They had a son.
The tenants presented him with a silver bowl; Lord Durwent presented them with a garden fete; and the parents presented the boy with the name of Malcolm.
Two years later there came a daughter.
The tenants gave her a silver plate; Lord Durwent gave them a garden fete; and he and his wife gave the girl the name of Elise.
Three years later a second son appeared.
There was a presentation, followed by a garden fete
and a christening.
The name was Richard.
In course of time the elder son grew to that mental stature when the English parent feels the time is ripe to send him away to school. The ironmonger’s daughter had the idea that Malcolm, being her son, was hers to mould.
‘My dear,’ said Lord Durwent, exerting his authority almost for the first time, ’the boy is eight years of age, and no time must be lost in preparing him for Eton and inculcating into him those qualities which mark’——
‘But,’ cried his wife with theatrical unrestraint, ’why send him to Eton? Why not wait until you see what he wants to be in the world?’
Lord Durwent’s face bore a look of unperturbed calm. ’When he is old enough, he must go to Eton, my dear, and acquire the qualities which will enable him to take over Roselawn at my death’——
At this point Lady Durwent interrupted him with a tirade which, in common with a good many domestic unpleasantries, was born of much that was irrelevant, springing from sources not readily apparent. She abused the public-school system of England, and sneered at the county families which blessed the neighbourhood with their presence. She reviled Lord Durwent’s habits, principally because they were habits, and thought it was high time some Durwent grew up who wasn’t just a ‘sticky, stuffy, starched, and bored porpoise—yes, PORPOISE!’ (shaking her head as if to establish the metaphor against the whole of the English aristocracy). In short, it was the spirit of the Ironmonger castigating the Peerage, and at its conclusion Lady Durwent felt much abused, and quite pleased with her own rhetoric.
Lord Durwent glanced for courage at an ancestor who looked magnificently down at him over a ruffle. He adjusted his own cravat and spoke in nicely modulated accents: ’Sybil, nothing can change me on this point. In spite of what you say, it is my intention to keep to the tradition of the Durwents, and that is that the occupant of Roselawn’——
‘What! am not I his mother?’ cried the good woman, her hysteria having much the same effect on Lord Durwent’s smoothly developing monologue as a heavy pail dropped by a stage-hand during Hamlet’s soliloquy.
‘Sybil,’ said Lord Durwent sternly, ’it was arranged at Malcolm’s birth that he should go to Eton. I shall take him next Tuesday to a preparatory school, and you must excuse me if I refuse to discuss the matter further.’