Lucinda - Anthony Hope - ebook

Lucinda ebook

Anthony Hope



Everything is ready for the fashionable London wedding of the heroine and the son of a famous old diplomat. But the bride has simply disappeared. Circumstantial evidence points to the fact that an Italian is connected with the girl's disappearance. The outbreak of war just at this time postpones the chase for years. This novel by the author of "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "Dolly Dialogues" is much more closely related to reality in life and character than most other books. One feels that Mr. Hope is now writing to please his own ideals of the art of fiction rather than to amuse the crowd.

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Anthony Hope


Anthony Hope – His Life And Work


Chapter I - The Face In The Taxi His

Chapter II - The Signal

Chapter III - A High Explosive

Chapter IV - The Fourth Party

Chapter V - Catch Who Catch Can!

Chapter VI - Venice

Chapter VII - Self-Defense

Chapter VIII - The Needlewoman

Chapter IX - Like To Like It

Chapter X - Her Ladyship

Chapter XI - Dundrannanization

Chapter XII - A Secret Visit

Chapter XIII - An Introduction

Chapter XIV - For Auld Lang Syne

Chapter XV - The System Works

Chapter XVI - Purple And Fine Linen

Chapter XVII - Rebellion

Chapter XVIII - The Winning Ticket

Chapter XIX - Views And Whims

Chapter XX - Living Funnily

Chapter XXI - Partie Carrée

Chapter XXII - Suitable Surroundings

Chapter XXIII - The Banquet

Chapter XXIV - The Mascot

Chapter XXV - Homage

Chapter XXVI - The Air On The Coast

Chapter XXVII - In Five Years

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9


ISBN: 9783849648145

[email protected]

Anthony Hope – His Life And Work

By Frederick Taber Cooper

It is a sufficiently pleasant task to undertake to write a brief appreciation of Mr. Anthony Hope. The prevailing urbanity of his manner, the sustained sparkle of his wit, the agreeable expectation that he arouses of something stimulating about to happen, largely disarm criticism. Besides, he does not seem to demand to be taken too seriously; he is not a preacher or reformer, he is not trying to revolutionize the world; he is too well pleased with men and women as they actually are, to desire to make them something different. In short, he is a suave and charming public entertainer, and like all wise entertainers he alters the character of his program in accordance with the fluctuations of public taste. And being both versatile and farsighted he is usually in the van of each new movement. The God in the Car, his story of gigantic land speculations in South Africa, with the Herculean figure whom he chooses to disguise under the name of " Juggernaut," appeared in 1894, thus antedating by five years The Colossus, by Morley Roberts. Phroso, with its romantic setting among the islands of modern Greece, anticipated by a year Mr. E. F. Benson's analogous attempts, The Vintage and The Capsina. When the revival of the English historical novel was at its height, he succeeded once more in coming in ahead of his competitors, and Simon Dale, which appeared in 1898 and is a study of Restoration manners, with Nell Gwynn for its central interest, led the way for The Orange Girl by Sir Walter Besant, issued in 1899, and F. Frankfort Moore's Nell Gwynn, Comedian, which was not published until 1900.

But although he so cleverly adapts himself to the trend of public taste, Mr. Anthony Hope is not an innovator; he adapts but does not originate. Yet it is no uncommon thing to hear him erroneously praised for having created two new and widely popular types of fiction, the Zenda type and that of The Dolly Dialogues. Now, The Prisoner of Zenda, as we remember at once when we stop to think, is not the first up-to-date sword and buckler story of an imaginary principality; it was preceded, by nearly a decade, by Stevenson's Prince Otto; and the only reason that it so often gets the credit of being the forerunner of its class is simply because it was done with a defter, lighter touch, a more spontaneous inspiration. Similarly, The Dolly Dialogues are not the first attempt to imitate in English the sparkle and the piquancy of the Gallic dialogue in the form that " Gyp " and Henri Lavedan have made familiar. Although it is quite likely that at that time Anthony Hope had never even heard of it, The Story of the Gadsbys had at least three years the start of The Dolly Dialogues, and even though it was done with a heavier hand, it succeeded in getting a greater effectiveness out of the type.

But, after all, statistics of this sort, while interesting to a person of precise and inquiring mind, have little or no bearing upon the sources of enjoyment which a surprisingly large number of people undoubtedly find in Mr. Hope's writings. And there is variety enough among them to suit all tastes. He began in a spirit of blithe and irresponsible romanticism; he has gradually come, in his later years, to look upon life in a rather matter-of-fact way and to picture, by choice, the more serious problems of life in the social world to which he belongs. Yet his novels, even the most ambitious of them, never suggest the ponderousness of a novel-with-a-purpose; he never forgets what is expected from a conscientious entertainer. And one reason why he so uniformly succeeds is that he is an exceedingly good craftsman; he has mastered the sheer mechanics of his art. It is never wise for a novelist, whatever his literary creed may be, to be wantonly scornful of technique. There are just a few erratic geniuses who, because they have in them certain big thoughts that are struggling for utterance and apparently cannot be uttered in the simple usual way, boldly break the established rules and make new ones to suit their needs. To draw an offhand parallel, they are somewhat in the position of a man who, although untrained in public speaking, is listened to indulgently because of the importance of what he has to say. But your public entertainer enjoys no such license; and the lighter and more irresponsible his theme the more perfect must be his execution. And it is because Mr. Hope possesses that magic touch of the born story teller, that such delightful triflings as The Dolly Dialogues and The Indiscretion of the Duchess seem to linger in the memory with perennial youth, while many another weightier volume has faded out with the passage of years.

