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for the golden-brown head. Jean had protested. She was afraid she would
look overdressed: a black frock would be more suitable; but Pamela had
insisted and Jean had promised.

As she looked in the glass she smiled at the picture she made. It was a
pity Pamela couldn't see how successful the frock was, for she had
designed it.... Lord Bidborough had never seen her prettily dressed. Why
did Pamela never mention him? Jean realised the truth of the old saying,
"Speak weel o' ma love, speak ill o' ma love, but aye speak o' him."

She looked into the boys' room when she was ready and found them only
half dressed and engaged in a game of cock-fighting. Having admonished
them she went down alone. She went very slowly down the last flight of
stairs (she was shy of going into the dining-room) - a slip of a girl
crowned with green leaves. Suddenly she stopped. There, in the hall
watching her, alone but for the "boots" with the wrinkled, humorous face
and eyes of amused tolerance, was Richard Plantagenet.

Behind her where she stood hung a print of _Lear_ - the hovel on the
heath, the storm-bent trees, the figure of the old man, the shivering
Fool with his "Poor Tom's a-cold." Beside her, fastened to the wall,
was a letter-box with a glass front full of letters and picture-cards
waiting to be taken to the evening post. Tragedy and the commonplace
things of life - but Jean, for the moment, was lifted far from either.
She was seeing a new heaven and a new earth. Words were not needed. She
looked into Richard Plantagenet's eyes and knew that he wanted her, and
she put her hands out to him like a trusting child.

* * * * *

When Jock and Mhor reached the dining-room and found Richard Plantagenet
seated beside Jean they were rapturous in their greetings, pouring
questions on him, demanding to know how long he meant to stay.

"As long as you stay," he told them.

"Oh, good," Jock said. "Are you _fearfully_ keen on Shakespeare? Jean's
something awful. It gives me a sort of hate at him to hear her."

"Oh, Jock," Jean protested, "surely not. I'm not nearly as bad as some
of the people here. I don't haver quite so much.... I was in the
drawing-room this morning and heard two women talking, an English woman
and an American. The English woman remarked casually that Shakespeare
wasn't a Christian, and the American protested, 'Oh, don't say. He had a
great White Soul.'"

"Gosh, Maggie!" said Jock. "What a beastly thing to say about anybody!
If Shakespeare could see Stratford now I expect he'd laugh - all the
shops full of little heads, and pictures of his house, and models of his
birthplace ... it's enough to put anybody off being a genius."

"I was dreadfully snubbed in a shop to-day," said Jean, smiling at her
lover. "It was a very nice mixed-up shop with cakes and crucifixes and
little stucco figures, presided over by a dignified lady with black lace
on her head. I remembered Mrs. Jowett's passion for stucco saints in her
bedroom, and picked one up, remarking that it would be a nice
remembrance of Stratford. 'Oh, surely not, madam,' said the shocked
voice of the shop-lady, 'surely a nobler memory' - and I found _it was a
figure of Christ_."

"Jean simply rushed out of the shop," said Jock, "and she hadn't paid,
and I had to go in again with the money."

"See what I've got," Mhor said, producing a parcel from his pocket. He
unwrapped it, revealing a small bust of Shakespeare.

"It's a wee Shakespeare to send to Mrs. M'Cosh - and I've got a card for
Bella Bathgate - a funny one, a pig. Read it."

He handed the card to Lord Bidborough, who read aloud the words issuing
from the mouth of the pig:

"You may push me,
You may shove,
But I never will be druv
From Stratford-on-Avon."

"Excellent sentiment, Mhor - Miss Bathgate will be pleased."

"Yes," said Mhor complacently. "I thought she'd like a pig better than
a Shakespeare one. She said she wondered Jean would go and make a fuss
about the place a play-actor was born in. She says she wouldn't read a
word he wrote, and she didn't seem to like the bits I said to her....
This isn't the first time, Richard Plantagenet, I've sat up for dinner."

"Isn't it?"

"No. I did it at Penrith and Shrewsbury and last night here."

"By Jove, you're a man of the world now, Mhor."

"It mustn't go on," said Jean, "but once in a while...."

"And d'you know where I'm going to-night?" Mhor went on. "To a theatre
to see a play. Yes. And I shan't be in bed till at least eleven o'clock.
It's the first time in my life I've ever been outside after ten o'clock,
and I've always wanted to see what it was like then."

