Jack Collingwood started from London next morning, before the arrival of
his mother’s letter, and travelled with only a Saturday-till-Monday bag
as representing the necessaries of life, but with a bicycle and a great
number of golf clubs for its luxuries. Arthur had been away when he was
at Wroxton only a fortnight before, and he had been delighted to accept
the invitation, for he not only very much wished to see Arthur, but he
had an affair of some importance to talk over with his mother. His last
visit home had been, with the exception of that sultry conversation
about Lady Hamilton and the sunset, unusually harmonious, and he was,
for his own peace of mind, at present unconscious of the squall which
had struck the close on the occasion of the opening of the picture
exhibition. He was a person of simple, boyish pleasures, and he found
entertainment enough in the express to make him abstain from any search
for excitement in the daily papers. He timed the speed of the train with
the quarter-of-a-mile posts by the side of the line; he leaned out of
the window as they swept through flying stations, and he had the
prodigious luck of being stopped by signal just opposite the golf-links,
when he saw an angry man in a red coat play an absurdly bad shot into a
bunker, and his low, furious exclamation flecked the beauty of the
morning. Still unconscious of all that lay before him, he arrived at
Bolton Street, and was told that Arthur was not in yet, but that Miss
Avesham was out in the garden. He followed the butler through the hall
and the little conservatory that lay beyond, and as the door was opened
he stopped a moment, with a dizzy, bewildered feeling that all this had
For there in the middle of the lawn was standing a girl opposite him,
with a face full of laughter and anxiety, and with her parasol she kept
at bay a small retriever puppy which had just left the water, and, still
dripping, was evidently coming to his mistress to shake himself and
receive her congratulations.
The whole scene was in brilliant sunlight, and Arthur found himself
“The dog is just going to shake!”
The words were not out of his mouth when the puppy’s head was shaken,
and down to his shoulders he was black and curly, set in a shower of
spray, but the shake had not yet reached his back and tail, the hair of
which was still strong and close.
Next moment he stepped out on to the lawn, and Jeannie, seeing him, came
a step forward to meet him.
“How do you do, Mr. Collingwood?” she said. “Arthur will be in in a
moment. Toby had just fallen into the fountain in trying to catch a
bird. Oh, dear, how extraordinary!”
And as the coincidence struck her she laughed.
Now laughter is certainly the best beginning of a friendship, and Jack
hailed the omen.
“It seems fated that I should see you keeping off a wet dog,” he said.
“Is not the subject forced on me?”
“Indeed it is,” said Jeannie, who had not meant to allude to it at all,
and hoped that he would not. But her first exclamation had been quite
voluntary, not in her power to check.
“If I had known it was you,” he went on, not even explaining that he
alluded to the picture, “of course I should never have done it. And if
any one had told me before I came here to-day that it was you, I doubt
if I should have come. Anyhow, I should be apologizing now. But twice!
It is beyond my control. I think I won’t even apologize.”
“It would be an impertinence to apologize for so clear a dealing of
Providence,” said Jeannie. “I, too, was rather uneasy about this moment;
I was afraid you might be awkward, and make me so. But certainly you are
not. Am I?”
“I had not noticed it,” he said. “And here’s the author of it all come
to dry himself against me.”
“Toby, come here at once,” said Jeannie.
“You said that before, too,” remarked Jack.
Jeannie’s eyes grew round.
“I believe I did,” she said. “Then we had tea. What a pity! The chain of
coincidence is broken. We are only going to have lunch. Of course you
know this place well.”
“I have never been in this house before,” said Jack. “It used to belong
to a queer old lady who kept forty cats, when I lived here as a boy. My
only connection was that I used to catapult the cats when they came over
into our garden.”
“Yes, forty is a considerable number,” said Jeannie. “Oh, here are
Arthur and my aunt, Miss Fortescue. Anyhow, you haven’t met her before.”
“Excuse me, she was sitting by your hat,” said Jack.
