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V 







BY L. ALLEN HARKER 


THE VAGARIES OF TOD AND PETER 
THE REALLY ROMANTIC AGE 
THE BRIDGE ACROSS 
MONTAGU WYCHERLY 
ALLEGRA 

CHILDREN OF THE DEAR COTSWOLDS 
JAN AND HER JOB 
THE FFOLLIOTS OF REDMARLEY 
MISS ESPERANCE AND MR. WYCHERLY 
MR. WYCHERLY’S WARDS 
MASTER AND MAID 
CONCERNING PAUL AND FIAMMETTA 
A ROMANCE OF THE NURSERY 


CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS 



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THE BROKEN BOW 












































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THE 


BROKEN BOW 


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BY 


Lit ALLEN HARKER 


NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS 


* 

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Copyright, 1924 , by 
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS 


Printed in the United States of America 




OCT 10 1924 9 . 

©Cl A 807299' - - 





CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Book I. The Little Friends. 1 

Book II. Interplay. 51 

Book III. The Real Thing. 231 









BOOK I 
1909 

THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


“What is to come we know not. But we know 
That what has been was good—was good to show, 
Better to hide, and best of all to bear. 

We are the masters of the days that were. 

We have lived, we have loved, we have suffered 
. . . even so.” 


W. E. Henley. 


CHAPTER I 


i 

1 ITTLE Hesper’s heart was thumping in her 
j ears when her mother parted from her at 
the bottom of the steps leading to the front door 
of Olveston House, “Select Academy for Young 
Ladies,” in Brunswick Square. 

There were twelve steps, shallow, spotlessly 
white, and, apparently, untrodden that morning. 

They stretched before her, alarming in their prim 
parallelism, and she glanced down anxiously to see 
if her rather faltering feet had sullied their virgin 
fairness. 

Luckily it was a dry day. She took courage 
and mounted to the top. 

And even as Hesper’s heart thumped and 
expanded in delicious terror and excitement, so 
did her mother’s heart contract with a spasm of 
pain as the beloved little figure limped up the 
steps and Hesper’s white, little face, with broad 
forehead and enormous eyes, was turned over her 
shoulder in a brave attempt to smile as she kissed 
her hand in farewell. 


3 


4 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Would the other girls be kind to the child? 
Would any of them realize her fragility, her gentle¬ 
ness, her anxiety to please? 

Just then a pony-trap drew up and a little girl 
jumped out of it and ran up the steps, calling 
imperiously to the groom, “Half-past four sharp, 
Kilby—not a second later, mind.” 

There was nothing fragile about this child. 
Straight and square-shouldered, with a mane of 
light brown hair streaming to her waist, she was 
a head taller than Hesper, who stood on the top 
step lost in admiring wonder. Hesper knew per¬ 
fectly well who she was. Every one in Erampton 
Massey knew Squire Collett’s granddaughter by 
sight. Big and handsome like all the Colletts, with 
wide, wine-brown eyes set far apart on either side 
of the arrogant, inquiring little nose; a fair skin 
that freckled easily, a delightful radiant smile that 
produced dimples and changed the proud expres¬ 
sion to one of endearing friendliness. 

The elastic of Hesper’s hat was worn under her 
chin. Susan’s was under her hair. This, at the 
very outset, gave Susan an advantage in Hesper’s 
eyes. She noticed it at once, and, having already 
fallen in love with Susan’s hair, was completely 
subjugated when Susan smiled at her, asking, 
“Have you rung, or d’you suppose we go straight 
in?” 

“I’m not sure if we ought to be at this door at 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 5 

all. I see other girls going down that path at the 
side.” 

“Oh, well, let's ring as we're here,” Susan said, 
and gave the bell a vigorous pull. 

The door was opened and Hesper turned to blow 
one last kiss to her mother before it closed again 
and swallowed them up. 


ii 

“Bless her! Bless her! Bless her! Make 
them good to her and let her be happy—my precious 
little lady.” 

So, portly Mrs. Stowe, as, with tears in her eyes, 
she hurried from the somewhat shabby gentility of 
Brunswick Square towards the High Street. 

A big woman, a heavy woman, yet a woman 
who moved easily and swiftly. Plainly dressed in 
good clothes, that were somehow so markedly 
prosperous and middle-aged that they made her 
look as though she were dressed for a character 
part. 

When she reached High Street the clocks were 
striking nine, and she stood on the edge of the 
pavement to look at her own house. The shutters 
were just coming down from the large plate-glass 
window of “The Surprise.” Even in a street of 
beautiful old houses it was noticeable. Even with¬ 
out the sign-board of three huge exclamation marks 


6 


THE BROKEN BOW 


in gilt on a black ground. Timbered, sharply 
gabled, with its three stories above the ground 
floor each extending beyond the other. 

Mrs. Stowe crossed over and went in, 

hi 

The thrills and adventures of Hesper’s first 
morning at Olveston House culminated in the 
discovery that she and Susan were the only girls 
who, that day, were to remain for the midday 
dinner. 

It was a silent meal. The Miss Foldacres and 
Miss Pope, a handsome, sulky-looking young 
woman who assisted them, were all rather fussed 
and tired. Susan, though still looking quite un¬ 
abashed and observant, refrained from comment 
of any kind; and Hesper was too excited to eat, 
far less talk. 

Miss Pope usually “took playground,” but as 
there were only two girls, and both of them new, 
she saw that they put on their outdoor shoes and 
sought her own bed and a novel she had been 
reading in the train. 

The playground, once a square garden, was now 
entirely covered with gravel, save for a thick hedge 
of lilacs at the side. At the far end there were 
two swings and two benches. 

“Awful rot making us change our shoes every 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


7 


time we go out for a minute/' Susan said discon¬ 
tentedly. “I never do at home. Anyway, I won’t 
wear a hat." And she flung hers back into the 
dressing-room. 

Hesper watched her, rather shocked but still 
admiring. “What would you like to do?" she 
asked politely. 

“I should like to get out of this and go some¬ 
where, but I suppose I daren’t, not the first day. 
Let’s go and swing. Can you stand on the swing? 
Does it make you giddy?" 

Hesper wasn’t sure, and as she limped across 
the playground Susan inwardly decided that she’d 
better not. 

“You sit on that bench a minute—it’s jolly in 
the sun—and I’ll see how high I can send this old 
swing." 

She jumped up on the seat and stood, tall and 
straight, grasping the ropes, working herself to and 
fro, faster and faster, till it seemed to Hesper she 
had attained to an incredible speed. Her long 
hair streamed in the wind of her passing, her eyes 
shone, her cheeks took on a deeper rose, and the 
admiration so plainly visible on Hesper’s upturned 
face spurred her to further efforts till the old posts 
seemed to sway, and the iron rings in the cross-bar 
creaked in protest. 

Hesper grew frightened. “Oh, please don’t go 
so high," she said; “it might break or something." 


8 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“It does sound rather groggy,” Susan answered 
cheerfully, and slowed down. 

“Don’t you hate it here?” she asked, coming 
to sit beside Hesper. 

“Oh, no. Why should I? They’re all so 
kind.” 

“But it’s so beastly dull; and I hate lessons 
—don’t you?” 

“Oh, no,” Hesper exclaimed in astonishment. 
“I love them. I’ve only been allowed to do such 
a little, and I want to know things dreadfully 
—don’t you?” 

“Oh, no!” Susan mimicked her. “I don’t, not 
a bit. What’s the good?” 

“It’s so interesting—for one thing.” 

“But that’s just what it isn’t. How can you 
say it was interesting this morning?” 

“Well, the exam, papers were silly, they were 
so easy; but I expect they thought . . . because 
we’d neither of us been to school before. ... At 
least, I haven’t.” 

“I don’t know about ‘easy’—except the arith¬ 
metic; that was potty.” 

“It was absurd,” said Hesper. “I did all that 
three years ago.” 

“Gracious! How old are you?” 

“I’m eleven.” 

“Why, Fm eleven. I thought you were about 
seven.” 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


9 


Hesper looked depressed. “I suppose,” phe paid 
humbly, “it's because I’m so small.” 

“Never mind. I expect you’re awfully clever, 
though,” Susan said, “if you’re so keen on learn¬ 
ing.” 

“My brother is—awfully clever. He’s taught 
me a lot.” 

“Taught you! Your brother!” Susan repeated 
in astonishment. “I’d like to see one of my 
brothers trying to teach me. I’d soon learn them 
something—except,” she added, “to bat. David 
does coach me sometimes.” 

“My brother is much older than me. He was 
the cleverest boy in Frampton Massey. Mr. Payne 
told mother so.” ♦ 

“Who’s Mr. Payne?” 

“He’s head master at the Grammar School. 
He said, *. . . I expect great things of your 
son, Mrs. Stowe, great things.’ That’s what he 
said.” 

“What else can your brother do besides be 
clever?” 

“How d’you mean?” 

“Well, what can he ’do?” 

“I don’t understand,” Hesper said patiently. 
“Do what?” 

“Well, what’s his batting average?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Is he in his school eleven?” 


10 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“He’s not at school. He’s at Cambridge. He’s 
eight years older than me.” 

“Well, people play cricket at Cambridge. Has 
he got his blue?” 

“I don’t know what that is.” 

“You’d know fast enough if he’d got it. 
Was he in the footer fifteen at the Grammar 
School?” 

“He played football . . . sometimes,” Hesper 
said cautiously. 

“Can he ride?” 

“I don’t think so.” 

“Can he row?” 

“Oh, yes; he takes mother and me on the 
river. It’s lovely.” 

“Is he tall?” 

“Ye-e-s . . . rather ...” 

“Is he handsome?” 

“It depends what you call handsome. I love 
his face.” 

“Well, we’re all supposed to be handsome,” 
Susan said, “though I don’t see it’s done us any 
good, and, I dare say, we shall all be hideous by 
the time we’re grown up.” 

“I’m sure,” Hesper said earnestly, “that you’ll 
always be lovely. You are the loveliest person I’ve 
ever seen. . . . Very, very lovely, like the princess 
in a fairy-tale.” 

“You are a queer little kid,” Susan exclaimed, 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


11 


dimpling with pleasure. “You remind me some¬ 
how of Hamish and grandpapa.” 

“I’d like to look like your grandpapa,” Hes- 
per said eagerly, “but I don’t see how it’s 
possible.” 

“It’s not in looks you’re like him—not a bit— 
but the funny way you say things . . . sort of 
reminds me . . . ” 

“And who is Hamish?” 

“Hamish is my Cairn terrier; and when he cocks 
his ears and watches my face he’s like you—at 
least, you’re like him. I feel I ought to give you a 
biscuit.” 

Hesper sighed. “There’s the bell and some 
of the other girls coming. We’ll have to go in. 
Thank you so much for talking to me.” 

“You are a funny little thing,” Susan said. 
“But I like you. We’ll be friends.” And she put 
her hand under Hesper’s arm to help her across 
the playground. 


IV 

In the dressing-room the three Miss Beebys were 
playing football with Susan’s hat, which they had 
found on the floor. 

Perceiving this, Susan rushed to their pegs, tore 
away their hats, kicked the lot down the steps 
into the playground, and was going after them 


12 


THE BROKEN BOW 


when the eldest Miss Beeby caught her by the hair 
and hung on to it hard. 

“Beast!” Susan cried, and let out a good hard 
kick that caught her on the knee. She screamed 
and let go of Susan’s hair, while her sisters flung 
themselves upon Susan with a shower of slaps and 
hair-tweakings. 

Hesper stood trembling in a corner, trying to 
brush the dust from Susan’s hat. 

“Stop it!” Susan gasped. “Stop it, else you’ll 
be sorry. I’ll biff you in a minute. Stop it, I 
say!” 

And sure enough Susan did biff the second Miss 
Beeby just under the jaw, and she ceased to slap 
Susan. 

Meanwhile other girls had arrived, filling the 
doorway with shouts and gesticulations. The eldest 
Miss Beeby sat on the floor, sobbing, as she rolled 
down her stocking to observe the damage. The 
second Miss Beeby held her face and rocked to 
and fro, too indignant and astonished to cry. 
Susan, scarlet and dishevelled, held the wrists of 
the third Beeby sister while they did a sort of 
war-dance in the middle of the dressing-room. 

Miss Foldacre, Miss Lucy and Miss Pope—Miss 
Pope, who ought to have been there to “keep the 
dressing-room,” was last—all rushed upon the 
scene, and the noise diminished. 

“What does this mean?” Miss Foldacre asked, 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


13 


in a tragic voice. “Young ladies fighting! Young 
ladies in my school! Miss Collett, can you explain 
this conduct ?” 

Susan let go of Annie Beeby’s wrists. “We’ve 
had a bit of a scrap,” she mumbled, “and we all 
lost our tempers.” 

“She kicked our hats into the playground,” 
Annie Beeby panted. 

“Yes, she did; we saw her,” voices corroborated 
from the door. 

“But they were kicking ...” Hesper began, 
when Susan cut her short with, “Shut up, you 
aren’t in this at all.” 

“She turned on us like a tiger,” Violet Beeby 
cried. “Look at my knee.” 

There was a large bruise. 

“And she hit me in the face; dreadful she hit 
me,” Clara Beeby took up the tale. 

“But why?” asked the bewildered Miss Fold- 
acre. 

Nobody answered. 

“Well, it was all very disgraceful,” Miss Lucy 
said briskly, “but we can’t waste any more time 
over it now. Get back to the schoolroom, all of 
you, as quickly as possible.” 

Going down the passage, Susan whispered to 
Violet Beeby, “I’m sorry about your knee, but 
even the boys never pull my hair. I’ve got such 
a tender head.” 


14 


THE BROKEN BOW 


v 

“Well, well/' Miss Lucy said when all the girls 
had gone home. “I suppose we’re lucky to have 
two new girls in the summer terms, even if one of 
them is rather quarrelsome. After all, she’ll only 
be here one term.” 

“I wish now that the other had waited till the 
autumn,” Miss Sophia said. “I can’t feel that 
Miss Collett would like it, if she knew, having her 
niece at the same school with a confectioner’s 
daughter. ...” 

“You can’t choose the girls to please Miss Collett, 
Sophia. Why, you know very well they’re none 
of them ‘county,’ and never will be. And if it 
wasn’t that there’s no High School or girls’ depart¬ 
ment in the Grammar School, we shouldn’t have 
any children at all. I’m glad enough to get Hesper 
Stowe. A nice, well-spoken, gentle little thing 
she seems to me, and it’s sad for her, being lame. 
Extremely pretty manners she has. I’ve always 
heard that Mrs. Stowe has brought her up like 
any little lady.” 

“I dare say, I dare say,” Miss Sophia allowed, 
“but the fact remains there is the shop—that 
restaurant. So odd to call it ‘The Surprise/ as if 
it was a public-house. It is licensed too, which 
seems so very . . . And I’ve heard—I hope it 
isn’t true—that she tastes the wines and things 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


15 


herself before she buys them . . . like any man.” 

“And what if she does?” Miss Lucy demanded 
stoutly. “If she sells wine she ought to know 
whether it’s good or bad. And you know the 
quantities of people that dine at The Surprise’ 
in summer, so as to go on the river afterwards. 
Even such grand people motoring from miles and 
miles away, drinking the best champagne like water. 
It is a surprise to find a place run like that in a 
little country town.” 

“Well, thank goodness, she doesn’t live over it 
now, that’s one thing. If she had, I don’t think 
I could ever have consented to take her little girl. 
As it is, I am dubious. It seems a lowering of the 
tone of the school, and I’m not at all sure . . .” 

“Now don’t be ridiculous, Sophia, all sorts of 
grand people have shops now, and I’m sure I don’t 
blame them if they can make any money at it, 
for money’s hard enough to come by any other 
way. We’re in the twentieth century, Sophia, the 
ninth year of it, and it’s no use thinking things 
are the same as they were in the nineteenth, for 
they’re not.” 


VI 

Hesper had been very lonely since they moved 
to The Nook, in Wolseley Road. There was always 
so much to look at in the High Street. Even in 


16 


THE BROKEN BOW 


winter there were market days, and in summer it 
was gay indeed. When increase of business drove 
Mrs. Stowe’s family to the top floor and the attics, 
there was still always a window-seat where a deeply 
interested little girl could watch motors drive up 
and deposit guests who, in summer, went through 
to the back to have tea in the garden. Then would 
Hesper also hurry through to the back and from 
the window of her own room track the party to 
a table under the trees. On warm days, when all 
the windows were open, scraps of conversation 
would float up to her (this was what her mother 
objected to), and she would tell herself long stories 
about the people. If they were young and attrac¬ 
tive, they were straightway woven into the tales 
in the Red Fairy Book. 

She would have loved to lie out in her long chair 
in the pretty garden sloping to the river, and to 
watch the gay visitors having tea; but her mother 
wouldn’t hear of it. Customers would certainly 
stare at her. They might even speak to her, and 
inquire what was the matter, and Hesper hated 
to be asked about her lameness. 

But all day long there was something to interest 
one at “The Surprise,” and sometimes kindly folk, 
looking up, would notice the little watching face 
so high above the busy street, and wave to her, 
and she would gleefully wave in return, feeling 
warmed and befriended by their notice. 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


17 


There was nothing to watch at The Nook. Even 
the garden, though very tidy, was uninteresting, 
with its square patch of lawn, red-brick walls, 
and neatly trimmed laurels. It was a geranium- 
calceolaria-petunia-lobelia-marguerite sort of gar¬ 
den. And in front of the dining-room window 
there grew a monkey tree which looked so sinister 
and grasping that Hesper was quite afraid of it. 


VII 

The doctor was passing “The Surprise,” and 
looked in to see Mrs. Stowe in her office. 

Young, keen, and progressive, he was interested 
in Hesper, who thought him like a fairy prince, 
because he was so kind and good-looking. 

“Well, how’s the scheme answering? How is 
Hesper getting on at school?” 

“She seems happy enough, but so far as the 
education goes, I don’t believe she’ll learn anything 
at all.” 

“Good!” he said heartily. “Couldn’t be better. 
That’s just exactly what I hoped. Hesper’s all 
mind and spirit. She’s like a little flame that has 
been fanned till it consumes all the fuel it’s got 
over it. Does she play with the other children? 
Has she made any friends?” 

“She’s made one. At least, she’s crazy about 
one girl there—you know Hesper’s way—utterly 


18 


THE BROKEN BOW 


taken up with anyone that interests her. Fm a 
bit worried about it.” 

“Worried! Why?” 

“Because I know it can’t come to much, and 
when it ends, as it will end, Hesper’ll suffer. It’s 
so easy to hurt her, unfortunately. She’s so thin- 
skinned.” 

“You’re very pessimistic, Mrs. Stowe. Aren’t 
you rather making mountains out of molehills? 
Who is the child?” 

“Little Susan Collett, from Aylberne Manor.” 

“Why, what on earth is she doing at that 
school?” 

“I can’t think; but there she is, and somehow 
or other she and Hesper have struck up one of 
those tiresome friendships that seems somehow 
to cut them off from all the other girls. I can’t 
explain it. You know what a real child Hesper 
is, and how she longed for other children, and now 
she’s there and got them, she doesn’t seem to be 
aware of any other girls, only this Susan Collett. 
I’m quite concerned about it, for, of course, I know 
perfectly well the Collett child will never be allowed 
to keep Hesper as a friend afterwards, whatever 
they may do now—and she feels things so.” 

Mrs. Stowe’s large lined face was turned towards 
the doctor, and for the hundredth time in their 
acquaintance he wondered how such a shrewd, 
practical woman came to be the mother of this 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


19 


fragile, nervous child, who seemed to have her 
being in an intense emotional and intellectual life, 
a world away from everything that was ordinary 
or common or rough. How had she managed, this 
stout, common-sensical woman, to keep her little 
daughter so entirely unspotted from the middle- 
class, hearty, business community in which she 
spent her own laborious days? 

A pity she had managed it, the doctor thought. 

“I’ve seen that Collett child from time to time, 
and if you’d asked me I’d have said she was the 
last little girl in the world to attract or be attracted 
by Hesper. She’s a wild little devil, born naughty, 
always in mischief; but I expect she was lonely 
too. Parents in India, brothers all at school, a 
not particularly sympathetic aunt, and her grand¬ 
father buried deep in Archaeological Records. 
Mind, I don’t believe there’s the least harm in the 
child, but she’s just as beef and pudding as Hesper 
is ethereal: a capital friend for her. You leave 
them alone. What Hesper wants more than any¬ 
thing else is a little wholesome neglect and mental 
hardening, and I should say the Collett child’s 
likely to give her that. You’ve wrapped her in 
cotton-wool from the day she was born.” 

And yet, he reflected, as he went on his rounds, 
there must be a curiously strong streak of imagina¬ 
tion somewhere in Mrs. Stowe herself. The child’s 
name, for instance. Hesper—the evening star; 


20 


THE BROKEN BOW 


because, when she was born, Emma Stowe was 
forty-eight years old and her only son nearly nine. 

Then look what she’d done with the business 
since Samuel Stowe, decent, unenterprising little 
confectioner, had died ten years ago. The woman 
had taste. She had an eye for colour and form 
and grouping as well as for good catering. To be 
sure she dropped an “h” occasionally, and, when 
she was eager or excited, betrayed by her accent 
that she had been born well within the sound of 
Bow Bells. 

The doctor was fond of her and admired her. 
She was so capable and intelligent; jolly too, and 
sensible about everything except those children of 
hers. They were her religion. She had set them 
up like an altar in her heart, in a sort of holy 
place, and spent herself to keep it fair and seemly. 

He shook his head. 

No good, he thought, comes of trying to bring up 
children to be too refined for their surroundings. 
There was that boy at Cambridge. Well, well, 
poor Emma Stowe would probably find out the 
mistake she was making before so very long. 


CHAPTER II 


i 

S USAN and her grandfather were having tea 
together in the library at Aylberne. She 
liked having tea alone with him. There were 
always more and better cakes in the library than 
at schoolroom tea. She wondered why: for grand¬ 
papa never ate anything but one piece of thin, 
dry toast. 

He was so different from Aunt Myrtle. He never 
said, “That’s enough, Susan; you seem to have 
overlooked the bread-and-butter.” Grandpapa, if 
he noticed at all, would say, “Have you tried the 
ones with the pink icing, Susan? They look more 
interesting than those yellow scones.” 

Grandpapa was a dear. 

“And you’re happy at this little school?” he 
asked, in his kind voice. “You like your school¬ 
fellows?” 

“I like one of them most awfully. The others 
are all right, but I’m not very keen on them. 
Grandpapa, need I go that silly walk every day 
between twelve and one? I do hate it so.” 

21 


22 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“But if it’s a rule, Susan?” 

She munched steadily for a minute. You mustn’t 
answer grandpapa with your mouth full—“I’m 
sure if you wrote and said you didn’t like me to, 
they wouldn’t mind.” 

“But what would you do instead? You couldn’t 
be left all by yourself. And fresh air and exercise 
are considered so necessary.” 

Mr. Collett spoke diffidently. He wasn’t par¬ 
ticularly fond of either himself. 

“But I shouldn’t be by myself, Grandpapa; 
that’s just it. I’d stay with my little friend. 
Think of it, Grandpapa! Two and two through 
the park to the river and back by Mercer Road. 
Always the same sort of walk, eight of us, counting 
Popey with her long nose, walking—walking—not 
to anything or to do anything, but just walking. 
If I must have that sort of exercise, can’t I walk 
home in the evening instead? It’s only three 
miles.” 

“I’m afraid that would never do, Susan. Aunt 
Myrtle wouldn’t like that at all—and I shouldn’t 
like it myself. But you haven’t told me what you 
would do between twelve and one if you didn’t go 
for a walk with the others.” 

“I’d play in the cat-run and talk to Hesper. 
She’s lame, that’s why she can’t go for walks; so 
she lies out there in a long chair, and I could sit 
on the end of it and we could talk and talk. I’d 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


23 


love that, Grandpapa. I never see her enough, 
only in snippets and scraps, and odds and ends of 
scribbles and whispers, and we’ve got such a lot 
to tell one another, and I don’t see how we’re 
ever to manage it. Can’t I stay with her morn¬ 
ings?” 

“I see your point, my child; I see your point. 
But you’re not lame, thank God, and there’s really 
no reason why you shouldn’t walk with the others, 
so I’m afraid I mustn’t interfere with the regular 
routine of the school. It wouldn’t be fair. I’m 
sorry, but . . .” 

“ Then what’s to be done? How am I ever to 
talk to Hester? Talk enough? Listen, Grand¬ 
papa, may I ask her here one half-holiday? Next 
Wednesday’s the nearest. Will you let me have 
her next Wednesday? Let me bring her home 
to luncheon with me in the bucket . . . and I’m 

sure we could send her back in the evening after 
tea, couldn’t we? That would be one long, lovely 
afternoon. Oh, Grandpapa, will you?” 

Susan abandoned her important post behind the 
teapot and flung herself upon her grandfather, 
clasping him round the neck and squeezing her 
face against his in an agony of supplication. 

a Why not? Why not?” he gasped, from 
beneath her strangle-hold. “I think that’s an 
excellent plan. . . . Sit up, Susan dear, you’re 
rather heavy.” 


24 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You are a darling,” she cried ecstatically. 
“ You’ve made me so happy—but. . . you’ll have 
to write a note, you know.” 

“ Certainly. To whom do I write—to Miss 
Foldacre?” 

“No. I think it would be best to write to her 
mother. Mrs. Stowe’s her name, and the address 
is The Nook, Wolseley Road.” 

“Ah! One of those dreadful new villas, I 
expect.” 

“Never mind the villa just now, Grandpapa,” 
Susan said hurriedly. “ It’s not coming to tea. 
Will you write the note soon?” 

“ Directly we’ve finished tea.” 

“You’ll say it nicely, you’ll explain how 
much I want it? You think they’ll let her 
come?” 

“Unless she has some other engagement, I see 
no reason why her mother shouldn’t let her come. 
Tell me more about her. Did you say her name 
was Hester?” 

“ Hes -per, Grandpapa, not ‘ ter.’ Mind you spell 
it right. She’s perfectly sweet. Very little, with 
short funny hair and a whispery voice, and . . . 

Oh, I don’t know how to say it. She’s different 
somehow, and I do love her most awfully.” 

“Are you in the same class?” 

“ I really don’t know. I don’t understand their 
classes. We do some things at the same time, 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


25 


but she’s far cleverer than any of us; and, it’s 
awfully funny, she enjoys lessons, she really 
does.” 

“I suppose,” Mr. Collett said thoughtfully, 
“ that is rather unusual.” 

“ Have you finished now, Grandpapa? Will 
you write the note? And will you seal it with 
your red sealing-wax?—and may I squash the seal 
down on it? ” 


ii 

They drove along white roads between tall, 
ragged hedges exquisite in their early summer 
green. They turned in at great gates with pillars 
crowned by carved stone eagles holding the Collett 
coat of arms, and along an avenue of elm trees, to 
the friendly, beautiful old manor-house. 

They arrived just in time for luncheon with 
grandpapa, and sat, one on each side of him, at 
the head of a long polished refectory table, where 
generations of Colletts had broken bread. Such a 
high table it was that Gosslin, the old butler, 
brought a fat cushion to raise Hesper. 

Hungry Susan, who always wanted a second 
helping, said very little. The squire, as usual, 
dreamed through his meal. Hesper picked at her 
food like a fastidious wren and looked, and looked, 
and looked. 


26 


THE BROKEN BOW 


It seemed a long luncheon to Hesper, but at 
last the squire finished his coffee and Susan asked, 
“ Can we come with you, Grandpapa, just to let 
Hesper see the library before you settle for the 
afternoon? Then we needn't bother you again, 
for we're going to have tea in the schoolroom— 
unless you'd like her to come and say good-bye. 
Would you, Grandpapa? " 

Of course he would like it, and he held out a 
courteous aiding hand as Hesper limped across the 
hall. 

Trustfully she thrust hers into it: such a hot, 
fluttering little hand. 

“ We’ve got the book you wrote about the 

Abbey," she said. “My governess used to read 
it to me, and then we went and found the 

bits we’d read about, and it was . . . thrill¬ 
ing.” 

He strolled with Hesper round the great golden 
room—golden in the mellow light reflected from 
rows upon rows of books bound in yellow calf— 
taking down one here and another there to show 
her pictures, till Susan got rather bored and said 
firmly, in Aunt Myrtle's very tones, “We mustn't 
tire Grandpapa, Hesper. He always has a rest 

after luncheon. Come on out and I'll show you 

the Nuns' Walk." 

And Hesper came on out, hurriedly, and sadly 
afraid she had been tiresome and trespassing; 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 27 

the one pang in an otherwise entirely happy 
day. 

They first went to the stables to fetch two fat 
foxhound puppies that Miss Collett was walking 
for the Hunt, and then straight to the Nuns’ Walk, 
a curious avenue of old yew trees, whose topmost 
branches, interlacing, formed a continuous arch. 
About a hundred yards long and some four wide, 
it led down an incline from a terrace in the wild 
garden to a stretch of grass bordered by a sunk 
fence, and beyond that by a big field. Hamish 
rushed off after an imaginary rabbit, and the two 
tubby little foxhound puppies lolloped after him 
a long way behind. Hamish disapproved of the 
puppies and gave them a nip when he was sure 
no one was looking, but all the same the puppies 
admired and adored Hamish, and couldn’t keep 
away from him. 

Coming from the bright sunshine of the garden, 
it seemed hushed and solemn in the green gloom. 

Hesper looked up at the interlacing branches 
overhead. “It’s like the Abbey cloisters,” she 
said softly. “They’re all twisty and knotted too 
—and oh, Susan, look at that tree!” 

Framed in the dark arch of yews, at the far 
end, shatp against the blue sky, was a double 
cherry in full bloom. A foam of white in garlands 
and sprays and masses. “Oh, Susan, doesn’t it 
look glad? ” 


28 


THE BROKEN BOW 


There was something in Hesper’s voice that made 
Susan turn and look at her. Hesper’s eyes were 
full of tears, and in her little heart-shaped face 
was a sort of quivering radiance. 

Puzzled, Susan put her arms round her little 
friend. “Funny kid,” she said, giving her a hug. 
“Don’t be sad about it. Grandmamma planted 
it ages ago when she first came to Aylberne. She 
used to call it the White Nun. Why should it 
make you so dismal? ” 

“ I’m not dismal, but beautiful things do some¬ 
how make one feel like that.” 

“Not me,” Susan said, “but you’re different—a 
funny kid,” and she hugged Hesper again. “Come 
on and see our garden. It’s all of our garden. 
We can do just what we like in it, and we 
dor 

She led Hesper to a little square Dutch garden 
with stone paths and box hedges. It was most 
untidy, and looked, as Punch’s gardener said, “ as 
if someone ’ad done it ’is self,” for the beds were 
in a state of chaos and upheaval, and the only 
thing that looked at all permanent was a small 
stone statue in the centre, a fat cupid in the act 
of shooting off an arrow, who stood on a short 
Corinthian column. 

“ Things don’t seem to have come up much as 
yet,” Susan remarked apologetically, “and, now the 
boys are all at school, I have to see to it by myself, 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


29 


and I haven’t much time with being a dayer at 
Olveston House. The crocuses are over, and some¬ 
how the tulips didn’t come up.” 

“What a pity his bow’s broken,” Hesper said, 
as she stroked a fat little shoulder. 

“ I did that,” Susan answered importantly, “ this 
spring. The sparrows were stealing my crocuses 
most dreadfully; as fast as they came up the 
wretches nipped them off, and I tried throwing 
stones at them, and one of ’em hit the little chap’s 
bow, and broke off the point.” 

“ Couldn’t it be mended? ” Hesper asked. 
“ He’s such a pretty little boy.” 

“ I dare say it could be mended, but that would 
mean telling Aunt Myrtle, and ever such a row. 
She hardly ever comes here, and when she does I 
hope it’ll be with one of the boys, and they can 
truthfully say it wasn’t them.” 

Later, as they were sitting under a cedar tree 
on the lawn, Susan said suddenly, “Let’s vow we’ll 
always be friends, and when we’re grown up let’s 
have a little house together, with nobody to bother 
us and do just what we like.” 

“ I’d have to go and see Mother and Alf pretty 
often, but I’d love to live with you part of the 
time . . . but would they let you?” 

“When I’m grown up I shan’t ask ’em. I shall 
live where I please, and with the person I like 
best ” 


30 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“ But shan’t we need a great deal of money to 
do that? I know Mother would give us what she 
could, but . . 

“Well get enough money somehow,” Susan 
replied intrepidly. “ I know they wouldn’t give 
me any, for there doesn’t seem to be much in our 
family; but perhaps we could keep a shop or 
something—one where we’d sell kittens or puppies 
would be awful sport. I know there are shops like 
that, for I’ve seen one in London. But we wouldn’t 
have it there. . . .” 

“ A shop! ” Hesper echoed in astonishment. 
“Why, it’s because of ‘The Surprise’ Mother said 
you’d never be allowed to be really friends with 
me, not afterwards . . .” 

“After what?” 

“Well, after you’ve left Olveston House.” 

“Rot! I shall always be friends with you.” 

“And then when Mr. Collett wrote that nice 
note I said, ‘ There, now, he doesn’t mind.’ 
But Mother didn’t seem to be very sure. He 
doesn’t really mind about ‘ The Surprise,’ does 
he?” 

Hesper’s large, wistful eyes were fixed on 
Susan’s face, which turned exceedingly red. “I 
don’t think,” she said slowly, “that it ever 
came into Grandpapa’s head. He’s not like 
that. . . . Besides,” she added, “I don’t think 
he knows.” 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


31 


in 

Hesper was in bed and ought to have been 
asleep, but she would not let her mother go. 

There was so much to tell about her wonderful, 
her delicious afternoon. 

“You needn't hurry, Mother. Alf isn't here 
waiting for his supper. Now, isn’t Susan a nice 
friend for me? You do think so, don't you?” 

“From all you tell me, she seems well enough,” 
Mrs. Stowe said, without enthusiasm, “but I don’t 
see anything to rave about, and I wouldn't go and 
set too much store upon her if I was you. You 
can’t give me any real reason why you're so taken 
up with this girl—and it's like this, my poppet, 
she comes out of the top drawer, and you, because 
of me, come out of the bottom, and there’s an end 
of it.” 

“It won’t be in the end with us. Susan and me 
will always be friends. We promised each other 
this afternoon. We vowed it for ever and ever. 
Mother, I can tell you why I love Susan so. Do 
you know, never once not all this long time I've 
known her, has she asked me anything about my 
leg. All the other girls have, but never Susan— 
never a word—and yet she always helps me and 
makes things nice and easy for me. Why, this 
very afternoon she trundled me about in the 
gardener's wheelbarrow all over the place, so’s I 


32 


THE BROKEN BOW 


shouldn’t be tired, and when we went in to tea 
she called Mr. Gosslin and told him to carry me 
upstairs, because it’s such a long way, and they’re 
such slippery stairs—no carpet. You know Mr. 
Gosslin?” 

“An’ did he carry you?” 

“Yes, he did, ever so kind, and said I was a 
featherweight. Mother, now we must ask Susan 
to tea, mustn’t we?” 

“No, my dear, that would never do.” 

“But why not, Mother? I promised Susan I’d 
ask her. Oh, Mother, we simply must.” 

The thin arms clasped her neck. The eager, 
flushed face was pressed against her own. 

“Hesper, my lamb, I’d so much rather not. 
You don’t understand all the ins and outs, and I 
don’t want us to get snubbed.” 

“Snubbed, Mother! Who’s going to snub us? 
Susan wants to see you and Alf—only he won’t 
be back—and my home, though what she wants 
to see most is all over the inside of The Surprise.’ 
Could we take her and show her?” 

“Certainly not. I won’t hear of that, and I’d 
much rather not ask her at all. I never was one 
to push myself, except in a business way. . . .” 

“But it isn’t pushing ourselves if Susan wants 
to come. ... You know, Mother, it’s funny, but 
The Surprise’ is a bit like Aylberne. Not so 
big or grand, but it’s got the same sort of feel 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


33 


about it—even if it is over a shop. But we won’t 
take her if you’d rather not. She’ll be quite happy 
here with me. You’ll ask her soon, won’t you, 
Mother?” 


CHAPTER III 


i 

N EARLY a month had passed before Hesper, 
by dint of incessant and persistent plead¬ 
ing, got her mother to write the note that invited 
Susan to spend an afternoon at The Nook. 

Susan would fain have hurried matters so as to 
get acceptance and visit accomplished before her 
Aunt Myrtle’s return; but the same delicacy that 
kept her silent regarding Hesper’s lameness pre¬ 
vented her in any way reminding her little friend 
of the promise, and the day Hesper brought the 
long-expected note to school was the one selected 
by Miss Collett for her return. 

When Susan reached Aylberne, Aunt Myrtle 
came out into the hall to greet her. A friendly, 
affectionate Aunt Myrtle, full of interesting news 
and cheerful plans. Susan, pleased that she was 
bidden to share tea in the library on this first day, 
warmed to her aunt and, for the moment, quite 
forgot the precious note. 

Directly she had gone upstairs after tea, she 
remembered it, and went back. 


34 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


35 


Her grandfather was standing on the hearthrug, 
laughing at something Aunt Myrtle had just said. 
He looked animated and roused. Already there 
seemed a suppressed but pleasant bustle through¬ 
out the still, old house. 

Susan advanced upon him, holding out the 
note. 

Aunt Myrtle had moved from the tea-table and 
was sitting in a low chair by the fire. The squire 
never gave up fires till July, and not then if it was 
chilly. 

He opened the note, Aunt Myrtle and Susan 
both watching him as he read it. Then he handed 
it to his daughter, saying, “This is your province, 
my dear, now that you are back. Have you any 
objection to Susan's spending a half-holiday with 
her little friend?" 

Fidgety Susan stood where she was, curiously 
quiescent. Just as she had eagerly watched her 
grandfather reading the note, so now she watched 
her aunt; but warily, and her wine-brown eyes 
were clouded with foreboding. 

Miss Collett looked puzzled. 

“Who is this Mrs. Stowe?" she asked. “I've 
never met a Mrs. Stowe here that I can remember, 
and I thought I knew everybody. Is she the 
mother of one of the girls at that little school? 
I thought I told you, Father, that it would be 
better for Susan not to have anything to do with 


36 


THE BROKEN BOW 


the girls there, except at the school. She’s only 
there for one term.” 

“Grandpapa knows Hesper,” Susan broke in. 
“He liked her awfully, didn’t you, Grandpapa?” 

The squire looked helplessly from his slightly 
censorious daughter to his rigid granddaughter. 
There was something in the set of Susan’s uplifted 
chin that meant trouble for somebody. Of that 
he was sure. And, just as he hated draughts or 
violent exercise, so did he hate unpleasantness; 
domestic disquiet most of all. 

“The little girl who came here was quite charm¬ 
ing,” he said, with a deprecating glance in Miss 
Collett’s direction. “S he was Hesper, wasn’t 
she?”—to Susan. 

“Yes, Grandpapa, and now she wants me to 
go to lunch and tea with her next Wednesday, 
and I can, can’t I?” 

Supplication and defiance were subtly mixed 
in Susan’s voice. The squire realized the supplica¬ 
tion, and her aunt was acutely conscious of the 
defiance. 

“Perhaps, Susan,” she said quietly, “you can 
enlighten me as to this Mrs. Stowe. Who is 
she?” 

“Hesper’s mother.” 

“Yes, but you know more about her than that. 
Is this Hester a boarder?” 

“Her name’s not Hester,” Susan said sulkily. 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


37 


“It’s Hes -per, and she’s not a boarder. There 
aren’t any boarders. She’s a dayer, like me.” 

“Are they townspeople, then?” 

“Yes.” 

“Don’t speak so rudely, Susan. How often 
have I told you that you mustn’t say ‘Yes’ and 
‘No’ like that. You don’t mean to say they’re 
tradespeople? What is this child’s father?” 

“Dead,” Susan answered. 

“Susan, you are concealing something,” Miss 
Collett said anxiously. “How can you expect 
me to let you go to tea with this child if you won’t 
tell me anything about them?” 

“The note was to Grandpapa.” 

Grandpapa had moved unobtrusively to the far 
end of the room and was, apparently, immersed 
in a book he had taken from the shelves. 

“You don’t gain anything by being imperti¬ 
nent,” Miss Collett said. “If you can’t or won’t 
tell me about these people, of course I must refuse 
to let you go to their house. Surely you must 
know that.” 

Susan cast one despairing glance at her grand¬ 
father’s back and saw that he had failed her. 
Then she faced her aunt and said slowly, “Mrs. 
Stowe has a shop, but they don’t live there. 
They’ve got quite a nice house in Wolseley 
Road.” 

“Where and what is the shop?” 


38 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“It's ‘The Surprise/ You’ve been there often.” 

“And this woman has the impertinence to ask 
you— you, my niece—to her house!” 

“I want to go most awfully. Hesper’s been 
here, and I want to go there. Can I?” 

Miss Collett in her turn looked at her father’s 
back at the far end of the long room. “Ask your 
grandfather,” she said shortly. 

Like an arrow loosed from a bow, Susan sped 
across the room. “Grandpapa,” she cried, clutch¬ 
ing his arm, “say I may go. Tell Aunt Myrtle 
what a darling Hesper is. Try to make her under¬ 
stand!” 

The unfortunate squire was fairly cornered. 
His daughter held him with her compelling gaze. 
His impetuous granddaughter pulled at him 
literally and figuratively. He sympathized with 
the eager Susan, but, as always, bowed before 
the good sense of the handsome Myrtle. 

“I think,” he said feebly, “you must allow 
your aunt to judge in this matter. ... We never 
have . . . er . . . visited with the townspeople, 
and perhaps . . . your father and mother wouldn’t 
like it. We have to consider them, you know . . . 
so far away.” 

The warm, eager young hand dropped from 
his arm. Susan gave him one long look and left 
him and the room. 

“Et tu, Brute,” he murmured to himself, as 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


39 


he replaced the book, of which he hadn’t even 
seen one line. 

