“St. James’s house, London.
“My dear Brooks,
“I have read with an amusement which I am sure you will not fail to share, the shower of condemnation, approval, and remonstrance which by your doings in Stepney you appear to have brought down upon your head. The religious element especially, you seem to have set by the ears. I sat within hearing of our premier bishop last night at dinner, and his speculations with regard to you and your ultimate aims were so amusing that I passed without noticing it my favourite entree.
“You will have observed that it is your anonymity which is the weapon of which your antagonists make most use. Why not dissipate it and confound them? A Mr. Brooks of unknown antecedents might well be supposed capable of starting a philanthropic work for his own good; the same suspicion could never fall on Lord Kingston Ross, a future marquis. You will notice that I make no appeal to you from any personal motive. I should suggest that we preserve our present relations without alteration. But if you care to accept my suggestion I would propose that you nominate me trustee of your society, and I will give, as a contribution to its funds, the sum of five thousand pounds.”
Brooks looked down the long street, quiet and strangely unfamiliar in the dawning light, and for a moment he hesitated. The letter he held in his hand crushed up into a shapeless ball. It would make things very easy. And then—a rush of memories. He swung round and sat down at his desk, drawing paper and ink towards him.
“Dear lord Arranmore,” he wrote, “I am much obliged to you for the suggestion contained in your letter, but I regret that its acceptance would involve the carrying out on my part of certain obligations which I am not at present prepared to undertake. We will, therefore, if you please, allow matters to remain on this footing.
Bareheaded he stole out into the street, and breathed freely only when he heard it drop into the pillar-box. For only he himself knew what other things went with the rejection of that offer.
He crept up-stairs to lie down for a while, and ’on the way he laughed softly to himself.
“What a fool she would think me!” he muttered. “What a fool I am!”
AN ARISTOCRATIC RECRUIT
An early spring came with a rush of warm west wind, sunshine, and the perfume of blossoming flowers. The chestnuts where out at the Park fully a week before their time, and already through the great waxy buds the colour of the coming rhododendrons was to be seen in sheltered corners of the Park. London put out its window boxes, and remembered that it had, after all, for two short months a place amongst the beautiful cities of the world. ’Bus conductors begun to whistle, and hansom cab drivers to wear a bunch of primroses in their coats. Kingston Brooks, who had just left his doctor, turned into the Park and mingled idly with the throng of people.