“On it,” said Jeannie; “it was crushed flat.”
Arthur came back alone toward tea-time; Jack, he said, had gone to see
“It was kinder,” he remarked, “to let him know that a letter had been
written, as he had not received it yet, and I did so. He is remarkably
brave. He is as bold as a dragoon. He will talk it out, he says.”
“Mrs. Collingwood will rub it in,” said Miss Fortescue. “I am sorry for
that young man. Oh, did he behave decently when he met you, Jeannie?”
Jeannie looked up, absently.
“Oh, quite decently,” she said. “It was not at all awkward. He has tact,
I think; or, if he hasn’t, I have. Anyhow there was enough tact about
“No one person has tact for two,” said Miss Fortescue, decidedly. “He
must have had some.”
Whatever he looked, Jack Collingwood did not feel nearly as brave as a
dragoon, unless dragoons are timid things, when he entered the house in
the close. But it was not in anticipation of a cool reception due to the
picture which made him distrustful of what the next hour would bring. He
hardly gave that a thought, for he had seen Jeannie, and it mattered but
little what the rest of the world thought, as long as she had an
uninjured mind on the subject. Her frank welcome of him, her utter
_insouciance_ on the subject–above all, though he scarcely knew it yet
himself, the fact that he had met again that vision by the river,
combined to make him almost exultantly happy on that score. His errand
to his mother, however, was far different, and full of difficulty.
She met him with a kind, Christian expression. He had received, so she
supposed, her note, and the desire to see her after that was filial and
laudable, for the note had been strongly expressed. Not that Mrs.
Collingwood regretted that: the occasion demanded strong speaking, and
her duty dictated to her.
“I am staying with the Aveshams,” he said, “and I remain over the
Sunday. Mother, Arthur tells me you have written to me about that
picture. I have not received the letter yet, as I started early this
morning, but no doubt it will be forwarded to me. Shall we, then,
dismiss that for the present, until I have read your note?”
“Certainly, if you wish it,” said Mrs. Collingwood, freezing a little.
“But if you came here to talk about that, it is better you should know
at once what I think.”
“I didn’t come to talk about that,” said Jack. “I came to ask your
advice and your help about a very different matter.”
“I shall be delighted to give it you,” said Mrs. Collingwood, sitting
“It is a very sad story I have to tell you,” he said, “and I want
experienced advice about it. You can give it me.”
Mrs. Collingwood relaxed a little. One of the chief businesses of her
life was directing and advising, and she enjoyed it.
“Tell me,” she said.
“Do you remember a fellow who stayed here once with me from Oxford,” he
asked, “called Frank Bennett?”
Mrs. Collingwood unbent a little more. She had approved of the young man
“Yes, I remember him perfectly,” she said. “He had a beautiful voice,
and sang Nazareth after dinner. He sang with great feeling, I remember,
and we talked about the aims and career of an oratorio singer.”
Jack could not help smiling. Frank had a unique talent, he had always
considered, of adaptability. It was exactly like him to sing Nazareth.
He sang other things as well, if not better.
“Yes,” he said, “I see you remember him. He was one of my closest
friends. He is dead.”
“Oh, Jack,” she said, “I am so sorry! I liked him so much for himself.
Does the advice you want concern him in any way?”
“Yes, very closely.”
Jack paused. His mother had been sympathetic, the thing had touched her,
and it was with less apprehension that he went on.
“It concerns him very closely,” he said. “He had a child. No, he was not
He looked steadily at his mother as he said this, and saw the sympathy
and warmth die out of her face.
“The girl is also dead,” he continued. “The baby is about ten days old.”
“I should recommend an orphanage,” said Mrs. Collingwood. “I can give
you a letter to one.”
“He was an awfully good fellow,” said Jack.
Mrs. Collingwood drew her mouth very tight. There was no reply
necessary. Jack rose.
