Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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MR. HARRY BAGGS came to an abrupt standstill before the closed gate, watched the train disappearing along the side of the platform and swore. The ticket collector listened to him with interest.

"I could have caught that on my head," Mr. Baggs declared vehemently.

"More than you will do on your feet, anyway," the ticket collector retorted pleasantly. "Our business is to see you foolhardy young gents don't go risking your lives in that way."

Mr. Baggs stared hard at him. The ticket collector was a large and powerful man, clad in the uniform of authority. Mr. Baggs, though dapper, was inclined to be undersized. These facts may have weight with him as he turned slowly on his heel.

"You're too officious by half, my good fellow," he remarked. "I shall get the money for my ticket back and report you at the same time."

The official, who was having a slack time, shook at the knees in well-simulated terror. Mr. Baggs, after a somewhat heated colloquy with the clerk in the ticket-office, received back the money for his ticket and left the station. He had an evening to spare upon his hands, an immense capacity for adventure, four and nine-pence halfpenny and three-quarters of a packet of cigarettes in his pocket. London, with all its possibilities and all its limitations, lay stretched out before him. He strolled nonchalantly out of the station, hesitated for a few moments at the corner of the street, and finally crossed the road and entered a very attractive-looking motion-picture theater.

For the first few minutes after his arrival, Mr. Baggs gave himself up to an appreciation of the performance. Then the young woman by his side dropped her program, and Mr. Baggs, after one glance into her face as he restored it, found himself fully occupied in the task of establishing sociable relations with her.

"You'll excuse my taking notice of you, miss," he whispered during a temporary interval. "Not my custom at all. Seeing you there a little lonely, though, and being that way myself, I couldn't resist it."

His neighbor smiled down at him. She was taller than Baggs and she had an air with her which puzzled him.

"Haven't you a young lady?" she inquired.

Mr. Baggs coughed. The inquiry was a little direct but he was a truthful person.

"In a sort of way," he admitted airily. "There is a young lady down at Thornton Heath, I take out sometimes. I was going down there to-night but missed my train. But there's nothing definite," he went on hastily. "A man needs to look around well, nowadays, before he settles down."

His new friend smiled delightfully.

"You must be quite young, too," she remarked.

"I am twenty-three," Mr. Baggs confessed, straightening his tie. "How old might you be?"

"I am twenty-two."

"And your name?"

"My name is Ruth."

Mr. Baggs ventured to steal a sideway glance. More than ever he was impressed with something undefinable but mysterious in his neighbor's appearance. She was probably a lady's-maid, he decided.

"In service?" he inquired diffidently.

She hesitated.

"Well, I suppose so," she admitted.

Mr. Baggs promptly decided that his first surmise had been correct. Confidential lady's-maid beyond doubt. He had come to various other decisions, too, and when at last the young woman murmured something about its being time to go, he rose promptly.

"You'll let me see you home?" he begged.

"If it isn't troubling you," she assented. "I have a sister here somewhere, though."

Mr. Baggs was a little disappointed, but he made the best of it, the more so as he discovered, when the sister was introduced, that she too possessed that nameless air of distinction which he decided could be possessed by nothing less than a lady's-maid. Mr. Baggs, usually at no loss for light conversation and chaff, felt a little subdued as he stepped out on the broad pavement of the Buckingham Palace Road. The jovial invitation which as a rule rose readily enough to his lips, came with almost shamefaced diffidence.

"You young ladies care about a glass of wine, eh, or something?" he inquired. "We can find a quiet little place somewhere near."

They distinctly hesitated and he felt emboldened by Ruth's tone of regret.

"I am so sorry," she explained, "but really they are so strict with us at the house where we live. If you like, you can come in and have something with us when we get home."

"Very good of you, I'm sure, if it's allowed," Mr. Baggs acquiesced.

THEY walked a very short distance and paused before one of the largest houses in a very important square. Baggs politely held open the gate of the area while the two girls glanced a little nervously around.

"You come last," Ruth whispered, "and don't make any noise."

"Don't want to get you into any trouble," Mr. Baggs remarked gallantly. "If you'd rather—"

"Come along," Ruth ordered peremptorily.

