Read CHAPTER XI - THE PARTING OF THE WAYS of Cynthia's Chauffeur , free online book, by Louis Tracy, on

When he came to think of it, Medenham decided to return at once to Symon’s Yat.  It was advisable, however, to inform the proprietor of the hotel that the Earl’s denunciation of Dale as a pilferer of luggage was based on a complete misunderstanding of the facts.  With that object in view he entered the office; another surprise awaited him there.

A lady bookkeeper, casting an appraising eye over his motoring garments, asked instantly: 

“Are you Mr. Fitzroy, driver of a Mercury car, Number X L 4000?”

“Yes,” said he, prepared now to see his name and description blazoned across the west front of the cathedral.

“You are wanted on the telephone.  Miss Vanrenen wishes you to ring her up.”

After a soul-chastening delay he heard Cynthia’s voice: 

“That you, Mr. Fitzroy?”


“I’m so glad I caught you before you hurried away again....  Er that is I suppose you traveled rather fast, you and Mercury?”

He laughed.  That was all.  He did not intend to let her assume so readily that he had missed the first thought which bubbled forth in words.  She well knew that he was not in Hereford from personal choice, but she had not meant to tell him that she knew.

“What are you sniggering at?” she demanded imperiously.

“Only at your divination,” he answered.  “Indeed, if a tire had not given out soon after I left Whitchurch I would now be well on my way to the Yat.”

Suddenly he recollected the singular outcome of the incident.  There was some reasonable probability that it might exercise a material effect on the course of events during the next few days.

So, after a little pause, he added:  “That is one reason; there are others.”

“Is something detaining you, then?” she asked.

“Yes, a trivial matter, but I shall be at the hotel long before lunch.”

“Mrs. Devar is much better....  She is so sorry I remained indoors this morning.”

“Mrs. Devar is cultivating angelic qualities,” he said, but he murmured under his breath:  “The old cat finds now that she has made a mistake.”

“I want you to pay the hotel people for the rooms I reserved but have not occupied.  Then, perhaps, they will hand you any mail that may have been sent after me.  And please give them my address at Chester.  Will you do all that?”

“Certainly.  There should be no difficulty.”

“Is Hereford looking very lively?”

“It strikes me as peculiarly empty,” he said with convincing candor.

“Shall we have time to see all the show places to-morrow?”

“We shall make time.”

“Well, good-bye!  Bring my letters.  I have not heard from my father since we left Bournemouth.”

“Ah, there I have the better of you.  I heard of, if not from, my revered dad since reaching Hereford.”


“Oh, quite.”

“Nothing wrong, I hope?”

“The old gentleman’s temper seems to be a trifle out of gear; the present attack is not serious; he will survive it for many years, I trust.”

“You must not be flippant where your father is concerned.  I believe he is annoyed because you came away with me, and so failed to keep the appointment fixed for Saturday in London.  Eh?  What did you say?”

“I said ‘Well, I am surprised,’ or words to that effect.  As my name is George I cannot tell a lie, so I must admit regretfully that you have guessed right.  Indeed, Miss Vanrenen, I may go so far as to suggest, by letter, that before my father condemns me he should first meet you.  Of course, I shall warn him that you are irresistible.”

“Good-by again,” said Cynthia severely.  “You can tell me all about it after oh, some time to-day, anyhow.”

The Green Dragon proved to be most undragonish.  No manner of doubt was cast on Medenham’s good faith; he pocketed half a dozen letters for Cynthia, and one, unstamped, bearing the crest of the Mitre, for Mrs. Devar.  By the merest chance he caught sight of a note, addressed “Viscount Medenham,” stuck in a rack among some telegrams.  The handwriting was his father’s.  But how secure it without arousing quite reasonable suspicion?  He tried the bold course.

“I may as well take that, too,” he said offhandedly.

“Is Viscount Medenham also in your party?” inquired the bookkeeper.


Again no demur was raised, since the Earl’s repeated demands for information as to Miss Vanrenen’s whereabouts showed that some sort of link must exist between him and the missing tourists.

