by Louis Tracy
THE HIRED CAR
CHAPTER II. THE
FIRST DAY'S RUN
CHAPTER V. A
FLURRY ON THE
CHAPTER VI. A
TAKES HER OWN
CHAPTER IX. ON
CHAPTER X. THE
HIDDEN FOUNTS OF
CHAPTER XI. THE
PARTING OF THE
CHAPTER XV. THE
CHAPTER XVI. THE
END OF ONE TOUR:
THE BEGINNING OF
The scene opens in London on Derby day. A lovely American girl and
her English chaperon had engaged a chauffeur to take them in his car on
a thousand miles run for ten days. On his way to keep the appointment
the car met with an accident, and a young Englishman, the son of an
earl, happened to be in the vicinity. The chauffeur had once been in
his employ, and when he saw his distress at the possible loss of a good
customer he thought it would be a fine lark to go himself, in the guise
of a chauffeur, and take the ladies on their journey.
The girl was beautiful and the pseudo chauffeur was young and
romantic, and one of the strangest of love stories began.
CHAPTER I. THE HIRED CAR
Derby Day fell that year on the first Wednesday in June. By a whim
of the British climate, the weather was fine; in fact, no rain had
fallen on southern England since the previous Sunday. Wise after the
event, the newspapers published cheerful forecasts, and certain
daring experts discussed the probabilities of a heat wave. So London,
on that bright Wednesday morning, was agog with excitement over its
annual holiday; and at such a time London is the gayest and liveliest
city in the world.
And then, wholly independent of the weather, there was the Great
From the hour when the first 'bus rumbled Citywards until some few
seconds before three o'clock in the afternoon the mass of the people
seemed to find delight in asking and answering it. The Question was
ever the same; but the answer varied. In its way, the Question formed a
tribute to the advance of democracy. It caused strangers to exchange
opinions and pleasantries in crowded trains and omnibuses. It placed
peers and commoners on an equality. During some part of the day it
completely eclipsed all other topics of conversation.
Thus, young Lord Medenham made no pretense of shirking it while he
stood on the steps of his father's mansion in Cavendish Square and
watched his chauffeur stowing a luncheon basket beneath the front seat
of the Mercury 38.
You know a bit about racing, Tomkinson, he said, smiling at the
elderly butler who had brought the basket out of the house. What's
going to win?
The King's horse, my lord, replied Tomkinson, with the unctuous
conviction of a prelate laying down a dogma.
Is it as sure as all that?
Yes, my lord.
Well, I hope so. You are on a sovereignBy gad, you really are,
Tomkinson was far too keenly alive to the monetary side of the
transaction to pay heed to the quip. His portly figure curved in a
Thank you, my lord, said he.
Remind me this evening if you are right. I shall not forget to damn
you if you are wrong.
Tomkinson ignored the chance of error and its consequences.
Your lordship will be home for dinner?
Yes, I have no other engagement. All ready, Dale? for the
chauffeur was in his seat, and the engine was purring with the placid
hum of a machine in perfect tune.
Tomkinson moved grandly down the steps, ushered Viscount Medenham
into the car, and watched its graceful swoop into Holles Street.
Times have changed, said he to himself. Twenty years ago, when I
first came here, his lordship's father would have given me a
tip, and he wouldn't have been coming home for dinner, neether.
By that last fatal word Tomkinson betrayed the cloven hoof. At
least, he was no prelateand his assumption of the prophetic rôle
would soon be put to the test. But he had answered the Great Question.
The Mercury crossed Oxford Street and insinuated itself into the
aristocratic narrowness of Mayfair. It stopped in Curzon Street,
opposite a house gay with flowers in window-boxes. The Viscount looked
at his watch.
How far to Epsom? he asked over Dale's shoulder.
About sixteen miles by the direct road, my lord, but it will be
best to go round by Kingston and avoid the worst of the traffic. We
ought to allow an hour for the run.
We are not in France now, my lord. The police here would have
spasms if they saw the car extended.
Lord Medenham sighed.
We must reason with them, he said. But not to-day. Lady St. Maur
declares she is nervous. Of course, she doesn't know our Mercury. After
to-day's experience it will be quite another matter when I take her to
Brighton for lunch on Sunday.
Dale said nothing. He had met his employer at Marseilles in October,
when Lord Medenham landed from Africa; during the preceding twelve
months his license had been indorsed three times for exceeding the
speed limit on the Brighton Road, and he had paid £40 in fines and
costs to various petty sessional courts in Surrey and Sussex. Sunday,
therefore, promised developments.
Medenham seemed to think that his aunt, Lady St. Maur, would be
waiting for him on the doorstep. As no matronly figure materialized in
that locality, he alighted, and obeyed a brass-lettered injunction to
knock and ring. Then he disappeared inside the house, and remained
there so long that Dale's respect for the law began to weaken. The
chauffeur had been given a racing certainty for the first race; the
hour was nearing twelve, and every road leading to Epsom Downs would
surely be congested.
His lordship came out, alone, and it was clear that the unexpected
Nice thing! he said, with the closest semblance to a growl that
his good-natured drawl was capable of. The whole show is busted, Dale.
Her ladyship is in bed with her annual bilious attackcomes of eating
forced strawberries, she says. And she adores strawberries. So do I.
There's pounds of 'em in that luncheon basket. Who's going to eat 'em?
Dale foresaw no difficulties in that respect, but he did realize at
once that his master cared little about racing, and, so far as Epsom
was concerned, would abandon the day's excursion without a pang. He
grew desperate. But, being something of a stoic, he kept his feelings
in check, and played a card that could hardly fail.
You will find plenty of youngsters on the hill who will be glad of
them, my lord, said he.
You don't tell me so! Kiddies at the Derby! Well, why not? It shows
what a stranger I am in my own land that I should never have seen the
blessed race. Right ahead then, Dale; we must back the King's horse and
arrange a school treat. But I'll take the wheel. Can you tuck your legs
over that basket? I'm not going to sit alone in the tonneau. And, who
knows?we may pick up someone on the road.
Starting on the switch, the car sprang off towards Piccadilly. Dale
sighed in his relief. With ordinary luck, they ought to reach Epsom
before one o'clock, and racing did not begin till half an hour later.
He left wholly out of reckoning the mysterious element in human affairs
that allots adventures to the adventurous, though close association
with Viscount Medenham during the past nine months ought to have taught
him the wisdom of caution. Several chapters of a very interesting book
might be supplied by his lordship's motoring experiences on the
Continent, and these would only supplement the still more checkered
biography of one who, at the close of the Boer War, elected to shoot
his way home through the Mid-African haunts of big game rather than
return by orthodox troopship. On the face of things, it was absurd to
imagine that a self-confessed wanderer should be permitted to see his
first Derby in the sacrosanct company of a stout aunt and a well-filled
luncheon basket. Even Medenham's recording angel must have smiled at
the conceit, though doubtless shaking a grave head when the
announcement of the Dowager's indisposition revealed the first twist
from the path of good intent. As for Lady St. Maur, she declared long
afterwards that the whole amazing entanglement could be traced
distinctly to her fondness for the ducal fruit raised under glass. A
cherry-stone lodged in the vermiform appendix of an emperor has more
than once played strange pranks with the map of Europe, so it is not
surprising that a strawberry, subtly bestowed in a place well adapted
to the exercise of its fell skill, should be able to convulse a section
of the British peerage.
Be that as it may, the hap that put Medenham in control of his
Mercury unquestionably led to the next turn in events. A man driving a
high-powered car watches the incidents of the road more closely than
the same individual lounging at ease in the back seat. Hence, his
lordship's attention was caught instantly by a touring car drawn up
close to the curb in Down Street. That short thoroughfare forms, as it
were, a backwash for the traffic of Piccadilly. At the moment it held
no other vehicle than the two automobiles, and it required no second
look at the face of the driver of the motionless car to discover that
something was seriously amiss. Anger and despair struggled there for
predominance. Richard the Third of England must have given just such a
glance at his last horse foundered on Bosworth Field.
Medenham never passed another motorist in trouble without stopping.
Anything the matter? he asked, when the Mercury was halted with
the ease of a trained athlete poised in suspended motion.
The chauffeur snapped out the word without turning. He was a man
devoid of faith, or hope, or charity.
Can I help?
Can you hl! came the surly response.
Thereupon, many viscounts would have swept on into Piccadilly
without further parleynot so Medenham. He scrutinized the soldierly
figure, the half-averted face.
You must be hard hit, Simmonds, before you would answer me in that
fashion, said he quietly.
Simmonds positively jumped when he heard his name. He wheeled round,
raised his cap, and broke into stuttering excuse.
I beg your lordship's pardonI hadn't the least notion
These two had not met since they discussed Boer trenches and British
generals during a momentary halt on the Tugela slope of Spion Kop.
Medenham remembered the fact, and forgave a good deal on account of it.
I have seen you look far less worried under a plunging fire from a
pom-pom, he said cheerily. Now, what is it? Wires out of order?
No, my lord. That wouldn't bother me very long. It's a regular
smash this timetransmission shaft snapped.
I was run into by a railway van, and forced against a street
Well, if it was not your fault
Oh, I can claim damages right enough. I have plenty of witnesses.
Even the driver of the van could only say that one of his horses
slipped. It's the delay I'm jibbing at. I hate to disappoint my
customers, and this accident may cost me three hundred pounds, and a
business of my own into the bargain.
By gad! That sounds rather stiff. What's the hurry?
This is my own car, my lord. Early in the spring I was lucky enough
to fall in with a rich American. I was driving for a company then, but
he offered me three hundred pounds, money down, for a three months'
contract. Straightaway I bought this car for five hundred, and it is
half paid for. Now the same gentleman writes from Paris that I am to
take his daughter and another lady on a thousand miles' run for ten
days, and he says he is prepared to hire me and the car for the balance
of another period of three months on the same terms.
But the ladies will be reasonable when you explain matters.
Ladies are never reasonable, my lordespecially young ones. I have
met Miss Vanrenen only once, but she struck me as one who was very much
accustomed to having her own way. And she has planned this tour to the
last minute. Any other day I might have hired a car, and picked up my
own somewhere on the road, but on Derby Day and in fine weather
Simmonds spread wide his hands in sheer inability to find words that
would express the hopelessness of retrieving his shattered fortunes.
Dale was fidgeting, fingering taps and screws unnecessarily, but
Medenham was pondering his former trooper's plight. He refused to admit
that the position was quite so bad as it was painted.
Oh, come now, said he, I'll give you a tow to the nearest repair
shop, and a word from me will expedite the business. Meanwhile, you
must jump into a hansom and appeal to the sympathies of MissVanrenen,
No use, my lord, was the stubborn answer. I am very much obliged
to you, but I would not dream of detaining you.
Simmonds, you are positively cantankerous. I can spare the time.
The first race is at 1.30, my lord, muttered Dale, greatly daring.
You, too? he cried. Someone has given you a tip, I suppose?
Dale flushed under this direct analysis of his feelings. He grinned
I am told that Eyot can't lose the first race, my lord, he said.
Ah! And how much do you mean to speculate?
A sovereign, my lord.
Hand it over. I will lay you starting price.
Somewhat taken aback, though nothing said or done by Viscount
Medenham could really surprise him, Dale's leather garments creaked and
groaned while he produced the coin, which his master duly pocketed.
Now, Simmonds, went on the pleasant, lazy voice, you see how I
have comforted Dale by taking his money; won't you tell me what is the
real obstacle that blocks the way? Are you afraid to face this
imperious young lady?
No, my lord. No man can provide against an accident of this sort.
But Miss Vanrenen will lose all confidence in me. The arrangement was
that to-day's spin should be a short oneto Brighton. I was to take
the ladies to Epsom in time for the Derby, and then we were to run
quietly to the Metropole. Miss Vanrenen made such a point of seeing the
race that she will be horribly disappointed. There is an American horse
By gad, another gambler!
Simmonds laughed grimly.
I don't think Miss Vanrenen knows much about racing, my lord, but
the owner of Grimalkin is a friend of her father's, and he is confident
about winning this year.
I am beginning to understand. You are in a fix of sorts, Simmonds.
Yes, my lord.
And what is your plan? I suppose you have one.
I have sent for a boy messenger, my lord. When he arrives I shall
writeOh, here he is.
Viscount Medenham descended leisurely and lit a cigarette. Dale, the
stoic, folded his arms and looked fixedly at the press of vehicles
passing the end of the street. Vivid memories of Lord Medenham's
chivalrous courtesyhis lordship's dashed tomfoolery he called
itwarned him that life was about to assume new interests.
The boy messenger, summoned telephonically by a sympathetic
maid-servant in a neighboring house, guessed that the gentleman
standing on the pavement owned the motor-car to which he had been
directed. Here were two cars, but the boy did not hesitate. He saluted.
Messenger, sir, he said.
This way, intervened Simmonds curtly.
No. I want you, said Medenham. You know Sevastopolo's, the
cigarette shop in Bond Street?
Take this card there, and ask him to dispatch the order at once.
Meanwhile he was writing: Kindly send 1,000 Salonikas to 91 Cavendish
Simmonds looked anxious. He was not a smooth-spoken fellow, but he
did not wish to offend Lord Medenham.
Would your lordship mind if I sent the boy to the Savoy Hotel
first? he asked nervously. It is rather late, and Miss Vanrenen will
be expecting me.
What time are you due at the Savoy?
We were to start at twelve o'clock, but the ladies' luggage had to
be strapped on, and
Ah, the deuce! That sounds formidable.
Of course they must stow everything into the canvas trunks I
supplied, my lord.
Medenham stooped and examined the screws which fastened an iron grid
at the back of the broken-down vehicle.
Whip open the tool box, Dale, and transfer that arrangement to my
car, he said briskly. Make it fit somehow. I don't approve of damaged
paintwork, nor of weight behind the driving-wheels for that matter, but
time presses, and the ladies might shy at a request to repack their
belongings into my kit-bags, even if I were carrying them. Now,
Simmonds, give me the route, if you know it, and hand over your road
maps. I mean to take your place until your car is put right. Wire me
where to expect you. You ought to be ship-shape in three days, at the
My lord began the overwhelmed Simmonds.
I'll see you hanged as high as Haman before I hand over my Mercury
to you, if that is what you are thinking of, said Medenham sharply.
Why, man, she is built like a watch. It would take you a month to
understand her. Now, you boy, be off to Sevastopolo's. Where can I buy
a chauffeur's kit, Simmonds?
Your lordship is really too kind. I couldn't think of permitting
it, muttered Simmonds.
What, thendo you refuse my assistance?
It isn't that, my lord. I am awfully grateful
Are you afraid that I shall run off with Miss Vanrenenhold her to
ransomsend Black Hand letters to her father, and that sort of thing?
From what little I have seen of Miss Vanrenen she is much more
likely to run off with you, my lord. But
You're growing incoherent, Simmonds. For goodness' sake tell me
where I am to go. You can safely leave all the rest to me, and we
haven't a minute to lose if I am to secure any sort of a decent
motoring kit before I turn up at the hotel. Pull yourself together,
man. Action front and fire! Guns unlimbered and first range-finder
dispatched in nineteen secondseh, what?
Simmonds squared his shoulders. He had been a driver in the Royal
Artillery before he joined Viscount Medenham's troop of Imperial
Yeomanry. There was no further argument. Dale, Oriental in phlegm now
that Eyot was safely backed, was already unscrewing the luggage
Half an hour later, the Mercury curled with sinuous grace out of the
busy Strand into the courtyard of the Savoy Hotel. The inclosure
snorted with motors, the air was petrolisé, all the world of the
hotel was going, or had already gone, to Epsom.
One quick glance at the lines of traffic showed Medenham that the
Swiss Rear-Admiral on duty would not allow him to remain an unnecessary
instant in front of the actual doorway. He swung his car to the exit
side, crept in behind a departing taxicab, and grabbed a hurrying boy
You listen to me, boy, he said.
The boy remarked that his hearing was perfect.
Well, go to Miss Vanrenen and say that her motor is waiting. Seize
a porter, and do not leave him until he has brought two canvas trunks
from the lady's rooms. Help him to strap them on the grid, and I'll
give each of you half-a-crown.
The boy vanished. Never before had a chauffeur addressed him so
Medenham, standing by the side of the car, was deep in the contours
of a road map of Sussex when a sweet if somewhat petulant voice,
apparently at his elbow, complained that its owner could not see
Simmonds anywhere. He turned instantly. A slim, straight-figured girl,
wearing a dust-cloak and motor veil, had come out from the Savoy Court
doorway and was scrutinizing every automobile in sight. Near her was a
short, stout woman whose personality seemed to be strangely familiar to
Medenham. He never forgot anyone, and this lady was certainly not one
of his acquaintances; nevertheless, her features, her robin-like strut,
her very amplitude of girth and singular rotundity of form, came
definitely within the net of his retentive memory.
To be sure, he gave her but brief survey, since her companion, in
all likelihood Miss Vanrenen, might quite reasonably attract his
attention. Indeed, she would find favor in the eyes of any young man,
let alone one who had such cause as Viscount Medenham to be interested
in her appearance. In her amazingly lovely face the haughty beauty of
an aristocrat was softened by a touch of that piquant femininity which
the well-bred American girl seems to bring from Paris with her clothes.
A mass of dark brown hair framed a forehead, nose, and mouth of almost
Grecian regularity, while her firmly modeled chin, slightly more
pronounced in type, would hint at unusual strength of character were
not the impression instantly dispelled by the changing lights in a pair
of marvelously blue eyes. In the course of a single second Medenham
found himself comparing them to blue diamonds, to the azure depths of a
sunlit sea, to the exquisite tint of the myosotis. Then he swallowed
his surprise, and lifted his cap.
May I ask if you are Miss Vanrenen? he said.
The blue eyes met his. For the first time in his life he was
thrilled to the core by a woman's glance.
She answered with a smile, an approving smile, perhaps, for the
viscount looked very smart in his tight-fitting uniform, but none the
Then I am here instead of Simmonds. His car was put out of
commission an hour ago by a brutal railway van, and will not be ready
for the road during the next day or two. May I offer my services in the
The girl's astonished gaze traveled from Medenham to the spick and
span automobile. For the moment he had forgotten his rôle, and each
word he uttered deepened her bewilderment, which grew stronger when she
looked at the Mercury. The sleek coachwork and spotless leather
upholstery, the shining brass fittings and glistening wings, every
visible detail in fact, gave good promise of the excellence of the
engine stowed away beneath the square bonnet. Evidently Miss Vanrenen
had cultivated the habit of gathering information rapidly.
This car? she exclaimed, with a delightful lifting of
Yes, you will not be disappointed in it, I assure you. I am doing
Simmonds a friendly turn in taking his place, so I hope the slight
accident will not make any difference to your plans.
Butwhy has not Simmonds himself come to explain matters?
He could not leave his car, which is in a side street off
Piccadilly. He would have sent a note, but he remembered that you had
never seen his handwriting, so, as a proof of my genuineness, he gave
me your itinerary.
Medenham produced a closely-written sheet of note-paper, which Miss
Vanrenen presumably recognized. She turned to her stout companion, who
had been summing up car and chauffeur with careful eyes since Medenham
What do you think, Mrs. Devar? she said.
When he heard the name, Medenham was so amazed that the last vestige
of chauffeurism vanished from his manner.
You don't mean to say you are Jimmy Devar's mother? he gasped.
Mrs. Devar positively jumped. If a look could have slain he would
have fallen then and there. As it was, she tried to freeze him to
Do I understand that you are speaking of Captain Devar, of Horton's
Horse? she said, aloof as an iceberg.
Yes, said he coolly, though regretting the lapse. He had stupidly
brought about an awkward incident, and must remember in future not to
address either lady as an equal.
I was not aware that my son was on familiar terms with the
Sorry, but the name slipped out unawares. Captain Devar is, or used
to be, very easy-going in his ways, you know.
So it would seem. She turned her back on him disdainfully. In the
circumstances, Cynthia, she said, I am inclined to believe that we
ought to make further inquiries before we exchange cars, and drivers,
in this fashion.
But what is to be done? All our arrangements are madeour rooms
orderedI have even sent father each day's address. If we cancel
everything by telegraph he will be alarmed.
Oh, I did not mean that, protested the lady hurriedly. It was
evident that she hardly knew what to say. Medenham's wholly unexpected
query had unnerved her.
Is there any alternative? demanded Cynthia ruefully, glancing from
one to the other.
It is rather late to hire another car to-day, I admit began
It would be quite impossible, madam, put in Medenham. This is
Derby Day, and there is not a motor to be obtained in London except a
taxicab. It was sheer good luck for Simmonds that he was able to secure
me as his deputy.
He thanked his stars for that word madam. Certainly the mere sound
of it seemed to soothe Mrs. Devar's jarred nerves, and the appearance
of the Mercury was even more reassuring.
Ah, well, she said, we are not traveling into the wilds. If
desirable, we can always return to town by train. By the way,
chauffeur, what is your name?
For an instant Medenham hesitated. Then he took the plunge, strong
in the belief that a half-forgotten transaction between himself and
Jimmy Devar would prevent that impecunious warrior from discussing
him freely in the family circle.
George Augustus Fitzroy, he said.
Mrs. Devar's brows knitted; she was regaining her self-possession,
and a sarcastic smile now chased away a perplexing thought. She was
about to say something when Cynthia Vanrenen broke in excitedly:
I declare to goodness if the hotel people have not fastened on our
boxes already. They seem to know our minds better than we do ourselves.
And here is the man with the wraps.... Please be careful with that
camera.... Yes, put it there, with the glasses. What are you doing,
Fitzroy? for Medenham was discharging his obligations to the boy in
buttons and a porter.
Paying my debts, said he, smiling at her.
Of course you realize that I pay all expenses? she said, with just
the requisite note of hauteur in her voice that the situation called
This is entirely a personal matter, I assure you, Miss Vanrenen.
Medenham could not help smiling; he stooped and felt a tire
unnecessarily. Cynthia was puzzled. She wrote that evening to Irma
Norris, her cousin in PhiladelphiaFitzroy is a new line in
By the way, where is your trunk? she demanded suddenly.
I came away unexpectedly, so I have arranged that it shall be sent
to Brighton by rail, he explained.
Apparently, there was nothing more to be said. The two ladies seated
themselves, and the car sped out into the Strand. They watched the
driver's adroit yet scrupulously careful dealing with the traffic, and
Cynthia, at least, quickly grasped the essential fact that the six
cylinders worked with a silent power that held cheap every other
vehicle passed or overtaken on the road.
It is a lovely automobile, she murmured with a little sigh of
Quite an up-to-date car, I fancy, agreed her friend.
I don't understand how this man, Fitzroy, can afford to use it for
hiring purposes. Yet, that is his affairnot mine. I rather like him.
His manners are somewhat off-hand, but such persons are given to
aping their superiors. George Augustus Fitzroy, tooit is ridiculous.
Fitzroy is the family name of the Earls of Fairholme, and their eldest
sons have been christened George Augustus ever since the beginning of
the eighteenth century.
The name seems to fit our chauffeur all right, and I guess he has
as good a claim to it as any other man.
Cynthia was apt to flaunt the Stars and Stripes when Mrs. Devar
aired her class conventions, and the older woman had the tact to agree
with a careless nod. Nevertheless, had Cynthia Vanrenen known how
strictly accurate was her comment she would have been the most
astounded girl in London at that minute. The Viscountcy, of course, was
nothing more than a courtesy title; in the cold eye of the law,
Medenham's full legal name was that which Mrs. Devar deemed ridiculous.
As events shaped themselves, it was of the utmost importance to
Cynthia, and to Medenham, and to several other persons who had not yet
risen above their common horizon, that Mrs. Devar's sneer should pass
unchallenged. Though that lady herself was not fashioned of the softer
human clay which expresses its strenuous emotions by fainting fits or
hysteria, some such feminine expedient would certainly have prevented
her from going another hundred yards along the south road had some
wizard told her how nearly she had guessed the truth.
But the luck of the born adventurer saved Medenham from premature
exposure. I dare all was the motto of his house, and it was fated to
be tested in full measure ere he saw London again. Of these
considerations the purring Mercury neither knew nor cared. She sang the
song of the free highway, and sped through the leafy lanes of Surrey
with a fine disregard for Acts of Parliament and the rules and
regulations therein made and provided. Soon after one o'clock,
however, she was compelled to climb the road to the downs in meek
agreement with two lines of toiling chars-à-bancs and laboring motors.
Just to show her mettle when the opportunity offered, she took the
steep hill opposite the stands with a greyhound rush that vastly
disconcerted a policeman who told Medenham to hurry up out of the
Then, having found a clear space, she dozed for a while, and
Cynthia, like a true-born American, began the day's business by giving
the answer before either of her companions even thought of putting the
Grimalkin will win! she cried. Mr. Deane told my father so. I
want to play Grimalkin for ten dollars!
CHAPTER II. THE FIRST DAY'S RUN
Though Medenham was no turf devotee, he formed distinctly
unfavorable conclusions as to the financial stability of the bawling
bookmakers near at hand.
If you wish to do any betting, Miss Vanrenen, he said, give me
the money and I will invest it for you. There is no hurry. The Derby
will not be run till three o'clock. We have an hour and a half in which
to study form.
For the life of him he could not imitate the complete annihilation
of self practiced by the well-bred English servant. The American girl
missed the absence of this trait far less than the other woman, but, by
this time, even Mrs. Devar began to accept Medenham's good-humored
assumption of equality as part of the day's amusement.
Cynthia handed him a card. She had bought three while they were
crawling up the hill behind a break-load of jeering Cockneys.
What will win the first race? she asked. Father says you men
often hear more than the owners about the real performances of horses.
Medenham tried to look knowing. He thanked his stars for Dale's
I am told Eyot has a chance, he said.
Well, put me a sovereign on Eyot, please. Are you playing
the ponies, Mrs. Devar?
That lady, being quick-witted, took care not to offend Cynthia by
pretending not to understand, though it set Medenham's teeth on edge to
hear a racehorse called a pony. She opened a gold purse and produced a
I don't mind risking a little, she tittered.
Medenham found, however, that she also had handed him a sovereign,
and his conscience smote him, for he guessed already, with accuracy as
it happened, that she was Miss Vanrenen's paid chaperon during the
absence of the girl's father on the Continent.
Personally, I am a duffer in matters connected with the turf, he
explained. A friend of minea chauffeurmentioned Eyot
Oh, that is all right, laughed Cynthia. I like the colorEau de
Nil and white. Look! There he goes!
She had good eyes, as well as pretty ones, else she could not have
distinguished the silk jacket worn by the rider of a horse cantering at
that moment along the cleared course. Crowded coaches, four rows deep,
lined the rails near the judge's box, and the gay-hued parasols of
their feminine occupants almost completely blocked the view, a distant
one in any case, owing to the width of the intervening valley.
Medenham raised no further protest. He walked to a stand where a
press of people betokened the presence of a popular layer of odds,
found that Eyot's price was chalked up at five to one, and backed him
for four pounds. He had to push and elbow his way through a struggling
crowd; immediately after the bet was made, Eyot's quotation was reduced
by two points in response to signals tick-tacked from the inclosures.
This, of course, argued a decided following for Dale's selection, and
these eleventh hour movements in the turf market are illuminative.
Before he got back to the car there was a mighty shout of They're
off! and he saw Cynthia Vanrenen stand on the seat to watch the race
through her glasses.
Mrs. Devar stood up, too. Both women were so intent on the troop of
horses now streaming over the crest of the six-furlong course that he
was able to stare his fill without attracting their attention.
I like Cynthia, he said to himself, though I shall be in a deuce
of a mess if I meet her anywhere after this piece of masquerading. Not
much chance of that, I expect, seeing that Dad and I go to Scotland
early in July. But what a bore to tumble across Jimmy's mater! I hope
it is not a case of 'like mother like son,' because Jimmy is the
A strange roar, gathering force and volume each instant, rose from a
hundred thousand throats. Soon the shout became insistent, and Cynthia
Vanrenen yielded to its magnetism.
Eyot wins! she cried delightedly. Yes, none of them can catch him
now. Go on, jockeydon't look round! Oh, if I were your master I'd
give you such a talking to. Ah-h-h! We've won, Mrs. Devarwe've won!
Just think of it!
How much, I wonder? Mrs. Devar, though excited, had the
Five pounds each, said Medenham, who had approached unnoticed
during the tumult.
Cynthia's eyes sparkled.
Five pounds! Why, I heard some betting person over there offering
only three to one.
It was a task beyond his powers to curb an unruly tongue in the
presence of this emancipated schoolgirl. He met her ebullient mood
I have evidently beaten the marketthat is, if I get the money.
Horrible thought! I may be welshed!
He strode back rapidly to the bookmaker's stand.
What do you think of our chauffeur now? cried Cynthia radiantly,
for the winning of those few sovereigns was a real joy to her, and the
shadow of the welsher had no terrors, since she did not know what
He improves on acquaintance, admitted Mrs. Devar, thawing a little
under the influence of a successful tip.
He soon returned, and handed them six sovereigns apiece.
My man paid up like a Briton, he said cheerfully. I have no
reliable information as to the next race, so what do you ladies say if
we lunch quietly before we attack the ring for the Derby?
There was an awkward pause. The air of Epsom Downs is stimulating,
especially after one has found the winner of the first race.
We have not brought anything to eat, admitted Cynthia ruefully.
We ordered some sandwiches before leaving the hotel, and we mean to
stop for tea at some old-world hotel in Reigate which Mrs. Devar
Unfortunately I was not hungry at sandwich time, sighed Mrs.
If it comes to that, neither was I, whereas I have a most
unromantic appetite now. But what can do, as the Babus say in India. I
am rather inclined to doubt the quality of anything we can buy here.
Medenham's face lit up.
India! he cried. Have you been to India?
Yes, have you? My father and I passed last cold weather there.
Warned by a sudden expansion of Mrs. Devar's prominent eyes, he gave
a quick turn to a dangerous topic, since it was in Calcutta that the
gallant ex-captain of Horton's Horse had borrowed fifty pounds from
him. Naturally, the lady omitted the telltale prefix to her son's rank,
but it was unquestionably true that the British army had dispensed with
I was only thinking that acquaintance with the East, Miss Vanrenen,
would prepare you for the mysterious workings of Kismet, said Medenham
lightly. When I came across Simmonds this morning I was bewailing the
fact that my respected aunt had fallen ill and could not accompany me
to-day. May I offer you the luncheon which I provided for her?
He withdrew the wicker basket from its nook beneath the front seat;
before his astonished guests could utter a protest, it was opened, and
he was deftly unpacking the contents.
But that is your luncheon, protested Cynthia, finding it
incumbent on her to say something by way of polite refusal.
And his aunt's, my dear.
In those few words Mrs. Devar conveyed skepticism as to the aunt and
ready acceptance of the proffered fare; but Medenham paid no heed; he
had discovered that the napkins, cutlery, even the plates, bore the
family crest. The silver, too, was of a quality that could not fail to
Well, here goes! he growled under his breath. If I come a purler
it will not be for the first time where women are concerned.
He laughed as he produced some lobster in aspic and a chicken.
It is jolly useful to have as a friend a butler in a big house, he
said. I didn't know what Tomkinson had given me, but these confections
look all right.
Mrs. Devar's glance dwelt on the crest the instant she took a plate.
She smiled in her superior way. While Medenham was wrestling with the
cork of a bottle of claret she whispered:
This is screamingly funny, Cynthia. I have solved the riddle at
last. Our chauffeur is using his master's car and his master's eatables
Don't care a cent, said Cynthia, who found the lobster admirable.
But if any inquiry is made and our names are mixed up in it, Mr.
Vanrenen may be angry.
Father would be tickled to death. I shall insist on paying for
everything, of course, and my responsibility ends there. No, thank
you this to Medenham who was offering her a glass of wine. I drink
water only. Have you any?
Mrs. Devar took the wine, and Medenham fished in the basket for the
St. Galmier, since Lady St. Maur cultivated gout with her biliousness.
Dear me! she murmured after a sip.
What is it now? asked Cynthia.
Perfect, my dear. Such a bouquet! I wonder what house it came
from, and she pondered the crest again, but in vain, for heraldry is
an exact science, and the greater part of her education had been given
by a hard world. She did not fail, therefore, to notice that three
persons were catered for by the packer of the basket. An unknown upper
housemaid was already suspect, and now she added mentally some
shop-girl friend. The climax was reached when Medenham staged the
strawberries. Cynthia, to whom the good things of the table were
commonplaces, ate them and was thankful, but Mrs. Devar made another
note: Ten shillings a basket, at the very least; and three baskets!
A deep, booming yell from the mob proclaimed that the second race
was in progress.
I can't see a thing unless I am perched on the seat, and if I stand
up I shall upset the crockery, announced Cynthia. But I am not
interested yet awhile. If Grimalkin wins I shall shout myself hoarse.
He hasn't a ghost of a chance, said Medenham.
Oh, but he has. Mr. Deane told my father
But Tomkinson told me, he interrupted.
Tomkinson. Is that your butler friend?
Yes. He says the King's horse will win.
Surely the owner of Grimalkin must know more about the race than a
You would not think so, Miss Vanrenen, if you knew Tomkinson.
Where is he butler? asked Mrs. Devar suavely.
I forget for the moment, madam, replied Medenham with equal
The lady waived the retort. She was sure of her ground now.
In any case, I imagine that both Mr. Deane and this Tomkinson may
be mistaken. I am told that a horse trained locally has a splendid
chancelet me seeyes, here it is: the Honorable Charles Fenton's
It was well that those bulging steel-gray eyes were bent over the
card, or they could not have failed to catch the flicker of amazement
that swept across Medenham's sun-browned face when he heard the name of
his cousin. He had not been in England a full week as yet, and he
happened not to have read a list of probable starters for the Derby. He
had glanced at the programme during breakfast that morning, but some
remark made by the Earl caused him to lay down the newspaper, and, when
next he picked it up, he became interested in an article on the Cape to
Cairo railway, written by someone who had not the remotest notion of
the difficulties to be surmounted before that very desirable line can
Cynthia, however, was watching him, and she laughed gleefully.
Ah, Fitzroy, you hadn't heard of Vendetta before, she cried.
Confess nowyour faith in Tomkinson is shaken.
Vendetta certainly does sound like war to the knife, said he.
It is twenty to one, purred Mrs. Devar complacently. I shall risk
the five pounds I won on the first race, and it will be very nice if I
receive a hundred.
I stick to Old Glory, announced the valiant Cynthia.
The King for me, declared Medenham, though he realized, without
any knowledge of the merits of the horses engaged, that the Honorable
Charles was not the sort of man to run a three-year-old in the Derby
merely for the sake of seeing his racing colors flashing in the sun.
Mrs. Devar kept to her word, and handed over the five pounds.
Cynthia staked seven, the five she had won and the ten dollars of her
original intent: whereupon Medenham said that he must cross the course
and make these bets in the ringwould the ladies raise any objection
to his absence, as he could not return until after the race? No, they
were quite content to remain in the car, so he repacked the luncheon
basket and left them.
Vendetta won by three lengths.
Medenham had secured twenty-five to one, and the bookmaker who paid
him added the genial advice: Put that little lot where the flies can't
get at it. The man could afford to be affable, seeing that the bet was
the only one in his book against the horse's name. The King's horse and
Grimalkin were the public favorites, but both were hopelessly shut in
at Tattenham Corner, and neither showed in the front rank at any stage
of a fast run race. When Medenham climbed the hill again, hot and
uncomfortable in his leather clothing, Mrs. Devar actually welcomed him
with an expansive smile.
What odds did you get me? she cried, as soon as he was within
A hundred and twenty-five pounds to five, madam, he said.
Oh, what luck! You must keep the odd five pounds, Fitzroy.
No, thank you. I hedged on Vendetta, so I am still winning.
But really, I insist.
He handed her a bundle of notes.
You will find a hundred and thirty pounds there, he said, and she
understood that his refusal to accept her money was final. She was
intensely surprised that he had given her so much more than she
expected, and the first unworthy thought was succeeded by a secondhow
dared this impudent chauffeur decline her bounty?
Cynthia pouted at him.
Your Tomkinson is a fraud, she said.
Your Grimalkin was well named, said he.
That remark is very cutting, I suppose, Fitzroy.
Oh, no. I merely meant to convey that a cat is not a racehorse.
Poor fellow, mused Cynthia, he is vexed because he lost. I must
make it up to him somehow, but he is such an extraordinary person, I
hardly dare suggest such a thing.
She began to adjust her veil and dust coat.
If you are ready, Mrs. Devar, she said, I think we ought to hit
the pike for Brighton.
Mrs. Devar laughed. Fitzroy evidently understood, as he had taken
his seat and the engine was humming.
Americanisms are most fascinating, she vowed. I wish you would
use more of them, Cynthia. I love them.
Cynthia was slightly ruffled, though if pressed for a reason she
could hardly have given one.
Slang is useful occasionally, but I am trying to cure myself of the
habit, she said tartly.
A picturesque phrase is always pardonable. Oh, is this quite
The Mercury, finding an opening, had shot down the hill with a
smooth celerity that alarmed the older woman. Cynthia leaned back
Fitzroy means to reach the road before the police stop the traffic
for the next race, she said. Then, after a pause, she added: I wish
we could keep this car for the rest of our tour, yet I suppose I ought
not to interfere in the arrangement father made with Simmonds.
Mrs. Devar frowned. Her momentary tremor had fled, and she had every
cause to regard with uneasiness the threatened substitution during the
forthcoming ten days, of this quite impossible Fitzroy for that very
chauffeur-like person, Simmonds. Her acquaintance with Peter Vanrenen
and his daughter was sufficiently intimate to warn her that Cynthia's
least desire was granted by her indulgent parent; in fact, Cynthia
would have been hopelessly spoilt were it not for a combination of
those happy chances which seem to conspire at times in the creation of
the American girl at her best. She was devoted to her father, her
nature was bright and cheerful, and she had a heart that bubbled over
with kindliness. Mrs. Devar chose the right line of attack. She
resolved to appeal to the girl's sympathies.
I am afraid it would be a rather cruel thing to deprive Simmonds of
his engagement, she said softly. He has bought a car, I understand,
on the strength of the contract with Mr. Vanrenen
That doesn't cut any iceI mean there would be no ill effect for
Simmonds, explained Cynthia hurriedly. Father will meet us in London
at the end of our run, and Simmonds could come to us then.
The steel-gray eyes narrowed. Their owner was compelled to decide
quickly. As opposition was useless, she laughed, with the careless ease
of one who was in no way concerned.
Don't you think, she said, that if your father sees this car
Simmonds will be dispensed with somehow?
Cynthia nodded. The argument was unanswerable.
They were crossing the course at a walking pace; at that point a
sort of passage was kept clear by the police for the convenience of
those occupants of the stands who wished to visit the paddock. The
owner of Vendetta, having been congratulated by royalty, was taking
some friends to admire the horse during the rubbing-down process, when
his glance suddenly fell on Medenham. Though amazed, he was not
Well, I'm he began.
But the Mercury possessed a singularly loud and clear motor-horn,
and the voice of the Honorable Charles was drowned. Still, his gestures
were eloquent. Quite obviously, he was saying to a man whose arm he
Did you ever in your life see anybody more like George than that
chauffeur? Why, damme, it is Medenham!
So Mrs. Devar lost a golden opportunity. She knew Fenton by sight,
and her shrewd wits must have set her on the right track had she
witnessed his bewilderment. Being a pretentious person, however, and
not able to afford the up-keep of a motor, she was enjoying the
surprise of two well-dressed women who recognized her. Then the car
leaped forward again, and she scored a dearly won triumph.
At this crisis Medenham's scrutiny of the road map provided by
Simmonds for the tour was well repaid. He turned sharp to the right
past the back of the stands, and was fortunate in finding enough clear
road to render pursuit by his elderly cousin a vain thing, even if it
were thought of. The Mercury had to cross the caravan zone carefully,
but once Tattenham Corner was reached the way lay open to Reigate.
Through a land of gorse and heather they sped until they came to the
famous hill. They ran down in a noiseless flight that caused Cynthia to
experience the sensation of being borne on wings.
I imagine that aeroplaning is something like this, she confided to
If it is, it must be enjoyable. I don't suppose, at my time of
life, I shall ever try to navigate the air in one of those frail
contrivances pictured in the newspapers. But I was nearly tempted to go
up in a balloon two years ago.
Cynthia stole a glance at Mrs. Devar's rotund figure, and laughed.
She could not help it, though she flushed furiously at what she deemed
an involuntary rudeness on her part.
Oh, it sounds funny, I have no doubt, said the other, placidly
good-tempered, but I really meant it at the moment. You have met Count
Edouard Marigny, I fancy?
Yes, in Paris last month. In fact
Cynthia hesitated. She had scarcely recovered from the excitement of
the racing and was not choosing her words quite happily. Mrs. Devar,
still sugary, ended the sentence.
In fact, it was he who recommended me to Mr. Vanrenen as your
chaperon. Yes, my dear, Monsieur Marigny and I are old friends. He and
my son are inseparable when Captain Devar is in Paris. Well, as I was
saying, the Count offered to take me up in his balloon, L'Etoile, and I
was ready to go, but the weather became stormy and an ascent from the
Velo was impossible, or highly dangerous, at any rate.
Mrs. Devar cultivated the high-pitched voice that she regarded as
the hall-mark of good breeding, and, in that silent rush downhill,
Medenham could not avoid hearing each syllable. It was eminently
pleasing to listen to Cynthia's praise of his car, and he was wroth
with the other woman for wrenching the girl's thoughts away so promptly
from a topic dear to his heart. Therein he erred, for the gods were
being kind to him. Little recking how valuable was the information he
had just been given, he slackened speed somewhat, and leaned back in
We are nearing Reigate now, he remarked with half-turned head.
The town begins on the other side of that tunnel. Which inn do you
wish to stop at for tea?
It seems to me that I have barely ended lunch, said Cynthia.
Shall we cut out your old-world Reigate inn, Mrs. Devar, and take tea
at Crawley or Handcross?
By all means. How well you know the names of the towns and
villages. Yet you have never before visited this part of England.
We Americans are nothing if not thorough, answered the girl. I
would not be happy if I failed to look up our route on the map. More
than that, I note the name of each river we cross and try to identify
every range of hills. You must test me and count my mistakes.
Mrs. Devar spread her hands in a gesture copied from her French
My dear, I am the most ignorant person geographically. I remember
how that delightful Count Edouard laughed when I asked him if the Loire
joined the Seine above or below Paris. It seems that I was thinking of
the Oise all the time. The Marchioness of Belfort told me of my error
Cynthia laughed merrily, but made no reply.
Medenham bent over the levers and the car danced on through Reigate.
Mrs. Devar impressed him as a despicable type of tuft-hunter. His
acquaintance with the species was not extensive; he had read of elderly
dowagers who eked out their slender means by introducing the daughters
of rich Americans to English society, and the thing was not in itself
wholly indefensible; but he felt sure that Cynthia Vanrenen needed no
such social sponsor, while the mere bracketing of Count Edouard Marigny
with Jimmy Devar caused him to regard this unknown Frenchman with a
suspicion that was already active enough so far as Mrs. Devar was
concerned. And the Marchioness of Belfort, too! A decrepit old cadger
with an infallible system for roulette!
Perhaps his mood communicated itself to the accelerator. At any
rate, the Mercury seemed to sympathize, and it was a lucky hazard that
kept the glorious stretch of road between Reigate and Crawley free of
police traps on that memorable Wednesday. The car simply leaped out of
Surrey into Sussex, the undulating parklands on both sides of the
smooth highway appearing to float past in stately procession, and there
was a fine gleam in Cynthia's blue eyes when the first check to a
splendid run came in the outskirts of Crawley.
She leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder.
Tea here, please, she said. Then she added, as if it were an
afterthought: If you promise to let her rip in that style after we
reach the open country again I shall sit on the front seat.
The words were almost whispered into his ear. Certainly they were
not meant to enlighten Mrs. Devar, and Medenham, turning, found his
face very near the girl's.
I'm bribed, he answered, and not until both were settled back in
their seats did they realize that either had said anything unusual.
Medenham, however, took his cup of tea à la chauffeur,
helping himself to bread and butter from a plate deposited on the
bonnet by a waiting-maid.
When the ladies reappeared from the interior of a roadside
restaurant he was in his place, ready to start. He did not offer to put
them in the car, adjust their wraps, and close the door. If Miss
Vanrenen liked to keep her promise, that was her affair, but no action
on his part would hint of prior knowledge that she intended to ride in
Nevertheless, he could not repress a smile when he heard Mrs.
Devar's distinctly chilly, Oh, not at all! in response to Cynthia's
polite apology for deserting her until they neared Brighton.
Somehow, the car underwent a subtle change when the girl took her
seat by his side. From a machine quivering with life and power it
became a triumphal chariot. By sheer perfection of mechanical energy it
had bridged the gulf that lay between the millionaire's daughter and
the hired man, since there could be no question that Cynthia Vanrenen
placed Viscount Medenham in no other category. Indeed, his occasional
lapses from the demeanor of a lower social grade might well have earned
him her marked disfavor, and, as there was no shred of personal vanity
in his character, he gave all the credit to the sentient creature of
steel and iron that was so ready to respond to his touch.
Swayed by an unconscious telepathy, the girl almost interpreted his
unspoken thought. She watched his deft manipulation of levers and
brakes, and fancied that his hands dwelt on the steering-wheel with a
You have a real lovely automobile, Fitzroy, she said, and I have
a sort of notion that you are devoted to it. May I askis it your own
Yes. I bought it six months ago. I learnt to drive in France, and,
as soon as I heard of the new American engine, Iercouldn't rest
until I had tried it.
He was on the point of saying something wholly different, but
managed to twist the second half of the sentence in time. What would
Miss Vanrenen have thought had he continued: I sent my chauffeur to
England, and, on receipt of his report, I had this car shipped within a
There are problems too deep for speculation when a man is guiding a
ton of palpitating metal along a hedge-lined road at forty miles an
hour. This was one.
Cynthia, knowing nothing of any new American engine, would die
rather than confess her ignorance. Moreover, she was pondering a
problem of her own. If it was not his master's car he might be open to
Simmonds is an old friend of yours, I suppose? she said.
Yes, I have known him some years. We were in South Africa
In the war, do you mean?
How dreadful! Have you ever killed anybody?
Not with petrol, I am happy to state.
There was an eloquent pause. Cynthia examined his reply, and
discovered that it covered a good deal of ground. Perhaps, too, it
conveyed the least little bit of a snub. Hence, her tone stiffened
I mentioned Simmonds, she explained, because I think my father
might arrangeto the satisfaction of all parties, of coursethat you
should carry through this present tour, while Simmonds would come into
our service when we return to London.
Medenham laughed. In its way, the compliment was graceful and well
meant, but the utter absurdity of his position was now thrust upon him
with overwhelming force.
I am very much obliged to you, Miss Vanrenen, he said, venturing
to look once more into those alluring eyes, so shy, so daring, so
divinely wise and childishly candid. If circumstances permitted, there
is nothing I would like better than to take you through this Paradise
of a June England; but it is quite impossible. Simmonds must bring his
car to Bristol, as I positively cannot be absent from town longer than
Cynthia did not pout. She nodded appreciation of the weighty if
undescribed business that called Fitzroy and his Mercury back to
London, but in her heart she mused on the strangeness of things, and
wondered if this smiling land produced many chauffeurs who lauded it in
Up and down Handcross Hill they whirred, treating that respectable
eminence as if it were a snow bump in the path of a flying toboggan.
Medenham had roamed the South Downs as a boy, and he was able now to
point out Chanctonbury Ring, the Devil's Dyke, Ditchling Beacon, and
the rest of the round-shouldered giants that guard the Weald. In the
mellow light of a superlatively fine afternoon the Downs wore their
gayest raiment of blue and purple, red and greendecked, too, with
ribands of white roads and ruffs of rose-laden hedges.
Cynthia forgot many times, and he hardly ever remembered, that he
was a chauffeur, and the miles, too, were disregarded until the sea
sparkled in their eyes as they emerged from the great gap which the
Devil forebore to use when he planned to swamp a land of churches by
cutting the famous dyke.
