PROLOGUE “...It’snousepretendinganylonger.Ican’tmarryyou,Idon’tsupposeyou will ever understand or forgive me. No man would. But try to believe that I haven’tcometothisdecisionhurriedlyorwithoutthinking.Iseemtohavedone nothingbutthink,lately! “I want you to forget last night, Eliot. We were both a little mad, and there wasmoonlightandthescentofroses....Butit’sgood-bye,allthesame—itmust be.Pleasedon’ttrytosee,meagain.Itcoulddonogoodandwouldonlyhurtus both.” Very deliberately the man read this letter through a second time. At first reading it had seemed to him incredible, a hallucination. It gave him a queer feelingofunreality—itwasallsoimpossible,sowildlyimprobable! “I want you to forget last night.” Last night! When the woman who had written those cool words of dismissal had lain in his arms, exquisite in her passionatesurrender.Hismouthsetitselfgrimly.Whatevercamenext,whatever the future might hold, he knew that neither of them would be able to forget. Therearesomethingsthatcannotbeforgotten,andthemomentwhenamanand womanfirstgivetheirloveutteranceinwordsisoneofthem. He crushed the note slowly in his hand till it was nothing more than a crumpled ball of paper, and raised his arm to fling it away. Then suddenly his lips relaxed in a smile and a light of relief sprang into his eyes. It was all nonsense, of course—just some foolish, woman’s whim or fancy, some ridiculousideashehadgotintoherheadwhichfiveminutes’talkbetweenthem would dispel. He had been a fool to take it seriously. He unclenched his hand andsmoothedoutthecrumpledsheetofpaper.Tearingitintoverysmallpieces, he tossed them into the garden below the veranda where he was sitting and watchedthemcircletothegroundlikeparticlesoffinewhitesnow. As they settled his face cleared. The tension induced by the perusal of the letter had momentarily aged it, affording a fleeting glimpse of the man as he mightbetenyearshenceifthingsshouldchancetogoawrywithhim—hardand relentless,withmorethanasuggestionofcruelty.Butnow,thestrainlessened, hisfacerevealedthatcharmofboyishnesswhichisalwayscuriouslyattractive
in a man who has actually left his boyhood behind him. The mouth above the strong, clean-cut chin was singularly sweet, the grey eyes, alight and ardent, meetingtheworldwithafriendlygaietyofexpressionthatseemedtoexpectand askforfriendlinessinreturn. Asthelastscrapofpaperdriftedtoearthhestretchedouthisarms,drawinga greatbreathofrelief.Histea,broughttohimatthesametimeastheletterhehad justdestroyed,stillstooduntastedonarustictablebesidehim.Hepouredsome out and drank it thirstily; his mouth felt dry. Then, setting down the cup, he descendedfromtheverandaandmadehiswayquicklythroughthehotelgarden tothedustywhiteroadbeyonditsgates. Itwasveryhot.TheafternoonsunstillflamedinthevividlyblueItaliansky, andagainsttheshimmerofazureandgoldthetall,darkpoplarsrankedbeside theroadstruckasombrenoteofrelief.Butthemanhimselfseemedunconscious of the heat. He covered the ground with the lithe, long-limbed stride of youth andsupplemuscles,andpresentlyswungasideintoagardenwhere,betwixtthe spreadarmsofchestnutandlindenandalmondtree,gleamedthepink-stuccoed wallsofahalf-hiddenvilla. Skirtingthevilla,hewentonunhesitatingly,asonetowhomthewaywasvery familiar, following a straight, formal path which led between parterres of flowers, ablaze with colour. Then, through an archway dripping jessamine, he emerged into a small, enclosed garden—an inner sanctuary of flower-encircled greensward, fragrant with the scent of mignonette and roses, while the headier perfumeofheliotropeandoleanderhunglikeincenseonthesun-warmedair. Afountainplashedinthecentreofthevelvetlawn,aniridescentmistofspray upflung from its marble basin, and at the farther end a stone bench stood