MoboReader > Literature > The Twelfth Hour


The Twelfth Hour By Ada Leverson Characters: 10475

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

One gay irresponsible April afternoon Sir James and Woodville had gone to the House, and Savile, thinking he might be useful as an escort, strolled into Sylvia's boudoir. It was her favourite room, where she received her intimate friends, played and sang, wrote letters, read novels and poetry, and thought about Woodville. The scent from the lilac in the vases seemed to harmonise with the chintz furniture, covered with a design of large pink rosebuds and vivid green trellis-work; there was a mandoline on the lacquered piano and old coloured prints on the walls; books and music were scattered about in dainty disorder. Sylvia was sitting on the sofa with her pretty fair head bent down and turned away. She did not move when Savile came in, and he was shocked to see she was crying.

Savile turned quite pale with horror. Young as he was, nature and training had made all outward manifestations of emotion so contrary to his traditions and mode of life, and it seemed so unlike Sylvia, that he felt a kind of shame even more strongly than sympathy. He shut the door quietly, whistled to show he was there, and walked slowly up and down the room. Then he stood by the latticed window, looking out, and tried to think of something to say. What comforted girls when they cried? The inspiration "Tea" suggested itself, but that would mean the entrance of outsiders. Presently he said shyly and sympathetically, "Shall I smoke, Sylvia?"

She made a gesture signifying that nothing mattered now, and went on crying.

"I say," said Savile, striking a match, "it can't be as bad as all that."

He went up to the sofa and she held out her hand. Demonstrations of sentiment made him acutely uncomfortable. He put the pretty hand back carefully, and said in a level tone, "I tell you what I should do if I were you. I should tell some one about it-Me, for instance. I've been through a lot-more than any one knows." (Here he gave what he believed to be a bitter smile.) "I might be some use; I'd do my best, anyway."

"Darling boy!"

"Oh, buck up, Sylvia! You're going to tell me every word about it, and more, once you start! I'll help you to start." He waited a moment and then said rather loudly and sternly, "What's wrong between you and Woodville?"

Sylvia sat up, took her handkerchief from her eyes, and stared at him.

"What? Have you guessed?"

"Have I guessed! If I'm always as sharp as this I shall cut myself some day," said the schoolboy ironically. "Why, what do you take me for? Do I live here? Do I come down to breakfast? Aren't I and Woodville great friends? Have I guessed?" He sighed in despair at her denseness.

"Dear boy, I'm sure I'd tell you anything. You're so wonderful and so clever, but how could I know you'd be so sweet about it? Why papa said even you wanted me to marry Mr. Ridokanaki. He quoted you."

"Well, why shouldn't he? I do wish it."

Sylvia's eyes blazed, and she tapped her foot on the carpet.

"Oh, do you? Very well, I'm sure I don't mind! You see it doesn't matter in the very least what you think. After all you're only a little boy."

Savile smiled with genuine amusement, patted her golden hair paternally, and said "Of course. But if I'd happened to suggest your going to the registry office with Woodville this afternoon (I believe there's one somewhere in Kensington, near the work-house), I suppose I'd have been what you call a dear little boy, and you'd have let me have some jam for tea.... Poor girl! You must be bad." He laughed, and then said quietly, "Now, then, go ahead."

"Well, Savile, it's too dreadful, and I will confide in you. Last night"-Sylvia began talking very volubly-"that horrid old brute-you know, the Greek-asked Frank, Mr. Woodville, to dinner, and actually had the impertinence to offer him a sort of post in a bank, starting at £2000 a year, at Athens. ATHENS! Do you hear? It's in Greece."

"Don't rub it in. This is no time for geography. What else?"

"Well, it was on these conditions. Frank was to go for a year, and all that time the fiend has given word of honour never to come and see me, or anything, and if at the end of the year Frank and I are still both the same, he will give it up-about me, I mean-and get Frank the same sort of berth in London. And if we're not-just fancy making such a horrible proposition! At Willis's, too!"

"Well, what's the matter with Willis's? Would it have been all right at the 'Cheshire Cheese'?"

"What's the 'Cheshire Cheese'?"

"Never mind," said Savile mysteriously. (He didn't know.) "And if you're not still the same?"

"Oh, then"-she began to cry again-"of course the wretch thinks there might be a chance for him. He must be mad, mustn't he? But the horrible part is that Frank actually thinks of going! Fancy! How degrading! To accept a favour from my enemy! Isn't Ridokanaki exactly like Machiavelli?"

"Mac who? I see nothing Scotch in the offer. But if he were the living image of Robert Bruce or Robinson Crusoe, that's not the point. Now let's have it straight. Would you marry him in any case?"

