_Miss Cayley's adventures_ (1899)
By Grant Allen
2. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUPERCILIOUS ATTACHE
THE Count must have been an adept in the gentle art of
quick-change disguise; for though we telegraphed full
particulars of his appearance from Louvain, the next
station, nobody in the least resembling either him or his
accomplice the shabby-looking man, could be unearthed in the
Paris train when it drew up at Brussels, its first
stopping-place. They must have transformed themselves
meanwhile into two different persons. Indeed, from the
outset, I had suspected his moustache--'twas so very
When we reached Cologne, the Cantankerous Old Lady
overwhelmed me with the warmth of her thanks and praises.
Nay, more; after breakfast next morning, before we set out
by slow train for Schlangenbad, she burst like a tornado
into my bedroom at the Cologne hotel with a cheque for
twenty guineas, drawn in my favour. 'That's for you, my
dear,' she said, handing it to me, and looking really quite
I glanced at the piece of paper and felt my face glow
crimson. 'Oh, Lady Georgina,' I cried; 'you misunderstand.
You forget that I am a lady.'
'Nonsense, child, nonsense! Your courage and promptitude
were worth ten times that sum,' she exclaimed, positively
slipping her arm round my neck. 'It was your courage I
particularly admired, Lois; because you faced the risk of my
happening to look inside the outer case, and finding you had
abstracted the blessed box: in which case I might quite
naturally have concluded you meant to steal it.'
'I thought of that,' I answered. 'But I decided to risk
it. I felt it was worth while. For I was sure the man
meant to take the case as soon as ever you gave him the
'Then you deserve to be rewarded,' she insisted, pressing
the cheque upon me.
I put her hand back firmly. 'Lady Georgina,' I said, 'it
is very amiable of you. I think you do right in offering me
the money; but I think I should do altogether wrong in
accepting it. A lady is not honest from the hope of gain;
she is not brave because she expects to be paid for her
bravery. You were my employer, and I was bound to serve my
employer's interests. I did so as well as I could, and
there is the end of it.'
She looked absolutely disappointed; we all hate to crush a
benevolent impulse; but she tore the cheque up into very
small pieces. 'As you will, my dear,' she said, with her
hands on her hips: 'I see, you are poor Tom Cayley's
daughter. He was always a bit Quixotic.' Though I believe
she liked me all the better for my refusal.
On the way from Cologne to Eltville, however, and on the
drive up to Schlangenbad, I found her just as fussy and as
worrying as ever. 'Let me see, how many of these horrid
pfennigs make an English penny? I never can remember. Oh,
those silly little nickel things are ten pfennigs each, are
they? Well, eight would be a penny, I suppose. A mark's a
shilling; ridiculous of them to divide it into ten pence
instead of twelve; one never really knows how much one's
paying for anything. Why these Continental people can't be
content to use pounds, shillings, and pence, all over alike,
the same as we do, passes my comprehension. They're glad
enough to get English sovereigns when they can; why, then,
don't they use them as such, instead of reckoning them each
at twenty-five francs, and then trying to cheat you out of
the proper exchange, which is always ten centimes more than
the brokers give you? What, we use their beastly decimal
System? Lois, I'm ashamed of you. An English girl to turn
and rend her native country like that! Francs and centimes,
indeed! Fancy proposing it at Peter Robinson's! No, I will
not go by the boat, my dear. I hate the Rhine boats,
crowded with nasty selfish pigs of Germans. What I like is
a first-class compartment all to myself, and no horrid
foreigners. Especially Germans. They're bursting with
self-satisfaction--have such an exaggerated belief in their
"land" and their "folk." And when they come to England,
they do nothing but find fault with us. If people aren't
satisfied with the countries they travel in, they'd better
stop at home--that's my opinion. Nasty pigs of Germans!
The very sight of them sickens me. Oh, I don't mind if they
do understand me, child. They all learn English nowadays;
it helps them in trade--that's why they're driving us out of
all the markets. But it must be good for them to learn once
in a way what other people really think of them--civilised
people, I mean; not Germans. They're a set of barbarians.'
We reached Schlangenbad alive, though I sometimes doubted
it: for my old lady did her boisterous best to rouse some
peppery German officer into cutting our throats
incontinently by the way; and when we got there, we took up
our abode in the nicest hotel in the village. Lady Georgina
had engaged the best front room on the first floor, with a
charming view across the pine-clad valley; but I must do her
the justice to say that she took the second best for me, and
that she treated me in every way like the guest she
delighted to honour. My refusal to accept her twenty
guineas made her anxious to pay it back to me within the
terms of our agreement. She described me to everybody as a
young friend who was travelling with her, and never gave any
one the slightest hint of my being a paid companion. Our
arrangement was that I was to have two guineas for the week,
besides my travelling expenses, board, and lodging.
