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Beschreibung des Verlags

"Don't be a silly ass, Layton. Do I look the sort of man to play such a fool's trick?"

"My dear fellow, there's no silly ass about it. You, a lonely bachelor, and not badly off—desirous of settling down into quiet, domestic life, would like to find a young lady of refined and cultured tastes who would meet you with—a view to matrimony. I'll take my oath you are as ready as this gentleman is, to swear you will make an excellent husband, kind, domesticated, and——"

Further speech was checked by a well-directed cushion, which descended plump upon the speaker's bronzed and grinning countenance, momentarily obliterating grin and countenance alike, whilst a shout of laughter went up from the other occupants of the smoking-room.

"Jack, my boy, Mernside wasn't far wrong when he defined you as a silly ass," drawled a man who leant against the mantelpiece, smoking a cigarette, and looking with amused eyes at the squirming figure under the large cushion; "what unutterable drivel are you reading? Is the Sunday Recorder responsible for that silly rot?"

"The Sunday Recorder is responsible for what you are pleased to call silly rot," answered the young man, who had now flung aside the cushion, and sat upright, looking at his two elders with laughing eyes, whilst he clutched a newspaper in one hand, and tried to smooth his rumpled hair with the other. "The Sunday Recorder has a matrimonial column—and—knowing poor old Rupert to be a lonely bachelor, not badly off, and desirous of settling down into quiet domestic life, etc., etc.—see the printed page"—he waved the journal over his head—"I merely wished to recommend my respected cousin to insert an advertisement on these lines, in next Sunday's paper."

"Because some wretched bounders choose to advertise for wives in the Sunday papers, I don't see where I come in," said a quiet and singularly musical voice—that of the third man in the room—he who a moment before had flung the large cushion at young Layton. He was sitting in an armchair drawn close to the glowing fire, his hands clasped under his head, his face full of languid amusement, turned towards the grinning youth upon the sofa. Without being precisely a handsome man, Rupert Mernside's was a striking personality, and his face not one to be overlooked, even in a crowd. There was strength in his well-cut mouth and jaw; and the rather deeply-set grey eyes held humour, and a certain masterfulness, which dominated less powerful characters than his own.

In those eyes there was a charm which neutralised his somewhat severe and rugged features, but in Rupert Mernside's voice lay his greatest attraction; and a lady of his acquaintance had once been heard to say that with such a voice as his, he could induce anyone to follow him round the world.

Why he had remained so long a bachelor had long been matter for speculation, not only to the feminine portion of the community, but also to his men friends; but thirty-five still found Rupert Mernside unmarried, and the manoeuvres of match-making mothers, and of daughters trained to play up to their mothers' tactics, had hitherto failed to lead him in the desired direction.

29. Juli
Library of Alexandria

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