Read CHAPTER V - AN HIGH LOOK AND A PROUD HEART of Anthony Lyveden , free online book, by Dornford Yates, on ReadCentral.com.

Here is a note, gentlemen, on its way to a lady, I have set it out now, that you may be wiser than she by some twenty-four hours. Such as it is, I like my lookers-on to see the best of the game.

Rome,
14th November.

MY DEAR VALERIE,

I observe from your letter that you have lost faith in the man you love. Now, although I know him not, I trust him implicitly. I do not care what has happened. Shall I tell you why? Because I know that you would never have put your trust in him had he been unworthy.

Love plays such queer tricks with its victims, making the fearless timorous, the proud lowly, the trusting doubtful. Who was it coined that mischievous phrase, “Too good to be true”? He has much to answer for. Nothing is too good to be true. Not even the love of a man for a maid, Valerie. You found it so good that you were thoroughly prepared to find it false. And the moment you saw the clouds, you believed the sun to be dead. That is heathenish and the way of the people who imagine a vain thing.

His explanation will shame you, of course; but take the lesson to heart.

Your affectionate uncle,
JOHN FOREST.

The Assize Court was crowded. Even upon the Bench there was little room to spare; and when the High Sheriff disappeared to return a moment later with two ladies, the Judge’s clerk eyed the new-comers with something of that impotent indignation with which a first-class passenger regards the violation of his state by belated individuals whose possession of first-class tickets is highly dubious.

The calendar contained no case of unusual interest, but the Red Judge comes to Brooch but three times a year, and the old market-town makes the most of its gaol deliveries.

At the moment of the ladies’ entering, Mr. Albert Morgan was in charge of the jury, and the twelve gentlemen were in course of hearkening to evidence which suggested with painful clarity that the prisoner’s sins of commission included that of felony. That Mr. Morgan had been caught red-handed had not prevented the rogue from pleading “Not guilty.” He had stood in docks before now. Besides, enough money had been found to instruct a member of the Bar if not a solicitor to argue his impudent case....

“Anthony Lyveden,” said counsel for the Crown.

“Anthony Lyveden!” cried the constable-usher.

“Anthony Lyveden!” bawled his colleague, opening the door of the Court.

Anthony, who was pacing the hall, came quickly. A moment later he had entered the box.

His footman’s overcoat accentuated at once his height and his breeding. It suited the figure admirably, but not the man. The handsome, clean-cut face, the excellence of his speech above all, the personality of the witness gave the lie to his garb. Moreover, he displayed a quiet dignity of manner which was as different from that of the most exquisite lackey as is sable from civet. From resting upon him the eyes of the Court began to stare...

Lest their owners be thought unmannerly, it is fair to record that the last witness, whilst swearing that he was a chauffeur, had resembled one of the landed gentry of the Edwardian Age, and that the last but one to wit, the chauffeur’s employer had sworn that he was a retired grocer, and looked exactly like one.

Anthony took the oath and glanced about him.

From the dock Mr. Morgan was regarding him with a malevolent glare. Farther back sat George Alison, upon his face an expression of profound resignation, which was plainly intended to indicate to his colleague the unpleasant nature of his late ordeal. And there, between the High Sheriff and Lady Touchstone, sat Miss Valerie French....

With narrowed eyes and a face impassive as a mask she met the footman’s look. By her side her aunt was smiling recognition, but Anthony never saw that. Gazing upon the beauty of that face which he had once transfigured, he found it frozen. That proud red bow of a mouth, that had been his for the taking, might have been graven of precious stone. Here was no vestige of Love. Tenderness was clean gone. Even as he looked, the blue eyes shifted casually to wander around the Court.... The cold wind of Indifference made Anthony’s heart shiver within him.

Small wonder that he replied to counsel’s questions mechanically, like a man in a dream.

He had, of course, known that he was out of favour.

One perfect Wednesday she had worshipped him to his face: upon the following Sabbath he had been turned away from her doors. For this mysterious fall from grace no reason had been vouchsafed. Moreover, so high was the favour, so eminent the grace, that Anthony had been desperately bruised. For a little he had been stunned. More than once, as he had walked dazedly home, he had tripped and stumbled. And, on reaching the house, he had done what he had never thought to do surreptitiously poured and swallowed a glass of his master’s brandy. As the days marched by, he had in some sort recovered slowly, if for no other reason because Grief should have air and not be clapped under hatches. And now here was the lady, pointing in person the unpleasant truth that she had no further use for him....

Had they but told their love before his downfall, his course would have been simple. In that case, to ask an explanation of his dismissal would have been lawful enough. But things had not gone so far. It was while they were yet upon the threshold of harmony that the end had come. Of his honesty Anthony felt that he had no right to question her. The lady had not engaged herself: she was still free to do as she pleased. His cursed footmanhood was an additional embarrassment. To speak vulgarly, it put the lid on. And now why was she here?

Thus throughout his examination-in-chief the imps of Recollection and Speculation spun and whirled in his brain-pan.

Why on earth was she there?

It is doubtful whether Miss French herself could have answered that question.

You will please believe, gentlemen, that her heart had brought her. It is the plain truth. Though Anthony did not know it, he had taken her faith in his hands and torn it across and across. For all that, she loved him still. She had a strange, pathetic longing to see him once more, and the case of “The King against Morgan” had offered her the chance. She had heard of the matter, and knew he must come to court to give his evidence. In such a place she would be able to study him undisturbed, and, most important of all, any speech between them would be safely impossible. A note to the High Sheriff had arranged her admission.... Incidentally, a burst tire on the way from Bell Hammer had almost spoiled everything. As we have seen, however, the ladies were just in time....

“Yes,” purred counsel for the Crown. “And then?”

“Then the prisoner gave a cry and rushed into the drawing-room.”

“What did you do?”

