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   Chapter 15 No.15

Jaffery By William John Locke Characters: 34347

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


When, by way of comforting Jaffery, I criticised Doria's outburst, he fell upon me as though about to devour me alive. After what he had done for her, said I, given up one of the great chances of his career, carried her bodily from London to Nice, and made her a present of a brilliant novel so as to save Adrian's memory from shame, she ought to go on her knees and pray God to shower blessings on his head. As it was, she deserved whipping.

Jaffery called me, among other things, an amazing ass-he has an Eastern habit of, facile vituperation-and roared about the drawing-room. The ladies, be it understood, had retired.

"You don't seem to grip the elements of the situation. You haven't the intelligence of a rabbit. How in Hades could she know I've written the rotten book? She thinks it's Adrian's. And she thinks I've spoiled it. She's perfectly justified. For the little footling services I rendered her on the journey, she's idiotically grateful-out of all proportion. As for Persia, she knows nothing about it-"

"She ought to," said I.

"If you tell her, I'll break your neck," roared Jaffery.

"All right," said I, desiring to remain whole. "So long as you're satisfied, it doesn't much matter to me."

It didn't. After all, one has one's own life to live, and however understanding of one's friends and sympathetically inclined towards them one may be, one cannot follow them emotionally through all their bleak despairs and furious passions. A man doing so would be dead in a week.

"It doesn't seem to strike you," he went on, "that the poor girl's mental and moral balance depends on the successful carrying out of this ghastly farce."

"I do, my dear chap."

"You don't. I wrote the thing as best I could-a labour of love. But it's nothing like Tom Castleton's work-which she thinks is Adrian's. To keep up the deception I had to crab it and say that the faults were mine. Naturally she believes me."

"All right," said I, again. "And when the book is published and Adrian's memory flattered and Doria is assured of her mental and moral balance-what then?"

"I hope she'll be happy," he answered. "Why the blazes do you suppose I've worried if it wasn't to give her happiness?"

I could not press my point. I could not commit the gross indelicacy of saying: "My poor friend, where do you come in?" or words to that effect. Nor could I possibly lay down the proposition that a living second husband-stretching the imagination to the hypothesis of her taking one-is but an indifferent hero to the widow who spends her life in burning incense before the shrine of the demigod husband who is dead. We can't say these things to our friends. We expect them to have common sense as we have ourselves. But we don't, and-for the curious reason, based on the intense individualism of sexual attraction, that no man can appreciate, save intellectually, another man's desire for a particular woman-we can't realize the poor, fool hunger of his heart. The man who pours into our ears a torrential tale of passion moves us not to sympathy, but rather to psychological speculation, if we are kindly disposed, or to murderous inclinations if we are not. On the other hand, he who is silent moves us not at all. In any and every case, however, we entirely fail to comprehend why, if Ne?ra is obdurate, our swain does not go afield and find, as assuredly he can, some complaisant Amaryllis.

I confess, honestly, that during this conversation I felt somewhat impatient with my dear, infatuated friend. There he was, casting the largesse of his soul at the feet of a blind woman, a woman blinded by the bedazzlement of a false fire, whose flare it was his religion to intensify. There he was doing this, and he did not see the imbecility of it! In after time we can correlate incidents and circumstances, viewing them in a perspective more or less correct. We see that we might have said and done a hundred helpful things. Well, we know that we did not, and there's an end on't. I felt, as I say, impatient with Jaffery, although-or was it because?-I recognised the bald fact that he was in love with Doria to the maximum degree of besottedness.

You see, when you say to a man: "Why do you let the woman kick you?" and he replies, with a glare of indignation: "She has deigned to touch my unworthy carcass with her sacred boot!" what in the world are you to do, save resume the interrupted enjoyment of your cigar? This I did. I also found amusement in comparing his meek wooing, like that of an early Italian amorist, with his rumbustious theories as to marriage by capture and other primitive methods of bringing woman to heel.

