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Title: Lyre and Lancet - A Story in Scenes
Author: Anstey, F., 1856-1934
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lyre and Lancet - A Story in Scenes" ***

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                       LYRE AND LANCET

                     _A STORY IN SCENES_

                              BY
                          F. ANSTEY

                          AUTHOR OF
    "VICE VERSÂ," "THE GIANT'S ROBE," "VOCES POPULI," ETC.


                           LONDON:
           SMITH, ELDER & CO., 15, WATERLOO PLACE.
                            1895.

                   (_All rights reserved._)



_Reprinted from "Punch" by permission of the Proprietors._



CONTENTS


   PART                                                 PAGE

      I. SHADOWS CAST BEFORE                               1

     II. SELECT PASSAGES FROM A COMING POET               11

    III. THE TWO ANDROMEDAS                               21

     IV. RUSHING TO CONCLUSIONS                           31

      V. CROSS PURPOSES                                   42

     VI. ROUND PEGS IN SQUARE HOLES                       53

    VII. IGNOTUM PRO MIRIFICO                             64

   VIII. SURPRISES--AGREEABLE AND OTHERWISE               76

     IX. THE MAUVAIS QUART D'HEURE                        87

      X. BORROWED PLUMES                                  98

     XI. TIME AND THE HOUR                               109

    XII. DIGNITY UNDER DIFFICULTIES                      119

   XIII. WHAT'S IN A NAME?                               130

    XIV. LE VÉTÉRINAIRE MALGRÉ LUI                       141

     XV. TRAPPED!                                        152

    XVI. AN INTELLECTUAL PRIVILEGE                       163

   XVII. A BOMB SHELL                                    174

  XVIII. THE LAST STRAW                                  184

    XIX. UNEARNED INCREMENT                              194

     XX. DIFFERENT PERSONS HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS       204

    XXI. THE FEELINGS OF A MOTHER                        213

   XXII. A DESCENT FROM THE CLOUDS                       224

  XXIII. SHRINKAGE                                       234

   XXIV. THE HAPPY DISPATCH                              244



CHARACTERS


    GALFRID UNDERSHELL (_a minor poet_).
    JAMES SPURRELL, M.R.C.V.S.
    THE COUNTESS OF CANTIRE.
    LADY MAISIE MULL (_her daughter_).
    SIR RUPERT CULVERIN.
    LADY CULVERIN.
    LADY RHODA COKAYNE.
    MRS. BROOKE-CHATTERIS.
    MISS SPELWANE.
    THE BISHOP OF BIRCHESTER.
    LORD LULLINGTON.
    LADY LULLINGTON.
    MRS. EARWAKER.
    THE HONOURABLE BERTIE PILLINER.
    CAPTAIN THICKNESSE.
    ARCHIE BEARPARK.
    MR. SHORTHORN.
    DRYSDALE (_a journalist_).
    TANRAKE (_a job-master_).
    EMMA PHILLIPSON (_maid to_ LADY CANTIRE).
    MRS. POMFRET (_housekeeper at Wyvern Court_).
    MISS STICKLER (_maid to_ LADY CULVERIN).
    MISS DOLMAN (_maid to_ LADY RHODA COKAYNE).
    MLLE. CHIFFON (_maid to_ MISS SPELWANE).
    M. RIDEVOS (_chef at Wyvern_).
    TREDWELL (_butler at Wyvern_).
    STEPTOE (_valet to_ SIR RUPERT CULVERIN).
    THOMAS (_a footman_).
    ADAMS (_stud-groom_).
    CHECKLEY (_head coachman_).
    Steward's Room Boy, etc.



LYRE AND LANCET

A STORY IN SCENES



PART I

SHADOWS CAST BEFORE


     _In_ Sir RUPERT CULVERIN'S _Study at Wyvern Court. It is a
     rainy Saturday morning in February._ Sir RUPERT _is at his
     writing-table, as_ Lady CULVERIN _enters with a deprecatory
     air_.

_Lady Culverin._ So _here_ you are, Rupert! Not _very_ busy, are you?
I won't keep you a moment. (_She goes to a window._) Such a nuisance
it's turning out wet, with all these people in the house, isn't it?

_Sir Rupert._ Well, I was thinking that, as there's nothing doing out
of doors, I might get a chance to knock off some of these confounded
accounts, but--(_resignedly_)--if you think I ought to go and look
after----

_Lady Culverin._ No, no; the men are playing billiards, and the women
are in the morning-room--_they_'re all right. I only wanted to ask you
about to-night. You know the Lullingtons, and the dear Bishop and Mrs.
Rodney, and one or two other people are coming to dinner? Well, who
ought to take in Rohesia?

_Sir Rupert_ (_in dismay_). Rohesia! No idea she was coming down this
week!

_Lady Culverin._ Yes, by the 4.45. With dear Maisie. Surely you knew
that?

_Sir Rupert._ In a sort of way; didn't realize it was so near, that's
all.

_Lady Culverin._ It's some time since we had her last. And she wanted
to come. I didn't think you would like me to write and put her off.

_Sir Rupert._ Put her off? Of course I shouldn't, Albinia. If my only
sister isn't welcome at Wyvern at any time--I say at _any_ time--where
the deuce is she welcome?

_Lady Culverin._ I don't know, dear Rupert. But--but about the table?

_Sir Rupert._ So long as you don't put her near me--that's all _I_
care about.

_Lady Culverin._ I mean--ought I to send her in with Lord Lullington,
or the Bishop?

_Sir Rupert._ Why not let 'em toss up? Loser gets her, of course.

_Lady Culverin._ _Rupert!_ As if I could suggest such a thing to the
Bishop! I suppose she'd better go in with Lord Lullington--he's Lord
Lieutenant--and then it won't matter if she _does_ advocate
Disestablishment. Oh, but I forgot; she thinks the House of Lords
ought to be abolished _too_!

_Sir Rupert._ Whoever takes Rohesia in is likely to have a time of it.
Talked poor Cantire into his tomb a good ten years before he was due
there. Always lecturing, and domineering, and laying down the law, as
long as _I_ can remember her. Can't stand Rohesia--never could!

_Lady Culverin._ I don't think you ought to say so, really, Rupert.
And I'm sure _I_ get on very well with her--generally.

_Sir Rupert._ Because you knock under to her.

_Lady Culverin._ I'm sure I don't, Rupert--at least, no more than
everybody else. Dear Rohesia is so strong-minded and advanced and all
that, she takes such an interest in all the new movements and things,
that she can't understand contradiction; she is so democratic in her
ideas, don't you know.

_Sir Rupert._ Didn't prevent her marrying Cantire. And a democratic
Countess--it's downright unnatural!

_Lady Culverin._ She believes it's her duty to set an example and meet
the People half-way. That reminds me--did I tell you Mr. Clarion Blair
is coming down this evening, too?--only till Monday, Rupert.

_Sir Rupert._ Clarion Blair! never heard of him.

_Lady Culverin._ I suppose I forgot. Clarion Blair isn't his _real_
name, though; it's only a--an alias.

_Sir Rupert._ Don't see what any fellow wants with an alias. What _is_
his real name?

_Lady Culverin._ Well, I know it was _something_ ending in "ell," but
I mislaid his letter. Still, Clarion Blair is the name he writes
under; he's a poet, Rupert, and quite celebrated, so I'm told.

_Sir Rupert_ (_uneasily_). A poet! What on earth possessed you to ask
a literary fellow down _here_? Poetry isn't much in our way; and a
poet _will_ be, confoundedly!

    [Illustration: "WHAT ON EARTH POSSESSED YOU TO ASK A LITERARY
    FELLOW DOWN HERE?"]

_Lady Culverin._ I really couldn't help it, Rupert. Rohesia insisted
on my having him to meet her. She likes meeting clever and interesting
people. And this Mr. Blair, it seems, has just written a volume of
verses which are finer than anything that's been done since--well, for
_ages_!

_Sir Rupert._ What sort of verses?

_Lady Culverin._ Well, they're charmingly bound. I've got the book in
the house, somewhere. Rohesia told me to send for it; but I haven't
had time to read it yet.

_Sir Rupert._ Shouldn't be surprised if Rohesia hadn't, either.

_Lady Culverin._ At all events, she's heard it talked about. The young
man's verses have made quite a sensation; they're so dreadfully clever
and revolutionary, and morbid and pessimistic, and all that, so she
made me promise to ask him down here to meet her!

_Sir Rupert._ Devilish thoughtful of her.

_Lady Culverin._ Wasn't it? She thought it might be a valuable
experience for him; he's sprung, I believe, from _quite_ the
middle-class.

_Sir Rupert._ Don't see myself why he should be sprung on _us_. Why
can't Rohesia ask him to one of her own places?

_Lady Culverin._ I dare say she will, if he turns out to be quite
presentable. And, of course, he _may_, Rupert, for anything we can
tell.

_Sir Rupert._ Then you've never seen him yourself! How did you manage
to ask him here, then?

_Lady Culverin._ Oh, I wrote to him through his publishers. Rohesia
says that's the usual way with literary persons one doesn't happen to
have met. And he wrote to say he would come.

_Sir Rupert._ So we're to have a morbid revolutionary poet staying in
the house, are we? He'll come down to dinner in a flannel shirt and no
tie--or else a _red_ one--if he don't bring down a beastly bomb and
try to blow us all up! You'll find you've made a mistake, Albinia,
depend upon it.

_Lady Culverin._ Dear Rupert, aren't you just a little bit _narrow_?
You forget that nowadays the very best houses are proud to entertain
Genius--no matter _what_ their opinions and appearance may be. And
besides, we don't know what changes may be coming. Surely it is wise
and prudent to conciliate the clever young men who might inflame the
masses against us. Rohesia thinks so; she says it may be our only
chance of stemming the rising tide of Revolution, Rupert!

_Sir Rupert._ Oh, if Rohesia thinks a revolution can be stemmed by
asking a few poets down from Saturday to Monday, she might do _her_
share of the stemming at all events.

_Lady Culverin._ But you will be _nice_ to him, Rupert, won't you?

_Sir Rupert._ I don't know that I'm in the habit of being uncivil to
any guest of yours in this house, my dear, but I'll be hanged if I
_grovel_ to him, you know; the tide ain't as high as all that. But
it's an infernal nuisance, 'pon my word it is; you must look after him
yourself. _I_ can't. I don't know what to talk to geniuses about; I've
forgotten all the poetry I ever learnt. And if he comes out with any
of his Red Republican theories in _my_ hearing, why----

_Lady Culverin._ Oh, but he _won't_, dear. I'm certain he'll be quite
mild and inoffensive. Look at Shakespeare--the bust, I mean--and _he_
began as a poacher!

_Sir Rupert._ Ah, and this chap would put down the Game Laws if he
could, I dare say; do away with everything that makes the country
worth living in. Why, if he had his way, Albinia, there wouldn't
be----

_Lady Culverin._ I know, dear, I know. And you must make him see all
that from _your_ point. Look, the weather really seems to be clearing
a little. We might all of us get out for a drive or something after
lunch. I would ride, if Deerfoot's all right again; he's the only
horse I ever feel _really_ safe upon, now.

_Sir Rupert._ Sorry, my dear, but you'll have to drive then. Adams
tells me the horse is as lame as ever this morning, and he don't know
what to make of it. He suggested having Horsfall over, but I've no
faith in the local vets myself, so I wired to town for old Spavin.
He's seen Deerfoot before, and we could put him up for a night or two.
(_To_ TREDWELL, _the butler, who enters with a telegram_.) Eh, for me?
just wait, will you, in case there's an answer. (_As he opens it._)
Ah, this _is_ from Spavin--h'm, nuisance! "Regret unable to leave at
present, bronchitis, junior partner could attend immediately if
required.--Spavin." Never knew he _had_ a partner.

_Tredwell._ I did hear, Sir Rupert, as Mr. Spavin was looking out for
one quite recent, being hasthmatical, m'lady, and so I suppose this is
him as the telegram alludes to.

_Sir Rupert._ Very likely. Well, he's sure to be a competent man. We'd
better have him, eh, Albinia?

_Lady Culverin._ Oh yes, and he must stay till Deerfoot's better. I'll
speak to Pomfret about having a room ready in the East Wing for him.
Tell him to come by the 4.45, Rupert. We shall be sending the omnibus
in to meet that.

_Sir Rupert._ All right, I've told him. (_Giving the form to_
TREDWELL.) See that that's sent off at once, please. (_After_ TREDWELL
_has left_.) By the way, Albinia, Rohesia may kick up a row if she
has to come up in the omnibus with a vet, eh?

_Lady Culverin._ Goodness, so she might! but he needn't go _inside_.
Still, if it goes on raining like this--I'll tell Thomas to order a
fly for him at the station, and then there _can't_ be any bother about
it.



PART II

SELECT PASSAGES FROM A COMING POET


     _In the Morning Room at Wyvern._ Lady RHODA COKAYNE, Mrs.
     BROOKE-CHATTERIS, _and_ Miss VIVIEN SPELWANE _are comfortably
     established near the fireplace. The_ HON. BERTIE PILLINER,
     Captain THICKNESSE, _and_ ARCHIE BEARPARK, _have just drifted
     in_.

_Miss Spelwane._ Why, you _don't_ mean to say you've torn yourselves
away from your beloved billiards already? _Quite_ wonderful!

_Bertie Pilliner._ It's too _horrid_ of you to leave us to play all by
ourselves! We've all got so cross and fractious we've come in here to
be petted!

            [_He arranges himself at her feet, so as to exhibit a very
               neat pair of silk socks and pumps._

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). Do hate to see a fellow come down
in the mornin' with evenin' shoes on!

_Archie Bearpark_ (_to_ BERTIE PILLINER). You speak for yourself,
Pillener. _I_ didn't come to be petted. Came to see if Lady Rhoda
wouldn't come and toboggan down the big staircase on a tea-tray. _Do!_
It's clinkin' sport!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). If there's one thing I _can't_
stand, it's a rowdy bullyraggin' ass like Archie!

_Lady Rhoda Cokayne._ Ta muchly, dear boy, but you don't catch me
travellin' downstairs on a tea-tray _twice_--it's just a bit _too_
clinkin', don't you know!

_Archie Bearpark_ (_disappointed_). Why, there's a mat at the bottom
of the stairs! Well, if you won't, let's get up a cushion fight, then.
Bertie and I will choose sides. Pilliner, I'll toss you for first pick
up--come out of that, do.

_Bertie Pilliner_ (_lazily_). Thanks, I'm much too comfy where I am.
And I don't see any point in romping and rumpling one's hair just
before lunch.

_Archie Bearpark._ Well, you _are_ slack. And there's a good hour
still before lunch. Thicknesse, _you_ suggest something, there's a
dear old chap.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_after a mental effort_). Suppose we all go and
have another look round at the gees--eh, what?

_Bertie Pilliner._ I beg to oppose. Do let's show _some_ respect for
the privacy of the British hunter. Why should I go and smack them on
their fat backs, and feel every one of their horrid legs twice in one
morning? I shouldn't like a horse coming into my bedroom at all hours
to smack _me_ on the back. I should _hate_ it!

_Mrs. Brooke-Chatteris._ I love them--dear things! But still, it's so
wet, and it would mean going up and changing our shoes too--perhaps
Lady Rhoda----

            [Lady RHODA _flatly declines to stir before lunch_.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_resentfully_). Only thought it was better than
loafin' about, that's all. (_To himself._) I do bar a woman who's
afraid of a little mud. (_He saunters up to_ Miss SPELWANE _and
absently pulls the ear of a Japanese spaniel on her knee_.) Poo'
little fellow, then!

_Miss Spelwane._ Poor little fellow? On _my_ lap!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Oh, it--ah--didn't occur to me that he was on
_your_ lap. He don't seem to mind _that_.

_Miss Spelwane._ No? _How_ forbearing of him! Would you mind not
standing quite so much in my light? I can't see my work.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself, retreating_). That girl's always
fishin' for compliments. I didn't rise _that_ time, though. It's
precious slow here. I've a good mind to say I must get back to
Aldershot this afternoon.

            [_He wanders aimlessly about the room_; ARCHIE BEARPARK
               _looks out of window with undisguised boredom_.

_Lady Rhoda._ I say, if none of you are goin' to be more amusin' than
this, you may as well go back to your billiards again.

_Bertie Pilliner._ Dear Lady Rhoda, how cruel of you! You'll have to
let _me_ stay. I'll be _so_ good. Look here, I'll read aloud to you. I
_can_--quite prettily. What shall it be? You don't care? No more do I.
I'll take the first that comes. (_He reaches for the nearest volume on
a table close by._) How _too_ delightful! Poetry--which I know you
_all_ adore.

            [_He turns over the leaves._

_Lady Rhoda._ If you ask _me_, I simply loathe it.

_Bertie Pilliner._ Ah, but then you never heard _me_ read it, you
know. Now, here is a choice little bit, stuck right up in a corner, as
if it had been misbehaving itself. "Disenchantment" it's called.

            [_He reads._

    "My Love has sicklied unto Loath,
      And foul seems all that fair I fancied--
    The lily's sheen a leprous growth,
      The very buttercups are rancid!"

_Archie Bearpark._ Jove! The Johnny who wrote that must have been
feelin' chippy!

_Bertie Pilliner._ He gets cheaper than that in the next poem. This is
his idea of "Abasement."

            [_He reads._

    "With matted head a-dabble in the dust,
    And eyes tear-sealèd in a saline crust,
    I lie all loathly in my rags and rust--
    Yet learn that strange delight may lurk in self-disgust."

Now, do you know, I rather like that--it's so deliciously decadent!

_Lady Rhoda._ I should call it utter rot, myself.

_Bertie Pilliner_ (_blandly_). Forgive me, Lady Rhoda. "Utterly
rotten," if you like, but _not_ "utter rot." There's a difference,
really. Now, I'll read you a quaint little production which has
dropped down to the bottom of the page, in low spirits, I suppose.
"Stanza written in Depression near Dulwich."

            [_He reads._

    "The lark soars up in the air;
      The toad sits tight in his hole;
    And I would I were certain which of the pair
      Were the truer type of my soul!"

_Archie Bearpark._ I should be inclined to back the toad, myself.

_Miss Spelwane._ If you must read, do choose something a little less
dismal. Aren't there any love songs?

_Bertie Pilliner._ I'll look. Yes, any amount--here's one. (_He
reads._) "To My Lady."

    "Twine, lanken fingers lily-lithe,
      Gleam, slanted eyes all beryl-green,
    Pout, blood-red lips that burst awrithe,
      Then--kiss me, Lady Grisoline!"

_Miss Spelwane_ (_interested_). So _that's_ his type. Does he mention
whether she _did_ kiss him?

_Bertie Pilliner._ Probably. Poets are always privileged to kiss and
tell. I'll see ... h'm, ha, yes; he _does_ mention it ... I think I'll
read something else. Here's a classical specimen.

            [_He reads._

    "Uprears the monster now his slobberous head,
      Its filamentous chaps her ankles brushing;
    Her twice-five roseal toes are cramped in dread,
      Each maidly instep mauven-pink is flushing."

And so on, don't you know.... Now I'll read you a regular rouser
called "A Trumpet Blast." Sit tight, everybody!

            [_He reads._

    "Pale Patricians, sunk in self-indulgence, (One for _you_,
            dear Archie!)
      Blink your blearèd eyes. (Blink, pretty creatures, blink!) Behold
            the Sun--
    Burst proclaim, in purpurate effulgence,
      Demos dawning, and the Darkness--done!"

            [_General hilarity, amidst which_ Lady CULVERIN _enters_.

    [Illustration: "NOW I'LL READ YOU A REGULAR ROUSER CALLED 'A
    TRUMPET BLAST.'"]

_Lady Culverin._ So _glad_ you all contrive to keep your spirits up,
in spite of this dismal weather. What is it that's amusing you all so
much, eh, dear Vivien?

_Miss Spelwane._ Bertie Pilliner has been reading aloud to us, dear
Lady Culverin--_the_ most ridiculous poetry--made us all simply
shriek. What's the name of it? (_Taking the volume out of_ BERTIE'S
_hand_.) Oh, _Andromeda, and other Poems_. By Clarion Blair.

_Lady Culverin_ (_coldly_). Bertie Pilliner can turn everything into
ridicule, we all know; but probably you are not aware that these
particular poems are considered quite wonderful by all competent
judges. Indeed, my sister-in-law----

_All_ (_in consternation_). Lady Cantire! Is _she_ the author? Oh, of
course, if we'd had any idea----

_Lady Culverin._ I've no reason to believe that Lady Cantire ever
composed _any_ poetry. I was only going to say that she was most
interested in the author, and as she and my niece Maisie are coming to
us this evening----

_Miss Spelwane._ Dear Lady Culverin, the verses are quite, _quite_
beautiful; it was only the way they were read.

_Lady Culverin._ I am glad to hear you say so, my dear, because I'm
also expecting the pleasure of seeing the author here, and you will
probably be his neighbour to-night. I hope, Bertie, that you will
remember that this young man is a very distinguished genius; there is
no wit that _I_ can discover in making fun of what one doesn't happen
to understand.

            [_She passes on._

_Bertie_ (_plaintively, after_ Lady CULVERIN _has left the room_). May
I trouble somebody to scrape me up? I'm pulverised! But really, you
know, a real live poet at Wyvern! I say, Miss Spelwane, how will you
like to have him dabbling his matted head next to you at dinner, eh?

_Miss Spelwane._ Perhaps I shall find a matted head more entertaining
than a smooth one. And, if you've quite done with that volume, _I_
should like to have a look at it.

            [_She retires with it to her room._

_Archie_ (_to himself_). I'm not half sorry this Poet-johnny's comin';
I never caught a Bard in a booby-trap _yet_.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). She's coming--this very evenin'!
And I was nearly sayin' I must get back to Aldershot!

_Lady Rhoda._ So Lady Cantire's comin'; we shall all have to be on our
hind legs now! But Maisie's a dear thing. Do you know her, Captain
Thicknesse?

_Captain Thicknesse._ I--I used to meet Lady Maisie Mull pretty often
at one time; don't know if she'll remember it, though.

_Lady Rhoda._ She'll love meetin' this writin' man--she's so fearfully
romantic. I heard her say once that she'd give anythin' to be
idealized by a great poet--sort of--what's their names--Petrarch and
Beatrice business, don't you know. It will be rather amusin' to see
whether it comes off--won't it?

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_choking_). I--ah--no affair of mine, really.
(_To himself._) I'm not intellectual enough for her, I know that.
Suppose I shall have to stand by and look on at the Petrarchin'. Well,
there's always Aldershot!

            [_The luncheon gong sounds, to the general relief and
               satisfaction._



PART III

THE TWO ANDROMEDAS


   _Opposite a Railway Bookstall at a London Terminus._
   TIME--_Saturday_, 4.25 P.M.

_Drysdale_ (_to his friend_, GALFRID UNDERSHELL, _whom he is "seeing
off"_). Twenty minutes to spare; time enough to lay in any quantity of
light literature.

_Undershell_ (_in a head voice_). I fear the merely ephemeral does not
appeal to me. But I should like to make a little experiment. (_To the_
Bookstall Clerk.) A--do you happen to have a copy left of Clarion
Blair's _Andromeda_?

_Clerk._ Not in stock, sir. Never 'eard of the book, but dare say I
could get it for you. Here's a Detective Story we're sellin' like 'ot
cakes--_The Man with the Missing Toe_--very cleverly written story,
sir.

    [Illustration: "HERE'S A DETECTIVE STORY WE'RE SELLING LIKE
    'OT CAKES."]

_Undershell._ I merely wished to know--that was all. (_Turning with
resigned disgust to_ DRYSDALE.) Just think of it, my dear fellow. At a
bookstall like this one feels the pulse, as it were, of Contemporary
Culture; and here my _Andromeda_, which no less an authority than the
_Daily Chronicle_ hailed as the uprising of a new and splendid era in
English Song-making, a Poetic Renascence, my poor _Andromeda_, is
trampled underfoot by--(_choking_)--Men with Missing Toes! What a
satire on our so-called Progress!

_Drysdale._ That a purblind public should prefer a Shilling Shocker
for railway reading when for a modest half-guinea they might obtain a
numbered volume of Coming Poetry on hand-made paper! It _does_ seem
incredible,--but they do. Well, if they can't read _Andromeda_ on the
journey, they can at least peruse a stinger on it in this week's
_Saturday_. Seen it?

_Undershell._ No. I don't vex my soul by reading criticisms on my
work. I am no Keats. They may howl--but they will not kill _me_. By
the way, the _Speaker_ had a most enthusiastic notice last week.

_Drysdale._ So you saw _that_ then? But you're right not to mind the
others. When a fellow's contrived to hang on to the Chariot of Fame,
he can't wonder if a few rude and envious beggars call out "Whip
behind!" eh? You don't want to get in yet? Suppose we take a turn up
to the end of the platform.

            [_They do._

     JAMES SPURRELL, M.R.C.V.S., _enters with his friend_, THOMAS
     TANRAKE, _of_ HURDELL AND TANRAKE, _Job and Riding Masters,
     Mayfair_.

_Spurrell._ Yes, it's lucky for me old Spavin being laid up like
this--gives me a regular little outing, do you see? going down to a
swell place like this Wyvern Court, and being put up there for a day
or two! I shouldn't wonder if they do you very well in the
housekeeper's room. (_To_ Clerk.) Give me a Pink Un and last week's
_Dog Fancier's Guide_.

_Clerk._ We've returned the unsold copies, sir. Could give you _this_
week's; or there's _The Rabbit and Poultry Breeder's Journal_.

_Spurrell._ Oh, rabbits be blowed! (_To_ TANRAKE.) I wanted you to see
that notice they put in of Andromeda and me, with my photo and all; it
said she was the best bull-bitch they'd seen for many a day, and fully
deserved her first prize.

_Tanrake._ She's a rare good bitch, and no mistake. But what made you
call her such an outlandish name?

_Spurrell._ Well, I _was_ going to call her Sal; but a chap at the
College thought the other would look more stylish if I ever meant to
exhibit her. Andromeda was one of them Roman goddesses, you know.

_Tanrake._ Oh, I knew _that_ right enough. Come and have a drink
before you start--just for luck--not that you want _that_.

_Spurrell._ I'm lucky enough in most things, Tom; in everything except
love. I told you about that girl, you know--Emma--and my being as good
as engaged to her, and then, all of a sudden, she went off abroad, and
I've never seen or had a line from her since. Can't call _that_ luck,
you know. Well, I won't say no to a glass of something.

            [_They disappear into the refreshment room._

    _The_ Countess of CANTIRE _enters with her daughter_,
    Lady MAISIE MULL.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to_ Footman). Get a compartment for us, and two
foot-warmers, and a second-class as near ours as you can for
Phillipson; then come back here. Stay, I'd better give you
Phillipson's ticket. (_The_ Footman _disappears in the crowd_.) Now we
must get something to read on the journey. (_To_ Clerk.) I want a book
of some sort--no rubbish, mind; something serious and improving, and
_not_ a work of fiction.

_Clerk._ Exactly so, ma'am. Let me see. Ah, here's _Alone with the
'Airy Ainoo_. How would you like that?

_Lady Cantire_ (_with decision_). I should not like it at all.

_Clerk._ I quite understand. Well, I can give you _Three 'Undred Ways
of Dressing the Cold Mutton_--useful little book for a family,
redooced to one and ninepence.

_Lady Cantire._ Thank you. I think I will wait till I am reduced to
one and ninepence.

_Clerk._ Precisely. What do you say to _Seven 'Undred Side-splitters
for Sixpence_? 'Ighly yumerous, I assure you.

_Lady Cantire._ Are these times to split our sides, with so many
serious social problems pressing for solution? You are presumably not
without intelligence; do you never reflect upon the responsibility you
incur in assisting to circulate trivial and frivolous trash of this
sort?

_Clerk_ (_dubiously_). Well, I can't say as I do, particular, ma'am.
I'm paid to sell the books--I don't _select_ 'em.

_Lady Cantire._ That is _no_ excuse for you--you ought to exercise
some discrimination on your own account, instead of pressing people to
buy what can do them no possible good. You can give me a _Society
Snippets_.

_Lady Maisie._ Mamma! A penny paper that says such rude things about
the Royal Family!

_Lady Cantire._ It's always instructive to know what these creatures
are saying about one, my dear, and it's astonishing how they manage to
find out the things they do. Ah, here's Gravener coming back. He's got
us a carriage, and we'd better get in.

            [_She and her daughter enter a first-class compartment_;
               UNDERSHELL _and_ DRYSDALE _return_.


_Drysdale_ (_to_ UNDERSHELL). Well, I don't see now where the
insolence comes in. These people have invited you to stay with
them----

_Undershell._ But why? Not because they appreciate my work--which they
probably only half understand--but out of mere idle curiosity to see
what manner of strange beast a Poet may be! And _I_ don't know this
Lady Culverin--never met her in my life! What the deuce does she mean
by sending me an invitation? Why should these smart women suppose that
they are entitled to send for a Man of Genius, as if he was their
_lackey_? Answer me that!

_Drysdale._ Perhaps the delusion is encouraged by the fact that Genius
occasionally condescends to answer the bell.

_Undershell_ (_reddening_). Do you imagine I am going down to this
place simply to please _them_?

_Drysdale._ I should think it a doubtful kindness, in your present
frame of mind; and, as you are hardly going to please yourself,
wouldn't it be more dignified, on the whole, not to go at all?

_Undershell._ You never _did_ understand me! Sometimes I think I was
born to be misunderstood! But you might do me the justice to believe
that I am not going from merely snobbish motives. May I not feel that
such a recognition as this is a tribute less to my poor self than to
Literature, and that, as such, I have scarcely the _right_ to decline
it?

_Drysdale._ Ah, if you put it in that way, I am silenced, of course.

_Undershell._ Or what if I am going to show these Patricians
that--Poet of the People as I am--they can neither patronise nor
cajole me?

_Drysdale._ Exactly, old chap--what if you _are_?

_Undershell._ I don't say that I may not have another reason--a--a
rather romantic one--but you would only sneer if I told you! I know
you think me a poor creature whose head has been turned by an
undeserved success.

_Drysdale._ You're not going to try to pick a quarrel with an old
chum, are you? Come, you know well enough I don't think anything of
the sort. I've always said you had the right stuff in you, and would
show it some day; there are even signs of it in _Andromeda_ here and
there; but you'll do better things than that, if you'll only let some
of the wind out of your head. I take an interest in you, old fellow,
and that's just why it riles me to see you taking yourself so devilish
seriously on the strength of a little volume of verse which--between
you and me--has been "boomed" for all it's worth, and considerably
more. You've only got your immortality on a short repairing lease at
present, old boy!

_Undershell_ (_with bitterness_). I am fortunate in possessing such a
candid friend. But I mustn't keep you here any longer.

_Drysdale._ Very well. I suppose you're going first? Consider the
feelings of the Culverin footman at the other end!

_Undershell_ (_as he fingers a first-class ticket in his pocket_). You
have a very low view of human nature! (_Here he becomes aware of a
remarkably pretty face at a second-class window close by_). As it
_happens_, I am travelling second.

            [_He gets in._

_Drysdale_ (_at the window_). Well, good-bye, old chap. Good luck to
you at Wyvern, and remember--wear your livery with as good a grace as
possible.

_Undershell._ I do not intend to wear any livery whatever.

            [_The owner of the pretty face regards_ UNDERSHELL _with
               interest_.

_Spurrell_ (_coming out of the refreshment room_). What, second--with
all my exes. paid? Not _likely_! I'm going to travel in style this
journey. No--not a smoker; don't want to create a bad impression, you
know. This will do for me.

            [_He gets into a compartment occupied by_ Lady CANTIRE _and
               her daughter_.

_Tanrake_ (_at the window_). There--you're off now. Pleasant journey
to you, old man. Hope you'll enjoy yourself at this Wyvern Court
you're going to--and, I say, don't forget to send me that notice of
Andromeda when you get back!

            [_The_ Countess _and_ Lady MAISIE _start slightly; the train
               moves out of the station_.



PART IV

RUSHING TO CONCLUSIONS


    _In a First-class Compartment._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Formidable old party opposite me in the
furs! Nice-looking girl over in the corner; not a patch on my Emma,
though! Wonder why I catch 'em sampling me over their papers whenever
I look up! Can't be anything wrong with my turn out. Why, of course,
they heard Tom talk about my going down to Wyvern Court; think I'm a
visitor there and no end of a duke! Well, what snobs some people are,
to be sure!