On our first morning at Schlangenbad, Lady Georgina
sallied forth, very much overdressed, and in a youthful hat,
to use the waters. They are valued chiefly for the
complexion, I learned; I wondered then why Lady Georgina
came there--for she hadn't any; but they are also
recommended for nervous irritability, and as Lady Georgina
had visited the place almost every summer for fifteen years,
it opened before one's mind an appalling vista of what her
temper might have been if she had not gone to Schlangenbad.
The hot springs are used in the form of a bath. 'You don't
need them, my dear,' Lady Georgina said to me, with a
good-humoured smile; and I will own that I did not, for
nature has gifted me with a tolerable cuticle. But I like
when at Rome to do as Rome does; so I tried the baths once.
I found them unpleasantly smooth and oily. I do not
freckle, but if I did, I think I should prefer freckles.
We walked much on the terrace--the inevitable dawdling
promenade of all German watering-places--it reeked of Serene
Highness. We also drove out among the low wooded hills
which bound the Rhine valley. The majority of the visitors,
I found, were ladies--Court ladies, most of them; all there
for their complexions, but all anxious to assure me
privately they had come for what they described as 'nervous
debility.' I divided them at once into two classes: half of
them never had and never would have a complexion at all; the
other half had exceptionally smooth and beautiful skins, of
which they were obviously proud, and whose pink-and-white
peach-blossom they thought to preserve by assiduous bathing.
It was vanity working on two opposite bases. There was a
sprinkling of men, however, who were really there for a
sufficient reason--wounds or serious complaints; while a few
good old sticks, porty and whisty, were in attendance on
invalid wives or sisters.
From the beginning I noticed that Lady Georgina went
peering about all over the place, as if she were hunting for
something she had lost, with her long-handled tortoise-shell
glasses perpetually in evidence--the 'aristocratic outrage'
I called them--and that she eyed all the men with peculiar
attention. But I took no open notice of her little
weakness. On our second day at the Spa, I was sauntering
with her down the chief street--'a beastly little hole, my
dear; not a decent shop where one can buy a reel of thread
or a yard of tape in the place!'--when I observed a tall and
handsome young man on the opposite side of the road cast a
hasty glance at us, and then sneak round the corner
hurriedly. He was a loose-limbed, languid-looking young
man, with large, dreamy eyes, and a peculiarly beautiful and
gentle expression; but what I noted about him most was an
odd superficial air of superciliousness. He seemed always
to be looking down with scorn on that foolish jumble, the
universe. He darted away so rapidly, however, that I hardly
discovered all this just then. I piece it out from
Later in the day, we chanced to pass a cafe, where three
young exquisites sat sipping Rhine wines after the fashion
of the country. One of them, with a gold-tipped cigarette
held gracefully between two slender fingers, was my languid-
looking young aristocrat. He was blowing out smoke in a
lazy blue stream. The moment he saw me, however, he turned
away as if he desired to escape observation, and ducked down
so as to hide his face behind his companions. I wondered
why on earth he should want to avoid me. Could this be the
Count? No, the young man with the halo of cigarette smoke
stood three inches taller. Who, then, at Schlangenbad could
wish to avoid my notice? It was a singular mystery; for I
was quite certain the supercilious young man was trying his
best to prevent my seeing him.
That evening, after dinner, the Cantankerous Old lady
burst out suddenly, 'Well, I can't for the life of me
imagine why Harold hasn't turned up here. The wretch knew I
was coming; and I heard from our Ambassador at Rome last
week that he was going to be at Schlangenbad.'
'Who is Harold?' I asked.
'My nephew,' Lady Georgina snapped back, beating a devil's
tattoo with her fan on the table. 'The only member of my
family, except myself, who isn't a born idiot. Harold's not
an idiot; he's an attache at Rome.'
I saw it at a glance. 'Then he is in Schlangenbad,' I
answered. 'I noticed him this morning.'
The old lady turned towards me sharply. She peered right
through me, as if she were a Rontgen ray. I could see she
was asking herself whether this was a conspiracy, and
whether I had come there on purpose to meet 'Harold.' But I
flatter myself I am tolerably mistress of my own
countenance. I did not blench. 'How do you know?' she
asked quickly, with an acid intonation.
