Ruggles of Red Gap
by Harry Leon Wilson
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Feeling all at once rather a fool, I sought to conciliate her. "I have joined in no talk," I said. "I merely suggested——" But she shut me off sharply.

"And let me tell you one thing: I can pick out my associates in this town without any outside help. The idea! That girl is just as nice a person as ever walked the earth, and nobody ever said she wasn't except those frumpy old cats that hate her good looks because the men all like her."

"Old cats!" I echoed, wishing to rebuke this violence of epithet, but she would have none of me.

"Nasty old spite-cats," she insisted with even more violence, and went on to an almost quite blasphemous absurdity. "A prince in his palace wouldn't be any too good for her!"

"Tut, tut!" I said, greatly shocked.

"Tut nothing!" she retorted fiercely. "A regular prince in his palace, that's what she deserves. There isn't a single man in this one-horse town that's good enough to pick up her glove. And she knows it, too. She's carrying on with your silly Englishman now, but it's just to pay those old cats back in their own coin. She'll carry on with him—yes! But marry? Good heavens and earth! Marriage is serious!" With this novel conclusion she seized another glass and began to wipe it viciously. She glared at me, seeming to believe that she had closed the interview. But I couldn't stop. In some curious way she had stirred me rather out of myself—but not about the Klondike woman nor about the Honourable George. I began most illogically, I admit, to rage inwardly about another matter.

"You have other associates," I exclaimed quite violently, "those cattle-persons—I know quite all about it. That Hank and Buck—they come here on the chance of seeing you; they bring you boxes of candy, they bring you little presents. Twice they've escorted you home at night when you quite well knew I was only too glad to do it——" I felt my temper most curiously running away with me, ranting about things I hadn't meant to at all. I looked for another outburst from her, but to my amazement she flashed me a smile with a most enigmatic look back of it. She tossed her head, but resumed her wiping of the glass with a certain demureness. She spoke almost meekly:

"They're very old friends, and I'm sure they always act right. I don't see anything wrong in it, even if Buck Edwards has shown me a good deal of attention."

But this very meekness of hers seemed to arouse all the violence in my nature.

"I won't have it!" I said. "You have no right to receive presents from men. I tell you I won't have it! You've no right!"

"Haven't I?" she suddenly said in the most curious, cool little voice, her eyes falling before mine. "Haven't I? I didn't know."

It was quite chilling, her tone and manner. I was cool in an instant. Things seemed to mean so much more than I had supposed they did. I mean to say, it was a fair crumpler. She paused in her wiping of the glass but did not regard me. I was horribly moved to go to her, but coolly remembered that that sort of thing would never do.

"I trust I have said enough," I remarked with entirely recovered dignity.

"You have," she said.

"I mean I won't have such things," I said.

"I hear you," she said, and fell again to her work. I thereupon investigated an ice-box and found enough matter for complaint against the Hobbs boy to enable me to manage a dignified withdrawal to the rear. The remarkable creature was humming again as I left.

I stood in the back door of the Grill giving upon the alley, where I mused rather excitedly. Here I was presently interrupted by the dog, Mr. Barker. For weeks now I had been relieved of his odious attentions, by the very curious circumstance that he had transferred them to the Honourable George. Not all my kicks and cuffs and beatings had sufficed one whit to repulse him. He had kept after me, fawned upon me, in spite of them. And then on a day he had suddenly, with glad cries, become enamoured of the Honourable George, waiting for him at doors, following him, hanging upon his every look. And the Honourable George had rather fancied the beast and made much of him.

And yet this animal is reputed by poets and that sort of thing to be man's best friend, faithfully sharing his good fortune and his bad, staying by his side to the bitter end, even refusing to leave his body when he has perished—starving there with a dauntless fidelity. How chagrined the weavers of these tributes would have been to observe the fickle nature of the beast in question! For weeks he had hardly deigned me a glance. It had been a relief, to be sure, but what a sickening disclosure of the cur's trifling inconstancy. Even now, though he sniffed hungrily at the open door, he paid me not the least attention—me whom he had once idolized!

I slipped back to the ice-box and procured some slices of beef that were far too good for him. He fell to them with only a perfunctory acknowledgment of my agency in procuring them.

"Why, I thought you hated him!" suddenly said the voice of his owner. She had tiptoed to my side.

"I do," I said quite savagely, "but the unspeakable beast can't be left to starve, can he?"

I felt her eyes upon me, but would not turn. Suddenly she put her hand upon my shoulder, patting it rather curiously, as she might have soothed her child. When I did turn she was back at her task. She was humming again, nor did she glance my way. Quite certainly she was no longer conscious that I stood about. She had quite forgotten me. I could tell as much from her manner. "Such," I reflected, with an unaccustomed cynicism, "is the light inconsequence of women and dogs." Yet I still experienced a curiously thrilling determination to protect her from her own good nature in the matter of her associates.

At a later and cooler moment of the day I reflected upon her defence of the Klondike woman. A "prince in his palace" not too good for her! No doubt she had meant me to take these remarkable words quite seriously. It was amazing, I thought, with what seriousness the lower classes of the country took their dogma of equality, and with what naive confidence they relied upon us to accept it. Equality in North America was indeed praiseworthy; I had already given it the full weight of my approval and meant to live by it. But at home, of course, that sort of thing would never do. The crude moral worth of the Klondike woman might be all that her two defenders had alleged, and indeed I felt again that strange little thrill of almost sympathy for her as one who had been unjustly aspersed. But I could only resolve that I would be no party to any unfair plan of opposing her. The Honourable George must be saved from her trifling as well as from her serious designs, if such she might have; but so far as I could influence the process it should cause as little chagrin as possible to the offender. This much the Mixer and my charwoman had achieved with me. Indeed, quite hopeful I was that when the creature had been set right as to what was due one of our oldest and proudest families she would find life entirely pleasant among those of her own station. She seemed to have a good heart.

As the day of his lordship's arrival drew near, Belknap-Jackson became increasingly concerned about the precise manner of his reception and the details of his entertainment, despite my best assurances that no especially profound thought need be given to either, his lordship being quite that sort, fussy enough in his own way but hardly formal or pretentious.

His prospective host, after many consultations with me, at length allowed himself to be dissuaded from meeting his lordship in correct afternoon garb of frock-coat and top-hat, consenting, at my urgent suggestion, to a mere lounge-suit of tweeds with a soft-rolled hat and a suitable rough day stick. Again in the matter of the menu for his lordship's initial dinner which we had determined might well be tendered him at my establishment. Both husband and wife were rather keen for an elaborate repast of many courses, feeling that anything less would be doing insufficient honour to their illustrious guest, but I at length convinced them that I quite knew what his lordship would prefer: a vegetable soup, an abundance of boiled mutton with potatoes, a thick pudding, a bit of scientifically correct cheese, and a jug of beer. Rather trying they were at my first mention of this—a dinner quite without finesse, to be sure, but eminently nutritive—and only their certainty that I knew his lordship's ways made them give in.

The affair was to be confined to the family, his lordship the only guest, this being thought discreet for the night of his arrival in view of the peculiar nature of his mission. Belknap-Jackson had hoped against hope that the Mixer might not be present, and even so late as the day of his lordship's arrival he was cheered by word that she might be compelled to keep her bed with a neuralgia.

To the afternoon train I accompanied him in his new motor-car, finding him not a little distressed because the chauffeur, a native of the town, had stoutly—and with some not nice words, I gathered—refused to wear the smart uniform which his employer had provided.

"I would have shopped the fellow in an instant," he confided to me, "had it been at any other time. He was most impertinent. But as usual, here I am at the mercy of circumstances. We couldn't well subject Brinstead to those loathsome public conveyances."

We waited in the usual throng of the leisured lower-classes who are so naively pleased at the passage of a train. I found myself picturing their childish wonder had they guessed the identity of him we were there to meet. Even as the train appeared Belknap-Jackson made a last moan of complaint.

"Mrs. Pettengill," he observed dejectedly, "is about the house again and I fear will be quite well enough to be with us this evening." For a moment I almost quite disapproved of the fellow. I mean to say, he was vogue and all that, and no doubt had been wretchedly mistreated, but after all the Mixer was not one to be wished ill to.

A moment later I was contrasting the quiet arrival of his lordship with the clamour and confusion that had marked the advent among us of the Honourable George. He carried but one bag and attracted no attention whatever from the station loungers. While I have never known him be entirely vogue in his appointments, his lordship carries off a lounge-suit and his gray-cloth hat with a certain manner which the Honourable George was never known to achieve even in the days when I groomed him. The grayish rather aggressive looking side-whiskers first caught my eye, and a moment later I had taken his hand. Belknap-Jackson at the same time took his bag, and with a trepidation so obvious that his lordship may perhaps have been excusable for a momentary misapprehension. I mean to say, he instantly and crisply directed Belknap-Jackson to go forward to the luggage van and recover his box.