“I followed him and seized him. When assistance arrived, he was secured, and in the morning he was handed over to the police.”

With a nod, counsel resumed his seat.

Mr. Morgan’s representative got upon his feet with a truculent air. As he did so, somebody touched him upon the shoulder, and he turned to see his client leaning out of the dock. With an apologetic smirk at his lordship, the lawyer left his seat....

“What is it? What is it?” he whispered testily.

Mr. Morgan breathed into his ear.

“This is the swine,” he said evilly. “Put it acrost ’im. Arsk ’im ”

“You shut yer face,” said his adviser. “An’ don’ try an’ teach me my job, or I’ll ’ave you in the box.”

Before this threat Mr. Morgan subsided, muttering.

Impatiently counsel for the defence returned to his place. Once there, he adjusted his gown, consulted a blank sheet of paper with some acerbity, and then addressed himself to the witness.

“Why did you leave your last place?”

Anthony hesitated. Then

“I was unable to get on with one member of the household,” he said.

“Were you dismissed?”

“I was.”

“Why?”

“As the result of a difference I had.”

“Come, come, sir. That’s no answer.”

“The son of the house insulted me, and I knocked him down.”

Such a sensational reply fairly took the wind out of counsel’s sails.
Amid a stifled murmur of excitement he strove to collect himself.

“You er assaulted him?”

“I did.”

“Rather hasty, aren’t you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“We shall see. Now, upon the night in question the night of the burglary with which my client is charged where had you been?”

“To a private house.”

“From which you, a footman, return at four in the morning?”

“Yes,” said Anthony.

“Did you have any drinks at the er, private house?”

“I drank some wine.”

“How many hours were you there?”

“About five.”

“You can drink a good deal in five hours?”

“You can,” said Anthony.

“How many drinks did you have?”

“I drank two or three glasses of wine.”

“What sort of wine?”

“Champagne.”

“In fact, you had a good evening?”

“I enjoyed myself very much.”

“Exactly. And you returned shall we say, ’happy’?”

“If you are suggesting that I was under the influence of drink ”

“Answer my question, sir.”

The Judge interfered.

“Either, Mr. Blink, you are suggesting that the witness was under the influence of drink, or I fail to see the point of your questions.”

Hurriedly counsel agreed, announced magnanimously that he would not pursue the matter, and plunged into a series of causeless and empty inquiries in the hope of stumbling upon an answer with which he might first of all hammer the witness and then erect a defence. His efforts went unrewarded, and behind him in the dock Mr. Morgan ground his teeth with vexation. That he was not getting his friends’ money’s worth was obvious. He did not expect to get off, but if he could have seen Lyveden discredited he would have taken his gruel with a grin. Venomously he gnawed his fingers....

For the twentieth time counsel drew a bow at a venture.

“You’re not under notice to leave your present place?”

“Yes,” said Anthony, “I am.”

Despite herself, Valerie French started, and the chauffeur at the back of the court stared at the witness wide-eyed. The court, which had almost lost interest, pricked up its ears. Hardly disguising his relief, counsel proceeded to develop the impression in his own time-honoured way. Turning his back upon the witness, he elevated his eyebrows and then smiled very pleasantly upon a ventilator immediately above the jury-box.

“Really?” he said. “This is most interesting. Under notice, are you? Dear me.... Why?”

“I have given notice myself.”

“Oh, indeed. Why?”

“For private reasons.”

Counsel appeared to find this answer so highly diverting that after a moment’s hesitation the jury joined in his merriment. As the titter subsided

“I’m afraid,” said Mr. Blink apologetically, “I’m afraid I can’t take that.”

Anthony paled.

“I wish,” he said, “to leave the neighbourhood.”

“Why?”

Anthony hesitated, and the Judge laid down his pen.

“Mr. Blink, I don’t wish in any way to embarrass you, but can this affect your case?”

An expert in impudence, Mr. Blink was well aware of the amazing possibilities of consummate audacity.

“My lord,” he said solemnly, “my suggestion is that the witness knows considerably more about this burglary than he is willing to admit.”

The improvised shaft went home.

For a moment there was dead silence. Then some one gasped audibly, a breeze of emotion rustled over the court, and the jury leaned forward.... Only the Judge, before him a list of the prisoner’s previous convictions, sat like an image.

With a spiteful gleam in his eyes, Mr. Morgan moistened his lips. This was more like it.

Counsel, now in his element, addressed the witness.

“Whence,” he demanded dramatically, “whence this sudden desire to make yourself scarce?”

Breathlessly the reply was awaited....

None came, however, and counsel took up the running with a dry laugh.

“Very good,” he said. “I take your answer.”

Anthony stepped down and joined the chauffeur without a word.

Ten minutes later Mr. Blink was fanning the flame of mistrust into a conflagration. What, he asked, did the jury think? They were men of the world. Candidly, had they ever seen such a chauffeur and footman before? Did they look like servants? Of course they had Mr. Bumble’s their master’s confidence. But had they the jury’s? He did not wish to usurp the functions of the cinema or the stage, but it was his duty to remind them that sometimes Truth was stranger than Fiction.... Here were two servants, who were obviously not servants at all, giving such overwhelming satisfaction that they were allowed unheard-of liberty liberty which afforded unrivalled opportunities.... “Out till four in the morning, gentlemen. A latch-key to let them in. A motor-car at their disposal. And now leaving this comfortable this perfect situation. Why? No answer. Is it because the game is up, gentlemen? ...”

His lordship, who in his time had seen many juries befooled, summed up rather wearily, and at twenty-five minutes to one Mr. Morgan was found “Not guilty.”

That the latter should greet the verdict with a gesture of derision verged, all things considered, upon indecency. It is good to think that the warder who hustled him from the dock, and played full-back for the prison, made this as clear as daylight.

