Love's Logic and Other Stories/Miss Gladwin's Chance

MISS GLADWIN'S CHANCE

Chapter One

OLD Tom Gladwin was not a man to whom you volunteered advice. He had made an immense deal of money for himself, and people who have done that generally like also to manufacture their own advice on their own premises; perhaps it is better done that way, perhaps there's just a prejudice in favor of the home trade-mark. Anyhow, old Tom needed no suggestions from outside. You said, "Yes, Sir Thomas," or "Of course not, Sir Thomas," or "Certainly, Sir Thomas." At all events, you limited your remarks to something like that if you were—as I was—a young solicitor trying to keep his father's connection together, of which Sir Thomas's affairs and the business of the Worldstone Park estate formed a considerable and lucrative portion. But everybody was in the same story about him—secretary, bailiff, stud-groom, gardener, butler—yes, butler, although Sir Thomas had confessedly never tasted champagne till he was forty, whereas Gilson had certainly been weaned on it. Even Miss Nettie Tyler, when she came on the scene, had the good sense to accept Sir Thomas's version of her heart's desire; neither had she much cause to quarrel with his reading, since it embraced Sir Thomas himself and virtually the whole of his worldly possessions. He was worth perhaps half-a-million pounds in money, and the net rent-roll of Worldstone was ten thousand, even after you had dressed it up and curled its hair, for all the world as if it were a suburban villa instead of an honest, self-respecting country gentleman's estate, which ought to have been run to pay three per cent. But the new-comers will not take land seriously; they leave that as a prospect for their descendants when the ready money, the city-made money, has melted away.

So I took his instructions for his marriage settlement and his new will without a word, although they seemed to me to be, under the circumstances, pretty stiff documents. The old gentleman—he was not really old, fifty-eight or -nine, I should say, but he looked like a granite block that has defied centuries—had, of course, two excuses. In the first place, he was fairly crazy about Nettie Tyler, orphan daughter of the old vicar of Worldstone, an acquaintance of two months' standing and (I will say for her) one of the prettiest little figures on a horse that I ever saw. In the second, he wanted—yes, inevitably he wanted—to found a family and to hand on the baronetcy which had properly rewarded his strenuous and successful efforts on his own behalf; it was the sort of baronetcy which is obviously pregnant with a peerage—a step, not a crown; one learns to distinguish these varieties. Accordingly, to cut details short, the effect of the new will and of the marriage settlement was that, given issue of the said intended marriage (and intended it was for the following Tuesday) Miss Beatrice Gladwin was to have five hundred a year on her father's death, and the rest went to what, for convenience's sake, I may call the new undertaking—to the Gladwin-Tyler establishment and what might spring therefrom. Even the five hundred was by the will only, therefore revocable. Five hundred a year is not despicable, and is good, like other boons, until revoked. But think what Beatrice Gladwin had been two months before—the greatest heiress in the country, mistress of all! So the old will had made her—the old will in my office safe, which, come next Tuesday, would be so much waste paper. I have always found something pathetic about a superseded will. It is like a royal family in exile.

Sir Thomas read over the documents and looked up at me as he took off his spectacles.

One great advantage of having made your own way, Foulkes," he observed, "is that you're not trammeled by settlements made in early life. I can do what I like with my own."

And I, as I have foreshadowed, observed merely, "Certainly, Sir Thomas."

He eyed me for a moment with an air of some suspicion. He was very acute and recognized criticism, however inarticulate; an obstinacy in the bend of one's back was enough for him. But I gave him no more opening, and, after all, he could not found an explicit reproach on the curve of my spine. After a moment he went on, rasping the short gray hair that sprouted on his chin:

"I think you'd better have a few minutes with my daughter. Put the effect of these documents into plain language for her." I believe he half suspected me again, for he added quickly: "Free of technicalities, I mean. She knows the general nature of my wishes. I've made that quite clear to her myself." No doubt he had. I bowed, and he rose, glancing at the dock. "The horses must be round," he said; "I'm going for a ride with Miss Tyler. Ask if my daughter can see you now; and I hope you'll stay to lunch, Foulkes." He went to the door, but turned again. "I'll send Beatrice to you myself," he called, "and you can get the business over before we come back." He went off, opening his cigar-case and humming a tune, in excellent spirits with himself and the world, I fancied. He had reason to be, so far as one could see at the minute.

