A FLAT IN KNIGHTSBRIDGE
MR. PHILIP felt rather limp after the state visit, but he took Mary out to lunch, and he did n’t refer to the recent interview with the Proconsul.
‘When is your time up at the Lane, old girl?’ inquired the vain young fellow.
‘Quite soon now, Phil-ipp.’
‘And then what are you doin’?’
‘I am going to take Gran’ma to Brighton for a fortnight, and then I’m going to tour the provinces as Lady Agatha in Kind Hearts and Coronets, until Mr. Wingrove’s new play is put into rehearsal at the Millennium.’
Mr. Philip had ordered a half bottle of Number 68, it is rather important to mention, although it had gone up half a crown in spite of the fact that some people thought it was quite expensive enough already.
‘Goin’ to be leadin’ a full life, ain’t you, Polly?’
‘Seems like it, does n’t it, Phil-ipp!’
‘Well, I think you ought to turn up those beastly provinces, I do really. You are much too good for ’em. I don’t know much about it, of course, but it seems to me that such art as yours is wasted on the bally provinces.’
‘Perhaps you are right, Phil-ipp,’ said Mary the demure. ‘But I love the dear old things.’
‘ If I were you, Polly, I should never play out of London if I had to play at all.’
Polly admitted there might be something in this view. Still she would miss the dear old provinces terribly, and perhaps they might miss her.
And then Number 68 began to display considerable boldness.
‘There’s a little flat in Knightsbridge, a toppin’ little hole, that I think we might go round and look at, old girl, don’t you? Very cheap for the position, and the landlord will paint it throughout and we can have possession any time we want it.’
Polly did n’t mind going to look at it, as she rather liked looking over such things.
The flat was charming. A little high up perhaps, but there were two delightful rooms that overlooked the park. It was one of the most tempting spots in the metropolis. Yet there was one serious drawback, which in the opinion of Philip, however, was almost a merit. It was likely to be much sought after, said the house-agent; any delay in taking it might be fatal. They could only be allowed a week in which to make up their minds.
Yes, the flat was charming, they agreed as they walked up Piccadilly. And only a week in which to make up their minds! Still, that was really rather providential if you looked at it from Philip’s point of view.
‘Was n’t it, Polly?’
‘Why do you think so, Phil-ipp?’
‘We’ve got to make up our minds at once, have n’t we?’
‘ I ’ve made up my mind already, Phil-ipp. It is the very place for you; so much moderner and pleasanter and lighter than the Albany.’
‘Yes, old girl, but I should n’t think of it for a moment without you.’
‘Why not, Phil-ipp?’
‘Oh, I should n’t.’
A bald reason, perchance, but a manly conviction had given it currency.
‘But that’s absurd, Phil-ipp. Why should a mere chorus girl — ?’
‘Look here, Polly,’ said the fierce young man, ‘you must n’t suppose I’m going to be chipped by you. If I take that flat you’ve got to come and live in it, and, Polly,’— and for all they were just opposite the Burlington Arcade the vain young man took a firm grip of the arm of Mary the obdurate — ‘I’m bally well goin’ to take that flat.’
‘Are you, Phil-ipp?’
‘Yes and I’m goin’ to take it now.’
‘What, now, Phil-ipp?’
‘At once. Come on back to the house agents.’
‘But they are half a mile away, Phil-ipp?’
‘Never mind; it’s a nice day for a walk.’
‘But what about Granny; and what about the great Proconsul; and what about Lady Shermerdine of Potterhanworth?’
‘Oh, let ’em go to blazes — that is, old girl, I beg pardon.’
‘I should just hope so. And let go my arm, Phil-ipp; people are looking at us.’
‘Well, let’s cut back again.’
‘ But, Phil-ipp.’
‘You said yourself, that it was the nicest position in London, and only nine hundred and fifty a year, which seems rather ridiculous considerin’ —'
‘Considering what, Phil-ipp?'
‘Considerin’ the way they stick you for three rooms and a private bathroom.’
‘Yes, Phil-ipp, but then think of the address!’
Never, however, in the whole course of his career, not even when he had scored those three goals against Scotland, had Mr. Philip shown more invincible determination than at this moment. If there was not to be a scene in Piccadilly and a paragraph in the evening papers, Mary would have to do as she was told.
‘Phil-ipp, you are behaving anyhow.’
‘Less of it, Polly.’
‘Less of what, Phil-ipp?’
‘Your cheek — you cat.’
Unbridled insolence, which we are sure no girl of refined instincts and decent nurture — do you think so, madam? It is an excellent rule never to contradict a lady. All the same that is the manner in which Phil-ipp admonished her, and her salary was a hundred a week, and was likely to be two hundred presently; and the ex-noncommissioned officer on duty at the entrance to the Burlington Arcade pricked up his ears disapprovingly at such language being used to a lady — and his trained observation told him she was a lady, although her face had rather more powder on it than it ought to have had.
Down the street again they are going now, though still conducting their heated argyment. Granny would be furious and so would Mother. And Father would cut him out of the succession, which of course he could n’t, and that perhaps was almost a pity; she would have to give up the provinces and break her contracts, and everything would be so uncomfortable for everybody —
‘ Except, old girl, for you and me.’
