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judged by their power of affording entertainment, in just
the same way as other hosts and hostesses were judged. It
would hardly mend matters to put in a claim for gratitude, or
any unusual consideration.

'■■ Who is the friend with whom you are going to stay ? "
she asked.

" George Paridelle. He was at Oxford with me — a year
senior. He has done well — made quite a decent income at
the bar the year after he was called, and will go right ahead.
He got into Parliament at a bye-election."

" Has he got a place in Dorsetshire ? "



58 Exton Manor

ft His father has — a famous place — Trixworth Court.
George will come in for it. Lucky beggar ; everything done
for him. Plenty of money too."

" But he has done something for himself ? "

" Oh, yes. He works like a nigger."

" I do hope, Freddy dear, that you are working hard. It is
so important for you to do so, you know. Your father and I
can't do much for you — not nearly so much as we should like.
It all depends upon yourself. I'm sure you have got brains
as good as anybody's, if you will use them."

" Don't you worry about me, mother. I shall get called
all right. That's all I'm out for at present."

" There is one thing, Freddy dear, that I w T ant to warn you
about. I'm afraid your father is seriously annoyed. The
tailor's bill, you know."

The young man's face grew dark. " What tailor's bill ? "
he asked shortly.

" One was sent in to your father, for over eighty pounds."

He gave an exclamation of annoyance. " Now that's really
too bad," he said, " I won't have anything more to do with
those people. What do they mean by sending in my bills to
father ? "

" I suppose it is because he paid the last one. You know
it is heavy, Freddy dear. I own I was surprised — but pos-
sibly there is some mistake."

" No, there's no mistake ; except that London tailors seem
to think they've got a right to rob you. I had to get some
clothes."

" Yes, I know. Of course, I like to see you well dressed.
But you have had such a lot of clothes during the last few
years, and evetything was paid up a twelvemonth ago. 1
should have thought that you could hardly have wanted to
spend eighty pounds again in one year — at a tailor's alone.
And the charges are so exorbitant — something like sixteen
pounds for a dress suit, and I've seen quite good ones adver-
tised for four guineas. Couldn't you change your tailor and
go to a cheaper one ? "

" Oh, I'm going to change him all right, but it's no use
going to cheap tailors. The clothes don't fit, and you don't
wear them. It's much dearer in the long run. What did
father say when he got the bill ? "

11 He said he couldn't possibly pay it." ^



Fred Prentice 59

" I don't want him to pay it. But I suppose he'll want to
talk about it. It's very annoying that this sort of thing should
happen to spoil a visit which I'd been so looking forward
to."

" That's what I feel, Freddy dear. It's delightful to see you
again, and I don't want the time you are with us spoilt. Just
talk it over with your father, and tell him that it will be the
last piece of extravagance. Then it will all be over, and we
shall enjoy ourselves together. I feel sure that you have really
turned over a new leaf, and, as far as I'm concerned, you will
hear nothing more of it. Only I just wanted to warn you
that your father is annoyed."

Thus did Mrs. Prentice fulfil her promise to take a serious
view of her son's tendency to debt and extravagance. What
grounds she had for her assurance that he had turned over a
new leaf in these matters it would be difficult to say, but it is
quite certain that she could not have improved matters by
scolding him, and possibly her instinct towards leniency was
justified.

The young man sat silent and rather glum for a minute or
two, and then with a mental shake threw off the unpleasant
subject from his mind, as it was his wont to throw off all un-
pleasantness, until it faced him with a peremptory summons to
attention.

" Who is down here now ? " he asked. " Is your beautiful
Mrs. O'Keefe to be seen at last ? "

" No, she went to Ireland yesterday to stay with Lord
Ballyshannon, and others of her relations. She will be away
for a month."

" She is always away when I come down. I suppose the
Redcliffe's are at home."

Mrs. Prentice pursed her lips. " Yes, Mrs. Redcliffe and
Hilda are at home," she said. " If I were you, Fred, I should
no-t-go to the White House more than I could help."

