The Desborough Connections by Bret Harte
"Then it isn't a question of property or next of kin?" said the consul.
"Lord! no," said the lady vivaciously. "Why, goodness me! I reckon old
Desborough could, at any time before he died, have 'bought up' or 'bought
out' the whole lot of his relatives on this side of the big pond, no
matter what they were worth. No, it's only a matter of curiosity and just
The American consul at St. Kentigorn felt much relieved. He had feared it
was only the old story of delusive quests for imaginary estates and
impossible inheritances which he had confronted so often in nervous
wan-eyed enthusiasts and obstreperous claimants from his own land.
Certainly there was no suggestion of this in the richly dressed and
be-diamonded matron before him, nor in her pretty daughter, charming in a
Paris frock, alive with the consciousness of beauty and admiration, and
yet a little ennuye from gratified indulgence. He knew the mother to be
the wealthy widow of a New York millionaire, that she was traveling for
pleasure in Europe, and a chance meeting with her at dinner a few nights
before had led to this half-capricious, half-confidential appointment at
"No," continued Mrs. Desborough; "Mr. Desborough came to America, when a
small boy, with an uncle who died some years ago. Mr. Desborough never
seemed to hanker much after his English relatives as long as I knew him,
but now that I and Sadie are over here, why we guessed we might look 'em
up and sort of sample 'em! 'Desborough' 's rather a good name," added the
lady, with a complacency that, however, had a suggestion of query in it.
"Yes," said the consul; "from the French, I fancy."
"Mr. Desborough was English—very English," corrected the lady.
"I mean it may be an old Norman name," said the consul.
"Norman's good enough for ME," said the daughter, reflecting. "We'll just
settle it as Norman. I never thought about that DES."
"Only you may find it called 'Debborough' here, and spelt so," said the
Miss Desborough lifted her pretty shoulders and made a charming grimace.
"Then we won't acknowledge 'em. No Debborough for me!"
"You might put an advertisement in the papers, like the 'next of kin'
notice, intimating, in the regular way, that they would 'hear of something
to their advantage'—as they certainly would," continued the consul,
with a bow. "It would be such a refreshing change to the kind of thing I'm
accustomed to, don't you know—this idea of one of my countrywomen
coming over just to benefit English relatives! By Jove! I wouldn't mind
undertaking the whole thing for you—it's such a novelty." He was
quite carried away with the idea.
But the two ladies were far from participating in this joyous outlook.
"No," said Mrs. Desborough promptly, "that wouldn't do. You see," she went
on with superb frankness, "that would be just giving ourselves away, and
saying who WE were before we found out what THEY were like. Mr. Desborough
was all right in HIS way, but we don't know anything about his FOLKS! We
ain't here on a mission to improve the Desboroughs, nor to gather in any
It was evident that, in spite of the humor of the situation and the levity
of the ladies, there was a characteristic national practicalness about
them, and the consul, with a sigh, at last gave the address of one or two
responsible experts in genealogical inquiry, as he had often done before.
He felt it was impossible to offer any advice to ladies as thoroughly
capable of managing their own affairs as his fair countrywomen, yet he was
not without some curiosity to know the result of their practical
sentimental quest. That he should ever hear of them again he doubted. He
knew that after their first loneliness had worn off in their gregarious
gathering at a London hotel they were not likely to consort with their own
country people, who indeed were apt to fight shy of one another, and even
to indulge in invidious criticism of one another when admitted in that
society to which they were all equally strangers. So he took leave of them
on their way back to London with the belief that their acquaintance
terminated with that brief incident. But he was mistaken.
In the year following he was spending his autumn vacation at a country
house. It was an historic house, and had always struck him as being—even
in that country of historic seats—a singular example of the
vicissitudes of English manorial estates and the mutations of its lords.
His host in his prime had been recalled from foreign service to
unexpectedly succeed to an uncle's title and estate. That estate, however,
had come into the possession of the uncle only through his marriage with
the daughter of an old family whose portraits still looked down from the
walls upon the youngest and alien branch. There were likenesses, effigies,
memorials, and reminiscences of still older families who had occupied it
through forfeiture by war or the favoritism of kings, and in its stately
cloisters and ruined chapel was still felt the dead hand of its evicted
religious founders, which could not be shaken off.
It was this strange individuality that affected all who saw it. For,
however changed were those within its walls, whoever were its inheritors
or inhabiters, Scrooby Priory never changed nor altered its own character.
However incongruous or ill-assorted the portraits that looked from its
walls,—so ill met that they might have flown at one another's
throats in the long nights when the family were away,—the great
house itself was independent of them all. The be-wigged, be-laced, and
be-furbelowed of one day's gathering, the round-headed, steel-fronted, and
prim-kerchiefed congregation of another day, and even the black-coated,
bare-armed, and bare-shouldered assemblage of to-day had no effect on the
austerities of the Priory. Modern houses might show the tastes and
prepossessions of their dwellers, might have caught some passing trick of
the hour, or have recorded the augmented fortunes or luxuriousness of the
owner, but Scrooby Priory never! No one had dared even to disturb its
outer rigid integrity; the breaches of time and siege were left untouched.
It held its calm indifferent sway over all who passed its low-arched
portals, and the consul was fain to believe that he—a foreign
visitor—was no more alien to the house than its present owner.
"I'm expecting a very charming compatriot of yours to-morrow," said Lord
Beverdale as they drove from the station together. "You must tell me what
to show her."
"I should think any countrywoman of mine would be quite satisfied with the
Priory," said the consul, glancing thoughtfully towards the pile dimly
seen through the park.
"I shouldn't like her to be bored here," continued Beverdale. "Algy met
her at Rome, where she was occupying a palace with her mother—they're
very rich, you know. He found she was staying with Lady Minever at Hedham
Towers, and I went over and invited her with a little party. She's a Miss
The consul gave a slight start, and was aware that Beverdale was looking
"Perhaps you know her?" said Beverdale.
"Just enough to agree with you that she is charming," said the consul. "I
dined with them, and saw them at the consulate."
"Oh yes; I always forget you are a consul. Then, of course, you know all
about them. I suppose they're very rich, and in society over there?" said
Beverdale in a voice that was quite animated.
It was on the consul's lips to say that the late Mr. Desborough was an
Englishman, and even to speak playfully of their proposed quest, but a
sudden instinct withheld him. After all, perhaps it was only a caprice, or
idea, they had forgotten,—perhaps, who knows?—that they were
already ashamed of. They had evidently "got on" in English society, if
that was their real intent, and doubtless Miss Desborough, by this time,
was quite as content with the chance of becoming related to the Earl of
Beverdale, through his son and heir, Algernon, as if they had found a real
Lord Desborough among their own relatives. The consul knew that Lord
Beverdale was not a rich man, that like most men of old family he was not
a slave to class prejudice; indeed, the consul had seen very few noblemen
off the stage or out of the pages of a novel who were. So he said, with a
slight affectation of authority, that there was as little doubt of the
young lady's wealth as there was of her personal attractions.
