J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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think over that little matter."

It was not mere conventional man-of-the-worldly
good feeling. It was the human father, and the sheer
unexpectedness of the obtrusion through the highly
polished surface of the city's foremost solicitor caused
his client to take a sharp breath. But Josiah's strength
had always been that he knew his own mind. And he
knew it now. "No, Mossop." A final shake of the
dour head. "That gel is comin' out of my will. Good-

The solicitor sighed gently and closed the gate. And
then he stood a moment to watch the slow-receding
lurch of the elephantine figure up the road.


IF that boy had lived which he didn't," reflected
the lord of Strathfieldsaye as he opened carefully
the fresh painted gate of his own demesne, "I'd like
him to have been educated at Rugby."

Lawyer Mossop had been educated at Rugby. Some-
how that gentleman always left in the mind of this
shrewd, oddly perceptive client an impression of being
"just right," of not having anything in excess. His
reputation in Blackhampton was very high. Just
as Dr. Perrin had been for years its leading physi-
cian, Mr. Mossop had been for years its leading law-
yer. To be a patient of the one, a client of the other,
almost conferred a diploma of merit. Not only was
it a proof in itself of social standing, an ability "to
pay for the best," but it also expressed a knowledge,
greatly valued by the elect, that the best was worth
paying for. Josiah was a firm believer in that maxim.

Still ... he closed the gate of Strathfieldsaye as
carefully as he had opened it . . . when all was said
education was dangerous. Up to a point a good thing,
no doubt. You couldn't be a Lawyer Mossop with-
out it. But it was like vaccination: some people it
suited, others it didn't.



There was a trim slight figure coming down the
path, in a hat not without pretensions to fashion.

"Leaving us, Gert?" said Josiah. "Better stop to

Miss Preston reluctantly declined the invitation.

"Why not? Always a knife and fork for you here,
you know."

"I'd love to, Josiah, but they'll be waiting for me
at home."

"Well, if you won't, you won't but you'd be very
welcome." And then he embraced the house and its
surroundings in a large gesture. "One better than
Waterloo Villa, eh?"

"It is," said Gerty, with tempered enthusiasm. She
looked at her brother-in-law with wary eyes. "You
must be a very rich man, Josiah."

He narrowed his gaze a little and scratched his
cheek delicately with the side of his forefinger, an odd
trick he had when thinking deeply on questions of
money. "So, so," he said. "So, so."

"But a place like this means heaps of money,"
Gerty waved a knowledgable parasol.

"I daresay." It was the air of a very "substan-
tial" man indeed. "The year after next I expect to
be mayor. And then" a note of triumph crept into
his voice "we may be able to show some of 'em a
thing or two."

Miss Preston was diplomatically quite sure of that.
And yet as she stood with the crude bulk of Strath-


fieldsaye behind her, she looked somehow a little du-
bious. It was as if, respect this brother-in-law of hers
as she might, she had certain mental reservations in
regard to him.

He was too busy with his own thoughts to detect
what was passing in her mind; besides the curves of
his own mind were too large for him to care very
much even had he done so.

"You've got to come to the show, Gert," he said
abruptly. "To-morrow week don't forget."

Gerty began to hedge a bit, but he would take no
denial. It was her duty "to bring Maria up to the

There was no way out, it seemed, so finally she
must make up her mind to yield and to suffer. It
would be a horrible affair common people, brass
band, a general atmosphere of vulgarity and alcohol;
it would be all that her prim soul abhorred. And the
heat would be terrific. Her spirit quailed, but how
could the miserable Maria hope to get through with-
out her to lean upon ! Besides if she showed the white
feather Josiah might lose some of his respect for her.
And she couldn't afford that, especially after it had
cost her so much for him to gain it.

"She must get into the habit of showing herself to
the public as she's going to be mayoress."

Miss Preston quite saw that. She yielded with as
much grace as she could muster. Josiah took her down
to the gate and told her to mind the paint. And then



as she was about to pass through, her gloved hand
was laid upon his arm, almost exactly as Lawyer Mos-
sop's had been, and she said softly and gravely in a
voice curiously similar, "Josiah, if I were you, I should
not be in a hurry about . . . about Sally."

The grimness of the eyes that met hers would have
scared most women, but Gertrude Preston was not
one to be frightened easily. There was hesitancy, a
slight nervousness, all the same.

