Of course, he likes people to be attentive
to him; but he hates them to make a show of being attentive. And Cousin
Edith was always rather apt to make a show of being attentive. You won't
do that, will you, dear?"

Jasmine promised that she would not do that, and in the end she was left
with her uncle in charge of the house. She decided at once that the only
way to manage Hargreaves and Hopkins and the rest of the servants was to
make friends of them and become as it were one of themselves. On the
whole she rather liked this, and she found that down in the kitchen
below the level of Harley Street even Cook became a human figure. As for
Hopkins and Hargreaves, they were like butterflies emerging from those
two pupæ that waited on the other side of the baize door separating the
world below stairs from the world above.

Jasmine found that this communion with the servants was the only natural
way in which she could still associate with humanity, and in consequence
of it she found herself being more and more completely cut off every day
from the family with which she was living. Lady Grant would
unquestionably have condemned such society as degrading; but since
nothing was offered her in its place, Jasmine continued to frequent the
servants' company, and before many weeks had elapsed she had almost come
to regard her cousins, her aunt, and her uncle from the point of view of
the servants' hall, as eccentric beings living in a queer inaccessible
world. She used to think that she might just as well have been left
quietly in Sirene. Looking back on the motives for bringing her to
England, it was now clear to Jasmine that no real consideration for her
future had actuated any of her relatives. She did not mean to suggest to
herself that they had consciously or deliberately thought out a plan by
which she could be made useful to each in turn; but they all of them had
tried to make her useful, and she supposed that such an attempt was like
the instinct that leads a person to accept a useless ornament for a bad
debt rather than be left with nothing. They had probably all been
afraid that if she stayed in Sirene by herself, sooner or later some
scandal would supervene which would necessitate more trouble in the
future than they felt bound to exert in the present. Really, she thought
to herself, she should be happier if she quite definitely ceased to be
Miss Jasmine Grant, and became Jasmine, a parlourmaid. But, of course,
Jasmine would be considered too flowery a name for service, and she
should be known as Grant. Grant! A not unimpressive name for a
parlourmaid. She once actually discussed the project with Hargreaves,
Hopkins, and Cook; but they evidently thought she was mad to suggest
such a thing; they evidently thought it would be better to go on serving
in Heaven than begin to reign in Hell; not one of them had a trace of
Lucifer in her temperament.

And so a dreary year passed away, a long dreary year during which
Jasmine's most breathless and most daring ambition was to be a
parlourmaid, her most poignant regret that she had not stayed long
enough at Curtain Wells to have rehearsed the part.

"I cannot say how greatly I think you have improved, Jasmine," said Aunt
May one day just a year after Jasmine had gone to Harley Street. "You
were so wild at first, so heedless and impulsive. But I notice with
pleasure that you are quite changed. I was speaking about it to your
uncle to-day, and I suggested to him that as a token of our appreciation
of the effort you have made to recognize what we have already done for
you we should allow you an extra ten pounds a year. You are at present
getting ten pounds a quarter, and we discussed for quite half an hour
whether it would be better to allow you twelve pounds ten shillings a
quarter or to present you with the extra ten pounds all at once, say on
your birthday or at Christmas or on some such occasion. Of course, we
did not want you to suppose that you are to regard this in any way as a
substitute for a Christmas present. It is not. No, you are to regard it
as an expression of our approval."

Ever since she had been in England, Jasmine had ceased to believe in the
reality of anything talked about beforehand, so she thought no more
about that extra ten pounds. But sure enough at Christmas she received
it, and not only the ten pounds, but also a parrot-headed umbrella from
Aunt May, a sachet of handkerchiefs from Lettice, the particular
monstrosity in porcelain that was in vogue at the time from Pamela, and
a kiss from Sir Hector.

Although Lettice and Pamela were not yet even engaged to be married,
social life at 317, Harley Street was conducted on the principle that at
any moment they might be. There could have been few young men about town
who had escaped having tea there at least once. None of them interested
Jasmine in the least, and it was perhaps just as well that she was not
interested, because if she had been interested she would certainly have
had no opportunity of displaying her interest owing to the fact that she
always had to pour out tea. A woman pouring out tea for one man can make
of the gesture a most alluring business; but a woman pouring out tea for
twenty young men cannot escape disenchantment, however charming she may
be at leisure. The fumes of the teapot, the steam from the kettle, the
wrinkles provoked by her attempt to remember who said he did and who
said he did not take sugar, all these combine to ravage the sweetest
face. As for the dinner parties, although they belonged to another order
of dinner parties compared with those given when Lettice and Pamela
were away, there always seemed to be one person at least for whose
presence of a dinner party, nay more, for whose very existence in the
world no excuse could be found. This person invariably took in Jasmine.
No doubt her relatives individually never intended to be positively
unkind. Whatever unkindness came to the surface was inherent in her
position as a poor relation. Besides, nowadays she seldom offered any
occasion for people to be unkind to her. She sometimes would ask herself
with a show of indignation how she had allowed herself to surrender to
this extent; but she had to admit that from the moment she entered
Strathspey House she had foreseen the possibility of such a life's being
in store for herself, and looking back at her behaviour during the first
eighteen months of her stay, she could not see that at any point she had
made a really determined stand against this kind of life. To be sure,
she had had a few quarrels and arguments; she had delivered a few
retorts. But what ineffective self-assertion it had all been! She had
had at any rate one opportunity of striking out for herself during Uncle
Matthew's illness, and what a muddle she had made of it, because she had
been too proud to force herself upon Uncle Matthew, and because with a
foolish dignity that was in reality nothing but humility she had given
way to his unwillingness to confess an obligation.

And another year passed; a year of writing letters for her aunt in the
morning, of going downstairs to see Cook about this, and of going
upstairs to talk to Hargreaves about that, of running round the corner
to Debenham and Freebody's to see if they could match this for the
girls, or of spending the whole morning at Marshall and Snelgrove's with
her aunt to see if they could match that for her.

On Christmas morning Lady Grant took her niece aside and confided to
her that, so heavy had been her own expenses and so heavy had been Sir
Hector's expenses, she was sure Jasmine would understand if she did not
receive the extra ten pounds as usual. To hear Aunt May, one might have
supposed that the donation had been customary since her niece's birth.

"Our expenses are going to be even heavier this year," she announced.
"There is so much entertaining to do nowadays."

When she first came to England Jasmine might have commented at this
point on the fact that Lettice would be thirty next birthday and that
Pamela was well in sight of being twenty-nine. But two complete years in
Harley Street had taken away her desire to score visibly, and she was
content nowadays with a faint smile to herself.

"What are you laughing at?" her aunt asked. "It is one of the few rather
irritating little tricks you still have, that habit of smiling to
yourself suddenly when I am talking to you. Some people might think you
were laughing at me."

"Oh no, Aunt May," Jasmine protested.

"No, of course I know you are not laughing at me," her aunt allowed.
"But I think it's a habit you should try to cure yourself of. It's apt
to make you seem a little vapid sometimes."

"Yes, I often feel rather vapid," Jasmine admitted.

"Then all the more reason why you should not let other people notice
it," said her aunt; and Jasmine did not argue the point further.

The loss of the ten pounds meant that Jasmine would not be able to have
a new evening frock that winter. She was not yet sufficiently dulled by
Harley Street not to feel disappointed at this. It has to be a very
beautiful evening frock which does not look dowdy after being worn twice
a week throughout the year, and the better of Jasmine's two evening
frocks was nothing more than pretty and simple on the evening she put it
on for the first time.

"Another long miserable year," she thought. "Nothing new till the
twenty-fifth of March. All this quarter's allowance has gone in
Christmas presents."

Jasmine's most conspicuous present that year was a sunshade that Aunt
May had bought at the July sales.