They were nearing the house through a long avenue of chestnuts whose
variegated leaves were already beginning to strew the ground beneath, and
they could see the vista open upon the mullioned windows of the Priory,
lighted up by the yellow October sunshine. In that sunshine stood a tall,
clean-limbed young fellow, dressed in a shooting-suit, whom the consul
recognized at once as Lord Algernon, the son of his companion. As if to
accent the graces of this vision of youth and vigor, near him, in the
shadow, an old man had halted, hat in hand, still holding the rake with
which he had been gathering the dead leaves in the avenue; his back bent,
partly with years, partly with the obeisance of a servitor. There was
something so marked in this contrast, in this old man standing in the
shadow of the fading year, himself as dried and withered as the leaves he
was raking, yet pausing to make his reverence to this passing sunshine of
youth and prosperity in the presence of his coming master, that the
consul, as they swept by, looked after him with a stirring of pain.
"Rather an old man to be still at work," said the consul.
Beverdale laughed. "You must not let him hear you say so; he considers
himself quite as fit as any younger man in the place, and, by Jove! though
he's nearly eighty, I'm inclined to believe it. He's not one of our
people, however; he comes from the village, and is taken on at odd times,
partly to please himself. His great aim is to be independent of his
children,—he has a granddaughter who is one of the maids at the
Priory,—and to keep himself out of the workhouse. He does not come
from these parts—somewhere farther north, I fancy. But he's a tough
lot, and has a deal of work in him yet."
"Seems to be going a bit stale lately," said Lord Algernon, "and I think
is getting a little queer in his head. He has a trick of stopping and
staring straight ahead, at times, when he seems to go off for a minute or
two. There!" continued the young man, with a light laugh. "I say! he's
doing it now!" They both turned quickly and gazed at the bent figure—not
fifty yards away—standing in exactly the same attitude as before.
But, even as they gazed, he slowly lifted his rake and began his
monotonous work again.
At Scrooby Priory, the consul found that the fame of his fair countrywoman
had indeed preceded her, and that the other guests were quite as anxious
to see Miss Desborough as he was. One of them had already met her in
London; another knew her as one of the house party at the Duke of
Northforeland's, where she had been a central figure. Some of her naive
sallies and frank criticisms were repeated with great unction by the
gentlemen, and with some slight trepidation and a "fearful joy" by the
ladies. He was more than ever convinced that mother and daughter had
forgotten their lineal Desboroughs, and he resolved to leave any allusion
to it to the young lady herself.
She, however, availed herself of that privilege the evening after her
arrival. "Who'd have thought of meeting YOU here?" she said, sweeping her
skirts away to make room for him on a sofa. "It's a coon's age since I saw
you—not since you gave us that letter to those genealogical
gentlemen in London."
The consul hoped that it had proved successful.
"Yes, but maw guessed we didn't care to go back to Hengist and Horsa, and
when they let loose a lot of 'Debboroughs' and 'Daybrooks' upon us, maw
kicked! We've got a drawing ten yards long, that looks like a sour apple
tree, with lots of Desboroughs hanging up on the branches like last year's
pippins, and I guess about as worm-eaten. We took that well enough, but
when it came to giving us a map of straight lines and dashes with names
written under them like an old Morse telegraph slip, struck by lightning,
then maw and I guessed that it made us tired.
"You know," she went on, opening her clear gray eyes on the consul, with a
characteristic flash of shrewd good sense through her quaint humor, "we
never reckoned where this thing would land us, and we found we were paying
a hundred pounds, not only for the Desboroughs, but all the people they'd
MARRIED, and their CHILDREN, and children's children, and there were a lot
of outsiders we'd never heard of, nor wanted to hear of. Maw once thought
she'd got on the trail of a Plantagenet, and followed it keen, until she
found she had been reading the dreadful thing upside down. Then we
concluded we wouldn't take any more stock in the family until it had
During this speech the consul could not help noticing that, although her
attitude was playfully confidential to him, her voice really was pitched
high enough to reach the ears of smaller groups around her, who were not
only following her with the intensest admiration, but had shamelessly
abandoned their own conversation, and had even faced towards her. Was she
really posing in her naivete? There was a certain mischievous, even
aggressive, consciousness in her pretty eyelids. Then she suddenly dropped
both eyes and voice, and said to the consul in a genuine aside, "I like
this sort of thing much better."
The consul looked puzzled. "What sort of thing?"
"Why, all these swell people, don't you see? those pictures on the walls!
this elegant room! everything that has come down from the past, all ready
and settled for you, you know—ages ago! Something you haven't to
pick up for yourself and worry over."
But here the consul pointed out that the place itself was not "ancestral"
as regarded the present earl, and that even the original title of his
predecessors had passed away from it. "In fact, it came into the family by
one of those 'outsiders' you deprecate. But I dare say you'd find the
place quite as comfortable with Lord Beverdale for a host as you would if
you had found out he were a cousin," he added.
"Better," said the young lady frankly.
"I suppose your mother participates in these preferences?" said the
consul, with a smile.
"No," said Miss Desborough, with the same frankness, "I think maw's rather
cut up at not finding a Desborough. She was invited down here, but SHE'S
rather independent, you know, so she allowed I could take care of myself,
while she went off to stay with the old Dowager Lady Mistowe, who thinks
maw a very proper womanly person. I made maw mad by telling her that's
just what old Lady Mistowe would say of her cook—for I can't stand
these people's patronage. However, I shouldn't wonder if I was invited
here as a 'most original person.'"
But here Lord Algernon came up to implore her to sing them one of "those
plantation songs;" and Miss Desborough, with scarcely a change of voice or
manner, allowed herself to be led to the piano. The consul had little
chance to speak with her again, but he saw enough that evening to convince
him not only that Lord Algernon was very much in love with her, but that
the fact had been equally and complacently accepted by the family and
guests. That her present visit was only an opportunity for a formal
engagement was clear to every woman in the house—not excepting, I
fear, even the fair subject of gossip herself. Yet she seemed so
unconcerned and self-contained that the consul wondered if she really
cared for Lord Algernon. And having thus wondered, he came to the
conclusion that it didn't much matter, for the happiness of so practically
organized a young lady, if she loved him or not.
