Anthony Hope.

Beaumaroy Home from the Wars



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She met him one day at Old Place about a week after Christmas. The Captain was not there; he was at her own house, with Cynthia. With the rest of the family Beaumaroy was at his best; gaily respectful to Mrs. Naylor, merry with Gertie, exchanging cut and thrust with old Mr. Naylor, easy and cordial towards herself. Certainly an attractive human being and a charming companion, pre-eminently natural. "One talks of taking people as one finds them," old Naylor said to her, when they found themselves alone for a few minutes together by the fire, while the others chatted by the window. "That fellow takes himself as he finds himself! Not as a pattern, a failure, or a problem, but just as a fact Ц a psychological fact."

"That rather shuts out effort, doesn't it? Well, I mean Ц "

"Strivings?" Mr. Naylor smiled. "Yes, it does. On the other hand, it gives such free play. That's what makes him interesting, makes you think about him." He laughed. "Oh, I daresay the surroundings help too Ц we're all rather children!†Ц old Saffron, and the Devil, and Captain Duggle, and the rest of it! The brain isn't over-worked down here; we like to find an outlet."

"That means you think there's nothing in it really?"

"In what?" retorted old Naylor briskly.

But Mary was equal to him. "My lips are sealed professionally," she smiled. "But hasn't your son said anything?"

"Admirable woman! Yes, Alec has said a few things; and the young lady gives it us too. For my part, I think Beaumaroy's just drifting. He'll take the gifts of fortune if they come, but I don't think there's much deliberate design about it. Ah, now you're smiling in a superior way, Doctor Mary! I charge you with secret knowledge. Or are you puffed up by having superseded Irechester?"

"I was never so distressed and Ц well, embarrassed Ц at anything in my life."

"Well, that, if you ask me, does look a bit queer. Sort of fits in with Alec's theory."

Mary's discretion gave way a little. "Or with Mr. Beaumaroy's? Which is that I'm a fool, I think."

"And that Irechester isn't?" His eyes twinkled in good-humoured malice. "Talking of what this and that person thinks Ц of himself and of others Ц Irechester thinks himself something of an alienist."

Her eyes grew suddenly alert. "He's never talked to me on that subject."

"Perhaps he doesn't think it's one of yours. Perhaps your studies haven't lain that way? After all, no medical man can study everything!"

"Don't be naughty, Mr. Naylor!" said Doctor Mary.

"He tells me that, in cases where the condition Ц the condition I think he called it Ц is in doubt, he fixes his attention on the eyes and the voice. He couldn't give me any very clear description of what he found in the eyes. I couldn't quite make out, anyhow, what he meant, unless it was a sort of meaninglessness Ц a want of what you might call intellectual focus. Do you follow me?"

"Yes, I think I know what you mean."

"But with regard to the voice, I distinctly remember that he used the word 'metallic.'"

"Why, that's the word Cynthia used Ц !"

"I daresay it is.

It's the word Alec used in describing the voice in which old Mr. Saffron recited his poem Ц or whatever it was Ц in bed."

"But I've talked to Mr. Saffron; his voice isn't like that; it's a little high, but full and rather melodious."

"Oh, well then Ц !" He spread out his hands, as though acknowledging a check. "Still, the voice described as metallic seems to have been Mr. Saffron's Ц at a certain moment at least. As a merely medical question of some interest, I wonder if such a symptom or sign of Ц er Ц irritability could be intermittent, coming and going with the Ц er Ц fits! Irechester didn't say anything on that point. Have you any opinion?"

"None. I don't know. I should like to ask Dr. Irechester." Then, with a sudden smile, she amended, "No, I shouldn't!"

"And why not, pray? Professional etiquette?"

"No Ц pride. Dr. Irechester laughed at me. I think I see why now; and perhaps why Mr. Beaumaroy Ц " She broke off abruptly, the slightest gesture of her hand warning Naylor also to be silent.

Having said good-bye to his friends by the window, Beaumaroy was sauntering across the room to pay the like courtesy to herself and Naylor. Mary rose to her feet; there was an air of decision about her, and she addressed Beaumaroy almost before he was within speaking distance as it is generally reckoned in society.

"If you're going home, Mr. Beaumaroy, shall we walk together? It's time I was off too."

Beaumaroy looked a little surprised, but undoubtedly pleased. "Well, now, what a delightful way of prolonging a delightful visit! I'm truly grateful, Dr. Arkroyd."

"Oh, you needn't be!" said Mary, with a little toss of her head.

Naylor watched them with amusement. "He'll catch it on that walk!" he was thinking. "She's going to let him have it! I wish I could be there to hear." He spoke to them openly: "I'm sorry you must both go; but, since you must, go together. Your walk will be much pleasanter."

