The Clutch of Circu mstances
C. W. STEPHENS
Plummer, he began, presently, is a constitutional kicker; he was born kicking, he has kicked his prosperous way through life, he will die kicking, and if St. Peter loiters at the upper gate what time Plummer appears there, a heavenly picket or two will be kicked in. We were in London on joint business, had
TWICE a year the Country Club plays a golf match with the beach fishermen. This was one of the dates and Algernon and I watched the finish at the home hole; the last pair was coming in, upon the issue of this particular fight the match depended, and driving to the eighteenth the men were all square. They got away good shots and advanced for their seconds; the contrast between the two men was notable, our chap had his caddy bag loaded up with the latest devices of artful clubmakers, infallible putters, mashies guaranteed to pull a ball up as if Westinghoused, irons that would almost pick up balls and carry them to the hole; the blueguemseyed fisherman had one club, a cleek that had, from its appearance, been used for hoeing the potato patch and cracking unsizable knobs of coal. Our man was patently nervous as he fussed over his second shot, pulling out one shiny implement, shoving it back and taking out another; finally he played, neatly excavated a small sod and left the ball untouched, smiling up at him. The fisherman walked up to his ball, took a wallop at it, laid it a couple of yards from the pin, and ran it down with his monstrous implement, making it appear that really there was no other place for the ball to go than the
Algernon dropped his monocle, grinned and sauntered with me to the nineteenth hole, where we dropped int» chairs and watched the small throng depart.
“And thus it ever was and ever will be, world without end, Amen!” said Algernon. “The heart of things, the man, not the circumstances; the victory to the warrior, not the weapons:
T am the Master of my Fate,
I am the Captain of my Soul,’ enterprising elubmakers notwithstanding.”
He lay back, hands behind his head, closed his eyes apparently wrapped in philosophic meditation, a smile on his somewhat ascetic visage that promised a yarn.
finished it, and stood on the platform of Euston Station about to take train for Liverpool, en route home. The hour was 10.45, the train due to depart at 11, and Grace Semple had not shown up.
Grace was a home-town girl; I had known she was in England, but had not supposed I should have the luck to meet her, when, sauntering idly along the Strand the previous day I had been confronted by a radiant feminine vision that made my heart sing a paean of utmost joy. The vision was Grace, blithe, winsome and heartening as a Canadian June morning with carolling birds in the sky. We found our way into the Park and—but that is a different story; suffice it to say that we arranged to meet at Euston the following morning since she was taking our boat home. Truly, the gods were good this morning. And now the hour of departure approached, and no Grace in sight. Plummer was in a dervish kind of fever as usual in such a crisis.
“Did you ever know a woman catch a train except by accident? Did you ever find her on time for anything? She is contemplating the vision in her mirror, she has seen a hat in a shop window, she is having a few final words with a friend. She’ll stroll in when the train’s miles off and raise a rumpus with everybody because the railway system wasn’t held up for a paltry ten minutes. I know ’em.”
“As a bachelor of fifty-two years’ standing you ought to,” I retorted. “Moreover, Plummer, Grace is not the kind of girl to raise rumpuses. I think her eminently sensible. What there is about Euston to spend fifteen precious minutes upon passes knowledge, but your ideas of the salubrious and picturesque are notoriously quaint.”
“I didn’t mean Grace so much as women in general,” he tried to squirm out. I turned my attention to the throng gathering about the train. Two men near me attracted me particularly. One was rather elderly and reminded me of a figure from one of Leech’s old-time cartoons in “Punch”—aristocrat in suggestion, side whiskers, Inverness cape, longish hair, black-green slouch hat, country-made shoes; he might be anything from a dilapidated squire to mil-
lionaire miser. The other was a young man—middleheight, leanly but well built, with an air of good-' ■latured gravity about him, and eyes and mouth that bespoke interest; soldierly, too, trimly unobtrusive. The chap had class stamped upon him indubitably. A brown leather portmanteau lay at his feet and on its side were the letters J.A.N.E.B. The elder man was speaking somewhat solemnly, and this is what I caught: “I see from my ‘Morning Post’ that over there window cleaners are striking for two pounds a day, milkmen for ten pounds a week; it would seem that the outlook is not altogether cheerless. Do not waste money cabling, in the absence of positive news that you have been drowned we will assume that you have arrived. Good-bye, John, I have a director s’ meeting to attend— two guineas yo» know,” and with n» further farewell the man turned about and took his departure. The young fellow threw portmanteau into his compartment, lit a pipe, and paced the platform briskly, taking short turns and keeping an eye on his belongings.
“Five minutes!” groaned Plummer from the deeps, of his soul, and as he spoke I saw Grace approaching on the swift run, a loaded porter at her heels. She saw me and coming along under full sail collided smartly with the young man who was just making one of his abrupt turns. Grace is a tall girl, wore a wide-brimmed hat, and the brim neatly sheared the bowler from the chap’s head, and made a valiant attempt to scalp him with the same stroke.
