by Lloyd Osbourne
I suppose if I had been a hero of romance, instead of an ordinary
kind of chap, I would have steamed in with the Tallahassee, fired a
gun, and landed in state, instead of putting on my old clothes and
sneaking into the county on an automobile. However, I did my little
best, so far as making a date with Babcock was concerned, and as it
turned out in the end I dare say the hero of romance wouldn't have
managed it much better himself. It was late when I got into Forty
Fyles (as the village was called), and put up at one of those quaint,
low-raftered, bulging old inns which still remain, thank Heaven, here
and there, in the less travelled parts of England. If I were dusty and
dirty when I arrived, you ought to have seen me the next day after a
two-hours' job with the differential gears. By the time I had got the
trouble to rights, and had puffed up and down the main street to make
assurance sure and astonish the natives (who came out two hundred
strong and cheered), I was as frowsy, unkempt, and dilapidated an
American as ever drove a twelve H.P. Panhard through the rural lanes
of Britain. Indeed, I was so shocked at my own appearance when I
looked at myself in the glass (such a wiggly old glass that showed
one in streaks like bacon) that I went down to the draper's and tried
to buy a new set out. But as they had nothing except cheap tripper
suits for pigmies (I stood six feet in my stockings and had played
full back at college) and fishermen's clothes of an ancient Dutch
design, I forebore to waste my good dollars in making a guy of myself,
and decided to remain as I was.
Then, as I was sitting in the bar and asking the potman the best
way to get to Castle Fyles, it suddenly came over me that it was the
Fourth of July, and that, recreant as I was, I had come near
forgetting the event altogether. I started off again down the main
street to discover some means of raising a noise, and after a good
deal of searching I managed to procure several handfuls of strange
whitey fire-crackers the size of cigars and a peculiar red package
that the shopkeeper called a "Haetna Volcano." He said that for four
and eightpence one couldn't find its match in Lunnon itself, and
obligingly took off twopence when I pointed out Vesuvius hadn't a
fuse. With the crackers in my pocket and the volcano under my arm I
set forth in the pleasant summer morning to walk to Castle Fyles,
having an idea to rest by the way and celebrate the Fourth in the very
heart of the hereditary enemy.
The road, as is so often the case in England, ran between high
stone walls and restrained the wayfarer from straying into the
gentlemen's parks on either hand. The sun shone overhead with the
fierce heat of a British July; and to make matters worse in my case,
I seemed to be the loadstone of what traffic was in progress on the
highway. A load of hay stuck to me with obstinate determination; if I
walked slowly, the hay lagged beside me; if I quickened my pace, the
hay whipped up his horses; when I rested and mopped my brow, the hay
rested and mopped ITS brow. Then there were tramps of various kinds: a
Punch and Judy show on the march; swift silent bicyclists who sped
past in a flurry of dust; local gentry riding cock-horses (no doubt to
Banbury Crosses); local gentry in dogcarts; local gentry in closed
carriages going to a funeral, and apparently (as seen through the
windows) very hot and mournful and perspiring; an antique clergyman in
an antique gig who gave me a tract and warned me against drink; a
char-a-bancs filled to bursting with the True Blue Constitutional Club
of East Pigley—such at least was the inscription on a streaming
banner— who swung past waving their hats and singing "Our Boarder's
such a Nice Young Man"; then some pale aristocratic children in a sort
of perambulating clothes-basket drawn by a hairy mite of a pony, who
looked at me disapprovingly, as though I hadn't honestly come by the
volcano; then—but why go on with the never-ending procession of
British pilgrims who straggled out at just sufficient intervals to
keep between them a perpetual eye on my movements and prevent me from
celebrating the birth of freedom in any kind of privacy. At last,
getting desperate at this espionage and thinking besides I could make
a shorter cut towards Castle Fyles, I clambered over an easy place in
the left-hand wall and dropped into the shade of a magnificent park.