It is highly probable that Miss Sadie Desborough had not even gone so far
as to ask herself that question. She awoke the next morning with a sense
of easy victory and calm satisfaction that had, however, none of the
transports of affection. Her taste was satisfied by the love of a handsome
young fellow,—a typical Englishman,—who, if not exactly
original or ideal, was, she felt, of an universally accepted,
"hall-marked" standard, the legitimate outcome of a highly ordered,
carefully guarded civilization, whose repose was the absence of struggle
or ambition; a man whose regular features were not yet differentiated from
the rest of his class by any of those disturbing lines which people call
character. Everything was made ready for her, without care or preparation;
she had not even an ideal to realize or to modify. She could slip without
any jar or dislocation into this life which was just saved from
self-indulgence and sybaritic luxury by certain conventional rules of
activity and the occupation of amusement which, as obligations of her
position, even appeared to suggest the novel aspect of a DUTY! She could
accept all this without the sense of being an intruder in an unbroken
lineage—thanks to the consul's account of the Beverdales'
inheritance. She already pictured herself as the mistress of this fair
domain, the custodian of its treasures and traditions, and the dispenser
of its hospitalities, but—as she conscientiously believed—without
pride or vanity, in her position; only an intense and thoughtful
appreciation of it. Nor did she dream of ever displaying it ostentatiously
before her less fortunate fellow countrywomen; on the contrary, she looked
forward to their possible criticism of her casting off all transatlantic
ties with an uneasy consciousness that was perhaps her nearest approach to
patriotism. Yet, again, she reasoned that, as her father was an
Englishman, she was only returning to her old home. As to her mother, she
had already comforted herself by noticing certain discrepancies in that
lady's temperament, which led her to believe that she herself alone
inherited her father's nature—for her mother was, of course,
distinctly American! So little conscious was she of any possible
snobbishness in this belief, that in her superb naivete she would have
argued the point with the consul, and employed a wit and dialect that were
She had slipped out of the Priory early that morning that she might enjoy
alone, unattended and unciceroned, the aspect of that vast estate which
might be hers for the mere accepting. Perhaps there was some instinct of
delicacy in her avoiding Lord Algernon that morning; not wishing, as she
herself might have frankly put it, "to take stock" of his inheritance in
his presence. As she passed into the garden through the low postern door,
she turned to look along the stretching facade of the main building, with
the high stained windows of its banqueting-hall and the state chamber
where a king had slept. Even in that crisp October air, and with the green
of its ivied battlements against the gold of the distant wood, it seemed
to lie in the languid repose of an eternal summer. She hurried on down the
other terrace into the Italian garden, a quaint survival of past grandeur,
passed the great orangery and numerous conservatories, making a crystal
hamlet in themselves—seeing everywhere the same luxury. But it was a
luxury that she fancied was redeemed from the vulgarity of ostentation by
the long custom of years and generations, so unlike the millionaire
palaces of her own land; and, in her enthusiasm, she even fancied it was
further sanctified by the grim monastic founders who had once been content
with bread and pulse in the crumbling and dismantled refectory. In the
plenitude of her feelings she felt a slight recognition of some beneficent
being who had rolled this golden apple at her feet, and felt as if she
really should like to "do good" in her sphere.
It so chanced that, passing through a small gate in the park, she saw
walking, a little ahead of her, a young girl whom she at once recognized
as a Miss Amelyn, one of the guests of the evening before. Miss Desborough
remembered that she played the accompaniment of one or two songs upon the
piano, and had even executed a long solo during the general conversation,
without attention from the others, and apparently with little irritation
to herself, subsiding afterwards into an armchair, quite on the fringe of
other people's conversation. She had been called "my dear" by one or two
dowagers, and by her Christian name by the earl, and had a way of
impalpably melting out of sight at times. These trifles led Miss
Desborough to conclude that she was some kind of dependent or poor
relation. Here was an opportunity to begin her work of "doing good." She
quickened her pace and overtook Miss Amelyn.
"Let me walk with you," she said graciously.
The young English girl smiled assent, but looked her surprise at seeing
the cynosure of last night's eyes unattended.
"Oh," said Sadie, answering the mute query, "I didn't want to be 'shown
round' by anybody, and I'm not going to bore YOU with asking to see sights
either. We'll just walk together; wherever YOU'RE going is good enough for
"I'm going as far as the village," said Miss Amelyn, looking down
doubtfully at Sadie's smart French shoes—"if you care to walk so
Sadie noticed that her companion was more solidly booted, and that her
straight, short skirts, although less stylish than her own, had a certain
character, better fitted to the freer outdoor life of the country. But she
only said, however, "The village will do," and gayly took her companion's
"But I'm afraid you'll find it very uninteresting, for I am going to visit
some poor cottages," persisted Miss Amelyn, with a certain timid
ingenuousness of manner which, however, was as distinct as Miss
Desborough's bolder frankness. "I promised the rector's daughter to take
her place to-day."
"And I feel as if I was ready to pour oil and wine to any extent," said
Miss Desborough, "so come along!"
Miss Amelyn laughed, and yet glanced around her timidly, as if she thought
that Miss Desborough ought to have a larger and more important audience.
Then she continued more confidentially and boldly, "But it isn't at all
like 'slumming,' you know. These poor people here are not very bad, and
are not at all extraordinary."
"Never mind," said Sadie, hurrying her along. After a pause she went on,
"You know the Priory very well, I guess?"
"I lived there when I was a little girl, with my aunt, the Dowager Lady
Beverdale," said Miss Amelyn. "When my cousin Fred, who was the young
heir, died, and the present Lord Beverdale succeeded,—HE never
expected it, you know, for there were two lives, his two elder brothers,
besides poor Fred's, between, but they both died,—we went to live in
the Dower House."
"The Dower House?" repeated Sadie.
"Yes, Lady Beverdale's separate property."
"But I thought all this property—the Priory—came into the
family through HER."
"It did—this was the Amelyns' place; but the oldest son or nearest
male heir always succeeds to the property and title."
"Do you mean to say that the present Lord Beverdale turned that old lady
Miss Amelyn looked shocked. "I mean to say," she said gravely, "Lady
Beverdale would have had to go when her own son became of age, had he
lived." She paused, and then said timidly, "Isn't it that way in America?"
"Dear no!" Miss Desborough had a faint recollection that there was
something in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence against
primogeniture. "No! the men haven't it ALL their own way THERE—not
Miss Amelyn looked as if she did not care to discuss this problem. After a
few moments Sadie continued, "You and Lord Algernon are pretty old
friends, I guess?"
"No," replied Miss Amelyn. "He came once or twice to the Priory for the
holidays, when he was quite a boy at Marlborough—for the family
weren't very well off, and his father was in India. He was a very shy boy,
and of course no one ever thought of him succeeding."
Miss Desborough felt half inclined to be pleased with this, and yet half
inclined to resent this possible snubbing of her future husband. But they
were nearing the village, and Miss Amelyn turned the conversation to the
object of her visit. It was a new village—an unhandsome village, for
all that it stood near one of the gates of the park. It had been given
over to some mines that were still worked in its vicinity, and to the
railway, which the uncle of the present earl had resisted; but the railway
had triumphed, and the station for Scrooby Priory was there. There was a
grim church, of a blackened or weather-beaten stone, on the hill, with a
few grim Amelyns reposing cross-legged in the chancel, but the character
of the village was as different from the Priory as if it were in another
county. They stopped at the rectory, where Miss Amelyn provided herself
with certain doles and gifts, which the American girl would have augmented
with a five-pound note but for Miss Amelyn's horrified concern. "As many
shillings would do, and they would be as grateful," she said. "More they
"Then keep it, and dole it out as you like," said Sadie quickly.