‘But that’s rather selfish, is n’t it, Phil-ipp?’
Phil-ipp dared say it was a little, but yet not altogether, because after all, was n’t it the way of human nature? Not a very conclusive piece of reasoning, young fellow, but Mistress Polly was bound to admit that superficial as it was it would bear thinking over.
‘Be a pal to me, Polly, and I’ll be a pal to you, old girl; and we’ll be as happy as the birds in the springtime; and you’ll see that my people will come round all right, and you’ll see that Granny will forgive you!’
And here they were at the office of Messrs. Thompson and Allardyce in Wilton Place, not so far from the church.
‘That’s the very old thing for us,’ said Phil-ipp, waving his hand across at the church. ‘And I say, old girl, let us see if we can’t persuade Granny to give a reception at the Hyde Park Hotel, and I’ll persuade old Min Wingrove to bring all the brightest people in London, and we shall rather wipe the eye of No. 88, old girl, shan’t we, when they see the pictures in the papers.’
IN WHICH THE CONSEQUENCES ARE DAMNED WITH NO UNCERTAINTY
Muffins and Chayney tea in Grandmamma’s withdrawing-room were not out of place, because the afternoon had been really so strenuous; and moreover Grandmamma herself did not appear to view the guilty pair with the eye of disfavor. But that was breeding,doubtless. Not that Mr. Philip entered into any exhaustive inquiry. When you are in the seventh heaven, even the eye of Edmund Kean’s god-daughter may be bereft of some of its terrors.
‘We had such a lovely lunch at Pagani’s, Granny dear.’
‘Had you, my dear? How interesting.’
Did Granny mean it was interesting, or did she mean it was n’t? You see you never quite know, — do you? — when the elocution of old ladies who have kept pretty good company for about eighty-four summers is so very clear cut.
‘And what do you think, Granny? I have been with Phil-ipp to take a perfectly lovely little flat on a three years’ lease in Knightsbridge, overlooking the park.’
‘With whom have you been, my dear?’
Now we do think that was just a little unkind of Granny, don’t you?
Mary’s elocution, though, in the opinion of Mr. Hollins, and he’s an authority, was worth two hundred a week to the Lane; so it came in very useful just now, and showed that she was not going to be put out of court as easily as all that.
‘With Phil-ipp, Granny dear.’
‘Mr. Shelmerdine, I presume, my dear.’
Granny’s presumption was correct; and a few more muffins were indicated, Mary seemed to think, for all that her lunch at Pagani’s had been so terrific.
The planetary bodies have been behaving quite nicely this afternoon so far. Therefore it need surprise no one that Mary received a special message by wireless with her second cup of Chayney tea.
‘Take Granny into your confidence now, my dear,’ it ran. ‘She has had quite a nice nap; her rheumatism has scarcely troubled her at all to-day; she can’t help liking your Phil-ipp, although she has tried her hardest not to; and she is rather inclined to think that it may do no harm to teach—’
Yes, it is doubtless right to keep that part of the message off the records at present.
Mary flung her arms round the neck of Granny, in perilous contiguity to the real lace of Siddons.
‘What would you say if Phil-ipp and I were to get married, Granny — quite soon; and we had a sort of a little honeymoon at Brighton with you.’
This was the pickaxe with a vengeance, Miss Mary. Jupiter was very much in the First House this afternoon.
Granny did not say anything immediately; still, having had a good nap, she sustained the inquiry with admirable composure.
‘Very precipitate, my dear;and very unwise, I fear. Have you given sufficient consideration to the step?'
‘ We’ve both thought it over, ma’am,’said Mr. Philip, who really felt he was walking on air just now.
‘The step seems singularly unwise to me, Mr. Shelmerdine.’
‘Why does it, Granny?’
‘The reasons, my dear, are many, and hardly such as to call for enumeration. In the first place, I understand that Mr. Shelmerdine’s family is much opposed to the match.’
‘They are bound to come round, ma’am, if we give them time,’said Mr. Philip.
Grandmamma was not so optimistic.
‘Not, of course, Mr. Shelmerdine, if you will permit me to say so, that in the circumstances one regards the sanction of your parents as a sine qua non.'
The young man concurred with Grandmamma, more explicitly perhaps than he ought to have done.
‘And then there is the question of your vocation, Mr. Shelmerdine. You have none at present, I understand.’
‘I’m goin’ to see about Parliament at once, ma’am.’
Still, Grandmamma was afraid that things had altered strangely since her time; but this was a nice young man in spite of his unfilial attitude; and if a girl really felt she had to marry, there can be nothing so very wrong in marrying a nice young man. But things had altered since her time, thought Granny. Nice young men hardly behaved in this way in 1851, the Exhibition year; which rather goes to show, we are afraid, that in some things the wisest of old ladies are as prone to misread the signs and portents as the lesser mortals.
Mary and Philip, however, kept their exuberance for a crowded and glorious five minutes in the Private Piggery, wherein the lucky young dog inveigled himself for the purpose of putting on the coat with the astrachan collar.
