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   Chapter 15 No.15

Our Friend the Charlatan By George Gissing Characters: 33614

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Lord Dymchurch was at a critical moment of his life.

Discontent, the malady of the age, had taken hold upon him. No ignoble form of the disease; for his mind, naturally in accord with generous thoughts, repelled every suggestion which he recognised as of unworthy origin, and no man saw more clearly how much there was of vanity and of evil in the unrest which rules our time. He was possessed by that turbid idealism which, in the tumult of a day without conscious guidance, is the peril of gentle souls. Looking out upon the world, he seemed to himself to be the one idle man in a toiling and aspiring multitude; for, however astray the energy of most, activity was visible on every side, and in activity-so he told himself-lay man's only hope. He alone did nothing. Wearing his title like a fool's cap, he mooned in by-paths which had become a maze. Was it not the foolish title that bemused and disabled him? Without it, would he not long ago have gone to work like other men, and had his part in the onward struggle? Discontented with himself, ill at ease in his social position, reproachfully minded towards the ancestors who had ruined him, he fell into that most dangerous mood of the cultured and conscientious man, a feverish inclination for practical experiment in life.

His age was two and thirty. A decade ago he had dreamt of distinguishing himself in the Chamber of Peers; why should poverty bar the way of intellect and zeal? Experience taught him that, though money might not be indispensable to such a career as he imagined, the lack of it was only to be supplied by powers such as he certainly did not possess. Abashed at the thought of his presumption he withdrew altogether from the seat to which his birth entitled him, and at the same time ceased to appear in Society. He had the temper of a student, and among his books he soon found consolation for the first disappointments of youth. Study, however, led him by degrees to all the questions rife in the world about him; with the inevitable result that his maturer thought turned back upon things he fancied himself to have outgrown. His time had been wasted. At thirty-two all he had clearly learnt was a regret for vanished years.

He resisted as a temptation the philosophic quietism which had been his strength and his pride. From the pages of Marcus Aurelius, which he had almost by heart, one passage only was allowed to dwell with him: "When thou art hard to be stirred up and awaked out of thy sleep, admonish thyself and call to mind that to perform actions tending to the common good is that which thine own proper constitution, and that which the nature of man, do require." Morning and night, the question with him became, what could he do in the cause of civilisation? And about this time it chanced that he made the acquaintance of Dyce Lashmar. He listened, presently, to the bio-sociological theory of human life, believing it to be Lashmar's own, and finding in it a great deal that was not only intellectually fruitful, but strong in appeal to his sympathies. Here he saw the reconciliation of his aristocratic prejudices-which he had little hope of ever overcoming-with the humanitarian emotion and conviction which were also a natural part of his being. All this did but contribute to his disquiet. No longer occupied with definite studies, he often felt time heavy on his hands, and saw himself more obnoxious than ever to the charge of idleness. Lashmar, though possibly his ambition had some alloy of self-seeking, gave an example of intellect applied to the world's behoof; especially did his views on education, developed in a recent talk at the club, strike Dymchurch as commendable and likely to have influence. He asked nothing better than an opportunity of devoting himself to a movement for educational reform. The abstract now disgusted him well nigh as much as the too grossly actual. Thus, chancing to open Shelley, he found with surprise that the poet of his adolescence not merely left him cold, but seemed verbose and tedious.

Some anxiety about his private affairs aided this mental tendency. Some time ago, he had been appealed to by the tenant of his Kentish farm for a reduction of rent, which, on consideration of the facts submitted to him, he felt unable to refuse. The farmer was now dead, and it was not without trouble that the land had been leased again on the same reduced terms; moreover, the new tenant seemed to be a not very satisfactory man, and Dymchurch had to consider the possibility that this part of his small income might become uncertain, or fail him altogether. Now and then he entertained the thought of studying agriculture, living upon his farm, and earning bread in the sweat of his brow; but a little talk with practical men showed him all the difficulties of such an undertaking. So far as his own day-to-day life was concerned, he felt small need of money; but it constantly worried him to think of his sisters down in Somerset, their best years going by, not indeed in actual want, but with so little of the brightness or hope natural to ladies of their birth. They did not appear unhappy; like him, they had a preference for the tranquil mode of life; none the less, he saw how different everything would have been with them but for their narrow means, and, after each visit to the silent meadow-circled house, he came away reproaching himself for his inertness.