Doria, seeing him unresentful of kicking, continued to kick (when Barbara wasn't looking-for Barbara had read her a lecture on the polite treatment of trustees and executors) and made him more her slave than ever. He fetched and carried. He read poetry. He was Custodian of the Sacred Rubbers, when the grass was damp. He shielded her from over-rough incursions on the part of Susan. He chanted the responses in her Litany of Saint Adrian. He sacrificed his golf so that he could sit near her and hold figurative wool for her to unwind. It was very pretty to watch them. The contrast between them made its unceasing appeal. Besides, Doria did not kick all the time; there were long spells during which, touched by the giant's devotion, she repaid it in tokens of tender regard. At such times she was as fascinating an elf as one could wish to meet on a spring morning. He could bring, like no one else, the smile into her dark, mournful eyes. There is no doubt that, in her way and as far as her Adrian-bound emotional temperament permitted, she felt grateful to Jaffery. She also felt safe in his company. He was like a great St. Bernard dog, she declared to Barbara.

These idyllic relations continued unruffled for some days, until a letter arrived from the eminent novelist to whom, with Doria's approval, Jaffery had sent the proofs.

"A marvellous story," was the great man's verdict; "singularly different from 'The Diamond Gate,' only resembling it in its largeness of conception and the perfection of its kind. The alteration of a single word would spoil it. If an alien hand is there, it is imperceptible."

At this splendid tribute Jaffery beamed with happiness. He tossed the letter to Barbara across the breakfast table.

"No alien hand perceptible. Ho! ho! ho! But it's stunning, isn't it? I do believe the old fraud of a book is going to win through. This ought to satisfy Doria, don't you think so?"

"It ought to," said Barbara. "I'll send it up to her room."

But Doria with Adrian's impeccability on the brain-and how could a work of Adrian's be impeccable when an alien hand, however imperceptible, had touched it?-was not satisfied. Towards noon, when she came downstairs, she met Jaffery on the terrace, with a familiar little knitting of the brow before which his welcoming smile faded.

"It's all right up to a point," she said, handing him back the letter. "Nobody with the rudiments of a brain could fail to recognise the merits of Adrian's work. But no novelist is possessed of the critical faculty."

"Then why," asked Jaffery, after the way of men, "did you ask me to send him the novel?"

"I took it for granted he had common sense," replied Doria, after the way of women.

"And he hasn't any?"

"Read the thing again."

Jaffery scanned the page mechanically and looked up: "Well, what's to be done now?"

"I should like to compare the proofs with Adrian's original manuscript. Where is it?"

Here was the question we had all dreaded. Jaffery lied convincingly.

"It went to the printers, my dear, and of course they've destroyed it."

"I thought everything was typed nowadays."

"Typing takes time," replied Jaffery serenely. "And I'm not an advocate of feather-beds and rose-water baths for printers. As I wanted to rush the book out as quickly as possible, I didn't see why I should pamper them with type. Have you the original manuscript of 'The Diamond Gate'?"

"No," said Doria.

"Well-don't you see?" said Jaffery, with a smile.

For the first time I praised Old Man Jornicroft. He had brought up his daughter far from the madding mechanics of the literary life. To my great relief, Doria swallowed the incredible story.

"It was careless of you not to have given special instructions for the manuscript to be saved, I must say. But if it's gone, it's gone. I'm not unreasonable."

"I think you are," said Barbara, who had been arranging flowers in the drawing-room, and had emerged onto the terrace. "You made Jaffery submit his careful editing to an expert, and you're honourably bound to accept the expert's verdict."

"I do accept it," she retorted with a toss of her head and a flash of her eyes. "Have I ever said I didn't? But I'm at liberty to keep to my own opinion."

Jaffery scratched his whiskers and beard and screwed up his face as he did in moments of perplexity.

"What exactly do you want changed?" he asked.

"Just those few coarse touches you admit are yours."

"Adrian wanted to get an atmosphere of rye-whisky and bad tobacco-not tea and strawberries." The eminent novelist's encomium had aroused the artist's pride in his first-born. An altered word would spoil the book. "My dear girl," said he, stretching out his great hand, from beneath which she wriggled an impatient shoulder, "my dear Doria," said he, very gently, "the possessor of the Order of Merit is both a critic and a man of common sense. Anyway, he knows more about novels than either of us do. If it weren't for him I would give you the proofs to blue pencil as much as you liked. But I'm sure you would make a thundering mess of it."

Doria made a little gesture-a bit of a shrug-a bit of a resigned flicker of her hands.

"Of course, do as you please, dear Jaffery. I'm quite alone, a woman with nobody to turn to"-she smiled with her lips, but there was no coordination of her eyes-"as I said before, I pass the proofs."