‘We must get it all fixed up at once, old girl, and we’ll waste no time about it. We’ll do it in style, at a church, don’t you think — not that I don’t prefer the other way, like any other chap if he had his choice, but that’s a bit rough on the girl, is n’t it?’
Mary thought he was rather a dear to think of the girl’s side; and he thought that she was rather a dear to think that he could be a dear for thinking of his obvious duty. And there they were, you see. Now please don’t be cynical, you young ladies of Newnham and Girton; it will be your turn presently, and when it comes, my dears, take the advice of your Uncle John and behave as much as you can like Philip and Mary. But see that the door of the Private Piggery is closed when Jane is passing, otherwise it may have a tendency to put ideas in the heads of pretty young parlor-maids; and Grandmamma has found occasion to tell Miss Jane privately more than once that she has quite sufficient of those already.
‘We’ll send out invitations for anywhere you like, old girl, and we’ll get old Minnie Wingrove to collect all the brightest people in London; and the papers will make such a fuss that we shan’t half wipe the eye of Grosvenor Square, shall we?’
Should they go to Algiers for the honeymoon ?
‘Yes, Phil-ipp, but who is going to look after Granny at Brighton. She goes there every March, you know, by advice.’
‘We’ll go to Brighton, then,’ said Philip, ‘or a tour round the world, or anywhere.’
So they left it at that; and the lucky young dog proceeded on foot to the nearest of his clubs, for all that he felt like an airship really, and engaged in a game of snooker pool with two eminent criminal barristers — that is to say, two eminent members of the Common Law Bar — and was very soon the poorer by the sum of two pounds sterling.
Then the young man sat down and wrote a little line to Mary, which ran to four pages and was absolutely superfluous, because it was really about nothing at all except to remind her that she was the dearest and best, etc. And then Mr. Wingrove sauntered into the Club in his magnificent mannah, and then the floodgates opened.
‘I’ve done it, Min.’
LOVE’S YOUNG DREAM
The nuptials of Philip and Mary were not so brilliant as they might have been, perhaps, had Father and Mother attended them, but everything was very nice and cheerful all the same. The bridesmaids were five ladies of the Profession, including Marge; and excluding Timothy, who was a page in an extraordinarily smart blue suiting, which he had to be most careful how he sat in it. It was n’t Dr. Bridge who played the organ, but a gentleman quite as clever, think some who heard him on the festal afternoon. The exbrother-officer remembered where the ring was put; Philip remembered to kiss Mary, and everybody thought the Bride looked absolutely sweet, and that Philip was a very fortunate young man. And in the judgment of Arminius Wingrove, Grandmamma in a fine new hat was right in the foreground of the picture.
Everything was just as it should have been; everybody looked pleased and happy; and when forth the organ pealed the noble work by Mendelssohn, all agreed that they made a mighty handsome pair.
There was no reception at the Hyde Park Hotel; but Mr. Hollins bade all and sundry attend a tea-party on the classic boards of Drury. Grandmamma cut the cake that Mr. Hollins had provided; and Marge and Timothy ate thereof not a crumb more than was good for ’em, although both came very near the limit.
The first fortnight of the honeymoon was spent in Paris. They looked at pictures, and saw new plays, and went racing on Sunday, and walked in the gardens of Versailles, and did a hundred other cheerful things, and were most marvelously happy. And Mary, who hardly cared a bit about such matters, bought herself a new hat.
They were tempted to go on to the Riviera, but duty prevailed and they went to Brighton on the fourteenth day. Granny had gone to that famous physician on her twenty-sixth annual excursion; and Mary felt that she must keep her eye upon her, for all that she was such a hale and vigorous old thing.
Granny was discovered in very nice lodgings along the sea-front, in the care of a landlady very civil and voluble and a mistress of the art of plain cooking. Everything very pleasant and comfortable, and a sitting-room with a balcony overlooking the King’s parade. It really seemed that the young couple might put in a fortnight very profitably here, while their chosen residence in the metropolis was being painted throughout.
They had their little adventures, of course, this happy pair, because Brighthelmstone is the home of so many romances. For one thing they attracted attention when they walked abroad. Philip was sure that it was the hat from Paris; Mary was absolutely convinced that it was the coat with the astrachan collar. At any rate they had their adventures, and some at least will have to be recorded.
One morning, as they proceeded almost arm in arm but not quite, looking as though they had just bought the cosmos by private treaty and were completely satisfied with the transaction, they walked right into a bath chair which was accompanied by a Sealskin Coat and a Himalayan Dust Spaniel.
Salutations necessary, being right up against each other, so to speak.
‘How d’ye do, Adela,’ said the Culprit, who in his happiness seemed to have nothing to conceal and nothing to defend. ‘You know my wife, don’t you ? ’
The wind was certainly blowing very chilly from the northern heights this morning. ’T is a little way it has in March at Brighthelmstone.
Papa was not so bad as he might have been.
‘Introduce me,’ said his Britannic Majesty’s former Ambassador to Persia.