shelteredbeneaththeleafyshadeofatree. A woman was sitting on the bench. She was quite young—not more than twenty at the outside—and there was something in the dark, slender beauty of her which seemed to harmonise with the southern scents and colour of the old Italiangarden.Shesatverystill,herroundwhitechincuppedinherpalm.Her eyes were downcast, the lowered lids, with their lashes lying like dusky fans againsttheivory-tintedskinbeneath,screeningherthoughts. The man’s footsteps made no sound as he crossed the close-cut turf, and he pausedamomenttogazeatherwithardenteyes.Thelovelinessofherseemed to take him by the throat, so that a half-stifled sound escaped him. Came an
answering sound—a sharp-caught breath of fear as she realised an intruder’s presence in her solitude. Then, her eyes meeting the eager, worshipping ones fixedonher,sheutteredacryofdismay. “You?—You?”shestammered,risinghastily. Inastridehewasbesideher. “Yes.Didn’tyouexpectme?YoumusthaveknownIshouldcome.” He laugheddownathertriumphantlyandmadeasthoughto takeherinhis arms,butsheshrankback,pressinghimawayfromherwithurgenthands. “Itoldyounottocome.Itoldyounottocome,”shereiterated.“Oh!”turning asidewithnervousdesperation,“whydidn’tyoustayaway?” Hestaredather. “Why didn’t I? Do you suppose any man on earth would have stayed away after receiving such a letter? Why did you write it?”—rapidly. “What did you mean?” She looked away from him towards the distant mountains rimming the horizon. “ImeantjustwhatIsaid.Ican’tmarryyou,”sheansweredmechanically. “But that’s absurd! You’ve known I cared—you’ve cared, too—all these weeks.Andlastnightyoupromised—yousaid—” “Lastnight!”Sheswungroundandfacedhim.“Itellyouwe’vegottoforget lastnight—countitout.It—itwasjustaninterlude—” Shebrokeoff,blenchingattheabruptchangeinhisexpression.Uptillnow hisfacehadbeenfullofanincredulous,boyishbewilderment,halftender,half chiding. Within himself he had refused to believe that there was any serious intent behind her letter. It was fruit of some foolish misunderstanding or shy femininewithdrawal,andhewasheretostraightenitallout,toreassureher.But that word “interlude”! Had she been deliberately playing with him after all? Womendidsuchthings—sometimes.Hisfeaturestookonasuddensternness. “Aninterlude?”herepeatedquietly.“I’mafraidIdon’tunderstand.Willyou explain?”
Hershouldersmovedresentfully. “Why do you want to force me into explanations?” she burst out. “Surely —surelyyouunderstand?Wecan’tmarry—wehaven’tmoneyenough!” Therewasalongpausebeforehespokeagain. “I’veenoughmoneytomarryon,ifitcomestothat,”hesaidatlast,slowly. “Thoughweshouldcertainlybecomparativelypoor.WhatyoumeanisthatI’m notrichenoughtosatisfyyou,Isuppose?” Shenodded. “Yes.I’msick—sickofbeingpoor!I’vebeenpoorallmylife—alwayshaving toskimpandsaveanddothingsonthecheap—gowithoutthisandmakeshift withthat.I’mtiredofit!ThislasttwomonthswithAuntElvira—allthisluxury andbeauty,”shegesturedeloquentlytowardsthevillastandinglikeageminits exquisiteItaliansetting,“thecar,theperfectservice,asmanyfrocksasIwant— Oh!I’veloveditall!AndIcan’tgiveitup.Ican’tgobacktobeingpooragain!” She paused, breathless, and her eyes, passionately upbraiding, beseeching understanding,soughthisface. “Don’tyouunderstand?”sheadded,twistingherhandstogether. Hiseyesglinted. “Yes, I’m beginning to,” he returned briefly. “But how are you going to compasswhatyouwant—asapermanency?YourvisittoLadyTempletoncan’t extendindefinitely.” She was silent, evading his glance. Her foot beat nervously on the flagged pathwheretheystood. “Istheresomeoneelse?”heaskedincisively.“Anotherman—whocangive youallthesethings?” A dull, shamed red flushed her cheek. With an effort she forced herself to answerhim. “Yes,”shesaidverylow.“Thereis—someoneelse.” “Iwonderifherealiseshisluck!”
