Maud had left Reggie by the time Alice Faraday reached him, and
that ardent youth was sitting on a stone seat, smoking a cigarette
and entertaining himself with meditations in which thoughts of
Alice competed for precedence with graver reflections connected
with the subject of the correct stance for his approach-shots.
Reggie's was a troubled spirit these days. He was in love, and he
had developed a bad slice with his mid-iron. He was practically a
soul in torment.
"Lady Caroline asked me to tell you that she wishes to speak to
you, Mr. Byng."
Reggie leaped from his seat.
"Hullo-ullo-ullo! There you are! I mean to say, what?"
He was conscious, as was his custom in her presence, of a warm,
prickly sensation in the small of the back. Some kind of
elephantiasis seemed to have attacked his hands and feet, swelling
them to enormous proportions. He wished profoundly that he could
get rid of his habit of yelping with nervous laughter whenever he
encountered the girl of his dreams. It was calculated to give her a
wrong impression of a chap--make her think him a fearful chump and
"Lady Caroline is leaving by the twelve-fifteen."
"That's good! What I mean to say is--oh, she is, is she? I see
what you mean." The absolute necessity of saying something at least
moderately coherent gripped him. He rallied his forces. "You
wouldn't care to come for a stroll, after I've seen the mater, or a
row on the lake, or any rot like that, would you?"
"Thank you very much, but I must go in and help Lord Marshmoreton
with his book."
"What a rotten--I mean, what a dam' shame!"
The pity of it tore at Reggie's heart strings. He burned with
generous wrath against Lord Marshmoreton, that modern Simon Legree,
who used his capitalistic power to make a slave of this girl and
keep her toiling indoors when all the world was sunshine.
"Shall I go and ask him if you can't put it off till after dinner?"
"Oh, no, thanks very much. I'm sure Lord Marshmoreton wouldn't
dream of it."
She passed on with a pleasant smile. When he had recovered from the
effect of this Reggie proceeded slowly to the upper level to meet
"Hullo, mater. Pretty fit and so forth? What did you want to see me
"Well, Reggie, what is the news?"
"Eh? What? News? Didn't you get hold of a paper at breakfast?
Nothing much in it. Tam Duggan beat Alec Fraser three up and two to
play at Prestwick. I didn't notice anything else much. There's a
new musical comedy at the Regal. Opened last night, and seems to be
just like mother makes. The Morning Post gave it a topping notice.
I must trickle up to town and see it some time this week."
Lady Caroline frowned. This slowness in the uptake, coming so soon
after her brother's inattention, displeased her.
"No, no, no. I mean you and Maud have been talking to each other
for quite a long time, and she seemed very interested in what you
were saying. I hoped you might have some good news for me."
Reggie's face brightened. He caught her drift.
"Oh, ah, yes, I see what you mean. No, there wasn't anything of
that sort or shape or order."
"What were you saying to her, then, that interested her so much?"
"I was explaining how I landed dead on the pin with my spoon out of
a sand-trap at the eleventh hole yesterday. It certainly was a
pretty ripe shot, considering. I'd sliced into this baby bunker,
don't you know; I simply can't keep 'em straight with the iron
nowadays--and there the pill was, grinning up at me from the sand.
Of course, strictly speaking, I ought to have used a niblick, but--
"Do you mean to say, Reggie, that, with such an excellent
opportunity, you did not ask Maud to marry you?"
"I see what you mean. Well, as a matter of absolute fact, I, as it
Lady Caroline uttered a wordless sound.
"By the way, mater," said Reggie, "I forgot to tell you about that.
It's all off."
"Absolutely. You see, it appears there's a chappie unknown for whom
Maud has an absolute pash. It seems she met this sportsman up in
Wales last summer. She was caught in the rain, and he happened to
be passing and rallied round with his rain-coat, and one thing led
to another. Always raining in Wales, what! Good fishing, though,
here and there. Well, what I mean is, this cove was so deucedly
civil, and all that, that now she won't look at anybody else. He's
the blue-eyed boy, and everybody else is an also-ran, with about as
much chance as a blind man with one arm trying to get out of a
bunker with a tooth-pick."
"What perfect nonsense! I know all about that affair. It was just a
passing fancy that never meant anything. Maud has got over that
"She didn't seem to think so."
"Now, Reggie," said Lady Caroline tensely, "please listen to me.
You know that the castle will be full of people in a day or two for
Percy's coming-of-age, and this next few days may be your last
chance of having a real, long, private talk with Maud. I shall be
seriously annoyed if you neglect this opportunity. There is no
excuse for the way you are behaving. Maud is a charming girl--"
"Oh, absolutely! One of the best."
"Very well, then!"
"But, mater, what I mean to say is--"
"I don't want any more temporizing, Reggie!"
"No, no! Absolutely not!" said Reggie dutifully, wishing he knew
what the word meant, and wishing also that life had not become so
"Now, this afternoon, why should you not take Maud for a long ride
in your car?"
Reggie grew more cheerful. At least he had an answer for that.
"Can't be done, I'm afraid. I've got to motor into town to meet
Percy. He's arriving from Oxford this morning. I promised to meet
him in town and tool him back in the car."
"I see. Well, then, why couldn't you--?"
"I say, mater, dear old soul," said Reggie hastily, "I think you'd
better tear yourself away and what not. If you're catching the
twelve-fifteen, you ought to be staggering round to see you haven't
forgotten anything. There's the car coming round now."
"I wish now I had decided to go by a later train."
"No, no, mustn't miss the twelve-fifteen. Good, fruity train.
Everybody speaks well of it. Well, see you anon, mater. I think
you'd better run like a hare."
"You will remember what I said?"
"Good-bye, then. I shall be back tomorrow."