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Title: A Prince Of Sinners
Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim
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Language: English
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Title: A Prince Of Sinners
Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim

*

Published by Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1903

*

TABLE OF CONTENTS


PART I.
    I. Mr. Kingston Brooks, Political Agent
   II. The Bullsom Family At Home
  III. Kingston Brooks Has A Visitor
   IV. A Question For The Country
    V. The Marquis Of Arranmore
   VI. The Man Who Went To Hell
  VII. A Thousand Pounds
 VIII. Kingston Brooks Makes Inquiries
   IX. Henslow Speaks Out
    X. A Tempting Offer
   XI. Who The Devil Is Brooks?
  XII. Mr. Bullsom Gives A Dinner-party
 XIII. Charity The "Crime"
  XIV. An Awkward Question
   XV. A Supper-Party At The "Queen's"
  XVI. Uncle And Niece
 XVII. Fifteen Years In Hell
XVIII. Mary Scott Pays An Unexpected Call
  XIX. The Marquis Mephistopheles
   XX. The Confidence Of Lord Arranmore

PART II.
    I. Lord Arranmore's Amusements
   II. The Heckling Of Henslow
  III. Mary Scott's Two Visitors
   IV. A Marquis On Matrimony
    V. Brooks Enlists A Recruit
   VI. Kingston Brooks, Philanthropist
  VII. Brooks And His Missions
 VIII. Mr. Bullsom Is Staggered
   IX. Ghosts
    X. A New Don Quixote

PART III.
    I. An Aristocratic Recruit
   II. Mr. Lavilette Interferes
  III. The Singular Behaviour Of Mary Scott
   IV. Lord Arranmore In A New Role
    V. Lady Sybil Lends A Hand
   VI. The Reservation Of Mary Scott
  VII. Father And Son
 VIII. The Advice Of Mr. Bullsom
   IX. A Question And An Answer
    X. Lady Sybil Says "Yes"
   XI. Brooks Hears The News
  XII. The Prince Of Sinners Speaks Out


* * *


PART I

I--MR. KINGSTON BROOKS, POLITICAL AGENT

Already the sweepers were busy in the deserted hall, and the lights
burned low. Of the great audience who had filled the place only
half-an-hour ago not one remained. The echoes of their tumultuous
cheering seemed still to linger amongst the rafters, the dust which
their feet had raised hung about in a little cloud. But the long rows of
benches were empty, the sweepers moved ghostlike amongst the shadows,
and an old woman was throwing tealeaves here and there about the
platform. In the committee-room behind a little group of men were busy
with their leave-takings. The candidate, a tall, somewhat burly man,
with hard, shrewd face and loosely knit figure, was shaking hands with
every one. His tone and manner savoured still of the rostrum.

"Good-night, sir! Good-night, Mr. Bullsom! A most excellent
introduction, yours, sir! You made my task positively easy. Good-night,
Mr. Brooks. A capital meeting, and everything very well arranged.
Personally I feel very much obliged to you, sir. If you carry everything
through as smoothly as this affair to-night, I can see that we shall
lose nothing by poor Morrison's breakdown. Good-night, gentlemen, to all
of you. We will meet at the club at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning.
Eleven o'clock precisely, if you please."

The candidate went out to his carriage, and the others followed in twos
and threes. A young man, pale, with nervous mouth, strongly-marked
features and clear dark eyes, looked up from a sheaf of letters which he
was busy sorting.

"Don't wait for me, Mr. Bullsom," he said. "Reynolds will let me out,
and I had better run through these letters before I leave."

Mr. Bullsom was emphatic to the verge of gruffness.

"You'll do nothing of the sort," he declared. "I tell you what it is,
Brooks. We're not going to let you knock yourself up. You're tackling
this job in rare style. I can tell you that Henslow is delighted."

"I'm much obliged to you for saying so, Mr. Bullsom," the young man
answered. "Of course the work is strange to me, but it is very
interesting, and I don't mean to make a mess of it."

"There is only one chance of your doing that," Mr. Bullsom rejoined,
"and that is if you overwork yourself. You need a bit of looking after.
You've got a rare head on your shoulders, and I'm proud to think that I
was the one to bring your name before the committee. But I'm jolly well
certain of one thing. You've done all the work a man ought to do in one
day. Now listen to me. Here's my carriage waiting, and you're going
straight home with me to have a bite and a glass of wine. We can't
afford to lose our second agent, and I can see what's the matter with
you. You're as pale as a ghost, and no wonder. You've been at it all day
and never a break."

The young man called Brooks had not the energy to frame a refusal, which
he knew would be resented. He took down his overcoat, and stuffed the
letters into his pocket.

"You're very good," he said. "I'll come up for an hour with pleasure."

They passed out together into the street, and Mr. Bullsom opened the
door of his carriage.

"In with you, young man," he exclaimed. "Home, George!"

Kingston Brooks leaned back amongst the cushions with a little sigh of
relief.

"This is very restful," he remarked. "We have certainly had a very busy
day. The inside of electioneering may be disenchanting, but it's jolly
hard work."

Mr. Bullsom sat with clasped hands in front of him resting upon that
slight protuberance which denoted the advent of a stomach. He had thrown
away the cigar which he had lit in the committee-room. Mrs. Bullsom did
not approve of smoking in the covered wagonette, which she frequently
honoured with her presence.

"There's nothing in the world worth having that hasn't to be worked for,
my boy," he declared, good-humoredly.

"By other people!" Brooks remarked, smiling.

"That's as it may be," Mr. Bullsom admitted. "To my mind that's where
the art of the thing comes in. Any fool can work, but it takes a shrewd
man to keep a lot of others working hard for him while he pockets the
oof himself."

"I suppose," the younger man remarked, thoughtfully, "that you would
consider Mr. Henslow a shrewd man?"

"Shrewd! Oh, Henslow's shrewd enough. There's no question about that!"

"And honest?"

Mr. Bullsom hesitated. He drew his hand down his stubbly grey beard.

"Honest! Oh, yes, he's honest! You've no fault to find with him, eh?"

"None whatever," Brooks hastened to say. "You see," he continued more
slowly, "I have never been really behind the scenes in this sort of
thing before, and Henslow has such a very earnest manner in speaking. He
talked to the working men last night as though his one desire in life
was to further the different radical schemes which we have on the
programme. Why, the tears were actually in his eyes when he spoke of the
Old Age Pension Bill. He told them over and over again that the passing
of that Bill was the one object of his political career. Then, you know,
there was the luncheon to-day--and I fancied that he was a little
flippant about the labour vote. It was perhaps only his way of
speaking."

Mr. Bullsom smiled and rubbed the carriage window with the cuff of his
coat. He was very hungry.

"Oh, well, a politician has to trim a little, you know," he remarked.
"Votes he must have, and Henslow has a very good idea how to get them.
Here we are, thank goodness." The carriage had turned up a short drive,
and deposited them before the door of a highly ornate villa. Mr. Bullsom
led the way indoors, and himself took charge of his guest's coat and
hat. Then he opened the door of the drawing-room.

"Mrs. Bullsom and the girls," he remarked, urbanely, "will be delighted
to see you. Come in!"


II--THE BULLSOM FAMILY AT HOME

There were fans upon the wall, and much bric-a-brac of Oriental shape
but Brummagem finish, a complete suite of drawing-room furniture,
incandescent lights of fierce brilliancy, and a pianola. Mrs. Peter
Bullsom, stout and shiny in black silk and a chatelaine, was dozing
peacefully in a chair, with the latest novel from the circulating
library in her lap; whilst her two daughters, in evening blouses, which
were somehow suggestive of the odd elevenpence, were engrossed in more
serious occupation. Louise, the elder, whose budding resemblance to her
mother was already a protection against the over-amorous youths of the
town, was reading a political speech in the Times. Selina, who had sandy
hair, a slight figure, and was considered by her family the essence of
refinement, was struggling with a volume of Cowper, who had been
recommended to her by a librarian with a sense of humour, as a poet
unlikely to bring a blush into her virginal cheeks. Mr. Bullsom looked
in upon his domestic circle with pardonable pride, and with a little
flourish introduced his guest.

"Mrs. Bullsom," he said, "this is my young friend, Kingston Brooks. My
two daughters, sir, Louise and Selina." The ladies were gracious, but
had the air of being taken by surprise, which, considering Mr. Bullsom's
parting words a few hours ago, seemed strange.

"We've had a great meeting," Mr. Bullsom remarked, sidling towards the
hearthrug, and with his thumbs already stealing towards the armholes of
his waistcoat, "a great meeting, my dears. Not that I am surprised! Oh,
no! As I said to Padgett, when he insisted that I should take the chair,
'Padgett,' I said, 'mark my words, we're going to surprise the town. Mr.
Henslow may not be the most popular candidate we've ever had, but he's
on the right side, and those who think Radicalism has had its day in
Medchester will be amazed.' And so they have been. I've dropped a few
hints during my speeches at the ward meetings lately, and Mr. Brooks,
though he's new at the work, did his best, and I can tell you the result
was a marvel. The hall was packed--simply packed. When I rose to
speak there wasn't an empty place or chair to be seen."

"Dear me!" Mrs. Bullsom remarked, affably. "Supper is quite ready, my
love."

Mr. Bullsom abandoned his position precipitately, and his face expressed
his lively satisfaction.

"Ah!" he exclaimed. "I was hoping that you would have a bite for me. As
I said to Mr. Brooks when I asked him to drop in with me, there's sure
to be something to eat. And I can tell you I'm about ready for it."

Brooks found an opportunity to speak almost for the first time. He was
standing between the two Misses Bullsom, and already they had approved
of him. He was distinctly of a different class from the casual visitors
whom their father was in the habit of introducing into the family
circle.

"Mr. Bullsom was kind enough to take pity on an unfortunate bachelor,"
he said, with a pleasant smile. "My landlady has few faults, but an
over-love of punctuality is one of them. By this time she and her
household are probably in bed. Our meeting lasted a long time."

"If you will touch the bell, Peter," Mrs. Bullsom remarked, "Ann shall
dish up the supper."

The young ladies exchanged shocked glances. "Dish up." What an
abominable phrase! They looked covertly at their guest, but his face was
imperturbable.

"We think that we have been very considerate, Mr. Brooks," Selina
remarked, with an engaging smile. "We gave up our usual dinner this
evening as papa had to leave so early."

Mr. Brooks smiled as he offered his arm to Mrs. Bullsom--a courtesy
which much embarrassed her.

"I think," he said, "that we shall be able to show you some practical
appreciation of your thoughtfulness. I know nothing so stimulating to
the appetite as politics, and to-day we have been so busy that I missed
even my afternoon tea."

"I'm sure that we are quite repaid for giving up our dinner," Selina
remarked, with a backward glance at the young man. "Oh, here you are at
last, Mary. I didn't hear you come in."

"My niece, Miss Scott," Mr. Bullsom announced. "Now you know all the
family."

A plainly-dressed girl with dark eyes and unusually pale cheeks returned
his greeting quietly, and followed them into the dining-room. Mrs.
Bullsom spread herself over her seat with a little sigh of relief.
Brooks gazed in silent wonder at the gilt-framed oleographs which hung
thick upon the walls, and Mr. Bullsom stood up to carve a joint of beef.

"Plain fare, Mr. Brooks, for plain people," he remarked, gently
elevating the sirloin on his fork, and determining upon a point of
attack. "We don't understand frills here, but we've a welcome for our
friends, and a hearty one."

"If there is anything in the world better than roast beef," Brooks
remarked, unfolding his serviette, "I haven't found it."

"There's one thing," Mr. Bullsom remarked, pausing for a moment in his
labours, "I can give you a good glass of wine. Ann, I think that if you
look in the right-hand drawer of the sideboard you will find a bottle of
champagne. If not I'll have to go down into the cellar."

Ann, however, produced it--which, considering that Mr. Bullsom had
carefully placed it there a few hours ago, was not extraordinary--and
Brooks sipped the wine with inward tremors, justified by the result.

"I suppose, Mr. Brooks," Selina remarked, turning towards him in an
engaging fashion, "that you are a great politician. I see your name so
much in the papers."

Brooks smiled.

"My political career," he answered, "dates from yesterday morning. I am
taking Mr. Morrison's place, you know, as agent for Mr. Henslow. I have
never done anything of the sort before, and I have scarcely any claims
to be considered a politician at all."

"A very lucky change for us, Brooks," Mr. Bullsom declared, with the
burly familiarity which he considered justified by his position as
chairman of the Radical committee. "Poor Morrison was past the job. It
was partly through his muddling that we lost the seat at the last
election. I'd made up my mind to have a change this time, and so I told
'em."

Brooks was tired of politics, and he looked across the table. This pale
girl with the tired eyes and self-contained manner interested him. The
difference, too, between her and the rest of the family was puzzling.

"I believe, Miss Scott," he said, "that I met you at the Stuarts'
dance."

"I was there," she admitted. "I don't think I danced with you, but we
had supper at the same table."

"I remember it perfectly," he said. "Wasn't it supposed to be a very
good dance?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I believe so," she answered. "There was the usual fault--too many
girls. But it was very pretty to watch."

"You do not care for dancing, yourself, perhaps?" he hazarded.

"Indeed I do," she declared. "But I knew scarcely any one there. I see a
good deal of Kate sometimes, but the others I scarcely know at all."

"You were in the same position as I was, then," he answered, smiling.

"Oh, you--you are different," she remarked. "I mean that you are a
man, and at a dance that means everything. That is why I rather dislike
dances. We are too dependent upon you. If you would only let us dance
alone."

Selina smiled in a superior manner. She would have given a good deal to
have been invited to the dance in question, but that was a matter which
she did not think it worth while to mention.

"My dear Mary!" she said, "what an idea. I am quite sure that when you
go out with us you need never have any difficulty about partners."

"Our programmes for the Liberal Club Dance and the County Cricket Ball
were full before we had been in the room five minutes," Louise
interposed.

Mary smiled inwardly, but said nothing, and Brooks was quite sure then
that she was different. He realized too that her teeth were perfect, and
her complexion, notwithstanding its pallor, was faultless. She would
have been strikingly good-looking but for her mouth, and that--was
it a discontented or a supercilious curl? At any rate it disappeared
when she smiled.

"May I ask whether you have been attending a political meeting this
evening, Miss Scott?" he asked. "You came in after us, I think."

She shook her head.

"No, I have a class on Wednesday evening."

"A class!" he repeated, doubtfully.

Mr. Bullsom, who thought he had been out of the conversation long
enough, interposed.

"Mary calls herself a bit of a philanthropist, you see, Mr. Brooks," he
explained. "Goes down into Medchester and teaches factory girls to play
the piano on Wednesday evenings. Much good may it do them."

There was a curious gleam in the girl's eyes for a moment which checked
the words on Brooks' lips, and led him to precipitately abandon the
conversation. But afterwards, while Selina was pedalling at the pianola
and playing havoc with the expression-stops, he crossed the room and
stood for a moment by her chair.

"I should like you to tell me about your class," he said. "I have
several myself--of different sorts."

She closed her magazine, but left her finger in the place.

"Oh, mine is a very unambitious undertaking," she said. "Kate Stuart and
I started it for the girls in her father's factory, and we aim at
nothing higher than an attempt to direct their taste in fiction. They
bring their Free Library lists to us, and we mark them together. Then we
all read one more serious book at the same time--history or
biography--and talk about it when we meet."

"It is an excellent idea," he said, earnestly. "By the bye, something
occurs to me. You know, or rather you don't know, that I give free
lectures on certain books or any simple literary subject on Wednesday
evenings at the Secular Hall when this electioneering isn't on. Couldn't
you bring your girls one evening? I would be guided in my choice of a
subject by you."

"Yes, I should like that," she answered, "and I think the girls would.
It is very good of you to suggest it."

Louise, with a great book under her arm, deposited her dumpy person in a
seat by his side, and looked up at him with a smile of engaging candour.

"Mr. Brooks," she said, "I am going to do a terrible thing. I am going
to show you some of my sketches and ask your opinion."

Brooks turned towards her without undue enthusiasm.

"It is very good of you, Miss Bullsom," he said, doubtfully; "but I
never drew a straight line in my life, and I know nothing whatever about
perspective. My opinion would be worse than worthless."

Louise giggled artlessly, and turned over the first few pages.

"You men all say that at first," she declared, "and then you turn out
such terrible critics. I declare I'm afraid to show them to you, after
all."

Brooks scarcely showed that desire to overcome her new resolution which
politeness demanded. But Selina came tripping across the room, and took
up her position on the other side of him.

"You must show them now you've brought them out, Louise," she declared.
"I am sure that Mr. Brooks' advice will be most valuable. But mind, if
you dare to show mine, I'll tear them into pieces."

"I wasn't going to, dear," Louise declared, a little tartly. "Shall I
begin at the beginning, Mr. Brooks, or--"

"Oh, don't show those first few, dear," Selina exclaimed. "You know
they're not nearly so good as some of the others. That mill is all out
of drawing."

Mary, who had been elbowed into the background, rose quietly and crossed
to the other end of the room. Brooks followed her for a moment with
regretful eyes. Her simple gown, with the little piece of ribbon around
her graceful neck, seemed almost distinguished by comparison with the
loud-patterned and dressier blouses of the two girls who had now hemmed
him in. For a moment he ignored the waiting pages.

"Your cousin," he remarked, "is quite unlike any of you. Has she been
with you long?"

Louise looked up a little tartly.

"Oh, about three years. You are quite right when you say that she is
unlike any of us. It doesn't seem nice to complain about her exactly,
but she really is terribly trying, isn't she, Selina?"

Selina nodded, and dropped her voice.

"She is getting worse," she declared. "She is becoming a positive
trouble to us."

Brooks endeavoured to look properly sympathetic, and considered himself
justified in pursuing the conversation. "Indeed! May I ask in what way?"

"Oh, she has such old-fashioned ideas," Louise said, confidentially.
"I've quite lost patience with her, and so has Selina; haven't you,
dear? She never goes to parties if she can help it, she is positively
rude to all our friends, and the sarcastic things she says sometimes are
most unpleasant. You know, papa is very, very good to her."

"Yes, indeed," Selina interrupted. "You know, Mr. Brooks, she has no
father and mother, and she was living quite alone in London when papa
found her out and brought her here--and in the most abject poverty.
I believe he found her in a garret. Fancy that!"

"And now," Louise continued, "he allows her for her clothes exactly the
same as he does us--and look at her. Would you believe it, now? She
is like that nearly every evening, although we have friends dropping in
continually. Of course I don't believe in extravagance, but if a girl
has relations who are generous enough to give her the means, I do think
that, for their sake, she ought to dress properly. I think that she owes
it to them, as well as to herself."

"And out of doors it is positively worse," Selina whispered,
impressively. "I declare," she added, with a simper, "that although
nobody can say that I am proud, there are times when I am positively
ashamed to be seen out with her. What she does with her money I can't
imagine."

Brooks, who was something of a critic in such matters, and had
recognized the art of her severely simple gown, smiled to himself. He
was wise enough, however, not to commit himself.

"Perhaps," he suggested, "she thinks that absolute simplicity suits her
best. She has a nice figure."

Selina tossed her much-beaded slipper impatiently.

"Heaven only knows what Mary does think," she exclaimed, impatiently.

"And Heaven only knows what I am to say about these," Brooks groaned
inwardly, as the sketch-book fell open before him at last, and its
contents were revealed to his astonished eyes.


III--KINGSTON BROOKS HAS A VISITOR

Kingston Brooks was twenty-five years old, strong, nervous, and with a
strenuous desire to make his way so far as was humanly possible into the
heart of life. He was a young solicitor recently established in
Medchester, without friends save those he was now making, and absolutely
without interest of any sort. He had a small capital, and already the
beginnings of a practice. He had some sort of a reputation as a speaker,
and was well spoken of by those who had entrusted business to him. Yet
he was still fighting for a living when this piece of luck had befallen
him. Mr. Bullsom had entrusted a small case to him, and found him
capable and cheap. Amongst that worthy gentleman's chief characteristics
was a decided weakness for patronizing younger and less successful men,
and he went everywhere with Kingston Brooks' name on his lips. Then came
the election, and the sudden illness of Mr. Morrison, who had always
acted as agent for the Radical candidates for the borough. Another agent
had to be found. Several who would have been suitable were unavailable.
An urgent committee meeting was held, and Mr. Bullsom at once called
attention to an excellent little speech of Kingston Brooks' at a ward
meeting on the previous night. In an hour he was closeted with the young
lawyer, and the affair was settled. Brooks knew that henceforth the
material side of his career would be comparatively easy sailing.

He had accepted his good fortune with something of the same cheerful
philosophy with which he had seen difficulty loom up in his path a few
months ago. But to-night, on his way home from Mr. Bullsom's suburban
residence, a different mood possessed him. Usually a self-contained and
somewhat gravely minded person, to-night the blood went tingling through
his veins with a new and unaccustomed warmth. He carried himself
blithely, the cool night air was so grateful and sweet to him that he
had no mind even to smoke. There seemed to be no tangible reason for the
change. The political excitement, which a few weeks ago he had begun to
feel exhilarating, had for him decreased now that his share in it lay
behind the scenes, and he found himself wholly occupied with the purely
routine work of the election. Nor was there any sufficient explanation
to be found in the entertainment which he had felt himself bound to
accept at Mr. Bullsom's hands. Of the wine, which had been only
tolerable, he had drunk, as was his custom, sparingly, and of Mary
Scott, who had certainly interested him in a manner which the rest of
the family had not, he had after all seen but very little. He found
himself thinking with fervor of the desirable things in life, never had
the various tasks which he had set himself seemed so easy an
accomplishment, his own powers more real and alive. And beneath it all
he was conscious of a vague sense of excitement, a nervous dancing of
the blood, as though even now the time were at hand when he might find
himself in touch with some of the greater forces of life, all of which
he intended some day to realize. It was delightful after all to be young
and strong, to be stripped for the race in the morning of life, when
every indrawn breath seems sweet with the perfume of beautiful things,
and the heart is tuned to music.

The fatigue of the day was wholly forgotten. He was surprised indeed
when he found himself in the little street where his rooms were. A small
brougham was standing at the corner, the liveries and horse of which,
though quiet enough, caused him a moment's surprise as being superior to
the ordinary equipages of the neighborhood. He passed on to the
sober-fronted house where he lived, and entering with his latch-key made
his way to his study. Immediately he entered he was conscious of a man
comfortably seated in his easy-chair, and apparently engrossed in a
magazine.

He advanced towards him inquiringly, and his visitor, carefully setting
down the magazine, rose slowly to his feet. The young man's surprise at
finding his rooms occupied was increased by the appearance of his
visitor. He was apparently of more than middle age, with deeply-lined
face, tall, and with an expression the coldness of which was only
slightly mitigated by a sensitive mouth that seemed at once cynical and
humorous. He was of more than ordinary height, and dressed in the
plainest dinner garb of the day, but his dinner jacket, his black tie
and the set of his shirt were revelations to Brooks, who dealt only with
the Medchester tradespeople. He did not hold out his hand, but he eyed
Brooks with a sort of critical survey, which the latter found a little
disconcerting.

"You wished to see me, sir?" Brooks asked. "My name is Kingston Brooks,
and these are my rooms."

"So I understood," the new-comer replied imperturbably. "I called about
an hour ago, and took the liberty of awaiting your return."

Brooks sat down. His vis-a-vis was calmly selecting a cigarette from a
capacious case. Brooks found himself offering a light and accepting a
cigarette himself, the flavour of which he at once appreciated.

"Can I offer you a whisky-and-soda?" he inquired.

"I thank you, no," was the quiet reply.

There was a short pause.

"You wished to see me on some business connected with the election, no
doubt?" Brooks suggested.

His visitor shook his head slowly. He knocked the ash from his cigarette
and smiled whimsically.

"My dear fellow," he said, "I haven't the least idea why I came to see
you this evening."

Brooks felt that he had a right to be puzzled, and he looked it. But his
visitor was so evidently a gentleman and a person of account, that the
obvious rejoinder did not occur to him. He merely waited with uplifted
eyebrows.

"Not the least idea," his visitor repeated, still smiling. "But at the
same time I fancy that before I leave you I shall find myself
explaining, or endeavouring to explain, not why I am here, but why I
have not visited you before. What do you think of that?"

"I find it," Brooks answered, "enigmatic but interesting."

"Exactly. Well, I hate talking, so my explanation will not be a tedious
one. Your name is Kingston Brooks."

"Yes."

"Your mother's name was Dorothy Kenneir. She was, before her marriage,
the matron of a home in the East End of London, and a lady devoted to
philanthropic work. Your father was a police-court missionary."

Brooks was leaning a little forward in his chair. These things were true
enough. Who was his visitor?

"Your father, through over-devotion to the philanthropic works in which
he was engaged, lost his reason temporarily, and on his partial recovery
I understand that the doctors considered him still to be mentally in a
very weak state. They ordered him a sea voyage. He left England on the
Corinthia fifteen years ago, and I believe that you heard nothing more
of him until you received the news of his death--probably ten years
back."

"Yes! Ten years ago.

"Your mother, I think, lived for only a few months after your father
left England. You found a guardian in Mr. Ascough of Lincoln's Inn
Fields. There my knowledge of your history ceases.

"How do you know these things?" Brooks asked.

"I was with your father when he died. It was I who wrote to you and sent
his effects to England."

"You were there--in Canada?"

"Yes. I had a dwelling within a dozen miles of where your father had
built his hut by the side of the great lake. He was the only other
Englishman within a hundred miles. So I was with him often."

"It is wonderful--after all these years," Brooks exclaimed. "You
were there for sport, of course?"

"For sport!" his visitor repeated in a colourless tone.

"But my father--what led him there? Why did he cut himself off from
every one, send no word home, creep away into that lone country to die
by himself? It is horrible to think of."

"Your father was not a communicative man. He spoke of his illness. I
always considered him as a person mentally shattered. He spent his days
alone, looking out across the lake or wandering in the woods. He had no
companions, of course, but there were always animals around him. He had
the look of a man who had suffered."

"He was to have gone to Australia," Brooks said. "It was from there that
we expected news from him. I cannot see what possible reason he had for
changing his plans. There was no mystery about his life in London. It
was one splendid record of self-denial and devotion to what he thought
his duty."

"From what he told me," his vis-a-vis continued, handing again his
cigarette-case, and looking steadily into the fire, "he seems to have
left England with the secret determination never to return. But why I do
not know. One thing is certain. His mental state was not altogether
healthy. His desire for solitude was almost a passion. Towards the end,
however, his mind was clear enough. He told me about your mother and
you, and he handed me all the papers, which I subsequently sent to
London. He spoke of no trouble, and his transition was quite peaceful."

"It was a cruel ending," Brooks said, quietly. "There were people in
London whom he had befriended who would have worked their passage out
and faced any hardships to be with him. And my mother, notwithstanding
his desertion, believed in him to the last."

There was a moment's intense silence. This visitor who had come so
strangely was to all appearance a man not easily to be moved. Yet Brooks
fancied that the long white fingers were trembling, and that the strange
quiet of his features was one of intense self-repression. His tone when
he spoke again, however, was clear, and almost indifferent.

"I feel," he said, "that it would have been only decently courteous of
me to have sought you out before, although I have, as you see, nothing
whatever to add to the communications I sent you. But I have not been a
very long time in England, and I have a very evil habit of putting off
things concerning which there is no urgency. I called at Ascough's, and
learned that you were in practice in Medchester. I am now living for a
short time not far from here, and reading of the election, I drove in
to-night to attend one of the meetings--I scarcely cared which. I
heard your name, saw you on the platform, and called here, hoping to
find you."

"It was very kind," Brooks said.

He felt curiously tongue-tied. This sudden upheaval of a past which he
had never properly understood affected him strangely.

"I gathered from Mr. Ascough that you were left sufficient means to pay
for your education, and also to start you in life," his visitor
continued. "Yours is considered to be an overcrowded profession, but I
am glad to understand that you seem likely to make your way."

Brooks thanked him absently.

"From your position on the platform to-night I gather that you are a
politician?"

"Scarcely that," Brooks answered. "I was fortunate enough to be
appointed agent to Mr. Henslow owing to the illness of another man. It
will help me in my profession."

The visitor rose to his feet. He stood with his hands behind him,
looking at the younger man. And Brooks suddenly remembered that he did
not even know his name.

"You will forgive me," he said, also rising, "if I have seemed a little
dazed. I am very grateful to you for coming. I have always wanted more
than anything in the world to meet some one who saw my father after he
left England. There is so much which even now seems mysterious with
regard to his disappearance from the world."

"I fear that you will never discover more than you have done from me,"
was the quiet reply. "Your father had been living for years in profound
solitude when I found him. Frankly, I considered from the first that his
mind was unhinged. Therein I fancy lies the whole explanation of his
silence and his voluntary disappearance. I am assuming, of course, that
there was nothing in England to make his absence desirable."

"There was nothing," Brooks declared with conviction. "That I can
personally vouch for. His life as a police-court missionary was the life
of a militant martyr's, the life of a saint. The urgent advice of his
physicians alone led him to embark upon that voyage; I see now that it
was a mistake. He left before he had sufficiently recovered to be safely
trusted alone. By the bye," Brooks continued, after a moment's
hesitation, "you have not told me your name, whom I have to thank for
this kindness. Your letters from Canada were not signed."

There was a short silence. From outside came the sound of the pawing of
horses' feet and the jingling of harness.

"I was a fellow-traveller in that great unpeopled world," the visitor
said, "and there was nothing but common humanity in anything I did. I
lived out there as Philip Ferringshaw, here I have to add my title, the
Marquis of Arranmore. I was a younger son in those days. If there is
anything which I have forgotten, I am at Enton for a month or so. It is
an easy walk from Medchester, if your clients can spare you for an
afternoon. Good-night, Mr. Brooks."

He held out his hand. He was sleepy apparently, for his voice had become
almost a drawl, and he stifled a yawn as he passed along the little
passage. Kingston Brooks returned to his little room, and threw himself
back into his easy-chair. Truly this had been a wonderful day.


IV--A QUESTION FOR THE COUNTRY

For the first time in many years it seemed certain that the
Conservatives had lost their hold upon the country. The times were ripe
for a change of any sort. An ill-conducted and ruinous war had drained
the empire of its surplus wealth, and every known industry was suffering
from an almost paralyzing depression--Medchester, perhaps, as
severely as any town in the United Kingdom. Its staple manufactures were
being imported from the States and elsewhere at prices which the local
manufacturers declared to be ruinous. Many of the largest factories were
standing idle, a great majority of the remainder were being worked at
half or three-quarters time. Thoughtful men, looking ten years ahead,
saw the cloud, which even now was threatening enough, grow blacker and
blacker, and shuddered at the thought of the tempest which before long
must break over the land. Meanwhile, the streets were filled with
unemployed, whose demeanour day by day grew less and less pacific.
People asked one another helplessly what was being done to avert the
threatened crisis. The manufacturers, openly threatened by their
discharged employees, and cajoled by others higher in authority and by
public opinion, still pronounced themselves helpless to move without the
aid of legislation. For the first time for years Protection was openly
spoken of from a political platform.

Henslow, a shrewd man and a politician of some years' standing, was one
of the first to read the signs of the times, and rightly to appreciate
them. He had just returned from a lengthened visit to the United States,
and what he had seen there he kept at first very much to himself. But at
a small committee meeting held when his election was still a matter of
doubt, he unbosomed himself at last to some effect.

"The vote we want," he said, "is the vote of those people who are losing
their bread, and who see ruin and starvation coming in upon them. I mean
the middle-class manufacturers and the operatives who are dependent upon
them. I tell you where I think that as a nation we are going wrong. We
fixed once upon a great principle, and we nailed it to our
mast--for all time. That is a mistake. Absolute Free Trade, such as
is at present our national policy, was a magnificent principle in the
days of Cobden--but the times have changed. We must change with
them. That is where the typical Englishman fails. It is a matter of
temperament. He is too slow to adapt himself to changing circumstances."

There was a moment's silence. These were ominous words. Every one felt
that they were not lightly spoken. Henslow had more behind. A prominent
manufacturer, Harrison by name, interposed from his place.

"You are aware, Mr. Henslow," he said, "that many a man has lost an
assured seat for a more guarded speech than that. For generations even a
whisper of the sort has been counted heresy--especially from our
party."

"Maybe," Henslow answered, "but I am reminded of this, Mr. Harrison. The
pioneers of every great social change have suffered throughout the whole
of history, but the man who has selected the proper moment and struck
hard, has never failed to win his reward. Now I am no novice in
politics, and I am going to make a prophecy. Years ago the two political
parties were readjusted on the Irish question. Every election which was
fought was simply on these lines--it was upon the principle of Home
Rule for Ireland, and the severance of that country from the United
Kingdom, or the maintenance of the Union. Good! Now, in more recent
times, the South African war and the realization of what our Colonies
could do for us has introduced a new factor. Those who have believed in
a doctrine of expansion have called themselves 'Imperialists,' and those
who have favoured less wide-reaching ideals, and perhaps more attention
to home matters, have been christened 'Little Englanders.' Many
elections have been fought out on these lines, if not between two men
absolutely at variance with one another on this question, still on the
matter of degree. Now, I am going to prophesy. I say that the next
readjustment of Parties, and the time is not far ahead, will be on the
tariff question, and I believe that the controversy on this matter, when
once the country has laid hold of it, will be the greatest political
event of this century. Listen, gentlemen. I do not speak without having
given this question careful and anxious thought, and I tell you that I
can see it coming."

The committee meeting broke up at a late hour in the afternoon amidst
some excitement, and Mr. Bullsom walked back to his office with Brooks.
A fine rain was falling, and the two men were close together under one
umbrella.

"What do you think of it, Brooks?" Bullsom asked anxiously.

"To tell you the truth, I scarcely know," the younger answered. "Ten
years ago there could have been but one answer--to-day--well,
look there."

The two men stood still for a moment. They were in the centre of the
town, at a spot from which the main thoroughfares radiated into the
suburbs and manufacturing centres. Everywhere the pavements and the open
space where a memorial tower stood were crowded with loiterers. Men in
long lines stood upon the kerbstones, their hands in their pockets,
watching, waiting--God knows for what. There were all sorts, of
course, the professional idlers and the drunkard were there, but the
others--there was no lack of them. There was no lack of men,
white-faced, dull-eyed, dejected, some of them actually with the brand
of starvation to be seen in their sunken cheeks and wasted limbs. No
wonder that the swing-doors of the public-houses, where there was light
and warmth inside, opened and shut continually.

"Look," Brooks repeated, with a tremor in his tone. "There are thousands
and thousands of them--and all of them must have some sort of a
home to go to. Fancy it--one's womankind, perhaps children--and
nothing to take home to them. It's such an old story, that it sounds
hackneyed and commonplace. But God knows there's no other tragedy
on His earth like it."

Mr. Bullsom was uncomfortable.

"I've given a hundred pounds to the Unemployed Fund," he said.

"It's money well spent if it had been a thousand," Brooks answered.
"Some day they may learn their strength, and they will not suffer then,
like brute animals, in silence. Look here. I'm going to speak to one of
them."

He touched a tall youth on the shoulder. "Out of work, my lad?" he
asked. The youth turned surlily round. "Yes. Looks like it, don't it?"

"What are you?" Brooks asked.

"Clicker."

"Why did you leave your last place?"

"Gaffer said he's no more orders--couldn't keep us on. The shop's
shut up. Know of a job, guv'nor?" he asked, with a momentary eagerness.
"I've two characters in my pocket--good 'uns."

"You've tried to get a place elsewhere?" Brooks asked.

"Tried? D'ye suppose I'm standing here for fun? I've tramped the blessed
town. I went to thirty factories yesterday, and forty to-day. Know of a
job, guv'nor? I'm not particular."

"I wish I did," Brooks answered, simply. "Here's half-a-crown. Go to
that coffee-palace over there and get a meal. It's all I can do for
you."

"Good for you, guv'nor," was the prompt answer. "I can treat my brother
on that. Here, Ned," he caught hold of a younger boy by the shoulder,
"hot coffee and eggs, you sinner. Come on."

The two scurried off together. Brooks and his companion passed on.

"It is just this," Brooks said, in a low tone, "just the thought of
these people makes me afraid, positively afraid to argue with Henslow.
You see--he may be right. I tell you that in a healthily-governed
country there should be work for every man who is able and willing to
work. And in England there isn't. Free Trade works out all right
logically, but it's one thing to see it all on paper, and it's another
to see this--here around us--and Medchester isn't the worst
off by any means."

Bullsom was silent for several moments.

"I tell you what it is, Brooks," he said. "I'll send another hundred to
the Unemployed Fund to-night."

"It's generous of you, Mr. Bullsom," the young lawyer answered. "You'll
never regret it. But look here. There's a greater responsibility even
than feeding these poor fellows resting upon us to-day. They don't want
our charity. They've an equal right to live with us. What they want, and
what they have a right to, is just legislation. That's where we come in.
Politics isn't a huge joke, or the vehicle for any one man's personal
ambition. We who interest ourselves, however remotely, in them, impose
upon ourselves a great obligation. We've got to find the truth. That's
why I hesitate to say anything against Henslow's new departure. We're
off the track now. I want to hear all that Henslow has to say. We must
not neglect a single chance whilst that terrible cry is ever in our
ears."

They parted at the tram terminus, Mr. Bullsom taking a car for his
suburban paradise. As usual, he was the centre of a little group of
acquaintances.

"And how goes the election, Bullsom?" some one asked him.

Mr. Bullsom was in no hurry to answer the question. He glanced round the
car, collecting the attention of those who might be supposed interested.

"I will answer that question better," he said, "after the mass meeting
on Saturday night. I think that Henslow's success or failure will depend
on that."

"Got something up your sleeve, eh?" his first questioner remarked.

"Maybe," Mr. Bullsom answered. "Maybe not. But apart from the immediate
matter of this election, I can tell you one thing, gentlemen, which may
interest you."

He paused. One thumb stole towards the armhole of his waistcoat. He
liked to see these nightly companions of his hang upon his words. It was
a proper and gratifying tribute to his success as a man of affairs.

"I have just left," he said, "our future Member."

The significance of his speech was not immediately apparent.

"Henslow! Oh, yes. Committee meeting this afternoon, wasn't it?" some
one remarked.

"I do not mean Henslow," Mr. Bullsom replied. "I mean Kingston Brooks."

The desired sensation was apparent.

"Why, he's your new agent, isn't he?"

"Young fellow who plays cricket rather well."

"Great golfer, they say!"

"Makes a good speech, some one was saying."

"Gives free lectures at the Secular Hall." "Rather a smart young
solicitor, they say!"

Mr. Bullsom looked around him.

"He is all these things, and he does all these things. He is one of
these youngsters who has the knack of doing everything well. Mark my
words, all of you. I gave him his first case of any importance, and I
got him this job as agent for Henslow. He's bound to rise. He's
ambitious, and he's got the brains. He'll be M.P. for this borough
before we know where we are."

Half-a-dozen men of more or less importance made a mental note to nod to
Kingston Brooks next time they saw him, and Mr. Bullsom trudged up his
avenue with fresh schemes maturing in his mind. In the domestic circle
he further unburdened himself.

"Mrs. Bullsom," he said, "I am thinking of giving a dinner-party. How
many people do we know better than ourselves?"

Mrs. Bullsom was aghast, and the young ladies, Selina and Louise, who
were in the room, were indignant.

"Really, papa," Selina exclaimed, "what do you mean?"

"What I say," he answered, gruffly. "We're plain people, your mother and
I, at any rate, and when you come to reckon things up, I suppose you'll
admit that we're not much in the social way. There's plenty of people
living round us in a sight smaller houses who don't know us, and
wouldn't if they could--and I'm not so sure that it's altogether
the fault of your father and mother either, Selina," he added, breaking
ruthlessly in upon a sotto-voce remark of that young lady's.

"Well, I never!" Selina exclaimed, tossing her head.

"Come, come, I don't want no sauce from you girls," he added, drifting
towards the fireplace, and adopting a more assured tone as he reached
his favourite position. "I've reasons for wishing to have Mr. Kingston
Brooks here, and I'd like him to meet gentlefolk. Now, there's the Vicar
and his wife. Do you suppose they'd come?"

"Well, I should like to know why not," Mrs. Bullsom remarked, laying
down her knitting, "when it's only three weeks ago you sent him ten
guineas for the curates' fund. Come indeed! They'd better."

"Then there's Dr. Seventon," Mr. Bullsom continued, "and his wife.
Better drop him a line and tell him to look in and see me at the office.
I can invent something the matter with me, and I'd best drop him a hint.
They say Mrs. Seventon is exclusive. But I'll just let him know she's
got to come. Now, who else, girls?"

"The Huntingdons might come--if they knew that it was this sort of
an affair," Selina remarked, thoughtfully.

"And Mr. Seaton," Louise added. "I'm sure he's most gentlemanly."

"I don't want gentlemanly people this time," Mr. Bullsom declared, "I
want gentle-people. That's all there is about it. I let you ask who you
like to the house, and give you what you want for subscriptions and
clothes and such-like. You've had a free 'and. Now let's see something
for it. Half-a-dozen couples'll be enough if you can't get more, but I
Won't have the Nortons, or the Marvises, or any of that podgy set. You
understand that? And, first of all, you, Selina, had better write to Mr.
Brooks and ask him to dine with us in a friendly way one night the week
after next, when the election is over and done with."

"In a friendly way, pa?" Selina repeated, doubtfully. "But we can't ask
these other people whom we know so slightly like that--and,
besides, Mr. Brooks might not dress if we put it like that."

"A nice lot you know about gentle-people and their ways," Mr. Bullsom
remarked, with scorn. "A young fellow like Brooks would tog himself out
for dinner all right even if we were alone, as long as there were ladies
there. And as for the dinner, you don't suppose I'm such a mug as to
leave that to Ann. I shall go to the Queen's Hotel, and have 'em send a
cook and waiters, and run the whole show. Don't know that I shan't send
to London. You get the people! I'll feed 'em!"

"Do as your father says, Selina," Mrs. Bullsom said, mildly. "I'm sure
he's very considerate."

"Where's Mary?" Mr. Bullsom inquired. "This is a bit in her line."

Selina tossed her head.

"I'm sure I don't know why you should say that, papa," she declared.
"Mary knows nothing about society, and she has no friends who would be
the least use to us."

"Where is she, anyway?" Mr. Bullsom demanded. No one knew. As a matter
of fact she was having tea with Kingston Brooks.


V--THE MARQUIS OF ARRANMORE

They had met almost on the steps of his office, and only a few minutes
after he had left Mr. Bullsom. Brooks was attracted first by a certain
sense of familiarity with the trim, well-balanced figure, and
immediately afterwards she raised her eyes to his in passing. He wheeled
sharply round, and held out his hand.

"Miss Scott, isn't it? Do you know I have just left your uncle?"

She smiled a little absently. She looked tired, and her boots and skirt
were splashed as though with much walking.

"Indeed! I suppose you see a good deal of him just now while the
election is on?"

"I must make myself a perfect nuisance to him," Brooks admitted. "You
see the work is all new to me, and he has been through it many times
before. Are you just going home?"

She nodded.

"I have been out since two o'clock," she said.

"And you are almost wet through, and quite tired out," he said. "Look
here. Come across to Mellor's and have some tea with me, and I will put
you in a car afterwards."

She hesitated--and he led the way across the Street, giving her no
opportunity to frame a refusal. The little tea-place was warm and cosy.
He found a comfortable corner, and took her wet umbrella and cape away.

"I believe," he said, sitting down opposite her, "that I have saved your
life."

"Then I am not sure," she answered, "that I feel grateful to you. I
ought to have warned you that I am not in the least likely to be a
cheerful companion. I have had a most depressing afternoon."

"You have been to your tailor's," he suggested, "and your new gown is a
failure--or is it even worse than that?"

She laughed dubiously. Then the tea was brought, and for a moment their
conversation was interrupted. He thought her very graceful as she bent
forward and busied herself attending to his wants. Her affinity to
Selina and Louise was undistinguishable. It was true that she was pale,
but it was the pallor of refinement, the student's absence of colour
rather than the pallor of ill-health.

"Mr. Brooks," she said, presently, "you are busy with this election, and
you are brought constantly into touch with all classes of people. Can
you tell me why it is that it is so hard just now for poor people to get
work? Is it true, what they tell me, that many of the factories in
Medchester are closed, and many of those that are open are only working
half and three-quarter time?"

"I am afraid that it is quite true, Miss Scott," he answered. "As for
the first part of your question, it is very hard to answer. There seem
to be so many causes at work just now.

"But it is the work of the politician surely to analyze these causes.

"It should be," he answered. "Tell me what has brought this into your
mind."

"Some of the girls in our class," she said, "are out of work, and those
who have anything to do seem to be working themselves almost to death to
keep their parents or somebody dependent upon them. Two of them I am
anxious about. I have been trying to find them this afternoon. I have
heard things, Mr. Brooks, which have made me ashamed--sick at
heart--ashamed to go home and think how we live, while they die.
And these girls--they have known so much misery. I am afraid of
what may happen to them."

"These girls are mostly boot and shoe machinists, are they not?"

"Yes. But even Mr. Stuart says that he cannot find them work."

"It is only this afternoon that we have all been discussing this
matter," he said, gravely. "It is serious enough, God knows. The
manufacturer tells us that he is suffering from American
competition--here and in the Colonies. He tells us that the
workpeople themselves are largely to blame, that their trades unions
restrict them to such an extent that he is hopelessly handicapped from
the start. But there are other causes. There is a terrible wave of
depression all through the country. The working classes have no money to
spend. Every industry is flagging, and every industry seems threatened
with competition from abroad. Do you understand the principles of Free
Trade at all?"

"Not in the least. I wish I did."

"Some day we must have a talk about it. Henslow has made a very daring
suggestion to-day. He has given us all plenty to think about. We are all
agreed upon one thing. The crisis is fast approaching, and it must be
faced. These people have the right to live, and they have the right to
demand that legislation should interfere on their behalf."

She sighed.

"It is a comfort to hear you talk like this," she said. "To me it seems
almost maddening to see so much suffering, so many people suffering, not
only physically, but being dragged down into a lower moral state by
sheer force of circumstances and their surroundings, and all the time we
educated people go on our way and live our lives, as though nothing were
happening--as though we had no responsibility whatever for the
holocaust of misery at our doors. So few people stop to think. They
won't understand. It is so easy to put things behind one."

"Come," he said, cheerfully, "you and I, at least, are not amongst
those. And there is a certain duty which we owe to ourselves, too, as
well as to others--to look upon the brighter side of things. Let us
talk about something less depressing."

"You shall tell me," she suggested, "who is going to win the election."

"Henslow!" he answered, promptly.

"Owing, I suppose--"

"To his agent, of course. You may laugh, Miss Scott, but I can assure
you that my duties are no sinecure. I never knew what work was before."

"Too much work," she said, "is better than too little. After all, more
people die of the latter than the former."

"Nature meant me," he said, "for a hazy man. I have all the
qualifications for a first-class idler. And circumstances and the
misfortune of my opinions are going to keep me going at express speed
all my life. I can see it coming. Sometimes it makes me shudder."

"You are too young," she remarked, "to shrink from work. I have no
sympathy to offer you."

"I begin to fear, Miss Scott," he said, "that you are not what is called
sympathetic."

She smiled--and the smile broke into a laugh, as though some
transient idea rather than his words had pleased her.

"You should apply to my cousin Selina for that," she said. "Every one
calls her most delightfully sympathetic."

"Sympathy," he remarked, "is either a heaven-sent joy--or a bore.
It depends upon the individual."

"That is either enigmatical or rude," she answered. "But, after all, you
don't know Selina."

"Why not?" he asked. "I have talked with her as long as with
you--and I feel that I know you quite well."

"I can't be responsible for your feelings," she said, a little
brusquely, "but I'm quite sure that I don't know you well enough to be
sitting here at tea with you even."

"I won't admit that," he answered, "but it was very nice of you to come.

"The fact of it was," she admitted, "my headache and appetite were
stronger than my sense of the conventions. Now that the former are
dissipated the latter are beginning to assert themselves. And so--"

She began to draw on her gloves. Just then a carriage with postilions
and ladies with luggage came clattering up the street. She watched it
with darkening face.

"That is the sort of man I detest," she said, motioning her head towards
the window. "You know whose carriage it is, don't you?"

He shook his head.

"No, I did not know that any one round here drove with positions."

"It is the Marquis of Arranmore. He has a place at Enton, I believe, but
he is only here for a few months in the year."

Brooks started and leaned eagerly forward.

"Why do you hate him?" he asked. "What has he done?"

"Didn't you hear how he treated the Mayor when he went out for a
subscription to the Unemployed Fund?"

Brooks shook his head.

"No! I have heard nothing."

"Poor old Mr. Wensome went out all that way purposely to see him. He was
kept waiting an hour, and then when he explained his errand the Marquis
laughed at him. 'My dear fellow,' he said, 'the poor people of
Medchester do not interest me in the least. I do not go to the people
who are better off than I am and ask them to help support me, nor do I
see the least reason why those who are worse off than I am should expect
me to support them.' Mr. Wensome tried to appeal to his humanity, and
the brute only continued to laugh in a cynical way. He declared that
poor people did not interest him. His tenants he was prepared to look
after--outside his own property he didn't care a snap of the
fingers whether people lived or died. Mr. Wensome said it was perfectly
awful to hear him talk, and he came away without a penny. Yet his
property in this country alone is worth fifty thousand a year.

"It is very surprising," Brooks said, thoughtfully. "The more surprising
because I know of a kind action which he once did."

"Sh! they're coming here!" she exclaimed. "That is the Marquis."

The omnibus had pulled up outside. A tall footman threw open the door,
and held an umbrella over the two ladies who had descended. The Marquis
and two other men followed. They trooped into the little place, bringing
with them a strange flavour of another world. The women wore wonderful
furs, and one who had ermine around her neck wore a great bunch of
Neapolitan violets, whose perfume seemed to fill the room.

"This is a delightful idea," the taller one said, turning towards her
host. "An eight-mile drive before tea sounded appalling. Where shall we
sit, and may we have muffins?"

"There is nothing about your youth, Lady Sybil, which I envy more than
your digestion," he answered, motioning them towards a table. "To be
able to eat muffins with plenty of butter would be unalloyed bliss.
Nevertheless, you shall have them. No one has ever called me selfish.
Let us have tea, and toast, and bread-and-butter and cakes, and a great
many muffins, please, young lady," he ordered. "And will you send out
some tea to my servants, please? It will save them from trying to obtain
drinks from the hotel next door, and ensure us a safe drive home."

"And don't forget to send out for that pack of cards, Arranmore," the
elder lady said. "We are going to play bridge driving home with that
wonderful little electric lamp of yours.

"I will not forget," he promised. "We are to be partners, you know."

He was on the point of sitting down when he saw Brooks at the next
table. He held out his hand.

"How do you do, Mr. Brooks?" he said. "I am glad to see that you are
going to get your man in.

"Thank you," Brooks answered, rising and waiting for his companion, who
was buttoning her gloves. "I was afraid that your sympathies would be on
the other side."

"Dear me, no," the Marquis answered. "My enemies would tell you that I
have neither sympathy nor politics, but I assure you that at heart I am
a most devout Radical. I have a vote, too, and you may count upon me.

"I am very glad to hear it," Brooks answered. "Shall I put you down on
the list 'to be fetched'?"

The Marquis laughed.

"I'll come without," he declared. "I promise. Just remind me of the
day."

He glanced towards Mary Scott, and for a moment seemed about to include
her in some forthcoming remark. But whatever it might have been--it
was never made. She kept her eyes averted, and though her
self-possession was absolutely unruffled she hastened her departure. "I
am not hurrying you, Mr. Brooks?" she asked. "Not in the least," he
assured her.

He raised his hat to the Marquis and his party, and the former nodded
good-humouredly. There was silence until the two were in the street.
Then one of the men who had been looking after them dropped his
eye-glass.

"I tell you what," he said to his vis-a-vis. "There's some chance for us
in Medchester after all. I don't believe Arranmore is popular amongst
the ladies of his own neighbourhood."

The Marquis laughed softly.

"She has a nice face," he remarked, "and I should imagine excellent
perceptions. Curiously enough, too, she reminded me of some one who has
every reason to hate me. But to the best of my belief I never saw her
before in my life. Lady Caroom, that weird-looking object in front of
you is a teapot--and those are teacups. May I suggest a use for
them?"


VI--THE MAN WHO WENT TO HELL

The Hon. Sydney Chester Molyneux stood with his cue in one hand, and an
open telegram in the other, in the billiard-room at Enton. He was
visibly annoyed.

"Beastly hard luck," he declared. "Parliament is a shocking grind
anyway. It isn't that one ever does anything, you know, but one wastes
such a lot of time when one might have been doing something worth
while."

"Do repeat that, Sydney," Lady Caroom begged, laying down her novel for
a moment. "It really sounds as though it ought to mean something."

"I couldn't!" he admitted. "I wish to cultivate a reputation for
originality, and my first object is to forget everything I have said
directly I have said it, in case I should repeat myself."

"A short memory," Arranmore remarked, "is a politician's most valuable
possession, isn't it?"

"No memory at all is better," Molyneux answered.

"And your telegram?" Lady Caroom asked.

"Is from my indefatigable uncle," Molyneux groaned. "He insists upon it
that I interest myself in the election here, which means that I must go
in to-morrow and call upon Rochester."

The younger girl looked up from her chair, and laughed softly.

"You will have to speak for him," she said. "How interesting! We will
all come in and hear you."

Molyneux missed an easy cannon, and laid down his cue with an aggrieved
air.

"It is all very well for you," he remarked, dismally, "but it is a
horrible grind for me. I have just succeeded in forgetting all that we
did last session, and our programme for next. Now I've got to wade
through it all. I wonder why on earth Providence selected for me an
uncle who thinks it worth while to be a Cabinet Minister?"

Sybil Caroom shrugged her shoulders.

"I wonder why on earth," she remarked, "any constituency thinks it worth
while to be represented by such a politician as you. How did you get in,
Sydney?"

"Don't know," he answered. "I was on the right side, and I talked the
usual rot."

"For myself," she said, "I like a politician who is in earnest. They are
more amusing, and more impressive in every way. Who was the young man
you spoke to in that little place where we had tea?" she asked her host.

"His name is Kingston Brooks," Arranmore answered. "He is the agent for
Henslow, the Radical candidate."

"Well, I liked him," she said. "If I had a vote I would let him convert
me to Radicalism. I am sure that he could do it."

"He shall try--if you like," Arranmore remarked.

I am going to ask him to shoot one day."

"I am delighted to hear it," the girl answered. "I think he would be a
wholesome change. You are all too flippant here."