Here, at least, whatever the risk of an outraged law (which I had been
patronisingly told was even stricter than that of the Medes and
Persians), I seemed free to wander unseen and undetected, and
accordingly struck a course under the oaks that promised in time to
bring me out somewhere near the sea.
Dipping into a little dell, where in the perfection of its English
woodland one might have thought to meet Robin Hood himself, or
startle Little John beside a fallen deer, I looked carefully about,
got out my pale crackers, and wondered whether I dared begin. It is
always an eerie sensation to be alone in the forest, what with the
whispering leaves overhead, the stir and hum of insects, the rustle of
ghostly foot-falls, and (in my case) the uneasy sense of
green-liveried keepers sneaking up at one through the clumps of gorse.
However, I was not the man to belie the blood of Revolutionary heroes
and meanly carry my unexploded crackers beyond the scene of danger, so
I remembered the brave days of old and touched a whitey off. It burst
with the roar of a cannon and reverberated through the glades like the
broadside of a man-of- war. It took me a good five minutes before I
had the courage to detonate another, which, for better security, I did
this time under my hat. I am not saying it did the hat any good, but
it seemed safer and less deafening, and I accordingly went on in this
manner until there were only about three whiteys left between me and
Vesuvius, which I kept back, in accordance with tradition, for one big
triumphant bang at the end.
I was in the act of touching my cigar to whitey number three,—on
my knees, I remember; and trying to arrange my hat so as to get the
most muffling for the least outlay of burned felt, when the branches
in front of me parted and I looked up to see—well, simply the most
beautiful woman in the world, regarding me with astonishment and
anger. She was about twenty, somewhat above the medium height, and her
eyes were of a lovely flashing blue that seemed in the intensity of
her indignation to positively emit sparks—altogether the most
exquisitely radiant and glorious creature that man was ever privileged
to gaze upon.
"How dare you let off fireworks in this park?" she said, in a
voice like clotted cream.
I rose in some confusion.
"Go directly," she said, "or I'll report you and have you
"I have only two more crackers and this volcano," I said
protestingly. "Surely you would not mind——"
"Don't be insolent," she said, "or I shall have no compunction in
setting my dog on you."
I looked down, and there, sure enough, rolling a yellow eye and
showing his fangs at me, was a sort of Uncle Tom's Cabin bloodhound
only waiting to begin.
"The fact is," I said, speaking slowly, so as to emphasise the
fact that I was a gentleman, "I am an American; to-day is our
national holiday; and we make it everywhere our practice to celebrate
it with fireworks. I would have done so in the road, but the island
seemed so crowded this morning I couldn't find an undisturbed place
outside the park."
Beauty was obviously mollified by my tone and respectful address.
"Please leave the park directly," she said.
I put the crackers in my pocket, took up my hat, placed the Haetna
Volcano under my arm, and stood there, ready to go.
"Accept my apologies," I said. "Whatever my fault, at least no
discourtesy was intended."
We looked at each other, and Beauty's face relaxed into something
like a smile.
"Just give me one more minute for my volcano," I pleaded.
"You seem very polite," she returned. "Yes, you can set it off, if
that will be any satisfaction to you."
"It'll be a whole lot," I said, "and since you're so kind perhaps
you'll let me include the crackers as well?"
Then she began to laugh, and the sweetest thing about it was that
she didn't want to laugh a bit and blushed the most lovely pink, as
she broke out again and again until the woods fairly rang. And as I
laughed too—for really it was most absurd—it was as good as a scene
in a play. And so, while she held Legree's dog, whom the sound
inflamed to frenzy, I popped off the crackers and dropped my cigar
into Vesuvius. I tell you he was worth four and eightpence, and the
man was right when he said there wasn't his match in London. I doubt
if there was his match anywhere for being plumb- full of red balls and
green balls and blue balls and crimson stars and fizzlegigs and whole
torrents of tiny crackers and chase-me- quicks, and when you about
thought he was never going to stop he shot up a silver spray and a
gold spray and wound up with a very considerable decent-sized bust.
"I must thank you for your good nature," I said to the young lady.
"Are you a typical American?" she asked. "Oh, so-so," I returned.