She went quickly through the drawing-room door into the house, leaving Jaffery still scratching a red whisker.

"Oh, Lord!" said he, ruefully, "I've gone and done it now!"

He turned to follow her, but Barbara interposed her small body on the threshold.

"Don't be a silly fool, Jaff. You've pandered quite enough to her morbid vanity. It's your book, isn't it? You have given it birth. You know better than anybody what is vital to it. Just you send those proofs straight back to the publisher. If you let her persuade you to change one word, as true as I'm standing here, I'll tell her the whole thing, and damn the consequences!"

My exquisite Barbara's rare "damns" were oaths in the strictest sense. They connoted the most irrefragable of obligations. She would no more think of breaking a "damn" than her marriage vows or a baby's neck.

"Of course, I'm not going to let her touch the thing," said Jaffery. "But I don't want her to look on me as a bullying brute."

"It would be better, both for you and her, if she did," snapped Barbara. "The ordinary woman's like the dog and the walnut tree. It's only the exceptional woman that can take command."

I, who had been sitting calm, on the low parapet beneath the tenderly sprouting wistaria arbour, broke my philosophic silence.

"Observe the exceptional woman," said I.

* * *

For a day or so Doria stood upon her dignity, treating Jaffery with cold politeness. In the mornings she allowed him to wrap her up in her garden chair and attend to her comforts, and then, settled down, she would open a volume of Tolstoi and courteously signify his dismissal. Jaffery with a hang-dog expression went with me to the golf-course, where he drove with prodigious muscular skill, and putted execrably. Had it not been a question of good taste, to say nothing of human sentiment, I would have reminded him that the thing he was hitting so violently was only a little white ball and not poor Adrian's skull. If ever a man was loyal to a dead friend Jaffery Chayne was loyal to Adrian Boldero. But poor old Jaffery was being checked in every vital avenue, not by the memory of the man whom he had known and loved, but by his cynical and masquerading ghost. It is not given to me, thank God! to know from direct speech what Jaffery thought of Adrian-for Jaffery is too splendid a fellow to have ever said a word in depreciation of his once living friend and afterward dead rival; but both I, who do not aspire to these Quixotic heights and only, with masculine power of generalisation, deduce results from a quiet eye's harvest of mundane phenomena, and Barbara, whose rapier intuition penetrates the core of spiritual things, could, with little difficulty, divine the passionate struggle between love and hatred, between loyalty and tenderness, between desire and duty that took place in the soul of this chivalrous yet primitive and vastly appetited gentleman.

You may think I am trying to present Jaffery as a hero of romance. I am not. I am merely trying to put before you, in my imperfect way, a barbarian at war with civilised instincts; a lusty son of Pantagruel forced into the incongruous r?le of Sir Galahad. . . . During the term of his punishment he behaved in a bearish and most unheroic manner. At last, however, Doria forgave him, and, smiling on him once more, permitted him to read Tolstoi aloud to her. Whereupon he mended his manners.

The day following this reconciliation was a Sunday. We had invited Liosha (as we constantly did) to lunch and dine. She usually arrived by an early train in the forenoon and returned by the late train at night. But on Saturday evening, she asked Barbara, over the telephone, for permission to bring a friend, a gentleman staying in the boarding house, the happy possessor of a car, who would motor her down. His name was Fendihook. Barbara replied that she would be delighted to see Liosha's friend, and of course came back to us and speculated as to who and what this Mr. Fendihook might be.

"Why didn't you ask her?" said I.

"It would scarcely have been polite."

We consulted Jaffery. "Never heard of him," he growled. "And I don't like to hear of him now. That young woman's running loose a vast deal too much."

"What an old dog in the manger you are!" cried Barbara; and thus started an old argument.

On Sunday morning we saw Mr. Fendihook for ourselves. I met the car, a two-seater, which he drove himself, at the front door, and perceived between a motoring cap worn peak behind and a tightly buttoned Burberry coat a pink, fleshy, clean shaven face, from the middle of which projected an enormous cigar. I helped Liosha out.

"This is Mr. Fendihook."

"Commonly called Ras Fendihook, at your service," said he.

I smiled and shook hands and gave the car into the charge of my chauffeur, who appeared from the stable-yard. In the hall, aided by Franklin, Mr. Ras Fendihook divested himself of his outer wrappings and revealed a thickset man of medium height, rather flashily attired. I know it is narrow-minded, but I have a prejudice against a black and white check suit, and a red necktie threaded through a gold ring.