"As if one wanted a sunshade in England," Jasmine said to herself.



_Chapter Twelve_


The new year opened with such a blaze of entertaining that even
Hargreaves, who was much more reticent than Hopkins, allowed herself to
observe to Jasmine that it really seemed as if her ladyship was
determined to find husbands for Miss Lettice and Miss Pamela at last.
The atmosphere of the house was charged with that kind of accumulated
energy which is the external characteristic of all great charitable
efforts. If Lettice had been a new church tower that had to be paid for
or if Pamela had been a new wing for a hospital, it would have been
impossible to promote a fiercer intensity of desire to accomplish
something at all costs no matter what or how. January twinkled like a
Christmas tree with minor festivals; but on February 14th--the date was
appropriate, although it was not chosen deliberately--Lady Grant was to
give a large dance in the Empress Rooms.

"And if it's successful," she told Jasmine, "I daresay I shall give
another dance in May."

Jasmine refrained from saying "If it's unsuccessful, you mean," and
merely indulged in one of those irritating little smiles.

"Oh, and by the way," her aunt added, "did you see that your old friend
Harry Vibart has succeeded to the title?"

She looked at her niece keenly when she made this announcement; but
Jasmine was determined not to give her the gratification of a
self-conscious blush. Nor was it very difficult to appear indifferent to
the news, because, as she assured herself, Harry Vibart, by his
readiness to acquiesce in her decree of banishment and by his complete
silence for over two and a half years, was no longer of any emotional
importance. At the same time, no girl who had been compelled to spend
such an empty or rather such a drearily full two years as she had just
spent could have helped letting her mind wander back for a moment, could
have helped wondering whether if she had behaved differently, everything
might not have been different.

"Of course, one does not want to say too much," said Lady Grant, "but
one cannot help remembering what great friends he and the girls were
some years ago, and really I think ... yes, really I think, Jasmine, it
would be only polite if we sent him an invitation."

Jasmine's heart began to beat faster; not on account of the prospect of
meeting Harry Vibart again, but with the effort of preventing herself
from saying what she really thought of her aunt's impudent distortion of
the true facts of the case.

The re-entry of one person from the past into her life was followed by
the re-entry of another; for that very afternoon, a bleak January
afternoon of brown fog, Hopkins came up to tell Jasmine that Miss Butt
had called to see her and to ask where should she be shown? The only
people who ever came to see Jasmine were dressmakers with whom she had
been negotiating on behalf of her aunt and her cousins, and for whose
misfits Jasmine was to be held responsible. These dressmakers were
usually interviewed in the dining-room; but Hopkins informed Jasmine
that Miss Butt had emphatically declined to be shown upstairs and had
expressed a wish to interview her in the servants' hall. Such a request
had affronted Hopkins' conception of etiquette, and she was anxious to
know what Jasmine intended to do about it. Jasmine was on sufficiently
intimate terms with the servants by now to explain at once that Miss
Butt and her ladyship were never on any account to be allowed to meet
face to face, and she asked Hopkins if she thought that Cook would mind
if in the circumstances she made use of the servants' hall.

"No, Miss Jasmine, I don't think she would at all," said Hopkins. "In
fact from what I could see of it when I come upstairs, they was getting
on very well together. But I didn't think it right to say you'd come
down and see her there, until I had found out from you whether you
would."

"All right, Amanda, I'll come down at once." Nowadays Jasmine was
allowed in her own room to call Hopkins Amanda.

Mrs. Curtis, the cook of 317, Harley Street, was a woman of some
majesty, and when she was seated in her arm-chair on the right of the
hearth in the servants' hall, she conveyed as much as anyone Jasmine had
ever seen the aroma of a regal hospitality mingled with a regal
condescension. When Jasmine beheld the scene in the servants' hall she
could easily have imagined that she was watching a meeting between two
queens. Selina, in a crimson blanket coat, wearing a ruby coloured hat
much befurred, with a musquash stole thrown back from her shoulders, was
evidently informing Mrs. Curtis of the state of her kingdom; Mrs. Curtis
was nodding in august approval, and from time to time turning her head
to invite a comment from Hargreaves, who like a lady-in-waiting, stood
at the head of her chair, whispering from time to time: "Quite so, Mrs.
Curtis." Grouped on the other side of the table and not venturing to sit
down, the junior servants listened to the conversation like respectful
and attentive courtiers.

As soon as Selina saw Jasmine, she jumped up from her chair and embraced
her warmly.

"An old friend come to see you," said Cook with immense benignity.

"Dear Selina!" Jasmine exclaimed. "How nice to see you again!"

"The pleasure's on both sides," said Selina. "Mrs. Vokins is dead."

Jasmine looked at Selina in astonishment. Nothing in the style of her
attire suggested such an announcement; in fact, she could not remember
ever having seen Selina wear colours before, and that she should have
chosen to break out into crimson on the occasion of her friend's death
was incomprehensible.

"When did she die?"

"Six months ago," said Selina. "And I went into strict mourning for six
months. Last night she appeared to me, as I've just been telling Mrs.
Curtis here. She said she was very happy in heaven; told me to stop
mourning for her, and pop round to see you."

"Wonderful, isn't it?" Mrs. Curtis demanded from her juniors, who
murmured an unanimous and discreet echo of assent.

"Then Mrs. Vokins was saved after all?" said Jasmine. "I remember you
used to think that she couldn't be saved."

"Some of us think wrong sometimes," said Selina.

"That's true, Miss Butt," put in Cook.

"Some of us think very wrong sometimes," Selina continued. "And it's
perfectly clear Mrs. Vokins was sent down to me to say as I'd been
thinking wrong."

"Wonderful, isn't it?" Cook demanded once more.

"'I'm very happy in heaven, Miss Butt,' was her words, and though I
hadn't time to ask exackly which of my friends and relations was up
there with her, I put it to myself it was unlikely Mrs. Vokins would
call and tell me she was very happy unless she shortly expected me to
join her. She was never a woman who cared to disappoint anybody. So I'm
looking forward to seeing a lot of people I never expected to see again.
In fact I've given up the Children of Zion and turned Church of England,
which my poor mother always was, until a clergyman spoke to her in a way
no clergyman ought to speak, telling her what to do and what not to do,
until she turned round in his face and became a Primitive Methodist,
where she always poured out the tea at the New Year's gathering. Yes,
Mrs. Vokins has been a good friend to me, and she's been a good friend
to you, because she put it into my head to come down here and ask you if
you'd like to come and live in my rooms at Catford where she used to
live, with the use of the kitchen three times a week as per
arrangement."

"Dear Selina, it's very kind of you to invite me," said Jasmine, "but
..." she broke off with a sigh.

"Which means you won't come," said Selina. "That I expected; and if Mrs.
Vokins hadn't of been in such a hurry, I should have told her as much
before she went. She vanished in a moment before I even had time to say
how well she was looking. 'Radiant as an angel,' they say; and Mrs.
Vokins was looking radiant. 'You certainly are looking celestial,' was
what I should like to have said."

"Why haven't you been to see me all these two years?" asked Jasmine.

At this point, Mrs. Curtis, realizing that Jasmine and her friend might
have matters to discuss which it would be undignified for them to
discuss before the servants, asked the scullery-maid sharply if she
intended to get those greens ready, or if she expected herself, Mrs.
Curtis, to get them ready. The reproof administered to the scullery-maid
was accepted by her fellow-servants as a hint for them to leave Jasmine
and her visitor together, and when they were gone Mrs. Curtis, rising
from her arm-chair like Leviathan from the deep, supposed that after all
she should have to go and look after that girl.

"For girls, Miss Butt, nowadays.... Well, I needn't tell you what girls
are. You know."