"There are heaps like me in New York."
"And do they all do this on the Fourth of July?" she asked.
"Every last one!" I said.
"Fancy!" she said.
"In America," I said, "when a man has received one favour he is
certain to make it the stepping-stone for another. Won't you permit
me to walk across the park to Castle Fyles?"
"Castle Fyles?" she repeated, with a little note of curiosity in
her girlish voice. "Then don't you know that this is Fyles Park?"
"Can't say I did," I returned. "But I am delighted to hear it."
"Why are you delighted to hear it?" she asked, making me feel more
than ever like an escaped lunatic.
"This is the home of my ancestors," I said, "and it makes me glad
to think they amount to something—own real estate—and keep their
venerable heads above water."
"So this is the home of your ancestors," she said.
"It's holy ground to me," I said.
"Fancy!" she exclaimed.
"At least I think it is," I went on, "though we haven't any proofs
beyond the fact that Fyles has always been a family name with us back
to the Colonial days. I'm named Fyles myself—Fyles ffrench— and we,
like the Castle people—have managed to retain our little f throughout
She looked at me so incredulously that I handed her my card.
Mr. Fyles ffrench,
She turned it over in her fingers, regarding me at the same time
with flattering curiosity.
"How do you do, kinsman?" she said, holding out her hand. "Welcome
to old England!"
I took her little hand and pressed it.
"I am the daughter of the house," she explained, "and I'm named
Fyles too, though they usually call me Verna."
"And the little f, of course," I said.
"Just like yours," she returned. "There may be some capital F's in
the family, but we wouldn't acknowledge them!"
"What a fellow-feeling that gives one!" I said. "At school, at
college, in business, in the war with Spain when I served on the
Dixie, my life has been one long struggle to preserve that little f
against a capital F world. I remember saying that to a chum the day we
sank Cervera, 'If I am killed, Bill,' I said, 'see that they don't
capital F me on the scroll of fame!'"
"A true ffrench!" exclaimed Beauty with approval.
"As true as yourself," I said.
"Do you know that I'm the last of them?" she said.
"You!" I exclaimed. "The last!"
"Yes," she said, "when my father dies the estates will pass to my
second cousin, Lord George Willoughby, and our branch of the family
will become extinct."
"You fill me with despair," I said.
"My father never can forgive me for being a girl," she said.
"I can," I remarked, "even at the risk of appearing disloyal to
"Fyles," she said, addressing me straight out by my first name,
and with a little air that told me plainly I had made good my footing
in the fold, "Fyles, what a pity you aren't the rightful heir, come
from overseas with parchments and parish registers, to make good your
claim before the House of Lords."
"Wouldn't that be rather hard on you?" I asked.
"I'd rather give up everything than see the old place pass to
strangers," she said.
"But I'm a stranger," I said.
"You're Fyles ffrench," she exclaimed, "and a man, and you'd hand
the old name down and keep the estate together."
"And guard the little f with the last drop of my blood," I said.
"Ah, well!" she said, with a little sigh, "the world's a
disappointing place at best, and I suppose it serves us right for
centuries of conceit about ourselves."
"That at least will never die," I observed. "The American branch
will see to that part of it."
"It's a pity, though, isn't it?" she said.
"Well," I said, "when a family has been carrying so much dog for a
thousand years, I suppose in common fairness it's time to give way
"What is carrying dog?" she said.
"It's American," I returned, "for thinking yourself better than
"Fancy!" she said, and then with a beautiful smile she took my
hand and rubbed it against the hound's muzzle.
"You mustn't growl at him, Olaf," she said. "He's a ffrench; he's
one of us; and he has come from over the sea to make friends."
"You can't turn me out of the park after that," I said, in spite
of a very dubious lick from the noble animal, who, possibly because
he couldn't read and hadn't seen my card, was still a prey to
"I am going to take you back to the castle myself," she said, "and
we'll spend the day going all over it, and I shall introduce you to
my father—Sir Fyles—when he returns at five from Ascot."