A bit awkward it was, to be sure, but I speedily took the situation in hand by formally presenting the two men, covering the palpable embarrassment of the host by explaining to his lordship the astounding ingenuity of the American luggage system. By the time I had deprived him of his check and convinced him that his box would be admirably recovered by a person delegated to that service, Belknap-Jackson, again in form, was apologizing to him for the squalid character of the station and for the hardships he must be prepared to endure in a crude Western village. Here again the host was annoyed by having to call repeatedly to his mechanician in order to detach him from a gossiping group of loungers. He came smoking a quite fearfully bad cigar and took his place at the wheel entirely without any suitable deference to his employer.

His lordship during the ride rather pointedly surveyed me, being impressed, I dare say, by something in my appearance and manner quite new to him. Doubtless I had been feeling equal for so long that the thing was to be noticed in my manner. He made no comment upon me, however. Indeed almost the only time he spoke during our passage was to voice his astonishment at not having been able to procure the London Times at the press-stalls along the way. His host made clucking noises of sympathy at this. He had, he said, already warned his lordship that America was still crude.

"Crude? Of course, what, what!" exclaimed his lordship. "But naturally they'd have the Times! I dare say the beggars were too lazy to look it out. Laziness, what, what!"

"We've a job teaching them to know their places," ventured Belknap-Jackson, moodily regarding the back of his chauffeur which somehow contrived to be eloquent with disrespect for him.

"My word, what rot!" rejoined his lordship. I saw that he had arrived in one of his peppery moods. I fancy he could not have recited a multiplication table without becoming fanatically assertive about it. That was his way. I doubt if he had ever condescended to have an opinion. What might have been opinions came out on him like a rash in form of the most violent convictions.

"What rot not to know their places, when they must know them!" he snappishly added.

"Quite so, quite so!" his host hastened to assure him.

"A—dashed—fine big country you have," was his only other observation.

"Indeed, indeed," murmured his host mildly. I had rather dreaded the oath which his lordship is prone to use lightly.

Reaching the Belknap-Jackson house, his lordship was shown to the apartment prepared for him.

"Tea will be served in half an hour, your—er—Brinstead," announced his host cordially, although seemingly at a loss how to address him.

"Quite so, what, what! Tea, of course, of course! Why wouldn't it be? Meantime, if you don't mind, I'll have a word with Ruggles. At once."

Belknap-Jackson softly and politely withdrew at once.

Alone with his lordship, I thought it best to acquaint him instantly with the change in my circumstances, touching lightly upon the matter of my now being an equal with rather most of the North Americans. He listened with exemplary patience to my brief recital and was good enough to felicitate me.

"Assure you, glad to hear it—glad no end. Worthy fellow; always knew it. And equal, of course, of course! Take up their equality by all means if you take 'em up themselves. Curious lot of nose-talking beggars, and putting r's every place one shouldn't, but don't blame you. Do it myself if I could—England gone to pot. Quite!"

"Gone to pot, sir?" I gasped.

"Don't argue. Course it has. Women! Slasher fiends and firebrands! Pictures, churches, golf-greens, cabinet members—nothing safe. Pouring their beastly filth into pillar boxes. Women one knows. Hussies, though! Want the vote—rot! Awful rot! Don't blame you for America. Wish I might, too. Good thing, my word! No backbone in Downing Street. Let the fiends out again directly they're hungry. No system! No firmness! No dash! Starve 'em proper, I would."

He was working himself into no end of a state. I sought to divert him.

"About the Honourable George, sir——" I ventured.

"What's the silly ass up to now? Dancing girl got him—yes? How he does it, I can't think. No looks, no manner, no way with women. Can't stand him myself. How ever can they? Frightful bore, old George is. Well, well, man, I'm waiting. Tell me, tell me, tell me!"

Briefly I disclosed to him that his brother had entangled himself with a young person who had indeed been a dancing girl or a bit like that in the province of Alaska. That at the time of my cable there was strong reason to believe she would stop at nothing—even marriage, but that I had since come to suspect that she might be bent only on making a fool of her victim, she being, although an honest enough character, rather inclined to levity and without proper respect for established families.

I hinted briefly at the social warfare of which she had been a storm centre. I said again, remembering the warm words of the Mixer and of my charwoman, that to the best of my knowledge her character was without blemish. All at once I was feeling preposterously sorry for the creature.

His lordship listened, though with a cross-fire of interruptions. "Alaska dancing girl. Silly! Nothing but snow and mines in Alaska." Or, again, "Make a fool of old George? What silly piffle! Already done it himself, what, what! Waste her time!" And if she wasn't keen to marry him, had I called him across the ocean to intervene in a vulgar village squabble about social precedence? "Social precedence silly rot!"

I insisted that his brother should be seen to. One couldn't tell what the woman might do. Her audacity was tremendous, even for an American. To this he listened more patiently.

"Dare say you're right. You don't go off your head easily. I'll rag him proper, now I'm here. Always knew the ass would make a silly marriage if he could. Yes, yes, I'll break it up quick enough. I say I'll break it up proper. Dancers and that sort. Dangerous. But I know their tricks."

A summons to tea below interrupted him.

"Hungry, my word! Hardly dared eat in that dining-coach. Tinned stuff all about one. Appendicitis! American journal—some Colonel chap found it out. Hunting sort. Looked a fool beside his silly horse, but seemed to know. Took no chances. Said the tin-opener slays its thousands. Rot, no doubt. Perhaps not."

I led him below, hardly daring at the moment to confess my own responsibility for his fears. Another time, I thought, we might chat of it.

Belknap-Jackson with his wife and the Mixer awaited us. His lordship was presented, and I excused myself.

"Mrs. Pettengill, his lordship the Earl of Brinstead," had been the host's speech of presentation to the Mixer.

"How do do, Earl; I'm right glad to meet you," had been the Mixer's acknowledgment, together with a hearty grasp of the hand. I saw his lordship's face brighten.

"What ho!" he cried with the first cheerfulness he had exhibited, and the Mixer, still vigorously pumping his hand, had replied, "Same here!" with a vast smile of good nature. It occurred to me that they, at least, were quite going to "get" each other, as Americans say.

"Come right in and set down in the parlour," she was saying at the last. "I don't eat between meals like you English folks are always doing, but I'll take a shot of hooch with you."

The Belknap-Jacksons stood back not a little distressed. They seemed to publish that their guest was being torn from them.

"A shot of hooch!" observed his lordship "I dare say your shooting over here is absolutely top-hole—keener sport than our popping at driven birds. What, what!"


At a latish seven, when the Grill had become nicely filled with a representative crowd, the Belknap-Jacksons arrived with his lordship. The latter had not dressed and I was able to detect that Belknap-Jackson, doubtless noting his guest's attire at the last moment, had hastily changed back to a lounge-suit of his own. Also I noted the absence of the Mixer and wondered how the host had contrived to eliminate her. On this point he found an opportunity to enlighten me before taking his seat.

"Mark my words, that old devil is up to something," he darkly said, and I saw that he was genuinely put about, for not often does he fall into strong language.

"After pushing herself forward with his lordship all through tea-time in the most brazen manner, she announces that she has a previous dinner engagement and can't be with us. I'm as well pleased to have her absent, of course, but I'd pay handsomely to know what her little game is. Imagine her not dining with the Earl of Brinstead when she had the chance! That shows something's wrong. I don't like it. I tell you she's capable of things."

I mused upon this. The Mixer was undoubtedly capable of things. Especially things concerning her son-in-law. And yet I could imagine no opening for her at the present moment and said as much. And Mrs. Belknap-Jackson, I was glad to observe, did not share her husband's evident worry. She had entered the place plumingly, as it were, sweeping the length of the room before his lordship with quite all the manner her somewhat stubby figure could carry off. Seated, she became at once vivacious, chatting to his lordship brightly and continuously, raking the room the while with her lorgnon. Half a dozen ladies of the North Side set were with parties at other tables. I saw she was immensely stimulated by the circumstance that these friends were unaware of her guest's identity. I divined that before the evening was over she would contrive to disclose it.

His lordship responded but dully to her animated chat. He is never less urbane than when hungry, and I took pains to have his favourite soup served quite almost at once. This he fell upon. I may say that he has always a hearty manner of attacking his soup. Not infrequently he makes noises. He did so on this occasion. I mean to say, there was no finesse. I hovered near, anxious that the service should be without flaw.