"Yes, I know," said Selina. "A lot of rabbits."

"That's very true, Miss Butt; a lot of rabbits," echoed Cook solemnly as
she sailed from the room.

"Well, why haven't you been to see me, Selina?" Jasmine persisted when
they were alone.

"Why haven't you been to see _me_?"

"How could I? Uncle Matthew never invited me. Surely, Selina, you can
understand I didn't want to force myself where I wasn't wanted. The last
thing I wanted to do was to give him the impression that I wanted
anything from him. He's had plenty of opportunities to ask for me if he
wished to see me. My cousins have been over to see him lots of times."

"They have," agreed Selina, grimly.

"And they never brought me back any message."

"That doesn't say no message was sent," said Selina. "You know as well
as I know Mr. Rouncivell never sends a letter of his own accord. He
can't bring himself to it. I've seen him sit by the hour holding a stamp
in his hand the same as I've seen boys holding butterflies between their
fingers."

"Well, you could have written to me," Jasmine pointed out.

"I could have," Selina asserted. "And I ought to have; but I didn't.
It's not a bit of good you going on talking about what people ought to
have done. If we once get on that subject we shall go on talking here
for ever. And it's no good being offended with me, even if you won't
show a Christian spirit and go and live at Catford. I think you ought to
have learnt to forgive by now. I've been forgiving people by the dozen
these last two days. And although I don't think I shall, still you never
know, and I may go so far as to forgive _her_," Selina declared pointing
with her forefinger at the ceiling to indicate whom she meant.

Jasmine tried to explain that she no longer felt herself capable of
taking such a drastic step as going to live in Catford. She found it
hard to convince Selina how impossible it was to accept her charity, and
she was quite sure that her relatives would not dream of continuing her
allowance should she go to Catford.

"In fact, my dear Selina, I think you'd better let me alone. I think
that some people in this world are meant to occupy the kind of position
I occupy, and I've got hardened to it. I don't really care a bit any
more. I have enjoyed seeing you very much, and I hope you will come and
see me again. It really isn't worth while for me to make any effort to
get away from this. It really isn't."

Selina lectured Jasmine for a while on her lack of Christian
spirit--evidently Christian spirit to her mind conveyed something
between willingness to forgive and courage to defy--and then rising
abruptly she said she must be off. Jasmine heard nothing more from her
for some time after this.

Ten days before the dance at the Empress Rooms Sir Hector, for what he
insisted was the first time in his life, was taken ill. He was
apparently not suffering from anything more serious than a slight
bronchial cold, but he made such a fuss about it that Jasmine was ready
to believe it really was the first time in his life he had ever been
ill. In addition to his apprehensions about his own condition and the
various maladies that might supervene, he seemed to think that his
illness was something in the nature of a national disaster, like a coal
strike or a great war.

"Dear me," said his wife. "I'm afraid it looks as if you won't be at the
dance."

"Dance!" shouted Sir Hector as loudly as his cold would let him. "Of
course I shan't be at the dance. Even if I'm well enough to be out of
bed, which is very improbable, I certainly shan't be well enough to go
out. And if I were well enough to go out, which is practically
impossible, I certainly shouldn't be well enough to stand about in
draughts. No, I shall stay at home. It's a fearful nuisance being ill
like this. I can't think why I should get ill. I never _am_ ill."

"It's dreadfully disappointing," said Aunt May soothingly. "We had such
a particularly nice lot of young men coming. All dancing men, too, so
you wouldn't have had to talk to them for more than a minute. I don't
like to put it off. I never think things go so well after they've been
put off."

"Oh, no, for goodness' sake don't put it off," said Sir Hector. "Quite
enough things have been put off on account of my illness as it is. The
Duchess of Shropshire is in despair because I can't go and see her. She
can't stand Williamson." Dr. Williamson was Sir Hector's assistant.
"Nothing serious, of course, but it creates such a bad impression if a
man like me is ill. It shakes my confidence in myself. I can't think
where I got this cold."

"People do get colds very often in January," said his wife.

"Other people get colds. I never do. Now what is that horrible mess that
Jasmine is holding in her hand? It's no good just feeding me up on these
messes and thinking that that is going to cure me: because it isn't."

Jasmine was expecting every minute to hear her aunt regretfully inform
her that owing to Sir Hector's condition it would be impossible for her
to go to the ball, because somebody would be required to stay at home
and look after the invalid. To her surprise nothing was said about this,
and she began to turn her attention to a new evening frock. This was a
moment when the extra ten pounds she failed to get at Christmas would
have been useful. Notwithstanding the surrender of her pride, Jasmine
still had a little vanity; and when she took out of her wardrobe the two
evening dresses that had served her during the last year, and saw how
worn and faded they were, she began to wonder if after all she should
not be glad if her aunt settled things over her head by telling her that
she could not go.

She was vexed, when she opened her aunt's correspondence that morning
and read that Sir Harry Vibart accepted with pleasure Lady Grant's kind
invitation for Wednesday, February 14th, to detect herself the prey of a
sudden impulse to go to this dance at all costs. She debated with
herself whether she should not ask Miss Hemmings, the little dressmaker
in Marylebone High Street who made most of her things, to make her an
evening frock on the understanding that she should be paid for it next
quarter. At first Jasmine was rather timid about embarking upon such an
adventure into extravagance; but she decided to do so, and when she had
a moment to herself she slipped out of the house and hurried round to
Miss Hemmings' little shop. Alas, Miss Hemmings; like Sir Hector, was
also in bed with a bronchial cold; she was dreadfully sorry, but quite
unable to oblige Miss Grant by the 14th.

"Oh, well, it's evidently not to be," Jasmine decided.

She got home in time to meet Selina coming up the area steps, dressed
this time in a brilliant peacock blue blanket coat and an emerald green
hat.

"Selina!" exclaimed Jasmine. "You seem to go in for nothing but clothes
nowadays."

"You must dress a bit if you belong to the Church of England," said
Selina sharply. "It's as different from the chapel as the stalls are
from the pit. Don't forget that."

"Well, I've just been trying to get a frock for a dance on Wednesday,
but my dressmaker's ill and...." Jasmine broke off; she did not wish to
make Selina think that she was in need of money, for she felt that if
she did, Selina would immediately offer to lend her some. And if she
accepted Selina's charity it would be more than ever difficult to refuse
to occupy those three rooms at Catford.

"Well, that's awkward," said Selina. "But I'll lend you anything you
want."

"Oh, thank you very much, but it's an evening frock."

"Ah! That I don't go in for, and never shall. Low necks I shall never
come to. Do you want to go to this party very much?"

"I do rather," Jasmine admitted.

"There's my bus," said Selina suddenly; and without a word of farewell
she vanished round the corner shouting and waving her umbrella.

The next morning, which was Tuesday and the day before the dance,
Jasmine received a postcard on which was printed the current price of
coal. She thought at first that it had been put in her place by mistake;
but looking at it again she saw written in a fine small hand between the
Wallsends and the Silkstones _Come to Rouncivell Lodge to-morrow at
eleven o'clock_; and between the Silkstones and the Cobbles the initials
M. R.

Aunt May failed to understand how Uncle Matthew could be so
inconsiderate as to invite Jasmine to Muswell Hill on the very day
before she was giving a dance, and particularly when it would have been
advisable in any case that Jasmine should be at home that morning in
case her uncle wanted something.

"You must write and tell him you will go later on in the week."