_Lady Cantire_ (_to herself_). So this is the young poet I made
Albinia ask to meet me. I can't be mistaken, I distinctly heard his
friend mention _Andromeda_. H'm, well, it's a comfort to find he's
_clean_! Have I read his poetry or not? I know I _had_ the book,
because I distinctly remember telling Maisie she wasn't to read
it--but--well, that's of no consequence. He looks clever and quite
respectable--not in the least picturesque--which is fortunate. I was
beginning to doubt whether it was quite prudent to bring Maisie; but I
needn't have worried myself.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). Here, actually in the same carriage!
Does he guess who _I_ am? Somehow---- Well, he certainly _is_ different
from what I expected. I thought he would show more signs of having
thought and suffered; for he _must_ have suffered to write as he does.
If mamma knew I had read his poems; that I had actually written to beg
him not to refuse Aunt Albinia's invitation! He never wrote back. Of
course I didn't put any address; but still, he could have found out
from the Red Book if he'd cared. I'm rather glad now he _didn't_ care.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Old girl seems as if she meant to be
sociable; better give her an opening. (_Aloud._) Hem! would you like
the window down an inch or two?

_Lady Cantire._ Not on _my_ account, thank you.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Broke the ice, anyway. (_Aloud._) Oh, _I_
don't want it down, but some people have such a mania for fresh air.

_Lady Cantire_ (_with a dignified little shiver_). Have they? With a
temperature as glacial as it is in here! They must be maniacs indeed!

_Spurrell._ Well, it _is_ chilly; been raw all day. (_To himself._)
She don't answer. I _haven't_ broken the ice.

            [_He produces a memorandum book._

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). He hasn't said anything _very_ original
yet. So _nice_ of him not to pose! Oh, he's got a note-book; he's
going to compose a poem. How interesting!

    [Illustration: "HE'S GOING TO COMPOSE A POEM. HOW
    INTERESTING!"]

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Yes, I'm all right if Heliograph wins the
Lincolnshire Handicap; lucky to get on at the price I did. Wonder
what's the latest about the City and Suburban? Let's see whether the
Pink Un has anything about it.

            [_He refers to the Sporting Times._

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). The inspiration's stopped--_what_ a
pity! How odd of him to read the _Globe_! I thought he was a Democrat!

_Lady Cantire._ Maisie, there's quite a clever little notice in
_Society Snippets_ about the dance at Skympings last week. I'm sure I
wonder how they pick up these things; it quite bears out what I was
told; says the supper arrangements were "simply disgraceful; not
nearly enough champagne; and what there was, undrinkable!" So _like_
poor dear Lady Chesepare; never _does_ do things like anybody else.
I'm sure _I've_ given her hints enough!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, with a suppressed grin_). Wants to let me see
_she_ knows some swells. Now _ain't_ that paltry?

_Lady Cantire_ (_tendering the paper_). Would you like to see it,
Maisie? Just this bit here; where my finger is.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself, flushing_). I saw him smile. What _must_
he think of us, with his splendid scorn for rank? (_Aloud._) No, thank
you, mamma: such a wretched light to read by!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Chance for _me_ to cut in! (_Aloud._)
Beastly light, isn't it? 'Pon my word, the company ought to provide us
with a dog and string apiece when we get out!

_Lady Cantire_ (_bringing a pair of long-handled glasses to bear upon
him_). I happen to hold shares in this line. May I ask _why_ you
consider a provision of dogs and string at all the stations a
necessary or desirable expenditure?

_Spurrell._ Oh--er--well, you know, I only meant, bring on _blindness_
and that. Harmless attempt at a joke, that's all.

_Lady Cantire._ I see. I scarcely expected that _you_ would condescend
to such weakness. I--ah--think you are going down to stay at Wyvern
for a few days, are you not?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I was right. What Tom said _did_ fetch the
old girl; no harm in humouring her a bit. (_Aloud._) Yes--oh yes,
they--aw--wanted me to run down when I could.

_Lady Cantire._ I heard they were expecting you. You will find Wyvern
a pleasant house--for a short visit.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). _She_ heard! Oh, she wants to kid me she
knows the Culverins. Rats! (_Aloud._) Shall I, though? I dare say.

_Lady Cantire._ Lady Culverin is a very sweet woman; a little limited,
perhaps, not intellectual, or quite what one would call the _grande
dame_; but perhaps _that_ could scarcely be expected.

_Spurrell_ (_vaguely_). Oh, of course not--no. (_To himself._) If she
bluffs, so can I! (_Aloud._) It's funny your turning out to be an
acquaintance of Lady C.'s, though.

_Lady Cantire._ You think so? But I should hardly call myself an
_acquaintance_.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Old cat's trying to back out of it now; she
shan't, though! (_Aloud._) Oh, then I suppose you know Sir Rupert
best?

_Lady Cantire._ Yes, I certainly know Sir Rupert better.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Oh, you do, do you? We'll see. (_Aloud._)
Nice cheery old chap, Sir Rupert, isn't he? I must tell him I
travelled down in the same carriage with a particular friend of his.
(_To himself._) That'll make her sit up!

_Lady Cantire._ Oh, then you and my brother Rupert have met already?

_Spurrell_ (_aghast_). Your brother! Sir Rupert Culverin your----!
Excuse me--if I'd only known, I--I do assure you I never should have
dreamt of saying----!

_Lady Cantire_ (_graciously_). You've said nothing whatever to
distress yourself about. You couldn't possibly be expected to know who
I was. Perhaps I had better tell you at once that I am Lady Cantire,
and this is my daughter, Lady Maisie Mull. (SPURRELL _returns_ Lady
MAISIE'S _little bow in the deepest confusion_.) We are going down to
Wyvern too, so I hope we shall very soon become better acquainted.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, overwhelmed_). The deuce we shall! I _have_
got myself into a hole this time; I wish I could see my way well out
of it! Why on earth couldn't I hold my confounded tongue? I _shall_
look an ass when I tell 'em.

            [_He sits staring at them in silent embarrassment._


    _In a Second-class Compartment._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Singularly attractive face this girl has;
so piquant and so refined! I can't help fancying she is studying me
under her eyelashes. She has remarkably bright eyes. Can she be
interested in me? Does she expect me to talk to her? There are only
she and I--but no, just now I would rather be alone with my thoughts.
This Maisie Mull whom I shall meet so soon; what is _she_ like, I
wonder? I presume she is unmarried. If I may judge from her artless
little letter, she is young and enthusiastic, and she is a passionate
admirer of my verse; she is longing to meet me. I suppose some men's
vanity would be flattered by a tribute like that. I think I must have
none; for it leaves me strangely cold. I did not even reply; it struck
me that it would be difficult to do so with any dignity, and she
didn't tell me where to write to.... After all, how do I know that
this will not end--like everything else--in disillusion? Will not such
crude girlish adoration pall upon me in time? If she were
exceptionally lovely; or say, even as charming as this fair
fellow-passenger of mine--why then, to be sure--but no, something
warns me that that is not to be. I shall find her plain, sandy,
freckled; she will render me ridiculous by her undiscriminating
gush.... Yes, I feel my heart sink more and more at the prospect of
this visit. Ah me!

            [_He sighs heavily._

_His Fellow Passenger_ (_to herself_). It's too silly to be sitting
here like a pair of images, considering that---- (_Aloud._) I hope you
aren't feeling unwell?

_Undershell._ Thank you, no, not unwell. I was merely thinking.

_His Fellow Passenger._ You don't seem very cheerful over it, I must
say. I've no wish to be inquisitive, but perhaps you're feeling a
little low-spirited about the place you're going to?

_Undershell._ I--I must confess I am rather dreading the prospect. How
wonderful that you should have guessed it!

_His Fellow Passenger._ Oh, I've been through it myself. I'm just the
same when _I_ go down to a new place; feel a sort of sinking, you
know, as if the people were sure to be disagreeable, and I should
never get on with them.

_Undershell._ _Exactly_ my own sensations! If I could only be sure of
finding _one_ kindred spirit, one soul who would help and understand
me. But I daren't let myself hope even for that!

_His Fellow Passenger._ Well, I wouldn't judge beforehand. The chances
are there'll be _somebody_ you can take to.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). What sympathy! What bright, cheerful
common sense! (_Aloud._) Do you know, you encourage me more than you
can possibly imagine!

_His Fellow Passenger_ (_retreating_). Oh, if you are going to take my
remarks like _that_, I shall be afraid to go on talking to you!

_Undershell_ (_with pathos_). Don't--_don't_ be afraid to talk to me!
If you only knew the comfort you give! I have found life very sad,
very solitary. And true sympathy is so rare, so refreshing. I--I fear
such an appeal from a stranger may seem a little startling; it is true
that hitherto we have only exchanged a very few sentences; and yet
already I feel that we have something--much--in common. You can't be
so cruel as to let all intimacy cease here--it is quite tantalising
enough that it must end so soon. A very few more minutes, and this
brief episode will be only a memory; I shall have left the little
green oasis far behind me, and be facing the dreary desert once
more--alone!

_His Fellow Passenger_ (_laughing_). Well, of all the uncomplimentary
things! As it happens, though, "the little green oasis"--as you're
kind enough to call me--_won't_ be left behind; not if it's aware of
it! I think I heard your friend mention Wyvern Court! Well, that's
where _I'm_ going.

_Undershell_ (_excitedly_). You--_you_ are going to Wyvern Court! Why,
then, you must be----

            [_He checks himself._

_His Fellow Passenger._ What were you going to say; _what_ must I be?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). There is no doubt about it; bright,
independent girl; gloves a trifle worn; travels second-class for
economy; it must be Miss Mull herself; her letter mentioned Lady
Culverin as her aunt. A poor relation, probably. She doesn't suspect
that I am---- I won't reveal myself just yet; better let it dawn upon
her gradually. (_Aloud._) Why, I was only about to say, why then you
must be going to the same house as I am. How extremely fortunate a
coincidence!

_His Fellow Passenger._ That remains to be seen. (_To herself._) What
a funny little man; such a flowery way of talking for a footman. Oh,
but I forgot; he said he _wasn't_ going to wear livery. Well, he
_would_ look a sight in it!



PART V

CROSS PURPOSES


    _In a First-class Compartment._

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). Poets don't seem to have much
self-possession. He seems perfectly overcome by hearing my name like
that. If only he doesn't lose his head completely and say something
about my wretched letter!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I'd better tell 'em before they find out
for themselves. (_Aloud; desperately._) My lady, I--I feel I ought to
explain at once how I come to be going down to Wyvern like this.

            [Lady MAISIE _only just suppresses a terrified protest_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_benignly amused_). My good sir, there's not the
slightest necessity; I am perfectly aware of who you are, and
everything about you!

_Spurrell_ (_incredulously_). But really I don't see _how_ your
ladyship---- Why, I haven't said a _word_ that----

_Lady Cantire_ (_with a solemn waggishness_.) Celebrities who mean to
preserve their _incognito_ shouldn't allow their friends to see them
off. I happened to hear a certain _Andromeda_ mentioned, and that was
quite enough for Me!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, relieved_). She knows; seen the sketch of me
in the _Dog Fancier_, I expect; goes in for breeding bulls herself,
very likely. Well, that's a load off my mind! (_Aloud._) You don't say
so, my lady. I'd no idea your ladyship would have any taste that way;
most agreeable surprise to me, I can assure you!

_Lady Cantire._ I see no reason for _surprise_ in the matter. I have
always endeavoured to cultivate my taste in all directions; to keep in
touch with every modern development. I make it a rule to read and see
_everything_. Of course, I have no time to give more than a rapid
glance at most things; but I hope some day to be able to have another
look at your _Andromeda_. I hear the most glowing accounts from all
the judges.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). She knows all the judges! She _must_ be in
the fancy! (_Aloud._) Any time your ladyship likes to name I shall be
proud and happy to bring her round for your inspection.

_Lady Cantire_ (_with condescension_). If you are kind enough to offer
me a copy of _Andromeda_, I shall be _most_ pleased to possess one.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Sharp old customer, this; trying to rush me
for a pup. _I_ never offered her one! (_Aloud._) Well, as to _that_,
my lady, I've promised so many already, that really I don't--but
there--I'll see what I can _do_ for you. I'll make a note of it; you
mustn't mind having to _wait_ a bit.

_Lady Cantire_ (_raising her eyebrows_). I will make an effort to
support existence in the meantime.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). I couldn't have believed that the man
who could write such lovely verses should be so--well, not _exactly_ a
gentleman! How _petty_ of me to have such thoughts. Perhaps geniuses
never _are_. And as if it _mattered_! And I'm sure he's very natural
and simple, and I shall like him when I know him better.

            [_The train slackens._

_Lady Cantire._ What station is this? Oh, it _is_ Shuntingbridge.
(_To_ SPURRELL, _as they get out_.) Now, if you'll kindly take charge
of these bags, and go and see whether there's anything from Wyvern to
meet us--you will find us here when you come back.


    _On the Platform at Shuntingbridge._

_Lady Cantire._ Ah, _there_ you are, Phillipson! Yes, you can take the
jewel-case; and now you had better go and see after the trunks.
(PHILLIPSON _hurries back to the luggage-van_; SPURRELL _returns_.)
Well, Mr.--I always forget names, so I shall call you "Andromeda"--have
you found out---- The omnibus, is it? Very well, take us to it, and
we'll get in.

            [_They go outside._

_Undershell_ (_at another part of the platform--to himself_). Where
has Miss Mull disappeared to? Oh, there she is, pointing out her
luggage. What a quantity she travels with! Can't be such a _very_ poor
relation. How graceful and collected she is, and how she orders the
porters about! I really believe I shall enjoy this visit. (_To a
porter._) That's mine--the brown one with a white star. I want it to
go to Wyvern Court--Sir Rupert Culverin's.

_Porter_ (_shouldering it_). Right, sir. Follow me, if you please.

            [_He disappears with it._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I mustn't leave Miss Mull alone.
(_Advancing to her._) Can I be of any assistance?

_Phillipson._ It's all done now. But you might try and find out how
we're to get to the Court.

            [UNDERSHELL _departs; is requested to produce his ticket,
               and spends several minutes in searching every pocket
               but the right one_.

    [Illustration: SEARCHING EVERY POCKET BUT THE RIGHT ONE.]


    _In the Station Yard at Shuntingbridge._

_Lady Cantire_ (_from the interior of the Wyvern omnibus, testily, to_
Footman). What are we waiting for _now_? Is my maid coming with us--or
how?

_Footman._ There's a fly ordered to take her, my lady.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to_ SPURRELL, _who is standing below_). Then it's
_you_ who are keeping us!

_Spurrell._ If your ladyship will excuse me. I'll just go and see if
they've put out my bag.

_Lady Cantire_ (_impatiently_). Never mind about your bag. (_To_
Footman.) What have you done with this gentleman's luggage?

_Footman._ Everything for the Court is on top now, my lady.

            [_He opens the door for_ SPURRELL.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to_ SPURRELL, _who is still irresolute_). For
goodness' sake don't hop about on that step! Come in, and let us
start.

_Lady Maisie._ _Please_ get in--there's _plenty_ of room!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). They _are_ chummy, and no mistake! (_Aloud,
as he gets in._) I do hope it won't be considered any intrusion--my
coming up along with your ladyships, I mean!

_Lady Cantire_ (_snappishly_). Intrusion! I never heard such nonsense!
Did you expect to be asked to run behind? You really mustn't be so
ridiculously modest. As if your _Andromeda_ hadn't procured you the
_entrée_ everywhere!

            [_The omnibus starts._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Good old Drummy! No idea I was such a
swell. I'll keep my tail up. Shyness ain't one of _my_ failings.
(_Aloud, to an indistinct mass at the further end of the omnibus,
which is unlighted._) Er--hum--pitch dark night, my lady, don't get
much idea of the country! (_The mass makes no response._) I was
saying, my lady, it's too dark to---- (_The mass snores peacefully._)
Her ladyship seems to be taking a snooze on the quiet, my lady. (_To_
Lady MAISIE.) (_To himself._) Not that _that's_ the term for it!

_Lady Maisie_ (_distantly_). My mother gets tired rather easily. (_To
herself._) It's really too dreadful; he makes me hot all over! If he's
going to do this kind of thing at Wyvern! And I'm more or less
_responsible_ for him, too! I _must_ see if I can't---- It will be only
kind. (_Aloud, nervously._) Mr.--Mr. Blair!

_Spurrell._ Excuse me, my lady, not _Blair_--Spurrell.

_Lady Maisie._ Of course, _how_ stupid of me. I knew it wasn't
_really_ your name. Mr. _Spurrell_, then, you--you won't mind if I
give you just one little hint, _will_ you?

_Spurrell._ I shall take it kindly of your ladyship, whatever it is.

_Lady Maisie_ (_more nervously still_). It's really such a trifle,
but--but, in speaking to mamma or me, it isn't at all necessary to say
"my lady" or "your ladyship." I--I mean, it sounds rather,
well--_formal_, don't you know!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). _She's_ going to be chummy now! (_Aloud._)
I thought, on a first acquaintance, it was only manners.

_Lady Maisie._ Oh--manners? yes, I--I dare say--but still--but
still--_not_ at Wyvern, don't you know. If you like, you can call
mamma "Lady Cantire," and me "Lady Maisie," now and then, and, of
course, my aunt will be "Lady Culverin," but--but if there are other
people staying in the house, you needn't call them _anything_, do you
see?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I'm not likely to have the chance!
(_Aloud._) Well, if you're sure they won't _mind_ it, because I'm not
used to this sort of thing, so I put myself entirely in your
hands,--for, of course, _you_ know what brought me down here?

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). He means my foolish letter! Oh, I must
put a stop to _that_ at once! (_In a hurried undertone._) Yes--yes;
I--I think I do I mean, I _do_ know--but--but _please_ forget
it--_indeed_, you must!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Forget I've come down as a vet? The
Culverins will take care I don't forget that! (_Aloud._) But, I say,
it's all very well; but how _can_ I? Why, look here; I was told I was
to come down here on purpose to----

_Lady Maisie_ (_on thorns_). I know--you needn't tell me! And _don't_
speak so loud! _Mamma_ might hear!

_Spurrell_ (_puzzled_). What if she did? Why, I thought her la--your
mother _knew_!

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). He actually thinks I should tell mamma!
Oh, how _dense_ he is! (_Aloud._) Yes--yes--of _course_ she
knows--but--but you might _wake_ her! And--and please don't allude to
it again--to me or--or any one. (_To herself._) That I should have to
beg him to be silent like this! But what can I _do_? Goodness only
knows _what_ he mightn't say, if I don't warn him!

_Spurrell_ (_nettled_). I don't mind _who_ knows. _I'm_ not ashamed
of it, Lady Maisie--whatever you may be!

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself, exasperated_). He dares to imply that
_I_'ve done something to be ashamed of! (_Aloud, haughtily._) I'm
_not_ ashamed--why _should_ I be? Only--oh, can't you _really_
understand that--that one may do things which one wouldn't care to be
reminded of publicly? I don't _wish_ it--isn't _that_ enough?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I see what she's at now--doesn't want it to
come out that she's travelled down here with a vet! (_Aloud,
stiffly._) A lady's wish is enough for _me_ at any time. If you're
sorry for having gone out of your way to be friendly, why, I'm not the
person to take advantage of it. I hope I know how to behave.

            [_He takes refuge in offended silence._

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). Why did I say anything at all! I've only
made things worse--I've let him see that he _has_ an advantage. And
he's certain to use it sooner or later--unless I am civil to him. I've
offended him now--and I shall _have_ to make it up with him!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I thought all along she didn't seem as
chummy as her mother--but to turn round on me like this!

_Lady Cantire_ (_waking up_). Well, Mr. Andromeda, I should have
thought you and my daughter might have found _some_ subject in common;
but I haven't heard a word from either of you since we left the
station.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). That's _some_ comfort! (_Aloud._) You
must have had a nap, mamma. We--we _have_ been talking.

_Spurrell._ Oh yes, we _have_ been talking, I can assure you, Lady
Cantire!

_Lady Cantire._ Dear me. Well, Maisie, I hope the conversation was
entertaining?

_Lady Maisie._ M--most entertaining, mamma!

_Lady Cantire._ I'm quite sorry I missed it. (_The omnibus stops._)
Wyvern at last! But _what_ a journey it's been, to be sure!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I should just think it had. I've never been
so taken up and put down in all my life! But it's over now; and, thank
goodness, I'm not likely to see any more of 'em!

            [_He gets out with alacrity._



PART VI

ROUND PEGS IN SQUARE HOLES


    _In the Entrance Hall at Wyvern._

_Tredwell_ (_to_ Lady CANTIRE). This way, if you please, my lady. Her
ladyship is in the Hamber Boudwore.

_Lady Cantire._ Wait. (_She looks round._) What has become of that
young Mr. Androm----? (_Perceiving_ SPURRELL, _who has been modestly
endeavouring to efface himself_.) Ah, _there_ he is! Now, come along,
and be presented to my sister-in-law. She'll be enchanted to know you!

_Spurrell._ But indeed, my lady, I--I think I'd better wait till she
sends for me.

_Lady Cantire._ Wait? Fiddlesticks! What! A famous young man like you!
Remember _Andromeda_, and don't make yourself so ridiculous!

_Spurrell_ (_miserably_). Well, Lady Cantire, if her ladyship _says_
anything, I hope you'll bear me out that it wasn't----

_Lady Cantire._ Bear you out? My good young man, you seem to need
somebody to bear you _in_! Come, you are under _my_ wing. _I_ answer
for your welcome--so do as you're told.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, as he follows resignedly_). It's my belief
there'll be a jolly row when I _do_ go in; but it's not my fault!

_Tredwell_ (_opening the door of the Amber Boudoir_). Lady Cantire and
Lady Maisie Mull (_To_ SPURRELL.) What name, if you please, sir?

    [Illustration: "WHAT NAME, IF YOU PLEASE, SIR?"]

_Spurrell_ (_dolefully_). You can say "James Spurrell"--you needn't
_bellow_ it, you know!

_Tredwell_ (_ignoring this suggestion_). Mr. James Spurrell.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, on the threshold_). If I don't get the chuck
for this, I _shall_ be surprised, that's all!

            [_He enters._


    _In a Fly._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Alone with a lovely girl, who has no
suspicion, as yet, that I am the poet whose songs have thrilled her
with admiration! _Could_ any situation be more romantic? I think I
must keep up this little mystification as long as possible.

_Phillipson_ (_to herself_). I wonder who he is? _Somebody's_ Man, I
suppose. I do believe he's struck with me. Well, I've no objection. I
don't see why I shouldn't forget Jim now and then--he's quite
forgotten me! (_Aloud._) They might have sent a decent carriage for us
instead of this ramshackle old summerhouse. We shall be _hours_
getting to the house at this rate!

_Undershell_ (_gallantly_). For my part, I care not how long we may
be. I feel so unspeakably content to be where I am.

_Phillipson_ (_disdainfully_). In this mouldy, lumbering old concern?
You must be rather easily contented, then!

_Undershell_ (_dreamily_). It travels only too swiftly. To me it is a
veritable enchanted car, drawn by a magic steed.

_Phillipson._ I don't know whether he's magic--but I'm sure he's lame.
And stuffiness is not _my_ notion of _enchantment_.

_Undershell._ I'm not prepared to deny the stuffiness. But cannot you
guess what has transformed this vehicle for me--in spite of its
undeniable shortcomings--or must I speak more plainly still?

_Phillipson._ Well, considering the shortness of our acquaintance, I
must say you've spoken quite plainly enough as it is!

_Undershell._ I know I must seem unduly expansive, and wanting in
reserve; and yet that is not my true disposition. In general, I feel
an almost fastidious shrinking from strangers----

_Phillipson_ (_with a little laugh_). Really? I shouldn't have thought
it!

_Undershell._ Because, in the present case, I do not--I cannot--feel
as if we _were_ strangers. Some mysterious instinct led me, almost
from the first, to associate you with a certain Miss Maisie Mull.

_Phillipson._ Well, I wonder how you discovered _that_. Though you
shouldn't have said "Miss"--_Lady_ Maisie Mull is the proper form.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Lady Maisie Mull! I attach no meaning to
titles--and yet nothing but rank could confer such perfect ease and
distinction. (_Aloud._) I should have said _Lady_ Maisie Mull,
undoubtedly--forgive my ignorance. But at least I have divined you.
Does nothing tell you who and what _I_ may be?

_Phillipson._ Oh, I think I can give a tolerable guess at what _you_
are.

_Undershell._ You recognize the stamp of the Muse upon me, then?

_Phillipson._ Well, I shouldn't have taken you for a groom exactly.

_Undershell_ (_with some chagrin_). You are really too flattering!

_Phillipson._ Am I? Then it's your turn now. You might say you'd never
have taken me for a _lady's maid_!

_Undershell._ I might--if I had any desire to make an unnecessary and
insulting remark.

_Phillipson._ Insulting? Why, it's what I _am_! I'm maid to Lady
Maisie. I thought your mysterious instinct told you all about it?

_Undershell_ (_to himself--after the first shock_). A lady's maid!
Gracious Heaven! What have I been saying--or rather, what _haven't_ I?
(_Aloud._) To--to be sure it did. Of course, I quite understand
_that_. (_To himself._) Oh, confound it all, I wish we were at Wyvern!

_Phillipson._ And, after all, you've never told me who _you_ are. Who
_are_ you?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I must not humiliate this poor girl!
(_Aloud._) I? Oh--a very insignificant person, I assure you! (_To
himself._) This is an occasion in which deception is pardonable--even
justifiable!

_Phillipson._ Oh, I knew _that_ much. But you let out just now you
had to do with a Mews. You aren't a rough-rider, are you?

_Undershell._ N--not _exactly_--not a _rough_-rider. (_To himself._)
Never on a horse in my life!--unless I count my _Pegasus_. (_Aloud._)
But you are right in supposing I am connected with a muse--in one
sense.

_Phillipson._ I _said_ so, didn't I? Don't you think it was rather
clever of me to spot you, when you're not a bit horsey-looking?

_Undershell_ (_with elaborate irony_). Accept my compliments on a
power of penetration which is simply phenomenal!

_Phillipson_ (_giving him a little push_). Oh, go along--it's all talk
with you--I don't believe you mean a word you say!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). She's becoming absolutely vulgar.
(_Aloud._) I don't--I _don't_; it's a manner I have; you mustn't
attach any importance to it--none whatever!

_Phillipson._ What! Not to all those high-flown compliments? Do you
mean to tell me you are only a gay deceiver, then?

_Undershell_ (_in horror_). Not a _deceiver_, no; and decidedly not
_gay_. I mean I _did_ mean the _compliments_, of course. (_To
himself._) I mustn't let her suspect anything, or she'll get talking
about it; it would be too horrible if this were to get round to Lady
Maisie or the Culverins--so undignified; and it would ruin all my
_prestige_! I've only to go on playing a part for a few minutes,
and--maid or not--she's a most engaging girl!

            [_He goes on playing the part, with the unexpected result
               of sending_ Miss PHILLIPSON _into fits of uncontrollable
               laughter_.


    _At a Back Entrance at Wyvern. The Fly has just set down_
    PHILLIPSON _and_ UNDERSHELL.

_Tredwell_ (_receiving_ PHILLIPSON). Lady Maisie's maid, I presume?
I'm the butler here--Mr. Tredwell. Your ladies arrived some time back.
I'll take you to the housekeeper, who'll show you their rooms, and
where yours is, and I hope you'll find everything comfortable. (_In an
undertone, indicating_ UNDERSHELL, _who is awaiting recognition in the
doorway_.) Do you happen to know who it is _with_ you?

_Phillipson_ (_in a whisper_). I can't quite make him out--he's so
flighty in his talk. But he _says_ he belongs to some Mews or other.

_Tredwell._ Oh, then _I_ know who he is. We expect him right enough.
He's a partner in a crack firm of Vets. We've sent for him special.
I'd better see to him, if you don't mind finding your own way to the
housekeeper's room, second door to the left, down that corridor.
(PHILLIPSON _departs_.) Good evening to you, Mr.--ah--Mr.----?

_Undershell_ (_coming forward_). Mr. Undershell. Lady Culverin expects
me, I believe.

_Tredwell._ Quite correct, Mr. Undershell, sir. She do. Leastwise, I
shouldn't say myself she'd require to see you--well, not _before_
to-morrow morning--but you won't mind _that_, I dare say.

_Undershell_ (_choking_). Not mind that! Take me to her at once!

_Tredwell._ Couldn't take it on myself, sir, really. There's no
particular 'urry. I'll let her ladyship know you're 'ere; and if she
wants you, she'll send for you; but, with a party staying in the
'ouse, and others dining with us to-night, it ain't likely as she'll
have time for you till to-morrow.

_Undershell._ Oh, then whenever her ladyship should find leisure to
recollect my existence, will you have the goodness to inform her that
I have taken the liberty of returning to town by the next train?

_Tredwell._ Lor! Mr. Undershell, you aren't so pressed as all _that_,
are you? I know my lady wouldn't like you to go without seeing you
personally; no more wouldn't Sir Rupert. And I understood you was
coming down for the Sunday!

_Undershell_ (_furious_). So did _I_--but not to be treated like this!

_Tredwell_ (_soothingly_). Why, _you_ know what ladies are. And you
couldn't see Deerfoot--not properly, to-night, either.

_Undershell._ I have seen enough of this place already. I intend to go
back by the next train, I tell you.

_Tredwell._ But there _ain't_ any next train up to-night--being a loop
line--not to mention that I've sent the fly away, and they can't spare
no one at the stables to drive you in. Come, sir, make the best of it.
I've had my horders to see that you're made comfortable, and Mrs.
Pomfret and me will expect the pleasure of your company at supper in
the 'ousekeeper's room, 9.30 sharp. I'll send the steward's room boy
to show you to your room.

            [_He goes, leaving_ UNDERSHELL _speechless_.

_Undershell_ (_almost foaming_). The insolence of these cursed
aristocrats! Lady Culverin will see me when she has time, forsooth! I
am to be entertained in the servants' hall! _This_ is how our upper
classes honour Poetry! I won't stay a single hour under their
infernal roof. I'll walk. But where _to_? And how about my luggage?

            [PHILLIPSON _returns_.

_Phillipson._ Mr. Tredwell says you want to go already! It _can't_ be
true! Without even waiting for supper?

_Undershell_ (_gloomily_). Why should I wait for supper in this house?

_Phillipson._ Well, _I_ shall be there; I don't know if _that's_ any
inducement.

            [_She looks down._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). She is a singularly bewitching creature;
and I'm starving. Why _shouldn't_ I stay--if only to shame these
Culverins? It will be an experience--a study in life. I can always go
afterwards. I _will_ stay. (_Aloud._) You little know the sacrifice
you ask of me, but enough; I give way. We shall meet--(_with a
gulp_)--in the housekeeper's room!

_Phillipson_ (_highly amused_). You _are_ a comical little man. You'll
be the death of me if you go on like that!

            [_She flits away._

_Undershell_ (_alone_). I feel disposed to be the death of _somebody_!
Oh, Lady Maisie Mull, to what a bathos have you lured your poet by
your artless flattery--a banquet presided over by your aunt's butler!



PART VII

IGNOTUM PRO MIRIFICO


    _The Amber Boudoir at Wyvern immediately after_ Lady CANTIRE
    _and her daughter have entered_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_in reply to_ Lady CULVERIN). Tea? oh yes, my dear;
anything _warm_! I'm positively perished--that tedious cold journey
and the long drive afterwards! I always tell Rupert he would see me
_far_ oftener at Wyvern if he would only get the company to bring the
line round close to the park gates, but it has _no_ effect upon him!
(_As_ TREDWELL _announces_ SPURRELL, _who enters in trepidation_.) Mr.
James Spurrell! Who's Mr.----? Oh, to be sure; _that's_ the name of my
interesting young poet--_Andromeda_, you know, my dear! Go and be
pleasant to him, Albinia, he wants reassuring.

_Lady Culverin_ (_a trifle nervous_). How do you do,
Mr.--ah--Spurrell? (_To herself._) I _said_ he ended in "ell"!
(_Aloud._) So pleased to see you! We think so much of your
_Andromeda_ here, you know. Quite delightful of you to find time to
run down!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Why, _she's_ chummy, too! Old Drummy pulls
me through everything! (_Aloud._) Don't name it, my la--hum--Lady
Culverin. No trouble at all; only too proud to get your summons!

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). He doesn't seem very revolutionary!
(_Aloud._) That's so sweet of you; when so many must be absolutely
fighting to get you!

