R. Byng, Esq.
On a sheet of paper, soon to be placed in the envelope, are written in the same hand these words:
dispare! Remember! Fante hart never won
fair lady. I shall watch your futur progres with
The last sentence is not original. Albert’s Sunday-school teacher said it to Albert on the occasion of his taking up his duties at the castle, and it stuck in his memory. Fortunately, for it expressed exactly what Albert wished to say. From now on Reggie Byng’s progress with Lady Maud Marsh was to be the thing nearest to Albert’s heart.
And George meanwhile? Little knowing how Fate has changed in a flash an ally into an opponent he is standing at the edge of the shrubbery near the castle gate. The night is very beautiful; the barked spots on his hands and knees are hurting much less now; and he is full of long, sweet thoughts. He has just discovered the extraordinary resemblance, which had not struck him as he was climbing up the knotted sheet, between his own position and that of the hero of Tennyson’s Maud, a poem to which he has always been particularly addicted—and never more so than during the days since he learned the name of the only possible girl. When he has not been playing golf, Tennyson’s Maud has been his constant companion.
“Queen rose of the rosebud
garden of girls
Come hither, the dances are done,
In glass of satin and glimmer of pearls.
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls
To the flowers, and be their sun.”
The music from the ballroom flows out to him through the motionless air. The smell of sweet earth and growing things is everywhere.
“Come into the garden,
For the black bat, night, hath flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.”
He draws a deep breath, misled young man. The night is very beautiful. It is near to the dawn now and in the bushes live things are beginning to stir and whisper.
Surely she can hear him?
The silver stars looked down dispassionately. This sort of thing had no novelty for them.
Lord Belpher’s twenty-first birthday dawned brightly, heralded in by much twittering of sparrows in the ivy outside his bedroom. These Percy did not hear, for he was sound asleep and had had a late night. The first sound that was able to penetrate his heavy slumber and rouse him to a realization that his birthday had arrived was the piercing cry of Reggie Byng on his way to the bath-room across the corridor. It was Reggie’s disturbing custom to urge himself on to a cold bath with encouraging yells; and the noise of this performance, followed by violent splashing and a series of sharp howls as the sponge played upon the Byng spine, made sleep an impossibility within a radius of many yards. Percy sat up in bed, and cursed Reggie silently. He discovered that he had a headache.