WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
LONDON AND MELBOURNE
Library Editions of "Anthony Lyveden"
First Published . . 1921 Reprinted . . . . 1922 Reprinted . . . . 1923 Reprinted . . . . 1925 Reprinted . . . . 1928 Reprinted . . . . 1929 Reprinted . . . . 1932 Reprinted . . . . 1935 Reprinted . . . . 1939 Reprinted . . . . 1942 Reprinted . . . . 1943 Reprinted . . . . 1944 Reprinted . . . . 1945
MADE IN ENGLAND
Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London
ELM TREE ROAD
whose high walls, if they could talk, would tell so many pretty tales.
I THE WAY OF A MAN II THE WAY OF A MAID III THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE IV THE GOLDEN BOWL V AN HIGH LOOK AND A PROUD HEART VI THE COMFORT OF APPLES VII NEHUSHTAN VIII THE POWER OF THE DOG IX VANITY OF VANITIES
THE WAY OF A MAN
Major Anthony Lyveden, D.S.O., was waiting.
For the second time in three minutes he glanced anxiously at his wrist and then thrust his hand impatiently into a pocket. When you have worn a wristwatch constantly for nearly six years, Time alone can accustom you to its absence. And at the present moment Major Lyveden's watch was being fitted with a new strap. The pawnbroker to whom he had sold it that morning for twenty-two shillings was no fool.
The ex-officer walked slowly on, glancing into the windows of shops. He wanted to know the time badly. Amid the shifting press of foot-passengers a little white dog stuck to his heels resolutely. The sudden sight of a clock-maker's on the opposite side of the thoroughfare proved magnetic. Pausing on the kerb to pick up the Sealyham, Lyveden crossed the street without more ado....
Twenty-one minutes past three.
Slowly he put down the terrier and turned eastward. It was clear that he was expecting something or somebody.
It was a hot June day, and out of the welter of din and rumble the cool plash of falling water came to his straining ears refreshingly. At once he considered the dog and, thankful for the distraction, stepped beneath the portico of a provision store and indicated the marble basin with a gesture of invitation.
"Have a drink, old chap," he said kindly. "Look. Nice cool water for Patch." And, with that, he stooped and dabbled his fingers in the pool.
Thus encouraged the little white dog advanced and lapped gratefully....
"Derby Result! Derby Result!"
The hoarse cry rang out above the metallic roar of the traffic.
Lyveden caught his breath sharply and then stepped out of the shelter of the portico on to the crowded pavement. He was able to buy a paper almost immediately.
Eagerly he turned it about, to read the blurred words....
For a moment he stood staring, oblivious of all the world. Then he folded the sheet carefully, whistled to Patch, and strode off westward with the step of a man who has a certain objective. At any rate, the suspense was over.
A later edition of an evening paper showed Major Anthony Lyveden that the horse which was carrying all that he had in the world had lost his race by a head.
* * * * *
By rights Anthony should have been born about the seventh of March. A hunting accident to his father, however, ushered him into the middle of the coldest January ever remembered, and that with such scant ceremony that his lady mother only survived her husband by six and a half hours. When debts, funeral and testamentary expenses had been deducted from his father's bank balance, the sum of twenty-three pounds nine shillings was all that was left, and this, with the threat of royalties from one or two books, represented the baby's fortune. Jonathan Roach, bachelor, had risen to the occasion and taken his sister's child.
Beyond remembering that he did handsomely by his nephew, bred him as became his family, sent him to Harrow and Oxford, and procured him a commission in the Royal Regiment of Artillery before most of the boy's compeers had posted their applications to the War Office, with the living Jonathan Roach we are no further concerned.
The old gentleman's will shall speak for itself and the man who made it.
THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of me, Jonathan Roach, of 75 Princes Gardens, in the County of London, Esquire. I give, devise, and bequeath all my real and personal estate of every description unto my nephew Anthony Lyveden absolutely, provided that and so soon as my said nephew shall receive the honour of Knighthood or some higher dignity....
Anthony received the news while the guns, which he was temporarily commanding, were hammering at the gates of Gaza. He read the letter carefully twice. Then he stuffed it into a cross-pocket and straightway burst into song. That the air he selected was a music-hall ditty was typical of the man.
Curiously enough, it was the same number that he was whistling under his breath as he strode into Hyde Park this June afternoon.
Patch, who had never been out of London, thought the world of the Parks. After the barren pavements, for him the great greenswards made up a Land of Promise more than fulfilled. The magic carpet of the grass, stuffed with a million scents, was his Elysium. A bookworm made free of the Bodleian could not have been more exultant. The many trees, too, were more accessible, and there were other dogs to frolic with, and traffic, apparently, was not allowed.
When he had walked well into the Park, Lyveden made for a solitary chair and sat himself down in the sun. For a while he remained wrapped in meditation, abstractedly watching the terrier stray to and fro, nosing the adjacent turf with the assiduity of a fond connoisseur.
For nine long months the ex-officer had sought employment, indoor or outdoor, congenial or uncongenial. The quest was vain. Once he had broached the matter haltingly to an influential acquaintance. The latter's reception of his distress had been so startlingly obnoxious that he would have died rather than repeat the venture. Then Smith of Dale's, Old Bond Street—Smith, who had cut his hair since he was a boy, and was his fast friend—had told him of Blue Moon.
There is more racing chatter to be heard at the great hairdressers' than almost anywhere else outside a race-course. Some of it is worth hearing, most of it is valueless. The difficulty, as elsewhere, is to sift the wheat from the chaff.
According to Smith, Blue Moon was being kept extremely quiet. Certainly the horse was little mentioned. Lyveden had never heard his name. And thirty-three to one was a long price....
Lyveden pricked up his ears, and Smith became frightened. He was genuinely attached to his young customer, and knew that he was in low water. He begged him not to be rash....
After some careful calculations, which he made upon a sheet of club note-paper, Lyveden came to the conclusion that thirty-three birds in the bush were better than one in the hand. Reckoning a bird at one hundred pounds and Lyveden's available assets at the same number of guineas, who is to say he was wrong?
At twenty minutes to five on the eve of the Derby, Lyveden handed a protesting Smith one hundred and one pounds, to be invested on Blue Moon—"to win only." The odd note was to bring Smith his reward.
A big bookmaker whom Smith was shaving as usual, at a quarter-past six, accepted the commission, pocketed the notes with a sigh, and gave the master-barber forty to one.
Four thousand pounds—in the bush.
That his thirty-three nebulous birds had become forty before they took flight, Anthony never knew. A man whose sole assets are a Sealyham, a very few clothes, and twenty-two shillings and sixpence, does not, as a rule, go to Dale's.
"Young fellow, come here."
Patch came gaily, and Lyveden set him upon his knee.
"Listen," he said. "Once upon a time there was a fool, who came back from the War. It was extremely foolish, but then, you see, Patch, he was a fool. Well, after a while he began to feel very lonely. He'd no relations, and what friends he'd had in the old days had disappeared. So he got him a dog—this fool, a little white scrap of a dog with a black patch." The terrier recognized his name and made a dab at the firm chin. "Steady! Well, yes—you're right. It was a great move. For the little white dog was really a fairy prince in disguise—such a pretty disguise—and straightway led the fool into Paradise. Indeed, they were so happy together, the fool and the dog, that, though no work came along, nothing mattered. You see, it was a fool's paradise. That was natural. The result was that one day the fool lifted up his eyes, and there was a great big finger-post, pointing the way they were going. And it said WAY OUT. The dog couldn't read, so it didn't worry him; but the fool could, and fear smote upon his heart. In fact, he got desperate, poor fool. Of course, if he'd had any sense, he'd 've walked slower than ever or even tried to turn round. Instead of that, he ran. Think of it, Patch. Ran." The emotion of his speech was infectious, and the terrier began to pant. "Was there ever quite such a fool? And before they knew where they were, the two were without the gates. And there"—the voice became strained, and Lyveden hesitated—"there were ... two paths ... going different ways. And by each path was a notice-board. And one said NO DOGS ALLOWED. And the other said NO FOOLS ALLOWED. And there were only the two paths. Patch ... going different ways...."
The approach of a peripatetic tax-collector brought the allegory to an end.
Anthony paid for his occupation of the chair in silence, and the collector plodded off at a tangent in the direction of his next quarry. This appearing to be an old lady, he presently altered his course. With a caution bred of experience, he would approach her from behind.
A convenient clock struck four, and Lyveden rose to his feet....
Two hours later he descended the area steps of a mansion in Lancaster Gate.
The change in his appearance was quite remarkable. The grey suit, soft hat, golf collar and brown shoes, which he had worn in the afternoon, had been put off. In their stead Lyveden was wearing a bowler hat, black boots, a single collar, which stood up uncomfortably all the way round his neck, and a dark blue suit. The latter was clean and had been carefully brushed, but it was manifestly old. Besides, it was obvious that the man who made them had meant the trousers to be worn turned up. Their owner's present disregard of such intention argued his humble respectability.
Arrived at the foot of the steps, Anthony thrust a relieving finger between his throat and the collar for the last time, raised his eyes to heaven, and rang the bell.
After a moment or two the door was opened by a fair-haired girl in a print dress. Her sleeves were rolled up, and her hands and arms dripping.
"Afternoon, miss," said Lyveden. He was determined to do the thing properly. "Your lady still wanting a footman?"
The girl stared at him. Then—
"I dunno," she said. "Better come in, an' I'll see."
Anthony thanked her and entered. She shut the door and flung down the passage and out of sight. A second later a momentary burst of chatter suggested that she had opened the door of the servants' hall.