_Spurrell._ Oh, as for that, there _is_ rather a run on me just now,
but I put everything else aside for _you_, of course!

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). He's soon _reassured_. (_Aloud, with a
touch of frost._) I am sure we must consider ourselves most fortunate.
(_Turning to the Countess._) You _did_ say cream, Rohesia? Sugar,
Maisie dearest?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I'm all right up to now! I suppose I'd
better say nothing about the horse till _they_ do. I feel rather out
of it among these nobs, though. I'll try and chum on to little Lady
Maisie again; she may have got over her temper by this time, and she's
the only one I know. (_He approaches her._) Well, Lady Maisie, here I
_am_, you see. I'd really no idea your aunt would be so friendly! I
say, you know, you don't mind _speaking_ to a fellow, do you? I've no
one else I can go to--and--and it's a bit strange at first, you know!

_Lady Maisie_ (_colouring with mingled apprehension, vexation, and
pity_). If I can be of any help to you, Mr. Spurrell----!

_Spurrell._ Well, if you'd only tell me what I ought to _do_!

_Lady Maisie._ Surely that's very simple; do _nothing_; just take
everything quietly as it comes, and you _can't_ make any mistakes.

_Spurrell_ (_anxiously_). And you don't think anybody'll see anything
out of the way in my being here like this?

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). I'm only too afraid they _will_!
(_Aloud._) You really _must_ have a little self-confidence. Just
remember that no one here could produce anything a millionth part as
splendid as your _Andromeda_! It's _too_ distressing to see you so
_appallingly_ humble! (_To herself._) There's Captain Thicknesse over
there--he _might_ come and rescue me; but he doesn't seem to care to!

_Spurrell._ Well, you _do_ put some heart into me, Lady Maisie. I feel
equal to the lot of 'em now!

_Pilliner_ (_to_ Miss SPELWANE). Is _that_ the poet? Why, but I
say--he's a _fraud_! Where's his matted head? He's not a bit ragged,
or rusty either. And why don't he dabble? Don't seem to know what to
do with his hands quite, though, _does_ he?

_Miss Spelwane_ (_coldly_). He knows how to do some very exquisite
poetry with _one_ of them, at all events. I've been reading it, and
_I_ think it perfectly marvellous!

_Pilliner._ I see what it is, you're preparing to turn his matted head
for him? I warn you you'll only waste your sweetness. That pretty
little Lady Maisie's annexed _him_. Can't you content yourself with
_one_ victim at a time?

_Miss Spelwane._ Don't be so utterly idiotic! (_To herself._) If
Maisie imagines she's to be allowed to monopolise the only man in the
room worth talking to!----

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself, as he watches_ Lady MAISIE). She is
lookin' prettier than ever! Forgotten me. Used to be friendly enough
once, though, till her mother warned me off. Seems to have a good deal
to say to that poet fellow; saw her colour up from here the moment he
came near; he's _begun_ Petrarchin', hang him! I'd cross over and
speak to her if I could catch her eye. Don't know, though; what's the
use? She wouldn't thank me for interruptin'. She likes these clever
chaps; don't signify to her if they _are_ bounders, I suppose. _I_'m
not intellectual. Gad, I wish I'd gone back to Aldershot!

_Lady Cantire_ (_by the tea-table_). Why don't you make that woman of
yours send you up decent cakes, my dear? These are cinders. I'm afraid
you let her have too much of her own way. Now, tell me--who are your
party? Vivien Spelwane! Never have that girl to meet me again, I can't
_endure_ her; and that affected little ape of a Mr. Pilliner--h'm! Do
I see Captain Thicknesse? Now, I don't object to _him_. Maisie and he
used to be great friends.... Ah, how do you _do_, Captain Thicknesse?
Quite pleasant finding you here; such ages since we saw anything of
you! Why haven't you been near us all this time?... Oh, I may have
been out once or twice when you called; but you might have tried
again, _mightn't_ you? There, _I_ forgive you; you had better go and
see if you can make your peace with Maisie!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself, as he obeys_). Doosid odd, Lady
Cantire comin' round like this. Wish she'd thought of it before.

_Lady Cantire_ (_in a whisper_). He's always been such a favourite of
mine. They tell me his uncle, poor dear Lord Dunderhead, is _so_
ill--felt the loss of his only son so terribly. Of course it will
make a great difference--in many ways.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_constrainedly to_ Lady MAISIE). How do you do?
Afraid you've forgotten me.

_Lady Maisie._ Oh no, indeed! (_Hurriedly._) You--you don't know Mr.
Spurrell, I think? (_Introducing them._) Captain Thicknesse.

_Captain Thicknesse._ How are you? Been hearin' a lot about you
lately. _Andromeda_, don't you know; and that kind of thing.

_Spurrell._ It's wonderful what a hit she seems to have made--not that
I'm _surprised_ at it, either; I always knew----

_Lady Maisie_ (_hastily_). Oh, Mr. Spurrell, you haven't had any tea!
_Do_ go and get some before it's taken away.

            [SPURRELL _goes_.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Been tryin' to get you to notice me ever since
you came; but you were so awfully absorbed, you know!

_Lady Maisie._ Was I? So absorbed as all that! What with?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Well, it looked like it--with talkin' to your
poetical friend.

_Lady Maisie_ (_flushing_). He is not _my_ friend in particular; I--I
admire his poetry, of course.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). Can't even speak of him without
a change of colour. Bad sign that! (_Aloud._) You always _were_ keen
about poetry and literature and that in the old days, weren't you?
Used to rag me for not readin' enough. But I do now. I was readin' a
book only last week. I'll tell you the name if you give me a minute to
think--book everybody's readin' just now--no end of a clever book.

            [Miss SPELWANE _rushes across to_ Lady MAISIE.

_Miss Spelwane._ Maisie, dear, how are you? You look _so_ tired!
That's the journey, I suppose. (_Whispering._) Do tell me--is that
really the author of _Andromeda_ drinking tea close by? You're a
_great_ friend of his, I know. Do be a dear, and introduce him to me!
I declare the dogs have made friends with him already. Poets have such
a wonderful attraction for animals, haven't they?

            [Lady MAISIE _has to bring_ SPURRELL _up and introduce
               him_; Captain THICKNESSE _chooses to consider himself
               dismissed_.

_Miss Spelwane_ (_with shy adoration_). Oh, Mr. Spurrell, I feel as if
I _must_ talk to you about _Andromeda_. I _did_ so admire it!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Another of 'em! They seem uncommonly sweet
on "bulls" in this house! (_Aloud._) Very glad to hear you say so, I'm
sure. But I'm bound to say she's about as near perfection as anything
_I_ ever--I dare say you went over her points----

_Miss Spelwane._ Indeed, I believe none of them were lost upon me; but
my poor little praise must seem so worthless and ignorant!

_Spurrell_ (_indulgently_). Oh, I wouldn't say _that_. I find some
ladies very knowing about these things. I'm having a picture done of
her.

_Miss Spelwane._ Are you really? _How_ delightful! As a frontispiece?

_Spurrell._ Eh? Oh no--full length, and sideways--so as to show her
legs, you know.

_Miss Spelwane._ Her legs? Oh, of _course_--with "her roseal toes
cramped." I thought that such a _wonderful_ touch!

_Spurrell._ They're not more cramped than they ought to be; she never
turned them _in_, you know!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_mystified_). I didn't suppose she did. And now tell
me--if it's not an indiscreet question--when do you expect there'll be
another edition?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Another addition! _She's_ cadging for a pup
now! (_Aloud._) Oh--er--really--couldn't say.

_Miss Spelwane._ I'm sure the first must be disposed of by this time.
I shall look out for the next _so_ eagerly!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Time I "off"ed it. (_Aloud._) Afraid I
can't say anything definite--and, excuse me leaving you, but I think
Lady Culverin is looking my way.

_Miss Spelwane._ Oh, by all _means_? (_To herself._) I might as well
praise a pillar-post! And after spending quite half an hour reading
him up, too! I wonder if Bertie Pilliner was right; but I shall have
him all to myself at dinner.

_Lady Cantire._ And where is Rupert? too busy of _course_ to come and
say a word! Well, some day he may understand what a sister is--when
it's too late. Ah, here's our nice unassuming young poet coming up to
talk to you. Don't _repel_ him, my dear!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Better give her the chance of telling me
what's wrong with the horse, I suppose. (_Aloud._) Er--nice
old-fashioned sort of house this, Lady Culverin. (_To himself._) I'll
work round to the stabling by degrees.

_Lady Culverin_ (_coldly_). I believe it dates from the Tudors--if
that is what you mean.

_Lady Cantire._ My dear Albinia, I _quite_ understand him;
"old-fashioned" is _exactly_ the epithet. And I was born and brought
up here, so perhaps I should know.

            [_A footman enters, and comes up to_ SPURRELL _mysteriously._

_Footman._ Will you let me have your keys, if you please, sir?

_Spurrell_ (_in some alarm_). My keys! (_Suspiciously._) Why, what do
you want _them_ for?

    [Illustration: "MY KEYS! WHY, WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM FOR?"]

_Lady Cantire_ (_in a whisper_). Isn't he _deliciously_
unsophisticated? Quite a child of nature! (_Aloud._) My dear Mr.
Spurrell, he wants your keys to unlock your portmanteau and put out
your things; you'll be able to dress for dinner all the quicker.

_Spurrell._ Do you mean--am I to have the honour of sitting down to
table with all of _you_?

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). Oh, my goodness, what _will_ Rupert
say? (_Aloud._) Why, of course, Mr. Spurrell; how can you ask?

_Spurrell_ (_feebly_). I--I didn't know, that was all. (_To_ Footman.)
Here you are, then. (_To himself._) Put out my things?--he'll find
nothing to put out except a nightgown, sponge bag, and a couple of
brushes! If I'd only known I should be let in for this, I'd have
brought dress-clothes. But how _could_ I? I--I wonder if it would be
any good telling 'em quietly how it is. I shouldn't like 'em to think
I hadn't got any. (_He looks at_ Lady CANTIRE _and her sister-in-law,
who are talking in an undertone_.) No, perhaps I'd better let it
alone. I--I can allude to it in a joky sort of way when I come down!



PART VIII

SURPRISES--AGREEABLE AND OTHERWISE


    _In the Amber Boudoir._ Sir RUPERT _has just entered_.

_Sir Rupert._ Ha, Maisie, my dear, glad to see you! Well, Rohesia, how
are you, eh? You're _looking_ uncommonly well! No idea you were here!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Sir Rupert! He'll hoof me out of this
pretty soon, I expect!

_Lady Cantire_ (_aggrieved_). We have been in the house for the best
part of an hour, Rupert--as you might have discovered by
inquiring--but no doubt you preferred your comfort to welcoming so
unimportant a guest as your sister!

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself_). Beginning already! (_Aloud._) Very
sorry--got rather wet riding--had to change everything. And I knew
Albinia was here.

_Lady Cantire_ (_magnanimously_). Well, we won't begin to quarrel the
moment we meet; and you are forgetting your other guest. (_In an
undertone._) Mr. Spurrell--the poet--wrote _Andromeda_. (_Aloud._) Mr.
Spurrell, come and let me present you to my brother.

_Sir Rupert._ Ah, how d'ye do? (_To himself, as he shakes hands._)
What the deuce am I to say to this fellow? (_Aloud._) Glad to see you
here, Mr. Spurrell--heard all about you--_Andromeda_, eh? Hope you'll
manage to amuse yourself while you're with us; afraid there's not much
you can do _now_ though.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Horse in a bad way; time they let me see
it. (_Aloud._) Well, we must see, sir; I'll do all _I_ can.

_Sir Rupert._ You see, the shooting's _done_ now.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, professionally piqued_). They might have
waited till I'd seen the horse before they shot him! After calling me
in like this! (_Aloud._) Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Sir Rupert. I
wish I could have got here earlier, I'm sure.

_Sir Rupert._ Wish we'd asked you a month ago, if you're fond of
shooting. Thought you might look down on sport, perhaps.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Sport? Why, he's talking of _birds_--not
the horse! (_Aloud._) Me, Sir Rupert? Not _much_! I'm as keen on a
day's gunning as any man, though I don't often get the chance now.

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself, pleased_). Come, he don't seem strong
against the Game Laws! (_Aloud._) Thought you didn't look as if you
sat over your desk all day! There's hunting still, of course. Don't
know whether you ride?

_Spurrell._ Rather so, sir! Why, I was born and bred in a sporting
county, and as long as my old uncle was alive, I could go down to his
farm and get a run with the hounds now and again.

_Sir Rupert_ (_delighted_). Capital! Well, our next meet is on
Tuesday--best part of the country; nearly all grass, and nice clean
post and rails. You must stay over for it. Got a mare that will carry
your weight perfectly, and I think I can promise you a run--eh, what
do you say?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, in surprise_). He _is_ a chummy old cock!
I'll wire old Spavin that I'm detained on biz; and I'll tell 'em to
send my riding-breeches and dress-clothes down! (_Aloud._) It's
uncommonly kind of you, sir, and I think I can manage to stop on a
bit.

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). Rupert must be out of his senses! It's
bad enough to have him here till Monday! (_Aloud._) We mustn't forget,
Rupert, how valuable Mr. Spurrell's time is; it would be too selfish
of us to detain him here a day longer than----

_Lady Cantire._ My dear, Mr. Spurrell has already said he can _manage_
it; so we may all enjoy his society with a clear conscience. (Lady
CULVERIN _conceals her sentiments with difficulty_.) And now, Albinia,
if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go to my room and rest a little, as
I'm rather overdone, and you have all these tiresome people coming to
dinner to-night.

            [_She rises and leaves the room; the other ladies follow
               her example._

_Lady Culverin._ Rupert, I'm going up now with Rohesia. You know where
we've put Mr. Spurrell, don't you? The Verney Chamber.

            [_She goes out._

_Sir Rupert._ Take you up now, if you like, Mr. Spurrell--it's only
just seven, though. Suppose you don't take an hour to dress, eh?

_Spurrell._ Oh dear no, sir, nothing like it! (_To himself._) Won't
take me two minutes as I am now! I'd better tell him--I can say my bag
hasn't come. I don't believe it _has_, and, anyway, it's a good
excuse. (_Aloud._) The--the fact is, Sir Rupert, I'm afraid that my
luggage has been unfortunately left behind.

_Sir Rupert._ No luggage, eh? Well, well, it's of no consequence. But
I'll ask about it--I dare say it's all right.

            [_He goes out._

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to_ SPURRELL). Sure to have turned up, you
know--man will have seen that. Shouldn't altogether object to a glass
of sherry and bitters before dinner. Don't know how _you_
feel--suppose you've a soul _above_ sherry and bitters, though?

_Spurrell._ Not at this moment. But I'd soon _put_ my soul above a
sherry and bitters if I got a chance!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_after reflection_). I say, you know, that's
rather smart, eh? (_To himself._) Aw'fly clever sort of chap, this,
but not stuck up--not half a bad sort, if he _is_ a bit of a bounder.
(_Aloud._) Anythin' in the evenin' paper? Don't get 'em down here.

    [Illustration: "I SAY, YOU KNOW, THAT'S RATHER SMART, EH?"]

_Spurrell._ Nothing much. I see there's an objection to Monkey-tricks.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_startled_). No, by Jove! Hope they'll overrule
it--make a lot of difference to me if they don't.

_Spurrell._ Don't fancy there's much in it. Your money's safe enough,
I expect. Have you any particular fancy for the Grand National? I know
something that's safe to win, bar accidents--a dead cert, sir! Got the
tip straight from the stable. You just take my advice, and pile all
you can on Jumping Joan.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_later, to himself, after a long and highly
interesting conversation_). Thunderin' clever chap--never knew poets
_were_ such clever chaps. Might be a "bookie," by Gad! No wonder
Maisie thinks such a lot of him!

            [_He sighs._

_Sir Rupert_ (_returning_). Now, Mr. Spurrell, if you'll come upstairs
with me, I'll show you your quarters. By the way, I've made inquiries
about your luggage, and I think you'll find it's all right. (_As he
leads the way up the staircase._) Rather awkward for you if you'd had
to come down to dinner just as you are, eh?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Oh, lor, my beastly bag _has_ come after
all! Now they'll _know_ I didn't bring a dress suit. What an owl I was
to tell him! (_Aloud, feebly._) Oh--er--very awkward indeed, Sir
Rupert!

_Sir Rupert_ (_stopping at a bedroom door_). Verney Chamber--here you
are. Ah, my wife forgot to have your name put on the door--better do
it now, eh? (_He writes it on the card in the door-plate._)
There--well, hope you'll find it all comfortable--we dine at eight,
you know. You've plenty of time for all you've got to do!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). If I only knew _what_ to do! I shall never
have the cheek to come down as I am!

            [_He enters the Verney Chamber dejectedly._


    _In an Upper Corridor in the East Wing._

_Steward's Room Boy_ (to UNDERSHELL). This is your room, sir--you'll
find a fire lit and all.

_Undershell_ (_scathingly_). A fire? For me! I scarcely expected such
an indulgence. You are _sure_ there's no mistake?

_Boy._ This is the room I was told, sir. You'll find candles on the
mantelpiece, and matches.

_Undershell._ Every luxury indeed! I am pampered--_pampered_!

_Boy._ Yes, sir. And I was to say as supper's at ar-past nine, but
Mrs. Pomfret would be 'appy to see you in the Pugs' Parlour whenever
you pleased to come down and set there.

_Undershell._ The Pugs' Parlour?

_Boy._ What we call the 'ousekeeper's room, among ourselves, sir.

_Undershell._ Mrs. Pomfret does me too much honour. And shall I have
the satisfaction of seeing your intelligent countenance at the festive
board, my lad?

_Boy_ (_giggling_). On'y to _wait_, sir. I don't set down to meals
along with the _upper_ servants, sir!

_Undershell._ And I--a mere man of genius--_do_! These distinctions
must strike you as most arbitrary; but restrain any natural envy, my
young friend. I assure you I am not puffed up by this promotion!

_Boy._ No, sir. (_To himself, as he goes out._) I believe he's a bit
dotty, I do. I don't understand a word he's been a-talking of!

_Undershell_ (_alone, surveying the surroundings_). A cockloft, with a
painted iron bedstead, a smoky chimney, no bell, and a text over the
mantelpiece! Thank Heaven, that fellow Drysdale can't see me here! But
I will not sleep in this place, my pride will only just bear the
strain of staying to supper--no more. And I'm hanged if I go down to
the housekeeper's room till hunger drives me. It's not eight yet--how
shall I pass the time? Ha, I see they've favoured me with pen and ink.
I will invoke the Muse. Indignation should make verses, as it did for
Juvenal; and _he_ was never set down to sup with slaves!

            [_He writes._


    _In the Verney Chamber._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). My word, what a room! Carpet hung all over
the walls, big fourposter, carved ceiling, great fireplace with
blazing logs,--if this is how they do a _vet_ here, what price the
_other_ fellows' rooms? And to think I shall have to do without
dinner, just when I was getting on with 'em all so swimmingly! I
_must_. I can't, for the credit of the profession--to say nothing of
the firm--turn up in a monkey jacket and tweed bags, and that's all
_I've_ got except a nightgown!... It's all very well for Lady Maisie
to say, "Take everything as it comes," but if she was in _my_ fix!...
And it isn't as if I hadn't _got_ dress things either. If only I'd
brought 'em down, I'd have marched in to dinner as cool as a---- (_he
lights a pair of candles._) Hullo! What's that on the bed? (_He
approaches it._) Shirt! white tie! socks! coat, waistcoat,
trousers--they _are_ dress clothes!... And here's a pair of brushes on
the table! I'll swear they're not _mine_--there's a monogram on
them--"U.G." What does it all mean? Why, of course! regular old trump,
Sir Rupert, and naturally he wants me to do him credit. He saw how it
was, and he's gone and rigged me out! In a house like this, they're
ready for emergencies--keep all sizes in stock, I dare say.... It
isn't "U.G." on the brushes--it's "G.U."--"Guest's Use." Well, this is
what I call doing the thing in style! _Cinderella's_ nothing to it!
Only hope they're a decent fit. (_Later, as he dresses._) Come, the
shirt's all right; trousers a trifle short--but they'll let down;
waistcoat--whew, must undo the buckle--hang it, it _is_ undone! I feel
like a hooped barrel in it! Now the coat--easy does it. Well, it's
_on_; but I shall have to be peeled like a walnut to get it off
again.... Shoes? ah, here they are--pair of pumps. Phew--must have
come from the Torture Exhibition in Leicester Square; glass slippers
nothing to 'em! But they'll have to do at a pinch; and they _do_ pinch
like blazes! Ha, ha, that's good! I must tell that to the Captain.
(_He looks at himself in a mirror._) Well, I can't say they're up to
mine for cut and general style; but they're passable. And now I'll go
down to the drawing-room and get on terms with all the smarties!

            [_He saunters out with restored complacency._



PART IX

THE MAUVAIS QUART D'HEURE

     _In the Chinese Drawing-room at Wyvern._ TIME--7.50. Lady
     CULVERIN _is alone, glancing over a written list_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_entering_). Down already, Albinia? I _thought_ if I
made haste I should get a quiet chat with you before anybody else came
in. What is that paper? Oh, the list of couples for Rupert. May I see?
(_As_ Lady CULVERIN _surrenders it_.) My dear, you're _not_ going to
inflict that mincing little Pilliner boy on poor Maisie! That really
_won't do_. At least let her have somebody she used to. Why not
Captain Thicknesse? He's an old friend, and she's not seen him for
months. I must alter that, if you've no objection. (_She does._) And
then you've given my poor poet to that Spelwane girl! Now, _why_?

_Lady Culverin._ I thought she wouldn't mind putting up with him just
for one evening.

_Lady Cantire._ Wouldn't _mind_! Putting up with him! And is that how
you speak of a celebrity when you are so fortunate as to have one to
entertain? _Really_, Albinia!

_Lady Culverin._ But, my dear Rohesia, you must allow that, whatever
his talents may be, he is not--well, not _quite_ one of Us. Now, _is_
he?

_Lady Cantire_ (_blandly_). My dear, I never heard he had any
connection with the manufacture of chemical manures, in which your
worthy papa so greatly distinguished himself--if _that_ is what you
mean.

_Lady Culverin_ (_with some increase of colour_). That is _not_ what I
meant, Rohesia--as you know perfectly well. And I do say that this Mr.
Spurrell's manner is most objectionable; when he's not obsequious,
he's horribly familiar!

_Lady Cantire_ (_sharply_). I have not observed it. He strikes me as
well enough--for that class of person. And it is intellect, soul, all
that kind of thing that _I_ value. I look _below_ the surface, and I
find a great deal that is very original and charming in this young
man. And surely, my dear, if I find myself able to associate with him,
_you_ need not be so fastidious! I consider him my _protégé_, and I
won't have him slighted. He is far too good for Vivien Spelwane!

_Lady Culverin_ (_with just a suspicion of malice_). Perhaps, Rohesia,
you would like him to take _you_ in?

_Lady Cantire._ That, of course, is quite out of the question. I see
you have given me the Bishop--he's a poor, dry stick of a man--never
forgets he was the Headmaster of Swisham--but he's always glad to meet
_me_. I freshen him up so.

_Lady Culverin._ I really don't know whom I _can_ give Mr. Spurrell.
There's Rhoda Cokayne, but she's not poetical, and she'll get on much
better with Archie Bearpark. Oh, I forgot Mrs. Brooke-Chatteris--she's
sure to _talk_, at all events.

_Lady Cantire_ (_as she corrects the list_). A lively, agreeable
woman--she'll amuse him. _Now_ you can give Rupert the list.

            [Sir RUPERT _and various members of the house-party appear
               one by one_; Lord _and_ Lady LULLINGTON, _the_ Bishop
               of BIRCHESTER _and_ Mrs. RODNEY, Mr. _and_ Mrs. EARWAKER,
               _and_ Mr. SHORTHORN _are announced at intervals;
               salutations, recognitions, and commonplaces are exchanged_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_later--to the_ Bishop, _genially_). Ah, my dear
Bishop, you and I haven't met since we had our great battle
about--now, was it the necessity of throwing open the Public Schools
to the lower classes--for whom of course they were originally
_intended_--or was it the failure of the Church to reach the working
man? I really forget.

_The Bishop_ (_who has a holy horror of the_ Countess). I--ah--fear I
cannot charge my memory so precisely, my dear Lady Cantire.
We--ah--differ unfortunately on so many subjects. I trust, however, we
may--ah--agree to suspend hostilities on this occasion?

_Lady Cantire_ (_with even more bonhomie_). Don't be too sure of
_that_, Bishop. I've several crows to pluck with you, and we are to go
in to dinner together, you know!

_The Bishop._ Indeed? I had no conception that such a pleasure was in
store for me! (_To himself._) This must be the penance for breaking my
rule of never dining out on Saturday! Severe--but not unmerited!

_Lady Cantire._ I wonder, Bishop, if you have seen this wonderful
volume of poetry that every one is talking about--_Andromeda_?

_The Bishop_ (_conscientiously_). I chanced only this morning, by way
of momentary relaxation, to take up a journal containing a notice of
that work, with copious extracts. The impression left on my mind
was--ah--unfavourable; a certain talent, no doubt, some felicity of
expression, but a noticeable lack of the--ah--reticence, the
discipline, the--the scholarly touch which a training at one of our
great Public Schools (I forbear to particularise), and at a
University, can alone impart. I was also pained to observe a crude
discontent with the existing Social System--a system which, if not
absolutely perfect, cannot be upset or even modified without the
gravest danger. But I was still more distressed to note in several
passages a decided taint of the morbid sensuousness which renders so
much of our modern literature sickly and unwholesome.

_Lady Cantire._ All prejudice, my dear Bishop; why, you haven't even
_read_ the book! However, the author is staying here now, and I feel
convinced that if you only knew him, you'd alter your opinion. Such an
unassuming, inoffensive creature! There, he's just come in. I'll call
him over here.... Goodness, why does he shuffle along in that way!

_Spurrell_ (_meeting_ Sir RUPERT). Hope I've kept nobody waiting for
_me_, Sir Rupert. (_Confidentially._) I'd rather a job to get these
things on; but they're really a wonderful fit, considering!

            [_He passes on, leaving his host speechless._

    [Illustration: "I'D RATHER A JOB TO GET THESE THINGS ON; BUT
    THEY'RE REALLY A WONDERFUL FIT, CONSIDERING!"]

_Lady Cantire._ That's right, Mr. Spurrell. Come here, and let me
present you to the Bishop of Birchester. The Bishop has just been
telling me he considers your _Andromeda_ sickly, or unhealthy, or
something. I'm sure you'll be able to convince him it's nothing of the
sort.

            [_She leaves him with the_ Bishop, _who is visibly annoyed_.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, overawed_). Oh, Lor! Wish I knew the right
way to talk to a Bishop. Can't call _him_ nothing--so doosid familiar.
(_Aloud._) _Andromeda_ sickly, your--(_tentatively_)--your Right
Reverence? Not a bit of it--sound as a roach!

_The Bishop._ If I had thought my--ah--criticisms were to be
repeated--I might say misrepresented, as the Countess has thought
proper to do, Mr. Spurrell, I should not have ventured to make them.
At the same time, you must be conscious yourself, I think, of certain
blemishes which would justify the terms I employed.

_Spurrell._ I never saw any in _Andromeda_ myself, your--your
Holiness. You're the first to find a fault in her. I don't say there
mayn't be something dicky about the setting and the turn of the tail,
but that's a trifle.

_The Bishop._ I did not refer to the setting of the tale, and the
portions I object to are scarcely trifles. But pardon me if I prefer
to end a discussion that can hardly be other than unprofitable. (_To
himself, as he turns on his heel._) A most arrogant, self-satisfied,
and conceited young man--a truly lamentable product of this
half-educated age!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Well, he may be a dab at dogmas--he don't
know much about dogs. Drummy's got a constitution worth a dozen of
_his_!

_Lady Culverin_ (_approaching him_). Oh, Mr. Spurrell, Lord Lullington
is most anxious to know you. If you will come with me. (_To herself,
as she leads him up to_ Lord LULLINGTON.) I do _wish_ Rohesia wouldn't
force me to do this sort of thing!

            [_She presents him._

_Lord Lullington_ (_to himself_). I suppose I _ought_ to know all
about his novel, or whatever it is he's done. (_Aloud, with
courtliness._) Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Spurrell;
you've--ah--delighted the world by your _Andromeda_. When are we to
look for your next production? Soon, I hope.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). _He's_ after a pup now! Never met such a
doggy lot in my life! (_Aloud._) Er--well, my lord, I've promised so
many as it is, that I hardly see my way to----

_Lord Lullington_ (_paternally_). Take my advice, my dear young man,
leave yourself as free as possible. Expect you to give us your best,
you know.

            [_He turns to continue a conversation._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). _Give_ it! He won't get it under a
five-pound note, I can tell him. (_He makes his way to_ Miss
SPELWANE.) I say, what do you think the old Bishop's been up to?
Pitching into _Andromeda_ like the very dooce--says she's _sickly_!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_to herself_). He brings his literary disappointments
to _me_, not Maisie! (_Aloud, with the sweetest sympathy._) How
dreadfully unjust! Oh, I've dropped my fan--no, pray don't trouble; I
can pick it up. My arms are so long, you know--like a kangaroo's--no,
what is that animal which has such long arms? You're so clever, you
_ought_ to know!

_Spurrell._ I suppose you mean a gorilla?

_Miss Spelwane._ How crushing of you! But you must go away now, or
else you'll find nothing to say to me at dinner--you take me in, you
know. I hope you feel privileged. _I_ feel---- But if I told you, I
might make you too conceited!

_Spurrell_ (_gracefully_). Oh, it's not so easily done as all _that_!

            [Sir RUPERT _approaches with_ Mr. SHORTHORN.

_Sir Rupert._ Vivien, my dear, let me introduce Mr. Shorthorn--Miss
Spelwane. (_To_ SPURRELL.) Let me see--ha--yes, you take in Mrs.
Chatteris. Don't know her? Come this way, and I'll find her for you.

            [_He marches_ SPURRELL _off_.

_Mr. Shorthorn_ (_to_ Miss SPELWANE). Good thing getting this rain at
last; a little more of this dry weather and we should have had no
grass to speak of!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_who has not quite recovered from her
disappointment_). And now you _will_ have some grass to speak of?
_How_ fortunate!

_Spurrell_ (_as dinner is announced, to_ Lady MAISIE). I say, Lady
Maisie, I've just been told I've got to take in a married lady. _I_
don't know what to talk to her about. I should feel a lot more at home
with you. Couldn't we work it somehow?

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). What a fearful suggestion--but I simply
_daren't_ snub him! (_Aloud._) I'm afraid, Mr. Spurrell, we must both
put up with the partners we have; most distressing, isn't it--_but_!

            [_She gives a little shrug._

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_immediately behind her, to himself_). Gad,
_that's_ pleasant! I knew I'd better have gone to Aldershot!
(_Aloud._) I've been told off to take you in, Lady Maisie--not _my_
fault, don't you know.

_Lady Maisie._ There's no need to be so apologetic about it. (_To
herself._) Oh, I _hope_ he didn't hear what I said to that wretch!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Well, I rather thought there _might_ be,
perhaps.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). He _did_ hear it. If he's going to be so
stupid as to misunderstand, I'm sure _I_ shan't explain.

            [_They take their place in the procession to the
               dining-hall._



PART X

BORROWED PLUMES


   _In_ UNDERSHELL'S _Bedroom in the East Wing at Wyvern_.
   TIME--_About_ 9 P.M.

_The Steward's Room Boy_ (_knocking and entering_). Brought you up
some 'ot water, sir, case you'd like to clean up afore supper.

_Undershell._ I presume evening dress is not indispensable in the
housekeeper's room; but I can hardly make even the simplest toilet
until you are good enough to bring up my portmanteau. Where is it?

_Boy._ I never 'eard nothink of no porkmanteau, sir!

_Undershell._ You will hear a good deal about it, unless it is
forthcoming at once. Just find out what's become of it--a new
portmanteau, with a white star painted on it.

            [_The Boy retires, impressed. An interval._

_Boy_ (_reappearing_). I managed to get a few words with Thomas, our
second footman, just as he was coming out o' the 'all, and _he_ sez
the only porkmanteau with a white star was took up to the Verney
Chamber, which Thomas unpacked it hisself.

_Undershell._ Then tell Thomas, with my compliments, that he will
trouble himself to pack it again immediately.

