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daily life was noiselessly and unceasingly at work. Fever and the long
weariness of convalescence in indifferently comfortable surroundings had
given luxury a new value in his eyes. Money had not always been
plentiful with him in his younger days; in his twenty-eighth year he had
inherited a fairly substantial fortune, and he had married a wealthy
woman a few months later. It was characteristic of the man and his breed
that the chief use to which he had put his newly-acquired wealth had been
in seizing the opportunity which it gave him for indulging in unlimited
travel in wild, out-of-the-way regions, where the comforts of life were
meagrely represented. Cicely occasionally accompanied him to the
threshold of his expeditions, such as Cairo or St. Petersburg or
Constantinople, but her own tastes in the matter of roving were more or
less condensed within an area that comprised Cannes, Homburg, the
Scottish Highlands, and the Norwegian Fiords. Things outlandish and
barbaric appealed to her chiefly when presented under artistic but highly
civilised stage management on the boards of Covent Garden, and if she
wanted to look at wolves or sand grouse, she preferred doing so in the
company of an intelligent Fellow of the Zoological Society on some fine
Sunday afternoon in Regent's Park. It was one of the bonds of union and
good-fellowship between her husband and herself that each understood and
sympathised with the other's tastes without in the least wanting to share
them; they went their own ways and were pleased and comrade-like when the
ways happened to run together for a span, without self-reproach or heart-
searching when the ways diverged. Moreover, they had separate and
adequate banking accounts, which constitute, if not the keys of the
matrimonial Heaven, at least the oil that lubricates them.

Yeovil found Cicely and breakfast waiting for him in the cool breakfast-
room, and enjoyed, with the appreciation of a recent invalid, the comfort
and resources of a meal that had not to be ordered or thought about in
advance, but seemed as though it were there, fore-ordained from the
beginning of time in its smallest detail. Each desire of the
breakfasting mind seemed to have its realisation in some dish, lurking
unobtrusively in hidden corners until asked for. Did one want grilled
mushrooms, English fashion, they were there, black and moist and
sizzling, and extremely edible; did one desire mushrooms a la Russe, they
appeared, blanched and cool and toothsome under their white blanketing of
sauce. At one's bidding was a service of coffee, prepared with rather
more forethought and circumspection than would go to the preparation of a
revolution in a South American Republic.

The exotic blooms that reigned in profusion over the other parts of the
house were scrupulously banished from the breakfast-room; bowls of wild
thyme and other flowering weeds of the meadow and hedgerow gave it an
atmosphere of country freshness that was in keeping with the morning
meal.

"You look dreadfully tired still," said Cicely critically, "otherwise I
would recommend a ride in the Park, before it gets too hot. There is a
new cob in the stable that you will just love, but he is rather lively,
and you had better content yourself for the present with some more sedate
exercise than he is likely to give you. He is apt to try and jump out of
his skin when the flies tease him. The Park is rather jolly for a walk
just now."

"I think that will be about my form after my long journey," said Yeovil,
"an hour's stroll before lunch under the trees. That ought not to
fatigue me unduly. In the afternoon I'll look up one or two people."

"Don't count on finding too many of your old set," said Cicely rather
hurriedly. "I dare say some of them will find their way back some time,
but at present there's been rather an exodus."

"The Bredes," said Yeovil, "are they here?"

"No, the Bredes are in Scotland, at their place in Sutherlandshire; they
don't come south now, and the Ricardes are farming somewhere in East
Africa, the whole lot of them. Valham has got an appointment of some
sort in the Straits Settlement, and has taken his family with him. The
Collards are down at their mother's place in Norfolk; a German banker has
bought their house in Manchester Square."

"And the Hebways?" asked Yeovil.

"Dick Hebway is in India," said Cicely, "but his mother lives in Paris;
poor Hugo, you know, was killed in the war. My friends the Allinsons are
in Paris too. It's rather a clearance, isn't it? However, there are
some left, and I expect others will come back in time. Pitherby is here;
he's one of those who are trying to make the best of things under the new
regime."

"He would be," said Yeovil, shortly.

"It's a difficult question," said Cicely, "whether one should stay at
home and face the music or go away and live a transplanted life under the
British flag. Either attitude might be dictated by patriotism."

