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   Chapter 2 No.2

What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 9860

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


While Janet Tosswill was thinking so intently of Godfrey Radmore, he himself was standing at the window of a big bedroom in one of those musty, expensive, old-fashioned hotels, which, perhaps because they are within a stone's throw of Piccadilly, still have faithful patrons all the year round, and are full to bursting during the London Season. As to Radmore, he had chosen it because it was the place where the grandfather who had brought him up always stayed when he, Godfrey, was a little boy.

Tall, well-built after the loose-limbed English fashion, and with a dark, intelligent, rather grim cast of face, Radmore looked older than his age, which was thirty-two. Yet, for all that, there was an air of power and of reserved strength about him that set him apart from his fellows, and a casual observer would have believed him cold, and perhaps a thought calculating, in nature.

Yet, standing there, looking out on that quiet, narrow street, he was seething with varying emotions in which he was, in a sense, luxuriating, though whether he would have admitted any living being to a share in them was another matter.

Home! Home at last for good!-after what had been, with two short breaks, a nine years' absence from England, and from all that England stands for to such a man.

He had left his country in 1910, an angry, embittered lad of twenty-three, believing that he would never come back or, at any rate, not till he was an old man having "made good."

But everything-everything had fallen out absolutely differently from what he had expected it to do. The influence of Mars, so fatal to millions of his fellow beings, had brought him marvellous, unmerited good fortune. He had rushed home the moment War was declared, and after putting in some time in a training which he hated to remember, he had at last obtained a commission. Within a fortnight of having reached his Mecca-the Front, he was back in England in the-to him-amazing guise of wounded hero. But he had sent for none of his old friends for he was still ashamed. After the Armistice he had rushed through England on his way to Australia, putting in a few days with a Colonel and Mrs. Crofton, with whom he had been thrown in Egypt. More to do his host a kindness than for any other reason, Radmore had sent his godson, Timothy Tosswill, a pedigree puppy, from the queer little Essex manor-house where the Croftons were then making a rather futile attempt to increase their slender means by breeding terriers.

The days had slipped by there very pleasantly, for Radmore liked his taciturn host, and Mrs. Crofton was very pretty-an agreeable playfellow for a rich and lonely man. So it was that when it came to the point he had not cared to look up any of the people associated with his early youth.

But now he was going to see them-almost had he forced himself upon them. And the thought of going home to Old Place shook and stirred him to the heart.

To-day he felt quite queerly at a loose end. This perhaps, partly because the lately widowed Mrs. Crofton, with whom he had spent a good deal of his time since his arrival in London three weeks ago, had left town. She had not gone far, only to the Surrey village where he himself was going on Friday.

When pretty Mrs. Crofton had told Radmore that she had taken a house at Beechfield, he had been very much surprised and taken aback. It had seemed to him an amazing coincidence that the one place in the wide world which to him was home should have been chosen by her. But at once she had reminded him, in her pretty little positive way, that it was he himself who, soon after they had become first acquainted in Egypt, had drawn such an attractive picture of the Surrey village. That, in fact, was why, in July-it was now late September-when she, Enid Crofton, had had to think of making a new home, Beechfield had seemed to her the ideal place. If only she could hear of a house to let there! And by rare good chance there had been such a house-The Trellis House! A friend had lent her a motor, and she had gone down to look at it one August afternoon, and there and then had decided to take it. It was so exactly what she wanted-a delightful, old, cottagy place, yet with all modern conveniences, lacking, alas! only electric light.

All this had happened, so she had explained, after her last letter to him, for she and Radmore had kept up a desultory correspondence.

And now, with Janet Tosswill's voice still sounding in his ears, Godfrey Radmore was not altogether sorry to feel a touch of loneliness, for at times his good fortune frightened him.