If I had answered the truth, I should have said, 'I know
he is here, because I saw a good-looking young man evidently
trying to avoid you this morning; and if a young man has the
misfortune to be born your nephew, and also to have
expectations from you, it is easy to understand that he
would prefer to keep out of your way as long as possible.'
But that would have been neither polite nor politic.
Moreover, I reflected that I had no particular reason for
wishing to do Mr. Harold a bad turn; and that it would be
kinder to him, as well as to her, to conceal the reasons on
which I based my instinctive inference. So I took up a
strong strategic position. 'I have an intuition that I saw
him in the village this morning,' I said. 'Family likeness,
perhaps. I merely jumped at it as you spoke. A tall,
languid young man; large, poetical eyes; an artistic
moustache--just a trifle Oriental-looking.'
'That's Harold!' the Cantankerous Old Lady rapped out
sharply, with clear conviction. 'The miserable boy! Why on
earth hasn't he been round to see me?'
I reflected that I knew why; but I did not say so.
Silence is golden. I also remarked mentally on that curious
human blindness which had made me conclude at first that the
supercilious young man was trying to avoid me, when I might
have guessed it was far more likely he was trying to avoid
my companion. I was a nobody; Lady Georgina Fawley was a
woman of European reputation.
'Perhaps he didn't know which hotel you were stopping at,'
I put in. 'Or even that you were here.' I felt a sudden
desire to shield poor Harold.
'Not know which hotel? Nonsense, child; he knows I come
here on this precise date regularly every summer; and if he
didn't know, is it likely I should try any other inn, when
this is the only moderately decent house to stop at in
Schlangenbad? And the morning coffee undrinkable at that;
while the hash--such hash! But that's the way in Germany.
He's an ungrateful monster; if he comes now, I shall refuse
to see him.'
Next morning after breakfast, however, in spite of these
threats, she hailed me forth with her on the Harold hunt.
She had sent the concierge to inquire at all the hotels
already, it seemed, and found her truant at none of them;
now she ransacked the pensions. At last she hunted him down
in a house on the hill. I could see she was really hurt.
'Harold, you viper, what do you mean by trying to avoid me?'
'My dear aunt, you here in Schlangenbad! Why, when did
you arrive? And what a colour you've got! You're looking
so well!' That clever thrust saved him.
He cast me an appealing glance. 'You will not betray me?'
it said. I answered, mutely, 'Not for worlds,' with a
faltering pair of downcast eyelids.
'Oh, I'm well enough, thank you,' Lady Georgina replied,
somewhat mollified by his astute allusion to her personal
appearance. He had hit her weak point dexterously. 'As
well, that is, as one can expect to be nowadays. Hereditary
gout--the sins of the fathers visited as usual. But why
didn't you come to see me?'
'How can I come to sec you if you don't tell me where you
are? "Lady Georgina Fawley, Europe," was the only address I
knew. It strikes me as insufficient.'
His gentle drawl was a capital foil to Lady Georgina's
acidulous soprano. It seemed to disarm her. She turned to
me with a benignant wave of her hand. 'Miss Cayley,' she
said, introducing me; 'my nephew, Mr. Harold Tillington.
You've heard me talk of poor Tom Cayley, Harold? This is
poor Tom Cayley's daughter.'
'Indeed?' the supercilious attache put in, looking hard at
me. 'Delighted to make Miss Cayley's acquaintance.'
'Now, Harold, I can tell from your voice at once you
haven't remembered one word about Captain Cayley.'
Harold stood on the defensive. 'My dear aunt,' he
observed, expanding both palms, 'I have heard you talk of so
very many people, that even my diplomatic memory fails at
times to recollect them all. But I do better: I dissemble.
I will plead forgetfulness now of Captain Cayley, since you
force it on me. It is not likely I shall have to plead it
of Captain Cayley's daughter.' And he bowed towards me
The Cantankerous Old Lady darted a lightning glance at
him. It was a glance of quick suspicion. Then she turned
her rontgen rays upon my face once more. I fear I burned
'A friend?' he asked. 'Or a fellow-guest?'
'A companion.' It was the first nasty thing she had said
'Ha! more than a friend, then. A comrade.' He turned the
We walked out on the terrace and a little way up the
zigzag path. The day was superb. I found Mr. Tillington,
in spite of his studiously languid and supercilious air, a
most agreeable companion. He knew Europe. He was full of
talk of Rome and the Romans. He had epigrammatic wit, curt,
keen, and pointed. We sat down on a bench; he kept Lady
Georgina and myself amused for an hour by his crisp sallies.
Besides, he had been everywhere and seen everybody. Culture
and agriculture seemed all one to him.