His head bent slightly over his plate, I saw a spoonful of soup ascending with precision toward his lips. But curiously it halted in mid-air, then fell back. His lordship's eyes had become fixed upon some one back of me. At once, too, I noted looks of consternation upon the faces of the Belknap-Jacksons, the hostess freezing in the very midst of some choice phrase she had smilingly begun.

I turned quickly. It was the Klondike person, radiant in the costume of black and the black hat. She moved down the hushed room with well-lifted chin, eyes straight ahead and narrowed to but a faint offended consciousness of the staring crowd. It was well done. It was superior. I am able to judge those things.

Reaching a table the second but one from the Belknap-Jacksons's, she relaxed finely from the austere note of her progress and turned to her companions with a pretty and quite perfect confusion as to which chair she might occupy. Quite awfully these companions were the Mixer, overwhelming in black velvet and diamonds, and Cousin Egbert, uncomfortable enough looking but as correctly enveloped in evening dress as he could ever manage by himself. His cravat had been tied many times and needed it once more.

They were seated by the raccoon with quite all his impressiveness of manner. They faced the Belknap-Jackson party, yet seemed unconscious of its presence. Cousin Egbert, with a bored manner which I am certain he achieved only with tremendous effort, scanned my simple menu. The Mixer settled herself with a vast air of comfort and arranged various hand-belongings about her on the table.

Between them the Klondike woman sat with a restraint that would actually not have ill-become one of our own women. She did not look about; her hands were still, her head was up. At former times with her own set she had been wont to exhibit a rather defiant vivacity. Now she did not challenge. Finely, eloquently, there pervaded her a reserve that seemed almost to exhale a fragrance. But of course that is silly rot. I mean to say, she drew the attention without visible effort. She only waited.

The Earl of Brinstead, as we all saw, had continued to stare. Thrice slowly arose the spoon of soup, for mere animal habit was strong upon him, yet at a certain elevation it each time fell slowly back. He was acting like a mechanical toy. Then the Mixer caught his eye and nodded crisply. He bobbed in response.

"What ho! The dowager!" he exclaimed, and that time the soup was successfully resumed.

"Poor old mater!" sighed his hostess. "She's constantly taking up people. One does, you know, in these queer Western towns."

"Jolly old thing, awfully good sort!" said his lordship, but his eyes were not on the Mixer.

Terribly then I recalled the Honourable George's behaviour at that same table the night he had first viewed this Klondike person. His lordship was staring in much the same fashion. Yet I was relieved to observe that the woman this time was quite unconscious of the interest she had aroused. In the case of the Honourable George, who had frankly ogled her—for the poor chap has ever lacked the finer shades in these matters—she had not only been aware of it but had deliberately played upon it. It is not too much to say that she had shown herself to be a creature of blandishments. More than once she had permitted her eyes to rest upon him with that peculiarly womanish gaze which, although superficially of a blank innocence, is yet all-seeing and even shoots little fine arrows of questions from its ambuscade. But now she was ignoring his lordship as utterly as she did the Belknap-Jacksons.

To be sure she may later have been in some way informed that his eyes were seeking her, but never once, I am sure, did she descend to even a veiled challenge of his glance or betray the faintest discreet consciousness of it. And this I was indeed glad to note in her. Clearly she must know where to draw the line, permitting herself a malicious laxity with a younger brother which she would not have the presumption to essay with the holder of the title. Pleased I was, I say, to detect in her this proper respect for his lordship's position. It showed her to be not all unworthy.

The dinner proceeded, his lordship being good enough to compliment me on the fare which I knew was done to his liking. Yet, even in the very presence of the boiled mutton, his eyes were too often upon his neighbour. When he behaved thus in the presence of a dish of mutton I had not to be told that he was strongly moved. I uneasily recalled now that he had once been a bit of a dog himself. I mean to say, there was talk in the countryside, though of course it had died out a score of years ago. I thought it as well, however, that he be told almost immediately that the person he honoured with his glance was no other than the one he had come to subtract his unfortunate brother from.

The dinner progressed—somewhat jerkily because of his lordship's inattention—through the pudding and cheese to coffee. Never had I known his lordship behave so languidly in the presence of food he cared for. His hosts ate even less. They were worried. Mrs. Belknap-Jackson, however, could simply no longer contain within herself the secret of their guest's identity. With excuses to the deaf ears of his lordship she left to address a friend at a distant table. She addressed others at other tables, leaving a flutter of sensation in her wake.

Belknap-Jackson, having lighted one of his non-throat cigarettes, endeavoured to engross his lordship with an account of their last election of officers to the country club. His lordship was not properly attentive to this. Indeed, with his hostess gone he no longer made any pretence of concealing his interest in the other table. I saw him catch the eye of the Mixer and astonishingly intercepted from her a swift but most egregious wink.

"One moment," said his lordship to the host. "Must pay my respects to the dowager, what, what! Jolly old muggins, yes!" And he was gone.

I heard the Mixer's amazing presentation speech.

"Mrs. Kenner, Mr. Floud, his lordship—say, listen here, is your right name Brinstead, or Basingwell, like your brother's?"

The Klondike person acknowledged the thing with a faintly gracious nod. It carried an air, despite the slightness of it. Cousin Egbert was more cordial.

"Pleased to meet you, Lord!" said he, and grasped the newcomer's hand. "Come on, set in with us and have some coffee and a cigar. Here, Jeff, bring the lord a good cigar. We was just talking about you that minute. How do you like our town? Say, this here Kulanche Valley——" I lost the rest. His lordship had seated himself. At his own table Belknap-Jackson writhed acutely. He was lighting a second cigarette—the first not yet a quarter consumed!

At once the four began to be thick as thieves, though it was apparent his lordship had eyes only for the woman. Coffee was brought. His lordship lighted his cigar. And now the word had so run from Mrs. Belknap-Jackson that all eyes were drawn to this table. She had created her sensation and it had become all at once more of one than she had thought. From Mrs. Judge Ballard's table I caught her glare at her unconscious mother. It was not the way one's daughter should regard one in public.

Presently contriving to pass the table again, I noted that Cousin Egbert had changed his form of address.

"Have some brandy with your coffee, Earl. Here, Jeff, bring Earl and all of us some lee-cures." I divined the monstrous truth that he supposed himself to be calling his lordship by his first name, and he in turn must have understood my shocked glance of rebuke, for a bit later, with glad relief in his tones, he was addressing his lordship as "Cap!" And myself he had given the rank of colonel!

The Klondike person in the beginning finely maintained her reserve. Only at the last did she descend to vivacity or the use of her eyes. This later laxness made me wonder if, after all, she would feel bound to pay his lordship the respect he was wont to command from her class.

"You and poor George are rather alike," I overheard, "except that he uses the single 'what' and you use the double. Hasn't he any right to use the double 'what' yet, and what does it mean, anyway? Tell us."

"What, what!" demanded his lordship, a bit puzzled.

"But that's it! What do you say 'What, what' for? It can't do you any good."

"What, what! But I mean to say, you're having me on. My word you are—spoofing, I mean to say. What, what! To be sure. Chaffing lot, you are!" He laughed. He was behaving almost with levity.

"But poor old George is so much younger than you—you must make allowances," I again caught her saying; and his lordship replied:

"Not at all; not at all! Matter of a half-score years. Barely a half-score; nine and a few months. Younger? What rot! Chaffing again."

Really it was a bit thick, the creature saying "poor old George" quite as if he were something in an institution, having to be wheeled about in a bath-chair with rugs and water-bottles!

Glad I was when the trio gave signs of departure. It was woman's craft dictating it, I dare say. She had made her effect and knew when to go.

"Of course we shall have to talk over my dreadful designs on your poor old George," said the amazing woman, intently regarding his lordship at parting.

"Leave it to me," said he, with a scarcely veiled significance.

"Well, see you again, Cap," said Cousin Egbert warmly. "I'll take you around to meet some of the boys. We'll see you have a good time."

"What ho!" his lordship replied cordially. The Klondike person flashed him one enigmatic look, then turned to precede her companions. Again down the thronged room she swept, with that chin-lifted, drooping-eyed, faintly offended half consciousness of some staring rabble at hand that concerned her not at all. Her alert feminine foes, I am certain, read no slightest trace of amusement in her unwavering lowered glance. So easily she could have been crude here!