So Papa was introduced to the Bride; and she afterwards told her husband that he was like any other Papa, only a little more so. And she being a girl of sense, as well as of spirit, Papa did n’t seem to mind talking to her a little, particularly as she knew so much about rheumatism, because it was Granny’s complaint. Had Lord Warlock tried the new treatment? No, what was that?
The new treatment called for explanation. Duly forthcoming with minuteness and lucidity. No, not a designing minx, mesdames, altogether. Tact certainly; but it had its roots, remember, in a heart as sound as a bell, overflowing with practical sympathy for all the world and his wife.
‘Grandmamma has a book about it and a special apparatus. It has done her a power of good — a power of good. She will be delighted to lend them, I’m sure — that’s if you care, Lord Warlock. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’ll bring it round this afternoon and show you how it works.’
‘Thanks,’ said the ex-Ambassador to Persia. ‘And I’ll be devilish obliged.’
Husband though was not doing quite so well with the Sealskin Coat, we are afraid. Brighton so dull and tiresome, so fogyish, so cold, hotels so unpleasant; and all the time the fair speaker announced these drawbacks, she looked not so much at the young man who ought to have married her, but out of the corner of a cold blue eye at the person who was talking to Papa as if she knew all about his complaint.
‘Thank yah,’ said Papa, touching his hat, — one of those hard square felt ones whose ugliness nought can surpass, — as the procession passed on. ‘The Suffolk. Don’t forget.’
A designing minx — madam, we do not agree. Mere tact, as we have already said, and as we are sure yours is, dear lady, when you converse with an earl. And it is as perfectly clear that her quick, spontaneous, practical sympathy had left its mark even on that unpromising subject.
Not such a fool as I thought he was, not to have taken this gal off my hands, reflected the Unpromising Subject within the precincts of his bath chair. And then, with the air of one who nurses an injury, he proceeded to inquire of the seventh unmarried daughter, —
‘Well Addie, my gal, what do you think of the mésalliance ? ’
‘One does n’t profess to be a judge of chorus girls,’ said the rude girl, jerking the unfortunate Himalayan Dust Spaniel right off its feet.
‘The poor old dear,’ said Mary to her belted knight. ‘ The same complaint as Granny. I’m going to take him her apparatus and show him how to work it, and I’ve guaranteed that he will be able to walk upstairs after he has used it a week.’
‘Have you though. But how you dared, I’m blest if I know.’
‘Cow-yard, Phil-ipp. He’s rather a dear, really.’
‘A most disagreeable old gentleman and the worst manners of any privy councilor in London.’
‘A libel, Phil-ipp. I’m sure he’s not so bad as all that. Anyhow, if he is, I shall try and reform him.’
ADVENTURES RARE AND STRANGE
It was opposite the Metropole that they came upon adventure the second. Two gentlemen of somewhat informal aspect, one of whom was in need of a shave and whose hats were light green, greeted Mary as if they were half afraid to do so and yet did n’t like to pass her by.
‘Thought perhaps you might n’t remember us, Mary.’
‘Remember you, Horace. Could I ever forget you? And, why I declare, it’s Johnny! ’
And Mary shook hands with Horace and Johnny so simply and so cordially — for all that she had married a Toff — that they were obliged to confess that they were quite sure she could n’t.
The next moment Horace and Johnny were being introduced to the Toff; with rather a display of wariness on their part, because provincial stars who have had to carve out their own destiny have not much use for the Breed, and they owed him a grudge as well for having robbed the profession of an idol. So when the Toff held out his hand and appeared pleased to meet them, it was not so certain that they were pleased to meet him.
‘Horace Allwright, Philip, the very first Pickles I ever played to — and the best.’
‘Oh, go hon,’ said the Star of the North, blushing to the roots of his hair, which was red and therefore made his pleasure the more conspicuous. But he was n’t going to stand any swank from Eton and Ch:, Chand the rather fierce eye of this line, natural comedian said so pretty distinctly.
Mary was undefeated though, and Johnny Dubosque, not being so great a man as Horace Allwright, and consequently having less in the way of dignity to look after, was soon behaving as if nothing had happened.
‘But I expect you’ll never come to the provinces again, Polly,’ said Johnny Dubosque sadly. ‘I said to Horace it was all up with us as soon as you got to the Lane. But you’ll be turning up the Perfession altogether now.’
Mary said it might be so, and Johnny Dubosque sighed deeply and informed the Toff in a burst of confidence that her place could never be filled.
‘Come across to the Metropole, old chap, and ’ave a drink,’ said Horace Allwright, in a sudden and overwhelming burst of hospitality.
Modest libations were ordered by Mr. Horace Allwright in a rather loud manner, with a lemon squash for Mary, although this was mere natural politeness on her part.
‘We shall not see her equal as Cinderella, not in our time, my lord,’said Air. Horace Allwright in a very audible aside to the Toff, in order to keep in touch with the public.
‘Of course you will, Horace, and many a better one,’ said the Uncrowned Queen of Blackhampton.
Not so far off were a pair of contemporaries, out of sight perchance, yet by no means out of hearing.