The invitation to Lashmar's restaurant-dinner annoyed him a little, for casual company was by no means to his taste; when it was over, he felt glad that he had come, and more than ever fretted in spirit about his personal insignificance, his uselessness in the scheme of things. He was growing to hate the meaningless symbol which distinguished him from ordinary men; the sight of an envelope addressed to him stirred his spleen, for it looked like deliberate mockery. How if he cast away this empty lordship? Might it not be the breaking down of a barrier between him and real life? In doing so, what duty would he renounce? Who cared a snap of the fingers whether he signed himself "Dymchurch" or "Walter Fallowfield?" It was long enough since the barony of Dymchurch had justified its existence by any public service, and, as most people knew, its private record had small dignity. The likelihood was that he would never marry, and, unless either of his sisters did so, every day a more improbable thing, the title might fall into happy oblivion. What, in deed, did such titles mean nowadays? They were a silly anachronism, absurdly in contradiction with that scientific teaching which rules our lives. Lashmar, of course, was right in his demand for a new aristocracy to oust the old, an aristocracy of nature, of the born leaders of men. It might be that he had some claim to a humble position in that spiritual hierarchy, and perhaps the one manifest way to make proof of it was by flinging aside his tinsel privilege-an example, a precedent, to the like-minded of his caste.

Mrs. Toplady had begged him to come and see her. Mrs. Toplady, vaguely known to him by name, would, but a short time ago, have turned him to flight; having talked with her at the restaurant, he inclined to think her a very intelligent and bright-witted woman, the kind of woman who did a service to Society by keeping it in touch with modern ideas. After a little uneasy hesitation, he betook himself to Pont Street. Next, he accepted an invitation to dine there, and found himself in the company of an old Lady Ogram, of whom he had never heard, and a girl with an odd name, her niece, who rather amused him. Calling presently in Pont Street, to discharge his obligation of ceremony, he found Mrs. Toplady alone, and heard from her, in easy, half-confidential chat, a great deal about Lady Ogram and Miss Tomalin, information such as he would never himself have sought, but which, set off by his hostess's pleasant manner, entertained and somewhat interested him. For the young lady and her aged relative shone in no common light as Mrs. Toplady exhibited them. The baronet's widow became one of the most remarkable women of her time, all the more remarkable because of lowly origin; Miss Tomalin, heiress of a great fortune, had pure colonial blood in her veins, yet pursued with delightful zeal the finest culture of an old civilisation. As Mrs. Toplady talked thus, the door opened to admit-Mr. Lashmar, and there was an end of confidences for that day.

So far, Dymchurch had yielded without much reflection to the friendly pressure which brought him among strangers and disturbed his habits of seclusion. These dinners and afternoon calls had no importance; very soon he would be going down into Somerset, where it might be hoped that he would think out the problems which worried him, and arrive at some clear decision about the future. But when he found himself, reluctantly, yet as it seemed inevitably, setting forth to Mrs. Toplady's "At Home," the reasonable man in him grew restive. Why was he guilty of this weakness? Years had passed since he did anything so foolish as to leave home towards the middle of the night for the purpose of hustling amid a crowd of unknown people in staircases and drawing-rooms. He saw himself as the victim of sudden fatuity, own brother to the longest-eared of fashion's worshippers. Assuredly this should be the last of his concessions.