" Why not, mother ? I like Mrs. Redcliffe ; and as for
Hilda, she and I have been pals ever since they first came here,
and she .was a kid. What is the matter with them ? "

" Hilda was not so very young when they came," replied
Mrs. Prentice. " She was sixteen. She is grown up now —
rather too grown up, I should say, for I never met a girl of her
age with more self-assurance. I know you only like her as
an old playmate, but I should not be at all surprised if she had



co Exton Manor

quite other ideas in her head, and that Mrs. Redcliffe shared
them."

" I'm such a catch, ain't I ? My dear mother, you're
talking absolute nonsense. I'm quite sure that Hilda
wouldn't have a word to say to me if I were to be foolish
enough to — to want her to. What — er — makes you think
differently ? "

" Never mind ; but I do think differently. And, if we are
to speak plainly, I should not consider Hilda Redcliffe a
suitable — well, match for you. The Redcliffes are nobodies,
so far as I know."

" Well, mother, you really do say the most extraordinary
things. As if the idea of marriage — with Hilda Redcliffe,
or anybody else — had entered my head yet ! I may be a fool
in some ways, but I'm not such a fool as to be thinking of
marrying and settling down at twenty-three, with all nry way
to make."

" I hope not. But whatever you may be thinking of, other
people may have different ideas. I think it my duty to give
you a word of warning. And on my own account I should
be glad if you had as little as possible to do with the Red-
cliffes while you are here. It is my earnest wish to live in
charity with all my neighbours, but it is the most difficult
thing to carry out in practice. I sometimes think that people
take a delight in stirring up strife and giving occasion for
offence."

" I can't imagine Mrs. Redcliffe stirring up strife. What
has she been doing ? "

" I suppose you have not heard the great Exton news —
that Lady Wrotham is coming to live at the Abbey ? "

" By Jove, no ? That is news."

u Young Lord Wrotham was down here yesterday. I
don't think he gets on well with his mother, from all I have
heard, and I dare say he wanted to have a good look round
his property before she came here."

" Did you see him ? "

"Not to speak to. Mr. Browne, who is now hand in glove
with the Redcliffes "

" He always- has been, hasn't he ? "

" Not, as far as I am aware, in the way of making Mrs.
Redcliffe his first confidante in everything that goes on in
the place. At any rate, when he brought the news of Lady



Fred Prentice 61

Wrotham's coming here, what must he do but fly off at once
to Mrs. Redcliffe with it, and she, of course, was only too
pleased to let me know that she had the information which
I had not. And yesterday there was no word whatever said
of Lord Wrotham's coming down for the day. What was
my surprise to learn at about half-past twelve o'clock from
Pringle's man, when he brought the bread, that he was at
the office with Mr. Browne ! 0/ course I, or your father,
ought to have been told, so that we might have shown him
some hospitality. I did what I could. I rushed down to the
village to ask him to lunch, and was just in time to see him
drive away. I sent an invitation up to the home-farm, and
received a reply from Mr. Browne that ' his lordship ' was
lunching with him. Merely that. I don't know when I've
felt so annoyed. And I stayed in all the afternoon, thinking
that Mr. Browne would at least bring him to call. No such
thing. They drove down to the Manor, and he went back
by the five o'clock train."

u I don't suppose he would have much time for calling,
if he just came down for the day, for a look round."

" He had time, at any rate, to call on the Redcliffes.
They took very good care to be in the garden as he drove
up the hill, and I have no doubt that Hilda made eyes at him."

" Oh, come now, mother ; you know quite well she
wouldn't do anything of the sort."

" I don't know it, Freddy. I wish I did. At any rate,
he was invited in, and I have no doubt made himself very
pleasant. I shall be having Mrs. Redcliffe down to crow
over me because he went to see her and did not come to
see me. I shall know what to say to her. I think it most
contemptible to make a dead set in that way at a young man
just because he has got a title."

Fred laughed. " Poor old mummy/' he said. " I shouldn't
worry about it, if I were you. I don't think Wrotham is
a very estimable character, from what I've heard. He's
always about with his cousin, Laurence Syde, who sponges
on him. They've got through a tremendous lot of money
between them. It's the common talk that Wrotham will
be in a bit of a fix now he has succeeded."

" How can that be, Freddy ? He comes in for all his
father's property, and Lord Wrotham was a rich man."

