Infomotions, Inc.Philistia / Allen, Grant, 1848-1899



Author: Allen, Grant, 1848-1899
Title: Philistia
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ernest; edie; breton; hilda; selah; lady hilda; ronald; oswald; berkeley; herbert; arthur berkeley; arthur; herr schurz; calcombe pomeroy
Contributor(s): Hogarth, C. J. [Translator]
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Size: 144,031 words (average) Grade range: 11-13 (high school) Readability score: 55 (average)
Identifier: etext6060
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Title: Philistia

Author: Grant Allen

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Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Team



PHILISTIA

BY

GRANT ALLEN





CONTENTS.

CHAPTER

     I. CHILDREN OF LIGHT
    II. THE COASTS OF THE GENTILES
   III. MAGDALEN QUAD
    IV. A LITTLE MUSIC
     V. ASKELON VILLA, GATH
    VI. DOWN THE RIVER
   VII. GHOSTLY COUNSEL
  VIII. IN THE CAMP OF THE PHILISTINES
    IX. THE WOMEN OF THE LAND
     X. THE DAUGHTERS OF CANAAN
    XI. CULTURE AND CULTURE
   XII. THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
  XIII. YE MOUNTAINS OF GILBOA
   XIV. WHAT DO THESE HEBREWS HERE
    XV. EVIL TIDINGS
   XVI. FLAT REBELLION
  XVII. COME YE OUT AND BE YE SEPARATE!
 XVIII. A QUIET WEDDING
   XIX. INTO THE FIRE
    XX. LITERATURE, MUSIC, AND THE DRAMA
   XXI. OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE
  XXII. THE PHILISTINES TRIUMPH
 XXIII. THE STREETS OF ASKELON
  XXIV. THE CLOUDS BEGIN TO BREAK
   XXV. HARD PRESSED
  XXVI. IRRECLAIMABLE
 XXVII. RONALD COMES OF AGE
XXVIII. TELL IT NOT IN GATH
  XXIX. A MAN AND A MAID
   XXX. THE ENVIRONMENT FINALLY TRIUMPHS
  XXXI. DE PROFUNDIS
 XXXII. PRECONTRACT OF MARRIAGE
XXXIII. A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE
 XXXIV. HOPE
  XXXV. THE TIDE TURNS
 XXXVI. OUT OF THE HAND OF THE PHILISTINES
XXXVII. LAND AT LAST: BUT WHAT LAND?




CHAPTER I.

CHILDREN OF LIGHT.


It was Sunday evening, and on Sundays Max Schurz, the chief of the
London Socialists, always held his weekly receptions. That night
his cosmopolitan refugee friends were all at liberty; his French
disciples could pour in from the little lanes and courts in Soho,
where, since the  Commune, they had plied their peaceful trades as
engravers, picture-framers, artists'-colourmen, models, pointers,
and so forth--for most of them were hangers-on in one way or another
of the artistic world; his German adherents could stroll round,
pipe in mouth, from their printing-houses, their ham-and-beef shops,
or their naturalists' chambers, where they stuffed birds or set up
exotic butterflies in little cabinets--for most of them were more
or less literary or scientific in their pursuits; and his few English
sympathisers,  chiefly dissatisfied philosophical Radicals of the
upper classes, could drop in casually for a chat and a smoke, on
their way home from the churches to which they had been dutifully
escorting their un-emancipated wives and sisters. Max Schurz kept
open house for all on Sunday evenings, and there was not a drawing-room
in London better filled than his with the very advanced and not
undistinguished set who alone had the much-prized entree of his
exclusive salon.

The salon itself did not form any component part of Max Schurz's
own private residence in any way. The great Socialist, the man whose
mandates shook the thrones of Russia and Austria, whose movements
spread terror in Paris and Berlin, whose dictates were even obeyed
in Kerry and in Chicago, occupied for his own use two small rooms
at the top of a shabby composite tenement in a doubtful district
of Marylebone. The little parlour where he carried on his trade of
a microscope-lens grinder would not have sufficed to hold one-tenth
of the eager half-washed crowd that pressed itself enthusiastically
upon him every Sunday. But a large room on the ground floor of the
tenement, opening towards the main street, was used during the
week by one of his French refugee friends as a dancing-saloon;
and in this room on every Sunday evening the uncrowned king of the
proletariate  Socialists was permitted to hold his royal levees.
Thither all that was best and truest in the socially rebellions
classes domiciled in London used to make its way; and there men
calmly talked over the ultimate chances of social revolutions which
would have made the hair of respectable Philistine Marylebone stand
stiffly on end, had it only known the rank political heresies that
were quietly hatching in its unconscious midst.

While Max Schurz's hall was rapidly filling with the polyglot crowd
of democratic solidarists, Ernest Le Breton and his brother were
waiting in the chilly little drawing-room at Epsilon Terrrace,
Bayswater, for the expected arrival of Harry Oswald. Ernest had
promised to introduce Oswald to Max Schurz's reception; and it
was now past eight o'clock, getting rather a late hour for those
simple-minded, early-rising Communists. 'I'm afraid, Herbert,'
said Ernest to his brother, 'he forgets that Max is a working-man
who has to be at his trade again punctually by seven o'clock
to-morrow. He thinks he's going out to a regular society At Home,
where ten o'clock's considered just the beginning of the evening. Max
won't at all like his turning up so late; it smells of non-productivity.'

'If Herr Schurz wants to convert the world,' Herbert answered
chillily, rolling himself a tiny cigarette, 'he must convince the
unproductive as well as the proletariate before he can set things
fairly on the roll for better arrangement.  The proletariate's
all very well in its way, no doubt, but the unproductive happen to
hold the key of the situation. One convert like you or me is worth
a thousand ignorant East-end labourers, with nothing but their
hands and their votes to count upon.'

'But you are not a convert, Herbert.'

'I didn't say I was. I'm a critic. There's no necessity to throw
oneself open-armed into the embrace of either party. The wise man
can wait and watch the progress of the game, backing the winner
for the time being at all the critical moments, and hedging if
necessary when the chances turn momentarily against the favourite.
There's a ring at the bell: that's Oswald; let's go down to the
door to meet him.'

Ernest ran down the stairs rapidly, as was his wont; Herbert
followed in a more leisurely fashion, still rolling the cigarette
between his delicate finger and thumb.  'Goodness gracious, Oswald!'
Ernest exclaimed as his friend stepped in, 'why, you've actually
come in evening dress!  A white tie and all! What on earth will
Max say? He'll be perfectly scandalised at such a shocking and
unprecedented  outrage. This will never do; you must dissemble
somehow or other.'

Oswald laughed. 'I had no idea,' he said, 'Herr Schurz was such
a truculent sans-culotte as that comes to. As it was an evening
reception I thought, of course, one ought to turn up in evening
clothes.'

'Evening clothes! My dear fellow, how on earth do you suppose a
set of poor Leicester Square outlaws are going to get themselves
correctly set up in black broadcloth coats and trousers? They might
wash their white ties  themselves, to be sure; they mostly do their
own washing, I believe, in their own basins.' ('And not much at
that either,' put in Herbert, parenthetically.) 'But as to evening
clothes, why, they'd as soon think of arraying themselves for dinner
in full court dress as of putting on an obscurantist swallow-tail.
It's the badge of a class, a distinct aristocratic outrage; we must
alter it at once, I assure you, Oswald.'

'At any rate,' said Oswald laughing, 'I've had the pleasure of finding
myself accused for the first time in the course of my existence of
being aristocratic. It's quite worth while going to Max Schurz's
once in one's life, if it were only for the sake of that single
new sensation.'

'Well, my dear fellow, we must rectify you, anyhow, before you go.
Let me see; luckily you've got your dust-coat on, and you needn't
take that off; it'll do splendidly to hide your coat and waistcoat.
I'll lend you a blue tie, which will at once transform your upper
man entirely. But you show the cloven hoof below; the trousers
will surely betray you. They're absolutely inadmissible under any
circumstances whatsoever, as the Court Circular says, and you must
positively wear a coloured pair of Herbert's instead of them. Run
upstairs quickly, there's a good fellow, and get rid of the mark
of the Beast as fast as you can.'

Oswald did as he was told without demur, and in about a minute more
presented himself again, with the mark of the Beast certainly most
effectually obliterated, at least so far as outer appearance went.
His blue tie, light dust-coat, and borrowed grey trousers, made up
an ensemble much more like an omnibus conductor out for a holiday
than a gentleman  of the period in correct evening dress. 'Now
mind,' Ernest said seriously, as he opened the door, 'whatever you
do, Oswald, if you stew to death for it--and Schurz's rooms are
often very close and hot, I can assure you--don't for heaven's sake
go and unbutton your dust-coat. If you do they'll see at once you're
a wolf in sheep's clothing, and I shouldn't be at all surprised
if they were to turn and rend you. At least, I'm sure Max would be
very much annoyed with me for unsocially introducing a plutocratic
traitor into the bosom of the fold.'

They walked along briskly in the direction of Marylebone,  and
stopped at last at a dull, yellow-washed house, which bore on
its door a very dingy brass plate, inscribed in red letters, 'M.
et Mdlle. Tirard. Salon de Danse.' Ernest opened the door without
ringing, and turned down the passage towards the salon. 'Remember,'
he said, turning to Harry Oswald by way of a last warning, with his
hand on the inner door-handle, 'coute que coute, my dear fellow,
don't on any account open your dust-coat. No anti-social opinions;
and please bear in mind that Max is, in his own way, a potentate.'

The big hall, badly lighted by a few contribution candles (for the
whole colony subscribed to the best of its ability for the support
of the weekly entertainment), was all alive with eager figures and
the mingled busy hum of earnest conversation.  A few chairs ranged
round the wall were mostly occupied by Mdlle. Tirard and the other
ladies of the Socialist party; but the mass of the guests were
men, and they were almost all smoking, in utter indifference to the
scanty presence of the fair sex. Not that they were  intentionally
rude or boorish; that they never were; except where an emperor or an
aristocrat is concerned, there is no being on earth more courteous,
kindly, and considerate for the feelings of others than your
exiled Socialist. He has suffered much himself in his own time, and
so miseris  succurrere discit. Emperors he mentally classes with
cobras, tarantulas, and scorpions, as outside the pale of humanitarian
sympathies altogether; but, with this slight political exception,
he is the broadest and tenderest and most catholic in his feelings
of all living breathing creatures. However, the ladies of his party
have all been brought up from their  childhood onward in a mingled
atmosphere of smoke and  democracy; so that he no more thinks
of abstaining from tobacco in their presence than he thinks of
commiserating the poor fish for being so dreadfully wet, or the
unfortunate mole for his unpleasantly slimy diet of live earthworms.

'Herr Schurz,' said Ernest, singling out the great leader in the
gloom immediately, 'I've brought my brother Herbert here, whom
you know already, to see you, as well as another Oxford friend of
mind, Mr. Harry Oswald, Fellow and Lecturer  of Oriel. He's almost
one of us at heart, I'm happy to say, and at any rate I'm sure
you'll be glad to make his acquaintance.'

The little spare wizened-up grey man, in the threadbare brown velveteen
jacket, who stood in the middle of the hall, caught Ernest's hand
warmly, and held it for a moment fettered in his iron grip. There
was an honesty in that grip and in those hazy blue-spectacled eyes
that nobody could for a second misunderstand. If an emperor had
been introduced to Max Schurz he might have felt a little abashed
one minute at the old Socialist's royal disdain, but he could not
have failed to say to himself as he looked at him from head to
foot, 'Here, at least, is a true man.' So Harry Oswald felt, as
the spare grey thinker took his hand in his, and grasped it firmly
with a kindly pressure, but less friendly than that with which he
had greeted his known admirer, Ernest Le Breton. As for Herbert, he
merely bowed to him politely from a little distance; and Herbert,
who had picked up at once with a Polish exile in a corner, returned
the bow frigidly without coming up to the host himself at all for
a moment's welcome.

'I'm always pleased to meet friends of the cause from Oxford,'
Herr Schurz said, in almost perfect English. 'We want recruits most
of all among the thinking classes. If we are ever to make headway
against the banded monopolies--against the place-holders, the
land-grabbers, the labour-taxers, the robbers of the poor--we must
first secure the perfect undivided confidence of the brain-workers,
the thinkers, and the writers. At present everything is against us;
we are but a little leaven, trying vainly in our helpless fashion
to leaven the whole lump. The capitalist journals carry off all
the writing talent in the world; they are timid, as capital must
always be; they tremble for their tens of thousands a year, and
their vast circulations among the  propertied classes. We cannot
get at the heart of the people, save by the Archimedean lever of
the thinking world. For that reason, my dear Le Breton, I am always
glad to muster here your Oxford neophytes.'

'And yet, Herr Schurz,' said Ernest gently, 'you know we must not
after all despair. Look at the history of your own people! When
the cause of Jehovah seemed most hopeless, there were still seven
thousand left in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. We are
gaining strength every day, while they are losing it.'

'Ah yes, my friend. I know that too,' the old man answered, with a
solemn shake of the head; 'but the wheels move slowly, they move
slowly--very surely, but oh, so slowly. You are young, friend
Ernest, and I am growing old. You look forward to the future with
hope; I look back to the past with regret: so many years gone, so
little, so very little done. It will come, it will come as surely
as the next glacial period, but I shall not live to see it. I stand
like Moses on Pisgah; I see the promised land before me; I look
down upon the equally allotted vineyards, and the glebe flowing
with milk and honey in the distance; but I shall not lead you into
it; I shall not even lead you against the Canaanites; another than
I must lead you in. But I am an old man, Mr. Oswald, an old man
now, and I am talking all about myself--an anti-social trick we have
inherited from our fathers. What is your friend's special line at
Oxford, did you say, Ernest?'

'Oswald is a mathematician, sir,' said Ernest, 'perhaps the greatest
mathematician among the younger men in the whole University.'

'Ah! that is well. We want exact science. We want clear and definite
thinking. Biologists and physicists and mathematicians, those are
our best recruits, you may depend upon it. We need logic, not mere
gas. Our French friends and our Irish friends--I have nothing in
the world to say against them; they are useful men, ardent men,
full of fire, full of enthusiasm, ready to do and dare anything--but
they lack ballast. You can't take the kingdom of heaven by storm.
The social revolution is not to be accomplished by violence, it is
not even to be carried by the most vivid  eloquence; the victory
will be in the end to the clearest brain and the subtlest intellect.
The orthodox political economists are clever sophists; they mask
and confuse the truth very speciously; we must have keen eyes and
sharp noses to spy out and scent out their tortuous fallacies. I'm
glad you're a mathematician, Mr. Oswald. And so you have thought
on social problems?'

'I have read "Gold and the Proletariate,"' Oswald answered modestly,
'and I learned much from it, and thought more. I won't say you have
quite converted me, Herr Schurz, but you have given me plenty of
food for future reflection.'

'That is well, said the old man, passing one skinny brown hand
gently up and down over the other. 'That is well.  There's no hurry.
Don't make up your mind too fast. Don't jump at conclusions. It's
intellectual dishonesty to do that.  Wait till you have convinced
yourself. Spell out your  problems slowly; they are not easy ones;
try to see how the present complex system works; try to probe
its inequalities and injustices; try to compare it with the ideal
commonwealth:  and you'll find the light in the end, you'll find
the light.'

As he spoke, Herbert Le Breton lounged up quietly from his farther
corner towards the little group. 'Ah, your brother, Ernest!' said
Max Schurz, drawing himself up a little more stiffly; 'he has found
the light already, I believe, but he neglects it; still he is not
with us, and he that is not with us is against us. You hold aloof
always, Mr. Herbert, is it not so?'

'Well, not quite aloof, Herr Schurz, I'm certain, but not on
your side exactly either. I like to look on and hold the balance
evenly, not to throw my own weight too lightly into either stale.
The objective attitude of the mere spectator is after all the right
one for an impartial philosopher to take up.'

'Ah, Mr. Herbert, this philosophy of your Oxford contemplative
Radicals is only another name for a kind of social selfishness,
I fancy,' said the old man solemnly. 'It seems to me your head is
with us, but your heart, your heart is elsewhere.'

Herbert Le Breton played a moment quietly with the Roman aureus of
Domitian on his watch-chain; then he said slowly in his clear cold
voice, 'There may be something in that, no doubt, Herr Schurz, for
each of us has his own game to play, and while the world remains
unreformed, he must play it on his own gambit to a great extent,
without reference to the independent game of others. We all agree
that the board is too full of counters, and as each counter is not
responsible for its own presence and position on the board, having
been put there without previous consultation by the players, we
must each do the best we can for ourselves in our own fashion. My
sympathies, as you say, are on your side, but perhaps my interests
lie the other way, and after all, till you start your millennium,
we must all rattle along as well as we can in the box together,
jarring against one another in our old ugly round of competition,
and supply and demand, and survival of the fittest, and mutual
accommodation,  and all the rest of it, to the end of the chapter.
Every man for himself and God for us all, you know. You have the
logic, to be sure, Herr Schurz, but the monopolists have the law
and the money.'

'Ah, yes,' said the old Socialist grimly; 'Demas, Demas; he and his
silver mine; you remember your Bunyan, don't you? Well, all faiths
and systems have their Demases. The cares of this world and the
deceitfulness of riches. He's bursar of his college, isn't he, Ernest?
I thought so. "He had the bag, and bare what was put therein." A
dangerous office, isn't it, Mr. Oswald? A very dangerous office.
You can't touch pitch or property without being defiled.'

'You at least, sir, said Ernest, reverentially, 'have kept yourself
unspotted from the world.'

The old man sighed, and turned for a moment to speak in French to
a tall, big-bearded new-comer who advanced to meet him. 'Impossible!'
he said quickly; 'I am truly distressed to hear it. It is very
imprudent, very  unnecessary.'

'What is the news?' asked Ernest, also in French.

The new-comer answered him with a marked South Russian accent.
'There has been another attempt on the life of Alexander Nicolaiovitch.'

'You don't mean to say so!' cried Ernest in surprise.

'Yes, I do,' replied the Russian, 'and it has nearly succeeded
too.'

'An attempt on whom?' asked Oswald, who was new to the peculiar
vocabulary of the Socialists, and not particularly accustomed to
following spoken French.

'On Alexander Nicolaiovitch,' answered the red-bearded stranger.

'Not the Czar?' Oswald inquired of Ernest.

'Yes, the one whom you call Czar,' said the stranger, quickly, in
tolerable English. The confusion of tongues seemed to be treated as
a small matter at Max Schurz's receptions, for everybody appeared
to speak all languages at once, in the true spirit of solidarity,
as though Babel had never been.

Oswald did not attempt to conceal a slight gesture of horror. The
tall Russian looked down upon him commiseratingly.  'He is of the
Few?' he asked of Ernest, that being the slang of the initiated
for a member of the  aristocratic and capitalist oligarchy.

'Not exactly,' Ernest answered with a smile; 'but he has not entirely
learned the way we here regard these penal measures. His sympathies
are one-sided as to Alexander, no doubt. He thinks merely of the
hunted, wretched life the man bears about with him, and he forgets
poor bleeding, groaning, down-trodden, long-suffering Russia. It
is the common way of Englishmen. They do not realise Siberia and
Poland and the Third Section, and all the rest of it; they think
only of Alexander as of the benevolent despot who freed the serf
and befriended the Bulgarian. They never remember that they have
all the freedom and privileges themselves which you poor Russians
ask for in vain; they do not bear in mind that he has only to sign
his name to a  constitution, a very little constitution, and he
might walk abroad as light-hearted in St. Petersburg to-morrow as
you and I walk in Regent Street to-day. We are mostly lopsided,
we English, but you must bear with us in our obliquity; we have
had freedom ourselves so long that we hardly know how to make due
allowance for those unfortunate folks who are still in search of
it.'

'If you had an Alexander yourselves for half a day,' the Russian
said fiercely, turning to Oswald, 'you would soon see the difference.
You would forget your virtuous indignation against Nihilist assassins
in the white heat of your anger against unendurable tyranny. You
had a King Charles in England once--the mere shadow of a Russian
Czar--and you were not so very ceremonious with him, you order-loving
English, after all.'

'It is a foolish thing, Borodinsky,' said Max Schurz, looking up
from the long telegram the other had handed him, 'and I told Toroloff
as much a fortnight ago, when he spoke to me about the matter. You
can do no good by these constant attacks, and you only rouse the
minds of the oligarchy against you by your importunity. Bloodshed
will avail us nothing; the world cannot be regenerated by a baptism
like that. Every peasant won over, every student enrolled, every
mother engaged to feed her little ones on the gospel of Socialism
together with her own milk, is worth a thousand times more to
us and to the people than a dead Czar. If your friends had really
blown him up, what then?  You would have had another Czar, and
another Third Section, and another reign of terror, and another
raid and massacre; and we should have lost twenty good men from our
poor little side for ever. We must not waste the salt of the earth
in that reckless fashion. Besides, I don't like this dynamite. It's
a bad argument, it smacks too much of the old royal and repressive
method. You know the motto Louis Quatorze used to cast on his
bronze cannon--"Ultima ratio regum." Well, we Socialists ought to
be able to find better logic for our opponents than that, oughtn't
we?'

'But in Russia,' cried the bearded man hotly, 'in poor stricken-down
groaning Russia, what other argument have they left us? Are we to
be hunted to death without real law or trial, tortured into sham
confessions, deluded with mock pardons, arraigned before hypocritical
tribunals,  ensnared by all the chicanery, and lying, and treachery,
and ferreting of the false bureaucracy, with its spies, and its
bloodhounds, and its knout-bearing police-agents; and then are we
not to make war the only way we can--open war, mind you, with fair
declaration, and due formalities, and proper warning beforehand--against
the irresponsible autocrat  and his wire-pulled office-puppets who
kill us off  mercilessly? You are too hard upon us, Herr Schurz;
even you yourself have no sympathy at all for unhappy Russia.'

The old man looked up at him tenderly and regretfully.  'My poor
Borodinsky,' he said in a gentle tremulous voice, 'I have indeed
sympathy and pity in abundance for you. I do not blame you; you
will have enough and to spare to do that, even here in free England;
I would not say a harsh word against you or your terrible methods
for all the world.  You have been hard-driven, and you stand at
bay like tigers.  But I think you are going to work the wrong way,
not using your energies to the best possible advantage for the
proletariate. What we have really got to do is to gain over every
man, woman, and child of the working-classes individually, and to
array on our side all the learning and intellect and economical
science of the thinking classes individually; and then we can present
such a grand united front to the banded monopolists that for very
shame they will not dare to  gainsay us. Indeed, if it comes to
that, we can leave them quietly alone, till for pure hunger they
will come and beg our assistance. When we have enticed away all
the workmen  from their masters to our co-operative factories, the
masters may keep their rusty empty mills and looms and engines to
themselves as long as they like, but they must come to us in the
end, and ask us to give them the bread they used to refuse us. For
my part, I would kill no man and rob no man; but I would let no
man kill or rob another either.'

'And how about Alexander Nicolaiovitch, then?' persisted  the
Russian, eagerly. 'Has he killed none in his loathsome prisons and
in his Siberian quicksilver mines?  Has he robbed none of their own
hardly got earnings by his poisoned vodki and his autocratically
imposed taxes and imposts? Who gave him an absolute hereditary right
to put us to death, to throw us in prison, to take our money from
us against our will and without our leave, to treat us as if we
existed, body and soul, and wives and children, only as chattels
for the greater glory of his own orthodox imperial majesty? If we
may justly slay the highway robber who meets us, arms in hand, in
the outskirts of the city, and demands of us our money or our life,
may we not justly slay Alexander Nicolaiovitch, who comes to our
homes in the person of his tax-gatherers to take the bread out of
our children's mouths and to help himself to whatever he chooses by
the divine right of his Romanoff heirship? I tell you, Herr Max,
we may blamelessly lie in wait for him wherever we find him, and
whoso says us nay is siding with the wolf against the lambs, with
the robber and the slayer against the honest representative of
right and justice.'

'I never met a Nihilist before,' said Oswald to Ernest, in a
half-undertone,' and it never struck me to think what they might
have to say for themselves from their own side of the question.'

'That's one of the uses of coming here to Herr Schurz's,' Ernest
answered quickly. 'You may not agree with all you hear, but at
least you learn to see others as they see  themselves; whereas if
you mix always in English society, and read only English papers,
you will see them only as we English see them.'

'But just fancy,' Oswald went on, as they both stood back a little
to make way for others who wished for interviews  with the great
man, 'just fancy that this Borodinsky, or whatever his name may be,
has himself very likely helped in dynamite plots, or manufactured
nitro-glycerine cartridges  to blow up the Czar; and yet we stand
here talking with him as coolly as if he were an ordinary respectable
innocent Englishman.'

'What of that?' Ernest answered, smiling. 'Didn't we meet Prince
Strelinoffsky at Oriel last term, and didn't we talk with him too,
as if he was an honest, hard-working, bread-earning Christian? and
yet we knew he was a member of the St. Petersburg office clique,
and at the bottom of half the trouble in Poland for the last ten
years or so. Grant even that Borodinsky is quite wrong in his way
of dealing with noxious autocrats, and yet which do you think is
the worst criminal of the two--he with his little honest glazier's
shop in a back slum of Paddington, or Strelinoffsky with his jewelled
fingers calmly signing accursed warrants to send childing Polish
women to die of cold and hunger and ill-treatment on the way to
Siberia?'

'Well, really, Le Breton, you know I'm a passably good Radical,
but you're positively just one stage too Radical even for me.'

'Come here oftener,' answered Ernest; 'and perhaps you'll begin to
think a little differently about some things.'

An hour later in the evening Max Schurz found Ernest alone in a
quiet corner. 'One moment, my dear Le Breton,' he said; 'you know
I always like to find out all about people's political antecedents;
it helps one to fathom the potentialities of their characters. From
what social stratum, now, do we get your clever friend, Mr. Oswald?'

'His father's a petty tradesman in a country town in Devonshire,
I believe,' Ernest answered; 'and he himself is a good general
democrat, without any very pronounced socialistic colouring.'

'A petty tradesman! Hum, I thought so. He has rather the mental
bearing and equipment of a man from the petite bourgeoisie. I have
been talking to him, and drawing him out. Clever, very, and with
good instincts, but not wholly and entirely sound. A fibre wrong
somewhere, socially speaking, a false note suspected in his ideas
of life; too much acquiescence in the thing that is, and too little
faith or enthusiasm for the thing that ought to be. But we shall
make something of him yet. He has read "Gold" and understands it.
That is already a beginning. Bring him again. I shall always be
glad to see him here.'

'I will,' said Ernest, 'and I believe the more you know him, Herr
Max, the better you will like him.'

'And what did you think of the sons of the prophets?' asked Herbert
Le Breton of Oswald as they left the salon at the close of the
reception.

'Frankly speaking,' answered Oswald, looking half aside at Ernest,
'I didn't quite care for all of them--the Nihilists and Communards
took my breath away at first; but as to Max Schurz himself I think
there can be only one opinion possible about him.'

'And that is----?'

'That he's a magnificent old man, with a genuine apostolic
inspiration. I don't care twopence whether he is right or wrong,
but he's a perfectly splendid old fellow, as honest and transparent
as the day's long. He believes in it all, and would give his life
for it freely, if he thought he could forward the cause a single
inch by doing it.'

'You're quite right,' said Herbert calmly. 'He's an Elijah thrown
blankly upon these prosaic latter days; and what's more, his
gospel's all true; but it doesn't matter a sou to you or me, for
it will never come about in our time, no nor for a century after.
"Post nos millennium." So what on earth's the good of our troubling
our poor overworked heads about it?'

'He's the only really great man I ever knew,' said Ernest
enthusiastically, 'and I consider that his friendship's the one
thing in my life that has been really and truly worth living for.
If a pessimist were to ask me what was the use of human existence,
I should give him a card of introduction to go to Max Schurz's.'

'Excuse my interrupting your rhapsody, Ernest,' Herbert put in
blandly, 'but will you have your own trousers  tonight, Oswald, or
will you wear mine back to your lodgings now, and I'll send one of
the servants round with yours for them in the morning?'

'Thanks,' said Harry Oswald, slapping the sides of the unopened
dust-coat; 'I think I'll go home as I am at present, and I'll recover
the marks of the Beast again to-morrow.  You see, I didn't betray
my evening waistcoat after all, now did I?'

And they parted at the corner, each of them going his own way in
his own mood and manner.



CHAPTER II.

THE COASTS OF THE GENTILES.


The decayed and disfranchised borough of Calcombe Pomeroy, or
Calcombe-on-the-Sea, is one of the prettiest and quietest little
out-of-the-way watering-places in the whole smiling southern slope
of the county of Devon.  Thank heaven, the Great Western Railway,
when planning its organised devastations along the beautiful rural
region of the South Hams, left poor little Calcombe out in the cold;
and the consequence is that those few people who still love to
linger in the uncontaminated rustic England of our wiser forefathers
can here find a beach unspoiled by goat-carriages or black-faced
minstrels, a tiny parade uninvaded by stucco terraces or German
brass bands, and an ancient stone pier off which swimmers may take
a header direct, in the early morning, before the sumptuary edicts
of his worship the Mayor compel them to resort to the use of
bathing-machines and the decent covering of an approved costume,
between the hours of eight and eight. A board beside the mouth of
the harbour, signed by a Secretary of State to his late Majesty
King William the Fourth, still announces to a heedless  world the
tolls to be paid for entry by the ships that never arrive; and a
superannuated official in a wooden leg and a gold cap-band retains
the honourable sinecure of a harbour-mastership, with a hypothetical
salary nominally payable from the non-existent fees and port dues.
The little river Cale, at the bottom of whose combe the wee town
nestles snugly, has cut itself a deep valley in the soft  sandstone
hills; and the gap in the cliffs formed by its mouth gives room
for the few hundred yards of level on which the antiquated little
parade is warmly ensconced. On either hand tall bluffs of brilliant
red marl raise their honeycombed faces fronting the sea; and in the
distance the sheeny grey rocks of the harder Devonian promontories
gleam like watered satin in the slant rays of the afternoon sun.
Altogether  a very sleepy little old-world place is Calcombe Pomeroy,
specially reserved by the overruling chance of the universe to be
a summer retreat for quiet, peace-loving, old-world people.

The Londoner who escapes for a while from the great teeming human
ant-hill, with its dark foggy lanes and solid firmament of hanging
smoke, to draw in a little unadulterated atmosphere at Calcombe
Pomeroy, finds himself landed by the Plymouth slow train at Calcombe
Road Station, twelve miles by cross-country highway from his final
destination.  The little grey box, described in the time-tables
as a  commodious omnibus, which takes him on for the rest of his
journey, crawls slowly up the first six miles to the summit of
the intervening range at the Cross Foxes Inn, and jolts swiftly
down the other six miles, with red hot drag creaking and groaning
lugubriously, till it seems to topple over sheer into the sea
at the clambering High Street of the old borough.  As you turn to
descend the seaward slope at the Cross Foxes, you appear to leave
modern industrial England and the  nineteenth century well behind
you on the north, and you go down into a little isolated primaeval
dale, cut off from all the outer world by the high ridge that girds
it round on every side, and turned only on the southern front
towards the open Channel and the backing sun. Half-way down the
steep cobble-paved High Street, just after you pass the big dull
russet church, a small shop on the left-hand side bears a signboard
with the painted legend, 'Oswald, Family Grocer and Provision
Dealer.' In the front bay window of that  red-brick house, built
out just over the shop, Harry Oswald, Fellow and Lecturer of Oriel
College, Oxford, kept his big oak writing-desk; and at that desk
he might be seen reading or writing on most mornings during the
long vacation, after the end of his three weeks' stay at a London
West-end  lodging-house, from which he had paid his first visit to
Max Schurz's Sunday evening receptions.

'Two pounds of best black tea, good quality--yours is generally
atrocious, Mrs. Oswald--that's the next thing on the list,' said
poor trembling, shaky Miss Luttrell, the Squire's sister, a palsied
old lady with a quavering,  querulous, rasping voice. 'Two pounds
of best black tea, and mind you don't send it all dust, as you usually
do. No good tea to be got nowadays, since they took the duties off
and ruined the country. And I see a tall young man lounging about
the place sometimes, and never touching his hat to me as he ought
to do. Young people have no manners in these times, Mrs. Oswald, as
they used to have when you and I were young. Your son, I suppose,
come home from sea or something? He's in the fish-curing line,
isn't he, I think I've heard you say?'

'I don't rightly know who 'ee may mean, Miss Luttrell,' replied
the mother proudly, 'by a young man lounging about the place; but
my son's at home from Oxford at present for his vacations, and he
isn't in the fish-curing line at all, ma'am, but he's a Fellow of
his college, as I've told 'ee more than once already; but you're
getting old, I see, Miss Luttrell, and your memory isn't just what
it had used to be, dost know.'