For a minute or two nothing happened, and Lyveden stood in the passage with his hat in his hand, wondering whether his engagement was to rest with the butler. Then a door opened and closed, and a girl dressed as a parlour-maid appeared upon the scene. She was walking slowly, and seemed to be endeavouring to extricate something from the depths of her mouth.
"Come in answer to the ad.?" she queried.
"That's right," said Lyveden.
"Oh." She leaned against the wall and regarded a wet forefinger. "Got a bone in me gum," she added abstractedly.
Anthony wondered whether he was expected to offer assistance, but, deciding to risk a breach of etiquette, assumed a look of anxiety instead.
"How rotten!" he murmured.
The girl looked at him curiously. Then—
"'Addock, too," she said. "An' that's easy, reelly, as fish goes. But there, I ain't got much use for any fish, 'cept salmon. Shall I say you're 'ere?"
"Yes, please, miss. I've no appointment."
"You're the firs', any way," was the comforting reply.
She left him standing.
The inspection to which during her absence Lyveden was subjected was only less trying than the open secrecy with which it was conducted. Heads were thrust into the passage to be withdrawn amid a paroxysm of giggling. Somebody was pushed into full view to retire precipitately amid an explosion of mirth. Preceded by stifled expressions of encouragement, a pert-looking lady's maid strolled leisurely past the newcomer, opened the back door, closed it, and returned as haughtily as she had gone. She was applauded ridiculously....
Anthony swore under his breath.
At last the parlour-maid reappeared, finger in mouth.
"Somethin' crool, this bone is," she vouchsafed. "Come on."
Anthony followed her gratefully upstairs and presently into a small withdrawing room upon the first floor.
From an expensively hideous couch Mrs. Slumper regarded the fruit of her advertisement.
She was a large vulgar-looking woman of about fifty summers. Whosesoever the hair of her head, it was most elaborately dressed and contained five combs. Anthony counted them. She was enclosed in a dress which was at once highly fashionable and painfully unbecoming, and the pearls which rose and fell upon her tremendous bosom were almost too good to be true. From beneath the short skirt a pair of ponderous legs terminated in all the anguish of patent-leather shoes. Anthony bowed.
"'Oo 'ave you bin with?" said Mrs. Slumper.
"If you take me, madam, this will be my first place."
Mrs. Slumper choked with emotion.
"Firs' place!" she cried. "Want ter try yer 'and on me?" She looked round savagely. "Where's me lorenets?" she added furiously.
Much as a victim-to-be might hand his dispatcher the knife, Anthony plucked the eye-glasses from beneath a cushion and put them into her hand.
His action took the wind out of her sails. Anthony saw this, and hastened to press his advantage.
"I know it's unusual, madam, but I'm quite willing to leave at the end of a week without wages, if you're not satisfied."
Mrs. Slumper grunted with astonishment.
"Wot wages joo ask?"
"Seventy-two pounds a year, madam, and—er—all found. And one afternoon a week," he added boldly.
Mrs. Slumper blinked at him curiously.
"You don' look ser bad," she said grudgingly. "An' I'm sick an' tired of tryin' for a footman, or I'd see yer further. 'Owever...." She looked up sharply. "Will yer put that in writin' abaout the week?"
"Certainly, madam." And, with that, Lyveden stepped to a bureau and wrote his undertaking upon a sheet of note-paper. He was about to affix his signature, when it occurred to him that footmen do not write at their mistresses' bureaus except privily or by invitation. He flushed furiously. There was, however, no help for it now. The thing was done. Desperately he signed his name. He handed the paper to the lady humbly enough.
Mrs. Slumper sighed.
"In course," she said, "we 'ave things very well done. The butler's aout naow, or I'd 'ave 'im up. But you'll 'ave ter wait, an' open the door, an' clean the boots, an' come aout on the car. I've got some noo livery—never bin worn yet—did ought ter fit you a treat. An'—'ow soon kin yer come?" she demanded suddenly.
"To-morrow evening, madam."
Anthony bowed himself out.
If the parlour-maid had not been on the landing, he would have leaned against the wall and covered his face.
The girl glanced at the door he had just closed.
"Ain't she a little dream?"
"Might be worse," he ventured, endeavouring to steer between the respective sandbanks of disloyalty and odium. "I've got the place," he added ingenuously.
The girl stared at him.
That Anthony did not appreciate why she had remained upon the landing was to her incredible.
"I 'eard," she said loftily.
Anthony felt crushed.
At his suggestion she let him out of the front door.
"See yer to-morrow," she cried.
"That's right, miss."
Anthony passed down the steps and walked quickly away. Before he had covered a hundred paces, he stopped and turned up his trousers. The sartorial forfeit to respectability had served its turn.
When Mr. Hopkins, the butler, returned a little unsteadily at a quarter to ten to learn that his mistress had engaged a "proper toff" as his footman, he was profoundly moved.
* * * * *
A visit to the West End offices of Dogs' Country Homes, Ltd., which he made the next morning, satisfied Anthony that, by putting Patch in their charge, he was doing the best he could. There was a vacancy at the Hertfordshire branch, less than forty minutes from town, and he arranged to lodge the terrier there the same afternoon. For the sum of a guinea a week the little dog would be fed and housed and exercised. A veterinary surgeon was attached to the staff, which was carefully supervised. Patch would be groomed every day and bathed weekly. Visitors were welcomed, and owners often called to see their dogs and take them out for a walk. It was quite customary.
Lyveden emerged from the office a little comforted.
He spent a busy morning.
Deliberately he went to his club. There he wrote to the secretary, resigning his membership. When he had sealed the letter, he looked about him. The comfort—the luxury of it all was very tasty, very appealing. He regretted that he had not used it more often. There was a time when he had thought the place dull. Blasphemy! In his hungry eyes the house became a temple—its members, votaries, sworn to go sleepily about their offices—its rooms, upholstered shrines, chapels of ease....
The door opened and a footman came in.
The silver dream shivered into a million flinders.
After the generous atmosphere of Pall Mall, the reek of the "old clothes" shop was more offensive than usual. The six pounds ten, however, was worth fighting for. Then some cheap hosiery had to be purchased—more collars of the bearing-rein type, some stiff shirts, made-up white ties, pinchbeck studs and cufflinks. As he emerged from the shop, Anthony found himself wondering whether he need have been so harsh with himself about the collars. After all, it was an age of Socialism. Why should a footman be choked? He was as good as Mrs. Slumper—easily. And she wasn't choked. She was squeezed, though, and pinched....
He lodged his baggage—suit-case and hold-all—at the cloakroom, and took Patch to lunch.
It was by no means the first time that the Sealyham's lunch had been the more expensive of the two. Often and often he had fed well to the embarrassment of his master's stomach. To-day he was to have liver—his favourite dish. Upon this Lyveden was resolved.
The pair visited five restaurants and two public-houses in quest of liver. At the eighth venture they were successful. At the sign of The Crooked Billet liver and bacon was the dish of the day. So much a blurred menu was proclaiming from its enormous brass frame. Before the two were half-way upstairs, the terrier's excitement confirmed its tale.
Of the two portions, Patch consumed the liver and Anthony the bacon. This was rather salt, but the zest with which the Sealyham ate furnished a relish which no money could buy.
Then came a ghastly train journey. Mercifully Patch could not understand....
A mile and a half from the station, the Dogs' Home stood in a pleasant place under the lee of a wood. Fair meadows ringed it about, and in the bright sunshine the red-brick house and out-buildings looked cheerful and promising.
Slowly the two passed up the well-kept drive.
With his little white dog in his arms, Anthony Lyveden was shown everything. A jolly fair-haired girl—the superintendent—conducted him everywhere. The dogs—all sizes and shapes—welcomed her coming. Of Patch she made a great deal.
"You must be very proud of him," she said to Anthony.
"I am. And—we're great friends. I hope he won't fret much."
"A little at first, probably. You'll be coming to see him?"
"Once a week, always," said Lyveden. "Oftener if I can."
Presently they returned to the office, where Anthony paid four guineas and received a receipt. Patch was entered in a big book, together with his age and description. Another column received his owner's name and address. The girl hesitated.
"We like," she said, "to have the telephone number, in case of accidents."
"I'll send it to you to-night."
The entry was blotted, and the girl rose. The formalities were at an end.
Lyveden picked up his hat.
Patch greeted the familiar signal joyously. Clearly the call was over. It had been a good visit—the best they had ever paid. No other place they had been to was full of dogs. Yet to be out and about with his master was better still. He leapt up and down, rejoicing.
Anthony caught him from one of his bounds, held the white scrap very close and let him lick his nose. Then he bade him be a good dog and handed him to the girl. She received him tenderly.
"I'm very much obliged to you," he said. "Good day. I'll let myself out. It—it'll be better."
One more caress, and he passed out into the hall—blindly. There had been a look in the bright brown eyes that tore his heart.
For a moment Patch fought desperately. Then he heard a door opened and listened intently. A draught swept, and the door closed heavily. With a sudden wrench he was out of the girl's arms and across the shadowy hall. For a moment he stood sniffing, his nose clapped to the sill of the front door. Then he lifted up his voice and wept bitterly.
* * * * *
In the long mirror, half-way up the front staircase, Major Anthony Lyveden, D.S.O., surveyed himself stealthily.
"Not much the matter with the kit," he said grudgingly.
That was largely because there was nothing the matter with the man.
Six feet one in his socks, deep-chested and admirably proportioned, Lyveden cut a fine figure. His thick dark hair was short and carefully brushed, and his lean face was brown with the play of wind and rain and sun. Such features as his broad forehead, aquiline nose, and strong well-shaped mouth, would have distinguished any countenance. Yet the whole of it was shapely and clean-cut, and there was a quiet fearlessness about the keen grey eyes that set you thinking. As a footman he looked magnificent. But he would have killed any master stone dead. Royalty itself could not have borne such a comparison.