Inwardly pishing and pshawing, he drifted about the rooms till brought up beside Miss Tomalin. Then his mood changed. This girl, with her queer mixture of naivete and conceit and examination-room pedantry, decidedly amused him. Was she a type of the young Canadian? He knew nothing of her life at Northampton, and thought she had come over from Canada only a year or two ago. Yes, she amused him. By contrast with the drawing-room young lady, of whom he had always been afraid, she seemed to have originality of character, spontaneity of talk. Of course her learning was not exactly profound; the quality of her mind left something to be desired; her breeding fell short of what is demanded by the fastidious; but there was something healthy and genuine about her, which made these deficiencies a matter for indulgence rather than for censure. And then, she was by no means ill-looking. Once or twice he caught an aspect of her features which had a certain impressiveness; with nature cast in a more serious mould, she might have become a really beautiful woman.

Just as he had found courage to turn the talk in a personal direction, with an inquiry about Canadian life, he saw the approach of Dyce Lashmar. A glance at Miss Tomalin showed him that she had perceived the young politician, who was looking with manifest interest at her. Abruptly he rose. He had thought of asking the girl to let him take her to the supper-room, but at the sight of Lashmar he did not hesitate for a moment about retreating. And at once he quitted the house.

Dymchurch had never inclined to tender experiences; his life so far was without romance. Women more often amused than interested him; his humorous disposition found play among their lighter characteristics, and on the other hand-natural complement of humour-he felt a certain awe of the mysterious in their being. Except his own sisters, whom, naturally enough, he regarded as quite exceptional persons, he had never been on terms of intimacy with any woman of the educated world. Regarding marriage as impracticable-for he had always shrunk from the thought of accepting money with a wife-he gave as little heed as possible to the other sex, tried to leave it altogether out of account in his musings and reasonings upon existence. Frankly he said to himself that he knew nothing about women, and that he was just as likely to be wrong as right in any theory he might form about their place in the world, their dues, their possibilities. By temper, he leaned to the old way of regarding them; women militant, women in the public eye, were on the whole unpleasing to him. But he was satisfied with an occasional laugh at these extravagances, and heard with tolerable patience anyone who pleaded the cause of female emancipation. In brief, women lay beyond the circle of his interests.

The explanation of his abrupt withdrawal on Lashmar's appearance was, simply, that he all at once imagined a private understanding between his political friend and Miss Tomalin. The possibility had not hitherto occurred to him: he had given too little thought to Lady Ogram's niece. Now, of a sudden, it flashed upon him that Lashmar was seeking the girl in marriage, perhaps had already won her favour. The thought that Lashmar might perchance regard him as a rival pricked his pride; not for a moment could he rest under that misconstruction. He left the field clear, and drew breath like a man who has shaken off an embarrassment.

On the way home he saw how natural it was that such a man as Lashmar should woo Miss Tomalin. He might be a little too good for her; yet there was no knowing. That half grim, half grotesque Lady Ogram had evidently taken Lashmar under her wing, and probably would make no objection to the alliance; perhaps she had even projected it. Utterly without idle self-consciousness, Dymchurch had perceived no special significance in Mrs. Toplady's social advances to him. The sense of poverty was so persistent in his mind that he had never seen himself as a possible object of matrimonial intrigue; nor had he ever come in contact with a social rank where such designs must have been forced on his notice. Well, his "season" was over; he laughed as he looked back upon it. When Lashmar and Miss Tomalin were married, he might or might not see something of them. The man had ideas: it remained to be proved whether his strength was equal to his ambitions.

A few days later, Dymchurch heard that one of his sisters was not very well. She had caught a cold, and could not shake it off. This decided him to plan a summer holiday. He wrote and asked whether the girls would go with him to a certain quiet spot high in the Alps, and how soon they could leave home. The answer came that they would prefer not to go away until the middle of July, as a friend was about to visit them, whom they hoped to keep for two or three weeks. Disappointed at the delay, Dymchurch tried to settle down to his books; but books had lost their savour. He was consumed by dreary indolence.

Then came a note from Mrs. Toplady. He knew the writing, and opened the envelope with a petulant grimace, muttering "No, no, no!"

