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The Seaside Novelette
by [?]

“I will show you,” she said simply.

They passed out into the sunlit orchard. In an apple tree a thrush was singing; the gooseberries were over-ripe; beetroots were flowering everywhere.

“You are very beautiful,” he said.

“Yes,” said Gwendolen.

“I must see you again. Listen! To-night my mother, Lady Beltravers, is giving a ball. Do you dance?”

“Alas, not the tango,” she said sadly.

“The Beltraverses do not tang,” he announced with simple dignity. “You valse? Good. Then will you come?”

“Thank you, my lord. Oh, I should love to!”

“That is excellent. And now I must bid you good-bye. But first, will you not tell me your name?”

“Gwendolen French, my lord.”

“Ah! One ‘f’ or two?”

“Three,” said Gwendolen simply.


Beltravers Castle was a blaze of lights. At the head of the old oak staircase (a magnificent example of the Selfridge period) the Lady Beltravers stood receiving her guests. Magnificently gowned in one of Sweeting’s latest creations, and wearing round her neck the famous Beltravers seed-pearls, she looked the picture of stately magnificence. As each guest was announced by a bevy of footmen, she extended her perfectly gloved hand and spoke a few words of kindly welcome.

“Good evening, Duchess; so good of you to look in. Ah, Earl, charmed to meet you; you’ll find some sandwiches in the billiard-room. Beltravers, show the Earl some sandwiches. How-do-you-do, Professor? Delighted you could come. Won’t you take off your goloshes?”

All the county was there.

Lord Hobble was there wearing a magnificent stud; Erasmus Belt, the famous author, whose novel, Bitten: A Romance, went into two editions; Sir Septimus Root, the inventor of the fire-proof spat; Captain the Honourable Alfred Nibbs, the popular breeder of blood-tortoises–the whole world and his wife were present. And towering above them all stood Lord Beltravers, of Beltravers Castle, Beltravers.

Lord Beltravers stood aloof in a corner of the great ball-room. Above his head was the proud coat-of-arms of the Beltraverses–a headless sardine on a field of tomato. As each new arrival entered Lord Beltravers scanned his or her countenance eagerly, and then turned away with a snarl of disappointment. Would his little country maid never come?

She came at last. Attired in a frock which had obviously been created in Little Popley, she looked the picture of girlish innocence as she stood for a moment hesitating in the doorway. Then her eyes brightened as Lord Beltravers came towards her with long swinging strides.

“You’re here!” he exclaimed. “How good of you to come. I have thought about you ever since this morning. There is a valse beginning. Will you valse it with me?”

“Thank you,” said Gwendolen shyly.

Lord Beltravers, who valsed divinely, put his arm round her waist and led her into the circle of dancers.


The ball was at its height. Gwendolen, who had been in to supper eight times, placed her hand timidly on the arm of Lord Beltravers, who had just begged a polka of her.

“Let us sit this out,” she said. “Not here–in the garden.”

“Yes,” said Lord Beltravers gravely. “Let us go. I have something to say to you.”

Offering her his arm, he led her down the great terrace which ran along the back of the house.

“How wonderful to have your ancestors always around you like this!” cooed Gwendolen, as she gazed with reverence at the two statues which fronted them.

“Venus,” said Lord Beltravers shortly, “and Samson.”

He led her down the steps and into the ornamental garden, and there they sat down.

“Miss French,” said Lord Beltravers, “or, if I may call you by that sweet name, Gwendolen, I have brought you here for the purpose of making an offer to you. Perhaps it would have been more in accordance with etiquette had I approached your mother first.”

“Mother is dead,” said the girl simply.

“I am sorry,” said Lord Beltravers, bending his head in courtly sympathy. “In that case I should have asked your father to hear my suit.”

“Father is deaf,” she replied. “He couldn’t have heard it.”