Accordingly, Mr. Hope belongs to that order of novelists about whom it is not only more enjoyable but more profitable to gossip genially than to weigh strictly in the balance. It is so easy to become garrulous over volumes that have worn well and afford many a pleasant hour of relaxation. It would be purposeless to take up serially each one of his many volumes, analyze and pigeonhole it according to its relative value. The better and the franker thing to do is to admit that there are certain volumes by Mr. Hope which gave the present writer genuine pleasure, and certain others that gave him no pleasure at all, and that those falling under the first division are the only ones which it seems worth while to discuss. In his earlier period the mere mention of Anthony Hope conjured up scenes of spirited adventure, reckless daring, gallant heroes combining the good breeding, the patrician ease, the assured manner of the better class of young Englishmen possessing the double advantage of birth and education, who, nevertheless, despite their studied reserve and immaculateness of dress, are plunged by a whim of fate into adventures of extraordinary daring and sublime audacity, adventures that would have taxed the prowess of Dumas's Immortal Three. It is a clever formula, this trick of taking certain types of familiar everyday people straight out of prosaic actuality and compelling them, whether they will or no, to perform romantic deeds against a romantic background. This peculiar combination was certainly a happy thought. It appealed to that latent thirst for adventure which we almost all possess; it unconsciously flattered the reader with a new sense of daring, a feeling that he too, if thus suddenly and surprisingly transported into Zendaland, might similarly rise to the occasion and achieve great deeds. There is no purpose served by analyzing once again the story of The Prisoner of Zenda. It is one of those stories the artificiality of which stands out glaringly the moment one starts to lay its bones bare.

Any story which depends upon the chance resemblance of two human beings, a resemblance so close, so misleading, that even the wife of one of the two is at a loss to distinguish them, takes on, when stated briefly, apart from the glamour of the tale itself, an air of palpable falsity to life. And yet the fact remains that tens of thousands of readers have lost themselves, forgotten time and space, in their utter absorption in the dilemma of the Princess Flavia, who finds in Rudolph Rassendyl all the qualities which might have made it possible for her to love her husband, if only he had been as close a replica of Rassendyl morally as he was physically.

I do not mind admitting that personally I revert more frequently to The Dolly Dialogues than to any other volume by Mr. Hope. This is not merely because of the delicate touch and epigrammatic neatness for which they have been so universally praised. Superficially considered they are a series of encounters between a sparkling and fascinating little lady and a sedate and nimble-witted gentleman, whom it is insinuated that the Lady Dolly has jilted. Now, the real fascination about these brilliant exchanges of repartee lies chiefly in the subtle and yet elusive implications that we are always on the point of reading between the lines, and yet never quite get in their entirety. That Mr. Carter has long been a worshiper at the shrine of Lady Dolly, that he has many a time felt a pang of regret that his fortune in life has made him ineligible, that he considers her husband not half grateful enough to Providence and that his own assumed air of sentimental resignation has in it a little touch of genuine regret, all this we get pretty clearly. And yet, we are well aware, all the time, that Mr. Carter, in spite of an occasional twinge of envy, would not change his condition if he could; that, although he may not be precisely aware of it, he is already confirmed in his bachelor habits; that he likes his freedom from responsibility, his harmless, unprofitable daily routine, his favorite corner in his favorite club, his innocent philandering with various young women, married and unmarried. He may, at times, deceive the Lady Dolly into commiserating him and blaming herself as a thoughtless coquette, but never for very long at a time. The whole thing is a sort of grown-up game of make-believe in which the players get a curious transitory, almost illogical enjoyment in feigning broken hearts and blighted lives. And yet there is just enough truth underlying it all to suggest that Mr. Hope was capable of more serious work than he had yet done. There was, for instance, everywhere a pervading suggestion of the infinite number of contradictory motives and impulses that determine every human action, and the impossibility which every man and woman must admit to themselves of deciding just how much gladness and how much regret is entailed in every least little thing that they do.

Almost without warning Mr. Hope proved that the vague promise of more serious work was well founded, by producing what, I think, the sober judgment of posterity will recognize as his most ambitious and most enduring work, Quisante. Alexander Quisante, from whom the volume takes its name, is not an Englishman either by birth or ancestry. He comes of antecedents almost unknown beyond the fact that they are a mixture of French and Spanish. With scanty means he comes, an absolute outsider, preparing to lay siege to the political and social world of London. In every way he finds himself handicapped. The foreordained course of education through which the English ruling classes pass as a matter of course and by which their prejudices and points of view are determined, has not been his privilege. In addition to this he lacks that inborn refinement which sometimes makes up for good breeding and social experience. His taste is often exceedingly bad; his manner is alternately too subservient and too arrogant. Of the higher standards of morality he has no perception; he is the typical adventurer, unscrupulous, insincere, monumentally selfish. But, to offset all this, his intellect is quite extraordinary; his brain is an instrument marvelously under control, and he uses it at his pleasure, to bring the lesser intellects about him under his dominion. Above all, he has the gift of eloquence; and when he chooses to give full rein to his rhetorical powers, he can sway his audience at will, and thrill and sweep them with him through the whole gamut of human emotions. Of the men and women whom he meets, fully one-half are antagonized and repelled; the others give him an unquestioning, almost slavish devotion. But he has a personality which cannot leave negative results; it must breed love or hate.