As we have seen, the strain of the last fortnight, culminating in Blue Moon's failure and his parting with Patch, had played the deuce with his temperament. The man had gone all to pieces. That, now that a week had gone by, he was himself again, the following letter will show. It will serve also as a record, and so, gentlemen, spare both of us.
Before you sailed you were urgent upon me that I should constantly report progress. Nine months have gone by, and I have not written once. Still, my conscience is clear. Hitherto I have had no progress to report.
Now, however, I have news for you.
You are friends with a footman, Toby. You need not deny it, because I know better. You see, I have been in service for one week to-day.
My mistress is indescribable—a very mammoth among women. Except during prohibited hours, her replica may be seen behind the saloon-bar of any public-house in, say, Bethnal Green. Below stairs she is known as "the dream-child." My master appears to have married, not so much beneath him as beyond him. He is "something in the City." This is as well, for he is nothing in Lancaster Gate. I like him rather.
You would get on with the butler, who is addicted to drink. The ladies of the servants' hall are rather trying, but mean well. The chauffeur is a most superior man. In fact, except that he has been twice convicted of felony and continually boasts of his successful desertion from the Army in 1917, there is nothing against him. My work would be comparatively light if the unfortunate resemblance, to which I have alluded above, were less pronounced. In a word, the butler's working day finishes at 2 p.m., and on two occasions I have had to repair to "The Blue Goat" as late as seven-thirty to hale him out of the tap-room in time for dinner. His carriage in the dining-room, when he can hardly see, is one of the wonders of the world.
Of course I go out with the car—usually to a wedding. The solemnization of matrimony, especially if one of the parties is of noble birth, draws the dream-child as a magnet the steel. Need I say that she is an uninvited guest? Yesterday, at the wedding of a young Marquess, she was stopped at the doors. "Lef me card at 'ome," was her majestic reply. Before they had recovered she was in the aisle. Having regard to her appearance, I am of opinion that such conduct is libellous.
On Monday she gave what she calls a "Serciety Crush." This was well attended, chiefly by aliens, many of whom wore miniature decorations, to which, I fear, they were not entitled. These were, I fancy, hired with the dress-coats to which they were fastened. That they enjoyed the viands is emphasized by the fact that, prior to their departure, several of the guests concealed about their persons such delicacies as the flight of time alone had prevented them from consuming. But for the indisposition of the butler, I should have spent a most amusing evening.
Little altercations between my master and mistress are of frequent occurrence. Occasionally they appeal to me to settle the dispute. Once I actually took the liberty of separating them. Indeed, as recently as yesterday evening the dream-child, who had been keeping up her reading, observed that "the rilewise was thinkin' of givin' up the narrer gorge."
"Gage, me dear—gage," says Mr. Slumper.
"That's right," says his wife with hideous irony. "Put yer betters to rights, Schooly. Ugh, I wonder yer dare! An' wot do you know about it, you hugly worm?"
Stung to the quick by the painful accuracy of this appellative, her husband was understood to mutter that he had rather be an ill-favoured worm than an overdressed parrot with a swollen head.
Only waiting to throw a glass of water in his direction, the dream-child demanded my ruling in a voice shaking with indignation.
I immediately declared in favour of "gouge"—a decision for which Mr. Slumper, to whom victory is even more terrible than defeat, will thank me yet.
Of such is my life. Either Saturday or Sunday afternoon I go off duty. Then I dive into the country and visit my dog, who is well cared for. We spend a hilarious few hours, and Lancaster Gate is never mentioned. In the servants' hall, by the way, I am credited with a delicate wife—an impression which I have taken care not to correct, for where there are gathered together eight single ladies, les avantages de manage cannot be over-estimated.
And now I must take up the tea.
If ever you receive this letter, find time to reply. I know I have spoken ill of your hand-writing, but I take it all back.
Bien a toi, vieux sot, ANTHONY LYVEDEN.
Anthony, then, was surveying himself, if you remember, in a long mirror. He had just taken up the tea. He was taking a second look at what he could see of his back, when the front-door bell rang. Even at this elevation there was no mistaking its deep peremptory note. Lyveden descended the stairs.
He opened the door faultlessly to find himself face to face with a man who had been his first servant when his battery had been in France.
For a moment the two footmen stared at one another. Then—
"Glad to see you, Walters," said Lyveden heartily.
"Same to you, sir," said Walters, touching his hat. "An', beggin' your pardon, sir, is Lady 'Elen at 'ome?"
"There's no Lady Helen here," said Lyveden. "This is Mrs. Slumper's house."
"Oh, very good, sir," said Walters jerkily. "Sorry to 'ave troubled you, sir." He touched his hat and turned away nervously....
Anthony continued to hold the door open till the car should have passed on.
Walters was making his report. It appeared that this was unsatisfactory, for a moment later he was again at the door.
"Excuse me, sir, but would you speak to my lady?"
Lyveden descended the steps.
From the luxury of a smart landaulette a dame of some consequence regarded him shrewdly. She had, of course, witnessed the comedy upon the steps.
"Who lives here?" she demanded haughtily.
Lyveden drew himself up.
"Mrs. Slumper, madam."
His statement was received with an irrational suspicion.
"Indeed! I didn't know that Lady Helen Amiens had let her house."
"Neither, madam, did I."
The great lady stared at Anthony, who looked straight ahead. Then—
"I—I beg your pardon," she murmured.
Anthony bowed and turned on his heel. As he passed Walters, who was standing wide-eyed, the latter touched his hat faithfully.
When the car had passed on, Anthony closed the door thoughtfully. It had not occurred to him that the house had been hired as it stood. Certainly the Slumpers had given no hint of such a state of affairs. Probably they felt it to be beneath their dignity. It being no affair of his, Lyveden decided to keep his own counsel.
* * * * *
Two days later Anthony visited Patch for the second time.
The same relentless train that had rushed the two down to Hertfordshire that dreadful Thursday had become an easy-going friend. By pocketing his lunch, Lyveden could catch it with anything under five minutes to spare. This gave the two another three-quarters of an hour.
Their second meeting was a replica of the first.
Anthony was admitted, announced his desire, and sat down in the dim hall. Presently a brisk familiar step made itself heard—firm little paws meeting the tough linoleum squarely—and Anthony rose to his feet. Out of a passage came Patch readily, the fair-haired girl behind him bidding him go ahead. For a moment he looked about him. Then he saw Lyveden, stiffened and stood stock still. The next second, with his body clapped to the floor, he had darted sharply across and, laying his head sideways, crouched at his idol's feet—an adoring suppliant, craving to be raised.
The white scrap quivered and flung up a panting visage. Lyveden stooped and gathered him in his arms. The terrier licked his face frantically. Then he squirmed like a mad thing till he was down, tore to a basket of logs, and of his strength brought a billet gripped in his big mouth and laid it at Anthony's feet.
The girl laughed merrily.
"What did I tell you?" said Lyveden. "It's just the way of his heart. I must always have a present when I have been away."
Lord and squire went for a wonderful walk. The woodland and meadows of Hertfordshire fairly beggared the Parks....
Tea at a tiny inn sunk in a dell through which a sleepy lane trickled between high banks—tea in the pocket garden under sweet-smelling limes, where stocks stood orderly and honeysuckle sprawled over the brick-nogging, brought back old days of happy fellowship, just to outshine their memory.
From the cool of the house came on a sudden the click of metal and the swift whirr of wheels. Somewhere a clock was in labour—an old, old timepiece, to whom the telling of the hours was a grave matter. A moment later a thin old voice piped out the birth of a new period.
Peacefully Lyveden expelled a cloud of smoke. He need not be moving for another quarter of an hour. Upon the warm red bricks at his feet Patch lay dozing after his dish of weak tea.
"Could you give it me in the garden?"
The fresh clear voice floated out of the doorway just in front of my lady herself. Arrived there, she stood for a moment looking pleasedly round. It is doubtful whether the old woodwork had ever before framed such a picture.
There was nothing remarkable about the dress, except her wearing of it. There is a grace of carriage that will make purple of sackcloth. Still, the gown was well cut of fawn-coloured stuff, which her stockings and shoes matched. Her face was generous—proud, too, yet tender and very beautiful. The soft rose of her cheeks, the misty blue of her eyes stood there for gentleness, the curve of the red lips for pride. Wisdom sat in her temples under the thick dark hair. Strength herself had moulded the exquisite chin. And a rogue of a dimple was there to mock the lot of them—the print of the delicate finger of Laughter herself, set in a baby's cheek twenty-five years before. A tiny watch upon a silk strap served to enhance the slenderness of a white wrist. Against the dark cloud of hair, which they were setting straight, the pointed fingers stood out like living statuary. Lifted elbows gave you the graceful line of her figure: the short skirt, ankles to match the wrists....
Looking upon her, Lyveden forgot the world. He may be forgiven, for she was a sight for sore eyes.
Having set her hair to her liking she put on her hat, pulling it down with a fine careless confidence such as no manner of mirror could give.
She had not seen Lyveden when Patch, counting her Irish terrier an intruder, took him suddenly by the throat....
In an instant the place was Bedlam.
My lady hovered about the combatants, one hand to her breast, the other snatching frantically at her favourite's tail: Lyveden leapt to his feet and, cramming his pipe into a pocket, flung himself forward: the mistress of the inn and her maid crowded each other in the doorway, emitting cries of distress: and the now ravening flurry of brown and white raged snarling and whirling upon the brick pavement with all the finished frightfulness of the haute ecole.
Arrived at close quarters, Anthony cast a look round. Then he picked up the pair anyhow and swung them into the water-butt two paces away.
