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" That's a capital good chap," said Turner in unwonted en-
thusiasm later on in the evening, as he and Browne were
dining together at the Fisheries. " Don't know when I've
met a fellow I liked better. Sensible and honest and all that
sort of thing, and no side to him, and — and — a thoroughly
good chap."

" One of the best," acquiesced Browne, " and I'll tell you



A Visit and a Conversation 309

a thing that's occurred to mc, Turner. I may be right or I
may be wrong, but I believe he's come down here on purpose
to show that he's ready to back up his relations and to show
the spiteful cats that are talking about them that they're good

enough for him, and Mind you, he's never uttered a

word about the business, but "

" That's a great discovery," interrupted Turner. " You
ought to be a detective, Maximilian. You'd make your for-
tune."

" Well, I can see a thing sometimes when it's there in
front of me. And there's another thing. I think he's taken
an uncommon fancy to Hilda. I may be right or I may be
wrong, but that's my impression."

" Well, of course, if you say so Of course things that

duller fellows mightn't think much of are quite enough for
your mighty brain to work on. I did notice myself that he
kept his eyes on her all the time, and seemed to like showing
her how to handle a sheet, and talked a lot of what he'd do
for her when he got her down to his place — but I can't put
two and two together like you can. You're a wonderful
fellow, Maximilian." *

" Well, I'm a bit slow, but I do notice things. Now that
young Fred Prentice has sheered off — and a good job too ;
he was never good enough for her "

11 He's a rotter. The cheek of the young fool ! How-
ever, he's gone. Something happened. I'm sure something
happened, though I don't know what. But there's your
employer, Browne — you've got to take him into account, in
your position — can't afford to be independent. He's in the
way too. He was up there directly he came yesterday after-
noon. He's smitten. There's not a doubt about it."

" I don't think anything of him. At least, I mean, where
that sort of thing is concerned. He's always been like that,
running after every pretty girl he sees. It doesn't mean any-
thing."

"Well, I dare say I haven't got your powers of

observation, but it did occur to me that it means something
to Miss Hilda. She wasn't herself to-day— very gay at one
time and thinking about something a long way off at others.
I hate a fellow who's always dancing about after a petticoat.
Wouldn't do it myself, and if I did it wouldn't be one petti-
coat to-day and another to-morrow."



810 Exton Manor

" I don't know whether you noticed anything last night/'
said Browne tentatively.

" Oh, no, nothing at all — 'cept that I'd got a nose in front
of my face."

" Well, I don't know ho\» you feel about it. I know you
had ideas about — about the lady in question, whatever you
like to say, and I don't mind confessing to you now, that
I had some sort of an idea myself. But it's all over now.
I feel different about it somehow. I shouldn't care a bit if
she married somebody else, 'slong as he was a nice fellow.
But what do you feel about it ? "

" Considering I've always been advising you to marry her
and be done with it, I suppose I feel much the same. What
you say about me is all nonsense, and you know it as well as
I do. I don't want to marry anybody, and never have wanted
to marry anybody. I'm quite contented as I am."

" Well, it'd be funny if Wrotham were to be the man.
I don't know what her ladyship 'd say. Of course, she won't
have anything to do with her ladyship now, because of Mrs.
Redcliffe."

" Quite right too. I honour her for it, and so would you
if you had the pluck of a mouse."

" I do. I think she's quite right. Well, I say it'd be a very
funny thing. But I don't know whether you observed — I
couldn't help thinking that Major Syde was quite as much
struck as Wrotham last night."

" Couldn't you ? Well, you have got an eye ! "

" I've never met him before, although I've often heard of
him from Wrotham. He seems agreeable, but I don't know
much about him."

"I do. He's agreeable enough on the outside — at least
so people seem to think, and especially ladies. He doesn't
make much impression on me, because I don't care a damn
about outside agreeableness. If I did I shouldn't see much
of you. But inside, he's as rotten and Selfish and heartless
as anybody I know. He was like that as a boy and he's no
better, and probably a good deal worse, as a man. Why, I
remember him telling me — I've never forgotten it, though
I dare say he has — how his father married a very rich widow t
for the sake of her money, and the old beast and this preco- '
cious young beast put their heads together to turn her against
a nephew of hers, who might have stood in their way. He was



A Visit and a Conversation 31 1

proud of it, the young swine, and he was never so surprised
in his life as when I gave him a good hiding for thinking I
was the sort of fellow he could tell a story like that to."