When he came back to the consciousness of his 
daughter’s conversation, he heard her saying “It’s 
certainly more than time that I was home.” 


ii 

The end of the term, and Susan against all rules 
had managed to meet Hesper at the end of Wolseley 
Road. 

“It’s . . . It’s just blasted nonsense,” she ex¬ 
claimed, with a half-sob. 

“Susan dear,” Hesper exclaimed in horror, 
“you mustn’t say that—it’s swearing!” 

“I don’t care if it is swearing. I want to swear. 
I know lots worse words than that—damn and 
bloody and . . .” 

Hesper put her hand over Susan’s mouth. 
“You mustn’t,” she said, “else they’ll think 
you’ve learned it from me. Perhaps that’s why 
they want to stop you going with me.” 

Susan kissed the little hand that lay so tenderly 
across her lips before she pulled it away. 

“That's blasted nonsense if you like. Only 
yesterday I heard Kilby say to Cottle—he was 
holding his back—Tve got them blasted screws 
again’ . . . and I’ve heard Daddy say ‘damn,’ 
and men outside the ‘Waggon and Horses’ say 


40 


THE BROKEN BOW 


'bloody/ It’s in the Litany too, and in that old 
Shakespeare you’re so fond of, so it can’t be a 
very bad swear. Listen! I’ve got a plan! I 
shall tell Aunt Myrtle that your mother has for¬ 
bidden you to go with me because I swear so— 
that’ll learn her.” 

"But it wouldn’t be true,” Hesper faltered. 

"It’ll annoy her just as much as if it was.” 

"But you’re going away and I shan’t see you 
any more . . . and you’ll forget all about me. . . .” 
Hesper’s large pathetic eyes filled with tears which 
rolled over and ran down her pale cheeks. "... I 
don’t suppose they’d let you write to me. . . . 
ever.” 

"I’ll try and write somehow—though I can’t 
promise, and I’m a poor hand at it—but writing 
doesn’t matter. I shan’t forget you. I promise. 
I swear. I cross my heart. Even if we have to 
wait till we’re grown up to be friends together, 
I’ll never forget. Nobody can stop us then.” 

"It seems such a long time till we’re grown up,” 
Hesper said sadly. 

"I’ll see you somehow—you can bet I do. Was 
your mother very cross when Aunt wouldn’t 
let me come?” 

"No; all she said was, she didn’t think it would 
have hurt you.” 

The Abbey clock struck five. 

"I must run or else I shall catch it most awfully. 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


41 


Kiss me, ‘dear, darling Hesper. I’ll come and see 
you once before I go to school—you see if I don’t. 
We shall be back from Scotland before that. I’ll 
come if I die for it. Cheer up!” 


CHAPTER IV 


i 

W OLSELEY ROAD, on a wet afternoon in 
late September, looked particularly prim 
and dreary as Susan made her way along the middle 
of it, looking for The Nook. She had been allowed 
to come into town alone in the motor to collect 
various parcels needed for school outfits. Aunt 
Myrtle, with four of them to get off that week, 
was so busy that she was glad to utilize even Susan, 
and Susan had jumped at the chance. At their 
very first stopping-place she handed over Aunt 
Myrtle’s list to Cottle, the chauffeur, and, mum¬ 
bling something about being “fitted,” promised to 
meet him outside the Abbey at four o’clock. 

A bronzed, tall Susan; newly back from Nairn; 
swinging along in a Burberry and an old hat pulled 
down over eyes that danced in delighted expecta¬ 
tion. 

How surprised Hesper would be. Susan was 
sure she would be in. Hesper was never allowed 
to go out in the wet, and the last weeks had been 
very cold and wet. Everybody at Aylberne said 


42 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


43 


so. It always rained in Scotland too, but no one 
took any notice of rain in Scotland. 

Ah, there it was! “The Nook’’ in black letters 
on the gate-posts. 

Would Hesper be looking out of the window with 
her dear little Hamish face? 

Long white curtains meeting in the middle 
shrouded the downstairs windows. Short white 
curtains across the upper ones. 

Not a sign of a face anywhere. 

She mounted the steps, rang the bell and gave 
a loud double knock in imitation of Cottle. 

A surprised-looking elderly servant opened the 
door. 

“Is Miss Hesper at home?” Susan asked, 
smiling at her in excited anticipation. 

The servant stared at her. “Haven’t you 
heard, Miss?” she asked. 

Susan’s heart sank. Could Hesper be gone on 
a visit? Then she mu^st write. “Is she /away 
from home?” 

The woman still stared at her in that queer, 
uncomfortable way. “Why, she was buried on 
Monday, poor little thing. Only ill a few days, 
she was; and went out like the snuff of a candle.” 

“Do you mean she’s dead?” Susan asked, 
with stiff, dry lips. 

“Won’t you come inside, Miss?” the servant 
said kindly. “You do look shook.” 


44 


THE BROKEN BOW 


But Susan turned slowly from the door. 

The woman did not follow her—it was too wet. 
“Mr. Alf took his ma away directly after the 
funeral,” she called. “It’s bin a dreadful blow 
to both of them, poor things. She’s buried up 
at the cimetary—lovely flowers, there was, all 
white. They won’t be faded yet, I don’t suppose, 
if you’d like to go an’ see them.” 

Then she shut the door, for Susan neither an¬ 
swered nor looked back. 

Slowly, with dragging feet, she walked on the 
gravelled sweep that circled the monkey tree 
Hesper had disliked. At the gate she stopped and 
with both hands held on to the top bar. 

All her life she will remember that the servant’s 
collar was fastened crookedly, with a brooch shaped 
like a horse-shoe, that she had a long chin with a 
scratch on it, and showed her gums when she 
talked. 

Hesper was dead. 

It was intolerable this pain, this extraordinary 
strangling, incomprehensible pain. 

What was she to do? 

How could she stop it? 

When she shut her fingers in the window and 
one of them was so badly crushed that she lost 
her nail afterwards, she had borne it—grand¬ 
papa had said she was a Trojan—but this . . . 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


45 


this was worse. Her knees were shaking. What 
was the matter with her legs? 

Never to see Hesper any more, never to listen 
to her stories and bits of poetry—Hesper knew 
such lots of poetry. Never to plan about the 
little house they would have together. There 
would be no little house now. And she had hurt 
Hesper, against her will—oh, much against her 
will!—but Hesper had been hurt when she couldn't 
come to tea at The Nook. 

Oh, why were grown-up people stupid and 
cruel like that? 

It had been dreadful enough last time when 
dad and mummy went back to India when the 
boys went to school and she was left alone at 
Aylberne with grandpapa and Aunt Myrtle. Ah, 
grandpapa—grandpapa had failed her. He knew 
what Hesper was like, yet he had not stood up for 
her. Grandpapa was afraid of Aunt Myrtle. 

Never could she go and see Mrs. Stowe or that 
“Alf” Hesper was so fond of. They’d hate the 
sight of her because she had hurt Hesper. They’d 
never know how she loved her. Nobody would 
ever know. That was the dreadful thing about 
this pain. Nobody would know. Nobody could 
understand. 

She never remembered how she got back to the 
Abbey. She was very late, and Cottle was inclined 
to be cross till he saw her face. 


46 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Why, whatever’s the matter, Miss Susan ?” 
he exclaimed. “Have you been hurted?—or 
frightened? Why, you’re white as a sheet. 
What’s the matter, Miss?” 

Cottle was really concerned. For the first time 
since infancy Susan was helped into the car. 

She tried to smile. “It’s all right, Cottle. I’m a 
bit tired, I think.” 

“Parcels in your way, Miss?” he asked solici¬ 
tously, for the car was full of parcels. 

Susan shook her head and sank back into her 
corner. 

Cottle looked back at her several times during 
the journey home. She had not moved, and he 
was worried. Never before had he driven Miss 
Susan when she didn’t clamour to sit in front. 

ii 

At the top of the schoolroom stairs she met 
David. He was in the secret of Susan’s adoration 
of Hesper, and of the stolen visit. 

“Hullo, Sukey,” he cried. “Did you see your 
charmer all right?” 

“I shall never see her any more,” she said 
slowly. “Hesper is dead.” 

David put his arm round her shoulders and 
leant his warm face against her cold one. “Poor 
old Sue,” he said. “What rotten luck!” 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


47 


Clasping each other, they stood there for a 
minute, then went together down the long pas¬ 
sage to her bedroom door. David hugged her. 
“Would you like me to come in with you, or would 
you rather be alone a bit, old thing ?” 

Susan nodded. 

He left her, and she went in, shutting the door 
behind her. 

Hamish, offended at not being taken into town, 
had sought solace for his wounded feelings on 
Susan’s bed. As she came in he sat up, cocked 
his ears and looked at her, bounced off the bed 
and rushed at her in welcome. 

She caught him up in her arms and burst into 
tears. 

hi 

That night, when she said her prayers, she 
added this petition: “When I’m grown up—if 
I grow up—let me not be stupid, let me not be 
afraid of people, and let me keep my Hesper in 
my heart for ever and ever. Amen.” 

Instead of jumping up to switch off the light, 
she remained on her knees long after she had ceased 
to pray. 

She was thinking hard. 

After all, what was the use of praying? 

Who could be sure that there was any God who 
listened? 


48 


THE BROKEN BOW 


And even if there was, what good was He to have 
let Hesper die? 

Every one, even at that footling little school, 
had liked Hesper. She was so funny and innocent 
somehow; so harmless and kind and loving. 
Why should Hesper die? 

At last Susan rose from her knees, but she 
didn’t get into bed. She turned off the light 
(Aunt Myrtle might go along the passage and 
see it shining under the door), crossed the 
room and pushed the casement window wider 
open. 

The driving rain had ceased and the moon was 
shining: a big round moon that laid velvet-black 
shadows on the garden path, and lit up the starry 
blooms of tobacco plants intensely white and 
sharp amidst the foliage. 

She could see the beginning of the Nuns’ 
Walk, an arched mass dense and solid against the 
diaphanous darkness of the sky. 

Never again would she walk hand in hand with 
Hesper in those green cloisters, to see the double 
cherry in her veil of white. 

Never again would she wheel Hesper in the big 
barrow round by the kitchen garden and the 
potting-sheds. 

Never again . . . 

“Never” can be a very dreadful word at eleven 
years old. 


THE LITTLE FRIENDS 


49 


It was cold at the open window, and Susan 
shivered, but she did not move. 

Hamish, warm in his basket beside her bed, was 
puzzled and uncomfortable. 

Why did she stand over there so still instead of 
hurtling into bed as though shot from a catapult? 

He couldn’t possibly settle off to sleep while 
she stood remote and aloof by that cold window. 
Besides, she hadn’t said “good night” to him. 

Reluctantly he dragged himself from beneath 
his enfolding rug and pattered across the room, 
and jumped up on her, pressing her body with 
insistent paws that almost hurt through her thin 
nightgown. 

She stooped and gathered him up in her arms. 

“You shall sleep in my bed to-night, Hamish,” 
she said, “for to-morrow everything will be 
different.” 



i 


BOOK II 
1921 

INTERPLAY 


“And time remembered is grief forgotten, 

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, 

And in green underwood and cover 
Blossom by blossom and Spring begins.” 

Atalanta in Calydon. 


CHAPTER V 


“T 1 "AHERE!” Julia exclaimed, waving her hand 
X towards the rows of books that formed a 
dado round the dove-grey walls. “You won’t 
find one Victorian amongst them.” 

“Why is that so splendid?” Susan asked. 

“It is splendid because it means emancipation 
from stuffy ideals and mental trappings and a 
million oughts and mustn’ts and don’ts and a 
hundred million musts. We’ve got right away 
from them, and cast them behind us.” 

“Have we?” Susan asked doubtfully. “Are 
you sure?” 

“I’m sure about myself absolutely. I’m not 
in the least sure about you; because you, Susan 
beloved, are still somewhat bourgeois . . . some¬ 
what philistine.” 

“Were the Philistines particularly hampered 
by oughts and mustn’ts and don’ts?” Susan 
asked innocently. 

“When I call you a philistine I’m afraid I’m 
using a hackneyed phrase, loosely applied to a 


53 


54 


THE BROKEN BOW 


certain type of mind. YouTe too content to jog 
along in the same old beaten track. You’re not 
without quite serviceable brains. ... You have 
plenty of character. . . . ” 

“I’m glad you allow me some qualities/’ Susan 
interrupted. 

“Oh, you’ve plenty of qualities —but you are 
not receptive. You jib at new ideas. You’re 
not in the movement.” 

“What do you mean, exactly, by ‘not in the 
movement’?” 

Susan’s charming voice expressed no irritation, 
rather a humble desire for instruction; a praise¬ 
worthy mental attitude somewhat contradicted 
by the amusement in her bright eyes. 

Her cousin Julia did not observe her eyes. 
Curled up at the opposite end of an immense 
black divan that faced the fire, she was intently 
watching her own admirable rings of smoke and 
answered the voice only, with high seriousness. 

“Well, you know you really horrified me last 
night when you confessed before all those people 
that you had never even heard of Alfrey Stowe.” 

“I didn’t ‘confess.’ I merely stated a fact. 
It’s quite true, I never had. What is there so 
awful about it?” 

“It’s awful, Susan, because it places you . . .” 

“Places me—where?” 

“Among the impossible provincial crowd who 


INTERPLAY 55 

begin to talk about a book months after London 
has forgotten it.” 

“But I should have thought authors would like 
that sort of crowd—else their books would be 
dead as mutton directly London had done with 
'em.” 

“I dare say authors do like them—in a way; 
but one doesn’t want to be classed with them one¬ 
self.” 

“Do you know this wonderful Alfrey Stowe? 
The man, I mean, not his books.” 

Julia smiled: a superior, secret sort of smile. 
“I do. Rather well, as it happens. In fact, I 
think I may say he’s one of my special young 
men.” 

“Oh!” Susan remarked, with understanding. 
“That’s quite enough to account for your enthu¬ 
siasm. You’d better lend it to me to read: of 
course, you’ve got it. I don’t know when we 
shall belong to a library again, and if I was to buy 
a book just now, and father found out, he’d have 
a fit.” 

“If I do lend it to you—and I’m not at all sure 
that I ought to . . .” 

“Why? Is it so very improper?” 

“My dear Susan, in Art we don’t consider pro¬ 
priety or impropriety; the words and all they 
stand for are dead and done with, thank heaven! 
So let them rest in peace. No—what I’m doubtful 


56 


THE BROKEN BOW 


about is this. He gave it to me himself—and 
wrote the dedicatory verses in it with his own 
hand.” 

“Perhaps, then, I’d better not have it,” Susan 
said, rather nervously. “I dare say I can support 
existence without it till we belong to a library 
again. Father’s got the wind up about expenses 
just now and cuts off everything that he doesn’t 
care much about himself.” 

“I think,” Julia said slowly, “I will trust you 
—but you must take tremendous care of it.” 

“I will. I’ll read it at once and send it back 
by registered post.” 

“I dare say some of it may be over your head 
. . . but I believe you’ll rather like it. Of course, 
he doesn’t pretend to write for your type; it doesn’t 
appeal to him.” 

“How d’you know I shouldn’t appeal to him? 
He’s never seen me.” 

Again Julia smiled her superior, secret sort of 
smile. “You’re a charming, pretty butterfly, 
my dear, where men are concerned,” she said 
tolerantly, “but Alfrey Stowe is not one to be 
contented by mere surface things. He looks deep 
into the heart of life. He’s a serious writer. He 
has no time for mere excrescences.” 

“I’m bothered if anyone shall call me a mere 
excrescence,” Susan protested. 

“I’m not referring to your way of life so much 


INTERPLAY 


57 


as to your attitude of mind,” Julia said. “All 
I want to impress upon you is, that you must 
judge Alfrey by quite a different standard from 
that of your officer boys.” 

“You don't mean to tell me he was a conchy?” 

“Of course not. He joined up in 1914 like 
everybody else, but Gallipoli finished him. He 
was awfully ill; in hospital for about nine months; 
then in the Intelligence Department; and finally 
he was demobilized among the very first, because 
they wanted him so badly on the paper. He's 
assistant editor of Orion , you know.” 

“Perhaps I shall meet him next spring—after 
Christmas.” 

“Not very likely, unless with us. You move 
in different orbits—and I warn you, Susan, even 
if you do meet him he won't fall a victim. You're 
not a bit his style.” 

“It's more important he should be mine, since 
I've got to read his book. I'll never forgive you, 
Judy, if it’s dull.” 

“You will take the greatest care of it?” Julia 
pleaded. 

Susan promised by all her gods that the precious 
volume should never leave her hands for a minute. 

She started to read in the taxi that took her to 
Wimbledon station, and, of course, she read the 
verses first. These she dismissed as piffle. While 
waiting for the train she read the book. In the 


58 


THE BROKEN BOW 


train she continued to read, and found that the 
book wasn’t piffle. She became so absorbed that 
she almost forgot to change at Earl’s Court. She 
seized suit-case and muff (a barrel muff into 
which no eight-and-sixpenny book could be in¬ 
serted), tucked the book under her arm, and pushed 
through the crowd for her train. The platform 
was thronged ; every carriage was packed, especially 
the firsts, and just as the train was starting she 
jumped into an already crowded corridor, where 
she sat on her suit-case till she reached King’s 
Cross. 

When she got her breath again she looked for 
her book, and it was gone. 

It must have slipped from her arm while she was 
being jostled at Earl’s Court. 

She sat crouched on her suit-case, with bent head 
and furiously beating heart, thoroughly upset, 
perplexed, and miserable. 

It was hopeless to attempt to recover it. No 
one ever found anything in these tempestuous 
times, and even honest folk were so dishonest about 
books and umbrellas. It wasn’t as if Julia’s 
full name and address were in it. “To Julia,” 
then the verses on a half-sheet of note-paper, 
which she had pasted into the book. No address 
on that either. 

“Careless fellow not to use stamped note-paper,” 
Susan reflected. 


INTERPLAY 


59 


Long before this somebody would have picked 
it up and be reading it in the train. What on 
earth would Julia say? Suppose she was really 
in love with this Alfrey Stowe—suppose she was 
going to marry him? She would be so upset; 
she would be hurt. And it was dreadful to hurt 
people. Julia might be a bit conceited and self- 
centred, she might imagine she had all the earth 
and fullness thereof—she had a good deal—but 
she was Susan’s cousin, she had been kind, and 
it was a jolly house to stay in. 

What was to be done? 

Susan was nothing if not resourceful. By the 
time she reached King’s Cross she had a plan of 
campaign all mapped out. 

She fled to the cloak-room to leave her suit¬ 
case, and then to find out where she ought to apply 
for lost property. 

She was cold, tired, and hungry (it was quite 
lunch-time), but she had shuffled the cards and 
meant to have another deal. Had it been her own 
book, she would not have given the matter a 
thought. Had it been any other book of Julia’s, she 
would have done her best to replace it, and trusted 
to Julia’s forgiveness. 

But this Book! 

Julia had looked so conscious. She had swanked 
so, and, “She said I wouldn’t appeal to him. She 
little thought how soon I’d have to, and why.” 


60 


THE BROKEN BOW 


A porter who admired slim ankles encased in 
tall boots went out of the station, against all rules, 
and secured an entering taxi. 

She drove to The Times Book Club, paid a brief 
visit there* and then directed the driver to an 
address in a side street not far from Charing Cross. 

On the way there Susan surveyed herself 
anxiously in the cracked mirror. It was a shabby 
taxi. 

She pulled her hat more over her eyebrows and 
gazed fixedly at the reflected face that even the 
disfiguring crack could not render wholly unattrac¬ 
tive. 

Dark eyes; dark, finely marked eyebrows; warm, 
clear colour in the right places. Susan smiled at 
the face reflected in the cracked glass. 

Yes; the face was clean, though the glass 
wasn’t. 

“I wonder what he’ll say!” she pondered. “I 
do hope he’s not greedy and already gone to lunch. 
I should be if I were he. Perhaps he’s one of the 
industrious sort and has sandwiches in the office. 
I’m sure I hope he’s had them. If he’s too hungry 
he’ll be disobliging. Suppose he isn’t there at all! 
What if he has gone out of town? Oh, he couldn’t 
be gone on a Wednesday!” 

The taxi stopped outside a tall house in a fairly 
wide street. 

There were several names emblazoned on the 


INTERPLAY 


61 


wall just inside the open door. The high boots 
twinkled up the dusty staircase. The taxi-driver 
looked after them and grinned. The young lady 
had left a copy of Orion in the taxi. Well, he 
supposed, she didn't want it. 

She went up and up until she reached a dingy 
door with “Orion Office” in large white letters. 
Beside it was another door marked “Enquiries.” 
She tapped and opened it, finding herself in a small 
slip of a room with another door facing her marked 
“Private,” a table covered with newspapers, and 
a chair on which sat a weedy young man whose 
gloomy, questioning gaze gradually changed to one 
of pleasurable interest. 

“Is Mr. Alfrey Stowe in?” she asked. “I want 
to see him.” 

“Manuscripts or drawing?” the weedy one 
demanded. 

“Neither, I wish to see him upon urgent private 
affairs,” Susan said firmly. 

The weedy one hesitated. Still looking at her, 
he muttered, “I expect he's out. . . Then, 
suddenly, “What name?” 

“Miss Collett,” she said, “and make sure that 
he isn't out, please.” 

She smiled at him. 

He promptly departed through the door marked 
“Private,” carefully shutting the door behind him. 

“Young lady to see you, sir,' ? he announced to 


62 


THE BROKEN BOW 


a thin young man wearing rimless spectacles, 
who was sitting at a knee-hole table correcting 
proofs. 

"How often have I told you, Negus, that I will 
see no young ladies in office hours ?” 

"She says her name’s Colley.” 

"Miss Colley—never heard of the lady. Say 
I’m gone out.” 

"She says she’s not come about copy, sir,” 
Negus persisted. "She wants to see you on urgent 
private affairs. That’s what she said, and would 
take no denial.” 

"Tell her I’m out,” and down went his head over 
the proofs again. 

"She’s a nice-lookin’ young lady,” Negus mur¬ 
mured, still hovering. 

"Negus!” Stowe said sternly, without raising 
his head, "I gave you a message.” 

"I should see her if I was you, sir,” Negus 
muttered, as he edged towards the door. 

"What the dickens do you mean?” Stowe 
asked, looking up. "Is she a friend of yours?” 

"Never saw her till a minute ago, sir; but I 
really think . . .” 

"What do you really think?” 

"That I’d see her if I was you, sir.” 

Stowe continued to look at Negus, and laughed. 

"Shall I say you could see her in half an hour, 
sir?” 


INTERPLAY 


63 


“Show her in, man. She’s probably listening 
to every word we say.” 

Negus departed as though shot from a catapult, 
and just then the sun came out from its shrouding, 
snowy clouds and showed how dusty the table was. 

Susan came through the door, closing it behind 
her as carefully as Negus. 

She approached the knee-hole table and stood 
there, hesitating. She also blushed and dimpled. 

He had risen as she came in. 

“You wish to see me, I believe?” 

His voice was formal and not encouraging. 
Julia Mainwaring was right: tall boots, bewitching 
dimples, bright eyes, left him comparatively 
unmoved. 

“I think you know Miss Julia Mainwaring?” 
she began timidly, and stopped. 

“Ah . . . er . . . certainly ... of course. Did 
she send you to me?” 

“Oh, no; at least ...” She clasped her hands 
and the dimples disappeared as she realized the 
dreary waste of explanation that lay before her. 
She, who could never explain anything, not even 
the way she did her hair. 

“Pray sit down,” he said politely. 

She sat down. He sat down. One on each side 
of the dusty knee-hole table. 

“You were saying . . he began encourag¬ 
ingly. 


64 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You remember that you once gave Julia a 
novel—your novel, A Divided Interest ?” 

“Did I?” he said vaguely. “I dare 6ay I did, 
but I don’t remember.” 

“But you must remember,” she exclaimed, 
much distressed. “You must remember—that’s 
what I’ve come for.” 

“What you’ve come for?” he repeated, hope¬ 
lessly puzzled. 

“You wrote a poem in it.” 

“Perhaps I did. One does foolish things like 
that. But what of it?” 

“I want you to do it again,” she said earnestly, 
suddenly producing a book, “in here. Just the 
same poem, ‘To Julia,’ like the other one. Exactly 
the same. Please do, and it will get me out of 
such an awful scrape. I brought it all the way 
here on purpose. Oh, please do!—on a plain half¬ 
sheet of paper ...” 

She leant across the table, holding out the book 
to him. He took the book, saying, “But why? 
I don’t understand. You really must explain . . . 
Besides , 8 , I fear . . .” 

“Please don’t refuse,” she pleaded, putting her 
elbows down in a sea of papers and leaning her 
firm chin on her clasped hands. “If you don’t 
write it over again, I don’t know what I shall do. 
I’ve come all this way, miles and miles, and I’ve 
had no lunch, and they’ll wonder what has become 


INTERPLAY 


65 


of me, but I hope they’ll think I have chosen a 
later train. Oh, please hurry up and do it!” 

Her eyes were pleading and the table was not 
particularly wide. 

He was thoroughly mystified, but he said gently: 
“If you could tell me why you ask me to do it 
... I’ll try, though I fear it’s impossible. Surely 
Miss Mainwaring can’t want two copies of my 
book?” 

“It isn’t Miss Mainwaring. She knows nothing 
about it. It’s me ...” 

“And you want me to autograph it. . . . Oh, 
certainly.” And he took up his pen. 

“Stop!” she cried. “/ don’t want the book 
myself . . . though I like it most awfully—it’s 
most interesting—I want it for her, because I’ve 
done a perfectly awful thing. I’ve lost her copy 
at Earl’s Court in the crowd—there was an awful 
crowd. It was sneaked away from me somehow. 
I can’t think how it escaped. And she’ll never 
forgive me. And I’m fond of her, and I promised 
to be so careful. . . . y 

He was silent. Bright eyes might leave him 
unmoved. Dimples might scintillate without stir¬ 
ring his pulses a single beat, but a beautiful speaking 
voice gave him exquisite pleasure. Susan’s voice 
was full and soft and seductive. He wanted her 
to go on talking . . . any nonsense ... it didn’t 
matter. . . . 


66 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Can’t you understand?” she cried, exasper¬ 
ated by his silence. “No other copy could be 
the same to her if it hasn’t got the poetry. You 
surely must remember it if you made it up.” 

“But I can’t, really. I don’t remember writing 
any verses. I dare say I did; but I have no recol¬ 
lection of it.” 

“What you have done once,” she said reproach¬ 
fully, “you can do again. Besides, you must 
have done it a great deal oftener than once, if 
you can forget it so utterly. I’m rather shocked. 
It was a most . . . effusive poem.” 

Silence again while he thought, “I wish she’d 
go on talking,” and Susan tried with all her might 
to “will” him to remember the verses. “I don’t 
believe you’re trying,” she said sternly. 

“I am—I will—but I’m certain I can’t remem¬ 
ber those verses. I’ve no doubt I could write some 
new ones—but that wouldn’t do, unless she has 
forgotten the others. Do you think she has for¬ 
gotten the others?” 

“I fear not,” she said sadly. “She has an 
awfully good memory for quotations and things. 
I’ve read your book, you know—at least, a good 
bit of it, when it went and got lost. I liked it if 
only you wouldn’t use quite such long words.” 

“It’s a bad habit that I must try to mend.” 

“Do,” she said. “Write a nice easy book for 
me.” 


INTERPLAY 


67 


“I will,” he said. 

“But, first, do that poem. Think!” 

“Do you happen to remember any of it?” he 
asked despairingly, as he weighed the book ner¬ 
vously in his hand. 

Susan knitted her delicate eyebrows in strained 
concentration. “There was something about ‘She 
took me by enchanted ways/ Do you think ways 
are very enchanted in Wimbledon? Of course, 
the Mainwarings’ grounds are pretty, but ...” 

“Good heavens, no! I can’t have meant 
Wimbledon. Go on,” Alfrey encouraged, “ ‘ . . . 
enchanted ways’—and then?” 

“I’ve got it!” she cried. “‘Through sunlit 
something and shadowy wood.’ ” 

“Do you happen to remember if the lines 
rhymed?” 

“Not much, I don’t think,” Susan said can¬ 
didly. “Yet it wasn’t exactly blank verse ... I 
mean the kind that doesn’t rhyme at all,” she 
explained kindly. 

“I give it up!” he cried. “I can’t remember 
anything whatever about it.” 

“You ought to Pelmanize,” she said reprov¬ 
ingly. 

“Was there something about ‘a solitude’?” 
he asked. 

“Yes, yes! You’re getting warm. I remember 
it myself: ‘Her presence filled with faery light 


THE BROKEN BOW 


that solitude/ Now, surely you can reconstruct 
three little verses from all that. And I know 
‘paradise’ came in. Go on: write something. 
Think a little more, and it will all come back.” 

He sighed deeply and took up his pen. 

She watched him with breathless interest. 
Scrape, scrape went the pen. 

His head was bent over the paper and she found 
herself noting regretfully that his hair was going 
grey and getting very thin on the top. 

“There!” he said presently. “That’s as near 
as I can get. Do you think it’ll do?” And he 
handed the scrawl to her. 

She studied it eagerly. “It’s very illegible,” she 
said dubiously. “You wrote better that other 
time—but perhaps it will pass. Anyway, I’ll try 
it on. Now stick it in the book, please. And you 
won’t give me away if she doesn’t notice, will you?” 

“You promise not to give me away?’ ; 

“Is it likely?” she asked. “I’m ever so much 
obliged. I suppose writing verses comes as easy 
to you as cleaning taps to me?” 

“Both need considerable polishing. Have you 
been cleaning taps long?” 

“Four years and two months exactly. How 
long have you been making poetry?” 

“On and off, about fifteen . . . but you can’t 
call it poetry.” 

“Blank, I suppose?” 


INTERPLAY 


69 


“Often very blank.” 

“Now,” she said, “just one more favour. A 
bit of brown paper and a piece of string, and take 
the paper cover off; hers hadn't that.” 

“Negus will do that for you,” he said. “But 
don't you want to finish it?” he asked, just a little 
wistfully. 

“I'll finish it when I get to Hatfield; I'm staying 
with an aunt. I won't run any more risks on the 
journey. I'll tie it to my wrist. Even if I lose my 
suit-case I'll have it safe. Then the minute I've 
heard from the lost property office that her copy 
isn't there—and I know it won't be—I’ll send this 
one by registered post.” 

He struck a handbell on the table. Negug 
appeared and took the book away to wrap it up. 

“Did I hear you say you’d had no lunch?” he 
asked. “I haven't either, so perhaps we might 
have it together.” 

“That,” Susan said, “would be very agreeable. 
I'm simply starving.” 

“What do you say to the Savoy? It's quite 
near, and the view over the river is jolly.” 

“There were bits of that book marked in pencil 
at the sides,” she said thoughtfully. “Do you 
think it will matter? Or should I put in a few 
pencil lines, just in case?” 

“Do you remember what passages were 
marked?” 


70 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Good gracious, no! How can you expect me to 
remember that, when you don’t remember poetry 
that you made up yourself?” 

“Then I should leave it,” he said. “You see, 
she might wonder ...” 

“It strikes me she may wonder considerably as 
it is. My only hope is that she won’t read it again 
the minute it comes back. Anyway, I’ll risk it, 
and probably she’d rather have the wrong verses 
than none.” 


CHAPTER VI 


i 


HEY were so late that they had no diffi- 



X culty in finding a table: one of the coveted 
tables set in a window overlooking the river. 

Susan surveyed the room with pleased, inter¬ 
ested eyes. “Be sure and tell me/’ she said, 
“if anyone interesting is here, anyone I ought 
to recognize and don’t. I mean Actors or Authors 
or Artists—funny how they all begin with ‘A’— 
I’ve been out of London so long that I’ve never 
seen anybody except in the Tatler, and people 
look different there.” 

“It would be charitable to suppose so. What 
did they do with you, for instance?” 

“Not much, only a little inset thing when I was 
working in my aunt’s hospital. I’m quite unim¬ 
portant, you see, and I wasn’t even in London, 
where girls had much more fun. But I’ve seen 
your portrait looking solemn and literary, with 
a book so far off you couldn’t possibly read it, 
even with those strong spectacles.” 

“The spectacles are both a refuge and a scourge. 


71 


72 


THE BROKEN BOW 


You, for instance, I am quite sure, put all spectacle- 
wearing people into a compartment of your mind 
quite separated from that where the unspectacled 
play about.” 

“I wonder,” she said, “I wonder if I do.” 

“I’m sure that you do, and it is so unfair,” 
and the grey eyes behind the spectacles searched 
her face rather wistfully. 

Susan coloured. “I can’t see why people 
who wear spectacles should be allowed to stare 
harder than people who don’t,” she said. “Please 
look round the room and see if there are any 
other well-known folks besides ourselves.” 

“The man sitting up at that table near the 
door is Fred Gresson, whose play, ‘Windlestraws/ 
has been running for nearly a year.” 

“And the lady in the orange hat . . . ?” 

“. , , is his wife.” 

“Wives of great men all remind us,” she mis¬ 
quoted softly. 

“What? Were you brought up on Long¬ 
fellow too?” he asked, “and earnestness and 
reality and the whole outfit?” 

“I was brought up on everything solid and 
wholesome and provincial. That’s why Julia 
grieves over me. But I hope to improve. Are 
you a real Londoner?” 

“Me! Oh dear no. Till I went to Cambridge 
I lived in a little country town in Wiltshire.” 


INTERPLAY 73 

“Wiltshire! Why, that's my county too, near 
Frampton Massey." 

“And Frampton Massey's my town. And you 
must be a Miss Collett. Negus announced you as 
‘Miss Colley,' and that muddled me, but all the 
time I've had the feeling that I'd seen you some¬ 
where long ago and far away. Do you never 
go there now?" 

They were staring at each other across the little 
table, and Susan’s djark, delicately marked eye¬ 
brows were drawn together in a puzzled frown, as 
if she were trying to remember something. She 
was staring now, staring hard and ruthlessly, 
and it was his turn to blush. 

“I haven't been there since 1916," she said 
slowly, “and before that only in the holidays. 
Father let the Manor to rich Belgians during the 
war, and when the war ended he let it to rich 
profiteer people from near Coventry. They've 
taken it for fifteen years, and pay a good rent, 
otherwise I don't know what we should have done, 
for everything else seems to have stopped paying. 
He can't sell it, because it's entailed, but these 
people—Mabbitt's their name—seem to like it, 
and they're awfully good tenants. So they may 
go on living there indefinitely. I don't suppose 
any of us can ever afford to live there again. , . . 
Do you still go down sometimes to the dear old 
place?" 


74 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“As often as I can. My mother lives there, 
and Frampton Massey has a never-failing charm 
for me. Don’t you find that you want to go 
back?” 

“Of course I want to go back . . . but it’s 
sad too. Hardly any of the people in the places 
round about can afford to live in them . . . and 
I miss David so—my eldest brother. He was 
more like grandfather than any of us—so kind 
and charming. He was killed three weeks after 
war broke out . . . and father . . . But why 
should I bother you with family histories? Only 
it is odd that we both should come from that 
dear little old place. Please don’t tell Julia— 
at least, not yet. We’re not supposed to have 
met, you know.” 

“How soon am I likely to meet you again 
with Miss Main waring?” 

“We’re pretty sure to meet there sooner or 
later, if you go there often . . . but don’t you 
think . . . considering everything . . . that book 
I lost . . . the verses . . . that it would be 
better if it seemed that we hadn’t actually met 
till Julia introduces us. . . . It would save such a 
lot of questions and explanations?” 

As Susan made this rather faltering speech she 
wasn’t looking at him, but looked down at her 
bread, which she was nervously crumbling. And 
again he surrendered to the charm of her voice. 


INTERPLAY 75 

If she would only go on talking in that musical, 
companionable voice- 

Yes: her eyelashes were long and black— 
but a great many girls had long black eyelashes; 
and her mouth, the full red lips parted in eager 
question, was a good-tempered, generous mouth. 
And the colour in her cheeks was fresh and fluc¬ 
tuating, while her chin and neck were privet- 
white . . . but most pretty girls looked that sort 
of colour to a very short-sighted young man. 

She had ceased to talk and the silence that 
followed her last words filled her with misgiving. 

“Don’t you agree with me?” She asked 
anxiously. 

“Of course, of course—quite-” 

“You don’t think it horrid and underhand?” 

“Think what horrid and underhand?” 

“I’m afraid you haven’t been listening.” 

“Indeed I have. I could listen to you all 
day.” 

Her look of astonishment restored him to his 
sense. 

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “There’s rather 
a noise. . . . Would you mind repeating what 
you said just now?” 

“Now I,” she said reproachfully, “was just 
thinking how quiet it is here compared to most 
restaurants. Why, we’re the very last people 
having lunch! We must go and let the poor things 


76 


THE BROKEN BOW 


tidy up. People will be coming to tea if we're 
not quick. Tie the parcel to my wrist, please, 
and then I must fly in a taxi to King's Cross. I 
know there's a train soon after four.'' 


ii 

He paid the bill in a sort of dream. He put her 
in a taxi and saw her drive away, and then remem¬ 
bered that he had never asked for her address, 
nor how soon she was coming back to stay with 
Julia Mainwaring. And at the thought of Julia 
Mainwaring—he had got back to his office by 
this time—he lost himself in such a labyrinth of 
conjecture that he forgot Susan altogether, and 
was left blinking in the stream of light his meeting 
with her had thrown upon his, hitherto, quite 
undefined relation to Julia. 

He had not sent Julia a copy of A Divided 
Interest when his own came from the publisher, 
because he felt that to do so seemed to take for 
granted an intimacy that he, being modest though 
young, could not feel existed. 

Therefore she must have bought the book, and 
herself have written the verses she showed to Susan. 

Why? 

He turned hot and cold and tremulous as a 
possible reason suggested itself. 

Could it be that Julia, ultra-modern and there- 


INTERPLAY 


77 


fore, presumably, quite without sentiment; that 
Julia, the fashionable, sought-after, spoilt only 
daughter of Sir Godfrey Mainwaring, the great 
nerve specialist, wanted something more from 
him than a mere literary friendship? 

That because he had been distant and decorous 
and timid in all his intercouse with her, she had 
written the verses herself to give herself secret 
comfort? 

What a poignantly intriguing situation! 

All the novelist in him was roused to interest. 

It had never occurred to him that he might fall 
in love with Julia. 

He was not even sure that he really admired her. 
He admired certain things about her and rather 
deprecated others. 

She attracted him. He liked being with her, 
and he liked the pleasant and influential people 
he met at Woodlands. People who had been 
kind and friendly when he had but few friends 
in London. 

But love was such a big thing. 

It asked so much and surrendered so much. 

He took refuge behind his spectacles. 

Julia couldn’t possibly have fallen in love with 
him. It was oafish and ridiculous even to imagine 
such a thing. 

Yet—if she wasn’t in love with him, why had 
she written those verses to herself? 


78 


THE BROKEN BOW 


It was the sort of thing he might do. 

A pathetic, imaginative piece of foolishness that 
he understood perfectly. That filled him with 
tenderness towards Julia. 

Yes; he understood her writing them. But 
what he did not understand was, that, having 
written them, she should show them to any human 
creature. 

Alfrey was curiously inarticulate except on 
paper. His loves were few and faithful, his 
admirations many and varied. He believed im¬ 
plicitly in his own brains and the fruit of those 
brains; but his work was a thing apart—outside 
and above himself. About Alfrey Stowe, the man, 
he was extremely diffident, knowing him to be a 
creature of small allurement. Shy, reserved, plain, 
and insignificant in person. 

That was Alfrey Stowe, the man. 

Of Alfrey Stowe, the writer, he believed all 
things and hoped all things. 

If Julia had fallen in love with that Alfrey Stowe, 
it was quite comprehensible . . . but did he want 
her to fall in love with that Alfrey Stowe? 

And suddenly cutting across all this tangle of 
perplexities, pleasant and exciting enough in their 
way, he heard a sweet companionable voice saying, 
“Write a nice easy book for me.” 

Bother the girl! 

If she hadn't so heedlessly lost Julia's copy of 


INTERPLAY 


79 


A Divided Interest, he would never have known 
anything about the verses. 

Yet he was glad to know . . . and again a wave 
of tenderness towards Julia submerged every other 

feeling for two minutes, and then- Why hadn’t 

all women got delightful voices? 

Curious to meet that Collett girl in such a fashion. 
Curious that she should come to him to beg a 
favour. “Those proud Colletts,” his mother had 
called them long ago—but for some years past 
their name had dropped out of Frampton Massey 
gossip. Wasn’t there something about General 
Collett towards the end of the war? He couldn’t 
remember exactly what . . . wasn’t he recalled 
only a short time before the Armistice?—and 
people said it had broken his heart and ruined his 
temper. The Frampton Massey people had liked 
the youngsters, he was sure of that. Wasn’t 
there something, too, about this very Susan and 
his little sister? The little sister who was only 
a faint though fragrant memory to him now. 
So much had happened since she died. Yet the 
phrase “those proud Colletts” was somehow 
associated with his little sister; though how 
and why he could not remember. Was she proud? 
he wondered. She carried her head high, but 
he thought “joyous” described her rather than 
proud; and her voice was the friendliest voice in 
the world. 


80 


THE BROKEN BOW 


What an actress she would have made! And he 
laughed because he was absolutely certain Susan 
couldn’t act at all. 

Bother the girl! 

She had wasted his afternoon, and now she bid 
fair to spoil his evening. 

Suppose Miss Mainwaring found out about those 
verses. . . . Good heavens! 

He tried to settle down to work, but found him¬ 
self thinking about Susan. She was undoubtedly 
ignorant, probably had received next to no educa¬ 
tion, and was entirely lacking in appreciation or 
even knowledge of such new stars as shone in 
the firmament of the Arts. 

A casual, tiresome, upsetting girl. Yet he’d 
rather like to meet her again * . . and hoped it 
might be soon. 


hi 

It took so long to collect her suit-case at King’s 
Cross that Susan only just managed to catch her 
train. 

Once she was safely wedged into a crowded third- 
class carriage, she started thinking steadily and 
hard. 

The long arm of coincidence was indeed stretched 
out, and the clutch of circumstance held her in 
a firm grip. 