“The girl died suddenly a few days ago,” he said, “only a week after
the birth of the baby. Frank died in May last. He appointed me executor
of his will, and I see by it that he leaves all he has to his–to this
girl in trust for the child. He meant to marry her, he had told me that;
of course he ought to have.”
“Of course he ought to have!” said Mrs. Collingwood.
If you can imagine such a thing as a malignant echo, you will know how
“You suggest nothing else?” asked Jack, still lingering. “I have already
a promise of a place in an orphanage. Of course the child does not want
that. There is plenty of money.”
“There is nothing else to suggest,” said Mrs. Collingwood, in a
perfectly business-like manner. “I cannot see why you wanted my advice
if you already have a place for the child.”
“No; I was wrong,” said Jack.
There was a moment’s silence. All that was righteous and hard in Mrs.
Collingwood surged to the surface; all that was human in Jack struggled
for utterance. She was the first to speak.
“Jack, how can you come to me with such a story?” she said. “You knew
already all that I could possibly say, and that without examining into
the merits of the case I could not even recommend it. Do you realize
what the case is? There are hundreds such, less fortunate, because for
them there is no money. It is a bad case, this. The father was rich. If,
then, for these hundreds there is no excuse, what excuse is there here?
I do not say that the sin is less, if there has been no marriage,
because there was no means of supporting possible children, but, if we
can weigh anything against that, that is the more excusable. You spoke
of him as a ‘very good fellow.’ Have you thought?”
Jack stood quite still during his mother’s speech. A little heightened
colour appeared on his face, and his big brown eyes opened a little.
“I have thought,” he said. “Frank was honest, kindly, generous, and he
had hot blood. He would always help a friend in trouble: once he helped
me. I should always have gone to him if I was in a difficulty. Thus I
owe him a debt. Please God, I will repay it. He committed a fault, or
sin, what you will. I have made it my business, as far as I humanly can,
to repair that. I do not wish that the sins of the father should be
visited on the child. I beg your pardon, mother, I have put that in a
way that will offend you. Let me put it like this: I want the child to
have as good a chance as possible. I thought perhaps you might help me.”
“How could I help you?” said Mrs. Collingwood.
Jack paused. Then:
“I meant to bring up the child myself,” he said. “I should have told you
that earlier if you had encouraged me at all. I thought even that you
might suggest–no, I scarcely thought it–that the child should live
here. I was wrong. I ought never to have come.”
Again there was a silence. Again all that was best and most human in the
man burst out:
“Mother,” he said, “do not blame me. There was a bad business–I knew
it. I only thought to repair it as far as I could. You do not agree
with me. Very well, let us forget it. Why should this, too, come between
His eyes had the glimmer of tears in them, and he took an unresisting
“I said ‘this too,’” he went on. “I know that there is much in me that
you do not approve. You would have had me choose a different way of
life. That, I am afraid, cannot be remedied. Shall we not accept it?
And, such as I am, I have tried to be a good son to you and father.”
The hand that lay unresistingly in his tightened its grasp. He looked
up, but his mother only shook her head.
“Go, Jack,” she said; “kiss me, then go.”
He kissed her, and left the room without another word. Mrs. Collingwood
sat quite still for a moment. Then her wide mouth widened, and she burst
Jack had been more moved by his interview with his mother than was
convenient for social purposes, and he did not go straight back to the
Aveshams, but took a stroll through the town first. He had not expected
that his mother would suggest any arrangement other than an orphanage
for the child, but he had thought it possible. What had moved him was
the sudden deepening of their talk; in a moment they had gone from the
instance to the great eternal principles of things, to sin and love and
death. From that the talk had veered as suddenly to personal relations,
the relations between his mother and himself. Deep down in him he knew
what an empty place there was in his heart, a place empty and garnished,
but ready and with the door open for the entering in of that exquisite
presence, not less sacred and entrancing than any, the sympathetic,
comprehending love between mother and son. All his life long he had
missed that. His mother would never have committed a reckless,
unconsidered act for his sake; the mere fact of motherhood, as in so
many women, was not to her enough for that. For the glory of motherhood
lies in this: that the child will instinctively take from her without
question, and without question she gives. The joy of self-surrender must
be made without question. And he, on his side, had missed the son’s
part. His joys and troubles were not self-despatched presents to her;
she would not have known what to do with them, they would have been to
her like strange, savage implements of which she did not know the use.