" His father was Sir Franklin Syde, old Lord Wrotham's
brother."

'* I don't care who he was. He made ducks and drakes of
his wife's money and this beauty here helped him. He
knows better than to talk about it now, I dare say. But
everybody knows the facts."

" Lady Syde is here now. She came to stay at the Abbey
this morning."

" Did she ? Well, I know nothing about her, except that
she was a fool to marry her second husband. But this fellow
— God help her if she's taken a fancy to him. He'd spend
every penny she's got and then forsake her. There's nothing
too bad for him. However, you needn't trouble yourself.
He's pretty well on his last legs, and happily she's not big
enough game for him to be flying at."

" He's Wrotham's heir, you know, until Wrotham
marries and has a boy of his own. Wrotham thinks a lot
of him."

" Yes, exactly. And he'll take good care that Wrotham
goes on thinking a lot of him, and not only for what he ban
get out of Wrotham, though that's a good deal, and so you'll
rind out if you have anything to do with the finances of
Wrotham's property. He'll be always at Vv 7 rotham's elbow,
and if WVotham shows any signs of wanting to get married,
you'll see that Master Sidey Syde will have a word to say
about it, and stop it if he can. I dare say he won't stop it
for ever, Wrotham being what he is, but he's a desperate
gambler, and it's the sort of- throw he'd make. I saw every-
thing you say last night, and perhaps a little bit more. His
own powerful attractions are weapons he'll use for all they're
worth, and he'll use them as he's used them before, not to get
a wife for himself, but to stop Wrotham's getting one. He'll
go just far enough with your poor little friend as to get
between her and Wrotham, and when Wrotham gets tired of
it and goes off after somebody else, he'll go off too. He's a
black-hearted scoundrel, and I wish I'd told him so last night
instead of putting up with his infernal impudence and pretend-
ing to like it. I should have done if I'd had the pluck of a
mouse "



312 Exton Manor

Browne sat open-mouthed during this tirade, as much on
account of Turner's unwonted heat and seriousness as at the
disclosure of perfidy almost beyond the grasp of his simple
mind. " Well, it seems likely to be a bad business/' he said
after a pause.

Turner made an impatient motion with his shoulders and
returned to his customary mood. " We've had a nice peace-
ful time since your old woman planted herself down here," he
said. " She's managed to set everybody by the ears, I should
think in the quickest time on record."

" There's another row brewing," said Browne dejectedly.

" Is there ? Well, I should have thought she had got
enough to occupy herself with at present. What is it ? "

" The Dales came into the Lodge yesterday. She won't
like them, and I shall have the deuce of a time with her."

v What's wrong with them ? "

" Dale is a Radical and a Dissenter and "

" Is he ? Is he ? " exclaimed Turner delightedly. " I'll
go and look him up at once. When do you think I can go
and call, Browne ? I suppose they're all in a mess now, but
I should think by Monday — — By Jove, yes, I'll go and
see him on Monday."

Browne stared at him. " What do you mean ? " he said.
" You're not a Radical or a Dissenter. You said the other
day you would like to duck all the Radicals in the country,
and make all the Dissenters kiss the Pope's toe."

" So I should. But I'd let Dale off. We shall get some
fun out of Dale. Will he put up a fight, do you think ? Oh,
I'll go and see him on Monday. Wouldn't miss it for any-
thing."

" I hope to goodness you're not going to make mischief,
Turner. It'll be bad enough as it is. He's not a bad old
chap, but he's just the sort of man that Lady Wrotham will
hate to have in the place ; not a gentleman — at least, you
know, not what she'd call a gentleman, but pretty satisfied
with himself all the same, and no idea of keeping himself quiet."

Turner rubbed his lean hands. " You put new life into
me, Maximilian," he said. " I should never have thought
you'd have had the sense to get a man like that into the place."

" I wish to goodness I hadn't," said Browne ruefully.
" Though I couldn't very well help myself. Oh, I shall
chuck it. I shall chuck the whole thing. I haven't had a



A Visit and a Conversation 813

moment's peace since she came here. If she cuts up rough
about the Dales I shall chuck it."