'Oh, at Oxford, is he?' Miss Luttrell chimed on vacantly, wagging
her wrinkled old head in solemn deprecation of tke evil omen. She
knew it as well as Mrs. Oswald herself did, having heard the fact
at least a thousand times before; but she made it a matter of
principle never to encourage these upstart pretensions on the part
of the lower orders, and just to keep them rigorously at their
proper level she always made a feint of forgetting any steps in
advance which they might have been bold enough to take, without
humbly obtaining  her previous permission, out of their original
and natural obscurity. 'Fellow of his college is he, really?  Fellow
of a college! Dear me, how completely Oxford is going to the dogs.
Admitting all kinds of odd people into the University, I understand.
Why, my second brother--the  Archdeacon, you know--was a Fellow of
Magdalen for some time in his younger days. You surprise me, quite.
Fellow of a college! You're perfectly sure he isn't a National
schoolmaster at Oxford instead, and that you and his father haven't
got the two things mixed up together in your heads, Mrs. Oswald?'

'No, ma'am, we'in perfectly sure of it, and we haven't got the
things mixed up in our heads at all, no more nor you have, Miss
Luttrell. He was a scholar of Trinity first, and now he's got
a Fellowship at Oriel. You must mind hearing all about it at the
time, only you're getting so forgetful like now, with years and
such like.' Mrs. Oswald knew there was nothing that annoyed the old
lady so much as any allusion to her increasing age or infirmities,
and she took her revenge out of her in that simple retributive
fashion.

'A scholar of Trinity, was he? Ah, yes, patronage will do a great
deal in these days, for certain. The Rector took a wonderful
interest in your boy, I think, Mrs. Oswald. He went to Plymouth
Grammar School, I remember now, with a nomination no doubt; and
there, I dare say, he attracted some attention, being a decent,
hard-working lad, and got sent to Oxford with a sizarship, or
something of the sort; there are all kinds of arrangements like
that at the Universities,  I believe, to encourage poor young men
of respectable character. They become missionaries or ushers in
the end, and often get very good salaries, considering everything,
I'm told.'

'There you're wrong, again, ma'am,' put in Mrs. Oswald, stoutly.
'My husband, he sent Harry to Plymouth School at our own expense;
and after that he got an exhibition from the school, and an open
scholarship, I think they call it, at the college; and he's been no
more beholden to patronage, ma'am, than your brother the Archdeacon
was, nor for the matter o' that not so much neither; for I've a'ways
understood the old Squire sent him first to the Charterhouse, and
afterwards he got a living through Lord Modbury's influence, as
the Squire voted regular with the Modbury people for the borough
and county. But George was always independent, Miss Luttrell, and
beholden to neither Luttrells nor Modburies,  and that I tell 'ee
to your face, ma'am, and no shame of it either.'

'Well, well, Mrs. Oswald,' said the old lady, shaking her head more
violently than ever at this direct discomfiture, 'I don't want to
argue with you about the matter. I dare say your son's a very worthy
young man, and has worked his way up into a position he wasn't
intended for by Providence.  But it's no business of mine, thank
heaven, it's no business of mine, for I'm not responsible for all
the vagaries of all the tradespeople on my brother's estate, nor
don't want to be.  There's Mrs. Figgins, now, the baker's wife; her
daughter has just chosen to get married to a bank clerk in London;
and I said to her this morning, "Well, Mrs. Figgins, so you've let
your Polly go and pick up with some young fellow from town that
you've never seen before, haven't you? And that's the way of all you
people. You marry your girls to bank clerks without a reference, for
the sake of getting 'em off your hands, and what's the consequence?
They rob their employers to keep up a pretty household for their
wives, as if they were fine ladies; and then at last the thing's
discovered, there comes a smash, they run away to America, and you
have your daughters and their children thrown back again penniless
upon your hands." That's what I said to her, Mrs. Oswald.  And how's
YOUR daughter, by the way--Jemima I think you call her; how's she,
eh, tell me?'

'I beg your pardon, Miss Luttrell, but her name's not Jemima; it's
Edith.'

'Oh, Edith, is it? Well to be sure! The grand names girls have
dangling about with them nowadays! My name's plain Catherine, and
it's good enough for me, thank  goodness. But these young ladies
of the new style must be Ediths and Eleanors and Ophelias, and all
that heathenish kind of thing, as if they were princesses of the
blood or  play-actresses, instead of being good Christian Susans
and Janes and Betties, like their grandmothers were before them.
And Miss Edith, now, what is SHE doing?'

'She's doing nothing in particular at this moment, Miss Luttrell,
leastways not so far as I know of; but she's going up to Oxford
part of this term on a visit to her brother.'

'Going up to Oxford, my good woman! Why, heaven bless the girl,
she'd much better stop at home and learn her catechism. She should
try to do her duty in that station of life to which it has pleased
Providence to call her, instead of running after young gentlemen
above her own rank and place in society at Oxford. Tell her so
from me, Mrs.  Oswald, and mind you don't send the tea dusty. Two
pounds of your best, if you please, as soon as you can send it.
Good-morning.' And Miss Luttrell, having discovered the absolute
truth of the shocking rumour which had reached her about Edith's
projected visit, the confirmation of which was the sole object of
her colloquy, wagged her way out of the shop again successfully,
and was duly assisted by the page-boy into her shambling little
palsied donkey-chair.

'That was all the old cat came about, you warr'nt you,' muttered
Mr. Oswald himself from behind his biscuit-boxes.  'Must have heard
it from the Rector's wife, and wanted to find out if it was true,
to go and tell Mrs. Walters o' such a bit o' turble presumptiousness.'

Meanwhile, in the little study with the bow-window over the shop,
Harry and Edie Oswald were busily discussing the necessary preparations
for Edie's long-promised visit to the University.

'I hope you've got everything nice in the way of dress, you know,
Edie,' said Harry. 'You'll want a decent dinner dress, of course,
for you'll be asked out to dine at least once or twice; and I want
you to have everything exceedingly proper and pretty.'

'I think I've got all I need in that way, Harry; I've my dark poplin,
cut square in the bodice, for one dinner dress, and my high black
silk to fall back upon for another. Worn open in front, with a lace
handkerchief and a locket, it does really very nicely. Then I've
got three afternoon dresses, the grey you gave me, the sage-greeny
aesthetic one, and the peacock-blue with the satin box-pleats. It's
a charming dress, the peacock-blue; it looks as if it might have
stepped straight out of a genuine Titian. It came home from Miss
Wells's this morning. Wait five minutes, like a dear boy, and I'll
run and put it on and let you see me in it.'

'That's a good girl, do. I'm so anxious you should have all your
clothes the exact pink of perfection, Popsy. Though I'm afraid I'm
a very poor critic in that matter--if you were only a problem in
space of four dimensions, now! Yet, after all, every man or woman
is more of a problem than anything in x square plus y square you
can possibly set yourself.'

Edie ran lightly up into her own room, and soon reappeared  clad
resplendent in the new peacock-blue dress, with hat and parasol
to match, and a little creamy lamb's-wool scarf thrown with artful
carelessness around her pretty neck and shoulders. Harry looked at
her with unfeigned admiration.  Indeed, you would not easily find
many lighter or more fairly-like little girls than Edie Oswald,
even in the beautiful half-Celtic South Hams of Devon. In figure
she was rather small than short, for though she was but a wee thing,
her form was so exactly and delicately modelled that she might have
looked tall if she stood alone at a little distance.  She never
walked, but seemed to dance about from place to place, so buoyant
and light, that Harry doubted whether in her case gravitation could
really vary as the square of the distance--it seemed, in fact,
to be almost diminished in the proportions of the cube. Her hair
and eyes--such big bright eyes!--were dark; but her complexion
was scarcely brunette, and the colour in her cheeks was rich and
peach-like, after the true Devonian type. She was dimpled whenever
she smiled, and she smiled often; her full lips giving a peculiar
ripe look to her laughing mouth that suited admirably with her
light and delicate style of beauty. Perhaps some people might have
thought them too full; certainly they irresistibly suggested to
a critical eye the distinct notion of kissability.  As she stood
there, faintly blushing, waiting to be admired by her brother, in
her neatly fitting dainty blue dress, her lips half parted, and her
arms held carelessly at her side, she looked about as much like a
fairy picture as it is given to mere human flesh and blood to look.

'It's delicious, Edie,' said Harry, surveying her from, head
to foot with a smile of satisfaction which made her blush deepen;
'it's simply delicious. Where on earth did you get the idea of it?'

'Well, it's partly the present style,' said Edie; 'but I took the
notion of the bodice partly too from that Vandyck, you know, in
the Palazzo Bossi at Genoa.'

'I remember, I remember,' Harry answered, contemplating  her with
an admiring eye. 'Now just turn round and show me how it sits
behind, Edie. You recollect Theophile Gautier says the one great
advantage which a beautiful woman possesses over a beautiful statue
is this, that while a man has to walk round the beautiful statue
in order to see it from every side, he can ask the beautiful woman
to turn herself round and let him see her, without requiring to
take that trouble.'

'Theophile Gautier was a horrid man, and if anybody but my brother
quoted such a thing as that to me I should be very angry with him
indeed.'

'Theophile Gautier was quite as horrid as you consider him to be,
and if you were anybody but my sister it isn't probable I should
have quoted him to you. But if there is any statue on earth prettier
or more graceful than you are in that dress at this moment, Edie,
then the Venus of Milo ought immediately to be pulverised to ultimate
atoms for a rank artistic impostor.'

'Thank you, Harry, for the compliment. What pretty things you must
be capable of saying to somebody else's sister, when you're so
polite and courtly to your own.'

'On the contrary, Popsy, when it comes to somebody else's sister
I'm much too nervous and funky to say anything of the kind. But
you must at least do Gautier the justice to observe that if I had
described a circle round you, instead of allowing you to revolve
once on your own axis, I shouldn't have been able to get the gloss
on the satin in the sunlight as I do now that you turn the panniers
toward the window.  That, you must admit, is a very important
aesthetic consideration.'

'Oh, of course it's essentially a sunshiny dress,' said Edie,
smiling. 'It's meant to be worn out of doors, on a fine afternoon,
when the light is falling slantwise, you know, just as it does now
through the low window. That's the light painters always choose
for doing satin in.'

'It's certainly very pretty,' Harry went on, musing; 'but I'm afraid
Le Breton would say it was a serious piece of economic hubris.'

'Piece of what?' asked Edie quickly.

'Piece of hubris--an economical outrage, don't you see; a gross
anti-social and individualist demonstration. Hubris, you know, is
Greek for insolence; at least, not quite  insolence, but a sort
of pride and overweening rebelliousness against the gods, the kind
of arrogance that brings Nemesis after it, you understand. It was
hubris in Agamemnon and Xerxes to go swelling about and ruffling
themselves like turkey-cocks, because they were great conquerors
and all that sort of thing; and it was their Nemesis to get murdered
by Clytemnestra, or jolly well beaten by the Athenians at Salamis.
Well, Le Breton always uses the word for  anything that he thinks
socially wrong--and he thinks a good many things socially wrong,
I can tell you--anything that partakes of the nature of a class
distinction, or a mere vulgar ostentation of wealth, or a useless
waste of good, serviceable, labour-gotten material. He would call
it hubris to have silver spoons when electroplate would do just as
well; or to keep a valet for your own personal attendant, making
one man into the mere bodily appanage of another; or to buy anything
you didn't really need, causing somebody else to do work for you
which might otherwise have been avoided.'

'Which Mr. Le Breton--the elder or the younger one?'

'Oh, the younger--Ernest. As for Herbert, the Fellow of St. Aldate's,
he's not troubled with any such scruples; he takes the world as he
finds it.'

'They've both gone in for their degrees, haven't they?'

'Yes, Herbert has got a fellowship; Ernest's up in residence still
looking about for one.'


'It's Ernest that would think my dress a piece of what-you-may-call-it?'

'Yes, Ernest.'

'Then I'm sure I shan't like him. I should insist upon every woman's
natural right to wear the dress or hat or bonnet that suits her
complexion best.'

'You can't tell, Edie, till you've met him. He's a very good
fellow; and of one thing I'm certain, whatever he thinks right he
does, and sticks to it.'

'But do YOU think, Harry, I oughtn't to wear a new peacock-blue
camel-hair dress on my first visit up to Oxford?'

'Well, Edie dear, I don't quite know what my own opinions are
exactly upon that matter. I'm not an economist, you see, I'm a man
of science. When I look at you, standing there so pretty in that
pretty dress, I feel inclined to say to myself, "Every woman ought
to do her best to make herself look as beautiful as she can for the
common delectation of all humanity." Your beauty, a Greek would
have said, is a gift from the gods to us all, and we ought all
gratefully to make the most of it. I'm sure _I_ do.'

'Thank you, Harry, again. You're in your politest humour this
afternoon.'

'But then, on the other hand, I know if Le Breton were here he'd
soon argue me over to the other side. He has the enthusiasm of
humanity so strong upon him that you can't help agreeing with him
as long as he's talking to you.'

'Then if he were here you'd probably make me put away the peacock-blue,
for fear of hubris and Nemesis and so forth, and go up to Oxford
a perfect fright in my shabby old Indian tussore!'

'I don't know that I should do that, even then, Edie.  In the first
place, nothing on earth could make you look a perfect fright, or
anything like one, Popsy dear; and in the second place, I don't
know that I'm Socialist enough myself ever to have the courage of
my opinions as Le Breton has.  Certainly, I should never attempt to
force them unwillingly upon others. You must remember, Edie, it's
one thing for Le Breton to be so communistic as all that comes to,
and quite another thing for you and me. Le Breton's father was a
general and a knight, you see; and people will never forget that
his mother's Lady Le Breton still, whatever he does.  He may do
what he likes in the way of social eccentricities, and the world
will only say he's such a very strange advanced young fellow. But
if I were to take you up to Oxford badly dressed, or out of the
fashion, or looking peculiar in any way, the world wouldn't put it
down to our political beliefs, but would say we were mere country
tradespeople by birth, and didn't know any better. That makes a
lot of difference, you know.'

'You're quite right, Harry; and yet, do you know, I think there must
be something, too, in sticking to one's own opinions, like Mr. Le
Breton. I should stick to mine, I'm sure, and wear whatever dress
I liked, in spite of anybody.  It's a sweet thing, really, isn't
it?' And she turned herself round, craning over her shoulder to look
at the effect, in a vain attempt to assume an objective attitude
towards her own back.

'I'm glad I'm going to Oxford at last, Harry,' she said, after a
short pause. 'I HAVE so longed to go all these years while you were
an undergraduate; and I'm dying to have got there, now the chance
has really come at last, after all.  I shall glory in the place,
I'm certain; and it'll be so nice to make the acquaintance of all
your clever friends.'

'Well, Edie,' said her brother, smiling gently at the light, joyous,
tremulous little figure, 'I think I've done right in putting it
off till now. It's just as well you haven't gone up to Oxford till
after your trip on the Continent with me.  That three months in
Paris, and Switzerland, and Venice, and Florence, did you a lot of
good, you see; improved you, and gave you tone, and supplied you
with things to talk about.'

'Why, you oughtn't to think I needed any improvement at all, sir,'
Edie answered, pouting; 'and as to talking, I'm not aware I had ever
any dearth of subjects for conversation even before I went on the
Continent. There are things enough to be said about heaven and earth
in England, surely, without one having to hurry through France and
Italy, like Cook's excursionists, just to hunt up something fresh
to chatter about. It's my belief that a person who can't find
anything new to say about the every-day world around her won't
discover much suggestive matter for conversation in a Continental
Bradshaw. It's like that feeble watery lady I met at the table
d'hote at Geneva. From something she said I gathered she'd been
in India, and I asked her how she liked it. "Oh," she said, "it's
very hot." I told her I had heard so before. Presently she said
something casually about having been in Brazil. I asked her what
sort of place Brazil was. "Oh." she said, "it's dreadfully hot."
I told her I'd heard that too. By-and-by she began to talk again
about Barbadoes. "What did you think of the West Indies?" I said.
"Oh," said she, "they're terribly hot, really." I told her I had
gathered as much from previous travellers.  And that was positively
all in the end I ever got out of her, for all her travels.'

'My dear Edie, I've always admitted that you were simply perfect,'
Harry said, glancing at her with visible admiration, 'and I
don't think anything on earth could  possibly improve you--except
perhaps a judicious course of differential and integral calculus,
which might possibly serve to tone down slightly your exuberant
and excessive vitality.  Still, you know, from the point of view
of society, which is a force we have always to reckon with--a
constant, in fact, that we may call Pi--there can be no doubt in
the world that to have been on the Continent is a differentiating
factor in one's social position. It doesn't matter in the least
what your own private evaluation of Pi may be; if you don't happen
to know the particular things and places that Pi knows, Pi's evaluation
of you will be approximately a  minimum, of that you may be certain.'

'Well, for my part, I don't care twopence about Pi as you call it,'
said Edie, tossing her pretty little head  contemptuously; 'but
I'm very glad indeed to have been on the Continent for my own sake,
because of the pictures, and palaces, and mountains, and waterfalls
we've seen, and not because of Pi's opinion of me for having seen
them. I would have been the same person really whether I'd seen
them or not; but I'm so much the richer myself for that view from
the top of the Col de Balme, and for that Murillo--oh, do you
remember the flood of light on that Murillo?--in the far corner
of that delicious gallery at Bologna. Why, mother darling, what on
earth has been vexing you?'

'Nothing at all, Edie dear; leastways, that is, nothing to speak
of,' said her mother, coming up from the shop hot and flurried from
her desperate encounter with the redoubtable Miss Luttrell.

'Oh, I know just what it is, darling,' cried the girl, putting her
arm around her mother's waist caressingly, and drawing her down to
kiss her face half a dozen times over in her outburst of sympathy.
'That horrid old Miss Catherine has been here again, I'm sure, for
I saw her going out of the shop just now, and she's been saying
something or other spiteful, as she always does, to vex my dearie.
What did she say to you to-day, now do tell us, duckie mother?'

'Well, there,' said Mrs. Oswald, half laughing and half crying, 'I
can't tell 'ee exactly what she did say, but it was just the kind
of thing that she mostly does, impudent like, just to hurt a body's
feelings. She said you'd better not go to Oxford, Edie, but stop
at home and learn your catechism.'

'You might have pointed out to her, mother dear,' said the young
man, smoothing her hair softly with his hand, and kissing her
forehead, 'that in the most advanced intellectual centres the Church
catechism is perhaps no longer regarded as the absolute ultimatum
of the highest and deepest economical wisdom.'

'Bless your heart, Harry, what'd be the good of talking that way
to the likes of she? She wouldn't understand a single word of what
you were driving at. It must be all plain sailing with her, without
it's in the way of spite, and then she sees her chance to tack round
the hardest corner with half a wind in her sails only, as soon as
look at it. Her sharpness goes all off toward ill-nature, that it
do. Why, she said you'd got on at Oxford by good patronage!'

'There, you see, Edie,' cried Harry demonstratively, 'that's
an infinitesimal fraction of Pi; that's a minute decimal of this
great, sneering, ugly aggregate "society" that we have to deal with
whether we will or no, and that rends us and grinds us to powder
if only it can once get in the thin end of a chance. Take shaky
bitter old Miss Catherine for your unit, multiply her to the nth,
and there you see the irreducible power we have to fight against.
All one's political economy is very well in its way; but the
practical master of the situation is Pi, sitting autocratically in
many-headed judgment on our poor solitary little individualities,
and crushing us irretrievably with the dead weight of its inexorable
cumulative nothingness. And to think that that quivering old mass of
perambulating jealousy--that living incarnation of envy, hatred,
malice, and all  uncharitableness--should be able to make you
uncomfortable for a single moment, mother darling, with her petty,
dribbling, doddering venom, why, it's simply unendurable.'

'There now, Harry,' said Mrs. Oswald, relenting, 'you mustn't be
too hard, neither, on poor old Miss Catherine.  She's a bit soured,
you see, by disappointments and one thing and another. She doesn't
mean it, really, but it's just her nature. Folks can't be blamed
for their nature, now, can they?'

'It occurs to me,' said Harry quietly, 'that vipers only sting because
it's their nature; and Dr. Watts has made a similar observation
with regard to the growling and fighting of bears and lions. But
I'm not aware that anybody has yet proposed to get up a Society
for the protection of those much-misunderstood creatures, on the
ground that they are not really responsible for their own inherited
dispositions.  Mr. William Sikes had a nature (no doubt congenital)
which impelled him to beat his wife--I'm not sure that she was
even his wife at all, now I come to think of it, but that's a mere
detail--and to kick his familiar acquaintances casually about the
head. We, on the other hand, have natures which impel us, when we
catch Mr. William Sikes indulging in these innate idiosyncrasies
by way of recreation, to clap him promptly into prison, and even,
under certain aggravating conditions, to cause him to be hanged
by the neck till he be dead. This may be a regrettable incident of
our own peculiar  dispositions, mother dear, but it has at least
the same justification as Mr. Sikes's or the bears' and lions',
that 'tis our nature to. And I feel pretty much the same way about
old Miss Luttrell.'

'Well, there,' said his mother, kissing him gently, 'you're a bad
rebellious boy to be calling names, like a chatter-mag, and I won't
listen to you any longer. How pretty Edie do look in her new dress,
to be sure, Harry.  I'll warr'nt there won't be a prettier girl
in Oxford next week than what she is; no, nor a better one and a
sweeter one neither.'

Harry put his arms round both their waists at once, with an
affectionate pressure; and they went down to their old-fashioned
tea together in the little parlour behind the shop, looking out over
the garden, and the beach, and the great cliffs beyond on either
hand, to the very farthest edge of the distant clear-cut blue
horizon.



CHAPTER III.

MAGDALEN QUAD.


The Reverend Arthur Collingham Berkeley, curate of St.  Fredegond's,
lounged lazily in his own neatly padded wickerwork easy-chair,
opposite the large lattice-paned windows of his pretty little
first-floor rooms in the front quad of Magdalen.

'There's a great deal to be said, Le Breton, in favour of October
term,' he observed, in his soft, musical voice, as he gazed pensively
across the central grass-plot to the crimson drapery of the Founder's
Tower. 'Just look at that magnificent  Virginia creeper over there,
now; just look at the way the red on it melts imperceptibly into
Tyrian purple and cloth of gold! Isn't that in itself argument
enough to fling at Hartmann's head, if he ventured to come here
sprinkling about his heresies, with his affected little spray-shooter,
in the midst of a drowsy Oxford autumn? The Cardinal never saw
Virginia creeper, I suppose; a man of his taste wouldn't have been
guilty of committing such a gross practical anachronism as that,
any more than he would have smoked a cigarette before tobacco was
invented; but if only he could have seen the October effect on that
tower yonder, he'd have acknowledged that his own hat and robe were
positively nowhere in the running, for colour, wouldn't he?'

'Well,' answered Herbert, putting down the Venetian glass goblet
he had been examining closely with due care into its niche in the
over-mantel, 'I've no doubt Wolsey had too much historical sense
ever to step entirely out of his own century, like my brother Ernest,
for instance; but I've never heard his opinion on the subject of
colour-harmonies, and I should suspect it of having been distinctly
tinged with nascent symptoms of renaissance vulgarity. This is a
lovely bit of Venetian, really, Berkeley. How the dickens do you
manage to pick up all these pretty things, I wonder? Why can't I
afford them, now?'

'What a question for the endowed and established to put to a poor
starving devil of a curate like me!' said Berkeley lightly. 'You,
an incarnate sinecure and vested interest, a creature revelling in
an unearned income of fabulous Oriental magnificence--I dare say,
putting one thing with another, fully as much as five hundred a
year--to ask me, the  unbeneficed and insignificant, with my wretched
pittance of eighty pounds per annum and my three pass-men a term
for classical mods, how I scrape together the few miserable, hoarded
ha'pence which I grudgingly invest in my pots and pipkins! I save
them from my dinner, Mr. Bursar--I save them. If the Church only
recognised modest merit as it ought to do!--if the bishops only
listened with due attention to the sound and scholarly exegesis of
my Sunday evening discourses at St. Fredegond's!--then, indeed, I
might be disposed to regard things through a more satisfied medium
--the medium of a nice, fat, juicy country living. But for you,
Le Breton--you, sir, a pluralist and a sanguisorb of the deepest
dye--to reproach me with my Franciscan poverty--oh, it's too
cruel!'

'I'm an abuse, I know,' Herbert answered, smiling and waving his
hand gracefully. 'I at once admit it. Abuses exist, unhappily; and
while they continue do so, isn't it better they should envisage
themselves as me than as some other and probably less deserving
fellow?'

'No, it's not, decidedly. I should much prefer that one of them
envisaged itself as me.'

'Ah, of course. From your own strictly subjective point of view
that's very natural. I also look at the question abstractly from
the side of the empirical ego, and correctly deduce a corresponding
conclusion. Only then, you see, the terms of the minor premiss are
luckily reversed.'

'Well, my dear fellow,' said the curate, 'the fact about the
tea-things is this. You eat up your income, devour your substance
in riotous living; I prefer to feast my eyes and ears to my grosser
senses. You dine at high table, and fare sumptuously every day;
I take a commons of cold beef for lunch, and have tea off an egg
and roll in my own rooms at seven. You drink St. Emilion or still
hock; I drink water from the well or the cup that cheers but
not obfuscates.  The difference goes to pay for the crockery. Do
likewise, and with your untold wealth you might play Aunt Sally at
Oriental blue, and take cock-shots with a boot-jack at hawthorn-pattern
vases.'

'At any rate, Berkeley, you always manage to get your money's worth
of amusement out of your money.'

'Of course, because I lay myself out to do it. Buy a bottle of
champagne, drink it off, and there you have to show for your total
permanent investment on the transaction the memory of a noisy evening
and a headache the next morning. Buy a flute, or a book of poems,
or a little picture, or a Palissy platter, and you have something
to turn to with delight and admiration for half a lifetime.'

'Ah, but it isn't everybody who can isolate himself so utterly
from the workaday world and live so completely in his own little
paradise of art as you can, my dear fellow.  Non omnia possumus
omnes. You seem to be always up in the aesthetic clouds, with your
own music automatically laid on, and no need of cherubim or seraphim
to chant continually  for your gratification. Play me something of
your own on your flute now, like a good fellow.'

'No, I won't; because the spirit doesn't move me. It's treachery
to the divine gift to play when you don't want to.  Besides, what's
the use of playing before YOU when you're not the dean of a musical
cathedral? David was wiser; he played only before Saul, who had
of course all the livings in his own gift, no doubt. I've got a
new thing running in my head this very minute that you shall hear
though, all the same, as soon as I've hammered it into shape--a
sort of villanette in music, a little whiff of country freshness,
suggested by the new ethereal acquisition, little Miss Butterfly.
Have you seen Miss Butterfly yet?'

'Not by that name, at any rate. Who is she?'

'Oh, the name's my own invention. Mademoiselle Volauvent,  I
mean--the little bit of whirligig thistledown from Devonshire,
Oswald's sister, you know, of Oriel.'

'Ah, that one! Yes; just caught a glimpse of her in the High on
Thursday. Very pretty, certainly, and as airy as a humming-bird.'

'That's her! She's coming here to lunch this morning.  If you're
a good boy, and will promise not to say anything naughty, you may
stop and meet her. She's a nice little thing, but rather timid at
seeing so many fresh faces. You mustn't frighten her by discussing
the Absolute and the  Unconditioned, or bore her by talking about
Aristotle's Politics, or the revolutions in Corcyra. For you know,
my dear Le Breton, if you HAVE a fault, it is that you're such a
consummate and irrepressible prig; now aren't you really?'

'I'm hardly a fair judge on that subject, I suppose, Berkeley; but
if YOU have a rudimentary glimmering of a virtue, it is that you're
such a deliciously frank and yet  considerate critic. I'll pocket
your rudeness though, and eat your lunch, in spite of it. Is Miss
Butterfly, as you call her, as stand-off as her brother?'

'Not at all. She's accueillante to the last degree.'

'Very restricted, I suppose--a country girl of the first water?
Horizon absolutely bounded by the high hedges of her native parish?'

'Oh dear no! Anything but that. She's like her brother, naturally
quick and adaptive.'

'Oswald's an excellent fellow in his way,' said Herbert, button-holing
his own waistcoat; 'but he's spoilt by two bad traits. In the first
place, he's so dreadfully conscious of the fact that he has risen
from a lower position; and then, again, he's so engrossingly and
pervadingly mathematical.  X square seems to have seized upon him
bodily, and to have wormed its fatal way into his very marrow.'

'Ah, you must remember, he's true to his first love.  Culture came
to him first, while yet he abode in Philistia, under the playful
disguise of a conic section. He scaled his way out of Gath by means
of a treatise on elementary  trigonometry, and evaded Askelon on
the wings of an undulatory theory of light. It is different with
us, you know, who have emerged from the land of darkness by the
regular classical and literary highway. We feed upon Rabelais and
Burton; he flits carelessly from flower to flower of the theory of
Quantics. If he were an idealist painter, like Rossetti, he would
paint great allegorical pictures for us, representing an asymptotic
curve appearing to him in a dream, and introducing  that blushing
maiden, Hyperbola, to his affectionate consideration.'

As Berkeley spoke, a rap sounded on the oak, and Ernest Le Breton
entered the room.

'What, you here, Herbert?' he said with a shade of  displeasure in
his tone. 'Are you, too, of the bidden?'

'Berkeley has asked me to stop and lunch with him, if that's what
you mean.'

'We shall be quite a party,' said Ernest, seating himself, and looking
abstractedly round the room. 'Why, Berkeley,' as his eye fell upon
the Venetian vase, 'you've positively got some more gew-gaws here.
This one's new, isn't it? Eh!'

'Yes. I picked it up for a song, this long, at a stranded village
in the Apennines. Literally for a song, for it cost me just what
I got from Fradelli for that last little piece of mine. It's very
pretty, isn't it?'

'Very; exquisite, really; the blending of the tones is so perfect.
I wish I knew what to think about these things.  I can't make up
my mind about them. Sometimes I think it's all right to make them
and buy them; sometimes I think it's all wrong.'

'Oh, if that's your difficulty,' said Berkeley, pulling his white
tie straight at the tiny round looking-glass, 'I can easily reassure
you. Do you think a hundred and eighty pounds a year an excessive
sum for one person to spend upon his own entire living?'

'It doesn't seem so, as expenses go amongst US,' said Ernest, seriously,
'though I dare say it would look like shocking extravagance to a
working man with a wife and family.'

'Very well, that's the very outside I ever spend upon myself in
any one year, for the excellent reason that it's all I ever get to
spend in any way. Now, why shouldn't I spend it on the things that
please me best and are joys for ever, instead of on the things that
disappear at once and perish in the using?'

'Ah, but that's not the whole question,' Ernest answered, looking
at the curate fixedly. 'What right have you and I to spend so much
when others are wanting for bread? And what right have you or I
to make other people work at producing  these useless trinkets for
our sole selfish gratification?'

'Well now, Le Breton,' said the parson, assuming a more serious tone,
'you know you're a reasonable creature, so I don't mind discussing
this question with you. You've got an ethical foundation to
your nature, and you want to see things done on decent grounds of
distributive justice. There I am one with you. But you've also got
an aesthetic side to your nature, which makes you worth arguing
with upon the matter. I won't argue with your vulgar materialised
socialist, who would break up the frieze of the Parthenon for road
metal, or pull down Giotto's frescoes because they represent scenes
in the fabulous lives of saints and martyrs.  You know what a work
of art is when you see it; and therefore  you're worth arguing
with, which your vulgar Continental  socialist really isn't. The
one cogent argument for him is the whiff of grape-shot.'

'I recognise,' said Ernest, 'that the works of art, of poetry, or
of music, which we possess are a grand inheritance from the past;
and I would do all I could to preserve them intact for those that
come after us.'

'I'm sure you would. No restoration or tinkering in you, I'm
certain. Well, then, would you give anything for a world which
hadn't got this aesthetic side to its corporate existence? Would
you give anything for a world which didn't care at all for painting,
sculpture, music, poetry? I wouldn't. I don't want such a world.
I won't countenance such a world. I'll do nothing to further or
advance such a world. It's utterly repugnant to me, and I banish
it, as Themistocles banished the Athenians.'

'But consider,' said Ernest, 'we live in a world where men and women
are actually starving. How can we reconcile  to our consciences the
spending of one penny on one useless thing when others are dying
of sheer want, and cold, and nakedness? That's the great question
that's always oppressing my poor dissatisfied conscience.'

'So it does everybody's--except Herbert's: he explains it all on
biological grounds as the beautiful discriminative action of natural
selection. Simple, but not consolatory.  Still, look at the other
side of the question. Suppose you and everybody else were to give
up all superfluities, and confine all your energies to the unlimited
production of bare necessaries. Suppose you occupy every acre
of land with your corn-fields, or your piggeries; and sweep away
all the parks, and woods, and heaths, and moorlands in England.
Suppose you keep on letting your population multiply as fast as it
chooses--and it WILL multiply, you know, in that ugly, reckless,
anti-Malthusian fashion of its own--till every rood of ground
maintains its man, and only just maintains him; and what will you
have got then?'

'A dead level of abject pauperism,' put in Herbert blandly; 'a
reductio ad absurdum of all your visionary Schurzian philosophy,
my dear Ernest. Look at it another way, now, and just consider.
Which really and truly matters most to you and me, a great work
of art or a highly respectable horny-handed son of toil, whose
acquaintance we have never had the pleasure of personally making?
Suppose you read in the Times that the respectable horny-handed
one has fallen off a scaffolding and broken his neck; and that the
Dresden Madonna has been burnt by an unexpected accident; which
of the two items of intelligence affects you the most acutely? My
dear fellow, you may push your humanitarian enthusiasm as far as
ever you like; but in your heart of hearts you know as well as I
do that you'll deeply regret the loss of the Madonna, and you'll
never think again about the fate of the respectable horny-handed,
his wife or children.'