She might indeed have tried to find a use for them, and thus missed
their significance. To use them at all was their abuse. They were her
son’s; that to the mother is enough.
Jack wandered down the High Street and hung on the parapet of the stone
bridge that crosses the river. This strange unrest was new to him. He
had never been of the nature that toils in the soil of other human
souls, or even of his own, and delves thereout so much that is
worthless, and sometimes an unconjectured jewel. He had not ever been in
the habit of considering life as a serious business. He got through his
day’s work with cheerfulness and honesty, and the day’s work brought its
own raptures. He was not carnal, but emphatically he was not spiritual.
To him the tastes and the rewards of life lay in artistic and
intellectual achievement; about them he had a store-house of
kaleidoscopic theories and much sober practice; but as for problems of
life and being, all such were an algebra to him. Being of a clean mind,
and holding–a low gospel it may be, but an excellent working
hypothesis–that sensuality means the death of the intellect, he had
never troubled his head to make out moral codes. The tragedy of Frank
Bennett’s life and death did not make him shudder and wince. He called
him a fool, but with tenderness, and whether he was a knave or not did
not concern him.
He was roused from his meditations by a short, staccato bark at his
heels, and found the round retriever pup staggering up to him. Toby had
an inability to walk straight; he rolled along like a drunken man with a
jovial boisterousness. He had a large wire muzzle on, and the tip of his
pink tongue hung through it.
“Oh, are you looking at the water?” said Jeannie, sympathetically.
“That’s so nice of you. I have to look at running water every day. It
clears one’s brain out, I think. Toby is shortly to have his bath.”
“It is a shame making him wear a muzzle while he has still his
milk-teeth,” said Jack.
“It isn’t a muzzle,” said Jeannie, “it is his hat. Toby is rather proud
of it. But don’t you agree with me about water?”
“Yes; I was having a wash myself. I have had rather an agitating talk.”
Jeannie knew that he had been to see his mother, and did not see her way
to any reply. She supposed that the picture was at the bottom of it.
“It was about a friend of mine,” continued Jack, “who got into great
trouble. We disagreed hopelessly, my mother and I. It is a bore. Oh, I
want washing!” he cried, and turned to look at the water again.
Jeannie had a sort of fleeting idea that she had only seen this young
man for the first time that morning, and that convention would call
confidences premature. But convention meant little to her; she did not
wilfully neglect it, but she simply forgot its existence.
“Oh, but we must expect to disagree with people,” she said. “Think how
extraordinarily tame the world would be if we didn’t! We should spend
our whole lives in admiring the views of other people which tallied so
exactly with our own.”
“But do you like disagreeing with people who are very near you?” he
Jeannie considered a moment.
“I don’t suppose I have agreed with Aunt Em about anything for five
years,” she said.
“But you have not disagreed–not radically, I mean.”
Jeannie turned half round and looked at him. But before she could reply
there swept by Colonel Raymond, followed by a string of straggling
children, returning from their “good, brisk walk.” He saw her, stared,
stared also at her companion, and passed on.
“Oh, dear me,” thought Jeannie, “Arthur has evidently seen him. That was
one of the most complete cuts I ever received.”
She paused a moment to bring her thoughts back to the point from which
they had strayed.
“No, you are right; not radically,” she said. “And if your disagreement
has been radical, and it is not impertinent of me, do let me offer you
my sympathy. It is rather a common word, but sincerity makes common
She looked divinely beautiful. The soft, wistful expression of her face
was altogether womanly, the brightness and vivacity belonged to
girlhood. Spring trembled on the verge of summer, an entrancing moment.