Mary understood him well enough, and gave him a flash from her eyes. But Beaumaroy's face betrayed nothing, as he murmured politely: "To me, at all events, Mr. Naylor."

Naylor was not wrong as to Mary's mood and purpose. But she did not find it easy to begin. Pretty quick at a retort herself, she could often foresee the retorts open to her interlocutor. Beaumaroy had provided himself with plenty: the old man's whim; the access to the old man so willingly allowed, not only to her but to Captain Alec; his own candour carried to the verge of self-betrayal. Oh, he would be full of retorts, supple and dexterous ones! As this hostile accusation passed through her mind, she awoke to the fact that she was, at the same moment, regarding his profile (he too was silent, no doubt lying in wait to trip up her opening!) with interest, even with some approval. He seemed to feel her glance, for he turned towards her quickly Ц so quickly that she had no time to turn her eyes away.

"Doctor Mary" Ц the familiar mode of address habitually used at the house which they had just left seemed to slip out without his consciousness of it Ц "you've got something against me; I know you have! I'm sensitive that way, though not, perhaps, in another. Now, out with it!"

"You'd silence me with a clever answer. I think that you sometimes make the mistake of supposing that to be silenced is the same thing as being convinced. You silenced Captain Naylor Ц Oh, I don't mean you've prevented him from talking!†Ц I mean you confuted him, you put him in the wrong; but you certainly didn't convince him."

"Of what?" he asked in a tone of surprise.

"You know that. Let us suppose his idea was all nonsense; yet your immediate object was to put it out of his head." She suddenly added, "I think your last question was a diplomatic blunder, Mr. Beaumaroy. You must have known what I meant. What was the good of pretending not to?"

Beaumaroy stopped still in the road for a moment, looking at her with a rueful amusement. "You're not so easily silenced, after all!" he said, starting to walk on again.

"You encourage me." To tell the truth, Mary was not only encouraged, she was pleased by the hit she had scored, and flattered by his acknowledgment of it. "Well, then, I'll put another point. You needn't answer if you don't like."

"I shall answer if I can, depend on it!" He laughed, and Mary, for a brief instant, joined in his laugh. His sudden lapses into candour seemed somehow to put the serious hostile questioner ridiculously in the wrong. Could a man like that really have anything to conceal?

But she held to her purpose. "You're a friendly sort of man, you offer and accept attentions and kindnesses, you're not stand-offish, or haughty, or sulky; you make friends easily, especially perhaps with women; they like you, and like to be pleasant and kind to you. There are men Ц patients, I mean Ц very hard to deal with Ц men who resent being ill, resent having to have things done to them and for them, who especially resent the services of women, even of nurses Ц I mean in quite indifferent things, not merely in things where a man may naturally shrink from their help. Well, you don't seem that sort of man in the least." She looked at him, as she ended this appreciation of him, as though she expected an answer or a comment. Beaumaroy made neither; he walked on, not even looking at her.

"And you can't have been troubled long with that wound. It evidently healed up quickly and sweetly."

Beaumaroy looked for an instant at his maimed hand with a critical air; but he was still silent.

"So that I wonder you didn't do as most patients do Ц let the nurse, or, if you were still disabled after you came out, a friend or somebody, cut up your food for you without providing yourself with that implement." He turned his head quickly towards her. "And if you ask me what implement I mean, I shall answer Ц the one you tried to snatch from the sideboard at Tower Cottage before I could see it."

It was a direct challenge; she charged him with a lie. Beaumaroy's face assumed a really troubled expression, a thing rare for it to do. Yet it was not an ashamed or abashed expression; it just seemed to recognize that a troublesome difficulty had arisen. He set a slower pace and prodded the road with his stick. Mary pushed her advantage. "Your Ц your improvisation didn't satisfy me at the time, and the more I've thought over it, the less have I found it convincing."

He stopped again, turning round to her. He slapped his left hand against the side of his leg. "Well, there it is, Doctor Mary! You must make what you can of it."

It was complete surrender as to the combination knife-and-fork. He was beaten Ц on that point at least Ц and owned it. His lie was found out. "It's dashed difficult always to remember that you're a doctor," he broke out the next minute.

Mary could not help laughing; but her eyes were still keen and challenging as she said, "Perhaps you'd better change your doctor again, Mr. Beaumaroy. You haven't found one stupid enough!"

Again Beaumaroy had no defence; his nonplussed air confessed that manoeuvre too. Mary dropped her rallying tone and went on gravely, "Unless I'm treated with confidence and sincerity, I can't continue to attend Mr. Saffron."

"That's your ultimatum, is it, Doctor Mary?"

She nodded sharply and decisively. Beaumaroy meditated for a few seconds. Then he shook his head regretfully. "It's no use. I daren't trust you," he said.

