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   Chapter 5 THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS

The Brother of Daphne By Dornford Yates Characters: 26424

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


"I suppose," said Daphne. "I suppose you think you're funny."

Her husband regarded his cigarette with a frown. "Not at all," he replied. "Only there's nothing doing. That's all. My mind is made up. This correspondence must now cease. For myself, as bread-winner and-"

"Never did a day's work in your life," said Jonah.

"And one of the world's workers (so you're wrong, you see)-"

"Of course he's going," said I, looking up. "Only what as?"

"Why not himself?" said Jill.

"M, no," said I. "We must find something out of the common. A mountebank's too ordinary. I want our party to be one of the features of the ball."

"Would it be asking you too much to shut your face?" said Berry. "Nobody spoke to you. Nobody wants to speak to you. I will go further. Nobody-"

"Could he go as a cook, d'you think?" said Daphne. "A chef-thing, I mean. They had cooks, of course. Or a wine-butler? They must have had-"

"Or a birthright?" said Berry. "We know they had birthrights. And I'd sooner be a birthright than a wine-cooler any day. Besides, Jonah could go as a mess of pottage. There's an idea for you. Talk about originality!"

"Originality!" said his wife contemptuously. "Studied imbecility, you mean. Anyone can originate drivel."

"It's in the blood," said Jonah. "One of his uncles was a Master in Lunacy."

I laid down my pen and leaned back in my chair.

"It comes to this," said I. "Whatever he goes as, he'll play the fool. Am I right, sir?"

"Yes," said every one.

"(A voice, 'Shame')," said Berry.

"Consequently he must be given a part which he can clown without queering the whole scene."

"Exactly," said Daphne.

"What d'you mean, talking about parts and scenes?" said Berry. "I thought it was going to be a ball."

"So it is," said his wife. "But people are taking parties, and every party's going to represent some tale or picture or play or a bit of it. I've told you all this once."

"Twice," corrected her husband. "Once last night with eclat, and once this morning with your mouth full, Jilly's told me three times, and the others once each. That's seven altogether. Eight, with this. I'm beginning to get the hang of the thing. Tell me again."

His voice subsided into the incoherent muttering, which immediately precedes slumber. This was too much. In silence Jonah handed Daphne his cigarette. By stretching out an arm, as she lay on the sofa, my sister was just able to apply the burning tobacco to the lobe of her husband's ear. With a yell the latter flung his feet from the club-kerb and sat up in his chair. When he turned, Jonah was placidly smoking in the distance, while Daphne met her victim's accusing eye with a disdainful stare, her hands empty in her lap. The table, at which I was writing, shook with Jill's suppressed merriment.

"The stake's upstairs," said Berry bitterly. "Or would you rather gouge out my eyes? Will you flay me alive? Because if so, I'll go and get the knives and things. What about after tea? Or would you rather get it over?"

"You shouldn't be so tiresome," said Daphne. Berry shook his head sorrowfully.

"Listen," he said. "The noise you hear is not the bath running away. No, no. My heart is bleeding, sister."

"Better sear that, too," said his wife, reaching for Jonah's cigarette.

It was just then that my eyes, wandering round the library, lighted on a copy of "Don Quixote." "The very thing," said I suddenly.

"What?" said Jill.

"Berry can go as Sancho Panza."

The others stared at me. Berry turned to his wife.

"You and Jill run along, dear, and pad the boxroom. Jonah and I'll humour him till you're ready."

"Sancho Panza?" said Daphne. "But we're going to do The Caliph's Wedding out of the Arabian Nights."

"Let's drop the Eastern touch," I said, getting up from the table. "It's sure to be overdone. Give them a page of Cervantes instead. Jonah can be Don Quixote. You'll make a priceless Dorothea in boy's clothes, with your hair down your back. Jilly can be-- Wait a minute."