For a moment the contents boiled, seething as if possessed. Then, with a fearful convulsion, the waves parted and the water gave up its prey. Two choking, gasping, spluttering heads appeared simultaneously: with one accord four striving paws clawed desperately at the rim of the butt. The fight was off.
Intelligently the girl stepped up on to a convenient bench, and Anthony lifted the Irish terrier out of his watery peril. As was to be expected, he shook himself inconsiderately, and Anthony, who was not on the bench, was generously bedewed. Then Patch was hauled out by the scruff of his neck.... So far as could be seen, neither of the dogs was one penny the worse. There had been much cry, but little wool.
Lyveden turned to my lady and raised his hat.
"I'm awfully sorry," he said. "My dog was entirely to blame."
"D'you mind controlling him now?" she said coldly.
Lyveden called Patch, and the Sealyham trotted up, shaking the water out of his ears as he came. Wet as he was, the man picked him up and put him under his arm.
"I hope your dog isn't hurt," he said quietly. "I'm very sorry."
The girl did not deign to answer, but, stepping down from her perch, summoned her terrier and strolled down the little greensward with her chin in the air.
Anthony bit his lip. Then he turned on his heel and, clapping his hat on his head, tramped into the inn. A moment later he had paid his reckoning and was out on the road. After all, he reflected, Patch wasn't to blame. He had acted according to his lights.
When he was out of sight of the inn, Anthony sat down by the wayside and dried his terrier's ears with his pocket-handkerchief and the utmost care.
* * * * *
The rain was coming down in sheets, and, in spite of the mackintosh which he was wearing above his livery, drops were beginning to make their unpleasant way down Anthony's neck. His feet had been wet for hours. The violence of the language employed by the press of grooms and footmen huddled about him at the doors of the Opera House suggested that their plight was no less evil.
It was a big night, and of "the distinguished audience" Mr. and Mrs. Slumper were making two. They were inexpressibly bored, but that was beside the point. By occupying two stalls, Mrs. Slumper was sure they were doing the right thing. A box would have been better, of course, but there had been some difficulty, and Slumper, being a weak-kneed fool, had been bluffed into taking the stalls. Mrs. Slumper would like to see the clerk who could bluff her. By dint of concentrating upon her grievance, she had worked herself into a passion by the end of the second act....
It continued to rain copiously.
At last flunkeys appeared and set the inner swing-doors wide open. A blasphemous murmur of relief went up from the company of servants.
"Bet yer my gint's fust," squeaked a little bow-legged Cockney. "'E's a fair winner, 'e is." A pompous prelate appeared in the lobby, walking with an air of having just consecrated the building free of charge, and followed by a nervous-lipped lady and a deacon who looked like a startled owl. "There y'are! Wot 'd I s'y?" he added, turning to scuttle off to his car.
"Ser long, 'Arry!" cried somebody. "See yer at Giro's."
There was an explosion of mirth.
The rain, the discomfort, the waiting—three familiar malefactors—all in a moment discomfited by a sudden guffaw, reminded Lyveden vividly of his service in France. His thoughts ramped back to the old days, when there was work and to spare—work of a kind. Of course, the competition was not so keen....
People were coming fast now, and the entrances to the lobby were getting choked. Attendants were bellowing big names, innumerable engines were running, the police were shouting orders, gears were being changed.
"Number a nundred and one!" thundered a voice.
"Right!" cried Anthony, elbowing his way out of the crush.
He made his way quickly to where he had left the car.
The information that his employers were awaiting his services was received by the chauffeur with a volley of invective, which dealt more particularly with Mrs. Slumper's pedigree, but touched lightly upon a whole variety of subjects, including the ultimate destination of all composers and the uses of rain.
It was full five minutes before the limousine was able to be brought close enough to the entrance for Anthony to leave the running-board and advise his master. When it was next in order but two, he stepped on to the pavement and struggled towards the entrance. As he was about to tell an attendant to summon "101," a car slid into position, and the fellow set his hand on the door.
"Forty-six waiting!" he bawled.
A glance at the steps showed the approach of quality—all cloaks and soft hair and slim silk stockings—the attendant threw open the door and Lyveden stood still.
The taller of the two women was the second to enter the car. As she stood waiting, she glanced round quickly. Her eyes met Anthony's, rested a moment of time, and then swept on without a flicker.... A second later the door had slammed upon her high heels.
Lyveden was left to feel the blood come flaming into his face, to wonder whether my lady had known him again, and to stuff the breath of an exquisite perfume into the same reliquary as held the picture of a tall dark figure setting her hair to rights in the mouth of an inn.
* * * * *
Upon the next Saturday a particularly smart wedding was to take place. Anthony, who had seen the announcements, was prepared for the worst. Sure enough, on Friday afternoon as he was clearing the table of tea—
"I shall want yer to-morrow," said Mrs. Slumper. "I 'ave to go to the weddin' o' that there Finnigan boy. I'm sure I'm sick o' crushes, but 'er ladyship would never fergive me if I diddun show up."
Anthony hesitated with the tray in his hands.
"Mr. Hopkins is taking Sunday, madam, so I can't go out then."
"I can't 'elp that," was the testy reply.
"I don't wish to inconvenience you, madam, but, as it was arranged that I should always have——"
"Subjec' to my convenience," snapped Mrs. Slumper. "That's wot I said." She had said nothing of the sort. "An' am I to go pushin' orf to a dandy crush without a servant? Hopenin' me own dores, an' fetchin' me own car, an' wot not, jus' like a common beggar in a 'ired fly? Look 'ere, young man, I didn't ought to 'ave took you at all, reelly. Wot with no refs an' no experience, yer might 'ave walked the soles orf of yer perishin' boots before yer got into a 'ouse like this. But I gave you a chance, I did. An' if you think ter try an' turn me own words agains' me an' talk 'igh about contrax, yer kin jus' shove orf." She regarded him furiously. "Ugh! I'm fed up with the bunch of yer. Nasty, ungrateful swabs! I serpose yer kin 'ave Monday, can't yer?"
"I will take Monday, madam."
The malevolent pig's eyes followed him in silence till he was out of the room....
It was on Monday, then, that Lyveden called for his dog.
His decision to revisit the scene of his encounter with my lady was not fully formed until it was time to act upon it. He had deliberately walked in the direction of the inn, so that, when the hour came, he could, if he chose, indulge the inclination of which he was wholly ashamed. Honestly, he reflected, he had not a good word to say for the girl. (Observe, please, that the fact that the pleasaunce was to his liking did not weigh with him. The little inn and its curtilage had become but environs.) She had been unreasonable and worse than churlish. There was no getting away from it—she had been aggressively rude, administering a rebuff though he had made no advance. To pile Ossa upon Pelion, she now knew him for what he was—a flunkey, acting the gentleman and sporting a dog. And was not that a dainty dish for him to digest, sitting under the lime-trees in full view of that garden doorway which nine days ago had been so honoured? That, of course, was the trouble. Anthony had seen a picture which he could not forget. The girl had done her best to efface it, but had only succeeded in clouding a sunny memory.
With something of the mauvaise honte with which a player of "Patience" corrects a mistake he has made by restoring some cards, Anthony took Ossa off Pelion, said to himself, "I don't believe she recognized me," and, walking into the inn, desired the mistress to bring him some tea.
By the time he had finished his meal he had sunk so low in his own eyes—lost so much self-respect, that the rest did not seem worth keeping, and he inquired whether anything had been seen of the lady whose dog his had fought, in much the same spirit of recklessness as moves a bravo to toss his last piece to a beggar.
"She had tea here the day before yesterday, sir," replied his hostess. "All alone, with her little dog. I don't think he's none the worse, sir. Thank you. Good day, sir."
Anthony left the house like a man in a dream....
Why had she come?
To this question the answer which his heart vouchsafed was vain and a vanity. His head, however, gave innumerable replies—all of them obvious and none of them flattering. A hundred times Reason drove Hope headlong, but always the baggage returned....
By way of relieving his feelings, Anthony cursed Mrs. Slumper with earnest bitterness. He began to feel that there was much in what the chauffeur had said about her forbears. At the time he had secretly deplored his epithets, but now.... Certainly he had misjudged the fellow. He was quite right.
As for Patch, he had never been paid so little attention. Not that he cared. The country was full of scents....
By a quarter past seven Lyveden was back at Lancaster Gate.
The first thing he saw below stairs was the library silver, which he had cleaned that morning and the parlour-maid should have restored to its place. Without waiting to change, he picked up the tray and carried it upstairs, intending, if the room was unoccupied, to replace it at once.
As he gained the hall, the twitch of an inserted latchkey came to his ears. Then pressure was put upon the front door. This, however, remained fast shut. The key was withdrawn violently, reinserted, and wrenched. The pressure upon the door being maintained, the lock was jammed. Whosoever was there had lost his temper and was kicking against the pricks. This was unlike Mr. Slumper, but it could be nobody else. Lyveden set down his tray and stepped to the door....
His master came in with a rush, stumbling. Anthony caught him, and he recovered his balance. There was running sweat upon his face, which was all grey, and he was shaking fearfully. Holding on to the furniture as he went, he tottered as far as the library, clawed at the switch by the door, missed it, and swayed out of sight into the black of the room.
Anthony stood spellbound. The spectacle of a bunch of keys dangling idly from the keyhole of the door, which he was still holding open, brought him to his senses, and, drawing the key from the lock, he closed the door swiftly and ran for brandy....
Mr. Slumper was sitting in the dark, with his head plunged between his knees. At Anthony's coming he started up and would have gone back, but the seat of his chair catching him under the hocks, he subsided again almost immediately. Anthony went to his side and held the glass to his lips. As he drank, his teeth chattered upon the rim of the tumbler, and some of the spirit ran over his chin. Twice he made a gesture for more. After the third dose he had swallowed more than a tumblerful.... Presently he began to look less grey, and the trembling abated. In three or four minutes he was quite calm. Anthony was about to ask if he should help him upstairs, when he spoke suddenly.