INTERPLAY 


81 


An almost forgotten summer came back to her 
vivid and clear. Picture after picture passed 
before her mind. Each carrying with it experiences 
none the less poignant because they had been 
overlaid by a multitude of other experiences; 
covered up and pressed to the bottom of the soul 
archives, but there carefully preserved uncrushed 
and unfaded. 

Again she saw the little day school at Frampton 
Massey, where she had been sent for one term 
because her governess had fallen ill and Aunt 
Myrtle wanted to go away. A common little school 
it was. She realized that now. But she had 
always seen it through a sort of golden haze because 
of one girl there whom she had dearly loved, 
little Hesper Stowe. And time that had ruthlessly 
rent the glamour surrounding so many childish 
admirations had only added a sort of tender halo 
to the remembrance of her little friend. 

And this young man, this Alfrey Stowe, with 
whom she had just been lunching, must be Hesper’s 
brother. She remembered hazily that there was a 
brother much older than Hesper, and clever, they 
said. And now he wrote much-talked-of novels, 
and Julia was proud of knowing him. Julia, whose 
visiting list was carefully revised and decreased 
every time Uncle Godfrey attended a new Royalty. 
Julia, who, while professing almost Bolshevist 


82 


THE BROKEN BOW 


views as regarded politics, was careful to sift her 
friends’ social possibilities through a very fine 
mesh indeed. 

Did he remember his little sister? Susan 
wondered. Had he been fond of her? Had he 
known the child’s love for Susan and her grief 
when they were parted? Did he blame her? 
If he thought about it at all, did he think she was 
a willing thrall to the tyranny of caste that had 
compelled her? Again Susan thrilled with futile 
rebellion . . . and it was all so long ago. Perhaps 
he didn’t even remember Hesper had known her. 
Was he fond of his mother? Susan hoped so. 
Hesper had been devoted to her mother. . . . 

Women were reaching bundles down from the 
racks. They had reached Hatfield. 

IV 

Miss Myrtle Collett had excellent health, a 
handsome person, and, what most people in 
these hard times would consider, quite adequate 
means. 

Moreover, her life was brightened by the pos¬ 
session of a grievance which could, on occasion, be 
inflated into a dudgeon. 

This grievance was that the manor-house at 
Aylberne should be let while she had not yet been 
able to find the house she wished to settle down in. 


INTERPLAY 


83 


Not that she dreamt of living in a hotel or rooms. 
Since the war she had taken a furnished house 
wherever she happened to want to live. But she 
complained that it really did seem hard that, 
whereas during the many years she had been 
mistress of her father’s house she had looked 
after four noisy young Colletts in the holidays 
while their parents were in India, now that the 
war was over, and once more she had time to 
pay visits, General Collett should have let the 
Manor for a term of years and joined his family 
in a nomadic existence in service flats or residen¬ 
tial hotels. A sort of life much more calculated 
to demand hospitality than to offer it. 

Now Miss Collett herself was hospitable. She 
contrived to have and keep good servants when 
other people had none, and in any house she 
rented you might be sure that the beds were 
comfortable, the house well warmed, and the cook¬ 
ing excellent. Therefore, just as in the old days the 
young Colletts had made the Manor their head¬ 
quarters, so now, when any of them were at a 
loose end, they always descended upon Aunt 
Myrtle, and Susan was putting in three days 
between two visits. 

“I expected you for luncheon,” Aunt Myrtle said 
reproachfully, as they were having tea. “You 
said you were coming in the morning, although, 
as usual, you were quite indefinite as to train; 


84 


THE BROKEN BOW 


so of course I waited until half-past one, and now 
you’ve kept me waiting twenty minutes for tea. 
What delayed you?” 

“I’m sorry, Aunt Myrtle, it was thoroughly 
tiresome of me, but I lost a parcel and had to make 
inquiries at the lost property office.” 

“Quite useless, I imagine. No one ever gets 
anything back nowadays . . . too many dishonest 
people about. What was in the parcel?” 

Susan hesitated. Aunt Myrtle was inquisitive 
and had an amazingly good memory for things 
that other people hoped she might forget. 

“Just a book, Aunt Myrtle.” 

“A book? What sort of book?” 

“A novel.” 

“Really, you are very mysterious. Is there 
any reason why its name should be withheld?” 

“None whatever,” Susan answered boldly. 
“It was called The Crooked Way.” 

<( The Crooked Way” Aunt Myrtle repeated. 
“I haven’t read any reviews of that; and it 
doesn’t sound at all a desirable subject. Perhaps 
it’s just as well you lost it.” 

“Perhaps it is,” Susan agreed meekly. 

“Had you read any of it?” 

“Not much.” 

“One doesn’t usually carry a book one is reading 
in a paper parcel—and that reminds me—I noticed 
when you came in that you were carrying a parcel 


INTERPLAY 


85 


diat locked ike a bock. Did you dud it again, 

•__ .nm 


a_: 


~X: Aon: Myrde. not yet. They re making 


‘Then viut was the beck: in that par eel? 71 
•Anohg novel that I hoogfrt." 

“Do yen think jw ought to spend money on 
shy novels just now. when your father is so pressed 
money he can’t hve in the home of his ancestors 
and has to kt it? Yoa are vay thoughtless. 
Because veur godmother is kind enough to give 
you a handsome dress allowance. that is no reason 
wuy you should fritter it away on ruPGisny novels 
that you could quite well obtain from the eircu- 
kung horary—if you. must waste time reading 
Yea might remember your hrathss if 
you have any money to spare. We all have 
to practice economy jnct now, so as to help 
others. ..." 

~Ye= Aunt Myrtle. I know."” 

~And it seems unfair/' Aunt Myrtle continued, 
‘that ah the hurus k os she chi fah on cider people, 
vhhe the young merely amuse themselves.*' 

“V—to. ’ Susan agreed hrieuy. and produced her 
ngarette-iase. May I smoke? Do you mind?*' 

“I do n d rd . And I must as: you not to smoke 
m Tty dra^unr-r':•: m I have to put up with it 
Ttn your father or your brothers visit me. but I 
see no- reason wiv I should encourage you in what 






















86 THE BROKEN BOW 

I take leave to consider an unfeminine and unplea¬ 
sant habit.” 

Susan put her cigarette-case back in her pocket 
with a sigh of relief, secretly blessing the unfeminine 
and unpleasant habit that had, for the moment, 
diverted her aunt’s attention from the parcel that 
looked like a book. 

She decided that she would give the railway 
company three days. If by that time Julia’s 
copy of A Divided Interest was not found, she 
must send the one with Alfrey Stowe’s new verses 
in it. 

She tried hard to allay her qualms of conscience 
by the reflection that one couldn’t call it a forgery, 
as he had rewritten the verses himself. 

She did hope they were the same, but she was 
doubtful. He had seemed so vague. 

Were all authors like that? she wondered. 

How angry Aunt Myrtle would be if she knew 
that lunch with the particular young man had 
delayed her. Aunt Myrtle was such a dear old 
die-hard. Even the war had not shaken her firm 
belief that “the rich man in his castle, the poor 
man at his gate,” was a state of things divinely 
ordained. Whereas just then it was more often 
the rich man in the poor man’s castle that he 
couldn’t afford to live in; while Alfrey Stowe 
(whose little sister, Hesper, Susan had been for¬ 
bidden to know) was courted by Julia, who was, 


INTERPLAY 


87 


in her way, as great a snob as Aunt Myrtle. 

“Anyway,” Susan reflected, “all the aunts in 
Europe shan't stop me knowing Hesper’s brother— 
especially if he's going to marry Julia. I like 
him. He's queer and ugly and rather prim, but 
I believe he's a good sort. I do hope he’ll play 
the game when I meet him at Woodlands.” 


CHAPTER VII 


i 


WEEK later Alfrey, taking a short cut 



through one of the streets off Fleet Street, 
came upon a crowd of poor children in brown 
overalls and rush hats. Very small girls, who 
were being shepherded into a building by two 
ladies. One was a little, bustling woman in the 
uniform of the Girl Guides; the other, much 
taller, in mufti. 

He didn’t particularly notice any of them 
beyond the fact that they took up all the pave¬ 
ment, and he was driven into the road. 

When he had passed them he heard somebody 
say, “Gently does it. Don’t crowd so. Mind 
the door . . . that’s better. Good children.” 
And he turned to find they had all vanished 
up the steps and through a pseudo-Gothic door 
way. 

He stood where he was in the comparatively 
quiet street; for the voice he had heard was the 
voice of Susan Collett. 

The sweet, companionable voice that had haunted 


INTERPLAY 89 

him ever since she came to his office on that absurd 
errand about the verses. 

He had not been to Woodlands since. 

He had not met Julia anywhere. 

He was still ignorant as to what had happened 
about the book. 

Carefully noting the hall, he went on to his 
appointment, and came back the same way some 
three-quarters of an hour later. 

He mounted the steps, found the door was only 
latched, and passed into a dark ante-lobby with 
a short passage at one side of it. 

Cheerful sounds of children singing came from 
a room at the end of the passage where the door 
was open far enough for him to see in. 

Some thirty little girls were ranged in a ring, 
and in the middle of them Susan Collett was 
standing. “Once again and a bit faster,” she 
said, conducting with her hand, and the Brownies 
sang in unison— 

“ Once I got into a boat, 

Such a pretty little boat, 

Just as the day was domin', 

And I took a little oar 

And I rowed out from the shore, 

So very, very early in the mornin'.” 

Then they started running round with skipping, 
tripping steps while they chanted— 


90 


THE BROKEN BOW 





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T-J- f- 

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And all the lit - tie waves had their night - caps on, 


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J , H 


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Night-caps,white caps,night-caps on, And all the lit - tie waves had their 


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PfiT ! 1 r 



i i i 

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a> ~ 

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night-caps on, So ver - y, ver - y ear - ly in the morn - in’. 


“And all the little wives had their night-caps on, 
Night-caps, white caps, night-caps on, 

And all the little wives had their night-caps on, 
So very, very early in the mornin , . ,, 


Alfrey had a sudden vision of hundreds of little 
wives wearing night-caps in hundreds of little 
beds, and wondered what on earth it was all 
about. 

There were more verses which they sang with 
the greatest enthusiasm, and each one ended with 
the tripping, skipping measure and the assurance 
that 


“And all the little wives had their night-caps on, 
Night-caps, white caps, night-caps on, 

And all the little wives had their night-caps on, 

So very, very early in the mo mm y’ 

Till it dawned upon him that the wives in question 
were waves. 





































INTERPLAY 


91 


Then, under Susan’s leadership, they all went 
to the seaside. They climbed into the railway 
carriage. They sat closely packed. They had 
their first glimpse of the sea through the window 
amidst the greatest excitement. They descended 
from the railway carriage and were marshalled 
two by two upon the platform. Then they rushed 
to the beach and stood in rows, taking deep breaths 
and inhaling the ozone. 

They paddled; and finally they bathed and 
had a swimming lesson, lying flat on their tummies 
and using their arms and legs as directed with 
immense enthusiasm. A truly enchanting expe¬ 
dition. 

It was cold in that bare hall in the dark December 
afternoon illumined by two or three unshaded 
electric lights, but the Brownies were warm enough 
with their various exercises. Nevertheless, they 
panted and shivered most realistically while they 
dried themselves after their swim, and were so 
eager and earnest and convinced over it all, that 
Alfrey felt almost as if he’d been to the seaside 
himself. 

Nobody noticed him. Nobody either asked him 
his business or drove him away, and he calmly 
sat down on a narrow ledge that was fixed on each 
side of the passage, to watch the rest of the show 
and to wait till they should finish. 

There was something both valorous and pathetic 


92 


THE BROKEN BOW 


about these keen-faced, shrill-voiced London 
children: evidently, most of them, very poor. 
So many light feet were handicapped by broken 
shoes or badly overtrodden boots, several sizes 
too large. The few who possessed sand-shoes 
seemed so well shod in comparison, and three 
little girls in whole stockings looked almost pluto¬ 
cratic. 

They were happy, biddable on the whole, and 
intensely earnest. After the seaside game they 
did some mysterious poojah round a huge mush¬ 
room-shaped object which was evidently their 
totem, and finally collected their rush hats and 
departed with much noise and chatter. 

They noted Alfrey soon enough, and he heard 
one child say to another: “JVhat d’you suppose 
he’s witin’ for?” 

“ ’E’s ’er boy most likely” 

“Oo’s boy?” 

“Why, ’ers as takes the singin’; Brown Owl’s 
got a ’usban’, stupid.” 

“ ’E might be ’er ’usban’.” 

“Note ’e. ’Usband’s don’t go witin’ abaht out¬ 
side. They marches in as bold as brass. ...” 

He followed the Brownies out into the street 
and waited there while Susan and her friend 
collected music, shut the piano, and turned off 
lights. 

Meanwhile quite a crowd of grown-up people 


INTERPLAY 


93 


came out from some other meeting in the building, 
and he was afraid he might lose Susan. It had 
got so dark. But presently she and Brown Owl 
came out, and he heard Brown Owl say: “Well, 
good-bye, and thank you for helping. Try and 
turn up next Saturday, mind. We go different 
ways now. I’ve got to catch my train at St. 
Paul's.” 

“Miss Collett, may I speak to you for a minute?” 

Susan started violently as Alfrey appeared at 
her side. “I was passing and saw you go into 
that hall, and on my way back I looked in to 
watch the show and wait for you. What affout 
some tea?” 

“I'm dying for some tea,” Susan said, “but I 
won't have it under false pretences. If you think 
I can tell you anything about the lost book and 
Julia—I can't; for I only registered it back to 
her this morning before I came up to town. I 
waited, because I did hope so that they'd find 
it. I even wrote to Scotland Yard—but nothing 
doing—so I took the plunge.” 

“Did you—er—finish it?” 

“I did.” 

“And you still think the style obscure?” 

“I'm afraid I'm no judge of style,” Susan 
answered primly, “so my opinion would be worth 
nothing.” 


94 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Later, as they were having tea at Stuart’s, she 
said: “Now tell me, what did you think of the 
Brownies?” 

“I'm afraid I'm no judge of Brownies, so my 
opinion would be worth nothing.” 

“Don’t be tiresome. . . . Tell me, didn't you, 
honestly, think they were rather sweet . . . and 
pathetic?” 

“And shrill and rather grubby,” Alfrey added. 
“Are you a guide yourself?” 

“Not yet, because we’re always moving, but 
I help when I can, for they're rather short-handed 
just now. Mrs. Tracey, that's Brown Owl, works 
so hard. It's a very poor section. Did you 
notice their sad little feet?” 

“Can’t the Guide Authorities provide shoes 
for them to play in? Is it forbidden?” 

“Oh, I don’t suppose it would be forbidden, 
but where’s the money to come from? Mrs. 
Tracey herself gave them their hats and most 
of their overalls, but very often quite a lot of 
them can’t bring their pennies.” 

“I believe,” he said diffidently, “I could get 
the money for those shoes.” 

“You could? How?” 

“Well, if you had no objection to my writing 
a little article about what I saw this afternoon.” 

“You mean some paper would pay for it? 
Really pay for it?” 


INTERPLAY 


95 


“I believe so.” 

“And will you?” 

“Certainly, if you’d like it.” 

“But of course I’d like it. . . . You’re sure 
they’ll pay for it?” 

“I think I may say I’m pretty sure.” 

“How much will they pay, do you think? 
As much as five pounds? It would take every 
penny of that to get enough sand-shoes—things 
are so dear still. Oh, it would be lovely of you. 
Will you do it at once—to-night?” 

“I’ll try to do it to-night.” 

“And when will you know how much they’ll 
pay for it?” 

“Quite soon, I should think.” 

“Could you let us have the money before 
Christmas?” 

“I think so, certainly.” 

“Will you write down Mrs. Tracey’s address 
and send it to her earmarked ‘Sand-shoes for the 
Brownies’?” 

“Mayn’t I send the cheque to you?” 

“Oh, no, much better send it to Mrs. Tracey 
direct.” 

He produced a fountain-pen and a notebook 
and duly inscribed Mrs. Tracey’s address, taking 
care this time to secure Susan’s as well. This 
accomplished, Susan rose, enjoining him to go 
home at once, “and mind you write that article. 


96 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Don’t waste a minute. I’ll walk down Piccadilly 
and be there directly. I’m with another aunt 
in Wilton Crescent till Monday.” 

“Mayn’t I walk back with you?” 

“Certainly not. It would be a dreadful waste 
of time. Please go away at once and write about 
the Brownies . . . you’re quite sure they’ll pay 
for it? But of course—you’ve got a paper your¬ 
self, haven’t you?” 

“I shan’t put it in Orion. I think I could get 
more for it somewhere else.” 

“It seems too wonderful—don’t lose a minute. 
I am glad you happened to see them.” 


n 

On his way back to his chambers in the Temple, 
Alfrey set his teeth and muttered: “I’ll show 
them. Those proud Colletts’ indeed!” 

It was true that there didn’t seem much pride 
about Susan that he could discover, but her 
ignorance was deplorable. 

How dare she keep asking in that sweet voice 
of hers if he was sure they’d pay for what he 
wrote? As if he were some wretched penny- 
a-liner. Did she never read reviews? 

Confound her impudence! 

How different from her Cousin Julia, who 
understood and appreciated his work with such 


INTERPLAY 


97 


delicate discrimination. Who, if she ever ventured 
to criticize, was always helpful and psychologically 
right. 

Bother Susan Collett and her Brownies—but he 
was glad of the opportunity to put her under an 
obligation. 

He wasn't a bit fond of children even when they 
were clean and well groomed, deeming them quite 
unworthy of consideration by any serious novelist 
who wrote about Life. There was a lot of mawkish, 
sentimental nonsense talked and written about 
children—it was in the air—and the last thing 
he desired was to be in any way associated with 
the Group—if it were a Group—that specialized 
in Infancy. 

Yet he had rather liked the Brownies of this 
afternoon. In spite of the tinkly piano; in 
spite of the dusty smell; in spite of the scorn 
and suspicion of anything that savoured of moral 
uplift which he shared with most young men 
who had survived the war, he had liked the 
Brownies. 

The land of Make-Believe had always possessed 
immense attraction for him; and there could be 
no question that it was jolly and enlivening for 
those little girls to go once a week to a Magic 
Place where there occurred delightful adventures 
far removed from their daily experience. 


98 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Whatever the didactic teaching of the Guides 
might be, “all the little wives with their night¬ 
caps on” was delicious nonsense. 

He’d write that article. He’d do it from a 
new view-point with only enough sentiment in it 
to suit the Christmas season. The Times should 
print it, and he’d send her The Times. 

Probably she never looked at a paper except 
to read about the latest play or the latest fashions. 

Well, she should read his article anyhow. 

He’d see to that. 

Ungracious girl! not to say anything about his 
book. Probably she was not sufficiently interested 
to finish it. 

But common politeness should have made her 
say something. 

Those proud Colletts! 

He’d humble the pride of one of them. Before 
he’d done with her she should be grateful . . . 
grateful . . . humble . . . night-caps on . . . 

Here he bumped violently into an indignant old 
gentleman coming in the opposite direction; for, 
unconsciously, Alfrey had quickened his steps in 
a crowded street to the tune of “All the little 
wives had their night-caps on.” 

hi 

Susan, too, went down Piccadilly to the tune of 
“Night-caps, white caps, night-caps on.” She 


INTERPLAY 


99 


was pleased and excited at the accidental meeting 
that was to result in such unexpected good for¬ 
tune for the Brownies. 

How pleased Aunt Em would be. Aunt Em, 
her mother’s only sister; that kind, rich, childless 
godmother who loved her, spoiled her, and gave 
her the allowance which was definitely dedicated 
to clothes. 

When, goodness! she suddenly remembered 
that as yet she was supposed never even to have 
seen Alfrey Stowe. She mustn’t tell Aunt Em 
or anyone, and she was bursting with the desire 
to broadcast this important news . . . and (she 
confessed it to herself) to crow over Julia, who 
was always chilly and superior when Guides or 
Women Institutes were mentioned, while Aunt 
Em was an enthusiastic supporter of all such 
movements. If Aunt Em knew that this Mr. 
Stowe had done such a kind thing as that, 
she’d ask him to all her parties, and she gave 
such nice parties. It seemed mean to do him 
out of such friendly hospitality, and yet she 
must . . . 

Susan sighed; but cheered up as she reflected 
that, unless he had grossly overestimated the 
value of his writing, the Brownies would get their 
shoes. 


100 


THE BROKEN BOW 


IV 

When Susan got back to Wilton Crescent, she 
went straight to heir aunt’s drawing-room. Big 
and L-shaped, it seemed full of relations. Her 
own father and mother, newly arrived from Bath, 
to stay over Sunday on their way to Aunt Myrtle’s 
for Christmas. A whole family of cousins from 
Wiltshire. Her uncle, Sir Godfrey Mainwaring; 
and, sitting on the high fender warming her hands, 
Julia, surrounded by three young men whom 
Susan didn’t know. Julia, looking particularly 
slim and elegant in grey with blue fox furs. 

Susan dutifully embraced her father and mother, 
shook hands with the cousins, was kissed by Sir 
Godfrey, and approached the hearthrug rather 
breathless, with a dreadful thumping in her ears. 

Suppose Julia went for her about the book, 
before all these people—what could she say? 

And Julia was far from reticent. But Julia 
only turned to her, saying quite amiably: “Hullo, 
Susan! How late you are. Daddie and I looked 
in to ask you all to come out to Woodlands to¬ 
morrow afternoon. We’ve got Gobboni, the ’cello 
man, coming, and he’ll play. Robinoff’s coming 
too, and will sing. But Aunt Em says she’s got 
people coming here especially to meet Uncle 
Fred and Aunt Jo—which is a bore. I’m just 
back from a ball at Newbury. Daddie met 


INTERPLAY 


101 


me at Paddington and we drove straight here.” 

Susan caught at her vanishing self-control and 
held it. Julia hadn’t seen the book yet then. 

And with all those people coming to-morrow 
she might be too busy to examine it, even if she 
did open the parcel. Susan breathed freely again. 

Julia let loose an avalanche of epigrams about 
the ball. The three young men joined in the 
conversation, and Susan discreetly effaced herself, 
joining a plain cousin on the other side of the 
room, who seemed rather out of it. 

As Sir Godfrey and Julia were leaving, she said: 
“Oh, by the way, Susan, have you done with 
A Divided Interest f If you happen to have it 
with you, I could take it back if you like.” 

“I posted it to you yesterday. It will be 
waiting for you at Woodlands.” 

“That’s all right, thank you. You did like it, 
now, didn’t you? You must confess it’s awfully 
vivid. My dear girl, I shouldn’t go guiding too 
often if I were you. It must be frightfully strenu¬ 
ous. You’ve been the colour of a beetroot ever 
since you came in. I noticed it directly. Well, 
au revoir till after Christmas, I suppose.” 

“Aren’t you over-tired, Susan dear?” her 
mother asked, as the door was shut behind the 
last visitor. “Have you got a chill, do you think? 
Julia was quite right, you r.eally are very flushed. 


102 


THE BROKEN BOW 


I think I'd better take your temperature, with all 
this influenza about." 

Susan's mother and Aunt Em were sitting by 
the drawing-room fire alone, while their husbands 
played billiards. Susan had gone to bed. They 
had always been the best of friends these two; 
there was only a year between them in age, but 
Mrs. Collett looked fifteen years older than her 
sister, who was small and fair, with a fresh, unlined 
complexion. 

Mrs. Collett was thin to emaciation, faded, and 
distinguished-looking; always, as though she were 
tired out, which, indeed, she had good reason 
to be. 

“Girls are so restless," she complained, “if 
they're not dancing all the time, then they needs 
must rush about the country playing with Guides 
or Brownies, or organizing Women’s Institutes or 
Nursing Associations or Invalid Children's Aid 
or something or other. None of them will settle 
down peaceably anywhere. There’s Susan, now. 
How dusty and untidy she looked when she came 
in this afternoon, and Julia was so well turned out 
and smart—that girl does know how to put on 
her clothes—and it isn’t as if Susan hadn't got 
clothes—you see to that, you kind thing—but it 
is a bit annoying, now isn’t it?" 

“You see, she had been playing with the 


INTERPLAY 


103 


Brownies,” Aunt Em pleaded in excuse. “It 
would have been silly to wear anything but old 
clothes. I wish she’d belong properly, then she’d 
have the uniform.” 

“That’s Susan all over,” her mother lamented; 
“she won’t be bound down or tied up or ‘belong’ 
to anything or anyone. She must be perfectly 
free all the time to follow the caprice of the moment. 
She can’t even stay a week quietly alone at Hat¬ 
field with Myrtle, but must come rushing up to 
London to help this Mrs. Tracey. ...” 

“I’m afraid I’m responsible for that,” Aunt 
Em interrupted. “I asked her if she would.” 

“Well, if it hadn’t been you it would have 
been somebody else. It annoys Myrtle, and I’m 
sure I don’t wonder, and she is good, you know, 
taking us all in at any time. She must get very 
tired of it.” 

“I suppose,” Aunt Em suggested apologetically, 
“that they all got so used to being busy during 
the war they feel they must go on being useful 
somehow. There is a lot needs doing, you know.” 

“I’m not finding fault with you, Em, but I do 
think Susan might take a little more interest in 
us instead of being so keen on all sorts of outside 
things. If she could amuse or entertain her 
father, now, what a boon that would be.” 

“But she hasn’t had the chance of being much 
with you and Fred for months—has she? Don’t 


104 


THE BROKEN BOW 


you think it’s a bit hard on Susan, too, that she 
has no proper home and is always moving about? 
If only Fred would take a house somewhere and 
settle-” 

“Sometimes,” Mrs. Collett murmured, unutter¬ 
able weariness in her tired voice, “I fear that 
Fred will never consent to have a house again. 
In lots of ways, even though it makes things easier 
financially, I’m sorry he let the Manor. Had we 
been obliged to live there, even though we hadn’t 
sixpence to spend, he’d have had occupation. 
The farms were all let, he needn’t have preserved, 
and we could probably have rubbed along some¬ 
how. Then there would have been a home for 
Susan and the boys, and—for me. Oh, Em! you 
can’t think how sick I am of hotels and boarding¬ 
houses and moving about. First with the regiment 
—but we were younger then—though that was 
hard too, because it meant that I only got the 
children in snippets. And when we did come 
home we always seemed to be at the Manor most 
of the time, and though Myrtle always was kind 
—yet it wasn’t like my own house. You don’t 
know how I longed to have my children to myself. 
Any little house with only a couple of servants 
would have done—but, except in Scotland, I was 
never allowed to have it.” 

“That’s the tragedy of India,” Aunt Em said. 
“That can’t be helped, but the house question can, 



INTERPLAY 


105 


and ought to be. You’re tired out. Can’t you 
come here for three weeks after Christmas and do 
a rest-cure and stay in bed? It would do you 
all the good in the world. Let Susan look after 
Fred for a bit.” 

Mrs. Collett clasped her thin hands tightly and 
sat forward in her chair as though bracing herself 
to resist this tempting project. She shook her 
head, at the same time asking: “You do think 
Susan ought to help me more, then?” 

“I think you, poor dear, are at the end of your 
tether, but I don’t blame Susan, because you 
never give her a chance. Why not let her go with 
Fred directly after Christmas wherever he wants 
to go?—and you come here—it would do you 
no end of good.” 

“I couldn’t leave Fred. If I seem to grumble, 
it’s only that I do get so tired sometimes. Yet 
it’s nice to be wanted, and I think he wants me 
more now than ever before. You know he has 
resigned from both his clubs? He hated meeting 
old cronies at the Rag. He always thinks they 
are sorry for him and he resents that, but now he 
has nowhere to go when he comes to London. ...” 

“All the more reason to keep him away from 
London. Let Susan go with him to play golf 
somewhere—she could do that. She plays quite 
a good game.” 

“Susan irritates her father,” Mrs. Collett sighed. 


106 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“So does everybody else, just now,” Aunt Em 
rejoined briskly. “He must just put up with 
her.” 

“She’s afraid of annoying him, and that makes 
her awkward and abrupt.” 

“What about Robert and Hugh? Do they 
annoy him?” 

“Robert does. He’s so modern and utilitarian. 

. . . Fred can’t take any interest in business, you 
know, and Robert is so keen.” 

“He’s shaping very well, Charlie says, has no 
frills and works really hard. Surely Fred must 
see that it’s a splendid chance for the boy. We’ve 
no children, and Charlie can do a lot for him with 
the firm when he has been right through the 
drudgery.” 

“I know. It’s a splendid chance, and we’re all 
ever so grateful; but what Fred can’t understand 
is Robert’s indifference about Aylberne. He was 
awfully hurt when Robert said by all means cut 
off the entail if Hugh didn’t mind—and sell the 
place outright if it made things easier. Now 
David adored Aylberne. ...” 

Aunt Em leant across and laid her plump little 
hand on Mrs. Collett’s clasped so tightly in her 
lap: “It seems a dreadful tangle just now, dear 
Jo, but perhaps as time goes on . . . ” 

“What I want to know is this,” Mrs. Collett 
went on, as though she hadn’t heard, “where do 


INTERPLAY 


107 


parents come in in the new scheme of things? 
Do they count for absolutely nothing?” 

“I suppose they count as much as ever they 
did as individuals, but that the mere fact of being 
a parent has lost its prestige.” 

“Why?” 

“Partly, I suppose—but I can only speak from 
observation, not from experience, I'm not a parent 
unfortunately—because they claimed too much, 
and if ever any section of society claims too much 
—it goes under. Parents happen to have gone 
under just now—gone under pretty deep too; but 
they’ll emerge again presently and perhaps be 
more influential than ever in a different way-” 

“I’m sure we never wanted to push our parents 
under,” Mrs. Collett said plaintively; “we loved 
them far too much.” 

“You and I, dear Jo, both left our parents 
before we were twenty and arranged our lives for 
ourselves.” 

“You may have,” Mrs. Collett rejoined grimly. 
“I never have.” 

“You weren’t under the domination of parents, 
though. David was beginning to walk before 
you were Susan’s age.” 

“Well, it’s not my fault Susan isn’t married. 
I only wish she would marry a nice man. She’s 
had quite good offers too. I don’t know what 
she wants.” 


108 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Julia hasn’t married either, and she’s five years 
older than Susan.” 

“Oh, Julia! She’s different.” 

“Very different-” 

“She, at all events, is content with her own 
station in life and doesn’t run after the democracy. 
It’s that annoys Fred and Myrtle so about 
Susan.” 

“Fred and Myrtle would like to pretend that 
the democracy—as it exists at present—isn’t really 
there. Or that, if it is, it ought to be hushed up 
like an improper story. But, my dear, it is there, 
all round us, everywhere, very strong and vital 
and clever-” 

“Oh, clever—far too clever, and lazy into the 
bargain.” 

“It’s clever enough, anyway, to size up people 
like Fred and Myrtle, and if they refuse to be 
friendly they’ll find that they’re just shouldered 
out of the way and left.” 

“After they’ve been robbed of everything.” 

“I don’t think,” Aunt Em said slowly, “that 
the new British democracy will ever go in for 
Russian methods. It won’t despoil or murder an 
already impoverished aristocracy. It will just 
push them out of the way, and leave them behind 
on a sort of dreary mental siding where they 
can grouse to one another but can’t alter any¬ 
thing.” 


INTERPLAY 


109 


“That’s what children do nowadays to their 
parents.” 

“I suppose,” Aunt Em said thoughtfully, 
“children are the new democracy.” 


CHAPTER VIII 


i 


LL the way down to Hatfield, as she travelled 



with her parents on Monday afternoon, 
Susan was worried by the possibility of an accusing 
letter from Julia awaiting her at Aunt Myrtle’s. 
Even in the comparative comfort and space of a 
first-class carriage (General Collett’s efforts towards 
a rigid economy in all things had not yet extended 
to railway journeys) brought no ease of mind to 
Susan. So that when she arrived and found that 
there were no letters for her of any kind, it was 
as though a great weight were lifted from her 
shoulders, and she took part after dinner in the 
game of family Bridge with a better grace than 


usual. 


General Collett played well; so did her mother. 
Susan’s play was erratic and occasionally brilliant, 
but she persistently over-called, and all her sins 
were sins of commission, which annoyed her 
father. 

Aunt Myrtle had played Bridge ever since Bridge 
was first introduced, but she never improved. 


no 


INTERPLAY 


111 


She had no imagination and no deductive instinct, 
but she fancied herself enormously, and always 
lost her temper along with her money. 

Happily, this evening she won, owing to out¬ 
rageous bids on the part of Susan, who was playing 
with her father. 

Of the four people seated at that card table, 
three were as curiously alike in appearance as they 
were diverse in character. 

There could be no question that Susan was her 
father’s daughter, and her mother sitting between 
them as they faced each other was struck afresh 
by their strong resemblance. 

General Collett, tall and soldierly and lean, wore 
his clothes with an air. His brown eyes were set 
and shaped like Susan’s; but they had lost their 
fire, and about them and his handsome mouth 
were deep lines inscribed by bitterness and dis¬ 
appointment. His shoulders were not bent, but 
his thin neck, with that deep hollow at the base 
of the skull, indicative of ill-health, drooped for¬ 
ward as though his handsome head were too heavy 
for it. 

Happy and successful and interested in many 
things besides soldiering, he had failed to do the 
impossible in the spring of* 1918. And because 
he had refused to sacrifice a whole division in an 
avowedly hopeless enterprise, he had been relieved 
of his command and sent home. He belonged to 


112 


THE BROKEN BOW 


the old school of soldiers who neither explained 
nor extenuated their tactics. He made no com¬ 
plaints and refused to discuss the matter even with 
his wife. But his heart was broken and his spirit 
quenched. That David should be killed in action 
seemed to him merely the fortune of war. That 
he should be put out of action so short a time 
before the end seemed to him so crushing an injus¬ 
tice that it took all the savour out of life. 

Still, he would do his best with what was left 
to him. 

With all his honest soul he believed in the Sanctity 
of the Domestic Hearth. Everybody’s domestic 
hearth. Hence family Auction Bridge. He would 
have been far happier sitting alone by the fire and 
reading The Economic Consequences of the War, 
but as the head of a household, even when it was 
unhoused, he considered it his duty to cater for the 
amusement of his womenkind by playing Bridge 
with them, even when one of them played Auction 
as badly as Aunt Myrtle. 

Mrs. Collett looked from the faces on either side 
of her—the one so vivid and brilliant in its vigo¬ 
rous youth, the other so bleached and dimmed in 
its tired middle-age—to that of her sister-in-law 
opposite. 

Placid, complacent, handsome, there was no 
droop about Aunt Myrtle’s well-dressed head. She 
carried it high, and, in her, the arrogant Collett 


INTERPLAY 


113 


nose and clear colouring were accentuated to hard¬ 
ness. Such lines as she had were the result of 
time rather than experience. A deep one just by 
the lobe of the ear. Very few round the eyes, but 
many faint parallel lines above her well-marked 
eyebrows, and two or three loose curves at the 
corners of her mouth. A physiognomist can divine 
a good deal from the lines at the corners of a 
woman's mouth. 

Aunt Myrtle was obstinately decided about 
things that didn’t matter, but when it came to 
the determination of something really important, 
she always wanted someone else to make up her 
mind for her. 

“Shall we have another game?” General Collett 
inquired politely, when she had pointed out that 
he owed her one-and-ninepence. 

“No,” Susan said decidedly. “Aunt Em made 
me promise to send mother to bed at half-past 
nine, and it’s a quarter to ten now. Off you go, 
Mum. Aunt Em’s got the wind up about you and 
says you must rest more. What about breakfast 
in bed? I’ll take it up, Aunt Myrtle. May she 
have it?” 

“Dear Em has always been something of an 
alarmist,” the General interposed. “Your mother 
hates breakfast in bed unless she is really ill— 
don’t you, Jo?” 

Mrs. Collett had risen in obedience to Susan’s 


114 


[THE BROKEN BOW 

summons. Was it the orange-shaded lamps that 
made her look so pale, Susan wondered ... so 
lined and thin . . . 

“I have felt a bit tired lately,” she admitted,, 
“and if Myrtle doesn't mind . . . just for a day 
or two ...” 

“It's always apt to upset the servants,” Aunt 
Myrtle said judicially, “but if Susan carries up 

the tray-Mind you're down in time to do so, 

Susan.” 


ii 

Susan did come down in time and found three 
letters beside her plate. One from her brother 
Hugh in the Rifles; one from Julia—now she 
would know; and a third in handwriting she was 
not sure of—she felt she had seen it, but where? 
However, that didn't matter. It was Julia's that 
mattered. She stuffed it hastily into her pocket, 
for if Aunt Myrtle knew there was a letter from 
Julia she would expect Susan to show it to her— 
anyway, to read bits aloud. Aunt Myrtle was tire¬ 
some about letters. Susan thrust the other letter, 
too, into her pocket, leaving only Hugh's by her 
plate if Aunt Myrtle should come down; busied 
herself getting ready her mother's tray, carried it 
up and returned to find her aunt installed behind 
the coffee-pot. The General was late. 


INTERPLAY 


115 


Susan allowed herself to read Hugh’s letter dur¬ 
ing breakfast, and then was sorry she had, as there 
was very little in it for publication. It chiefly 
consisted of an urgent request to lend him five 
pounds wherewith to purchase Christmas presents 
for the family. 

Even Aunt Em didn’t know, though she sus¬ 
pected, what a lot of Susan’s dress allowance went 
Hughwards. 

At last breakfast was over. The General was 
late, and Susan had to wait until he had finished. 
The General’s breakfast was a lengthy and impor¬ 
tant ritual. 

Then she went to fetch her mother’s tray, 
and Mrs. Collett felt hurt because she snatched 
it and hurried away “without waiting for a 
word.” 

Where could she go to read Julia’s letter? She 
felt she could not bear the eyes of the family upon 
her while she did so. 

Her father was smoking the matutinal cigar 
while he read the Daily Argus in the dining-room. 
Aunt Myrtle was in the drawing-room watering 
plants. The servants would be “doing the rooms” 
upstairs. It was pouring with rain, so the garden 
was impossible. Finally she took refuge in the 
morning-room, a small dark chamber where Aunt 
Myrtle paid wages and saw church-workers if they 
called on parish business. 


116 


THE BROKEN BOW 


She left the door ajar that she might hear any¬ 
one coming, tore open Julia’s letter and read: 

“My dear Susan,— 

‘‘What have you done with my book? 

“Lost it, I suppose, in spite of all your promises. 
But how could you be so childish as to imagine I 
would accept such a clumsy forgery as these feeble 
verses? Why, the very handwriting gave the 
whole thing away at a glance, though, oddly 
enough, your attempt at a literary scrawl is not 
unlike Alfrey’s writing. Although, of course, any¬ 
one really familiar with it would detect the impos¬ 
ture at once. 

“It’s no good, Susan. Before you embark upon 
a career of crime, you should master a few of the 
elementary rules. An infant in arms would see 
through your poor little attempts at deception, 
and although I really am frightfully cross with 
you for losing my precious book, with its still more 
precious verses, I can’t help smiling at your absurd 
little stratagem. 

“Some day I’ll show these verses to Alfrey 
without mentioning names—I won’t give you away 
—and he’ll be amused too, to think that someone 
boldly attempted to imitate his style and his hand¬ 
writing without knowing anything of either the one 
or the other. 

“He was here yesterday; came to the concert. 

0 


INTERPLAY 


117 


I got him on the telephone on Saturday evening, 
and I’m keener on him than ever. 

“You see, in a year or two he’ll have an enormous 
public and will prove a force to be reckoned with. 
Moreover, he’s faithful and grateful and will remem¬ 
ber then those who believed in his Genius before 
the Many-headed had realized it. And I, my dear, 
am chief of these far-seeing ones. 

“Dear silly old Susan, to imagine you could 
deceive me, who know him so well and get to know 
him better every time we meet. That you could 
believe me to be so gullible annoys me even more 
than the fact that you’ve lost my precious book. 
I shan’t tell him yet, lest he should be hurt and 
think it awful of me to lend his precious book to 
anyone. It was rather awful of me, but I trusted 
you. 

“Your reproachful Julia.” 

Susan turned hot and cold as she read, for she 
felt sure that if Julia did tell Alfrey about the 
verses he would at once own up that he had written 
them himself, and then Julia would feel a fool, 
and be more angry with her than ever. 

Ought she to write to Mr. Stowe and warn him? 

“Oh, what a web of sin we weave 
When first we practice to deceive,” 

Susan quoted, in a sort of cosmic despair. The 


118 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Crooked Way was nothing to the labyrinth in which 
she found herself. 

She was pretty sure Julia was in love with the 
little man. Probably he was in love with Julia. 
That would be why he seemed so vague and un- 
enthusiastic. A sensitive, reserved person would 
be like that when he was in love. Well, she must 
leave it. She wouldn't interfere any more. Per¬ 
haps, after all, Julia wouldn't tell him yet, and 
when they were engaged it wouldn't matter so 
much. Anyway, it was no use standing there 
thinking—she'd better open the other letter—that 
might be pleasanter. 

But just at that moment she heard her aunt's 
voice in the hall. “Susan, where are you? I 
want you to come and hold that wool. What on 
earth are you doing in that cold room? I thought 
you were with your mother. Did she enjoy her 
breakfast? Come along, don't waste any more 
time." 

It was eleven o’clock before Susan found a quiet 
moment in which to read the letter in the un¬ 
known handwriting. She managed it at last in 
her own room while she was putting on her hat. 
The rain had ceased and the General wanted a 
walk. 

The note was short, a little island of small, neat 
writing in the centre of a large square sheet of 
paper. 


INTERPLAY 


119 


“Dec. 15, 1920. 

“3, Hare Court, 

“Temple, E.C. 

“Dear Miss Collett,— 

“The Argus is paying twenty guineas for that 
little sketch, so I have sent a cheque to Mrs. Tracey 
for that amount, according to your command. 
The Brownie article will be in Friday’s issue, and 
I’ll take leave to send you a copy in case, as I 
suspect, you only read the Seer . 

“I hoped to meet you, and be officially intro¬ 
duced, on Sunday at Woodlands, but was dis¬ 
appointed. 