“I’m awfully sorry—my stupid fault!” the assaulted one apologized earnestly, eyeing Grace not hostilely in any way. There is a vivacious charm about Grace that disarms and leaves the average man childishly helpless; it lies deeper than beauty of feature and coloring, the laughter of deep warm eyes, the enmeshing lure of bright brown hair. Blend the frank friendliness of a boy with the engaging candor of fine womanhood and perhaps in the combination you would discover the secret. For an instant the two regarded each other, eyes meeting eyes, frank, unembarrassed, approving, friendly.
And after all what is time? A thought—the soul in eyes that recognize and acknowledge kinship— a glance that solves all mysteries and furnishes all knowledge immediately requisite—swifter than light, the electric spark, the ethereal wave—and time ceases to be a measuring medium.
“Not at all, it was entirely my fault, I’m very sorry. I was afraid the train would start without me. Where did your hat go?” She was a picture of most charming penitence. A porter retrieved the hat, and I retrieved Grace just as the guard signalled in lordly fashion for departure.
“I nearly missed it,” said Grace triumphantly as the train glided out. “But that is the way I like to catch trains ; what is the use of hanging round Euston hours and hours?”
“When you get married, Grace, choose a man who has nothing wrong with his heart,” I recommended.
“But how can I marry him if there’s nothing wrong
•with his heart?” she retorted. “I hope I didn’t hurt that young man.”
“He may get over it,” I opined. “He appears strong if not sturdy. The marvel is that his uppermost two inches was not removed by the horizontal buzzsaw you are wearing.”
“But isn’t it a love?” she asked, removing it from her delightful head for the better inspection of Plummer and myself. “I got it from Louise and it broke into my last ten-pound note. If I have carfare home I’ll be lucky.”
“Straw — ribbon — feather,” I mused critically.
“It’s a corker, Grace,” chimed in Plummer, all obsequious amiability.
“You had Plummer doing apoplectic stunts on the platform,” I got back at
“Not at all,” lied the chap. “I knew you’d make it all right.”
“Well, it really wasn’t my fault,” she said. “I was coming in heaps of time, but had a telephone call at the last minute.”
“Never morning wore to evening but some heart did break,” I mused.
“No, it was just Mary Dugdale—a girl I met in Norfolk. She called me up to tell me about somebody who is crossing with us, somebody called Jane. She had told me that when I was cut off—you know what these telephones are like here.”
“I know,” gloomed Plummer sympathetically. His sufferings at the hands of the London telephone operator would have made Hamlet seem musical comedy.
“All I heard was that someone called Jane was crossing,” resumed Grace. “Before I could get the connection again I realized that waiting meant losing the train, so I tore away. I must find out who Jane is.”
“Quite a task,” I suggested. “You must imitate that Saracen girl who went round London howling for Gilbert à Becket.”
“Oh, I’ll get to know the captain and the purser, they’ll help me,” she said.
“Likewise ‘the bo’sun tight and the midshipmite and the crew of the captain’s gig’,” I added.
“Don’t be frivolous, Algy,” she rebuked. “I shall devote myself to Mr. Plummer and you, especially if you are seasick, as you probably will be. I suppose that young man I battered is going across.”
“I should suppose so,” I replied. “Probably joining the staff of the Governor-General, or on his way to be ambassador somewhere.”
“More probably going to skirt-dance on the American stage, or stalk a Chicago heiress,” grunted Plummer, who had eyed the young man without enthusiasm.
Plummer,” I con tradicted.
“He has a chin, his forehead does not slope backward, he does not lisp, and talks real Engl i s h ; he wouldn’t fill the bally-ass role that the American stage requires and the funny novelists feed to the public; he’s real English.”
“I think he looks nice,” said Grace, nodding a p-
proval of my observations, then she began to talk about her holiday. It had been her first trip over and of course everything had been wonderful. Her father was the minister of a large poor parish, living on the slender stipend the faithful pay to those who minister to their higher interests. The holiday had been made feasible by the kindness of a relative, who, visiting Canada, had taken Grace back with him for three months.
Plummer, though restored somewhat in mind, was not very talkative on the journey. He and I had known Grace ever since she was born; she was twentythree, each of us in the fifties. Sometimes I had suspected that Plummer’s regard for Grace was more than that of a friend of the family. The gap in age was not unbridgeable, be was younger than his years, a solid, dependable chap, extremely well-off, with the likelihood of being still richer. Of course it might all be guesswork, and mistaken guesswork, on my part, but I had my suspicions. Did she realize something of Plummer’s hopes ? As we journeyed on, he reserved, she paying most of her attention to me
—a buffer state, as it were—I fancied she did. When did the guarding devices about a woman’s heart fail to sound the alarm ? However, presently we came toLiverpool.