Josiah shook his head. "No," he said slowly,
"that gel is coming' out o' my will."

The look of him as he stood there with the sun's
shadow falling across his heavy face told her that
argument would be worse than useless. Rather
abruptly she said good-night and marched primly
away along the road.


THE annual Flower Show and Gala in Jubilee
Park was in part a serious function, in part a
popular festival. But its secondary aspect was un-
doubtedly predominant.

Jubilee Park was sacred to those who thronged the
close-packed southern and eastern areas of the city.
Among many other things, held by the people of
Blackhampton to be vastly more important, the town
and its suburbs had a reputation for flowers. It was
odd that it should have. Except perhaps a subtle
quality in the soil, there was little in its corporate life
or in its physical expression to account for the fact
that it had long been famous for its roses. Among
the hundreds of allotment holders on the outskirts of
the city, practical rose-growers abounded and these
claimed an apotheosis at the annual show in Jubilee

Almost the only vanity Mr. Josiah Munt had per-
mitted himself in his earlier days was that he was a
practical rose-grower. He had competed at the show
ever since there had been a show, and he had gar-
nered so many prizes in the process that he now took
rank as an expert. But he was more than that. He
was now regarded as chief patron of a cult that was



largely confined to the humbler and the poorer classes.
A hard man, known throughout the city as very "near"
in his business dealings, he was a despiser of public
opinion and no seeker of popular applause. But of
late years, having grown remarkably prosperous and
a figure of ever-increasing consequence in the town,
he made a practice just once in the year of "letting
himself out a bit" at the function in Jubilee Park.

For one thing the Park itself was almost within a
stone's throw of the Duke of Wellington; and in Jo-
siah's opinion its sole merit was its contiguity to that
famous public house. Personally he despised Jubilee
Park and the class of persons who frequented it
they were a common lot but now he had taken rank
as the great man of this particular neighborhood,
wherein he had been born and had sown the seeds of
his fortune, it did him no harm in his own esteem
or in that of the people who had known him in hum-
bler days, once a year to savor his preeminence.

Tuesday, August the Fourth, was one of the hottest
days within the memory of Blackhampton. And in
that low-lying, over-populated area of which Jubilee
Park was the center it seemed hotter than anywhere
else. Being the day after Bank Holiday, a large sec-
tion of the community "had taken another day off,"
therefore several thousand persons of all ages and
both sexes assembled on the brown bare grass in the
course of the afternoon.

To say that the bulk of these had been attracted



to those shadeless precincts by a display of roses
would be too polite a compliment. The Blackhampton
Prize Brass Band was the undoubted magnet of the
many. Then there were tea al fresco for the ladies,
a baby show and a beauty competition, beer and bowls
for the gentlemen, dancing to follow and also fire-
works. When the Show was considered in all its as-
pects, the roses only appealed to a small minority ; the
roses in fact were hardly more than a pretext for
a local saturnalia, but in the middle of the sward was
a large tent wherein the competing blooms were dis-
played Close by was a tent considerably less in size
if intrinsically the more imposing, to which a square
piece of cardboard was attached by a blue ribbon. It
bore the legend "President and Committee."

At the entrance to this smaller tent a number of
important looking but perspiring gentlemen were seat-
ed in a semicircle on garden chairs. And in the cen-
ter of these, with rather the air of Jupiter among his
satellites, was Mr. Josiah Munt. Several members
of the committee, all badged and resetted as they were,
had removed their coats out of deference to the ther-
mometer, but the President was not of these. Un-
der the famous white pot hat, which in the south-
eastern district of his native city was as famous as
the Gladstone collar and the Chamberlain eyeglass,
was artfully disposed a cool cabbage leaf, and over
all was a large white sun umbrella.

The sun umbrella marked a precedent. It was a



symbol, a herald of the President's ever advancing so-
cial status. All the same it was not allowed to mar a
certain large geniality with which he always bore him-
self at the Rose Show. By nature the proprietor of
the Duke of Wellington was not an expansive man,
particularly in the world of affairs, but once a year,
at least, he made a point of unbending as far as it
was in him to do so.