Mary laughed again Ц this time in amazed resentment of his impudence. "You can't trust me! I think it's the other way round. It seems to me that the boot's on the other leg."

"Not as I see it." Then he smiled slowly, as it were tentatively. "Or would you Ц I wonder if you could Ц possibly Ц well, stand in with me?"

"Are you offering me a Ц a partnership?" she asked indignantly.

He raised his hand in a seeming protest, and spoke now hastily and in some confusion. "Not as you understand it. I mean Ц as you probably understand it Ц from what I said to you that night at the Cottage. There are features in the Ц well, there are things that I admit have Ц have passed through my mind, without being what you'd call settled. Oh, yes, without being in the least settled. Well, for the sake of your help and Ц er Ц co-operation, those Ц those features could be dropped. And then perhaps Ц if only your Ц your rules and etiquette Ц "

Mary scornfully cut short his embarrassed pleadings. "There's a good deal more than rules and etiquette involved. It seems to me that it's a matter of common honesty rather than of rules and etiquette Ц "

"Yes, but you don't understand Ц "

She cut him short again. "Mr. Beaumaroy, after this Ц after your suggestion and all the rest of it Ц there must be an end of all relations between us Ц professionally and, so far as possible, socially too, please. I don't want to be self-righteous, but I feel bound to say that you have misunderstood my character."

Her voice quivered at the end, and almost broke. She was full of a grieved indignation.

They had come opposite the cottage now. Beaumaroy stopped, and stood facing her. Though dusk had fallen, it was a clear evening; she could see his face plainly; obviously he was in deep distress. "I wouldn't have offended you for the world. I Ц I like you far too much, Doctor Mary."

"You imputed your own standards to me. That's all there is about it, I suppose," she said in a scornful sadness. He looked very miserable. Compassion, and the old odd attraction which he had for her, stirred in her mind. Her voice grew soft, and she held out her hand. "I'm sorry too, very sorry, that it should have to be good-bye between us."

Beaumaroy did not take her proffered hand, or even seem to notice it. He stood quite still.

"I'm damned if I know what I'm to do now!"

Close on the heels of his despairing confession of helplessness Ц for such it undoubtedly seemed to be Ц came the noise of an opening door, a light from the inside of the cottage, a patter of quick-moving feet on the flagged path that led to the garden gate. The next moment Mary saw the figure of Mr. Saffron, in his old grey shawl, standing at the gate. He was waving his right arm in an excited way, and his hand held a large sheet of paper.

"Hector! Hector, my dear, dear boy! The news has come at last! You can be off to-morrow!"

Beaumaroy started violently, glanced at his old friend's strange figure, glanced once too at Mary; the expression of utter despair which his face had worn seemed modified into one of humorous bewilderment.

"Yes, yes, you can start to-morrow for Morocco, my dear boy!" cried old Mr. Saffron.

Beaumaroy lifted his hat to her, cried, "I'm coming, sir," turned on his heel, and strode quickly up to Mr. Saffron. She watched him open the gate and take the old gentleman by the arm; she heard the murmur of his voice, speaking in soft accents as the pair walked up the path together. They passed into the house, and the door was shut.

Mary stood where she was for a moment, then moved slowly, hesitatingly, yet as though under a lure which she could not resist. Just outside the gate lay something that gleamed white through the darkness. It was the sheet of paper. Mr. Saffron had dropped it in his excitement, and Beaumaroy had not noticed.

Mary stole forward and picked it up stealthily; she was incapable of resisting her curiosity or even of stopping to think about her action. She held it up to what light there was, and strained her eyes to examine it. So far as she could see, it was covered with dots, dashes, lines, queerly drawn geometrical figures Ц a mass of meaningless hieroglyphics. She dropped it again where she had found it, and made off home with guilty swiftness.

Yes, there had been, this time, a distinctly metallic ring in old Mr. Saffron's voice.

CHAPTER X
THAT MAGICAL WORD MOROCCO!

When Mary arrived home, she found Cynthia and Captain Alec still in possession of the drawing-room; their manner accused her legitimate entry into the room of being an outrageous intrusion. She took no heed of that, and indeed little heed of them. To tell the truth Ц she was ashamed to confess, but it was the truth Ц she felt rather tired of them that evening. Their affair deserved every laudatory epithet Ц except that of interesting; so she declared peevishly within herself, as she tried to join in conversation with them. It was no use. They talked on, and in justice to them it may be urged that they were fully as bored with Mary just then as she was with them; so naturally their talents did not shine their brightest. But they had plenty to say to one another, and dutifully threw in a question or a reference to Mary every now and then. Sitting apart at the other end of the long low room Ц it ran through the whole depth of her old-fashioned dwelling Ц she barely heeded and barely answered. They smiled at one another and were glad.

