MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Author of Lady Rose’s Daughter, Missing, etc.
Frontispiece in Color by C. Allan Gilbert
To the dear and
T. S. A.
Passchendaele, October 11, 1917
This book was finished in April 1918, and represents the mood of a supremely critical moment in the war.
M. A. W.
’Remember, Slater, if I am detained, that I am expecting the two gentlemen from the War Agricultural Committee at six, and Captain Mills of the Red Cross is coming to dine and sleep. Ask Lady Chicksands to look after him in case I am late—and put those Tribunal papers in order for me, by the way. I really must go properly into that Quaker man’s case—horrid nuisance! I hope to be back in a couple of hours, but I can’t be sure. Hullo, Beryl! I thought you were out.’
The speaker, Sir Henry Chicksands, already mounted on his cob outside his own front door, turned from his secretary, to whom he had been giving these directions, to see his only daughter hurrying through the inner hall with the evident intention of catching her father before he rode off.
She ran down the steps, but instead of speaking at once she began to stroke and pat his horse’s neck, as though doubtful how to put what she had to say.
‘Well, Beryl, what’s the matter?’ said her father impatiently. The girl, who was slender and delicate in build, raised her face to his.
‘Are you—are you really going to Mannering, father?’
‘I am—worse luck!’
‘You’ll handle him gently, won’t you?’ There was anxiety in the girl’s voice. ‘But of course you will—I know you will.’
Chicksands shrugged his shoulders.
’I shall do my best. But you know as well as I do that he’s a queer customer when it comes to anything connected with the war.’
The girl looked behind her to make sure that the old butler of the house had retired discreetly out of earshot.
‘But he can’t quarrel with you, father!’
‘I hope not—for your sake.’
‘Must you really tackle him?’
’Well, I thought I was the person to do it. It’s quite certain nobody else could make anything of it.’
Privately Beryl disagreed, but she made no comment.
‘Aubrey seems to be pretty worried,’ she said, in a depressed tone, as she turned away.
’I don’t wonder. He should have brought up his father better. Well, good-bye, dear. Don’t bother too much.’
She waved her hand to him as he made off, and stood watching him from the steps—a gentle, attaching figure, her fair hair and the pale oval of her face standing out against the panelled hall behind her.