" And I think you said she would cut up rough, didn't you ?
Oh, my immortal aunt ! this is the best thing that has hap-
pened yet."

Browne turned sulky and refused to pursue the matter further
if his information and his wrongs were to be treated in that
fashion, but revived under the internal application of a bottle
of vintage port, and a phenomenal run of luck at picquet.
Turner maintained his spirits throughout the evening and
could hardly get through his nightly novel, so interrupted was
he by his own fits of chuckling.



CHAPTER XXIX

LADY SYDE HEARS AND ADVISES

Lady Syde, the widow of Major-General the Hon. Sir
Franklin Syde, K.C.B., the late Lord Wrotham's younger
brother, was a still handsome woman, with snow-white hair
and a pair of bright eyes, which, when she became animated in
conversation, as she often did, flashed with something of the
fire of youth. She must at this time have been nearing
seventy, and was younger than Lady Wrotham by some years.
Her white hair, and an impression of fatigue about her face
and her whole bearing, which was always present unless she
talked, when it disappeared entirely, made her look older. It
might have seemed to an observer that she had lived a more
than usually active life and had grown rather tired of it.
Lady Wrotham had lived an active life too, but she had by no
means grown tired of it, and would never grow tired of it
until she laid it aside altogether.

But when Lady Syde talked and her bright e}^es flashed
with interest, when her face lost its lines of fatigue, and per-
haps of discontent, and became animated, and her voice took
on a clear and decisive ring, she seemed years younger than
Lady Wrotham, who was neither more nor less interested and
animated or decisive at one time than another, but lived on
one plane of energy, which, if it had not merged into the
weariness of creeping age, had never burnt so brightly as it
still occasionally did in her sister-in-law.

Lady Syde had not always occupied the position which she
now filled. When she had married her second husband, rather
late in life, she had been the widow of a Mr. Moggeridge, a
very rich business man, but one of no pretensions to birth and
very few to social status. Her wealth at the time of her se-

3M



Lady Syde hears and advises 315

cond marriage had enabled Sir Franklin's family to overlook
the vulgarity of Mr. Moggeridge, who, after all, was dead, and
powerless to offend their susceptibilities, and her own clever-
ness and energy of character had gained her an assured place
amongst the numerous high connections of that family. There
was a faint tradition that Lady Wrotham had inaugurated the
new relationship by attempting to patronize Lady Syde, and
had been considerably surprised at the reception her attempt
had met with. But that little passage of arms had long since
been forgotten, and Lady Wrotham and Lady Syde met as
equals and even as intimate friends, neither giving way to the
other in the least degree, but both respecting one another's
opinions and characters.

The two ladies had much to talk about on this first meeting
"after Lady Wrotham/s settling down at Exton. They dis-
cussed the less important matters over the luncheon table and
reserved their serious confidences until they were ensconced
in the library with their coffee.

" This is a fine house, Sarah/' said Lady Syde, looking
round her with eager observation. " You must take me over
it. It has always been one of my great pleasures, as you
know, to arrange an old house, or rearrange a house, or furnish
a house, and I believe I should enjoy doing it now just as well
as ever. Was there much to do here ? "

"No," said Lady Wrotham. " Sir Joseph Chapman, who
has occupied it for many years, has done everything that
wants doing. It is not in all respects as I should have done
it myself, but it does very well, and, beyond having the few
things that I care about around me, I am indifferent. I have
other things to employ my attention. They would not in-
terest j'ou."

It was an understood thing between them that Lady Syde
should not be required to express an interest which she did not
feel in Lady Wrotham's schemes for the reformation of the
English Church and Nation. These topics were not introduced
into their intercourse, unless they had some bearing on ques-
tions that were discussed between them.

" I sincerely hope you have settled down comfortably here/'
said Lady Syde, " and like your surroundings. The place
itself you could hardly help liking."

" I am sorry to say," replied Lady Wrotham, " that almost
from the first moment I came here I have been involved in



316 Exton Manor

one disagreeable after another. I have had no time to enjoy
the beauties of the place, which I should enjoy under other
circumstances, for my life has been full of worries, owing to
the obstinacy and quarrelsomeness of the people here. You
would hardly believe, Henrietta, what I have had to put up
with."

