Evelyn Waugh

                            Winner Takes All

Файл с книжной полки Несененко Алексея OCR: Несененко Алексей январь 2004
1 When Mrs Kent-Cumberland's eldest son was born (in an expensive London nursing home) there was a bonfire on Tomb Beacon; it consumed three barrels of tar, an immense catafalque of timber, and, as things turned out - for the flames spread briskly in the dry gorse and loyal tenantry were too tipsy to extinguish them - the entire vegetation of Tomb Hill. As soon as mother and child could be moved, they travelled in state to the country, where flags were hung out in the village street and a trellis arch of evergreen boughs obscured the handsome Palladia!) entrance gates of their home. There were farmers' dinners both at Tomb and on the Kent-Cumberlands Norfolk estate, and funds for a silver- plated tray were ungrudgingly subscribed. The christening was celebrated by a garden-party. A princess stood godmother by proxy, and the boy was called Gervase Peregrine Mountjoy St Eustace - all of them names illustrious in the family's history. Throughout the service and the subsequent presentations he maintained an attitude of phlegmatic dignity which confirmed everyone in the high estimate they had already formed of his capabilities. After the garden-party there were fireworks and after the fireworks a very hard week for the gardeners, cleaning up the mess. The life of the Kent-Cumberlands then resumed its normal tranquillity until nearly two years later, when, much to her annoyance, Mrs Kent-Cumberland discovered that she was to have another baby. The second child was born in August in a shoddy modern house on the East Coast which had been taken for the summer so that Gervase might have the benefit of sea air. Mrs Kent-Cumberland was attended by the local doctor, who antagonized her by his middle-class accent, and proved, when it came to the point, a great deal more deft than the London specialist. Throughout the peevish months of waiting Mrs Kent-Cumberland had fortified herself with the hope that she would have a daughter. It would be a softening influence for Gervase, who was growing up somewhat unresponsive, to have a pretty, gentle , sympathetic sister two years younger than himself. She would come out just when he was going up to Oxford and would save him from either of the dreadful extremes of evil company which threatened that stage of development - the bookworm and the hooligan. She would bring down delightful girls for Eights Week and Commem. Mrs Kent-Cumberland had it all planned out. When she was delivered of another son she named him Thomas, and fretted through her convalescence with her mind on the coming hunting season. 2 The two brothers developed into sturdy, unremarkable little boys; there was little to choose between them except their two years difference in age. They were both sandy-haired, courageous, and well- mannered on occasions. Neither was sensitive, artistic, highly strung, or conscious of being misunderstood. Both accepted the fact of Gervase's importance just as they accepted his superiority of knowledge and physique. Mrs Kent-Cumberland was a fair-minded woman, and in the event of the two being involved in mischief, it was Gervase, as the elder, who was the more severely punished. Tom found that his obscurity was on the whole advantageous, for it excused him from the countless minor performances of ceremony which fell on Gervase. At the age of seven Tom was consumed with desire for a model motor- car, an expensive toy of a size to sit in and pedal about the garden. He prayed for it steadfastly every evening and most mornings for several weeks. Christmas was approaching. Gervase had a smart pony and was often taken hunting. Tom was alone most of the day and the motor-car occupied a great part of his thoughts. Finally he confided his ambition to an uncle. This uncle was not addicted to expensive present giving, least of all to children (for he was a man of limited means and self-indulgent habits) but something in his nephew's intensity of feeling impressed him. "Poor little beggar," he reflected, "his brother seems to get all the fun," and when he returned to London he ordered the motor-car for Tom. It arrived some days before Christmas and was put away upstairs with other presents. On Christmas Eve Mrs Kent-Cumberland came to inspect them. "How very kind," she said, looking at each label in turn, "how very kind." The motor-car was by far the largest exhibit. It was pillar-box red, complete with electric lights, a hooter and a spare wheel. "Really," she said. "How very kind of Ted." Then she looked at the label more closely. "But how foolish of him. He's put Tom's name on it." "There was this book for Master Gervase," said the nurse, producing a volume labelled "Gervase with best wishes from Uncle Ted." "Of course the parcels have been confused at the shop," said Mrs Kent-Cumberland. "This can't have been meant for Tom. Why, it must have cost six or seven pounds." She changed the labels and went downstairs to supervise the decoration of the Christmas tree, glad to have rectified an obvious error of justice. Next morning the presents were revealed. "Oh, Ger. You are lucky," said Tom, inspecting the motor-car. "May I ride in it? " "Yes, only be careful. Nanny says it was awfully expensive." Tom rode it twice round the room. "May I take it in the garden sometimes? " "Yes. You can have it when I'm hunting." Later in the week they wrote to thank their uncle for his presents. Gervase wrote: Dear Uncle Ted, Thank you for the lovely present. Its lovely. The pony is very well. I am going to hunt again before I go back to school. Love from Gervase. Dear Uncle Ted (wrote Tom), Thank you ever so much for the lovely present. It is just what I wanted. Again thanking you very much. With love from Tom. "So that's all the thanks I get. Ungrateful little beggar," said Uncle Ted, resolving to be more economical in future. But when Gervase went back to school he said, "Youcanhave the motor-car, Tom, to keep." "What, for my own?" "Yes. It's a kid's toy, anyway." And by this act of generosity he increased Tom's respect and love for him a hundredfold. 4 The war came and profoundly changed the lives of the two boys. It engendered none of the neuroses threatened by pacifists. Air raids remained among Tom's happiest memories, when the school used to be awakened in the middle of the night and hustled downstairs to the basement where, wrapped in eiderdowns, they were regaled with cocoa and cake by the matron, who looked supremely ridiculous in a flannel nightgown. Once a Zeppelin was hit in sight of the school; they all crowded to the dormitory windows to see it sinking slowly in a globe of pink flame. A very young master whose health rendered him unfit for military service danced on the headmaster's tennis court crying, "There go the baby killers." Tom made a collection of "War Relics", including a captured German helmet, shell-splinters, The Times for August 4th, 1914, buttons, cartridge cases, and cap badges, that was voted the best in the school. The event which radically changed the relationship of the brothers was the death, early in 1915, of their father. Neither knew him well nor particularly liked him. He had represented the division in the House of Commons and spent much of his time in London while the children were at Tomb. They only saw him on three occasions after he joined the army. Gervase and Tom were called out of the class-room and told of his death by the headmaster's wife. They cried, since it was expected of them, and for some days were treated with marked deference by the masters and the rest of the school. It was in the subsequent holidays that the importance of the change became apparent. Mrs Kent-Cumberland had suddenly become more emotional and more parsimonious. She was liable to unprecedented outbursts of tears, when she would crush Gervase to her and say, "My poor fatherless boy." At other times she spoke gloomily of death duties. 5 For some years in fact "Death Duties" became the refrain of the household. When Mrs Kent-Cumberland let the house in London and closed down a wing at Tomb, when she reduced the servants to four and the gardeners to two, when she "let the flower gardens go", when she stopped asking her brother Ted to stay, when she emptied the stables, and became almost fanatical in her reluctance to use the car, when the bath water was cold and there were no new tennis-balls, when the chimneys were dirty and the lawns covered with sheep, when Gervase's cast-off clothes ceased to fit Tom, when she refused him the "extra" expense at school of carpentry lessons and mid-morning milk - "Death Duties" were responsible. "It is all for Gervase," Mrs Kent-Cumberland used to explain. "When he inherits, he must take over free of debt, as his father did." 6 Gervase went to Eton in the year of his father's death. Tom would normally have followed him two years later, but in her new mood of economy Mrs Kent-Cumberland cancelled his entry and began canvassing her friends opinions about the less famous, cheaper public schools. "The education is just as good," she said, "and far more suitable for a boy who has his own way to make in the world." Tom was happy enough at the school to which he was sent. It was very bleak and very new, salubrious, progressive, prosperous in the boom that secondary education enjoyed in the years immediately following the war, and, when all was said and done, "thoroughly suitable for a boy with his own way to make in the world." He had