Jasmine agreed to do so, but she added that she should have to give
Uncle Matthew a reason for refusing to go and see him, and Aunt May,
realizing that such a reason would involve herself with the old
gentleman, gave a grudging assent to Jasmine's going that day. Jasmine
had difficulty in escaping from Harley Street early enough to be
punctual to her appointment with Uncle Matthew, but she managed it
somehow, although at one time it seemed as if Sir Hector was wanting so
many things which only Jasmine could provide that she should never get
away. In the end when Lady Grant was calling 'Jasmine!' from the first
landing, Hopkins replied 'Yes, my lady,' and before Lady Grant had time
to explain that she did not want Hopkins, her niece was hurrying on her
way north.

Jasmine wondered in what gay colours she should find Selina when she
reached Rouncivell Lodge; but Selina met her at the gate in her
customary black, and advised her sharply to make no allusions to her
clothes in front of the old gentleman.

"Why haven't you been to see me before?" Uncle Matthew demanded as the
clocks all over the house chimed eleven o'clock.

"I never go anywhere unless I'm asked."

"Well, don't put on your hoity-toity manners with me, miss. Do you
expect me, at my age, to come trotting after you? I told your aunt
several times I should like to see you."

"She never gave me your message."

"No, I suppose she didn't," said the old gentleman with a grim chuckle.
"Now what's all this about wanting a dress for a ball? Do you expect me
to provide you with dresses for balls?"

"Of course I don't," said Jasmine, looking angrily round to where Selina
had been standing a moment ago. But the yellow-faced housekeeper had
gone.

"Well, I've borrowed Eneas' carriage for the day, and I'll take you for
a drive. I don't know how that fellow can afford to keep a carriage. I
can't. At least, I can't afford to keep a carriage for other people to
use, and that's what always happens. Oh, yes, they'd like me to have a
carriage, I've no doubt. But I'm not going to have one."

"It's at the door, Mr. Rouncivell," said Selina, putting her head into
the room.

Uncle Matthew was so voluminously wrapped up for this expedition that it
seemed at first as if he would never be able to squeeze through the door
of the brougham; but by unwinding himself from a plaid shawl he managed
it.

"Where am I to drive to?" asked Uncle Eneas' gardener in an injured
voice. He evidently disapproved of being lent to other people.

"Drive to London," said the old gentleman.

"Where?" the coachman repeated.

"To London, you idiot! Don't you know where London is?"

"London's a large place," said the coachman.

"I don't need you to tell me that. Drive to Regent Street."

The drive was spent in trying to accommodate Uncle Matthew's wraps to
the temperature of the inside of the brougham, and in an attempt to
calculate how much it cost Eneas to keep a horse, carriage, and
coachman. This was a complicated calculation, because it involved
deducting from the cost per week not merely the amount saved in
artificial manures, but also the amount saved by growing bigger
vegetables than would otherwise have been grown.

"But whatever way you look at it," said Uncle Matthew finally, "it's a
dead loss!"

When they reached Regent Street, Uncle Matthew told Jasmine to stop the
carriage at the first shop where women's clothes were sold.

"Women's clothes?" repeated Jasmine.

"Yes, women's clothes. I'm told you want a gown for a ball to-morrow.
Well, I'm going to buy you one."

Jasmine could scarcely believe that it was Uncle Matthew who was
talking, and her expression of amazement roused the old gentleman to ask
her what she was staring at.

"Think I've never bought gowns for women before?" he asked. "I used to
come shopping every day with my poor wife, fifty years ago."

The brougham had stopped at a famous and fashionable dressmaker's, and
Jasmine wonderingly followed the old gentleman into the shop.

"I want a gown," said the old gentleman fiercely to the first lady who
wriggled up to him and asked what he required.

They were accommodated with chairs in the showroom, and presently a
young woman emerged from a glass grated door and walked past them in an
Anglo-Saxon attitude.

"You needn't be shy of me," said Uncle Matthew. "I'm old enough to be
your grandfather." The show-woman tittered politely at what she supposed
was Uncle Matthew's joke.

"Do you like that model?" she said.

"Model?" echoed the old gentleman.

"That gown?" the show-woman enquired.

"Gown?" echoed Uncle Matthew. "What gown?"

"Miss Abels," the show-woman called, "would you mind walking past once
more?"

"You don't mean to tell me that what she's wearing is an evening gown
you propose to sell me?" asked Uncle Matthew, on whom an explanation of
the young woman's behaviour was beginning to dawn. "Why, I never thought
she was dressed at all."

The show-woman again tittered politely.

"We consider that one of our most becoming gowns," she said. "So simple,
isn't it? Don't you like the lines? And it's quite a new shade. Angel's
blush."

"It's very pretty," said Jasmine.

"Well," said Uncle Matthew, "I suppose you know what you want, and I
daresay you're right to choose something simple. It's no good wasting
money on a lot of frills. How much is that?"

"That gown," said the show-woman. "Let me see. That's a Paris model.
Quite exclusive. Thirty-five guineas."

"What?" the old gentleman yelled. "Come out of the shop, come out of the
shop!" he commanded Jasmine.

"I never heard of anything so monstrous in my life," he said indignantly
to Jasmine on the pavement outside. "Thirty-five guineas! For a piece of
stuff the size of three pocket-handkerchiefs! No wonder you can't afford
to go to parties! Well, I made a mistake."

"But, Uncle Matthew," Jasmine explained, "I didn't want to go to a
fashionable shop like this. There are lots of other shops where evening
frocks don't cost so much."

"You can't have a dress made of less than that," he said.

"It isn't a question of amount. It's a question of cut and material."

But the old gentleman could not bring himself to go to another shop. He
had suffered a severe shock, and he wished to be alone.

"I'll drive home by myself," he said. "You can get back to Harley Street
quite easily from here. Thirty-five guineas! Why, poor Clara's bridal
dress didn't cost that."

They were all very curious at Harley Street to know why Uncle Matthew
had sent for Jasmine. She did not feel inclined to tell them the real
reason, and she merely said that he wanted to see her. Aunt May,
however, was feeling bitterly on the subject, and she was suspicious of
Jasmine's reticence.

"It's a pity he should have fetched you all that way for nothing," she
said. "You had better have done as I suggested and gone the day after
the dance. We have all been so busy this morning that poor Uncle Hector
has been rather neglected, and I've had to leave a great deal undone
which will have to be done this afternoon, and I'm afraid he'll still
feel a little neglected, so really, Jasmine, I don't know.... I suppose
you'd be very disappointed if you didn't come to the dance, but really I
don't know but that it may be necessary for you to stay at home
to-morrow and look after Uncle Hector."

"I'll stay at home with pleasure," said Jasmine.

Her aunt looked at her. "Oh, you don't object to staying at home?"

"Why should I? I haven't got a frock fit to wear."

"Not got a frock fit to wear? Really, my dear, how you do exaggerate
sometimes! That's a very becoming little yellow frock you wear. A very
becoming little frock. You must be very anxious to impress somebody if
you are not content to wear that."

Jasmine turned away without answering. She would not give her aunt the
pleasure of seeing that the malicious allusion had touched her.

The following afternoon it was definitely decided that Sir Hector was
too ill to be left in the hands of servants, and, very regretfully as
she assured her, Lady Grant told her niece that she must ask her to stay
at home.

"You mustn't be too disappointed, because perhaps I shall give another
dance in April or May, and perhaps out of my own little private savings
bank I may be able to add something to your March allowance that will
enable you to get a frock which you do consider good enough to wear."

Jasmine thought that it would probably annoy her aunt if she looked as
if she did not mind staying at home; so she very cheerfully announced
her complete indifference to the prospect of going to the dance, and her
intention of reading Sir Hector to sleep. Dinner was eaten in the
feverish way in which dinners before balls are always eaten. Before
starting Pamela called Jasmine into her room to admire her frock, and
Jasmine took a good deal of pleasure in telling her that she was not
sure, but she thought she liked Lettice's frock better; and to Lettice,
whom she presently visited, she said after a suitable pause that she was
afraid Pamela's frock suited _her_ better than her own did. Hargreaves
and Hopkins, who were both indignant at Jasmine's being left behind,
took the cue from her and they both praised so enthusiastically the
other's dress to each sister, that the two girls went off to the dance
feeling thoroughly ill-tempered.