Belknap-Jackson, enduring his ignominious solitude to the limit of his powers, had joined his wife at the lower end of the room. They had taken the unfortunate development with what grace they could. His lordship had dropped in upon them quite informally—charming man that he was. Of course he would quickly break up the disgraceful affair. Beginning at once. They would doubtless entertain for him in a quiet way——

At the deserted table his lordship now relieved a certain sickening apprehension that had beset me.

"What, what! Quite right to call me out here. Shan't forget it. Dangerous creature, that. Badly needed, I was. Can't think why you waited so long! Anything might have happened to old George. Break it up proper, though. Never do at all. Impossible person for him. Quite!"

I saw they had indeed taken no pains to hide the woman's identity from him nor their knowledge of his reason for coming out to the States, though with wretchedly low taste they had done this chaffingly. Yet it was only too plain that his lordship now realized what had been the profound gravity of the situation, and I was glad to see that he meant to end it without any nonsense.

"Silly ass, old George, though," he added as the Belknap-Jacksons approached. "How a creature like that could ever have fancied him! What, what!"

His hosts were profuse in their apologies for having so thoughtlessly run away from his lordship—they carried it off rather well. They were keen for sitting at the table once more, as the other observant diners were lingering on, but his lordship would have none of this.

"Stuffy place!" said he. "Best be getting on." And so, reluctantly, they led him down the gauntlet of widened eyes. Even so, the tenth Earl of Brinstead had dined publicly with them. More than repaid they were for the slight the Honourable George had put upon them in the affair of the pianoforte artist.

An hour later Belknap-Jackson had me on by telephone. His voice was not a little worried.

"I say, is his lordship, the Earl, subject to spells of any sort? We were in the library where I was showing him some photographic views of dear old Boston, and right over a superb print of our public library he seemed to lose consciousness. Might it be a stroke? Or do you think it's just a healthy sleep? And shall I venture to shake him? How would he take that? Or should I merely cover him with a travelling rug? It would be so dreadful if anything happened when he's been with us such a little time."

I knew his lordship. He has the gift of sleeping quite informally when his attention is not too closely engaged. I suggested that the host set his musical phonograph in motion on some one of the more audible selections. As I heard no more from him that night I dare say my plan worked.

Our town, as may be imagined, buzzed with transcendent gossip on the morrow. The Recorder disclosed at last that the Belknap-Jacksons of Boston and Red Gap were quietly entertaining his lordship, the Earl of Brinstead, though since the evening before this had been news to hardly any one. Nor need it be said that a viciously fermenting element in the gossip concerned the apparently cordial meeting of his lordship with the Klondike person, an encounter that had been watched with jealous eyes by more than one matron of the North Side set. It was even intimated that if his lordship had come to put the creature in her place he had chosen a curious way to set about it.

Also there were hard words uttered of the Belknap-Jacksons by Mrs. Effie, and severe blame put upon myself because his lordship had not come out to the Flouds'.

"But the Brinsteads have always stopped with us before," she went about saying, as if there had been a quite long succession of them. I mean to say, only the Honourable George had stopped on with them, unless, indeed, the woman actually counted me as one. Between herself and Mrs. Belknap-Jackson, I understood, there ensued early that morning by telephone a passage of virulent acidity, Mrs. Effie being heard by Cousin Egbert to say bluntly that she would get even.

Undoubtedly she did not share the annoyance of the Belknap-Jacksons at certain eccentricities now developed by his lordship which made him at times a trying house guest. That first morning he arose at five sharp, a custom of his which I deeply regretted not having warned his host about. Discovering quite no one about, he had ventured abroad in search of breakfast, finding it at length in the eating establishment known as "Bert's Place," in company with engine-drivers, plate-layers, milk persons, and others of a common sort.

Thereafter he had tramped furiously about the town and its environs for some hours, at last encountering Cousin Egbert who escorted him to the Floud home for his first interview with the Honourable George. The latter received his lordship in bed, so Cousin Egbert later informed me. He had left the two together, whereupon for an hour there were heard quite all over the house words of the most explosive character. Cousin Egbert, much alarmed at the passionate beginning of the interview, suspected they might do each other a mischief, and for some moments hovered about with the aim, if need be, of preserving human life. But as the uproar continued evenly, he at length concluded they would do no more than talk, the outcome proving the accuracy of his surmise.

Mrs. Effie, meantime, saw her opportunity and seized it with a cool readiness which I have often remarked in her. Belknap-Jackson, distressed beyond measure at the strange absence of his guest, had communicated with me by telephone several times without result. Not until near noon was I able to give him any light. Mrs. Effie had then called me to know what his lordship preferred for luncheon. Replying that cold beef, pickles, and beer were his usual mid-day fancy, I hastened to allay the fears of the Belknap-Jacksons, only to find that Mrs. Effie had been before me.

"She says," came the annoyed voice of the host, "that the dear Earl dropped in for a chat with his brother and has most delightfully begged her to give him luncheon. She says he will doubtless wish to drive with them this afternoon, but I had already planned to drive him myself—to the country club and about. The woman is high-handed, I must say. For God's sake, can't you do something?"

I was obliged to tell him straight that the thing was beyond me, though I promised to recover his guest promptly, should any opportunity occur. The latter did not, however, drive with the Flouds that afternoon. He was observed walking abroad with Cousin Egbert, and it was later reported by persons of unimpeachable veracity that they had been seen to enter the Klondike person's establishment.

Evening drew on without further news. But then certain elated members of the Bohemian set made it loosely known that they were that evening to dine informally at their leader's house to meet his lordship. It seemed a bit extraordinary to me, yet I could not but rejoice that he should thus adopt the peaceful methods of diplomacy for the extrication of his brother.

Belknap-Jackson now telephoning to know if I had heard this report—"canard" he styled it—I confirmed it and remarked that his lordship was undoubtedly by way of bringing strong pressure to bear on the woman.

"But I had expected him to meet a few people here this evening," cried the host pathetically. I was then obliged to tell him that the Brinsteads for centuries had been bluntly averse to meeting a few people. It seemed to run in the blood.

The Bohemian dinner, although quite informal, was said to have been highly enjoyed by all, including the Honourable George, who was among those present, as well as Cousin Egbert. The latter gossiped briefly of the affair the following day.

"Sure, the Cap had a good time all right," he said. "Of course he ain't the mixer the Judge is, but he livens up quite some, now and then. Talks like a bunch of firecrackers going off all to once, don't he? Funny guy. I walked with him to the Jacksons' about twelve or one. He's going back to Mis' Kenner's house today. He says it'll take a lot of talking back and forth to get this thing settled right, and it's got to be right, he says. He seen that right off." He paused as if to meditate profoundly.

"If you was to ask me, though, I'd say she had him—just like that!"

He held an open hand toward me, then tightly clenched it.

Suspecting he might spread absurd gossip of this sort, I explained carefully to him that his lordship had indeed at once perceived her to be a dangerous woman; and that he was now taking his own cunning way to break off the distressing affair between her and his brother. He listened patiently, but seemed wedded to some monstrous view of his own.

"Them dames of that there North Side set better watch out," he remarked ominously. "First thing they know, what that Kate Kenner'll hand them—they can make a lemonade out of!"

I could make but little of this, save its general import, which was of course quite shockingly preposterous. I found myself wishing, to be sure, that his lordship had been able to accomplish his mission to North America without appearing to meet the person as a social equal, as I feared indeed that a wrong impression of his attitude would be gained by the undiscerning public. It might have been better, I was almost quite certain, had he adopted a stern and even brutal method at the outset, instead of the circuitous and diplomatic. Belknap-Jackson shared this view with me.

"I should hate dreadfully to have his lordship's reputation suffer for this," he confided to me.

The first week dragged to its close in this regrettable fashion. Oftener than not his hosts caught no glimpse of his lordship throughout the day. The smart trap and the tandem team were constantly ready, but he had not yet been driven abroad by his host. Each day he alleged the necessity of conferring with the woman.

"Dangerous creature, my word! But dangerous!" he would announce. "Takes no end of managing. Do it, though; do it proper. Take a high hand with her. Can't have silly old George in a mess. Own brother, what, what! Time needed, though. Not with you at dinner, if you don't mind. Creature has a way of picking up things not half nasty."

But each day Belknap-Jackson met him with pressing offers of such entertainment as the town afforded. Three several times he had been obliged to postpone the informal evening affair for a few smart people. Yet, though patient, he was determined. Reluctantly at last he abandoned the design of driving his guest about in the trap, but he insistently put forward the motor-car. He would drive it himself. They would spend pleasant hours going about the country. His lordship continued elusive. To myself he confided that his host was a nagger.

