Half a Hero A Novel

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Language: English
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CHAPTER I.

THE IMPOSSIBLE—INEVITABLE.

In the garden the question was settled without serious difference of opinion. If Sir Robert Perry really could not go on—and Lady Eynesford was by no means prepared to concede even that—then Mr. Puttock, bourgeois as he was, or Mr. Coxon, conceited and priggish though he might be, must come in. At any rate, the one indisputable fact was the impossibility of Mr. Medland: this was, to Lady Eynesford's mind, axiomatic, and, in the safe privacy of her family circle (for Miss Scaife counted as one of the family, and Captain Heseltine and Mr. Flemyng did not count at all), she went so far as to declare that, let the Governor do as he would (in the inconceivable case of his being so foolish as to do anything of the kind), she at least would not receive Mr. Medland. Having launched this hypothetical thunderbolt, she asked Alicia Derosne to give her another cup of tea. Alicia poured out the tea, handed it to her sister-in-law, and asked,

"But, Mary, what is there so dreadful about Mr. Medland?"

"Everything," said Lady Eynesford.

"Still," suggested Miss Scaife, "if the creatures are bent on having him——"

"My dear Eleanor, what is a Governor for?" demanded Lady Eynesford.

"To do as he's told and subscribe to the Cup," interposed Dick Derosne. And he added, "They are having a palaver. Old Perry's been in an hour and a half."

Captain Heseltine and Mr. Flemyng looked at their watches and nodded gravely.

"Poor Willie!" murmured Lady Eynesford. "He'll miss his ride."

Poor Willie—that is to say, His Excellency William Delaporte, Baron Eynesford, Governor of New Lindsey—deserved all the sympathy his wife's exclamation implied, and even more. For, after a vast amount of fencing and an elaborate disquisition on the state of parties in the colony, Sir Robert Perry decisively refused the dissolution the Governor offered, and ended by saying, with eyebrows raised and the slightest shrug of his shoulders,

"In fact, sir, it's my duty to advise you to send for Mr. Medland."

The Governor pushed his chair back from the table.

"You won't try again?" he asked.

"Impossible, until he has failed."

"You think Puttock out of the question?"

"Quite. He has not following enough: people wouldn't stand Medland being passed over. Really, I don't think you'll find Medland hard to get on with. He's a very able man. For myself, I like him."

The Governor sat silent for a few minutes. Sir Robert, conceiving that his interview was at an end, rose to take leave. Lord Eynesford expressed much regret at being obliged to lose his services: Sir Robert replied suitably, and was at the door before the Governor reverted to Mr. Medland.

"There are queer stories about him, aren't there?" he asked. "I mean about his private life."

"Well, there is some vague gossip of the kind."

"There now! That's very awkward. He must come here, you know, and what shall I say to my wife?"

"She's been dead three or four years now," said Sir Robert, not referring to the Governor's wife. "And it's only rumour after all. Nothing has ever come to light on the subject."

"But there's a girl."

"There's nothing against the girl—except of course——"

"Oh, just so," said the Governor; "but that makes it awkward. Besides, somebody told me he used to get drunk."

"I think you may disregard that," said Sir Robert. "It only means that he likes his glass of wine as most of us do."

Sir Robert retired, and presently Dick Derosne, who acted as his brother's private secretary, came in. The Governor was in an easy-chair, smoking a cigar.

"So you've settled it," said Dick.

"Yes. Perry won't hear of going on."

"Well, he hardly could after being beaten by seventeen on his biggest bill. What's going to happen?"

Now the Governor thought fit to assume that the course he had, after so much hesitation, determined upon was, to every sensible man, the only possible course....