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   Chapter 15 ALL FOUND

The Brother of Daphne By Dornford Yates Characters: 28518

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


I had seen her but once before, and that was at the Savoy on New Year's Eve. She had been with her party at one table, and I with mine at another. And in the midst of the reveling I had chanced to look up and into one of the great mirrors which made a panel upon the wall. There I had seen the girl, sitting back in her chair, smiling and fresh and white-shouldered, in a dress of black and gold, her fingers about the stem of her goblet. Not talking, listening, rather, to the words of a man at her side, whose eyes were watching her smiling lips somewhat greedily. He had red hair, I remember, and a moustache brushed up to hide a long upper lip. And, as I looked, she also had looked up, and our eyes had met. There and then I had raised my wine and toasted her-her of the looking-glass. The smile had deepened. Then she had raised her glass, and drunk to me in return. That was all. And when Berry had leaned across the table and asked:

"Who's your friend?"

"I wish I knew."

"Pshaw!" said my brother-in-law. "I say it deliberately."

"I drank to a thought," said I. "Believe me." After all, a thought is a reflection. And now here she was, sitting in the grass by the wayside.

"She's brown, isn't she?" said I.

"As a berry. I like his breeches."

I bowed. "Thank you. And for you,'picturesque' is the word-one of the words. Shall I compare you to a summer's day?"

"I'd rather you collected that cow. She's getting too near the river for my liking. I'm looking after the dears."

"Are you?" said I. "But-"

"But what?"

"'Quis custodiet-'"

The apple she threw passed over my shoulder.

Mountains and valleys, swift rivers and curling roads, here and there a village shining in the hot sun, and once in a while a castle in the woods, white-walled, red-roofed, peaceful enough now in its old age, but hinting at wild oats sown and reaped when it was young. Hinting broadly, too. At nights shaken with the flare of torches and the clash of arms, at oaths and laughter and the tinkle of spurs on the worn steps, at threats and bloodlettings and all the good old ways, now dead, out of date, and less indebted to memory than imagination. And then at galleries with creaking floors, at arras and the rustle of a dress; whisperings, too, and the proud flash of eyes, hands lily-white, whose fingers men must kiss and in the eyes mirror themselves. But these things are not dead. Old-fashioned wrath is over-gone to its long home: love is not even wrinkled. Yet again it was before wrath...

I set out to describe the province of Krain, and now I have strayed from the highway up one of those curling roads to one of those white castles, only to lose myself in the thicket of Romance beyond. Perhaps it does not matter. Anyway, it was on the slope of a green meadow all among the mountains of Krain that the girl was sitting, herself unminded, minding her cows. And out of the woods above her a round, white tower proclaimed a chateau set on the shoulder of a hill.

Her dress was that of the country, and yet, perhaps, rather such as Croatian peasants wear. All white linen, embroidered ever so richly, cut low and round at the neck, and with the skirt falling some four inches below her knee: short sleeves, a small, white apron, and over her thick, fair hair a bright red kerchief. But her stockings were of white silk, and small, black buckled slippers kept the little feet. Clear, blue eyes hers, and a small merry mouth, and a skin after the sun's own heart. It was so brown-such an even, delicate brown. Brown cheeks and temples, brown arms and hands, brown throat. Oh, very picturesque.

I rounded up the cow errant, returned to my lady, and took my seat by her side.

"Thank you," she said. "And now, who are you and what do you want?"

"My name," said I, "is Norval. And I want to know the way to the pageant-ground, and when does your scene come on?"

"It is a nice dress, isn't it?"

She rose and stood smoothing her frock and apron.

"Sweet. Only you ought to have bare brown legs."

"My dear man, this isn't the Garden of Eden."

"No? Some other Paradise, I suppose. Old Omar's, perhaps. Besides, I forgot. Dolls never go barefoot, do they?"

"Dolls?"

"Yes. Aren't you the 'great big beautiful doll' they sing of?"

She threw back her head, and laughed at that, pleasedly. Then she began to sing softly:

"Oh, you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll..."

We finished the verse together, the cows watching us with big eyes.

"I think we're rather good," said I, when it was over.

"I know we're both mad," said she. "And I don't feel a bit like singing really, either."