This afternoon the President was accessible to all
and sundry as of yore. Moreover he had followed
his time-honored custom of regaling the committee,
most of whom were "substantial men" and the cronies
of an earlier, more primitive phase in the ascending
fortunes of the future mayor of the city, with whisky
and cigars, conveyed specially from the Duke of Wel-
lington by George the head barman. But it was clear
as the afternoon advanced and the heat increased with
the evergrowing throng, that the subject of roses and
even the martial strains of Rule Britannia, Hearts of
Oak and other accepted masterpieces rendered with
amazing brio by the B.P.B.B. did not wholly occupy
the thoughts of these distinguished men.

Among the Olympians who sat in the magic semi-
circle at the mouth of their own private tent and en-
joyed the President's whisky and cigars and the privi-
lege of personal intercourse with him was a foxy-look-
ing man with large ears and large spectacles. Julius
Weiss by name, he had migrated from his native Ger-
many thirty years before, and by specializing in what



was technically known as "a threepenny hair-cut" had
risen to the position of a master hair-dresser with six
shops of his own in the city. A man of keen intelli-
gence and cosmopolitan outlook, there were times in
the course of the afternoon when he seemed to claim
more of the President's attention than the ostensible
business in hand.

"No, I don't trust our gov'ment," said Josiah for
the tenth time, when a cornet solo, the Battle of
Prague ("Bandsman Rosher") had been brought to a
triumphant close. "Never have trusted 'em if it comes
to that."

"That's because you're a blooming Tory," ventured
the only hungry looking member of an extremely well-
nourished looking committee an obvious intellectual
with piercing black eyes and fiercely picturesque mus-
tache whose hue was as the raven.

"Politics is barred, Lewis!" It was the President's
Saturday morning manner at the City Hall, but its
austerity was tactfully mitigated by a dexterous pass-
ing of the cigar box. "We ought to go in now . . .
this minute. What do you say, Weiss?"

The master hair-dresser screwed up a pair of vulpine
eyes and then replied in a low harsh guttural, "It is
a big t'ing to fight Chermany."

"We are not afraid of you," interjected a pugna-
cious Committee-man. "Don't you think that."

The President held up a stern finger. "No, no,
Jennings." It was a breach of taste and the Presi-



dent glared at the offender from under his cabbage
leaf. He had a deep instinct for fair play, a curious
impartiality that enabled him to see the merits of
Weiss as a taxpayer and a citizen. In the lump he
approved of Germans as little as any one else, but
such a man as Weiss with his unceasing industry, his
organizing capacity, his business ability and his social
qualities was a real asset to the city.

The little hair-dresser broke a solemn pause. "We
are not ready for war." He stressed the "we" to the
plain annoyance of several committee-men, although
Josiah was not of the number. "A month from now
they'll be in Paris."

"I don't think," said the truculent Jennings.

"You'll see, my tear," said Julius Weiss.


AT five o'clock Maria and Aunt Gerty arrived on
the scene. Blackhampton's future mayoress had
been taken very firmly in hand by her step-sister who
was fully determined that the social credit of Alder-
man Munt should not be lowered in the sight of the
world. Gerty had really taken enormous pains with
a naturally timid and weakly constituted member of

After a battle royal, in which tears had been shed,
the hapless Maria had been compelled to renounce a
pair of old-fashioned stays which on common occa-
sions foreshortened her figure to the verge of the gro-
tesque, in favor of sinuous, long-lined, straight-front-
ed corsets. With such ruthless art had outlying and
overlapping portions of Maria been folded away with-
in their fashionable confines, that, as she breathlessly
remarked to her torturer as she looked in the glass,
"She didn't know herself, she didn't really."

Maria could hardly breathe as she waddled across
the parched expanse of Jubilee Park. She was more
miserably self-conscious than she had ever been in
the whole course of a miserably self-conscious exist-
ence. Her corsets, she was sure, filled the world's
eye. At her time of life to take such liberties with



the human form was hardly decent, it wasn't really.
Moreover Gerty had perched a great hat on the top
of her, almost a flower show in itself, the sort that
was worn, Gerty assured her, by the local duchess on
public occasions; and it was kept in place on a mi-
raculous new fangled coiffure by a white veil with
black spots. Then her comfortable elastic-sided boots,
the stand-bys of a fairly long and very honorable life,
had gone by the board at the instance of the ruthless
Gerty. She had to submit to patent leathered, buck-
led affairs, that could only be coaxed on to the human
foot by a shoehorn. No wonder that Mrs. Alderman
Munt walked with great delicacy across the baking ex-
panse of Jubilee Park. And the intensely respectable
black kid gloves that for more than half a century had
served her so well for chapel goings, prayer meetings,
weddings, funerals, christenings and the concerts of
the Philharmonic Society had been forced to yield to
a pair whose virgin whiteness in Maria's opinion car-
ried fashion to the verge of immodesty. Nor did even
these complete the catalogue of Gerty 's encroachments.
There was also a long-handled black and white para-

As Maria and Gerty debouched across the grass,
Josiah arose from his chair in the midst of the com-
mittee and strutted impressively past the bandstand
to receive them.

