J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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you don't feel up to it she'll distribute the prizes on
the Fifth, at the Floral Hall."



The Mayoress drew in her lips, a sign that she was
thinking. She might be able to manage the Fifth, as
"a few words" were not expected, although, of course,
they were always welcome.

Josiah, however, was not inclined to press the mat-
ter. Maria seemed rather worried by her duties as
Mayoress and Gerty having had greater experience in
that kind of thing and having already done extremely
well in the Arboretum, it now occurred to the Mayor
that it might be possible to arrange with the Town
Clerk for her to take over the duties permanently in
his second year of office. "I don't say the Council will
consent," said Josiah. "It may be a bit irregular.
But they know you're not strong, Mother. I was
careful to tell them that when I consented to keep the
job on. So the way is paved for you, as you might
say, if you really don't feel up to it. Anyhow, I'll
hear what Aylett has to say about it. No man in
England, they tell me, is a safer guide in matters of
municipal practice. If Aylett thinks it will be all right,
I'm sure Gerty won't mind acting as Mayoress."

"Delighted, Josiah!" Gerty's bow and smile were
positively regal; they were modeled, in point of fact,
upon those of Princess Mawdwin of Connemara, the
most celebrated bazaar-opener of the period.

The Mayoress drew in her lips still further. She
began to think very seriously. No human Mayoress
could have been in lower spirits or have felt less equal
to her duties than did Maria at that moment, but if



Gerty was allowed to usurp the honors and the digni-
ties so undubitably hers it would be very hard to bear.
The whole thing was so like Gerty. Always a
schemer; in spite of her soft manners and her pussy-
cat ways, always at heart a grabber. The Mayoress
felt that if the weak state of her health called for a
deputy, and really it seemed to do so, she would have
preferred the Queen of Sheba herself to the design-
ing Gertrude. For years she had been able to twist
Josiah round her little finger. So like a man to be
taken in by her! So like a man not to be able to
see what a Fox of a woman she really was.

Unfortunately Maria had reason to fear that she
was very ill, indeed. She was afraid of her heart.
It is true that three times within the past fortnight
Horace, Doctor Cockburn, had solemnly assured his
mother-in-law that there was nothing the matter with
it. But thinking the matter over, as day after day
she lay in her miserable bed, she had come to the
conclusion that Horace was a modern doctor and that
a modern doctor could hardly be expected to under-
stand that old-fashioned organ, the heart.

She had made up her mind, therefore, to have a
second opinion. She would go to a heart specialist,
a man who really knew about hearts. As a fact she
had already made up her mind to have the opinion of
Dr. Tremlett who humored her, who understood her
system and its ways. Horace, who was so modern,
rather smiled at Dr. Tremlett he was careful not to



go beyond a smile at Doctor Tremlett, although his
demeanor almost suggested that he might have done
so had not etiquette intervened.

The Mayoress, therefore, was now placed in a diffi-
cult position by the success of a base intriguer. She
didn't know what to do. Three days ago her mind
had been made up that she would put herself in the
hands of Doctor Tremlett, but if she did that she was
quite sure that Doctor Tremlett, a physician of the old
school who knew how important the heart was in
every human anatomy and therefore treated it with
the utmost respect, would not allow her to go over-
doing it. Her time would be divided between her bed
and the drawing-room sofa; he would most probably
insist on a trained nurse Doctor Tremlett really re-
spected the heart and the trained nurse would mean,
of course, that the Mayoress had abdicated and that
the way was open for the treacherous Gertrude with
her pussy-cat ways to take over the duties perma-

It was a dilemma. And it was made needlessly
painful for the Mayoress by the blindness and folly of
the Mayor; in some ways so very able, in others he
was such a shortsighted man! Really, he ought to
have seen what Gerty was up to. So like a man to
be completely taken in by her. One of her own sex
would have seen at a glance that Gertrude was a
Deep one.

It was a most difficult moment for the Mayoress.


Either she must be false to Doctor Tremlett and give
up her heart or she would have to submit tamely to
the rape of her grandeur and have it flaunted in her
face by a Designing creature. Heaven knew that she
had no taste herself for grandeur, but Gerty had a
very decided taste for it and there was the rub!

