(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Lord Valleys, the head of the house, had just returned to London after spending a pleasant weekend at Monkland Court, the county seat of the Caradoc family. In London, he was required to attend a Cabinet meeting because of war threats facing the country at the moment. These scares had an added interest in the household because the eldest son, Eustace Caradoc, was making his first bid for a seat in Parliament. Family tradition demanded that he take such a step and also that he be a member of the Conservative Party and work to maintain the authority vested in society, or the English aristocracy.

Lord and Lady Valleys were concerned about young Eustace’s career because his speeches too vividly reflected his very high ideals and also because he was seeing an attractive young woman, Mrs. Audrey Noel, who was rumored to be a divorcee. Because of her concern in these matters, Lady Valleys had written to her mother, Lady Casterley, who would do everything in her power to keep her grandson from making a mistake dangerous to his career.

While Lord Valleys was motoring to London, Eustace was engaged in conversation with Mr. Courtier, the real power behind his opposition. The conversation, or informal debate, took place in Mrs. Noel’s drawing room. Mr. Courtier took his usual stand in favor of freedom and liberty for the masses, while Eustace argued that authority should be left in the hands of the aristocracy whose education and training traditionally equipped them for running the country in the best way. It was not a surprise that both of these gentlemen should be visiting Mrs. Noel. Courtier had known her since she was a child, and Eustace was rapidly falling in love with her.

A few nights later, Eustace was again visiting Mrs. Noel when word was brought to them that the villagers were “devilling” a man on the green. When they rushed to his aid, they found that Mr. Courtier had been roughly treated, although his only injury was a badly sprained knee. Following the dictates of courtesy, Eustace took him to the Caradoc home at once, where he was to stay until he recovered. Damage, however, had also been done to Eustace, for by allowing himself to be seen visiting a woman of a somewhat dubious reputation, his own reputation, and consequently his attempts to gain a seat in Parliament, also came under suspicion. His actions were duly reported by the local newspaper. The fact that Mr. Courtier ran a statement in...

(The entire section is 998 words.)