The other character in the book who shares the central interest is Lady May Gaston, a woman who, by birth and training, participates in all those special privileges of rank and caste, all the traditions of her order from which Quisante is shut out. There is another man, one in her own class, who would be glad to make her his wife. He is in all respects the sort of man whom she is expected to marry; and she is not wholly indifferent to him. But she meets Quisante, and, from the first, comes under the spell of his dominant personality. There is much in him from which she shrinks. His social ineptitude, his faculty for doing the wrong thing, or the right thing at the wrong time, makes her shudder. Although fascinated, she is not blinded. She sees his vulgarities, she questions his sincerity, she even doubts whether he is deserving of her respect. Nevertheless, the spectacular, flamboyant brilliancy of the man dominates her better judgment, and in spite of her relatives' remonstrances, in spite of warnings from a member of Quisante's own family, she marries him, unable to resist the almost hypnotic spell cast over her by this man, who is something of a charlatan and something of a cad. The greater part of the book concerns itself with the story of the married life of this curiously ill-assorted couple; of his success in the public eye; of her gradual disillusionment, which, bitter though it is in its completeness, finds her somewhat apathetic, unable to feel the resentment that she knows she ought, unable to acknowledge that she regrets her choice. This, indeed, is the most interesting aspect of the book, the domination, mentally and morally, of a woman of rare sensitiveness and infinite possibilities by a man with whom companionship inevitably means deterioration.

The next of Mr. Anthony Hope's volumes, which personally appealed to the present writer, is entitled A Servant of the Public, and is enjoyable chiefly because of the tantalizing witchery of its heroine. Ora Pinsent is a young actress, who has taken London by storm. She has a husband somewhere, it is said, " whose name does not matter "; indeed, it matters so little that it does not prevent her from letting Ashley Mead make ardent love to her, one Sunday afternoon, though all the while she " preserves wonderfully the air of not being responsible for the thing, of neither accepting nor rejecting, of being quite passive, of having it just happen to her." Thus with a single pen stroke Mr. Hope has set the woman unmistakably before us. Throughout the book she practices the art of having things just happen to her, the art of dodging responsibility. With Ashley she drifts, dangerously one thinks, at first, until one sees how easily she checks his ardor when she chooses, with a nervous laugh, and a low whispered " Don't, don't make love to me any more now." She talks much solemn nonsense about her duty to the husband whose name does not matter, and about her intention to renounce Ashley, although one realizes that there is really nothing to renounce, nor ever will be. And when the time comes for her company to leave London and start on their American tour, here also she plays the passive role, neither accepting nor rejecting. It is only when the weary months of her absence are over and she comes back as the wife of her leading man, that Ashley begins to see her as she really is; only then that he feels her power over him has ceased; only then that he can say, " I no longer love her, but I wish to God I did! " It is not easy to convey an impression of a woman's charm, when it lies not in what she says, but in the way she says it; not in what she does, but in the way she does it. But this is precisely what Anthony Hope has done triumphantly in his portraiture of Ora Pinsent, Ora, with her upturned face, with its habitual expression of expecting to be kissed, is one of the heroines in contemporary fiction that will not easily be forgotten.

Helena's Path deserves something more than a passing word of commendation, for it is an excellent example of Mr. Hope's deftness in doing a very slight thing extremely well. It has an outward framework of actuality, the atmosphere of present day English country life; yet into this he has infused a certain spirit of old-time chivalry and homage that gives to his whole picture something of the grace and charm of a Watteau landscape. The whole theme of the volume, which is scarcely more than a novelette, concerns itself with a right of way. The hero's estates lie somewhere on the east coast of England; but between his land and the strip of beach where he and his fathers before him have for generations been in the habit of bathing lies the property which the heroine has recently purchased; and, unaware of any right of way, she closes up the gate through which it is his habit to pass for his daily swim. He writes courteously but firmly, insisting on his right. She answers in the same spirit, emphatically denying it. He refuses to be robbed of his legal rights, even by a pretty woman; she refuses to yield, at a command, what she would have graciously granted to a prayer. As neither side chooses to adopt legal measures, a state of mimic war ensues, in which he continues to invade the enemy's territory, while she continues to barricade and entrench. And all the while, although they have not once met face to face, each is quietly falling in love with the other, so that when finally honorable terms of peace are concluded, it is already a foregone conclusion that the whole dainty little comedy will end with oaths of fealty and bestowal of favors worthy of a knight and a lady of the olden times.