Admirable as his sketch had been, like her as it was, Jack found it but
a pale parody of the deeper beauty which shone on him. Sympathy like an
electric spark had passed from her, and the face he had thought only so
admirable in its amused anxiety became a face which showed a beautiful
soul. The lamp within had been lit, and the light showed through the
fair carving of the lantern.
“Thank you for that,” he said at length, gravely. “Tattered banners of
words are hung in sacred places.”
She turned and looked at the water again.
“Are our brains cleaner?” she said. “If so, let us go and give Toby his
bath. Won’t you come with me, Mr. Collingwood? We can stroll along the
river and go back home round through the close.”
It was at that divine hour when day and evening meet. The sun was low
and level, and its light, instead of coming from one spot and dazzling
the eyes, was diffused through a golden haze. The heat and stress of
summer, one would have said, was over or not yet come, and it might have
been a day from early May or from late September. The fulness of the
stream argued the former, but a certain mellowness of colour showed the
other. Jack, inclined as an artist is to be very indolent except when he
is very industrious, was under the spell of the evening, under the
spell, too, of the sympathy which had floated to him across the airy
bridge by which soul spans the otherwise inaccessible gulf which divides
it from any other soul. He was a man, lovable; she was a lovable woman;
heaven is there, and all is said.
Toby staggered round them, occasionally dashing away after interesting
smells, and barking hoarsely and rudely at passers-by in a state of
self-importance not unmixed with nervousness. He enjoyed his bath when
once he was in the water, but he was a little distrustful of it; the
self-importance was due to the fact that he considered this daily walk
by the river to be taken entirely on his account. He had something, in
fact, of the air of Colonel Raymond about him, and Jeannie wondered what
he would make of this sight of herself and Jack together lounging on the
That prodigious observer had not failed to notice them, and though
Arthur’s interview with him had been quite remarkably frank and
outspoken, the Colonel was not to be taken in that way. Indeed, the fact
that Arthur had denied with such directness the truth of that brilliant
conjecture the Colonel had made when he saw the picture of Jeannie
rather tended to confirm his belief in his own acuteness. “Meant to put
me off the scent, sir, meant to put me off the scent!” he said, angrily,
as he waited to let his three daughters catch him up at the Guildhall.
And he added, savagely, looking at Maria, who was near collapse: “But he
doesn’t take me in that way!”
But our strategist was not quite certain how to act. The secret joy of
knowing he was right, and had seen through all these flimsy attempts to
baffle him, was gratifying, but it was like money locked up, which he
could not use. On the other hand, he had not enjoyed that moment when,
in the presence of his wife, Arthur had spoken of the absurd and foolish
report which some busybody had invented, and which, so he had heard, had
reached Colonel Raymond. People, so thought the Colonel bitterly, talked
so, and let things get about, and if he again alluded to what he knew so
well about Arthur and Jack Collingwood another interview might occur
between Arthur and himself. It was bad enough when only Mrs. Raymond was
present, but the Colonel turned quite cold at the thought that the next
rendezvous might be at the club, in the presence of all his old cronies.
It was only a timely and unhesitating retreat which had perhaps saved
him the other day on the question of cousinship, and even then he was
far from certain that the others had not suspected some awkwardness.
Colonel Raymond began to feel ill-used. Why should these Aveshams,
particularly that insolent Arthur, come and settle in Wroxton and render
precarious the Colonel’s immemorial position as cousin and friend of
noble families? Why, if they must come, could they not have treated him
more like a cousin, and have told him the truth about this affair,
rather than try to hoodwink him with denials? “Why, the thing was as
plain as the nose on my face!” stormed the Colonel as he ascended the
club steps (and indeed his nose was not beautiful), “and to go and tell
me that Jeannie had never seen young Collingwood, when the very next day
I see them with my own eyes lounging in the public street together, is
an insult to me and a disgrace to them!”