"What would you like me to read you, Uncle Hector?" asked Jasmine when
the house was silent.

"Well, really, I don't know," he said. "I don't think there's anything
nowadays worth reading. I don't care about these modern writers. I don't
understand them. But if they came to me as patients, I should know how
to prescribe for them."

"Shall I read you some Dickens?" Jasmine suggested.

"It's hardly worth while beginning a long novel at this time of the
evening."

"I might read you _The Christmas Carol_."

"Oh, I know that by heart," said Sir Hector.

"Well, what shall I read you? Shall I read you something from
Thackeray's _Book of Snobs_?"

"No, I know that by heart, too," said Sir Hector.

"If you don't like modern writers, and you know all the other writers by
heart...."

"Well, if you want to read something," said Sir Hector at last, as if he
were gratifying a spoilt child, "you had better read me Mr. Balfour's
speech in the House last night."

It was lucky for Mr. Balfour that Sir Hector had not been present when
he made the speech, for at every other line he ejaculated: "Rot!
Unmitigated rot! Rubbish! The man doesn't know what he's talking about!
What an absurd statement! Read that again, will you, my dear? I never
heard such piffle!"

In spite of Sir Hector's interruptions, Jasmine stumbled through Mr.
Balfour's speech, and she was just going to begin Mr. Asquith's reply
when the door of the bedroom opened and Uncle Matthew walked in.

Sir Hector's first instinct when this apparition presented itself was to
grab the thermometer and take his temperature; but perceiving that
Jasmine was as much surprised as himself and that it was certainly not a
feverish delusion, he stammered out a greeting.

"I don't advise you to come into the room, though," he said. "I've got a
dreadful cold."

"I thought you were never ill," said Uncle Matthew.

"Well, I'm not. It's a most extraordinary thing. Where I got this cold I
cannot imagine," Sir Hector was declaiming when Uncle Matthew cut him
short. Jasmine always felt like giggling when Sir Hector was talking to
his uncle, because she could not get used to the idea that both Sir
Hector and herself should address him as Uncle Matthew. She was still
young enough to conceive all people over fifty merged in contemporary
senility.

"I thought you were going to a dance," said Uncle Matthew to Jasmine.

"Oh, Jasmine very kindly offered to stay behind and look after me," Sir
Hector explained.

"Well, I'll look after you," said Uncle Matthew.

His nephew stared at him.

"Yes, I'll look after you," the old gentleman repeated. "What time do
you take your medicine? _You_ had better get along to the dance," he
said to Jasmine.

"But Jasmine can't go off to a dance by herself," Sir Hector protested.

"Can't she?" said Uncle Matthew. "Well, then I'll go with her, and
Selina shall look after you."

He went to the door and called downstairs to his housekeeper.

"I never heard anything so ridiculous," Sir Hector objected.

"Didn't you?" said the old gentleman sardonically. "I'm surprised to
hear that. You've been listening to the sound of your own voice for a
good many years now, haven't you?"

Perhaps Sir Hector's cold was worse than one was inclined to think, from
his grumbling, for if he had not been feeling very ill the prospect of
being left in charge of Selina must have cured him instantly.

"When do you take your medicine?" asked Uncle Matthew.

The old gentleman was evidently determined that whatever else was left
undone for his nephew's comfort, he should have his full dose of
medicine at the hands of the housekeeper. Selina came into the room and
settled herself down by the bed with an air of determination that
plainly showed the patient what he was in for. Selina's new and more
optimistic creed would probably not tend so far as to include Sir Hector
Grant among the saved, and what between the patient's pessimism about
his state in this world and Selina's pessimism about his state in the
world to come, Jasmine felt that if she was ever going to be appreciated
by Uncle Hector she should be appreciated by him that night. Meanwhile
Uncle Matthew, after settling his nephew, was hurrying her downstairs.

"I have found you a gown after all," he announced, "and a much prettier
gown than anything you could find in London nowadays. If that gown
yesterday cost thirty-five guineas, the one I have got for you would
have cost a hundred and thirty-five guineas."

"Where is it?"

"Where is it?" her uncle repeated. "Why waiting upstairs in your
bedroom, of course, for you to put it on. Now be quick, because I don't
want to be kept up all night by this ball. I have not been out as late
as this for thirty-one years. I'll give you a quarter of an hour to get
ready."

Jasmine ran upstairs to her room, where she found Hargreaves and Hopkins
standing in astonishment before the dress which Uncle Matthew had
brought her. The fragrance of rosemary and lavender pervaded the air,
and Jasmine realized that it came from the frock. Uncle Matthew was
right when he said that it was unlike any frock that could be found
nowadays.

"Wherever did he get it?" wondered Hargreaves.

"It's beautiful material," said Hopkins.

Jasmine was not well enough versed in the history of feminine costume to
know how exactly to describe the frock; but she saw at once that it
belonged to a bygone generation, and she divined in the same instant
that it was a frock belonging to Uncle Matthew's dead wife, one of the
frocks that all these years had been kept embalmed in a trunk that was
never opened except when he was alone. It was an affair of many flounces
and furbelows, the colour nankeen and ivory, the material very fine
silk with a profusion of Mechlin lace.

"Whoever saw the like of it?" demanded Hargreaves.

"Whoever did?" Hopkins echoed.

"It would be all right if it had been a fancy dress ball," said
Hargreaves.

"Of course, it would have been lovely if it had been fancy dress,"
Hopkins agreed.

"Well, though it isn't a fancy dress ball," said Jasmine, "I am going to
wear it."

The maids held up their hands in astonishment. But Jasmine knew that the
crisis of her life had arrived. If she failed in this crisis she saw
before her nothing but fifteen dreary years stretching in a vista that
ended in the sea front at Bognor. She realized that, if she rejected
this dress and failed to recognize what was probably the first
disinterested and kindly action of Uncle Matthew since his wife's death,
she should forfeit all claims to consideration in the future. Along with
her sharp sense of what her behaviour meant to her in the future, there
was another reason for wearing the dress, a reason that was dictated
only by motives of consideration for Uncle Matthew himself. It seemed to
her that it would be wicked to reject what must have cost him so much
emotion to provide. What embarrassment or self-consciousness was not
worth while if it was going to repay the sympathy of an old man so long
unaccustomed to show sympathy? What if everyone in the ballroom did turn
round and stare at her? What if her aunt raged and her cousins decided
that she had disgraced them by her eccentric attire? What if Harry
Vibart muttered his thanks to Heaven for having escaped from a mad girl
like herself? Nothing really mattered except that she should be brave,
and that Uncle Matthew should be able to congratulate himself on his
kindness.

While Jasmine was driving from Harley Street to the Empress Rooms, she
felt like an actress before the first night that was to be the
turning-point of her career. She was amused to find that Uncle Matthew
had again borrowed the Eneas Grants' brougham, and she could almost have
laughed aloud at the thought of Uncle Hector's being dosed by Selina;
but presently the silent drive--Uncle Matthew was more voluminously
muffled than ever--deprived her of any capacity for being amused, and
the thought of her arrival at the dance now filled her with gloomy
apprehension. The brougham was jogging along slowly enough, but to
Jasmine it seemed to be moving like the fastest automobile, and the
journey from Marylebone to Kensington seemed a hundred yards. When they
pulled up outside the canopied entrance, Jasmine had a momentary impulse
to run away; but the difficulty of extracting Uncle Matthew from the
brougham and of unwrapping him sufficiently in the entrance hall to
secure his admission as a human being occupied her attention; and almost
before she knew what was happening, she had taken the old gentleman's
arm and they were entering the ballroom, where the sound of music, the
shuffle of dancing feet, the perfume and the heat, the brilliance and
the motion, acted like a sedative drug.