"I could ask for nothing better," I said, "though I don't want to
make myself a burden to you. And then," I went on, a little uncertain
how best to express myself, "you are so queer in England
"Proprieties," she said, giving the word which I hesitated to use.
"Oh, yes! I suppose I oughtn't to; indeed, it's awful, and there'll
be lunch too, Fyles, which makes it twice as bad. But to- day I'm
going to be American and do just what I like."
"I thought I ought to mention it," I said.
"Objection overruled," she returned. "That's what they used to say
in court when my father had his famous right-of-way case with Lord
Piffle of Doom; and from what I remember there didn't seem any
repartee to it."
"There certainly isn't one from me," I said.
"Let's go," she said.
There didn't seem any end to that park, and we walked and walked
and rested once or twice under the deep shade, and took in a mouldy
pavilion in white marble with broken windows, and a Temple of Love
that dated back to the sixteenth century, and rowed on an ornamental
water in a real gondola that leaked like sixty, and landed on a rushy
island where there was a sun-dial and a stone seat that the Druids or
somebody had considerately placed there in the year one, and talked of
course, and grew confidential, until finally I was calling her Verna
(which was her pet name) and telling her how the other fellow had
married my best girl, while she spoke most beautifully and sensibly
about love, and the way the old families were dying out because they
had set greater store on their lands than on their hearts, and
altogether with what she said and what I said, and what was
understood, we passed from acquaintance to friendship, and from
friendship to the verge of something even nearer. Even the Uncle Tom
hound fell under the spell of our new-found intimacy and condescended
to lick my hand of his own volition, which Verna said he had never
done before except to the butcher, and winked a bloodshot eye when I
remarked he was too big for the island and ought to go back with me to
a country nearer his size.
By the time we had reached the cliffs and began to perceive the
high grey walls of the castle in the distance, Verna and I were
faster friends than ever, and anyone seeing us together would have
thought we had known each other all our lives. I felt more and more
happy to think I had met her first in this unconventional way, for as
the castle loomed up closer and we passed gardeners and keepers and
jockeys with a string of race-horses out for exercise, I felt that my
pretty companion was constrained by the sight of these obsequious
faces and changing by gradations into what she really was, the
daughter of the castle and by right of blood one of the great ladies
of the countryside.
The castle itself was a tremendous old pile, built on a rocky
peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the waters of Appledore
Harbour, It lay so as to face the entrance, which Verna told me was
commanded—or rather had been in years past—by the guns of a
half-moon battery that stood planted on a sort of third-story
terrace. It was all towers and donjons and ramparts, and might, in
its mediaeval perfection, have been taken bodily out of one of Sir
Walter Scott's novels. Verna and I had lunch together in a perfectly
gorgeous old hall, with beams and carved panelling and antlers, and a
fireplace you could have roasted an ox in, and rows of glistening
suits of armour which the original ffrenches had worn when they had
first started the family in life—and all this, if you please,
tete-a-tete with a woman who seemed to get more beautiful every minute
I gazed at her, and who smiled back at me and called me Fyles, to the
stupefaction of three noiseless six- footers in silk stockings.
Disapproving six-footers, too, whose gimlet eyes seemed to pierce my
back as they sized up my clothes, which, as I said before, had
suffered not a little by my trip, and my collar, which I'll admit
straight out wasn't up to a castle standard, and the undeniable stain
of machine-oil on my cuffs which I had got that morning in putting the
machine to rights. You ought to have seen the man that took my hat,
which he did with the air of a person receiving pearls and diamonds on
a golden platter, and smudged his lordly fingers with the grime of my
Fourth of July. And that darling of a girl, who never noticed my
discomfiture, but whose eyes sparkled at times with a hidden
merriment—shall I ever forget her as she sat there and helped me to
mutton-chops from simply priceless old Charles the First plate!