"Have a piece of this excellent pickelet, Josiah!"
That smile and that manner were very winning to
some eyes no doubt, but those of Maria were not of
the number. That coat and skirt, how well they hung
upon her ! Gerty had always had a slim figure. Some
people thought her figure very genteel, but again Ma-
ria was not of the number. Some people also thought
her voice was very ladylike Josiah did for one. La-
di-da the Mayoress called it. Simpering creature!
Even if the pickelet was excellent it didn't need her
to say so. What had she to do with the pikelet ? And
there was Josiah submitting to her like a lamb and
talking to her about the Town Clerk and the City
Council and wondering whether she would mind giv-
ing him a hand on the Fifth at the Floral Hall.

"I'll be delighted, Josiah simply delighted. Any-
thing to help. If I can be the slightest use to you
and to Maria."

That precious, "And to Maria," brought a curl to
the lip of the lawful Mayoress. Designing hussy!
So like a man not to see through her. Maria felt her-
self slowly turning green. The heart has been known
to take people that way.



"Gert is staying to dinner, Mother. Hope Billing
sent up that salmon."

Billing had sent up the salmon, the Mayor was
meekly informed by the Mayoress.

"Chose it myself. Looked a good fish."

"It is wonderful to me, Josiah" affected mouncing
minx! "how you manage to get through your day.
You seem to have time for everything. Why, your
work as mayor alone would keep most people fully
occupied. Yet you always seem able to attend per-
sonally to this and that and the other."

"Oh, I don't know, Gert." Some of the great man's
critics were inclined to think that since he had made
so good in his high office his amazing self-confidence
had abated a feather or two. "I've always tried to
be what I call a prattical man. If you want a thing
done right do it yourself that's my motto."

"But you get through so much, Josiah."

"Just a habit. But there's a very busy year ahead.
Being Mayor o' this city is not child's play in times
like these. We're up against the food shortage now.
Last year it was munitions. Next year it'll be coal.
And the Army's always crying out for men. And
any labor that isn't in khaki is that durned independ-
ent and very inefficient into the bargain. The papers
are always writing up what they call democracy. Well,
you can have all my share of democracy. Between
you and me, Gert, it's mainly a name for a lot of
jumped-up ignoramuses who have no idea of how lit-



tie they do know. Yesterday I was over at Cleveley
arranging with the Duke about a certain matter. Now
he's prattical fellow, is that. He said, 'Mr. Munt, to
be candid, I don't know anything about the subject,
but I'm very willing to learn.' I tell you, Gert, you'd
have to wait till the cows come home to hear one of
our jumped-up Jacks-in-Office talking that way.
There's nothing they don't know and they're not afraid
to say so. Why, it even takes me all my time to tell
them anything."


AT this critical moment Ethel came in. Mrs. Doc-
tor Cockburn was raging secretly. She had
turned up at the Arboretum, dutifully prepared to
help her mother through a situation a little trying
perhaps to the nerve of inexperience and behold ! there
was Gertrude, smiling and pat, going through it all
without turning a hair and palpably not in need of
the least assistance from any one. The mortified
Ethel, having missed a Sunday at Strathfieldsaye, had
not been in a position to realize that her mother was
going to be so weak as to allow Gerty, who as usual
had masked her intentions very cleverly, to take her
place. It was such a pity! Miss Heber-Knollys who
was there, had said it was such a pity!

Ethel, an old and successful pupil of that distin-
guished lady, had been carried off to tea by her at
the end of the proceedings. And Miss Heber-Knollys
had expressed herself as a little disappointed. She
was sure the Girl Scouts had been so looking forward
to having the Mayoress with them that afternoon;
at any rate, Miss Heber-Knollys had, although of
course she had no pretensions to speak for the Girl
Scouts ; but speaking as a public, a semi-public woman
of Blackhampton, although born in Kent and edu-



cated at Girham, speaking, therefore, as a quasi-public
and naturalized woman of Blackhampton with an
M.A. degree, she looked to the Mayoress to take a
strong lead in all matters relating to the many-sided
activities of the City's feminine life.

Ethel quite saw that. And she now proceeded fully
and pointedly to report Miss Heber-Knollys for the
future guidance of her father, the admonition of her
mother and for the confusion and general undoing of
the designing Gertrude. Mrs. Doctor Cockburn was
far from realizing the critical nature of the moment
at which she had chanced to arrive, but the general
effect of her presence was just as stimulating as if
she had. The lawful Mayoress was in sore need of
mental and moral support if she was to prevail against
the Schemer.