When we rose to go in, Lady Georgina remarked, with
emphasis, 'Of course, Harold, you'll come and take up your
diggings at our hotel?'
'Of course, my dear aunt. How can you ask? Free
quarters. Nothing would give me greater pleasure.'
She glanced at him keenly again. I saw she had expected
him to fake up some lame excuse for not joining us; and I
fancied she was annoyed at his prompt acquiescence, which
had done her out of the chance for a family disagreement.
'Oh, you'll come then?' she said, grudgingly.
'Certainly, most respected aunt. I shall much prefer it.'
She let her piercing eye descend upon me once more. I was
aware that I had been talking with frank ease of manner to
Mr. Tillington, and that I had said several things which
clearly amused him. Then I remembered all at once our
relative positions. A companion, I felt, should know her
place: it is not her role to be smart and amusing.
'Perhaps,' I said, drawing back, 'Mr. Tillington would like
to remain in his present quarters till the end of the week,
while I am with you, Lady Georgina; after that, he could
have my room; it might be more convenient.'
His eye caught mine quickly. 'Oh, you're only going to
stop a week, then, Miss Cayley?' he put in, with an air of
'Only a week,' I nodded.
'My dear child,' the Cantankerous Old Lady broke out,
'what nonsense you do talk! Only going to stop a week? How
can I exist without you?'
'That was the arrangement,' I said, mischievously. 'You
were going to look about, you recollect, for an
unsophisticated Gretchen. You don't happen to know of any
warehouse where a supply of unsophisticated Gretchens is
kept constantly in stock, do you, Mr. Tillington?'
'No, I don't,' he answered, laughing. 'I believe there
are dodos and auks' eggs, in very small numbers, still to be
procured in the proper quarters; but the unsophisticated
Gretchen, I am credibly informed, is an extinct animal.
Why, the cap of one fetches high prices nowadays among
'But you will come to the hotel at once, Harold?' Lady
'Certainly, aunt. I will move in without delay. If Miss
Cayley is going to stay for a single week only, that adds
one extra inducement for joining you immediately.'
His aunt's stony eye was cold as marble.
So when we got back to our hotel after the baths that
afternoon the concierge greeted us with: 'Well, your noble
nephew has arrived, high-well-born countess! He came with
his boxes just now, and has taken a room near your
Lady Georgina's face was a study of mingled emotions. I
don't know whether she looked more pleased or jealous.
Later in the day, I chanced on Mr. Tillington, sunning
himself on a bench in the hotel garden. He rose, and came
up to me, as fast as his languid nature permitted 'Oh,
Miss Cayley,' he said, abruptly, 'I do want to thank you so
much for not betraying me. I know you spotted me twice in
the town yesterday; and I also know you were good enough to
say nothing to my revered aunt about it.'
'I had no reason for wishing to hurt Lady Georgina's
feelings,' I answered, with a permissible evasion.
His countenance fell. 'I never thought of that,' he
interposed, with one hand on his moustache. 'I--I fancied
you did it out of fellow-feeling.'
'We all think of things mainly from our own point of view
first,' I answered. 'The difference is that some of us
think of them from other people's afterwards. Motives are
He smiled. 'I didn't know my deeply venerated relative
was coming here so soon,' he went on. 'I thought she wasn't
expected till next week; my brother wrote me that she had
quarrelled with her French maid, and 'twould take her full
ten days to get another. I meant to clear out before she
arrived. To tell you the truth, I was going to-morrow.'
'And now you are stopping on?'
He caught my eye again.
'Circumstances alter cases,' he murmured, with meaning.
'It is hardly polite to describe one as a circumstance,' I
'I meant,' he said, quickly, 'my aunt alone is one thing;
my aunt with a friend is quite another.'
'I see,' I answered. 'There is safety in numbers.'
He eyed me hard.
'Are you mediaeval or modern?' he asked.
'Modern, I hope,' I replied. Then I looked at him again.
He nodded. 'And you?' half joking.
'Cambridge,' I said, glad to catch him out. 'What
The odd rhyme amused him. Thenceforth we were friends--
'two 'Varsity men,' he said. And indeed it does make a
queer sort of link--a freemasonry to which even women are
At dinner and through the evening he talked a great deal
to me, Lady Georgina putting in from time to time a
characteristic growl about the table-d'hote chicken--a
special breed, my dear, with eight drumsticks apiece'--or
about the inadequate lighting of the heavy German salon.
