J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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popular ; for another, one more glorious page had been
written in history by the Blackhampton born. It was
really surprising the number of absolutely eminent
people who at one time or another had contrived to
be born at Blackhampton. In no city in England did
local patriotism run higher, in no city in England was
there better warrant for it. The Ways and Means
Committee was quite excited. It was almost child-
ishly delighted at having, as their Chairman, the
rather embarrassed parent of one who, as Sir Reuben
Jope, senior alderman and thrice ex-mayor, said in



a well turned phrase, "bade fair to become the most
famous woman in the Empire."

Perhaps a certain piquancy was lent to an event
that was already historical, by the knowledge in pos-
session of those in the inner circle of municipal life
that the Mayor had been hard hit by a former episode
in the dashing career of Miss Sally. That episode
belonged to the pre-war period when the stock of Mr.
Josiah Munt did not stand nearly so high in the mar-
ket as it did that morning. More than one of these
seated round the council board with their eyes on the
Chairman had relished the public chastening of the
lord of Strathfieldsaye. He had been smitten in a
tender place and they were not so sorry for him as
they might have been. But other times other modes
of thought. Since July, 1914, water had flowed under
Sharrow Bridge. Nothing could have been more elo-
quent of the fact than the rather excited cordiality
of the present gathering.

"I really think, gentlemen," said Sir Reuben Jope,
"that the City should recognize Miss Munt's extremely
gallant behavior. I presume, Mr. Town Clerk, it is
competent to do so."

"Oh, quite, sir oh, quite." In the expressive words
in which the Mayor reconstructed the scene that eve-
ning for the benefit of the Mayoress, "that Aylett
was grinning all over his lantern-jawed mug like a
Barbary ape."

"Then I shall propose at the next meeting of the


Council that a public presentation be made to Miss

"I shall be glad to second that, Sir Reuben," said
Mr. Alderman Limpenny, "when the time comes to
do so."

But the Mayor interposed with asperity: "No,
no, no, gentlemen. We can't have anything of the
kind. Very good of you, I'm sure, but we must get
on with the business." His worship rapped smartly
upon the municipal mahogany. "This is war time,
remember. We've got to discuss that contract of Per-
kins and Baylis. Seems to me, as I said at the last
meeting, that those jockeys are over-charging the city
forty per cent. You know, gentlemen, we've got to
stop this leakage of public money. Whatever they
may do in Whitehall, we are not going to stand for
it here. Signing blank checks and dropping them in
Corporation Square is not our form. As long as I
sit in this chair there is going to be strict control of
the public purse. And there is not going to be graft
in this city neither. This is not Westminster. We
don't propose to allow a public department to make a
little mistake in its accounts of a few odd millions ster-
ling and then jog quietly on as if nothing had oc-

"Hear! hear!" from the City Treasurer.

"This war is costing the British people more than
seven millions a day at the present time and to my
mind it's wonderful that they are able to do it at the



price. However, gentlemen, that is by the way. Let
us return to the contract of Perkins and Baylis."

Truth to tell the contract of Perkins and Baylis had
less attraction for the Committee at that particular
moment than the picture in the Tribune. Somehow,
the picture had captured its imagination. Whether it
was the leggings, the "bobbed" hair, the Joan of Arc
profile, or the "gallus" smile of the undefeated Miss
Sally, it was quite certain that the last had not been
heard of her historic actions.

The Committee of Ways and Means was not alone
in its response to the picture in the Tribune and the
great deeds it commemorated. It was the talk of
the whole city. Josiah moved that day and for many
days in a kind of reflected glory. Wherever he went
congratulations were showered upon him. Three
cheers were given him at the Club when he came in
to lunch. There was a decided tendency to iden-
tify him personally with Sally's fame, which, if ex-
ceedingly gratifying, was in the peculiar circumstances
not a little disconcerting.

For one thing, he was rather at a loss to know what
line he should take in the matter. On the unhappy
occasion of Sally's going to prison he had written her
what he called "a very stiff letter." In pretty blunt
language he had told her that as she had disgraced
him in the sight of the world he should have no more
to do with her and that he intended to disinherit her.