Medenham sat in his car outside and read: 

MY DEAR GEORGE If this reaches you, please oblige me by returning to town at once.  Your aunt is making a devil of a fuss, and is most unpleasant.  I say no more now, since I am not sure that you will be in Hereford before we meet.

                    Yours ever,

“I can see myself being very angry with Aunt Susan,” he growled in the first flush of resentment against the unfairness of her attitude.

But that phase soon passed.  His mind dwelt rather on Lady St. Maur’s bland amazement when she encountered Cynthia.  He could estimate with some degree of precision her ladyship’s views regarding the eighty millions of citizens of the United States; had she not said in his hearing that “American society was evidently quite English but with the head cut off?”

That, and a sarcastic computation as to the difference between Ten Thousand and Four Hundred, constituted her knowledge of America.  Still, he made excuses for her.  It was no new thing for an aristocracy to be narrow-minded.  Horace, that fine gentleman, “hated the vulgar crowd,” and Nicolo Machiavelli, fifteen centuries later, denounced the nobles of Florence for their “easy-going contempt of everything and everybody”; so Lady St. Maur had plenty of historical precedent for the coining of cheap epigrams.

The one person Medenham was really bitter against was Millicent Porthcawl. She had met Cynthia; she herself must have frowned at the lying innuendoes written from Bournemouth; it would give him some satisfaction to tell Cynthia that the Porthcawl ménage ought not to figure on her visiting list.  But there!  Cynthia was too generous-minded even to avenge her wrongs, though well able to deal with the Millicents and Mauds and Susans if they dared be spiteful.

Then the coming of Dale with various leather bags roused him from the reverie induced by his father’s curt missive, and he laughed at the discovery that he was fighting Cynthia’s battles already.

The Mercury was raising a good deal of dust in the neighborhood of Whitchurch when its occupants noticed a pair of urchins perched on a gate, signaling frantically.  It pleased Medenham to mystify Dale, who was, if possible, more taciturn than ever since those heart-searching experiences at Gloucester and Hereford.

He pulled up some fifty yards or more down the road.

“You saw those boys?” he said.

“Yes, my lord, but they’re only having a game.”

“Nothing of the sort.  Skip along and ask them if they have found out the answer.  If they say ‘a day and five-sevenths,’ hand them a shilling each.  Any other reply will be wrong.  Don’t talk.  Just run there and back, and pay only on a day and five-sevenths.”

Dale ran.  Soon he was in his seat again.

“I gev’ ’em a bob each, my lord,” he announced, grave as an owl.

While they were running slowly down the winding lane that led to the
Yat Medenham determined to make sure of his ground with reference to
Mrs. Devar.

“I suppose you left no room for doubt as to my identity in the mind of the lady to whom you spoke over the telephone last night?” he inquired.

“None whatever, my lord.  She wormed it out of me.”

“Did you mention the Earl?”

“Like an ijjit, I began by giving his lordship’s name.  It was my only chanst, I couldn’t get to the post-office nohow.  Why, I was ordered to bed at eight o’clock, so’s his lordship could smoke in peace, as he said.”

“Then my father was determined to stop you from communicating with me, if possible?”

“If his lordship knew that I crep’ down a back stairs to the telephone I do believe he’d have set about me with a poker,” said Dale grimly.

“Strange!” mused Medenham, with eyes now more intent on the hotel than on the road.  “Influences other than Aunt Susan’s must be at work.  My father would never have rushed off in a fever from town merely because of some ill-natured gossip in a letter from Lady Porthcawl.”

His mind flew to the Earl’s allusions to Marigny, and it occurred to him then that the latter had used his father’s name at Bristol.  He turned to Dale again.

“Before this business is ended I shall probably find it necessary to kick a Frenchman,” he said.

“Make it two of ’em, my lord, an’ let me take it out of the other one,” growled Dale.

“Well, there is a bottle-holder,” said Medenham, thinking of Devar, “a short, fat fellow, an Englishman, but a most satisfactory subject for a drop kick.”

“Say when, my lord, an’ I’ll score a goal with him.”