several friends whom he was not allowed to invite to his home during the holidays. He got his House colours for swimming and fives, played once or twice in the second eleven for cricket, and was a platoon commander in the O.T.C.; he was in the sixth form and passed the Higher Certificate in his last year, became a prefect and enjoyed the confidence of his housemaster, who spoke of him as "a very decent stamp of boy." He left school at the age of eighteen without the smallest desire to re-visit it or see any of its members again. Gervase was then at Christ Church. Tom went up to visit him, but the magnificent Etonians who romped in and out of his brother's rooms scared and depressed him. Gervase was in the Bullingdon, spending money freely and enjoying himself. He gave a dinner-party in his rooms, but Tom sat in silence, drinking heavily to hide his embarrassment, and was later sombrely sick in a corner of Peckwater quad. He returned to Tomb next day in the lowest spirits. " It is not as though Tom were a scholarly boy," said Mrs Kent- Cumberland to her friends. "I am glad he is not, of course. But if he had been, it might have been right to make the sacrifice and send him to the University. As it is, the sooner he Gets Started the better." 7 Getting Tom started, however, proved a matter of some difficulty. During the Death Duty Period, Mrs Kent-Cumberland had cut herself off from many of her friends. Now she cast round vainly to find someone who would "put Tom into something". Chartered Accountancy, Chinese Customs, estate agencies, "the City", were suggested and abandoned. "The trouble is that he has no particular abilities," she explained. "He is the sort of boy who would be useful in anything - an all-round man - but, of course, he has no capital." August, September, October passed; Gervase was back at Oxford, in fashionable lodgings in the High Street, but Tom remained at home without employment. Day by day he and his mother sat down together to luncheon and dinner, and his constant presence was a severe strain on Mrs Kent-Cumberland's equability. She herself was always busy and, as she bustled about her duties, it shocked and distracted her to encounter the large figure of her younger son sprawling on the morning-room sofa or leaning against the stone parapet of the terrace and gazing out apathetically across the familiar landscape. * * * "Why can't you find something to do? " she would complain. "There are always things to do about a house. Heaven knows I never have a moment." And when, one afternoon, he was asked out by some neighbours and returned too late to dress for dinner, she said, "Really, Tom, I should have thought that you had tune for that." "It is a very serious thing," she remarked on another occasion, "for a young man of your age to get out of the habit of work. It saps his whole morale." Accordingly she fell back upon the ancient country house expedient of Cataloguing the Library. This consisted of an extensive and dusty collection of books amassed by succeeding generations of a family at no time notable for their patronage of literature; it had been catalogued before, in the middle of the nineteenth century, in the spidery, spinsterish hand of a relative in reduced circumstances; since then the additions and disturbances had been negligible, but Mrs Kent-Cumberland purchased 'a fumed oak cabinet and several boxes of cards and instructed Tom how she wanted the shelves re-numbered and the books twice entered under Subject and Author. * * * It was a system that should keep a boy employed for some time, and it was with vexation, therefore, that, a few days after the task was commenced, she paid a surprise visit to the scene of his labour and found Tom sitting, almost lying, in an arm-chair, with his feet on a rung of the library steps, reading. "I am glad you have found something interesting," she said in a voice that conveyed very little gladness. "Well, to tell you the truth, I think I have," said Tom, and showed her the book. It was the manuscript journal kept by a Colonel Jasper Cumberland during the Peninsular War. It had no startling literary merit, nor did its criticisms of the general staff throw any new light upon the strategy of the campaign, but it was a lively, direct, day-to-day narrative, redolent of its period; there was a sprinkling of droll anecdotes, some vigorous descriptions of foxhunting behind the lines of Torres Vedras, of the Duke of Wellington dining in Mess, of a threatened mutiny that had not yet found its way into history, of the assault on Badajoz; there were some bawdy references to Portuguese women and some pious reflexions about patriotism. "I was wondering if it might be worth publishing," said Tom. "I should hardly think so," replied his mother. "But I will