She was worse than ever: pungent as a rule, that evening she
was grumpy. When we retired for the night, to my great
surprise, she walked into my bedroom. She seated herself on
my bed: I saw she had come to talk over Harold.
'He will be very rich, my dear, you know. A great catch
in time. He will inherit all my brother's money.'
'Bless the child, no. Kynaston's as poor as a church
mouse with the tithes unpaid; he has three sons of his own,
and not a blessed stiver to leave between them. How could
he, poor dear idiot? Agricultural depression; a splendid
pauper. He has only the estate, and that's in Essex; land
going begging; worth nothing a year, encumbered up to the
eyes, and loaded with first rent-charges, jointures,
settlements. Money, indeed! poor Kynaston! It's my brother
Marmaduke's I mean; lucky dog, he went in for speculation--
began life as a guinea-pig, and rose with the rise of soap
and cocoa. He's worth his half-million.'
'Oh, Mr. Marmaduke Ashurst.'
Lady Georgina nodded. 'Marmy's a fool,' she said,
briefly; ' but he knows which side of his bread is
'And Mr. Tillington is--his nephew?'
'Bless the child, yes; have you never read your British
Bible, the peerage? Astonishing, the ignorance of these
Girton girls! They don't even know the Leger's run at
Doncaster. The family name's Ashurst. Kynaston's an earl--
I was Lady Georgina Ashurst before I took it into my head to
marry and do for poor Evelyn Fawley. My younger brother's
the Honourable Marmaduke Ashurst--women get the best of it
there--it's about the only place where they do get the best
of it: an earl's daughter is Lady Betty; his son's nothing
more than the Honourable Tom. So one scores off one's
brothers. My younger sister, Lady Guinevere Ashurst,
married Stanley Tillington of the Foreign Office. Harold's
their eldest son. Now, child, do you grasp it?'
'Perfectly,' I answered. 'You speak like Debrett. Has
'And Harold will inherit all Marmaduke's money. What I'm
always afraid of is that some fascinating adventuress will
try to marry him out of hand. A pretty face and over goes
Harold! My business in life is to stand in the way and
She looked me through and through again with her X-ray
'I don't think Mr. Tillington is quite the sort that falls
a prey to adventuresses,' I answered, boldly.
'Ah, but there are faggots and faggots,' the old lady
said, wagging her head with profound meaning. ' Never mind,
though; I'd like to see an adventuress marry off Harold
without my leave! I'd lead her a life! I'd turn her black
hair gray for her!'
'I should think,' I assented, 'you could do it, Lady
Georgina, if you gave your attention seriously to it.'
From that moment forth, I was aware that my Cantankerous
Old Lady's malign eye was inexorably fixed upon me every
time I went within speaking distance of Mr. Tillington. She
watched him like a lynx. She watched me like a dozen
lynxes. Wherever we went, Lady Georgina was sure to turn up
in the neighbourhood. She was perfectly ubiquitous: she
seemed to possess a world-wide circulation. I don't know
whether it was this constant suggestion of hers that I was
stalking her nephew which roused my latent human feeling of
opposition; but in the end, I began to be aware that I
rather liked the supercilious attache than otherwise. He
evidently liked me, and he tried to meet me. Whenever he
spoke to me, indeed, it was without the superciliousness
which marked his manner towards others; in point of fact, it
was with graceful deference. He watched for me on the
stairs, in the garden, by the terrace; whenever he got a
chance, he sidled over and talked to me. Sometimes he
stopped in to read me Heine: he also introduced me to select
portions of Gabriele d'Annunzio. It is feminine to be
touched by such obvious attention; I confess, before long, I
grew to like Mr. Harold Tillington.
The closer he followed me up, the more did I perceive that
Lady Georgina threw out acrid hints with increasing spleen
about the ways of adventuresses. They were hints of that
acrimonious generalised kind, too, which one cannot answer
back without seeming to admit that the cap has fitted. It
was atrocious how middle-class young women nowadays ran
after young men of birth and fortune. A girl would stoop to
anything in order to catch five hundred thousand. Guileless
youths should be thrown among their natural equals. It was
a mistake to let them see too much of people of a lower rank
who consider themselves good-looking. And the clever ones
were the worst: they pretended to go in for intellectual
I also noticed that though at first Lady Georgina had
expressed the strongest disinclination to my leaving her
after the time originally proposed, she now began to take
for granted that I would go at the end of my week, as
arranged in London, and she even went on to some overt steps
towards securing the help of the blameless Gretchen.
