J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

The undefeated online

. (page 2 of 18)
Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe undefeated → online text (page 2 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a cup of tea from the graceful hands of his sister-in-

The depressed lady in puce silk sighed a limp yes.

"Eggshell china tea service," Gerty fixed a pur-
poseful eye upon Josiah's cup.

"Out of old Nickerson's sale," Josiah performed
an audible act of deglutition. "Four pun ten the set.
Slop basin's cracked though."

"I see it is, but you have a bargain, Josiah. You
always seem to have a bargain, no matter what you

Josiah purred under the subtle flattery.

"Seen that chayney vawse ?" He pointed across the



room to a pedestal upon which was a blue china bowl.

"Looks like genuine Ming," Gertrude opened a
pair of long-handled tortoise-shell glasses. There was
less than a score of ladies in the whole of Blackhamp-
ton who sported glasses of that ultra- fashionable kind,
but Miss Preston was one of them.

"That young feller Parish said it was genuine and
he ought to know."

"Charming," Gerty sighed effectively; then her eyes
went slowly round the room. "This room is perfect.
And such a view. You stand so high that you can
look right over the city without knowing that it's
there. And there's the Sharrow beyond. Isn't that
Corfield Weir on the right?"

Rather proudly Josiah said that it was Corfield

"And that great bank of trees going up into the
sky must be Dibley Chase."

"Dibley right enough," vouched Josiah. "Have
you had a look from the tower?"

"Yes, I have. Wonderful. Maria says on a clear
day you can see Cliveden Castle."

"Aye. And a sight farther than that. You can
see three counties up there. To my mind, Gert, this
house stands on the plumb bit of The Rise."

Gertrude fully agreed.

"So it ought if it comes to that. I had to pay seven
and sixpence a yard for the land, before I could put
a brick on it."



Gertrude was impressed.

"What do you think o' that oak paneling in the din-
ing room?"

She thought it was charming.

"Has Maria shown you the greenus I should say
conservatory an' the rockery an' the motor gar-
idge? We haven't got the motor yet, but it's com-
ing next week."

Gertrude had seen these things. It only remained
for her to enter upon a diplomatic rapture at the re-
cital of their merits.

"No strawberries, thank you," Josiah's voice was
rather sharp as the depressed lady tactlessly offered
these delicacies at a moment when her lord was fully
engaged in describing the unparalleled difficulties he
had had to surmount in order to get the water foun-
tain beyond the tennis lawn to work properly.

"Fact o' the matter is, our Water Board wants
wackenin' up."

"Well, you are the man to do that, Josiah. You
are an alderman now."

"I am." The slight note of inflation was uncon-
scious. "And old Scrimshire an' that petti foggin 1
crew are goin' to have a word in season from Alder-
man Munt."

"Mustn't get yourself disliked though."

Josiah smiled sourly. "Gel," he said, "a man worth
his salt is never afraid o' being unpopular. Right is
right an' wrong is no man's right. Our Water Board's



got to be run on new lines. It's a disgrace to the

Miss Preston was far too wise to offer an opinion
upon that matter. She knew, none better, the limits
imposed by affairs upon the sex to which she belonged.
But she was very shrewd and perceptive and under-
neath the subtle flatteries she dealt out habitually to
this brother-in-law of hers was a genuine respect for
great abilities and his terrific force of character.

Among all the outstanding figures in Blackhampton
his was perhaps the least attractive. His name, in
polite circles, was almost a byword, for he never
studied the feelings of anybody; he deferred only to
his own will and invariably took the shortest way to
enforce it. There was generally a covert laugh or
a covert sneer at the mention of his name and the
house he had recently built on The Rise had set a
seal upon his unpopularity. Nevertheless, the people
who knew him best respected him most. His sister-
in-law knew him very well indeed.

Maria poured out a second cup of tea rather nerv-
ously for Josiah to whom Miss Preston handed it

"No cake, thanks. I dussent." He tapped his chest
significantly ; then he cast a complacent glance through
the wide-flung drawing-room windows to the fair
pleasaunce beyond. "So you think, Gert, take it al-
together, this is a cut above Waterloo Villa, eh?"



Gertrude's only answer to such a question was a
discreet laugh.

"Waterloo Villa was so comfortable," sighed the
depressed lady in puce silk.

"But there's no comparison, Maria, really no com-
parison." It was wonderful how the caressing touch
of the woman of the world dispersed the cloud upon
Josiah's brow almost before it had time to gather.