"It is one thing to face the music, it is another thing to dance to it,"
said Yeovil.

Cicely poured out some more coffee for herself and changed the
conversation.

"You'll be in to lunch, I suppose? The Clubs are not very attractive
just now, I believe, and the restaurants are mostly hot in the middle of
the day. Ronnie Storre is coming in; he's here pretty often these days.
A rather good-looking young animal with something mid-way between talent
and genius in the piano-playing line."

"Not long-haired and Semetic or Tcheque or anything of that sort, I
suppose?" asked Yeovil.

Cicely laughed at the vision of Ronnie conjured up by her husband's
words.

"No, beautifully groomed and clipped and Anglo-Saxon. I expect you'll
like him. He plays bridge almost as well as he plays the piano. I
suppose you wonder at any one who can play bridge well wanting to play
the piano."

"I'm not quite so intolerant as all that," said Yeovil; "anyhow I promise
to like Ronnie. Is any one else coming to lunch?"

"Joan Mardle will probably drop in, in fact I'm afraid she's a certainty.
She invited herself in that way of hers that brooks of no refusal. On
the other hand, as a mitigating circumstance, there will be a point
d'asperge omelette such as few kitchens could turn out, so don't be
late."

Yeovil set out for his morning walk with the curious sensation of one who
starts on a voyage of discovery in a land that is well known to him. He
turned into the Park at Hyde Park corner and made his way along the
familiar paths and alleys that bordered the Row. The familiarity
vanished when he left the region of fenced-in lawns and rhododendron
bushes and came to the open space that stretched away beyond the
bandstand. The bandstand was still there, and a military band, in sky-
blue Saxon uniform, was executing the first item in the forenoon
programme of music. Around it, instead of the serried rows of green
chairs that Yeovil remembered, was spread out an acre or so of small
round tables, most of which had their quota of customers, engaged in a
steady consumption of lager beer, coffee, lemonade and syrups. Further
in the background, but well within earshot of the band, a gaily painted
pagoda-restaurant sheltered a number of more commodious tables under its
awnings, and gave a hint of convenient indoor accommodation for wet or
windy weather. Movable screens of trellis-trained foliage and climbing
roses formed little hedges by means of which any particular table could
be shut off from its neighbours if semi-privacy were desired. One or two
decorative advertisements of popularised brands of champagne and Rhine
wines adorned the outside walls of the building, and under the central
gable of its upper story was a flamboyant portrait of a stern-faced man,
whose image and superscription might also be found on the newer coinage
of the land. A mass of bunting hung in folds round the flag-pole on the
gable, and blew out now and then on a favouring breeze, a long
three-coloured strip, black, white, and scarlet, and over the whole scene
the elm trees towered with an absurd sardonic air of nothing having
changed around their roots.

Yeovil stood for a minute or two, taking in every detail of the
unfamiliar spectacle.

"They have certainly accomplished something that we never attempted," he
muttered to himself. Then he turned on his heel and made his way back to
the shady walk that ran alongside the Row. At first sight little was
changed in the aspect of the well-known exercising ground. One or two
riding masters cantered up and down as of yore, with their attendant
broods of anxious-faced young girls and awkwardly bumping women pupils,
while horsey-looking men put marketable animals through their paces or
drew up to the rails for long conversations with horsey-looking friends
on foot. Sportingly attired young women, sitting astride of their
horses, careered by at intervals as though an extremely game fox were
leading hounds a merry chase a short way ahead of them; it all seemed
much as usual.

Presently, from the middle distance a bright patch of colour set in a
whirl of dust drew rapidly nearer and resolved itself into a group of
cavalry officers extending their chargers in a smart gallop. They were
well mounted and sat their horses to perfection, and they made a brave
show as they raced past Yeovil with a clink and clatter and rhythmic
thud, thud, of hoofs, and became once more a patch of colour in a whirl
of dust. An answering glow of colour seemed to have burned itself into
the grey face of the young man, who had seen them pass without appearing
to look at them, a stinging rush of blood, accompanied by a choking catch
in the throat and a hot white blindness across the eyes. The weakness of
fever broke down at times the rampart of outward indifference that a man
of Yeovil's temperament builds coldly round his heartstrings.