I went to the window and watched them mounting—the strong solid frame of the man, the springy figure of the pretty girl. She was chattering gleefully: he laughed in a most contented approval of her, and, probably, with an attention none too deep to the precise purport of her merry words. Besides the two grooms there was another member of the party—one who stood rather aloof on the steps that led up to the hall door. Here was the lady for whom I waited, Beatrice Gladwin, his daughter, who was to have the five hundred a year when he died—who was to have had everything, to have been mistress of all. She stood there in her calm, composed handsomeness. Neither pretty nor beautiful would you call her, but, without question, remarkably handsome. She was also perfectly tranquil. As I looked she spoke once; I heard the words through the open window.

"You must have your own way, then," she said, with a smile and a slight shrug of her shoulders. "But the horse isn't safe for you, you know."

"Aye, aye," he answered, laughing again, not at his daughter but round to the pretty girl beside him. "I'll have my way for four days more." He and his fiancée enjoyed the joke between them; it went no further, I think.

Beatrice stood watching them for a little while, then turned into the house. I watched them a moment longer, and saw them take to the grass and break into a canter. It was a beautiful sunny morning; they and their fine horses made a good moving bit of life on the face of the smiling earth. Was that how it would strike Beatrice, once the heiress, now—well, it sounds rather strong, but shall we say the survival of an experiment that had failed? Once the patroness of the vicar's little daughter—I had often seen them when that attitude obviously and inevitably dominated their intercourse; then for a brief space, by choice or parental will, the friend; now and for the future—my vocabulary or my imagination failed to supply the exact description of their future relations. It was, however, plain that the change to Miss Beatrice Gladwin must be very considerable. There came back into my mind what my friend, neighbor, and client, Captain Spencer Fullard of Gatworth Hall, impecunious scion of an ancient stock, had said in the club at Bittleton (for we have a club at Bittleton, and a very good one, too) when the news of Sir Thomas's engagement came out. "Rough on Miss Beatrice," said he; "but she'll show nothing. She's hard, you know, but a sportsman." A sportsman she was, as events proved; and none was to know it better than Spencer Fullard himself, who was, by the way, supposed to feel, or at least to have exhibited, even greater admiration for the lady than the terms of the quoted remark imply. At the time he had not seen Miss Tyler.

One thing more came into my head while I waited. Did pretty Nettie Tyler know the purport of the new documents? If so, what did she think of it? But the suggestion which this idea carries with it probably asked altogether too much of triumphant youth. It is later in life that one is able to look from other people's points of view—one's own not being so dazzlingly pleasant, I suppose. So I made allowances for Nettie; it was not perhaps so easy for Beatrice Gladwin to do the same.

Chapter Two

OF course the one thing I had to avoid was any show of sympathy; she would have resented bitterly such an impertinence. If I knew her at all—and I had been an interested observer of her growth from childhood to woman's estate—the sympathy of the county, unheard but infallibly divined, was a sore aggravation of her fate. As I read extracts from the documents and explained their effects, freeing them from technicalities, as Sir Thomas had thoughtfully charged me, my impassivity equaled hers. I might have been telling her the price of bloaters at Great Yarmouth that morning, and she considering the purchase of half-a-dozen. In fact, we overdid it between us; we were both grotesquely uninterested in the documents; our artificial calm made a poor contrast to the primitive and disguise-scorning exultation of the pair who had gone riding over the turf in the sunshine. I could not help it; I had to take my cue from her. My old father had loved her; perhaps he would have patted her hand, perhaps he would even have kissed her cheek; what would have happened to her composure then? On the other hand, he would have been much more on Sir Thomas's side than I was. He used often to quote to me a saying of his uncle's, the venerable founder of the fine business we enjoyed: "Every other generation, the heir ought to lay an egg and then die." The long minority which he contemplated as resulting from a family bereavement prima facie so sad would reëstablish the family finances. The Chinese and Japanese, I am told, worship their ancestors. English landed gentry worship their descendants, and of this cult the family lawyer is high priest. My father would have patted Beatrice Gladwin's cheek, but he would not have invoked a curse on Sir Thomas, as I was doing behind my indifferent face and with the silent end of my dryly droning tongue. I was very glad when we got to the end of the documents.

She gave me a nod and a smile, saying, I quite understand," then rose and went to the window. I began to tie my papers up in their tapes. The drafts were to go back to be engrossed. She stood looking out on the park. The absurd impulse to say that I was very sorry, but that I really couldn't help it, assailed me again. I resisted, and tied the tapes in particularly neat bows, admiring the while her straight, slim, flat-shouldered figure. She looked remarkably efficient; I found myself regretting that she was not to have the management of the estate. Was that in her mind, too, as she surveyed it from the window? I do not know, but I do know that the next moment she asked me if Spencer Fullard were ill; she had not seen him about lately. I said that he was, I believed, in robust health, but had been up in town on business. (He had gone to raise a loan, if that's material.) The subject then dropped. I did not, at the time, see any reason why it had cropped up at all at that particular and somewhat uncomfortable moment.