"But I don't think that—that Lord Beverdale would quite approve,"
hesitated Miss Amelyn.
The pretty brow of her companion knit, and her gray eyes flashed
vivaciously. "What has HE to do with it?" she said pertly; "besides, you
say these are not HIS poor. Take that five-pound note—or—I'll
DOUBLE it, get it changed into sovereigns at the station, and hand 'em
round to every man, woman, and child."
Miss Amelyn hesitated. The American girl looked capable of doing what she
said; perhaps it was a national way of almsgiving! She took the note, with
the mental reservation of making a full confession to the rector and Lord
She was right in saying that the poor of Scrooby village were not
interesting. There was very little squalor or degradation; their poverty
seemed not a descent, but a condition to which they had been born; the
faces which Sadie saw were dulled and apathetic rather than sullen or
rebellious; they stood up when Miss Amelyn entered, paying HER the
deference, but taking little note of the pretty butterfly who was with
her, or rather submitting to her frank curiosity with that dull consent of
the poor, as if they had lost even the sense of privacy, or a right to
respect. It seemed to the American girl that their poverty was more
indicated by what they were SATISFIED with than what she thought they
MISSED. It is to be feared that this did not add to Sadie's sympathy; all
the beggars she had seen in America wanted all they could get, and she
felt as if she were confronted with an inferior animal.
"There's a wonderful old man lives here," said Miss Amelyn, as they halted
before a stone and thatch cottage quite on the outskirts of the village.
"We can't call him one of our poor, for he still works, although over
eighty, and it's his pride to keep out of the poorhouse, and, as he calls
it, 'off' the hands of his granddaughters. But we manage to do something
for THEM, and we hope he profits by it. One of them is at the Priory;
they're trying to make a maid of her, but her queer accent—they're
from the north—is against her with the servants. I am afraid we
won't see old Debs, for he's at work again to-day, though the doctor has
"Debs! What a funny name!"
"Yes, but as many of these people cannot read or write, the name is
carried by the ear, and not always correctly. Some of the railway navvies,
who come from the north as he does, call him 'Debbers.'"
They were obliged to descend into the cottage, which was so low that it
seemed to have sunk into the earth until its drooping eaves of thatch
mingled with the straw heap beside it. Debs was not at home. But his
granddaughter was there, who, after a preliminary "bob," continued the
stirring of the pot before the fire in tentative silence.
"I am sorry to find that your grandfather has gone to work again in spite
of the doctor's orders," said Miss Amelyn.
The girl continued to stir the pot, and then said without looking up, but
as if also continuing a train of aggressive thoughts with her occupation:
"Eay, but 'e's so set oop in 'issen 'ee doan't take orders from nobbut—leastways
doctor. Moinds 'em now moor nor a floy. Says 'ee knaws there nowt wrong
wi' 'is 'eart. Mout be roight—how'siver, sarten sewer, 'is 'EAD'S a'
in a muddle! Toims 'ee goes off stamrin' and starin' at nowt, as if 'ee
a'nt a n'aporth o' sense. How'siver I be doing my duty by 'em—and
'ere's 'is porritch when a' cooms—'gin a' be sick or maad."
What the American understood of the girl's speech and manner struck her as
having very little sympathy with either her aged relative or her present
visitor. And there was a certain dogged selfish independence about her
that Miss Desborough half liked and half resented. However, Miss Amelyn
did not seem to notice it, and, after leaving a bottle of port for the
grandfather, she took her leave and led Sadie away. As they passed into
the village a carriage, returning to the Priory, filled with their fellow
guests, dashed by, but was instantly pulled up at a word from Lord
Algernon, who leaped from the vehicle, hat in hand, and implored the fair
truant and her companion to join them.
"We're just making a tour around Windover Hill, and back to luncheon," he
said, with a rising color. "We missed you awfully! If we had known you
were so keen on 'good works,' and so early at it, by Jove! we'd have got
up a 'slummin' party,' and all joined!"
"And you haven't seen half," said Lord Beverdale from the box. "Miss
Amelyn's too partial to the village. There's an old drunken retired
poacher somewhere in a hut in Crawley Woods, whom it's death to approach,
except with a large party. There's malignant diphtheria over at the South
Farm, eight down with measles at the keeper's, and an old woman who has
been bedridden for years."
But Miss Desborough was adamant, though sparkling. She thanked him, but
said she had just seen an old woman "who had been lying in bed for twenty
years, and hadn't spoken the truth once!" She proposed "going outside of
Lord Beverdale's own preserves of grain-fed poor," and starting up her own
game. She would return in time for luncheon—if she could; if not,
she "should annex the gruel of the first kind incapable she met."
Yet, actually, she was far from displeased at being accidentally
discovered by these people while following out her capricious whim of the
morning. One or two elder ladies, who had fought shy of her frocks and her
frankness the evening before, were quite touched now by this butterfly who
was willing to forego the sunlight of society, and soil her pretty wings
on the haunts of the impoverished, with only a single companion,—of
her own sex!—and smiled approvingly. And in her present state of
mind, remembering her companion's timid attitude towards Lord Beverdale's
opinions, she was not above administering this slight snub to him in her
When they had driven away, with many regrets, Miss Amelyn was deeply
concerned. "I am afraid," she said, with timid conscientiousness, "I have
kept you from going with them. And you must be bored with what you have
seen, I know. I don't believe you really care one bit for it—and you
are only doing it to please me."
"Trot out the rest of your show," said Sadie promptly, "and we'll wind up
by lunching with the rector."
"He'd be too delighted," said Miss Amelyn, with disaster written all over
her girlish, truthful face, "but—but—you know—it really
wouldn't be quite right to Lord Beverdale. You're his principal guest—you
know, and—they'd think I had taken you off."
"Well," said Miss Desborough impetuously, "what's the matter with that inn—the
Red Lion? We can get a sandwich there, I guess. I'm not VERY hungry."
Miss Amelyn looked horrified for a moment, and then laughed; but
immediately became concerned again. "No! listen to me, REALLY now! Let me
finish my round alone! You'll have ample time if you go NOW to reach the
Priory for luncheon. Do, please! It would be ever so much better for
everybody. I feel quite guilty as it is, and I suppose I am already in
Lord Beverdale's black books."
