AMERICAN footmen aren't natural: even Brooks admitted as much to Kelver,
the butler, thereby cutting the ground from under his own feet.
He was a stout man, tightly liveried, and wore spectacles. His hair was
grey and thin, his voice inclined to be squeaky. Sticking out of the
pocket of a red-striped waistcoat, which was part of his uniform, there
was visible a broken packet of gum. He chewed most of the time, his jaws
moving almost with the regularity of a pendulum. Gilder, of an exact and
mathematical turn of mind, had clocked him as fast as fifty-six to the
minute, and as slow as fifty-one. In the privacy of his room Mr. Brooks
smoked a large pipe charged with a peculiar sugary blend of tobacco that
he imported expensively from California.
Neither Mr. Brooks, the footman, nor Mr. Gilder, the footman, fitted the
household of Marks Priory, nor did they fit the village of Marks
Thornton. They were poor footmen, and never seemed to improve by practice
and benefit from experience.
Yet they were nice men, if you can imagine such abnormalities as American
footmen being nice. They interfered with none, were almost extravagantly
polite to their fellow-servants, and never once (this stood as a
monumental credit) did they report any other servants for a neglect of
duty, even when neglect worked adversely against their own comfort.
They were liked, and Gilder a little feared. He was a gaunt man with a
hollowed, lined face and a deep, gloomy voice that came rumbling up from
some hollow cavern inside him. His hair was sparse and black and long;
there were large patches on his head which were entirely bald, and he was
There was a gamekeeper who discovered this--John Tilling. He was a big
man, red-haired, red-faced, obsessed by suspicion. His wife was certainly
pretty, as certainly restless and given to dreams which she never quite
realised, though imagination helped her nearly the whole of the journey.
For example, she found no olive-skinned Romeo in a certain groom from the
village. He was ruddy, rather coarse, smelt of stables and beer, and last
Sunday's clean shirt. He offered her the mechanics of love, and her
imagination supplied the missing glamour. But that was an old scandal. If
it had reached the ears of Lady Lebanon there would have been a new
tenant to Box Hedge Cottage...
Later Mrs. Tilling looked higher than ostlers, but her husband did not
He stopped Gilder one afternoon as he was crossing Priory Field.
His politeness was menacing.
"You bin down to my cottage once or twice lately--when I was over at
An assertion rather than an inquiry.
"Why, yes." The American spoke slowly, which was his way. "Her ladyship
asked me to call about the clutch of eggs that she's been charged for.
You weren't at home. So I called next day."
"And I wasn't at home neither," sneered Tilling, his face redder.
Gilder looked at him amused. For himself he knew nothing of the
unfortunate affair of the groom, for small gossip did not interest him.
"That's so. You were in the woods somewhere."
"My wife was at home...You stopped an' had a cup of tea, hey?"
Gilder was outraged. The smile went out of his grey eyes and they were
"What's the idea?" he asked.
His jacket was suddenly gripped.
"You stay away--"
So far Tilling got, and then the American footman took him gently by the
wrist and slowly twisted his hand free.