"Dear Lord Dymchurch," wrote his correspondent, "I wonder whether you are going to the performance of 'As You Like It' at Lady Honeybourne's on the 24th? It promises to be very good. If only they have fine weather, the play will be a real delight in that exquisite Surrey woodland. I do so hope we may meet you there. By we I mean Miss Tomalin and myself. Lady Ogram has gone back into the country, her health being unequal to London strain, and her niece stays with me for a little. You have heard, no doubt, of the engagement of Mr. Lashmar and Miss Bride. I knew it was coming. They are admirably suited to each other. To-day Mr. Lashmar gives his address at Hollingford, and I hope for good news tomorrow-"

The reader hung suspended at this point. Miss Bride? Who was Miss Bride? Oh, the lady whom he had seen once or twice with Lady Ogram; her secretary, had he not heard? Why, then he was altogether wrong in his conjecture about Lashmar and Miss Tomalin. He smiled at the error, characteristic of such an acute observer of social life!

He had received a card of invitation to Lady Honeybourne's, but had by no means thought of going down into Surrey to see an amateur open-air performance of "As You Like It." After all, was it not a way of passing an afternoon? And would not Miss Tomalin's running comment have a piquancy all its own? She would have "got up" the play, would be prepared with various readings, with philological and archaeological illustrations. Dymchurch smiled again as he thought of it, and already was half decided to go.

A copy of the Hollingford Express, posted, no doubt, by Lashmar, informed him that the private meeting of Liberals at the Saracen's Head had resulted in acceptance of his friend's candidature. There was a long report of Lashmar's speech, which he read critically, and not without envy. Whether he came to be elected or not, Lashmar was doing something; he knew the joy of activity, of putting out his strength, of moving others by the energy of his mind. This morning, his Highgate lodgings seemed to Dymchurch, a very cave in the wilderness. The comforts and the graceful things amid which he lived had bat all meaning; unless, indeed, they symbolised a dilettante decadence of w

hich he ought to be heartily ashamed. He ran over the contents of the provincial newspaper, and in every column found something that rebuked him. These municipal proceedings, what zeal and capability they implied! Was it not better, a thousand times, to be excited about the scheme for paving "Burgess Lane" than to sit here amid books and pictures, and do nothing at all but smoke one's favourite mixture? The world hummed about him with industry, with triumphant effort; and he alone of all men could put his hand to nothing.

His thought somehow turned upon Miss Tomalin. What was it that he found so piquant in that half-educated, indifferently-bred girl? Might it not be that she represented an order of Society with which he had no acquaintance, that vague multitude between the refined middle class and the rude toilers, which, as he knew theoretically, played such an important part in modern civilisation? Among these people, energy was naked, motives were direct. There the strength and the desires of the people became vocal; they must be studied, if one wished to know the trend of things. Had he not seen it remarked somewhere that from this class sprang nearly all the younger representatives of literature and art, the poets, novelists, journalists of to-day; all the vigorous young workers in science? Lashmar, he felt sure, was but one remove from it. That busy and aspiring multitude would furnish, most likely, by far the greater part of the spiritual aristocracy for which our world was waiting.

From this point of view, the girl had a new interest. She was destined, perhaps, to be the mother of some great man. He hoped she would not marry foolishly; the wealth she must soon inherit hardly favoured her chances in this respect; doubtless she would be surrounded by unprincipled money-hunters. On the whole, it seemed rather a pity that Lashmar had not chosen and won her; there would have been a fitness, one felt, in that alliance. At the same time, Lashmar's selection of an undowered mate spoke well for him. For it was to be presumed that Lady Ogram's secretary had no very brilliant prospects. Certainly she did not make much impression at the first glance; one would take her for a sensible, thoughtful woman, nothing more.

After a lapse of twenty-four hours, he replied to Mrs. Toplady. Yes, if the weather were not too discouraging, he hoped to be at Lady Honeybourne's. He added that the fact of Lashmar's engagement had come as news to him.

