“Ye-e-ss, yes,” stammered Martin. “Won’t you take a—I mean, yes, certainly.”

“It is perhaps a liberty,” began Keggs. He paused, and raked Martin with the eye that had rested on dining dukes.

“Not at all,” said Martin, hurriedly.

“I should like,” went on Keggs, bowing, “to speak to you on a somewhat intimate subject—Miss Elsa.”

Martin’s eyes and mouth opened slowly.

“You are going the wrong way to work, if you will allow me to say so, sir.”

Martin’s jaw dropped another inch.


“Women, sir,” proceeded Keggs, “young ladies—are peculiar. I have had, if I may say so, certain hopportunities of observing their ways. Miss Elsa reminds me in some respects of Lady Angelica Fendall, whom I had the honour of knowing when I was butler to her father, Lord Stockleigh. Her lady-ship was hinclined to be romantic. She was fond of poetry, like Miss Elsa. She would sit by the hour, sir, listening to young Mr. Knox reading Tennyson, which was no part of his duties, he being employed by his lordship to teach Lord Bertie Latin and Greek and what not. You may have noticed, sir, that young ladies is often took by Tennyson, hespecially in the summer-time. Mr. Barstowe was reading Tennyson to Miss Elsa in the ’all when I passed through just now. The Princess, if I am not mistaken.”

“I don’t know what the thing was,” groaned Martin. “She seemed to be enjoying it.”

“Lady Angelica was greatly addicted to The Princess. Young Mr. Knox was reading portions of that poem to her when his lordship come upon them. Most rashly his lordship made a public hexposé and packed Mr. Knox off next day. It was not my place to volunteer advice, but I could have told him what would happen. Two days later her lady-ship slips away to London early in the morning, and they’re married at a registry-office. That is why I say that you are going the wrong way to work with Miss Elsa, sir. With certain types of ’igh-spirited young lady hopposition is useless. Now, when Mr. Barstowe was reading to Miss Elsa on the occasion to which I ’ave alluded, you was sitting by, trying to engage her attention. It’s not the way, sir. You should leave them alone together. Let her see so much of him, and nobody else but him, that she will grow tired of him. Fondness for poetry, sir, is very much like the whisky ’abit. You can’t cure a man what has got that by hopposition. Now, if you will permit me to offer a word of advice, sir, I say, let Miss Elsa ’ave all the poetry she wants.”

Martin was conscious of but one coherent feeling at the conclusion of this address, and that was one of amazed gratitude. A lesser man who had entered his room and begun to discuss his private affairs would have had reason to retire with some speed; but that Keggs should descend from his pedestal and interest himself in such lowly matters was a different thing altogether.

“I’m very much obliged—” he was stammering, when the butler raised a deprecatory hand.

“My interest in the matter,” he said, smoothly, “is not entirely haltruistic. For some years back, in fact, since Miss Elsa came out, we have had a matrimonial sweepstake in the servants’ hall at each house- party. The names of the gentlemen in the party are placed in a hat and drawn in due course. Should Miss Elsa become engaged to any member of the party, the pool goes to the drawer of his name. Should no engagement occur, the money remains in my charge until the following year, when it is added to the new pool. Hitherto I have ’ad the misfortune to draw nothing but married gentlemen, but on this occasion I have secured you, sir. And I may tell you, sir,” he added, with stately courtesy, “that, in the opinion of the servants’ hall, your chances are ’ighly fancied—very ’ighly. The pool has now reached

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.