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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

Sir William is a wonderful man


you, thank you," the old man motioned him away.

So they went upstairs to where the three women were sitting in the library round the fire, chattering not very interested. The entry of Sir William at once made a stir.

The girl in white, with the biggish nose, fluttered round him. She was Arthur's wife. The girl in soft blue spread herself on the couch: she was the young Major's wife, and she had a blue band round her hair. The Colonel hovered stout and fidgetty round Lady Franks and the liqueur stand. He and the Major were both in khaki--belonging to the service on duty in Italy still.

Coffee appeared--and Sir William doled out _creme de menthe_. There was no conversation--only tedious words. The little party was just commonplace and dull--boring. Yet Sir William, the self-made man, was a study. And the young, Oxford-like Major, with his English diffidence and his one dark, pensive, baffled eye was only waiting to be earnest, poor devil.

The girl in white had been a sort of companion to Lady Franks, so that Arthur was more or less a son-in-law. In this capacity, he acted. Aaron strayed round uneasily looking at the books, bought but not read, and at the big pictures above. It was Arthur who fetched out the little boxes containing the orders conferred on Sir William for his war-work: and perhaps more, for the many thousands of pounds he had

spent on his war-work.

There were three orders: one British, and quite important, a large silver star for the breast: one Italian, smaller, and silver and gold; and one from the State of Ruritania, in silver and red-and-green enamel, smaller than the others.

"Come now, William," said Lady Franks, "you must try them all on. You must try them all on together, and let us see how you look."

The little, frail old man, with his strange old man's blue eyes and his old man's perpetual laugh, swelled out his chest and said:

"What, am I to appear in all my vanities?" And he laughed shortly.

"Of course you are. We want to see you," said the white girl.

"Indeed we do! We shouldn't mind all appearing in such vanities--what, Lady Franks!" boomed the Colonel.

"I should think not," replied his hostess. "When a man has honours conferred on him, it shows a poor spirit if he isn't proud of them."

"Of course I am proud of them!" said Sir William. "Well then, come and have them pinned on. I think it's wonderful to have got so much in one life-time--wonderful," said Lady Franks.

"Oh, Sir William is a wonderful man," said the Colonel. "Well--we won't say so before him. But let us look at him in his orders."

Arthur, always ready on these occasions, had taken the large and shining British star from its box, and drew near to Sir William, who stood swelling his chest, pleased, proud, and a little wistful.

"This one first, Sir," said Arthur.

Sir William stood very still, half tremulous, like a man undergoing an operation.

"And it goes just here--the level of the heart. This is where it goes." And carefully he pinned the large, radiating ornament on the black velvet dinner-jacket of the old man.

"That is the first--and very becoming," said Lady Franks.

"Oh, very becoming! Very becoming!" said the tall wife of the Major--she was a handsome young woman of the tall, frail type.

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