Read CHAPTER V of Her Ladyship's Elephant , free online book, by David Dwight Wells, on


Scarcely had the sun risen the next morning when the Consul, after a sleepless night, stole downstairs and found his way out upon the terrace, for a quiet stroll and a breath of fresh, cool air. Moreover, he was in need of an uninterrupted hour in which to arrange his plans in such a manner as would most surely tend to effect the double reunion he so earnestly desired.

It seemed well-nigh impossible, in the small space of country which had probably been traversed by all parties, that they could lose each other for more than a few hours. To make the situation more clear to those who have never had the misfortune to suffer from the intricacies of English railway travel, the following diagram is appended. The triangle is isosceles, the sides being thirty-five miles long, the base twenty.

He reviewed his own adventures of yesterday afternoon. He had acted on what seemed to be the only sensible and reasonable plan to pursue; namely, to leave the train at its first stop, and return as soon as possible to the point of divergence. It seemed fair to assume that Mr. Scarsdale and Mrs. Allingford had done the same thing, and, such being the case, it was easy to imagine what their course of action had been. A glance at the time-table told him that the first point at which they could leave their division of the train had been Southampton; from which place they could, almost immediately, catch an express back to the junction they had left, arriving there shortly after seven on the past evening.

His own course and that of Mrs. Scarsdale seemed clear; it was simply a return to Basingstoke immediately after breakfast, and rejoin their friends, who had been spending the night at that place.

It was possible that they had lost the returning express and remained in Southampton; but if they acted in a rational manner, they must eventually return to the junction. But supposing Mrs. Allingford and Mr. Scarsdale had not done the obvious thing; supposing that chance had intervened and upset their plans, as in his own case? He suddenly found himself face to face with the startling fact that not only were he and Mrs. Scarsdale not at Salisbury or Basingstoke, but that they were at present at the one place where his wife and Mrs. Scarsdale’s husband would never think of looking for them Melton Court.

Allingford jammed his hat hard on the back of his head, and set off at a brisk pace to Salisbury and the nearest telegraph station; arriving at his destination shortly before seven, to find that he had a good half-hour to wait before the operators arrived. The office was opened at last, however, and he lost no time in telegraphing to Basingstoke for information, and in a little while received an answer from the station-master at that point which cheered him up considerably, though it was not quite as explicit as he could have wished. It read as follows:

Scarsdale telegraphed last evening from Southampton, saying he
had left train there with Mrs. Allingford and was returning at once
to Basingstoke.

The Consul was pleased to find that his conjectures had been correct. He felt that a great weight had been lifted from his mind. Their missing partners had undoubtedly spent the night at Basingstoke and would soon consult the station-master at that point, who would doubtless show them the messages he had received. Allingford looked out a good train, telegraphed the hour of their arrival, and then, as his reception of the night before had not inclined him to trespass on Lady Melton’s grudging hospitality more than was absolutely necessary, he had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and, engaging a fly, drove back to the Court, reaching there about half-past nine.

Mrs. Scarsdale had also passed a disturbed night, but, unlike her companion in misfortune, she did not venture out at unearthly hours in the morning. She was up, however, and saw him depart, which was in some ways a comfort, since it assured her that he was losing no time in continuing their quest.

At eight a maid arrived with warm water and a message from her ladyship that she wished Mrs. Scarsdale to breakfast with her in private at nine o’clock, and that she would be obliged if her great-niece would keep her room till that time. The bride was considerably piqued by this message and the distrust it implied, but felt it would be wise to accede to the request, and sent word accordingly.

As she entered Lady Melton’s boudoir an hour later, her hostess rose to receive her, kissing her coldly on the forehead, and saying:

“You will pardon my requesting you to keep your room; but your presence is not as yet known to my guests, and your appearance among them immediately after your marriage, without your husband, might cause unpleasant speculation and comment. Do you agree with me?”

“Quite,” replied Mrs. Scarsdale. She had misjudged Lady Melton, she thought; but she disliked her nevertheless, and wished to be very guarded.

“Now,” said that personage, “I want to hear the whole affair. No, I do not want you to tell it,” as her guest opened her mouth to speak; “not in your own way, I mean. You would probably wander from the point, and my time is of importance. I will ask you questions, and you will be kind enough to answer them, as plainly and shortly as possible.”

Mrs. Scarsdale bowed; she was so angry at the cool insolence that this statement implied that she did not feel she could trust herself to speak.