"Why, Mother, I hardly knew you." There was
high approval in the greeting. "Up to the knocker,



what!" He offered a cordial hand to his heroically
beaming sister-in-law, "How are you, Gert?"

The ladies had been careful to have tea before the^
came but this precaution did not avail. Josiah insisted
on their going into the special tent labeled "Refresh-
ments." Here they had to sit on a form rickety and
uncomfortably narrow which promised at any mo-
ment either to lay them prone beneath the tea urn
or enable them to form a parabola over against the
patent bread-cutter at the other end of the table.

The tea was lukewarm and undrinkable, the bread
and butter was thick and so uninviting that both la-
dies were sure it was margarine, but after a moment's
hesitation in which she felt the stern eye of Josiah
upon her, the heroic Gerty dexterously removed one
white glove and came to grips with a plate of buttered
buns. In the buns were undeniable currants, and
their genial presence enabled Gerty to make a spir-
ited bluff at consuming them.

Where Gerty walked, Maria must not fear to tread.
The ladies got somehow through their second tea and
then they were haled into the open, past the band-
stand and through the crowd surrounding it, to the
large tent containing the exhibits. Here, in a select
corner, draped with festoons of red cloth, were the
prizes which Maria, half an hour hence, would be
called upon to distribute with her own white-gloved
hands to the victorious competitors.

The heat in the tent being unbearable the Presi-



dent's party had it to themselves. Therefore Maria's
audible groan at the sight of the task before her was
heard by none save her lord.

"Bear up, Mother," Josiah's tone was a highly ju-
dicious blend of sternness, banter and persuasion. "It's
not as if you had to make a speech, you know. And
if you did have there's nobody here who'd bite you.
I'd see to that."

This was encouraging, yet certain gyrations of the
black and white parasol betrayed to the lynx-eyed
Gerty the sinister presence of stage fright. "Maria,"
said the inexorable monitress, "you must show Spirit.
Hold your sunshade as I've shown you. Keep your
chin up. And try to smile."

This counsel of perfection was, at the moment,
clearly beyond Maria. But the President's nod ap-
proved it, and Gerty, one of those powerful spirits
that loves to do with public affairs, proceeded on a
flute-like note, "Dear me, what lovely prizes!"

It was hyperbole to speak of the prizes as lovely,
but it was, of course, the correct thing to say, and in
the ear of Josiah the correct thing was said in the
correct way. It would have been difficult for the
duchess herself to have bettered that pure note of
lofty enthusiasm.

"Not so bad, Gert, are they? What do you think
o' that little vawse? Presented by Coppin, the jew-

To assess the gift of Coppin, the jeweler, it was



necessary for Miss Preston to bring into action her
famous tortoiseshell folders. She had no need for
glasses at all. But Lawyer Mossop's aunt, the late
Miss Selina Gregg, had aroused in her a passion for
their use on appropriate occasions. "A ducky little
vahse!" That vexed word was pronounced after the
manner of the late Miss Gregg, from whose practice
there was no appeal.

"Not so bad for Coppin. Better anyway than his
silver-plated eggstand last year."

Gerty made an admiring survey of the bounty of
the patrons of the Blackhampton Rose Growers' As-
sociation. "And here, I see, is the President's special
prize." She had kept in reserve her appreciation of
this chef d'ceuvre of public munificence, a much be-
ribboned silver gilt goblet to which a card was at-
tached, "President's Special Prize for Rose of Purest
Color. Donor Alderman Munt J.P." It was the first
thing her eye had lit on, but she had worked up to it
slowly, via the lesser gifts of lesser men, so that
anything in the nature of anticlimax might be avoided.

"Josiah, tell me, who is the fortunate winner?" The
archness of the tone verged upon coquetry.