“Y/’OU know how the sea inspires sense •*■ and sociability,” Algernon proceeded after his pipe was going satisfactorily. “The three of us were leaning upon the rail watching the Welsh coast slip by when the young man whose scalp Grace had menaced appeared. In response to her smiling nod he drew near. We made ourselves known to him and learned that his name was Beaufort. For a few minutes we chatted, then he took himself off. When he had gone, Grace grabbed me by the arm.
“Why, Algy, he’s an Honorable,” she exclaimed.
“What of it, my dear Grace,” I answered. “Probably he has a kind heart and you know the relative values of hearts and coronets—not that I fancy he wears a coronet; anyway it may not be his fault—the sins of the fathers, and so forth.”
“But a real Honorable, not a mere justice of the peace or pound-keeper,”1 she said. “Isn’t an Honorable the son of a belted Earl or something?”
“I suspect so—speaking without precise knowledge,”1 I replied. “Belted or merely suspendered, I cannot say. But how did you find out?”
“From the passenger list, of course,” she replied. “I was hunting for Janes, and saw the name—The
Honorable John Beaufort-
“Do not hold it too severely against him,” I advised. “But what of the Jane investigation—any success ?”
“Not yet, but the purser, who is most obliging, is making a collection of the Janes on board, then I shall proceed by eliminating process to find Mary’s Jane. Why, here is the purser,” and surely that amiable official showed up, a large sheet of paper in his hand, a triumphant look on his visage.
“If there is another Jane on board this ship, Miss Semple, she is a stowaway,” he said. “There are fourteen Janes in the saloon, nine in the second class, thirty-seven in the steerage, and eleven among the stewardesses—that’s all, seventy-one.”
“Quite simple,” I observed. “Now at the sound of harp, psaltery, dulcimer, sackbut, and other kinds of
music let the glorious company of Janes appear; there is light at the horizon’s edge.” Beaufort, circling the deck on a 'constitutional, paused at the sound of hilarity and I addressed him.
“Y ou are press-ganged, enlisted, conscripted, and you can’t cons c i o ntiously object, Beaufort,” I said to
"Where’s the war?” he asked cheerily.
“It is a campaign of Miss Semple’s," T
“Swear m e in!” a n d he raised his right hand. I explained.
"We are looking for a
Continued on page 46
The Clutch of Circumstance
;pq:link>Continued from page ;pq:pageNum>17;/pq:pageNum>;/pq:link>
“A Jane!” he repeated.
“A particular Jane, not a Jane generically speaking. Miss Semple is looking for a Jane.” I explained. He eyed her smilingly, as much as to say that if it was a John she was looking for the bill could be filled without any further fuss.
“Rummy!” he grinned, and certainly it did look and sound rummy. A further explanation cleared things up.
“I’ll tackle steerage and stewardesses,” he volunteered stoutly. “Easier job than the dowagers and gold-bugs in our crowd—the aureaistoeracy, so to speak.” It was really quite neat, I thought. “Down with the bourgeoisie and hurray for the proletariat.”
Grace went below, and Plummer loafed off to cigar and book, so Beaufort and I had things to ourselves. He was a chummy chap, in his quiet way, and one patched up quick acquaintance with him; I was frankly curious about him. I had heard about young sprigs of nobility wobbling over to the Red bunch, but had never met a parlor Bolshevist in real life; if Beaufort was a follower of the festive Lenine I wanted to know. He didn’t fit in with my gen-
eral notions of the Red, for his hair had evidently been cut lately, and he looked as if he bathed; still a chap may not shed his vices immediately he turns Bolshevist.
“That is a strange doctrine for a man who probably is headed for Ottawa and Rideau Hall,” I observed. “I mean the proletariat stuff.”
“Who do you think I am—a coalminer, walking delegate, or labor leader?” he asked.
“The Honorable John Beaufort,” I replied.
“Exactly,” he said. “That’s the ans-
And we fell to talking; you know what an Englishman is like, if he does not take a shine to you, he’ll live in the same house with you twenty years and never get nearer to you than a nod, but if he does feel that you interest him the bars drop with a bang and you’re inside for good.
“Only,” he added, “amputate the handle, if you don’t mind. If the Governor - General wants a handy man around the house, I’m all that. I am stalking a job, the prey a pay-envelope —a stuffed pay envelope that arrives
once a week.” I gathered that he had been four years in the army, though he glossed this over, and that he did not care to stay at home bothering relatives and pals to buy wine or cigars or motor cars from him as personal favors. His father, the Earl, who was the old chap I had seen bid farewell to the youngster at Euston, had his hands full and a bit over, what with taxes, insurance for death duties, mortgage interest and upkeep of entailed estates. John donsequently wanted—not a position, an appointment, not even a situation, but a plain everyday job.