With the passage of years, however, the author of The Dotty Dialogues has tended to give us fewer and fewer of these dainty trifles and more and more of his serious and careful social studies. In this class belongs The Great Miss Driver, and there is no exaggeration in saying that since the publication of Quisante it is easily the biggest, best-rounded, and altogether worthiest book he has written. And yet, the first thing you are apt to think of is that the germ idea of the story goes straight back to The Dolly Dialogues; that in a superficial way, yes, and perhaps in a deeper way, too, there is a certain rather absurd similarity between them; just as though the author, having once made a pleasant little comedy out of a certain situation, had ever since been turning over in his mind the possibility of using it in a bigger and more serious way, until eventually he evolved the present volume. Not that Jennie Driver, heiress to Breysgate Priory, bears any close resemblance to Lady Mickleham beyond the very feminine desire for conquest, any more than the Mr. Austin of the one story is a close relative of Mr. Carter in the other. The resemblance lies in this, that both stories are told in the first person by the man who in his secret heart loves the woman of whom he writes, but knows that because he is poor, because he has the natural instinct of an old bachelor, because, also, she has given her heart elsewhere, he must remain content to look upon her joys and sorrows in the capacity of a friend, and not that of a lover. To this extent The Great Miss Driver may be defined as The Dolly Dialogues rendered in a different tempo.

Yet, such a definition gives no hint of the strength, the variety, the vital interest of this story. In the character of Jennie Driver Mr. Hope has given us a woman whose ruling passion is to hold sway, to fascinate and bend to her will every one who comes within her sphere. And because of this desire she can never bear to lose the allegiance of any man, no matter how mean and unworthy he has proved himself; and herein lies the source of her life's tragedy. She is not content to be merely the richest woman in the county, to play the part of Lady Bountiful, and build memorials and endow institutions with fabulous sums; she wants also to be a social leader with undisputed right to take precedence over all the other ladies of the community, and this she could do if she married Lord Fillingford, whom she respects, and who badly needs her fortune; but not if she should marry Leonard Octon, big, brusque, rather brutal, who is cut by the whole county, and whom she happens to love. It is a rather unique situation in fiction for a woman to be forced into publicly slighting the one man on earth that she cares for; still more unique for a woman who is pledged to marry one man to be secretly meeting the other man, and thus atoning for deliberately cutting him whenever they meet in public. And, surely, it was a rather audacious thing for Mr. Hope to attempt to make us feel that in spite of her double-dealing Jennie Driver is a rather big and fine and splendid sort of woman; that she would have kept faith with Fillingford had he been big enough to trust her when appearances were heavily against her; and that in defying convention and scandalizing the little world she lives in by fleeing with Octon to Paris, she is doing the one big, brave, inevitable act. Yet, that is precisely what the author does succeed in making us feel; and when because Fate intervenes and wrecks the last chance of Jennie's happiness through the death of Octon, we not only sympathize with her bitterness toward the narrow-minded social circle that had forced her lover into exile, but we also glory with her in the big, carefully planned and altogether adequate revenge by which she forces the county to pay tardy homage to the name of Octon.

Notwithstanding the statement made at the beginning of this chapter, to the effect that Mr. Anthony Hope does not write problem novels, the volume entitled Mrs. Maxon Protests comes critically near the border-line. Mrs. Maxon is simply one more young woman who has discovered marriage to be something vastly different from what she had imagined; and her difficulty is of the variety which she regards as almost humiliatingly commonplace namely, incompatibility. Her husband happens to be one of those narrow, self-satisfied, dictatorial men, with old-fashioned ideas about women in general and a rooted conviction that a man has a high moral responsibility for his wife's conduct and must mould her in all fashions to his own way of thinking. Mrs. Maxon bears the strain for five years; then she consults a lawyer. She learns that while she cannot get a divorce in England, she can leave her husband and he cannot force her to come back. At the time of their separation, or to be more accurate, her desertion of him for Maxon refuses to take the matter seriously there is no other man in her life; but in the weeks that follow during which she stays at the country home of some friends with lax ideas of life and a houseful of curious and often irregular people, she suddenly surprises herself by falling in love with a certain Godfrey Ledstone and promptly scandalizes society by eloping with him openly and unashamed. The rest of the book traces, with a clear-sightedness that Mr. Hope has not always shown in his books, the subsequent career of a woman who thinks that by the force of her own example she can bring the whole world over to her way of thinking. He does not spare us any of her disillusions, her humiliations, her heartache and loneliness. But through it all she is learning, strangely and cruelly learning, much that is exceedingly good for her. She is learning, for instance, that charity and sympathy and understanding are often found where least expected. She is learning, too, that there are many other standards in this world as well as her own and that they are just as reasonable and perhaps nobler. She learns that one of the best men she has ever had the good fortune to meet, loving her, pitying her, utterly disapproving of her, would nevertheless have made her his wife in spite of the scandal that had preceded and followed her divorce but for one reason: he is an army officer, and a woman with a taint upon her name would lower the social tone of his regiment and be in some degree a menace to the moral tone of the younger set. It is a temptation to analyze at some length the separate episodes of this rather unusual book throughout the years while Mrs. Maxon is slowly finding her way out of the quagmire of her own making into a belated peace and happiness. Yet, after all, what the book stands for is so admirably summed up in the concluding paragraph that one cannot do it a greater service than to close with one brief quotation. It is a satisfaction to find a book written upon this theme which, while recognizing that there is much to be said on both sides, shows neither vindictiveness toward the woman nor a misplaced championship that would exalt her into a martyr.

