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people who surrounded us. Nobody seemed inclined to say anything, and I
had had time during Lord Potter's speech to reflect that he could not
know that I was not a Highlander, and that he had put a weapon into my
hands by his affectation of not knowing who I was.

"I will certainly leave your party if you wish me to, Mrs. Chanticleer,"
I said. "Lord Potter and I have come up against one another before. It
is true that when I first came into Culbut he managed to get me arrested
for playing rather a foolish practical joke upon him, which he does not
seem able to forget. But when he tells you he is sorry to disturb your
party, he is not speaking the truth, because he can't have come here for
any other purpose. He knew that he would find me here, and has not
scrupled to break in on your brilliant and memorable gathering, with the
object of ruining its success by his absurd charges."

There were murmurs among the aristocratic dames who were gathered about
us. Although Lord Potter was the dirtiest of the dirty, and held a high
position among the men of the set, I heard afterwards that he was not
popular among the ladies, not only because of his arrogance, but
because, being a most eligible bachelor, he had omitted to marry so many
of their daughters. Besides, Mrs. Claudie's party had gone with such a
swing so far that it was felt to be too bad of him to come in in this
way and try to spoil it.

But Mrs. Claudie showed herself full of tact and resource. She laughed
lightly. "I really can't be expected to settle a silly quarrel between
two men," she said. "I have all my own quarrels to settle, and most of
my women friends' besides. Come and have a shy at Siggy Rosenbaum's
nuts, Lord Potter; and, Mr. Howard, you go and find Miriam and take her
to have a few s'rimps."

Perhaps Lord Potter would have allowed himself to hold over his account
with me for the time being, and I certainly had no wish to carry it on
then or at any time. But unfortunately Edward had by this time arrived
fully on the scene, and with all his excellent qualities he was a trifle
too weighty for a situation that wanted delicate handling.

"Mr. Howard is a guest in my father's house," he said, his face pale and
determined from the stress of the moment, "and I cannot allow him to be
insulted."

"Oh, my dear Edward, nobody wants to insult anybody," said Mrs. Claudie.
"Please let us go to the cocoanuts."

But Lord Potter's temper had been aroused by the challenge. "I have
nothing to do with you or your father," he said disagreeably. "You have
both unclassed yourselves. You can keep what company you please, as far
as I am concerned. But when you take into your house a highly suspicious
character, you ought to keep him to yourselves, and not foist him on to
respectable company."

Edward was about to reply hotly, but I didn't want to leave my case in
his hands; he knew too much about me, and might give it away in his
unthinking annoyance.

"How do you know I am staying with Mr. Perry?" I asked quickly. "You
pretended just now to be surprised to find I was _that_ Howard. And yet
you heard my name when we first met, and you saw me go away with Mr.
Perry."

"I will settle with you later, sir," he said furiously. "You have been
going about in expensive clothes, and I have reason to believe you are
an impostor, and are wanted by the police."

"Oh, do leave off and come to the cocoanuts," cried poor Mrs. Claudie,
desolated at the prospect of a disturbance. But the situation was now
beyond her.

"Perhaps you will say that my father and I are impostors, because we go
about in clean clothes," said Edward angrily. "Mr. Howard is studying
social conditions, as we are. He is a gentleman, as anyone can see,
whatever he chooses to wear."

Perhaps it is rather conceited of me to mention it, but there were
murmurs of approval here. In my old Norfolk jacket and weather-beaten
hat, I must have appeared all that was desirable in the matter of
fashionable attire, according to Upsidonian standards.

Encouraged by these murmurs, I stuck to my point with Lord Potter. "Will
you answer a plain question?" I asked him. "Did you know who I was when
you came and tried to break up this delightful party, or did you tell
Mrs. Chanticleer a lie?"

It was not much of a point, but it settled him. There were more murmurs,
and Mrs. Claudie said reproachfully: "You know you did refuse my
invitation, Lord Potter. And if you did know who Mr. Howard was, it is
not very friendly of you to come after all, and try to spoil our fun."