Dale seemed to be speaking feelingly, but his master paid slight heed to him then.  A girl in muslin, wearing a rather stylish hat now, where did Cynthia get a hat? had just sauntered to that end of the hotel’s veranda which gave a glimpse of the road.

“Make yourself comfortable in one of the cottages hereabouts,” was Medenham’s parting instruction to his man.  “I don’t suppose the car will be needed again to-day, but you might refill the petrol tank on the off chance.”

“Yes my lord.”

Dale lifted his cap.  The ostler who had helped in the cleaning of the car overnight was standing near the open doors of the coach-house.  He might not have heard the words, but he certainly saw the respectful action.  His eyes grew round, and his lips pursed to give vent to an imaginary whistle.

I knew,” he told himself.  “He’s a toff, that’s wot he is.  Mum’s the word, Willyum.  Say nothink, ’specially to wimmen!”

Bowing low before his smiling goddess, Medenham produced the packet of letters.  It happened that the unstamped note for Mrs. Devar lay uppermost, and Cynthia guessed some part, at least, of its contents.

“Poor Monsieur Marigny!” she cried.  “I fear he had a cheerless evening in Hereford.  This is from him.  I know his handwriting....  While father and I were in Paris he often sent invitations for fixtures at the Velo once for a coach-drive to Fontainebleau.  I was rather sorry I missed that.”

Medenham thanked her in his heart for that little pause.  No printed page could be more legible than Cynthia’s thought-processes.  How delightful it was to feel that her unspoken words were mirrored in his own brain!

But these lover-like beatitudes were interrupted by a slight shriek.  She had glanced curiously at a postmark, ripped open an envelope, and was reading something that surprised her greatly.

“Well, of all the queer things!” she cried.  “Here’s father in London.  He started from Paris yesterday afternoon, and found he had just time to send me a line by paying a special postal fee at Paddington....  What?...  Mrs. Leland going to join us at Chester!...  Wire if I get this!...”

She reread the letter with heightened color.  Medenham’s heart sank to his boots while he watched her.  Whosoever Mrs. Leland might be and Cynthia’s first cry of the name sent a shock of recognition through him it was fully evident that the addition of another member to the party would straightway shut him out of his Paradise.  Mrs. Devar, in the rôle of guardian, had been disposed of satisfactorily, but “Mrs. Leland” was more than a doubtful quantity.  For some kindred reason, perhaps, Cynthia chose to turn and look at the sparkling Wye when next she spoke.

“I don’t see why Mrs. Leland’s unexpected appearance should make any real difference to our tour,” she said in the colorless tone of one who seeks rather than imparts conviction.  “There is plenty of room in the car.  We must take the front seat in turn, that is all.”

“May I ask who Mrs. Leland is?” he asked, and, if his voice was ominously cold, it may be urged in extenuation that in matters affecting Cynthia he was no greater adept at concealing his thoughts than the girl herself.

“An old friend of ours,” she explained hurriedly.  “In fact, her husband was my father’s partner till he died, some years ago.  She is a charming woman, quite a cosmopolitan.  She lives in Paris ’most all the time, but I fancied she was at Trouville for the summer.  I wonder....”

She read the letter a third time.  Drooping lids and a screen of heavy eyelashes veiled her eyes, and when the fingers holding that disturbing note rested on the rail of the veranda again, still those radiant blue eyes remained invisible, and the eloquent eyebrows were not arched in laughing bewilderment but straightened in silent questioning.

“Mr. Vanrenen gives no details,” she said at last, and seldom, indeed, did “Mr. Vanrenen” replace “father” in her speech.  “Perhaps he was writing against time, though he might have told me less about the post and more of Mrs. Leland.  Anyhow, he has a fine Italian hand in some things, and may be this is one of them....  But I must telegraph at once.”

Medenham roused himself to set forth British idiosyncrasies on the question of Sunday labor.  He remembered the telephone, however, and Cynthia went off to try and get in touch with the Savoy Hotel.  He withdrew a little way, and began to smoke a reflective cigar, for he knew now who Mrs. Leland was.  In twenty minutes or less Cynthia came to him.  It was difficult to account for her obvious perplexity, though he could have revealed some of its secret springs readily enough.

