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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Prince Of Sinners - Part 1 - Chapter 11. Who The Devil Is Brooks?
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A Prince Of Sinners - Part 1 - Chapter 11. Who The Devil Is Brooks? Post by :bambito Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :3297

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A Prince Of Sinners - Part 1 - Chapter 11. Who The Devil Is Brooks?

PART I CHAPTER XI. WHO THE DEVIL IS BROOKS?

"To be tired," declared Sydney Molyneux, sinking into a low couch, "to be downright dead dog-tired is the most delightful thing in the world. Will some one give me some tea?"

Brooks laughed softly from his place in front of the open fire. A long day in the fresh north wind had driven the cobwebs from his brain, and brought the burning colour to his cheeks. His eyes were bright, and his laughter was like music.

"And you," he exclaimed, "are fresh from electioneering. Why, fatigue like this is a luxury."

Molyneux lit a cigarette and looked longingly at the tea-tray set out in the middle of the hall.

"That is all very well," he said, "but there is a wide difference between the two forms of exercise. In electioneering one can use one's brain, and my brain is never weary. It is capable of the most stupendous exertions. It is my legs that fail me sometimes. Here comes Lady Caroom at last. Why does she look as though she had seen a ghost?"

That great staircase at Enton came right into the hall. A few steps from the bottom Lady Caroom had halted, and her appearance was certainly a little unusual. Every vestige of colour had left her cheeks. Her right hand was clutching the oak banisters, her eyes were fixed upon Brooks. He was for a moment embarrassed, but he stepped forward to meet her.

"How do you do, Lady Caroom?" he said. "We are all in the shadows here, and Mr. Molyneux is crying out for his tea."

She resumed her progress and greeted Brooks graciously. Almost at the same moment a footman brought lamps, and the tea was served. Lady Caroom glanced again with a sort of curious nervousness at the young man who stood by her side.

"You are a little earlier than we expected," she remarked, seating herself before the tea-tray. "Here comes Sybil. She is dying to congratulate you, Mr. Brooks. Is Arranmore here?"

"We left him in the gun-room," Molyneux answered. "He is coming directly."

Sybil Caroom, in a short skirt and a jaunty hat, came towards Brooks with outstretched hand.

"Delightful!" she exclaimed. "I only wish that it had been nine thousand instead of nine hundred. You deserved it."

Brooks laughed heartily.

"Well, we were satisfied to win the seat," he declared.

Molyneux leaned forward tea-cup in hand.

"Well, you deserved it," he remarked. "Our old man opened his mouth a bit, but yours knocked him silly. Upon my word, I didn't think that any one man had cheek stupendous enough to humbug a constituency like Henslow did. It took my breath away to read his speeches."

"Do you really mean that?" asked Brooks.

"Mean it? Of course I do. What I can't understand is how people can swallow such stuff, election after election. Doesn't every Radical candidate get up and talk in the same maudlin way--hasn't he done so for the last fifty years? And when he gets into Parliament is there a more Conservative person on the face of the earth than the Radical member pledged to social reform? It's the same with your man Henslow. He'll do nothing! He'll attempt nothing! Silly farce, politics, I think."

Lady Caroom laughed softly.

"I have never heard you so eloquent in my life, Sydney," she exclaimed. "Do go on. It is most entertaining. When you have quite finished I can see that Mr. Brooks is getting ready to pulverize you."

Brooks shook his head.

"Lady Sybil tells me that Mr. Molyneux is not to be taken seriously," he answered.

Molyneux brought up his cup for some more tea.

"Don't you listen to Lady Sybil, Brooks," he retorted. "She is annoyed with me because I have been spoken of as a future Prime Minister, and she rather fancies her cousin for the post. Two knobs, please, and plenty of cream. As a matter of fact I am in serious and downright earnest. I say that Henslow won his seat by kidding the working classes. He promised them a sort of political Arabian Nights. He'll go up to Westminster, and I'm open to bet what you like that he makes not one serious practical effort to push forward one of the startling measures he talked about so glibly. I will trouble you for the toast, Brooks. Thanks!"

"He is always cynical like this," Sybil murmured, "when his party have lost a seat. Don't take any notice of him, Mr. Brooks. I have great faith in Mr. Henslow, and I believe that he will do his best."

Molyneux smiled.

"Henslow is a politician," he remarked, "a professional politician. What you Radicals want is Englishmen who are interested in politics. Henslow knows how to get votes. He's got his seat, and he'll keep it--till the next election."

Brooks shook his head.

"Henslow has rather a platform manner," he said, "but he is sound enough. I believe that we are on the eve of important changes in our social legislation, and I believe that Henslow will have much to say about them. At any rate, he is not a rank hypocrite. We have shown him things in Medchester which he can scarcely forget in a hurry. He will go to Westminster with the memory of these things before him, with such a cry in his ears as no man can stifle. He might forget if he would--but he never will. We have shown him things which men may not forget."

Lord Arranmore, who had now joined the party, leaned forward with his arm resting lightly upon Lady Caroom's shoulder. An uneasy light flashed in his eyes.