The door opened. Mr. Hennibul, K.C., inserted his head and shoulders.

"I have been to look at Arranmore's golf-links," he remarked. "They are
quite decent. Will some one come and play a round?"

"I will come," Sybil declared, putting down her book.

"And I," Molyneux joined in. "Hennibul can play our best ball."

Lady Caroom and her host were left alone. He came over to her side.

"What can I do to entertain your ladyship?" he asked, lightly. "Will you
play billiards, walk or drive? There is an hour before lunch which must
be charmed away."

"I am not energetic," she declared. "I ought to walk for the sake of my
figure. I'm getting shockingly stout. Marie made me promise to walk a
mile to-day. But I'm feeling deliciously lazy."

"/Embonpoint/ is the fashion," he remarked, "and you are inches short of
even that yet. Come and sit in the study while I write some letters."
She held out her hands.

"Pull me up, then! I am much too comfortable to move unaided."

She sprang to her feet lightly enough, and for a moment he kept her
hands, which rested willingly enough in his. They looked at one another
in silence. Then she laughed.

"My dear Arranmore," she protested, "I am not made up half carefully
enough to stand such a critical survey by daylight. Your north windows
are too terrible."

"Not to you, dear lady," he answered, smiling. "I was wondering whether
it was possible that you could be forty-one."

"You brute," she exclaimed, with uplifted eyebrows. "How dare you? Forty
if you like--for as long as you like. Forty is the fashionable age,
but one year over that is fatal. Don't you know that now-a-days a woman
goes straight from forty to sixty? It is such a delicious long rest. And
besides, it gives a woman an object in life which she has probably been
groping about for all her days. One is never bored after forty."

"And the object?"

"To keep young, of course. There's scope for any amount of ingenuity.
Since that dear man in Paris has hit upon the real secret of enamelling,
we are thinking of extending the limit to sixty-five. Lily Cestigan is
seventy-one, you know, and she told me only last week that Mat
Harlowe--you know Harlowe, he's rather a nice boy, in the Guards
had asked her to run away with him. She's known him three months, and
he's seen her at least three times by daylight. She's delighted about
it."

"And is she going?" Arranmore asked.

"Well, I'm not sure that she'd care to risk that," Lady Caroom answered,
thoughtfully. "She told him she'd think about it, and, meanwhile, he's
just as devoted as ever."

They crossed the great stone hall together--the hall which, with
its wonderful pillars and carved dome, made Enton the show-house of the
county. Arranmore's study was a small octagonal room leading out from
the library. A fire of cedar logs was burning in an open grate, and he
wheeled up an easy-chair for her close to his writing-table.

"I wonder," she remarked, thoughtfully, "what you think of Syd
Molyneux?"

"Is there anything--to be thought about him?" he answered, lighting
a cigarette.

"He's rather that way, isn't he?" she assented. "I mean for Sybil, you
know."

"I should let Sybil decide," he answered.

"She probably will," Lady Caroom said. "Still, she's horribly bored at
having to be dragged about to places, you know, and that sort of thing,
just because she isn't married, and she likes Syd all right. He's no
fool!"

"I suppose not," Arranmore answered. "He's of a type, you know, which
has sprung up during my--absence from civilization. You want to
grow up with it to appreciate it properly. I don't think he's good
enough for Sybil."

Lady Caroom sighed.

"Sybil's a dear girl," she said, "although she's a terrible nuisance to
me. I shouldn't be at all surprised either if she developed views. I
wish you were a marrying man, Arranmore. I used to think of you myself
once, but you would be too old for me now. You're exactly the right age
for Sybil."

Arranmore smiled. He had quite forgotten his letters. Lady Caroom always
amused him so well.

"She is very like what you were at her age," he remarked. "What a pity
it was that I was such a poverty-stricken beggar in those days. I am
sure that I should have married you."

"Now I am beginning to like you," she declared, settling down more
comfortably in her chair. "If you can keep up like that we shall be
getting positively sentimental presently, and if there's anything I
adore in this world--especially before luncheon--it is sentiment.
Do you remember we used to waltz together, Arranmore?"

"You gave me a glove one night," he said. "I have it still."

"And you pressed my hand--and--it was in the Setons'
conservatory--how bold you were."

"And the next day," he declared, in an aggrieved tone, "I heard that you
were engaged to Caroom. You treated me shamefully."

"These reminiscences," she declared, "are really sweet, but you are most
ungrateful. I was really almost too kind to you. They were all fearfully
anxious to get me married, because Dumesnil always used to say that my
complexion would give out in a year or two, and I wasted no end of time
upon you, who were perfectly hopeless as a husband. After all, though, I
believe it paid. It used to annoy Caroom so much, and I believe he
proposed to me long before he meant to so as to get rid of you."

"I," Arranmore remarked, "was the victim."

She sat up with eyes suddenly bright.

"Upon my word," she declared, "I have an idea. It is the most charming
and flattering thing, and it never occurred to me before. After all, it
was not eccentricity which caused you to throw up your work at the
Bar--and disappear. It was your hopeless devotion to me. Don't
disappoint me now by denying it. Please don't! It was the announcement
of my engagement, wasn't it?"

"And it has taken you all these years to find it out?

"I was shockingly obtuse," she murmured. "The thing came to me just now
as a revelation. Poor, dear man, how you must have suffered. This puts
us on a different footing altogether, doesn't it?" "Altogether," he
admitted.

"And," she continued, eyeing him now with a sudden nervousness,
"emboldens me to ask you a question which I have been dying to ask you
for the last few years. I wonder whether you will answer it."

"I wonder!" he repeated.

A change in him, too, was noticeable. That wonderful impassivity of
feature which never even in his lighter moments passed altogether away,
seemed to deepen every line in his hard, clear-cut face. His mouth was
close drawn, his eyes were suddenly colder and expressionless. There was
about him at such times as--these an almost repellent hardness. His
emotions, and the man himself, seemed frozen. Lady Caroom had seen him
look like it once before, and she sighed. Nevertheless, she persevered.

"For nearly twenty years," she said, "you disappeared. You were reported
at different times to be in every quarter of the earth, from Zambesia to
Pekin. But no one knew, and, of course, in a season or two you were
forgotten. I always wondered, I am wondering now, where were you? What
did you do with yourself?

"I went down into Hell," he answered. "Can't you see the marks of it in
my face? For many years I lived in Hell--for many years."

"You puzzle me," she said, in a low tone. "You had no taste for
dissipation. You look as though life had scorched you up at some time or
other. But how? where? You were found in Canada, I know, when your
brother died. But you had only been there for a few years. Before then?"

"Ay! Before then?"

There was a short silence. Then Arranmore, who had been gazing steadily
into the fire, looked up. She fancied that his eyes were softer.

"Dear friend," he said, "of those days I have nothing to tell--even
you. But there are more awful things even than moral degeneration. You
do me justice when you impute that I never ate from the trough. But what
I did, and where I lived, I do not think that I shall ever willingly
tell any one."

A piece of burning wood fell upon the hearthstone. He stooped and picked
it up, placed it carefully in its place, and busied himself for a moment
or two with the little brass poker. Then he straightened himself.

"Catherine," he said, "I think if I were you that I would not marry
Sybil to Molyneux. It struck me to-day that his eyeglass-chain was of
last year's pattern, and I am not sure that he is sound on the subject
of collars. You know how important these things are to a young man who
has to make his own way in the world. Perhaps, I am not sure, but I
think it is very likely I might be able to find a husband for her."

"You dear man," Lady Caroom murmured. "I should rely upon your taste and
judgment so thoroughly."

There was a discreet knock at the door. A servant entered with a card.

Arranmore took it up, and retained it in his fingers.

"Tell Mr. Brooks," he said, "that I will be with him in a moment. If he
has ridden over, ask him to take some refreshment."

"You have a visitor," Lady Caroom said, rising. "If you will excuse me I
will go and lie down until luncheon-time, and let my maid touch me up.
These sentimental conversations are so harrowing. I feel a perfect
wreck."

She glided from the room, graceful, brisk and charming, the most
wonderful woman in England, as the Society papers were never tired of
calling her. Arranmore glanced once more at the card between his
fingers.

"Mr. Kingston Brooks."

He stood for a few seconds, motionless. Then he rang the bell.

"Show Mr. Brooks in here," he directed.


VII--A THOUSAND POUNDS

Brooks had ridden a bicycle from Medchester, and his trousers and boots
were splashed with mud. His presence at Enton was due to an impulse, the
inspiration of which he had already begun seriously to doubt.
Arranmore's kindly reception of him was more than ordinarily welcome.

"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Brooks," he said, holding out his hand.
"How comes it that you are able to take even so short a holiday as this?
I pictured you surrounded by canvassers and bill-posters and
journalists, all clamouring for your ear."

Brooks laughed, completely at his ease now, thanks to the unspoken
cordiality of the other man. He took the easy-chair which the servant
had noiselessly wheeled up to him.

"I am afraid that you exaggerate my importance,--Lord Arranmore,"
he said. "I was very busy early this morning, and I shall be again after
four. But I am allowed a little respite now and then."

"You spend it very sensibly out of doors," Arranmore remarked. "How did
you get here?"

"I cycled," Brooks answered. "It was very pleasant, but muddy."

"What will you have?" Lord Arranmore asked. "Some wine and biscuits, or
something of that sort?"

His hand was upon the bell, but Brooks stopped him.

"Nothing at all, thank you, just now."

"Luncheon will be served in half-an-hour," the Marquis said. "You will
prefer to wait until then?"

"I am much obliged to you," Brooks answered, "but I must be getting back
to Medchester as soon as possible. Besides," he added, with a smile, "I
am afraid when I have spoken of the object of my visit you may feel
inclined to kick me out."

"I hope not," Arranmore replied, lightly. "I was hoping that your visit
had no object at all, and that you had been good enough just to look me
up.

"I should not have intruded without a purpose," Brooks said, quietly,
"but you will be almost justified in treating my visit as an
impertinence when I have disclosed my errand. Lord Arranmore, I am the
secretary for the fund which is being raised in Medchester for the
relief of the Unemployed."

Arranmore nodded.

"Oh, yes," he said. "I had a visit a few days ago from a worthy
Medchester gentleman connected with it."

"It is concerning that visit, Lord Arranmore, that I have come to see
you," Brooks continued, quietly. "I only heard of it yesterday
afternoon, but this morning it seems to me that every one whom I have
met has alluded to it."

The Marquis was lounging against the broad mantelpiece. Some part of the
cordiality of his manner had vanished.

"Well?"

"Lord Arranmore, I wondered whether it was not possible that some
mistake had been made," Brooks said. "I wondered whether Mr. Wensome had
altogether understood you properly--"

"I did my best to be explicit," the Marquis murmured.

"Or whether you had misunderstood him," Brooks continued, doggedly.
"This fund has become absolutely necessary unless we wish to see the
people starve in the streets. There are between six and seven thousand
operatives and artisans in Medchester to-day who are without work
through no fault of their own. It is our duty as citizens to do our best
for them. Nearly every one in Medchester has contributed according to
their means. You are a large property-owner in the town. Cannot you
consider this appeal as an unenforced rate? It comes to that in the long
run."

The Marquis shrugged his shoulders.

"I think," he said, "that on the subject of charity Englishmen generally
wholly misapprehend the situation. You say that between six and seven
thousand men are out of work in Medchester. Very well, I affirm that
there must be a cause for that. If you are a philanthropist it is your
duty to at once investigate the economic and political reasons for such
a state of things, and alter them. By going about and collecting money
for these people you commit what is little short of a crime. You must
know the demoralizing effect of charity. No man who has ever received a
dole is ever again an independent person. Besides that, you are
diverting the public mind from the real point of issue, which is not
that so many thousand people are hungry, but that a flaw exists in the
administration of the laws of the country so grave that a certain number
of thousands of people who have a God-sent right to productive labour
haven't got it. Do you follow me?"

"Perfectly," Brooks answered. "You did not talk like this to Mr.
Wensome."

"I admit it. He was an ignorant man in whom I felt no interest whatever,
and I did not take the trouble. Besides, I will frankly admit that I am
in no sense of the word a sentimentalist. The distresses of other people
do not interest me particularly. I have been poor myself, and I never
asked for, nor was offered, any sort of help. Consequently I feel very
little responsibility concerning these unfortunate people, whose cause
you have espoused."

"May I revert to your first argument?" Brooks said. "If you saw a man
drowning then, instead of trying to save him you would subscribe towards
a fund to teach people to swim?"

"That is ingenious," Lord Arranmore replied, smiling grimly, "but it
doesn't interest me. If I saw a man drowning I shouldn't think of
interfering unless the loss of that man brought inconvenience or loss to
myself. If it did I should endeavour to save him--not unless. As
for the fund you speak of, I should not think of subscribing to it. It
would not interest me to know that other people were provided with a
safeguard against drowning. I should probably spend the money in
perfecting myself in the art of swimming. Don't you see that no man who
has ever received help from another is exactly in the same position
again? As an individual he is a weaker creature. That is where I
disagree with nearly every existing form of charity. They are wrong in
principle. They are a debauchment."

"Your views, Lord Arranmore," Brooks said, "are excellent for a model
world. For practical purposes I think they are a little pedantic. You
are quite right in your idea that charity is a great danger. I can
assure you that we are trying to realize that in Medchester. We ask for
money, and we dispense it unwillingly, but as a necessary evil. And we
are trying to earnestly see where our social system is at fault, and to
readjust it. But meanwhile, men and women and children even are
starving. We must help them."

"That is where you are wholly wrong, and where you retard all progress,"
Arranmore remarked. "Can't you see that you are continually plugging up
dangerous leaks with putty instead of lead? You muffle the cry which but
for you must ring through the land, and make itself heard to every one.
Let the people starve who are without means. Legislation would stir
itself fast enough then. It is the only way. Charity to individuals is
poison to the multitude. You create the criminal classes with your
charities, you blindfold statesmen and mislead political economists. I
tell you that the more you give away the more distress you create."

Brooks rose from his seat.

"Charity is older than nations or history, Lord Arranmore," he said,
"and I am foolish enough to think that the world is a better place for
it. Your reasoning is very excellent, but life has not yet become an
exact science. The weaknesses of men and women have to be considered.
You have probably never seen a starving person."

Lord Arranmore laughed, and Brooks looked across the room at him in
amazement. The Marquis was always pale, but his pallor just then was as
unnatural as the laugh itself.

"My dear young man," he said, "if I could show you what I have seen your
hair would turn grey, and your wits go wandering. Do you think that I
know nothing of life save its crust? I tell you that I have been down in
the depths, aye, single-handed, there in the devil's own cauldron, where
creatures in the shape of men and women, the very sight of whom would
turn you sick with horror, creep like spawn through life, brainless and
soulless, foul things who would murder one another for the sake of a
crust, or--Bah! What horrible memories."

He broke off abruptly. When he spoke again his tone was as usual.

"Come," he said, "I mustn't let you have this journey for nothing. After
all, the only luxury in having principles is in the departing from them.
I will give you a cheque, Mr. Brooks, only I beg you to think over what
I have said. Abandon this doling principle as soon as it is possible.
Give your serious attention to the social questions and imperfect laws
which are at the back of all this distress."

Brooks felt as though he had been awakened from a nightmare. He never
forgot that single moment of revelation on the part of the man who sat
now smiling and debonair before his writing-table.

"You are very kind indeed, Lord Arranmore," he said. "I can assure you
that the money will be most carefully used, and amongst my party, at any
rate, we do really appreciate the necessity for going to the root of the
matter."

Arranmore's pen went scratching across the paper. He tore out a cheque,
and placing it in an envelope, handed it to Brooks.

"I noticed," he remarked, thoughtfully, "that a good many people coming
out of the factories hissed my carriage in Medchester last time I was
there. I hope they will not consider my cheque as a sign of weakness.
But after all," he added, with a smile, "what does it matter? Let us go
in to luncheon, Brooks."

Brooks glanced down at his mud-splashed clothes and boots.

"I must really ask you to excuse me," he began, but Arranmore only rang
the bell.

"My valet will smarten you up," he said. "Here, Fritz, take Mr. Brooks
into my room and look after him, will you. I shall be in the hall when
you come down."

As he passed from the dressing-room a few minutes later, Brooks paused
for a moment to look up at the wonderful ceiling above the hall. Below,
Lord Arranmore was idly knocking about the billiard balls, and all
around him was the murmur of pleasant conversation. Brooks drew the
envelope from his pocket and glanced at the cheque. He gave a little
gasp of astonishment. It was for a thousand pounds.


VIII--KINGSTON BROOKS MAKES INQUIRIES

At luncheon Brooks found himself between Sybil Caroom and Mr. Hennibul.
She began to talk to him at once.

"I want to know all about your candidate, Mr. Brooks," she declared.
"You can't imagine how pleased I am to have you here. I have had the
feeling ever since I came of being shut up in a hostile camp. I am a
Radical, you know, and these good people, even my mother, are rabid
Conservatives."

Brooks smiled as he unfolded his serviette.

"Well, Henslow isn't exactly an ornamental candidate," he said, "but he
is particularly sound and a man with any amount of common-sense. You
should come and hear him speak."

"I'd love to," she answered, "but no one would bring me from here. They
are all hopeless. Mr. Molyneux there is going to support Mr. Rochester.
If I wasn't sure that he'd do more harm than good, I wouldn't let him
go. But I don't suppose they'll let you speak, Sydney," she added. "They
won't if they've ever heard you."

Molyneux smiled an imperturbable smile.

"Personally," he said, "I should prefer to lend my moral support only,
but my fame as an orator is too well known. There is not the least
chance that they will let me off."

Sybil looked at Brooks.

"Did you ever hear such conceit?" she remarked, in a pitying tone. "And
I don't believe he's ever opened his mouth in the House, except to shout
'Hear, hear'! Besides, he's as nervous as a kitten. Tell me, are you
going to return Mr. Henslow?"

"I think so," Brooks answered. "It is certain to be a very close
contest, but I believe we shall get a small majority. The Jingo element
are our greatest trouble. They are all the time trying to make people
believe that Conservatives have the monopoly of the Imperial sentiment.
As a matter of fact, I think that Henslow is almost rabid on the war
question."

"Still, your platform--to use an Americanism," Mr. Hennibul
interposed, "must be founded upon domestic questions. Medchester is a
manufacturing town, and I am given to understand is suffering severely.
Has your man any original views on the present depression in trade?"

Brooks glanced towards the speaker with a smile.

"You have been reading the Medchester Post!" he remarked.

The barrister nodded.

"Yes. It hinted at some rather surprising revelation."

"You must read Henslow's speech at the mass meeting to-morrow night,"
Brooks said. "At present I mustn't discuss these matters too much,
especially before a political opponent," he remarked, smiling at Mr.
Molyneux. "You might induce Mr. Rochester to play our trump card."

"If your trump card is what I suspect it to be," Mr. Hennibul said, "I
don't think you need fear that. Rochester would be ready enough to try
it, but some of his supporters wouldn't listen to it."

The conversation drifted away from politics. Brooks found himself
enjoying his luncheon amazingly. Sybil Caroom devoted herself to him,
and he found himself somehow drawn with marvellous facility into the
little circle of intimate friends. Afterwards they all strolled into the
hall together for coffee, and Arranmore laid his hand upon his arm.

"I am sorry that you will not have time to look round the place," he
said. "You must come over again before long."

"You are very kind," Brooks said, dropping his voice a little. "There
are one or two more things which I should like to ask you about Canada."

"I shall always be at your service," Lord Arranmore answered.

"And I cannot go," Brooks continued, "without thanking you--"

"We will take that for granted," Arranmore interrupted. "You know the
spirit in which I gave it. It is not, I fear, one of sympathy, but it
may at any rate save me from having my carriage windows broken one dark
night. By the bye, I have ordered a brougham for you in half-an-hour. As
you see, it is raining. Your bicycle shall be sent in to-morrow."

"It is very kind of you indeed," Brooks declared.

"Molyneux has to go in, so you may just as well drive together,"
Arranmore remarked. "By the bye, do you shoot?"

"A little," Brooks admitted.

"You must have a day with us. My head keeper is coming up this
afternoon, and I will try and arrange something. The election is next
week, of course. We must plan a day after then."

"I am afraid that my performance would scarcely be up to your standard,"
Brooks said, "although it is very kind of you to ask me. I might come
and look on."

Arranmore laughed.

"Hennibul is all right," he said, "but Molyneux is a shocking duffer.
We'll give you an easy place. We have some early callers, I see."

The butler was moving towards them, followed by two men in
hunting-clothes.

"Sir George Marson and Mr. Lacroix, your lordship," he announced.

For a second Arranmore stood motionless. His eyes seemed to pass through
the man in pink, who was approaching with outstretched hand, and to be
fastened upon the face of his companion. It chanced that Brooks, who had
stepped a little on one side, was watching his host, and for the second
time in one day he saw things which amazed him. His expression seemed
frozen on to his face--something underneath seemed struggling for
expression. In a second it had all passed away. Brooks could almost have
persuaded himself that it was fancy.

"Come for something to eat, Arranmore," Sir George declared, hungrily.
"My second man's gone off with the sandwich-case--hunting on his
own, I believe. I'll sack him to-morrow. Here's my friend Lacroix, who
says you saved him from starvation once before out in the wilds
somewhere. Awfully sorry to take you by storm like this, but we're
twelve miles from home, and it's a God-forsaken country for inns."

"Luncheon for two at once, Groves," Lord Arranmore answered. "Delighted
to meet you again, Mr. Lacroix. Last time we were both of us in very
different trim."

Lady Caroom came gliding up to them, and shook hands with Sir George.

"This sounds so interesting," she murmured. "Did you say that you met
Lord Arranmore in his exploring days?" she asked, turning to Mr.
Lacroix.

"I found Lord Arranmore in a log hut which he had built himself on the
shores of Lake Ono," Lacroix said, smiling. "And when I tell you that I
had lost all my stores, and that his was the only dwelling-place for
fifty miles around, you can imagine that his hospitality was more
welcome to me then even than to-day."

Brooks, who was standing near, could not repress a start. He fancied
that Lord Arranmore glanced in his direction.

Lady Caroom shuddered.

"The only dwelling-house for fifty miles," she repeated. "What hideous
misanthropy."

"There was no doubt about it," Lacroix declared, smiling. "My Indian
guide, who knew every inch of the country, told me so many times. I can
assure you that Lord Arranmore, whom I am very pleased to meet again,
was a very different person in those days."

The butler glided up from the background.

"Luncheon is served in the small dining-room, Sir George," he announced.

* * * * *

Molyneux and Brooks drove in together to Medchester, and the former was
disposed--for him to be talkative.

"Queer thing about Lacroix turning up," he remarked. "I fancy our host
looked a bit staggered."

"It was enough to surprise him," Brooks answered. "From Lake Ono to
Medchester is a long way."

Molyneux nodded.

"By Jove, it is," he affirmed. "Queer stick our host. Close as wax. I've
known him ever since he dropped in for the title and estates, and I've
never yet heard him open his mouth on the subject of his travels."

"Was he away from England for very long?" Brooks asked.

"No one knows where he was," Molyneux replied. "Twenty years ago he was
reading for the Bar in London, and he suddenly disappeared. Well, I have
never met a soul except Lacroix to-day who has seen anything of him in
the interval between his disappearance and his coming to claim the
estates. That means that for pretty well half a lifetime he passed
completely out of the world. Poor beggar! I fancy that he was hard up,
for one thing." To Brooks the subject was fascinating, but he had an
idea that it was scarcely the best of form to be discussing their late
host with a man who was comparatively a stranger to him. So he remained
silent, and Molyneux, with a yawn, abandoned the subject.

"Where does Rochester hang out, do you know?" he asked Brooks. "I don't
suppose for a moment I shall be able to find him."

"His headquarters are at the Bell Hotel," Brooks replied. "You will
easily be able to come across him, for he has a series of ward meetings
to-night. I am sorry that we are to be opponents."

"We shan't quarrel about that," Molyneux answered. "Here we are, at
Medchester, then. Better let him put you down, and then he can go on
with me. You're coming out to shoot at Enton, aren't you?"

"Lord Arranmore was good enough to ask me," Brooks answered, dubiously,
"but I scarcely know whether I ought to accept. I am such a wretched
shot."

Molyneux laughed.

"Well, I couldn't hit a haystack," he said, "so you needn't mind that.
Besides, Arranmore isn't keen about his bag, like some chaps. Are these
your offices? See you again, then."

Brooks found a dozen matters waiting for his attention. But before he
settled down to work he wrote two letters. One was to the man who was
doing his work as Secretary to the Unemployed Fund during the election,
and with a brief mention of a large subscription, instructed him to open
several relief stations which they had been obliged to chose a few days
ago. And the other letter was to Victor Lacroix, whom he addressed at
Westbury Park, Sir George Marson's seat.

"DEAR SIR,

"I should be exceedingly obliged if you would accord me a few minutes'
interview on a purely personal matter. I will wait upon you anywhere,
according to your convenience.

"Yours faithfully,

"KINGSTON BROOKS."


IX--HENSLOW SPEAKS OUT

The bomb was thrown. Some ten thousand people crowded together in the
market-place at Medchester, under what seemed to be one huge canopy of
dripping umbrellas, heard for the first time for many years a bold and
vigorous attack upon the principles which had come to be considered a
part of the commercial ritual of the country. Henslow made the best of a
great opportunity. He spoke temperately, but without hesitation, and
concluded with a biting and powerful onslaught upon that class of
Englishmen who wilfully closed their eyes to the prevailing industrial
depression, and endeavoured to lure themselves and others into a sense
of false security as to the well-being of the country by means of
illusive statistics. In his appreciation of dramatic effect, and the
small means by which an audience can be touched, Henslow was a past
master. Early in his speech he had waved aside the umbrella which a
supporter was holding over him, and regardless of the rain, he stood out
in the full glare of the reflected gaslight, a ponderous, powerful
figure.

"No one can accuse me," he cried, "of being a pessimist. Throughout my
life I have striven personally, and politically, to look upon the
brightest side of things. But I count it a crime to shut one's eyes to
the cloud in the sky, even though it be no larger than a man's hand.
Years ago that cloud was there for those who would to see. To-day it
looms over us, a black and threatening peril, and those who,
ostrich-like, still hide their heads in the sand, are the men upon whose
consciences must rest in the future the responsibility for those evil
things which are even now upon us. Theories are evil things, but when
theory and fact are at variance, give me fact. Theoretically Free Trade
should--I admit it--make us the most prosperous nation in the
world. As a matter of fact, never since this country commenced to make
history has our commercial supremacy been in so rotten and insecure a
position. There isn't a flourishing industry in the country, save those
which provide the munitions of war, and their prosperity is a spasmodic,
and I might almost add, an undesirable thing. Now, I am dealing with
facts to-night, not theories, and I am going to quote certain
unassailable truths, and I am going to give you the immediate causes for
them. The furniture and joinery trade of England is bad. There are
thousands of good hands out of employment. They are out of work because
the manufacturer has few or no orders. I want the immediate cause for
that, and I go to the manufacturer. I ask him why he has no orders. He
tells me, because every steamer from America is bringing huge
consignments of ready-made office and general furniture, at such prices
or such quality that the English shopkeepers prefer to stock them.
Consequently trade is bad with him, and he cannot find employment for
his men. I find here in Medchester the boot and shoe trade in which you
are concerned bad. There are thousands of you who are willing to work
who are out of employment. I go to the manufacturer, and I say to him,
'Why don't you find employment for your hands?' 'For two reasons,' he
answers. 'First, because I have lost my Colonial and some of my home
trade through American competition, and secondly, because of the
universally depressed condition of every kindred trade throughout the
country, which keeps people poor and prevents their having money to
spend.' Just now I am not considering the question of why the American
can send salable boots and shoes into this country, although the reasons
are fairly obvious. They have nothing to do with my point, however. We
are dealing to-night with immediate causes!

"And now as to that depression throughout the country which keeps people
poor, as the boot manufacturer puts it, and prevents their having money
to spend. I am going to take several trades one by one, and ascertain
the immediate cause of their depression--"

He had hold of his audience, and he made good use of his advantage. He
quoted statistics, showing the decrease of exports and relative increase
of imports. How could we hope to retain our accumulated wealth under
such conditions?--and finally he abandoned theorizing and argument,
and boldly declared his position.

"I will tell you," he concluded, "what practical means I intend to bring
to bear upon the situation. I base my projected action upon this truism,
which is indeed the very kernel of my creed. I say that every man
willing and able to work should have work, and I say that it is the duty
of legislators to see that he has it. To-day there are one hundred
thousand men and women hanging about our streets deteriorating morally
and physically through the impossibility of following their trade. I say
that it is time for legislators to inquire into the cause of this, and
to remedy it. So I propose to move in the House of Commons, should your
votes enable me to find myself there, that a Royal Commission be
immediately appointed to deal with this matter. And I propose, further,
to insist that this Commission be composed of manufacturers and business
men, and that we dispense with all figure-heads, and I can promise you
this, that the first question which shall engage the attention of these
men shall be an immediate revision of our tariffs. We won't have men
with theories which work out beautifully on paper, and bring a great
country into the throes of commercial ruin. We won't have men who think
that the laws their fathers made are good enough for them, and that all
change is dangerous, because Englishmen are sure to fight their way
through in the long run--a form of commercial Jingoism to which I
fear we are peculiarly prone. We don't want scholars or statisticians.
We want a commission of plain business men, and I promise you that if we
get them, there shall be presented to Parliament before I meet you again
practical measures which I honestly and firmly believe will start a wave
of commercial prosperity throughout the country such as the oldest
amongst you cannot remember. We have the craftsmen, the capital, and the
brains--all that we need is legislation adapted to the hour and not
the last century, and we can hold our own yet in the face of the world."

* * * * *

Afterwards, at the political club and at the committee-room, there was
much excited conversation concerning the effect of Henslow's bold
declaration. The general impression was, this election was now assured.
A shouting multitude followed him to his hotel, popular Sentiment was
touched, and even those who had been facing the difficulty of life with
a sort of dogged despair for years were raised into enthusiasm. His
words begat hope.

In the committee-room there was much excitement and a good deal of
speculation. Every one realized that the full effect of this daring
plunge could not be properly gauged until after it had stood the test of
print. But on the whole comment was strikingly optimistic. Brooks for
some time was absent. In the corridor he had come face to face with Mary
Scott. Her eyes flashed with pleasure at the sight of him, and she held
out her hand frankly.

"You heard it all?" he asked, eagerly.

"Yes--every word. Tell me, you understand these things so much
better than I do. Is this an election dodge, or--is he in earnest?
Was he speaking the truth?

"The honest truth, I believe," he answered, leading her a little away
from the crowd of people. "He is of course pressing this matter home for
votes, but he is very much in earnest himself about it."

"And you think that he is on the right track?"

"I really believe so," he answered. "In fact I am strongly in favour of
making experiments in the direction he spoke of. By the bye, Miss Scott,
I have something to tell you. You remember telling me about Lord
Arranmore and his refusal to subscribe to the Unemployed Fund?"

"Yes!"

"He has been approached again--the facts have been more fully made
known to him, and he has sent a cheque for one thousand pounds."

She received the news with a coldness which he found surprising.

"I think I can guess," she said, quietly, "who the second applicant
was."

"I went to see him myself," he admitted.

"You must be very eloquent," she remarked, with a smile which he could
not quite understand. "A thousand pounds is a great deal of money."

"It is nothing to Lord Arranmore," he answered.

"Less than nothing," she admitted, readily. "I would rather that he had
stopped in the street and given half-a-crown to a hungry child."

"Still--it is a magnificent gift," he declared. "We can open all
our relief stations again. I believe that you are a little prejudiced
against Lord Arranmore."

"I?" She shrugged her shoulders. "How should I be? I have never spoken a
word to him in my life. But I think that he has a hard, cynical face,
and a hateful expression."

Brooks disagreed with her frankly.

"He seems to me," he declared, "like a man who has had a pretty rough
time, and I believe he had in his younger days, but I do not believe
that he is really either hard or cynical. He has some odd views as
regards charity, but upon my word they are logical enough."

She smiled.

"Well, we'll not disagree about him," she declared. "I wonder how long
my uncle means to be."

"Shall I find out?" he asked.

"Would it be troubling you? He is so excited that I dare say he has
forgotten all about me."

Which was precisely what he had done. Brooks found him the centre of an
animated little group, with a freshly-lit cigar in his mouth, and every
appearance of having settled down to spend the night. He was almost
annoyed when Brooks reminded him of his niece.

"God bless my soul, I forgot all about Mary," he exclaimed with
vexation. "She must go and sit somewhere. I shan't be ready yet. Henslow
wants us to go down to the Bell, and have a bit of supper."

"In that case," Brooks said, "you had better allow me to take Miss Scott
home, and I will come then to you."

"Capital, if you really don't mind," Mr. Bullsom declared. "Put her in a
cab. Don't let her be a bother to you."

Brooks found her reluctant to take him away, but he pleaded a headache,
and assured her that his work for the night was over. Outside he led her
away from the centre of the town to a quiet walk heading to the suburb
where she lived. Here the streets seemed strangely silent, and Brooks
walked hat in hand, heedless of the rain which was still sprinkling.
"Oh, this is good," he murmured. "How one wearies of these crowds."

"All the same," she answered, smiling, "I think that your place just now
is amongst them, and I shall not let you take me further than the top of
the hill."

Brooks looked down at her and laughed.

"What a very determined person you are," he said. "I will take you to
the top of the hill--and then we will see."


X--A TEMPTING OFFER

The small boy brought in the card and laid it on Brooks' desk with a
flourish.

"He's outside, sir--in Mr. Barton's room. Shall I show him in?"

Brooks for a moment hesitated. He glanced at a letter which lay open
upon the desk before him, and which he had read and re-read many times.
The boy repeated his inquiry.

"Yes, of course," he answered. "Show him in at once."

Lord Arranmore, more than usually immaculate, strolled in, hat in hand,
and carefully selecting the most comfortable chair, seated himself on
the other side of the open table at which Brooks was working.

"How are you, Brooks?" he inquired, tersely. "Busy, of course. An
aftermath of work, I suppose."

"A few months ago," Brooks answered, "I should have considered myself
desperately busy. But after last week anything ordinary in the shape of
work seems restful."

Lord Arranmore nodded.

"I must congratulate you, I suppose," he remarked. "You got your man
in."

"We got him in all right," Brooks assented. "Our majority was less than
we had hoped for, though."

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"It was large enough," he answered, "and after all it was a clear gain
of a seat to your party, wasn't it?"

"It was a seat which we Radicals had a right to," Brooks declared. "Now
that the storm of Imperialism is quieting down and people are beginning
to realize that matters nearer home need a little attention, I cannot
see how the manufacturing centres can do anything save return Radicals.
We are the only party with a definite home policy."

Lord Arranmore nodded.

"Just so," he remarked, indifferently. "I needn't say that I didn't come
here to talk politics. There was a little matter of business which I
wished to put before you."

Brooks looked up in some surprise.

"Business!" he repeated, a little vaguely.

"Yes. As you are aware, Mr. Morrison has had the control of the Enton
estates for many years. He was a very estimable man, and he performed
his duties so far as I know quite satisfactorily. Now that he is dead,
however, I intend to make a change. The remaining partners in his firm
are unknown to me, and I at once gave them notice of my intention. Would
you care to undertake the legal management of my estates in this part of
the world?"

Brooks felt the little colour he had leave his cheeks. For a moment he
was quite speechless.

"I scarcely know how to answer, or to thank you, Lord Arranmore," he
said at last. "This is such a surprising offer. I scarcely see how you
can be in earnest. You know so little of me."

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"Really," he said, "I don't see anything very surprising in it.
Morrisons have a large practice, and without the old man I scarcely see
how they could continue to give my affairs the attention they require.
You, on the other hand, are only just starting, and you would be able to
watch over my interests more closely. Then--although I cannot
pretend that I am much influenced by sentimental reasons--still, I
knew your father, and the strangeness of our few years of life as
neighbours inclines me to be of service to you provided I myself am not
the sufferer. As to that I am prepared to take the risk. You see mine is
only the usual sort of generosity--the sort which provides for an
adequate quid pro quo. Of course, if you think that the undertaking of
my affairs would block you in other directions do not hesitate to say
so. This is a matter of business between us, pure and simple."

Brooks had recovered himself. The length of Lord Arranmore's speech and
his slow drawl had given him an opportunity to do so. He glanced for a
moment at the letter which lay upon his desk, and hated it.

"In an ordinary way, Lord Arranmore," he answered, "there could be only
one possible reply to such an offer as you have made me--an
immediate and prompt acceptance. If I seem to hesitate, it is because,
first--I must tell you something. I must make something--in
the nature of a confession."

Lord Arranmore raised his eyebrows, but his face remained as the face of
a Sphinx. He sat still, and waited.

"On the occasion of my visit to you," Brooks continued, "you may
remember the presence of a certain Mr. Lacroix? He is the author, I
believe, of several books of travel in Western Canada, and has the
reputation of knowing that part of the country exceedingly well."

Brooks paused, but his visitor helped him in no way. His face wore still
its passive expression of languid inquiry.

"He spoke of his visit to you," Brooks went on "in Canada, and he twice
reiterated the fact that there was no other dwelling within fifty miles
of you. He said this upon his own authority, and upon the authority of
his Indian guide. Now it is only a few days ago since you spoke of my
father as living for years within a few miles of you."

Lord Arranmore nodded his head thoughtfully.

"Ah! And you found the two statements, of course, irreconcilable. Well,
go on!"

Brooks found it difficult. He was grasping a paperweight tightly in one
hand, and he felt the rising colour burn his cheeks.

"I wrote to Mr. Lacroix," he said.

"A perfectly natural thing to do," Lord Arranmore remarked, smoothly.

And his answer is here!

"Suppose you read it to me," Lord Arranmore suggested.

Brooks took up the letter and read it.

"TRAVELLERS' CLUB, December 10.

"DEAR SIR,

"Replying to your recent letter, I have not the slightest hesitation in
reaffirming the statement to which you refer. I am perfectly convinced
that at the time of my visit to Lord Arranmore on the bank of Lake Quo,
there was no Englishman or dwelling-place of any sort within a radius of
fifty miles. The information which you have received is palpably
erroneous.

"Why not refer to Lord Arranmore himself? He would certainly confirm
what I say, and finally dispose of the matter.

"Yours sincerely,

"VICTOR LACROIX."

"A very interesting letter," Lord Arranmore remarked. "Well?"

Brooks crumpled the letter up and flung it into the waste-paper basket.

"Lord Arranmore," he said, "I made this inquiry behind your back, and in
a sense I am ashamed of having done so. Yet I beg you to put yourself in
my position. You must admit that my father's disappearance from the
world was a little extraordinary. He was a man whose life was more than
exemplary--it was saintly. For year after year he worked in the
police-courts amongst the criminal classes. His whole life was one long
record of splendid devotion. His health at last breaks down, and he is
sent by his friends for a voyage to Australia. He never returns. Years
afterwards his papers and particulars of his death are sent home from
one of the loneliest spots in the Empire. A few weeks ago you found me
out and told me of his last days. You see what I must believe. That he
wilfully deserted his wife and son--myself. That he went into
lonely and inexplicable solitude for no apparent or possible reason.
That he misused the money subscribed by his friends in order that he
might take this trip to Australia. Was ever anything more
irreconcilable?"

"From your point of view--perhaps not," Lord Arranmore answered.
"You must enlarge it."

"Will you tell me how?" Brooks demanded.

Lord Arranmore stifled a yawn. He had the air of one wearied by a
profitless discussion.

"Well," he said, "I might certainly suggest a few things. Who was your
trustee or guardian, or your father's man of business?

"Mr. Ascough, of Lincoln's Inn Fields."

"Exactly. Your father saw him, of course, prior to his departure from
England."

"Yes."

"Well, is it not a fact that instead of making a will your father made
over by deed of gift the whole of his small income to your mother in
trust for you?"

"Yes, he did that," Brooks admitted.

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"Think that over," he remarked. "Doesn't that suggest his already
half-formed intention never to return?"

"It never struck me in that way," Brooks answered. "Yet it is obvious,"
Lord Arranmore said. "Now, I happen to know from your father himself
that he never intended to go to Australia, and he never intended to
return to England. He sailed instead by an Allan liner from Liverpool to
Quebec under the name of Francis. He went straight to Montreal, and he
stayed there until he had spent the greater part of his money. Then he
drifted out west. There is his history for you in a few words."

A sudden light flashed in Brooks' eyes.

"He told you that he left England meaning never to return? Then you have
the key to the whole thing. Why not? That is what I want to know. Why
not?"

"I do not know," Lord Arranmore answered, coolly. "He never told me."

Brooks felt a sudden chill of disappointment. Lord Arranmore rose slowly
to his feet.

"Mr. Brooks," he said, "I have told you all that I know. You have asked
me a question which I have not been able to answer. I can, however, give
you some advice which I will guarantee to be excellent--some advice
which you will do well to follow. Shall I go on?"

"If you please!"

"Do not seek to unravel any further what may seem to you to be the
mystery of your father's disappearance from the world. Depend upon it,
his action was of his own free will, and he had excellent reasons for
it. If he had wished you to know them he would have communicated with
you. Remember, I was with your father during his last days--and
this is my advice to you."

Brooks pointed downward to the crumpled ball of paper.

"That letter!" he exclaimed.

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"I scarcely see its significance," he said. "It is not even my word
against Lacroix'. I sent you all your father's papers, I brought back
photographs and keepsakes known to belong to him. In what possible way
could it benefit me to mislead you?"

The telephone on Brooks' table rang, and for a moment or two he found
himself, with mechanical self-possession, attending to some unimportant
question. When he replaced the receiver Lord Arranmore had resumed his
seat, but was drawing on his gloves.

"Come," he said, "let us resume our business talk. I have made you an
offer. What have you to say?"

Brooks pointed to the waste-paper basket.

"I did a mean action," he said. "I am ashamed of it. Do you mean that
your offer remains open?"

"Certainly," Lord Arranmore answered. "That little affair is not worth
mentioning. I should probably have done the same."

"Well, I am not altogether a madman," Brooks declared, smiling, "so I
will only say that I accept your offer gratefully--and I will do my
very best to deserve your confidence."

Lord Arranmore rose and stood with his hands behind him, looking out of
the window.

"Very good," he said. "I will send for Ascough to come down from town,
and we must meet one day next week at Morrisons' office, and go into
matters thoroughly. That reminds me. Busher, my head bailiff, will be in
to see you this afternoon. There are half-a-dozen leases to be seen to
at once, and everything had better come here until the arrangements are
concluded."

"I shall be in all the afternoon," Brooks answered, still a little
dazed.

"And Thursday," Lord Arranmore concluded, "you dine and sleep at Enton.
I hope we shall have a good day's sport. The carriage will fetch you at
6:30. Good-morning."

Lord Arranmore walked out with a little nod, but on the threshold he
paused and looked back.

"By the bye, Brooks," he said, "do you remember my meeting you in a
little tea-shop almost the day after I first called upon you?"

"Quite well," Brooks answered.

"You had a young lady with you."

"Yes. I was with Miss Scott."

Lord Arranmore's hand fell from the handle. His eyes seemed suddenly
full of fierce questioning. He moved a step forward into the room.

"Miss Scott? Who is she?"

Brooks was hopelessly bewildered, and showed it.

"She lives with her uncle in Medchester. He is a builder and timber
merchant."

Lord Arranmore was silent for a moment.

"Her father, then, is dead?" he asked.

"He died abroad, I think," Brooks answered, "but I really am not sure. I
know very little of any of them."

Lord Arranmore turned away.

"She is the image of a man I once knew," he remarked, "but after all,
the type is not an uncommon one. You won't forget that Busher will be in
this afternoon. He is a very intelligent fellow for his class, and you
may find it worth your while to ask him a few questions. Until Thursday,
then."

"Until Thursday," Brooks repeated, mechanically.


XI--WHO THE DEVIL IS BROOKS?

"To be tired," declared Sydney Molyneux, sinking into a low couch, "to
be downright dead dog-tired is the most delightful thing in the world.
Will some one give me some tea?"

Brooks laughed softly from his place in front of the open fire. A long
day in the fresh north wind had driven the cobwebs from his brain, and
brought the burning colour to his cheeks. His eyes were bright, and his
laughter was like music.

"And you," he exclaimed, "are fresh from electioneering. Why, fatigue
like this is a luxury."

Molyneux lit a cigarette and looked longingly at the tea-tray set out in
the middle of the hall.

"That is all very well," he said, "but there is a wide difference
between the two forms of exercise. In electioneering one can use one's
brain, and my brain is never weary. It is capable of the most stupendous
exertions. It is my legs that fail me sometimes. Here comes Lady Caroom
at last. Why does she look as though she had seen a ghost?"

That great staircase at Enton came right into the hall. A few steps from
the bottom Lady Caroom had halted, and her appearance was certainly a
little unusual. Every vestige of colour had left her cheeks. Her right
hand was clutching the oak banisters, her eyes were fixed upon Brooks.
He was for a moment embarrassed, but he stepped forward to meet her.

"How do you do, Lady Caroom?" he said. "We are all in the shadows here,
and Mr. Molyneux is crying out for his tea."

She resumed her progress and greeted Brooks graciously. Almost at the
same moment a footman brought lamps, and the tea was served. Lady Caroom
glanced again with a sort of curious nervousness at the young man who
stood by her side.

"You are a little earlier than we expected," she remarked, seating
herself before the tea-tray. "Here comes Sybil. She is dying to
congratulate you, Mr. Brooks. Is Arranmore here?"

"We left him in the gun-room," Molyneux answered. "He is coming
directly."

Sybil Caroom, in a short skirt and a jaunty hat, came towards Brooks
with outstretched hand.

"Delightful!" she exclaimed. "I only wish that it had been nine thousand
instead of nine hundred. You deserved it."

Brooks laughed heartily.

"Well, we were satisfied to win the seat," he declared.

Molyneux leaned forward tea-cup in hand.

"Well, you deserved it," he remarked. "Our old man opened his mouth a
bit, but yours knocked him silly. Upon my word, I didn't think that any
one man had cheek stupendous enough to humbug a constituency like
Henslow did. It took my breath away to read his speeches."

"Do you really mean that?" asked Brooks.

"Mean it? Of course I do. What I can't understand is how people can
swallow such stuff, election after election. Doesn't every Radical
candidate get up and talk in the same maudlin way--hasn't he done
so for the last fifty years? And when he gets into Parliament is there a
more Conservative person on the face of the earth than the Radical
member pledged to social reform? It's the same with your man Henslow.
He'll do nothing! He'll attempt nothing! Silly farce, politics, I
think."

Lady Caroom laughed softly.

"I have never heard you so eloquent in my life, Sydney," she exclaimed.
"Do go on. It is most entertaining. When you have quite finished I can
see that Mr. Brooks is getting ready to pulverize you."

Brooks shook his head.

"Lady Sybil tells me that Mr. Molyneux is not to be taken seriously," he
answered.

Molyneux brought up his cup for some more tea.

"Don't you listen to Lady Sybil, Brooks," he retorted. "She is annoyed
with me because I have been spoken of as a future Prime Minister, and
she rather fancies her cousin for the post. Two knobs, please, and
plenty of cream. As a matter of fact I am in serious and downright
earnest. I say that Henslow won his seat by kidding the working classes.
He promised them a sort of political Arabian Nights. He'll go up to
Westminster, and I'm open to bet what you like that he makes not one
serious practical effort to push forward one of the startling measures
he talked about so glibly. I will trouble you for the toast, Brooks.
Thanks!"

"He is always cynical like this," Sybil murmured, "when his party have
lost a seat. Don't take any notice of him, Mr. Brooks. I have great
faith in Mr. Henslow, and I believe that he will do his best."

Molyneux smiled.

"Henslow is a politician," he remarked, "a professional politician. What
you Radicals want is Englishmen who are interested in politics. Henslow
knows how to get votes. He's got his seat, and he'll keep it--till
the next election."

Brooks shook his head.

"Henslow has rather a platform manner," he said, "but he is sound
enough. I believe that we are on the eve of important changes in our
social legislation, and I believe that Henslow will have much to say
about them. At any rate, he is not a rank hypocrite. We have shown him
things in Medchester which he can scarcely forget in a hurry. He will go
to Westminster with the memory of these things before him, with such a
cry in his ears as no man can stifle. He might forget if he
would--but he never will. We have shown him things which men may
not forget."

Lord Arranmore, who had now joined the party, leaned forward with his
arm resting lightly upon Lady Caroom's shoulder. An uneasy light flashed
in his eyes.

"There are men," he said, "whom you can never reach, genial men with a
ready smile and a prompt cheque-book, whose selfishness is an armour
more potent than the armour of my forefather there, Sir Ronald Kingston
of Arranmore. And, after all, why not? The thoroughly selfish man is the
only person logically who has the slightest chance of happiness."

"It is true," Molyneux murmured. "Delightfully true."

"Lord Arranmore is always either cynical or paradoxical," Sybil Caroom
declared. "He really says the most unpleasant things with the greatest
appearance of truth of any man I know."

"This company," Lord Arranmore remarked lightly, "is hostile to me. Let
us go and play pool."

Lady Caroom rose up promptly. Molyneux groaned audibly.

"You shall play me at billiards instead," she declared. "I used to give
you a good game once, and I have played a great deal lately. Ring for
Annette, will you, Sybil? She has my cue."

Sybil Caroom made room for Brooks by her side.

"Do sit down and tell me more about the election," she said. "Sydney is
sure to go to sleep. He always does after shooting."

"You shall ask me questions," he suggested. "I scarcely know what part
of it would interest you."

They talked together lightly at first, then more seriously. From the
other end of the hall came the occasional click of billiard balls. Lady
Caroom and her host were playing a leisurely game interspersed with
conversation.

"Who is this young Mr. Brooks?" she asked, pausing to chalk her cue.

"A solicitor from Medchester," he answered. "He was Parliamentary agent
for Henslow, and I am going to give him a management of my estates."

"He is quite a boy," she remarked.

"Twenty-six or seven," he answered. "How well you play those cannons.

"I ought to. I had lessons for years. Is he a native of Medchester?"

Lord Arranmore was blandly puzzled. She finished her stroke and turned
towards him.

"Mr. Brooks, you know. We were talking of him."

"Of course we were," he answered. "I do not think so. He is an orphan. I
met his father in Canada."

"He reminds me of some one," she remarked, in a puzzled tone. "Just now
as I was coming downstairs it was almost startling. He is a good-looking
boy."

"Be careful not to foul," he admonished her. "You should have the
spider-rest."

Lady Caroom made a delicate cannon from an awkward place, and concluded
her break in silence. Then she leaned with her back against the table,
chalking her cue. Her figure was still the figure of a girl she was a
remarkably pretty woman. She laid her slim white fingers upon his
coat-sleeve.

"I wonder," she said, softly, "whether you will ever tell me."

"If you look at me like that," he answered, smiling, "I shall tell
you--a great many things."

Her eyes fell. It was too absurd at her age, but her cheeks were
burning.

"You don't improve a bit," she declared. "You were always too apt with
your tongue."

"I practiced in a good school," he answered.

"Dear me," she sighed. "For elderly people what a lot of rubbish we
talk."

He shivered.

"What a hideous word," he remarked. "You make me feel that my chest is
padded and my hair dyed. If to talk sense is a sign of youth, let us do
it."

"By all means. When are you going to find me a husband for Sybil?"

"Well--is there any hurry?" he asked.

"Lots! We are going to Fernshire next week, and the place is always full
of young men. If you have anything really good in your mind I don't want
to miss it."

He took up his cue and scored an excellent break. She followed suit, and
he broke down at an easy cannon. Then he came over to her side.

"How do you like Mr. Brooks?" he asked, quietly.

"He seems a nice boy," she answered, lightly. He remained silent.
Suddenly she looked up into his face, and clutched the sides of the
table.

"You--you don't mean that?" she murmured, suddenly pale to the
lips.

He led her to a chair. The game was over.

"Some day," he whispered, "I will tell you the whole story."

* * * * *

"Even to think of these things," Sybil said, softly, "makes us feel very
selfish."

"No one is ever hopelessly selfish who is conscious of it," he answered,
smiling. "And, after all, it would not do for every one to be always
brooding upon the darker side of life."

"In another minute," Molyneux exclaimed, waking up with a start, "I
should have been asleep. Whatever have you two been talking about? It
was the most soothing hum I ever heard in my life."

"Mr. Brooks was telling me of some new phases of life," she answered.
"It is very interesting, even if it is a little sad."

Molyneux eyed them both for a moment in thoughtful silence.

"H'm!" he remarked. "Dinner is the next phase of life which will
interest me. Has the dressing-bell gone yet?"

"You gross person," she exclaimed. "You ate so much tea you had to go to
sleep."

"It was the exercise, he insisted.

"You have been standing about all day. I heard you ask for a place
without any walking, and where as few people as possible could see you
miss your birds."

"Your ears are a great deal too sharp," he said. "It was the wind,
then."

"Never mind what it was," she answered, laughing. "You can go to sleep
again if you like."

Molyneux put up his eyeglass and looked from one to the other. He saw
that Sybil's interest in her companion's conversation was not assumed,
and for the first time he appreciated Brooks' good looks. He shook off
his sleepiness at once and stood by Sybil's side.

"Have you been trying to convert Lady Sybil?" he asked.

"It is unnecessary," she answered, quickly. "Mr. Brooks and I are on the
same side."

He laughed softly and strolled away. Lord Arranmore was standing
thoughtfully before the marking-board. He laid his hand upon his arm.

"I say, Arranmore," he asked, "who the devil is Brooks?"


XII--MR. BULLSOM GIVES A DINNER-PARTY

"God bless my soul!" Mr. Bullsom exclaimed. "Listen to this." Mrs.
Bullsom, in a resplendent new dress, looking shinier and fatter than
ever, was prepared to listen to anything which might relieve the tension
of the moment. For it was the evening of the dinner-party, and within
ten minutes of the appointed time. Mr. Bullsom stood under the
incandescent light and read aloud "The shooting-party at Enton yesterday
consisted of the Marquis of Arranmore, the Hon. Sydney Molyneux, Mr.
Hennibul, K.C., and Mr. Kingston Brooks. Notwithstanding the high wind
an excellent bag was obtained."

"What! Our Mr. Kingston Brooks?" Selina exclaimed.

"It's Brooks, right enough," Mr. Bullsom exclaimed. "I called at his
office yesterday, and they told me that he was out for the day. Well,
that licks me."

Mary, who was reading a magazine in a secluded corner, looked up.

"I saw Mr. Brooks in the morning," she remarked. "He told me that he was
going to Enton to dine and sleep."

Selina looked at her cousin sharply.