So, after all, his "season" was not yet over. But perhaps kind Jupiter would send rain, and make the murdering of Shakespeare an impossibility. Now and then he tapped his barometer, which for some days had hovered about "change," the sky meanwhile being clouded. On the eve of Midsummer Day there was every sign of unseasonable weather. Dymchurch told himself, with a certain persistency, that he was glad.

Yet the morrow broke fair, and at mid-day was steadily bright. Throughout the morning, Dymchurch held himself at remorseless study, and was rewarded by the approval of his conscience; whence, perhaps, the cheerfulness of resignation with which he made ready to keep his engagement at the Surrey house. With a half smile on his meditative face, he went out into the sunshine. He was thinking of Rosalind in Arden.

Lord Honeybourne and he had been schoolfellows; they were together at Oxford, but not in the same set, for Dymchurch read, and the other ostentatiously idled. What was the use of exerting oneself in any way-asked the Hon. L. F. T. Medwin-Burton-when a man had only an income of four or five thousand in prospect, fruit of a wretchedly encumbered estate which every year depreciated? Having left the University without a degree-his only notable performance a very amusing speech at the Union, proposing the abolition of the House of Lords-he allied himself with young Sir Evan Hungerford in a journalistic enterprise, and for a year or two the bi-monthly Skylark supplied matter for public mirth, not without occasional scandal. Then came his succession to the title, and Viscount Honeybourne, as the papers made known, presently set forth on travel which was to cover all British territory. He came back with an American wife, an incalculable fortune, and much knowledge of Greater Britain; moreover he had gained a serious spirit, and henceforth devoted himself to Colonial affairs. His young wife-she was seventeen at the time of her marriage-straightway took a conspicuous place in English Society, her note being intellectual and social earnestness.

The play was to begin at three o'clock. Arriving half an hour before, Dymchurch found his hostess in the open-air theatre, beset with managerial cares, whilst her company, already dressed for their parts, sat together under the greenwood tree, and a few guests strayed about the grass. He had met Lady Honeybourne only once, and that a couple of years ago; with difficulty they recognised each other. Lord Honeybourne, she told him, had hoped to be here, but the missing of a steamer (he had run over, just for a day or two, to Jamaica) would make him too late.

"You know Miss Tomalin?" the lady added with a bright smile. "She has been lunching with me, and we are great friends. I wish I had known her sooner; she would have had a part. There she is, talking with Miss Dolbey.-Yes, of course we have had to cut the play down. It's shocking, but there was no choice."

Dymchurch got away from this chatter, and stood aside. Then Miss Tomalin's radiant glance discovered him; she broke from the lady with whom she was conversing, and stepped in his direction with a look of frank pleasure.

"How do you do, Lord Dymchurch! I came early, to lunch with Lady Honeybourne and some of her actors. We have been getting on together splendidly. Let us settle our places. Mrs. Toplady may be a little late; we must keep a chair for her. Which do you prefer?-Isn't it admirably managed? This big tree will give shade all the time. Suppose we take these chairs? Of course we needn't sit down at once. Put your cane across two, and I'll tie my handkerchief on the third. There! Now we're safe.-Did you ever see an open-air play before? Charming idea, isn't it? You don't know Lady Honeybourne very well, I think? Oh, she's very bright, and has lots of ideas. I think we shall be real friends. She must come down to Rivenoak in August."

"I'm sorry," interposed Dymchurch, as soon as there came a pause, "that Lady Ogram had to leave town so soon."

"Oh, it was too much for her. I advised her very seriously, as soon as she began to feel exhausted, not to stay another day. Indeed, I couldn't have allowed it; I'm convinced it was dangerous, in her state of health. I hear from her that she is already much better. Rivenoak is such a delightfully quiet place, and such excellent air. Did you see a report of Mr. Lashmar's speech? Rather good, I thought. Perhaps just a little too vague: the fault I hoped he would avoid. But of course it's very difficult to adapt oneself all at once to electioneering necessities. Mr. Lashmar is theoretical; of course that is his strong point."

Dymchurch listened with an air of respectful, though smiling, attention. The girl amused him more than ever. Really, she had such a pleasant voice that her limitless flow of words might well be pardoned, even enjoyed.

