The winter term at Hamchester ends the day after the College concert.
There is always a great gathering of old Hamchestrians at this function,
and the accommodation of the houses is taxed to its utmost. B. House
sent more boys to Woolwich than any other in the College, but that year
the cadets did not get their leave till three days after the College,
and so could not manage to get down for it. Therefore B. House was not
quite so packed as usual, though there was a fair sprinkling of old boys
who were at the ’Varsity or out in the world.
Lallie sang at the concert, and received a tremendous ovation. She had,
herself, set to music four verses of Kipling’s–
“Let us now praise famous men,
Men of little showing”–
and the tune, stately yet jubilant, marched in swinging measure to a
triumphant conclusion. Not one word in the whole four verses did the
audience miss, and the boys yelled “encore” with one prodigious voice.
The programme was a long one, encores were “strictly forbidden,” and the
restriction was perfectly reasonable; but the boys simply refused to let
the next item on the programme begin. Hamchester School had made up its
mind that it wanted Lallie to sing again, and no power on earth can stop
six hundred boys with good lungs when they fairly get going.
Dr. Wentworth was annoyed; Tony Bevan was furious, for his house had
never before really got out of hand, and there was no doubt whatever
that it was ringleader in the tremendous din that followed Lallie’s
singing. Of course she was radiant; this flying in the face of all
authority was after her own heart. She was trembling with excitement
when at last, in sheer desperation, Dr. Wentworth led her up on to the
platform to give the boys their way.
She chose as her song, “Should he upbraid,” and sang at the Principal in
the most bare-faced manner. A ripple of mirth ran over the audience,
and then, as the liquid, seductive notes rolled out so smoothly and
soothingly, Dr. Wentworth’s annoyance subsided and he actually turned
and beamed at his boisterous boys. Tony’s grim face relaxed, and by the
time the song was ended the masters had recovered their good humour and
the boys were forgiven.
Next day the school went home, the bulk of the boys by a special train
at mid-day. Miss Foster was to leave at tea-time, and Lallie by an
afternoon train for Woolwich, where she was to stay with a certain
general and his wife, old friends of her father.
Tony Bevan had made no plans. He had half promised to go and shoot with
Paddy over in Kerry, but he was not sufficiently sure of himself to make
up his mind. He felt slack and tired, old and depressed.
When the last batch of boys had filled the last long string of cabs,
Lallie went up to the matron’s room. That much-tried woman was sitting
exhausted at her table, turning over some of her interminable lists.
Lallie sat down opposite to her and laid her hand on the one that held
“You’ve done enough for one morning,” she said. “Rest now for a minute
and listen to me. You’ve been endlessly good to me, Matron, dear, and I
don’t know how to thank you. I have been so happy here, and now it has
all come to an end I feel very sad. I really think B. House is the
nicest place on earth, and I’m frightfully sorry to go.”
“But you’re coming back next term, Miss Clonmell–why, we’ll all be
together again in no time. There’s no need to look so melancholy about
Lallie shook her head.
“I’m not at all sure that I’ll come back. It seems to me, especially
lately, that my being here is rather a worry to Tony. I seem to vex him
without meaning to–and I suppose I _am_ a bit in the way. It has
lately begun to dawn upon me that Miss Foster is perfectly right. You
don’t want ’stray girls’ in a house like this.”
The matron looked mysterious, she nodded her head thrice, and there was
an “I-could-an’-I-would” air about her extremely provocative of
“Why do you look like that, Matron, dear? I won’t rest till you tell me.
Why do you wag your head so solemnly?”
“Have you no idea, Miss Clonmell, what is the matter with Mr. Bevan?”
“I don’t know that there’s anything the matter with him except that he’s
a bit tired of term, and perhaps of me, and having to be Uncle Emileen
for such a long stretch of country.”
“You’re very fond of Mr. Bevan, aren’t you, Miss Clonmell?”
“Fond of Tony? I adore Tony! there’s nobody like him.”
“Has it never occurred to you that perhaps Mr. Bevan—-”
Matron paused. She was the soul of discretion, and in view of the
daring step she contemplated, she stopped short aghast.
“Perhaps what–What about Tony?”
“Has it never struck you that perhaps Mr. Bevan may be feeling like some
of those other young gentlemen who are so much taken up with you–only
in his case, being older, it’s a much more serious matter.”
The lovely colour flooded Lallie’s face. Her hand tightened on
Matron’s, and she gazed at her in breathless silence for a full minute.
“Do you mean,” she whispered, “that you think Tony cares for me like
“I am perfectly sure of it,” said Matron; “and if _you_ are sure you can
never care for him ’like that’; I certainly think it would be kinder of
you not to come back next term.”