“I am, yours most truly, 

“Alfrey Stowe.” 

Susan did a little dance in front of her looking- 
glass. Twenty guineas for those East End 
Brownies! What a score! But it made the web 
thicker than ever. 

The General was waiting in the hall when she 
went down. 

“You take some time to get ready, Susan,” he 
said, “but I must confess you look very nice.” 


hi 

Susan wrote to Julia and to Alfrey that after¬ 
noon, and posted the letters herself. 


120 


THE BROKEN BOW 


To Julia she said: 

“Ju Dear,— 

“You are right. It was atrocious of me. I 
did lose that book on the journey here. And 
though I have moved heaven and earth to get 
it back, each is equally adamant, and it hasn't 
turned up. 

“Please, please don’t tell Mr. Stowe, at least 
not yet. If you love me at all, Judy, grant me 
this favour. I don’t often ask favours, do I? But 
I ask this in all seriousness. Ycu see, because you 
like him so much, I don’t want him to hate me 
when we meet at Woodlands. 

“I am most awfully sorry. 

“Try to forgive your really penitent 

“Susan.” 

She found it more difficult to write to Alfrey, 
and tore up three attempts before she achieved: 

“Dear Mr. Stowe,— 

“How generous of you to give all that large 
cheque to the Brownies. I am sure Mrs. Tracey 
will be awfully grateful. So am I, and I do thank 
you more than I can express. Aunt Myrtle takes 
the Argus and the Seer, so I shall see it on Friday. 
You may be quite sure I shall make a grab at the 


INTERPLAY 121 

paper the first moment I can. It will be fright¬ 
fully exciting. 

“With renewed thanks, I am, yours sincerely, 
“Susan Collett.” 

As she poked the letters into the box she said 
to herself: “Well, that’s the end of that for a while, 
anyway.” 

But Susan underestimated the power of the 
printed word. 

“Some Blackfriars Brownies” was given a 
prominent column in the Argus. It was signed. 
It was whimsical and charming. It attracted 
attention. Alfrey had quoted the “Night-caps” 
song, and several other Brown Owls wrote to Mrs. 
Tracey demanding words and tune. 

Susan had learnt the song from her nurse in 
nursery days, and had never written down either 
words or tune. And no one could find the little 
song in any of the more popular collections. 

Moreover, four people sent Susan a copy of the 
Morning Argus . Alfrey’s copy came first, straight 
from the office, by the afternoon post on Friday, 
and on Saturday came three other copies from 
Julia, Mrs. Tracey, and Aunt Em. And all three 
senders were full of curiosity as to when and how 
Alfrey could have seen the children. 

Mrs. Tracey innocently supposed that he must 
have written the article from what Susan had told 


122 


THE BROKEN BOW 


him about the Guides, and graciously bade her 
“bring him in person” next time. 

Julia pointed out how literary genius could 
breathe upon the dry bones of even the dullest 
subject and make it live. Aunt Em inquired: 
“Why on earth didn’t you tell me you knew this 
Mr. Stowe, and we’d have asked him to dinner 
while you were with us. I like his last book so 
much. How queer and secretive of you, Susan.” 

Her father and Aunt Myrtle were rather gratified 
that any philanthropic enterprise graced by the 
presence of a Collett should receive due recognition, 
and Susan turned cold with terror when her father 
said: 

“Did Mrs. Tracey introduce the young man to 
you, Susan? What is he like?” 

“Mrs. Tracey has never seen him,” Susan replied 
emphatically, “and I’ve no idea what he’s like 
. . . except that I suppose he’s like the pictures 
one sees of him in the illustrated papers-” 

“Ah! a journalist, I suppose,” the General said 
easily. “They pop about all over the place and 
make notes, but it’s odd he should have heard 
your song.” 



CHAPTER IX 

i 

J ANUARY, 1922, and a horrible night. 

Outside it seemed to be raining ice, but 
it was warm and scented and softly radiant in 
Julia's pretty sitting-room. Scented by Roman 
hyacinths in jade-green bowls. Lighted by electric 
lamps in alabaster shades. A wood-fire whis¬ 
pered on the orange-tiled hearth, and Julia her¬ 
self was in harmony with the room. She was 
wearing a wonderful blue-green dress, heavily 
embroidered with almost Eastern delicacy and 
brilliance. A dress with no sleeves and next to 
no back, from which her thin arms and sharp 
shoulder-blades emerged white and challenging. 

Alfrey Stowe had dined well and wined well. 
He was in the mood that easily responds to frankly 
expressed admiration. Admiration—not of him¬ 
self—he would have suspected that of insincerity 
but admiration of his work was always welcome. 
Moreover, since he had discovered her innocent 
deception about the verses, he felt very tender 
123 


124 


THE BROKEN BOW 


towards Julia. Not exactly in love, you know, 
but he liked to be with her alone. And lately 
she had contrived that he always was with her 
alone for part of the time, even when there was 
a house-party. To-night there had been nobody 
but Sir Godfrey and his scientific guest; and it 
seemed to be taken for granted that they should 
go to Sir Godfrey's study and he and Julia to 
her sitting-room. 

As usual, Julia lay crouched on her black divan, 
propped up by black and orange pillows. Alfrey 
stood leaning against the mantelshelf and warmed 
his back while he looked down on the recumbent 
Julia. Certainly her line was beautiful, but he 
wished she would wear more clothes. 

The icy rain lashed at the windows. 

“Aren't you glad to be in this warm nest?" 
Julia asked. 

“Very glad," Alfrey agreed. 

It really was most pleasant in that room. 

“Come and sit here," Julia commanded, patting 
the divan. “There’s lots of room, and it’s so 
comfortable." 

Rather gingerly he seated himself sideways 
on the edge of the black expanse, so that he 
shouldn’t have his back towards Julia. 

She smiled at him. “Why are you so prim?" 
she asked. “Are you afraid of me?" 

“I should be singularly ungrateful if I were 


INTERPLAY 


125 


—and yet, I believe I am a bit afraid of you. 
You are so inscrutable.” 

“Inscrutable? Me? Why, I’m the simplest 
creature possible. All made up of direct, primitive 
instincts and impulses. It’s you who are inscru¬ 
table. I’m never sure whether you really like me 
or not.” 

Alfrey sat a thought more firmly on the divan. 
“Again,” he said, “you imply quite incredible stu¬ 
pidity and ingratitude in me.” 

“Only old people want gratitude,” Julia pouted. 
“Liking and gratitude have even less to do with 
each other than liking and love.” 

“Don’t you think,” Alfrey suggested, “that 
sometimes one begins with liking-” 

“No. At least that’s not my way. For me 
the two are poles asunder. Liking can be spread 
thin over innumerable people, but love takes you 
and submerges you in its own strength.” 

All the time she had been talking he was con¬ 
scious that some part of him, some deeply hidden 
unruly part of his mental personality, was criticiz¬ 
ing her voice and accent. 

What was it that they lacked? 

What was it that he wanted? 

Hers was a well-bred voice, a cultivated accent, 
and yet , . . 

Where had he heard what he wanted? 

While he was trying to strangle that captious, 


126 


THE BROKEN BOW 


critical imp at the back of his brain, he became 
conscious of a curious tension in the scented 
silence. 

Julia’s quick breathing was quite audible. 

Suddenly she swung her long legs off the divan 
and stood up. 

“I love firelight to talk in, don’t you?” she 
said, and, moving to the hearth, switched off the 
lights. “Now we can be really confidential,” she 
continued, and sat down beside him. “Why are 
you so silent? What are you thinking about?” 

“You,” he whispered. 

Her bare shoulder was touching his. She 
looked fair and mysterious and desirable in the 
warm, flickering light. 

“I would like to know what you think about 
me,” she whispered. “I think about you so 
much.” 

“Do you?” he asked, touched to stronger 
feeling by this tribute. “I fear I am not worthy 
of your pretty thoughts, but I’m proud that 
they should concern themselves with me.” 

Did she move a little nearer to him? His 
heart was thumping in his ears. His senses were 
intoxicated by her atmosphere. Her eyes held 
his and her lips were very near. 

He caught her to him and kissed her. In a 
moment her arms were round his neck and clasp¬ 
ing him closely, while she responded to his kisses 


INTERPLAY 


127 


with a passion and abandon that swept him away 
upon a tide of purely sensuous oblivion. 

It had ceased to rain when Alfrey Stowe walked 
across Wimbledon Common to catch his train. It 
was still bitterly cold, but the stars were shining 
and the air was clean and bracing. 

He was engaged to Julia Mainwaring, and he 
tried to feel how fortunate he was. 

But his head ached, and at the back of his con¬ 
sciousness of good fortune was an uncomfortable 
tremor not unlike consternation. 

What would Julia’s father say? 

What would his mother think of Julia? 

And what, oh what, would Julia think of his 
mother? 

For a newly engaged man with a brilliant mar¬ 
riage in the near future, Alfrey Stowe looked un¬ 
commonly grave as he waited for the train at 
Wimbledon. 


ii 

Alfrey’s mother and her only sister, Mrs. Cay¬ 
ley, were sitting on each side of the dining-room 
fire at The Nook. 

The chairs they sat in were large, substantial, 
strong-springed, well-stuffed, leather-covered chairs, 
with arms just high enough to support the elbows 


128 THE BROKEN BOW 

comfortably. The sort of chairs that are described 
in catalogues as “gent's library.” But roomy as 
were the chairs, the two ladies amply filled 
them. 

The years had not much changed Mrs. Stowe. 
Her smooth, tightly braided hair was streaked 
with grey. Her broad shoulders were, perhaps, 
a little bent, but her dark eyes were lively and 
observant as ever, and just then her quick ears, 
too, were alert for the postman's knock. 

Alfrey's letters usually came by the afternoon 
post, and it was four days since she had one. 

Mrs. Cayley, known to her family as “Aunt 
Claire," was even stouter than Mrs. Stowe. Her 
face was quite as large and her chins even more 
pronounced. But whereas Mrs. Stowe's face was 
frankly and unblushingly left to display itself just 
as soap and water had left it, Aunt Claire's was 
obscured by a sort of mauve film somewhat re¬ 
sembling the coloured gauze curtains mistaken 
people sometimes hang before their windows. Her 
blue eyes were merry and slyly twinkling. Her 
hair w r as parted at the side, elaborately waved, 
and the colour of a chestnut newly burst from its 
sheath. Yet if you had sufficient imagination to 
reconstruct Aunt Claire's appearance minus five 
or six stone of weight, there were distinct traces 
of former beauty. 

Moreover, the stage, the variety stage of the 


INTERPLAY 


129 


early ’eighties, had set its seal upon her: unmis¬ 
takable as the seal of Shiva on the forehead of 
a pious Hindu. She had started at eighteen in 
the “Avenue” chorus under the name of Claire 
Alfrey (her real name was Clara Jeffs), and her 
sister’s son was called after the talented member 
of the family. 

“There’s the post,” Mrs. Stowe exclaimed. “You 
might see what it is. You’re quicker on your feet 
than me.” 

This was true. Aunt Claire, in spite of her bulk, 
moved lightly and easily. “One from Alfrey for 
you,” she said as she returned, “and a letter and 
two bills for me.” 

Silence while the listers read their letters. 

Presently Aunt Claire looked up from the bills 
she had been frowning over to find her sister still 
absorbed in Alfrey’s letter, although it didn’t seem 
very long. 

“Any news?” she asked. 

“News!” Mrs. Stowe exclaimed. “I should just 
think there is news. Alfrey’s got engaged to be 
married.” 

“Never!” Aunt Claire exclaimed. “Whoever to? 
Do you know her? Read it out.” 

“Of course I don’t know her. I don’t know any 
of Alfrey’s lady friends. It’s only men he brings 
down here—naturally.” 

“Well, who is she?” 


130 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“She’s a Miss Mainwaring. Her father’s Sir God¬ 
frey Mainwaring—a doctor or something.” 

“Oh, he’s a ‘sir,’ is he? Knight or baronet, I 
wonder? What’s the girl’s name?” 

“Julia.” 

“Aren’t you goin’ to read me what he says?” 

Mrs. Stowe’s large face flushed. “I’m not sure 
. . —she hesitated—“. . . whether Alfrey’d quite 

like it. . . . You see, it’s a serious thing—and he’s 
written very free and kind. ... You don’t mind, 
Claire?” 

“Of course I don’t mind,” Aunt Claire said 
briskly. “You’re his mother. Naturally he’d write 
his heart out to you, and him so ready with a pen. 
I hope she’s a nice girl.” 

“I could wish,” Mrs. Stowe said slowly, “that 
she hadn’t been quite so grand. ... I hope she 
will be kind to Alfrey.” 

“Kind!—of course she’ll be kind, since she’s in love 
with him. Does he sound very much in love, 
Emma?” 

“He’s very serious, Claire—sort of solemn and 
gentle . . . and, oh dear me! do you think she’ll 
take him right away from me?” 

“Don’t be silly—as if anyone could take him 
right away from you. It’ll be different, of course, 
but . . , You’ll like having a daughter, won’t 
you?” 

“I never had but one daughter, and I don’t 


INTERPLAY 


131 


want anyone in her place, but I’m quite ready to 
love Alfrey’s wife if she’ll let me. ... I wish we 
knew more about them.” 

“If he’s a ‘sir’ he’ll be in Who's Who. Isn’t there 
one in Alfrey’s study?” 

“Yes, there is. Could you go upstairs and get 
it? My legs seem a bit shaky . . . such unex¬ 
pected news.” 

While her sister went upstairs Mrs. Stowe folded 
Alfrey’s letter very carefully, put it back in the 
envelope, kissed it, and thrust it into her 
pocket. 

“Now,” Aunt Claire said, seating herself and 
opening the fat red book, “here’s 1919—what’s the 
name? Mainwaring, did you say?—a doctor? Here 
he is.” 

“Alfrey says it’s pronounced ‘Mannering.’” 

“Oh, does he? W r ell, it’s all one to me— 
though why names should be spelt one way and 
said another seems a bit silly. Listen: ‘Main- 
waring, Godfrey Lawes. 1st Bt., cr. 1912. 
k.c.v.0. 1911. m.d., M.R.C.S., l.r.c.p. Phy¬ 

sician for Mental and Nervous Diseases; Consulting 
Physician British Hospital for Mental Disorders and 
Brain Diseases. Founder and President-’ ” 

“Oh, skip all that, Claire. Where was he 
born? Whose son was he? And who did he 
marry?” 


132 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“ ‘B. Chippenham, 12th March, 1864/ ” Aunt 
Claire continued obediently, “ ‘E. son William 
Mainwaring, of Chippenham, Wilts. M. Helen, 
y.d. of David Collett, Aylberne Manor* Wilts 
(d. 1913). One d/ ” 

“That’ll be her,” Mrs. Stowe exclaimed, “and to 
think she’s related to the Colletts. That fairly gets 
over me.” 

“Why, what does that matter?” 

“They lived just three miles out from here— 
thought no end of themselves, they did—but the 
place is let now. Well go on-” 

“‘Educ. Merchant Taylors’ School, King’s Col¬ 
lege Hospital, and studied psychiatry at various 
continental clinics. Made a special study of mind 
and character-’ ” 

“Never mind all that.” 

“ ‘Publications/ ” Aunt Claire began again. 
“ ‘Confusional and Stuperose States, Psychology of 
the-” 

“No, Claire, I refuse to listen to lists of 
books about diseases. They always make me feel 
bad.” 

“Recreations: dry-fly fishing, yachting, golf. 
Addresses: 44 Harley Street; and Woodlands, 
Wimbledon, Surry, Clubs: Athenaeum and 
Travellers.’ ” 

“I hope to goodness they won’t want to take 
Alfrey yachting,” Mrs. Stowe said anxiously. 



INTERPLAY 


133 


“He’d be sick every minute of the time; he can’t 
bear the sea.” 

“You’ve made me miss out yards and yards,” 
Aunt Claire complained. “He’s evidently a most 
distinguished man.” 

“Well, what if he is? So’s Alfrey. A cornin’ 
man, Alfrey is. Mr. Stokes at the libery said so 
to me only yesterday, and he knows.” 

“Of course Alfrey’s ‘coming.’ We all know that, 
but this Sir Godfrey’s come, arrived, at the very 
top of the tree too. Our Alfrey’s done uncom¬ 
monly well for himself, I consider. I always was 
afraid he’d marry some insignificant little snip 
of a girl who’d be no sort of use to him when he 
got famous.” 

“I don’t believe,” Mrs. Stowe protested, “thai 
anything of that sort ever crossed his mind. From 
all I could make out—but he’s never been one 
for much talk—it was these Mainwarings who 
were everlastingly asking him there, not him run¬ 
ning after them,” 

“Well, well, whichever way it was, it has turned 
out for the best. I’m ambitious for Alfrey, even 
if you aren’t.” 

“Nobody could be more ambitious for Alfrey 
than his own mother; but I could wish his young 
lady hadn’t been related to those Colletts.” 

“Why, what’s the matter with the Colletts? What 
have the Colletts done to you?” 


134 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Mrs. Stowe shook her head. “I don’t care 
about them, that’s all, and I dare say this 
girl’s quite different. If only she’s good to my 
Alfrey. . . 

“Really, Emma, one would think, to hear 
you talk, that the girl was marrying him just 
to make him unhappy. It seems to me she must 
love him very much to have taken him, and her 
in such high society. You know, I’m as fond of 
Alfrey as anyone, but no one could say he’s exactly 
showy.” 

“Who wants a man to be showy? Least 
of all, folks like that.” 

“Well, girls do like a good-lookin’ man and a 
persuasive voice.” 

“There you go—on about voices. Alfrey gets 
it from you, I suppose, but he can never describe 
anyone without going on about their voice. ‘He’s 
got such an agreeable voice,’ or, ‘She’s got a harsh 
voice—I couldn’t endure it,’ as if a voice mat¬ 
tered except for singin’. I bet you anything you 
like this girl’s got a pretty voice, and got round 
him that way, or he wouldn’t have looked at her.” 

“Claude, my first,” Aunt Claire said reminis¬ 
cently, “had the very sweetest voice I ever heard 
in a man.” 

“I dare say he had—and a fat lot of good his 
beautiful voice ever did you, leavin’ you like 
he did after two years.” 


INTERPLAY 


135 


“Yes,” Aunt Claire agreed, “he was a bad 
lot, was Claude; but he made love, on the boards 
and off, better than any man I’ve ever come 
across, and Eve sampled a good many.” 

hi 

There was a family gathering at Woodlands 
to introduce Alfrey Stowe to the Mainwaring 
relations. Tribes of Colletts and Mainwarings were 
there; many of Julia’s friends, and a few friends, 
but no relatives, of the prospective bridegroom. 

Susan had come up from Hatfield the night 
before to help Julia, and, so he said, to console 
her uncle. Sir Godfrey was fond of Susan. He 
declared her to be the most perfectly normal 
person that he knew, and normality, to a man 
who spent most of his time dealing with nervy 
folk, was attractive. 

Susan was much intrigued and excited. There 
was the satisfaction of feeling that she had fore¬ 
seen the engagement from the very first moment 
she had heard of Alfrey. There was the intriguing 
knowledge she had of Alfrey, unknown to Julia. 
There was the interesting phenomenon of Julia 
in love again. 

For it was again. 

Susan had seen and heard, at long length, 
Julia in love on several previous occasions; for 
Julia was given to confidences. 


136 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Never before, however, had her engagement 
been publicly announced in the daily papers, the 
Court Circular , the Tatler , and to all the innumer¬ 
able relations. 

Sir Godfrey had proved most accommodating. 
This young man's job was in London. They 
could have a flat in town and spend the week¬ 
ends at Woodlands, and Julia could still act as 
hostess at her father's Sunday parties. More¬ 
over, the young man seemed destined to do well 
in his literary job. His obscure origin, Sir Godfrey 
decided, didn't really matter. There was no 
tiresome complication in the shape of a large 
family (having himself married into a large family, 
Sir Godfrey knew how entangling it could be). 
No brothers or sisters. No father. Only an 
old mother living somewhere in the country, 
and she, it was to be hoped, would die reason¬ 
ably soon. Alfrey Stowe was making quite a 
decent income, and there were no financial claims 
upon it. He hadn't got to keep his mother. 
She was quite well provided for. Sir Godfrey 
had made searching inquiries as to that. With 
the handsome allowance he was prepared to make 
Julia, they would be quite comfortable. Julia 
was twenty-eight and Alfrey thirty. There was 
no earthly reason why they should not be married 
directly after Easter. 

It is possible that Julia's father was rather 


INTERPLAY 


137 


relieved that she had finally fixed upon a man 
who, although of humble birth and no presence, 
was yet of sufficient brilliance in his own line, 
and who was (Sir Godfrey believed) of unimpeach¬ 
able integrity and steadiness. 

Once or twice he had been well frightened by 
Julia's love affairs. He disliked divorce, and her 
flirtations with men who were still married or 
recently divorced had caused him much anxiety. 
There was that professional dancer too, a quite 
dreadful young man. Sir Godfrey shuddered at 
the recollection. He would be thankful to have 
her settled so near him with a kind young hus¬ 
band. He was sure Alfrey Stowe was kind, and 
he believed in kindness. 


IV 

The large drawing-room at Woodlands was 
crowded. Alfrey, perspiring and bewildered, had 
been introduced to nine uncles and thirteen aunts. 
Aunts always muster in great force at any func¬ 
tion even remotely connected with a wedding. 
He had quite lost count of the cousins and for 
a moment had hidden himself behind a heavy 
curtain that draped one side of a bow window, 
when he heard his future father-in-law say: “Not 
been introduced to him yet? Come with me, 
Susan, and I'll show him what we can do in the 


138 


THE BROKEN BOW 


way of young women in our family. He’s had 
all the aunts I know, so now we must produce 
the nieces.” 

“Poor man.” 

Alfrey started. Yes. It was the sweet, com¬ 
panionable voice. 

“Do let him alone for a few minutes, Uncle 
Godfrey; he must be sick of introductions. And 
perhaps he’s shy.” 

“These writing chaps are never really shy. 
Where can the chap have got to? I saw him 
myself not five minutes ago talking to Aunt 
Myrtle. Ah, here he is!” 

And at last Alfrey was formally introduced to 
Susan. A tall, radiant Susan, admirably turned 
out in a brown knitted coat-frock with threads 
of gold shining all through it. A gay, glad Susan, 
smiling all over her face. 

It was well, perhaps, that Sir Godfrey merely 
introduced them and passed on. 

“I felt it was coming,” Susan said, “your 
engagement, I mean, and I do congratulate you. 
Julia and I have always been friends, and I’m 
so glad it’s you. . . . Has she ever said any¬ 
thing about that book yet?” 

“Not a word.” 

“Do you think I ought to confess?” 

“Honestly, I see no necessity. Shall I steal it 


INTERPLAY 


139 


sometime and destroy it? Then I can give her 
another and no one will be a penny the worse.” 

Susan considered. “I expect she's been so 
busy. ... If it could softly and silently vanish 
away . . . but no. Better leave it alone and 
I will carry my guilty secret with me to the 
grave” 

‘Til have to carry it too, you know. It's 
not only your secret.” 

“A secret shared is a responsibility doubled.” 

“What’s that about secrets?” Julia inter¬ 
rupted, and Alfrey started, for her voice was 
strident with curiosity. She had come up behind 
them just in time to hear Susan’s last words. 

“Uncle Godfrey has just introduced me to 
Mr. Stowe-” 

“And there and then you discuss secrets. 
Alfrey, I am much intrigued. Do tell me how 
in the world secrets came into the conversa¬ 
tion.” 

“How can I? How does anything come into 
the conversation? Have you had any tea yet? 
I’m sure you must both want it. Let’s go and 
get some. Please come too, Miss Collett.” 

“No,” Julia said firmly. “Susan can’t come 
if I do. She must stay and look after the people 
who’ve got no one to talk to. Take Susan if 
you like, but you can’t have us both.” 

As he followed Julia to the tea-room, he won- 



140 


THE BROKEN BOW 


dered afresh why all women couldn’t have soft, 
adorable voices. After all, he only wanted to 
listen to that girl, and where was the harm in 
that? 


CHAPTER X 


i 

“T THINK it was quite a success,” Julia said 

X as she and Susan were brushing their hair 
together that night. “Alfrey seemed awfully 
impressed at the size of our clan, and we’re a 
good-looking crowd when you see us all to¬ 
gether.” 

“Were any of his people there?” 

“None of his people. A few of his friends. 
Mercifully he’s not possessed of many people.” 

“Why ‘mercifully’?” 

“Well—in-laws are always a nuisance, for one 
thing.” 

“What about him, then? He’ll have simply 
endless in-laws!” 

“That’s quite different. A woman always 
belongs to her own people, whether married or 
not. A man is necessarily assimilated. When 
a man marries he naturally belongs more to his 
wife’s people than to his own.” 

“Isn’t that a bit hard on the man’s people?” 

“Possibly; but it’s life.” 

141 


142 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“What people has . . . Mr. Stowe?” 

“Don’t call him Mr. Stowe when he’s nearly 
your cousin. Call him Alfrey, of course.” 

“Well, what people has—your Alfrey?” 

“Of near relations, I’m truly thankful to say, 
he has only one—a mother—there is an aunt, I 
believe—but his mother is equal to a whole bat¬ 
talion. If I didn’t love Alfrey so tremendously. 
. . . She is a terror!” 

“A terror? How? Have you seen her?” 

“I have, my dear. For my sins I have. Three 
days after we were engaged he whirled me off to 
Frampton Massey (did I tell you he comes from 
Frampton Massey?—isn’t it curious?) just for 
the day, to make his mamma’s acquaintance. 
Susan, she is quite, quite impossible. How she 
comes to be the mother of a genius like Alfrey is 
one of the mysteries mortal mind cannot hope 
to fathom.” 

“How do you mean? What is she like? Is 
she stuffy and severe?” 

“Oh dear no. I almost wish she was. She’s 
stout and ‘jolly’ and markedly , middle-class— 
lower middle-class. She’s what Aunt Myrtle would 
call ‘a person.’ ” 

“Be more definite, Julia. Aunt Myrtle calls 
everybody ‘persons.’ ” 

“She talks a lot and laughs a lot, and her laugh 
always ends in a wheeze. But the worst of it is, 


INTERPLAY 


143 


Alfrey seems to find great amusement in what 
she says.” 

“Still, Julia, that’s better than if she was dis¬ 
agreeable.” 

“And it’s such an awful house,” Julia con¬ 
tinued, “a pink villa with aspidistras in the 
windows and lace curtains and mahogany furni¬ 
ture. Tea-cosies and chair-backs, you know the 
sort of thing—one reads about it but one never 
sees it. Not in our set.” 

“Was she nice to you? Did she seem 
pleased?” 

“My dear, I was so petrified I really can’t tell 
you. We simply can't ever have her with us in 
London.” 

“I shouldn’t say that,” Susan pleaded. “What 
does it matter? Everybody has got odd rela¬ 
tions; and with all these new rich about, we’re 
quite used to the queerest people.” 

“She wouldn’t mix with any people we know,” 
Julia lamented. “It’s hopeless to think of it. 
And it has decided me that we must start with a 
service flat and no spare bedroom of any sort. 
If we want guests, we must have them here at 
week-ends. Father wants us here always at 
week-ends.” 

“But will he like that?” Susan asked. 

“Who? Father? Of course he will. He 
says so.” 


144 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“I don’t mean Uncle Godfrey—Mr. Stowe— 
Alfrey.” 

“My dear, he must see. Of course, he’s loyal 
and affectionate and all that. I shouldn’t wish 
him to be anything else. And he can run down to 
Frampton Massey from time to time to see her. 
I’ll even go with him if he wishes it, though I shall 
be bored to tears. There’s nothing on earth to 
do down there for, except go on the river, and one 
can only do that in summer.” 

“But, Julia, listen. If he’s fond of his mother, 
and you say he is, he’ll want her to be asked to 
his house sometimes. I know I wouldn’t marry 
anybody who wouldn’t let me have Mum to 
stay.” 

“Aunt Jo is quite different. Everybody knows 
about her people. You can’t compare Alfrey’s 
extraordinary mother with anyone you know.” 

“But you don’t love your parents because they 
belong to well-known families,” Susan argued. 
“You just love them because they’re they. Be 
careful, Julia. You may hurt him dreadfully if 
you seem to ignore his mother.” 

Julia shrugged her shoulders. “Far from ignor¬ 
ing his mother, I’m only too acutely aware of her. 
But I tell you frankly, she’s quite impossible— 
she won’t mix. And I couldn’t turn my flat into 
a retreat just because she happened to be staying. 
I assure you I’m considering her quite as much 


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145 


as myself. I don’t want the poor old thing to 
be puzzled and hurt, and no one can be sure what 
people will say or do nowadays.” 

“She must have met her son’s friends some¬ 
times.” 

“Alfrey has never said. No; there’s only one 
way out of it, and that’s no spare bedroom.” 

Julia sat on by the fire for a long time after 
Susan had gone back to her room. Her fair hair 
hung round her like a veil and her eyes were very 
soft, for she was thinking of Alfrey. Perhaps 
Susan was right. She would try to be nice to his 
mother. Not have her to stay with them in 
London. That would be absurd, and as uncom¬ 
fortable for her as it would be for them. But 
next time she went to Frampton Massey with 
Alfrey she would listen while the old lady burbled 
and try to be interested. She’d encourage the 
old thing to talk about Alfrey’s childhood; she’d 
be certain to like that. 

Yes. Julia determined to be patient: patient 
and kind. 

She lifted a long tress of her hair and held it 
to her lips. Alfrey loved her hair. Two evenings 
ago she had taken it down to show it to him 
while they were alone in her sitting-room. He was 
sitting on the floor leaning against her knees, and 
he quoted Swinburne’s 

“ Kissing her hair I sat against her feet.” 


146 


THE BROKEN BOW 


She thrilled afresh even in remembering the 
ecstasy of that moment. 

What a long time it seemed till Easter. She 
wanted to belong to him now: to belong to 
him absolutely. She wanted him. Oh, how she 
wanted him! There was nothing one couldn't 
say to Alfrey. He was so understanding. He 
was so entirely at one with her as to the beauty 
and necessity of the physical things that stuffy- 
minded people hushed up and hid away. Susan, 
now, was funny about that. Not that she was 
stuffy-minded. You couldn't call her that. Nor 
was she a prude. But about certain things she 
seemed to close up tight somehow and you couldn’t 
get at her. And she never gave confidence for 
confidence. 

Once, about a year ago, Julia had said to 
her father: “Don't you think Susan's rather 
secretive?” 

And he turned and looked at her in his keen, 
considering way: “So you’ve discovered that, 
have you? Only secretive's not the word. Susan, 
my child, is in some respects rather like a lock 
that nothing but a certain combination will undo. 
You've only got to look at her mouth to see that.” 

“Yet I shouldn’t call it a hard mouth, would 
you?” 

“Certainly not. But if you notice how the 

lips close down on one another, how there isn't a 


INTERPLAY 


147 


smudgy line anywhere, and how her chin fits 
underneath her mouth—you realize that Susan 
is spared that intense desire to confide that besets 
most women” 

“It would be rather amusing to be the combina¬ 
tion that unlocks Susan.” 

“I’m not sure that amusing is quite what it 
would be.” 

“Daddy, does the desire to confide beset me 
very badly?” 

Her father laughed. “I shouldn’t say that 
reticence is your strongest characteristic, my dear, 
and I’m glad of it, for I never feel shut outside.” 

“And would you—do you—from Susan?” 

“No, Judy, no. I’m not going back on Susan. 
She’s a very special crony of mine.” 

As she remembered this Julia felt kindly towards 
Susan. She too was fond of her, and lately Susan 
had been awfully decent. So sympathetic about 
her engagement. Yes; she would remember what 
Susan had said about Alfrey’s tiresome old mother. 

ii 

“Susan!” Aunt Myrtle spoke in a sort of 
stage whisper. “Is it true that young author— 
that Mr. Stowe—comes from Frampton Massey?” 

She and Susan were alone in the library at 
Woodlands the morning after the party. 


148 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“I believe so, Aunt Myrtle.” 

“Is he a son of that confectioner woman who 
had the restaurant there?” 

“I think it is quite probable.” 

“Does your Uncle Godfrey know this?” 

“Why shouldn’t he know it, if it’s the case?” 

“Well!” Aunt Myrtle sat back in her chair 
and laid the jumper she was knitting on her knee. 
“It’s the first thing that has at all reconciled me 
to the fact that the Manor is let to those Mabbit 
people. Do you realize, Susan, that when Julia 
marries this young man Stowe, that woman will 
become a distant connection of ours?” 

“I suppose she will.” 

“And you don’t care?” Aunt Myrtle demanded 
indignantly. 

“I don’t see what there is to care about. It 
can’t make any difference to us one way or another. 
It’s Julia who’s marrying him, not you or me. 
And listen, Aunt Myrtle, Mrs. Mabbit has asked 
me to stay with them next week for the Hunt balls, 
just from Monday to Thursday.” 

“And you want to go?” 

“Well, I do, rather. I’ve got a couple of frocks 
made. It’ll be great fun and I’d meet any amount 
of old friends, and the Mabbits are kind people. 
She wants me to help her with the house-party, 
and I could. Dad wouldn’t object, I know.” 

“How you can bear to go I can’t imagine. But 


INTERPLAY 


149 


young people nowadays have no sentiment, no 
respect or affection for old associations. The 
fact that it was your home for so many happy 
years doesn’t count at all with you, I suppose?” 

“But, Aunt Myrtle, it’s just because I’m so 
fond of Aylberne I jump at any chance of seeing 
it again.” 

“It would simply break my heart to see these 
alien people in the dear familiar rooms. Sitting 
in my father’s chair, feeding at his table, all the 
furniture altered probably—and yet you can go 
and stay with them.” 

“If I didn’t go and stay with them I should 
never see Aylberne at all. They’re good tenants. 
They’ve done no end to the cottages and the home 
farm. I hear the people who bought the other 
farms only wish they were still tenants. Dad 
wants us to be friendly with them, they’ve been 
so decent. He said so.” 

“Will you go and call on your new relation 
while you’re at Aylberne? I’ve no doubt Mrs. 
Mabbit would let you have a car. I hear they’ve 
got three—the brutes.” 

Aunt Myrtle’s voice was intensely sarcastic. 

“That’s an idea,” Susan exclaimed gaily. “I 
hadn’t thought of it. But now you suggest it, 
perhaps it might be the right thing to do. I’ll 
ask Julia. It’s awfully decent of you to think of 
it, Aunt Myrtle.” 


150 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Susan,” Aunt Myrtle said solemnly, “you 
know very well I only spoke ironically. I never 
conceived the possibility of your doing anything 
of the sort.” 

“Well, Aunt dear, you can't blame me if 
I do call now, when you suggested it yourself. 
Honestly, I think it would only be kind when I'm 
down there, anyway.” 

Aunt Myrtle shook her head and closed her eyes 
—her way of dismissing an argument. Suddenly 
she leant forward in her chair and in another 
sibilant stage-whisper demanded: “Do you like 
him, Susan?” 

“Like who?” 

“This Alfrey Stowe.” 

“I don't know enough about him to say,” 
Susan replied cautiously. 

“I consider it a very poor match for Julia,” 
Aunt Myrtle continued, in the same penetrating 
whisper, “but, of course, she's getting on and she's 
always crazy about artists and authors and people.” 

“Then it's a good thing she's going to marry 
one,” Susan said cheerfully. 

“I confess I'm surprised at your Uncle Godfrey. 
I should have thought he would have been more 
ambitious for his only child. To let her marry 
a confectioner's son seems to me very odd. I 
suppose they’ll say his father—or was it his 
mother?—was a ‘caterer'—it sounds better.” 


INTERPLAY 


151 


“But, Aunt Myrtle, Alfrey Stowe himself is a 
well-known writer, and Julia isn’t going to marry 
his parents. . . . But about Aylberne: I’ll be 
back in plenty of time to help you move to 
Hove.” 

“And who is to look after your brother’s dog 
while you’re away? You know, I only allowed 
Hugh to leave the animal because you were there 
to take him out. A large dog like that! And he 
makes dreadful holes in the garden. I don’t 
think it’s fair of you, Susan, to leave him planted 
on me.” 

“Poor old Bingo! I’ll get the vet. to take him, 
Aunt Myrtle, while I’m away. I really do want 
to go to Aylberne, and when we’re at Hove I 
exercise him myself every day. He shan’t be a 
bit of trouble and he can’t dig any holes there, 
for it’s all asphalt.” 

“Remember I don’t object to retrievers as dogs. 
But what Hugh wants with one when all the 
shooting is let to those Mabbits—who probably 
don’t know one end of a gun from another—I 
can’t think.” 

“It is rather a shame,” Susan said, “the way 
we all come and plant ourselves down on you. 
But you know you wouldn’t like it if you never 
saw any of us. Now would you?” 

“I hope,” Aunt Myrtle said, a little mollified, 
“that I am not so lacking in natural affection as 


152 


THE BROKEN BOW 


not to welcome the children I practically brought 
up. But there are limits to one’s patience.” 

“I know. I know. But you don’t mind Bingo 
really. I believe you’re rather fond of him.” 

“I’m fond of all sporting animals, and I’m glad 
that Hugh, at all events, retains some love of sport. 
The Colletts have always been good sportsmen.” 

“What about grandfather?” 

“Your grandfather was a scholar and an old 
gentleman when you knew him, Susan. As a 
young man he, no doubt, shared in all the pleasures 
of his class.” 

“I wonder,” thought Susan. But she didn’t 
say it aloud. 


hi 

Alfrey was acutely conscious that Julia’s visit 
to his mother had not been a success. Julia had 
been aloof and silent. His mother nervous and 
loquacious: as if by a flood of irrelevant con¬ 
versation she hoped to submerge the wall that 
stretched between them. 

Like most of us, Mrs. Stowe was not at her 
best when she was nervous. 

They talked a different language, she and Julia. 
It was impossible for Mrs. Stowe to learn Julia’s, 
but Alfrey had hoped that Julia, being young and 
adaptable, would try to understand his mother. 


INTERPLAY 


153 


He was devoted to his mother and was proud of 
her. Proud of her business acumen; her sturdy 
common sense; her humorous, tolerant outlook. 
It was inconceivable to him that any intelligent 
person could fail to realize her essential bigness 
and warm-hearted constancy; or that an occa¬ 
sional misplaced “h” or what he called her “dear 
little bad grammar,” could weigh a feather in 
comparison with her assured stand-byness in every 
vicissitude. 

Alfrey was quite aware that, much as his mother 
loved him and rejoiced in his literary success, he 
was in certain respects a disappointment to her. 

How she would have gloried in a handsome rattle 
of a son, good at games, who could ride to hounds, 
shoot, play cards, dance. 

She would gladly have made any sacrifice, 
would have thoroughly enjoyed stinting herself to 
pay debts incurred in the course of these amuse¬ 
ments. £ And failing that, she would have loved 
it had he been the boisterous, energetic type of 
muscular Christian who was “an immense influence 
for good.” 

Alfrey cared nothing for games and was a bad 
hand at all of them. He detested cards; and he 
was neither muscular nor had she good grounds 
for believing he was an orthodox Christian. His 
tailor, and he went to quite a good one, never 
succeeded in making him look anything but insig- 


154 


THE BROKEN BOW 


nificant and unnoticeable; the sort of young man' 
who calls to take the electric-light meter. 

But there was one thing he could do to please 
her. He could create the kind of young man she 
would have liked him to be. He did it in the very 
first book he ever wrote, and she adored that book. 

“It passes me, Alfrey,” she would say, “how 
you can write like you do about cricket and that, 
you that holds a bat like it was a fire-shovel. An’ 
I can see the beautiful creases in that chap’s 
trousers—though you say nothing about them— 
just as if he was stood in front of me; and you 
never remembering to pull up yours, and every 
pair you’ve got sagging at the knees something 
awful, with sitting so much.” 

In the book he was at work on now there was a 
mother with an ungrateful cub of a son who hurt 
her dreadfully, and because he agonized with the 
mother in his book, it made him the more under¬ 
standing and tender towards that real mother in 
the pink villa down at Frampton Massey. 

It was true he had not spoken much about his 
mother to Julia. Newly engaged young people 
have so much to say about themselves and each 
other. Besides, he took it for granted that Julia 
would understand. If people didn’t understand 
the deepest things of the heart without insistence 
or explanation, then he had no use for them. 

Surely the girl he loved, who loved him—he 


INTERPLAY 


155 


was sure of that—would see at a glance what was 
so plain to him, and would be tender to his mother 
just because of her limitations. 

Yet all Julia had seen, and he knew it, was a 
fat, flushed, middle-class—very middle-class—old 
woman, with plump, tremulous hands that ner¬ 
vously plucked at her skirt; and a voice that 
trailed off into a husky whisper at the ends of her 
sentences. 

For Julia saw every one against a certain social 
background, and against that background Mrs. 
Stowe did not show up well. 

Moreover, since Alfrey had been somewhat 
silent about his mother, Julia conceived in him a 
shame similar to her own. 

Never would she attempt to force his confidence. 
If he preferred to be silent about his impossible 
old parent, she would be silent too. He would 
appreciate her delicacy. 

Alfrey was puzzled and a little hurt. Was it 
possible that Julia did not understand? And if 
she failed to understand him in this, could she 
understand him in anything? Was his mother 
hurt too? he wondered. 

He had only been engaged a week and already 
these questions somewhat obscured the sun of 
his happiness. 

There had been any amount of roses and raptures, 


156 


THE BROKEN BOW 


lilies and languors in his brief betrothal to Julia; 
but he felt she knew no more of the real essential 
Alfrey Stowe to-day, than the first time she wrote 
to him, never having seen him, in praise of his 
last book. 

Julia must understand. Or was it just that she, 
too, was nervous and shy in that first meeting. 

But if she found it so difficult to get on with his 
mother, what on earth would she think of Aunt 
Claire? 


CHAPTER XI 


i 

M RS. MABBIT’S father had been a country 
doctor outside Coventry. An altruistic, 
socialist sort of doctor, who honestly desired the 
greatest good of the greatest number. Therefore 
she had grown up with a sense of responsibility 
towards the community in an atmosphere of 
ideals. 