"Against the rules?" he asked, holding up his cigar, a very good one, on which he had retained the band.

"By no means," said I, "we smoke all over the house."

"Tiptop!" He looked around the hall. "You seem to have a bit of all right here."

"I told you you would like it. Everybody does," said Liosha. "Ah, Barbara, dear!" She ran up the stairs to meet her. We followed. Mr. Fendihook was presented. I noticed, with a little shock, that he had kept on his gloves.

"Very kind of you to let me come down, madam. I thought a bit of a blow would do our fair friend good."

Barbara took off Liosha, looking very handsome and fresh beneath the motor-veil, to her room, leaving me with Mr. Fendihook. As he preceded me into the drawing-room I saw a bald patch like a tonsure in the middle of a crop of coarse brown hair. Again he looked round appreciatively and again he said "Tiptop!" He advanced to the open French window.

"Garden's all right. Must take a lot of doing. Who are our friends? The long and the short of it, aren't they?"

He alluded to Jaffery and Doria, who were strolling on the lawn. I told him their names.

"Jaffery Chayne. Why, that's the chap Mrs. Prescott's always talking about, her guardian or something."

"Her trustee," said I, "and an intimate friend of her late husband."

"Ah!" said he, with a twinkle in his eyes which, I will swear, signified "Then there was a Prescott after all!" He waved his cigar. "Introduce me." And as I accompanied him across the lawn-"There's nothing like knowing everybody-getting it over at once. Then one feels at home."

"I hope you felt at home as soon as you entered the house," said I.

"Of course I did, old pal," he replied heartily. "Of course I did." And the amazing creature patted me on the back.

I performed the introductions. Mr. Fendihook declared himself delighted to make the acquaintance of my friends. Then as conversation did

not start spontaneously, he once more looked around, nodded at the landscape approvingly, and once more said "Tiptop!"

"That's what I want to have," he continued, "when I can afford to retire and settle down. None of your gimcrack modern villas in a desirable residential neighbourhood, but an English gentleman's country house."

"It's your ambition to be an English gentleman, Mr. Fendihook?" queried Doria.

He laughed good-humouredly. "Now you're pulling my leg."

I saw that he was not lacking in shrewdness.

Susan, never far from Jaffery during her off-time, came running up.

"Hallo, is that your young 'un?" Mr. Fendihook asked. "Come and say how d'ye do, Gwendoline."

Susan advanced shyly. He shook hands with her, chucked her under the chin and paid her the ill compliment of saying that she was the image of her father. Jaffery stood with folded arms holding the bowl of his pipe in one hand and looked down on Mr. Fendihook as on some puzzling insect.

"Do you mind if I take off my gloves?" our strange visitor asked.

"Pray do," said I. The sight of the fellow wandering about a garden bareheaded and gloved in yellow chamois leather had begun to affect my nerves. He peeled them off.

"Look here, Gwendoline Arabella, my dear," he cried. "Catch!"

He made a feint of throwing them.

"Haven't you caught 'em?"

"No."

She stared at the man open-mouthed, for behold, his hands were empty.

"Tut, tut!" said he. "Perhaps you can catch a handkerchief." He flicked a red silk handkerchief from his pocket, crumpled it into a ball and threw; but like the gloves it vanished. "Now where has it gone to?"

Susan, who had shrunk beneath Jaffery's protecting shadow, crept forward fascinated. Mr. Fendihook took a sudden step or two towards a flower bed.

"Why, there it is!"

He stretched out a hand and there before our eyes the handkerchief hung limp over the pruned top of a standard rose.

"Jolly good!" exclaimed Jaffery.

"I hope you don't mind. I like amusing kiddies. Have you ever talked to angels, Araminta? No? Well, I have. Look."

He threw half-crowns up into the air until they disappeared into the central blue, and then held a ventriloquial conversation, not in the best of taste, with the celestial spirits, who having caught the coins announced their intention of sticking to them. But threats of reporting to headquarters prevailed, and one by one the coins dropped and jingled in his hand. We applauded. Susan regarded him as she would a god.

"Can you do it again?" she asked breathlessly.

"Lord bless you, Eustacia, I can keep on doing it all day long."