They passed through the door, which Ruth opened by merely turning the handle, along a stone passage, past a kitchen in which Mr. Baggs was much impressed by the sight of a French chef in white linen clothes, and finally into a moderately sized sitting-room, in which an elderly woman was seated, reading a newspaper. She rose at once at their entrance, which Mr. Baggs thought was very kind of her.

"My dear—"

"Please, Mrs. Green," Ruth began breathlessly, "may we have just a little supper? And this is a great friend of ours whom we haven't met for a long time. Mr. Baggs—Mrs. Green, the housekeeper here. You don't mind, do you, Mrs. Green?"

Mrs. Green looked the picture of puzzled perplexity. Ruth, however, was hanging on to her arm.

"If I am in the way, ladies," Mr. Baggs insisted, "just a word to me's enough. I have brought you home safely, and that's reward enough for any man," he added, with a little bow, and a pleasing sense of having said the right thing.

"Be a dear, Greenie," Ruth's sister begged.

"We'll get the supper ourselves, if you like," Ruth added.

"I couldn't think of such a thing," Mrs. Green protested.

"A parlor-maid has been known to set a table before now," Ruth's sister declared flippantly. "However!"

Mrs. Green hurried out. Ruth produced a gold cigarette case, at which Mr. Baggs stared with bulging eyes.

"Have one?" she offered. "Oh! you are looking at my case," she added, in momentary embarrassment. "That belongs to my young lady. She doesn't mind how many of her things I use."

Baggs accepted the cigarette and an easy-chair. Ruth took off her hat and hung it up behind the door. Her sister, whose name it transpired was Christabel, followed her example. Mr. Baggs felt their eyes regarding him a little critically. Their heads drew together.

"More than you could do to find one at all," Ruth retorted, in answer to something which sounded like a whispered criticism from her sister. "I think he's a duck."

They drew their chairs up to the fire. Presently a neatly dressed little maid came in and laid the cloth. She stared so much at this obviously unexpected visitor that twice she nearly dropped the things which she was carrying. Mr. Baggs' interest was almost painfully divided between the conversation of his two hostesses and the extraordinary liberality of the feast which was being placed upon the table.

"Seem to treat you here like one of the family," he remarked, his eyes resting upon a jar of pâté de foie gras.

"Oh, we have what we like," Ruth assented airily.

"Both kind of family treasures, I suppose, eh?"

"I honestly don't think they could do without us," Christabel acknowledged.

"What might your master's name be, now?"

Ruth hesitated.

"The Earl of Cullerden," her sister replied. "No one ever sees anything of him, though. He is abroad or in the country most of the time."

"Any family?"

"One or two girls," Ruth told him, throwing herself back in her chair and lazily watching the preparation of the repast. "Quite enough to keep us busy."

"The old lady much of a tartar?"

They both laughed, as he thought, unreasonably.

"You'd think so if she were to find her way down here now!" Christabel observed.

"No chance of it, I hope?" Mr. Baggs asked uneasily.

"Not the slightest," they both assured him. "She is at a dinner-party, and bridge afterwards. Won't be home till twelve."

"You have to sit up and look after her, I suppose?" Mr. Baggs cunningly suggested, sure at last of ascertaining the truth as regards the position in the household of his inamorata.

"How clever of you to guess!" Ruth exclaimed, with a grimace. "Yes, I have to put the old thing to bed. Now if you're ready, Mr. Baggs, we'll have something to eat."

THEY all sat down. Mr. Baggs tasted many dainties to which he was unaccustomed, and waited upon his two companions, whom he entertained with a constant fire of small-talk.

"I tell you what, young ladies," he remarked, glancing around the table, "I've had one or two friends in service, and been entertained a few times, but I have never been anywhere where they treated the young ladies like this. Wine, too!"

"We always insist upon it," Christabel declared, "wherever we go."

"Tell us, Mr. Baggs," Ruth asked, "if it isn't a delicate question. Most of our friends, of course, are—in service, too, in a kind of way. What is your profession?"

Mr. Baggs coughed.

"Well," he said meditatively, "it's rather hard to give an exact name to my job. I'm a motor-engineer."

"How interesting!" Ruth murmured. "Are you in a good place now?"