certainly show it to Gervase when he comes home." For the moment the discovery gave a new interest to Tom's life. He read up the history of the period and of his own family. Jasper Cumberland he established as a younger son of the period, who had later emigrated to Canada. There were letters from him among the archives, including the announcement of his marriage to a Papist, which had clearly severed the link with his elder brother. In a case of uncatalogued miniatures in the long drawing-room, he found the portrait of a handsome whiskered soldier, which by a study of contemporary uniforms he was able to identify as the diarist. Presently, in his round, immature handwriting, Tom began working up his notes into an essay. His mother watched his efforts with unqualified approval. She was glad to see him busy, and glad to see him taking an interest in his family's history. She had begun to fear that by sending him to a school without "tradition" she might have made a socialist of the boy. When, shortly before the Christmas vacation, work was found for Tom, she took charge of his notes. "I am sure Gervase will be extremely interested," she said. "He may even think it worth showing to a publisher." 8 The work that had been found for Tom was not immediately lucrative, but, as his mother said, it was a beginning. It was to go to Wolverhampton and learn the motor business from the bottom. The first two years were to be spent at the works, from where, if he showed talent, he might graduate to the London showrooms. His wages, at first, were thirty-five shillings a week. This was augmented by the allowance of another pound. Lodgings were found for him over a fruit shop in the outskirts of the town, and Gervase gave him his old two- seater car, in which he could travel to and from his work, and for occasional weekends home. It was during one of these visits that Gervase told him the good news that a London publisher had read the diary and seen possibilities in it. Six months later it appeared under the title The Journal of an English Cavalry Officer during the Peninsular War. Edited with notes and a biographical introduction by Gervase Kent-Cumberland. The miniature portrait was prettily reproduced as a frontispiece, there was a collotype copy of a page of the original manuscript, a contemporary print of Tomb Park, and a map of the compaign. It sold nearly two thousand copies at twelve and sixpence and received two or three respectful reviews in the Saturday and Sunday papers. * * * The appearance of the Journal coincided within a few days with Gervase's twenty-first birthday. The celebrations were extravagant and prolonged, culminating in a ball at which Tom's attendance was required. He drove over, after the works had shut down, and arrived, just in time for dinner, to find a house-party of thirty and a house entirely transformed. His own room had been taken for a guest ("as you will only be here for one night," his mother explained). He was sent down to the Cumberland Arms, where he dressed by candlelight in a breathless little bedroom over the bar, and arrived late and slightly dishevelled at dinner, where he sat between two lovely girls who neither knew who he was nor troubled to inquire. The dancing afterwards was in a marquee built on the terrace, which a London catering firm had converted into a fair replica of a Pont Street drawing-room. Tom danced once or twice with the daughters of neighbouring families whom he had known since childhood. They asked him about Wolverhampton and the works. He had to get up early next morning; at midnight he slipped away to his bed at the inn. The evening had bored him; because he was in love. 9 It had occurred to him to ask his mother whether he might bring his fiancee to the ball, but on reflexion, enchanted as he was, he had realized that it would not do. The girl was named Gladys Cruttwell. She was two years older than himself; she had fluffy yellow hair which she washed at home once a week and dried before the gas fire; on the day after the shampoo it was very light and silky; towards the end of the week, darker and slightly greasy. She was a virtuous, affectionate, self-reliant, even-tempered, unintelligent, high- spirited girl, but Tom could not disguise from himself the fact that she would not go down well at Tomb. She worked for the firm on the clerical side. Tom had noticed her on his second day, as she tripped across the yard, exactly on tune, bareheaded (the day after a shampoo) in a woollen coat and skirt which she had knitted herself. He had got into conversation with her in the canteen, by making way for her at the counter with a chivalry that was not much practised at the works. His possession of a car gave him a clear advantage over the other young men about the