“What kind of a job?” I asked.
“A pay envelope job—stuffed, you know,” he replied.
“There is an infinite variety of pay envelope jobs,” I said.
“Then if it isn’t greedy I’ll take two,” he offered cheerily.
“What can you do?”
“And that’s the sticker!” he admitted. “I got some kind of a degree at Oxford when the examiners were dozing, soldiered a bit, just missed my cricket blue, made the golf team—I’m plus four at Numbleton—and did well in the
inter-varsity middleweights. My notion was the prize ring, but the dear old master wept at the idea, though father thought it a bit of all right; the mater thought it might spoil the girls’ chances—my sisters, you know. But—when I saw some of the stuff they put up at the National Sporting Club I wept salt tears at the damned traditions of my family; the Limehouse Kid and the Shadwell Chicken getting hundreds of pounds for pawing at one another for a few rounds—it was heartbreaking. However, in a free country without traditional and family fetters I may be able to break in.” It really was rather pathetic. Our chat was broken up by the appearance of Grace. It appeared she had been hunting Janes and was a trifle discouraged.
“Perhaps, after all, she is not on the boat,” she said. “But Mary Dugdale seemed quite certain.”
“Pardon me-—but Mary who?” inquired John.
“Mary Dugdale, a friend of mine in Norfolk,” Grace responded. “It is her Jane I am hunting.”
“Oh!” he said, rather lamely. I don’t know quite how it happened but I found myself alone, Grace and the Honorable John had drifted off—Jane hunting, I suppose. I may say that from this time on they did a lot of joint stalking, and the task seemed to require a lot of consultation, morning, afternoon, evening, and in snug corners when the night was dark. However, I am anticipating. Deserted on this particular occasion I drifted to the spot where Plummer sat. He did a lot of sitting these days because he is not at his best and brightest on the rolling wave. I found him in kicking mood and grouchy and when Grace and this John person waltzed by, arm in arm presently, he became kickier and grouchier.
“What’s that titled gink going to Canada for?” he demanded.
“A job,” I replied. “With a stuffed pay-envelope.”
“Job!” he scoffed. “Hanging round the post-office waiting for the quarterly remittance to come in. What’s he been doing to have to come out?”
“That’s all right, but he can’t capitalize that; every Canadian lad worth a hill of beans did the same; what can he do?” grunted Plummer.
“He’s had no chance—school, college, soldiering, titled family—no earthly show; it isn’t as if he’d been chucked into a job at fourteen after a course of paper selling; his education has been frightfully neglected,” I replied.
“Tell you, Algy—no earthly good,” said Plummer. “I know the breed. They’ll fight all right, but work’s foreign stuff to them. Stars at cricket and golf and football and hunting in pink, but when it comes down to earning three squares a day, thev just don’t know how, and are too high and niighty to get down and learn. Drawing-room tea-lappers, stuffed up with muffins and traditions about their own importance; their idea of success in life is marrying a girl whose father has worked hard to gather up a lump of dough and living on the results of another man’s work."
It was rather depressing, since I had at the back of my mind a notion of trying to connect the Honorable John with one of the numerous pav envelopes Plummer hands out each wt»ek. He had taken a violent dislike to the young man and the fact that Grace did not share his prejudices increased it. By the time we neared Quebec one might have thought that the two young people had known each other long years; still voyaging affairs of the kind often do not extend beyond the days of the trip. I hoped it was nothing serious for neither of them had a dollar in the world, and, so far as earning possibilities were concerned, John’s outlook was not cheery. Canada can use men, but it did not seem to me that there was a great demand for men of just the business stamp of the Honorable John Beaufort. Traditions would damn him on this side as well as that, if he let them do it.
We were nearing Quebec, the mystery about Jane had not been cleared
up, and Grace had decided that it would i.ut be. when at the last moment light was thrown upon it. The four of us were on deck, waiting for the gangway, and Beaufort had his portmanteau at his feet.
“I have something to tell you that may or may not be gratifying,” he said, smiling upon Grace. “Jane is discovered.”
“You have found her—where is she?” Grace asked delightedly.
“Here!” and he indicated himself.
“What on earth do you mean?” she demanded.
He tilted the portmanteau over, pointing to the letters on it—J.A.N.E.B.
“The persons responsible for my christening named me John Arbuthnot Ninian Evelyn—you see what the initials spell—Jane. The chaps at school fastened on them, and I’ve been Jane ever since. Mary Dugdale lives quite near our Norfolk place and is a friend of mine. Beastly disappointment I viiow—I’m sorry.” He disappeared ,-ery abruptly, after bidding us goodbye, making some facetious remark to me about boot-blacking and prize-fighting jobs. Grace overheard him, and between the remark and the very hasty way in which he had gone off she appeared rather bewildered.
“What did he mean?” she asked, when we were alone for a minute or two.
