Everywhere in John Benham’s instructions there were signs of a deep and corroding cynicism which no amount of worldly success had been able to dispel. Everywhere could be discovered a hatred of modern social forms and a repugnance for the modern woman, against whom he warns the prospective tutor in language which is as unmistakable as the Benham Wall. It pleased me to find at least one wise man who agreed with me in this particular. Until the age of twenty-one, woman was to be taboo for Jerry Benham, not only her substance, but her essence. Like the mention of hell to ears polite, she was forbidden at Horsham Manor. No woman was to be permitted to come upon the estate in any capacity. The gardeners, grooms, gamekeepers, cooks, house servants—all were to be men at good wages chosen for their discretion in this excellent conspiracy. The penalty for infraction of this rule of silence was summary dismissal.
I read the pages through until the end, and then sat for a long while thinking, the wonderful possibilities of the plan taking a firmer hold upon me. The Perfect Man! And I, Roger Canby, should make him.
With Ballard the elder, to whom and to those plutocratic associates, as had been predicted, my antecedents and acquirements had proven satisfactory, I journeyed on the twelfth of December to Greene County in the Ballard limousine. A rigorous watch was kept upon the walls of Horsham Manor, and in response to the ring of the chauffeur at the solid wooden gates at the lodge, a small window opened and a red visage appeared demanding credentials. Ballard put the inquisitor to some pains, testing his efficiency, but finally produced his card and revealed his identity, after which the gates flew open and we entered the forbidden ground.
It was an idyllic spot, as I soon discovered, of fine rolling country, well wooded and watered, the road of macadam, rising slowly from the entrance gates, turning here and there through a succession of natural parks, along the borders of a lake of considerable size, toward the higher hills at the further end of the estate, among which, my companion told me, were built the Manor house and stables. Except for the excellent road itself, no attempt had been made to use the art of the landscape gardener in the lower portion of the tract, which had been left as nature had made it, venerable woodland, with a well-tangled undergrowth, where rabbits, squirrels and deer abounded, but as we neared the hills, which rose with considerable dignity against the pale, wintry sky, the signs of man’s handiwork became apparent. A hedge here, a path there, bordered with privet or rhododendron; a comfortable looking farmhouse, commodious barns and well-fenced pastures, where we passed a few men who touched their caps and stared after us.
“It’s lucky you care nothing for women, Canby,” said Mr. Ballard crisply; “this monastic idea may not bother you.”