Valerie left the court in some annoyance. She was annoyed that Anthony had been lessened, and she was annoyed to find that she cared whether he had been lessened or not. She would also have liked to know the reason for his proposed departure. Undoubtedly it had to do with Anne Alison. His very reticence proved it. Perhaps she was going, too.... Anne Alison.... At the very thought of the girl, Valerie’s resentment welled up anew. Jealousy knows no law. The reflection that it was at her instance that Anthony had gone as footman to the house where Anne was housemaid rode her with a harsh and merciless hand. Often enough, sunk in most bitter contemplation of this fact, she got no further.

That she got no further to-day was due to a timely interruption nothing less, in fact, than a snort of an intensity too clamorous to be ignored.

Valerie looked up.

“At last,” said Lady Touchstone with some asperity. “That’s the fourth.”

“The fourth what?” said Valerie.

“The fourth snort,” said her aunt. “I don’t know what’s the matter with you nowadays. To snort at all, I must be profoundly moved. You know that as well as I do.”

“What’s the matter?” said Valerie.

Lady Touchstone stared at her.

“My dear,” she said, “what you want is a change. You have just witnessed what I hope is the most flagrant miscarriage of justice of recent years, you have seen twelve fools bamboozled by a knave, you have heard a friend of yours grossly insulted, and you ask me what’s the matter.” The car swung round a corner, and Lady Touchstone, who was unready, heeled over with a cry. “I wish Mason wouldn’t do that,” she added testily, dabbing at her toque. “So subversive of dignity. What was I saying? Oh yes. A change. We’d better go to Nice.”

Before Miss French could reply, a deafening report from beneath them announced the dissolution of another tire.

Mason brought the car to the side of the road. Then he applied the hand-brake and alighted heavily to inspect the damage.

With a resigned air, Lady Touchstone sat awaiting his report.

Valerie began to laugh.

“Shall I tell you what he’s doing?” she said.

Her aunt regarded her.

“I presume he’s staring at the wheel,” she said shortly. “Though of what interest a deflated tire can be to anybody passes my comprehension.”

“Not at all,” said her niece. “Mason is trying to make up his mind to tell you that we shall have to walk home. He only brought one spare cover, and we’ve used that.”

Lady Touchstone glanced at her watch.

“And the Billows,” she said grimly, “are coming to lunch in twenty minutes.” She raised her voice. “All right, Mason. Miss Valerie’s broken it to me. Stop the first vehicle that approaches and ask them to give us a lift.”

“Very good, my lady.”

“Supposing,” said Valerie, “it’s a milk-float.”

“So much the better,” replied her aunt. “I’ve always wanted to ride in a milk-float. It’s the survival of the Roman chariot.” Placidly she settled herself in her corner and closed her eyes. “Dear me. What a relief it is not to be moving! If only the Billows weren’t coming....”

Neither she nor Valerie heard the approach of the Rolls. Indeed, it was not until George Alison, in response to Mason’s signals, was bringing the great blue car actually alongside that the ladies realized that help was at hand.

The sight of Anthony Lyveden alighting to take his master’s orders chilled Valerie as the breath of a crypt. Her aunt, on the contrary, was plainly as pleased as Punch at the encounter....

So soon as Mr. Bumble appreciated that it was the quality of Bell Hammer who sought his assistance, he took appropriate action. Hat in hand, he descended into the road and, speaking with grave civility, put his car at the ladies’ disposal. This being accepted, he handed them out of their own and ushered them into the Rolls. Then he bowed very pleasantly and closed the door.

Valerie started to her feet.

“But, Mr. Bumble,” she cried, “of course you’re coming. Aunt Harriet, we can’t....”

“Of course we can’t,” said Lady Touchstone. “Mr. Bumble, get in at once.”

Humbly their host shook his head.

“Bell ‘Ammer is no distance, me lady, an’ the car can come back. I shouldden dream o’ takin’ advantage of an acciden’, me lady.”

Regretting very much that she had never noticed the ex-grocer before, Lady Touchstone sought desperately to pull the position round.

“Mr. Bumble,” she said, “we cannot use your car without you. That we do not know one another is my fault. Please get in. I want to tell you how very sorry we are about your case.”

Again Mr. Bumble bowed.

“Your ladyship is most kind. If Mrs. Bumble was ’ere, it’d be different.... But we’re both of us proud, me lady, fer you to ’ave the car. An’ an’ please don’ put yerself out, m’m. I’m in no ’urry.”

The quiet determination of his tone was unmistakable. The little man was clearly stoutly resolved not to improve an acquaintance which his wife did not share. Wealth had not clouded his memory nor corrupted his simple heart.

Lady Touchstone hauled down her flag.

“You’re one of the old school, Mr. Bumble,” she said, “so we won’t argue. Will you tell Mrs. Bumble that, if Thursday’s quite convenient, we shall call at The Shrubbery and ask her to give us some tea?”

And Valerie put out her hand.

“Good-bye for the present,” she said. “Thank you so very much.”

The next moment they were gone.

Hat still in hand, the ex-grocer looked after the car.

“Lady by name an’ lady by nature,” he said softly. Then he put on his hat and turned to Mason. “’Ave a cigar, boy. I ‘ate smokin’ alone.”

As they swept out of sight, Lady Touchstone picked up the speaking tube.

“George Alison!” she cried. Up went the chauffeur’s head. “Stop the car, please. Valerie and Major Lyveden will change places. We want to discuss the trial.”

George slowed up with a grin.

Jack opened the door for Jill, who descended with an airy nod of greeting which hurt him more than the stoniest disregard. With her head high, she stepped to the seat he had left. As he was closing the high side door upon her, her fur coat intervened, and Jack set it gently aside. Jill felt the touch, turned, glanced down and twitched the garment away....