"No different from any other time," Jock told him. But Mhor shook his
head. He knew better. After-ten-o'clock Land _must_ be different....

"This is a great night for us all," Jean said. "Our first play. You have
seen it often, I expect. Are you going?"

"Of course I'm going. I wouldn't miss Jock's face at a play for
anything.... Or yours," he added, leaning towards her. "No, Mhor.
There's no hurry. It doesn't begin for another half-hour ... we'll have
coffee in the other room."

Mhor was in a fever of impatience, and quite ten minutes before the
hour they were in their seats in the front row of the balcony. Oddly
enough, Lord Bidborough's seat happened to be adjoining the seats taken
by the Jardines, and Jean and he sat together.

It was a crowded house, for the play was being played by a new company
for the first time that night. Jean sat silent, much too content to
talk, watching the people round her, and listening idly to snatches of
conversation. Two women, evidently inhabitants of the town, were talking
behind her.

"Yes," one woman was saying; "I said to my sister only to-day, 'What
would we do if there was a sudden alarm in the night?' If we needed a
doctor or a policeman? You know, my dear, the servants are all as old as
we are. I don't really believe there is anyone in our road that can
_run_."

The other laughed comfortably and agreed, but Jean felt chilled a
little, as if a cloud had obscured for a second the sun of her
happiness. In this gloriously young world of unfolding leaves and
budding hawthorns and lambs and singing birds and lovers, there were
people old and done who could only walk slowly in the sunshine, in whom
the spring could no longer put a spirit of youth, who could not run
without being weary. How ugly age was! Grim, menacing: Age, I do abhor
thee....

The curtain went up.

The youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, the young Orlando, "a youth
unschooled and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts
enchantingly beloved," talked to old Adam, and then to his own most
unnatural brother. The scene changed to the lawn before the Duke's
palace. Lord Bidborough bade Jean observe the scenery and dresses. "You
see how simple it is, and vivid, rather like Noah's Ark scenery? And the
dresses are a revolt against the stuffy tradition that made Rosalind a
sort of principal boy.... Those dresses are all copied from old
missals.... I rather like it. Do you approve?"

Jean was not in a position to judge, but said she certainly approved.

Rosalind and Celia were saying the words she knew so well. Touchstone
had come in - that witty knave; Monsieur le Beau, with his mouth full of
news; and again, the young Orlando o'er-throwing more than his enemies.

And now Rosalind and Celia are planning their flight.... It is the
Forest of Arden. Again Orlando and Adam speak together, and Adam, with
all his years brave upon him, assures his master, "My age is as a lusty
winter, frosty but kindly."

The words came to Jean with a new significance. How Shakespeare _knew_
... why should she mourn because Age must come? Age was beautiful and
calm, for the seas are quiet when the winds give o'er. Age is done with
passions and discontents and strivings. Probably those women behind her
who had sighed comfortably because nobody in their road could run, whom
she pitied, wouldn't change with her to-night. They had had their life.
It wasn't sad to be old, Jean told herself, for as the physical sight
dims, the soul sees more clearly, and the light from the world to come
illumines the last dark bit of the way....

They went out between the acts and walked by the river in the moonlight
and talked of the play.

Jock and Mhor were loud in their approval, only regretting that
Touchstone couldn't be all the time on the stage. Lord Bidborough asked
Jean if it came up to her expectations.

"I don't know what I expected.... I never imagined any play could be so
vivid and gay and alive.... I've always loved Rosalind, and I didn't
think any actress could be quite my idea of her, but this girl is. I
thought at first she wasn't nearly pretty enough, but she has the kind
of face that becomes more charming the more you look at it, and she is
so graceful and witty and impertinent."

"And Rabelaisian," added her companion. "It really is a very good show.
There is a sort of youthful freshness about the acting that is very
engaging. And every part is so competently filled. Jaques is
astonishingly good, don't you think? I never heard the 'seven ages'
speech so well said."

"It sounded," Jean said, "as if he were saying the words for the first
time, thinking them as he went along."

"I know what you mean. When the great lines come on it's a temptation to
the actor to draw himself together and clear his throat, and rather
address them to the audience. This fellow leaned against a tree and, as
you say, seemed to be thinking them as he went along. He's an uncommonly
good actor ... I don't know when I enjoyed a show so much."

The play wore on to its merry conclusion; all too short the Jardines
found it. Jock's wrath at the love-sick shepherd knew no bounds, but he
highly approved of Rosalind because, he said, she had such an impudent
face.

