Priscilla watched him with a considerable amount of interest, for she was far enough away from the crowds at the courts to allow of her watching him without feeling that she was being watched. She saw how he was walking—swiftly—eagerly—a foot or two ahead of the man who had found him—his head slightly bent forward, his fingers clutching the grip of his racket as though he were ready to return with fury the ball that had been served to him with a smash—as if he had made up his mind that the man who sowed the wind (within an indiarubber sphere) should reap the whirlwind—if he could.

He never looked back—that she noticed with the greatest amount of interest. If he had looked back she would have felt that she had not succeeded in her endeavour to force him to take every ounce out of himself. But now she saw that she had been successful.

Was she just too successful? That was a dreadful question which suggested itself to her. Was that the proper spirit in which he should approach his task of getting one step near to the holder of the cup? Would he not have a better chance if he had gone to the court in the tranquil spirit that was usually his—the spirit of Horatio—the man that Fortune’s buffets and awards had ta’en with equal thanks? She knew that the race is not always to the swift, nor the set to the smasher. The eager man with the racket is apt to become racketty and not precise; and she had sent him from her as full of enthusiasm as a schoolboy arriving in London with a sovereign in one pocket and in the other a ticket for the pavilion at the Oval for Surrey v, Sussex, and Ranji 75 not out the previous evening.

For a while she had a grave misgiving. She felt that after all she had misjudged the man. She had never believed that he would be capable of anything like this within half an hour of her beginning to speak to him. She had never believed in sudden conversions—the tours de force of the brilliant evangelist; and she had fancied that it would take her several days, extending over the whole summer, to convince that man that there was something in him. And yet there he was, profane—actually profane in his enthusiasm in less than half an hour!

And the worst of it was that she had been foolish enough to allow her action in this matter to suggest that she was staking her reputation as a prophetess upon the event. That was very foolish on her part. No sibil worthy of the name would have done this. The sibil made her book with wisdom and caution, a safe hedging and an ambiguous phrase being the note of her advice.

Priscilla felt that by laying so much emphasis upon the necessity for his throwing his whole soul into his game of tennis she had jeopardized the success of her counsel to him in the matters that mattered.

She felt angry with herself when this reflection came to her; but a few minutes later she felt far angrier at the thought that she had been angry over something that was no business of hers. What did it matter to her if Jack Wingfield made a fool of himself over his tennis or anything else or everything else? How could his success affect her one way or another?

She really could make no satisfactory reply to this question that suggested itself to her; for clever and all as she was, she was as imperfectly acquainted with her own character as most other women are of theirs. The eagerness with which she had carried out her scheme of adopting the role of a retributory Providence in respect of Mr. Kelton had not given her a hint as to what was the dominant impulse of her nature; nor had her enthusiasm in regard to the working of her father’s farm and the reform of the dairy revealed it to her; though she had been on the brink of a discovery of the truth when she had had her conversation with her friend Rosa going a-primrosing, and had said that if a man sometimes was the means of a girl’s sudden development into a woman, she was equally sure that it was a woman who made a man of a man.

She did not know that in herself was so strongly developed the instinct of woman to be a maker of men—to put forth her strength in order that they may be strong. To be the mother of a man child, to give him of the sustenance of her body, to have him by her side and to have command over him until he breaks away, as she thinks, from her control, leaving her in tears, but always ready to advise him in the taking of a wife and to advise the wife, when she is chosen, how to conduct her household—that is the best part of the nature of a woman. But the exercise of the power to influence a man, to make herself necessary to the happiness and the prosperity of a man, is the most irresistible joy that a woman can know, though she does not know it.

Priscilla Wadhurst had felt a certain satisfaction in the thought that she had the destiny of Mr. Kelton under her fingers, so far as Framsby’s concerts were concerned; and she had been greatly gratified when her father had admitted that her reform of the dairy was a step in the right direction. But what were these triumphs compared to those that she longed to effect, though she might not have part or lot in the supreme tableaux in the procession of events?

And yet, in spite of the consciousness that she had exercised her influence upon another man for his benefit, she sat there asking herself why she should feel it as a personal matter whether Jack Wingfield made a fool of himself over his tennis or in any other way?