Anthony’s eyes blazed. A short six inches away, Valerie’s blazed back....

On the opposite side of the car George and Lady Touchstone were hanging out of their seats, raving concurrent invective against the Laws of England.

For a moment eyes searched eyes steadily. Then, with a faint smile, Anthony leaned forward and kissed the proud red lips. Then he shut the door with infinite care....

Had Miss French’s fur coat been less voluminous, the gulf which Error had set between the lovers might have been bridged within the week. But it was a fine wrap, and ample. In an instant the gulf had become a sea of troubles, with the house that Jack had built upon one side, and the castle which Jill had raised upon the other. And, as for a bridge, their labour now was lost that sought to build one. It had become a case for a causeway.

As the car slid forward

“And why,” said Lady Touchstone, “are you going away?”

Anthony laughed jerkily.

“Have a heart, Lady Touchstone,” he cried. “I’ve already risked imprisonment to save my secret.”

Her ladyship looked about her.

“This,” she said, “appears to be the interior of an expensive limousine landaulette. Very different from a court-house. The seats are softer, for one thing. Besides, from his adviser the client should conceal nothing.”

“Are you my adviser?”

“That,” said Lady Touchstone, “is my rôle.”

“But am I your client?”

“I advise you to be.”

For a long moment Lyveden stared straight ahead. Upon the front seat Miss French was chattering to George Alison with an unwonted liveliness, punctuated with little bursts of merriment. All the while she kept her head so turned that Anthony might miss not a jot of her gaiety....

“I’m sorry,” said Lyveden quietly. “You’re very kind, Lady Touchstone, and I’m properly grateful. But I can’t tell you.”

He was, of course, perfectly right. Intervention was not to be thought of, much less encouraged. For one thing, to mutter that Valerie and he were estranged would be to proclaim a previous intimacy. For another, it was an affair, not of hearts only, but of deeps calling. Each lifting up the other’s heart, the twain had distilled a music that is not of this world: it was unthinkable that an outsider should be shown a single note of the score. Finally, Anthony wanted no peace-making. What had he to do with peace?

The silver cord was loosed, but he had not loosed it. The golden bowl was broken, but not at his hand. It was she Valerie French that had wrought the havoc. That cord and bowl were the property as much of Anthony as of her had not weighed with the lady. As if this were not enough, he was to be used like a leper.... What had he to do with peace?

The thought that he had been able to pick up the glove she had thrown down with such a flourish elated him strangely. To kiss My Lady Disdain upon the mouth that was an answer. That would teach her to draw upon an unarmed man. For she had thought him weaponless. What footman carries a sword? And then, in the nick of time, Fate had thrust a rapier into the flunkey’s hand....

Lady Touchstone was speaking....

“Well, well,” she said gently, “perhaps you’re right. I’m sorry, you know. I saw two lives smashed once by a clerical error on the part of a florist’s assistant. I knew them both, too, but neither would speak. When it was just too late, Eleanor opened her mouth.... Unknown to her, I went to the florist’s shop and looked at their order-book. Sure enough, there was the trouble. I never told her, of course. But it’s haunted me ever since. Two lives ... smashed.... And they say that silence is golden.... When you do go, will you let me have your address?”

“I can imagine nothing more worthless,” said Anthony. “But I think I’ve been rude enough. I promise to send it you.”

For no apparent reason he laughed bitterly. His companion shuddered.

“Don’t laugh like that, Major Lyveden. It’s bad for my heart. Oh, dear. How fast George is driving! We shall be at Bell Hammer before we know where we are.” Suddenly she leaned forward and caught at the footman’s sleeve. “Anthony Lyveden, I’ve shown you my hand. As you love my niece, what is the trouble?”

Anthony set his teeth.

“Can’t be done,” he said, “Lady Touchstone. We’ve got to work it out for ourselves.”

“Curse your pride,” said that lady. “There. Now I’ve sworn at you. But it’s your own fault. And how are you two goats going to work it out for yourselves? With one of you bleating at Nice, and the other Heaven knows where in England? D’you go to church, Anthony Lyveden?”

“I used to.”

“Then go again. Get to your knees and pray. Pray to be delivered from blindness of heart, Anthony Lyveden. D’you hear? Blindness of heart. From pride, vainglory and hypocrisy. Not that you’re hypocritical, but they go together, and it’ll do no harm. And I shall make Valerie go, and and I shall pray for you both.”

Anthony slid off his hat and put her hand to his lips....

As he did so, the car sped past a red lodge and into a curling drive.

Lady Touchstone sought for a pocket-handkerchief.

“There’s a tear on my nose,” she explained. “I can feel it. It’s a real compliment, Anthony Lyveden. You’re the very first man that’s ever made Harriet Touchstone cry.”

The car swept to the steps.

Anthony was down in a flash. Tenderly he handed her out....

By the time her aunt had alighted, Valerie was at the top of the steps. Anthony walked up to her steadily. Then he took off his hat.

“I humbly apologize,” he said. “It was unpardonable.”

“You’re right,” said Valerie quietly. “That’s just what it was.”

As she spoke, a servant opened the door.

Valerie turned on her heel and walked into the house.

That same evening, when the others had gone to bed, Anthony called his terrier and set him upon his knee.

“Patch,” he said, “I’ve come back to the fold.” As was his habit when mystified, the terrier swallowed apologetically. “Is that too hard for you, my fellow? Let me put it like this. Once there were just you and I, weren’t there? A fool and his dog. Caring for nobody, nobody caring for them, but to each other just everything.” The Sealyham licked his face. “Then one day she came ... She. A wonderful, peerless creature, to dazzle the poor fool’s eyes. And the fool just fell down and worshipped her. He didn’t forget his little dog, Patch. He never did that. But well, it wasn’t the same. Of course not. You must have felt it sometimes.... But you’re a good little chap. And I couldn’t help it, Patch. She seemed so very sweet.... I risked your life for her once. I did, really.” He paused to stare into the fire. Then he took a deep breath. “By Jove, if you’d gone... I should have been left now, shouldn’t I? Properly carted. Well, well, old fellow, it’s over now. Never again, Patch. The fool’s learned his lesson. You’d never let me down, would you? No. But she has. They say it’s a way women have. And I’m going to wash her right out of my life, Patch. Right out. Now.”