Thepalpablesneerinhisvoicecutlikealash.Shewincedunderit. “Onemorequestion—I’dliketoknowtheansweroutofsheercuriosity.”His voicewasclearandhard—likeice,“Youknewyouweregoingtodothistome —lastnight?” Herlipsmovedbutnowordscame.Shegesturedmutely—imploringly. “Answerme,please.” His implacable insistence whipped her into a sudden flare of defiance. She waslikeacorneredanimal. “Yes,then,ifyoumusthaveit—Ididknow!”sheflungathiminalowtoneof furiousanger. Involuntarily he stepped back from her a pace, like a man suddenly smitten andstunned. “Whileformelastnightwassacred!”hemutteredunderhisbreath. Beforetheutterscornandrepugnanceinthelow-breathedwordsherdefiance crumbledtopieces. “Andforme,too!Eliot,Iwasn’tpretending.Idoloveyou.Inevermeantyou toknow,butlastnight—Icouldn’thelpit.I’dpromisedtomarrythe—theother man,andthenyoucame,andwewerealone—and—Oh!”—desperately,liftinga wrungfacetohis.“Whywon’tyouunderstand?” Butthebeautiful,imploringfacefailedtomovehimonejot.Somethinghad diedsuddenlywithinhim—thesomethingthatwasyoungandeagerandblindly trusting.Whensheceasedspeakinghewasonlyconsciousthathewantedtotake herandbreakherbetweenhistwohands—destroyherashehaddestroyedthe letter she had written. The blood was drumming in his temples. His hands clenchedandunclenchedspasmodically.Shewassoslenderathingthatitwould beveryeasy...veryeasywiththoseironmusclesofhis....Andthenshewould bedead.Shewassobeautifulandsorottenatthecorethatshewouldbebetter dead.... It was only by a supreme effort that he mastered his overwhelming need of somephysicaloutletforthepassionofdisgustandangerwhichswepthimbare of any gentler emotion as the incoming tide sweeps the shore bare of sign or
footprint. His body grew taut and rigid with the pressure he was putting on himself.Whenatlasthespokehisvoicewasalmostunrecognisable. “I do understand,” he said. “I understand thoroughly. You’ve made— everything—perfectlyclear.” And with that he turned swiftly, leaving her standing alone in a flickering patchofshadow,andstrodeawayacrossthegrass.Ashewent,alittlebreezeran through the garden, wafting the caressing, over-sweet perfume of heliotrope to his nostrils. It sickened him. He knew that he would loathe the scent of heliotropehenceforth.
CHAPTERIANN’SLEGACY ThesunshinerompeddowntheGrand’RueatMontricheux,flickeringagainst thepanesoftheshop-windowsandcallingforthahundredprovocativepointsof lightfromthesilverandjewels,theshiningsilksandembroidery,withwhichthe shrewdSwissshopkeeperseekstoopenthepurseoftheforeigner.Itseemedto chase the gaily blue-painted trams as they sped up and down the centre of the town,bestowinguponthemafictitiousgalaair,anddancedtremulouslyonthe round,shinyyellowtopsofthetea-tablestemptinglyarrangedonthepavement outsidethepastrycook’s. Itwasstillearlyafternoon,butalreadysmallgroupsoftwosandthreeswere gatheredroundthelittletables.AtoneamerryknotofEnglishgirl-touristswere enjoyinganalfrescotea,atanotherstaidSwisshabituéssolemnlyimbibedthe sweetpinkoryellowsiropwhichtheyinfinitelypreferredtotea,whileavivid noteofcolourwasaddedtothescenebythepicturesqueuniformsofacoupleof officersofanAlgerianregimentwhowereconsumingunlimitedcigarettesand Turkish coffee, and commenting cynically in fluent French on the paucity of prettywomentobeobservedinthestreetsofMontricheuxthatafternoon. Typicallyaloof,asolitaryyoungEnglishmanwassittingatatableapart.He wasevidentlywaitingforsomeone,foreverynowandagainheleanedforward and glanced impatiently up the street, then, apparently disappointed, settled himself discontentedly to the perusal of the Continental edition of the Daily Mail. He was rather an arresting type. His lean young face looked older than his five-and-twenty years would warrant. It held a certain recklessness, together with a decided hint of temper, and he was much too good-looking to have escapedbeingmoreorlessspoiledbyeveryotherwomanwithwhomhecamein contact.Likemanyanotherboy,TonyBrabazonhadbeenrushedheadlongfrom apublicschoolintothefouryears’grindingmillofthewar,therebyacquiringa man’sfreedomwithoutthegradualpreparationofanytransitionperiod—afact which,withhisparticulartemperament,hadservedtocomplicatelife. Physically, however, he had come through unscathed, and his white flannels revealedalithe,carelessgraceoffigure.Whenheliftedhisheadtolookupthe