And then the music stopped. The dancers turned from their dancing. A
thousand eyes regarded her. Lady Grant's nose grew to monstrous size.

"Hullo!" cried a familiar voice. "I say, I've lost my programme, so
you'll have to give me every dance to help me through the evening."

Jasmine had let go Uncle Matthew's arm and taken Harry Vibart's, and in
a mist, while she was walking across the middle of the ballroom, she
looked back a moment and saw Uncle Matthew, like some pachydermatous
animal, moving slowly in the direction of her aunt's nose.

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *


PRINTED BY W M. BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

POOR RELATIONS

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_SUNDAY TIMES:_ "'Poor Relations' is a book that from cover to cover is
informed with wit, humour and high spirits, and is yet in its own way a
mordant criticism of life."

_OBSERVER:_ "The vitality that is Mr. Compton Mackenzie's tremendous
gift makes the book as tonic as a spring day.... In vividness, in sheer
colour and variety, Mr. Compton Mackenzie is unmatchable."

_WORLD:_ "One of the drollest books written for years."

_DAILY NEWS:_ "Here is an imagination almost Dickens-like in its
abundance."

_DAILY CHRONICLE:_ "Nothing could be more effective, nothing more
persistently and ineffably droll."

_EVENING NEWS:_ "It is all rich comedy; it exudes humours on every
page."

_LAND AND WATER:_ "Three hundred pages of charming and farcical
light-heartedness."

_STAR:_ "A book of high spirits without pause."

_DAILY EXPRESS:_ "Irresistibly funny."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

SYLVIA SCARLETT

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_PALL MALL GAZETTE:_ "A vital and stimulating work, full of the joy of
life and much of its sorrow; and Sylvia Scarlett herself is one of the
few really great women in fiction--can indeed hold her own with Beatrix
Esmond and Becky Sharp."

_PUNCH:_ "In several respects it is the best thing Mr. Mackenzie has yet
done...."

_SCOTSMAN:_ "Amazing dexterity of workmanship--every figure is instinct
with vitality."

_MORNING POST:_ "There is no question about the rightness and brightness
and delightfulness of the adventures."

_LIVERPOOL COURIER:_ "Amazing inventiveness, Dickens-like prodigality
and humour in characterization, youthful daring and clean candour."

LIVERPOOL POST:_ "His observation dissects humanity and entrances the
student with its amazing cleverness and its astonishing penetration."

_ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS:_ "The inimitable exponent of joyous youth--a
certain Cockney humour--as gaily witty as anything the world can show."

_BIRMINGHAM POST:_ "In sheer brilliance may well be thought to excel
even its predecessor."

EVE in _THE TATLER:_ "Such a riot and rush of adventures and contrasts,
such a breathless scramble, such rainbow emotions...."

MR. ST. JOHN ADCOCK in _THE SKETCH:_ "Nothing really happens."

MR. FRANK SWINNERTON in _THE BOOKMAN:_ "An exhibition of talent
perversely employed."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

SYLVIA & MICHAEL

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_EVENING STANDARD:_ "That originality and depth of thought which we
associate with his name. Often startling as are his ideas, they have a
way of melting very quickly into and taking their place in the scheme of
things, the world of truth and reality."

_THE SCOTSMAN:_ "The book is one which holds the reader in thrall."

_DAILY MAIL:_ "A master story-teller."

_GLASGOW HERALD:_ "As fine as anything that even Mr. Mackenzie has
accomplished."

_PUNCH:_ "An exhilarating, even intoxicating entertainment."

LIVERPOOL COURIER:

"One may cheerfully and gratefully acknowledge the brilliancy ... its
absorbing interest, its sustained intellectual strength, and the
splendour of its moral implications."

_ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS:_ "The colour, the humour, the irony, and the
philosophy that make up the compound of his amazing books."

_CAMBRIDGE MAGAZINE:_ "Besides achieving a performance in itself no less
remarkable than its predecessors, Mr. Mackenzie does something new: he
shows his teeth."

MR. JAMES DOUGLAS in _THE STAR:_ "A literary fake."

MR. ROBERT K. RISK in _THE SUNDAY TIMES._ "It will not permit itself to
be read."

MR. HUGH WALPOLE in _THE NEW YORK SUN:_ "A new chunk from the erotic
adventures of Sylvia Scarlett ... but this does not sound thrilling to
everyone...."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

SINISTER STREET

VOLUME ONE

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_TIMES:_ "We do not wish it any shorter, for it is almost wholly
delightful in itself."

_STANDARD:_ "The architecture of the book is superb."

_LIVERPOOL COURIER:_ "A clear and beautiful and enchanting idyll of
adolescence."

_ENGLISH REVIEW:_ "A more faithful picture of public school life than
anything we know in English fiction."

_YORKSHIRE OBSERVER:_ "Mr. Mackenzie's style is a thing unique among the
present writers of English."

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN:_ "As difficult a task as fiction could undertake;
but Mr. Mackenzie's tact and insight have brought him through with
brilliant success ... something we would not willingly have missed."

_PUNCH:_ "There are aspects of this book that I should find it difficult
to overpraise; its marvellously minute observation, and its humour, and
above all its haunting beauty both of ideas and words.... I am prepared
to wager that Mr. Mackenzie's future is bound up with what is most
considerable in English fiction."

MR. F. M. HUEFFER in the _OUTLOOK:_ "Possibly 'Sinister Street' is a
work of real genius--one of those books that really exist otherwise than
as the decorations of a publishing season.... One is too cautious--or
with all the desire to be generous in the world, too ungenerous--to say
anything like that, dogmatically, of a quite young writer. But I
shouldn't wonder!"

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

SINISTER STREET

VOLUME TWO

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_NEW STATESMAN:_ "A wonderful achievement."

_MORNING POST:_ "We never read anything which was so full of the action
and atmosphere of a city of youth."

MR. C. K. SHORTER in the _SPHERE:_ "The best modern novel of London
life."

_NEW WITNESS:_ "Mr. Mackenzie's fame as a novelist rests to-day upon a
secure foundation. Taking it altogether 'Sinister Street' is the biggest
thing attempted and achieved in recent fiction."

_PUNCH:_ "The most complete and truest picture of modern Oxford that has
been or is likely to be written ... has placed its creator definitely at
the head of the younger school of fiction."

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN:_ "There is not a page that is not in one way or
another engaging, and many of them are profoundly moving."

_NATION:_ "It is a book of the greatest possible promise and interest
... puts Mr. Mackenzie in the front rank of contemporary novelists."

MR. HUGH WALPOLE in _EVERYMAN:_ "I refuse to look at 'Sinister Street.'"

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

GUY AND PAULINE

By COMPTON MACKENZIE

_GLASGOW HERALD:_ "The charm of this exquisite book seems to play hide
and seek with all efforts at description."

_LIVERPOOL POST:_ "The book lies beyond a critic's ungracious blame or
his inept attempts at jolting praise."

_COUNTRY LIFE:_ "The most vivid and understanding portrayal of a
sensitive girl's awakening to the responsibilities of womanhood that we
have yet read."

_ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS:_ "Nothing so alive and feminine as Pauline has
been seen inside a book since Jenny Pearl."

_SKETCH:_ "People who love Mr. Mackenzie's art will love 'Guy and
Pauline' with peculiar intimacy just because it is so purely an affair
of exquisite taste."