He balanced his cigar on the tip of his nose and with a snap caught it in his mouth. He turned to me with a grin, which showed white strong teeth. "More than you could do, old pal!"

"You must have practised that a great deal," said Doria.

"Two hours a day solid year in and year out-not that trick alone, of course. Here!" he burst into a laugh. "I'm blowed if you know who I am-I'm the One and Only Ras Fendihook-Illusionist, Ventriloquist, and General Variety Artist. Haven't you ever seen my turn?"

We confessed, with regret, that we had missed the privilege.

"Well, well, it's a queer world," he said philosophically. "You've never heard of me-and perhaps you two gentlemen are big bugs in your own line-and I've never heard of you. But anyhow, I never asked you, Mr. Chayne, to catch my gloves."

"I haven't your gloves," said Jaffery, with his eye on Susan.

"You have. You've got 'em in your pocket."

And diving into Jaffery's jacket pocket, he produced the wash-leather gloves.

"There, Petronella," said he, "that's the end of the matinée performance."

Susan looked at him wide-eyed. "I'm not at all tired."

"Aren't you? Then don't let that big black dog there chase the little one."

He pointed with his finger and from behind the old yew arbour came the shrill clamour of a little dog in agony. It brought Barbara flying out of the house. Liosha followed leisurely. The yelping ceased. Mr. Ras Fendihook went to meet his hostess. Doria, Jaffery and I looked at one another in mutual and dismayed comprehension.

"Old pal," quoted Doria.

I glanced apprehensively across the strip of lawn. "I hope, for his sake, he's not calling Barbara 'old girl.'"

"He calls everybody funny names," Susan chimed in. "See what a lot he called me."

"Does your Royal Fairy Highness approve of him?" asked Jaffery.

"I should think so, Uncle Jaff," she replied fervently. "He's-he's marvelious!"

"He is," said Jaffery, "and even that jewel of language doesn't express him."

"My dear," said I, "you stick close to him all day, as long as mummy will let you."

I have never got the credit I deserved for the serene wisdom of that suggestion. All through lunch, all through the long afternoon until it was Susan's bedtime, her obedience to my command saved over and over again a tense situation. To the guest in her house Barbara was the perfection of courtesy. But beneath the mask of convention raged fury with Liosha. A woman can seldom take a queer social animal for what he is and suck the honey from his flowers of unconventionality. She had never heard a man say "Right oh!" to a butler when offered a second helping of pudding. She had never dreamed of the possibility of a strange table-neighbour laying his hand on hers and requesting her to "take it from me, my dear." It sent awful shivers down her spine to hear my august self alluded to as her "old man." She looked down her nose when, to the apoplectic joy of Susan (supposed to be on her primmest behaviour at meals), he, with a significant wink, threw a new potato into the air, caught it on his fork and conveyed it to his mouth. Her smile was that of the polite hostess and not of the enthusiastic listener when he told her of triumphs in Manchester and Cincinnati. To her confusion, he presupposed her intimate acquaintance with the personalities of the World of Variety.

"That's where I came across little Evie Bostock," he said confidentially. "A clipper, wasn't she? Just before she ran off with that contortionist-you know who I mean-handsome chap-what's his name?-oh, of course you know him."

My poor Barbara! Daughter of a distinguished Civil servant, a K.C.B., assumed to be on friendly terms with a Boneless Wonder!

"But indeed I don't, Mr. Fendihook," she replied pathetically.

"Yes, yes, you must." He snapped his fingers. "Got it. Romeo! You must have heard of Romeo."

I sniggered-I couldn't help it-at Barbara's face. He went on with his reminiscences. Barbara nearly wept, whilst I, though displeased with Liosha for introducing such an incongruous element into my family circle, took the rational course of deriving from the fellow considerable entertainment. Jaffery would have done the same as myself, had not his responsibility as Liosha's guardian weighed heavily upon him. He frowned, and ate in silence, vastly. Doria, like my wife, I could see was shocked. The only two who, beside myself, enjoyed our guest were Susan and Liosha. Well, Susan was nine years old and a meal at which a guest broke her whole decalogue of table manners at once-to say nothing of the performance of such miracles as squeezing an orange into nothingness, without the juice running out, and subsequently extracting it from the neck of an agonised mother-was a feast of memorable gaudiness. Susan could be excused. But Liosha? Liosha, pupil of the admirable Mrs. Considine? Liosha, descendant of proud Albanian chieftains who had lain in gory beds for centuries? How could she admire this peculiarly vulgar, although, in his own line, peculiarly accomplished person? Yet her admiration was obvious. She sat by my side, grand and radiant, proud of the wondrous gift she had bestowed on us. She acclaimed his tricks, she laughed at his anecdotes, she urged him on to further exhibition of prowess, and in a magnificent way appeared unconscious of the presence at the table of her trustee and would-be dragon, Jaffery Chayne.