_Boy._ But Thomas has to wait at table, and besides, he says as he
laid out the dress things, and the gen'lman as is in the Verney
Chamber is a wearin' of 'em now, sir.

_Undershell_ (_indignant_). But they're _mine_! Confound his
impudence! Here, I'll write him a line at once. (_He scribbles a
note._) There, see that the gentleman of the Verney Chamber gets this
at once, and bring me his answer.

_Boy._ What! _me_ go into the dinin'-'all, with all the swells at
table? I dursn't. I should get the sack from old Treddy.

_Undershell._ I don't care who takes it so long as it _is_ taken. Tell
Thomas it's _his_ mistake, and he must do what he can to put it right.
Say I shall certainly complain if I don't get back my clothes and
portmanteau. Get that note delivered somehow, and I'll give you
half-a-crown. (_To himself, as the_ Boy _departs, much against his
will._) If Lady Culverin doesn't consider me fit to appear at her
dinner-table, I don't see why my evening clothes should be more
privileged!

     _In the Dining-hall. The table is oval_; SPURRELL _is
     placed between_ Lady RHODA COKAYNE _and_ Mrs.
     BROOKE-CHATTERIS.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_encouragingly, after they are seated_). Now, I
shall expect you to be very brilliant and entertaining. _I_'ll do all
the listening for once in a way--though, generally, I can talk about
all manner of silly things with _anybody_!

_Spurrell_ (_extremely ill at ease_). Oh--er--I should say you were
quite equal to _that_. But I really can't think of anything to talk
_about_.

_Mrs. Chatteris._ That's a bad beginning. I always find the _menu_
cards such a good subject, when there's anything at all out of the
common about them. If they're ornamented, you _can_ talk about
them--though not for _very_ long at a time, don't you think?

_Spurrell_ (_miserably_). I can't say how long I could go on about
_ornamented_ ones--but these are plain. (_To himself._) I can hear
this waistcoat going already--and we're only at the soup!

_Mrs. Chatteris._ It _is_ a pity. Never mind; tell me about literary
and artistic people. Do you know, I'm rather glad I'm not literary or
artistic myself; it seems to make people so _queer-looking_, somehow.
Oh, of course I didn't mean _you_ looked queer--but _generally_, you
know. You've made quite a success with your _Andromeda_, haven't you?
I only go by what I'm told--I don't read much myself. We women have so
many really serious matters to attend to--arranging about dinners, and
visits, and trying on frocks, and then rushing about from party to
party. I so seldom get a quiet moment. Ah, I knew I wanted to ask you
something. Did you ever know any one called Lady Grisoline?

_Spurrell._ Lady--er--Grisoline? No; can't say I do. I know Lady
Maisie, that's all.

_Mrs. Chatteris._ Oh, and _she_ was the original? Now, that _is_
exciting! But I should hardly have recognised her--"lanky," you know,
and "slanting green eyes." But I suppose you see everybody differently
from other people? It's having so much imagination. I dare say _I_
look green or something to you now--though really I'm _not_.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I don't understand more than about half
she's saying. (_Aloud._) Oh, I don't see anything particularly green
about _you_.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_only partially pleased_). I wonder if you meant
that to be complimentary--no, you needn't explain. Now, tell me, is
there any news about the Laureateship? Who's going to get it? Will it
be Swinburne or Lewis Morris?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Never heard of the stakes or the horses
either. (_Aloud._) Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't been
following their form--too many of these small events nowadays.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_to herself_). It's quite amusing how jealous these
poets are of one another! (_Aloud._) Is it true they get a butt of
sherry given them for it?

_Spurrell._ I've heard of winners getting a bottle or two of champagne
in a bucket--not sherry. But a little stimulant won't hurt a crack
when he comes in, provided it's not given him too soon; wait till he's
got his wind and done blowing, you know.

_Mrs. Chatteris._ I'm taking that in. I know it's very witty and
satirical, and I dare say I shall understand it in time.

_Spurrell._ Oh, it doesn't matter much if you don't. (_To himself._)
Pleasant kind of woman--but a perfect fool to talk to!

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_to herself_). I've always _heard_ that clever
writers are rather stupid when you meet them--it's quite true.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). I should like her to see that
I've got some imagination in me, though she _does_ think me such an
ass. (_Aloud, to_ Lady MAISIE.) Jolly old hall this is, with the
banners, and the gallery, and that--makes you fancy some of those old
mediæval Johnnies in armour--knights, you know--comin' clankin' in and
turnin' us all out.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). I do trust Mr. Spurrell isn't saying
something too dreadful. I'm sure I heard my name just now. (_Aloud,
absently, to_ Captain THICKNESSE.) No, did you _really_? How amusing
it must have been!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_aggrieved_). If you'd done me the honour of
payin' any attention to what I was sayin', you'd have found out it
_wasn't_ amusin'.

_Lady Maisie_ (_starting_). Oh, _wasn't_ it? I'm so sorry I missed it.
I--I'm afraid I was thinking of something else. Do tell me again!

_Captain Thicknesse_, (_still hurt_). No, I won't inflict it on
you--not worth repeatin'. And I should only be takin' off your
attention from a fellow that _does_ know how to talk.

_Lady Maisie_ (_with a guiltiness which she tries to carry off under
dignity_). I don't think I understand what you mean.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Well, I couldn't help hearin' what you said to
your poet-friend before we went in about having to put up with
partners; and it isn't what you may call flattering to a fellow's
feelin's, being put up with.

_Lady Maisie_ (_hotly_). It--it was not intended for you. You entirely
misunderstood!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Dare say I'm very dense; but, even to _my_
comprehension, it's plain enough that the reason why you weren't
listenin' to me just now was that the poet had the luck to say
somethin' that you found more interesting.

_Lady Maisie._ You are _quite_ wrong--it's too absurd; I never even
met Mr. Spurrell in my life till this afternoon. If you really _must_
know, I heard him mention my name, and--and I wondered, naturally,
what he could possibly be saying.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Somethin' very charmin', and poetical, and
complimentary, I'm sure, and I'm makin' you lose it all.
Apologise--shan't happen again.

_Lady Maisie._ Please be sensible, and let us talk of something else.
Are you staying here long?

_Captain Thicknesse._ You will be gratified to hear I leave for
Aldershot to-morrow. Meant to have gone to-day. Sorry I _didn't_ now.

_Lady Maisie._ I think it was a thousand pities you didn't, as you
seem to have stayed on purpose to be as stupid and unkind as you
possibly can.

            [_She turns to her other neighbour_, Lord LULLINGTON.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_to_ Captain THICKNESSE, _who is on her other
side_). Oh, Captain Thicknesse, what _do_ you think Mr. Spurrell has
just told me? You remember those lines to Lady Grisoline that Mr.
Pilliner made such fun of this morning? Well, they were meant for Lady
Maisie! They're quite old friends, it seems. _So_ romantic! Wouldn't
you like to know how they came to meet?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Can't say I'm particularly curious--no affair of
mine, don't you know. (_To himself._) And she told me they'd never met
before! Sooner I get back the better. Only in the way here.

_Lady Maisie_ (_turning to him_). Well, are you as determined to be as
disagreeable as ever? Oh yes, I see you are!

_Captain Thicknesse._ I'm hurt, that's what it is, and I'm not clever
at hiding my feelin's. Fact is, I've just been told somethin'
that--well, it's no business of _mine_, only you _might_ have been a
little more frank with an old friend, instead of leavin' it to come
through somebody else. These things always come out, you know.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). That wretch _has_ been talking! I knew
he would! (_Aloud._) I--I know I've been very foolish. If I was to
tell you some time----

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_hastily_). Oh, no reason why you should tell me
anything. Assure you, I--I'm not curious.

_Lady Maisie._ In that case I shall certainly not trouble you. (_To
herself._) He may think just what he pleases, _I_ don't care. But, oh,
if Mr. Spurrell dares to speak to me after this, I shall astonish him!

_Lady Rhoda_ (_to_ SPURRELL). I say--I _am_ in a funk. Only just heard
who I'm next to. I always do feel such a perfect fool when I've got to
talk to a famous person--and you're _frightfully_ famous, aren't you?

_Spurrell_ (_modestly_). Oh, I don't know--I suppose I _am_, in a sort
of way, through _Andromeda_. Seem to think so _here_, anyhow.

_Lady Rhoda._ Well, I'd better tell you at once, I'm no good at
poetry--can't make head or tail of it, some'ow. It does seem to me
such--well, such footle. Awf'ly rude of me sayin' things like that!

    [Illustration: "IT DOES SEEM TO ME SUCH--WELL, SUCH FOOTLE."]

_Spurrell._ Is it? I'm just the same--wouldn't give a penny a yard for
poetry, myself!

_Lady Rhoda._ You wouldn't? I _am_ glad. _Such_ a let-off for me! I
was afraid you'd want to talk of nothin' else, and the only things I
can really talk about are horses and dogs, and that kind of thing.

_Spurrell._ That's all right, then. All I don't know about dogs and
horses you could put in a homoeopathic globule--and _then_ it would
rattle!

_Lady Rhoda._ Then you're just the man. Look here, I've an Airedale at
home, and he's losin' all his coat and----

            [_They converse with animation._

_Spurrell_ (_later--to himself_). I am getting on. I always knew I
was made for Society. If only this coat was easier under the arms!

_Thomas_ (_behind him--in a discreet whisper_). Beg your pardon,
sir, but I was requested to 'and you this note, and wait for an
answer.

_Spurrell_ (_opening it, and reading_). "Mr. Galfrid Undershell thinks
that the gentleman who is occupying the Verney Chamber has, doubtless
by inadvertence, put on Mr. Undershell's evening clothes. As he
requires them immediately, he will be obliged by an early appointment
being made, with a view to their return." (_To himself._) Oh, Lor!
Then it _wasn't_ Sir Rupert, after all! Just when I was beginning to
enjoy my evening, too. What on earth am I to say to this chap? I
_can't_ take 'em all off here!

            [_He sits staring at the paper in blank dismay._



PART XI

TIME AND THE HOUR


    _In the Dining-hall._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, uncomfortably conscious of the expectant_
THOMAS _in his rear_). Must write _something_ to this beggar, I
suppose; it'll keep him quiet. (_To_ Mrs. BROOKE-CHATTERIS.) I--I just
want to write a line or two. Could you oblige me with a lead pencil?

_Mrs. Chatteris._ You are really going to write! At a dinner-party, of
all places! Now _how_ delightfully original and unconventional of you!
I promise not to interrupt till the inspiration is over. Only, really,
I'm afraid I don't carry lead pencils about with me--so bad for one's
frocks, you know!

_Thomas_ (_in his ear_). I can lend you a pencil, sir, if you require
one.

            [_He provides him with a very minute stump._

_Spurrell_ (_reading what he has written on the back of_ UNDERSHELL'S
_missive_). "Will be in my room (Verney Chamber) as soon after ten as
possible.

    "J. SPURRELL."

(_He passes the paper to_ THOMAS _surreptitiously_.) There, take him
that.

            [THOMAS _retires_.

_Archie_ (_to himself_.) The calm cheek of these writin' chaps! I saw
him takin' notes under the table! Lady Rhoda ought to know the sort of
fellow he is--and she shall! (_To_ Lady RHODA, _in an aggrieved
undertone_.) I should advise you to be jolly careful what you say to
your other neighbour; he's takin' it all down. I just caught him
writin'. He'll be bringing out a satire, or whatever he calls it, on
us all by and bye--you see if he won't!

_Lady Rhoda._ What an ill-natured boy you are! Just because _he_ can
write, and you _can't_. And I don't believe he's doing anythin' of the
sort. I'll ask him--_I_ don't care! (_Aloud, to_ SPURRELL.) I say, I
know I'm awfully inquisitive--but I do want to know so--you've just
been writin' notes or somethin', haven't you? Mr. Bearpark declares
you're goin' to take them all off here--you're not really, _are_ you?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). That sulky young chap has spotted it!
(_Aloud, stammering._) I--take everything off? _Here!_ I--I assure
you I should never even _think_ of doing anything so indelicate!

_Lady Rhoda._ I was sure that was what you'd say! But still (_with
reviving uneasiness_), I suppose you _have_ made use of things that
happened just to fit your purpose, haven't you?

_Spurrell_ (_penitently_). All I can say is, that--if I have--you
won't catch me doing it _again_! And other people's things _don't_
fit. I'd much rather have my own.

_Lady Rhoda_ (_relieved_). Of course! But I'm glad you told me. (_To_
ARCHIE, _in an undertone_.) I _asked_ him--and, as usual, you were
utterly wrong. So you'll please not to be a pig!

_Archie_ (_jealously_). And you're goin' to go on talkin' to him all
through dinner? Pleasant for me--when I took you down!

_Lady Rhoda._ You want to be taken down yourself, I think. And I mean
to talk to him if I choose. You can talk to Lady Culverin--she likes
boys! (_Turning to_ SPURRELL.) I was goin' to ask you--ought a
schipperke to have meat? Mine won't touch puppy biscuits.

            [SPURRELL _enlightens her on this point_; ARCHIE _glowers_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_perceiving that the_ Bishop _is showing signs of
restiveness_). Well, Bishop, I wish I could find you a little more
ready to listen to what the other side has to say!

_The Bishop_ (_who has been "heckled" to the verge of his endurance._)
I am--ah--not conscious of any unreadiness to enter into conversation
with the very estimable lady on my other side, should an opportunity
present itself.

_Lady Cantire._ Now, that's one of your quibbles, my dear Bishop, and
I detest quibbling! But at least it shows you haven't a leg to stand
upon.

_The Bishop._ Precisely--nor to--ah--run away upon, dear lady. I am
wholly at your mercy, you perceive!

_Lady Cantire_ (_triumphantly_). Then you _admit_ you're beaten? Oh, I
don't despair of you _yet_, Bishop.

_The Bishop._ I confess I am less sanguine. (_To himself._) Shall I
have strength to bear these buffets with any remains of Christian
forbearance through three more courses? Ha, thank Heaven, the salad!

            [_He cheers up at the sight of this olive-branch._

_Mrs. Earwaker_ (_to_ PILLINER). Now, I don't altogether approve of
the New Woman myself; but still, I am glad to see how women are
beginning to assert themselves and come to the front; surely you
sympathise with all that?

_Pilliner_ (_plaintively_). No, really I _can't_, you know! I'd so
much rather they _wouldn't_. They've made us poor men feel positively
obsolete! They'll snub us out of existence soon--our sex will be
extinct--and then they'll be sorry. There'll be nobody to protect them
from one another! After all, we can't help being what we are. It isn't
_my_ fault that I was born a Man Thing--now, _is_ it?

_Lady Cantire_ (_overhearing this remark_). Well, if it _is_ a fault,
Mr. Pilliner, we must all acknowledge that you've done everything in
your power to correct it!

_Pilliner_ (_sweetly_). How nice and encouraging of you, dear Lady
Cantire, to take up the cudgels for me like that!

            [Lady CANTIRE _privately relieves her feelings by
               expressing a preference for taking up a birch rod, and
               renews her attack on the_ Bishop.

_Mr. Shorthorn_ (_who has been dragging his mental depths for a fresh
topic--hopefully, to_ Miss SPELWANE). By the bye, I haven't asked you
what you thought about these--er--revolting daughters?

_Miss Spelwane._ No, you haven't; and I thought it _so_ considerate of
you.

            [Mr. SHORTHORN _gives up dragging, in discouragement_.

_Pilliner_ (_sotto voce, to_ Miss SPELWANE). Have you quite done
sitting on that poor unfortunate man? _I_ heard you!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_in the same tone_). I'm afraid I _have_ been rather
beastly to him. But, oh, he _is_ such a bore--he _would_ talk about
his horrid "silos," till I asked him whether they would eat out of his
hand. After that, the subject dropped--somehow.

_Pilliner._ I see you've been punishing him for not happening to be a
distinguished poet. I thought _he_ was to have been the fortunate man?

_Miss Spelwane._ So he was; but they changed it all at the last
moment; it really was rather provoking. I _could_ have talked to
_him_.

_Pilliner._ Lady Rhoda appears to be consoling him. Poor dear old
Archie's face is quite a study. But really I don't see that his poetry
is so very wonderful; no more did _you_ this morning!

_Miss Spelwane._ Because you deliberately picked out the worst bits,
and read them as badly as you could!

_Pilliner._ Ah, well, he's here to read them for himself now. I dare
say he'd be delighted to be asked.

_Miss Spelwane._ Do you know, Bertie, that's rather a good idea of
yours. I'll ask him to read us something to-night.

_Pilliner_ (_aghast_). To-night! With all these people here? I say,
they'll never _stand_ it, you know.

            [Lady CULVERIN _gives the signal_.

_Miss Spelwane_ (_as she rises_). They ought to feel it an immense
privilege. I know _I_ shall.

_The Bishop_ (_to himself, as he rises_). Port in sight--at last! But,
oh, _what_ I have had to suffer!

_Lady Cantire_ (_at parting_). Well, we've had quite one of our old
discussions. I always enjoy talking to _you_, Bishop. But I haven't
_yet_ got at your reasons for voting as you did on the Parish Councils
Bill; we must go into that upstairs.

_The Bishop_ (_with strict veracity_). I shall be--ah--all impatience,
Lady Cantire. (_To himself._) I fervently trust that a repetition of
this experience may yet be spared me!

    [Illustration: "I SHALL BE--AH--ALL IMPATIENCE, LADY
    CANTIRE."]

_Lady Rhoda_ (_as she leaves_ SPURRELL). You will tell me the name of
the stuff upstairs, won't you? So very much ta!

_Archie_ (_to himself_). I'd like to tar him very much, and feather
him too, for cuttin' me out like this! (_The men sit down_; SPURRELL
_finds himself between_ ARCHIE _and_ Captain THICKNESSE, _at the
further end of the table_; ARCHIE _passes the wine to_ SPURRELL _with
a scowl_.) What are you drinkin'? Claret? What do you do your writin'
on, now, as a general thing?

_Spurrell_ (_on the defensive_). On paper, sir, when I've any to do.
Do you do yours on a _slate_?

_Captain Thicknesse._ I say, that's rather good. Had you there,
Bearpark!

_Spurrell_ (_to_ ARCHIE, _lowering his voice_). Look here, I see
you're trying to put a spoke in my wheel. You saw me writing at
dinner, and went and told that young lady I was going to take
everything off there and then, which you must have known I wasn't
likely to do. Now, sir, it's no business of yours that I can see; but,
as you seem to be interested, I may tell you that I shall go up and do
it in my own room, as soon as I leave this table, and there will be no
fuss or publicity about it whatever. I hope you're satisfied now?

_Archie._ Oh, _I_'m satisfied. (_He rises._) Left my cigarette-case
upstairs--horrid bore--must go and get it.

_Captain Thicknesse._ They'll be bringing some round in another
minute.

_Archie._ Prefer my own. (_To himself, as he leaves the hall._) I knew
I was right. That bounder _is_ meaning to scribble some rot about us
all! He's goin' straight up to his room to do it.... Well, he may find
a little surprise when he gets there!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). Mustn't let this poet fellow
think I'm jealous; dare say, after all, there's nothing serious
between them. Not that it matters to me; any way, I may as well talk
to him. I wonder if he knows anything about steeplechasin'.

            [_He discovers that_ SPURRELL _is not unacquainted with
               this branch of knowledge_.


    _In a Corridor leading to the Housekeeper's Room._

    TIME--9.30 P.M.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). If I wasn't absolutely compelled by sheer
hunger, I would not touch a morsel in this house. But I can't get my
things back till after ten. As soon as ever I do, I will insist on a
conveyance to the nearest inn. In the meantime I must sup. After all,
no one need know of this humiliating adventure. And if I _am_
compelled to consort with these pampered menials, I think I shall know
how to preserve my dignity--even while adapting myself to their level.
And that girl will be there--a distinctly redeeming fact in the
situation. I will be easy--affable, even; I will lay aside all foolish
pride; it would be unreasonable to visit their employer's snobbery
upon their unoffending heads. I hear conversation inside this room.
This must be the door. I--I suppose I had better go in.

            [_He enters._



PART XII

DIGNITY UNDER DIFFICULTIES


     _In the Housekeeper's Room at Wyvern_; Mrs. POMFRET, _the
     Housekeeper, in a black silk gown and her smartest cap, is
     seated in a winged armchair by the fire, discussing domestic
     politics with_ Lady CULVERIN'S _maid_, Miss STICKLER. _The
     Chef_, M. RIDEVOS, _is resting on the sofa, in languid
     converse with_ Mlle. CHIFFON, Miss SPELWANE'S _maid_;
     PILLINER'S _man_, LOUCH, _watches_ STEPTOE, Sir RUPERT'S
     _valet, with admiring envy, as he makes himself agreeable to_
     Miss PHILLIPSON, _who is in demi-toilette, as are all the
     other ladies' maids present_.

_Miss Stickler_ (_in an impressive undertone_). All I _do_ say, Mrs.
Pomfret, ma'am, is this: if that girl Louisa marches into the pew
to-morrow, as she did _last_ Sunday, before the second laundry
maid--and her only under-scullery maid--such presumptiousness should
be put a stop to in future!

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_wheezily_). Depend upon it, my dear, it's her
ignorance; but I shall most certainly speak about it. Girls must be
taught that ranks was made to be respected, and the precedency into
that pew has come down from time immemoriable, and is not to be set
aside by such as her while _I_'m 'ousekeeper here.

_Mlle. Chiffon_ (_in French, to_ M. RIDEVOS). You have the air
fatigued, my poor friend! Oh, there--but fatigued!

_M. Ridevos._ Broken, Mademoiselle, absolutely broken. But what will
you? This night I surpass myself. I achieve a masterpiece--a sublime
pyramid of quails with a sauce that will become classic. I pay now the
penalty of a veritable crisis of nerves. It is of my temperament as
artist.

    [Illustration: "BROKEN, MADEMOISELLE, ABSOLUTELY BROKEN."]

_Mlle. Chiffon._ And me, my poor friend, how I have suffered from the
cookery of these others--I who have the stomach so feeble, so
fastidious! Figure to yourself an existence upon the villainous curry,
the abominable "Iahristue," beloved by these barbarians, but which
succeed with me not at all--oh, but not at all! Since I am here--ah,
the difference! I digest as of old--I am gay. But next week to return
with mademoiselle to the curry, my poor friend, what regrets!

_M. Ridevos._ For me, dear mademoiselle, for me the regrets--to hear
no more the conversation, so spiritual, so sympathetic, of a
fellow-countrywoman. For remark that here they are stupid--they
comprehend not. And the old ones they roll at me the eyes to make
terror. Behold this Gorgon who approaches. She adores me, my word of
honour, this ruin!

            [Miss STICKLER _comes up to the sofa smiling in happy
               unconsciousness_.

_Miss Stickler_ (_graciously_). So you've felt equal to joining us for
once, Mossoo! We feel it a very 'igh compliment, I can assure you.
We've really been feeling quite 'urt at the way you keep to
yourself--you might be a regular 'ermit for all _we_ see of you!

_M. Ridevos._ For invent, dear Mees, for create, ze arteeste must live
ze solitaire as of rule. To-night--no! I emairge, as you see, to
res-tore myself viz your smile.

_Miss Stickler_ (_flattered_). Well, I've always said, Mossoo, and I
always _will_ say, that for polite 'abits and pretty speeches, give
_me_ a Frenchman!

_M. Ridevos_ (_alarmed_). For me it is too moch 'appiness. For
anozzer, ah!

            [_He kisses his fingers with ineffable grace._

_Phillipson_ (_advancing to meet_ Miss DOLMAN, _who has just
entered_). Why, I'd no idea I should meet _you_ here, Sarah! And how
have you been getting on, dear? Still with----?

_Miss Dolman_ (_checking her with a look_). Her grace? No, we parted
some time ago. I'm with Lady Rhoda Cokayne at present. (_In an
undertone, as she takes her aside._) You needn't say anything here of
your having known me at Mrs. Dickenson's. I couldn't afford to have it
get about in the circle I'm in that I'd ever lived with any but the
nobility. I'm sure you see what I mean. Of course I don't mind your
saying we've _met_.

_Phillipson._ Oh, I _quite_ understand. I'll say nothing. I'm obliged
to be careful myself, being maid to Lady Maisie Mull.

_Miss Dolman._ My _dear_ Emma! It _is_ nice seeing you again--such
_friends_ as we used to be!

_Phillipson._ At her Grace's? I'm afraid you're thinking of somebody
else. (_She crosses to_ Mrs. POMFRET.) Mrs. Pomfret, what's become of
the gentleman I travelled down with--the horse doctor? I do hope he
means to come in; he would amuse _you_, Mr. Steptoe. I never heard
anybody go on like him; he _did_ make me laugh so!

_Mrs. Pomfret._ I really can't say _where_ he is, my dear. I sent up
word to let him know he was welcome here whenever he pleased; but
perhaps he's feeling a little shy about coming down.

_Phillipson._ Oh, I don't think he suffers much from _that_. (_As the
door opens._) Ah, _there_ he is!

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_rising, with dignity, to receive_ UNDERSHELL, _who
enters in obvious embarrassment_). Come in, sir. I'm glad to see
you've found your way down at last. Let me see, I haven't the
advantage of knowing your--Mr. Undershell, _to_ be sure! Well, Mr.
Undershell, we're very pleased to see you. I hope you'll make yourself
quite at home. Her ladyship gave particular directions that we was to
look after you--_most_ particular she was!

_Undershell._ You are very good, ma'am. I am obliged to Lady Culverin
for her (_with a gulp_) condescension. But I shall not trespass more
than a short time upon your hospitality.

_Mrs. Pomfret._ Don't speak of it as trespassing, sir. It's not often
we have a gentleman of your profession as a visitor, but you are none
the less welcome. Now I'd better introduce you all round, and then you
won't feel yourself a stranger. Miss Phillipson you _have_ met, I
know.

            [_She introduces him to the others in turn_; UNDERSHELL
               _bows helplessly_.

_Steptoe_ (_with urbanity_). Your fame, sir, has preceded you. And
you'll find us a very friendly and congenial little circle on a better
acquaintance--if this is your first experience of this particular form
of society?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I mustn't be stiff, I'll put them at
their ease. (_Aloud._) Why, I must admit, Mr. Steptoe, that I have
never before had the privilege of entering the--(_with an ingratiating
smile all round him_) the "Pugs' Parlour," as I understand you call
this very charming room.

            [_The company draw themselves up and cough in
               disapprobation._

_Steptoe_ (_very stiffly_). Pardon _me_, sir, you have been totally
misinformed. Such an expression is not current _here_.

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_more stiffly still_). It is never alluded to in _my_
presence except as the 'ousekeeper's room, which is the right and
proper name for it. There may be some other term for it in the
servants' 'all for anything _I_ know to the contrary--but, if you'll
excuse me for saying so, Mr. Undershell, we'd prefer for it not to be
repeated in _our_ presence.

_Undershell_ (_confusedly_). I--I beg ten thousand pardons. (_To
himself._) To be pulled up like this for trying to be genial--it's
really _too_ humiliating!

_Steptoe_ (_relaxing_). Well, well, sir; we must make some allowances
for a neophyte. You'll know better another time, _I_ dare say. Miss
Phillipson here has been giving you a very favourable character as a
highly agreeable rattle, Mr. Undershell. I hope we may be favoured
with a specimen of your social talents later on. We're always grateful
here for anything in that way--such as a recitation now, or a comic
song, or a yumorous imitation--anything, in short, calculated to
promote the general harmony and festivity will be appreciated.

_Miss Stickler_ (_acidly_). Provided it is free from any helement of
coarseness, which we do _not_ encourage--far from it!

_Undershell_ (_suppressing his irritation_). You need be under no
alarm, madam. I do not propose to attempt a performance of _any_ kind.

_Phillipson._ Don't be so solemn, Mr. Undershell! I'm sure you can be
as comical as any play-actor when you choose!

_Undershell._ I really don't know how I can have given you that
impression. If you expect me to treat my lyre like a _horse-collar_,
and grin through it, I'm afraid I am unable to gratify you.

_Steptoe_ (_at sea_). Capital, sir, the professional allusion very
neat. You'll come out presently, _I_ can see, when supper's on the
table. Can't expect you to rattle till you've something _inside_ of
you, can we?

_Miss Stickler._ Reelly, Mr. Steptoe, I _am_ surprised at such
commonness from _you_!

_Steptoe._ Now you're too severe, Miss Stickler, you are indeed. An
innocent little Judy Mow like that!

_Tredwell_ (_outside_). Don't answer _me_, sir. Ham I butler 'ere, or
ham I _not_? I've a precious good mind to report you for such a
hignorant blunder.... I don't want to hear another word about the
gentleman's cloes--you'd no hearthly business for to do such a thing
at all! (_He enters and flings himself down on a chair._) That Thomas
is beyond everything--stoopid _hass_ as he is!

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_concerned_). La, Mr. Tredwell, you _do_ seem put out!
Whatever have Thomas been doing _now_?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). It's really very good of him to take it
to heart like this! (_Aloud._) Pray don't let it distress you; it's of
no consequence, none at all!

_Tredwell_ (_glaring_). I'm the best judge of that, Mr. Undershell,
sir--if you'll allow _me_; _I_ don't call my porogatives of no
consequence, whatever _you_ may! And that feller Thomas, Mrs.
Pomfret, actially 'ad the hordacity, without consulting me previous,
to go and 'and a note to one of our gentlemen at the hupstairs table,
all about some hassinine mistake he'd made with his cloes! What call
had he to take it upon himself? I feel puffecly disgraced that such a
thing should have occurred under my authority!

            [_The_ Steward's Room Boy _has entered with a dish, and
               listens with secret anxiety on his own account_.

_Undershell._ I assure you there is no harm done. The gentleman is
wearing my evening clothes--but he's going to return them----

            [_The conclusion of the sentence is drowned in a roar of
               laughter from the majority._

_Tredwell_ (_gasping_). Hevenin' cloes! _Your_ hevenin'---- P'raps
you'll 'ave the goodness to explain yourself, sir!

_Steptoe._ No, no, Tredwell, my dear fellah, you don't understand our
friend here--he's a bit of a wag, don't you see? He's only trying to
pull your leg, that's all; and, Gad, he did it too! But you mustn't
take liberties with _this_ gentleman, Mr. Undershell; he's an
important personage _here_, I can tell you!

_Undershell_ (_earnestly_). But I never meant--if you'll only let me
explain----

            [_The_ Boy _has come behind him, and administers a
               surreptitious kick, which_ UNDERSHELL _rightly construes
               as a hint to hold his tongue_.

_Tredwell_ (_in solemn offence_). I'm accustomed, Mr. Hundershell, to
be treated in this room with respect and deference--especially by them
as come here in the capacity of guests. _From_ such I regard any
attempt to pull my leg as in hindifferent taste--to say the least of
it. I wish to 'ave no more words on the subjick, which is a painful
one, and had better be dropped, for the sake of all parties. Mrs.
Pomfret, I see supper is on the table, so, by your leave, we had
better set down to it.

_Phillipson_ (_to_ UNDERSHELL). Never mind _him_, pompous old thing!
It _was_ awfully cheeky of you, though. You can sit next _me_ if you
like.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, as he avails himself of this permission_).
I shall only make things worse if I explain now. But, oh, great
Heavens, _what_ a position for a poet!



PART XIII

WHAT'S IN A NAME?


     _At the Supper-table in the Housekeeper's Room._ Mrs. POMFRET
     _and_ TREDWELL _are at the head and foot of the table
     respectively_. UNDERSHELL _is between_ Mrs. POMFRET and Miss
     PHILLIPSON. _The_ Steward's Room Boy _waits_.

_Tredwell._ I don't see Mr. Adams here this evening, Mrs. Pomfret.
What's the reason of that?

_Mrs. Pomfret._ Why, he asked to be excused to-night, Mr. Tredwell.
You see some of the visitors' coachmen are putting up their horses
here, and he's helping Mr. Checkley entertain them. (_To_ UNDERSHELL.)
Mr. Adams is our stud-groom, and him and Mr. Checkley, the 'ed
coachman, are very friendly just now. Adams is very clever with his
horses, I believe, and I'm sure he'd have liked a talk with you; it's
a pity he's engaged elsewhere this evening.

_Undershell_ (_mystified_). I--I'm exceedingly sorry to have missed
him, ma'am. (_To himself._) Is the stud-groom _literary_, I wonder?...
Ah, no, I remember now; I allowed Miss Phillipson to conclude that my
tastes were equestrian. Perhaps it's just as well the stud-groom
_isn't_ here!