The Duchess of Somersault, who was a great enough lady not to stand in
awe of anybody, and had already married off all her daughters, now
intervened:

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Hezekiah Potter," she said in a
loud clear voice. "Anybody would think this was a reception by the wife
of a millionaire by the way you poke yourself in on it and try to start
a vulgar brawl. I shall be very pleased to welcome Mr. Howard at any
time to my van, and I am not in the habit of receiving adventurers
there."

Such a bold, and, to me, almost overwhelming, offer of recognition from
so great a lady naturally turned the tables completely in my favour.
Lord Potter shrugged his shoulders, one of which could be plainly seen
through the discoloured cloth of his filthy jacket, muttered something
into his ragged beard, and shuffled off in the dust towards Culbut. Mrs.
Claudie instantly collected a party of young people to throw at Sir
Sigismund's cocoanuts; and the incident appeared to be completely at an
end.

But I could see that people were talking about it for the rest of the
afternoon, and as we made our way homewards later on, and I very much
fear that Mrs. Claudie Chanticleer wept tears of disappointment when she
retired to her railway arch that night, over this unfortunate
interruption of what would otherwise have been the most talked-of
assembly of the now waning season.

As far as I was concerned, I was made to feel that I had come out of my
engagement with Lord Potter with credit. I had stood up to a great man,
and he had been driven off the field by a great lady. I was even
something of a lion for the rest of the afternoon, and if I had wished
could have taken my place then and there as a popular addition to the
dirty set, and enjoyed all the advantages of that enviable condition.

But Edward's gloomy brow, as he ranged apart with his hands in his
pockets, warned me that there was trouble ahead, and I had not been too
busily engaged with Lord Potter to miss the spectacle of excited
newspaper reporters edging in amongst the spectators and busily taking
down all that was said in their notebooks.

What was quite certain was that I could no longer expect to be able to
hide such light as I might give forth under a bushel. It would be known
all over the country to-morrow that I had been denounced as an
adventurer, and accused of representing myself as coming from a place
which I had never seen.

A nice young reporter, more enterprising than the rest, who had hurried
off on their bicycles to hand in their copy, did try to interview me,
and I wished I had been in a position to give him the information for
his paper that he asked for. It was only for my address in the
Highlands, and a statement of why and how I had come to Culbut, and
would have settled the matter for me, if I had really been the
completely misunderstood person that I was supposed to be.

But I had to send him away empty, and I am sorry to say that he was
annoyed with me, and hinted in his account of the fracas that there was
more in Lord Potter's charges than appeared on the surface.

I was also somewhat disturbed by a conversation I had with the Duchess
of Somersault, sitting proudly on the tail-board of her van, in sight of
everybody.

She said that she had never crossed the mountains in her wanderings, but
had been pretty close to them, and she mentioned the names of several
members of the Highland aristocracy with whom she was acquainted. She
seemed a little disappointed when I showed myself ignorant of all of
them, but was not, I think, suspicious, as she might have been. She
talked, during most of my visit to her, in a full-bodied voice that was
evidently music in her own ears, and though she plied me with questions
she provided most of the answers to them herself. She wore a magenta
gown, a violently checked shawl, and an enormous feathered hat, and sat
with her knees wide apart and her elbows on them, smoking a clay pipe,
while she talked to me. She was of massive form and highly equiline
features, and looked every inch of her a _grandame_.

"I met Lord McGillicuddy the last time the Duke and I were up north,"
she said. "Of course you know him. A grand old man, is he not? The
Master of McGillicuddy is on his way to Culbut now, with a flock of
sheep, and if he arrives before we go out of town I shall ask a few
friends to meet him, and I hope you will make one of the party, Mr.
Howard. And, of course, dear Miriam too. If he does not arrive in time
we shall no doubt meet him, for we take the north road this summer, I am
happy to say. There is always a great demand for wicker cradles on it;
in the north they are more prolific than we are - as of course you know.
I shall certainly tell him what a pleasure it has been to meet you, and
get him to look you up. He will be able to support you if you have any
more trouble with that tiresome Hezekiah Potter, who seems to think he
can behave exactly as he pleases, and must, I am afraid, have given you
a poor opinion of our pleasant little society here."

I assured her Grace, as seemed to be expected of me, that she herself
had dissipated any unfortunate ideas I might have formed on that
subject. She dismissed me with an agreeable smile, and an assurance of
her continued support, for whatever it might be worth.

