window-sashes ; and but for the fire which blazes bright-
ly upon the hearth of Lady Oaktorrington's boudoir,
and exhales a genial warmth throughout the room, the
window-panes would be crusted with frost. It is the
first real snowfall of the season, and hunting is stopped
for the nonce. Parliament after an autumn session
protracted beyond a point almost unheard of in the his-
tory of that august body has at last been prorogued,
and Lord Oaktorrington, unable to find further "just
cause or impediment " to his return home, has been
compelled to come back from town. There being
nothing for htm to do out-of-doors, he is passing the
morning in his wife's society.
" I see by the ' Morning Post ' that Lord Argen-
ton has bought Tillotson Towers, the Delancy- Veres'
place in Devonshire," says Lady Oaktorrington. " Who
on earth is Lord Argenton ? I certainly never heard
of him before."
" You certainly never did," answers Lord Oaktor-
rington, curlly, without raising his eyes from the letter
he is reading.
"Pray, be good enough to explain what you mean,"
says Lady Oaktorrington. " I thought I knew every
man in the peerage."
" You'd have to live at Salisbury's elbow to do
that. He's full as bad as Gladstone when it comes to
" Don't go on talking in riddles. I asked you who
Lord Argenton is, and I shall be glad to have you an-
swer my question."
" If you want to know who he is, I shall be obliged
to tell you Lord Argenton. If you desire to know
who he was that is a horse of quite another color ! "
Lady Oaktorrington frowns and tosses her head.
" I'm in no humor for joking," she says, impa-
" I assure you, it's no joke far from it," says his
lordship, making a face. " It's too nauseous a subject
" How long do you intend to keep up this ridicu-
lous harlaquinade ? " Lady Oaktorrington asks with
a pitying sneer. " You do it so very badly."
" Do I, really ? Then you'd best not encourage
Lady Oaktorrington regards him with mute sur-
prise. Every time he stays any length of time in town
by himself, he comes home more independent of speech
and less afraid of her. But other times have been
bagatelles mere patches on this one. Some counter-
influence to her own is, of course, at the bottom of it.
She is not slow to guess the source, and guessing with
a woman's brain, jumps to the inevitable female con-
clusion, and puts the saddle on a woman's shoulders.
" Have you been outbid for a horse at Tattersall's
this time, too, that you are in such a vile humor ? "
she asks, pointedly, fixing her eyes to meet his point-
blank when he raises them.
" Eh what the deuce do you mean ? " he says,
quickly, looking up, but dropping his glance again
like a shot bird before hers. " Who who's talking in
riddles now, I should like to know ? You want to
know who Lord Argenton was, eh ! " he adds in such
a tone of incipient surrender that Lady Oaktorrington
smiles to herself at the bull's-eye her chance shot has
made. " He was John Grubs, the Birmingham
brass-founder. Salisbury's just made him a peer, to
spite Chamberlain, people say. It is hardly the use
you'd expect him to make of the House of Lords, is it ?
The fact is the peerage is going to the dogs neck and
crop, and I say with Chamberlain, the sooner we're
abolished the better."
Lady Oaktorrington, happily for the tranquillity of
her aristocratic temper does not hear the concluding
words of her husband's speech, so immersed is she in
her own thoughts.
" He's rich, of course ? "
"Rich ? Rather. A couple of millions at least."
" Any sons ? "
" Yes ; two I believe. One's in the Blues with
Beyndour. Haven't you ever heard him laugh at
Jacob Grubs, and call him a howling cad ? Fancy, the
Honorable Jacob Grubs ! Salisbury has a lot to an-
" Salisbury ? " says the marchioness, with a look of
sudden awakening. " Then he's got back into office
again ? "
" Yes, he has," grumpily.
" I thought he was going to make you something in
the Cabinet, or Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, or some-
"So did I," says Lord Oaktorrington, feelingly.
" And so he promised ahem before the division that
turned out Gladstone. But, bless you, he's like every
one else. Now, he says he'll give me one of the vacant
" That will be something, at any rate," says Lady
Oaktorrington, in a " half a loaf is better than no bread "
voice. " I should rather have liked to go over to Ire-
land, though. It would have given poor Mary a chance,
don't you think? By-the-by, has this Lord Lord
(looking in the paper) Argenton has he any daugh-
ters, do you know ? "
" Yes, one that I know of. She was presented at
the last drawing-room. I remember your laughing at
the name, and wondering how Lady Bouverie could
present such a person."