"You saw Mr. Brooks?" she repeated. "Where?"

"I met him," Mary answered, coolly. "He told me that Lord Arranmore had
been very kind to him."

"Why didn't you tell us?" Louise asked.

"I really didn't think of it," Mary answered. "It didn't strike me as
being anything extraordinary."

"Not when he's coming here to dine to-night," Selina repeated, "and is a
friend of papa's! Why, Mary, what nonsense."

"I really don't see anything to make a fuss about," Mary said, going
back to her magazine.

Mr. Bullsom drew himself up, and laid down the paper with the paragraph
uppermost.

"Well, it is most gratifying to think that I gave that young man his
first start," he remarked. "I believe, too, that he is not likely to
forget it."

"The bell!" Mrs. Bullsom exclaimed, with a little gasp. "Some one has
come."

"Well, if they have, there's nothing to be frightened about," Mr.
Bullsom retorted. "Ain't we expecting them to come? Don't look so
scared, Sarah! Take up a book, or something. Why, bless my soul, you're
all of a tremble."

"I can't help it, Peter," Mrs. Bullsom replied, nervously. "I don't know
these people scarcely a bit, and I'm sure I shall do something foolish.
Selina, be sure you look at me when I'm to come away, and--"

"Mr. Kingston Brooks."

Brooks, ushered in by a neighbouring greengrocer, entered upon a scene
of unexpected splendour. Selina and her sister were gorgeous in green
and pink respectively. Mr. Bullsom's shirt-front was a thing to wonder
at. There was an air of repressed excitement about everybody, except
Mary, who welcomed him with a quiet smile.

"I am not much too early, I hope," Brooks remarked.

"You're in the nick of time," Mr. Bullsom assured him.

Brooks endeavoured to secure a chair near Mary, which attempt Selina
adroitly foiled.

"We've been reading all about your grandeur, Mr. Brooks," she exclaimed.
"What a beautiful day you must have had at Enton."

Brooks looked puzzled.

"It was very enjoyable," he declared. "I wanted to see you, Miss Scott,"
he added, turning to Mary. "I think that we can arrange that date for
the lecture now. How would Wednesday week do?"

"Admirably!" Mary answered.

"Do you know whom you take in, Mr. Brooks?" Selina interrupted.

Brooks glanced at the card in his hand.

"Mrs. Seventon," he said. "Yes, thanks."

Selina looked up at him with an arch smile.

"Mrs. Seventon is most dreadfully proper," she said. "You will have to
be on your best behaviour. Oh, here comes some one. What a bother!"

There was an influx of guests. Mrs. Bullsom, reduced to a state of
chaotic nervousness, was pushed as far into the background as possible
by her daughters, and Mr. Bullsom, banished from the hearth where he
felt surest of himself, plunged into a conversation with Mr. Seventon on
the weather. Brooks leaned over towards Mary.

"Wednesday week at eight o'clock, then," he said. "I want to have a chat
with you about the subject."

"Not now," she interposed. "You know these people, don't you, and the
Huntingdons? Go and talk to them, please."

Brooks laughed, and went to the rescue. He won Mrs. Bullsom's eternal
gratitude by diverting Mrs. Seventon's attention from her, and thereby
allowing her a moment or two to recover herself. Somehow or other a buzz
of conversation was kept up until the solemn announcement of dinner. And
when she was finally seated in her place, and saw a couple of nimble
waiters, with the greengrocer in the back, looking cool and capable, she
felt that the worst was over.

The solemn process of sampling doubtful-looking entries and eating
saddle of mutton to the tune of a forced conversation was got through
without disaster. Mrs. Bullsom felt her fat face break out into smiles.
Mr. Bullsom, though he would like to have seen everybody go twice for
everything, began to expand. He had already recited the story of
Kingston Brooks' greatness to both of his immediate neighbours, and in a
casual way mentioned his early patronage of that remarkable young man.
And once meeting his eye he raised his glass.

"Not quite up to the Enton vintage, Brooks, eh? but all right, I hope."

Brooks nodded back, and resumed his conversation. Selina took the
opportunity to mention casually to her neighbour, Mr. Huntingdon, that
Mr. Brooks was a great friend of Lord Arranmore's, and Louise, on her
side of the table, took care also to disseminate the same information.
Everybody was properly impressed. Mr. Bullsom decided to give a
dinner-party every month, and to double the greengrocer's tip, and by
the time Selina's third stage whisper had reached her mother and the
ladies finally departed, he was in a state of geniality bordering upon
beatitude. There was a general move to his end of the table. Mr. Bullsom
started the port, and his shirt-front grew wider and wider. He lit a
cigar, and his thumb found its way to the armhole of his waistcoat. At
that moment Mr. Bullsom would not have changed places with any man on
earth.

"What sort of a place is Enton to stay at, Brooks, eh?" he inquired, in
a friendly manner. "Keeps it up very well, don't he, the present
Marquis?"

Brooks sighed.

"I really don't know much about it," he answered, "I was only there one
night."

"Good day's sport?"

"Very good indeed," Brooks answered. "Lord Arranmore is a wonderful
shot."

"A remarkable man in a great many ways, Lord Arranmore," Dr. Seventon
remarked. "He disappeared from London when he was an impecunious young
barrister with apparently no earthly chance of succeeding to the
Arranmore estates, and from that time till a few years ago, when he was
advertised for, not a soul knew his whereabouts. Even now I am told that
he keeps the story of all these years absolutely to himself. No one knew
where he was, or how he supported himself."

"I can tell you where he was for some time, at any rate," Brooks said.
"He was in Canada, for he met my father there, and was with him when he
died."

"Indeed," Dr. Seventon remarked. "Then I should say that you are one of
the only men in England to whom he has opened his lips on the subject.
Do you know what he was doing there?"

"Fishing and shooting, I think." Brooks answered. "It was near Lake Ono,
right out west, and there would be nothing else to take one there."

"It was always supposed too that he had spent most of the time in a
situation in New York," Mr. Huntingdon said.

"I know a man," Mr. Seaton put in, "who can swear that he met him as a
sergeant in the first Australian contingent of mounted infantry sent to
the Cape."

"There are no end of stories about him," Dr. Seventon remarked. "If I
were the man I would put a stop to them by telling everybody exactly
where I was during those twenty years or so. It is a big slice of one's
life to seal up."

"Still, there is not the slightest reason why he should take the whole
world into his confidence, is there?" Brooks expostulated. "He is not a
public man."

"A peer of England with a seat in the House of Lords must always be a
public man to some extent," Mr. Huntingdon remarked.

"I am not sure," Brooks remarked, "that the lives of all our hereditary
legislators would bear the most searching inquiry."

"That's right, Brooks," Mr. Bullsom declared. "Stick up for your pals."

Brooks looked a little annoyed.

"The only claim I have upon Lord Arranmore's acquaintance," he remarked,
"is his kindness to my father. I hope, Dr. Seventon, that you are going
to press the matter of that fever hospital home. I have a little
information which I think you might make use of."

Brooks changed his place, wine-glass in hand, and the conversation
drifted away. But he found the position of social star one which the
Bullsoms were determined to force upon him, for they had no sooner
entered the drawing-room than Selina came rushing across the room to him
and drew him confidentially on one side.

"Mr. Brooks," she said, "do go and talk to Mrs. Huntingdon. She is so
anxious to hear about the Lady Caroom who is staying at Enton."

"I know nothing about Lady Caroom," Brooks replied, without any overplus
of graciousness.

Selina looked at him in some dismay.

"But you met her at Enton, didn't you?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, I met her there," Brooks answered, impatiently. "But I
certainly don't know enough of her to discuss her with Mrs. Huntingdon.
I rather wanted to speak to your cousin."

Selina's thin little lips became compressed, and for a moment she forgot
to smile. Her cousin indeed! Mary, who was sitting there in a plain
black gown without a single ornament, and not even a flower, looking for
all the world like the poor relation she was! Selina glanced downwards
at the great bunch of roses and maidenhair fern in her bosom, at the
fancy and beaded trimming which ran like a nightmare all over her new
gown, and which she was absolutely certain had come from Paris; at the
heavy gold bracelets which concealed some part of her thin arms; she
remembered suddenly the aigrette in her hair, such a finish to her
costume, and her self-confidence returned.

"Oh, don't bother about Mary now. Mrs. Huntingdon is dying to have you
talk to her. Please do and if you like--I will give you one of my
roses for your button-hole."

Brooks stood the shock gallantly, and bowed his thanks. He had met Mrs.
Huntingdon before, and they talked together for a quarter of an hour or
so.

"I wish I knew why you were here," was almost her first question. "Isn't
it all funny?

"Mr. Bullsom has always been very decent to me," he answered. "It is
through him I was appointed agent to Mr. Henslow."

"Oh, business! I see," she answered, shrugging her shoulders. "Same
here. I'm a doctor's wife, you know. Did you ever see such awful girls!
and who in the name of all that's marvellous can be their dressmaker?"

"Bullsom is a very good sort indeed," Brooks answered. "I have a great
respect for him."

She made a little face.

"Who's the nice-looking girl in black with her hair parted in the
middle?" she asked. "Mr. Bullsom's niece. She is quite charming, and
most intelligent."

"Dear me!" Mrs. Huntingdon remarked. "I had no idea she had anything to
do with the family. Sort of a Cinderella look about her now you mention
it. Couldn't you get her to come over and talk to me? I'm horribly
afraid of Mrs. Bullsom. She'll come out of that dress if she tries to
talk, and I know I shall laugh."

"I'm sure I can," Brooks answered, rising with alacrity. "I'll bring her
over in a minute."

Mary had just finished arranging a card-table when Brooks drew her on
one side.

"About that subject!" he began.

"We shall scarcely have time to talk about it now, shall we?" she
answered. "You will be wanted to play cards or something. We shall be
quite content to leave it to you."

"I should like to talk it over with you," he said. "Do tell me when I
may see you."

She sat down, and he stood by her chair. "Really, I don't know," she
answered. "Perhaps I shall be at home when you pay your duty call."

"Come and have some tea at Mellor's with me to-morrow."

She seemed not to hear him. She had caught Mrs. Seventon's eye across
the room, and rose to her feet.

"You have left Mrs. Seventon alone all the evening," she said. "I must
go and talk to her."

He stood before her--a little insistent.

"I shall expect you at half-past four," he said.

She shook her head.

Oh, no. I have an engagement."

"The next day, then."

"Thank you! I would rather you did not ask me. I have a great deal to do
just now. I will bring the girls to the lecture."

"Wednesday week," he protested, "is a long way off."

"You can go over to Enton," she laughed, "and get some more cheques from
your wonderful friend."

"I wonder," he remarked, "why you dislike Lord Arranmore so much."

"Instinct perhaps--or caprice," she answered, lightly.

"The latter for choice," he answered. "I don't think that he is a man to
dislike instinctively. He rather affected me the other way."

She was suddenly graver.

"It is foolish of me," she remarked. "You will think so too, when I tell
you that my only reason is because of a likeness."

"A likeness!" he repeated.

She nodded.

"He is exactly like a man who was once a friend of my father's, and who
did him a great deal of harm. My father was much to blame, I know, but
this man had a great influence over him, and a most unfortunate one. Now
don't you think I'm absurd?"

"I think it is a little rough on Lord Arranmore," he answered, "don't
you?"

"It would be if my likes or dislikes made the slightest difference to
him," she answered. "As it is, I don't suppose it matters."

"Was this in England?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"No, it was abroad--in Montreal. I really must go to Mrs. Seventon.
She looks terribly bored."

Brooks made no effort to detain her. He was looking intently at a
certain spot in the carpet. The coincidence--it was nothing more,
of course--was curious.


XIII--CHARITY THE "CRIME"

There followed a busy time for Brooks, the result of which was a very
marked improvement in his prospects. For the younger Morrison and his
partner, loth to lose altogether the valuable Enton connection, offered
Brooks a partnership in their firm. Mr. Ascough, who was Lord
Arranmore's London solicitor, and had been Brooks' guardian, after
careful consideration advised his acceptance, and there being nothing in
the way, the arrangements were pushed through almost at once. Mr.
Ascough, on the morning of his return to London, took the opportunity
warmly to congratulate Brooks.

"Lord Arranmore has been marvellously kind to me," Brooks agreed. "To
tell you the truth, Mr. Ascough, I feel almost inclined to add
incomprehensibly kind."

The older man stroked his grey moustache thoughtfully.

"Lord Arranmore is eccentric," he remarked. "Has always been eccentric,
and will remain so, I suppose, to the end of the chapter. You are the
one who profits, however, and I am very glad of it."

"Eccentricity," Brooks remarked, "is, of course, the only obvious
explanation of his generosity so far as I am concerned. But it has
occurred to me, Mr. Ascough, to wonder whether the friendship or
connection between him and my father was in any way a less slight thing
than I have been led to suppose."

Mr. Ascough shrugged his shoulders.

"Lord Arranmore," he said, "has told you, no doubt, all that there is to
be told."

Brooks sat at his desk, frowning slightly, and tapping the
blotting-paper with a pen-holder.

"All that Lord Arranmore has told me," he said, "is that my father
occupied a cabin not far from his on the banks of Lake Ono, that they
saw little of each other, and that he only found out his illness by
accident. That my father then disclosed his name, gave him his papers
and your address. There was merely the casual intercourse between two
Englishmen coming together in a strange country."

"That is what I have always understood," Mr. Ascough agreed. "Have you
any reason to think otherwise?

"No definite reason--except Lord Arranmore's unusual kindness to
me," Brooks remarked. "Lord Arranmore is one of the most self-centred
men I ever knew--and the least impulsive. Why, therefore, he should
go out of his way to do me a kindness I cannot understand."

"If this is really an enigma to you," Mr. Ascough answered, "I cannot
help you to solve it. Lord Arranmore has been the reverse of
communicative to me. I am afraid you must fall back upon his lordship's
eccentricity."

Mr. Ascough rose, but Brooks detained him.

"You have plenty of time for your train," he said. "Will you forgive me
if I go over a little old ground with you--for the last time?"

The lawyer resumed his seat.

"I am in no hurry," he said, "if you think it worth while."

"My father came to you when he was living at Stepney--a stranger to
you."

"A complete stranger," Mr. Ascough agreed. "I had never seen him before
in my life. I did a little trifling business for him in connection with
his property."

"He told you nothing of his family or relatives?"

"He told me that he had not a relation in the world."

"You knew him slightly, then?" Brooks continued, "all the time he was in
London? And when he left for that voyage he came to you."

"Yes."

"He made over his small income then to my mother in trust for me. Did it
strike you as strange that he should do this instead of making a will?"

"Not particularly," Mr. Ascough declared. "As you know, it is not an
unusual course."

"It did not suggest to you any determination on his part never to return
to England?"

"Certainly not."

"He left England on friendly terms with my mother?"

"Certainly. She and he were people for whom I and every one who knew
anything of their lives had the highest esteem and admiration."

"You can imagine no reason, then, for my father leaving England for
good?"

"Certainly not!"

"You know of no reason why he should have abandoned his trip to
Australia and gone to Canada?"

"None!"

"His doing so is as inexplicable to you as to me?"

"Entirely."

"You have never doubted Lord Arranmore's story of his death?"

"Never. Why should I?"

"One more question," Brooks said. "Do you know that lately I have met a
traveller--a man who visited Lord Arranmore in Canada, and who
declared to his certain knowledge there was no other human
dwelling-house within fifty miles of Lord Arranmore's cabin?"

"He was obviously mistaken."

You think so?

"It is certain."

Brooks hesitated.

"My question," he said, "will have given you some idea of the
uncertainty I have felt once or twice lately, owing to the report of the
traveller Lacroix, and Lord Arranmore's unaccountable kindness to me.
You see, he isn't an ordinary man. He is not a philanthropist by any
means, nor in any way a person likely to do kindly actions from the love
of them. Now, do you know of any facts, or can you suggest anything
which might make the situation clearer to me?"

"I cannot, Mr. Brooks," the older man answered, without hesitation. "If
you take my advice, you will not trouble yourself any more with fancies
which seem to me--pardon me--quite chimerical. Accept Lord
Arranmore's kindness as the offshoot of some sentimental feeling which
he might well have entertained towards a fellow-countryman by whose
death-bed he had stood in that far-away, lonely country. You may even
yourself be mistaken in Lord Arranmore's character, and you can
remember, too, that after all what means so much to you costs him
nothing--is probably for his own advantage."

Brooks rose and took up his hat.

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Ascough," he said. "Yours, after
all, is the common-sense view of the affair. If you like I will walk up
to the station. I am going that way. . . ."

So Brooks, convinced of their folly, finally discarded certain
uncomfortable thoughts which once or twice lately had troubled him. He
dined at Enton that night, and improved his acquaintance with Lady
Caroom and her daughter, who were still staying there. Although this was
not a matter which he had mentioned to Mr. Ascough, there was something
which he found more inexplicable even than Lord Arranmore's transference
of the care of his estates to him, and that was the apparent
encouragement which both he and Lady Caroom gave to the friendship
between Sybil and himself. They had lunched with him twice in
Medchester, and more often still the Enton barouche had been kept
waiting at his office whilst Lady Caroom and Sybil descended upon him
with invitations from Lord Arranmore. After his talk with Mr. Ascough he
put the matter behind him, but it remained at times an inexplicable
puzzle.

On the evening of this particular visit he found Sybil alone in a recess
of the drawing-room with a newspaper in her hand. She greeted him with
obvious pleasure.

"Do come and tell me about things, Mr. Brooks," she begged. "I have been
reading the local paper. Is it true that there are actually people
starving in Medchester?"

"There is a great deal of distress," he admitted, gravely. "I am afraid
that it is true."

She looked at him with wide-open eyes.

"But I don't understand," she said. "I thought that there were societies
who dealt with all that sort of thing, and behind, the--the
workhouse."

"So there are, Lady Sybil," he answered, "but you must remember that
societies are no use unless people will subscribe to them, and that
there are a great many people who would sooner starve than enter the
workhouse."

"But surely," she exclaimed, "there is no difficulty about getting
money--if people only understand."

He watched her for a moment in silence--suddenly appreciating the
refinement, the costly elegance which seemed in itself to be a part of
the girl, and yet for which surely her toilette was in some way also
responsible. Her white satin dress was cut and fashioned in a style
which he was beginning to appreciate as evidence of skill and
costliness. A string of pearls around her throat gleamed softly in the
firelight. A chain of fine gold studded with opals and diamonds reached
almost to her knees. She wore few rings indeed, but they were such rings
as he had never seen before he had come as a guest to Enton. And there
were thousands like her. A momentary flash of thought carried him back
to the days of the French Revolution. There was a print hanging in his
room of a girl as fair and as proud as this one, surrounded by a fierce
rabble mad with hunger and the pent-up rage of generations, tearing the
jewels from her fingers, tearing even, he thought, the trimming from her
gown.

"You do not answer me, Mr. Brooks," she reminded him.

He recovered himself with a start.

"I beg your pardon, Lady Sybil. Your question set me thinking. We have
tried to make people understand, and many have given most generously,
but for all that we cannot cope with such distress as there is to-day in
Medchester. I am secretary for one of the distribution societies, and I
have seen things which are enough to sadden a man for life, only during
the last few days."

"You have seen people--really hungry?" she asked, with something
like timidity in her face.

He laughed bitterly.

"That we see every moment of the time we spend down amongst them," he
answered. "I have seen worse things. I have seen the sapping away of
character--men become thieves and women worse--to escape from
starvation. That, I think, is the greatest tragedy of all. It makes one
shudder when one thinks that on the shoulders of many people some
portion of the responsibility at any rate for these things must rest."

Her lips quivered. She emptied the contents of a gold chain purse into
her hands.

"It is we who are wicked, Mr. Brooks," she said, "who spend no end of
money and close our ears to all this. Do take this, will you; can it go
to some of the women you know, and the children? There are only five or
six pounds there, but I shall talk to mamma. We will send you a cheque."

He took the money without hesitation.

"I am very glad," he said, earnestly, "that you have given me this, that
you have felt that you wanted to give it me. I hope you won't think too
badly of me for coming over here to help you spend a pleasant evening,
and talking at all of such miserable things."

"Badly!" she repeated. "No; I shall never be able to thank you enough
for telling me what you have done. It makes one feel almost wicked to be
sitting here, and wearing jewelry, and feeling well off, spending money
on whatever you want, and to think that there are people starving. How
they must hate us."

"It is the wonderful part of it," he answered. "I do not believe that
they do. I suppose it is a sort of fatalism--the same sort of
thing, only much less ignoble, as the indifference which keeps our rich
people contented and deaf to this terribly human cry."

"You are young," she said, looking at him, "to be so much interested in
such serious things."

"It is my blood, I suppose," he answered. "My father was a police-court
missionary, and my mother the matron of a pauper hospital."

"They are both dead, are they not?" she asked, softly.

"Many years ago," he answered.

Lady Caroom and Lord Arranmore came in together. A certain unusual
seriousness in Sybil's face was manifest.

"You two do not seem to have been amusing yourselves," Lady Caroom
remarked, giving her hand to Brooks.

"Mr. Brooks has been answering some of my questions about the poor
people," Sybil answered, "and it is not an amusing subject."

Lord Arranmore laughed lightly, and there was a touch of scorn in the
slight curve of his fine lips and his raised eyebrows. He stood away
from the shaded lamplight before a great open fire of cedar logs, and
the red glow falling fitfully upon his face seemed to Brooks, watching
him with more than usual closeness, to give him something of a
Mephistopheles aspect. His evening clothes hung with more than ordinary
precision about his long slim body, his black tie and black pearl stud
supplied the touch of sombreness so aptly in keeping with the mirthless,
bitter smile which still parted his lips.

"You must not take Mr. Brooks too seriously on the subject of the poor
people," he said, the mockery of his smile well matched in his tone.
"Brooks is an enthusiast--one, I am afraid, of those misguided
people who have barred the way to progress for centuries. If only they
could be converted!"

Lady Caroom sighed.

"Oh, dear, how enigmatic!" she exclaimed. "Do be a little more
explicit."

"Dear lady," he continued, turning to her, "it is not worth while. Yet I
sometimes wonder whether people realize how much harm this hysterical
philanthropy--this purely sentimental faddism, does; how it retards
the natural advance of civilization, throws dust in people's eyes,
salves the easy conscience of the rich man, who bargains for immortality
with a few strokes of the pen, and finds mischievous occupation for a
good many weak minds and parasitical females. Believe me, that all
personal charity is a mistake. It is a good deal worse than that. It is
a crime."

Sybil rose up, and a little unusual flush had stained her cheeks.

"I still do not understand you in the least, Lord Arranmore," she said.
"It seems to me that you are making paradoxical and ridiculous
statements, which only bewilder us. Why is charity a crime? That is what
I should like to hear you explain."

Lord Arranmore bowed slightly.

"I had no idea," he said, leaning his elbow upon the mantelpiece, "that
I was going to be inveigled into a controversy. But, my dear Sybil, I
will do my best to explain to you what I mean, especially as at your age
you are not likely to discover the truth for yourself. In the first
place, charity of any sort is the most insidious destroyer of moral
character which the world has ever known. The man who once accepts it,
even in extremes, imbibes a poison from which his system can never be
thoroughly cleansed. You let him loose upon society, and the evil which
you have sown in him spreads. He is like a man with an infectious
disease. He is a source of evil to the community. You have relieved a
physical want, and you have destroyed a moral quality. I do not need to
point out to you that the balance is on the wrong side."

Sybil glanced across at Brooks, and he smiled back at her.

"Lord Arranmore has not finished yet," he said. "Let us hear the worst."

Their host smiled.

"After all," he said, "why do I waste my breath? From the teens to the
thirties sentiment smiles. It is only later on in life that reason has
any show at all. Yet you should ask yourselves, you eager self-denying
young people, who go about with a healthy moral glow inside because you
have fed the poor, or given an hour or so of your time to the
distribution of reckless charity-you should ask yourselves: What is the
actual good of ministering to the outward signs of an internal disease?
You are simply trying to renovate the outside when the inside is filthy.
Don't you see, my dear young people, that to give a meal to one starving
man may be to do him indeed good, but it does nothing towards preventing
another starving man from taking his place to-morrow. You stimulate the
disease, you help it to spread. Don't you see where instead you should
turn--to the social laws, the outcome of which is that starving
man? You let them remain unharmed, untouched, while you fall over one
another in frantic efforts to brush away to-day's effect of an eternal
cause. Let your starving man die, let the bones break through his skin
and carry him up--him and his wife and their children, and their
fellows--to your House of Commons. Tell them that there are more
to-morrow, more the next day, let the millions of the lower classes look
this thing in the face. I tell you that either by a revolution, which no
doubt some of us would find worse than inconvenient, or by less drastic
means, the thing would right itself. You, who work to relieve the
individual, only postpone and delay the millennium. People will keep
their eyes closed as long as they can. It is you who help them to do
so."

"Dinner is served, my lord," the butler announced.

Lord Arranmore extended his arm to Lady Caroom.

"Come," he said, "let us all be charitable to one another, for I too am
starving."


XIV--AN AWKWARD QUESTION

"You think they really liked it, then?"

"How could they help it? It was such a delightful idea of yours, and I
am sure all that you said was so simple and yet suggestive. Good-night,
Mr. Brooks."

They stood in the doorway of the Secular Hall, where Brooks had just
delivered his lecture. It seemed to him that her farewell was a little
abrupt.

"I was going to ask," he said, "whether I might not see you home."

She hesitated.

"Really," she said, "I wish you would not trouble. It is quite a long
way, and I have only to get into a car.

"The further the better," he answered, "and besides, if your uncle is at
home I should like to come in and see him."

She made no further objection, yet Brooks fancied that her acquiescence
was, to some extent, involuntary. He walked by her side in silence for a
moment or two, wondering whether there was indeed any way in which he
could have offended her.

"I have not seen you," he remarked, "since the evening of your
dinner-party."

"No!"

"You were out when I called."

"I have so many things to do--just now. We can get a car here."

He looked at it.

"It is too full," he said. "Let us walk on for a little way. I want to
talk to you."

The car was certainly full, so after a moment's hesitation she
acquiesced.

"You will bring your girls again, I hope?" he asked.

"They will come I have no doubt," she answered. "So will I if I am in
Medchester."

"You are going away?"

"I hope so," she answered. "I am not quite sure."

"Not for good?" Possibly."

"Won't you tell me about it?" he asked.

"Well--I don't know!"

She hesitated for a moment.

"I will tell you if you like," she said, doubtfully. "But I do not wish
anything said about it at present, as my arrangements are not complete."

"I will be most discreet," he promised.

"I have been doing a little work for a woman's magazine in London, and
they have half promised me a definite post on the staff. I am to hear in
a few days as to the conditions. If they are satisfactory--that is
to say, if I can keep myself on what they offer--I shall go and
live in London."

He was surprised, and also in a sense disappointed. It was astonishing
to find how unpleasant the thought of her leaving Medchester was to him.

"I had no idea of this," he said, thoughtfully. "I did not know that you
went in for anything of the sort."

"My literary ambitions are slight enough," she answered. "Yet you can
scarcely be surprised that I find the thought of a definite career and a
certain amount of independence attractive."

He stole a sidelong glance at her. In her plainly made clothes and quiet
hat she was scarcely, perhaps, a girl likely to attract attention, yet
he was conscious of certain personal qualities, which he had realized
and understood from the first. She carried herself well, she walked with
the free graceful movements of a well-bred and healthy girl. In her face
was an air of quiet thought, the self-possession of the woman of culture
and experience. Her claim to good looks was, after all, slight enough,
yet on studying her he came to the conclusion that she could if she
chose appear to much greater advantage. Her hair, soft and naturally
wavy, was brushed too resolutely back; her smile, which was always
charming, she suffered to appear only at the rarest intervals. She
suggested a life of repression, and with his knowledge of the Bullsom
menage he was able to surmise some glimmering of the truth.

"You are right," he declared. "I think that I can understand what your
feeling must be. I am sure I wish you luck."

The touch of sympathy helped her to unbend. She glanced towards him
kindly.

"Thank you," she said. "Of course there will be difficulties. My uncle
will not like it. He is very good-natured and very hospitable, and I am
afraid his limitations will not permit him to appreciate exactly how I
feel about it. And my aunt is, of course, merely his echo."

"He will not be unreasonable," Brooks said. "I am sure of that. For a
man who is naturally of an obstinate turn of mind I think your uncle is
wonderful. He makes great efforts to free himself from all prejudices."

"Unfortunately," she remarked, "he is very down on the independent
woman. He would make housekeepers and cooks of all of us."

"Surely," he protested, with a quiet smile, "your cousins are more
ambitious than that. I am sure Selina would never wear a cooking-apron,
unless it had ribbon and frilly things all over it."

She laughed.

"After all, they have been kind to me," she said. "My mother was the
black sheep of the family, and when she died Mr. Bullsom paid my passage
home, and insisted upon my coming to live here as one of the family. I
should hate them to think that I am discontented, only the things which
satisfy them do not satisfy me, so life sometimes becomes a little
difficult."

"Have you friends in London?" he asked.

"None! I tried living there when I first came back for a few weeks, but
it was impossible."

"You will be very lonely, surely. London is the loneliest of all great
cities."

"Why should I not make friends?"

"That is what I too asked myself years ago when I was articled there,"
he answered. "Yet it is not so easy as it sounds. Every one seems to
have their own little circle, and a solitary person remains so often
just outside. Yet if you have friends--and tastes--London is a
paradise. Oh, how fascinating I used to find it just at
first--before the chill came. You, too, will feel that. You will be
content at first to watch, to listen, to wonder! Every type of humanity
passes before you like the jumbled-up figures of a kaleidoscope. You are
content even to sit before a window in a back street--and listen.
What a sound that is--the roar of London, the voices of the street,
the ceaseless hum, the creaking of the great wheel of humanity as it
goes round and round. And then, perhaps, in a certain mood the undernote
falls upon your ear, the bitter, long-drawn-out cry of the hopeless and
helpless. When you have once heard it, life is never the same again.
Then, if you do not find friends, you will know what misery is."

They were both silent for a few minutes. A car passed them unnoticed.
Then she looked at him curiously.

"For a lawyer," she remarked, "you are a very imaginative person."

He laughed.

"Ah, well, I was talking just then of how I felt in those days. I was a
boy then, you know. I dare say I could go back now to my old rooms and
live there without a thrill."

She shook her head.

"What one has once felt," she murmured, "comes back always."

"Sometimes only the echo," he answered, "and that is weariness."

They walked for a little way in silence. Then she spoke to him in an
altered tone.

"I have heard a good deal about you during the last few weeks," she
said. "You are very much to be congratulated, they tell me. I am sure I
am very glad that you have been so fortunate."

"Thank you," he answered. "To tell you the truth, it all seems very
marvellous to me. Only a few months ago your uncle was almost my only
client of importance."

"Lord Arranmore was your father's friend though, was he not?"

"They came together abroad," he answered, "and Lord Arranmore was with
my father when he died in Canada."

She stopped short.

Where?

"In Canada, on the banks of Lake Ono, if you know where that is," he
answered, looking at her in surprise.

She resumed her usual pace, but he noticed that she was pale.

"So Lord Arranmore was in Canada?" she said. "Do you know how long ago?"

"About ten years, I suppose," he answered. "How long before that I do
not know."

She was silent for several minutes, and they found themselves in the
drive leading to the Bullsom villa. Brooks was curious.

"I wonder," he asked, "whether you will tell me why you are interested
in Lord Arranmore--and Canada?"

"I was born in Montreal," she answered, "and I once saw some one very
much like Lord Arranmore there. But I am convinced that it could only
have been a resemblance."

"You mentioned it before--when we saw him in Mellor's," he
remarked.

"Yes, it struck me then," she admitted. "But I am sure that Lord
Arranmore could not have been the person whom I am thinking about. It is
ridiculous of me to attach so much importance to a mere likeness."

They stood upon the doorstep, but she checked him as he reached out for
the bell.

"You have seen quite a good deal of him," she said. "Tell me what you
think of Lord Arranmore." His hand fell to his side. He stood under the
gas-bracket, and she could see his face distinctly. There was a slight
frown upon his forehead, a look of trouble in his grey eyes.

"You could not have asked me a more difficult question," he admitted.
"Lord Arranmore has been very kind to me, although my claim upon him has
been of the slightest. He is very clever, almost fantastic, in some of
his notions; he is very polished, and his manners are delightful. He
would call himself, I believe, a philosopher, and he is, although it
sounds brutal for me to say so, very selfish. And behind it all I
haven't the faintest idea what sort of a man he is. Sometimes he gives
one the impression of a strong man wilfully disguising his real
characteristics, for hidden reasons; at others, he is like one of those
brilliant Frenchmen of the last century, who toyed and juggled with
words and phrases, esteeming it a triumph to remain an unread letter
even to their intimates. So you see, after all," he wound up, "I cannot
tell you what I think of Lord Arranmore."

"You can ring the bell," she said. "You must come in for a few minutes."

Their entrance together seemed to cause the little family party a
certain amount of disturbed surprise. The girls greeted Brooks with a
great show of pleasure, but they looked doubtfully at Mary.

"Did you meet at the front door?" Selina asked. "I thought I heard
voices." Brooks was a little surprised.

"Your cousin brought her class of factory girls to my lecture to-night
at the Secular Hall."

Selina's eyes narrowed a little, and she was silent for a moment. Then
she turned to her cousin.

"You might have told us, Mary," she exclaimed, reproachfully. "We should
so much have liked to come, shouldn't we, Louise?"

"Of course we should," Louise answered, snappishly. "I can't think why
Mary should go off without saying a word."

Mary looked at them both and laughed. "Well," she said, "I have left the
house at precisely the same time on 'Wednesday evenings all through the
winter, and neither of you have said anything about coming with me."

"This is quite different," Selina answered, cuttingly. "We should very
much have enjoyed Mr. Brooks' lecture. Do tell us what it was about."

"Don't you be bothered, Brooks," Mr. Bullsom exclaimed, hospitably. "Sit
down and try one of these cigars. We've had supper, but if you'd like
anything--"

"Nothing to eat, thanks," Brooks protested. "I'll have a cigar if I
may."

"And a whisky-and-soda, then," Mr. Bullsom insisted. "Say when!"

Brooks turned to Selina. Mary had left the room. "You were asking about
the lecture," he said. "Really, it was only a very unpretentious affair,
and to tell you the truth, only intended for people whose opportunities
for reading have not been great. I am quite sure it would not have been
worth your while to come down. We just read a chapter or so from A Tale
of Two Cities, and talked about it."

"We should have liked it very mulch," Selina declared. "Do tell us when
there is another one, will you?"

"With pleasure," he answered. "I warn you, though, that you will be
disappointed."

"We will risk that," Selina declared, with a smile. "Have you been to
Enton this week?"

"I was there on Sunday," he answered.

"And is that beautiful girl, Lady Sybil Caroom, still staying there?

"Yes," he answered. "Is she very beautiful, by the bye?"

"Well, I thought men would think so," Selina said, hastily. "I think
that she is just a little loud, don't you, Louise?"

Louise admitted that the idea had occurred to her.

"And her hair--isn't it badly dyed?" Selina remarked. "Such a pity.
It's all in patches."

"I think girls ought not to make up in the street, either," Louise
remarked, primly. "A little powder in the house is all very
well"--(Louise had a nose which gave her trouble)--"but I
really don't think it looks respectable in the street."

"I suppose," Selina remarked, "you men admire all that sort of thing,
don't you?

"I really hadn't noticed it with Lady Sybil," Brooks admitted.

Selina sighed.

"Men are so blind," she remarked. "You watch next time you are close to
her, Mr. Brooks."

"I will," he promised. "I'll get her between me and a window in a strong
north light."

Selina laughed.

"Don't be too unkind," she said. "That's the worst of you men. When you
do find anything out you are always so severe."

"After all, though," Louise remarked, with a sidelong glance, "it must
be very, very interesting to meet these sort of people, even if one
doesn't quite belong to their set. I should think you must find every
one else quite tame, Mr. Brooks."

"I can assure you I don't," he answered, coolly. "This evening has
provided me with quite as pleasant society as ever I should wish for."

Selina beamed upon him.

"Oh, Mr. Brooks, you are terrible. You do say such things!" she
declared, archly.

Louise laughed a little hardly.

"We mustn't take too much to ourselves, dear," she said. "Remember that
Mr. Brooks walked all the way up from the Secular Hall with Mary."

Mr. Bullsom threw down his paper with a little impatient exclamation.

"Come, come!" he said. "I want to have a few words with Brooks myself,
if you girls'll give me a chance. Heard anything from Henslow lately,
eh?"

Brooks leaned forward.

"Not a word!" he answered.

Mr. Bullsom grunted.

"H'm! He's taken his seat, and that's all he does seem to have done. To
have heard his last speech here before polling time you would have
imagined him with half-a-dozen questions down before now. He's letting
the estimates go by, too. There are half-a-dozen obstructors, all
faddists, but Henslow, with a real case behind him, is sitting tight.
'Pon my word, I'm not sure that I like the fellow."

"I ventured to write to him the other evening," Brooks said, "and I have
sent him all the statistics we promised, he seems to have regarded my
letter as an impertinence, though, for he has never answered it."

"You mark my words," Mr. Bullsom said, doubling the paper up and
bringing it down viciously upon his knee, "Henslow will never sit again
for Medchester. There was none too mulch push about him last session,
but he smoothed us all over somehow. He'll not do it again. I'm losing
faith in the man, Brooks."

Brooks was genuinely disturbed. His own suspicions had been gathering
strength during the last few weeks. Henslow had been pleasant enough,
but a little flippant after the election. From London he had promised to
write to Mr. Bullsom, as chairman of his election committee, mapping out
the course of action which, in pursuance of his somewhat daring pledges,
he proposed to embark upon. This was more than a month ago, and there
had come not a single word from him. All that vague distrust which
Brooks had sometimes felt in the man was rekindled and increased, and
with it came a flood of bitter thoughts. Another opportunity then was to
be lost. For seven years longer these thousands of pallid, heart-weary
men and women were to suffer, with no one to champion their cause. He
saw again that sea of eager faces in the market-place, lit with a sudden
gleam of hope as they listened to the bold words of the man who was
promising them life and hope and better things. Surely if this was a
betrayal it was an evil deed, not passively to be borne.

Mr. Bullsom had refreshed himself with whisky-and-water, and decided
that pessimism was not a healthy state of mind.

"I tell you what it is, Brooks," he said, more cheerfully. "We mustn't
be too previous in judging the fellow. Let's write him civilly, and if
nothing comes of it in a week or two, we will run up to London, you and
me, eh? and just haul him over the coals."

"You are right, Mr. Bullsom," Brooks said. "There is nothing we can do
for the present."

"Please don't talk any more horrid politics," Selina begged. "We want
Mr. Brooks to give us a lesson at billiards. Do you mind?"

Brooks rose at once.

"I shall be charmed!" he declared.

Mr. Bullsom rose also.

"Pooh, pooh!" he said. "Brooks and I will have a hundred up and you can
watch us. That'll be lesson enough for you."

Selina made a little grimace, but they all left the room together. In
the hall a housemaid was speaking at the telephone, and a moment
afterwards she laid the receiver down and came towards them.

"It is a message for Mr. Brooks, sir, from the Queen's Hotel. Lord
Arranmore's compliments, and the ladies from Enton are at the theatre
this evening, and would be glad if Mr. Brooks would join them at the
Queen's Hotel for supper at eleven o'clock."

Brooks hesitated, but Mr. Bullsom spoke up at once.

"Off you go, Brooks," he said, firmly. "Don't you go refusing an
invitation like that. Lord Arranmore is a bit eccentric, they say, and
he isn't the sort of man to like refusals. You've just got time."

"They had the message two hours ago, and have been trying everywhere to
find Mr. Brooks," the housemaid added.

Selina helped him on with his coat.

"Will you come another evening soon and play billiards with us?" she
asked, dropping her voice a little.

"With pleasure," Brooks answered. "Do you mind saying good-bye to your
cousin for me? I am sorry not to see her again."


XV--A SUPPER-PARTY AT THE "QUEEN'S"

Brooks was shown into a private room at the Queen's Hotel, and he
certainly had no cause to complain of the warmth of his welcome. Lady
Sybil, in fact, made room for him by her side, and he fancied that there
was a gleam of reproach in her eyes as she looked up at him.

"Is Medchester really so large a place that one can get lost in it?" she
asked. "Lord Arranmore has been sending messengers in every direction
ever since we decided upon our little excursion.

"I telephoned to your office, sent a groom to your rooms and to the
club, and at last we had given you up," Lord Arranmore remarked.

"And I," Sybil murmured, "was in a shocking bad temper."

"It is very good of you all," Brooks remarked, cheerfully. "I left the
office rather early, and have been giving a sort of lecture to-night at
the Secular Hall. Then I went up to have a game of billiards with Mr.
Bullsom. Your telephone message found me there. You must remember that
even if Medchester is not a very large place I am a very unimportant
person."

"Dear me, what modesty," Lady Caroom remarked, laughing. "To us,
however, you happened to be very important. I hate a party of three."

Brooks helped himself to a quail, and remembered that he was hungry.

"This is very unusual dissipation, isn't it?" he asked. "I never dreamed
that you would be likely to come into our little theatre."

"It was Sybil's doings," Lady Caroom answered. "She declared that she
was dull, and that she had never seen A /Message from Mars./ I think
that all that serious talk the other evening gave her the blues."

"I am always dull in the winter when there is no hunting," Sybil
remarked. "This frost is abominable. I have not forgotten our talk
either. I feel positively wicked every time I sip champagne."

"Our young philanthropist will reassure you," Arranmore remarked, drily.

Lady Caroom sighed.

"I wonder how it is," she murmured, "that one's conscience and one's
digestion both grow weaker as one grows old. You and I, Arranmore, are
content to accept the good things of the earth as they come to us."

"With me," he answered, "it is the philosophy of approaching old age,
but you have no such excuse. With you it must be sheer callousness. You
are in an evil way, Lady Caroom. Do have another of these quails."

"You are very rude," she answered, "and extremely unsympathetic. But I
will have another quail."

"I do not Want to destroy your appetite, Mr. Brooks," Lady Sybil said,
"but this is--if not a farewell feast, something like it."

He looked at her with sudden interest.

"You are going away?" he exclaimed.

"Very soon," she assented. "We were so comfortable at Enton, and the
hunting has been so good, that we cut out one of our visits. Mamma
developed a convenient attack of influenza. But the next one is very
near now, and our host is almost tired of us."

Lord Arranmore was for a moment silent.

"You have made Enton," he said, "intolerable for a solitary man. When
you go I go."

"I wish you could say whither instead of when," Lady Caroom answered.
"How bored you would be at Redcliffe. It is really the most outlandish
place we go to."

"Why ever do we accept, mamma?" Sybil asked. "Last year I nearly cried
my eyes out, I was so dull. Not a man fit to talk to, or a horse fit to
ride. The girls bicycle, and Lord Redcliffe breeds cattle and talks
turnips."

"And they all drink port after dinner," Lady Caroom moaned; "but we have
to go, dear. We must live rent free somewhere during these months to get
through the season."

Sybil looked at Brooks with laughter in her eyes.

"Aren't we terrible people?" she whispered. "You are by way of being
literary, aren't you? You should write an article on the shifts of the
aristocracy. Mamma and I could supply you with all the material. The
real trouble, of course, is that I don't marry."

"Fancy glorying in your failure," Lady Caroom said, complacently. "Three
seasons, Arranmore, have I had to drag that girl round. I've washed my
hands of her now. She must look after herself. A girl who refuses one of
the richest young men in England because she didn't like his collars is
incorrigible."

"It was not his collars, mother," Sybil objected. "It was his neck. He
was always called 'the Giraffe.' He had no head and all neck--the
most fatuous person, too. I hate fools."

"That is where you lack education, dear," Lady Caroom answered. "A fool
is the most useful person--for a husband."

Sybil glanced towards Brooks with a little sigh, and, catching a glimpse
of his expression, burst out laughing.

"Mother, you must really not let your tongue run away with you. Mr.
Brooks is believing every word you say. You needn't," she murmured in a
discreet undertone. "Mother and I chaff one another terribly, but we're
really very nicely-behaved persons--for our station in life."

"Lady Caroom has such a delightfully easy way of romancing," Brooks
said.

Sybil nodded.

"It's quite true," she answered. "She ought to write the prospectuses
for gold mines and things."

Arranmore smiled across the table at Brooks.

"This," he said, "is what I have had to endure for the last six weeks.
Do you wonder that I am getting balder, or that I set all my people to
work tonight to try and find some one to suffer with me?"

"He'll be so dull when we've gone," Lady Caroom sighed.

"You've no idea how we've improved him," Sybil murmured. "He used to
read Owen Meredith after dinner, and go to sleep. By the bye, where are
you going when we leave Enton?"

Lord Arranmore hesitated.

"Well, I really am not sure," he said. "You have alarmed me. Don't go."

Lady Caroom laughed.

"My dear man," she said, "we must! I daren't offend the Redcliffes. He's
my trustee, and he'll never let me overdraw a penny unless I'm civil to
him. If I were you I should go to the Riviera. We'll lend you our
cottage at Lugiano. It has been empty for a year."

"Come and be hostess," he said. "I promise you that I will not hesitate
then."

She shook her head towards Sybil.

"How can I marry that down there?" she demanded. "No young men who are
really respectable go abroad at this time of the year. They are all
hunting or shooting. The Riviera is thronged with roues and invalids and
adventurers, and we don't want any of them. Dear me, what sacrifices a
grown-up daughter does entail. This coming season shall be your last,
Sybil. I won't drag on round again. I'm really getting ashamed of it."

"Isn't she dreadful?" Sybil murmured to Brooks. "I hope you will come to
Enton before we leave."

"It is very kind of you, Lady Sybil," Brooks said, "but you must
remember that I am not like most of the men you meet. I have to work
hard, especially just now."

"And if I were you I would be thankful for it," she said, warmly. "From
our point of view, at any rate, there is nothing so becoming to a man as
the fact that he is a worker. Sport is an excellent thing, but I detest
young men who do nothing else but shoot and hunt and loaf about. It
seems to me to destroy character where work creates it. All the same, I
hope you will find an opportunity to come to Enton and say good-bye to
us."

Brooks was suddenly conscious that it would be no pleasant thing to say
good-bye to Lady Sybil. He had never known any one like her, so
perfectly frank and girlish, and yet with character enough underneath in
her rare moments of seriousness. More than ever he was struck with the
wonderful likeness between mother and daughter.

"I will come at any time I am asked," he answered, quietly, "but I am
sorry that you are going."

They had finished supper, and had drawn their chairs around the fire.
Arranmore was smoking a cigarette, and Brooks took one from his case.
The carriage was ordered in a quarter of an hour. Brooks found that he
and Sybil were a little apart from the others.

"Do you know, I am sorry too," she declared. "Of course it has been much
quieter at Enton than most of the houses we go to, and we only came at
first, I think, because many years ago my mother and Lord Arranmore were
great friends, and she fancied that he was shutting himself up too much.
But I have enjoyed it very much indeed."

He looked at her curiously. He was trying to appreciate what a life of
refined pleasure which she must live would really be like--how
satisfying--whether its limitations ever asserted themselves. Sybil
was a more than ordinarily pretty girl, but her face was as smooth as a
child's. The Joie de vivre seemed to be always in her eyes. Yet there
were times, as he knew, when she was capable of seriousness.

"I am glad," he said, "Lord Arranmore will miss you."

She laughed at him, her eyebrows raised, a challenge in her bright eyes.

"May I add that I also shall?" he whispered.

"You may," she answered. "In fact, I expected it. I am not sure that I
did not ask for it. And that reminds me. I want you to do me a favour,
if you will."

"Anything I can do for you," he answered, "you know will give me
pleasure."

She laughed softly.

"It is wonderful how you have improved," she murmured. "I want you to go
and see Lord Arranmore as often as you can. We are both very fond of him
really, mamma especially, and you know that he has a very strange
disposition. I am convinced that solitude is the very worst thing for
him. I saw him once after he had been alone for a month or two, and
really you would not have known him. He was as thin as a skeleton,
strange in his manner, and he had that sort of red light in his eyes
sometimes which always makes me think of mad people. He ought not to be
alone at all, but the usual sort of society only bores him. You will do
what you can, won't you?"

"I promise you that most heartily," Brooks declared. "But you must
remember, Lady Sybil, that after all it is entirely in his hands. He has
been most astonishingly kind to me, considering that I have no manner of
claim upon him. He has made me feel at home at Enton, too, and been most
thoughtful in every way. For, after all, you see I am only his man of
business. I have no friends much, and those whom I have are Medchester
people. You see I am scarcely in a position to offer him my society. But
all the same, I will take every opportunity I can of going to Enton if
he remains there."

She thanked him silently. Lady Caroom was on her feet, and Sybil and she
went out for their wraps. Lord Arranmore lit a fresh cigarette and sent
for his bill.

"By the bye, Brooks," he remarked, "one doesn't hear much of your man
Henslow."

"Mr. Bullsom and I were talking about it this evening," Brooks answered.
"We are getting a little anxious.

"You have had seven years of him. You ought to know what to expect."

"The war has blocked all legislation," Brooks said. "It has been the
usual excuse. Henslow was bound to wait. He would have done the
particular measures which we are anxious about more harm than good if he
had tried to force them upon the land. But now it is different. We are
writing to him. If nothing comes of it, Mr. Bullsom and I are going up
to see him."

Arranmore smiled.

"You are young to politics, Brooks," he remarked, "yet I should scarcely
have thought that you would have been imposed upon by such a man as
Henslow. He is an absolute fraud. I heard him speak once, and I read two
of his speeches. It was sufficient. The man is not in earnest. He has
some reason, I suppose, for wishing to write M.P. after his name, but I
am perfectly certain that he has not the slightest idea of carrying out
his pledges to you. You will have to take up politics, Brooks."

He laughed--a little consciously.

"Some day," he said, "the opportunity may come. I will confess that it
is amongst my ambitions. But I have many years' work before me yet."

Lord Arranmore paid the bill, and they joined the women. As Brooks stood
bareheaded upon the pavement Arranmore turned towards him.

"We must have a farewell dinner," he said. "How would to-morrow suit
you--or Sunday?"

"I should like to walk over on Sunday, if I might," Brooks answered,
promptly.

"We shall expect you to lunch. Good-night."

The carriage drove off. Brooks walked thoughtfully through the silent
streets to his rooms.


XVI--UNCLE AND NIECE

Mr. Bullsom was an early riser, and it chanced that, as was frequently
the case, on the morning following Brooks' visit he and Mary sat down to
breakfast together. But when, after a cursory glance through his
letters, he unfolded the paper, she stopped him.

"Uncle," she said, "I want to talk to you for a few minutes, if I may."

"Go ahead," he answered. "No fear of our being interrupted. I shall
speak to those girls seriously about getting up. Now, what is it?

"I want to earn my own living, uncle," she said, quietly.

He looked over his spectacles at her.

"Eh?"

"I want to earn my own living," she repeated. "I have been looking about
for a means of doing so, and I think that I have succeeded."

Mr. Bullsom took off his spectacles and wiped them carefully.

"Earn your own living, eh!" he repeated. "Well! Go on!"

Mary leaned across the table towards him.

"Don't think that I am not grateful for all you have done for me,
uncle," she said. "I am, indeed. Only I have felt lately that it was my
duty to order my life a little differently. I am young and strong, and
able to work. There is no reason why I should be a burden upon any one."

She found his quietness ominous, but she did not flinch.

"I am not accomplished enough for a governess, or good-tempered enough
for a companion," she continued, "but I believe I have found something
which I can do. I have written several short stories for a woman's
magazine, and they have made me a sort of offer to do some regular work
for them. What they offer would just keep me. I want to accept."

"Where should you live?" he asked.

"In London!"

"Alone?

"There is a girls' club in Chelsea somewhere. I should go there at
first, and then try and share rooms with another girl."

"How much a week will they give you?"

"Twenty-eight shillings, and I shall be allowed to contribute regularly
to the magazine at the usual rates. I ought to make at least forty
shillings a week."

Mr. Bullsom sighed.

"Is this owing to any disagreement between you and the girls?" he asked,
sharply.

"Certainly not," she answered.

"You ain't unhappy here? Is there anything we could do? I don't want to
lose you."

Mary was touched. She had expected ridicule or opposition. This was more
difficult.

"Of course I am not unhappy," she answered. "You and aunt have been both
of you most generous and kind to me. But I do feel that a busy
life--and I'm not a bit domestic, you know would be good for me. I
believe, uncle, if you were in my place you would feel just like me. If
you were able to, I expect you'd want to earn your own living."

"You shall go!" he said, decidedly. "I'll help you all I can. You shall
have a bit down to buy furniture, if you want it, or an allowance till
you feel your way. But, Mary, I'm downright sorry. No, I'm not blaming
you. You've a right to go. I--I don't believe I'd live here if I
were you.

"You are very good, uncle," Mary said, gratefully. "And you must
remember it isn't as though I were leaving you alone. You have the
girls."

Mr. Bullsom nodded.

"Yes," he said, "I have the girls. Look here, Mary," he added, suddenly,
looking her in the face, "I want to have a word with you. I'm going to
talk plainly. Be honest with me."

"Of course," she murmured.

"It's about the girls. It's a hard thing to say, but somehow--I'm a
bit disappointed with them."

She looked at him in something like amazement.

"Yes, disappointed," he continued. "That's the word. I'm an uneducated
man myself--any fool can see that--but I did all I could to
have them girls different. They've been to the best school in
Medchester, and they've been abroad. They've had masters in most
everything, and I've had 'em taught riding and driving, and all that
sort of thing, properly. Then as they grew up I built this 'ouse, and
came up to live here amongst the people whom I reckoned my girls'd be
sure to get to know. And the whole thing's a damned failure, Mary.
That's the long and short of it."

"Perhaps--a little later on" Mary began, hesitatingly.

