The Duke de Montvillier and George Hankey, who discovered silver in Los Madges, have moved into Kymott Crescent. Alicia Terrill, widow and relation of Sir Harry Tanner, finds the Duke a distinctly unpleasant neighbour. Sir Harry's son is sent to intervene. Unannounced, Sir Harry arrives with a stranger. 'The coming of Big Bill Slewer, ripe for murder and with the hatred he had accumulated during his five years' imprisonment', has played splendidly into his hands. (Goodreads)
THE DUKE ARRIVES
The local directory is a useful institution to the stranger, but the intimate directory of suburbia, the libellous "Who's Who," has never and will never be printed. Set in parallel columns, it must be clear to the meanest intelligence that, given a free hand, the directory editor could produce a volume which for sparkle and interest, would surpass the finest work that author has produced, or free library put into circulation. Thus:- AUTHORIZED STATEMENT. PRIVATE AMENDMENT.
44. Mr. A. B. Wilkes. Wilkes drinks: comes home
Merchant. in cabs which he can ill
afford. Young George
Wilkes is a most insufferable
little beast, uses scent
in large quantities. Mrs.
W. has not had a new dress
56. Mr. T. B. Coyter. Coyter has three stories which
Accountant. he *will* insist upon repeating.
Mrs. C. smokes and is
considered a little fast.
No children: two cats,
which Mrs. C. calls "her
darlings." C. lost a lot of
money in a ginger beer
66. Mrs. Terrill. Very close, not sociable, in
fact, "stuck up." Daughter
rather pretty, but
stand-offish-believed to have
lived in great style before
Mr. T. died, but now
scraping along on £200 a
year. Never give parties
and seldom go out.
74. Mr. Nape Retired civil servant. Son
Roderick supposed to be
very clever; never cuts his
hair: a great brooder,
reads too many trashy
And so on ad infinitum, or rather until the portentous and grave pronouncement "Here is Kymott Terrace" shuts off the Crescent, its constitution and history. There are hundreds of Kymott Crescents in London Suburbia, populated by immaculate youths of a certain set and rigid pattern, of girls who affect open-worked blouses and short sleeves, of deliberate old gentlemen who water their gardens and set crude traps for the devastating caterpillar. And the young men play cricket in snowy flannels, and the girls get hot and messy at tennis, and the old gentlemen foregather in the evening at the nearest open space to play bowls with some labour and no little dignity. So it was with the Crescent.
In this pretty thoroughfare with its £100 p.a. houses (detached), its tiny carriage drives, its white muslin curtains hanging stiffly from glittering brass bands, its window boxes of clustering geraniums and its neat lawns, it was a tradition that no one house knew anything about its next-door neighbour-or wanted to know. You might imagine, did you find yourself deficient in charity, that such a praiseworthy attitude was in the nature of a polite fiction, but you may judge for yourself.
The news that No. 64, for so long standing empty, and bearing on its blank windows the legend "To Let-apply caretaker," had at length found a tenant was general property on September 6. The information that the new people would move in on the 17th was not so widespread until two days before that date.
Master Willie Outram (of 65, "Fairlawn ") announced his intention of "seeing what they'd got," and was very promptly and properly reproved by his mother.
"You will be good enough to remember that only rude people stare at other people's furniture when it is being carried into the house," she admonished icily; "be good enough to keep away, and if I see you near 64 when the van comes I shall be very cross."
Which gives the lie to the detractors of Kymott Crescent.
Her next words were not so happily chosen.
"You might tell me what She's like," she added thoughtfully.
To the disgust of Willie, the van did not arrive at 64 until dusk. He had kept the vigil the whole day to no purpose. It was a small van, damnably small, and I do not use the adverb as an expletive, but to indicate how this little pantechnicon, might easily have ineffaceably stamped the penury of the new tenants.
And there was no She.
Two men came after the van had arrived.
They were both tall, both dressed in grey, but one was older than the other.
The younger man was clean-shaven, with a keen brown face and steady grey eyes that had a trick of laughing of themselves. The other might have been ten years older. He too was clean-shaven, and his skin was the hue of mahogany.
A close observer would not have failed to notice, that the hands of both were big, as the hands of men used to manual labour.
They stood on either side of the tiled path that led through the strip of front garden to the door, and watched in silence, the rapid unloading of their modest property.
Willie Outram, frankly a reporter, mentally noted the absence of piano, whatnot, mirror and all the paraphernalia peculiar to the Kymott Crescent drawing-room. He saw bundles of skins, bundles of spears, tomahawks (imagine his ecstasy!) war drums, guns, shields and trophies of the chase. Bedroom furniture that would disgrace a servant's attic, camp bedsteads, big lounge chairs and divans. Most notable absentee from the furnishings was She-a fact which might have served as food for discussion for weeks, but for the more important discovery he made later.
A man-servant busied himself directing the removers, and the elder of the two tenants, at last said-
"That's finished, Duke."
He spoke with a drawling, lazy, American accent.
The young man nodded, and called the servant.
"We shall be back before ten," he said in a pleasant voice.
"Very good, m'lord," replied the man with the slightest of bows.
The man looked round and saw Willie.
"Hank," he said, "there's the information bureau-find out things."
The elder jerked his head invitingly, and Willie sidled into the garden.
"Bub," said Hank, with a hint of gloom in his voice, "Where's the nearest saloon?"
He did not quite comprehend.
"Pub," explained the young man, in a soft voice.
"Public-house, sir?" Willie faltered correctly.
Hank nodded, and the young man chuckled softly.
"There is," said the outraged youth, "a good-pull-up-for-carmen, at the far end of Kymott Road, the far end," he emphasized carefully.
"At the far end, eh?" Hank looked round at his companion, "Duke, shall we walk or shall we take the pantechnicon?"
"Walk," said his grace promptly.
Willie saw the two walking away. His young brain was in a whirl. Here was an epoch-making happening, a tremendous revolutionary and unprecedented circumstance-nay, it was almost monstrous, that there should come into the ordered life of Kymott Crescent so disturbing a factor.
The agitated youth watched them disappearing, and as the consciousness of his own responsibility came to him, he sprinted after them.
They turned round.
"You-here I say!-you're not a duke, are you-not a real duke?" he floundered.
Hank surveyed him kindly.
"Sonny," he said impressively, "this is the realest duke you've ever seen: canned in the Dukeries an' bearin' the government analyst's certificate."
"But-but," said the bewildered boy, "no larks-I say, are you truly a duke?"
He looked appealingly at the younger man whose eyes were dancing.
He nodded his head and became instantly grave.
"I'm a truly duke," he said sadly, "keep it dark."
He put his hand in his pocket, and produced with elaborate deliberation a small card case. From this he extracted a piece of paste-board, and handed to Willie who read-
"THE DUC DE MONTVILLIER,"
and in a corner "San Pio Ranch, Tex."
"I'm not," continued the young man modestly, "I'm not an English duke: if anything I'm rather superior to the average English duke: I've got royal blood in my veins, and I shall be very pleased to see you at No. 64."
"From 10 till 4," interposed the grave Hank.
"From 10 till 4," accepted the other, "which are my office hours."
"For duking," explained Hank.
"Exactly-for duking," said his grace.
Willie looked from one to the other.
"I say!" he blurted, "you're pulling my leg, aren't you? I say! you're rotting me."
"I told you so," murmured the Duke resentfully, "Hank, he thinks I'm rotting-he's certain I'm pulling his leg, Hank."
Hank said nothing.
Only he shook his head despairingly, and taking the other's arm, they continued their walk, their bowed shoulders eloquent of their dejection.