streettherewasacertainarroganceinthemovement—ahintofimpetuousselfwillthatwasattractivelycharacteristic.Theirritabledrummingoflong,sensitive fingers on the table-top, while he scanned the head-lines of the paper, was characteristic,too. Suddenlyacoollittlehanddescendedonhisrestlessone. “Youcanstopbeatingthedevil’stattooonthattable,Tony,”saidanamused voice.“HereIamatlast.” He sprang up, regarding the new-comer with a mixture of satisfaction and resentment. “Youmaywellsay‘atlast’!”hegrumbled.Thenthesatisfactioncompletely swampingtheresentment,hewentoneagerly:“SitdownandtellmewhyI’ve beendeprivedofyourcompanyforthewholeofthisblessedday.” AnnLovellsatdownobediently. “You’vebeendeprivedofmysociety,”sherepliedwithcomposure,“bysome onewhohadabetterrighttoit.” “LadySusan,Isuppose?”—inresignedtones. Sheassentedsmilingly. “Yes. A companion-chauffeuse isn’t always at liberty to play about with the scapegrace young men of her acquaintance, you know. And this morning my employerwasseizedwithasuddendesiretovisitAigle,sowedroveoverand lunchedataquaintoldinnthere.We’veonlyjustreturned.” As she spoke Ann stripped off her gloves, revealing a pair of slender hands that hardly looked as though they would be competent to manipulate the steering-wheel of a car. Yet there was more than one keen-eyed, red-tabbed soldierwhomshehaddrivenduringthewarwhocouldtestifytothecomplete efficiencyofthosesameslimmembers. “I’mdyingforsometea,Tony,”sheannounced,tossingherglovesontothe table.“Let’sgoinandchoosecakes.” Tony nodded, and they dived into the interior of the shop, and, arming themselves with a plate and fork each, proceeded to spear up such as most appealedtothemofthedelectablepâtisseriesarrangedintemptingrowsalong
shining trays. Then, giving an order for their tea to be served outside, they emergedoncemoreintothesunlitstreet. OneoftheAlgerianofficersfollowedAnn’smovementswithanappreciative glance.Hadshebeenlisteningshemighthavecaughthismurmured,“V’laune jolie anglaise, hein?” But she was extremely unselfconscious, and took it very much for granted that she had been blessed with russet hair which gave back coppery gleams to the sunlight, and with a pair of changeful hazel eyes that looked sometimes clearly golden and sometimes like the brown, gold-flecked heartofapansy.Shewasalmostboyishlyslenderinbuild,andtherewasasense of swift vitality about all her movements that reminded one of the free, untrammelledgraceofayoungpanther. TonyBrabazonwatchedherconsideringlywhileshepouredouttea. “Montricheux has been like a confounded desert to-day,” he remarked gloomily.Hewasobviouslyfeelingverymuchill-used.“TellLadySusanshe’ll drivemetotakethedownwardpathifshemonopolisesyoulikethis.” “Tony,you’venotbeengettingintomischief?” Annspokelightly,butafaintexpressionofanxietyflittedacrossherfaceas shepaused,theteapotpoisedabovehercup,forhisanswer. Hehesitatedamoment,hiseyessullen,thenlaughedshortly. “How could I get into mischief—my particular kind of mischief—in Montricheux, with the stakes at the tables limited to five measly francs? If we wereatMonte,now—” IfAnnnoticedhishesitationshemadenocommentonit.Shefinishedpouring outhertea. “I’mverygladwe’renot,”shesaidwithdecision.“You’dbetoobigahandful formetomanagethere.” “I’vetoldyouhowyoucanmanageme—ifyouwantto,”hereturnedswiftly. “I’dbelikewaxinyourhandsifyou’dmarryme,Ann.” “Ishouldn’tcareforahusbandwhowaslikewaxinmyhands,thankyou,” sheretortedpromptly.“Besides,I’mnotintheleastinlovewithyou.” “That’sfrank,anyway.”