Mr. Baggs leaned a little across the table. His cheeks were a little flushed, and his tie had risen above the protecting stud at the back of his collar.

"I am doing very nicely indeed," he announced impressively, "so nicely that if a young lady and I were to what you might call get on together, and both be willing, there wouldn't be any real reason why we should wait longer than, say, a couple of months at the outside, just to make a few little arrangements. Matrimony," Mr. Baggs went on, "isn't one of those things one should hurry about, but if you are lucky enough to drop across just what you're looking for—it isn't toothache, is it, miss?" he broke off.

Ruth's head had disappeared between her hands, and her shoulders were shaking. She looked up, however, a moment later. There were certainly tears in her eyes.

"Oh, Mr. Baggs, you are so funny!" she exclaimed. "I love the way you put things."

"There's no beating about the bush with me," he admitted.

"But what about the young lady down at Thornton Heath?" Ruth murmured coyly.

"That's neither here nor there," Mr. Baggs asserted, helping himself to the remainder of the wine, after having gallantly proffered the battle to his companions. "She may have had hopes—a good many of 'em have had—and I'm not denying that in a sort of way I've been fond of her, but as I said before, I've not committed myself, and to tell you the honest truth," Mr. Baggs went on, "I am just at the present moment feeling exceedingly glad that I haven't. And here's to what I am hoping for," he concluded, finishing off his glass of wine.

There was a discreet tap at the door. Ruth hastened there and was engaged for a moment or two in a whispered conversation with the housekeeper. Presently she returned.

"I am so sorry, Mr. Baggs," she announced, with a little sigh, "but I think perhaps you had better go now. Mr. Henderson—that's the butler, you know—is expected in from his bridge club shortly, and he is very irritable about strangers."

Mr. Baggs rose regretfully to his feet.

"I quite understand," he said. "I'll be toddling."

He took up his hat and gloves and bamboo cane. Then he coughed. He was not, as a rule, backward in such suggestions, but Ruth's pleasantly outstretched hand was a little uncompromising. He advanced his arm gallantly toward her waist.

"You won't object? Just a—"

The young woman glided gracefully beyond his reach. She shook her head at him.

"Mr. Baggs," she sighed. "I was afraid, from the first moment I saw you, that you were a Lothario."

"A what?"

"A flirt," Ruth declared severely.

"Not at this present moment, I assure you," Mr. Baggs insisted. "There are times when a fellow feels inclined to play about a bit, and there are times," he added, summoning up his courage and approaching a little nearer, "when he is in deadly earnest. Now, if your sister would just—"

Ruth became unapproachable.

"You must wait a little, Mr. Baggs," she said softly, looking at him in a way which utterly completed his subjugation. "This is only our first meeting, you know."

"The second," Mr. Baggs pronounced, "is in your hands. There's a little kind of a hop," he went on diffidently, "every Tuesday night, quite select, although perhaps not what you may be accustomed to, but if you'd favor me with your company, you and your sister," he added, with a little bow, "—there's another young fellow as I know of would be very glad of the opportunity of doing the civil by her—and you and me might have a little more conversation, Miss Ruth."

"It sounds delightful," Ruth confessed.

"I shall call for you, then, to-morrow evening at eight-thirty sharp. Evening dress is optional," Mr. Baggs went on. "I wear it myself, but it is a matter of taste."

"We'll do our best," Ruth promised. "By-the-by, if you are a motor-engineer, haven't you a car? Couldn't you take us for a ride some time? The worst of service is that it's so confining."

Mr. Baggs tried to look delighted.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," he declared. "I'm rather full up, though, for the next few days. You wouldn't care for a spin quite early in the morning, would you?"

"We should love it," Ruth murmured.

"Half-past seven too early?"

"Not a second."

"Corner of the square at half-past seven to-morrow morning," Mr. Baggs arranged promptly. "We'll have a turn round, anyway. Good night, young ladies both, and many thanks for the delightful evening—and meal," Mr. Baggs added, with a glance at the table.

"You won't forget to-morrow morning, Mr. Baggs?" Ruth asked, smiling.

"Not on your life!" was the prompt reply.

MR. BAGGS was not likely to forget the following morning.

