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   Chapter 11 THE LOVE SCENE

The Brother of Daphne By Dornford Yates Characters: 33438

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


When I had drawn blood for the third time, I felt that honour was satisfied, so I cleaned the safety razor carefully and put it away.

Quarter of an hour later I entered the dining-room.

"I said so," said Daphne.

"I know," said I, frowning.

"You don't even know what I said."

"I know that some surmise of yours has proved correct, which is enough."

The coffee really was hot. After drinking a little, my smile returned.

"Tell him," said Berry.

"We've been thinking it over," said Daphne, "and we've come to the conclusion that you'd better call."

"On whom? For what?"

"Be call-boy."

I rose to my feet.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I said, "I have to thank you this day-it is meant for a day, isn't it?-for the honour you have done me. Although I can scarcely hope to sustain the role in a manner worthy of the best traditions of-"

"We'd cast you for something else, if it was safe," said Daphne.

"You don't really think I'm going to call, do you?"

"Why not?"

"And have to stand in the wings while you all get crowds of cabbages and things. Not much! I've been relying on this show ever since Berry trod on the big marrow."

"Well, of course, there is Buckingham," said Berry.

"Or the soothsayer," said Jill.

"You are now talking," I said. "Soothsaying is one of my fortes-my Martello tower, in fact. Of course, Hurlingham-"

"Buckingham, stupid!"

"Well, Buckingham, then, has his points. Whom does he espouse?"

"He doesn't espouse anyone."

"Whom does he love, then?"

Berry and Daphne looked uneasily at one another. I turned to Jonah, who was deep in The Sportsman.

"Who's Buckingham in love with, Jonah"

"Down and four to play. What?" said that worthy.

"Oh, Buckingham? He's hanging round the Queen mostly, I think, but he's got two or three other irons in the fire."

"I will play Hurl-Buckingham," said I.

When Berry had finished, I reminded him that he had suggested the part, and that my mind was made up.

After a lengthy argument, in the course of which Berry drew a stage on the table-cloth to show why it was I couldn't act:

"Oh, well, I suppose he'd better play it," said Daphne: "but I scent trouble."

"That's right," I said. "Let me have a copy of the play."

Berry rose and walked towards the door. With his fingers on the handle, he turned.

"If you don't know what some of the hard words mean," he said, "I shall be in the library."

"Why in the library?" said Daphne.

"I'm going to write in another scene."

"Another scene?"

"Well, an epilogue, then."

"What's it going to be?"

"Buckingham's murder," said Berry. "I can see it all. It will be hideously realistic. All women and children will have to leave the theatre."

As he went out:

"I expect the Duke will fight desperately," said I.

Berry put his head round the door.

"No," he said, "that's the dastardly part of it. It is from behind that his brains are dashed out with a club."

I stretched out my hand for a roll.

"Do you know how a log falls?" said Berry. "Because, if-"

I could not get Daphne to see that, if Berry had not withdrawn his head, the roll would not have hit the Sargent. However.

The good works of which Daphne is sometimes full occasionally overflow and deluge those in her immediate vicinity. Very well, then. A local institution, whose particular function has for the moment escaped me, suddenly required funds. Perhaps I should say that it was suddenly noised abroad that this was the case, for it was one of the kind that is always in this uncomfortable plight. If one day someone were to present it with a million pounds and four billiard tables, next week we should be asked to subscribe to a fund to buy it a bagatelle board. At any rate, in a burst of generosity, Daphne had undertaken that we would get up a show. When she told us of her involving promise, we were appalled.

"A show?" gasped Jonah.

"Yes," said Berry. "You know, a show-, display. We are to exhibit us to a horrified assembly."

"But, Daphne darling," said Jill. "What have you done?"

"It's all right," said my sister. "We can do a play. A little one, you know, and the Merrows will help."

"Of course," said Berry. "Some telling trifle or other. Can't we dramatize 'The Inchcape Rock'?"

"Excellent," said I. "I should like to play the abbot. It would be rather suitable, too. If you remember, 'they blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok."'

"Why not?" said Berry. "We could have a very fervent little scene with them all blessing you."

"And perhaps Heath Robinson would paint the scenery."

And so on.