"Oh, great and beautiful one," said I, "what is the matter? Indicate to me the fly that dares to lurk in this fair bowl of ointment."

She looked away over the river. Then:

"After all, it's nothing to do with you."

"Nothing whatever." said I.

"Then why do you ask?"

"Something to say, I suppose. Is not the clemency of the weather delightful?"

"Yes, but those cows belong to me."

I laughed scornfully. Then:

"My aunt has four eggs," I said simply.

She turned away, ostensibly to pick a flower, but I saw her shoulders shaking. At length:

"There is a pig in the grass," she said. "Its name is Norval."

"The doll is on its hind legs," I replied, getting up. "As for me, is it not that I shall have been about to go? Adieu, mademoiselle."

"Er-au revoir, monsieur."

"That's better," said I. "And now, what's the trouble, my dear?"

Well, it was about the chauffeur. You see, she was spending the summer here in the chateau. Yes, the chateau above us, white on the hillside. She and a companion-a girl-alone, with a household of their own, very happy, very comfortable...

"We are really, you know. Don't think we're suffragists. Truth is, I'd got about sick of men, and thought I'd take a rest. I heard of this old place to be let furnished, came to see if it was half as nice as it sounded, and never even went back to England to collect Betty. Just couldn't leave it. Betty followed post-haste with the servants and heavy luggage, and-and-"

"And the parrot?" I hazarded.

"No. Oh, the linen and everything. I'd got the car with me. We've been here nearly two months now, and I love it more every day. Don't miss men a bit, either."

This last in an inimitable tone, half nonchalant, half defiant.

"I expect they do most of the missing."

"Thanks, awfully. However, I may tell you the family's been rather narky-"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Narky. Like a nark."

"Of course. How stupid of me! Same root as 'snirksome.' As you were."

"Well, rather ratty about it all. Said it was all ridiculous and unheard of."

"Did they use the word 'proceeding'?"

"They did."

"Ah!"

"The one thing that sort of stopped them from really doing anything was the fact that Betty was with me. Betty's dear, and they all know it. And her being here, I suppose, seemed to save it from being what's called an 'impossible position.' Well, a week ago comes a letter from the Brethes-that's my uncle and aunt-saying they're motoring through Austria to Italy, and are going to stay a night at Laipnik on the way. Would like to run over and see me, as they understand Savavic-that's me-is only thirty miles away. All very nice."

"Sweet of them." I agreed.

"Isn't it! Only, three days ago Betty gets a wire to say her mother's ill, and she has to bolt for the night train to Paris."

"Yes. So that uncle dear mustn't come to Savavic at any price. If he does, Betty's absence becomes apparent, and the good old 'impossible position' arises at once. Consequently, I send a nice letter to the one hotel at Laipnik 'to await arrival,' saying the road's so bad and hard to find that I'll come over to them instead of their coming here."

"Much as you would have loved them to see Savavic."

"Exactly. You're rather intelligent."

"Oh, I'm often like that. It's in the blood. Grandpa got his B.A.," I explained. "We've loaned his hood to the Wallace Collection. Go on."

"Well, that all sounds very nice and easy, doesn't it? Then, to put the lid on, my chauffeur breaks his arm yesterday afternoon."

"And the uncle's due when?"

"Slept at Laipnik last night. I was to have lunched with them to-day. Oh, the fat's in the fire all right this time. I may expect them any time after three." I reflected a moment. Then:

"I'll drive you to Laipnik," said I. "I'm as safe as a house at the wheel."

"You're awfully good and kind," said the girl, shaking her head, "but it's no good. Think. How on earth would I explain you?"

"It is unnecessary to explain a chauffeur."

"Oh, but you can't-"

"Certainly I can. At any rate, I'm going to. Come along and get changed, mistress."

I scrambled to my feet.

"If you'll show me the way to the garage, I'll be looking over the car. What is she, by the way? And where does your late chauffeur keep his boots?"

"Are you an angel?" said the girl, getting up.

"Who told you?" said I.

The boots were much too big and the gaiters a little small. Still, they did. A long dust-coat came down over the tops of the gaiters, making the uniform unnecessary. I took the cap to wear when we reached the town. Gloves, near enough. It was a big, open car, and all the way to Laipnik the girl, looking priceless in a fawn-coloured dress, sat by my side. We went like the wind. After a while:

"He drives well," said my companion, half to herself.