“Quitefrank.Andwhat’smore,you’renotreallyinlovewithme.” Tonystiffened. “IshouldthinkI’mthebestjudgeofthat,”hesaid,haughtily. “Notabit.You’retooyoungtoknow”—coolly. A look of temper flashed into his face, but it was only momentary. Then he laughedoutright.Likemostpeople,hefounditdifficulttobeangrywithAnn; shewassotransparentlyhonestandsincere. “I’mthreeyearsyoursenior,I’dhaveyouremember,”heobserved. “Whichisdiscountedbythefactthatyou’reonlyaman.Allwomenareborn withatleastthreeyears’morecommonsenseintheirsystemsthanmen.” Tony demurred, and she allowed herself to be led into a friendly wrangle, inwardlycongratulatingherselfuponhavingsuccessfullyside-trackedthetopic of matrimony. The subject cropped up intermittently in their intercourse with eachotherand,fromlongexperience,Annhadbroughtthehabitofsteeringhim awayfromitalmosttoafineart. Hehadbeenmoreorlessinlovewithhersincehewasnineteen,butshehad always refused to take him seriously, believing it to be only the outcome of conditionswhichhadthrownthemtogetheralltheirlivesinapeculiarlyintimate fashion rather than anything of deeper root. But now that the boy had merged intotheman,shehadbeguntoaskherself,alittleapprehensively,whethershe were mistaken in her assumption, and she sometimes wondered if fate had not contrived to enmesh her in a web from which it would be difficult to escape. Tonywasaverypersistentlover,andunfortunatelyshewasnotfreetosendhim awayfromherasshemighthavesentawayanyotherman. Fondasshewasofhim,shedidn’tintheleastwanttomarryhim.Shedidn’t want to marry any one, in fact. But circumstances had combined to give her a verydefinitesenseofresponsibilityconcerningTonyBrabazon. HisfatherhadbeentheyoungersonofSirPercyBrabazonofLorne,and,like manyotheryoungersons,hadinheritedallthecharmandmostofthefaults,and very little of the money that composed the family dower. Philip, the heir, and muchtheelderofthetwo,pursuedacorrectanduneventfulexistence,remained a bachelor, and in due course came into the title and estates. Whereas Dick,
lovable and hot-headed, and with the gambling blood of generations of dicing, horse-racingancestorsrunningfierilyinhisveins,fellinlovewithbeautifulbut pennilessVirginiaDale,andmarriedher,spentandwageredhissmallpatrimony right royally while it lasted, and borrowed from all and sundry when it was squandered.Finally,heendedavariedbutdivertingexistenceinaditchwitha broken neck, while the horse that should have retrieved his fortunes galloped firstpastthewinning-post—riderless. Sir Philip Brabazon let fly a few torrid comments on the subject of his brother’scareer,andthendidtheonlydecentthing—tookVirginiaandherson, nowheirtothetitle,tolivewithhim. ItwasthenthatAnnLovell,whowasagodchildofSirPhilip’s,hadlearnedto knowandloveTony’smother.Motherlessherself,shehadsoondiscoveredthat thefraillybeautiful,sad-facedwomanwhohadcometolivewithhersomewhat irasciblegodparent,filledagapinhersmalllifeofwhich,hitherto,shehadbeen only