In the end, Berry and Jonah had constructed quite a passable little drama, by dint of drawing largely on Dumas in the first place, and their own imagination in the second. There were one or two strong situations, relieved by some quite creditable light comedy, and all the 'curtains' were good. The village hall, complete with alleged stage, was engaged, and half the county were blackmailed into taking tickets. There were only twelve characters, of which we accounted for five, and it was arranged that we should all twelve foregather four days beforehand, to rehearse properly. The other seven artists were to stay with us at White Ladies for the rehearsals and performance, and generally till the affair had blown over.

It was ten days before the date of the production that I was cast for Buckingham. Six days to become word perfect. When three of them had gone, I explained to the others that, for all their jealousy, they would find that I should succeed in getting into the skin of the part, and that, as it was impossible to polish my study of George Villiers in the teeth of interference which refused to respect the privacy even of my own bedroom, I should go apart with Pomfret, and perfect my rendering in the shelter of the countryside.

"Have pity upon our animal life!" cried Berry, when I made known my intention. "Consider the flora and fauna of our happy shire!"

"Hush, brother," said I. "You know not what you say. I shall not seek the fields. Rather-"

"That's something. We don't want you hauled up for sheep-worrying just now."

"-shall I repair to some sequestered grove. There, when I shall commune with myself, Nature will go astray. Springtime will come again. Trees will break forth into blossom, meadows will blow anew, and the voice of the turtle-"

"If you don't ring off," said Berry. "I'll set George at you."

George is our gorgonzola, which brings me back to Pomfret. Pomfret is a little two-seater. I got him because I thought he'd be so useful just to run to and fro when the car was out. And he is. We made friends at Olympia, and I took to him at once. A fortnight later, Jill was driving him delightedly round and round in front of the house. After watching her for a while, Berry got in and sat down by her side.

"Not that I want a drive," he explained carefully; "but I want to see if my dressing-case will be able to stand it as far as the station."

"If you think" I began, but the next moment Jill had turned down the drive, and I watched the three go curling out of sight.

When they returned, half an hour later, Berry unreservedly withdrew his remark about the dressing-case, and the next day, when Daphne suggested that Pomfret should bear a small basket of grapes to the vicarage, he told her she ought to be ashamed of herself.

From that day Pomfret was one of us.

And now, with three days left to learn my words, and a copy of the play in my pocket, I drove forth into the countryside. When I had idly covered about twenty miles, I turned down a little lane and pulled up by the side of a still wood. I stopped the engine and listened. Not a sound. I left the road and strolled in among the trees till I came to where one lay felled, making a little space. It was a sunshiny morning in October, and summer was dying hard. For the most part, the soft colourings of autumn were absent, and, as if loyal to their old mistress, the woods yet wore the dear green livery, faded a little, perhaps, but the more grateful because it should so soon be laid aside. The pleasant place suited my purpose well, and for twenty minutes I wrestled with the powerful little scene Jonah had written between the Queen and Buckingham. By the end of that time I knew it fairly well, so I left it for a while and stealthily entered the old oak chamber-Act III, Scene I-by the secret door behind the arras. After bringing down the curtain with two ugly looks, four steps, and a sneer, I sat down on the fallen beech-tree, lighted a cigarette, and wondered why I had rejected the post of call-boy. Then I started on the love-scene again.

"'Madam, it is said that I am a harsh man. I am not harsh to every one. Better for me, perhaps, if I were; yet so God made me.'"

"When do you open?"

"That's wrong," said I. "'Can you be gentle, then?' comes after that. Now, however, that you have shattered the atmosphere I had created-of course, I think you're absolutely beautiful, and, if you'll wait a second, I'll get Pomfret's rug."

"I don't know what you mean, but thanks all the same, and if Pomfret doesn't mind, this tree is rather grubby."

I got the rug and spread it on the fallen trunk for her. She was what the Irish are popularly believed to call 'a shlip of a ghirl,' clad in a dark blue riding-habit that fitted her slim figure beautifully. No hat covered her thick, blue-black hair, which was parted in the middle and loosely knotted behind. Here and there a wisp of it was in the act of escaping. I watched them greedily. Merry grey eyes and the softest colouring, with a small red mouth, ready to join the eyes in their laughter if its owner listed. She was wearing natty little patent-leather boots, and her hunting hat and crop lay on the log by her side. She sat down and began to pull the gloves off a pair of small brown hands.