"Thank you, beautiful doll-I should say madam. Is that right?"

"Quite, thanks. How are the boots?"

"A bit spacious. I'm afraid I've lost one of my toes already."

"You poor man. Which one?"

"Baldwin," said I. "He's got separated from the others, you know. I'll be able to look for him when we get to Laipnik. Told them to keep together, too," I added bitterly.

She gave a little peal of laughter. Then:

"How tiresome" she said. "And I'm afraid your calves weren't made for those gaiters."

"I admit they don't fit as well as your stockings, but-"

"Norval."

"Madam?"

"Behave yourself."

"Very good, madam. By the way, what about my wages?"

"What do you suggest? I shan't object to anything reasonable."

"No? Well, I was getting eleven-three a yar-day in my last place, and all found-especially all."

"'All found''s rather a dangerous phrase."

"Not at all. It only means washing and beer and the English papers, when you've done with them, and meat on Sundays. A smile, too, when I'm tired, and a word of thanks after seventy miles in the rain with a head wind."

"It might cover a multitude of sins, Norval."

Here I saved a dog's life and passed two wagons before their drivers had had time to inspire the horses with the terror they felt themselves. Then:

"All found's all right, if you know your man," said I.

"But I don't."

I caught her laughing eyes in the windscreen, and straightway drank to them from an imaginary wine-glass. She smiled gently, and the eyes looked away with the look that sees at once not at all and yet farthest. She was gazing down the vista of memory.

"Then it's a compact," I said quietly. "Sealed with a drink."

"I never drank to you this time, Norval."

"Yes, you did," said I. "Only with thine eyes, doll beautiful."

"You forget yourself."

"I remember you. You were wearing a black and gold dress. Sweet you looked."

She turned away and pointed to a church we were leaving on our right.

"That," she said, "is a church."

"You amaze me. I thought it was a swimming-bath."

She bit the lip that wanted to smile.

"To return to you, who are my mutton, I wish this road wasn't so narrow. I can't look at you except in the screen."

"We first met in a looking-glass."

"True. But now I want something more-more tangible."

"Indeed?"

I glanced down. "At any rate, I've got your feet, bless them. I shall compose a sonnet to them, beautiful doll."

"And I'll write an epic about yours."

Five minutes passed. "How's the epic going?" said I.

"I've only done four lines."

"Let's have them."

"The beetling beetle-crushing baulks of boots

Crashed on their thunderous way, while men-at-arms,

Who knew no fear, shuddered and crossed themselves,

And little children whimpered with a fright

Too fierce for tears."

"Very good," said I. "Now you shall have mine.

I thought they were stars,

And I know they were shining,

But so brightly. The daintiest things that were ever created.

They danced on my heart from the moment I saw them,

But so lightly

That while they were there my heart became lighter,

Yet on it they made an enduring impression,

Lasting and deep.

Fairies' steps may be slighter,

But so slightly.

You'll think I am mad, but I'm only a blighter.

I thought they were stars, And I know they were shining."

"Thank you very much. I didn't know you were a poet."

"Nor was I till I entered your service," said I.

So presently we came to Laipnik. I stopped outside the little town, put on my cap, and settled the girl on the back seat. Five minutes later we rolled up to the hotel.

On the steps stood a stout man with a serious face, looking suspiciously at the cigar he had just lighted.

"Hullo, Uncle Dick," said my mistress.

"My dear child, I am glad you've come. You aunt's upstairs rather tired, but wild to see you. We're going to stay another night here and go on early tomorrow."

"Are you? I'll come up at once."

I opened the door of the car and handed her out. She kissed her relative and turned to me.

"Er-will you-er-"

I coughed.

"You will get your own lunch, Norval, and come to the office for orders at half-past two."

"Very good, madam."

As I raised my cap:

"Oh, I feel such a beast," she murmured.

I never gave Berry and the others a thought till I had eaten my lunch and was musing over my coffee with a cigarette. They were coming in the car from Salzburg, and were going to join me this evening at a farm called Poganec, where I had slept last night and where we were all going to stay. We had told people we were going to fish. I think Jonah meant it. We others were going to sleep and watch him and sleep again.