_BOSTON TRANSCRIPT:_ "A story about love that is as fascinating as love
itself."

_LADIES' FIELD:_ "The spangled dews and freshness of morning, the silver
quiet of evening, the magic of moonlight, the song of bird, of wind and
river, the fairy charm of all the varying seasons, are all his and he
makes them ours; he is the prose Keats of our modern days."

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN:_ "The future of the English novel is, to a quite
considerable extent, in his hands."

_ATHENÆUM:_ "The permanency of a classic for all who value form in a
chaotic era."

_RUBBER-GROWER:_ "A book to be avoided--wearisome and effete."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

CARNIVAL

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_ATHENÆUM:_ "Mr. Mackenzie's second novel amply fulfils the promise of
his first.... Its first and great quality is originality. The
originality of Mr. Mackenzie lies in his possession of an imagination
and a vision of life that are as peculiarly his own as a voice or a
laugh, and that reflect themselves in a style which is that of no other
writer.... A prose full of beauty."

_PUNCH:_ "After reading a couple of pages I settled myself in my chair
for a happy evening, and thenceforward the fascination of the book held
me like a kind of enchantment. I despair, though, of being able to
convey any idea of it in a few lines of criticism.... As for the style,
I will only add that it gave me the same blissful feeling of security
that one has in listening to a great musician.... In the meantime,
having recorded my delight in it, I shall put 'Carnival' upon the small
and by no means crowded shelf that I reserve for 'keeps.'"

_OUTLOOK:_ "In these days of muddled literary evaluations, it is a small
thing to say of a novel that it is a great novel; but this we should say
without hesitation of 'Carnival,' that not only is it marked out to be
the reading success of its own season, but to be read afterwards as none
but the best books are read."

_OBSERVER:_ "The heroic scale of Mr. Compton Mackenzie's conception and
achievement sets a standard for him which one only applies to the
'great' among novelists."

_ENGLISH REVIEW:_ "An exquisite sense of beauty with a hunger for
beautiful words to express it."

_ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS:_ "The spirit of youth and the spirit of
London."

_NEW YORK TIMES:_ "We hail Mr. Mackenzie as a man alive--who raises all
things to a spiritual plane."

MR. C. K. SHORTER in the _SPHERE:_ "'Carnival' carried me from cover to
cover on wings."

_NEW AGE:_ "We are more than sick of it."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

THE PASSIONATE ELOPEMENT

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_TIMES:_ "We are grateful to him for wringing our hearts with the 'tears
and laughter of spent joys.'"

_SPECTATOR:_ "As an essay in literary _bravura_ the book is quite
remarkable."

_COUNTRY LIFE:_ "In the kindliness, the humour and the gentleness of the
treatment, it comes as near to Thackeray, as any man has come since
Thackeray."

_DAILY CHRONICLE:_ "Thanks for a rare entertainment! And, if the writing
of your story pleased you as much as the reading of it has pleased us,
congratulations too."

_GLOBE:_ "A little tenderness, a fragrant aroma of melancholy laid away
in lavender, a hint of cynicism, an airy philosophy--and so a wholly
piquant, subtly aromatic dish, a rosy apple stuck with cloves."

_GLASGOW NEWS:_ "Fresh and faded, mocking yet passionate, compact of
tinsel and gold is this little tragedy of a winter season in view of the
pump room.... Through it all, the old tale has a dainty, fluttering,
unusual, and very real beauty."

_ENGLISH REVIEW:_ "All his characters are real and warm with life. 'The
Passionate Elopement' should be read slowly, and followed from the
smiles and extravagance of the opening chapters through many sounding
and poetical passages, to the thrilling end of the Love Chase. The quiet
irony of the close leaves one smiling, but with the wiser smile of
Horace Ripple who meditates on the colours of life."

_WESTMINSTER GAZETTE:_ "Mr. Mackenzie's book is a novel of _genre_, and
with infinite care and obvious love of detail has he set himself to
paint a literary picture in the manner of Hogarth. He is no imitator, he
owes no thanks to any predecessor in the fashioning of his book.... Mr.
Mackenzie recreates (the atmosphere) so admirably that it is no
exaggeration to say that, thanks to his brilliant scene-painting, we
shall gain an even more vivid appreciation of the work of his great
forerunners. Lightly and vividly does Mr. Mackenzie sketch in his
characters ... but they do not on that account lack personality. Each of
them is definitely and faithfully drawn, with sensibility, sympathy, and
humour."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

SOME PRESS OPINIONS OF

KENSINGTON RHYMES

_By_ COMPTON MACKENZIE

_SATURDAY REVIEW:_ "These are particularly jolly rhymes, that any really
good sort of a chap, say a fellow of about ten, would like. Mr. J. R.
Monsell's pictures are exceptionally jolly too.... If we may judge by
ourselves, not only the children, but the grown-ups of the family will
be enchanted by this quite delightful and really first-rate book."

_DAILY MAIL:_ "Among the picture-books of the season, pride of place
must go to Mr. Compton Mackenzie's 'Kensington Rhymes.' They are full of
quiet humour and delicate insight into the child-mind."

_OBSERVER:_ "Far the best rhymes of the year are 'Kensington Rhymes,' by
Compton Mackenzie, almost the best things of the kind since the 'Child's
Garden of Verse.'"

_ATHENÆUM:_ "Will please children of all ages and also contains much
that will not be read without a sympathetic smile by grown-ups possessed
of a sense of humour."

_TIMES:_ "The real gift of child poetry, sometimes almost with a
Stevensonian ring."

_OUTLOOK:_ "What Henley did for older Londoners, Mr. Compton Mackenzie
and Mr. Monsell have done for the younger generation."

_STANDARD:_ "Our hearts go out first to Mr. Compton Mackenzie's
'Kensington Rhymes.'"

_SUNDAY TIMES:_ "Full of whimsical observation and genuine insight,
'Kensington Rhymes' by Compton Mackenzie are certainly entertaining."

_EVENING STANDARD:_ "Something of the charm of Christina Rossetti's."

_VOTES FOR WOMEN:_ "They breathe the very conventional and stuffy air of
Kensington.... We are bound to say that the London child we tried it on
liked the book."

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

THE TALES OF HENRY JAMES

The Turn of the Screw

The Aspern Papers

Daisy Miller

The Lesson of the Master

The Death of the Lion

The Reverberator

The Beast in the Jungle

The Coxon Fund

Glasses

The Pupil

The Altar of the Dead

The Figure in the Carpet

The Jolly Corner

In the Cage

[Illustration]

_Fcap. 8vo. 3s. 6d. net each_

MARTIN SECKER NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

MARTIN SECKER'S BOOKS

[Illustration: colophon]

MCMXXI

NOTE

The prices indicated
in this catalogue are
in every case net

_NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI LONDON_

General Literature

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. _By Leo Shestov. 7s. 6d._

DEAD LETTERS. _By Maurice Baring. 6s._

DIMINUTIVE DRAMAS. _By Maurice Baring. 6s._

ENGLISH SONNET, THE. _By T. W. H. Crosland. 10s. 6d._

FOUNTAINS IN THE SAND. _By Norman Douglas. 6s._

HIEROGLYPHICS. _By Arthur Machen. 5s._

HISTORY OF THE HARLEQUINADE, THE. _By M. Sand. 24s._

MY DIARIES: 1888-1914. _By W. S. Blunt._ 2 vols. 21s. _each_.