He set the dog down, stretched out his arms wearily, and got upon his feet. The terrier leaped up and down as if he had been promised a walk.

Anthony laughed.

“So? You’re pleased, are you? Ah, well...”

He turned out the gas, and the two passed upstairs.

Anthony was as good as his word.

You cannot kill Memory, but you can send the jade packing. That he did faithfully. By sheer force of will he thrust all thoughts of Valerie out of his head. They returned ceaselessly, to be as ceaselessly rejected. Their rejection took the form of displacement. They were, so to speak, crowded out. All day long he was for ever forcing his attention upon some matter or other to the exclusion of the lady. A thousand times she came tripping always he fobbed her off. Considering how much of late he had been content to drift with the stream, the way in which his mind bent to the oars was amazing. His output of mental energy was extraordinary. Will rode Brain with a bloody spur. When night came, the man was worn out....

In the circumstances it was hard, though not surprising, that he should have dreamed so persistently of the tall, dark girl. It suggests that Nature is an unscrupulous opponent. Be that as it may, night after night, while the man slept, the tares were sown. Sleep, whom he had counted his ally, proved herself neutral. She was content to knit up the sleeve of care. That her handmaidens as fast unravelled it was none of her business. After a week of this devilry, Anthony groaned. Then he set his teeth, and, pleading insomnia, obtained permission to walk abroad after supper. With Patch at his heels, he covered mile after mile. So, though the mental strain was prolonged, he became physically played out. His determination had its reward. He came to sleep like the dead.

With a sigh for his simplicity, Nature plucked another iron out of the fire....

Anthony began to lose weight.

Thursday afternoon came and went, and with it Lady Touchstone and Valerie. The Bumbles were duly overwhelmed, treating their visitors with an embarrassing deference which nothing could induce them to discard: out of pure courtesy Lady Touchstone ate enough for a schoolboy; thereby doing much to atone for Valerie, who ate nothing at all: the Alisons respectfully observed the saturnalia and solemnly reduced Mason to a state of nervous disorder by entertaining him in the servants’ hall: Anthony kept out of the way.

Not so Patch, however, who must, of course, put his small foot into it with a splash.

The visitors were in the act of emerging from the front door, Mrs. Bumble was dropping the second of three tremulous curtsies, and Mr. Bumble was offering the stirrup-cup of humble duty, when the terrier emerged from some laurels and, recognizing Valerie, rushed delightedly to her side. Before she was aware of his presence, he was leaping to lick her face....

To disregard such unaffected benevolence would have been worse than churlish, and Valerie stooped to the Sealyham and gave him her cheek. Patch lay down on his back and put his legs in the air. His tail was going, and there was a shy invitation in the bright brown eyes which was irresistible. Valerie hesitated. Then, on a sudden impulse, she picked up the little white dog and held him close.

“Good-bye, Patch,” she whispered. “Good-bye.”

She kissed the rough white head and put him down tenderly. Then she stepped into the car with a quivering lip.

It was as the car was turning out of the drive that she burst into tears....

Such consolation as Lady Touchstone sought to administer was gently but firmly declined: and, since her niece would have none of it, neither, gentlemen, shall you.

It was a few hours later to be exact, at a quarter before ten o’clock that a gentleman of some distinction laid down The Times.

For a moment or two he sat still, looking into the fire. Then he picked up a pile of depositions and drew a pencil-case from his pocket. For a while the occasional flick of a page argued his awful attention to the recital of crime: then the keen grey eyes slid back to the glowing coals, and the longhand went by the board. It was evident that there was some extraneous matter soliciting his lordship’s regard, and in some sort gaining the same because of its importunity.

Mr. Justice Molehill was all alone. He had sent his marshal to the cinema, “lest the boy should grow dull,” and, except for the servants, somewhere below stairs, the great gaunt mansion used as the Judge’s Lodging, lodged for the nonce no other inmate.

The room in which the Judge sat was enormous. Indeed, the shaded lamp, set upon a table close to his shoulder, did little more than insist upon the depths of the chamber, which to illumine effectively you would have needed a score of lamps slung from the ceiling. For all its size, however, the room was sparsely furnished. At the far end a huge carved writing-table loomed out of the shadows; six high-backed chairs reared themselves here and there against the walls; between prodigious windows a gigantic press lifted its massive head. Reckoning the little table bearing the lamp, and a pair of easy-chairs, that is a ready inventory. A heavy carpet and curtains of the same dull red certainly excluded the draughts. For all that, it was not a chamber in which to sit apart from the fire. The marshal hated the place openly, and, on being rallied by the Judge, had confessed that it “got on his nerves.” He had even suggested that it was haunted. Mr. Justice Molehill had laughed him to scorn.

His lordship, then, was gazing upon the fire. After, perhaps, about two minutes of time, he crossed his knees suddenly and flung up his hand in a little gesture of impatience.

“Anthony Lyveden,” he muttered. “Where on earth have I heard that name?”

The expression upon his face was that of a man absorbed in searching his memory. He was, indeed, so much engrossed in this occupation that the keen grey eyes went straying whither they listed.

Let us follow those eyes.

From the light of the fire in its cage to the toe of his lordship’s pump, up to the chiselled mantel and the cigarette-box the marshal’s perched on the narrow ledge, down to the heavy bell-pull by the side of the hearth, on to a high-backed chair against the wall, down again to the floor all black here, for the light is too distant to show the carpet’s hue on into the shadows, where something the table, of course shows like a grim bas-relief hewn out of the darkness, on to its ponderous top, where the candles...