"Don't interrupt me," he said, brusquely. "This is the first honest talk
I've ever had about it, and it's doing me good. The girls'd like to put
it down to your mother and me, but I don't believe it. I'm ashamed to
say it, but I'm afraid it's the girls themselves. There's something not
right about them, but I'm blessed if I know what it is. Their mother and
I are a bit vulgar, I know, but I've done my best to copy those who know
how to behave--and I believe we'd get through for what we are
anywhere without giving offence. But my girls oughtn't to be vulgar.
It's education as does away with that, and I've filled em chock-full of
education from the time they were babies. It's run out of them, Mary,
like the sands through an hour-glass. They can speak correctly, and I
dare say they know all the small society tricks. But that isn't
everything. They don't know how to dress. They can spend just as much as
they like, and then you can come into the room in a black gown as you
made yourself, and you look a lady, and they don't. That's the long and
short of it. The only decent people who come to this house are your
friends, and they come to see you. There's young Brooks, now. I've no
son, Mary, and I'm fond of young men. I never knew one I liked as I like
him. My daughters are old enough to be married, and I'd give fifty
thousand pounds to have him for a son-in-law. And, of course, he won't
look at 'em. He sees it. He'll talk to you. He takes no more notice of
them than is civil. They fuss round him, and all that, but they might
save themselves the pains. It's hard lines, Mary. I'm making money as no
one knows on. I could live at Enton and afford it. But what's the good
of it? If people don't care to know us here, they won't anywhere. Mary,
how was it education didn't work with them girls? Your mother was my own
sister, and she married a gentleman. He was a blackguard, but hang it,
Mary, if I were you I'd sooner be penniless and as you are than be my
daughters with five thousand apiece."

There was an embarrassed silence. Then Mary faced the situation boldly.

"Uncle," she said, "you are asking my advice. Is that it?"

"If there's any advice you can give, for God's sake let's have it. But I
don't know as you can make black white."

"Selina and Louise are good girls enough," she said, "but they are a
little spoilt, and they are a little limited in their ideas. A town like
this often has that effect. Take them abroad, uncle, for a year, or,
better still, if you can find the right person, get a companion for
them--a lady--and let her live in the house."

"That's sound!" he answered. "I'll do it."

"And about their clothes, uncle. Take them up to London, go to one of
the best places, and leave the people to make their things. Don't let
them interfere. Down here they've got to choose for themselves. They
wouldn't care about taking advice here, but in London they'd probably be
content to leave it. Take them up to town for a fortnight. Stay at one
of the best hotels, the Berkeley or the Carlton, and let them see plenty
of nice people. And don't be discouraged, uncle."

"Where the devil did you get your common-sense from?" he inquired,
fiercely. "Your mother hadn't got it, and I'll swear your father
hadn't."

She laughed heartily.

"Above all, be firm with them, uncle," she said. "Put your foot down,
and stick to it. They'll obey you.

"Obey me? Good Lord, I'll make 'em," Mr. Bullsom declared, vigorously.
"Mary, you're a brick. I feel quite cheerful. And, remember this, my
girl. I shall make you an allowance, but that's nothing. Come to me when
you want a bit extra, and if ever the young man turns up, then I've got
a word or two to say. Mind, I shall only be giving you your own. My
will's signed and sealed."

She kissed him fondly.

"You're a good sort, uncle," she said. "And now will you tell me what
you think of this letter?"

"Read it to me, dear," he said. "My eyes aren't what they were."

She obeyed him.

"41, BUCKLESBURY, LONDON, E. C.

"DEAR MADAM,

"We have received a communication from our agents at Montreal, asking us
to ascertain the whereabouts of Miss Mary Scott, daughter of Richard
Scott, at one time a resident in that city.

"We believe that you are the young lady in question, and if you will do
us the favour of calling at the above address, we may be able to give
you some information much to your advantage.

"We are, dear madam,

"Yours respectfully,

"JONES AND LLOYD."

Mr. Bullsom stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"Sounds all right," he remarked. "Of course you'll go. But I always
understood that your father's relations were as poor as church mice."

"Poorer, uncle! His father--my grandfather, that is--was a
clergyman with barely enough to live on, and his uncle was a Roman
Catholic priest. Both of them have been dead for years."

"And your father--well, I know there was nothing there," Mr.
Bullsom remarked, thoughtfully.

"You cabled out the money to bring me home," Mary reminded him.

"Well, well!" Mr. Bullsom declared. "You must go and see these chaps.
There's no harm in that, at any rate. We must all have that trip to
London. I expect Brooks will be wanting to go and see Henslow. We'll
have to give that chap what for, I know."

Selina sailed into the room in a salmon-coloured wrapper, which should
long ago have been relegated to the bath-room. She pecked her father on
the cheek and nodded to Mary.

"Don't you see Mr. Brooks, dear?" her father remarked, with a twinkle in
his eye and something very much like a wink to Mary.

Selina screamed, and looked fearfully around the room.

"What do you mean, papa?" she exclaimed. "There is no one here."

"Serve you right if there had been," Mr. Bullsom declared, gruffly. "A
pretty state to come down in the morning at past nine o'clock."

Selina tossed her head.

"I am going to dress directly after breakfast," she remarked.

"Then if you'll allow me to say so," her father declared, "before
breakfast is the time to dress, and not afterwards. You're always the
same, Selina, underdressed when you think there's no one around to see
you, and overdressed when there is."

Selina poured herself out some coffee and yawned.

"La, papa, what do you know about it?" she exclaimed.

"What my eyes tell me," Mr. Bullsom declared, sternly. "You've no
allowance to keep to. You've leave to spend what you want, and you're
never fit to be seen. There's Mary there taking thirty pounds a year
from me, and won't have a penny more, though she's heartily welcome to
it, and she looks a lady at any moment of the day."

Selina drew herself up, and her eyes narrowed a little.

"You're talking about what, you don't understand, pa," she answered with
dignity. "If you prefer Mary's style of dress"--she glanced with
silent disparagement at her cousin's grey skirt and plain white
blouse--"well, it's a matter of taste, isn't it?

"Taste!" Mr. Bullsom replied, contemptuously. "Taste! What sort of taste
do you call that beastly rug on your shoulders, eh? Or your hair rolled
round and just a pin stuck through it? Looks as though it hadn't been
brushed for a week. Faugh! When your mother and I lived on two pounds a
week she never insulted me by coming down to breakfast in such a thing."

Selina eyed her father in angry astonishment.

"Thing indeed!" she repeated. "This wrapper cost me four guineas, and
came from Paris. That shows how much you know about it."

"From Paris, did it?" Mr. Bullsom retorted, fiercely. "Then up-stairs
you go and take it off. You girls have had your own way too much, and
I'm about tired of it."

"I shall change it--after breakfast," Selina said, doubtfully.

Mr. Bullsom threw open the door.

"Up-stairs," he repeated, "and throw it into the rag-bag."

Selina hesitated. Then she rose, and with scarlet cheeks and a poor show
of dignity, left the room. Mr. Bullsom drew himself up and beamed upon
Mary.

"I'll show'em a bit," he declared, with great good-humour. "I may be an
ignorant old man, but I'm going to wake these girls up."

Mary struggled for a moment, but her sense of humour triumphed. She
burst out laughing.

"Oh, uncle, uncle," she exclaimed, "you're a wonderful man."

He beamed upon her.

"You come shopping with us in London," he said. "We'll have some fun."


XVII--FIFTEEN YEARS IN HELL

"Really," Lady Caroom exclaimed, "Enton is the cosiest large house I was
ever in. Do throw that Bradshaw away, Arranmore. The one o'clock train
will do quite nicely."

Lord Arranmore obeyed her literally. He jerked the volume lightly into a
far corner of the room and came over to her side. She was curled up in a
huge easy-chair, and her face caught by the glow of the dancing
firelight almost startled him by its youth. There was not a single sign
of middle age in the smooth cheeks, not a single grey hair, no sign of
weariness in the soft full eyes raised to his.

She caught his glance and smiled.

"The firelight is so becoming!" she murmured.

"Don't go!" he said.

"My dear Arranmore. The Redcliffes would never forgive me, and we must
go some time."

"I don't see the necessity," he answered, slowly. "You like Enton. Make
it your home."

She raised her eyebrows.

"How improper!" "Not necessarily," he answered. "Take me too."

She sat up in her chair and regarded him steadily.

"Am I to regard this," she asked, "as an offer of marriage?"

"Well, it sounds like it," he admitted.

"Dear me. You might have given me a little more notice," she said. "Let
me think for a moment, please."

Perhaps their thoughts travelled back in the same direction. He
remembered his cousin and his playfellow, the fairest and daintiest girl
he had ever seen, his best friend, his constant companion. He remembered
the days when she had first become something more to him, the miseries
of that time, his hopeless ineligibility--the separation. Then the
years of absence, the terrible branding years of his life, the horrible
pit, the time when night and day his only prayer had been the prayer for
death. The self-repression of years seemed to grow weaker and weaker. He
held out his hands. But she hesitated.

"Dear," she said, "you make me very happy. It is wonderful to think this
may come after all these years. But there is something which I wish to
say to you first."

"Well?"

"You are very, very dear to me now--as you are--but you are
not the man I loved years ago. You are a very different person indeed.
Sometimes I am almost afraid of you.

"You have no cause to be," he said. "Indeed, you have no cause to be. So
far as you are concerned I have never changed. I am the same man."

She took one of his hands in hers.

"Philip," she said, "you must not think hardly of me. You must not think
of me as simply afflicted with the usual woman's curiosity. I am not
curious at all. I would rather not know. But remember that for nearly
twenty years you passed out of my life. You have come back again
wonderfully altered. You do not wish to keep the story of those years
for ever a sort of Bluebeards chamber in our lives?"

"Not I," he answered. "I would have you do as I have done, rip them out
page and chapter, annihilate them utterly. What have they to do with the
life before us? To you they would seem evil enough, to me they are
thronged with horrible memories, with memories which, could I take them
with me, would poison heaven itself. So let us blot them out for ever.
Come to me, Catherine, and help me to forget."

She looked at him with strained eyes.

"Philip," she said, "I must understand you. I must understand what has
made you the man you are."

"Fifteen years in hell has done it," he answered, fiercely. "Not even my
memory shall ever take me back."

"If I marry you," she said, "remember that I marry your past as well as
your future. And there are things--which need explanation."

"Well?"

"You have been married."

"She is dead."

"You have a son."

He reeled as though he had been struck, and the silence between them was
as the silence of tragedy.

"You see," she continued, "I am bound to ask you to lift the curtain a
little. Fate or instinct, or whatever you may like to call it, has led
me a little way. I am not afraid to know. I have seen too much of life
to be a hard judge. But you must hold out your hand and take me a little
further."

"I cannot."

She held him tightly. Her voice trembled a little. "Dear, you must. I am
not an exacting woman, and I love you too well to be a hard judge of
anything you might have to tell me. Ignorance is the only thing which I
cannot bear. Remember how greatly you are changed, you are almost a
stranger to me in some of your moods. I could not have you wandering off
into worlds of which I knew nothing. Sit down by my side and talk to me.
I will ask no questions. You shall tell me your own way, and what you
wish to leave out--leave it out. Come, is this so hard a task?"

He seemed frozen into inanition. His face was like the cast of a dead
man's. His voice was cold and hopeless.

"The key," he said, "is gone. I shall never seek for it, I shall never
find it. I have known what madness is, and I am afraid. Shall we go into
the hall? I fancy that they are serving tea."

She looked at him, half terrified, half amazed.

"You mean this as final?" she said, deliberately. "You refuse to offer
any explanation, the explanation which common decency even would require
of these things?"

"I expected too much," he answered. "I know it very well. Forgive me,
and let us forget."

She rose to her feet.

"I do not know that you will ever regret this," she said. "I pray that
you may."

To Brooks she seemed the same charming woman as usual, as he heard her
light laugh come floating across the hall, and bowed over her white
fingers. But Sybil saw the over-bright eyes and nervous mouth and had
hard work to keep back the tears. She piled the cushions about a dark
corner of the divan, and chattered away recklessly.

"This is a night of sorrows," she exclaimed, pouring out the tea. "Mr.
Brooks and I were in the midst of a most affecting leave-taking--when
the tea came. Why do these mundane things always break in upon the
most sacred moments?"

"Life," Lady Caroom said, helping herself recklessly to muffin, "is such
a wonderful mixture of the real and the fanciful, the actual and the
sentimental, one is always treading on the heels of the other. The
little man who turns the handle must have lots of fun."

"If only he has a sense of humour," Brooks interposed. "After all,
though, it is the grisly, ugly things which float to the top. One has to
probe always for the beautiful, and it requires our rarest and most
difficult sense to apprehend the humorous."

Lord Arranmore stirred his tea slowly. His face was like the face of a
carved image. Only Brooks seemed still unconscious of the shadow which
was stalking amongst them.

"We talk of life so glibly," he said. "It is a pity that we cannot
realize its simplest elements. Life is purely subjective. Nothing exists
except in our point of view. So we are continually making and marring
our own lives and the lives of other people by a word, an action, a
thought."

"Dear me!" Lady Caroom murmured. "How-ever shall I be able to play
bridge after tea if you all try to addle my brain by paradoxes and
subtle sayings beforehand! What does Arranmore mean?"

He put down his cup.

"Do not dare to understand me," he said. "It is the most sincere
unkindness when one talks only to answer. And as for bridge--remember
that this is a night of mourning. Bridge is far too frivolous a pursuit."

"Bridge a frivolous pursuit?" Sybil exclaimed. "Heavens, what sacrilege.
What ought we to do, Lord Arranmore?"

"Sit in sackcloth and ashes, and hear Brooks lecture on the poor," he
answered, lightly. "Brooks is a mixture of the sentimentalist and the
hideous pessimist, you know, and it is the privilege of his years to be
sometimes in earnest. I know nothing more depressing than to listen to a
man who is in earnest."

"You are getting positively light-headed," Sybil laughed. "I can see no
pleasure in life save that which comes from an earnest pursuit of
things, good or evil."

"My dear child," Lord Arranmore answered, "when you are a little older
you will know that to take life seriously is a sheer impossibility. You
may think that you are doing it, but you are not."

"There must be exceptions," Sybil declared.

"There are none," Lord Arranmore answered, lightly, "outside the
madhouse. For the realization of life comes only hand in hand with
insanity. The people who have come nearest to it carry the mark with
them all their life. For the fever of knowledge will scorch even those
who peer over the sides of the cauldron."

Lady Caroom helped herself to some more tea.

"Really, Arranmore," she drawled, "for sheer and unadulterated pessimism
you are unsurpassed. You must be a very morbid person."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"One is always called morbid," he remarked, "who dares to look towards
the truth."

"There are people," Lady Caroom answered, "who look always towards the
clouds, even when the sun is shining."

"I am in the minority," Lord Arranmore said, smiling. "I feel myself
becoming isolated. Let us abandon the subject."

"No, let us convert you instead," Sybil declared. "We want to look at
the sun, and we want to take you with us. You are really a very stupid
person, you know. Why do you want to stay all alone amongst the
shadows?" Arranmore smiled faintly.

"The sun shines," he said, "only for those who have eyes to see it."

"Blindness is not incurable," she answered.

"Save when the light in the eyes is dead," he answered. "Come, shall we
play a game at fourhanded billiards?"

It resolved itself into a match between Lady Caroom and Lord Arranmore,
who were both players far above the average. Sybil and Brooks talked,
but for once her attention wandered. She seemed listening to the click
of the billiard-balls, and watching the man and the woman between whom
all conversation seemed dead. Brooks noticed her absorption, and
abandoned his own attempts to interest her.

"Your mother and Lord Arranmore," he remarked, "are very old friends."

"They have known one another all their lives," she murmured. "Lord
Arranmore has changed a good deal though since his younger days."

Brooks made no reply. The girl suddenly bent her head towards him.

"Are you a judge of character?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"Scarcely. I have not had enough experience. It is a fascinating study."

"Very. Now I want to ask you something. What do you think of Lord
Arranmore?"

Her tone betokened unusual seriousness. His light answer died away on
his lips.

"It is very hard for me to answer that question," he said. "Lord
Arranmore has been most unnecessarily kind to me."

"His character?"

"I do not pretend to be able to understand it. I think that he is often
wilfully misleading. He does not wish to be understood. He delights in
paradoxy and moral gymnastics."

"He may blind your judgment. How do you personally feel towards him?"

"That," he answered, "might be misleading. He has shown me so much
kindness. Yet I think--I am sure--that I liked him from the
first moment I saw him."

She nodded.

"I like him too. I cannot help it. Yet one can be with him, can live in
the same house for weeks, even months, and remain an utter stranger to
him. He has self-repression which is marvellous--never at
fault--never a joint loose. One wonders so much what lies beyond.
One would like to know."

"Is it wise?" he asked. "After all, is it our concern?

"Not ours. But if you were a woman would you be content to take him on
trust?"

"It would depend upon my own feelings," he answered, hesitatingly.

"Whether you cared for him?"

"Yes!"

She beat the floor with her foot.

"You are wrong," she said, "I am sure that you are wrong. To care for
one is to wish ever to believe the best of them. It is better to keep
apart for ever than to run any risks. Supposing that unknown past was of
evil, and one discovered it. To care for him would only make the
suffering keener."

"It may be so," he admitted. "May I ask you something?"

"Well?"

"You speak--of yourself?"

Her eyes met his, and he looked hastily downwards.

"Absurd," she murmured, and inclined her head towards the
billiard-table. "They have been--attached to one another always.
Come over here to the window, and I will tell you something."

They walked towards the great circular window which overlooked the
drive. As they stood there together a four-wheeled cab drove slowly by,
and a girl leaned forward and looked at them. Brooks started as he
recognized her.

"Why, that must be some one for me," he exclaimed, in a puzzled tone.
"Whatever can have happened to old Bullsom?"

She looked at him politely bewildered.

"It is the niece of a man whom I know very well in Medchester," he
exclaimed. "Something must have happened to her uncle. It is most
extraordinary."


XVIII--MARY SCOTT PAYS AN UNEXPECTED CALL

Brooks met the butler entering the room with a card upon his salver. He
stretched out his hand for it mechanically, but the man only regarded
him in mild surprise. "For his lordship, sir. Excuse me."

The man passed on. Brooks remained bewildered. Lord Arranmore took the
card from the tray and examined it leisurely.

"Miss Mary Scott," he repeated aloud. "Are you sure that the young lady
asked to see me?"

"Quite sure, your lordship," the servant answered.

"Scott. The name sounds familiar, somehow!" Lord Arranmore said.
"Haven't I heard you mention it, Brooks?

"Miss Scott is the niece of Mr. Bullsom, one of my best clients, a large
builder in Medchester," Brooks answered. "Why?"

He stopped suddenly short. Arranmore glanced towards him in polite
unconcern.

"You saw her with me at Mellon's, in Medchester. You asked me her name."

Lord Arranmore bent the card in his forefinger, and dropped his
eyeglass.

"So that is the young lady," he remarked. "I remember her distinctly.
But I do not understand what she can want within me. Is she by any
chance, Brooks, one of those young persons who go about with a
collecting-card--who want money for missions and that sort of
thing? If so, I am afraid she has wasted her cab fare."

"She is not in the least that sort of person," Brooks answered,
emphatically. "I have no idea what she wants to see you about, but I am
convinced that her visit has a legitimate object."

Lord Arranmore stuck the card in his waistcoat pocket and shrugged his
shoulders.

"You are my man of affairs, Brooks. I commission you to see her. Find
out her business if you can, and don't let me be bothered unless it is
necessary."

Brooks hesitated.

"I am not sure that I care to interfere--that my presence might not
be likely to cause her embarrassment," he said. "I have seen her lately,
and she made no mention of this visit."

Lord Arranmore glanced at him as though surprised. "I should like you to
see her," he said, suavely. "It seems to me preferable to asking her to
state her business to a servant. If you have any objection to doing so
she must be sent back."

Brooks turned unwillingly away. As he had expected, Mary sprang to her
feet upon his entrance into the room, and the colour streamed into her
cheeks.

"You here!" she exclaimed.

He shook hands with her, and tried to behave as though he thought her
presence the most natural thing in the world. "Yes. You see I am Lord
Arranmore's man of affairs now, and he keeps me pretty hard at work. He
seems to have a constitutional objection to doing anything for himself.
He has even sent me to--to--"

"I understand," she interrupted. "To ascertain my business. Well, I
can't tell it even to you. It is Lord Arranmore whom I want to see. No
one else will do."

Brooks leaned against the table and looked at her with a puzzled smile.

"You see, it's a little awkward, isn't it?" he declared. "Lord Arranmore
is very eccentric, and especially so upon this point. He will not see
strangers. Write him a line or two and let me take it to him."

She considered for a moment.

"Very well. Give me a piece of paper and an envelope."

She wrote a single line only. Brooks took it back into the great inner
hall, where Lord Arranmore had started another game of billiards with
Lady Caroom.

"Miss Scott assured me that her business with you is private," he
announced. "She has written this note."

Lord Arranmore laid his cue deliberately aside and broke the seal. It
was evident that the contents of the note consisted of a few words only,
yet after once perusing them he moved a little closer to the light and
re-read them slowly. Then with a little sigh he folded the note in the
smallest possible compass and thrust it into his waistcoat pocket.

"Your young friend, my dear Brooks," he said, taking up his cue, "does
me the honour to mistake me for some one else. Will you inform her that
I have no knowledge of the person to whom she alludes, and
suggest--as delicately as you choose--that as she is mistaken
an interview is unnecessary. It is, I believe, my turn, Catherine." "You
decline, then, to see her?" Brooks said.

Lord Arranmore turned upon him with a rare irritation.

"Have I not made myself clear, Brooks?" he said. "If I were to keep open
house to all the young women who choose to claim acquaintance with me I
should scarcely have a moment to call my own, or a house fit to ask my
friends to visit. Be so good as to make my answer sufficiently
explicit."

"It is unnecessary, Lord Arranmore. I have come to ask you for it
yourself."

They all turned round. Mary Scott was coming slowly towards them across
the thick rugs, into which her feet sunk noiselessly. Her face was very
pale, and her large eyes were full of nervous apprehension. But about
her mouth were certain rigid lines which spoke of determination.

Sybil leaned forward from her chair, and Lady Caroom watched her
approach with lifted eyebrows and a stare of well-bred and languid
insolence. Lord Arranmore laid down his cue and rose at once to meet
her.

"You are Lord Arranmore," she said, looking at him fixedly. "Will you
please answer the question--in my note?"

He bowed a little coldly, but he made no remark as to her intrusion. "I
have already," he said, "given my answer to Mr. Brooks. The name which
you mention is altogether unknown to me, nor have I ever visited the
place you speak of. You have apparently been misled by a chance
likeness."

"It is a very wonderful one," she said, slowly, keeping her eyes fixed
upon him.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I regret," he said, "that you should have had your journey for nothing.
I can, I presume, be of no further use to you."

"I do not regret my journey here," she answered. "I could not rest until
I had seen you closely, face to face, and asked you that question. You
deny then that you were ever called Philip Ferringshaw?"

"Most assuredly," he answered, curtly.

"That is very strange," she said.

"Strange?

"Yes. It is very strange because I am perfectly certain that you were."

He took up his cue and commenced chalking it in a leisurely manner.

"My dear young lady," he said, "you are; I understand, a friend of Mr.
Brooks, and are therefore entitled to some amount of consideration from
me. But I must respectfully remind you that your presence here is, to
put it mildly, unsought, and that I do not find it pleasant to be called
a liar under my own roof and before my friends."

"Pleasant!" she eyed him scornfully; "nor did my father find it pleasant
to be ruined and murdered by you, a debauched gambler, a common
swindler."

Lord Arranmore, unruffled, permitted himself to smile.

"Dear me," he said, "this is getting positively melodramatic. Brooks,
for her own sake, let me beg of you to induce the young woman to leave
us. In her calmer moments she will, I am sure, repent of these
unwarranted statements to a perfect stranger."

Brooks was numbed--for the moment speechless. Sybil had risen to
her feet as though with the intention of leaving the room. But Lord
Arranmore interposed. If he were acting it was marvellously done.

"I beg," he said, "that you will none of you desert me. These
accusations of--Miss Scott, I believe are unnerving. A murderer, a
swindler and a rogue are hard names, young lady. May I ask if your
string of invectives is exhausted, or is there any further abuse which
you feel inclined to heap upon me?"

The girl never flinched.

"I have called you nothing," she said, "which you do not deserve. Do you
still deny that you were in Canada--in Montreal--sixteen years
ago?"

"Most assuredly I do deny it," he answered.

Brooks started, and turned suddenly towards Lord Arranmore as though
doubtful whether he had heard rightly. This was a year before his
father's death. The girl was unmoved.

"I see that I should come here with proofs," she exclaimed. "Well, they
are easy enough to collect. You shall have them. But before I go, Lord
Arranmore, let me ask you if you know who I am."

"I understand," Lord Arranmore answered, "that you are the daughter or
niece of a highly respectable tradesman in Medchester, who is a client
of our young friend here, Mr. Brooks. Let me tell you, young lady, that
but for that fact I should not--tolerate your presence here."

"I am Mr. Bullsom's niece," the girl answered, "but I am the daughter of
Martin Scott Cartnell!"

It seemed to Brooks that a smothered exclamation of some sort broke from
Lord Arranmore's tightly compressed lips, but his face was so completely
in the shadow that its expression was lost. But he himself now revealed
it, for touching a knob in the wall a shower of electric lamps suddenly
glowed around the room. He leaned forward and looked intently into the
face of the girl who had become his accuser. She met his gaze coldly,
without flinching, the pallor of her cheeks relieved by a single spot of
burning colour, her eyes bright with purpose.

"It is incredible," he said, softly, "but it is true. You are the untidy
little thing with a pigtail who used always to be playing games with the
boys when you ought to have been at school. Come, I am glad to see you.
Why do you come to me like a Cassandra of the Family Herald? Your father
was my companion for a while, but we were never intimate. I certainly
neither robbed nor murdered him."

"You did both," she answered, fiercely. "You were his evil genius from
the first. It was through you he took to drink, through you he became a
gambler. You encouraged him to play for stakes larger than he could
afford. You won money from him which you knew was not his to lose. He
came to you for help. You laughed at him. That night he shot himself."

"It was," Lord Arranmore remarked, "a very foolish thing to do."

"Who or what you were before you came to Montreal I do not know," she
continued, "but there you brought misery and ruin upon every one
connected with you. I was a child in those days, but I remember how you
were hated. You broke the heart of Durran Lapage, an honest man whom you
called your friend, and you left his wife to starve in a common lodging
house. There was never a man or woman who showed you kindness that did
not live to regret it. You may be the Marquis of Arranmore now, but you
have left a life behind the memory of which should be a constant torture
to you."

"Have you finished, young lady?" he asked, coldly.

"Yes, I have finished," she answered. "I pray Heaven that the next time
we meet may be in the police-court. The police of Montreal are still
looking for Philip Ferringshaw, and they will find in me a very ready
witness."

"Upon my word, this is a most unpleasant young person," Lord Arranmore
said. "Brooks, do see her off the premises before she changes her mind
and comes for me again. You have, I hope, been entertained, ladies," he
added, turning to Sybil and Lady Caroom.

He eyed them carelessly enough to all appearance, yet with an inward
searchingness which seemed to find what it feared. He turned to Brooks,
but he and Mary Scott had left the room together.

"The girl-was terribly in earnest," Lady Caroom said, with averted eyes.
"Were you not--a little cruel to her, Arranmore? Not that I believe
these horrid things, of course. But she did. She was honest."

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders. He was looking out of the window,
out into the grey windy darkness, listening to the raindrops splashing
against the window-pane, wondering how long Brooks would be, and if in
his face too he should see the shadow, and it seemed to him that Brooks
lingered a very long time.

"Shall we finish our game of billiards, Catherine?" he asked, turning
towards her.

"Well--I think not," she answered. "I am a little tired, and it is
almost time the dressing bell rang. I think Sybil and I will go
up-stairs."

They passed away--he made no effort to detain them. He lit a
cigarette, and paced the room impatiently. At last he rang the bell.

"Where is Mr. Brooks?" he asked.

"Mr. Brooks has only just returned, my lord," the man answered. "He went
some distance with the young lady. He has gone direct to his room."

Lord Arranmore nodded. He threw himself into his easy-chair, and his
head sank upon his hand. He looked steadfastly into the heart of the red
coals.


XIX--THE MARQUIS MEPHISTOPHELES

"I am so sorry," she said, softly, "our last evening is spoilt."

He shook his head with an effort at gaiety.

"Let us conspire," he said. "You and I at least will make a struggle."

"I am afraid," she said, "that it would be hopeless. Mother is an
absolute wreck, and I saw Lord Arranmore go into the library just now
with that terrible white look under his eyes. I saw it once before.
Ugh!"

"After all," he said, "it only means that we shall be honest.
Cheerfulness to-night could only be forced."

She laughed softly into his eyes.

"How correct!" she murmured. "You are improving fast."

He turned and looked at her, slim and graceful in her white muslin gown,
her fair hair brushed back from her forehead with a slight wave, but
drooping low over her ears, a delicate setting for her piquant face. The
dark brown eyes, narrowing a little towards the lids, met his with frank
kindliness, her mouth quivered a little as though with the desire to
break away into a laugh. The slight duskiness of her cheeks--she
had lived for three years in Italy and never worn a veil--pleased
him better than the insipidity of pink and white, and the absence of
jewelry--she wore neither bracelet nor rings gave her an added
touch of distinction, which restless youth finds something so much
harder to wear than sedate middle age. The admiration grew in his eyes.
She was charming.

The lips broke away at last.

"After all," she murmured, "I think that I shall enjoy myself this
evening. You are looking all sorts of nice things at me."

"My eyes," he answered, "are more daring than my lips."

"And you call yourself a lawyer?"

"Is that a challenge? Well, I was thinking that you looked charming."

"Is that all? I have a looking-glass, you know."

"And I shall miss you--very much."

She suddenly avoided his eyes, but it was for a second only. Yet Brooks
was himself conscious of the significance of that second. He set his
teeth hard.

"The days here," he said, slowly, "have been very pleasant. It has all
been--such a different life for me. A few months ago I knew no one
except a few of the Medchester people, and was working hard to make a
modest living. Sometimes I feel here as though I were a modern Aladdin.
There is a sense of unreality about Lord Arranmore's extraordinary
kindness to me. To-night, more than ever, I cannot help feeling that it
is something like a dream which may pass away at any moment."

She looked at him thoughtfully.

"Lord Arranmore is not an impulsive person," she said. "He must have had
some reason for being so decent to you."

"Yes, as regards the management of his affairs perhaps," Brooks
answered. "But why he should ask me here, and treat me as though I were
his social equal and all that sort of thing--well, you know that is
a puzzle, isn't it?"

"Well, I don't know," she answered. "Lord Arranmore is not exactly the
man to be a slave to, or even to respect, the conventional, and your
being--what you are, naturally makes you a pleasant companion to
him--and his guests. No, I don't think that it is strange."

"You are very flattering," he said, smiling.

"Not in the least," she assured him. "Now-a-days birth seems to be
rather a handicap than otherwise to the making of the right sort of
people. I am sure there are more impossibilities in the peerage than in
the nouveaux riches. I know heaps of people who because their names are
in Debrett seem to think that manners are unnecessary, and that they
have a sort of God-sent title to gentility."

Brooks laughed.

"Why," he said, "you are more than half a Radical."

"It is your influence," she said, demurely.

"It will soon pass away," he sighed. "To-morrow you will be back again
amongst your friends."

She sighed.

"Why do one's friends bore one so much more than other people's?" she
exclaimed.

"When one thinks of it," he remarked, "you must have been very bored
here. Why, for the last fortnight there have been no other visitors in
the house."

"There have been compensations," she said.

"Tell me about them!" he begged.

She laughed up at him.

"If I were to say the occasional visits of Mr. Kingston Brooks, would
you be conceited?"

"It would be like putting my vanity in a hothouse," he answered, "but I
would try and bear it."

"Well, I will say it, then!"

He turned and looked at her with a sudden seriousness. Some
consciousness of the change in his mood seemed to be at once
communicated to her. Her eyes no longer met his. She moved a little on
one side and took up an ornament from an ormolu table.

"I wish that you meant it," he murmured.

"I do!" she whispered, almost under her breath.

Brooks suddenly forgot many things, but Nemesis intervened. There was
the sound of much rustling of silken skirts, and--Lady Caroom's
poodle, followed by herself, came round the angle of the drawing-room.

"My dear Sybil," she exclaimed, "do come and tie Balfour's ribbon for
me. Marie has no idea of making a bow spread itself out, and pink is so
becoming to him. Thanks, dear. Where is our host? I thought that I was
late."

Lord Arranmore entered as she spoke. His evening dress, as usual, was of
the most severely simple type. To-night its sombreness was impressive.
With such a background his pallor seemed almost waxen-like. He offered
his arm to Lady Caroom.

"I was not sure," he said, with a lightness which seemed natural enough,
"whether to-night I might not have to dine alone whilst you poor people
sat and played havoc with the shreds of my reputation. Groves, the
cabinet Johannesburg and the '84 Heidsieck--though I am afraid," he
added, looking down at his companion, "that not all the wine in my
cellar could make this feast of farewells a cheerful one."

"Farewell celebrations of all sorts are such a mistake," Lady Caroom
murmured. "We have been so happy here too."

"You brought the happiness with you," Lord Arranmore said, "and you take
it away with you. Enton will be a very dull place when you are gone.

"Your own stay here is nearly up, is it not?" Lady Caroom asked. "Very
nearly. I expect to go to Paris next week--at latest the week
after, in time at any rate for Bernhardt's new play. So I suppose we
shall soon all be scattered over the face of the earth."

"Except me," Brooks interposed, ruefully. "I shall be the one who will
do the vegetating."

Lady Caroom laughed softly.

"Foolish person! You will be within two hours of London. You none of you
have the slightest idea as to the sort of place we are going to. We are
a day's journey from anywhere. The morning papers are twenty-four hours
late. The men drink port wine, and the women sit round the fire in the
drawing-room after dinner and wait--and wait--and wait. Oh,
that awful waiting. I know it so well. And it isn't much better when the
men do come. They play whist instead of bridge, and a woman in the
billiard-room is a lost soul. Our hostess always hides my cue directly I
arrive, and pretends that it has been lost. By the bye, what a dear
little room this is, Arranmore. We haven't dined here before, have we?"

Lord Arranmore shook his head. He held up his wineglass thoughtfully as
though criticizing the clearness of the amber fluid.

"No!" he said. "I ordered dinner to be served in here because over our
dessert I propose to offer you a novel form of entertainment."

"How wonderful," Sybil said. "Will it be very engrossing? Will it help
us to forget?"

He looked at her with a smile.

"That depends," he said, "how anxious you are to forget."

She looked hastily away. For a moment Brooks met her eyes, and his heart
gave an unusual leap. Lady Caroom watched them both thoughtfully, and
then turned to their host.

"You have excited our curiosity, Arranmore. You surely don't propose to
keep us on tenterhooks all through dinner?"

"It will give a fillip to your appetite."

"My appetite needs no fillip. It is disgraceful to try and make me eat
more than I do already. I am getting hideously stout. I found my maid in
tears to-night because I positively could not get into my most becoming
bodice."

"If you possess a more becoming one than this," Lord Arranmore said,
with a bow, "it is well for our peace of mind that you cannot wear it."

"That is a very pretty subterfuge, but a subterfuge it remains," Lady
Caroom answered. "Now be candid. I love candour. What are you going to
do to amuse us?"

He shook his head.

"Do not spoil my effect. The slightest hint would make everything seem
tame. Brooks, I insist upon it that you try my Johannesburg. It was
given to my grandfather by the Grand Duke of Shleistein. Groves!"

Brooks submitted willingly enough, for the wine was wonderful. Sybil
leaned over so that their heads almost touched.

"Look at our host," she whispered. "What does he remind you of?"

Brooks glanced across the table, brilliant with its burden of old
silver, of cut-glass and hothouse flowers. Lord Arranmore's face,
notwithstanding his ready flow of conversation, seemed unusually still
and white--the skin drawn across the bones, even the lips pallid.
The sombreness of his costume, the glitter in his eyes, the icy coldness
of his lack of coloring, though time after time he set down his
wineglass empty, were curiously impressive. Brooks looked back into her
face, his eyes full of question.

"Mephistopheles," she whispered. "He is absolutely weird to-night. If he
sat and looked at me and we were alone I should shriek."

Lord Arranmore lifted a glass of champagne to the level of his head and
looked thoughtfully around the table.

"Come," he said, "a toast-to ourselves. Singly? Collectively. Lady
Caroom, I drink to the delightful memories with which you have peopled
Enton. Sybil, may you charm society as your mother has done. Brooks,
your very good health. May your entertainment this evening be a welcome
one.

"We will drink to all those things," Lady Caroom declared, "with
enthusiasm. But I am afraid your good wishes for Sybil are beyond any
hope of realization. She is far too honest to flourish in society. She
will probably marry a Bishop or a Cabinet Minister, and become engrossed
in theology or politics. You know how limiting that sort of thing is. I
am in deadly fear that she may become humdrum. A woman who really
studies or knows anything about anything can never be a really brilliant
woman."

"You--"

"Oh, I pass for being intelligent because I parade my ignorance so, just
as Sophie Mills is considered a paragon of morality because she is
always talking about running off with one of the boys in her husband's
regiment. It is a gigantic bluff, you know, but it comes off. Most
bluffs do come off if one is only daring enough."

"You must tell them that up at Redcliffe," Lord Arranmore remarked.

Sybil laughed heartily.

"Redcliffe is the one place where mother is dumb," she declared. "Up
there they look upon her as a stupid but well-meaning person. She is
absolutely afraid to open her mouth."

"They are so absurdly literal," Lady Caroom sighed, helping herself to
an infinitesimal portion of a wonderful savoury. "Don't talk about the
place. I know I shall have an attack of nerves there."

"Mother always gets nerves if she mayn't talk," Sybil murmured.

"You're an undutiful daughter," Lady Caroom declared. "If I do talk I
never say anything, so nobody need listen unless they like. About this
entertainment, Arranmore. Are you going to make the wineglass disappear
and the apples fly about the room a la Maskelyne and Cook? I hope our
share in it consists in sitting down."

Arranmore turned to the butler behind his chair.

"Have coffee and liqueur served here, Groves, and bring some cigarettes.
Then you can send the servants away and leave us alone."

The man bowed.

"Very good, your lordship."

Lord Arranmore looked around at his guests.

"The entertainment," he said, "will incur no greater hardship upon you
than a little patience. I am going to tell you a story."


XX--THE CONFIDENCE OF LORD ARRANMORE

The servants had left the room, and the doors were fast closed. Lord
Arranmore sat a little forward in his high-backed chair, one hand
grasping the arm, the other stretched flat upon the table before him. By
his side, neglected, was a cedar-wood box of his favourite cigarettes.

"I am going," he said, thoughtfully, "to tell you a story, of whom the
hero is--myself. A poor sort of entertainment perhaps, but then
there is a little tragedy and a little comedy in what I have to tell.
And you three are the three people in the world to whom certain things
were better told."

They bent forward, fascinated by the cold directness of his speech, by
the suggestion of strange things to come. The mask of their late gaiety
had fallen away. Lady Caroom, grave and sad-eyed, was listening with an
anxiety wholly unconcealed. Under the shaded lamplight their faces,
dominated by that cold masterly figure at the head of the table, were
almost Rembrandtesque.

"You have heard a string of incoherent but sufficiently damaging
accusations made against me to-day by a young lady whose very existence,
I may say, was a surprise to me. It suited me then to deny them.
Nevertheless they were in the main true."

The announcement was no shock. Every one of the three curiously enough
had believed the girl.

"I must go a little further back than the time of which she spoke. At
twenty-six years old I was an idle young man of good family, but scant
expectations, supposed to be studying at the Bar, but in reality idling
my time about town. In those days, Lady Caroom, you had some knowledge
of me."

"Up to the time of your disappearance--yes. I remember, Arranmore,"
she continued, her manner losing for a moment some of its restraint, and
her eyes and tone suddenly softening, "dancing with you that evening. We
arranged to meet at Ranelagh the next day, and, when the next day came,
you had vanished, gone as completely as though the earth had swallowed
you up. For weeks every one was asking what has become of him. And
then--I suppose you were forgotten."

"This," Lord Arranmore continued, "is the hardest part of my narrative,
the hardest because the most difficult to make you understand. You will
forgive my offering you the bare facts only. I will remind you that I
was young, impressionable, and had views. So to continue!"

The manner of his speech was in its way chillingly impressive. He was
still sitting in exactly the same position, one hand upon the arm of his
high-backed chair, the other upon the table before him. He made use of
no gestures, his face remained as white and emotionless as a carved
image, his tone, though clear and low, was absolutely monotonous. But
there was about him a subtle sense of repression apparent to all of
them.

"On my way home that night my hansom knocked down an old man. He was not
seriously hurt, and I drove him home. On the way he stared at me
curiously. Every now and then he laughed--unpleasantly.

"'I have never seen any one out of your world before,' he said. 'I dare
say you have never spoken to any one out of mine except to toss us alms.
Come and see where I live.'

"He insisted, and I went. I found myself in a lodging-house, now pulled
down and replaced by one of Lord Rowton's tenement houses. I saw a
hundred human beings more or less huddled together promiscuously, and
the face of every one of them was like the face of a rat. The old man
dragged me from room to room, laughing all the time. He showed me
children herded together without distinction of sex or clothing, here
and there he pointed to a face where some apprehension of the light was
fighting a losing battle with the ghouls of disease, of vice, of foul
air, of filth. I was faint and giddy when we had looked over that one
house, but the old man was not satisfied. He dragged me on to the roof
and pointed eastwards. There, as far as the eyes could reach, was a
blackened wilderness of smoke-begrimed dwellings. He looked at me and
grinned. I can see him now. He had only one tooth, a blackened yellow
stump, and every time he opened his mouth to laugh he was nearly choked
with coughing. He leaned out over the palisading and reached with both
his arms eastward. 'There,' he cried, frantically, 'you have seen one.
There are thousands and tens of thousands of houses like this, a million
crawling vermin who were born into the world in your likeness, as you
were born, my fine gentleman. Day by day they wake in their holes, fill
their lungs with foul air, their stomachs with rotten food, break their
backs and their hearts over some hideous task. Every day they drop a
little lower down. Drink alone keeps them alive, stirs their blood now
and then so that they can feel their pulses beat, brings them a blessed
stupor. And see over there the sun, God's sun, rises every morning, over
them and you. Young man! You see those flaming spots of light? They are
gin-palaces. You may thank your God for them, for they alone keep this
horde of rotten humanity from sweeping westwards, breaking up your fine
houses, emptying your wine into the street, tearing the silk and laces
from your beautiful soft-limbed women. Bah! But you have read. It would
be the French Revolution over again. Oh, but you are wise, you in the
West, your statesmen and your philanthropists, that you build these
gin-palaces, and smile, and rub your hands and build more and spend the
money gaily. You build the one dam which can keep back your retribution.
You keep them stupefied, you cheapen the vile liquor and hold it to
their noses. So they drink, and you live. But a day of light may come.'"

Lord Arranmore ceased speaking, stretched out his hand and helped
himself to wine with unfaltering fingers.

"I have tried," he continued, "to repeat the exact words which the old
man used to me, and I do not find it so difficult as you might imagine,
because at that time they made a great impression upon me. But I cannot,
of course, hope to reproduce to you his terrible earnestness, the
burning passion with which every word seemed to spring from his lips.
Their effect upon me at that time you will be able to judge when I tell
you this--that I never returned to my rooms, that for ten years I
never set foot west of Temple Bar. I first joined a small society in
Whitechapel, then I worked for myself, and finally I became a
police-court missionary at Southwark Police-Court. The history of those
years is the history of a slowly-growing madness. I commenced by trying
to improve whole districts-I ended with the individual."

Brooks' wineglass fell with a little crash upon the tablecloth. The
wine, a long silky stream, flowed away from him unstaunched, unregarded.
His eyes were fixed upon Lord Arranmore. He leaned forward.

"A police-court missionary!" he cried, hoarsely.

Lord Arranmore regarded him for a moment in silence.

"Yes. As you doubtless surmise, I am your father. Afterwards you may ask
me questions."

Brooks sat as one stupefied, and then a sudden warm touch upon his hand
sent the blood coursing once more through his veins. Sybil's fingers lay
for a moment upon his. She smiled kindly at him. Lord Arranmore's voice
once more broke the short silence.

"The individual was my greatest disappointment," he continued. "Young
and old, all were the same. I took them to live with me, I sent them
abroad, I found them situations in this country, I talked with them,
read with them, showed them the simplest means within their reach by
means of which they might take into their lives a certain measure of
beautiful things. Failure would only make me more dogged, more eager. I
would spend months sometimes with one man or boy, and at last I would
assure myself of success. I would find them a situation, see them
perhaps once a week, then less often, and the end was always the same.
They fell back. I had put the poison to sleep, but it was always there.
It was their everlasting heritage, a gift from father to son, bred in
the bone, a part of their blood.

"In those days I married a lady devoted to charitable works. Our purpose
was to work together, but we found it impracticable. There was, I fear,
little sympathy between us. The only bond was our work--and that
was soon to be broken. For there came a time, after ten breathless
years, when I paused to consider."

He raised his glass to his lips and drained it. The wine was powerful,
but it brought no tinge of colour to his cheeks, nor any lustre to his
eyes. He continued in the same firm, expressionless tone.

"There came a night when I found myself thinking, and I knew then that a
new terror was stealing into my life. I made my way up to the roof of
the house where that old man had first taken me, and I leaned once more
over the palisading and looked eastwards. I fancied that I could still
hear the echoes of his frenzied words, and for the first time I heard
the note of mockery ringing clearly through them. There they
stretched--the same blackened wilderness of roofs sheltering the
same horde of drinking, filthy, cursing, parasitical creatures; there
flared the gin-palaces, more of them, more brilliantly lit, more
gorgeously decorated. Ten years of my life, and what had I done? What
could any one do? The truth seemed suddenly written across the sky in
letters of fire. I, a poor human creature, had been fighting with a few
other fanatics against the inviolable, the unconquerable laws of nature.
The hideous mistake of all individual effort was suddenly revealed to
me. 'We were like a handful of children striving to dam a mighty torrent
with a few handfuls of clay. Better a thousand times that these people
rotted--and died in their holes, that disease should stalk through
their streets, and all the evil passions born of their misery and filth
should be allowed to blaze forth that the whole world might see, so the
laws of the world might intervene, the great natural laws by which alone
these things could be changed. I looked down at myself, then wasted to
the bone, a stranger to the taste of wine or tobacco, to all the joys of
life, a miserable heart-broken wretch, and I cursed that old man and the
thought of him till my lips were dry and my throat ached. I walked back
to my miserable dwelling with a red fire before my eyes, muttering,
cursing that power which stood behind the universe, and which we call
God, that there should be vomited forth into the world day by day, hour
by hour, this black stream of human wretchedness, an everlasting mockery
to those who would seek for the joy of life.

"They took me to the hospital, and they called my illness brain-fever.
But long before they thought me convalescent I was conscious, lying
awake and plotting my escape. With cunning I managed it. Of my wife and
child I never once thought. Every trace of human affection seemed
withered up in my heart. I took the money subscribed for me with a
hypocrite's smile, and I slunk away from England. I went to Montreal in
Canada, and I deliberately entered upon a life of low pleasures. Pardon
me!"

He bent forward and with a steady hand readjusted the shade of a lamp
which was in danger of burning. Lady Caroom leaned back in her chair
with an indrawn sobbing breath. The action at such a moment seemed
grotesque. His own coolness, whilst with steady fingers he probed away
amongst the wounded places of his life, was in itself gruesome.

"My money," he continued, "was no large sum, but I eked it out with
gambling. The luck was always on my side. It's quite true that I ruined
the father of the young lady who paid me a visit to-day. After a
somewhat chequered career he was settling down in a merchant's office in
Montreal when I met him. His luck at cards was as bad as mine was good.
I won all he had, and more. I believe that he committed suicide. A man
there was kind to me, asked me to his house--I persuaded his wife
to run away with me. These are amongst the slightest of my
delinquencies. I steeped myself in sin. I revelled in it. I seemed to
myself in some way to be showing my defiance for the hidden powers of
life which I had cursed. I played a match with evil by day and by night
until I was glutted. And then I stole away from the city, leaving behind
a hideous reputation and not a single friend. Then a new mood came to
me. I wanted to get to a place where I should see no human beings at
all, and escape in that way from the memories which were still like a
clot upon my brain. So I set my face westwards. I travelled till at last
civilization lay behind. Still I pushed onward. I had stores in plenty,
an Indian servant who chanced to be faithful, and whom I saw but twice a
day. At last I reached Lake Ono. Here between us we built a hut. I sent
my Indian away then, and when he fawned at my feet to stay I kicked him.
This was my third phase of living, and it was true that some measure of
sanity came back to me. Oh, the blessed relief of seeing the face of
neither man nor woman. It was the unpeopled world of Nature--uncorrupted,
fresh, magnificent, alive by day and by night with everlasting music of
Nature. The solitudes of those great forests were like a wonderful balm.
So the fevers were purged out of me, and I became once more an ordinary
human being. I was content, I think, to die there, for I had plenty to
eat and drink, and the animals and birds who came to me morning and
evening kept me from even the thought of loneliness. The rest is
obvious. I lost two cousins in South Africa, an uncle in the
hunting-field. A man in Montreal had recognized me. I was discovered.
But before I returned I killed Brooks, the police-court missionary. This
girl has forced me to bring him to life again."

It was a strange silence which followed. Brooks sat back in his chair,
pale, bewildered, striving to focus this story properly, to attain a
proper comprehension of these new strange things. And behind all there
smouldered the slow burning anger of the child who has looked into the
face of a deserted mother. Lady Caroom was white to the lips, and in her
eyes the horror of that story so pitilessly told seemed still to linger.

Lord Arranmore spoke again. Still he sat back in his high-backed chair,
and still he spoke in measured, monotonous tones. But this time, if only
their ears had been quick enough to notice it, there lay behind an
emotion, held in check indeed, but every now and then quivering for
expression. He had turned to Lady Caroom.

"Chance," he said, "has brought together here at the moment when the
telling of these things has become a necessity, the two people who have
in a sense some right to hear them, for from each I have much to ask.
Sybil is your daughter, and from her there need be no secrets. So,
Catherine, I ask you again, now that you know everything, are you brave
enough to be my wife?"

She raised her eyes, and he saw the horror there. But he made no sign.
She rose and held out her hand for Sybil.

"Arranmore," she said, "I am afraid."

He looked down upon his plate.

"So let it be, then," he said. "It would need a brave woman indeed to
join her lot with mine after the things which I have told you. At heart,
Catherine, I am almost a dead man. Believe me, you are wise."

He rose, and the two women passed from the room. Then he resumed his
former seat, and attitude, and Brooks, though he tried to speak, felt
his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth, a dry and nerveless thing.

For in these doings there was tragedy.

"There remains to me you, Philip Kingston, my son," Lord Arranmore said,
in the same measured tone. "You also have before you the story of my
life, you are able from it to form some sort of idea as to what my
future is likely to be. I do not wish to deceive you. My early
enthusiasms are extinct. I look upon the ten or twenty years or so which
may be left to me of life as merely a space of time to be filled with as
many amusements and new sensations as may be procurable without undue
effort. I have no wish to convert, or perhaps pervert you, to my way of
thinking. You live still in Utopia, and to me Utopia does not exist. So
make your choice deliberately. Do you care to come to me?"

Then Brooks found words of a sort.

"Lord Arranmore," he said, "forgive me if what I must say sounds
undutiful. I know that you have suffered. I can realize something of
what you have been through. But your desertion of my mother and me was a
brutality. What you call your creed of life sounds to me hideous. You
and I are far apart, and so far as I am concerned, God grant that we may
remain so."

For the first time Lord Arranmore smiled. He poured out with steady hand
yet another glass of wine, and he nodded towards the door.

"I am obliged to you," he said, "for your candour. I have met with
enough hypocrisy in life to be able to appreciate it. Be so good as to
humour my whim--and to leave me alone."

Brooks rose from his seat, hesitated for a single moment, and left the
room. Lord Arranmore leaned back in his high-backed chair and looked
round at the empty places. The cigarette burned out between his fingers,
his wine remained untasted. The evening's entertainment was over.



PART II

I--LORD ARRANMORE'S AMUSEMENTS

"The domestic virtues," Lord Arranmore said softly to himself, "being
denied to me, the question remains how to pass one's time."

He rose wearily from his seat, and walking to the window looked out upon
St. James's Square. A soft rain hung about the lamp-posts, the pavements
were thick with umbrellas. He returned to his chair with a shrug of the
shoulders.

"The only elucidation from outside seems to be a change of climate," he
mused. "I should prefer to think of something more original. In the
meantime I will write to that misguided young man in Medchester."

He drew paper and pen towards him and began to write. Even his
handwriting seemed a part of the man--cold, shapely, and
deliberate.

"My DEAR BROOKS,

"I have been made acquainted through Mr. Ascough with your desire to
leave the new firm of Morrison and Brooks, and while I congratulate you
very much upon the fact itself, I regret equally the course of reasoning
which I presume led to your decision. You will probably have heard from
Mr. Ascough by this time on a matter of business. You are, by birth,
Lord Kingston of Ross, and the possessor of the Kingston income, which
amounts to a little over two thousand a year. Please remember that this
comes to you not through any grace or favour of mine, but by your own
unalienable right as the eldest son of the Marquis of Arranmore. I
cannot give it to you. I cannot withhold it from you. If you refuse to
take it the amount must accumulate for your heirs, or in due time find
its way to the Crown. Leave the tithe alone by all means, if you like,
but do not carry quixotism to the borders of insanity by declining to
spend your own money, and thereby cramp your life.

"I trust to hear from Mr. Ascough of your more reasonable frame of mind,
and while personally I agree with you that we are better apart, you can
always rely upon me if I can be of any service to you.

"Yours sincerely,

"ARRANMORE."

He read the letter through thoughtfully and folded it up.

"I really don't see what the young fool can kick about in that," he
said, throwing it into the basket. "Well, Hennibul, how are you?"

Mr. Hennibul, duly ushered in by a sedate butler, pronounced himself
both in words and appearance fit and well. He took a chair and a
cigarette, and looked about him approvingly.

"Nice house, yours, Arranmore. Nice old-fashioned situation, too. Why
don't you entertain?"

"No friends, no inclination, no womankind!"

Mr. Hennibul smiled incredulously.

"Your card plate is chock-full," he said, "and there are a dozen women
in town at least of your connections who'd do the polite things by you.
As to inclination--well, one must do something."

"That's about the most sensible thing you have said, Hennibul,"
Arranmore remarked. "I've just evoked the same fact out of my own
consciousness. One must do something. It's tiresome, but it's quite
true." Politics?

"Hate 'em! Not worth while anyway."

"Travel."

"Done all I want for a bit, but I keep that in reserve.

"Hunt."

"Bad leg, but I do a bit at it."

"Society."

"Sooner go on the County Council."

"City."

"Too much money already."

"Write a book." "No one would read it."

"Start a magazine."

"Too hard work."

Mr. Hennibul sighed.

"You're rather a difficult case," he admitted. "You'd better come round
to the club and play bridge."