We had black coffee together in a window-seat overlooking the
harbour and the ships, and she asked me a lot of questions about the
war with Spain and my service in the Dixie. She never moved a muscle
when it came out I had been a quartermaster, though I could feel she
was astounded at my being but a shade above a common seaman, and not,
as she had taken it for granted, a commissioned officer. I was too
proud to explain over-much, or to tell her I had gone in, as so many
of my friends had done, from a strong sense of duty and patriotism at
the time of my country's need, and consequently allowed her to get a
very wrong idea, I suppose, about my state in life and position in the
world. Indeed, I was just childish enough to get a trifle wounded, and
let her add misconception to misconception out of a silly obstinacy.
"But what do you do," she asked, "now that the war is over and
you've taken away everything from the poor Spaniards and left the
"Work," I said.
"What kind of work?" she asked.
"Oh, in an office!" I said. (I didn't tell her I was the Third
Vice President of the Amalgamated Copper Company, with a twenty-
story building on lower Broadway. Wild horses couldn't have wrung it
out of me then.)
"You're too nice for an office," she said, looking at me so
sweetly and sadly. "You ought to be a gentleman!"
"Oh, dear!" I exclaimed, "I hope I am that, even if I do grub
along in an office." I wish my partners could have heard me say that.
Why, I have a private elevator of my own and a squash-court on the
"Of course, I don't mean that," she went on quickly, "but like us,
I mean, with a castle and a place in society——"
"I have a sort of little picayune place in New York," I
interrupted. "I don't SLEEP in the office, you know. At night I go
out and see my friends and sometimes they invite me to dinner."
She looked at me more sadly than ever. I don't believe humour was
Verna's strong suit anyway,—not American humour, at least,—for she
not only believed what I said, but more too.
"I must speak to Papa about you," she said.
"What will he do?" I asked.
"Oh, help you along, you know," she said; "ffrenches always stand
together; it's a family trait, though it's dying out now for lack of
ffrenches. You know our family motto?" she went on.
"I'm afraid I don't," I said.
"'Ffrenches first!'" she returned.
I had to laugh.
"We've lived up to it in America," I said.
"Papa is quite a power in the City," she said.
"I thought he was a gentleman," I replied.
"Everybody dabbles in business nowadays," she returned, not
perceiving the innuendo. "I am sure Papa ought to know all about it
from the amount of money he has lost."
"Perhaps his was a case of ffrenches last!" I said.
"Still, he knows all the influential people," she continued, "and
it would be so easy for him to get you a position over here."
"That would be charming," I said.
"And then I might see you occasionally," she said, with such a
little ring of kindness in her voice that for a minute I felt a
perfect brute for deceiving her. "You could run down here from
Saturday to Monday, you know, and on Bank Holidays, and in the season
you would have the entree to our London house and the chance of
meeting nice people!"
"How jolly!" I said.
"I can't bear you to go back to America," she said. "Now that I've
found you, I'm going to keep you."
"I hate the thought of going back myself," I said, and so I did—
at the thought of leaving that angel!
"Then, you know," she went on, somewhat shyly and hesitatingly,
"you have such good manners and such a good air, and you're so—— "
"Don't mind saying handsome," I remarked.
"You really are very nice-looking," she said, with a seriousness
that made me acutely uncomfortable, "and what with our friendship and
our house open to you and the people you could invite down here,
because I know Papa is going to go out of his mind about you—he and I
are always crazy about the same people, you know— not to speak of the
little f, there is no reason, Fyles, why in the end you shouldn't
marry an awfully rich girl and set up for yourself!"
"Thank you," I said, "but if it's all the same to you I don't
think I'd care to."
"I know awfully rich girls who are pretty too," she said, as
though forestalling an objection.
"I do too," I said, looking at her so earnestly that she coloured
up to the eyes.
"Oh, I am poor!" she said. "It's all we can do to keep the place
up. Besides—besides——" And then she stopped and looked out of the
window. I saw I had been a fool to be so personal, and I was soon
punished for my presumption, for she rose to her feet and said in an
altered voice that she would now show me the castle.