"Lady Honeybourne and I have been talking about the condition of the poor. She has capital ideas, but not much experience. Of course I am able to speak with some authority: I saw so much of the poor at Northampton."

Once or twice Dymchurch had heard mention of Northampton in May's talk, but his extreme discretion had withheld him from putting a question on the subject. Catching his look, she saw inquiry in it.

"You know that I lived at Northampton, before I made my home at Rivenoak? Oh, I thought that I had told you all about that."

Acting on her aunt's counsel, approved by Mrs. Toplady, May was careful not to let it be perceived by casual acquaintances that, until a month ago, she had been an absolute stranger to her titled relative. At the same time, it was necessary to avoid any appearance of mystery, and people were given to understand that she had passed some years with her family in the midland town.

"And what work did you take part in?" asked her companion.

"It was a scheme of my own, mainly educational. I'll tell you all about it, when we have time. What a lot of people all at once! Ah, it's the 2.40 train that brings them. You came by the one before? There's Mrs. Toplady; so she isn't late, after all."

The audience began to seat itself. A string-band, under a marquee aside from the plot of smooth turf which represented the stage, began to discourse old English music; on this subject, as soon as they were seated side by side, Dymchurch had the full benefit of May's recently acquired learning. How quick the girl was in gathering any kind of information! And how intelligently she gave it forth! Babble as she might, one could never (thought the amused peer) detect a note of vulgarity; at worst, there was excess of ingenuousness; a fault, after all, in the right direction. She was very young, and had little experience of Society; in a year or two these surface blemishes would be polished away. The important thing was that she did sincerely care for things of the mind, and had a mind to apply to them.

He sat on Miss Tomalin's right hand; on her left was Mrs. Toplady. The humourist of Pont Street, as she listened to the talk beside her, smiled very roguishly indeed. Seldom had anything so surprised and entertained her as the progress of intimacy between May and Lord Dymchurch But she was vexed, as well as puzzled, by Lashmar's recent step, which seemed to deprive the comedy of an element on which she had counted. Perhaps not, however; it might be that the real complication was only just beginning.

"As You Like It," was timed for a couple of hours, intervals included. Miss Tomalin did not fail to whisper her neighbours at every noteworthy omission from the text, and once or twice she was moved to a pained protest. Her criticism of the actors was indulgent; she felt the value of her praise, but was equally aware of the weight of her censure. So the sunny afternoon went by. Here and there a spectator nodded drowsily; others conversed under their breath-not of the bard of Avon. The air was full of that insect humming which is nature's music at high summer-tide.

Upon the final applause followed welcome refreshment. A table laden with dainties gleamed upon the sward. Dymchurch looked after his ladies; but the elder of them soon wandered off amid the friendly throng, and May, who ate and drank with enjoyment, was able to give her companion the promised description of her activity at Northampton. The listener smiled and smiled; had much ado, indeed, not to exhibit open gaiety; but ever and again his eyes rested on the girl's countenance, and its animation so pleased him that he saw even in her absurdities a spirit of good.

"You never did any work of that sort?" inquired May, regarding him from a good-natured height.

"Never, I'm sorry to say."

"But don't you sometimes feel as if it were a duty?"

"I often feel I ought to do something," answered Dymchurch, in a graver voice. "But whether I could be of any use among the poor, is doubtful."

"No, I hardly think you could," said May, reflectively. "Your social position doesn't allow of that. Of course you help to make laws, which is more important."

"If I really did so; but I don't. I have no more part in law-making than you have."

"But, why not?" asked May, gazing at him in surprise. "Surely that is a duty about which you can have no doubt."

"I neglect all duties," he answered.

"How strange! Is it your principle? You are not an Anarchist, Lord Dymchurch?"

"Practically, I fancy that's just what I am. Theoretically, no. Suppose," he added, with his pleasantest smile, "you advise me as to what use I can make of my life."