And then she saw once again the look that had appeared on his face for more than a moment when his eyes were upon her. It had startled her, and the recollection of it gave her a little fright. But her fright quickly subsided, and she sat there losing herself and all sense of her surroundings in the thoughts that came down upon her, not like a riotous throng of fantastic things, but like a silver mist shot through with a gleam of golden light here and there, but making everything about her seem blurred—indefinite as the future seems to any one landing on the shore of a strange land.

Suddenly she sprang to her feet—almost as suddenly as he had risen when in the midst of their little chat together; only the exclamation that she gave was not the same as his. Hers was derisive, contemptuous, impatient, and there was certainly something of impatience in her walk round the courts where play was going on. She had, however, recovered herself—she had walked herself outside the atmosphere, so to speak, of whatever thoughts had irritated her—before she had come opposite the court where Jack Wingfield was playing off the second set of the “Gentlemen’s Singles”; but even if she had not done so, a few minutes of watching the game that was in progress would certainly have cleared away any wisp of mist that might have remained with her on emerging from that atmosphere of conjecture into which she had allowed herself to stray.

She slipped into the only unoccupied chair at this court. It was at the end of the third row of the seats at the side from which Jack Wingfield was serving. An elderly visitor, wearing a velvet hat built up like a pagoda, sat immediately in front of her, so that she ran no chance of being seen by him. This was what, she thought when she took the seat; but before being in it many seconds she could not help smiling at the thought of how ridiculous it was to fancy that her coming might divert his attention for a single moment from the game, to the detriment of his play. The scheme of Oriental architecture in front of her effectually hid every inch of the court and the players from her, but her seat being at the end of the row, she had only to move a few inches to one side to command a complete and perfect view of the whole; and she perceived in a moment that the man who was serving with his back to her and to the whole world and all that is therein, had become compressed into the spheroid which he held in his left hand preparatory to launching it like a thunderbolt with a twist over the net. She smiled. If the German Emperor or Mr. Roosevelt or some other commanding personality had suddenly appeared on the court, Jack Wingfield would have seen nothing of him. He had eyes only for the ball.

But for the ball he surpassed Shelley’s night in the number of eyes that he had. He was playing against a very good man—a man who, according to some newspapers, had a very good chance of winning the cup that carried with it the title of Champion of South Saxony—but Priscilla saw in a moment how things were going. It seemed to her that it was not Jack Wingfield who was serving, but quite a different person. She could not imagine that desperately alert young man who served as if his whole future were dependent upon his placing the ball on the exact inch of ground at which he aimed—she could not imagine that this was the Jack Wingfield of the shrug—the Jack Wingfield who half an hour ago had been ready to scratch to the man whom he was now playing as if he had no object in life but his defeat.

He was playing with an enthusiasm which surprised every one who was acquainted with his form, and no one more than his antagonist and himself. Glenister was his antagonist—a brilliant man, not perhaps quite so brilliant as he believed himself to be, but still as far above the average in this respect as the sapphire excels the lapis lazuli. He was a man of resource and imagination, and these qualities often stood him in good stead; but it was to his brilliancy he trusted to win his games for him. Priscilla heard the remarks that were being made by competent critics sitting just behind her; and knowing what Glenister’s play was, and seeing what Wingfield’s was, she appreciated the accuracy of the criticisms.

“Glenny as usual underrated his man,” some one remarked. “That was how he lost the first two.”

“He could beat half a dozen Wingfields any day,” was the counter. “How the mischief could he tell that Wingfield was going to play as he is now? How the——hallo! Did you see that?”

“No, what was it? (In a whisper) Confound that hat! What was it?”

“My aunt! Wingfield played the ball over his shoulder from the line, and placed it too.”


“I suppose so. No one could have a ghost of a chance of doing more than getting it over. Is that Wingfield’s third?”

“His third. He won the first and Glenister pulled off the second. Now we’ll see what Glenny’s service is worth?”

And they did. They saw that its brilliancy was simply thrown away upon Wingfield. He declined to be intimidated by it. He made an attempt to return every ball, and succeeded in getting the third over; with the first and second that were served to him Glenister made fifteen and thirty. But he seemed so greatly surprised by Wingfield’s success with the third as to be quite satisfied to send it back over the net right opposite to where Wingfield was standing. Wingfield took a long aim, and Glenister, watching his eye, ran to the extreme right of the line to meet the ball; but Wingfield changed his mind and sent it to the extreme left, making his first score. The next service no human being could have returned. Forty—fifteen. The next was an easy one, and there was some splendid play before Glenister got a downward smash which he planted obliquely not two feet from the net on the left side and got his game. 2—3.