"Do you know if cats ever drink water?" she said musingly.

"From what I remember of last year's statistics, there was, I believe, a marked decrease in the number of alcoholism cases reported as occurring amongst that species. I'm speaking off-hand, you know."

"Never mind that: it's very good hearing."

"I know, and, talking of tight-ropes, Alice, have you seen the March Hare lately?"

She threw her head back and laughed merrily. Then-

"We are fools, you know," she said.

"Perhaps. Still, a little folly-"

"Is a dangerous thing. And, now, when do you open?"

"To-morrow week. And, owing to the iniquitous provisions of the new Shops Act, foisted by a reckless Government upon a-"

"You can cut that bit."

"Thank you. We close the same night."

"Positively for one performance only?"

"Exactly. And that's why I shall only just be able to get you a seat."

"You needn't trouble."

"What! Don't you want to come?"

"Is it going to be very good?"

"Good? My dear Alice, we shall that night light such a candle as shall never be put out. Electric light is doomed. The knell of acetylene gas has sounded."

"You've only got a few lines, I suppose?"

I looked at her sorrowfully.

"Whose rug is she sitting on?" I said.

"Pomfret's."

"Pomfret is but the bailee of the rug, Alice."

"Oh," she cried, "he's going to be a barrister!"

"Talking of cats," I said stiffly, "and speaking as counsel of five years' standing-"

I stopped, for she was on her feet now, facing me, and standing very close, with her hands behind her and a tilted chin, looking into my eyes.

"Talking of what, did you say?"

For a second I hesitated. Then:

"Gnats," I said.

She turned and resumed her place on the fallen tree. "Now you're going on with your rehearsal," she announced. "I'll hear you."

"Will you read the cues?"

"Give me the book."

I showed her the point I had reached when she entered.

"You are the Queen," I said. "It's rather confusing, because I had thought you were Alice; but it can't be helped. Besides, you came on just before you did, really, and you've spoken twice before you opened your small red mouth."

"Is that how it describes the Queen?" This suspiciously.

"I was really thinking of Alice, but-"

"But what?"

"The Queen has got a delicate, white throat. It says so."

"How can you tell? I've got a stock on."

"I said the Queen had. Besides, when you put your face up to mine just now-"

"Hush! Besides, you were looking me in the eyes all the time, so-"

"And, if I was, do you blame me?"

"I'm not in the witness-box now, counsel."

"No, but you're sitting on Pomfret's rug, and Pomfret is but the-"

She began to laugh helplessly.

"Come along, Alice," I said. "'Yet so God made me. Now you say, 'Can you be gentle, then?' and give me the glad eye.

"It only says 'archly' here, in brackets."

"Same thing," said I

"'Can you be gentle, then?'"

A pause. Then:

"Go on," she said.

"I'm waiting for my cue."

"I've said it-Hare."

"John or March?"

"March, of course. John is an actor."

"Thank you, Alice, dear. I repeat, I await my cue, the which you incontinently withhold. Selah!"

She tried not to laugh.

"I've given it, you silly man."

"My dear, I come in on the eye. It's most important. You must give it to me, because I've got to give it back to you in a second or two."

She gave it me exquisitely.

"'There are with whom I can be more than gentle, madam.'"

Here I returned the eye with vigour.

"'What manner of men are these you favour?'"

"'They are not men, madam. Neither are they favoured of me.

"'Of whom, then?'"

"'Of Heaven, madam, and at birth. I mean fair women."'

"Such as-"

"'Such as you, madam.'"

The way she said 'Hush!' at that was a flash of genius. It was indescribably eloquent. She forbade and invited in the same breath. It was wonderful, and it made me Buckingham. And Buckingham it brought to her feet. Little wonder. It would have brought a cardinal. In the passionate rhetoric of my lines I wooed her, sitting there on the tree trunk, her head thrown back, eyes closed, lips parted, and always the faint smile that sends a man mad. I never had to tell her to rise. To the line she swayed towards me. To the line she slipped into my arms. She even raised her lips to mine at the last. Then, as I stooped for the kiss, she placed her two small hands firmly on my face and pushed me away.

"Very nice, indeed," she said. "You know your lines well, and you know how to speak them. Hare, I think you're going to be rather good."

I wiped the perspiration off my forehead.

"You made me good, then. I shall never give such a show again."

"Of course you will."

"Never! Never, Alice! But you-you're wonderful. Good Heavens, lass, this might be the two hundredth night you'd played the part. Are you some great one I've not recognized? And will you sign a picture-postcard for our second housemaid-the one who saw 'Buzz-Buzz' eighteen times?"

"What! Not the one with fair hair?"

"And flat feet? The very one. Junket, her name is. By Curds out of Season. My mistake. I was thinking of our beagle. Don't think I'm quite mad. I'm only drunk. You're the wine."

"The Queen is, you mean."

"No, no-you, Alice."

She looked at her wrist-watch.

"Oh, all right," I said. "The Queen's the wine, the play's the thing. Anything you like. Only I'm tired of play-acting, and I only want to talk to Alice. Come and let me introduce Pomfret."

"He hasn't been here all the time?"

"Waiting in the road."

"Oh, he's a horse."

I laughed by way of answer, and we walked to where Pomfret stood, patient, immobile. I introduced him elaborately. My lady swept him a curtsey.

"I have to thank you for lending me your rug, Pomfret," she said.

I replied for the little chap:

"It's not my rug; I am but the bail-"

"That's all right. Is your master nice to you?"

"But yes, lady. Don't you like him?"

"He seems to mean well."

"Isn't that rather unkind?" said Pomfret.

"I'm not in the witness-box now."

"Then there's no reason why you shouldn't tell the truth."

"Really, Pomfret!"

"Forgive me, Alice. I'm only a young car, and sometimes, when the petrol gets into my tank-"

"I hope you don't take more than you should."

"I'm sober enough to see you've got a fine pair of headlights."

"I'm afraid you're of rather a coming-on disposition, Pomfret."

"Oh, I can do my thirty-five. His licence will show you that.

"Oh, Pomfret, did you get it endorsed?"

"It was his own fault. Kept egging me on all the time, and then, when we were stopped, tells the police that it's a physical impossibility for me to do more than fifteen. And I had to stand th

ere and hear him say it! He told me afterwards that it was only a facon de parler, but I was angry. I simply shook with anger, the radiator was boiling, too, and one of the tires burst with rage."

"And I suppose the petrol pipe was choked with emotion."

"And the engine almost throttled in consequence. But that is another story. And now, won't you let me take you for a little run? My clutch is not at all fierce."

My companion leaned against Pomfret's hood and laughed.

"He's a bit of a nut, isn't he?" said I.

"Do you think he's quite safe?"

"Rather! Besides, I shall be with you."

"That's not saying much."

"Thank you. And talking of gurnats-"

"Where will you take me?"

"Whithersoever she listed."

"Is it far from here to Tendon Harrow?"

"About sixteen miles."

"Would you mind, Hare?"

"You know I'd love it."

I started up Pomfret, and we settled ourselves in the car. As luck would have it, I had a second coat with me, and she said she was quite warm and comfortable.

Presently she told me all that had happened. In the morning she had ridden alone to hounds. The meet had been at Will Cross. The mare was keen, and for a few miles all went well. Then the hounds had split. Most of the field had followed the master, but she and a few others had followed the huntsman. After a while she had dropped a little behind. Then there had been a check. She had seized upon the opportunity it afforded her to slip off and tighten her girths.

"Wasn't there any man there to-"

"Wait. The next second the hounds picked up the scent again, and, before I knew where I was, the mare had jerked the bridle out of my hand and was half-way across the first field."

"And didn't anyone catch her?"

"The man who caught her is a brute. He would have wanted to tighten my girths for me, and that's why I dropped behind. I felt it would be him, so I slid out of sight behind a hedge, and when I saw it was him coming back with her, I didn't want his smile, so I just ran into the woods and started to walk home."

"Did he see you?"

"No. He may be there still, for all I know."

"He must have been having a roaring time leading the mare about all day."

"I hope it'll teach him not to pester a girl again."

I sighed. "Some of us are brutes, aren't we?"

"Yes."