The trouble in the young girl's face was unmistakable, and as it suited
Miss Desborough's purpose just as well to show her independence by
returning, as she had set out, alone, she consented to go. Miss Amelyn
showed her a short cut across the park, and they separated—to meet
at dinner. In this brief fellowship, the American girl had kept a certain
supremacy and half-fascination over the English girl, even while she was
conscious of an invincible character in Miss Amelyn entirely different
from and superior to her own. Certainly there was a difference in the two
peoples. Why else this inherited conscientious reverence for Lord
Beverdale's position, shown by Miss Amelyn, which she, an American alive
to its practical benefits, could not understand? Would Miss Amelyn and
Lord Algernon have made a better match? The thought irritated her, even
while she knew that she herself possessed the young man's affections, the
power to marry him, and, as she believed, kept her own independence in the
As she entered the iron gates at the lower end of the park, and glanced at
the interwoven cipher and crest of the Amelyns still above, she was
conscious that the wind was blowing more chill, and that a few clouds had
gathered. As she walked on down the long winding avenue, the sky became
overcast, and, in one of those strange contrasts of the English climate,
the glory of the whole day went out with the sunshine. The woods suddenly
became wrinkled and gray, the distant hills sombre, the very English turf
beneath her feet grew brown; a mile and a half away, through the opening
of the trees, the west part of the Priory looked a crumbling, ivy-eaten
ruin. A few drops of rain fell. She hurried on. Suddenly she remembered
that the avenue made a long circuit before approaching the house, and that
its lower end, where she was walking, was but a fringe of the park.
Consequently there must be a short cut across some fields and farm
buildings to the back of the park and the Priory. She at once diverged to
the right, presently found a low fence, which she clambered over, and
again found a footpath which led to a stile. Crossing that, she could see
the footpath now led directly to the Priory,—now a grim and austere
looking pile in the suddenly dejected landscape,—and that it was
probably used only by the servants and farmers. A gust of wind brought
some swift needles of rain to her cheek; she could see the sad hills
beyond the Priory already veiling their faces; she gathered her skirts and
ran. The next field was a long one, but beside the further stile was a
small clump of trees, the only ones between her and the park. Hurrying on
to that shelter, she saw that the stile was already occupied by a tall but
bent figure, holding a long stick in his hand, which gave him the
appearance, against the horizon, of the figure of Time leaning on his
scythe. As she came nearer she saw it was, indeed, an old man, half
resting on his rake. He was very rugged and weather-beaten, and although
near the shelter of the trees, apparently unmindful of the rain that was
falling on his bald head, and the limp cap he was holding uselessly in one
hand. He was staring at her, yet apparently unconscious of her presence. A
sudden instinct came upon her—it was "Debs"!
She went directly up to him, and with that frank common sense which
ordinarily distinguished her, took his cap from his hand and put it on his
head, grasped his arm firmly, and led him to the shelter of the tree. Then
she wiped the raindrops from his face with her handkerchief, shook out her
own dress and her wet parasol, and, propping her companion against the
"There, Mr. Debs! I've heard of people who didn't know enough to come in
when it rained, but I never met one before."
The old man started, lifted his hairy, sinewy arm, bared to the elbow, and
wiped his bare throat with the dry side of it. Then a look of intelligence—albeit
half aggressive—came into his face. "Wheer beest tha going?" he
Something in his voice struck Sadie like a vague echo. Perhaps it was only
the queer dialect—or some resemblance to his granddaughter's voice.
She looked at him a little more closely as she said:—
"To the Priory."
She pointed with her parasol to the gray pile in the distance. It was
possible that this demented peasant didn't even UNDERSTAND English.
"The hall. Oh, ay!" Suddenly his brows knit ominously as he faced her.
"An' wassist tha doin' drest oop in this foinery? Wheer gettist thee that
goawn? Thissen, or thy maester? Nowt even a napron, fit for thy wark as
maaid at serviss; an' parson a gettin' tha plaace at Hall! So thou'lt be
high and moity will tha! thou'lt not walk wi' maaids, but traipse by
thissen like a slut in the toon—dang tha!"
Although it was plain to Sadie that the old man, in his wandering
perception, had mistaken her for his granddaughter in service at the
Priory, there was still enough rudeness in his speech for her to have
resented it. But, strange to say, there was a kind of authority in it that
touched her with an uneasiness and repulsion that was stronger than any
other feeling. "I think you have mistaken me for some one else," she said
hurriedly, yet wondering why she had admitted it, and even irritated at
the admission. "I am a stranger here, a visitor at the Priory. I called
with Miss Amelyn at your cottage, and saw your other granddaughter; that's
how I knew your name."
The old man's face changed. A sad, senile smile of hopeless bewilderment
crept into his hard mouth; he plucked his limp cap from his head and let
it hang submissively in his fingers, as if it were his sole apology. Then
he tried to straighten himself, and said, "Naw offins, miss, naw offins!
If tha knaws mea tha'll knaw I'm grandfeyther to two galls as moight be
tha owern age; tha'll tell 'ee that old Debs at haaty years 'as warked and
niver lost a day as man or boy; has niver coome oopen 'em for n'aporth.
An' 'e'll keep out o' warkus till he doy. An' 'ee's put by enow to by wi'
his own feythers in Lanksheer, an' not liggen aloane in parson's
It was part of her uneasiness that, scarcely understanding or, indeed,
feeling any interest in these maundering details, she still seemed to have
an odd comprehension of his character and some reminiscent knowledge of
him, as if she were going through the repetition of some unpleasant dream.
Even his wrinkled face was becoming familiar to her. Some weird attraction
was holding her; she wanted to get away from it as much as she wanted to
analyze it. She glanced ostentatiously at the sky, prepared to open her
parasol, and began to edge cautiously away.
"Then tha beant from these pearts?" he said suddenly.
"No, no," she said quickly and emphatically,—"no, I'm an American."
The old man started and moved towards her, eagerly, his keen eyes breaking
through the film that at times obscured them. "'Merrikan! tha baist
'Merrikan? Then tha knaws ma son John, 'ee war nowt but a bairn when
brether Dick took un to 'Merriky! Naw! Now! that wor fifty years sen!—niver
wroate to his old feyther—niver coomed back, 'Ee wor tall-loike, an'
thea said 'e feavored mea." He stopped, threw up his head, and with his
skinny fingers drew back his long, straggling locks from his sunken
cheeks, and stared in her face. The quick transition of fascination,
repulsion, shock, and indefinable apprehension made her laugh
hysterically. To her terror he joined in it, and eagerly clasped her
wrists. "Eh, lass! tha knaws John—tha coomes from un to ole
grandfeyther. Who-rr-u! Eay! but tha tho't to fool mea, did tha, lass?
Whoy, I knoawed tha voice, for a' tha foine peacock feathers. So tha be
John's gell coom from Ameriky. Dear! a dear! Coom neaur, lass! let's see
what tha's loike. Eh, but thou'lt kiss tha grandfather, sewerly?"
A wild terror and undefined consternation had completely overpowered her!
But she made a desperate effort to free her wrists, and burst out madly:—
"Let me go! How dare you! I don't know you or yours! I'm nothing to you or
your kin! My name is Desborough—do you understand—do you hear
me, Mr. Debs?—DESBOROUGH!"