The man was speaking without control of his tongue. He had sunk into a limp passivity; in part, it might be, the result of the drowsily humming air; in part, a sort of hypnotism due to May's talk and the feminine perfume which breathed from her. He understood the idleness of what fell from his lips, but it pleased him to be idle. Therewithal-strange contradiction-he was trying to persuade himself that, more likely than not, this chattering girl had it in her power to make him an active, useful man, to draw him out of his mouldy hermitage and set him in the world's broad daylight. The analogy of Lord Honeybourne came into his mind; Lord Honeybourne, whose marriage had been the turning-point of his career, and whose wife, in many respects, bore a resemblance to May Tomalin.

"I shall have to think very seriously about it," May was replying. "But nothing could interest me more. You don't feel at all inclined for public life?"

Their dialogue was interrupted by the hostess, who came forward with a gentleman she wished to present to Miss Tomalin. Hearing the name-Mr. Langtoft-Dymchurch regarded him with curiosity, and, moving aside with Lady Honeybourne as she withdrew, he inquired whether this was the Mr. Langtoft.

"It is," the hostess answered. "Do you take an interest in his work? Would you like to know him?"

Dymchurch declined the introduction for the present, but he was glad to have seen the man, just now frequently spoken of in newspapers, much lauded, and vehemently attacked. A wealthy manufacturer, practically lord of a swarming township in Lancashire, Mr. Langtoft was trying to get into his own hands the education of all the lower-class children growing up around his mill chimneys. He disapproved of the board-school; he looked with still less favour on the schools of the clergy; and, regardless of expense, was establishing schools of his own, where what he called "civic instruction" was gratuitously imparted. The idea closely resembled that which Dyce Lashmar had borrowed from his French sociologist, and Dyce had lately been in correspondence with Mr. Langtoft. Lashmar's name, indeed, was now passing between the reformer and Miss Tomalin.

"His work," said Dymchurch to himself. "Yes, everybody has his work-except me."

And the impulse to experiment in life grew so strong with him, that he had to go apart under the trees, and pace nervously about; idle talk being no longer endurable.

The gathering began to thin. He had noted the train by which he would return to London, and a glance at his watch told him that he must start if he would reach the station in time. Moving towards the group of people about the hostess, he encountered Mrs. Toplady.

"Have you a cab?" she asked. "If not, there's plenty of room in ours."

Dymchurch would have liked to refuse, but hesitation undid him. Face to face with Mrs. Toplady and May, he drove to the station, and, as was inevitable, performed the rest of the journey in their company. The afternoon had tired him; alone, he would have closed his eyes, and tried to shut out the kaleidoscopic sensation which resulted from theatrical costumes, brilliant illustrations of the feminine mode, blue sky and sunny glades; but May Tomalin was as fresh as if new-risen, and still talked, talked. Enthusiastic in admiration of Lady Honeybourne, she heard with much interest that Dymchurch's acquaintance with the Viscount went back to Harrow days.

"That's what I envy you," she exclaimed, "your public school and University education! They make us feel our inferiority, and it isn't fair."

Admission of inferiority was so unexpected a thing on Miss Tomalin's lips, that her interlocutor glanced at her. Mrs. Toplady, in her corner of the railway carriage, seemed to be smiling over a newspaper article.

"The feeling must be very transitory," said Dymchurch, with humorous arch of brows.

"Oh, it doesn't trouble me very often. I know I should have done just as much as men do, if I had had the chance."

"Considerably more, no doubt, than either Honeybourne or I."

"You have never really put out your strength, I'm afraid, Lord Dymchurch," said May, regarding him with her candid smile. "Never in anything-have you?"

"No," he responded, in a like tone. "A trifler-always a trifler!"

"But if you know it-"

Something in his look made her pause. She looked out of the window, before adding:

"Still, I don't think it's quite true. The first time I saw you, I felt you were very serious, and that you had thought much. You rather overawed me."

Dymchurch laughed. In her corner, Mrs. Toplady still found matter for ironic smiling as she rustled over the evening journal; and the train swept on towards London.

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