In the small circle of those with whom she had shared the issues of destiny she had unsettled much; of a certainty she had settled nothing. Things were just as much in solution as ever; the welter was not abated. Man being imperfect, laws must be made. Man being imperfect, laws must be broken or ever new laws will be made. Winnie Maxon had broken a law and asked a question. When thousands do the like, the Giant, after giving the first comers a box on the ear, may at last put his hand to his own and ponderously consider.

Such are the volumes chosen as a matter of personal preference, out of the generous series that Mr. Hope has so industriously turned out, during a score of years. Another reader's choice might be different, and who shall say whether it would not be as well justified? Because, the first duty of a public entertainer is to entertain; and, taking this for a criterion, the most that any one can say of his own knowledge is, such-and-such volumes have entertained me. It is obvious that Mr. Hope's own preference is for his more serious work, that with the passage of years he has grown more willing to allow the books of his romantic period to fade from sight. Yet, by doing this, he challenges a harder competition, a stricter measurement against a host of rivals. There has been no one to give us a second Prisoner of Zenda, excepting Mr. Hope himself, notwithstanding that many another writer has tried his best. But it would be easy to name a dozen contemporary novelists who could give us the annals of another Servant of the People, or chronicle some further Intrusions of Peggy, and one or two who, perhaps, could do it better. Mr. Hope is not one of the great novelists of his generation; but he is never mediocre, and even in his uninspired moments never dull. His Prisoner of Zenda and his Dolly Dialogues were both gems of the first water; his Quisante certainly suffers nothing by comparison with George Gissing's Charlatan, separated from it by barely a year. As a chronicler of English manners he is certainly of rather more importance than Mr. E. F. Benson or Mr. Maarten Maartens, although not in the same class with Galsworthy, Bennett, or W. H. Maxwell. He will be remembered, I think, somewhat as William Black and Marion Crawford are remembered, as having preserved a wholesome optimism, an unshaken belief in human nature, and as having done his part to keep the tone of the modern novel clean and wholesome.


Chapter I - The Face In The Taxi His

"Business Ambassador" was the title which my old chief, Ezekiel Coldston, used to give me. I daresay that it served as well as any other to describe with a pleasant mixture of dignity and playfulness, the sort of glorified bagman or drummer that I was. It was my job to go into all quarters of the earth where the old man had scented a concession or a contract—and what a nose he had for them !—and make it appear to powerful persons that the Coldston firm would pay more for the concession (more in the long run, at all events) or ask less for the contract (less in the first instance, at all events) than any other responsible firm, company, or corporation in the world. Sir Ezekiel (as in due course he became) took me from a very low rung of the regular diplomatic ladder into his service on the recommendation of my uncle, Sir Paget Rillington, who was then at the top of that same ladder. My employer was good enough to tell me more than once that I had justified the recommendation.

"You've excellent manners, Julius," he told me.

"Indeed, quite engaging. Plenty of tact! You work —fairly hard; your gift for languages is of a great value, and, if you have no absolute genius for business—well, I'm at the other end of the cable. I've no cause to be dissatisfied."

"As much as you could expect of the public school and varsity brand, sir?" I suggested.

"More," said Ezekiel decisively.

I liked the job. I was very well paid. I saw the world; I met all sorts of people; and I was always royally treated, since, if I was always trying to get on the right side of my business or political friends, they were equally anxious to get on the right side of me—which meant, in their sanguine imaginations, the right side of Sir Ezekiel; a position which I believe to correspond rather to an abstract mathematical conception than to anything actually realizable in experience.

However, I do not want to talk about all that. I mention the few foregoing circumstances only to account for the fact that I found myself in town in the summer of 1914, back from a long and distant excursion, temporary occupant of a furnished flat (I was a homeless creature) in Buckingham Gate, enjoying the prospect of a few months' holiday, and desirous of picking up the thread of my family and social connections—perhaps with an eye to country house visits and a bit of shooting or fishing by and by. First of all, though, after a short spell of London, I was due at Cragsfoot, to see Sir Paget, tell him about my last trip, and console him for the loss of Waldo's society.

Not that anything tragic had happened to Waldo.

On the contrary, he was going to be married. I had heard of the engagement a month before I sailed from Buenos Aires, and the news had sent my thoughts back to an autumn stay at Cragsfoot two years before, with Sir Paget and old Miss Fleming (we were great friends, she and I) ; the two boys, Waldo and Arsenio, just down from Oxford; respectable Mrs. Knyvett—oh, most indubitably respectable Mrs. Knyvett;—myself, older than the boys, younger than the seniors, and so with an agreeable alternation of atmosphere offered to me—and Lucinda! True that Nina Frost was a good deal there too, coming over from that atrocious big villa along the coast—Briarmount they called it—still, she was not of the house party; there was always a last talk, or frolic, after Nina had gone home, and after Mrs. Knyvett had gone to bed. Miss Fleming, "Aunt Bertha," liked talks and frolics; and Sir Paget was popularly believed not to go to bed at all; he used to say that he had got out of the habit in Russia. So it was a merry time—a merry, thoughtless! Why, no, not the least thoughtless. I had nearly fallen into a cliché, a spurious commonplace. Youth may not count and calculate. It thinks like the deuce —and is not ashamed to talk its thoughts right out.