After lunch Susan obeyed my instructions and stuck very close to Mr. Fendihook. Doria retired for her afternoon rest. Jaffery, having invited Liosha to go for a long walk with him and she having declined, with a polite smile, on the ground that her best Sunday-go-to-meeting long gown was not suitable for country roads, went off by himself in dudgeon. Barbara took Liosha aside and cross-examined her on the subject of Mr. Fendihook and as far as hospitality allowed signified her non-appreciation of the guest. After a time I took him into the billiard room, Susan following. As he was a brilliant player, giving me one hundred and fifty in two hundred and running out easily before I had made thirty, he found less excitement in the game than in narrating his exploits and performing tricks for the child. He did astonishing things with the billiard balls, making them run all over his body like mice and balancing them on cues and juggling with them five at a time. I think that day he must have gone through his whole répertoire.

The party assembled for tea in the drawing-room. Fendihook's first words to Liosha were:

"Hallo, my Balkan Queen, how have you been getting on?"

"Very well, thank you," smiled Liosha.

He turned to Jaffery. "She's not up to her usual form to-day. But sometimes she's a fair treat! I give you my word."

He laughed loudly and winked. Jaffery, whose agility in repartee was rather physical than mental, glowered at him, rumbled something unintelligible beneath his breath, and took tea out to Doria, who was established on the terrace.

"Seems to have got the pip," Mr. Fendihook remarked cheerfully.

Barbara, with icy politeness, offered him tea. He refused, explaining that unless he sat down to a square meal, which, in view of the excellence of his lunch, he was unable to do, he never drank tea in the afternoon.

"Could I have a whisky and soda, old pal?"

The drink was brought. He pledged Barbara-"And may I drink to the success of that promising little affair"-he jerked a backward thumb-"between our pippy friend and the charming widow?"

Barbara had passed the gasping stage.

"Mr. Chayne," she said in the metallic voice that, before now, had made strong men grow pale, "Mr. Chayne stands in the same relation of trustee to Mrs. Boldero as he does to Mrs. Prescott."

But Fendihook was undismayed. "Some fellows have all the luck! Here's to him, and here's to you, Sheba's Queen."

He nodded to Liosha and pulled at his drink. But Liosha did not respond. A hard look appeared in her eyes and the knuckles of her hand showed white. Presently she rose and went onto the terrace, where she found Jaffery fixing a rebellious rug round Doria's feet. And this is what happened.

"Jaff Chayne," she said, "I want to have a word with you. You'll excuse me, Doria, but Jaff Chayne's as much my trustee as he is yours. I have business to talk."

Doria eyed her coldly. "Talk as much business as you like, my dear girl. I'm not preventing you." Jaffery strode off with Liosha. As soon as they were out of earshot, she said:

"Are you going to marry her?"

"Who?"

"Doria."

Jaffery bent his brows on her. He was not in his most angelic mood.

"What the blazes has that got to do with you? Just you mind your own business."

"All right," she retorted, "I will."

"Glad to hear it," said he. "And now I want a word with you. What do you mean by bringing that howling cad down here?"

"It's you who howl, not he. He's a very kind gentleman and very clever and he makes me laugh. He's not like you."

"He's a performing gorilla," cried Jaffery.

They were both exceedingly angry, and having walked very fast, they found themselves in front of the gate of the walled garden. Instinctively they entered and had the place to themselves.

"And a confounded bounder of a gorilla at that!" Jaffery continued.

"How dare you speak so of my friend?"

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for having such a friend. And you're just going to drop him. Do you understand?"

"Shan't!" said Liosha.

"You shall. You're not going to be seen outside the house with him."

There was battle clamorous and a trifle undignified. They said the same things over and over again. Both had worked themselves into a fury.

"I forbid you to have anything to do with the fellow."

"You, Jaff Chayne, told me to mind my own business. Just you mind yours."