_Mrs. Pomfret._ Well, he _may_ drop in later on. I shouldn't be
surprised if you and he had met before.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). _I_ should. (_Aloud._) I hardly think
it's probable.

_Mrs. Pomfret._ I've known stranger things than _that_ happen. Why,
only the other day, a gentleman came into this very room, as it might
be yourself, and it struck me he was looking very hard at me, and by
and bye he says, "You don't recollect _me_, ma'am, but I know _you_
very well," says he. So I said to him, "You certainly have the
advantage of me at present, sir." "Well, ma'am," he says, "many years
ago I had the honour and privilege of being steward's room boy in a
house where you was still-room maid; and I consider I owe the position
I have since attained entirely to the good advice you used to give me,
as I've never forgot it, ma'am," says he. Then it flashed across me
who it was--"Mr. Pocklington!" says I. Which it _were_. And him own
man to the Duke of Dumbleshire! Which was what made it so very nice
and 'andsome of him to remember me all that time.

_Undershell_ (_perfunctorily_). It must have been most gratifying,
ma'am. (_To himself._) I hope this old lady hasn't any more anecdotes
of this highly interesting nature. I mustn't neglect Miss
Phillipson--especially as I haven't very long to stay here.

            [_He consults his watch stealthily._

_Miss Phillipson_ (_observing the action_). I'm sorry you find it so
slow here; it's not very polite of you to show it quite so openly
though, I must say.

            [_She pouts._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I can't let this poor girl think me a
brute! But I must be careful not to go too far. (_To her, in an
undertone which he tries to render unemotional._) Don't misunderstand
me like that. If I looked at my watch, it was merely to count the
minutes that are left. In one short half-hour I must go--I must pass
out of your life, and you must forget--oh, it will be easy for
_you_--but for _me_, ah! you cannot think that I shall carry away a
heart entirely unscathed! Believe me, I shall always look back
gratefully, regretfully, on----

_Phillipson_ (_bending her head with a gratified little giggle_). I
declare you're beginning all that _again_. I never _did_ see such a
cure as you are.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, displeased_). I wish she could bring
herself to take me a little more seriously. I can _not_ consider it a
compliment to be called a "cure"--whatever that is.

_Steptoe_ (_considering it time to interfere_). Come, Mr. Undershell,
all this whispering reelly is not fair on the company! You mustn't
hide your bushel under a napkin like this; don't reserve _all_ your
sparklers for Miss Phillipson there.

_Undershell_ (_stiffly_). I--ah--was not making any remark that could
be described as a sparkler, sir. I _don't_ sparkle.

_Phillipson_ (_demurely_). He was being rather sentimental just then,
Mr. Steptoe, as it happens. Not that he can't sparkle, when he likes.
I'm sure if you'd heard how he went on in the fly!

_Steptoe_ (_with malice_). Not having been privileged to be present,
perhaps our friend here could recollect a few of his happiest efforts
and repeat them.

_Miss Dolman._ Do, Mr. Undershell, please. I do _love_ a good laugh.

_Undershell_ (_crimson_). I--you really must excuse me. I said nothing
worth repeating. I don't remember that I was particularly----

_Steptoe._ Pardon me. Afraid I was indiscreet. We must spare Miss
Phillipson's blushes by all manner of means.

_Phillipson._ Oh, it was nothing of _that_ sort, Mr. Steptoe! _I_'ve
no objection to repeat what he said. He called me a little green
something or other. No; he said _that_ in the train, though. But he
would have it that the old cab-horse was a magic steed, and the fly an
enchanted chariot; and I don't know what all. (_As nobody smiles._) It
sounded awfully funny as _he_ said it, with his face perfectly solemn
like it is now, I assure you it did!

_Steptoe_ (_patronisingly_). I can readily believe it. We shall have
you contributing to some of our yumerous periodicals, Mr. Undershell,
sir, before long. Such facetious talent is too good to be lost, it
reelly is.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, writhing_). I gave her credit for more
sense. To make me publicly ridiculous like this!

            [_He sulks._

_Miss Stickler_ (_to_ M. RIDEVOS, _who suddenly rises_). Mossoo,
you're not _going_! Why, whatever's the matter?

_M. Ridevos._ Pairmeet zat I make my depart. I am cot at ze art.

            [_General outcry and sensation._

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_concerned_). You never mean that, Mossoo? And a nice
dish of quails just put on, too, that they haven't even touched
upstairs!

_M. Ridevos._ It is for zat I do not remmain! Zey 'ave not toch him;
my pyramide, result of a genius stupend, énorme! to zem he is
nossing; zey retturn him to crash me! To-morrow I demmand zat miladi
accept my demission. _Ici je souffre trop!_

            [_He leaves the room precipitately._

_Miss Stickler_ (_offering to rise_). It _does_ seem to have upset
him! Shall I go after him and see if I can't bring him round?

_Mrs. Pomfret_ (_severely_). Stay where you are, Harriet; he's better
left to himself. If he wasn't so wropped up in his cookery, he'd know
there's always a dish as goes the round untasted, without why or
wherefore. I've no _patience_ with the man!

_Tredwell_ (_philosophically_). That's the worst of 'aving to do with
Frenchmen; they're so apt to beyave with a sutting childishness
that--(_checking himself_)--I really ask your pardon, mamsell, I quite
forgot you was of his nationality; though it ain't to be wondered at,
I'm sure, for you might pass for an Englishwoman almost anywhere!

_Mlle. Chiffon._ As you for Frenchman, _hein_?

_Tredwell._ No, 'ang it _all_, mamsell, I 'ope there's no danger o'
_that_! (_To_ Miss PHILLIPSON.) Delighted to see the Countess keeps as
fit as ever, Miss Phillipson! Wonderful woman for her time o' life!
Law, she _did_ give the Bishop beans at dinner, and no mistake!

_Phillipson._ Her ladyship is pretty generous with them to most
people, Mr. Tredwell. I'm sure I'd have left her long ago, if it
wasn't for Lady Maisie--who _is_ a lady, if you like!

_Tredwell._ She don't favour her ma, I will say _that_ for her. By the
way, who is the party they brought down with them? a youngish looking
chap--seemed a bit out of his helement, when he first come in, though
he's soon got over that, judging by the way him and your Lady Rhoda,
Miss Dolman, was 'obnobbing together at table!

_Phillipson._ Nobody came down with _my_ ladies; they must have met
him in the bus, I expect. What is his name?

_Tredwell._ Why, he give it to me, I know, when I enounced him; but
it's gone clean out of my head again. He's got the Verney Chamber, I
know _that_ much; but what _was_ his name again? I shall forget my own
next.

_Undershell_ (_involuntarily_). In the Verney Chamber? Then the name
must be Spurrell!

_Phillipson_ (_starting_). Spurrell! Why, _I_ used to---- But of course
it can't be _him_!

_Tredwell._ Spurrell _was_ the name, though. (_With a resentful glare
at_ UNDERSHELL.) I don't know how _you_ came to be aware of it, sir!

_Undershell._ Why, the fact is, I happened to find out that--(_here he
receives an admonitory drive in the back from the_ Boy)--that his name
_was_ Spurrell. (_To himself._) I wish this infernal boy wouldn't be
officious--but perhaps he's right!

_Tredwell._ Ho, indeed! Well, _another_ time, Mr. Hundershell, if you
require information about parties staying with _us_, p'raps you'll be
good enough to apply to me pussonally, instead of picking it up in
some 'ole-and-corner fashion. (UNDERSHELL _controls his indignation
with difficulty_.) To return to the individual in question, Miss
Phillipson, I should have said myself he was something in the artistic
or littery way; he suttingly didn't give me the impression of being a
gentleman.

    [Illustration: "HE SUTTINGLY DIDN'T GIVE ME THE IMPRESSION OF
    BEING A GENTLEMAN."]

_Phillipson_ (_to herself, relieved_). Then it _isn't_ my Jem! I might
have known he wouldn't be visiting here, and carrying on with Lady
Rhodas. He'd never forget himself like that--if he _has_ forgotten me!

_Steptoe._ It strikes me he's more of a sporting character, Tredwell.
I know when I was circulating with the cigarettes and so on, in the
hall just now, he was telling the Captain some anecdote about an old
steeplechaser that was faked up to win a selling handicap, and it
tickled me to that extent I could hardly hold the spirit-lamp steady.

_Tredwell._ I may be mistook, Steptoe. All _I_ can say is, that when
me and James was serving cawfy to the ladies in the drawing-room, some
of them had got 'old of a little pink book all sprinkled over with
silver cutlets, and, rightly _or_ wrongly, I took it to 'ave some
connection with 'im.

_Undershell_ (_excitedly_). Pink and silver! Might I ask--was it a
volume of poetry, called--er--_Andromeda_?

_Tredwell_ (_crushingly_). That I did not take the liberty of
inquiring, sir, as you might be aware if you was a little more
familiar with the hetiquette of good society.

            [UNDERSHELL _collapses_; Mr. ADAMS _enters, and steps
               into the chair vacated by the Chef, next to_ Mrs.
               POMFRET, _with whom he converses_.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). To think that they may be discussing my
book in the drawing-room at this very moment, while I--I---- (_He
chokes._) Ah, it won't bear thinking of! I must--I _will_ get out of
this accursed place! I have stood this too long as it is! But I won't
go till I have seen this fellow Spurrell, and made him give me back my
things. What's the time? ... ten! I can go at last. (_He rises._) Mrs.
Pomfret, will you kindly excuse me? I--I find I must go at once.

_Mrs. Pomfret._ Well, Mr. Undershell, sir, you're the best judge; and,
if you really can't stop, this is Mr. Adams, who'll take you round to
the stables himself, and do anything that's necessary. Won't you, Mr.
Adams?

_Adams._ So you're off to-night, sir, are you? Well, I'd rather ha'
shown you Deerfoot by daylight, myself; but there, I dessay that won't
make much difference to _you_, so long as you _do_ see the 'orse?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). So Deerfoot's a _horse_! One of the
features of Wyvern, I suppose; they seem very anxious I shouldn't miss
it. _I_ don't want to see the beast; but I dare say it won't take many
minutes; and, if I don't humour this man, I shan't get a conveyance to
go away in! (_Aloud._) No difference whatever--to _me_. I shall be
delighted to be shown Deerfoot; only I really can't wait _much_
longer; I--I've an appointment elsewhere!

_Adams._ Right, sir; you get your 'at and coat, and come along with
me, and you shall see him at once.

            [UNDERSHELL _takes a hasty farewell of_ Miss PHILLIPSON
               _and the company generally--none of whom attempts to
               detain him--and follows his guide. As the door closes
               upon them, he hears a burst of stifled merriment, amidst
               which_ Miss PHILLIPSON'S _laughter is only too painfully
               recognisable_.



PART XIV

LE VÉTÉRINAIRE MALGRÉ LUI


   _Outside the Stables at Wyvern._ TIME--_About_ 10 P.M.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, as he follows_ ADAMS). Now is my time to
arrange about getting away from here. (_To_ ADAMS.) By the bye, I
suppose you can let me have a conveyance of some sort--after I've seen
the horse? I--I'm rather in a hurry.

_Adams._ You'd better speak to Mr. Checkley about that, sir; it ain't
in _my_ department, you see. I'll fetch him round, if you'll wait here
a minute; he'd like to hear what you think about the 'orse.

            [_He goes off to the coachman's quarters._

_Undershell_ (_alone_). A very civil fellow this; he seems quite
anxious to show me this animal! There must be _something_ very
remarkable about it.

            [ADAMS _returns with_ CHECKLEY.

_Adams._ Mr. Checkley, our 'ed coachman, Mr. Undershell. He's coming
in along with us to 'ear what you say, if you've no objections.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I must make a friend of this coachman, or
else---- (_Aloud._) I shall be charmed, Mr. Checkley. I've only a very
few minutes to spare; but I'm most curious to see this horse of yours.

_Checkley._ He ain't one o' _my_ 'orses, sir. If he _'ad_ been---- But
there, I'd better say nothing about it.

_Adams_ (_as he leads the way into the stables, and turns up the
gas_). There, sir, that's Deerfoot over there in the loose box.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). He seems to me much like any _other_
horse! However, I can't be wrong in admiring. (_Aloud, as he inspects
him, through the rails._) Ah, indeed? he _is_ worth seeing! A
magnificent creature!

_Adams_ (_stripping off_ Deerfoot's _clothing_). He's a good 'orse,
sir. Her ladyship won't trust herself on no other animal, not since
she 'ad the influenzy so bad. She'd take on dreadful if I 'ad to tell
her he wouldn't be fit for no more work, she would!

_Undershell_ (_sympathetically_). I can quite imagine so. Not that he
seems in any danger of _that_!

_Checkley_ (_triumphantly_). There, you 'ear that, Adams? The minute
he set eyes on the 'orse!

_Adams._ Wait till Mr. Undershell has seen him move a bit, and see
what he says _then_.

_Checkley._ If it was what _you_ think, he'd never be standing like he
is now, depend upon it.

_Adams._ You _can't_ depend upon it. He 'eard us coming, and he's
quite artful enough to draw his foot back for fear o' getting a knock.
(_To_ UNDERSHELL.) I've noticed him very fidgety-like on his forelegs
this last day or two.

_Undershell._ _Have_ you, though? (_To himself._) I hope he won't be
fidgety with his _hind_-legs. I shall stay outside.

_Adams._ I cooled him down with a rubub and aloes ball, and kep 'im on
low diet; but he don't seem no better.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I didn't gather the horse was unwell.
(_Aloud._) Dear me! no better? You don't say so!

_Checkley._ If you'd rubbed a little embrocation into the shoulder,
you'd ha' done more good, in _my_ opinion, and it's my belief as Mr.
Undershell here will tell you I'm right.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Can't afford to offend the coachman!
(_Aloud._) Well, I dare say--er--embrocation _would_ have been better.

_Adams._ Ah, that's where me and Mr. Checkley differ. According to
me, it ain't to do with the shoulder at all--it's a deal lower
down.... I'll 'ave him out of the box and you'll soon see what I mean.

_Undershell_ (_hastily_). Pray don't trouble on my account. I--I can
see him capitally from where I am, thanks.

_Adams._ You know best, sir. Only I thought you'd be better able to
form a judgment after you'd seen the way he stepped across. But if you
was to come in and examine the frog?-- I don't like the look of it
myself.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I'm sure _I_ don't. I've a horror of
reptiles. (_Aloud._) You're very good. I--I think I won't come in. The
place must be rather _damp_, mustn't it--for that?

_Adams._ It's dry enough in 'ere, sir, as you may see; nor yet he
ain't been standing about in no wet. Still, there it _is_, you see!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). What a fool he must be not to drive it
out! Of course it must annoy the horse. (_Aloud._) I don't see it; but
I'm quite willing to take your word for it.

_Adams._ I don't know how you can _expect_ to see it, sir, without you
look inside of the 'oof for it.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). It's not alive--it's something _inside_
the hoof. I suppose I ought to have known that. (_Aloud._) Just so;
but I see no necessity for looking inside the hoof.

_Checkley._ In course he don't, or he'd ha' looked the very fust
thing, with all his experience. I 'ope you're satisfied _now_, Adams?

_Adams._ I can't say as I am. I say as no man can examine a 'orse
thoroughly at that distance, be he who he may. And whether I'm right
or wrong, it 'ud be more of a satisfaction to me if Mr. Undershell was
to step in and see the 'oof for himself.

_Checkley._ Well, there's sense in that, and I dessay Mr. Undershell
won't object to obliging you that far.

_Undershell_ (_with reluctance_). Oh, with pleasure, if you make a
point of it.

            [_He enters the loose box delicately._

_Adams_ (_picking up one of the horse's feet_). Now, tell me how this
'ere 'oof strikes you.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). That hoof _can't_; but I'm not so sure
about the others. (_Aloud, as he inspects it._) Well--er--it seems to
me a very _nice_ hoof.

_Adams_ (_grimly_). I was not arsking your opinion of it as a work of
_art_, sir. Do you see any narrering coming on, or do you not? That's
what I should like to get out of _you_!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Does this man suppose I _collect_ hoofs!
However, I'm not going to commit myself. (_Aloud._) H'm--well, I--I
rather agree with Mr. Checkley.

_Checkley._ I knew he would! Now you've _got_ it, Adams! _I_ can see
Mr. Undershell knows what he's about.

_Adams_ (_persistently_). But look at this 'ere pastern. You can't
deny there's puffiness there. How do you get over _that_?

_Undershell._ If the horse is puffy, it's _his_ business to get over
it--not mine.

_Adams_ (_aggrieved_). You may think proper to treat it light, sir;
but if you put your 'and down 'ere, above the coronet, you'll feel a
throbbing as plain as----

_Undershell._ Very likely. But I don't know, really, that it would
afford me any particular gratification if I _did_!

_Adams._ Well, if you don't take _my_ view, I should ha' thought as
you'd want to feel the 'orse's pulse.

_Undershell._ You are quite mistaken. I don't. (_To himself._)
Particularly as I shouldn't know where to find it. What a bore this
fellow is with his horse!

_Checkley._ In course, sir, _you_ see what's running in Mr. Adams's
'ed all this time, what he's a-driving at, eh?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I only wish I did! This will require
tact. (_Aloud._) I--I could hardly avoid seeing _that_--could I?

_Checkley._ _I_ should think not. And it stands to reason as a vet
like yourself'd spot a thing like navickler fust go off.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). A vet! They've been taking me for a vet
all this time! I can't have been so ignorant as I thought. I really
don't like to undeceive them--they might feel annoyed. (_Aloud,
knowingly._) To be sure, I--I spotted it at once.

_Adams._ He _does_ make it out navicular after all! What did I tell
you, Checkley? Now p'raps you'll believe _me_!

_Checkley._ I'll be shot if that 'orse has navickler, whoever says
so--there!

_Adams_ (_gloomily_). It's the 'orse 'll 'ave to be shot; worse luck!
I'd ha' give something if Mr. Undershell could ha' shown I was wrong;
but there was very little doubt in _my_ mind what it was all along.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, horrified_). I've been pronouncing this
unhappy animal's doom without knowing it! I must tone it down.
(_Aloud._) No--no, I never said he must be shot. There's no reason to
despair. It--it's quite a mild form of er--clavicular--not at all
infectious at present. And the horse has a splendid constitution.
I--I really think he'll soon be himself again, if we only--er--leave
Nature to do her work, you know.

_Adams_ (_after a prolonged whistle_). Well, if Nature ain't better up
in her work than you seem to be, it's 'igh time she chucked it, and
took to something else. You've a lot to learn about navicular, _you_
'ave, if you can talk such rot as that!

    [Illustration: "YOU'VE A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT NAVICULAR, YOU
    'AVE, IF YOU CAN TALK SUCH ROT AS THAT!"]

_Checkley._ Ah, I've 'ad to do with a vet or two in my time, but I'm
blest if I ever come across the likes o' _you_ afore!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I _knew_ they'd find me out! I must
pacify them. (_Aloud._) But, look here, I'm _not_ a vet. I never said
I _was_. It was your mistake entirely. The fact is, my--my good men, I
came down here because--well, it's unnecessary to explain now _why_ I
came. But I'm most anxious to get away, and if you, my dear Mr.
Checkley, could let me have a trap to take me to Shuntingbridge
to-night, I should feel extremely obliged.

            [CHECKLEY _stares, deprived of speech_.

_Adams_ (_with a private wink to_ CHECKLEY). Certainly he will, sir.
I'm sure Checkley 'll feel proud to turn out, late as it is, to oblige
a gentleman with your remarkable knowledge of 'orseflesh. Drive you
over hisself in the broom and pair, _I_ shouldn't wonder!

_Undershell._ _One_ horse will be quite sufficient. Very well, then.
I'll just run up and get my portmanteau, and--and one or two things of
mine, and if you will be round at the back entrance--don't trouble to
drive up to the _front_ door--as soon as possible, I won't keep you
waiting longer than I can help. Good evening, Mr. Adams, and many
thanks. (_To himself, as he hurries back to the house._) I've got out
of that rather well. Now, I've only to find my way to the Verney
Chamber, see this fellow Spurrell, and get my clothes back, and then I
can retreat with comfort, and even dignity! These Culverins shall
learn that there is at least _one_ poet who will not put up with their
insolent patronage!

_Checkley_ (_to_ ADAMS). He _has_ got a cool cheek, and no mistake!
But if he waits to be druv over to Shuntingbridge till _I_ come round
for him, he'll 'ave to set on that portmanteau of his a goodish time!

_Adams._ He did you pretty brown, I must say. To 'ear you crowing over
me when he was on your side. I could 'ardly keep from larfing!

_Checkley._ I see he warn't no vet long afore you, but I let it go on
for the joke of it. It was rich to see you a-wanting him to feel the
'oof, and give it out navickler. Well, you got his opinion for what it
was wuth, so _you're_ all right!

_Adams._ You think nobody knows anything about 'orses but yourself,
you do; but if you're meanin' to make a story out o' this against me,
why, I shall tell it _my_ way, that's all!

_Checkley._ It was you he made a fool of, not me--and I can prove
it--there!

            [_They dispute the point, with rising warmth, for some
               time._

_Adams_ (_calming down_). Well, see 'ere, Checkley, I dunno, come to
think of it, as either on us 'll show up partickler smart over this
'ere job; and it strikes me we'd better both agree to keep quiet about
it, eh? (CHECKLEY _acquiesces, not unwillingly_.) And I think I'll
take a look in at the 'ousekeeper's-room presently, and try if I can't
drop a hint to old Tredwell about that smooth-tongued chap, for it's
my belief he ain't down 'ere for no good!



PART XV

TRAPPED!


   _In a Gallery outside the Verney Chamber._ TIME--_About_ 10.15
   P.M.

_Undershell_ (_to himself, as he emerges from a back staircase_). I
suppose this _is_ the corridor? The boy said the name of the room was
painted up over the door.... Ah, there it is; and, yes, Mr. Spurrell's
name on a card.... The door is ajar; he is probably waiting for me
inside. I shall meet him quite temperately, treat it simply as a----
(_He enters; a waste-paper basket, containing an ingenious arrangement
of liquid and solid substances, descends on his head._) What the devil
do you mean, sir, by this outrageous----? All dark! Nobody here! Is
there a general conspiracy to insult me? Have I been lured up here for
a brutal---- (SPURRELL _bursts in_.) Ah, _there_ you are, sir! (_With
cold dignity, through the lattice-work of the basket._) Will you
kindly explain what this means?

_Spurrell._ Wait till I strike a light. (_After lighting a pair of
candles._) Well, sir, if _you_ don't know why you're ramping about
like that under a waste-paper basket, I can hardly be expected to----

_Undershell._ I was determined not to remove it until somebody came
in; it fell on my head the moment I entered; it contained something in
a soap-dish, which has wetted my face. You may laugh, sir, but if this
is a sample of your aristocratic----

_Spurrell._ If you could only see yourself! But _I_'d nothing to do
with it, 'pon my word I hadn't; only just this minute got away from
the hall.... _I_ know! It's that sulky young beggar, Bearpark. I
remember he slipped off on some excuse or other just now. He must have
come in here and fixed that affair up for me--confound him!

_Undershell._ I think _I_'m the person most entitled to---- But no
matter; it is merely one insult more among so many. I came here, sir,
for a purpose, as you are aware.

_Spurrell_ (_ruefully_). Your dress clothes? All right, you shall have
them directly. I wouldn't have put 'em on if I'd known they'd be
wanted so soon.

_Undershell._ I should have thought your own would have been more
comfortable.

_Spurrell._ More comfortable! I believe you. Why, I assure you I feel
like a Bath bun in a baby's sock! But how was I to know? You shouldn't
leave your things about like that!

_Undershell._ It is usual, sir, for people to come to a place like
this provided with evening clothes of their own.

_Spurrell._ I know that as well as you do. Don't you suppose I'm
unacquainted with the usages of society! Why, I've stayed in
boarding-houses at the seaside many a time where it was _de rigger_ to
dress--even for high tea! But coming down, as I did, on business, it
never entered my head that I should want my dress suit. So, when I
found them all as chummy and friendly as possible, and expecting me to
dine as a matter of course,--why, I can tell you I was too jolly glad
to get hold of anything in the shape of a swallowtail and white choker
to be over particular!

_Undershell._ You seem to have been more fortunate in your reception
than I. But then _I_ had not the advantage of being here in a business
capacity.

_Spurrell._ Well, it wasn't that altogether. You see, I'm a kind of a
celebrity in my way.

_Undershell._ I should hardly have thought _that_ would be a
recommendation here.

_Spurrell._ I was surprised myself to find what a lot they thought of
it; but, bless you, they're all as civil as shopwalkers; and, as for
the ladies, why, the old Countess and Lady Maisie and Lady Rhoda
couldn't be more complimentary if I'd won the Victoria Cross, instead
of getting a first prize for breeding and exhibiting a bull-bitch at
Cruft's Dog show!

_Undershell_ (_bitterly, to himself_). And this is our aristocracy!
They make a bosom friend of a breeder of dogs; and find a poet only
fit to associate with their servants! What a theme for a satirist!
(_Aloud._) I see nothing to wonder at. You possess precisely the
social qualifications most likely to appeal to the leisured class.

_Spurrell._ Oh, there's a lot of humbug in it, mind you! Most of 'em
know about as much of the points of a bull as the points of a compass,
only they let on to know a lot because they think it's smart. And some
of 'em are after a pup from old Drummy's next litter. _I_ see through
all that, you know!

_Undershell._ You are a cynic, I observe, sir. But possibly the nature
of the business which brings you here renders them----

_Spurrell._ That's the rummest thing about it. I haven't heard a word
about that yet. I'm in the veterinary profession, you know. Well, they
sent for me to see some blooming horse, and never even ask me to go
near it! Seems odd, don't it?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). _I_ had to go near the blooming horse!
Now I begin to understand; the very servants did not expect to find a
professional vet in any company but their own! (_Aloud._) I--I trust
that the horse will not suffer through any delay.

_Spurrell._ So do I; but how do I know that some ignorant duffer
mayn't be treating him for the wrong thing? It may be all up with the
animal before I get a chance of seeing what I can do?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). If he knew how near I went to getting the
poor beast shot! But I needn't mention that now.

_Spurrell._ I don't say it isn't gratifying to be treated like a
swell, but I've got my professional reputation to consider, you know;
and if they're going to take up all my time talking about
Andromeda----

_Undershell_ (_with a start_). Andromeda! They have been talking about
Andromeda? To you! Then it's _you_ who----

_Spurrell._ Haven't I been telling you? I should just jolly well
think they _have_ been talking about her! So you didn't know my bull's
name was Andromeda before, eh? But _you_ seem to have heard of her,
too!

_Undershell_ (_slowly_). I--I _have_ heard of Andromeda--yes.

            [_He drops into a chair, dazed._

_Spurrell_ (_complacently_). It's curious how that bitch's fame seems
to have spread. Why, even the old Bishop---- But, I say, you're
looking rather queer; anything the matter with you, old fellow?

_Undershell_ (_faintly_). Nothing--nothing. I--I feel a little giddy,
that's all. I shall be better presently.

            [_He conceals his face._

_Spurrell_ (_in concern_). It was having that basket down on your head
like that. Too bad! Here, I'll get you some water. (_He bustles
about._) I don't know if you're aware of it, old chap, but you're in a
regular _dooce_ of a mess!

_Undershell_ (_motioning him away irritably_). Do you suppose I don't
know _that_? For Heaven's sake, don't speak to me! let me alone!... I
want to think--I want to think. (_To himself._) I see it all now! I've
made a hideous mistake! I thought these Culverins were deliberately----
And all the time---- Oh, what an unspeakable idiot I've been!... And I
can't even explain!... The only thing to do is to escape before this
fellow suspects the truth. It's lucky I ordered that carriage!
(_Aloud, rising._) I'm all right now; and--and I can't stay here any
longer. I am leaving directly--directly!

_Spurrell._ You must give me time to get out of this toggery, old
chap; you'll have to pick me out of it like a lobster!

_Undershell_ (_wildly_). The clothes? Never mind them now. I can't
wait. Keep them!

_Spurrell._ Do you really mean it, old fellow? If you _could_ spare
'em a bit longer, I'd be no end obliged. Because, you see, I promised
Lady Rhoda to come and finish a talk we were having, and they've taken
away my own things to brush, so I haven't a rag to go down in except
these; and they'd all think it so beastly rude if I went to bed now!

_Undershell_ (_impatiently_). I tell you you may keep them, if you'll
only go away!

_Spurrell._ But where am I to send the things to when I've done with
'em?

_Undershell._ What do I---- Stay, here's my card. Send them to that
address. Now go and finish your evening!

_Spurrell_ (_gratefully_). You _are_ a rattling good chap, and no
mistake! Though I'm hanged if I can quite make out what you're doing
here, you know!

_Undershell._ It's not at all necessary that you _should_ make it out.
I am leaving immediately, and--and I don't wish Sir Rupert or Lady
Culverin to hear of this--you understand?

_Spurrell._ Well, it's no business of mine; you've behaved devilish
well to me, and I'm not surprised that you'd rather not be seen in the
state you're in. I shouldn't like it myself!

_Undershell._ State? _What_ state?

_Spurrell._ Ah, I _wondered_ whether you knew. You'll see what I mean
when you've had a look at yourself in the glass. I dare say it'll come
off right enough. I can't stop. Ta, ta, old fellow, and thanks
awfully!

            [_He goes out._

_Undershell_ (_alone_). What does he mean? But I've no time to waste.
Where have they put my portmanteau? I can't give up _everything_. (_He
hunts round the room, and eventually discovers a door leading into a
small dressing-room._) Ah, it's in there. I'll get it out, and put my
things in. (_As he rushes back, he suddenly comes face to face with
his own reflection in a cheval glass._) Wh--who's that? Can this--this
piebald horror possibly be--_me_? How----? Ah, it was _ink_ in that
infernal basket--not water! And my hair's full of flour! I _can't_ go
into a hotel like this, they'd think I was an escaped lunatic! (_He
flies to a wash-hand stand, and scrubs and sluices desperately, after
which he inspects the result in the mirror._) It's not _nearly_ off
yet! Will _anything_ get rid of this streakiness? (_He soaps and
scrubs once more._) And the flour's caked in my hair now! I must brush
it all out before I am fit to be seen. (_He gradually, after infinite
toil, succeeds in making himself slightly more presentable._) Is the
carriage waiting for me all this time? (_He pitches things into his
portmanteau in a frantic flurry._) What's that? Some one's coming!

            [_He listens._

    [Illustration: HE SUDDENLY COMES FACE TO FACE WITH HIS OWN
    REFLECTION.]

_Tredwell_ (_outside_). It's my conviction you've been telling me a
pack o' lies, you young rascal. For what hearthly business that feller
Undershell could 'ave in the Verney---- However, _I_'ll soon see how
it is. (_He knocks._) Is any one in 'ere?

_Undershell_ (_to himself, distractedly_). He mustn't find me here!
Yet, where---- Ah, it's the only place!

            [_He blows out the candles, and darts into the dressing-room
               as_ TREDWELL _enters_.

_Tredwell._ The boy's right. He _is_ in here; them candles is
smouldering still. (_He relights one, and looks under the bed._) You'd
better come out o' that, Undershell, and give an account of
yourself--do you 'ear me?... He ain't under there! (_He tries the
dressing-room door_; UNDERSHELL _holds his breath, and clings
desperately to the handle_.) Very well, sir, I know you're _there_,
and I've no time to trouble with you at present, so you may as well
stay where you are till you're wanted. I've 'eard o' your goings-on
from Mr. Adams, and I shall 'ave to fetch Sir Rupert up to 'ave a talk
with you by and bye.

            [_He turns the key upon him, and goes._

_Undershell_ (_to himself, overwhelmed, as the butler's step is heard
retreating._) And I came down here to assert the dignity of
Literature!



PART XVI

AN INTELLECTUAL PRIVILEGE


    _In the Chinese Drawing-room._ TIME--_About_ 9.45 P.M.

_Mrs. Earwaker._ Yes, dear Lady Lullington, I've always insisted on
each of my girls adopting a distinct line of her own, and the result
has been _most_ satisfactory. Louisa, my eldest, is literary; she had
a little story accepted not long ago by _The Milky Way_; then Maria is
musical--practices regularly three hours every day on her violin.
Fanny has become quite an expert in photography--kodaked her father
the other day in the act of trying a difficult stroke at billiards; a
back view--but _so_ clever and characteristic!