" Did Lady Bouverie present her ? How tiresome !
It was for Jack, of course; one can see that now.
Fancy one's degrading one's self like that ! " and Lady
Oaktorrington holds up her hands. " Tillotson joins
Tewtorlock, doesn't it?"
" Yes, it does. More's the pity," says the marquis.
" If it wasn't entailed I'd sell it like a shot."
" Sell it ? Indeed, you should do nothing of the
sort. We must stay there next winter," Lady Oaktor-
rington says, decisively.
" What on earth has got into you now? " Lord Oak-
torrington asks, in amazement. " Stay at Tewtorlock ?
We haven't stayed there for twenty years. Fancy the
damp ! You can't be serious."
" Fancy not staying there with these rich people
next door to us ! You forget"
" Oh, yes, I know the girls. But I thought you
had Harborough selected for Mary."
" Oh, I've given that up. He wouldn't so much as
look at Mary while he was here. You couldn't drag
him away from Lady Henry "
" Lady Henry? And do you mean to say you were
such a fool as to ask her here with Harborough ? "
" I'm afraid I was," Lady Oaktorrington says, hum-
bly. " It was a great mistake."
" In more ways than one," his lordship says, sotto
voce, knitting his brows; "as I'm afraid you'll find out.
What fools women are ! And what about the Yankee ?
I thought he was allotted to Edith. Another failure
there ? "
" Not exactly," and then Lady Oaktorrington gives
her husband a fairly correct account of Allen's visit,
ending up with the information received from San
" You have made a charming mess of it ! " Lord
" That's what Beyndour says. But he's coming
back. I've had a letter from Freddy this morning
from Florence saying "
" Freddy in Florence ? I thought he was out in
" How can you be so silly ? " You knew quite well
he was coming home before you went up to town. I
read you his letter "
" Oh, yes, yes. To be sure. And the Yankee is a
friend of his. Of course. How stupid of me."
"You needn't be angry at his coming home. I as-
sure you he has been most useful."
" I'm not angry," Lord Oaktorrington says. " On
the contrary I'm confoundedly glad. I'll tell you why.
I've got a letter here from Harborough in which he
says he'll support any candidate I may put up for the
Bridgeleigh vacancy made by curiously enough this
same man Grubs's elevation to the House of Lords.
It's awfully good of him, for Bridgeleigh belongs to
him, and it will be a walk-over. I'll let him have
" Freddy, dear ? Isn't he too young and inexperi-
enced to be a member of Parliament ? "
" He'll know enough to follow Smith into the right
lobby when there is a vote on anything, and that's all
we want. It's all the most of us do in the Lords. It
will strengthen me with Salisbury wonderfully," he
" I'm so glad, dear. And it will be another advan-
tage for Freddy with this Lord Grubs's daughter, don't
you see," and Lady Oaktorrington smiles benignly at
the happy thought. *' It will be so nice to be suc-
ceeded by one's son-in-law at Bridgeleigh. How
charmingly it all happens ! One could almost fancy
one was reading a novel, dear, couldn't one ? "
The sunshine of his wife's smiles is a temperature
in which Lord Oaktorrington is not wont to bask. It
is not that he cares for the warmth of marital congeni-
ality. The effect is more of comfort than bliss, and
while he enjoys the novelty of it, his pleasure is rather
negative than positive in the absence of the jar and
contradiction to which he is commonly accustomed in
her company, rather than in the presence of anything
likely to especially gratify him.
" Yes," he answers, restfully ; " so one could if
everything else went so swimmingly. This contre-
temps with the Yankee rather spoils the harmony of
" We shall soon put that right," Lady Oaktorring-
ton says, hopefully. "He and Freddy will be here
" But Edith is not at home."
" She is coming home to-morrow, oddly enough."
PHILIP ALLEN'S second arrival at Ashwynwick Park
is a gratifying contrast to the first.
Lady Oaktorrington meets him in the hall with both
hands extended, and a smile of sweetest affection illu-
mining her aristocratic countenance.
u So charmed we are to see you back again, Mr.
