“Yes, sir; but I’m sure it’s the same, because me and Cook witnessed, you remember, and there’s our names on it still, and we’ve only done it once.”
“Quite,” said Soames. He did remember. Smither and Jane had been proper witnesses, having been left nothing in the Will that they might have no interest in Timothy’s death. It had been—he fully admitted—an almost improper precaution, but Timothy had wished it, and, after all, Aunt Hester had provided for them amply.
“Very well,” he said; “good-bye, Smither. Look after him, and if he should say anything at any time, put it down, and let me know.”
“Oh I yes, Mr. Soames; I’ll be sure to do that. It’s been such a pleasant change to see you. Cook will be quite excited when I tell her.”
Soames shook her hand and went down-stairs. He stood for fully two minutes by the hat-stand whereon he had hung his hat so many times. ’So it all passes,’ he was thinking; ’passes and begins again. Poor old chap!’ And he listened, if perchance the sound of Timothy trailing his hobby-horse might come down the well of the stairs; or some ghost of an old face show over the bannisters, and an old voice say: ’Why, it’s dear Soames, and we were only saying that we hadn’t seen him for a week!’
Nothing—nothing! Just the scent of camphor, and dust-motes in a sunbeam through the fanlight over the door. The little old house! A mausoleum! And, turning on his heel, he went out, and caught his train.
THE NATIVE HEATH
“His foot’s upon
his native heath,
His name’s—Val Dartie.”
With some such feeling did Val Dartie, in the fortieth year of his age, set out that same Thursday morning very early from the old manor-house he had taken on the north side of the Sussex Downs. His destination was Newmarket, and he had not been there since the autumn of 1899, when he stole over from Oxford for the Cambridgeshire. He paused at the door to give his wife a kiss, and put a flask of port into his pocket.
“Don’t overtire your leg, Val, and don’t bet too much.”
With the pressure of her chest against his own, and her eyes looking into his, Val felt both leg and pocket safe. He should be moderate; Holly was always right—she had a natural aptitude. It did not seem so remarkable to him, perhaps, as it might to others, that—half Dartie as he was—he should have been perfectly faithful to his young first cousin during the twenty years since he married her romantically out in the Boer War; and faithful without any feeling of sacrifice or boredom—she was so quick, so slyly always a little in front of his mood. Being first cousins they had decided, rather needlessly, to have no children; and, though a little sallower, she had kept her looks, her slimness, and the colour of her dark hair. Val particularly admired the life of her own she carried on, besides