It was upon the top of the table that the keen grey eyes came to rest idly. The next moment his lordship’s frame stiffened with a shock.

The radiance of two wax candles was illuminating the bitterness of death upon a man’s face. It was an old face, long, gaunt, clean-shaven, and the ill-fitting wig that gaped about the shrunken temples gave it the queer pinched look which tells of a starved belly. Eyes red-rimmed and staring, a long thin nose, and an unearthly pallor made it displeasing: the dropped jaw, showing the toothless gums, made it repulsive.

The hair upon Mr. Justice Molehill’s head began to rise.

For a moment the face stayed motionless. Then the grey lids flickered, and a trembling hand stole up out of the darkness to twitch at the lower lip. A paper upon the table appeared to claim the attention of those horrible eyes.... But not for long. Indeed, they had subjected the document to the very barest perusal, when, with a convulsive movement, the creature clawed at the paper, tore it with ravening hands and, clapping the fragments to its distorted mouth, bit and savaged it like a demoniac....

Hardened as he was to the spectacle of Rage dominant his lordship paled before this paroxysm of unearthly passion. All the agony of disappointed avarice, all the torment of mortification in defeat, all the frenzy of impotent fury, blazed in one hideous blend out of that frightful countenance. Could he have moved, the Judge would have crossed himself.

Then suddenly came a change. The passion ebbed out of the face, the paper fluttered out of the loosened fingers, the red-rimmed eyes took on another look. Snail-slow the trembling hand was travelling across the table....

Immediately between the silver candle-sticks lay a horse-pistol. As the fingers approached it, their trembling increased. Twice they hesitated, craven flesh rebelling against a recreant will. They shook so frightfully upon encountering the butt that it seemed as if to grasp it were beyond their power. Once they had seized it, however, the trembling left them and passed into the hand....

With the approach of the weapon, the horror upon the face became unspeakable. The eyes were starting, the mouth working painfully. Resolved to be rid of life, yet terrified to die, the wretch was writhing. There never was seen so loathsome a paradox. Cowardice was gone crusading.

The Judge’s tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.

With the assistance of the other hand, the pistol had been turned about, but head and hands were all shaking so violently that the introduction of the muzzle into the gaping mouth was hardly accomplished. Twice cup missed lip, and the steel went jabbing against the ashen cheek. The next moment gums drummed on the metal with a hideous vibration.

With a shock his lordship recognized the sound as one which he and the marshal had heard more than once at this hour, and, after discussion, had attributed to an idiosyncrasy of water under the influence of heat.

That the supreme moment had arrived would have been patent from the eyes alone. Riveted upon the trigger-finger, squinting until the pupils were almost lost to view, they were the orbs of a fiend. Even as the Judge gazed, the light of Insanity took flaming possession. Hell, grown impatient, had sent a sheriff for the usurer’s soul....

With a dull crash the fire fell in, and the Judge started to his feet with an oath.

The candles were gone.

The first thing which Mr. Justice Molehill did was to wipe the sweat from his face, and the second, to mix himself and consume the strongest whisky and soda he had swallowed for years. Then, being a man of stout heart, he picked up the lamp and walked to the writing-table at the end of the room. Here all was in order, and the closest scrutiny failed to reveal any trace of the vision. The chair was there, certainly, but its seat was dusty, and upon the table itself there was nothing at all. The curtain behind the chair, when disarranged, disclosed a window, heavily shuttered as usual, but nothing more.

Now, his lordship disliked defeat as much as anybody, but if there was one thing which he detested more than another, it was an inability to prove an excellent case. Looking at it from his point of view, he had here a personal experience at once as interesting and incredible as a man could fairly be expected to relate. The reflection was most provoking. So much so, indeed, that, after a moment’s hesitation, the Judge picked up the chair and placed it upon the table. Then he bent down and, thrusting his hands beneath the edge of the carpet, lifted this up from the floor. The fabric was heavy, but he hauled with a will, and a moment later he was standing upon the boards he had uncovered. Thereafter, at the cost of a good deal of exertion, he managed to roll it back from the window as far as the table itself. Holding it in place with his knee, his lordship reached for the lamp....

It was his intention to discover whether the boards did not afford some real evidence of the crime, and it is a matter for regret that, upon perceiving that the floor had been diligently stained all over with some coffee-coloured preparation, for the second time in the evening his lordship swore. He was, in fact, in some dudgeon about to replace the lamp, when the torn edge of paper, showing between two boards, caught his observant eye....

The fine handwriting was faded, but still quite legible.

10th Jan., 1789.

SIR,

Your letter leaves me no hope but that you have been most grossly betrayed. Should you so desire, I will render you indisputable proofs that the Marquess of Bedlington hath no need of funds, much less hath delivered in any’s favour a bond for the vast sum declared in your letter. In a word, though the name subscribed to the bond be that of Bedlington, it was not the Marquess’ hand that set it there. Who hath done you this injury, I know not, but Time hath shown that his lordship’s twin brother, Lord Stephen Rome, lately decd., with whom the Marquess was justly at variance, more than once scrupled not to assume his brother’s person and title to compass his own ends....

At the mention of the twin brother, Mr. Justice Molehill raised his keen grey eyes to stare at the lamp.

“Rome,” he said softly. “Rome. That’s right. It was at the Grand Hotel. And Anthony Lyveden was the name of the sole legatee. I knew I’d heard it before.”

Mrs. Bumble’s parlourmaid was counting upon her pink fingers.

“Sunday twenty-eight, Monday twenty-nine, to-day thirty.... Yes. To-morrow’s the first of December.”

George Alison regarded his wife.