"Awfully nagging sort, yes. Doesn't know the strain I'm under getting this silly affair straight. Country interesting no doubt, what, what! But, my word! saw nothing but country coming out. Country quite all about, miles and miles both sides of the metals. Seen enough country. Seen motor-cars, too, my word. Enough of both, what, what!"

Yet it seemed that on the Saturday after his arrival he could no longer decently put off his insistent host. He consented to accompany him in the motor-car. Rotten judging it was on the part of Belknap-Jackson. He should have listened to me. They departed after luncheon, the host at the wheel. I had his account of such following events as I did not myself observe.

"Our country club," he observed early in the drive. "No one there, of course. You'd never believe the trouble I've had——"

"Jolly good club," replied his lordship. "Drive back that way."

"Back that way," it appeared, would take them by the detached villa of the Klondike person.

"Stop here," directed his lordship. "Shan't detain you a moment."

This was at two-thirty of a fair afternoon. I am able to give but the bare facts, yet I must assume that the emotions of Belknap-Jackson as he waited there during the ensuing two hours were of a quite distressing nature. As much was intimated by several observant townspeople who passed him. He was said to be distrait; to be smoking his cigarettes furiously.

At four-thirty his lordship reappeared. With apparent solicitude he escorted the Klondike person, fetchingly gowned in a street costume of the latest mode. They chatted gayly to the car.

"Hope I've not kept you waiting, old chap," said his lordship genially. "Time slips by one so. You two met, of course, course!" He bestowed his companion in the tonneau and ensconced himself beside her.

"Drive," said he, "to your goods shops, draper's, chemist's—where was it?"

"To the Central Market," responded the lady in bell-like tones, "then to the Red Front store, and to that dear little Japanese shop, if he doesn't mind."

"Mind! Mind! Course not, course not! Are you warm? Let me fasten the robe."

I confess to have felt a horrid fascination for this moment as I was able to reconstruct it from Belknap-Jackson's impassioned words. It was by way of being one of those scenes we properly loathe yet morbidly cannot resist overlooking if opportunity offers.

Into the flood tide of our Saturday shopping throng swept the car and its remarkably assembled occupants. The street fair gasped. The woman's former parade of the Honourable George had been as nothing to this exposure.

"Poor Jackson's face was a study," declared the Mixer to me later.

I dare say. It was still a study when my own turn came to observe it. The car halted before the shops that had been designated. The Klondike person dispatched her commissions in a superbly leisured manner, attentively accompanied by the Earl of Brinstead bearing packages for her.

Belknap-Jackson, at the wheel, stared straight ahead. I am told he bore himself with dignity even when some of our more ingenuous citizens paused to converse with him concerning his new motor-car. He is even said to have managed a smile when his passengers returned.

"I have it," exclaimed his lordship now. "Deuced good plan—go to that Ruggles place for a jolly fat tea. No end of a spree, what, what!"

It is said that on three occasions in turning his car and traversing the short block to the Grill the owner escaped disastrous collision with other vehicles only by the narrowest possible margin. He may have courted something of the sort. I dare say he was desperate.

"Join us, of course!" said his lordship, as he assisted his companion to alight. Again I am told the host managed to illumine his refusal with a smile. He would take no tea—the doctor's orders.

The surprising pair entered at the height of my tea-hour and were served to an accompaniment of stares from the ladies present. To this they appeared oblivious, being intent upon their conference. His lordship was amiable to a degree. It now occurred to me that he had found the woman even more dangerous than he had at first supposed. He was being forced to play a deep game with her and was meeting guile with guile. He had, I suspected, found his poor brother far deeper in than any of us had thought. Doubtless he had written compromising letters that must be secured—letters she would hold at a price.

And yet I had never before had excuse to believe his lordship possessed the diplomatic temperament. I reflected that I must always have misread him. He was deep, after all. Not until the two left did I learn that Belknap-Jackson awaited them with his car. He loitered about in adjacent doorways, quite like a hired fellow. He was passionately smoking more cigarettes than were good for him.

I escorted my guests to the car. Belknap-Jackson took his seat with but one glance at me, yet it was eloquent of all the ignominy that had been heaped upon him.

"Home, I think," said the lady when they were well seated. She said it charmingly.

"Home," repeated his lordship. "Are you quite protected by the robe?"

An incautious pedestrian at the next crossing narrowly escaped being run down. He shook a fist at the vanishing car and uttered a stream of oaths so vile that he would instantly have been taken up in any well-policed city.

Half an hour later Belknap-Jackson called me.

"He got out with that fiend! He's staying on there. But, my God! can nothing be done?"

"His lordship is playing a most desperate game," I hastened to assure him. "He's meeting difficulties. She must have her dupe's letters in her possession. Blackmail, I dare say. Best leave his lordship free. He's a deep character."

"He presumed far this afternoon—only the man's position saved him with me!" His voice seemed choked with anger. Then, remotely, faint as distant cannonading, a rumble reached me. It was hoarse laughter of the Mixer, perhaps in another room. The electric telephone has been perfected in the States to a marvellous delicacy of response.

I now found myself observing Mrs. Effie, who had been among the absorbed onlookers while the pair were at their tea, she having occupied a table with Mrs. Judge Ballard and Mrs. Dr. Martingale. Deeply immersed in thought she had been, scarce replying to her companions. Her eyes had narrowed in a way I well knew when she reviewed the social field.

Still absorbed she was when Cousin Egbert entered, accompanied by the Honourable George. The latter had seen but little of his brother since their first stormy interview, but he had also seen little of the Klondike woman. His spirits, however, had seemed quite undashed. He rarely missed his tea. Now as they seated themselves they were joined quickly by Mrs. Effie, who engaged her relative in earnest converse. It was easy to see that she begged a favour. She kept a hand on his arm. She urged. Presently, seeming to have achieved her purpose, she left them, and I paused to greet the pair.

"I guess that there Mrs. Effie is awful silly," remarked Cousin Egbert enigmatically. "No, sir; she can't ever tell how the cat is going to jump." Nor would he say more, though he most elatedly held a secret.

With this circumstance I connected the announcement in Monday's Recorder that Mrs. Senator Floud would on that evening entertain at dinner the members of Red Gap's Bohemian set, including Mrs. Kate Kenner, the guest of honour being his lordship the Earl of Brinstead, "at present visiting in this city. Covers," it added, "would be laid for fourteen." I saw that Cousin Egbert would have been made the ambassador to conduct what must have been a business of some delicacy.

Among the members of the North Side set the report occasioned the wildest alarm. And yet so staunch were known to be the principles of Mrs. Effie that but few accused her of downright treachery. It seemed to be felt that she was but lending herself to the furtherance of some deep design of his lordship's. Blackmail, the recovery of compromising letters, the avoidance of legal proceedings—these were hinted at. For myself I suspected that she had merely misconstrued the seeming cordiality of his lordship toward the woman and, at the expense of the Belknap-Jacksons, had sought the honour of entertaining him. If, to do that, she must entertain the woman, well and good. She was not one to funk her fences with the game in sight.

Consulting me as to the menu for her dinner, she allowed herself to be persuaded to the vegetable soup, boiled mutton, thick pudding, and cheese which I recommended, though she pleaded at length for a chance to use the new fish set and for a complicated salad portrayed in her latest woman's magazine. Covered with grated nuts it was in the illustration. I was able, however, to convince her that his lordship would regard grated nuts as silly.

From Belknap-Jackson I learned by telephone (during these days, being sensitive, he stopped in almost quite continuously) that Mrs. Effie had profusely explained to his wife about the dinner. "Of course, my dear, I couldn't have the presumption to ask you and your husband to sit at table with the creature, even if he did think it all right to drive her about town on a shopping trip. But I thought we ought to do something to make the dear Earl's visit one to be remembered—he's so appreciative! I'm sure you understand just how things are——"

In reciting this speech to me Belknap-Jackson essayed to simulate the tone and excessive manner of a woman gushing falsely. The fellow was quite bitter about it.

"I sometimes think I'll give up," he concluded. "God only knows what things are coming to!"

It began to seem even to me that they were coming a bit thick. But I knew that his lordship was a determined man. He was of the bulldog breed that has made old England what it is. I mean to say, I knew he would put the woman in her place.


Echoes of the Monday night dinner reached me the following day. The affair had passed off pleasantly enough, the members of the Bohemian set conducting themselves quite as persons who mattered, with the exception of the Klondike woman herself, who, I gathered, had descended to a mood of most indecorous liveliness considering who the guest of honour was. She had not only played and sung those noisy native folksongs of hers, but she had, it seemed, conducted herself with a certain facetious familiarity toward his lordship.