A pause. Then:

"But some men have been very nice to me."

"The devil they have!" said I.

Here, as certain of our own writers say and have said, a gurgle of delight escaped her. I leaned forward and grabbed at something, caught and handed it to her. She stared at my empty palm.

"Your gurgle, I think."

"Oh," she said, laughing, "you are mad. But I like you. Now, why is that?"

"Personal charm," said I. "The palmist who sits where the draughts are in the Brown Park Hotel, West Central, said I had a magnetism of my own."

"There you are. I never believed in palmistry."

"She also told me to beware of lifts, and a fellow trod on one of my spats in the one at Dover Street the very next morning. Hullo!"

Pomfret slowed gradually down and stopped. I turned to the girl.

"This is what we pay the boy sixteen shillings a week for."

"What's the matter?"

"Petrol's run out. I'm awfully sorry. The silly serf must have forgotten to fill up before I started."

"My dear Hare, what shall we do?"

I made a rapid calculation.

"We can't be more than a quarter of a mile from Fell. In fact, I'm almost sure it's at the foot of the next hill. Yes, I know it is. And if we can get Pomfret to the crest of this rise, it's all down-hill from there to the village. Shall we try, Alice?"

"Rather!"

She got out, and I followed. Fortunately the slope was a gentle one, and, without much of the harder labour, we managed to top the rise. Then we got in again, and began to descend the hill. When the brakes failed, one after another, I was, if possible, more pained than surprised. I rebuked Pomfret and turned to my companion:

"Do you mind making ready to die?" I said. "I'm sorry, but if we don't take the next corner, I'm afraid we shall be what is called 'found later'."

We took it on two wheels, and I then ran Pomfret's near front wheel on to the low bank by the side of the road.

"Put your arms round my neck," I cried.

She did so, and the next moment we plunged into the bushes. I heard a wing snap, and the car seemed to mount a little into the air; then we stopped at a nasty angle, for the off hind wheel was yet in the channel. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, still grasping the wheel, I looked down at my left shoulder.

"I love Harris tweeds," said the girl quietly. "It's just as well, isn't it?"

All things considered, it was. Her nose was embedded in the cloth about two inches above my left breast-pocket. In silence I kissed her hair four times. Then:

"I confess," I said, that the real blue-black hair has always been a weakness of mine.

At that she struggled to rise, but the angle was against her, and, honestly, I couldn't do much. The next minute she had found the edge of the wind-screen-fortunately open at the time of the accident-and had pulled herself off me.

"My hair must have been-"

"Almost in my mouth," I said. "Exactly. I have been-"

"What?"

"Licking it, my dear. It's awfully good for hair, you know-imparts a gloss-like and silky appearance. Besides, since-"

"Idiot!"

I climbed gingerly out of the car, and then helped her into the bushes.

"Suffering from shock, Alice? I'm really devilish sorry."

"Not a bit. It wasn't your fault. Between you and me, Hare, I think you managed it wonderfully."

"Thank you, Alice. That's very sweet of you."

"I hope Pomfret isn't much hurt."

"The little brute. Only a wing, I think. Look here, if we walk into the village, you can have some lunch-you must want it-at the inn, while I get some help to get him out."

Just at the foot of the hill we came upon 'The Old Drum,' its timbered walls showing white behind the red screen of its Virginia creeper. When I had escorted my lady into the little parlour, I sought the kitchen. I could hardly believe my ears when the comfortable mistress of the house told me that at that very moment a toothsome duck was roasting, and that it would and should be placed before us in a quarter of an hour. Without waiting to inquire whom we were about to deprive of their succulent dish, I hastened with the good news to my companion.

"Splendid!" she said.

"You don't mind waiting?"

"I should have waited for you, anyway. Now go and retrieve Pomfret; you've just got time."

To the two husbandmen I found in the bar, the idea of earning twopence a minute for a quarter of an hour appealed so strongly that they did not wait to finish the ale I had ordered for them, and the feats of strength they performed in persuading Pomfret to return to the path from which he had strayed made me ache all over. The result was that the car was in the yard before the duck had left the oven, and I was able to have a wash at the pump before luncheon was served. Pomfret had come off very lightly, on the whole. Except for the broken wing, a fair complement of scratches, and the total wreck of one of the lamps, he seemed to have taken no hurt.