“That he proposes to edge into the ranks of the sons of Leonidas and Garibaldi—shoe-polishing, you know, or climbing into the squared circle—prizefighting,” I explained.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she admonished severely. “You mean he is poor?”
“In purse, but not in purpose,” I replied, as Plummer came up.
“Got rid of Jane,” he grinned. “Guess they named him right.” It was an unjust as well as an undiplomatic remark, for if looks could have slain, we should have had to escort the corpse of one Plummer back home. Grace looked at the unfortunate chap and he wilted perceptibly.
So we got back to the old home town and the good old routine; Grace tackling a teaching job to help out family finances, Plummer plunging into his varied interests—traction, mining, and half a dozen others, while I kept office hours again, listening to squabbles about spite fences, wobbly land titles, and the like that furnish the living of a poor but reasonably honest lawyer. >Of the Honorable John Beaufort we heard nothing, to Plummer’s joy, my disappointment, and Grace’s—well, I didn’t know; I did think, however, that deep down in her heart was something of a hope that one day, not very far away, she would see “Jane” again. There were other lads who fluttered about her, and there was Plummer booming round hopefully but she laughed, taught school, looked after the manse, played golf, and carried on generally, very charming but perhaps a thought quieter and more reserved than when she swept so tornadieally into Euston Station and bumped against John Beaufort.
TPHE STREET car was jammed with a typical Saturday night mining town crowd. Plummer and I had spent the afternoon looking over some properties he was interested in, eaten supper with the local agent, smoked and chatted awhile afterwards, and caught a late car that ran in the direction of the station. Plummer was the president of the company that operated a network of electric cars throughout the region within a thirty mile radius of our home town. Most of the passengers on this particular car were miners, their pockets lined doubtless with their week’s pay, and their spirits influenced obviously bv the agency of one John de Kuyper. Some were silent, others jovial, and a few ugly; between them the conductor was having a breezy time. I could not see him becaus" of the strap-hangers, but he appeared to be working his way along, collecting fares, diplomatically and successfully. Seated opposite to Plummer and myself was a tough-looking specimen of the
“bad man” order, who rejoiced in the i ole. He was tall and broad, ugly of face as well as of mien, and hungry for trouble. I paid no particular heed to the conductor until Plummer gave me a dig in the ribs.
“Look at the guy in the buttons,” he said. I looked, and there was the Honorable John Beaufort on the job. If he had seen us he did not show it but plugged away fare-collecting till he came to the bruiser opposite us. The trouble-seeker licked his lips appreciatively.
“What are you after?” he growled.
“Fare, please,” the other responded, and was bidden to go to a place to which travellers are supposed to go without fares.
“Come along—ante up!” said the conductor jigging the money bag. The big fellow looked up at John, sizing him up contemptuously, and held out a dime to him, tightly gripped.
“Take it if you can and dare,” he said. The crowd roared its approval of the situation. Plummer leaned forward, a grin on his face.
“Pass him up!” advised one of the pacific passengers; however, Beaufort reached forward, grasped the hand; there was a short struggle, but the conductor emerged with the dime, rang it up, and went on his way. The big chap got to his feet with a bull-like roar, but was pulled back into his seat by companions who bade him wait till the end of the trip. He took the advice and sat glowering until the end of the journey was reached.
“Now!” he said, as he stepped from the car and walked up to the conductor. “You were mighty smart inside there, we’ll see if you’re as good out here,” and he dragged off his coat in grim determination. Somebody suggested sending for the police.
“Oh, get along home,” advised Beaufort, with a grin.
“When my job’s done,” said the other. “Will you take off your coat or have your licking with it on?”
The Honorable John eyed him and saw that business was meant.
“If that’s the way of things, perhaps I’d better take it off,” smiled he. A ring was formed under the big arc light, the buttoned coat and badged hat was taken off; John’s fair hair, neatly parted in the middle, emphasizing the contrast between the two men. The first few minutes saw as wicked a fight as ever I looked upon; the miner fought after his own fashion; fist, feet, gouging, as was apparent from the way he set to work; his furious rushes seemed unescapable, for he was active as well as big, but the other fought coolly and warily—science against rough and tumble bulk. Once it seemed as if all was over, the big fellow getting home a pile driving smash, and sending his smaller antagonist flying; Beaufort managed to scramble to his feet however, as the other poised a foot to let drive, and the battle went on.
'’P'HEN the tide began to turn, Beaufort’s piston-like drive was having its effect; he was punching diplomatically, one eye of his antagonist was closed, the other looked none too good. The Honorable John had a punch, and Lhe other chap was wincing under it; from now on there was nothing to it; Beaufort went around his man like the well-known cooper round the proverbial barrel, finally finishing a most artistic job by laying the foe sprawled out and utterly done for on the gravel of the yard.