What had put Spencer Fullard into her head?

Suddenly she spoke again, to herself, in a low voice: "How funny!" She turned to me and beckoned: "Mr. Foulkes!"

I left my papers on the table and joined her at the open window; it was just to the right of the hall door and commanded a wide view of the park, which, stretching in gentle undulations, with copses scattered here and there among the turf, gave a fine sense of spaciousness and elbow-room—the best things mere wealth can give, in my humble opinion.

"It must be Nettie," she said; "but why—why is she riding like that?"

I followed with my eyes the direction in which she pointed.

"And where's father?"

Still a mile or more away, visible now, but from moment to moment hidden by an intervening copse and once or twice by a deep dip in the ground, a horse came toward us at a gallop—a reckless gallop. The next instant the faintest echo of a cry, its purport indistinguishable, fell on our ears.

"It is Nettie," said Beatrice Gladwin, her eyes suddenly meeting mine. We stood there for a moment, then she walked quickly into the adjoining hall, and out on to the steps in front of the door. I followed, leaving my papers to look after themselves on the table. When I came up to her she said nothing, but caught my wrist with her left hand and held it tightly.

Now we heard what Nettie's cry was. The monotonous horror of it never ceased for an instant. "Help! Help! Help!" It was incessant, and now, as she reached the drive, sounded loud and shrill in our ears. The men in the stables heard it; two of them ran out at top speed to meet the galloping horse. But horse and rider were close up to us by now. I broke away from Miss Gladwin, who clung to me with a strong, unconscious grip, and sprang forward. I was just in time to catch Nettie as she fell from the saddle, and the grooms brought her horse to a standstill. Even in my arms she still cried shrilly, "Help, help, help!"

No misunderstanding was possible. "Where? Where?" was all I asked, and at last she gasped, "By Toovey's farm."

One of the grooms was on her horse in a moment and made off for the spot. Nettie broke away from me, staggering to the steps, stumbling over her habit as she went, and sank down in a heap; she ceased now to cry for help, and began to sob convulsively. Beatrice seemed stunned. She said nothing; she looked at none of us; she stared after the man on horseback who had started for Toovey's farm. The second groom spoke to me in a low voice: "Where's the master's horse?"

Nettie heard him. She raised her eyes to his—the blue eyes a little while ago so radiant, now so full of horror. "They neither of them moved," she said.

So it was. They were found together under the hedgerow; the horse was alive, though its back was broken, and a shot the only mercy. Sir Thomas was quite dead.

That night I carried my papers back to the office, and satisfied myself, as my duty was, that the existing will lay in its place in the office safe; since the morning that document had, so to say, gone up in the world very much. So had Miss Gladwin. She was mistress of all.

Chapter Three

AS may be imagined, the situation evoked a great deal of sympathy and occasioned an even greater quantity of talk. Killed four days before his wedding! The poor little bride! She had lost so much more than merely Sir Thomas! The general opinion of the Bittleton Club, which may be taken as representative of the views of the county, was that Miss Gladwin ought to "do something" for Miss Tyler. There was much difference as to the extent of this suggested generosity: almost every figure between five thousand and fifty thousand pounds had its supporters. I think that of the entire roll of members only two had no proposal to submit (hypothetically) to Miss Gladwin. One was myself, tongue-tied by my position as her lawyer; the other was Spencer Fullard, who did nothing but smoke and tap his leg with his walking-stick while the question was under discussion. I remembered his summary of the lady—"hard, but a sportsman." The hard side might indicate that she would leave the situation as fate had made it. What did the sportsman in her say? I found myself wondering what Captain Fullard's views were, supposing he had taken the trouble—which, however, seemed to be a pleasure to his fellow-members—to arrive at any.

To tell the truth, I resented the gossip about her all the more because I could not stifle an inward feeling that if they had known her as well as I did—or, perhaps I should say, had seen her as often as I had (which is a safer way of putting it when a woman's in the case)—they would have gossiped not less, but more. She was strange, and, I suppose, hard, in her total ignoring of the idea that there was any such question at all as that which kept the Bittleton clubmen—and of course their wives—so much on the gog. Nettie Tyler did not leave Worldstone Park. It may be assumed that her bills were paid, and probably she had pocket-money. There the facts of the case came to a sudden stop. Had Beatrice Gladwin turned her into a "companion"? Anybody who chose to put it in that light was, on the apparent facts, extremely hard to contradict or to blame, but, as I felt, not at all hard to be annoyed at. Well, I had always hated the Tyler project.