Allen," she says, in her softest voice. " This time I am
delighted to say my husband is here to add his wel-
come to mine," and she leads Allen to the drawing-
room, where he is met at the door by Lord Oaktor-
" I am most pleased to see you here, Mr. Allen,"
his lordship says, with as warm and tight a grasp of
the hand as he is able to give any man. " I was so
awfully sorry to miss your last visit to us, and to have
to defer for so long my thanks to you for all your kind-
ness to my son Freddy. Pray accept them now." Hav-
ing said this neat little speech without miss or blunder,
Lord Oaktorrington thrusts quickly into his pocket the
small piece of paper on which it had been written out
for him by the marchioness the night before, and being
left to his own mental resources without coach, sticks
his glass in his eye and surveys his guest with a silent
though friendly smile.
Even Lady Mary, at a prearranged signal from her
mother, emulates the weather in a " universal thaw,"
and comes forward to greet him.
" You must really come out hunting with us this
time," she says, after as warm a shake of the hand as
she can muster up. " We shan't let you off again. You
shall ride polo ; and and I've got a new dog to show
Allen is about to say that he does not remember
having seen the old ones, but tact stops him in
" It is all very absurd," he tells himself, " this mar-
velous alteration. I can't at all make it out. It is
another phase of aristocracy, I suppose, whose ways are
quite beyond me. If it makes them happy I don't
care. Let by-gones be by-gones." So he says to Lady
Mary, politely :
" You're very kind. I should like to see him of a)l
"He is such a dear," Lady Mary goes on. "A
darling skye, with not an eye to be seen for love or
" Pray, Mr. Allen, come and sit down here. You
must be dreadfully cold after your long drive," Lady
Oaktorrington says, placing an arm-chair for him at
the fire. " Edith, don't you see Mr. Allen ? "
Lady Edith has been standing pale and motionless
near the chimney-piece, a silent witness of what to her
appears to be nothing less than her family's degrada-
"Oh, how can they? How can they?" she says
to herself again and again, as some fresh piece of
flagrant toadying exhibits itself. " Can they not see
that he must notice it ? I am most awfully ashamed.
What must he think of us all ? "
In the midst of these painful reflections her mother's
words jar upon her. Is she, too, to be dragged for-
ward to pay him court upon compulsion? Must she,
also, humiliate herself in his eyes with the others?
No, she will not be a party to such barefaced money-
worshiping. Rather will she go to the other extreme.
As Allen comes up to her she puts out her hand and
says, stifly :
" How do you do ? " without so much as looking
To Allen, who has come all the way from Florence,
full of happiness and hope, her greeting is a glass of
cold water in his face. After the first impulse of anger
as it comes upon a sudden and unexpected blow, he is
conscious of a sense of great weariness. He is heartily
sick and tired of her meaningless caprice ; he is worn
out with the artificiality of manner which, without the
slightest warning, and without apparently the faintest
reason, she is wont to assume to him ; he is jaded past
endurance with the never-ending obstacles to an under-
standing between them, or which she is forever throw-
ing in his path with seemingly no object whatever but
the gratification of a spirit of natural and heartless
" After all, is the game worth the candle ? " he asks
himself. " Is such a girl worth a minute's anxiety on
the part of any man ? No."
For the moment he is sensible of that delicious feel-
ing of relief which comes to all men upon their deliver-
ance from the despotic thralldom of love for one woman.
It matters not whether their fetters are broken by their
own will or against it ; or whether their freedom is gained
by their rude awakening from a delusion, or by the
discovery of unworthiness in the object of their affec-
tions, the effect is always the same ; the return of a
light heart, buoyant spirits, and a good appetite.
As Allen turns from Lady Edith without another
word, he is in full and joyous possession of these three
concomitants of happiness for just twenty seconds.
Then he looks up at her. In her eyes is the old yearn-
ing, pleading look, the dumb show of self-reproach, re-
pentance, and love. Down flops the flag of independ-
ence with a run, and snap-snap go the shackles of
slavery on wrist and ankle again. He is about to
speak when Lord Oaktorrington walks up :
" Glad to say it's thawing. We're going to shoot
the Wampstone coverts to-morrow. Fetched a gun ? "
" No," Allen tells him. " I'm sorry to say I haven't."
" Oh ! Don't shoot, perhaps. You Ya a hem
Americans don't care much for sport, I dare say."
" I'm sure I don't know why you people in England
should think so, but I constantly hear that said. It is
altogether wrong. If there is anything in it, it is that
our ideas of sport differ from yours. We don't hunt
foxes, stags, and hares on horseback, and we don't have
covert shooting. W r ith us the preservation of game
(except as protected by law) is the exception. With
you it is the rule. But we have plenty of wild game
to shoot, and plenty of what we call sport in hunting
and shooting it in its wild, uncultivated state."