To this letter no reply had been received. It was


the kind of letter which did not call for one. Since
that time nothing had passed between Sally and him-
self on that subject or on any other. But for some
months now Josiah had rather keenly regretted that
his attitude had been so definite. The war seemed to
soften the past and to sharpen the present. In some
respects he was a changed man; one less overbearing
in temper, one less harsh in judgment

The times had altered. Life itself had altered. He
was not a man to cry over spilt milk, or to deplore
the bygone, but at this moment he had one sharp re-
gret. Some weeks before Sally had burst into fame
he had made up his mind to restore her to his will
and meant to write and tell her so. But for a man
of his sort the task was hard and he had weakly put
it off from day to day. And now, alas, it was too
late to do it with the grace of the original intention.
It would seem like compulsion now. Josiah was
keenly vexed with himself. Nothing could have been
more eloquent of the rule which hitherto had con-
trolled his life, "Do not put off until to-morrow, etc."
In times like those a cardinal maxim.


THE Mayor was in a false position in regard to
his youngest daughter and he had only himself
to blame. But much of his strength lay in the fact
that he was the kind of man whom experience teaches.
Delays, it seemed, were highly dangerous. He must
make up his mind to put his pride in his pocket.

It was not an easy or pleasant operation, but it had
to be performed. Nevertheless, the town had been
ringing a full ten days with the name of Sally before
he could bring himself to turn out after dinner of a
December evening and walk along the road as far as
The Gables.

He was received in the library, as usual, by Lawyer
Mossop. The city's leading solicitor had recently aged
considerably. He looked thinner and grayer, his
cheeks were hollow, there were more lines in his face.
His only son, George, who in the natural course of
events would have carried on a very old established
business, had been killed in France, and news had
lately come that his sister Edith's boy, whom he had
helped to educate and who had already begun to
make his way at the Bar, had been permanently dis-
abled by the explosion of a hand grenade.



Long training in self-conquest, backed by genera-
tions of emotional restraint, enabled Lawyer Mossop
still to play the man of the world. He rose with a
charming smile and an air of ready courtesy to re-
ceive his distinguished client and neighbor. At a first
glance there was nothing to tell that for the solicitor,
life had lost its savor.

The two men had a long and intimate talk. Oddly
unlike as they were in temperament, education, men-
tal outlook, their minds had never marched so well
together as this evening in all their years of inter-
course. Somehow the rude vigor, the robust sense of
the client appeared to stimulate the more civilized, the
more finely developed lawyer. Moreover, he could not
fail to perceive that it was a humaner, more liberal-
minded Josiah Munt than he had ever known who had
come to talk with him this evening. Success, popu-
larity, response to the overwhelming public need had
ripened a remarkable man, rubbed off some of the cor-
ners, softened and harmonized the curious dissonances
that had jarred in what, after all, was a fine char-
acter. Rough diamond as Josiah Munt still was and
must always remain in the eyes of the critical, he
stood out this evening as a right-thinking, straight-
seeing citizen, a real asset to the community.

"Mossop," he said a little shamefacedly, after their
conversation had gone on some time, "I don't like hav-
ing to own up to it, but I'm bound to say that I wish



I'd had the sense to take that advice you gave me in
the matter of Sally."

The lawyer could not help a furtive smile at the
humility of the tone.

"You've got to put that gel back in my will." It
was a pretty stiff dose now that it had to be swallowed
and a fierce frown did not conceal its nature. "And
I want you to believe, Mossop," there was an odd
earnestness in the deep voice "that I had made up
my mind to do it long before this this damnable Ser-
bian business happened."

The lawyer assured Mr. Munt that he was con-
vinced of that.

"Serves me right, though, for delaying. Mossop,
I'm annoyed with myself. It has the look of a force-
put now, but I as I say "

The lawyer nodded a nice appreciation of the cir-

"And while I'm about it, I've made up my mind to
put Melia, my eldest girl, back as well."

The lawyer gave a little sigh of satisfaction.

"My three gels are now going to share alike. But
you must provide six thousand pounds for Gertrude

The lawyer penciled a brief note on his blotting

"As you know, Mossop, I've made a goodish bit,
one way and another, since this war began. Those
girls ought to be very well off. And you know, of



course, that we are takin' in the next house for my
hospital along The Rise. It'll give us another twenty
beds making forty in all."