"Who did you like best, Richard Plantagenet?" Mhor asked as they came
down the steps.

"Well, I think, perhaps the most worthy character was 'the old religious
man' who converted so opportunely the Duke Frederick."

"Yes," Jean laughed. "I like that way of getting rid of an objectionable
character and enriching a deserving one. But Jaques went off to throw in
his lot with the converted Duke. I rather grudged that."

"To-morrow," said Mhor, who was skipping along, very wide awake and
happy in After-ten-o'clock Land - "to-morrow I'm going to take Peter to
the river and let him snowk after water-rats. I think he's feeling
lonely - a Scots dog among so many English people."

"Stark's lonely too," said Jock. "He says the other chauffeurs have an
awful queer accent and it's all he can do to understand them."

"Oh, poor Stark!" said Jean. "I don't suppose he would care much to see
the plays."

"He told me," Jock went on, "that one of the other chauffeurs had asked
him to go with him to a concert called _Macbeth_. When I told him what
it was he said he'd had an escape. He says he sees enough of
Shakespeare in this place without going to hear him. He's at the
Pictures to-night, and there's a circus coming - "

"And oh, Jean," cried Mhor, "it's the _very one_ that came to
Priorsford!"

"Take a start, Mhor," said Jock, "and I'll race you back."

Lord Bidborough and Jean walked on in silence.

At the garden where once had stood New Place - that "pretty house in
brick and timber" - the shadow of the Norman church lay black on the
white street and beyond it was the velvet darkness of the old trees.

"This," Jean said softly, "must be almost exactly as it was in
Shakespeare's time. He must have seen the shadow of the tower falling
like that, and the trees, and his garden. Perhaps it was on an April
night like this that he wrote:

On such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea-banks and waft her lover
To come again to Carthage."

They had both stopped, and Jean, after a glance at her companion's face,
edged away. He caught her hands and held her there in the shadow.

"The last time we were together, Jean, it was December, dripping rain
and mud, and you would have none of me. To-night - in such a night, Jean,
I come again to you. I love you. Will you marry me?"

"Yes," said Jean - "for I am yours."

For a moment they stood caught up to the seventh heaven, knowing
nothing except that they were together, hearing nothing but the beating
of their own hearts.

Jean was the first to come to herself.

"Everyone's gone home. The boys'll think we are lost.... Oh, Biddy, have
I done right? Are you sure you want me? Can I make you happy?"

"_Can you make me happy_? My blessed child, what a question! Don't you
know that you seem to me almost too dear for my possessing? You are far
too good for me, but I won't give you up now. No, not though all the
King's horses and all the King's men come in array against me. My Jean
... my little Jean."

Jock's comment on hearing of his sister's engagement was that he did
think Richard Plantagenet was above that sort of thing. Later on, when
he had got more used to the idea, he said that, seeing he had to marry
somebody, it was better to be Jean than anybody else.

Mhor, like Gallio, cared for none of these things.

He merely said, "Oh, and will you be married and have a bridescake? What
fun!... You might go with Peter and me to the station and see the London
trains pass. Jock went yesterday and he says he won't go again for three
days. Will you, Jean? Oh, _please_ - "

David, at Oxford, sent his sister a letter which she put away among her
chiefest treasures. Safely in his room, with a pen in his hand, he would
write what he was too shy and awkward to say: he could call down
blessings on his sister in a letter, when face to face with her he would
have been dumb.

Pamela, on hearing the news, rushed down from London to congratulate
Jean and her Biddy in person. She was looking what Jean called
"fearfully London," and seemed in high spirits.

"Of course I'm in high spirits," she told Jean. "The very nicest thing
in the world has come to pass. I didn't think there was a girl living
that I could give Biddy to without a grudge till I saw you, and then it
seemed much too good to be true that you should fall in love with each
other."

"But," said Jean, "how could you want him to marry me, an ordinary girl
in a little provincial town? - he could have married _anybody_."

"Lots of girls would have married Biddy, but I wanted him to have the
best, and when I found it for him he had the sense to recognise it.
Well, it's all rather like a fairy-tale. And I have Lewis! Jean, you
can't think how different life in London seems now - I can enjoy it
whole-heartedly, fling myself into it in a way I never could before, not
even when I was at my most butterfly stage, because now it isn't my
life, it doesn't really matter, I'm only a stranger within the gates. My
real life is Lewis, and the thought of the green glen and the little
town beside the Tweed."