"I never played whist--and I'm bad-tempered."

"Bit of everything then."

Lord Arranmore smiled.

"That's what it'll end in, I suppose."

"Pleasant times we had down at Enton," Mr. Hennibul remarked. "How's the
nice young lawyer--Brooks his name was, I think?"

"All right, I believe."

"And the ladies?

"I believe that they are quite well. They were in Scotland last time I
heard of them."

Mr. Hennibul found conversation difficult.

"I saw that you were in Paris the other week," he remarked.

"I went over to see Bernhardt's new play," Arranmore continued.

"Good?"

"It disappointed me. Very likely though the fault was with myself."

Mr. Hennibul looked across at his host shrewdly.

"What did you see me for?" he asked, suddenly. "You're bored to death
trying to keep up a conversation."

Lord Arranmore laughed.

"Upon my word, I don't know, Hennibul," he answered. "For the same old
reason, I suppose. One must see some one, do something. I thought that
you might amuse me."

"And I've failed," Hennibul declared, smiling. "Come to supper at the
Savoy to-night. The two new American girls from the Lyric and St. John
Lyttleton are to be there. Moderately respectable, I believe, but a bit
noisy perhaps."

Arranmore shook his head.

"You're a good fellow, Hennibul," he said, "but I'm too old for that
sort of thing."

Hennibul rose to his feet.

"Well," he said, "I've kept the best piece of advice till last because I
want you to think of it. Marry!"

Lord Arranmore did not smile. He did not immediately reply.

"You are a bachelor!" he remarked.

"I am a man of a different disposition," Hennibul answered. "I find
pleasure in everything--everything amuses me. My work is
fascinating, my playtime is never big enough. I really don't know where
a wife would come in. However, if ever I did get a bit hipped, find
myself in your position, for instance, I can promise you that I'd take
my own medicine. I've thought of it more than once lately."

"Perhaps by that time," Lord Arranmore said, "the woman whom you wanted
to marry wouldn't have you."

Hennibul looked serious for a moment. A new idea had occurred to him.

"One must take one's chances!" he said.

"You are a philosopher," Arranmore declared. "Will you have some
tea--or a whisky-and-soda?"

"Neither, thanks. In an abortive attempt to preserve my youth I neither
take tea nor drinks between meals. I will have one of your excellent
cigarettes and get round to the club. Why, this is Enton over again, for
here comes Molyneux."

The Hon. Sydney Molyneux shook hands with both of them in somewhat
dreary fashion, and embarked upon a few disjointed remarks. Hennibul
took his leave, and Arranmore yawned openly.

"What is the matter with you, Sydney?" he asked. "You are duller than
ever. I am positively not going to sit here and mumble about the
weather. How are the Carooms? Have you heard from them lately?"

"They are up in Yorkshire," Molyneux announced, "staying with the
Pryce-Powells. I believe they're all right. I'm beastly fit myself, but
I had a bit of a facer last week. I--er--I wanted to ask you a
question.

"Well?"

"About that fellow Brooks I met at your place down at Enton. Lawyer at
Medchester, isn't he? I thought that he and Sybil seemed a bit thick
somehow. Don't suppose there could have been anything in it, eh? He's no
one in particular, I suppose. Lady Caroom wouldn't be likely to listen
to anything between Sybil and him?"

Arranmore raised his eyebrows.

"Brooks is a very intelligent young man," he said, "and some girls are
attracted by brains, you know. I don't know anything about his relations
with Sybil Caroom, but he has ample private means, and I believe that he
is well-born."

"Fellow's a gentleman, of course," Molyneux declared, "but Lady Caroom
is a little ambitious, isn't she? I always seemed to be in the running
all right lately. I spent last Sunday with them at Chelsom Castle. Awful
long way to go, but I'm fond of Sybil. I thought she was a bit cool to
me, but, like a fool, I blundered on, and in the end--I got a
facer."

"Very sorry for you," Arranmore yawned.

"What made me think about Brooks was that she was awfully decent to me
before Enton," Molyneux continued. "I don't mind telling you that I'm
hard hit. I want to know who Brooks is. If he's only a country lawyer,
he's got no earthly chance with Lady Caroom, and Sybil'd never go
against her mother. They're too great pals for that. Never saw them so
thick."

"Was Lady Caroom--quite well?" Arranmore asked, irrelevantly.

"Well, now you mention it," Molyneux said, "I don't think she was quite
in her usual form. She was much quieter, and it struck me that she was
aging a bit. Wonderful woman, though. She and Sybil were quite
inseparable at Chelsom--more like sisters than anything, 'pon my
word."

Lord Arranmore looked into the fire, and was silent for several minutes.

"So far as regards Brooks," he said, "I do not think that he would be an
acceptable son-in-law to Lady Caroom, but I am not in the least sure. He
is by no means an insignificant person. If he were really anxious to
marry Sybil Caroom, he would be a rival worth consideration. I cannot
tell you anything more."

"Much obliged to you I'm sure. I shall try again when they come to town,
of course."

Arranmore rose up.

"I am going down to Christie's to see some old French manuscripts," he
said. "Is that on your way?"

Molyneux shook his head.

"Going down to the House, thanks," he answered. "I'll look you up again
some time, if I may."

They walked out into the street together. Arranmore stepped into his
brougham and was driven off. At the top of St. James's Street he pulled
the check-string and jumped out. He had caught a glimpse of a girl's
face looking into a shop window. He hastily crossed the pavement and
accosted her, hat in hand.

"Miss Scott, will you permit me the opportunity of saying a few words to
you?"

Mary turned round, speechless for more than a minute or two.

"I will not detain you for more than a minute or two. I hope that you
will not refuse me."

"I will listen to anything you have to say, Lord Arranmore," she said,
"but let me tell you that I have been to see Mr. Ascough. He told me
that he had your permission to explain to me fully the reasons of your
coming to Montreal and the story of your life before."

"Well?"

She hesitated. He stood before her, palpably anxiously waiting for her
decision.

"I was perhaps wrong to judge so hastily, Lord Arranmore," she said,
"and I am inclined to regret my visit to Enton. If you care to know it,
I do not harbour any animosity towards you. But I cannot possibly accept
this sum of money. I told Mr. Ascough so finally."

"It is only justice, Miss Scott," he said, in a low tone. "I won the
money from your father fairly in one sense, but unfairly in another, for
I was a good player and he was a very poor one. You will do me a great,
an immeasurable kindness, if you will allow me to make this
restitution."

She shook her head.

"If my forgiveness is of any value to you, Lord Arranmore," she said,
"you may have it. But I cannot accept the money."

"You have consulted no one?"

"No one."

You have a guardian or friends?

"I have been living with my uncle, Mr. Bullsom. He has been very kind to
me, and I have--"

"Mary!"

They both turned round. Selina and Mr. Bullsom had issued from the shop
before which they stood, Both were looking at Lord Arranmore with
curiosity, in Selina's case mixed with suspicion.

"Is this your uncle?" he asked. "Will you introduce me?"

Mary bit her lip.

"Uncle, this is Lord Arranmore," she said. "Mr. Bullsom, my cousin, Miss
Bullsom."

Mr. Bullsom retained presence of mind enough to remove a new and very
shiny silk hat, and to extend a yellow, dog-skinned gloved hand.

"Very proud to meet your lordship," he declared. "I--I wasn't
aware--"

Lord Arranmore extricated his hand from a somewhat close grasp, and
bowed to Selina.

"We are neighbours, you know, Mr. Bullsom," he said, "at Medchester. I
met your niece there, and recognized her at once, though she was a
little slip of a girl when I knew her last. Her father and I were in
Montreal together."

"God bless my soul," Mr. Bullsom exclaimed, in much excitement. "It's
your lawyers, then, who have been advertising for Mary?"

Lord Arranmore bowed.

"That is so," he admitted. "I am sorry to say that I cannot induce your
niece to look upon a certain transaction between her father and myself
from a business-like point of view. I think that you and I, Mr. Bullsom,
might come to a better understanding. Will you give me an appointment? I
should like to discuss the matter with you."

"With the utmost pleasure, my lord," Mr. Bullsom declared heartily.
"Can't expect these young ladies to see through a business matter, eh? I
will come to your lordship's house whenever you like."

"It would be quite useless, uncle," Mary interposed, firmly. "Lord
Arranmore has already my final answer."

Mr. Bullsom was a little excited.

"Tut, tut, child!" he exclaimed. "Don't talk nonsense. I should be proud
to talk this matter over with Lord Arranmore. We are staying at the
Metropole, and if your lordship would call there to-morrow and take a
bit of lunch, eh, about one o'clock--if it isn't too great a
liberty."

Selina had never loved her father more sincerely. Lord Arranmore smiled
faintly, but good-humoredly.

"You are exceedingly kind," he said. "For our business talk, perhaps, it
would be better if you would come to St. James's House at, say, 10:30,
if that is convenient. I will send a carriage."

"I'll be ready prompt," Mr. Bullsom declared. "Now, girls, we will say
good-afternoon to his lordship and get a four-wheeler."

Selina raised her eyes and dropped them again in the most approved
fashion. Mr. Bullsom shook hands as though it were a sacrament; Mary,
who was annoyed, did not smile at all.

"This is all quite unnecessary, Lord Arranmore," she said, while her
uncle was signalling for a cab. I shall not change my mind, and I am
sorry that you spoke to uncle about it at all."

"It is a serious matter to me, Miss Scott," Lord Arranmore said,
gravely. "And there is still another point of view from which I might
urge it."

"It is wasted time," she declared, firmly.

Selina detached herself from her father, and stood by Lord Arranmore's
side.

"I suppose you are often in London, Lord Arranmore?" she asked shyly.

"A great deal too often," he answered.

"We read about your beautiful parties at Enton," she said, with a sigh.
"It is such a lovely place."

"I am glad you like it," he answered, absently. "I see your uncle cannot
find a four-wheeler. You must take my carriage. I am only going a few
steps."

Mary's eager protest was drowned in Selina's shrill torrent of thanks.
Lord Arranmore beckoned to his coachman, and the brougham, with its pair
of strong horses, drew up against the pavement. The footman threw open
the door. Selina entered in a fever for fear a cab which her father was
signalling should, after all, respond to his summons. Mr. Bullsom found
his breath taken away.

"We couldn't possibly take your lordship's carriage," he protested.

"I have only a few steps to go, Mr. Bullsom, and it would be a kindness,
for my horses are never more than half exercised. At 10:30 to-morrow
then."

He stood bareheaded upon the pavement for a moment, and Selina's eyes
and smile had never worked harder. Mary leaned back, too angry to speak.
Selina and Mr. Bullsom sat well forward, and pulled both windows down.


II--THE HECKLING OF HENSLOW

"The long and short of it is, then, Mr. Henslow, that you decline to
fulfil your pledges given at the last election?" Brooks asked, coldly.

"Nothing of the sort," Mr. Henslow declared, testily. "You have no right
to suggest anything of the sort."

"No right!"

"Certainly not. You are my agent, and you ought to work with me
instead--"

"I have already told you," Brooks interrupted, '"that I am nothing of
the sort. I should not dream of acting for you again, and if you think a
formal resignation necessary, I will post you one to-morrow. I am one of
your constituents, nothing more or less. But as I am in some measure
responsible for your presence here, I consider myself within my rights
in asking you these questions."

"I'm not going to be hectored!" Mr. Henslow declared.

"Nobody wants to hector you! You gave certain pledges to us, and you
have not fulfilled one of them."

"They won't let me. I'm not here as an independent Member. I'm here as a
Liberal, and Sir Henry himself struck out my proposed question and
motion. I must go with the Party."

"You know quite well," Brooks said, "that you are within your rights in
keeping the pledges you made to the mass meeting at Medchester."

Henslow shook his head.

"It would be no good," he declared. "I've sounded lots of men about it.
I myself have not changed. I believe in some measure of protection. I am
a firm believer in it. But the House wouldn't listen to me. The times
are not ripe for anything of the sort yet."

"How do you know until you try?" Brooks protested. "Your promise was to
bring the question before Parliament in connection with the vast and
increasing number of unemployed. You are within your rights in doing so,
and to speak frankly we insist upon it, or we ask for your resignation."

"Are you speaking with authority, young man?" Mr. Henslow asked.

"Of course I am. I am the representative of the Liberal Parliamentary
Committee, and I am empowered to say these things to you, and more.

"Well, I'll do the best I can to get a date," Mr. Henslow said,
grumblingly, "but you fellows are always in such a hurry, and you don't
understand that it don't go up here. We have to wait our time month
after month sometimes."

"I don't see any motion down in your name at all yet," Brooks remarked.

"I told you that Sir Henry struck it through."

"Then I shall call upon him and point out that he is throwing away a
Liberal seat at the next election," Brooks replied. "He isn't the sort
of man to encourage a Member to break his election pledges."

"You'll make a mess of the whole thing if you do anything of the sort,"
Henslow declared. "Look here, come and have a bit of dinner with me, and
talk things over a bit more pleasantly, eh? There's no use in getting
our rags out."

"Please excuse me," Brooks said. "I have arranged to dine elsewhere. I
do not wish to seem dictatorial or unreasonable, but I have just come
from Medchester, where the distress is, if anything, worse than ever. It
makes one's heart sick to walk the streets, and when I look into the
people's faces I seem to always hear that great shout of hope and
enthusiasm which your speech in the market-place evoked. You see, there
is only one real hope for these people, and that is legislation, and you
are the man directly responsible to them for that."

"I'll tell you what I'll do!" Mr. Henslow said, in a burst of
generosity. "I'll send another ten guineas to the Unemployed Fund."

"Take my advice and don't," Brooks answered, dryly. "They might be
reminded of the people who clamoured for bread and were offered a stone.
Do your duty here. Keep your pledges. Speak in the House with the same
passion and the same eloquence as when you sowed hope in the heart of
those suffering thousands. Some one must break away from this musty
routine of Party politics. The people will be heard, Mr. Henslow. Their
voice has dominated the fate of every nation in time, and it will be so
with ours."

Mr. Henslow was silent for a few minutes. This young man who would not
drink champagne, or be hail-fellow-well-met, and who was in such deadly
earnest, was a nuisance.

"I tell you what I'll do," he said at last. "I'll have a few words with
Sir Henry, and see you tomorrow at what time you like."

"Certainly," Brooks answered, rising. "If you will allow me to make a
suggestion, Mr. Henslow, I would ask you to run through in your memory
all your speeches and go through your pledges one by one. Let Sir Henry
understand that your constituents will not be trifled with, for it is
not a question of another candidate, it is a question of another party.
You have set the ball rolling, and I can assure you that the next Member
whom Medchester sends here, whether it be you or any one else, will come
fully pledged to a certain measure of Protection."

Mr. Henslow nodded.

"Very well," he said, gloomily. "Where are you staying?

"At the Metropole. Mr. Bullsom is there also."

"I will call," Mr. Henslow promised, "at three o'clock, if that is
convenient."

Brooks passed out across the great courtyard and through the gates. He
had gone to his interview with Henslow in a somewhat depressed state of
mind, and its result had not been enlivening. Were all politics like
this? Was the greatest of causes, the cause of the people, to be tossed
about from one to the other, a joke with some, a juggling ball with
others, never to be dealt with firmly and wisely by the brains and
generosity of the Empire? He looked back at the Houses of Parliament,
with their myriad lights, their dark, impressive outline. And for a
moment the depression passed away. He thought of the freedom which had
been won within those walls, of the gigantic struggles, the endless,
restless journeying onward towards the truths, the great truths of the
world. All politicians were not as this man Henslow. There were others,
more strenuous, more single-hearted. He himself--and his heart beat
at the thought--why should he not take his place there? The thought
fascinated him,--every word of Lord Arranmore's letter which he had
recently received, seemed to stand out before him. His feet fell more
blithely upon the pavement, he carried himself with a different air.
Here were ample means to fill his life,--means by which he could
crush out that sweet but unhappy tangle of memories which somehow or
other had stolen the flavour out of life for the last few weeks.

At the hotel he glanced at the clock. It was just eight, and he was to
accompany the Bullsoms to the theatre. He met them in the hall, and
Selina looked with reproach at his morning clothes. She was wearing a
new swansdown theatre cloak, with a collar which she had turned up round
her face like a frame. She was convinced that she had never looked so
well in her life.

"Mr. Brooks, how naughty of you," she exclaimed, shaking her head in
mock reproach. "Why, the play begins at 8:15, and it is eight o'clock
already. Have you had dinner?"

"Oh, I can manage with something in my room while I change," he answered
cheerily. "I'm going to take you all out to supper after the theatre,
you know. Don't wait for me--I'll come on. His Majesty's, isn't
it?"

"I'll keep your seat," Selina promised him, lowering her voice. "That
is, if you are very good and come before it is half over. Do you know
that we met a friend of yours, and he lent us his carriage, and I think
he's charming."

Brooks looked surprised. He glanced at Mary, and saw a look in her face
which came as a revelation to him.

"You don't mean--"

"Lord Arranmore!" Selina declared, triumphantly. "He was so nice, he
wouldn't let us come home in a cab. He positively made us take his own
carriage."

Mr. Bullsom came hurrying up.

"Cab waiting," he announced. "Come on, girls."

"See you later, then, Brooks."

Brooks changed his clothes leisurely, and went into the smoking-room for
some sandwiches and a glass of wine. A small boy shouting his number
attracted his attention. He called him, and was handed a card.

"Lord Arranmore!"

"You can show the gentleman here," Brooks directed.

Arranmore came in, and nodded a little wearily to Brooks, whom he had
not seen since the latter had left Enton.

"I won't keep you," he remarked. "I just wanted a word with you about
that obstinate young person Miss--er--Scott."

Brooks wheeled an easy-chair towards him.

"I am in no great hurry," he remarked.

Arranmore glanced at the clock.

"More am I," he said, "but I find I am dining with the Prime Minister at
nine o'clock. It occurs to me that you may have some influence with
her."

"We are on fairly friendly terms," Brooks admitted.

"Just so. Well, she may have told you that my solicitors approached her,
as the daughter of Martin Scott, with the offer of a certain sum of
money, which is only a fair and reasonable item, which I won from her
father at a time when we were not playing on equal terms. It was through
that she found me out."

"Yes, I knew as much as that."

"So I imagined. But the hot-headed young woman has up to now steadily
refused to accept anything whatever from me. Quite ridiculous of her.
There's no doubt that I broke up the happy home, and all that sort of
thing, and I really can't see why she shouldn't permit me the
opportunity of making some restitution."

"You want her to afford you the luxury of salving your conscience,"
Brooks remarked, dryly.

Lord Arranmore laughed hardly.

"Conscience," he repeated. "You ought to know me better, Brooks, than to
suppose me possessed of such a thing. No; I have a sense of justice,
that is all--a sort of weakness for seeing the scales held fairly.
Now, don't you think it is reasonable that she should accept this money
from me?"

"It depends entirely upon how she feels," Brooks answered. "You have no
right to press it upon her if she has scruples. Nor have you any right
to try and enlist her family on your side, as you seem to be doing."

Will you discuss it with her?

"I should not attempt to influence her," Brooks answered.

"Be reasonable, Brooks. The money can make no earthly difference to me,
and it secures for her independence. The obligation, if only a moral
one, is real enough. There is no question of charity. Use your influence
with her."

Brooks shook his head.

"I have great confidence in Miss Scott's own judgment," he said. "I
prefer not to interfere."

Arranmore sat quite still for a moment. Then he rose slowly to his feet.

"I am sorry to have troubled you," he said. "The world seems to have
grown more quixotic since I knew it better. I am almost afraid to ask
you whether my last letter has yet received the favour of your
consideration."

Brooks flushed a little at the biting sarcasm in Arranmore's tone, but
he restrained himself.

"I have considered--the matter fully," he said; "and I have talked
it over with Mr. Ascough. There seems to be no reason why I should
refuse the income to which I seem to be entitled."

Lord Arranmore nodded and lit a cigarette.

"I am thankful," he said, dryly, "for so much common-sense. Mr. Ascough
will put you in possession of a banking account at any moment. Should
you consider it--well--intrusive on my part if I were to
inquire as to your plans?"

Brooks hesitated.

"They are as yet not wholly formed," he said, "but I am thinking of
studying social politics for some time here in London with the intention
of entering public life."

"A very laudable ambition," Lord Arranmore answered. "If I can be of any
assistance to you, I trust that you will not fail to let me know."

"I thank you," Brooks answered. "I shall not require any assistance from
you."

Lord Arranmore winced perceptibly. Brooks, who would not have believed
him capable of such a thing, for a moment doubted his eyes.

"I am much obliged for your candour," Lord Arranmore said, coldly, and
with complete self-recovery. "Don't trouble to come to the door.
Good-evening."

Brooks was alone. He sat down in one of the big easy-chairs, and for a
moment forgot that empty stall next to Selina. He had seen the first
sign of weakness in a man whom he had judged to be wholly and entirely
heartless.


III--MARY SCOTT'S TWO VISITORS

"I AM sure," he said, "that Selina would consider this most improper."

"You are quite right," Mary assured him, laughing. "It was one of the
first things she mentioned. When I told her that I should ask any one to
tea I liked she was positively indignant."

"It is hard to believe that you are cousins," he remarked.

"We were brought up very differently."

He looked around him. He was in a tiny sitting-room of a tiny flat high
up in a great building. Out of the window he seemed to look down upon
the Ferris wheel. Inside everything was cramped but cosy. Mary Scott sat
behind the tea-tray, and laughed at his expression.

"I will read your thoughts," she exclaimed. "You are wondering how you
will get out of this room without knocking anything over."

"On the contrary," he answered, "I was wondering how I ever got in."

"You were really very clever. Now do have some more tea, and tell me all
the news."

"I will have the tea, if you please," he answered, "and you shall have
the news, such as it is."

"First of all then," she said, "I hear that you are leaving Medchester,
giving up your business and coming to live in London, and that you have
had some money left you. Do you know that all this sounds very
mysterious?"

"I admit it," he answered, slowly stirring his tea. "Yet in the
main--it is true."

"How nice to hear all about it," she sighed, contentedly. "You know I
have scarcely had a word with you while my uncle and cousins were up.
Selina monopolized you most disgracefully."

He looked at her with twinkling eyes.

"Selina was very amusing," he said.

"You seemed to find her so," she answered. "But Selina isn't here now,
and you have to entertain me. You are really going to live in London?"

He nodded.

"I have taken rooms!"

"Delightful. Whereabouts?" "In Jermyn Street!"

"And are you going to practise?"

He shook his head.

"No, I shall have enough to live on. I am going to study social subjects
and politics generally."

"You are going into Parliament?" she exclaimed, breathlessly.

"Some day, perhaps," he answered, hesitatingly. "If I can find a
constituency."

She was silent for a moment.

"Do you know, I think I rather dislike you," she said. "I envy you most
hideously."

He laughed.

"What an evil nature!"

"Well, I've never denied it. I'm dreadfully envious of people who have
the chance of doing things, whose limitations are not chalked out on the
blackboard before them."

"Oh, well, you yourself are not at Medchester now," he reminded her.
"You have kicked your own limitation away. Literature is as wide a field
as politics."

"That is true enough," she answered. "I must not grumble. After
Medchester this is elysium. But literature is a big name to give my
little efforts. I'm just a helper on a lady's threepenny paper, and
between you and me I don't believe they think much of my work yet."

He laughed.

"Surely they haven't been discouraging you?"

"No, they have been very kind. But they keep on assuring me that I am
bound to improve, and the way they use the blue pencil! However, it's
only the journalist's part they go for. The little stories are all right
still.''

"I should think so," he declared, warmly. "I think they are charming."

"How nice you are," she sighed. "No wonder Selina didn't like going
home."

He looked at her in amused wonder.

"Do you know," he said, "you are getting positively frivolous. I don't
recognize you. I never saw such a change."

She leaned back in her chair, laughing heartily, her eyes bright, her
beautiful white teeth in delightful evidence.

"Oh, I suppose it's the sense of freedom," she exclaimed. "It's
delightful, isn't it? Medchester had got on my nerves. I hated it. One
saw nothing but the ugly side of life, day after day. It was hideously
depressing. Here one can breathe. There's room for every one."

"The change agrees with you!"

"Why not. I feel years younger. Think how much there is to do, and see,
even for a pauper like myself--picture galleries, the shops, the
people, the theatres."

He looked at her thoughtfully.

"Don't think me a prig, will you?" he said, "but I want to understand
you. In Medchester you used to work for the people--it was the
greater part of your life. You are not giving that up altogether, are
you?"

She laughed him to scorn.

"Am I such a butterfly? No, I hope to get some serious work to do, and I
am looking forward to it. I have a letter of introduction to a Mrs.
Capenhurst, whom I am going to see on Sunday. I expect to learn a lot
from her. I was very, very sorry to leave my own girls. It was the only
regret I had in leaving Medchester. By the bye, what is this about Mr.
Henslow?"

"We are thinking of asking him to resign," Brooks answered. "He has been
a terrible disappointment to us."

She nodded.

"I am sorry. From his speeches he seemed such an excellent candidate."

"He was a magnificent candidate," Brooks said ruefully, "but a shocking
Member. I am afraid what I heard in the City the other day must have
some truth in it. They say that he only wanted to be able to write M.P.
after his name for this last session to get on the board of two new
companies. He will never sit for Medchester again."

"He was at the hotel the other day, wasn't he?" Mary asked, "with you
and uncle? What has he to say for himself?"

"Well, he shelters himself behind the old fudge about duty to his
Party," Brooks answered. "You see the Liberals only just scraped in last
election because of the war scandals, and their majority is too small
for them to care about any of the rank and file introducing any
disputative measures. Still that scarcely affects the question. He won
his seat on certain definite pledges, and if he persists in his present
attitude, we shall ask him at once to resign."

You still keep up your interest in Medchester, then?"

"Why, yes!" he answered. "Between ourselves, if I could choose, I would
rather, when the time comes, stand for Medchester than anywhere."

"I am glad! I should like to see you Member for Medchester. Do you know,
even now, although I am so happy, I cannot think about the last few
months there without a shudder. It seemed to me that things were getting
worse and worse. The people's faces haunt me sometimes."

He looked up at her sympathetically.

"If you have once lived with them," he said, "once really understood,
you never can forget. You can travel or amuse yourself in any way, but
their faces are always coming before you, their voices seem always in
your ears. It is the one eternal sadness of life. And the strangest part
of it is, that just as you who have once really understood can never
forget, so it is the most difficult thing in the world to make those
people understand who have not themselves lived and toiled amongst them.
It is a cry which you cannot translate, but if once you have heard it,
it will follow you from the earth to the stars."

"You too, then," she said, "have some of the old aim at heart. You are
not going to immerse yourself wholly in politics?"

"My studies," he said, "will be in life. It is not from books that I
hope to gain experience. I want to get a little nearer to the heart of
the thing. You and I may easily come across one another, even in this
great city."

"You," she said, "are going to watch, to observe, to trace the external
only that you may understand the internal. But I am going to work on my
hands and knees."

"And you think that I am going to play the dilettante?"

"Not altogether. But you will want to pass from one scheme to another to
see the inner workings of all. I shall be content to find occupation in
any one.

"I shall be coming to you," he said, "for information and help."

"I doubt it," she answered, cheerfully. "Never mind! It is pleasant to
build castles, and we may yet find ourselves working side by side."

He suddenly looked at her.

"I have answered all your questions," he said. "There is something about
you which I should like to know."

"I am sure you shall."

"Lord Arranmore came to me when I was staying at the Metropole with your
uncle and cousin. He wished me to use my influence with you to induce
you to accept a certain sum of money which it seemed that you had
already declined."

"Well?"

"Of course I refused. In the first place, as I told him, I was not aware
that I possessed any influence over you. And in the second I had every
confidence in your own judgment."

She was suddenly very thoughtful.

"My own judgment," she repeated. "I am afraid that I have lost a good
deal of faith in that lately."

"Why?"

"I have learned to repent of that impulsive visit of mine to Enton."

"Again why?"

"I was mad with rage against Lord Arranmore. I think that I was wrong.
It was many years ago, and he has repented."

Brooks smiled faintly. The idea of Lord Arranmore repenting of anything
appealed in some measure to his sense of humour.

"Then I am afraid that I did him some great harm in accusing him like
that--openly. He has seemed to me since like an altered man. Tell
me, those others who were there--they believed me?"

"Yes."

"It did him harm--with the lady, the handsome woman who was playing
billiards with him?"

"Yes."

"Was he engaged to her?

"No! He proposed to her afterwards, and she refused him."

Her eyes were suddenly dim.

"I am sorry," she said.

"I think," he said, quietly, "that you need not be. You probably saved
her a good deal of unhappiness."

She looked at him curiously.

"Why are you so bitter against Lord Arranmore?" she asked.

"I?" he laughed. "I am not bitter against him. Only I believe him to be
a man without heart or conscience or principles."

"That is your opinion--really?"

"Really! Decidedly."

"Then I don't agree with you," she answered.

"Why not?"

"Simply that I don't."

"Excellent! But you have reasons as well as convictions?

"Perhaps. Why, for instance, is he so anxious for me to have this money?
That must be a matter of conscience?"

"Not necessarily. An accident might bring his Montreal career to light.
His behaviour towards you would be an excellent defence."

She shook her head.

"He isn't mean enough to think so far ahead for his own advantage.
Villain or paragon, he is on a large scale, your Lord Arranmore."

"He has had the good fortune," Brooks said, with a note of satire in his
tone, "to attract your sympathies."

"Why not? I struck hard enough at him, and he has borne me no ill-will.
He even made friends with Selina and my uncle to induce me to accept his
well, conscience money."

"I need not ask you what the result was," Brooks said. "You declined it,
of course."

She looked at him thoughtfully.

"I refused it at first, as you know," she said. "Since then, well, I
have wavered."

He looked at her blankly.

"You mean--that you have contemplated--accepting it?"

"Why not? There is reason in it. I do not say that I have accepted it,
but at any rate I see nothing which should make you look upon my
possible acceptance as a heinous thing."

He was silent for a moment.

"May I ask you then what the position is?"

"I will tell you. Lord Arranmore is coming to me perhaps this afternoon
for my answer. I asked him for a few days to think it over."

"And your decision--is it ready?"

"No, I don't think it is," she admitted. "To tell you the truth, I shall
not decide until he is actually here--until I have heard just how
he speaks of it."

He got up and stood for a moment looking out of the window. Then he
turned suddenly towards her with outstretched hand.

"I am going--Miss Scott. Good-afternoon." She rose and held out her
hand.

"Aren't you--a little abrupt?" she asked.

"Perhaps I am. I think that it is better that I should go away now.
There are reasons why I do not want to talk about Lord Arranmore, or
discuss this matter with you, and if I stayed I might do both. Will you
dine with me somewhere on Friday night? I will come and fetch you."

"Of course I will. Do be careful how you walk. About 7:30."

"I will be here by then," he answered.

On the last flight of stone steps he came face to face with Lord
Arranmore, who nodded and pointed upwards with his walking-stick.

"How much of this sort of thing?" he asked, dryly.

"Ten storeys," Brooks answered, and passed out into the street.

Lord Arranmore looked after him--watched him until he was out of
sight. Then he stood irresolute for several moments, tapping his boots.

"Damned young fool!" he muttered at last; and began the ascent.


IV--A MARQUIS ON MATRIMONY

"My dear Miss Scott," Lord Arranmore said, settling himself in the most
comfortable of her fragile easy-chairs, and declining tea. "I cannot
fail to perceive that my cause is hopeless. The united efforts of myself
and your worthy relatives appear to be powerless to unearth a single
grain of common-sense in your--er--pardon me--singularly
obstinate disposition."

A subdued smile played at the corners of her mouth.

"I am delighted that you are convinced, Lord Arranmore," she said. "It
will save us both a good deal of time and breath."

"Well--as to that I am not so sure," he answered, deliberately.
"You forget that there is still an important matter to be decided."

She looked at him questioningly.

"The disposal of the money, of course," he said.

"The disposal of it? But that has nothing to do with me!" she declared.
"I refuse to touch it--to have anything to do with it."

He shook his head.

"You see," he explained, "I have placed it, or rather my solicitors
have, in trust. Actually you may decline, as you are doing, to have
anything to do with it--legally you cannot avoid your responsibilities.
That money cannot be touched without your signature."

She laughed a little indignantly.

"Then you had better withdraw it from trust, or whatever you call it, at
once. If it was there until I was eighty I should never touch it."

"I understand that perfectly," Lord Arranmore said. "You have refused
it. Very well! What are we going to do with it?"

"Put it back where it came from, of course," she answered.

"Well," he said, "by signing several papers that might be managed. In
that case I should distribute it amongst the various public-houses in
the East End to provide drinks for the thirstiest of their customers."

"If you think that," she said, scornfully, "a reputable use to make of
your money."

He held out his hand.

"My dear Miss Scott. Our money!"

"The money," she exclaimed. "I repeat, the money. Well, there is nothing
more to be said about it."

"Will you sign the papers which authorize me to distribute the money in
this way?"

She thought for a moment.

"No; I will not."

"Exactly. You would be very foolish and very untrue to your principles
if you did. So you see, this sum is not to be foisted altogether upon
me, for there is no doubt that I should misuse it. Now I believe that if
you were to give the matter a little consideration you could hit upon a
more reasonable manner of laying out this sum. Don't interrupt me,
please. My own views as to charity you know. You however look at the
matter from an altogether different point of view. Let us leave it where
it is for the moment. Something may occur to you within the next few
months. Don't let it be a hospital, if you can help it--something
altogether original would be best. Set your brain to work. I shall be at
your service at any moment."

He rose to his feet and began slowly to collect his belongings. Then
their eyes met, and she burst out laughing--he too smiled.

"You are very ingenious, Lord Arranmore," she said.

"It is my conscience," he assured her. "It is out of gear to the tune of
three thousand."

"I don't believe in the conscience," she answered. 'This is sheer
obstinacy. You have made up your mind that I should be interested in
that money somehow, and you can't bear to suffer defeat."

"I am an old man," he said, "and you are a young woman. Let us leave it
where it is for a while. I have an idea of the sort of life which you
are planning for yourself. Believe me, that before you have lived here
for many months you will be willing to give years of your life, years of
your labour and your youth, to throw yourself into a struggle which
without money is hopeless. Remember that there was a time when I too was
young. I too saw these things as you and Brooks see them to-day. I do
not wish to preach pessimism to you. I fought and was worsted. So will
you be. The whole thing is a vast chimera, a jest of the God you have
made for yourself. But as long as the world lasts the young will have to
buy knowledge--as I have bought it. Don't go into the fray
empty-handed--it will only prolong the suffering."

"You speak," she protested, gently, "as though it were impossible to do
good."

"It is absolutely and entirely impossible to do good by any means which
you and Brooks and the whole army of your fellow-philanthropists have
yet evoked," he answered, with a sudden fierce note in his tone. "Don't
think that I speak to you as a cynic, one who loiters on the edge of the
cauldron and peers in to gratify cravings for sensation. I have been
there, down in the thick of it, there where the mud is as black as
hell--bottomless as eternity. I was young--as you--mad
with enthusiasm. I had faith, strength, belief. I meant to cleanse the
world. I worked till the skin hung on my bones. I gave all that I
had--youth--gifts--money. And, do you know what I was
doing? I was swimming against the tide of natural law, stronger than all
mankind, unconquerable, eternal. There wasn't the smallest corner of the
world the better for my broken life. There wasn't a child, a man, or a
woman content to grasp my hand and climb out. There were plenty who
mocked me. But they fell back again. They fell back always."

"Oh, but you can't tell that," she cried. "You can't be sure."

"You can be as sure of it as of life itself," he answered. "Come, take
my advice. I know. I can save you a broken youth--a broken heart.
Keep away from there."

He pointed out of the window eastwards.

"You can be charitable like the others, subscribe to societies, visit
the sick, read the Bible, play at it as long as you like--but keep
away from the real thing. If you feel the fever in your veins--fly.
Go abroad, study art, literature, music--anything. Only don't
listen to that cry. It will draw you against your will even. But not you
nor the whole world of women, or the world full of gold, will ever stop
it. It is the everlasting legacy to the world of outraged nature."

He went swiftly and silently, leaving her motionless. She saw him far
down on the pavement below step into his brougham, pausing for a moment
to light a cigarette. And half-an-hour later he walked with elastic
tread into Mr. Ascough's office.

Mr. Ascough greeted him with an inquiring smile. Lord Arranmore nodded
and sat down.

"You were quite right," he announced. "The tongues of men or of angels
wouldn't move her. Never mind. She's going to use the money for
charity."

"Well, that's something, at any rate," Mr. Ascough remarked.

"The eloquence," Lord Arranmore said, lazily, "which I have wasted upon
that young woman would entrance the House of Lords. By the bye, Ascough,
I am going to take my seat next week."

"I am delighted to hear it, your lordship."

"Yes, it's good news for the country, isn't it?" Lord Arranmore
remarked. "I have not quite decided what my particular line shall be,
but I have no doubt but that the papers will all be calling me a welcome
addition to that august assembly before long. I believe that's what's
the matter with me. I want to make a speech. Do you remember me at the
Bar, Ascough? Couldn't keep me down, could they?"

Mr. Ascough smiled.

"You were rather fond of being on your feet!" he admitted.

Lord Arranmore sighed regretfully.

"And to think that I might have been Lord High Chancellor by now," he
remarked. "Good-bye, Ascough."

* * * * *

Later, at the reception of a Cabinet Minister, Lord Arranmore came
across Hennibul talking with half-a-dozen other men. He detached himself
at once.

"This is odd," he remarked, with a whimsical smile. "What the dickens
are you doing in this respectable household, Arranmore? You look like a
lost sheep."

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"I've decided to go in for something," he said; "politics or society or
something of that sort. What do you recommend?"

"Supper!" Mr. Hennibul answered, promptly.

"Come on then," Lord Arranmore assented. "One of those little tables in
the far room, eh?"

"The pate here is delicious," Mr. Hennibul said; "but for Heaven's sake
leave the champagne alone." "There's some decent hock. You'll excuse my
pointing out these little things to you, but, of course, you don't know
the runs yet. I'll give you a safe tip while I'm about it. The
Opposition food is beastly, but the wine is all right--Pommery and
Heidsieck, most of it, and the right years. The Government food now is
good, but the wine, especially the champagne, is positively unholy."

"One should eat then with the Government, and drink with the
Opposition," Lord Arranmore remarked.

"Or, better still," Mr. Hennibul said, "do both with the Speaker. By the
bye, did you know that they are going to make me a judge?"

"I heard that your friends wanted to get rid of you!" Arranmore
answered.

"To make yourself obnoxious--thoroughly obnoxious," Mr. Hennibul
murmured, "is the sure road to advancement."

"That's right, give me a few tips," Lord Arranmore begged, sipping his
wine.

"My dear fellow, I don't know what you're going in for yet."

"Neither do I. What about the stage? I used to be rather good at private
theatricals. Elderly Wyndhamy parts, you know."

Mr. Hennibul shook his head.

"Twenty years too late," he declared. "Even the suburbs turn up their
noses at a lord now."

"I must do something," Arranmore declared, meditatively.

"Don't see the necessity," Hennibul remarked.

Lord Arranmore lifted his glass and looked thoughtfully at the wine for
a moment.

"Ah, well," he said, "you were born lazy, and I was born restless. That
is the reason you have done something, and I haven't."

"If you want my advice--my serious advice," the K. C. said,
quietly, "you will make yourself a nuisance to that right woman, whoever
she is, until she marries you--if only to get rid of you."

"All sorts of things in the way," Lord Arranmore declared. "You see, I
was married abroad."

Mr. Hennibul looked up quickly.

"Nonsense!"

"Quite true, I assure you."

"Is she alive?"

"No--but her son is.

"Great Heavens. Why, he's Lord Kingston?"

"Of course he is."

"How old is he?"

"Twenty-eight--or somewhere thereabouts."

"What is he doing? Where is he? Why don't we know him?"

"He doesn't approve of me," Lord Arranmore said. "Fact, really! We are
scarcely on speaking terms."

"Why not?"

"Says I deserted his mother. So I did! Played the blackguard altogether.
Left 'em both to starve, or next door to it!"

Mr. Hennibul fetched out his handkerchief and dabbed his forehead.

"You are serious, Arranmore?"

"Rather! You wouldn't expect me to be frivolous on this hock."

"That young man must be talked to," Mr. Hennibul declared. "He ought to
be filling his proper place in the world. It's no use carrying on a
grudge against his own father. Let me have a try at him."

"No!" Lord Arranmore said, quietly. "I am obliged to you, Hennibul, but
the matter is one which does not admit of outside interference, however
kindly. Besides, the boy is right. I wilfully deserted both him and his
mother, and she died during my absence. My life, whilst away from them,
was the sort one forgets--or tries to--and he knows about it.
Further, when I returned to England I was two years before I took the
trouble to go and see him. I merely alluded to these domestic matters
that you might not wholly misjudge the situation."

Mr. Hennibul went on with his supper in silence. Lord Arranmore. whose
appetite had soon failed him, leaned back in his chair and watched the
people in the further room.

"This rather puts me off politics," he remarked, after a while. "I don't
like the look of the people."

"Oh, you'll get in for the select crushers," Mr. Hennibul said. "This is
a rank and file affair. You mustn't judge by appearances. But why must
you specialize? Take my advice. Don't go in specially for politics, or
society, or sport. Mix them all up. Be cosmopolitan and commonplace."

"Upon my word, Hennibul, you are a genius," Arranmore declared, "and
yonder goes my good fairy."

He sprang up and disappeared into the further room.

"Lady Caroom," he exclaimed, bending over her shoulder. "I never
suspected it of you."

She started slightly--she was silent perhaps for the fraction of a
second. Then she looked up with a bright smile, meeting him on his own
ground.

"But of you," she cried, "it is incredible. Come at once and explain."


V--BROOKS ENLISTS A RECRUIT

Brooks had found a small restaurant in the heart of fashionable London,
where the appointments and decorations were French, and the waiters were
not disposed to patronize. Of the cooking neither he nor Mary Scott in
those days was a critic. Nevertheless she protested against the length
of the dinner which he ordered.

"I want an excuse," he declared, laying down the carte, "for a good long
chat. We shall be too late for the theatre, so we may as well resign
ourselves to an hour or so of one another's society."

She shook her head.

"A very apt excuse for unwarrantable greediness," she declared. "Surely
we can talk without eating?"

He shook his head.

"You do not smoke, and you do not drink liqueurs," he remarked. "Now I
have noticed that it is simply impossible for one to sit before an empty
table after dinner and not feel that one ought to go. Let the waiter
take your cape. You will find the room warm.

"Do you remember," she asked him, "the first night we dined together?"

He looked at her with twinkling eyes.

"Rather! It was my introduction to your uncle's household. Selina sat on
my left, and Louise on my right. You sat opposite, tired and
disagreeable."

"I was tired--and I am always disagreeable."

"I have noticed it," he agreed, equably. "I hope you like oysters."

"If Selina were to see us now," she remarked, with a sudden humorous
smile, "how shocked she would be."

"What a little far-away world it seems down there," he said
thoughtfully. "After all, I am glad that I have not to live in
Medchester all my life."

"You have been there this afternoon, haven't you?"

"Yes. Henslow is giving us a lot of trouble. I am afraid we shall lose
the seat next election."

"Do you mind?"

"Not much. I am no party politician. I want to see Medchester
represented by a man who will go there with a sense of political
proportion, and I don't care whether he calls himself Liberal, or
Radical, or Conservative, or Unionist."

"Please explain what you mean by that," she begged.

"Why, yes. I mean a man who will understand how enormously more
important is the welfare of our own people, the people of whom we are
making slaves, than this feverish Imperialism and war cant. Mind, I
think our patriotism should be a thing wholly understood. It needn't be
talked about. It makes showy fireworks for the platform, but it's all
unnecessary and to my mind very undignified. If only people would take
that for granted and go on to something worth while."

"Are things any better in Medchester just now?" she asked.

"On the surface, yes, but on the surface only. More factories are
running half-time, but after all what does that mean? It's slow
starvation. A man can't live and keep a family on fifteen shillings a
week, even if his wife earns a little. He can't do it in a dignified
manner, and with cleanliness and health. That is what he has a right to.
That is what the next generation will demand. He should have room to
expand. Cleanliness, air, fresh food. Every man and woman who is born
into the world has a God-given right to these, and there are millions in
Medchester, Manchester, and all the great cities who are denied all
three."

"So all Henslow's great schemes, his Royal Commissions, his Protection
Duties, his great Housing Bill, have come to nothing then?" she
remarked.

"To less than nothing," he answered, gloomily. "The man was a fraud. He
is not worth attempting to bully. He is a puppet politician of a type
that ought to have been dead and buried generations ago. Enoch Stone is
our only hope in the House now. He is a strong man, and he has hold of
the truth."

"Have they decided upon Henslow's successor?" she asked.

"Not yet," he answered.

She looked up at him.

"I heard from uncle this morning," she said, smiling meaningly.

He shook his head.

"Well, it was mentioned," he said, "but I would not hear of it. I am
altogether too young and inexperienced. I want to live with the people
for a year or two first. That is why I am glad to get to London."

"With the people?" she asked, "in Jermyn Street?"

He laughed good-humouredly.

"I have also lodgings in the Bethnal Green Road," he said. "I took
possession of them last week."

"Anywhere near Merry's Corner?" she asked.

"What do you know about Merry's Corner?" he exclaimed, with uplifted
eyebrows. "Yes, my rooms are nearly opposite, at the corner of the next
street."

"I've been down there once or twice lately," she said. "There's a
mission-hall just there, and a girl named Kate Stuart gave me a letter
to go three times a week."

He nodded.

"I know the place. Week-night services and hymn-singing and preaching. A
cold, desolate affair altogether. I'm thankful I went in there, though,
for it's given me an idea."

Yes?

"I'm going to start a mission myself."

"Go on."

"On a new principle. The first thing will be that there will be no
religious services whatever. I won't have a clergyman connected with it.
It will be intended solely for the benefit of the people from a temporal
point of view."

"You are going a long way," she said. "What about Sundays?"

"There will be a very short service for the mission helpers only. No one
will be asked from outside at all. If they come it will be as a favour.
Directly it is over the usual week-day procedure will go on.

"And what is that to be?"

Brooks smiled a little doubtfully.

"Well," he said, "I've got the main idea in my head, but all the details
want thinking out. I want the place to be a sort of help bureau, to give
the people living in a certain street or couple of streets somewhere to
go for advice and help in cases of emergency. There will be no money
given away, under any consideration--only food, clothing, and, if
they are asked for, books. I shall have half-a-dozen bathrooms, and the
people who come regularly for advice and help will have to use them and
to keep their houses clean. There will be no distinction as to
character. We shall help the drunkards and the very worst of them just
the same as the others if they apply. If we get enough helpers there
will be plenty of branches we can open. I should like to have a
children's branch, for instance--one or two women will take the
children of the neighbourhood in hand and bathe them every day. As we
get to know the people better and appreciate their special needs other
things will suggest themselves. But I want them to feel that they have
some place to fail back upon. We shall be frightfully humbugged, robbed,
cheated, and deceived--at first. I fancy that after a time that
will wear itself out."

"It is a fascinating idea," she said, thoughtfully, "but to carry it out
in any way thoroughly you want a great many helpers and a great deal of
money."

"I have enough to start it," he said, "and when it is really going and
improving itself I shall go out and ask for subscriptions-big ones, you
know, from the right sort of people. You can always get money if you can
show that it is to be well spent."

"And what about the helpers?"

"Well, I know of a few," he said, "who I think would come in, and there
is one to whom I would have to pay a small salary."

"I could come in the afternoons," she said.

"Capital! But are you sure," he said, after a moment's hesitation, "that
it is quite fair to yourself?

"Oh, I can manage with my morning's salary," she answered, laughing. "I
shan't starve. Besides, I can always burn a little midnight oil."

A waiter stood at their table for a moment, deftly carving some new
dish, and Brooks, leaning back in his chair, glanced critically at his
companion. In his judgment she represented something in womankind
essentially of the durable type. He appreciated her good looks, the air
with which she wore her simple clothes, her large full eyes, her wide,
gently-humorous mouth, and the hair parted in the middle, and rippling
away towards her ears. A frank companionable woman, whose eyes had never
failed to look into his, in whom he had never at any time seen a single
shadow of embarrassment. It occurred to him just at that moment that
never since he had known her had he seen her interested to the slightest
degree in any man. He looked back at her thoughtfully. She was young,
good-looking, too catholic in her views of life and its possibilities to
refuse in any way to recognize its inevitable tendencies. Yet he told
himself complacently as he sipped his wine and watched her gazing with
amused interest at the little groups of people about the place, that
there must be in her composition a lack of sentiment. Never for a second
in their intercourse had she varied from her usual good-natured
cheerfulness. If there had been a shadow she had brushed it away
ruthlessly. Even on that terrible afternoon at Enton she had sat in the
cab white and silent--she had appealed to him in no way for
sympathy.

The waiter retreated with a bow. She shot a swift glance across at him.

"I object to being scrutinized," she declared. "Is it the plainness of
my hat or the depth of my wrinkles to which you object?"

"Object!" he repeated.

"Yes. You were looking for something which you did not find. You were
distinctly disappointed. Don't deny it. It isn't worth while."

"I won't plead guilty to the disappointment," he answered, "but I'll
tell you the truth. I was thinking what a delightfully companionable
girl you were, and yet how different from any other girl I have ever met
in my life."

"That sounds hackneyed--the latter part of it," she remarked, "but
in my case I see that it is not intended to be a compliment. What do I
lack that other girls have?

"You are putting me in a tight corner," he declared. "It isn't that you
lack anything, but nearly all the girls one meets some time or other
seem to expect from one nice little speeches or compliments, just a
little sentiment now and then. Now you seem so entirely superior to that
sort of thing altogether. It is a ridiculously lame explanation. The
thing's in my head all right, but I can't get it out. I can only express
it when I say that you are the only girl I have ever known, or known of,
in my life with whom sex would never interfere with companionship."

She stirred her coffee absently. At first he thought that she might be
offended, for she did not look up for several moments.

"I'm afraid I failed altogether to make you understand what I meant," he
said, humbly. "It is the result of an attempt at too great candour."

Then she looked up and smiled at him graciously enough, though it seemed
to him that she was a little pale.

"I am sure you were delightfully lucid," she said. "I quite understood,
and on the whole I think I agree with you. I don't think that the
sentimental side of me has been properly developed. By the bye, you were
going to tell me about that pretty girl I saw at Enton--Lady
Caroom's daughter, wasn't she?"

His face lit up--she saw his thoughts go flitting away, and the
corner of his lips curl in a retrospective smile of pleasure.

"Sybil Caroom," he said, softly. "She is a very charming girl. You would
like her, I am sure. Of course she's been brought up in rather a
frivolous world, but she's quite unspoilt, very sympathetic, and very
intelligent. Isn't that a good character?"

"Very," she answered, with a suspicion of dryness in her tone. "Is this
paragon engaged to be married yet?"

He looked at her, keenly surprised by the infusion of something foreign
in her tone.

"I--I think not," he answered. "I should like you to meet her very
much. She will be coming to London soon, and I know that she will be
interested in our new scheme if it comes to anything. We will take her
down and give her a few practical lessons in philanthropy."

"Will she be interested?" Mary asked.

"Immensely," he answered, with confidence. "Lady Caroom is an awfully
good sort, too."

Mary remembered the well-bred insolence of Lady Caroom's stare, the
contemplative incredulity which found militant expression in her
beautiful eyes and shapely curving lips, and for a moment half closed
her eyes.

"Ah, well," she said, "that afternoon was rather a terrible one to me.
Let us talk of something else."

He was profuse at once in apologies for his own thoughtlessness. But she
checked him almost at the outset.

"It is I who am to blame for an unusual weakness," she said. "Let us
both forget it. And don't you find this place hot? Let us get outside
and walk."

They found a soft misty rain falling. The commissionaire called a
hansom. She moved her skirts to make room for him.

"I am going down to Stepney to see a man who I think will be interested
in my scheme," he said. "When may I come down again and have tea with
you?"

"Any afternoon, if you will drop me a line the night before," she said,
"but I am not very likely to be out, in any case. Thank you so much for
my dinner. My aunt seemed to think that I was coming to London to
starve. I think I feel fairly safe this evening, at any rate."

The cab drove off, skirting the gaily-lit crescent of Regent Street. The
smile almost at once died away from her lips. She leaned forward and
looked at herself in one of the oblong mirrors. Her face was almost
colourless, the skin seemed drawn closely round her eyes, giving her
almost a strained look. For the rest, her hair, smoothly brushed away
from her face, was in perfect order, her prim little hat was at exactly
the right angle, her little white tie alone relieved the sombreness of
her black jacket. She sighed and suddenly felt a moistening of her hot
eyes. She leaned far back into the corner of the cab.


VI--KINGSTON BROOKS, PHILANTHROPIST

"It is my deliberate intention," Lord Arranmore said, leaning over
towards her from his low chair, "to make myself a nuisance to you." Lady
Caroom smiled at him thoughtfully.

"Thank you for the warning," she said, "but I can take care of myself. I
do not feel even obliged to deny myself the pleasure of your society."

"No, you won't do that," he remarked. "You see, so many people bore you,
and I don't."

"It is true," she admitted. "You pay me nothing but unspoken
compliments, and you devote a considerable amount of ingenuity to
conceal the real meaning of everything you say. Now some people might
not like that. I adore it."

"Catherine, will you marry me?"

"Certainly not! I'm much too busy looking after Sybil, and in any case
you've had your answer, my friend."

"You will marry me," he said, deliberately, "in less than two
years--perhaps in less than one. Why can't you make your mind up to
it?"

"You know why, Arranmore," she said, quietly. "If you were the man I
remember many years ago, the man I have wasted many hours of my life
thinking about, I would not hesitate for a moment. I loved that man, and
I have always loved him. But, Arranmore, I cannot recognize him in you.
If these terrible things which you have suffered, these follies which
you have committed, have withered you up so that there remains no trace
of the man I once cared for, do you blame me for refusing you? I will
not marry a stranger, Arranmore, and I not only don't know you, but I am
a little afraid of you."

He sighed.

"Perhaps you are right," he said, softly. "I believe that the only thing
I have carried with me from the beginning, and shall have with me to the
end, is my love for you. Nothing else has survived."

Her eyes filled with tears. She leaned over to him.

"Dear friend," she said, "listen! At least I will promise you this. If
ever I should see the least little impulse or action which seems to me
to come from the Philip I once knew, and not Lord Arranmore, anything
which will convince me that some part, however slight, of the old has
survived, I will come to you."

He sighed.

"You alone," he said, "might work such a miracle."