The lawyer said in his level voice that he under-
stood that to be the Mayor's intention when he had
negotiated the purchase with Mr. Harvey Mortimore.

"We bought that property very well, eh? Not go-
ing to get less in value/'

The lawyer agreed.

"I'm now considering the question of making it
over permanently to the Corporation. Wouldn't make
a bad nest egg for the city, eh?"

"A very generous gift, Mr. Munt."

"Anyhow, I'm arranging with the Duke to come
over on the twenty-sixth of January to open the new
annex. And in the meantime we'll think about giving
it to the city as an orphanage or a cottage hospital."


THE next morning Josiah paid a visit to Love
Lane. The business of Sally had taught him
a lesson. Events moved so quickly in these crowded
days that it might not be wise to postpone a recon-
ciliation with Melia.

So busy had the Mayor been since his return from
Bridlington at the end of August that he had not
found time to visit his eldest daughter, nor had she
been to Strathfieldsaye since her first somewhat un-
comfortable appearance there. She was still inclined
to be much on her dignity. Women who lead lonely
lives in oppressive surroundings are not easily able
to forget the past. The olive branch had been offered
already ; but it was by no means certain that Melia
intended to accept her father's overtures.

This December morning, however, as the great
man, proceeding majestically on foot from the Duke
of Wellington, turned up the narrow street with its
worn cobblestones and its double row of mean little
houses, he fully intended as far as might be humanly
possible "to right things with Melia once for all."

The Mayor entered the shop and found his eldest
daughter serving a woman in a white apron and a
black and white checked shawl over her head with two



pennyworth of carrots and a stick of celery. The
honest dame was so taken aback by the arrival of the
Mayor of the city, who was personally known to every
man, woman and child throughout the district as one
of a great triumvirate, of whom the King and the
Prime Minister were the other two, that she fled in
hot haste without paying for the spoils she bore awav
in her apron.

Melia, however, true to the stock whence she sprang,
had no false delicacy in the matter. Without taking
the slightest notice of the august visitor, she was the
other side the counter in a jiffy, out of the shop and
calling after the fleeing customer, "You haven't paid
your fivepence, Mrs. Odell."

The Mayor stood at the shop door, watching with
a kind of grim enjoyment the process of the fivepence
being extracted. He plainly approved it. Melia, with
all her limitations, had the root of the matter in her.
Upon her return, a little flushed and rather breath-
less, he refrained from paying her the compliment he
felt she deserved but was content to ask if trade was

Trade was brisker, said Melia, than she had ever
known it.

Josiah was glad of that. He then looked round to
assure himself that they were alone in the shop and
being convinced that such was the case, he stood a
moment awkwardly silent, balancing himself like a
stork first on one leg and then on the other.



"Gel," he took her hand suddenly, "you are back in
my will. Sally's back too. You are both going to
have an equal share with Ethel." He felt the rough-
ened, toil-stained hand begin to quiver a little in his
strong grasp. "Bygones have got to be bygones. Un-
derstand me." He drew her towards him and kissed
her stoutly and firmly in the middle of the forehead.

He retained his hold while her hot tears dripped
on to his hand. She stood tense and rigid, unable to
speak or move. But she knew as she stood there that
it was no use fighting him or fighting herself. His
masterfulness, his simplicity, his courage had reawak-
ened her earliest and deepest instinct, the love and
admiration she had once had for him. Of a sudden
she began to sob pitifully. With a queer look on his
face he took out a large red handkerchief and put
his arms round her and wiped her eyes slowly and
with a gentleness hard to credit in him, just as he had
done when as a very little girl she had fallen and hurt
herself on the tiled yard of the Duke of Wellington.

Speech was not possible to father or daughter for
several minutes as time is reckoned in Love Lane,
although to both it seemed infinitely longer, and then
said the Mayor, "We'll expect you up at Strathfields-
aye on Christmas Day. Lunch one-thirty sharp."
Then he added in a tone that was almost peremptory,
"If that man o' yours happens to get home on leave
your mother would like him to come, too."

Her tear-dimmed eyes looked at him rather queerly.


"Didn't you know, Dad?" The voice had something
in it of the child he remembered but it was so faint
that it was barely audible.