I stepped to the shelf and picked out the old quarto. After a moment's search:

"Here you are," said I. "Daughter of Don Diego. Sancho Panza strikes her when he's going the rounds at night. 'She was beautiful as a thousand pearls, with her hair inclosed under a net of gold and green silk.' And I can be the Squire of the Wood, complete with false nose."

"I rather like the idea," said Daphne, "only-"

"Wait till I find the description of Dorothea," said I, turning over the pages. "Here it is. Read that, my dear," and I handed her the book.

In silence my sister read the famous lines. Then she laid the book down, and slipped an arm round my neck.

"Boy," she said, "you flatter me, but I can sit on my hair."

Then and there it was decided to illustrate Cervantes.

"And Sancho can wear his governor's dress," said Jill.

"Quarter of an hour back," said Berry, "-I told you that it was no good ordering the wild horses, because nothing would induce me to go. Since then my left ear has been burned, as with a hot iron. Under the circumstances it is hardly likely that-"

"Oh dear," said Daphne wearily.

I reached for the telephone and picked up the receiver.

"Number, please."

"Exchange," I said, "there is here a fat swab."

"What?"

"Swab," said I. "I'll spell it. S for soldier, W, A for apple, B for Baldwin."

"Have you a complaint to make?"

"That's it," said I:

"About this swab. You see, he won't go to the ball. His ticket has been bought, his role chosen, his face passed over. And yet-"

"Mayfair supervisor," said a voice.

"That's done it," said I.

"I mean-er-Supervisor."

"Speaking."

"I want to complain about our swab here."

"Oh yes. Can you tell me what's wrong with it?"

"I think its liver must be out of order."

"Very well. I'll report it to the engineers. They'll send a man down to-morrow."

"Thanks awfully."

"Good-bye."

I replaced the receiver and crossed to where Berry was sitting, nursing his wounded ear.

"They're going to report you to the engineers," I said shortly. "A man will be down to-morrow."

"As for you," said my brother-in-law, "I take it your solicitors will accept service. For the others, what shall I say? Just because I hesitate to put off my mantle of dignity and abase this noble intellect by associating with a herd of revellers and-er-"

"Libertines?" said Jonah.

"Toss-pots, my ears are to be burned and foul aspersions cast upon a liver, till then spotless. Am I discouraged? No. Emboldened rather. In short, I will attend the rout."

"At last," sighed Daphne.

"My dear. I ordered the supper yesterday. We're sharing a table with the Scarlets. But you needn't have burned my ear."

"Only means some one was talking about you," said Daphne. "Why did you say you weren't going?"

"A passion for perversity," said I.

Berry stole a cautious glance at the time. The hands stood at a quarter past three. A slow grin spread over his countenance.

"Didn't you say something about a sacred concert?" he said. "Good Heavens," cried Daphne, jumping up. "I forgot all about it. It begins at thr-"

Arrested by her husband's seraphic smile, she swung round and looked at the clock.

Berry apostrophized the carpet.

"Sweet are the uses of perversity," he said, with inimitable inflection. For a moment his wife eyed him, speechless with inindignation. Then:

"I hope you've got ear-ache," she said.

Berry settled himself among the cushions.

"I have," he said, "But back-ache would have been worse."

I sank back in my seat with an injured air. The coach swayed slightly, as it rattled over the points. The train was gathering speed. In the far corner of the compartment the brooch of a gay green hat winked at me over the top of The Daily Glass.

"That's a nice thing," said I.

"What?" said the girl, laying down her paper.

"Oh, nothing. Only the train's run through the station I was going to get out at. That's all."

"How tiresome for you!"

"There are consolations. You would never have opened your small red mouth, but for my exclamation. And I should never have exclaimed, but for-"

"It's very rude to make personal remarks." This severely.

"Only when the person's plain or the remark rude. Note the alliteration."

"What are you going to do?

"Obey orders, I suppose." said I, pointing to the door.

"'Wait until the train stops?'"

"I think so," said I, looking at the flashing hedgerows.