"It is my business," he shouted, "to see that you don't disgrace yourself with a beast of a fellow like that."

"What did you say? Disgrace myself?" She drew herself up magnificently. "Do you think I would disgrace myself with any man living? You insult me."

"Rot!" cried Jaffery. "Every woman's liable to make a blessed fool of herself-and you more than most."

"I know one that's not going to make a fool of herself," she taunted, and flung an arm in the direction of the house.

Jaffery blazed. "You leave me alone."

"And you leave me alone."

They glared inimically into each other's eyes. Liosha turned, marched superbly away, opened the garden door and, passing through, slammed it in his face. It had been a very pretty, primitive quarrel, free from all subtlety. Elemental instinct flamed in Jaffery's veins. If he could have given her a good sound thrashing he would have been a happy man. This accursed civilisation paralysed him. He stood for a few moments tearing at whiskers and beard. Then he started in pursuit, and overtook her in the middle of the lawn.

"Anyhow, you'll take the infernal fellow away now and never bring him here again."

"It's Hilary's house, not yours," she remarked, looking straight before her.

"Well, ask him."

"I will. Hilary!"

At her hail and beckon I left the terrace where Mr. Fendihook had been discoursing irrepressibly on the Bohemian advantages of widowhood to a quivering Doria, and advanced to meet her, a flushed and bright-eyed Juno.

"Would you like me to bring Ras Fendihook here again?"

"Tell her straight," said Jaffery.

Even Susan, looking from one to the other, would have been conscious of storms. I took her hand.

"My dear Liosha," said I, "our social system is so complicated that it is no wonder you don't appreciate the more delicate ramifications-"

"Oh! Talk sense to her," growled Jaffery.

"Mr. Fendihook is not quite"-I hesitated-"not quite the kind of person, my dear, that we're accustomed to meet."

"I know," said Liosha, "you want them all stamped out in a pattern, like little tin soldiers."

"I see the point of your criticism, and it's true, as far as it goes."

"Oh, go on-" Jaffery interrupted.

"But-" I continued.

"You'd rather not see him again?"

"No," roared Jaffery.

"I'm talking to Hilary, not you," said Liosha. She turned to me. "You and Barbara would like me to take him away right now?"

I still held her hand, which was growing moist-and I suppose mine was too-and I didn't like to drop it, for fear of hurting her feelings. I gave it a great squeeze. It was very difficult for me. Personally, I enjoyed the frank, untrammelled and prodigiously accomplished scion of a vulgar race. As a mere bachelor, isolated human, meeting him, I should have taken him joyously, if not to my heart, at any rate to my microscope and studied him and savoured him and got out of him all that there was of grotesqueness. But to every one of my household, save Susan who did not count, he was-I admit, deservedly-an object of loathing. So I squeezed Liosha's hand.

"The beginning and end of the matter, my dear," said I, "is that he's not quite a gentleman."

"All right," said Liosha, liberating herself. "Now I know."

She left me and sailed to the terrace. I use the metaphor advisedly. She had a way of walking like a full-rigged ship before a breeze.

"Ras Fendihook, it's time we were going."

Mr. Fendihook looked at his watch and jumped up.

"We must hook it!"

Barbara asked conventionally: "Won't you stay to supper?"

"Great Scott, no!" he exclaimed. "No offence meant. You're very kind. But it's Ladies' Night at the Rabbits and I'm Buck Rabbit for the evening and the Queen of Sheba's coming as my guest."

"Who are the Rabbits?" asked Doria.

Even I had heard of this Bohemian confraternity; and I explained with a learned inaccuracy that evoked a semi-circular grin on the pink, fleshy face of Mr. Ras Fendihook.

* * *

"Ouf! Thank goodness!" said Barbara as the two-seater scuttered away down the drive.

"Yes, indeed," said Doria.

Jaffery shook his fist at the disappearing car.

"One of these days, I'll break his infernal neck!"

"Why?" asked Doria, on a sharp note of enquiry.

"I don't like him," said Jaffery. "And he's taking her out to dine among all that circus crowd. It's damnable!"

"For the lady whose father stuck pigs in Chicago," said Doria. "I should think it was rather a rise in the social scale."

And she went indoors with her nose in the air. To every one save the puzzled Jaffery it was obvious that she disapproved of his interest in Liosha.

* * *

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