Miriam returned in the Duchess' van. She was a favourite with the Duke,
who asked her to sit up beside him, while he drove his old toastrack of
a horse.

I walked with Edward, who was much disturbed in his mind over what had
happened. He said that Potter's insolence was beyond all bearing, and he
had been seriously considering whether it was not his filial duty to
seek him out with a horsewhip and give him a sound thrashing.

"To think that my dear good old father should be subjected to the foul
insults of such a man as that!" he said. "It positively makes my blood
boil. On the one side you have a man whose whole being radiates
self-sacrifice and benevolence, and on the other a wretched cur snarling
at his heels. What am I to do, Howard? I don't want to be sent to
prison, but upon my word I feel inclined to risk it for the pleasure of
assaulting that scoundrel."

"I should treat him with the contempt he deserves," I said. "It is a
case of dignity and impudence. Surely, your father's noble life speaks
for itself! Nothing that you could do to such a contemptible person as
Potter would make it shine with brighter effulgence."

He turned to me and wrung me warmly by the hand. The tears were in his
eyes, and he was too much moved to speak for the moment. "Thank you for
those words," he said presently, in a low voice. "I am sure they were
spoken from the heart, and I shall not forget them. There are few who
are blessed with such fathers as mine, and I have the pleasure of
feeling that he will soon be your father too, and that you will revere
him as he deserves. Tell me, Howard, didn't that count with you, when
you made up your mind to propose to my sister?"

"Well, perhaps I was thinking more about _her_ at the time," I said.
"But naturally I congratulate myself on the prospect of having such a
father-in-law."

Edward was so taken up with the insult offered to his father that he did
not notice as we came to the tramway terminus, from which the road to
Magnolia Hall branched off, a newspaper placard on which were displayed
the lines:

DISGRACEFUL BRAWL AT SOCIETY GATHERING.

WELL-KNOWN NAMES INVOLVED.

WHO IS MR. JOHN HOWARD?

Well, if that question was going to interest the inhabitants of
Upsidonia, it seemed about time for me to be making arrangements for the
modest competency that would enable me to leave the country.




CHAPTER XX


I woke up the next morning without that sense of something delightful
about to happen to me to which I had grown accustomed since my arrival
in Upsidonia, but soon brightened again as I laid my plans for acquiring
an easy and immediate fortune. I knew that a rich man in Upsidonia would
present me with twenty or thirty thousand pounds as readily as a poor
man in England would allow me to present him with it, and would thank
his lucky stars at finding a fool big enough to take it. I only had to
find the rich man.

It seemed to me that I already knew who to apply to. I had made the
acquaintance of a very rich man indeed, when I had gone district
visiting with Mrs. Perry. His name was Hobson, and he had not always
been as rich as he was at present. Mining speculations had ruined him.
He could not touch a thing that turned out right. So sure as he bought
shares in a mine that was supposed to have no gold in it, it turned out
to be one of the richest ever heard of. And even silver played him
false; he had come his biggest cropper over a worked-out silver mine, in
which antimony or some such metal was discovered the moment the shares
seemed to be worth nothing, with the consequence that they had jumped up
again to unheard-of altitudes.

When the crash had come Mr. Hobson had put a bold face on it, and his
wife had behaved nobly. She had given up the confined home in which she
had been so happy without a murmur, and had bought every stick of
furniture that she could cram into a large house. She had bought silks
and laces, furs and jewels, for herself, and clothed her young children
in the richest attire; and she had given up without flinching the
household work in which she had taken such a delight, and engaged a
large staff of servants. All Mr. Hobson's debtors had been allowed to
pay him in full, and he and his family had retired to their mansion,
with a name free of all reproach, it is true, but to such misery as only
people of refinement could experience from such a change in their
surroundings.

And that was not the worst. Mr. Hobson was a kind husband and an
affectionate father. But he had the gambler's fever in his blood, and
the hard lesson he had received had not sufficed to purge him of it.
Since his downfall he had continued to speculate, but with no greater
success than before, and it was much to be feared that unless some help
came to him, not only he, but his blameless wife and his innocent young
children, would sink into yet deeper depths of degradation, and be
obliged at last to go to the playhouse.