"You see, I've given up acting for the pictures. Otherwise, I should adjust my handcuffs, run along the foot-board, and dive in the direction of the nearest pond."

"While I-?"

"Lay perfectly still. You see, I should be carrying you in my teeth."

"Thanks awfully."

"Not at all. It's a great life."

"It's a rotten death."

"Possibly. Otherwise, you emerge from the infirmary to find that A Jump for Life has already left the Edgware Road for Reading and is eagerly expected at Stockton-on-Tees, that the company for which you work is paying twenty-seven percent and that rehearsals for Kicked to Death begin on Monday. However."

I stopped. The girl was leaning back in her corner, laughing helplessly.

"It's all very fine to laugh," said I. "How would you like to be carried a county and a half beyond your station?"

"You should have asked before you got in."

"Asked?" said I. "The only person I didn't ask was the traffic superintendent himself. They said he was away on his holiday."

"They can't have understood what you said."

"I admit my articulation is defective-has been ever since a fellow backed into my car at Brooklands, did it twenty pounds' worth of damage, and then sent in a bill for a new tail-lamp. At the same time-"

Here another station roared by. I was too late to see the name. "I shall swear in a minute," said I. "I can feel it coming. I suppose we do stop somewhere, if only to coal, don't we?"

"Well, we may stop before, but I know we stop at Friars Rory, because that's where I get out."

I turned to her open-mouthed. She was consulting a wrist-watch and did not see the look on my face. Friars Rory was where I was bound for. We had run through the station ten minutes ago. I knew the place well. I had just time to recover, when she looked up.

"We're late now," she said. "I expect that's why we're going so fast."

"You know," I said, "I don't believe you asked either."

"If this was the right train? Well, I've used it, going down to hunt, for two seasons. Besides, I told a porter-"

"Can't have understood what you said," said I, producing my cigarette-case. "Will you smoke? There's plenty of time."

"What d'you mean?"

"I was going to Rory, too. My dear, if this train really stops there, there must be the very deuce of a hairpin corner coming, or else we're on the Inner Circle. We've passed it once, you know, about nine miles back, I should think. No, twelve. This is Shy Junction." We roared between the platforms. "Wonderful how they put these engines along, isn't it?"

But my companion was staring out of the window. The next moment she swung round and looked at me wildly. Gravely I offered her a cigarette. She waved me away impatiently.

"Have we really passed Rory?" she said.

"Ages ago," said I. "Your porter can't possibly have under-"

She stamped a small foot, bright in its patent-leather shoe.

"Aren't you going to do anything?" she demanded.

"I am already composing a letter to the absent traffic superintendent which will spoil his holiday. I shall say that, in spite of the fact that the dark lady with the eyes and the seal-skin coat asked the porter with the nose-"

"Idiot. Can't you do anything now?"

"I can wave to the engine-driver as we go round a bend if you think it's any good, or, of course, there's always the communication cord, only-"

I broke off and looked at her. There was trouble in her great eyes. The small foot tapped the floor nervously. One gloved hand gripped the arm of her seat. I could have sworn the red lips quivered a moment ago. I leaned forward.

"Lass," I said, "is it important that you should be at Friars Rory this morning?"

She looked up quickly. Then, with a half-laugh, "I did want to rather," she said. "But it can't be helped. You see, my mare, Dear One-she's been taken ill, and-and-oh, I am a fool," she said, turning away, her big eyes full of tears.

"No, you're not," said I sturdily, patting her hand.

"I know what it is to have a sick horse. Buck up, lass! We'll be there within the hour."

"What d'you mean?" she said, feeling in her bag for a handkerchief.

"I have a plan," said I mysteriously. "Can't you find it?"

She felt in the pocket of her coat and turned to the bag again.

"I'm afraid my maid must have-"

I took a spare handkerchief from my breast-pocket.

"Would you care to honour me by using this to-er-"

"Go on," she said, taking it with a smile.