Meanwhile Miss Gladwin was exhibiting, as I had foreseen she would, extraordinary efficiency; and her efficiency gave me plenty of work, besides the routine and not small business incident on the transmission of so considerable an estate as Sir Thomas's. She was going in for building as soon as the death duties were out of the way; meanwhile she gathered the reins of her affairs into her own hands and regulated every detail very carefully. Sir Thomas, like many men successful in large concerns, had been easy-going about his private interests. I was constantly at Worldstone Park, often spending from Saturday to Monday there, and devoting the Sunday, less church time, to its mistress' service. She was good enough to treat me with great candor, and discussed all things very openly—except Miss Nettie Tyler.

And what of Miss Tyler? I do not consider—and I speak with no favorable prejudice—that that young lady's behavior was open to very serious criticism. It surprised me favorably. I admit that she was meek; now and then I thought her rather obtrusively meek. But then she might naturally have been crushed; she might well have been an insupportably mournful companion. She was neither. I could not call her helpful, because she was one of the helpless so far as practical affairs go. But she was reasonably cheerful, and she put forward no claim of any sort whatsoever. She did not appear to think that Beatrice ought to "do anything" for her beyond what she was doing; and that, to my certain knowledge, did not include the gift of even the smallest of all the various sums suggested at the Bittleton Club. All you could say was that the lady who was to have been mistress of Worldstone Park still lived there, and made for the moment remarkably little difference. When one comes to think it over, this was really immensely to her credit. She might have made life there impossible. Or did she know that in such a case Miss Gladwin would send her away quite calmly? Let us give credit where credit is possible, and adopt the more favorable interpretation. Things went very well indeed in a very difficult situation—till Spencer Fullard made his entry on the stage.

His coming made a difference from the very first. I think that the two girls had been living in a kind of numbness which prevented them from feeling as acutely as they naturally might the position in which the freak of fate had placed them. Each lived in thought till he came—in the thought of what had been and would have been; to neither had the actual become the truly real. There had been a barrier between them. Nettie's excellent behavior and Beatrice's remarkable efficiency had alike been masks, worn unconsciously, but none the less and by no less sufficient disguises. They had lived in the shadow of the death. Fullard brought back life—which is to say, he brought back conflict.

Nothing was further from his original idea. Like Sir Thomas, he was a descendant-worshiper—born to it, moreover, which Sir Thomas had not been. I was his high priest, so, of course, I knew what he was about. He came to woo the rich Miss Gladwin, picking up his wooing (he had excellently easy manners) just at the spot where he had dropped it when Sir Thomas Gladwin announced his engagement to Miss Nettie Tyler. "Dropped" is a word too definite. "Suspended" might do, or even "attenuated." He was a captain—let us say that he had called a halt to reconnoiter his ground, but had not ordered a retreat. Events had cleared the way for him. He advanced again.

Should I blame him? My father would have blessed him, though he might have advised him to lay an egg and die. No; Worldstone was rich enough to warrant his living, but of Gatworth there was left an annual income of hardly eight hundred pounds. But three hundred years in the county behind it! Three hundred years since the cadet branch migrated from Gloucestershire, where the Fullards had been since the Flood! It was my duty to bless his suit, and I did. It was no concern of mine that he had, in confidence, called Miss Gladwin "hard." He had called her "a sportsman," too. Set one off against the other, remembering his position and his cult.

Sir Thomas had been dead a year when Fullard and I first spent a Sunday together at Worldstone Park. He had been there before; so had I: but we had not chanced to coincide. It was May, and spring rioted about us. The girls, too, had doffed some of their funereal weeds; Nettie wore white and black, Beatrice black and white. Life was stirring in the place again. Nettie was almost gay, Beatrice no longer merely efficient. For the first time I found it possible to slip a dram of pleasure into the cup of a business visit. Curiously enough, the one person who was, as I supposed, there on the pleasantest errand, wore the most perturbed aspect. The fate of lovers? I am not sure. I have met men who took the position with the utmost serenity. But if one were uncertain to whom one was making love? The notion was a shock at first.

The girls went to church in the morning; Fullard and I walked round and round the garden, smoking our pipes. I expatiated on Miss Gladwin's remarkable efficiency. "A splendid head!" I said with enthusiasm.

"A good-looking pair in their different ways," was his somewhat unexpected reply.

I meant intellectually," I explained, with a laugh.

"Miss Tyler's no fool, mind you," remarked the captain.

I realized that his thoughts had not been with my conversation. Where had they been? In my capacity of high priest, I went on commending Miss Gladwin. He recalled himself to listen, but the sense of duty was obvious. Suddenly I recollected that he had not met Nettie Tyler before Sir Thomas died. He had been on service during the two years she had lived in Worldstone village.