"Know what?" His own voice had more asperity
than it was meant to have. But she was able to make
allowances for it, as she always had done in the days
when she really understood him.

"Bill's in hospital."

He drew in his breath quickly. The thought ran
through his mind that it was well he had had the sense
to learn by experience. "Where? What hospital?"
He was just a trifle nervous, just a shade flurried.
As near as a toucher he had put it off too long, as in
the case of Sally.

"In France. At the Base."



"Bad one?"

"He says it's only a cushy . . . but . . . but some-
how I don't trust him."

"How do you mean you don't trust him?"

"I mean this, Dad." She was quite composed now ;
the tears and the shakings were under control; she
spoke slowly and calmly. "No matter how bad he
was, he's not one as would ever let on."

"Why shouldn't he?"

"He'd be afraid it might upset you. He's got like
that lately." Suddenly the hard eyes filled again. "He
grins and bears things now."



Josiah nodded rather grimly, but made no comment.
He turned on his heel. "See you this day fortnight
up at the house." Abruptly, in deep thought, he went


BILL'S wound, as it turned out, was a painful one,
and it had an element of danger. His right leg
was shattered, also poisoned badly; it would take a
long time to heal and there was a fear that amputa-
tion might be necessary. Such a case demanded spe-
cial treatment, and to Melia's joy at the beginning of
Christmas week she received word from her father
that her husband had been transferred from France
to the Mayor of Blackhampton's hospital.

There is no saying how this providential arrange-
ment came about. It may have been coincidence; on
the other hand it may not. Josiah in his second year
of office was certainly becoming a power, if not an
actual puller of strings. Influence may or may not
have been at work; anyhow the Corporal bore the
long journey so well that Melia, as a special conces-
sion, was allowed to see him for a short time on
Christmas Eve.

She found him wonderfully cheerful in spite of the
fact that he had endured much pain; more cheerful
perhaps than she had ever known him. A subtle
change had taken place since she had seen him last.
The look of utter weariness had yielded to something
else. It was as if he had been spiritualized by suf-
fering; indeed as he smiled at her gently from his



bed she felt that he was not the kind of man she used
to know.

The memory of those few exquisite days in the sum-
mer was still in their minds. It was from that point
they now took up their lives. For both the world
had changed. They saw each other with new eyes.
This man of hers had been as good as his word, he
had done his best to come back to her; and there, full
of pain, he lay helpless as a baby, yet now inexpress-
ibly dear as the only thing in life that had any mean-
ing for her. As for himself, as he smiled up at her,
the grace of his dreams was again upon her. This
was she about whom the romance of his youth had
been woven. He didn't see her as she was, a com-
monplace, worn, gray-haired woman, or if he did he
remembered the sacrifices she had made for his sake;
he remembered that she had once believed in him, and
after long days she had come to believe in him again.

There was rare conflict in the clean and quiet room.
The walls were hung with holly; everything about
the place seemed to minister to a wonderful sense of
home. He sighed a deep content as she took a chair
by his bed and held a feverish hand in hers.

"Your father's hospital!" A deep sigh spoke of
gratitude. "When you happen to see him tell him
from me I'm glad to be in it."

She promised to do so.

"It's a good place." His eyes and his voice grew
softer than their wont in speaking of his father-in-



law. "A bit of luck to be here." He sighed luxuri-

Said Melia, "You must take your time getting well,

Eyes of suffering looked into hers. "I expect I
won't be right just yet.'' They were still together,
passing the time with delightful fragments of talk
and with fragments of silence equally delightful when
a nurse came importantly into the room to say that
the Mayor had arrived unexpectedly to look round
the hospital and to wish a happy Christmas to his

Melia rose rather nervously. "I think I'll be go-
ing, Bill."

"Not yet, my dear." The voice from the bed was
calm and quiet. "We must let bygones be bygones.
The times has changed."

She was glad to hear him say that. And she had
not told him yet of her father's recent act of repara-
tion. Should she tell him now? Was the moment
favorable? Or had she better wait until

The question, however, was already decided. Too
late to tell him now. The door at the other end of
the room was open and the Commandant had entered
followed by his worship the Mayor.