The Row and its riders had become suddenly detestable to the wanderer; he
would not run the risk of seeing that insolently joyous cavalcade come
galloping past again. Beyond a narrow stretch of tree-shaded grass lay
the placid sunlit water of the Serpentine, and Yeovil made a short cut
across the turf to reach its gravelled bank.

"Can't you read either English or German?" asked a policeman who
confronted him as he stepped off the turf.

Yeovil stared at the man and then turned to look at the small
neatly-printed notice to which the official was imperiously pointing; in
two languages it was made known that it was forbidden and verboten,
punishable and straffbar, to walk on the grass.

"Three shilling fine," said the policeman, extending his hand for the
money.

"Do I pay you?" asked Yeovil, feeling almost inclined to laugh; "I'm
rather a stranger to the new order of things."

"You pay me," said the policeman, "and you receive a quittance for the
sum paid," and he proceeded to tear a counterfoil receipt for a three
shilling fine from a small pocket book.

"May I ask," said Yeovil, as he handed over the sum demanded and received
his quittance, "what the red and white band on your sleeve stands for?"

"Bi-lingual," said the constable, with an air of importance. "Preference
is given to members of the Force who qualify in both languages. Nearly
all the police engaged on Park duty are bi-lingual. About as many
foreigners as English use the parks nowadays; in fact, on a fine Sunday
afternoon, you'll find three foreigners to every two English. The park
habit is more Continental than British, I take it."

"And are there many Germans in the police Force?" asked Yeovil.

"Well, yes, a good few; there had to be," said the constable; "there were
such a lot of resignations when the change came, and they had to be
filled up somehow. Lots of men what used to be in the Force emigrated or
found work of some other kind, but everybody couldn't take that line;
wives and children had to be thought of. 'Tisn't every head of a family
that can chuck up a job on the chance of finding another. Starvation's
been the lot of a good many what went out. Those of us that stayed on
got better pay than we did before, but then of course the duties are much
more multitudinous."

"They must be," said Yeovil, fingering his three shilling State document;
"by the way," he asked, "are all the grass plots in the Park out of
bounds for human feet?"

"Everywhere where you see the notices," said the policeman, "and that's
about three-fourths of the whole grass space; there's been a lot of new
gravel walks opened up in all directions. People don't want to walk on
the grass when they've got clean paths to walk on."

And with this parting reproof the bi-lingual constable strode heavily
away, his loss of consideration and self-esteem as a unit of a sometime
ruling race evidently compensated for to some extent by his enhanced
importance as an official.

"The women and children," thought Yeovil, as he looked after the
retreating figure; "yes, that is one side of the problem. The children
that have to be fed and schooled, the women folk that have to be cared
for, an old mother, perhaps, in the home that cannot be broken up. The
old case of giving hostages."

He followed the path alongside the Serpentine, passing under the archway
of the bridge and continuing his walk into Kensington Gardens. In
another moment he was within view of the Peter Pan statue and at once
observed that it had companions. On one side was a group representing a
scene from one of the Grimm fairy stories, on the other was Alice in
conversation with Gryphon and Mockturtle, the episode looking
distressingly stiff and meaningless in its sculptured form. Two other
spaces had been cleared in the neighbouring turf, evidently for the
reception of further statue groups, which Yeovil mentally assigned to
Struwelpeter and Little Lord Fauntleroy.

"German middle-class taste," he commented, "but in this matter we
certainly gave them a lead. I suppose the idea is that childish fancy is
dead and that it is only decent to erect some sort of memorial to it."

The day was growing hotter, and the Park had ceased to seem a desirable
place to loiter in. Yeovil turned his steps homeward, passing on his way
the bandstand with its surrounding acreage of tables. It was now nearly
one o'clock, and luncheon parties were beginning to assemble under the
awnings of the restaurant. Lighter refreshments, in the shape of
sausages and potato salads, were being carried out by scurrying waiters
to the drinkers of lager beer at the small tables. A park orchestra, in
brilliant trappings, had taken the place of the military band. As Yeovil
passed the musicians launched out into the tune which the doctor had
truly predicted he would hear to repletion before he had been many days
in London; the "National Anthem of the fait accompli."




