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The Elk
TERESA, Mrs. Thropplestance, was the richest and most intractable old woman in the
county of Woldshire. In her dealings with the world in general her manner suggested a
blend between a Mistress of the Robes and a Master of Foxhounds, with the vocabulary
of both. In her domestic circle she comported herself in the arbitrary style that one
attributes, probably without the least justification, to an American political Boss in the
bosom of his caucus. The late Theodore Thropplestance had left her, some thirty-five
years ago, in absolute possession of a considerable fortune, a large landed property, and a
gallery full of valuable pictures. In those intervening years she had outlived her son and
quarrelled with her elder grandson, who had married without her consent or approval.
Bertie Thropplestance, her younger grandson, was the heir-designate to her property, and
as such he was a centre of interest and concern to some half-hundred ambitious mothers
with daughters of marriageable age. Bertie was an amiable, easy-going young man, who
was quite ready to marry anyone who was favourably recommended to his notice, but he
was not going to waste his time in falling in love with anyone who would come under his
grandmother's veto. The favourable recommendation would have to come from Mrs.
Teresa's house-parties were always rounded off with a plentiful garnishing of presentable
young women and alert, attendant mothers, but the old lady was emphatically
discouraging whenever any one of her girl guests became at all likely to outbid the others
as a possible granddaughter-in-law. It was the inheritance of her fortune and estate that
was in question, and she was evidently disposed to exercise and enjoy her powers of
selection and rejection to the utmost. Bertie's preferences did not greatly matter; he was
of the sort who can be stolidly happy with any kind of wife; he had cheerfully put up with
his grandmother all his life, so was not likely to fret and fume over anything that might
befall him in the way of a helpmate.
The party that gathered under Teresa's roof in Christmas week of the year nineteen-
hundred-and-something was of smaller proportions than usual, and Mrs. Yonelet, who
formed one of the party, was inclined to deduce hopeful augury from this circumstance.
Dora Yonelet and Bertie were so obviously made for one another, she confided to the
vicar's wife, and if the old lady were accustomed to seeing them about a lot together she
might adopt the view that they would make a suitable married couple.
"People soon get used to an idea if it is dangled constantly before their eyes," said Mrs.
Yonelet hopefully, "and the more often Teresa sees those young people together, happy
in each other's company, the more she will get to take a kindly interest in Dora as a
possible and desirable wife for Bertie."
"My dear," said the vicar's wife resignedly, "my own Sybil was thrown together with
Bertie under the most romantic circumstances - I'll tell you about it some day - but it