place. They discovered that they lived within a few streets of one another, and it presently became Tom's practice to call for her in the mornings and take her home in the evenings. He would sit in the two- seater outside her gate, sound the horn, and she would come running down the path to meet him. As summer approached they went for drives in the evening among leafy Warwickshire lanes. In June they were engaged. Tom was exhilarated, sometimes almost dizzy at the experience, but he hesitated to tell his mother. "After all," he reflected, "it is not as though I were Gervase," but in his own heart he knew that there would be trouble. Gladys came of a class accustomed to long engagements; marriage seemed a remote prospect; an engagement to her signified the formal recognition that she and Tom spent their spare time in one another's company. Her mother, with whom she lived, accepted him on these terms. In years to come, when Tom had got his place in the London showrooms, it would be time enough to think about marrying. But Tom was born to a less patient tradition. He began to speak about a wedding in the autumn. "It would be lovely," said Gladys in the tones she would have employed about winning the Irish sweepstake. He had spoken very little about his family. She understood, vaguely, that they lived in a big house, but it was a part of life that never had been real to her. She knew that there were duchesses and marchionesses in something called "Society"; they were encountered in the papers and the films. She knew there were directors with large salaries; but the fact that there were people like Gervase or Mrs Kent-Cumberland, and that they would think of themselves as radically different from herself, had not entered her experience. When, eventually, they were brought together Mrs Kent-Cumberland was extremely gracious and Gladys thought her a very nice old lady. But Tom knew that the meeting was proving disastrous. "Of course," said Mrs Kent-Cumberland, "the whole thing is quite impossible. Miss Whatever-her-name-was seemed a thoroughly nice girl, but you are not in a position to think of marriage. Besides, she added with absolute finality, "you must not forget that if anything were to happen to Gervase you would be his heir." So Tom was removed from the motor business and an opening found for him on a sheep farm in South Australia. 10 It would not be fair to say that in the ensuing two years Mrs Kent- Cumberland forgot her younger son. She wrote to him every month and sent him bandana handkerchiefs for Christmas. In the first lonely days he wrote to her frequently, but when, as he grew accustomed to the new life, his letters became less frequent she did not seriously miss them. When they did arrive they were lengthy; she put them aside from her correspondence to read at leisure and, more than once, mislaid them, unopened. But whenever her acquaintances asked after Tom she loyally answered, "Doing splendidly. And enjoying himself very much." She had many other things to occupy and, in some cases, distress her. Gervase was now in authority at Tomb, and the careful regime of his minority wholly reversed. There were six expensive hunters in the stable. The lawns were mown, bedrooms thrown open, additional bathrooms installed; there was even talk of constructing a swimming pool. There was constant Saturday to Monday entertaining. There was the sale, at a poor price, of two Romneys and a Hoppner. Mrs Kent-Cumberland watched all this with mingled pride and anxiety. In particular she scrutinized the succession of girls who came to stay, in the irreconcilable, ever-present fears that Gervase would or would not marry. Either conclusion seemed perilous; a wife for Gervase must be well-born, well conducted, rich, of stainless reputation, and affectionately disposed to Mrs Kent-Cumberland; such a mate seemed difficult to find. The estate was clear of the mortgages necessitated by death duties, but dividends were uncertain, and though, as she frequently pointed out, she "never interfered", simple arithmetic and her own close experience of domestic management convinced her that Gervase Would not long be able to support the scale of living which he had introduced. With so much on her mind, it was inevitable that Mrs Kent- Cumberland should think a great deal about Tomb and very little about South Australia, and should be rudely shocked to read in one of Tom's letters that he was proposing to return to England on a visit, with a fiancee and a future father-in-law; that in fact he had already started, was now on the sea and due to arrive in London in a fortnight. Had she read his earlier letters with attention she might have found hints of such an attachment, but she had not done so, and the announcement came to her as a wholly