“You don’t mean to say you’re going to let that mule beat you?” exclaimed the Countess.
“I was only thinking of your being late.”
“Oh, bother!” said she. “Your mule may be ruined.” The horse-trainer in her was aroused.
“And then my arm?” said Denry.
“Shall I drive back?” the Countess suggested.
“Oh, do,” said Denry. “Keep on up the street, and then to the left.”
They changed places, and two minutes later she brought the mule to an obedient rest in front of the Police Institute, which was all newly red with terra-cotta. The main body of policemen had passed into the building, but two remained at the door, and the mule haughtily tolerated them. The Countess despatched one to Longshaw Road to settle with the old woman whose vegetables they had brought away with them. The other policeman, who, owing to the Countess’s philanthropic energy, had received a course of instruction in first aid, arranged a sling for Denry’s arm. And then the Countess said that Denry ought certainly to go with her to the inauguration ceremony. The policeman whistled a boy to hold the mule. Denry picked a carrot out of the complex folds of the Countess’s rich costume. And the Countess and her saviour entered the portico and were therein met by an imposing group of important male personages, several of whom wore mayoral chains. Strange tales of what had happened to the Countess had already flown up to the Institute, and the chief expression on the faces of the group seemed to be one of astonishment that she still lived.
Denry observed that the Countess was now a different woman. She had suddenly put on a manner to match her costume, which in certain parts was stiff with embroidery. From the informal companion and the tamer of mules she had miraculously developed into the public celebrity, the peeress of the realm, and the inaugurator-general of philanthropic schemes and buildings. Not one of the important male personages but would have looked down on Denry!
And yet, while treating Denry as a jolly equal, the Countess with all her embroidered and stiff politeness somehow looked down on the important male personages—and they knew it. And the most curious thing was that they seemed rather to enjoy it. The one who seemed to enjoy it the least was Sir Jehoshophat Dain, a white-bearded pillar of terrific imposingness.
Sir Jee—as he was then beginning to be called—had recently been knighted, by way of reward for his enormous benefactions to the community. In the role of philanthropist he was really much more effective than the Countess. But he was not young, he was not pretty, he was not a woman, and his family had not helped to rule England for generations—at any rate, so far as anybody knew. He had made more money than had ever before been made by a single brain in the manufacture of