"What the devil have you been doing to the car?" his new employer demanded, stepping back and examining it critically through his eyeglass.

"Car, my lord? Nothing at all, my lord," Baggs replied, with sinking heart.

"Where's all this mud come from, then?" Lord Robert inquired, pointing with his cane to the splashboard.

"Roads just been watered, my lord."

"Dash it all, it's only five minutes' spin from the garage! Sure you haven't been joy-riding, eh?"

"Certain, my lord. I took her out a little way through the Park to see what was wrong—one of the cylinders was missing. She's quite all right now, my lord."

Baggs' employer looked a little doubtful but said no more. He took the wheel and drove, to Baggs' secret horror, to the very house in the great square which had become for him a home of romance.

"Go and ring the bell," Lord Robert ordered, "and see if the young ladies are down."

Baggs obeyed with sinking heart. The door was opened by a stolid-looking young footman, however, and there were no signs of any women servants about.

"Your young ladies down?" Baggs inquired, in friendly fashion.

"Whom might you be inquiring for?" was the dignified reply.

"Lord Robert Matlaske," Baggs explained, with a jerk of the head. "Him in my car out there."

The footman condescended to glance outside.

"You can tell his lordship he may come in," he said. "The young ladies are in the morning room."

Baggs delivered his message and sat in agony in the car for a quarter of an hour. He became a little less perturbed when he reflected that the rooms which he had visited last night were chiefly at the back of the house. Lord Robert came out at last and Baggs gave a little jump as he heard what seemed to him to be a familiar voice in the hall.

"So sorry, Bobbie, but we had a lovely spin before breakfast this morning. You must try us again another time."

The young man came down the steps and took his place once more in the car. Baggs was uncertain whether he was standing on his head or his heels. Then, as they glided off, he remembered the extraordinary assimilation, which no doubt extended also to the voice, going on all the time between young ladies of position and their confidential hand-maidens.

"Gave me quite a turn, though," he admitted to himself a little later on.

"Take the car back and wait for orders, Baggs," his employer directed. "The young ladies can't come out this morning."

"Shall you be requiring me to-night, sir?" Baggs asked, with his heart in his mouth.

His lordship shook his head.

"No! You can tell Charles to bring me the electric round at seven o'clock."

Baggs heaved a sigh of relief and spent most of the rest of the day indulging in pleasurable anticipations, which for once were entirely gratified. It was quite the proudest moment of his life when at a little before nine o'clock he entered the long dancing hall of the Spinner Street Dancing Academy, with Ruth and her sister.

"There's nothing to speak of in the way of ceremony here," he explained to them confidentially, "but don't you dance with anyone you don't fancy the looks of. My pal will look after you, Miss Christabel, and you'll find me pretty hard to get rid of," he whispered to Ruth. "Here you are, Freddy," he called out to a young man who was approaching them a little sheepishly. "Want to introduce my pal, young ladies—Mr. Frederick Bolster—Miss Ruth and Miss Christabel, other name not signifying. Now Freddy, if you'll look after Miss Christabel a bit, we'll have a turn. You'll excuse Freddy not being in evening dress? He's at a shipping house in the city where they keep 'em pretty late. Here we go, then, Miss Ruth. You don't mind a hop, now and then? Seems to give a bit of life to the waltz, I always think."

"I adore it," Ruth assented. "Come on."

The evening was an immense success. Baggs was pestered with inquiries concerning his two friends, whose costume and looks met with universal approval, but he shook his head portentously in reply to all demands for an introduction.

"Young ladies out on the quiet," he confided. "Don't want to make any acquaintances except with Freddy and myself."

"And a little bit of all right they are!" Freddy remarked, mopping his brow. "Licks me when you picked 'em up, Harry. You do have the luck, and no mistake."

"It isn't altogether luck," Mr. Baggs pointed out. "It's just letting them see at once you know how to behave like a gentleman. Come on, old fellow; they'll be missing us."

THE only blot on an otherwise perfect evening, so far as Mr. Baggs and his friend were concerned, was that their young lady companions insisted upon only one taxi for the return home, and begged them not to dismount for fear of causing jealousy in the servants' quarters. That they had enjoyed themselves, however, was beyond doubt. Ruth lay back in her corner and laughed till the tears came into her eyes, and her sister was almost light- hearted. Just as they were preparing to descend, Ruth leaned forward.