"Every now and then," said Cousin Egbert, my principal informant, "she'd whirl in and josh the Cap all over the place about them funny whiskers he wears. She told him out and out he'd just got to lose them."

"Shocking rudeness!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, sure, sure!" he agreed, yet without indignation. "And the Cap just hated her for it—you could tell that by the way he looked at her. Oh, he hates her something terrible. He just can't bear the sight of her."

"Naturally enough," I observed, though there had been an undercurrent to his speech that I thought almost quite a little odd. His accents were queerly placed. Had I not known him too well I should have thought him trying to be deep. I recalled his other phrases, that Mrs. Effie was seeing which way a cat would leap, and that the Klondike person would hand the ladies of the North Side set a lemon squash. I put them all down as childish prattle and said as much to the Mixer later in the day as she had a dish of tea at the Grill.

"Yes, Sour-dough's right," she observed. "That Earl just hates the sight of her—can't bear to look at her a minute." But she, too, intoned the thing queerly.

"He's putting pressure to bear on her," I said.

"Pressure!" said the Mixer; and then, "Hum!" very dryly.

With this news, however, it was plain as a pillar-box that things were going badly with his lordship's effort to release the Honourable George from his entanglement. The woman, doubtless with his compromising letters, would be holding out for a stiffish price; she would think them worth no end. And plainly again, his lordship had thrown off his mask; was unable longer to conceal his aversion for her. This, to be sure, was more in accordance with his character as I had long observed it. If he hated her it was like him to show it when he looked at her. I mean he was quite like that with almost any one. I hoped, however, that diplomacy might still save us all sorts of a nasty row.

To my relief when the pair appeared for tea that afternoon—a sight no longer causing the least sensation—I saw that his lordship must have returned to his first or diplomatic manner. Doubtless he still hated her, but one would little have suspected it from his manner of looking at her. I mean to say, he looked at her another way. The opposite way, in fact. He was being subtle in the extreme. I fancied it must have been her wretched levity regarding his beard that had goaded him into the exhibitions of hatred noted by Cousin Egbert and the Mixer. Unquestionably his lordship may be goaded in no time if one deliberately sets about it. At the time, doubtless, he had sliced a drive or two, as one might say, but now he was back in form.

Again I confess I was not a little sorry for the creature, seeing her there so smartly taken in by his effusive manner. He was having her on in the most obvious way and she, poor dupe, taking it all quite seriously. Prime it was, though, considering the creature's designs; and I again marvelled that in all the years of my association with his lordship I had never suspected what a topping sort he could be at this game. His mask was now perfect. It recalled, indeed, Cousin Egbert's simple but telling phrase about the Honourable George—"He looks at her!" It could now have been said of his lordship with the utmost significance to any but those in the know.

And so began, quite as had the first, the second week of his lordship's stay among us. Knowing he had booked a return from Cooks, I fancied that results of some sort must soon ensue. The pressure he was putting on the woman must begin to tell. And this was the extreme of the encouragement I was able to offer the Belknap-Jacksons. Both he and his wife were of course in a bit of a state. Nor could I blame them. With an Earl for house guest they must be content with but a glimpse of him at odd moments. Rather a barren honour they were finding it.

His lordship's conferences with the woman were unabated. When not secluded with her at her own establishment he would be abroad with her in her trap or in the car of Belknap-Jackson. The owner, however, no longer drove his car. He had never taken another chance. And well I knew these activities of his lordship's were being basely misconstrued by the gossips.

"The Cap is certainly some queener," remarked Cousin Egbert, which perhaps reflected the view of the deceived public at this time, the curious term implying that his lordship was by way of being a bit of a dog. But calm I remained under these aspersions, counting upon a clean-cut vindication of his lordship's methods when he should have got the woman where he wished her.

I remained, I repeat, serenely confident that a signal triumph would presently crown his lordship's subtly planned attack. And then, at midweek, I was rudely shocked to the suspicion that all might not be going well with his plan. I had not seen the pair for a day, and when they did appear for their tea I instantly detected a profound change in their mutual bearing. His lordship still looked at the woman, but the raillery of their past meetings had gone. Too plainly something momentous had occurred. Even the woman was serious. Had they fought to the last stand? Would she have been too much for him? I mean to say, was the Honourable George cooked?

I now recalled that I had observed an almost similar change in the latter's manner. His face wore a look of wildest gloom that might have been mitigated perhaps by a proper trimming of his beard, but even then it would have been remarked by those who knew him well. I divined, I repeat, that something momentous had now occurred and that the Honourable George was one not least affected by it.

Rather a sleepless night I passed, wondering fearfully if, after all, his lordship would have been unable to extricate the poor chap from this sordid entanglement. Had the creature held out for too much? Had she refused to compromise? Would there be one of those appalling legal things which our best families so often suffer? What if the victim were to cut off home?

Nor was my trepidation allayed by the cryptic remark of Mrs. Judson as I passed her at her tasks in the pantry that morning:

"A prince in his palace not too good—that's what I said!"

She shot the thing at me with a manner suspiciously near to flippancy. I sternly demanded her meaning.

"I mean what I mean," she retorted, shutting her lips upon it in a definite way she has. Well enough I knew the import of her uncivil speech, but I resolved not to bandy words with her, because in my position it would be undignified; because, further, of an unfortunate effect she has upon my temper at such times.

"She's being terrible careful about her associates," she presently went on, with a most irritating effect of addressing only herself; "nothing at all but just dukes and earls and lords day in and day out!" Too often when the woman seems to wish it she contrives to get me in motion, as the American saying is.

"And it is deeply to be regretted," I replied with dignity, "that other persons must say less of themselves if put to it."

Well she knew what I meant. Despite my previous clear warning, she had more than once accepted small gifts from the cattle-persons, Hank and Buck, and had even been seen brazenly in public with them at a cinema palace. One of a more suspicious nature than I might have guessed that she conducted herself thus for the specific purpose of enraging me, but I am glad to say that no nature could be more free than mine from vulgar jealousy, and I spoke now from the mere wish that she should more carefully guard her reputation. As before, she exhibited a surprising meekness under this rebuke, though I uneasily wondered if there might not be guile beneath it.

"Can I help it," she asked, "if they like to show me attentions? I guess I'm a free woman." She lifted her head to observe a glass she had polished. Her eyes were curiously lighted. She had this way of embarrassing me. And invariably, moreover, she aroused all that is evil in my nature against the two cattle-persons, especially the Buck one, actually on another occasion professing admiration for "his wavy chestnut hair!" I saw now that I could not trust myself to speak of the fellow. I took up another matter.

"That baby of yours is too horribly fat," I said suddenly. I had long meant to put this to her. "It's too fat. It eats too much!"

To my amazement the creature was transformed into a vixen.

"It—it! Too fat! You call my boy 'it' and say he's too fat! Don't you dare! What does a creature like you know of babies? Why, you wouldn't even know——"

But the thing was too painful. Let her angry words be forgotten. Suffice to say, she permitted herself to cry out things that might have given grave offence to one less certain of himself than I. Rather chilled I admit I was by her frenzied outburst. I was shrewd enough to see instantly that anything in the nature of a criticism of her offspring must be led up to, rather; perhaps couched in less direct phrases than I had chosen. Fearful I was that she would burst into another torrent of rage, but to my amazement she all at once smiled.

"What a fool I am!" she exclaimed. "Kidding me, were you? Trying to make me mad about the baby. Well, I'll give you good. You did it. Yes, sir, I never would have thought you had a kidding streak in you—old glum-face!"

"Little you know me," I retorted, and quickly withdrew, for I was then more embarrassed than ever, and, besides, there were other and graver matters forward to depress and occupy me.

In my fitful sleep of the night before I had dreamed vividly that I saw the Honourable George being dragged shackled to the altar. I trust I am not superstitious, but the vision had remained with me in all its tormenting detail. A veiled woman had grimly awaited him as he struggled with his uniformed captors. I mean to say, he was being hustled along by two constables.

That day, let me now put down, was to be a day of the most fearful shocks that a man of rather sensitive nervous organism has ever been called upon to endure. There are now lines in my face that I make no doubt showed then for the first time.

And it was a day that dragged interminably, so that I became fair off my head with the suspense of it, feeling that at any moment the worst might happen. For hours I saw no one with whom I could consult. Once I was almost moved to call up Belknap-Jackson, so intolerable was the menacing uncertainty; but this I knew bordered on hysteria, and I restrained the impulse with an iron will.

But I wretchedly longed for a sight of Cousin Egbert or the Mixer, or even of the Honourable George; some one to assure me that my horrid dream of the night before had been a baseless fabric, as the saying is. The very absence of these people and of his lordship was in itself ominous.