_Lady Lullington_ (_absently_). A back view? How _nice_!

_Mrs. Earwaker._ He was the only one of the family who didn't
recognize it at once. Then my youngest Caroline--well, I must say
that for a long time I was quite in despair about Caroline. It really
looked as if there was no single thing that she had the slightest bent
or inclination for. So at last I thought she had better take up
religion, and make _that_ her speciality.

_Lady Lullington_ (_languidly_). Religion! How _very_ nice!

_Mrs. Earwaker._ Well, I got her a _Christian Year_ and a covered
basket, and quantities of tracts, and so on; but, somehow, she didn't
seem to get _on_ with it. So I let her give it up; and now she's gone
in for poker-etching instead.

_Lady Lullington_ (_by an act of unconscious cerebration_).
Poker-etching! How very, _very_ nice!

            [_Her eyelids close gently._

_Lady Rhoda._ Oh, but indeed, Lady Culverin, I thought he was
perfectly charmin': not a bit booky, you know, but as clever as he can
stick; knows more about terriers than any man I ever met!

_Lady Culverin._ So glad you found him agreeable, my dear. I was half
afraid he might strike you as--well, just a little bit _common_ in his
way of talking.

_Lady Rhoda._ P'raps--but, after all, one can't expect those sort of
people to talk quite like we do ourselves, _can_ one?

_Lady Cantire._ Is that Mr. Spurrell you are finding fault with,
Albinia? It is curious that _you_ should be the one person here
who---- I consider him a very worthy and talented young man, and I
shall most certainly ask him to dinner--or _lunch_, at all events--as
soon as we return. I dare say Lady Rhoda will not object to come and
meet him.

_Lady Rhoda._ Rather not. _I_'ll come, like a shot!

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). I suppose it's very silly of me to be
so prejudiced. Nobody else seems to mind him!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_crossing over to them_). Oh, Lady Culverin, Lady
Lullington has such a _delightful_ idea--she's just been saying how
very, very nice it would be if Mr. Spurrell could be persuaded to read
some of his poetry aloud to us presently. _Do_ you think it could be
managed?

_Lady Culverin_ (_in distress_). Really, my dear Vivien, I--I don't
know _what_ to say. I fancy people would so _much_ rather talk--don't
you think so, Rohesia?

_Lady Cantire._ Probably they would, Albinia. It is most unlikely that
they would care to hear anything more intellectual and instructive
than the sound of their own voices.

_Miss Spelwane._ I _told_ Lady Lullington that I was afraid you would
think it a bore, Lady Cantire.

_Lady Cantire._ You are perfectly mistaken, Miss Spelwane. I flatter
myself I am quite as capable of appreciating a literary privilege as
anybody here. But I cannot answer for its being so acceptable to the
majority.

_Lady Culverin._ No, it wouldn't do at all. And it would be making
this young man so _much_ too conspicuous.

_Lady Cantire._ You are talking nonsense, my dear. When you are
fortunate enough to secure a celebrity at Wyvern, you can't make him
_too_ conspicuous. I never knew that Laura Lullington had any taste
for literature before, but there's something to be said for her
suggestion--if it can be carried out; it would at least provide a
welcome relief from the usual after-dinner dullness of this sort of
gathering.

_Miss Spelwane._ Then--would _you_ ask him, Lady Cantire?

_Lady Cantire._ I, my dear? You forget that _I_ am not hostess here.
My sister-in-law is the proper person to do that.

_Lady Culverin._ Indeed I couldn't. But perhaps, Vivien, if you liked
to suggest it to him, he might----

_Miss Spelwane._ I'll try, dear Lady Culverin. And if my poor little
persuasions have no effect, I shall fall back on Lady Cantire, and
then he _can't_ refuse. I must go and tell dear Lady Lullington--she'll
be so pleased! (_To herself, as she skims away._) I generally _do_ get
my own way. But I mean him to do it to please _Me_!

_Lady Cantire_ (_to herself_). I must say that girl is very much
improved in manner since I last saw anything of her.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_a little later, to_ Lady MAISIE). Have you heard
what a treat is in store for us? That delightful Mr. Spurrell is going
to give us a reading or a recitation, or something, from his own
poems; at least Miss Spelwane is to ask him as soon as the men come
in. Only _I_ should have thought that he would be much more likely to
consent if _you_ asked him.

_Lady Maisie._ Would you? I'm sure I don't know why.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_archly_). Oh, he took me in to dinner, you know,
and it's quite wonderful how people confide in me, but I suppose they
feel I can be trusted. He mentioned a little fact, which gave me the
impression that a certain fair lady's wishes would be supreme with
him.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). The wretch! He _has_ been boasting of my
unfortunate letter! (_Aloud._) Mr. Spurrell had no business to give
you any impression of the kind. And the mere fact that I--that I
happened to admire his verses----

_Mrs. Chatteris._ Exactly! Poets' heads are so easily turned; and, as
I said to Captain Thicknesse----

_Lady Maisie._ Captain Thicknesse! You have been talking about it--to
_him_!

_Mrs. Chatteris._ I'd no idea you would mind anybody knowing, or I
would never have dreamed of---- I've such a perfect _horror_ of gossip!
It took me so much by surprise, that I simply couldn't resist. But I
can easily tell Captain Thicknesse it was all a mistake; _he_ knows
how fearfully inaccurate I always am.

_Lady Maisie._ I would rather you said nothing more about it, please;
it is really not worth while contradicting anything so utterly absurd.
(_To herself._) That Gerald--Captain Thicknesse--of all people, should
know of my letter! And goodness only knows what story she may have
made out of it!

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_to herself, as she moves away_). I've been letting
my tongue run away with me, as usual. She's _not_ the original of
"Lady Grisoline," after all. Perhaps he meant Vivien Spelwane--the
description was much more like _her_!

_Pilliner_ (_who has just entered with some of the younger men, to_
Miss SPELWANE). What _are_ you doing with these chairs? Why are we all
to sit in a circle, like Moore and Burgess people? You're _not_ going
to set the poor dear Bishop down to play baby-games? How perfectly
barbarous of you!

_Miss Spelwane._ The chairs are being arranged for something much more
intellectual. We are going to get Mr. Spurrell to read a poem to us,
if you want to know. I _told_ you I should manage it.

_Pilliner._ There's only one drawback to that highly desirable
arrangement. The songster has unostentatiously retired to roost. So
I'm afraid you'll have to do without your poetry this evening--that
is, unless you care to avail yourself again of _my_ services?

_Miss Spelwane_ (_indignantly_). It is too _mean_ of you. You must
have told him!

            [_He protests his innocence._

_Lady Rhoda._ Archie, what's become of Mr. Spurrell? I particularly
want to ask him something.

_Bearpark._ The poet? He nipped upstairs--as I told you all along he
meant to--to scribble some of his democratic drivel, and (_with a
suppressed grin_) I don't _think_ you'll see him again this evening.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself, as he enters_). She's keepin' a
chair next hers in the corner there for somebody. Can it be for that
poet chap?... (_He meets_ Lady MAISIE'S _eye suddenly_.) Great Scott!
If she means it for _me_!... I've half a mind not to---- No, I shall
be a fool if I lose such a chance! (_He crosses, and drops into the
vacant chair next hers._) I _may_ sit here, mayn't I?

_Lady Maisie_ (_simply_). I meant you to. We used to be such good
friends; it's a pity to have misunderstandings. And--and I want to ask
you what that silly little Mrs. Chatteris has been telling you at
dinner about me.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Well, she was sayin'--and I must say I don't
understand it, after your tellin' me you knew nothing about this Mr.
Spurrell till this afternoon----

_Lady Maisie._ But I don't. And I--I _did_ offer to explain, but you
said you weren't curious!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Didn't want you to tell me anything that perhaps
you'd rather not, don't you know. Still, I _should_ like to know how
this poet chap came to write a poem all about you, and call it "Lady
Grisoline," if he never----

_Lady Maisie._ But it's too ridiculous! How _could_ he? When he never
saw me, so far as I know, in all his life before!

_Captain Thicknesse._ He told Mrs. Chatteris you were the original of
his "Lady Grisoline" anyway, and really----

_Lady Maisie._ He dared to tell her that? How disgracefully
impertinent of him. (_To herself._) So long as he hasn't talked about
my letter, he may say what he pleases!

_Captain Thicknesse._ But what _was_ it you were goin' to explain to
me? You said there was somethin'----

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). It's no use; I'd sooner die than tell
him about that letter now! (_Aloud._) I--I only wished you to
understand that, whatever I think about poetry--I detest poets!

_Lady Cantire._ Yes, as you say, Bishop, a truly Augustan mode of
recreation. Still, Mr. Spurrell doesn't seem to have come in yet, so I
shall have time to hear anything you have to say in defence of your
opposition to Parish Councils.

            [_The_ Bishop _resigns himself to the inevitable_.

_Archie_ (_in_ PILLINER'S _ear_). Ink and flour--couldn't possibly
miss him; the bard's got a matted head _this_ time, and no mistake.

    [Illustration: "INK AND FLOUR--COULDN'T POSSIBLY MISS HIM."]

_Pilliner._ Beastly bad form, _I_ call it--with a fellow you don't
know. You'll get yourself into trouble some day. And you couldn't even
bring your own ridiculous booby-trap off, for here the beggar comes,
as if nothing had happened.

_Archie_ (_disconcerted_). Confound him! The best booby trap I _ever_
made!

_The Bishop._ My dear Lady Cantire, here _is_ our youthful poet, at
the eleventh hour. (_To himself._) "_Sic me servavit_ Apollo!"

            [Miss SPELWANE _advances to meet_ SPURRELL, _who stands
               surveying the array of chairs in blank bewilderment_.



PART XVII

A BOMB SHELL


    _In a Gallery near the Verney Chamber._ TIME--_Same as that of
    the preceding Part._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). I must say it's rather rough luck on that
poor devil. I get his dress suit, and all _he_ comes in for is my
booby-trap! (PHILLIPSON, _wearing a holland blouse over her evening
toilette, approaches from the other end of the passage; he does not
recognise her until the moment of collision_.) Emma!! It's never
_you_! How do you come to be _here_?

_Phillipson_ (_to herself_). Then it _was_ my Jem after all! (_Aloud,
distantly._) I'm here in attendance on Lady Maisie Mull, being her
maid. If I was at all curious--which I'm not--I might ask you what
_you_'re doing in such a house as this; and in evening dress, if you
please!

_Spurrell._ I'm in evening dress, Emma, such as it is (not that I've
any right to find fault with it); but I'm in evening dress (_with
dignity_) because I've been included in the dinner party here.

_Phillipson._ You must have been getting on since _I_ knew you. Then
you were studying to be a horse-doctor.

_Spurrell._ I _have_ got on. I am now a qualified M.R.C.V.S.

_Phillipson._ And does that qualify you to dine with bishops and
countesses and baronets and the gentry, like one of themselves?

_Spurrell._ I don't say it does, in itself. It was my Andromeda that
did the trick, Emma.

_Phillipson._ Andromeda? They were talking of that downstairs. What
made you take to scribbling, James?

_Spurrell._ Scribbling? how do you mean? My handwriting's easy enough
to read, as you ought to know very well.

_Phillipson._ You can't expect me to remember what your writing's
like; it's so long since I've seen it!

_Spurrell._ Come, I like that! When I wrote twice to say I was sorry
we'd fallen out; and never got a word back!

_Phillipson._ If you'd written to the addresses I gave you abroad----

_Spurrell._ Then you _did_ write; but none of the letters reached me.
I never even knew you'd _gone_ abroad. I wrote to the old place. And
so did you, I suppose, not knowing I'd moved my lodgings too, so
naturally---- But what does it all matter, so long as we've met and
it's all right between us? Oh, my dear girl, if you only knew how I
worried myself, thinking you were---- Well, all that's over now, isn't
it?

            [_He attempts to embrace her._

_Phillipson_ (_repulsing him_). Not quite so fast, James. Before I say
whether we're to be as we were or not, I want to know a little more
about you. You wouldn't be here like this if you hadn't done
_something_ to distinguish yourself.

_Spurrell._ Well, I don't say I mayn't have got a certain amount of
what they call "kudosh," owing to Andromeda. But what difference does
that make?

_Phillipson._ Tell me, James, is it _you_ that's been writing a pink
book all over silver cutlets?

_Spurrell._ Me? Write a book--about cutlets--or anything else! Emma,
you don't suppose I've quite come down to that! Andromeda's the name
of my bull-dog. I took first prize with her; there were portraits of
both of us in one of the papers. And the people here were very much
taken with the dog, and--and so they asked me to dine with them.
That's how it was.

_Phillipson._ I should have thought, if they asked one of you to dine,
it ought to have been the bull-dog.

_Spurrell._ Now what's the good of saying extravagant things of that
sort? Not that old Drummy couldn't be trusted to behave anywhere!

_Phillipson._ Better than her master, I dare say. _I_ heard of your
goings on with some Lady Rhoda or other!

_Spurrell._ Oh, the girl I sat next to at dinner? Nice chatty sort of
girl; seems fond of quadrupeds----

_Phillipson._ Especially two-legged ones! You see, I've been told all
about it!

_Spurrell._ I assure you, I didn't go a step beyond the most ordinary
civility. You're not going to be jealous because I promised I'd give
her a liniment for one of her dogs, are you?

_Phillipson._ Liniment! You always _were_ a flirt, James! But I'm not
jealous. I've met a very nice-spoken young man while I've been here;
he sat next to me at supper, and paid me the most beautiful
compliments, and was most polite and attentive--though he hasn't got
as far as liniment, at present.

_Spurrell._ But, Emma, you're not going to take up with some other
fellow just when we've come together again?

_Phillipson._ If you call it "coming together," when I'm down in the
housekeeper's room, and you're up above, carrying on with ladies of
title!

_Spurrell._ Do you want to drive me frantic? As if I could help being
where I am! How could I know _you_ were here?

_Phillipson._ At all events, you know _now_, James. And it's for you
to choose between your smart lady friends and me. If you're fit
company for them, you're too grand for one of their maids.

_Spurrell._ My dear girl, don't be unreasonable! I'm expected back in
the drawing-room, and I _can't_ throw 'em over now all of a sudden
without giving offence. There's the interests of the firm to consider,
and it's not for me to take a lower place than I'm given. But it's
only for a night or two, and you don't really suppose I wouldn't
rather be where you are if I was free to choose--but I'm _not_, Emma,
that's the worst of it!

_Phillipson._ Well, go back to the drawing-room, then; don't keep Lady
Rhoda waiting for her liniment on my account. I ought to be in my
ladies' rooms by this time. Only don't be surprised if, whenever you
_are_ free to choose, you find you've come back just too late--that's
all!

            [_She turns to leave him._

_Spurrell_ (_detaining her_). Emma, I won't let you go like this! Not
before you've told me where I can meet you again here.

_Phillipson._ There's no place that I know of--except the
housekeeper's room; and of course you couldn't descend so low as
that.... James, there's somebody coming! Let go my hand--do you want
to lose me my character!

            [_Steps and voices are heard at the other end of the
               passage; she frees herself, and escapes._

_Spurrell_ (_attempting to follow_). But, Emma, stop one---- She's
gone!... Confound it, there's the butler and a page-boy coming! It's
no use staying up here any longer. (_To himself, as he goes
downstairs._) It's downright _torture_--that's what it is! To be tied
by the leg in the drawing-room, doing the civil to a lot of girls I
don't care a blow about; and to know that all the time some blarneying
beggar downstairs is doing his best to rob me of my Emma! Flesh and
blood can't stand it; and yet I'm blest if I see any way out of it
without offending 'em all round.

            [_He enters the Chinese Drawing-room._


    _In the Chinese Drawing-room._

_Miss Spelwane._ At last, Mr. Spurrell! We began to think you meant to
keep away altogether. Has anybody told you _why_ you've been waited
for so impatiently?

_Spurrell_ (_looking round the circle of chairs apprehensively_). No.
Is it family prayers, or what? Er--are they over?

_Miss Spelwane._ No, no; nothing of that sort. Can't you _guess_? Mr.
Spurrell, I'm going to be very bold, and ask a great, _great_ favour
of you. I don't know why they chose _me_ to represent them; I told
Lady Lullington I was afraid my entreaties would have no weight; but
if you only would----

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). They're at it again! How many _more_ of 'em
want a pup! (_Aloud._) Sorry to be disobliging, but----

_Miss Spelwane_ (_joining her hands in supplication_). Not if I
_implore_ you? Oh, Mr. Spurrell, I've quite set my heart on hearing
you read aloud to us. Are you really cruel enough to refuse?

_Spurrell._ Read aloud! Is _that_ what you want me to do? But I'm no
particular hand at it. I don't know that I've ever read aloud--except
a bit out of the paper now and then--since I was a boy at school!

_Lady Cantire._ _What's_ that I hear? Mr. Spurrell professing
incapacity to read aloud? Sheer affectation! Come, Mr. Spurrell, I am
much mistaken if you are wanting in the power to thrill all hearts
here. Think of us as instruments ready to respond to your touch. Play
upon us as you will; but don't be so ungracious as to raise any
further obstacles.

_Spurrell_ (_resignedly_). Oh, very well, if I'm required to read,
_I'm_ agreeable.

            [_Murmurs of satisfaction._

_Lady Cantire._ Hush, please, everybody! Mr. Spurrell is going to
read. My dear Bishop, if you _wouldn't_ mind just---- Lord Lullington,
can you hear where you are? Where are you going to sit, Mr. Spurrell?
In the centre will be best. Will somebody move that lamp a little, so
as to give him more light?

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, as he sits down_). I wonder what we're
supposed to be playing at! (_Aloud._) Well, what am I to read, eh?

_Miss Spelwane_ (_placing an open copy of_ "Andromeda" _in his hands
with a charming air of deferential dictation_). You might begin with
_this_--such a _dear_ little piece! I'm dying to hear _you_ read it!

    [Illustration: "YOU MIGHT BEGIN WITH THIS--SUCH A DEAR LITTLE
    PIECE."]

_Spurrell_ (_as he takes the book_). I'll do the best I can! (_He
looks at the page in dismay._) Why, look here, it's _poetry_! I didn't
bargain for that. Poetry's altogether out of my line!

            [Miss SPELWANE _opens her eyes to their fullest extent, and
               retires a few paces from him; he begins to read in a
               perfunctory monotone, with deepening bewilderment and
               disgust_--

    "THE SICK KNIGHT.

    Reach me the helmet from yonder rack,
                _Mistress o' mine! with its plume of white_:
    Now help me upon my destrier's back,
                _Mistress o' mine! though he swerve in fright_.
    And guide my foot to the stirrup-ledge,
                _Mistress o' mine! it eludes me still_.
    Then fill me a cup as a farewell pledge,
                _Mistress o' mine! for the night air's chill_!
    Haste! with the buckler and pennon'd lance,
                _Mistress o' mine! or ever I feel_
    My war-horse plunge in impatient prance,
                _Mistress o' mine! at the prick of heel_.
    Pay scant heed to my pallid hue,
                _Mistress o' mine! for the wan moon's sheen_
    Doth blazon the gules o' my cheek with blue,
                _Mistress o' mine! or glamour it green_.
    One last long kiss, ere I seek the fray ...
                _Mistress o' mine! though I quit my sell_,
    I would meet the foe i' the mad mêlée.
                _Mistress o' mine! an' I were but well!_"

(_After the murmur of conventional appreciation has died away._) Well,
of course, I don't set up for a judge of such things myself, but I
must say, if I was asked _my_ opinion--of all the downright tommy-rot
I _ever_---- (_The company look at one another with raised eyebrows
and dropped underlips; he turns over the leaves backwards until he
arrives at the title-page._) I _say_, though, I do call this _rather_
rum! Who the dickens is Clarion Blair? Because _I_ never heard of
him--and yet it seems he's been writing poetry on my bull-dog!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_faintly_). Writing poetry--about your bull-dog!

_Spurrell._ Yes, the one you've all been praising up so. If it isn't
meant for her, it's what you might call a most surprising coincidence,
for here's the old dog's name as plain as it can be--_Andromeda_!

            [_Tableau._



PART XVIII

THE LAST STRAW


     _After_ SPURRELL'S _ingenuous comments upon the volume in his
     hand, a painful silence ensues, which no one has sufficient
     presence of mind to break for several seconds_.

_Miss Spelwane_ (_to herself_). Not Clarion Blair! Not even a poet!
I--I could _slap_ him!

_Pilliner_ (_to himself_). Poor dear Vivien! But if people will insist
on patting a strange poet, they mustn't be surprised if they get a
nasty bite!

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). He didn't write _Andromeda_! Then he
hasn't got my letter after all! And I've been such a _brute_ to the
poor dear man! _How_ lucky I said nothing about it to Gerald!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). So he _ain't_ the bard!... Now I
see why Maisie's been behavin' so oddly all the evenin'; she spotted
him, and didn't like to speak out. Tried to give me a hint, though.
Well, I shall stay out my leave now!

_Lady Rhoda_ (_to herself_). I thought all along he seemed too good a
sort for a poet!

_Archie_ (_to himself_). It's all very well; but how about that skit
he went up to write on us? He _must_ be a poet of sorts.

_Mrs. Brooke-Chatteris_ (_to herself_). This is fearfully puzzling.
What made him say that about "Lady Grisoline"?

_The Bishop_ (_to himself_). A crushing blow for the Countess; but not
unsalutary. I am distinctly conscious of feeling more kindly disposed
to that young man. Now why?

            [_He ponders._

_Lady Lullington_ (_to herself_). I thought this young man was going
to read us some more of his poetry; it's too tiresome of him to stop
to tell us about his bull-dog. As if anybody cared _what_ he called
it!

_Lord Lullington_ (_to himself_). Uncommonly awkward, this! If I could
catch Laura's eye--but I suppose it would hardly be decent to go just
yet.

_Lady Culverin_ (_to herself_). Can Rohesia have known this? What
possible object could she have had in---- And oh, dear, _how_
disgusted Rupert will be!

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself_). Seems a decent young chap enough! Too
bad of Rohesia to let him in for this. I don't care a straw what he
is--he's none the worse for not being a poet.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to herself_). What _is_ he maundering about? It's
utterly inconceivable that _I_ should have made any mistake. It's only
too clear what the cause is--_Claret_!

_Spurrell_ (_aloud, good-humouredly_). Too bad of you to try and spoof
me like this before everybody, Miss Spelwane! I don't know whose idea
it was to play me such a trick, but----

_Miss Spelwane_ (_indistinctly_). Please understand that nobody here
had the _least_ intention of playing a trick upon you!

_Spurrell._ Well, if you say so, of course---- But it looked rather
like it, asking me to read when I've about as much poetry in me as--as
a pot hat! Still, if I'm _wanted_ to read aloud, I shall be happy
to----

_Lady Culverin_ (_hastily_). Indeed, _indeed_, Mr. Spurrell, we
couldn't think of troubling you any more under the circumstances! (_In
desperation._) Vivien, my dear, won't you _sing_ something?

            [_The company echo the request with unusual eagerness._

_Spurrell_ (_to himself, during_ Miss SPELWANE'S _song_). Wonder
what's put them off being read to all of a sudden? My elocution mayn't
be first-class, exactly, but still---- (_As his eye happens to rest on
the binding of the volume on his knee._) Hullo! This cover's pink,
with silver things, not unlike cutlets, on it! Didn't Emma ask me----?
By George, if it's _that_! I may get down to the housekeeper's room,
after all! As soon as ever this squalling stops I'll find out; I
_can't_ go on like this! (Miss SPELWANE _leaves the piano; everybody
plunges feverishly into conversation on the first subject--other than
poetry or dogs--that presents itself, until_ Lord _and_ Lady
LULLINGTON _set a welcome example of departure_.) Better wait till
these county nobs have cleared, I suppose--there goes the last of
'em--now for it!... (_He pulls himself together, and approaches his
host and hostess._) Hem, Sir Rupert, and your ladyship, it's occurred
to me that it's just barely possible you may have got it in your heads
that I was something in the _poetical_ way.

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself_). Not this poor young chap's fault; must
let him down as easily as possible! (_Aloud._) Not at all--not at all!
Ha--assure you we quite understand; no necessity to say another word
about it.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). Just my luck! They quite understand! No
housekeeper's room for me this journey! (_Aloud._) Of course I knew
the Countess, there, and Lady Maisie, were fully aware all along----
(_To_ Lady MAISIE, _as stifled exclamations reach his ear_.) You
_were_, weren't you?

_Lady Maisie_ (_hastily_). Yes, yes, Mr. Spurrell. Of course! It's all
_perfectly_ right!

_Spurrell_ (_to the others_). You see, I should never have thought of
coming in as a visitor if it hadn't been for the Countess; she would
_have_ it that it was all right, and that I needn't be afraid I
shouldn't be welcome.

_Lady Culverin._ To be sure--any friend of my sister-in-law's----

_Lady Cantire._ Albinia, I have refrained from speech as long as
possible; but this is really _too_ much! You _don't_ suppose I should
have introduced Mr. Spurrell here unless I had had the strongest
reasons for knowing, however he may be pleased to mystify us now, that
he, and nobody else, is the author of _Andromeda_! And I, for one,
absolutely decline to believe in this preposterous story of his about
a bull-dog.

_Spurrell._ But your ladyship must have known! Why, you as good as
asked me on the way here to put you down for a bull-pup!

_Lady Cantire._ Never, never! A bull-pup is the last creature I should
ever dream of coveting. You were obliging enough to ask me to accept a
presentation copy of your verses.

_Spurrell._ Was I? I don't exactly see how I _could_ have been,
considering I never made a rhyme in my life!

_Sir Rupert._ There, there, Rohesia, it was _your_ mistake; but as we
are indebted to it for the pleasure of making Mr. Spurrell's
acquaintance----

_Lady Cantire._ I am not in the habit of making mistakes, Rupert. I
don't know what you and Albinia and Maisie may know that I am in
ignorance of, but, since you seem to have been aware from the first
that Mr. Spurrell was not the poet you had invited here to meet me,
will you kindly explain what has become of the _real_ author?

_Sir Rupert._ My dear Rohesia, I don't know and I don't _care_!

_Lady Cantire._ There you are _wrong_, Rupert, because it's obvious
that if he is not Mr. Spurrell, the real poet's absence has to be
accounted for in _some_ way.

_Spurrell._ By Jove, I believe I can put you on the track. I shouldn't
wonder if he's the party these dress clothes of mine belong to! I dare
say you may have noticed they don't look as if they were made for me?

_Lady Cantire_ (_closing her eyes_). Pray let us avoid any sartorial
questions! We are waiting to hear about this person.

_Spurrell._ Well, I found I'd got on his things by mistake, and I went
up as soon as I could after dessert to my room to take 'em off, and
there he was, with a waste-paper basket on his head----

_Lady Cantire._ A waste-paper basket on his head! And pray what should
he have _that_ for?

_Spurrell._ I'm no wiser than your ladyship _there_. All _I_ know is
he said he wouldn't take it off till he saw me. And I never saw any
one in such a mess with ink and flour as he was!

_Lady Cantire._ Ink and flour, indeed! This rigmarole gets more
ridiculous every moment! You can't seriously expect any one here to
believe it!

            [ARCHIE _discreetly retires to the smoking-room_.

_Spurrell._ Well, I rather think somebody must have fixed up a
booby-trap for _me_, you know, and he happened to go in first and get
the benefit of it. And he was riled, very naturally, thinking _I_'d
done it, but after we'd had a little talk together, he calmed down and
said I might keep his clothes, which I thought uncommonly good-natured
of him, you know. By the way, he gave me his card. Here it is, if
your ladyship would like to see it.

            [_He hands it to_ Lady CULVERIN.

_Lady Culverin._ "Mr. Undershell!"... Rohesia, that _is_ Clarion
Blair! I knew it was _something_ ending in "ell." (_To_ SPURRELL.) And
you say Mr. Undershell is here--in this house?

_Spurrell._ Not now. He's gone by this time.

_The Others_ (_in dismay_). Gone!

_Spurrell._ He said he was leaving at once. If he'd only told me how
it was, I'd have----

_Lady Cantire._ I don't believe a single word of all this! If Mr.
Spurrell is not Clarion Blair, let him explain how he came to be
coming down to Wyvern this afternoon!

_Spurrell._ If your ladyship doesn't really know, you had better ask
Sir Rupert; _he'll_ tell you it's all right.

_Lady Cantire._ Then perhaps _you_ will be good enough to enlighten
us, Rupert?

_Sir Rupert_ (_driven into a corner_). Why, 'pon my word, I'm bound to
say that I'm just as much in the dark as anybody else, if it comes to
that!

_Spurrell_ (_eagerly_). But you wired me to come, sir! About a horse
of yours! I've been wondering all the evening when you'd tell me I
could go round and have a look at him. I'm here instead of Mr.
Spavin--_now_ do you understand, Sir Rupert? I'm the vet.

            [_Suppressed sensation._

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself_). This is devilish awkward! Don't quite
know what to do. (_Aloud._) To--to be sure you are! Of course! That's
it, Rohesia! Mr. Spurrell came down to see a horse, and we shall be
very glad to have the benefit of his opinion by and bye.

            [_He claps him amicably on the shoulder._

_Lady Cantire_ (_in a sepulchral tone_). Albinia, I think I will go to
bed.

            [_She withdraws._

    [Illustration: "ALBINIA, I THINK I WILL GO TO BED."]

_Sir Rupert_ (_to himself_). There'll be no harm in letting him stay,
now he _is_ here. If Rohesia objects, she's got nobody but herself to
blame for it!

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). They won't want to keep me upstairs much
longer after this! (TREDWELL _enters, and seems to have something of
importance to communicate to_ Sir RUPERT _in private_.) I wonder what
the dooce is up _now_!

            [_Partial reaction in company._



PART XIX

UNEARNED INCREMENT


_Sir Rupert_ (_to_ TREDWELL). Well, what is it?

_Tredwell_ (_in an undertone_). With reference to the party, Sir
Rupert, as represents himself to have come down to see the 'orse,
I----

_Sir Rupert_ (_aloud_). You mean Mr. Spurrell? It's all right. Mr.
Spurrell will see the horse to-morrow. (TREDWELL _disguises his utter
bewilderment_.) By the way, we expected a Mr. ---- What did you say
the name was, my dear?... Undershell? To be sure, a Mr. Undershell, to
have been here in time for dinner. Do you know why he has been unable
to come before this?

_Tredwell_ (_to himself_). Do I know? Oh, Lor! (_Aloud._) I--I believe
he _have_ arrived, Sir Rupert.

_Sir Rupert._ So I understand from Mr. Spurrell. Is he here still?

_Tredwell._ He is, Sir Rupert. I--I considered it my dooty not to
allow him to leave the house, not feeling----

_Sir Rupert._ Quite right, Tredwell. I should have been most seriously
annoyed if I had found that a guest we were all anxiously expecting
had left the Court, owing to some fancied---- Where is he now?

_Tredwell_ (_faintly_). In--in the Verney Chamber. Leastways----

_Sir Rupert._ Ah. (_He glances at_ SPURRELL.) Then where----? But that
can be arranged. Go up and explain to Mr. Undershell that we have only
this moment heard of his arrival; say we understand that he has been
obliged to come by a later train, and that we shall be delighted to
see him, just as he is.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). He was worth looking at just as he _was_,
when _I_ saw him!

_Pilliner_ (_to himself_). By a later train? Then, how the deuce did
his clothes----? Oh, well, however it was, it don't concern _me_.

_Tredwell._ Very good, Sir Rupert. (_To himself, as he departs._) If
I'm not precious careful over this job, it may cost me my situation!

_Spurrell._ Sir Rupert, I've been thinking that, after what's
occurred, it would probably be more satisfactory to all parties if I
shifted my quarters, and--took my meals in the housekeeper's room.

            [Lady MAISIE _and_ Lady RHODA _utter inarticulate protests_.

_Sir Rupert._ My _dear_ sir, not on any account--couldn't _hear_ of
it! My wife, I'm sure, will say the same.

_Lady Culverin_ (_with an effort_). I hope Mr. Spurrell will continue
to be our guest precisely as before--that is, if he will forgive us
for putting him into another room.

_Spurrell_ (_to himself_). It's no use; I _can't_ get rid of 'em; they
stick to me like a lot of blooming burrs! (_Aloud, in despair._) Your
ladyship is very good, but---- Well, the fact is, I've only just found
out that a young lady I've long been deeply attached to is in this
very house. She's a Miss Emma Phillipson--maid, so I understand, to
Lady Maisie--and, without for one moment wishing to draw any
comparisons, or to seem ungrateful for all the friendliness I've
received, I really and truly would feel myself more comfortable in a
circle where I could enjoy rather more of my Emma's society than I can
here!