You remember the Oxford talk, any of you who have been there, not (with submission to critics) all about football and the Gaiety, but through half the night about the Trinity, or the Nature of the Absolute, or Community of Goods, or why in Tennyson (this is my date rather than Waldo's) Arthur had no children by Guinevere, or whether the working classes ought to limit—well, and so on. The boys brought us all that atmosphere, if not precisely those topics, and mighty were the discussions,—with Sir Paget to whet the blades, if ever they grew blunt, with one of his aphorisms, and Aunt Bertha to round up a discussion with an anecdote.

And now Lucinda had accepted Waldo! They were to be married now—directly. She had settled in practice the problem we had once debated through a moonlight evening on the terrace that looked out to sea. At what age should man and woman marry? He at thirty, she at twenty-five, said one side—in the interest of individual happiness. He at twenty-one, she at eighteen, said the other, in the interest of social wellbeing. (Mrs. Knyvett had gone to bed.) Lucinda was now twenty-one and Waldo twenty-six. It was a compromise—though, when I come to think of it, she had taken no part in discussing the problem. "I should do as I felt," had been her one and only contribution; and she also went to bed in the early stages of the wordy battle.

Incidentally I may observe that Lucinda's exits were among the best things that she did—yes, even in those early days, when they were all instinct and no art. From Sir Paget downwards we men felt that, had the problem been set for present solution, we should all have felt poignantly interested in what Lucinda felt that she would do. No man of sensibility—as they used to say before we learnt really colloquial English—could have felt otherwise.

I will not run on with these recollections just now, but I was chuckling over them on the morning of Waldo's and Lucinda's wedding day—a very fine day in July, on which, after late and leisurely breakfast, I looked across the road on the easy and scattered activity of the barracks' yard. That scene was soon to change—but the future wore its veil. With a mind vacant of foreboding, I was planning only how to spend the time till half-past two. I decided to dress myself, go to the club, read the papers, lunch, and so on to St. George's. For, of course, St. George's it was to be. Mrs. Knyvett had a temporary flat in Mount Street; Sir Paget had no town house, but put up at Claridge's; he and Waldo—and Aunt Bertha—had been due to arrive there from Cragsfoot yesterday. Perhaps it was a little curious that Waldo had not been in town for the last week; but he had not, and I had seen none of the Cragsfoot folk since I got home. I had left a card on Mrs. Knyvett, but—well, I suppose that she and her daughter were much too busy to take any notice. I am afraid that I was rather glad of it; apprehensive visions of a partie carree—the lovers mutually absorbed, and myself left to engross Mrs. Knyvett —faded harmlessly into the might-have-beens.

I walked along the Mall, making for my club in St. James's Street. At the corner by Marlborough House I had to wait before crossing the road; a succession of motors and taxis held me up. I was still thinking of Lucinda; at least I told myself a moment later that I must have been still thinking of Lucinda, because only in that way could I account, on rational lines, for what happened to me. It was one o'clock—the Palace clock had just struck. The wedding was at half-past two, and the bride was, beyond reasonable doubt, now being decked out for it, or, perchance, taking necessary sustenance. But not driving straight away from the scene of operations, not looking out of the window of that last taxi which had just whisked by me! Yet the face at the taxi window—I could have sworn it was Lucinda's.

It wore her smile—and not many faces did that.

Stranger still, it dazzled with that vivid flush which she herself—the real Lucinda—exhibited only on the rarest occasions, the moments of high feeling.

It had come on the evening when Waldo and Arsenio Valdez quarreled at Cragsfoot.

The vision came and went, but left me strangely taken aback, in a way ashamed of myself, feeling a fool. I shrugged my shoulders angrily as I crossed Pall Mall. As I reached the pavement on the other side, I took out my cigarette case; I wanted to be normal and reasonable; I would smoke.

"Take a light from mine, Julius," said a smooth and dainty voice.

It may seem absurd—an affectation of language— to call a voice "dainty," but the epithet is really appropriate to Arsenio Valdez's way of talking, whether in Spanish, Italian, or English. As was natural, he spoke them all with equal ease and mastery, but he used none of them familiarly; each was treated as an art, not in the choice of words—that would be tedious in every-day life—but in articulation. We others used often to chaff him about it, but he always asserted that it was the "note of a Castilian."

There he stood, at the bottom corner of St. James's Street, neat, cool, and trim as usual—like myself, he was wearing a wedding garment—and looking his least romantic and his most monkeyish: he could do wonders in either direction.

"Hullo! what tree have you dropped from, Monkey?" I asked. But then I went on, without waiting for an answer. "I say, that taxi must have passed you too, didn't it?"

"A lot of taxis have been passing. Which one?"

"The one with the girl in it—the girl like Lucinda.

Didn't you see her?"

"I never saw a girl like Lucinda—except Lucinda herself. Have you lunched? No, I mean the question quite innocently, old chap. Because, if you haven't, we might together.. Of course you're bound for the wedding as I am? At least, I can just manage, if the bride's punctual. I've got an appointment that I must keep at three-fifteen."

"That gives you time enough. Come and have lunch with me at White's." I put my arm in his and we walked up the street. I forgot my little excitement over the girl in the cab.