This sense of responsibility she had never lost, 
and she carried it with her into her prosperity. 
Such conscientiousness would have been admirable 
had she been content merely to possess it and 
act up to it. 

Unfortunately for herself, however, she was 
rather too much aware of her own altruism, and 
expected universal recognition of it from other 
people. Recognition, not only of her actual 
good deeds and benefactions, which were lavish, 
but of the spirit which directed them. And this 
at a time when there were so many “jumped- 
up gentry,” people suddenly enriched by the 
war; and so infinitely many more impoverished 


157 


158 


THE BROKEN BOW 


gentlefolks who, from the same cause, had lost 
not only their dearest and best beloved, but nearly 
all their money as well. 

It was too much to expect that the world in 
general should recognize that she and her husband 
were not of the usual type of profiteers. 

She had expected it. And she was deeply 
hurt and rather indignant that the little world 
of Frampton Massey and the surrounding villages 
neither praised nor sympathized with their con¬ 
duct of affairs since they took over Aylberne 
Manor from the Colletts. 

The county families in that part of Wiltshire 
were far too busy stretching the ends of their 
slender resources, that they might bridge the ever- 
widening gulf of expenditure, to care a German 
mark whether the Mabbits were good citizens 
or not. 

Therefore poor Mrs. Mabbit was inclined to 
pose as cruelly misunderstood, and to be plaintive 
about it; and plaintive people are always a 
bore. 

Susan arrived at Aylberne on Monday before 
the rest of the house-party. All the other guests 
were coming next day in time for the Frampton 
Massey Hunt ball. 

The Challow Vale Hunt held theirs on Wed¬ 
nesday. 

Mrs. Mabbit met her in the hall with the 


INTERPLAY 


159 


devastating news that a man had failed them. 

She’d just had a telegram. He’d slipped and 
put out his knee at Badminton. 

A man short! 

What was to be done? 

“If my husband danced it wouldn’t matter 
so much. Or if it had been one of the girls,” 
Mrs. Mabbit lamented. “Can you suggest any¬ 
one, Miss Collett? Do you think either of your 
brothers? ... at such short notice ...” 

“Hugh might if he isn’t dancing anywhere 
else. He’d love it. Can I telephone a wire to 
the post office? Reply paid? Then we might 
hear to-night.” 

And by dinner-time the clerk at the exchange 
at Frampton Massey had telephoned out that 
Captain Collett was “Delighted; please meet 
train 5.45.” 

“It’s rather a shame to have asked you and 
only me here,” Mrs. Mabbit said confidentially, 
when they were having their coffee after dinner. 
“I did think Mr. Mabbit would have been here 
by dinner-time, but there was a directors’ meeting 
at Coventry and he couldn’t get back to-night. 
I hope you don’t mind an evening alone with 
me.” 

“I think it was awfully kind of you to ask me 
before the others, and do let me help you if there 
are any odd jobs to be done.” 


160 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You’ve helped me already, getting your 
brother to come all in a hurry like that. I just 
felt when I wrote, if anything goes wrong Miss 
Collett’ll stand by me. I’m awfully nervous, 
you know. It’s the first really big house-party 
we’ve had; and Mr. Mabbit, with the best will 
in the world, isn’t much use, he’s so retiring.” 

“Don’t you think the more people there are 
the easier it is?—because they amuse each other. 
There’s the ball to-morrow night—they won’t 
any of them come much before dinner—and 
there’s the meet at the Cross Roads on Wednesday 
morning. Are you giving any of them a mount?” 

“Well, Miss Collett, that’s what rather bothers 
me. You see, neither I nor Mr. Mabbit ride. 
We keep a pony for the grass, and the boys can 
ride on it when they’re at home, but all the rest 
we do with motors. We’ve got three, and the 
Ford for messages and luggage. It didn’t seem 
much use to keep horses as well.” 

“They’re not very fond of motors at meets,” 
Susan said, “not if they try to follow, it spoils 
the scent so.” 

“There’s Voisey in Frampton Massey. I 
believe he’s got quite a lot of horses this season, 
and I know Mr. Mabbit would be delighted to hire 
for any of them.” 

“Are they hunting people who are coming?” 

“To tell you the truth, Miss Collett, I don’t 


INTERPLAY 


161 


know much about any of them except my own 
nieces, the Miss Harrowbys. They’ve asked most 
of them. At least, they told me who to write 
to. My nieces go out a lot in London, and are 
very fond of society. Violet’s considered quite 
a beauty, and she’s a wonderful dancer. But I’ll 
tell you all who’s coming, and perhaps you’ll know 
some of them.” 

Susan, however, knew none of them, and prayed 
inwardly they might not all prove as terrible as 
they sounded. 

“I’ve had a most worrying day,” Mrs. Mabbit 
said plaintively, “and to crown all, Mrs. Shortly 
—you know Mrs. Shortly, her husband’s one of 
the curates at the Abbey in Frampton Massey 
—well, they both called this afternoon and 
stayed hours. They’d only just gone when you 
arrived.” 

Mrs. Mabbit paused expectantly. 

“I remember them perfectly,” Susan said, 
wondering what on earth Mrs. Mabbit wanted 
her to say, “though, of course, we didn’t see 
much of them—we youngsters, I mean.” 

“Well, I consider she’s a most interfering sort 
of woman. What do you suppose she came out 
here for this afternoon? Mind, I don’t blame 
him. He has to do what he’s told—anyone can 
see that.” 

“What did she interfere about?” 


162 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Well, she came out here—hired a motor to 
do it too; that’s why I couldn’t let them go 
without tea, for I don’t fancy they’re very well 
off—just to tell me that I was making it quite 
impossible for anyone in Frampton Massey to get 
servants.” 

“But why you? You’re not in Frampton 
Massey.” 

“No, but this week I’ve got two extra house¬ 
maids, both girls in the town, and they asked 
for a pound a week, and as it was only just for 
the week, I gave it them. In Coventry we shouldn’t 
get them for that either, even though they aren’t 
particularly good.” 

“But how did she know?” 

“You may well ask. But it seems to me in 
a little place like this people know everything — 
every single thing you do or say or spend or 
eat.” 

“But it wasn’t any business of hers.” 

“Of course it wasn’t, but there she sat as if 
she was Queen Victoria and scolded me, regularly 
scolded me. And it hurt a bit, for of all things 
I’d hate to do is to make things harder for people 
who haven’t much money just because Mr. Mabbit 
happens to have made a good deal, and he feels 
just the same. He often says to me, 'Emily, it’s 
come to us, let’s do what good we can with it,’ 
and we do try.” 


INTERPLAY 


163 


“Pm sure you do, and what’s more, you succeed. 
I shouldn’t let that ridiculous Mrs. Shortly worry 
you—and one must remember it is awfully hard 
to get servants just now.” 

“I know it is, no one better, but it hurts, Miss 
Collett. All these pictures of fat people lolling 
in motors, and Mr. Mabbit thin as a rake and so 
conscientious, and with a weak digestion so that 
he can’t take anything but the plainest food. 
And as for motors, he hates them; he’d rather 
go in a bus or the mouldiest old cab any day, 
but we must have something to get about in, 
and he hates horses worse.” 

“No one, dear Mrs. Mabbit, could ever think 
you were in the least like the profiteers in the 
comic papers.” 

Susan spoke with absolute sincerity, Mrs. 
Mabbit was as thin as her husband. Her face 
was lined and anxious, and her good clothes always 
looked as if someone had given them a vicious 
tweak and pulled them all awry. 

“Mind, if I’d known what Mrs. Shortly told me 
before I engaged those girls, I wouldn’t have given 
them a penny more than eighteen shillings and 
their tax. But I didn’t know, so I can’t see why 
she went on at me so.” 

“What did Mr. Shortly say?” 

“Oh, he tried to pass it off as a joke. They 
say he spends his life patching up what she’s 


164 


THE BROKEN BOW 


broken or torn. But there, I mustn’t fret about 
it any more. Would Captain Collett like a mount 
on Wednesday, do you think?” 

“He’d love it if he’s brought his hunting things, 
but I don’t expect he has.” 

“You send him a wire first thing in the morning 
and tell him to bring them. If you write it to¬ 
night, Palmer’ll telephone it in first thing 
tomorrow morning. I do want him to enjoy him¬ 
self.” 


ii 

“I said you were in, ’m, and the young lady’s 
in the drawing-room and here’s her card.” 

Mrs. Stowe took the card from her parlourmaid, 
but she had mislaid her spectacles. “Who is it, 
Doris?” she asked. “Read it for me.” 

“Miss Susan Collett, and there’s Empress 
Club in the corner and an address scratched 
out.” 

“Oh!” Mrs. Stowe said, rather breathlessly, 
“oh, all right, Doris. I’ll go in a minute. You 
needn’t wait.” 

The girl went to the door, looking curiously 
at her mistress, who still sat in the big leather 
chair staring in front of her. 

Presently Mrs. Stowe pulled herself up by the 
arms and slowly crossed the room, still staring 


INTERPLAY 


165 


as though she walked in her sleep. She bumped 
herself against the edge of the table, but even 
that could not displace the vision before her 
eyes of a doorway with white steps leading to it, 
with Hesper’s little figure at the top and Hesper’s 
eager, admiring eyes gazing spellbound at a hand¬ 
some, imperious child who thumped at the knocker 
till the street resounded. 

“Susan Collett.” How once upon a time that 
name was ever in her ears, and now—now when 
it was all no use—here was the girl in her house; 
come, doubtless, because of Alfrey’s engagement 
to her cousin. 

She pulled herself together with a sigh, and, 
moving softly, she crossed the little hall. Doris 
had omitted to shut the drawing-room door, and 
she pushed it open without a sound. 
j Susan was standing with her back to it before 
the fireplace, gazing at a large framed photograph 
of Hesper that hung above it. 

She heard someone and turned with outstretched 
hand. “I’m Julia Mainwaring’s cousin,” she 
said, “and as I’m staying for a few days at 

Aylberne, she thought you would allow me to 
call. I’ve met your son, Mrs. Stowe, with 

Julia.” 

“Very kind of you, I’m sure, Miss Collett. 

Please take a seat. I used to know you very 

well by sight when you were a little girl, but we 


166 


THE BROKEN BOW 


haven’t seen much of you lately in these parts. 
You haven’t changed much, now I come to look at 
you closer.” 

“I’ve come down for the ball. Mrs. Mabbit 
—they’ve got the Manor now, you know—kindly 
asked me.” 

“Ah, you’re fond of dancin’; quite right too 
while you’re young. Now, Alfrey. . . . What 
do you think of my son, Miss Collett?” 

“You’re awfully proud of him, I’m sure,” 
Susan said, dimpling; and Mrs. Stowe noticed 
the dimples, whatever Alfrey might do. 
l “You’ve read his books, I suppose?” 

“You mustn’t expect me to discuss his books. 
I’m not clever like Julia.” 

“I’m not clever either, Miss Collett, not that 
way, though I’m no fool, if I do say it as shouldn’t. 
But it’s always been a puzzle to me how I came 
to have the children I have had. My little girl 
—wonder if you happen to remember my little 
girl?” 

“Remember Hesper? As if anyone could for¬ 
get Hesper, and I loved her so dearly.” 

Susan spoke with such convincing sincerity that 
Mrs. Stowe produced her handkerchief and blew 
her nose noisily. 

“It was my first acquaintance with real grief 
when she died,” Susan continued, speaking low 
and fast, “a dreadful shock to me. I’ve always 


INTERPLAY 


167 


wanted you to know. ... I came to see her after 
we got back from Scotland, the summer holidays, 
and the maid said-” 

“They never told me you’d called,” Mrs. Stowe 
interrupted. “I wish I’d known. There were 

little things of hers ... I’d like to have given 
you something. ...” 

“Did she ever talk of me?” Susan asked. 

“Ever talk of you! Why, the child could 

talk of nothing else. It was Susan this and 
Susan that every minute of the day. . . . Queer 
that we should meet like this after all these 

years.” 

“I’ve always wanted to come, but I couldn’t 
seem to find a reason before. . . . But now that 
we’re going to be sort of relations . . . and Julia 
thought I might.” 

“And a very kind thought it was,” Mrs. 

Stowe said heartily. “And we mustn’t be 
down-hearted, not the very first time we meet— 
Alfrey wouldn’t like it. He never was one for 
showing his feelings. Now tell me, just between 
you and me, how did you like Alfrey’s last 
book?” 

“Very much, but some of it seemed difficult 
to me.” 

Mrs. Stowe nodded her head and screwed up her 
eyes. “Shall I tell you something in confidence? 
I like a story to be a story—like that Miss Dell 


168 


THE BROKEN BOW 


writes. I do like a masterful man in a book, a 
man ready with his fists and his horsewhip. That’s 
the sort of man pleases me . . . in a book. Now 
Alfrey’s people seem just like what one can see 
any day in the High Street here. Nothing out 
of the common at all. Yet the papers—they make 
ever such a fuss of him, so I suppose it’s all 
right. 

“You wouldn’t really like a man who rushed 
round horsewhipping people, you know—think of 
the summonses and things.” i 

“Perhaps not, but I do love scenes and to-dos 
in books, and I like to read about good-lookin’ 
people, and my little girl was just the same. First 
question she’d ask about anybody was, Ts he 
handsome?’ Ts she pretty?’ She got that 
from me. A regular weakness I call it. Alfrey’s 
not like that.” 

“I expect Mr. Stowe cares more about brains.” 

“Is that what attracted him in your cousin?” 

“Probably, but Julia’s considered very good- 
looking too, you know.” 

“Are you very fond of her, Miss Collett?” 

“Yes; we’ve always been great friends.” 

“She frightens me,” Mrs. Stowe confessed. 
“She frightens me something awful. I’ve only 
seen her once. ...” 

“You mustn’t be frightened of Julia. She’s 
not a bit alarming really. She’s reserved, perhaps, 


INTERPLAY 


169 


and sometimes a bit superior, but she’s a very 
good sort really, and most affectionate. You’ll 
be very fond of Julia by and by, I know you 
will.” 

“I hope so, I’m sure,” Mrs. Stowe said, rather 
dubiously. “But to return to the masterful 
man—when you marry yourself, wouldn’t you like 
your husband to be one that wanted his own 
way?” 

“Not in the least. Nothing would induce 
me to marry a masterful man. I’ve seen too 
much of it in our family. People who want their 
own way in everything are generally obstinate 
and selfish and rather stupid.” 

“Well, to be sure!” Mrs. Stowe exclaimed. 
“There’s no uncertain sound about you.” 

“Not about that,” Susan laughed. “One of 
my uncles was what you’d call a masterful man. 
No one in the family could call her soul her own. 
My aunt and my two cousins always looked exactly 
like a field in a wet August the day after a 
fete.” 

“And do they still?” 

“No, for he died a year ago, and though he 
left the most tiresome and complicated will in 
the world, they’re not the same people. They’re 
quite cheerful and intelligent now.” 

“Was he a Collett?” Mrs. Stowe asked 
anxiously. 


170 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“No; he was my mother’s eldest brother.” 

“I’m a bit masterful myself,” Mrs. Stowe said 
thoughtfully, “but I hope I’m not obstinate and 
selfish. Do I look it, Miss Collett?” 

“Not in the least, and I’m sure you are neither 
one nor the other.” 

“Tell me,” Mrs. Stowe said, leaning forward 
in her chair, “are you engaged?” 

“No.” 

“Was he killed in the war?” 

“Who?” Susan asked, and winced, thinking 
of David. 

“Someone you were fond of.” 

“Not that sort of fondness. I’ve never been 
engaged, Mrs. Stowe, though perhaps I’ve come 
a bit near it once or twice, but something always 
seemed to stop me.” 

“Ah! You’re waiting for Mr. Right.” 

“Perhaps so,” Susan said, rising as she spoke, 
“but I mustn’t keep Mrs. Mabbit’s car waiting 
any longer. I promised faithfully to be back for 
tea, and there are such a lot of people to fetch 
from the station. I’m so glad I found you at 
home.” 

That night his mother wrote to Alfrey about 
Susan’s visit: “Just as simple she was as I am 
myself. No frills about her nor no pride, and 
faithful-hearted too she is. She hadn’t forgotten 


INTERPLAY 


171 


my Hesper that loved her so. And, my good 
boy, why ever didn’t you tell me? Where are 
your ears? Why, that girl’s voice would charm 
gold from a miser.” 


CHAPTER XII 


i 


HE house-party, when it arrived, was very 



1 much what Susan had expected, with the 
exception of Hugh, whom she had not expected 


at all. 


Of the two Miss Harrowbys, Violet was pretty 
as a pink and common as chickweed, while Eileen, 
who had no particular looks, went in for being 
“a good sport,” with an ignorance of sport in 
general and a conscientiousness in discussing 
nothing else that was apt to be fatiguing to her 
fellow-creatures. The two young men were very 
young, complacent, uneducated, and of the post¬ 
war type who threaten to be even more unemploy¬ 
able than certain survivals. 

Hugh, adorably handsome, gay and charming, 
directly he got Susan alone for five minutes (he 
came to her room when they went up to dress for 
dinner), told her that she’d need to pay his fare 
back, for he could only raise the single to bring 
him. 

“Look here, Susan,” he said “I’ve got a new 


172 


INTERPLAY 


173 


stunt. Why shouldn’t I be a ‘paid guest’ to 
people like our hosts? There are far too many 
of the new poor who want to take ‘paying guests/ 
why shouldn’t some of us be paid? You and 
me, now, we’re well worth a tenner apiece to these 
Mabbits. Why should we give ’em our experience 
and our prestige and our agreeable society for 
nothing?” 

“But they give us the best time they can in 
exchange.” 

“I dare say, but ’tisn’t a fair exchange. You 
just hint to Mrs. Mabbit that if she wants me 
again she must stump up. I’m sure she’d be 
perfectly willing.” 

“I’ve no doubt she would, but I shouldn’t 
be willing. You must remember they’re our 
tenants.” 

“Eiddle-de-dee! Our tenants!—they’re father’s 
tenants. We don’t get anything out of it.” 

“Oh, yes, we do. At least you, certainly, do. 
You couldn’t keep your green jacket for a month 
if the Manor wasn’t let.” 

“Well, have it as you like. But I think we 
ought to get more out of that good lady than 
the mere visit.” 

“She’s awfully kind, Hugh.” 

“A bit blurred and bleating though, isn’t she? 
I can’t stick plaintive people. What sort of a 
gee have they got for me to-morrow?” 


174 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You may depend it will be the best mount 
they can raise. Be nice to her, Hugh, she means 
so well.” 

“Did you ever know me other than nice to 
people?” 

“No. You’re generally a dear, but you 
seem to put these poor Mabbits on a different 
plane. ...” 

“Well, hang it all, they are on a different plane. 
You think of my scheme. It’s a sound business 
proposition. We might go into partnership and 
make pots of money. Robert wouldn’t be in it 
with us if we did. You think it over.” 

The ball was a good ball. Before dinner Hugh 
made a bee-line for Miss Violet Harrowby, and in 
three minutes they were thick as thieves, and he 
danced with her almost every dance. The first fox¬ 
trot, however, he danced with Susan, “just to 
show ’em,” he said, and they met so many old 
friends that Susan’s card was full and all the 
extras promised before she had been five minutes 
in the ballroom. She faithfully kept the dances 
she had promised to her fellow-guests; and, as 
Mrs. Mabbit had hoped, handed on as many men 
as were complaisant to the Miss Harrowbys. 
She even sat out one dance with Mr. Mabbit, 
who said nothing at all, but smiled kindly upon 
her and appeared to enjoy her society in his own 


INTERPLAY 


175 


remote and taciturn way. After that he and 
Mrs. Mabbit went off and played bridge for the 
rest of the evening. 

Next day Hugh was the only member of the 
party who followed the hounds. Susan had 
refused a mount that she might persuade the others 
to walk to the meet, for she knew the master, 
and feared his wrath should the Aylberne house- 
party attempt to follow in cars. She took them 
by a short cut through exceedingly muddy lanes, 
and Miss Violet Harrowby’s scarlet sandals with 
their two-inch heels suffered considerably. 

The second ball was very like the first, and 
Susan enjoyed herself; but all the time was 
conscious that she was waiting for something or 
somebody. 

It was a curious, indefinable feeling. She couldn’t 
explain it, nor could she dismiss it. Yet noth¬ 
ing happened. The anticipated, unknown some¬ 
thing or someone never materialized, and she went 
back to Hatfield to exercise Bingo and to help 
Aunt Myrtle move to Hove, having faithfully 
promised the Mabbits to return for the point-to- 
point races at the end of March. 


ii 

A week later Alfrey persuaded Julia to come 
down with him to Frampton Massey to dine and 


176 


THE BROKEN BOW 


sleep, and to meet Aunt Claire, who was again 
staying with his mother. 

Mrs. Stowe was much flustered at the prospect. 
The spare bedroom was polished and dusted and 
arranged and rearranged. The finest linen was 
looked out, the largest and softest towels. Rain¬ 
water was strained and put in the jugs and a 
vase of snowdrops placed upon the dressing- 
table. 

Aunt Claire was to share her sister's room, 
with the little dressing-room that had been Hesper’s 
to keep her things in. That little room would 
never have held Aunt Claire herself. 

Dinner was rather a solemn meal. Perfectly 
cooked, well served, and exceedingly good. Mrs. 
Stowe would have been so grateful if Julia had 
only praised something, perhaps had a second 
helping of one dish. Mrs. Stowe’s guests nearly 
always praised the food; partly because it really 
was most excellent, and partly because, if they 
were at all sympathetic, they realized how much 
it pleased their hostess. 

But Julia was accustomed to good cooking, 
and food at the best of times didn’t particularly 
interest her. Just then, too, she was really making 
a great effort not to show how bored she felt, 
and with what apprehension she was looking 
forward to the long evening before her. The 
seons of ages that must pass before those two fat 


INTERPLAY 177 

old women would go to bed and leave her alone 
with Alfrey! 

She was bent upon carrying out Susan’s advice. 
She honestly wanted to be kind to Alfrey’s ex¬ 
traordinary relatives and to please him. But Aunt 
Claire had been something of a shock, and her 
sense of humour was not developed in any direc¬ 
tion that could include amusement at Aunt Claire’s 
oddities. 

Aunt Claire was so arch; so twinkling; so full 
of sly hints and innuendoes; so firmly determined 
that the dinner should be a success; that the 
diners should be merry and bright, and that the 
young people should feel that they might bask 
in the sympathetic approval of their elders. 

Aunt Claire worked hard, but it was uphill 
work. 

Julia had hoped that she and Alfrey might be 
left alone for coffee and cigarettes in the little 
dining-room with its bow window, fumed-oak 
sideboard, and chairs upholstered in faded pillar¬ 
box red. But no, they were expected to accom¬ 
pany the elder ladies to the drawing-room, and, 
as Aunt Claire “liked her whiff,” were graciously 
bidden to smoke there. 

Julia was wearing a “Paris model” in black 
panne, sleeveless, severely plain, the only touch 
of colour a long chain of amber beads and amber 
combs in her fair hair. 


178 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Alfrey was intensely conscious of how beau¬ 
tiful she looked. How distinguished. How ex¬ 
quisite was her line, austerely slender and virginal. 
She seemed, and was, whole worlds away from 
the two portly, flushed old ladies, seated together, 
on the Chesterfield drawn up beside the fire. 

And the sophisticated simplicity of Julia’s 
appearance added to instead of diminishing the 
mystery and complexity of her atmosphere. 

Even her lips, Aunt Claire observed, were 
untouched by lip-stick, and her clear pallor un¬ 
relieved by the faintest film of rouge. 

“Skinny, I call her,” thought Aunt Claire, 
“skinny and cold as ice, but there’s no doubt 
she’s got style.” 

“Oh, Lord,” Mrs. Stowe prayed inwardly, “don’t 
let me say nothing that will annoy her. And yet 
I know I shall. Oh, Lord, please don’t let me.” 

Julia leant back in her chair, graceful, com¬ 
posed, silent; her grave eyes fixed upon the 
clock. 

And it was only half-past eight. 

“Are you interested in opera, Miss Main- 
waring?” Aunt Claire asked abruptly. 

“There hasn’t been much of late years, has 
there?” 

Julia’s voice was smooth, courteous, and yet 
seemed to shut that conversational opening with 
a slam. 


INTERPLAY 


179 


Aunt Claire pushed it ajar again: “But you 
were going to the theatre before the war, surely?” 

“Of course I was. I’m twenty-eight—but with 
the exception of the Wagner cycles and ...” 

“I’m not talking of grand opera,” Aunt Claire 
interrupted, “light opera’s what I was interested 
in. Comic opera—before musical comedy pushed 
them all off the stage.” 

“You sang, I believe,” Julia said politely. 

“I sang in ‘Les Cloches’ and ‘Madame Favert’ 
and ‘Olivette,’ and I played Letty Lind’s parts 
on tour in ‘The Circus Girl’ and ‘The Shop Girl,’ 
and just at the end of my time, when I was too 
fat for lead, I played Lady Jane in ‘Patience’ 
on tour. They had to put it up for me. I never 
had a star part in London. D’you play the piano 
at all, my dear?” 

“Julia is an admirable musician,” Alfrey inter¬ 
posed, “and one of the best accompanists in 
London.” 

“Well, then, perhaps she’ll favour us,” Aunt 
Claire suggested. “The piano was tuned last 
week. I suppose you know some pieces by heart, 
my dear?” 

Julia glanced at the clock. 

Twenty minutes to nine. 

It would be easier to play than to talk to them, 
even if the piano were horrible, as it probably 
was. She rose, slender and elegant and curiously 


180 


THE BROKEN BOW 


exotic in the comfortable little room whose furni¬ 
ture had nearly all been bought at the very worst 
Victorian period. 

Alfrey opened the piano, and she sat down on 
the square stool that screwed up and down and 
had a box for music underneath it. 

She let her long hands fall lightly on the keys. 

Wonders of wonders! the piano was not so bad. 
A cottage Broadwood, not powerful, but sweet 
and tuneful. 

She played Hungarian dances and some Grieg 
and a Chopin nocturne or two. “Nice, obvious 
tuney things,” Julia thought to herself, and her 
audience was enthralled and enthusiastic. 

“I suppose,” Aunt Claire suggested, almost 
humbly, “you couldn’t play bits from any of my 
old operas?” 

“I’m afraid I haven’t heard them. You don’t 
happen to have any of the music here, do you?” 

“Why, we’ve got them all,” Mrs. Stowe 
exclaimed, “upstairs. She never sang in any 
piece but I went and bought the score. You 
run upstairs, Alfrey, and you’ll find them all as 
neat as neat in the box-room. You’d better 
take a candle, for there’s no light there.” 

Alfrey returned with a great armful of comic 
operas, and for the next hour Julia worked really 
hard, and probably gave more genuine pleasure 
than she had ever given in her life before. 


INTERPLAY 


181 


Song after song she played, and kept herself 
so well in hand that Aunt Claire’s constant 
humming, interspersed with reminiscences, didn’t 
succeed in putting her off. 

As the clock struck ten Mrs. Stowe rose. 

“Well, my dear, you’ve given us a great treat, 
but we mustn’t tire you, and I expect you are 
ready for bed. I’ll just come up with you and 
see that you’ve got everything.” 

Julia gave one despairing glance at Alfrey and 
he came to the rescue: “If you and Aunt Claire 
are tired, Mother, don’t you bother to sit up, and 
I’ll bring Julia up presently. We don’t keep such 
early hours in London, you know; Julia wouldn’t 
sleep if she went to bed yet.” 

Alfrey stood at the door, holding it open. 
Mrs. Stowe looked dubious. Aunt Claire giggled. 
“Come along, Emma,” she said, “they’ve had 
enough of us for to-night. Good night, young 
people; don’t sit up too awfully late.” 

She swept her portly sister through the door 
and shut it noisily behind her. 

Julia over by the fire held out her arms to Alfrey 
and sighed, “At last!” 

Upstairs Aunt Claire was standing in front of 
the mirror with a bottle of face-cream in one 
hand and a dab of cotton-wool in the other, re¬ 
moving her complexion. 


182 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Extraordinary,” she remarked to her sister, 
“how the human face collects dirt even in the 
country. Just look at this wool!” 

Mrs. Stowe over at the washstand grunted. 
“There’s more than dirt on that dab of cotton¬ 
wool, and I always maintain, Claire, that if you’d 
wash your face with plain soap and water, your 
skin’d look a sight better than it does.” 

“No soap shall touch my face,” Aunt Claire 
protested, “while I’ve strength left in my hands 
to clean it properly myself. You may choose to 
go about shining like a china mug. ... I’d rather 
be dull than shiny any day. And if you ask me, 
that girl of Alfrey’s would be all the better for a 
touch of colour.” 

Mrs. Stowe turned from the washstand, tooth¬ 
brush in hand, to watch her sister diligently plying 
a fresh dab of cotton-wool. “She’s a most accom¬ 
plished girl, isn’t she?” 

“Most accomplished,” Aunt Claire agreed, care¬ 
fully undarkening her eyelashes. 

Mrs. Stowe finished washing her teeth and came 
forward to the dressing-table. 

“You think she’s a nice girl, don’t you, Claire?” 
she asked anxiously. “You think she’ll be kind to 
Alfrey?” 

“There you go again with your 'kind,’ Emma. 
Anyone with half an eye can see she’s head over ears 
in love with Alfrey.” 


INTERPLAY 


183 


“And him with her.” 

There was a new note of anxiety in Mrs. Stowe’s 
voice. “You think he’s the same for her, Claire?” 

Aunt Claire, looking like the stout ghost of her¬ 
self, turned to face her sister. “Now, there you’ve 
got me,” she said. “He thinks he’s in love with 
her, but it’s my belief she’s done most of the court¬ 
ing all along.” 

“I should call him most devoted,” Mrs. Stowe 
retorted, almost huffily. 

“You haven’t had the experience I’ve had, Emma. 
Crazy about me I’ve had them, and you can’t say 
Alfrey’s that.” 

“Alfrey never was one to show his feelin’s.” 

“If he was fathoms deep in love, he’d show his 
feelings like any other man. The more reserved 
a chap is, the more he shows if he’s really in love. 
It’s all tommy nonsense about ‘reserve’ and that in 
love-affairs. Therefore I say, and I do know some¬ 
thing about love-making, and men, he’s only got it 
light—as yet.” 


hi 

Alfrey, with that dreadful power of divination 
granted to those who have the creative and imagi¬ 
native faculties highly developed, had read what 
was passing in Julia’s mind during the evening as 
plainly as if she had written it. 


184 


THE BROKEN BOW 


He knew that she had played to the old ladies 
not so much from a friendly desire to give them 
pleasure as to protect herself from their conversa¬ 
tional importunities, and he was, consequently, less 
grateful to her than he would have been had her 
motive been more kindly. 

Julia’s attitude to his people puzzled him, for he 
knew that it was not characteristic of the Colletts 
as a class. 

It would never have occurred to one of the Ayl- 
berne Colletts that their own position could pos¬ 
sibly be jeopardized by being seen in public with 
anybody else, however odd, shabby, or even dis¬ 
reputable that person might be. Serene in their 
consciousness of a gentlehood that had been an 
established fact for generations, they were all singu¬ 
larly unself-conscious. Absolutely sure of them¬ 
selves socially, it never crossed their minds that 
they could be criticized because of their association 
with anyone of inferior rank. 

To be sure, they kept rigidly to that rank in the 
matter of their personal friends, but once let them 
accept anyone outside it and he was immediately 
included. 

Alfrey knew that even Aunt Myrtle, did any 
social exigency require it, would walk down Bond 
Street with a scavenger in his working clothes, un¬ 
flurried and practically unaware that there was any¬ 
thing odd in the proceeding. 


INTERPLAY 


185 


The small-mindedness that would recognize a 
person in one environment and cut that person in 
another was unknown amongst them, and it dis¬ 
tressed Alfrey that Julia, with her smattering of 
subversive political ideals, should fall below the 
standards of her essentially Tory relatives in this 
respect. 

He had been pleased and rather touched by the 
frank way in which the huge Collett connection 
had accepted him without reservation because he 
was engaged to Julia. And the simplicity and 
kindliness which Sir Godfrey showed in his inquiries 
after Mrs. Stowe and his expressed desire to make 
her acquaintance, contrasted unfavourably with 
Julia’s studied avoidance of her as a subject of 
conversation. 

Therefore, when Aunt Claire next morning an¬ 
nounced her intention of coming with them in the 
hired motor to the station “to see them off,” he made 
no attempt to dissuade her. 

Aunt Claire knew perfectly well that Julia would 
prefer not to be seen with her in public, and there¬ 
fore she was fully determined to come. 

Aunt Claire was a born tease. 

The 10.20 train to town from Frampton Massey 
is the best train in the day, and Thursday was 
not a hunting day, so that there was always a 
sporting chance of encountering people Julia had 
met at Aylberne. 


186 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Neither in manner nor appearance did Aunt 
Claire’s personality lend itself to effacement, and 
just as her nephew might have mingled with any 
crowd unnoticed, so Aunt Claire challenged observa¬ 
tion and quite naturally took the centre of the stage 
under the spot light. 

This morning, being cold, she wore her most 
voluminous black furs, that made her look about 
four feet across, and a hat with an immense osprey 
that whisked into her neighbour’s eye as often as 
she turned her head. 

She had taken a dislike to Julia, saw that she 
was uncomfortable, and this so raised her spirits 
that both during the short ride in the motor and 
during the long wait at the station (hired motors 
in the country are always far too soon) she kept 
up an unceasing fire of chaff and arch-retort. 

Julia, hoping that it might affect Aunt Claire, 
speedily relapsed into a dignified silence. But it 
had just the opposite effect. More and more people 
arrived upon the platform. Mr. and Mrs. Shortly, 
who knew Julia slightly, bowed to her with thinly 
veiled astonishment at her companion. The Bagen- 
dons from Harthover Castle arrived, and would 
have exchanged greetings with Julia but that she 
turned her back upon them hastily and pretended 
not to see them. 

In spite of the extremely cold February day, 
Julia’s cheeks blazed. She / looked quite extraor- 


INTERPLAY 


187 


dinarily handsome, and Aunt Claire remarked 
loudly to Alfrey that it was plain how well the 
air of Frampton Massey suited his sweetheart. 

Then there arrived two men, two young men 
with a soldier servant carrying kit-bags that un¬ 
mistakably held racing saddles, and Julia’s heart 
went down into her boots, for one of them was 
her cousin Hugh, and the other Lord William Love- 
ton, a brother officer, with whom she had often 
danced. 

“Hullo, Julia! Hullo, Stowe! I didn’t know you 
were down here or I’d have looked you up. We’ve 
been roped in to ride a couple of Wedderburn’s 
horses in the Point-to-Point, and have been trying 
them on the downs.” 

Lord William was very nearly as good-looking 
as Hugh, and without waiting for an introduction, 
Aunt Claire smiled expectantly upon them, demand¬ 
ing archly: “Now, which of you am I to back?” 

Alfrey introduced Hugh to his aunt. Hugh 
presented Lord William, and both of them instantly 
answered to their cues, and a merry dialogue fol¬ 
lowed that disgusted Julia as much as it amused 
Hugh and Lord William. The train was late. Hugh 
and Lord William stayed with them till the very 
last minute, and the group round about Julia was 
so noisy and hilarious that she could have 
wished that the earth might open and swallow 
her up. 


188 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Aunt Claire stood waving on the platform till 
the last vestige of the train vanished into a tunnel. 
Hugh and his friend were too tactful to travel with 
Alfrey and Julia, but other people were less con¬ 
siderate, and the six seats in their carriage were all 
occupied. 

“I do hate being seen off, don’t you?” Julia said, 
as they started. 

Alfrey looked at her and laughed. “Poor little 
Julia,” he said, “you bore it very well on the 
whole.” 

In spite of the other passengers, Julia slipped her 
hand under his arm and pressed it gently. 

“Darling,” she whispered, “you know that I’d bear 
anything if it gave you any pleasure.” 

The roar of the tunnel drowned Alfrey’s answer. 


CHAPTER XIII 


i 



UNT CLAIRE always maintained that Julia’s 


iJL frigidity at breakfast gave her sister a 
chill; for the day after Julia and Alfrey went 
back to town Mrs. Stowe went down with a sharp 
attack of her old enemy, bronchitis. Thus it came 
about that when she recovered Aunt Claire carried 
her off to the Salisbury Hotel at Brighton to pick 
up. Aunt Claire was fond of Brighton, and 
always chose that particular hotel because it 
had been a favourite with the old actor, J. L. 


Toole. 


Julia, serene in the knowledge that she really 
had tried conscientiously to be nice to Alfrey’s 
very odd relations, was quite unaware that she 
had been anything but the greatest success; and 
having, as she put it, “got it over,” was able to 
feel quite forgiving towards both the old ladies. 
Therefore when Alfred told her of his mother’s 
illness and her move to Brighton, Julia good- 
naturedly wrote to Susan asking her to look 
them up. 


189 


190 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You needn’t say anything to Aunt Myrtle about 
their being there unless you like. You’ve already 
seen Alfrey’s parents, but I warn you that his aunt 
will be something of a shock. Ask Hugh! He has 
seen her. 

“Poor darling Alfrey is so loyal and sweet to them, 
but they must be an awful trial. I realize, of course, 
that I must bear with his mother, but I can’t 
see why I should be compelled to endure the 
aunt. I shan’t be in the least offended if 
he can’t feel affection for any of mine. I make 
him a present of all my aunts (and there are about 
a dozen of them) to deal with as he thinks fit. So 
far as I can make out, and I hope it’s the case, 
he has only this one, but she, my dear Susan, is 
indeed a host in herself. 

“Nevertheless, if you feel virtuous and altruistic, 
you might take Bingo for a walk along the front 
and look in on the two old things. It would 
please Alfrey so much that I should have asked 
you to do so, and if I can tell Father you’ve done 
it, he will be pleased with both of us. It’s quite 
funny how dutiful and old-fashioned Father is 
about people’s relations, and yet he is so wonder¬ 
fully broad-minded and modern about most things. 
I feel a bore asking you to do this, but you will 
understand. I dread Alfrey’s suggesting that I 
should go down with him for the day to see them 
—I’m frightfully busy with clothes, and the little 


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191 


season is in full swing. Besides, those queer old 
ladies in any public place would really be the limit. 
Alfrey is sure to go down, but he too is worked 
to death with one thing and another just now. 
Did I tell you that he has given up his post on 
Orion? He feels, and so do I, that he ought to 
devote himself entirely to creative work, and that 
what time he can spare from his novel belongs to 
me. I wish you could get engaged too, Susan. It 
is so lovely. 

“Let me know if you see those two old oddities 
when you call, and how you fare. Mind, I don't 
forbid you to tell Aunt Myrtle that they’re in 
Brighton. If she could be induced to ask them 
to lunch, say, it would be something for me to 
swank about to Alfrey, but I leave that entirely to 
your discretion. 

“Love from Julia.” 

Susan did not hesitate for a moment as to the 
proper course for her to take with regard to Alfrey’s 
relatives. She instantly determined not only that 
she herself would call upon the old ladies but that 
Aunt Myrtle should call with her and ask them both 
to a meal in Norton Road. 

A queer feeling of loyalty to Hesper was at the 
bottom of this decision, accompanied by a grim 
sort of gratification at the prospect of forcing her 
aunt to recognize the very people she had scorned 


192 THE BROKEN BOW 

in the past, when her scorn had been so potent to 
give pain. 

Aunt Myrtle was watering the ferns in a little 
greenhouse that opened off the drawing-room. 
Susan followed her with Julia’s open letter in her 
hand. 

“I’ve just had a letter from Julia/’ she said. 
“Alfrey’s mother and aunt are at the ‘Salisbury/ 
and she’d like us to call. Could you come with me 
this afternoon?” 

“What does Julia say?” Aunt Myrtle asked cau¬ 
tiously, putting down the watering-pot and holding 
out her hand for the letter. 

Susan gave one quick glance at her aunt, saw 
that her eye-glasses were not fastened just under 
her collar-bone by their usual chain, and meekly 
handed over Julia’s letter. 

Aunt Myrtle felt for her glasses. “How stupid 
of me! I must have left them on my dressing- 
table when I changed for lunch. No, don’t fetch 
them now—read me what Julia says.” 

Susan read aloud a bowdlerized version of Julia’s 
letter. 

Aunt Myrtle sighed. “I suppose we must. Tea 
will do, I think. Not lunch. I should have 
minded more had we been living at Aylberne. I 
believe that Mrs. Stowe is quite a good sort of 
person—most useful in the Women’s Institute— 
and I heard she was really wonderful at the 


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193 


hospital during the war, superintended all the 
cooking; and the men, and, what was quite as im¬ 
portant, the nurses, were all admirably fed, even 
in the most difficult time. After I heard it I often 
wished we’d had her with us. I had such a lot 
of trouble with the cooks. We needn't stay more 
than a quarter of an hour. We might do it to¬ 
morrow afternoon, early, and I'll ask them to tea 
on Sunday. Poor Julia!” 

“Why do you say ‘poor Julia/ Aunt Myrtle? 
She’s awfully happy.” 

“Tm always sorry for young women who marry 
out of their own class. It's all very well now, 
but how does she know what tiresome tricks she 
may discover in the intimacy of married life? For 
all she knows, he may bite his nails, or pick his 
teeth, or sniff, or not like baths and be stingy 
about his under-clothes. He comes of the class 
that wears detachable cuffs (and I’m sure I don ? t 
blame them, with laundry at its present price), 
and it’s impossible that Julia can have found out 
any of these things yet.” 

Susan laughed, but at the same time felt nettled. 
“I've met A1 trey Stowe,” she said, “and he didn't 
seem to me likely to do any of the things you 
mention.” 

‘Well. well, well hope not. I earnestly hope 
not, for poor dear Julia's sake. Poor dear 
Julia!” 