‘Why, if it is n’t that d—d fool Shel, with his mésalliance!’
‘Rather nice though, in spite of the friends of the family.’
‘Let us go and pull the leg of the silly old fool and make him turn out for us to-morrow.’
Whereupon the contemporaries rose from their table, —very finely grown young men and superbly tailored, as all distinguished athletes should be.
‘Why, Shel, old man, how are you?’
Hearty hand grips were exchanged, although the Twin Brethren of the Boards were not feeling so very robust at present.
‘ Fancy meeting you here! ’
There was no particular reason why they should n’t, but it is always a useful opening card. And then the Olympians were introduced to Mary, and pretty keenly did they scrutinize her, although they pretended so well that they were doing nothing of thesort that it would have taken a woman to have told what the sly dogs were at.
And then Miss Mary trod very hard on the foot of Eton and Ch: Ch:, which begged pardon humbly and introduced Mr. Allwright and Mr. Dubosque, and piously hoped to its Maker that it had n’t got mixed in their names.
‘Pleased to meet you, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Horace Allwright, spaciously. ‘ ’Ave a drink.’
The Olympians had had a drink already, but they had no objection to having another; and this accommodating disposition caused Mary to take them into favor at once, and they were invited to sit down.
‘’Ere’s a health to the bride,’ said Mr. Johnny Dubosque.
‘Thank you, Johnny.’
‘ I was just a-tellin’ his lordship,’ said Mr. Horace Allwright, ‘that she was absolutely the finest Cinderella I’ve ever played to, and I ‘ve played to some of the first in my time, let me tell you. Good ’ealth, gentlemen.’
And while Mr. Horace Allwright was happily engaged in pledging the health of the company, Mary proceeded to transfix the first Olympian with such a staunch, straight, and demure gray eye that the heart of the famous athlete was literally pinned against the antimacassar of yellow plush upholstery which had been provided by the hotel for the use of its patrons.
‘His lordship’s drawn a winner in the lottery, gentlemen,’ continued Mr. Horace Allwright; and in this the first Olympian was strongly inclined to concur.
‘Cut it out, Horace,’ said the Uncrowned Queen of Blackhampton with a very arch glanceat Johnny Dubosque. ‘It is n’t cricket, is it, Johnny? in these fashionable watering-places. And I won’t have you pull the leg of my Phil-ipp by calling him my lord when he’s promised me solemn to stand for Mr. Lloyd George.’
‘You have n’t, Shel!’ quoth the Olympians, feeling it was up to them to say something and that this was something they might say.
‘Oh, but he has,’ said the Uncrowned Queen; ‘and I should never have married him if he had n’t, should I, Phil-ipp? ’
And she transfixed both the Olympians this time with that demure glance of tremendous impact.
‘Oh, but I say, Mrs. Shel,’ quoth the first Olympian, beginning to feel a glow within, ‘what about his Governor, you know?’
‘I don’t know about his Governor, Mr. Wilbraham, because I’m not received in the Family at present.’
And this time the glance came right home to the Twin Brethren, whoat once began to feel like bucking up a little.
‘But you are bound to be, Mrs. Shel, are n’t you?’ said Mr. Wilbraham, with great tact.
‘Why am I bound to be?’ inquired the Uncrowned Queen, whose good gray eye had begun to play the dickens with the second Olympian.
‘Oh, you are, you know. Is n’t she, Toddles?’
Toddles was strongly of opinion that she was.
‘Well, of course, if you both really think that —’
But in the secret recesses of his nature Toddles was even more strongly of opinion that if she persisted in looking at him in that way he would be bound to kiss her.
‘Are you and Mr. Wilbraham any good at snooker? Yes, I can see it in your eyes. Well, Phil-ipp and Johnny and I will play the three of you for a sovereign.’
‘Done with you, Mrs. Shel,’ said the Olympians with promptitude.
And then Mrs. Shelmerdine looked very demurely at Horace Allwright, and imposed the condition that the stakes should be deposited with the marker, as her success in life was entirely due to the fact that on principle she never trusted a man who came from Leeds.
‘But I come from Leeds, myself,’ said Toddles, who of course was none other than the popular Yorkshire cricketer when he had time to spare for the game.
‘Yes, why not. But how could you tell I came from Leeds, Mrs. Shelmerdine?’
’By your trousers.’
Horace and Johnny roared long and loud at this brilliant sally. The natural insight of these famous comedians had taught them already that if Toddles had a weakness it was an undue pride in his trousers, which of course the young man was quite entitled to have, since they were the work of Mr. Foster of London and Oxford.
‘Now don’t let her pull your leg, old man,’ said Philip, who, as usual a little behind in the uptake, had only just begun his roar. ‘She’ll rag the life out of you if you’ll let her.’
Without further preface or apology an adjournment was made to the billiard saloon, which was down a very long corridor. En route Mr. Wilbraham, whose name in athletic circles was Weary William because he was never in a hurry, confided to Toddles that she was every bit as nice off the stage as she was on it.
To which Toddles, in whose cognomen a meaning has yet to be discovered, rejoined that ‘He was always a far-seein’ old swine.’