Though he was a pure-blooded Spaniard, though he had been educated at Beaumont and Christ Church, Valdez was more at home in Italy than anywhere else. His parents had settled there, in the train of the exiled Don Carlos, and the son still owned a small palazzo at Venice and derived the bulk of his means (or so I understood) from letting the more eligible floors of it, keeping the attics for himself. Here he consorted with wits, poets, and "Futurists," writing a bit himself—Italian was the language he employed for his verses—till he wanted a change, when he would shoot off to the Riviera, or Spain, or Paris, or London, as the mood took him.

But he had not been to England for nearly two years now; he gave me to understand that the years of education had given him, for the time, a surfeit of my native land: not a surprising thing, perhaps.

"So I lit out soon after our stay at Cragsfoot, and didn't come back again till a fortnight ago, when some business brought me over. And I'm off again directly, in a day or two at longest."

"Lucky you've hit the wedding. I suppose you haven't seen anything of my folks then—or of the Knyvetts?"

"I haven't seen Waldo or Sir Paget, but I've been seeing something of Mrs. Knyvett and Lucinda since I got here. And they were out in Venice last autumn; and, as they took an apartment in my house, I saw a good deal of them there."

"Oh, I didn't know they'd been to Venice. Nobody ever writes to tell me anything when I'm away."

"Poor old chap! Get a wife, and she'll write to tell you she's in debt. I say, oughtn't we to be moving? It won't look well to be late, you know."

"Don't be fidgety. We've got half an hour, and it's not above ten minutes' walk."

"There'll be a squash, and I want a good place.

Come on, Julius." He rose from the table rather abruptly; indeed, with an air of something like impatience or irritation.

"Hang it! you might be going to be married yourself, you're in such a hurry," I said, as I finished my glass of brandy.

As we walked, Valdez was silent. I looked at his profile; the delicate fine lines were of a poet's, or what a poet's should be to our fancy.

Not so much as a touch of the monkey! That touch, indeed, when it did come, came on the lips; and it came seldom. It was the devastating acumen and the ruthless cruelty of boyhood that had winged the shaft of his school nickname. Yet it had followed him to the varsity; it followed him now; I myself often called him by it. "Monkey Valdez"! Not pretty, you know. It did not annoy him in the least. He thought it just insular; possibly that is all it was. But such persistence is some evidence of a truthfulness in it.

"Have you been trying a fall with Dame Fortune lately?" I asked.

He turned his face to me, smiling. "I'm a reformed character. At least, I was till a fortnight ago. I hadn't touched a card or seen a table for above a year. Seemed not to want to! A great change, eh? But I didn't miss it. Then when— when I decided to come over here, I thought I would go round by the Riviera, and just get out at Monte Carlo, and have a shot—between trains, you know.

I wanted to see if my luck was in. So I got off, had lunch, and walked into the rooms. I backed my number everyway I could—en plein, impair, all the rest. I stood to win about two hundred louis."

"Lost, of course?"

"Not a bit of it. I won."

"And then lost?"

"No. I pouched the lot and caught my train.

I wasn't going to spoil the omen." He was smiling now—very contentedly.

"What was the number?"


"This is the twenty-first of July," I observed. "Gamblers must be guided by something, some fancy, some omen," he said. "I had just heard that Waldo and Lucinda were to be married on the twenty-first."

The monkey did peep out for a moment then; but we were already in George Street; the church was in sight, and my attention was diverted. "Better for you if you'd lost," I murmured carelessly.

"Aye, aye, dull prudence!" he said mockingly.

"But—the sensation! I can feel it now!"

We were on the other side of the road from the church, but almost opposite to it, as he spoke, and it was only then that I noticed anything peculiar. The first thing which I marked was an unusual animation in the usual small crowd of the "general public" clustered on either side of the steps: they were talking a lot to one another. Still more peculiar was the fact that all the people in carriages and cars seemed to have made a mistake; they drew up for a moment before the entrance; a beadle, or some official of that semi-ecclesiastical order, said something to them, and they moved on again—nobody got out! To crown it, a royal brougham drove up—every Londoner can tell one yards away, if it were only by the horses—and stopped. My uncle, Sir Paget himself, came down the steps, took off his tall hat, and put his head in at the carriage window for a moment; then he signed, and no doubt spoke, to the footman, who had not even jumped down from the box or taken off his hat. And the royal brougham drove on.

"Well, I'm damned!" said I.

Valdez jerked his head in a quick sideways nod.

"Something wrong? Looks like it!"

I crossed the road quickly, and he kept pace with me. My intention was to join Sir Paget, but that beadle intercepted us.

"Wedding's unavoidably postponed, gentlemen," he said. "Sudden indisposition of the bride."

There it was! I turned to Valdez in dismay— with a sudden, almost comical, sense of being let down, choused, made a fool of. "Well, twenty-one's not been a lucky number for poor Lucinda, at all events!" I said—rather pointlessly; but his story had been running in my head.

He made no direct reply; a little shrug seemed at once to accuse and to accept destiny. "Sir Paget's beckoning to you," he said. "Do you think I might come too?"

"Why, of course, my dear fellow. We both want to know what's wrong, don't we?"