"Shut t' door."
Anthony did his bidding. When he came back, his master had a letter-case in his hand.
"What are your wages?" he said.
"Seventy-two pounds a year, sir."
Mr. Slumper put a hand to his brow and knitted this wearily, as if the effort of calculation was more than he could bear. Then he took out two five-pound notes and two one-pound notes.
"There's twelve pound," he said slowly. "One month's wages, and another's in lieu of notice."
Anthony stared at the money.
"I haven't been here a month yet, sir."
His master waved aside the objection.
"Only honest servant I've ever had," he said shortly. "Gentleman, aren't you? Never mind. Couldn't let you down. Others can go to hell, but not you. And now—better clear out. Right away. Get your box and go. Don't let the others see you. Give 'em the slip."
"But—but won't you be dining, sir?" said Anthony desperately. He was trying instinctively to grapple with a situation which had put him upon his back.
At the mention of dinner Mr. Slumper laughed hideously. The brandy was getting into its stride now, and colour was beginning to climb into his cheeks.
"Dining?" he croaked. "Dining?"
In a deliberate, imperturbable tone a clock upon the mantelpiece chimed the half-hour, and the laugh snapped off short. The next moment the man had Lyveden's arm in a grip of iron.
"Listen," he breathed. "I'm broke ... ruined ... got to run for it. Couldn't stand gaol at my age. It ain't pretty, I know, but I'm fifty-nine, Lyveden, fifty-nine." The tense utterance broke into a whimper. "An'—an' that's too old for prison, Lyveden, an' they wouldn't give me a chance. The lawyers 'd make it out bad. You can gamble with others' money as long as you win, Lyveden, but you mustn't lose ... mustn't ever lose. There's a law against that."
All the soldier in Anthony came to his aid.
"Are you going now, sir?" The other nodded, "Shall I get you a taxi?"
"Yes." Mr. Slumper jerked a contemptuous head at the ceiling. "She'll have to go with me," he added thickly. "Can't leave the old fool."
"I'll keep your keys, sir," said Anthony, "to let myself in."
With that he was gone.
Mrs. Slumper was in the midst of a very delicate operation, to wit, the obliteration of her natural complexion—obsequies which not even her maid was permitted to attend. Consequently she was anything but pleased when her husband entered the room. Such procedure was out of all order and convenience. That he came in suddenly and without first knocking upon the door was insufferable. She turned herself round on her seat, bristling....
There was no time for a scene, and, when Mrs. Slumper hurled herself against Necessity, she fell back bruised and broken.
When she would have screamed, a hand was clapped over her mouth, breaking her false teeth, and all her stifled shrieks, queries and expostulations were literally cuffed into a whimper. Five minutes later, toothless, half-dressed and trembling, she thrust a few things into a dressing-case, struggled into a fur coat, and passed with sagging knees downstairs, clinging to the arm of a bully whom she had known as a worm.
Lyveden was waiting in the hall, beside him his case and hold-all—what belongings he had thrust into them anyhow. He was intending to see the couple into the cab and then go quietly away, for he was determined to avoid the loathsome saturnalia with which his colleagues were certain to signalize the debacle. When the two appeared, he started involuntarily. He had been prepared for violence, he had expected tears.... The vision of a blubbering idiot, that mowed and mumbled, its wig awry, its dreadful face blotched, like a clown's, with paint, swaddled from head to toe in gorgeous furs, leaning desperately upon the very reed it had broken—this was unearthly, hellish. He found himself praying that it might not visit him in his dreams....
It is to his credit that Anthony, having helped Mr. Slumper into his hat and overcoat and Mr. and Mrs. Slumper into the taxi, flung his own kit upon the canopy and accompanied the fugitives to Charing Cross.
The horror of that drive revisited him for months. The awful pregnant silence, broken only by the sound of rapid irregular respiration, gave to the cab the air of a death-chamber.
Arrived at the station, by his advice the two remained in the taxi whilst he procured tickets which would take them to the coast by the first available train. At the booking-office he learned, to his inexpressible relief, that they had but ten minutes to spare. He bought the tickets feverishly....
As his master emerged from the cab, Lyveden perceived with a shock that his nervousness had begun to return. Terror was riding behind, coming up, overhauling him fast. The blood which had flooded his face had begun to recede. The hand that received the tickets and change was trembling. In a fever of anxiety the ex-officer hustled his charges towards the platform....
People turned and stared as they passed. One woman screamed....
At the sudden cry Mr. Slumper started violently. His face was very pale now, and there were tiny beads of sweat upon the side of his nose. His mouth was working painfully. It was a question whether they could board the train before he collapsed. The idiot upon his arm could have shambled another mile.
They came to the barrier.
Anthony had no ticket and could not pass, but he put them into the queue and steered them up to the gate.
The passenger behind Mr. Slumper turned suddenly and brushed against him. At the touch on his shoulder the poor devil started frightfully and drew in his breath with a hoarse whoop. The face that he turned to the offender was a wet grey....
In front of them there were only two, now—one. They were in the jaws of the barrier.... Mr. Slumper had not the power to present his tickets, and the inspector took the pasteboard out of his shaking hand. He clipped it and handed it back, staring. Mr. Slumper fumbled, and the tickets fell to the ground. He stooped drunkenly, and the inspector put a hand under his arm.
"Gent ill 'ere, Joe," he threw over his shoulder, apparently addressing a colleague, whom Anthony could not see. "Give 'im a 'and up the platform."
Anthony heaved a sigh of relief.
The next moment he saw a burly station-constable—presumably "Joe"—step into view and put a broad arm tenderly about his master's back...
Mr. Slumper stiffened and stood quivering with the peculiar vibration of a wire that is taut. The ridiculous figure attached to him stood still also, rolling its head foolishly.
"Come along, sir," urged the official in a kindly tone.
Mr. Slumper stopped shaking, took out his handkerchief, and wiped his face. Then he turned to the speaker.
"It's all right," he said. "I'll go quietly."
Anthony turned on his heel and walked out of the station.
There was no more to be done.
THE WAY OF A MAID
A footman looked out of an attic in Eaton Square with his pen in his mouth. After a moment's reflection he returned to his letter, added a sentence or two, and signed his name. Then he restored its cork to his bottle of ink, blotted the lines he had written, and, gathering the flimsy pages into his hand, leaned back in his loose-limbed chair with the consideration which that exacting skeleton required of its patrons, and proceeded to read.
This, then, is our chance; and, since Lyveden will be none the wiser, let us forget our manners and look over his shoulder.
By extracting a promise that I would write to you you did me a good turn, for, while my first report was rendered, from a sense of duty, I am making this one with a sense of relief—a somewhat scandalous admission. Of course a really good footman would keep his mouth shut. But then I am but an indifferent lackey.
To say that I left my first place would be untrue. In fact, the place left me—rather tragically, as it happened: which reminds me that I must withdraw anything which I have written to you in disparagement of my late master. The poor man had worries I did not know of, and behaved to me very handsomely at the last, remembering that I might have troubles, when he could not think straight, so sore were his own.
For a week, then, I became a country gentleman, living with my dog at a little inn where no ways met. By the end of that time I had got me another place.
Yes, sir, I am in the service of the Marquess of Banff, sir. There are times when I go powdered. I have even hobnobbed with the scarlet livery of Royalty. I am, I assure you, a very deuce of a fellow.
With the Marquess, who resembles an irritable baboon, I have little to do. The marchioness—a strong woman is also, mercifully, too much engaged upon works of supererogation, which, in a rich bass, she styles "her manifold duties," to observe my existence. Lord Pomfret Fresne, however, a gilded youth with three thousand a year, finds me extremely useful. I bet for him, I make appointments for him to have his hair trimmed, I retain stalls for him, and occasionally I admit him to the house at an unlawful hour. In fact, he is a confounded nuisance. He is impertinent, grossly ignorant, and a niggard. Moreover, Toby, he hath an eye whose like I have seen before—once. Then it was set in the head of a remount which, after it had broken a shoeing-smith's leg, was cast for vice at Kantara in 1917.
"Lyveden," says he one day, "you're a gentleman, aren't you?"
It seemed easiest to say "Yes."
"Why?" says his lordship.
"It's a family failing," said I.
"How beastly! You mean, like drink?"
"Exactly, my lord. We never mention it."
"No, don't," says he. "My mother's very hot on that sort of thing. Hullo!" He peers into a gold cigarette-case. "I had four pounds in here. I'll swear I had."
Considering that I had found the case in the library, and had restored it to him five minutes before, his ejaculation was not in the best of taste. His lordship, however, must whet his point upon the grindstone of insult.
"You're not hard up, are you?" says he.
"I can pay my way, my lord."
"Well, I know there was four pounds there, because—— No. Wait a minute. It's all right. I remember I put it in my coat. Which reminds me—I want a couple of stalls at Daly's. You might ring up and get them. How much is the pit?"
"I'm not quite sure, my lord. It used to be half-a-crown."
"Half-a-crown!" cries he. "I thought it was a shilling."
"That's the gallery, my lord."
"Oh, yes. Well, I can't afford the pit, Lyveden, but you can go to the gallery if you like," and he produces a shilling.
I shake my head.
"I'm much obliged to your lordship, but I seldom go out."
"Right-o," he says, with ill-concealed relief. "Don't forget those stalls."
It is pathetic, Toby, but it is true. And when I was at Harrow, his eldest brother, who is one of the best, was my fag.