dimly conscious. With the passing of the years came a clearer understandingofhowmuchVirginia’sadventhadmeanttoher,andultimately nobondbetweenactualmotheranddaughtercouldhavebeenstrongerthanthe bondwhichhadsubsistedbetweenthesetwo. ItwastoAnnthatVirginiaconfidedherinmostfearslestTonyshouldfollow inhisfather’sfootsteps.FromSirPhilip,cholericandtyrannical,sheconcealed themcompletely—andmanyofTony’syouthfulescapadesaswell,payingsome precociouscard-losseshesustainedwhilestillinhisearlyteensoutofherown slenderdressallowanceinpreferencetorousinghisuncle’sirebyaknowledge ofthem.ButwithAnn,shehadbeenutterlyfrank. “Tony’s a born gambler,” she told her. “But he has a stronger will than his father,andifhe’shandledproperlyhemayyetmakethekindofmanIwanthim tobe.Only—Philipdoesn’tknowhowtohandlehim.” Thelasttwoyearsofherlifeshehadspentonacouch,aconfirmedinvalid, andoppressedbyaforebodingastoTony’sultimatefuture.Andthen,oneday, shortlybeforetheweakflameofherlifeflickeredoutintothedarkness,shehad sentforAnn,andsolemnly,appealingly,confidedtheboytohercare. “Ihateleavinghim,Ann,”shehadsaidbetweenthelongboutsofcoughing whichshookherthinframesothatspeechwasattimesimpossible.“He’sso— alone.Philiprepresentsnothingtohimbutanautocratheisboundtoobey.And Tonyresentsit.Anyonewholoveshimcansteadyhim—butnoonewillever
drivehim.WhenI’mgone,willyoudowhatyoucanforhim—forhimandfor me?” AndAnn,holdingthesickwoman’sfeverishhandsinherowncoolones,had promised. “IwilldoallthatIcan,”shesaidsteadily. “And if he does get into difficulties?” persisted Virginia, her eager eyes searchingthegirl’sface. Annsmileddownatherreassuringly. “Don’t worry,” she had answered. “If he does, why, then I’ll get him out of themifit’sinanywaypossible.” Twodayslater,AnnhadstoodbesidethebedwhereVirginialay,straightand still in the utter peace and tranquillity conferred by death. Her last words had beenofTony. “I’ve‘bequeathed’himtoyou,Ann,”shehadwhispered.Adding,withafaint, humorouslittlesmile:“I’mafraidI’mleavingyouratheratroublesomelegacy.” Andnow,nearlyfouryearslater,Annhadthoroughlyrealisedthatthetaskof keeping Tony out of mischief was by no means an easy one. Here, at Montricheux,however,shehadfeltthatshecouldrelaxhervigilancesomewhat. Therewasnotemptationtoback“acertainty”ofwhichsomeracingfriendhad apprisedhim,and,asTonyhimselfdiscontentedlydeclared,thestakespermitted attheKursaaltablesweresosmallthatifhegambledeverynightoftheweekhe rannoriskofeithermakingorlosingafortune. Thechiefdanger,shereflected,wasthathemightbecomeboredandirritable —shecouldseethathewastendingthatway—andthentroublewouldbesureto arisebetweenhimandhisuncle,withwhomhewasstayingattheHotelGloria. Sherecalledhishesitationwhenshehadaskedhimifhehadbeengettinginto mischief.Wastroublebrewingalready? “Tony,”shedemandedshrewdly.“HaveyoubeenquarrellingwithSirPhilip again?There’sgenerallysomedisturbingcausewhenyoufeeldrivenintoasking metomarryyou.” “Well,whywon’tyou?He’dbesatisfiedthen.”