At the word the old man's fingers stiffened like steel around her wrists,
as he turned upon her a hard, invincible face.
"So thou'lt call thissen Des-borough, wilt tha? Let me tell tha, then,
that 'Debs,' 'Debban,' 'Debbrook,' and 'Des-borough' are all a seame! Ay!
thy feyther and thy feyther's feyther! Thou'lt be a Des-borough, will tha?
Dang tha! and look doon on tha kin, and dress thissen in silks o' shame!
Tell 'ee thou'rt an ass, gell! Don't tha hear? An ass! for all tha bean
John's bairn! An ass! that's what tha beast!"
With flashing eyes and burning cheeks she made one more supreme effort,
lifting her arms, freeing her wrists, and throwing the old man staggering
from her. Then she leaped the stile, turned, and fled through the rain.
But before she reached the end of the field she stopped! She had freed
herself—she was stronger than he—what had she to fear? He was
crazy! Yes, he MUST be crazy, and he had insulted her, but he was an old
man—and God knows what! Her heart was beating rapidly, her breath
was hurried, but she ran back to the stile.
He was not there. The field sloped away on either side of it. But she
could distinguish nothing in the pouring rain above the wind-swept meadow.
He must have gone home. Relieved for a moment she turned and hurried on
towards the Priory.
But at every step she was followed, not by the old man's presence, but by
what he had said to her, which she could not shake off as she had shaken
off his detaining fingers. Was it the ravings of insanity, or had she
stumbled unwittingly upon some secret—was it after all a SECRET?
Perhaps it was something they all knew, or would know later. And she had
come down here for this. For back of her indignation, back even of her
disbelief in his insanity, there was an awful sense of truth! The names he
had flung out, of "Debs," "Debban," and "Debbrook" now flashed upon her as
something she had seen before, but had not understood. Until she satisfied
herself of this, she felt she could not live or breathe! She loathed the
Priory, with its austere exclusiveness, as it rose before her; she wished
she had never entered it; but it contained that which she must know, and
know at once! She entered the nearest door and ran up the grand staircase.
Her flushed face and disordered appearance were easily accounted for by
her exposure to the sudden storm. She went to her bedroom, sent her maid
to another room to prepare a change of dress, and sinking down before her
traveling-desk, groped for a document. Ah! there it was—the
expensive toy that she had played with! She hastily ran over its leaves to
the page she already remembered. And there, among the dashes and
perpendicular lines she had jested over last night, on which she had
thought was a collateral branch of the line, stood her father's name and
that of Richard, his uncle, with the bracketed note in red ink, "see
Debbrook, Daybrook, Debbers, and Debs." Yes! this gaunt, half-crazy,
overworked peasant, content to rake the dead leaves before the rolling
chariots of the Beverdales, was her grandfather; that poorly clad girl in
the cottage, and even the menial in the scullery of this very house that
might be HERS, were her COUSINS! She burst into a laugh, and then refolded
the document and put it away.
At luncheon she was radiant and sparkling. Her drenched clothes were an
excuse for a new and ravishing toilette. She had never looked so beautiful
before, and significant glances were exchanged between some of the guests,
who believed that the expected proposal had already come. But those who
were of the carriage party knew otherwise, and of Lord Algernon's
disappointment. Lord Beverdale contented himself with rallying his fair
guest on the becomingness of "good works." But he continued, "You're
offering a dreadful example to these ladies, Miss Desborough, and I know I
shall never hereafter be able to content them with any frivolous morning
amusement at the Priory. For myself, when I am grown gouty and hideous, I
know I shall bloom again as a district visitor."
Yet under this surface sparkle and nervous exaltation Sadie never lost
consciousness of the gravity of the situation. If her sense of humor
enabled her to see one side of its grim irony; if she experienced a wicked
satisfaction in accepting the admiration and easy confidence of the
high-born guests, knowing that her cousin had assisted in preparing the
meal they were eating, she had never lost sight of the practical effect of
the discovery she had made. And she had come to a final resolution. She
should leave the Priory at once, and abandon all idea of a matrimonial
alliance with its heir! Inconsistent as this might seem to her selfish,
worldly nature, it was nevertheless in keeping with a certain pride and
independence that was in her blood. She did not love Lord Algernon,
neither did she love her grandfather; she was equally willing to sacrifice
either or both; she knew that neither Lord Algernon nor his father would
make her connections an objection, however they might wish to keep the
fact a secret, or otherwise dispose of them by pensions or emigration, but
she could not bear to KNOW IT HERSELF! She never could be happy as the
mistress of Scrooby Priory with that knowledge; she did not idealize it as
a principle! Carefully weighing it by her own practical common sense, she
said to herself that "it wouldn't pay." The highest independence is often
akin to the lowest selfishness; she did not dream that the same pride
which kept her grandfather from the workhouse and support by his
daughters, and had even kept him from communicating with his own son, now
kept her from acknowledging them, even for the gift of a title and domain.
There was only one question before her: should she stay long enough to
receive the proposal of Lord Algernon, and then decline it? Why should she
not snatch that single feminine joy out of the ashes of her burnt-up
illusion? She knew that an opportunity would be offered that afternoon.
The party were to take tea at Broxby Hall, and Lord Algernon was to drive
her there in his dogcart. Miss Desborough had gone up to her bedroom to
put on a warmer cloak, and had rung twice or thrice impatiently for her
When the girl made her appearance, apologetic, voluble, and excited, Miss
Desborough scarcely listened to her excuses, until a single word suddenly
arrested her attention. It was "old Debs."
"What ARE you talking about?" said Sadie, pausing in the adjustment of her
hat on her brown hair.
"Old Debs, miss,—that's what they call him; an old park-keeper, just
found dead in a pool of water in the fields; the grandfather of one of the
servants here; and there's such an excitement in the servants' hall. The
gentlemen all knew it, too, for I heard Lord Algernon say that he was
looking very queer lately, and might have had a fit; and Lord Beverdale
has sent word to the coroner. And only think, the people here are such
fools that they daren't touch or move the poor man, and him lyin' there in
the rain all the time, until the coroner comes!"
Miss Desborough had been steadily regarding herself in the glass to see if
she had turned pale. She had. She set her teeth together until the color
partly returned. But she kept her face away from the maid. "That'll do,"
she said quietly. "You can tell me all later. I have some important news
myself, and I may not go out after all. I want you to take a note for me."
She went to her table, wrote a line in pencil, folded it, scribbled an
address upon it, handed it to the girl, and gently pushed her from the
The consul was lingering on the terrace beside one of the carriages; at a
little distance a groom was holding the nervous thoroughbred of Lord
Algernon's dog-cart. Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, and Miss
Desborough's maid put a note in his hand. It contained only a line:—
Please come and see me in the library, but without making any fuss about
it—at once. S. D.
The consul glanced around him; no one had apparently noticed the incident.
