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LORD ARRANMORE'S AMUSEMENTS
"The domestic virtues," Lord Arranmore said softly to himself, "being denied to me, the question remains how to pass one's time."
He rose wearily from his seat, and walking to the window looked out upon St. James's Square. A soft rain hung about the lamp-posts, the pavements were thick with umbrellas. He returned to his chair with a shrug of the shoulders.
"The only elucidation from outside seems to be a change of climate," he mused. "I should prefer to think of something more original. In the meantime I will write to that misguided young man in Medchester."
He drew paper and pen towards him and began to write. Even his handwriting seemed a part of the man--cold, shapely, and deliberate.
"My DEAR BROOKS,
"I have been made acquainted through Mr. Ascough with your desire to leave the new firm of Morrison and Brooks, and while I congratulate you very much upon the fact itself, I regret equally the course of reasoning which I presume led to your decision. You will probably have heard from Mr. Ascough by this time on a matter of business. You are, by birth, Lord Kingston of Ross, and the possessor of the Kingston income, which amounts to a little over two thousand a year. Please remember that this comes to you not through any grace or favour of mine, but by your own unalienable right as the eldest son of the Marquis of Arranmore. I cannot give it to you. I cannot withhold it from you. If you refuse to take it the amount must accumulate for your heirs, or in due time find its way to the Crown. Leave the tithe alone by all means, if you like, but do not carry quixotism to the borders of insanity by declining to spend your own money, and thereby cramp your life.
"I trust to hear from Mr. Ascough of your more reasonable frame of mind, and while personally I agree with you that we are better apart, you can always rely upon me if I can be of any service to you.
He read the letter through thoughtfully and folded it up.
"I really don't see what the young fool can kick about in that," he said, throwing it into the basket. "Well, Hennibul, how are you?"
Mr. Hennibul, duly ushered in by a sedate butler, pronounced himself both in words and appearance fit and well. He took a chair and a cigarette, and looked about him approvingly.
"Nice house, yours, Arranmore. Nice old-fashioned situation, too. Why don't you entertain?"
"No friends, no inclination, no womankind!"
Mr. Hennibul smiled incredulously.
"Your card plate is chock-full," he said, "and there are a dozen women in town at least of your connections who'd do the polite things by you. As to inclination--well, one must do something."
"That's about the most sensible thing you have said, Hennibul," Arranmore remarked. "I've just evoked the same fact out of my own consciousness. One must do something. It's tiresome, but it's quite true." Politics?
"Hate 'em! Not worth while anyway."
"Done all I want for a bit, but I keep that in reserve.
"Bad leg, but I do a bit at it."
"Sooner go on the County Council."
"Too much money already."
"Write a book." "No one would read it."
"Start a magazine."
"Too hard work."
Mr. Hennibul sighed.
"You're rather a difficult case," he admitted. "You'd better come round to the club and play bridge."
"I never played whist--and I'm bad-tempered."
"Bit of everything then."
Lord Arranmore smiled.
"That's what it'll end in, I suppose."
"Pleasant times we had down at Enton," Mr. Hennibul remarked. "How's the nice young lawyer--Brooks his name was, I think?"
"All right, I believe."
"And the ladies?
"I believe that they are quite well. They were in Scotland last time I heard of them."
Mr. Hennibul found conversation difficult.
"I saw that you were in Paris the other week," he remarked.
"I went over to see Bernhardt's new play," Arranmore continued.
"It disappointed me. Very likely though the fault was with myself."
Mr. Hennibul looked across at his host shrewdly.
"What did you see me for?" he asked, suddenly. "You're bored to death trying to keep up a conversation."
Lord Arranmore laughed.
"Upon my word, I don't know, Hennibul," he answered. "For the same old reason, I suppose. One must see some one, do something. I thought that you might amuse me."
"And I've failed," Hennibul declared, smiling. "Come to supper at the Savoy to-night. The two new American girls from the Lyric and St. John Lyttleton are to be there. Moderately respectable, I believe, but a bit noisy perhaps."
Arranmore shook his head.
"You're a good fellow, Hennibul," he said, "but I'm too old for that sort of thing."
Hennibul rose to his feet.
"Well," he said, "I've kept the best piece of advice till last because I want you to think of it. Marry!"
Lord Arranmore did not smile. He did not immediately reply.
"You are a bachelor!" he remarked.