194 


THE BROKEN BOW 


II 

Alfrey was anxious about his mother. Lately, 
each time she had had bronchitis she had taken 
longer to recover, and every attack seemed to leave 
her older, more husky, and more wheezy; weaker, 
and with less recuperative power. He had met the 
old ladies at Paddington and seen them across Lon¬ 
don and into their train at Victoria, and had been 
shocked by his mother’s appearance. 

That was on Tuesday, and, beyond a post-card 
from Aunt Claire announcing their safe arrival 
and that their rooms were comfortable, he had 
heard nothing. On Thursday morning he decided 
to go down to Brighton and see for himself how 
his mother was. He didn’t ring them up to say 
he was coming. Nor did he ring up Julia to ask 
if she would go with him, for he was well aware 
that a visit from him accompanied by Julia would 
not, at present, be an unalloyed pleasure to his 
mother. Knowing how weak she was, he felt he 
ought to spare her as much as possible. 

He realized that his aunt was antagonistic to Julia. 
Indeed, she made but small effort to conceal her 
feelings; and this, naturally, caused a strong reac¬ 
tion in Julia’s favour. 

Aunt Claire was absurd. 

He was fond of her, but he would stand no 
nonsense. 


INTERPLAY 


195 


As to his mother, her case was different. He 
was assured that she was ardently desirous of loving 
Julia, if Julia would allow herself to be loved. He 
read his mother’s mind just as clearly as he read 
Julia’s. And because in it he found no criticism, 
only a pathetic anxiety not to give offence and a 
real desire to understand what, so far, had proved 
incomprehensible, so did his thoughts about his 
mother increase in tenderness. 

Had she been critical, had she been in the least 
mother-in-lawish and disposed to find fault with 
Julia, or with his taste in choosing Julia, instantly 
he would have been on the defensive and Julia’s 
champion. It was because he knew his mother 
wanted him to be happy in his own way, not hers, 
that Alfrey was quick to resent even an implied 
slight upon her. 

It was because Julia was so strongly entrenched 
behind her brilliant youth, her social position, her 
good looks, her knowledge of the world, that he 
dared even in his most secret heart to criticize her 
attitude towards his mother. It seemed to him un¬ 
generous that, when she had so much, she should 
be unwilling to step down a little way from her 
high throne of self-sufficiency to meet the older, 
simpler woman. 

As the train rattled him down to Brighton that 
sunny February morning these questions asked 
themselves over and over again in his mind, and 


196 


THE BROKEN BOW 


ever like a refrain crystallized into the question: 
“If she loves me so much—how is it that she doesn’t 
understand?” 

He had not yet learned to ask himself: “If I 
loved her enough wouldn’t I try to make her 
understand?” 


hi 

He got to Brighton at midday and drove straight 
to the Salisbury Hotel. 

“Yes, the ladies were in; at least they were sit¬ 
ting in the balcony outside the lounge enjoying the 
sunshine.” 

There they were in the balcony above the little 
square green garden that separates the hotel 
from the bustle of the King’s Road. 

Two large old ladies much muffled and befurred 
in two basket chairs, their feet on footstools, their 
hands in muffs, and railway rugs over their knees. 

Alfrey drew up a chair beside his mother and 
prepared to enjoy the sunshine too. She looked 
better already, he thought. Her dear plain, large 
face less tired and limp. Her eyes brighter, though 
the keen wind—or was it the sunshine?—seemed 
to make them a bit watery. 

Alfrey took off his gloves and spread out his cold 
hands to the sunshine. 

Mrs. Stowe captured one of them and drew it 


INTERPLAY 


197 


into her muff. She had no gloves on, and her 
hands were warm. Nobody could see what she 
had done. Alfrey left his hand in her keeping just 
as if he had been six years old, and for Mrs. Stowe 
just then the rather scrubby little garden of 
the Salisbury Hotel was transformed to a place 
of dazzling beauty in a world that was all sunshine 
and beneficence. She was a glad, proud woman: 
for her son, this wonderful young man who could 
take words and bend them to his will so that they 
were instantly transformed into people, real 
people, who made you glad and sorry and angry 
and pleased—this wonderful young man, her son, 
had come, unasked, all that long way, just to have 
lunch with her and to see for himself how she was 
going on. 

Claire, seemingly, was right. Nothing and no¬ 
body could take him away from her if she loved 
him enough, and kept off being a nuisance or 
worrying. 

Perhaps, presently, even that Julia of his would 
see that she meant well—and for the present . . . 
Never was prouder, happier woman than Mrs. 
Stowe, fondling this wonderful young man's hand 
within the safe shelter of her muff. 

“You’ll never guess,” Aunt Claire said archly, 
“you’ll never guess who’s been to see us. We’ve 
had callers, young man, callers—and we’re asked 
out to tea.” 


198 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Now, what will you bet, Aunt Claire, that I 
don’t guess right the very first time?” 

“Has Julia said anything?” 

“That’s got nothing to do with it. Do you take 
me on?” 

“Mind, I said callers. Not one— callers” 

“Well, then, I believe your callers were both Miss 
Colletts. Did they come together or singly?” 

“They came together.” 

“And were most pleasant,” Mrs. Stowe said, 
eagerly squeezing Alfrey’s hand in the muff. “I 
couldn’t have believed that proud-looking Miss 
Collett could be so neighbourly. I was terrified 
of her, but she talked so pleasant all about the 
Women’s Institute and the Extension Lectures 
and the Council Schools—she’s on the Education 
Committee—and ever so many things down there, 
and you can see how she loves every stone in 
Frampton Massey and Aylberne, for all she looks 
so stand-off.” 

“Now, which Miss Collett are you talking about?” 
Alfrey asked. 

“Why, the aunt, of course,” Aunt Claire struck 
in. “Duchessy old thing, looks as if she’d swal¬ 
lowed the poker. I got off with the girl, and a 
jolly nice girl too; voice a bit like Ellen Terry’s 
in her best days. Pity she’s got such an appalling 
name.” 

“Why, what’s the matter with her name?” 


INTERPLAY 


199 


Alfrey demanded. “I think it’s a capital name, 
dignified and simple. There have been generations 
of Susans in the Collett family, and they’re proud 
of it.” 

“Fm sure I hope if you and Julia have a daughter 
you won’t call her Susan—Susan Stowe would 
sound awful.” 

“I think Susan Stowe sounds splendid,” Alfrey 
said; and then, for no reason whatever, felt him¬ 
self colour up to the roots of his hair. 

Luckily neither of the old ladies was looking 
at him, but at some commotion on the front. 

Aunt Claire put up her starers. She badly 
needed spectacles or eye-glasses, and would have 
neither because she thought they looked dowdy. 

“Talk of the devil!” she exclaimed. “There is 
that very Susan, and, as far as I can make out, her 
dog’s stolen a little boy’s ball and gone into the 
sea with it. Don’t you hear him yelling?” 

Alfrey rose. “Perhaps I’d better go and see if 
I can help her,” he said. 


IV 

There was quite a commotion on the front. A 
small child of Israel in a white fur coat was bawling 
at the top of his voice, “I want my bailee,” while 
Susan, his nurse, and half a dozen strangers all 
shouted together at a black retriever who was 


200 


THE BROKEN BOW 


gaily breasting the waves with a bright green india- 
rubber ball in his mouth. 

Presently he swam back again and dashed into 
the midst of the crowd, shaking himself so vigor¬ 
ously that his pursuers scattered on every side. 
Only Susan braved the shower of spray, sternly 
commanding Bingo to “drop it.” But Bingo, 
encouraged by the noise, the crowd, and the 
general excitement, evidently thought it was a 
game got up for his special edification. There¬ 
fore, ignoring Susan’s admonitions, and carefully 
keeping just out of her reach, he darted and 
turned and twisted about that bit of shore, drop¬ 
ping the ball for a moment and rolling it in front 
of him, only to snatch it up again in his jaws 
before any of his pursuers could possibly reach 
it. 

Bingo was thoroughly enjoying himself. 

It is possible that he would have obeyed Susan 
could he have heard her; but every one called 
to him at the same time, and above all these 
confused, discordant outcries sounded the eternally 
reiterated wail of the little Jew-boy, “I want my 
bailee.” 

Alfrey, who liked dogs much better than children, 
as he joined the chase, bent down over the wailing 
infant to say in a deep and awful voice, “Don’t 
make so much noise.” 

The startled child gave one glance upwards, 


INTERPLAY 


201 


ceased to cry, and rushed to clutch at his nurse's 
skirts before he recovered sufficient breath to start 
his lament again. 

Susan was getting angry. She had had too much to 
do with dogs to tolerate disobedience; and Bingo, 
had he looked at her, would have realized she meant 
business by the way she gripped the whip-leash in 
her hand. 

She was splashed from head to foot with sea¬ 
water, and she barely greeted Alfrey when he 
appeared, beyond saying: “If they’d only leave 
him alone, I could get the wretched ball directly.” 

Bingo returned from his swim and started to 
shake himself afresh. Susan made a dash at him 
and grasped his collar. 

Bingo dropped the ball at her feet and panted, 
looking up at her in smiling expectation of praise. 

“He ought to be thrashed,” she said wrath- 
fully; “but it’s not vice, only mischief. Still, he 
must do what’s he’s told. Take the whip, will you? 
—and I’ll smack him.” 

From long experience of foxhound puppies, 
Susan knew just how to smack a young dog so 
that it stung without really hurting. 

When she’d done with Bingo, he was yelping and 
she rather breathless and flushed. 

Alfrey, standing by helplessly holding the whip, 
was rather shocked by the vigour of her correction. 

“I wish you could give a little of that to the 


202 


THE BROKEN BOW 


horrid child/’ he murmured. “I’d have eaten his 
ball if I’d been Bingo.” 

The child was now screaming again: “Nasty dog 
took my bailee, nasty dog, nasty dog, nasty lady, 
nasty, nasty man!” 

A meek and dripping Bingo was now securely 
leashed, and Susan drew on her gloves again. 

“You always appear unexpectedly and in the 
strangest places,” she said, not over graciously. “Is 
Julia with you?” 

“No, I’m alone. Just come down to lunch with 
my mother, and, seeing youpr predicament from 
the balcony, I wondered if I could be of any use. 
Won’t you come into the hotel and let us 
dry you?” 

“I can’t. I shall be late for lunch as it is. I’ll 
never bring him so far down the front again, where 
there are so many people. He’s perfectly good 
if only he isn’t flustered. He’s only a puppy, 
really—not a year old. What’s that little boy cry¬ 
ing for still? He’s got his ball, and it isn’t a penny 
the worse.” 

“If I were Bingo I’d bite that child.” 

“Well, then, you would get a thrashing. Poor 
little wretch! Bingo had no right to take his 
ball.” 

“In a matter of this kind I agree with Rob Roy, 
‘let him take who has the power and let him keep 
who can.’ Mayn’t I give a ball to Bingo?” 


INTERPLAY 


203 


“He’s got a ball, thank yon, but I don’t bring it 
to the shore—only on the downs.” 

“You take him on the downs?” 

“Nearly always. This is the first time I’ve 
brought him down so far, and it’ll be the last.” 

They were walking quite fast towards Hove 
as they talked, and had reached the King Edward 
Memorial. 

“You must go back,” Susan said. “Give my 
love to Mrs. Stowe, and tell her we look forward 
to seeing her and Mrs. Cayley on Sunday. Will 
you be here?” 

“I fear not. I go back this afternoon, and on 
Sunday I go to Woodlands, but I shall come down 
once more and stay the night. Will you take me 
on the downs with Bingo one morning?” 

Susan had recovered her temper. “I shall be 
delighted, but it’s a good long walk, mind. Would 
you like to ride?—we can get horses quite 
easily.” 

“I’d much rather walk, thank you. It’s about the 
only form of exercise I’m really good at.” 

“What about Julia? Will she be coming with 
you?” 

“I think not. She’s very much engaged just now, 
and she hates Brighton; she told me so.” 

“Well, let me know and we’ll fix it up. I must 
fly, for I’m late as it is.” 

Alfrey watched the tall figure in grey, with the 


204 


THE BROKEN BOW 


black dog now trotting decorously by her side, till 
they were out of sight. 

He felt unaccountably cheered and amused. How 
she had whacked that dog! 

Who would believe that adorable voice could have 
such a heavy hand? 

And the dog had licked the hand that whacked 
him the minute it ceased to whack. 

It would be fun to go up on the downs with them 
both. It would do him good, blow the cobwebs 
away, make him see more clearly. He’d tell Julia 
about it, and she could come if she liked—but 
she wouldn’t like. One couldn’t associate Julia 
with dogs and downs. 


v 

Susan, walking very fast, also felt cheered; and, 
for no reason at all, rather excited. He was an 
odd young man, this young man of Julia’s. He 
looked at her so queerly through those spectacles 
of his . . . as if he saw something that other 
people didn’t see. There was no admiration, as 
Susan was used to admiration, in the way he 
looked at her—and yet she was sure he liked 
her. He seemed to look at her and through her 
and past her to something behind. . . . Was it 
the spectacles, she wondered, that made him so 
different? 


INTERPLAY 


205 


She’d tell Julia about his suggestion that she 
should take him to see the downs. Then if Julia 
didn’t like it, she could easily put a stop to the 
whole thing. But why should she dislike it? 

“She’s glad we should be friends,” Susan told 
herself. For although her conscience was a regular 
dormouse, it did occasionally snore quite shrilly. 

“Perhaps he won’t come, after all,” she thought, 
as the dormouse conscience gave an extra sharp 
snore far above the topmost note in the treble stave, 
right into her ear. 

“Why shouldn’t I be friends with him?” 

What possible harm could there be in going for 
a walk on the downs? 

Susan decided that she would ask Aunt Myrtle, 
believing that Aunt Myrtle would speed her on 
her way. It was an easy method of showing some 
attention to these strange persons Julia had im¬ 
ported into the family. 

Even the mention of Aunt Myrtle didn’t wake 
up the dormouse conscience—but the snore did not 
abate one jot of its shrillness. 


CHAPTER XIV 


I 

ffTT’S wonderful and most gratifying the things 

X they say in the papers about Alfrey’s work,” 
Mrs. Stowe remarked as she closed the copy of The 
Independent Review that he had sent her. “I wish 
I could understand a bit better what they mean.” 

“I often wish I could understand at all what 
Alfrey himself means—in his books,” Aunt Claire 
answered. “There’s nobody’s writings I want to 
like so much as Alfrey’s, but between you and me, 
the last year or two they’ve bored me stiff, and 
that’s a fact.” 

They were sitting in one of the glass-ended 
shelters on the front. They’d been a week at 
Brighton, and Mrs. Stowe had gained in strength 
and cheerfulness every day. 

“Nothing Alfrey could say or do or write could 
bore me,” she declared firmly, “but I will confess 
I get a bit puzzled and muddled sometimes, and 
I wish he’d show a bit more whether he likes a 
person or not. It would be such a help. But he 
never does.” 


206 


INTERPLAY 


207 


“Look at that last book of his,” Aunt Claire 
continued, “A Divided Interest , all about a dull 
little bookseller in a country town with a 
dull, shabby little shop without so much as a proper 
window and half the books on a shelf sticking out 
on the pavement—who can care twopence about 
that sort of man?” 

“He’s real enough, though, Claire; you must 
confess that.” 

“Who wants him to be real? You can get real 
people like that any day you choose to walk down 
the Charing Cross Road. I don’t want people I 
can see for myself, in books—I want something 
different. I’ll tell you what I like: I like a 
beautiful heroine with lovely clothes that show 
plenty of her, and for choice I prefer her to be as 
wicked as a weasel. And a magnificent hero, over 
six feet if he’s an inch, who goes the pace all night 
and plays polo all day and always looks like a 
Greek god. And they love each other like hell, 
and that’s about all they do do. And plenty of 
descriptions of boudoirs and clothes and shoes, 
dong narrow feet’ she always has, and so has he; 
and there’s quantities of flowers about, and shaded 
lamps and tiger-skins and things. Then I can 
lose myself and forget I’m a fat old woman 
inclined to be gouty—but to ask me at my age 

to feel interested in a dark little bookshop- 

Well, there’s precious little I wouldn’t do for 



208 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Alfrey, but upon my soul I can’t do that.” 

“Pm afraid I like that sort of book too,” Mrs. 
Stowe confessed, “but Alfrey says it has no 
relation to life—or is it ‘is’?” 

“Who wants a book to be a relation? Relations 
are nearly always tiresome, and as for in-laws 
. . . and I’ve had some experience with them, 
having had three sets.” 

“Alfrey seems to like his in-laws.” 

“You always like ’em before you’re married. 
It’s afterwards that’s the test. Not that I ever 
saw much of mine. That’s one advantage of 
being on tour—you can’t be stuck down in the 
same town with the same set of people year in 
year out.” 

“I can’t get over it yet,” Mrs. Stowe said 
meditatively, “Alfrey’s Julia being related to the 
Colletts. That out of all the girls in London he 
should have pitched on that particular one.” 

Aunt Claire said nothing, but started humming 
a little tune under her breath. Mrs. Stowe turned 
and looked sharply at her. “Why don’t you 
answer, Claire?” 

“As for choosing, Emma, I don’t believe any of 
us get a chance to choose. It’s just like as if 
Fate took us and jumbled us up anyhow in a 
bag. Free-love or marriage, it’s all chance. Life’s 
the dinner, and the man’s what you get to drink 
with it. Claude, my first, was a cocktail, giving 


INTERPLAY 


209 


you an appetite he never satisfied. Jimmy, my 
second, was like the sweet champagne you 
drink too much of when you’re young, because 
it makes you feel daring and gay, and in the 
morning you’ve got a headache and a coated 
tongue-” 

“And what about Matthew Cayley?” 

“Oh, he was like Sunday luncheon in a teetotal 
family—roast beef and apple-tart—very whole¬ 
some and satisfying, but not exciting.” 

“Anyhow, he was a good husband to you and 
left you very comfortable.” 

“And I was a good wife to him and made him 
jolly comfortable. What’s more, I amused him 
and took him out of himself. Never tell me, 
Emma, that I didn’t deal square with Matthew 
Cayley.” 

“I’m sure you did, but you oughtn’t to hint 
it was dull.” 

“It was dull, but by that time I’d got fat and 
deadly tired of trying not to, and when I married 
him I knew I needn’t try any more, and the blessed 
relief of comfortable stays and eating everything 
I fancied more than made up for a bit of dullness. 
Besides, as religious people would tell you, the 
Kingdom of God is within you—and if you’re 
cheerful by nature, cheerful you’ll be, whether 
your circumstances are dull or exciting. We’ve 
always been cheerful, Emma, no matter what 



210 THE BROKEN BOW 

happened; and we always will be cheerful, because 
it’s ‘within’ us.” 

“I hope so,” Mrs. Stowe said, without much 
conviction. I’m sure I hope so. Would you 
call Alfrey’s Julia cheerful, now, or not?” 

“She don’t add much to my gaiety,” Aunt 
Claire replied; “but, then, she doesn’t like me, 
and I’m not particularly drawn to her. ...” 

“I’m sorry for that, Claire.” 

“Perhaps when they’re married I shall under¬ 
stand her better,” Aunt Claire said hopefully. 

“You liked the Colletts, didn’t you, when we 
went to tea?” 

“Oh, I can get on all right with that black- 
eyed Susan, if you mean her.” 

“Her eyes aren’t black, they’re brown as 
brown. Do you call her pretty?” 

“She is pretty—there’s no question of calling 
her so.” 

“It’s kind of her to promise to take Alfrey 
on the downs when he comes to fetch us back, 
isn’t it?” 

“If I was that Julia of his, I wouldn’t have 
Cousin Susan much about unless I was there to 
look after her.” 

“Oh, Claire! I’m positive she’s not that sort 
of girl. Nor is Alfrey at all that sort of man. 
If I thought there’d be any trouble of that kind, 
I’d beg of Alfrey not to go.” 


INTERPLAY 


211 


“And if you did you’d be a greater silly than 
you’d ever been in your life. Don’t you move a 
finger to interfere with Alfrey or Julia or that 
Susan girl. Let them manage their own affairs. 
I only said that if I was Julia Mainwaring I’d 
not go out of my way to throw such a pretty 
cousin in his—that’s all.” 

“I wish, Claire, you wouldn’t say things like 
that. It makes me downright uncomfortable. 
That it does.” 

“Don’t be frumpy and old-fashioned, Emma. 
The modern way is to say plop out whatever one 
thinks, and if I can’t speak openly to my own 
sister-” 

“It’s you that’s old-fashioned over this, Claire,” 
Mrs. Stowe said earnestly. “Just like the people 
in Erampton Massey, who can’t see a boy and 
girl walk down the street together without say¬ 
ing all sorts of nasty things. Why, since the 
war ...” 

“You make me tired, Emma, with your ‘since 
the war,’ as if the war had changed human nature. 
Whatever else it’s changed, it can never change 
that. And for you, who’ve lived more than half 
your life in that stick-in-the-mud little Wiltshire 
town, to accuse me of being provincial! Why, I 
nearly went to America once, and I’ve been in 
every big town in England and Scotland and 
Wales.” 


212 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Aunt Claire was distinctly ruffled, and Mrs. 
Stowe tactfully changed the subject. 

ii 

“Woodlands, 

“Wimbledon Commons, S.W.19. 

“Feb. 24,1921. 

“Dear Susan,— 

“Alfrey is frightfully rushed and asked me 
to tell you that he is going down to see his people 
late on Sunday night (it is a bore that he’s got 
to). He’ll remain over Monday and take them 
back with him to town on Tuesday morning. If 
it’s fine, and if you have nothing to do, he says 
he’ll be grateful if you’ll fulfil your promise 
to show him the downs. Do, for the undiluted 
society of his mamma and aunt all day in that hotel 
would really be rather too much even for him. I 
feel guilty not to be going down with him, but 
I’m always rather tied on Sundays. Daddy is so 
good I don’t want him to feel neglected just 
because I’m going to be married, and really I 
couldn’t be of any use to Alfrey if we were all 
day shut up with them. The poor boy is not 
looking very well, and a little fresh air and some 
real exercise—not pottering about with those old 
dodders—will freshen him up. When we are 
married I’ll see that he gets proper exercise, but 


INTERPLAY 


213 


just now I can do very little. He read me three 
chapters of his new book last night, and, Susan, 
it is magnificent. I feel so proud that anyone 
who can write like that should belong to me. I 
always vowed I’d marry someone who would 
be famous, and now . . . I’ve done it, I was 
going to say—I wish I had done it. All these 
delays and restrictions are so very trying, but 
we’ll have a lovely wedding, and I hope for a full 
page in the Tatler in my wedding-dress. When 
are you coming to us again? I can find plenty 
for you to do, and I’m sure Aunt Myrtle doesn’t 
really need you—and it does seem absurd that 
you should have to stay on at Hove just to exer¬ 
cise Hugh’s dog. Why doesn’t he attend to the 
creature himself? Remember you’ve 'promised to 
come and stay with Dad while Alfrey and I are 
honeymooning. You’ll be able to do what you 
like all day, but he likes someone to be there when 
he gets home tired at night. Won’t it seem funny 
to stay at Woodlands and no me? 

“Best love from Julia.” 

“153, Norton Road, 

“Hove. 

“Sunday. 

“Dear Mrs. Stowe,— 

“When Cousin Alfrey arrives to-morrow, will 
you tell him I’ve heard from Julia and she wants 


214 


THE BROKEN BOW 


me to take him for a good walk on the downs on 
Tuesday morning if it’s fine. Perhaps he would 
call here for Bingo and me about a quarter to ten, 
then we’ll take a train from Hove station to the 
Dyke and walk from there. One has to walk such a 
long way here before one comes to any real country. 

“I hope your cough has disappeared and that 
you are feeling much stronger. Kind regards to 
Mrs. Cayley and you, from yours sincerely, 

“Susan Collett.” 

“There!” Mrs. Stowe said triumphantly, hand¬ 
ing the letter to Aunt Claire. “That’ll show you 
whether there’s any hokey-pokey about it. Why, 
Julia herself asks her.” 

“More fool Julia!” Aunt Claire snapped. 
“However, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

“What do you mean with your warnings? 
Warn me against what?” 

“Time will reveal,” Aunt Claire answered, 
cryptically. “It’s not one bit of good for you 
to act the bread-and-butter miss at your age, 
Emma. If a young man and a young woman 
are thrown constantly together (in that bag I 
spoke of), one of two things happens. Either 
they get fond of one another or they quarrel.” 

“But Alfrey and Susan Collett are not thrown 
constantly together, never have been. I don’t 
believe they’ve met but twice before.” 


INTERPLAY 


215 


"And as I said before, if I was Julia I’d take 
jolly good care they didn’t meet a third time 
without me.” 

"It shows how she trusts Alfrey.” 

"In matters of this sort I’d trust a man just 
as far as I could see him and no farther. Downs, 
indeed! Catch me sending any young man sup¬ 
posed to be in love with me out on downs with 
another girl, especially a girl with eyes and ankles 
like that. Julia Mainwaring is a perfect fool, 
that’s what she is.” 

"D’you think we ought to go with them, Claire? 
I wouldn’t for the world. ...” 

Aunt Claire burst into laughter. "Sometimes, 
Emma, you say things that would sound silly in a 
child of two. Who made you Julia Mainwaring’s 
keeper, pray? Let her look after her own affairs 
herself.” 


CHAPTER XV 


i 


LFREY breakfasted alone and early at the 



“Salisbury.” The day was fine and the sun 
shining, so that there could be no question as to 
the feasibility of the expedition to the downs 
with Susan. He had slept well and attributed 
the unusual exhilaration of his spirits to this, 
and to the fact that his mother was so much 
better. She had just begun her breakfast in bed 
when he went to her room to see her before he 
started. 

“How nice you look, Alfrey,” she said approv¬ 
ingly. “I do like you in country clothes. I could 
wish, though, you hadn’t got to go off for the whole 
morning. Not but what I expect the air will do 
you good. You’ll be back for lunch?” 

“I expect so, but don’t wait a minute for 
me, as I may be late. It all depends on how far 
we go.” 

“Well, don’t get lost. It’s a beautiful morn¬ 
ing for a walk. Don’t you wish Julia was with 


you?” 


216 


INTERPLAY 


217 


“I do indeed, but she isn’t fond of walking. 
We must remember she’s not nearly so strong as 
Susan.” 

Alfrey kissed his mother somewhat hastily and 
departed. He did not visit Aunt Claire. Lately 
she had rather got on his nerves, and he was 
inclined to sympathize with Julia about her. 
After all, persistent archness was very tiring, even 
when accompanied by a heart of gold. Some¬ 
times hearts of gold were in themselves rather a 
bore. 

As he swung along the empty front, the sun¬ 
shine and the clean air with that delicious tang of 
the sea in it that one gets at high tide in Brighton, 
conspired to make him feel something of the 
gay dog his mother would have liked him to 
be. 

Hang it all! he wanted a rest, a change, some¬ 
thing different from the life he had been leading 
lately. A life with too many parties in it; too 
much running after Julia to this place and that; 
too little time to concentrate upon his book. A 
morning on the downs right away from people 
would do him all the good in the world; and if 
it happened that the society of Julia’s pleasant 
Cousin Susan was thrown in, why should he 
cavil? 

Why refuse to accept what the kind gods 
gave? 


218 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Alfrey’s conscience was no dormouse. On the 
contrary, it was a vigilant, wakeful, loud-voiced 
animal that seldom left him in peace for long. 
This morning, however, he flung over it a thick 
blanket of oblivion, so that if, as usual, it started 
croaking when he wanted to enjoy himself, its 
disagreeable voice should be well muffled. 

“I really think, Susan,” Aunt Myrtle said, 
“that it’s tiresome of Julia to expect us to amuse 
her young man. Why doesn’t she come down and 
exercise him herself?” 

“Julia’s not fond of exercise at any time, and I 
suppose she thought that, as I would be taking 
out Bingo anyway, I might as well take him as 
well.” 

ii 

“You don’t have to go off by train with Bingo. 
Why can’t you walk quietly along the front towards 
Shoreham? The air is just as good by the sea 
as on the downs.” 

“But he wants to see the downs, Aunt Myrtle, 
and it’s so quick by train—and such a dreary 
walk before one gets to them by road.” 

“Well, mind, you must be home for luncheon 
at half-past one, and I suppose he’d better 
come too; but I think it’s an odd arrangement, 
and I’m not at all sure that your father would 


INTERPLAY 


219 


approve . . . your going on those lonely downs.” 

“They won’t be lonely on such a fine morning, 
Aunt Myrtle. Lots of people will be playing 
golf” ^ 

“I wish you’d been playing golf. There’s some 
reason in that . . . but this walking—just walk¬ 
ing. I can't approve of it. However- There’s 

the bell—don’t keep him waiting. I don’t want 
him brought in here. Since you are going, you 
may as well catch your train.” 

As the front door was opened Susan and a joyful 
Bingo appeared in the passage. A business-like 
Susan in tweeds that suggested heather with the 
gleam of golden bracken. Her skirt was very 
short and she wore wonderful thick stockings to 
match it in complicated squares, thick brown 
brogue shoes with rubber on the soles and a hat to 
match the bracken, and when the sun caught 
her hair it was like the flash of a squirrel in a 
tree. 

They sat opposite each other in the little motor- 
train, and Bingo, fussily trying to lick each of them 
in turn, was squeezed between their knees with a 
paw on each. 

In spite of the fine morning, there were but few 
golfers in the train, and when they had climbed 
the short path leading to the Devil’s Dyke, when 
they had passed the dreadful shanties where in 
summer people sell tea and tell fortunes, and the 


220 


THE BROKEN BOW 


equally dreadful hotel that looks so sinister and 
wicked, the whole of Sussex seemed spread before 
them like a map, and not a soul was in sight 
except some rooks that Bingo chased in a vain 
and fruitless ecstasy. 

Round and round in circles Bingo ran, and 
something of the pure joy in nature that possessed 
him passed into the other two, who had started 
to walk quite soberly in the direction of Poynings, 
so that their steps grew faster and lighter, and 
they jumped imaginary ditches and laughed at 
nothing for precisely the same reason that Bingo 
gave an occasional deep bark. 

“Let’s sit down a minute,” Alfrey said pres¬ 
ently. “It’s quite dry here, and the sun’s so hot. 
D’you know, I believe if I’d ever had anyone to 
encourage me when I was young, I might have 
played games—moderately—like other people.” 

“Why don’t you start golf and tennis even now? 
It’s not too late.” 

He shook his head. “I fear it is; and Julia 
doesn’t care about either golf or tennis. You see, 
when I was a boy my mother was far too busy 
earning the money to keep us to think about 
games. Besides, in her youth women of her class 
never played games; and at school, the grammar- 
school, there were far more boys keen to play than 
they could arrange for, so naturally no one pressed 
a duffer to take any part.” 


INTERPLAY 


221 


“What about dancing? Julia’s keen on 
that.” 

“Ah! there she has been an angel of patience. 
She has taught me to dance a bit, and I love 
it.” 

“She’s a beautiful dancer herself, one of the very 
best in London.” 

“Everything she does, she does beautifully,” Al- 
frey said, with sincere conviction, “and sometimes 
I feel a hopeless clodhopper beside her.” 

“I’m sure you needn’t. Julia doesn’t care a bit, 
really, about that sort of thing. Her whole heart is 
wrapped up in your work.” 

“Does that strike you as very odd?” 

Susan turned an astonished face towards him. 

“Odd!” she repeated. “Certainly not; it seems 
perfectly natural. One would always be keen on 
a man’s job if one was going to marry him.” 

“Now you—suppose instead of marrying the 
splendid polo-playing, hunting, golfing Admirable 
Crichton of a fellow you will marry—suppose you 
fell in love with someone whose work happened 
to be something in which neither you nor your 
set had ever taken the slightest interest—could 
you suddenly cultivate that interest?” 

“I think it would be difficult,” Susan said, a 
thought huffily, “to find any subject in which 
some member of my ‘set,’ as you call it—I suppose 


222 


THE BROKEN BOW 


you mean my family?—had not taken an interest 
at some time or other, and if you are hinting that, 
except for Julia, we’ve none of us ever been literary 
in our tastes, you are wrong. My grandfather wrote 
and he’d read—well, possibly quite as much or 
even more than any of the most literary people 
that you know. Don’t get into the habit of lump¬ 
ing people into ‘sets.’ ” 

Delicious voice! even when, as now, it was ad¬ 
monitory. If she would only go on talking. . . . 

“Please continue,” he said humbly. “Go on 
to tell me that my work is one-sided with so 
narrow a purview that I miss things that are 
under my nose. Please go on; it’s so good for 
me.” 

“I don’t think your books are narrow—what I’ve 
read—but I think it’s a great mistake to imagine 
that, in a large family, people are necessarily of 
one type.” 

“Yet you are curiously alike physically, aren’t 
you?” 

“No, not even that. You couldn’t find two peo¬ 
ple more unlike in every respect than Robert and 
Hugh.” 

“Hugh is very like you.” 

“Perhaps in appearance—not in character.” 

“I don’t know about character, but in manner 
he is. If I may say so, you both have the same 
sort of easy charm.” 


INTERPLAY 


223 


Susan blushed and dimpled, and this time he 
noticed the dimples. He noticed everything about 
her—the soft oval of jaw and firm white chin, 
the red lips, the blue shadow under her eyes, the 
freshness and fragrance of her—and he was for a 
moment filled with a vast content. He wanted 
nothing but to sit there in the sun and watch 
her. To sit there in the sun and listen to her. 
To sit there in the sun . . . 

Susan looked at the watch on her wrist and 
jumped up. “If we’re to catch that train,” she 
said, “we must run for it.” 

And they ran. 

The sun went in behind a heavy bank of cloud. 
They caught their train with just half a minute 
to spare, and Alfrey’s conscience threw off the 
muffling blanket and shouted at him so that he 
firmly refused Susan’s invitation to lunch and 
dutifully went back to his people at the “Salis¬ 
bury.” 

The conscience, however, didn’t get it all its own 
way, for he expressed his intention of calling to 
pay his respects to Aunt Myrtle after tea. 

hi 

“I really thought that young man would never 
go, Susan,” Aunt Myrtle said, as the front door 
of the house in Norton Road was resonantly shut 


224 


THE BROKEN BOW 


behind Alfrey. "It’s a quarter to seven, and he 
came at half-past five. What on earth did he come 
for again?” 

“To see you, of course—he didn’t see you this 
morning—and you’re not a bit grateful.” 

“I suppose it was polite of him,” Aunt Myrtle 
allowed grudgingly, “but I could have excused the 
attention. We have so little in common. Don’t 
you find him very difficult to talk to?” 

“Not in the least. But perhaps that’s because 
he’s always more anxious to listen than to talk 
himself, and I love talking.” 

“All you young people do—and it’s generally 
vapid nonsense.” 

“Do you think he talks vapid nonsense?” 

“Oh, I never said that. He’s not conceited—at 
least outwardly—but he’s uncomfortable. I can’t 
exactly express what I mean, but I feel it very 
strongly, and I never cease to wonder at Julia. 
What can she see in him?” 

When Susan went up to bed, Aunt Myrtle’s maid 
always came in to brush her hair. For ten minutes 
every night Dawson brushed and brushed till 
Susan’s long abundant hair shone like the coat of 
a well-groomed bay horse. Generally she chattered 
to Dawson, but this evening she sat silent and 
supine, lulled into lethargy, while the rhythmic 
sweep of the hard brush made her scalp tingle 
agreeably. 


INTERPLAY 


225 


“Your hair’s improved a lot since you came, 
Miss,” Dawson said presently. “You’d neglected 
it dreadfully, and it looked quite faded. Miss 
Collett would never have had the fine head of 
hair she has now if she’d let it go when she was 
your age. I hope when you leave here you’ll keep 
on with the brushing. There’s nothing like it. It’s 
worth all the hair-restorers in all the shops. You’re 
stopping on a good bit yet, aren’t you, Miss? I 
hope to do a lot more to it.” 

The question made Susan think long after 
Dawson had left her. 

She had not intended to “stop on” at Hove 
very much longer. Julia wanted her at Wood¬ 
lands; and Woodlands, with Julia and Uncle God¬ 
frey and loads of pleasant people coming and going, 
was an infinitely more amusing place than Norton 
Road and Aunt Myrtle, even with the beloved Bingo 
thrown in. 

Besides, they’d let her take Bingo with her to 
Woodlands. He’d get plenty of exercise there, even 
in the grounds. 

Julia and Uncle Godfrey expected her, wanted 
her. 

Aunt Myrtle only tolerated her, though she was 
kind enough. 

Woodlands was more of a home to her than any 
place she had known since her father gave up 
the Manor. Aunt Em was always kind, always 


226 


THE BROKEN BOW 


glad to have her, but Aunt Em's life was one 
breathless whirl of boards and committees and 
sales and exhibitions in aid of Causes, and some¬ 
how lately the Causes had lost their savour for 
Susan. 

Why, then, did she feel this curious unwill¬ 
ingness to fix an early date and go to Wood¬ 
lands? 

She was a bad hand at explaining, so she said, 
but some inward monitor sternly demanded an 
answer to that question. 

Dawson had been gone quite ten minutes, and 
she still sat where she was in front of the glass, 
with her hair meekly parted in the middle and 
plaited in two long tails tied with tape. Dawson 
always parted it in the middle at night, because 
she declared that it gave the hair a “change,” as 
in the day Susan wore it parted at the side. Daw¬ 
son was ever on the look-out for “bare patches” or 
“thin weak spots.” 

It is possible that the tingling of Susan's scalp 
stimulated her brain to activity, for suddenly the 
answer to the question her mind had asked was 
clear and definite, though paradoxical. 

She didn’t want to go to Woodlands just now, for 
the simple reason that she wanted to go there too 
much. 

She was afraid of the strength of her desire to 
go to Woodlands, and the most serious part of 


INTERPLAY 


227 


it was that she wanted to go to Woodlands so 
ardently because at Woodlands she would stand 
a fair chance of meeting Alfrey Stowe every day. 

And Alfrey Stowe was engaged to Julia and 
was going to be married to Julia at the end of 
April, and here they were in the middle of 
March. 

Susan leant forward, put her elbows on the dress¬ 
ing-table, and cupped her chin in her hands, star¬ 
ing at her own image in the glass. 

With her hair done like that she strongly resem¬ 
bled a Susan Collett who, painted by Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, hung in the picture-gallery at Aylberne. 
The Collett children were well instructed in the 
history of all the portraits, and this particular 
Susan—David had called her “sad-faced Susan”— 
had, after six months of marriage with the 
reigning Collett, tried to run away with a less 
masterful man. But before she could achieve her 
purpose the masterful man went after her and 
fetched her back, and she was so disheartened that 
she settled down, bore him six sons, and died quite 
old and “universally regretted.” Like many an¬ 
other old family, the Colletts were rather proud of 
their scandals if they were sufficiently ancient, and 
no attempt had ever been made to whitewash any 
of the pictured ancestors. 

The present Susan—in spite of her likeness to 


228 


THE BROKEN BOW 


that ineffectual ancestress—knew very well that 
“sad-faced” did not describe her. “But,” with 
a little spasm of fear she asked herself, “shall 
I grow sad-faced because I can’t have what I 
want?” 

Alone with the reflected Susan, the Susan 
of the meekly plaited hair, the bright eyes, 
the sunburnt cheeks, she became unblushingly 
frank. 

“I don’t know why it is, but he does give me 
feelings. I love to be with him. I love him to 
look at me. And all the time I know perfectly 
well he belongs to Julia. Yet . . 

There was a discreet rap at the door and Dawson 
put in her head to say: “Please, Miss Susan, Miss 
Collett would like to know if you are feeling unwell, 
as you haven’t put out your light.” 

By the time the light was extinguished and 
Susan safely in bed, she had made up her mind 
to run no more risks. She would stay at Hove till 
she went to the Mabbits for the Point-to-Point, 
and only go to Woodlands from there. Then 
their wedding would be so near that Alfrey and 
Julia would have neither time nor eyes for anybody 
else; and she, Susan, would have got over what 
she stigmatized as “her silliness.” 

After all, it was only a fortnight till she was 
due at Aylberne, and the races were sure to be 
fun, with Hugh and Lord William riding, and the 


INTERPLAY 


229 


day before the races she’d try and run in to see 
Mrs. Stowe. It would please the old lady . . . and 
perhaps Alfrey, too, would be pleased when he 
heard she’d been. 


I 













* 


f 







BOOK III 


THE REAL THING 



“ ’Twas a very small garden 
The paths were of stone 
Scattered with leaves, 

With moss overgrown, 

And a little old Cupid 
Stood under a tree, 

With a small broken bow 
He stood aiming at me.” 


CHAPTER XVI 


i 

S UNDAY afternoon shortly after luncheon at 
Aylberne Manor. Mr. and Mrs. Mabbit and 
their house-party were supposed to be writing letters 
in their rooms. 

Susan stole out of hers to go round the gardens 
by herself. She wore no hat and no gloves. It 
was one of the trials of Hove that, except in the 
little green patch at the back of the house in Norton 
Road, she always had to be what Aunt Myrtle called 
“properly dressed.” 

March was going out like the proverbial lamb 
and the sun shone warm on grey stone walls and 
dark yew hedges. Great clumps of early daffodils 
flashed golden among the grass and in the borders 
wine-brown wallflowers swung in a light breeze 
like censers filled with incense. 

She strolled slowly about the ordered formal 
gardens, noting the dear familiar features—and the 
changes. 

Presently she came to the Nuns’ Walk and went 
through it to the little old garden at the edge of 
233 


234 


THE BROKEN BOW 


the copse. The little old garden so distant and 
so derelict that even the tidy Mabbits had not trou¬ 
bled to improve it, while the Mabbit children had 
too many amusements arranged for them in the 
holidays to trouble about gardens. 

As Susan stood there in the warm Sunday silence, 
even Aunt Myrtle could hardly have accused her 
of lack of sentiment. 

It was so full of memories, that little garden, and 
of gracious thronging ghosts. Hesper with her eager 
face and slender limping figure. Grandfather, 
courteous and withdrawn and beautiful. Yet so 
patient always with the stupid people who wished 
to interest him in their turbulent affairs. So aloof 
and yet so kind. Amazing product of an age that 
had leisure and used it. 