“All square!” he grinned, resuming coat and badged hat, as the other came to and sat un. “Fare paid all right. Shake hands'”
“How did you manage to get down this way?” I asked him as we walked
“Pay envelope,” he replied. “It about suited me; I tried to sell soap on commission and was a night watchman for a time -good enough jobs hut no action to them. There’s action here, as you may have observed, twenty a week and this niftv uniform; then board is cheap; the bank owes me money—the first experience of the kind I have ever en-
“Much action like that to-night?” grunted Plummer.
“No, this has been something special —much tastier,” said John.
“Not at all bad, for a starter.”
“The old gentleman over the water know about it—the Earl, I mean?” asked Plummer.
“Certainly—sent him my photograph —in uniform yanking the bell at the tail of the car—quite realistic—he thought it wonderful—expects me to be another Sirathcona in a week or two or have my biography written for the benefit of the Sunday Schools— you know the kind, chap begins picking up horseshoes in the street and is buried in a coffin with solid gold mountings.”
“Some job for an Honorable,” scoffed Plummer.
“I shall be obliged if you’ll cut that out,” said John snappily.
“I’ll not squeal,” said Plummer. “And remember a rolling stone gathers no
“It’s not moss I’m collecting, but bagging for the bank-book.”
“How long have you been here?” “Nearly a year.”
“I shall be seeing Miss Semple,” I suggested as I had my foot on the car stop. “Shall I mention that we’ve seen
“Certainly—in uniform,” he replied.
“Please present my compl-1 mean
“And report at the home offices on Wednesday next at eleven-thirty,” said Plummer. “Ask for me.”
“Very good, sir!” answered Beaufort. Plummer was silent for some time, then began to chuckle in his maliciously humorous fashion.
“What’ll you bet, Algy, that he’ll turn up in his uniform? Gosh, I’d like Grace to see him buttoned and badged.” There was a malicious edge to Plummer’s humor that I scarcely approved of.
“What will you bet that he won’t?” I countered.
“Ten dollars that he is decked up as the Honorable John to see Grace,” he
“Ten that he ’s in uniform,” I came back at him.
“It’s a go-—and no funny work, Algy.” He had the grace to apologize in response to what he saw in my eyes. Plummer is an odd bird, and sometimes is unduly suspicious of another’s good faith—the failure of breeding and manners in him.
“Grace!” I said to Miss Semple, meether on the street two days later. “I saw a friend of your’s in Pittville on Saturday night, he wished to be remembered to you.”
“It wasn’t-?” Oh, the wonderful
intuitiveness of woman, the delightful color deepened in her cheeks, her smile was very winsome.
“That is exactly who it was,” I replied. “He looked very fine and fit. and has run the stuffed pay envelope down—to some extent. He is a quite efficient conductor of a street car.” She glanced into my eyes to sec whether 1 spoke truth. Then her own kind'ed with enthusiasm that had tenderness in K.
“I think that is perfectly fin«*." she said. “I hope you scolded him for not coming over to see any of us.”
“Why, no, I didn’t.” 1 answered. “You sec—just a conductor—hell yanker, you know—he has a proper sense of the seemliness of social distinctions.” Those brown eyes had fire in them, and it scorched as they focussed upon
“Algy -I never would have believed you were a—a snob,” she said. ’Ami I didn’t think that John Beaufort would he ashamed of his position.”
“He is coming here on Weilne-day— to be carpeted, I believe. Plummer ,'s the big chief, and on Saturday there was some fuss on the «ar we travelled upon in Pit Kille; Beaufort committed a very violent assault upon a passenger, so Plummer is going to interview him—Plummer takes strong and often prejudiced views.”
“I think Mr. Plummer is a conscienceless beast,” she said, which in so charming and proper a girl as Grace was the
equivalent of violent cursing. I did not attempt Plummer’s vindication; let him stand on his own kicking legs.
I WAS about to leave the office for lunch on Wednesday when a messenger arrived with a note from Plummer.
1 opened it and a ten dollar bill dropped from the envelope.
“Stuck!” said the pencilled note. “Beaufort is coming up to you in a few minutes. You might bring him out to the Golf Club this afternoon; we ought to be civil to the Honorable, but I can’t invite him—discipline, you know. You can rig him up in suitable duds, there will be quite a swell mob out there.” That was right—a tournament was on, and many of the social lights of the vicinity would be there. I certainly could fit Beaufort out; in height and figure we were not dissimilar. Presently he hove in sight garbed in full canonicals, cap and "d--thc minion of the Traction Company. We chatted a few minutes, time was getting on, so I asked him to lunch with me. He looked at me in his frankly appraising fashion, then cast a suggestive glance at the badged cap on the table. I guess he saw that I had invited him, appreciating the situation.
“I’ll be glad to,” he responded.