The party at Bolton Street were happily ignorant of these thunderings,
and their tranquility was undisturbed. Jeannie had, indeed, told Arthur
that the Colonel had seen herself and Jack together that afternoon, and
they wondered with some amusement what he would make of it.
“I made myself pretty clear to him yesterday,” said Arthur,
thoughtfully; “but he is a poisonous sort of animal. He is given, I
notice, to repeating himself. I hope he won’t do so, Jeannie, on this
occasion; otherwise I shall have to repeat myself to him. Yet you say
he cut you. That makes the question simpler.”
“Why a gossip is a gossip is more than I can understand,” said Jeannie.
“And where the pleasure of repeating as true what you made up yourself
comes in is altogether beyond me.”
“It is one of the pleasures of the imagination,” said Arthur, taking off
his coat. “Go away and dress, Jeannie, and leave me to do the same. We
shall be late.”
“We always are,” said Jeannie, still lingering. “Isn’t it odd–” and she
Arthur began unlacing his boots.
“Isn’t it odd that Mrs. Collingwood should be Mr. Collingwood’s mother?”
“It would be odder if she wasn’t,” remarked Arthur.
Miss Fortescue had taken rather a fancy to Jack, and she showed it by
treating him as she treated her nephew and niece–that is to say, she
was rude to him. It was a bad sign for Miss Fortescue to be polite to
any one; it implied she did not like him. But no one could have called
her polite to Jack. She had asked him several questions on very
different subjects during dinner, and to each he had returned an answer
showing he knew something of the various questions. That was Miss
“Yes, you seem to know,” she said; “in fact, I think you know too much,
Mr. Collingwood. The mind of a well-informed man is a horrible thing. It
is like a curiosity-shop, full of odds and ends which are of no use to
Jeannie and Arthur burst out laughing.
“Answer her back,” said Arthur; “she won’t mind.”
Jack was sensible enough to know that Miss Fortescue could not be so
rude, if her object was to be rude.
“If I had not been able to tell you about pearl-oysters and
Cayenne-pepper,” he said, “you would only have said, ‘The mind of an
ignorant man is a horrible thing. It is like a new jerry-built villa
“Just so,” said Miss Fortescue, “and the owner calls it a desirable
“But what is one to do?” said Jack. “Either one knows about a thing or
one does not. It is a choice between being a jerry-built villa or a
“Some people,” said Miss Fortescue, “fill their villa with curiosities.
It is possible to be well informed and completely uneducated.”
“Go it, Jack,” said Arthur; “she’s beginning to hit wildly.”
“Am I to apply that to myself?” asked Jack, turning to Miss Fortescue.
“Oh, that is so like an Englishman,” said she. “Whenever you suggest an
idea to an Englishman he cannot consider it in the abstract; he has to
think whether it applies to him.”
“Aunt Em never does that,” observed Jeannie; “she goes on the opposite
tack. If you tell her she is being offensive, quite personally, she
considers offensiveness in the abstract, and makes remarks about true
“Have some hare, Aunt Em?” said Arthur. “I shot it two days ago.”
“Did you kill it at once?” asked Miss Fortescue.
“No, I wounded it,” said Arthur, quite regardless of truth. “It
“Butcher!” said Aunt Em.
“Shall I give you some?” repeated Arthur.
Miss Fortescue glanced at the menu-card.
“Only a very little,” she said.
“But where is the proper mean, Miss Fortescue?” resumed Jack. “How can
one avoid both being well informed and being ignorant?”
“Well-informed people are those who know about the wrong things,” she
“I and the pearl-oysters, for instance?”
Aunt Em groaned.
“The Englishman again,” she said. “The Englishman abroad! How well that
expresses the Englishman’s attitude toward ideas.”
“And the Englishman at home is the Englishman slaughtering innocent
beasts, I suppose,” said Arthur. “I’ve only given you a very small
piece, Aunt Em.”