He slipped back into the house and made his way to the library. It was a
long gallery; at the further end Miss Desborough stood cloaked, veiled,
and coquettishly hatted. She was looking very beautiful and animated. "I
want you to please do me a great favor," she said, with an adorable smile,
"as your own countrywoman, you know—for the sake of Fourth of July
and Pumpkin Pie and the Old Flag! I don't want to go to this circus
to-day. I am going to leave here to-night! I am! Honest Injin! I want YOU
to manage it. I want you to say that as consul you've received important
news for me: the death of some relative, if you like; or better, something
AFFECTING MY PROPERTY, you know," with a little satirical laugh. "I guess
that would fetch 'em! So go at once."
"But really, Miss Desborough, do let us talk this over before you decide!"
implored the bewildered consul. "Think what a disappointment to your host
and these ladies. Lord Algernon expects to drive you there; he is already
waiting! The party was got up for you!" Miss Desborough made a slight
grimace. "I mean you ought to sacrifice something—but I trust there
is really nothing serious—to them!"
"If YOU do not speak to them, I will!" said Miss Desborough firmly. "If
you say what I tell you, it will come the more plausibly from you. Come!
My mind is made up. One of us must break the news! Shall it be you or I?"
She drew her cloak over her shoulders and made a step forwards.
The consul saw she was determined. "Then wait here till I return, but keep
yourself out of sight," he said, and hurried away. Between the library and
the terrace he conceived a plan. His perplexity lent him a seriousness
which befitted the gravity of the news he had to disclose. "I am sorry to
have to tell you," he said, taking Lord Beverdale aside, "that I was the
unlucky bearer of some sad news to Miss Desborough this morning, through
my consular letters—some matter concerning the death of a relation
of hers, and some wearisome question of property. I thought that it was of
little importance, and that she would not take it seriously, but I find I
was mistaken. It may even oblige her to catch the London train to-night. I
promised to make her excuses to you for the present, and I'm afraid I must
add my own to them, as she wishes me to stay and advise her in this
matter, which requires some prompt action."
Miss Desborough was right: the magic word "property" changed the slight
annoyance on the earl's face to a sympathetic concern. "Dear me! I trust
it is nothing really serious," he said. "Of course, you will advise her,
and, by the way, if my solicitor, Withers, who'll be here to-morrow, can
do anything, you know, call him in. I hope she'll be able to see me later.
It could not be a NEAR relation who died, I fancy; she has no brothers or
sisters, I understand."
"A cousin, I think; an old friend," said the consul hastily. He heard Lord
Beverdale say a few words to his companions, saw with a tinge of remorse a
cloud settle upon Lord Algernon's fresh face, as he appealed in a whisper
to old Lady Mesthyn, who leaned forward from the carriage, and said, "If
the dear child thought I could be of any service, I should only be too
glad to stay with her."
"I knew she would appreciate Lady Mesthyn's sympathy," said the ingenious
consul quickly, "but I really think the question is more a business one—and"—
"Ah, yes," said the old lady, shaking her head, "it's dreadful, of course,
but we must all think of THAT!"
As the carriage drove away, the consul hurried back a little viciously to
his fair countrywoman. "There!" he said, "I have done it! If I have
managed to convey either the idea that you are a penniless orphan, or that
I have official information that you are suspected of a dynamite
conspiracy, don't blame me! And now," he said, "as I have excused myself
on the ground that I must devote myself to this dreadful business of
yours, perhaps you'll tell me WHAT it really is."
"Not a word more," said Miss Desborough; "except," she added,—checking
her smile with a weary gesture,—"except that I want to leave this
dreadful place at once! There! don't ask me any more!"
There could be no doubt of the girl's sincerity. Nor was it the
extravagant caprice of a petted idol. What had happened? He might have
believed in a lovers' quarrel, but he knew that she and Lord Algernon
could have had no private interview that evening. He must perforce accept
her silence, yet he could not help saying:—
"You seemed to like the place so much last night. I say, you haven't seen
the Priory ghost, have you?"
"The Priory ghost," she said quickly. "What's that?"
"The old monk who passes through the cloisters with the sacred oil, the
bell, and the smell of incense whenever any one is to die here. By Jove!
it would have been a good story to tell instead of this cock-and-bull one
about your property. And there WAS a death here to-day. You'd have added
the sibyl's gifts to your other charms."
"Tell me about that old man," she said, looking past him out of the
window. "I was at his cottage this morning. But, no! first let us go out.
You can take me for a walk, if you like. You see I am all ready, and I'm
just stifling here."
They descended to the terrace together. "Where would you like to go?" he
"To the village. I may want to telegraph, you know."
They turned into the avenue, but Miss Desborough stopped.
"Is there not a shorter cut across the fields," she asked, "over there?"
"There is," said the consul.
They both turned into the footpath which led to the farm and stile. After
a pause she said, "Did you ever talk with that poor old man?"
"Then you don't know if he really was crazy, as they think."
"No. But they may have thought an old man's forgetfulness of present
things and his habit of communing with the past was insanity. For all that
he was a plucky, independent old fellow, with a grim purpose that was
"I suppose in his independence he would not have taken favors from these
people, or anybody?"
"I should think not."
"Don't you think it was just horrid—their leaving him alone in the
rain, when he might have been only in a fit?"
"The doctor says he died suddenly of heart disease," said the consul. "It
might have happened at any moment and without warning."
"Ah, that was the coroner's verdict, then," said Miss Desborough quickly.
"The coroner did not think it necessary to have any inquest after Lord
Beverdale's statement. It wouldn't have been very joyous for the Priory
party. And I dare say he thought it might not be very cheerful for YOU."
"How very kind!" said the young girl, with a quick laugh. "But do you know
that it's about the only thing human, original, and striking that has
happened in this place since I've been here! And so unexpected,
considering how comfortably everything is ordered here beforehand."
"Yet you seemed to like that kind of thing very well, last evening," said
the consul mischievously.
"That was last night," retorted Miss Desborough; "and you know the line,
'Colors seen by candlelight do not look the same by day.' But I'm going to
be very consistent to-day, for I intend to go over to that poor man's
cottage again, and see if I can be of any service. Will you go with me?"
"Certainly," said the consul, mystified by his companion's extraordinary
conduct, yet apparent coolness of purpose, and hoping for some further
explanation. Was she only an inexperienced flirt who had found herself on
the point of a serious entanglement she had not contemplated? Yet even
then he knew she was clever enough to extricate herself in some other way
than this abrupt and brutal tearing through the meshes. Or was it possible
that she really had any intelligence affecting her property? He reflected
that he knew very little of the Desboroughs, but on the other hand he knew
that Beverdale knew them much better, and was a prudent man. He had no
right to demand her confidence as a reward for his secrecy; he must wait
her pleasure. Perhaps she would still explain; women seldom could resist
the triumph of telling the secret that puzzled others.
When they reached the village she halted before the low roof of Debs's
cottage. "I had better go in first," she said; "you can come in later, and
in the meantime you might go to the station for me and find out the exact
time that the express train leaves for the north."