"There are men," he said, "whom you can never reach, genial men with a ready smile and a prompt cheque-book, whose selfishness is an armour more potent than the armour of my forefather there, Sir Ronald Kingston of Arranmore. And, after all, why not? The thoroughly selfish man is the only person logically who has the slightest chance of happiness."

"It is true," Molyneux murmured. "Delightfully true."

"Lord Arranmore is always either cynical or paradoxical," Sybil Caroom declared. "He really says the most unpleasant things with the greatest appearance of truth of any man I know."

"This company," Lord Arranmore remarked lightly, "is hostile to me. Let us go and play pool."

Lady Caroom rose up promptly. Molyneux groaned audibly.

"You shall play me at billiards instead," she declared. "I used to give you a good game once, and I have played a great deal lately. Ring for Annette, will you, Sybil? She has my cue."

Sybil Caroom made room for Brooks by her side.

"Do sit down and tell me more about the election," she said. "Sydney is sure to go to sleep. He always does after shooting."

"You shall ask me questions," he suggested. "I scarcely know what part of it would interest you."

They talked together lightly at first, then more seriously. From the other end of the hall came the occasional click of billiard balls. Lady Caroom and her host were playing a leisurely game interspersed with conversation.

"Who is this young Mr. Brooks?" she asked, pausing to chalk her cue.

"A solicitor from Medchester," he answered. "He was Parliamentary agent for Henslow, and I am going to give him a management of my estates."

"He is quite a boy," she remarked.

"Twenty-six or seven," he answered. "How well you play those cannons.

"I ought to. I had lessons for years. Is he a native of Medchester?"

Lord Arranmore was blandly puzzled. She finished her stroke and turned towards him.

"Mr. Brooks, you know. We were talking of him."

"Of course we were," he answered. "I do not think so. He is an orphan. I met his father in Canada."

"He reminds me of some one," she remarked, in a puzzled tone. "Just now as I was coming downstairs it was almost startling. He is a good-looking boy."

"Be careful not to foul," he admonished her. "You should have the spider-rest."

Lady Caroom made a delicate cannon from an awkward place, and concluded her break in silence. Then she leaned with her back against the table, chalking her cue. Her figure was still the figure of a girl she was a remarkably pretty woman. She laid her slim white fingers upon his coat-sleeve.

"I wonder," she said, softly, "whether you will ever tell me."

"If you look at me like that," he answered, smiling, "I shall tell you--a great many things."

Her eyes fell. It was too absurd at her age, but her cheeks were burning.

"You don't improve a bit," she declared. "You were always too apt with your tongue."

"I practiced in a good school," he answered.

"Dear me," she sighed. "For elderly people what a lot of rubbish we talk."

He shivered.

"What a hideous word," he remarked. "You make me feel that my chest is padded and my hair dyed. If to talk sense is a sign of youth, let us do it."

"By all means. When are you going to find me a husband for Sybil?"

"Well--is there any hurry?" he asked.

"Lots! We are going to Fernshire next week, and the place is always full of young men. If you have anything really good in your mind I don't want to miss it."

He took up his cue and scored an excellent break. She followed suit, and he broke down at an easy cannon. Then he came over to her side.

"How do you like Mr. Brooks?" he asked, quietly.

"He seems a nice boy," she answered, lightly. He remained silent. Suddenly she looked up into his face, and clutched the sides of the table.

"You--you don't mean that?" she murmured, suddenly pale to the lips.

He led her to a chair. The game was over.

"Some day," he whispered, "I will tell you the whole story."

* * * * *

"Even to think of these things," Sybil said, softly, "makes us feel very selfish."

"No one is ever hopelessly selfish who is conscious of it," he answered, smiling. "And, after all, it would not do for every one to be always brooding upon the darker side of life."

"In another minute," Molyneux exclaimed, waking up with a start, "I should have been asleep. Whatever have you two been talking about? It was the most soothing hum I ever heard in my life."

"Mr. Brooks was telling me of some new phases of life," she answered. "It is very interesting, even if it is a little sad."

Molyneux eyed them both for a moment in thoughtful silence.

"H'm!" he remarked. "Dinner is the next phase of life which will interest me. Has the dressing-bell gone yet?"

"You gross person," she exclaimed. "You ate so much tea you had to go to sleep."

"It was the exercise, he insisted.

"You have been standing about all day. I heard you ask for a place without any walking, and where as few people as possible could see you miss your birds."

"Your ears are a great deal too sharp," he said. "It was the wind, then."

"Never mind what it was," she answered, laughing. "You can go to sleep again if you like."

Molyneux put up his eyeglass and looked from one to the other. He saw that Sybil's interest in her companion's conversation was not assumed, and for the first time he appreciated Brooks' good looks. He shook off his sleepiness at once and stood by Sybil's side.

"Have you been trying to convert Lady Sybil?" he asked.

"It is unnecessary," she answered, quickly. "Mr. Brooks and I are on the same side."

He laughed softly and strolled away. Lord Arranmore was standing thoughtfully before the marking-board. He laid his hand upon his arm.

"I say, Arranmore," he asked, "who the devil is Brooks?"

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