Chapter Four

AFTER lunch we all sat together on the lawn. Yes, life was there, and the instinct for life, and for new life. Poor Sir Thomas's brooding ghost had taken its departure. I was glad, but the evidence of my eyes made me also uneasy. The situation was not developing on easy lines.

With his ears Fullard listened to Beatrice Gladwin; with his eyes he watched the girl who was to have been her all-powerful stepmother, who was now her most humble dependent. I saw it—I, a man. Were the girls themselves unconscious? The idea is absurd. If anybody were unconscious, it was Fullard himself; or, at least, he thought his predicament undetected. I suggested to Nettie that she and I might take a walk: a high priest has occasionally to do things like that when there is no chaperon about. She refused, not meekly now, but almost pertly. Beatrice raised her eyes for a moment, looked at her, and colored ever so slightly. I think we may date the declaration of war from that glance. The captain did not see it: he was lighting a cigarette. None the less, the next moment he rose and proposed to accompany me himself. That did almost as well—how far I had got into the situation!—and I gladly acquiesced. We left the two ladies together, or, to be precise, just separating; they both, it appeared, had letters to write.

I should say at once that Spencer Fullard was one of the most honest men I have even known (besides being one of the best-looking). If he came fortune-hunting, it was because he believed that pursuit to be his duty—duty to self, to ancestors, and, above all, to descendants. But, in truth, when he came first, it had not been in unwilling obedience to duty's spur. He had liked Miss Gladwin very much; he had paid her attentions, even flirted with her; and, in the end, he liked her very much still. But there is a thing different from liking—a thing violent, sudden, and obliterating. It makes liking cease to count.

We talked little on our visit to the home farm. I took occasion once more to point out Miss Gladwin's efficiency. Fullard fidgeted: he did not care about efficiency in women—that seemed plain. I ventured to observe that her investment of money on the estate was likely to pay well; he seemed positively uncomfortable. After these conversational failures, I waited for him. We were on our way back before he accepted the opening.

"I say, Foulkes," he broke out suddenly, "do you suppose Miss Tyler's going to stay here permanently?"

"I don't know. Why shouldn't she?"

He swished at the nettles as he made his next contribution to our meager conversation. "But Beatrice Gladwin will marry some day soon, I expect."

"Well?"

I was saying little, but at this point Fullard went one better. He just cocked his eye at me, leaving me to read his meaning as I best could.

"In that case, of course she'd be sent away," said I, smiling.

"Kicked out?" He grumbled the question, half under his breath.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Everything would be done kindly, no doubt."

"Not fair on the chap, either," he remarked after some moments. I think that my mind supplied the unspoken part of his conversation quite successfully: he was picturing the household à trois, he himself was, in his mind's eye "the chap," and under the circumstances he thought "the chap" ought not to be exposed to temptation. I agreed, but kept my agreement, and my understanding, to myself.

"What appalling bad luck that poor little girl's had!"

"One of them had to have very bad luck," I reminded him. "Sir Thomas contrived that."

He started a little. He had forgotten the exceedingly bad luck which once had threatened Miss Gladwin, the girl he had come to woo. The captain's state of feeling was, in fact, fairly transparent. I was sorry for him—well, for all of them—because he certainly could not afford to offer his hand to Nettie Tyler.

Somewhere on the way back from the home farm I lost Captain Spencer Fullard. Miss Tyler's letters must have been concise; there was the gleam of a white frock, dashed here and there with splashes of black, in the park. Fullard said he wanted more exercise, and I arrived alone on the lawn, where my hostess sat beside the tea-table. Feeling guilty for another's sin, as one often does, I approached shamefacedly.

She gave me tea, and asked, with a businesslike abruptness which I recognized as inherited, "What are they saying about me?"

That was Gladwin all over! To say not a word for twelve months, because for twelve months she had not cared; then to blurt it out! Because she wanted light? Obviously that was the reason—the sole reason. She had not cared before; now something had occurred to make her think, to make her care, to make the question of her dealings with Miss Tyler important. I might have pretended not to understand, but there was a luxury in dealing plainly with so fine a plain-dealer; I told her the truth without shuffling.

"On the whole, it's considered that you would be doing the handsome thing in giving her something," I answered, sipping my tea.

She appreciated the line I took. She had expected surprise and fencing; it amused and pleased her to meet with neither. She was in the mood (by the way, we could see the black-dashed white frock and Fullard's manly figure a quarter of a mile away) to meet frankness with its fellow.

"She never put in a word for me," she said, smiling. "With father, I mean."

"She doesn't understand business," I pleaded.

"I've been expected to sympathize with her bad luck!"

So had I—by the captain, half-an-hour before. But I did not mention it.