" Yes, but he was so severe that Kemsing dared not go



62 Extern Manor

to him about his debts, and he raised a heap of money on his
expectations, at a ruinous rate of interest. He'll have to pay
up now, and he'll be dipped for a long time. Of course, he'll
work it off in time, but he'll have to go a bit slower than he
has been doing lately."

" I am very sorry to hear that ; very sorry indeed. The
Wrothams have not troubled Exton much with their presence,
but, naturally, one takes an interest in the family, and one
hopes to be able to make a friend of Lady Wrotham, now she
is coming to live among us. It is well to know all that one
can about them. There will be no other woman with whom
she can associate on intimate terms here but myself. Mrs.
O'Keefe is too young ; and although Mrs. Redcliffe may try,
I should think Lady Wrotham would be able to see through
that sort of thing clearly enough."

" My dear mother, I wish you wouldn't talk in that way
of Mrs. Redcliffe. You know quite well she doesn't deserve
it, and it is not nice to hear you."

" I shall say no more, Freddy," replied his mother. " But
we shall see who is right."

They drove through the village, and up to the vicarage,
receiving friendly greeting from those whom they met on the
way, for Fred Prentice had lived the greater part of his life at
Exton, and had made many friends.

" Jolly glad to get home again," he said, as they turned
in at the vicarage gate. " I believe, if I were a country
gentleman, I should be quite content to live on my place all
the year round. I should like to be surrounded by faces I
know. Ah, I wish I could change places with Wrotham."

Mr. Prentice gave his son. a welcome, but it was evident
that the air would have to be cleared before that amount of
goodwill which is requisite for the happiness of three people
living together in a house should reign at Exton vicarage.

" I'd better get it over to-night," said Fred to himself, as he
went up-stairs to dress for dinner. " Confound those people
— and confound myself for an extravagant ass. Still, it's my
own money, and I ought to have the handling of it. Then this
sort of thing wouldn't happen."

The room, which had been his ever since early childhood,
was a large one looking east over the garden and a slope of
quiet meadow to the river and the trees beyond. It was shab-
bily furnished, but contained many of his boyhood's treasures ;



Fred Prentice 63

\

a full-rigged ship on the chest of drawers, a row of shelves,
containing school prizes and a large collection of stories of ad-
venture, his baptismal and confirmation cards, framed and pre-
sented by his mother, some once highly prized engravings of
dogs, photographs* of school^and college groups, with faded
caps hung as trophies on their frames, a case of stuffed birds,
brought down in years gone by by a schoolboy catapult, and
stuffed by a village naturalist long since dead, whose know-
ledge had been greater than his skill, fishing-rods, disused
cricket bats, and other implements of sport, and many other
odds and ends of little value ; but none of them that had not
brought with it a thrill of joy when first acquired, and after-
wards many hours of pleasure ; none of them that were not
eloquent of the happy days of boyhood, when the heart was
light, and the cares of life had not begun to wreathe their
darkling mists around innocent pleasure. Fred sighed as he
looked round on the familiar possessions. He had travelled so
far from the days of which they spoke to him, and yet he was
removed by so few years from those days. The accessories of
his present pursuits, which he kept in his London rooms, had
cost a great deal more than these discarded treasures of his
boyhood. He gave himself what he wanted in that way, but
all of them together had not afforded him the gratification he
had received from' the poorest of the things in this room. He
put together and handled the fishing-rod which old Sir Joseph
had given him on his thirteenth birthday, together with per-
mission to fish as much as he liked in certain portions of his
river. The old days came back to him, and the freshness of
the early morning on which he had first gone out to try his
prowess, with what keenness of delight he well remembered.
His maturer pleasures afforded him no such blissful thrills.
He sighed again as he took the rod to pieces and put it back in
its place.

When Mrs. Prentice left the dining room after dinner, Fred
said to his father, " I hear that my tailor has sent in a bill to
you, father. I don't know why he should bother you about
my affairs. Will you let me have it ? "

The Vicar cleared his throat. He had been intending to
speak to his son on this subject upon the first opportunity
that presented itself, but, lapped in after-dinner peace, had
thought he might as well put it off until a later hour of the
evening. He had enjoyed Fred's conversation and the breath



64 Exton Manor

of the outside world which he had brought with him, and was
not feeling quite so severe towards his son as he had done.
Still, if it must come now, it must, and he nerved himself
to speak his mind. " What shall you do with it when you
have got it ? " he asked dryly. " Have you got the money
to pay ? "

Well, no — not yet," replied Fred. " Still, one doesn't
expect to have to pay a tailor's bill within a twelvemonth,

and "

' " And, if it can be allowed to run on, and, of course, to
increase, for another two years, you will be able to discharge
it with the remnants of your legacy. I suppose that is the
idea ? "

'■ I hadn't thought of that in that way. I spend a certain
amount a year on clothes, and if I don't pay all of it this year,
I shall next, or the year after."