Now, Poganec and Savavic were only seven miles apart, and were served by the same post office. In fact, they were at opposite ends of the same valley, in the midst of which, half-way between the two, our common village slept in the hot sun. It was in the course of my first walk that I had come upon Savavic. And now, instead of being at Poganec to welcome them this afternoon, here was I at Laipnik pretending to be a chauffeur. What did it matter? I should be back that evening. Only seven miles...

At half-past two I was at the office, and at twenty-nine minutes to three my lady appeared in the hall. I went to her, cap in hand. She turned and walked to a little lounge-place out of sight of the office. I followed her there. For a moment she did not speak. Then:

"Oh, I feel such a beast!" she said passionately. "Such a beast! Don't take your cap off to me. Put it on. For heaven's sake, put it on! And sit down. Sprawl about. Light a cigarette. Shake me. Kiss me, if you like. Anything to show you're my own class and not a servant." She stopped and passed a hand over her eyes. Then she spoke hopelessly. "And all the time it's no good. You've got to take us out for a drive, and I've got to treat you-you like a servant. And you've got to say 'Yes, madam,' and 'No, madam,' and have your tea alone, and-Oh, what on earth did I do it for?"

She was on the verge of tears. I put my hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes.

"My dear beautiful doll, don't take it all so seriously. It's only a game. We're both play-acting. You've just got to keep it up and order me about in the most monstrously imperious manner this afternoon, and then in the evening we're going to drive home together. And I'm going to get some of my own back then, I don't mind telling you. I'll sprawl and smoke cigarettes and shake you, and-What else was it you said? I haven't forgotten that you agreed to 'all found,' you know. You wait. And I think your eyes are absolutely wonderful. How did it go?

'I thought they were stars,

And I know they were shining.'"

She looked me full in the eyes now, and a grand smile swept into her face. Then she put her arms round my neck and kissed me. The next moment she was half-way up the broad stairs.

Ten minutes later I brought the car round to the door. Niece and uncle and aunt all sat together on the back seat. As I shut the door:

"We don't want to go too far, Norval, or too fast. Lady Brethe is rather tired. I think about twenty miles out and twenty back will do. About two hours altogether."

"Yes, madam. Shall I go towards Savavic?"

"Yes, I think so."

We had done our twenty miles out, and I was looking for a place to turn the car, when I caught sight of Poganec below us in the valley, by road some three or four miles away. Then suddenly for the first time a terrible thought flashed into my mind. We were on the very road which Berry and the others must take, coming from Salzburg. Supposing we met them....

Here the road broadened, so I slowed down and, in response to a nod from my mistress, proceeded to turn round. I accomplished the manoeuvre as in a dream, and ended by stopping the engine. This brought me to my senses. As we started off again, I became cooler. After all, very likely we should not meet them. The chances were against it. And if we did, I could accelerate and push by them before they knew where they were. Again-

Here we swung round a corner, and there, fifty paces away, by the side of the road in the hot afternoon sun, stood our car, my car, Berry and Co.'s car. The bonnet was open, and Jonah's head and hands were inside it. Daphne sat still on the back seat, while Jill was sitting on the bank, a posy of wild flowers in her hand. Berry leaned easily against the side of the car, his hat over his eyes, watching Jonah at work. From his attitude he appeared to be offering idiotic advice. So I saw them for less than a second, for the instant they heard us coming, all four started and looked up. I was wondering whether I dared accelerate and dash by like a madman. I dare say the girl was thinking the same. But her uncle settled it.

"Hullo," he said. "Fellow-motorists in trouble? English, apparently, too. Wonder if we-" And the worthy aunt put the lid on.

"Why," she said, "if it isn't those nice children we met at the Europe at Salzburg, Dick."

There was nothing to be done now. I just slowed down. Very slowly we drew abreast, and all the time, till we stopped, I leaned forward and gazed at the four in turn-open-mouthed they were-bending my brows into the fiercest frown and laying my fingers on my lips. Then:

"How d'ye do?" said Lord Brethe.

Berry swallowed, said "Er-oh, how d'ye do?" and took off his hat.