"The Bittleton Club thinks I ought to—to do something?"

I laughed at her taking our club as the arbiter. She had infused a pretty irony into her question.

"It does, Miss Gladwin." My answer maintained the ironical note.

"Then I will," said she, with a highly delusive appearance of simplicity.

I could not quite make her out, but it came home to me that her secret resentment against Nettie Tyler was very bitter.

She spoke again in a moment: "A word from her would have gone a long way with father."

"That's all in the past, isn't it?" I murmured soothingly.

"The past!" She seemed to throw doubt on the existence of such a thing.

The captain's manly figure and the neat little shape in white and black were approaching us. The stress of feeling has to be great before it prevents sufferers from turning up to tea. Miss Gladwin glanced toward her advancing guests, smiled, and relighted the spirit-lamp under the kettle. I suppose I was looking thoughtful, for the next moment she said, "Rather late in the day to do anything? Is that what's in your mind? Will they say that?"

"How can I tell? Your adherents say you've been like sisters."

"I never had a sister younger and prettier than myself," said she. She waved her hand to the new arrivals, now close on us. "I nearly had a stepmother like that, though," she added.

I did not like her at that moment; but is anybody attractive when he is fighting hard for his own? Renunciation is so much more picturesque. She was fighting—or preparing to fight. I had suddenly realized the position, for all that the garden was so peaceful, and spring was on us, and Nettie's new-born laugh rang light across the grass, so different from the cry we once had heard from her lips in that place.

Beatrice Gladwin looked at me with a suddenly visible mockery in her dark eyes. She had read my thoughts, and she was admitting that she had. She was very "hard." Fullard was perfectly right. Yet I think that if she had been alone at that moment she might have cried. That was just an impression of mine; really she gave no tangible ground for it, save in an odd constraint of her mouth. The next moment she laughed.

"I like a fight to be a fair fight," she said, and looked steadily at me for a moment. She raised her voice and called to them: "Come along; the tea's getting cold." She added to me, "Come to my room at ten to-morrow, please."

The rest of the evening she was as much like velvet as it was in a Gladwin to be. But I waited. I wanted to know how she meant to arrange her fair fight. She wanted one. A sportsman, after all, you see.

Chapter Five

SHE was not like velvet when we met the next morning after breakfast in her study: her own room was emphatically a study, and in no sense a boudoir. She was like iron, or like the late Sir Thomas when he gave me instructions for his new will and for the settlement on his intended marriage with Miss Nettie Tyler. There was in her manner the same clean-cut intimation that what she wanted from me was not advice, but the promptest obedience. I suppose that she had really made up her mind the day before—even while we talked on the lawn, in all probability.

"I wish you, Mr. Foulkes," she said, "to be so good as to make arrangements to place one hundred thousand pounds at my disposal at the bank as soon as possible."

I knew it would be no use, but my profession demanded a show of demur. "A very large sum just now—with the duties—and your schemes for the future."

"I've considered the amount carefully; it's just what appears to me proper and sufficient."

"Then I suppose there's no more to be said," I sighed resignedly.

She looked at me with a slight smile. "Of course you guess what I'm going to do with it?" she asked.

"Yes, I think so. You ought to have it properly settled on her, you know. It should be carefully tied up."

The suggestion seemed to annoy her.

"No," she said sharply. "What she does with it, and what becomes of it, have nothing to do with me. I shall have done my part. I shall be—free."

"I wish you would take the advice of somebody you trust."

That softened her suddenly. She put her hand out across the table and pressed mine for a moment. "I trust you very much. I have no other friend I trust so much. Believe that, please. But I must act for myself here." She smiled again, and with the old touch of irony added, "It will satisfy your friends at the Bittleton Club?"

"It's a great deal too much," I protested, with a shake of the head. "Thirty would have been adequate; fifty, generous; a hundred thousand is quixotic."

"I've chosen the precise sum most carefully," Miss Gladwin assured me. "And it's anything but quixotic," she added, with a smile.

A queer little calculation was going on in my brain. Wisdom (or interest, which you will) and twenty-five thousand a year against love and three thousand—was that, in her eyes, a fair fight? Perhaps the reckoning was not so far out. At any rate, love had a chance—with three thousand pounds a year. There is more difference between three thousand pounds and nothing than exists between three thousand and all the rest of the money in the world.

"Is Miss Tyler aware of your intentions?"

"Not yet, Mr. Foulkes."

"She'll be overwhelmed," said I. It seemed the right observation to offer.

For the first time. Miss Gladwin laughed openly. "Will she? she retorted, with a scorn that was hardly civil. "She'll think it less than I owe her."