The Vicar thought for a moment. " You're not a fool,
Fred," he said, " and you know you're talking nonsense.
I've no doubt you argued in just the same way to yourself be-
fore, and the result was a pack of bills which it took half of
your legacy to pay off. Exactly the same thing will happen
again, and you'll start the world with nothing at all to fall back
upon. I am not going to scold you about it. You are
twenty-three, and quite old enough to discipline yourself with-
out schooling from me. If you won't, I can't help you. But
I just want to put clearly before you what it is you are doing.
You are having a very good time now, I've no doubt. But
what are you going to do when this money is gone, as it will
go before the two years are out, if you go on at this rate ?
You will be called to the bar in a }/ear. But you will be a
good deal more fortunate than most young barristers if you
make an income out of your profession for some years after
that, and you won't make an income out of it at all if you
don't give your attention to it, and refuse to allow your-
pleasures to stand in the way of your work. What are you
going to live on in the meantime ? You will have two hun-
dred a year as long as I'm spared. If you can't train yourself
to live on that now, when are you going to ? It will be a great
deal harder in two or three years' time. You are laying up a
very hard time for yourself. It is not as if you were prepar-
ing for some lucrative occupation. At the best, it will be a
struggle for some years."



Fred Prentice C5

This calm line of remonstrance was more difficult to meet
than the heated condemnation for which Fred had prepared
himself. The reasonableness appealed to him, for his brain
responded to reason, although his inclinations led him perforce
to ignore it. " I suppose I'm not tied down to the bar/' he
said. " If something else turned up, I should — er — consult
you as to whether I hadn't better take it."

" Quite so. I have always had such a possibility in my
mind. It is a good thing to be called to the bar, in any case.
You might look upon it as the completion of a good and very
expensive education. But what you don't seem to realize is
that you are practically tying yourself down to that one pro-
fession. I'm a priest ; but I have kept my eyes open, and I
can see clearly enough that opportunities for making money
very seldom present themselves to those who have got none at
their backs. And on the other hand, a sum such as you would
have had at the age of twenty-five, if you had not dissipated it
— or half of it — would almost certainly have helped you in
that way. I remember reading somewhere that one of the
great American millionaires had said that for a business man
to make a large fortune was easy enough after he had got to-
gether his first thousand dollars, or whatever it was, but that
to do that was extraordinarily difficult. Of course, that par-
ticular sort of business aptitude isn't found everywhere. I'm
quite sure you haven't got it, for instance. But I have very
little doubt that your legacy would have been enough to buy
you a partnership in some business that you might have been
able to take an interest in and increase, or to give you a start in
some other way. I believe that what is left would do it, if it is
not broken in upon any further. So you see, my boy, that you
are throwing away your chances with both hands, and all for a
year or two's gratification, which I feel sure doesn't really
satisfy you."

Fred's ambition was fired by the story of the American
millionaire. He thought that he had that sort of business
aptitude. It was quite true that his present life did not satisfy
him, however much he might have enjoyed it if it had not
been haunted by the ghosts of the future. In a flash he
saw himself living laborious days and nights, steeped in
financial operations, piling up gold upon gold, becoming a
rich man — a very rich man, with houses and land, horses and
motor-cars, wine and books and travel, dispensing a joyous,

(3)



66 Exlon Manor

open-handed hospitality, and all his work behind him. What
would it matter giving up a few years to unremitting toil ?
He was still young. By the time he was thirty, even "before,
he might have everything his soul enjoyed, and the fulcrum
by which he was to gain these delights was the round plum of
one thousand pounds which was yet left to him intact. His
father was right. What a thrice-begotten fool he would be
to throw it away, as he had thrown away the rest. Certainly
he would not do so.