_Sir Rupert_ (_immensely relieved_). Perfectly natural!
and--hum--sorry as we are to lose you, Mr. Spurrell, we--ah--mustn't
be inconsiderate enough to keep you here a moment longer. I've no
doubt you will find the young lady in the housekeeper's room--any one
will tell you where it is.... Good night to you, then; and, remember,
we shall expect to see you in the field on Tuesday.

_Lady Maisie._ Good night, Mr. Spurrell, and--and I'm so very
glad--about Emma, you know. I hope you will both be very happy.

            [_She shakes hands warmly._

    [Illustration: "I'M SO VERY GLAD--ABOUT EMMA, YOU KNOW."]

_Lady Rhoda._ So do I. And mind you don't forget about that liniment,
you know.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). Maisie don't care a hang! And I
was ass enough to fancy---- But there, that's all over now!


    _In the Verney Chamber._

_Undershell_ (_in the dressing-room, to himself_). I wonder how long
I've been locked up here--it seems hours! I almost hope they've
forgotten me altogether.... Some one has come in.... If it should be
Sir Rupert!! Great heavens, what a situation to be found in by one's
host!... Perhaps it's only that fellow Spurrell; if so, there's a
chance. (_The door is unlocked by_ TREDWELL, _who has lighted the
candles on the dressing table_.) It's the butler again. Well, I shall
soon know the worst! (_He steps out, blinking, with as much dignity as
possible._) Perhaps you will kindly inform me why I have been
subjected to this indignity?

_Tredwell_ (_in perturbation_). I think, Mr. Undershell, sir, in
common fairness, you'll admit as you've mainly yourself to thank for
any mistakes that have occurred; for which I 'asten to express my
pussonal regret.

_Undershell._ So long as you realise that you have made a mistake, I
am willing to overlook it, on condition that you help me to get away
from this place without your master and mistress's knowledge.

_Tredwell._ It's too late, sir. They know you're 'ere!

_Undershell._ They know! Then there's no time to be lost. I must leave
this moment!

_Tredwell._ No, sir, excuse me; but you can't hardly do that _now_. I
was to say that Sir Rupert and the ladies would be glad to see you in
the droring-room himmediate.

_Undershell._ Man alive! do you imagine anything would induce me to
meet them now, after the humiliations I have been compelled to suffer
under this roof?

_Tredwell._ If you would prefer anything that has taken place in the
room, sir, or in the stables to be 'ushed up----

_Undershell._ Prefer it! If it were only possible! But they know--they
_know_! What's the use of talking like that?

_Tredwell_ (_to himself_). I know where I am now! (_Aloud._) They know
nothink up to the present, Mr. Undershell, nor yet I see no occasion
why they should--leastwise from any of _Us_.

_Undershell._ But they know I'm here; how am I to account for all the
time----?

_Tredwell._ Excuse me, sir. I thought of that, and it occurred to me
as it might be more agreeable to your feelings, sir, if I conveyed an
impression that you had only just arrived--'aving missed your train,
sir.

_Undershell_ (_overjoyed_). How am I to thank you? that was really
most discreet of you--most considerate!

_Tredwell._ I am truly rejoiced to hear you say so, sir. And I'll take
care nothing leaks out. And if you'll be kind enough to follow me to
the droring-room, the ladies are waiting to see you.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I may actually meet Lady Maisie Mull
after all! (_Aloud, recollecting his condition._) But I can't go down
like this. I'm in such a horrible mess!

_Tredwell._ I reelly don't perceive it, sir; except a little white on
your coat-collar behind. Allow me--there it's off now. (_He gives him
a hand-glass_) If you'd like to see for yourself.

_Undershell_ (_to himself as he looks_). A slight pallor, that's all.
I am more presentable than I could have hoped. (_Aloud._) Have the
kindness to take me to Lady Culverin at once.


    _In the Chinese Drawing-room. A few minutes later._

_Sir Rupert_ (_to_ UNDERSHELL, _after the introductions have been gone
through_). And so you missed the 4.55 and had to come on by the 7.30
which stops everywhere, eh?

_Undershell._ It--it certainly does stop at most stations.

_Sir Rupert._ And how did you get on to Wyvern--been here long?

_Undershell._ N--not _particularly_ long.

_Sir Rupert._ Fact is, you see, we made a mistake. Very ridiculous,
but we've been taking that young fellow, Mr. Spurrell, for _you_ all
this time; so we never thought of inquiring whether you'd come or not.
It was only just now he told us how he'd met you in the Verney
Chamber, and the very handsome way, if you will allow me to say so, in
which you had tried to efface yourself.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I didn't expect him to take _that_ view
of it! (_Aloud._) I--I felt I had no alternative.

            [Lady MAISIE _regards him with admiration_.

_Sir Rupert._ You did an uncommon fine thing, sir, and I'm afraid you
received treatment on your arrival which you had every right to
resent.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I hoped he didn't know about the
housekeeper's room! (_Aloud._) Please say no more about it, Sir
Rupert. I know now that you were entirely innocent of any----

_Sir Rupert_ (_horrified_). Good Gad! you didn't suppose _I_ had any
hand in fixing up that booby-trap, or whatever it was, did you? Young
fellows will get bear-fighting and playing idiotic tricks on one
another, and you seem to have been the victim--that's how it was. Have
you had anything to eat since you came? If not----

_Undershell_ (_hastily_). Thank you, I--I _have_ dined. (_To
himself._) So he _doesn't_ know where, after all! I will spare him
_that_.

_Sir Rupert._ Got some food at Shuntingbridge, eh? Afraid they gave
you a wretched dinner?

_Undershell._ Quite the reverse, I assure you. (_To himself._)
Considering that it came from his own table!

_Pilliner_ (_to himself_). I _still_ don't understand how his
clothes---- (_Aloud._) Did you send your portmanteau on ahead, then, or
what?

_Undershell_ (_blankly_). Send my port--? I don't understand.

_Pilliner._ Oh, I only asked, because the other man said he was
wearing your things.

_Sir Rupert_ (_as_ UNDERSHELL _remains speechless_). I see how it
was--perfectly simple--rush for the train--porter put your luggage
in--you got left behind, wasn't that it?

_Undershell._ I--I certainly _did_ get separated from my portmanteau,
somehow, and I suppose it must have arrived before me. (_To himself._)
Considering the pace of the fly-horse, I think I am justified in
assuming _that_!

_Pilliner_ (_to himself_). Ass I was not to hold my tongue!

_Lady Maisie_ (_in an undertone, to_ Captain THICKNESSE). Gerald, you
remember what I said some time ago--about poetry and poets?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Perfectly. And I thought you were quite right.

_Lady Maisie._ I was quite _wrong_. I didn't know what I was talking
about. I do now. Good night. (_She crosses to_ UNDERSHELL.) Good
night, Mr. Blair, I'm so very glad we have met--at last!

            [_She goes._

_Undershell_ (_to himself, rapturously_). She's _not_ freckled; she's
not even sandy. She's lovely! And, by some unhoped-for good fortune,
all this has only raised me in her eyes. I am more than compensated!

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). I may just as well get back to
Aldershot to-morrow--_now_. I'll go and prepare Lady C.'s mind, in
case. It's hard luck; just when everything seemed goin' right! I'd
give somethin' to have the other bard back, I know. It's no earthly
use my tryin' to stand against _this_ one!



PART XX

DIFFERENT PERSONS HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS


    LADY MAISIE'S _Room at Wyvern_. TIME--_Saturday night, about_
    11.30.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to_ PHILLIPSON, _who is brushing her hair_). You are
_sure_ mamma isn't expecting me? (_Irresolutely._) Perhaps I had
better just run in and say good night.

_Phillipson._ I wouldn't recommend it, really, my lady; her ladyship
seems a little upset in her nerves this evening.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). _Il-y-a de quoi!_ (_Aloud, relieved._)
It might only disturb her, certainly.... I hope they are making you
comfortable here, Phillipson?

_Phillipson._ Very much so indeed, thank you, my lady. The tone of the
room downstairs is _most_ superior.

_Lady Maisie._ _That's_ satisfactory. And I hear you have met an old
admirer of yours here--Mr. Spurrell, I mean.

_Phillipson._ We _did_ happen to encounter each other in one of the
galleries, my lady, just for a minute; though I shouldn't have
expected _him_ to allude to it!

_Lady Maisie._ Indeed! And why not?

_Phillipson._ Mr. James Spurrell appears to have elevated himself to a
very different sphere from what he occupied when _I_ used to know him,
my lady; though how and why he comes to be where he is, I don't
rightly understand myself at present.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). And no wonder! I feel horribly guilty!
(_Aloud._) You mustn't blame poor Mr. Spurrell, Phillipson; _he_
couldn't help it!

_Phillipson_ (_with studied indifference_). I'm not blaming him, my
lady. If he prefers the society of his superiors to mine, he's very
welcome to do so; there's others only too willing to take his place!

_Lady Maisie._ Surely none who would be as fond of you or make so good
a husband, Phillipson!

_Phillipson._ That's as maybe, my lady. There was one young man that
travelled down in the same compartment, and sat next me at supper in
the room. I could see he took a great fancy to me from the first, and
his attentions were really quite pointed. I am sure I couldn't bring
myself to repeat his remarks, they were so flattering!

_Lady Maisie._ Don't you think you will be rather a foolish girl if
you allow a few idle compliments from a stranger to outweigh such an
attachment as Mr. Spurrell seems to have for you?

_Phillipson._ If _he_'s found new friends, my lady, I consider myself
free to act similarly.

_Lady Maisie._ Then you don't know? He told us quite frankly this
evening that he had only just discovered you were here, and would much
prefer to be where you were. He went down to the housekeeper's room on
purpose.

_Phillipson_ (_moved_). It's the first I've heard of it, my lady. It
must have been after I came up. If I'd only known he'd behave like
_that_!

_Lady Maisie_ (_instructively_). You see how loyal he is to _you_. And
now, I suppose, he will find he has been supplanted by this new
acquaintance--some smooth-tongued, good-for-nothing valet, I dare say?

_Phillipson_ (_injured_). Oh, my lady, indeed he wasn't a _man_! But
there was nothing serious between us--at least, on _my_ side--though
he certainly did go on in a very sentimental way himself. However,
he's left the Court by now, that's _one_ comfort! (_To herself._) I
wish now I'd said nothing about him to Jem. If he was to get asking
questions downstairs---- He always _was_ given to jealousy--reason or
none!

            [_A tap is heard at the door._

_Lady Rhoda_ (_outside_). Maisie, may I come in? if you've done your
hair, and sent away your maid. (_She enters._) Ah, I see you haven't.

_Lady Maisie._ Don't run away, Rhoda; my maid has just done. You can
go now, Phillipson.

_Lady Rhoda_ (_to herself, as she sits down_). Phillipson! So _that's_
the young woman that funny vet man prefers to _us_! H'm, can't say I
feel flattered!

_Phillipson_ (_to herself, as she leaves the room_). This must be the
Lady Rhoda, who was making up to my Jem! He wouldn't have anything to
say to her, though; and, now I see her, I am not surprised at it!

            [_She goes. A pause._

_Lady Rhoda_ (_crossing her feet on the fender_). Well, we can't
complain of havin' had a dull evenin', _can_ we?

    [Illustration: "WELL, WE CAN'T COMPLAIN OF HAVIN' HAD A DULL
    EVENIN', CAN WE?"]

_Lady Maisie_ (_taking a hand-screen from the mantelshelf_). Not
altogether. Has--anything fresh happened since I left?

_Lady Rhoda._ Nothing particular. Archie apologised to this new man in
the billiard-room. For the booby trap. We all told him he'd _got_ to.
And Mr. Carrion Bear, or Blundershell, or whatever he calls
himself--_you_ know--was so awf'lly gracious and condescendin' that I
really thought poor dear old Archie would have wound up his apology by
punchin' his head for him. Strikes me, Maisie, that mop-headed
minstrel boy is a decided change for the worse. Doesn't it you?

_Lady Maisie_ (_toying with the screen_). How do you _mean_, Rhoda?

_Lady Rhoda._ I meantersay I call Mr. Spurrell---- Well, he's real,
anyway--he's a _man_, don't you know. As for the other, so _feeble_ of
him missin' his train like he did, and turnin' up too late for
everything! Now, _wasn't_ it?

_Lady Maisie._ Poets _are_ dreamy and unpractical and unpunctual--it's
their nature.

_Lady Rhoda._ Then they should stay at home. Just see what a hopeless
muddle he's got us all into! I declare I feel as if anybody might turn
into somebody else on the smallest provocation after this. I _know_
poor Vivien Spelwane will be worryin' her pillows like rats most of
the night, and I rather fancy it will be a close time for poets with
your dear mother, Maisie, for some time to come. All this silly little
man's fault!

_Lady Maisie._ No, Rhoda. Not his--_ours_. Mine and mamma's. We ought
to have felt from the first that there _must_ be some mistake, that
poor Mr. Spurrell couldn't _possibly_ be a poet! I don't know,
though--people generally _are_ unlike what you'd expect from their
books. I believe they do it on purpose! Not that that applies to Mr.
Blair; he _is_ one's idea of what a poet should be. If he hadn't
arrived when he did, I don't think I could ever have borne to read
another line of poetry as long as I lived!

_Lady Rhoda._ I _say_! Do you call him as good-lookin' as all _that_?

_Lady Maisie._ I was not thinking about his looks, Rhoda--it's his
_conduct_ that's so splendid.

_Lady Rhoda._ His conduct? Don't see anything splendid in missin' a
train. I could do it myself if I tried.

_Lady Maisie._ Well, I wish I could think there were many men capable
of acting so nobly and generously as he did.

_Lady Rhoda._ As how?

_Lady Maisie._ You really don't see! Well, then, you _shall_. He
arrives late, and finds that somebody else is here already in his
character. He makes no fuss; manages to get a private interview with
the person who is passing as himself; when, of course, he soon
discovers that poor Mr. Spurrell is as much deceived as anybody else.
What is he to do? Humiliate the unfortunate man by letting him know
the truth? Mortify my uncle and aunt by a public explanation before a
whole dinner-party? That is what a stupid or a selfish man might have
done, almost without thinking. But not Mr. Blair. He has too much
tact, too much imagination, too much chivalry for that. He saw at once
that his only course was to spare his host and hostess, and--and all
of us a scene, by slipping away quietly and unostentatiously, as he
had come.

_Lady Rhoda_ (_yawning_). If he saw all that, why didn't he _do_ it?

_Lady Maisie_ (_indignantly_). Why? How provoking you can be, Rhoda!
_Why?_ Because that stupid Tredwell wouldn't let him! Because Archie
delayed him by some idiotic practical joke! Because Mr. Spurrell went
and blurted it all out!... Oh, don't try to run down a really fine act
like that; because you can't--you simply _can't_!

_Lady Rhoda_ (_after a low whistle_). No idea it had gone so far as
that--already! _Now_ I begin to see why Gerry Thicknesse has been
lookin' as if he'd sat on his best hat, and why he told your aunt he
might have to be off to-morrow; which is all stuff, because I happen
to know his leave ain't up for two or three days yet. But he sees this
Troubadour has put his poor old nose out of joint for him.

_Lady Maisie_ (_flushing_). Now, Rhoda, I won't have you talking as
if--as if---- _You_ ought to know, if Gerald Thicknesse doesn't, that
it's nothing at all of that sort! It's just---- Oh, I can't _tell_ you
how some of his poems moved me, what new ideas, wider views they
seemed to teach; and then how _dreadfully_ it hurt to think it was
only Mr. Spurrell after all!... But _now_--oh, the _relief_ of finding
they're not spoilt; that I can still admire, still look up to the man
who wrote them! Not to have to feel that he is quite commonplace--not
even a gentleman--in the ordinary sense!

_Lady Rhoda_ (_rising_). Ah well, I prefer a hero who looks as if he
had his hair cut, occasionally--but then, I'm not romantic. He may be
the paragon you say; but if I was you, my dear, I wouldn't expect too
much of that young man--allow a margin for shrinkage, don't you know.
And now I think I'll turn into my little crib, for I'm dead tired.
Good night; don't sit up late readin' poetry; it's my opinion you've
read quite enough as it is!

            [_She goes._

_Lady Maisie_ (_alone, as she gazes dreamily into the fire_). She
doesn't in the _least_ understand! She actually suspects me of---- As
if I could possibly--or as if mamma would ever--even if _he_---- Oh,
how _silly_ I am!... I don't care! I _am_ glad I haven't had to give
up my ideal. I _should_ like to know him better. What harm is there in
that? And if Gerald chooses to go to-morrow, he must--that's all. He
isn't nearly so nice as he used to be; and he has even _less_
imagination than ever! I don't think I _could_ care for anybody so
absolutely matter-of-fact. And yet, only an hour ago I almost---- But
that was _before_!



PART XXI

THE FEELINGS OF A MOTHER.


    _In the Morning Room._ TIME--_Sunday morning; just after
    breakfast._

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_outside, to_ TREDWELL). Dogcart round, eh?
everything in? All right--shan't be a minute. (_Entering._) Hallo,
Pilliner, you all alone here? (_He looks round disconcertedly._) Don't
happen to have seen Lady Maisie about?

_Pilliner._ Let me see--she _was_ here a little while ago, I fancy....
Why? Do you want her?

_Captain Thicknesse._ No--only to say good-bye and that. I'm just off.

_Pilliner._ Off? To-day! You don't mean to tell me your chief is such
an inconsiderate old ruffian as to expect you to travel back to your
Tommies on the Sabbath! You could wait till to-morrow if you _wanted_
to. Come now!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Perhaps--only, you see, I _don't_ want to.

_Pilliner._ Well, tastes differ. I shouldn't call a cross-country
journey in a slow train, with unlimited opportunities of studying the
company's bye-laws and traffic arrangements at several admirably
ventilated junctions, the ideal method of spending a cheery Sunday,
myself, that's all.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_gloomily_). Dare say it will be about as cheery
as stoppin' on here, if it comes to that.

_Pilliner._ I admit we were most of us a wee bit chippy at breakfast.
The bard conversed--I will say _that_ for him--but he seemed to
diffuse a gloom somehow. Shut you up once or twice in a manner that
might almost be described as damned offensive.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Don't know what you all saw in what he said that
was so amusin'. Confounded rude _I_ thought it!

_Pilliner._ Don't think anyone _was_ amused--unless it was Lady
Maisie. By the way, he might perhaps have selected a happier topic to
hold forth to Sir Rupert on than the scandalous indifference of large
landowners to the condition of the rural labourer. Poor dear old boy,
he stood it wonderfully, considering. Pity Lady Cantire breakfasted
upstairs; she'd have enjoyed herself. However, he had a very good
audience in little Lady Maisie.

_Captain Thicknesse._ I do hate a chap that jaws at breakfast....
_Where_ did you say she was?

_Lady Maisie's voice_ (_outside, in conservatory_). Yes, you really
ought to see the orangery and the Elizabethan garden, Mr. Blair. If
you will be on the terrace in about five minutes, I could take you
round myself. I must go and see if I can get the keys first.

_Pilliner._ If you want to say good-bye, old fellow, now's your
chance!

_Captain Thicknesse._ It--it don't matter. She's engaged. And, look
here, you needn't mention that I was askin' for her.

_Pilliner._ Of course, old fellow, if you'd rather not. (_He glances
at him._) But I say, my dear old chap, if _that's_ how it is with you,
I don't quite see the sense of chucking it up _already_, don't you
know. No earthly affair of mine, I know; still, if I _could_ manage to
stay on, I would, if I were _you_.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Hang it all, Pilliner, do you suppose _I_ don't
know when the game's up! If it was any _good_ stayin' on---- And
besides, I've said good-bye to Lady C., and all that. No, it's too
late now.

_Tredwell_ (_at the door_). Excuse me, sir, but if you're going by the
10.40, you haven't any too much time.

_Pilliner_ (_to himself after_ Captain THICKNESSE _has hurried out_).
Poor old chap, he does seem hard hit! Pity he's not Lady Maisie's
sort. Though what she can see in that long-haired beggar----! Wonder
when Vivien Spelwane intends to come down; never knew her miss
breakfast before.... What's that rustling?... Women! I'll be off, or
they'll nail me for church before I know it.

            [_He disappears hastily in the direction of the Smoking-room
               as_ Lady CANTIRE and Mrs. CHATTERIS _enter_.

    [Illustration: "I'LL BE OFF, OR THEY'LL NAIL ME FOR CHURCH
    BEFORE I KNOW IT."]

_Lady Cantire._ Nonsense, my dear, no walk at all; the church is only
just across the park. My brother Rupert always goes, and it pleases
him to see the Wyvern pew as full as possible. I seldom feel equal to
going myself, because I find the necessity of allowing pulpit
inaccuracies to pass without a protest gets too much on my nerves; but
my daughter will accompany you. You'll have just time to run up and
get your things on.

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_with arch significance_). I don't _fancy_ I shall
have the pleasure of your daughter's society this morning. I just met
her going to get the garden keys; I think she has promised to show the
grounds to---- Well, I needn't mention _whom_. Oh dear me, I hope I'm
not being indiscreet _again_!

_Lady Cantire._ I make a point of never interfering with my daughter's
proceedings, and you can easily understand how natural it is that such
old friends as they have always been----

_Mrs. Chatteris._ Really? I _thought_ they seemed to take a great
pleasure in one another's society. It's quite romantic. But I must
rush up and get my bonnet on if I'm to go to church. (_To herself, as
she goes out._) So she _was_ "Lady Grisoline," after all! If I was her
mother---- But dear Lady Cantire is so advanced about things.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to herself_). Darling Maisie! He'll be Lord
Dunderhead before very long. How sensible and sweet of her! And I was
quite uneasy about them last night at dinner; they scarcely seemed to
be talking to each other at all. But there's a great deal more in dear
Maisie than one would imagine.

_Sir Rupert_ (_outside_). We're rather proud of our church, Mr.
Undershell--fine old monuments and brasses, if you care about that
sort of thing. Some of us will be walking over to service presently,
if you would like to----

_Undershell_ (_outside--to himself_). And lose my _tête-à-tête_ with
Lady Maisie! Not exactly! (_Aloud._) I am afraid, Sir Rupert, that I
cannot conscientiously----

_Sir Rupert_ (_hastily_). Oh, very well, very well; do exactly as you
like about it, of course. I only thought---- (_To himself._) Now, that
_other_ young chap would have gone!

_Lady Cantire._ Rupert, who is that you are talking to out there? I
don't recognise his voice, somehow.

_Sir Rupert_ (_entering with_ UNDERSHELL). Ha, Rohesia, you've come
down, then? slept well, I hope. I was talking to a gentleman whose
acquaintance I know you will be very happy to make--at last. This is
the genuine celebrity _this_ time. (_To_ UNDERSHELL.) Let me make you
known to my sister, Lady Cantire, Mr. Undershell. (_As_ Lady CANTIRE
_glares interrogatively_.) Mr. Clarion Blair, Rohesia, author of
hum--ha--_Andromache_.

_Lady Cantire._ I thought we were given to understand last night that
Mr. Spurrell--Mr. Blair--you must pardon me, but it's really so very
confusing--that the writer of the--ah--volume in question had already
left Wyvern.

_Sir Rupert._ Well, my dear, you see he is still here--er--fortunately
for us. If you'll excuse me, I'll leave Mr. Blair to entertain you;
got to speak to Adams about something.

            [_He hurries out._

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). This must be Lady Maisie's mamma. Better
be civil to her, I suppose; but I can't stay here and entertain her
long! (_Aloud._) Lady Cantire, I--er--have an appointment for which I
am already a little late; but before I go, I should like to tell you
how much pleasure it has given me to know that my poor verse has won
your approval; appreciation from----

_Lady Cantire._ I'm afraid you must have been misinformed,
Mr.--a--Blair. There are so many serious publications claiming
attention in these days of literary over-production that I have long
made it a rule to read no literature of a lighter order that has not
been before the world for at least ten years. I may be mistaken, but I
infer from your appearance that your own work must be of a
considerably more recent date.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). If she imagines she's going to snub
Me----! (_Aloud._) Then I was evidently mistaken in gathering from
some expressions in your daughter's letter that----

_Lady Cantire._ Entirely. You are probably thinking of some totally
different person, as my daughter has never mentioned having written to
you, and is not in the habit of conducting _any_ correspondence
without my full knowledge and approval. I think you said you had some
appointment; if so, pray don't consider yourself under any necessity
to remain here.

_Undershell._ You are very good; I will not. (_To himself, as he
retires._) Awful old lady, that! I quite thought she would know all
about that letter, or I should never have---- However, I said nothing
to compromise any one, luckily!

_Lady Culverin_ (_entering_). Good morning, Rohesia. So glad you felt
equal to coming down. I was almost afraid--after _last night_, you
know.

_Lady Cantire_ (_offering a cold cheekbone for salutation_). I am in
my usual health, thank you, Albinia. As to last night, if you _must_
ask a literary Socialist down here, you might at least see that he is
received with common courtesy. You may, for anything _you_ can tell,
have advanced the Social Revolution ten years in a single evening!

_Lady Culverin._ My _dear_ Rohesia! If you remember, it was you
yourself who----!

_Lady Cantire_ (_closing her eyes_). I am in no condition to _argue_
about it, Albinia. The slightest exercise of your own common sense
would have shown you---- But there, no great harm has been done,
fortunately, so let us say no more about it. I have something more
agreeable to talk about. I've every reason to hope that Maisie and
dear Gerald Thicknesse----

_Lady Culverin_ (_astonished_). Maisie? But I thought Gerald
Thicknesse spoke as if----!

_Lady Cantire._ Very possibly, my dear. I have always refrained from
giving him the slightest encouragement, and I wouldn't put any
pressure upon dear Maisie for the world--still, I have my feelings as
a mother, and I can't deny that, with such prospects as he has now, it
_is_ gratifying for me to think that they may be coming to an
understanding together at this very moment. She is showing him the
grounds; which I always think are the great charm of Wyvern, so
_secluded_!

_Lady Culverin_ (_puzzled_). Together! At this very moment! But--but
surely Gerald has _gone_?

_Lady Cantire._ Gone! What nonsense, Albinia! Where in the world
should he have gone to?

_Lady Culverin._ He _was_ leaving by the 10.40, I know. For Aldershot.
I ordered the cart for him, and he said good-bye after breakfast. He
seemed so dreadfully down, poor fellow, and I quite concluded from
what he said that Maisie must have----

_Lady Cantire._ Impossible, my dear, quite impossible! I tell you he
is _here_. Why, only a few minutes ago, Mrs. Chatteris was telling
me---- Ah, here she is to speak for herself. (_To_ Mrs. Chatteris,
_who appears, arrayed for divine service_.) Mrs. Chatteris, did I, or
did I _not_, understand you to say just now that my daughter
Maisie----?

_Mrs. Chatteris_ (_alarmed_). But, _dear_ Lady Cantire, I had no idea
you would disapprove. Indeed you seemed---- And really, though she
certainly seems to find him rather well--_sympathetic_--I'm
sure--_almost_ sure--there can be nothing serious--at present.

_Lady Cantire._ Thank you, my dear, I merely wished for an answer to
my question. And you see, Albinia, that Gerald Thicknesse can hardly
have gone yet, since he is walking about the grounds with Maisie.

_Mrs. Chatteris._ Captain Thicknesse? But he _has_ gone, Lady Cantire!
I saw him start. I didn't mean _him_.

_Lady Cantire._ Indeed? then I shall be obliged if you will say who it
is you _did_ mean.

_Mrs. Chatteris._ Why, only her old friend and admirer--that little
poet man, Mr. Blair.

_Lady Cantire_ (_to herself_). And I actually _sent_ him to her!
(_Rising in majestic wrath._) Albinia, whatever comes of this,
remember I shall hold _you_ entirely responsible!

            [_She sweeps out of the room; the other two ladies look
               after her, and then at one another, in silent
               consternation._



PART XXII

A DESCENT FROM THE CLOUDS


     _In the Elizabethan Garden._ Lady MAISIE _and_ UNDERSHELL
     _are on a seat in the Yew Walk_. TIME--_About_ 11 A.M.

_Lady Maisie_ (_softly_). And you really meant to go away, and never
let one of us know what had happened to you!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). How easy it is after all to be a hero!
(_Aloud._) That certainly _was_ my intention, only I was--er--not
permitted to carry it out. I trust you don't consider I should have
been to blame?

_Lady Maisie_ (_with shining eyes_). To _blame_? Mr. Blair! As if I
could possibly do that! (_To herself._) He doesn't even see _how_
splendid it was of him!

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I begin to believe that I can do _no_
wrong in her eyes! (_Aloud._) It was not altogether easy, believe me,
to leave without even having seen your face; but I felt so strongly
that it was better so.

_Lady Maisie_ (_looking down_). And--do you still feel that?

_Undershell._ I must confess that I am well content to have failed. It
was such unspeakable torture to think that you, Lady Maisie, _you_ of
all people, would derive your sole idea of my personality from such an
irredeemable vulgarian as that veterinary surgeon--the man Spurrell!

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself, with an almost imperceptible start_). I
suppose it's only natural he should feel like that--but I wish--I _do_
wish he had put it just a little differently! (_Aloud._) Poor Mr.
Spurrell! perhaps he was not exactly----

_Undershell._ Not _exactly_! I assure you it is simply inconceivable
to me that, in a circle of any pretensions to culture and refinement,
an ill-bred boor like that could have been accepted for a single
moment as--I won't say a Man of _Genius_, but----

_Lady Maisie_ (_the light dying out of her eyes_). No, _don't_--don't
go on, Mr. Blair. We were all excessively stupid, no doubt, but you
must make allowances for us--for _me_, especially. I have had so few
opportunities of meeting people who are really distinguished--in
literature, at least. Most of the people I know best are--well, not
exactly _clever_, you know. I so often wish I was in a set that cared
rather more about intellectual things!

_Undershell_ (_with infinite pity_). How you must have pined for freer
air! How you must have starved on such mental provender as, for
example, the vapid and inane commonplaces of that swaggering
carpet-soldier, Captain--Thickset, isn't it?

_Lady Maisie_ (_drawing back into her corner_). You evidently don't
know that Captain Thicknesse distinguished himself greatly in the
Soudan, where he was very severely wounded.

_Undershell._ Possibly; but that is scarcely to the point. I do not
question his efficiency as a fighting animal. As to his intelligence,
perhaps, the less said the better.

_Lady Maisie_ (_contracting her brows_). Decidedly. I ought to have
mentioned at once that Captain Thicknesse is a very old friend of
mine.

_Undershell._ Really? _He_, at least, may be congratulated. But pray
don't think that I spoke with any personal animus; I merely happen to
entertain a peculiar aversion for a class whose profession is
systematic slaughter. In these Democratic times, when Humanity is
advancing by leaps and bounds towards International Solidarity,
soldiers are such grotesque and unnecessary anachronisms.

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself, with a little shiver_). Oh, why does
he--why _does_ he? (_Aloud._) I should have thought that, until war
itself is an anachronism, men who are willing to fight and die for
their country could never be quite unnecessary. But we won't discuss
Captain Thicknesse, particularly now that he has left Wyvern. Suppose
we go back to Mr. Spurrell. I know, of course, that, in leaving him in
ignorance as you did, you acted from the best and highest motives; but
still----

_Undershell._ It is refreshing to be so thoroughly understood! I think
I know what your "but still" implies--why did I not foresee that he
would infallibly betray himself before long? I _did_. But I gave him
credit for being able to sustain his part for another hour or
two--until I had gone, in fact.

_Lady Maisie._ Then you didn't wish to spare _his_ feelings as well as
ours?

_Undershell._ To be quite frank, I didn't trouble myself about him: my
sole object was to retreat with dignity; he had got himself somehow or
other into a false position he must get out of as best he could. After
all, he would be none the worse for having filled _my_ place for a few
hours.

_Lady Maisie_ (_slowly_). I see. It didn't matter to you whether he
was suspected of being an impostor, or made to feel uncomfortable,
or--or anything. Wasn't that a little unfeeling of you?

_Undershell._ Unfeeling! I allowed him to keep my evening clothes,
which is more than a good many----

_Lady Maisie._ At all events, he may have had to pay more heavily than
you imagine. I wonder whether---- But I suppose anything so unromantic
as the love affairs of a veterinary surgeon would have no interest for
you?