Ethel was in the nick of time, but yet it was by no
means certain that she was not too late to keep Gerty
from the Floral Hall. The Floral Hall would depend
on Doctor Tremlett, bluntly remarked Josiah.

"Doctor Tremlett!" said Mrs. Doctor Cockburn

"Your man has got the sack." The Mayor indulged
in an obvious wink at Gerty who was looking as if
butter would not melt in her mouth.

"But," said the horrified Ethel, "there's no com-
parison between Horace and Doctor Tremlett. Hor-
ace belongs to the modern school; Doctor Tremlett's
an old fossil."



"Your Ma seems to think Doctor Tremlett under-
stands her," said Josiah bluntly. "And Doctor Trem-
lett says she's got to be very careful of her heart or
she'll have to lie up and have a trained nurse."

"But Horace declares there is nothing the matter
with it."

"That's where Horace don't know his business as
well as Doctor Tremlett. Your Ma has got to be very
careful, indeed, and I'm going to arrange with Aylett
for her to have a deputy for the whole of the coming
year. You see if anything happened to her she'd have
to have a deputy, so it may be wise to take steps be-

"Nonsense, Father! Horace says there's nothing
the matter with her. He says it's stage fright. You
ought not to encourage her. Certainly it isn't right
that Gerty should be taking her place. Miss Heber-
Knollys says it may make a bad impression."

"Don't know, I'm sure, what business it is of hers."
His worship spoke with considerable asperity.

"Besides, if any one must deputize, surely it should
be me."

There was a little pause and then said Gerty in her
meek and dovelike voice, "We all thought, dear, that
just now you would not care to take part in a public
display. Perhaps after Christmas . . , when the new
little one has safely arrived."

The other ladies realized that the Fox of a Ger-
trude had scored a bull's-eye. At Christmas it was f ond-



ly hoped in the family that the Mayor would at last
have a grandson. Certainly, Mrs. Doctor could not be
expected to take an active part at the Floral Hall.

There were occasions, however, when Mrs. Doctor
was visited by some of her father's driving force and
power of will. And this was one of them. If a ca-
lamity of the first magnitude was to be averted
Gerty as Deputy-Mayoress was unthinkable! there
must be no half measure. "Horace says it will do
Mother good to distribute the prizes at the Floral Hall,
and if she doesn't I am sure that quite a lot of people
will be disappointed."

Even for Ethel this was rather cynical. She was
well aware that she had greatly overrated the public's
power of disappointment; at the same time it was
clearly a case for strong action. "You'll go to the
Floral Hall, Mother. And I'll come with you."

"You, dear?" Gerty spoke in a melodramatic

"I shall sit just behind her ... in the second row.
We can't have people talking. And I shall put on my
fur coat."

It was a blow on the sconce for the specious Ger-
trude, but she took it with disarming meekness, smil-
ing, as Ethel mentally described her, "like a prize An-
gora" down her long, straight, rather adventurous

"It's your duty, Mother." Mrs. Doctor proceeded
to administer a mental and moral shaking. "The



women of the city look up to you, they expect you to
set an example. Miss Heber-Knollys feels that very
strongly. And Horace, who is a far cleverer man than
Doctor Tremlett, says all you have to do is to keep
yourself up."

"In other words, Maria," cooed Gerty in the voice
of the dove, "you must show Spirit. And that is what
I always tell you."

There were times when Gerty was amazing. Her
audacity took away the breath even of Ethel. As for
Maria she felt a little giddy. She was fascinated.

The She serpent


MARIA went to the Floral Hall. And she was
seen there to great advantage. She wore a
new hat chosen for her by Ethel at the most fash-
ionable shop in the city; she distributed the prizes to
the Orphans' Guild in a manner which extorted praise
from even the diminished Gertrude; she didn't actu-
ally "say a few words," but her good heart speaking
figuratively of course and her motherly presence
spoke for her ; and as Miss Heber-Knollys said, in fe-
licitously proposing a vote of thanks to the Mayoress
on whose behalf the Mayor responded, she had brought
a ray of sunshine into the lives of those who saw
the sun too seldom.

