CUPID IN LEADING STRINGS.
"It's an infernal shame
"I call it common
"Call it what you please, Malet. I deny
to keep back my money."
"Right? Your father's will gives me every right
. If I approve
of your marriage
, the money will be paid down on your wedding day."
"But you don't approve
"Certainly not. Brenda Scarse is not the wife for you, Harold."
"That's my business."
"Mine also--under the will. Come, come now; don't lose your temper
They were in the library of Holt Manor. It was a sombre, monkish room; almost ascetic
in its severity
. Bookcases and furniture were of black oak, carpet and curtains of a deep red color; and windows of stained glass subdued
the light suitably for study
. But on this occasion
the windows were open to the brilliant
daylight of an August afternoon, and shafts of golden sunshine poured into the room. From the terrace
stretching before the house, vast
woods sloped toward Chippingholt village
, where red-roofed houses clustered round a brawling stream
, and rose again on the further side to sweep to the distant
hills in unbroken masses of green. Manor and village
took their Teutonic names from these forests, and buried in greenery, might
have passed as the domain
of the Sleeping Beauty. Her palace
girdled by just such a wood.
But this sylvan
beauty did not appeal
to the pair
in the library. The stout
, domineering owner of the Manor who trimmed his nails and smiled blandly had the stronger position of the two, and he knew it well--so well that he could afford
the virile wrath
of his ward
. Strictly speaking, Captain Burton was not a ward
, if that word implies minority
. He was thirty years of age, in a lancer regiment
, and possessed of an income sufficient
him from the control
of his cousin Gilbert. Still, though possible
for one, his income
for two, and if Gilbert chose he could increase
by twenty thousand pounds. But the stumbling-block was the condition
attached to the disposal
of the money. Only if Malet approved of the prospective
bride was he to part with the legacy
. As such he did not approve
of Brenda Scarse, so matters were at a standstill
. Nor could Harold well see how he was to move them. Finding all his rage
of no avail
, he gradually subsided and had recourse
to methods more pacific
"Let me understand
clearly," he said, taking a seat with a resolute
air. "Independent of my three hundred a year, you hold twenty thousand pounds of my money."
"To be correct," replied Malet in a genial tone
, "I hold forty thousand pounds, to be equally shared between you and your brother Wilfred when you marry. The three hundred a year which you each possess
I have nothing to do with."
"Well, I want to marry, and----"
"You do--against my wishes. If I do not approve
of your choice
not pay you this money. I can hold it until I die."
"And then?" asked Harold, sharply
Gilbert shrugged his burly
shoulders. "Then it goes to you and Wilfred direct. There is no provision
made for my handing it over to another trustee. You are bound
to get your share in the long run; but I am not thinking of dying just yet, my dear Harold."
"Confound your impudence
," shouted Harold, his dark face crimson
with anger. "You're only fifteen years older than I am. At the age of thirty I am surely capable
of selecting my own wife!"
"I hardly think so, when you select
"What the deuce
have you against her?"
"Nothing, personally. She is a nice girl, a very nice girl, but poor. A man of your tastes should marry money. Brenda is well enough, for herself," continued Malet, with odious familiarity
, for which Harold could have struck him, "but her father!--Stuart Scarse is a Little Englander!"
Captain Burton was taken aback
at the irrelevancy of this . "What the devil has that to do with her or me?" he demanded bluntly.
"Everything, if you love your country. You belong to a Conservative family. You are a soldier
, and the time is coming when we must all rally
round the flag
the Empire. Scarse is a member of that pernicious
band which desires the dismemberment of our glorious
"Oh, I'm sick of this!" Harold jumped up and crammed on his cap. "Your political
ideas have nothing to do with my marriage
. You have no reason
to Miss Scarse. Once for all, will you pay me this money?"
"No, I will not. I shall not agree
to your marrying the daughter of a Little Englander."
"Then I shall throw
Malet looked uneasy
, but sneered. "By all means, if you want the whole forty thousand to go to fee the lawyers! But, before you risk
losing your money, let me advise
you to make sure of Miss Brenda Scarse!"
"What do you mean
"Ask Mr. van Zwieten, who is staying with her father."
"Oh!" said Harold, contemptuously
, "Brenda has told me all about him. Her father wants her to marry him, and it is true he is in love with her; but Brenda loves me, and will never consent
to become the wife of that Boer!