“He?Doyoumeanyouruncle?”—withsomeastonishment. Tonynodded. “Yes. Didn’t you know he wanted it more than anything? Just as I do,” he addedwiththequick,whimsicalsmilewhichwasoneofhischarms. Annshookherhead. “Youhaven’tansweredmyquestion,”shepersisted. “Well,”admittedTonyunwillingly,“heandIdidhaveabitofadust-upthis morning.I’msickofdoingnothing.ItoldhimIwantedtobeanarchitect.” “Well?” “It was anything but well! He let me have it good and strong. No Brabazon wasgoingtotakeupplanninghousesasaprofessionifheknewit!I’dgotmy dutytotheoldnameandestateandthetenants,etcetera,etcetera.Alltheusual tosh.” Ann’s face clouded. She devoutly wished that Sir Philip would allow his nephewtotakeupsomeprofession—nevermindwhich,solongasitinterested himandgavehimdefiniteoccupation.TokeephimidlingaboutbetweenLorne andtheBrabazontownhouseinAudleySquarewastheworstthingintheworld forhim.Privatelyshedeterminedtoapproachhergodfatheronthesubjectatthe verynextopportunity,thoughshecouldmakeaverygood,guessatthereason forhisrefusal. Itwasapurely selfishone.Helikedtohavetheboywithhim. Bullyhimandbrowbeathimashemight,Tonywasinrealitytheappleoftheold man’seye—theonethinginthewholeworldforwhichhecared. Therewouldbenothinggained,however,bylettingTonyknowherthoughts, sosheansweredhimwithtrenchantdisapproval. “It’snottosh.Afterall,yourfirstdutyistoLorneandtothetenants.Agood landlordisquiteasusefulamemberofsocietyasagoodarchitect.” “Oh, if I were doing the actual managing, it would be a different thing,” acknowledgedTony.“ButIdon’t.Hedecideseverythingandgivesalltheorders —withoutconsultingme.Ijusthavetoseethatwhatheordersiscarriedout,and trot about with him, and do the noble young heir stunt for the benefit of the tenantsonmybirthday.It’sabsolutelysickening!”—savagely.
“Well, don’t quarrel with your bread-and-butter,” advised Ann. “Or with Sir Philip.He’snotabadsortinhisway.” “Oh,isn’the?”—grimly.“Youtrylivingwithhim!Thankthepowersthatbe,I shall get a ‘day off’ to-morrow. He’s going over to Evian by the midday boat. TheSt.Keliers—blessedbetheirname!—haveaskedhimtodinewiththem—to meetsomeexiledRussianprincessorother.” “LadySusanisgoing,too.She’sstayingthenightthere.IsSirPhilip?” “Yes.There’snogettingbackthesamenight.Thisistopping,Ann.”Tony’s face had brightened considerably. “Suppose you and I go up to the Dents de Loupfortheafternoon,andthenhaveafestivelittledinnerattheGloria.Will you?Don’thaveanattackofcommonsenseandsay‘no’!” His eyes entreated her gaily. They were extremely charming eyes, of some subtly blended colour that was neither slate nor violet, but partook a little of both,andshadedbyabsurdlylonglasheswhichgavethemanalmostwomanish softness. A certain shrewd old duchess, who knew her world, had once been heardtoobservethatTonyBrabazon’seyeswouldgethiminandoutoftrouble aslongashelived. Annsmiled. “That’squiteabrain-wave,Tony,”shereplied.“Iwon’tsayno.Andifyou’re verygoodwe’llgodowntotheKursaalafterwards,andI’llletyouhavealittle innocentflutteratthetables.”Annhadnobeliefintheuseoftoosevereacurb. She felt quite sure that if Tony’s gambling propensities were bottled up too tightly, they would only break out more strongly later on—when he might chance to be in a part of the world where he could come to bigger grief financiallythanwaspossibleatMontricheux.Sheglanceddownatthewatchon her wrist and, seeing that the time had slipped by more quickly than she imagined, proceeded to gather up her gloves. “I think it’s time I went back to VillaMonRêve,now,”shesaidtentatively,fearingaburstofopposition. But, having got his own way over the arrangements for the morrow, Tony consentedtobeamenableforonce.Togethertheytooktheirwayupthepleasant streetandatthegatesofthevillahemadehisfarewells. “Ishalldropintotheclubforarubber,Ithink,”hevouchsafed,“beforegoing homelikeagoodlittleboy.”