Mrs. Perry had come home one afternoon from a round of her district,
full of the troubles of the Hobsons. Mr. Hobson had broken out again,
and had risked a small fortune, not this time in mining, but in a patent
for increasing the amount of petrol to be used in motor-cars. His excuse
was that he had some mechanical knowledge, and had spotted an error in
the invention which he thought would make it useless. But,
unfortunately, he had mentioned his discovery to others, the errors had
been pointed out to the patentees, and they had succeeded in putting
them right. Or, as was darkly hinted, there had been no error at all,
and Mr. Hobson had fallen into a trap. But, in any case, he had had to
realise at a high figure, and had come out of the deal more overloaded
with wealth than ever.

We had all sympathised deeply over the picture of misery that Mrs. Perry
had drawn. Mr. Hobson, she said, was overcome with remorse, and like a
man distracted. He had sat in his overfurnished dining-room with his
head in his hands, while his wife, scintillating with diamonds, though
it was early in the afternoon, had tried to comfort him, her face pale
but full of courage. It had been almost insupportable to hear the
children crying at the table loaded with provisions, and to think that
the father, the bread-loser of the family, was powerless to help them.

"Cannot we do something for them, Samuel?" Mrs. Perry cried.

But her husband shook his head sadly, and said he was afraid not.
"Hobson has himself to thank for it," he said, "and I fear he is
incorrigible. If we were to take the burden of this mistake on our
shoulders he would only make another one. The fact is, he is unfitted
for business affairs. You can lose more money in the city than anywhere
else, but you have to get up very early in the morning to do it, and the
men who are successful at it, and lose large fortunes, are a good deal
cleverer than poor Hobson."

I had offered then and there to look into the case and see if I could do
anything to help. But although everybody said that it was very generous
of me, they all tried to dissuade me from risking the small number of
debts I already possessed. Edward did more. He rather annoyed me by
taking me aside and telling me that my duty was now towards Miriam, and
that it would not be right for me to be charitable at her expense, which
was what it would come to if I tried to straighten out the Hobsons'
badly involved affairs.

But I had now made up my mind that nothing should stand in the way of my
charitable instincts. I was not in a position to do much. I could not
set the unfortunate Hobson on his feet again as a poor man. But I could
go and see him, and come away leaving him a good deal poorer than he was
before.

My heart glowed as I thought of the blessings I should call down upon my
head from him and his sorely tried family. I should be almost in the
position of a walking miracle, bringing relief that must have been
despaired of. The warm gratitude of that unfortunate family would follow
me wherever I went, even if I went out of Upsidonia, as I fully intended
to do, after having relieved Mr. Hobson of part of his burden.

As I jumped out of bed I had already made up my mind. I would go and see
him that very morning. When one has decided upon an errand of mercy one
should lose no time in setting about it.




CHAPTER XXI


I got downstairs earlier than usual, and found Tom roaming about, with
ten minutes or so on his hands before he went off to school.

He greeted me affably, for we were now very good friends. I had taught
him to bowl "googlies," which were unknown in Upsidonian cricket before
my arrival, and he had got into the first eleven of his school on the
strength of it. He was properly grateful to me, and had quite forgiven
me for my white flannel suit.

"I say, old boy," he said, "you've been going it! Biffed old Potter in
the eye yesterday, didn't you?"

"I didn't biff him in the eye, Tom," I replied. "I rather wish I had.
How do you know about it?"

"I read it in the paper. I can't show it to you because old Blother has
taken it off into his pantry. But it said that Potter and you had had a
scrap, and he said you were a fraud; and they don't think you come from
the Highlands at all."

"Where _do_ they think I come from?"

"They don't know, but they're going to find out. They think it may have
been you who committed the burglary."

"The burglary! What burglary?"

"Why, it was at Muffin's Rents, about a fortnight ago, just before you
came. The people woke up and found a lot of family plate in the
dining-room. A burglar had broken in in the night and left it there. A
cheeky beggar he was too, for he had left them a bottle of Bass and half
a game pie as well. I thought it was just the sort of sporting thing
that you would have done."