Nervously I kept to a post at one of my windows where I could survey the street. And here at mid-day I sustained my first shock. Terrific it was. His lordship had emerged from the chemist's across the street. He paused a moment, as if to recall his next mission, then walked briskly off. And this is what I had been stupefied to note: he was clean shaven! The Brinstead side-whiskers were gone! Whiskers that had been worn in precisely that fashion by a tremendous line of the Earls of Brinstead! And the tenth of his line had abandoned them. As well, I thought, could he have defaced the Brinstead arms.

It was plain as a pillar-box, indeed. The woman had our family at her mercy, and she would show no mercy. My heart sank as I pictured the Honourable George in her toils. My dream had been prophetic. Then I reflected that this very circumstance of his lordship's having pandered to her lawless whim about his beard would go to show he had not yet given up the fight. If the thing were hopeless I knew he would have seen her—dashed—before he would have relinquished it. There plainly was still hope for poor George. Indeed his lordship might well have planned some splendid coup; this defacement would be a part of his strategy, suffered in anguish for his ultimate triumph. Quite cheered I became at the thought. I still scanned the street crowd for some one who could acquaint me with developments I must have missed.

But then a moment later came the call by telephone of Belknap-Jackson. I answered it, though with little hope than to hear more of his unending complaints about his lordship's negligence. Startled instantly I was, however, for his voice was stranger than I had known it even in moments of his acutest distress. Hoarse it was, and his words alarming but hardly intelligible.

"Heard?—My God!—Heard?—My God!—Marriage! Marriage! God!" But here he broke off into the most appalling laughter—the blood-curdling laughter of a chained patient in a mad-house. Hardly could I endure it and grateful I was when I heard the line close. Even when he attempted vocables he had sounded quite like an inferior record on a phonographic machine. But I had heard enough to leave me aghast. Beyond doubt now the very worst had come upon our family. His lordship's tremendous sacrifice would have been all in vain. Marriage! The Honourable George was done for. Better had it been the typing-girl, I bitterly reflected. Her father had at least been a curate!

Thankful enough I now was for the luncheon-hour rush: I could distract myself from the appalling disaster. That day I took rather more than my accustomed charge of the serving. I chatted with our business chaps, recommending the joint in the highest terms; drawing corks; seeing that the relish was abundantly stocked at every table. I was striving to forget.

Mrs. Judson alone persisted in reminding me of the impending scandal. "A prince in his palace," she would maliciously murmur as I encountered her. I think she must have observed that I was bitter, for she at last spoke quite amiably of our morning's dust-up.

"You certainly got my goat," she said in the quaint American fashion, "telling me little No-no was too fat. You had me going there for a minute, thinking you meant it!"

The creature's name was Albert, yet she persisted in calling it "No-no," because the child itself would thus falsely declare its name upon being questioned, having in some strange manner gained this impression. It was another matter I meant to bring to her attention, but at this crisis I had no heart for it.

My crowd left. I was again alone to muse bitterly upon our plight. Still I scanned the street, hoping for a sight of Cousin Egbert, who, I fancied, would be informed as to the wretched details. Instead, now, I saw the Honourable George. He walked on the opposite side of the thoroughfare, his manner of dejection precisely what I should have expected. Followed closely as usual he was by the Judson cur. A spirit of desperate mockery seized me. I called to Mrs. Judson, who was gathering glasses from a table. I indicated the pair.

"Mr. Barker," I said, "is dogging his footsteps." I mean to say, I uttered the words in the most solemn manner. Little the woman knew that one may often be moved in the most distressing moments to a jest of this sort. She laughed heartily, being of quick discernment. And thus jauntily did I carry my knowledge of the lowering cloud. But I permitted myself no further sallies of that sort. I stayed expectantly by the window, and I dare say my bearing would have deceived the most alert. I was steadily calm. The situation called precisely for that.

The hours sped darkly and my fears mounted. In sheer desperation, at length, I had myself put through to Belknap-Jackson. To my astonishment he seemed quite revived, though in a state of feverish gayety. He fair bubbled.

"Just leaving this moment with his lordship to gather up some friends. We meet at your place. Yes, yes—all the uncertainty is past. Better set up that largest table—rather a celebration."

Almost more confusing it was than his former message, which had been confined to calls upon his Maker and to maniac laughter. Was he, I wondered, merely making the best of it? Had he resolved to be a dead sportsman? A few moments later he discharged his lordship at my door and drove rapidly on. (Only a question of time it is when he will be had heavily for damages due to his reckless driving.)

His lordship bustled in with a cheerfulness that staggered me. He, too, was gay; almost debonair. A gardenia was in his lapel. He was vogue to the last detail in a form-fitting gray morning-suit that had all the style essentials. Almost it seemed as if three valets had been needed to groom him. He briskly rubbed his hands.

"Biggest table—people. Tea, that sort of thing. Have a go of champagne, too, what, what! Beard off, much younger appearing? Of course, course! Trust women, those matters. Tea cake, toast, crumpets, marmalade—things like that. Plenty champagne! Not happen every day! Ha! ha!"

To my acute distress he here thumbed me in the ribs and laughed again. Was he, too, I wondered, madly resolved to be a dead sportsman in the face of the unavoidable? I sought to edge in a discreet word of condolence, for I knew that between us there need be no pretence.

"I know you did your best, sir," I observed. "And I was never quite free of a fear that the woman would prove too many for us. I trust the Honourable George——"

But I had said as much as he would let me. He interrupted me with his thumb again, and on his face was what in a lesser person I should unhesitatingly have called a leer.

"You dog, you! Woman prove too many for us, what, what! Dare say you knew what to expect. Silly old George! Though how she could ever have fancied the juggins——"

I was about to remark that the creature had of course played her game from entirely sordid motives and I should doubtless have ventured to applaud the game spirit in which he was taking the blow. But before I could shape my phrases on this delicate ground Mrs. Effie, the Senator, and Cousin Egbert arrived. They somewhat formally had the air of being expected. All of them rushed upon his lordship with an excessive manner. Apparently they were all to be dead sportsmen together. And then Mrs. Effie called me aside.

"You can do me a favour," she began. "About the wedding breakfast and reception. Dear Kate's place is so small. It wouldn't do. There will be a crush, of course. I've had the loveliest idea for it—our own house. You know how delighted we'd be. The Earl has been so charming and everything has turned out so splendidly. Oh, I'd love to do them this little parting kindness. Use your influence like a good fellow, won't you, when the thing is suggested?"

"Only too gladly," I responded, sick at heart, and she returned to the group. Well I knew her motive. She was by way of getting even with the Belknap-Jacksons. As Cousin Egbert in his American fashion would put it, she was trying to pass them a bison. But I was willing enough she should house the dreadful affair. The more private the better, thought I.

A moment later Belknap-Jackson's car appeared at my door, now discharging the Klondike woman, effusively escorted by the Mixer and by Mrs. Belknap-Jackson. The latter at least, I had thought, would show more principle. But she had buckled atrociously, quite as had her husband, who had quickly, almost merrily, followed them. There was increased gayety as they seated themselves about the large table, a silly noise of pretended felicitation over a calamity that not even the tenth Earl of Brinstead had been able to avert. And then Belknap-Jackson beckoned me aside.

"I want your help, old chap, in case it's needed," he began.

"The wedding breakfast and reception?" I said quite cynically.

"You've thought of it? Good! Her own place is far too small. Crowd, of course. And it's rather proper at our place, too, his lordship having been our house guest. You see? Use what influence you have. The affair will be rather widely commented on—even the New York papers, I dare say."

"Count upon me," I answered blandly, even as I had promised Mrs. Effie. Disgusted I was. Let them maul each other about over the wretched "honour." They could all be dead sports if they chose, but I was now firmly resolved that for myself I should make not a bit of pretence. The creature might trick poor George into a marriage, but I for one would not affect to regard it as other than a blight upon our house. I was just on the point of hoping that the victim himself might have cut off to unknown parts when I saw him enter. By the other members of the party he was hailed with cries of delight, though his own air was finely honest, being dejected in the extreme. He was dressed as regrettably as usual, this time in parts of two lounge-suits.

As he joined those at the table I constrained myself to serve the champagne. Senator Floud arose with a brimming glass.

"My friends," he began in his public-speaking manner, "let us remember that Red Gap's loss is England's gain—to the future Countess of Brinstead!"

