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HOME > Classical Novels > White Motley > CHAPTER XIV THE GENDARME PHILIP
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Lily was usually an early riser, but the night of storm had wearied her, and it was nearly ten o'clock when she rang for her maid to bring her coffee.

This was the hour of the day she preferred to any other in a general way. Then she had letters from her English friends, and journals, often long delayed upon their voyage, but none the less welcome. To open the windows wide and breathe the air blowing straight into the room from the glaciers of the Weisshorn, to sup tea at her leisure and hear of this person and of that who groped their muggy way in London's chill atmosphere, were pleasures of the day she would not readily forgo. Just as the ascetic believes that the joy of the blessed is to rejoice upon the sufferings of the damned, so did Lily realise her own opportunities the better when contemplating the despair of the pilgrims she had quitted. London was "awful," one woman said; "you could hardly see how badly dressed the other women were."

The morning of the flight brought Louise to the room in a querulous mood. She had quite expected that there would be gendarmes in the kitchen, and was disappointed when none came. True, a postman had told her strange things and had hinted at this and that in a way which irritated her dull understanding; but of news she had none, save that which Madame's letters implied—and, to be sure, it was a pity she could not read them. Failing the opportunity, she banged them down on the bed as an act of protest, and with the intimation that the sun would close the skating rink at twelve, bounced out of the room with no more grace than she had bounced in.

There were three letters for Lily, all addressed to Mrs. Kennaird; but of the three, the handwriting of one alone arrested her immediate attention. This was from her father, Sir Frederick Kennaird; a long and rambling epistle, expressing all the petulance, the anger and the selfishness of a rich man called upon to surrender a portion of his riches.

Reciting the family story from the moment when she had married Luton Delayne, his first charge concerned her choice of such a man, when it ignored altogether the paternal satisfaction which the marriage had awakened at the moment of its inception. These particular Delaynes, Sir Frederick wrote, had been bad eggs since old General Delayne of Huddlesmere played the knave in the American War, and was shot by a Yankee whose house he had outraged. Nothing was to be hoped from such a family; nor was anything more to be hoped from the writer, should a further request on Luton's behalf be made.

As to Bothand and Co. and the alleged fraud, Sir Frederick had little sympathy for the West-End jewellers, the majority of whom he declared to be rascals who battened on the folly and the vanity of unfledged boys and vulgar parvenues. Luton's hint that his wife's name had been used was received with the derision which, perhaps, it deserved. It was a device, he said, to extort money under a species of blackmail permitted by the law. Should such an allegation be made seriously, it would be met in a way which would surprise these people. Luton's debt was another thing, and not to be taken lightly. The amount of it he considered incredible; this firm must be nothing less than money-lenders in disguise, and should be treated accordingly. Sir Frederick promised to set his solicitors, Welis and Welis, to work to see what could be done. At the same time, he concluded his reference to an unpleasant affair by the assurance that his son-in-law would yet make a beggar of him, and that Lily owed it to him to see that at his age some consideration was shown for a man who had done so much for them both.

She did not fall to observe that her father said nothing upon the more vital matter of her own unhappiness; nor did he invite her to Benham Priory, whither he had taken his young American wife, Edna. Lily did not need this oversight to assure her that the Priory had ceased to be her home, and that of all the houses she knew, there would the coldest welcome be offered her. These letters from Sir Frederick were so stereotyped in their expressions that they provoked no longer those bitter memories once associated with them, He had ceased to remember any obligations toward his children save those which their importunities thrust upon him; to write to him, who should have been her best friend, had become a humiliation.

She crushed the letter in her hand, and pulling on her dressing gown, she went to the window and looked out. The superb morning had sent a merry throng to the skating rink, where Dr. Orange and Bess Bethune were delighting an envious crowd by a sedate performance in the "English" school; while upon the opposite side of the rink, Keith Rivers pirouetted and pranced in the "International" fashion, to the satisfaction of the inexpert, who thought the English manner dull. A few beginners were in remote corners, and were as ungoverned ships upon a crowded waterway; but they fell in solemn silence, for it is heresy here to laugh at that ignorance which, even when firmly seated, is so far from bliss.

Cheek by jowl with the skating rink lay the little lake whereon the curlers performed. From this a babel of sounds arose; an awful jargon from which the Esperanto school would have fled in terrified despair. Generals of divisions here roared at soulless "stanes," as though their salvation depended upon a besom. Cries of "bring her along," "up cows," "well sweepit," or "man, you're a curler," rent the air as the battle cries of warriors. In the intervals of storm there fell the calm of comedy. "Will ye crack an egg on this, Sandy, dear?" a Scotchman was heard to remark; but when Sandy did not "crack an egg" upon it, his compatriot roared: "Ah! ye red-headed little deevil, wait till I get doun the rink and catch haud o' ye"—a threat which occasioned no surprise, and hardly moved a member of the solemn-faced company to the ghost of a sad smile.

Merry or solemn, it certainly was a scene to remember and to dwell upon. All these healthy people might have been groping in the London fogs but for those wonder-workers who rediscovered Switzerland some twenty years ago. Some of them had been so groping perhaps but yesterday; and here they were, basking in a sunshine hardly known to an English July, reborn to energies they had forgotten, playing the fool in the finest spirit of the Horatian precept. Lily said it was wonderful; and then it occurred to her that she had no part or lot in it. The events of the night were remembered in an instant of wonder that she could have forgotten them even during this idle hour.

In one way the placid ebb and flow of the tides of recreation reassured her. She feared no longer an aftermath of the fracas at Vermala—or, verily, there would be some bruit of it at this early hour of the day. It was impossible for her to believe that a tragedy of moment would be attended in this remote place by no overt manifestation; and of that there was not a sign. To-day, as yesterday, and all the days, the pilgrims set out for the heights on skis; the skaters waltzed and pirouetted to the strains of the tenth-rate orchestra generously provided by the proprietaire; the curlers heaved the "stanes" and complained of the sweltering sunshine. None of these suggested a knowledge of drama, remote or intimate. One man alone, the little gendarme, Philip, could have spoken, and he had already passed on toward the Park Hotel. These were hours of respite for this gracious lady, and her gratitude was not feigned.

As to Luton, she had grown accustomed to his habit of procrastination and his incurable levity of life. Any excuse, however trivial, would have kept him from her last night; and she had to admit that he might have been physically unable to come, for this also was one of the shameful secrets. In the latter case, he would visit her this morning; and her imagination already depicted him, sitting in the chair by the window, and pulling ceaselessly at his long red moustache, while he asked her news and complained that it was not what he had expected.

Here, of course, she was at fault, and the only visitor who presented himself at the chalet was Mr. Benjamin Benson, who, in the language of seamen, had "cleaned himself" and donned a suit of clothes which astonished both his brother and the abbé. To their many questions, Benny replied that the storm kept him at Sierre, and that the "stuff" had not come; and when this was said, he heard their tale about the "little widow," and her desire to see him, and marched off to the chalet without another word. He found her dressed rather prettily in a heavy jacket of white wool and a violet hat which showed the many perfections of her pale face, and did not hide the beauty of her eyes. Benny thought her so beautiful that he was almost afraid to look her in the face when he spoke to her; but he knew that he had a part to play, and must play it bravely if he would succeed.

She met him at ............
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