“I’m sorry I shall not be able to take that walk, Mr. Fitzroy,” she said, frankly recognizing the tacit pact between them.  “We have a long day before us to-morrow, and we must make Chester in good time, as Mrs. Leland is coming alone from London.  Meanwhile, I must attend to my correspondence.”

“Ah.  You have spoken to Mr. Vanrenen, then?”

“No.  He was not in the hotel, but he left a message for me, knowing that I was more likely to ’phone than wire.”

She was troubled, disturbed, somewhat resentful of this unforeseen change in the programme arranged for the next few days.  Medenham could have chosen no more unhappy moment for what he had to say, but during those twenty minutes of reflection a definite line of action had been forced upon him, and he meant to follow it to the only logical end.

“I am glad now that I mentioned my own little difficulty at Hereford,” he said.  “Since alterations are to be the order of the day at Chester, will you allow me to provide another driver for the Mercury there?  You will retain the car, of course, but my place can be taken by a trustworthy man who understands it quite as well as I do.”

“You mean that you are dropping out of the tour, then?”


She shot one indignant glance at his impassive face, for he held in rigid control the fire that was consuming him.

“Rather a sudden resolve on your part, isn’t it?  What earthly difference does the presence of another lady in our party make?”

“I have been thinking matters over,” he said doggedly.  “Would you mind reading my father’s letter?”

He held out the note received at the Green Dragon, but she ignored it.

“I take it for granted that you have the best of reasons for wishing to go,” she murmured.

“Please oblige me by reading it,” he persisted.

Perhaps, despite all his self-restraint, some hint of the wild longing in his heart to tell her once and for all that no power under that of the Almighty should tear him from her side moved her to relent.  She took the letter, and began to read.

“Why,” she cried, “this was written at Hereford?”

“Yes.  My father waited there all night.  He left for town only a few minutes before I entered the hotel this morning.”

She read with puzzled brows, smiled a little at “Your aunt is making a devil of a fuss,” and passed quite unheeded the solitary “F.” in the signature.

“I think you ought to go to-day,” she commented.

“Not because of any argument advanced there,” he growled passionately.

“But your aunt ... she is making a a fuss.  One has to conciliate aunts at times.”

“My aunt is really a most estimable person.  I promise myself some amusement when she explains the origin of the ‘fuss’ to you.”

“To me?”

“Yes.  Have I not your permission to bring her to see you in London?”

“Something was said about that.”

“May I add that I hope to make Mr. Vanrenen’s acquaintance on Tuesday?”

She looked at him in rather a startled way.

“Are you going to call and see my father?” she asked.


“But why, exactly?”

“In the first place, to give him news of your well-being.  Letters are good, but the living messenger is better.  Secondly, I want to find out just why he traveled from Paris to London yesterday.”

The air was electric between them.  Each knew that the other was striving to cloak emotions that threatened at any moment to throw off the last vestige of concealment.

“My father is a very clever man, Mr. Fitzroy,” she said slowly.  “If he did not choose to tell you why he did a thing, you could no more extract the information from him than from a bit of marble.”

“He has one weak point, I am sure,” and Medenham smiled confidently into her eyes.

“I do not know it,” she murmured.

“But I know it, though I have never seen him.  He is vulnerable through his daughter.”

Her cheeks flamed into scarlet, and her lips trembled, but she strove valiantly to govern her voice.

“You must be very careful in anything you say about me,” she said with a praiseworthy attempt at light raillery.

“I shall be careful with the care of a man who has discovered some rare jewel, and fears lest each shadow should conceal an enemy till he has reached a place of utmost security.”

She sighed, and her glance wandered away into the sun-drowned valley.