Then the girl awoke from a day-dream, and the car was stopped on the
pretense that this marvelous landscape must be viewed in silence and at
rest. She rejoined Mrs. Devar, and began instantly to expatiate on the
beauties of Sussex, so Medenham ran slowly down the hill through
Patcham and Preston into Brighton.
And there, sitting in the wide porch of the Hotel Metropole, was a
slim, handsome Frenchman, who sprang up with all the vivacity of his
race when the Mercury drew up at the foot of the steps, dusty after its
long run, but circumspect as though it had just quitted the garage.
Mrs. Devar, Miss Vanrenen! what a delightful surprise! cried the
stranger with an accompaniment of wide smiles and hat flourishing. Who
would have thought of meeting you here? Voyez, donc, I
was moping in solitude when suddenly the sky opens and you appear.
Deæ ex machinâ, in fact, Monsieur Marigny, said Cynthia,
shaking hands with this overjoyed gentleman.
Mrs. Devar, not understanding, cackled loudly.
We've had a lovely run from town, Count Edouard, she gushed, and
it is just too awfully nice of you to be in Brighton. Now, don't
say you have made all sorts of engagements for the evening.
Such as they are they go by the board, dear lady, said the gallant
Count, who had good teeth, and showed them in a succession of grins.
Ten to-morrow morning, Fitzroy, said Cynthia, turning on the steps
as she was about to enter the hotel. He lifted his cap.
The car will be ready, Miss Vanrenen, said he.
He got down, and scowled, yes, actually scowled, at a porter who was
hauling too strongly at the straps and buckles of the dust-covered
Damage the car's paint and I'll raise bigger blisters on yours,
was what he said to the man. But his thoughts were of Count Edouard
Marigny, and, like the people's discussion of the Derby, they took the
form of question and answer.
When is a coincidence not a coincidence? he asked himself.
When it is prearranged, was the answer.
Then he drove round to the yard at the rear of the hotel, where Dale
awaited him, for Medenham would intrust the cleaning of the car to no
You've booked my room at the Grand Hotel and taken my bag there?
Yes, my lord.
Make these people give you the key when the door is locked for the
night, and bring the car to my hotel at nine o'clock.
He hurried away, and Dale looked after him.
Something must ha' worried his lordship, said the man. First time
I've ever seen him in a bad temper. An' what about Eyot? Three to one
the paper says. P'raps he'll think of it in the morning.
CHAPTER III. SOME EMOTIONSWITHOUT A
Not until he was dressing, and the contents of his pockets were
spread on a table, did Medenham remember Dale's commission. It was
quite true, as he told Mrs. Devar, that he had backed Vendetta for a
small stake on his own account. But that was an afterthought, and the
bet was made with another bookmaker at reduced odds. Altogether,
including the few sovereigns in his possession at the beginning of the
day, he counted nearly fifty pounds in gold, an exceptionally large
amount to be carried in England, where considerations of weight alone
render banknotes preferable.
He slipped Dale's money into an envelope, and took thirty pounds to
be exchanged for notes by the hotel's cashier. At the same time he
wrote a telegram to his father, destroying two drafts before he evolved
something that left his story untold while quieting any scruples as to
lack of candor. It was not that the Earl would resent his unexpected
disappearance after nearly four years' absence from home, because
father and son had met in South Africa during the war, and were
together in Cannes and Paris subsequently. His difficulty was to
explain this freak journey satisfactorily. The Earl of Fairholme held
feudal views anent the place occupied in the world by the British
aristocracy. His own hot youth was crowded with episodes that Medenham
might regard with disdain, yet he would be shocked out of his well-fed
cynicism by the notion that his son was gallivanting round the country
as the chauffeur of an unconventional American girl and a middle-aged
harpy like Mrs. Devar.
So Medenham's message was non-committal.
Aunt Susan was unable to come Epsom to-day. Have taken car
to Brighton, and Bournemouth. Home Saturday, perhaps
Of course, he meant to fill in details verbally. It was possible in
conversation to impart a jesting turn to an adventure which would be
unconvincing and ambiguous in the bald phrases of a telegram.
Then he dined, filled a cigarette case from the box of Salonikas
which Tomkinson had not omitted to pack with his clothes, and strolled
out, bare-headed, to enrich Dale. He could trust his man absolutely,
and was quite sure that the Mercury would then be in the drying stage
after a thorough cleaning. Thus far he was justified, but he had not
counted on the pride of the born mechanic. Though the car was housed
for the night, when he entered the garage the hood was off, and Dale
was annoying two brothers of the craft by explaining the superiority of
his engine to every other type of engine.
All three were bent over the cylinders, and Dale was saying:
Just take a squint at them valves, will you?ever seen anything
like 'em before? Of course you haven't. Don't look like valves, eh? Can
you break 'em, can you warp 'em, can you pit 'em? D'ye twig how the
mixture reaches the cylinder? None of your shoulders or kinks to choke
it upis there?and the same with the exhaust. Would you ever have a
mushroom valve again after you've once cast your peepers over this
arrangement? Now, if I took up areonottingif I wanted to fly
He stopped abruptly, having seen his master standing in the open
By gad, Dale, cried Medenham, I have never heard your tongue
wagging in that fashion before.
Dale was flustered.
Beg pardon, my lord, but I was only he began.
Only using the cut-out, I fancy. Come here, I want you a minute.
The other chauffeurs suddenly discovered that they had urgent
business elsewhere. They vanished. Dale thought it necessary to
One of them chaps has a new French car, my lord, and he was blowing
so loudly about it that I had to take him down a peg or two.
Medenham grew interested. Like every keen motorist, he could talk
shop at all times.
What sort of car?
A 59 Du Vallon, my lord. It is the first of its class in England,
and I rather think his guv'nor is running it on show.
Indeed. Who is he?
A count Somebody-or-other, my lord. I did hear his name
Not Count Edouard Marigny? said Medenham, with a sharp emphasis
that startled Dale.
That's him, my lord. I hope I haven't done anything wrong.
Medenham, early in life, had formed the habit of not expressing his
feelings when really vexed, and it stood him in good stead now. Dale's
blunder was almost irreparable, yet he could not find it in his heart
to blame the man for being an enthusiast.
You have put me in a deuce of a fix, he said at last. This
Frenchman is acquainted with Miss Vanrenen. He knows she is here, and
will probably see her off in the morning. If his chauffeur recognizes
the car he will be sure to speak of it. That gives the whole show
I'm very sorry, my lord
Dash it all, there you go again. But it is largely my own fault. I
ought to have warned you, though I little expected this sort of a
mix-up. In future, Dale, while this trip lasts, you must forget my
title. Look here, I have brought you your winnings over Eyotcan't you
rig up some sort of a yarn that I am a sporting friend of yours, and
that you were just trying to be funny when you addressed me as 'my
lord'? If you have an opportunity, tell Count Marigny's man that your
job is taken temporarily by a driver named Fitzroy. By the way, is the
chauffeur a Frenchman, too?
No, my l. Dale caught Medenham's eye, a very cold eye at that
instant. No, sir. He's just a fitter from the London agency.
Well, we must trust to luck. He may not remember me in my
chauffeur's kit, which is beastly uncomfortable, by the way. I must get
you a summer rig. Here is your moneyfive to one I took. Don't lose
sight of those two fellows, and spend this half sovereign on them. If
you can fill that chap with beer to-night he may have a head in the
morning that will keep him in bed too late to cause any mischief. When
we meet in Bournemouth and Bristol, say nothing to anybody about either
the car or me.
Dale was a model of sobriety, but the excitement of fives when he
looked for threes was too much for him.
I'll tank him all right, my l, I mean, sir, he vowed
Medenham lit a new cigarette and strolled out of the yard.
From the corner of his eye he saw Marigny's helper looking at him.
Without undue exaggeration, he craned his neck, rounded his shoulders,
and carried himself with the listless air of a Piccadilly idler. He
reflected, too, that a bare-headed man in evening dress would not
readily be identified with a leather-coated chauffeur, and Dale, he
hoped, was sufficiently endowed with mother wit to frame a story
plausible enough to account for his unforeseen appearance. On the
whole, the position was not so bad as it seemed in that first moment
when the owner of the 59 Du Vallon was revealed in the handsome Count.
In any event, what did it matter if his harmless subterfuge were
revealed? The girl would surely laugh, while Mrs. Devar would squirm.
So now for a turn along the front, and then to bed.
It was a perfect June evening, the fitting sequel to a day of
unbroken sunshine. A marvelous amber light hovered beyond the level
line of the sea to the west; an exquisite blue suffused the horizon
from south to east, deepening from sapphire to ultramarine as it
blended with the soft shadows of a summer's night. He found himself
comparing the sky's southeasterly tint with the azure depths of Cynthia
Vanrenen's eyes, but he shook off that fantasy quickly, crossed the
roadway and promenade, and, propping himself against the railings,
turned a resolute back on romance. He did not gain a great deal by this
maneuver, since his next active thought was centered in a species of
quest for the particular window among all those storeyed rows through
which Cynthia Vanrenen might even then be gazing at the shining ocean.
He looked at his watch. Half-past nine.
I am behaving like a blithering idiot, he told himself. Miss
Vanrenen and her friends are either on the pier listening to the band,
or sitting over their coffee in the glass cage behind there. I'll wire
Simmonds in the morning to hurry up.
A man descended the steps of the hotel and walked straight across
King's Road. A light gray overcoat, thrown wide on his shoulders, gave
a lavish display of frilled shirt, and a gray Homburg hat was set
rakishly on one side of his head. In the half light Medenham at once
discerned the regular, waxen-skinned features of Count Marigny, and
during the next few seconds it really seemed as if the Frenchman were
making directly for him. But another man, short, rotund, very erect of
figure, and strutting in gait, came from the interior of a shelter
that stood a little to the right of Medenham's position on the rails.
Hello, Marigny, said he jauntily.
The Count looked back towards the hotel. His tubby acquaintance
chuckled. The effort squeezed an eyeglass out of his right eye.
Aie pas peur, mon vieux! cried he in very colloquial French. My
mother sent a note to say that the fair Cynthia has retired to her room
to write letters. I have been waiting here ten minutes.
Now, it chanced that Medenham's widespread touring in France had
rubbed up his knowledge of the language. It is ever the ear that needs
training more than the tongue, and in all likelihood he would not have
caught the exact meaning of the words were it not for the hap of recent
familiarity with the accents of all sorts and conditions of
Jimmy Devar! he breathed, and his amazement lost him Marigny's
But he heard Devar's confident outburst as the two walked off
together in the direction of the West Pier.
You are growing positively nervous, my dear Edouard. And why? The
affair arranges itself admirably. I shall be always on hand, ready to
turn up exactly at the right moment. What the deuce, this is the luck
of a lifetime....
The squeaky, high-pitched voicea masculine variant of Mrs. Devar's
ultra-fashionable intonationdied away midst the chatter and laughter
of other promenaders. Medenham's first impulse was to follow and
listen, since Devar had yielded to the common delusion of imagining
that none except his companion on the sea-front that night understood a
foreign language. But he swept the notion aside ere it had well
presented itself as a means of solving an astounding puzzle.
No, dash it all, I'm not a private detective, he muttered angrily.
Why should I interfere? Confound Simmonds, and dn that railway
van! I have a good mind to hand the car over to Dale in the morning and
return to town by the first train.
If he really meant what he said he ought to have gone back to his
hotel, played billiards for an hour, and sought his bedroom with an
easy conscience. He was debating the point when the conceit intruded
itself that Cynthia's pretty head was at that moment bent over a
writing-table in a certain well-lighted corner apartment of the second
floor, so he compromised with his half-formed intent, whisked round to
face the sea again, and lighted another cigarette from the glowing end
of its predecessor. Some part of his unaccountable irritation took
wings with the cloud of smoke.
Blessed if I can tell why I should worry, he communed. Never saw
the girl before to-day ... shall never see her again if I put Dale in
charge.... Her father must be a special sort of fool, though, to trust
her to the care of the Devar woman.... What was it that rotter
said?'The affair arranges itself admirably.' And he would be 'always
on hand.' What is arranging itself?... And why should Jimmy Devar be
ready, if need be, 'to turn up exactly at the right moment?' I suppose
the answer to the first bit of the acrostic is simple enough. Cynthia
Vanrenen is to become the Countess Marigny, and the Devar gang stands
in on the cash proceeds. Oh, a nice scheme! This Frenchman is posted as
to the tour. By the most curious of coincidences he will reappear at
Bournemouth, or Bristol, or in the Wye Valley. What more natural than a
day's run in company?... Ah, I've got it! Jimmy is to come along when
Marigny thinks that Cynthia will take a seat in the 59 Du Vallon for a
changejust to try the new French car.... By gad, I shall have a word
to say there.... Steady, now, George Augustus! Woa, my boy; keep a
tight hand on the reins. Why in thunder should you concern yourself
with the wretched business, anyhow?
It was a marvelously still night. Beneath him, on an asphalted path
nearly level with the stone-strewed beach, passed a young couple. The
man's voice came up to him.
Jones expects to be taken into partnership after this season, and I
am pretty certain to be given the management of the woolen department.
If that comes off, no more long hours in the shop for you, Lucy, but a
nice little house up there on the hill, just as quick as we can find
Oh, Charlie dear, I shall never be tired then....
A black arm was suddenly silhouetted across the shoulders of a white
blouse, whose wearer received a reassuring hug.
Let's reckon up, said the owner of the armJuly, August,
Septemberthree months, sweetheart....
Medenham had never given a thought to marrying until his father
hinted at the notion during dinner the previous evening, and he had
laughed at it, being absolutely heart-whole. There was something
irresistibly comical then about the Earl's bland theory that Fairholme
House needed a sprightly viscountess, yet now, twenty-four hours later,
he could extract no shred of humor from the idyl of a draper's
assistant. It seemed to be a perfectly natural thing that these lovers
should talk of mating. Of what else should they whisper on this
midsummer's night, when the gloaming already bore the promise of dawn,
and the glory of the sea and sky spread quiet harmonies through the
Perhaps he sighed as he turned away, but his own evidence on that
point would be inconclusive, since the first object his wondering eyes
dwelt on was the graceful figure of Cynthia Vanrenen. There was no
possibility of error. An arc lamp blazed overhead, and, to make
assurance doubly sure, his recognition of Cynthia was obviously
duplicated by Cynthia's recognition of her deputy chauffeur.
In the girl's case some degree of surprise was justified. It is a
truism of social life that far more distinctiveness is attached to the
seemingly democratic severity of evening dress than to any other class
of masculine garniture. Medenham now looked exactly what he wasa man
born and bred in the purple. No one could possibly mistake this
well-groomed soldier for Dale or Simmonds. His clever, resourceful
face, his erect carriage, the very suggestion of mess uniform conveyed
by his clothing, told of lineage and a career. He might, in sober
earnest, have been compelled to earn a living by driving a motor-car,
but no freak of fortune could rob him of his birthright as an
Of course, Cynthia was easily first in the effort to recover
Like myself, you have been tempted out by this beautiful night, Mr.
Fitzroy, she said.
Then Mr. was a concession to his attire; somehow she imagined it
would savor of presumption if she addressed him as an inferior. She
could not define her mental attitude in words, but her quick
intelligence responded to its subtle influence as a mirrored lake
records the passing of a breeze. Very dainty and self-possessed she
looked as she stood there smiling at him. Her motor dust-coat was
utilized as a wrap. Beneath it she wore a white muslin dress of a
studied simplicity that, to another woman's assessing gaze, would
reveal its expensiveness. She had tied a veil of delicate lace around
her hair and under her chin, and Medenham noted, with a species of awe,
that her eyes, so vividly blue in daylight, were now dark as the sky at
And he was strangely tongue-tied. He found nothing to say until
after a pause that verged on awkwardness. Then he floundered badly.
I am prepared to vouch for any explanation so long as it brings you
here, Miss Vanrenen, he said.
Cynthia wanted to laugh. It was sufficiently ridiculous to be
compelled, as it were, to treat a paid servant as an equal, but it
savored of madness to find him verging on the perilous borderland of a
Do you wish, then, to consult me on any matter? she asked, with
I was standing here and thinking of you, he said. Perhaps that
accounts for your appearance. Since you have visited India you may have
heard that the higher Buddhists, when they are anxious that another
person shall act according to their desire, remain motionless in front
of that person's residence and concentrate ardent thought on their
fixed intent.... Sitting in dhurma on a man, they call it. I
suppose the same principle applies to a woman.
It follows that you are a higher Buddhist, and that you willed I
should come out. Your theory of sitting on the door-mat, is it? wobbles
a bit in practice, because I really ran downstairs to tell Mrs. Devar
something I had forgotten previously. Not finding her, I decided on a
stroll. Instead of crossing the road I walked up to the left a couple
of blocks. Then I noticed the pier, and meant to have a look at it
before returning to the hotel. Anyhow, you wanted me, Mr. Fitzroy, and
here I am. What can I do for you?
Her tone of light raillery, supplemented by that truly daring
adaptation of the method of gaining a cause favored by the esoteric
philosophy of the East, went far to restore Medenham's wandering
I wanted to ask you a few questions, Miss Vanrenen, he explained.
Pray do, as they say in Boston.
But he was not quite himself yet. He noticed that the lights were
extinguished in the corner of the second floor.
Is that your room? he asked, pointing to it.
Her air of blank amazement supplied a further tonic.
Queer thing! he said. I thought so. More of the occult, I
suppose. But I really wished to speak to you about Mrs. Devar.
Cynthia was obviously relieved.
Dear me! she cried. You two have taken a violent dislike to each
other. You see, Mr. Fitzroy, we Americans are rather pleased than
otherwise if a man acts and speaks like a gentleman even though he has
to earn a living by hustling an automobile, but your sure-enough
British dames exact a kind of servility from a chauffeur that doesn't
seem to fit in with your make-up. Servility is a hard word, but it is
the best I can throw on the screen at the moment, and I'm real sorry if
I have hurt your feelings by using it.
Medenham smiled. Each instant his calmer judgment showed more and
more clearly that he could not offer any valid excuse for interference
in the girl's affairs. For all he knew to the contrary, she might be
tremulous with delight at the prospect of becoming a French countess;
if that were so, the fact that he disapproved of Mrs. Devar's
matchmaking tactics would be received very coldly. Cynthia's natural
interpretation of his allusion to her chaperon offered a means of
escape from a difficult position.
I am greatly obliged by your hint, he said. Not that my lack of
good manners is of much account, seeing that I am only a stop gap for
the courtly Simmonds, but I shall endeavor to profit by it in my next
Now you are getting at me, cried Cynthia, her eyes sparkling
somewhat. Do you know, Mr. Fitzroy, I am inclined to think you are not
a chauffeur at all.
I assure you there is not a man living who understands my special
type of car better, he protested.
That isn't what I mean, so don't wriggle. You met Simmonds when he
was in trouble, and just offered to take his place for a day or so,
thereby doing him a good turnisn't that the truth?
And you are not in the automobile business?
I am, for the time being.
Well, I am glad to hear it. I was shy of telling you when we
reached the hotel, but you understand, of course, that I pay your
expenses during this trip. The arrangement with Simmonds was that my
father ante'd for petrol and allowed twelve shillings a day for the
chauffeur's meals and lodgings. Is that satisfactory?
Quite satisfactory, Miss Vanrenen, said Medenham, fully alive to
the girl's effective ruse for the re-establishment of matters on a
So you don't need to worry about Mrs. Devar. In any event, since
you refused my offer to hire you for the tour, you will not see a great
deal of her, she went on, a trifle hurriedly.
There only remains one other point, he said, trying to help her.
Would you mind giving me Mr. Vanrenen's address in Paris?
He is staying at the Ritzbut why do you want to know that? she
demanded with a sudden lifting of eyebrows, for the hope was strong in
her that he might be induced to change his plans so far as the next
nine days were concerned.
A man in my present position ought always to ascertain the
whereabouts of millionaires interested in motoring, he answered
promptly. And now, pardon me for advising you not to walk towards the
Gracious me! Why not?
There is a certain class of boisterous holiday-maker who might
annoy younot by downright ill-behavior, but by exercising a crude
humor which is deemed peculiarly suitable to the seaside, though it
would be none the less distressing to you.
In the States that sort of man gets shot, she said, and her cheeks
glowed with a rush of color.
Here, on the contrary, he often takes the young lady's arm and
walks off with her, persisted Medenham.
I'm going to that pier, she announced. Guess you'd better escort
me, Mr. Fitzroy.
Fate closes every door in my face, he said sadly. I cannot go
with youin that direction.
Well, of all the odd people!why not that way, if any other?
Because Count Edouard Marigny, the gentleman whose name I could not
help overhearing to-day, has just gone therewith another man.
Have you a grudge against him, too?
I never set eyes on him before six o'clock this evening, but I
imagine you would not care to have him see you walking with your
Cynthia looked up and down the broad sea front, with its thousands
of lamps and droves of promenaders.
At last I am beginning to size up this dear little island, she
said. I may go with you to a racetrack, I may sit by your side for
days in an automobile, I may even eat your luncheon and drink your
aunt's St. Galmier, but I may not ask you to accompany me a hundred
yards from my hotel to a pier. Very well, I'll quit. But before I go,
do tell me one thing. Did you really mean to bring your aunt to Epsom
A mother's sister sort of aunta nice old lady with white hair?
One would almost fancy you had met her, Miss Vanrenen.
Perhaps I may, some day. Father and I are going to Scotland for a
month from the twelfth of August. After that we shall be in the Savoy
Hotel about six weeks. Bring her to see me.
Medenham almost jumped when he heard of the projected visit to the
Highlands, but some demon of mischief urged him to say:
Let's reckon up. July, August, Septemberthree months
He stopped with a jerk. Cynthia, already aware of some vague power
she possessed of stirring this man's emotions, did not fail to detect
his air of restraint.
It isn't a proposition that calls for such a lot of calculation,
she said sharply. Good-night, Mr. Fitzroy. I hope you are punctual
morning-time. When there is a date to be kept, I'm a regular alarm
clock, my father says.
She sped across the road, and into the hotel. Then Medenham noticed
how dark it had becomereminded him of the tropics, he thoughtand
made for his own caravanserai, while his brain was busy with a number
of disturbing but nebulous problems that seemed to be pronounced in
character yet singularly devoid of a beginning, a middle, or an end.
Indeed, so puzzling and contradictory were they that he soon fell
asleep. When he rose at seven o'clock next morning the said problems
had vanished. They must have been part and parcel with the glamor of a
June night, and a starlit sky, and the blue depths of the sea and of a
girl's eyes, for the wizard sun had dispelled them long ere he awoke.
But he did not telegraph to Simmonds.
Dale brought the car to the Grand Hotel in good time, and Medenham
ran it some distance along the front before drawing up at the
Metropole. By that means he dissipated any undue curiosity that might
be experienced by some lounger on the pavement who happened to notice
the change of chauffeurs, while he avoided a prolonged scrutiny by the
visitors already packed in chairs on both sides of the porch. He kept
his face hidden during the luggage strapping process, and professed not
to be aware of Cynthia's presence until she bade him a cheery
Of course, Marigny was there, and Mrs. Devar gushed loudly for the
benefit of the other people while settling herself comfortably in the
It was awfully devey of you, Count Edouard, to enliven our first
evening away from town. No such good fortune awaits us in Bournemouth,
I am afraid.
If I am to accept that charming reference as applying to myself, I
can only say that my good fortune has exhausted itself already,
madame, said the Frenchman. When do you return to London?
About the end of next week, put in Cynthia.
And your fatherthat delightful Monsieur Vanrenen, said the
Count, breaking into French, he will join you there?
Oh, yes. My father and I are seldom separated a whole fortnight.
Then I shall have the pleasure of seeing you there. I go to-day to
Salisburyafter that, to Hereford and Liverpool.
Why, we shall be in Hereford one day soon. What fun if we met
Marigny looked to heaven, or as far in the direction popularly
assigned to heaven as the porch of the Metropole would permit. He was
framing a suitable speech, but the Mercury shot out into the open road
with a noiseless celerity that disconcerted him.
Medenham at once slackened speed and leaned back.
I'm very sorry, he said, but I clean forgot to ask if you were
quite ready to start.
Go right ahead, Fitzroy, she cried. Guess the Count is pretty
mad, anyhow. He was telling us last night that his Du Vallon is the
only car that can hit up twenty at the first buzz.
Unpardonable rudeness, murmured Mrs. Devar.
On the Count's part? asked the girl demurely.
No, of course noton the part of this chauffeur person.
Oh, I like him, was the candid answer. He is a chauffeur of
moods, but he can make this car hum. He and I had quite a long chat
last night after dinner.
Mrs. Devar sat up quickly.
After dinnerlast night! she gasped.
YesI ran into him outside the hotel.
At what time?
About ten o'clock. I came to the lounge, but you had vanished, and
the wonderful light on the sea drew me out of doors.
My dear Cynthia!
Well, go on; that sounds like the beginning of a letter.
Mrs. Devar suddenly determined not to feel scandalized.
Ah, well! she sighed, one must relax a little when touring, but
you Americans have such free and easy manners that we staid Britons are
apt to lose our breath occasionally when we hear of something out of
From what Fitzroy said when I told him I was going as far as the
pier unaccompanied it seems to me that you staid Britons can be freer
if not easier, retorted Miss Vanrenen.
Her friend smiled sourly.
If he disapproved he was right, I admit, she purred.
Cynthia withheld any further confidences.
What a splendid morning! she said. England is marvelously
attractive on a day like this. And now, where is the map? I didn't look
up our route yesterday evening. But Fitzroy has it. We lunch at
Winchester, I know, and there I see my first English Cathedral. Father
advised me to leave St. Paul's until I visit it with him. He says it is
the most perfect building in the world architecturally, but that no one
would realize it unless the facts were pointed out. When we were in
Rome he said that St. Peter's, grand as it is, is all wrong in
construction. The thrust downwards from the dome is false, it seems.
Really, said Mrs. Devar, who had just caught sight of Lady
Somebody-or-other at the window of a house in Hove, and hoped that her
ladyship's eyes were sufficiently good to distinguish at least one
occupant of the car.
Yes; and Sir Christopher Wren mixed beams of oak with the stonework
of his pillars, too. It gave them strength, he believed, though Michael
Angelo had probably never heard of such a thing.
You don't say so.
The other woman had traveled far on similar conversational counters.
They would have failed with Cynthia, but the girl had opened the map,
and talk lagged for the moment.
Leaving the coast at Shoreham, Medenham turned the car northward at
Bramber, with its stone-roofed cottages gilded with lichen, its tiny
gardens gay with flowers, and the ruins of its twelfth-century castle
frowning from the crest of an elm-clothed hill. Two miles to the
northwest they came upon ancient Steyning, now a sleepy country town,
but of greater importance than Bath or Birmingham or Southampton in the
days of the Confessor, and redolent of the past by reason of its
church, with an early Norman chancel, its houses bearing stone moldings
and window mullions of the Elizabethan period, and its quaint street
names, such as Dog Lane, Sheep-pen Street, and Chantry Green, where two
martyrs were burnt.
Thence the way lay through the leafy wonderland of West Sussex, when
the Mercury crept softly through Midhurst and Petersfield into
Hampshire, and so to Winchester, where Cynthia, enraptured with the
cathedral, used up a whole reel of films, and bought some curios carved
out of oak imbedded in the walls when the Conqueror held England in his
They lunched at a genuine old coaching-house in the main street, and
Medenham persuaded the girl to turn aside from Salisbury in order to
pass through the heart of the New Forest. She sat with him in front
then, and their talk dealt more with the magnificent scenery than with
personal matters until they reached Ringwood, where they halted for
Before alighting at the inn there she asked him where he meant to
stay in Bournemouth. He answered the one question by another.
You put up at the Bath Hotel, I think? he said.
Yes. Someone told me it was more like a Florentine picture gallery
than a hotel. Is that true?
I have not been to Florence, but the picture gallery notion is all
right. When I was a youngster I came here often, and mymy people
alwayswell, you see
He nibbled his mustache in dismay, for it was hard to keep up a
pretense when Cynthia was so near. She ended the sentence for him.
You came to the Bath Hotel. Why not stay there to-night?
I would like it very much, if you have no objection.
Just the opposite. Butplease forgive me for touching on money
mattersthe charges may be rather dear. Won't you let me tell the head
waiter toto include your bill with ours?
On the strict condition that you deduct twelve shillings from my
account, he said, stealing a glance at her.
I shall be quite business-like, I promise.
She was smiling at the landscape, or at some fancy that took her,
perhaps. But it followed that a messenger was sent for Dale to the
hostelry where he had booked a room for his master, and that Mrs.
Devar, after one stony and indignant glare, whispered to Cynthia in the
Can that man in evening dress, sitting alone near the window, by
any possibility be our chauffeur?
Yes, laughed the girl. That is Fitzroy. Say, doesn't he look fine
and dandy? Don't you wish he was with usto order the wine? And, by
the way, is there a pier at Bournemouth?
CHAPTER IV. SHADOWSWITH OCCASIONAL
Mrs. Devar ate her soup in petrified silence. Among the diners were
at least two peers and a countess, all of whom she knew slightly; at no
other time during the last twenty years would she have missed such an
opportunity of impressing the company in general and her companion in
particular by waddling from table to table and greeting these
acquaintances with shrill volubility.
But to-night she was beginning to be alarmed. Her youthful protégée
was carrying democratic training too far; it was quite possible that a
request to modify an unconventional freedom of manner where Fitzroy was
concerned would meet with a blank refusal. That threatened a real
difficulty in the near future, and she was much perturbed by being
called on to decide instantly on a definite course of action. Too
strong a line might have worse consequences than a laissez faire
attitude. As matters stood, the girl was eminently plastic, her
naturally gentle disposition inducing respect for the opinions and
wishes of an older and more experienced woman, yet there was a
fearlessness, a frank candor of thought, in Cynthia's character that
awed and perplexed Mrs. Devar, in whom the unending struggle to keep
afloat in the swift and relentless torrent of social existence had
atrophied every sense save that of self-preservation. An open rupture,
such as she feared might take place if she asserted her shadowy
authority, was not to be dreamed of. What was to be done? Small wonder,
then, that she should tackle her fish vindictively.
Are you angry because Fitzroy is occupying the same hotel as
ourselves? asked Cynthia at last.
The girl had amused herself by watching the small coteries of stiff
and starched Britons scattered throughout the room; she was endeavoring
to classify the traveled and the untraveled by varying degrees of
frigidity. As it happened, she was wholly wrong in her rough analysis.
The Englishman who has wandered over the map is, if anything, more
self-contained than his stay-at-home brother. He is often a stranger in
his own land, and the dozen most reserved men present that evening were
probably known by name and deed throughout the widest bounds of the
But, though eyes and brain were busy, she could not help noticing
Mrs. Devar's taciturn mood. That a born gossip, a retailer of personal
reminiscences confined exclusively to the best people, should eat
stolidly for five consecutive minutes, seemed somewhat of a miracle,
and Cynthia, as was her habit, came straight to the point.
Mrs. Devar managed to smile, pouting her lips in wry mockery of the
suggestion that a chauffeur's affairs should cause her any uneasiness
I was really thinking of our tour, she lied glibly. I am so sorry
you missed seeing Salisbury Cathedral. Why was the route altered?
Because Fitzroy remarked that the cathedral would always remain at
Salisbury, whereas a perfect June day in the New Forest does not come
once in a blue moon when one really wants it.
For a person of his class he appears to say that sort of thing
Cynthia's arched eyebrows were raised a little.
Why do you invariably insist on the class distinction? she cried.
I have always been taught that in England the barrier of rank is being
broken down more and more every day. Your society is the easiest in the
world to enter. You tolerate people in the highest circles who would
certainly suffer from cold feet if they showed up too prominently in
New York or Philadelphia; isn't it rather out of fashion to be so
Our aristocracy has such an assured position that it can afford to
unbend, quoted the other.
Oh, is that it? I heard my father say the other day that it has
often made him tired to see the way in which some of your titled
nonentities grovel before a Lithuanian Jew who is a power on the Rand.
But unbending is a different thing to groveling, perhaps?
Mrs. Devar sighed, yet she gave a moment's scrutiny to a wine-list
brought by the head waiter.
A small bottle of 61, please, she said in an undertone.
Then she sighed again, deprecating the Vanrenen directness.
Unfortunately, my dear, few of our set can avoid altogether the
worship of the golden calf.
Cynthia thrust an obstinate chin into the argument.
People will do things for bread and butter that they would shy at
if independent, she said. I can understand the calf proposition much
more easily than the snobbishness that would forbid a gentleman like
Fitzroy from eating a meal in the same apartment as his employers,
simply because he earns money by driving an automobile.
In her earnestness, Cynthia had gone just a little beyond the bounds
of fair comment, and Mrs. Devar was quick to seize the advantage thus
From some points of view, Fitzroy and I are in the same boat, she
said quietly. Still, I cannot agree that it is snobbish to regard a
groom or a coachman as a social inferior. I have been told that there
are several broken-down gentlemen driving omnibuses in London, but that
is no reason why one should ask one of them to dinner, even though his
taste in wine might be beyond dispute.
Cynthia had already regretted her impulsive outburst. Her vein of
romance was imbedded in a rock of good sense, and she took the implied
I am afraid my sympathies rather ran away with my manners, she
said. Please forgive me. I really didn't mean to charge you with being
a snob. The absurdity of the statement carries its own refutation. I
spoke in general terms, and I am willing to admit that I was wrong in
asking the man to come here to-night. But the incident happened quite
naturally. He mentioned the fact that he often stayed in the hotel as a
Very probably, agreed Mrs. Devar cheerfully. We are all subject
to ups and downs. For my part, I was speaking à la chaperon, my
sole thought being to safeguard you from the disagreeable busy-bodies
who misconstrue one's motives. And now, let us talk of something more
amusing. You see that woman in old rose brocadeshe is sitting with a
bald-headed man at the third table on your left. Well, that is the
Countess of Porthcawl, and the man with her is Roger Ducrot, the
banker. Porthcawl is a most complaisant husband. He never comes within
a thousand miles of Millicent. She is awfully nice; clever, and witty,
and the rest of itquite a man's woman. We are sure to meet her in the
lounge after dinner and I will introduce you.
Cynthia said she would be delighted. Reading between the lines of
Mrs. Devar's description, it was not easy to comprehend the distinction
that forbade friendship with Fitzroy while offering it with Millicent,
Countess of Porthcawl. But the girl was resolved not to open a new
rift. In her heart she longed for the day that would reunite her to her
father; meanwhile, Mrs. Devar must be dealt with gently.
Despite its tame ending, this unctuous discussion on social ethics
led to wholly unforeseen results.
The allusion to a possible pier at Bournemouth meant more than Mrs.
Devar imagined, but Cynthia resisted the allurements of another
entrancing evening, went early to her room, and wrote duty letters for
a couple of hours. The excuse served to cut short her share of the
Countess's brilliant conversation, though Mr. Ducrot tried to make
himself very agreeable when he heard the name of Vanrenen.
Medenham, standing in the hall, suddenly came face to face with Lady
Porthcawl, who was endowed with an unerring eye for minute shades of
distinction in the evening dress garments of the opposite sex. Her
correspondence consisted largely of picture postcards, and she had just
purchased some stamps from the hall porter when she saw Medenham take a
telegram from the rack where it had been reposing since the afternoon.
It was, she knew, addressed to Viscount Medenham. That, and her
recollection of his father, banished doubt.
George! she cried, with a charming air of having found the one man
whom she was longing to meet, don't say I've grown so old that you
have forgotten me!
He started, rather more violently than might be looked for in a
shikari whose nerves had been tested in many a ticklish encounter with
other members of the cat tribe. In fact, he had just been disturbed by
coming across the unexpected telegram, wherein Simmonds assured his
lordship that the rejuvenated car would arrive at the College Green
Hotel, Bristol, on Friday evening. At the very moment that he realized
the imminence of Cynthia's disappearance into the void it was doubly
disconcerting to be hailed by a woman who knew his world so intimately
that it would be folly to smile vacantly at her presumed mistake.
Some glint of annoyance must have leaped to his eyes, for the lively
countess glanced around with a mimic fright that testified to her skill
as an actress.
Good gracious! she whispered, have I given you away? I couldn't
guess you were here under a nom de voyagenow, could I?when
that telegram has been staring at everybody for hours.
You have misinterpreted my amazement, Lady Porthcawl, he said,
spurred into self-possession by the hint at an intrigue. I could not
believe that time would turn back even for a pretty woman. You look
younger than ever, though I have not seen you for
Oh, hush! she cried. Don't spoil your nice speech by counting
years. When did you arrive in England? Are you alonereally? You've
grown quite a man in your jungles. Will you come to the lounge? I want
ever so much to have a long talk with you. Mr. Ducrot is therethe
financier, you knowbut I have left him safely anchored alongside Maud
Devara soft-furred old pussie who is clawing me now behind my back, I
am sure. Have you ever met her? Wiggy Devar she was christened in
Monte, because an excited German leaned over her at the tables one
night and things happened to her coiffure. And to show you how
broad-minded I am, I'll get her to bring downstairs the sweetest and
daintiest American ingénue you'd find between here and Chicago, even if
you went by way of Paris. Cynthia Vanrenen is her name, daughter of
the Vanrenen. He made, not a pile, but a pyramid, out of
Milwaukees. She is ita pukka Gibson girl, quite ducky, with
the dearest bit of an accent, and Mamma Devar is gadding around with
her in a mo-car. Do come!
Medenham was able to pick and choose where he listed in answering
this hail of words.
I'm awfully sorry, he said, but the telegram I have just received
affects all my plans. I must hurry away this instant. When will you be
in town? Then I shall call, praying meanwhile that there may be no
Ducrots or Devars there to blight a glorious gossip. If you bring me up
to date as to affairs in Park Lane I'll reciprocate about the giddy
equator. Howor perhaps I ought to say whereis Porthcawl?
In China, snapped her ladyship, fully alive to Medenham's polite
evasion of her blandishments.
By gad, he laughed, that is a long way from Bournemouth. Well,
good-bye. Keep me a date in Clarges Street.
Clarges Street is off the map, she said coldly. It's South
Belgravia, verging on Pimlico, nowadays. That is why Porthcawl is in
China ... and it explains Ducrot, too.
An unconscious bitterness crept into the smooth voice; Medenham, who
hated confidences from the butterfly type of woman, nevertheless pitied
Tell me where you live and I'll come round and hear all about it,
he said sympathetically.
She gave him an address, and suddenly smiled on him with a yearning
tenderness. She watched his tall figure as he strode down the hill
towards the town to keep an imaginary appointment.
He used to be a nice boy, she sighed, and now he is a man....
Heigh-ho, you're a back number, Millie, dear!
But she was her own bright self when she returned to the bald-headed
Ducrot and the bewigged Mrs. Devar.
What a small world it is! she vowed. I ran across Medenham in the
The banker's shining forehead wrinkled in a reflective frown.
Medenham? he said.
Fairholme's eldest son.
Mrs. Devar chortled.
Such fun! she said. Our chauffeur calls himself George Augustus
How odd! agreed Countess Millicent.
You people speak in riddles. Who or what is odd? asked Ducrot.
Oh, don't worry, but listen to that adorable waltz. Ducrot's
polished dome compared badly with the bronzed skin of the nice boy who
had grown to be a man, so her ladyship's rebellious tongue sought
safety in silence, since she could not afford to quarrel with him.
It is certainly true that the gods make mad those whom they mean to
destroy. Never was woman nearer to a momentous discovery than Mrs.
Devar at that instant, but her active brain was plotting how best to
develop a desirable acquaintance in Roger Ducrot, financier, and she
missed utterly the astounding possibility that Viscount Medenham and
George Augustus Fitzroy might be one and the same person.
In any other conditions Millicent Porthcawl's sharp wits could
scarcely have failed to ferret out the truth. Even if Cynthia were
present it was almost a foregone conclusion that the girl would have
told how Fitzroy joined her. The luncheon provided for a missing aunt,
the crest on the silver and linen, the style of the Mercury, a chance
allusion to this somewhat remarkable chauffeur's knowledge of the South
Downs and of Bournemouth, would surely have put her ladyship on the
right track. From sheer enjoyment of an absurd situation she would have
caused Fitzroy to be summoned then and there, if only to see Wiggy
Devar's crestfallen face on learning that she had entertained a
But the violins were singing the Valse Bleu, and Cynthia was
upstairs, longing for an excuse to venture forth into the night, and
three people, at least, in the crowded lounge were thinking of anything
but the amazing oddity that had puzzled Ducrot, who did not con his
Medenham, of course, realized that he had been vouchsafed another
narrow escape. What the morrow might bring forth he neither knew nor
cared. The one disconcerting fact that already shaped itself in the
mists of the coming day was Simmonds tearing breathlessly along the
Bath Road during the all too brief hours between morn and evening.
It is not to be wondered at if he read Cynthia's thoughts. There is
a language without code or symbol known to all young men and maidensa
language that pierces stout walls and leaps wide valleysand that
unlettered tongue whispered the hope that the girl might saunter
towards the pier. He turned forthwith into the public gardens, and
quickened his pace. Arrived at the pier, he glanced up at the hotel. Of
girls there were many on cliff and roadway, girls summer-like in
attire, girls slender of waist and airy of tread, but no Cynthia. He
went on the pier, and met more than one pair of bright eyes, but not
Then he made off in a fume to Dale's lodging, secured a linen
dust-coat which the man happened to have with him, returned to the
hotel, and hurried unseen to his room, an easy matter in the Royal
Bath, where many staircases twine deviously to the upper floors, and
brilliantly decorated walls dazzle the stranger.
He counted on the exigencies of Lady Porthcawl's toilette stopping a
too early appearance in the morning, and he was right.
At ten o'clock, when Cynthia and Mrs. Devar came out, the men
lounging near the porch were too interested in the girl and the car to
bestow a glance on the chauffeur. Ducrot was there, bland and massive
in a golf suit. He pestered Cynthia with inquiries as to the exact
dates when her father would be in London, and Medenham did not hesitate
to cut short the banker's awkward gallantries by throwing the Mercury
into her stride with a whirl.
By Jove, Ducrot, said someone, your pretty friend's car jumped
off like a gee-gee under the starting gate.
If that chauffeur of hers was mine, I'd boot him, was the wrathful
Why? What's he done?
He strikes me as an impudent puppy.
Anyhow, he can swing a motor. See that! for the Mercury had
executed a corkscrew movement between several vehicles with the sinuous
grace of a greyhound.
Now it was Mrs. Devar, and not Cynthia, who leaned forward and said
You seem to be in a hurry to leave Bournemouth, Fitzroy.
I am not enamored of bricks and mortar on a fine morning, he
Well, I have full confidence in you, but don't embroil us with the
police. We have a good deal to see to-day, I understand.
Then he heard the strenuous voice addressing Cynthia.
Millicent Porthcawl says that Glastonbury is heavenly, and Wells a
peaceful dream. I visited Cheddar once, some years ago, but it rained,
and I felt like a watery cheese.
Lady Porthcawl's commendation ought to have sanctified Glastonbury
and WellsMrs. Devar's blue-moldy joke might even have won a
smilebut Cynthia was preoccupied; strange that she, too, should be
musing of Simmonds and a hurrying car, for Medenham had told her that
the transfer would take place at Bristol.
She was only twenty-two, and her very extensive knowledge of the
world had been obtained by three years of travel and constant
association with her father. But her lines had always been cast in
pleasant places. She had no need to deny herself any of the delights
that life has to offer to youth and good health and unlimited means.
The discovery that friendship called for discretion came now almost as
a shock. It seemed to be a stupid social law that barred the way when
she wished to enjoy the company of a well-favored man whom fate had
placed at her disposal for three whole days. Herself a blue-blooded
American, descendant of old Dutch and New England families, she was
quite able to discriminate between reality and sham. Mrs. Devar, she
was sure, was a pinchbeck aristocrat; Count Edouard Marigny might have
sprung from many generations of French gentlemen, but her paid
chauffeur was his superior in every respect save onesince, to all
appearance, Marigny was rich and Fitzroy was poor.
Curiously enough, the man whose alert shoulders and well-poised head
were ever in view as the car hummed joyously through the pine woods had
taken on something of the mere mechanic in aspect since donning that
serviceable linen coat. The garment was weather-stained. It bore
records of over-lubrication, of struggles with stiff outer covers, of
rain and mudthat bird-lime type of mud peculiar to French military
roads in the Alpes Maritimeswhile a zealous detective might have
found traces of the black and greasy deposit that collects on the door
handles and side rails of P. L. M. railway carriages. Medenham borrowed
it because of the intolerable heat of the leather jacket. Its
distinctive character became visible when he viewed it in the June
sunshine, and he wore it as a substitute for sackcloth, since he, no
less than Cynthia, recognized that a dangerous acquaintance was drawing
to an end. So Dale's coat imposed a shield, as it were, between the
two, but the man drove with little heed to the witching scenery that
Dorset unfolded at each turn of the road, and the woman sat distrait,
Mrs. Devar was smugly complacent. Difficulties that loomed large
overnight were now vague shadows. When the Mercury stopped in front of
a comfortable inn at Yeovil it was she, and not Cynthia, who suggested
a social departure.
This seems to be the only place in the town where luncheon is
provided. You had better leave the car in charge of a stableman, and
join us, Fitzroy, she said graciously.
Thank you, madam, said Medenham, rousing himself from a reverie,
I prefer to remain here. The hotel people will look after my slight
wants, as I dislike the notion of anyone tampering with the engine
while I am absent.
Is it so delicate, then? asked Cynthia, with a smile that he
hardly understood, since he could not know how thoroughly he had routed
Mrs. Devar's theories of the previous night.
No, far from it. But its very simplicity challenges examination,
and an inquisitive clodhopper can effect more damage in a minute than I
can repair in an hour.
His gruff tone was music in Mrs. Devar's ears. She actually sighed
her relief, but explained the lapse instantly.
I do hope there is something nice to eat, she said. This
wonderful air makes one dreadfully hungry. When our tour is ended,
Cynthia, I shall have to bant for months.
The fare was excellent. Under its stimulating influence Miss
Vanrenen forgot her vapors and elected for the front seat during the
run to Glastonbury. Medenham thawed, too. By chance their talk turned
to wayside flowers, and he let the Mercury creep through a high-banked
lane, all ablaze with wild roses and honeysuckle, while he pointed out
the blue field scabious, the pink and cream meadow-sweet, the samphire,
the milk-wort and the columbine, the campions in the cornland, and the
yellow vetchling that ran up the hillside towards one of the wooded
islands peculiar to the center of Somerset.
Cynthia listened, and, if she marveled, betrayed no hint of surprise
that a chauffeur should have such a store of the woodman's craft.
Medenham, aware only of a rapt audience of one, threw disguise to the
breeze created by the car when the pace quickened. He told of the
Glastonbury Thorn, and how it was brought to the west country by no
less a gardener than Joseph of Arimathea, and how St. Patrick was born
in the Isle of Avallon, so called because its apple-orchards bore
golden fruit, and how the very name of Glastonbury is derived from the
crystal water that hemmed the isle
Please let me intrude one little question, murmured the girl. I
am very ignorant of some things. What has 'Avallon' got to do with
Ha! cried Medenham, warming to his subject and retarding speed
again, that opens up a wide field. In Celtic mythology Avallon is Ynys
yr Afallon, the Island of Apples. It is the Land of the Blessed, where
Morgana holds her court. Great heroes like King Arthur and Ogier le
Dane were carried there after death, and, as apples were the only
first-rate fruit known to the northern nations, a place where they grew
in luscious abundance came to be regarded as the soul-kingdom. Merlin
says that fairyland is full of apple trees
I believe it is, cried Cynthia, nudging his arm and pointing to an
orchard in full bloom.
Mrs. Devar could hear little and understand less of what they were
saying; but the nudge was eloquent; her steel-blue eyes narrowed, and
she thrust her face between them.