"You owe her nothing. What you may choose to give——"

Miss Gladwin interrupted me without ceremony. "She confuses me with fate—with what happened—with her loss—and—disappointment. She identifies me with all that."

"Then she's very unreasonable."

"I daresay; but I can understand." She smiled. "I can understand very well how one girl can seem like that to another, Mr. Foulkes—how she can embody everything of that sort." She paused and then added: "If I thought for a moment that she'd be—what was your foolish word?—oh, yes, 'overwhelmed,' I wouldn't do it. But I know her much too well. You remember that my adherents say we've been like sisters? Don't sisters understand each other?"

"You're hard on her—hard and unfair," I said. Her bitterness was not good to witness.

Perhaps I'm hard; I'm not unfair." Her voice trembled a little; her composure was not what it had been at the beginning of our interview. "At any rate, I'm trying to be fair now; only you mustn't—you must not—think that she'll be overwhelmed."

"Very well," said I. "I won't think that. And I'll put matters in train about the money. You'll have to go gently for a bit afterwards, you know. Even you are not a gold mine." She nodded, and I rose from my chair. "Is that all for to-day?" I asked.

"Yes, I think so," she said. "You're going away?"

"Yes, I must get back to Bittleton, The office waits."

She gave me her hand. "I shall see you again before long," she said. "Remember, I'm trying to be fair—fair to everybody. Yes, fair to myself too. I think I've a right to fair treatment. I'm giving myself a chance, too, Mr. Foulkes. Good-by."

Her dismissal was not to be questioned, but I should have liked more light on her last words. I had seen enough to understand her impulse to give Nettie Tyler a fair field, to rid her of the handicap of penury, to do the handsome thing, just when it seemed most against her own interest. That was the sportsmanlike side of her, working all the more strongly because she disliked her rival. I saw too, though not at the time quite so clearly, in what sense she was trying to be fair to Captain Spencer Fullard; she thought the scales were weighted too heavily against the disinterested—shall I say the romantic?—side of that gentleman's disposition. But that surely was quixotic, and she had denied quixotism. Yet it was difficult to perceive how she was giving herself a chance, as she had declared. She seemed to be throwing her best chance away; so it appeared in my matter-of-fact eyes. Or was she hoping to dazzle Fullard with the splendor of her generosity? She had too much penetration to harbor any such idea. He would think the gift handsome, even very handsome, but he would be no more overwhelmed than Nettie Tyler herself. Even impartial observers at Bittleton had talked of fifty thousand pounds as the really proper thing. If Fullard were in love with Nettie, he would think double the amount none too much; and if he were not—well, then, where was Beatrice Gladwin's need for fair treatment—her need to be given a chance at all? For, saying love, she held every card in the game.

I went back to Bittleton, kept my own counsel, set the business of the money on foot, and waited for the issue of the fair fight. No whisper about the money leaked through to the Bittleton Club; but I heard of a small party at Worldstone Park, and Spencer Fullard was one of the guests. Therefore battle was joined.

Chapter Six

THE following Saturday fortnight the Bittleton Press scored what journalists call a "scoop" at the expense of the rival and Radical organ, the Advertiser. Such is the reward of sound political principle! Here is the paragraph—"exclusive," the editor was careful to make you understand:

We are privileged to announce that a marriage has been arranged and will shortly be solemnized between Captain Spencer Fullard, D.S.O., of Gatworth Hall, and Henrietta, daughter of the late Rev. F. E. Tyler, Vicar of Worldstone. We extend, in the name of the county, our cordial congratulations to the happy pair. Captain Fullard is the representative of a name ancient and respected in the county, and has done good service to his King and country. The romantic story of the lady whose affections he has been so fortunate as to win will be fresh in the minds of our readers. As we sympathized with her sorrow, so now we may with her joy. We understand that Miss Gladwin of Worldstone Park, following what she is confident would have been the wish of her lamented father, the late much-respected Sir Thomas Gladwin, Bart., M.P., D.I., J.P., C.A., is presenting the prospective bride with a wedding present which in itself amounts to a fortune. Happy they who are in a position to exercise such graceful munificence and to display filial affection in so gracious a form! It would be indiscreet to mention figures, but rumor has not hesitated to speak of what our gay forefathers used to call "a plum." We are not at liberty to say more than that this in no way overstates the amount.

Whereupon, of course, the Bittleton Club at once doubled it, and Miss Gladwin's fame filled the air.

This was all very pretty, and it must be admitted that Beatrice Gladwin had performed her task in a most tactful way. For reasons connected with the known condition of the finances of the Gatworth Hall estate, it sounded so much better that Miss Gladwin's present should come as a result of the engagement than—well, the other way round. The other way round would have given occasion for gossip to the clubmen of Bittleton. But now—Love against the World, and an entirely unlooked-for bonus of—"a plum," as the editor, with a charming eighteenth-century touch, chose to describe the benefaction. That was really ideal.