unpleasant surprise. "Your brother is coming back." "Oh, good! When?" "He is bringing a farmer's daughter to whom he is engaged - and the farmer. They want to come here." "I say, that's rather a bore. Let's tell them we're having the boilers cleaned." "You don't seem to realize that this is a serious matter, Gervase." "Oh, well, you fix things up. I dare say it would be all right if they came next month. We've got to have the Anchorages some time. We might get both over together." In the end it was decided that Gervase should meet the immigrants in London, vet them and report to his mother whether or no they were suitable fellow-guests for the Anchorages. A week later, on his return to Tomb, his mother greeted him anxiously. " Well? You never wrote? " "Wrote? Why should I? I never do. I say, I haven't forgotten a birthday or anything, have I? " "Don't be absurd, Gervase. I mean, about your brother Tom's unfortunate entanglement. Did you see the girl?" "Oh, that. Yes, I went and had dinner with them. Tom'sdone himself quite well. Fair, rather fat, saucer-eyed, good-tempered, I should say, by her looks." "Does she - does she speak with an Australian accent? " "Didn't notice it." "And the father?" "Pompous old boy." "Would he be all right with the Anchorages? " "I should think he'd go down like a dinner. But they can't come. They are staying with the Chasms." "Indeed! What an extraordinary thing. But, of course, Archie Chasm was Governor-General once. Still, it shows they must be fairly respectable. Where are they staying? " "Qaridge's." "Then they must be quite rich, too. How very interesting. I will write this evening." 11 Three weeks later they arrived. Mr MacDougal, the father, was a tall, lean man, with pince-nez and an interest in statistics. He was a territorial magnate to whom the Tomb estates appeared a cosy small- holding. He did not emphasize this in any boastful fashion, but in his statistical zeal gave Mrs Kent-Cumberland some staggering figures. "Is Bessie your only child? " asked Mrs Kent-Cumberland. "My only child and heir," he replied, coining down to brass tacks at once. "I dare say you have been wondering what sort of settlement I shall be able to make on her. Now that, I regret to say, is a question I cannot answer accurately. We have good years, Mrs Kent-Cumberland, and we have bad years. It all depends. " "But I dare say that even in bad years the income is quite considerable?" "In a bad year," said Mr MacDougal, "in a very bad year such as the present, the net profits, after all deductions have been made for running expenses, insurance, taxation, and deterioration, amount to something between" - Mrs Kent-Cumberland listened breathlessly - "fifty and fifty-two thousand pounds. I know that is a very vague statement, but it is impossible to be more accurate until the last returns are in." Bessie was bland and creamy. She admired everything. "It's so antique, she would remark with relish, whether the object of her attention was the Norman Church of Tomb, the Victorian panelling in the billiard-room, or the central-heating system which Gervase had recently installed. Mrs Kent-Cumberland took a great liking to the girl. "Thoroughly Teachable," she pronounced. "But I wonder whether she is really suited to Tom ... I wonder..." * * * The MacDougals stayed for four days and, when they left, Mrs Kent- Cumberland pressed them to return for a longer visit. Bessie had been enchanted with everything she saw. "I wish we could live here," she had said to Tom on her first evening, "in this dear, quaint old house." "Yes, darling, so do I. Of course it all belongs to Gervase, but I always look on it as my home." "Just as we Australians look on England." "Exactly." She had insisted on seeing everything; the old gabled manor, once the home of the family, relegated now to the function of dower house since the present mansion was built in the eighteenth century - the house of mean proportions and inconvenient offices where Mrs Kent- Cumberland, in her moments of depression, pictured her own declining years; the mill and the quarries; the farm, which to the MacDougals seemed minute and formal as a Noah's Ark. On these expeditions it was Gervase who acted as guide. "He, of course, knows so much more about it than Tom," Mrs Kent-Cumberland explained. Tom, in fact, found himself very rarely alone with his fiancee. Once, when they were all together after dinner, the question of his marriage was mentioned. He asked Bessie whether, now that she had seen Tomb, she would sooner be married there, at the village church, than in London. "Oh, there is no need to decide anything hastily," Mrs Kent- Cumberland had said. "Let Bessie look about a little first." * * * When the MacDougals left, he was to go to Scotland to see