Mary liked a light cue and used it in a manner which did not suggest the novice. By what means she had gained her skill it would be best perhaps not to inquire. At least it is hardly likely that Grandma had taught her.
The Olympians also had misspent their youth a little, and Horace Allwright’s father had been a billiardmarker, so it was quite as well perhaps that Mary was so skillful and that Philip was able to say he was a pupil of Mr. John Roberts, Junior. The master might not have been very proud of him though, to judge by the way he started, but he improved as the game went on,and as Johnny Dubosque knew Stevenson to talk to, the game was quite worth looking at in the opinion of a somewhat saturnine looking gentleman who sat in the corner drinking Schweppe’s ginger ale and picking winners out of the Sportsman.
The game was twenty-nine all, and there was only one ball left on the table, and that was ‘a sitter’ on the brink of the left-hand top pocket, which Mary, who had played amazingly well all through, had left there to her unfeigned sorrow. It was all over but the shouting when Toddles proceeded to deliver his cue, for it really was a shot that one who had used his youth as he had done could not very well have missed with his eyes shut.
In the most unaccountable manner the famous centre forward missed the shot with his eyes wide open, promptly apostrophized his Maker, and insisted on paying the stakes.
‘You did that a-purpose, Mr. Toddles,’ said Mary sternly, ‘and I scorn to take your money. I am not a suffragist yet, but that’s the kind of thing to make me one. Why, a woman can’t even have fair play at a game like snooker.’
Followed a heated controversy. Mr. Toddles would not confess to his guilt, which was really so flagrant that Mary wondered how he dared deny the charge. Horace Allwright and Weary William lied circumstantially to support the misdemeanant, but Mary refused to accept the stakes, and in this we venture to think she was right.
There was only one method of composing the quarrel, and that was to play the match over again. And this time, it is sad to relate of three excellent sportsmen, good care was taken that there should be no doubt whatever about the issue.
‘And now you have taken us on at this game, Shel,’ said the first Olympian, ‘we shall expect you to turn out for us to-morrow against Brighton and Hove Albion.’
‘But I haven’t kicked a ball for years.’
‘So much the worse for you. It’s for the benefit of the widow and young children of a good chap, and you were always a great draw for the public.’
‘Was I?’ said Mr. Philip, apprehensively, for he read in the eyes of Mary that his doom was sealed.
‘Were you, Phil-ipp! Alight never have kicked three goals against Scotland, might n’t you? Why, of course, you’ll play; especially as it’s a benefit match.’
‘ But I have n’t kicked a ball for years and years, and I ’ve got no gear either.’
‘We’ll soon fix you up with some gear, won’t we, Mrs. Shel?’ said the exultant Olympians.
Poor Philip protested bitterly; but he knew, alas! that at a quarter past three on the morrow, after an absence of four years, he was doomed to reappear in the ranks of the famous amateur team whom he had helped to make history.
PHILIP RENEWS HIS YOUTH
The morrow would be a great ordeal, particularly in a bran new pair of boots, for a chap who had not kicked a ball for four years; but Mary was adamant, and the Olympians too. A benefit match; a great draw for the public; do him all the good in the world. You see, Mary thought it wise to pull Philipp out of his shell a bit.
‘And we’ll have some special bills printed,’ said Toddles, with something suspiciously like a wink at the future Lady Shelmerdine of Potterhanworth.
‘Oh, no, for God’s sake! ’
‘You should n’t have given it away, Mr. Toddles,’ expostulated Mary.
‘You won’t half get a licking tomorrow,’ said the shop-boy with broad satisfaction as he tied up the parcel. ‘The Albion’s playing its full leagueteam.’
‘ But the Olympians are playing the team that won the Arthur Dunn cup,’ said the future Lady Shelmerdine of Potterhanworth, with something suspiciously like a wink at Toddles, ‘and if you’ve got any sense, boy, and you ought to have lots with that high forehead, you won’t put your weekly sixpence on the Albion to-morrow.’
Great things were promised for the morrow, but Mary put in some more useful work that afternoon. About four o’clock she carried round Granny’s apparatus, together with the book of the words, to Papa at the Suffolk. She was received by his Britannic Majesty’s ex-Ambassador to Persia; had the honor of drinking tea with him; discussed rheumatism in general; showed the working of the apparatus, and even demonstrated it not without symptoms of success; and in less than an hour had made such an incursion upon the regard of this widower of ripe experience, that he was fain to inform the seventh unmarried daughter over dinner, ‘that young Shelmerdine’s wife was a devilish sensible woman and he hoped to see more of her.’
Tact, natural goodness of heart, a sunny temper, and a practical disposition, — these be great qualities, you young ladies of Newnham and Girton.
The apparatus could do Papa no harm; Mr. Joseph O’Flatherty, his lordship’s valet, was strongly of that opinion and said so to her ladyship’s maid, whose name was Adele but had been changed to Lisette for obvious reasons. Whether the apparatus actually brought material benefit to Pa, we are not in a position to state positively; but there can be no doubt that indirectly the apparatus had a tonic effect upon Papa’s general system.