"Then come and see me often," she said, with a brilliant smile, "and I
will try."

He moved his chair a little nearer to her.

"You encourage me to hope," he said. "I remember that one night in the
conservatory I was presumptuous enough--to take your hand. History
repeats itself, you see, and I claim the prize, for I have fulfilled the
condition."

She drew her hand away firmly, but without undue haste.

"If you are going to be frivolous," she said, "I will have all the
callers shown in. You know very well that that is not what I mean. There
must be some unpremeditated action, some impulse which comes from your
own heart. Frankly, Arranmore, there are times now when I am afraid of
you. You seem to have no heart--to be absolutely devoid of feeling,
to be cold and calculating even in your slightest actions. There, now I
have told you just what I feel sometimes, and it doesn't sound nice,
does it?"

"It sounds very true," he said, wearily. "Will you tell me where I can
buy a new heart and a fresh set of impulses, even a disposition,
perhaps? I'd be a customer. I'm willing enough."

"Never mind that," she said, softly. "After all, I have a certain amount
of faith. A miracle may happen at any moment."

Sybil came in, dressed in a fascinating short skirt and a toque. Her
maid on the threshold was carrying a small green baize box.

"I am going to Prince's, mother, just for an hour, with Mrs. Huntingdon.
How do you do, Lord Arranmore? You'll keep mother from being dull, won't
you?"

"It is your mother," he said, "who is making me dull."

"Poor old mummy," Sybil declared, cheerfully.

"Never mind. Her bark's a good deal worse than her bite. Good-bye, both
of you."

Lord Arranmore rose and closed the door after her.

"Sybil is a remarkably handsome young woman," he said. "Any signs of her
getting married yet?"

Lady Caroom shook her head.

"No! Arranmore, that reminds me, what has become of--Mr. Brooks?"
Lord Arranmore smiled a little bitterly. "He is in London."

"I have never seen him, you must remember, since that evening. Is he
still--unforgiving?

"Yes! He refuses to be acknowledged. He is taking the bare income which
is his by law--it comes from a settlement to the eldest
son--and he is studying practical philanthropy in the slums."

"I am sorry," she said. "I like him, and he would be a companion for
you."

"He's not to be blamed," Lord Arranmore said. "From his point of view I
have been the most scandalous parent upon this earth." Lady Caroom
sighed.

"Do you know," she said, "that he and Sybil were very friendly?

"I noticed it," he answered.

"She has asked about him once or twice since we got back to town, and
when she reads about the starting of this new work of his at Stepney she
will certainly write to him."

"You mean--"

"I mean that she has sent Sydney to the right-about this time in
earnest. She is a queer girl, reticent in a way, although she seems such
a chatterbox, and I am sure she thinks about him."

Lord Arranmore laughed a little hardly.

"Well," he said, "I am the last person to be consulted about anything of
this sort. If he keeps up his present attitude and declines to receive
anything from me, his income until my death will be only two or three
thousand a year. He might marry on that down in Stepney, but not in this
part of the world.''

"Sybil has nine hundred a year," Lady Caroom said, "but it would not be
a matter of money at all. I should not allow Sybil to marry any one
concerning whose position in the world there was the least mystery. She
might marry Lord Kingston of Ross, but never Mr. Kingston Brooks."

"Has--Mr. Brooks given any special signs of devotion?" Lord
Arranmore asked.

"Not since they were at Enton. I dare say he has never even thought of
her since. Still, it was a contingency which occurred to me."

"He is a young man of excellent principles," Lord Arranmore said, dryly,
"taking life as seriously as you please, and I should imagine is too
well balanced to make anything but a very safe husband. If he comes to
me, if he will accept it without coming to me even, he can have another
ten thousand a year and Enton."

"You are generous," she murmured.

"Generous! My houses and my money are a weariness to me. I cannot live
in the former, and I cannot spend the latter. I am a man really of
simple tastes. Besides, there is no glory now in spending money. One can
so easily be outdone by one's grocer, or one of those marvellous
Americans."

"Yet I thought I read of you last week as giving nine hundred pounds for
some unknown tapestry at Christie's."

"But that is not extravagance," he protested. "That is not even spending
money. It is exchanging one investment for another. The purple colouring
of that tapestry is marvellous. The next generation will esteem it
priceless."

"You must go?" she asked, for he had risen.

"I have stayed long enough," he answered. "In another five minutes you
will yawn, and mine would have been a wasted visit. I should like to
time my visits always so that the five minutes which I might have stayed
seem to you the most desirable five minutes of the whole time."

"You are an epicurean and a schemer," she declared. "I am afraid of
you."

* * * * *

He bought an evening paper on his way to St. James's Square, and leaning
back in his brougham, glanced it carelessly through. Just as he was
throwing it aside a small paragraph at the bottom of the page caught his
attention.

A NOVEL PHILANTHROPIC DEPARTURE.

THE FIRST BUREAU OPENED TO-DAY.

INTERVIEW WITH MR. KINGSTON BROOKS.

He folded the paper out, and read through every line carefully. A few
minutes after his arrival home he re-issued from the house in a bowler
hat and a long, loose overcoat. He took the Metropolitan and an omnibus
to Stepney, and read the paragraph through again. Soon he found himself
opposite the address given.

He recognized it with a little start. It had once been a mission hall,
then a furniture shop, and later on had been empty for years. It was
brilliantly lit up, and he pressed forward and peered through the
window. Inside the place was packed. Brooks and a dozen or so others
were sitting on a sort of slightly-raised platform at the end of the
room, with a desk in front of each of them. Lord Arranmore pulled his
hat over his eyes and forced his way just inside. Almost as he entered
Brooks rose to his feet.

"Look here," he said, "you all come up asking the same question and
wasting my time answering you all severally. You want to know what this
place means. Well, if you'll stay just where you are for a minute, I'll
tell you all together, and save time."

"Hear, hear, guv'nor," said a bibulous old costermonger, encouragingly.
"Let's hear all about it."

"So you shall," Brooks said. "Now listen. I dare say there are a good
many of you who go up in the West End sometimes, and see those big
houses and the way people spend their money there, who come back to your
own houses here, and think that things aren't exactly dealt out square.
Isn't that so?"

There was a hearty and unanimous assent.

"Well," Brooks continued, "it may surprise you to hear that a few of us
who have a little money up there have come to the same conclusion. We'd
like to do our little bit towards squaring things up. It may not be
much, but lots more may come of it."

A modified but a fairly cordial assent.

"We haven't money to give away--not much of it, at any rate,"
Brooks continued.

"More bloomin' tracks," the costermonger interrupted, and spat upon the
floor. "Fair sickens me, it does."

"As for tracts," Brooks continued, calmly, "I don't think I've ever read
one in my life, and I don't want to. We haven't such a thing in the
place, and I shouldn't know where to go for them, and though that
gentleman down there with a herring sticking out of his pocket seems to
have done himself pretty well already, I'd rather stand him a glass of
beer than offer him such a thing."

A roar of laughter, during which a wag in the crowd quietly picked the
costermonger's pocket of the fish with a deftness born of much practice,
and sent it flying over the room. It was promptly returned, and found a
devious way back to its owner in a somewhat dusty and mauled condition.

"There is just one thing we have to ask for and insist upon," Brooks
continued. "When you come to us for help, tell us the truth. If you've
been drunk all the week and haven't earned any money, well, we may help
you out with a Sunday dinner. If you've been in prison and won't mind
owning up to it, we shan't send you away for that reason. We want your
women to come and bring us your children, that we can have a look at
them, tell us how much you all make a week between you, and what you
need most to make you a bit more comfortable. And we want your husbands
to come and tell us where they work, and what rent they pay, and if they
haven't any work, and can't get it, we'll see what we can do. I tell you
I don't care to start with whether you're sober and industrious, or
idle, or drunkards. We'll give any one a leg-up if we can. I don't say
we shall keep that up always, because of course we shan't. But we'll
give any one a fair chance. Now do you want to ask any questions?"

A pallid but truculent-looking young man pushed himself to the front.

"'Ere, guv'nor!" he said. "Supposing yer was to stand me a coat--I
ain't 'ad one for two months--should I 'ave to come 'ere on a
Sunday and sing bloomin' hymns?"

"If you did," Brooks answered him, "you'd do it by yourself, and you'd
stand a fair chance of being run out. There's going to be no preaching
or hymn-singing here. Those sorts of things are very well in their way,
but they've nothing to do with this show. I'm not sure whether we shall
open on Sundays or not. If we do it will be only for the ordinary
business. Now let's get to work."

"Sounds a bit of orl right, and no mistake," the young man remarked,
turning round to the crowd. "I'm going to stop and 'ave a go for that
coat."

A young man in a bright scarlet jersey pushed himself to the front,
followed by a little volley of chaff, more or less good-natured.

"There's Salvation Joe wants a new trombone."

"Christian Sall's blown a hole in the old one, eh, Joe?"

Breathless he reached Brooks' side. The sweat stood out in beads upon
his forehead. He seemed not to hear a word that was said amongst the
crowd. Brooks smiled at him good-humouredly. "Well, sir," he said, "what
can I do for you?"

"I happened in, sir, out of curiosity," the young man said, in a strange
nasal twang, the heritage of years of outdoor preaching; "I hoped to
hear of one more good work begun in this den of iniquity and to clasp
hands with another brother in God."

"Glad to see you," Brooks said. "You'll remember we're busy."

"The message of God," the young man answered, "must be spoken at all
times."

"Oh, chuck 'im out!" cried the disgusted costermonger, spitting upon the
floor. "That sort o' stuff fair sickens me."

The young man continued as though he had not heard.

"Such charity as you are offering," he cried, "is corruption. You are
going to dispense things for their carnal welfare, and you do nothing
for their immortal souls. You will not let them even shout their thanks
to God. You will fill their stomachs and leave their souls hungry."

The costermonger waved a wonderful red handkerchief, and spat once more
on the floor. Brooks laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.

"Look here, my young friend," he said, "you're talking rot. Men and
women who live down here in wretchedness, and who are fighting every
moment of their time to hang on to life, don't want to be talked to
about their souls. They need a leg-up in the world, and we've come to
try and give it to them. We're here as friends, not preachers. We'll
leave you to look after their souls. You people who've tried to make
your religion the pill to go with your charity have done more harm in
the world than you know of."

The young man was on fire to speak, but he had no chance. They hustled
him out good-naturedly except that the costermonger, running him down
the room, took his cap from his head and sent it spinning across the
road. Lord Arranmore left the hall at the same time, and turned
homewards, walking like a man in a dream.


VII--BROOKS AND HIS MISSIONS

"Now then, please," Brooks said, dipping his pen in the ink.

A lady of ample proportions, who had been standing since the
commencement of the proceedings with her hand tightly grasping the leg
of Brooks' table, gave a final shove of discomfiture to a meek-faced
girl whom she had suspected of an attempt to supersede her, and
presented herself before the desk.

"I'm first," she declared, firmly; "been 'ere for four mortal hours."

"What is your name, please?" Brooks asked.

"Mrs. Robert Jones, No. 4, St. Mary's Court, down Fennell
Street--leastways you go that way from 'ere. I'm a widow woman with
four children, and lost me husband on the railway. What I wants is a
suit of clothes for my Tommy, he's five-and-'arf, and stout for his
years, and a pair of boots for Selina Ann. And I'm not a saying," she
continued, blandly, "as me having waited 'ere so long, and this being a
sort of opening ceremony, as a pound of tea for myself wouldn't be a
welcome and reasonable gift. And if the suit," she concluded,
breathlessly, "has double-seated breeches so much the better."

Brooks maintained the most perfect composure, although conscious of a
suppressed titter from behind. He commenced to write rapidly in his
book, and Mrs. Jones, drawing her shawl about her, looked around
complacently. Suddenly she caught the ripple of mirth, which some of
Brooks' helpers were powerless to control. Her face darkened.

"Which is little enough to ask for," she declared, truculently,
"considering as it's four mortal hours since I first laid hold of the
leg of that table, and neither bite nor sup have I had since, it not
being my habit," she continued, slowly, and staring intently at the hang
of her neighbour's skirt, "to carry bottles in my pocket."

Brooks looked up.

"Thank you, Mrs. Jones," he said. "I have entered your name and address,
and I hope we shall see you again soon. This young lady," he indicated
Mary, "will take you over to our clothes department, and if we haven't
anything to fit Tommy you must come again on Wednesday, when we shall
have a larger supply."

"I'll take the nearest you've got to-day," she decided, promptly. "Wot
about the tea?"

"We shall be glad to ask you to accept a small packet," Brooks answered.
"By the bye, have you a pension from the railway company?"

"Not a penny, sir," she declared, "and a burning shame it is."

"We must see into it," Brooks said. "You see that gentleman behind me?"

"Him with the squint?" she asked, doubtfully.

Brooks bent over his book.

"Mr. Fellows, his name is," he said. "He is one of our helpers here, and
he is a lawyer. You can tell him all about it, and if we think you have
a claim we will try and see what we can do for you. Now, if you please,
we must get on. Come in any time, Mrs. Jones, and talk to us. Some one
is, always here. What is your name, please?"

"Amy Hardinge!"

There was a howl of derision from the rear. The girl, pallid, with large
dark eyes, a somewhat tawdry hat and torn skirt, turned angrily around.

"Who yer shouting at, eh? There ain't so many of yer as knows yer own
names, I dir say, and 'Ardinge's as good as any other. Leave a body be,
won't yer?"

She turned round to Brooks, and disclosed a most alarming rent in her
gown.

"Look 'ere, guv'nor," she said, "that's my name, and I 'as a back room
behind old Connel's fish-shop next door but one to 'ere. If yer want to
give away things to them as wants 'em, wot price a new skirt 'ere, eh?"

A woman from the rear leaned over to Brooks.

"The 'ussy," she said. "Don't you take no notice of 'er, sir. We all
knows 'er--and precious little good there is ter know."

Miss Hardinge was not unreasonably annoyed. She turned round with
flashing eyes and belligerent attitude.

"Who the 'ell asked you anything?" she exclaimed. "Can't yer keep your
bloomin' mouths closed?"

A pale-faced little man pushed his way through the throng. He was
dressed in a semi-clerical garb, and he tapped Brooks on the shoulder.

"Can you favour me with one moment's private conversation, sir?" he
said. "My name is John Deeling, and I am a minister of the Gospel. The
Mission House in Fennell Street is my special charge."

"Glad to know you, Mr. Deeling," Brooks answered, "but I can't spare any
time for private conversation now. Can't you speak to me here?"

Mr. Deeling looked doubtfully at the girl who stood still before the
desk, silent, but breathing hard. A sullen shade had fallen upon her
face. She looked like a creature at bay.

"It is concerning-this unfortunate young person."

"I can assure you," Brooks said, dipping his pen in the ink, "that no
recommendation is necessary. I shall do what I can for her."

"You misapprehend me, sir," Mr. Deeling said, with some solemnity. "I
regret to say that no recommendation is possible. That young person is
outside the pale of all Christian help. I regret to speak so plainly
before ladies, sir, but she is a notorious character, a hardened and
incurable prostitute."

Brooks looked at him for a moment fixedly.

"Did I understand you to say, sir, that you were a minister of the
Gospel?" he asked.

"Certainly! I am well known in the neighbourhood."

"Then if you take my advice," Brooks said, sternly, "you will take off
those garments and break stones upon the street. It is to help such
unfortunate and cruelly ill-used young women as this that I and my
friends have come here. Be off, sir. Miss Hardinge, this young lady will
take you to our clothes store in the inner room there. I hope you will
permit us to be of some further use to you later on."

The girl, half dazed, passed away. Mr. Deeling, his face red with anger,
turned towards the door.

"You may call it a Christian deed, sir," he exclaimed, angrily, "to
encourage vice of the worst description. We shall see what the bishop,
what the Press, have to say about it."

"I don't care a snap of the fingers what you, or the bishop, or time
Press have to say," Brooks rejoined, equably; "but lest there should be
those here who agree with your point of view, let them hear this from me
at once, to prevent misunderstanding. We are here to help to the best of
our ability all who need help, whatsoever their characters. They are
equally welcome to what we have to offer, whether they be thieves, or
prostitutes, or drunkards, or respectable men and women. But if I were
asked what really brought me here, for what class of people in the world
my sympathy and the sympathies of my friends have been most warmly
kindled, I should say, for such as that young woman who has just
presented herself here. If she asks for them, she will have from us food
and clothes and the use of our baths and reading-rooms whenever she
chooses, and I will guarantee that not one of my women friends here who
come in contact with her will ask a single question as to her mode of
life, until she invites their confidence. If you think that she is
responsible for her present state, you and I differ--if you think
that one shadow of blame rests upon her, we differ again. And if there
are any more like her in the room, let them come out, and they shall
have all that they ask for, that it is within our power to give."

"Hear, hear, guv'nor!"

"That's ginger for 'im."

"Out of this, old white choker. There's beans for you."

They let him pass through. On the threshold he turned and faced Brooks
again.

"At least," he said, "I can promise you this. God's blessing will never
be upon your work. I doubt whether you will be allowed to continue it in
this Christian country."

Brooks rose to his feet.

"Mr. Deeling," he said, "you and your mission system of work amongst the
poor have been fighting a losing battle in this country for fifty years
and more. A Christian country you call it. Go outside in the streets.
Look north and south, east and west, look at the people, look at their
children, look at their homes. Is there one shadow of improvement in
this labyrinth of horrors year by year, decade by decade? You know in
your heart that there is none. Therefore if new means be chosen, do not
condemn them too rashly. Your mission houses, many of them, have been
nothing but breeding-places for hypocrisy. It is time the old order was
changed. Now, sir, you are next. What can we do for you?"

A weary-looking man with hollow eyes and nervously-twitching fingers
found himself pushed before the desk. He seemed at first embarrassed and
half dazed. Brooks waited without any sign of impatience. When at last
he spoke, it was without the slightest trace of any Cockney accent.

"I--I beg your pardon, sir! I ought not perhaps to intrude here,
but I don't know who needs help more than I do."

"He's orl right, sir," sung out the costermonger. "He is a bit queer in
the 'ead, but he's a scholar, and fair on his uppers. Speak up, Joe."

"You see, my friends are willing to give me a character, sir," the man
remarked, with a ghost of a smile. "My name is Edward Owston. I was
clerk at a large drapery firm, Messrs. Appleby, Sons, and Dawson, in St.
Paul's Churchyard, for fourteen years. I have a verified character from
them. They were obliged to cult down their staff, owing to foreign
competition, and--I have never succeeded--in obtaining another
situation. There is nothing against me, sir. I would have worked for
fifteen shillings a week. I walked the streets till my boots were worn
through and my clothes hung around me like rags. It was bad luck at
first--afterwards it was my clothes. I have been selling matches
for a month it has brought me in two shillings a week."

"How old are you?" Brooks asked. "Thirty-four, sir." Brooks nearly
dropped his pen.

"What?" he exclaimed.

"Thirty-four, sir. It is four years since I lost my situation."

The man's hair was grey, a little stubbly grey beard was jutting out
from his chin. His eyes were almost lost in deep hollows. Brooks felt a
lump in his throat, and for a moment pretended to be writing busily.
Then he looked up.

"We shall give you a fresh start in life, Edward Owston," he said.
"Follow this gentleman at my left. He will find you clothes and food.
To-morrow you will go to a cottage which belongs to us at Hastings for
one month. Afterwards, if your story is true, we shall find you a
suitable situation--if it is partially true, we shall still find
you something to do. If it is altogether false we cannot help you, for
absolute truth in answering our questions is the only condition we
impose." The man never uttered a word. He went out leaning upon the arm
of one of Brooks' assistants. Another, who was a doctor, after a glance
into the man's face, followed them. When he returned, after about twenty
minutes' absence, he leaned forward and whispered in Brooks' ear "You'll
never have to find a situation for that poor fellow. A month's about all
he's good for." Brooks looked round shocked. "What is it--drink?"
he asked. The doctor shook his head.

"Not a trace of it. Starvation and exhaustion. If I hadn't been with him
just now he'd have been dead before this. He fainted away."

Brooks half closed his eyes.

"It is horrible!" he murmured.

The costermonger was next. Brooks looked around the room and at the
clock.

"Look here," he said. "If I sit here till tomorrow I can't possibly
attend to all of you. I tell you what I'll do. If you others will give
place to those whose cases are really urgent, I'll be here at seven
to-morrow morning till seven at night, and the next day too, if
necessary. It's no good deputing any one else to tell me, because
however many branches we open--and I hope we shall open a great
many--I mean to manage this one myself, and I must know you all
personally. Now are you all agreeable?"

"I am for one," declared the costermonger, moving away from before the
desk. "I ain't in no 'urry. I've 'ad a bit o' bad luck wi' my barrer,
all owing to a plaguing drunken old omnibus-driver, and horl I want is a
bit o' help towards the security. Josh Auk wants it before he'll let me
out a new one. Tomorrow's horl right for me."

"Well, I expect we'll manage that," Brooks remarked. "Now where are the
urgent cases?"

One by one they were elbowed forward. Brooks' pen flew across the paper.
It was midnight even then before they had finished. Brooks and Mary
Scott left together. They were both too exhausted for words.

As they crossed the street Mary suddenly touched his arm.

"Look!" she whispered.

A girl was leaning up against the wall, her face buried in her hands,
sobbing bitterly. They both watched her for a moment. It was Amy
Hardinge.

"I will go and speak to her," Mary whispered.

Brooks drew her away.

"Not one word, even of advice," he said. "Let us keep to our principles.
The end will be surer."

They turned the corner of the street. Above the shouting of an angry
woman and the crazy song of a drunken man the girl's sobs still lingered
in their ears.


VIII--MR. BULLSOM IS STAGGERED

Mr. Bullsom looked up from his letters With an air of satisfaction.

"Company to dinner, Mrs. Bullsom!" he declared. "Some more of your silly
old directors, I suppose," said Selina, discontentedly. "What a nuisance
they are."

Mr. Bullsom frowned.

"My silly old directors, as you call 'em," he answered, "may not be
exactly up to your idea of refinement, but I wouldn't call 'em names if
I were you. They've made me one of the richest men in Medchester."

"A lot we get out of it," Louise grunted, discontentedly.

"You get as much as you deserve," Mr. Bullsom retorted. "Besides, you're
so plaguing impatient. You don't hear your mother talk like that."

Selina whispered something under her breath which Mr. Bullsom, if he
heard, chose to ignore.

"I've explained to you all before," he continued, "that up to the end of
last year we've been holding the entire property--over a million
pounds' worth, between five of us. Our time's come now. Now, look
here--I'll listen to what you've got to say--all of you.
Supposing I've made up my mind to launch out. How do you want to do it?
You first, mother."

Mrs. Bullsom looked worried.

"My dear Peter," she said, "I think we're very comfortable as we are. A
larger household means more care, and a man-servant about the place is a
thing I could never abide. If you felt like taking sittings at Mr.
Thompson's as well as our own chapel, so that we could go there when we
felt we needed a change, I think I should like it sometimes. But it
seems a waste of good money with Sundays only coming once in seven
days."

Mr. Bullsom shook with good-humoured laughter.

"Mother, mother," he said, "we shall never smarten you up, shall we,
girls? Now, what do you say, Selina?"

"I should like a country house quite ten on fifteen miles away from
here, lots of horses and carriages, and a house in town for the season,"
Selina declared, boldly.

"And you, Louise?"

"I should like what Selina has said."

Mr. Bullsom looked a little grave.

"The house in London," he said, "you shall have, whether I buy it or
only hire it for a few months at a time. If we haven't friends up there,
there are always the theatres and music-halls, and lots going on. But a
country house is a bit different. I thought of building a place up at
Nicholson's Corner, where the trains stop. The land belongs to me, and
there's room for the biggest house in Medchester."

Selina tossed her head.

"Of course," she said, "if we have to spend all our lives in this
hateful suburb it doesn't much matter whether you stay here on build
another house, no one will come to see us. We shall never get to know
anybody."

"And supposing you go out into the country," Mr. Bullsom argued. "How do
you know that you will make friends there?"

"People must call," Selina answered, "if you subscribe to the hounds,
and you must get made a magistrate."

"We have lived here for a good many years," Mr. Bullsom said, "and there
are very superior people living almost at our doors whom even you girls
don't know to bow to."

Selina tossed her head.

"Superior, you call them, do you? A silly stuck-up lot, I think. They
form themselves into little sets, and if you don't belong, they treat
you as though you had small-pox."

"The men are all pleasant enough," Mr. Bullsom remarked. "I meet them in
the trains and in business, and they're always glad enough to pass the
time o' day."

"Oh, the men are all right," Selina answered. "It's easy enough to know
them. Mr. Wensome trod on my dress the other day, and apologized as
though he'd torn it off my back, and the next day he gave me his seat in
the car. I always acknowledge him, and he's glad enough to come and
talk, but if his wife's with him, she looks straight ahead as though
every one else in the car were mummies."

Mr. Bullsom cut the end of a cigar thoughtfully, and motioned Louise to
get him a light.

"You see, your mother and I are getting on in life," he said, "and it's
a great thing to ask us to settle down in a place where there's no
slipping off down to the club in the evening, and no chance of a friend
dropping in for a chat. We've got to an age when we need some one to
talk to. I ain't going to say that a big house in the country isn't a
nice thing to have, and the gardens and that would be first-class. But
it's a big move, and it ain't to be decided about all in a hurry."

"Why, father, there's the shooting," Selina exclaimed. "You're fond of
that, and men will go anywhere for really good shooting, and make their
wives go, too. If you could get a place with plenty of it, and a
fox-covert or two on the estate, I'm perfectly certain we should be all
right."

Mr. Bullsom looked still a little doubtful.

"That's all very well," he said, "but I don't want to bribe people into
my house with shooting and good cooking, and nursing their blooming
foxes. That ain't my idea of making friends."

"It's only breaking the ice-just at first," Selina argued. "Afterwards
I'm sure you'd find them friendly enough."

"I tell you what I shall do," Mr. Bullsom said, deliberately; "I shall
consult the friend I've got coming to dinner to-night."

Selina smiled contemptuously.

"Pshaw!" she exclaimed. "What do any of them know about such things?"

"You don't know who it is," Mr. Bullsom replied, mysteriously.

The girls turned towards him almost simultaneously.

"Is it Mr. Brooks?"

Mr. Bullsom nodded. Selina flushed with pleasure and tried to look
unconscious.

"Only the day before yesterday," Mr. Bullsom said, "as chairman of the
committee, I had the pleasure of forwarding to Brooks a formal
invitation to become the parliamentary candidate for the borough. He
writes to me by return to say that he will be here this afternoon, as he
wishes to see me personally."

"I must say he hasn't lost much time," Louise remarked, smiling across
at Selina.

Mr. Bullsom grunted.

"I don't see how he could do much less," he said. "After all, though
every one admits that he's a clever young chap and uncommonly
conscientious, he's not well known generally, and he hasn't the position
in the town or anywhere which people generally look for in a
parliamentary candidate. I may tell you, girls, and you, mother, that he
was selected solely on my unqualified support and my casting vote."

"I hope," Mrs. Bullsom said, "that he will be properly grateful."

"I'm sure it's very good of you, pa," Selina declared, affably. She
liked the idea of Brooks owing so much to her father.

"There's no young man," Mr. Bullsom said, "whom I like so much or think
so much of as Mr. Brooks. If I'd a son like that I'd be a proud man. And
as we're here all alone, just the family, as it were, I'll go on to say
this," Mr. Bullsom continued, his right thumb finding its way to the
armhole of his waistcoat. "I'm going to drop a hint at the first
opportunity I get, quite casually, that whichever of you girls gets
married first gets a cheque from me for one hundred thousand pounds."

Even Selina was staggered. Mrs. Bullsom was positively frightened.

"Mr. Bullsom!" she said. "Peter, you ain't got as much as that? Don't
tell me!"

"I am worth to-day," Mr. Bullsom said, solemnly, "at least five hundred
thousand pounds."

"Peter," Mrs. Bullsom gasped, "has it been come by honest?"

Mr. Bullsom smiled in a superior way.

"I made it," he answered, "by locking up forty thousand, more than half
of what I was worth, for five years. But I knew what I was about, and so
did the others. Mason made nearly as much as I did."

Selina looked at her father with a new respect. He rose and brushed the
ashes of his cigar from his waistcoat.

"Now I'm off," he declared. "Brooks and I will be back about seven, and
I shall try and get him to sleep here. Fix yourselves up quiet and
ladylike, you girls. Good-bye, mother."

* * * * *

"We have about an hour before dinner," Mr. Bullsom remarked, sinking
into his most comfortable chair and lighting a cigar. "Just time for a
comfortable chat. You'll smoke, Brooks, won't you?"

Brooks excused himself, and remained standing upon the hearthrug, his
elbow upon the mantelpiece. He hated this explanation he had to make.
However, it was no good in beating about the bush.

"I am going to surprise you very much, Mr. Bullsom," he began.

Mr. Bullsom took the cigar from his mouth and looked up with wide-open
eyes. He had been preparing graciously to wave away a torrent of thanks.

"I am going to surprise you very much," Brooks repeated. "I cannot
accept this magnificent offer of yours. I cannot express my gratitude
sufficiently to you, or to the committee. Nothing would have made me
happier than to have been able to accept it. But I am absolutely
powerless."

"You don't funk it?" Mr. Bullsom asked.

"Not I. The fact is, there are circumstances connected with myself which
make it inadvisable for me to seek any public position at present."

Mr. Bullsom's first sensations of astonishment were augmented into
stupefaction. He was scarcely capable of speech. He found himself
wondering idly how heinous a crime a man must commit to be branded
ineligible.

"To explain this to you," Brooks continued, "I am bound to tell you
something which is only known to two people in the country. The Marquis
of Arranmore is my father."

Mr. Bullsom dropped his cigar from between his fingers, and it lay for a
moment smouldering upon the carpet. His face was a picture of blank and
hopeless astonishment.

"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed, faintly. "You mean that
you--you, Kingston Brooks, the lawyer, are Lord Arranmore's son?"

Brooks nodded.

"Yes! It's not a pleasant story. My father deserted my mother when I was
a child, and she died in his absence. A few months ago, Lord Arranmore,
in a leisurely sort of way, thought well to find me out, and after
treating me as an acquaintance for some time--a sort of
probationary period, I suppose--he told me the truth. That is the
reason of my resigning from the firm of Morrison and Brooks almost as
soon as the partnership deed was signed. I went to see Mr. Ascough and
told him about your offer, and he, of course, explained the position to
me."

"But,"--Mr. Bullsom paused as though striving to straighten out the
matter in his own mind, "but if you are Lord Arranmore's son there is no
secret about it, is there? Why do you still call yourself Mr. Brooks?"

Mr. Bullsom, whose powers of observation were not remarkably acute,
looking steadily into his visitor's face, saw there some signs of a
certain change which others had noticed and commented upon during the
last few months--a hardening of expression and a slight contraction
of the mouth. For Brooks had spent many sleepless nights pondering upon
this new problem which had come into his life.

"I do not feel inclined," he said, quietly, "for many reasons, to accept
the olive-branch which it has pleased my father to hold out to me after
all these years. I have still some faint recollections of the close of
my mother's life--hastened, I am sure, by anxiety and sorrow on his
account. I remember my own bringing up, the loneliness of it. I remember
many things which Lord Arranmore would like me now to forget. Then, too,
my father and I are as far apart as the poles. He has not the least
sympathy with my pursuits or the things which I find worth doing in
life. There are other reasons which I need not trouble you with. It is
sufficient that for the present I prefer to remain Mr. Brooks, and to
lead my own life."

"But--you won't be offended, but I want to understand. The thing
seems such a muddle to me. You've given up your practice--how do
you mean to live?"

"There is an income which comes to me from the Manor of Kingston,"
Brooks answered, "settled on the eldest sons of the Arranmore peerage,
with which my father has nothing to do. This alone is comparative
wealth, and there are accumulations also."

"It don't seem natural," Mr. Bullsom said. "If you'll excuse my saying
so, it don't sound like common-sense. You can live on what terms you
please with your father, but you ought to let people know who you are.
Great Scott," he added, with a little chuckle, "what will Julia and the
girls say?

"You will understand, Mr. Bullsom," Brooks said, hastily, "that I trust
you to preserve my confidence in this matter. I have told you because I
wanted you to understand why I could not accept this invitation to
contest the borough, also because you were one of my best friends when I
was here. But you are the only person to whom I have told my secret."

Mr. Bullsom sighed. It would have been such a delightful disclosure.

"As you wish, of course," he said. "But my it don't seem possible! Lord
Arranmore's son--the Marquis of Arranmore! Gee whiz!"

"Some day, of course," Brooks said, "it must come out. But I don't want
it to be yet awhile. If that clock is right hadn't I better be going
up-stairs?"

Mr. Bullsom nodded.

"If you'll come with me," he said, "I'll show you your room."


IX--GHOSTS

Brooks, relieved that his explanation with Mr. Bullsom was over, was
sufficiently entertaining at dinner-time. He sat between Selina and
Louise, and made himself agreeable to both. Mr. Bullsom for half the
time was curiously abstracted, and for the remainder almost boisterous.
Every now and then he found himself staring at Brooks as though at some
natural curiosity. His behaviour was so singular that Selina commented
upon it.

"One would think, papa, that you and Mr. Brooks had been quarrelling,"
she remarked, tartly. "You seem quite odd to-night."

Mr. Bullsom raised his glass. He had lately improved his cellar.

"Drink your health, Brooks," he said, looking towards him. "We had an
interesting chat, but we didn't get quarrelling, did we?"

"Nor are we ever likely to," Brooks answered, smiling. "You know, Miss
Bullsom, your father was my first client of any importance, and I shan't
forget how glad I was to get his cheque."

"I'm very pleased that he was useful to you," Selina answered,
impressively. "Will you tell me something that we want to know very
much?"

"Certainly!"

"Are you really not coming back to Medchester to live?"

Brooks shook his head.

"No. I am settling down in London. I have found some work there I like."

"Then are you the Mr. Brooks who has started what the Daily Courier
calls a 'Whiteby's Charity Scheme' in the East End?"

"Quite true, Miss Bullsom. And your cousin is helping me."

Selina raised her eyebrows.

"Dear me," she said, "I had no idea that Many had time to spare for that
sort of thing, had you, father?

"Many can look after herself, and uncommonly well too," Mr. Bullsom
answered.

"She comes mostly in the evening," Brooks explained, "but she is one of
my most useful helpers."

"It must be so interesting to do good," Louise said, artlessly. "After
dinner, Mr. Brooks, will you tell us all about it?"

"It seems so odd that you should care so much for that sort of thing,"
Selina remarked. "As a rule it is the frumpy and uninteresting people
who go in for visiting the poor and doing good, isn't it? You seem so
young, and so--oh, I don't think I'd better go on."

"Please do," Brooks begged.

"Well, you won't think I was trying to flatter, will you, but I was
going to say, and too clever for that sort of thing."

Brooks smiled.

"Perhaps," he said, "the reason that social reform is so urgently needed
in so many ways is for that very reason, Miss Bullsom--that the
wrong sort of person has been going in for it. Looking after the poor
has meant for most people handing out bits of charity on the
toasting-fork of religion. And that sort of thing doesn't tend to bridge
over the gulf, does it?"

"Toasting-fork!" Selina giggled. "How funny you are, Mr. Brooks."

"Am I?" he answered, good-humouredly. "Now let me hear what you have
been doing since I saw you in town."

Selina was immediately grave--not to say scornful.

"Doing! What do you suppose there is to do here?" she exclaimed,
reproachfully. "We've been sitting still waiting for something to
happen. But--have you said anything to Mr. Brooks yet, papa?"

Mr. Bullsom shook his head.

"Haven't had time," he answered. "Brooks had so much to say to me. You
knew all about our land company, Brooks, of course? You did a bit of
conveyancing for us.

"Of course I did," Brooks answered, "and I told you from the first that
you were going to make a lot of money by it."

Mr. Bullsom glanced around the room. The two maid-servants were at the
sideboard.

"Guess how much."

Brooks shook his head.

"I never knew your exact share," he said.

"It's half a million," Mr. Bullsom said, pulling down his waistcoat, and
squaring himself to the table. "Not bad, eh, for a country spec?"

"It's wonderful," Brooks admitted. "I congratulate you heartily."

"Thanks," Mr. Bullsom answered.

"We want papa to buy a house in the country, and go to town for the
season," Selina said. "So long as we can afford it I am dying to get out
of Medchester. It is absolutely the most commercial town I have ever
been in.

"Your father should stand for Parliament himself," Brooks suggested.

It is really possible that Mr. Bullsom, being a man governed entirely by
one idea at a time, had never seriously contemplated the possibility of
himself stepping outside the small arena of local politics. It is
certain at any rate that Brooks' words came to him as an inspiration. He
stared for a moment into his glass--then at Brooks. Finally he
banged the table with the flat of his hand.

"It's an idea!" he exclaimed. "Why not?"

"Why not, indeed?" Brooks answered. "You'd be a popular candidate for
the borough."

"I'm chairman of the committee," Mr. Bullsom declared; "I'll propose
myself. I've taken the chair at political dinners and meetings for the
last twenty years. I know the runs, and the people of Medchester know
me. Why not, indeed? Mr. Brooks, sir, you're a genius."

"You 'ave given him something to think about," Mrs. Bullsom murmured,
amiably. "I'd be willing enough but for the late hours. They never did
agree with Peter--did they? He's always been such a one for his
rest."

Mr. Bullsom's thumbs made their accustomed pilgrimage.

"In the service of one's country," he said, "one should be prepared to
make sacrifices. The champagne, Amy. Besides, one can always sleep in
the morning."

Selina and Louise exchanged glances, and Selina, as the elder, gave the
project her languid approval.

"It would be nice for us in a way," she remarked. "Of course you would
have a house in London then, papa, and being an M.P. you would get cards
for us to a lot of 'at homes' and things. Only I wish you were a
Conservative."

"A Liberal is much more fashionable than he was," Brooks assured her,
cheerfully.

"Fashionable! I know the son of a Marquis, a Lord himself, who's a
Liberal, and a good one," Mr. Bullsom remarked, with a wink to Brooks.

"Well, my dears," Mrs. Bullsom said, making an effort to rise, and
failing at the first attempt, "shall we leave the gentlemen to talk
about it over their wine?

"Oh, you sit down again, mother," Selina directed.

"That sort of thing's quite old-fashioned, isn't it, Mr. Brooks? We're
going to stay with you. You can smoke. Ann, bring the cigars."

Mrs. Bullsom, who was looking forward to a nap in a quiet corner of the
drawing-room, obeyed with resignation written large on her good-natured,
somewhat flushed face. But Mr. Bullsom, who wanted to revert to the
subject which still fascinated him, grunted.

"Hang these new ideas," he said. "It's you they're after, Mr. Brooks. As
a rule, they're off before I can get near my cigar-box."

Selina affected a little consciousness, which she felt became her.

"Such foolishness, papa. You don't believe it, do you, Mr. Brooks?"

"Am I not to, then?" he asked, looking down upon her with a smile.
Whereupon Selina's consciousness became confusion.

"How stupid you are," she murmured. "You can believe just what you like.
What are you looking at over in the corner of the room?"

"Ghosts," he answered.

Yet very much as those images flitted at that moment through his brain,
so events were really shaping themselves in that bare clean-swept room
into which his eyes had for a moment strayed away. Mary Scott was there,
her long apron damp with soap-suds and her cheeks red with exertion, for
she had just come from bathing twelve youngsters, who, not being used to
the ordeal, had given trouble. There were other of his helpers too, a
dozen of them up to their eyes in work, and a long string of applicants
patiently waiting their turn. The right sort too--the sort from
underneath--pale-faced, hollow-eyed, weary, yet for a moment
stirred from their lethargy of suffering at the prospect of some passing
relief. There was a young woman, hollow-cheeked, thin herself as a lath,
eager for work or chance of work for her husband--that morning out
of hospital, still too delicate to face the night air and the hot room.
He knew shorthand, could keep books, typewrite, a little slip about his
character, but that was all over and done with. A bank clerk with L90 a
year, obliged to wear a silk hat, who marries a penniless girl on his
summer holiday. They must live, both of them, and the gold passed
through his fingers day by day, an endless shower. The magistrates had
declined to sentence him, but the shame--and he was never strong.
Brooks saw the card made out for that little cottage at Hastings, and
enclosed with the railway ticket Owston was picking up fast
there--and smiled faintly. He saw the girl on her breathless way
home with the good news, saw her wet face heaven turned for the first
time for many a month. There were men and women in the world with hearts
then. They were not all puppets of wood and stone, even as those bank
directors. Then, too, she would believe again that there might be a God.

Ghosts! They were plentiful enough. There was the skin-dresser--his
fingers still yellow with the dye of the pith. Things were bad in
Bermondsey. The master had gone bankrupt, the American had filched away
his trade. No one could find him work. He was sober enough except at
holiday time and an odd Saturday--a good currier--there might
be a chance for him in the country, but how was he to get there? And in
any case now, how could he? His wife had broken down, lay at home with
no disease that a hospital would take her in for, sinking for want of
good food, worn out with hard work, toiling early and late to get food
for the children until her man should get a job. There was the
workhouse, but it meant separation, perhaps for ever, and they were man
and wife, as much needed the one by the other, perhaps more, as their
prototype in the world of plenty. Again Brooks smiled. He must have seen
Flitch, a capital chap Flitch, making up that parcel in the grocery
department and making an appointment for three days' time. And Menton,
too, the young doctor, as keen on the work as Brooks himself, but paid
for his evenings under protest, overhears the address--why, it was
only a yard or two. He would run back with the man and have a look at
his wife. He had some physic--he felt sure it was just what she
wanted. So out into the street together, and no wonder the
yellow-stained fingers that grasped the string of the parcel shook, and
the man felt an odd lump in his throat, and a wave of thankfulness as he
passed a flaring public-house when half-an-hour ago he had almost
plunged madly in to find pluck for the river--devil's pluck. The
woman. Nothing the matter with her but what rest and good food would
cure. Another case for that little cottage. Lucky there were others
being made ready.

"What sort of ghosts, Mr. Brooks?" Selina asked, a little more sharply.

He started, and withdrew his eyes at last.

"Ah, Miss Bullsom," he answered, "just the ghosts we all carry with us,
you know, the ghosts of our thoughts, living and dead, good and evil."

"How funny you are, Mr. Brooks," she exclaimed.


X--A NEW DON QUIXOTE

Brooks reached London the next evening to find himself famous. The
evening papers, one of which he had purchased en route, were one and all
discussing his new charitable schemes. He found himself held up at once
to ridicule and contempt--praised and blamed almost in the same
breath. The Daily Gazette, in an article entitled "The New Utopia,"
dubbed him the "Don Quixote of philanthropy" the St. James's made other
remarks scarcely so flattering. He drove at once to Stepney, and found
his headquarters besieged by a crowd which his little staff of helpers
was wholly unable to cope with, and half-a-dozen reporters waiting to
snatch a word with him. Mary watched his entrance with a little sigh of
relief.

"I'm so glad you have come," she exclaimed. "It is hard to send these
people away, but do you know, they have come from all parts of London?
Neither Mr. Flitch nor I can make them understand that we can only deal
with cases in the immediate neighbourhood. You must try."

Brooks stood up at once.

"I am very sorry," he said, "if there has been any misunderstanding, but
I want you all to remember this. It is impossible for us to deal with
any cases to-night unless you are residents of the immediate
neighbourhood. The list of streets is on the front door. Please do not
present yourselves before any of the desks unless you lodge or live in
one of them."

There was a murmur of disappointment, and in the background a few
growls.

"I hope before very long," Brooks continued, "that we shall have a great
many more branches open, and be able to offer help to all of you. But at
present we cannot make any exceptions. Will every one except our
neighbours please help us by leaving the room."

For the most part he was obeyed, and then one of the reporters touched
him on the shoulder.

"Good-evening, Mr. Brooks. I am representing the Evening Courier. We
should be glad to know what your ideas are as to the future of this new
departure of yours, and any other information you might cane to give us.
There are some others here, I see, on the same errand. Any exclusive
information you cared to place at my disposal would be much valued, and
we should take especial pains to put your case fairly before the
public."

Brooks smiled.

"Really," he said, "it seems as though I were on my defence."

The reporter took out his pencil.

"Well, you know," he said, "some of the established charitable
institutions are rather conservative, and they look upon you as an
interloper, and your methods as a little too broad."

"Well," Brooks said, "if it is to be war between us and the other
charitable institutions you name, I am ready for it, but I cannot talk
to you now. As you see, I have an evening's work before me."

"When can you spare me half-an-hour, sir?"

"At midnight--my rooms, in, Jermyn Street."

The reporter closed his book.

"I don't wish to waste your time, sir," he answered. "If you are not
going to say anything to the others before then I will go away."

Brooks nodded. The reporters whispered together.

"May we stay and watch for a few minutes?" one of them asked.

Brooks agreed, and went on with his work. Once more the human flotsam
and jetsam, worthy and unworthy, laid bare the sore places in their
lives, sometimes with the smooth tongue of deceit, sometimes with the
unconscious eloquence of suffering long pent up. One by one they found
their way into Brooks' ledgers as cases to be reckoned out and solved.
And meanwhile nearly all of them found some immediate relief, passing
out into the night with footsteps a little less shuffling, and hearts a
little lighter. The night's work was a long one. It was eleven o'clock
before Brooks left his seat with a little gesture of relief and lit a
cigarette.

"I must go and get something to eat," he said. "Will you come Miss
Scott?"

She shook her head.

"I have to make out a list of things we want for my department," she
said. "Last night they were nearly all women here. Don't bother about
me. Mr. Flitch will put me in an omnibus at London Bridge. You must see
those reporters. You've read the evening papers, haven't you?"

Brooks nodded.

"Yes. I knew we should have opposition. This isn't even the beginning of
it. It won't hurt us."

Nevertheless Brooks was anxious to be properly understood, and he talked
for a long time with the reporter, whom he found awaiting him in Jermyn
Street--a pleasant young fellow just back from the war, with the
easy manner and rattling conversation of his order.

"You ought to call in and have a chat with the chief, Mr. Brooks," he
said. "He'd be delighted to hear your views personally, I'm sure, and I
believe you'd convert him. He's a bit old-fashioned, you know, that is
for a sub--believes in the orthodox societies, and makes a great
point of not encouraging idleness."

"I'd be glad to some time," Brooks answered. "But I can tell you this.
If we can get the money, and I haven't asked for a penny yet, nothing in
the shape of popular opinion is going to stop us. Idleness and
drunkenness, deceit and filthy-mindedness, and all those vices which I
admit are like a pestilence amongst these people, are sins which we are
responsible for, not them, and, of course, we must suffer to some extent
from them. But we've got to grapple with them. We shall be taken
advantage of, and grossly deceived continually. I know of one or two
cases already. We expect it--count upon it. But in the end we shall
come out on the top. If we are consistent the thing will right itself."

"You are a young man to be so interested in philanthropic work, Mr.
Brooks Every one seems to consider philanthropy the pursuit of the old,"
Brooks answered. "I don't know why, I am sure."

"And may I ask if that is a sample of your daily correspondence?" he
asked, pointing to the table.

Brooks looked at the enormous pile of letters and shook his head.

"I have never had more than twenty letters at a time in my life," he
answered. "There seems to be almost as many thousands there. It is, I
suppose, a result of the Press booming our modest little show. I can
scarcely feel as grateful as I should like to. Have another pipe, will
you--or a cigar? I think unless there's anything else you'd like to
ask I'd better begin on these."

"Nothing more, thanks," the pressman answered; "but if I might I'd like
to stay while you open a few. There might be something interesting. If
you'll forgive my remarking it, there seem to be a good many registered
letters. I understood that you had not appealed to the public for
subscriptions."

"Neither have I," Brooks answered, stretching out his hand. "If there is
money in these it is entirely unsolicited."

He plunged into a correspondence as various as it was voluminous. There
were letters of abuse, of sympathy, of friendship, of remonstrance, of
reproof. There were offers of help, money, advice, suggestions, and
advertisements. There were small sums of money, and a few larger ones.
He was amused to find that a great many people addressed him as an
infidel--the little mission preacher had certainly been busy, and
everywhere it seemed to be understood that his enterprise was an
anti-Christian one. And finally there was a long packet, marked as
having been delivered by hand, and inside--without a word of any
sort, on a single clue as to its sender--a bank-note for one
thousand pounds.

Brooks passed it over to his companion, who saw the amount with a little
start.

"A thousand pounds--not even registered--in a plain envelope.
And you have no idea from whom it came?

"None whatever," Brooks answered.

The pressman folded it up silently, and passed it back. He looked at the
huge pile of correspondence and at Brooks--his dark thoughtful face
suddenly lit up with a rare gleam of excitement. In his own mind he was
making a thumb-nail sketch of these things. There was material for one
of those broad, suggestive articles which his editor loved. He wished
Brooks good-night.

"I'm much obliged for all you've told me," he said. "If you don't mind,
I'd like to drop in now and again down at Stepney. I believe that this
is going to be rather a big thing for you."

Brooks smiled.

"So do I," he answered. "Come whenever you like."

Brooks sank into an easy-chair, conscious at last of a more than
ordinary exhaustion. He looked at the pile of newspapers at his feet,
the sea of correspondence on the table--his thoughts travelled back
to the bare, dusty room in Stepney, with its patient, white-faced crowd
of men and women and children. Perhaps, after all, then he had found his
life's work here. If so he need surely regret no longer his lost
political opportunities. Yet in his heart he knew that it had been from
the House of Commons he had meant to force home his schemes. To work
outside had always seemed to him to be labouring under a disadvantage,
to be missing the true and best opportunity of impressing upon the
law-makers of the country their true responsibilities. But of that there
was no longer any hope. Of the House of Lords he thought only with a
cold shiver. No, political life was denied to him. He must do his best
for the furtherance of his work outside.

He fell asleep to awake in the cold grey of the morning, stiff and
cramped, and cold to the bone. Stamping up and down the room in a
vigorous attempt to restore his lost circulation, he noticed as he
passed the corner of the table a still unopened letter addressed to him
in a familiar handwriting. He took it over to the window, and, glancing
at the faintly-sketched coronet on time back, turned it over and broke
the seal.

"ST. JAMES'S HOUSE, LONDON.

"Thursday.

"MY DEAR BROOKS,

"I have read with an amusement which I am sure you will not fail to
share, the shower of condemnation, approval, and remonstrance which by
your doings in Stepney you appear to have brought down upon your head.
The religious element especially, you seem to have set by the ears. I
sat within hearing of our premier bishop last night at dinner, and his
speculations with regard to you and your ultimate aims were so amusing
that I passed without noticing it my favourite entree.

"You will have observed that it is your anonymity which is the weapon of
which your antagonists make most use. Why not dissipate it and confound
them? A Mr. Brooks of unknown antecedents might well be supposed capable
of starting a philanthropic work for his own good; the same suspicion
could never fall on Lord Kingston Ross, a future marquis. You will
notice that I make no appeal to you from any personal motive. I should
suggest that we preserve our present relations without alteration. But
if you care to accept my suggestion I would propose that you nominate me
trustee of your society, and I will give, as a contribution to its
funds, the sum of five thousand pounds."

Brooks looked down the long street, quiet and strangely unfamiliar in
the dawning light, and for a moment he hesitated. The letter he held in
his hand crushed up into a shapeless ball. It would make things very
easy. And then--a rush of memories. He swung round and sat down at
his desk, drawing paper and ink towards him.

"DEAR LORD ARRANMORE," he wrote, "I am much obliged to you for the
suggestion contained in your letter, but I regret that its acceptance
would involve the carrying out on my part of certain obligations which I
am not at present prepared to undertake. We will, therefore, if you
please, allow matters to remain on this footing.

"Yours sincerely,

"KINGSTON BROOKS."

Bareheaded he stole out into the street, and breathed freely only when
he heard it drop into the pillar-box. For only he himself knew what
other things went with the rejection of that offer.

He crept up-stairs to lie down for a while, and 'on the way he laughed
softly to himself.

"What a fool she would think me!" he muttered. "What a fool I am!"



PART III

I--AN ARISTOCRATIC RECRUIT

An early spring came with a rush of warm west wind, sunshine, and the
perfume of blossoming flowers. The chestnuts where out at the Park fully
a week before their time, and already through the great waxy buds the
colour of the coming rhododendrons was to be seen in sheltered corners
of the Park. London put out its window boxes, and remembered that it
had, after all, for two short months a place amongst the beautiful
cities of the world. 'Bus conductors begun to whistle, and hansom cab
drivers to wear a bunch of primroses in their coats. Kingston Brooks,
who had just left his doctor, turned into the Park and mingled idly with
the throng of people.

For the first time for many months he suffered his thoughts to travel
over a wider range than usual. The doctor's words had been sharp and to
the point. He must have instant change--change, if not of scene, at
least of occupation. Scarcely to be wondered at, Brooks thought to
himself, with a faint smile, when he thought of the last twelve months,
full to the brim of strenuous labour, of ceaseless striving within a
herculean task. Well, he was in smoother waters now. He might withdraw
his hand for a while, if necessary. He had gone his way, and held his
own so far against all manner of onslaught. Just then he heard himself
called by name, and, looking up, found himself face to face with Sybil
Caroom.

"Mr. Brooks! Is it really you, then, at last?"

He set his teeth hard, but he could not keep the unusual colour from his
cheeks.

"It is really I, Lady Sybil. How do you do?"

Sybil was charming in a lilac-coloured dress and hat as fresh and dainty
as her own complexion. She looked straight into his eyes, and told him
that he ought to be ashamed of himself.

"Oh, it's not the least use your looking as though you were going to
edge away every moment," she declared, laughing. "I am going to keep you
for quite a long time, and make you tell me about everything."

"In which case, Lady Sybil," her escort remarked, good-humouredly, "you
will perhaps find a better use for me at some future time."

"How sweet of you," she answered, blandly. "Do you know Mr. Brooks? Mr.
Kingston Brooks, Lord Bertram. Mr. Brooks is a very old friend, and I
have so many questions I want to ask him."

Lord Bertram, a slim, aristocratic young man, raised his hat, and
glanced with some interest at the other man.

"The Mr. Kingston Brooks of the East End? Lavvy's friend?" he asked,
politely.

Brooks smiled.

"I am afraid," he said, "that I am the person who is being
exposed--isn't that the word? I warn you, Lady Sybil, that I am a
questionable character."

"I will take the risk," she answered, gaily.

"I think you may safely do so," Lord Bertram answered, raising his hat.
"Good-morning, Lady Sybil--morning, Mr. Brooks!"

She led him towards the chairs.

"I am going to take the risk of your being in an extravagant frame of
mind," she said, "and make you pay for two chains--up here, on the
back now. Now, first of all, do you know that you look shockingly ill?"