We mustn't dawdle on the road, Fitzroy. Bristol is still a long way
off, and we have so much to seeGlastonbury, Wells, Cheddar.
Though Cynthia was vexed by the interruption she did not show it.
Indeed, she was aware of her companion's strange reiteration of the
towns to be visited, since Mrs. Devar had already admitted a special
weakness in geography, and during the trip from Brighton to Bournemouth
was quite unable to name a town, a county, or a landmark. But the queer
thought of a moment was dispelled by sight of the ruins of St.
Dunstan's monastery appearing above a low wall. In front of the broken
arches and tottering walls grew some apple trees so old and worn that
no blossom decked their gnarled branches. Unbidden tears glistened in
the girl's eyes.
If I lived here I would plant a new orchard, she said tremulously.
I think Guinevere would like it, and you say she is buried with her
king in St. Joseph's Chapel.
Medenham had suddenly grown stern again. He glanced at her, and then
made great business with brakes and levers, for Mrs. Devar was still
There is a fine old Pilgrims' Inn, the George, in the main street,
he said jerkily. I propose to stop there; the entrance to the Abbey is
exactly opposite. In the George they will show you a room in which
Henry the Eighth slept, and I would recommend you to get a guide for
half an hour at least.
Must we walk? demanded Mrs. Devar plaintively.
Yes, if you wish to see anything. But one could throw a stone over
the chief show places, they are so close together.
So Cynthia was shown the Alfred Jewel, and Celtic dice-boxes
carefully loaded for the despoiling of Roman legionaries or an unwary
Phoenician, and heard the story of the Holy Grail from the lips of an
ancient who lent credence to the legend by his venerable appearance.
Mixed up with the imposing ruins and the glory of St. Joseph's Chapel
was a visit to the butcher's at the corner of the street, where the
veteran proudly exhibited a duck with four feet. He then called
Cynthia's attention to the carved panels of the George Hotel, and
pointed out a fine window, bayed on each successive story. She had
almost forgotten the wretched duck when he mentioned a two-headed calf
which was on view at a neighboring dairy.
Mrs. Devar showed signs of interest, so Cynthia tipped the old man
hurriedly, and ran to the car.
I shall come heresome other time, she gasped, and it thrilled
her to believe that Fitzroy understood, though he had heard no word of
quadruped fowl or bicipital monster.
At Wells Medenham pitied her. He bribed a policeman to guard the
Mercury, and when Mrs. Devar saw that more walking was expected of her
she elected to sit in the tonneau and admire the west front of the
Lady Porthcawl tells me it is a masterpiece, she chirped shrilly,
so I want to take it in at my leisure.
Once more, therefore, did Medenham allow himself a half hour of real
abandonment. He warned Cynthia that she must not endeavor to appreciate
the architecture; with the hauteur of conscious genius, Wells refuses
to allow anyone to absorb its true grandeur until it has been seen many
times and in all lights.
So he hied her to the exquisite Lady Chapel, and to the
Chapter-House Stairs, and to Peter Lightfoot's quaint old clock in the
transept. Then, by some alchemy worked on a lodgekeeper, he led her to
the gardens of the Bishop's palace, and showed her the real Glastonbury
Thorn, and even persuaded one of the swans in the moat to ring the bell
attached to the wall whereby each morning for many a year the royal
birds have obtained their breakfast.
There is no lovelier garden in England than that of Wells Palace,
and Cynthia was so rapt in it that even Medenham had to pull out his
watch and remind her of dusty roads leading to far-off Bristol.
Mrs. Devar looked so sour when they came from an inspection of one
of the seven wells to which the town owes its name that Cynthia
weakened and sat by her side. Thereupon Medenham made amends for lost
time by exceeding the speed limit along every inch of the run to
Of course he had to crawl through the narrow streets of the little
town, above which the bare crests of the Mendips give such slight
promise of the glorious gorge that cuts through their massiveness from
south to north. Even at the very lip of the magnificent canyon the
outlook is deceptive. Perhaps it is that the eye is caught by the
flaring advertisements of the stalactite caves, or that baser emotions
are awakened by the sight of cozy tea-gardensof one in particular,
where a cascade tumbles headlong from the black rocks, and a
tree-shaded lawn offers rest and coolness after hours passed in the hot
Be that as it may, tea had a welcome sound, and Medenham, who had
lunched on bread and beer and pickles, was glad to halt at the entrance
of the inn that boasted a waterfall in its grounds.
The road was narrow, and packed with chars-à-bancs awaiting their
hordes of noisy trippers. Some of the men were tipsy, and Medenham
feared for the Mercury's paint. To the left of the hotel lay a spacious
yard that looked inviting. He backed in there when the ladies had
alighted, and ran alongside an automobile on which Paris and speed
were written in characters legible to the motorist.
A chauffeur was lounging against the stable wall and smoking.
Hello, said Medenham affably, what sort of car is that?
A 59 Du Vallon, was the answer. Then the man's face lit up with
Yours is a New Mercury, isn't it? he cried. Was that car at
Brighton on Wednesday night?
Yes, growled Medenham; he knew what to expect, and his face was
grim beneath the tan.
But you were not driving it, said the other.
A chap named Dale was in charge then.
Oh, is that it? You've brought two ladies here just now?
Good! My guv'nor's on the lookout for 'em. He didn't tell me so,
but he made sure they hadn't passed this way when we turned up.
And when was that? asked Medenham, feeling unaccountably sick at
Soon after lunch. Ran here from Bristol. There's a bad bit of road
over the Mendips, but the rest is fine. I s'pose we'll all be hiking
back there to-night?
Most probably, agreed Medenham, who said least when he was most
disturbed; at that moment he could cheerfully have wrung Count Edouard
CHAPTER V. A FLURRY ON THE MENDIPS
It is a contrariety of human nature that men devoted to venturesome
forms of sport should often be tender-hearted as children. Lord
Medenham, who had done some slaying in his time, once risked his life
to save a favorite horse from a Ganges quicksand, and his right arm
still bore the furrows plowed in it by claws that would have torn his
spaniel to pieces in a Kashmir gully had he not thrust the empty
barrels of a .450 Express rifle down the throat of an enraged bear. In
each case, a moment's delay to secure his own safety meant the
sacrifice of a friend, but safety won at such a price would have galled
him worse than the spinning of a coin with death.
Wholly apart from considerations that he was strangely unwilling to
acknowledge, even to his own heart, he now resented Marigny's
cold-blooded pursuit of an unsuspecting girl mainly because of its
unfairness. Were Cynthia Vanrenen no more to him than the hundreds of
pretty women he would meet during a brief London season he would still
have wished to rescue her from the money-hunting gang which had marked
her down as an easy prey. But he had been vouchsafed glimpses into her
white soul. That night at Brighton, and again to-day in the cloistered
depths of the cathedral at Wells, she had admitted him to the rare
intimacy of those who commune deeply in silence.
It was not that he dared yet to think of a love confessed and
reciprocated. The prince in disguise is all very well in a fairy tale;
in England of the twentieth century he is an anachronism; and Medenham
would as soon think of shearing a limb as of profiting by the chance
that threw Cynthia in his way. Of course, a less scrupulous wooer might
have devised a hundred plausible methods of revealing his identitywas
not Mrs. Devar, marriage-broker and adroit sycophant, ready to hand and
purchasable?and there was small room for doubt that a girl's natural
vanity would be fluttered into a blaze of romance by learning that her
chauffeur was heir to an old and well-endowed peerage. But honor
forbade, nor might he dream of winning her affections while flying
false colors. True, it would not be his fault if they did not come
together again in the near future. He meant to forestall any breach of
confidence on the part of Simmonds by writing a full explanation of
events to Cynthia herself. If his harmless escapade were presented in
its proper light, their next meeting should be fraught with laughter
rather than reproaches; and thenwell, then, he might urge a timid
plea that his repute as a careful pilot during those three memorable
days was no bad recommendation for a permanency!
But now, in a flash, the entire perspective had changed. The
Frenchman and Mrs. Devar, between them, threatened to upset his
best-laid plans. It was one thing to guess the nature of the sordid
compact revealed at Brighton; it was quite another to be brought face
to face with its active development at Cheddar. The intervening hours
had disintegrated all his pet theories. In a word, the difference lay
in himselfbefore and after close companionship with Cynthia.
It must not be imagined that Medenham indulged in this species of
self-analysis while fetching a pail of water to replace the wastage
from the condenser. He was merely in a very bad temper, and could not
trust himself to speak until he had tended to his belovèd engine.
He determined to set doubt at rest forthwith by the simple expedient
of finding Miss Vanrenen, and seeing whether or not Marigny had waylaid
Keep an eye on my machine for a minute, he said to the guardian of
the Du Vallon. By the way, is Captain Devar here? he added, since
Devar's presence might affect his own actions.
Oh, you know him, do you? cried the other. No, he didn't
come with us. We left him at Bristol. He's a bird, the captain. Played
some johnny at billiards last night for a quid, and won. He told the
guv'nor this morning that there is another game fixed for to-day, and
you ought to have seen him wink. It's long odds again' the Bristol
gent, or I'm very much mistaken. Yes, I'll keep any amatoor paws off
your car, and off my own as well, you bet.
To pass from the stable yard to the garden it was not necessary to
enter the hotel. A short path, shaded by trellis-laden creepers and
climbing roses, led to a rustic bridge over the stream. When Medenham
had gone halfway he saw the two women sitting with Marigny at a table
placed well apart from other groups of tea-drinkers. They were talking
animatedly, the Count smiling and profuse of gesture, while Cynthia
listened with interest to what was seemingly a convincing statement of
the fortunate hazard that led to his appearance at Cheddar. The
Frenchman was too skilled a stalker of shy game to pretend a second
time that the meeting was accidental.
Mrs. Devar's shrill accents traveled clearly across the lawn.
Just fancy that ... finding James at Bath, and persuading him to
come to Bristol on the chance that we might all dine together to-night!
Naughty boy he iswhy didn't he run out here in your car?
Count Edouard said something.
Business! she cackled, I am glad to hear of it. James is too much
of a gad-about to earn money, but people are always asking him to their
houses. He is a dear fellow. I am sure you will like him,
Medenham had heard enough. He noted that the table was gay with cut
flowers, and a neat waitress had evidently been detailed by the
management to look after these distinguished guests; Marigny's stage
setting for his first decisive move was undoubtedly well contrived. It
was delightfully pastorala charming bit of rural Englandand, as
such, eminently calculated to impress an American visitor.
Cynthia poured out a cup of tea, heaped a plate with cakes and bread
and butter, and gave some instructions to the waitress. Medenham knew
what that meant. He hurried back by the way he had come, and found that
Marigny's chauffeur had lifted the bonnet off the Mercury.
More I see of this engine the more I like itWhat's your h.p.?
asked the man, who clearly regarded the Mercury's driver as a brother
in the craft.
Looks a sixty, every inch. I wonder if you could hold my car at
Perhaps not, but I may give you some dust to swallow over the
The chauffeur grinned.
Of course you'd say that, but it all depends on what the guv'nor
means to do. He's a dare-devil at the wheel, I can tell you, an' never
says a word to me when I let things rip. But he's up to some game
to-day. He's fair crazy about that girl you have in towwhat's her
name? Vanrenen, isn't it?
Yes, said Medenham, replacing the hood after a critical glance at
the wires, though he hardly thought that this sturdy mechanic would
play any tricks on him.
Which of you men is called Fitzroy? demanded a serving-maid,
carrying a tray.
I, said Medenham.
Here, Miss, broke in the other, my name's Smith, plain Smith, but
I can do with a sup o' tea as well as anybody.
Ask Miss Vanrenen to give you another cup for Count Marigny's
chauffeur, said Medenham to the girl.
Oh, he's a count, is he? said the waitress saucily. My, isn't he
mashed on the young one?
Who wouldn't be? declared Smith. She's the sort of girl a fellow
'ud leave home for.
Fine feathers go a long way. There's as good as her in the world,
came the retort, not without a favorable glance at Medenham.
Meanwhile the tea is getting cold, said he.
Dear me, you needn't hurry. Her ma is goin' to write half-a-dozen
picture postcards. But what a voice! The old girl drowns the
The waitress flounced off. She was pretty, and no wandering
chauffeur had ever before turned aside the arrows of her bright eyes so
Then you have seen Miss Vanrenen? inquired Medenham, sipping his
Ra-ther! said Smith. Saw her in Paris, at the Ritz, when my
people sent me over there to learn the mechanism of this car. The Count
was always hanging about, and I thought he wanted the old man to buy a
Du Vallon, but it's all Lombard Street to a china orange that he was
after the daughter the whole time. I don't blame him. She's a regular
daisy. But you ought to know best. How do you get on with her?
Why did Dale and you swop jobs?
Oh, a mere matter of arrangement, said Medenham, who realized that
Smith would blurt out every item of information that he possessed if
allowed to talk.
He's a corker, is Dale, mused the other. I can do with a pint or
two meself when the day's work is finished an' the car safely locked up
for the night. But that Dale! he's a walkin' beer-barrel. Lord love a
duck! what a soakin' he gev' me in Brighton. Some lah-di-dah toff
swaggered into the garage that evenin', and handed Dale a fiverfive
golden quidlets, if you pleasewhich my nibs had won on a horse at
Epsom. I must say, though, Dale did the thing handsomequart bottles
o' Bass opened every ten minutes. Thank you, my dearthis to the
waitress, next to beer give me tea. Now, my boss, bein' a Frenchy,
won't touch eetherwine an' corfee are his specials.
He seemed to be enjoying his tea when I caught sight of him in the
garden a little while ago, said Medenham.
That's his artfulness, my boy. You wait a bit. You'll see something
before you reach Bristol to-night; anyway, you'll hear something, which
amounts to pretty much the same in the end.
They're just off to the caves, put in the girl.
While Mrs. Devar writes her postcards, I suppose? said Medenham
What! Is that the old party with the hair? I thought she was the
young lady's mother. She's gone with them. She looks that sort of
meddlernot half. Two's company an' three's none is my motto, cave or
She tried her most bewitching smile on Medenham this time. It was a
novel experience to be the recipient of a serving-maid's marked favor,
and it embarrassed him. Smith, his mouth full of currant bun,
spluttered with laughter.
A fair offer, he cried. You two dodge outside and see which cave
the aristocracy chooses. Then you can take a turn round the other one.
I'll watch the cars all right.
The girl suddenly blushed and looked demure. A sweet voice said
We shall remain here half an hour or more, Fitzroy. I thought I
would tell you in case you wished to smokeor occupy your time in any
The pause was eloquent: Cynthia had heard.
Thank you, Miss Vanrenen, he said, affecting to glance at his
He felt thoroughly nonplussed. She would surely think he had been
flirting with this rosy-cheeked servant, and he might never have an
opportunity of telling her that his sole reason for encouraging the
conversation lay in his anxiety to learn as much as possible about
Marigny and his associates.
My, ain't she smart! said the girl when Cynthia had gone.
Medenham put his hand in his pocket and gave her half-a-crown.
They have forgotten to tip you, Gertie, he said. Without heeding a
stare of astonishment strongly tinctured with indignation, he stooped
in unnecessary scrutiny of the Mercury's tires. The minx tossed her
Some folks are as grand as their missuses, she remarked, and went
back to her garden.
But Smith looked puzzled. Medenham, no good actor at any time, had
dropped too quickly the air of camaraderie which had been a successful
passport hitherto. His voice, his manner, the courtly insolence of the
maid's dismissal, evoked vague memories in Smith's mind. The
square-shouldered, soldierly figure did not quite fit into the picture,
but he seemed to hear that same authoritative voice speaking to Dale in
the Brighton garage.
[Illustration: You may occupy your time in any way you wish,
Fitzroy, said Cynthia. Page 102]
The conceit was absurd, of course. Chauffeurs do not swagger through
the world dressing for dinner each night and distributing gold in their
leisure moments. But Smith's bump of inquisitiveness was well
developed, as the phrenologists say, and he was already impressed by
the fact that no firm could afford to send out for hire a car like
Funny thing, he said at last. I seem to have met you somewhere or
other. Who do you work for?
Medenham caught the note of bewilderment, and was warned. He
straightened himself with a smile, though it cost him an effort to look
Have a cigarette? he said.
Don't mind if I do. Thanks. Then, after a pause, and some puffing
and tasting: Sorry, old man, but this baccy ain't my sort. It tastes
queer. What is it? Flor de Cabbagio? Here, take one of mine!
Medenham, in chastened mood, accepted a five a penny cigarette,
and saw Smith throw away the exquisite brand that Sevastopolo, of Bond
Street, supplied to those customers only who knew the price paid by
connoisseurs for the leaf grown on one small hillside above the
sun-steeped bay of Salonika.
Yes, he agreed, bravely poisoning the helpless atmosphere, this
is better suited to the occasion.
A bit of all right, eh? I can't stand the Count's cigarettes
eetherFrench rubbish, you know. An' the money they run intowell,
But if he is a rich man
Rich! Smith exploded with merriment. If he had what he owes he
might worry along for a year or so, but, you mark my words, if he
doesn'tWell, it's no business of mine, only just keep your eyes open.
You're going through with this tour?
Ibelieve so, said Medenham slowlyand thus he took the great
resolution which till that moment was dim in his mind.
In that case we'll be having a jaw some other time, and then,
mebbe, we'll both be older an' wiser.
Notwithstanding the community of taste established by Smith's weeds,
the man was still furtively racking his brains to account for certain
discrepancies in his new acquaintance's bearing and address. Medenham's
hands, for instance, were too well kept. His boots were of too good a
quality. His reindeer driving gloves, discarded and lying on the front
seat, were far too costly. The disreputable linen coat might hide many
details, but not these. Every now and then Smith wanted to say sir,
and he wondered why.
Medenham was sure that at the back of Smith's head lay some scheme,
some arranged trick, some artifice of intrigue that would find its
opportunity between Cheddar and Bristol. The distance was not
greatperhaps eighteen milesby a fairly direct second-class road,
and on this fine June evening it was still safe to count on three long
hours of daylight. It was doubly irritating, therefore, to think that
by his own lack of diplomacy he had almost forfeited Smith's
confidence. Twice had the man been on the very brink of revelation, for
he was one of those happy-go-lucky beings not fitted for the
safeguarding of secrets, yet on each occasion his tongue faltered in
subconscious knowledge that he was about to betray his master's
Feeling that Dale would have managed this part of the day's
adventures far better than himself, Medenham took his seat and touched
We have to make Bristol by seven o'clock, so I shall pull out in
front; I suppose Count Marigny will give the ladies the road? he
Smith was listening to the engine.
Runs like a watch, don't it? was his admiring cry.
And almost as quietly, so you heard what I said.
Oh, I hear lots, but I reckon it a good plan to keep my mouth
shut, grinned the other.
Exactly what you have failed to do, thought Medenham, though he
nodded pleasantly, and, with a So long! passed out of the yard. Smith
went to the exit and looked after him. The man's face wore a
good-humored sneer. It was as though he said:
You wait a bit, my dandy shufferyou ain't through with his
Countship yetnot by any manner o' means.
And Medenham did wait, till nearly seven o'clock. He saw Cynthia and
her companions come out of Gough's Cave and enter Cox's. These fairy
grottoes of nature's own contriving were well worthy of close
inspection, he knew. Nowhere else in the world can stalactites that
droop from the roof, stalagmites that spring from the floor, be seen in
such perfection of form and tint. But he fretted and fumed because
Cynthia was immured too long in their ice-cold recesses, and when, at
last, she reappeared from the second cavern and halted near a stall to
purchase some curios, impatience mastered him, and he brought the car
slowly on until she turned and looked at him.
He raised his cap.
The gorge is the finest thing in Cheddar, Miss Vanrenen, he said.
You ought to see it while the light is strong.
We are going now, she answered coldly. Monsieur Marigny will take
me to Bristol, and you will follow with Mrs. Devar.
He did not flinch from her steadfast gaze, though those blue eyes of
hers seemed definitely to forbid any expression of opinion. Yet there
was a challenge in them, too, and he accepted it meekly.
I was hoping that I might have the pleasure of driving you this
evening, he said. The run through the pass is very interesting, and I
know every inch of it.
He fancied that she was conscious of some mistake, and eager to
atone if in the wrong.
She hesitated, yielded almost, but Mrs. Devar broke in angrily:
We have decided differently, Fitzroy. I have some few postcards to
dispatch, and Count Marigny has kindly promised to run slowly up the
hill until we overtake him.
Yes, you ought to have waited in the yard of the inn for orders,
said the ever-smiling Marigny. My car can hardly pass yours in this
narrow road. Back a bit to one side, there's a good fellow, and, when
we have gone, pull up to the door. Come, Miss Vanrenen. I am fierce to
show you the paces of a Du Vallon.
The concluding sentences were in French, but Count Edouard spoke
idiomatic English fluently and with a rather fascinating accent.
Cynthia, slightly ruffled by her own singular lack of purpose, made
no further demur. The three walked off down the hill, and Medenham
could only obey in a chill rage that, were Marigny able to gauge its
intensity, might have given him furiously to think.
In a few minutes the Du Vallon scurried by. Smith was driving, and
there was a curious smirk on his red face as he glanced at Medenham.
Cynthia sat in the tonneau with the Frenchman, who drew her attention
to the limestone cliffs in such wise that she did not even see the
Mercury as she passed.
Medenham muttered something under his breath, and reversed slowly
back to the inn. He consulted his watch.
I'll give the postcard writer ten minutesthen I shall jar her
nerves badly, he promised himself.
Those minutes were slow-footed, but at last he closed the watch with
a snap. He called to a waitress visible at the end of a long passage.
The girl happened to be his friend of tea-time.
Would you like to earn another half crown? he asked.
She had wit enough to grasp essentials, and it was abundantly clear
that this man was not her lawful quarry.
Yessir, she said.
Take it, then, and tell the elderly lady belonging to my partyshe
is somewhere insidethat Fitzroy says he cannot wait any longer. Use
those exact wordsand be quick!
The girl vanished. An irate yet dignified Mrs. Devar came out.
Do I understand she began wrathfully.
I hope so, madam. Unless you get in at once I intend going to
Bristol, or elsewhere, without you.
Or elsewhere? she gasped, though some of her high color fled under
his cold glance.
Precisely. I do not intend to abandon Miss Vanrenen.
How dare you speak to me in this manner, you vulgar person?
For answer Medenham set the engine going.
I said 'At once,' he replied, and looked Mrs. Devar squarely in
She had her fair share of that wisdom of the serpent which is
indispensable to evildoers, and had learnt early in life that whereas
many men say they will do that which they really will not do if put to
the test, other men, rare but dominant, can be trusted to make good
their words no matter what the cost. So she accepted the unavoidable;
quivering with indignation, she entered the car.
Drive me to the post-office, she said, with as much of acid repose
as she could muster to her aid.
Medenham seemed to be suddenly afflicted with deafness. After
negotiating a line of vehicles, the Mercury leaped past the caves of
Gough and Cox as though the drip of lime-laden water within those
amazing depths were reeling off centuries in a frenzy of haste instead
of measuring time so slowly that no appreciable change has been noted
in the tiniest stalactite during fifty years. Mrs. Devar then grew
genuinely alarmed, since even a designing woman may be a timid one. She
bore with the pace until the car seemed to be on the verge of rushing
full tilt against a jutting rock. She could endure the strain no
longer, but stood up and screamed.
Medenham slackened speed. When the curving road opened sufficiently
to show a clear furlong ahead, he turned and spoke to the limp,
shrieking creature clinging to the back of his seat.
You are not in the slightest danger, he assured her, but if you
wish it I will drop you here. The village is barely half a mile away.
Otherwise, should you decide to remain, you must put up with a rapid
But why, why? she almost wailed. Have you gone mad, to drive like
Again I pledge my word that there is no risk. I mean to overtake
Miss Vanrenen before the light failsthat is all.
Your conduct is positively outrageous, she gasped.
Please yourself, madam. Do you go, or stay?
She collapsed into the comfortable upholstery with a gesture of
impotent despair. Medenham was sure she would not dare to leave him.
What wretched project she and Marigny had concocted he knew not, but
its successful outcome evidently depended on Mrs. Devar's safe arrival
in Bristol. Moreover, it was a paramount condition that he should be
delayed at Cheddar, and his chief interest lay in defeating that part
of the programme. Without another word, he released the brakes, and the
car sped onward.
Now they were plunging into a magnificent defile shadowed by sheer
cliffs that on the eastern side rose to a height of five hundred feet.
Fluttering rock pigeons circled far up in the azure riband that spanned
the opposing precipices. From many a towering pinnacle, carved by the
ages into fantastic imageries of a castle, a pulpit, a lion, or a
lance, came the loud, clear calling of innumerable jack-daws. It was
dark and gloomy, most terrifying to Mrs. Devar, down there on the
twining road where the car boomed ever on like some relentless monster
rushing from its lair. But the Cheddar gorge, though majestic and
awe-inspiring, is not of great extent. Soon the valley widened, the
road took longer sweeps to round each frowning buttress, and at last
emerged, with a quality of inanimate breathlessness, on to the bleak
and desolate tableland of the Mendips.
At this point, had Cynthia been there, Medenham would have stopped
for a while, so that she might admire the far-flung panorama of the
island valley of Avallon that stretched below the ravine. Out of the
green pastures in the middle distance rose the ruined towers of
Glastonbury. The purple and gold of Sedgemoor, relieved by the soft
outlines of the Polden hills, the grim summits of Taunton Dean and the
Blackdown range, the wooded Quantocks dipping to the Severn, and the
giant mass of Exmoor bounding the far horizon,these great splashes of
color, softened and blended by belts of farmland and the blue smoke of
clustering hamlets, formed a picture that not even Britain's storehouse
of natural beauty can match too often to sate the eyes of those who
love a charming landscape.
He had, as it were, jealously guarded this vista all day, said not a
word of it, even when Cynthia and he discussed the route, so that it
might come at last in one supreme moment of revelation. And now that it
was here, Cynthia was hidden somewhere in the gray distance, and
Medenham was frowning at a flying strip of white road, with his every
faculty intent on exacting the last ounce of power from the superb
machine he controlled.
The miles rolled beneath, yet there was no token of the Du Vallon
that was to run slowly up the hill until overtaken by the industrious
writer of postcards. At the utmost, the French car was given some
twelve or thirteen minutes' start, which meant seven or eight miles to
a high-powered automobile urged forward with the determination Medenham
himself was displaying. Marigny's chauffeur, therefore, must have
dashed through that Titanic cleft in the limestone at a speed utterly
incompatible with his employer's excuse of sightseeing. Of course, it
would be an easy matter for Marigny to enlist Miss Vanrenen's
sympathies in the effort of a first-rate engine to conquer the adverse
gradient. She would hardly realize the rate of progress, and, from
where she was seated, the speed indicator would be invisible unless she
leaned forward for the express purpose of reading it. Medenham was sure
that the Mercury would catch the Du Vallon long before Bristol was
reached, but when the last ample fold of the bleak plateau spread
itself in front, and his hunter's eyes could discern no cloud of dust
lingering in the still air where the road dipped over the horizon, he
began to doubt, to question, to solve grotesque problems that were
discarded ere they had well taken shape.
Oddly enough, there came no more expostulation from Mrs. Devar. Like
the majority of nervous people, she was quelled by the need of placing
complete trust in one who understood his work. While Medenham was still
searching the sky-line for signs of the vanished car, she did show some
interest in his quest. He felt, since he could not see, that she half
rose and looked over his head, bent low behind the partial shelter
afforded by a glass screen. Then she settled back in the seat, and drew
a rug comfortably around her knees. For some reason, she was strangely
The incident supplied food for active thought. So she felt safe!
That which she dreaded as the result of a too strenuous pursuit could
not now happen! Then what was it? Medenham swept aside the fantasy that
Mrs. Devar knew the country well enough to be able to say precisely
when and where she might be sure of his failure to snatch Cynthia from
that hidden evil the nature of which he could only guess at. Her world
was the artificial one of hotels, and shops, and numbered streetsin
the real world, of which the lonely wastes of the Mendips provided no
meager sample, she was a profound ignoramus, a fat little automaton
equipped with atrophied senses. But she blundered badly in composing
herself so cozily for the remainder of the run to Bristol. Medenham had
dwelt many months at a time in lands where just such simple indications
of mood on the part of man or beast had meant to him all the difference
between life and death. So now, if ever, he became doubly alert; his
eyes were strained, eager, peering; his body still as the wild
creatures which he knew to be skulking unseen behind many a rock and
grass tuft passed on the way.
This desolate land, given over to stones interspersed with patches
of wiry grass on which browsed some hardy sheep, resembled a disturbed
ocean suddenly made solid. It was not level, but ran in long, almost
regular undulations. In the trough between two of these rounded ridges
the road bifurcated, the way to Bristol trending to the left, and a
less important thoroughfare glancing off to the right.
There was no sign-post, but a child could scarce have erred if asked
to choose the track that led to a big town. Medenham, having consulted
the map earlier in the day, swung to the left without hesitation. The
car literally flew up the next incline, and the dark lines of trees and
hedges in the distance proved that tilled land was being neared. Now he
was absolutely sure that he had managed, somehow, to miss the Du
Vallonunless, indeed, its redoubtable mechanism was of a caliber he
had not yet come across in the highways and byways of Europe.
With him, to decide was to act. The Mercury slowed up so promptly
that Mrs. Devar became alarmed again.
What is it?a tire gone? she cried.
No, I am on the wrong roadthat is all.
But there is no other. That turning we passed was a mere lane.
The car stopped where his watchful glance noted a carpet of sand
left by the last shower of rain. He sprang out and examined the marks
of recent traffic. Marigny's vehicle carried non-skid covers with studs
arranged in peculiar groups, and their imprint was plain to be seen.
But they had followed that road once only. It was impossible to
determine off-hand whether they had come or gone, but, if they came
from Bristol, then most certainly they had not returned.
Medenham took nothing for granted. Dusk was advancing, and he must
make no mistake at this stage. He ran the Mercury slowly ahead, not
taking his gaze off the telltale signs. At last he found what he was
looking for. The broad scars left by a heavy cart crossed the studs,
and had crossed after the passage of the car. Thus he eliminated the
vagaries of chance. Marigny had not taken the road to
Bristolhe must be on the other onesince no cart was in
Medenham backed and turned. Mrs. Devar, of course, grew agitated.
Where are you going? she demanded.
Medenham resolved to end this farce of pretense, else he would not
be answerable for the manner of his speech.
I mean to find Miss Vanrenen, he said. Pray let that suffice for
the hour. Any further explanation you may require can be given at
Bristol and in her presence.
Mrs. Devar began to sob. He heard her, and of all things that he
hated it was to become the cause of a woman's tears. But his lips
closed in a thin seam, and he drove fast to the fork in the roads.
Another halt here, and the briefest scrutiny showed that his judgment
had not erred. The Du Vallon had passed this point twice. If it came
from Bristol in the first instance it had gone now to some unfamiliar
wilderness that skirted the whole northeastern slopes of the Mendips.
He leaped back to the driving seat, and Mrs. Devar made one more
despairing effort to regain control of a situation that had slipped
from her grasp nearly an hour ago.
Please do be sensible, Fitzroy! she almost screamed. Even if he
has made a mistake in a turning, Count Marigny will take every care
of Miss Vanrenen
It was useless. She was appealing to a man of stone, and, indeed,
Medenham could not pay heed to her then in any circumstances, for the
road surface quickly became very rough, and it needed all his skill to
guide his highly-strung car over its inequalities without inflicting an
injury that might prove disastrous.
His only consolation was provided by the knowledge that the risk to
a stout Mercury was as naught compared with the tortures endured by a
French-built racer, with its long wheel-base and low chassis. After a
couple of miles of semi-miraculous advance his respect for Smith's
capability as a driver increased literally by leaps and bounds.
But the end was nearer than he thought. On reaching the top of one
of those seemingly interminable land-waves, he saw a blurred object in
the hollow. Soon he distinguished Cynthia's fawn-colored dust cloak,
and his heart throbbed exultantly when the girl fluttered a
handkerchief to show that she, too, had seen.
Mrs. Devar rose and clutched the back of the seat behind him.
I apologize, Fitzroy, she piped tremulously. You were right. They
have lost their way and met with some accident. How glad I am that I
did not insist on your making straight for Bristol!
Her unparalleled impudence won his admiration. Such a woman, he
thought, was worthy of a better fate than that which put her in the
position of a bought intriguer. But Cynthia was near, waving her hands
gleefully, and executing a nymph-like thanksgiving dance on a strip of
turf by the roadside, so Medenham's views of Mrs. Devar's previous
actions were tempered by conditions extraordinarily favorable to her at
She seemed to be aware instinctively of the change in his sentiments
wrought by sight of Cynthia. It was in quite a friendly tone that she
Count Edouard is there; but where is his man?... Something serious
must have happened, and the chauffeur has been sent to obtain help....
Oh, how lucky we hurried, and how clever of you to find out which way
the car went!
CHAPTER VI. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S
Cynthia, notwithstanding that spirited pas seul, was rather
pale when Medenham stopped the car close beside her. She had been on
tenterhooks during the past quarter of an hourthere were silent
moments when she measured her own slim figure against the natty Count's
in half-formed resolution to take to her heels along the Cheddar Road.
At first, she had enjoyed the run greatly. Although Dale spoke of
Smith as a mechanic, the man was a first-rate driver, and he spun the
Du Vallon along at its best speed. But the change from good macadam to
none soon made itself felt, and Cynthia was more troubled than she
cared to show when the French flier came to a standstill after panting
and jolting alarmingly among the ruts. Marigny's excited questions
evoked only unintelligible grunts from Smith; for all that, the
irritating truth could not be withheldthe petrol tank was empty; not
only had the chauffeur forgotten to fill it that morning, but, by some
strange mischance, the supply usually held in reserve had been left at
The Frenchman was very angry with Smith, and Smith was humbly
apologetic. The pair must have acted convincingly, because each knew to
a nicety how soon a gallon of petrol would vaporize in the Du Vallon's
six cylinders. Having taken the precaution to measure that exact
quantity into the tank before leaving Cheddar, they were prepared for a
breakdown at any point within a few hundred yards of the precise
locality where it occurred.
Cynthia, being generous-minded, tried to make little of the mishap.
By taking that line she strove to reassure herself.
Fitzroy is always prepared for emergencies, she said. He will
soon catch up with us. But what a road! I didn't really notice it
before. Surely this cannot be the only highway between Bristol and
Cheddar?and in England, too, where the roads are so perfect!
There are two roads, but this is the nearest one, explained the
glib-tongued Count, seemingly much relieved by the prospect of
Fitzroy's early arrival. You don't deserve to be pulled out of a
difficulty so promptly, Smith, he went on, eying the chauffeur
There's a village not very far ahead, sir, said the abashed Smith.
Oh, never mind! We must wait for Miss Vanrenen's car.
Wait? inquired Cynthia. What else can we do?
I take it he meant to walk to some village, and bring a stock of
Oh, dear! I hope no such thing will be necessary.
From that half hint of latent and highly disagreeable developments
dated Cynthia's uneasiness. She accepted Marigny's suggestion that they
should stroll to the top of the slight hill just descended, whence they
would be able to watch their rescuer's approach from a considerable
distanceshe even remembered to tell him to smokebut she answered
his lively sallies at random, and agreed unreservedly with his voluble
The obvious disuse of the road, a mere lane providing access to
sheep inclosures on the hills, caused her no small perplexity, though
she saw fit not to add to her companion's distress by commenting on it.
In any other circumstances she would have been genuinely alarmed, but
her well-established acquaintanceship with the Count, together with the
apparently certain fact that Fitzroy and Mrs. Devar were coming nearer
each second, forbade the tremors that any similar accident must have
evoked if, say, they were marooned on some remote mountain range of the
continent, and no friendly car was speeding to their aid.
The two halted on the rising ground, and one of them, at least,
gazed anxiously into the purple shadows now mellowing the gray monotony
of the plateau. The point where the Du Vallon left the main road was
invisible from where they stood. Marigny had laid his plans with skill,
so his humorous treatment of their plight was not marred by any lurking
fear of the Mercury's unwelcome appearance.
What a terrible collapse this would be if I were running away with
you, Miss Cynthia, he said slyly. Let us imagine a priest waiting in
some ancient castle ten miles away, and an irate father, or a pair of
them, starting from Cheddar in hot pursuit.
My imagination fails me there, Monsieur Marigny, she replied, and
the shade of emphasis on his surname showed that she was fully aware of
the boundary crossed by the Miss Cynthia, an advance which surprised
her more than the Frenchman counted on. At present I am wholly
absorbed in a vain effort to picture an automobile somewhere down there
in the gathering mists; still, it must arrive soon.
Then Marigny put forth a tentative claw.
I hate to tell you, he said, mais il faut marcher quand le
diable est aux trousses.[A] I am unwillingly forced to believe that
your chauffeur has taken the other road.
[Footnote A: But needs must when the devil drives.]
The other road! wailed Cynthia in sudden and most poignant
foreboding. It was then that she first began to estimate her running
Yes, there are two, you know. The second one is not so direct
If you think that, your man had better go at once to the village he
spoke of. Is it certain that he will obtain petrol there?
Really, Monsieur Marigny, I fail to understand you. Why should you
express a doubt? He appeared to be confident enough five minutes ago.
He was ready to start until we prevented him.
That the girl should yield to slight panic was precisely what Count
Edouard desired. True, Cynthia's sparkling eyes and firm lips were
eloquent of keen annoyance rather than fear, but Marigny was an adept
in reading the danger signals of beauty in distress, and he saw in
these symptoms the heralds of tears and fright. His experience did not
lead him far astray, but he had not allowed for racial difference
between the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon. Cynthia might weep, she might
even attempt to run, but in the last resource she would face him with
I assure you I would not have had this thing happen on any
account, he said in a voice that vibrated with sympathy. Indeed, I
pray your pity in my own behalf, Miss Vanrenen. After all, it is I who
suffer the agony of failure when I meant only to please. You will reach
Bristol this evening, a little late, perhaps, but quite safely, and I
hope that you will laugh then at the predicament which now looks so
His seeming sincerity appeased her to some extent. In rapid swing
back to the commonplace, she affected to laugh.
It is not so serious, after all, she said, with more calmness than
she felt. Just for a moment you threw me off the rails by your
Drawing a little apart, she looked steadily back along the deserted
I see nothing of my car, she murmured at last. It will soon be
dusk. We must take no more chances. Please send for that benzine right
Smith was dispatched forthwith on what he knew to be a fool's
errand, since both he and Marigny were practically sure of their
ground. The nearest petrol was to be found at Langford, two miles along
the Bristol road from the fork, and four miles in the opposite
direction to that taken by Smith, who, when he returned empty-handed an
hour later, must make another long journey to Langford. The Du Vallon
was now anchored immovably until eleven o'clock, and it was well that
the girl could not realize the true nature of the ordeal before her, or
events might have taken an awkward twist.
The Frenchman meant no real harm by his rascally scheme, for Cynthia
Vanrenen, daughter of a well-known American citizen, was not to be
wooed and won in the fashion that commended itself to unscrupulous
lovers in by-gone days. Yet his design blended subtlety and daring in a
way that was worthy of ancestors who had ruffled it at Versailles with
the cavaliers of old France. He trusted implicitly to the effect of a
somewhat exciting adventure on the susceptible feminine heart. The
phantom of distrust would soon vanish. She would yield to the spell of
a night scented with the breath of summer, languorous with soft
zephyrs, a night when the spirit of romance itself would emparadise the
lonely waste, and a belated moon, like to a silver bow new-bent in
heaven, would lend its glamor to a sky already spangled with glowing
In such a night, all things were possible.
In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea-banks, and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.
Marigny had indeed arranged a situation worthy of his nurturing
among the decadents of Paris. He believed that in these surroundings an
impressionable girl would admit him to a degree of intimacy not to be
attained by many days of prosaic meetings. At the right moment, when
his well-bribed servant was gone to Langford, he would remember a
bottle of wine and some sandwiches stored in the car that morning to
provide the luncheon that he might not obtain at a wayside inn. Cynthia
and he would make merry over the feast. The magnetism that had never
yet failed him in affairs of the heart would surely prove potent now at
this real crisis in his life. Marriage to a rich woman could alone
snatch him from the social abyss, and the prospect became doubly
alluring when it took the guise of Cynthia. He would restore her to a
disconsolate chaperon some time before midnight, and he was cynic
enough to admit that if he had not then succeeded in winning her esteem
by his chivalry, his unobtrusive tenderness, his devoted
attentionsabove all, by his flow of interesting talk and well-turned
epigramthe fault would be his own, and not attributable to adverse
It was not surprising, therefore, that he failed to choke back the
curse quick risen to his lips when the throb of the Mercury's engine
came over the crest of the hill. Never was mailed dragon more terrible
to the beholder, even in the days of knight-errantry. In an instant his
well-conceived project had gone by the board. He saw himself
discredited, suspected, a skulking plotter driven into the open, a
self-confessed trickster utterly at the mercy of some haphazard
question that would lay bare his pretenses and cover his counterfeit
rhapsody with ridicule.
If Cynthia had heard, and hearing understood, it is possible that a
great many remarkable incidents then in embryo would have passed into
the mists of what might have been. For instance, she would not have
deigned to notice Count Edouard Marigny's further existence. The next
time she met him he would fill a place in the landscape comparable to
that occupied by a migratory beetle. But her heart was leaping for joy,
and her cry of thankfulness quite drowned in her ears the Frenchman's
Mrs. Devar, having had time to gather her wits, made a gallant
attempt to retrieve her fellow-conspirator's shattered fortunes.
My dearest Cynthia, she cried effusively, do say you are not
Not a bit, was the cheerful answer. It is not I, but the car,
that is out of commission. Didn't you see me do the Salomé act when you
were thrown on the screen?
Ah! the car has broken down. I do not wonderthis fearful
The road seems to have strayed out of Colorado, but that isn't the
trouble. We are short of petrol. Please give some to Monsieur Marigny,
Fitzroy. Then we can hurry to Bristol, and the Count must pick up his
chauffeur on the way.
Without more ado, she seated herself by Mrs. Devar's side, and
Marigny realized that he had been robbed of a golden opportunity. No
persuasion would bring Cynthia back into the Du Vallon that evening; it
would need the exercise of all his subtle tact to induce her to
re-enter it at any time in the near future.
He strove to appear at his ease, even essayed a few words of
congratulation on the happy chance that brought the Mercury to their
relief, but the imperious young lady cut short his limping phrases.
Oh, don't let us waste these precious minutes, she protested. It
will be quite dark soon, and if there is much more of this wretched
Medenham broke in at that. Mrs. Devar's change of front had caused
him some grim amusement, but the discovery of Marigny's artifice roused
his wrath again. It was high time that Cynthia should be enlightened,
partly at least, as to the true nature of the accident that had
befallen her; he had already solved the riddle of Smith's
The road to Bristol lies behind you, Miss Vanrenen, he said.
One of the roads, cried the Frenchman.
No, the only road, persisted Medenham. We return to it some two
miles in the rear. Had you followed your present path much farther you
could not possibly have reached Bristol to-night.
But there is a village quite near. My chauffeur has gone there for
petrol. Someone would have told us of our mistake.
There is no petrol to be bought at Blagdon, which is a mere hamlet
on the downs. Anyhow, here are two gallonsample for your needsbut
if your man is walking to Blagdon you will be compelled to wait till he
returns, Monsieur Marigny.
Though Medenham did not endeavor to check the contemptuous note that
crept into his voice, he certainly ought not to have uttered those two
concluding words. Had he ransacked his ample vocabulary of the French
language he could scarcely have hit upon another set of syllables
offering similar difficulties to the foreigner. It was quite evident
that his accurate pronunciation startled the accomplices. Each arrived
at the same conclusion, though by different channels; this man was no
mere chauffeur, and the fact rendered his marked hostility all the more
Nevertheless, for the moment, Marigny concealed his uneasiness: by a
display of good humor he hoped to gloss over the palpable absurdity of
his earlier statements to Cynthia.
I seem to have bungled this business very badly, he said airily.
Please don't be too hard on me. I shall make the amende when I
see you in Bristol. Au revoir, chères dames! Tell them to keep
me some dinner. I may not be so very far behind, since you ladies will
take some time over your toilette, and I shallwhat do you call
itscorch like mad after I have found that careless scoundrel, Smith.
Cynthia had suddenly grown dumb, so Mrs. Devar tried once more to
relax the tension.
Do be careful, Count Edouard, she cried; this piece of road is
dreadfully dangerous, and, when all is said and done, another half hour
is now of no great consequence.
If your chauffeur has really gone to Blagdon, he will not be back
under an hour at least, broke in Medenham's disdainful voice. Unless
you wish to wreck your car you will not attempt to follow him.
With that he bent over the head lamps, and their radiance fell
unexpectedly on Marigny's scowling face, since the discomfited
adventurer could no longer pretend to ignore the Englishman's menace.
Still, he was powerless. Though quivering with anger and balked desire,
he dared not provoke a scene in Cynthia's presence, and her continued
silence already warned him that she was bewildered if not actually
suspicious. He forced a laugh.
Explanations are like swamps, he said. The farther you plunge
into them the deeper you sink. So, good-bye! To please you, Mrs. Devar,
I shall crawl. As for Miss Vanrenen, I see that she does not care what
becomes of me.
Cynthia weakened a little at that. Certainly she wondered why her
model chauffeur chose to express his opinions so bluntly, while
Marigny's unwillingness to take offense was admirable.
Is there no better plan? she asked quickly, for Medenham had
started the engine, and his hand was on the reversing lever.
For what? he demanded.
For extricating my friend from his difficulty?
If he likes to come with us, he can leave his car here all night,
and return for it to-morrow.
Please do not trouble yourself in the least on my account, broke
in the Count gayly. As for abandoning my car, such a stupid notion
would never enter my mind. No, no! I wait for Smith, but you may rely
on my appearance in Bristol before you have finished dinner.
Though it was no simple matter to back and turn the Mercury in that
rough and narrow road, Medenham accomplished the maneuver with a skill
that the Frenchman appreciated to the full. For the first time he noted
the number when the tail-lamp revealed it.
X L 4000, he commented to himself. I must inquire who the owner
is. Devar or Smith will know where to apply for the information. And I
must also ascertain that fellow's history. Confound him, and my luck,
too! If the Devar woman has any sense she will keep Cynthia well out of
his way until the other chauffeur arrives.
As it happened, the Devar woman was thinking the same thing at the
same moment, but, being nervous, dared not attempt to utter her
thoughts while the car was creeping cautiously over the ruts and
stones. At last, when the highroad was reached, the pace quickened, and
she regained the faculty of speech.
We have had a quite eventful day, she said with an air of motherly
solicitude, turning to the distrait girl by her side. I am sure you
are tired. What between an extra amount of sightseeing and poor Count
Edouard's unfortunate mistake, we have been in the car nearly twelve
How did Fitzroy discover that we had taken the wrong road? asked
Cynthia, rousing herself from a perplexed reverie.
Well, he drove very fast from Cheddar, much too fast, to my
thinking, though the risk has been more than justified by
circumstances. Of course, it is always easy to be wise after the event.
At any rate, there being no sign of your car when we reached the top of
a long hill, weerwe discussed matters, and decided to explore the
Did you remain long in Cheddar? If Fitzroy hit up the pace, why
were you so far behind?
I waited a few minutes to address some postcards. And that reminds
meFitzroy sent a most impertinent message by one of the servants
My dear, there is no other word for itsomething about going off
without me if I did not start instantly. Really, I shall be glad when
Simmonds takes his place. But there! We must not renew our Bournemouth
And he caused a servant in the hotel to speak to you in that
Yesthe very girl who waited on us at teaa pert creature, who
seemed to find the task congenial.
Mrs. Devar was building better than she knew. Cynthia laughed,
though not with the whole-souled merriment that was music in Medenham's
She has been properly punished; I forgot to tip her, she
Count Edouard would see to that
He didn't. I noticed what he paidout of sheer curiosity. Perhaps
I ought to send her something.