The day of the match had now arrived, and that was such an important affair, being for the benefit of the widow and five young children of the late Joe MacPherson, as honest a player as ever handled the ball when the referee was n’t looking, that it will be necessary to supply some sort of an account of this historic function.
It was a crowded and glorious day for Mary and Philip; and it really started pretty soon after breakfast, when those famous men, namely and to wit Toddles and W. W., rang the bell of Granny’s lodgings and were ushered into the front sitting-room on the first floor. At the moment of their arrival Mary was trying over on the piano, which had several of its notes intact, although none of them in tune, the latest manifestation of the genius of Mr. Rubens.
‘Please don’t let us interrupt you,’said W. W., laying a suspicious-looking brown-paper parcel on the table.
Mary, however, took this for mere natural politeness. ‘ Oh, you ’ ve brought them, I see. Do let me look.’
Now what was it, do you suppose, that she wanted to look at? Wait, if you please, until W. W. has cut the string of the parcel with a pocketknife that was given him by his Aunt Marian, contrary to the advice of his parents, about the time he wore his H.M.S. Indomitable.
Five hundred handbills were in the parcel, printed by the Brighthelmstone Steam Printing Company, Ltd. Mary seized eagerly the one so solemnly presented to her by W. W., while Toddles, more demonstrative than he, grinned effusively from ear to ear.
Mary read the following: —
GRAND FOOTBALL MATCH
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE WIDOW AND
FIVE CHILDREN OF THE LATE JOE
MACPHERSON THE OLYMPIANS vs. BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION The Honorable Philip Shelmerdine has arrived in Brighton, and will positively reappear at inside right THIS AFTERNOON AT 3.15
‘I think that will about fix it, Mrs. Shel,’ said W. W. proudly. ‘We’ll have these distributed all over the place; and we’ve got some bigger ones, too, to go on the hoardings.’
Mary, distributing her handbills along the King’s Parade,assisted by her two companions in guilt and at least four other Olympians who had been specially coöpted for the purpose, while Philip with his hands in his pockets was trying to look supremely unconscious of the fact that his leg was being pulled frightfully, came upon a Bath Chair, a Sealskin Coat, and a Himalayan Dust Spaniel.
‘Are you feeling any benefit this morning, Lord Warlock? and please let me give you one of these. And you, Lady Adela, must take one, please. It is so important.’
‘Thank yah,’ said his Britannic Majesty’s ex-Ambassador to Persia. ‘If it’s votes for women I think they ought n’t to have ’em, although, mind you — Benefit for the widow and five children of late Joe MacPherson — very praiseworthy object — shall be happy to subscribe a sovereign.’
The Sealskin Coat, though, did not appear to look at the object in that Christian light. Having perused the handbill with an eye of disdain, she folded up the handbill neatly, and without making any observation upon the merits of the case, placed it in her muff. But as soon as she returned to the Suffolk she addressed an envelope to the Lady Shelmerdine of Potterhanworth, 88 Grosvenor Square, London W., and therein enclosed, anonymously of course, the announcement of the Honorable Philip’s arrival and reappearance. A rather feeble thing to have done, really, and hardly worthy of mention, except that it shows the level to which human nature can sink in its moments of reaction.
Philip was greeted effusively by the rest of his brothers in arms, who had now arrived at the Magnificent; and the Bride was introduced to them all. The report of her charms had been carried to them by Toddles and W. W., who were sealed of the tribe of her admirers already. And it had been agreed by the whole team that if she never did anything else, the fact that she had caused the finest inside-right save one in the country to return to this important position after a lapse of four years, must ever count to her for grace.
Poor Philip was in a rather nervous state when he drove on to the ground in a brake, with his ten companions, and with Mary on the box-seat. That enterprising young woman had already elected herself to the important position of commander-in-chief of the famous team of amateurs, which contained no less than nine international players. But self-assertion had less to do with this achievement than simple merit. She was one of those gifted people who instinctively, yet quite pleasantly and unobtrusively, take charge of everything and everybody. Already persona gratissima at the Suffolk, already saluted by the most dignified constables in Brighton, on terms of intimacy with the master of the longest pier, she had taken the Olympians under her wing in the most comprehensive manner.
The spectators came in their thousands, because it was Saturday afternoon, and the Albion were announced to play their full league-team, and the Olympians with their nine international players were ever a great attraction. But the start was delayed ten minutes and a great concourse was kept waiting because Mary had brought her Kodak. She took charge of the Albion as well as their opponents; posing them for the camera and appearing to know each of them by name, although she did n’t really; but it was all done with the charm and the naïve assurance that had made her so famous with the public.
VOL. 109-NO. 3
‘Beg pardon, ma’am,’ said the Secretary and Manager; ‘don’t like to hurry you, but the crowd is getting a bit restive.’
‘Oh, tell the band to play, “Rule Britannia,” and it will be all right,’ said Mary.
And in this her judgment was perfectly sound.