So it happened that Alice and I lunched together. I think we were both glad of the food. When it was over, I lighted her cigarette, and drew her attention to the oleograph, which pictured Gideon's astonishment at the condition of what, on examination, proved to be a large fleece. Out of perspective in the background a youth staggered under a pile of first-fruits.

"No wayside inn parlour is complete without one such picture," said I. "As a rule, we are misled about Moses. This, however, is of a later school. Besides, this is really something out of the common."

"Why?"

"Well, that's not Gideon really, but Garrick as Gideon. Very rare. And that with the first-fruits is Kean as-

"Yes?"

"As Ever," I went on hurriedly; "Gideon's great pal, you know, brother of Always. And Mrs. Siddons-"

"Who made her debut six years after Garrick's farewell...And you're all wrong about Kean. But don't let me stop you. Which is Nell Gwynne?"

"Nelly? Ah, no, she isn't in the picture. But she stopped here once-for lunch-quite by chance and unattended, save for a poor fool she had found in the forest. Hunting she had been, and had lost her horse, and he brought her on her way on a pillion. Be sure he rode with his chin on his shoulder all the time. She never said who she was, but he knew her for some great lady, for all his dullness. Ah, Nell, you-she was very sweet to him: let him see the stars in her eyes, let him mark the blue cloud of her hair, suffered him to sit by her side at their meal, gave him of her fair company, and-and, like them all, he loved her. All the time, too-from the moment when he turned and saw her standing there by the fallen tree in the forest, with her loose hair scrambling over her temples-scrambling to see the stars in her eyes. The day passed, and then another; and then the weeks and months, and presently the years, very slowly. But always the fool saw her standing there in the sunshine, with the dear, faint smile on her lips, and the bright memory of her eyes lighted his path when the way was dark, and he might have stumbled, always, always."

I stopped. She was looking away out of the latticed window up at the clear blue sky-looking with the look that is blind and seeth nothing. I came round to the back of her chair and put my hands on her shoulders.

"We never finished our scene," I said gently.

"No?"

"No. You pushed me away."

"Did I?"

A pause. Then:

"May I finish it now?" I said.

"I expect," she said slowly, "I expect you know that bit all right."

"I shall cut it on the night of the performance."

She leaned right back in her chair and looked steadily up into my eyes. I bent over her.

"You'll do nothing of the sort," she said firmly. "She may be-"

"A goddess. But she won't be you."

"No?" she smiled.

"Never, Alice."

"Promise me you'll not cut it on the night."

I groaned.

"But-" I faltered.

"Promise."

"Oh, all right! But I shall hate it, Alice, hate-"

"A present for a good Hare," she said softly, and raised her lips to mine.

On examination Pomfret proved to be practically unhurt, and I was able to get some petrol in the village; but naturally I didn't dare to drive him without seeing to the brakes. It was impossible for my companion to wait while I rectified the trouble, but we managed to raise what had once been a dog-cart, and in that she left for Tendon Harrow. She left, I say, for she would not let me come with her. She was so firm. I implored her, but it was no good. She simply would not be entreated, and I had to content myself with putting her carefully in and watching her drive away in the care of a blushing half-boots, half-ostler, who could not have been more than eighteen.

I got home about six.

"Where on earth have you been?" said Daphne, as I entered the smoking-room.

"Ask Pomfret," said I. "He's in disgrace."

"You haven't hurt him?"

"He nearly killed me."

"What happened"

"Lost his temper just because the petrol ran out. Believe me, a horrid exhibition. Absolutely let himself go. In other words, the brakes failed, and I had to run him into the bushes. One lamp and one wing broken, otherwise unhurt. To adjusting brakes-materials, nil; labour, three hours at a drink an hour, three pints ale. Oh, rotten, my dear, rotten!"

I sank into a chair.

"Meanwhile, we've had to entertain the Wilson crowd. I suppose you forgot they were coming?"

"I was with you in spirit."