"Of course there isn't, Gerty. Any one with a grain
o' sense knows that. Why, only this morning as I
went down in the tram with Lawyer Mossop, he said,
'Mr. Munt, this new house of yours is quite the pick
of the basket.' "

"It is, Josiah." The discreet voice rose to enthu-
siasm. "And no one knows that better than Maria."

The lady in puce silk gave a little sigh and a little
sniff. "Waterloo Villa was quite good enough for
me" she murmured tactlessly.

THERE was silence for a moment and then said
Josiah : "Talking of Lawyer Mossop that re-
minds me. I'm going round to see him. I wonder
what time he gets back from his office." He looked
at his watch. "Quarter past five. Bit too soon, I

Maria ventured to ask what he wanted Lawyer
Mossop for.

Josiah did not answer the question immediately.
When he did answer it his voice had such a depth
of emotion that both ladies felt as if a knife had
been plunged suddenly into their flesh.

"I'm goin' to take our Sally out of my will." There
was something almost terrible in the sternness and
finality of the words.

The depressed lady in puce silk gave a gasp. A
moment afterwards large tears began to drip freely
from her eyes.

Aunt Gerty sat very upright on a satinwood chair,
her hands folded in front of her, and two prominent
teeth showing beyond a line of extremely firm lips.
She didn't speak.

"Nice thing" each word was slowly distilled
from a feeling of outrage that was almost unbear-



able "to be made the talk and the mark of the
whole city. And after what I've done for that gel!
School college France Germany your advice,
you know, Gerty "

Aunt Gerty didn't speak.

"And then she comes home and gets herself six
weeks' hard labor. Hard labor, mark you !"

Both ladies shivered audibly.

"Nice thing for a man who has always kept him-
self up, to have his daughter pitchin' brick ends
through the windows of the Houses o' Parliament, to
say nothin' of assaulting the police. Gerty, that comes
of higher education."

Still Aunt Gerty didn't speak.

"Fact is, women ain't ripe for higher education.
It goes to their heads. But I'll let her see. In a few
minutes I'll be off round to Lawyer Mossop."

"But Josiah!" ventured a quavering voice.

"Not a word, Mother. My mind's made up. That
gel has fairly made the name o' Munt stink in the
nostrils of the nation. Not ten minutes ago that
rotten little dog Bill Hollis flung it in my teeth as I
came in at the front gate. The little wastrel hap-
pened to be passing and he called after me, 'Sally out
of Quod yet?' One o' these days I'll quod him the
little skunk or Josiah Munt J.P. is not my name."

Maria continued to weep copiously but in silence.
She dare not make her grief vocal with the stern eye
of her husband upon her. The tragedy of her eldest



girl's defiance, now sixteen years old, was still green
in her memory. Josiah had given Amelia plainly to
understand that if she married William Hollis he
would never speak to her again and he had kept his
word. Maria had not got over it even yet; and now
their youngest girl, Sally, on whose upbringing a fab-
ulous sum had been lavished, had disgraced them in
the sight of everybody.

Josiah was meting out justice no doubt, but moth-
ers are apt to be irrational where their offspring are
concerned; and had Maria been able to muster the
courage she would have broken a lance with him, even
now, in this matter of the youngest girl. But she was
afraid of him. And she knew he was in the right.
Sally's name had appeared in all the papers. That
morning, by a cruel stroke, they had come out with
her portrait Miss Sarah Ann Munt, youngest daugh-
ter of Alderman Munt J.P. of Blackhampton, sen-
tenced to six weeks hard labor. Yes, it was cruel!
It would take her father a long time to get over it.
And for Maria herself, it was like the loss in in-
fancy of the young Josiah; it was a thing she would
always remember but never quite be able to grasp.

The silence grew intolerable. At last it was broken
by Gertrude Preston.

"You'll be having splendid roses, Josiah next
year." Those mincing tones, quite cool and untrou-
bled, somehow did wonders. Josiah had always been
a noted rose grower and as his sister-in-law pointed



elegantly to the rows of young bushes beyond the
drawing-room windows something in him began to
respond. After all that was his great asset as a
human entity: the power to react strongly and read-
ily to the many things in which he was interested.

"Aye," he said, almost gratefully. "Next year
they'll be a sight. I've had a double course o' manure
put down."

"I hope there'll be some of my favorite Gloire de
Dijons," said Gerty with fervor.

"You bet there will be. There's a dozen bushes
over yond. By the way, Gert, you're comin' to the
show to-morrow week."