“Now we will begin,” said her ladyship, as she proceeded to demolish a boiled egg. “What is your Christian name?”


“Very well. Then I shall call you Mabel in future; it is ridiculous to address you as Mrs. Scarsdale.”

“I really don’t see” began that lady.

“Excuse me,” interrupted her questioner, “I will make the comments when necessary. When were you married?”

“Yesterday afternoon at two-thirty o’clock.”

“Where did you and your husband intend to pass last night?”

“At Exeter.”

“Are you sure?”

“I ought to be. I bought the tickets.”

“You bought the tickets! Is that customary in your country?”

“I am not here to discuss the customs of my country, Lady Melton. I bought the tickets because I chose to do so, and considered myself better fitted to arrange the trip than my husband.”

“Really! I suppose that is the reason you selected the most roundabout way to reach Exeter. Your husband could have told you that you should have taken another railway, the Great Western.”

“My husband,” said Mrs. Scarsdale stiffly, “did not know our destination.”


“I say that my husband did not know our destination.”

Her ladyship surveyed her for a moment in shocked and silent disapproval, and then remarked:

“I think I understood you to say that you travelled together as far as Basingstoke?”

“Yes, and there St. Hubart met a friend.”

“This consular person?”

“Mr. Allingford? Yes. He was also married yesterday, and came to our carriage to congratulate me.”

“And my nephew went to speak to Mrs. Allingford.”

“Exactly. And the first thing we knew the train was moving.”

“Go on.”

“That is just what we did, though Mr. Allingford tried to leave the carriage and return to his wife.”

“It would have been better had he never left her.”

“But I restrained him.”

“How did you restrain him?”

“By his coat-tails.”

“Excuse me. Do I understand you to say that you forcibly detained him?”

“I’m sorry if you are shocked; it was all I could catch hold of.”

“I shall reserve my criticism of these very astonishing performances, Mabel; but permit me to say that you have much to learn concerning the manners and customs of English society.”

“Then,” said Mrs. Scarsdale, ignoring this last remark, “we came to Salisbury.”

“And telegraphed to Basingstoke for information.”

“Exactly. But they could tell us nothing; so when I saw your carriage

“How did you know it was mine?”

“I looked out your coat of arms in ‘Burke.’”

Her ladyship smiled grimly. Perhaps something might be made of this fair barbarian in time, a great deal of time; but still this knowledge of the peerage sounded hopeful, and it was with a little less severity in her voice that she demanded:

“And what do you mean to do now?”

“Go back to Basingstoke this morning.”


“No, with Mr. Allingford.”

“Do you expect to find your husband there?”

“I should think he would naturally return as soon as possible to where he lost me.”

“I don’t know,” said her ladyship. “Was Mrs. Allingford pretty?”

“If you are going to adopt that tack, Lady Melton, the sooner we part the better,” said her visitor angrily.

“We do not ‘adopt tacks’ in England,” returned her ladyship calmly; “and as I consider myself responsible for your actions while you are under my roof, I shall not allow you to go to Basingstoke, or anywhere else, with a person who, whatever his official position, is totally unknown to me.”

“You don’t mean to keep me here against my will!”

“I mean to send you to your relations, wherever they are, under the charge of my butler a most respectable married man provided the journey can be accomplished between now and nightfall.”

“Well, it can’t,” replied her grand-niece triumphantly. “Aunt Eliza left for Paris this morning, and all my other relations are in Chicago.”

Lady Melton was, however, a woman of decision, and not to be easily baffled.

“Then I will send you to your mother-in-law, Lady Scarsdale; I suppose she has returned to ’The Towers’?”

“I believe so. But I do not intend to go there without my husband; it would be ignominious.”

“Perhaps you can suggest a better plan,” said her ladyship coldly.

“Well, if you refuse to let me go to Basingstoke” began the bride.

“I do. Proceed.”

“Then Mr. Allingford might go for me, and tell St. Hubart where I am. I know he is waiting for me there, but he would never think of my being hereExcuse me, I mean” she stammered, blushing, for she saw she had made a slip.

“We will not discuss your meaning,” said her hostess, “but your plan seems feasible and proper. You may receive the consular person in my private sitting-room and arrange matters at once.”

Her niece turned to go, but she stopped her, saying:

“One word more. I do not think it necessary for your friend Mr. Allingford to return with my nephew. Pray make this clear to him.”

After having been dismissed from her hostess’ presence, Mrs. Scarsdale lost no time in sending for the Consul, who had just returned, and proceeded to work off on that unfortunate gentleman the rage engendered by her recent interview.

