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The Reason Why By Elinor Glyn Characters: 11433

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


People often wondered what nation the great financier, Francis Markrute, originally sprang from. He was now a naturalized Englishman and he looked English enough. He was slight and fair, and had an immaculately groomed appearance generally-which even the best of valets cannot always produce. He wore his clothes with that quiet, unconscious air which is particularly English. He had no perceptible accent-only a deliberate way of speaking. But Markrute!-such a name might have come from anywhere. No one knew anything about him, except that he was fabulously rich and had descended upon London some ten years previously from Paris, or Berlin, or Vienna, and had immediately become a power in the city, and within a year or so, had grown to be omnipotent in certain circles.

He had a wonderfully appointed house in Park Lane, one of those smaller ones just at the turn out of Grosvenor Street, and there he entertained in a reserved fashion.

It had been remarked by people who had time to think-rare cases in these days-that he had never made a disadvantageous friend, from his very first arrival. If he had to use undesirables for business purposes he used them only for that, in a crisp, hard way, and never went to their houses. Every acquaintance even was selected with care for a definite end. One of his favorite phrases was that "it is only the fool who coins for himself limitations."

At this time, as he sat smoking a fine cigar in his library which looked out on the park, he was perhaps forty-six years old or thereabouts, and but for his eyes-wise as serpents'-he might have been ten years younger.

Opposite to him facing the light a young man lounged in a great leather chair. The visitors in Francis Markrute's library nearly always faced the light, while he himself had his back to it.

There was no doubt about this visitor's nation! He was flamboyantly English. If you had wished to send a prize specimen of the race to a World's Fair you could not have selected anything finer. He was perhaps more Norman than Saxon, for his hair was dark though his eyes were blue, and the marks of breeding in the creature showed as plainly as in a Derby winner. Francis Markrute always smoked his cigars to the end, if he were at leisure and the weed happened to be a good one, but Lord Tancred (Tristram Lorrimer Guiscard Guiscard, 24th Baron Tancred, of Wrayth in the County of Suffolk) flung his into the grate after a few whiffs, and he laughed with a slightly whimsical bitterness as he went on with the conversation.

"Yes, Francis, my friend, the game here is played out; I am thirty, and there is nothing interesting left for me to do but emigrate to Canada, for a while at least, and take up a ranch."

"Wrayth mortgaged heavily, I suppose?" said Mr. Markrute, quietly.

"Pretty well, and the Northern property, too. When my mother's jointure is paid there is not a great deal left this year, it seems. I don't mind much; I had a pretty fair time before these beastly Radicals made things so difficult."

The financier nodded, and the young man went on: "My forbears got rid of what they could; there was not much ready money to come into and one had to live!"

Francis Markrute smoked for a minute thoughtfully.

"Naturally," he said at last. "Only the question is-for how long? I understand a plunge, if you settle its duration; it is the drifting and trusting to chance, and a gradual sinking which seem to me a poor game. Did you ever read de Musset's 'Rolla'?"

"The fellow who had arrived at his last night, and to whom the little girl was so kind? Yes: well?"

"You reminded me of Jacques Rolla, that is all."

"Oh, come! It is not as bad as that!" Lord Tancred exclaimed-and he laughed. "I can collect a few thousands still, even here, and I can go to Canada. I believe there is any quantity of money to be made there with a little capital, and it is a nice, open-air life. I just looked in this afternoon on my way back from Scotland to tell you I should be going out to prospect, about the end of November and could not join you for the pheasants on the 20th, as you were good enough to ask me to do."

The financier half closed his eyes. When he did this there was always something of importance working in his brain.

"You have not any glaring vices, Tancred," he said. "You are no gambler either on the turf or at cards. You are not over addicted to expensive ladies. You are cultivated, for a sportsman, and you have made one or two decent speeches in the House of Lords. You are, in fact, rather a fine specimen of your class. It seems a pity you should have to shut down and go to the Colonies."

"Oh, I don't know! And I have not altogether got to shut down," the young man said, "only the show is growing rather rotten over here. We have let the rabble-the most unfit and ignorant-have the casting vote, and the machine now will crush any man. I have kept out of politics as much as I can and I am glad."

Francis Markrute got up and lowered the blind a few inches-a miserable September sun was trying to shine into the room. If Lord Tancred had not been so preoccupied with his own thoughts he would have remarked this restlessness on the part of his host. He was no fool; but his mind was far away. It almost startled him when the cold, deliberate voice continued:

"I have a proposition to make to you should you care to accept it. I have a niece-a widow-she is rather an attractive lady. If you will marry her I will pay off all your mortgages and settle on her quite a princely dower."

"Good God!" said Lord Tancred.