"To brush away some of the prettiest tears-"

She laughed exquisitely, put the handkerchief to her eyes, and then smiled her thanks over the white cambric. I let down the window nearest me and put out my head. A long look assured m

e that we were nearing Ringley. My idea was to pull the cord, stop the train in the station, pay the fine, and raise a car in the town, which should bring us to Rory in forty minutes by road.

"But what are you going to do?" said the girl.

"Wait," said I over my shoulder. Again I put out my head. In the distance I could see red houses-Ringley. I put up my right hand and felt for the chain. As I did so, there seemed to be less weigh on the train-a strange feeling. I hesitated, the wind flying in my face. We were not going so fast-so evenly. Yet, if we had run through Shy Junction, surely we were not going to stop at-- The next moment I saw what it was. We were the last coach, and there was a gap, widening slowly, between us and the rest of the train. We had been slipped. I took in my head to find my companion clasping my arm and crying.

"No, no. You mustn't, you mustn't. You're awfully good, but-"

"It's all right," I said. "I didn't have to. We're in the Ringley slip."

"And we're going to stop there?"

"Probably with an unconscionable jerk-a proper full stop. None of your commas for a slip. But there! I might have known. It's a long train that breaks no journey, and there's many a slip 'twixt Town and the North of England. However. If there isn't a train back soon, I'm going to charter a car. May I have the honour of driving you back to Rory and the mare? I'm sure the sight of her mistress will put her on her legs again quicker than all the slings and mashes of outrageous surgeons. I take it you know your Macbeth?"

She laughed merrily. I looked at her appreciatively, sitting opposite and perched, as I was, on one of the compartment's dividing arms.

"Sunshine after rain," I murmured. Sweet she looked in her gay green hat and her long seal-skin coat. Beneath this, the green of a skirt above the slim silk stockings and the bright shoes. Gloves and bag on the seat by her side. The face was eager, clear-cut, its features regular. But only the great eyes mattered. Perhaps, also, the mouth-

"You're a kind man," she said slowly. "And it was sweet of you to think of pulling the cord. But I should have been awfully upset, if you had."

The coach ran alongside of the platform and stopped with a jerk that flung me backwards and my lady on to my chest. I sat up with my arms full of fur-coat, while its owner struggled to regain her feet.

"Infants in arms need not be paid for," said I, setting her upright with a smile. "I hope the station-master saw you, or he mightn't believe-- Where were we? Oh, I know. You'd have been upset, would you? More upset than this?"

"Oh, much," she said, her eyebrows raised above a faint smile. "You see, then I should have been upset properly."

As she spoke, she laid a hand on my shoulder, to steady herself, while she peered into the mirror above my head. I looked round and up at the smiling face, six inches away.

"Then I wish I had," said I. One hand was settling her plumed hat. Without looking down, she set the other firmly upon my chin, and turned my face round and away.

"Open the door and hand me out nicely," she said.

I rose and put on my hat.

"Do you ever play the piano?" I said suddenly.

"Why?"

"I was thinking of the fingers. You have such an exquisite touch."

The evident pleasure the chestnut mare evinced at her mistress's arrival was a real tribute to personality. Also the vet's morning report was more satisfactory. It seemed that Dear One was mending. Greatly comforted, my lady let me give her lunch at the Duck Inn. Afterwards-there being no train till four o'clock-she came with me to choose a spaniel pup. It was to purchase him that I had started for Friars Rory that sunshiny day.

"What shall you call him?" she said, as we made our way to the kennels. "I really don't know," said I. "What about Seal-skin? Must be something in memory of to-day."

She laughed merrily. Then:

"Why not Non-Stop?"

"I know," I said. "I'll call him Upset."

Three black and white urchins gambolled about us, flapping ears, wagging ridiculous tails, uncertainly stumbling about upon baby legs.

"Oh, you darlings," said the girl, stooping among them, caressing, in turn caressed. She raised a radiant face to me.

"However will you choose which you'll have?"

I leaned against the wall and regarded the scene before me.

"I like the big one best," I said.