“I’m inclined to think,” he said when she had finished, “that in this instance the catawampus is right. There is no use of your gallivanting over the country after your husband; he ought to come to you. I’ll run down to Basingstoke at once, send him back, and with Mrs. Allingford go on my way rejoicing. There is no need of my returning, and I guess her ladyship won’t cry her eyes out if I don’t.”

“You haven’t yet told me the result of your excursion this morning,” she said, hoping to divert the conversation from so obvious a truth.

“This,” he replied, holding up the telegram he had just received from the station-master at Basingstoke.

After reading the message, Mrs. Scarsdale was most anxious that he should lose no time in starting, and with mutual expressions of friendship, and boundless thanks from the deserted bride, they parted: he for the junction, she for a further interview with her great-aunt.

When her ladyship learned that Scarsdale had left Southampton for Basingstoke, and was doubtless now in that place, she advised his wife to remain in seclusion till the members of the house-party, which luckily was breaking up that day, had departed; and retired herself to prepare a few remarks with which to welcome her errant great-nephew. Later in the day, however, she so far relented towards his wife as to suggest that she take a stroll on the terrace while the few remaining guests were indulging in a post-prandial siesta.

It was from this coign of vantage that she saw approaching the worn and drooping figure of Mr. Allingford. She rushed to meet him, and demanded, without even giving him time to get his breath:

“Where is my husband?”

“I don’t know,” he gasped.

“Or your wife?”

“Or my wife.”

“Aren’t they in Basingstoke?”

“No, and haven’t been there. I’ve turned that confounded town inside out, and catechised every one about the station, from the divisional superintendent to the charwoman. They did not come last night, nor arrive this morning. Since leaving Southampton, if they did leave it, they have entirely disappeared.”

“Why do you say, ‘if they did leave’ Southampton?”

“Because no one saw them go. I have learned by endless telegraphing that they alighted at that point, told a porter they had been carried past their destination, and wished to return at once to Basingstoke. He indicated their train, they disappeared in the crowd and that’s all.”

“Haven’t they telegraphed again to Basingstoke?”

“Not since last night.”

“Or to Salisbury?”

“No. I inquired on the chance, but no message had come.”

“It is horrible!” she exclaimed. “I’m the most miserable woman on earth!”

“Don’t cry,” he begged despairingly.

“No,” she said, “I won’t. Do you think it would be any good to telegraph to Aunt Eliza and Lady Scarsdale?”

“I have already done so. Your Aunt Eliza has left for Paris. She wouldn’t have done that if she had heard about this; and it gave Lady Scarsdale a fit the telegram I mean but she didn’t know anything.”

“Is that all?”

“Not quite. I have telegraphed to my Vice-Consul at Christchurch, asking for news of Scarsdale, and telling him to forward anything that had come for me. They might have written there, you know, to save talk in the office; but I haven’t as yet had a reply.”

“I must consult Lady Melton; the situation is too dreadful for words. Suppose they have had an accident; suppose” she faltered.

“Nonsense!” he rejoined, “bad news always travels quickly; don’t make yourself uneasy on that score. They’ve got side-tracked in some out-of-the-way place, just as we have. I’ll go to Southampton to-morrow and work up the trail. Now you run off and consult the catawampus.”

When her ladyship had heard the whole story, she summed up as follows:

“As your friend has seen fit to return, you may tell him his chamber will be again made ready for to-night, and you will both dine in my sitting-room as before. To-morrow I shall send you home to Lady Scarsdale.”


“There is nothing more to be said on the subject. I have made up my mind.” And having pronounced sentence, she left her distracted great-niece to her own reflections.

It was a very doleful couple who sat down to dinner that evening in Lady Melton’s private room.

“It is ridiculous!” said Mrs. Scarsdale. “We are being treated like naughty children. I feel as if I were about to be whipped and put to bed. Sent home with the butler, indeed! I’d just like to see her ladyship try to do it!”

“How are you going to prevent her?” asked the Consul.

“I’m not a child, and I won’t be treated as one! If I am to be sent home in disgrace, you will have to come with me.”

“Well, I like that! You seem to forget I’ve lost my wife. My first duty is to find her.”

“Your first duty is to me. If you go to Southampton, I go with you.”

“I’m afraid there’ll be an awful row with her ladyship.”

“Let there be, then; I don’t care!”