Not only had he escaped through the awful ordeal of war with only one bad wound, while many of his friends and comrades-the best and bravest, the most happily young, had fallen round him-but he had come back to find himself transformed from a penniless adventurer into a very rich man. An old Brisbane millionaire, into w

hose office he had drifted in the January of 1914, and with whom he had, after a fashion, made friends, had re-made his will in the memorable autumn of that year, and had left Radmore half his vast fortune. Doubtless many such wills were made under the stress of war emotion, but-and it was here that Radmore's strange luck had come in-the maker of this particular will had died within a month of making it. And, as so often happens to a man who had begun by losing what little he had owing to folly and extravagance, Godfrey Radmore, though exceptionally generous and kindly, now lived well within his means, and had, if anything, increased his already big share of this world's goods.

Now that he was home for good, he intended to buy a nice old-fashioned house with a little shooting, and perchance a little fishing. The place, though not at Land's End, must yet not be so near London that a fellow would be tempted to be always going to town. It seemed to him amazing that he now had it within his power to achieve what had always been his ideal. But when he had acquired exactly the kind of place he wanted to find, what those whom he had set seeking for him had assured him with such flattering and eager earnestness he would very soon discover-what then? Did he mean to live there alone? He thought yes, for he did not now feel drawn to marriage.

As a boy-it now seemed ?ons of years ago-it had been far otherwise. But Betty Tosswill had been very young, only nineteen, and when he had fallen on evil days she had thrown him over in obedience to her father's strongly expressed wish. He had suffered what at the time seemed a frightful agony, and he had left England full of revolt and bitterness.

But to-day, when the knowledge that he was so soon going to Beechfield brought with it a great surge of remembrance, he could not honestly tell himself that he was sorry. Had he gone out to Australia burdened with a girl-wife, the difficult struggle would have been well-nigh intolerable, and it was a million to one chance that he would ever have met the man to whom he owed his present good fortune. What he now longed to do was to enjoy himself in a simple, straightforward way. Love, with its tremors, uncertainties, its blisses and torments, was not for him, and in so far as he might want a pleasant touch of half sentimental, half sexless comradeship, there was his agreeable friendship with Mrs. Crofton.

Enid Crofton? The thought of how well he had come to know her in the last three weeks surprised him. When he had first met her in Egypt she had been the young, very pretty wife of Colonel Crofton, an elderly "dug-out," odd and saturnine, whose manner to his wife was not always over-kindly. No one out there had been much surprised when she had decided to brave the submarine peril and return to England.

Radmore had not been the only man who had felt sorry for her, and who had made friends with her. But unlike the other men, who were all more or less in love with her, he had liked Colonel Crofton. During his visit to Fildy Fe Manor, the liking had hardened into serious regard. He had been surprised, rather distressed, to find how much less well-off they had appeared here, at home, than when the Colonel had been on so-called active service. It had also become plain to him-though he was not a man to look out for such things-that the husband and wife were now on very indifferent terms, the one with the other, and, on the whole, he blamed the wife-and then, just before he had started for home again, had come the surprising news of Colonel Crofton's death!

In her letter to one who was, after all, only an acquaintance, the young widow had gone into no details. But, just by chance, Radmore had seen a paragraph in a week-old London paper containing an account of the inquest. Colonel Crofton had committed suicide, a result, it was stated, of depression owing to shell-shock. "Shell-shock" gave Radmore pause. He felt quite sure that Colonel Crofton had never-to use a now familiar paraphrase-heard a shot fired in anger. The fact that his war service had been far from the Front had always been a subject of bitter complaint on the old soldier's part.

Radmore had written a sympathetic note to Mrs. Crofton, telling her the date of his return, and now-almost without his knowing how and why-they had become intimate, meeting almost daily, lunching or dining together incessantly, Radmore naturally gratified at the admiration his lovely companion-she had grown even prettier since he had last seen her-obviously excited.

And yet, though he had become such "pals" with her, and though he missed her society at his now lonely meals to an almost ridiculous extent, Radmore would have been much taken aback had an angel from heaven told him that the real reason he had sought to get in touch with Old Place was because Enid Crofton had already settled down at Beechfield.

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