My dear Cynthia!
But dear Cynthia was making believe to be quite amused by a notion
that had just suggested itself. She leaned forward in the darkness and
touched Medenham's shoulder.
Do you happen to know the name of the waitress who brought you some
tea at Cheddar? she asked. None of us gave her anything, and I hate
to omit these small items. If I had her name I could forward a postal
order from Bristol.
There is no need, Miss Vanrenen, said Medenham. I handed
herwell, sufficient to clear all claims.
You did? But why?
The temptation to explain that he had never seen the girl before
that day was strong, but he waived it, and contented himself with
Iercan't exactly sayforce of habit, I imagine.
Is she a friend of yours?
Cynthia subsided into the tonneau.
Of all the odd things! she murmured, little dreaming that her
chance question had sent a thrill of sheer delight through Medenham's
What is it now? inquired Mrs. Devar vindictively, for she detested
these half confidences.
Oh, nothing of any importance. Fitzroy footed the bill, it seems.
Very probably. He must have bribed the girl to be impudent.
Cynthia left it at that. She wished these people would stop their
quarreling, which threatened to spoil an otherwise perfect day.
The Mercury ran smoothly into ancient Bristol, crossed the Avon by
the pontoon bridge, and whirled up the hill to the College Green Hotel.
There, on the steps, stood Captain James Devar. Obviously, he did not
recognize them, and Medenham guessed the reasonhe expected to meet
his mother only, and bestowed no second glance on a car containing two
ladies. Indeed, his first words betrayed sheer amazement. Mrs. Devar
cried, Ah, there you are, James! and James's eyeglass fell from its
Hello, mater! he exclaimed. But what's up? Why are youwhere is
Miles awaythe silly man ran short of petrol. Fortunately our car
came to the rescue, or it would have been most awkward, since Miss
Vanrenen was with the Count at the time. Cynthia, you have not met my
son. James, this is Miss Vanrenen.
The little man danced forward. Like all short and stout mortals, he
was nimble on his feet, and his mother's voluble outburst warned him of
an unforeseen hitch in the arrangements.
Delighted, I'm shaw, said he. But, by gad, fancy losing poo-aw
Eddie! What have you done with him? Dwiven a stake through him and
buwied him at a cwoss woad?
Medenham dreaded that the too-faithful Simmonds, car and all, would
be found awaiting their arrival, and it was a decided relief when the
only automobile in sight proved to be the state equipage of some local
magnate dining at the hotel. Cynthia, apparently, had shared his
thoughts so far as they concerned Simmonds.
I suppose your friend Simmonds will reveal his whereabouts during
the evening, she said, while disencumbering herself of her wraps. Mrs.
Devar had already alighted, but the girl was standing in the car and
spoke over Medenham's shoulder.
Of course, he may not be here, was the answer, not given too
loudly, since Mrs. Devar had hastened to give details to the perplexed
James, and there was no need to let either of them overhear his words.
Oh my! What will happen, then?
In that event, I should feel compelled to take his place again.
But the compulsion, as you put it, tends rather to take you to
I have changed my mind, Miss Vanrenen, he said simply.
She tittered. There was just a spice of coquetry in her manner as
she stooped nearer.
You believe that Simmonds would not have found me in that wretched
lane to-night, she whispered.
I am quite sure of it.
But the whole affair was a mere stupid error.
I am only too glad that I was enabled to put it right, he said
with due gravity.
Cynthia, came a shrill voice, do make haste, I am positively
Guess you'd better lose Simmonds, breathed the girl, and an
unaccountable fluttering of her heart induced a remarkably high color
in her cheeks when she sped up the steps of the hotel and entered the
As for Medenham, though he had carefully mapped out the exact line
of conduct to be followed in Bristol while watching the radiantly white
arc of road that quivered in front of the car during the run from the
Mendips, for a second or two he dared not trust his voice to ask the
hall-porter certain necessary questions. Unaided by the glamor of birth
or position he had won this delightful girl's confidence. She believed
in him now as she would never again believe in Count Edouard Marigny;
what that meant in such a moment, none can tell but a devout lover.
Naturally, that was his point of view; it did not occur to him that
Cynthia might already have regretted the impulse which led her to utter
her thoughts aloud. Her nature was of the Martian type revealed to
Swedenborg in one of his philosophic trances. The inhabitants of
Mars, said he, account it wicked to think one thing and speak
anotherto wish one thing while the face expresses another. Happy
Martians, perhaps, but not quite happy Cynthia, still blushing hotly
because of her daring suggestion as to the disposal of Simmonds.
But she was deeply puzzled by the mishap to the Du Vallon. Unwilling
to think evil of anyone, she felt, nevertheless, that Fitzroy (as she
called him) would never have treated both Mrs. Devar and the Frenchman
so cavalierly if he had not anticipated the very incident that happened
on the Mendips. Why did he turn back? How did he really find out what
had become of them? What would Simmonds have done in his stead? A
hundred strange doubts throbbed in her brain, but they were jumbled in
confusion before that more intimate and insistent questionhow would
Fitzroy interpret her eagerness to retain him in her service?
Meanwhile, the Swedish seer's theory of Martian speech and thought
acting in unity was making itself at home on the pavement in front of
Medenham learnt from the hall-porter that a motor-car had reached
Bristol from London about five o'clock. The driver, who was alone, had
asked for Miss Vanrenen, and was told that she was expected but had not
yet arrived, whereupon he went off, saying that he would call after
Another shuffer kem a bit later an' axed the same thing, went on
the man, but he didn't have no car, an' he left no word about callin'
Excellent! said Medenham. Now please go and tell Captain Devar
that I wish to see him.
Yes. I cannot leave my car. He must be at liberty, as he is in
evening dress, and the ladies will not come downstairs under half an
Devar soon appeared. His mother had managed to inform him that the
substituted driver was responsible for the complete collapse of
Marigny's project, and he was puffing with annoyance, though well aware
that he must not display it.
Well, said he, strutting up to Medenham and blowing a cloud of
cigarette smoke from his thick lips, well, what is it, my man?
For answer, Medenham disconnected a lamp and held it close to his
Do you recognize me? he asked.
Devar, in blank astonishment, affected to screw in his eyeglass more
No, he said, nor am I particularly anxious to make your
acquaintance. You have behaved wather badly, I understand, but that is
of no consequence now, as Simmonds has bwought his car he-aw
Look again, Devar. We last met in Calcutta, where you swindled me
out of fifty pounds. Unfortunately I did not hear of your presence in
South Africa until you were cashiered at Cape Town, or I might have
saved the authorities some trouble.
The man wilted under those stern eyes.
Good gad! Medenham! he stammered.
Medenham replaced the lamp in its socket.
I am glad you are not trying any pretense, he said. Otherwise I
would be forced to take action, with the most lamentable consequences
for you, Devar. Now, I will hold my hand, provided you obey me
implicitly. Send for your overcoat, go straight to the Central Station,
and travel to London by the next train. You can scribble some excuse to
your mother, but, if I have any cause even to suspect that you have
told her who I am, I shall not hesitate to put the police on your
track. You must vanish, and be dumbfor three months at least. If you
are hard up, I will give you some moneysufficient for a fortnight's
needsand you can write to me for further supplies at my London
address. Even a rascal like you must be permitted to live, I suppose,
so I risk breaking the law myself by screening you from justice. Those
are my terms. Do you accept them?
The red face had grown yellow, and the steel-gray eyes that were a
heritage of the Devar family glistened with terror, but the man
endeavored to obtain mercy.
Dash it all, Medenham, he groaned, don't be too hard on me. I'm
goin' stwaight now'pon me honor. This chap, Marigny
You fool! I offer you liberty and money, yet you try brazenly to
get me to fall in with your wretched designs against Miss Vanrenen!
Which is it to bea police cell or the railway station?
Medenham moved as if to summon the hall-porter. In a very frenzy of
fear Devar caught his arm.
For Gawd's sake he whispered.
You go, then?
I am prepared to spare you to the utmost extent. Tell the
hall-porter to bring your overcoat and hat, and to give you a sheet of
note-paper and an envelope. Show me what you write. If it is
satisfactory I shall start you with twenty pounds. You can send from
London to-morrow for your belongings, as your hotel bill will be paid.
But remember! One treacherous word from you and I telegraph to Scotland
Mrs. Devar had a bad quarter of an hour when a penciled note from
her son was delivered at her room and she read:
DEAR MATERI hardly had time to tell you that I am obliged
to return to town this evening. Please make my apologies to
Miss Vanrenen and Count Marigny.
Medenham frowned a little at the reference to Cynthia, but something
of the sort was necessary if an open scandal was to be avoided. As for
Dear Mater, she was so unnerved that she actually wept. Hard and
calculating though she might be, the man was her son, and the bitter
experiences of twenty years warned her that he had been driven from
Bristol by some ghost new risen from an evil past.
Medenham, however, believed that he had settled one difficulty, and
prepared blithely to tackle another. He ran the car to the garage where
he had arranged to meet Dale.
Have you seen Simmonds? was his first question.
Yes, my l, yes, sir.
Where is he?
Just off for a snack, sir, before goin' to the hotel.
Bring him here at once. We will attend to the snack afterwards. No
mistake, now, Dale. He must see no one in the hotel until he and I have
had a talk.
Simmonds was produced. He saluted.
Glad to meet you again, my lord, he said. I hope I haven't caused
any trouble by sending that telegram to Bournemouth, but Dale tells me
that you don't wish your title to be known.
Forget it, said Medenham. I have done you a good turn,
Simmondsare you prepared to do me one?
Just try me, sir.
Put your car out of commission. Stick a pin through the earth
contact of your magneto and jam it against a cylinder, or something of
the sort. Then go to Miss Vanrenen and tell her how sorry you are, but
you must have another week at least to pull things straight. She will
not be vexed, and I guarantee you against any possible loss. To put the
best face on affairs, you had better remain in Bristol a few days at my
expense. Of course, it is understood that I deputize for you during the
remainder of the tour.
Simmonds, no courtier, grinned broadly, and even Dale winked at the
North Star; Medenham had steeled himself against such manifestations of
crude opinionhis face was impassive as that of a graven image.
Of course I'll oblige you in that way, my lord. Who wouldn't? came
the slow reply.
CHAPTER VII. WHEREIN CYNTHIA TAKES
HER OWN LINE
When the Mercury, shining from Dale's attentions, halted noiselessly
opposite the College Green Hotel on the Saturday morning, Count Edouard
Marigny was standing there; the Du Vallon was not in evidence, and its
owner's attire bespoke other aims than motoring, at any rate for the
Evidently he was well content with himself. A straw hat was set on
the back of his head, a cigarette stuck between his lips, his hands
were thrust into his trousers pockets, and his feet were spread widely
apart. Taken altogether, he had the air of a man without a care in the
He smiled, too, in the most friendly fashion, when Medenham's eyes
I hear that Simmonds is unable to carry out his contract, he said
You are mistaken, a second time, monsieur, said Medenham.
Why, then, are you here this morning?
I am acting for Simmonds. If anything, my car is slightly superior
to his, while I may be regarded as an equally competent driver, so the
contract is kept in all essentials.
Marigny still smiled. The Frenchman of mid-Victorian romance would
have shelved this point by indulging in an inimitable shrug; but
nowadays Parisians of the Count's type do not shrugwith John Bull's
clothing they have adopted no small share of his stolidness.
It is immaterial, he said. I have sent my man to offer him my Du
Vallon, and Smith will go with him to explain its humors. You, as a
skilled motorist, understand that a car is of the feminine gender. Like
any other charming demoiselle, it demands the exercise of tactit
yields willingly to gentle handling
Medenham cut short the Count's neatly turned phrases.
Simmonds has no need to avail himself of your courtesy, he said.
As for the rest, give me your address in Paris, and when next I visit
the French capital I shall be delighted to analyze these subtleties
Ah, most admirable! But the really vital question before us to-day
is your address in London, Mr. Fitzroy.
Marigny dwelt on the surname as if it were a succulent oyster, and,
in the undeniable surprise of the moment, Medenham was forced to
believe that Captain Devar, formerly of Horton's Horse, had dared all
by telling his confederate the truth, or some part of the truth. The
two men looked squarely at each other, and Marigny did not fail to
misinterpret the dubious frown on Medenham's face.
He descended a step or two, and crossed the pavement leisurely,
dropping his voice so that it might not reach the ears of a porter,
laden with the ladies' traveling boxes, who appeared in the doorway.
Why should we quarrel? he asked, with an engaging frankness well
calculated to reassure a startled evildoer. In this matter I am
anxious to treat you as a gentleman. Allons, donc! Hurry off
instantly, and tell Simmonds to bring the Du Vallon here. Leave me to
explain everything to Miss Vanrenen. Surely you agree that she ought to
be spared the unpleasantness of a wrangleor, shall we say, an
exposure? You see, he continued with a trifle more animation, and
speaking in French, the game is not worth the candle. In a few hours,
at the least, you will be in the hands of the police, whereas, by
reaching London to-night, you may be able to pacify the Earl of
Fairholme. I can help, perhaps. I will say all that is possible, and my
testimony ought to carry some weight.
Medenham was thoroughly mystified. That the Frenchman was not yet
aware of his identity was now clear enough, though, with Devar's
probable duplicity still running in his mind, he could not solve the
puzzle presented by this vaunted half-knowledge.
Again the other attributed his perplexity to anything except its
I am willing to befriend you, he urged emphatically. You have
acted foolishly, but not criminally, I hope. In your anxiety to help a
colleague you forgot the fine distinction which the law draws between
meum and tuum
No, said Medenham, turning to the porter. Put the larger box on
the carrier, and strap the other on top of itthe locks outwards. Then
you will find that they fit exactly.
Don't be a headstrong idiot, muttered the Count, with a certain
heat of annoyance making itself felt in his patronizing tone. Miss
Vanrenen will come out at any minute
Medenham glanced at the clock by the side of the speed indicator.
Miss Vanrenen is due now unless she is being purposely detained by
Mrs. Devar, he commented dryly.
But why persist in this piece of folly? growled Marigny, to whose
reluctant consciousness the idea of failure suddenly presented itself.
You must realize by this time that I know who owns your car. A
telegram from me will put the authorities on your track, your arrest
will follow, and Miss Vanrenen will be subjected to the gravest
inconvenience. Sacré nom d'un pipe! If you will not yield to
fair means I must resort to foul. It comes to thisyou either quit
Bristol at once or I inform Miss Vanrenen of the trick you have played
Medenham turned and picked up from the seat the pair of stout
driving-gloves which had caught Smith's inquiring eye by reason of
their quality and substance. He drew on the right-hand glove, and
buttoned it. When he answered, he spoke with irritating slowness.
Would it not be better for all concerned that the lady in whose
behalf you profess to be so deeply moved should be permitted to
continue her tour without further disturbance? You and I can meet in
London, monsieur, and I shall then have much pleasure in convincing you
that I am a most peaceable and law-abiding person.
No, came the angry retort. I have decided. I withdraw my offer to
overlook your offense. At whatever cost, Miss Vanrenen must be
protected until her father learns how his wishes have been disregarded
by a couple of English bandits.
Sorry, said Medenham coolly.
He alighted in the roadway, as the driving seat was near the curb. A
glance into the vestibule of the hotel revealed Cynthia, in motor coat
and veil, giving some instructions, probably with regard to letters, to
a deferential hall-porter. Walking rapidly round the front of the car,
he caught Marigny's shoulder with his left hand.
If you dare to open your mouth in Miss Vanrenen's presence, other
than by way of some commonplace remark, I shall forthwith smash your
face to a jelly, he said.
A queer shiver ran through the Frenchman's body, but Medenham did
not commit the error of imagining that his adversary was afraid. His
grip on Marigny's shoulder tightened. The two were now not twelve
inches apart, and the Englishman read that involuntary tension of the
muscles aright, for there is a palsy of rage as of fear.
I have some acquaintance with the savate, he said suavely.
Please take my word for it, and you will be spared an injury. A moment
ago you offered to treat me like a gentleman. I reciprocate now by
being willing to accept your promise to hold your tongue. Miss Vanrenen
is coming.... What say you?
I agree, said Marigny, though his dark eyes blazed redly.
Ah, thanks! and Medenham's left hand busied itself once more with
the fastening of the glove.
You understand, of course? he heard, in a soft snarl.
Perfectly. The truce ends with my departure. Meanwhile, you are
acting wisely. I don't suppose I shall ever respect you so much again.
Now, you twowhat are you discussing? cried Cynthia from the
porch. I hope you are not trying to persuade my chauffeur to yield his
place to you, Monsieur Marigny. Once bitten, twice shy, you know, and I
would insist on checking each mile by the map if you were at the
[Illustration: Now, you twowhat are you discussing?
Your chauffeur is immovable, mademoiselle, was the ready answer,
though the accompanying smile was not one of the Count's best efforts.
He looks it. Why are you vexed, Fitzroy? Can't you forgive your
Cynthia lifted those demure blue eyes of hers, and held Medenham's
I trust you are not challenging contradiction, Miss Vanrenen? he
said, with deliberate resolve not to let her slip back thus easily into
the rôle of gracious employer.
She did not flinch, but her eyebrows arched a little.
Oh, no, she said offhandedly. Simmonds told me his misfortunes
last night, and I assumed that you and he had settled matters
satisfactorily between you.
As for that, broke in the Count, I have just offered my car as a
substitute, but Fitzroy prefers to take you as far as Hereford, at any
Hereford! I understood from Simmonds that Mr. Fitzroy would see us
through the remainder of the tour?
Monsieur Marigny is somewhat vague in our island topography: you
saw that last evening, said Medenham.
He smiled. Cynthia, too, glanced from one to the other with a frank
merriment that showed how fully she appreciated their mutual dislike.
As for Marigny, his white teeth gleamed now in a sarcastic grin.
Adversity is a strict master, he said, lapsing into his own
language again. My blunder of yesterday has shown me the need of
caution, so I go no farther than Hereford in my thoughts.
It is more to the point to tell us how far you are going in your
car, cried the girl lightly.
I, too, hope to be in Hereford to-night. Mrs. Devar says you mean
to spend Sunday there. If that is a fixed thing, and you can bear with
me for a few hours, I shall meet you there without fail.
Come, by all means, if your road lies that way; but don't let us
make formal engagements. I love to think that I am drifting at will
through this land of gardens and apple blossom. And, just think of
itthree cathedrals in one daya Minster for breakfast, lunch, and
dinner, with Tintern Abbey thrown in for afternoon tea. Such a wealth
of medievalism makes my head reel.... I was in there for matins, and
she nodded to the grave old pile rearing its massive Gothic within a
few paces of the hotel. At high noon we shall visit Gloucester, and
to-night we shall see Hereford. All that within a short hundred miles,
to say nothing of Chepstow, Monmouth, the Wye Valley! Ah, me! I shall
never overtake my correspondence while there are so many glories to
describe. See, I have bought some darling little guidebooks which tell
you just what to say in a letter. What between judicious extracts and a
sheaf of picture postcards scribbled at each place I'll try and keep my
friends in good humor.
She produced from a pocket three of the red-covered volumes so
familiar to Americans in Britainand to Britons themselves, for that
matter, when the belated discovery is made that it is not necessary to
cross the Channel in order to enjoy a holidayand showed them
laughingly to Medenham.
Now, she cried, I am armed against you. No longer will you be
able to paralyze me with your learning. If you say 1269 at Tintern I
shall retort with 1387 at Monmouth. When you point out Nell Gwynne's
birthplace in Hereford, I shall take you to the Haven Inn, where David
Garrick was born, and, if you aren't very, very good, I shall tell you
how much the New Town Hall cost, and who laid the foundation stone.
Medenham alone held the key to the girl's lively mood, and it was a
novel and quite delightful sensation to be thus admitted to the inner
shrine of her emotions, as it were. She was chattering at random in
order to smooth away the awkwardness of meeting him after that
whispered indiscretion at their parting overnight. Here, at least,
Marigny was hopelessly at seadésorienté, as he would have put
itbecause he could not possibly know that Cynthia herself had
counseled the disappearance of Simmonds. Indeed, he attributed her high
spirits to mere politenessto her wish that he should believe she had
forgotten the fiasco on the Mendips.
This imagined salving of his wounded vanity served only to inflame
him the more against Medenham. He was still afire with resentment,
since no Frenchman can understand the rude Saxon usage that enforces
submission under a threat of physical violence. That a man should be
ready to defend his honorto convince an opponent by endeavoring to
kill himyes, he accepted without cavil those tenets of the French
social code. But the brutal British fixity of purpose displayed by this
truculent chauffeur left him gasping with indignation. He was quite
sure that the man meant exactly what he had said. He felt that any real
departure from the compact wrung from him by force would prove
disastrous to his personal appearance, and he was sensible of a certain
weighing underlook in the Englishman's eyes when his seemingly harmless
chatter hinted at a change of existing plans as soon as Hereford was
But that was a mere feint, a preliminary flourish, such as a
practiced swordsman executes in empty air before saluting his opponent.
He had not the slightest intention of testing Medenham's pugilistic
powers just then. The reasonable probability of having his chief
features beaten to a pulp was not inviting, while the crude efficacy of
the notion, in its influence on Miss Vanrenen's affairs, was not the
least stupefying element in a difficult and wholly unforeseen
situation. He realized fully that anything in the nature of a scuffle
would alienate the girl's sympathies forever, no matter how strong a
case for interference he might present afterwards. The chauffeur would
be dismissed on the spot, but with the offender would go his own
prospect of winning the heiress to the Vanrenen millions.
So Count Edouard swallowed his spleen, though the requisite effort
must have dissipated some of his natural shrewdness, or he could not
have failed to read more correctly the tokens of embarrassment given by
Cynthia's heightened color, by her eager vivacity, by her breathless
anxiety not to discuss the substitution of one driver for the other.
Medenham was about to disclaim any intention of measuring his lore
against that in the guidebooks when Mrs. Devar bustled out.
Awfully sorry, she began, but I had to wire James
Her eyes fell on Medenham and the Mercury. Momentarily rendered
speechless, she rallied bravely.
I thought, from what Count Edouard said
Miss Vanrenen has lost faith in me, even in my beautiful
automobile, broke in Marigny with a quickness that spoiled a pathetic
glance meant for Cynthia.
The American girl, however, was weary of the fog of innuendo and
hidden purpose that seemed to be an appanage of the Frenchman and his
For goodness' sake, she cried, let us regard it as a settled
thing that Fitzroy takes Simmonds's place until we reach London again.
Surely we have the best of the bargain. If the two men are satisfied
why should we have anything to say against it?
Cynthia was her father's daughter, and the attribute of personal
dominance that in the man's case had proved so effective in dealing
with Milwaukees now made itself felt in the minor question of
transportation presented by Medenham and his motor. Her blue eyes
hardened, and a firm note rang in her voice. Nor did Medenham help to
smooth the path for Mrs. Devar by saying quietly:
In the meantime, Miss Vanrenen, the information stored in those
little red books is growing rusty.
She settled the dispute at once by asking her companion which side
of the car she preferred, and the other woman was compelled to say
graciously that she really had no choice in the matter, but, to avoid
further delay, would take the left-hand seat. Cynthia followed, and
Medenham, still ready to deal harshly with Marigny if necessary,
adjusted their rugs, saw to the safe disposal of the camera, and closed
At that instant, the hall-porter hurried down the steps.
Beg pardon, mum, he said to Mrs. Devar, thrusting an open telegram
between Medenham and Cynthia, but there's one word here
She snatched the form angrily from his outstretched hand.
Which one? she asked.
The word after
Come round this side. You are incommoding Miss Vanrenen.
The man obeyed. With the curious fatality which attends such
incidents, even among well-bred people, not a word was spoken by any of
the others. To all seeming, Mrs. Devar's cramped handwriting might have
concealed some secret of gravest import to each person present. It was
not really so thrilling when heard.
That is 'Raven,' plain enough I should think, she snapped.
Thank you, mum. 'The Raven, Shrewsbury,' read the hall-porter.
Medenham caught Marigny's eye. He was minded to laugh outright, but
forebore. Then he sprang into his seat, and the car curled in quick
semicircle and climbed the hill to the left, while the Frenchman,
surprised by this rapid movement, signaled frantically to Mrs. Devar,
nodding farewell, that they had taken the wrong road.
Not at all, explained Medenham. I want you to see the Clifton
Suspension Bridge, which is a hundred feet higher in the air than the
I'm sure it isn't, cried Cynthia indignantly. The next thing you
will tell me is that the Thames is wider than the Hudson.
So it is, at an equal distance from the sea.
Well, trot out your bridge. Seeing is believing, all the time.
But Cynthia had yet to learn the exceeding wisdom of Ezekiel when he
wrote of those which have eyes to see, and see not, for never was
optical delusion better contrived than the height above water level of
the fairylike structure that spans the Avon below Bristol. The reason
is not far to seek. The mind is not prepared for the imminence of the
swaying roadway that leaps from side to side of that tremendous gorge.
On either crest are pleasant gardens, pretty houses, tree-shaded paths,
and the opposing precipices are so prompt in their sheer fall that the
eye insensibly rests on the upper level and refuses to dwell on the
river far beneath.
So Cynthia was charmed but not convinced, and Medenham himself could
scarce believe his recollection that the tops of the towers of the far
larger bridge at Brooklyn would be only twenty-six feet higher than the
roadway at Clifton. Mrs. Devar, of course, showed an utter lack of
interest in the debate. Indeed, she refused emphatically to walk to the
middle of the bridge, on the plea of light-headedness, and Cynthia
instantly availed herself of the few minutes' tête-à-tête thus
Now, said she, looking, not at Medenham, but at the Titanic cleft
cut by a tiny river, now, please, tell me all about it.
Just as at Cheddar, the rocks are limestone he began.
Oh, bother the rocks! How did you get rid of Simmonds? And why is
Count Marigny mad? And are you mixed up in Captain Devar's mighty smart
change of base? Tell me everything. I hate mysteries. If we go on at
the present rate some of us will soon be wearing masks and cloaks, and
stamping our feet, and saying 'Ha! Ha!' or 'Sdeath!' or something
Simmonds is a victim of science. If the earth wire of a magneto
makes a metallic contact there is trouble in the cylinders, so Simmonds
is switched off until he can locate the fault.
The work of a minute.
It will take him five days at least.
Then Cynthia did flash an amused glance at him, but he was watching
a small steamer puffing against the tide, and his face was adamant.
Go on, she cried quizzically. What's the matter with the Count's
He professed to believe that I had stolen somebody's car, and
graciously undertook to shield me if I would consent to run away at
once, leaving you and Mrs. Devar to finish your tour in the Du Vallon.
And you refused?
What did he say?
Very little; he agreed.
But he is not the sort of person who turns the other cheek to the
I didn't smite him, Medenham blurted out.
Cynthia fastened on to the hesitating denial with the hawklike
pounce of some barrister famous for merciless cross-examination of a
Did you offer to? she asked.
We dealt with possible eventualities, he said weakly.
I knew it.... There was such a funny look in your eyes when I first
Funny is the right word. The crisis was rather humorous.
Poor man, he only wished to be civil, perhapsI mean, that is, in
lending his car; and he may really have thought youyou were not a
chauffeurlike Simmonds, or Smith, for example. You wouldn't have hit
him, of course?
I sincerely hope not.
She caught her breath and peered at him again, and there was a light
in her eyes that would have infuriated Marigny had he seen it. It was
well, too, that Medenham's head was averted, since he simply dared not
meet her frankly inquisitive gaze.
You know that such a thing would be horrid for mefor all of us,
Yes, he said, I feel that very keenly. Thank goodness, the
Frenchman felt it also.
Cynthia thought fit to skip to the third item in her list.
Now as to Captain Devar? she cried. His mother is dreadfully
annoyed. She hates dull evenings, and the four of us were to play
bridge to-night at Hereford. Why was he sent away?
Sent away? echoed Medenham in mock amazement.
Oh, come, you knew him quite well. You said so in London. I am not
exactly the silly young thing I look, Mr. Fitzroy, and Count Marigny's
coincidences are a trifle far-fetched. Both he and Captain Devar fully
understood what they were doing when they arranged to meet in Bristol,
and somebody must have fired a very big gun quite close to the fat
little man that he should be scared off the instant he set eyes on me.
Then Medenham resolved to end a catechism that opened up illimitable
vistas, for he did not want to lose Cynthia just yet, and there was no
knowing what she might do if she suspected the truth. Although, if the
situation were strictly dissected, Mrs. Devar's chaperonage was as
useful to him as the lady herself intended it to be to Marigny, there
was a vital difference between the two sets of circumstances. He had
been pitchforked by fate into the company of a charming girl whom he
was learning to love as he had never loved woman before, whereas the
members of the money-hunting gang whose scheme he had accidentally
overheard at Brighton were engaged in a deliberate intrigue, outlined
in Paris as soon as Mr. Vanrenen planned the motor tour for his
daughter, and perfected during Cynthia's brief stay in London.
So he appealed for her forbearance on a plea that he imagined was
sure to succeed.
I don't wish to conceal from you that Captain Devar and I have
fallen out in the past, he said. But I am genuinely sorry for his
mother, who certainly does not know what a rascal he is. Don't ask me
for further details now, Miss Vanrenen. He will not cross your path in
the near future, and I promise to tell you the whole story long before
there is any chance of your meeting him again.
For some reason, deep hidden yet delicately distinct, Cynthia
extracted a good deal more from that simple speech than the mere words
implied. The air of the downs was peculiarly fresh and strong in the
center of the bridge, a fact which probably accounted for the vivid
color that lit her face and added luster to her bright eyes. At any
rate, she dropped the conversation suddenly.
Mrs. Devar will be growing quite impatient, she said, with an
admirable assumption of ease, and I want to buy some pictures of this
pretty toy bridge of yours. What a pity the light is altogether wrong
for a snapshot, and it is so stupid to use films when one knows
that the sun is in the camera!
Whereat Medenham breathed freely again, while thanking the gods for
the delightfully effective resources that every womaneven a candid,
outspoken Cynthiahas at her fingers' ends.
The simplest means of reaching the Gloucester road was to run back
past the hotel, but the goddess of happy chance elected, for her own
purposes, that Medenham should ask a policeman to direct him to Cabot's
Tower, and, the man having the brain of a surveyor, he was sent through
by-streets that saved a few yards, perhaps, but cost him many minutes
in stopping to inquire the way. Hence, he missed an amazing sight. The
merest glimpse of Count Edouard Marigny's new acquaintance would surely
have pulled him up, if it did not put an end to the tour forthwith. But
that was not to be. Blissfully unconscious of the fact that the
Frenchman was eagerly explaining to a dignified yet strangely perturbed
old gentleman that the car Number X L 4000containing a young American
lady and her friend, and driven by a conceited puppy of a chauffeur who
suffered badly from tête montéehad just gone up the hill to
the left, Medenham at last reached the open road, and the Mercury
leaped forward as if Gloucester would hardly wait till it arrived
The old gentleman had only that minute alighted from a station cab,
and a question he addressed to the hall-porter led that civil
functionary to refer him to Marigny as a friend of the parties
But the newcomer drew himself up somewhat stiffly when the foreign
personage spoke of Medenham as a puppy.
Before our conversation proceeds any farther I think I ought to
tell you that I am the Earl of Fairholme and that Viscount Medenham is
my son, he said.
Marigny looked so blank at this that the Earl's explanation took
I mean, he went on, perceiving that his hearer was none the wiser,
I mean that the chauffeur you allude to is Viscount Medenham.
Marigny, though born on the banks of the Loire, was a Southern
Frenchman by descent, and the hereditary tint of olive in his skin
became prominent only when his emotions were aroused. Now the pink and
white of his complexion was tinged with yellowish-green. Never before
in his life had he been quite so surprisednever.
Hehe said his name was Fitzroy, was all he could gasp.
So it isthe dog. Took the family name and dropped his title in
order to go gallivanting about the country with this young person....
An American, I am toldand with that detestable creature, Mrs. Devar!
Nice thing! No wonder Lady Porthcawl was shocked. May I ask, sir, who
Lord Fairholme was very angry, and not without good reason. He had
traveled from London at an absurdly early hour in response to the
urgent representations of Susan, Lady St. Maur, to whom her intimate
friend, Millicent Porthcawl, had written a thrilling account of the
goings-on at Bournemouth. It happened that the Countess of Porthcawl's
bedroom overlooked the carriage-way in front of the Royal Bath Hotel,
and, when she recovered from the stupor of recognizing Medenham in the
chauffeur of the Vanrenen equipage, she gratified her spite by sending
a lively and wholly distorted version of the tour to his aunt.
The letter reached Curzon Street during the afternoon, and exercised
a remarkably restorative effect on the now convalescent lover of forced
strawberries. Lady St. Maur ordered her carriage, and was driven in a
jiffy to the Fairholme mansion in Cavendish Square, where she and her
brother indulged in the most lugubrious opinions as to the future of
poor George. They assumed that he would fall an easy prey to the
wiles of a designing American. Neither of them had met many citizens
of the United States, and each shared to the fullest extent the common
British dislike of every person and every thing that is new and
strange, so they had visions of a Countess of Fairholme who would speak
in the weird tongue of Chicago, whose name would be Mamie, who would
call the earl poppa number two, and prefix every utterance with
Say, or My land!
Both brother and sister had laughed many a time at the stage version
of a Briton as presented in Paris, but they forgot that the average
Englishman's conception of the average American is equally ludicrous in
its blunders. In devising means to save George they flew into a
panic. Lady St. Maur telegraphed a frantic appeal to Lady Porthcawl for
information, but dear Millicent took thought, saw that she was
already sufficiently committed, and caused her maid to reply that she
had left Bournemouth for the weekend.
A telegram to the hotel manager produced more definite news.
Cynthia, providing against the receipt of any urgent message from her
father, had given the College Green Hotel as her address for the night;
but this intelligence arrived too late to permit of the Earl's
departure till next morning. Lady Porthcawl's hint that the devoted
George was traveling incognito prevented the use of wire or post. If
the infatuated viscount were to be brought to reason there was nothing
for it but that the Earl should hurry to Bristol by an early train next
morning. He did hurry, and arrived five minutes too late.
Marigny, of course, saw that lightning had darted from a summer sky.
If the despised chauffeur had proved such a tough opponent, what would
happen now that he turned out to be a sprig of the aristocracy? He
guessed at once that the Earl of Fairholme appraised Cynthia Vanrenen
by the Devar standard. He knew that five minutes in Cynthia's company
would alter this doughty old gentleman's views so greatly that his
present fury would give place to idolatry. No matter what the cost,
they two must not meet, and it was very evident that if Hereford were
mentioned as the night's rendezvous, the Earl would proceed there by
the next train.
What was to be done? He decided promptly. Lifting his hat, and
offering Lord Fairholme his card, he made up his mind to lie, and lie
speciously, with circumstantial detail and convincing knowledge.
I happened to meet the Vanrenens in Paris, he said. Business
brought me here, and I was surprised to see Miss Vanrenen without her
father. You will pardon my reference to your son, I am sure. His
attitude is explicable now. He resented my offer of friendly assistance
to the young lady. Perhaps he thought she might avail herself of it.
Assistance? What is the matter?
She had arranged for a car to meet her here. As it was not
forthcoming, she altered her plans for a tour of Oxford, Kenilworth,
and Warwick, and has gone in ViscountViscount
Ah, yesI did not catch the name preciselyin your son's car to
By this time Lord Fairholme had ascertained the Frenchman's
description, and he was sufficiently well acquainted with the Valley of
the Loire to recollect the Château Marigny as a house of some
I beg your pardon, Monsieur le Comte, if I seemed to speak
brusquely at first, he said, but we all appear to be mixed up in a
comedy of errors. I remember now that my son telegraphed from Brighton
to say that he would return to-day. Perhaps my journey from town was
unnecessary, and he may be only engaged in some harmless escapade that
is now nearing its end. I am very much obliged to you, anderI hope
you will call when next you are in London. You know my namemy place
is in Cavendish Square. Good-day.
So Marigny was left a second time on the steps of the hotel, while
the cab which brought the Earl of Fairholme from the railway station
took him back to it.
The Du Vallon came panting from the garage, but the Frenchman sent
it away again. Hereford was no great distance by the direct road, and
he had already determined not to follow the tortuous route devised by
Cynthia for the day's run. Moreover, he must now reconsider his
schemes. The long telegrams which he had just dispatched to Devar in
London and to Peter Vanrenen in Paris might demand supplements.
And to think of that accursed chauffeur being a viscount! His gorge
rose at that. The thought almost choked him. It was well that the
hall-porter did not understand French, or the words that were muttered
by Marigny as he turned on his heel and re-entered the hotel might have
shocked him. And, indeed, they were most unsuited for the ears of a
hall-porter who dwelt next door to a cathedral.
CHAPTER VIII. BREAKERS AHEAD
The Earl's title-borrowing from Shakespeare was certainly justified
by current events, for Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, to say
nothing of their masters, were no bad prototypes of the chief actors in
this Bristol comedy.
Simmonds, not knowing who might have it in mind to investigate the
latest defect in his car, decided it would be wise to disappear until
Viscount Medenham was well quit of Bristol. By arrangement with Dale,
therefore, he picked up the latter soon after the Mercury was turned
over to Medenham's hands; in effect, the one chauffeur took the other
on a 'bus-driver's holiday. Dale was free until two o'clock. At that
hour he would depart for Hereford and meet his master, with
arrangements made for the night as usual; meanwhile, the day's
programme included a pleasant little run to Bath and back.
It was a morning that tempted to the road, but both men had risen
early, and a pint of bitter seemed to be an almost indispensable
preliminary. From Bristol to Bath is no distance to speak of, so a
slight dallying over the beer led to an exchange of recent news.
Dale, it will be remembered, was of sporting bent, and he told
Simmonds gleefully of his successful bet at Epsom.
Five golden quidlets his lordship shoved into me fist at Brighton,
he chortled. Have you met Smith, who is lookin' after the Frenchman's
Du Vallon? No? Well, he was there, an' his goggles nearly
cracked when he sawr the money paidtwo points over the market price,
Sometimes one spots a winner by chanst, observed Simmonds
judicially. An' that reminds me. Last night a fella tole me there was
a good thing at Kempton to-day.... Now, what was it?
Dale instantly became a lexicon of weird-sounding words, for the
British turf is exceedingly democratic in its pronunciation of the
classical and foreign names frequently given to racehorses. His stock
of racing lore was eked out by reference to a local paper; still
Simmonds scratched an uncertain pate.
Pity, too! he said at last. This chap had it from his nevvy, who
married the sister of a housemaid at Beckhampton.
Dale whistled. Here was news, indeed. Beckhampton! the home of good
Is that where it comes from?
Yes. Something real hot over a mile.
Can't you think? Let's look again at the entries.
Wait a bit, cried Simmonds. I've got it now. Second horse from
the top of the column in to-morrow's entries in yesterday's
Dale understood exactly what the other man meant, and, so long as
he understood, the fact may suffice for the rest of the world.
Tell you wot, he suggested eagerly, when you're ready we'll just
run to the station an' arsk the bookstall people for yesterday's
The inquiry, the search, the triumphant discovery, the telegraphing
of the information and a sovereign to Tomkinson in Cavendish
Squarefive bob each way for each of the twoall these things took
time, and time was very precious to Dale just then. Unhappily, time is
often mute as to its value, and Bath is really quite close to Bristol.
The choice secret of the Beckhampton stable was safely launchedin
its speculative element, at any rateand Dale was about to seat
himself beside Simmonds, when an astonished and somewhat irate old
gentleman hooked the handle of an umbrella into his collar and shouted:
Confound you, Dale! What are you doing here, and where is your
Dale's tanned face grew pale, his ears and eyes assumed the
semblance of a scared rabbit's, and the power of speech positively
Do you hear me, Dale? cried the Earl, that instant alighted from a
cab. I am asking you where Viscount Medenham is. If he has gone to
town, why have you remained in Bristol?
But his lordship hasn't gone to London, my lord, stuttered Dale,
finding his voice at last, and far too flustered to collect his wits,
though he realized in a dazed way that it was his duty to act exactly
as Viscount Medenham would wish him to act in such trying
And, indeed, many very clever people might have found themselves
sinking in some such unexpected quicksand and be not one whit less
bemused than the miserable chauffeur. Morally, he had given the only
possible answer that left open a way of escape, and he had formed a
sufficiently shrewd estimate of the relations between his master and
the remarkably good-looking young lady whom the said master was serving
with exemplary diligence to fear dire consequences to himself if he
became the direct cause of a broken idyl. The position was even worse
if he fell back on an artistic lie. The Earl was a dour person where
servants were concerned, and Salomé did not demand John the Baptist's
head on a salver with greater gusto than the autocrat of Fairholme
would insist on Dale's dismissal when he discovered the facts. Talk of
the horned dilemmahere was an unfortunate asked to choose which
bristle of a porcupine he would sit upon.
The mere presence of his lordship in Bristol betokened a social
atmosphere charged with electricitya phase of the problem that
constituted the only clear item in Dale's seething brain: it was too
much for him; in sudden desperation he determined to stick to the plain
He had to elect very quickly, for the peppery-tempered Earl would
not brook delay.
Not gone to London, you say? Then where the devil has he
gone to? A gentleman at the hotel, a French gentleman, who said he had
met thesethese persons with whom my son is gadding about the country,
told me that they had left Bristol this morning for London, because a
car that was expected to meet them here had broken down.
Suddenly his lordship, a county magistrate noted for his sharpness,
glanced at Simmonds. He marched round to the front of the car and saw
that it was registered in London. He waved an accusing umbrella in air.
What car is this? Is this the motor that won't go? It seems to have
reached Bristol all right? Now, my men, I must have a candid tale from
each of you, or the consequences may be most disagreeable. You, I
presume, and he lunged en tierce at Simmonds, have an employer
of some sort, and I shall make it my business
This is my own car, my lord, said Simmonds stiffly. He could be
stubborn as any member of the Upper House when occasion served. Your
lordship needn't use any threats. Just ask me what you like an' I'll
answer, if I can.
Fairholme, by no means a hasty man in the ordinary affairs of life,
and only upset now by the unforeseen annoyances of an unusually
disquieting mission, realized that he was losing caste. It was a novel
experience to be rebuked by a chauffeur, but he had the sense to
swallow his wrath.
Perhaps I ought to explain that I am particularly anxious to see
Lord Medenham, he said more calmly. I left London at eight o'clock
this morning, and it is most irritating to have missed him by a few
minutes. I only wish to be assured as to his whereabouts, and, of
course, I have no reason to believe that any sort of responsibility for
my son's movements rests with you.
That's all right, my lord, said Simmonds. Viscount Medenham was
very kind to me last Wednesday. I had a first-rate job, and was on my
way to the Savoy Hotel to take it up, when a van ran into me an'
smashed the transmission shaft. His lordship met me in Down Street, an'
offered to run my two ladies to Epsom an' along the south coast for a
day or two while I repaired damages. I was to turn up herean' here I
ambut it suited his arrangements better to go on with the tour, an'
that is all there is to it. A bit of a joke, I call it.
Yes, my lord, that's hit hexactly, put in Dale, with a nervous
eagerness that demanded the help of not less than two aspirates.
The Earl managed to restrain another outburst.
Nothing to cavil at so far, he said with forced composure. The
only point that remains iswhere is Lord Medenham now?
Somewhere between here an' Gloucester, my lord, said Simmonds.
Gloucesterthat is not on the way to London!
No reply; neither man was willing to bell the cat. Finding Simmonds
a tough customer, Fairholme tackled Dale.
Come, come, this is rather absurd, he cried. Fancy my son's
chauffeur jibbing at my questions! Once and for all, Dale, where shall
I find Lord Medenham to-night?
There was no escape now. Dale had to blurt out the fatal word:
Are you sure?
Yes, my lord. I'm goin' there with his lordship's portmanteaux.
The head of the Fitzroy clan turned to Simmonds again.
Will you drive me to Gloucester? he asked.
No, my lord. I'm under contract to remain in Bristol five days.
Very well. Stop in Bristol, and be dd to you. Is there any
reason why you should not take me to pick up my son's belongings? Then
Dale and I can go to Hereford by train. Viscount Medenham is devilish
particular about his linen. If I stick to his shirts I shall meet him
sometime to-day, I suppose.
Simmonds sought Dale's counsel by an underlook, but that hapless
sportsman could offer no suggestion, so the other made the best of a
I'll do that, of course, my lord, he said with alacrity. Just
grab his lordship's dressing-case from that porter and shove it
inside, he went on, eying Dale fiercely, well knowing that the whole
collapse arose from a cause but too easily traced.
No, no, broke in the Earl, whose magisterial experiences had
taught him the wisdom of keeping witnesses apart, Dale comes with me.
I want to sift this business thoroughly. Put the case in front. We can
pile the other luggage on top of it. Now, Dale, jump inside. Your
friend knows where to go, I expect.
Thus did two bizarre elements intrude themselves into the natural
order of things on that fine morning in the West of England. The very
shortness of the road between Bristol and Bath apparently offered an
insuperable obstacle to the passage of Simmonds's car along it, and
some unknown chap, whose nevvy had married the sister of a
Beckhampton housemaid, became the predominating factor in a situation
that affected the fortunes of several notable people.
For his part, Lord Fairholme gave no further thought to Marigny. It
did not even occur to him it might be advisable to call again at the
College Green Hotel, since Medenham had slept elsewhere, and Hereford
was now the goal. Certainly, the Frenchman's good fairy might have
pushed her good offices to excess by permitting him to see, careering
about Bristol with a pair of chauffeurs, the man whom he believed to be
then on the way to London. But fairies are unreliable creatures, apt to
be off with a hop, skip, and a jump, and, in any case, Marigny was
writing explicit instructions to Devar, though he would have been far
more profitably employed in lounging outside the hotel.
So everybody was dissatisfied, more or less, the quaking Dale more,
perhaps, than any, and the person who had absolutely no shadow of care
on his soul was Medenham himself, at that moment guiding the Mercury
along the splendid highway that connects Bristol with
Gloucestertaking the run leisurely, too, lest Cynthia should miss one
fleeting glimpse of the ever-changing beauties of the Severn estuary.
During one of these adagio movements by the engine, Cynthia, who had
been consulting a guidebook, leaned forward with a smile on her face.
What is a lamprey? she asked.
A special variety of eel which has a habit of sticking to stones by
its mouth, said Medenham. Then he added, after a pause: Henry the
First was sixty-seven years of age when he died, so the dish of
lampreys was perhaps blamed unjustly.
You have a good memory, she retorted.
Oh, is that in your book, Miss Vanrenen? Well, here is another fact
about Gloucester. Alfred the Great held a Witenagemot there in 896. Do
you know what a Witenagemot is?
Yes, she said, a smoking concert.
Mrs. Devar invariably resented these bits of by-play, since she
could no more extract their meaning than if they were uttered in
Some very good people live in Gloucestershire, she put in. There
are the She began to give extracts from Burke's Landed Gentry,
whereupon the speedometer index sprang to forty-five, and a noble
fifteenth century tower soon lifted its stone lacework above the trees
and spires of the ancient city.
Cynthia wished to obtain some photographs of old inns, so, when they
had admired the cathedral, and shuddered at the memory of Richard the
Thirdwho wrote at Gloucester the order to Brackenbury for the murder
of the princes in the Tower of Londonand smiled at Cromwell's mordant
wit in saying that the place had more churches than godliness when told
of the local proverb, As sure as God's in Gloucester, Medenham
brought them to Northgate Street, where the New Innwhich is nearly
always the most antiquated hostelry in an English
country-townsupplied a fine example of massive timberwork, with
courtyard and external galleries.