"Only one bed in this room, sir," said the Com-
mandant. "A special case. Corporal Hollis."

The Mayor looked calmly round. He didn't see
Melia who was hidden by a screen between the bed-



stead and the door. "I notice, ma'am, you've got an-
other door yonder." He pointed to the other end of
the room. "Hope these new casements fit well."

The new casements fitted very well indeed.

"All the same," the deep voice was very much
that of the man of affairs "I expect you get a bit
of draught here when the wind blows from the north-

The draught was nothing to speak of, he was as-

"Any complaints? Heating apparatus all right?
Ventilators working properly?"

There were no complaints to make of any kind.

"Thank you, ma'am," said the Mayor. "You can
leave me here alone a few minutes with Corporal
Hollis if he's well enough to talk to me."

The Commandant retired, closing the door after
her, and the Mayor slowly approached the bed.

"How are you, Bill?" It was a tone of simple,
hearty kindness.

Before the occupant of the bed could answer the
question, Josiah, coming round the corner of the
screen, was taken aback by the sight of his eldest
daughter. He was not prepared for her, yet he was
quite equal to the situation. "Hulloa, Melia" it
was a father's cordiality. "How are you, gel ? Happy
Christmas to you. Happy Christmas to you both."

For a little while he stood talking to them, easily
and without constraint, while the Corporal lay in his



bed saying nothing, but with his worn face softened
by pain and service and the thought of others. From
time to time he smiled grayly at the Mayor's pungent
humor. Even in the old days "the Mester" had al-
ways had a liberal share of that quality in which his
fellow townsmen excelled. Josiah's sense of humor
was very keen, particularly when it came to assess-
ing the shortcomings of other people; it had a breadth,
a gusto, a penetration which high office seemed to am-
plify. His stories, comments, criticisms of those prom-
inently before the world kept the Corporal quietly
amused for some time. Finally, the Mayor looked at
his watch. "I must be getting on," he said. "I've got
to address the War Workers' Association at six
o'clock. And at seven I've promised to look in at
the Hearts of Oak annual soiree and concert."

Very simply and with the manliness that was part
of him he held out his hand. Without hesitation the
Corporal took it. They looked in the eyes of one
another. "I hope you're quite comfortable," said Jo-
siah. "If there's anything you need you have only
to let me know. So long, my boy, and don't be in
a hurry to get well. See you to-morrow, Melia. Wish
you could have brought Bill along with you. Happy

With a wave of the hand for them both the Mayor
went away, exuding an atmosphere of kindness and
goodwill towards all men except Germans. In the
Mayor's opinion Germans were not men at all.



IT would have been ungracious of Melia not to
spend Christmas Day at Strathfieldsaye. Indeed,
she felt that she could hardly do otherwise. That
stubborn thing, pride, might still be lurking in the
corners of her heart, yet it durst not show itself openly ;
besides, whatever its secret machinations, she could
not overlook the fact that her father was striving
to wipe out the past. Perhaps the past is the only
thing easier to create than to destroy, but certainly
Josiah was now trying his best to undo it. And this
Melia knew.

In view of the important function on Christmas
Day, Melia had been taken in hand by Aunt Gerty.
It would have been natural to resent the interference
of that lady, but it was clear that her actions were
inspired "from above." At the same time no emissary
could have been more tactful, more discreet. In sit-
uations that called for finesse she was hard to beat;
and she was able to have Melia "fitted" for a really
good coat and skirt by her own accomplished dress-
maker, Miss Pratt, and helped her also to choose a
hat at Messrs. Rostron and Merton's, the best shop in
the city, without arousing antagonism in that sensitive



soul. Also she whispered in Melia's ear that there
was reason to believe that her father had a little sur-
prise in store for her on Christmas Day.

In regard to "the surprise" Gerty's information was
correct. And as Melia, looking and feeling far more
fashionable than she had ever done in her life, turned
up at Strathfieldsaye at a quarter past one, "the sur-
prise" duly materialized even before the Christmas
luncheon at one-thirty. Her father gave her a check
for fifty pounds.

On Melia's last visit to Strathfieldsaye she had felt
quite "out of it," but not so now. Partly it may have

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe undefeated → online text (page 14 of 18)