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CHAPTER XVII HERALDS OF GREAT TIDINGS
Bob Otway and Dick Fenton were coming down the Vermala slopes together, when they espied the "little widow" on the path below the hotel. Her appearance reminded them that more than a week had passed since they had seen her at the chalet, and that it had been a time of events never to be forgotten. To be candid, the boys had changed very much during these wonder-working days. They had even come, as Bob admitted ruefully, to speak of such mysteries as drainage and water supply. The realities were gripping them and romance already cried out.

"Why, it's Lady Delayne, Bob—don't you see her? We really ought to pull up and tell her what has happened."

Bob agreed, and, as a testimony to his approval, did a wonderful telemarque which came near to dashing out his brains against a tree. It was just twelve o'clock of a glorious day, and both the boys hungering for lunch.

But they could not pass by Lily Delayne, even at the bidding of a mountain appetite, and so they shot down wildly to the path and confronted her, as two loping bears emerging suddenly upon their prey.

Lily was dressed in black, and wore a wide motor hat and a heavy veil. For an instant she smiled kindly upon the boys, then relapsed to that pensive air which seemed inseparable from her natural mood.

"Why," she said, "here are the truants. Let me see, ten days, yes, just ten days since the embassy, is it not, Mr. Otway? And black silence all this time; now, really, is not that ingratitude?"

Bob admitted that it was; Dick hung his head and looked sheepish.

"You see," said the former, "we found it was all right, and so we didn't want to trouble you. It's a beastly thing to have to speak about money, and I wouldn't have any girl believe that it's her money I want. When I heard from Mrs. Rider that Nellie had three hundred a year, I knew we could just rub along, and what more does any fellow want? Of course, we can't keep a motor on that, and I shall have to play golf once a week, instead of twice. But it's something to be able to pay your way these hard times, and the fellow who can't give up something for the sake of a pretty girl isn't much good."

Dick was more explicit.

"I'm rather sorry Marjory has the money," he said with conviction. "I don't believe marriages are made in heaven, or that sort of nonsense; but I do believe that young people should be content to start in a small way, and that if a man is to get on, his own brains should push him. It can't be helped, of course, and Mrs. Rider is so pleased about it that I believe she'd double their allowance for a nod. She's flirting like one o'clock with old Gordon Snagg, and it wouldn't astound me if she married him."

"And struck another!" interposed Bob, whose alternations of melancholy and gladness were a delight to hear. Lily was so much amused by them that she encouraged him to talk; and saying that she, also, was returning to lunch, they all set off down the mountain together.

"We're going to live out at Hampstead to begin with," Bob explained, cheerily. "I suppose it must be flats, for it won't run to a house. Dick thinks we might share a big one, but I know the girls would quarrel, and when sisters do quarrel, then you hear things. I shall go into a motor-car business, and open a garage somewhere. Dick is going to write books when he can afford the paper—and I'm sorry for Thackeray and those fellows. Perhaps you'll come and see us when we're settled down, though I say it's the settling up that's the trouble. Hampstead's not a bad place, and they don't charge anything for the empty ginger-beer bottles on the Heath. I wonder if you really would come, Lady Delayne?"

Lily said it would be a pleasure to do so, though her secret doubt as to the establishment of this particular ménage remained unspoken. Concerning Dick, however, she had no afterthought. He had grown sentimental in an hour, and saw nothing but a vision of Marjory in his brightest heaven.

"I've always wanted to write a book," he said, "but a man needs a spur. It's impossible for a fellow to do anything when he's a bachelor and men are coming in every five minutes to look over his shoulder. I could have finished a play last year, if it hadn't been for the Scratch Medal at Neasden, but I was so keen to win it that I never got further than the prologue. Now, however, I mean to take my coat off."

"And to fly—like Benny, the wonderful Benny," Bob added. He was surprised to learn that her ladyship had heard nothing of this. Did she not know that a regular mob was expected at the Palace to-morrow to see that amazing hero, Mr. Benjamin Benson, try for the great prize offered by the Daily Recorder of London? Well, it was so. They were even making up beds on the billiard table, and what sort of a game was a man expected to play on a mattress?

"It's the most amazing get-back I ever heard of," he ran on, delighted to interest her so much. "Benny's the last man in Switzerland we should have looked to for this, and here he is, cock-a-whoop in the papers, and as famous as a prize-fighter. In London they're talking of nothing else. He's invented a new kind of aeroplane, and one which must be the machine of the future, so they say. That's why he didn't come into the hotel. We thought him a secret kind of bird, and all the time he was just working away to bag the £10,000 offered by the London editor. If he gets it, it will be an eye-opener; but old Gordon Snagg, who has been hanging about the chalet, declares he will get it, and that he deserves to. Don't you see, Lady Delayne, that Benny has been the ghost? It was his machine over the Zaat which scared the people so. Fancy, old Benny—mustn't he have a head, and didn't he think a lot when he heard us talking about him?"

Dick took a more serious view of it.

"Benny is a genius," was his testimony. "He's just one of those born strong men you can't keep back. If we had more of him in England, there wouldn't be all this talk about decadence. We're just falling behind as pioneers, and that's the whole truth. If you speak to the manufacturers about it, they say it doesn't matter, because we can always imitate the foreigners when they have invented things. I'm sure that's all nonsense. The same brains which lead the way will hold it in the long run. Look how long it took us to overtake the French in the motor-car business; have we done it even now? Benny is one of our national assets, and if he succeeds, no honour is too big for him."

"Then you think he will succeed, Mr. Fenton?"

Dick shook his head.

"Bob knows more about machinery—he'll tell you. If it depends on the man and not on a bag of tricks, I'm sure he will succeed. That remains to be seen: we shall know to-morrow, anyway."

"And make a night of it if our man wins," Bob added with conviction. More than that he was reticent to s............
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