NEW LEAVES. _By Filson Young. 5s._

OLD CALABRIA. _By Norman Douglas. 10s. 6d._

SOCIAL HISTORY OF SMOKING, THE. _By G. L. Apperson. 6s._

SPECULATIVE DIALOGUES. _By Lascelles Abercrombie. 5s._

TENTH MUSE, THE. _By Edward Thomas, 3s. 6d._

THOSE UNITED STATES. _By Arnold Bennett. 5s._

TRANSLATIONS. _By Maurice Baring. 2s._

VIE DE BOHÈME. _By Orlo Williams. 15s._

WORLD IN CHAINS, THE. _By J. Mavrogordato. 5s._

Verse

COLLECTED POEMS OF T. W. H. CROSLAND. 7_s._ 6_d._

COLLECTED POEMS OF LORD ALFRED DOUGLAS. 7_s._ 6_d._

COLLECTED POEMS OF J. E. FLECKER. 10_s._

COLLECTED POEMS OF F. M. HUEFFER. 7_s._ 6_d._

CORONAL, A. A New Anthology. _By L. M. Lamont._ 2_s._ 6_d._

COUNTRY SENTIMENT. _By Robert Graves._ 5_s._

KENSINGTON RHYMES. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 5_s._

NEW POEMS. _By D. H. Lawrence._ 5_s._

PIERGLASS, THE. _By Robert Graves._ 5_s._

POEMS: 1914-1919. _By Maurice Baring._ 6_s._

QUEEN OF CHINA, THE. _By Edward Shanks._ 6_s._

SELECTED POEMS OF J. E. FLECKER. 3_s._ 6_d._

VERSES. _By Viola Meynell._ 2_s._ 6_d._

VILLAGE WIFE'S LAMENT, THE. _By Maurice Hewlett._ 3_s._ 6_d._

Drama

BEGGAR'S OPERA, THE. _By John Gay._ 2_s._ 6_d._

CASSANDRA IN TROY. _By John Mavrogordato._ 5_s._

DRAMATIC WORKS OF ST. JOHN HANKIN. 3 vols. 30_s._

DRAMATIC WORKS OF GERHART HAUPTMANN. 7 vols. 7_s._ 6_d._ each.

MAGIC. _By G. K. Chesterton._ 5_s._

PEER GYNT. _Translated by R. Ellis Roberts._ 5_s._

REPERTORY THEATRE, THE. _By P. P. Howe._ 5_s._

Fiction

AUTUMN CROCUSES. _By Anne Douglas Sedgwick. 9s._

BREAKING-POINT. _By Michael Artzibashef. 9s._

CAPTAIN MACEDOINE'S DAUGHTER. _By W. Mcfee. 9s_.

CARNIVAL. BY COMPTON MACKENZIE. _8s._

CHASTE WIFE, THE. _By Frank Swinnerton. 7s. 6d._

COLUMBINE. BY VIOLA MEYNELL. _7s. 6d._

CREATED LEGEND, THE. _By Feodor Sologub. 7s. 6d._

CRESCENT MOON, THE. _By F. Brett Young. 7s. 6d._

DANDELIONS. _By Coulson T. Cade. 7s. 6d._

DEBIT ACCOUNT, THE. _By Oliver Onions. 7s. 6d._

DEEP SEA. _By F. Brett Young. 7s. 6d._

GUY AND PAULINE. _By Compton Mackenzie. 7s. 6d._

IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EVIDENCE. _By Oliver Onions. 7s. 6d._

IRON AGE, THE. _By F. Brett Young. 7s. 6d._

LITTLE DEMON, THE. _By Feodor Sologub. 7s. 6d._

LOST GIRL, THE. _By D. H. Lawrence. 9s._

MILLIONAIRE, THE. _By Michael Artzibashef. 7s. 6d._

MODERN LOVERS. _By Viola Meynell. 7s. 6d._

NARCISSUS. _By Viola Meynell. 7s. 6d._

NOCTURNE. _By Frank Swinnerton. 7s. 6d._

OLD HOUSE, THE. _By Feodor Sologub. 7s. 6d._

OLD INDISPENSABLES, THE. By Edward Shanks. 7s. 6d.

PASSING BY. _By Maurice Baring. 7s. 6d._

POOR RELATIONS. _By Compton Mackenzie. 7s. 6d_.

RICH RELATIVES. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 9_s._

RICHART KURT. _By Stephen Hudson._ 7_s._ _6d._

ROMANTIC MAN, A. _By Hervey Fisher._ 6_s._

SANINE. _By Michael Artzibashef._ 9_s._

SECOND MARRIAGE. _By Viola Meynell._ 7_s._

SINISTER STREET. I. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 9_s._

SINISTER STREET. II. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 9_s._

SOUTH WIND. _By Norman Douglas._ 7_s._ 6_s._

STORY OF LOUIE, THE. _By Oliver Onions._ 7_s._ 6_d._

SYLVIA SCARLETT. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 8_s._

SYLVIA AND MICHAEL. _By Compton Mackenzie._ 8_s._

TALES OF THE REVOLUTION. _By M. Artzibashef._ 7_s._ 6_d._

TENDER CONSCIENCE, THE. _By Bohun Lynch._ 7_s._ 6_d._

THIRD WINDOW, THE. _By Anne Douglas Sedgwick._ 6_s._

TRAGIC BRIDE, THE. _By F. Brett Young._ 7_s._

UNDERGROWTH. _By F. & E. Brett Young._ 7_s._ 6_d._

WOMEN IN LOVE. _By D. H. Lawrence._ 10_s._

WIDDERSHINS. _By Oliver Onions._ 7_s._ 6_d._

The Tales of Henry James

ALTAR OF THE DEAD, THE.

ASPERN PAPERS, THE.

BEAST IN THE JUNGLE, THE.

COXON FUND, THE.

DAISY MILLER.

DEATH OF THE LION, THE.

FIGURE IN THE CARPET, THE.

GLASSES.

IN THE CAGE.

JOLLY CORNER, THE.

LESSON OF THE MASTER, THE.

PUPIL, THE.

TURN OF THE SCREW, THE.

Fcap 8vo, 3_s._ 6_d._ each.

The Art and Craft of Letters

BALLAD, THE. _By Frank Sidgwick._

COMEDY. _By John Palmer._

CRITICISM. _By P. P. Howe._

EPIC, THE. _By Lascelles Abercrombie._

ESSAY, THE. _By Orlo Williams._

HISTORY. _By R. H. Gretton._

LYRIC, THE. _By John Drinkwater._

PARODY. _By Christopher Stone._

SATIRE. _By Gilbert Cannan._

SHORT STORY, THE. _By Barry Pain._

Fcap 8vo, 1_s._ 6_d._ each.

Martin Secker's Series of Critical Studies

ROBERT BRIDGES. _By F. & E. Brett Young._

SAMUEL BUTLER. _By Gilbert Cannan._

G. K. CHESTERTON. _By Julius West._

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY. _By J. Middleton Murry._

GEORGE GISSING. _By Frank Swinnerton._

THOMAS HARDY. _By Lascelles Abercrombie._

HENRIK IBSEN. _By R. Ellis Roberts._

HENRY JAMES. _By Ford Madox Hueffer._

RUDYARD KIPLING. _By Cyril Falls._

WILLIAM MORRIS. _By John Drinkwater._

WALTER PATER. _By Edward Thomas._

BERNARD SHAW. _By P. P. Howe._

R. L. STEVENSON. _By Frank Swinnerton._

A. C. SWINBURNE. _By Edward Thomas._

J. M. SYNGE. _By P. P. Howe._

WALT WHITMAN. _By Basil de Selincourt._

W. B. YEATS. _By Forrest Reid._

Demy 8vo, 10s. 6d.

       *       *       *       *       *

These typographical errors were corrected by the etext transcriber:

Vokins as a brother-in-law=>Vokins has a brother-in-law

certainly not a ferverish delusion=>certainly not a feverish delusion

       *       *       *       *       *





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