"In beer, you mean," said Berry. "Look here, I knew you when you were seven, before you had put off the white mantle of innocence and assumed the cloak of depravity. It has been my unhappy lot to be frequently in your company ever since, and, speaking from a long and distasteful experience of you and your ways, I am quite satisfied that, if you did meet with some slight contretemps, you made no whole-hearted effort to rejoin us in time to degrade your intellect by discussing the sort of topics which appeal to that genus of hopeless wasters which the Wilsons adorn."

"Was it very bad?" said I.

"Bad?" said Jonah. "Bad? When a woman with six male children leads off by telling you that she keeps a book in which she has faithfully recorded all the amusing sayings of her produce up to the age of seven, it's pretty bad, isn't it?"

"Not really?"

"Fact," said Berry. "She quoted a lot of them. One of the more nutty was a contribution from Albert on seeing his father smoking for the first time. 'Mother, is daddy on fire' Now, that really happened. We had about half an hour of the book. Jonah asked her why she didn't publish it, and she nearly kissed him. It was terrible."

"To make things worse," said Jonah, "they brought Baldwin and Arthur with them, as specimens of what they could do in the child line."

"How awful!" said I

"It was rather trying," said Berry. "But they were all right as soon as we turned them on to the typewriter."

"What!" I gasped.

"Oh, we had little or no trouble with them after that."

"Quiet as mice," said Jonah.

"Do you know that machine cost me twenty-five pounds?" I cried.

"The jam'll wash off," said Berry. "You don't know how easily jam comes off. Why, I've known..."

"If I thought you really had turned them on to the typewriter, I should never forgive you."

"You oughtn't to say a thing like that, even in jest," said Berry; "it isn't Christian. I tell you for your good."

"Seriously, you didn't do such a wicked thing? Hullo, where is it?"

"They're going to bring it back on Wednesday. I said they couldn't have it more than a week."

I glanced at Jill, who was standing by the window. Her left eyelid flickered, and I knew it was all right.

"Well, I can't help it," I said, sinking back into my chair and lighting a cigarette.

"Poor old chap!" said Daphne. "I believe you thought we had done you down."

"Of course I didn't. Is it to-morrow you've got to go up to Town, Jill?"

"Yes, Boy. Are you going up, too?"

"Must. I'll give you lunch at the Berkeley if you like, dear."

Jill came across and laid her cheek against mine.

"I always like Boy, because he's grateful," she said gently.

Three days later our fellow-mummers began to arrive. A deep melancholy had settled upon me. I cursed the play, I cursed the players, I cursed my part, and most of all I cursed the day which had seen me cast for Buckingham. Whenever I picked up the book, I saw my queen, Alice, standing there by the fallen tree or sitting looking up at me as I bent over her chair in the parlour of 'The Old Drum'. And now her place was to be taken, usurped by another-a Miss Tanyon-whom I hated terribly, though I didn't know her, and the very idea of whom was enough to kill any dramatic instinct I once seemed to possess. Whenever I remembered my promise to Alice, I writhed. So odious are comparisons.

When Daphne announced that the wretched woman was coming by the five-fourteen, and that she should go with the car to meet her, and added that I had better come, too, I refused point-blank.

"I don't know what's the matter with you," said my sister. "Don't you want to see the girl you'll have to play the love-scene with?"

This about finished me, and I laughed bitterly.

"No," I said, "I'm damned if I do."

When Daphne pressed her point as only Daphne can, I felt really too timid and bored with the whole affair to argue about it, so I gave way. Accordingly, at ten minutes past five, I stood moodily on the platform by my sister's side. The train steamed in, and the passengers began to alight. Daphne scanned them eagerly.

"I don't see her," she said half to herself.

We were standing half-way down the platform, and I turned and looked listlessly towards the front of the train. That end of the platform was empty except for two people. One was a stoker who had stepped off the foot-plate. The other was Alice. She was in blue still-a blue coat and skirt, with a fox fur about her shoulders. A small, blue felt hat was somewhat shading her eyes, but I could see she was looking at me and smiling. I forgot all about Miss Tanyon-she simply didn't matter now.

Involuntarily:

"Why. there's the Queen!" I cried, and started towards her.

"Where?" said Daphne.

"Here," I flung over my shoulder.

A four-wheeled truck of luggage, propelled by a porter across my bows, blocked my way for a moment, and Daphne overtook me.

"So it is," she said. "But how did you know?"

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