Miss Preston, for all her enthusiasm for roses, was
not sure that she could get to the show. But Josiah
informed her that she would have to come. And he
enforced his command by taking a leather case from
his breast pocket and producing a small blue card
on which was printed :



The twenty-seventh annual Show will be held in the Jubilee
Park on Tuesday, August the Fourth. Prizes will be presented
at six o'clock to successful competitors by Mrs. Alderman Munt.
The Blackhampton Prize Brass Band will be in attendance.
Dancing in the evening, weather permitting.

Admission one shilling.

"That'll get you in, Gert." The card was placed in
her hand. "Come and stand by Maria and keep her
up to it."



Had Maria dared she would have groaned dismally.
As it was she had to be content with a slight gesture
i of dismay.

"You see it'll be a bit o' practice for her. In 1916
the year after next she'll be the Mayoress."

The lady in puce silk shuddered audibly.


IN the process of time the clock on the drawing-
room chimneypiece chimed six and Josiah "stepped
round" to Lawyer Mossop's.

That celebrity lived at The Gables, the next house
but one along The Rise. Outwardly a more modest
dwelling than Strathfieldsaye, it was less modern in
style, more reticent, more compact. As Josiah walked
up the drive he noted with approval its well-kept ap-
pearance and its fine display of rhododendrons, phlox,
delphiniums, purple irises and many other things that
spoke to him. He was a genuine lover of flowers.

Mr. Hunt's pressure of the electric button was an-
swered by a manservant in a starched shirt and a neat
black cutaway. The visitor noted him carefully as
he noted everything. "I wonder what he pays a month
for that jockey !" was the form the memorandum took
on the tablets of his mind.

"Mr. Mossop in?"

"If you'll come this way I'll inquire, sir."

Josiah was led across a square-tiled hall, covered
in the center by a Persian rug, into a room delightfully
cool, with a large window in a western angle opening
on to a pergola ablaze with roses, along which the
westering sun streamed amazingly.



"What name, sir?"

"Hey?" Josiah frowned. As if there was a man,
woman or child in Blackhampton who didn't know
him! Still, it was good style. "Munt Mr. Munt."

"Thank you, sir!" The manservant bowed and

Yes, it was good style. And this cool, clean but
rather somber room had the same elusive quality.
Three of its four walls were covered with neat rows
of books, for the most part in expensive bindings.
Style again. All the same the visitor looked a little
doubtfully upon those shining shelves. Books were
not in his line, and although he did not go quite to
the length of despising them he was well content that
they shouldn't be. Books stood for education, and in
the purview of Mr. Josiah Munt, "if they didn't watch
it education was going to be the ruin of the country."

Still to that room, plainly but richly furnished, those
rows of shining leather lent a tone, a value. A shrewd
eye ran them up and down. Meredith Swinburne
Tennyson Browning Dickens Thackeray all
flams, of course, but harmless, if not carried too far.
Personally he preferred a good billiard room, but no
one in Blackhampton disputed that Lawyer Mossop
was the absolute head of his profession; he could be
trusted therefore to know what he was doing. There
was one of these books open on a very good table
forty guineas worth of anybody's money printed in
a foreign language, French probably, of which he



couldn't read a word. II Purgatorio, Dante. Fine bit
of printing. Wonderful paper! Yes, wonderful! He
handled it appraisingly. And then he realized that
Lawyer Mossop was in the room and smiling at him
in that polite way, that was half soft sawder, half
good feeling. The carpet was so thick that he had
not heard him come in.

"Good evening, Mr. Munt." The greeting was very
friendly and pleasant. "Sit down, won't you?"

"No, I'll stand and grow better." Mr. Munt had
a stock of stereotyped pleasantries which he kept for
social use. They seemed to make for ease and geni-

The two men stood looking at each other, the solici-
tor all rounded corners and quiet ease, the client stiff,
angular, assertive, perhaps a shade embarrassed.

"Anything I can do for you, Mr. Munt?"

The answer was slow in coming. It was embodied
in a harsh growl. "Mossop, I want you to take that
gel of mine, Sally, out of my will."

The lawyer said nothing, but pursed his lips a little,
a way he had when setting the mind to work, but that
was the only expression of visible feeling in the heav-
ily lined face.

"Excuse my troubling you to-night, Mossop. But
I felt I couldn't wait. Give me an appointment for
the morning and I'll look in at the office. Nice goings
on! And to think what her education cost me!"