" Oh ! Really ? " But d'ye mean to say you have
no gamekeepers, or people like that, on your estates to
feed the pheasants, and shoot cats and stoats and things '
like that, don't you know ? "
" I don't know what they may have in the Eastern
States, now," Allen says, with a smile. " I dare say that
Anglomania has imported gamekeepers as well as foxes.
But out West a gamekeeper would be mobbed."
" How do you keep poachers off your property? "
,"We have no poachers. At least, we don't con-
sider men who shoot on our land such. Everybody
shoots over everybody else's land indiscriminately, by
a sort of common consent. The privilege is never
abused. Besides, every one doesn't shoot as in Eng-
land. Men, as a rule, are too busy, too much engrossed
with business and their occupations and professions to
pass their time with shot-guns in their hands. They
only shoot when they have the time to spare."
" Oh ! Do do you shoot, by chance ? "
" I ? Well, I should say I did. Somewhat," and
Allen smiles to himself when he thinks of his regular
September and October campings-out in Marin and
Humboldt Counties, and among the Mount Diablo foot-
hills, and Gabilan Mountains of the Coast Range ; and
his December and January " duck hunts " among the
Carquinez terles, and the head-waters of the bay.
" Oh ? Not a great deal ! I'm sorry, because you'll
find it rather dull work here by yourself, when we're
" I shall be very glad to go out with you. I dare
say Freddy can fit me out with a gun."
" Oh, I can lend you a gun if that's all ; I've half a
dozen. But but don't you think if you're not ac-
customed, don't you know to ahem you know
what I mean why, you may find it awkward, don't
you see. All the fellows I've asked are devilish good
shots, you know."
" I dare say I shan't be able to hit anything," Allen
answers, dryly. " But I shan't mind that. One must
learn, mustn't one ? "
'* How confoundedly tiresome of him," Lord Oak-
torrington says to his wife, who at that moment calls
him away. " He insists on coming out shooting to-
morrow. Of course, he can't shoot, and will make an
infernal guy of himself."
" Never mind that, dear," Lady Oaktorrington re-
plies. " You must humor him, for Edith's sake. And
now, dear, let us come away and leave them together."
" HAVEN'T you one kind word to say to me ? " Allen
asks, after waiting several minutes for Lady Edith to
look up. She has seated herself near a window, and
is trying to unravel a skein of floss-silk.
" One kind word ? " she replies. " About what,
pray ? "
He walks over and sits down beside her.
" Let me hold that for you," he says. " You'll never
manage it alone."
" Why not ? I've done hundreds."
" But you'll fail this time. See if you don't. I'm
sure you will."
*' I'm sure I shan't."
A long pause, during which she winds off about a
yard of silk.
" Why don't you go out-of-doors for a walk, or any-
thing," she asks.
" Because I prefer being here with you."
" Englishmen don't sit in-doors with women on a
fine day like this."
" I'm not an Englishman, as I've told you before."
" Then Americans do, I suppose."
" Like ladies' society ? Yes. I don't think Eng-
lishmen, so far as I have seen, care much for ladies
at any time."
" Don't they ? Why ? "
" Oh, you must ask them that. I can only guess
why ? "
" There ! That is the first time I've heard you use
that word. I thought you "
" Oh, I know. You thought I'd say ' I guess ' every
minute or two before you met me. Come, confess."
" I really don't remember. I don't think I thought
at all about it."
Allen bites his lips.
''Pardon my presumption, please," he says, stiffly.
" Don't be huffy. You Americans are so awfully
touchy. You are always taking offense at something."
" Are we ? I don't think you have any right to say
that of me. I'm sure I've stood a good deal of rough-
" Of what ? "
" What's that ? "
" I guess that's another Americanism."
" Is it ? I never heard the word except applied to
what is done to horse's shoes in frosty weather. You
don't mean that, do you ? "
" Well, harsh treatment insult, if you will."
" Where ? "
" Here ? By whom, pray ? "
" Oh, everybody yourself among the number."
" Yes, you. And I've stood it all for for your
" For my sake ? I don't quite understand."
" Yes, you do. You know quite well what I mean.
I I told you in my letter "
" Please don't speak of that letter. I was very
angry with you for writing so to me."
" Were you ? "
"Yes, I was."
" Are you still ? "
"What? Ye oh, dear me, what a tiresome knot.
