THE WAY TO THE DAIRY

The Baroness and Clovis sat in a much-frequented corner of

the Park exchanging biographical confidences about the long

succession of passers-by.

“Who are those depressed-looking young women who have

just gone by?” asked the Baroness; “they have the air of

people who have bowed to destiny and are not quite sure

whether the salute will be returned.”

“Those,” said Clovis, “are the Brimley Bomefields. I

dare say you would look depressed if you had been through

their experiences.”

“I’m always having depressing experiences,” said the

Baroness, “but I never give them outward expression. It’s

as bad as looking one’s age. Tell me about the Brimley

Bomefields.”

“Well,” said Clovis, “the beginning of their tragedy

was that they found an aunt. The aunt had been there all

the time, but they had very nearly forgotten her existence

until a distant relative refreshed their memory, by

remembering her very distinctly in his will; it is wonderful

what the force of example will accomplish. The aunt, who

had been unobtrusively poor, became quite pleasantly rich,

and the Brimley Bomefields grew suddenly concerned at the

loneliness of her life and took her under their collective

wings. She had as many wings around her at this time as one

of those beast-things in Revelation.”

“So far I don’t see any tragedy from the Brimley

Bomefields’ point of view,” said the Baroness.

“We haven’t got to it yet,” said Clovis. “The aunt had

been used to living very simply, and had seen next to

nothing of what we should consider life, and her nieces

didn’t encourage her to do much in the way of making a

splash with her money. Quite a good deal of it would come

to them at her death, and she was a fairly old woman, but

there was one circumstance which cast a shadow of gloom over

the satisfaction they felt in the discovery and acquisition

of this desirable aunt: she openly acknowledged that a

comfortable slice of her little fortune would go to a nephew

on the other side of her family. He was rather a deplorable

thing in rotters, and quite hopelessly top-hole in the way

of getting through money, but he had been more or less

decent to the old lady in her unremembered days, and she

wouldn’t hear anything against him. At least, she wouldn’t

pay any attention to what she did hear, but her nieces took

care that she should have to listen to a good deal in that

line. It seemed such a pity, they said among themselves,

that good money should fall into such wortless hands. They

habitually spoke of their aunt’s money as `good money,’ as

though other people’s aunts dabbled for the most part in

spurious currency.

“Regularly after the Derby, St. Leger, and other notable

racing events they indulged in audible speculations as to

how much money Roger had squandered in unfortunate betting

transactions.

“ `His travelling expenses must come to a big sum,’ said

the eldest Brimley Bomefield one day; `they say he attends

every race-meeting in England, besides others abroad. I

shouldn’t wonder if he went all the way to India to see the

race for the Calcutta Sweepstake that one hears so much

about.’

“ `Travel enlarges the mind, my dear Christine,’ said her

aunt.

“ `Yes, dear aunt, travel undertaken in the right

spirit,’ agreed Christine; `but travel pursued merely as a

means towards gambling and extravagant living is more likely

to contract the purse than to enlarge the mind. However, as

long as Roger enjoys himself, I suppose he doesn’t care how

fast or unprofitably the money goes, or where he is to find

more. It seems a pity, that’s all.’

“The aunt by that time had begun to talk of something

else, and it was doubtful if Christine’s moralizing had been

even accorded a hearing. It was her remark, however—the

aunt’s remark, I mean—about travel enlarging the mind,

that gave the youngest Brimley Bomefield her great idea for

the showing-up of Roger.

“ `If aunt could only be taken somewhere to see him

gambling and throwing away money,’ she said, `it would open

her eyes to his character more effectually than anything we

can say.’

“ `My dear Veronique,’ said her sisters, `we can’t go

following him to race-meetings.’

“ `Certainly not to race-meetings,’ said Veronique, `but

we might go to some place where one can look on at gambling

without talking part in it.’

“ `Do you mean Monte Carlo?’ they asked her, beginning to

jump rather at the idea.

“ `Monte Carlo is a long way off, and has a dreadful

reputation,’ said Veronique; `I shouldn’t like to tell our

friends that we were going to Monte Carlo. But I believe

Roger usually goes to Dieppe about this time of year, and

some quite respectable English people go there, and the

journey wouldn’t be expensive. If aunt could stand the

Channel crossing the change of scene might do her a lot of

good.’