"My dear Tom, I assure you I didn't. Why did they think it might have
been me?"

"Well, they seemed to think you might have cleared out from some big
house or other, because you were fed up with it, and got rid of your
plate in that way."

"What a ridiculous idea!"

"Yes, it is rather. But I say, old boy, I wonder where you do come
from."

I stared at him.

"Of course, I know you were a bit barmy before you came here, and don't
remember anything about it," he went on to say. "It's a rummy thing
altogether."

It seemed to me a very rummy thing that Tom should have any idea that I
was supposed to have been what he called barmy.

"Who told you that?" I asked him.

"Oh, I heard them talking about it."

"Heard who talking about it?"

"Edward and old Blother. Old Blother said you seemed to be a very
respectable young fellow, but he wasn't quite easy in his mind about
your marrying Miriam, and he wanted to know more about you. He said you
didn't talk like a Johnny from the Highlands. So then Edward said you
didn't really remember where you had come from, and told him that you
had been a bit touched in the upper story, but you were all right now."

"Well, I hope that satisfied Mr. Blother," I said, mentally confounding
his impudence, and furious with Edward for publishing his silly idea,
which I had only allowed him to hold because I thought he would keep it
to himself.

"Oh, yes," said Tom. "He said if that was it, he supposed it was all
right, and he shouldn't interfere unless he saw any further reason."

"Very kind of him indeed! Does anybody else know about this ridiculous
idea of Edward's?"

"Oh, yes, everybody knows."

"What, Miriam?"

"Yes, she knows all right. I don't think she minds. I expect she thinks
it's rather a lark. But, I say, I must be getting off. Good-bye, old
boy! don't forget you promised to bowl to me this afternoon."

When I went into breakfast Miriam greeted me as usual, and showed none
of that shrinking that might have been expected from a girl in the face
of a lover whom she had discovered to have been at one time what Tom
called barmy; I was greatly relieved at this, though determined to have
it out with Edward at the first opportunity.

When Mr. Blother had shaken hands with us all, and asked us how we had
slept - little attentions which he never omitted - he expressed himself
with great indignation at the line taken by the newspaper over the
occurrence of the day before.

Apparently, Edward's explanation of any eccentricities of mine that had
disturbed him had been quite satisfactory. Mr. Blother and I had always
got on well together, and I was pleased to remember that only a few days
before I had demanded of him a handsome tip, saying that I had been in
the house for some time and was afraid that I had not given him much
trouble. He was quite on my side, and expressed himself strongly about
the impertinence of the newspaper in throwing doubt upon me.

"We shall have to announce the truth," he said, as he bustled about
while the rest of the family took their seats. "Our young friend here
set out to walk to Culbut, and either had a touch of sunstroke, or else
forgot himself and became intoxicated - which would be reprehensible, but
not altogether inexcusable in one of his youth - and cannot give an
account of himself. No doubt his memory will come back, but until it
does we must all stand together and protect him from these suspicions.
If there is one thing that is quite clear, it is that he has never been
a rich man. Although his accent is not quite what one would expect from
a Highlander, I believe myself that he _is_ one, because it was quite
plain from the first that he had never seen a servant in his life, and
had no idea of how to treat them. Now if you are all sure that you have
everything that you want, I will go and get on with my work. Don't leave
quite so much on your plates as you did yesterday, please - I don't mean
you, Perry. And it is quite time that this ham showed more signs of
wear."

With a cheery laugh Mr. Blother left the room, and Edward came in as he
did so. He was generally up early, and had already been in to Culbut
that morning.

He was in a state of considerable excitement, but not over the affair
that was in all our minds, which he put aside as of no account.

"Oh, that will all blow over," he said. "There is something far more
serious now to engage people's attention."

We all looked at him expectantly. He was much agitated, and seemed at
first incapable of speech. But when he had gulped down a little tea, he
said in a voice vibrant with emotion: "This day will never be forgotten
in Upsidonia. The social revolution has commenced."

We all looked towards Mr. Perry. It rested with him - the head of the
family, and a man with a whole life of benevolent wisdom behind him - to
indicate the line to be taken in face of this startling intelligence.

He kept his eyes fixed on his plate, but looked very grave, and shook


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