UrHEN WE got back to the office ’ ’ we had a short talk over cigars. He intimated, with a grin, that Plummer had done the high and mighty stunt, as Plummer was well able to do; the President 'had informed him that it was his business to punch tickets and not the countenances of the company’s patrons. It was like Plummer to let tile chap come in with expectations of promotion, and then proceed to flatten him out.
“What about a turn round the links.” I said, when we had finished smoking. “There is a tournament on, and you could get into it if you desired. Entries may be made up to the starting hour, and your English Nurpbleton membership will make you eligible; I shall be glad to hand your name in; it is an all-comer’s scratch competition, eighteen holes medal play.”
“I’d like a round,” he replied. “Plummer gave me the day off, and hinted something about golf going on.”
“I think I can fit you out with things,” I said eyeing him over. His glance caught mine, and I saw in a flash what Plummer’s idea was in sending him on to me, and suggesting the golf. He wanted to find out if the chap would have the sand to present himself to Grace Semple in his bell-yanking uniform; I was to be the tempter to offer to the chap the costume to cover up his job.
“What’s the marier with this suit?” he said, looking down over his smart, neatly pvessed uniform. Accustomed to soldierly neatness he had given the rig a quite trim appearance. If Plummer thought he could out-manoeuvre this bird, he had one more guess coming.
“Why — nothing,” I replied, a bit awkwardly. “I thought perhaps the orthodox rig would be more comfortable.” “Then if the bid still holds good I’ll go as I am," he said. “And as a favor, please, no name handles.”
Truly we had a mob out, all the beautv and fashion of the vicinity, the girls in their smartest, the lads in their niftiest. I flatter myself that I created the real sensation when I strolled into the grounds with my friend whose badged hat bore the legend “Pitrid1 e Traction Company, Conductor 37.” The glasses levelled at us reminded one of a file of rifles ready for business. I heard a visitor from a neighboring club inquire if the show was a “bally fancy dress affair.” Plummer looked frankly disappointed.
“He is a bona-fide amateur?” asked Potts, the secretary, regarding the visitor with some suspicion.
“Absolutely,” I replied, with, I fear, small first-hand information. “Numbleton sounds good enough.”
“Your certificate is enough,” he said, and so the entry was accepted. “And,” added Potts, “if he can manage to wipe the eyes of two or three pot-hunters
who haunt these all-comers’ events we will chant a solemn Te Deum after the show. But you won’t mind my mentionin'' it—his garb is somewhat notable.”
“C’est la guerre!” I hissed; it was the first time I’d found a chance to fire off the great excuse. I don’t think Potts quite knew what it meant, for he replied,
“By all means; I’m sorry I mentioned it.”
“Is ho any good, Algy?” asked Plummer, strolling up.
“Quite tolerable,” I replied. “Plus four at Numbleton.”
“You don’t say!” he said. “If he can knock Strickland out this afternoon I’ll be ready to fall on his neck and kiss him.” Strickland was a Liberal, Plummer a Conservative, and in the last campaign Strickland had called Plummer a horse leech, a cut throat, a devourer of the flesh of the common people, a blot on the face of our failtwentieth century civilization, and a few other airy compliments of the
“He’s met Grace,” Plummer added rather mournfully. “She seems to think he’s borrowed King George’s Sunday clothes, but she has her little knife into you and me.”
“Into me!” I exclaimed.
“Sure—didn’t you bring him?” the shirker asked—no wonder he’s a successful politician. “Grace thinks we plotted to make a holy show of the Honorable before this gay and snobbish bunch, and we shan’t square it off with a pleasant word and a smile; there’s war in the girl’s eye, and she packs a wallop, if you’d like to know.”
“Where is she?” I asked.
He beckoned me to a window, and there they were, blue cloth with brass buttons, hat with the Pittville badge and number—summery white, gauzy, filmy stuff, hat—straw, ribbon, rose, you know. They turned and approached the verandah, and you might have supposed that she had the ranking Admiral of the Grand Fleet as escort. And then the draw was made and the big scrap was on. As luck would have it Strickland and Beaufort came together in the draw, and were the last pair to go out. It was a queer match, the battle between a known champion and an unknown, and the interest that is roused by the presence of the unknown quantity was evident. The chap cut sudi a funny figure in his conductor’s rig—some were disposed to regard it as a practical joke, but others took Plummer’s word that he was a bona-fide bel! yanker. The game might be an absolute fiasco but Beaufort did r.ot impress one as a fiasco chap, and the mob streamed out after them. There is no need to spin out the story of the battle, but it will go down to history as the most memorable fight the Club tournament ever produced; they were never more than a couple of strokes apart from first to eighteenth green, both going in top form and knocking bogey galley west. When they holed out the eighteenth they were level—72 apiece on a 78 par course, with an 80 the best score outside theirs and the entry just half a dozen of the pick of the locality. Strickland had the long game, but when it came to the scientific part, the mashie work, the crafty put, the other always evened up the swiping advantage.