We had arrived at Schlangenbad on Tuesday. I was to stop
with the Cantankerous Old Lady till the corresponding day of
the following week. On the Sunday, I wandered out on the
wooded hillside behind the village; and as I mounted the
path I was dimly aware by a sort of instinct that Harold
Tillington was following me.
He came up with me at last near a ledge of rock. 'How
fast you walk!' he exclaimed. 'I gave you only a few
minutes' start, and yet even my long legs have had hard work
to overtake you.'
'I am a fairly good climber,' I answered, sitting down on
a little wooden bench. 'You see, at Cambridge, I went on
the river a great deal--I canoed and sculled: and then
besides, I've done a lot of bicycling.'
'What a splendid birthright it is,' he cried, 'to be a
wholesome athletic English girl! You can't think how one
admires English girls after living a year or two in Italy--
where women are dolls, except for a brief period of intrigue
before they settle down to be contented frumps with an
outline like a barrel.'
'A little muscle and a little mind are no doubt advisable
adjuncts for a housewife,' I admitted.
'You shall not say that word,' he cried, seating himself
at my side. 'It is a word for Germans, "housewife." Our
English ideal is something immeasurably higher and better. A
companion, a complement! Do you know, Miss Cayley it always
sickens me when I hear German students sentimentalising over
their madchen: their beautiful, pure, insipid, yellow-
haired, blue-eyed madchen; her, so fair, so innocent,
unapproachably vacuous--so like a wax doll--and then think
of how they design her in days to come to cook sausages for
their dinner, and knit them endless stockings through a
placid middle age, till the needles drop from her paralysed
fingers, and she retires into frilled caps and Teutonic
'You seem to have almost as low an opinion of foreigners
as your respected aunt!' I exclaimed, looking quizzically at
He drew back, surprised. 'Oh, no; I'm not narrow-minded,
like my aunt, I hope,' he answered. 'I am a good
cosmopolitan. I allow Continental nations all their own
good points, and each has many. But their women, Miss
Cayley--and their point of view of their women--you will
admit that there they can't hold a candle to English women.'
I drew a circle in the dust with the tip of my parasol.
'On that issue, I may not be a wholly unprejudiced
observer,' I answered. 'The fact of my being myself an
Englishwoman may possibly to some extent influence my
'You are sarcastic,' he cried, drawing away.
'Not at all,' I answered, making a wider circle. 'I spoke
a simple fact. But what is your ideal, then, as opposed to
the German one?'
He gazed at me and hesitated. His lips half parted. 'My
ideal?' he said, after a pause. 'Well, my ideal--do you
happen to have such a thing as a pocket-mirror about you?'
I laughed in spite of myself. 'Now, Mr. Tillington,' I
said severely, 'if you're going to pay compliments, I shall
have to return. If you want to stop here with me, you must
remember that I am only Lady Georgina Fawley's temporary
lady's-maid. Besides, I didn't mean that. I meant, what is
your ideal of a man's right relation to his madchen?'
'Don't say madchen, he cried, petulantly. 'It sounds as
if you thought me one of those sentimental Germans. I hate
'Then, towards the woman of his choice.'
He glanced up through the trees at the light overhead, and
spoke more slowly than ever. 'I think,' he said, fumbling
his watch-chain nervously, 'a man ought to wish the woman he
loves to be a free agent, his equal in point of action, even
as she is nobler and better than he in all spiritual
matters. I think he ought to desire for her a life as high
as she is capable of leading, with full scope for every
faculty of her intellect or emotional nature. She should be
beautiful, with a vigorous, wholesome, many-sided beauty,
moral, intellectual, physical; yet with soul in her, too;
and with the soul and the mind lighting up her eyes, as it
lights up--well, that is immaterial. And if a man can
discover such a woman as that, and can induce her to believe
in him, to love him, to accept him--though how such a woman
can be satisfied with any man at all is to me unfathomable--
well, then, I think he should be happy in devoting his whole
life to her, and should give himself up to repay her
condescension in taking him.'
'And you hate sentiment?' I put in smiling.
He brought his eyes back from the sky suddenly. 'Miss
Cayley,' he said, 'this is cruel. I was in earnest. You
are playing with me.'
'I believe the chief characteristic of the English girl is
supposed to be common sense,' I answered, calmly, 'and I
trust I possess it.' But indeed, as he spoke, my heart was
beginning to make its beat felt; for he was a charming young
man; he had a soft voice and lustrous eyes; it was a
summer's day; and alone in the woods with one other person,
where the sunlight falls mellow in spots like a leopard's
skin, one is apt to remember that we are all human.