Ernest's answer, if he had any to make, was effectually nipped in
the bud by the entrance of the scout, who came in to announce Mr.
and Miss Oswald and Mrs. Martindale.  Edie wore the grey dress,
her brother's present, and flitted into the room after her joyous
fashion, full of her first fresh delight at the cloistered quad of
Magdalen.

'What a delicious college, Mr. Berkeley!' she said, holding  out
her hand to him brightly. 'Good-morning, Mr. Le Breton; this is
your brother, I know by the likeness. I thought New College very
beautiful, but nothing I've seen is quite as beautiful as Magdalen.
What a privilege to live always in such a place! And what an
exquisite view from your window here!'

'Yes,' said Berkeley, moving a few music-books from the seat in the
window-sill; 'come and sit by it, Miss Oswald.  Mrs. Martindale,
won't you put your shawl down? How's the Professor to-day? So sorry
he couldn't come.'

'Ah, he had to go to sit on one of his Boards,' said the old lady,
seating herself. 'But you know I'm quite accustomed  to going out
without him.'

Arthur Berkeley knew as much; indeed, being a person of minute
strategical intellect, he had purposely looked out a day on which
the Professor had to attend a meeting of the delegates of something
or other, so as to secure Mrs. Martindale's  services without the
supplementary drawback of that prodigious bore. Not that he was
particularly anxious for Mrs. Martindale's own society, which was
of the most strictly negative character; but he didn't wish Edie
to be the one lady in a party of four men, and he invited the
Professor's wife as an excellent neutral figure-head, to keep her
in countenance. Ladies were scarcer then in Oxford than they are
nowadays. The married fellow was still a tentative problematical
experiment in those years, and the invasion of the Parks by young
couples had hardly yet begun in earnest.  So female society was
still at a considerable local premium, and Berkeley was glad enough
to secure even colourless old Mrs. Martindale to square his party
at any price.

'And how do you like Oxford, Miss Oswald?' asked Ernest, making
his way towards the window.

'My dear Le Breton, what a question to put to her!' said Berkeley,
smiling. 'As if Oxford were a place to be appraised offhand, on
three days' acquaintance. You remind me of the American who went
to look at Niagara, and made an approving note in his memorandum
book to say that he found it really a very elegant cataract.'

'Oh, but you MUST form some opinion of it at least, at first sight,'
cried Edie; 'you can't help having an impression of a place from
the first moment, even if you haven't a  judgment on it, can you
now? I think it really surpasses my expectations, Mr. Le Breton,
which is always a pleasant surprise. Venice fell below them; Florence
just came up to them; but Oxford, I think, really surpasses them.'

'We have three beautiful towns in Britain,' Berkeley said. ('As if
he were a Welsh Triad,' suggested Herbert Le Breton, parenthetically.)
'Torquay, Oxford, Edinburgh.  Torquay is all nature, spoilt by what
I won't call art; Oxford is all art, superimposed on a swamp that
I won't call nature; Edinburgh is both nature and art, working pretty
harmoniously together, to make up a unique and exquisite picture.'

'Just like Naples, Venice, and Heidelberg,' said Edie, half to
herself; but Berkeley caught at the words quickly as she said them.
'Yes,' he answered; 'a very good parallel, only Oxford has a trifle
more nature about it than Venice.  The lagoon, without the palaces,
would be simply hideous; the Oseney flats, without the colleges,
would be nothing worse than merely dull.'

'We owe a great deal,' said Ernest, gazing out towards the quadrangle,
'to the forgotten mass of labouring humanity who piled all those
blocks of shapeless stone into beautiful forms for us who come after
to admire and worship. I often wonder, when I sit here in Berkeley's
window-seat, and look across the quad to the carved pinnacles on
the Founder's Tower there, whether any of us can ever hope to leave
behind to our successors any legacy at all comparable to the one
left us by those nameless old mediaeval masons. It's a very saddening
thought that we for whom all these beautiful things have been put
together--we whom labouring humanity has pampered and petted from
our cradles upward, feeding us on its whitest bread, and toiling
for us with all its weary sinews--that we probably will never do
anything at all for it and for the world in return, but will simply
eat our way through life aimlessly, and die forgotten in the end like
the beasts that perish. It ought to make us, as a class, terribly
ashamed of our own utter and abject inutility.'

Edie looked at him with a sort of hushed surprise; she was accustomed
to hear Harry talk radical talk enough after his own fashion, but
radicalism of this particular pensive tinge she was not accustomed
to. It interested her, and made her wonder what sort of man Mr. Le
Breton might really be.

'Well, you know, Mr. Le Breton,' said old Mrs. Martindale,
complacently, 'we must remember that Providence has wisely ordained
that we shouldn't all of us be masons or  carpenters. Some of us are
clergymen, now, and look what a useful, valuable life a clergyman's
is, after all, isn't it, Mr.  Berkeley?' Berkeley smiled a faint
smile of amusement, but said nothing. 'Others are squires and
landed gentry; and I'm sure the landed gentry are very desirable
in keeping up the tone of the country districts, and setting a
pattern of virtue and refinement to their poorer neighbours. What
would the country villages be, for example, if it weren't for the
centres of culture afforded by the rectory and the hall, eh, Miss
Oswald.' Edith thought of quavering old Miss Catherine Luttrell
gossiping with the rector's wife, and held her peace. 'You may depend
upon it Providence has ordained these distinctions of classes for
its own wise  purposes, and we needn't trouble our heads at all
about trying to alter them.'

'I've always observed,' said Harry Oswald, 'that Providence  is
supposed to have ordained the existing order for the time being,
whatever it may be, but not the order that is at that exact moment
endeavouring to supplant it. If I were to visit Central Africa,
I should confidently expect to be told by the rain-doctors that
Providence had ordained the absolute power of the chief, and the
custom of massacring his wives and slaves at his open grave side.
I believe in Russia it's usually allowed that Providence has placed
the orthodox Czar at the head of the nation, and that any attempt
to obtain a constitution  from him is simply flat rebellion and
flying in the face of Providence. In England we had a King John
once, and we extracted a constitution out of him and sundry other
kings by main force; and here, it's acquiescence in the present
limited aristocratic government that makes up  obedience to
the Providential arrangement of things apparently.  But how about
America? eh, Mrs. Martindale? Did Providence  ordain that George
Washington was to rebel against his most sacred majesty King George
III., or did it not?  And did it ordain that George Washington was
to knock his most sacred majesty's troops into a cocked hat, or
did it not? And did it ordain that Abraham Lincoln was to free the
slaves, or did it not? What I want to know is this: can it be said
that Providence has ordained every class distinction in the whole
world, from Dahomey to San  Francisco? And has it ordained every
Government, past and present, from the Chinese Empire to the French
Convention?  Did it ordain, for example, the revolution of '89?
That's the question I should like to have answered.'

'Dear me, Mr. Oswald,' said the old lady meekly, taken aback by
Harry's voluble vehemence: 'I suppose Providence permits some things
and ordains others.'

'And does it permit American democracy or ordain it?' asked the
merciless Harry.

'Don't you see, Mrs. Martindale,' put in Berkeley, coming gently
to her rescue, 'your principle amounts in effect to saying that
whatever is, is right.'

'Exactly,' said the old lady, forgetting at once all about Dahomey
or the Convention, and coming back mentally to her squires and
rectors. 'The existing order is wisely arranged by Providence, and
we mustn't try to set ourselves up against it.'

'But if whatever is, is right,' Edie said, laughing, 'then Mr. Le
Breton's socialism must be right too, you see, because it exists
in him no doubt for some wise purpose of Providence; and if he and
those who think with him can succeed in changing  things generally
according to their own pattern, then the new system that they
introduce will be the one that Providence  has shown by the result
to be the favoured one.'

'In short,' said Ernest, musingly, 'Mrs. Martindale's principle
sanctifies success. It's the old theory of "treason never
prospers--what's the reason? Because whene'er it prospers 'tis not
treason." If we could only introduce a socialist republic, then it
would be the reactionaries who would be setting themselves up against
constituted authority, and so flying in the face of Providence.'

'Fancy lecturing a recalcitrant archbishop and a remonstrant
ci-devant duchess,' cried Berkeley, lightly, 'upon the moral guilt
and religious sinfulness of rebellion against the constituted
authority of a communist phalanstery. It would be simply charming.
I can imagine myself composing a dignified exhortation to deliver
to his grace, entirely  compiled out of his own printed pastorals, on
the duty of  submission and the danger of harbouring an insubordinate
spirit.  Do make me chaplain-in-ordinary to your house of correction
for irreclaimable aristocrats, Le Breton, as soon as you once get
your coming socialist republic fairly under way.'

'Luncheon is on the table, sir,' said the scout, breaking in
unceremoniously upon their discussion.

If Arthur Berkeley lunched by himself upon a solitary commons of
cold beef, he certainly did not treat his friends and guests in
corresponding fashion. His little entertainment  was of the daintiest
and airiest character, so airy that, as Edie herself observed
afterwards to Harry, it took away all the sense of meat and drink
altogether, and left one only a pleased consciousness of full
artistic gratification. Even Ernest, though he had his scruples
about the aspic jelly, might eat the famous Magdalen chicken cutlets,
his brother said, 'with a distinct feeling of exalted gratitude to
the arduous culinary evolution of collective humanity.'

'Consider,' said Herbert, balancing neatly a little pyramid  of
whip cream and apricot jam upon his fork, 'consider what ages of
slow endeavour must have gone to the development  of such a complex
mixture as this, Ernest, and thank your stars that you were born
in this nineteenth century of Soyer and Francatelli, instead of
being condemned to devour a Homeric feast with the unsophisticated
aid of your own five fingers.'

'But do tell me, Mr. Le Breton,' asked Edie, with one of her pretty
smiles, 'what will this socialist republic of yours be like when
it actually comes about? I'm dying to know all about it.'

'Really, Miss Oswald,' Ernest answered, in a half-embarrassed tone,
'I don't quite know how to reply to such a very wide and indefinite
question. I haven't got any  cut-and-dried constitutional scheme of
my own for reorganising the whole system of society, any distinct
panacea to cure all the ills that collective flesh is heir to. I
leave the details of the future order to your brother Harry. The
thing that troubles me is not so much how to reform the world at
large as how to shape one's own individual course aright in the
actual midst of it. As a single unit of the whole, I want rather
guidance for my private conduct than a scheme for redressing the
universal dislocation of things in general. It seems to me, every
man's first duty is to see that he himself is in the right attitude
towards society, and afterwards he may proceed to enquire whether
society is in the right  attitude towards him and all its other
members. But if we were all to begin by redressing ourselves,
there would be nothing left to redress, I imagine, when we turned
to attack the second half of our problem. The great difficulty I
myself  experience is this, that _I_ can't discover any adequate
social justification for my own personal existence. But I really
oughtn't to bore other people with my private  embarrassments upon
that head.'

'You see,' said Herbert Le Breton, carelessly, 'my brother represents
the ethical element in the socialist  movement, Miss Oswald, while
Harry represents the political element. Each is valuable in its
way; but Oswald's is the more practical. You can move great masses
into demanding their rights; you can't so easily move them into
cordially recognising their duties. Hammer, hammer, hammer at the
most obvious abuses; that's the way all the political victories
are finally won. If I were a radical at all, I should go with you,
Oswald. But happily I'm not one; I prefer the calm philosophic
attitude of perfectly objective neutrality.'

'And if I were a radical,' said Berkeley, with a tinge of sadness
in his voice as he poured himself out a glass of hock, 'I should
go with Le Breton. But unfortunately I'm not one, Miss Oswald, I'm
only a parson.'



CHAPTER IV.

A LITTLE MUSIC.


After lunch, Herbert Le Breton went off for his afternoon ride--a
grave social misdemeanour, Ernest thought it--and Arthur Berkeley
took Edie round to show her about the college and the shady gardens.
Ernest would have liked to walk with her himself, for there was
something in her that began to interest him somewhat; and besides,
she was so pretty, and so graceful, and so sympathetic: but he
felt he must not take her away from her host for the time being,
who had a sort of proprietary right in the pleasing duty of acting
as showman to her over his own college. So he dropped behind with
Harry Oswald and old Mrs. Martindale,  and endeavoured to simulate
a polite interest in the old lady's scraps of conversation upon
the heads of houses, their wives and families.

'This is Addison's Walk, Miss Oswald,' said Berkeley, taking her
through the gate into the wooded path beside the Cherwell; 'so
called because the ingenious Mr. Addison is said to have specially
patronised it. As he was an undergraduate  of this college, and a
singularly lazy person, it's very probable that he really did so;
every other undergraduate certainly does, for it's the nearest walk
an idle man can get without ever taking the trouble to go outside
the grounds of Magdalen.'

'The ingenious Mr. Addison was quite right then,' Edie answered,
smiling; 'for he couldn't have chosen a lovelier place on earth to
stroll in. How exquisite it looks just now, with the mellow light
falling down upon the path through this beautiful autumnal foliage!
It's just a natural cathedral aisle, with a lot of pale straw-coloured
glass in the painted windows, like that splendid one we went to
see the other day at Merton Chapel.'

'Yes, there are certainly tones in that window I never saw in any
other,' Berkeley said, 'and the walk to-day is very much the same
in its delicate colouring. You're fond of colour, I should think,
Miss Oswald, from what you say.'

'Oh, nobody could help being struck by the autumn colouring of the
Thames valley, I should fancy,' said Edie, blushing. 'We noticed
it all the way up as we came in the train from Reading, a perfect
glow of crimson and orange at Pangbourne, Goring, Mapledurham, and
Nuneham. I always thought the Dart in October the loveliest blaze
of warm reds and yellows I had ever seen anywhere in nature, but
the Thames valley beats it hollow, as Harry says. This walk to-day
is just one's ideal picture of Milton's Vallombrosa.'

'Ah, yes, I always look forward to the first days of October term,'
said Berkeley, slowly, 'as one of the greatest and purest treats
in the whole round workaday twelvemonth.  When the creeper on the
Founder's Tower first begins to redden and crimson in the autumn,
I could sit all day long by my open window, and just look at that
glorious sight alone instead of having my dinner. But I'm very fond
of these walks in full summer time too. I often stop up alone all
through the long (being tied to my curacy here permanently, you
know), and then I have the run of the place entirely to myself.
Sometimes I take my flute out, and sit under the shade here and
compose some of my little pieces.'

'I can easily understand that they were composed here,' said Edie
quickly. 'They've caught exactly the flavour of the place--especially
your exquisite little Penseroso.'

'Ah, you know my music, then, Miss Oswald?'

'Oh yes, Harry always brings me home all your pieces whenever he
comes back at the end of term. I can play every one of them without
the notes. But the Penseroso is my special favourite.'

'It's mine, too. I'm so glad you like it. But I'm working  away at
a little thing now which you shall hear as soon as I've finished
it; something lighter and daintier than  anything else I've ever
attempted. I shall call it the Butterfly Canzonet.'

'Why don't you publish your music under your own name, Mr. Berkeley?'

'Oh, because it would never do. I'm a parson now, and I must
keep up the dignity of the cloth by fighting shy of any aesthetic
heterodoxies. It would be professional suicide for me to be suspected
of artistic leanings. All very well in an archdeacon, you know,
to cultivate his tastes for chants and anthems, but for a simple
curate!--and secular songs too!--why, it would be sheer contumacy.
His chances of a living would shrink at once to what your brother
would call a vanishing quantity.'

'Well, you can't imagine how much I admire your songs and airs,
Mr. Berkeley. I was so pleased when you invited us, to think I was
going to lunch with a real composer.  There's no music I love so
much as yours.'

'I'm very glad to hear it, Miss Oswald, I assure you.  But I'm only
a beginner and a trifler yet. Some day I mean to produce something
that will be worth listening to. Only, do you remember what some
French novelist once said?--"A poet's sweetest poem is always
the one he has never been able to compose." I often think that's
true of music, too.  Away up in the higher stories of one's brain
somewhere, there's a tune floating about, or rather a whole oratorio
full of them, that one can never catch and fix upon ruled paper.
The idea's there, such a beautiful and vague idea, so familiar to
one, but so utterly unrealisable on any known instrument--a sort
of musical Ariel, flitting before one and tantalising one for
ever, but never allowing one to come up with it and see its real
features. I'm always dissatisfied with what I've actually written,
and longing to crystallise into a score the imaginary airs I can
never catch. Except in this last piece of mine; that's the only
thing I've ever done that thoroughly and completely pleases me.
Come and see me next week, and I'll play it over to you.'

They walked all round the meadows, and back again beside the arches
of the beautiful bridge, and then returned to Berkeley's rooms once
more for a cup of afternoon tea, and an air or two of Berkeley's
own composing. Edie  enjoyed the walk and the talk immensely; she
enjoyed the music even more. In a way, it was all so new to her.
For though she had always seen much of Harry, and though Harry, who
was the kindest and proudest of brothers, had always instinctively
kept her up to his own level of thought and conversation, still,
she wasn't used to seeing so many intelligent and educated young
men together, and the novelty of their society was delightfully
exhilarating to her eager little mind. To a bright girl of nineteen,
wherever she may come from, the atmosphere of Oxford has a wonderfully
cheering and stimulating effect; to a country tradesman's  daughter
from a tiny west-country village it is like a little paradise on
earth with a ceaseless round of intensely enjoyable breakfasts,
luncheons, dinners, and water-parties.

Ernest, for his part, was not so well pleased. He wanted to have a
little conversation with Oswald's sister; and he was compelled by
politeness to give her up in favour of Arthur Berkeley. However, he
made up for it when he returned, and monopolised the pretty little
visitor himself for almost the entire tea-hour.

As soon as they had gone, Arthur Berkeley sported his oak, and sat
down by himself in his comfortable  crimson-covered basket chair.
'I won't let anybody come and disturb me this evening,' he said to
himself moodily. 'I won't let any of these noisy Magdalen men come
with their racket and riot to cut off the memory of that bright little
dream. No desecration after she has gone. Little Miss Butterfly!
What a pretty, airy, dainty, delicate little morsel it is! How she
flits, and sips, and natters about every possible subject, just
touching the tip of it so gracefully with her tiny white fingers,
and blushing so unfeignedly when she thinks she's paid you a
compliment, or you've paid her one. How she blushed when she said
she liked my music! How she blushed when I said she had a splendid
ear for minute discrimination!  Somehow, if I were a falling-in-love
sort of fellow, I half fancy I could manage to fall in love with her
on the spot.  Or rather, if I were a good analytical psychologist,
perhaps I ought more correctly to say I AM in love with her already.'

He sat down idly at the piano and played a few bars softly
to himself--a beautiful, airy sort of melody, as it shaped itself
vaguely in his head at the moment, with a little of the new wine of
first love running like a trill through the midst of its fast-flowing
quavers and dainty undulations.  'That will do,' he said to himself
approvingly. 'That will do very well; that's little Miss Butterfly.
Here she flits, flits, flits, flickers, sip, sip, sip, at her
honeyed flowers; twirl away, whirl away, off in the sunshine--there
you go, Miss Butterfly, eddying and circling with your painted
mate.  Flirt, flirt, flirt, coquetting and curvetting, in your
pretty rhythmical aerial quadrille. Down again, down to the hare-bell
on the hill side; sip at it, sip at it, sip at it, sweet little
honey-drops, clear little honey-drops, bright little honey-drops;
oh, for a song to be set to the melody! Tra-la-la, tro-lo-lo, up
again, Butterfly. Little silk handkerchief, little lace neckerchief,
fluttering, fluttering! Feathery wings of her, bright little eyes
of her, flit, flit, flicker! Now, she blushes, blushes, blushes;
deep crimson; oh, what a colour!  Paint it, painter! Now she speaks.
Oh, what laughter!  Silvery, silvery, treble, treble, treble; trill
away, trill away, silvery treble. Musical, beautiful; beautiful,
musical; little Miss Butterfly--fly--fly--fly away!' And he brought
his fingers down upon the gamut at last, with a hasty, flickering
touch that seemed really as delicate as Edie's own.

'I can never get words for it in English,' he said again, half
speaking with his parted lips; 'it's too dactylic in rhythm for
English verse to go to it. Beranger might have written a lilt for
it, as far as mere syllables go, but Beranger to write about Miss
Butterfly!--pho, no Frenchman could possibly catch it. Swinburne
could fit the metres, I dare say, but he couldn't fit the feeling.
It shall be a song without words, unless I write some Italian lines
for it myself. Animula, blandula vagula--that's the sort of ring
for it, but Latin's mostly too heavy. Io, Hymen, Hymenae, Io; Io,
Hymen, Hymenae! What's that? A wedding song of Catullus--absit omen.
I must be in love with her indeed.' He got up from the piano, and
paced quickly and feverishly up and down the room.

'And yet,' he went on, 'if only I weren't bound down so by this
unprofitable trade of parson! A curate on eighty pounds a year,
and a few pupils! The presumptuousness of the man in venturing to
think of falling in love, as if he were actually one of the beneficed
clergy! What are deacons coming to, I wonder! And yet, hath not a
deacon eyes; hath not a deacon hands, organs, dimensions, senses,
affections, passions?  If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle
us, do we not laugh? And if you show us a little Miss Butterfly,
beautiful to the finger-ends, do we not fall in love with her at
least as unaffectedly as if we were canons residentiary or rural
deans? Fancy little Miss Butterfly a rural deaness!  the notion's
too ridiculous. Fly away, little Miss Butterfly; fly away, sweet
little frolicsome, laughsome creature. I won't try to tie you down
to a man in a black clerical coat with a very distant hypothetical
reversionary prospect of a dull and dingy country parsonage. Flit
elsewhere, little Miss Butterfly,  flit elsewhere, and find yourself
a gayer, gaudier-coloured mate!'

He sat down again, and strummed a few more bars of his half-composed,
half-extemporised melody. Then he leant back on the music-stool,
and said gently to himself once more: 'Still, if it were possible,
how happy I should try to make her! Bright little Miss Butterfly,
I would try never to let a cold cloud pass chillily over your
sunshiny head! I would live for you, and work for you, and write
songs for your sake, all full of you, you, you, and so all full of
life and grace and thrilling music. What's my life good for, to me
or to the world? "A clergyman's life is such a useful one," that
amiable old conventionality gurgled out this morning; what's the
good of mine, as it stands now, to its owner or to anybody else,
I should like to know, except the dear old Progenitor? A mere bit
of cracked blue china, a fanciful air from a comic opera, masquerading
in black and white as a piece of sacred music! What good am I to
anyone on earth but the Progenitor (God bless him!), and when he's
gone, dear old fellow, what on earth shall I have left to live
for. A selfish blank, that's all. But with HER, ah, how different!
With her to live for and to cherish, with an object to set before
oneself as worth one's consideration, what mightn't I do at last?
Make her happy--after all, that's the great thing. Make her fond
of my music, that music that floats and evades me now, but would
harden into scores as if by magic with her to help one to spell it
out--I know it would, at last, I know it would. Ah, well, perhaps
some day I may be able; perhaps some day the dream will realise
itself; till then, work, work, work; let me try to work towards
making it possible, a living or a livelihood, no matter which.  But
not a breath of it to you meanwhile, Miss Butterfly; flit about
freely and joyously while you may; I would not spoil your untrammelled
flight for worlds by trying to tether it too soon around the fixed
centre of my own poor doubtful diaconal destinies.'

At the same moment while Arthur Berkeley was thus garrulously conversing
with his heated fancy, Harry and Edie Oswald were strolling lazily
down the High, to Edie's lodgings.

'Well, what do you think now of Berkeley and Le Breton, Edie?'
asked her brother. 'Which of them do you like the best?'

'I like them both immensely, Harry; I really can't choose between
them. When Mr. Berkeley plays, he almost makes me fall in love with
him; and when Mr. Le Breton talks, he almost makes me transfer my
affections to him instead... But Mr. Berkeley plays divinely... And
Mr. Le Breton talks beautifully... You know, I've never seen such
clever men before--except you, of course, Harry dear, for you're
cleverer and nicer than anybody. Oh, do let me look at those lovely
silks over there?' And she danced across the road before he could
answer her, like a tripping sylph in a painter's dreamland.

'Mr. Le Breton's very nice,' she went on, after she had duly examined
and classified the silks, 'but I don't exactly understand what it
is he's got on his conscience.'

'Nothing whatsoever, except the fact of his own existence,' Harry
answered with a laugh. 'He has conscientious scruples against the
existence of idle people in the community--do-nothings and eat-alls--and
therefore he has conscientious scruples against himself for not
immediately committing suicide. I believe, if he did exactly what
he thought was abstractly right, he'd go away and cut his own throat
incontinently for an unprofitable, unproductive, useless citizen.'

'Oh, dear, I hope he'll do nothing of the sort,' cried Edie hastily.
'I think I shall really ask him not to for my sake, if not for
anybody else's.'

'He'd be very much flattered indeed by your interposition on his
behalf, no doubt, Popsy; but I'm afraid it wouldn't produce much
effect upon his ultimate decision.'

'Tell me, Harry, is Mr. Berkeley High Church?'

'Oh dear no, I shouldn't say so. I don't suppose he ever gave the
subject a single moment's consideration.'

'But St. Fredegond's is very High Church, I'm told.'

'Ah, yes; but Berkeley's curate of St. Fredegond's, not in virtue
of his theology--I never heard he'd got any to speak of--but in
virtue of his musical talents. He went into the Church, I suppose,
on purely aesthetic grounds. He liked a musical service, and it
seemed natural to him to take part in one, just as it seemed natural
to a mediaeval Italian with artistic tendencies to paint Madonnas
and St. Sebastians.  There's nothing more in his clerical coat than
that, I fancy, Edie. He probably never thought twice about it on
theological grounds.'

'Oh, but that's very wrong of him, Harry. I don't mean having
no particular theological beliefs, of course; one  expects that
nowadays; but going into the Church without them.'

'Well, you see, Edie, you mustn't judge Berkeley in quite the same
way as you'd judge other people. In his mind, the aesthetic side
is always uppermost; the logical side is comparatively in abeyance.
Questions of creed, questions of philosophical belief, questions
of science don't interest him at all; he looks at all of them from
the point of view of the impression alone. What he sees in the
Church is not a body of dogmas, like the High Churchmen, nor a set
of opinions, like the Low Churchmen, but a close  corporation of
educated and cultivated gentlemen, charged with the duty of caring
for a number of beautiful mediaeval  architectural monuments,
and of carrying on a set of grand and impressive musical or oral
services. To him, a cathedral is a magnificent historical heritage;
a sermon is a sort of  ingenious literary exercise; and a hymn is
a capital vehicle for very solemn emotional music. That's all; and
we can hardly blame him for not seeing these things as we should
see them.'

'Well, Harry, I don't know. I like them both immensely.  Mr.
Berkeley's very nice, but perhaps I like Mr.  Le Breton the best
of the two.'



CHAPTER V.

ASKELON VILLA, GATH.


Number, 28, Epsilon Terrace, Bayswater, was one of the very smallest
houses that a person with any pretensions to move in that Society
which habitually spells itself with a capital initial could ever
possibly have dreamt of condescending  to inhabit. Indeed, if
Dame Eleanor, relict of the late Sir Owen Le Breton, Knight, had
consulted merely the length of her purse and the interests of her
personal comfort, she would doubtless have found for the same rental
a far more convenient and roomy cottage in Upper Clapton or Stoke
Newington. But Lady Le Breton was a thoroughly and conscientiously
religious woman, who in all things  consulted first and foremost
the esoteric interests of her  ingrained creed. It was a prime
article of this cherished social faith that nobody with any shadow
of personal  self-respect could endure to live under any other
postal letter than W. or S.W. Better not to be at all than to drag
out a miserable existence in the painful obscurity of N. or S.E.
Happily for people situated like Lady Le Breton, the metropolitan
house-contractor (it would be gross flattery to describe  him
as a builder) has divined, with his usual practical sagacity, the
necessity for supplying this felt want for eligible family residences
at once comparatively cheap and relatively fashionable. By driving
little culs-de-sac and re-entrant alleys at the back of his larger
rows of shoddy mansions, he is enabled to run up a smaller terrace,
or crescent, or place, as the case may be, composed of tiny shallow
cottages with the narrowest possible frontage, and the tallest
possible elevation, which will yet entitle their occupiers to feel
themselves within the sacred pale of social salvation, in the blest
security of the mystic W. Narrowest, shallowest, and tallest of
these marginal Society residences is the little block of blank-faced,
stucco-fronted, porticoed rabbit-hutches, which blazons itself
forth in the Court Guide under the imposing designation of Epsilon
Terrace, Bayswater.

The interior of No. 28 in this eminently respectable back alley was
quite of a piece, it must be confessed, with the vacant Philistinism
of its naked exterior. 'Mother has really an immense amount of
taste,' Herbert Le Breton used to say, blandly, 'and all of it of
the most atrocious description; she picked it up, I believe, when
my poor father was quartered at Lahore, a station absolutely fatal
to the aesthetic faculties; and she will never get rid of it again
as long as she lives.' Indeed, when once Lady Le Breton got anything
whatsoever into her head, it was not easy for anybody else to get
it out again; you might much more readily expect to draw one of her
double teeth than to eliminate one of her pet opinions. Not that
she was a stupid or a near-sighted woman--the mother of clever
sons never is--but she was a perfectly immovable rock of social
and political orthodoxy. The three Le Breton boys--for there was
a third at home--would gladly have reformed the terrors of that
awful drawing-room if they had dared; but they knew it was as much
as their places were worth, Herbert said, to attempt a remonstrance,
and they wisely left it alone, and said nothing.

Of course the house was not vulgarly furnished, at least in the
conventional sense of the word; Lady Le Breton was far too rigid
in her social orthodoxy to have admitted into her rooms anything
that savoured of what she considered bad form, according to her
lights. It was only vulgar with the underlying vulgarity of mere
tasteless fashionable uniformity. There was nothing in it that any
well-bred footman  could object to; nothing that anybody with one
grain of genuine originality could possibly tolerate. The little
occasional chairs and tables set casually about the room were of
the strictest neglige Belgravian type, a sort of studied protest
against the formal stiffness of the ordinary unused middle-class
drawing-room. The portrait of the late Sir Owen in the wee library,
presented by his brother-officers, was painted by that distinguished
R. A., Sir Francis Thomson, a light of the middle of this century;
and an excellent work of art it was too, in its own solemn academic
kind. The dining-room, tiny as it was, possessed that inevitable
Canaletti without which no gentleman's dining-room in England
is ever considered to be complete. Everything spoke at once the
stereotyped Society style of a dozen years ago (before Mr. Morris
had reformed the outer aspect of the West End), entirely free from
anything so startling or indecorous as a gleam of spontaneity in
the possessor's mind. To be sure, it was very far indeed from the
centre round-table and brilliant-flowered-table-cover style of the
utter unregenerate Philistine household; but it was further still
from the simple natural taste acd graceful fancy of Edie Oswald's
cosy little back parlour behind the village grocer's shop at
Calcombe-Pomeroy.

The portrait and the Canaletti were relics of Lady Le Breton's best
days, when Sir Owen was alive, and the boys were still in their
first babyhood. Sir Owen was an Indian officer of the old school,
a simple-minded, gentle, brave man, very religious after his
own fashion, and an excellent soldier, with the true Anglo-Indian
faculty for administration and organisation. It was partly from
him, no doubt, that the boys inherited their marked intelligence;
and it was wholly from him, beyond any doubt at all, that Ernest
and his younger brother Ronald inherited their moral or religious
sincerity--for that was an element in which poor formally orthodox
Lady Le Breton was wholly deficient. The good General had been
brought up in the strictest doctrines of the Clapham sect; he had
gone to India young, as a cadet from Haileybury; and he had applied
his intellect all his life long rather to the arduous task of
extending 'the blessings of British rule' to Sikhs and Ghoorkas, than
to those abstract ethical or theological questions which agitated
the souls of a later generation. If a new district had to be
assimilated in settlement to the established model of the British
raj, if a tribe of hill-savages had to be conciliated by gentler
means than rifles or bayonets, if a difficult bit of diplomatic
duty had to be performed on the debateable frontiers, Sir Owen Le
Breton was always the person chosen to undertake it.  An earnest,
honest, God-fearing man he remained to the end, impressed by a
profound sense of duty as he understood  it, and a firm conviction
that his true business in life consisted in serving his Queen and
country, and in bringing more and more of the native populations
within the pale of the Company's empire, and the future evangelisation
that was ultimately to follow. But during the great upheaval of
the Mutiny, he fell at the head of his own unrevolted regiment in
one of the hottest battles of that terrible time, and my Lady Le
Breton found herself left alone with three young children, on little
more than the scanty pension of a general officer's widow on the
late Company's establishment.