The next moment he had himself in hand. Daphne got out of the car, and Jonah and Jill came up. Greetings were exchanged between them and the Brethes, and my mistress was introduced. I sat as one in a trance. Then I heard the girl saying nervously: "I don't know whether my chauffeur can be of any assistance." I pulled myself together and got out of the car.

There never was such a situation. The Brethes knew nothing and thought nothing. The girl, unaware that these were my own people, saw me being used and treated as a chauffeur by four strangers, while she looked on and got the thanks; and the thought made her writhe. Berry and the others found me about to call them "Sir" and "Madam" and to serve them by mending my own car in the capacity of chauffeur to somebody they had never seen. And I wanted to burst out into hysterical laughter, swear, kick Berry, and hide in the woods. Instead of which, I went up to Jonah, who had gone back to the engine.

"What's the trouble, sir?"

Jonah put his head into the bonnet and exploded with silent laughter. I put my head in, too, and swore at him in a whisper. Then:

"One of the cylinders has been missing since Krainbach," he said. "I think that's the seat of the trouble. But I've only just-"

"I think it's the carburettor, sir," said I, with a finger on the float. "There's practically no petrol in it."

I tried the pressure pump, but it was no good. The petrol pipe was stopped up properly.

"You'll have to have the pipe down, sir. It's the only way."

"How long will that take?" said Lord Brethe, who was standing on the other side of the car, talking to Berry.

"It's half-an-hour's job at least, my lord."

"Oh, well, you'd better do it. Hadn't he, Dolly? We aren't pressed for time, are we, my dear?"

"Oh, no. That is-I mean, of course. Please do everything you can, Norval."

"Very good, madam."

I got some tools out of the tool-box and began to take the pipe down.

"Hadn't you better take your dust-coat off, man?" said Berry.

"No, thank you, sir."

Berry turned to Lord Brethe, who had come to watch the operation. "All this comes through letting my young brother-in-law play about with the car," he explained airily.

"No, really?" said Lord Brethe.

"Yes," said Berry. "He's done more damage, the few times he's driven it, than a skilled chauffeur would do in five years."

"Dear me," said the other. "Knows nothing of the mechanism, I suppose?"

"Doesn't know the difference between the carburettor and the er-exhaust."

Lord Brethe laughed. "Dear, dear. These young men," he said.

Here the spanner I was using slipped off a nut.

"Gently, my man, gently," said Berry pleasantly.

"Yes," said Lord Brethe, "be careful of the paint."

I almost choked.

"Won't you two come and talk to us?" the girl called from the other side of the road.

"I always like watching a repair, dear," replied her uncle. "And Mr. Pleydell is an expert."

"I think I'd better be here just to supervise," said Berry. "Er-have you your cotton-waste handy, man?"

"It's on the step, sir," I said with an effort. "Do you want it?"

"No, no. But you should always keep it by you."

I wiped the sweat off my forehead.

"Will you smoke?" said Lord Brethe, producing a cigar-case.

"Ah, thanks," said Berry. With the tail of my eye I saw that it was a Corona Corona. By this time I had taken the pipe down. It was choked with a regular wad of dirt. I remembered bitterly that, when I left them at Strasburg, I had begged them never to fill up without a filter.

"So that was the obstruction?" said his lordship.

I straightened my back.

"Comes of not using a filter, my lord."

Berry's brows contracted. He touched the wad with his foot. "No," he said loftily. "This has clearly worked in from the engine. It is a piece of valve-packing."

I sighed. Heaven only knows what he thought he meant. But old Brethe lapped it up. Heavily I began to replace the pipe. As I unscrewed them, I put the nuts on the step. Now one was missing. It had rolled off.

"Lost something?" said Berry.

"A nut, sir. I shall see it directly."

"Never put anything where it can roll off, man. When you are executing a repair, always lay your tools on the ground and mark the place. It's quicker in the long run. Found it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Wipe it carefully before replacing it."

He turned to Lord Brethe. "You'll excuse me, but you can't be too careful, can you?"

"No, indeed. Quite right, quite right," said the old fool. "We're none of us too old to learn."

The repair was finished at last. I started up the engine, just to make sure she was all right, put away the tools, wiped my hands on a piece of cotton-waste, and resumed my seat in my lady's car without a word.

The girl, looking flushed and anxious, followed her aunt into the car. Lord Brethe climbed in after them. The others stood round.