The light was so perfect that he persuaded Cynthia to stand in a
doorway and let him take a picture. During the focusing interval, he
suggested that the day's route should be varied by leaving the coast
road at Westbury and running through the Forest of Dean, where a
secluded hotel in the midst of a real woodland would be an ideal place
She agreed. Something in his tone told her that Mrs. Devar's consent
to the arrangement had better be taken for granted. So they sped
through the blossom-laden lanes of Gloucestershire to the leafy depths
of the Forest, and saw the High Beeches, and the Old Beech, and the
King's Walk, and many of the gorgeous vistas that those twin artists
Spring and Summer etched on the wooded undulations of one of Britain's
most delightful landscapes; as a fitting sequel to a run through
fairyland they lunched at the Speech House Hotel, where once the skins
of daring trespassers on the King's preserves were wont to be nailed on
the Court House door by the Verderers.
It was Cynthia who pointed the moral.
There is always an ogre's cave near the Enchanted Garden, she
said, and those were surely ogerish days when men were flayed alive
for hunting the King's deer.
It is not to be wondered at if they dawdled somewhat by the way,
when that way led past Offa's Dyke, through Chepstow, and Tintern, and
Monmouth, and Symon's Yat. Indeed, Cynthia's moods alternated between
wide-eyed enjoyment and sheer regret, for each romantic ruin and
charming countryside not only aroused her enthusiasm but evoked a
longing to remain riveted to the spot. Yet she would not be a woman if
there were not exceptions to this rule, as shall be seen in due course.
Mrs. Devar, perchance tempted by the word Castle, quitted the car
at Chepstow, and climbed to the nail-studded oak door of one of the
most perfect examples of a Norman stronghold now extant. Once committed
to the rôle of sightseer, she was compelled to adhere to it, and before
the fourth court was reached, had she known the story, she would have
sympathized with the pilgrim who did not boil the peas in his
shoes of penance. Chepstow Castle is a splendid ruin, but its steep
gradients and rough pavements are not fitted for stout ladies who wear
To make matters worse, the feelings of Cynthia's chaperon soon
became as sore as her toes. The only feature of Marten's Tower that
appealed to her was its diabolical ingenuity in providing opportunities
for that interfering chauffeur to assist, almost to lift, Cynthia from
one mass of fallen masonry to another. Though she knew nothing of Henry
Marten she reviled his memory. She heard Fitzroy telling her wayward
charge that the reformer really hated Charles I. because the King
called him an ugly rascal in public, and directed that he should be
turned out of Hyde Park; the words supplied a cue.
Pity kings are not as powerful nowadays, she snapped. The
presumption of the lower orders is becoming intolerable.
Unfortunately, Marten retaliated by signing the King's death
warrant, said Medenham.
Of course. What else could one expect from a person of his class?
But Sir Henry Marten was a celebrated judge, and the son of a
baronet, and he married a rich widowthese are not the prevalent
democratic vices, persisted Medenham.
You must have sat up half the night reading the guidebook, she
cried in vexation at her blunder.
Cynthia laughed so cheerfully that Mrs. Devar thought she had
scored. Medenham left it at that, and was content. Both he and Cynthia
knew that lack of space forbade indulgence in such minor details of
history on the part of the book's compiler.
Another little incident heated Mrs. Devar to boiling-point. Cynthia
more than once hinted that, if tired, she might wait for them in the
lowermost court, where a fine tree spread its shade over some benches,
but the older woman persisted in visiting every dungeon and scrambling
up every broken stair. The girl took several photographs, and had
reached the last film in a roll, when the whim seized her to pose
Medenham in front of a Norman arch.
You look rather like a baron, she said gleefully. I wish I could
borrow some armor and take you in character as the gentleman who built
this castle. By the way, his name was Fitz-something-or-other. Was he a
Fitz Osborne, said Medenham.
Ah, yes. Fitzroy means King's son, doesn't it?
Well, I can imagine you scowling out of a vizor. It would suit you
But I might not scowl.
Oh, yes, you would. Remember this morning. Just force yourself to
think for a moment that I am Monsieur
She stopped abruptly.
A little more to the left, pleaseand turn your face to the sun.
There, that is capital.
Why should Fitzroy scowl at the recollection of Count Edouard?
demanded Mrs. Devar, her eyes devouring the telltale blush that
suffused the girl's face and neck.
Only because the Count wished to supplant him as our chauffeur,
came the ready answer.
I thought Monsieur Marigny's offer a very courteous one.
Undoubtedly. But as I had to decide the matter I preferred to
travel in a car that was at my own disposal.
Mrs. Devar dared not go farther. She relapsed into a sulky silence.
She said not a word when Cynthia occupied the front seat for the climb
through Chepstow's High Street, and when the girl turned to call her
attention to the view from the crest of the famous Wyndcliff she was
Cynthia told Medenham, and there was a touch of regret in her voice.
Poor dear, she said in an undertone, the Castle was too much for
her, and the fresh air has made her drowsy.
He glanced quickly over his shoulder, and instantly made up his mind
to broach a project that he had thought out carefully since his quarrel
with the Frenchman.
You mean to stay in Hereford during the whole of to-morrow, Miss
Vanrenen? he asked.
Yes. Somehow, I don't see myself scampering across the map on the
British Sabbath. Besides, I am all behindhand with my letters, and my
father will be telegraphing something emphatic if I don't go beyond
'Much love' on a picture postcard.
Symon's Yat is exceptionally beautiful, and there is a capital
little hotel there. The Wye runs past the front door, the boating is
superb, and there will be a brilliant moon after dinner.
And the answer is?
That we could run into Hereford before breakfast, leaving you
plenty of time to attend the morning service at the cathedral.
Cynthia did not look at him or she would have seen that he was
rather baronial in aspect just then. Sad to relate, they were speeding
down the Wyndcliff gorge without giving it the undisturbed notice it
I have a kind of notion that Mrs. Devar wouldn't catch on to the
boating proposition, she said thoughtfully.
Perhaps not, but the river takes a wide bend there, and she could
see us from the hotel veranda all the time.
Guess it can't be fixed up, anyhow, she sighed.
Twice had she lapsed into the idioms of her native land. What, then,
was the matter with Cynthia that she had forgotten her self-imposed
resolution to speak only in that purer English which is quite as highly
appreciated in New York as in London?
It was Saturday afternoon, and they overtook and passed a break-load
of beanfeasters going to Tintern. There is no mob so cruelly sarcastic
as the British, and it may be that the revelers in the break envied the
dusty chauffeur his pretty companion. At any rate, they greeted the
passing of the car with jeers and cat-calls, and awoke Mrs. Devar. It
is a weakness of human nature to endeavor to conceal the fact that you
have been asleep when you are supposed to be awake, so she leaned
forward now, and asked nonchalantly:
Are we near Hereford?
No, said Cynthia. We have a long way to go yet. She paused. Are
you really very tired? she added, as an afterthought.
Yes, dear. The air is positively overpowering.
There was another pause.
Ah, well, sighed the girl, we shall have a nice long rest when we
stop for tea atatwhat is the name of the place?
Medenham's voice was husky. Truth to tell, he was rather beside
himself. He had played for a high stake and had nearly won. Even now
the issue hung on a word, a mere whiff of volition: and if he knew
exactly how much depended on that swing of the balance he might have
been startled into a more earnest plea, and spoiled everything.
But that will throw us late in arriving at Hereford, said Mrs.
Does it really matter? We shall be there all day to-morrow.
No, it is of no consequence, though Count Edouard said he would
meet us there.
And I refused to pledge myself to any arrangement. In fact, I would
much prefer that his Countship should scorch on to Liverpool or
Manchester, or wherever he happens to be going.
Oh, Cynthia! And he going out of his way to be so friendly and
Well, perhaps that was an unkind thing to say. What I mean is that
we must feel ourselves at liberty to depart from a cut-and-dried
schedule. Half the charm of wandering through England in an automobile
is in one's freedom from timetables.
Back dropped Mrs. Devar, and Medenham recovered sufficient
self-control to point out to Cynthia her first glimpse of the gray
walls that vie with Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx for pride of place as
the most beautiful ruin in England.
Certainly those old Cistercians knew how and where to build their
monasteries. They had the true sense of beauty, whether in site or
design, and at Tintern they chose the loveliest nook of a lovely
valley. Cynthia silently feasted her vision on each new panorama
revealed by the winding road, and ever the gray Abbey grew more
distinct, more ornate, more completely the architectural gem of an
But disillusion was at hand.
Rounding the last bend of the descent, the Mercury purred into the
midst of a collection of horsed vehicles and frayed motors. By some
unhappy chance the whole countryside seemed to have chosen Tintern as a
rendezvous that Saturday. The patrons of a neighboring hotel overflowed
into the roadway; the brooding peace of the dead-and-gone monks had
fled before this invasion; instead of memories of mitered abbots and
cowled friars there were the realities of loud-voiced grooms and
Please drive on, whispered Cynthia. I must see Tintern another
Although Medenham hoped to consume a precious hour or more in
showing her the noble church, the cloisters, the chapter-house, the
monks' parlor, and the rest of the stone records of a quiet monastic
life, he realized to the full how utterly incongruous were the
enthusiastic trippers with their surroundings. The car threaded their
ranks gingerly, and was soon running free along the tree-shaded road to
Happily, that delightful old town was sufficiently familiar to him
in earlier days that he was now able to supplement the general
knowledge of its past gleaned already by the girl's reading. He halted
in front of the Welsh Gate on Monnow Bridge, and told her that although
the venerable curiosity dates back to 1270 it is nevertheless the last
defensive work in Britain in which serious preparations were made for
civil war, as it was expected that the Chartists would march from
Newport to attack Monmouth Jail in 1839.
Six hundred years, mused Cynthia aloud. If there are sermons in
stones what a history is pent in these!
And how greatly it would differ from the accepted versions,
Do we never know the truth, then?
Oh, yes, if we are actually mixed up in some affair of worldwide
importance, but that is precisely the reason why the actors remain
Oddly enough, this was the first of Medenham's utterances that Mrs.
Devar approved of.
Evidently you have moved in high society, Fitzroy, she chimed in.
Yes, madam, he said. More than once, when in a hurry, I have run
madly through Mayfair.
Oh, nonsense! she cried, resenting the studied civility of the
madam and ruffled by the quip, you speak of Mayfair, yet I don't
suppose you really know where it is.
I shall never forget where Down Street is, I assure you, he said
And pray, why Down Street in particular?
Because that is where I met Simmonds, last Wednesday, and arranged
to take on his job.
In your mind, then, it figures as broken-down-street, cooed
After that the Mercury crossed the Monnow, and Mrs. Devar muttered
something about the mistake one made when one encouraged servants to be
too familiar. But Cynthia was not to be repressed. She was bubbling
over with high spirits, and amused herself by telling Medenham that
Henry V. was born at Monmouth and afterwards won the battle of
Agincourtscraps of history not generally known, she confided to
From the back of the car Mrs. Devar watched them with a hawklike
intentness that showed how thoroughly those forty winks snatched
while in the Wyndcliff had restored her flagging energies. Though it
was absurd to suppose that Cynthia Vanrenen, daughter of a millionaire,
a girl dowered with all that happy fortune had to give, would so far
forget her social position as to flirt with the chauffeur of a hired
car, this experienced marriage-broker did not fail to realize what a
stumbling-block the dreadful person was in the path of Count Edouard
For once in her life, Wiggy Devar forced herself to think clearly.
She saw that Fitzroy was a man who might prove exceedingly dangerous
where a girl's susceptible heart was concerned. He had the address and
semblance of a gentleman; he seemed to be able to talk some jargon of
history and literature and art that appealed mightily to Cynthia; worst
of all, he had undoubtedly ascertained, by some means wholly beyond her
ken, that she and the Frenchman were in league. She was quite in the
dark as to the cause of her son's extraordinary behavior the previous
evening, but she was beginning to suspect that this meddlesome Fitzroy
had contrived, somehow or other, to banish Captain Devar as he had
outwitted Marigny on the Mendips. Talented schemer that she was, she
did not believe for a moment that Simmonds had told the truth at
Bristol. She argued, with cold logic, that the man would not risk the
loss of an excellent commission by bringing from London a car so
hopelessly out of repair that it could not be made available under four
or five days. But her increasing alarm centered chiefly in Cynthia's
attitude. If, by her allusion to a cut-and-dried schedule, the girl
implied a design to depart from the tour planned in London, then the
Count's wooing became a most uncertain thing, since it was manifestly
out of the question that he should continue to waylay them at
stopping-places chosen haphazard during each day's run.
So Mrs. Devar noted with a malignant eye each friendly glance
exchanged by the couple in front, and listened to the snatches of their
talk with a malevolence that was fanned to fury by their obvious
heedlessness of her presence. She felt that the crisis called for
decisive action. There was only one person alive to whose judgment
Cynthia Vanrenen would bow, and Mrs. Devar began seriously to consider
the advisability of writing to Peter Vanrenen.
If any lingering doubt remained in her mind as to the soundness of
this view, it was dispelled soon after they reached Symon's Yat. She
was sitting in the inclosed veranda of a cozy hotel perched on the
right bank of the Wye when Cynthia suddenly leaped up, teacup in hand,
and looked down at the river.
There are the duckiest little yachts I have ever seen skimming
about on that stretch of water, she cried over her shoulder. The mere
sight of them makes me taste all the dust I have swallowed between here
and London. Don't you think it would be real cute to remain here
to-night and run into Hereford to-morrow after an early cup of tea?
Cynthia need not have taken the trouble to avert her scarlet face
from Mrs. Devar's inquisitive eyes; indeed, Mrs. Devar herself was glad
that her quick-witted and perhaps quick-tempered young friend had not
surprised the wry smile that twisted her own lips.
Just as you please, Cynthia, said she amiably.
Then the girl resolutely crushed the absurd emotion that led her to
shirk her companion's scrutiny: she was so taken aback by this
unexpected complaisance in a quarter where she was prepared for
opposition that she turned and laid a grateful hand on the other
Now that is perfectly sweet of you, she said softly. I would just
love to see that river by moonlight, andandI fancied you were a bit
weary of the road. It wouldn't matter if the country were not so
wonderful, but when one has to screw one's head round quickly or one
misses a castle or a prize landscape, a hundred miles of that sort of
thing becomes a strain.
This seems to be quite a restful place, agreed Mrs. Devar. Have
youertold Fitzroy of the proposed alteration in our arrangements?
Cynthia grew interested in the yachts again.
No, she said, I've not mentioned it to himyet.
A maid-servant entered, and Cynthia inquired if the hotel could
provide three rooms for her party.
The girl, a pretty Celt of the fair-haired type, said she was sure
there was accommodation.
Then, said Cynthia, with what she felt to be a thoroughly
self-possessed air, please ask my chauffeur if he would like another
cup of tea, and tell him to house the car and have our boxes sent in,
as we shall stay here till half-past eight to-morrow morning.
Mrs. Devar's letter to Peter Vanrenen forthwith entered the category
of things that must be done at the earliest opportunity. She wrote it
before dinner, taking a full hour in the privacy of her room to compose
its few carefully considered sentences. She posted it, too, and was
confirmed in her estimate of its very real importance when she saw a
muslined Cynthia saunter out and join Fitzroy, who happened to be
standing on a tiny landing-stage near a boathouse.
Yet, so strangely constituted is human nature of the Devar variety,
she would have given half the money she possessed if she could have
recalled that letter an hour later. But His Majesty's mails are
inexorable as fate. A twopence-ha'penny stamp had linked Symon's Yat
and Paris, and not all Mrs. Devar's world-worn ingenuity could sunder
CHAPTER IX. ON THE WYE
For this is what happened. To Mrs. Devar, gazing darkly at Cynthia's
too innocent discovery of Medenham standing on the tiny quay, came the
Welsh maid, saying:
Beg pardon, mam, but iss your chauf-feur's name Fitz-roy?
Then he iss wan-ted on the tel-e-phone from Her-e-ford, mam.
There he is, below there, near the river.
Mrs. Devar smiled sourly at the thought that the interruption was
well-timed, since Medenham was just raising his cap with a fine
assumption of surprise at finding Miss Vanrenen strolling by the
water's edge. The civil-spoken maid was about to trip off in pursuit of
him, when Mrs. Devar changed her mind. The notion suddenly occurred to
her that it would be well if she intervened in this telephonic
conversation, and Fitzroy could still be summoned a minute later if
Don't trouble, she cried, I think that Miss Vanrenen wishes to go
boating, so I will attend to the call myself. Perhaps Fitzroy's
presence may be dispensed with.
The felt-lined telephone box was well screened off; as first
impressions might be valuable, she adjusted the receivers carefully
over both ears before she shouted Hallo!
That you, my lord? said a voice.
Hallo!who wants Fitzroy? she asked in the gruffest tone she
It's Dale, myBut who is talking? Is that you, sir?
Go on. Can't you hear?
Not very well, my lord, but I'm that upset.... It wasn't my fault,
but your lordship's father dropped on to me at Bristol, an' he's here
now. What am I to do?
My lordship's father! What are you talking about? Who are you?
Isn't that LordOh, dash it, aren't you Miss Vanrenen's
No. This is the Symon's Yat Hotel. The party is out now, and
Fitzroy as well, but I can tell him anything you wish to say.
Mrs. Devar fancied that the speaker, whose words thus far had
excited her liveliest curiosity, would imagine that he was in
communication with the proprietors of the hotel. She was not mistaken.
Dale fell into the trap instantly, though, indeed, he was not to be
blamed, since he had asked most earnestly that Mr. Fitzroy, Miss
Vanrenen's chauffeur should be brought to the telephone.
Well, mam, he said, if I can't get hold ofof FitzroyI must
leave a message, as I don't suppose I'll have another chanst. I'm his
man, I'm Dale; have you got it?
Tell him the Earl of Fairholme turned up in Bristol an' forced me
to explain everything. I couldn't help it. The old gentleman fell from
the blooming sky, he did. Will you remember that name?
Oh, yes: the Earl of Fairholme.
Well, his lordship will understand. I mean you must tell Fitzroy
what I said. Please tell him privately. I expect I'll get the sack
anyhow over this business, but I'm doin' me best in tryin' the
telephone, so you'll confer a favor, mam, if you call Fitzroy on one
side before tellin' him.
Though the telephone-box was stuffy when the door was closed, Mrs.
Devar felt a cold chill running down her spine.
I don't quite understand, she said thickly. You're Dale,
somebody's man; whose man?
His lordship's. Oh, dn. Beg pardon, mam, but I'm Fitzroy's
It was a glorious night of early summer, yet lightning struck in
that little shut-off section of the hotel.
Do you mean that you are Viscount Medenham's chauffeur? she
gasped, and her hands trembled so much that she could scarce hold the
receivers to her ears.
Yes'm. Now you've got it. But, look here, I daren't stop another
minnit. Tell his lordshiptell Mr. Fitzroythat I'll dodge the Earl
in some way an' remain here. He says he has been tricked, wot between
me an' the Frenchman, but he means to go back to London to-morrow.
Good-by, mam. You won't forgetstrickly private?
Oh, no, I won't forget, said Mrs. Devar grimly; nevertheless, she
felt weak and sick, and in her anxiety to rush out into the fresh air
she did forget to hang up the receivers, and the Symon's Yat Hotel was
cut off from the world of telephones until someone entered the box
early next morning.
She was of a not uncommon typea physical coward endowed with
nerves of steel, but, for once in her life, she came perilously near
fainting. It was bad enough that a money-making project of some value
should show signs of tumbling in ruins, but far worse that she, an
experienced tuft-hunter, should have lived in close companionship with
a viscount for four long days and snubbed him rancorously and without
cease. There was no escaping the net she had contrived for her own
entanglement. She had actually written to Peter Vanrenen that she
deemed it her duty as Cynthia's chaperon to acquaint him with
Simmonds's defection and the filling of his place by Fitzroy, a most
unsuitable person to act as Miss Vanrenen's chauffeurindeed, a young
man who, she was sure, would never have been chosen for such a
responsible position by Mr. Vanrenen himself.
And Fitzroy was Viscount Medenham, heir to the Fairholme estates,
one of the most eligible young bachelors in the kingdom! Oh, blind and
crass that she had not guessed the truth! The car, the luncheon-basket,
the rare wine, the crest on the silver, the very candor of the wretch
in giving his real name, his instant recognition of Jimmy Devar's
mother, the hints of a childhood passed in Sussexwhy, even the aunt
he spoke of on Derby Day must be Susan St. Maur, while Millicent
Porthcawl had actually met him in the Bournemouth hotel!these and
many another vivid index pointed the path of knowledge to one so well
versed as she in the intricacies of Debrett. The very attributes which
she had taken for an impertinent aping of the manners of society had
shouted his identity into her deaf ears time and again. Even an
intelligent West-end housemaid would have felt some suspicion of the
facts when confronted by these piled-up tokens. She remembered noticing
his hands, the quality of his linen, his astonishingly good
appearance on the only occasion that she had seen him in evening dress;
she almost groaned aloud when she recalled the manner of her son's
departure from Bristol, and some imp in her heart raked the burnt ashes
of the fire that had devoured her when she heard why Captain Devar was
requested to resign his commission. Of course, this proud young
aristocrat recognized him at once, and had brushed him out of his sight
as one might brush a fly off a windowpane.
But how was she to act in face of the threatened disaster? Why had
not her son warned her? Did Marigny know, and was that the explanation
of his sheepish demeanor when she and Cynthia were about to enter the
car that morning? Indeed, Marigny's quiet acceptance of the position
was quite as difficult to understand as her own failure to grasp the
significance of all that happened since noon on Wednesday. This very
day, before breakfast, he had come to her room with the cheering news
that information to hand from London would certainly procure the
dismissal of Fitzroy forthwith. The Mercury was registered in the
name of the Earl of Fairholme, the obvious deduction being that his
lordship's chauffeur was careering through England in a valuable car
without a shred of permission; the merest whisper to Cynthia of this
discovery, said the Frenchman, would send Fitzroy packing.
And again, what had Cynthia meant when she referred at Chepstow to
the Norman baron scowl with which Fitzroy had favored Marigny? Was
she, too, in the secret? Unhappy Mrs. Devar! She glowered at the
darkening Wye, and wriggled on her chair in torture.
Wass it all right a-bout the tel-e-phone, mam? said a soft voice
at her ear.
She started violently, and the maid was contrite.
I'm ver-ry sor-ry, mam, she said, but I see Mr. Fitz-roy down
there on the riv-er
Where, where? cried the other, rather to gain time to collect her
wits than to ascertain Medenham's whereabouts.
The girl pointed.
In that lit-tle boat, all by its-self, mam, she said.
Oh, it was of no importance. By the way, and Mrs. Devar produced
her purse, you might tell the people in the office not to pay any
attention to the statements of a man named Dale, if he rings up from
Hereford. He is only a chauffeur, and we shall see him in the morning;
perhaps it will be best, if he asks for Fitzroy again to-night, to tell
him to await our arrival.
Yess, mam, and the maid went off, the richer by half-a-crown. Mrs.
Devar's usual tip was a sixpence for a week's attentions, so it would
demand an abstruse arithmetical calculation to arrive at an exact
estimate of the degree of mental disturbance that led to the present
lack of proportion.
Left alone once more, her gaze followed a small skiff speeding
upstream over the placid surface of the silvery Wye; Medenham was
rowing, and Cynthia held the tiller ropes; but Mrs. Devar's thoughts
turned her mind's eyes inward, and they surveyed a gray prospect. Dale,
the unseen monster who had struck this paralyzing blow, spoke of the
Frenchman. Lord Fairholme had charged both Dale and the Frenchman
with tricking him. Therefore, the Earl and Marigny had met at Bristol.
If so, and there could be little doubt of it, Marigny would hardly
appear in Hereford, and if she attempted to telephone to the Green
Dragon Hotel, where Cynthia had engaged rooms, she would not only fail
to reach Marigny but probably reveal to a wrathful Earl the very fact
which Dale seemed to have withheld from him, namely, his son's address
at the moment.
She assumed that Dale knew how to communicate with his master
because Medenham had telegraphed the name of the hotel at Symon's Yat.
Therein she was right. Medenham wanted his baggage, and, having
ascertained that there was a suitable train, sent instructions that
Dale was to travel by it. This, of course, the man could not do. Lord
Fairholme had carried off his son's portmanteaux, and had actually
hired a room in the Green Dragon next to that reserved for Cynthia.
Suddenly grown wise, Mrs. Devar decided against the telephone. But
there remained the secrecy of the post-office. What harm if she sent a
brief message to both the Green Dragon and the Mitre HotelsMarigny
would be sure to put up at one or the other if he were in Herefordand
demand his advice? She hurried to the drawing-room and wrote:
Remaining Symon's Yat Hotel to-night. Suppose you are aware
of to-day's developments. F. is son of gentleman you met in
Bristol. Wire reply. DEVAR.
She went to the hotel bureau, but a sympathetic landlady shook her
The post-office is closed. No telegrams can be dispatched until
eight o'clock on Monday, she said. But there is the telephone
It is matterless, said Mrs. Devar, crushing the written forms in
her fingers as though she had reason to believe they might sting her.
She resolved to let events drift now. They had passed beyond her
control. Perhaps a policy of masterly inactivity might rescue her from
the tornado which had swept her off her feet. In any case, she must
fight her own battles, irrespective of the cabal entered into in Paris.
Captain James Devar was an impossible ally; the French Count was a
negligible quantity when compared with an English viscount whose
ancestry threw back to the Conquest and whose estates covered half of a
midland shire; but there remained, active as ever, the self-interest of
a poor widow from whose despairing grasp was slipping a golden
Is it too late? she asked herself. Can anything be done? Maud, my
dear, you are up against it, as they say in America. Pull yourself
together, and see if you can't twist your mistakes to your own
Cynthia, meanwhile, was enjoying herself hugely. The placid reaches
of the Wye offered a delightful contrast to the sun-baked roads of
Monmouthshire; and, it may be added, there was enough of Mother Eve in
her composition to render the proceeding none the less attractive
because it was unconventional. Perhaps, deep hidden in her
consciousness, lurked a doubtbut that was successfully stifled for
Indeed, her wits were trying to solve a minor puzzle. Her woman's
eye had seen and her quick brain was marveling at certain details in
Medenham's costume. There are conditions, even in England, in which a
flannel suit is hard to obtain, and the manner of their coming to
Symon's Yat seemed to preclude the buying of ready-made garments, a
solution which would occur to an American instantly. Yet here was that
incomprehensible chauffeur clad in the correct regalia of the Thames
Rowing Club, though Cynthia, of course, did not recognize the colors.
How did you manage it? she asked, wide-eyed and smiling.
I hunted through the hotels and met a man about my own size who was
just off to town, he said.
Butthere are gaps.
I thought they fitted rather well. In fact, he was slightly the
stouter of the two.
Don't be stupid. The gaps are in your story. Did you borrow or
I borrowed. Luckily, he was a decent fellow, and there was no
Did you know him?
By name only.
Do Englishmen lend their clothes to promiscuous strangers?
More, much more; they give them at times.
She was silent for a few seconds. He had persuaded her that oars
were preferable to sails on such a still night, especially as he was
not acquainted with the shallows, but he had not explained that if he
rowed and she steered he would be able to gaze his fill at her.
What colors are those? she demanded suddenly.
I ought to have told you that I happened to find a member of the
club to which I belong, he countered. Then, before she could pin him
down to a definite statement, he tried to carry the war into the
By the way, I hope I am not presuming on the fact that you have
consented to take this little excursion, Miss Vanrenen, but may I ask
how you contrive to appear each evening in a muslin frock? Those
hold-alls on the motor are strictly utilitarian, and a mere man would
imagine that muslin could not escape being crushed.
It doesn't. I have a maid iron it for me before dinner. At Hereford
I shall receive a fresh one from London, and send this back by post.
But fancy you noticing such a thing! Have you any sisters?
How old is she?
Dear me! A year older than me. Oh, ought I to have said 'than I'?
That always puzzles me.
You have Milton on your side. He wrote:
Satanthan whom no higher sat.
Still, it is generally allowed that Milton wrote bad grammar there.
Cynthia was awed momentarilya quotation from Paradise Lost
always commands respectso she harked back to an easier topic.
Is your sister married?
What is her husband?
She married rather well, as the saying is. Her husband is a man
named Scarland, and he is chiefly interested in pedigree cattle.
Let me see, she mused. I seem to remember the name; it had
something to do with fat cattle, too.... Scarland? Does he exhibit?
Medenham wished then that he had not been so glib with the Marquis
of Scarland's pet occupation.
I have been in England so little during the past few years he
I hope you haven't quarreled with your sister? she put in
What, quarrel with Betty? I? And he laughed at the conceit, though
he wondered what Cynthia would say if, on Monday, he deviated a few
miles from the Hereford and Shrewsbury main road and showed her
Scarland Towers and the park in which the marquis's prize stock were
Oh, is she so nice? And pretty, too, I suppose?
People generally speak of her as good-looking. It is a recognized
fact, I believe, that pretty girls usually have brothers not so
What, fishing now as well as rowing? Didn't I say you had a Norman
Consisting largely of a scowl, I understand.
But a man is bound to look fierce sometimes. At least, my father
does, though he is celebrated for his unchanging aspect, no matter what
happens. Perhaps he may look like a Sphinx when he is carrying through
what he calls 'a deal,' but I remember very well seeing lightning in
his eye when an Italian prince was rude to me one day. We were at
Pompeii, and this Prince Monte-something induced me to look at a horrid
fresco under the pretense that it was very artistic. Without thinking
what I was doing, I ran to father and complained about it. My goodness!
I wonder the lava didn't melt again before he got through with his
highness, who, after all, was a bit of a virtuoso, and may have really
admired nasty subjects so long as they conformed to certain standards
Some ideals call for correction by the toe of a strong bootI
share Mr. Vanrenen's views on that point most emphatically.
Medenham's character was one that transmuted words to deeds. He
drove the skiff onward with a powerful sweep that discovered an
unexpected shoal. There might have been some danger of an upset if the
oars were in less skillful hands. As it was, they were back in deep
water within a few seconds.
Cynthia laughed without the least tremor.
You were kicking my Italian acquaintance in imagination then; I
hope you see now that you might have been mistaken, she cried.
Even in this instance I only touched mud.
Well, well, let us forget the Signor Principe. Tell me about
yourself. How did you come to enlist? In my country, men of your stamp
do not join the army unless some national crisis arises. But, perhaps,
that applies to your case. The Boers nearly beat you, didn't they?
He took advantage of the opening thus presented, and was able to
interest her in stories of the campaign without committing himself to
details. Nevertheless, a man who had served on the headquarters staff
during the protracted second phase of the South African war could
hardly fail to exhibit an intimate knowledge of that history which is
never written. Though Cynthia had met many leaders of thought and
action, she had never before encountered one who had taken part in a
struggle of such peculiar significance as the Boer revolt. She was not
an English girl, eager only to hear tales of derring-do in which her
fellow-countrymen figure heroically, but a citizen of that wider world
that refuses to look at events exclusively through British spectacles;
therein lay the germ of real peril to Medenham. He had not only to
narrate but to convince. He was called on to answer questions of policy
and method that few if any of the women in his own circle would think
of putting. Obviously, this appeal to his intellect weakened the
self-imposed guard on his lips. There is excellent authority for the
belief that Desdemona loved Othello for the dangers he had passed, and
did with greedy ear devour his discourse, yet it may well be conceded
that an explanatory piquancy would have been added to the Moor's
Of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
if the lady were not a maid of Venice but hailed from some kindred
city that refused to range all the virtues on the side of the Mistress
of the Adriatic.
More than once it chanced that Medenham had to exercise his wits
very quickly to trip his tongue when on the verge of some indiscretion
that would betray him. Perhaps he was unduly cautious. Perhaps his
listener's heart had mastered her brain for the time. Perhaps she would
not have woke up in a maze from a dream that was not less a dream
because she was not sleeping even if some unwary utterance caused her
to ask what manner of man this could be.
But that can never be known, since Cynthia herself never knew. The
one sharp and clear fact that remained in her mind as a memory of a
summer's evening passed in a boat on a river flowing through fairyland,
was provided by a set of circumstances far removed from tales of stormy
night-riding after De Wet or the warp and weft of European politics as
they fashioned the cere-cloths of the two Dutch republics.
Neither the one nor the other should be blamed if they found a boat
on the Wye a most pleasant exchange for an eager automobile on roads
that tempted to high speed. At any rate, they gave no heed to the time
until Cynthia happened to glance at the horizon and saw that the sun
was represented by a thin seam of silver hemming the westerly fringe of
a deep blue sky. If there was a moon, it was hidden by the hills.
Whatever o'clock is it? she cried in a voice that held almost a
sound of scare.
Medenham looked at his watch, and had to hold it close to his eyes
before he could make out the hour.
Time you were back at the hotel, he said, swinging the boat round
quickly. I am afraid I have kept you out too long, Miss Vanrenen. It
is a perfect night, but you must not risk catching a chill
I'm not worrying about that sort of chillthere are others: what
will Mrs. Devar think?
The worst, he could not help saying.
What time is it, really?
Won't you be happier not to know? We have the stream with us
Mr. Fitzroywhat time is it?
Nearly half-past ten o'clock. You did not leave the hotel till
after half-past eight.
Oh, blame me, of course. 'The woman tempted me and I did eat.'
No, no. Apples are not the only forbidden fruit. May I vary an
unworthy defense? The woman came with me and I didn't care.
But I do care. Please hurry. Mrs. Devar will be real mad, and I
shan't have a word to say for myself.
Medenham bent to it, and the outrigger traveled downstream at a rare
pace. Cynthia steered with fair accuracy by the track they had followed
against the current, but the oarsman glanced over his shoulder
occasionally, and advised her as to the probable trend of the channel.
Keep a bit wide here, he said when they were approaching a sharp
bend. I believe we almost touched ground in midstream as we came up.
She obeyed, and a wide expanse of low-lying land opened before her
I don't see the lights of the hotel yet, she said, with a note of
You are not making enough allowance for the way in which this river
turns and twists. There are sections in which you box the compass
during the course of a short
A sharp tearing noise in the bottom of the boat amidships was
followed by an inrush of water. Medenham sprang upright, leaped
overboard, and caught the port outrigger with his left hand. He was
then immersed to the waist, but he flung his right arm around Cynthia
and lifted her clear of the sinking craft.
Sit on my shoulder. Steady yourself with your hands on my head, he
said, and his voice was so unemotional that the girl could almost have
laughed. Beyond one startled Oh! when the plank was ripped out she
had uttered no sound, and she followed his instructions now implicitly.
She was perched comfortably well above the river when she felt that he
was moving, not to either bank, but down the center of the stream.
Suddenly he let go the boat, which had swung broadside on.
It is sinking, and the weight was pulling me over, he explained,
still in the same quiet way, as though he were stating the merest
commonplace. Some thrill that she could not account for vibrated
through her body. She was not frightened in the least. She had the most
complete confidence in this man, whose head was braced against her left
thigh, and whose arm was clasping her skirts closely round her ankles.
Which side do you mean to make for? she asked.
I hardly know. You are higher up than me. Perhaps you can decide
best as to the set of the current. The boat seems to have been carried
to the right.
[Illustration: Pity I'm not a circus lady, to balance myself on
head, said Cynthia. Page 209]
Yes. I think the river shoals to the left.
Suppose we try the other way first. The hotel is on that side.
Anything you like.
He took a cautious step, then another. The water was rising. Luckily
the current was not very strong or he could not have stood against it.
No good, he said. We must go back.
Pity I'm not a circus lady. Then I might have balanced myself
gracefully on the top of your head.
He murmured something indistinctly, but Cynthia fancied she caught
You're a dear, anyhow.
What did you say? she asked.
It is high time we were out of here, he answered, turning his back
to the pressure of water, which was very great in that place.
What will happen if there are two channels, and we have pitched on
a bank in the middle?
I must walk about a bit until I find the right track. The Wye is
not very deep at this point. It must shelve rapidly in one direction or
But it mayn't.
In that event I shall lower you into the water, ask you to hold
tight to my coat collar with both hands, and let me swim. It is only a
But I can swim, too.
Not in a long dress.... Ah, here we are. I thought so.
In a couple of strides the water was below his knees. Soon he was
standing on a pebbly beach at the nose of the promontory formed by the
bend where the accident had happened. In order to lower Cynthia to the
ground without bringing her muslin flounces in contact with his
dripping clothes he had to stoop somewhat. Her hair brushed his
forehead, his eyes, his lips, as he lifted her down. His hands rested
for an instant on the warm softness of her neck and shoulders. His
heart leaped in a mad riot of joy at the belief that she would have
uttered no protest if he had drawn her nearer instead of setting her
decorously on her feet. He dared not look at her, but turned and gazed
at the river.
Thank God, that is over! he said.
Cynthia heard something in his voice then that was absent when they
were both in peril of being swept away by the silent rush of the black
Quite an adventure, she sighed, stooping to feel the hem of her
You are not wet? he asked, after a pause.
Not a thread. The water barely touched my feet. How prompt you
were! I suppose men who fight have often to decide quickly like
that.... What caused it? A whole seam was torn open.
It cannot be a stake. Such a thing would not be permitted to exist
in this river.... A snag probably. Some old tree stump undermined by
last month's heavy rain.
What of the boat? Is it lost?
No. It will be found easily enough in the morning. The damage is
trifling. How splendid you were!
Please don't. I haven't said a word to you, and I don't mean to.
Well, say it, if you must.
I am not going to compliment you in the ordinary terms. Just
thisnature intended you to be a soldier's bride, Miss Vanrenen.
Nature, being feminine, may promise that which she does not always
mean to carry out. Besides, I don't know many soldiers.... It is
charming here, by the river's edge, but I must remember that you are
soaked to the skin. Where are we, exactly?
About four miles from the hotel, by water: perhaps a mile and
three-quarters as the crow flies.
How far as a girl walks?
Let us try, he said briskly. We seem to have landed in a meadow.
If we cross it, all my efforts to save that muslin frock will count as
naught, since there is sure to be a heavy dew on the grass after this
fine day. Suppose we follow the bank a little way until we reach some
sort of a path. Will you take my hand?
No, I need both hands to hold up my dress. But you might grab my
arm. I am wearing French shoes, which are not built for clambering over
Cynthia was adroit. The use of one small word had relieved the
situation. Medenham might hold her arm with the utmost tenderness, but
so long as he was grabbing it there was nothing more to be said.
He piloted her to a narrow strip of turf that bordered the Wye,
found a path that ran close to a small wood, and soon they were in a
road. There was slight excuse for arm-holding now, but Cynthia seemed
to think that her frills still needed safeguarding, so he did not
withdraw the hand which clung to her elbow.
A light in a laborer's cottage promised information; he knocked at
the door, which was not opened, but a voice cried:
Who is it? What do you want?
Tell me the nearest way to the Symon's Yat Hotel, please, said
Keep straight on till you come to the ferry. If the boat is on this
side you can pull yourself across.
But if it is not?
You must chance it. The nearest bridge is a mile the other way.
By gad! said Medenham under his breath.
I wouldn't care a pin if Mrs. Devar wasn't waiting for me,
whispered Cynthia, whose mental attitude during this mishap on the Wye
contrasted strangely with her alarm when Marigny's motor collapsed on
Mrs. Devar is the real problem, laughed Medenham. We must find
some means of soothing her agitation.
Why don't you like her?
That is one of the things I wish to explain later.
She has been horrid to you, I know, but
I am beginning to think that I owe her a debt of gratitude I can
What will happen if that wretched ferryboat is on the wrong side of
Medenham took her arm again, for the road was dark where there were
You are not to think about it, he said. I have been doing all the
talking to-night. Now tell me something of your wanderings abroad.
These two already understood each other without the spoken word. He
respected her desire to sheer off anything that might be construed as
establishing a new relationship between them, and she appreciated his
restraint to the full. They discussed foreign lands and peoples until
the road bent toward the river again and the ferry was reachedat a
point quite half a mile below the hotel.
And there was no boat!
A wire rope drooped into the darkness of the opposite bank, but no
voice answered Medenham's hail. Cynthia said not a syllable until her
companion handed her his watch with a request that she should hold it.
You are not going into that river, she cried determinedly.
There is not the slightest risk, he said.
But there is. What if you were seized with cramp?
I shall cling to the rope, if that will satisfy you. I have swum
the Zambesi before to-day, not from choice, I admit, and it is twenty
times the width of the Wye, while it holds more crocodiles than the Wye
Wellif you promise about the rope.
Soon he was out of sight, and her heart knew its first pang of fear.
Then she heard his cry of Got the boat, followed by the clank of a
sculling oar and the creak of the guiding-wheel on the hawser.
At last, shortly before midnight, they neared the hotel. Lights were
visible on the quay, and Medenham read their meaning.
They are sending out a search party, he said. I must go and stop
them. You run on to the hotel, Miss Vanrenen. Good-night! I shall give
you an extra hour to-morrow.
She hesitated the fraction of a second. Then she extended a hand.
Good-night, she murmured. After all, I have had a real lovely
Then she was gone, and Medenham turned to thank the hotel servants
and others who were going to the rescue.
I wonder what the guv'nor will say when he sees Cynthia, he
thought, with the smile on his face of the lover who deems his lady
peerless among her sex. He recalled that moment before many days had
passed, and his reflections then took a new guise, for not all the
knowledge and all the experience a man may gather can avail him a whit
to forecast the future when Fate is spinning her complex web.
CHAPTER X. THE HIDDEN FOUNTS OF EVIL
It was a flushed and somewhat breathless Cynthia who ran into the
quiet country hotel at an hour when the Licensing Laws of Britain have
ordained that quiet country hotels shall be closed. But even the laws
of the Medes and Persians, which altered not, must have bulged a little
at times under the pressure of circumstances. The daughter of an
American millionaire could not be reported as missing without a buzz
of commotion being aroused in that secluded valley. As a matter of
fact, no one in the house dreamed of going to bed until her
disappearance was accounted for, one way or the other.
Mrs. Devar, now really woebegone, screamed shrilly at sight of her.
The lady's nerves were in a parlous conditionon a raw edge was her
own phraseand the relief of seeing her errant charge again was so
great that the shriek merged into a sob.
Oh, my dear, my dear! she wept, what a shock you have given me! I
thought you were gone!
Not so bad as that, was the contrite answer. Cynthia interpreted
gone as meaning dead, and naturally read into the other woman's
anxiety her own knowledge of the disaster to the boat. We had a bit of
an upsetthat is alland the bread always flops to the floor buttered
side down, doesn't it? So we had to struggle ashore on the wrong bank.
It couldn't be helpedthat is, the accident couldn'tbut I ought not
to have been on the river at such a late hour. Do forgive me, dear Mrs.
By this time the girl's left arm was around her friend's portly
form; in her intense eagerness to assuage Mrs. Devar's agitation she
began to stroke her hair with the disengaged hand. A deeply sympathetic
landlady, a number of servants, and most of the feminine guests in the
hotelall the men were down on the quayhad gathered to murmur their
congratulations; but Mrs. Devar, dismayed by Cynthia's action, which
might have brought about a catastrophe, revived with phenomenal
My dear child, she cried, extricating herself from the encircling
arm, do let me look at you! I want to make sure that you are
not injured. The boat upset, you say. Why, your clothes must be
Cynthia laughed. She had guessed why her chaperon wished to keep her
literally at arm's length. She spread her skirts with a quick gesture
that relieved an awkward situation.
Not a drop on my clothes, she said gleefully. The water just
touched the soles of my boots, but before you could say 'Jack Robinson'
Fitzroy had whisked me out of the skiffand landed me on dry land.
You were in shallow water, then? put in the smiling proprietress.
Oh no, fairly deep. Fitzroy was up to his waist in the stream.
And the boat upset? came the amazed chorus.
I didn't quite mean that. What actually happened was this. I
discovered that the hour was rather late, and Fitzroy was rowing down
stream at a great pace when some sunken thing, a tree-root he thinks,
caught the side of the boat and started a plank. I was so taken by
surprise that I should have sat right there and gone to the bottom with
the boat, but Fitzroy jumped overboard straight away and hiked me out.
Ready-tongued Cynthia was beginning to find detailed explanation
rather difficult, and her speech reverted to the picturesque idioms of
her native land. It was the happiest ruse she could have adopted.
Everyone laughed at the notion of being hiked out. None of her
hearers knew quite what it meant, yet it covered the requisite ground,
which was more than might have been achieved by explicit English.
Where did the accident take place? asked the landlady.
Cynthia was vague on this point, but when she told how the return
journey was made, the pretty Welsh waitress hit on a theory.
In-deed to goot-ness, miss, she cried, you wass be-tween the
Garren River an' Huntsham Bridge. It iss a bad place, so it iss,
however. Me an' my young man wass shoaled there once, we wass.
Cynthia felt that her face and neck had grown positively scarlet,
and she could have kissed the well-disposed landlady for entering on a
voluble disquisition as to the tricks played by the Wye on those
unaware of its peculiarities, especially at night. A general
conversation broke out, but Mrs. Devar, rapidly regaining her spirits
after enduring long hours of the horrible obsession that Medenham had
run off with her heiress, noted that telltale blush. At present her
object was to assist rather than embarrass, so with a fine air of
motherly solicitude she asked:
Where did you leave Fitzroy?
He saw preparations being made to send boats in search of us, and
he went to stop them. Oh, here he is!
Medenham entered, and the impulsive Mrs. Devar ran to meet him.
Though he had been in the river again only five minutes earlier, the
walk up a dust-laden path had covered his sopping boots with mud, and
in the not very powerful light of the hall, where a score or more of
anxious people were collected, it was difficult to notice that his
clothes were wet. But Wiggy Devar did not care now whether or not the
story told by Cynthia was true. With reaction from the nightmare that
had possessed her since ten o'clock came a sharp appreciation of the
extraordinarily favorable turn taken by events so far as she was
concerned. If a French count were to be supplanted by an English
viscount, what better opportunity of approving the change could present
Mr. Fitzroy, she said in her shrill voice, I can never thank you
sufficiently for the courage and resource you displayed in rescuing
Miss Vanrenen. You have acted most nobly. I am only saying now what Mr.
Vanrenen will say when his daughter and I tell him of your magnificent
He reddened and tried to smile, though wishing most heartily that
these heroics, if unavoidable, had been kept for some other time and
place. He could not believe that Cynthia had exalted a not very serious
incident into a rescue, yet she might be vexed if he cheapened his
own services. In any event, it was doubtful whether she would wish her
father to hear of the escapade until she told him herself at the close
of the tour.
I am sure Miss Vanrenen felt safe while in my care, was all he
dared to say, but Cynthia promptly understood his perplexity and came
to his aid.
Mrs. Devar thinks far more of our adventure than we do, she broke
in. Our chief difficulty lay in finding the road. The only time I felt
worried was when you crossed the river to retrieve the ferryboat. But
surely I have caused enough excitement for to-night. You ought to take
some hot lemonade and go to bed.
A man who had walked up the hill from the boathouse with Medenham
laughed and slapped him on the shoulder.
Come along, old chap! he cried. You certainly want a hot draught
of some sort, and you must not hang about in those wet clothes.
Yes, purred Mrs. Devar, don't run the risk of catching cold,
Fitzroy. It would spoil everything if you were laid up.
Her gracious manner almost deceived Medenham. During his years of
wandering he had come across unexpected good qualities in men from whom
he looked for naught but evilwas it the same with women? He hoped so.
Perhaps this scheming marriage-broker had shed her worldly scales under
the stress of emotion.
You need have no fear that the car will not be waiting for you in
the morning, Mrs. Devar, he said, smiling frankly into her steel-gray
eyes. Did you say half-past nine, Miss Vanrenen? he asked, turning to
snatch one last look at Cynthia.
Yes. Good-nightand thank you.
She offered her hand to him before them all. The touch of her cool
fingers was infinitely sweet, but when he strove to surprise some hint
of her thought in those twin pools of limpid light that were wont to
gaze at him so fearlessly he failed, for all the daring had fled from
Cynthia, and he knewhow Heaven and lovers alone can tellthat her
heart was beating with a fright she had not felt when he staggered
under the relentless pressure of the river while holding her in his
To the lookers-on the girl's outstretched hand was a token of
gratitude; to Medenham it carried an acknowledgment of that equality
which should reign between those who love. His head swam in a sudden
vertigo of delight, and he hurried away without uttering a word. There
were some, perhaps, who wondered; others who saw in his brusqueness
nothing more than the confusion of an inferior overwhelmed by the
kindly condescension of a young and charming mistress; but the one who
did fully and truly interpret the secret springs of his action went
suddenly white to the lips, and her voice was curiously low and
strained as she turned to Mrs. Devar.