“Yes, dear, you have taken me at my word,” said Miss Fortescue,
inspecting her plate. “That is very English, too. We are the heaviest,
most literal nation that ever disgraced this planet.”
“Poor planet!” said Jeannie. “How the people in Mars must look down on
“And rightly,” sighed Miss Fortescue. “How many Philistines one sees.”
“I’m one,” said Arthur, cheerfully. “Philistia, be thou glad of me!”
Miss Fortescue shook her head.
“Tell me any one you know who is not a Philistine,” said Jack.
Miss Fortescue raised her eyes to the ceiling, but Jack did not
understand the signal.
“Can’t you think of one?” he repeated.
“When Aunt Em raises her eyes,” said Jeannie, “we talk of something
else. Don’t apologize, Mr. Collingwood; you couldn’t have known.”
“A little more hare, Arthur,” said Aunt Em; “about as much as you gave
Frank Bennett, Jack, and Arthur had all been up at Magdalen together,
and when the two were left in the smoking-room together Arthur, who only
knew vaguely the story, asked Jack about it.
“You wrote to me, I remember, after his death in May, and told me about
the woman he had lived with. What happened further?”
Jack got up.
“It is all very terrible,” he said. “The girl died only about ten days
ago, in giving birth to a baby. The baby is living. It was about that
that I went to see my mother this afternoon.”
“What did she suggest?”
“An orphanage,” said Jack. “It had been suggested before, and I think it
is quite out of the question. The case is not an orphanage case. There
is plenty of money. I hoped–no, I hardly hoped–that my mother would
suggest that the baby should be brought up in her house, for I owe a
great deal to Frank, and as he is dead without my being able to pay it,
I owe it to his memory. But she did not suggest it. So I think I shall
take the child and bring it up myself.”
“Yes, I know there are objections,” he said. “To begin with, people will
talk. Luckily, however, there is nothing in the world which matters so
little as what such people say. The other objections are more
important. It would be better for the child not to be in London. But I
dare say things will work out somehow. For the present, at any rate, I
shall certainly do that. It is bad enough for a child to be fatherless
and nameless. What an ass poor Frank was! And what a good one!”
“What was the girl like?” asked Arthur. “Did you know her?”
“Yes, but very slightly. Oh, I can’t talk about it. She was nice. Frank
meant to marry her–that I know.”
“One means so much,” said Arthur.
“My dear fellow, don’t attempt to be cynical. You make a poor hand of
it; and really I know that he did mean to. But, as my mother pointed
out, that is no excuse.”
Arthur was silent a moment.
“I apologize,” he said; “I am sure you are right. I have an idea–no,
never mind. Have some whisky.”
They sat smoking for a spell without speech.
“You ought to be awfully happy here,” said Jack, at length. “You have a
charming house, and nothing particular to do. How I wish I had been
born a loafer. I have great inclinations that way, but no gift at all.
The real loafer is born, not made. I am always wanting to settle down,
or finish up, or get to work.”
“I want none of these things,” said Arthur, with conviction. “Settling
down, I suppose, means marrying. Are you going to marry, by the way?”
“I am going to do everything that there is to be done,” said Jack, “and
after that I shall find more things to do.”
“And all this in the near future?” he asked.
“You ask as many questions as Miss Fortescue,” said Jack. “I am in dread
of appearing well informed, so I shall not answer them.”
“Don’t. As soon as I know the answer to a question I lose all interest
“It’s lucky, then, that you have still so many questions,” observed
Jack. “By the way, your sister did not mind about the picture, did she?
She set me so thoroughly at my ease about it that until this evening it
really never occurred to me that she easily might.”
“No, I’m sure she didn’t,” said Arthur.
“Good. I shall go to bed. When is breakfast?”
Arthur got up and lit a couple of candles.
“Breakfast is when you come down,” he said. “We bind ourselves to