" Indeed ! " said Lady Syde, her eyes brightening. " I
should like to hear of your experiences. My sympathy will
be yours, even if there is no occasion for me to offer advice."

" I should like to have your advice. It is what I wish. I
have had no one to whom I could talk about these matters,
and to tell you the truth they are causing me great anxiety.
I came to Exton with the full intention and desire to live
quietly among the people here, and to make friends with
them, consistently, of course, with the position I hold, and
have a right to expect to be considered."

" Naturally," said Lady Syde. " You would take the
lead, and ought to take the lead. Nobody could object to
that."

" I am glad to hear you say so ; for really, I have met with
such complete disregard of it from almost every quarter, that
I am beginning to doubt, myself, whether I am anybody to
speak of at all, and whether I have the slightest right to ex-
pect my wishes to be considered in a place that has been in
my husband's family for over three hundred years."

" You need have no doubt about that, Sarah. If I were in
your position and met with such perversity from people who
ought to know better, I should turn out the whole lot of them
to-morrow, and start completely afresh. But tell me the chief
cause of your disturbance."

" The chief cause is the Vicar of the parish, who, I con-
sider, obtained his position here in the first instance under
false pretences. He is the kind of man who is rapidly
wrecking the Church, preaching doctrines and carrying on
generally in a way that if it is not stopped will bring this
country under the yoke of Rome within another generation.
You know what sacrifices I have made to stop this creeping
blight, and I say that it is monstrous, intolerable, that in the
very place where I make my home, I should have to submit
to it from a man who is bound by all honesty and decent feel-
ing — if not by the actual law — to — to do as I tell him."

I Oh, but surely, Sarah, if he refuses to behave as you wish



Lady Syde hears and advises sir

him to behave, you can get rid of him. It would indeed be
monstrous if you could not. I am not so well up in these
matters as you are. They are not in my line, as you know,
and I do not mix myself up in them. But of that I have no
doubt whatever. It would be absurd to think that a mere
clergyman, tiresome as I know from my own experience they
can be, could set up his opinion against yours in a place where
you are, or should be, paramount. No law could give him
the right to do that. The country would be ruined in no
time/'

" Unfortunately, the law r does give him the right. Un-
just as it is, the law is on his side, and I am unable to deny
it."

lt Then the law ought to be altered. Surely it would be
altered if it was realized that it countenanced such an
absurdity. One could hardly expect a Radical Government
to do it, perhaps, as their enmity to the Church and the upper
classes is notorious. But fortunately we have a Conservative
Government in power, and something ought to be done.
What is the good of talking about the food of the lower
classes — not that I have any objections to the food of the
lower classes ; it is a very good thing in its proper place-
while the country is going to ruin in this way ? Something
ought to be done about it, and if I were you, Sarah, I should
mention it to the Prime Minister. He is amiability itself,
and burns with indignation, besides, at any hint of injustice."

" I have no hope of anything really satisfactory being done
by the Government," said Lady Wrotham. " Not even the
League, influential as it is, has been able to move them.
They have done away with a few minor injustices, but the
great Church questions they will not touch."

" Very well then, why not apply to the bishop ? I have no
great opinion of bishops, as a general rule ; their aprons al-
ways strike me as being a little absurd, and they have usually
risen from the ranks. But the bishop of Archester is a gentle-
man. I have met him more than once, a most delightful
man, quite of the old courtly type. He is at the head of this
division, is he not ? "

" Yes. And I have applied to him, I am sorry to say,
without success. I even asked him and Lady Susan to stay
here and discuss the matter quietly after he had seen for him-
self what goes on. And, would you believe it ? I simply



318 Exton Manor

received a note from his chaplain saying that his lordship
saw nothing to complain about to the Vicar of this parish
in what I had told him, except in one matter on which he
would communicate with the Vicar himself. And that was
all."

" Nothing about your invitation ? "

" Simply that his lordship had too many engagements to
enable him to accept it."

" Well, I should never have thought he would have be-
haved like that — and to you. If he had not been who he
is — I mean a brother of Lord Pevensey — one might almost
have said it was presumptuous. But surely there must be
something left for you to do, Sarah."