“Getting into his form, hey?” said one of the critics behind Priscilla.

“It’s the way with all of them; but Wingfield takes it out of him, all the same,” was the reply.

“He does, by George! I didn’t think that Wingfield had it in him; he always seemed to me a lazy sort of beggar—doesn’t care whether he wins or loses—doesn’t seem to know which he does. His partners in the doubles bless him unawares. That was a good serve. My aunt, it was a good serve! He’s working. Has he something on the game, do you suppose?”

“If he had he wouldn’t worry as he’s doing. Most likely some pal of his put a shilling on him and told him. But his backer would do well to hedge. That’s deuce. Glenny will take all the rest.”

But this prediction, like the many prophecies of critics, was not realized. The play on both sides was quick, firm and commonplace, and Glenister got his vantage. By two more services Wingfield got deuce and vantage; Glenister returned the third ball, and Wingfield sent it back in a tight place; but Glenister managed to get under it; he did the same with Wingfield’s return, only he placed the ball. Wingfield got at it, however, with his left, and when the other man was returning it to the bottom of the court far over his head, Wingfield jumped for it, and just managed to touch it over. His antagonist never even ran for it.

“Luck!” remarked one of the critics. “That was a lucky win for Wingfield. It might have gone anywhere.”

Score 4—2.

From that moment Glenister seemed to go all to pieces. The next game realized “game—love,” and the next “game—fifteen,” and Wingfield walked out, examining with extraordinary attention what he seemed to think was a defect in the stringing of his racket. He went straight past Priscilla without seeing her. She meant to say “Well played!” as he was passing, but when the moment came she found herself speechless. She could scarcely rise from her chair. She had no notion that her excitement could have such an effect upon her; and what was strangest of all to her was the tears in her eyes. Why on earth had the tears come to her eyes the moment after he had gone past her?

This was incomprehensible to her. There seemed to her to be no sense in it. She did not take any exception to the feeling of pride of which she was conscious, or to the whisper that sounded in her ears: “You did it—it was you—you—you who made him win, and you have now linked yourself to his success in life, and you will have to stand by him.”

That was all right; she had no idea of making any attempt to evade her responsibility. She had the instincts of a mother; was she one who would set a child on its feet in the middle of the roadway and then run away? She had talked to him so that his success in that match which he had just played had become something like the ordeal of drawing lots in the days when the Powers took care that there was no tomfoolery in the business; she had taken on her the rôle of the prophetess and had in effect said to him, “Lo! this shall be a sign unto thee”—and he had accepted the hazard which she suggested to him, and had won, though the odds, as he knew, were against him.

Well, the thing having worked out so, would he not follow up the dictation of the sign? Would he not allow himself to be subjugated by the logic of the lot and hasten to work out his own emancipation with a firm hand and in a confident spirit?

Of course he would. And what then?

“Then I shall have made a man of him,” was the clarion sound that rang in her ears. That was to be her reward; the reflection that she had accomplished this—the sense of her own influence upon the life of a man. She felt at that moment that she wanted nothing more. Her woman’s instinct to be a maker of men was satisfied.

She remained in her seat for several minutes, while the crowd who had been watching the set melted away, or hung about the chairs with their comments. She listened while some asked what on earth had come over Glenister, and others what the mischief had come over Wingfield. How did it come that Wingfield had just managed to nip his set away from Paisley, who was practically an outsider, and then had licked Glenister, who had been runner-up for the cup last year, into blue fits? That was what they all wanted badly to know; and that was just what the young woman with the lace sunshade and the beautifully made dress could have told them.

But they did not address their questions to her; and when the talk about the match that had just finished melted into talk about the two players who had just taken possession of the court, she got upon her feet and walked away—straight away from all the play and from the ground and from the man.

She drove to the farm, took off her beautiful dress and hung it up, and laid away the lace sunshade, and, putting on her working overall, spent the rest of the day in the dairy, among her lactometers and test tubes.

Yes, she found that she had been quite right: the four new Jerseys were more than justifying the records of the stud book.

She reflected with satisfaction upon the circumstance that her father had bought them on her advice. His judgment as to the look of the beasts bore out all that her scientific research had made plain.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook