Joan, meanwhile, enterenched behind her magazine, was also busy
with her thoughts. She was not reading the magazine: she held it
before her as a protection, knowing that, if she laid it down, Ashe
would begin to talk. And just at present she had no desire for
conversation. She, like Ashe, was contemplating the immediate
future, but unlike him was not doing so with much pleasure. She
was regretting heartily that she had not resisted the temptation
to uplift this young man, and wishing that she had left him to
wallow in the slothful peace in which she had found him.
It is curious how frequently in this world our attempts to
stimulate and uplift swoop back on us and smite us like
boomerangs. Ashe's presence was the direct outcome of her lecture
on Enterprise, and it added a complication to an already
She did her best to be fair to Ashe. It was not his fault that he
was about to try to deprive her of five thousand dollars, which
she looked upon as her personal property. But, illogically, she found
herself feeling a little hostile.
She glanced furtively at him over the magazine, choosing by ill
chance a moment when he had just directed his gaze at her. Their
eyes met, and there was nothing for it but to talk. So she tucked
away her hostility in a corner of her mind, where she could find
it again when she wanted it, and prepared for the time being to
be friendly. After all, except for the fact that he was her
rival, this was a pleasant and amusing young man, and one for
whom, till he made the announcement which had changed her whole
attitude toward him, she had entertained a distinct feeling of
Nothing warmer. There was something about him which made her feel that she would
have liked to stroke his hair in a motherly way and straighten
his tie, and have cozy chats with him in darkened rooms by the
light of open fires, and make him tell her his inmost thoughts,
and stimulate him to do something really worth-while with his
life: but this, she held, was merely the instinct of a generous
nature to be kind and helpful even to a comparative stranger.
"Well, Mr. Marson," she said, "Here we are!"
"Exactly what I was thinking," said Ashe.
He was conscious of a marked increase in the exhilaration the
starting of the expedition had brought to him. At the back of his
mind, he realized there had been all along a kind of wistful
resentment at the change in this girl's manner toward him.
During the brief conversation when he had told her of his having
secured his present situation, and later, only a few minutes
back, on the platform of Paddington Station, he had sensed a
coldness, a certain hostility, so different from her pleasant
friendliness at their first meeting.
She had returned now to her earlier manner and he was surprised
at the difference it made. He felt somehow younger, more alive.
The lilt of the train's rattle changed to a gay ragtime. This was
curious, because Joan was nothing more than a friend. He was not
in love with her. One does not fall in love with a girl whom one
has met only three times. One is attracted--yes; but one does not
fall in love.
A moment's reflection enabled him to diagnose his sensations
correctly. This odd impulse to leap across the compartment and
kiss Joan was not love. It was merely the natural desire of a
good-hearted young man to be decently chummy with his species.
"Well, what do you think of it all, Mr. Marson?" said Joan. "Are
you sorry or glad that you let me persuade you to do this
perfectly mad thing? I feel responsible for you, you know. If it
had not been for me you would have been comfortably in Arundell
Street, writing your 'Wand of Death'."
"You don't feel any misgivings now that you are actually
committed to domestic service?"
Joan, against her will, smiled approval on this uncompromising
attitude. This young man might be her rival, but his demeanour on
the eve of perilous times appealed to her. That was the spirit
she liked and admired, that reckless acceptance of whatever might
come. It was the spirit in which she herself had gone into the
affair, and she was pleased to find that it animated Ashe
also. Though, to be sure, it had its drawbacks. It made his
rivalry the more dangerous.
This reflection injected a touch of the old hostility into her manner.
"I wonder whether you will continue to feel so brave."
"What do you mean?"
Joan perceived that she was in danger of going too far. She had
no wish to unmask Ashe at the expense of revealing her own
secret. She must resist the temptation to hint that she had
"I meant," she said quickly, "that from what I have seen of him
Mr. Peters seems likely to be a rather trying man to work for."
Ashe's face cleared. For a moment he had almost suspected that
she had guessed his errand.
"Yes. I imagine he will be. He is what you might call
quick-tempered. He has dyspepsia, you know."
"What he wants is plenty of fresh air and no cigars, and a
regular course of those Larsen exercises which amused you so
"Are you going to try and persuade Mr. Peters to twist himself
about like that? Do let me see it if you do."
"I wish I could."
"Do suggest it to him."
"Don't you think he would resent it from a valet?"
"I keep forgetting that you are a valet. You look so unlike one."
"Old Peters didn't think so. He rather complimented me on my
appearance. He said I was ordinary looking."
"I shouldn't have called you that. You look so very strong and
"Surely there are muscular valets?"