Lady Wrotham's fa.ce took on a sterner and not a pleasant
expression. " Mr. Prentice shall go," she said. " I will use
every effort to dislodge him. I will not live in the midst of a
community given over to such errors as he practises and
teaches."

v I think he should go. I think he should be made to go.
Has he a wife and family ? "

" He has a wife and, I believe, one son."

" I suppose he can get some other situation. Do they sup-
port him in his rebellion ? "

" I don't know anything about the son. He does not
live here. But Mrs. Prentice has caused me almost more
annoyance than her husband. I did hope at one time that
she saw how misguided he was and would be of use to me in
influencing him for his good. She certainly led me to think
so, in a way that I can only think now was hypocritical. I
gave her full credit for being sincere and truthful, and even
made a companion of her, though she is not a woman of any
breeding. Apparently it was simply that that she wanted, for
when I took her to task for something I was displeased about
in her conduct, she threw off the mask at once, and has ever
since opposed me in the most violent way in everything I try
to do for the good of the people. She goes about amongst
them and tries to dissuade them from attending some meetings
that I have got up for their benefit. Fortunately the people
do not like her and she has Utile influence over them. They
laugh at her efforts to anno3/ me and do not respond to
them. But fancy, Henrietta, my having to put up with that
sort of thing from a woman of her standing ! When I pass



Lady Syde hears and advises 319

her out driving she pokes her nose in the air and pretends not
to see me."

" Oh, it is outrageous. Certainly she must be sent away.
There is not a doubt of it. What was the thing that you had
to rebuke her for, first of all ? "

" Well, that is another affair altogether, but it has given,
and is still giving me infinite annoyance. There is a lady
living here called Mrs. Redcliffe. She has a pretty cottage,
practically in the park itself — you can see it from "the upper
window's — a fair-sized house really, with a large garden.
Her father was a squatter in Queensland — a gentleman —
and she was born and brought up there. Her husband
was one of the Warwickshire Redcliffes. He was on the
staff of the Governor of Queensland while we were in South
Australia, and he married first of all her sister, who died
within a year, and then her, and settled out there. I remem
ber the circumstances well, and thought everybody who knew
her would have known of them as a matter of course."

" She was the deceased wife's sister."

14 Yes. Of course you know that there is no objection to
that in the Colonies. They are more advanced there than we
are, and delight in passing laws that we should not pass, very
often out of mere bravado. Their politicians are of quite a
different class to ours. We had considerable difficulty with
some of them during our term in Australia ; in fact, we were
given to understand, in rather an impertinent way through the
newspapers, that otir province was simply to spend our allow-
ance, and a good deal more besides, in entertaining them, and
leave them to manage their own business in their own way.
One paper actually went so far as to say that we ought to
feel ourselves amply rewarded for all we did by having the
National Anthem played whenever we made a public
appearance."

" Yes," said Lady Syde, who had heard all this before, and
wanted to hear something else. M But there was, at any rate,
nothing wrong about this marriage under the circumstances."

" No. And if I had come down here and found Mrs. Red-
cliffe to be a nice woman in every other way, as I have no
reason to believe she is not, I should not have let it make the
slightest difference in my treatment of her. But what did not
enter into my calculations was that the very fact of her being
the deceased wife's sister was not known here. I have not yet



320 Exton Manor .

quite gathered how she can have succeeded in keeping it to
herself, as I have not bad the opportunity of speaking to her
about it, but that does not very much matter. She had suc-
ceeded in keeping it to herself, and I do not in the least blame
her for having done so if she could, as, of course, her daughter's
position in this country, if not her own, is an invidious
one/'

" Yes, there has been an attempt to alter the law in that
respect. It ought to be altered, I think."

" Perhaps so, to that extent. At any rate, the last thing I
should have wished would be to spread her story. But unfor-
tunately, before I knew that it had been kept secret, I inad-
vertently let it out to this Mrs. Prentice, the Vicar's wife."

" And she spread it. But did you not tell her she was not
to do so ? "

" I did, most emphatically. But it was all over the place in
no time. She has always declared that she said nothing to
anybody but her husband, who, I hear, and I will give him
that credit, has behaved well about it, and would not have
spread it. Mrs. Prentice undoubtedly did so, and I have dis-



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