The lawyer made a silent gesture, spreading his


hands like a stage Frenchman, half dismay, half tacit

"Better have a new document, eh?" The outraged
parent had been already dismissed ; the highly compe-
tent man of affairs was now in control. "My second
girl, Ethel, Mrs. Doctor Cockburn, can have it all now,
except" Josiah hesitated an instant "except five
thousand pounds I shall leave to Gertrude Preston."

Lawyer Mossop was still silent. But the mobile
lips were working curiously. "Not for me to advise,"
he said at last, very slowly, with much hesitation, "but
if I might "

Josiah cut him short with a stern lift of the hand.

"I know what you're going to say, but if she was
your gel what'd you do, eh ?"

Lawyer Mossop rubbed his cheek perplexedly. "At
bottom I might be rather proud of her."

"You might be rather proud of her !" It
was the tone of Alderman Munt J.P. to a particularly
unsatisfactory witness at a morning session at the City
Hall. An obvious lie, yet a white one because it was
used for a moral purpose. Mossop had no ax to
grind; he merely wanted to soften things a bit for a
client and neighbor. "You can't tell me, Mossop, you
really think that"

The solicitor gazed steadily past the purple face of
his client through the open window to the riot of color
beyond. "Why not?" he said. "Think of the pluck
required to do a thing like that."



Josiah shook his head angrily. "It's the devil that's
in her." He spoke with absolute conviction. "And
it's always been there. When she was that high" he
made an indication with his hand "I've fair lam-
moxed her, but I could never turn her an inch. If she
wanted to do a thing she'd do it and if she didn't
nothing would make her."

"A lady of strong character."

"Cussedness, my friend, cussedness. The devil.
And it's brought her to this."

The lawyer, however, shook his head gently. "Well,
Mr. Munt, as I say, it is not for me to advise, but if
she was a daughter of mine "

"You'd be proud of her." The sneer was rather

"In a way yes perhaps ... I don't say positive-
ly ... because one quite sees . . . On the other
hand, I might ... I don't say I should ... I might
be just as angry as you are."

The thundercloud began to lift a little. "Come now,
that's sense. Of course, Mossop, you'd be as mad as
anybody it's human nature. Every Tom, Dick, and
Harry pointin' the finger of scorn" Sally out of Quod
yet was still searing him like a flame "you'd be so
mad, Mossop, that you'd want to forget that she be-
longed to you."

"It might be so." Mr. Mossop's far-looking eyes
were still fixed on the pergola. "At the same time,
before I took any definite step, I think I should give



myself a clear fortnight in which to think it over."

Josiah laughed harshly. "No, Mossop not if you
were as mad as I am."

It was so true that the solicitor was not able to

"When I think on her" the great veins began to
swell in the head and neck of the lord of Strathfields-
aye "I feel as if I'd like to kill her. Did you see that
picture in the Morning Mirror? And that paragraph
in the Mail? It's horrible, Mossop, horrible. And
first and last her education's cost me every penny of
three thousand pound."

Mr. Mossop nodded appreciatively; then, sympa-
thetically, he lifted the lid of a silver box on a charm-
ing walnut-wood stand and asked his visitor to have
a cigar.

"No, I never smoke before my dinner," said Jo-
siah sternly. "She hasn't been home a month from
Germany." The veins in his forehead grew even more

"Where in Germany?"

"Eight months at Dresden. Pity she didn't stop
there. Fact o' the matter is she's over-educated."

The lawyer looked a little dubious.

"Oh, yes, Mossop. Not having a boy, I don't mind
tellin' you I've been a bit too ambitious for that gel.
And over-education is what this country is suffering
from at the present time. It's the national disease.
And women take it worse than men. School college



Paris and Germany on the top of 'em. I must
have been mad. However . . . there it is! ... let
me know when the document's ready and I'll look in
at the office and sign it."

The lawyer would have liked to continue his protest
but the face of his client forbade. He crossed to his
writing table, took up a pencil and a sheet of note-
paper and said, "Miss Sarah's portion to Mrs. Cock-
burn except "

"Five thousand pounds to Gertrude Preston."

The lawyer made a brief note. "Right," he said
gravely. "I hope a codicil will be sufficient ; we'll avoid
a new instrument, if we can. You shall know when
it's ready."

Josiah gave a curt nod.

"Going to be war in Europe, do you think?" said
the solicitor in a lighter, more conversational tone.
It was merely to relieve the tension ; somehow the at-
mosphere of the room was heavy and electric.

