THE LAST OF THE RUNNYMEDES
The high debate was over, and Lord Runnymede issued from the House, proud in his melancholy, like a garrison withdrawing from a fortress with colours flying and all the honours of war. He had sent a messenger (he called him an “orderly”) for his carriage. He might have telephoned, but he disliked the Board-School voice that said “Number, please!” and he still more disliked the idea of a coachman speaking down a tube (as he imagined it) into his ear. Not that he was opposed to inventions, or the advance of science as such. He recognised the necessity of progress, and had not openly reproached his own sister when she instituted a motor in place of her carriage. But for himself the two dark bays were waiting—heads erect, feet firmly planted on the solid earth. For he loved horses, and the Runnymede stables maintained the blood of King Charles’s importations from Arabian chivalry. Besides, what manners, what sense, could be expected of a chauffeur, occupied with oily wheels and engines, instead of living things and corn?
Some of the small crowd standing about the gate recognised him as he came out, and one called his name and said “What ho!” For his appearance was fairly well known through political caricatures, which usually represented him in plate-armour, holding a spear, and wearing a coat-of-arms. He had once instructed his secretary to write privately to an editor pointing out that the caricaturist had committed a gross error in heraldry; but in his heart he rather enjoyed the pictures, and it was the duty of one of his maids to stick them into a scrap-book, inscribed with the proper dates, for the instruction and entertainment of his descendants. In fact, he had lately been found showing the book to a boy of three, who picked out his figure by its long nose, and said “Granpa!” with unerring decision.