Happily, enough remained to bring up the boys, with the aid
of their terminable annuities (which fell in on their attaining
their majority), in decent respect for the feelings and demands of
exacting Society; and as the two elder were decidedly clever boys,
they managed to get scholarships  at Oxford, which enabled them
to tide over the dangerous  intermediate period as far as their
degree. Herbert then stepped at once into a fellowship and sundry
other good things of like sort; and Ernest was even now trying to
follow in his brother's steps, in this particular. Only the youngest
boy, Ronald, still remained quite unprovided for.  Ronald was a
tall, pale, gentle, weakly, enthusiastic young fellow of nineteen,
with so marked a predisposition to lung disease that it had not been
thought well to let him run the chance of over-reading himself; and
so he had to be content with remaining at home in the uncongenial
atmosphere of Epsilon Terrace, instead of joining his two elder
brothers at the university. Uncongenial, because Ronald alone
followed Sir Owen in the religious half of his nature, and found
the 'worldliness' and conventionality of his unflinching mother a
serious bar to his enjoyment of home society.

'Ronald,' said my lady, at the breakfast-table on the very morning
of Arthur Berkeley's little luncheon party, 'here's a letter for
you from Mackenzie and Anderson. No doubt your Aunt Sarah's will
has been recovered and proved at last, and I hope it'll turn out
satisfactory, as we wish it.'

'For my part, I really almost hope it won't, mother,' said Ronald,
turning it over; 'for I don't want to be  compelled to profit by
Ernest's excessive generosity. He's too good to me, just because he
thinks me the weaker vessel; but though we must bear one another's
burdens, you know, we should each bear his own cross as well,
shouldn't we, mother?'

'Well, it can't be much in any case,' said his mother, a little
testily, 'whoever gets it. Open the envelope at once, my boy, and
don't stand looking at it like a goose in that abstracted way.'

'Oh, mother, she was my father's only sister, and I'm not in such
a hurry to find out how she has disposed of her mere perishing
worldly goods,' answered Ronald, gravely.  'It seems to me a terrible
thing that before poor dear good Aunt Sarah is cold in her grave
almost, we should be  speculating and conjecturing as to what she
has done with her poor little trifle of earthly riches.'

'It's always usual to read the will immediately after the funeral,'
said Lady Le Breton, firmly, to whom the ordinary usage of society
formed an absolutely unanswerable  argument; 'and how you, Ronald,
who haven't even the common decency to wear a bit of crape around
your arm for her--a thing that Ernest himself, with all his
nonsensical theories, consents to do--can talk in that absurd way
about what's quite right and proper to be done, I for my part,
really can't imagine.'

'Ah, but you know, mother, I object to wearing crape on the ground
that it isn't allowable for us to sorrow as them that have no hope:
and I'm sure I'm paying no disrespect  to dear Aunt Sarah's memory
in this matter, for she was always the first herself, you remember,
to wish that I should follow the dictates of my own conscience.'

'I remember she always upheld you in acts of opposition to your own
mother, Ronald,' Lady Le Breton said coldly, 'and I suppose you're
going to do honour to her religious precepts now by not opening
that letter when your mother tells you to do so. In MY Bible, sir,
I find a place for the Fourth Commandment.'

Ronald looked at her gently and unreprovingly; but though a quiet
smile played involuntarily around the corners of his mouth, he
resisted the natural inclination to correct her mistake, and to
suggest blandly that she probably alluded to the fifth. He knew
he must turn his left cheek also--a Christian virtue which he had
abundant opportunities  of practising in that household; and he felt
that to score off his mother for such a verbal mistake as the one
she had just made would not be in keeping with the spirit of the
commandment to which, no doubt, she meant to refer him. So without
another word he opened the envelope and glanced rapidly at the
contents of the letter it enclosed.

'They've found the second will,' he said, after a moment, with a
rather husky voice, 'and they're taking steps to get it confirmed,
whatever that may be.'

'Broad Scotch for getting probate, I believe,' said Lady Le Breton,
in a slight tone of irony; for to her mind any departure from the
laws or language she was herself  accustomed to use, assumed at once
the guise of a rank and offensive provincialism. 'Your poor Aunt
WOULD go and marry a Scotchman, and he a Scotch business man too;
so of course we must expect to put up with all kinds of  ridiculous
technicalities and Edinburgh jargon accordingly. All law's bad
enough in the way of odd words, but commend me to Scotch law for
utter and meaningless incomprehensibility.  Well, and what does
the second will say, Ronald?'

'There, mother,' cried Ronald, flinging the letter down hurriedly
with a burst of tears. 'Read it yourself, if you will, for I can't.
Poor dear Aunt Sarah, and dear, good unselfish Ernest! It makes me
cry even to think of them.'

Lady Le Breton took the paper up from the table without a word and
read it carefully through. 'I am very glad to hear it,' she said,
'very glad indeed to hear it. "And in order to guard against any
misinterpretation of my reasons for making this disposition of my
property," your Aunt says, "I wish to put it on record that I had
previously drawn up another will, bequeathing my effects to be divided
between my two nephews Ernest and Ronald Le Breton equally; that I
communicated the contents of that will"--a horrid Scotticism--"to
my nephew Ernest; and that at his express desire I have now revoked
it, and drawn up this present testament, leaving the share intended
for him to his brother Ronald." Why, she never even mentions dear
Herbert!'

'She knew that Herbert had provided for himself,' Ronald answered,
raising his head from his hands, 'while Ernest and I were unprovided
for. But Ernest said he could fight the world for himself, while
I couldn't; and that unearned wealth ought only to be accepted
in trust for those who were incapacitated by nature or misfortune
from earning  their own bread. I don't always quite agree with
all Ernest's theories any more than you do, but we must both admit
that at least he always conscientiously acts up to them himself,
mother, mustn't we?'

'It's a very extraordinary thing,' Lady Le Breton went on, 'that Aunt
Sarah invariably encouraged both you boys in all your absurdities
and Quixotisms. She was Quixotic herself at heart, that's the truth
of it, just like your poor dear father. I remember once, when we
were quartered at Meean Meer in the Punjaub, poor dear Sir Owen
nearly got into disgrace with the colonel--he was only a sub. in
those days--because he wanted to go trying to convert his syces,
which was a most imprudent thing to do, and directly opposed to
the Company's orders. Aunt Sarah was just the same. Herbert's the
only one of you three who has never given me one moment's anxiety,
and of course poor Herbert must be passed over in absolute silence.
However, I'm very glad she's left the money to you, Ronald, as
you need it the most, and Mackenzie and Anderson say it'll come to
about a hundred and sixty a year.'

'One can do a great deal of good with that much money,' said Ronald
meditatively. 'I mean, after arranging with you, mother, for the
expenses of my maintenance at home, which of course I shall do, as
soon as the pension ceases, and after meeting one's own necessary
expenditure in the way of clothing and so forth. It's more than
any one Christian man ought to spend upon himself, I'm sure.'

'It's not at all too much for a young man in your position in
society, Ronald; but there--I know you'll want to spend half of
it on indiscriminate charity. However, there'll be time enough to
talk about that when you've actually got it, thank goodness.'

Ronald murmured a few words softly to himself, of which Lady Le
Breton only caught the last echo--'laid them down at the apostles'
feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had
need.'

'Just like Ernest's communistic notions,' she murmured in return,
half audibly. 'I do declare, between them both, a plain woman hardly
knows whether she's standing on her head or on her heels. I live
in daily fear that one or other of them will be taken up by the
police, for being implicated in some dynamite plot or other, to blow
up the Queen or destroy the Houses of Parliament.' Ronald smiled
again, gently, but answered nothing. 'There's another letter for
you there, though, with the Exmoor coronet upon it. Why don't you
open it? I hope it's an invitation for you to go down and stop at
Dunbude for a week or two. Nothing on earth would do you so much
good as to get away for a while from your ranters and canters, and
mix occasionally in a little decent and rational society.'

Ronald took up the second letter with a sigh. He feared as much
himself, and had doleful visions of a painful fortnight to be
spent in a big country house, where the conversation would be all
concerning the slaughter of pheasants and the torture of foxes,
which his soul loathed to listen to. 'It's from Lady Hilda,' he
said, glancing through it, 'and it ISN'T an invitation after all.'
He could hardly keep down a faint tone of gratification as he
discovered this reprieve. 'Here's what she says:--

'"DEAR MR. LE BRETON,--Mamma wishes me to write and tell you that
Lynmouth's tutor, Mr. Walsh, is going to leave us at Christmas,
and she thinks it just possible that one of your two brothers at
Oxford might like to come down to Dunbude and give us their kind
aid in taking charge of Lynmouth. He's a dreadful pickle, as you
know; but we are very anxious to get somebody to look after him in
whom mamma can have perfect confidence. We don't know your brothers'
addresses or we would have written to them direct about it. Perhaps
you will kindly let them hear this  suggestion; and if they think
the matter worth while, we might afterwards arrange details as to
business and so forth. With kind regards to Lady Le Breton, believe
me,

'"Yours very sincerely,

'"HILDA TREGELLIS."'

'My dear Ronald,' said Lady Le Breton, much more warmly than before,
'this is really quite providential. Are they at Dunbude now?'

'No, mother. She writes from Wilton Place. They're up in town for
Lord Exmoor's gout, I know. I heard they were on Sunday.'

'Then I shall go and see Lady Exmoor this very morning about it.
It's exactly the right place for Ernest. A little good society
will get rid of all his nonsensical notions in a month or two. He's
lived too exclusively among his radical set at Oxford. And then
it'll be such a capital thing for him to be in the house continually
with Hilda; she's a girl of such excellent tone. I fancy--I'm not
quite sure, but I fancy--that Ernest has a decided taste for the
company of people, and even of young girls, who are not in Society.
He's so fond of that young man Oswald, who Herbert tells me is
positively the son of a grocer--yes, I'm sure he said a grocer!--and
it seems, from what Herbert writes me, that this Oswald has brought
a sister of his up this term from behind the counter, on purpose
to set her cap at Ernest.  Now you boys have, unfortunately, no
sisters, and therefore you haven't seen as much of girls of a good
stamp--not daily and domestically I mean--as is desirable for you,
from the point of view of Society. But if Ernest can only be induced
to take this tutorship at the Exmoors', he'll have an  opportunity
of meeting daily with a really nice girl, like Hilda; and though
of course it isn't likely that Hilda would take a fancy to her
brother's tutor--the Exmoors are such VERY  conservative people
in matters of rank and wealth and family and so forth--quite
un-Christianly so, I consider--yet it can't fail to improve Ernest's
tone a great deal, and raise his standard of female society generally.
It's really a very distressing thought to me, Ronald, that all my
boys, except dear Herbert, should show such a marked preference for
low and vulgar companionship. It seems to me, you both positively
prefer as far as possible the society of your natural inferiors.
There's Ernest must go and take up with the friendship of that
snuffy old German Socialist glass-cutter; while you are always
running after your Plymouth Brethren and your Bible Christians,
and your other ignorant fanatical people, instead of going with
me respectably to St. Alphege's to hear the dear Archdeacon! It's
very discouraging to a mother, really, very discouraging.'



CHAPTER VI.

DOWN THE RIVER.


'Berkeley couldn't come to-day, Le Breton: it's Thursday, of
course: I forgot about it altogether,' Oswald said, on the barge
at Salter's. 'You know he pays a mysterious flying visit to town
every Thursday afternoon--to see an imprisoned lady-love, I always
tell him.'

'It's very late in the season for taking ladies on the water, Miss
Oswald,' said Ernest, putting his oar into the rowlock, and secretly
congratulating himself on the deliverance;  'but better go now than
not see Iffley church and Nuneham woods at all. You ought to have
come up in summer term, and let us have the pleasure of showing you
over the place when it was in its full leafy glory. May's decidedly
the time to see Oxford to the greatest advantage.'

'So Harry tells me, and he wanted me to come up then, but it wasn't
convenient for them at home to spare me just at that moment, so I
was obliged to put it off till late in the autumn. I have to help
my mother a good deal in the house, you know, and I can't always
go dancing about the world whenever I should like to. Which string
must I pull, Harry, to make her turn into the middle of the river?
She always seems to twist round the exact way I don't want her to.'

'Right, right, hard right,' cried Harry irom the bow--they were in
a tub pair bound down the river for Iffley.  'Keep to the Oxfordshire
shore as far as the willows; then cross over to the Berkshire. Le
Breton'll tell you when and where to change sides; he knows the
river as well as I do.'

'That'll do splendidly for the present,' Ernest said, looking
ahead over his shoulder. 'Mind the flags there; don't go too near
the corner. You certainly ought to see these meadows in early
spring, when the fritillaries are all out over the spongy places,
Miss Oswald. Has your brother ever sent you any of the fritillaries?'

'What? snake-heads? Oh, boxes full of them. They're lovely flowers,
but not lovelier than our own Devonshire daffodils. You should see
a Devonshire water-meadow in April! Why don't you come down some
time to Calcombe Pomeroy? It's the dearest little peaceful seaside
corner in all England.'

Harry bit his lip, for he was not over-fond of bringing people down
to spy out his domestic sanctities; but Ernest answered cordially,
'I should like it above everything in the world, Miss Oswald. If
you will let me, I certainly shall as soon as possible. Mind, quick,
get out of the way of that practising eight, or we shall foul her!
Left, as hard as you can! That'll do. The cox was getting as red
as a salamander, till he saw it was a lady steering. When coxes
catch a man fouling them, their language is apt to be highly
unparliamentary.--Yes, I shall try to get away to Calcombe as soon
as ever I can manage to leave Oxford. It wouldn't surprise me if
I were to run down and spend Christmas there.'

'You'd find it as dull as ditch-water at Christmas, Le Breton,'
said Harry. 'Much better wait till next summer.'

'I'm sure I don't think so, Harry dear,' Edie interrupted, with that
tell-tale blush of hers. 'If Mr. Le Breton wants to come then, I
believe he'd really find it quite delightful.  Of course he wouldn't
expect theatres, or dances, or anything  like that, in a country
village; and we're dreadfully busy just about Christmas day itself,
sending out orders, and all that sort of thing,'--Harry bit his
lip again:--'but if you don't mind a very quiet place and a very
quiet time, Mr. Le Breton, I don't think myself our cliffs ever look
grander, or our sea more impressive, than in stormy winter weather.'

'I wish to goodness she wasn't so transparently candid and guileless,'
thought Harry to himself. 'I never CAN teach her duly to respect
the prejudices of Pi. Not that it matters twopence to Le Breton,
of course: but if she talks that way to any of the other men here,
they'll be laughing in every common-room in Oxford over my Christmas
raisins and pounds of sugar--commonplace cynics that they are.
I must tell her about it the moment we get home again, and adjure
her by all that's holy not to repeat the indiscretion.'

'A penny for your thoughts, Harry,' cried Edie, seeing by his look
that she had somehow vexed him. 'What are you thinking of?'

'Thinking that all Oxford men are horrid cynics,' said Harry, boldly
shaming the devil.

'Why are they?' Edie asked.

'I suppose because it's an inexpensive substitute for wit or
intellect,' Harry answered. 'Indeed, I'm a bit of a cynic myself,
I believe, for the same reason and on strictly  economical principles.
It saves one the trouble of having any intelligible or original
opinion of one's own upon any subject.'

Below Iffley Lock they landed for half an hour, in order to give
Edie time for a pencil sketch of the famous old Norman church-tower,
with its quaint variations on the dog-tooth ornament, and its
ancient cross and mouldering yew-tree behind. Harry sat below in
the boat, propped on the cushions, reading the last number of the
'Nineteenth Century;'  Ernest and Edie took their seat upon the
bank above, and had a first chance of an unbroken tete-a-tete.

'How delicious to live in Oxford always!' said Edie, sketching in
the first outline of the great round arches. 'I would give anything
to have the opportunity of settling here for life. Some day I shall
make Harry set up house, and bring me up here as his housekeeper:--I
mean,' she added with a blush, thinking of Harry's warning look
just before, 'as soon as they can spare me from home.' She purposely
avoided saying 'when they retire from business,' the first phrase
that sprang naturally to her simple little lips. 'Let me see, Mr.
Le Breton; you haven't got any permanent appointment here yourself,
have you?'

'Oh no,' Ernest answered: 'no appointment of any sort at all, Miss
Oswald. I'm loitering up casually on the  look-out for a fellowship.
I've been in for two or three already, but haven't got them.'

'Why didn't you?' asked Edie, with a look of candid surprise.

'I suppose I wasn't clever enough,' Ernest answered simply. 'Not
so clever, I mean, as the men who actually got them.'

'Oh, but you MUST be,' Edie replied confidently; 'and a great deal
cleverer, too, I'm sure. I know you must, because Harry told me
you were one of the very cleverest men in the whole 'Varsity. And
besides, I see you are, myself. And Harry says most of the men who
get fellowships are really great donkeys.'

'Harry must have been talking in one of those cynical moods he
told us about,' said Ernest, laughing. 'At any rate, the examiners
didn't feel satisfied with my papers, and I've never got a fellowship
yet. Perhaps they thought my political economy just a trifle too
advanced for them.'

'You may depend upon it, that's it,' said Edie, jumping at the
conclusion with the easy omniscience of a girl of nineteen. 'Next
time, make your political economy a little more moderate, you
know, without any sacrifice of principle, just to suit them. What
fellowship are you going in for now?'

'Pembroke, in November.'

'Oh, I do hope you'll get it.'

'Thank you very much. So do I. It would be very nice to have one.'

'But of course it won't matter so much to you as it did to Harry.
Your family are such very great people, aren't they?'

Ernest smiled a broad smile at her delicious simplicity.  'If by
very great people you mean rich,' he said, 'we couldn't very well
be poorer--for people of our sort, I mean. My mother lives almost
entirely on her pension; and we boys have only been able to come
up to Oxford, just as Harry was, by the aid of our scholarships. If
we hadn't saved in our first two years, while we had our government
allowances, we shouldn't have been able to stop up for our degrees
at all.  So if I don't get a fellowship I shall have to take
to school-mastering  or something of the sort, for a livelihood.
Indeed, this at Pembroke will be my very last chance, for I can't
hold on much longer.'

'And if you got a fellowship you could never marry, could you?'
asked Edie, going on with her work.

'Not, while I held it, certainly. But I wouldn't hold it long. I
regard it only as a makeshift for a time. Unhappily, I don't know
how to earn my own bread by the labour of my hands, as I think we
ought all to do in a well-constituted society; so unless I choose
to starve (about the rightfulness of which I don't feel quite certain),
I MUST manage somehow to get over the interval. But as soon as I
could I would try to find some useful work to do, in which I could
repay society the debt I owe it for my bringing up. You see, I've
been fed and educated by a Government grant, which of course came
out of the taxes--your people have had to help, whether they would
or not, in paying for my board and lodging--and I feel that I owe
it as a duty to the world to look out some employment in which I
could really repay it for the cost of my maintenance.'

'How funnily you do look at everything, Mr. Le Breton,' said Edie.
'It would never have struck me to think of a pension from the army
in that light. And yet of course it's the right light; only we don't
most of us take the trouble to go to the bottom of things, as you
do. But what will you do if you don't get the fellowship?'

'In that case, I've just heard from my mother that she would like
me to take a tutorship at Lord Exmoor's,' Ernest answered. 'Lynmouth,
their eldest son, was my junior at school by six or seven years,
and now he's going to prepare for Christ Church. I don't quite know
whether it's a right place for me to accept or not; but I shall ask
Max Schurz about it, if I don't get Pembroke. I always take Herr
Max's advice in all questions of conscience, for I'm quite sure
whatever he approves of is the thing one ought to do for the greatest
good of humanity.'

'Harry told me about Herr Schurz,' Edie said, filling in the details
of the doorway. 'He thinks him a very earnest, self-convinced,
good old man, but a terrible revolutionist.  For my part, I believe
I rather like revolutionists, provided, of course, they don't cut
off people's heads. Harry made me read Carlyle, and I positively
fell in love with Camille Desmoulins; only I don't really think he
ought to have approved of QUITE so much guillotining, do you? But
why shouldn't you take the tutorship at the Exmoors'?'

'Oh, because it isn't a very useful work in the world to prepare a
young hereditary loafer like Lynmouth for going to Christ Church.
Lynmouth will be just like his father when he grows up--an amiable
wholesale partridge-slayer; and I don't see that the world at large
will be any the better or the worse off for his being able to grope
his way somehow through two plays of Sophocles and the first six
books of Euclid. If only one were a shoemaker now! What a delightful
thing to sit down at the end of a day and say to oneself, "I have
made two pairs of good, honest boots for a fellow-mortal this
week, and now I deserve to have my supper!" Still, it'll be better,
anyway, than doing nothing at all, and living off my mother.'

'If you went to Dunbude, when would you go?'

'After the Christmas vacation, I suppose, from what Lady Hilda
says.'

'Lady Hilda? Oh, so there's a sister, is there?'

'Yes. A very pretty girl, about twenty, I should say, and rather
clever too, I believe. My mother knows them a little.'

Poor little Edie! What made her heart jump so at the mere mention
of Lady Hilda? and what made the last few strokes at the top
of the broken yew-tree look so very weak and shaky? How absurd of
herself, she thought, to feel so much moved at hearing that there
was another girl in the world whom Ernest might possibly fall in
love with! And yet she had never even seen Ernest only ten days
ago!  Lady Hilda! What a grand name, to be sure, and what a grand
person she must be. And then Ernest himself belonged  by birth to
the same class! For in poor little Edie's mind, innocent as she was
of the nice distinctions of the peerage, Lady So-and-So was Lady
So-and-So still, whoever she might be, from the wife of a premier
marquis to the wife of the latest created knight bachelor. To
her, Lady Hilda Tregellis and Lady Le Breton were both 'ladies of
title'; and the difference between their positions, which seemed
so immense to Ernest, seemed nothing at all to the merry little
country girl who sat sketching beside him. After all, how could
she ever have even vaguely fancied that such a young man as Ernest,
in spite of all his socialistic whims, would ever dream of caring
for a girl of the people like her? No doubt he would go to the
Exmoors', fall naturally in love with Lady Hilda, and marry decorously
in what Edie considered  his own proper sphere of life! She went
on with the finishing touches of her little picture in silence, and
folded it up into the tiny portfolio at last with a half-uttered
sigh.  So her poor wee castle in the air was knocked down before
she had begun to build it up in any real seriousness, and she turned
to join Harry in the boat almost without speaking.

'I hope you'll get the Pembroke fellowship,' she said again, a
little later, as they rowed onward down the river to Nuneham. 'But
in any case, Mr. Le Breton, you mustn't forget you've half promised
to come and look us up at Calcombe Pomeroy in the Christmas vacation.'

Ernest smiled, and nodded acquiescence.

Meanwhile, on that same Thursday afternoon, Arthur Berkeley had
gone up from Oxford by the fast train to  Paddington, as was his
weekly wont, and had dived quickly down one of the small lanes that
open out from the left-hand side of Praed Street. He walked along
it for a little way, humming an air to himself as he went, and
then stopped at last in front of a small, decent brick house, with
a clean muslin blind across the window (clean muslin forms a notable
object in most London back streets), and a printed card hanging from
the central pane, bearing the inscription, 'G. Berkeley, Working
Shoemaker.--The Trade supplied with Ready-closed Uppers.' At the
window a beaming face was watching for his appearance, and Arthur
said to himself as he saw it through the curtain, 'The dear old
Progenitor's looking better again this week, God bless him!' In a
moment he had opened the door, and greeted his father in the old
boyish fashion, with an honest kiss on either cheek. They had kissed
one another so whenever they met  from Arthur's childhood upward;
and the Oxford curate had never felt himself grown too much of a
man to keep up a habit which seemed to him by far the most sacred
thing in his whole existence.

'Well, father dear, I needn't ask you how you are to-day,' said
Arthur, seating himself comfortably in the second easy-chair of
the trim little workshop parlour. 'I can see at once you're a good
deal better. Any more pain in the head and eyes, eh, or any trouble
about the forehead?'

The old shoemaker passed his hand over his big, bulging brow, bent
outward as it is so often in men of his trade by the constant habit
of stooping over their work, and said briskly, 'No, Artie, my boy,
not a sign of it this week--not a single sign of it. I've been
taking a bit of holiday, you see, and it's done me a lot of good,
I can tell you;--made me feel another man entirely. I've been
playing my violin till the neighbours began to complain of it; and
if I hadn't asked them to come and hear me tune up a bit, I really
believe they'd have been having me up before the magistrate for a
public nuisance.'

'That's right, Daddy dear; I'm always glad when you've been having
a little music. It does you more good than anything. And the jelly--I
hope you've eaten the jelly?'

'Oh, I've eaten it right enough, Artie, thank your dear heart;
and the soup too, dearie. Came by a boy from Walters's every day,
addressed to "Berkeley, Esquire, 42 Whalley Street;" and the boy
wouldn't leave it the first day, because he thought there must
have been a mistake about the address. His contention was that a
journeyman shoemaker wasn't an esquire; and my contention was that
the "Berkeley" was essential, and the "Esquire" accidental,  which
was beyond his logic, bless you, Artie; for I've often noticed, my
son, that your errand-boy is a naturally illogical and contradictory
creature. Now, shoemakers aren't, you know. I've always taken a just
pride in the profession, and I've always asserted that it develops
logic; it develops logic, Artie, or else why are all cobblers good
Liberals, I should like to know? Eh, can you tell me that; with
all your Oxford training, sir, can you tell me that?'

'It develops logic beyond the possibility of a doubt.  Daddy;
and it develops a good kind heart as well,' said Arthur, smiling.
'And it develops musical taste, and literary talent, and a marked
predilection for the beautiful in art and nature. In fact, whenever
I meet a good man of any sort, anywhere, I always begin now by
inquiring which of his immediate ancestors can have been a journeyman
shoemaker.  Depend upon it, Daddy, there's nothing like leather.'

'There you are, poking fun at your poor old Progenitor again,' said
the old cobbler, with a merry twinkle in the corner of his eye.
'If it weren't for the jelly, and the natural affections always
engendered by shoemaking, I think I should almost feel inclined to
cut you off with a shilling, Artie, my boy--to cut you off with a
shilling. Well, Artie, I'm quite convalescent now (don't you call
it? I'm afraid of my long shoemaker's words before you, nowadays,
you've grown so literary; for I suppose parsons are more literary
than even shoemakers). I'm quite convalescent now, and I think, my
boy, I must get to work again this week, and have no more of your
expensive soups and jellies. If I didn't keep a sharp look-out
upon you, Artie, lad, I believe you'd starve yourself outright up
there at Oxford to pamper your poor old useless father here with
luxuries he's never been accustomed to in his whole life.'

'My dear simple old Progenitor, you don't know how utterly you're
mistaken,' cried Arthur, eagerly. 'I believe I'm really the most
selfish and unnatural son in all Christendom.  I'm positively
rolling in wealth up there at Magdalen; I've had my room papered
again since you saw it last long vacation; and I live like a prince,
absolutely like a Russian prince, upon my present income. I assure
you on my solemn word of honour, Father, that I eat meat for
lunch--that's my dinner--every day; and an egg for tea as regular
as clockwork. I often think when I look around my palatial rooms
in college, what a shame it is that I should let you, who are worth
ten of me, any day, live any longer in a back street up here in
London; and I won't allow it, Daddy, I really won't allow it from
this day forth, I'm determined.  I've come up especially to speak
to you about it this  afternoon, for I've made up my mind that
this abnormal state of things can't continue.'--'Very good word,
abnormal,'  murmured his father.--'And I've also made up my mind,'
Arthur said, almost firmly, for him, 'that you shall come up and
live at Oxford. I can't bear having you so far away from me, now
that you're weaker than you used to be, Father dear, and so often
ailing.'

The old shoemaker laughed aloud. 'Oh no, Artie, my boy,' he
said cheerily, shaking his head with a continuous series of merry
chuckles. 'It won't do at all, it won't do, I assure you. I may be
a terrible free-thinker and all that kind of thing, as the neighbours
say I am--poor bodies, they never read a word of modern criticism
in their lives, heaven bless 'em--stragglers from the march of
intellect, mere stragglers--but I've too much respect for the cloth
to bring a curate of St. Fredegond's into such disgrace as that
would mean for you, Artie. You shan't have your career at Oxford
spoiled by its being said of you that your father was a  working
shoemaker. What with the ready-closed uppers, and what with your
ten shillings a week, and what with all the presents you give me,
and what with the hire of the piano, I'm as comfortable as ever I
want to be, growing into a gentleman in my old age, Artie, and I
even begin to have my doubts as to whether it's quite consistent
in me as a good Radical to continue my own acquaintance with
myself--I'm getting to be such a regular idle do-nothing aristocrat!
Go to Oxford and mend shoes, indeed, with you living there as a
full-fledged parson in your own rooms at Magdalen! No, no, I won't
hear of it. I'll come up for a day or two in long vacation, my boy,
as I've always done hitherto, and take a room in Holywell, and look
in upon you a bit, accidentally, so as not to shame you before the
scouts (who are a servile set of flunkeys, incapable of understanding
the elevated  feelings of a journeyman shoemaker); but I wouldn't
dream of going to live in the place, any more than I'd dream of
asking to be presented at court on the occasion of my receiving a
commission for a pair of evening shoes for the Queen's head footman.'

'Father,' said Arthur, smiling, 'you're absolutely incorrigible.  Such
a dreadful old rebel against all constituted authority, human and
divine, I never did meet in the course of my existence, I believe
you're really capable of arguing a point of theology against an
archbishop. But I don't want you to come up to Oxford as a shoemaker;
I mean you to come up and live with me in rooms of our own, out
of college. Whenever I think of you, dear Father--you, who are
so infinitely nobler, and better, and truer, and more really a
gentleman than any other than I ever knew in my life--whenever I
think of you, coming secretly up to Oxford as if you were ashamed
of yourself, and visiting your own son by stealth in his rooms in
college as if you were a dun coming to ask him for money, instead
of the person whom he delights to honour--whenever I think of it,
Father, it makes my cheeks burn with shame, and I loathe myself for
ever allowing you so to bemean your own frank, true, noble nature.
I oughtn't to permit it, Father, I oughtn't to permit it; and I
won't permit it any longer.'

'Well, you never would have permitted it, Artie, if I hadn't compelled
you; for I've got all the prudence and common sense of the family
bottled up here in my own forehead,' said the old man, tapping
his bulging brow significantly. 'I don't deny that Oxford may be
an excellent school for Greek and Latin, and philosophy, and so
forth; but if you want prudence and sagacity and common-sense it's
a well-known fact that there's nothing like the practice of making
ready-closed uppers, sir, to develop 'em. If I'd taken your advice,
my boy, I'd have come up to visit you when you were an undergraduate,
and ruined your prospects at the very outset. No, no, Artie, I shall
stop here, and stick to my last, my dear boy, stick to my last, to
the end of all things.'

'You shall do nothing of the sort, Daddy; that I'm determined upon,'
Arthur cried vehemently. 'I'm not going to let you do any more
shoemaking. The time has come when you must retire, and devote all
your undivided energies to the constant study of modern criticism.
Whether you come to Oxford or stop in London, I've made up my mind
that you shan't do another stroke of work as long as you live. Look
here, dear old Daddy, I'm getting to be a perfect millionaire, I
assure you. Do you see this fiver?  well, I got that for knocking
out that last trashy little song for Fradelli; and it cost me no
more trouble to compose it than to sit down and write the score out
on a sheet of ruled paper. I'm as rich as Croesus--made a hundred
and eighty pounds last year, and expect to make over two hundred
this one. Now, if a man with that perfectly prodigious fortune
can't afford to keep his own father in comfort and affluence, what
an absolute Sybarite and gourmand of a fellow he must be himself.'

'It's a lot of money, certainly, Artie,' said the old  shoemaker,
turning it over thoughtfully: 'two hundred pounds is a lot of money;
but I doubt very much whether it's more than enough to keep you up
to the standard of your own society, up there at Oxford. As John
Stuart Mill says, these things are all comparative to the standard
of comfort of your class. Now, Artie, I believe you have to stint
yourself of things that everybody else about you has at Oxford, to
keep me in luxuries I was never used to.'

'My dear Dad, it's only of the nature of a repayment,' cried Arthur,
earnestly. 'You slaved and sacrificed and denied yourself when I
was a boy to send me to school, without which I would never have
got to Oxford at all; and you taught me music in your spare hours
(when you had any); and I owe everything I have or am or ever will
be to your unceasing and indefatigable kindness. So now you've
got to take repayment whether you will or not, for I insist upon
it. And if you won't come up to Oxford, which perhaps would be an
uncongenial place for you in many ways, I'll tell you what I'll do,
Daddy; I'll look out for a curacy  somewhere in London, and we'll
take a little house together, and I'll furnish it nicely, and there
we shall live, sir, whatever you say, so not another word about
it. And now I want you to listen to the very best thing I've ever
composed, and tell me what you think of it.'