“Such fortresses are rare and hard to find,” she said.  “Take my own case.  I was really enjoying this pleasant tour of ours, yet it is broken in two, as it were, by some force beyond our control, and the severance makes itself felt here, in this secluded nook, a retreat not even marked on our self-drawn map.  Where could one be more secure as you put it less open to that surge of events that drives resistlessly into new seas?  I am something of a fatalist, Mr. Fitzroy, though the phrase sounds strange on my lips.  Yet I feel that after to-morrow we shall not meet again so soon or so easily as you imagine, and if I may venture to advise one much more experienced than myself the way that leads least hopefully to my speedy introduction to your aunt is that you should see my father, before I rejoin him.  You know, I am sure, that I look on you rather as a friend than a mere a mere ”

“Slave,” he suggested, trying to wrench some spark of humor out of the iron in their souls.

“Don’t be stupid.  I mean that you and I have met on an equality that I would deny to Simmonds or to any of the dozen chauffeurs we have employed in various parts of the world.  And I want to warn you of this knowing my father as well as I do I am certain he has asked Mrs. Leland’s help for the undertaking that others have failed in.  I can’t say more.  I ”

“Cynthia, dear!  I have been looking for you everywhere,” cried a detested voice.  “Ah, there you are, Mr. Fitzroy!” and Mrs. Devar bustled forward cheerfully.  “You have been to Hereford, I hear.  How kind and thoughtful of you!  Were there any letters for me?”

“Sorry,” broke in Cynthia.  “I was so absorbed in my own news that I forget yours.  Here is your letter.  It is only from Monsieur Marigny, to blow both of us up, I suppose, for leaving him desolate last night.  But what do you think of my budget?  My father is in London; Mrs. Leland, a friend of ours, joins us at Chester to-morrow; and Fitzroy deserts us at the same time.”

Mrs. Devar’s eyes bulged and her lower jaw fell a little.  She could hardly have exhibited more significant tokens of alarm had each of Cynthia’s unwelcome statements been punctuated by the crash of artillery fired in the garden beneath.

During a long night and a weary morning she had labored hard at the building of a new castle in Spain, and now it was dissipated at a breath.  Her sky had fallen; she was plunged into chaos; her brain reeled under these successive shocks.

“I don’t understand,” she gasped, panting as if she had run across vast stretches of that vague “everywhere” during her quest of Cynthia.

“None of us understands.  That is not the essence of the contract.  Anyhow, father is in England, Mrs. Leland will be in Chester, and Fitzroy is for London.  He is the only real hustler in the crowd.  Unless my eyes deceived me, he brought his successor in the car from Hereford.  Really, Mr. Fitzroy, don’t you think you ought to skate by the next train?”

“I prefer waiting till to-morrow evening if you will permit it,” he said humbly.

Cynthia was lashing herself into a very fair semblance of hot anger.  She felt that she was trammeled in a net of deception, and, like the freedom-loving American that she was, she resented the toils none the less because their strands remained invisible.  Seeing Medenham’s crestfallen aspect at her unjust charge with reference to Dale’s presence, she bit her lip with a laugh of annoyance and turned on Mrs. Devar.

“It seems to me,” she cried, “that Count Edouard Marigny has been taking an interest in me that is certainly not warranted by any encouragement on my part.  Open your letter, Mrs. Devar, and see if he, too, is on the London trail....  Ah, well perhaps I am mistaken.  I was so vexed for the moment that I thought he might have telegraphed to father when we did not turn up at Hereford.  Of course, that is sheer nonsense.  He couldn’t have done it.  Father was in England before Monsieur Marigny was aware of our failure to connect with Hereford.  I’m sure I don’t know what is vexing me, but something is, or somebody, and I want to quarrel with it, or him, or her, real bad.”

Without waiting for any opening of Marigny’s note she ran off to her room.  Medenham had turned to leave the hotel when he heard a gurgling cry: 

“Mr. Fitzroy Lord Medenham what does it all mean?”