“And that was how the fateful idea came to the Brimley

Bomefields.

“From the very first set-off disaster hung over the

expedition, as they afterwards remembered. To begin with,

all the Brimley Bomefields were extremely unwell during the

crossing, while the aunt enjoyed the sea air and made

friends with all manner of strange travelling companions.

Then, although it was many years since she had been on the

Continent, she had served a very practical apprenticeship

there as a paid companion, and her knowledge of colloquial

French beat theirs to a standstill. It became increasingly

difficult to keep under their collective wings a person who

knew what she wanted and was able to ask for it and to see

that she got it. Also, as far as Roger was concerned, they

drew Dieppe blank; it turned out that he was staying at

Pourville, a little watering-place a mile or two further

west. The Brimley Bomefields discovered that Dieppe was too

crowded and frivolous, and persuaded the old lady to migrate

to the comparative seclusion of Pourville.

“ `You won’t find it dull, you know,’ they assured her;

`there is a little casino attached to the hotel, and you can

watch the people dancing and throwing away their money at

petits chevaux.’

“It was just before petits chevaux had been supplanted

by boule.

“Roger was not staying in the same hotel, but they knew

that the casino would be certain of his patronage on most

afternoons and evenings.

“On the first evening of their visit they wandered into

the casino after a fairly early dinner, and hovered near the

tables. Bertie van Tahn was staying there at the time, and

he described the whole incident to me. The Brimley

Bomefields kept a furtive watch on the doors as though they

were expecting some one to turn up, and the aunt got more

and more amused and interested watching the little horses

whirl round and round the board.

“ `Do you know, poor little number eight hasn’t won for

the last thirty-two times,’ she said to Christine; `I’ve

been keeping count. I shall really have to put five francs

on him to encourage him.’

“ `Come and watch the dancing, dear,’ said Christine

nervously. It was scarcely a part of their strategy that

Roger should come in and find the old lady backing her fancy

at the petits chevaux table.

“ `Just wait while I put five francs on number eight,’

said the aunt, and in another moment her money was lying on

the table. The horses commenced to move round; it was a

slow race this time, and number eight crept up at the finish

like some crafty demon and placed his nose just a fraction

in front of number three, who had seemed to be winning

easily. Recourse had to be had to measurement, and the

number eight was proclaimed the winner. The aunt picked up

thirty-five francs. After that the Brimley Bomefields would

have had to have used concerted force to get her away from

the tables. When Roger appeared on the scene she was

fifty-two francs to the good; her nieces were hovering

forlornly in the background, like chickens that have been

hatched out by a duck and are despairingly watching their

parent disporting herself in a dangerous and uncongenial

element. The supper-party which Roger insisted on standing

that night in honour of his aunt and the three Miss Brimley

Bomefields was remarkable for the unrestrained gaiety of two

of the participants and the funereal mirthlessness of the

remaining guests.

“ `I do not think,’ Christine confided afterwards to a

friend, who re-confided it to Bertie van Tahn, `that I shall

ever be able to touch pa^té de foie gras again. It

would bring back memories of that awful evening.’

“For the next two or three days the nieces made plans for

returning to England or moving on to some other resort where

there was no casino. The aunt was busy making a system for

winning at petits chevaux. Number eight, her first love,

had been running rather unkindly for her, and a series of

plunges on number five had turned out even worse.

“ `Do you know, I dropped over seven hundred francs at

the tables this afternoon,’ she announced cheerfully at

dinner on the fourth evening of their visit.

“ `Aunt! Twenty-eight pounds! And you were losing last

night too.’

“ `Oh, I shall get it all back,’ she said optimistically;

`but not here. These silly little horses are no good. I

shall go somewhere where one can play comfortably at

roulette. You needn’t look so shocked. I’ve always felt

that, given the opportunity, I should be an inveterate

gambler, and now you darlings have put the opportunity in my

way. I must drink your very good healths. Waiter, a bottle

of Pontet Canet. Ah, it’s number seven on the wine list;

I shall plunge on number seven tonight. It won four times

running this afternoon when I was backing that silly number

five.’