He sat down to the little hired cottage piano that occupied the
corner of the neat small room, and began to run his deft fingers
lightly over the keys. It was the Butterfly fantasia.  The father
sat back in his red easy-chair, listening with all his ears, first
critically, then admiringly, at last  enthusiastically. As Arthur's
closing notes died away softly towards the end, the old shoemaker's
delight could be restrained no longer. 'Artie,' he cried, gloating
over it, 'that's music! That's real music! You're quite right, my
boy; that's far and away the best thing you've ever written.  It's
exquisite--so light, so airy, so unearthlike. But, Artie, there's
more than that in it. There's soul in it; and I know what it means.
You don't deceive your poor old Progenitor in a matter of musical
inspiration, I can tell you. I know where you got that fantasia
from as well as if I'd seen you getting it. You got it out of your
own heart, my boy, out of your own heart. And the thing it says to me
as plain as language is just this--you're in love! You're in love,
Artie, and there's no good denying it. If any man ever wrote that fantasia
without being in love at the time--first love--ecstasy--tremor--tiptoe
of expectation--why, then, I tell you, music hasn't got such a
thing as a tongue or a meaning in it.'

Arthur looked at him gently and smiled, but said nothing.

'Will you tell me about her, Artie?' asked the old man, caressingly,
laying his hand upon his son's arm.

'Not now, Father; not just now, please. Some other time, perhaps,
but not now. I hardly know about it myself, yet. It may be
something--it may be nothing; but, at any rate, it was peg enough
to hang a fantasia upon. You've surprised my little secret, Father,
and I dare say it's no real secret at all, but just a passing whiff
of fancy. If it ever comes to anything, you shall know first of
all the world about it. Now take out your violin, there's a dear
old Dad, and give me a tune upon it.'

The father took the precious instrument from its carefully covered
case with a sort of loving reverence, and began to play a piece
of Arthur's own composition. From the moment the bow touched the
chords it was easy enough to see whence the son got his musical
instincts. Old George Berkeley was a born musician, and he could
make his violin discourse to him with rare power of execution.
There they sat, playing and talking at intervals, till nearly eight,
when Arthur went out hurriedly to catch the last train to Oxford,
and left the old shoemaker once more to his week's solitude. 'Not
for much longer,' the curate whispered to himself, as he got into
his third-class carriage quickly; 'not for much longer, if I can
help it. A curacy in or near London's the only right thing for me
to look out for!'



CHAPTER VII.

GHOSTLY COUNSEL.


November came, and with it came the Pembroke fellowship examination.
Ernest went in manfully, and tried hard to do his best; for
somehow, in spite of the immorality of fellowships, he had a sort
of floating notion in his head that he would like to get one,
because he was beginning to paint himself a little fancy picture
of a home that was to be, with a little fairy Edie flitting through
it, and brightening it all delightfully with her dainty airy
presence. So he even went so far as to mitigate considerably the
native truculence of his political economy paper, after Edie's
advice--not, of course, by making any suggestion of opinions he did
not hold, but by suppressing the too-prominent expression of those
he actually believed in. Max Schurz's name was not once mentioned
throughout the whole ten or twelve pages of closely written foolscap;
'Gold and the Proletariate' was utterly ignored; and in place of
the strong meat served out for men by the apostles of socialism in
the Marylebone dancing-saloon, Ernest dished up for his examiner's
edification  merely such watery milk for babes as he had extracted
from the eminently orthodox economical pages of Fawcett, Mill, and
Thorold Rogers. He went back to his rooms, satisfied that he had
done himself full justice, and anxiously waited for the result to
be duly announced on the Saturday morning.

Was it that piece of Latin prose, too obviously modelled upon the
Annals of Tacitus, while the senior tutor was a confirmed Ciceronian,
with the Second Philippic constitutionally  on the brain? Was
it the Greek verse, containing one senarius with a long syllable
before the caesura in the fifth foot, as Herbert pointed out to
his brother on the very evening when that hideous oversight--say
rather crime--had been openly perpetrated in plain black and white
on a virgin sheet of innocent paper? Was it some faint ineffaceable
savour of the Schurzian economics, peeping through in spite of all
disguises, like the garlic in an Italian ragout, from under the
sedulous cloak of Ricardo's theory of rent?  Was it some flying
rumour, extra-official, and unconnected with the examination in
any way, to the effect that young Le Breton was a person of very
dubious religious, political, and social orthodoxy? Or was it merely
that fortunate  dispensation of Providence whereby Oxford almost
invariably manages to let her best men slip unobserved through her
fingers, and so insures a decent crop of them to fill up her share
of the passing vacancies in politics, literature, science, and art?
Heaven or the Pembroke examiners alone can answer these abstruse
and difficult questions; but this much at least is certain, that
when Ernest Le Breton went into the Pembroke porter's lodge on the
predestined Saturday, he found another name than his placarded upon
the notice board, and turned back, sick at heart and disappointed,
to his lonely lodgings. There he spent an unhappy hour or two, hewing
down what remained of his little aerial castle off-hand; and then
he went out for a solitary row upon the upper river, endeavouring
to work off his disappointment like a man, with a good hard spell
of muscular labour.

Edie had already returned to Calcombe-Pomeroy, so in the evening
he went to tell his misfortune to Harry Oswald.  Harry was really
sorry to hear it, for Ernest was his best friend in Oxford, and
he had hoped to have him settled close by. 'You'll stop up and
try again for Christ Church in February, won't you, Le Breton?' he
asked.

'No,' said Ernest, shaking his head a little gloomily; 'I don't
think I will. It's clear I'm not up to the Oxford standard for a
fellowship, and I couldn't spend another term in residence without
coming down upon my mother to pay my expenses--a thing she can't
easily afford to do. So I suppose I must fall back for the present
upon the Exmoor tutorship. That'll give me time to look about me,
till I can get something else to do; and after all, it isn't a bit
more immoral than a fellowship, when one comes to look it fairly
in the face. However, I shall go first and ask Herr Max's opinion
upon the matter.'

'I'm going to spend a fortnight in town in the Christmas vac,'
said Oswald, 'and I should like to go with you to Max's again, if
I may.'

Ernest coloured up a little, for he would have liked to invite Oswald
to his mother's house; and yet he felt there were two reasons why
he should not do so; he must himself be dependent this time upon
his mother's hospitality, and he didn't think Lady Le Breton would
be perfectly cordial in her welcome to Harry Oswald.

In the end, however, it was arranged that Harry should engage rooms
at his former lodgings in London, and that Ernest should take him
once more to call upon the old socialist when he went to consult
him on the question of conscience.

'For my part, Ernest,' said Lady Le Breton to her son, the morning
after his return from Oxford, 'I'm not altogether sorry you didn't
get this Pembroke fellowship. It would have kept you among the
same set you are at present mixing in for an indefinite period.
Of course now you'll accept Lady Exmoor's kind proposal. I saw her
about it the same morning  we got Hilda's letter; and she offers
200L. a year, which, of course, is mere pocket money, as your board
and lodging are all found for you, so to speak, and you'll have
nothing to do but to dress and amuse yourself.'

'Well, mother, I shall see about it. I'm going to consult Herr
Schurz upon the subject this morning.'

'Herr Schurz!' said Lady Le Breton, in her bitterest tone of irony.
'It appears to me you make that snuffy old German microscope man
your father confessor. It's very disagreeable to a mother to find
that her sons, instead of taking her advice about what is most
material to their own interests, should invariably go to confer
with communist refugees and ignorant ranters. Ronald, what is your
programme, if you please, for this morning's annoyance?'

Ronald, with the fear of the fifth commandment steadily before
his eyes, took no notice of the last word, and answered calmly,
'You know, mother, this is the regular day for the mission-house
prayer-meeting.'

'The mission-house prayer-meeting! I know nothing of the sort, I
assure you. I don't keep a perfect calendar in my mind of all your
meetings and your religious engagements.  Then I suppose I must go
alone to the Waltons' to see Mr.  Walton's water-colours?'

'I'll give up the prayer-meeting, if you wish it,' Ronald answered,
with his unvarying meekness. 'Only, I'm afraid I must walk very
slowly. My cough's rather bad this morning.'

'No, no,' Ernest put in, 'you mustn't dream of going, Ronald;
I couldn't allow you to walk so far on any account.  I'll put off
my engagement with Oswald, who was going with me to Herr Schurz's,
and I'll take you round to the Waltons', mother, whenever you like.'

'Dear me, dear me,' moaned Lady Le Breton, piteously, pretending
to wring her hands in lady-like and mitigated despair; 'I can't
do anything without its being made the opportunity for a scene, it
seems. I shall NOT go to the Waltons'; and I shall leave you both
to follow your own  particular devices to your heart's content. I'm
sorry I proposed anything whatsoever, I'm sure, and I shall take
care never to do such an imprudent thing again.' And her ladyship
walked in her stateliest and most chilly manner out of the freezing
little dining-room.

'It's a great cross, living always with poor mother, Ernest,' said
Ronald, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke; 'but we must try
to bear with her, you know, for after all she leads a very lonely
life herself, because she's so very unsympathetic.' Ernest took
the spare white hand in his and smoothed it compassionately. 'My
dear, dear Ronald,' he said, 'I know it's hard for you. I must try
the best I can to make it a little easier!'

They walked together as far as the mission-house, arm in arm, for
though in some things the two young Le Bretons were wide apart
as the poles, in others they were fundamentally  at one in inmost
spirit; and even Ronald, in spite of his occasional little narrow
sectarianisms, felt the underlying unity of purpose no less than
Ernest. He was one of those enthusiastic ethereal natures which
care little for outer forms or ceremonies, and nothing at all for
churches and organisations,  but love to commune as pure spirit
with pure spirit, living every day a life of ecstatic spirituality,
and never troubling themselves one whit about theological controversy
or established religious constitutions. As long as Ronald Le Breton
could read his Greek Testament every morning, and talk face to
face in their own tongue with the Paul of First Corinthians or the
John of the Epistles, in the solitude of his own bedroom, he was
supremely indifferent about the serious question, of free-will
and fore-knowledge, or about the important question of apostolical
succession, or even about that other burning question of eternal
punishment, which was just then setting his own little sect of
Apostolic Christian Missioners roundly by the ears. These things
seemed to his enthusiastic mind mere fading echoes of an alien
language; all that he himself really cared for in religion was the
constant sense of essential personal communion with that higher
Power which spoke directly to his soul all day long and always; or
the equally constant sense of moral exaltation which he drew from
the reading of the written Word in its own original language. He
had never BECOME an Apostolic Christian; he had grown up to be one,
unconsciously to himself.  'Your son Ronald's religion, my dear
Lady Le Breton,' Archdeacon  Luttrell used often to say, 'is, I
fear, too purely emotional. He cannot be made to feel sufficiently
the necessity for a sound practical grasp of doctrinal Christianity.'
To Ronald himself, he might as well have talked about the necessity
for a sound practical grasp of doctrinal Buddhism. And if Ronald
had really met a devout Buddhist, he would doubtless have found,
after half an hour's conversation, that they were at one in everything
save the petty matter of dialect and vocabulary.

At Oswald's lodging, Ernest found his friend ready and waiting for
him. They went on together to the same street in Marylebone as
before, and mounted the stair till they reached Herr Schurz's gloomy
little work-room on the third floor. The old apostle was seated
at his small table by the half-open window, grinding the edges of
a lens to fit the brass mounting at his side; while his daughter
Uta, a still good-looking, quiet, broad-faced South German woman,
about forty or a little more, sat close by, busily translating a
scientific book into English by alternate reading and  consultation
with her father. Harry saw the title on her page was 'Researches
into the Embryology of the Isopodal  Crustaceans,' and conceived
at once an immense respect for the learning and wisdom of the
communist exile's daughter.  Herr Schurz hardly stopped a moment
from his work--he never allowed his numerous visitors to interfere
in any way with his daily duties--but motioned them both to seats
on the bare bench beside him, and waited to bear the nature of
their particular business. It was an understood thing that no one
came to see the Socialist leader on week days except for a good
and sufficient reason.

The talk at first was general and desultory; but after a little time
Ernest brought conversation round to its proper focus, and placed
his case of conscience fairly before his father confessor. Was it
allowable for a consistent socialist to accept the place of tutor
to the son of a peer and a landowner?

'For my part, Herr Schurz,' Oswald said confidently, 'I don't see
any reason on earth, from the point of view of any political economy
whatsoever, why Ernest shouldn't take the position. The question
isn't how the Exmoors have come by their money, even allowing that
private property in land is in itself utterly indefensible; which
is a proposition I don't myself feel inclined unreservedly to admit,
though I know you and Le Breton do: the real question's this,--since
they've got this money into their hands to distribute, and since
in any case they will have the distribution of it, isn't it better
that some of it should go into Le Breton's pocket than that it
should go into any other person's? That's the way I for my part
look at the matter.'

'What do you say to that, friend Ernest?' asked the old German,
smiling and waiting to see whether Ernest would detect what from
their own standpoint he regarded as the ethical fallacy of Harry
Oswald's argument.

'Well, to tell you the truth, Herr Schurz,' answered Ernest, in his
deliberate, quiet way, 'I don't think I've  envisaged the subject
to myself from quite the same point of view as Oswald has done. I
have rather asked myself whether it was right of a man to accept
a function in which he would really be doing nothing worthy for
humanity in return for his daily board and lodging. It isn't so much
a question who exactly is to get certain sums out of the Exmoors'
pockets, which ought no doubt never to have been in them; it's more
a question whether a man has any right to live off the collective
labour of the world, and do nothing of any good to the world on
his own part by way of repayment.'

'That's it, friend Ernest,' cried the old man, with a pleased nod
of his big grey head; 'the socialistic Iliad in a nutshell! That's
the very root of the question. Don't be deceived by capitalist
sophisms. So long as we go on each of us trying to get as much as
we can individually out of the world, instead of asking what the
world is getting out of us, in return, there will be no revolution
and no millennium.  We must make sure that we're doing some good
ourselves, instead of sponging upon the people perpetually to feed
us for nothing. What's the first gospel given to man at the creation
in your popular cosmogonies? Why, that in the sweat of his face
shall he eat bread, and till the ground from which he was taken.
That's the native gospel of the toiling many, always; your doctrines
of fair exchange, and honest livelihoods, and free contract, and
all the rest of it, are only the artificial gospel of the political
economists, and of the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats into whose
hands they play--the rascals!'

'Then you think I oughtn't to take the post?' asked Ernest, a little
ruefully.

'I don't say that, Le Breton--I don't say that,' said Herr Schurz,
more quietly than before, still grinding away at his lens. 'The
question's a broad one, and it has many aspects.  The best work
a man can do is undoubtedly the most useful work--the work that
conduces most to the general happiness.  But we of the proletariate
can't take our choice always: as your English proverb plainly puts
it, with your true English bluntness, "beggars mustn't be choosers."
We must, each in his place, do the work that's set before us by the
privileged classes. It's impossible for us to go nicely discriminating
between work that's useful for the community, work that's merely
harmless, and work that's positively detrimental.  How can we insure
it? A man's a printer, say. There's a generally useful trade, in
which, on the whole, he labours for the good and enlightenment of
the world--for he may print scientific books, good books, useful
books; and most printing, on the average, is useful. But how's he
to know what sort of thing he's printing? He may be printing "Gold
and the Proletariate," or he may be printing obscurantist and
retrogressive treatises by the enemies of humanity. Look at my own
trade, again. You'd say at first sight, Mr. Oswald, that to make
microscopes must be a good thing in the end for the world at large:
and so it is, no doubt; but half of them--ay, more than half of
them--are thrown away: mere wasted labour, a good workman's time
and skill lavished needlessly on some foolish rich man's caprices
and amusement. Often enough, now, I make a good instrument--an
instrument, with all its fittings, worth fifty or a hundred pounds.
That takes a long time to make, and I'm a skilled workman; and
the instrument may fall into the hands of a scientific man who'll
use it in discovery, in verification, in promoting knowledge, in
lessening disease and mitigating human suffering. That's the good
side of my trade. But, mark you, now,' and the old man wiped his
forehead rapidly with his sleeve, 'it has its bad side too. As often
as not, I know, some rich man will buy that machine, that cost me
so much time and trouble to make, and will buy a few dozen stock
slides with it, and will bring it out once in a moon to show his
children or a few idle visitors the scales on a butterfly's wing,
or the hairs on the leg of a common flea. Uta sets those things
up by the thousand for the dealers to sell to indolent dilettanti.
The appetite of the world at large for the common flea is simply
insatiable. And it's for that, perhaps, that I'm spoiling my
eyesight now, grinding and grinding and grinding at this very lens,
and fitting the thing to an accurate fraction of a  millimetre, as
we always fit these things--we who are careful and honest workmen--to
show an idle man's friends the hairs on a flea's fore-leg. If that
isn't enough to make a man ashamed of our present wasteful and
chaotic organisation, I should think he must be a survival from
the preglacial epoch--as, indeed, most of us actually are!'

'But, after all, Herr Schurz,' said Harry, expostulating, 'you get
paid for your labour, and the rich man is doing better by encouraging
your skill than by encouraging the less useful skill of other
workmen.'

'Ah, yes,' cried Herr Schurz, warmly, 'that's the doctrine  of the
one-eyed economists; that's the capitalist way of looking at it;
but it isn't our way--it isn't ours. Is it nothing, think you,
that all that toil of mine--of a sensible man's--goes to waste,
to gratify the senseless passing whim of a wealthy nobody? Is it
nothing that he uselessly monopolises the valuable product of my
labour, which in other and abler hands might be bringing forth good
fruit for the bettering and furthering  of universal humanity? I
tell you, Mr. Oswald, half the best books, half the best apparatus,
half the best appliances in all Europe, are locked up idle in
rich men's cabinets, effecting  no good, begetting no discoveries,
bringing forth no interest,  doing nothing but foster the anti-social
pride of their wealthy possessors. But that isn't what friend
Ernest wants to ask me about to-day. He wants to know about his own
course in a difficult case; and instead of answering him, here am
I, maundering away, like an old man that I am, into the generalised
platitudes of "Gold and the Proletariate." Well, Le Breton, what
I should say in your particular instance is this. A man with the
fear of right before his eyes may, under existing circumstances,
lawfully accept any work that will keep him alive, provided he sees
no better and more useful work equally open to him. He may take
the job the capitalists impose, if he can get nothing worthier to
do  elsewhere. Now, if you don't teach this young Tregellis, what
alternative have you? Why, to become a master in a school--Eton,
perhaps, or Rugby, or Marlborough--and teach other equally useless
members of prospective aristocratic society. That being so, I think
you ought to do what's best for yourself and your family for the
present--for the present--till the time of deliverance comes. You
see, there is one member of your family to whom the matter is of
immediate importance.'

'Ronald,' said Ernest, interrupting him.

'Yes, Ronald. A good boy; a socialist, too, though he doesn't know
it--one of us, born of us, and only apart from us in bare externals.
Well, would it be most comfortable for poor Ronald that you should
go to these Exmoor people, or that you should take a mastership,
get rooms somewhere, and let him live with you? He's not very happy
with your mother, you say. Wouldn't he be happier with you? What
think you? Charity begins at home, you know: a good proverb--a
good, sound, sensible, narrow-minded, practical English proverb!'

'I've thought of that,' Ernest said, 'and I'll ask him about it.
Whichever he prefers, then, I'd better decide upon, had I?'

'Do so,' Herr Max answered, with a nod. 'Other things equal, our
first duty is to those nearest to us.'

What Herr Max said was law to his disciples, and Ernest went his
way contented.

'Mr. Oswald seems a very nice young man,' Uta Schurz said, looking
up from the microscope slides she had begun to mount at the moment
her regular translating work was  interrupted by their sudden entry.
She had been taking quiet glances at Harry all the while, in her
unobtrusive fashion; for Uta had learned always to be personally
unobtrusive--'the prophet's donkey,' those irreverent French exiles
used to call her--and she had come to the conclusion that he was
a decidedly handsome and manly fellow.

'Which do you like best, Uta--Oswald or Le Breton?' asked her
father.

'Personally,' Uta answered, 'I should prefer Mr. Oswald.  To live
always with Mr. Le Breton would be like living with an abstraction.
No woman would ever care for him; she might just as well marry
Spinoza's Ethics or the Ten Commandments. He's a perfect model of
a socialist, and nothing else. Mr. Oswald has some human nature in
him as well.'

'There are two kinds of socialists,' said Herr Max, bending  once
more over his glasses; 'the one kind is always thinking most of
its rights; the other kind is always  thinking most of its duties.
Oswald belongs to the first, Le Breton to the second. I've often
observed it so among men of their two sorts. The best socialists
never come from the bourgeoisie, nor even from the proletariate;
they come from among the voluntarily declasses aristocrats. Your
workman or your bourgeois who has risen, and who interests himself
in social or political questions, is always thinking, "Why shouldn't
I have as many rights and privileges as these other people have?"
The aristocrat who descends is always thinking,  "Why shouldn't
these other people have as many rights and privileges as I have?"
The one type begets aggressive self-assertion, the other type
begets a certain gentle spirit of self-effacement. You don't often
find men of the aristocratic class with any ethical element in
them--their hereditary  antecedents, their breeding, their environment,
are all hostile to it; but when you do find them, mark my words,
Uta, they make the truest and most earnest friends of the popular
cause of any. Their sympathy and interest in it is all unselfish.'

'And yet,' Uta answered firmly, 'I still prefer Mr. Oswald.  And
if you care for my opinion, I should say that the aristocrat does
all the dreaming, but the bourgeois does all the fighting; and
that's the most important thing practically, after all.'

An hour later, Ernest was talking his future plans over with his
brother Ronald. Would it be best for Ronald that he should take
a mastership, and both should live together, or that he should go
for the present to the Exmoors', and leave the question of Ronald's
home arrangements still unsettled?

'It's so good of you to think of me in the matter, Ernest,' Ronald
said, pressing his hand gently; 'but I don't think I ought to
go away from mother before I'm twenty-one. To tell you the truth,
Ernest, I hardly flatter myself she'd be really sorry to get rid
of me; I'm afraid I'm a dreadful thorn in her side at present; she
doesn't understand my ways, and perhaps I don't sympathise enough
with hers; but still, if I were to propose to go, I feel sure
she'd be very much annoyed,  and treat it as a serious act of
insubordination on my part. While I'm a minor, at least, I ought
to remain with her; the Apostle tells us to obey our parents, in
the Lord; and as long as she requires nothing from me that doesn't
involve a dereliction of principle I think I must bear with it,
though I acknowledge it's a cross, a heavy cross. Thank you so much
for thinking of it, dearest Ernest.' And his eyes filled once more
with tears as he spoke.

So it was finally arranged that for the present at least Ernest
should accept Lady Exmoor's offer, and that as soon as Ronald
was twenty-one he should look about for a suitable mastership, in
order for the two brothers to go immediately into rooms together.
Lady Le Breton was surprised at the decision; but as it was in her
favour, she wisely abstained from gratifying her natural desire to
make some more  uncomplimentary references to the snuffy old German
socialist.  Sufficient unto the day was the triumph thereof; and she
had no doubt in her own mind that if once Ernest could be induced
to live for a while in really good society the well-known charms
and graces of that society must finally tame his rugged breast,
and wean him away from his unaccountable  devotion to those horrid
continental communists.



CHAPTER VIII.

IN THE CAMP OF THE PHILISTINES.


Dunbude Castle, Lord Exmoor's family seat, stands on the last spurs
of the great North Devon uplands, overlooking the steep glen of a
little boulder-encumbered stream, and commanding a distant view of
the Severn Sea and the dim outlines of the blue Welsh hills beyond
it. Behind the house, a castle only by courtesy (on the same
principle as that by which every bishop lives in a palace), rises
the jagged summit of the Cleave, a great weather-worn granite hill,
sculptured on top by wind and rain into those fantastic lichen-covered
pillars and tora and logans in which antiquarian  fancy used so long
to find the visible monuments of Druidical worship. All around, a
wide brown waste of heather undulates and tosses wildly to the sky;
and on the summit of the rolling moor where it rises and swells in
one of its many rounded bosses, the antlered heads and shoulders
of the red deer may often be seen etched in bold relief against
the clear sky-line to the west, on sunny autumn evenings. But the
castle itself and the surrounding grounds are not planned to harmonise
with the rough moorland English scenery into whose midst they were
unceremoniously pitchforked by the second earl. That distinguished
man of taste, a light of the artistic world in his own day,
had brought back from his Grand Tour his own ideal of a strictly
classical domestic building, formed by impartially compounding  a
Palladian palace, a Doric temple, and a square redbrick English
manor-house. After pulling down the original fourteenth-century
castle, he had induced an eminent architect of the time to conspire
with him in giving solid and permanent reality to this his awful
imagining; and when he had completed it all, from portico to attic,
he had extorted even the critical praise of Horace Walpole, who
described it in one of his letters as a 'singular triumph of classical
taste and architectural ingenuity.' It still remains unrivalled in
its kind, the ugliest great country-seat in the county of Devon--some
respectable authorities even say in the whole of England.

In front of the house an Italian garden, with balustrades of very
doubtful marble, leads down by successive terraces and broad flights
of steps to an artificial octagonal pool, formed by carefully
destroying the whole natural beauty of the wild and rocky little
English glen beneath. To feed it by fitting a conduit, the moss-grown
boulders that strew the bed of the torrent above and below have
been carefully removed,  and the unwilling stream, as it runs into
the pool, has been coerced into a long straight channel, bordered
on either side by bedded turf, and planed off at measured intervals
so as to produce a series of eminently regular and classical
cascades. Even Lord Exmoor himself, who was a hunting man, without
any pretence to that stupid rubbish about taste, did not care for
the hopeless exterior of Dunbude Castle: he frankly admitted that
the place was altogether too doosid artificial for the line of
country. If they'd only left it alone, he said, in its own native
condition, it would have been really pretty; but as they'd doctored
it and spoilt it, why, there was nothing on earth to be done but
just put up with it and whistle over it. What with the hounds, and
the mortgages, and the settlements, and the red deer, and Goodwood,
the estate couldn't possibly afford any money for making alterations
down in the gardens.

The dog-cart was in waiting at the station to carry Ernest up to
the castle; and as he reached the front door, Lady Hilda Tregellis
strolled up the broad flight of steps from the garden to meet him.
Lady Hilda was tall and decidedly handsome, as Ernest had rightly
told Edie, but not pretty, and she was also just twenty. There was
a free, careless, bold look in her face, that showed her at once
a girl of spirit; indeed, if she had not been born a Tregellis, it
was quite clear that she would have been predestined to turn out
a strong-minded woman. There was nothing particularly delicate in
Lady Hilda's features; they were well-modelled, but neither regular
nor cold, nor with that peculiar stamp of artificial breeding which
is so often found in the faces of English ladies. On the contrary,
she looked like a perfectly self-confident handsome actress, too
self-confident to be self-conscious, and accustomed to admiration
wherever she turned. As Ernest jumped down from the dog-cart she
advanced quickly to shake hands with him, and look him over critically
from head to foot like a schoolboy taking stock of a new fellow.

'I'm so glad you've come, Mr. Le Breton,' she said, with an open
smile upon her frank face. 'I was dreadfully afraid you wouldn't
care for our proposition. Dunbude's the dullest hole in England,
and we want somebody here to brighten it up, sadly. Did you ever
see such an ugly monstrosity before, anywhere?'

'The country about's lovely,' Ernest answered, 'but the house itself
is certainly rather ugly.'

'Ugly! It's hideous. And it's as dull as it's big,' said Hilda
vehemently. 'You can't think what a time we have of it here half
the year! I'm always longing for the season to come. Papa fills
the house here with hunting men and shooting men--people without
two ideas in their heads, you know, just like himself; and even THEY
go out all day, and leave us women from morning till night to the
society of their wives and daughters, who are exactly like them.
Mr.  Walsh--that's Lynmouth's last tutor--he was a perfect stick,
a Cambridge man; Cambridge men always ARE sticks, I believe; you're
Oxford, of course, aren't you? I thought so.  Still, even Mr. Walsh
was a little society, for I assure you, if it hadn't been for him,
I should never have seen anybody, to talk to, from year's end to
year's end. So when Mr.  Walsh was going to leave us, I said to
mamma, "Why not ask one of the Mr. Le Bretons?" I wanted to have
somebody  sensible here, and so I got her to let me write to your
brother Ronald about the tutorship. Did he send you the letter? I
hope you didn't think it was mine. Mamma dictated it, for I don't
write such formal letters as that on my own account, I can tell
you. I hate conventionality of any sort. At Dunbude we're all
conventional, except me; but I won't be. Come up into the billiard-room,
here, and sit down awhile; William will see about your portmanteau
and things. Papa's out, of course, and so's Lynmouth; and mamma's
somewhere or other, I don't know where; and so there's nobody in
particular at home for you to report  yourself to. You may as well
come in here while I ring for them to get you some lunch ready.
Nobody ever gets anything  ready beforehand in this house. We
lunched ourselves an hour ago.'

Ernest smiled at her volubility, and followed her quickly into the
big bare billiard-room. He walked over to the fire and began to
warm himself, while Hilda took down a cue and made stray shots in
extraordinary angles at impossible cannons, all the time, as she
went on talking to him. 'Was it very cold on the way down?' she
asked.

'Yes, fairly. I'm not sorry to see the fire again. Why, you're
quite an accomplished player.'

'There's nothing else to do at Dunbude, that's why. I practise
about half my lifetime. So I wrote to your brother Ronald, as I
was telling you, from mamma's dictation; and when I heard you were
really coming, I was quite delighted about it. Do you remember, I
met you twice last year, once at the Dolburys', and once somewhere
else; and I thought you'd be a very good sort of person for Dunbude,
you know, and about as much use to Lynmouth as anybody could be,
which isn't saying much, of course, for he's a dreadful pickle.
I insisted on putting in my letter that he was a dreadful pickle
(that's a good stroke off the red; just enough side on), though
mamma didn't want me to; because I thought you ought to know about
it beforehand. But you remember him at Marlborough, of course; he
was only a little fellow then, but still a pickle. He always was and
he always will be. He's out shooting, now, with papa; and you'll
never get him to settle down to anything, as long as there's a
snipe or a plover banging about on the moor  anywhere. He's quite
incorrigible. Do you play at all? Won't you take a cue till your
lunch's ready?'

'No, I don't play,' Ernest answered, half hesitating, 'or at least
very little.'

'Oh, then you'll learn here, because you'll find nothing else to
do. Do you shoot?'

'Oh no, never. I don't think it right.'

'Ah, yes, I remember. How delightful! Lady Le Breton told me all
about it. You've got notions, haven't you? You're a Nihilist or
a Fenian or something of that sort, and you don't shoot anything
but czars and grand dukes, do you? I believe you want to cut all
our heads off and have a red republic. Well, I'm sure that's very
refreshing;  for down here we're all as dull as sticks together;
Tories, every one of us to a man; perfect unanimity; no differences
of opinion; all as conventional and proper as the vicar's sermons.
Now, to have somebody who wants to cut your head off, in the house,
is really delightful. I love originality. Not that I've ever seen
anybody original in all my life, for I haven't, but I'm sure it
would be delightful if I did. One reads about original people in
novels, you know, Dickens and that sort of thing; and I often think
I should like to meet some of them (good stroke again; legs, legs,
legs, if you please--no, it hasn't legs enough); but here, or for
the matter of that, in town either, we never see anybody but the same
eternal round of Algies, and Monties, and Berties, and Hughs--all
very nice young men, no doubt; exceedingly proper, nothing against
them; good shots, capital partners, excellent families, everything on
earth that anybody could desire, except a single atom of personal
originality. I assure you, if they were all shaken up in a bag
together and well mixed, in evening clothes (so as not to tell them
apart by the tweeds, you know), their own mothers wouldn't be able
to separate them afterwards. But if you don't shoot and don't play
billiards, I'm sure I don't know what you'll ever find to do with
yourself here at Dunbude.'

'Don't you think,' Ernest said quietly, taking down a, cue, 'one
ought to have something better to do with one's time than shooting
and playing billiards? In a world where so many labouring people
are toiling and slaving in poverty and misery on our behalf, don't
you think we should be trying to do something or other in return
for universal humanity, to whom we owe so much for our board and
lodging and clothing and amusement?'

'Well, now, that's just what I mean,' said Hilda ecstatically,  with
a neat shot off the cushion against the red and into the middle
pocket; 'that's such a delightfully original way of looking at
things, you see. We all of us here talk always about the partridges,
and the red deer, and the turnips,  and the Church, and dear Lady
This, and that odious Lady That, and the growing insolence of the
farmers, and the shocking insubordination of the lower classes, and
the difficulty of getting really good servants, and the dreadful
way those horrid Irish are shooting their kind-hearted  indulgent
landlords; or else we talk--the women especially--about how awfully
bored we are. Lawn-tennis, you know, and dinners, and what a bad
match Ethel Thingumbob has made. But you talk another kind of slang;
I dare say it doesn't mean much; you know you're not working at
anything  very much more serious than we are; still it's a novelty.
When we go to a coursing meeting, we're all on the hounds; but
you're on the hare, and that's so delightfully original.  I haven't
the least doubt that if we were to talk about the Irish, you'd say
you thought they ought to shoot their  landlords. I remember you
shocked mamma by saying something like it at the Dolburys'. Now, of
course, it doesn't matter to me a bit which is right; you say the
poor tenants are starving, and papa says the poor landlords can't
get in their rents, and actually have to give up their hounds, poor
fellows; and I don't know which of you is the most to be believed;
only, what papa says is just the same thing that everybody says,
and what you say has a certain charming freshness and variety
about it. It's so funny to be told that one ought really to take
the tenants into consideration. Exactly like your brother Ronald's
notions about servants!'