"Don't know," said Josiah. "But I'll not be sur-
prised if there is and a big one."

Mr. Mossop showed a courteous surprise. This
question of a coming big war was a perennial subject
for discussion in social and business circles. It had
been for years and it had now come to rank in his
mind as purely academic. He could not bring himself
to believe in "the big burst up" that to some astute
minds had long seemed inevitable.

"Any particular reason for thinking so just now?"



To the lawyer it was hardly a live issue; somehow it
was against all his habits of thought; but it was an act
of charity at this moment to direct the mind of his

"Stands to reason," Josiah spoke with his usual de-
cision. "Germany's got thousands of millions locked
up in her army. She'll soon be looking for some re-
turn in the way of dividends."

"But one might say the same of us and our navy."

"That's our insurance."

"That's how they speak of thei-r army, don't they?
with Russia one side of them, France the other."

"I daresay, but" there was a pause which, brief
as it was, seemed to confer upon Mr. Munt an air
of profound wisdom "mark my words, Mossop,
they're not piling up all these armaments for nothing.
It's not their way."

"But they are so prosperous," said the lawyer.
"They are hardly likely to risk the loss of their for-
eign markets."

"Nothing venture, nothing win. And they do say
the German workingman is waking up and that he is
asking for a share in the government."

"One hears all sorts of rumors, but in these matters
one likes to be an optimist."

"I daresay," Josiah looked very dour. "But I'll tell
you this. I'm main glad I got out of all my Conti-
nental investments a year last March."

The solicitor had to own that that was a matter in



which his client had shown uncommon foresight. The
present state of the market was a remarkable vindica-
tion of his sagacity.

There was another little pause in which the solicitor,
himself an able man of business, could not help re-
flecting upon the native shrewdness of this client so
keen, so hardheaded, so self-willed. And then it was
broken by Mr. Munt taking a step towards the door
and saying, "When are you and the wife and daugh-
ter coming to see us, Mossop? Come to a meal one
evening, won't you?"

The invitation was point blank ; but behind the law-
yer's genial courtesy was the trained fencer, the ready-
witted man of the world. "Most kind of you," he
said heartily. "Only too delighted, but, unfortunately,
my womenfolk are going up to Scotland to-morrow"
he gave private thanks to Allah that it was so ! "and
I follow on Saturday, so perhaps if we may leave it
till our return" The solicitor raised his frank and
ready smile to the stern eyes.

"Quite so, Mossop!" The client frowned a little.
"Leave it open. But I'd like you to see the house.
And Mrs. M. would like to know your wife and

"They'll like to know her, I'm sure." The air
of sincerity was balm. "But they've been so busy
gadding about just lately" the laugh was charming

-"that they've had to neglect their social duties."

Josiah was far too elemental to feel slighted, even



if the lawyer had not been so disarming. "But you
people here on The Rise have the name of being a
stuck-up lot, especially some of you old standards.
And I'm bound to say, Mossop, my experience is that
you seem to live up to it."

Lawyer Mossop laughed his soft rich note as he
followed Mr. Munt across the hall. He opened the
front door for his client, and then, hatless as he was,
accompanied the visitor down the short drive as far
as the gate.

"Nice things here, Mossop," Josiah pointed to the
flower beds on either side. "That a Charlotte Fan-
ning?" A finger indicated a glorious white rose whose
dazzling purity of color stood out beyond all the rest.

Mr. Mossop said it was a Charlotte Fanning.

"Not sure you are going to beat mine, though."

Mr. Mossop said modestly that he did not expect to
do that Mr. Munt had long been famous for his
roses; and by comparison the lawyer declared he was
but a novice. The client was flattered considerably by
the compliment.

At the gate, the proprietor of the Duke of Welling-
ton pointed to the distant gables of Strathfieldsaye, and
said, "Well, come round when you get back. The
garden won't be much of a show for twelve months
yet, but the house is first class. I designed it myself."

With the winning charm which even Josiah, who
felt that he paid for it on the High Court scale could



not resist, Mr. Mossop promised that he would come
round when he got back.

"An' don't forget the wife and daughter."

The wife and daughter should come round too. And
then as the lord of Strathfieldsaye said, "Good-night,
Mossop," and was about to turn away from the open
gate, he felt suddenly the hand of the solicitor upon
his shoulder and the impact of a pair of grave, kind
eyes. "I wish, my dear friend," said Lawyer Mossop,
"you could see your way to taking a fortnight to

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe undefeated → online text (page 2 of 18)