“Let us hope,” he said gloomily, “that it’s a better month. In the course of the last four weeks I’ve had seventeen punctures, I’ve endured a miscarriage of justice which has undoubtedly shortened my life, and I’ve lost as good a pal as ever I struck.”

“To hear you speak,” said Betty, “any one would think that Anne and I had enjoyed ourselves. It’s been just as bad for us.”

The chauffeur shook his head.

“You rave,” he said shortly. “In the first place, what have you to do with tires?”

“If we haven’t had the punctures,” was the reply, “we’ve heard enough about them.”

“Yes,” said Anne. “It’s been almost as bad as golf. ’What I did at the fourteenth hole.’”

“In the second place,” said George, “women adore irregularity. I can conceive nothing more delectable to the feminine appetite than the spectacle of Justice derailed. The apotheosis of our esteemed friend and late colleague, Mr. Albert Morgan, has afforded you two more indirect gratification than anything I can remember.”

“Gratification?” almost screamed the two girls.

“Gratification,” said George. “If I’d come home and said he’d pleaded guilty and been sent down for five years, you’d have been all depressed. In the third place ”

“Monstrous,” said Betty. “Don’t laugh, Anne. As if the very thought of that man walking about free didn’t make my blood boil.”

“It made it run cold last time,” observed her husband. “Same principle as a geyser, I suppose.... Well, as I was saying, in the third place, what was Anthony to you?”

“One of the best,” said Betty stoutly. “That’s what he was.”

Her husband wrinkled his nose.

“My point is that he was a man’s pal. He was nice to you because he’d been properly brought up, but...”

Mournfully he passed his cup to be refilled.

“Go on,” said Betty silkily. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

Suspiciously George regarded her.

“Well,” he said defiantly, “he hadn’t much use for women.”

Mrs. Alison turned to her sister-in-law and nodded scornfully at her husband.

“Our wiseacre,” she said.

“All right,” said the chauffeur. “Don’t you believe me. He as good as told me so the day before he left, but I suppose that doesn’t count.”

Gurgling with merriment, his sister rose from the table and, coming behind the speaker, set her hands on his shoulders.

“And I suppose that’s why he ‘wished to leave the neighbourhood,’” she said, laying her cheek against his. “Betty and I were too much for him. Which reminds me, Bet, you and I ought to go to Bell Hammer and take those books back.”

Her brother screwed his head round and looked at her.

“You’re not suggesting that Valerie ”

“Sent him away?” said Anne. “Heaven knows. But he’s just crazy about her, isn’t he, Bet?”

The parlourmaid nodded.

“And she?” queried Alison.

“Loves him to distraction,” said Anne.

“Which is why she lets him push off?” said George. “I see. And I suppose, if they’d hated one another like poison, they’d have been married by now. You know, this is too easy.”

“Ah,” said Betty, with a dazzling smile, “but then, you see, women adore irregularity.”

Her husband, who was in the act of drinking, choked with emotion.

That the household was once more without a footman was a hard fact. Major Anthony Lyveden, D.S.O., was gone. His period of service at The Shrubbery had come to an abrupt end upon the previous day. His notice had not expired, but when he received an offer which was conditional upon his immediate departure from Hawthorne, he had laid the facts before Mr. Bumble and left two days later. All efforts to persuade him to leave an address were unavailing. This was a pity, for, ten minutes after he and Patch had left for the station, there had arrived for him a letter from a firm of solicitors that numbered many distinguished clients, and The Honourable Mr. Justice Molehill among them.

Since Anthony will never read that letter, neither will we. We will leave it where it is now, where it will lie, I dare say, until the crack of doom behind the overmantel in the servants’ parlour, gentlemen, with its back to the wall.

Anthony, then, was gone, and Patch with him. The Judge had been gone some time. Mr. Morgan also had left the neighbourhood, and was earning good money in the West End by the simple expedient of wearing the Mons medal, to which, never having seen “service,” he was not entitled, and perambulating the gutters of South Kensington with a child in his arms. The child was heavy and cost him sixpence a day, but, as an incentive to charity, it left the rendering of “Abide with Me,” upon which Mr. Morgan had previously relied, simply nowhere.

Lady Touchstone and Valerie were still at Bell Hammer. More than once the latter had revived her suggestion of a visit to the South of France. Each time Valerie had applauded the idea and then promptly switched the conversation on to another topic.... Women understand women, and with a sigh her aunt resigned herself to the prospect of a winter in Hampshire. Return to Town she would not. London was not what it had been, and the vanities of the metropolis fell dismally short of the old pre-War standard. You were robbed, too, openly, wherever you went. With tears in their eyes, shopkeepers offered you stones instead of bread, and charged you for fishes. Besides, unemployment was booming, routs were frequent, rioting was in the air.... Lady Touchstone decided that, if she was not to snuff the zéphyrs of Nice, the smell of the woods of Bell Hammer was good enough for her nostrils.

If Lyveden had lost weight, Miss French had gained none. The blow that had fallen all but a month ago had hit her as hard as him. Yet, of the two, her plight was less evil. Each of them had dropped in their tracks, which is to say that, while Lyveden had fallen upon the rough ground of bare existence. Miss French had fallen into the lap of luxury.

I am prepared to be told that this should have made no difference that creature comforts cannot minister to a broken heart. But, sirs, the flesh and the spirit are thicker than that. The iron must have entered uncommon deep into the soul for the body no longer to care whether the bath-water run hot or cold.

For all that, the girl was desperately unhappy. That she should have been bracketed with Anne was bad enough; that they should have been wooed in the same nest, to say the least, smacked more of business than of love: that it was her nest, of which, of her love, she had made the man free, was infamous. It was such treatment as she would not have expected at the hands of a counter-jumper a deserter a satyr. Possibly a satyr in a weak moment might have fallen so low. But Anthony was not a satyr. And deserters are not, as a rule, recommended for the D.S.O. To suggest that he was a counter-jumper was equally ridiculous. He was a most attractive gallant gentleman. This made his behaviour infinitely more discreditable. It was a sordid, demoralizing business....