'Your lunch is ready in the dining-room, sir,' said a voice at the
door.

'Come back here when you've finished, Mr. Le Breton,' Hilda called
after him. 'I'll teach you how to make that cannon you missed
just now. If you mean to exist at Dunbude at all, it's absolutely
necessary for you to learn billiards.'

Ernest turned in to lunch with an uncomfortable misgiving  on his
mind already that Dunbude was not exactly the right place for such
a man as he to live in.

During the afternoon he saw nothing more of the family, save Lady
Hilda; and it was not till the party assembled in the drawing-room
before dinner that he met Lord and Lady Exmoor and his future pupil.
Lynmouth had grown into a tall, handsome, manly-looking boy since
Ernest last saw him; but he certainly looked exactly what Hilda
had called him--a pickle. A few minutes' introductory conversation
sufficed to show Ernest that whatever mind he possessed was wholly
given over to horses, dogs, and partridges, and that the post of
tutor at Dunbude Castle was not likely to prove a bed of roses.

'Seen the paper, Connemara?' Lord Exmoor asked of one of his
guests, as they sat down to dinner. 'I haven't had a moment myself
to snatch a look at the "Times" yet this evening; I'm really too
busy almost even to read the daily papers. Anything fresh from
Ireland?'

'Haven't seen it either,' Lord Connemara answered, glancing towards
Lady Hilda. 'Perhaps somebody else has looked at the papers'?'

Nobody answered, so Ernest ventured to remark that the Irish news
was rather worse again. Two bailiffs had been murdered near Castlebar.

'That's bad,' Lord Exmoor said, turning towards Ernest.  'I'm afraid
there's a deal of distress in the West.'

'A great deal,' Ernest answered; 'positive starvation, I believe,
in some parts of County Galway.'

'Well, not quite so bad as that,' Lord Exmoor replied, a little
startled. 'I don't think any of the landlords are actually starving
yet, though I've no doubt many of them are put to very great straits
indeed by their inability to get in their rents.'

Ernest couldn't forbear gently smiling to himself at the misapprehension.
'Oh, I didn't mean the landlords,' he said quickly: 'I meant among
the poor people.' As he spoke he was aware that Lady Hilda's eyes
were fixed keenly upon him, and that she was immensely delighted
at the temerity and originality displayed in the notion of his
publicly taking Irish tenants into consideration at her father's
table.

'Ah, the poor people,' Lord Exmoor answered with a slight sigh of
relief, as who should say that THEIR condition didn't much matter
to a philosophic mind. 'Yes, to be sure; I've no doubt some of
them are very badly off, poor souls. But then they're such an idle
improvident lot. Why don't they emigrate now, I should like to
know?'

Ernest reflected silently that the inmates of Dunbude Castle did
not exactly set them a model of patient industry; and that Lady
Hilda's numerous allusions during the afternoon  to the fact that
the Dunbude estates were 'mortgaged  up to the eyelids' (a condition
of affairs to which she always alluded as though it were rather a
subject of pride and congratulation than otherwise) did not speak
very highly for their provident economy either. But even Ernest Le
Breton had a solitary grain of worldly wisdom laid up  somewhere
in a corner of his brain, and he didn't think it  advisable to give
them the benefit of his own views upon the subject.

'There's a great deal of rubbish talked in England about Irish
affairs, you know, Exmoor,' said Lord Connemara confidently. 'People
never understand Ireland, I'm sure, until they've actually lived
there. Would you believe it now, the correspondent of one of the
London papers was quite indignant the other day because my agent
had to evict a man for three years' rent at Ballynamara, and the
man unfortunately went and died a week later on the public roadside.
We produced medical evidence to show that he had suffered for years
from heart disease, and would have died in any case, wherever he
had been; but the editor fellow wanted to make political capital
out of it, and kicked up quite a fuss about my agent's shocking
inhumanity.  As if we could possibly help ourselves in the matter!
People must get their rents in somehow, mustn't they?'

'People must get their rents in somehow, of course,' Lord Exmoor
assented, sympathetically; 'and I know all you men who are unlucky
enough to own property in Ireland have a lot of trouble about it
nowadays. Upon my word, what with Fenians, and what with Nihilists,
and what with Communards, I really don't know what the world is
coming to.'

'Most unchristian conduct, I call it,' said Lady Exmoor, who went
in for being mildly and decorously religious. 'I really can't
understand how people can believe such wicked doctrines as these
communistic notions that are coming over people in these latter
days.'

'No better than downright robbery,' Lord Connemara answered.
'Shaking the very foundations of society, I think it. All done so
recklessly, too, without any care or any consideration.'

Ernest thought of old Max Schurz, with his lifelong economical
studies, and wondered when Lord Connemara had found time to turn
his own attention from foxes and fishing to economical problems;
but, by a perfect miracle, he said nothing.

'You wouldn't believe the straits we're put to, Lady Exmoor,' the
Irish Earl went on, 'through this horrid no-rent business. Absolute
poverty, I assure you--absolute downright poverty. I've had to
sell the Maid of Garunda this week, you know, and three others of
the best horses in my stable, just to raise money for immediate
necessities.  Wanted to buy a most interesting missal, quite
unique in its way, offered me by Menotti and Cicolari, dirt cheap,
for three thousand guineas. It's quite a gem of late miniaturist
art--vellum folio, with borders and head-pieces by Giulio Clovio.
A marvellous bargain!'

'Giulio Clovio,' said Lord Exmoor, doubtfully. 'Who was he? Never
heard of him in my life before.'

'Never heard of Giulio Clovio!' cried Lord Connemara, seizing the
opportunity with well-affected surprise. 'You really astonish me.
He was a Croatian, I believe, or an Illyrian--I forget which--and
he studied at Rome under Giulio Romano. Wonderful draughtsman in
the nude, and fine colourist; took hints from Raphael and Michael
Angelo.' So much he had picked up from Menotti and Cicolari, and,
being a distinguished connoisseur, had made a mental note of the
facts at once, for future reproduction upon a fitting occasion.
'Well, this missal was executed for Cardinal Farnese, as a companion
volume to the famous Vita Christi in the Towneley collection. You
know it, of course, Lady Exmoor?'

'Of course,' Lady Exmoor answered faintly, with a devout hope that
Lord Connemara wouldn't question her any further upon the subject;
in which case she thought it would probably be the safest guess to
say that she had seen it at the British Museum or in the Hamilton
Library.

But Lord Connemara luckily didn't care to press his advantage.
'The Towneley volume, you see,' he went on fluently--he was primed
to the muzzle with information on that subject--'was given by
the Cardinal to the Pope of that time--Paul the Third, wasn't it,
Mr. Le Breton?--and so got into the possession of old Christopher
Towneley, the antiquary. But this companion folio, it seems, the
Cardinal  wouldn't let go out of his own possession; and so it's
been handed down in his own family (with a bar sinister, of course,
Exmoor--you remember the story of Beatrice Malatesta?) to the present
time. It's very existence wasn't suspected till Cicolari--wonderfully
smart fellow, Cicolari--unearthed it the other day from a descendant
of the Malatestas, in a little village in the Campagna. He offered it
to me, quite as an act of friendship, for three thousand guineas;
indeed, he begged me not to let Menotti know how cheap he was
selling it. for fear he might interfere and ask a higher price for
it. Well, I naturally couldn't let such a chance slip me--for the
credit of the family, it ought to be in the collection--and the
consequence was, though I was awfully sorry to part with her, I was
absolutely obliged to sell the Maid for pocket-money, Lady Hilda--I
assure you, for pocket-money. My tenants won't pay up, and nothing
will make them. They've got the cash actually in the bank; but they
keep it there, waiting for a set of sentimentalists in the House
of Commons to interfere between us, and make them a present of
my property. Rolling in money, some of them are, I can tell you.
One man, I know as a positive fact, sold a pig last week, and yet
pretends he can't pay me.  All the fault of these horrid communists
that you were speaking of, Lady Exmoor--all the fault of these
horrid communists.'

'You're rather a communist yourself, aren't you, Mr. Le Breton?'
asked Lady Hilda boldly from across the table.  'I remember you told
me something once about cutting the throats of all the landlords.'

Lady Exmoor looked as though a bomb-shell had dropped into the
drawing-room. 'My dear Hilda,' she said, 'I'm sure you must have
misunderstood Mr. Le Breton. You can't have meant anything so
dreadful as that, Mr. Le Breton, can you?'

'Certainly not,' Ernest answered, with a clear conscience.  'Lady
Hilda has put her own interpretation upon my casual words. I haven't
the least desire to cut  anybody's throat, even metaphorically.'

Hilda looked a little disappointed; she had hoped for a good rattling
discussion, in which Ernest was to shock the whole table--it does
people such a lot of good, you know, to have a nice round shocking;
but Ernest was evidently not inclined to show fight for her sole
gratification, and so she proceeded to her alternative amusement
of getting Lord Connemara to display the full force of his own
inanity.  This was an easy and unending source of innocent enjoyment
to Lady Hilda, enhanced by the fact that she knew her father and
mother were anxious to see her Countess of Connemara, and that they
would be annoyed by her public exposition of that eligible young
man's intense selfishness and empty-headedness.

Altogether, Ernest did not enjoy his first week at the Exmoors'.
Nor did he enjoy the second, or the third, or the fourth week much
better. The society was profoundly distasteful to him: the world
was not his world, nor the talk his talk; and he grew so sick of
the perpetual discussion of horses, dogs, pheasants, dances, and
lawn tennis, with occasional digressions on Giulio Clovio and the
Connemara gallery, that he found even a chat with Lady Hilda (who
knew and cared for nothing, but liked to chat with him because
he was 'so original') a pleasant relief, by comparison, from the
eternal round of Lord Exmoor's anecdotes about famous racers or
celebrated actresses. But worst of all he did not like his work;
he felt that, useless as he considered it, he was not successfully
performing even the useless function  he was paid to fulfil. Lynmouth
couldn't learn, wouldn't learn, and wasn't going to learn. Ernest
might as well have tried to din the necessary three plays of Euripides
into the nearest lamp-post. Nobody encouraged him to learn in any
way, indeed Lord Exmoor remembered that he himself had scraped
through somehow at Christ Church, with the aid of a private tutor
and the magic of his title, and he hadn't the least doubt that
Lynmouth would scrape through in his turn in like manner. And so,
though most young men would have found the Dunbude tutorship the
very acme of their wishes--plenty of amusements and nothing to do
for them--Ernest Le Breton found it to the last degree irksome and
unsatisfactory. Not that he had ever to complain of any unkindliness
on the part of the Exmoor family; they were really in their own
way very kind-hearted, friendly sort of people--that is to say,
towards all members of their own circle; and as they considered
Ernest one of themselves, in virtue of their acquaintance with
his mother, they really did their best to make him as happy and
comfortable as was in their power. But then he was such a very
strange young man!  'For what on earth can you do,' as Lord Exmoor
justly asked, 'with a young fellow who won't shoot, and who won't
fish, and who won't hunt, and who won't even play lansquenet?'
Such a case was clearly hopeless. He would have liked to see more
of Miss Merivale, little Lady Sybil's governess (for there were three
children in the family); but Miss Merivale was a timid, sensitive
girl, and she did not often encourage his advances, lest my lady
should say she was setting her cap at the tutor. The consequence
was that he was necessarily thrown much upon Lady Hilda's society;
and as Lady Hilda was laudably eager to instruct him in billiards,
lawn tennis, and sketching, he rapidly grew to be quite an adept at
those relatively moral and innocuous amusements, under her constant
instruction and supervision.

'It seems to me,' said that acute observer, Lord Lynmouth,  to his
special friend and confidante, the lady's-maid, 'that Hilda makes
a doocid sight too free with that fellow Le Breton. Don't you think
so, Euphemia?'

'I should hope, my lord,' Euphemia answered demurely, 'that Lady
Hilda would know her own place too well to demean herself with such
as your lordship's tutor. If I didn't feel sure of that, I should
have to mention the matter seriously to my lady.'

Nevertheless, the lady's-maid immediately stored up a mental note
on the subject in the lasting tablets of her memory, and did not fail
gently to insinuate her views upon the question to Lady Exmoor, as
she arranged the pearls in the false plaits for dinner that very
evening.



CHAPTER IX.

THE WOMEN OF THE LAND.


'Mr. Le Breton! Mr. Le Breton! Papa says Lynmouth may go
out trout-fishing with him this afternoon. Come up with me to the
Clatter. I'm going to sketch there.'

'Very well, Lady Hilda; if you want my criticism, I don't mind if
I do. Let me carry your things; it's rather a pull up, even for
you, with your box and easel!'

Hilda gave him her sketch-book and colours, and they turned together
up the Cleave behind the Castle.

A Clatter is a peculiar Devonshire feature, composed of long loose
tumbled granite blocks piled in wild disorder along the narrow summit
of a saddle-backed hill. It differs from a tor in being less high
and castellated, as well as in its longer and narrower contour.
Ernest and Hilda followed the rough path up through the gorse
and heather to the top of the ridge, and then scrambled over the
grey lichen-covered rooks together to the big logan-stone whose
evenly-poised and tilted mass crowned the actual summit. The granite
blocks were very high and rather slippery in places, for it was
rainy April weather, so that Ernest had to take his companion's
hand more than once in his to help her over the tallest boulders.
It was a small delicate hand, though Hilda was a tall well-grown
woman; ungloved, too, for the sake of the sketching; and Hilda
didn't seem by any means unwilling to accept Ernest's proffered help,
though if it had been Lord Connemara who was with her instead, she
would have scorned assistance, and scaled the great mossy masses
by herself like a mountain antelope. Light-footed and lithe of
limb was Lady Hilda, as befitted a Devonshire lass accustomed  to
following the Exmoor stag-hounds across their wild country on her
own hunter. Yet she seemed to find a great deal of difficulty in
clambering up the Clatter on that  particular April morning, and
move than once Ernest half fancied to himself that she leaned on his
arm longer than was absolutely  necessary for support or assistance
over the stiffest places.

'Here, by the logan, Mr. Le Breton,' she said, motioning him where
to put her camp-stool and papers. 'That's a good point of view
for the rocks yonder. You can lie down on the rug and give me the
benefit of your advice and assistance.'

'My advice is not worth taking,' said Ernest. 'I'm a regular duffer
at painting and sketching. You should ask Lord Connemara. He knows
all about art and that sort of thing.'

'Lord Connemara!' echoed Hilda contemptuously. 'He has a lot of
pictures in his gallery at home, and he's been told by sensible men
what's the right thing for him to say about them; but he knows no
more about art, really, than he knows about fiddlesticks.'

'Doesn't he, indeed?' Ernest answered languidly, not feeling any
burning desire to discuss Lord Connemara's artistic attainments or
deficiencies.

'No, he doesn't,' Hilda went on, rather defiantly, as though Ernest
had been Lady Exmoor; 'and most of these people that come here
don't either. They have galleries, and they get artists and people
who understand about pictures to talk with them, and so they learn
what's  considered the proper thing to say of each of them. But
as to saying anything spontaneous or original of their own about a
picture or any other earthly thing--why, you know, Mr. Le Breton,
they couldn't possibly do it to save their lives.'

'Well, there I should think you do them, as a class, a great
injustice,' said Ernest, quietly; 'you're evidently prejudiced
against your own people. I should think that if there's any subject
on which our old families really do know anything, it's art. Look
at their great advantages.'

'Nonsense,' Hilda answered, decisively. 'Fiddlesticks for their
advantages. What's the good of advantages without  a head on your
shoulders, I should like to know. And they haven't got heads on
their shoulders, Mr. Le Breton; you know they haven't.'

'Why, surely,' said Ernest, in his simple fashion, looking  the
question straight in the face as a matter of abstract truth, 'there
must be a great deal of ability among peers and peers' sons. All
history shows it; and it would be absurd if it weren't so; for the
mass of peers have got their peerages by conspicuous abilities of
one sort or another, as barristers, or soldiers, or politicians,
or diplomatists, and they would naturally hand on their powers to
their different descendants.'

'Oh, yes, there are some of them with brains, I suppose,' Hilda
answered, as one who makes a great concession.  'There's Herbert
Alderney, who's member for somewhere or other--Church Stretton, I
think--and makes speeches in the House; he's clever, they say, but
such a conceited fellow to talk to. And there's Wilfrid Faunthorp,
who writes poems, and gets them printed in the magazines, too,
because he knows the editors. And there's Randolph Hastings, who
goes in for painting, and has little red and blue daubs at the
Grosvenor by special invitation of the director.  But somehow they
none of them strike me as being really original. Whenever I meet
anybody worth talking to anywhere--in a railway train or so on--I
feel sure at once he's an ordinary commoner, not even Honourable;
and he is invariably, you may depend upon it.'

'That would naturally happen on the average of instances,' Ernest
put in, smiling, 'considering the relative frequency of peers
and commoners in this realm of England. Peers, you know, or even
Honourables are not common objects of the country, numerically
speaking.'

'They are to me, unfortunately,' Hilda replied, looking at him
inquiringly. 'I hardly ever meet anybody else, you know, and I'm
positively bored to death by them, and that's the truth, really.
It's most unlucky, under the circumstances,  that I should happen
to be the daughter of one peer, and be offered promiscuously as
wife to the highest bidder among half a dozen others, if only I
would have them. But I won't, Mr. Le Breton, I really won't. I'm
not going to marry a fool, just to please my mother. Nothing on
earth would induce me to marry Lord Connemara, for example.'

Ernest looked at her and smiled, but said nothing.

Lady Hilda put in a stroke or two more to her pencil outline,  and
then continued her unsolicited confidences. 'Do you know, Mr. Le
Breton,' she went on, 'there's a conspiracy--the usual conspiracy,
but still a regular conspiracy I call it--between Papa and Mamma
to make me marry that stick of a Connemara. What is there in him,
I should like to know, to make any girl admire or love him? And
yet half the girls in London would be glad to get him, for all his
absurdity. It's monstrous, it's incomprehensible, it's abominable;
but it's the fact. For my part, I must say I do like a little
originality. And whenever I hear Papa, and Uncle Sussex, and Lord
Connemara talking at dinner, it does seem to me too ridiculously
absurd that they should each have a separate voice in Parliament,
and that you shouldn't even have a fraction of a vote for a county
member. What sort of superiority has Lord Connemara over you, I
wonder?' And she looked at Ernest again with a searching glance,
to see whether he was to be moved by such a personal and emphatic
way of putting the matter.

Ernest looked back at her curiously in his serious simplicity,
and only answered, 'There are a great many queer inequalities and
absurdities in all our existing political systems, Lady Hilda.'

Hilda smiled to herself--a quiet smile, half of  disappointment,
half of complacent feminine superiority.  What a stupid fellow he
was in some ways, after all! Even that silly Lord Connemara would
have guessed what she was driving at, with only a quarter as much
encouragement.  But Ernest must be too much afraid of the social
barrier clearly; so she began again, this time upon a slightly
different but equally obvious tack.

'Yes, there are; absurd inequalities really, Mr. Le Breton; very
absurd inequalities. You'd get rid of them all, I know. You told me
that about cutting all the landlords'  heads off, I'm sure, though
you said when I spoke about it before Mamma, the night you first
came here, that you didn't mean it. I remember it perfectly well,
because I recollect thinking at the time the idea was so charmingly
and deliciously original.'

'You must be quite mistaken, Lady Hilda,' Ernest answered calmly. 'You
misunderstood my meaning. I said I would get rid of landlords--by
which I meant to say, get rid of them as landlords, not as individuals.
I don't even know that I'd take away the land from them all at once,
you know (though I don't think it's justly theirs); I'd  deprive
them of it tentatively and gradually.'

'Well, I can't see the justice of that, I'm sure,' Hilda answered
carelessly. 'Either the land's ours by right, or it isn't ours. If
it's ours, you ought to leave it to us for ever; and if it isn't
ours, you ought to take it away from us at once, and make it over
to the people to whom it properly belongs. Why on earth should you
keep them a day longer out of their own?'

Ernest laughed heartily at this vehement and uncompromising
sans-culottism. 'You're a vigorous convert, anyhow,'  he said, with
some amusement; 'I see you've profited by my instruction. You've
put the question very plump and straightforward. But in practice it
would be better, no doubt, gradually to educate out the landlords,
rather than to dispossess them at one blow of what they honestly,
though wrongly, imagine to be their own. Let all existing holders
keep the land during their own lifetime and their heirs', and resume
it for the nation after their lives, allowing for the rights of
all children born of marriages between people now living.'

'Not at all,' Hilda answered in a tone of supreme conviction.  'I'm
in favour of simply cutting our heads off once for all, and making
our families pay all arrears of rent from the very beginning.
That or nothing. Put the case another way. Suppose, Mr. Le Breton,
there was somebody who had got a grant from a king a long time ago,
allowing him to hang any three persons he chose annually. Well,
suppose this person and his descendants went on for a great many
generations extorting money out of other people by threatening  to
kill them and letting them off on payment of a ransom.  Suppose,
too, they always killed three a year, some time or other, pour
encourager les autres--just to show that they really meant it.
Well, then, if one day the people grew wise enough to inquire into
the right of these licensed  extortioners to their black mail, would
you say, "Don't deprive them of it too unexpectedly. Let them keep
it during their own lifetime. Let their children hang three of us
annually after them. But let us get rid of this fine old national
custom in the third generation." Would that be fair to the people
who would be hanged for the sake of old prescription in the interval,
do you think?'

Ernest laughed again at the serious sincerity with which ehe
was ready to acquiesce in his economical heresies.  'You're quite
right,' he said: 'the land is the people's, and there's no reason
on earth why they should starve a minute longer in order to let
Lord Connemara pay three thousand guineas for spurious copies of
early Italian manuscripts.  And yet it would be difficult to get
most people to see it. I fancy, Lady Hilda, you must really be
rather cleverer than most people.'

'I score one,' thought Hilda to herself, 'and whatever happens,
whether I marry a peer or a revolutionist, I certainly won't marry
a fool.' 'I'm glad you think so,' she went on aloud, 'because I
know your opinion's worth having. I should like to be clever, Mr.
Le Breton, and I should like to know all about everything, but
what chance has one at Dunbude? Do you know, till you came here, I
never got any sensible  conversation with anybody.' And she sighed
gently as she put her head on one side to take a good view of her
sketchy little picture. Lady Hilda's profile was certainly very
handsome, and she showed it to excellent advantage when she put her
head on one side. Ernest looked at her and thought so to himself;
and Lady Hilda's quick eye, glancing sideways for a second from
the paper, noted immediately that he thought so.

'Mr. Le Breton,' she began again, more confidentially than ever,
'one thing I've quite made up my mind to; I won't be tied for life
to a stick like Lord Connemara. In fact, I won't marry a man in
that position at all. I shall choose for myself, and marry a man
for the worth that's in him, I assure you it's a positive fact, I've
been proposed to by no fewer than six assorted Algies and Berties
and Monties in a single season; besides which some of them follow
me even down here to Dunbude. Papa and mamma are dreadfully  angry
because I won't have any of them: but I won't.  I mean to wait, and
marry whoever I choose, as soon as I find a man I can really love
and honour.'

She paused and looked hard at Ernest. 'I can't speak much plainer
than that,' she thought to herself, 'and really he must be stupider
than the Algies and the Monties  themselves if he doesn't see I want
him to propose to me. I suppose all women would say it's awfully
unwomanly of me to lead up to his cards in this way--throwing myself
at his head they'd call it; but what does that matter? I WON'T
marry a fool, and I WILL marry a man of some originality.  That's
the only thing in the world worth troubling one's head about. Why
on earth doesn't he take my hand, I wonder? What further can he
be waiting for?' Lady Hilda was perfectly accustomed to the usual
preliminaries of a  declaration, and only awaited Ernest's first
step to proceed in due order to the second. Strange to say, her
heart was actually beating a little by anticipation. It never even
occurred to her--the belle of three seasons--that possibly Ernest
mightn't wish to marry her. So she sat looking pensively at her
picture, and sighed again quietly.

But Ernest, wholly unsuspicious, only answered, 'You will do quite
right, Lady Hilda, to marry the man of your own choice, irrespective
of wealth or station.'

Hilda glanced up at him curiously, with a half-disdainful smile,
and was just on the point of saying, 'But suppose the man of my
own choice won't propose to me?' However, as the words rose to her
lips, she felt there was a point at which even she should yield
to convention: and there were plenty of opportunities still before
her, without displaying her whole hand too boldly and immediately.
So she merely turned with another sigh, this time a genuine one, to
her half-sketched outline. 'I shall bring him round in time,' she
said to herself, blushing a little at her unexpected  discomfiture.
'I shall bring him round in time; I shall make him propose to me!
I don't care if I have to live in a lodging with him, and wash up
my own tea-things; I shall marry him; that I'm resolved upon. He's
as mad as a March hare about his Communism and his theories and
things; but I don't care for that; I could live with him in comfort,
and I couldn't live in comfort with the Algies and Monties. In fact,
I believe--in a sort of way--I believe I'm almost in love with him.
I have a kind of jumpy feeling in my heart when I'm talking with
him that I never feel when I'm talking with other young men, even
the nicest of them.  He's not nice; he's a bear; and yet, somehow,
I should like to marry him.'

'Mr. Le Breton,' she said aloud, 'the sun's all wrong for sketching
to-day, and besides it's too chilly. I must run about a bit among
the rocks.' ('At least I shall take his hand to help me,' she
thought, blushing.) 'Come and walk with me? It's no use trying to
draw with one's hands freezing.'  And she crumpled up the unfinished
sketch hastily between her fingers. Ernest jumped up to follow her;
and they spent the next hour scrambling up and down the Clatter,
and talking on less dangerous subjects than Lady Hilda's matrimonial
aspirations.

'Still I shall make him ask me yet,' Lady Hilda thought to herself,
as she parted from him to go up and dress for dinner. 'I shall
manage to marry him, somehow; or if I don't marry him, at any rate
I'll marry somebody like him.' For it was really the principle,
not the person, that Lady Hilda specially insisted upon.



CHAPTER X.

THE DAUGHTERS OF CANAAN.


May, beautiful May, had brought the golden flowers, and the trees
in the valley behind the sleepy old town of Calcombe Pomeroy were
decking themselves in the first wan green of their early spring
foliage. The ragged robins were hanging out, pinky red, from the
hedgerows; the cuckoo was calling from the copse beside the mill
stream; and the merry wee hedge-warblers were singing lustily from
the topmost sprays of hawthorn, with their full throats bursting
tremulously in the broad sunshine. And Ernest Le Breton, too,
filled with the season, had come down from Dunbude for a fortnight's
holiday, on his premised visit to his friend Oswald, or, to say
the truth more plainly, to Oswald's pretty little sister Edie.  For
Ernest had fully made up his mind by this time what it was he had
come for, and he took the earliest possible  opportunity of taking
a walk with Edie alone, through the tiny glen behind the town, where
the wee stream tumbles lazily upon the big slow-turning vanes of
the overshot mill-wheel.

'Let us sit down a bit on the bank here, Miss Oswald,' he said to
his airy little companion, as they reached the old stone bridge that
crosses the stream just below the mill-house; 'it's such a lovely
day one feels loath to miss any of it, and the scenery here looks
so bright and cheerful after the endless brown heather and russet
bracken about Dunbude.  Not that Exmoor isn't beautiful in its way,
too--all Devonshire is beautiful alike for that matter; but then
it's more sombre and woody in the north, and much less  spring-like
than this lovely quiet South Devon country.'

'I'm so glad you like Calcombe,' Edie said, with one of her unfailing
blushes at the indirect flattery to herself  implied in praise of
her native county; 'and you think it prettier than Dunbude, then,
do you?'

'Prettier in its own way, yes, though not so grand of course;
everything here is on a smaller scale. Dunbude, you know, is almost
mountainous.'

'And the Castle?' Edie asked, bringing round the conversation  to
her own quarter, 'is that very fine? At all like Warwick, or our
dear old Arlingford?'

'Oh, it isn't a castle at all, really,' Ernest answered; 'only
a very big and ugly house. As architecture it's atrocious, though
it's comfortable enough inside for a place of the sort.'

'And the Exmoors, are they nice people? What kind of girl is Lady
Hilda, now?' Poor little Edie? she asked the question shyly, but
with a certain deep beating in her heart, for she had often canvassed
with herself the vague possibility that Ernest might actually fall
in love with Lady Hilda. Had he fallen in love with her already,
or had he not? She knew she would be able to guess the truth by his
voice and manner the moment he answered her. No man can hide that
secret from a woman who loves him. Yet it was not without a thrill
and a flutter that she asked him, for she thought to herself, what
must she seem to him after all the grand people he had been mixing
with so lately at Dunbude?  Was it possible he could see anything
in her, a little country village girl, coming to her fresh from
the great ladies of that unknown and vaguely terrible society?

'Lady Hilda!' Ernest answered, laughing--and as he said the words
Edie knew in her heart that her question was answered, and blushed
once more in her bewitching fashion.  'Lady Hilda! Oh, she's a
very queer girl, indeed; she's not at all clever, really, but she
has the one virtue of girls of her class--their perfect frankness.
She's frank all over--no  reserve or reticence at all about her.
Whatever she thinks she says, without the slightest idea that you'll
see anything to laugh at or to find fault with in it. In matters
of  knowledge, she's frankly ignorant. In matters of taste, she's
frankly barbaric. In matters of religion, she's frankly heathen. And
in matters of ethics, she's frankly immoral--or rather extra-moral,'
he added, quickly correcting himself for the misleading expression.

'I shouldn't think from your description she can be a very
nice person,' Edie said, greatly relieved, and pulling a few tall
grasses at her side by way of hiding her interest in the subject.
'She can't be a really nice girl if she's extra-moral, as you call
it.'

'Oh, I don't mean she'd cut one's throat or pick one's pocket,
you know,' Ernest went on quickly, with a gentle smile. 'She's got
a due respect for the ordinary conventional moralities like other
people, no doubt; but in her case they're only social prejudices,
not genuine ethical principles.  I don't suppose she ever seriously
asked herself whether  anything was right or wrong or not in her
whole lifetime. In fact, I'm sure she never did; and if anybody
else were to do so, she'd be immensely surprised and delighted at
the startling  originality and novelty of thought displayed in such
a view of the question.'

'But she's very handsome, isn't she?' Edie asked, following  up
her inquiry with due diligence.

'Handsome? oh, yes, in a bold sort of actress fashion.  Very handsome,
but not, to me at least, pleasing. I believe most men admire her a
great deal; but she lacks a feminine touch dreadfully. She dashes
away through everything as if she was hunting; and she DOES hunt
too, which I think bad enough in anybody, and horrible in a woman.'

'Then you haven't fallen in love with her, Mr. Le Breton? I half
imagined you would, you know, as I'm told she's so very attractive.'

'Fallen in love with HER, Miss Oswald! Fallen in love with Hilda
Tregellis! What an absurd notion! Heaven forbid it!'

'Why so, please?'

'Why, in the first place, what would be the use of it?  Fancy Lady
Exmoor's horror at the bare idea of her son's tutor falling in love
with Lady Hilda! I assure you, Miss Oswald, she would evaporate at
the very mention of such an unheard-of enormity. A man must be, if
not an earl, at least a baronet with five thousand a year, before
he dare face the inexpressible indignation of Lady Exmoor with an
offer of marriage for Lady Hilda.'

'But people don't always fall in love by tables of precedence,'
Edie put in simply. 'It's quite possible, I suppose, for a man
who isn't a duke himself to fall in love with a duke's daughter,
even though the duke her papa mayn't personally happen to approve
of the match. However, you don't seem to think Lady Hilda herself
a pleasant girl, even apart from the question of Lady Exmoor's
requirements?'

'Miss Oswald,' Ernest said, looking at her suddenly, as she sat
half hiding her face with her parasol, and twitching more violently
than ever at the tall grasses; 'Miss Oswald, to tell you the truth,
I haven't been thinking much about Hilda Tregellis or any of the
other girls I've met at Dunbude, and for a very sufficient reason,
because I've had my mind too much preoccupied by somebody else
elsewhere.'

Edie blushed even more prettily than before, and held her peace,
half raising her eyes for a second in an enquiring glance at his,
and then dropping them hastily as they met, in modest trepidation.
At that moment Ernest had never seen anything so beautiful or so
engaging as Edie Oswald.

'Edie,' he said, beginning again more boldly, and taking her little
gloved hand almost unresistingly in his; 'Edie, you know my secret.
I love you. Can you love me?'

Edie looked up at him shyly, the tears glistening and trembling a
little in the corner of her big bright eyes, and for a moment she
answered nothing. Then she drew away her hand hastily and said with
a sigh, 'Mr. Le Breton, we oughtn't to be talking so. We mustn't.
Don't let us. Take me home, please, at once, and don't say anything
more about it.' But her heart beat within her bosom with a violence
that was not all unpleasing, and her looks half belied her words
to Ernest's keen glance even as she spoke them.

'Why not, Edie?' he said, drawing her down again gently by her
little hand as she tried to rise hesitatingly.  'Why not? tell me.
I've looked into your face, and though I can hardly dare to hope
it or believe it, I do believe I read in it that you really might
love me.'