Really ideal; and, of course, in no way at all correspondent to the facts of the case. The truth was that Miss Beatrice Gladwin had secured her "fair fight"—and, it seemed, had lost it very decisively and very speedily. As soon as it was reasonably possible—and made so by Miss Gladwin's action—for Fullard to think of marrying Nettie Tyler, he had asked her to be his wife. To which question there could be only one answer. Miss Gladwin had given away too much weight; she should have quartered that "plum," I thought.

But that would not have made a "fair fight"? Perhaps not. Perhaps a fair fight was not to be made at all under the circumstances. But the one thing which, above all, I could not see was the old point that had puzzled me before. It might be fair to soften the conflict between Captain Fullard's love and Captain Fullard's duty as a man of ancient stock. It might be fair to undo some of fate's work and give Nettie Tyler a chance of the man she wanted—freedom to fight for him—just that, you understand. But where came in the chance for herself of which Beatrice Gladwin had spoken?

As I have said, I was Captain Fullard's lawyer as well as Miss Gladwin's, and he naturally came to me to transact the business incident on his marriage. Beatrice Gladwin proved right: he was not overwhelmed, nor, from his words, did I gather that Miss Tyler was. But they were both highly appreciative.

The captain was also inclined to congratulate himself on his knowledge of character, his power of reading the human heart.

"Hard, if you like," he said, sitting in my office arm-chair; "but a sportsman in the end, as I told you she was. I knew one could rely on her doing the right thing in the end."

"At considerable cost," I remarked, sharpening a pencil.

"It's liberal—very liberal. Oh, we feel that. But, of course, the circumstances pointed to liberality." He paused, then added:

"And I don't know that we ought to blame her for taking time to think it over. Of course it made all the difference to me, Foulkes."

There came in the captain's admirable candor. Between him and me there was no need—and, I may add, no room—for the romantic turn which the Bittleton Press had given to the course of events; that was for public consumption only.

"But for it, I couldn't possibly have come forward—whatever I felt."

"As a suitor for Miss Tyler's hand?" said I.

The captain looked at me; gradually a smile came on his remarkably comely face.

"Look here, Foulkes," said he very good-humoredly, "just you congratulate me on being able to do as I like. Never mind what you may happen to be thinking behind that sallow old fiddle-head of yours."

"And Miss Tyler is, I'm sure, radiantly happy?"

Captain Fullard's candor abode till the end. "Well, Nettie hasn't done badly for herself, looking at it all round, you know."

With all respect to the late Sir Thomas, and even allowing for a terrible shock and a trying interval, I did not think she had.

Miss Gladwin gave them a splendid wedding at Worldstone. Her manner to them both was most cordial, and she was gay beyond the wont of her staid demeanor. I do not think there was affectation in this.

When the bride and bridegroom—on this occasion again by no means overwhelmed—had departed amidst cheers, when the rout of guests had gone, when the triumphal arch was being demolished and the rustics were finishing the beer, she walked with me in the garden while I smoked a cigar. (There's nothing like a wedding for making you want a cigar.)

After we had finished our gossiping about how well everything had gone off—and that things in her house should go off well was very near to Beatrice Gladwin's heart—we were silent for a while. Then she turned to me and said: "I'm very content, Mr. Foulkes." Her face was calm and peaceful; she did not look so hard.

"I'm glad that doing the handsome thing brings content. I wonder if you know how glad I am?"

"Yes, I know. You're a good friend. But you're making your old mistake. I wasn't thinking just then of what you call the handsome thing. I was thinking of the chance that I gave myself."

"I never quite understood that," said I.

She gave a little laugh. "But for that 'handsome thing,' he'd certainly have asked me—he'd have had to, poor man—me, and not her. And he'd have done it very soon."

I assented—not in words, just in silence and cigar smoke.

She looked at me without embarrassment, though she was about to say something that she might well have refused to say to any living being. She seemed to have a sort of pleasure in the confession—at least an impulse to make it that was irresistible. She smiled as she spoke—amused at herself, or, perhaps, at the new idea she would give me of herself.

"If he had," she went on—"if he had made love to me, I couldn't have refused him—I couldn't, indeed. And yet I shouldn't have believed a word he was saying—not a word of love he said. I should have been a very unhappy woman if I hadn't given myself that chance. You've been a little behind the scenes. Nobody else has. I want you to know that I'm content." She put her hand in mine and gave me a friendly squeeze. "And to-morrow we'll get back to business, you and I," she said.