CHAPTER V: L'ART D'ETRE COUSINE


Joan Mardle had reached forty in the leisurely untroubled fashion of a
woman who intends to be comely and attractive at fifty. She cultivated a
jovial, almost joyous manner, with a top-dressing of hearty good will and
good nature which disarmed strangers and recent acquaintances; on getting
to know her better they hastily re-armed themselves. Some one had once
aptly described her as a hedgehog with the protective mimicry of a
puffball. If there was an awkward remark to be made at an inconvenient
moment before undesired listeners, Joan invariably made it, and when the
occasion did not present itself she was usually capable of creating it.
She was not without a certain popularity, the sort of popularity that a
dashing highwayman sometimes achieved among those who were not in the
habit of travelling on his particular highway. A great-aunt on her
mother's side of the family had married so often that Joan imagined
herself justified in claiming cousin-ship with a large circle of
disconnected houses, and treating them all on a relationship footing,
which theoretical kinship enabled her to exact luncheons and other
accommodations under the plea of keeping the lamp of family life aglow.

"I felt I simply had to come to-day," she chuckled at Yeovil; "I was just
dying to see the returned traveller. Of course, I know perfectly well
that neither of you want me, when you haven't seen each other for so long
and must have heaps and heaps to say to one another, but I thought I
would risk the odium of being the third person on an occasion when two
are company and three are a nuisance. Wasn't it brave of me?"

She spoke in full knowledge of the fact that the luncheon party would not
in any case have been restricted to Yeovil and his wife, having seen
Ronnie arrive in the hall as she was being shown upstairs.

"Ronnie Storre is coming, I believe," said Cicely, "so you're not
breaking into a tete-a-tete."

"Ronnie, oh I don't count him," said Joan gaily; "he's just a boy who
looks nice and eats asparagus. I hear he's getting to play the piano
really well. Such a pity. He will grow fat; musicians always do, and it
will ruin him. I speak feelingly because I'm gravitating towards
plumpness myself. The Divine Architect turns us out fearfully and
wonderfully built, and the result is charming to the eye, and then He
adds another chin and two or three extra inches round the waist, and the
effect is ruined. Fortunately you can always find another Ronnie when
this one grows fat and uninteresting; the supply of boys who look nice
and eat asparagus is unlimited. Hullo, Mr. Storre, we were all talking
about you."

"Nothing very damaging, I hope?" said Ronnie, who had just entered the
room.

"No, we were merely deciding that, whatever you may do with your life,
your chin must remain single. When one's chin begins to lead a double
life one's own opportunities for depravity are insensibly narrowed. You
needn't tell me that you haven't any hankerings after depravity; people
with your coloured eyes and hair are always depraved."

"Let me introduce you to my husband, Ronnie," said Cicely, "and then
let's go and begin lunch."

"You two must almost feel as if you were honeymooning again," said Joan
as they sat down; "you must have quite forgotten each other's tastes and
peculiarities since you last met. Old Emily Fronding was talking about
you yesterday, when I mentioned that Murrey was expected home; 'curious
sort of marriage tie,' she said, in that stupid staring way of hers,
'when husband and wife spend most of their time in different continents.
I don't call it marriage at all.' 'Nonsense,' I said, 'it's the best way
of doing things. The Yeovils will be a united and devoted couple long
after heaps of their married contemporaries have trundled through the
Divorce Court.' I forgot at the moment that her youngest girl had
divorced her husband last year, and that her second girl is rumoured to
be contemplating a similar step. One can't remember everything."

Joan Mardle was remarkable for being able to remember the smallest
details in the family lives of two or three hundred acquaintances.

From personal matters she went with a bound to the political small talk
of the moment.

"The Official Declaration as to the House of Lords is out at last," she
said; "I bought a paper just before coming here, but I left it in the
Tube. All existing titles are to lapse if three successive holders,
including the present ones, fail to take the oath of allegiance."

"Have any taken it up to the present?" asked Yeovil.