'Oh, Mr. Le Breton,' Edie answered, a tear now quivering  visibly
on either eyelash, 'don't ask me, please don't ask me. I wish you
wouldn't. Take me home, won't you?'

Ernest dropped her hand quietly, with a little show of despondency
that was hardly quite genuine, for his eyes had already told him
better. 'Then you can't love me, Miss Oswald,' he said, looking at
her closely. 'I'm sorry for it, very sorry for it; but I'm grieved
if I have seemed presumptuous  in asking you.'

This time the two tears trickled slowly down Edie's cheek--not very
sad tears either--and she answered hurriedly, 'Oh, I don't mean
that, Mr. Le Breton, I don't mean that.  You misunderstand me, I'm
sure you misunderstand me.'

Ernest caught up the trembling little hand again. 'Then you CAN
love me, Edie?' he said eagerly, 'you can love me?'

Edie answered never a word, but bowed her head and cried a little,
silently. Ernest took the dainty wee gloved hand between his own two
hands and pressed it tenderly.  He felt in return a faint pressure.

'Then why won't you let me love you, Edie?' he asked, looking at
the blushing girl once more.

'Oh, Mr. Le Breton,' Edie said, rising and moving away from
the path a little under the shade of the big elm-tree, 'it's very
wrong of me to let you talk so. I mustn't think of marrying you,
and you mustn't think of marrying me.  Consider the difference in
our positions.'

'Is that all?' Ernest answered gaily. 'Oh, Edie, if that's all,
it isn't a very difficult matter to settle. My position's exactly
nothing, for I've got no money and no prospects; and if I ask you
to marry me, it must be in the most strictly speculative fashion,
with no date and no certainty. The only question is, will you
consent to wait for me till I'm able to offer you a home to live
in? It's asking you a great deal, I know; and you've made me only
too happy and too grateful already; but if you'll wait for me till
we can marry, I shall live all my life through to repay you for
your sacrifice.'

'But, Mr. Le Breton,' Edie said, turning towards the path and
drying her eyes quickly, 'I really don't think you ought to marry
me. The difference in station is so great--even Harry would allow
the difference in station. Your father was a great man, and a general
and a knight, you know; and though my dear father is the best and
kindest of men, he isn't anything of that sort, of course.'

A slight shade of pain passed across Ernest's face. 'Edie,' he said,
'please don't talk about that--please don't. My father was a just
and good man, whom I loved and honoured deeply; if there's anything
good in any of us boys, it comes to us from my dear father. But
please don't speak to me about his profession. It's one of the
griefs and troubles of my life. He was a soldier, and an Indian
soldier too; and if there's anything more certain to me than the
principle that all fighting is very wrong and indefensible, it's
the principle that our rule in India is utterly unjust and wicked.
So instead of being proud of my father's profession, much as
I respected him, I'm profoundly ashamed of it; and it has been a
great question to me always how far I was justified at all in living
upon the pension given me for his Indian services.'

Edie looked at him half surprised and half puzzled. It was to her
such an odd and unexpected point of view. But she felt instinctively
that Ernest really and deeply meant what he said, and she knew she
must not allude to the subject again. 'I beg your pardon,' she said
simply, 'if I've put it wrong; yet you know I can't help feeling
the great disparity in our two situations.'

'Edie,' said Ernest, looking at her again with all his eyes--'I'm
going to call you "Edie" always now, so that's understood between
us. Well, I shall tell you exactly how I feel about this matter.
From the first moment I saw you I felt drawn towards you, I felt that
I couldn't help admiring you and sympathising with you and loving
you. If I dared I would have spoken to you that day at Iffley; but
I said to myself "She will not care for me; and besides, it would
be wrong of me to ask her just yet." I had nothing to live upon,
and I oughtn't to ask you to wait for me--you who are so pretty,
and sweet and good, and clever--I ought to leave you free to your
natural prospect of marrying some better man, who would make you
happier than I can ever hope to do. So I tried to put the impulse
aside; I waited, saying to myself that if you really cared for me
a little bit, you would still care for me when I came to Calcombe
Pomeroy.  But then my natural selfishness overcame me--you
can forgive me for it, Edie; how could I help it when I had once
seen you? I began to be afraid some other man would be beforehand
with you; and I liked you so much I couldn't bear to think of the
chance that you might be taken away from me before I asked you.
All day long, as I've been walking alone on those high grey moors
at Dunbude, I've been thinking of you; and at last I made up my
mind that I MUST come and ask you to be my wife--some time--whenever
we could afford to marry. I know I'm asking you to make a great
sacrifice for me; it's more than I have any right to ask you; I'm
ashamed of myself for asking it; I can only make you a poor man's
wife, and how long I may have to wait even for that I can't say;
but if you'll only consent to wait for me, Edie, I'll do the best
that lies in me to make you as happy and to love you as well as
any man on earth could ever do.'

Edie turned her face towards his, and said softly, 'Mr.  Le Breton,
I will wait for you as long as ever you wish; and I'm so happy, oh
so happy.'

There was a pause for a few moments, and then, as they walked
homeward down the green glen, Edie said, with something more of
her usual archness, 'So after all you haven't fallen in love with
Lady Hilda! Do you know, Mr. Le Breton, I rather fancied at Oxford
you liked me just a little tiny bit; but when I heard you were
going to Dunbude I said to myself, "Ah, now he'll never care for a
quiet country girl like me!" And when I knew you were coming down
here to Calcombe, straight from all those grand ladies at Dunbude,
I felt sure you'd be disenchanted as soon as you saw me, and never
think anything more about me.'

'Then you liked me, Edie?' Ernest asked eagerly.  'You wanted me
really to come to Calcombe to see you?'

'Of course I did, Mr. Le Breton. I've liked you from the first
moment I saw you.'

'I'm so glad,' Ernest went on quickly. 'I believe all real love
is love at first sight. I wouldn't care myself to be loved in any
other way. And you thought I might fall in love with Lady Hilda?'

'Well, you know, she is sure to be so handsome, and so accomplished,
and to have had so many advantages that I have never had. I was
afraid I should seem so very simple to you after Lady Hilda.'

'Oh, Edie!' cried Ernest, stopping a moment, and gazing at the
little light airy figure. 'I only wish you could know the difference.
Coming from Dunbude to Calcombe is like coming from darkness into
light. Up there one meets with nobody but essentially vulgar-minded
selfish people--people whose whole life is passed in thinking and
talking about nothing but dogs, and horses, and partridges, and
salmon; racing, and hunting, and billiards, and wines; amusements,
amusements, amusements, all of them coarse and most of them cruel,
all day long. Their talk is just like the talk of grooms and
gamekeepers in a public-house parlour, only a little improved by
better English and more money. Will So-and-so win the Derby? What
a splendid run we had with the West Somerset on Wednesday! Were
you in at the death of that big fox at Coulson's Corner? Ought the
new vintages of Madeira to be bottled direct or sent round the Cape
like the old ones? Capital burlesque at the Gaiety, but very slow
at the Lyceum. Who will go to the Duchess of Dorsetshire's dance
on the twentieth:--and so forth for ever. Their own petty round
of selfish pleasures from week's end to week's end--no thought of
anybody else, no thought of the world at large, no thought even
of any higher interest in their own personalities. Their politics
are just a selfish calculation of their own prospects--land, Church,
capital, privilege. Their religion (when they have any) is just
a selfish regard for their own personal future welfare. From the
time I went to Dunbude to this day, I've never heard a single word
about any higher thought of any sort--I don't mean only about the
troubles or the aspirations of other people, but even about books,
about science, about art, about natural beauty. They live in a world
of amusing oneself and of amusing oneself in vulgar fashions--as a
born clown would do if he came suddenly into a large fortune. The
women are just as bad as the men, only in a different way--not
always even that; for most of them think only of the Four-in-hand
Club and the pigeon-shooting at Hurlingham--things to sicken one.
Now, I've known selfish people before, but not selfish people
utterly without any tincture of culture. I come away from Dunbude,
and come down here to Calcombe: and the difference in the atmosphere
makes one's very breath come and go freer. And I look at you, Edie,
and think of you beside Lady Hilda Tregellis, and I laugh in my
heart at the difference that artificial rules have made between
you.  I wish you knew how immeasurably her superior you are in
every way. The fact is, it's a comfort to escape from Dunbude for
a while and get down here to feel oneself once more, in the only
true sense of the word, in a little good society.'

While these things were happening in the Bourne Close, palsied old
Miss Luttrell, mumbling and grumbling inarticulately  to herself,
was slowly tottering down the steep High Street of Calcombe Pomeroy,
on her way to the village grocer's. She shambled in tremulously
to Mrs. Oswald's counter, and seating herself on a high stool, as
was her wont, laid herself out distinctly for a list of purchases
and a good deliberate ill-natured gossip.

'Two pounds of coffee, if you please, Mrs. Oswald,' she began with
a quaver; 'coffee, mind, I say, not chicory; your stuff always has
the smallest possible amount of flavour in it, it seems to me, for
the largest possible amount of quantity; all chicory, all chicory--no
decent coffee to be had now in Calcombe Pomeroy. So your son's at
home this week, is he? Out of work, I suppose? I saw him lounging
about on the beach, idling away his time, yesterday; pity he wasn't
at some decent trade, instead of hanging about and doing nothing,
as if he was a gentleman. Five pounds of lump sugar, too; good lump
sugar, though I expect I shall get nothing but beetroot; it's all
beetroot now, my brother tells me; they've ruined the West Indies
with their emancipation  fads and their differential duties and
the Lord knows what--we had estates in the West Indies ourselves,
all given up to our negroes nowadays--and now I believe they have
to pay the French a bounty or something of the sort to induce
them to make sugar out of beetroot, because the negroes won't work
without whipping, so I understand; that's what comes in the end of
your Radical fal-lal notions. Well, five pounds of lump, and five
pounds of moist, though the one's as bad as the other, really. A
great pity about your son. I hope he'll get a place again soon. It
must be a trial to you to have him so idle!'

'Well, no, ma'am, it's not,' Mrs. Oswald answered, with such
self-restraint as she could command. 'It's not much of a trial to
his father and me, for we're glad to let him have a little rest
after working so hard at Oxford. He works too hard, ma'am, but he
gets compensation for it, don't 'ee see, Miss Luttrell, for he's
just been made a Fellow of the Royal Society--"for his mathematical
eminence," the "Times" says--a Fellow of the Royal Society.'

Even this staggering blow did not completely crush old Miss Luttrell.
'Fellow of the Royal Society,' she muttered feebly through her
remaining teeth. 'Must be some mistake somewhere, Mrs. Oswald--quite
impossible. A very meritorious  young man, your son, doubtless;
but a National schoolmaster's hardly likely to be made a Fellow of
the Royal Society. Oh, I remember you told me he's not a National
schoolmaster, but has something to do at one of the Oxford colleges.
Yes, yes; I see what it is--Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
You subscribe a guinea, and get made a Fellow by subscription,
just for the sake of writing F.R.G.S. after your name; it gives a
young man a look of importance.'

'No, Miss Luttrell, it isn't that; it's THE Royal Society; and if
you'll wait a moment, ma'am, I'll fetch you the  president's letter,
and the diploma, to let you see it.'

'Oh, no occasion to trouble yourself, Mrs. Oswald!' the old lady put
in, almost with alacrity, for she had herself seen the announcement
of Harry Oswald's election in the 'Times' a few days before. 'No
occasion to trouble yourself, I'm sure; I daresay you may be right,
and at any rate it's no business of mine, thank heaven. I never
want to poke my nose into anybody else's business. Well, talking
of Oxford, Mrs. Oswald, there's a very nice young man down here
at present; I wonder if you know where he's lodging? I want to ask
him to dinner. He's a young Mr. Le Breton--one of the Cheshire Le
Bretons, you know. His father was Sir Owen Le Breton, a general in
the Indian army--brother officer of Major Standish Luttrell's and
very nice people in every way. Lady Le Breton's a great friend of
the Archdeacon's,  so I should like to show her son some little
attention.  He's had a very distinguished career at Oxford--your
boy may have heard his name, perhaps--and now he's acting as tutor
to Lord Lynmouth, the eldest son of Lord Exmoor, you know; Lady
Exmoor was a second cousin of my brother's wife; very nice people,
all of them. The Le Bretons are a really good family, you see; and
the Archdeacon's exceedingly fond of them. So I thought if you could
tell me where this young man is lodging--you shop-people pick up
all the gossip in the place, always--I'd ask him to dinner to meet
the Rector and Colonel Turnbull and my nephew, who would probably
be able to offer him a little shooting.'

'There's no partridges about in May, Miss Luttrell,' said Mrs.
Oswald, quietly smiling to herself at the fancy picture of Ernest
seated in congenial converse with the Rector, Colonel Turnbull,
and young Luttrell; 'but as to Mr. Le Breton, I DO happen to know
where he's stopping, though it's not often that I know any Calcombe
gossip, save and except what you're good enough to tell me when you
drop in, ma'am; for Mr. Le Breton's stopping here, in this house,
with us, ma'am, this very minute.'

'In this house, Mrs. Oswald!' the old lady cried with a start,
wagging her unsteady old head this time in genuine surprise; 'why,
I didn't know you let lodgings. I thought you and your daughter
were too much of fine ladies for THAT, really. I'm glad to hear
it. I'll leave a note for him.'

'No, Miss Luttrell, we don't let lodgings, ma'am, and we don't need
to,' Mrs. Oswald answered, proudly. 'Mr. Le Breton's stopping here
as my son's guest. They were friends at Oxford together: and now
that Mr. Le Breton has got his holiday, like, Harry's asked him
down to spend a fortnight  at Calcombe Pomeroy. And if you'll leave
a note I'll be very happy to give it to him as soon as he comes
in, for he's out walking now with Harry and Edith.'

Old Miss Luttrell sat for half a minute in unwonted silence,
revolving in her poor puzzled head what line of tactics she ought
to adopt under such a very singular and annoying  combination of
circumstances. Stopping at the village grocer's!--this was really
too atrocious! The Le Bretons were all as mad as hatters, that she
knew well; all except the mother, who was a sensible person, and
quite rational.  But old Sir Owen was a man with the most absurd
religious fancies--took an interest in the souls of the soldiers;
quite right and proper, of course, in a chaplain, but really too
ridiculous in a regular field officer. No doubt Ernest Le Breton
had taken up some equally extraordinary notions--liberty, equality,
fraternity, and a general massacre,  probably; and he had picked up
Harry Oswald as a suitable companion in his revolutionary schemes
and fancies. There was no knowing what stone wall one of those
mad Le Bretons might choose to run his head against. Still, the
practical difficulty remained--how could she extricate herself from
this awkward dilemma in such a way as to cover herself with glory,
and inflict another bitter humiliation on poor Mrs. Oswald? If only
she had known sooner that Ernest was stopping at the Oswalds, she
wouldn't have been so loud in praise of the Le Breton family; she
would in that case have dexterously insinuated that Lady Le Breton
was only a half-pay officer's widow, living on her pension; and
that her boys had got promotion at Oxford as poor scholars, through
the Archdeacon's benevolent influence. It was too late now, however,
to adopt that line of defence; and she fell back accordingly upon
the secondary position afforded her by the chance of taking down
Mrs. Oswald's intolerable insolence in another fashion.

'Oh, he's out walking with your daughter, is he?' she said, maliciously.
'Out walking with your daughter, Mrs.  Oswald, NOT with your son.
I saw her passing down the meadows half an hour ago with a strange
young man; and her brother stopped behind near the millpond. A
strange young man; yes, I noticed particularly that he looked like
a gentleman, and I was quite surprised that you should let her walk
out with him in that extraordinary manner.  Depend upon it, Mrs.
Oswald, when young gentlemen in Mr. Le Breton's position go out
walking with young women in your daughter's position, they mean no
good by it--they mean no good by it. Take my advice, Mrs. Oswald,
and don't permit it. Mr. Le Breton's a very nice young man, and well
brought up no doubt--I know his mother's a woman of principle--still,
young men will be young men; and if your son goes bringing down
his fine Oxford acquaintances to Calcombe Pomeroy, and you and your
husband go flinging Miss Jemima--her name's Jemima, I think--at
the young men's heads, why, then, of course, you must take
the consequences--you must take the consequences!'  And with this
telling Parthian shot discharged carefully from the shadow of the
doorway, accompanied by a running comment of shrugs, nods, and
facial distortions, old Miss Luttrell successfully shuffled herself
out of the shop, her list unfinished, leaving poor Mrs. Oswald
alone and absolutely speechless with indignation. Ernest Le Breton
never got a note of invitation from the Squire's sister: but before
nightfall all that was visitable in Calcombe Pomeroy had heard at
full length of the horrid conspiracy by which those pushing upstart
Oswalds had inveigled a son of poor Lady Le Breton's down to stop
with them, and were now trying to ruin his prospects by getting
him to marry their brazen-faced hussey, Jemima Edith.

When Edie returned from her walk that afternoon, Mrs.  Oswald went
up into her bedroom to see her daughter. She knew at once from
Edie's radiant blushing face and moist eyes what had taken place,
and she kissed the pretty shrinking  girl tenderly on her forehead.
'Edie darling, I hope you will be happy,' she whispered significantly.

'Then you guess it all, mother dear?' asked Edie, relieved that
she need not tell her story in set words.

'Yes, darling,' said the mother, kissing her again. 'And you said
"yes."'

Edie coloured once more. 'I said "yes," mother, for I love him
dearly.'

'He's a dear fellow,' the mother answered gently; 'and I'm sure
he'll do his best to make you happy.'

Later on in the day, Harry came up and knocked at Edie's door. His
mother had told him all about it, and so had Ernest. 'Popsy,' he
said, kissing her also, 'I  congratulate you. I'm so glad about
it. Le Breton's the best fellow I know, and I couldn't wish you a
better or a kinder husband. You'll have to wait for him, but he's
worth waiting for. He's a good fellow and a clever fellow, and an
affectionate fellow; and his family are everything that could be
desired. It'll be a splendid thing for you to be able to talk in
future about "my mother-in law, Lady Le Breton." Depend upon it,
Edie dear, that always counts for something in society.'

Edie blushed again, but this time with a certain tinge of shame
and disappointment. She had never thought of that herself, and she
was hurt that Harry should think and speak of it at such a moment.
She felt with a sigh it was unworthy  of him and unworthy of the
occasion. Truly the iron of Pi and its evaluations had entered
deeply into his soul!



CHAPTER XI.

CULTURE AND CULTURE.


'I wonder, Berkeley,' said Herbert Le Breton, examining a coin
curiously, 'what on earth can ever have induced you, with your
ideas and feelings, to become a parson!'

'My dear Le Breton, your taste, like good wine, improves with
age,' answered Berkeley, coldly. 'There are many reasons, any one
of which may easily induce a sensible man to go into the Church.
For example, he may feel a  disinterested desire to minister to
the souls of his poorer neighbours; or he may be first cousin to a
bishop; or he may be attracted by an ancient and honourable national
institution; or he may possess a marked inclination for albs and
chasubles; or he may reflect upon the distinct social advantages
of a good living; or he may have nothing else in particular to do;
or he may simply desire to rouse the impertinent curiosity of all
the indolent quidnuncs of his acquaintance, without the remotest
intention of ever gratifying their underbred Paul Pry proclivities.'

Herbert Le Breton winced a little--he felt he had fairly laid himself
open to this unmitigated rebuff--but he did not retire immediately
from his untenable position. 'I suppose,' he said quietly, 'there
are still people who really do take a practical interest in other
people's souls--my brother Ronald does for one--but the idea
is positively too ridiculous.  Whenever I read any argument upon
immortality it always seems to me remarkably cogent, if the souls
in question were your soul and my soul; but just consider the
transparent absurdity of supposing that every Hodge Chawbacon, and
every rheumatic  old Betty Martin, has got a soul, too, that must
go on enduring for all eternity! The notion's absolutely ludicrous.
What an infinite monotony of existence for the poor old creatures
to endure for ever--being bored by their own inane personalities
for a million aeons! It's simply appalling to think of!'

But Berkeley wasn't going to be drawn into a theological discussion--that
was a field which he always sedulously and successfully avoided.
'The immortality of the soul,' he said quietly, 'is a Platonic dogma
too frequently confounded, even by moderately instructed persons
like yourself, Le Breton, with the Church's very different doctrine
of the resurrection of the body. Upon this latter subject, my dear
fellow, about which you don't seem to be quite clear or perfectly
sound in your views, you'll find some excellent  remarks in Bishop
Pearson on the Creed--a valuable work which I had the pleasure of
studying intimately for my ordination examination.'

'Really, Berkeley, you're the most incomprehensible and mysterious
person I ever met in my whole lifetime!' said Herbert, dryly. 'I
believe you take a positive delight in deceiving and mystifying
one. Do you seriously mean to tell me you feel any interest at the
present time of day in books written by bishops?'

'A modern bishop,' Berkeley answered calmly, 'is an unpicturesque
but otherwise estimable member of a very distinguished ecclesiastical
order, who ought not lightly to be brought into ridicule by lewd
or lay persons. On that ground, I have always been in favour myself
of gradually reforming his hat, his apron, and even his gaiters,
which doubtless serve to render him at least conspicuous if not
positively absurd in the irreverent eyes of a ribald generation.
But as to criticising his literary or theological productions, my
dear fellow, that would be conduct eminently unbecoming in a simple
curate, and savouring of insubordination even in the person of an
elderly archdeacon. I decline, therefore, to discuss the subject,
especially with a layman on whose orthodoxy I have painful
doubts.--Where's Oswald? Is he up yet?'

'No; he's down in Devonshire, my brother Ernest writes me.'

'What, at Dunbude? What's Oswald doing there?'

'Oh dear no; not at Dunbude: the peerage hasn't yet adopted him--at
a place called Calcombe Pomeroy, where it seems he lives. Ernest
has gone down there from Exmoor for a fortnight's holiday. You
remember, Oswald has a pretty sister--I met her here in your rooms
last October, in fact--and I apprehend she may possibly form a
measurable portion of the local attractions. A pretty face goes a
long way with some people.'

Berkeley drew a deep breath, and looked uneasily out of the window.
This was dangerous news, indeed! What, little Miss Butterfly, has
the boy with the gauze net caught sight of you already? Will he
trap you and imprison you so soon in his little gilded matrimonial
cage, enticing you thereinto with soft words and, sugared compliments
to suit your dainty, delicate palate? and must I, who have meant to
chase you for the chief ornament of my own small cabinet, be only
in time to see you pinioned and cabined in your white lace veils
and other pretty disguised entanglements, for his special and
particular delectation? This must be looked into, Miss Butterfly;
this must be prevented. Off to Calcombe Pomeroy, then, or other
parts unknown, this very next to-morrow; and let us fight out the
possession of little Miss Butterfly with our two gauze nets in
opposition--mine tricked as prettily as I can trick it with tags
and ends of art-allurements and hummed to in a delicate tune--before
this interloping anticipating Le Breton has had time to secure you
absolutely for himself. Too austere for you, little Miss Butterfly;
good in his way, and kindly meaning, but too austere. Better come
and sun yourself in the modest wee palace of art that I mean to
build myself some day in some green, sunny, sloping valley, where
your flittings will not be rudely disturbed by breath of poverty,
nor your pretty feathery wings ruthlessly  clipped with a pair
of doctrinaire, ethico-socialistic scissors. To Calcombe, then,
to Calcombe--and not a day's delay before I get there. So much of
thought, in his own quaint indefinite fashion, flitted like lightning
through Arthur Berkeley's perturbed mind, as he stood gazing
wistfully for one second out of his pretty latticed creeper-clad
window.  Then he remembered himself quickly with a short little
sigh, and turned to answer Herbert Le Breton's last half-sneering
innuendo.

'Something more than a pretty face merely,' he said, surveying
Herbert coldly from head to foot; 'a heart too, and a mind, for
all her flitting, not wholly unfurnished with good, sensible, solid
mahogany English furniture. You may be sure Harry Oswald's sister
isn't likely to be wanting in wits, at any rate.'

'Oswald's a curious fellow,' Herbert went on, changing the venue,
as he always did when he saw Berkeley was really in earnest; 'he's
very clever, certainly, but he can never outlive his bourgeois
origin. The smell of tea sticks about him somehow to the end of
the chapter. Don't you know, Berkeley, there are some fellows whose
clothes seem to have been born with them, they fit so perfectly
and impede their movement so little; while there are other fellows
whose clothes look at once as if they'd been made for them by a
highly respectable but imperfectly successful tailor.  That's just
what I always think about Harry Oswald in the matter of culture.
He's got a great deal of culture, the very best culture, from the
very best shop--Oxford, in fact--dressed himself up in the finest
suit of clothes from the most fashionable mental tailor; but it
doesn't seem to fit him naturally. He moves about in it uneasily,
like a man unaccustomed to be clothed by a good workman. He looks
in his mental upholstery like a greengrocer in evening dress.  Now
there's all the difference in the world between that sort of put-on
culture and culture in the grain, isn't there? You may train up a
grocer's son to read Dante, and to play Mendelssohn's Lieder, and
to admire Fra Angelico; but you can't train him up to wear these
things lightly and gracefully upon him as you and I do, who come
by them naturally.  WE are born to the sphere; HE rises to it.'

'You think so, Le Breton?' asked the curate with a quiet and
suppressed smile, as he thought silently of the placid old shoemaker.

'Think so! my dear fellow, I'm sure of it. I can spot a man of
birth from a man of mere exterior polish any day, anywhere. Talk
as much nonsense as you like about all men being born free and
equal--they're not. They're born with natural inequalities in their
very nerve and muscle.  When I was an undergraduate, I startled
one of the tutors of that time by beginning my English essay once,
"All men are by nature born free and unequal." I stick to it still;
it's the truth. They say it takes three generations to make a
gentleman; nonsense utterly; it takes at least a dozen. You can't
work out the common fibre in such a ridiculous hurry.  That results
as a simple piece of deductive reasoning from all modern theories
of heredity and variation.'

'I agree with you in part, Le Breton,' the parson said, eyeing him
closely; 'in part but not altogether. What you say about Oswald's
very largely true. His culture sits upon him like a suit made to
order, not like a skin in which he was born. But don't you think
that's due more to the individual man than to the class he happens
to belong to? It seems to me there are other men who come from the
same class as Oswald, or even from lower classes, but whose culture
is just as much ingrained as, say, my dear fellow, yours is. They
were born, no doubt, of naturally cultivated parents. And that's how
your rule about the dozen generations that go to make a gentleman
comes really true. I believe myself it takes a good many generations;
but then none of them need have been gentlemen, in the ordinary sense
of the word, before him. A gentleman, if I'm to use the expression
as implying the good qualities conventionally supposed to be associated
with it, a gentleman may be the final outcome and efflorescence of
many past generations of quiet, unobtrusive, working-man culture--don't
you think so?'

Herbert Le Breton smiled incredulously. 'I don't know that I do,
quite,' he answered languidly. 'I confess I attach more importance
than you do to the mere question of race and family. A thoroughbred
differs from a cart-horse, and a greyhound from a vulgar mongrel,
in mind and character  as well as in body. Oswald seems to me in
all essentials a bourgeois at heart even now.'

'But remember,' Berkeley said, rather warmly for him, 'the bourgeois
class in England is just the class which must necessarily find
it hardest to throw off the ingrained traces of its early origin.
It has intermarried for a long time--long enough to have produced
a distinct racial type like those you speak of among dogs and
horses--the Philistine type, in fact--and when it tries to emerge,
it must necessarily fight hard against the innate Philistinism of
which it is conscious in its own constitution. No class has had
its inequality with others, its natural inferiority, so constantly
and cruelly thrust in its face; certainly the working-man has not.
The working-man who makes efforts to improve himself is encouraged;
the working-man who rises is taken by the hand; the working-man,
whatever he does, is never sneered at. But it's very different with
the shopkeeper. Naturally a little prone to servility--that comes
from the very necessities of the situation--and laudably anxious
to attain the level of those he considers his superiors, he gets
laughed at on every hand. Being the next class below society,
society is always engaged in trying to keep him out and keep him
down. On the other hand, he naturally forms his ideal of what is
fine and worth imitating from the example of the class above him;
and therefore, considering what that class is, he has unworthy aims
and snobbish desires. Either in his own person, or in the persons
of his near relations, the wholesale merchant and the manufacturer--all
bourgeois alike--he supplies the mass of nouveaux riches who are
the pet laughing-stock of all our playwrights, and novelists, and
comic papers. So the bourgeois who really knows he has something
in him, like Harry Oswald, feels from the beginning  painfully
conscious of the instability of his position, and of the fact that
men like you are cutting jokes behind his back about the smell of
tea that still clings to him. That's a horrible drag to hold a man
back--the sense that he must always be criticised as one of his
own class--and that a class with many recognised failings. It makes
him self-conscious, and I believe self-consciousness is really at
the root of that slight social awkwardness you think you notice
in Harry Oswald. A working-man's son need never feel that. I feel
sure there are working-men's sons who go through the world as
gentlemen mixing with gentlemen, and never give the matter of their
birth one moment's serious consideration.  Their position never
troubles them, and it never need trouble them. Put it to yourself,
now, Le Breton. Suppose I were to tell you my father was a working
shoemaker, for example, or a working carpenter, you'd never think
anything more about it; but if I were to tell you he was a grocer,
or a baker, or a confectioner, or an ironmonger, you'd feel a certain
indefinable class barrier set up between us two  immediately and
ever after. Isn't it so, now?'

'Perhaps it is,' Herbert answered dubitatively. 'But as he's
probably neither the one nor the other, the hypothesis isn't worth
seriously discussing. I must go off now; I've got a lecture at
twelve. Good-bye. Don't forget the tickets for Thursday's concert.'

Arthur Berkeley looked after him with a contemptuous smile. 'The
outcome of a race himself,' he thought, 'and not the best side
of that race either. I was half tempted, in the heat of argument,
to blurt out to him the whole truth about the dear gentle old
Progenitor; but I'm glad I didn't now.  After all, it's no use to
cast your pearls before swine. For Herbert's essentially a pig--a
selfish self-centred pig; no doubt a very refined and cultivated
specimen of pigdom--the best breed; but still a most emphatic and
consummate pig for all that. Not the same stuff in him that there is
in Ernest--a fibre or two wanting somewhere. But I mustn't praise
Ernest--a rival! a rival! It's war to the death between us two
now, and no quarter. He's a good fellow, and I like him dearly;
but all's fair in love and war; and I must go down to Calcombe
to-morrow morning and forestall him immediately. Dear little Miss
Butterfly, 'tis for your sake; you shall not be pinched and cramped
to suit the  Procrustean measure of Ernest Le Breton's communistic
fancies.  You shall fly free in the open air, and flash your bright
silken wings, decked out bravely in scales of many hues, not toned
down to too sober and quaker-like a suit of drab and dove-colour.
You were meant by nature for the sunshine and the summer; you
shall not be worried and chilled and killed with doses of heterodox
political economy and  controversial ethics. Better even a country
rectory (though with a bad Late Perpendicular church), and flowers,
and picnics, and lawn-tennis, and village small-talk, and the
squire's dinner-parties, than bread and cheese and virtuous poverty
in a London lodging with Ernest Le Breton. Romance lives again. The
beautiful maiden is about to be devoured by a goggle-eyed monster,
labelled on the back "Experimental Socialism"; the red cross knight
flies to her aid, and drives away the monster by his magic music.
Lance in rest! lyre at side! third class railway ticket in pocket!
A Berkeley to the rescue! and there you have it.' And as he spoke,
he tilted with his pen at an imaginary dragon supposed to be seated
in the crimson rocking-chair by the wainscotted fireplace.

'Yes, I must certainly go down to Calcombe. No use putting it off
any longer. I've arranged to go next summer to London, to keep
house for the dear old Progenitor; the music is getting asked for,
two requests for more this very morning; trade is looking up. I
shall throw the curacy business overboard (what chance for modest
merit that ISN'T first cousin to a Bishop in the Church as at present
constituted?) and take to composing entirely for a livelihood. I
wouldn't ask Miss Butterfly before, because I didn't wish to tie
her pretty wings prematurely; but a rival! that's quite a different
matter. What right has he to go poaching on my preserves, I should
like to know, and trying to catch the little gold fish I want to
entice for my own private and  particular fish-pond! An interloper, to
be turned out  unmercifully. So off to Calcombe, and that quickly.'

He sat down to his desk, and taking out some sheets of blank
music-paper, began writing down the score of a little song at which
he had been working. So he continued till lunch-time, and then,
turning to the table when the scout called him, took his solitary
lunch of bread and butter, with a volume of Petrarch set open
before him as he eat. He was lazily Englishing the soft lines of
the original into such verse as suited his fastidious ear, when the
scout came in suddenly once more, bringing in his hand the mid-day
letters. One of them bore the Calcombe postmark. 'Strange,'
Berkeley said to himself; 'at the very moment when I was thinking
of going there. An invitation perhaps; the age of miracles is not
yet past--don't they see spirits in a conjuror's room in Regent
Street?--from Oswald, too; by Jove, it must be an invitation.'
And he ran his eye down the page rapidly, to see if there was any
mention of little Miss Butterfly. Yes; there was her name on the
second sheet; what could her brother have to say to him about her?