“I really think,” he expostulated, “that you had better stay here one day more. I’ll get you a reprieve from the custody of the butler, and have a try at Southampton myself. There is a cross-line from here, and it won’t take any time to run over. I’ve tracked horse-thieves in Kentucky when I was sheriff, and I guess I can find a bridegroom where it’s all open country as it is round here.”

At this moment a servant knocked and entered, saying:

“Please, madam, her ladyship’s orders is that you are to be ready at seven to-morrow morning, to start with Mr. Bright, the butler, for ’The Towers.’”

“I!” began Mrs. Scarsdale, rising in wrath and indignation; but before she could further complicate matters by a direct refusal, the footman had turned to Allingford, and, handing him a telegram, had left the room. Forgetful of all else, she rushed to the Consul’s side as with nervous fingers he tore it open. What joyful news might it not contain! One look at his face, however, blasted all her hopes. Horror, consternation, and surprise were depicted thereon as he read the despatch. Something dreadful must have happened.

“Tell me the worst!” she cried. “Is it Harold?”

“It is the last straw,” he replied.

“Is he dead?”

“I wish he was.”

“You wish my husband dead?”

“Oh, confound your husband!”

“Mr. Allingford!”

“No, no, I don’t mean that. I’m not responsible for what I’m saying,” he replied, and groaned aloud. But his companion was not to be put off.

“Is that telegram from my husband?”


“From my mother-in-law?”


“From Aunt Eliza?”


“From the station-master at Basingstoke?”

“Guess again.”

“From your Vice-Consul?”


“Has he heard anything of our lost ones?”

“It has nothing to do with that.”

“Then what is the matter? What does it all mean?”

“It means,” replied the Consul, “that I’ve got to leave here by the first train.”

“Explain yourself,” she demanded.

“I’ll try,” he replied, mopping his brow. “You see, an American applied to me to lend him some money, a few days ago, and put up as collateral an elephant.”

“Harold told me the story. I thought it very amusing.”

“You won’t when I’ve finished. The elephant arrived day before yesterday at Southampton, and, as I had informed the steamship company that I was the temporary owner of the beast, they forwarded it to my consulate at Christchurch.”

“How does that affect us?”

“Affect us!” he cried. “Do you remember what I telegraphed my Vice-Consul?”

“Yes, almost word for word,” she answered. “You asked for news of the fugitives, and, on the chance of their writing to Christchurch, told him to forward here anything that might have come for you.”

“Exactly,” shrieked the Consul; “and the blamed fool has forwarded the elephant!”

“What! Here? To Melton Court?” she exclaimed, aghast.

“That is what I said. The beast is on the way now, and ought to be here bright and early to-morrow morning.”

“How awful! What will you do?”

“Get out,” he replied laconically.

“And leave me?”

“I don’t know about you, but I mean to leave the elephant. I don’t wish to start a bigger circus than I have on hand already.”

“But would it be quite right to our hostess?” expostulated her niece.

“If you’ve any conscientious scruples on the subject, you can stay and tend the beast. I’m leaving by the first train.”

“But it’s your elephant.”

“Of course it is, and I’ve a right to do what I choose with it. I mean to leave it to Lady Melton, in payment for my board and lodging. After the way she’s treated me I don’t want to owe her anything.”

“Really, Mr. Allingford” began his companion.

“Now look here,” he retorted; “would you want an elephant tagging you round on your honeymoon?”

“Well, no, I don’t think I should,” she replied, laughing.

“Besides,” he continued, “how am I to prosecute a search for our missing halves with a Noah’s ark in tow?”

“That does put the matter in a different light,” she admitted.

“You bet it does!” he replied. “As for her ladyship, she can do what she pleases with my slight token of regard. Give it to the poor of the parish, if she likes; I don’t ask her to keep it.”

“But what is to become of me?”

“Oh, you are to be sent home with the butler early to-morrow morning.”

“I won’t go!”

“Then join me.”

“But supposing we don’t find my husband to-morrow

“Then I’ll take you down to my consulate at Christchurch for the night. I have plenty of friends there with whom you can stay.”

“That settles it,” she replied.

So it was that they stole away from the Court in the grey dawn of the next morning, footed it to Salisbury, recovered their baggage, and boarded the early train for Southampton. As it moved out of the station they passed a long line of box cars on a siding, from one of which the angry scream of an elephant resounded.

“Just in time,” said the Consul with a sigh of relief. “I wish her ladyship joy of my little remembrance.”