David, bright-haired and brilliant, dear dis¬ 
penser of joy, who “was liked in any company 
because he liked it.” 

Was David, too, a late flowering of that comfort¬ 
able, spacious age so soon to be mowed down by 
the scythe of time? 

Dogs, too, innumerable dogs seemed to cluster 
round her in that little old garden; for wherever 
the children were, there also went the dogs. Fat 
foxhound puppies, so tubby and slobbering and 
“mishtiful.” Keen little Hamish—ah, Hamish 
was buried in the corner over there. Sheila, 
Aunt Myrtle's sable collie, with her long pointed 


THE REAL THING 


235 


nose and exquisite tawny coat. Wise-faced ponies 
with long tails, white rabbits, black kittens—a long 
procession of the animals they had loved seemed to 
move past Susan, kind ghosts all. 

She went and stood under the pink almond— 
just one branch was in bloom—beside the little stone 
Cupid: and, as she laid loving, ungloved hands 
upon his shoulders, faintly warmed by the after¬ 
noon sun, there sang in her mind some verses by 
a poet that Alfrey and Julia had been raving about 
the last time she had seen them together. 

They had fascinated her because they recalled 
to her mind so vividly the little old garden at 
Aylberne, so she learned them by heart. Half un¬ 
consciously now she recited them aloud: 

“ Twas a very small garden; 

The paths were of stone 
Scattered with leaves, 

With moss overgrown, 

And a little old Cupid 
Stood under a tree, 

With a small broken bow 
He stood aiming at me.” 

She paused, pleased by the aptness of the quota¬ 
tion, soothed by the Sunday stillness, when a voice 
broke the silence and somebody said: 

“Oh, please go on. I'm sure you know it all.” 

And there, head and shoulders appearing above the 
box hedge, stood Alfrey Stowe. 


236 


THE BROKEN BOW 


She snatched her hands from the fat stone shoul¬ 
ders and stood staring at Alfrey, as though he were 
yet another ghost. 

“I thought you were in London,” she said. “What 
on earth are you doing here?” 

“I came down last night to see my mother, and 
this afternoon I’ve come to call upon you.” 

“People who come to call,” she said primly, 
“come up the avenue. You must have come 
through the copse, and it is trespassing. There’s 
a notice there.” 

“I squared the keeper years ago. He is scorn¬ 
fully aware that I couldn’t poach so much as a 
field-mouse, even if I wanted to. When I was a 
boy he used to let me wander in your woods-” 

“And did you ever see any of us?” 

“Quite often. I used to watch you and your 
brothers in this very garden, but you were always 
too busy disputing among yourselves to take any 
notice of me. May I come in and pay my call?” 

“You can’t climb the hedge, it’s too wide. You’d 
better come round. 

He came round, and they sat down side by side 
on the stone seat facing the Cupid. 

Alfrey looked at Susan and saw that she was 
fair. 

How bright her hair was, ruffled by the breeze. 
How pleasant it was to see her again: just to sit 



THE REAL THING 


237 


on the same bench with her in that good sunshine. 

A straggly sweetbrier bush was bursting into leaf. 
Susan picked a bit and rubbed it between her fin¬ 
gers and said, “Well?” inquiringly. 

“I really came,” he said, “to thank you for going 
to see my mother again. She was awfully 
pleased.” 

“I'm glad. I loved seeing her. But where is 
Julia?” 

“Julia couldn’t come with me. There’s the usual 
big Sunday party at Woodlands. Cousin Susan, 
are you going to finish that poem for me?” 

“Certainly not. That poem was for the Cupid. 
I never dreamt of another listener.” 

“You felt that he was listening?” 

“I’m not sure. He was always a detached little 
person, and he probably dislikes me, for I broke his 
bow, ages ago.” 

“All the same, he seems to be aiming at us both. 
It’s a curiously clever effect—unless you stand right 
behind him he seems to be aiming at you, wherever 
you are.” 

“How is Julia?” Susan asked primly. 

“She seemed extremely well when I parted from 
her on Friday evening. I was dining there. She 
expects you back next week.” 

“She and Uncle Godfrey are the most hospitable 
people in the world. They’re always ready to 
give me a bed, and it’s only when you have no 


238 


THE BROKEN BOW 


settled home of your own that you really appre¬ 
ciate such liberality.” 

“But surely, in your case, such a condition is 
only temporary. You are all coming back here 
some day?” 

She shook her head. “I doubt it. IBs really 
better for the place, and the farmers and the folk 
in the cottages, to have rich people here, who can 
afford to spend and expect no return for their 
money. There are no broken fences now—no leaky 
roofs. All the repairs that we ought to have done, 
and couldn’t, are being done. They really haven’t 
altered things much, and they’ve left this—just as 
it was, and for that I bless them.” 

Alfrey made no reply. As always when he met 
Susan, he surrendered to the charm of her voice. 
It was for him a sort of elixir that soothed and 
rehabilitated, that flooded his being with a vast 
content. 

As he remained silent she turned to look at him. 
He was not looking at her, and she noticed that 
he was wretchedly thin, and there were lines about 
his mouth and round his eyes that were certainly 
not inscribed by happiness. 

“Cousin Alfrey-” 

He started and, turning towards her, met her 
kind brown eyes. “Is anything the matter? You 
look rather worried.” 

“I expect I’ve been burning the candle at both 


THE REAL THING 


239 


ends. Trying to work, and playing a good deal 
too—out at Woodlands. Tell me, you, who know 
Julia so well, do you think she’ll be bored with me 
if I have to live quietly for quite long periods? 
No one can do any sort of work decently unless he 
seeks sanctuary. Will she mind?” 

“I don’t think Julia will mind anything that helps 
your work. She’s so proud of it.” 

“Proud of it, perhaps—but sometimes I wonder 
if I can ever make her proud of me.” 

“That’s nonsense,” Susan said briskly. “You and 
your work are one.” 

“That’s just what we are not. To parody Byron, 
‘Man’s work is of his life a thing apart.’ It’s cer¬ 
tainly quite separate from me . . . and there is 
a me, you know. There really is.” 

He was pathetic, she felt, like a child who wanted 
to be understood, comforted, reassured. 

“Don’t you think,” she said briskly, “that people 
like you, who dwell so much in realms of the imag¬ 
ination, rather lose touch with realities and are apt 
to fancy things? . . . and find mountainous mole¬ 
hills at every step?” 

“Suffer from vapours, in fact. Perhaps you’re 
right. I will gas no more.” 

“Will you come up to the house and have tea 
and be introduced to the Mabbits?” She rose as 
she spoke. “They would be thrilled to meet 
you.” 


240 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“I think not,” he said; “you’ve given me a lot 
to ponder over. I’ll walk back the way I came, 
and ruminate.” 

“It’s three miles—long miles . . . you’d better 
come and have tea first.” 

“No. Tea would spoil it. Good-bye, Cousin 
Susan. ... I wish you would have spoken the rest 
of the Cupid poem for me.” 

Susan shook her head and rose. 

For an instant he sat where he was looking up 
at her, and his lined face was very sad. Then 
he too rose, and side by side they stood in the 
vibrant silence that says so much more than any 
speech. 

“Good-bye,” he said, and held out his hand and 
as she placed hers within it, almost against her 
will, she quoted softly, as in a dream: 

“ With a small broken bow 
He stood aiming at me.” 

He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, and 
the dream smelled of sweetbrier. 

“Things are in a bit of a muddle, aren’t they?” 
Susan murmured, still in her dream. 

He dropped her hand muttering, “Cod help me!” 
left her, and the broken lichened gate swung be¬ 
hind him with a clang. 

For full three minutes Susan stood there per¬ 
fectly still. Her pulses were throbbing. There 


THE REAL THING 


241 


was a singing in her ears and the sun had gone 
behind a cloud. 

Then she ran for all she was worth back to the 
house. 

What had she said to Alfrey? 

What had she admitted? 

What did it all mean? 

One thing was certain. It wasn’t healthy in 
that enchanted garden. She would go there no 
more. 


ii 

Scratch—scratch—dash—stop went Alfrey’s pen. 
No other sound in the warm little room save the 
occasional crackle of a newspaper softly turned by 
Mrs. Stowe, who was sitting by the fire reading 
The British Weekly. 

Half-past eleven. She stifled a yawn. She 
wanted to go to bed, but her rising would disturb 
Alfrey, and that must not be. It was her pride and 
glory that he didn’t mind her in the room with 
him while he was working. 

She might feast her eyes upon him; knit, sew, 
or read the paper. So long as she didn’t talk to 
him, she might be there. It used to be so when he 
was a boy working for a scholarship. It was so 
still now that he was a man, and the names of 
the books he had written were advertised in the tube 
trains. Extraordinary celebrity this. 


242 THE BROKEN BOW 

Mrs. Stowe had read The British Weekly from 
cover to cover. 

The clock on the mantelpiece struck twelve. It 
had a loud, aggressive strike. Alfrey looked up. 

“Mother, you must go to bed.” 

“All right, dear, and what about you? Aren’t 
you coming?—with that early train to catch an’ 
all. And aren’t you going to read me what you’ve 
wrote?” 

“Not now, Mother. I’ll send it to you when it’s 
typed—as I always do. I’ve had a good evening, 
though I fear it’s been rather dull for you.” 

She pulled herself up out of her chair, and with 
a little pang he suddenly realized that she was 
growing old. Not often demonstrative, he went to 
her and took her in his arms, kissing her warmly. 

“Dear lad,” Mrs. Stowe whispered huskily. “I’ll 
never push myself. You beg of her to try and 
like me a little.” 

“I’m sure she’ll like you more than a little when 
she knows you, Mother. And you must make al¬ 
lowances for Julia—the war—no mother—a differ¬ 
ent environment—different standards from ours. 
Mother dear, I do so want the two women I love 
most in the world to be friends.” 

When his mother had gone to bed, Alfrey sat 
in her chair by the dying fire to think. He had 
lied to her. There were two women he loved best 
in the world, but Julia was not one of them. 


THE REAL THING 


243 


There was “one woman and only she,” and that 
woman was not Julia. 

It was unfair to Julia to marry her, feeling as 
he did. 

It was unjust to Julia to let her marry him, 
knowing, as he felt she knew, nothing whatever of 
his real character, his temperament, his deeply hid¬ 
den loves and beliefs and desires. 

His whole being cried out for Susan. The girl 
with the kind eyes and sweet, companionable voice 
who understood him. Him, Alfrey Stowe, the shy, 
sensitive, inarticulate real Alfrey Stowe. 

The long walk in the afternoon had tired him, 
and, in spite of his miseries and perplexities, 
he fell asleep in his mother’s chair before the 
fire. 

When, stiff and chilly, he awoke, the noisy clock 
was striking three. 

hi 

Susan didn’t want to go back to Wimbledon. 
She didn’t want to see Alfrey again—not for a 
long time—not till he was married to Julia. But 
just then she felt rather like a parcel. She had 
to go where she was sent. A girl trained to no 
trade or profession and with no home of her own 
has just to fit in with other people’s plans. Ever 
since she finished being a V. A. D. she had possessed 


244 


THE BROKEN BOW 


no abiding place, and she was getting very tired 
of it. At the moment her father and mother 
were at Cannes and staying at a most expensive 
hotel where they certainly wouldn’t want to pay 
for a perfectly healthy daughter, and it was under¬ 
stood that while they were there Susan was to 
“pay visits.” She always had plenty of invita¬ 
tions, and, till lately, had thoroughly enjoyed the 
luxurious, cheerful life after all the dreary war 
years. But she was beginning to be tired of it. 
She missed some regular occupation, some definite 
aim. Yet she knew that any suggestion on her 
part of training for paid work would be received 
with outcries of dismay from the authorities. She 
felt rather guilty, too, in that she had, during and 
since the war, refused four perfectly good offers 
of marriage—sterling, eligible men of her own 
class, who would, any one of them, have made 
her an admirable husband—and she had refused 
them all for no other reason than that she wasn’t 
in the least in love, though she cordially liked them 
all four. 

She had every chance. She had a good time and 
met plenty of men, but hitherto she seemed incapa¬ 
ble of falling in love. She was chummy but never 
interested. Lately she had been first of all inter¬ 
ested and then . . . She refused to consider that 
“then.” 

Lately, too, she had been sorry both for Alfrey 


THE REAL THING 


245 


and Julia, but mostly for Alfrey. She thought they 
were making a mistake. That Julia cared more 
for what Alfrey could do than for what Alfrey 
was. That Alfrey would expect things from Julia 
that she could never give him. 

Julia, the cherished only daughter of a rich, 
brilliant, and exceedingly busy man, had never had 
either to give in or give up. There had been a 
lot of both in Susan’s life; and Susan, who was 
shrewd and observant, had decided long ago that 
there would still be a lot of both in any marriage, 
however much in love the marriers might be. 

Julia had always been taken care of. Susan 
liked taking care of people. Julia had had many 
serious and passionate flirtations. Susan had had 
perhaps even more flirtations, considering her 
youth, but they had been neither serious nor 
passionate. 

She was afraid of passion. When it came she 
knew she would go under. She was afraid of her 
own strong feeling when Alfrey had taken her hand 
in that little derelict garden. Afraid of the tur¬ 
moil of her thoughts when he exclaimed, “God 
help me!” 

To take away another woman’s man had always 
seemed to her a despicable act. 

If she thought Alfrey was wavering in his alle¬ 
giance to Julia, she ought to put whole continents 
between them. 


246 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Yet if she refused to go to Wimbledon, what a 
tornado of questions would break over her devoted 
head . . . and Susan could never explain . . . 

Better to go back and keep out of his way. 

IV 

“So you saw Alfrey’s mother again,” Julia said, 
as she followed Susan into her room on arrival. 
“What did you think of her this time?” 

“I liked her. Eve always liked her. She’s kind 
and jolly and definite—not just like every other 
old lady.” 

“I should think she is definite.” 

“Well, I’d rather have that than being nothingly. 
You, who are always talking about ‘types,’ ought to 
appreciate it.” 

“I dare say I should appreciate it if she was 
going to be your mother-in-law, but as she happens 
to be mine, dismay takes the place of appreciation. 
You do see, Susan, don’t you, how impossible she 
is as a guest?” 

“But if you love Alfrey, Julia?” 

“Loving Alfrey has nothing to do with it. One 
makes up one’s mind in-laws will be a nuisance but 
not an incubus.” 

“I don’t think,” Susan said slowly, “that she’d 
ever be an incubus. She struck me as rather a 
proud old lady.” 


THE REAL THING 


247 


Julia fiddled with a tassel on her gown. “You 
might explain to father,” she said. 

“Explain what?” 

“The sort of person she is—it would come better 
from you. In some ways he’s old-fashioned and he 
seems to think we ought to ask her here—even be¬ 
fore the wedding. Do tell him you don’t think 
she’d be happy here-” 

“I’m certain she wouldn’t be happy here if you 
feel like that,” said Susan, and shut a drawer with 
unnecessary force. “It would be the greatest mis¬ 
take to ask her.” 

“I’d like to ask her if I was perfectly sure she 
wouldn’t come. That would please Daddy, and 
Alfrey. D’you think she’d come?” 

“I doubt it, but you couldn’t be sure whether 
she wouldn’t make a great effort to please Alfrey 
and you.” 

“That’s what I’m afraid of. I suppose that ter¬ 
rible aunt wasn’t there?” 

“No one was there but Mrs. Stowe.” 

“Alfrey went down for Sunday. She can’t say I 
keep him away from her, anyhow.” 

“Julia, listen. I don’t believe it matters a bit 
about asking her if you only feel right.” 

“How can I Teel right,’ as you call it? I can’t 
pretend to myself that I like her, whatever I may 
do for Alfrey.” 

“But you might try to feel kind—then perhaps 



248 


THE BROKEN BOW 


you’d begin to like her. People always know per¬ 
fectly well whether one likes them or not.” 

“Do you think she likes me?” 

“I think she’s terrified of you. She knows, you 
see, that you can take Alfrey away from her if 
you like. A wife always can more or less.” 

“I shouldn’t dream of trying to take Alfrey away 
from her, but they must, both of them, be reason¬ 
able, and face things as they are.” 

“It seems to me it’s you who do not face things 
as they are.” 

“How do you mean?” 

“That you’re annoyed with Mrs. Stowe for 
being . . . well, Mrs. Stowe . . . and that’s surely 
quite unreasonable.” 

“Oh, dear!” Julia exclaimed, “I do wish Alfrey 
had been an orphan!” 


CHAPTER XVII 


i 

W HEN Alfrey met Julia on his return from 
Frampton Massey, she had been so un- 
feignedly glad to see him, had thrown herself upon 
his breast with such demonstrative affection, that 
he felt he had been unjust to her. She did love 
him, and, being very responsive to affection, he 
decided, there and then, that however much he 
might have been mistaken as to his own feelings— 
she must not suffer. She must never know. 

She was full of enthusiasm, too, about a flat 
she had seen in Cork Street. A service flat, at 
present occupied by friends, who would be willing 
to sublet it to them for six months directly after 
Easter. 

It was arranged that they should go together to 
see it on a Saturday, two days after Susan got 
back to Woodlands. To her relief, she had not 
met Alfrey since her return, and, poignantly con¬ 
scious of secret disloyalty to Julia, she had tried 
hard to be even more sympathetic than usual; 
had devoted herself to helping Julia with her 
249 


250 


THE BROKEN BOW 


trousseau, and to listening patiently to the pros 
and cons regarding “service” versus unfurnished 
flats or houses. 

Julia was looking particularly distinguished that 
Saturday. She wore her blue fox furs, magnificent 
stole and muff, with an admirably cut and heavily 
braided grey coat and skirt, and an Egyptian toque 
with curious silver ornaments hanging down over 
her ears. 

Alfrey, who, as they went into the “Berkeley” 
for lunch, caught sight of his own reflection in a mir¬ 
ror, was painfully conscious that he didn’t match 
his lady. Spectacled face; insignificant, stooping 
figure—who was he to be following this resplendent 
vision? With all his heart he longed to be lunch¬ 
ing inconspicuously at Simpson’s. 

Julia seemed to know so many people, and he 
was convinced that they all stared at him, wonder¬ 
ing how on earth she came to be lunching in such 
company. 

They were both hungry, and the food was good. 
The wine was good, even the coffee was passable, 
and Alfrey was a connoisseur in coffee—his mother 
made it so well. 

But a demon of taciturnity possessed him, and 
even the patient Julia began to feel irritated by 
his unresponsiveness. 

The flat was small, conventionally furnished and 
extremely expensive. Alfrey took an instant dis- 


THE REAL THING 


251 


like to the young woman who let them in, and 
decided that such surroundings would undoubtedly 
be the death of any creative faculty he might 
possess. 

He was, however, polite if non-committal to 
Julia’s friends, said he must think it over, and bowed 
himself and Julia out, hailed a taxi and gave the 
driver his address in the Temple. Julia was coming 
to his chambers for tea. 

“Well,” she asked, “what do you think of it?” 

“I think it’s perfectly damnable,” he answered. 

“Why?” 

“For one thing, we couldn’t even choose our own 
servant.” 

“It’s not a case of choosing servants at present, 
it’s a case of thankfully taking what you can get.” 

“But the rooms, Julia. You, who live in such 
a beautiful house, how could you ever bear that 
furniture?” 

“I shouldn’t be there much. Remember, we’d 
only be living there from Monday to Friday, and 
it would only be for a little while. You must con¬ 
fess it’s awfully central.” 

“Far too central. We don’t want to spend our 
time in Piccadilly.” 

She made no reply. Alfrey wrinkled his fore¬ 
head, wracking his brains for something conciliatory 
to say, and failed to think of anything. Her 
shoulder was touching his as they sat silent, side 


252 


THE I TOKEN BOW 


by side, but there was no joy in the contact. For 
one guilty moment he imagined what it would be 
like to sit there with Susan, to be taking Susan 
to talk in his sitting-room. To listen to Susan 
talking. . . . 

The taxi turned under the archway leading to 
the Temple. 

ii 

Alfrey’s chambers were in Hare Court, sublet to 
him by a delicate barrister who had gone to Aus¬ 
tralia for his health. 

It was not the first time by a long way that 
Julia had been there; but to-day they both had felt 
there was something special in her visit, for they 
were to decide upon their first home together. They 
were to talk things over and settle much that was 
still vague and nebulous in their plans. 

Julia had been so pleased about the flat in Cork 
Street. It would solve so many problems, and 
now—Alfrey turned it down. 

But she was accustomed to getting her own way, 
and returned to the attack. 

“Kiss me, dearest,” she said sweetly. “I’ll sit in 
this nice comfy chair and you can sit on the floor 
and lean against my knees—and I can stroke your 
dear hair.” 

Alfrey hated having his hair stroked, so he poked 


THE REAL THING 253 

the fire and stood leaning his back against the 
mantelpiece. 

“Dearest, tell me exactly why you don’t like 
that little flat. It seems to me so entirely what 
we want—merely as a temporary asiie, of course— 
while we are looking for our real home . . . what’s 
the matter with it?” 

“It’s ugly for one thing—surely you must see 
that.” 

“Is this so very beautiful?” Julia asked, turn¬ 
ing her long neck in a survey of the little room, 
“or large?” 

“It’s neither the one nor the other, but it’s sen¬ 
sible. It’s quiet, and I can work here.” 

“Cork Street is considered fairly quiet for Lon¬ 
don, and there’s a room you could work in there. 
Or, if you must have a separate place to work, 
why not keep this on too for the time being?” 

“I couldn’t afford that, my dear; besides, you 
wouldn’t like it if I came here to work in the 
evening, and I often do work in the evening.” 

“Daddy never works in the evening,” Julia said 
reproachfully. “He doesn’t think it healthy.” 

“I bet your father worked in the evening when 
he was my age—and, in any case, his work’s quite 
different from mine. I couldn't work in any single 
one of those rooms.” 

“I’m a little amused,” Julia said, still quite 
sweetly, “that you make such a strong point of 


254 


THE BROKEN BOW 


environment. You seem to forget that Fve seen 
your mother’s house—and yet you told me you’d 
done quite a lot of work down there.” 

Alfrey flushed. “That’s my home,” he said 
shortly. “It’s familiar—and dear.” 

“And, you must confess, most uncommonly 
ugly,” Julia added. 

“I dare say it is, but it is full of associations. 
Can’t you understand that atmosphere can cover 
a multitude of mahogany sins?” 

“I could make that flat so pretty,” Julia sighed. 

“Another thing I don’t like about it,” Alfrey 
continued, as though he hadn’t heard, “is that 
there’s no bedroom where we could put up a friend. 
When we have a house of our own, I’d like to be 
able to have a friend occasionally.” 

“People don’t ‘put up’ people much in London,” 
Julia said sharply. “One has far too many en¬ 
gagements. That sort of visiting has quite died 
out—it’s old-fashioned and rather impossible.” 

“It’s going to be possible for us,” he said 
quietly. 

“I’m sure Daddy would always let us take any¬ 
one we like to Woodlands for week-ends.” 

“My dear child, I couldn’t constantly trade 
upon your father’s good nature like that. Besides, 
week-ends don’t suit everybody. People from the 
country, for instance, like week-middles. Suppose 
my mother wanted to come up—she rarely leaves 


THE REAL THING 


255 


home, but she might want to see a play or two— 
she enjoys an occasional play.” 

Julia longed to reply, “That’s what hotels are 
for,” but she restrained the impulse and said noth¬ 
ing at all. 

Alfrey waited for the gracious, understanding 
words that might do so much to bring about a 
real sympathy between them; waited with almost 
breathless anxiety. 

Surely she must see . . . 

“I’d like a cigarette, Alfrey dear,” Julia said, 
with a yawn. “These discussions are so fati¬ 
guing.” 

He lit her cigarette for her with hands that 
were not very steady. Again he leant against the 
mantelpiece and looked down at her, wondering. 
Was she deliberately cruel to him, or only stupid? 

Then he grew angry and lost his head. 

“Look here, Julia,” he said brusquely, “we’ve 
got to understand one another about this. If there’s 
no welcome for my mother in your house, it can’t 
be my house too, so that’s that.” 

Julia looked at him between half-closed lids. He 
had never spoken rudely to her before. She was 
tired and cross—and disappointed. She would bring 
him to heel before she’d done with him. 

“I don’t understand what you mean,” she said. 
“I’ve tried all I know to spare you about your 
mother, and it’s just because I want to save 


256 


THE BROKEN BOW 


you and her pain and embarrassment that I’ve 
attempted, without putting it into words, to show 
you how impossible it would be to have her amongst 
my friends . . . and surely you can’t expect me to 
drop all my friends because your mother would 
be uncomfortable with them. I’m prepared to give 
up a good deal for you, Alfrey dear, but I’m afraid 
I couldn’t quite give up all that.” 

Alfrey stiffened. He was obstinate as well as 
Julia, and even an implied slight to his mother filled 
him with resentment. 

“No one asks you to ‘give up’ anything that I 
can see. It appears that it is you who ask me 
to give up the possibility of asking my mother to 
our house because you don’t consider her good 
enough for your friends.” 

“Our friends, Alfrey, and ‘good enough’ is not 
the phrase—incompatible is nearer.” 

“Incompatible be hanged! If she’s incompatible 
with your crowd—my friends, any that have seen 
her, delight in her—I’m incompatible too.” 

“You are most unreasonable, Alfrey. Are you 
trying to pick a quarrel with me?” 

Julia was angry now. She sat forward in her 
chair, and her voice was strident. 

He regarded her gloomily. 

“I feel,” he said, “that we’ve come to a parting 
of the ways. Either you consent to come with 
me on mine or I’ll have to travel upon it alone.” 


THE REAL THING 


257 


“You mean that you wish to break our engage¬ 
ment ?” Julia asked breathlessly. 

“I could not make you happy,” he said. “Eve 
felt that more and more lately. It’s better to part 
now, surely, than later, when it would be so much 
more painful both for us and for others.” 

“Then,” she said, rising, “since you no longer 
care for me—I’d better give you back your ring,” 
and with a magnificent gesture she drew it off and 
held it out to him on the palm of her long white 
hand. 

“You know it isn’t that, Julia,” he said, rather 
feebly, “but I’m certain I should disappoint 
you.” 

“You’ve done that already,” she said. “You may 
be a genius, Alfrey, but you are assuredly no 
gentleman.” 

“You are possibly quite right about me,” he said 
meekly, “but I think you are hard on my mother. 
Your own cousin got on with her perfectly, and, I 
could see, liked her.” 

“How do you know Susan liked her?” 

“Well, she spoke as if she did.” 

“You saw her when you were down at Frampton 
Massey? Where?” 

“I called to thank her for going to see my 
mother.” 

“You called upon Susan, at Aylberne, and 
neither of you told me anything about it!” 


258 THE BROKEN BOW 

“It was quite unimportant. I was only there a 
few minutes/'' 

“It was dishonourable of Susan to conceal it; 
but she is dishonourable." 

“Pm certain she's not." 

“Listen, Alfrey. I wouldn't have told you but 
for this. You remember that book you gave 
me ?" 

“There were several books. Please don't send 
them back." 

“I mean A Divided Interest. For fun I wrote 
some verses in it—pretending they were from 
you " 

“I know," Alfrey said. “It touched me very 
much." 

“You know?” Julia exclaimed. “How do you 
know?" 

“What were you going to tell me? Please go 
on." 

“I lent that book to Susan and she lost it." 

“I know," Alfrey said again. 

“How do you know?" Julia demanded furiously. 
“Did she tell you?" 

“Go on with your story, Julia." 

“Well, instead of owning up like an honest girl, 
she bought another copy and tried to imitate your 
handwriting-" 

“But it was my handwriting," Alfrey inter¬ 
rupted. 



THE REAL THING 


259 


“One of us is mad,” Julia said wearily. “How 
could it be your handwriting?” 

“For the simple reason that she was frightfully 
distressed at having lost your book because of the 
verses and came to me to write them again . . .” 

“And you both conspired together to make a 
fool of me! I was right when I said you were 
no gentleman.” 

“Susan has no idea to this day that you wrote 
the first set of verses yourself.” 

“I suppose she took you to see those Brownies 
that you wrote about. Did she?” 

“No. She had no idea I was there—till after¬ 
wards. I saw her go in and followed her.” 

“You followed her—even then. I suppose you 
waited for her and spoke to her afterwards?” 

“I did.” 

“And she asked you to write about them?” 

“No. I offered.” 

“And you neither of you ever said one word 
about it to me! Fve wondered always how you 
came to do it. But I’ve finished with Susan. I 
won’t have her in the house any more. I believe 
she is at the bottom of all this trouble between 


“Julia, listen. She is utterly and absolutely 
innocent of anything of the sort.” 

“I don’t believe you. Susan is a cold-blooded 
flirt, with neither sex nor temperament nor any- 



260 


THE BROKEN BOW 


thing but a wax-doll sort of good looks for her 
attraction. You and she are well matched, but 
I can tell you this—she’s as proud and cold as the 
sphinx. She may amuse herself with you, but you 
won’t get anything more from her.” 

Would her voice never cease? 

For hours after she had gone it tortured his ears. 
It left its echo in the quiet Temple. The pigeons 
brought it on their beating wings. He flung the 
windows open and the distant rumble of the Strand 
seemed but a background for it. 

And, worst of all, he felt that Julia had been 
treated abominably. 

She was right. He was no gentleman; only a 
well-meaning, muddle-headed fool who mistook his 
physical sensations for love. Love that includes 
everything and can yet, seemingly, exclude so much 
when the careless and the hasty mistake its sem¬ 
blance for itself. 

What could he expect from any woman but 
pity? 

Yet Susan had given him more than pity that 
day in the little old garden at Aylberne. And 
Alfrey hadn’t the slightest intention of immolating 
himself upon any altar constructed by Victorian 
ideals of honour and self-sacrifice. 

If Susan loved him, and he believed she did, he 
would take her and hold her against all the world 
in the face of her family’s opposition, were that 


THE REAL THING 


261 


family twenty times as powerful and conventional 
as the Colletts; but he did want above all things 
to save Susan annoyance, and the difficulties that 
must ensue did Julia carry out her threat. 

She couldn’t have meant what she said about 
Susan. 

She would be too proud. 

She would never confess to jealousy of Susan. 

God! What a scene! 

And what a brute she had made him feel! 

In common decency he couldn’t make any at¬ 
tempt either to see or write to Susan just yet. 

He must wait. 

Perhaps he had better go away for a bit. No; 
that would look cowardly. He must face the music 
and see it out . . . and on whatever other grounds 
Julia chose to explain their broken engagement he 
would uphold her. 

She would never, for her own sake, dare to im¬ 
plicate Susan. 


CHAPTER XVIII 


i 

S IR GODFREY and Susan were having tea when 
Julia, tense and tight-lipped, swept into the 

room. 

“Hullo, Julia, what have you done with Alfrey?” 
Sir Godfrey asked, as no one followed her. Then, 
as he caught sight of her face: “What’s the 
matter?” 

“There is this much the matter,” she said bit¬ 
terly. “My engagement is at an end, and unless 
Susan leaves the house at once, I must refuse to 
stay here.” 

Sir Godfrey laid his cup carefully on the brass 
tray and got up from his chair. He was very 
tired. He had been at two long and tiring consul¬ 
tations that afternoon. 

He took his daughter’s hands in his firm clasp 
and quietly pushed her down into his own chair. 

“Gently, my child, gently. You and Alfrey have 
evidently quarrelled about something, but what 
has poor Susan to do with it?” 

All the same, when he noticed Susan’s scarlet, 
262 


THE REAL THING 


263 


distressed face, he realized with something of a 
shock that perhaps Julia was not talking quite so 
wildly as he thought. 

a Poor Susan has this much to do with it, that 
she has flirted with Alfrey behind my back. She 
went to his rooms before we were engaged, and 
took him to see her Brownies, and has met him 
since at Aylberne, and neither of them ever even 
mentioned any of these meetings to me. Was that 
natural or straightforward or decent even? But 
I’m not going to indulge in recrimination. Alfrey 
is not what I thought him, and Susan has proved 
herself treacherous beyond belief. It is she who 
has broken my engagement and broken my heart— 
and I refuse to stay in the same house with her 
another day. If she can’t go—I must.” 

Julia had risen as she spoke—tall and tragic and 
accusing. 

Sir Godfrey looked from his pale daughter to his 
scarlet niece, who had also risen and was stand¬ 
ing like a prisoner at the dock during Julia’s 
denunciation. 

“Have you nothing to say, Susan?” he asked. 

“Only this,” she answered breathlessly, “that 
I have never flirted with Alfrey, neither by word 
or deed or look. Never. I have never tried to 
make mischief between Alfrey and Julia, though 
mischief may have come from things I have 
done.” 


264 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Can you truly say,” Julia asked sternly, “that 
you know Alfrey cares nothing about you and that 
you care nothing for him? If you can say that, 
I will take back everything. On your honour— 
if you have any—can you say it?” 

Susan didn’t answer for a couple of seconds. 
“I have not the slightest reason ... to believe 
. . . that Alfrey cares anything about me,” she 
^altered. 

“And you?”—Julia held up an accusing finger— 
“what about you?” 

“I cannot see that my feelings are any business 
of yours, and I refuse to answer.” 

“There, Father!” Julia said bitterly, “surely that 
is enough.” 

And she swept out of the room. 

“I had better go and pack,” Susan said, in a 
small hushed voice. “I can go to Aunt Myrtle 
if I send her a wire. She’s awfully decent the 
way she’ll always have any of us. Perhaps when 
I’m away it will all blow over. . . . Uncle Godfrey 
... it hasn’t been as despicable as it sounds. It 
truly hasn’t. Somehow things got crooked from 
the very first—that was my fault—but truly, truly, 
it hasn’t been quite as Julia said, though, of course, 
it seems so to her, and she has every right to be 
furious with me.” 

“Women,” sighed Sir Godfrey, as he sank into 


THE REAL THING 


265 


his chair again, “are most unaccountable. Above 
all in their loves. What either you or Julia can 
see in that plain-looking little man is incompre¬ 
hensible to me . . . and yet it seems the fellow 
has been playing fast and loose with both of you. 
I confess, Susan, you are a surprise to me. . . . 
What in the world were you doing in that fellow’s 
rooms? God knows you’re all emancipated enough, 
but that really is a bit strong.” 

“I’ve never been in his rooms,” Susan said wear¬ 
ily, “though I don’t suppose there’s much differ¬ 
ence—I went to his office.” 

“But why?” 

“Julia probably can tell you why if you ask 
her. Uncle Godfrey—I can’t explain any more. 
The whole horrid thing has just happened—and 
I’m more sorry than I can say. May I telephone 
to the post office?” 

“Susan, tell me, you don’t really care for him— 
do you?” 

“Uncle Godfrey, I don’t know. I wouldn’t tell 
anyone but you. ... I never meant to, but from 
the first time ... I ever saw him ... I seemed 
to feel things—new things, new and frightening— 
that I’d never felt before. . . . I’m not like that. 
. . . Oh, Uncle Godfrey, I am so miserable, and 
I can swear to you that he has never said one word 
of love to me—not one word.” 

She flung herself down on her knees beside Sir 


266 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Godfrey’s chair and burst into a passion of sobs, 
hiding her face against his shoulder. 

“So,” he said, “so—I’ll go and telephone, my 
child. It would be best, perhaps, for you to leave 
as soon as possible—but first of all go and say 
good-bye to Julia. You must own it’s hard on 
Julia. It may all straighten out, but I confess 
I’d like to deal faithfully with Mr. Alfrey Stowe.” 

“Uncle Godfrey, listen; he may have behaved 
badly to Julia. I fear, perhaps, he has. But he 
has never, never made love to me. Please, please 
remember that.” 

“There are more ways than one of making love,” 
Sir Godfrey said grimly, 

ii 

Slowly Susan mounted the stairs and tapped at 
Julia’s door. 

No answer. She turned the handle. The door 
was not locked, and she went in. 

Still in her coat and furs, her hat cast upon the 
floor, Julia was lying face downwards on the 
bed. 

Susan shut the door softly. 

Julia lifted her head and looked up. “What do 
you want?” she asked. “Have you come to triumph 
over me in my misery?” 

“I’ve come to say good-bye and to tell you 


THE REAL THING 267 

how awfully sorry I am. I’m very miserable too, 
Julia.” 

Julia looked curiously at Susan’s tear-stained 
face. “I can’t make you out, Susan. I thought 
you were fond of me.” 

"I am fond of you.” 

“Then why did you keep it all dark about hav¬ 
ing gone to Alfreds office and taking him to see 
the Brownies? He and I weren’t engaged then. I 
can’t see any object in it.” 

“There wasn’t any object in it except to save 
you annoyance. I thought if you knew that he 
had rewritten the verses you’d be vexed at not 
having recognized they were his.” 

“How could I dream you’d do such a thing 
as to go to him like that? What on earth made 
you do it? I’m sure it wasn’t all to save me 
annoyance—that’s nonsense. What was the real 
reason?” 

“I think ... it was partly because I wanted 
to see if he was really as stern and superior as 
you said he was . . . but I was awfully worried 
about having lost your book.” 

“Ah!” Julia raised herself on her elbow. 
“You confess you did want to see if you could 
attract him. At last I’m getting at the truth.” 

“No, that’s not the truth, Julia. I only wanted 
to see if he’d dislike me as you seemed to think 
he would.” 


268 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“Susan, tell me, since you seem to be in a truth¬ 
telling mood: did Alfrey ever say anything about 
those verses to you?” 

“Say anything about those verses,” Susan 
repeated, in a dull, puzzled voice. “Only that he 
feared he couldn’t write them quite the same again. 
He couldn’t remember. Neither could I.” 

Julia sank back on her pillows. “You might 
have left us in peace, I think,” she said piteously. 
“I’d never done you any harm.” 

“I never wanted to do you any.” 

“Perhaps not, but you’ve done it thoroughly 
enough. I thought I was so safe with Alfrey. I 
thought he was good—in the old-fashioned way, 
like Father. That you could depend on him. That 
he would never go back on me or be unfaithful. 
And it turns out that he’s just like everybody else 
. . . and I trusted him so.” 

What could Susan say? 

Every word that the poor hoarse voice uttered 
stabbed her to the heart, and yet in that wounded 
heart she believed that Alfrey was “good in the 
old-fashioned way, like Father”; that he was loyal 
and faithful; that there could be no shadow of 
turning in him if he really loved. 

All the time she was silently stroking Julia’s 
feverish, twitching hand her heart protested that 
Alfrey had done right. 

The hoarse voice ceased. Julia lay on her back 


THE REAL THING 


269 


with closed eyes, looking queerly hunched up and 
uncomfortable in her heavy wraps. 

“May I take off your shoes for you, Julia?— 
and wouldn’t you be cooler if you took off your 
coat? It’s very warm in here.” 

“Please go away, Susan,” Julia said wearily. 
“If I want anybody I can ring.” 

“Good-bye, Julia.” 

“Oh, 'please go!” 

Susan went. She spent the next hour packing 
feverishly in her own room. Sir Godfrey had got 
Aunt Myrtle on the telephone. He would send 
Susan in the motor to Victoria. She did not ask 
what he had said to her aunt. 

She was very miserable during the drive to the 
station; very miserable indeed. It was truly 
dreadful to have been even the indirect cause of 
anybody’s broken engagement. And yet at the 
back of all her misery—just as a kitten will go on 
playing his absurd games with a reel of cotton 
what time tragedy enwraps his household—so in 
the dark turmoil of Susan’s mind a gay little 
agile thought whisked in and out among the 
gloom. 

In vain she chased it to the darkest corner of 
her consciousness. Probably the whole fuss was 
all only a lovers’ quarrel. It would all straighten 
out. Julia and Alfrey would be friends again, 
and more than friends, to-morrow, perhaps. 


270 THE BROKEN BOW 

When out rushed that leaping, dancing, twirling 
thought. 

At Victoria Susan shut that kitten of a thought 
firmly into a basket, that she might concentrate 
upon what it would be wisest to tell Aunt Myrtle. 


CHAPTER XIX 


i 

A BAD time followed for Susan. Among the 
whole of her numerous relatives she was 
regarded by those nearest to her as, perhaps, an 
indirect cause; by those who knew least, as the 
immediate cause of Julia’s broken engagement. 
And, to the Colletts, to be in any way concerned 
with the breaking of an engagement, that had 
been announced in the papers, was about as dis¬ 
graceful as being implicated in a divorce. 

The short paragraph appearing in the Court 
and Society column of the leading journals that 
“the marriage arranged, etc., would not take 
place,” seemed to Susan always to be followed 
by lines in invisible ink to the effect that “poor 
Julia’s” cousin, Susan Collett, was by her deceit¬ 
ful and treacherous conduct sole cause of such 
severance. 

Susan blamed herself and suffered acute pangs 
of remorse in that, owing to her levity over the loss 
of Julia’s book, she became entangled in the meshes 
of what was, in the first instance, a quite innocently 
271 


272 


THE BROKEN BOW 


meant deception. She was willing to lie down 
and let people jump on her as hard as they liked 
about that. But where she rebounded and came 
up against her people, above all against Aunt 
Myrtle, was in her refusal to acknowledge any sor¬ 
row over the actual breaking off of the marriage 
between Alfrey and Julia. Instead of grieving 
over that, she stoutly maintained that they could 
never really have loved one another, or the most 
mischief-making cousin in England, which she 
certainly was not, couldn’t have estranged them 
for long. 

This effrontery on Susan’s part was particularly 
shocking to Aunt Myrtle, who cross-questioned and 
baited her till she felt like a prisoner undergoing 
the third degree. 

Her father wrote from Cannes, where he had 
been sent with Mrs. Collett by the combined gene¬ 
rosity of Sir Godfrey and Aunt Em, what he called 
“a strong letter,” absolutely forbidding her “either 
to see or hold any communication with that un¬ 
desirable young man, Alfrey Stowe.” 

Her mother wrote plaintively about “the good 
offers she had refused in the past only to be dazzled 
by that little will-o’-the-wisp of a man who was so 
impossible.” 

Susan’s sense of humour came to the rescue 
here and she laughed, for the idea of the modest 
Alfrey “dazzling” anybody was extremely comic. 