"Absolutely never," flashed Sylvia, showing all the celebrated family obstinacy by her beautiful set mouth, "I'd rather--"

"Never mind what you'd rather. I kno

w what you'd rather, thanks very much. All right, you mean it. Cross him out. And now we know where we are."

"But still I'm afraid ... you don't seem to think I ought to marry Mr. Woodville, do you?"

"Not that exactly," said Savile. "But I think the man who's been making love to my sister ought to marry her. What's more, he's got to."

"Oh, Savile, how can you! Don't you think he cares for me?"

"Off the rails as usual! Yes, I do think so, but it doesn't matter a straw what my thoughts are. It matters what's going to be done."

"But what can be done? Unless he goes away to Athens, I mean."

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Savile, starting up. "What's the use of all his friends-Chetwode, and Mervyn, and Wilton, Vere and Broughton, and heaps more-if they can't get him something? A splendid chap like old Woodville! He was looked upon as a brilliant man at Balliol. I happen to know that-never mind how."

She kissed him. "Do you think, then, that Arthur Mervyn would help him? I mean, do you think that Frank might go on the stage?"

He looked at her quite anxiously, as though he thought her troubles had turned her brain.

"Go on the stage! Go on what stage? Oh, you'd like to see your husband prancing about like a painted mountebank with a chorus of leading ladies, would you?"

"Oh no, indeed I shouldn't! But are leading ladies all dreadful? And I thought you were in love with a singer yourself," said Sylvia.

Savile threw away his cigarette, with what he hoped was a hollow laugh.

"My dear child, what I choose to do and what I allow my sister to do are two very different things."

"I dare say they are, darling," said Sylvia mildly. "And, please don't imagine for one moment that I suppose you ever do anything at all-I mean, that you oughtn't."

"No, I shouldn't worry about me," said Savile. "We're talking about your troubles.... As if Woodville were such an ass! Catch him going in for such rot!" He laughed. "Sylvia, do you suppose that he's stayed here in this hole," said Savile in a muffled undertone, looking round the exquisite room, and then repeating loudly and defiantly, "I say, in this Hole, except for you? Do you think he can't do anything better? Mind you, the Governor's fond of Woodville, it's only the cash and all that. If that idiot of an uncle of his hadn't married his housekeeper, it would have been all right."

"Oh, Savile, fancy, I saw her once! She wore--"

"Describe her dress some other day, dear, for Heaven's sake. What I say is that Woodville is the sort of man who could make his mark."

"Do you think he could make a name by painting?" she asked eagerly.

Savile looked rather sick, and said with patient resignation, "By painting what? The front of the house? Look here, some one's got to talk sense. Leave this to me." He then waited a minute, and said, "I'll get him something to do!"

"Oh, Savile!-Angel!-Genius! How?"

"Would you mind, very kindly, telling me what Chetwode's our brother-in-law for?" said Savile. "What use is he? When's he ever seen with Felicity? He can't live at curiosity shops and race-meetings. He can't expect to. Why (keep this to yourself) I brought him back last night from Yorkshire! Just in time, don't you know. Felicity was as pleased as Punch."

"My darling boy, I know you're sweet and clever, but you talk as if you had any amount of power and influence, and all that!"

"Well, I got Bertie Wilton a decoration!" He laughed. "The Order of the Boot! Now, Sylvia, pull yourself together and I'll see it through. Don't say a word to Woodville, mind that!"

"I adore you for this, Savile." During the interview the girl of twenty seemed to have grown much younger and more inexperienced, and the boy four years her junior, to have become a man.

"Tell me," she asked anxiously, "then am I to pretend to consent to his going to Athens? Why, if he did go, well, it would kill me-to begin with!"

"And what to go on with? Rot! It wouldn't kill you. It might spoil your looks, or give you a different sort of looks, that mightn't suit you so well. Awfully jolly it would be, too, having an anxious sister looking out for the post. Thanks! What a life for me! How soon has he to give an answer?"

"Oh, in a month," she answered.

"Well, let things slide; let them remain in ... what's that word?"

"I don't know. In doubt? In ... Chancery?"

"Chancery! Really, Sylvia! I know! In abeyance, that's the word," said Savile. He seemed to take special pleasure in it. "Yes, abeyance," he repeated, with a smile. "Well, good-bye! I'm going out." He looked to see that his trousers were turned up and the last button of his waistcoat left unfastened in the correct Eton fashion, and said, "Do look all right in our box to-night, Sylvia. You can if you like, you know."

"I promise, Savile! I'd do anything for you! I shall never forget."

"You know, looking decent can't do any harm anyway anyhow, to anybody. Never be seen out of uniform." He stopped at the door to say very kindly, "Buck up, dear, and don't go confiding in people-I know what girls are. I suppose now," remarked Savile sarcastically, "that you want a powder-puff, and a cup of tea. I'll tell Price-about the tea, I mean."

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top