He did not consider, being without the experience that
w T ould have taught him, that money comes to those who desire
it for its own sake, but seldom to those who love to spend it.
And he forgot other-things. But for the present his father's
words had their desired eifect. " I have been a fool, father,"
he said. *' I said so a year ago, and, of course, I can't deny
that I haven't quite left off being a fool yet. However, 111
pull up now — I will, really — and I hope you won't have
occasion to complain of me again."

The Vicar's face expressed gratification. u Very well,
then, my boy/' he said ; " I'll pay this bill — I'm afraid it
must be with your money. If we pay it now we shall get a
good discount. And you had better send me any others you
have contracted. We'll make another start, and there won't
be anything in the way of your rearranging your life accord-
ing to your actual income when you get back to town. It
won't be difficult, if you make a plan and stick to it. Pay
ready money for everything, and don't have a single bill out-
standing. Now we'd better go in to your mother."



(24)



CHAPTER VI

GOOD FRIDAY

The day after Fred Prentice's home-coming was Good
Friday. It was celebrated on this year at Exton by the in-
auguration of a three hours' service, at which the Vicar, not
having been able to secure the assistance of an outside
preacher, gave the addresses himself. The subject was
broached between Fred and his mother as they strolled round
the garden together after breakfast.

" I feel it is a great step forward," said Mrs. Prentice.
" The devotional life of Exton badly requires deepening. I
have spared no pains in getting a congregation together, and if
we can only — er "

" Poll the number of votes that have been promised," sug-
gested Fred.

" Pray do not speak profanely, Freddy," replied his mother.
" I hope there will be a good gathering. Have you ever been
to a three hours' service before ? "

" Yes. I went to St. Paul's when I was in London at
Easter, two years ago. We had a fine preacher — I don't
know who he was, but he was worth listening to. Still, even
then, it was too much for me."

M How do you mean — too much for you ? "

" Too much of a strain. It is a service that only people,
as you say, with the devotional spirit strongly developed,
ought to go to. You won't expect me to go to-day,
mother ? "

" Indeed, Fred, I hope you will. It can do you nothing
but good."

" My dear mother, I really can't listen to father for three
hours on end. No one ought to be asked to. Father has no
end of common-sense, but when he gets into the puloit he

6 7

08!



68 Exton Manor

seems to lose it all. It is church, church, all the time. He
never gives you anything to think about."

Mrs. Prentice expressed herself pained by this freedom of
speech. " I think your father's sermons are just what are
wanted in a country village," she said. " They are simple*
and direct. The people are told exactly what the Church
teaches, and what it demands of them. I don't know what
else you can expect him to preach, or what more you want.
Besides, preaching is not everything. I should be very sorry'
if the Church were to imitate the Dissenters in that respect,
and place the sermon above worship."

" I don't know anything about the Dissenters, but good
preaching is the only thing I go to church for. I do go to
church, nearly always, once on Sunday. Lots of people don't
now — quite good people — and I should think very few men
in my circumstances. But I've got to have a sermon if I do
go — and a jolly good sermon too. I think it's nothing less
than impudence the way some fellows get up into the pulpit
and reel off a lot of worn-out rubbish which they haven't
given a moment's thought to. If a writer in a newspaper
wants to persuade you about something, he has got to put all
he knows into it, or you simply don't read him. And yet
here are these parsons, whose business it is to persuade peo-
ple about the most important thing in life, and they won't
take the trouble to get hold of an idea. Of course, they
know you've got to listen to them, and I suppose that's why
they think anything will do. If you could get up and go out
when you are getting a lot of poor stuff, which you've heard
a thousand times before, chucked at your head, they. might get
a lesson, and begin to take some pains."

What Mrs. Prentice would have said in answer to this
revolutionary attack must be imagined, for the Vicar stepped
out of the French windows of his study at that moment,
equipped for the educational fray. " I'm just off to the
school," he said. " It is time you got ready, Agatha."

Mrs. Prentice hurried indoors, and Fred said, '* Do you
mind if I don't come to the three hours' service, father ? Ill
come at eleven o'clock."

The Vicar looked rather disappointed, but he said, " Don't
come if you don't think it w r ould help you, my boy. But
there won't be any lunch here. Your mother and I are just
going to have something between the services." -



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