As I said before, it was a tremendous old place. It was a two-
hours' job to go through it even as we did, and then Verna said we
had skipped a whole raft of things she would let me see some other
time. There was a private theatre, a chapel with effigies of
cross-legged Crusaders, an armoury with a thousand stand of flint-
locks, a library, magnificent state apartments with wonderful
tapestries, a suite of rooms where they had confined a mad ffrench in
the fifteenth century, with the actual bloodstains on the floor where
he had dashed out his poor silly brains against the wall; a magazine
with a lot of empty powder-casks Cromwell had left there; a vaulted
chamber for the men of the half-moon battery; a well which was said to
have no bottom and which had remained unused for a hundred years,
because a wicked uncle had thrown the rightful heir into it; and
slimy, creepy-crawly dungeons with chains for your hands and feet; and
cachettes where they spilled you through a hole in the floor, and let
it go at that; and—but what wasn't there, indeed, in that
extraordinary old feudal citadel, which had been in continuous human
possession since the era of Hardicanute. There seemed to be only one
thing missing in the whole castle, and that was a bath—though I dare
say there was one in the private apartments not shown to me. It was a
regular dive into the last five hundred years, and the fact that it
wasn't a museum nor exploited by a sing-song cicerone, helped to make
it for me a memorable and really thrilling experience. I conjured up
my forebears and could see them playing as children, growing to
manhood, passing into old age, and finally dying in the shadow of
those same massive walls. Verna said I was quite pale when we emerged
at last into the open air on the summit of the high square tower; and
no wonder that I was, for in a kind of way I had been deeply
impressed, and it seemed a solemn thing that I, like her, should be a
child of this castle, with roots deep cast in far-off ages.
"Wouldn't it be horrible," I said, "if I found out I wasn't a
ffrench at all—but had really sprung from a low-down, capital F
family in the next county or somewhere!"
"Oh, but you are a real ffrench," said Verna.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I can FEEL it," she said. "I never felt that kind of sensation
before towards anybody except my father!"
I hardly knew whether to be pleased or not. And besides, it didn't
seem to me conclusive.
Then she touched a button (for the castle was thoroughly wired and
there was even a miniature telephone system) and servants brought us
up afternoon tea, and a couple of chairs to sit on, and a folding
table set out with flowers, and the best toast and the best tea and
the best strawberry jam and the best chocolate cake and the best
butter that I had as yet tasted in the whole island. The view itself
was good enough to eat, for we were high above everything and saw the
harbour and the country stretched out on all sides like a map.
"This is where I come for my day-dreams," said Verna. "I usually
have it all to myself, for people hate the stairs so much and the
ladies twitter about the dust and the cobwebs and the shakiness of
the last ladder, and the silly things get dizzy and have to be held."
"You don't seem to be afraid," I said.
"This has been my favourite spot all my life," she returned. "I
can remember Papa holding me up when I wasn't five years old and
telling me about the Lady Grizzle that threw herself off the parapet
rather than marry somebody she had to and wouldn't!"
"Tell me about your day-dreams, Verna," I said.
"Just a girl's fancies," she returned, smiling. "I dare say men
have them too. Fairy princes, you know, and what he'd say and what
I'd say, and how much I'd love him, and how much he'd love me!"
"I can understand the last part of it," I observed.
"You are really very nice," she returned, "and when Papa has got
you that place in the City, I am going to allow you to come up here
and dream too. And you'll tell me about the Sleeping Beauty and I'll
unbosom myself about the Beast, and we'll exchange heart- aches and
be, oh, so happy together."
"I am that now," I said.
"You're awfully easily pleased, Fyles," she said. "Most of the men
I know I have to rack my head to entertain; talk exploring, you know,
to explorers, and horses to Derby winners, and what it feels like to
be shot—to soldiers—but you entertain ME, and that is so much
"I wish I dared ask you some questions," I said.
"Oh, but you mustn't!" she broke out, with a quick intuition of
what I meant.
"Why mustn't?" Tasked.
"Oh, because—because——" she returned. "I wouldn't like to fib
to you, and I wouldn't like to tell you the truth—and it would make
me feel hot and uncomfortable——"
"What would?" I asked.