"You mean," said Jean, "that you can enjoy all the gaieties tremendously
because they are only an episode; if it was your life-work making a
success of them you would be bored to death."

"Yes. Before I came to Priorsford they were all I had to live for, and
I got to hate them. When are you two babes in the wood going to be
married? You haven't talked about it yet? Dear me!"

"You see," Jean said, "there's been such a lot to talk about."

"Philanthropic schemes, I suppose?"

Jean started guiltily.

"I'm afraid not. I'd forgotten about the money."

"Then I'm sorry I reminded you of it. Let all the schemes alone for a
little, Jean. Biddy will help you when the time comes. I see the two of
you reforming the world, losing all your money, probably, and ending up
at Laverlaw with Lewis and me. I don't want to know what you talked
about, my dear, but whatever it was it has done you both good. Biddy
looks now as he looked before the War, and you have lost your anxious
look, and your curls have got more yellow in them, and your eyes aren't
like moss-agates now; they are almost quite golden. You are infinitely
prettier than you were, Jean, girl.... Now, I'm afraid I must fly back
to London. Jock and Mhor will chaperone you two excellently, and we'll
all meet at Mintern Abbas in the middle of May."

One sunshine day followed another. Wilfred the Gazelle and the excellent
Stark carried the party on exploring expeditions all over the
countryside. In one delicious village they wandered, after lunch at the
inn, into the little church which stood embowered among blossoming
trees. The old vicar left his garden and offered to show them its
beauties, and Jean fell in love with the simplicity and the feeling of
homeliness that was about it.

"Biddy," she whispered, "what a delicious church to be married in. You
could hardly help being happy ever after if you were married here."

Later in the day, when they were alone, he reminded her of her words.

"Why shouldn't we, Penny-plain? Why shouldn't we? I know you hate a
fussy marriage and dread all the letters and presents and meeting crowds
of people who are strangers to you. Of course, it's frightfully good of
Mrs. Hope to offer to have it at Hopetoun, but that means waiting, and
this is the spring-time, the real 'pretty ring-time.' I would rush up to
London and get a special licence. I don't know how in the world it's
done, but I can find out, and Pam would come, and David, and we'd be
married in the little church among the blossoms. Let's say the
thirtieth. That gives us four days to arrange things...."

"Four days," said Jean, "to prepare for one's wedding!"

"But you don't need to prepare. You've got lovely clothes, and we'll go
straight to Mintern Abbas, where it doesn't matter what we wear. I tell
you what, we'll go to London to-morrow and see lawyers and things - do
you realise you haven't even got an engagement ring, you neglected
child? And tell Pam - Mad? Of course, it's mad. It's the way they did in
the Golden World. It's Rosalind and Orlando. Be persuaded, Penny-plain."

"Priorsford will be horrified," said Jean. "They aren't used to such
indecorous haste, and oh, Biddy, I _couldn't_ be married without Mr.
Macdonald."

"I was thinking about that. He certainly has the right to be at your
wedding. If I wired to-day, do you think they would come? Mrs.
Macdonald's such a sportsman, I believe she would hustle the minister
and herself off at once."

"I believe she would," said Jean, "and having them would make all the
difference. It would be almost like having my own father and mother...."

So it was arranged. They spent a hectic day in London which almost
reduced Jean to idiocy, and got back at night to the peace of Stratford.
Pamela said she would bring everything that was needed, and would arrive
on the evening of the 29th with Lewis and David. The Macdonalds wired
that they were coming, and Lord Bidborough interviewed the vicar of the
little church among the blossoms and explained everything to him. The
vicar was old and wise and tolerant, and he said he would feel honoured
if the Scots minister would officiate with him. He would, he said, be
pleased to arrange things exactly as Jean and her minister wanted them.

By the 29th they had all assembled.

Pamela arriving with Lewis Elliot and Mawson and a motor full of
pasteboard boxes found Jean just home from a picnic at Broadway, flushed
with the sun and glowing with health and happiness.

"Well," said Pamela as she kissed her, "this is a new type of bride. Not
the nerve-shattered, milliner-ridden creature with writer's cramp in
her hand from thanking people for useless presents! You don't look as if
you were worrying at all."

"I'm not," said Jean. "Why should I? There will be nobody there to
criticise me. There are no preparations to make, so I needn't fuss.
Biddy's right. It's the best way to be married."

"I needn't ask if you are happy, my Jean girl?"