"I have just come from-n my doctor," Brooks answered. "He agrees with
you."

"I am glad that you have had the sense to go to him," she said. "Tell
me, are you just run down, on is there anything more serious the matter?

"Nothing serious at all," he answered. "I have had a great deal to do,
and no holiday during the past year, so I suppose I am a little tired."

"You look like a ghost," she said. "You have been overworking yourself
ridiculously. Now, will you be so good as to tell me why you have never
been to see us?"

"I have been nowhere," he answered. "My work has claimed my undivided
attention."

"Nonsense," she answered. "You have been living for a year within a
shilling cab ride of us, and you have not once even called. I really
wonder that I am sitting here with you, as though prepared to forgive
you. Do you know that I have written you three times asking you to come
to tea?"

He turned a very white face upon her.

"Won't you understand," he said, "that I have been engrossed in a work
which would admit of no distractions?

"You could find time to go down to Medchester, and make speeches for
your friend Mr. Bullsom," she answered.

"That was different. I was deeply indebted to Mr. Bullsom, and anxious
to see him returned. That, too, was work. It is only pleasures which I
have denied myself."

"That," she remarked, "is the nicest--in fact, the only nice thing
you have said. You have changed since Enton."

"I have been through a good deal," he said, wearily.

She shuddered a little.

"Don't look like that," she exclaimed. "Forgive me, but you made me
think--do you remember that night at Enton, when Lord Arranmore
spoke of his work amongst the poor, how the hopelessness of it began to
haunt him and weigh upon him till he reached the verge of madness. You
had something of that look just now."

He smiled faintly.

"Believe me, it was fancy," he answered, earnestly. "Remember, I am a
little out of sorts to-day. I am not discouraged; I have no cause to be
discouraged. A good many of the outside public misunderstand my work,
and Mr. Lavilette thinks I make money out of it. Then, of course, all
the organized charities are against me. But in spite of all I am able to
go on and increase day by day."

"It is wonderful," she declared. "I read everything in the papers about
you--and I get the monthly reports, for of course I am a
subscriber--so is mother. But--that brings your shameful
neglect of us back into my mind. I wrote to you begging to be allowed to
inspect one of your branches, and all I got back was a polite reply from
your secretary to the effect that the general public--even
subscribers--were never allowed in any of the branches as
sightseers, and that all I could see was the stores and general
arrangements, for which he enclosed a view-card."

"Well," Brooks said, "you don't think that poor people who come to you
for help should be exposed to the casual inspection of visitors who want
to see how it is done, do you? I have always been very particular about
that. We should not allow the Prince of Wales in the room whilst we were
dealing with applicants."

"Well, you might have written yourself, or come and seen us," Sybil
declared, a little irrelevantly. "Why couldn't I be an occasional
helper?"

"There is not the slightest reason why you should not," he answered. "We
have seventeen hundred on the books, but we could always do with more,
especially now we are opening so many more branches. But, you know, we
should expect you to come sometimes, and how would Lady Caroom like
that?" She laughed.

"You know how much mother and I interfere with one another," she
answered. "Besides, I have several friends who are on your list, and who
are sent for now and then--Edie Gresham and Mary Forbrooke." "It is
rough work," he said; "but, of course, if you like, my secretary shall
put your name down, and you will get a card then telling you what week
to come. It will be every afternoon for a week, you know. Then you are
qualified, and we might send for you at any time if we were short."

"I should come," she said.

A coach passed by, with its brilliant load of women in bright gowns and
picture hats, and two or three immaculate men. They both looked up, and
followed it with their eyes.

"Lord Arranmore," Sybil exclaimed, "and that is the Duchess of
Eversleigh with him on the box. It doesn't seem--the same man, does
it?"

Brooks smiled a little bitterly.

"The same man," he repeated. "No!"

They were silent for a few moments. Then Sybil turned towards him with a
little impetuous movement.

"Come," she said, "let us talk about yourself now. What are you going to
do?"

"To do?" he repeated, vaguely. "Why--"

"About your health, of course. You admitted a few minutes ago that you
had been to see your doctor."

"Why--I suppose I must ease up a little."

"Of course you must. When will you come and dine quietly with us in
Berkeley Square, and go to the theatre?"

He shook his head.

"It is kind of you," he said, "but--"

"When will you come and have tea with me, then?"

He set his teeth. He had done his best.

"Whenever you choose to ask me," he answered, with a sort of dogged
resignation.

She looked at him half curiously, half tenderly.

"You are so much changed," she murmured, "since those days at Enton. You
were a boy then, although you were a thoughtful one--now you are a
man, and when you speak like that, an old man. Come, I want the other
Mr. Brooks."

He sat quite still. Perhaps at that moment of detachment he realized
more keenly than ever the withering nature of this battle through which
he had passed. Indeed, he felt older. Those days at Enton lay very far
back, yet the girl by his side made him feel as though they had been but
yesterday. He glanced at her covertly. Gracious, fresh, and as beautiful
as the spring itself. What demon of mischief had possessed her that she
should, with all her army of admirers, her gay life, her host of
pleasures, still single him out in this way and bring back to his memory
days which he had told himself he had wholly forgotten? She was not of
the world of his adoption, she belonged to the things which he had
forsworn.

"The other Mr. Brooks," he murmured, "is dead. He has been burned in the
furnace of this last wonderful year. That is why I think--I fear it
is no use your looking for him--and you would not wish to have a
stranger to tea with you."

"That," she said, "is ingenious, but not convincing. So you will please
come to-morrow at four o'clock. I shall stay in for you.

"At four o'clock," he repeated, helplessly.

Lady Caroom waved to them from the path.

"Sybil, come here at once," she exclaimed, "and bring Mr. Brooks with
you. Dear me, what troublesome people you have been to find. I am very
glad indeed to see you again."

She looked Brooks in the face as she held his hand, and With a little
start he realized that she knew.

"You most quixotic of young men," she exclaimed, "come home with us at
once, and explain how you dared to avoid us all this time. What a ghost
you look. I hope it is your conscience. Don't pretend you can't sit with
your back to the horse, but get in there, sir, and--James, the
little seat--and make yourself as comfortable as you can. Home,
James! Upon my word, Mr. Brooks, you look like one of those poor people
whom you have been working for in the slums. If starvation was catching,
I should think that you had caught it. You must try my muffins."

Sybil caught his eye, and laughed.

"Mother hasn't altered much, has she?" she asked.


II--MR. LAVILETTE INTERFERES

"What is this Kingston Brooks' affair that Lavilette has hold of now?"
yawned a man over his evening papers. "That fellow will get into trouble
if he doesn't mind."

"Some new sort of charity down in the East End," one of the little group
of club members replied. "Fellow has a lot of branches, and tries to
make 'em a sort of family affair. He gets a pile of subscriptions, and
declines to publish a balance-sheet. Lavilette seems to think there's
something wrong somewhere."

"Lavilette's such a suspicious beggar," another man remarked. "The thing
seems all right. I know people who are interested in it, who say it's
the most comprehensive and common-sense charity scheme of the day."

"Why doesn't he pitch into Lavilette, then? Lavilette's awfully
insulting. Brooks the other day inserted an acknowledgment in the papers
of the receipt of one thousand pounds anonymous. You saw what Lavilette
said about it?"

"No. What?"

"Oh, he had a little sarcastic paragraph--declined to believe that
Brooks had ever received a thousand pounds anonymously--challenged
him to give the number of the note, and said plainly that he considered
it a fraud. There's been no reply from Brooks."

"How do you know?"

"This week's Verity. Here it is!"

"We have received no reply from Mr. Kingston Brooks up to going to press
with respect to our remark concerning the thousand pounds alleged to
have been received by him from an anonymous giver. We may add that we
scarcely expected it. Yet there is another long list of acknowledgments
of sums received by Mr. Brooks this morning. We are either the most
credulous nation in the world, or there are a good many people who don't
know what to do with their money. We should like to direct their
attention to half-a-dozen excellent and most deserving charities which
we can personally recommend, and whose accounts will always stand the
most vigorous examination."

"H'm! That's pretty strong," the first speaker remarked. "I should think
that that ought to stay the flow of subscriptions."

Lord Arranmore, who was standing on the hearthrug smoking a cigarette,
joined languidly in the conversation.

You think that Brooks ought to take some notice of Lavilette's
impudence, then?"

"Well, I'm afraid his not doing so looks rather fishy," the first
speaker remarked. "That thousand pounds note must have been a sort of a
myth."

"I think not," Lord Arranmore remarked, quietly. "I ought to know, for I
sent it myself,"

Every man straightened himself in his easy-chair. There was a little
thrill of interest.

"You're joking, Arranmore."

"Not I! I've sent him three amounts--anonymously."

"Well, I'd no idea that sort of thing was in your line," one of the men
exclaimed.

"More it is," Arranmore answered. "Personally, I don't believe in
charity--in any modern application of it at any rate. But this man
Brooks is a decent sort."

"You know who Brooks is, then?"

"Certainly. He was my agent for a short time in Medchester."

Mr. Hennibul, who was one of the men sitting round, doubled his copy of
Verity up and beat the air with it.

"I knew I'd heard the name," he exclaimed. "Why, I've met him down at
Enton. Nice-looking young fellow."

Arranmore nodded.

"Yes. That was Brooks."

Mr. Hennibul's face beamed.

"Great Scott, what a haul!" he exclaimed. "Why, you've got old Lavilette
on toast--you've got him for suing damages too. If this is why
Brooks has been hanging back--just to let him go far
enough--by Jove, he's a smart chap."

"I don't fancy Brooks has any idea of the sort," Lord Arranmore
answered. "All the same I think that Lavilette must be stopped and made
to climb down."

Curiously enough he met Brooks the same afternoon in Lady Caroom's
drawing-room.

"This is fortunate," he remarked. "I wished for a few minutes'
conversation with you."

"I am at your service," Brooks answered, quietly.

The room was fairly full, so they moved a little on one side. Lord
Arranmore for a moment or two studied his son's face in silence.

"You show signs of the struggle," he remarked.

"I have been overworked," Brooks answered. "A week or two's holiday is
all I require--and that I am having. As for the rest," he answered,
looking Lord Arranmore in the face, "I am not discouraged. I am not even
depressed."

"I congratulate you--upon your zeal."

"You are very good."

"I was going to speak to you," Lord Arranmore continued, "concerning the
paragraph in this week's Verity, and these other attacks which you seem
to have provoked."

Brooks smiled.

"You too!" he exclaimed.

"I also!" Lord Arranmore admitted, coolly. "You scarcely see how it
concerns me, of course, but in a remote sense it does."

"I am afraid that I am a little dense," Brooks remarked.

"I will not embarrass you with any explanation," Lord Arranmore
remarked. "But all the same I am going to surprise you. Do you know that
I am very much interested in your experiment?"

Brooks raised his eyebrows.

"Indeed!"

"Yes, I am very much interested," Lord Arranmore repeated. "I should
like you to understand that my views as to charity and charitable
matters remain absolutely unaltered. But at the same time I am anxious
that you should test your schemes properly and unhampered by any
pressure from outside. You are all the sooner likely to grow out of
conceit with them. Therefore let me offer you a word of advice. Publish
your accounts, and sue Lavvy for a thousand pounds."

Brooks was silent for a moment.

"My own idea," he said, slowly, "was to take no notice of these attacks.
The offices where the financial part of our concern is managed are open
to our subscribers at any time, and the books are there for their
inspection. It is only at the branches where we do not admit visitors."

"You must remember," Lord Arranmore said, "that these attacks have been
growing steadily during the last few months. It is, of course, no
concern of mine, but if they are left unanswered surely your funds must
suffer."

"There have been no signs of it up to the present," Brooks answered. "We
have large sums of money come in every day."

"This worst attack," Lord Arranmore remarked, "only appeared in this
week's Verity. It is bound to have some effect."

Brooks shrugged his shoulders.

"I do not fear it," he answered, calmly. "As a matter of fact, however,
I am going to form a council to take the management of the financial
organization. It is getting too large a thing for me with all my other
work. Is there anything else you wished to say to me?"

The eyes of the two men met for a moment both unflinchingly. Perhaps
they were each searching for something they could not find.

"There is nothing else. Don't let me detain you."

Brooks, who was the leaving guest, stepped quietly away, and Lord
Arranmore calmly outstayed all the other callers.

"Your manners," Lady Caroom told him, as the last of her guests
departed, "are simply hoydenish. Who told you that you might sit out all
my visitors in this bare-faced way?"

"You, dear lady, or rather your manner," he answered, imperturbably. "It
seemed to me that you were saying all the time, 'Do not desert me! Do
not desert me!' And so I sat tight."

"An imagination like yours," she declared, "is positively unhealthy.
Arranmore, what an idiot you are.

"Well?"

"Oh, you know all about it--and one hears! Are you tired of your
life?"

"Very, very tired of it!" he answered. "Isn't everybody?"

"Of course not. Neither are you really. It is only a mood. Some day you
will succeed in what you seem trying so hard to do, and then you will be
sorry--and perhaps some others!"

"If one could believe that," he murmured.

"Two months ago," she continued, "every one was saying that you had made
up your mind to end your days in the hunting-field. All Melton was
talking about your reckless riding, and your hairbreadth escapes."

"Both shockingly exaggerated," he said, under his breath.

Perhaps; but apart from the papers I have seen people who were out and
who have told me that you rode with absolute recklessness, simply and
purely for a fall, and that you deserved to break your neck a dozen
times over. Then there was your week in Paris with Prince Comfrere, and
now your supper-parties are the talk of London."

"They are justly famed," he answered, gravely, "for you know I brought
home the chef from Voillard's. I am sorry that I cannot ask you to one.

"Don't be ridiculous, Arranmore. Why do you do these things? Does it
amuse you, give you any satisfaction?

"Upon my word I don't know," he answered.

"Then why do you do it?"

"Because," he said slowly, "there is a shadow which dogs me. I am always
trying to escape--and it is always hard on my heels. You are a
woman, Catherine, and you don't know the suffering of the most
intolerable form of ennui--loneliness."

"And do you?" she asked, looking at him with softening eyes.

"Always. It rode with me in the turnkey frill--and sometimes
perhaps it lifted my spurs--why not? And at these suppers you speak
of, well, they are all very gay--it is I only who have bidden them,
who reap no profit. For whosoever may sit there the chair at my side is
always empty."

"You speak sadly," she said, "and yet--"

"Yet what?"

"To hear you talk, Arranmore, with any real feeling about anything is
always a relief," she said. "Sometimes you speak and act as though every
emotion which had ever filled your life were dead, as though you were
indeed but the shadow of your former self. Even to know that you feel
pain is better than to believe you void of any feeling whatever."

"Then you may rest content," he told her quietly, "for I can assure you
that pain and I are old friends and close companions."

"You have so much, too, which should make you happy--which should
keep you employed and amused," she said, softly.

"'Employed and amused.'" His eyes flashed upon her with a gleam of
something very much like anger. "It pleases you to mock me!"

"Indeed no!" she protested. "You must not say such things to me."

"Then remember," he said, bitterly, "that sympathy from you comes always
very near to mockery. It is you and you alone who can unlock the door
for me. You show me the key--but you will not use it."

A belated caller straggled in, and Arranmore took his leave. Lady Caroom
for the rest of the afternoon was a little absent. She gave her visitors
cold tea, and seriously imperiled her reputation as a charming and
sympathetic hostess.


III--THE SINGULAR BEHAVIOUR OF MARY SCOTT

The looking-glass was, perhaps, a little merciless in that clear north
light, but Mary's sigh as she looked away from it was certainly
unwarranted. For, as a matter of fact, she had improved wonderfully
since her coming to London. A certain angularity of figure had
vanished--the fashionable clothes which Mr. Bullsom had insisted
upon ordering for her did ample justice to her graceful curves and lithe
buoyant figure. The pallor of her cheeks, too, which she had eyed just
now with so much dissatisfaction, was far removed from the pallor of
ill-health; her mouth, which had lost its discontented droop, was full
of pleasant suggestions of humour. She was distinctly a very charming
and attractive young woman--and yet she turned away with a sigh.
She was twenty-seven years old, and she had been unconsciously comparing
herself with a girl of eighteen.

She drew down one of the blinds and set the tea-tray where she could sit
in the shadow. She was conscious of having dressed with unusual
care--she had pinned a great bunch of fragrant violets in her
bosom. She acknowledged to herself frankly that she was anxious to
appear at her best. For there had come to her, in the midst of her busy
life--a life of strenuous endeavour mingled with many small
self-denials--a certain sense of loneliness--of
insufficiency--a new thing to her and hard to cope with in this
great city where friends were few. And last night, whilst she had been
thinking of it, came this note from Brooks asking if he might come to
tea. She had been ashamed of herself ever since. It was maddening that
she should sit waiting for his coming like a blushing
schoolgirl--the colour ready enough to stream into her face at the
sound of his footstep.

He came at last--a surprise in more ways than one. For he had
abandoned the blue serge and low hat of his daily life, and was attired
in frock coat and silk hat--his tie and collar of a new fashion,
even his bearing altered--at least so it seemed to her jealous
observation. He was certainly looking better. There was colour in his
pale cheeks, and his eyes were bright once more with the joy of life.
Her dark eyes took merciless note of these things, and then found seeing
at all a little difficult.

"My dear Mary," he exclaimed, cheerfully--he had fallen into the
way of calling her Mary lately "this is delightful of you to be in. Do
you know that I am really holiday-making?"

"Well," she answered, smiling, "I imagined that you were not on your way
eastwards."

"Where can I sit? May I move these?" He swept aside a little pile of
newspapers and books, and took possession of the seat which she had
purposely appropriated. "The other chairs are so far off, and you seem
to have chosen a dark corner. Eastwards, no. I have been at the office
all the morning, and we have bought the property in Poplar Grove and the
house in Bermondsey. Now I have finished for the day. Doctor's orders."

"If any one has earned a holiday," she said, quietly, "you have. There
is some cake on the table there."

"Thanks. Well, it was hard work at first. How we stuck at it down at
Stepney, didn't we? Six in the morning till twelve at night. And then
how we rushed ahead. It seems to me that we have been doing nothing but
open branches lately."

"I wonder," she said, "that you have stood it so well. Why don't you go
away altogether for a time? You have such splendid helpers now.

"Oh, I'm enjoying myself," he answered, lightly, "and I don't care to be
out of touch with it all."

"You enjoy contrasts," she remarked. "I saw your name in the paper this
morning as one of Lady Caroom's guests last night."

He nodded.

"Yes, Lady Caroom has been awfully good to me, and I seem to have got to
know a lot of pleasant people in an incredulously short time."

"You are a curious mixture," she said, looking at him thoughtfully.

"Of what?" he asked, passing his cup for some more tea.

"Of wonderful self-devotion," she answered, "and a genuine and natural
love of enjoyment. After all, you are only a boy."

"I fancy," he remarked, smiling, "that my years exceed yours.

"As a matter of fact they don't," she answered, "but I was not thinking
of years, I was thinking of disposition. You have set going the greatest
charitable scheme of the generation, and yet you are so young, so very
young."

He laughed a little uneasily. In some vague way he felt that he had
displeased her.

"I never pretended," he said, "that I did not enjoy life, that I was not
fond of its pleasures. It was only while my work was insecure that I
made a recluse of myself. You, too," he said, "it is time that you
slackened a little. Come, take an evening off and we will dine somewhere
and go to the theatre." How delightful it sounded. She felt a warm rush
of pleasure at the thought. They would want her badly at Stepney, but
"This evening?" she asked.

"Yes. No, hang it, it can't be this evening. I'm dining with the
Carooms--nor to-morrow evening. Say Thursday evening, will you?"

Something seemed suddenly to chill her momentary gush of happiness.

"Well," she said, "I think not just yet. We have several fresh girls,
you know--it is a bad time to be away. Perhaps you will ask me
later on."

He laughed softly.

"What a funny girl you are, Mary. You'd really rather stew in that hot
room, I believe, than go anywhere to enjoy yourself. Such women as you
ought to be canonized. You are saints even in this life. What can be
done for you in the next?"

Mary bit her lip hard, and she bent low over the tea-cups. In another
moment she felt that her self-control must go. Fortunately he drifted
away from the subject.

"Very soon," he said, "we must all have a serious talk about the future.
The management is getting too big for me. I think there should be a
council elected--something of the sort must be done, and soon."

"That," she remarked, "is what Mr. Lavilette says, isn't it?"

He looked at her with twinkling eyes.

"Oh, you needn't think I'm being scared into it," he answered. "All the
same, Lavvy's right enough. No one man has the right to accept large
subscriptions and not let the public into his confidence."

"Lavilette doesn't believe in our anonymous subscriptions, does he?" she
asked.

"No! He's rather impudent about that, isn't he? I suppose I ought really
to set him right. I should have done so before, but he went about it in
such an offensive manner. Well, to go on with what I was saying. You
will come on the council, Mary?"

"I? Oh, surely not!"

"You will! And, what is more, I am going to split all the branches up
into divisions, and appoint superintendents and manageresses, at a
reasonable salary. And you," he concluded, "are going to be one of the
latter."

She shook her head firmly.

"No! I must remain my own mistress."

"Why not? I want to allot to you the work where you can do most good.
You know more about it than any one. There is no one half so suitable. I
want you to throw up your other work come into this altogether, be my
right hand, and let me feel that I have one person on the council whom I
can rely upon."

She was silent for a moment. She leaned back in her chair, but even in
the semi-obscurity the extreme pallor of her face troubled him.

"You must remember, too," he said, "that the work will not be so hard as
now. Lately you have given us too much of your time. Indeed, I am not
sure that it is not you who need a holiday more than I."

She raised her eyes.

"This is--what you came to say to me?"

"Yes. I was anxious to get your promise."

There was another short silence. Then she spoke in dull even tones.

"I must think it over. You want my whole time, and you want to pay me
for it."

"Yes. It is only reasonable, and we can afford it. I should draw a
salary myself if I had not a little of my own."

She raised her eyes once more to his mercilessly, and drew a quick
little breath. Yes, it was there written in his face--the blank
utter indifference of good-fellowship. It was all that he had come to
ask her, it was all that he would ever ask her. Suddenly she felt her
heart throbbing in quick short beats-her cheeks burned. They were
alone--even her little maid had gone out. Why was he so miserably
indifferent? She stumbled to her feet, and suddenly stooping down laid
her burning cheeks against his.

"Kingston," she said, "you are so cruel--and I am so lonely. Can't
you see that I am miserable? Kiss me!"

Brooks sat petrified, utterly amazed at this self-yielding on the part
of the last woman in this world whom he would ever have thought capable
of anything of the sort.

"Kiss me--at once."

He touched her lips timorously. Then she sprang away from him, her
cheeks aflame, her eyes on fire, her hair strangely ruffled. She pointed
to the door.

"Please go--quickly."

He picked up his hat.

"But, Mary! I--"

"Please!"

She stamped her foot.

"But--"

"I will write. You shall hear from me to-morrow. But if you have any
pity for me at all you will go now--this moment."

He rose and went. She heard him turn the handle of the door, heard his
footsteps upon the stone stairs outside.

She counted them idly. One, two, three, four now he was on the next
landing. She heard them again, less distinctly, always less distinctly.
Then silence. She ran to the window. There he was upon the pavement, now
he was crossing the road on his way to the underground station. She tore
at her handkerchief, waved it wildly for a moment--and then
stopped. He was gone--and she. The hot colour came rushing
painfully into her cheeks. She threw herself face downwards upon the
sofa.


IV--LORD ARRANMORE IN A NEW ROLE

"The epoch-making nights of one's life," Mr. Hennibul remarked, "are
few. Let us sit down and consider what has happened."

"A seat," Lady Caroom sighed. "What luxury! But where?"

"My knowledge of the geography of this house," Mr. Hennibul answered,
"has more than once been of the utmost service to me, but I have never
appreciated it more than at this moment. Accept my arm, Lady Caroom."

They made a slow circuit of the room, passed through an ante-chamber and
came out in a sort of winter-garden looking over the Park. Lady Caroom
exclaimed with delight.

"You dear man," she exclaimed. "Of course I knew of this
place--isn't it charming?--but I had no idea that we could
reach it from the reception-rooms. Let us move our chairs over there. We
can sit and watch the hansoms turn into Piccadilly."

"It shall be as you say," he answered. "I wonder if all London is as
excited to-night as the crowd we have just left."

"To me," she murmured, "London seems always imperturbable, stonily
indifferent to good or evil. I believe that on the eve of a revolution
we should dine and go to the theatre, choose our houses at which to
spend the evening, and avoid sweet champagne with the same care. You and
I may know that to-night England has thrown overboard a national policy.
Yet I doubt whether either of us will sleep the less soundly."

"Not only that," he said, "but the Government have to-day shown
themselves possessed of a penetration and appreciation of mind for which
I for one scarcely gave them credit. They have made me a peer."

She looked at him with an amused smile.

"They make judges and peers for two reasons" she remarked.

"That, Lady Caroom, is unkind," he said. "I can assure you that
throughout my career I have never made a nuisance of myself to any one.
In the House I have been a model member, and I have always obeyed my
whip in fear and trembling. At the Bar I have been mildness itself. The
/St. James's Gazette/ speaks of my urbanity, and the courtesy with which
I have always conducted the most arduous cross-examination. You should
read the /St. James's Gazette/, Lady Caroom. I do not know the
biographical editor, but it is easy to predict a future for him. He has
common-sense and insight. The paragraph about myself touched me. I have
cut it out, and I mean to keep it always with me."

"The Press," she said, "have all those things cut and dried. No doubt if
you made friends with that young man he would let you read your obituary
notice. I have a friend who has corrected the proofs of his already."

Hennibul smiled.

"My cousin Avenal, the police magistrate," he said, "actually read his
in the Times. He was bathing at Jersey and was carried away by currents,
and picked up by a Sark fishing-smack. They took him to Sark, and he was
so charmed with his surroundings and the hospitality of the people that
he quite forgot to let anybody know where he was. When he read his
obituary notice he almost decided to remain dead. He declared that it
was quite impossible to live up to it."

"Our charity now-a-days," she remarked, "always begins with the dead."

"Let me try and awaken yours towards the living!" he said.

She laughed.

"Are you smitten with the Brooks' fever?" she asked.

"Mine is a fever," he answered, "but it has nothing to do with Brooks. I
would try to awaken your charity on behalf of a perfectly worthy object,
myself--/vide/ the /St. James's Gazette/."

"And what do you need from me more than you have?" she asked. "Haven't
you the sole possession of my society, the right to bore me or make me
happy, perhaps presently the right to feed me?"

"For a few minutes," he answered.

"Don't be so sure. It may be an hour."

"I want it," he said, "for longer."

Something in his tone suddenly broke through the easy lightness of their
conversation. She stole a swift side-glance at him, and understood.

"Come," she said, "you and I are setting every one here a bad example.
This is not an occasion for /tete-a-tetes/. We should be doing our duty
and talking a little to every one. Let us go back and make up for lost
time."

She rose to her feet, but found him standing in the way. For once the
long humorous mouth was set fast, his eyes were no longer full of the
shadow of laughter, his tone had a new note in it, the note which a
woman never fails to understand.

"Dear Lady Caroom," he said, "I was not altogether jesting."

She looked him in the eyes.

"Dear friend," she answered, "I know that you were not, and so I think
that we had better go back."

He detained her very gently.

"It is the dearest hope I have in life," he said, softly. "Do not let me
run the risk of being misunderstood. Will you be my wife?"

She shook her head. There were tears in her eyes, but her gesture was
significant enough.

"It is impossible," she said. "I have loved another man all my life."

He offered her his arm at once.

"Then I believe," he said, in a low tone, "in the old saying--that
a glimpse of paradise is sufficient to blind the strongest man...."

They passed into the reception-room, and came face to face with Brooks.
She held out her hand.

"Come, you have no right here," she declared. "You are not even a Member
of Parliament." He laughed.

"What about you?"

"Oh, I am an inspiration!"

"I don't believe," he said, "that you realize in the least what is going
to happen."

"I do!" she answered. "I am going to make you relieve Lord Hennibul, and
take me to have an ice."

They moved off together. Hennibul stood looking after them for a moment.
Then he sighed and turned slowly away.

"If it's Arranmore," he said to himself, "why on earth doesn't he marry
her?"

Lady Caroom was more silent than usual. She complained of a headache,
and Brooks persuaded her to take champagne instead of the ice.

"What is the matter with you to-night?" she asked, looking at him
thoughtfully. "You look like a boy--with a dash of the bridegroom."

He laughed joyously.

"You should read the evening papers--you would understand a little
the practical effect of our new Tariff Bill. Mills in Yorkshire and
Lancashire are being opened that have been shut down for years; in
Medchester, Northampton, and the boot-centres the unemployed are being
swept into the factories. Manufacturers who have been struggling to keep
their places open at all are planning extensions already. The wages bill
throughout the country will be the largest next week that has been paid
for years. Travellers are off to the Colonies with cases of
samples--every manufacturing centre is suddenly alive once more.
The terrible struggle for existence is lightened. Next week," Brooks
continued, with an almost boyish twinkle in his eyes, "I shall go down
to Medchester and walk through the streets where it used to make our
hearts ache to see the unemployed waiting about like dumb suffering
cattle. It will be a holiday--a glorious holiday."

"And yet behind it all," she remarked, watching him closely, "there is
something on your mind. What is it?"

He looked at her quickly.

"What an observation."

"Won't you tell me?"

He shook his head.

"It is only one of the smallest cupboards," he said. "The ghost will
very soon be stifled."

She sighed.

"Did you see Lord Arranmore this evening?"

"Yes. He was talking to the duke just now. What of him?"

"I have been watching him. Did you ever see a man look so ill?",

"He is bored," Brooks answered, coldly. "This sort of thing does not
amuse him."

She shook her head.

"He is always the same. He has always that weary look. He is living with
absolute recklessness. It cannot possibly last long."

"He knows the price," Brooks answered. "He lives as he chooses."

"I wonder," she murmured. "Sometimes I wonder whether we do not misjudge
him--you and I, Kingston. For you know we have been his judges. You
must not shake your head. It is true. You have judged him to be unworthy
of a son, and I--I have judged him to be unworthy of a wife. You
don't think--that we could possibly have made a mistake--that
underneath there is a little heart left--eaten up with pride and
loneliness?"

"I have never seen," Brooks answered, "the slightest trace of it."

"Nor I," she answered. "Yet I knew him when he was young. He was so
different, and annihilation is very hard, isn't it? Supposing he were to
die, and we were to find out afterwards?"

"You," he said, slowly, "must be the judge of your own actions. For my
part I see in him only the man who abandoned my mother, who spent the
money of other people in dissipation and worse than dissipation. Who
came to England and accepted my existence after a leisurely interval as
a matter of course. I have never seen in any one of his actions, or
heard in his tone one single indication of anything save selfishness so
incarnate as to have become the only moving impulse of his life. If ever
I could believe that he cared for me, would find in me anything save a
convenience, I would try to forget the past. If he would even express
his sorrow for it, show himself capable of any emotion whatsoever in
connection with anything or any person save himself, I would be only too
thankful to escape from my ridiculous position."

Then they were silent for a moment, each occupied with their own
thoughts, and Lord Arranmore, pale and spare, taller than most men
there, notwithstanding a recently-acquired stoop, came wearily over to
them.

"Dear me," he remarked, "what gloomy faces--and I expected to see
Brooks at least radiant. Am I intruding?"

"Don't be absurd, Arranmore," she said kindly. "Why don't you bring up
that chair and sit down? You look tired."

He laughed--a little hardly.

"I have been tired so long," he said, "that it has become a habit.
Brooks, will you think me guilty of an impertinence, I wonder? I have
intruded upon your concerns."

Brooks looked up with his eyes full of questioning. "That fellow
Lavilette," Arranmore continued, seemed worried about your anonymous
subscription. I was in an evil temper yesterday afternoon, and Verity
amused me. So I wrote and confounded the fellow by explaining that it
was I who sent the money--the thousand pounds you had."

"You?" Lady Caroom exclaimed, breathlessly.

"You sent me that thousand pounds?" Brooks cried.

They exchanged rapid glances: A spot of colour burned in Lady Caroom's
cheeks. She felt her heart quicken, an unspoken prayer upon her lips.

Brooks, too, was agitated.

"Upon my word," Lord Arranmore remarked, coldly, "I really don't know
why my whim should so much astound you. I took care to explain that I
sent it without the slightest sympathy in the cause--merely out of
compliment to an acquaintance. It was just a whim, nothing more, I can
assure you. I think that I won it at Sandown or something."

"It was not because you were interested in this work, then?" Lady Caroom
asked, fearfully.

"Not in the slightest," he answered. "That is to say, sympathetically
interested. I am curious. I will admit that. No more."

The colour faded from Lady Caroom's cheeks. She shivered a little and
rose to her feet. Brooks' face had hardened.

"We are very much obliged to you for the money," he said. "As for
Lavilette, I had not thought it worth while to reply to him."

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"Nor should I in your place," he answered. "My position is a little
different, of course. I am positively looking forward to my next week's
Verity. You are leaving now, I see. Good-night!"

"I have kept Mr. Brooks away from his friends," she said, looking at
him. "Will you see me to my carriage?"

He offered her his arm with courtly grace. They passed down the crowded
staircase together.

"You are looking ill, Philip," she said, softly. "You are not taking
care of yourself."

"Care of myself," he laughed. "Why, for whom? Life is not exactly a
playground, is it?"

"You are not making the best of it!"

"The best! Do you want to mock me?"

"It is you," she whispered, "who stand before a looking-glass, and mock
yourself. Philip, be a man. Your life is one long repression. Break
through just once! Won't you?"

He sighed. "Would you have me a hypocrite, Catherine?"

She shook her head. Suddenly she looked up at him.

"Philip, will you promise me this? If ever your impulse should
come--if you should feel the desire to speak, to act once more as a
man from your heart--you will not stifle it. Promise me that." He
looked at her with a faint, tired smile. "Yes, I promise," he answered.


V--LADY SYBIL LENDS A HAND

Brooks glanced at the card which was brought in to him, at first
carelessly enough, afterwards with mingled surprise and pleasure.

"Here is some one," he said to Mary Scott, "whom I should like you to
meet. Show the young lady in," he directed.

Some instinct seemed to tell her the truth.

"Who is it?" she asked quickly. "I am very busy this morning."

"It is Lady Sybil Caroom," he answered. "Please don't go. I should like
you to meet her."

Mary looked longingly at the door of communication which led into the
further suite of offices, but it was too late to think of escape. Sybil
had already entered, bringing into the room a delicious odor of violets,
herself almost bewilderingly beautiful. She was dressed with extreme
simplicity, but with a delicate fastidiousness which Mary at any rate
was quick to appreciate. Her lips were slightly parted in a natural and
perfectly dazzling smile. She came across to Brooks with outstretched
hand and laughter in her eyes.

"Confess that you are horrified," she exclaimed. "I don't care a bit.
I've waited for you to take me quite long enough. If you won't come now
I shall go by myself."

"Go where?" he exclaimed.

"Why, to one of the branches--I don't care which. I can help for
the rest of the day." He laughed.

"Well, let me introduce you to Miss Scott," he said, turning round.
"Mary, this is Lady Sybil Caroom. Miss Scott," he continued, turning to
the younger girl, "has been my right hand since we first started. If
ever you do stand behind our counter it will have to be under her
auspices."

Sybil turned courteously but with some indifference towards the girl,
who was standing by Brooks' chair. In her plain black dress and white
linen collar Mary perhaps looked more than her years, especially by the
side of Sybil. As the eyes of the two met, Sybil saw that she was
regarded with more than ordinary attention. She saw, too, that Mary was
neither so plain nor so insignificant as she had at first imagined.

"I am sure you are very much to be congratulated, Miss Scott," she said.
"Mr. Brooks' scheme is a splendid success, isn't it? You must be proud
of your share in it."

"My share," Mary said, in quiet, even tones, "has been very small
indeed. Mr. Brooks is alone responsible for it. The idea was his, and
the organization was his. We others have been no more than machines."

"Very useful machines, Mary," Brooks said, with a kind glance towards
her. "Come, we mustn't any of us belittle our share in the work."

Mary took up some papers from the desk.

"I think," she said, "that if you have no more messages for Mr. Flitch I
had better start. We are very busy in Stepney just now."

"Please don't hurry," Brooks said. "We must try and manage something for
Lady Sybil."

Mary looked up doubtfully.

"Unless you ask Lady Sybil to look on," she said, "I don't quite see how
it is possible for her to come."

"Lady Sybil knows the conditions," Brooks answered. "She wants to have a
try as a helper."

Mary raised her eyebrows slightly.

"The chief work in the morning is washing children," she remarked. "They
come to us in a perfectly filthy condition, and we wash about twenty
each, altogether."

Sybil laughed.

"Well, I'm not at all afraid of that," she declared. "I could do my
share. I rather like kiddies."

"The other departments," Mary went on, "all need some instruction. Would
you think it worth while for one day? If so, I should be pleased to do
what I can for you."

Sybil hesitated. She glanced towards Brooks.

"I don't want to give a lot of unnecessary trouble, of course," she
said. "Especially if you are busy. But it might be for more than one
day. You have a staff of supernumerary helpers, haven't you, whom you
send for when you are busy? I thought that I might be one of those."

"In that case," Mary answered, "I shall be very glad, of course, to put
you in the way of it. I am going to my own branch this morning at
Stepney. Will you come with me?"

"If you are sure I shan't be a nuisance," Sybil answered, gratefully.
"Good-bye, Mr. Brooks. I'm awfully obliged to you, and will talk it all
over at the Henages' to-night."

The two girls drove off in Sybil's brougham. Mary, in her quiet little
hat and plain jacket, seemed to her companion, notwithstanding her air
of refinement, to be a denizen of some other world. And between the two
there was from the first a certain amount of restraint.

"Do you give up your whole time to this sort of work?" Sybil asked,
presently.

"I do now," Mary answered. "I had other employment in the morning, but I
gave that up last week. I am a salaried official of the Society from
last Monday."

Sybil stole a swift side-glance at her.

"Do you know, I think that it must be a very satisfactory sort of life,"
she said.

Mary's lips flickered into the faintest of smiles. "Really!"

"Oh, I mean it," Sybil continued. "Of course, I like going about and
enjoying myself, but it is hideously tiring. And then after a year or
two of it you begin to realize a sort of sameness. Things lose their
flavour. Then you have odd times of serious thought, and you know that
you have just been going round and round in a circle, that you have done
nothing at all except made some show at enjoying yourself. Now that
isn't very satisfactory, is it?"

"No," Mary answered, "I don't suppose it is."

"Now you," Sybil continued, "you may be dull sometimes, but I don't
suppose you are, and whenever you leave off and think--well, you
must always feel that your time, instead of having been wasted, has been
well and wholesomely spent. I wish I could have that feeling sometimes."

Despite herself, Mary felt that she would have to like this girl. She
was so pretty, so natural, and so deeply in earnest.

"There is no reason why you shouldn't, is there?" she said, more kindly
than she had as yet spoken. "I can assure you that I very often have the
blues, and I don't consider mine by any means the happiest sort of life.
But, of course, one feels differently a little if one has tried to do
something--and you can if you like, you know."

Sybil's face was perfectly brilliant with smiles.

"You think that I can?" she exclaimed. "How nice of you. I don't mind
how hard it is at first. I may be a little awkward, but I don't think
I'm stupid."

"You think this sort of work is the sort you would like best?"

"Why, yes. It seems so practical, you know," Sybil declared. "You must
be doing good, even if some of the people don't deserve it. I don't know
about the washing, but I don't mind it a bit. Do you think it will be a
busy morning?"

"I am sure it will," Mary answered. "A number of the people are getting
to work again now, since the Tariff Revision Bill passed, and they keep
coming to us for clothes and boots and things. I shall give you the
skirts and blouses to look after as soon as the washing is over.

"Delightful," Sybil exclaimed. "I am sure I can manage that."

"And on no account must you give any money to any one," Mary said. "That
is most important."

"I will remember," Sybil promised.

Two hours later she broke in upon her mother and half-a-dozen callers,
her hat obviously put on without a looking-glass, her face flushed, and
her hair disordered, and smelling strongly of disinfectant.

"Some tea, mother, please," she exclaimed, nodding to her visitors. "I
have had one bun for luncheon, and I am starving. Can you imagine what I
have been doing?"

No one could. Every one tried.

"Skating!"

"Ping-pong!"

Getting theatre-tickets at the theatre! She waved them aside with scorn.

"I have washed fourteen children," she declared, impressively, "fitted
at least a dozen women with blouses and skirts, and three with boots.
Besides a lot of odd things."

Lord Arranmore set down his cup with a little shrug of the shoulders.

"You have joined Brooks' Society?" he remarked.

"Yes! I have been down at the Stepney branch all the morning. And do you
know, we're disinfected before we leave."

"A most necessary precaution, I should think," Lady Caroom exclaimed,
reaching for her vinaigrette, "but do go and change your things as
quickly as you can.

"I must eat, mother, or starve," Sybil declared. "I have never been so
hungry."

A somewhat ponderous lady, who was the wife of a bishop, felt bound to
express her disapprobation.

"Do you really think, dear," she said, "that you are wise in encouraging
a charity which is not in any way under the control of the Church?"

"Oh, isn't it?" Sybil remarked. "I'm sure I didn't know. But then the
Church hasn't anything quite like this, has it? Mr. Brooks is so clever
and original in all his ideas."

The disapprobation of the bishop's wife became even more marked.

"The very fact," she said, "that the Church has not thought it wise to
institute a charitable scheme upon such--er--sweeping lines,
is a proof, to my mind, that the whole thing is a mistake. As a matter
of fact, I happen to know that the bishop strongly disapproves of Mr.
Brooks' methods."

"That's rather a pity, isn't it?" Sybil asked, sweetly. "The Society has
done so much good, and in so short a time. Every one admits that."

"I think that the opinion is very far from universal," the elder lady
remarked, firmly. "There appears to be no discrimination shown whatever
in the distribution of relief. The deserving and the undeserving are all
classed together. I could not possibly approve of any charity conducted
upon such lines, nor, I think, could any good churchwoman."

"Mr. Brooks thinks," Sybil remarked, with her mouth full of cake, "that
it is the undeserving who are in the greatest need of help."

"One could believe anything," the bishop's wife said stiffly, "of a man
who adopted such principles as that. And although I do not as a rule
approve of Mr. Lavilette or his paper, I am seriously inclined to agree
with him in some of his strictures upon Mr. Brooks."

Sybil laughed softly.

"I hadn't read them," she remarked. "Mother doesn't allow the man's
paper in the house. Do you really mean that you have it at the palace,
Mrs. Endicott?"

The bishop's wife stiffened.

"Mr. Lavilette has at times done great service to the community by his
exposure of frauds of all sorts, especially charitable frauds," she
said. "It is possible that he may shortly add to the number."

Lord Arranmore shook his head slowly.

"Mr. Lavilette," he said, "has also had to pay damages in one or two
rather expensive libel cases. And, between you and me, Mrs. Endicott, if
our young friend Brooks chose to move in the matter, I am afraid Mr.
Lavilette might have to sign the largest cheque he has ever signed in
his life for law costs."

The bishop's wife rose with an icy smile.

"I seem to have found my way into Mr. Brooks' headquarters," she
remarked. "Lady Caroom, I shall hope to see you at the palace shortly."

"Poor me," Sybil exclaimed, as their visitor departed. "She only asked
you, mummy, so as to exclude me. And poor Mr. Brooks! I wish he'd been
here. What fun we should have had."

"Oh, these Etrusians," Lord Arranmore murmured. "I thought that a bishop
was very near heaven indeed, all sanctity and charity, and that a
bishop's wife was the concentrated essence of these things--plus
the wings."

Sybil laughed softly.

"Sanctity and charity," she repeated, "and Mrs. Endicott. Oh!"


VI--THE RESERVATION OF MARY SCOTT

The two girls were travelling westwards on the outside of an omnibus, in
itself to Sybil a most fascinating mode of progression, and talking a
good deal spasmodically.

"It's really too bad of you, Miss Scott," Sybil declared. "Now to-day,
if you will come, luncheon shall be served in my own room. We shall be
quite cosy and quiet, and I promise you that you shall not see a soul
except my mother--whom I want you to know."

Mary shook her head.

"Don't think me unkind," she said. "I really must not begin visiting. I
have only just time for a hurried lunch, and then I must look in at the
office and get down to Bermondsey."

"You might just as well have that hurried lunch with me," Sybil
declared. "I'll send you anywhere you like afterwards in the carriage."

"It is very kind of you," Mary answered, "but my visiting days are over.
I am not a social person at all, you know. My role is usefulness, and
nothing else."

"You are too young to talk like that," Sybil said. "I am ten years older
than you are," Mary reminded her. "You are twenty-eight," Sybil
answered. "I think it is beautiful of you to be so devoted to this work,
but I am quite sure a little change now and then is wholesome."

"In another ten years I may think of it," Mary said. "Just now I have so
much upon my hands that I dare not risk even the slightest distraction."

"In another ten years," Sybil said, "you will find it more difficult to
enlarge your life than now. I can't believe that absorption in any one
thing is natural at your age."

Mary looked steadfastly down at the horses.

"We must all decide what is best for ourselves," she said. "I have not
your disposition, remember."

"Nothing in the world," Sybil said, "would convince me that it is well
for any girl of your age to crowd everything out of her life except
work, however fine and useful the work may be. Now you have admitted
that except for Mr. Brooks and the people you have met in connection
with his work you have no friends in London. I want you to count me a
friend, Miss Scott. You have been very kind to me, and made everything
delightfully easy. Why can't you let me try and repay it a little?"

"I have only done my duty," Mary answered, quietly. "I am supposed to
show new helpers what to do, and you have picked it up very quickly. And
as for the rest--don't think me unkind, but I have no room for
friendships in my life just now."

"I am sorry," Sybil answered, softly, for though Mary's tone had been
cold enough, she had nevertheless for a single moment lifted the
curtain, and Sybil understood in some vague manner that there were
things behind into which she had no right to inquire.

The two girls parted at Trafalgar Square, and Sybil, still in love with
the fresh air, turned blithely westward on foot. In the Haymarket she
came face to face with Brooks.

He greeted her with a delightful smile.

"You alone, and walking," he exclaimed. "What fortune. May I come?"

"Of course," she answered. "You know where I have come from, I suppose?"

He glanced at her plain clothes and realized that the odour of
disinfectants was stronger even than the perfume of the handful of
violets which she had just bought from a woman in the street.

"Stepney!" he exclaimed.

"Quite right. I had a card last evening, and was there at nine o'clock
this morning. I suppose I look a perfect wreck. I was dancing at
Hamilton House at three o'clock."

He looked towards her marvelling. Her cheeks were prettily flushed, and
she walked with the delightful springiness of perfect health.

"I have never seen you look better," he answered.

"And you," she remarked, glancing in amusement at his blue serge
clothes, which, to tell the truth, badly needed brushing. "What are you
doing in the West End at this time in the morning?

"I have been to Drury Lane," he answered, "with some surveyors from the
County Council. There is a whole court there I mean to get condemned.
Then I looked in at our new place there, but there was such a howling
lot of children that I was glad to get away. How they hate being
washed!"

"Don't they!" she exclaimed, laughing. "I had the dearest, naughtiest
little girl this morning, and, do you know, when I got her clean, her
own brothers and sisters didn't know her again. I'm so glad I've seen
you, Mr. Brooks. I want to ask you something." "Well?"

"About Miss Scott. She's been so good to me, and I like her awfully.
We've just come up on the omnibus together."

"She has been my right hand from the very first," Brooks said, slowly.
"I really don't see how I could have done without her. She is such a
capital organizer, too."

"I know all that," Sybil declared. "She's wonderful. I don't want, of
course, to be inquisitive," she went on, after a moment's hesitation,
"but she interests me so much, and it was only this morning that I felt
that I understood her a little bit."

Brooks nodded.

"She is a very reserved young woman," he said.

"Yes, but isn't there some reason for it?" Sybil continued, eagerly. "I
have asked her lots of times to come and see me. She admits that she has
no friends in London, and I wanted to have her come very much. You see,
I thought she would be sure to like mother, and if she doesn't care for
society, we might go to the theatre or the opera, a it would be a little
change for her, wouldn't it?"

"I think it is very kind of you indeed," Brooks said.

"Well, she has always refused, but I have been very persistent. I just
thought that she was perhaps a little shy, or found it difficult to
break through her retirement--people get like that, you know, when
they live alone. So this morning I really went for her, and I happened
to be looking, and I saw something in her face which puzzled me. It
stopped my asking her any more. There is something underneath her quiet
manner and self-devotion. She has had trouble of some sort."

"How do you know?" he asked.

"A girl can always tell," Sybil answered. "Her self-control is
wonderful, but she just let it slip--for a moment. She has some
trouble, I am sure. I thought perhaps you might know. Isn't there
anything we could do? I am so sorry for her."

Brooks was very grave, and his face was curiously pale.

"Are you quite sure?" he asked.

"Certain!"

They walked on in silence for a few moments.

"You have asked me a very difficult question," he said at last. "She has
had a very unhappy sort of life. Her father and mother died in
Canada--her father shot himself, and her mother died of the shock.
She went to live with an uncle at Medchester, who was good to her, but
his household could scarcely have been very congenial. I met her
there--she was interested in charitable works then, and she came to
London to try and attain some sort of independence. At first she had a
position on a lady's magazine which took up her mornings, but we have
just induced her to accept a small salary and give us all her time."
"That seems like a comprehensive sketch of her life," Sybil remarked,
thoughtfully, "but are you sure--that you have not missed anything
out?"

"So far as I know," he answered, gravely, "there is nothing new to
tell."

They walked the rest of the way to Berkeley Square in absolute silence.

"You will come in to lunch?" she said.

He looked down at his clothes.

"I think not," he answered.

"We are almost certain to be alone," she said. "You haven't seen mother
for a long time."

He suffered himself to be persuaded, and almost immediately regretted
it. For there were a dozen people or more round the luncheon-table, and
he caught a glimpse of more than one frock coat. Further, from the dead
silence which followed their entrance, it seemed more than probable that
he himself had formed the subject of conversation.

Lady Caroom greeted him as kindly as ever, and found a place for him by
her side. Brooks, whose self-possession seldom failed him, smiled to
himself as he recognized the bishop, who was his /vis-a-vis/. Hennibul,
however, from a little lower down nodded to him pleasantly, and Lord
Arranmore spoke a few words of dry greeting.

"Your friend Bullsom," he remarked, "has soon distinguished himself. He
made quite a decent speech the other night on the Tariff Bill."

"He has common-sense and assurance," Brooks answered. "He ought to be a
very useful man."

Lord Hennibul leaned forward and addressed Arranmore with blank surprise
on his face.

"You don't mean to say that you read the debates in the House of
Commons, Arranmore?" he exclaimed.

Lord Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"Since the degeneration of English humour," he remarked, "one must go
somewhere for one's humour."

"I should try the House of Lords, then," a smart young under-secretary
remarked under his breath, with a glance at the bishop. "There is more
hidden humour in the unshaken gravity of the Episcopal Bench than in
both Houses of Parliament put together."

"They take themselves so seriously," Sybil murmured.

"To our friend there," the younger man continued, "the whole world's a
congregation--and, by Jove, here comes the text."

For the bishop had deliberately cleared his throat, and leaning forward
addressed Brooks across the table.

"I believe," he said, "that I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr.
Brooks--Mr. Kingston Brooks?"

"That is my name," Brooks answered civilly, wondering what avalanche was
to be hurled upon him.

"Would you consider a question, almost a personal question, from a
stranger an impertinence--when the stranger is twice your age?" the
bishop asked.

"By no means," Brooks answered. "On the contrary, I should be delighted
to answer it if I can."

"These aspersions which Mr.--er--Lavilette has been making so
freely in his paper against your new departure--I mean against the
financial management of it--do you propose to answer them?"

"Well," Brooks said, "I have not altogether made up my mind. Perhaps
your lordship would permit me--since you have mentioned the
matter--to ask for your advice."

The bishop inclined his head. This was by no means the truculent sort of
young man he had expected.

"You are very welcome to it, Mr. Brooks," he answered. "I should advise
you most earnestly to at once justify yourself,--not to Mr.
Lavilette, but to the readers of his paper whom he may have influenced
by his statements. One charitable institution, however different its
foundation, or its method of working, or its ultimate aims, leans
largely upon another. Mr. Lavilette's attack, if unanswered, may affect
the public mind with regard to many other organizations which are
grievously in need of support."

"If that is your opinion," Brooks said, after a moment's hesitation, "I
will take the steps you suggest, and set myself right at once."

"If you can do that thoroughly and clearly," the bishop said, "you will
render a service to the whole community."

"There should not be much difficulty," Brooks remarked, helping himself
to omelette. "I never appealed for subscriptions, but directly they
began to come in I engaged a clerk and a well-known firm of auditors,
through whose banking-account all the money has passed. They have been
only too anxious to take the matter up."

"I am more than pleased at your decision, Mr. Brooks," the bishop said,
genially. "I rejoice at it. You will pardon my remarking that you seem
very young to have inaugurated and to carry the whole responsibility of
a work of such magnitude."

"The work," Brooks answered, "has largely grown of itself. But I have an
excellent staff of helpers."

"The sole responsibility though rests with you.

"I am arranging to evade it," Brooks answered. "I am going to adopt
commercial methods and inaugurate a Board of Directors."

The bishop hesitated.

"Again, Mr. Brooks," he said, "I must address a suggestion to you which
might seem to require an apology. You have adopted methods and expressed
views with regard to your scheme which are in themselves scarcely
reconcilable with the point of view with which we churchmen are bound to
regard the same question. But if you thought it worth while before
finally arranging your Board to discuss the whole subject with me, it
would give me the greatest pleasure to have you visit me at the palace
at any time convenient to yourself."

"I shall consider it a great privilege," Brooks answered, promptly, "and
I shall not hesitate to avail myself of it."

The little party broke up soon afterwards, but Lady Caroom touched
Brooks upon his shoulder.

"Come into my room for a few minutes," she said. "I want to talk with
you."


VII--FATHER AND SON

"Do you know," Lady Caroom said, motioning Brooks to a seat by her side,
"that I feel very middle-class and elderly and interfering. For I am
going to talk to you about Sybil."

Brooks was a little paler than usual. This was one of those rare
occasions when he found his emotions very hard to subdue. And it had
come so suddenly.

"After we left Enton," Lady Caroom said, thoughtfully, "I noticed a
distinct change in her. The first evidences of it were in her treatment
of Sydney Molyneux. I am quite sure that she purposely precipitated
matters, and when he proposed refused him definitely."