When I say that, compared with the butler, Respectability itself seems raffish, you will understand. He is a monument, massive, meaningless, and about as useful as a fan in a cyclone. Yet the household revolves about him. He came in, I fancy, with the spittoon....
And now I will show you that the cassock of the confessor has indeed fallen upon you.
Listen. I have been disdained—given the cold shoulder. Such a beautiful shoulder, Toby. Such a shoulder as Artemis presented to Actaeon. But there was good reason for that. It fell on this wise. I sat in a garden and mufti and looked at an aged doorway, thinking how fair a frame it would make. And when next I looked, lo! there was the picture, all warm and smiling, her little white hands about her dark, dark hair. I was overwhelmed. I would have slain dragons, levelled castles, broken the backs of knights for her sake. But before I was given the chance, I was given the shoulder. Now mark how a malicious Fate maketh a mock of me. But three days later I run full tilt into my lady, I, the same Anthony Lyveden—but with my livery on. In case that should not be enough, I presently return to the inn, to learn that I have missed her by forty-eight hours. Veux-tu m'en croire?
Beneath the unfair strain my poor vocabulary broke down. Indeed, I soon had no alternative but to repeat myself, thus violating what I know to be one of your most sacred rules.
Assez, j'en finis.
You are so distant and it will be so long before this letter reaches you, that it requires an effort steadily to regard you as a confidant. Already that impression of you is fainter than it was when I picked up my pen. A reply from you, Toby, would do much to revive it—would, in fact, turn into substance the shadow with which I am, rather desperately, cheating my common-sense.
A toi, mon beau, ANTHONY LYVEDEN.
Having addressed this letter to Australia, Lyveden made the best of an enamelled basin and a mirror, which was not quite so good as one which, once upon a time, his servant had purchased in Port Said for five piastres. Then he put on his very expensive plum-coloured coat and descended twelve flights of stairs.
Five minutes later he opened the front door, confessed to an irreverent gentleman in blue and yellow that "Ole Flat-Feet" was at home, and, after conducting them to the first floor, ushered "The Honourable Mrs. George Wrangle, Miss Wrangle, Miss Sarah Wrangle" into the presence itself. With a contempt for tradition, the Marchioness not only extended to each of the ladies her large right hand, but withheld no one of its fingers.
The identity of the guests was then communicated to the butler, whose supervision of the service of tea depended upon the visitor's position in the table of precedence. That of Mrs. Wrangle, apparently, fell dismally short of the standard which the great man imposed, for, upon hearing her name, he stared indignantly upon a cat which was cleaning itself upon the hearth of his parlour, and then resumed the perusal of the Morning Advertiser in contemptuous silence.
Without more ado, Anthony repaired to the pantry. Five minutes later he and the second footman took up the tea.
"Is Lord Pomfret in?" said the Marchioness.
"I will see, my lady," said Lyveden.
"Desire him to come in to tea."
"Very good, my lady."
Lord Pomfret had just returned from a luncheon-party, and was preparing to attend a the dansant. His mother's command was abusively received. At length—
"Tell her I'm out, Lyveden."
"Her ladyship was very definite, my lord."
"D'you hear what I say?"
"Very good, my lord."
The scepticism with which his mistress received Anthony's report was distressingly obvious. Also the faces of Mrs. and Miss Wrangle fell noticeably. Indeed, the bell which summoned Lyveden to speed their departure rang but a few minutes later.
As they descended the stairs, Lord Pomfret emerged from the library, cramming cigarettes into his case with the dishevelling manipulation of the belated swain.
The encounter was not a success.
Reason suggested to Mrs. Wrangle that the episode could be far more effectively dealt with if and when the offender became her son-in-law. Impulse, however, clamoured for immediate and appropriate action. Between the two stools her display of emotion fell flat. As for Pomfret, the knowledge that he had just induced the lady's footman to go for a taxi did not contribute to his peace of mind, and his manners became conspicuously devoid of that easy grace which should have gone with his title.
After the mechanical issue and acknowledgment of a few ghastly pleasantries, Lord Pomfret muttered something about "hearing his mother calling" and fled with precipitate irrelevance in the direction of the back stairs, leaving Mrs. Wrangle speechless with indignation and bitterly repenting her recent indecision. She swept past Anthony as if she were leaving a charnel-house. Her daughters, who took after their father, walked as though they were being expelled....
When their mother found herself confronted with the choice of leaving without her footman or awaiting that gentleman's successful return from the mission upon which he had been dispatched, it required their united diplomacy to deter her from there and then returning to lay the outrageous facts before Lady Banff.
Mrs. Wrangle's complaint, however, was posted that evening.
By the time it arrived, Lord Pomfret had prepared his defence. This he conducted so skilfully that the Marchioness, who believed in red justice, sent for Lyveden and told him two things. The first was that in future, when she sent him for anyone, he would be good enough to look for them before returning to say they were out. The second was that when he was told to fetch a cab, he would be good enough to do so, instead of persuading other people's servants to do his work. Lord Pomfret, who was present at the arraignment, supported his mother dutifully. Anthony said nothing at all. Four and a half years in the Army had left their mark.
* * * * *
If Lyveden was a Conservative, so was his dog. For the two there was only one walk in all Hertfordshire, and that, after six fair miles, brought them thirsty or wet, as the weather might order, to the shade or shelter of The Leather Bottel. This was, in fact, Anthony's country house. Here for one glorious week the two had shared the same bed. Heaven only knew when such a prolonged visit would be repeated. It had cost two whole pounds, and, do what he would, Anthony could save very little out of his wages. Of his six pounds a month the Dogs' Home took four precious guineas. Then there were railway fares at three shillings a time—twelve shillings a month. Teas, clothes, and a little—a very little—tobacco had to be paid for. It was a tight fit.
With his back to a beech tree, Lyveden thought upon these things. The weather, perhaps, invited Melancholy.
Without the wood a sudden shower was falling down from heaven, drenching anew wet pastures, thinning the mud upon brown lanes, poppling upon the washed highway. Dainty scale-armour of a million leaves protected Anthony. Ere this was penetrated, the fusillade would have stopped.
It was more than a month now since he had seen the lady. At the moment he supposed gloomily that she had gone out of his life. Considering what his life was, it was just as well. (Melancholy smiled to herself, sighed sympathetically, and laid her dark head upon Anthony's shoulder.) His thoughts flew over the blowing country to Eaton Square. The squalor of his bedroom rose up before him. The walls were peeling, and upon one there was a vast brown stain. The floor was bare. The cracked American cloth upon the chest of drawers made this a washstand. The fact that the ensemble had lost a foot made it unsteady. True, some one had placed a Bradshaw under the bereaved corner, but the piece listed heavily. The Bradshaw, by the way, was out of date. In fact, its value as a guide to intending passengers had expired on the thirty-first of October, 1902. That looked as if the chest were an antique. Three of the china knobs, however, which served as handles were unhappily missing. Then there was a flap beneath the window which, when raised, arrested the progress of such smuts as failed to clear it in their descent to the boards. (Melancholy smothered a laugh and laid a wet cheek against her victim's.) The smuts were devilish—the terror by night, the arrow that flieth by day. Anthony believed in fresh air. Also he believed in cleanliness. His twofold faith cost his convenience dear. He had begged a dust-sheet from the housekeeper with which to cover his bed during the day, and regularly, before retiring, shook an ounce of soot out of his window. The bed, by the way, was overhung by the wall, which, for some reason best known to those who built it, deserted the perpendicular for an angle of forty-five, three inches from Anthony's nose. The candlestick had seen merrier days: that there might be no doubt about the matter, it said as much, announcing in so many words that it was "A Present from Margate." ...
Scaramouche Melancholy fairly squirmed with delight. Then she turned upon Anthony eyes swimming with tenderness, put up consoling lips.... The entrance of Polichinelle, however, cudgel and all, in the shape of a little white dog, dragging a bough with him, spoiled her game. Harlequin Sun, too, flashed out of hiding—before his cue, really, for the shower was not spent.
Scaramouche fled with a snarl.
At Polichinelle's obvious request, Anthony seized the spare end of the bough, and the two tugged with a will—an agreeable tourney, which was always eventually settled in the lists of Frolic itself. And, whiles they strove, Harlequin danced in and out the trees, with magic touch of bat making the mizzle shimmer and the meadows gleam, and finally, with rare exuberance, breaking his precious colours overhead, to say the masque was over and bid the racing winds hustle away the fretful scenery and clear the stage of sky for his possession.
Master and dog made their way to the inn jubilantly enough.
As he devoured his tea, Lyveden thought again of the girl—more cheerfully. Indeed, he made bold to decide that she was interested in him. That such interest sprang from the loins of Curiosity he admitted readily. Its origin did not matter; the trouble was to keep it alive.
It is obvious that he himself was more than interested. He was, I suppose, in love. At the moment when he had looked upon her for the first time his heart had leaped. Instantly the man knew that he had seen his maid. He had no doubt of it at all, but was quite positive. If a million Archangels had appeared and with one voice told him that he was wrong, he would have shaken his head with a smile. His heart had leaped, and there was an end of it. He just knew. In view of the prospective failure of so many Archangels, it is not surprising that my lady herself, whatever she did, would not be able to erase this impression. Consequently though she had behaved to his face with a manner which it was a Quixotic courtesy to style "disdain," Anthony never wavered. For a second of time he had seen beyond the veil—at least, his heart had—and, now that he knew what it hid, all reinforcement of that veil was out of date. My lady might line it with oak, with brass, with masonry miles thick—and all her labour would be in vain. All the same, Anthony hoped devoutly that she would do nothing of the kind....
With a sigh he drank to their next meeting.
Then he called the terrier and set him upon his knee.