"You see, if I really cared for him, it would be different," she
said. "But I don't—and that's all."
"Lady Grizzle over again?" I ventured.
"Not altogether," she said, "you see she was perfectly mad about
somebody else—which really was hard lines for her, poor thing—
"Oh, please go on!" I said, as she hesitated.
"Fyles," she said, with the ghost of a sigh, "this isn't day-
dreaming at all, and I'm going to give you another cup of tea and
change the subject."
"What would you prefer, then?" I asked. "No! No more chocolate
cake, thank you."
"Let's have a fairy story all of our own," she said.
"Well, you begin," I said.
"Once upon a time," she began, "there was a poor young man in New
York—an American, though of course he couldn't help that—and he
came over to England and discovered the home of his ancestors, and he
liked them, and they liked him—ever so much, you know—and he found
that the old place was destined to pass to strangers, and so he worked
and worked in a dark old office, and stayed up at night working some
more, and never accepted any invitations or took a holiday except at
week-ends to the family castle—until finally he amassed an immense
fortune. Then he got into a fairy chariot, together with a bag of gold
and the family lawyer, and ordered the coachman to drive him to Lord
George Willoughby's in Curzon Street. Then they sent out in hot haste
for Sir George's son, an awfully fast young man in the Guards, and the
family lawyer haggled and haggled, and Lord George hemmed and hawed,
and the Guardsman's eyes sparkled with greed at the sight of the bag
of gold, and finally for two hundred thousand pounds (Papa says he
often thinks he could pull it off for a hundred and ten thousand) the
entail is broken and everybody signs his name to the papers and the
poor young man buys the succession of Fyles and comes down here,
regardless of expense, in a splendid gilt special train, and is
received with open arms by his kinsmen at the castle."
"The open arms appeal to me," I said.
"He was nearly hugged to death," said Verna, "for they were so
pleased the old name was not to die out and be forgotten. And then
the poor young man married a ravishing beauty and had troops of
sunny-haired children, and the daughter of the castle (who by this
time was an old maid and quite plain, though everybody said she had a
heart like hidden treasure) devoted herself to the little darlings and
taught them music-lessons and manners and how to spell their names
with a little f, and as a great treat would sometimes bring them up
here and tell them how she had first met the poor young man in the
'diamond mornings of long ago'!"
"That's a good fairy story," I said, "but you are all out about
"You said you liked it," she protested.
"Yes, where they hugged the poor young man," I returned, "but
after that, Verna, it went off the track altogether."
"Perhaps you'll put it back again," she said.
"I want to correct all that about the daughter of the castle," I
said. "She never became an old maid at all, for, of course, the poor
young man loved her to distraction and married her right off, and they
lived happily together ever afterwards!"
"I believe that is nicer," she said thoughtfully, as though
considering the matter.
"Truer, too," I said, "because really the poor young man adored
her from the first minute of their meeting!"
"I wonder how long it will take him to make his fortune," she
said, which, under the circumstances, struck me as a cruel thing to
"Possibly he has made it already," I said. "How do you know he
"By his looks for one thing," she said, regarding the machine oil
on my cuff out of the corner of her eye. "Besides, he hasn't any of
the arrogance of a parvenu, and is much too——"
"Too what?" I asked.
"Well bred," she replied simply.
"No doubt that's the ffrench in him," I said, which I think was
rather a neat return.
She didn't answer, but looked absently across to the harbour
"I believe there is a steamer coming in," she said. "Yes, a
"A yacht, I think," I said, for, sure enough, it was Babcock true
to the minute, heading the Tallahassee straight in. I could have
given him a hundred dollars on the spot I was so delighted, for he
couldn't have timed it better, nor at a moment when it could have
pleased me more. She ran in under easy steam, making a splendid
appearance with her raking masts and razor bow, under which the water
spurted on either side like dividing silver. Except a beautiful woman,
I don't know that there's a sweeter sight than a powerful, sea-going
steam yacht, with the sun glinting on her bright brass-work, and a
uniformed crew jumping to the sound of the boatswain's whistle.