"The big one?" she said, standing up. "Aren't they all the same-"

"The one on its hind legs," said I. "With the big eyes."

"Ah," she said, smiling. "But that's not for sale, I'm afraid. Besides, its temper's very uncertain, as you know."

"I'd risk that. The spaniel is renowned for its affectionate disposition. And what dog wouldn't turn, if it was put in the wrong train? Besides, your coat's so silky."

"But I'm sure my ears don't droop, and I've never had distemper. Then there's my pedigree. You don't know-"

"Don't I? By A Long Chalk, out of The Common's good enough for most people."

"Oh, you are hopeless!" she said, laughing. She turned to the scrambling pups. "Who's for a mad master?" she said.

Suddenly a bulldog appeared. She stood regarding us for a moment, her massive head a little on one side. Then a great smile spread over her countenance, and she started to sway in our direction, wagging a greeting with her hind quarters, as bulldogs do. Two of the puppies loped off to meet her. The long-suffering way in which she permitted them to mouth her argued that she was accustomed to being the kindly butt of their exuberance. The third turned to follow his fellows, hesitated, caught my lady's eye, and rushed back to his new-found friend.

"That's the one for me," said I. "Give me good judgment. I shall call him Paris."

"Appropriately. Off with the old love and on with the new. I'm sure he's faithless, and I expect the bulldog's been awfully kind to him, haven't you, dear?" She patted the snuffling beauty. "Besides, I gave him the glad eye, which wasn't fair."

"I'll bet that's how Venus got the apple, if the truth were known. Any way, I'm going to choose him for choosing you. You see. We shall get on well."

"Juno, Juno!" cried a woman's voice from the house. Immediately the bulldog started and turned towards the doorway.

"What did I say?" said I. "Something seemed to tell me you were a goddess, when-"

"When?"

"When you were upset this morning. I saw you very close then, you see. Well! What sort of weather have you been having in Olympus lately? And how's Vulcan? I suppose Cupid must be getting quite a big boy?"

She laughed. "You wouldn't know him if you saw him," she said.

"Don't be too sure. When does he go to the 'Varsity? Or shan't you send him?"

"He's there now. Doing awfully well, too!"

"Taken a first in the Honour School of Love, I suppose? Is he as good a shot as ever?"

"He's a very good son."

"Ought to be," said I.

"Yes," she said steadily, gazing with eyes half-closed, over the fields and hedgerows, away to the distant hills, the faintest smile hung on her parted lips. "He's never given me a day's trouble since he was born. I don't think he will, either, not for a long time, any way."

Thoughtfully I pulled on my gloves. Then:

"My dear," said I, "for that boast you may shortly expect a judgment."

"More judgments?" she cried with a laugh, turning to look at me, the straight brows raised in mockery. "Which will cost you more, my fair Olympian, than a glad eye."

A quarter past five. The train was passing through the outskirts of London. A bare ten minutes more, and we should arrive. I looked anxiously at the girl, wondering where, when, how I should see her again. For the last half-hour we had spoken but little. She had seemed sleepy, and I had begged her to rest. Dreamily she had thanked me, saying that she had had little sleep the night before. Then the eyes had smiled gently and disappeared. It was almost dark now, so swift had been the passing of the winter's day. Lights shone and blinked out of the darkness. Another train roared by, and we slackened speed. Slowly we crawled over a bridge spanning mean streets. One could not but mark the bustling scene below. The sudden din compelled attention. I looked down upon the writhing traffic, the glistening roadway, the pavements crowded with hurrying, jostling forms. An over-lighted public house made the cheap shops seem ill-lit, poorer still. Its dirty splendour dominated everything: even the tall trams took on a lesser light. The lumbering roar of wheels, the insistent clamour of an obstructed tram, the hoarse shouts of hawkers crying their wares-all this rose up above the rumble of the slow-moving train. I was glad when we had left the spot behind. It would not do after the country-side. It occurred to me that, but a little space back some seventy rolling years-here also had stretched fair green fields. Perchance the very ones poor dying Falstaff had babbled of. We slunk past an asylum-a long mass, dark, sinister. By this even the trams seemed to hasten. I could just hear their thin song, as they slid forward.