“Number seven was not in a winning mood that evening.

The Brimley Bomefields, tired of watching disaster from a

distance, drew near to the table where their aunt was now an

honoured habituée, and gazed mournfully at the successive

victories of one and five and eight and four, which swept

`good money’ out of the purse of seven’s obstinate backer.

The day’s losses totalled something very near two thousand

francs.

“ `You incorrigible gamblers,’ said Roger chaffingly to

them, when he found them at the tables.

“ `We are not gambling,’ said Christine freezingly; ‘we

are looking on.’

“ `I don’t think,’ said Roger knowingly; `of course

you’re a syndicate and aunt is putting the stakes on for all

of you. Any one can tell by your looks when the wrong horse

wins that you’ve got a stake on.’

“Aunt and nephew had supper alone that night, or at least

they would have if Bertie hadn’t joined them; all the

Brimley Bomefields had headaches.

“The aunt carried them all off to Dieppe the next day and

set cheerily about the task of winning back some of her

losses. Her luck was variable; in fact, she had some fair

streaks of good fortune, just enough to keep her thoroughly

amused with her new distraction; but on the whole she was a

loser. The Brimley Bomefields had a collective attack of

nervous prostration on the day when she sold out a quantity

of shares in Argentine rails. `Nothing will ever bring that

money back,’ they remarked lugubriously to one another.

“Veronique at last could bear it no longer, and went

home; you see, it had been her idea to bring the aunt on

this disastrous expedition, and though the others did not

cast the fact verbally in her face, there was a certain

lurking reproach in their eyes which was harder to meet than

actual upbraidings. The other two remained behind,

forlornly mounting guard over their aunt until such time as

the waning of the Dieppe season should at last turn her in

the direction of home and safety. They made anxious

calculations as to how little `good money’ might, with

reasonable luck, be squandered in the meantime. Here,

however, their reckoning went far astray; the close of the

Dieppe season merely turned their aunt’s thoughts in search

of some other convenient gambling resort. `Show a cat the

way to the dairy—‘ I forget how the proverb goes on, but

it summed up the situation as far as the Brimley Bomefields’

aunt was concerned. She had been introduced to unexplored

pleasures, and found them greatly to her liking, and she was

in no hurry to forgo the fruits of her newly acquired

knowledge. You see, for the first time in her life the old

thing was thoroughly enjoying herself; she was losing money,

but she had plenty of fun and excitement over the process,

and she had enough left to do very comfortably on. Indeed,

she was only just learning to understand the art of doing

oneself well. She was a popular hostess, and in return her

fellow-gamblers were always ready to entertain her to

dinners and suppers when their luck was in. Her nieces, who

still remained in attendance on her, with the pathetic

unwillingness of a crew to leave a foundering treasure ship

which might yet be steered into port, found little pleasure

in these Bohemian festivities; to see `good money’ lavished

on good living for the entertainment of a nondescript circle

of acquaintances who were not likely to be in any way

socially useful to them, did not attune them to a spirit of

revelry. They contrived, whenever possible, to excuse

themselves from participation in their aunt’s deplored

gaieties; the Brimley Bomefield headaches became famous.

“And one day the nieces came to the conclusion that, as

they would have expressed it, `no useful purpose would be

served’ by their continued attendance on a relative who had

so thoroughly emancipated herself from the sheltering

protection of their wings. The aunt bore the announcement

of their departure with a cheerfulness that was almost

disconcerting.

“ `It’s time you went home and had those headaches seen

to by a specialist,’ was her comment on the situation.

“The homeward journey of the Brimley Bomefields was a

veritable retreat from Moscow, and what made it the more

bitter was the fact that the Moscow, in this case, was not

overwhelmed with fire and ashes, but merely extravagantly

over-illuminated.

“From mutual friends and acquaintances they sometimes get

glimpses of their prodigal relative, who has settled down

into a confirmed gambling maniac, living on such salvage of

income as obliging moneylenders have left at her disposal.

“So you need not be surprised,” concluded Clovis, “if

they do wear a depressed look in public.”

“Which is Veronique?” asked the Baroness.

“The most depressed-looking of the three,” said Clovis.