"The poor young man's ship's come home," I said.
"It must be Lady Gaunt's Sapphire," said Verna.
"With the American colours astern?" I said.
"Why, how strange," she said, "it really is American. And then I
believe it's larger than the Sapphire!"
"Fifteen hundred and four tons register," I said.
"How do you know that?" she demanded, with a shade of surprise in
"Because, my dear, it's mine!" I said.
"Yours!" she cried out in astonishment.
"If you doubt me," I said, "I shall tell you what she is going to
do next. She is about to steam in here and lower a boat to take me
"She's heading for Dartmouth," said Verna incredulously, and the
words were hardly out of her pretty mouth when Babcock swung round
and pointed the Tallahassee's nose straight at us.
For a moment Verna was too overcome to speak.
"Fyles," she said at last, "you told me you worked in an office!"
"So I do," I said.
"And own a vessel like that!" she exclaimed. "A yacht the size of
"It was you that said I was a poor young man," I observed. "I was
so pleased at being called young that I let the poor pass."
"Fancy!" she exclaimed, looking at me with eyes like stars. And
then, recovering herself, she added in another tone: "Now don't you
think it was very forward to rendezvous at a private castle?"
"Oh, I thought I could make myself solid before she arrived," I
"Fyles," she said, "I am beginning to have a different opinion of
you. You are not as straightforward as a ffrench ought to be—and,
though I'm ashamed to say it of you—but you are positively
"Unsay, take back, those angry words," I said; and even as I did
so the anchor went splash and I could hear the telegraph jingle in
"And so you're rich," said Verna, "awfully, immensely,
disgustingly rich, and you've been masquerading all this afternoon as
a charming pauper!"
"I don't think I said charming," I remarked.
"But I say it," said Verna, "because, really you know, you're
awfully nice, and I like you, and I'm glad from the bottom of my
heart that you are rich!"
"Thank you," I said, "I'm glad, too."
"Now we must go down and meet your boat," said Verna. "See, there
it is, coming in—though I still think it was cheeky of you to tell
them to land uninvited."
"Oh, let them wait!" I said.
"No, no, we must go and meet them," said Verna, "and I'm going to
ask that glorious old fox with the yellow beard whether it's all true
"You can't believe it yet?" I said.
"You've only yourself to thank for it," she said. "I got used to
you as one thing—and here you are, under my eyes, turning out
I could not resist saying "Fancy!" though she did not seem to
perceive any humour in my exclamation of it, and took it as a matter
of course. Besides, she had risen now, and bade me follow her down the
It was really fine to see the men salute me as we walked down to
the boat, and the darkies' teeth shining at the sight of me (for I'm
a believer in the coloured sailor) and old Neilsen grinning
respectfully in the stern-sheets.
"Neilsen," I said, "tell this young lady my name!"
"Mr. ffrench, sir," he answered, considerably astonished at the
"Little f or big F, Neilsen?"
"Little f, sir," said Neilsen.
"There, doubter!" I said to Verna.
She had her hand on my arm and was smiling down at the men from
the little stone pier on which we stood.
"Fyles," she said, "you must land and dine with us to-night, not
only because I want you to, but because you ought to meet my father."
"About when?" I asked.
"Seven-thirty," she answered; and then, in a lower voice, so that
the men below might not hear: "Our fairy tale is coming true, isn't
"Right to the end," I said.
"There were two ends," she said. "Mine and yours."
"Oh, mine," I said; "that is, if you'll live up to your part of
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Throw over the Beast and be my Princess," I said, trying to talk
lightly, though my voice betrayed me.
"Perhaps I will," she answered.
"Perhaps!" I repeated. "That isn't any answer at all."
"Yes, then!" she said quickly, and, disengaging her hand from my
arm, ran back a few steps.
"I hear Papa's wheels," she cried over her shoulder, "and, don't
forget, Fyles, dinner at seven-thirty!"