Enough. Already I was half-way to depression. Resolutely I turned, giving the window my shoulder. My Lady had not stirred. Wistfully I regarded her closed eyes. In five minutes we should be in, and there were things I wanted to say... A smile crept into the gentle face.

"Go on," she said quietly. "I'm listening."

"I was wondering, goddess, if I should ever see you again."

"Oh, probably! The world's awfully small. Not for some time, though. I leave for Cannes to-morrow, to join my people."

"Cannes!" I exclaimed.

"Yes. You must have heard of it. Where the weather comes from."

"Where it stays, you mean," I growled, as the rising wind flung a handful of raindrops against the windows. For a moment I sat silent, looking out into the night, thinking. Except for a luncheon, to-morrow was free. And I could cut that. A network of shining rails showed that the terminus was at hand. I turned to my lady.

"Then we shall meet again to-morrow," I said gravely. "I have to go down to Dover, too."

"What for?" This suspiciously.

I rose and took up my hat. "Another dog," I said shortly.

She broke into silvery merriment. At length:

"Nonsense," she said, rising.

"Not at all," said I. "The Dover dogs are famous."

"Sea-dogs, perhaps," she murmured, setting one knee on the cushions to look into the glass. "Well, you've been awfully kind, and I'm very grateful. And now-" she swung round-"good-bye." She held out a slim hand.

The train drew up to the platform.

"Good-bye?" said I, taking the cool fingers. She nodded.

"And I hope you'll get a good dog at Dover," she said, smiling. "I shall think of you. You see, I'm going by Folkestone and Boulogne."

In silence I bent over the slight fingers. Slowly they slipped away.

I opened the door. Then I turned to the girl.

"You know," I said, "the Folkestone dogs."

"At last," said Berry, as the car swung into line in Kensington Gore, about a furlong from the doors of the Albert Hall. "A short hour and a quarter, and we shall be there. Can anyone tell me why I consented to come?"

"To please yourself," said Daphne shortly.

"Wrong," said her husband. "The correct answer will appear in our next issue. Five million consolation prizes will be awarded to those who, in the opinion of-"

"Have you got the tickets?" said his wife.

"Tickets!" said Berry contemptuously. "I've had to put my handkerchief in my shoe, and my cigarette-case has lodged slightly to the right and six inches below my heart. You'll have to make a ring round me, if I want to smoke."

"Have you got the tickets?" said Daphne.

"My dear, I distinctly remember giving them to-"

A perfect shriek went up from Daphne and Jill. The footman slipped on to the step and opened the door.

"Did you call, madam?"

"Yes," said Berry. "Give Mrs. Pleydell the tickets."

Our party was an undoubted success. Jonah looked wonderful, Daphne and Jill priceless. With her magnificent hair unbound, her simple boy's dress, her little rough shoes at the foot of legs bare to the knee, my sister was a glorious sight. And an exquisite Jill, in green and white and gold, ruffled it with the daintiest air and a light in her grey eyes that shamed her jewellery. Berry was simply immense. A brilliant make-up, coupled with the riotous extravagance of his dress, carried him half-way. But the pomp of carriage, the circumstance of gait which he assumed, the manner of the man beggar description. Cervantes would have wept with delight, could he have witnessed it. The Squire of the Wood passed.

And did little else. And that somewhat listlessly, till he saw my lady. That was just after supper, and she was sitting on the edge of a box, scanning her programme. All lovely, dressed as Potpourri.

"You were right," said I. "The world is small." We floated into the music. "So is your waist. But, then I learned that this morning. So. When you were upset."

"Do you like my dress?"

"Love it. Where did it come from?"

She mentioned a French firm.

"Ah!" said I, "Give me the judgment of Paris."

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