To my astonishment this appalling breach of good taste was received with the loudest applause, nor was his lordship the least clamorous of them. I mean to say, the chap had as good as wished that his lordship would directly pop off. It was beyond me. I walked to the farthest window and stood a long time gazing pensively out; I wished to be away from that false show. But they noticed my absence at length and called to me. Monstrously I was desired to drink to the happiness of the groom. I thought they were pressing me too far, but as they quite gabbled now with their tea and things, I hoped to pass it off. The Senator, however, seemed to fasten me with his eye as he proposed the toast—"To the happy man!"

I drank perforce.

"A body would think Bill was drinking to the Judge," remarked Cousin Egbert in a high voice.

"Eh?" I said, startled to this outburst by his strange words.

"Good old George!" exclaimed his lordship. "Owe it all to the old juggins, what, what!"

The Klondike person spoke. I heard her voice as a bell pealing through breakers at sea. I mean to say, I was now fair dazed.

"Not to old George," said she. "To old Ruggles!"

"To old Ruggles!" promptly cried the Senator, and they drank.

Muddled indeed I was. Again in my eventful career I felt myself tremble; I knew not what I should say, any savoir faire being quite gone. I had received a crumpler of some sort—but what sort?

My sleeve was touched. I turned blindly, as in a nightmare. The Hobbs cub who was my vestiare was handing me our evening paper. I took it from him, staring—staring until my knees grew weak. Across the page in clarion type rang the unbelievable words:


His Lordship Tenth Earl of Brinstead to Wed One of Red Gap's Fairest Daughters

My hands so shook that in quick subterfuge I dropped the sheet, then stooped for it, trusting to control myself before I again raised my face. Mercifully the others were diverted by the journal. It was seized from me, passed from hand to hand, the incredible words read aloud by each in turn. They jested of it!

"Amazing chaps, your pressmen!" Thus the tenth Earl of Brinstead, while I pinched myself viciously to bring back my lost aplomb. "Speedy beggars, what, what! Never knew it myself till last night. She would and she wouldn't."

"I think you knew," said the lady. Stricken as I was I noted that she eyed him rather strangely, quite as if she felt some decent respect for him.

"Marriage is serious," boomed the Mixer.

"Don't blame her, don't blame her—swear I don't!" returned his lordship. "Few days to think it over—quite right, quite right. Got to know their own minds, my word!"

While their attention was thus mercifully diverted from me, my own world by painful degrees resumed its stability. I mean to say, I am not the fainting sort, but if I were, then I should have keeled over at my first sight of that journal. But now I merely recovered my glass of champagne and drained it. Rather pigged it a bit, I fancy. Badly needing a stimulant I was, to be sure.

They now discussed details: the ceremony—that sort of thing.

"Before a registrar, quickest way," said his lordship.

"Nonsense! Church, of course!" rumbled the Mixer very arbitrarily.

"Quite so, then," assented his lordship. "Get me the rector of the parish—a vicar, a curate, something of that sort."

"Then the breakfast and reception," suggested Mrs. Effie with a meaning glance at me before she turned to the lady. "Of course, dearest, your own tiny nest would never hold your host of friends——"

"I've never noticed," said the other quickly. "It's always seemed big enough," she added in pensive tones and with downcast eyes.

"Oh, not large enough by half," put in Belknap-Jackson, "Most charming little home-nook but worlds too small for all your well-wishers." With a glance at me he narrowed his eyes in friendly calculation. "I'm somewhat puzzled myself—Suppose we see what the capable Ruggles has to suggest."

"Let Ruggles suggest something by all means!" cried Mrs. Effie.

I mean to say, they both quite thought they knew what I would suggest, but it was nothing of the sort. The situation had entirely changed. Quite another sort of thing it was. Quickly I resolved to fling them both aside. I, too, would be a dead sportsman.

"I was about to suggest," I remarked, "that my place here is the only one at all suitable for the breakfast and reception. I can promise that the affair will go off smartly."

The two had looked up with such radiant expectation at my opening words and were so plainly in a state at my conclusion that I dare say the future Countess of Brinstead at once knew what. She flashed them a look, then eyed me with quick understanding.

"Great!" she exclaimed in a hearty American manner. "Then that's settled," she continued briskly, as both Belknap-Jackson and Mrs. Effie would have interposed "Ruggles shall do everything: take it off our shoulders—ices, flowers, invitations."

"The invitation list will need great care, of course," remarked Belknap-Jackson with a quite savage glance at me.

"But you just called him 'the capable Ruggles,'" insisted the fiancee. "We shall leave it all to him. How many will you ask, Ruggles?" Her eyes flicked from mine to Belknap-Jackson.

"Quite almost every one," I answered firmly.

"Fine!" she said.

"Ripping!" said his lordship.

"His lordship will of course wish a best man," suggested Belknap-Jackson. "I should be only too glad——"

"You're going to suggest Ruggles again!" cried the lady. "Just the man for it! You're quite right. Why, we owe it all to Ruggles, don't we?"

She here beamed upon his lordship. Belknap-Jackson wore an expression of the keenest disrelish.

"Of course, course!" replied his lordship. "Dashed good man, Ruggles! Owe it all to him, what, what!"

I fancy in the cordial excitement of the moment he was quite sincere. As to her ladyship, I am to this day unable to still a faint suspicion that she was having me on. True, she owed it all to me. But I hadn't a bit meant it and well she knew it. Subtle she was, I dare say, but bore me no malice, though she was not above setting Belknap-Jackson back a pace or two each time he moved up.

A final toast was drunk and my guests drifted out. Belknap-Jackson again glared savagely at me as he went, but Mrs. Effie rather outglared him. Even I should hardly have cared to face her at that moment.

And I was still in a high state of muddle. It was all beyond me. Had his lordship, I wondered, too seriously taken my careless words about American equality? Of course I had meant them to apply only to those stopping on in the States.

Cousin Egbert lingered to the last, rather with a troubled air of wishing to consult me. When I at length came up with him he held the journal before me, indicating lines in the article—"relict of an Alaskan capitalist, now for some years one of Red Gap's social favourites."

"Read that there," he commanded grimly. Then with a terrific earnestness I had never before remarked in him: "Say, listen here! I better go round right off and mix it up with that fresh guy. What's he hinting around at by that there word 'relict'? Why, say, she was married to him——"

I hastily corrected his preposterous interpretation of the word, much to his relief.

I was still in my precious state of muddle. Mrs. Judson took occasion to flounce by me in her work of clearing the table.

"A prince in his palace," she taunted. I laughed in a lofty manner.

"Why, you poor thing, I've known it all for some days," I said.

"Well, I must say you're the deep one if you did—never letting on!"

She was unable to repress a glance of admiration at me as she moved off.

I stood where she had left me, meditating profoundly.


Two days later at high noon was solemnized the marriage of his lordship to the woman who, without a bit meaning it, I had so curiously caused to enter his life. The day was for myself so crowded with emotions that it returns in rather a jumble: patches of incidents, little floating clouds of memory; some meaningless and one at least to be significant to my last day.

The ceremony was had in our most nearly smart church. It was only a Methodist church, but I took pains to assure myself that a ceremony performed by its curate would be legal. I still seem to hear the organ, strains of "The Voice That Breathed Through Eden," as we neared the altar; also the Mixer's rumbling whisper about a lost handkerchief which she apparently found herself needing at that moment.

The responses of bride and groom were unhesitating, even firm. Her ladyship, I thought, had never appeared to better advantage than in the pearl-tinted lustreless going-away gown she had chosen. As always, she had finely known what to put on her head.

Senator Floud, despite Belknap-Jackson's suggestion of himself for the office, had been selected to give away the bride, as the saying is. He performed his function with dignity, though I recall being seized with horror when the moment came; almost certain I am he restrained himself with difficulty from making a sort of a speech.

The church was thronged. I had seen to that. I had told her ladyship that I should ask quite almost every one, and this I had done, squarely in the face of Belknap-Jackson's pleading that discretion be used. For a great white light, as one might say, had now suffused me. I had seen that the moment was come when the warring factions of Red Gap should be reunited. A Bismarck I felt myself, indeed. That I acted ably was later to be seen.

Even for the wedding breakfast, which occurred directly after the ceremony, I had shown myself a dictator in the matter of guests. Covers were laid in my room for seventy and among these were included not only the members of the North Side set and the entire Bohemian set, but many worthy persons not hitherto socially existent yet who had been friends or well-wishers of the bride.

I am persuaded to confess that in a few of these instances I was not above a snarky little wish to correct the social horizon of Belknap-Jackson; to make it more broadly accord, as I may say, with the spirit of American equality for which their forefathers bled and died on the battlefields of Boston, New York, and Vicksburg.

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