Come, dear, she murmured, I am tired, it would seem; and you, you
must be quite worn out with anxiety.
My darling child, gushed Mrs. Devar, I should have been nearly
dead if I had not known that Fitzroy was with you, but he is one of
those men who inspire confidence. I refused to admit even to myself
that anything of evil consequence could happen to you while he was
present. How fortunate we were that day in town
The man who had suggested that the hotel pharmacist could dispense
hot drinks other than lemonade nudged an acquaintance.
Our chauffeur friend has a rippin' nice job, he whispered.
Wouldn't mind taking his billet myselfit 'ud be a change from
everlastin' goff. Hello! Where is he? I meant to
Medenham had gone, striding away up the hillside in a very frenzy of
happiness. Four days, and Cynthia as good as won! Was it possible,
then, that the disguised prince of the fairytale could be a
realitythat such romances might still be found in this gray old
world? Four days! He could not be deeper in love with Cynthia had he
known her four years, or forty, and he was certain now that he had
really loved her before he had been in her company four minutes.
But these rhapsodies were cut short by his arrival at the hotel
garage, with the displeasing discovery that no one named Dale had
reached Symon's Yat that evening, while the stolid fact stared him in
the face that his cherished Mercury demanded several hours of
hard-working attentions if it were to glisten and hum in its usual
perfection next morning.
Queer thing, he said, thinking aloud rather than addressing the
stableman who had given this disconcerting news. I have never before
known him fail; and I wired to Hereford early enough.
Oh, he's in Hereford, is he? inquired the man.
He ought not to be, but he is, I fear.
Then it'll be him who axed for ye on the telephone?
It 'ud be somewheres about a quarter or half past eight. Lizzie
tole me after the old leddy kem up to see if you'd taken the car out.
Medenham's wits were alert enough now.
I don't fully understand, he said. What old lady, and why did she
That's wot bothered me, was the reply. Everybody knew that the
young leddy an' you were on the Wye: 'deed to goodness, some of us
thought you were in it. Anyways, it was long after ten when she
You mean Mrs. Devar, I supposethe older lady of the two who
arrived in my car?
Yes, that's her. She wanted to be sure the car wasn't gone, and
nothing would suit her but the key must be brought from the orfis an'
the coach-house door unlocked so's she could see it with her own eyes.
Well, Lizzie sez to me, 'That's funny, it is, because she watched they
two goin' on the river, and was in the box a long time telephonin' to a
shuffer called Dale, at Hereford.' Thinks I, 'It's funnier that the
shuffer who's here should be expectin' a chap named Dale,' but I said
nothink. I never does to wimmen. Lord luv yer, they'll twist a tale
twenty ways for Sundays to suit their own pupposes afterwards.
Lightning struck from a cloudless sky a second time that night at
Symon's Yat, and in its gleam was revealed the duplicity of Mrs. Devar.
Medenham could not guess the double significance of Dale's message and
failure to appear, but he was under no delusion now as to the cause of
those honeyed words. Dale had been indiscreet, had probably blurted out
his employer's title, and Mrs. Devar knew at last who the chauffeur was
whose interference had baffled her plans.
He laughed bitterly, but did not pursue the inquiry any further.
Can you clean coachwork and brass? he asked, stooping to unlock
The stableman shuffled uneasily from one foot to the other. The hour
was past midnight, and the alarm raised at the hotel had already robbed
him of two hours' sleep.
Hosses is more in my line, he answered gruffly.
But if I give you half a sovereign perhaps you will not mind
helping me. I shall attend to the engine myself.
'Arf a suv-rin did you say, mister? came the panting question.
Yes. Be quick! Off with your coat, and get busy. A man who can
groom a horse properly ought to be able to use a rubber and hose.
By two o'clock the Mercury was shining above and below. Thoroughly
weary, yet well satisfied with the day's record, Medenham went to bed.
He was up at seven, and meant to talk severely to Dale after breakfast;
then he found, by consulting a directory, that the small hotel where
his man had arranged to stay did not possess a telephone. It was
annoying, but he had the consolation of knowing that an hour's slow run
would bring him to Hereford and reunite him with his sorely-needed
baggage. He was giving a few finishing touches to the car's toilette,
when the Welsh waiting-maid hurried to the garage; Miss Vanrenen wanted
him at once.
She awaited him in the veranda of the hotel, which fronted the
southeast. A shower of June roses, pink and crimson and white,
bespangled the sloping roof and hid the square posts that supported it,
and a flood of vivid sunshine irradiated Cynthia as she leaned over the
low rail of the balcony and smiled a greeting. She presented a picture
that was a triumph of unconscious art, and her beauty affected Medenham
more than a deep draught of the strongest wine ever vinted by man.
Yesterday she was a charming girl, radiantly good-looking, and likely
to attract attention even in circles where pretty women were plentiful
as blackberries in a September thicket, but to-day, in Medenham's eyes,
she was a woodland sprite, an ethereal creature cast in no mortal mold.
So enthralled was he by the vision that he failed to note her attire.
She wore the muslin dress of the previous night, and this, in itself,
might have prepared him for what was to come.
Good-morning, Mr. Fitzroy, she said, with a fine attempt at
re-establishing those friendly relations which might reasonably exist
between the owner of a motor-car and its hirer, how are you after your
strenuous labors of yesterday? I have heard all about you. Fancy
remaining out of bed till two o'clock! Couldn't that precious car of
yours be cleaned this morning, and by someone else?
He found his tongue at that.
Mercury obeys none but Jupiter, he said.
Her eyes met his fairly, and she laughed.
That is the first conceited thing I have heard you say, she cried,
and, by Jove, aren't you flying high?
Jupiter assumed disguises, he reminded her. Once, when he peered
into an Olympian grove, he saw Io, and took the form of a youth so that
he might talk with her. He found her so lovable that he passed many a
pleasant hour in her company wandering on the banks of the classic
stream that flowed through the wood, and in those hours he was not
Jupiter but a boy, a boy very much in love. Every man has, or ought to
have, something of Jupiter, a good deal of the boy, in his make-up.
He turned and looked at the Wye and its tree-shaded banks. Then he
faced Cynthia again, and his hands rested on the barrier that divided
them. For one mad instant he thought of vaulting it, and Cynthia read
his thought; she drew back in a panic. A less infatuated wooer than
Medenham might have noted that she seemed to fear interruption more
than any too impulsive action on his part.
I sent for you to tell you that Mrs. Devar is ill, she said in a
flurry of words. I am afraid she suffered more from the fright than I
imagined last night. Anyhow, she has asked me to let her remain here
to-day. You won't mind, I am sure, though it must be a bother not to
have your luggage. Can't you run in to Hereford and get it? I am quite
content to rest in this pretty place and write letters.
I do honestly believe that Mrs. Devar is more frightened than ill,
Oh, she isn't making a fuss about it. Indeed, she was willing to go
to Hereford this afternoon if I particularly wanted to attend service
at the cathedral. I did, as a matter of fact, but it would be real mean
to insist on it after scaring the poor thing into a nervous headache.
The affair arranges itself admirably, he said. At most cathedrals
there is an anthem, followed by a sermon by some eminent preacher,
about three o'clock. Write your letters this morning, or, better still,
climb to the top of the Yat and see the glorious view from the top.
Come back for lunch at one, and
I'll see what Mrs. Devar thinks of it, broke in Cynthia, whose
cheeks were borrowing tints from the red roses and the white with
astonishing fluctuations of color. She ran off, more like Io, the
sylph, than ever, and Medenham stood there in a brown study.
This sort of thing can't go on, he argued with himself. At any
minute now I shall be taking her in my arms and kissing her, and that
will not be fair to Cynthia, who is proud and queenly, and who will
strive against the dictates of her own heart because it is not seemly
that she should wed her father's paid servant. So I must tell her,
to-dayperhaps during the run home from Hereford, perhaps to-night.
But, dash it all! that will break up our tour. One ought to consider
the world we live in; Cynthia will be one of its leaders, and it will
never do to have people saying that Viscount Medenham became engaged to
Cynthia Vanrenen while acting as the lady's chauffeur during a
thousand-mile run through the West of England and Wales. Now, what
am I to do?
The answer came from a bedroom window that overlooked the veranda.
He knew as he looked up that Cynthia dared not face him again, for
her voice was too exquisitely subtle in its modulations not to betray
its owner's disappointment before she uttered another word.
I am very sorry, she said rapidly, but I feel I ought not to
leave Mrs. Devar until she is better, so I mean to remain indoors all
day. I shall not require the car before nine o'clock to-morrow. If
you like to visit Hereford, go at any time that suits your
She seemed to regret the curtness of her speech, though indeed she
was raging inwardly because of certain barbed shafts planted in her
breast by Mrs. Devar's faint protests, and tried to mitigate the blow
she had inflicted by adding, with a valiant smile:
For this occasion only, Jupiter must content himself with Mercury
as a companion.
If I had Jove's power he began wrathfully.
If you were Cynthia Vanrenen, you would do exactly what she is
doing, she cried, and fled from the window.
It is not to be denied that he extracted some cold comfort from that
last cryptic remark. Cynthia wanted to come, but Mrs. Devar had
evidently burked the excursion. Why? Because Cynthia's escort would be
Viscount Medenham and not Arthur Simmonds, orthodox and highly
respectable chauffeur. But Mrs. Devar plainly declared herself on the
side of Viscount Medenham last night. Why, then, did she stop a short
journey by motor, with the laudable objective of hearing an anthem and
a sermon in a cathedral, when overnight she permitted the far less
defensible trip on the river with the hated Fitzroy? It needed no great
penetration to solve this puzzle. Mrs. Devar was afraid of some
development that might happen if the girl visited Hereford that day.
She counted on Medenham being chained to Symon's Yat while Cynthia was
thereconsequently she had heard something from Dale that rendered it
eminently necessary that neither he nor Cynthia should be seen in
Hereford on the Sunday. Probably, too, she did not anticipate that
Cynthia would don the haircloth of self-discipline and avoid him during
the whole of the day, since that was what the girl meant by her
allusion to Monday's starting-time.
Perhaps, using a woman's privilege, she might change her mind
towards sunset; meanwhile, it behooved him to visit Hereford and pry
into things there.
Nevertheless, he was a wise lover. Cynthia might dismiss him
graciously to follow his own behests, but it might not please her if
she discovered that he had taken her permission too literally. He
entered the hotel and wrote a letter:
My dear Miss Vanrenen no pretense of Madam or other social
formula, but a plain and large My dear, with the name appended as a
concession to the humbug of life, even in regard to the woman he
lovedI am going to Hereford, but shall return here for luncheon.
Mrs. Devar's illness is not likely to be lasting, and the view from the
Yat is, if possible, better in the afternoon than in the morning. In
addition to my obvious need of a clean collar, I believe that our
presence in Hereford to-day is not desired. Why? I shall make it my
business to find out. Yours ever sincerely
Then he reached a high and stout stone wall of difficulty. Was he to
fall back on the subterfuge of George Augustus Fitzroy, which, of
course, was his proper signature in law? He disliked this veil of
concealment more and more each instant, but it was manifestly out of
the question that he should sign himself Medenham, or George, while
he had fought several pitched battles at Harrow with classmates who
pined to label him Augustus, abbreviated. So, greatly daring, he
wrote: Mercury's Guv'nor, trusting to luck whether or not Cynthia's
classical lore would remind her that Mercury was the son of Jupiter.
He reread this effusion twice, and was satisfied with it as the
herald of others. My dear sounded well; the intimacy of our
presence was not overdone; while yours ever sincerely was excellent.
He wondered if Cynthia would analyze it word for word in that fashion.
Well, some day he might ask her. For the present he sealed the letter
with a sigh and gave it to a waiter for safe delivery; he fancied, but
could not be quite sure, that a good deal of unnecessary play with the
motor's Gabriel horn five minutes later brought a slender muslined
figure to a window of the then distant hotel.
From Symon's Yat to Hereford is about fifteen miles, and Medenham
drew out of the narrow lane leading from the river to Whitchurch about
a quarter-past nine. Thenceforth a straight and good road lay clear
before him, and he meant to break the law as to speed limit by
traveling at the fastest rate compatible with his own safety and that
of other road-users. It was no disgrace to the Mercury car, therefore,
when a dull report and a sudden effort of the steering-wheel to swerve
to the right betokened the collapse of an inner tube on the off side.
From the motorist's point of view it was difficult to understand the
cause of the mishap. The whole four tires were new so recently as the
previous Monday, and Medenham was far too deeply absorbed in his own
affairs to grasp the essential fact that Fate was still taking an
intelligent interest in him.
Of course, he did not hurry over the work as though his life
depended on it. Even when the cover was replaced and the tire pumped to
the proper degree of air-pressure he lit a cigarette and had a look at
the magneto before restarting the engine. Two small boys had appeared
from space, and he amused himself by asking them to reckon how long it
would take two men to mow a field of grass which one of the men could
mow in three days and the other in four. He promised a reward of
sixpence if the correct answer were forthcoming in a minute, and raised
it to a shilling during the next minute. This stimulated their wits to
suggest a day and three-quarters instead of the first frantic effort
of three days and a half.
No, said he. Think it over, ponder it with ardor, and if you have
the right answer ready when I pass this way again about midday I'll
give you a shilling each.
There is no saying what sum he would have given those urchins if
some magician had spoken by their mouths and bade him hasten to
Hereford with all the zest of all the horses pent beneath the Mercury's
bonnet. But he left the boys ciphering on a gate with a bit of lead
pencil which he lent them, and pulled up at the door of the Green
Dragon Hotel in Hereford just five minutes after the Sunday morning
express to London had snatched a fuming and indignant Earl of Fairholme
from off the platform of the Great Western railway station.
Whose car? inquired a hall-porter.
Mine, said Medenham, rather surprised by the question.
Sorry, sir. I thought you might be the party Lord Fairholme was
Did you say 'Lord Fairholme'?
Medenham spoke with the slow accents of sheer astonishment, and the
man hastened to explain.
Yes, sir. His lordship has been a-damnin' everybody since two
o'clock yesterday afternoon because a Miss Vanrenen, who had ordered
rooms here, didn't turn up. She's on a motor tour through England, so I
You have made no mistake. But are you quite sure that the Earl of
Fairholme asked for Miss Vanrenen?
Not exactly that, sir, but he seemed to be uncommon vexed when we
could give him no news of her.
Where is his lordship now?
Gone to London, sir, by the 10.5. He damned me for the last time
half an hour ago.
Oh, did he?
Medenham glanced at his watch, twisted himself free of the wheel,
leaped to the pavement, and tapped one of the hall-porter's gold
I am forced to believe that you are speaking the truth, he said.
Now, tell me all about it, there's a good fellow. I am a bit rattled,
because, don't you see, Lord Fairholme is my father, and he is the last
man on earth whom I would have expected to meet in Hereford to-day.
During the less exciting intervals in his speech did you find out why
he came here?
Perhaps the manageress may be able to tell you something, sir. Beg
pardon, but may I ask your name?
The man tickled the back of his ear in doubt, since he was aware
that an Earl's son usually has a courtesy title.
Lord Medenham? he hazarded.
I thought, perhaps, you might have been a gentleman named Fitzroy,
my lord, he said.
Well, I am that, too. If you feel that I ought to be presented to
the manageress in state, kindly announce me as George Augustus Fitzroy,
Viscount Medenham, of Medenham Hall, Downshire, and 91 Cavendish
The hall-porter's eyes twinkled.
I didn't mean that, my lord, but there's a chauffeur, name of
Ah, what of him?
He knows all about it, my lord, and he's hiding in a
hayloft down the stable yard at this minnit, because your lordship's
father threatened to give him in charge for stealing a couple of your
Tell me he thieved successfully and I shall fork out handsomely.
The man grinned. He was shrewd enough to realize that, no matter
what mystery lay behind all this, the aid of the police would not be
I believe he began. Then he made off, with a cry of Wait just
a few seconds, my lord. I'll bring Dale.
And Dale appeared, picking bits of hay off his uniform, and striving
vainly to compose his features into their customary expression of a
stolid alertness that hears nothing but his master's orders, sees
nothing that does not concern his duties. He gave one sharp glance at
the car, and his face grew chauffeurish, but the look of hang-dog
despair returned when he met Medenham's eyes.
I couldn't get away to save me life, my lord, he grumbled. It was
a fair cop at Bristol, an' no mistake. His lordship swooped down on me
an' Simmonds at the station, so wot could I do?
I don't blame you, Dale. You could not have been more nonplussed
than I at this moment. Will you kindly remember that I know nothing
whatever of the Earl's appearance either at Bristol or Hereford
Gord's trewth! Didn't they tell you I telephoned, my lord?
Dale would not have spoken in that fashion were he not quite
woebegone and down-hearted; and not without reason, for the Earl had
dismissed him with contumely not once but a dozen times. Medenham saw
that his retainer would be more muddled than ever if he realized that
Mrs. Devar had intercepted the telephone message, so he slurred over
that element of the affair, and Dale quickly enlightened him as to the
course taken by events after the departure of the Mercury's tourists
The Earl, too, had referred to Lady St. Maur's correspondent at
Bournemouth, and Medenham could fill in blanks in the story quite
easily, but the allusions to Marigny were less comprehensible.
Dale's distress arose chiefly from the Earl's vows of vengeance when
he discovered that his son's baggage had been spirited away during the
breakfast hour that morning, but Medenham reassured him.
Don't bother your head about that, he said. I'll telegraph and
write to my father a full explanation to-day. You have obeyed my
orders, and he must blame me, not you, if they ran counter to his. Take
charge of the car while I change my clothes and make a few inquiries.
To save any further mix-up, you had better come with me to Symon's
Within five minutes he ascertained that Count Edouard Marigny had
occupied a room in the Mitre Hotel, just across the street, since the
previous afternoon. More than that, the Frenchman was traveling to
London by the same train as the Earl. Then Medenham felt really angry.
It was inconceivable that his father should have allowed himself to be
drawn into a pitiful intrigue by such doubtful agents as Marigny and
the Countess of Porthcawl.
I'll write, he vowed, and in pretty stiff terms, too, but I'm
jiggered if I'll wire. The old chap should have shown more confidence
in me. Why on earth didn't he announce his visit to Bristol? Jolly good
job he left Hereford to-day before I arrivedthere might have been
ructions. Good Lord! He evidently takes Cynthia for an adventuress!
Yet, in spite of the chance of ructions, it would have been far
better had Medenham not missed his father that morning. He was too
dutiful a son, the Earl was too fair-minded a parent, that they should
not be able to meet and discuss matters without heat. By noon they
would have reached Symon's Yat; before lunch was ended the older man
would have been Cynthia's most outspoken admirer. As it waswell, as
it wasthere used to be a belief in the Middle Ages that the Evil
One's favorite nook lay amid the deepest shadow of a cathedral, and
modern fact is ofttimes curiously akin to medieval romance.
CHAPTER XI. THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
When he came to think of it, Medenham decided to return at once to
Symon's Yat. It was advisable, however, to inform the proprietor of the
hotel that the Earl's denunciation of Dale as a pilferer of luggage was
based on a complete misunderstanding of the facts. With that object in
view he entered the office; another surprise awaited him there.
A lady bookkeeper, casting an appraising eye over his motoring
garments, asked instantly:
Are you Mr. Fitzroy, driver of a Mercury car, Number X L 4000?
Yes, said he, prepared now to see his name and description
blazoned across the west front of the cathedral.
You are wanted on the telephone. Miss Vanrenen wishes you to ring
After a soul-chastening delay he heard Cynthia's voice:
That you, Mr. Fitzroy?
I'm so glad I caught you before you hurried away again.... Erthat
isI suppose you traveled rather fast, you and Mercury?
He laughed. That was all. He did not intend to let her assume so
readily that he had missed the first thought which bubbled forth in
words. She well knew that he was not in Hereford from personal choice,
but she had not meant to tell him that she knew.
What are you sniggering at? she demanded imperiously.
Only at your divination, he answered. Indeed, if a tire had not
given out soon after I left Whitchurch I would now be well on my way to
Suddenly he recollected the singular outcome of the incident. There
was some reasonable probability that it might exercise a material
effect on the course of events during the next few days.
So, after a little pause, he added: That is one reason; there are
Is something detaining you, then? she asked.
Yes, a trivial matter, but I shall be at the hotel long before
Mrs. Devar is much better.... She is so sorry I remained indoors
Mrs. Devar is cultivating angelic qualities, he said, but he
murmured under his breath: The old cat finds now that she has made a
I want you to pay the hotel people for the rooms I reserved but
have not occupied. Then, perhaps, they will hand you any mail that may
have been sent after me. And please give them my address at Chester.
Will you do all that?
Certainly. There should be no difficulty.
Is Hereford looking very lively?
It strikes me as peculiarly empty, he said with convincing candor.
Shall we have time to see all the show places to-morrow?
We shall make time.
Well, good-bye! Bring my letters. I have not heard from my father
since we left Bournemouth.
Ah, there I have the better of you. I heard of, if not from, my
revered dad since reaching Hereford.
Nothing wrong, I hope?
The old gentleman's temper seems to be a trifle out of gear; the
present attack is not serious; he will survive itfor many years, I
You must not be flippant where your father is concerned. I believe
he is annoyed because you came away with me, and so failed to keep the
appointment fixed for Saturday in London. Eh? What did you say?
I said 'Well, I am surprised,' or words to that effect. As my name
is George I cannot tell a lie, so I must admit regretfully that you
have guessed right. Indeed, Miss Vanrenen, I may go so far as to
suggest, by letter, that before my father condemns me he should first
meet you. Of course, I shall warn him that you are irresistible.
Good-by again, said Cynthia severely. You can tell me all about
it afteroh, some time to-day, anyhow.
The Green Dragon proved to be most undragonish. No manner of doubt
was cast on Medenham's good faith; he pocketed half a dozen letters for
Cynthia, and one, unstamped, bearing the crest of the Mitre, for Mrs.
Devar. By the merest chance he caught sight of a note, addressed
Viscount Medenham, stuck in a rack among some telegrams. The
handwriting was his father's. But how secure it without arousing quite
reasonable suspicion? He tried the bold course.
I may as well take that, too, he said offhandedly.
Is Viscount Medenham also in your party? inquired the bookkeeper.
Again no demur was raised, since the Earl's repeated demands for
information as to Miss Vanrenen's whereabouts showed that some sort of
link must exist between him and the missing tourists.
Medenham sat in his car outside and read:
MY DEAR GEORGEIf this reaches you, please oblige me by
returning to town at once. Your aunt is making a devil of a
fuss, and is most unpleasant. I say no more now, since I am
not sure that you will be in Hereford before we meet.
I can see myself being very angry with Aunt Susan, he growled in
the first flush of resentment against the unfairness of her attitude.
But that phase soon passed. His mind dwelt rather on Lady St. Maur's
bland amazement when she encountered Cynthia. He could estimate with
some degree of precision her ladyship's views regarding the eighty
millions of citizens of the United States; had she not said in his
hearing that American society was evidently quite Englishbut with
the head cut off?
That, and a sarcastic computation as to the difference between Ten
Thousand and Four Hundred, constituted her knowledge of America. Still,
he made excuses for her. It was no new thing for an aristocracy to be
narrow-minded. Horace, that fine gentleman, hated the vulgar crowd,
and Nicolo Machiavelli, fifteen centuries later, denounced the nobles
of Florence for their easy-going contempt of everything and
everybody; so Lady St. Maur had plenty of historical precedent for the
coining of cheap epigrams.
The one person Medenham was really bitter against was Millicent
Porthcawl. She had met Cynthia; she herself must have
frowned at the lying innuendoes written from Bournemouth; it would give
him some satisfaction to tell Cynthia that the Porthcawl ménage
ought not to figure on her visiting list. But there! Cynthia was too
generous-minded even to avenge her wrongs, though well able to deal
with the Millicents and Mauds and Susans if they dared be spiteful.
Then the coming of Dale with various leather bags roused him from
the reverie induced by his father's curt missive, and he laughed at the
discovery that he was fighting Cynthia's battles already.
The Mercury was raising a good deal of dust in the neighborhood of
Whitchurch when its occupants noticed a pair of urchins perched on a
gate, signaling frantically. It pleased Medenham to mystify Dale, who
was, if possible, more taciturn than ever since those heart-searching
experiences at Gloucester and Hereford.
He pulled up some fifty yards or more down the road.
You saw those boys? he said.
Yes, my lord, but they're only having a game.
Nothing of the sort. Skip along and ask them if they have found out
the answer. If they say 'a day and five-sevenths,' hand them a shilling
each. Any other reply will be wrong. Don't talk. Just run there and
back, and pay only on a day and five-sevenths.
Dale ran. Soon he was in his seat again.
I gev' 'em a bob each, my lord, he announced, grave as an owl.
While they were running slowly down the winding lane that led to the
Yat Medenham determined to make sure of his ground with reference to
I suppose you left no room for doubt as to my identity in the mind
of the lady to whom you spoke over the telephone last night? he
None whatever, my lord. She wormed it out of me.
Did you mention the Earl?
Like an ijjit, I began by giving his lordship's name. It was my
only chanst, I couldn't get to the post-office nohow. Why, I was
ordered to bed at eight o'clock, so's his lordship could smoke in
peace, as he said.
Then my father was determined to stop you from communicating with
me, if possible?
If his lordship knew that I crep' down a back stairs to the
telephone I do believe he'd have set about me with a poker, said Dale
Strange! mused Medenham, with eyes now more intent on the hotel
than on the road. Influences other than Aunt Susan's must be at work.
My father would never have rushed off in a fever from town merely
because of some ill-natured gossip in a letter from Lady Porthcawl.
His mind flew to the Earl's allusions to Marigny, and it occurred to
him then that the latter had used his father's name at Bristol. He
turned to Dale again.
Before this business is ended I shall probably find it necessary to
kick a Frenchman, he said.
Make it two of 'em, my lord, an' let me take it out of the other
one, growled Dale.
Well, there is a bottle-holder, said Medenham, thinking of
Devar, a short, fat fellow, an Englishman, but a most satisfactory
subject for a drop kick.
Say when, my lord, an' I'll score a goal with him.
Dale seemed to be speaking feelingly, but his master paid slight
heed to him then. A girl in muslin, wearing a rather stylish hatnow,
where did Cynthia get a hat?had just sauntered to that end of the
hotel's veranda which gave a glimpse of the road.
Make yourself comfortable in one of the cottages hereabouts, was
Medenham's parting instruction to his man. I don't suppose the car
will be needed again to-day, but you might refill the petrol tankon
the off chance.
Dale lifted his cap. The ostler who had helped in the cleaning of
the car overnight was standing near the open doors of the coach-house.
He might not have heard the words, but he certainly saw the respectful
action. His eyes grew round, and his lips pursed to give vent to an
I knew, he told himself. He's a toff, that's wot he is.
Mum's the word, Willyum. Say nothink, 'specially to wimmen!
Bowing low before his smiling goddess, Medenham produced the packet
of letters. It happened that the unstamped note for Mrs. Devar lay
uppermost, and Cynthia guessed some part, at least, of its contents.
Poor Monsieur Marigny! she cried. I fear he had a cheerless
evening in Hereford. This is from him. I know his handwriting.... While
father and I were in Paris he often sent invitations for fixtures at
the Veloonce for a coach-drive to Fontainebleau. I was rather sorry I
Medenham thanked her in his heart for that little pause. No printed
page could be more legible than Cynthia's thought-processes. How
delightful it was to feel that her unspoken words were mirrored in his
But these lover-like beatitudes were interrupted by a slight shriek.
She had glanced curiously at a postmark, ripped open an envelope, and
was reading something that surprised her greatly.
Well, of all the queer things! she cried. Here's father in
London. He started from Paris yesterday afternoon, and found he had
just time to send me a line by paying a special postal fee at
Paddington.... What?... Mrs. Leland going to join us at Chester!...
Wire if I get this!...
She reread the letter with heightened color. Medenham's heart sank
to his boots while he watched her. Whosoever Mrs. Leland might beand
Cynthia's first cry of the name sent a shock of recognition through
himit was fully evident that the addition of another member to the
party would straightway shut him out of his Paradise. Mrs. Devar, in
the rôle of guardian, had been disposed of satisfactorily, but Mrs.
Leland was more than a doubtful quantity. For some kindred reason,
perhaps, Cynthia chose to turn and look at the sparkling Wye when next
I don't see why Mrs. Leland's unexpected appearance should make any
real difference to our tour, she said in the colorless tone of one who
seeks rather than imparts conviction. There is plenty of room in the
car. We must take the front seat in turn, that is all.
May I ask who Mrs. Leland is? he asked, and, if his voice was
ominously cold, it may be urged in extenuation that in matters
affecting Cynthia he was no greater adept at concealing his thoughts
than the girl herself.
An old friend of ours, she explained hurriedly. In fact, her
husband was my father's partner till he died, some years ago. She is a
charming woman, quite a cosmopolitan. She lives in Paris 'most all the
time, but I fancied she was at Trouville for the summer. I wonder....
She read the letter a third time. Drooping lids and a screen of
heavy eyelashes veiled her eyes, and when the fingers holding that
disturbing note rested on the rail of the veranda again, still those
radiant blue eyes remained invisible, and the eloquent eyebrows were
not arched in laughing bewilderment but straightened in silent
Mr. Vanrenen gives no details, she said at last, and seldom,
indeed, did Mr. Vanrenen replace father in her speech. Perhaps he
was writing against time, though he might have told me less about the
post and more of Mrs. Leland. Anyhow, he has a fine Italian hand in
some things, and may be this is one of them.... But I must telegraph at
Medenham roused himself to set forth British idiosyncrasies on the
question of Sunday labor. He remembered the telephone, however, and
Cynthia went off to try and get in touch with the Savoy Hotel. He
withdrew a little way, and began to smoke a reflective cigar, for he
knew now who Mrs. Leland was. In twenty minutes or less Cynthia came to
him. It was difficult to account for her obvious perplexity, though he
could have revealed some of its secret springs readily enough.
I'm sorry I shall not be able to take that walk, Mr. Fitzroy, she
said, frankly recognizing the tacit pact between them. We have a long
day before us to-morrow, and we must make Chester in good time, as Mrs.
Leland is coming alone from London. Meanwhile, I must attend to my
Ah. You have spoken to Mr. Vanrenen, then?
No. He was not in the hotel, but he left a message for me, knowing
that I was more likely to 'phone than wire.
She was troubled, disturbed, somewhat resentful of this unforeseen
change in the programme arranged for the next few days. Medenham could
have chosen no more unhappy moment for what he had to say, but during
those twenty minutes of reflection a definite line of action had been
forced upon him, and he meant to follow it to the only logical end.
I am glad now that I mentioned my own little difficulty at
Hereford, he said. Since alterations are to be the order of the day
at Chester, will you allow me to provide another driver for the Mercury
there? You will retain the car, of course, but my place can be taken by
a trustworthy man who understands it quite as well as I do.
You mean that you are dropping out of the tour, then?
She shot one indignant glance at his impassive face, for he held in
rigid control the fire that was consuming him.
Rather a sudden resolve on your part, isn't it? What earthly
difference does the presence of another lady in our party make?
I have been thinking matters over, he said doggedly. Would you
mind reading my father's letter?
He held out the note received at the Green Dragon, but she ignored
I take it for granted that you have the best of reasons for wishing
to go, she murmured.
Please oblige me by reading it, he persisted.
Perhaps, despite all his self-restraint, some hint of the wild
longing in his heart to tell her once and for all that no power under
that of the Almighty should tear him from her side moved her to relent.
She took the letter, and began to read.
Why, she cried, this was written at Hereford?
Yes. My father waited there all night. He left for town only a few
minutes before I entered the hotel this morning.
She read with puzzled brows, smiled a little at Your aunt is making
a devil of a fuss, and passed quite unheeded the solitary F. in the
I think you ought to go to-day, she commented.
Not because of any argument advanced there, he growled
But your aunt ... she is making aa fuss. One has to conciliate
aunts at times.
My aunt is really a most estimable person. I promise myself some
amusement when she explains the origin of the 'fuss' to you.
Yes. Have I not your permission to bring her to see you in London?
Something was said about that.
May I add that I hope to make Mr. Vanrenen's acquaintance on
She looked at him in rather a startled way.
Are you going to call and see my father? she asked.
In the first place, to give him news of your well-being. Letters
are good, but the living messenger is better. Secondly, I want to find
out just why he traveled from Paris to London yesterday.
The air was electric between them. Each knew that the other was
striving to cloak emotions that threatened at any moment to throw off
the last vestige of concealment.
My father is a very clever man, Mr. Fitzroy, she said slowly. If
he did not choose to tell you why he did a thing, you could no more
extract the information from him than from a bit of marble.
He has one weak point, I am sure, and Medenham smiled confidently
into her eyes.
I do not know it, she murmured.
But I know it, though I have never seen him. He is vulnerable
through his daughter.
Her cheeks flamed into scarlet, and her lips trembled, but she
strove valiantly to govern her voice.
You must be very careful in anything you say about me, she said
with a praiseworthy attempt at light raillery.
I shall be careful with the care of a man who has discovered some
rare jewel, and fears lest each shadow should conceal an enemy till he
has reached a place of utmost security.
She sighed, and her glance wandered away into the sun-drowned
Such fortresses are rare and hard to find, she said. Take my own
case. I was really enjoying this pleasant tour of ours, yet it is
broken in two, as it were, by some force beyond our control, and the
severance makes itself felt here, in this secluded nook, a retreat not
even marked on our self-drawn map. Where could one be more secureas
you put itless open to that surge of events that drives resistlessly
into new seas? I am something of a fatalist, Mr. Fitzroy, though the
phrase sounds strange on my lips. Yet I feel that after to-morrow we
shall not meet again so soon or so easily as you imagine, andif I may
venture to advise one much more experienced than myselfthe way that
leads least hopefully to my speedy introduction to your aunt is that
you should see my father, before I rejoin him. You know, I am sure,
that I look on you rather as a friend than a merea mere
Slave, he suggested, trying to wrench some spark of humor out of
the iron in their souls.
Don't be stupid. I mean that you and I have met on an equality that
I would deny to Simmonds or to any of the dozen chauffeurs we have
employed in various parts of the world. And I want to warn you of
thisknowing my father as well as I doI am certain he has asked Mrs.
Leland's help for the undertaking that others have failed in. Ican't
say more. I
Cynthia, dear! I have been looking for you everywhere, cried a
detested voice. Ah, there you are, Mr. Fitzroy! and Mrs. Devar
bustled forward cheerfully. You have been to Hereford, I hear. How
kind and thoughtful of you! Were there any letters for me?
Sorry, broke in Cynthia. I was so absorbed in my own news that I
forget yours. Here is your letter. It is only from Monsieur Marigny, to
blow both of us up, I suppose, for leaving him desolate last night. But
what do you think of my budget? My father is in London; Mrs.
Leland, a friend of ours, joins us at Chester to-morrow; and Fitzroy
deserts us at the same time.
Mrs. Devar's eyes bulged and her lower jaw fell a little. She could
hardly have exhibited more significant tokens of alarm had each of
Cynthia's unwelcome statements been punctuated by the crash of
artillery fired in the garden beneath.
During a long night and a weary morning she had labored hard at the
building of a new castle in Spain, and now it was dissipated at a
breath. Her sky had fallen; she was plunged into chaos; her brain
reeled under these successive shocks.
Idon't understand, she gasped, panting as if she had run across
vast stretches of that vague everywhere during her quest of Cynthia.
None of us understands. That is not the essence of the contract.
Anyhow, father is in England, Mrs. Leland will be in Chester, and
Fitzroy is for London. He is the only real hustler in the crowd. Unless
my eyes deceived me, he brought his successor in the car from Hereford.
Really, Mr. Fitzroy, don't you think you ought to skate by the next
I prefer waiting till to-morrow evening if you will permit it, he
Cynthia was lashing herself into a very fair semblance of hot anger.
She felt that she was trammeled in a net of deception, and, like the
freedom-loving American that she was, she resented the toils none the
less because their strands remained invisible. Seeing Medenham's
crestfallen aspect at her unjust charge with reference to Dale's
presence, she bit her lip with a laugh of annoyance and turned on Mrs.
It seems to me, she cried, that Count Edouard Marigny has been
taking an interest in me that is certainly not warranted by any
encouragement on my part. Open your letter, Mrs. Devar, and see if he,
too, is on the London trail.... Ah, wellperhaps I am mistaken. I was
so vexed for the moment that I thought he might have telegraphed to
father when we did not turn up at Hereford. Of course, that is sheer
nonsense. He couldn't have done it. Father was in England before
Monsieur Marigny was aware of our failure to connect with Hereford. I'm
sure I don't know what is vexing me, but something is, or somebody, and
I want to quarrel with it, or him, or her, real bad.
Without waiting for any opening of Marigny's note she ran off to her
room. Medenham had turned to leave the hotel when he heard a gurgling
Mr. FitzroyLord Medenhamwhat does it all mean?
Mrs. Devar's distress was pitiable. Snatches of talk overheard in
Paris and elsewhere warned her that Mrs. Leland would prove an
unconquerable foe. She was miserably conscious that her own letter,
posted overnight, would rise up in judgment against her, but already
she had devised the plausible excuse that the very qualities which were
excellent in a viscount were most dangerous in a chauffeur.
Nevertheless, the letter, ill-advised though it might be, could not
account for Peter Vanrenen's sudden visit to England. She might torture
her wits for a year without hitting on the truth, since the summoning
of the millionaire to the rescue appeared to be the last thing Count
Edouard Marigny would dream of doing. She actually held in her hand a
summary of the telegrams he had dispatched from Bristol, but her mind
was too confused to work in its customary grooves, and she blurted out
Medenham's title in a frantic attempt to gain his support.
It means this, he said coolly, resolved to clear the ground
thoroughly for Mrs. Devar's benefit; your French ally is resorting to
the methods of the blackmailer. If you are wise you will cut yourself
entirely adrift from him, and warn your son to follow your example. I
shall deal with Monsieur Marignyhave no doubt on that scoreand if
you wish me to forget certain discreditable incidents that have
happened since we left London you will respect my earnest request that
Miss Vanrenen shall not be told anything about me by you. I mean to
choose my own time and place for the necessary explanations. They
concern none but Miss Vanrenen and myself, in the first instance, and
her father and mine, in the second. I have observed that you can be a
shrewd woman when it serves your interests, Mrs. Devar, and now you
have an opportunity of adding discretion to shrewdness. I take it you
are asking for my advice. It is simple and to the point. Enjoy
yourself, cease acting as a matrimonial agent, and leave the rest to
The residents in the hotel were gathering in the veranda, as the
luncheon hour was approaching, so Mrs. Devar could not press him to be
more explicit. In the privacy of her own room she read Marigny's
letter. Then she learnt why Cynthia's father had hurried across the
Channel, for the Frenchman had not scrupled to warn him that his
presence was imperative if he would save his daughter from a rogue who
had replaced the confidential Simmonds as chauffeur.
Forthwith, Mrs. Devar became more dazed than ever. She felt that she
must confide in someone, so she wrote a full account of events at
Symon's Yat to her son. It was the worst possible thing she could have
done. Unconsciouslyfor she was now anxious to help instead of
hindering Medenham's wooingsome of the gall in her nature distilled
itself into words. She dwelt on the river episode with all the sly
rancor of the inveterate scandalmonger. She was really striving to
depict her own confusion of ideas when stunned by the discovery of
Medenham's position, but she only succeeded in stringing together a
series of ill-natured innuendoes. Sandwiched between each paragraph of
the story were the true gossip's catchwordsthus: What was I to
think? What would people say if they knew? My dear, just picture
your mother's predicament when midnight struck, and there was no news!
Of course, one makes allowances for an American girl, and the rest.
Though this soured woman was a ready letter-writer, she was no
reader, or in days to come she might have parodied Pope's Epistle to
Why did I write? What sin to me unknown
Dipped me in ink?my parents', or my own?
Not content with her outpouring to Devar she dashed off a warning to
Marigny. She imagined that the Frenchman would grin at his broken
fortunes, and look about for another heiress! And so, abandoning a meal
to the fever of scribbling, she packed more mischief into an hour than
any elderly marriage-broker in Europe that day, and waddled off to the
letterbox with a sense of consolation, strong in the belief that the
morrow would bring telegrams to guide her in the fray with Mrs. Leland.
Medenham sent a short note to his father, saying that he would reach
London about midnight next day and asking him to invite Aunt Susan to
lunch on Tuesday. Then he waited in vain for sight of Cynthia until,
driven to extremes by tea-time, he got one of the maids to take her a
verbal message, in which he stated that the climb to the summit of the
Yat could be made in half an hour.
The reply was deadening.
Miss Vanrenen says she is busy. She does not intend to leave the
hotel to-day; and will you please have the car ready at eight o'clock
Then Medenham smiled ferociously, for he had just ascertained that
the local telegraph office opened at eight.
Kindly tell Miss Vanrenen that we had better make a start some few
minutes earlier, because we have a long day's run before us, he said.
And he hummed a verse of Young Lochinvar as he moved away, thereby
provoking the maid-servant to an expression of opinion that some folk
thought a lot of themselvesbut as for London shuffers and their
CHAPTER XII. MASQUES, ANCIENT AND
The clouds did not lift until Cynthia was standing in front of that
remarkable Map of the World which reposes behind oaken doors in the
south aisle of Hereford Cathedral. During the run from Symon's Yat, not
even a glorious sun could dispel the vapors of that unfortunate Sunday.
Cynthia had smiled a Good-morning when she entered the car, but
beyond one quick glance around to see if the deputy chauffeur was in
attendancewhich Medenham took care he should not beshe gave no
visible sign of yesterday's troubles, though her self-contained manner
showed that they were present in her thoughts.
Mrs. Devar tried to be gracious, and only succeeded in being
stilted, for the shadow of impending disaster lay black upon her.
Medenham's only thrill came when Cynthia asked for letters or telegrams
at the Green Dragon, and was told there were none. Evidently, Peter
Vanrenen was not a man to create a mountain out of a molehill. Mrs.
Leland might be trusted to smooth away difficulties; perhaps he meant
to await her report confidently and in silence.
But that square of crinkled vellum on which Richard of Holdingham
and Lafford had charted this strange old world of ours as it appeared
during the thirteenth century helped to blow away the mists.
I never knew before that the Garden of Eden was inside the Arctic
Circle, said the girl, gazing awe-stricken at the symbolic drawings of
the eating of the forbidden fruit and the expulsion of Adam and Eve
No later than yesterday I fancied it might have been situated in
the Wye Valley, commented Medenham.
The cast was skillful, but the fish did not rise. Instead, Cynthia
bent nearer to look at Lot's wife, placed in situ.
Too bad there is no word about America, she said irrelevantly.
Oh, even at that date the United States were on the other side. You
see, Richard was a person of intelligence. He anticipated Galileo by
making the earth round, so he would surely get ahead of Columbus in
guessing at a New World.
They were the only tourists in the cathedral at that early hour, so
the attendant verger tolerated this flippancy.
In the left-hand corner, he recited, you see Augustus Cæsar
delivering orders for a survey of the world to the philosophers
Nichodoxus, Theodotus, and Polictitus. Near the center you have the
Labyrinth of Crete, the Pyramids of Egypt, the House of Bondage, the
Jews worshiping the Golden Calf
Ah, what a pity we left Mrs. Devar at the post-officehow she
would have appreciated this! murmured Medenham.
Still Cynthia refused to take the fly.
May we visit the library? she asked, dazzling the verger with a
smile in her best manner. I have heard so much about the books in
chains, and the Four Gospels in Anglo-Saxon characters. Is the volume
really a thousand years old?
From the Cathedral they wandered into the beautiful grounds of the
Bishop's Palace, where a brass plate, set in a boundary wall, states in
equivocal phrase that Nell Gwynne, Founder of Chelsea Hospital, and
Mother of the first Duke of St. Albans, was born near the spot thus
marked. Each remembered the irresponsible chatter of Saturday, but
neither alluded to it, nor did Medenham offer to lead Cynthia to
Garrick's birthplace. Not forty-eight hours, but long years, as
measured by the seeming trivialities that go to make or mar existence,
spanned the interval between Bristol and Hereford. They chafed against
the bonds of steel that yet sundered them; they resented the silent
edict that aimed at parting them; by a hundred little artifices each
made clear to the other that the coming separation was distasteful,
while an eager interest in the commonplace supplied sure index of their
embarrassment. And so, almost as a duty, the West Front, the North
Porch, the Close, the Green, the Wye Bridge, were duly snap-shotted and
recorded in a little book that Cynthia carried.
[Illustration: Fitzroy poses as the first Earl of Chepstow.
Once, while she was making a note, Medenham held the camera, and
happened to watch her as she wrote. At the top of a page he saw Film
6, No. 5: Fitzroy poses as the first Earl of Chepstow. Cynthia's left
hand hid the entry just a second too late.
I couldn't help seeing that, he said innocently. If you will give
me a print, I shall have it framed and place it among the other family
I really meant to present you with an album containing all the
pictures which turn out well, she said.
You have not changed your mind, I hope?
Nno, but there will be so few. I was rather lazy during the first
You can trust me to fill in the gaps with exceeding accuracy.
Oh, don't let us talk as if we would never meet again. The world is
I had the exact contrary in mind, he said quickly. If we parted
to-day, and did not meet for twenty years, each of us might well be
doubtful as to what did or did not happen last Friday or Saturday. But
association strengthens and confirms such recollections. I often think
that memories held in common are the most solid foundation of
You don't believe, then, in love at first sight, she ventured.
Let me be dumb rather than so misunderstood! he cried.
Cynthia breathed deeply. She was profoundly conscious of an escape
wholly due to his forbearance, but she was terrified at finding that
her thankfulness was of a very doubtful quality. She knew now that this
man loved her, and the knowledge was at once an ecstasy and a torture.
And how wise he was, how considerate, how worthy of the treasure that
her overflowing heart would heap on him! But it could not be. She dared
not face her father, her relatives, her host of friends, and confess
with proud humility that she had found her mate in some unknown
Englishman, the hired driver of a motor-car. At any rate, in that
moment of exquisite agony, Cynthia did not know what she might dare
when put to the test. Her lips parted, her eyes glistened, and she
turned aside to gaze blindly at the distant Welsh hills.
If we don't hurry, she said with the slowness of desperation, we
shall never complete our programme by nightfall.... And we must not
forget that Mrs. Leland awaits us at Chester.
To-night I shall realize the feelings of Charles the First when he
witnessed the defeat of his troops at the battle of Rowton Moor, was
Medenham's savage growl.
Hardly aware of her own words, Cynthia murmured:
Though defeated, the poor king did not lose hope.
No: the Stuarts' only virtue was their stubbornness. By the way, I
am a Stuart.
Evidently that is why you are flying from Chester, she contrived
to say with a little laugh.
I pin my faith in the Restoration, he retorted. It is a fair
parallel. It took Charles twenty years to reach Rowton Moor, but the
modern clock moves quicker, for I am there in five days.
I am no good at dates she began, but Mrs. Devar discovered
them from afar, and fluttered a telegram. They hastened to herCynthia
flushed at the thought that she might be recalled to Londonwhich she
would not regret, since a visit to the dentist to-day is better than
the toothache all next weekand Medenham steeled himself against
But Mrs. Devar's main business in life was self.
I have just heard from James, she cooed. He promised to run up to
Shrewsbury to-day, but finds he cannot spare the time. Count Edouard
told him that Mr. Vanrenen was in town, and he regrets he was unable to
call before he left.
Before who left? demanded Cynthia.
Your father, dear.
Left for where?
Mrs. Devar screwed her eyes at the pink slip.
That is all it says. Just 'left'?
That doesn't sound right, anyhow, laughed Medenham.