THE REAL THING 


273 


That Julia should be so indignant and angry 
with her was painful, but she knew that, in time, 
Julia would come round; and, after all, it was 
Julia herself, and not Alfrey, who had broken off 
their engagement. 

What upset Susan most was that Uncle Godfrey 
—her friend and champion from the time she came 
home from India a turbulent baby of two—Uncle 
Godfrey had completely withdrawn his favour 
from her. And justly withdrawn it, as things 
appeared to him. 

He was disappointed, she knew. He had thought 
her so straight; and so, hitherto, she had thought 
of herself. And yet she had, seemingly, made all 
this trouble merely from a flirtatious desire to 
attract another girfls man. 

Susan was quite honest with herself. She 
owned that this was so in the beginning, before 
she had even seen Alfrey. But when she had seen 
him, when she discovered that he was so strangely 
linked up with what had been the outstanding 
experience of her childhood, something stronger 
than either of them had taken hold of them both, 
and linked them together with a chain as strong 
as it was intangible. 

Sir Godfrey was never “down on” people. He 
knew far too much about the secrets of their hearts; 
but he had his standards, and from his point of 
view Susan had fallen below them and he could 


274 THE BROKEN BOW 

find no excuse for her. And this did hurt most 
terribly. 

Another thing, too, hurt—she heard nothing 
whatever from Alfrey. 

Was he very miserable? she wondered. 

Did he know she had been sent away from Wood¬ 
lands in disgrace quite late in the evening? 

And, if he knew, surely he would connect such 
sudden expulsion with himself, and be sorry. 

The little stone Cupid with the broken bow had 
done his work effectually with Susan. She owned 
it frankly to herself. Surely she was not mistaken 
in thinking that the Alfrey of that enchanted garden, 
the Alfrey of that sunny Sunday at Aylberne, 
loved her, as she loved him, simply because he 
couldn’t help it. 

The proud Colletts, the women, were not wont to 
give their love unasked, and she knew that in her 
heart of hearts she was assured that Alfrey had 
been on his mental knees to her ever since their 
first meeting. But she did wish he would say 
something. She did not ask or expect him to 
proclaim his love for her. That, so soon after his 
break with Julia, would be neither decent nor kind 
to Julia. But she did long to know definitely 
from himself that he loved her. 

The loneliness, Aunt Myrtle’s constantly ex¬ 
pressed disapproval, and the silence, were hard to 
bear at a time when she had no conscious rectitude 


THE REAL THING 


275 


to support her. The dormouse conscience was 
awake with a vengeance; and the constant creak¬ 
ing of his cage, as he went round and round in it, 
gave her sleepless nights. 


ii 

Julia—she really was “poor Julia” just then, 
however much Susan might resent the epithet— 
secluded herself at Woodlands. The demobiliza¬ 
tion of a marriage when the girl is of Julia's 
class is a complicated business. Presents kept on 
arriving in spite of the notice in the papers, and 
everything had to be sent back. A horrible process 
that would lacerate the nerves of even the least 
sensitive. That done, she spent the next few 
days breathing closs upon the ashes of her love and 
luxuriating in a woe that was none the less sincere 
in that it was “produced” with all the stereotyped 
“props.” 

Her father was much comforted by this fearless 
playing to the gallery, and treated her profes¬ 
sionally exactly as he would have treated one of 
his most lucrative patients. 

He made no attempt to “take her out of herself” 
by suggesting amusements or cheerful society. 
He knew from long experience that in the case of 
a “temperamental” woman to allow her to “dree 
her weird” unmolested, is practically to plunge 


276 


THE BROKEN BOW 


her into an inland sea of boredom so profound 
that the instinct of sheer self-preservation causes 
the afflicted one to swim for the shore and clutch 
at any floating spar to save herself from drown¬ 
ing. 

He was gravely tender to Julia, always; but he 
asked nobody to the house. Moreover, he put 
off all the guests who had been asked before the 
fatal Saturday that had hastened the inevitable 
debacle. 

He never mentioned either Susan or Alfrey, and 
he spent as much time at Woodlands as his practice 
allowed. 

On the Friday week he declared himself to be 
feeling tired and slack. Would Julia come with 
him to Biarritz for a fortnight? They’d take 
the car and the chauffeur and do it comfortably, 
motoring across France. It would be a real kind¬ 
ness to him if she would . . . and they were 
both sick of London just then. . . . 

Julia swallowed the artfully prepared bait and 
fell into the trap with a joyous abandon that 
proved to her father how right his diagnosis had 
been. And that night as she was going to bed he 
took her in his arms and held her close, whispering: 
“My darling, am I horribly selfish that I can’t 
help feeling ever so glad I’ve still got you?” 

Even in the twentieth century there is some¬ 
thing to be said for the right sort of father. 


THE REAL THING 


277 


ill 

A fortnight after Susan had been sent back to 
Hove in disgrace, her brother, Robert, came down 
for the week-end and demanded to be taken for 
a long walk on Sunday morning. Aunt Myrtle, 
of course, disapproved, but she was always more 
lenient to her nephews than to her nieces, and 
excused Robert’s attendance at church because 
“he was mewed up all the week in that horrid 
office.” 

Robert was the least good-looking of General 
Collett’s children. True, he was tall and well- 
built, but his face was square, his nose crooked 
(it had been broken and badly set at school), his 
jaw heavy, and his eyes light grey, small, pene¬ 
trating, and deeply set. He had, moreover, struck 
out a line for himself both in thought and in action ; 
and he was up against the agreeable vagueness of 
his family for all he was worth. 

He and Susan and Bingo set off through the Hove 
Recreation Ground, through Hove Park and across 
the Dyke Road till they reached the downs. 
When they’d gone about three miles, Robert called 
a halt. They found a nice sunny, dry patch and 
sat down, an exhausted Bingo sprawling between 
them, panting and licking them indiscriminately 
in abject devotion. 

Robert scrutinized his sister sitting there silent 


278 


THE BROKEN BOW 


and still in the strong sunshine. He was observant 
and the night before had noticed a change in Susan. 
She was thinner, and when she talked there was 
no sign of dimples. They seemed to have been 
flattened out. She was rosy enough just now 
after their three-mile tramp, but last night he 
thought her looking pale, almost faded. He had, 
like the rest of the family, heard the Julia story 
and Susan’s connection with it. He had never 
met Alfrey Stowe, but he was ready to damn him 
to all eternity if he’d had any hand in making 
Susan look like this. 

“Sue,” he said suddenly, “have you ever 
made up your mind what you’re going for in 
life?” 

“How d’you mean, Robert? How can I 'go’ 
for anything particular? I only wish I could. 
I’m heartily sick of my present existence: no 
home, not much fun, and just now—well, you know 
what it’s like just now.” 

“That’s what I want to get at. What is it 
like just now, and why?” 

“If you want to know what it’s like, try to 
picture yourself with nothing definite to do except 
take out Bingo and go messages for Aunt Myrtle. 
Go to tea-fights and bazaars with Aunt Myrtle; 
meet elderly relatives and a few friends of Aunt 
Myrtle; get up and go to bed and eat your meals 
to the tune of Aunt Myrtle’s questions and com- 


THE REAL THING 279 

ments—especially questions. That’s what it’s 
like.” 

“And pretty damnable too/’ Robert added. 

“Utterly damnable,” Susan agreed. 

“Then why in the name of common sense do 
you go on doing it?” 

“One must live somewhere, I suppose, till 
father and mother come back. Woodlands is 
closed to me. Aunt Em is at Harrogate with 
Uncle Charles for his cure, and just now, while 
I’m under this cloud, one place seems about as 
good as another.” 

“I’d like to know why you are under this cloud? 
I’d like to know exactly how much you are 
implicated in this bust-up of Julia’s, and if you 
really are implicated—why? Can you give me a 
clear answer or any answer to these questions? 
You’re in a mental fog, and it might help to blow 
it away.” 

“No; I’m not in a mental fog, but I am indeed 
under a cloud of inky blackness, because, my dear, 
I am supposed—and rightly supposed—to have 
been instrumental in upsetting Alfrey’s and Julia’s 
marriage.” 

“Bravo, Susan! That’s quite definite. Now 
go on to explain (that is, if you don’t mind— 
I’ve no wish to be prying) why you were the instru¬ 
ment you speak of.” 

“Because, Robert, it happened so.” 


280 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“I see. No accounting for these things. The 
blind god and all the rest of it. But, tell me, 
did you try to shake that chap’s allegiance to 
Julia?” 

“I did not.” 

“Good. Then, as you say, ‘it happened.’ May 
I ask whether the instrument herself was affected 
by the tremors that detached him from Julia?” 

“She was and is.” 

“Then, in heaven’s name, what is she going to do 
about it?” 

“Do! How can she do anything?” 

“You mean it’s for him to do something?” 

“That’s how it seems to me.” 

“And quite naturally. But, my good lass, 
you’ve got to think of this—Does that chap know 
that you are implicated? If he does, then I’d 
like to kick him hard. If he doesn’t, isn’t it pos¬ 
sible that he’s playing doggo simply from a sin¬ 
cere desire to keep you out of it?” 

“I never thought of that.” 

Robert was lying on his back with his hat pulled 
over his eyes, but at this he sat up suddenly and 
shook an accusing finger at Susan. 

“You’re like all the rest of them,” he said. 
“You never, never deduce anything from the 
simplest data.” 

“Which is equivalent to saying you think us 
all stupid. Perhaps you’re right—but in this 


THE REAL THING 


281 


matter of deductions, don’t you think people much 
given to deduce this from that, are likely just as 
often to be wrong as to be right? It’s a dangerous 
process.” 

“It all depends on the circs, and on the dis¬ 
position of the deducer. Listen, Susan—are you 
going to marry this man?” 

“Certainly—if he asks me, but he never has.” 

Robert whistled. “There’s no uncertain sound 
about you—you’re coming on. Have you ever 
thought what an almighty row there will be when 
you announce your intention?” 

“What’s the good of worrying about that when 
he hasn’t asked me?” 

“Now, you’re hedging again—be straight. Let’s 
get this thrashed out. Do you believe he is in 
love with you?” 

“Such is my belief.” 

“And your grounds for that belief?” 

“I’ve got no grounds—not an inch of solid, 
tangible, visible ground—as yet.” 

“Has he ever kissed you?” 

“Never. I wish he had—it would be some¬ 
thing to remember—but we’re not swine, and he 
was engaged to Julia.” 

“Then how in the world-?” 

“My dear Robert,” Susan interrupted, “you are 
not the only person in the world who can make 
deductions: from things he has left unsaid. . . 


282 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“You are coming on. But now face up to this: 
what do you intend to do when he does ask you?” 

“Run away with him, I suppose. It would save 
such a lot of bother.” 

“And be cowardly and a confession that you 
don’t think he’s up to the standards of your family. 
I wouldn’t thank you for that if I were Alfrey 
Stowe-” 

“Robert, do you really mean that?” She laid 
her hand on her brother’s arm and looked anxiously 
into his eyes. 

“I do mean it. If you care for that man, if 
you want to be happy with him afterwards, you’ve 
got to face up to things. No one can prevent 
your marrying him. You’re twenty-two, and if he 
likes to take you without a single sixpense, and if 
you like to go to him and ask for everything down 
to your very shoe-laces ...” 

The colour had died out of Susan’s cheeks. 
“You mean,” she said, “that I’d be a burden on 
him.” 

“I mean that if you really love him and are 
proud of him, you’ll fight for his recognition by 
your family. If you want every one for all time 
to believe he behaved badly to Julia—and I’m not 
at all sure that he didn’t—but if you want to rub 
it in so that it’s never forgotten, then run away 
with him.” 

Susan sat silent. The sun went in behind a 



THE REAL THING 


283 


cloud. Robert shivered and looked at his watch. 

“We must go back,” he said, “or we’ll be late 
for lunch.” 

And never again during his week-end at Norton 
Road did Robert mention Alfrey Stowe or Julia 
to Susan. But he had to listen to a good deal 
about both of them from Aunt Myrtle. 

“He’s a dear boy,” she said to Susan, when he 
had caught an early train to town on Monday, “a 
dear, straightforward fellow, but I could wish he 
wasn’t quite so gruff.” 


CHAPTER XX 


i 


LFREY was under the impression that Susan 



was still at Wimbledon. Convinced that 


Julia would be far too proud to own that she even 
suspected any faltering in his allegiance, he decided 
that she would attribute their break purely to 
the “impossibility” of his mother, possibly of him¬ 
self as well. 

He had reckoned without the host of spiteful 
feelings that assail a woman scorned, who was 
jealous into the bargain; and he was rather behind 
the times in his belief in feminine pride and reticence 
where wounded susceptibilities were concerned. 

Julia cared little about saving her own face if by 
sacrificing it she could effectually scratch Susan’s, 
and in this she had the satisfaction of knowing she 
had been successful. 

She even went so far as to confide the whole 
story, with skilful embroideries and excisions, to 
a mutual friend of her own and Alfrey’s, one 
Mrs. Lavender, who was almost as ardent a collec¬ 
tor of geniuses as was Julia herself. 


284 


THE REAL THING 


285 


Just after Julia had gone to France with Sir 
Godfrey, this Mrs. Lavender met Alfrey at a private 
view of some very modern sculpture and took 
him back with her in the motor to tea in Park 
Lane. 

They happened to be alone, and, greatly to his 
discomfort, she proceeded to discuss Vafjaire Julia 
with the utmost frankness. 

She talked and Alfrey listened with an occa¬ 
sional murmur of acquiescence or grunt of disagree¬ 
ment till he heard her saying: “And you know, 
dear Mr. Stowe, if you really do care anything about 
that other girl, you really ought to go to her rescue. 
From the way Julia gloated over it, I gather that 
she’s having a positively mediaeval time—watched 
and guarded and nagged at and treated like a 
criminal, because she was too honest to deny that 
perhaps she had a hand in detaching you—accord¬ 
ing to Julia, who really is too vindictive: fond 
as I am of her, I think she’s carried this a bit 
too far. I feel quite sorry for the other girl, and 
it’s all because of you, you know.” 

“Will you be good enough,” Alfrey said, in an 
icy voice, “to say all that again, if you are sure of 
your facts.” 

Mrs. Lavender was quite sure of her facts, and 
was more than willing to say it all over again, 
with further comments and amplifications. 

Alfrey thanked her; gave her no clue whatever 


286 


THE BROKEN BOW 


as to his own feelings; took his leave and went 
out into an exceedingly cold, wet April evening, 
and walked and walked and walked. 

He choked, he swore, his eyes smarted with un¬ 
shed tears. He called himself poltroon!—ass!— 
cur!—to have left her to face the yapping chorus 
alone. 

Poor, brave, beautiful, sweet-voiced Susan. He 
dined at a restaurant in exceedingly wet clothes 
and went out and walked in the pouring rain 
again. 

When he got back to his chambers his fire was 
out, and he sat by the ashes, still in his wet clothes, 
composing letters to her. 

But he had no idea where she was. Perhaps 
she had joined her parents in the South of France. 
Perhaps she was back again with that aunt at 
Hove, but he had forgotten the number of the house 
in Norton Road. . . . 

What must she think of him, that Susan of his? 
What excuse could she find for him? 

Finally he remembered Sir Godfrey’s consulting 
rooms in Harley Street. He was ready now to 
believe anything of Julia; but her father, he 
was sure, would never tamper with anybody’s 
letters. 

By this time his head ached, his bones ached, 
he was hot and cold and desperately thirsty. He 
had all the good old “Mespot” symptoms, took a 


THE REAL THING 


287 


large dose of quinine and went back to his desk to 
write letter after letter to Susan and tear them up. 

Finally he typed an envelope for what he was 
quite certain was the most inept and ridiculous of 
all the letters he had written that night, stamped it 
and went to bed. 

His char came in the morning to make his bed 
and cook his breakfast. He refused to get up and 
couldn’t eat any breakfast, but he did just remem¬ 
ber to ask her to post his letter to Susan. 

ii 

After that things got mixed. 

A man on the same staircase came to see him in 
the evening. Presently another man, whom he 
had never seen, came back with the first one; 
poked cold things on to his aching chest and 
listened; stuck a beastly thermometer under his 
tongue and held it there for hours; held his wrist 
and looked at a watch. . . . 

And presently people took him away in an am¬ 
bulance to a nursing home, and he forgot every¬ 
thing but his pains and aches and general dis¬ 
comfort. 

Next day but one his char, who was a tidy person, 
collected all the letters that had come by various 
posts and put them in a drawer that happened to 
be open in his writing-table, and shut it. 


288 


THE BROKEN BOW 


hi 

Aunt Myrtle had a headache and was break¬ 
fasting in bed. 

The post came in and there were two letters for 
Susan. One from Hugh at Winchester, one with 
a typewritten address sent on by Sir Godfrey's 
secretary from his consulting rooms at Harley 
Street. 

Who on earth could have addressed a letter to 
her at Harley Street? 

She saw that Aunt Myrtle's tray was properly 
arranged, stood up Aunt Myrtle's letters against the 
toast-rack, and, when the parlourmaid had taken 
the tray and shut the door behind her, Susan 
opened Hugh’s letter first. It asked her to meet 
him in London next morning and lunch with him. 
He had got a few days' leave and was on his way 
to Market Harboro' for some races. 

Would Aunt Myrtle let her go? It was decent 
of Hugh. 

Then she opened the typewritten envelope and 
gave a little gasp. She knew the writing, and it 
was a long letter. 

It started abruptly and without any customary 
invocation: 

“Somehow—because you are the quickest-feeling 
and most subtly sensitive woman I have ever met 


THE REAL THING 


289 


—I think you must know that for me you are the 
one woman out of all the world; dearest and best. 
I’m not going to pretend even to myself that you 
don’t know this. I won’t explain or extenuate 
(there can be no extenuation). I believe you are 
wise enough and large-minded enough to under¬ 
stand and forgive stupidity—even such crass 
idiocy as mine. 

“But is there any hope that you can care for 
me in return—even a little?—in the way I care 
for you? 

“I have no sword now wherewith to glorify 
you, and even if I had I’m not at all sure that in 
my hands it would be a very glorious weapon; 
but, by heaven, if you care for fame, my pen is 
vowed to your service. I know my limitations, 
but there’s no miserable modesty about me where 
my work is concerned—and every line I write 
ehall be for you, and by no mere formal dedication 
either. Spiritually, it will be yours because you 
are of the spirit—the sweetest thing upon God’s 
earth. 

“Susan, do you understand how desperately I 
want you?—need you?—long and crave and 
hunger for you?—simply because if you do love 
me it will be me you will love, the fumbling, awk¬ 
ward, absurd, shy, stumbling fellow that I am— 
that you only can understand, and, understanding, 
pardon. 


290 


THE BROKEN BOW 


“It is horrible for me to think that you, perhaps, 
have suffered inconvenience, perhaps scoldings, per¬ 
haps even wrongful suspicion, because of me. I 
could chop myself in little pieces, responsible as 
I fear I am for bringing trouble and annoyance 
upon you. 

“I may be but a poor sort of fellow, Susan, but 
I'm yours, body and soul and brain, to take or 
leave . . . and if there’s any hope of your taking 
me, I’d not be a poor sort of fellow any more. I’ll 
try to be worthier of you—kind, beautiful, golden¬ 
voiced Susan. 

“If you knew how I hunger and thirst to hear 
your voice. 

“Where are they keeping you in prison? 

“For God’s sake send a word of some sort to 
your devoted servant, 

“Alfrey Stowe.” 


iv 

“Why, Miss Susan, you haven’t even poured out 
your coffee nor touched your breakfast.” 

Susan roused herself with a start, for Elsie, the 
parlourmaid, had come to clear away. 

She drank some cold coffee, swallowed some toast 
and tried to look unconcerned and casual . . . 
failing utterly. 

It was well that Aunt Myrtle’s room was darkened 


THE REAL THING 


291 


when Susan went to ask her whether she might go 
up to London to meet Hugh. Such bright eyes 
and flushed cheeks accompanied by so subdued a 
manner would undoubtedly have aroused Aunt 
Myrtle's suspicions had she not been really pros¬ 
trate with headache. 

“Hugh wants to see you?" she murmured 
faintly. “Luncheon to-morrow? I see no reason 
why you shouldn't go up and lunch with him, if 
you’ll promise me not to rush off and see some 
other young man in his rooms." 

“I promise," Susan said, meekly, “that I won't 
go near anybody's rooms; I don’t often, truly. 
Hugh’s train is due at Waterloo 12.45, and I'll meet 
that, see him off at St. Pancras and catch the 
first train on here from Victoria. I can come to 
Brighton and take a bus." 

“Well, you may go unless I’m worse. If I'm 
not better by lunch-time, we must get Dr. Ware." 

Susan put an eau-de-Cologne compress on her 
aunt’s head, shook up her pillows, gave her aspirin 
and a hotter bottle, and went downstairs to write 
a telegram to Hugh and a letter to Alfrey. 

“My dear," she wrote, “I love you, and there 
will be the most awful row when we break it to them 
. . . and unfortunately we can't break it to them 
just yet. It would hardly be decent—would it?— 
because of Julia. 


292 


THE BROKEN BOW 


! “I have to meet my brother Hugh at Waterloo 
to-morrow ... if you were there—by the book¬ 
stall at twelve—we might just see one another. 

“Please be there, Alfrey, if you possibly can. 
I’ve been so miserable and want you so. 

“Susan.” 

She went out and despatched both telegram and 
letter herself. And as she dropped her letter 
into the slot at the Hove post office she reflected 
that people who are bullied almost invariably 
resort to deceit. “Father always says that’s 
why the Armenians are such unpleasant people,” 
she thought. “I do hope I’m not growing like 
them. I’d rather be like the Turks.” 


CHAPTER XXI 


i 

T WELVE o’clock and the bookstall at Water¬ 
loo. Susan was punctual. Alfrey was not. 
Five minutes past. 

Ten minutes past. 

Half-past. 

No Alfrey. 

A good many men looked curiously at the 
pretty girl hovering about that bookstall. 

For very shame she spent as long a time as 
possible in choosing some magazines to take back 
to Aunt Myrtle. 

She made a tour of platforms in that enormous 
station, lest Alfrey might have chosen to go to 
some other bookstall, but there was no sign of 
him. 

Hugh’s train was signalled and Alfrey had not 
come. 

“Susan, my girl, what’s the matter?” Hugh 
asked, while they were lunching at the Ritz. 
“Your clothes are all right, but you look some- 


293 


294 


THE BROKEN BOW 


how as if you'd been rubbed out. Surely you're 
not fretting over that silly Julia fuss?" 

“Not fretting exactly, Hugh, but of course I 
was most awfully sorry." 

“I can’t see why you should be, even if it was 
a bit your fault—and I’m perfectly sure it wasn’t." 

“Hugh dear, I’m very much afraid that it 
was . . . to a certain extent, and now—I’m being 
punished." 

“Rot!" he exclaimed. “Why accept punish¬ 
ment for such a d-d silly reason? What if 

that chap did find you rather a high looker—you 
are, you know; we all are—he needn’t have lost 
his head." 

“But, Hugh, he never did." 

“Then, in the name of commonsense, what’s 
all this song and dance about?" 

“I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind 
. . . it’s all so complicated." 

Hugh looked hard at his sister, and decided 
that this was not the moment to ask her if she 
had any spare cash. Instead, he bade her drink 
up her wine, and saw that she did it; and he paid 
the bill himself. As a family the Colletts were not 
demonstrative, but they knew how to comfort 
one another in trouble. 

Susan felt that Hugh was being extra kind to 
her, and loved him for it. 

She had gone out in the morning with flags 


THE REAL THING 


295 


flying and drums beating. She went back in the 
afternoon like a conquered army, the remnant of 
herself. 

Even Aunt Myrtle remarked how tired she 
looked. 

The Collett women were quite accustomed to 
men who had things to do. Things that had to 
be done, whether in work or sport. Susan did 
not expect that any man would be constantly at 
her beck and call, but she did think that when he 
got her letter Alfrey might have wired to her that 
he couldn’t meet her at Waterloo. 

She had answered his letter by return of post 
quite early. He would get it last night. 

She didn’t blame him. She didn’t even criticize 
him; but she was puzzled. Puzzled and a little 
pained. 

To-day was Wednesday. Surely she would hear 
by the first post to-morrow. 

But Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 
passed and there was no letter from Alfrey. 

No letter, no telegram. No Alfrey himself. 

Susan’s perplexity changed to alarm. 

A week—nothing. 

Ten days—nothing. Susan was tortured by 
anxiety she could share with no one. 

She did not doubt him. But she was absolutely 
certain now that something dreadful had happened. 

She read The Times with meticulous care. 


296 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Aunt Myrtle, who had got over her headache, 
approved this new seriousness in Susan. Far 
better to read the news than spend money and 
time upon silly novels written by horrid people, 
who were always in hot water in their matrimonial 
affairs. 

Surely, Susan reasoned, any accident to such a 
distinguished young author would be chronicled 
in The Times . Always before there had been 
things about Alfrey in the papers. Julia had 
shown her dozens. Now, when she hungered and 
thirsted for the smallest word about him, there 
was nothing. 

When she caught sight of her own face in a 
looking-glass, she saw that every day it grew more 
and more like the Reynolds portrait in the gallery 
at Aylberne. She bought all sorts of papers and 
read them feverishly, but there was nothing. 

Then one day just after lunch she saw; it: 

“Among the sufferers from the prevailing and 
unexpectedly late epidemic of influenza is Mr. 
Alfrey Stowe, the well-known novelist, who has 
been seriously ill for some days in a nursing 
home.” 

The printing and the paper ran together into 
long grey lines. There was a rushing in her ears 
—so loud that she looked nervously across at 
Aunt Myrtle, who was dozing in her chair on the 
ot}ier side of the fire. 


THE REAL THING 


297 


Aunt Myrtle was still asleep. She hadn’t heard. 
Alfrey was seriously ill, perhaps dying, and she 
would never see him again, never be able to show 
him how much she loved him. 

Hesper had died. 

Alfrey was dying, perhaps already dead. 

They had kept her from Hesper and Hesper had 
died. 

Nothing should keep her from Alfrey. 

She got up softly from her chair, taking care 
not to rustle the paper. 

Silently as a shadow she moved to the door. 
Like nearly all big people, Susan could be very 
quiet when she chose. 

She blessed the well-ordered house where door¬ 
handles had to turn noiselessly and hinges were 
always oiled. 

She was on the outside of the door. 

It was shut, and Aunt Myrtle had not stirred 
or called to her. 

The clock in the hall struck half-past two. 

She rushed up to her room, put on her hat and 
coat and went out into Norton Road. But not 
before she had scribbled a card for Aunt Myrtle 
and put it in the hall: “Called away suddenly to 
see a sick friend. Don’t wait dinner, but I’ll try 
to be back.” 

There was a bus went along Cromwell Road 
to Brighton station. She’d catch the next train to 


298 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Victoria or London Bridge. Surely there was 
something about three. 

She tore up Eaton Gardens and caught the bus 
at the top. The driver saw her, liked her looks, 
and slowed down for her to board it. 


ii 

It was only when she reached London and the 
taxi-man said, “Where to, Miss?” that she re¬ 
membered that The Times had said nothing as 
to which nursing home Alfrey was in. 

Never mind, she would go to his chambers. If 
no one was there, she’d knock at every door on 
his staircase till she found out where he was. 

Julia had often described his rooms to her, and 
somebody in the building would be certain to 
know. 

She was past caring what anybody thought. 
She would see Alfrey once more. No, not “once 
more.” She would see Alfrey. 

She would, she would, she would. 

\ They must let her. 

She paid the taxi-man and ran up the stair¬ 
case. Alfrey’s name would not be painted on the 
outer door, because he was not a barrister. Susan 
knew that. 

Up and up she went, scanning each door as she 
passed. 


THE REAL THING 


299 


Ah! At last! His visiting-card pinned over 
the real tenant's name—and the door was ajar. 

Timidly, pausing to get her breath—she had 
come with such a rush—she pushed it open a little 
further and went into the passage. 

The sitting-room door was ajar too, and there 
was a fire in it. She could see the reflection of 
dancing flames on the glass of pictures on the wall. 
She peeped in. 

A sofa was pulled up in front of the fire and 
Alfrey, white and thin and still, was lying on it, 
covered by a rug. 

She shut the door behind her and he turned his 
head. 

“Susan!” he cried. “You!” 

She was beside him, down on her knees, and 
clasping him. Kiss for kiss she gave him; and 
happy tears and tremulous laughter; the blissful 
laughter of lovers that hides a tiny sob. 

He held her dear flushed face away from him 
in his two hands, that he might look into her eyes. 

“Why,” he asked, “did you never answer my 
letter? Did you not get it?” 

“I got it and I answered it by return of post. 
I wrote the address so carefully and I posted it 
myself. I asked you to meet me at Waterloo, but 
you never came, and I looked everywhere. I 
waited and waited but you never came, and I 
was so miserable. But I kept your precious letter 


300 


THE BROKEN BOW 


—always I shall keep it. I made a little bag for 
it, and I wear it round my neck on a long thin 
chain that grandfather gave me when I was 
seventeen.” 

“Are you sure you posted it?” he asked pres¬ 
ently. “I want that darling letter. Are you sure 
you put the right address?” 

“It hasn’t come back to me, and I know it was 
right. You ought to have got it that night. My 
writing is quite clear, not scrabbly and difficult 
like yours.” 

“Everything about you is crystalline clear, 
you blessed, blessed Susan.” 

“Oh, my dear,” she said, with a little sob, “it 
has been such a horrible week—I thought you 
might die . . . and I’d never be able to tell 
you-” 

Mrs. Stowe, who had been living in Alfrey’s 
chambers and going to the nursing home every 
day, had brought him back that morning at his 
urgent request, for he was sick of the nursing 
home. She was the more willing because she 
felt that at the chambers she could cook for him 
herself, and feed him up. She had tasted the 
beef-tea they gave him, and thought it poor 
stuff. 

She had been down to the porter to speak about 
another bed that had been hired to come that 


THE REAL THING 


301 


afternoon, for she was much too large for the sofa 
in his sitting-room, and she wouldn’t hear of his 
sleeping on it till he was really well. 

Her talk with the porter had been somewhat 
longer than she expected, and she climbed the 
stairs rather more quickly than usual. She was 
not used to stairs, and felt breathless and done when 
she reached Alfrey’s door. Her box was in the 
passage, and she sat down on it to get her breath 
before she should see Alfrey. 

Suddenly she noticed that the sitting-room door 
was shut. It had been open when she left. Had 
he felt a draught, she wondered, and crept across 
the room to close it? She hoped he’d covered 
himself again if he had. 

Suddenly she sat up very straight and listened. 

Someone was talking in there. 

Who in the world had got in to upset Alfrey in 
the few minutes she had been gone? 

Very softly she got up, turned the handle of 
the door and opened it and looked in, and almost 
fell back upon the box again. 

Noiselessly she smote her hands together. 
“Then Claire was right,” she thought, “and they 
did behave bad to Julia, but I can’t scold him 
now . . . he’s too weak.” 

“I wish,” she heard Susan say, “that I’d burned 
my boats, that there was no going back, that I 
was comfortably ruined and could stay here with 


302 THE BROKEN BOW 

you—but none of them would believe me if I said 
I was.” 

“Of course they wouldn’t believe you”—from 
Alfrey. 

Interlude, while Mrs. Stowe shook her head, 
smiling, though, and pleased. 

“You know, my dear,” Susan’s voice went on, 
“the elders are always telling us how bad we are, 
and how we’ve no morals and all the rest of it, 
but they’re not nearly so ready to believe the 
worst of us as they were. Take Shakespeare, now 
—we’re constantly being told how lovely and good 
and sweet and gracious his women are.” 

“Well, they are, you know.” 

“And yet all their own people were ready to 
believe the worst of them on no evidence at 
all.” 

“For example, dear Shakespearean student?” 

“Look at Hero! D’you mean to tell me that 
if I chose to Talk to a man out of a window’ 
between one and two in the morning—at Norton 
Road, for instance—that you and my family 
would at once conclude the worst? You’d all 
probably think I’d gone mad; and neighbours 
might complain that I disturbed their slumbers 
—but neither you nor Aunt Myrtle nor anybody 
would believe of me what that swine Claudio and 
most of poor Hero’s friends believed of her—now 
would you?” 


THE REAL THING 


303 


“That’s one, I grant you—now for another?” 

“Well, Juliet (I know these two plays, because 
I’ve seen them both). Would it occur to any 
decent girl nowadays to ask her young man, Tf 
that thy bent of love be honourable, thy purpose 
marriage’? You’ve never even asked me to 
marry you, yet here I am!” 

Rather unsteadily Mrs. Stowe got up on to her 
feet, coughed loudly and rattled the handle of the 
door as she stood on the threshold. 

Susan turned in Alfrey’s arms and smiled at 
her but made no attempt to disentangle herself. 

“Is this bad for him?” she asked. 

Mrs. Stowe beamed at Susan, but shook her finger 
accusingly at her son as she asked: “Alfrey, did 
you know she was coming? Was that why you 
were so set on getting back this morning?” 

“He didn’t know, dear Mrs. Stowe,” Susan 
said, getting up from her knees. “And I didn’t 
know either—this morning. But when I read in 
The Times that he’d been ill, I just came! And 
soon, I suppose, I must be going back.” 

“Not till you’ve had tea,” Mrs. Stowe said. 
“I’m just going to get it.” 

“I wish,” Susan said presently, “that there 
was no going back; that I could just stay here 
with you and Alfrey. It seems so flattening to 
have to catch the 6.30 and face Aunt Myrtle at 


304 THE BROKEN BOW 

dinner when I might stay here and help you to 
get it.” 

“You must go back,” Mrs. Stowe said firmly, 
because you’re not going to marry my Alfrey 
in any hole-and-corner way. You talk to your 
aunt, my dear; you talk to your aunt nicely in 
that pretty voice of yours and get her on your 
side before you tell the others. If I’m not mis¬ 
taken, Miss Collett’s one that likes to be first, and 
if you go about it tactful, why, you’ll get her on 
your side from the beginning, and then your dear 
parents’ll soon come round. After all, there’s 
nothing to object to in Alfrey. He’s quite superior.” 

Susan laughed. “That’s just what he mustn’t 
try to be with me. I’ve told him already that 
I’m never going to be afraid of him and say that 
I like things when I don’t—just to please him— 
or pretend I understand things when I don’t 
understand, or admire things that I don’t admire 
because it’s fin the movement’ to do it. I’m 
quite willing to try and learn all he likes to teach 
me about style and things, but I’m not going to 
pretend. I often did with Julia because she was 
so scornful, and I hated to be thought out of things 
—but I never shall with Alfrey.” 

“Thank God for that!” Alfrey said. 

When Susan had gone, Mrs. Stowe went and 
sat on the one small chair in the tiny kitchen. 


THE REAL THING 


305 


Her head ached and she felt bewildered. She shed 
a few tears and blew her nose; pulled herself 
together, and set about getting Alfrey’s dinner. 
Then the men came with the bed and she had to 
see it set up in the little sitting-room. 

When she had fed Alfrey and seen him com¬ 
fortably settled for the night in the one bedroom 
of the chambers, she cleared up and finally went 
to bed herself, tired in body but wakeful and 
nervous. When at last she dozed off, it was with 
the thought: “And now, I’ll warrant, I shall hear 
more about Susan Collett than ever. And how 
Claire will crow over me to be sure! I could 
wish they hadn’t been in such a hurry.” 


CHAPTER XXII 


S USAN’S train was late, and in spite of the fact 
that she took a taxi back to Norton Road, 
she only arrived at five minutes to eight. She 
dashed upstairs to take off her hat and wash her 
hands, and appeared in the drawing-room just as 
the gong sounded. 

Aunt Myrtle, majestic and displeased, was 
standing by the fire. She was always decollete 
in the evening, even when she dined quite alone, 
but if any nephews or nieces were present she was 
the more careful to display plenty of her hand¬ 
some neck and shoulders. She scorned the feeble 
generation that wore tea-gowns or white fur coats 
or stoles at night indoors, when, during the day, 
they braved the most arctic weather in the thinnest 
of suede shoes and silk stockings. Susan, in 
her coat-frock, felt like a little shop-girl beside 
her. 

“I'm very sorry not to dress, Aunt Myrtle,” 
she apologized, “but I’ve only this moment got 
back, and I thought . . .” 


306 


THE REAL THING 


307 


“I heard your arrival,” Miss Collett interrupted 
coldly, “and that you came in a taxi. Surely an 
unnecessary expense?” 

“1 would have been still later if I hadn’t taken 
one.” 

By this time they were in the dining-room. As 
Aunt Myrtle lifted her first spoonful of soup she 
said: “Perhaps now you will kindly explain where 
you have been—and who is your sick friend? Is 
she better?” 

“It’s a long story,” Susan answered. “I’ll tell 
you all about it after dinner. Let us dine in peace 
first. I’m so hungry.” 

Throughout the excellent, well-served meal Aunt 
Myrtle watched Susan. Yes; there was no doubt 
about it, she was a beautiful girl. Distinguished 
too, which Aunt Myrtle considered infinitely more 
important than mere beauty. 

They made an odd contrast, those two women, 
so strangely alike and so entirely different. The 
one dressed as if for some big reception, the other 
in the plain straight gown that was the mode of 
the moment. 

When Aunt Myrtle’s glass of port was 
poured out and the parlourmaid had left the 
room, she turned to Susan and said, “Now 
please.” 

Susan’s knees were shaking, but she took the 
plunge. “I don’t know whether you saw in the 


308 THE BROKEN BOW 

papers that Alfrey Stowe was very ill. I went to 
see him.” 

Aunt Myrtle stared as though she couldn't 
believe her own ears. 

“You went to see him? To-day? And why, 
pray?” 

“Because,” Susan said steadily, “I'm going to 
marry him, and I was very anxious.” 

“You are going to marry Alfrey Stowe! But 
only a few weeks ago I thought he was engaged 
to your cousin?” 

“So he was, but it was a mistake. They didn't 
really care for one another.” 

Aunt Myrtle sipped her port. Susan, with 
trembling hands, was trying to peel a tangerine 
orange. But “courage mounteth with occasion,” 
and her heart was beating steadily. 

“Do you very much want that orange?” 
Aunt Myrtle asked, “because, if you don't, let 
us go into the drawing-room and thrash this 
out.” 

In the drawing-room Miss Collett arranged 
herself in her favourite chair, with a shaded 
lamp set a little way behind her on her 
left. 

Elsie brought in coffee, and Susan drank hers 
eagerly. 

Then she had an inspiration. She fetched a 
footstool and sat down upon it close to her aunt's 


THE REAL THING 


309 


knees. She laid her arms on those silk-clad 
knees and said softly: “Aunt Myrtle, if you 
don’t stand by us, I don’t know what we shall 
do.” 

“Stand by you!—me!” Miss Collett exclaimed. 
“I’m the last person in the world that you can 
conceive of countenancing such a thing. I dis¬ 
approve entirely. I think you’re mad. Mind, I 
know that nothing and no one can stop your 
marrying this man if you insist upon doing so. 
You’re of age, you’re not a ward in chancery, and 
unfortunately parents no longer have the powers 
they once had—but if you expect me or any 
other member of the family to countenance such 
a marriage . . . you’re very much mistaken. I 
should have thought you had too much pride to 
take Julia’s leavings.” 

“But that’s just it,” Susan said. “Julia was 
only an interlude. He was in love with me first, 
only he didn’t know it.” 

“How could he have been in love with you 
first when he never saw you till he was engaged to 
Julia?” 

“Listen, Aunt Myrtle. Nobody must know 
what I’m going to tell you—nobody but you. 
It’s a long story and very complicated, but Alfrey 
said I must tell you, because, you see, you’re really 
almost like my mother.” 

The warm young body pressed against her 


310 


THE BROKEN BOW 


knees; the eager clasping arms about her gave to 
Myrtle Collett a curious sense of being swamped 
in something strong and delicious and intoxica¬ 
ting. People did not confide in her as a rule. She 
was too censorious, too inquisitive. This sense of 
being confided in was strange and exciting. She 
was thrilled to think that she was hearing all 
sorts of things that the rest of the family did not 
know, and as Susan unfolded the story of the lost 
book, their meeting at the Brownies, and their 
encounter in the little old garden at Aylberne, she 
began to feel at one moment as though she too 
was impressionable and impetuous, and at the 
next to reflect complacently that if she was middle- 
aged she still had a good deal of influence in the 
family. That her brother and his wife depended 
upon her judgment; that the children still looked 
to her for house-room and sympathy—quite a new 
idea this last, new and flattering. Moreover, she 
suddenly discovered that Susan had always been 
her favourite niece, and rather like her. She felt 
a vicarious satisfaction in the fascinations of 
Susan. 

Altogether it was the most emotional evening 
she had passed for a very long time. Even the 
raids had not given her that queer tremulous 
feeling about the knees. 

It was nearly twelve o’clock when she and 
Susan went upstairs to bed and poor Dawson had 


THE REAL THING 


311 


considerable difficulty in keeping awake during 
the nightly hair-brushing. 

In spite of Aunt Myrtle’s alliance, it took 
what seemed to the lovers an interminable time 
to soften General Collett, even though Alfrey, 
almost as soon as he could stand, rushed over 
to meet them in Paris and plead his cause in 
person. 

In the end, however, as Mrs. Stowe had pre¬ 
dicted, they all “came round,” for they all loved 
Susan. 

“It is true that they wondered at her choice, 
those handsome Colletts—but, after all, he was 
a successful writer, and writing in their eyes— 
though it seemed an odd way of making a living 
—was certainly a degree better than pawnbroking 
or money-lending. 

The young people were fathoms deep in love. 
Anyone could see that. And all the world loves 
lovers. 

It is true that Alfrey Stowe was plain—but 
what was it that one of those writing chaps had 
said ages ago: 

“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind; 

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” 

Not the little old Cupid with the broken bow. 

His eyes were not bandaged. He could see 
clearly and far. 


312 


THE BROKEN BOW 


Susan even wondered whether he knew that 
on her wedding day, instead of a bouquet, 
she carried a handful of sweet brier from his 
garden. 

THE END 










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