The financier reddened a little about the temples, and his eyes for an instant gave forth a flash of steel. There h

ad been an infinite variety of meanings hidden in the exclamation, but he demanded suavely:

"What point of the question causes you to exclaim 'Good God'?"

The sang-froid of Lord Tancred never deserted him.

"The whole thing," he said-"to marry at all, to begin with, and to marry an unknown woman, to have one's debts paid, for the rest! It is a tall order."

"A most common occurrence. Think of the number of your peers who have gone to America for their wives, for no other reason."

"And think of the rotters they are-most of them! I mayn't be much catch, financially; but I have one of the oldest names and titles in England-and up to now we have not had any cads nor cowards in the family, and I think a man who marries a woman for money is both. By Jove! Francis, what are you driving at? Confound it, man! I am not starving and can work, if it should ever come to that."

Mr. Markrute smoothed his hands. He was a peculiarly still person generally.

"Yes, it was a blunder, I admit, to put it this way. So I will be frank with you. My family is also, my friend, as old as yours. My niece is all I have left in the world. I would like to see her married to an Englishman. I would like to see her married to you of all Englishmen because I like you and you have qualities about you which count in life. Oh, believe me!"-and he raised a protesting finger to quell an interruption-"I have studied you these years; there is nothing you can say of yourself or your affairs that I do not know."

Lord Tancred laughed.

"My dear old boy," he said, "we have been friends for a long time; and, now we are coming to hometruths, I must say I like your deuced cold-blooded point of view on every subject. I like your knowledge of wines and cigars and pictures, and you are a most entertaining companion. But, 'pon my soul I would not like to have your niece for a wife if she took after you!"

"You think she would be cold-blooded, too?"

"Undoubtedly; but it is all perfectly preposterous. I don't believe you mean a word you are saying-it is some kind of a joke."

"Have you ever known me to make such jokes, Tancred?" Mr. Markrute asked calmly.

"No, I haven't, and that is the odd part of it. What the devil do you mean, really, Francis?"

"I mean what I say: I will pay every debt you have, and give you a charming wife with a fortune."

Lord Tancred got up and walked about the room. He was a perfectly natural creature, stolid and calm as those of his race, disciplined and deliberate in moments of danger or difficulty; yet he never lived under self-conscious control as the financier did. He was rather moved now, and so he walked about. He was with a friend, and it was not the moment to have to bother over disguising his feelings.

"Oh, it is nonsense, Francis; I could not do it. I have knocked about the world as you know, and, since you are aware of everything about me, you say, you have probably heard some of my likings-and dislikings. I never go after a woman unless she attracts me, and I would never marry one of them unless I were madly in love with her, whether she had money or no; though I believe I would hate a wife with money, in any case-she'd be saying like the American lady of poor Darrowood: 'It's my motor and you can't have it to-day.'"

"You would marry a woman then-if you were in love, in spite of everything?" Francis Markrute asked.

"Probably, but I have never been really in love; have you? It is all story-book stuff-that almighty passion, I expect. They none of them matter very much after a while, do they, old boy?"

"I have understood it is possible for a woman to matter," the financier said and he drew in his lips.

"Well, up to now I have not," Lord Tancred announced, "and may the day be far off when one does. I feel pretty safe!"

A strange, mysterious smile crept over Mr. Markrute's face.

"By the way, also, how do you know the lady would be willing to marry me, Francis? You spoke as if I only had to be consulted in the affair."

"So you have. I can answer for my niece; she will do as I wish, and, as I said before, you are rather a perfect picture of an English nobleman, Tancred. You have not found women recalcitrant, as a rule-no?"

Lord Tancred was not inordinately vain, though a man, and he had a sense of humor-so he laughed.

"'Pon my word it is amusing, your turning into a sort of matrimonial agent. Can't you see the fun of the thing yourself?"

"It seems quite natural to me. You have every social advantage to offer a woman, and a presentable person; and my niece has youth, and some looks, and a large fortune. But we will say no more about it. I shall be glad to be of any service I can to you, anyway, in regard to your Canadian scheme. Come and dine to-night; I happen to have asked a couple of railway magnates with interests out there, and you can get some information from them."

And so it was arranged, and Lord Tancred got up to go; but just at the door he paused and said with a laugh:

"And shall I see the niece?"

The financier had his back turned, and so he permitted the flicker of a smile to come over his mouth as he answered:

"It might be; but we have dismissed the subject of the niece."

And so they parted.

At the sound of the closing of the door Mr. Markrute pressed the button of a wonderful trifle of Russian enamel and emeralds, which lay on his writing table, and a quiet servant entered the room.

"Tell the Countess Shulski I wish to speak to her here immediately, please," he said. "Ask her to descend at once."

But he had to walk up and down several times, and was growing impatient, before the door opened and a woman came slowly into the room.

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