"Well yes, I suppose there are."
Ashe looked at her. He was thinking that never in his life had he
seen a girl so amazingly pretty. What it was that she had done to
herself was beyond him; but something, some trick of dress, had
given her a touch of the demure that made her irresistible. She
was dressed in sober black, the ideal background for her
"While on the subject," he said, "I suppose you know you don't
look in the least like a lady's maid? You look like a disguised
"That's very nice of you, Mr. Marson, but you're quite wrong.
Anyone could tell I was a lady's maid, a mile away. You aren't
criticizing the dress, surely?"
"The dress is all right. It's the general effect. I don't think
your expression is right. It's--it's--there's too much attack in
it. You aren't meek enough."
"Meek! Have you ever seen a lady's maid, Mr. Marson?"
"Why, no, now that I come to think of it, I don't believe I
"Well, let me tell you that meekness is her last quality. Why
should she be meek? Doesn't she go in after the Groom of the
"Go in? Go in where?"
She smiled at the sight of his bewildered face.
"I'm afraid you don't know much about the etiquette of the new
world you have entered so rashly. Didn't you know that the rules
of precedence among the servants of a big house are
more rigid and complicated than in Society?"
"I'm not joking. You try going in to dinner out of your proper
place when we get to Blandings, and see what happens. A public
rebuke from the butler is the least that you could expect."
A bead of perspiration appeared on Ashe's forehead.
"My God!" he whispered. "If a butler publicly rebuked me I think
I should commit suicide. I couldn't survive it."
He stared with fallen jaw into the abyss of horror into which
he had leaped so light-heartedly. The Servant Problem, on this
large scale, had been non-existent for him until now. In the days
of his youth, at Much Middleford, Salop, his needs had been
ministered to by a muscular Irishwoman. Later, at Oxford, there had
been his "scout" and his bedmaker, harmless persons both,
provided you locked up your whisky. And in London, his last
phase, a succession of servitors of the type of the dishevelled
maid at No 7A, had tended him. That, dotted about the
land, there were houses in
which larger staffs of domestics were maintained, he had been
vaguely aware. Indeed, in "Gridley Quayle, Investigator, The
Adventure of the Missing Marquis" (number four of the series) he
had drawn a picture of the home-life of a Duke, in which a butler
and two powdered footmen had played their parts. But he had had
no idea that rigid and complicated rules of etiquette swayed the
private lives of these individuals. If he had given the matter a
thought, he had supposed that, when the dinner-hour arrived, the
butler and the two footmen would troop into the kitchen and
squash in at the table wherever they found room.
"Tell me," he said, "tell me all you know. I feel as if I had
escaped a frightful disaster."
"You probably have. I don't suppose there is anything so terrible
as a snub from a butler."
"If there is I can't think of it. When I was at Oxford, I used to
go and stay with a friend of mine who had a butler who looked
like a Roman emperor in swallow-tails. He terrified me. I used to
grovel to the man. Please give me all the tips you can."
"Well, as Mr Peters' valet, I suppose you will be rather a big
"I shan't feel it."
"However large the house-party is, Mr Peters is sure to be the
principal guest, so your standing will be correspondingly
magnificent. You come after the butler, the housekeeper, the
groom of the chambers, Lord Emsworth's valet, Lady Ann
Warblington's lady's maid--"
"Who is she?"
"Lady Ann? Lord Emsworth's sister. She has lived with him since
his wife died. What was I saying? Oh, yes! After them come the
honorable Frederick Threepwood's valet and myself, and then you."
"I'm not so high up then, after all?"
"Yes, you are. There's a whole crowd who come after you. It all
depends on how many other guests there are besides Mr Peters."
"I suppose I charge in at the head of a drove of housemaids and
"My dear Mr Marson, if a housemaid or a scullery-maid tried to
get into the Steward's Room and have her meals with us, she would
"Rebuked by the butler?"
"Lynched, I should think. Kitchen-maids and scullery-maids eat in
the kitchen. Chauffeurs, footmen, under-butler, pantry-boys, hall-boys,
odd man and steward's-room footman take their meals in the
Servants' Hall, waited on by the hall-boy. The still-room maids
have breakfast and tea in the still-room, and dinner and supper in
the Hall. The housemaids and nursery-maids have breakfast and tea
in the housemaid's sitting-room, and dinner and supper in the
Hall. The head-housemaid ranks next to the head still-room maid.
The laundry-maids have a place of their own near the laundry, and
the head laundry-maid ranks above the head housemaid. The chef
has his meals in a room of his own near the kitchen... Is there
anything else I can tell you, Mr Marson?"