That evening Lady Georgina managed to blurt out more
malicious things than ever about the ways of adventuresses,
and the duty of relations in saving young men from the
clever clutches of designing creatures. She was ruthless in
her rancour: her gibes stung me.
On Monday at breakfast I asked her casually if she had yet
found a Gretchen.
'No,' she answered, in a gloomy voice. 'All slatterns, my
dear; all slatterns! Brought up in pig-sties. I wouldn't
let one of them touch my hair for thousands.'
'That's unfortunate,' I said, drily, ' for you know I'm
If I had dropped a bomb in their midst they couldn't have
looked more astonished. 'To-morrow?' Lady Georgina gasped,
clutching my arm. 'You don't mean it, child'; you don't
I asserted my Ego. 'Certainly,' I answered, with my
coolest air. 'I said I thought I could manage you for a
week; and I have managed you.'
She almost burst into tears. 'But, my child, my child,
what shall I do without you?'
'The unsophisticated Gretchen,' I answered, trying not to
look concerned; for in my heart of hearts, in spite of her
innuendoes, I had really grown rather to like the
Cantankerous Old Lady.
She rose hastily from the table, and darted up to her own
room. 'Lois,' she said, as she rose, in a curious voice of
mingled regret and suspicion, 'I will talk to you about this
later.' I could see she was not quite satisfied in her own
mind whether Harold Tillington and I had not arranged this
I put on my hat and strolled off into the garden, and then
along the mossy hill path. In a minute more, Harold
Tillington was beside me.
He seated me, half against my will, on a rustic bench.
'Look here, Miss Cayley,' he said, with a very earnest
face; 'is this really true? Are you going to-morrow?'
My voice trembled a little. 'Yes,' I answered, biting my
lip. 'I am going. I see several reasons why I should go,
'But so soon?'
'Yes, I think so; the sooner the better.' My heart was
racing now, and his eyes pleaded mutely.
'Then where are you going?'
I shrugged my shoulders, and pouted my lips a little. 'I
don't know,' I replied. 'The world is all before me where
to choose. I am an adventuress,' I said it boldly, 'and I
am in quest of adventures. I really have not yet given a
thought to my next place of sojourn.'
'But you will let me know when you have decided?'
It was time to speak out. 'No, Mr. Tillington,' I said,
with decision. 'I will not let you know. One of my reasons
for going is, that I think I had better see no more of you.'
He flung himself on the bench at my side, and folded his
hands in a helpless attitude. 'But, Miss Cayley,' he cried,
'this is so short a notice; you give a fellow no chance; I
hoped I might have seen more of you--might have had some
opportunity of--of letting you realise how deeply I admired
and respected you--some opportunity of showing myself as I
really am to you--before--before----' he paused, and looked
hard at me.
I did not know what to say. I really liked him so much;
and when he spoke in that voice, I could not bear to seem
cruel to him. Indeed, I was aware at the moment how much I
had grown to care for him in those six short days. But I
knew it was impossible. 'Don't say it, Mr. Tillington,' I
murmured, turning my face away. 'The less said, the sooner
'But I must,' he cried. 'I must tell you now, if I am to
have no chance afterwards. I wanted you to see more of me
before I ventured to ask you if you could ever love me, if
you could ever suffer me to go through life with you, to
share my all with you.' He seized my trembling hand 'Lois,'
he cried, in a pleading voice, 'I must ask you; I can't
expect you to answer me now, but do say you will give me at
least some other chance of seeing you, and then in time, of
pressing my suit upon you.'
Tears stood in my eyes. He was so earnest, so charming.
But I remembered Lady Georgina, and his prospective
half-million. I moved his hand away gently. 'I cannot,' I
said. 'I cannot--I am a penniless girl--an adventuress.
Your family, your uncle, would never forgive you if you
married me. I will not stand in your way. I--I like you
very much, though I have seen so little of you. But I feel
it is impossible--and I am going to-morrow.'
Then I rose of a sudden, and ran down the hill with all my
might, lest I should break my resolve, never stopping once
till I reached my own bedroom.
An hour later, Lady Georgina burst in upon me in high
dudgeon. 'Why, Lois, my child,' she cried. 'What's this?
What on earth does it mean? Harold tells me he has proposed
to you--proposed to you--and you've rejected him!'
I dried my eyes and tried to look steadily at her. 'Yes,
Lady Georgina,' I faltered. 'You need not be afraid. I
have refused him; and I mean it.'
She looked at me, all aghast. 'And you mean it!' she
repeated. 'You mean to refuse him. Then, all I can say is,
Lois Cayley, I call it pure cheek of you!'
'What?' I cried, drawing back.