I shall have to break it."
" Let me try."
Allen takes the silk from her, and in doing so gives
her hand a little squeeze.
" You mustn't do that. I don't like it."
" What? Undo the knot for you ? "
" No. What what you did just then."
" What did I do ? "
" You know very well. You hurt me very much."
" Did I ? Then let me kiss it and make it well.
There ! "
" How dare you," pulling her hand away and jump-
ing up. " I never had such a thing done to me in my
" I'm awfully glad to hear it. Please sit down
again. I promise I won't do it "
" No Englishman no English gentleman would
" English gentlemen are awful muffs, then."
" They know how to behave to ladies, if that's what
" They don't know how to behave to ladies. That's
what I mean. Pardon me if I say so, but I never saw
such rude, uncivil, gauche, ill-mannered men with
women in my life as are what you call English gentle-
men. Why, they treat women like cattle. Such a
thing as sentiment for a woman never enters their
heads. They only marry for money ; love is not only
unprofitable in their eyes, but vulgar. I don't suppose
an English gentleman ever in his life told a woman
whom he wished to marry that he loved her."
<; I don't know, I'm sure."
" I'll bet none ever did to you."
"I should hope not," drawing herself up. "Cer-
tainly not, until he had asked my father's consent."
" Oh, that's the formula, is it ? The artificial, me-
chanical, stony-hearted, aristocratic formula. And
must I go through the empty, meaningless form?"
" You really must excuse me, Mr. Allen. I forgot
I have some letters to write for the post."
She rises and walks rapidly toward the door. Allen
stops her half-way.
" You shan't go until you answer me one question.
I shall never get such another chance as this, and I've
frittered away too much time already. It is something
I must know before I go back to America, and I sail
from Liverpool on Saturday."
Lady Edith starts visibly, and changes color.
" You are not going really ? " she says. " You
only say that to make me stay."
" Indeed, it's too true. I've told you already that
I loved you."
She catches her under-lip with her teeth and looks
down at the floor, while her breath comes and goes
" I now ask you to be my wife. You do not an-
swer. Is it yes, or no ? You refuse me."
She stands silent and still, her eyes still bent upon
the carpet at her feet, and her fingers twitching nerv-
ously as they clasp each other.
"At least, say good-by to me, for I must leave
this house at once," he says, in a voice hoarse with
She looks up at him, and the old pleading look is
in her half-closed eyes, the old supplicating gesture in
her quickly raised hand.
" Don't go," she murmurs, softly. "You must not
In an instant his arms are about her, holding her
firmly to his breast.
" My darling, I will take that as your answer, and
seal it thus."
She puts her hands up to her face, but before she
can get them there he kisses her lips.
She gives a little sigh as the blood comes rushing
back into her cheeks, and says :
"I feel so ashamed. What must you think of
me ! "
His only answer is to kiss her again.
" Oh, let me go, please. I hear some one coming."
Allen releases her, and they stand listening a mo-
ment or two, but no one comes.
"I'm so awfully happy," Allen says. "I could
dance and sing for very joy. All my troubles are
A shade crosses Lady Edith's features.
"I'm afraid they have only just begun," she says,
shaking her head. " Marriage with us is a more diffi-
cult matter than you think."
" Difficult ? Why, every difficulty is past. Unless
you mean to take back your consent Do you mean
that ? "
" No. I wish it all lay with me. It would be easy
" I don't understand you. It does all lie with
" Oh, nonsense. I'll make it all right with him."
" And mother."
"I shan't have any difficulty with her."
" Don't be too sure. Are you quite certain you
won't mind if they ask you a lot of questions ? "
" Of course. But what can they want to know ? I
can tell them I love you very dearly, and will take
good care of you, and do my best to make you happy.
What more can they want than that ? That should
satisfy any father and mother."
She shrugs her shoulders.
" Not fathers and mothers of our class."
"Oh, I see," Allen says, quickly, with a sudden
cloud on his brow. " I'm not good enough, I suppose.
Yes, I forgot that."
" No, no, no. It's not that. It's something else.
I'm afraid you have made a great mistake in liking me.
It will never answer."
" Never answer ? What on earth can you mean ? "
" I know it will annoy you the things they will ask
" No it won't. I shan't mind anything, when I
think it is for your sake, dear."
<l I wish I felt sure. You will promise me, then,
that you won't mind ? "
" Yes, I promise."
" Well, then, see them at once. The sooner you