Jean flung her arms round Pamela's neck.

"After having Biddy for my own, the next best thing is having you for a
sister. I owe you more than I can ever repay."

"Ah, my dear," said Pamela, "the debt is all on my side. You set the
solitary in families...."

Mhor here entered, shouting that the car was waiting to take them to the
station to meet the Macdonalds, and Jean hurried away.

An hour later the whole party met round the dinner-table. Mhor had been
allowed to sit up. Other nights he consumed milk and bread and butter
and eggs at 5.30, and went to bed an hour later, leaving Jock to change
his clothes and descend to dinner and the play, an arrangement that
caused a good deal of friction. But to-night all bitterness was
forgotten, and Mhor beamed on everyone.

Mrs. Macdonald was in great form. She had come away, she told them,
leaving the spring cleaning half done. "All the study chairs in the
garden and Agnes rubbing down the walls, and Allan's men beating the
carpet.... In came the telegram, and after I got over the shock - I
always expect the worst when I see a telegraph boy - I said to John, 'My
best dress is not what it was, but I'm going,' and John was delighted,
partly because he was driven out of his study, and he's never happy in
any other room, but most of all because it was Jean. English Church or
no English Church he'll help to marry Jean. But," turning to the bride
to be, "I can hardly believe it, Jean. It's only ten days since you left
Priorsford, and to-morrow you're to be married. I think it was the War
that taught us such hurried ways...." She sighed, and then went on
briskly: "I went to see Mrs. M'Cosh before I left. She had had your
letter, so I didn't need to break the news to her. She was wonderfully
calm about it, and said that when people went away to England you might
expect to hear anything. She said I was to tell Mhor that the cat was
asking for him. And she is getting on with the cleaning. I think she
said she had finished the dining-room and two bedrooms, and she was
expecting the sweep to-day. She said you would like to know that the man
had come about the leak in the tank, and it's all right. I saw Bella
Bathgate as I was leaving The Rigs. She sent you and Lord Bidborough her
kind regards.... She has a free way of expressing herself, but I don't
think she means to be disrespectful."

"Has she got lodgers just now?" Pamela asked.

"Oh yes, she told me about them. One she dismissed as 'an auldish,
impident wumman wi' specs'; and the other as 'terrible genteel.' Both of
them 'a sair come-down frae Miss Reston.' Now you are gone you are on a
pedestal."

"I wasn't always on a pedestal," said Pamela, "but I shall always have
a tenderness for Bella Bathgate and her parlour." She smiled to Lewis
Elliot as she said it.

Jean, sitting beside Mr. Macdonald, thanked him for coming.

"Happy, Jean?" he asked.

"Utterly happy," said Jean. "So happy that I'm almost afraid. Isn't it
odd how one seems to cower down to avoid drawing the attention of the
Fates to one's happiness, saying, 'It is naught, it is naught,' in case
disaster follows?"

"Don't worry about the Fates, Jean," Mr. Macdonald advised. "Rejoice in
your happiness, and God grant that the evil days may never come to
you.... What, Jock? Am I going to the play? I never went to a play in my
life and I'm too old to begin."

"Oh, but, Mr. Macdonald," Jean broke in eagerly, "it isn't like a real
theatre; it's all Shakespeare, and the place is simply black with
clergymen, so you wouldn't feel out of place. You know you taught me
first to care for Shakespeare, and I'd love to sit beside you and see a
play acted."

Mr. Macdonald shook his head at her.

"Are you tempting your old minister, Jean? I've lived for sixty-five
years without seeing a play, and I think I can go on to the end. It's
not that it's wrong or that I think myself more virtuous than the rest
of the world because I stay away. It's prejudice if you like,
intolerance perhaps, narrowness, bigotry - "

"Well, I think you and Mrs. Macdonald are better to rest this evening
after your journey," Pamela said.

"Wouldn't you rather we stayed at home with you?" Jean asked. "We're
only going to the play for something to do. We thought Davie would like
it."

"It's _Romeo and Juliet_," Jock broke in. "A silly love play, but
there's a fine scene at the end where they all get killed. If you're
sleeping, Mhor, I'll wake you up for that."

"I would like to stay with you," Jean said to Mrs. Macdonald.

"Never in the world. Off you go to your play, and John and I will go
early to bed and be fresh for to-morrow. When is the wedding?"

"At twelve o'clock in the church at Little St. Mary's," Lord Bidborough


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