_Undershell._ Why not, Lady Maisie? To the Student of Humanity, and
still more to the Poet, the humblest love-story may have its
interesting--even its suggestive--aspect.

_Lady Maisie._ Well, I may tell you that it seems Mr. Spurrell has
long been attached, if not actually engaged, to a maid of mine.

_Undershell_ (_startled out of his self-possession_). You--you don't
mean to Miss Phillipson?

_Lady Maisie._ That _is_ her name. How very odd that you---- But
perhaps Mr. Spurrell mentioned it to you last night?

_Undershell_ (_recovering his sangfroid_). I am hardly likely to have
heard of it from any other quarter.

_Lady Maisie._ Of course not. And did he tell you that she was here,
in this very house?

_Undershell._ No, he never mentioned _that_. What a remarkable
coincidence!

_Lady Maisie._ Yes, rather. The worst of it is that the foolish girl
seems to have heard that he was a guest here, and have jumped to the
conclusion that he had ceased to care for her; so she revenged herself
by a desperate flirtation with some worthless wretch she met in the
housekeeper's room, whose flattery and admiration, I'm very much
afraid, have completely turned her head!

_Undershell_ (_uncomfortably_). Ah, well, she must learn to forget
him, and no doubt, in time---- How wonderful the pale sunlight is on
that yew hedge!

_Lady Maisie._ You are not very sympathetic! I should not have told
you at all, only I wanted to show you that if poor Mr. Spurrell _did_
innocently usurp your place, he may have lost---- But I see all this
only bores you.

_Undershell._ Candidly, Lady Maisie, I can't affect a very keen
interest in the--er--gossip of the housekeeper's room. Indeed, I am
rather surprised that _you_ should condescend to listen to----

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself_). This is really _too_ much! (_Aloud._) It
never occurred to me that I was "condescending" in taking an interest
in a pretty and wayward girl who happens to be my maid. But then, I'm
not a Democrat, Mr. Blair.

_Undershell._ I--I'm afraid you construed my remark as a rebuke; which
it was not at all intended to be.

_Lady Maisie._ It would have been rather superfluous if it had been,
wouldn't it? (_Observing his growing uneasiness._) I'm afraid you
don't find this bench quite comfortable?

_Undershell._ I--er--moderately so. (_To himself._) There's a female
figure coming down the terrace steps. It's horribly like---- But that
must be my morbid fancy; still, if I can get Lady Maisie away, just in
case---- (_Aloud._) D--don't you think sitting still becomes a
little--er--monotonous after a time? Couldn't we----

            [_He rises, spasmodically._

_Lady Maisie_ (_rising too_). Certainly; we have sat here quite long
enough. It is time we went back.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). We shall meet her! and I'm almost sure
it's---- I _must_ prevent any---- (_Aloud._) Not _back_, Lady Maisie!
You--you promised to show me the orchid-house--you did, indeed!

_Lady Maisie._ Very well; we can go in, if you care about orchids.
It's on our way back.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). This is too awful! It _is_ that girl
Phillipson. She is looking for somebody! Me! (_Aloud._) On second
thoughts, I don't think I _do_ care to see the orchids. I detest them;
they are such weird, unnatural, extravagant things. Let us turn back
and see if there are any snowdrops on the lawn behind that hedge. I
love the snowdrop, it is so trustful and innocent, with its pure
green-veined---- _Do_ come and search for snowdrops!

    [Illustration: "DO COME AND SEARCH FOR SNOWDROPS!"]

_Lady Maisie._ Not just now. I think--(_as she shields her eyes with
one hand_)--I'm not quite sure yet--but I rather fancy that must be my
maid at the other end of the walk.

_Undershell_ (_eagerly_). _I_ assure you, Lady Maisie, you are quite
mistaken. Not the _least_ like her!

_Lady Maisie_ (_astonished_). Why, how can you possibly tell that,
without having seen her, Mr. Blair?

_Undershell._ I--I meant---- You described her as "pretty," you know.
This girl is plain--distinctly plain!

_Lady Maisie._ I don't agree at all. However, it certainly is
Phillipson, and she seems to have come out in search of me; so I had
better see if she has any message.

_Undershell._ She hasn't. I'm _positive_ she hasn't. She--she wouldn't
walk like _that_ if she had. (_In feverish anxiety._) Lady Maisie,
shall we turn back? She--she hasn't seen us _yet_!

_Lady Maisie._ Really, Mr. Blair! I don't quite see why I should run
away from my own maid!... What is it, Phillipson?

            [_She advances to meet_ PHILLIPSON, _leaving_ UNDERSHELL
               _behind, motionless_.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). It's all over! That confounded girl
recognises me. I saw her face change! She'll be jealous, I _know_
she'll be jealous--and then she'll tell Lady Maisie everything!... I
wish to Heaven I could hear what she is saying. Lady Maisie seems
agitated.... I--I might stroll gently on and leave them; but it would
look too like running away, perhaps. No, I'll stay here and face it
out like a man! I won't give up just yet. (_He sinks limply upon the
bench._) After all, I've been in worse holes than this since I came
into this infernal place, and I've always managed to scramble
out--triumphantly too! If she will only give me five minutes alone, I
_know_ I can clear myself; it isn't as if I had done anything to be
_ashamed_ of.... She's sent away that girl. She seems to be expecting
me to come to her.... I--I suppose I'd better.

            [_He rises with effort, and goes towards_ Lady MAISIE _with
               a jaunty unconsciousness that somehow has the air of
               stopping short just above the knees_.



PART XXIII

SHRINKAGE


    _In the Yew Walk._

_Lady Maisie_ (_to herself, as she watches_ UNDERSHELL _approaching_).
How badly he walks, and what _does_ he mean by smiling at me like
that? (_Aloud, coldly._) I am sorry, Mr. Blair, but I must leave you
to finish your stroll alone; my maid has just told me----

_Undershell_ (_vehemently_). Lady Maisie, I ask you, in common
fairness, not to judge me until you have heard _my_ version. You will
not allow the fact that I travelled down here in the same compartment
with your maid, Phillipson----

_Lady Maisie_ (_wide-eyed_). The _same_! But _we_ came by that train.
I thought you missed it?

_Undershell._ I--I was not so fortunate. It is rather a long and
complicated story, but----

_Lady Maisie._ I'm afraid I really can't listen to you _now_, Mr.
Blair, after what I have heard from Phillipson----

_Undershell._ I implore you not to go without hearing both sides. Sit
down again--if only for a minute. I feel confident that I can explain
everything satisfactorily.

_Lady Maisie_ (_sitting down_). I can't imagine what there is to
explain--and really I ought, if Phillipson----

_Undershell._ You know what maids _are_, Lady Maisie. They embroider.
Unintentionally, I dare say, but still, they _do_ embroider.

_Lady Maisie_ (_puzzled_). She is very clever at mending lace, I know,
though what _that_ has to do with it----

_Undershell._ Listen to me, Lady Maisie. I came to this house at your
bidding. Yes, but for your written appeal, I should have treated the
invitation I received from your aunt with silent contempt. Had I
obeyed my first impulse and ignored it, I should have been spared
humiliations and indignities which ought rather to excite your pity
than--than any other sensation. Think--try to realise what my feelings
must have been when I found myself expected by the butler here to sit
down to supper with him and the upper servants in the housekeeper's
room!

_Lady Maisie_ (_shocked_). Oh, Mr. Blair! Indeed, I had no---- You
weren't _really_! How _could_ they? What _did_ you say?

_Undershell_ (_haughtily_). I believe I let him know my opinion of the
snobbery of his employers in treating a guest of theirs so cavalierly.

_Lady Maisie_ (_distressed_). But surely--_surely_ you couldn't
suppose that my uncle and aunt were capable of----

_Undershell._ What else _could_ I suppose, under the circumstances? It
is true I have since learnt that I was mistaken in this particular
instance; but I am not ignorant of the ingrained contempt you
aristocrats have for all who live by exercising their intellect--the
bitter scorn of birth for brains!

_Lady Maisie._ I am afraid the--the contempt is all on the other side;
but if _that_ is how you feel about it, I don't wonder that you were
indignant.

_Undershell._ Indignant! I was _furious_. In fact, nothing would have
induced me to sit down to supper at all, if it hadn't been for----

_Lady Maisie_ (_in a small voice_). Then--you _did_ sit down? With the
servants! Oh, Mr. Blair!

_Undershell._ I thought you were already aware of it. Yes, Lady
Maisie, I endured even that. But (_with magnanimity_) you must not
distress yourself about it now. If _I_ can forget it, surely you can
do so!

_Lady Maisie._ Can I? That _you_ should have consented, for any
consideration whatever; how could you--how _could_ you?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). She admires me all the more for it. But I
_knew_ she would take the right view! (_Aloud, with pathos._) I was
only compelled by absolute starvation. I had had an unusually light
lunch, and I was so hungry!

_Lady Maisie_ (_after a pause_). That explains it, of course.... I
hope they gave you a good supper!

_Undershell._ Excellent, thank you. Indeed, I was astonished at the
variety and even luxury of the table. There was a pyramid of
quails----

_Lady Maisie._ I am pleased to hear it. But I thought there was
something you were going to explain.

_Undershell._ I have been _endeavouring_ to explain to the best of my
ability that if I have undesignedly been the cause of--er--a temporary
diversion in the state of Miss Phillipson's affections, no one could
regret more deeply than I that the--er--ordinary amenities of the
supper-table should have been mistaken for----

_Lady Maisie_ (_horrified_). Oh, stop, Mr. Blair, please stop! I don't
want to hear any more. I see now. It was _you_ who----

_Undershell._ Of course it was I. Surely the girl herself has been
telling you so just now!

_Lady Maisie._ You really thought _that_ possible, too? She simply
came with a message from my mother.

_Undershell_ (_slightly disconcerted_). Oh! If I had known it was
merely _that_. However, I am sure I need not ask you to treat my--my
communication in the strictest confidence, Lady Maisie.

_Lady Maisie._ Indeed, that is _perfectly_ unnecessary, Mr. Blair.

_Undershell._ Yes, I felt from the first that I could trust you--even
with my life. And I cannot regret having told you, if it has enabled
you to understand me more thoroughly. It is such a relief that you
know all, and that there are no more secrets between us. You _do_ feel
that I only acted as was natural and inevitable under the
circumstances?

_Lady Maisie._ Oh yes, yes. I--I dare say you could not help it. I
mean you did quite, _quite_ right!

_Undershell._ Ah, how you comfort me with your fresh girlish---- You
are not _going_, Lady Maisie?

_Lady Maisie_ (_rising_). I must. I ought to have gone before. My
mother wants me. No, you are not to come too; you can go on and gather
those snowdrops, you know.

            [_She walks slowly back to the house._

_Undershell_ (_looking after her_). She took it wonderfully well. I've
made it all right, or she wouldn't have said that about the snowdrops.
Yes, she shall not be disappointed; she shall have her posy!


    _In the Morning-room. Half an hour later._

_Lady Maisie_ (_alone--to herself_). Thank goodness, _that's_ over! It
was _awful_. I don't think I _ever_ saw mamma a deeper shade of plum
colour! _How_ I have been mistaken in Mr. Blair! That he could write
those lines--

    "Aspiring unto that far-off Ideal,
    I may not stoop to any meaner love,"

and yet philander with my poor foolish Phillipson the moment he met
her! And then to tell mamma about my letter like that! Why, even Mr.
Spurrell had more discretion--to be sure, _he_ knew nothing about
it--but _that_ makes no difference! Rhoda was right; I ought to have
allowed a margin--only I should never have allowed margin _enough_!
The worst of it is that, if mamma was unjust in some things she said,
she was right about _one_. I _have_ disgusted Gerald. He mayn't be
brilliant, but at least he's straightforward and loyal and a
gentleman, and--and he _did_ like me once. He doesn't any more--or he
wouldn't have gone away. And it may be ages before I ever get a
chance to let him see how _dreadfully_ sorry---- (_She turns, and
sees_ Captain THICKNESSE.) Oh, haven't you gone _yet_?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Yes, I went, but I've come back again. I--I
couldn't help it; 'pon my word I couldn't.

_Lady Maisie_ (_with a sudden flush_). You--you weren't _sent_
for--by--by any one?

_Captain Thicknesse._ So _likely_ any one would send for me, isn't it?

_Lady Maisie._ I don't know why I said that; it was silly, of course.
But how----

_Captain Thicknesse._ Ran it a bit too fine; got to Shuntin'bridge
just in time to see the tail end of the train disappearin'; wasn't
another for hours--not much to do _there_, don't you know.

_Lady Maisie._ You might have taken a walk--or gone to church.

_Captain Thicknesse._ So I might, didn't occur to me; and besides,
I--I remembered I never said good-bye to _you_.

_Lady Maisie._ Didn't you? And whose fault was that?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Not mine, anyhow. You were somewhere about the
grounds with Mr. Blair.

_Lady Maisie._ Now you mention it, I believe I was. We had--rather an
interesting conversation. Still, you might have come to look for me!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Perhaps you wouldn't have been over and above
glad to see me.

_Lady Maisie._ Oh yes, I should!--When it was to say _good-bye_, you
know!

_Captain Thicknesse._ Ah! Well, I suppose I shall only be in the way
if I stop here any longer now.

_Lady Maisie._ Do you? What makes you suppose that?

_Captain Thicknesse._ Nothin'! Saw your friend the bard hurryin' along
the terrace with a bunch of snowdrops; he'll be here in another----

_Lady Maisie_ (_in unmistakable horror_). Gerald, _why_ didn't you
tell me before? There's only just time!

            [_She flies to a door and opens it._

_Captain Thicknesse._ But I _say_, you know! Maisie, may I come too?

_Lady Maisie._ Don't be a _goose_, Gerald. Of course you can, if you
like.

            [_She disappears in the conservatory._

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_to himself_). Can't quite make this out, but
I'm no end glad I came back!

            [_He follows quickly._

_Undershell_ (_entering_). I hoped I should find her here. (_He looks
round._) Her mother's gone--that's _something_! I dare say Lady
Maisie will come in presently. (_He sits down and re-arranges his
snowdrops._) It will be sweet to see her face light up when I offer
her these as a symbol of the new and closer link between us! (_He
hears the sound of drapery behind him._) Ah, already! (_Rising, and
presenting his flowers with downcast eyes._) I--I have ventured to
gather these--for you. (_He raises his eyes._) Miss Spelwane!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_taking them graciously_). How very sweet of you, Mr.
Blair. Are they really for me?

    [Illustration: "HOW VERY SWEET OF YOU, MR. BLAIR. ARE THEY
    REALLY FOR ME?"]

_Undershell_ (_concealing his disappointment_). Oh--er--yes. If you
will give me the pleasure of accepting them.

_Miss Spelwane._ I feel immensely proud. I was so afraid you must have
thought I was rather cross to you last night. I didn't mean to be. I
was feeling a little overdone, that was all. But you have chosen a
charming way of letting me see that I am forgiven. (_To herself._)
It's really _too_ touching. He certainly is a great improvement on the
other wretch!

_Undershell_ (_dolefully_). I--I had no such intention, I assure you.
(_To himself._) I hope to goodness Lady Maisie won't come in before I
can get rid of this girl. I seem fated to be misunderstood here!



PART XXIV

THE HAPPY DISPATCH


    "Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, but----"

    _In the Morning-room._ TIME--_About_ 1 P.M.

_Undershell_ (_to himself alone_). I'm rather sorry that that Miss
Spelwane couldn't stay. She's a trifle angular--but clever. It was
distinctly sharp of her to see through that fellow Spurrell from the
first, and lay such an ingenious little trap for him. And she has a
great feeling for Literature--knows my verses by heart, I discovered,
quite accidentally. All the same, I wish she hadn't intercepted those
snowdrops. Now I shall have to go out and pick some more. (_Sounds
outside in the entrance hall._) Too late--they've got back from
church!

_Mrs. Brooke-Chatteris_ (_entering with_ Lady RHODA, Sir RUPERT _and_
BEARPARK). Such a nice, plain, simple service--I'm positively
_ravenous_!

_Lady Rhoda._ Struck me some of those chubby choir-boys wanted
smackin'. What a business it seems to get the servants properly into
their pew--as bad as boxin' a string of hunters! As for _you_,
Archie, the way you fidgeted durin' the sermon was downright
disgraceful!... So _there_ you are, Mr. Blair; not been to church; but
I forgot--p'raps you're a Dissenter, or somethin'?

_Undershell_ (_annoyed_). Only, Lady Rhoda, in the sense that I have
hitherto failed to discover any form of creed that commands my
intellectual assent.

_Lady Rhoda_ (_unimpressed_). I expect you haven't tried. Are you
a--what d'ye call it?--a Lacedemoniac?

_Undershell_ (_with lofty tolerance_). I _presume_ you mean a
"Laodicean." No, I should rather describe myself as a Deist.

_Archie_ (_in a surly undertone_). What's a _Deast_ when he's at home?
If he'd said a _Beast_, now! (_Aloud, as_ PILLINER _enters with_
Captain THICKNESSE.) Hullo, why, here's Thicknesse! So you _haven't_
gone, after all, then?

_Captain Thicknesse._ What an observant young beggar you are,
Bearpark! Nothin' escapes you. No, I haven't. (_To_ Sir RUPERT,
_rather sheepishly_.) Fact, is, sir, I--I somehow just missed the
train, and--and--thought I might as well come back, instead of waitin'
about, don't you know.

_Sir Rupert_ (_heartily_). Why, of course, my dear boy, of course!
Never have forgiven you if you _hadn't_. Great nuisance for _you_,
though. Hope you blew the fool of a man up; he _ought_ to have been
round in plenty of time.

_Captain Thicknesse._ Not the groom's fault, sir. I kept him waitin' a
bit, and--and we had to stop to shift the seat and that, and so----

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Great blundering booby! Can't he see
nobody wants him _here_? As if he hadn't bored poor Lady Maisie enough
at breakfast! Ah, well, I must come to her rescue once more, I
suppose!

_Sir Rupert._ Half an hour to lunch! Anybody like to come round to the
stables? I'm going to see how my wife's horse Deerfoot is getting on.
Fond of horses, eh, Mr.--a--Undershell? Care to come with us?

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I've seen quite enough of _that_ beast
already! (_Aloud, with some asperity._) You must really excuse me, Sir
Rupert. I am at one with Mr. Ruskin--I _detest_ horses.

_Sir Rupert._ Ah? Pity. We're rather fond of 'em here. But we can't
expect a poet to be a sportsman, eh?

_Undershell._ For my own poor part, I confess I look forward to a day,
not far distant, when the spread of civilisation will have abolished
every form of so-called Sport.

_Sir Rupert._ _Do_ you, though? (_After conquering a choke with
difficulty._) Allow me to hope that you will continue to enjoy the
pleasures of anticipation as long as possible. (_To the rest._) Well,
are you coming?

            [_All except_ UNDERSHELL _follow their host out_.

_Undershell_ (_alone, to himself_). If they think I'm going to be
_patronised_, or suppress my honest convictions----! Now I'll go and
pick those---- (Lady MAISIE _enters from the conservatory_.) Ah, Lady
Maisie, I have been trying to find you. I had plucked a few snowdrops,
which I promised myself the pleasure of presenting to you.
Unfortunately they--er--failed to reach their destination.

_Lady Maisie_ (_distantly_). Thanks, Mr. Blair; I am only sorry you
should have given yourself such unnecessary trouble.

_Undershell_ (_detaining her, as she seemed about to pass on_).
I have another piece of intelligence which you may hear
less--er--philosophically, Lady Maisie. Your _bête noire_ has
returned.

_Lady Maisie_ (_with lifted eyebrows_). My _bête noire_, Mr. Blair?

_Undershell._ Why affect not to understand? I have an infallible
instinct in all matters concerning _you_, and, sweetly tolerant as you
are, I instantly divined what an insufferable nuisance you found our
military friend, Captain Thicknesse.

_Lady Maisie._ There are limits even to _my_ tolerance, Mr. Blair. I
admit I find some people insufferable--but Captain Thicknesse is not
one of them.

_Undershell._ Then appearances are deceptive indeed. Come, Lady
Maisie, surely you can trust _me_!

            [Lady CANTIRE _enters_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_in her most awful tones_). Maisie, my dear, I appear
to have interrupted an interview of a somewhat confidential character.
If so, pray let me know it, and I will go elsewhere.

_Lady Maisie_ (_calmly_). Not in the very least, mamma. Mr. Blair was
merely trying to prepare me for the fact that Captain Thicknesse has
come back; which was quite needless, as I happen to have heard it
already from his own lips.

_Lady Cantire._ Captain Thicknesse come back! (_To_ UNDERSHELL.) I
wish to speak to my daughter. May I ask you to leave us?

_Undershell._ With pleasure, Lady Cantire. (_To himself, as he
retires._) What a consummate actress that girl is! And what a
coquette!

_Lady Cantire_ (_after a silence_). Maisie, what does all this mean?
No _nonsense_, now! What brought Gerald Thicknesse back?

_Lady Maisie._ I _suppose_ the dog-cart, mamma. He missed his train,
you know. I don't think he minds--much.

_Lady Cantire._ Let me tell you _this_, my dear. It is a great deal
more than you _deserve_ after---- How long has he come back for?

_Lady Maisie._ Only a few hours; but--but from things he said, I fancy
he would stay on longer--if Aunt Albinia asked him.

_Lady Cantire._ Then we may consider that settled; he stays. (Lady
CULVERIN _appears_.) Here _is_ your aunt. You had better leave us, my
dear.


    _Somewhat later; the Party have assembled for Lunch._

_Sir Rupert_ (_to his wife_). Well, my dear, I've seen that young
Spurrell (smart fellow he is, too, thoroughly up in his business), and
you'll be glad to hear he can't find anything seriously wrong with
Deerfoot.

_Undershell_ (_in the background, to himself_). No more could I, for
that matter!

_Sir Rupert._ He's clear it isn't navicular, which Adams was afraid
of, and he thinks, with care and rest, you know, the horse will be as
fit as a fiddle in a very few days.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Just exactly what I _told_ them; but the
fools wouldn't believe _me_!

_Lady Culverin._ Oh, Rupert, I _am_ so glad. How clever of that nice
Mr. Spurrell! I was afraid my poor Deerfoot would have to be shot.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). She may thank me that he _wasn't_. And
this other fellow gets all the credit for it. How like Life!

_Lady Maisie._ And, Uncle Rupert, how about--about Phillipson, you
know? Is it all right?

_Sir Rupert._ Phillipson? Oh, why, 'pon my word, my dear, didn't think
of asking.

_Lady Rhoda._ But _I_ did, Maisie. And they met this mornin', and it's
all settled, and they're as happy as they can be. Except that he's on
the look out for a mysterious stranger, who disappeared last night,
after tryin' to make desperate love to her. He is determined, if he
can find him, to give him a piece of his mind.

            [UNDERSHELL _endeavours to conceal his extreme uneasiness_.

_Pilliner._ And the whole of a horsewhip. He invited my opinion of it
as an implement of castigation. Kind of thing, you know, that would
impart "proficiency in the _trois temps_, as danced in the most select
circles," in a single lesson to a lame bear. (_To himself._) I drew my
little bow at a venture, and I'm hanged if it hasn't touched him up!
There's _something_ fishy about this chap--I felt it all along. Still,
I don't see what more I can do--or I'd do it, for poor old Gerry
Thicknesse's sake.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). I don't stir a step out of this house
while I'm here, that's all!

_Sir Rupert._ Ha-ha! Athletic young chap that. Glad to see him in the
field next Tuesday. By the way, Albinia, you've heard how Thicknesse
here contrived to miss his train this morning? Our gain, of course;
but still we must manage to get you back to Aldershot to-night, my
boy, or you'll get called over the coals by your colonel when you _do_
put in an appearance, hey? Now, let's see; what train ought you to
catch?

            [_He takes up_ "Bradshaw" _from a writing-table_.

_Lady Cantire_ (_possessing herself of the volume_). Allow me, Rupert,
my eyes are better than yours. _I_ will look out his trains for him.
(_After consulting various pages._) Just as I _thought_! Quite
impossible for him to reach North Camp to-night now. There isn't a
train till six, and _that_ gets to town just too late for him to drive
across to Waterloo and catch the last Aldershot train. So there's no
more to be said.

            [_She puts_ "Bradshaw" _away_.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_with undisguised relief_). Oh, well, dessay
they won't kick up much of a row if I don't get back till
to-morrow,--or the day _after_, if it comes to that.

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). It _shan't_ come to that--if _I_ can
prevent it! Lady Maisie is quite in despair, I can see. (_Aloud._)
Indeed? I was--a--not aware that discipline was quite so lax as that
in the British Army. And surely officers should set an example of----

            [_He finds that his intervention has produced a distinct
               sensation, and, taking up the discarded_ "Bradshaw"
               _becomes engrossed in its study_.

_Captain Thicknesse_ (_ignoring him completely_). It's like this, Lady
Culverin. Somehow I--I muddled up the dates, don't you know. Mean to
say, got it into my head to-day was the 20th, instead of only the
18th. (_Lamely._) That's how it _was_.

_Lady Culverin._ Delightful, my dear Gerald. Then we shall keep you
here till Tuesday, of _course_!

_Undershell_ (_looking up from_ "Bradshaw," _impulsively_). Lady
Culverin, I see there's a very good train which leaves Shuntingbridge
at 3.15 this afternoon, and gets----

            [_The rest regard him with unaffected surprise and
               disapproval._

_Lady Cantire_ (_raising her glasses_). Upon my word, Mr. Blair! If
you will kindly leave Captain Thicknesse to make his own
arrangements----!

_Lady Maisie_ (_interposing hastily_). But, mamma, you must have
misunderstood Mr. Blair! As if he would _dream_ of---- He was merely
mentioning the train he wishes to go by himself. _Weren't_ you, Mr.
Blair?

_Undershell_ (_blinking and gasping_). I--eh? Just so, that--that
_was_ my intention, certainly. (_To himself._) Does she at all realise
what this will cost her?

_Lady Culverin._ My dear Mr. Blair, I--I'd no notion we were to lose
you so soon; but if you're really quite _sure_ you must go----

_Lady Cantire_ (_sharply_). Really, Albinia, we must give him credit
for knowing his own mind. He tells you he is _obliged to go_!

_Lady Culverin._ Then of course we must let you do _exactly_ as you
please.

_Pilliner_ (_to himself_). Lady Maisie's a little brick! No notion she
had it _in_ her. No occasion to bother myself about the beggar now.
"Let him alone and he'll go home, and carry his tail beneath him!"

            [_All except_ Miss SPELWANE _breathe more freely_; TREDWELL
               _appears_.

_Lady Culverin._ Oh, lunch, is it, Tredwell? Very well. By the bye,
see that some one packs Mr. Undershell's things for him, and tell them
to send the dog-cart round after lunch in time to catch the 3.15 from
Shuntingbridge.

_Archie_ (_sotto voce, to_ PILLINER). We don't want any _more_ missin'
of trains, eh? I'll go round and see the cart properly balanced myself
_this_ time.

_Pilliner_ (_in the same tone_). No, dear boy, you're not to be
trusted! _I'll_ see that done, then the bard and his train will be
alike in one respect--_neither_ of 'em 'll be missed!

_Miss Spelwane_ (_to herself, piqued._) Going already! I wish I had
never touched his ridiculous snowdrops!

_Lady Culverin._ Well, shall we go in to lunch, everybody?

            [_They move in irregular order towards the dining-hall._

_Undershell_ (_in an undertone to_ Lady MAISIE, _as they follow
last_). Lady Maisie, I--er--this is just a _little_ unexpected. I
confess I don't quite understand your precise motive in suggesting
so--so hasty a departure.

_Lady Maisie_ (_without looking at him_). Don't you, Mr. Blair?
Perhaps--when you come to think over it all quietly--you _will_.

            [_She passes on, leaving him perplexed._

    [Illustration: "PERHAPS--WHEN YOU COME TO THINK OVER IT ALL
    QUIETLY--YOU WILL."]

_Undershell_ (_to himself_). Shall I? I certainly can't say I do
just---- Why, yes, I _do_! That bully Spurrell with his horsewhip! She
dreads an encounter between us--and I should much prefer to avoid it
myself. Yes; that's it, of course. She is willing to sacrifice
anything rather than endanger _my_ personal safety! What unselfish
angels some women are! Even that sneering fellow Drysdale will be
impressed when I tell him this.... Yes, it's best that I should go--I
see that now. I don't so much mind leaving. Without any false
humility, I can hardly avoid seeing that, even in the short time I
have been amongst these people, I have produced a decided impression.
And there is at least one--perhaps _two_--who will miss me when I am
gone.

            [_He goes into the Dining-hall, with restored complacency._


THE END.


PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.


       *       *       *       *       *


THE NOVEL SERIES.


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will be 2s., 3s., and 4s.


Volume 1 of the Series, Price 2s.

THE STORY OF BESSIE COSTRELL,

By Mrs. HUMPHRY WARD.

     The CHRISTIAN WORLD.--"Mrs. Ward has done nothing finer than
     this brief story. The sustained interest, which does not
     permit the reader to miss a line; the vivid clearness in
     which each character stands out in self-revelation; the
     unfailing insight into the familiar and confused workings of
     the village mind--all represent work of the highest class.
     'The Story of Bessie Costrell' will become an English
     classic."

     The TIMES.--"There are masterly touches and striking
     sentences in many pages of this little volume.... Mrs.
     Humphry Ward's admirers will say that she has seldom written
     with more force than in describing the tardy remorse of the
     hard, unrelenting husband."

     The MANCHESTER GUARDIAN.--"As full of power as anything Mrs.
     Ward has written, and the impetus of its style, together with
     the charm belonging to many of its turns of thought, as well
     as of phrase, would of themselves suffice to hold any reader
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     The DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"An admirable example of Mrs. Humphry
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     sketch."


Volume 2 of the Series, Price 3s.

LYRE AND LANCET. By F. Anstey.

_With Twenty-Four Full-page Illustrations._

     The SCOTSMAN.--"The story makes most delightful reading, full
     of quiet fun."


The titles and particulars of Works by

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     Mrs. L. B. WALFORD, Author of "Mr. Smith," etc.
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     Miss ELIZA ORNE WHITE, Author of "Winterborough," "Miss Brooks," etc.

and by other writers of high reputation, who will contribute to the
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WORKS BY F. ANSTEY.


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THE TALKING HORSE;

AND OTHER TALES.

    From THE SATURDAY REVIEW.--"A capital set of stories,
    thoroughly clever and witty, often pathetic, and always
    humorous."

    From THE ATHENÆUM.--"The grimmest of mortals, in his most
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    Harold Caffyn discovers the secret, when every page threatens
    to bring down doom on the head of the miserable Mark. Will he
    confess? Will he drown himself? Will Vincent denounce him?
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    eagerly as we read and cannot cease reading till the puzzle is
    solved in a series of exciting situations."


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    writings such extremely entertaining reading. There is not a
    dull page--we might say, not a dull sentence--in it.... The
    girls are delightfully drawn, especially the bewitching Margot
    and the childish Lettice. Nothing that polish and finish,
    cleverness, humour, wit, and sarcasm can give is left out."


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VICE VERSÂ;

OR, A LESSON TO FATHERS.

    From THE SATURDAY REVIEW.--"If ever there was a book made up
    from beginning to end of laughter, and yet not a comic book,
    or a 'merry' book, or a book of jokes, or a book of pictures,
    or a jest book, or a tomfool book, but a perfectly sober and
    serious book, in the reading of which a sober man may laugh
    without shame from beginning to end, it is the book called
    'Vice Versâ; or, a Lesson to Fathers.'... We close the book,
    recommending it very earnestly to all fathers in the first
    instance, and their sons, nephews, uncles, and male cousins
    next."


_CHEAP EDITION_, Crown 8vo, limp red cloth, 2_s._ 6_d._

A FALLEN IDOL.

    From THE TIMES.--"Mr. Anstey's new story will delight the
    multitudinous public that laughed over 'Vice Versâ'.... The
    boy who brings the accursed image to Champion's house, Mr.
    Bales, the artist's factotum, and above all Mr. Yarker, the
    ex-butler who has turned policeman, are figures whom it is as
    pleasant to meet as it is impossible to forget."


LONDON: SMITH, ELDER & CO., 15, WATERLOO PLACE.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious typographical errors repaired.

Hyphenation inconsistencies retained (booby trap and booby-trap).

Illustrations have been re-positioned to the corresponding action in
the scene.

Italic font is indicated by _underscores_ (text version only).





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