This achievement was a facer for the designing
Gertrude, also for the antiquated Doctor Tremlett.
On the other hand, it was a triumph for Ethel and
for the modern school of medicine. Horace, Doctor
Cockburn, was reinstated. Maria would still have
felt safer with some one who really understood the
heart and its ways, but, as Ethel pointed out to her,
she would earn the admiration of everybody if she
could manage to postpone her really serious illness
until the following year.



Maria, at any rate, was open to reason. For the
sake of the general life of the community she would
do her best. But it was very hard upon her; far
harder than people realized. As she had once pathet-
ically told Josiah, "she hadn't been brought up to that
kind of thing," to which the Mayor promptly rejoined,
"that he hadn't either, but he was as good as some
who had."

Education was what the Mayor called a Flam. In
the main it wasn't prattical. He allowed that it was
useful in certain ways and in carefully regulated
doses, but of late years it had been ridiculously over-
done and was in a fair way to ruin the country. Edu-
cation didn't agree with everybody. He knew a case
in point.

A classical instance of schooling misapplied would
always remain in his mind. There were times when
he brooded over this particular matter in secret, for
he never spoke of it openly. His youngest girl, upon
whose upbringing a fabulous sum had been lavished,
had cast such a blot on the family escutcheon that
it was almost impossible to forgive her. It was all
very well for Ethel to talk of Sally's doings in Serbia.
That seemed the best place for people like her. Yet,
as a matter of strict equity, and Josiah was a just man,
although a harsh one, he supposed that presently he
would have to do something in the matter.

Under the surface he was a good deal troubled by
Sally. She was out of his will and he had fully made



up his mind to have nothing more to do with her;
she had had carte blanche in the matter of learning,
and the only use she had made of it was to disgrace
him in the eyes of the world.

All that, however, was before the war. And there
was no doubt that the war had altered things. Be-
fore the war he lived for money and worldly reputa-
tion; but now that he was in the thick of the fight
some of his ideas had changed. Money, for instance,
seemed to matter far less than formerly; and he had
come to see that the only kind of worldly reputa-
tion worth having didn't depend upon externals. His
success as a public man had taught him that. It
wasn't his fine house on The Rise, or the fact that
he had become one of the richest men in the city, that
had caused him to be unanimously invited to carry on
for another year. Other qualities had commended
him. He didn't pretend to be what he was not, and
the people of the soundest judgment seemed to like
him all the better on that account.

He was beginning to see now that the case of Sally
would have to be reconsidered. In spite of the damn-
able independence which had always been hers from
the time she was as high as the dining-room table,
there was no doubt that she was now fighting hard
for a cause worth fighting for. He had not reached
the point of telling Mossop to put her back in his
will, but the conviction was growing upon him that
he would have to do so.



At the same time it was going to hurt. He could
have wished now that he hadn't been quite so hasty
in the matter. It was not his way to indulge in vain
regrets or to pay much attention to unsolicited ad-
vice, but it seemed a pity that he had not listened to
Mossop in the first instance. This business of Sally,
in a manner of speaking, would be in the nature of
a public climb down. And there had been one already.

As far as Melia and her husband were concerned
his conscience pricked him more than a little. At first
it had gone sorely against the grain to revoke the ban
upon his contemptuously defiant eldest daughter and
his former barman. But once having done so, it had
come suddenly upon him that he had gone wrong in
that affair from the outset. The provocation had been
great, but he had let his feelings master him. Melia
and Hollis were not exonerated. She ought to have
shown more respect for his wishes, and a man in the
position of Hollis ought to prove himself before he
ventures to ask for his employer's daughter; but, if he
had to deal with the episode again, he felt, in the
light of later experience, that he would have acted

However, by the end of November, Josiah had made
up his mind to restore Melia and Sally to his will.
It was only a question of when he should do so. But
this was a matter in which his usual power of voli-
tion seemed to desert him. In other affairs of life
to decide on a thing was at once to do it; but now



he hesitated, putting off from day to day. It was a
dose of particularly disagreeable medicine that there
seemed no immediate need to swallow.

A day soon came, however, when he was rather bit-
terly to rue his vacillation. One morning Josiah ar-
rived at the City Hall at a quarter to ten. A meet-
ing of the Ways and Means Committee was called
for a quarter past and he had to take the chair in the
Mayor's parlor. When he entered the room he found
the Town Clerk standing in front of a fire of the Best
Blackhampton Bright, a twinkle in his eye and a for-
midable sheaf of documents in his hand.