Oh, but this is too ridiculous! and Cynthia's foot stamped. I
have never before known my father behave in this Jack-in-the-Box
Mrs. Leland will clear up the whole mystery, volunteered Medenham.
But what mystery is there? purred Mrs. Devar, blinking first at
one, then at the other. She bent over the telegram again.
James sent this message from the West Strand at 9.30 a.m. Perhaps
he had just heard of Mr. Vanrenen's departure, she said.
Judging from Cynthia's occasional references to her father's
character and associates, Medenham fancied it was much more likely that
the American railway magnate had merely refused to meet Captain Devar.
But therein he was mistaken.
At the very hour that the three were settling themselves in the
Mercury before taking the road to Leominster, Mr. Vanrenen, driven by a
perturbed but silent Simmonds, stopped the car on the outskirts of
Whitchurch and asked an intelligent-looking boy if he had noticed the
passing of an automobile numbered X L 4000.
I s'pose you mean a motor-car, sir? said the boy.
Vanrenen, a tall man, thin, close-lipped, with high cheekbones, and
long nose, a man utterly unlike his daughter save for the wide-open,
all-seeing eyes, smiled at the naïve correction; with that smile some
enchanter's wand mirrored Cynthia in her father's face. Even Simmonds,
who had seen no semblance of a smile in the features of the chilly,
skeptical man by whom he was dragged out of bed at an unearthly hour in
the morning at Bristol, witnessed the alchemy, and marveled.
Yes, sir, rather, continued the boy, brimming over with
enthusiasm. The gentleman went along the Hereford Road, he did,
yesterday mornin'. He kem back, too, wiv a shuffer, an' he's a-stayin'
at the Symon's Yat Hotel.
Peter Vanrenen frowned, and Cynthia vanished, to be replaced by the
Wall Street speculator who had made a pyramid in Milwaukees. Whence,
then, had Cynthia telephoned? Of course, his alert mind hit on a missed
mail as the genesis of the run to Hereford early on Sunday, but he
asked himself why he had not been told of a changed address. He could
not guess that Cynthia would have mentioned the fact had she spoken to
him, but in the flurry and surprise of hearing that he was not in the
hotel she forgot to tell the attendant who took her message that she
was at Symon's Yat and not at Hereford.
Are you sure about the car? he said, rendered somewhat skeptical
by the boy's overfullness of knowledge.
Yes, sir. Didn't me an' Dick Davies watch for it all chapel-time?
But why?for that car in particular?
The gentleman bust his tire, an' we watched him mendin' it, an' he
set us a sum, an' promised us a bob each if we did it.
Meanwhile he went to Hereford and back?
I s'pose so, sir.
Peter Vanrenen's attention was held by that guarded answer, and,
being an American, he was ever ready to absorb information, especially
in matters appertaining to figures.
What was the sum? he said.
To his very keen annoyance he found that he could not determine
straight off how long two men take to mow a field of grass, which one
of them could cut in four days and the other in three. Indeed, he
almost caught himself saying three days and a half, but stopped short
of that folly.
About a day and three-quarters, he essayed, before the silence
Wrong, sir. Is it worth a bob? and the urchin grinned
Yes, he said.
A day an' five-sevenths, 'coss one man can do one quarter in a day,
and t'other man a third, which is seven-twelfths, leavin' five-twelfths
to be done next day.
Though the millionaire financier was nettled, he did not show it,
but paid the shilling with apparent good grace.
Did you find that outor was it Dick Davies? he asked.
Both of us, sir, wiv' a foot rule.
And how far is the Symon's Yat Hotel, measured by that rule?
Half a mile, sir, down that there lane.
While traveling slowly in the narrow way, Simmonds turned his head.
It doesn't follow that because the boy saw Viscount Medenham
yesterday his lordship is here now, sir, he said.
You just do as you are told and pass no remarks, snapped Vanrenen.
If the head of the house of Vanrenen were judged merely by that
somewhat unworthy retort he would not be judged fairly. He was tired
physically, worried mentally; he had been brought from Paris at an
awkward moment; he was naturally devoted to his daughter; he believed
that Medenham was an unmitigated scamp and Simmonds his tool; and his
failure to solve Medenham's arithmetical problem still rankled. These
considerations, among others, may be pleaded in his behalf.
But, if Simmonds, who had stood on Spion Kop, refused to be
browbeaten by a British earl, he certainly would not grovel before an
American plutocrat. He had endured a good deal since five o'clock that
morning. He told his tale honestly and fully; he even sympathized with
a father's distress, though assured in his own mind that it was wholly
unwarranted; he was genuinely sorry on hearing that Mr. Vanrenen had
been searching the many hotels of Bristol for two hours before he came
to the right one. But to be treated like a serf?no, not if Simmonds
The car stopped with a jerk. Out leaped the driver.
Now you can walk to the hotel, he said, though he distinguished
the hotel by an utterly inappropriate adjective.
The more sudden the crisis the more prepared was Vanrenenthat was
his noted characteristic, whether dealing with men or money.
What has bitten you? he demanded calmly.
You must find somebody else to do your detective work, that is
all, came the stolid answer.
Don't be a mule.
I'm not a mule. You're makin' a dd row about nothing. Viscount
Medenham is a gentleman to his finger tips, and if you were one you'd
know that he wouldn't hurt a hair of Miss Vanrenen's head, or any
lady's, for that matter.
Where my daughter is concerned I am not a gentleman, or a viscount,
or a person who makes dd rows. I am just a fathera plain, simple
fatherwho thinks more of his girl than of any other object in this
wide world. If I have hurt your feelings I am sorry. If I am altogether
mistaken I'll apologize and pay. I'm paying now. This trip will
probably cost me fifty thousand dollars that I would have scooped in
were I in Paris to-morrow. Your game is to attend to the benzine buzz
part of the contract and leave the rest to me. Shove ahead, and step
To his lasting credit, Simmonds obeyed: but the row had cleared the
air; Vanrenen liked the man, and felt now that his original estimate of
his worth was justified.
At the hotel, of course, he had much more to learn than he expected.
Oddly enough, the praises showered on Fitzroy confirmed him in the
opinion that Cynthia was the victim of a clever knave, be he titled
aristocrat or mere adventurer. For the first time, too, he began to
suspect Mrs. Devar of complicity in the plot!
A nice kind of chaperon she must be to let his girl go boating with
a chauffeur on the Wye! And her Sunday's illness was a palpable
pretensean arranged affair, no doubt, to permit more boating and
dallying in this fairyland of forest and river. What thanks he owed to
that Frenchman, Marigny!
Indeed, it was easy to hoodwink this hard-headed man in aught that
affected Cynthia. Count Edouard displayed a good deal of tact when he
called at the Savoy Hotel late the previous night, but his obvious
relief at finding Vanrenen in London had induced the latter to depart
for Bristol by a midnight train rather than trust wholly to Mrs.
Leland's leisured strategy.
He did not go straight to Hereford for the best of reasons. He had
told Cynthia of Mrs. Leland's coming, and had heard of if not from her
in response to his letter. If he rushed off now to intercept the
motorists at Hereford he would defeat the very purpose he had in view,
which was to interpose an effectual shield between the scoundrelly
lordling and his prey, while avoiding any risk of hurting his
daughter's feelings. Moreover, he was eminently a just man. Hearing
from Marigny that Simmonds, the original cause of all the trouble, was
skulking at Bristol, to Bristol he went. From that starting-point, with
his knowledge of Cynthia's probable route, he could surely pick up
traces of the predatory car at most towns through which it passed.
Moreover, he could choose his own time for joining the party in front,
which by this time he was fully resolved on, either at Chester or
Transcending these minor features of a disturbing affair was his
self-confessed fear of Cynthia. In the unfathomed deeps of a father's
love for such a daughter there is ever an element of fear. Not for all
his wealth would Vanrenen cast a shadow on the unsullied intimacy of
their affection. Therefore, he would be wary, circumspect, ready to
accept as most credible theories which he would scout in any other
conditions, quick to discern the truth, slow to point out wherein an
inexperienced girl had erred, but merciless to the fortune-hunter who
had so jeopardized Cynthia's happiness and his own.
Hence, his appearance at the Symon's Yat Hotel seemed to have no
more serious import than a father's wish to delight his daughter by an
unexpected participation in her holiday. No secret had been made as to
the Mercury's halting-place that day. Cynthia herself had written the
address in the hotel register, adding a request that letters, if any,
were to be forwarded to Windermere.
By chance, the smiling landlady's curiosity as to Fitzroy raised a
He must be a gentleman, she said, because he belongs to the
Thames Rowing Club; he also spoke and acted like one. Why did he employ
an assistant chauffeur? That is most unusual.
Vanrenen could only explain that arrangements for the tour were made
during his absence in France, so he was not fully posted as to details.
Oh, they did not intend to remain here on Saturday, but Miss
Vanrenen liked the place, and seemed to be rather taken with the
hotel whereat the millionaire nodded his complete agreementso
Mr. Fitzroy telegraphed for a man named Dale to come to Hereford. There
was some misunderstanding, however, and Dale only arrived yesterday in
the car. He left by an early train this morning, after doing the garage
Simmonds, candor itself about Medenham, had said no word of the Earl
of Fairholme or of Dale. Marigny, of course, was silent as to the Earl,
since it might have ruined his last faint hope of success had the two
perplexed fathers met; Simmonds's recent outburst opposed an effectual
bar to farther questioning; so Vanrenen was free to deduce all sorts of
possibilities from the existence of yet another villainous chauffeur.
Unhappily, he availed himself of the opportunity to the full. The
fair countryside and the good food of the March counties made little or
no appeal to him thenceforth. He pined to be in Chester, yet restrained
the impulse that urged a frenzied scurry to the Banks of the Dee, for
he was adamant in his resolve not to seem to have pursued Cynthia, but
rather to have joined her as the outcome of a mere whim after she had
met Mrs. Leland.
The Mercury arrived at Ludlow long before Vanrenen crossed the Wye
Bridge at Hereford. Medenham stopped the car at The Feathers, that
famous magpie among British Inns, where Cynthia admired and
photographed some excellent woodcarving, and saw an iron-studded front
door which has shut out revellers and the night on each alternate round
of the clock since 1609, if not longer.
If they hurried over luncheon they were content to dawdle in the
picturesque streets, and Cynthia was reluctant to leave the fine old
castle, in which Milton's Masque of Comus was first played on
Michaelmas night of 1634. At first, she yielded only to the flood of
memories pent in every American brain when the citizen of the New World
stands in one of these treasure-houses of history and feels the passing
of its dim pageants; when they stood together in the ruined banqueting
hall, Medenham gave play to his imagination, and strove to reconstruct
a scene once spread before the bright eyes of a maiden long since dead.
You will please regard yourself, he said, as the Lady Alice
Egerton, daughter of the Earl of Bridgwater, Lord President of the
Marches of Wales, who, with her two brothers, was benighted in the
Forest of Heywood while riding to Ludlow to witness her father's
installation in his high office. Milton was told of her adventures by
Henry Lawes, the musician, and he wrote the 'Masque of Comus' to
delight her and her friends. Have you read 'Comus'?
No, said Cynthia, almost timidly, for she was beginning to fear
this masterful man whose enthusiasm caught her to his very soul at such
Ah, but you shall. It ranks high among the miracles of English
poetry wrought by Milton. Many a mile from Ludlow have I called to mind
one of its incomparable passages:
A thousand phantasies
Begin to throng into my memory
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
And now you, the heroine of the masque, must try to imagine that you
are lost in a wild wood represented by a carpet spread here, in the
center of the hall. Seated there on a dais, is your father the Earl,
surrounded by his officers and retainers. Near you are your brothers,
Lord Brackley and Thomas Egerton, so blinded by sprites that they
cannot see you, though keen enough to note the bright eyes and flushed
cheeks of other ladies of high degree bidden to Ludlow from neighboring
shires for the merry-making. And mark you, this is no rude gathering of
unlettered squires and rough men-at-arms. How is it possible that an
uncultured throng should listen rapturously to the noblest performance
of the kind that exists in any language, wherein each speech is a
majestic soliloquy, eloquent, sublime, with an uncloying word-music
acclaimed by three centuries?
The sheer wonder in Cynthia's face warned him that this brief
excursion into the pages of Macaulay had better cease, so he focused
his thoughts on the actual representation of the masque in which he had
taken part ten years ago at Fairholme.
I must ask you to concede that the lords and ladies, the civic
dignitaries and their wives, for whose amusement Milton spread the
pinions of his genius, were far better equipped to understand his lyric
flights than any similar assemblage that could be collected haphazard
in some modern castle. They did not pretendthey knew. Even you, Lady
Alice, could frame a neat verse in Latin and cap some pleasant jest
with a line from Homer. When Milton dreamed aloud of bathing in the
Elysian dew of the rainbow, of inhaling the scents of nard and cassia,
'which the musky wings of the Zepyhr scatter through the cedared alleys
of the Hesperides,' they followed each turn and swoop of his fancy with
an active sense of its truth and beauty. And what a brilliant company!
How the red flare of torch and cresset would flicker on the sheen of
silk, the luster of velvet, the polished brightness of morion and
spear. I think I can see those gallant gentlemen and fine ladies
grouped round the players who told of the strange pranks played by the
God of Mirth. Perhaps that same fair Alice, who supplied the motive of
the masque as well as its leading lady, may be linked with you by
stronger ties than those of mere feminine grace
Cynthia did not blush: she grew white, but shook her head.
You cannot tell, he said. 'Comus' was played in Ludlow only
fourteen years after the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England,
and I would remind you that we stocked the new nation in the west with
some of the bluest blood in Britain. Even in this hall there were
Puritans whose ascetic tastes disapproved of Milton's imageries, of
children play-acting, of the brave show made by the gentry
My mother's people lived in Pennsylvania for generations, she
broke in with a strange wistfulness.
I knew it, he cried in triumph. Tell me the names of the
first-nighters at the Milton Theater, Ludlow, on that autumn evening in
1634, and warrant me to find you an authentic ancestor.
Cynthia bent a puzzled brow at him.
After this, I shall apply myself to 'Comus' with added
comprehension, she said. Butyou take my breath away; have you,
then, delved so deep in the mine of English history that you can people
'most every ruined pile in Britain with the men and women of the dead
He laughed, and colored a little, with true British confusion at
having been caught in an extravagant mood.
There you lay bare the mummer, he said. What clever fellows
actors would be if they grasped the underlying realities of all the
fine words they mouth! No; I quote 'Comus' only because on one
half-forgotten occasion I played in it.
The prompt question took him unaware.
At Fairholme, he said.
Is that another castle?
Nomerely a Georgian residence.
I seem to have heard of itsomewhereI can't remember.
He remembered quite wellwas not Mrs. Devar, student of Burke,
sitting in the car at the castle gate?
Oh, we must hurry, he said shamefacedly. I have kept you here too
long, for we have yet to
trace huge forests and unharbour'd heaths,
Infamous hills and sandy perilous wilds,
before we see Chesterand Mrs. Leland.
With that the bubble was pricked, and staid Ludlow became a busy
market-town again, its streets blocked by the barrows of hucksters and
farmers' carts, its converging roads thronged with cattle. At
Shrewsbury Medenham was vouchsafed a gleam of frosty humor by Mrs.
Devar's anxiety lest her son might have obeyed her earlier injunctions,
and kept tryst at The Raven after all. That trivial diversion soon
passed. He hoped that Cynthia would share the front seat with him in
the final run to Chester; but she remained tucked up in the tonneau,
and the dread that kept her there was bitter-sweet to him, since it
betrayed her increasing lack of confidence in herself.
The rendezvous was at the Grosvenor Hotel, and Medenham had made up
his mind how to act long before the red towers of Chester Cathedral
glowed above the city's haze in the fire of a magnificent sunset. Dale
was waiting on the pavement when the Mercury drew up at the galleried
entrance to the hotel.
Medenham leaped down.
Good-by, Miss Vanrenen, he said, holding out his hand. I can
catch an early train to town by hurrying away at once. This is Dale,
who will take my place. He is thoroughly reliable, and an even more
careful driver than I am.
Are you really goinglike that? faltered Cynthia, and her face
blanched at the suddenness of it.
Yes. I shall have the pleasure of seeing you in London when you
Their hands met in a firm clasp. Mrs. Devar, too flustered at first
to gasp more than an Oh! of astonishment, leaned forward and shook
his hand with marked cordiality.
You must tell Dale to take great care of us, she said, knowingly.
I think he realizes the exceeding trust I repose in him, he said,
but the accompanying smile was meant for Cynthia, and she read into it
a farewell that presaged many things.
He disappeared without another word. When a slim, elegantly-gowned
lady had hastened to the door from the drawing-room, whence she was
summoned by a page, she found two dust-covered figures in the act of
alighting from a well-appointed car. Her next glance was at the solemn
jowl of the chauffeur.
Cynthia, my darling girl! she cried, with arms thrown wide.
There could be no doubting the heartiness of the greeting, and in
that motherly embrace Cynthia felt a repose, a security, that she had
been willfully skeptical of during many weary hours. But polite usage
called for an introduction, and Mrs. Leland and Mrs. Devar eyed each
other warily, with the smiles of convention.
Mrs. Leland glanced at Dale.
And who is this? she asked, seizing the opportunity to settle a
point that was perplexing her strangely.
Our chauffeur, said Cynthia, and a glint of fun showed through the
wanness of her cheeks.
Even smooth-tongued Mrs. Leland was at a loss.
Not Fitzroy, who left us a minute ago. This man's name is Dale. One
wonders, though, how you knewwhy you doubted, cried Cynthia in sharp
Pray why did Fitzroy leave you a minute ago? was all that the
other woman could find to say.
He had to return to London. But, thereit is I who ought to ask
questions. Let us go inside. I want to get some of the grit out of my
eyes and hair; then I shall become an absolute mark of
interrogationso I warn you. Of course, I am delighted to see you; but
queer things have happened, and I am pining to have them cleared up.
When did you see father last? Is he still in London?
Mrs. Leland answered, with freer speech now, but in her heart she
was saddened by Medenham's duplicity. Six months earlier he and the
Earl had dined at the villa she was occupying at San Remo for the
winter. She then took a great liking to him on account of his shy and
reticent but singularly pleasing manners. She was prepared to laugh at
the present escapade when she had discussed it with him that night. Now
he had fled, doubtless through fear. That was bad. That looked ugly and
mean. Most certainly Peter Vanrenen had acted rightly in bringing her
post-haste from Trouville. She must use all her skill if mischief were
to be avoided.
CHAPTER XIII. WHEREIN WRATH BEGUILES
Enjoy your run to Hereford?
Immensely. Did you?
It was not so bad. Rather tiresome, you know, travelin' alone, but
on the return journey I fell in with a decent sort of Frenchman who
helped to pass the time.
Monsieur Marigny, in fact?
Ah, you know him, of course. I had forgotten.
I have met him. He is not the kind of person I care to know.
The Earl selected an egg, tapped it, and asked his son what he
thought of the cropsdid they want rain? The two were breakfasting
aloneat the moment there was not even a man-servant in the roombut
Lord Fairholme had long ago established the golden rule that
controversial topics were taboo during meals. Medenham laughed outright
at the sudden change of topic. He remembered that Dale was sent to bed
in the Green Dragon Hotel at eight o'clock, and he had not the least
doubt that his father's ukase was really a dodge to secure an
undisturbed dinner. But he was under no delusions because of this
placid meeting in the breakfast-room. There was thunder in the air.
Tomkinson had warned him of it overnight.
There's bin ructions while you were away, my lord, the butler had
whispered, waylaying him in the hall just before midnight. Lady St.
Maur has upset the Earl somethink dreadful; and Medenham had growled
in reply: Her ladyship will lunch here at one o'clock to-morrow,
Tomkinson. Have an ambulance ready at two, for she will be in little
pieces before I have done with her. The mangling will be somethink
But what has become of Dale, my lord? went on Tomkinson in a
Dale? He is all right. Why? Is he in the soup, too?
No, my lord. I've heard nothink of that, but he sent me a wire from
A telegramabout what?
About a horse.
Oh, the deuce take you and your horses. By the way, that reminds
meyou gave me a rotten tip for the Derby.
It was a false run race, my lord. The favorite was swep' off his
feet at Tattenham Corner, and couldn't get into his stride again till
the field was opposite Langland's Stands. After that
After that I'm going to bed. But I forgive you, Tomkinson. You put
up a ripping good lunch. You're a far better butler than a tipster.
This brief conversation had illumined at least one dubious page in
the records of the past few days. Medenham realized now that his aunt
had emptied the vials of her wrath on Mrs. Devar, but, that lady being
absent in body, the Earl had received the full dose. It indicated
somewhat the line he should follow when, breakfast ended, his father
suggested that they should smoke a cigarette in the library.
Once there, and the door closed, the Earl established himself on the
hearth-rug with his back to the fireplace. It was high summer, and the
lazy London heat crept in through the open windows; but the hearth-rug
constituted a throne, a seat of Solomon; had his lordship stood
anywhere else he would have felt lacking in authority.
Now, George, my boy, tell me all about it, he said, with a
genially paternal air that lent itself admirably to the discussion of a
Medenham had a sense of humor denied to his well-meaning sire. He
recalled the last time he had heard those words. He and another sprig
of nobility had come up to London from Winchester without leave in
order to attend a famous glove contest between heavyweights, and there
had been wigs on the green before an irate head-master would even deign
to flog them. That had happened twelve years ago, almost to a day.
Since then he had fought through a great war, had circled the globe,
had sought the wild places of earth and its monsters in their lairs. He
knew men and matters as his father had never known them. A Prime
Minister had urged him to adopt a political career, and had virtually
promised him a colonial under-secretaryship as soon as he entered
parliament. He held the D.S.O., had been thanked by the Royal
Geographical Society for a paper on Kilimanjaro, and cordially invited
by the Foreign Office to send in any further notes in his possession.
Months later, he heard that Sir Somebody Something was deeply
interested in his comments on the activity of a certain Great Power in
the neighborhood of Britain's chief coaling-stations in the Indian
The absurdity of a family conclave in which he should again be
treated as a small boy, and admonished to apologize and be flogged,
while it brought a smile to his lips, banished any notion of angry
By 'all about it' I suppose you mean that you wish to hear what I
have been doing since last Wednesday, he said pleasantly. Well, dad,
I have obeyed your orders. You asked me to find a wife worthy to reign
at Fairholme. I have succeeded.
You don't mean to say you have married her! shouted the
Earl, in a purple upheaval of rage whose lightning-like abruptness was
not its least amazing feature. Certainly Medenham was taken aback by
it. Indeed, he was almost alarmed, though he had no knowledge of
apoplexy in the family.
I have not even asked the lady yet, he said quietly. I hopeI
thinkthat the idea will not be disagreeable to her; but a future
Countess of Fairholme is not to be carried by storm in that fashion. We
must get to know her people
Dn her people! broke in the older man. Have you taken leave
of your wits, George, to stand there and talk such infernal nonsense?
Steady, dad, steady! and the quiet voice grew still more calm,
though the forehead wrinkled a little, and there was an ominous
tightening of the lips. You must take that back. Peter Vanrenen is
quite as great a man in the United States as you are in Englandmay I
even say, without disrespect, a man who has won a more commanding
position?and his daughter, Cynthia, is better fitted to adorn a
coronet than a great many women now entitled to wear one.
The Earl laughed, with an immoderate display of an amusement he was
far from feeling.
Are these Wiggy Devar's credentials? By gad, that shabby little
wretch is flying high when she tries to bag my son for her pretty
Don't you think it would be wiser, sir, if you allowed me to tell
you exactly what has taken place since we met last?
What good purpose will that serve? I have heard the whole story
from Lady Porthcawl, from Dale, from that Frenchmanand Heaven knows I
have been well coached in Mrs. Devar's antecedents by your Aunt Susan.
George, I am surprised that a man of your sound commonsense should
permit yourself to be humbugged so egregiously.... Yes, yes, I am aware
that an accident led you to take Simmonds's place in the first
instance, but can't you see that the Devar creature must have gone
instantly on her bended kneesif she ever does pray, which I
doubtand thanked Providence for the chance that enabled her to
dispose of an earldom?... At a pretty stiff price, too, I'll be bound,
if the truth were told. Really, George, notwithstanding your very
extensive travels and wide experiences, you are nothing but a kid in
the hands of a managing woman of the Devar variety.
I am not being given in marriage by Mrs. Devar, I assure you,
began Medenham, smiling anxiously, for the fatherly tell me all about
it was not being borne out by the Earl's petulance.
No. You can trust me to take care of that.
But are you treating me quite fairly? Why should the distorted
version of my affairs given by Lady Porthcawl, a woman whom Cynthia
Vanrenen could not possibly receive in her house, and by Count Edouard
Marigny, a disappointed fortune-hunter, be accepted without cavil,
while my own story is not listened to? I leave Dale out of it. I am
sure he told you the actual truth
By the way, where is he now?
Somewhere in the neighborhood of Chester, I believe.
Have you discharged him?
Nowhy should I?
Because I wish it.
Why in the world are you so unreasonable, dad?
Unreasonable! By gad, I like that. Have I been gallivanting
round the country with some
Stop! You are going too far. This conversation must cease here and
now. If you have any respect for yourself, though not for me, you must
adjourn the discussion till after you have met Miss Vanrenen and her
For the first time in his life, the Earl of Fairholme realized his
limitations; he was actually cowed for a few fleeting seconds. But the
arrogant training of the county bench, the seignory of a vast estate,
the unquestioning deference accorded to his views by thousands of men
who tacitly admitted that what he said must be right because he was a
lordthese excellent stays of self-conceit came to his help, and he
I absolutely refuse to meet either of them.
That disposes of the whole difficulty for the hour, said Medenham,
turning to leave the room.
Wait, George.... I insist
Perhaps a clearer glimpse of a new and, to him, utterly unsuspected
force in his son's character withheld the imperious command that
trembled on the Earl's lips. Medenham halted. The two looked at each
other, and the older man fidgeted with his collar, which seemed to have
grown tight for his neck.
Come, come, let us not leave a friendly argument in this unsettled
state, he said after an awkward pause. My only thought is for your
interests, you know. Your lifelong happiness is at stake, to say
nothing of the future of our house.
I recognize those considerations so fully that I am going now in
order to shirk even the semblance of a quarrel between us.
Why not thresh things out? Your aunt will be here in a couple of
You refuse to hear a word. You argue with a hammer, sir. I shall
send a note to Lady St. Maur telling her that she has done mischief in
plenty without adding fuel to the fire by coming here to-dayunless
you wish to consult her, that is?
The Earl, already afraid of his sister, was rapidly learning to fear
Dash it all! don't tell me you are off on this dd motoring trip
once more? he cried passionately.
Medenham smiled, even in his anger.
See how willfully you misunderstand me, he said. I came away from
Miss Vanrenen solely because matters had gone far enough under rather
absurd conditions. She knows me only as Fitzroy, the chauffeur; it is
time to drop masquerading. Romance is delightful in its wayperhaps
there might well be more of it in this commonplace world of oursbut
none of us can afford to play the knight errant too long, so when next
I meet Cynthia it will be as a man who occupies a social position that
renders our marriage at least possible.
Lord Fairholme threw out his hands in a gesture of sheer
And do you honestly believe that? he exclaimed.
I am quite sure of it. I may have to jump a very big fence indeed
when she learns the harmless deception I have practiced on her, but I
do hope most devoutly that she will look at the facts more calmly than
you have done.
The Earl took a turn or two on the hearth-rug, from which wisdom had
temporarily taken flight. He thought now he could see a way to avoid
open rupture, and he believed, quite rightly, that his son was in no
mood to accept further disillusionment.
At any rate, he grumbled, you are cutting a discredsorry, I
didn't quite mean thatyou are not rushing away from town again in
pursuit of the young lady?
When is she due back in London?
And you will not see her before that day?
I believe notin fact, I am fairly certain of it. Mrs. Leland
joined her at Chester last night, so there should be no curtailment of
The Earl started.
Mrs. Leland! Not the Mrs. Leland of Paris, and San Remo?
Yes. By hazard, as it were, you have let me tell you why I came
awayone of the reasons. Mrs. Leland would have recognized me at
Dear me, dear me, this is a beastly muddle! Look here, George,
promise me you won't do anything stupid for a day or so.... I have been
so pestered by people ... I don't know which way to turn. Why not stay
and meet your aunt?
Because I might lose my temper with her.
Ah, well, she is somewhat trying when it comes to family
matters. Still, I may tell her
That she ought to mind her own business? By all means. And oblige
me, too, by telling her that she would confer a boon on humanity if she
persuaded Lady Porthcawl to go toJerichoor Tokioor wherever that
ass, Porthcawl, may happen to be.
Millicent Porthcawl was at Bournemouth, you know.
Yes, I spoke to her. She had the impudence to introduce Ducrot to
By gad! Did she, though? I heard something from Scarland about that
affair. Well, wellthere's no accounting for tastes. I suppose you
realize, George, that I am keeping back a good deal of the
tittle-tattle which reached me during your absence. I don't want to
hurt your feelings
Thank you. The absurdity of the present position lies in the fact
that I shall have all my work cut out to hold your wrath against these
people within bounds when once you have met Cynthia.
Oh, I have no doubt she is pretty, and fascinating, and all that
sort of thing, growled the Earl, in a grudging access of good humor.
Confound it, that is why we are putty in their hands, George. Don't
forget I've had fifty-five years of 'em. Gad! I could tell you
thingsall right, let us chuck the dispute for the time. Shall I see
you at dinner?
Yesif you are alone.
There will be no women. I'll take devilish good care of that.
Scarland is in town for the show, and he is bringing Sir Ashley Stoke,
but Betty is nursing a youngster through the measles. Good Lord! I'm
glad your aunt didn't get hold of Betty!
Now, Lord Fairholme's diatribes against the sex were not quite
justified. Notorious as a lady-killer in his youth, in middle age he
was as garrulous a gossip as Mrs. Devar herself. Indeed, he had an
uneasy consciousness that Lady St. Maur might turn and rend him if
stress were laid only on her efforts to thwart his son's
unexpected leaning towards matrimony. During every yard of the journey
from Chester to London he had tried to extract information from
Marigny, and the sharp-witted Frenchman had enjoyed himself hugely in
displaying a well-feigned reluctance to yield to the Earl's probing. It
was just as much a part of his scheme to make the threatened alliance
as objectionable on the one side as on the other. By painting Medenham
as an unprincipled adventurer he had succeeded in alarming Vanrenen;
his sly hints, derogatory of both Cynthia and her father, now fanned
the flame of suspicion kindled in Lord Fairholme's breast by his
sister's remonstrances. Unfortunately, his lordship had gone straight
to Curzon Street and told Susan St. Maur every word that Marigny had
said, and a good deal that he had not said, but had left to be inferred
from a smirk, a malicious glance, an airy gesture.
Perhaps the two elderly guardians of the Fairholme line were not
wholly to blame for their interference. The title descended through
male heirs only, and Medenham's marriage thereby attained an added
importance. Lord Fairholme himself had been singularly fortunate in
escaping a mésallianceseveral, in factand it was the one great
trouble in his otherwise smooth and self-contained life that his
high-born and most admirable countess had died soon after the birth of
her second child, the present Marchioness of Scarland. Such a man would
naturally be the most jealous scrutineer of the pretensions of his
son's chosen wife. Qualities of heart and mind would weigh light in the
scale against genealogy. To his thinking, blue blood differed from the
common red stream as the claret of some noted vintage differs from the
vin ordinaire of the same year. Perhaps he had blundered on a
well-founded theory, but he certainly lacked discrimination as to the
Medenham did some shopping, lunched at a club, surprised his tailor
by a prolonged visit and close inspection of tweeds and broadcloths,
and successfully repressed a strong desire to write a letter. It was
some consolation to peruse for the twentieth time the four
closely-written pages on which Cynthia had set out the tour's timetable
for the benefit of Simmonds. He had not returned it, since she
possessed a copy, and in his mind's eye he followed the Mercury in its
flight up the map from end to end of industrial Lancashire, through
smoky Preston to trim Lancaster and quiet Kendal, and finally, after a
long day, to the brooding peace and serene beauty of Windermere.
At last, rousing himself from his dreamingfor he was now back in
his club again, sipping a cup of teahe glanced at his watch. Five
o'clocka likely hour to find Mr. Vanrenen in the hotel, if, as was
most probable, Devar's telegram to his mother was altogether mistaken
in its report of the millionaire's movements.
He meant, of course, to make himself known to Vanrenen, and go
through the whole adventure from A to Z. It should provide an
interesting story, he thoughtlively as a novel in some of its
chapters, and calculated to appeal strongly to the bright intelligence
of an American. On his way to the Savoy, he tried to picture to himself
just what Cynthia's father would look like. It was a futile endeavor,
because he had never yet been able to construct a mental portrait of
any man wholly unknown to him. One day in Madras he had telephoned to
an official for leave to shoot an elephant in a Government reservation,
and a deep voice boomed back an answer. Apparently it belonged to a man
whose stature warranted his appointment as controller of monsters, but
when Medenham called in person for the permit he found that the voice
came from a lean and wizened scrap of humanity about five feet high.
He smiled at the recollection of his dumb surprise at this
apparition, and was in the best of humors with himself when he arrived
at the inquiry office of the Savoy Hotel and asked for Mr. Peter
Left here Sunday, sir, was the answer. He will not return for a
This blow dished his hopes. He had counted strongly on gaining
Vanrenen's friendship and sympathy before Cynthia's dainty vision met
his eyes again.
Has he gone to Paris? he inquired.
Can't say, sir, I'm sure. My orders are to tell callers that Mr.
Vanrenen will be in town next Tuesday.
So, if present arrangements held good, Cynthia would reach London
two days before her father. Well, he must contrive somehow to get Lady
St. Maur in a proper frame of mind. Mrs. Leland's presence would be a
positive blessing in that respect. Meanwhile, there would be no harm
done if he
Lest prudence should conquer him a second time he sat down and
DEAR MISS VANRENENI hope the car is behaving in a manner
that befits the messenger of the gods, and that Dale has
justified my faith in him. I am here in fulfillment of my
promise to call on Mr. Vanrenen: unluckily, he is out of
town, and the hotel people say he is not expected back till
a day early next week. If you make any change in your
programme, or even if you have a minute to spare, though
proving yourself a true American by rigidly adhering to
schedule, please send a line to yours ever sincerely
Once more he hesitated at the name, and contented himself by signing
George, the Chauffeur.
The problem of an address offered some difficulty, but he boldly
declared for 91 Grosvenor Square in a postscript, believing, and
correctly as it happened, that Cynthia shared with Sam Weller a
peculiar knowledge of London that rendered one address very like unto
another in her eyes.
The failure to meet Vanrenen was the first real drawback he had
encountered. It was irritating, at the time, but he gave little heed to
it after the first pang of disappointment had passed. Fate, which had
proved so kind during six days, did not see fit to warn him that her
smiles would now be replaced by frowns. She even lulled him into the
belief that Vanrenen's absence might prove fortunate.
Perhaps, he fancied, I would have rubbed him up the wrong way. He
is devoted to his daughter, and he might look on my harmless but
unavoidable guile with a prejudiced eye. In any event, I should be
compelled to go slow in analyzing Mrs. Devar's motives, and this
pertinacious Marigny seems to have been fairly intimate with him in
Paris. Yes, on the whole, it is just as well that I missed him. Cynthia
can put matters before him in a better light than is possible to one
who is an utter stranger. I must tell her, in my best American, that it
is up to her to explain Fitzroy to pap.
Before leaving the hotel he inquired for Count Edouard Marigny. He
drew a blank there. No such name had been registered during the year.
The dinner passed without noteworthy incident. Sir Ashley Stoke
condemned the Government, the Marquis of Scarland was more than
skeptical as to the prospects of grouse shooting after the deluge in
April and May, Lord Fairholme growled at the pernicious effects of the
Ground Game Act, and Medenham spoke of these things with his lips but
in his heart thought of Cynthia. The four men were in the smoking-room,
and the Earl was chaffing his son on account of his inability to play
bridge, when Tomkinson entered. He approached Medenham.
Dale has arrived; he wishes to see your lordship, he said in a
The young man sprang to his feet, and his troubled cry brought a
smile of wonderment to his brother-in-law's face.
By Jove! said the Marquis, you couldn't have jumped quicker if
Tomkinson had said 'the devil' instead of 'Dale.' Who, then, is Dale?
Medenham hurried from the room without another word. The Earl shook
More mischief! he muttered. Dale is George's chauffeur. I suppose
he is mixed up in this Vanrenen muddle again.
What muddle is that? asked Scarland. Is George in it?that would
Fairholme suddenly bethought himself.
Something to do with a motor, he said vaguely. The Vanrenens are
Americans, friends of Mrs. Leland's. You remember her, Arthur, don't
Perfectly. Is 'Vanrenen' the Peter of that ilk?
I think so. Yesthat is the namePeter Vanrenen.
Oh, he's all right. If George has any dispute with him I'll
settle it in a minute. He is as straight as they make 'embought two
of my prize bulls three years ago for his ranch in Montana. By the way,
someone told me the other day that he has a very pretty daughter'a
real peach' the man said. Wonder if George has seen her? Begad, he
might go farther and fare worse. We effete aristocrats can do with a
strain of new blood occasionally, eh, what?
'Vanrenen' sounds like a blend of old Dutch and New England, said
Sir Ashley Stoke, who was sane on all subjects save one, his pet mania
being the decay of England since the passing of the Victorian age.
The Earl helped himself to a whisky and soda. His egotism was
severely shaken. Who would have thought that a pillar of the state like
Scarland would approve of this Vanrenen girl as a match for George,
even in jest? But he had the good sense to steer clear of explanations.
When he found his voice it was to swear at the quality of the whisky.
Medenham, meanwhile, had rushed into the hall. He expected to find
Dale there, but saw no one except the suave footman on duty. The man
opened the door.
Dale is outside, in the car, my lord, he said.
In the car! That meant the bursting of a meteor in a blue sky.
Sure enough, there stood the Mercury, dusty and panting, but
seemingly gathering breath for another mighty effort if necessary.
Come in! shouted Medenham, on whom the first strong shadow of
impending disaster had fallen as soon as he heard those ill-omened
words in the car.
Dale scrambled to the pavement and walked stiffly up the steps,
being weary after an almost unbroken run of one hundred and eighty
miles. He nodded to the Mercury, and the footman rang for a pageboy to
mount guard. Medenham led the way into a small anteroom and switched on
Now, he said.
Mr. Vanrenen kem to Chester last night in Simmond's car, my lord.
This mornin' he sent for me an' sez 'who are you?' 'The chauffeur,
sir,' sez I. 'Whose chauffeur?' sez he. 'Yours for the time,' sez I,
bein' sort of ready for him. 'Well, you can get,' sez he. 'Get what?'
sez I. 'Get out,' sez he. Of course, my lord, I knew well enough what
he meant, but I wanted to have it straight, an' I got it.
Dale's style of speech was elliptical, though he might have been
surprised if told so. For once, Medenham wished he was a loquacious
Was nothing else said? he asked. No message fromanyone? No
reason given? What brought Simmonds to Chester?
Mr. Vanrenen picked him up in Bristol at 4 a.m. yesterday, my lord.
Simmonds made out that that there Frenchman, Monsieur Marinny (Dale
prided himself on a smattering of French), had pitched a fine ole tale
about you. In fact, the bearings got so hot at Symon's Yat that
Simmonds chucked his job till Mr. Vanrenen sort of apologized.
Can you be specific, Dale? You are hard to follow.
Well, my lord, I could do with a drink. It's a long road
that stretches between here an' Chester, an' I left there at ten
o'clock this morning, runnin' through any Gord's quantity of traps, an'
Medenham did not smile. He touched a bell, and found that Dale's
specific was a bottle of beer.
I never set eyes on Miss Cynthia, continued the chauffeur, his
wits quickening under the soothing draught. Another lady kem out an'
looked me up an' down. 'Yes, that is the car,' she said, an' with that
I remembered seein' her at San Remo. Mrs. Devar seemed as if she wanted
to say somethink, but she daren't, because Mr. Vanrenen's eye was on
her. He made no bones about it, but told me to hike back to London the
minnit Simmonds got the carrier off.
I am quite clear on that point. What I really want to know is the
reason behind Simmonds's statement about Count Marigny's tale-pitching,
as you term it.
Oh, of course Mr. Vanrenen didn't say anythink. Simmonds was
what you call puttin' two an' two together. From what Mr. Vanrenen
arsked him it was easy enough to get at the Frenchman's dirty tricks.
Tell me how Simmonds put it? said Medenham, with the patience of a
great anger. Dale scratched the back of his ear.
For one thing, my lord, Mr. Vanrenen wanted to know if you was
reelly a viscount. It was a long time before Simmonds could get him to
believe that the accident in Down Street wasn't a put up job. Then, he
was sure you stopped in Symon's Yat just in order to throw Mr. Marinny
off your track. Simmonds is no fool, my lord, an' he guesses that the
Frenchman brought Mr. Vanrenen hot-foot from Paris so as toto
Dale grinned, and sought inspiration in the bottom of an empty
Well, my lord, excuse me, he said, but you know what I
Medenham completed the sentence.
So as to prevent me from marrying Miss Cynthia.
Exactly what Simmonds an' me said, my lord.
He will not succeed, Dale.
I never thought he would. Once your lordship is set on a thing,
well, that thing occurs.
Thank you. Good-night!
Medenham did not feel equal to facing the men in the smoking-room
again. He went out, walked up Oxford Street and across the park, and
reached his room about midnight. Next day he devoted himself to work.
In view of the new and strange circumstances that had arisen he
believed confidently that Cynthia would reply to his letter by return
of post, and there should be no chance of delay, because she meant to
stay two days at Windermere, making that town the center of excursions
While the son was seeking forgetfulness in classifying a collection
of moths and night flies caught during a week at La Turbie, the father
found occupation in prosecuting diligent inquiries into the social and
financial standing of Peter Vanrenen. As a result, the Earl visited
Lady St. Maur, and, as a further result, Lady St. Maur wrote a very
biting and sarcastic note to My dear Millicent. Moreover, she decided
not to press her nephew to visit her at present.
Next morning, Medenham was up betimes. He heard the early postman's
knock, and Tomkinson in person brought the letters.
There's nothink in the name of Fitzroy, my lord, said he, having
been warned in that matter overnight.
Medenham took his packet with the best grace possible, trying to
assure himself that Cynthia had written at a late hour and had missed
the first London mail in consequence. Glancing hurriedly through the
correspondence, however, his glance fell on a letter bearing the
Windermere postmark. It was addressed, in an unfamiliar hand, to
Viscount Medenham, and the writing was bold, well-formed, and
business-like. Then he read:
SIRMy daughter received a note from you this morning, and
she was about to answer it when I informed her that she was
communicating with a person who had given her an assumed
name. I also asked her, as a favor, to permit me to reply in
her stead. Now, I have this to sayMiss Vanrenen does not
know, and will never know from me, the true nature of the
trick you played on her. You bear the label of a gentleman,
so it is my earnest hopeindeed, my sincere beliefthat
you will respect the trust she placed in you, and not expose
her to the idle chatter of clubs and scandal-spreading
drawing-rooms. During two days I have been very bitter
against you. To-day I take a calmer view, and, provided that
neither my daughter nor I ever see or hear of you again, I
shall be willing to credit that you acted more in a spirit
of youthful caprice than from any foul desire to injure the
good repute of one who has done no harm to you or yours.
Medenham read and reread this harsh letter many times. Then, out of
brooding chaos, leaped one fiery questionwhere was Marigny?
The gate which Cynthia's father had shut and bolted in his face did
not frighten him. He had leaped a wall of brass and triple steel when
he won Cynthia Vanrenen's love in the guise of an humble chauffeur, so
it was unbelievable that the barrier interposed by a father's misguided
wrath should prove unsurmountable.
But Marigny! He wanted to feel his fingers clutching that slender
throat, to see that pink and white face empurple and grow black under
their strain, and it was all-important that the scoundrel should be
brought to book before the Vanrenens returned to London. He gave a
passing thought to Mrs. Leland, it was true. If she shared with
Vanrenen the silly little secret of his identity, it was beyond
comprehension that she should let her friend hold the view that he
(Medenham) was merely an enterprising blackguard.
Still, these considerations were light as thistle-down compared with
the need of finding Marigny. He and Dale began to hunt London for the
Frenchman. But they had to deal with a wary bird, who would not break
covert till it suited his own convenience. And then, the sublime cheek
of the man! On the Friday morning, when Medenham rose with a fixed
resolve to obtain the services of a private detective, he received this
DEAR VISCOUNT MEDENHAMI have a notion, as our mutual
acquaintance Mr. Vanrenen would say (Do you know him? Now
that I consider the matter, I think not), that you are
anxious to meet me. We have things to discuss, have we not?
Well, then I await you at the above address.
Yours to command,
CHAPTER XIV. AND GOOD JUDGMENT
YIELDS TO FOLLY
At any other moment the tone of confidence underlying the effrontery
of this letter would certainly have revealed its presence to a brain
more than ordinarily acute. But in the storm and stress of his rage
against gods and men, Medenham did not wait to ponder subtleties of
expression. No matter what the hidden reason that inspired Marigny's
pen, it was enough for Medenham to know that at last that arch-plotter
and very perfect rascal was within his reach. He breakfasted in a fury
of haste, crammed on a hat, and rushed away, meaning to drive in a cab
to the hotel in Northumberland Avenue from which Marigny wrote.
Such was his agitated state that he was not even surprised when he
found the Mercury waiting outside, with Dale, taciturn as ever,
scrutinizing the day's sporting news. In sober fact, the man was almost
as perturbed as his master. For an hour in the morning, and again
during certain periods of suspense in the afternoon, he forgot his
troubles in the effort either to spot winners or to persuade himself
that the horses he had selected for particular races had not run, since
their names failed to appear among the first three. But these spasms
of anticipation and disillusionment soon passed. During the remainder
of the long hours of daylight Dale was ever on the qui vive for
a wild rush of two or three hundred miles in pursuit of the woman whose
charms had so effectually subjugated the young Viscount. Even the hunt
for Marigny did not weaken Dale's belief, and Medenham was never in
Cavendish Square or at his club at any practicable hour that the
Mercury was not at hand, with petrol tanks full, luggage carriers
attached, and a full stock of spares and reserve spirit on board. At
any rate, on this occasion Medenham merely gave him Marigny's address,
and jumped inside. Dale was disappointed. He expected the order to be
Carlisle, at the least.
Soon his lordship was being conducted by an hotel servant to a
private sitting-room. The Frenchman, who was seated at a table,
writing, when he entered, rose and bowed politely.
I thought it highly probable that I should have the honor of seeing
you this morning, Viscount Medenham, he said, and there was a touch of
restraint, of formal courtesy, in his voice that the other, even in his
anger against the man, did not fail to notice. Oddly enough, it savored
of brutality to attack him without preface, and Marigny seemed to be
unconscious of his visitor's unconcealed animosity.
I am glad you are here, he went on glibly. Recent events call for
a full discussion between you and me, do you agree? But before we come
to close quarters, as you say in England, I wish to know whether the
argument is to be conducted on lines that befit gentlemen. On the last
occasion when we differed, you used the methods of the costermonger.
They served their purpose, said Medenham, annoyed at finding the
Frenchman's coolness rather disconcerting.
Suddenly, he decided on a new plan of action, and resolved to let
the man say what he chose. Dearly as he would have liked to wreak
physical vengeance on him, he felt that such a proceeding offered the
least satisfactory way out of a situation fraught with no small risk of
publicity. Marigny must have had some all-powerful motive in sending
for him; better learn that before his bitter and contemptuous words
sealed an adversary's lips.
Won't you sit down? came the urbane request.
I prefer standing, if you don't mind, said Medenham curtly; then
he added, after a little pause:
It may clear the atmosphere somewhat if I tell you that I
threatened you at Bristol merely because a certain issue had to be
determined within a few seconds. That consideration does not apply now.