And that, gentlemen, is what a hot bath will do.

Now look on this picture.

Valerie lay as she had flung herself, face downward upon the bed. Save that one satin slipper had fallen off, she was fully dressed. One bare white arm pillowed her brow, covering her eyes mercifully. Let us touch that gleaming shoulder. See? It is cold as ice. That little slipperless foot.... Cold as any stone. But then it is the month of December, and she has lain so for two hours. Two hours of agony. She can remember every look those steady grey eyes of Lyveden’s have ever given her, and in the last two hours she has remembered them all. Inch by inch she has gone over the playground of their hearts: word by word she has recited their conversations: she has gathered great posies of dead blossoms, because they once smelled so sweet: she has trodden the lanes of Memory to her most grievous wounding, because they are still so dear....

Then there were other times, when Pride had her in a strait-jacket, and the very thought of Anthony made her eyes blaze.

She had been walking herself out of one of these moods, and was tramping rather wearily through the twilight and up the long drive, when the cough of a motor-horn behind her made her start to one side. The next moment a car flashed past....

It was the local doctor’s Renault.

Valerie’s heart stood still.

The next moment she was running like a deer....

The car beat her all ends up, and by the time she had reached the steps, the front door was shut. She pealed the bell frantically....

To the footman who answered it

“What’s the matter?” she panted. “Who’s ill?”

“Miss Alison, miss. I think it’s a broken leg. She an’ Mrs. Alison ’ad been to tea with ‘er ladyship, an’, as she was leavin’, she ”

“Don’t keep saying ‘she,’” snapped Valerie. “Say ‘Miss Alison.’ And and bring me some fresh tea. In the library.”

She swept past the bewildered servant and disappeared.

The mills of God were off.

Twenty-four hours had gone by.

All this time the mills had been grinding steadily, and the grain, which had been awaiting their pleasure for exactly one calendar month, was beginning to disappear. After a while Valerie had come to realize that her pride was to be reduced to powder, and that there was nothing for it but to submit to the process with the best grace she could. Not every woman would have reasoned so wisely: few would have given to their decision such faithful effect. You will please remember that any reduction of her pride seemed to Valerie extraordinarily unjust. That there was stuff other than pride in the grist never occurred to her.

It was the evening, then, of the day after the accident, and the two girls were alone in the pleasant bedroom whither Anne had been carried the day before, and where she was like to spend the next six weeks of her existence. The patient was wearing one of Valerie’s night-gowns and looking very nice in it. She was also smoking one of Valerie’s cigarettes, and, so resilient is youth, chattering merrily between the puffs.

“Lady Touchstone was wonderful. She knew my leg was broken before I did. Almost before I knew where I was, she had my head in her lap and was telling me to lie quite still and hang on to her hand for all I was worth. ‘You’ll find it a great help,’ she said. ’I know I did. And if you know any bad words, say them.’ For all the pain, I couldn’t help laughing. And then she told me how she’d broken her leg in the hunting field, and the vicar was the first to get to her, and how she hung on to him and made him feed her with bad language till help arrived. And, when I tried to say I was sorry, she said the butler deserved six months for not having the steps sanded, and asked me, if you and she tried to make me comfortable while I was your guest, if I’d try to forgive you....”

“That’s the only possible way to look at it,” said Valerie. “It’s all our servants’ fault, and we’re only too thankful to be able ”

“You’re very sweet,” said Anne wistfully. “But to be saddled with me for six weeks ”

“Hush!” said Valerie, with a grave smile. “You promised not to talk like that.”

Anne Alison sighed.

“It is unfortunate, though,” she said. “I can’t think what they’ll do at The Shrubbery. If only Anthony hadn’t just left.... You knew he’d gone, didn’t you?”

Valerie shook her head.

“I knew he was going,” she said.

“He left on Monday,” said Anne. “We’re all heart-broken. He was wonderful to work with, and nobody could help liking him. George is desperate about it. Being a man, you see.... Besides, they were a lot together. On the car, I mean. Off duty we never saw much of him. He liked being alone. I think I’m the only one he went for a walk with all the time he was there. And then Betty sent him. He’d never seen the view from The Beacon, so I took him. He was bored stiff, and we got soaked coming home, but he was very nice and polite about it. He always was. And now, I suppose ”

“The Beacon?” said Valerie faintly. “Where where’s The Beacon?”

“I don’t know what its real name is,” said Anne. “We always call it ‘The Beacon.’ You must know it. That very high place in Red King Walk, where the cliff goes sheer down....”

Valerie tried to speak, but no words would come. Something seemed to be gripping her by the throat. The walls of the room, too, were closing in, and there was a strange, roaring noise like that of mills working....

With a terrific effort she fought unconsciousness away....

Her their nest then, was, after all, inviolate. He had never taken Anne there. Betty had sent him. And he had been bored stiff....

It was as if a mine had been sprung beneath the spot upon which had been dumped her emotions of the last two months, blowing some to atoms, bringing to light others that had lain buried. Out of the wrack, joy, shame, fear fell at her feet and a sentence out of a letter was staring her in the face.

“His explanation will shame you, of course, but take the lesson to heart.”

“I wonder,” she said shakily, “if you could give me Major Lyveden’s address.”

“I would, like a shot,” said Anne heartily, “but he wouldn’t leave one.”

Again the rumble of those labouring mills came swelling out of the silence into a roar that was thunderous, brain-shaking.... For a moment of time they pounded the understanding mercilessly.... Then, all of a sudden, the machinery stopped.

The corn was ground.