"Look and see, my gel." The response was unex-
pectedly gruff. But, as soon as Gerty had looked
and seen, the reason for the President's austerity grew
clear. On a second card, smaller but beribboned like
the first, was inscribed in a fair clerkly hand, "Pre-
sented to Mr. W. Hollis for Exhibit 16."

HAD a pin fallen in the tent at that moment, any
one of those three people might have expected
to hear it do so. Gerty was too wise to ask why the
husband of the outcast Melia had come to enjoy the
special gift of his father-in-law; Maria simply dare
not. In truth it was an odd story. Josiah did his
best to put a gloss on an incredible fact of which he
was rather ashamed; it looked so much like moral
weakness, a public giving in; but, as he informed
Gerty with a half apologetic air, Jannock was Jan-
nock. In other words, fair play in the eyes of honest
men was a jewel.

There could be no question that, in point of color,
the fairest bloom sent in was Exhibit Sixteen. It
was a rose of such a dazzling snowy whiteness that
it had caught and held the expert eye of the Presi-
dent at the morning inspection. "An easy winner,
Jennings," he had said, as soon as he had seen it,
"Nothing to put beside it, my boy."

The astute Jennings, a professional nurseryman
along The Rise, made no comment. He had taken
the trouble to find out the name of the grower before
bringing a mature judgment to bear on the fruits of
his craft. "Sound" criticism is always a priori. Crit-



ics who value their reputation are careful not to pro-
nounce an opinion on any work of art until they know
who has produced it. Otherwise mistakes are apt
to occur. None knew better than Jennings that the
grower of Exhibit Sixteen could not hope to receive
the President's prize; indeed Jennings was amazed at
the little tick's impudence in daring to compete at all
for his father-in-law's silver gilt goblet. It was an
act of bravado. Jennings, therefore, shook his head
coldly. He declined to show enthusiasm in the pres-
ence of what to the unsuspecting eye of the President
was an almost too obvious masterpiece.

"All over a winner, Jennings, that is."

Jennings shook the sober head of a professional ex-
pert. "To me," he said, "Twenty-one 'as more qual-

"Rubbish, man!" The President threw up his head
sharply, a favorite trick when goaded by contradic-
tion. "Twenty-one can't be mentioned on the same
day o' the week. What do you say, Penney ?"

Before Mr. Councilor Penney, an acknowledged
light of the a priori school of criticism, ventured to
express an opinion he winged a glance at Nurseryman
Jennings. And that glance, in the technical language
of experts, conveyed a clear request for "the office."

"The office" was given sotto voce behind the adroit
hand of Jennings, "Mester Munt Twenty-one, Six-
teenBill Hollis."

Thereupon Mr. Councilor Penney closed one eye



and proceeded to examine the competing blooms.
"Well, Mester Munt," he said solemnly, "I am bound
to say, to my mind Twenty-one 'as it."

The impetuous president had a short way with the
Councilor Penneys of the earth. "Have you no eyes,
man ! Twenty-one can't live beside Sixteen. Not the
same class. Look at the color look at the shape
look at the size "

It was realized now that it had become necessary
to warn the President. And the situation must be
grappled with at once. The deeper the President
floundered, the more perilous the job of extrication.
Rescue was a man's work, but finally in response to
a mute appeal from the pusillanimous Jennings, Mr.
Councilor Penney took his courage in his hands. "Mr.
Munt," he said warily, "don't you know that Twenty-
one was sent in by Joe Mellers, your own gardener?"

It was the best that Mr. Councilor Penney could
muster in the way of tact. But at all times a very
great deal of tact was needed to handle the Presi-
dent. Clearly the shot was not a lucky one. "Nowt
to do with it, Penney." The great man nearly bit
off his head. "Ought to know that. Sixteen's the
best bloom on the bench."

"Sixteen's that Hollis!" It was an act of pure
valor on the part of Mr. Councilor Penney. Nur-
seryman Jennings held his breath.

"That Hollis !" The President repeated the words
calmly. For a moment it was not certain that human



dignity could accept their implication. But there was
a world of meaning in the nervous frown of Mr. Coun-
cilor Penney, in the tense furtiveness of Nurseryman

Was it possible ? . . . Was it possible that the little
skunk had dared? . . . Had dared to compete at this
show of all shows? . . . Had dared to win honestly
that prize of all prizes? . . .

The story of Bill Hollis and Melia Munt was a
commonplace with every member of the Committee.
They were familiar with all the circumstances; and

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe undefeated → online text (page 3 of 18)