‘Now boys, look your best,’said she. ‘Smile, please. Just imagine you have knocked out the Villa, which of course you will next Saturday, because I’ve made up my mind that you are going to, and I’m a proper mascot, as they know in the North. Not too broad, Joe Pierce, because of the plate. Ve-ry nice — ve-ry nice, in-deed. Thank you, boys; and just see if you don’t beat the Villa, although of course you are going to lose this afternoon.'
So much for her handling of the democracy, which was brilliantly successful. The whole team were her humble servants to command, now that she had exercised her powers upon them. Her handling of the aristocracy — not that these idle class-distinctions obtain upon the field of play — was equally happy. She was entirely responsible for the fact that the game began seventeen minutes late, but nobody seemed to mind particularly, ‘Rule Britannia’ having been twice repeated.
A very good game it was, and a keenly critical crowd was vastly entertained. The famous inside-right had not been forgotten, although the public memory is short as a rule. At first, in his new boots, he had, like Agag, to walk delicately; but he soon began to improve, and presently got on better than he had expected. Although he had not played football for four years, he was in fairly hard condition, as he took pretty regular exercise of one sort or another. Still, the pace was so hot at first that he felt it would be bound to kill him. But when at last he had got his second wind, and beautiful stealing passes began to come his way from the famous centre-forward with whom he had shared many a triumph, the old magic seemed somehow to return. He began to enjoy the proceedings thoroughly, and so did the spectators.
The Albion scored a good goal quite early in the game, but just before half-time the centre-forward made the scores equal. Then the band played again, collecting-boxes were sent round the ground for the benefit of the widow and young family of the late Joe MacPherson, and Mary herself took charge of one of them, and of course her box got twice as much as anybody’s else, which was bound to be the case, since she looked so charming, and her way with the great British public was very charming also.
Who was the lady wearing the ribbon of the Olympians, who was getting sixpences and shillings for her box while the others had to be content with pence for the most part? Who was the lady with that wonderful way with her, whose handsome face — and it really did look handsome just now, for all that it was so square and sensible — was so familiar on picture postcards and in illustrated papers?
The famous Miss Caspar from Drury Lane. No wonder her manner was so captivating. No wonder it was so pleasantly sure of itself, when all London had been times and again to watch her put on the Prince’s slipper; and the Honorable P. Shelmerdine, the son of a lord,and in his day a very fine player and doing very well this afternoon, had been lucky enough to marry her.
Yes, the lady with the collecting-box was undoubtedly lending rare distinction to the proceedings. Sixpences and shillings and even half-crowns were raining into her box from the reserved enclosure. The widow and young family of the late Joe MacPherson would undoubtedly gain very substantially from her efforts, as other deserving objects had done in the past, and were likely to do in the future.
The rakish green hats of Horace and Johnny were well to the fore, and the fact that Mary could n’t possibly miss them cost their owners half-a-crown apiece. And Horace Allwright, as he proudly disbursed this sum, remembered that in the near future a benefit performance was going to be given at the Royal Italian Opera House, Blackhampton, for one who had served the public long and faithfully, but who now had fallen upon evil days.
‘I say, Mary, old girl,’ said Horace, ’that reminds me, we are giving a complimentary matinée at Blackhampton on Tuesday week for poor old Harry Merino, — you remember poor old Harry, — and you are such a great power in Blackhampton that I thought perhaps — ’
‘Why, of course,’ said Mary. ‘Halfa-crown, please, Horace. Yes, of course, put me down for “Arcadee” and “Nelson,” and— now, do I ever forget?’
‘No, you don’t, old girl,’ said Horace Allwright humbly, and Johnny Dubosque echoed him.
‘That’s all right, then. And don’t say another word to the man at the wheel, because we are losing money. Thank you, sir, so much. A very good cause — poor old Joe was one of the best.’
How she knew that poor old Joe was one of the best it is difficult to say. But at least she seemed able to convince the reserved enclosure that the case of Joe’s widow and family was worthy of their charity, for when she delivered her box into the care of the Secretaryand-Manager soon after the game had restarted, that gentleman was astonished at the amount of money there was in it.
Mr. Philip, in his new boots, struggled manfully through the second half of the game, although there was precious little skin left on his toes by this time, and he wondered how he was going to live to the end, since there did n’t seem to be a breath left in him. But something of the old magic had come back. If he could only kick a goal for his side he would feel that his life had not been lived in vain.
As luck would have it, this desire was gratified. Still, this may not be altogether surprising, having regard to the fact that every movement of those mutilated toes engaged the sympathetic interest of a mascot mighty in the North, and in the South also if it came to that. There was only about ten minutes to play; the score was still at one all, when another of those beautiful slow-stealing passes came from the centre-forward, and Philip, knowing that it was now or never, drew the bow at a venture in the inspired way he did in his prime. And somehow he happened to time his effort at the psychological instant, just as a full-back knocked him into the middle of next week.
That is how the Albion came to lose the match, although the result did n’t matter really, since very spirited and skillful play had been shown by both sides, there was nothing at stake, and a good cause had prospered. But Philip was the proudest and happiest man in Brighthelmstone as he staggered to the dressing-room with his poor feet, and knowing full well that he would hardly be able to walk for a fortnight.
(To be continued.)