You are at liberty to say what you like without fear of consequences.
The Frenchman elevated his eyebrows.
Fear? he said.
Oh, don't bandy words with me. You know what I mean. I suppose a
man must possess courage of a sort even to become a blackmailer, which
is what you threaten to develop into. At any rate, I promise to keep my
hands off you, if that is what you want.
Not exactly, was the quiet answer. One may draw distinctions,
even in that regard, but I do wish for an opportunity to discuss our
quarrel without an appeal to brute force.
In other words, said Medenham sternly, you want to be free to say
something which under ordinary conditions would earn you a thrashing.
Marigny nodded, pulled a chair round so that he was straddled across
it, facing Medenham, with his arms resting on the back. He lit a
cigarette, and seemed to draw inspiration from the first dense cloud of
smoke, for his eyes dwelt on it rather than sought the Englishman's
In a dispute of this kind, he said, it is well to begin at the
beginning, otherwise one's motives are apt to be misunderstood. Even
you, I suppose, will admit that I was first in the field.
There was no answer. To his credit, Medenham thought, Marigny showed
a curious unwillingness to mention Cynthia's name, but, no matter what
he had in mind, Medenham certainly did not intend to render his task
You see, went on Count Edouard, after a thoughtful puff or two, I
am quite as well-born a man in my country as you are in yours. I have
not ascertained the date when the Fairholme Earldom was created, but
there has been a Comte Marigny on the Loire since 1434. Of course, you
understand that I do not mention this trivial fact in any ridiculous
spirit of boasting. I only put it forward as constituting a claim to a
certain equality. That is all. Unfortunately, recent events in my
family have robbed me of those necessary appurtenances to rank and
position which a happier fate has preserved to you. I am poor, you are
rich; I must marry a wife with money, you can afford to marry for love.
Why then, Viscount Medenham, should you step in and rob me of a rich
In spite of his loathing of the means adopted by this
self-proclaimed rival to snatch an advantage, Medenham did not hesitate
My answer to that is, of course, that I have done nothing of the
sort. I simply intervened between a crew of adventurers and their
possible, though most improbable, victim.
Unfortunately, our points of view are irreconcilable, went on the
Frenchman airily. I might claim that the term adventurer, as applied
to me, is a harsh one. You may inquire where and how you choose in
Paris, and you will find no discredit attached to my name. But that
phase of the difficulty is now of no consequence. Let us keep to the
main issue. Some three months ago I made the acquaintance of a lady
fitted in every respect to fill my ideal. I was on good terms with her
father, and by no means distasteful to the lady herself. Given a fair
opportunity, I thought I might win her, and I was puzzling my wits to
know how best to attain that most desirable end when Fate apparently
opened a way. But you have no doubt observed in life that while one can
seldom misinterpret Fate's frowns, her smiles can be damnably
misleading. Sometimes they are little else than malicious leers; it was
so now, and I quickly found that I had erred badly in thinking that I
had been vouchsafed a golden opportunity
Can't you spare me some of this theorizing? broke in Medenham with
a cold impatience. You happened to send for me at a moment when I was
exceedingly anxious to meet you. The fact that I am here in response to
your request stops me from carrying out the special purpose I had in
view. That can wait, though not very long. At any rate, you might save
yourself some hair-splitting and me some exercise of self-restraint by
telling me what it is that you want.
A thousand regrets if I am boring you, said Marigny, leaning back
in the chair and laying the cigarette on the mantelpiece. Yet bear
with me a little while, I pray you; these explanations are necessary. A
sane man acts with motive, and it is only reasonable that you should
understand my motive before you hear my project.
Ah, then, there is a project?
Yes. You have stepped in between me and the realization of my
dearest wish, of my main object in life. You are, I take it, a soldier
and a gentleman. There is a way by which men of honor settle these
disputesI invite you to follow it.
The fantastic proposal was made with an air of dignity that robbed
it of any inherent ludicrousness. Greatly as he despised this man,
Medenham could not wholly conceal the wonder that leaped to his eyes.
Are you suggesting that we should fight a duel? he asked, smiling
with incredulity, yet constrained to believe that Marigny was really
speaking in cold blood.
Yesoh, yes. A duelno make-believe!
A curious change came into Marigny's voice at that instant. He
seemed to bark each staccato phrase; a vindictive fire gleamed in his
black eyes, and the olive tint showed beneath the pink and white of his
Medenham laughed, almost good-humoredly.
The notion is worthy of you, he said. I might have expected it,
but I fancied you were more sensible. Surely you know enough of my
world to realize that such a thing is impossible.
It must be made possible, said Marigny gravely.
It cannotI refuse.
I am partly prepared for some such answer, but I shall be just to
you in my thoughts, Viscount Medenham. I know you are a brave man. It
is not cowardice, but your insular convention that restrains you from
facing me on the field. Nevertheless, I insist.
Medenham threw out an impatient hand.
You are talking arrant nonsense, for what purpose I can hardly
conceive, he said, frowning with vexation at the tragi-comedy into
which he had been drawn. Frenchmen, it is true, regard these things
from a different standpoint. That which seems rational to you is little
else than buffoonery to me. If that is your object in seeking an
interview, it has now been accomplished. I absolutely decline to
entertain the proposition for a moment. You have certainly succeeded in
lending an air of drivel to a controversy that I regard as serious. I
came here filled with very bitter thoughts toward you, but your
burlesque has disarmed me. It is only fair, however, that I should warn
you not to cross my path again, since one's sense of humor may become
strained, and that will be bad for you.
His attitude seemed to betoken an immediate departure, but Marigny
looked at him so fixedly that he waited to hear what the other had to
say. He was quite determined now to keep Cynthia out of the discussion.
Even Vanrenen's letter need not be mentioned until he had seen the
millionaire in person and disabused his mind of the inept inventions
with which the Frenchman had perplexed him.
I don't take your refusal as final, said Count Edouard, speaking
very slowly, and choosing each sentence with evident care. I was at
pains to explain my position, and there now devolves upon me the
disagreeable duty of telling you what will happen if you do not fight.
You English may not care to defend your honor in the manner that
appeals to a more sensitive nation like the French, but you are
vulnerable in your womenfolk. I now tell you quite frankly, that if you
do not abandon your pretensions to Miss Cynthia Vanrenen, I shall make
it my special business in life to ruin her socially.
Medenham listened more in amazement than indignation.
At first, the true significance of the threat left him unmoved. In
his ears it was a mere repetition of the bogey raised by Vanrenen, and
that was the wildest nonsense.
I really do not think you are responsible for your words, he
Marigny swept aside the protest with an emphatic gesture.
Oh, yes, I am, he said, his voice low, sibilant, menacing. I have
laid my plans, and shall pursue them with a complete detachment. Others
may sufferso shall I. I have practically reached the limit of my
resources. In a month or less I shall be penniless. What money I could
scrape together I devoted to the furtherance of this marriage-project,
and I am well aware that when you meet Mr. Vanrenen, my poor little
cobweb of intrigue will be blown into thin air. You are quite a
desirable parti, Viscount Medenhamevery condition points to
your speedy and happy union to the lady of your choice. It is, however,
a most unfortunate and lamentable fact that she also happens to be the
lady of my choice, and I shall revenge myself on you, through
her, in the way best calculated to pierce your thick British hide. The
future Countess of Fairholme should be superior to Cæsar's wife in
being not only above suspicion, but altogether removed from its taint.
I am afraid that it will be my task to tarnish her escutcheon.
You miserable rascal, cried Medenham, stung beyond endurance by
this extraordinary declaration of a vile purpose, why should you
imagine that I shall allow you to sit there and pour forth your venom
unscathed? Stand up, you beast, or must I kick you up!
Ha! You are ready to fight me now, my worthy Viscount! But not in
your costermonger fashion. You cannot, because I have your promise. You
see I have taken your measure with some accuracy, and hard words will
not move me. I mean you to understand the issue clearly. Either you
meet me under conditions that will insure a clear field for the
survivor, or I devote myself to spreading in every quarter most likely
to prove damaging to Miss Vanrenen the full, though, perhaps, untrue,
but none the less fascinating story of her boating excursion on the Wye
He did then spring to his feet, for Medenham was advancing on him
with obvious intent to stifle the monstrous accusation by force.
No! No! you will achieve nothing by violence, he shouted. You are
not so much my physical superior that I cannot defend myself until
assistance arrives, and I will ask you to consider what manner of gloss
will be placed upon your actions if I drag you before a magistrate for
an assault. Why, man, you are absolutely at my mercy. You yourself
would be my best witness. Ah, touché! You felt the point that
time. Que diable! I gave you credit for a quicker wit, but it is
gratifying to learn that you are beginning at last to see that I am in
deadly earnest. When I strike there is nothing half-hearted behind my
blow; I swear to you that I shall neither relent nor draw back. If ruin
overwhelm me, Cynthia Vanrenen shall be involved in my downfall.
Picture to yourself the smiles, the whispers, the half-spoken scandal
that will cling to her through life. Who will believe her when she says
that she was ignorant of your rank when she started out from London?
The incomparable Cynthia and the naughty Viscount, touring their
thousand miles through England with Mrs. Devar as a shield of
innocence!... Mrs. Devar!... Can't you hear the long and loud guffaw
that would convulse society as soon as her name cropped up? Ah,
you are writhing under the lash now, I fancy! It is dawning on you that
a peril greater than the sword or bullet may be near. Dozens of people
in Paris and London know, or guess, at any rate, that I was Cynthia
Vanrenen's suitor, but as many hundreds as there were dozens shall be
told that I cast her off because of the taint placed on her by your
silly masquerading. You have no escapeyou have no answeryour
marriage will only serve to confirm my words. Do you hear? I shall
say.... But you know what I shall say.... Now, will you fight me?
Yes, said Medenham.
A spasm of hate and furious joy struggled for mastery in Marigny's
face, but he showed an iron resolution that almost equaled the coolness
of the man whose scornful gaze might well have abashed him.
I thought so, he saidunder terms, of course?
Terms, you beast! The only terms I ask are that you shall stand
before me with a sword in your hand.
A sword!is that quite fair? You Englishmen are not proficient
with the sword. Why not pistols?
I think you are right, said Medenham, turning away as if the sight
of him was loathsome. You deserve the death of a dog; it would
dishonor bright steel to touch you.
We shall see, said Marigny, who having achieved his purpose, was
now apparently unconcerned as to its outcome. But it would be folly to
fight without arriving at an understanding. I shall try to kill you,
and I am sure you will admit that I have striven to force you into an
active reciprocity in that respect. But one might only be woundedthat
is the lottery of itso I stipulate that if fortune should favor me,
and you still live, you shall agree to leave me in undisturbed
possession of the field for at least six months after our encounter.
Medenham still refused to look at him.
I agree to no terms or conditions whatsoever, he answered. I am
meeting you solely because of the foul lie you have dared to utter
against the reputation of the woman I love. If you breathe a word of it
in any other ear I shall tear your tongue out by the roots, duel or no
Ah, but that is a pity, jeered the Frenchman. Don't you see that
unless you accept my offer I shall be compelled to fall back on the
sword, since it is absolutely an essential element of my probable
success that you should be cleared out of my way? I have no chance
against you in the matrimonial market, but I think the odds are in my
favor when cold steel is the arbitrator. Now, could anyone be more
frank than I in this matter? I mean either to win or lose. There must
be no middle course. Unless you are willing to stand aside, if beaten,
I can win only by stepping over your corpse. Why not avoid extremes?
They may be unnecessary.
You have already convinced me that your ethics are drawn from the
police court, but I see now, that you depend for your wit on the
cheaper variety of melodrama, said Medenham, with a quiet derision
that at last brought a flush of passion to the Frenchman's face. I
fail to see the need of more words. You have asked for deeds, and you
shall have them. When and where do you propose that this encounter
shall take place?
To-morrow morningabout four o'clockon the sands between Calais
In spite of all that had gone before, Medenham was unprepared for
this categorical answer. Were he in full possession of his faculties he
must have seen the trap into which he was being decoyed. Unhappily,
Vanrenen's letter had helped to complete the lure, and he was no longer
amenable to the dictates of cold reason.
That is hardly possible, he said. I do not propose to bring
myself under the law as a murderer, Monsieur Marigny. I am ready to
take the consequences of a fair fight, but to secure that, certain
preliminaries are indispensable.
I was sure you would meet me, said Marigny, smiling nonchalantly
as he lighted the cigarette again. I have arranged everything, even
the attendance of witnesses and a doctor. We cross over to Calais by
the night boat from Dover, pick up the others at the Hôtel de la Plage,
at which they will arrive to-night, and drive straight to the
terrain. There is no prospect of outside interference. This is not
the sort of duel which either of the combatants is anxious to advertise
broadcast. My friends will be discretion itself, and I need hardly
express my conviction that you will not make known in England the
purpose of our journey. Of course, it is open to you to bring one of
your own friends, if you think fit. But my notion is, that these
affairs should be settled discreetly in the presence of the smallest
possible number of onlookers. I shall, of course, satisfy you as to the
standing of the gentlemen I have summoned from Paris. On the table
there are their telegrams accepting my invitation to meet us at Calais.
When you came in I was busy putting my wretched affairs in order. At
least I have given you proof of my belief in your courage. I even go so
far as to say that I regret most profoundly the necessity which has
driven me to use threats against a charming lady in order to wring a
challenge out of you. Of course, between ourselves, I know perfectly
well that there is not a word of truth in the statements I have pledged
myself to make, but that defect in nowise detracts from their
efficiency. Indeed, it commends them the more to the real purveyor of
The door slammed behind Medenham. A dreadful doubt assailed him that
if he did not hurry away from that taunting voice he might be tempted
to forget himselfand what torture that would mean to Cynthia! He was
indeed a prey to complex emotions that rendered him utterly incapable
of forming a well-balanced judgment. Nothing more illogical, more
ill-advised, more thoroughly unsuited to achieve its object than the
proposed duel could well be mooted, yet the sheer malignity of
Marigny's ruffianly device to attain his ends had impelled him to that
final madness. Notions of right and wrong were topsy-turvy in his
brain. He was carried along on a current of passion that overturned
every barrier imposed by sense and prudence. It seemed quite reasonable
to one who had often risked life and limb for his country, who, from
mere love of sport, had faced many an infuriated tiger and skulking
lion, that he should be justified by the eternal law in striving to rid
the world of this ultra-beast. He had not scrupled to kill a poisonous
snakewhy should he flinch from killing a man whose chief equipment
was the poison-laden fang of slander? Happily, he could use a sword in
a fashion that might surprise Marigny most wofully. If he did not
succeed in killing the wretch, he would surely disable him, and the
thought sent such a thrill of fierce pleasure through his veins that he
resolutely closed his eyes to the lamentable results that must follow
his own death.
Cynthia, at least, would not suffer; that was all he cared for. No
matter what happened, he did not imagine for one moment that she would
marry Marigny. But that eventuality hardly troubled him at all. The
Frenchman had chosen the sword, and he must abide by its stern
Home! he said to Dale, finding his retainer's eye bent inquiringly
on him when he reached the street. The word had a curiously detached
sound in his ears. Home! It savored of rank lunacy to think that
within a few short hours he would be standing on foreign soil, striving
desperately with naked steel to defend his own life and destroy
CHAPTER XV. THE OUTCOME
The fine weather which had endured so long gave way that night.
Storm-clouds swept up from the Atlantic, and England was drenched in
rain when Medenham quitted Charing Cross at 9 p.m. At the eleventh hour
he determined to take Dale with him, but that belated display of wisdom
arose more from the need he felt of human companionship than from any
sense of the absurdity of going alone to fight a duel in a foreign
land. He had given no thought during the fleeting hours to the
necessity of communicating with his relatives in case he fell a victim
to Marigny's rancor, so he devoted himself now to writing a brief
account to the Marquis of Scarland of the causes that led up to the
duel. He concluded with an entreaty that his brother-in-law should use
all means within his power to close down any inquiry that might result,
and pointed out that in this connection Dale would prove a valuable
ally, since his testimony would make clear the fact that the contest
had taken place in France, where duels are looked on with a more
lenient eye than in England.
It was difficult to write legibly in the fast-moving, ill-lighted
train, so he completed the letter on board the steamer, but did not
hand it to Dale until after Calais was reached.
While the steamer was drawing up to her berth, he saw Count Edouard
Marigny among the few passengers on deck. He had turned his back on the
Frenchman at Charing Cross, but the imperturbable Count, noticing Dale
in the half-light of dawn, believed that Medenham had brought a
fellow-countryman as a witness. He strolled up, and said affably:
Is this gentleman your friend?
Yes, said Medenham, though not quite in the sense that you mean.
He will accompany me to the hotel, and await my return there.
The Frenchman was evidently mystified; he smiled, but passed no
other comment. Dale, who heard what was said, now wondered more than
ever what lay behind this sudden journey to France. He had already
recognized Marigny as the owner of the Du Vallon, for he had seen him
leaving the Metropole Hotel at Brighton not many days ago, and had the
best of reasons for regarding him as Viscount Medenham's implacable
enemy. Why, then, were these two crossing the Channel in company, going
together to some hotel, and leaving him, Dale, to kick his heels in the
small hours of the morning till it pleased them to pick him up again?
In justice to the loyal-hearted chauffeur, plunged quite unknowingly
into the crisis of his life, it must be said that the notion of a duel
did not even occur to his puzzled brain.
Nor was he given much time for speculation. A carriage awaited the
trio at the quay. They carried no luggage to entail a delay at the
Customs, and they drove off at a rapid pace through silent streets in a
drenched downpour of rain. When they reached the Hôtel de la Plage,
neither Medenham nor the Frenchman alighted, but the former handed Dale
I may be detained in France somewhat longer than I anticipated, he
said in a matter-of-fact tone. If that is so, and you have to return
to England without me, hand this letter to the Marquis of Scarland.
Take great care of it, and keep it in your possession until you are
positively assured that I am unable to go with you.
These enigmatical instructions bothered their hearer far more than
any of the strange proceedings of the night.
How shall I know, my lord, whether I am to go back with you or
not? he asked.
Oh, of course I shall make that quite clear, laughed Medenham. At
present, all you have to do is to wait here a little while.
His careless demeanor dispelled the first dim shadow of doubt that
had arisen in Dale's mind. The man was no stranger on the Continent,
having traveled with his employer over the length and breadth of France
and Northern Italy; but the manner of this visit to the Hôtel de la
Plage at Calais was so perplexing that he essayed another question.
When may I expect you, my lord? he asked.
Medenham affected to consult his watch.
Within an hour, he said; perhaps a few minutes more. At any rate,
you can arrange to catch the afternoon boat. Meanwhile, make yourself
By this time, three men, whom he had never seen before, came out
from the hotel. Apparently, they were fully prepared for the coming of
the visitors from England. They greeted Count Marigny cordially, and
were introduced to Medenham. Without more ado, two of them entered the
vehicle; the third, hoisting an umbrella, climbed to the side of the
driver, to whom no orders were given, and the cab rattled rapidly away
over the paving-stones, leaving Dale to gaze disconsolately after it.
Then the vague suspicions in his mind awoke into activity. For one
thing, he had heard one of the strangers alluded to as Monsieur le
Docteur. For another, the newcomers carried a curious-looking parcel,
or case, of an elongated shape that suggested unusual contents. Some
trick of memory came to his aid. In an hotel at Lyons he had watched a
valet packing just such an object with the remainder of his employer's
luggage, and was told, on inquiry, that it contained foils. But why
foils? ... at four o'clock in the morning? ... in a country where men
might still requite an outrage by an appeal to the law of the jungle?
Hastily drawing from his breast pocket the letter intrusted to him,
he examined the superscription. It was addressed simply to the Marquis
of Scarland, and must surely be a document of immense significance, or
the young Viscount would not have brought him all the way from London
to act as messenger rather than intrust it to the post. Each instant
Dale's ideas became clearer; each instant his heart throbbed with a
deeper anxiety. At last, when the four-wheeler disappeared from sight
round an angle of the rain-soaked boulevard, he yielded to impulse and
ran into the hotel. French people are early risers, but the visitors to
Calais that morning were astir at an hour when most of the hotel staff
were still sound asleep. A night porter, however, was awaiting him at
the entrance, and Dale forthwith engaged in a valiant struggle with the
French language in the effort to ascertain, first, whether the man
possessed a bicycle, and, secondly, whether he would lend it. The
Frenchman, of course, broke into a voluble statement out of all
proportion to the demand, but the production of a British sovereign
seemed to interpret matters satisfactorily, because a bicycle was
promptly produced from a shed in the rear of the building.
Dale handed the man the sovereign, jumped on the machine, and rode
off rapidly in the direction taken by the cab. He had no difficulty in
turning the corner round which it had vanished, but a little farther on
he erred in thinking that it had gone straight ahead, since the driver
had really turned to the right again in order to keep clear of the
fortifications. Dale traveled at such a pace that the first long
stretch of straight road opening up before his eyes convinced him of
his blunder when no cab was in sight. He raced back, dismounted at the
crossing, examined the road for wheel-marks, and soon was in the saddle
again. He was destined to be thus bothered three times in all, but,
taught wisdom by his initial mistake, he never passed a crossroad
without searching for the recent tracks of wheels.
The rain helped him wherever the roadway was macadamized, but the
paved routes militaires with which Calais abounds offered
difficulties that caused many minutes of delay. At last, he found
himself in the open country, scorching along a sandy road that
traversed the low dunes lying between the town of Calais and Cape Gris
Nez. It was not easy to see far ahead owing to the rain and mist, and
he had covered a mile or more beyond the last of the scattered villas
and cottages which form the eastern suburb of the port, when he saw the
elusive cab drawn up by the roadside. The horse was steaming as though
it had been driven at a great pace, and the driver stood near, smoking
a cigarette, and protecting himself from the persistent downpour by an
Dale soon reached the man, and said breathlessly, in his slow
Where are the gentlemen?
The cabman, who had evidently been paid to hold his tongue, merely
shrugged. Dale, breathing hard, laid a heavy hand on his shoulder,
whereupon the other answered: I don't know.
This, of course, was a lie, and the fact that it was a lie alarmed
Dale quite as much as any of the sinister incidents which had already
befallen. For one thing, there was no house into which five men could
have gone. On each side of the road were bleak sandhills; to the right
was the sea, gray and lowering beneath a leaden-hued sky that seemed to
weep above a dead earth. Here, undoubtedly, was the cab, since Dale
could swear to both horse and man. Where, then, were its occupants?
Having to depend upon his wits, he gave no further heed to the
Frenchman, but, fancying that he saw vestiges of recent footmarks on
the right, or seaward, side of the road, and dragging the bicycle with
him, he climbed to the top of the nearest dune, as he believed that a
view of the sands could be obtained from that point. He was right. The
sea was at a greater distance than he imagined would be the case, but a
wide strip of firm sand, its wet patches glistening dully in the
half-light, extended to the water's edge almost from the base of the
hillock on which he stood.
At first, his anxious eyes strained through the haze in vain, until
some circling seagulls caught his attention, and then he discerned some
vague forms silhouetted against a brighter belt of the sea to the
Three of the figures were black and motionless, but two gave an
eerie suggestion of whiteness and movement. Abandoning the bicycle, and
hardly realizing why he should be so perturbed, Dale ran forward. Twice
he stumbled and fell amidst the stringy heath grass, but he was up
again in a frenzy of haste, and soon was near enough to the group of
men to see that Medenham and Marigny, bare-headed and in their shirt
sleeves, were fighting with swords.
Dale's eyes were now half-blinded with perspiration, for he had
ridden fast through the mud from Calais, and this final run through
yielding sand and clinging sedge was exhausting to one who seldom
walked as many furlongs as he had covered miles that morning. But even
in his panic of distress he fancied that his master was pressing the
Frenchman severely. It was no child's play, this battle with cold
steel. The slender, venomous-looking blades whirled and stabbed with a
fearsome vehemence, and the sharp rasp of each riposte and parry rang
out with a horrible suggestiveness in the moist air. And then, as he
lumbered heavily on, Dale thought he saw something that turned him sick
with terror. Almost halting, he swept a hasty hand across his
eyesthen he was sure.
Medenham, with arm extended in a feint in tierce, was bearing so
heavily on his opponent's rapier that his right foot slipped, and he
stumbled badly. At once Marigny struck with the deadly quickness and
certainty of a cobra. His weapon pierced Medenham's breast high up on
the right side. The stroke was so true and furious that the Englishman,
already unbalanced, was driven on to his back on the sand. Marigny
wrenched the blade free, and stooped with obvious intent to plunge it
again through his opponent's body. A warning shout from each of the
three spectators withheld him. He scowled vindictively, but dared not
make that second mortal thrust. These French gentlemen whom he had
summoned from Paris were bound by a rigid code of honor that would
infallibly have caused him to be branded as a murderer had he completed
matters to his satisfaction. Nevertheless, he bent and peered closely
into Medenham's face, gray now as the sand on which he was lying.
I think it will serve, he muttered to himself. May the devil take
him, but I thought he would get the better of me!
He turned away with an affectation of coolness which he was far from
feeling, while the doctor knelt to examine Medenham's injury. He saw
someone running towards him, but believed it must be one of the
witnesses, and his eyes fell to the stained blade in his hand.
I rather forgot myself he began.
But the excuse was stopped short by a blow on the angle of the jaw
that stretched him by Medenham's side and apparently as lifeless.
Assuredly, Dale was not versed in the punctilio of the duel, but he
knew how and where to hit with a fist that was hard as one of his own
spanners. He put weight and passion into that punch, and scarcely
understood how effective it was until he found himself struggling in
the grasp of two excited Frenchmen. He cursed both them and Marigny
fluently, and vowed the most horrible vengeance on all three, but soon
calmed himself sufficiently to see that Count Edouard could not stir,
and his perturbed wits then sought to learn the extent of his master's
injury. Still he swore at Marigny.
Damn you! he cried hoarsely, you would have stabbed him as he was
lying there if these pals of yours hadn't stopped you!
At last, recovering some degree of self-possession, he assisted the
astounded and rather frightened Frenchmen to carry Medenham to the
waiting carriage. One, who spoke English, asked him to help in
rendering a like service to Marigny, but he refused with an oath, and
the others dared not press him, he looked so fierce and threatening.
Is he dead? he asked the doctor brokenly.
There could be no mistaking the meaning of the words, for his
red-shot eyes glared fixedly at the limp body of his master. The other
shook his head, but pointed in the direction of Calais, as though to
suggest that the sooner the injured man was taken to some place where
his wound could be properly attended to, the better would be the faint
chance of life that remained. By this time the seconds were
approaching, and Marigny had seemingly recovered to a slight extent
from the knockout blow which he had received so unexpectedly.
The doctor, who was the only self-collected person present, pointed
to the bicycle.
Hotel, he said emphatically. Go hotelquick!
Dale was minded not to desert his master, but the anxiety in the
doctor's face warned him that the request ought to be obeyed. If the
spark of vitality still flickering in Medenham's body was to be
preserved not a moment should be lost in preparing a room for his
Gulping down his anguish, Dale mounted and made off. At a distant
bend in the road he turned his head and looked back along that dismal
heath. All five were packed in the cab, and the coachman was urging the
unwilling horse into a trot.
* * * * *
And what of Cynthia?
The break in the weather was the one thing needed to put an abrupt
end to all pretense of enjoyment so far as the Windermere tourists were
concerned. Strained relations existed from the moment Vanrenen arrived
at Chester. For the first time in her life, Cynthia thought that her
father was not acting with the open-eyed justice which she expected
from him, and for the first time in his life Peter Vanrenen harbored an
uneasy suspicion that his daughter had not been quite candid with him.
It was impossible, of course, in the close intimacy of long hours spent
together in a touring car, that there should not be many references to
Fitzroy and the Mercury. They were inevitable as the milestones, and
Vanrenen, who was just as prone as other men to look at facts through
his own spectacles, failed to understand how an intelligent girl like
his daughter could remain in constant association with Viscount
Medenham for five days, and yet not discover his identity.
More than once, indeed, notwithstanding the caution exercised by the
othersengaged now in a tacit conspiracy to dispel memories of a
foolish entanglement from the girl's mindthe identification of
Fitzroy with the young Viscount trembled on the very lip of discovery.
Thus, on Friday, when they had motored to Grasmere, and had gathered
before lunch in the lounge of the delightfully old-fashioned Rothay
Hotel, Vanrenen happened to pick up an illustrated paper, containing a
page of pictures of the Scarland short-horns.
Now, being a busy man, he gave little heed to the terminological
convolutions of names among the British aristocracy. He had not the
slightest notion that the Marquis of Scarland's wife was Medenham's
sister, and, with the quick interest of the stock-breeder, he pointed
out to Mrs. Leland an animal that resembled one of his own pedigree
bulls, at present waxing fat on the Montana ranch. For the moment Mrs.
Leland herself had forgotten the relationship between the two men.
I met the Marquis last year at San Remo, she said heedlessly.
Anyone more unlike a British peer you could not imagine. If I remember
rightly, he is a blunt, farmer-like person, but his wife is very
charming. By the way, who was she?
Such a question could not pass Mrs. Devar unanswered.
Lady Betty Fitzroy, she chirped instantly.
Cynthia, who was looking through the window at the square-towered
little church, throned midst the somber yews which shelter the graves
of Wordsworth and his kin, caught the odd conjunction of namesBetty
Who is that you are speaking of, father? she asked, though with a
listless air that Medenham had never seen during any minute of those
five happy days.
The Marquis of Scarlandthe man from whom I bought some cattle a
few years ago, he said, trusting to the directness of the reply to
carry it through unchallenged.
Cynthia's brows puckered in a reflective frown.
That is odd, she murmured.
What is odd? asked her father, while Mrs. Leland bent over the
periodical to hide a smile of embarrassment.
Oh, just a curious way of running in grooves people have in this
country. They call towns after men and men after towns.
She was about to add that Fitzroy had told her of a sister Betty who
was married to a man named Scarland, a breeder of pedigree stock, but
checked the impulse. For some reason known best to her father, he did
not seem to wish any mention to be made of the vanished chauffeur, but
she did not gauge the true extent of his readiness to drop the subject
on that occasion.
Mrs. Leland looked up, caught his eye with a smile, and asked how
many miles it was to Thirlmere. Cynthia's thoughts brooded again on
poets and lonely graves, and the danger passed.
Mrs. Devar, in these days, had recovered her complacency. The letter
she wrote from Symon's Yat had reached Vanrenen from Paris, and its
hearty disapproval of Fitzroy helped to re-establish his good opinion
of her. She heard constantly, too, from Marigny and her son. Both
agreed that the comet-like flight of Medenham across their horizon was
rapidly losing its significance. Still, she was not quite happy. Mrs.
Leland's advent had thrust her into the background, for the American
widow was rich, good-looking, and cultured, and the flow of small talk
between the newcomer and Cynthia left her as hopelessly out of range as
used to be the case when that domineering Medenham would lean back in
the car and say things beyond her comprehension, or murmur them to
Cynthia if she happened to be sitting by his side.
Luncheon had ended, but the clouds which had been gathering over the
lake country during the morning suddenly poured a deluge over a thirsty
land. Thirlmere and Ullswater and the rest of the glories of
Westmoreland that lay beyond the pass of Dunmail Raise were swallowed
up in a fog of rain. Simmonds, questioned by the millionaire, admitted
that a weather-beaten native had prophesied a week of it, more or
Four Britons might have sat down and played Bridge stolidly, but
three of this quartette were Americans, and within two hours of the
change in the elements, they were seated in the London-bound train at
Not one of them was really displeased because of this rapid
alteration in their plans. Cynthia was ill at ease; Mrs. Leland wished
to rejoin her guests at Trouville; Vanrenen, who was anxious to
complete certain business negotiations in Paris, believed that a
complete change of scene and new interests in life would speedily bring
Cynthia back to her own cheery self; while Mrs. Devar, though the
abandonment of the tour meant reversion to a cheap boarding-house, was
not sorry that it had come to an end. In London, she would be more in
her element, and, at any rate, she was beginning to feel cramped
through sitting three in a row in Simmonds's car, after the luxurious
comfort of two in the tonneau of the Mercury.
So it came to pass that on Friday evening, while Medenham was
driving from Cavendish Square to Charing Cross, Cynthia was crossing
London on a converging line from St. Pancras to the Savoy Hotel.
Strange, indeed, was the play of Fate's shuttle that it should have so
nearly reunited the unseen threads of their destinies! Again, a
trifling circumstance conspired to detain Vanrenen in London. One of
his business associates in Paris, rendered impatient by the failure of
the great man to return as quickly as he had promised, arrived in
England by the afternoon service from the Gare du Nord, and was
actually standing in the foyer of the hotel when Vanrenen entered with
the others. As a result of this meeting, the journey to Paris arranged
for Saturday was postponed till Sunday, and on this trivial base was
destined to be built a very remarkable edifice.
It chanced that Mrs. Leland, too, decided to have a day in London,
and she and Cynthia went out early. They returned to lunch at the
hotel, and the girl, pleading lack of appetite, slipped out alone to
buy a copy of Milton's poems. From the book-seller's she wandered into
the Embankment Gardens.
She was a dutiful daughter, and had resolved to obey without
question her father's stern command not to enter again into
communication with a man of whom he so strongly disapproved. But she
was not content, for all that, and the dripping trees and rain-sodden
flowers seemed now to accord with her distraught mood. The fine, though
not bright, interval that had tempted her forth soon gave way to
another shower, and she ran for shelter into the Charing Cross Station
of the Metropolitan Railway. She stood in one of the doorways looking
out disconsolately over the river, when a taxicab drove up and
deposited its occupant at the station. Then some unbidden impulse led
her to hail the driver.
Take me to Cavendish Square, she said.
What number, miss? he asked.
No number. Just drive slowly round the square and return to the
He eyed her curiously, but made no comment. Soon she was speeding up
Regent Street, bent on gratifying the truly curious whim of seeing what
manner of residence it was that Fitzroy occupied in London. Fate had
failed in her weaving during the previous evening, but on the present
occasion she combined warp and weft without any error.
The cab was crawling past the Fairholme mansion, and Cynthia's
astonished eyes were regarding its style and general air of
magnificence with some degree of heart-sinkingfor it did then seem to
be true that Mrs. Devar's original estimate of Fitzroy was
correctwhen a man sprang out of another taxi in front of the door,
and glanced at her while in the very act of running up the steps.
Recognition was mutual. Dale muttered under his breath a wholly
unjustifiable assumption as to his future state, halted dubiously, and
then signaled to Cynthia's driver to stop. He strode towards her across
the road, and thrust his head through the open window.
Of course, miss, he said roughly, you don't know what has
No, she said, too greatly surprised to resent his strange manner.
Well, he growled, somebody's been nearly killed on your account,
Somebody, she repeated, and her lips went white.
Yes, you ought to guess well enough who it is. He and that rotten
Frenchman fought a duel this morning on the sands near Calais, and
Marinny as good as murdered him.
Dale's heart was sore against her as the cause of his master's
plight, but even in his own distress he was quick to see the shrinking
terror in the girl's eyes.
Are you speaking of Mr. Fitzroy? she demanded. Are you telling
the truth? Oh, for Heaven's sake, man, tell me what you mean.
I mean what I say, miss, said he more softly. I have left him
almost at death's door in an hotel at Calais. That damned Frenchman ...
I beg your pardon, miss, but I can't contain myself when I think of
himran a sword through him this morning, and would have killed him
outright if he hadn't been stopped by some other gentlemen. And now,
there he is, a-lying in the hotel, with a doctor and a nurse trying to
coax the life back into him, while I had to scurry back here to tell
Some women might have shrieked and faintednot so Cynthia. At that
instant there was one thing to be done, and one only. She saw the open
road, and took it without faltering or thought as to the future.
When is the next train to Calais? she asked.
At nine o'clock to-night, miss.
Oh, God! she wailed under her breath.
Dale's voice grew even more sympathetic.
Was you a-thinking of going to him, miss? he asked.
Would that I could fly there, she moaned.
He scratched the back of his ear, for it was by such means that Dale
Dash it all! he cried. I wish I had seen you half an hour
earlier. There is a train that leaves Charing Cross at twenty minutes
past two. It goes by way of Folkestone and Boulogne, and from Boulogne
one can get easy to Calais. Anyhow, what's the use of talkin'it is
Cynthia glanced at her watch. It was just twenty-five minutes to
How far is Folkestone? was the immediate demand generated by her
practical American brain.
Seventy-two miles, said the chauffeur, who knew his roads out of
And what time does the boat leave?
A light irradiated his face, and he swore volubly.
We can do it! he shouted. By the Lord, we can do it! Are you
Game? The light that leaped to her eyes was sufficient answer. He
tore open the door of the cab, roaring to the driver:
Round that corner to the rightquickthen into the mews at the
Within two minutes the Mercury was attracting the attention of the
police as it whirled through the traffic towards Westminster Bridge.
Dale's face was set like a block of granite. He had risked a good deal
in leaving his master at the point of death at Calais; he was now
risking more, far more, in rushing back to Calais again without having
discharged the duty which had dragged him from that master's bedside.
But he thought he had secured the best physician London could bring to
the sufferer's aid, and the belief sustained him in an action that was
almost heroic. He was a simple-minded fellow, with a marked taste for
speed in both animals and machinery, but he had hit on one well-defined
trait in human nature when he decided that if a man is dying for the
sake of a woman the presence of that woman may cure when all else will
CHAPTER XVI. THE END OF ONE TOUR:
THE BEGINNING OF ANOTHER
Cynthia found him lying in a darkened room. The nurse had just
raised some of the blinds; a dismal day was drawing to its close, and
more light was needed ere she could distinguish marked bottles, and
doses, and the rest of the appurtenances of dangerous illness.
An English nurse would have forbidden the presence of a stranger;
this French one acted with more discretion if less of strict science.
Madam is his sister, perhaps? she whispered.
A relative, then?
No; a woman who loves him.
That heartbroken admission told the whole tale to the quick-witted
Frenchwoman. There had been a duel; one man was seriously injured; the
other, she had heard, was also receiving medical attention in another
hotelthe témoins, wistful to avoid the interrogation of the
law, had so arrangedand here was the woman who had caused the
Well, such was the will of Providence! These things had been since
man and woman were expelled from Paradisefor the nurse, though a
devout Catholic, suspected that Genesis had suppressed certain details
of the first fratricideand would continue, she supposed, until the
She nodded cheerfully.
There is every reason to hope, but he must not be disturbednot
excited, that is, she added, seeing the wan agony in Cynthia's face.
The girl tiptoed to the side of the bed. Medenham's eyes were
closed, but he was muttering something. She bent and kissed his
forehead, and a strange smile broke through the tense lines of pain.
Even in his semi-conscious state he felt the touch of those exquisite
My Lady Alice! he said.
She choked back a sob. He was dreaming of Comusstanding with her
in the ruined banqueting hall of Ludlow Castle.
Yes, your Lady Alice, she breathed.
A slight quiver shook him.
Don't tell Cynthia, he said brokenly. She must never know.... Ah,
if I hadn't slipped, I would have quieted his viperish tongue.... But
Cynthia must not know!
Oh, my dear, my dear, Cynthia does know! It is you who know not.
Kind Heaven, let him live! Grant that I may tell him all that I know!
She could not help it; the words welled forth of their own accord;
but the nurse touched her arm gently.
It is a little fever, she whispered with ready sympathy. Soon it
will pass. He will sleep, and, when he awakes, it is perhaps
permissible that you should speak to him.
* * * * *
Well, it was permissible. The age of miracles had not passed for
those two. Even the experienced doctor marveled at the strength of a
man who at four o'clock in the morning could have a sword driven
through the tissues in perilous proximity to the right lung, and yet,
at nine o'clock on that same night, was able to announce an unalterable
resolution to get up and dress for breakfast next day. That, of course,
was a pleasing fiction intended for Cynthia's benefit. It served its
purpose admirably. The kindly nurse displayed an unexpected firmness in
leading her to her own room, there to eat and sleep.
For Cynthia had an ordeal to face. Many things had been said in the
car during that mad rush to Folkestone, and on board the steamer which
ferried Dale and herself to Boulogne she had wrung from the taciturn
chauffeur a full, true, and particular account of Medenham, his family,
and his doings throughout as much of his life as Dale either knew or
guessed. By the time they reached Boulogne she had made up her mind
with a characteristic decision. One long telegram to her father,
another to Lord Fairholme, caused heart-burning and dismay not alone in
certain apartments of the Savoy Hotel, but in the aristocratic
aloofness of Cavendish Square and Curzon Street. As a result, two
elderly men, a younger one, in the person of the Marquis of Scarland,
and two tearful womenLady St. Maur and Mrs. Lelandmet at Charing
Cross about one o'clock in the morning to travel by special train and
steamer. Another woman telegraphed from Shropshire saying that baby was
better, and that she would follow by the first steamer on Sunday. Mrs.
Devar did not await developments. She fled, dinnerless, to some burrow
These alarums and excursions were accompanied by the ringing of
telephones and the flight of carriages back and forth through muddy
London, and Cynthia was called on to deal with a whole sheaf of
telegrams which demanded replies either to Dover or to Scarland Towers
With a man like Vanrenen at one end, however, and a woman like his
daughter at the other, it might be fairly assumed that even the most
complex skein of circumstances might be resolved from its tangle. As a
matter of curious coincidence, the vessel which carried Marigny to
England passed in mid-Channel its sister ship conveying the
grief-stricken party of relatives to France. It happened, too, that the
clouds from the Atlantic elected to hover over Britain rather than
France, and when Cynthia stood on the quay to meet the incoming
steamer, a burst of sunshine from the east gave promise of a fine if
somewhat blustery day.
Five pairs of eyes sought her face anxiously while the vessel was
warping to the quay opposite the Gare Maritime. They looked there for
tidings, and they were not disappointed.
That's all right, said Vanrenen with an unwonted huskiness in his
voice. Cynthia wouldn't smile if she hadn't good news.
Thank God for that! muttered the Earl, bending his head to examine
a landing ticket, the clear type of which he was utterly unable to
I never thought for a minute that any Frenchman could kill George,
cried Scarland cheerfully.
But the two women said nothing, could see nothing, and the
white-faced but smiling Cynthia standing near the shoreward end of the
gangway had vanished in a sudden mist.
Of course, Marigny was right when he foresaw that Vanrenen could not
meet either Medenham or any of his relatives for five minutes without
his poor little cobweb of intrigue being dissipated once and forever.
With the marvelous insight that every woman possesses when dealing
with the affairs of the man she loves, Cynthia combined the eloquence
of an orator with the practiced skill of a clever lawyer in revealing
each turn and twist of the toils which had enveloped her since that day
in Paris when her father happened to suggest in Marigny's hearing that
she might utilize his hired car for a tour in England, while he
concluded the business that was detaining him in the French Capital.
Nothing escaped her; she unraveled every knot; Medenham's few broken
words, supplemented by the letter to his brother-in-law which he told
her to obtain from Dale, threw light on all the dark places.
But the gloom had fled. It was a keenly interested, almost
light-hearted, little party that walked through the sunshine to the
Hôtel de la Plage.
* * * * *
Dale, abashed, sheepish, yet oddly confident that all was for the
best in a queer world, met the Earl of Fairholme later in the day; his
lordship, who had been pining for someone to pitch into, addressed him
This is a nice game you've been playing, he said. I always
thought you were a man of steady habits, a little given to horse-racing
perhaps, but otherwise a decent member of the community.
So I was before I met Viscount Medenham, my lord, was the daring
answer. For Dale was no fool, and he had long since seen how certain
apparently hostile forces had adapted themselves to new conditions.
Before you left him, you mean, growled the Earl. What sort of
sense was there in letting him fight a duel?it could have been
stopped in fifty different ways.
Yes, my lord, but I never suspicioned a word of it till he went off
in the cab with them
The Earl held up a warning finger.
Hush, he said, this is France, remember, and you are the
foreigner here. Where is my son's car?
In the garage at Folkestone, my lord.
Well, you had better cross by an early boat to-morrow and bring it
here. You understand all the preliminaries, I suppose? Find out from
the Customs people what deposit is necessary, and come to me for the
So it happened that when Medenham was able to take his first drive
in the open air, the Mercury awaited him and Cynthia at the door of the
hotel. It positively sparkled in the sunlight; never was car more spick
and span. The brasswork scintillated, each cylinder was rhythmical, and
a microscope would not have revealed one speck of dust on body or
* * * * *
On a day in Julyfor everybody agreed that not even a marriage
should be allowed to interfere with the Scottish festival of St.
Grousethat same shining Mercury with the tonneau decorously cased in
glass for the hour, drew up at the edge of a red carpet laid down from
curb to stately porch of St. George's, Hanover Square, and Dale turned
a grinning face to the doorway when Viscount Medenham led his bride
down the steps through a shower of rice and good wishes.
Wedding breakfasts and receptions are all much of a muchness, as
the Mad Hatter said to another Alice, and it was not until the Mercury
was speeding north by west to Scarland Towers, lent to the happy pair
for the honeymoon while Betty took the children to recuperate at the
seaside, that Cynthia felt she was really married.
I have a bit of news for you, said her husband, taking a letter
from his pocket. I received a letter by this morning's post. A heap of
others remain unopened till you and I have time to go through them; but
this one caught my attention, and I read it while I was dressing.
He had an excellent excuse for putting his arm round her waist while
he held the open sheet so that both might peruse it at the same time.
MY DEAR VISCOUNTOf course I meant to kill you, but fate
decided otherwise. Indeed, with my usual candor, which by
this time you may have learned to admire, I may add that
only the special kind of dog's luck which attaches itself to
members of my family, saved me from being killed by you. But
that is ancient history now.
I am glad to hear that your wound was not really serious.
There was no sense in merely crippling youmy only chance
lay in procuring your untimely demise. Having failed,
however, I want to tell you, with the utmost sincerity, that
I never had the slightest intention of carrying out my
abominable threat in regard to the fair lady who is now
Viscountess Medenham. Were you other than a heavy-witted and
thick-skinned Briton, you would have known that I was
goading you into issuing a challenge.
This piece of information is my wedding present; it is all I
can give, because, metaphorically speaking, I haven't a sou!
I am, as you see, domiciled in Brussels, where my car is
attached by an unsympathetic hotel proprietor. Still, I
am devoid of rancor, and mean to keep a sharp eye for a
well-favored and well-dowered wife; such a one, in fact, as
you managed to snap up under my very nose.
With a thousand compliments, I am,
Yours very sincerely,
P.S.Devar went steerage to the United States when he
heard of our affair. He thought it was all up with you, and
The wretch! murmured Cynthia. Can he really believe even yet that
I would have married him?
I don't care tuppence what he believes, said Medenham, giving her
a reassuring hug. Indeed, I have a mind to write and ask him how much
he owes in that hotel. Don't you see, my dear, that if it hadn't been
for Marigny there was a chance that I might have left you at Bristol.
Never! cooed Cynthia.
Well, now I have got you, I am beginning to imagine all sorts of
terrible possibilities which might have parted us. I remember thinking,
when my foot slipped....
Oh, don't! she murmured. I can't bear to hear of that. Sometimes,
in Calais, I awoke screaming, and then I knew I had seen it in my
dreams.... There, you have disarranged my hat!... But I don't think
much of your budget, anyhow; mine is a great deal more to the
point. My father told me this morning that he is sure he will feel very
lonely now. He never meant, he said, to put anyone in my dear mother's
place, but he will miss me so greatlythat, perhaps, Mrs. Leland
By Jove, cried Medenham, that will be splendid! I like Mrs.
Leland. At one time, do you know, I rather fancied she might become my
step-mother, now it seems I shall have to greet her as a mother-in-law.
She was bound to come into the family one way or another. When is it to
Cynthia laughed delightedly.
Father looked so confused when I asked him. Say, wouldn't it
be a joke if Simmonds brought them to Scarland Towers one day, and they
were announced by some solemn footman as 'Mr. and Mrs. Vanrenen'?
Cynthia, you know, he teased her.
I don't know, but I am a good guesser, she said.
And she was.