"Van Zwieten is no Boer. He is a Dutchman, born in Amsterdam."
"And a friend of yours," sneered Captain Burton. "He is no friend of mine
!" shouted Malet, somewhat ruffled. "I detest
the man as much as I do Scarse. If----"
"Look here, Gilbert, I don't want any more of this. I trust
Brenda, and I intend
to marry her."
"Very good. Then you'll have to starve
on your three hundred a year."
to give me the money?"
"Then I'm glad I don't live under your roof and can tell you what I think of you. You are a mean hound
, Malet--keep back, or I'll knock you down. Yes, a mean hound
! This is not your real reason
for refusing to pay me this money. I'll go up to town to-day and have your trusteeship inquired into."
Gilbert changed color and looked dangerous
. "You can act as you please, Harold; but recollect
that my powers are very clearly defined under the will. I am not accountable
to you or to Wilfred or to any one else for the money. I have no need
"That we shall see." Harold opened the door and looked back. "This is the last time I shall enter your house. You meddle
with my private
affairs, you keep back money rightfully belonging to me on the most frivolous pretext
, and, in fact
, make yourself objectionable
in every way; but, I warn
you, the law will force
you to alter
"The law cannot touch me!" cried Gilbert, furiously
. "I can account
for the money and pay it when it should be paid. Out of my house----!"
"I am going--and, see here, Gilbert Malet, if the law affords me no redress
, I shall take it into my own hands. Yes, you may well turn pale
. I'll make it hot for you--you swindler
!" and Captain Burton, banging the door, marched out of the house, furious
at his helpless position.
Left alone, Malet wiped his bald
forehead and sank into a chair. "Pooh!" he muttered, striving to reassure
himself. "He can do nothing. I am his cousin. My honor
is his honor
. I'm in pretty deep water, but I'll get ashore
yet. There's only one way--only one!" Then Mr. Malet proceeded to cogitate
upon that one and only way, and the obstacles which prevented his taking it. His thoughts for the next half hour did not make for peace of mind
Meanwhile, Captain Burton, fuming with rage
, strode on through
the green woods to the lady of his love. They had arranged to meet and discuss
of this interview
. As Mr. Scarse did not approve
of his attentions toward his daughter, the cottage
where she dwelt was forbidden
ground to Harold. He was compelled, therefore, to meet her by stealth
in the woods. But the glorious
summer day made that no hardship
. He knew the precise
spot where Brenda would be waiting for him--under an ancient
oak, which had seen many generations of lovers--and he increased his pace
that he might
the sooner unburden to her his mind
. As he left the park and made his way through
the orchards which surrounded Chippingholt, he saw Mr. Scarse no great distance
"That's a queer get-up the old man's got on," muttered Harold, perplexed
at the wholly
of a snuff-colored greatcoat and a huge black scarf. "Never saw him in that rig
before. I wonder
what it means!"
As he came up within a dozen paces of the thin
, white-haired figure
, he was more than ever puzzled
, for he noticed that the black scarf was of crape--there must have been several
yards of it wound
round the old man's neck. It was undoubtedly
Mr. Scarse. There was no mistaking that clean-shaven, parchment-like visage
. Burton took off his cap in greeting, but did not speak. He knew the old man was not well-disposed toward him. Mr. Scarse looked blankly
at him and pressed on without sign of recognition
; and even though he had half expected
it, Captain Burton felt mortified at this cut direct.
"Brenda and I will have to marry without his consent
," he thought
; "never mind
But he did mind
. To marry a girl in the face of parental opposition
was all against his inclinations. The future
enough to him at the moment
, and his spirits were only further depressed
as the sky began to blacken over with portentous
clouds. Impressionable as he was, this endorsement
was full of meaning
for him in his then pessimistic
frame of mind
. The sunshine faded to a cold grey, the leaves overhead shivered, and seemed to wither
at the breath of the chill wind; and when he caught sight
of Brenda's white dress under the oak, her figure
. The darkling sky, the bitter
wind, the stealthy
meeting, the solitary figure
--all these things struck at his heart
, and it was a pale
and silent lover who kissed his sweetheart under the ancient
tree. His melancholy
communicated itself to Brenda.
"Bad news, dear--you have bad news," she murmured, looking into his downcast
face. "I can see it in your eyes."