"Only about nineteen, so far, and none of them representing very leading
families; of course others will come in gradually, as the change of
Dynasty becomes more and more an accepted fact, and of course there will
be lots of new creations to fill up the gaps. I hear for certain that
Pitherby is to get a title of some sort, in recognition of his literary
labours. He has written a short history of the House of Hohenzollern,
for use in schools you know, and he's bringing out a popular Life of
Frederick the Great - at least he hopes it will be popular."

"I didn't know that writing was much in his line," said Yeovil, "beyond
the occasional editing of a company prospectus."

"I understand his historical researches have given every satisfaction in
exalted quarters," said Joan; "something may be lacking in the style,
perhaps, but the august approval can make good that defect with the style
of Baron. Pitherby has such a kind heart; 'kind hearts are more than
coronets,' we all know, but the two go quite well together. And the dear
man is not content with his services to literature, he's blossoming forth
as a liberal patron of the arts. He's taken quite a lot of tickets for
dear Gorla's debut; half the second row of the dress-circle."

"Do you mean Gorla Mustelford?" asked Yeovil, catching at the name; "what
on earth is she having a debut about?"

"What?" cried Joan, in loud-voiced amazement; "haven't you heard? Hasn't
Cicely told you? How funny that you shouldn't have heard. Why, it's
going to be one of the events of the season. Everybody's talking about
it. She's going to do suggestion dancing at the Caravansery Theatre."

"Good Heavens, what is suggestion dancing?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, something quite new," explained Joan; "at any rate the name is quite
new and Gorla is new as far as the public are concerned, and that is
enough to establish the novelty of the thing. Among other things she
does a dance suggesting the life of a fern; I saw one of the rehearsals,
and to me it would have equally well suggested the life of John Wesley.
However, that is probably the fault of my imagination - I've either got
too much or too little. Anyhow it is an understood thing that she is to
take London by storm."

"When I last saw Gorla Mustelford," observed Yeovil, "she was a rather
serious flapper who thought the world was in urgent need of regeneration
and was not certain whether she would regenerate it or take up miniature
painting. I forget which she attempted ultimately."

"She is quite serious about her art," put in Cicely; "she's studied a
good deal abroad and worked hard at mastering the technique of her
profession. She's not a mere amateur with a hankering after the
footlights. I fancy she will do well."

"But what do her people say about it?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, they're simply furious about it," answered Joan; "the idea of a
daughter of the house of Mustelford prancing and twisting about the stage
for Prussian officers and Hamburg Jews to gaze at is a dreadful cup of
humiliation for them. It's unfortunate, of course, that they should feel
so acutely about it, but still one can understand their point of view."

"I don't see what other point of view they could possibly take," said
Yeovil sharply; "if Gorla thinks that the necessities of art, or her own
inclinations, demand that she should dance in public, why can't she do it
in Paris or even Vienna? Anywhere would be better, one would think, than
in London under present conditions."

He had given Joan the indication that she was looking for as to his
attitude towards the fait accompli. Without asking a question she had
discovered that husband and wife were divided on the fundamental issue
that underlay all others at the present moment. Cicely was weaving
social schemes for the future, Yeovil had come home in a frame of mind
that threatened the destruction of those schemes, or at any rate a
serious hindrance to their execution. The situation presented itself to
Joan's mind with an alluring piquancy.

"You are giving a grand supper-party for Gorla on the night of her debut,
aren't you?" she asked Cicely; "several people spoke to me about it, so I
suppose it must be true."

Tony Luton and young Storre had taken care to spread the news of the
projected supper function, in order to ensure against a change of plans
on Cicely's part.

"Gorla is a great friend of mine," said Cicely, trying to talk as if the
conversation had taken a perfectly indifferent turn; "also I think she
deserves a little encouragement after the hard work she has been through.
I thought it would be doing her a kindness to arrange a supper party for
her on her first night."

There was a moment's silence. Yeovil said nothing, and Joan understood
the value of being occasionally tongue-tied.

"The whole question is," continued Cicely, as the silence became
oppressive, "whether one is to mope and hold aloof from the national
life, or take our share in it; the life has got to go on whether we
participate in it or not. It seems to me to be more patriotic to come
down into the dust of the marketplace than to withdraw oneself behind
walls or beyond the seas."


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