“Don’tplayhigh,”cautionedAnngood-humouredly. She could detect the underlying note of resentment in his voice, and she entered the house meditating thoughtfully upon the amazing short-sightedness evincedbyelderlygentlemeninregardtotheupbringingoftheirheirs.
CHAPTERIITHEBRABAZONSOFLORNE “Ann’s the best pal Tony could possibly have, so, for goodness’ sake, be contentwiththatanddon’tgetaddlingyourbrainsbytryingtomarryheroffto him. Match-making isn’t a man’s job. A female child of twelve could beat the cleverestmanthat’shatchedatthegame.” LadySusanHallettfiredoffherremarks,aswasherwont,withthevigourand precision of a machine-gun. There was always a delightful definiteness both aboutherideasandtheexpressionofthem. The man she addressed was standing with his back to the open French windowoftheprettysalon,angrilyobliviousofthebluewatersofLacLéman whichlappedplacidlyagainstthestoneedgesofthequaibelow.Hewasatall, fierce-lookingoldman,withcholericblueeyesandanaristocraticbeakofanose thatjuttedoutaboveabristlinggreymoustache.Asingleeyeglassdangledfrom a broad, black ribbon round his neck. “One of the old school” was written all overhim—oneoftheold,autocraticschoolwhichbelievedthat“amanshould be master in his own house, b’gad!” By which—though he would never have admitted it—Sir Philip Brabazon inferred a kind of divinely appointed dictatorshipoverthesoulsandbodiesofthevariousmembersofhishousehold which even included the right to arrange and determine their lives for them, withoutreferencetotheirpersonaldesiresandtastes. Itwasodd,therefore,thathischieffriendandconfidante—andthewomanhe wouldhavemarriedthirtyyearsagoifshewouldonlyhavehadhim—shouldbe LadySusan,astolerantandmoderninheroutlookashewasarchaic. She was a tall, sturdily built woman of the out-of-door, squiress type. Her fine-shapedheadwascrownedbyawealthofgreyhair,simplycoiledinabig knot on the nape of her neck and contrasting rather attractively with her very black, arched eyebrows and humorous dark eyes. Those same eyes were now regardingSirPhilipwithaquizzicalexpressionofamusement. “Besides,”shepursued.“Annwouldn’thavehalfasmuchpullwithhimifshe werehiswife,letmetellyou.” “Youthinknot?”
“I’msure.Amanwilllethimselfbelecturedandgenerallylickedintoshape bythewomanhewantstomarry—butaftermarriageheusuallypreferstodoall thelecturingthat’srequiredhimself.” Theoldmanshotaswiftglanceatherfromunderapairofshaggybrows. “Howdoyouknow?”hedemandedrudely.“You’renotmarried.” LadySusannodded. “That’swhy.” “Doyoumean—doyoumean—”hebeganstormily,then,meetingherquiet, humorous gaze, stammered off into silence. Presently he fixed his monocle in one of his fierce old eyes and surveyed her from behind it as from behind a barricade. “Doyoumeanmetounderstandthatthat’sthereasonyoudeclinedtomarry me?” Shelaughedalittle. “I think it was. I didn’t want to be browbeaten into submission—as you browbeatpoorVirginia,andasyouwouldTonyifhehadn’tgotagooddashof theBrabazondevilinhim.You’reaconfirmedbully,youknow.” “I shouldn’t have bullied you.” There was an odd note of wistfulness in the harsh voice, and for a moment the handsome, arrogant old face softened incredibly.“Ishouldn’thavebulliedyou,Susan.” “Yes, you would. You couldn’t have helped it. You’d like to bully my little AnnintomarryingTonyifyoudared—monster!” The grim mouth beneath the clipped moustache relaxed into an unwilling smile. “IbelieveIwould,”headmitted.“Hangitall,Susan,itwouldsettletheboyif heweremarried.Hewantsawifetolookafterhim.” “Tolookafterhim?”—withafaintlyironicalinflection. “That’swhatIsaid”—irritably.“That’s—that’swhatwife’sfor,dammit!Isn’t it?”