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HOME > Biographical > The Man Who Found Himself > PART IV CHAPTER I THE GARDEN-PARTY
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Upton-On-Hill stands on a hogback of land running north and south, timbered with pines mostly, and commanding a view of half Wessex, not the Wessex of Thomas Hardy, however. You can see seven church spires from Upton, and the Roman road takes it in its sweep, becomes the Upton High Street for a moment, and passes on to be the Roman road again leading to the Downs and the distant sea.

It is a restful place, and in spring the shouting of the birds and the measured call of the cuckoo fills the village, mixing with the voice of the ever-talking pine-trees. In summer Upton sleeps amongst roses in an atmosphere of sunlight and drowsiness, sung to by the bees and the birds. The Rose Hotel stands, set back from the High Street, in its own grounds, and beside the Rose there are two other houses for refreshment, the Bricklayer's Arms and the Saracen's Head, of which more hereafter.

It is a pleasant place as well as a restful. Passing through it, people say, "Oh, what a dream!" living in it one is driven at last to admit there are dreams and dreams. It is not the place that forces this conviction but the people.

Just as the Roman road narrows at the beginning of the High Street, so the life of a stranger coming, say, from London, narrows at the beginning of his or her residence in Upton. If you are a villager you find yourself under a microscope with three hundred eyes at the eyepiece; if you are a genteel person, but without introductions, you find yourself the target of half a score of telescopes levelled at you by the residents.

Colonel Salmon—who owned the fishing rights of the trout-stream below hill—the Talbot-Tomsons, the Griffith-Smiths, the Grosvenor-Jones and the rest, all these, failing introductions, you will find to be passive resisters to your presence.

Now, caution towards strangers and snobbishness are two different things. The Uptonians are snobbish because, though you may be as beautiful as a dream or as innocent as a saint, you will be sniffed at and turned over; but if you are wealthy it is another matter, as in the case[Pg 193] of the Smyth-Smyths, who were neither beautiful nor innocent—but that is another story.

"The village is a mile further on," said Pugeot; "let's turn down here before we go to the hotel and have afternoon tea with my cousin. Randall, steer for The Nook."

The car was not the Dragon-Fly, but a huge closed limousine, with Mudd seated beside Randall, and inside, the rest of that social menagerie about to be landed on the residents of Upton upon the landing-stage of the social position of Dick Pugeot's cousin, Sir Squire Simpson.

All the introductions in the world could not be better than the personal introduction to the Resident of Upton by the Hon. Richard Pugeot.

They passed lodge gates and then up a pleasant drive to a big house-front, before which a small garden-party seemed to be going on; a big afternoon tea it was, and there were men in flannels, and girls in summer frocks, and discarded tennis racquets lying about, and the sight of all this gave Bobby a horrible turn.

Uncle Simon had been very quiet during the journey—happy but quiet—squeezed between the two women, but this was not the sort of place he wanted to land Uncle Simon in despite his[Pg 194] quietude and happiness. Mudd evidently also had qualms, for he kept looking back through the glass front of the car and seemed trying to catch Bobby's eye.

But there was no turning back.

The car swept along the drive, past the party on the lawn, and drew up at the front door. Then, as they bundled out, a tall old man, without a hat and dressed in grey tweed, detached himself from the lawn crowd and came towards them.

This was Sir Squire Simpson, Bart. His head was dome-shaped, and he had heavy eyelids that reminded one of half-closed shutters, and a face that seemed carved from old ivory—an extremely serious-looking person and a stately; but he was glad to see Pugeot, and he advanced with a hand outstretched and the ghost of an old-fashioned sort of smile.

"I've brought some friends down to stay at the hotel," said Pugeot, "and I thought we would drop in here for tea first. Didn't expect to find a party going on."

"Delighted," said the Squire.

He was introduced to "My friend, Mr. Pettigrew, Madame—er—de Rossignol, Mademoiselle de Rossignol, Mr. Ravenshaw."

Then the party moving towards the lawn,[Pg 195] they were all introduced to Lady Simpson, a harmless-looking individual who welcomed them and broke them up amongst her guests and gave them tea.

Bobby, detaching himself for a moment from the charms of Miss Squire Simpson, managed to get hold of Pugeot.

"I say," said he, "don't you think this may be a bit too much for uncle?"

"Oh, he's all right," said Pugeot; "can't come to any harm here. Look at him, he's quite happy."

Simon seemed hap............
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