"You must promise me one thing," she insisted. "The old lady is letting us have a servants' ball on Thursday. You must both come, if you please, at ten o'clock."

"No fear of us forgetting that," Baggs declared heartily.

"Not likely!"

"Wouldn't you care," Ruth asked, glancing at Mr. Baggs with a queer little smile upon her lips, "to bring your young lady?"

"Thank you," Mr. Baggs replied boldly, although for a moment a pathetic little vision drifted before his eyes, "you're all the young lady I want!"

She slapped his hand and laughed once more.

"Don't be silly! I hope I am, but still, you do owe her a good turn, you know. There'll be heaps of young fellows here, and we're really short of girls. You give me her name and address and I'll send her a card."

"Mightn't be altogether pleasant for me," Mr. Baggs grumbled.

"Booby!" Ruth exclaimed derisively. "I'll take care of you."

Baggs handed her an envelope and she got out, waving her hand. The two young men watched the girls disappear.

"Dash it all. I feel like a prince!" Baggs declared, leaning back in his seat. "Savoy, chauffeur!"

"Don't be an ass!" Freddy protested. "You drive to the corner of the square and put us down there, driver. I know where we can get a quiet bite to eat, only a few yards away."

"Righto!" Mr. Baggs acquiesced sentimentally. "Seems a bit thick, I suppose, driving about in taxies, but when a chap's feeling like I am, Freddy—"

"Oh, chuck it!" his friend protested. "Do you happen to have noticed the color of Chris' eyes?"

A LITTLE later than the appointed hour on Thursday evening, Mr. Harry Baggs and Mr. Frederick Bolster, arm-in-arm, approached the house in Belgrave Square. They wore tweed caps and carried brown paper parcels, containing their dancing pumps, under their arms. As they reached the front door they stopped, a little aghast. The striped canvas awning was up, stretching from the front door to the edge of the curbstone. The area was dark and lifeless.

"Doing it slap up, for a servants' ball," Mr. Bolster remarked nervously.

"Thought a lot of in the family, Ruth is," Mr. Baggs replied, with an attempt at confidence. "Come on."

Each clutching his parcel, they strode up the druggeted way, past a policeman and several footmen. Their arrival was taken, apparently, quite as a matter of course, and a beneficent person in somber black indicated the way to the gentlemen's cloakroom. The sight of its contents inspired Mr. Baggs with a moment's irresolution. Everywhere were neat little mounds of black overcoats with silk linings, and either silk hats or opera hats.

"There aren't two dances on here, by any chance, are there?" he inquired a little anxiously.

The cloakroom attendant shook his head, and the major domo, who had followed them in, smiled reassuringly.

"It's quite all right, gentlemen," he said. "You are expected. This way, if you please."

Mr. Baggs took a final look at himself in the mirror and on the whole was satisfied. The little curl to the left of his parting was carefully arranged with becoming negligence. His white tie, which had only done duty once before, showed some tendency to depart from the exact center, but its peregrinations were atoned for by the fact that it displayed a collar stud which professed to have a small diamond in the center. Scarcely more than an inch of his lilac-bordered handkerchief was showing, and his white waistcoat, although unusually stiff, was in other respects a complete success. Nevertheless, when he stepped into the ballroom his confidence for a moment oozed away. He was conscious of a sudden inclination to retreat, and he felt a vigorous and sympathetic tug from Frederick at his coattails. Before he could speak, however, Ruth, who had been dancing, came suddenly up to him with the most charming of smiles.

"How dare you come so late, Mr. Baggs! Dance with me at once, please. My sister is looking for your friend. Come!"

Mr. Baggs set his teeth, but it needed all his courage to place his hand reverently around the waist of this white-satin- clad apparition. In a moment or two they were dancing, and as he really danced quite well, and his partner wonderfully, he soon lost his nervousness.

"If this is a servants' dance—" he muttered to her.

She laughed softly.

"I've all sorts of things to confess presently, Mr. Baggs," she whispered.