She was very tired; her feelings were wounded, her nerves on edge; she could not even attempt any cool train of reasoning. The outcome of her talk with Beaumaroy filled her mind, rather than the matter of it; and, more even than that, the figure of the man seemed to be with her, almost to stand before her, with his queer alternations of despair and mirth, of defiance and pleading, of derision and alarm. One moment she was intensely irritated with him, in the next she half forgave the plaintive image which the fancy of her mind conjured up before her eyes.

Her eyes closed Ц she was so very tired, the fight had taken it out of her! To have to do things like that was an odious necessity, which had never befallen her before. That man had done Ц well, Captain Alec was quite right about him. Yet still the shadowy image, though thus reproached, did not depart; it was smiling at her now with its old mockery Ц the kindly mockery which his face wore before they quarrelled, and before its light was quenched in that forlorn bewilderment. And it seemed as though the image began to say some words to her, disconnected words, not making a sentence, but yet having for the image a pregnant meaning, and seeming to her Ц though vaguely and very dimly Ц to be the key to what she had to understand. She was stupid not to understand words so full of meaning Ц just as stupid as Beaumaroy had thought.

Then Doctor Mary fell asleep, sound asleep; she had been very near it for the last ten minutes.

Captain Alec and Cynthia were in two chairs, close side by side, in front of the fire. Once Cynthia glanced over her shoulder; the Captain had glanced over his in the same direction already. One of his hands held one of Cynthia's. It was well to be sure that Mary was asleep, really asleep.

She had gone to sleep on the name of Beaumaroy; on it she awoke. It came from Captain Alec's lips. He was standing on the hearthrug with his arm round Cynthia's waist, and his other hand raising one of hers to his lips. He looked admirably handsome Ц strong, protecting, devoted. And Cynthia, in her fragile appealing prettiness, was a delicious foil, a perfect complement to the picture. But now, under stress of emotion Ц small blame to a man who was making a vow of eternal fidelity!†Ц under stress of emotion, as, on a previous occasion, under that of indignation, the Captain had raised his voice!

"Yes, against all the scoundrels in the world, whether they're called Cranster or Beaumaroy!" he said.

Mary's eyes opened. She sat up. "Cranster and Beaumaroy?" They were the words which her ears had caught. "What in the world has Mr. Beaumaroy to do with Ц ?" But she broke off, as she saw the couple by the fire. "But what are you two doing?"

Cynthia broke away from her lover, and ran to her friend with joyous avowals.

"I must have been sound asleep," cried Mary, kissing her. Alec had followed across the room and now stood close by her. She looked up at him. "Oh, I see! She's to be safe now from such people?" On this particular occasion Mary's look at the Captain was not admiring; it was a little scornful.

"That's the idea," agreed the happy Alec. "Another idea is that I trot you both over in the car to Old Place Ц to break the news and have dinner."

"Splendid!" cried Cynthia. "Do come, Mary!"

Mary shook her head. "No; you go Ц you two," she said. "I'm tired Ц and I want to think." She passed her hand across her eyes. She seemed to wipe away the mists of sleep. Her face suddenly grew animated and exultant. "No, I don't want to think! I know!" she exclaimed emphatically.

"Mary dear, are you still asleep? Are you talking in your sleep?"

"The keyword! It came to me, somehow, in my sleep. The keyword Ц Morocco!"

"What the deuce has Morocco Ц ?" Captain Alec began, with justifiable impatience.

"Ah, you never heard that, and, dear Captain Alec, you wouldn't have understood it if you had. You thought he was reciting poems. What he was really doing Ц "

"Look here, Doctor Mary, I've just been accepted by Cynthia, and I'm going to take her to my mother and father. Can you get your mind on to that?" He looked at her curiously, not at all understanding her excitement, perhaps resenting the obvious fact that his Cynthia's happiness was not foremost in her friend's mind.

With a great effort Mary brought herself down to the earth Ц to the earth of romantic love from the heaven of professional triumph. True, the latter was hers, the former somebody else's. "I do beg your pardon, I do indeed. And do let me kiss you again, Cynthia darling Ц and you, dear Captain Alec, just once! And then you shall go off to dinner." She laughed excitedly. "Yes, I'm going to push you out."

"Let's go, Alec," said Cynthia, not unkindly, yet just a little pettishly. The great moment of her life Ц surely as great a moment as there had ever been in anybody's life?†Ц had hardly earned adequate recognition from Mary. As usual, her feelings and Alec's were as one. Before they passed to other and more important matters, when they drove off in the car, she said to Alec, "It seems to me that Mary's strangely interested in that Mr. Beaumaroy. Had she been dreaming of him, Alec?"



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