"I do not think," Brooks found voice to say, "that she would ever have
married Sydney Molyneux."

"Perhaps not," Lady Caroom admitted, "but at any rate before our visit
to Enton she was quite content to have him around--she was by no
means eager to make up her mind definitely. After we left she seemed to
deliberately plan to dispose of him finally. Since then--I am
talking in confidence, Kingston-she has refused t e Duke of Atherstone."

Brooks was silent. His self-control was being severely tested. His heart
was beating like a sledgehammer--he was very anxious to avoid Lady
Caroom's eyes.

"Atherstone," she said, slowly, "is quite the most eligible bachelor in
England, and he is, as you know, a very nice, unaffected boy. There is
only one possible inference for me, as Sybil's mother, to draw, and that
is that she cares, or is beginning to think that she cares, for some one
else."

"Some one else? Do you know whom?" Brooks asked.

"If you do not know," Lady Caroom answered, "I do not."

Brooks threw aside all attempt at disguise. He looked across at Lady
Caroom, and his eyes were very bright.

"I have never believed," he said, "that Sybil would be likely to care
for me. I can scarcely believe it now."

Lady Caroom hesitated.

"In any case," she said, "could you ask her to marry you? You must see
that as things are it would be impossible!"

"Impossible!" he muttered. "Impossible!"

"Of course," she answered, briskly. "You must be a man of the world
enough to know that. You could not ask a girl in Sybil's position to
share a borrowed name, nor would the other conditions permit of your
marrying her. That is why I want to talk to you."

"Well?"

"Is there any immediate chance of your reconciliation with the Marquis
of Arranmore?"

"None," Brooks answered.

"Well, then," Lady Caroom said, "there is no immediate chance of your
being in a position to marry Sybil. Don't look at me as though I were
saying unkind things. I am not. I am only talking common-sense. What is
your income?"

"About two thousand pounds, but some of that half, perhaps
more--goes to the Society."

"Exactly. It would be impossible for you to marry Sybil on the whole of
it, or twice the whole of it."

"You want me then," Brooks said, "to be reconciled to my father. Yet
you--you yourself will not trust him."

"I have not expressed any wish of the sort," Lady Caroom said, kindly.
"I only wished to point out that as things are you were not in a
position to ask Sybil to marry you, and therefore I want you to keep
away from her. I mean this kindly for both of you. Of course if Sybil is
absolutely in earnest, if the matter has gone too far, we must talk it
all over again and see what is to be done. But I want you to give her a
chance. Keep away for a time. Your father may live for twenty-five
years. If your relations with him all that time continue as they are
now, marriage with a girl brought up like Sybil would be an
impossibility."

Brooks was silent for several moments. Then he looked up suddenly.

"Has Lady Sybil said anything to you--which led you to speak to
me?"

Lady Caroom shook her head.

"No. She is very young, you know. Frankly, I do not believe that she
knows her own mind. You have not spoken to her, of course?" "No!"

"And you will not?"

"I suppose," Brooks said, "that I must not think of it."

"You must give up thinking about her, of course," Lady Caroom said,
"until--" Until what?

"Until you can ask her--if ever you do ask her--to marry you
in your proper name."

Brooks set his teeth and walked up and down the little room.

"That," he said, "may be never."

"Exactly," Lady Caroom agreed. "That is why I am suggesting that you do
not see her so often."

He stopped opposite her.

"Does he--does Lord Arranmore know anything of this?"

She shook her head.

"Not from me. He may have heard whispers. To tell you the truth, I
myself have been asked questions during the last few days. You have been
seen about a good deal with Sybil, and you are rather a mystery to
people. That is why I felt compelled to speak." He nodded. "I see!"

"You must not blame me," she went on, softly. "You know, Kingston, that
I like you, that I would give you Sybil willingly under ordinary
circumstances. I don't want to speak to her if I can help it. And,
Kingston, there is one thing more I must say to you. It is on my mind.
It keeps me awake at night. I think that it will make an old woman of me
very soon. If--if we should be wrong?"

"There is no possibility of that," he answered, sadly. "Lord Arranmore
is candour itself, even in his selfishness."

"His face haunts me," she murmured. "There is something so terribly
impersonal, so terribly sad about it. He looks on at everything, he
joins in nothing. They say that he gambles, but he never knows whether
he is winning or losing. He gives entertainments that are historical,
and remains as cold as ice to guests whom a prince would be glad to
welcome. His horse won that great race the other day, and he gave up his
place on the stand, just before the start, to a little girl, and never
even troubled to watch the race, though his winnings were enormous. He
bought the Frivolity Theatre, produced this new farce, and has never
been seen inside the place. What does it mean, Kingston? There must be
suffering behind all this--terrible suffering."

"It is a law of retribution," Brooks said, coldly. "He has made other
people suffer all his life. Now perhaps his turn has come. He spends
fortunes trying to amuse himself and cannot. Are we to pity him for
that?"

"I have heard of people," she said, looking at him intently, "who are
too proud to show the better part of themselves, who rather than court
pity or even sympathy will wear a mask always, will hide the good that
is in them and parade the bad."

"You love him still?" he said, wonderingly.

"Kingston, I do. If I were a brave woman I would risk everything.
Sometimes when I see him, like a Banquo at a feast, with his eyes full
of weariness and the mummy's smile upon his lips, I feel that I can keep
away no longer. Kingston, let us go to him, you and I. Let us see if we
can't tear off the mask."

He shook his head.

"He would laugh at us!"

"Will you try?"

He hesitated.

"No! But, Lady Caroom, you have no such debt of bitterness against him
as I have. I cannot advise you--I would not dare. But if there is a
spark of soul left in the man, such love as yours must fan it into
warmth. If you have the courage--risk it."

Brooks left without seeing Sybil again, and turned northward. In Pall
Mall he heard his name called from the steps of one of the great clubs.
He looked up and found Lord Arranmore leisurely descending.

"A word with you, Brooks," he said, coolly, "on a matter of business.
Will you step inside?"

Brooks hesitated. It was beginning to rain, and neither of them had
umbrellas.

"As you will," he answered. "I have an appointment in half-an-hour."

"I shall not detain you ten minutes," Lord Arranmore answered. "There is
a comfortable strangers' room here where we can chat. Will you have
anything?"

"Nothing to drink, thanks," Brooks answered. "A cigarette, if you are
going to smoke."

Lord Arranmore pushed his cigarette-case across the small round table
which stood between their easy-chairs. The room was empty.

"You will find these tolerable. I promised to be brief, did I not? I
wished to speak for a moment upon a subject which it seems to me might
require a readjustment of our financial relations."

Brooks looked up puzzled but made no remark.

"I refer to the possibility of your desiring to marry. Be so good as not
to interrupt me. I have seen you once or twice with Sybil Caroom, and
there has been a whisper--but after all that is of no consequence.
The name of the young lady would be no concern of mine. But in case you
should be contemplating anything of the sort, I thought it as well that
you should know what the usual family arrangements are."

"I am sorry," Brooks said, "but I really don't understand what you mean
by family arrangements."

"No!" Lord Arranmore remarked, softly. "Perhaps if you would allow me to
explain--it is your own time which is limited, you know. The eldest
son of our family comes in, as you have been told, on his twenty-first
birthday, to two thousand pounds a year, which income you are now in
possession of. On his marriage that is increased to ten thousand a year,
with the possession of either Enton or Mangohfred. in the present case
you could take your choice, as I am perfectly indifferent which I
retain. That is all I wished to say. I thought it best for you to
understand the situation. Mr. Ascough will, at any time, put it into
legal shape for you."

"You speak of this--arrangement," Brooks said, slowly, "as though
it were a corroboration of the settlement upon the eldest son. This
scarcely seems possible. There can be no such provision legally."

"I scarcely see," Lord Arranmore said, wearily, "what that has to do
with it, The ten thousand pounds a year is, of course, not a legal
charge upon the estates. But from time immemorial it has been the amount
which has been the admitted portion of the eldest son upon marriage. It
is no gift from me. It is the income due to Lord Kingston of Ross. If
you wish for any future explanation I must really refer you to Mr.
Ascough. The discussion of business details is by no means a favourite
occupation of mine."

Brooks rose to his feet. His eyes were fixed steadily, almost longingly
upon Lord Arranmore's. His manner was not wholly free from nervousness.

"I am very much obliged to you, Lord Arranmore," he said. "I quite
understand that you are making me the offer of a princely settlement out
of the Arranmore estates to which I have no manner of claim. It is not
possible for me to accept it."

There was a moment's silence. A great clock in the corner ticked
noisily. A faint unusual colour stole into Lord Arranmore's cheeks.

"Accept it! I accord you no favour, I offer you no gift. The allowance
is, I repeat, one which every Lord Kingston has drawn upon his marriage.
Perhaps I have spoken before it was necessary. You may have had no
thoughts of anything of the sort?"

Brooks did not answer.

"I have noticed," Lord Arranmore continued in measured tones, "an
intimacy between you and Lady Sybil Caroom, which suggested the idea to
me. I look upon Lady Sybil as one of the most charming young gentlewomen
of our time, and admirably suited in all respects to the position of the
future Marchioness of Arranmore. I presume that as head of the family I
am within my rights in so far expressing my opinion?"

"Marriage," Brooks said, huskily, "is not possible for me at present."

"Why not?"

"I cannot accept this money from you. The terms on which we are do not
allow of it."

There was an ominous glitter in Lord Arranmore's eyes. He, too, rose to
his feet, and remained facing Brooks, his hand upon the back of his
chair.

"Are you serious? Do you mean that?"

"I do!" Brooks answered. Lord Arranmore pointed to the door.

"Then be off," he said, a note of passion at last quivering in his tone.
"Leave this room at once, and let me see as little of you in the future
as possible. If Sybil cares for you, God help her! You are a damned
obstinate young prig, sir. Be off!"

Brooks walked out of the club and into the street, his ears tingling and
his cheeks aflame. The world seemed topsy-turvy. It was long indeed
before he forgot those words, which seemed to come to him winged with a
wonderful and curious force.


VIII--THE ADVICE OF MR. BULLSOM

At no time in his life was Brooks conscious of so profound a feeling of
dissatisfaction with regard to himself, his work, and his judgment, as
during the next few weeks. His friendship with Mary Scott, which had
been a more pleasant thing than he had ever realized, seemed to him to
be practically at an end, he had received a stinging rebuke from the one
man in the world whose right to administer it he would have vigorously
denied, and he was forced to admit to himself that his last few weeks
had been spent in a fool's paradise, into which he ought never to have
ventured. He had the feeling of having been pulled up sharply in the
midst of a very delightful interlude--and the whole thing seemed to
him to come as a warning against any deviation whatsoever from the life
which he had marked out for himself. So, after a day of indecision and
nerveless hesitation, he turned back once more to his work. Here, at any
rate, he could find absorption.

He formed his Board--without figure-heads, wholly of workers. There
was scarcely a name which any one had ever heard of before. He had his
interview with the bishop, who was shocked at his views, and publicly
pronounced his enterprise harmful and pauperizing, and Verity, with the
names of the Board as a new weapon, came for him more vehemently than
ever. Brooks, at last goaded into action, sent the paper to his
solicitors and went down to Medchester to attend a dinner given to Mr.
Bullsom.

It was at Medchester that he recovered his spirits. He knew the place so
well that it was easy for him to gauge and appreciate the altered state
of affairs there. The centre of the town was swept clean at last of
those throngs of weary-faced men and youths looking for a job, the
factories were running full time-there seemed to his fancy to be even an
added briskness in the faces and the footsteps of the hurrying crowds of
people. Later on at the public dinner which he had come down to attend,
he was amply assured as to the sudden wave of prosperity which was
passing over the whole country. Mr. Bullsom, with an immense expanse of
white shirt, a white waistcoat and a scarlet camellia in his
button-hole, beamed and oozed amiability upon every one. Brooks he
grasped by both hands with a full return to his old cordiality,
indulgence in which he had rather avoided since he had been aware of the
social gulf between them.

"Brooks," he said, "I owe this to you. It was your suggestion. And I
don't think it's turned out so badly, eh? What do you think?"

"I think that you have found your proper sphere," Brooks answered,
smiling. "I can't think why you ever needed me to suggest it to you."

"My boy, I can't either," Mr. Bullsom declared. "This is one of the
proudest nights of my life. Do you know what we've done up there at
Westminster, eh? We've given this old country a new lease of life. How
they were all laughing at us up their sleeve, eh! Germans, and
Frenchmen, and Yankees. It's a horse of another colour now. John Bull
has found out how to protect himself. And, Brooks, my boy, it's been
mentioned to-night, and I'm a proud man when I think of it. There were
others who did the showy part of the work, of course, the speechmaking
and the bill-framing and all that, but I was the first man to set the
Protection snowball rolling. It wasn't much I had to say, but I said it.
A glass of wine with you, Sir Henry? With pleasure, sir!

"I wonder how long it will last," Brooks' neighbour remarked, cynically.
"The manufacturers are like a lot of children with a new toy. What about
the Colonies? What are they going to say about it?"

"We have no Colonies," Brooks answered, smiling. "You are only half an
Imperialist. Don't you know that they have been incorporated in the
British Empire?

"Hope they'll like it," his neighbour remarked, sardonically. "Plenty of
glory and a good price to pay for it. What licks me is that every one
seems to imagine that this Tariff Bill is going to give the
working-classes a leg-up. To my mind it's the capitalist who's going to
score by it."

"The capitalist manufacturer," Brooks answered. "But after all you can't
under our present conditions dissociate capital and labour. The benefit
of one will be the benefit of the other. No food stuffs are taxed, you
know."

His neighbour grunted.

"Pity Cobden's ghost can't come and listen to the rot those fellows are
talking," he remarked. "We shall see in a dozen years how the thing
works."

The dinner ended with a firework of speeches, and an ovation to their
popular townsman and member, which left Mr. Bullsom very red in the face
and a little watery about the eyes. Brooks and he drove off together
afterwards, and Mr. Bullsom occupied the first five minutes or so of the
journey with a vigorous mopping of his cheeks and forehead.

"A great night, Brooks," he exclaimed, faintly. "A night to remember.
Don't mind admitting that I'm more than a bit exhausted though. Phew!"

Brooks laughed, and leaning forward looked out of the windows of the
carriage.

"Are we going in the right direction?" he asked. "This isn't the way to
'Homelands.'"

Mr. Bullsom smiled.

"Little surprise for you, Brooks!" he remarked. "We found the sort of
place the girls were hankering after, to let furnished, and we've took
it for a year. We moved in a fortnight ago."

"Do I know the house?" Brooks asked. "It's Woton Hall," Mr. Bullsom
remarked, impressively. "Nice old place. Dare say you remember it."

"Remember it! Of course I do," Brooks answered. "How do the young ladies
like it?"

Mr. Bullsom laid hold of the strap of the carriage. The road was rough,
the horses were fresh, and Mr. Bullsom's head had felt steadier.

"Well," Mr. Bullsom said, "you'd think to hear em we'd stepped straight
into heaven. We're close to the barracks, you know, and I'm blest if
half the officers haven't called already. They drop in to luncheon, or
dinner, or whatever's going on, in the most friendly way, just as they
used to, you know, when Sir Henry lived there, him as took wine with me,
you remember. Lord, you should hear Selina on the military. Can't say I
take to 'em much myself. I'll bet there'll be one or two of them hanging
about the place to-night. Phew!"

Mr. Bullsom mopped his forehead again. The carriage had turned in at the
drive, and he glanced towards Brooks a little uneasily.

"Do I look-as though I'd been going it a bit?" he asked. "Since Selina's
got these band-box young men hanging around she's so mighty particular."

Brooks leaned forward and rescued Mr. Bullsom's tie from underneath his
ear.

"You're all right," he said, reassuringly. "You mustn't let the girls
bully you, you know."

Mr. Bullsom sat bolt upright.

"You are quite right, Brooks," he declared. "I will not. But we took on
the servants here as well, and they're a bit strange to me. After all,
though, I'm the boss. I'll let 'em know it, too."

A footman threw open the door and took Brooks' dressing-case. A butler,
hurrying up from the background, ushered them into the drawing-room. Mr.
Bullsom pulled down his waistcoat and marched in; whistling softly a
popular tune. Selina and Louise, in elaborate evening gowns, were
playing bridge with two young men.

Selina rose and held out her hand to Brooks a little languidly.

"So glad to see you, Mr. Brooks," she declared. "Let me introduce Mr.
Suppeton, Captain Meyton!"

The two young men were good enough to acknowledge the introduction, and
Brooks shook hands with Louise. Selina was surveying her father with
uplifted eyebrows.

"Why, father, where on earth have you been?" she exclaimed. "I never saw
anybody such a sight. Your shirt is like a rag, and your collar too."

"Never you mind me, Selina," Mr. Bullsom answered, firmly. "As to where
I've been, you know quite well. Political dinners may be bad for your
linen, and there may be more healths drunk than is altogether wise, but
a Member of Parliament has to take things as he finds 'em. Don't let us
interrupt your game. Brooks and I are going to have a game at
billiards."

One of the young men laid down his cards.

"Can't we join you?" he suggested. "We might have a game of pool, if it
isn't too late."

"You are soon tired of bridge," Selina remarked, reproachfully. "Very
well, we will all go into the billiard-room."

The men played a four-handed game. Between the shots Selina talked to
Brooks.

"Were you surprised?" she asked. "Had you heard?"

"Not a word. I was astonished," he answered.

"You hadn't seen it in the papers either? Most of them mentioned
it--in the county notes."

"I so seldom read the newspapers," he said. "You like it, of course?"

Selina was bereft of words.

"How we ever existed in that hateful suburb," she whispered under her
breath. "And the people round here too are so sociable. Papa being a
member makes a difference, of course. Then the barracks--isn't it
delightful having them so close? There is always something going on. A
cricket match to-morrow, I believe. Louise and I are going to play. Mrs.
Malevey--she's the Colonel's wife, you know persuaded us into it."

"And your mother?" Brooks asked a minute or two later.

Selina tossed her head.

"Mother is so foolish," she declared. "She misses the sound of the
trains, and she actually calls the place dead alive, because she can't
sit at the windows and see the tradesmen's carts and her neighbours go
by. Isn't it ridiculous?"

Brooks hesitated.

"I suppose so," he answered. "Your mother can have her friends out here,
though. It really is only a short drive to Medchester."

"She won't have them oftener than I can help," Selina declared,
doggedly. "Old Mrs. Mason called the other day when Captain Meyton and
Mrs. Malevey were here. It was most awkward. But I don't know why I tell
you all these things," she declared, abruptly. "Somehow I always feel
that you are quite an old friend."

Selina's languishing glance was intercepted by one of her admirers from
the barracks, as she had intended it to be. Brooks went off to play his
shot and returned smiling.

"I am only too happy that you should feel so," he declared. "Your father
was very kind to me."

"Isn't it almost a pity that you didn't stay in Medchester, Mr. Brooks?"
Selina remarked, with a faint note of patronage in her tone. "Papa is so
much more influential now, you know, and he was always so fond of you."

"It is rather a pity," Brooks remarked, with twinkling eyes. "One can't
foresee these things, you know."

Selina felt it time to bestow her attention elsewhere, and the game soon
came to an end. The girls glanced at the clock and reluctantly withdrew.

"Remember, Miss Bullsom, that we are relying upon you to-morrow," the
younger of the two officers remarked, as he opened the door. "Two
o'clock sharp--but you lunch with Mrs. Malevey first, don't you?"

"We shan't forget," Selina assured him, graciously. "Good-night."

The two young men left soon afterwards. Mr. Bullsom mixed himself a
whisky-and-soda, and stood for a few minutes on the hearthrug before
retiring.

"You're not up to the mark, Brooks, my boy," he said, kindly.

Brooks shrugged his shoulders. "I am about as usual," he answered.

Mr. Bullsom set down his glass.

"Look here, Brooks," he said, "you've given me many a useful piece of
advice, even when you used to charge me six and eightpence for it. I'm
going to turn the tables. One doesn't need to look at you twice to see
that things aren't going altogether as they should do with you. See
here! Are you sure that you're not cutting off your nose to spite your
face, eh?"

"Perhaps I am," Brooks answered. "But it is too late to draw back now."

"It is never too late," Mr. Bullsom declared, vigorously. "I've no fancy
for weathercocks, but I haven't a ha'porth of respect for a man who
ain't smart enough to own up when he's made a mistake, and who isn't
willing to start again on a fresh page. You take my advice, Brooks. Be
reconciled with your father, and let 'em all know who you are. I've seen
a bit of Lord Arranmore, and I'll stake my last shilling that he's not a
bad 'un at heart. You make it up with him, Brooks. Come, that's a
straight tip, and it's a good one."

Brooks threw away his cigarette and held out his hand.

"It is very good advice, Mr. Bullsom," he said, "under any ordinary
circumstances. I wish I could take it. Good-night."

Mr. Bullsom grasped his hand.

"You're not offended, my boy?" he asked, anxiously.

"Not I," Brooks answered, heartily. "I'm not such an idiot."

"I don't want to take any liberties," Bullsom said, "and I'm afraid I
forget sometimes who you are, but that's your fault, seeing that you
will call yourself only Mr. Kingston Brooks when you're by rights a
lord. But if you were the Prince of Wales I'd still say that my advice
was good. Forgive your father anything you've got against him, and start
afresh."

"Well, I'll think about it," Brooks promised.


IX--A QUESTION AND AN ANSWER

Brooks returned to London to find the annual exodus already commenced.
Lady Caroom and Sybil had left for Homburg. Lord Arranmore was yachting
in the Channel. Brooks settled down to work, and found it a little
wearisome.

He saw nothing of Mary Scott, whose duties now brought her seldom to the
head office. He began to think that she was avoiding him, and there came
upon him about this time a sense of loneliness to which he was sometimes
subject. He fought it with hard work--early and late, till the
colour left his cheeks and black lines bordered his eyes. They pressed
him to take a holiday, but he steadily declined. Mr. Bullsom wrote
begging him to spend a week-end at least at Woton Hall. He refused this
and all other invitations.

One day he took up a newspaper which was chiefly concerned with the
doings of fashionable people, and Lady Caroom's name at once caught his
eye. He read that her beautiful daughter Lady Sybil was quite the belle
of Homburg, that the Duke of Atherstone was in constant attendance, that
an interesting announcement might at any moment be made. He threw aside
the paper and looked thoughtfully out into the stuffy little street,
where even at night the air seemed stifling and unwholesome. After all,
was he making the best of his life? He had started a great work.
Hundreds and thousands of his fellow creatures would be the better for
it. So far all was well enough. But personally--was this entire
self-abnegation necessary?--was he fulfilling his duty to himself?
was he not rather sacrificing his future to a prejudice--an idea?
In any case he knew that it was too late to retract. He had renounced
his proper position in life, it was too late for him now to claim it.
And there had gone with it--Sybil. After all, why should he
arrogate to himself judgment? The sins of his father were not his
concern. It was chiefly he who suffered by his present attitude, yet he
had chosen it deliberately. He could not draw back. He had cut himself
off from her world--he saw now the folly of his ever for a moment
having been drawn into it. It must be a chapter closed.

The weeks passed on, and his loneliness grew. One day the opening of
still another branch brought him for a moment into contact with Mary
Scott. She too was looking pale, but her manner was bright, even
animated. She seemed to feel none of the dejection which had stolen away
from him the whole flavour of life. Her light easy laugh and cheerful
conversation were like a tonic to him. He remembered those days at
Medchester After all, she was the first woman whom he had ever looked
upon as a comrade, whom he had ever taken out of her sex and considered
singly.

She spoke of his ill-looks kindly and with some apprehension.

"I am all right," he assured her, "but a little dull. Take pity on me
and come out to dinner one night this week."

They dined in the annex of a fashionable restaurant practically out of
doors--a cool green lawn for a carpet and a fountain playing close
at hand. Mary wore a white dinner-gown, gossamer-like and airy. Her rich
brown hair was tastefully arranged, her voice had never seemed to him so
soft and pleasant. All around was the hum of cheerful conversation. A
little world of people seemed to be there whose philosophy of life after
all was surely the only true one, where hearts were light with the joy
of the moment. The dinner was carefully served, the wine, which in his
solitude he had neglected, stole through his veins with a pleasant
warmth. Brooks felt his nerves relax, the light came back to his eyes
and the colour to his cheeks. Their conversation grew
brighter--almost gay. They both carefully avoided all mention of
their work--it was a holiday. The burden of his too carefully
thought out life seemed to pass away. Brooks felt that his youth was
coming to him a little late, but with delicious freshness.

He smoked a cigarette and sipped his coffee, glancing every now and then
at his companion with approving eyes. For Mary, whose dress was so
seldom a matter of moment to her, chanced to look her best that night.
The delicate pallor of her cheeks under the rich tone of her hair seemed
quite apart from any suggestion of ill-health, her eyes were wonderfully
full and soft, a quaint pearl ornament hung by a little gold chain from
her slender, graceful neck. A sort of dreamy content came over Brooks.
After all, why should he throw himself in despair against the gates of
that other world, outside which he himself had elected to dwell? It was
only madness for him to think of Sybil. While Lord Arranmore lived he
must remain Kingston Brooks--and for Kingston Brooks it seemed that
even friendship with her was forbidden. He could live down those
memories. They were far better crushed. He thought of that moment in
Mary's sitting-room, that one moment of her self-betrayal, and his heart
beat with an unaccustomed force. Why not rob her of the bitterness of
that memory? He looked at the white hand resting for a moment on the
table so close to his, and a sudden impulse came over him to snatch it
up, to feel his loneliness fade away for ever before the new light in
her face.

"Let us go and sit on the other side of the lawn," he said, leaning over
towards her. "We can hear the music better."

They found a quiet seat where the music from the main restaurant reached
them, curiously mingled with the jingling of cab bells from Piccadilly.
Brooks leaned over and took her hand. "Mary," he said, "will you marry
me?"

She looked at him as though expecting to find in his face some vague
sign of madness, some clue to words which seemed to her wholly
incomprehensible. But he had all the appearance of being in earnest. His
eyes were serious, his fingers had tightened over hers. She drew a
little away, and every vestige of colour had vanished from her cheeks.

"Marry you?" she exclaimed.

He bent over her, and he laughed softly in the darkness. A mad impulse
was upon him to kiss her, but he resisted it.

"Why not? Does it sound so dreadful?"

She drew her fingers away slowly but with determination.

"I had hoped," she said, "that you would have spared me this."

"Spared you!" he repeated. "I do not understand. Spared you!"

She looked at him with flashing eyes.

"Oh, I suppose I ought to thank you," she said, bitterly. "Only I do
not. I cannot. You were kinder when you joined with me and helped me to
ignore--that hateful moment. That was much kinder."

"Upon my honour, Mary," Brooks declared, earnestly, "I do not understand
you. I have not the least idea what you mean."

She looked at him incredulously.

"You have asked me to marry you," she said. "Why?"

"Because I care for you."

"Care for me? Does that mean that you--love me?"

"Yes."

She noted very well that moment's hesitation.

"That is not true," she declared. "Oh, I know. You ask me out of
pity--because you cannot forget. I suppose you think it kindness. I
don't! It is hateful!"

A light broke in upon him. He tried once more to take her hand, but she
withheld it.

"I only half understand you, Mary," he said, earnestly, "but I can
assure you that you are mistaken. As to asking you out of
pity--that is ridiculous. I want you to be my wife. We care for the
same things--we can help one another--and I seem to have been
very lonely lately."

"And you think," Mary said, with a curious side-glance at him, "that I
should cure your loneliness. Thank you. I am very happy as I am. Please
forget everything you have said, and let us go."

Brooks was a little bewildered--and manlike a little more in
earnest.

"For some reason or other," he said, "you seem disinclined to take me
seriously. I cannot understand you, Mary. At any rate you must answer me
differently. I want you to be my wife. I am fond of you--you know
that--and I will do my best to make you happy."

"Thank you," Mary said, hardly. "I am sorry, but I must decline your
offer--absolutely. Now, let us go, shall we?"

She would have risen, but he laid his hand firmly upon her shoulder.

"Not till I have some sort of explanation," he said. "Is it that you do
not care for me, Mary?"

She turned round upon him with colour enough in her cheeks and a strange
angry light burning in her eyes.

"You might have spared me that also," she exclaimed. "You are determined
to humiliate me, to make me remember that hateful afternoon in my
rooms--oh, I can say it if I like--when I kissed you. I knew
then that sooner or later you would make up your mind that it was your
duty to ask me to marry you. Only you might have done it by letter. It
would have been kinder. Never mind. You have purged your conscience, and
you have got your answer. Now let us go."

Brooks looked at her for a moment amazed beside himself with wonder and
self-reproach.

"Mary," he said, quietly, "I give you my word that nothing which I have
said this evening has the least connection with that afternoon. I give
you my word that not for a moment have I thought of it in connection
with what I have said to you to-night."

She looked at him steadfastly, and her eyes were full of things which he
could not understand.

"When did you make up your mind--to ask me this?"

He pointed to the little table where they had been sitting.

Only a few minutes ago. I confess it was an impulse. I think that I
realized as we sat there how dear you had grown to me, Mary--how
dull life was without you."

"You say these things to me," she exclaimed, "when all the time you love
another woman."

He started a little. She smiled bitterly as she saw the shadow on his
face.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," she said, deliberately, "that you love Sybil Caroom. Is it not
true?"

His head drooped a little. He had never asked himself even so much as
this. He was face to face now with all the concentrated emotions which
lately had so much disturbed his life. The problem which he had so
sedulously avoided was forced upon him ruthlessly, with almost barbaric
simplicity.

"I do not know," he answered, vaguely. "I have never asked myself. I do
not wish to ask myself. Why do you speak of her? She is not of our
world, the world to which I want to belong. I want to forget her."

"You are a little mad to-night, my friend," Mary said. "To-morrow you
will feel differently. If Sybil Caroom cares for you, what does it
matter which world she belongs to? She is not the sort of girl to be
bound by old-fashioned prejudices. But I do not understand you at all
to-night. You are not yourself. I think that you are--a little
cruel." "Cruel?" he repeated.

Her face darkened.

"Oh, it is only natural," she said, with a note of suppressed passion in
her how tone. "It is just the accursed egotism of your sex. What right
have you to make us suffer so--to ask me to marry you--and sit
by my side and wonder whether you care for another woman? Can't you see
how humiliating it all is? It is an insult to ask a woman to marry you
to cure your loneliness, to make you a home to settle your indecision.
It is an insult to ask a woman to marry you for any reason except that
you care for her more than any other woman in the world, and can tell
her so trustfully, eagerly. Please to put me in a cab at once, and never
speak of these things again."

She was half-way across the lawn before he could stop her, her head
thrown back, carrying herself proudly and well, moving as it seemed to
him with a sort of effortless dignity wholly in keeping with the vigour
of her words. He obeyed her literally. There was nothing else for him to
do. His slight effort to join her in the cab she firmly repulsed,
holding out her hand and speaking a few cheerful words of thanks for her
evening's entertainment. And when the cab rolled away Brooks felt
lonelier than ever.


X--LADY SYBIL SAYS "YES"

The carriage plunged into the shadow of the pine-woods, and commenced
the long uphill ascent to Saalburg. Lady Caroom put down her parasol and
turned towards Sybil, whose eyes were steadfastly fixed upon the narrow
white belt of road ahead.

"Now, Sybil," she said, "for our talk."

"Your talk," Sybil corrected her, with a smile.

I'm to be listener."

"Oh, it may not be so one-sided after all," Lady Caroom declared. "And
we had better make haste, or that impetuous young man of yours will come
pounding after us on his motor before we know where we are. What are you
going to do about him, Sybil?"

"I don't know."

"Well, you'll have to make up your mind. He's getting on my nerves. You
must decide one way or another."

Sybil sighed.

"He's quite the nicest young man I know--of his class," she
remarked.

"Exactly," Lady Caroom assented. "And though I think you will admit that
I am one of the least conventional of mothers, I must really say I don't
think that it is exactly a comfortable thing to do to marry a man who is
altogether outside one's own circle."

"Mr. Brooks," Sybil said, "is quite as well bred as Atherstone."

"He is his equal in breeding and in birth," Lady Caroom declared. "You
know all about him. I admit," she continued, "that it sounds like a page
out of a novel. But it isn't. The only pity is--from one point of
view--that it makes so little difference."

"You think," Sybil asked, "that he will really keep his word--that
he will not be reconciled with Lord Arranmore?"

"I am sure of it, my dear," Lady Caroom answered. "Unless a miracle
happens, he will continue to be Mr. Kingston Brooks for the next ten or
fifteen years, for Lord Arranmore's lifetime, and you know that they are
a long-lived race. So you see the situation remains practically
unaltered by what I have told you. Mr. Kingston Brooks is a great
favourite of mine. I am very fond of him indeed. But I very much
doubt--even if he should ask you--whether you would find your
position as his wife particularly comfortable. You and I, Sybil, have no
secrets from one another. I wish you would tell me exactly how you feel
about him."

Sybil smiled--a little ruefully.

"If I knew--exactly," she answered, "I should know exactly what to
do. But I don't. You know how uninteresting our set of young men are as
a rule. Well, directly I met Mr. Brooks at Enton I felt that he was
different. He interested me very much. Then I have always wanted to do
something useful, to get something different into my life, and he found
me exactly the sort of work I wanted. But he has never talked to me as
though he cared particularly though I think that he does a little."

"It is easy to see," Lady Caroom remarked, "that you are not head over
ears in love."

"Mother," Sybil answered, "do you believe that girls often do fall head
over ears in love? If Mr. Brooks and I met continually, and if he and
his father were reconciled, well, I think it would be quite easy for me
very soon to care for him a great deal. If even now he had followed me
here, was with us often, and showed that he was really very fond of me,
I think that I should soon be inclined to return it--perhaps
even--I don't know--to risk marrying him, and giving up our
ordinary life. But as it is I like to think of him, I should like him to
be here; but I am not, as you say, head over ears in love with him."

"And now about Atherstone?" Lady Caroom said.

"Well, Atherstone has improved a great deal," Sybil answered,
thoughtfully. "There are a great many things about him which I like very
much. He is always well dressed and fresh and nice. He enjoys himself
without being dissipated, and he is perfectly natural. He is rather
boyish perhaps, but then he is young. He is not afraid to laugh, and I
like the way he enters into everything. And I think I like his
persistence."

"As his wife," Lady Caroom said, "you would have immense opportunities
for doing good. He has a great deal of property in London, besides three
huge estates in Somerset."

"That is a great consideration," Sybil said, earnestly. "I shall always
be thankful that I met Mr. Brooks. He made me think in a practical way
about things which have always troubled me a little. I should hate to
seem thoughtless or ungrateful to him. Will you tell me something,
mother?" Of course."

"Do you think that he cares--at all?"

I think he does--a little!

"Enough to be reconciled with his father for my sake?"

"No! Not enough for that," Lady Caroom answered.

Sybil drew a little breath.

"I think," she said, "that that decides me."

The long ascent was over at last. They pulled up before the inn, in
front of which the proprietor was already executing a series of low
bows. Before they could descend there was a familiar sound from behind,
and a young man, in a grey flannel suit and Panama hat, jumped from his
motor and came to the carriage door.

"Don't be awfully cross!" he exclaimed, laughing. "You know you half
promised to come with me this afternoon, so I couldn't help having a
spin out to see whether I could catch you up. Won't you allow me, Lady
Caroom? The step is a little high."

"It isn't any use being cross with you," Sybil remarked. "It never seems
to make any impression."

"I am terribly thick-skimmed," he answered, "when I don't want to
understand. Will you ladies have some tea, or come and see how the
restoration is getting on?"

"We were proposing to go and see what the German Emperor's idea of a
Roman camp was," Sybil answered.

"Oh, you can't shake me off now, can you, Lady Caroom?" he declared,
appealing to her. "We'll consider it an accident that you found me here,
if you like, but it is in reality a great piece of good fortune for
you."

"And why, may I ask?" Sybil inquired, with uplifted eyebrows.

"Oh, I'm an authority on this place--come here nearly every day to
give the director, as he calls himself, some hints. Come along, Lady
Caroom. I'll show you the baths and the old part of the outer wall."

Lady Caroom very soon had enough of it. She sat down upon a tree and
brought out her sketchbook.

"Give me a quarter of an hour, please," she begged, "not longer. I want
to be home for tea."

They strolled off, Atherstone turning a little nervously to Sybil.

"I say, we've seen the best part of the ruins," he remarked. "The
renovation's hideous. Let's go in the wood--and I'll show you a
squirrel's nest."

Sybil hesitated. Her thoughts for a moment were in confusion. Then she
sighed once and turned towards the wood.

"I have never seen a squirrel's nest," she said. "Is it far?"

Lady Caroom put her sketch away as she heard their approaching
footsteps, and looked up. Atherstone's happiness was too ridiculously
apparent. He came straight over to her.

"You'll give her to me, won't you?" he exclaimed. "'Pon my word, she
shall be the happiest woman in England if I can make her so. I'm
perfectly certain I'm the happiest man."

Lady Caroom pressed her daughter's hand, and they all turned to descend
the hill.

"Of course I'm charmed," Lady Caroom said. "Sybil makes me feel so
elderly. But I don't know what I shall do for a chaperon now."

Atherstone laughed.

"I'm your son-in-law," he said. "I can take you out."

Sybil shook her head.

"No, you won't," she declared. "The only woman I have ever been really
jealous of is mother. She has a way of absorbing all the attention from
every one when she is around. I'm not going to have her begin with you."

"I feel," Atherstone said, "like the man who married a twin--said
he never tried to tell the difference, you know, when a pal asked him
how he picked out his own wife."

"If you think," Sybil said, severely, "that you have made any
arrangements of that sort I take it all back. You are going to marry me,
if you behave yourself."

He sighed.

"Three months is a beastly long time," he said.

Lady Caroom drove back alone. The motor whizzed by her half-way down the
hill--Sybil holding her hat with both hands, her hair blowing
about, and her cheeks pink with pleasure. She waved her hand gaily as
she went by, and then clutched her hat again. Lady Caroom watched them
till they were out of sight, then she found herself looking steadfastly
across the valley to the dark belt of pine-clad hills beyond. She could
see nothing very clearly, and there was a little choking in her throat.
They were both there, father and son. Once she fancied that at last he
was holding out his arms towards her--she sat up in the carriage
with a little cry which was half a sob. When she drove through the hotel
gates it was he who stood upon the steps to welcome her.


XI--BROOKS HEARS THE NEWS

Unchanged! Her first eager glance into his face told her that. Waxen
white, his lips smiled their courteous greeting upon her, his tone was
measured and cold as ever. She set her teeth as she rose from her seat,
and gathered her skirts in her hand.

"You, too, a pilgrim?" she exclaimed. "I thought you preferred salt
water."

"We had a pleasant fortnight's yachting," he answered. "Then I went with
Hennibul to Wiesbaden, and I came on here to see you.

"Have you met Sybil and Atherstone?" she asked him.

"Yes," he answered, gravely.

"Come into my room," she said, "and I will give you some tea. These
young people are sure to have it on the terrace. I will join you when I
have got rid of some of this dust."

He was alone for ten minutes. At the end of that time she came out
through the folding-doors with the old smile upon her lips and the old
lithesomeness in her movements. He rose and watched her until she had
settled down in her low chair.

"So Sybil is going to marry Atherstone!"

"Yes. He really deserves it, doesn't he? He is a very nice boy."

Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.

"What an everlasting fool Brooks is," he said, in a low tone.

"He keeps his word," she answered. "It is a family trait with you,
Arranmore. You are all stubborn, all self-willed, self-centred,
selfish!"

"Thank you!"

"You can't deny it."

I won't try. I suppose it is true. Besides, I want to keep you in a good
humour."

"Do tell me why!"

"If Sybil is going to be married you can't live alone."

"I won't admit that, but what about it? Do you know of a nice
respectable companion?"

"Myself."

She shook her head.

"You may be nice," she answered, "but you certainly aren't respectable."

"I am what you make me," he answered, in a low tone. "Catherine! A
moment ago you accused me of stubbornness. What about yourself?"

"I?"

"Yes, you. You have been the one woman of my life. You are free, you
know that there is no other man who could make you happy as I could, yet
you will not come to me--for the sake of an idea. If I am heartless
and callous, an infidel, an egotist, whatever you choose, at least I
love you. You need never fear me. You would always be safe."

She shook her head.

"Arranmore," she said, "this is so painful to me. Do let us cease to
discuss it. I have tried so hard to make you understand how I feel. I
cannot alter. It is impossible!"

"You tempt me," he cried, "to play the hypocrite."

"No, I do not, Arranmore," she answered, gently, "for there is no acting
in this world which would deceive me."

"You do not doubt that I should make you a good husband?"

"I believe you would," she answered, "but I dare not try it."

"And this is the woman," he murmured, sadly, "who calls me stubborn."

Tea was brought in. Afterwards they walked in the gardens together. The
band was playing, and they were surrounded on all sides by
acquaintances. A great personage stopped and talked to them for a while.
Lady Caroom admitted the news of Sybil's engagement. After that every
one stopped to express pleasure. It was not until the young people
appeared themselves, and at once monopolized all attention, that
Arranmore was able to draw his companion away into comparative solitude.

"Do you by any chance correspond with Brooks?" he asked her.

She shook her head.

"No!" she answered. "I was thinking of that. I should like him to know
from one of us. Can't you write him, Arranmore?"

"I could," he answered, "but it would perhaps come better from you. Have
you ever had any conversation with him about Sybil?"

"Once," she answered, "yes!

"Then you can write--it will be better for you to write. I should
like to ask you a question if I may."

"Yes."

"Have you any idea whether the news will be in any way a blow to him?"

"I think perhaps it may," she admitted.

Arranmore was silent. She watched him half eagerly, hoping for some
look, some expression of sympathy. She was disappointed. His face did
not relax. It seemed almost to grow harder.

"He has only himself to blame," he said, slowly. "But for this
ridiculous masquerading his chance was as good as Atherstone's.
Quixoticism such as his is an expensive luxury."

She shivered a little.

"That sounds hard-hearted," she said. "He is doing what he thinks
right."

Then Lord Arranmore told her what he had told Brooks himself.

"My son is quite a model young man," he said, "but he is a prig. He
thinks too much about what is right and wrong, about what is due to
himself, and he values his own judgment too highly. However, I have no
right to complain, for it is he who suffers, not I. May I dine at your
table to-night? I came over alone."

"Certainly."

They were interrupted a few minutes later by Sybil and Atherstone, and a
small host of their friends. But in consequence of Lord Arranmore's
visit to Homburg, Brooks a few days later received two letters. The
first was from Lord Arranmore.

"RITTER's HOTEL.

"DEAR MR. BROOKS,

"The news which I believe Lady Caroom is sending you to-day may perhaps
convince you of the folly of this masquerading. I make you, therefore,
the following offer. I will leave England for at least five years on
condition that you henceforth take up your proper position in society,
and consent to such arrangements as Mr. Ascough and I may make. In any
case I was proposing to myself a somewhat extensive scheme of travel,
and the opportunity seems to me a good one for you to dispense with an
incognito which may lead you some day into even worse complications. I
trust that for the sake of other people with whom you may be brought
into contact you will accept the arrangement which I propose.

"I remain,

"Yours faithfully,

"ARRANMORE."

The other letter was from Lady Caroom.

"RITTER'S HOTEL.

"MY DEAR 'MR. BROOKS,'

"I want to be the first to tell you of Sybil's engagement to the Duke of
Atherstone, which took place this afternoon. He has been a very
persistent suitor, and he is a great favourite, I think, deservedly,
with every one. He will, I am sure, make her very happy.

"I understand that you are still in London. You must find this weather
very oppressive. Take my advice and don't overwork yourself. No cause in
the world, however good, is worth the sacrifice of one's health.

"I hope that my news will not distress you. You realized, of course,
that your decision to remain known, or rather unknown, as Kingston
Brooks, made it at some time or other inevitable, and I hope to see a
good deal of you when we return to town, and that you will always
believe that I am your most sincere friend,

"CATHERINE CAROOM."

Brooks laid the two letters down with a curious mixture of sensations.
He knew that a very short time ago he might have considered himself
brokenhearted, and he knew that as a matter of fact he was nothing of
the sort. He answered Lady Caroom's letter first.

"27, JERMYN STREET, W.

"DEAR LADY CAROOM,

"It was very kind of you to write to me, and to send me the news of
Sybil's engagement so promptly. I wish her most heartily every
happiness. After all, it is the most suitable thing which could have
happened.

"You are right in your surmise. After our conversation I realized quite
plainly that under my present identity I could not possibly think of
Lady Sybil except as a very charming and a very valued friend. I was,
therefore, quite prepared for the news which you have sent me.

"I am going for a few days' golf and sea-bathing into Devonshire, so
don't waste too much sympathy upon me. My best regards to Lady Sybil.
Just now I imagine that she is overwhelmed with good wishes, but if she
will add mine to the number, I can assure you and her that I offer them
most heartily.

"Yours most sincerely,

"KINGSTON BRGOKS."

"P.S.--Have you heard that your friend the Bishop is going to bring
a Bill before the House of Lords which is to exterminate me altogether?"

Lady Caroom sighed for a moment as she read the letter, but immediately
afterwards her face cleared.

"After all, I think it is best," she murmured, "and Atherstone is such a
dear."


XII--THE PRINCE OF SINNERS SPEAKS OUT

The bishop sat down amidst a little murmur of applause. He glanced up
and saw that his wife had heard his speech, and he noted with
satisfaction the long line of reporters, for whose sake he had spoken
with such deliberation and with occasional pauses. He felt that his
indictment of this new charitable departure had been scathing and
logical. He was not altogether displeased to see Brooks himself in the
Strangers' Gallery. That young man would be better able to understand
now the mighty power of the Church which he had so wantonly disregarded.

But it was not the bishop's speech which had filled Brooks with dismay,
which had made his heart grow suddenly cold within him. For this he had
been prepared--but not for the adversary who was now upon his feet
prepared to address the House. At least, he said to himself, bitterly,
he might have been spared this. It was Lord Arranmore, who, amidst some
murmurs of surprise, had risen to address the House--pale,
composed, supercilious as ever. And Brooks felt that what he could
listen to unmoved from the Bishop of Beeston would be hard indeed to
bear from this man.

The intervention of Lord Arranmore so early in the debate was wholly
unexpected. Every one was interested, and those who knew him best
prepared themselves for a little mild sensation. The bishop smiled to
himself with the satisfaction of a man who has secured a welcome but
unexpected ally. Lord Arranmore's views as to charity and its
dispensation were fairly well known.

So every one listened--at first with curiosity, afterwards with
something like amazement. The bishop abandoned his expression of gentle
tolerance for one of manifest uneasiness. It seemed scarcely credible
that he heard aright. For the Marquis of Arranmore's forefinger was
stretched out towards him--a gesture at once relentless and
scornful, and the words to which he was forced to listen were not
pleasant ones to hear.

"It is such sentiments as these," the Marquis of Arranmore was
saying--and his words came like drops of ice, slow and
distinct--"such sentiments as these voiced by such men as the Lord
Bishop of Beeston in such high places as this where we are now
assembled, which have created and nourished our criminal classes, which
have filled our prisons and our workhouses, and in time future if his
lordship's theology is correct will people Hell. And as for the logic of
it, was ever the intelligence of so learned and august a body of
listeners so insulted before? Is charity, then, for the deserving and
the deserving only? Are we to put a premium upon hypocrisy, to pass by
on the other side from those who have fallen, and who by themselves have
no power to rise? This is precisely his lordship's proposition. The one
great charitable institution of our times, founded upon a logical basis,
carried out with a devotion and a self-sacrifice beyond all praise, he
finds pernicious and pauperizing, because, forsooth, the drunkard and
criminals are welcome to avail themselves of it, because it seeks to
help those who save for such help must remain brutes themselves and a
brutalizing influence to others."

There was a moment's deep silence. To those who were watching the
speaker closely, and amongst them Brooks, was evident some sign of
internal agitation. Yet when he spoke again his manner was, if possible,
more self-restrained than ever. He continued in a low clear tone,
without any further gesture and emotion.

"My lords, I heard a remark not intended for my ears, upon my rising,
indicative of surprise that I should have anything to say upon such a
subject as this. Lest my convictions and opinions should seem to you to
be those of an outsider, let me tell you this. You are listening to one
who for twelve years lived the life of this unhappy people, dwelt
amongst them as a police-court missionary--one who was driven even
into some measure of insanity by the horrors he saw and tasted, and who
recovered only by an ignominious flight into a far-off country. His
lordship the Bishop of Beeston has shown you very clearly how little he
knows of the horrors which seethe beneath the brilliant life of this
wonderful city. He has brought it upon himself and you--that one
who does know shall tell you something of the truth of these things."

There was an intense and breathless silence. This was an assembly
amongst whom excitement was a very rare visitant. But there were many
there now who sat still and spellbound with eyes riveted upon the
speaker. To those who were personally acquainted with him a certain
change in his appearance was manifest. A spot of colour flared in his
pale cheeks. There was a light in his eyes which no one had ever seen
there before. After years of self-repression, of a cynicism partly
artificial, partly inevitable, the natural man had broken out once more,
stung into life by time smooth platitudes of the great churchman against
whom his attack was directed. He was reckless of time fact that Lady
Caroom, Brooks, and many of his acquaintances were in the Strangers'
Gallery. For the motion before the House was one to obtain legal and
ecclesiastical control over all independent charities appealing to the
general public for support, under cover of which the Church, in the
person of the Bishop of Beeston, had made a solemn and deliberate attack
upon Brooks' Society, Brooks himself, its aims and management.

As the words fell, deliberately, yet without hesitation, from his lips,
vivid, scathing, forceful, there was not one there but knew that this
man spoke of the things which he had felt. The facts he marshalled
before them were appalling, but not a soul doubted them. It was truth
which he hurled at them, truth before which the Bishop sat back in his
seat and felt his cheeks grow paler and his eyes more full of trouble. A
great deal of it they had heard before, but never like this--never
had it been driven home into their conscience so that doubt or evasion
was impossible. And this man, who was he? They rubbed their eyes and
wondered. Ninth Marquis of Arranmore, owner of great estates,
dilettante, sportsman, cynic, latter-day sinner--or an apostle
touched with fire from Heaven to open men's eyes, gifted for a few brief
minutes with the tongue of a saintly Demosthenes. Those who knew him
gaped like children and wondered. And all the time his words stung them
like drops of burning rain.

"This," he concluded at last, "is the Hell which burns for ever under
this great city, and it is such men as his lordship the Bishop of
Beeston who can come here and speak of their agony in well-rounded
periods and congratulate you and himself upon the increasing number of
communicants in the East End--who stands in the market-place of the
world with stones for starving people. But I, who have been down amongst
those fires, I, who know, can tell you this: Not all the churches of
Christ, not all the religious societies ever founded, not all the
combined labours of all the missionaries who ever breathed, will quench
or even abate those flames until they go to their labours in the name of
humanity alone, and free themselves utterly from all the cursed
restrictions and stipulations of their pet creed. Starving men will mock
at the mention of a God of Justice, men who are in torture body and soul
are scarcely likely to respond to the teachings of a God of Love. Save
the bodies of this generation, and the souls of the next may be within
your reach."

They thought then that he had finished. He paused for an unusually long
time. When he spoke again he seemed to have wholly regained his usual
composure. The note of passion had passed from his tone. His cheeks were
once more of waxen pallor. The deliberately-chosen words fell with a
chill sarcasm from his lips.

"His lordship the Bishop of Beeston," he said, "has also thought fit, on
the authority, I presume, of Mr. Lavilette and his friends, to make
slighting reference to the accounts of the Society in question. As one
of the largest subscribers to that Society, may I be allowed to set at
rest his anxieties? Before many days the accounts from its very earliest
days, which have all the time been in the hands of an eminent firm of
accountants, will be placed before the general public. In the meantime
let me tell you this. I am willing to sign every page of them. I pledge
my word to their absolute correctness. The author of this movement has
from the first, according to my certain knowledge, devoted a
considerable part of his own income to the work. If others who are in
the enjoyment of a princely stipend for their religious
labours"--he looked hard at the bishop--"were to imitate this
course of action, I imagine that there are a good many charitable
institutions which would not now be begging for donations to keep them
alive."

He sat down without peroration, and almost immediately afterwards left
the House. The first reading of the bishop's Bill was lost by a large
majority.

Arranmore sat by himself in his study, and his face was white and drawn.
A cigarette which he had lit on entering the room had burnt out between
his fingers. This sudden upheaval of the past, coming upon him with a
certain spasmodic unexpectedness, had shaken his nerves. He had not
believed himself capable of anything of the sort. The unusual excitement
was upon him still. All sorts of memories and fancies long ago buried,
thronged in upon him. So he sat there and suffered, striving in vain to
crush them, whilst faces mocked him from the shadows, and familiar
voices rang strangely in his ears. He scarcely heard the softly-opened
door. The light footsteps and the rustling of skirts had their place
amongst the throng of torturing memories. But his eyes--surely his
eyes could not mock him. He started to his feet.

"Catherine!"

She did not speak at once, but all sorts of things were in her eyes. He
ground his teeth together, and made one effort to remain his old self.

"You have come to offer--your sympathy. How delightful of you. The
bishop got on my nerves, you know, and I really am not answerable for
what I said. Catherine!"

She threw her arms around his neck.

"You dear!" she exclaimed. "I am not afraid of you any more. Kiss me,
Philip, and don't talk nonsense, because I shan't listen to you."

Brooks drove up in hot haste. The butler stopped him respectfully.

"His lordship is particularly engaged, sir."

"He will see me," Brooks answered. "Please announce me--Lord
Kingston of Ross!"

"I beg your pardon, sir," the man stammered.

"Lord Kingston of Ross," Brooks repeated, casting off for ever the old
name as though it were a disused glove. "Announce me at once."

It was the Arranmore trick of imperiousness, and the man recognized it.
He threw open the study door with trembling fingers, but he was careful
to knock first.

"Lord Kingston of Ross."

He walked to his father with outstretched hand.

"You were right, sir," he said, simply. "I was a prig!"

They stood for a moment, their hands locked. It was a silent greeting,
but their faces were eloquent. Brooks looked from his father to Lady
Caroom and smiled.

"I could not wait," he said. "I was forced to come to you at once. But I
think that I will go now and pay another call."

He stood outside on the kerb while they fetched him a hansom. The fresh
night wind blew in his face, cool and sweet. From Piccadilly came the
faint hum of tram, and the ceaseless monotonous beat of hurrying
footsteps. The hansom pulled up before him with a jerk. He sprang
lightly in.

"No. 110, Crescent Flats, Kensington."



THE END


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