Lallie’s eyes were shining; she was very pale again as she suddenly
leant across the little table and kissed the matron.
Without another word she went out of the room.
She had lunch alone with Tony and Miss Foster. It was a very quiet
meal, and when it was over she followed Tony into the study to receive
some last instructions about her journey. He was to see her off at the
train, and being a methodical person he had made all arrangements for
her journey to Ireland as well. He gave her marked time-tables and her
tickets, and then looking down at her as she stood small and meek and
receptive at his side, he said:
“Ballinger has been at me again, Lallie. He really does seem
tremendously in earnest; and I think that if you don’t intend to have
anything more to do with him you should make it clearer than you have as
yet. It would be kinder to put him out of suspense.”
“Short of knocking him on the head like a gamekeeper with a rabbit, I
don’t see what more I can do.”
“Perhaps if he had it in black and white he’d realise that you mean what
“But I can’t write to him if he doesn’t write to me. It’s you he
bothers, not me. He has never said one syllable to me that all the
world mightn’t hear, since I came back from the Chesters. You can’t
expect me to go out of my way to refuse a man who has never asked me.
’He either fears his fate too much’—-”
“Perhaps he’s pretty certain he’d ’lose it all’ poor chap,” said Tony
gently; “I can sympathise with him.”
Lallie made no answer.
He took her to the station, bought her papers, spoke to the guard, and
compassed her about with all the thousand-and-one observances that men
love to lavish on women for whom they care.
As the train began to move, Lallie leant out of the window.
“If you look,” she began, then crimsoned to the roots of her hair, and
the train bore her from his sight.
“If you look–” Tony repeated over and over again as he walked slowly
home–what could she have been going to say?
He went into the town and restlessly did several quite unnecessary
errands at various shops. It was tea-time when he got back, and he had
it with Miss Foster in the drawing-room. When she had gone he went into
his study and sat down at his desk.
On his blotting-pad lay a volume of Shakespeare. It was not one of his
own little leather edition that he always used, but a fat, calf-bound
book from the set in the drawing-room.
He lifted it and saw that it contained one of Lallie’s markers–a piece
of white ribbon with a green four-leaved shamrock embroidered at each
end. He opened it at the place marked, and there was a faint pencil
line against the following passage:
“O, by your leave, I pray you;
I bade you never speak again of him:
But, would you undertake another suit,
I had rather hear you to solicit that,
Than music from the spheres.”
The College Shakespeare Society had read _Twelfth Night_ at B. House
only a fortnight before, and Lallie had pestered Tony to let her read
Viola, but only boys and masters were permitted to perform.
Tony laid the book down on his desk and put the marker in his breast
pocket. He looked at his watch and wrote a telegram to an old
Hamchestrian who was one of the Under Officers at the Shop.
“If you possibly can, get me a ticket for the dance to-night. Can’t get
there till eleven; leave it with sergeant at door.”
He rang furiously for Ford and told her to pack his bag. He was
unexpectedly called away.
He caught the six-fifteen, which reached Paddington soon after nine,
drove to a hotel, dressed, dined, and went down by train to Woolwich.
The porters marvelled at his lavish tips, and the cabman who drove him
from the Arsenal station to the Shop came to the conclusion that the
gentleman was undoubtedly drunk when he surveyed his fare.
His ticket awaited him, on production of his visiting card, and he was
allowed to make his way to the gym., where the ball was held.
As he surveyed the brilliant scene his heart failed him for the first
time that night. There were not half a dozen black coats in the crowded
room, and just for a moment Tony again felt old and plain and
uninteresting. He was far too big, however, to remain unnoticeable.
One after another of his old boys found him and gave him astonished but
At last he caught sight of Lallie. She was waltzing with
Paddy–conspicuously handsome Paddy; and even at that ball, where good
dancing is the rule and not the exception, there was something
harmoniously distinguished in the dancing of these two.
Lallie looked white and tired. Presently Paddy felt her sway in his
arms. “Stop!” she cried breathlessly; “am I mad, or is that Tony
standing on the other side of the room?”
Paddy piloted her skilfully over to Tony. One glance at their faces was
enough for that astute youth.
“How ripping of you to come!” he exclaimed; “but Lallie’s a mean little
minx not to tell me you were coming.”
“She didn’t know. I didn’t know myself five hours ago. But I have
something very important to say to Lallie–something that couldn’t
“You may have the rest of this dance,” he said; “and you may trust
Lallie for knowing the best places for sitting out.”
“Will you come?” asked Tony.
“To the end of the world,” said Lallie, as she slipped her hand under
his arm; “but I warn you, Tony, dear, with me you won’t have altogether
a tranquil journey.”