Herbert Jenkins.

Patricia Brent, Spinster



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II

"It is only the impecunious who are constrained to be modest," remarked Elton as the four sat smoking in Bowen's room after dinner.

"Is that an apology, or merely a statement of fact?" asked Lady Tanagra.

"I think," remarked Patricia quietly, "that it is an apology."

Elton looked across at her with one of those quick movements of his eyes that showed how alert his mind was, in spite of the languid ease of his manner.

"And now," continued Patricia, "I have something very important to say to you all."

"Oh!" groaned Lady Tanagra, "spare me from the self-importance of the newly-engaged girl."

"It has come to my knowledge, Tanagra," proceeded Patricia, "that you and Mr. Elton did deliberately and wittingly conspire together against my peace of mind and happiness. There!" she added, "that's almost legal in its ambiguity, isn't it?"

Lady Tanagra and Elton exchanged glances.

"What do you mean?" demanded Lady Tanagra gaily.

Patricia explained that she had extracted from Bowen the whole story. Lady Tanagra looked reproachfully at her brother. Then turning to Patricia she said with unwonted seriousness:

"I saw that was the only way to – to – well get you for a sister-in-law and," she paused a moment uncertainly. "I knew you were the only girl for that silly old thing there, who was blundering up the whole business."

"Your mania for interfering in other people's affairs will be your ruin, Tanagra," said Patricia as she turned to Elton, her look clearly enquiring if he had any excuse to offer.

"The old Garden of Eden answer," he said. "A woman tempted me."

"Then we will apply the old Garden of Eden punishment," announced Patricia.

Elton, who was the first to grasp her meaning, looked anxiously at Lady Tanagra, who with knitted brows was endeavouring to penetrate to Patricia's meaning. Bowen was obviously at sea. Suddenly Lady Tanagra's face flamed and her eyes dropped. Elton stroked the back of his head, a habit he had when preoccupied – he was never nervous.

"You two," continued Patricia, now thoroughly enjoying herself, "have precipitated yourselves into my most private affairs, and in return I am going to take a hand in yours. Peter has asked me when I will marry him. I said I would tell him after dinner this evening."

Bowen looked across at her eagerly, Elton lit another cigarette, Lady Tanagra toyed nervously with her amber cigarette-holder.

"I will marry Peter," announced Patricia, "when you, Tanagra," she paused slightly, "marry Godfrey Elton."

Lady Tanagra looked up with a startled cry. Her eyes were wide with something that seemed almost fear, then without warning she turned and buried her head in a cushion and burst into uncontrollable sobbing.

Bowen started up. With a swift movement Patricia went over to his side and, before he knew what was happening, he was in the corridor stuttering his astonishment to Patricia.

For an hour the two sat in the lounge below, talking and listening to the band.

Patricia explained to Bowen how from the first she had known that Elton and Tanagra were in love.

"But we've known him all our lives!" expostulated Bowen.

"The very thing that blinded you all to a most obvious fact."

"But why didn't he – ?" began Bowen.

"Because of her money," explained Patricia. "Anyhow," she continued gaily, "I had lost my own tail, and I wasn't going to see Tanagra wagging hers before my eyes. Now let's go up and see what has happened."

Just as Bowen's hand was on the handle of the sitting-room door, Patricia cried out that she had dropped a ring. When they entered the room Elton and Lady Tanagra were standing facing the door. One glance at their faces, told Patricia all she wanted to know. Without a word Elton came forward and bending low, kissed her hand. There was something so touching in his act of deference that Patricia felt her throat contract.

She went across to Lady Tanagra and put her arm round her.

"You darling!" whispered Lady Tanagra. "How clever of you to know."

"I knew the first time I saw you together," whispered Patricia.

Lady Tanagra hugged her.

"And now we must all run round to Grosvenor Square. Poor Mother – what a surprise for her!"

III

Elton's medical board took a more serious view of his state of health than was anticipated, and he was temporarily given an appointment in the Intelligence Department. Bowen's application to be allowed to rejoin his regiment was refused, and thus the way was cleared for the double wedding that took place at St. Margaret's, Westminster.

Patricia was given away by the Duke of Gayton. Lady Peggy declared that it would rank as the most heroic act he had ever performed. Mr. Triggs reached the highest sartorial pinnacle of his career in a light grey, almost white frock-coated suit with a high hat to match, a white waistcoat, and a white satin tie. As Elton expressed it, he looked like a musical-comedy conception of a bookmaker turned philanthropist.

Galvin House was there in force. Even Gustave obtained an hour off and, with a large white rose in his button-hole, beamed on everyone and everything with the utmost impartiality. Miss Brent, like Achilles, sulked in her tent.

"The only two men I ever loved," wailed Lady Peggy to a friend, "and both gone at one shot."

"She's a lucky girl," said an old dowager, "and only a secretary."

"Some girl. What!" muttered an embryo field-marshal to a one-pip strategist in the uniform of the Irish Guards, who concurred with an emphatic, "Lucky devil!"

At Galvin House for the rest of the chapter they talked, dreamed and lived the Bowen-Brent marriage. It was the one ineffaceable sunspot in the greyness of their lives.

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