"My fellow," said he, "listen. In these very precincts you committed an aggravated assault upon an Irish terrier. I don't blame you. He probably deserved it. But—he belongs to the lady—my lady, Patch, the only lady in the world. And she didn't like it, my boy. She didn't like it at all. So remember, if ever we meet her again, you mustn't fight. I don't want to be hard on you, but you mustn't. Of course, if you could show him a little courtesy—indicate a scent which will repay investigation, or something—I should be exalted. But I don't press that. A strictly non-committal attitude will serve. But aggression—no. Patch, I trust you. I know it's difficult for you to understand, but you'll be a good dog and try, won't you? For my sake, Patch?"
Whether the Sealyham in fact appreciated the nature and gravity of the request is a matter which cannot be decided upon this side of the grave. The fact remains that when, upon entering the grounds of the Dogs' Home some thirty-five minutes later, he encountered that very Irish terrier, looking rather sorry for himself and attached to the end of a long lead, he walked straight up to him and bestowed upon him as generous a greeting as his nostrils and tail could convey.
Anthony could hardly believe his eyes....
At the other end of the lead was a kennelman, who spoke quickly and to the point.
"Beggin' your pardon, sir, but I wouldn't let 'im talk to 'im. 'E's not very grand—this little dog ain't. I think it's only a chill, but we've hisolated 'im, in case..."
Patch was summoned peremptorily, to come running wide-eyed. Happily in his sight his master could do no wrong; otherwise it is possible that he might have thought himself hardly used and love's labour lost indeed.
Anthony passed into the hall, thinking furiously. With Patch under his arm, he spoke to the fair-haired girl in charge of the office.
"I've seen a dog out there that I recognize—an Irish terrier. He's not very well, your man said. May I know whose he is?"
"Oh, yes. He belongs to Miss French—Miss Valerie French. He's a nice little dog, isn't he?"
If Anthony Lyveden had reflected, it would have occurred to him that his informant had been, as they say, "very quick in the uptake." The truth was that less than a week ago Miss Valerie French had recognized Patch and had asked the same girl for the name of his owner.
"He's a beauty," said Anthony. "Does she keep him here all the time?"
"When she's in London," said the girl. "I expect you've seen her. She's very often down."
"I think I must have," he said.
Then he made much of Patch and handed him over.
"See you next week, little Patch. Next Saturday. Only a week from to-day. Good-bye, little fellow."
He ruffled the tousled head with a last caress, smiled at the puzzled brown eyes, and turned away....
There was no sweet sorrow about these partings. They were purely abominable.
At the very hour that Lyveden walked heavily down the wet lanes on his way to the station, Valerie French, who was to dine early and go to the play, was sitting before her dressing-table in an apricot kimono.
The evening sun stared into her bedroom mercilessly and found no fault in it. It was a broad low room, full of soft colours and the warm glow of highly polished wood. Walls, curtains, and carpet were all of powder-blue; an old rose fabric covered what seats there were; an apple-green coverlet filled up the symphony. That taper elegance which modern craftsmanship can give mahogany was most apparent, lending the usual suite unusual comeliness. A great pier-glass flashed in a corner, upon a little table beside a deep chair a bowl of roses sweetened the London air, above the well-found bed dangled an ivory switch.
If the chamber was fair, so was my lady.
Looking upon her beauty, as she sat at the glass, Valerie French might have felt very proud. But, if we pry into her mind, it will be seen that her thoughts were otherwise occupied. Indeed, the fixing of her hair—usually so simple a matter—was making her knit her brow. The fact that the soft dark tresses had been washed that morning made them unruly. In vain the pointed fingers strove to secure and order them to their mistress's liking....
At length, with a sigh, she brought her hands to her lap.
Then she made a mouth at the reflection of her labours.
"I look like his Sealyham," she said.
* * * * *
It was on Monday morning that Lord Pomfret suggested to Lyveden the propriety of putting a pound each way on Slip Along.
"I don't suppose the swine's any good," said his lordship moodily. "But he'll probably start at twenty, so I may as well have a dart. I forget who told me about him."
"Very good, my lord," said Anthony.
To receive this commission, he had been summoned from the drawing-room, whose floor he was engaged in leathering to the requisite degree of lustre. He had had to remove an apron, turn down his sleeves, and put on his plum-coloured coat. So soon as his lordship, who was yet at breakfast, released him, he would reverse the procedure and return to his floor.
Lord Pomfret peered muttering into his cigarette case. Then he plucked out a ten-shilling note and flicked it across the tablecloth.
"That's all I appear to have," he said sulkily. "I'll have to owe you the thirty shillings."
Anthony braced himself.
"I'm afraid I haven't any money at all, my lord."
The other looked up sharply.
"What? ... Oh, nonsense, Lyveden."
Anthony said nothing. He was not anxious to repeat the lie, but he was determined not to lend to Lord Pomfret. That the loan would lose itself was much too probable, and the construction of his slender resources would not stand such a strain.
"Of course you've got thirty shillings. But you don't like parting." Lord Pomfret laughed rather nastily. "I'll pay you back, man, if that's your trouble."
"I haven't the money, my lord."
The youth stared at Anthony furiously. Then—
"Oh, go to hell!" he said thickly.
Anthony picked up the note and placed it beside his lordship. Then he left the room and returned to his work.
Lord Pomfret was exceedingly wrath. In fact, he brooded over the incident. This augured ill for Anthony. The cold fact that in due season—to be precise, at eleven minutes to four that same afternoon—Slip Along won his race easily did not improve matters. That he started at thirty-three to one was still less digestible....
When his lordship read the news at half-past five, he broke into a cold sweat. Then he bit savagely at the nail of his favourite thumb. Considering that, so recently as that morning, he had reluctantly decided that that toothsome entremet must be allowed to go unmolested for at least a week, his action was indicative of an emotion which knew no rules. That he made no mention of the matter to Anthony, was the ugliest omen of all.
Two days later the second footman called Anthony, who was crossing the hall.
It was a fine July morning, and the famous square was full of sunlight and clear-cut shadows and the soft swish of leaves. All this could be marked from the hall, for the front door stood wide open, and a fresh cool breeze came floating into the mansion, to flirt with the high and mighty curtains upon the landing, jostle the stately palms, and ruffle up the pompous atmosphere with gay irreverence. The air itself would have told you the hour. The intermittent knocks of a retreating postman declared the time even more accurately.
"'Ere's a letter fer you, mate," said the second footman. "'A. Lyveden, Esquire,' it says, all bald-like. No C.M.G., no B.F., no nothin'. I should 'ave a raow abaout this."
Anthony came grinning.
"P'r'aps their Who's Who's out of date," he said.
The other shook his head.
"It's the deecay of menners, mate," he said sorrowfully, turning to resume the sorting operation upon which he was engaged.
The letter bore the postmark of a village in Hertfordshire, and proved to be a communication from the Dogs' Home at which Patch was lodged.
I am sorry to inform you that your Sealyham has contracted distemper. There is at present no reason to think that he will be seriously ill, and, the veterinary surgeon is quite satisfied with his condition.
Yours faithfully, N. DAWES, Supt.
Anthony stared at the sheet as it had been a death-warrant. It must be remembered that Patch was all that he had in the world.
The second footman, who had been perusing a postcard addressed to the Marchioness, placed the missive upon the top of his mistress's letters and fell to whistling softly between his teeth. When he glanced round to see Anthony so still, he stopped his fluting in the midst of a bar.
"Wot's up, mate?" he said eagerly. "'Ad some bad noos?"
Anthony folded the sheet and put a hand to his head.
"My little dog's ill," he said. "He's down in the country, and—it's rather worrying."
The other looked at him curiously. Then—
"That's the worst o' dawgs," he said sagely. "Yer goes an' gets fon' of 'em, an' then they gets run over, or dies, or somethin'. Cats is the same. My sister's little gurl 'ad a kitten with one eye. Thort the world o' that cat, she did. 'Adn't got no use fer dolls nor nothin'. 'Moses,' she called it. One day a bull-terrier does it in." He paused dramatically, raising his eyes to heaven with an air of reminiscent resignation which spoke volumes. "Me sister thort the kid'd go aout of 'er mine. In the en' they 'ad to send 'er away."
Anthony listened to the anecdote with what politeness he could, hoping desperately that time would prove its irrelevance.
"Poor little girl," he said quietly.
"But she got over it orright, mate. Same as wot you will. You see. 'Sides," he added, with the gesture of one who adduces a still stronger argument, "'e ain't dead yet. Don't you meet trouble 'alf-way, mate. It ain't good enough."
For this philosophy there was much to be said, and Anthony did his best to practise it. When he had sent a telegram, asking to be informed daily of his dog's progress, and advised by wire or telephone if there was any danger, he felt more comfortable. The day, however, dragged heavily....
Happily Lord Pomfret made few demands upon his patience. For all that, his lordship had formed a new habit, which Anthony—partly because he was preoccupied, partly because he had but two eyes—failed to observe. This was a pity, for while it was not a pretty habit, it happened to concern Anthony pretty closely. The trick was this. So often as he and Lyveden were in the same room, his lordship's watery eyes would follow the footman wheresoever he moved.
It may be urged that a cat may look at a king. True.
But if a cat were detected in the act of looking at a king as Lord Pomfret Fresne had come to look at Anthony Lyveden, it is safe to predict not only that the animal would be afforded no further opportunity of inspecting his majesty, but that in about two minutes he would, like poor Moses, be put to sleep with his fathers.
* * * * *
By the same post which so discomfited Anthony, came to Miss Valerie French two letters, one at least of which must be set out.
c/o Joseph Bumble, Esq., The Shrubbery, Hawthorne.