Beaufort always seemed to be the back man, and yet he was there when the goal was reached.
“Toss or fight for it?” asked Strickland, when they holed out the eighteenth.
“Fight—neck or nothing!” grinned Beaufort, and the eyes of Grace smiled. Parson’s girl, but she loved the fighter.
“He’s got him,” whispered Plummer in my ear. “Golf’s applied psychology, it’s an admission by Strickland that he may be licked; yon’d never wring that from the other duck; he’s got to be licked before he thinks it’s possible.”
Beaufort had the honor; the ball whizzed through the air, far and sure, and the match was over; Strickland pulled into the rough, was on the green yards away from the hole in five, Beaufort stony dead in three.
“Y/'OU’LL dine with me, Beaufort?”
* I said as the crowd melted away.
“Awfully good of you,” he answered. “But Mr. Semple has invited me to the manse.”
“And you are coming too, Algy,” said Grace, with something of forgiveness in her eyes.
“I shall be delighted,” I answered, and so I was. I wished they had asked Plummer, though; it was like him to vanish as soon as the big show was over, and he had got what he wanted.
The best thing about the manse is its garden, a long rambling rose-grown place that stretches down to the river. Semple and Mrs. Semple are very delightful people, and we chatted out on the lawn till the sun dropped behind the hills and the quiet dusk crept up over the landscape.
Grace and Beaufort had taken the boat and gone up the river. The elder people had gone indoors leaving me to Aait for the young people; I smoked and reflected in the scented darkness until I saw them coming up, very slowly, along the winding path, the white figure of the girl, the less distinct one of the man, and they were very near together. They drew near to me, their arms intertwined.
“Algy!” said Grace. “We would like you to know first.” And they stood before me like two delicious culprits. I knew what it was to be a father, in that moment, judicious, grave, unsentimental.
“You know very little of each other,” I observed, which was quite properly paternal.
“We know enough for our purposes,” said John. “That it will be the same in a year, a hundred years, an eternity —just Grace for me, and me for Grace.”
“But, my dear children, married people do not live like butterflies, and the ravens no longer feed Elijahs, to say nothing of providing hats and gowns for Mrs. Elijah,” I said in my worldliest-wise way.
“I’ve a pay envelope,” he said.
“Not over-heavily stuffed,” I reminded him.
“But things will be better. I don’t want Grace to marry me, of course, till I can give her a proper home,” he said.
“Father and mother married on much less than twenty dollars a week,” she said. “I can work in the home just as well as he can out of it; I am not afraid.”
“Well, we must consider the situation,” I replied in my best heavy father style. So we went indoors and the Semples heard the news; they were a little bewildered; Grace was their only child, and, unworldly as they were, the wife of a street-car conductor did not seem a very brilliant position for a very brilliant girl. I left early and went down to my house meditating on that perplexing problem—love. Grace might have had Plummer, his fine house, his cars, his social position, his money; she might have had her pick of a dozen other likely lads, and she had—a bellyanker! No, that wasn’t right—she had first a man, an Honorable in more senses than one.
In the midst of my cogitations who should drop in but Plummer. He helped himself to a cigar and a drink, and sat down.
“Don’t know when I felt happier,” he said. “Strickland thought he had that gold medal hanging to his lapel; I’ll bet he’s sore as a boil. Where’s the Honorable Number 37?”
“I left him at the manse just now,”' I said. “We were there together to dinner.”
“Funny he didn’t come away with you,” Plummer commented.
“Not very,” I said. “He and Grace had private affairs to—well, discuss.”He stared at me long and earnestly.
“And that’s right?” he asked.
“She’s going to marry a bell-yanker on a one-horse line—a kind of nickel gathering chucker-out?”
“The portents point that way,” I said.
“Then, by Gosh, she ain’t!” He did' not say “By Gosh,” but something much more improper. He was standing, and! waving his glass menacingly.
“Who’ll prevent it?” I demanded.
“1 will,” he said.
“Sit down for a time, and when you get home put a wet cold compress round that heated brain of yours,” I said. “If Grace says she’ll marry a bell-yanker, she’ll marry him.”
“She won’t,” he answered heatedly. “That’s one time I licked him. When I got back from that game this afternoon I yanked him into the office as my assistant. He don’t know much, but we can teach him, the point is he’s got the punch, stands up to the lumps of tallow, fights the big chap to the last hole and trims him there; that’s what we want—the man, the rest’s easy. There isn’t much in it—$2,500 to start with, but money’s the last thing that bird will ever have to worry about; he knows the password, remember what he said about getting down to ground level—the muck, he called it. He don’t know it yet, but to-morrow he’ll have to pull off that uniform he’s taken such a shine to, and get into common duds like yours and mine.”