They sat silent on the rustic
seat. The birds had ceased to sing, the sun to shine
, and the summer breeze
was cold--cold as their hearts and hands in that moment
They were a handsome couple
. The man tall, thin
-flanked, and soldiery of bearing
; dark eyes, dark hair, dark moustache, and a clean-cut, bronzed face, alert
, and full of intelligence
. Brenda was a stately
blonde, golden-haired, blue-eyed, and passionate
as one of those stormy
queens of the Nibelungen Lied, to whom love, insistent
, was as the breath of life. Both were filled with the exuberant vitality
of youth, fit
all obstacles, greatly daring
and resolutely courageous
. Yet, seated there, hand in hand, they were full of despondency
--even to cowardice
. Brenda felt that was so, and made an effort
herself and him.
"Come, dear," she said, kissing her lover, "the sun will shine
again. Things can't be so bad as to be past mending. He has refused?"
"Absolutely. He won't give me the money."
"On the ground that he does not approve
of me!" Harold nodded. "He tried to make out that you were in love with Van Zwieten!"
"Oh! he is so ready to stoop
to any meanness," said Brenda, scornfully. "I always disliked Mr. Malet. Perhaps my dislike
, for my father detests him."
"Of course. But those are strongest of all grounds for hatred. Religion and politics
have caused more trouble and more wars than--" she broke off suddenly
. "Of course you don't believe this about Mr. van Zwieten."
"Need you ask?" said Burton, tenderly. "The fellow is staying with you still?"
"Yes. He has been here for the last two days talking politics
with father, and worrying me. Thank goodness, he goes to-morrow!"
"Glad of it," growled Burton. "He is the Beast mentioned in Revelation. By the way, Brenda, who is Van Zwieten?"
Miss Scarse looked puzzled
. "A friend of my father's."
"Yes; but what is his position--where does he come from--how does he make his income
? There is something mysterious
about the fellow."
"He comes from Holland--he is a friend of Dr. Leyds--and he is shortly going out to fill some post under the Transvaal Government. That's all I know about him."
"He seems to have plenty
"Yes, he spends a good deal, to judge from what I saw of him in town last season. Then he is a popular
cricketer, you know."
"I know. But the idea of a foreigner
"Well, Mr. van Zwieten does, and very well too. You must have seen about his play in the papers. He is a great man at Lord's."
"All the same, he is a mystery
; and he is too much mixed up with the Boers to please me. If there is a war, I hope he'll be with them that I may have a shy
Brenda laughed, and pressed her lover's arm. "You silly boy, you are jealous
"I am, I am. Who wouldn't be jealous
of you? But this is not war, Brenda dear. Let us talk about ourselves. I can't get this twenty thousand pounds until Malet dies. I see nothing for it but to marry on my three hundred a year. I dare
say we'll scrape
"I have two hundred a year of my own," cried Brenda, vivaciously; "that makes ten pounds a week. We can easily manage
on that, dear."
"But your father?"
"Oh, he wants me to marry Mr. van Zwieten, of course," said she, with great scorn
. "So I must just do without his consent
, that's all. It sounds wrong, Harold, doesn't it? But my father has never done his duty
by me. Like most men who serve
, he has sacrificed his all to that. I was left to bring myself up as best I could and so I think I have the right
of myself. My father is nothing to me--you are everything."
"Dearest!" He kissed her. "Then let us marry--but no--" he broke off abruptly
. "If war should break out in South Africa I would have to leave you!"
"But I wouldn't be left," said Brenda, merrily. "I would go out with you--yes, to the front!"
"I'm afraid you couldn't do that."
"I could and I would. I would go officially
as a nurse. But, Harold, why don't you see your lawyer
about this money? He may find means to force
Mr. Malet to pay it to you."
to see him to-morrow, dearest. I am going up to town by the six train
this evening, though I confess
I don't like leaving you with this Van Zwieten."
"I think I can undertake
to keep Mr. van Zwieten at his distance
," said Brenda, quietly, "even though my father encourages him."
"I believe your father hates me," said Harold, gloomily, "He cut me just now."
"Cut you, dear; what do you mean
"Just what I say, Brenda. I met you father, and he cut me dead."
She stared at her lover in amazement
. "You can't possibly have seen my father," she said decisively. "He is ill with influenza
, and hasn't left his room for two days!"