Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 869
Having retired from His Majesty’s service, young Captain Ronald Dancy, D.S.O., was at loose ends as to what to do with himself. Accustomed to a life of action, he at first absorbed himself in horses and women, but he found in neither the violent excitement he craved. His stable was so expensive that he was at last forced to give his Rosemary filly to his friend, Ferdinand De Levis, because he could no longer afford to keep her. As for his women, he decided to throw them all over and marry a woman who admired him, and who had the spirit which Ronny desired in his wife.
In spite of the fact that he was obviously penniless, Ronny managed to keep his memberships in his favorite London clubs, and friends invited him and his wife to their weekend parties in the country. At Meldon Court, the home of his old friend, Charles Winsor, Ronny discovered that De Levis had sold for a thousand pounds the horse Ronny had given him. He was naturally embittered by the discovery, and later in the evening his resentment prompted him to bet De Levis ten pounds that he could jump to the top of a bookcase four feet high. He won his bet, but De Levis was contemptuous of a man who would indulge in such parlor games for the sake of a little money.
Around midnight, Winsor and his wife were awakened by De Levis, who announced that the thousand pounds he had received for the sale of the filly had been stolen from under his pillow. De Levis demanded an investigation. The Winsors were reluctant to incriminate either their servants or their guests, but at the insistence of De Levis the police were called.
Ronny’s friends immediately arrayed themselves against De Levis for his tactlessness in handling the matter. He instantly interpreted their attitude as the result of prejudice because he was a Jew, and Ronny substantiated his conclusion by taunting De Levis with his race. Although they tried desperately to be fair, Ronny’s friends had to admit that De Levis had behaved badly, and they suddenly remembered that his father had sold carpets wholesale in the city. After all, De Levis was a little too pushing; in spite of his money he did not exactly belong to the Mayfair and country set.
De Levis carried into the club to which both men belonged the enmity aroused by Ronny’s insult to his race, and he openly accused Ronny of the theft. Ronny immediately challenged him to a duel, but since such barbaric customs were no longer tolerated among gentlemen, De Levis was saved.
Ronny urged his wife Mabel to go with him to Nairobi. But she, believing in her husband’s innocence, begged him to remain and fight for his good name. Realizing that to do otherwise would be an admission of guilt, Ronny consulted a lawyer and entered a suit against De Levis for defamation of character. However, the lawyer selected to defend Ronny’s case was the worst choice that a man in Ronny’s position could possibly have made. Old Jacob Twisden, senior partner of the firm of Twisden and Graviter, was a lawyer of the old school who believed that simple justice should take precedence over all loyalties, whether they were racial, economic, social, political, or merely personal.
In addition to the fact that he had stolen De Levis’s money, Ronny had also withheld from his wife and his friends his relations with an Italian girl before his marriage. The girl’s father, a wine dealer named Ricardos, had threatened to inform Ronny’s wife of the relationship unless he provided for the girl. Out of fear, Ronny had been prompted to make a daring jump from his room to that of De Levis to obtain the money with which to pay Ricardos. The stolen notes were eventually identified as having passed through these different hands. When Twisden learned the true circumstances on which the case he was defending were based, he advised Ronny to drop the suit and leave the country as soon as possible. In that proposal he was seconded by Ronny’s own superior officer, General Canynge, who offered Ronny a way out with a billet in the Spanish war.
When De Levis discovered that the suit was to be dropped, he appeared willing to let bygones be bygones because he felt that he had been vindicated; he wanted no money in return. But Ronny’s problems were still unsolved. When he confessed to his wife the truth about all that had happened, she at first refused to believe his story. At last she agreed to follow Ronny wherever he might choose to go. Before Ronny could make his escape, however, the police arrived with a warrant for his arrest. He fled to his room and called to the officers to come and get him. Before they could reach him, he had shot himself.
What Ronny never knew was that both he and De Levis were victims of social conventions. Because Ronny belonged, his friends had been loyal. But loyalty, as they now realized, was not enough.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support