"I am a man of a different disposition," Hennibul answered. "I find pleasure in everything--everything amuses me. My work is fascinating, my playtime is never big enough. I really don't know where a wife would come in. However, if ever I did get a bit hipped, find myself in your position, for instance, I can promise you that I'd take my own medicine. I've thought of it more than once lately."
"Perhaps by that time," Lord Arranmore said, "the woman whom you wanted to marry wouldn't have you."
Hennibul looked serious for a moment. A new idea had occurred to him.
"One must take one's chances!" he said.
"You are a philosopher," Arranmore declared. "Will you have some tea--or a whisky-and-soda?"
"Neither, thanks. In an abortive attempt to preserve my youth I neither take tea nor drinks between meals. I will have one of your excellent cigarettes and get round to the club. Why, this is Enton over again, for here comes Molyneux."
The Hon. Sydney Molyneux shook hands with both of them in somewhat dreary fashion, and embarked upon a few disjointed remarks. Hennibul took his leave, and Arranmore yawned openly.
"What is the matter with you, Sydney?" he asked. "You are duller than ever. I am positively not going to sit here and mumble about the weather. How are the Carooms? Have you heard from them lately?"
"They are up in Yorkshire," Molyneux announced, "staying with the Pryce-Powells. I believe they're all right. I'm beastly fit myself, but I had a bit of a facer last week. I--er--I wanted to ask you a question.
"About that fellow Brooks I met at your place down at Enton. Lawyer at Medchester, isn't he? I thought that he and Sybil seemed a bit thick somehow. Don't suppose there could have been anything in it, eh? He's no one in particular, I suppose. Lady Caroom wouldn't be likely to listen to anything between Sybil and him?"
Arranmore raised his eyebrows.
"Brooks is a very intelligent young man," he said, "and some girls are attracted by brains, you know. I don't know anything about his relations with Sybil Caroom, but he has ample private means, and I believe that he is well-born."
"Fellow's a gentleman, of course," Molyneux declared, "but Lady Caroom is a little ambitious, isn't she? I always seemed to be in the running all right lately. I spent last Sunday with them at Chelsom Castle. Awful long way to go, but I'm fond of Sybil. I thought she was a bit cool to me, but, like a fool, I blundered on, and in the end--I got a facer."
"Very sorry for you," Arranmore yawned.
"What made me think about Brooks was that she was awfully decent to me before Enton," Molyneux continued. "I don't mind telling you that I'm hard hit. I want to know who Brooks is. If he's only a country lawyer, he's got no earthly chance with Lady Caroom, and Sybil'd never go against her mother. They're too great pals for that. Never saw them so thick."
"Was Lady Caroom--quite well?" Arranmore asked, irrelevantly.
"Well, now you mention it," Molyneux said, "I don't think she was quite in her usual form. She was much quieter, and it struck me that she was aging a bit. Wonderful woman, though. She and Sybil were quite inseparable at Chelsom--more like sisters than anything, 'pon my word."
Lord Arranmore looked into the fire, and was silent for several minutes.
"So far as regards Brooks," he said, "I do not think that he would be an acceptable son-in-law to Lady Caroom, but I am not in the least sure. He is by no means an insignificant person. If he were really anxious to marry Sybil Caroom, he would be a rival worth consideration. I cannot tell you anything more."
"Much obliged to you I'm sure. I shall try again when they come to town, of course."
Arranmore rose up.
"I am going down to Christie's to see some old French manuscripts," he said. "Is that on your way?"
Molyneux shook his head.
"Going down to the House, thanks," he answered. "I'll look you up again some time, if I may."
They walked out into the street together. Arranmore stepped into his brougham and was driven off. At the top of St. James's Street he pulled the check-string and jumped out. He had caught a glimpse of a girl's face looking into a shop window. He hastily crossed the pavement and accosted her, hat in hand.
"Miss Scott, will you permit me the opportunity of saying a few words to you?"
Mary turned round, speechless for more than a minute or two.
"I will not detain you for more than a minute or two. I hope that you will not refuse me."
"I will listen to anything you have to say, Lord Arranmore," she said, "but let me tell you that I have been to see Mr. Ascough. He told me that he had your permission to explain to me fully the reasons of your coming to Montreal and the story of your life before."
She hesitated. He stood before her, palpably anxiously waiting for her decision.
"I was perhaps wrong to judge so hastily, Lord Arranmore," she said, "and I am inclined to regret my visit to Enton. If you care to know it, I do not harbour any animosity towards you. But I cannot possibly accept this sum of money. I told Mr. Ascough so finally."
"It is only justice, Miss Scott," he said, in a low tone. "I won the money from your father fairly in one sense, but unfairly in another, for I was a good player and he was a very poor one. You will do me a great, an immeasurable kindness, if you will allow me to make this restitution."
She shook her head.
"If my forgiveness is of any value to you, Lord Arranmore," she said, "you may have it. But I cannot accept the money."
"You have consulted no one?"
You have a guardian or friends?
"I have been living with my uncle, Mr. Bullsom. He has been very kind to me, and I have--"
They both turned round. Selina and Mr. Bullsom had issued from the shop before which they stood, Both were looking at Lord Arranmore with curiosity, in Selina's case mixed with suspicion.
"Is this your uncle?" he asked. "Will you introduce me?"
Mary bit her lip.
"Uncle, this is Lord Arranmore," she said. "Mr. Bullsom, my cousin, Miss Bullsom."
Mr. Bullsom retained presence of mind enough to remove a new and very shiny silk hat, and to extend a yellow, dog-skinned gloved hand.
"Very proud to meet your lordship," he declared. "I--I wasn't aware--"
Lord Arranmore extricated his hand from a somewhat close grasp, and bowed to Selina.
"We are neighbours, you know, Mr. Bullsom," he said, "at Medchester. I met your niece there, and recognized her at once, though she was a little slip of a girl when I knew her last. Her father and I were in Montreal together."
"God bless my soul," Mr. Bullsom exclaimed, in much excitement. "It's your lawyers, then, who have been advertising for Mary?"
Lord Arranmore bowed.
"That is so," he admitted. "I am sorry to say that I cannot induce your niece to look upon a certain transaction between her father and myself from a business-like point of view. I think that you and I, Mr. Bullsom, might come to a better understanding. Will you give me an appointment? I should like to discuss the matter with you."
"With the utmost pleasure, my lord," Mr. Bullsom declared heartily. "Can't expect these young ladies to see through a business matter, eh? I will come to your lordship's house whenever you like."
"It would be quite useless, uncle," Mary interposed, firmly. "Lord Arranmore has already my final answer."
Mr. Bullsom was a little excited.
"Tut, tut, child!" he exclaimed. "Don't talk nonsense. I should be proud to talk this matter over with Lord Arranmore. We are staying at the Metropole, and if your lordship would call there to-morrow and take a bit of lunch, eh, about one o'clock--if it isn't too great a liberty."
Selina had never loved her father more sincerely. Lord Arranmore smiled faintly, but good-humoredly.
"You are exceedingly kind," he said. "For our business talk, perhaps, it would be better if you would come to St. James's House at, say, 10:30, if that is convenient. I will send a carriage."
"I'll be ready prompt," Mr. Bullsom declared. "Now, girls, we will say good-afternoon to his lordship and get a four-wheeler."
Selina raised her eyes and dropped them again in the most approved fashion. Mr. Bullsom shook hands as though it were a sacrament; Mary, who was annoyed, did not smile at all.
"This is all quite unnecessary, Lord Arranmore," she said, while her uncle was signalling for a cab. I shall not change my mind, and I am sorry that you spoke to uncle about it at all."
"It is a serious matter to me, Miss Scott," Lord Arranmore said, gravely. "And there is still another point of view from which I might urge it."
"It is wasted time," she declared, firmly.
Selina detached herself from her father, and stood by Lord Arranmore's side.
"I suppose you are often in London, Lord Arranmore?" she asked shyly.
"A great deal too often," he answered.
"We read about your beautiful parties at Enton," she said, with a sigh. "It is such a lovely place."
"I am glad you like it," he answered, absently. "I see your uncle cannot find a four-wheeler. You must take my carriage. I am only going a few steps."
Mary's eager protest was drowned in Selina's shrill torrent of thanks. Lord Arranmore beckoned to his coachman, and the brougham, with its pair of strong horses, drew up against the pavement. The footman threw open the door. Selina entered in a fever for fear a cab which her father was signalling should, after all, respond to his summons. Mr. Bullsom found his breath taken away.
"We couldn't possibly take your lordship's carriage," he protested.
"I have only a few steps to go, Mr. Bullsom, and it would be a kindness, for my horses are never more than half exercised. At 10:30 to-morrow then."
He stood bareheaded upon the pavement for a moment, and Selina's eyes and smile had never worked harder. Mary leaned back, too angry to speak. Selina and Mr. Bullsom sat well forward, and pulled both windows down.
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