"It's been awfully kind of you to lend us your chauffeur like this," said Daphne. "I don't know-"

"Oh-er-that's all right," stammered the girl.

"Only too glad," said Lord Brethe. "Mr. Pleydell's been very good and given him several wrinkles well worth having."

"Don't mention it," said Berry, with a smirk.

"Here you are, my man." I took the crown he offered me in silence and raised my hat. A crown is worth ten pence. As I was letting in the clutch, I heard Jill's voice on my left.

"Thank you very much indeed for helping us so beautifully," she said, and laid her posy of wild flowers on the seat by my side.

"Thank you, madam."

As we moved off:

"What a queer child!" said Lady Brethe.

Two hours later the girl and I slipped once more out of Laipnik. When we were clear of the town, I stopped for a moment, and she took her old seat by my side. For a minute or two neither of us spoke. Then she reached up and took off my cap and pitched it behind into the car. I laughed.

"I wanted to do that a dozen times this afternoon," she said. "And I'd have done it, too, if I'd had the courage of a field-mouse."

"You know what I've wanted to do a dozen times this afternoon, don't you?"

"And these odious people. Will you ever forgive me? If it's any consolation to you, I nearly died of shame."

"And I nearly punched Berry's head and spoiled it all."

"Berry's?"

I explained. When I had finished:

"It was nice of Jill to give you those flowers," she said. "Dear of her. But I shall never forgive Berry."

"He's only human," said I. "And he really was awfully funny."

"I shall tell him what I think of him."

"We've all done that once a week for five years. My dear, he's quite hopeless. Besides, he gave me a whole crown."

"And uncle gave you five. I saw him. I nearly cried, it made me so angry."

"Six altogether," said I. "I bought you some carnations with them. They're in the hood."

"Sweet of you, Norval. Coals of fire?"

"No, dear. Only malmaisons. Isn't that beautiful?"

We had climbed until we were at the top of a pass. Over the mountains the sun was going down. The great valley was already in shadow, but the light on the high woods was wonderful. Away on the top of a hill a little white shrine stood up like a candlestick against the sky. A rosy flush lay on the distant snow mountains, and the heavens themselves were filled with a great red glory. The same thought occurred to both of us.

"Who wouldn't be a day?" said I. "It's worth living only twelve hours to die a death like that."

We reached Savavic about half-past seven. I drove straight to the garage. She watched me put the car away and waited while I slipped into my brogues. Then:

"Now I must be off to Poganec," said I. "So endeth the first day's service."

"And the last."

I drew myself up.

"Am I dismissed, then?"

"Oh, well-"

"Of course, if you're not satisfied, madam-"

"But I am, only-"

"Then," said I, "I'll stop on. Good night, beautiful Doll."

"Dolly."

"Dolly, then."

I swept off my hat and turned to go.

"Don't you want to-er-shake me?" said Dolly.

I reached Poganec just as they were finishing dinner. As I entered the room:

"Hullo," said Berry. "This your night out?"

"That'll do." said I. "You had your show this afternoon."

"My show? My humiliation," said my brother-in-law. "Think of it. My wife's brother in service. How can I ever hold up this noble head again? And this after all my years of striving to elevate. But there! Can the leopard change his spots, or the chauffeur his boots? By the way, how did you get into them? Rather a tight fit, wasn't it? You don't look very penitent. I suppose you know I'm bowed with grief?"

"I see you're gorged with food," said I. "Haven't you any dinner for me?"

"It's in a red handkerchief by the coach-house door," said Berry. "Now you can go. I shan't want you any more to-night. Don't forget the-ah-wrinkle I gave you about the cotton-waste."

"Fancy Boy earning some money!" said Daphne. "What wages d'you get?"

"Six-and-tenpence-farthing a week," said I, "and all found."

"That's a dangerous phrase," said Jonah. "Might mean anything."

"Exactly," said Berry. "It includes boots, we know. What else besides boots?"

"Depends on the man," said I.

"It does," said Daphne. "And that's why you've got to give notice at once."

"Notice?"

I felt Jill's hand pushing my hair back from my forehead. She was standing behind my chair.

"Yes," she said, "and come back to us. Fact is, Boy, we can't spare you."

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