Chapter II - The Signal

BY now it was past the half-hour; the arrivals dwindled to a few late stragglers, who were promptly turned away by the beadle; the crowd of onlookers dispersed with smiles, shrugs, and a whistle or two: only a group of reporters stood on the lowest step, talking to one another and glancing at Sir Paget, as though they would like to tackle him but were doubtful of their reception. One did quietly detach himself from the group and walked up to where my uncle stood on the top step. I saw Sir Paget raise his hat, bow slightly, and speak one sentence. The man bowed in return, and rejoined his fellows with a rueful smile; then all of them made off together down the street.

My uncle was a little below middle height, but very upright and spare, so that he looked taller than he was. He had large features—a big, high-peaked nose, wide, thin-lipped mouth, bushy eyebrows, and very keen blue eyes. He bore himself with marked dignity—even with some stiffness towards the world at large, although among intimates he was the most urbane and accessible of men. His long experience in affairs had given him imperturbable composure; even at this moment he did not look the least put out. His manner and speech were modeled on the old school of public men—formal and elaborate when the occasion demanded, but easy, offhand, and familiar in private: to hear him was sometimes like listening to behind-the-scenes utterances of, say, Lord Melbourne or the great Duke which have come down to us in memoirs of their period.

When we went up to him, he nodded to me and gave his hand to Valdez. He had not seen him for two years, but he only said, "Ah, you here, Arsenio?" and went on, "Well, boys, here's a damned kettle of fish! The girl's cut and run, by Gad, she has!"

Valdez muttered "Good Lord!" or "Good Heavens!" or something of that kind. I found nothing to say, but the face I had seen at the taxi window flashed before my eyes again.

"Went out at ten this morning—for a walk, she said, before dressing. And she never came back.

Half an hour ago a boy-messenger left a note for her mother. 'I can't do it, Mother. So I've gone.' —That was all. Aunt Bertha had been called in to assist at the dressing-up, and she sent word to me.

Mrs. Knyvett collapsed, of course."

"And—and Waldo? Is he here?" asked Valdez.

"I'd like to see him and—and say what I could."

"I got him away by the back door—to avoid those press fellows: he consented to go back to the hotel and wait for me there."

"It's a most extraordinary thing," said Valdez, who wore an air of embarrassment quite natural under the circumstances. He was—or had been— an intimate of the family; but this was an extremely intimate family affair. "I called in Mount Street three days ago," he went on, "and she seemed quite —well, normal, you know; very bright and happy, and all that."

Sir Paget did not speak. Valdez looked at his watch. "Well, you'll want to be by yourselves, and I've got an appointment."

"Goodbye, my boy. You must come and see us presently. You're looking very well, Arsenio.

Good-by. Don't you go, Julius, I want you."

Arsenio walked down the steps very quickly— indeed, he nearly ran—and got into a taxi which was standing by the curb. He turned and waved his hand towards us as he got in. My uncle was frowning and pursing up his thin, supple lips. He took my arm and we came down the steps together.

"There's the devil to pay with Waldo," he said, pressing his hand on my sleeve. "It was all I could do to make him promise to wait till we'd talked it over."

"What does he want to do?"

"He's got one of his rages. You know 'em? They don't come often, but when they do—well, it's damned squally weather! And he looks on her as good as his wife, you see." He glanced up at me—I am a good deal the taller—with a very unwonted look of distress and apprehension. "He's not master of himself. It would never do for him to go after them in the state he's in now."

"After— them?"

"That's his view; I incline to it myself, too."

"She was alone in the taxi." I blurted it out, more to myself than to him, and quite without thinking.

I told him of my encounter; it had seemed a delusion, but need not seem so now.

"Driving past Marlborough House into the Mall? Looks like Victoria, doesn't it? Any luggage on the cab?"

"I didn't notice, sir."

"Then you're an infernal fool, Julius," said Sir Paget peevishly.

I was not annoyed, though I felt sure that my uncle himself would have thought no more about luggage than I had, if he had seen the face as I had seen it. But I felt shy about describing the flush on a girl's face and the sparkle in her eyes; that was more Valdez's line of country than mine. So I said nothing, and we fell into a dreary silence which lasted till we got to the hotel.

I went upstairs behind Sir Paget in some trepidation. I had, for years back, heard of Waldo's "white rages"; I had seen only one, and I had not liked it. Waldo was not, to my thinking, a Rillington: we are a dark, spare race. He was a Fleming— stoutly built, florid and rather ruddy in the face.

But the passion seemed to suck up his blood; it turned him white. It was rather curious and uncanny, while it lasted. The poor fellow used to be very much ashamed of himself when it was over; but while it was on—well, he did not seem to be ashamed of anything he did or said. He was dangerous—to himself and others. Really, that night at Cragsfoot, I had thought that he was going to knock Valdez's head off, though the ostensible cause of quarrel was nothing more serious—or perhaps I should say nothing less abstract—than the Legitimist principle, of which Valdez, true to his paternal tradition, elected to pose as the champion and brought on himself a bitter personal attack, in which such words as hypocrites, parasites, flunkeys, toadeaters, etc., etc., figured vividly. And all this before the ladies, and in the presence of his father, whose absolute authority over him he was at all normal moments eager to acknowledge.