'Yes, cheek,' she answered, volubly. 'Forty thousand a
year, and a good old family! Harold Tillington is my
nephew; he's an earl's grandson; he's an attache at Rome;
and he's bound to be one of the richest commoners in
England. Who are you, I'd like to know, miss, that you dare
to reject him?'
I stared at her, amazed. 'But, Lady Georgina,' I cried,
'you said you wished to protect your nephew against
bare-faced adventuresses who were setting their caps at
She fixed her eyes on me, half-angry, half-tremulous.
'Of course,' she answered, with withering scorn. 'But,
then, I thought you were trying to catch him. He tells me
now you won't have him, and you won't tell him where you are
going. I call it sheer insolence. Where do you hail from,
girl, that you should refuse my nephew? A man that any
woman in England would be proud to marry! Forty thousand a
year, and an earl's grandson! That's what comes, I suppose,
of going to Girton!'
I drew myself up. 'Lady Georgina,' I said, coldly, 'I
cannot allow you to use such language to me. I promised to
accompany you to Germany for a week; and I have kept my
word. I like your nephew; I respect your nephew; he has
behaved like a gentleman. But I will not marry him. Your
own conduct showed me in the plainest way that you did not
judge such a match desirable for him; and I have common
sense enough to see that you were quite right. I am a lady
by birth and education; I am an officer's daughter; but I am
not what society calls "a good match" for Mr. Tillington.
He had better marry into a rich stockbroker's family.'
It was an unworthy taunt: the moment it escaped my lips
To my intense surprise, however, Lady Georgina flung
herself on my bed, and burst into tears. 'My dear,' she
sobbed out, covering her face with her hands, 'I thought
you would be sure to set your cap at Harold; and alter I had
seen you for twenty-four hours, I said to myself, "That's
just the sort of girl Harold ought to fall in love with." I
felt sure he would fall in love with you. I brought you
here on purpose. I saw you had all the qualities that would
strike Harold's fancy. So I had made up my mind for a
delightful regulation family quarrel. I was going to oppose
you and Harold, tooth and nail; I was going to threaten that
Marmy would leave his money to Kynaston's eldest son; I was
going to lick up, oh, a dickens of a row about it! Then, of
course, in the end, we should all have been reconciled; we
should have kissed and made friends: for you're just the one
girl in the world for Harold; indeed, I never met anybody so
capable and so intelligent. And now you spoil all my sport
by going and refusing him! It's really most ill-timed of
you. And Harold has sent me here--he's trembling with
anxiety--to see whether I can't induce you to think better
of your decision.'
I made up my mind at once. 'No, Lady Georgina,' I said,
in my gentlest voice--positively stooping down and kissing
her. 'I like Mr. Tillington very much. I dare not tell you
how much I like him. He is a dear, good, kind fellow. But
I cannot rest under the cruel imputation of being moved by
his wealth and having tried to capture him. Even if you
didn't think so, his family would. I am sorry to go; for in
a way I like you. But it is best to adhere to our original
plan. If I changed my mind, you might change yours again.
Let us say no more. I will go to-morrow.'
'But you will see Harold again?'
'Not alone. Only at dinner.' For I feared lest, if he
spoke to me alone, he might over-persuade me.
'Then at least you will tell him where you are going?'
'No, Lady Georgina; I do not know myself. And besides, it
is best that this should now be final.'
She flung herself upon me. 'But, my dear child, a lady
can't go out into the world with only two pounds in pocket.
You must let me lend you something.'
I unwound her clasping hands. 'No, dear Lady Georgina,' I
said, though I was loth to say it. 'You are very sweet and
good, but I must work out my life in my own way. I have
started to work it out, and I won't be turned aside just
here on the threshold.'
'And you won't stop with me?' she cried, opening her arms.
'You think me too cantankerous?'
'I think you have a dear, kind old heart,' I said, 'under
the quaintest and crustiest outside such a heart ever wore;
you're a truculent old darling: so that's the plain truth of
She kissed me. I kissed her in return with fervour,
though I am but a poor hand at kissing, for a woman. 'So
now this episode is concluded,' I murmured.
'I don't know about that,' she said, drying her eyes. 'I
have set my heart upon you now; and Harold has set his heart
upon you; and considering that your own heart goes much the
same way, I daresay, my dear, we shall find in the end some
convenient road out of it.'
Nevertheless, next morning I set out by myself in the
coach from Schlangenbad. I went forth into the world to
live my own life, partly because it was just then so
fashionable, but mainly because fate had denied me the
chance of living anybody else's.