the castle of their ancestors. Mr MacDougal had traced relationship with various branches of his family, had corresponded with them intermittently, and now wished to make their acquaintance. Bessie wrote to them all at Tomb; she wrote daily to Tom, but in her thoughts, as she lay sleepless in the appalling bed provided for her by her distant kinsmen, she was conscious for the first time of a light feeling of disappointment and uncertainty. In Australia Tom had seemed so different from everyone else, so gentle and dignified and cultured. Here in England he seemed to recede into obscurity. Everyone in England seemed to be like Tom. And then there was the house. It was exactly the kind of house which she had always imagined English people to live in, with the dear little park - less than a thousand acres - and the soft grass and the old stone. Tom had fitted into the house. He had fitted too well; had disappeared entirely in it and become part of the background. The central place belonged to Gervase - so like Tom but more handsome; with all Tom's charm but with more personality. Beset with these thoughts, she roDed on the hard and irregular bed until dawn began to show through the lancet window of the Victorian-baronial turret. She loved that turret for all its discomfort. It was so antique. 12 Mrs Kent-Cumberland was an active woman. It was less than ten days after the MacDougals visit that she returned triumphantly from a day in London. After dinner, when she sat alone with Tom in the small drawing-room, she said: "You'll be very much surprised to hear who I saw to-day. Gladys." "Gladys?" "Gladys Cruttwell." "Good heavens. Where on earth did you meet her? " "It was quite by chance," said his mother vaguely. "She is working there now." "How was she?" "Very pretty. Prettier, if anything." There was a pause. Mrs Kent-Cumberland stitched away at a gros- point chair seat. "You know, dear boy, that I never interfere, but I have often wondered whether you treated Gladys very kindly. I know I was partly to blame, myself. But you were both very young and your prospects so uncertain. I thought a year or two of separation would he a good test of whether you really loved one another." "Oh, I am sure she has forgotten about me long ago." "Indeed, she has not, Tom. I thought she seemed a very unhappy girl." "But how can you know, Mother, just seeing her casually like that?" "We had luncheon together," said Mrs Kent-Cumberland. "In an A.B.C. shop." Another pause. "But, look here, I've forgotten all about her. I only care about Bessie now." "You know, dearest boy, I never interfere. I think Bessie is a delightful girl. But are you free? Are you free in your own con- science ? You know, and I do not know, on what terms you parted from Gladys." And there returned, after a long absence, the scene which for the first few months of his Australian venture had been constantly in Tom's memory, of a tearful parting and many intemperate promises. He said nothing. "I did not tell Gladys of your engagement. I thought you had the right to do that - as best you can, in your own way. But I did tell her you were back in England and that you wished to see her. She is coming here tomorrow for a night or two. She looked in need of a holiday, poor child." * * * When Tom went to meet Gladys at the station they stood for some minutes on the platform not certain of the other's identity. Then their tentative signs of recognition corresponded. Gladys had been engaged twice in the past two years, and was now walking out with a motor salesman. It had been a great surprise when Mrs Kent-Cumberland sought her out and explained that Tom had returned to England. She had not forgotten him, for she was a loyal and good-hearted girl, but she was embarrassed and touched to learn that his devotion was unshaken. They were married two weeks later and Mrs Kent-Cumberland undertook the delicate mission of "explaining everything" to the Mac Dougals. They went to Australia, where Mr MacDougal very magnanimously gave them a post managing one of his more remote estates. He was satisfied with Tom's work. Gladys has a large sunny bungalow and a landscape of grazing-land and wire fences. She does not see very much company nor does she particularly like what she does see. The neighbouring ranchers find her very English and aloof. Bessie and Gervase were married after six weeks engagement. They live at Tomb. Bessie has two children and Gervase has six race-horses. Mrs Kent-Cumberland lives in the house with them. She and Bessie rarely disagree, and, when they do, it is Mrs Kent-Cumberland who gets her way. The dower house is let on a long lease to a sporting manufacturer. Gervase has taken over the Hounds and spends money profusely; everyone in the neighbourhood is content.