"Good morning, Mr. Mayor." Perhaps a faintly
quizzical greeting, respectful though it was. But this
shrewd dog Aylett, with a pair of humorous eyes
looking through gold-rimmed glasses which hung by a
cord from his neck, had a slightly quizzical manner
with everybody. He knew his value to the city of
Blackhampton; he was the ablest Town Clerk it had
ever had.

"Mornin', Aylett," said his worship in that official
voice which seemed to get deeper and deeper at every
meeting over which he presided.

"I suppose you've read your Tribune this morn-
ing ?" Aylett had an easy chatty way with everybody
from the Mayor down. He was so well used to high
affairs that he could be slightly jocular without im-
pairing the dignity of a grandee and without loss of
his own.



"As a matter of fact I haven't," said the Mayor.
"The girl forgot to deliver it this morning at Strath-
fieldsaye. Don't know, Aylett, what things are com-
ing to in this city, I don't really. We'll have to have
an alteration if we are not going to lose the war al-

The Town Clerk smiled at this, and then he took
the municipal copy of the Tribune from among other
works of reference on a side table, folded back the
page and handed the paper to the Mayor. "That
youngest girl of yours has been going it."

It was an unfortunate piece of phrasing on the part
of one so accomplished as Aylett. Josiah started a
little and then with an air of rather grim anxiety pro-
ceeded to read the Tribune.

There was three quarters of a column devoted to
the doings of Miss Sarah Ann Munt; a sight which,
with certain sinister recollections in his mind, went
some way to assure Josiah that his worst fears were
realized. But he had but to read a line or so to be con-
vinced that there was no ground for pessimism. Miss
Sarah Ann Munt, it seemed, had rendered such sig-
nal service to the Allied Cause that she had brought
great honor upon herself, upon a name highly and
justly esteemed in the city of Blackhampton, and even
upon the country of her origin.

The Tribune told the thrilling story of her deeds
with pardonable gusto. On the outbreak of war she
had volunteered for service with the Serbian Army.



Owing to her great skill as a motor driver, for which
in pre-war days she had been noted, she had been
attached in that capacity to the Headquarters Staff.
She had endured the perils and the hardships of the
long retreat; and her coolness, her daring and her
mother wit had enabled her to bring her car, contain-
ing the Serbian Commander and his Chief of Staff,
in safety through the enemy lines at a moment when
they had actually been cut off. "It is not too much to
say," declared the Tribune whose language was offi-
cial, "that the story of Miss Munt's deeds in Serbia
is one of the epics of the war. By her own personal
initiative she did much to avert a disaster of the first
magnitude. No single individual since the war be-
gan has rendered a more outstanding service to the
Allied Cause. She has already been the recipient of
more than one high decoration, and on page five will
be found an official photograph of her receiving yet
another last week in Paris from the hands of the
Chief of the Republic."

Josiah felt a little dizzy as with carefully assumed
coolness he turned to page five. There, sure enough,
was Sally, looking rather fine drawn in her close-
fitting khaki, but with that half -wicked down-looking
smile upon her that he knew so well. With her
leggings, and her square chin and her "bobbed" hair
which hung upon her cheeks in side pieces and gave
her a resemblance to Joan of Arc she was like an
exceedingly handsome, but as they say in Blackhamp-



ton, a rather "gallus" boy. The hussy! He couldn't
help laughing at the picture of her, it was so ex-
actly how he best remembered her. The amused
slightly defiant You-Be-Damned air was so extraor-
dinarily like her.

"Blame my cats!" said the Mayor.

For several minutes it was his only remark.


THE meeting of the Ways and Means Committee
which had been called for a quarter past ten
was of more than local importance. It was of na-
tional importance as the Mayor was careful to in-
form its members, among whom were the picked brains
of the community, when he informally opened the
business. But it was not until twenty minutes to
eleven that he was able to do so. It was not that the
Committee itself was unpunctual; it was simply that
one and all had seen that morning's Tribune and that
the common task had perforce to yield for the nonce
to their hearty congratulations.

For one thing, the Mayor had become decidedly

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe undefeated → online text (page 13 of 18)