"But," said the astonished consul, "I thought you were going to London?"
"No," said Miss Desborough quietly, "I am going to join some friends at
"But that train goes much earlier than the train south, and—and I'm
afraid Lord Beverdale will not have returned so soon."
"How sad!" said Miss Desborough, with a faint smile, "but we must bear up
under it, and—I'll write him. I will be here until you return."
She turned away and entered the cottage. The granddaughter she had already
seen and her sister, the servant at the Priory, were both chatting
comfortably, but ceased as she entered, and both rose with awkward
respect. There was little to suggest that the body of their grandfather,
already in a rough oak shell, was lying upon trestles beside them.
"You have carried out my orders, I see," said Miss Desborough, laying down
"Ay, miss; but it was main haard gettin' et dooan so soon, and et cooast"—
"Never mind the cost. I've given you money enough, I think, and if I
haven't, I guess I can give you more."
"Ay, miss! Abbut the pa'son 'ead gi' un a funeral for nowt."
"But I understood you to say," said Miss Desborough, with an impatient
flash of eye, "that your grandfather wished to be buried with his kindred
in the north?"
"Ay, miss," said the girl apologetically, "an naw 'ees savit th' munny.
Abbut e'd bean tickled 'ad 'ee knowed it! Dear! dear! 'ee niver thowt et
'ud be gi'en by stranger an' not 'es ownt fammaly."
"For all that, you needn't tell anybody it was given by ME," said Miss
Desborough. "And you'll be sure to be ready to take the train this
afternoon—without delay." There was a certain peremptoriness in her
voice very unlike Miss Amelyn's, yet apparently much more effective with
"Ay, miss. Then, if tha'll excoose mea, I'll go streight to 'oory oop
She bustled away. "Now," said Miss Desborough, turning to the other girl,
"I shall take the same train, and will probably see you on the platform at
York to give my final directions. That's all. Go and see if the gentleman
who came with me has returned from the station."
The girl obeyed. Left entirely alone, Miss Desborough glanced around the
room, and then went quietly up to the unlidded coffin. The repose of death
had softened the hard lines of the old man's mouth and brow into a
resemblance she now more than ever understood. She had stood thus only a
few years before, looking at the same face in a gorgeously inlaid mahogany
casket, smothered amidst costly flowers, and surrounded by friends attired
in all the luxurious trappings of woe; yet it was the same face that was
now rigidly upturned to the bare thatch and rafters of that crumbling
cottage, herself its only companion. She lifted her delicate veil with
both hands, and, stooping down, kissed the hard, cold forehead, without a
tremor. Then she dropped her veil again over her dry eyes, readjusted it
in the little, cheap, black-framed mirror that hung against the wall, and
opened the door as the granddaughter returned. The gentleman was just
coming from the station.
"Remember to look out for me at York," said Miss Desborough, extending her
gloved hand. "Good-by till then." The young girl respectfully touched the
ends of Miss Desborough's fingers, dropped a curtsy, and Miss Desborough
rejoined the consul.
"You have barely time to return to the Priory and see to your luggage,"
said the consul, "if you must go. But let me hope that you have changed
"I have not changed my mind," said Miss Desborough quietly, "and my
baggage is already packed." After a pause, she said thoughtfully, "I've
"What?" said the consul eagerly.
"I've been wondering if people brought up to speak in a certain dialect,
where certain words have their own significance and color, and are part of
their own lives and experience—if, even when they understand another
dialect, they really feel any sympathy with it, or the person who speaks
"Apropos of"—asked the consul.
"These people I've just left! I don't think I quite felt with them, and I
guess they didn't feel with me."
"But," said the consul laughingly, "you know that we Americans speak with
a decided dialect of our own, and attach the same occult meaning to it.
Yet, upon my word, I think that Lord Beverdale—or shall I say Lord
Algernon?—would not only understand that American word 'guess' as
you mean it, but would perfectly sympathize with you."
Miss Desborough's eyes sparkled even through her veil as she glanced at
her companion and said, "I GUESS NOT."
As the "tea" party had not yet returned, it fell to the consul to
accompany Miss Desborough and her maid to the station. But here he was
startled to find a collection of villagers upon the platform, gathered
round two young women in mourning, and an ominous-looking box. He mingled
for a moment with the crowd, and then returned to Miss Desborough's side.
"Really," he said, with a concern that was scarcely assumed, "I ought not
to let you go. The omens are most disastrous! You came here to a death;
you are going away with a funeral!"
"Then it's high time I took myself off!" said the lady lightly.
"Unless, like the ghostly monk, you came here on a mission, and have
"Perhaps I have. Good-by!"
In spite of the bright and characteristic letter which Miss Desborough
left for her host,—a letter which mingled her peculiar shrewd sense
with her humorous extravagance of expression,—the consul spent a
somewhat uneasy evening under the fire of questions that assailed him in
reference to the fair deserter. But he kept loyal faith with her, adhering
even to the letter of her instructions, and only once was goaded into more
active mendacity. The conversation had turned upon "Debs," and the consul
had remarked on the singularity of the name. A guest from the north
observed, however, that the name was undoubtedly a contraction. "Possibly
it might have been 'Debborough,' or even the same name as our fair
"But didn't Miss Desborough tell you last night that she had been hunting
up her people, with a family tree, or something like that?" said Lord
Algernon eagerly. "I just caught a word here and there, for you were both
The consul smiled blandly. "You may well say so, for it was all the most
delightful piece of pure invention and utter extravagance. It would have
amused her still more if she had thought you were listening and took it
"Of course; I see!" said the young fellow, with a laugh and a slight rise
of color. "I knew she was taking some kind of a rise out of YOU, and that
remark reminded me of it."
Nevertheless, within a year, Lord Algernon was happily married to the
daughter of a South African millionaire, whose bridal offerings alone
touched the sum of half a million. It was also said that the mother was
"impossible" and the father "unspeakable," the relations
"inextinguishable;" but the wedding was an "occasion," and in the
succeeding year of festivity it is presumed that the names of "Debs" and
"Desborough" were alike forgotten.
But they existed still in a little hamlet near the edge of a bleak
northern moor, where they were singularly exalted on a soaring shaft of
pure marble above the submerged and moss-grown tombstones of a simple
country churchyard. So great was the contrast between the modern and
pretentious monument and the graves of the humbler forefathers of the
village, that even the Americans who chanced to visit it were shocked at
what they believed was the ostentatious and vulgar pride of one of their
own countrywomen. For on its pedestal was inscribed:—
Sacred to the Memory
JOHN DEBS DESBOROUGH,
Formerly of this parish,
Who departed this life October 20th, 1892,
At Scrooby Priory,
At the age of eighty-two years.
This monument was erected as a loving testimony
by his granddaughter,
Sadie Desborough, of New York, U. S. A.
"And evening brings us home."