Mrs. Devar’s distress was pitiable.  Snatches of talk overheard in Paris and elsewhere warned her that Mrs. Leland would prove an unconquerable foe.  She was miserably conscious that her own letter, posted overnight, would rise up in judgment against her, but already she had devised the plausible excuse that the very qualities which were excellent in a viscount were most dangerous in a chauffeur.  Nevertheless, the letter, ill-advised though it might be, could not account for Peter Vanrenen’s sudden visit to England.  She might torture her wits for a year without hitting on the truth, since the summoning of the millionaire to the rescue appeared to be the last thing Count Edouard Marigny would dream of doing.  She actually held in her hand a summary of the telegrams he had dispatched from Bristol, but her mind was too confused to work in its customary grooves, and she blurted out Medenham’s title in a frantic attempt to gain his support.

“It means this,” he said coolly, resolved to clear the ground thoroughly for Mrs. Devar’s benefit; “your French ally is resorting to the methods of the blackmailer.  If you are wise you will cut yourself entirely adrift from him, and warn your son to follow your example.  I shall deal with Monsieur Marigny have no doubt on that score and if you wish me to forget certain discreditable incidents that have happened since we left London you will respect my earnest request that Miss Vanrenen shall not be told anything about me by you.  I mean to choose my own time and place for the necessary explanations.  They concern none but Miss Vanrenen and myself, in the first instance, and her father and mine, in the second.  I have observed that you can be a shrewd woman when it serves your interests, Mrs. Devar, and now you have an opportunity of adding discretion to shrewdness.  I take it you are asking for my advice.  It is simple and to the point.  Enjoy yourself, cease acting as a matrimonial agent, and leave the rest to me.”

The residents in the hotel were gathering in the veranda, as the luncheon hour was approaching, so Mrs. Devar could not press him to be more explicit.  In the privacy of her own room she read Marigny’s letter.  Then she learnt why Cynthia’s father had hurried across the Channel, for the Frenchman had not scrupled to warn him that his presence was imperative if he would save his daughter from a rogue who had replaced the confidential Simmonds as chauffeur.

Forthwith, Mrs. Devar became more dazed than ever.  She felt that she must confide in someone, so she wrote a full account of events at Symon’s Yat to her son.  It was the worst possible thing she could have done.  Unconsciously for she was now anxious to help instead of hindering Medenham’s wooing some of the gall in her nature distilled itself into words.  She dwelt on the river episode with all the sly rancor of the inveterate scandalmonger.  She was really striving to depict her own confusion of ideas when stunned by the discovery of Medenham’s position, but she only succeeded in stringing together a series of ill-natured innuendoes.  Sandwiched between each paragraph of the story were the true gossip’s catchwords thus:  “What was I to think?” “What would people say if they knew?” “My dear, just picture your mother’s predicament when midnight struck, and there was no news!” “Of course, one makes allowances for an American girl,” and the rest.

Though this soured woman was a ready letter-writer, she was no reader, or in days to come she might have parodied Pope’s “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot”: 

     Why did I write?  What sin to me unknown
     Dipped me in ink? my parents’, or my own?

Not content with her outpouring to Devar she dashed off a warning to Marigny.  She imagined that the Frenchman would grin at his broken fortunes, and look about for another heiress!  And so, abandoning a meal to the fever of scribbling, she packed more mischief into an hour than any elderly marriage-broker in Europe that day, and waddled off to the letterbox with a sense of consolation, strong in the belief that the morrow would bring telegrams to guide her in the fray with Mrs. Leland.

Medenham sent a short note to his father, saying that he would reach London about midnight next day and asking him to invite Aunt Susan to lunch on Tuesday.  Then he waited in vain for sight of Cynthia until, driven to extremes by tea-time, he got one of the maids to take her a verbal message, in which he stated that the climb to the summit of the Yat could be made in half an hour.

The reply was deadening.

“Miss Vanrenen says she is busy.  She does not intend to leave the hotel to-day; and will you please have the car ready at eight o’clock to-morrow morning.”

Then Medenham smiled ferociously, for he had just ascertained that the local telegraph office opened at eight.

“Kindly tell Miss Vanrenen that we had better make a start some few minutes earlier, because we have a long day’s run before us,” he said.

And he hummed a verse of “Young Lochinvar” as he moved away, thereby provoking the maid-servant to an expression of opinion that some folk thought a lot of themselves but as for London shuffers and their manners well there!