They danced to the last bar of the music. Then she rested her fingers upon his arm. A young man who was passing accosted them.

"Lady Ruth," he protested, "do you know that was my dance? I—"

He stopped short. Baggs felt for a moment that he was sinking through the ground. It was his employer who was surveying him, his expression one of blank amazement.

"God bless my soul!" Lord Robert gasped. "Why, it's Baggs!"

"You know Mr. Baggs?" Lady Ruth murmured sweetly.

"Hang it all!" the young man exclaimed. "Know Mr. Baggs? Well—Dr—yes!—well. I suppose I do know you, don't I, Baggs?"

"Certainly, my lord," Baggs replied, a little dizzy.

A third person suddenly intervened. He was an elderly gentleman who smiled very pleasantly at Baggs and drew him to one side.

"My daughter has forgotten to introduce us," he said, "but you and I are going to have a glass of wine together, Mr. Baggs. Christabel, bring Mr.—Mr. Bolster, isn't it?—here," he added, as Christabel and her partner approached. "Mr. Bolster, I am very pleased to meet you. I am Lord Cullerden. We are going to take a glass of wine together. Robert, won't you join us?"

"Delighted, sir," Lord Robert murmured.

THE four passed through an open door into a room where many bottles of champagne were set out at a long buffet. Lord Cullerden led the way to a small table, and at a sign from him a footman brought some champagne and four glasses. Mr. Baggs sat on the extreme edge of his chair and secretly pinched himself.

"Mr. Baggs," Lord Cullerden proceeded. "I really feel that I owe you an apology. I have—some people say for my sins—two daughters of whom I am very fond and very proud, but who are, alas! notorious amongst their friends in London for their wild escapades, sometimes conducted, I am sorry to say, without reference to the feelings of others. My daughter Ruth was foolish enough to make a bet with Lord Robert here that she would go to a picture show, or some other place of entertainment, unattended, passing herself off as her own lady's-maid, make acquaintance with some young man to whom she should not be introduced, bring him to her dance to-night and waltz with him. You, Mr. Baggs, I regret to say, are the victim of my daughter's foolish propensity for joking, and you, Mr. Bolster, of Lady Christabel's imitative faculties."

Mr. Baggs sat quite still for a moment. The world seemed falling away around him.

"Then Ruth," he said slowly, "doesn't exist at all? She is Lady Ruth—your daughter?"

"That is so," Lord Cullerden admitted. "It was a foolish trick of hers, but she was fortunate in having met some one like yourself, Mr. Baggs, whom we are pleased to see here to-night. Now finish up your wine and we will go back to the ballroom."

Mr. Baggs and his friend exchanged covert glances. The former rose slowly to his feet.

"I think, sir, if you'll excuse me," he began.

"Don't go on my account, Baggs," Lord Robert intervened pleasantly.

"You know one another?" Lord Cullerden remarked.

"Mr. Baggs does me the honor to be my chauffeur."

"Capital!" Lord Cullerden exclaimed. "What an interesting coincidence!"

Lady Ruth came gliding up to the four men.

"Father, have you quite finished with Mr. Baggs?" she asked. "If so, I want him."

"Quite, you outrageous young woman!" Lord Cullerden said. "I have done my best to apologize for you. You had better see what you can do."

"I have something better than an apology for him," Lady Ruth declared. "Come along, Mr. Baggs."

SHE laid her fingers once more upon his arm and led him across the ballroom, down the corridor, and along a familiar passage to the little sitting-room. She pushed open the door.

"There," she said. "I have brought you to see your partner for the next dance."

Baggs gave a little exclamation. Lady Ruth had disappeared, closing the door behind her... Mary rose slowly to her feet. She was wearing a very pretty gown, which Baggs did not recognize in the least, and there was a very becoming flush upon her cheeks. Her eyes were fixed upon him anxiously.

"You are not cross, Harry?" she asked, a little tremulously. "The young lady came down to Thornton Heath this morning. She has made me leave my place. I am to have a position as sewing-maid here. And I think she wants—she wants—"

Baggs took her into his arms. It was astonishing how easily he had stepped out of fairyland.

"I want the same thing, dear," he said.


Roy Glashan's Library
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