Send your pal along. The Bumbles will jump at him. As for us, if our present colleague wasn't under notice to leave, we should be. Of course he can have his dog here. Haven't I got Jose? And if a parlour-maid can keep one, d'autant plus a footman. Pending the dismissal of the colleague referred to, Anne and I have to do more than we should, and are a little bored with Life. George has the best time with the car, but we make him help in the house. When are you coming to Bell Hammer? George and I were there on Sunday, and it looks topping.
Love from us all, BETTY.
The other dispatch was from Printing House Square. Its envelope, being opened, was found to contain three other envelopes, each bearing the same superscription, viz., "Box Y779, c/o The Times."
Valerie opened them eagerly.
They were, all three, applications for the post of a gentleman-footman.
After satisfying herself that no one of these was signed by Lyveden, Valerie tossed them aside unread. Then she propped herself on her elbow and poured out a cup of tea.
That Fate buffets her favourites is sometimes true. Here we catch the baggage red-handed. With one cold relentless palm she threatens to take from Anthony, who hath not, even that which he hath: with the other she is strewing blossoms upon what is to be his path. With her right hand she robs the beggar, with the left she prepares for him a bed of roses.
The lady of Anthony's heart loved him. It is no good beating about the bush. Pity may be akin to Love, but Interest is the boy's first cousin. Whether her heart had leaped, when she saw him, is not for me to say. She looked upon him, saw that he was good, made up her mind—and that was settled. The fact that she immediately turned her back upon him has nothing to do with the question, but may, if you please, be construed as confirming her plight.
Had the round world been ten thousand years younger, when she and Anthony looked the one upon the other in the garden of The Leather Bottel, he would have put his arms about her, and she would have suffered him, and there in the shadow of the little inn this tale would have come to an end. That it did not so end then and there is the fault partly of a crop of conventions, which have in so many years increased out of all belief and now stand bristling between Impulse and Action, and partly of the contrariness of women, which is, we know, very ancient, but not so old as all that. It is these two marplots, which you must bless or curse, gentlemen, as the fancy takes you.
Valerie French, then, was trying to bring Lyveden into smooth water. She had already earmarked a congenial billet at The Shrubbery, Hawthorne. The difficulty was to make Anthony apply for the post. Since Mrs. Bumble could hardly be advised to ask a footman to quit the service of the Marquess of Banff, Valerie, who was determined to remain incognito, had recourse to the Press. Her advertisement for a gentleman-footman appeared daily.
When my lady had drunk her tea, she turned to the telephone. After a little delay, she was connected to the Dogs' Home in Hertfordshire. Presently the superintendent spoke....
'Miss French's Irish terrier was not too grand. He was coughing a little. There was no real cause for anxiety, but he was not out of the wood.'
"I'll be down this afternoon," said Valerie.
She was as good as her word.
And since, to her grief, the little brown dog was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, she visited him the next day also and the day after that.
And so it happened that she was at the Home on Friday, when Patch's condition gave rise to such uneasiness as presently decided the superintendent to telephone to his master. Indeed, the fair-haired girl had discussed with Valerie the advisability of so doing.
"Mr. Lyveden's a busy man, I fancy, and we hate worrying people. But he's simply devoted to the dog, and he's pretty bad."
"I think," said Valerie slowly, "I think he ought to be told."
"Perhaps you're right, Miss French," said the girl. "I'll go and ring up."
She slipped out of the hospital, through the garden, and presently into her office.
It was perhaps ten minutes before she could speak with London. Then—
"Is that Lord Banff's house?" she inquired.
"Yes. Who are you?" said an unpleasant voice.
"Oh, can I speak to Mr. Lyveden?"
An exclamation of surprise came to her ears.... Then an oath.... Then a smothered laugh....
The girl frowned with impatience. At length—
"Hullo," said the voice.
"Can I speak to Mr. Lyveden?" she repeated.
"No, you can't. He's—he's out."
"Oh! Well, it's rather important. Could you give him a message?"
"Try me," said the voice.
"Will you tell him that his dog is not so well?"
"His dog. His Sealyham. Mr. Lyveden will understand."
"Oh, will he?" said the voice. "And where do I come in, Mabel?"
For a moment the fair-haired girl stared at the instrument. Then she flushed angrily and rang off....
At the other end of the line Lord Pomfret replaced his receiver with a hideous leer.
The superintendent returned to the hospital.
"Did you speak to him?" said Valerie.
"No, Miss French. He was out. I had to leave a message."
Valerie rose to her feet.
Observing her movement, the Irish terrier rose also and got shakily upon his legs. The effort set him coughing again, poor fellow, and he had to submit to the paroxysm before he could wag his tail. How stiffly this moved, his mistress, whose eyes were full of tears, did not remark. Nor did she notice the suggestion of impotence about his hindquarters. With her practised eye, the fair-haired girl noticed both symptoms and bit her lip.
Valerie caressed her favourite and turned to a grey-headed kennel-man who had just entered the room.
"Are you going to wash his face?"
The Irish terrier was plainly pleased to see his old nurse.
"How is the little Sealyham?"
"'Tis a sick dog, ma'am."
Valerie turned away.
The superintendent escorted her back to the house.
"I'll be down to-morrow morning," she said.
"Very well, Miss French."
As she walked down the drive, Valerie wondered miserably whether she was treading it for almost the last time.
* * * * *
When upon Saturday morning Anthony received no bulletin from Hertfordshire, he did not know what to think. In the ordinary way he would have telegraphed, but telegrams cost money, which he really could not afford, and he was, in any event, to visit the Dogs' Home that afternoon.... He decided to do nothing. All the same, he was far from easy, for Friday morning's report had said that his terrier was not so well.
He went about his work abstractedly, glancing at the faces of the clocks times without number.
At five-and-twenty minutes past two, just as he was going to change, Lord Pomfret sent for him. Anthony ground his teeth. The man was his evil genius.
Mercifully the interview was a short one.
His lordship produced two pounds and curtly instructed the footman to expend the money upon the purchase of roses.
"They've got to be good ones, and you ought to be able to get stacks for two quid. I shan't want them till to-morrow morning, so they've got to be fresh. You'd better get them as late as you can, and put them in water directly you get in. That's all."
"Very good, my lord."
Lord Pomfret returned to the perusal of La Vie, and Anthony stepped to the door. As he was passing out—
"Lyveden," said his lordship sharply.
"Yes, my lord."
"I shall want to see the bill."
Anthony hesitated, inwardly raging. Then—
"Very good, my lord," he said huskily.
Ten minutes later he was out of the house.
Along the road of Life goes bowling the coach of Destiny, and we poor passengers inside know neither whither we are being borne nor how long shall be our journey. Now and again the horses are pulled up, the door is opened, that grim guard Fate calls out a name, and one of us climbs pitifully forth, to pass with faltering steps into a sable hostelry. We that are left behind peer after him curiously.... Then the door is slammed, with a lurch the coach is off again on its eternal wayfaring, and we poor passengers inside sit betwixt hope and fear, wondering vainly what the next mile of road will bring to each of us.
Climb up upon the box-seat, gentlemen, if you will see what is to become of Anthony: so I am with you, you will not be sent packing.
Look how he is being borne unwitting over the Bridge of Care, into the Valley of Love, by Thicket Perilous, clean through the Waters of Anger to where the white road curls over that grey upland, and we can see it no more. As well for Anthony that he has not our knowledge. The next league or so will play the deuce with his emotions....
One last look, gentlemen. Can you see that cypress there, tall by the wayside, down in the Valley of Love? We will descend there, by your leave, for the driver will pull up his horses and the coach will stop. A dog has to be set down—a little dog, gentlemen, with rough hair and as soft brown eyes as ever you saw....
Anthony covered the distance between the station and the Dogs' Home at a good round pace. In fact, he was somewhat out of breath when a maid admitted him to the house and, leaving him in the hall, went in search of the superintendent.
As the fair-haired girl made her appearance, his heart began to beat furiously.
"How's my little dog?" he said jerkily.
The girl looked grave.
"I'm afraid he's pretty bad, Mr. Lyveden. He's naturally very strong, and we hope that'll pull him through. We ought to know one way or the other within twelve hours."
"I see," said Anthony dully. "When I didn't hear, I hoped——"
"Didn't you get my telephone message?"
Anthony shook his head.
"When did you ring up?"
"Yesterday. I spoke to somebody—a man, and asked him to tell you. I don't know who it was."
Anthony went very white.
"I fancy I do," he said grimly, and drew in a quick breath. "And now may I see my dog?"
The fair-haired girl led the way to the hospital.
The building, which stood by itself, was as fresh and cool as a dairy, and a faint clean smell of sanitary fluid rose from its tiled floor. In the hall were a table and a watchman's chair. Half a dozen rooms led out of the hall. The girl went straight to the door of one of these, turned the handle gently, and the next moment they were in the little chamber. This was full of light and air, for the French windows, which gave on to a broad veranda, were wide open. Upon the garden beyond the sun was shining gloriously.
By the side of the great square basket set in a corner Anthony fell on his knees.
"Why, Patch ..."
The little scrap tried gamely to leap for his master, but his strength failed him, and he fell sideways on to the pine shavings. Lyveden gathered him gently into his arms and let him lick his face.
"Did you think I was never coming, Patch? Did you think I'd forgotten my little dog? My poor little fellow ... my little boy...."
The laboured breathing slipped into a cough, and Lyveden laid the terrier back on the shavings. There he got to his feet and coughed desperately. The exertion seemed to exhaust him, for, when the fit was over, he lay down where he stood, keeping his eyes upon Anthony and now and again moving his little tail.
The fair-haired girl, who had gone, reappeared, followed by the grey-headed kennel-man bearing a deck-chair.