'We have Ernest Le Breton down here now,' Oswald wrote, 'on a
holiday from the Exmoors', and you may be surprised to hear that
I shall probably have him sooner or later for a brother-in-law. He
has proposed to and been accepted by my sister Edith; and though
it is likely, as things stand at present, to be a rather long
engagement (for Le Breton has nothing to marry upon), we are all
very much pleased about it here at Calcombe. He is just the exact
man I should wish my sister to marry; so pleasant and good and
clever, and so very well connected. Felicitate us, my dear Berkeley!'

Arthur Berkeley laid the letter down with a quiet sigh, and folded
his hands despondently before him. He hadn't seen very much of
Edie, yet the disappointment was to him a very bitter one. It had
been a pleasant day-dream, truly, and he was both to part with it
so unexpectedly. 'Poor little Miss Butterfly,' he said to himself,
tenderly and  compassionately; 'poor, airy, flitting, bright-eyed
little Miss Butterfly. I must give you up, must I, and Ernest Le
Breton must take you for better, for worse, must he? La reyne le
veult, it seems, and her word is law. I'm afraid he's hardly the
man to make you happy, little lady; kind-hearted, well-meaning,
but too much in earnest, too much absorbed in his ideas of right
for a world where right's impossible, and every man for himself
is the wretched sordid rule of existence.  He will overshadow and
darken your bright little life, I fear me; not intentionally--he
couldn't do that--but by his Quixotic fads and fancies; good fads,
honest fads, but fads wholly impracticable in this jarring universe
of clashing interests, where he who would swim must keep his own
head steadily above water, and he who minds his neighbour must sink
like lead to the unfathomable bottom. He will sink, I doubt not,
poor little Miss Butterfly; he will sink inevitably, and drag you
down with him, down, down, down to immeasurable depths of poverty
and despair. Oh, my poor little butterfly, I'm sorry for you, and
sorry for myself.  It was a pretty dream, and I loved it dearly.
I had made you a queen in my fancy, and throned you in my heart,
and now I have to dethrone you again, me miserable, and have my
poor lonely heart bare and queenless!'

The piano was open, and he went over to it instinctively, strumming
a few wild bars out of his own head, made up hastily on the spur
of the moment. 'No, not dethrone you,' he went on, leaning back
on the music-stool, and letting his hand wander aimlessly over the
keys; 'not dethrone you; I shall never, never be able to do that.
Little Miss Butterfly, your image is stamped there too deep for
dethronement, stamped there for ever, indelibly, ineffaceably, not
to be washed out by tears or laughter.  Ernest Le Breton may take
you and keep you; you are his; you have chosen him, and you have
chosen in most things not unwisely, for he's a good fellow and
true (let me be generous in the hour of disappointment even to the
rival, the goggle-eyed impracticable dragon monstrosity), but you
are mine, too, for I won't give you up; I can't give you up; I must
live for you still, even if you know it not.  Little woman, I will
work for you and I will watch over you; I will be your earthly
Providence; I will try to  extricate you from the quagmires into
which the well-meaning, short-sighted dragon will infallibly lead
you. Dear little bright soul, my heart aches for you; I know the
trouble you are bringing upon yourself; but la reyne le veult, and
it is not your humble servitor's business to interfere with your
royal pleasure. Still, you are mine, for I am yours; yours, body
and soul; what else have I to live for? The dear old Progenitor
can't be with us many years longer; and when he is gone there will
be nothing left me but to watch over little Miss Butterfly and her
Don Quixote of a future  husband. A man can't work and slave and
compose sonatas for himself alone--the idea's disgusting, piggish,
worthy only of Herbert Le Breton; I must do what I can for the
little queen, and for her balloon-navigating Utopian Ernest.  Thank
heaven, no law prevents you from loving in your own heart the one
woman whom you have once loved, no matter who may chance to marry
her. Go, day-dream, fly, vanish, evaporate; the solid core remains
still--my heart, and little Miss Butterfly. I have loved her once,
and I shall love her, I shall love her for ever!'

He crumpled the letter up in his fingers, and flung it half angrily
into the waste-paper basket, as though it were the embodied day-dream
he was mentally apostrophising. It was sermon-day, and he had to
write his discourse that very afternoon. A quaint idea seized him.
'Aha,' he said, almost gaily, in his volatile irresponsible fashion,
'I have my text ready; the hour brings it to me unsought; a quip,
a quip! I shall preach on the Pool of Bethesda: "While I am coming,
another steppeth down before me." The verse seems as if it were
made on purpose for me; what a pity nobody else will understand
it!' And he smiled quietly at the conceit, as he got the scented
sheets of sermon-paper out of his little sandalwood davenport.
For Arthur Berkeley was one of those curiously compounded natures
which can hardly ever be perfectly serious, and which can enjoy
a quaintness or a neat literary allusion even at a moment of the
bitterest personal disappointment. He could solace himself  for
a minute for the loss of Edie by choosing a text for his Sunday's
sermon with a prettily-turned epigram on his own position.



CHAPTER XII.

THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY.


At the very top of the winding footpath cut deeply into the
sandstone side of the East Cliff Hill at Hastings, a wooden seat,
set a little back from the road, invites the panting climber to rest
for five minutes after his steep ascent from the primitive fisher
village of Old Hastings, which nestles warmly in the narrow sun-smitten
gulley at his feet. On this seat, one bright July morning, Herbert
Le Breton lay at half length, basking in the brilliant open sunshine
and evidently waiting for somebody whom he expected to arrive by the
side path from the All Saints' Valley. Even the old coastguardsman,
plodding his daily round over to Ecclesbourne, noticed the obvious
expectation implied in his attentive attitude, and ventured to
remark, in his cheery familiar fashion, 'She won't be long a-comin'
now, sir, you may depend upon it: the gals is sure to be out
early of a fine mornin' like this 'ere.' Herbert stuck his double
eye-glass gingerly upon the tip of his nose, and surveyed the
bluff old sailor through it with a stony British stare of mingled
surprise and indignation, which drove the poor man hastily off, with
a few muttered observations about some people being so confounded
stuck up that they didn't even understand the point of a little
good-natured seafarin' banter.

As the coastguardsman disappeared round the corner of the flagstaff,
a young girl came suddenly into sight by the jutting edge of
sandstone bluff near the High Wickham; and Herbert, jumping up at
once from his reclining posture, raised his bat to her with stately
politeness, and moved forward in his courtly graceful manner
to meet her as she approached. 'Well, Selah,' he said, taking her
hand a little warmly (judged at least by Herbert Le Breton's usual
standard), 'so you've come at last! I've been waiting  here for you
for fully half an hour. You see, I've come down to Hastings again
as I promised, the very first  moment I could possibly get away
from my pressing duties at Oxford.'

The girl withdrew her hand from his, blushing deeply, but looking
into his face with evident pleasure and admiration.  She was tall
and handsome, with a certain dashing air of queenliness about her,
too; and she was dressed in a brave, outspoken sort of finery,
which, though cheap enough in its way, was neither common nor wholly
wanting in a touch of native good taste and even bold refinement of
contrast and harmony. 'It's very kind of you to come, Mr. Walters,'
she answered in a firm but delicate voice.  'I'm so sorry I've
kept you waiting. I got your letter, and tried to come in time; but
father he's been more aggravating than usual, almost, this morning,
and kept saying he'd like to know what on earth a young woman could
want to go out walking for, instead of stopping at home at her work
and minding her Bible like a proper Christian. In HIS time young
women usen't to be allowed to go walking except on Sundays, and then
only to chapel or Bible class. So I've not been able to get away
till this very minute, with all this bundle of tracts, too, to give
to the excursionists on the way. Father feels a most incomprehensible
interest, somehow, in the future happiness of the Sunday excursionists.'

'I wish he'd feel a little more interest in the present happiness
of his own daughter,' Herbert said smiling.  'But it hasn't mattered
your keeping me waiting here, Selah. Of course I'd have enjoyed it
all far better in your society--I don't think I need tell you that
now, dear--but the sunshine, and the sea breeze, and the song of
the larks, and the plash of the waves below, and the shouts of the
fishermen down there on the beach mending their nets and putting
out their smacks, have all been so delightful after our humdrum
round of daily life at Oxford, that I only wanted your  presence
here to make it all into a perfect paradise.--Why, Selah, how pretty
you look in that sweet print! It suits your complexion admirably.
I never saw you wear anything before so perfectly becoming.'

Selah drew herself up with the conscious pride of an unaffected
pretty girl. 'I'm so glad you think so, Mr.  Walters,' she said,
playing nervously with the handle of her dark-blue parasol. 'You
always say such very flattering things.'

'No, not flattering,' Herbert answered, smiling; 'not flattering,
Selah, simply truthful. You always extort the truth from me with
your sweet face, Selah. Nobody can look at it and not forget the
stupid conventions of ordinary society. But please, dear, don't
call me Mr. Walters. Call me Herbert. You always do, you know, when
you write to me.'

'But it's so much harder to do it to your face, Mr.  Walters,' Selah
said, again blushing. 'Every time you go away I say to myself, "I
shall call him Herbert as soon as ever he comes back again;" and
every time you come back, I feel too much afraid of you, the moment
I see you, ever to do it. And yet of course I ought to, you know,
for when we're married, why, naturally, then I shall have to learn
to call you Herbert, shan't I?'

'You will, I suppose,' Herbert answered, rather chillily: 'but
that subject is one upon which we shall be able to form a better
opinion when the time comes for actually deciding it. Meanwhile,
I want you to call me Herbert, if you please, as a personal favour
and a mark of confidence.  Suppose I were to go on calling you Miss
Briggs all the time! a pretty sort of thing that would be! what
inference would you draw as to the depth of my affection? Well,
now, Selah, how have these dreadful home authorities of yours been
treating you, my dear girl, all the time since I last saw you?'

'Much the same as usual, Mr. Walters--Herbert, I mean,' Selah
answered, hastily correcting herself. 'The regular round. Prayers;
clean the shop; breakfast, with a chapter; serve in the shop all
morning; dinner, with a chapter; serve in the shop all afternoon;
tea, with a chapter; prayer meeting in the evening; supper, with a
chapter; exhortation; and go to bed, sick of it all, to get up next
morning and repeat the entire performance da capo, as they always
say in the music to the hymn-books.  Occasional relaxations,--Sunday
at chapel three times, and Wednesday evening Bible class; mothers'
assembly, Dorcas society, missionary meeting, lecture on the Holy
Land,  dissolving views of Jerusalem, and Primitive Methodist
district conference in the Mahanaim Jubilee meeting hall. Salvation
privileges every day and all the year round, till I'm ready to drop
with it, and begin to wish I'd only been lucky enough to have been
born one of those happy benighted little pagans in a heathen land
where they don't know the value of the precious Sabbath, and haven't
yet been taught to build Primitive Methodist district chapels for
crushing the lives out of their sons and daughters!'

Herbert smiled a gentle smile of calm superiority at this vehement
outburst of natural irreligion. 'You must certainly  be bored
to death with it all, Selah,' he said, laughingly.  'What a funny
sort of creed it really is, after all, for rational beings! Who on
earth could believe that the religion these people use to render
your life so absolutely miserable is meant for the same thing as
the one that makes my poor dear brother Ronald so perfectly and
inexpressibly serene and happy? The formalism of lower natures, like
your father's, has turned it into a machine for crushing all the
spontaneity out of your existence. What a regime for a high-spirited
girl like you to be compelled to live under, Selah!'

'It is, it is!' Selah answered, vehemently. 'I wish you could only
see the way father goes on at me all the time about chapel, and so
on, Mr. Wal--Herbert, I mean. You wouldn't wonder, if you were to
hear him, at my being anxious for the time to come when you can
leave Oxford and we can get comfortably married. What between the
drudgery  of the shop and the drudgery of the chapel my life's
positively getting almost worn out of me.'

Herbert took her hand in his, quietly. It was not a very small hand,
but it was prettily, though cheaply, gloved, and the plain silver
bracelet that encircled the wrist, though simple and inexpensive,
was not wanting in rough tastefulness.  'You're a bad philosopher,
Selah,' he said, turning with her along the path towards Ecclesbourne;
'you're always anxious to hurry on too fast the lagging wheels of
an unknown future. After all, how do you know whether we should
be any the happier if we were really and truly married? Don't you
know what Swinburne says, in "Dolores"--you've read it in the Poems
and Ballads I gave you--


    Time turns the old days to derision,
      Our loves into corpses or wives,
    And marriage and death and division
      Make barren our lives?'


'I've read it,' Selah answered, carelessly, 'and I thought it all
very pretty. Of course Swinburne always is very pretty: but I'm
sure I never try to discover what on earth he means by it. I suppose
father would say I don't read him tearfully and prayerfully--at
any rate, I'm quite sure I never understand what he's driving at.'

'And yet he's worth understanding,' Herbert answered in his clear
musical voice--'well worth understanding, Selah, especially for
you, dearest. If, in imitation of obsolete fashions, you wished
to read a few verses of some improving  volume every night and
morning, as a sort of becoming religious exercise in the elements
of self-culture, I don't know that I could recommend you a better
book to begin upon than the Poems and Ballads. Don't you see the
moral of those four lines I've just quoted to you? Why should we
wish to change from anything so free and delightful and poetical
as lovers into anything so fettered, and commonplace, and  prosaic,
and BANAL, as wives and husbands? Why should we wish to give up
the fanciful paradise of fluttering hope and expectation for the
dreary reality of housekeeping and cold mutton on Mondays? Why
should we not be satisfied with the real pleasure of the passing
moment, without for ever torturing our souls about the imaginary
but delusive pleasure of the unrealisable, impossible future?'

'But we MUST get married some time or other, Herbert,' Selah
said, turning her big eyes full upon him with a doubtful  look
of interrogation. 'We can't go on courting in this way for ever
and ever, without coming to any definite  conclusion. We MUST get
married by-and-by, now mustn't we?'

'Je n'en vois pas la necessite, moi,' Herbert answered with just a
trace of cynicism in his curling lip. 'I don't see any MUST about
it, that is to say, in English, Selah. The fact is, you see, I'm
above all things a philosopher; you're a philosopher, too, but only
an instinctive one, and I want to make your instinctive philosophy
assume a rather more rational and extrinsic shape. Why should we
really be in any hurry to go and get married? Do the actual married
people of our acquaintance, as a matter of fact, seem so very much
more ethereally happy--with their eight children to be washed and
dressed and schooled daily, for example--than the lovers, like you
and me, who walk arm-in-arm out here in the sunshine, and haven't
yet got over their delicious first illusions? Depend upon it, the
longer you can keep your illusions the better. You haven't read
Aristotle in all  probability; but as Aristotle would put it, it
isn't the end that is anything in love-making, it's the energy, the
active pursuit, the momentary enjoyment of it. I suppose we shall
have to get married some day, Selah, though I don't know when; but
I confess to you I don't look forward to the day quite so rapturously
as you do. Shall we feel more the thrill of possession, do you
think, than I feel it now when I hold your hand in mine, so, and
catch the beating of your pulse in your veins, even through the
fingers of your pretty little glove? Shall we look deeper into
one another's eyes and hearts than I look now into the very inmost
depths of yours?  Shall we drink in more fully the essence of love
than when I touch your lips here--one moment, Selah, the gorse is
very deep here--now don't be foolish--ah, there, what's the use
of philosophising, tell me, by the side of that? Come over here to
the bench, Selah, by the edge of the cliff; look down yonder into
Ecclesbourne glen; hear the waves dashing on the shore below, and
your own heart beating against your bosom within--and then ask
yourself what's the good of living in any moment, in any moment
but the present.'

Selah turned her great eyes admiringly upon him once more. 'Oh,
Herbert,' she said, looking at him with a clever uneducated girl's
unfeigned and undisguised admiration for any cultivated gentleman
who takes the trouble to draw out her higher self. 'Oh, Herbert, how
can you talk so beautifully  to me, and then ask me why it is I'm
longing for the day to come when I can be really and truly married
to you?  Do you think I don't feel the difference between spending
my life with such a man as you, and spending it for years and years
together with a ranting, canting Primitive Methodist?'

Herbert smiled to himself a quiet, unobtrusive, self-satisfied
smile. 'She appreciates me,' he thought silently in his own heart,
'she appreciates me at my true worth; and, after all, that's a great
thing. Well, Selah,' he went on aloud, toying unreproved with her
pretty little silver bracelet, 'let us be practical. You belong to
a business family and you know the necessity for being practical.
There's a great deal to be said in favour of my hanging on at Oxford
a little longer. I must get a situation somewhere else as soon
as possible, in which I can get married; but I can't give up my
fellowship without having found something else to do which would
enable me to put my wife in the position I should like her to
occupy.'

'A very small income would do for me, with you, Herbert,' Selah
put in eagerly. 'You see, I've been brought up economically enough,
heaven knows, and I could live extremely well on very little.'

'But _I_ could not, Selah,' Herbert answered, in his colder tone.
'Pardon me, but I could not. I've been accustomed to a certain
amount of comfort, not to say luxury, which I couldn't readily
do without. And then, you know, dear,' he added, seeing a certain
cloud gathering dimly on Selah's forehead, 'I want to make my wife
a real lady.'

Selah looked at him tenderly, and gave the hand she hold in hers
a faint pressure. And then Herbert began to talk about the waves,
and the cliffs, and the sun, and the great red sails, and to quote
Shelley and Swinburne; and the  conversation glided off into more
ordinary everyday topics.

They sat for a couple of hours together on the edge of the cliff,
talking to one another about such and other subjects, till, at last,
Selah asked the time, hurriedly, and declared she must go off at
once, or father'd be in a tearing passion.  Herbert walked back
with her through the green lanes in the golden mass of gorse, till
he reached the brow of the hill by the fisher village. Then Selah
said lightly, 'Not any nearer, Herbert--you see I can say Herbert
quite naturally now--the neighbours will go talking about it
if they see me standing  here with a strange gentleman. Good-bye,
good-bye, till Friday.' Herbert held her face up to his in his
hands, and kissed her twice over in spite of a faint resistance.
Then they each went their own way, Selah to the little green-grocer's
shop in a back street of the red-brick fisher village, and Herbert
to his big fashionable hotel on the Marine Parade in the noisy
stuccoed modern watering place.

'It's an awkward sort of muddle to have got oneself into.' he thought
to himself as he walked along the asphalte  pavement in front of
the sea-wall: 'a most confoundedly  awkward fix to have got oneself
into with a pretty girl of the lower classes. She's beautiful
certainly; that there's no  denying; the handsomest woman on the
whole I ever remember to have seen at any time anywhere; and when
I'm actually by her side--though it's a weakness to confess it--I'm
really not quite sure that I'm not positively quite in love with
her!  She'd make a grand sort of Messalina, without a doubt, a
model for a painter, with her frank imperious face, and her splendid
voluptuous figure; a Faustina, a Catherine of Russia, an Ann
Boleyn--to be fitly painted only by a Rubens or a Gustave Courbet.
Yet how I can ever have been such a particular fool as to go and
get myself entangled with her I can't imagine. Heredity, heredity;
it must run in the family, for certain. There's Ernest has gone and
handed himself over bodily to this grocer person somewhere down in
Devonshire; and I myself, who perfectly see the folly of his absurd
proceeding, have independently put  myself into this very similar
awkward fix with Selah Briggs here. Selah Briggs, indeed! The very
name reeks with commingled dissent, vulgarity, and greengrocery. Her
father's deacon of his chapel, and goes out at night when there's
no missionary meeting on, to wait at serious dinner parties! Or
rather, I suppose he'd desert the most enticing missionary to earn
a casual half-crown at even an ungodly champagne-drinking dinner!
Then that's the difference between me and Ernest. Ernest's selfish,
incurably and radically selfish. Because this Oswald girl happens
to take his passing fancy, and to fit in with his impossible
Schurzian notions, he'll actually go and marry her. Not only will
he have no consideration for mother--who really is a very decent
sort of body in her own fashion, if you don't rub her up the wrong
way or expect too much from her--but he'll also interfere, without
a thought, with MY prospects and my advancement. Now, THAT I call
really selfish; and selfishness is a vulgar piggish vice that I
thoroughly abominate. I don't deny that I'm a trifle selfish myself,
of course, in a refined and cultivated manner--I flatter myself,
in fact, that  introspective analysis is one of my strong points;
and I don't conceal my own failings from my own consciousness with
any weak girlish prevarications. But after all, as Hobbes very well
showed (though our shallow modern philosophers pretend to laugh at
him), selfishness in one form or another is at the very base of
all human motives; the difference really is between sympathetic
and unsympathetic selfishness--between piggishness and cultivated
feelings. Now _I_ will NOT give way to the foolish and selfish
impulses which would lead me to marry Selah Briggs. I will put a
curb upon my inclinations, and do what is really best in the end
for all the persons concerned--and for myself especially.'

He strolled down on to the beach, and began throwing pebbles
carelessly into the plashing water. 'Yes,' he went on in his internal
colloquy, 'I can only account for my  incredible stupidity in this
matter by supposing that it depends somehow upon some incomprehensible
hereditary leaning in the Le Breton family idiosyncrasy. It's awfully
unlike me, I will do myself the justice to say, to have got myself
into such a silly dilemma all for nothing. It was all very well a
few years ago, when I first met Selah. I was an undergraduate  in
those days, and even if somebody had caught me walking with a young
lady of unknown antecedents and doubtful aspirates on the East
Cliff at Hastings, it really wouldn't have much mattered. She was
beautiful even then--though not so beautiful as now, for she grows
handsomer every day; and it was natural enough I should have taken
to going harmless walks about the place with her. She attracted me
by her social rebelliousness--another family trait, in me passive
not active, contemplative not personal; but she certainly attracted
me. She attracts me still. A man must have some outlet for the
natural and instinctive emotions of our common humanity; and if a
monastic Oxford community imposes celibacy upon one with mediaeval
absurdity--why, Selah Briggs is, for the time being, the only
possible sort of outlet. One needn't marry her in the end; but for
the moment it is certainly very excellent fooling.  Not unsentimental
either--for my part I could never care for mere coarse, commonplace,
venal wretches. Indeed, when I spoke to her just now about my wishing
to make my wife a lady, upon my word, at the time, I almost think
I was just then quite in earnest. The idea flitted across my mind
vaguely--"Why not send her for a year or two to be polished up
at Paris or somewhere, and really marry her afterwards for good
and always?" But on second thoughts, it won't hold water. She's
magnificent, she's undeniable, she's admirable, but she isn't
possible. The name alone's enough to condemn her. Fancy marrying
somebody with a Christian name out of the hundred and somethingth
psalm!  It's too atrocious! I really couldn't inflict her for a
moment on poor suffering innocent society.'

He paused awhile, watching the great russet sails of the fishing
vessels flapping idly in the breeze as the men raised them to catch
the faint breath of wind, and then he thought once more, 'But how
to get rid of her, that's the question.  Every time I come here now
she goes on more and more about the necessity of our getting soon
married--and I don't wonder at it either, for she has a perfect
purgatory of a life with that snivelling Methodistical father of
hers, one may be sure of it. It would be awfully awkward if any
Oxford people were to catch me here walking with her on the cliff over
yonder--some sniggering fellow of Jesus or Worcester, for example,
or, worse than all, some prying young Pecksniff of a third-year
undergraduate! Somehow, she seems to fascinate me, and I can't get
away from her; but I must really do it and be done with it. It's
no use going on this way much longer. I must stop here for a few
days more only, and then tell her that I'm called away on important
college business, say to Yorkshire or Worcestershire, or  somewhere.
I needn't tell her in person, face to face: I can write hastily at
the last moment to the usual name at the Post Office--to be left
till called for. And as a matter of fact I won't go to Yorkshire
either--very awkward and undignified, though, these petty
prevarications; when a man once begins lowering himself by making
love to a girl in an inferior position, he lets himself in for
all kinds of disagreeable necessities afterwards;--I shall go to
Switzerland. Yes, no place better after the bother of running away
like a coward from Selah: in the Alps, one would forget all petty
human degradations; I shall go to Switzerland. Of course I won't
break off with her altogether--that would be cruel; and I really
like her; upon my word, even when she isn't by, up to her own
level, I really like her; but I'll let the thing die a natural
death of inanition. As they always put it in the newspapers, with
their stereotyped phraseology, a gradual coldness shall intervene
between us. That'll be the best and only way out of it.

'And if I go to Switzerland, why not ask Oswald of Oriel to go
with me? That, I fancy, wouldn't be a bad stroke of social policy.
Ernest WILL marry this Oswald girl; unfortunately  he's as headstrong
as an allegory on the banks of the Nile; and as he's going to drag
her inevitably into the family, I may as well put the best possible
face upon the  disagreeable matter. Let's make a virtue of necessity.
The father and mother are old: they'll die soon, and be gathered
to their fathers (if they had any), and the world will straightway
forget all about them. But Oswald will always be there en evidence,
and the safest thing to do will be to take him as much as possible
into the world, and let the sister rest upon HIS reputation for
her place in society. It's quite one thing to say that Ernest has
married the daughter of a country grocer down in Devonshire, and
quite another thing to say that he has married the sister of Oswald
of Oriel, the  distinguished mathematician and fellow of the Royal
Society.  How beautifully that warm brown sail stands out in a
curve against the cold grey line of the horizon--a bulging curve
just like the swell of Selah's neck, when she throws her head
back, so, and lets you see the contour of her throat, her beautiful
rounded throat--ah, that's not giving her up now, is it?--What a
confounded fool I am, to be sure! Anybody would say, if they could
only have read my thoughts that moment, that I was really in love
with this girl Selah!'



CHAPTER XIII.

YE MOUNTAINS OF GILBOA!


The old Englischer Hof at Pontresina looked decidedly sleepy and
misty at five o'clock on an August morning, when two sturdy British
holiday-seekers, in knickerbockers and regular Alpine climbing rig,
sat drinking their parting cup of coffee in the salle-a-manger,
before starting to make the ascent of the Piz Margatsch, one of
the tallest and by far the most difficult among the peaks of the
Bernina range. There are few prettier villages in the Engadine than
Pontresina, and few better hotels in all Switzerland than the old
ivy-covered Englischer Hof. Yet on this particular morning, and
at that particular hour, it certainly did look just a trifle cold
and cheerless. 'He never makes very warm in the Engadine,' Carlo
the waiter observed with a shudder, in his best English, to one
of the two early risers: 'and he makes colder on an August morning
here than he makes at Nice in full December.' For poor Carlo was
one of those cosmopolitan  waiters who follow the cosmopolitan
tourist clientele round all the spas, health resorts, kurs and winter
quarters of fashionable Europe. In January he and his brother, as
Charles and Henri, handed round absinthes and cigarettes at the
Cercle Nautique at Nice; in April, as Carlo and Enrico, they turned
up again with water ices and wafer cakes in the Caffe Manzoni at
Milan; and in August, the observant traveller might recognise them
once more under the disguise of Karl and Heinrich, laying the table
d'hote in the long and narrow old-fashioned dining-room of the
Englischer Hof at Pontresina. Though their native tongue was the
patois of the Canton Ticino, they spoke all the civilised languages
of the world, 'and also German,' with perfect fluency, and without
the slightest attempt at either grammar or idiomatic accuracy.
And they both profoundly believed in their hearts that the rank,
wealth, youth, beauty and fashion of all other nations were wisely
ordained by the inscrutable designs of Providence for a single
purpose, to enrich and reward the active, intelligent, and industrious
natives of the Canton Ticino.

'Are the guides come yet?' asked Harry Oswald of the waiter in
somewhat feeble and hesitating German. He made it a point to speak
German to the waiters, because he regarded it as the only proper
and national language of the universal Teutonic Swiss people.

'They await the gentlemans in the corridor,' answered Carlo, in
his own peculiar and racy English; for he on his side resented the
imputation that any traveller need ever converse with him in any
but that traveller's own tongue, provided only it was one of the
recognised and civilised languages of the world, or even German.
They are a barbarous  and disgusting race, those Tedeschi, look
you well, Signor; they address you as though you were the dust in
the piazza; yet even from them a polite and attentive person may
confidently look for a modest, a very modest, but still a welcome
trink-geld.

'Then we'd better hurry up, Oswald,' said Herbert Le Breton, 'for
guides are the most tyrannical set of people on the entire face
of this planet. I shall have another cup of coffee before I go,
though, if the guides swear at me roundly in the best Roumansch
for it, anyhow.'

'Your acquaintance with the Roumansch dialect being probably limited,'
Harry Oswald answered, 'the difference between their swearing and
their blessing would doubtless be reduced to a vanishing point.
Though I've noticed that swearing is really a form of human speech
everywhere readily understanded of the people in spite of all
differences of race or language. One touch of nature, you see; and
swearing, after all, is extremely natural.'

'Are you ready?' asked Herbert, having tossed off his coffee.
'Yes? Then come along at once. I can feel the guides frowning at
us through the partition.'

They turned out into the street, with its green-shuttered windows
all still closed in the pale grey of early morning, and walked
along with the three guides by the high road which leads through
rocks and fir-trees up to the beginning of the steep path to the
Piz Margatsch. Passing the clear emerald-green waterfall that rushes
from under the lower melting end of the Morteratsch glacier, they
took at once to the narrow track by the moraine along the edge
of the ice, and then to the glacier itself, which is easy enough
climbing, as glaciers go, for a good pedestrian. Herbert Le Breton,
the older mountaineer of the two, got over the big blocks readily
enough; but Harry, less accustomed to Swiss expeditions,  lagged
and loitered behind a little, and required more assistance from
the guides every now and again than his sturdy companion.

'I'm getting rather blown at starting,' Harry called out at last
to Herbert, some yards in front of him. 'Do you think the despotic
guide would let us sit down and rest a bit if we asked him very
prettily?'

'Offer him a cigar first,' Herbert shouted back, 'and then after a
short and decent interval, prefer your request humbly in your politest
French. The savage potentate always expects to be propitiated by
gifts, as a preliminary to answering the petitions of his humble
subjects.'

'I see,' Harry said, laughing. 'Supply before grievances, not
grievances before supply.' And he halted a moment to light a cigar,
and to offer one to each of the two guides who were helping him
along on either side.

Thus mollified, the senior guide grudgingly allowed ten minutes'
halt and a drink of water at the bend by the corner of the glacier.
They sat down upon the great translucent sea-green blocks and began
talking with the taciturn chief guide.

'Is this glacier dangerous?' Harry asked.

'Dangerous, monsieur? Oh no, not as one counts glaciers. It is very
safe. There are seldom accidents.'

'But there have been some?'

'Some, naturally. You don't climb mountains always without accidents.
There was one the first time anyone ever made the ascent of the Piz
Margatsch. That was fifty years ago. My uncle was killed in it.'

'Killed in it?' Harry echoed. 'How did it all happen, and where?'

'Yonder, monsieur, in a crevasse that was then situated near the
bend at the corner, just where the great crevasse you see before
you now stands. That was fifty years ago; since then the glacier
has moved much. Its substance, in effect, has changed entirely.'

'Tell us all about it,' Herbert put in carelessly. He knew the
guide wouldn't go on again till he had finished his whole story.

'It's a strange tale,' the guide answered, taking a puff or two
at his cigar pensively and then removing it altogether for his set
narrative--he had told the tale before a hundred times, and he had
the very words of it now regularly by heart. 'It was the first time
anyone ever tried to climb the Piz Margatsch. At that time, nobody
in the valley knew the best path; it is my father who afterwards
discovered it.  Two English gentlemen came to Pontresina one morning;
one might say you two gentlemen; but in those days there were not
many tourists in the Engadine; the exploitation of the tourist had
not yet begun to be developed. My father and my uncle were then the
only two guides at Pontresina.  The English gentlemen asked them
to try with them the scaling of the Piz Margatsch. My uncle was
afraid of it, but my father laughed down his fears. So they started.
My uncle was dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, and a pair
of brown velvet breeches. Ah, heaven, I can see him yet, his white
corpse in the blue coat and the brown velvet breeches!'

'But you can't be fifty yourself,' Harry said, looking at the tall
long-limbed man attentively; 'no, nor forty, nor thirty either.'

'No, monsieur, I am twenty-seven,' the chief guide answered, taking
another puff at his cigar very deliberately; 'and this was fifty
years ago: yet I have seen his corpse just as the accident happened.
You shall hear all about it.  It is a tale from the dead; it is
worth hearing.'

'This begins to grow mysterious,' said Herbert in English,  hammering
impatiently at the ice with the shod end of his alpenstock. 'Sounds
for all the world just like the introduction to a Christmas number.'

'A young girl in the village loved my uncle,' the guide went on
imperturhably; 'and she begged him not to go on this expedition. She
was betrothed to him. But he wouldn't listen: and they all started
together for the top of the Piz Margatsch. After many trials, my
father and my uncle and the two tourists reached the summit. "So
you see, Andreas," said my father, "your fears were all folly."
"Half-way through the forest," said my uncle, "one is not yet safe
from the wolf." Then they began to descend again. They got down past
all the dangerous places, and on to this glacier, so well known,
so familiar. And then my uncle began indeed to get careless. He
laughed at his own fears; "Cathrein was all wrong," he said to my
father, "we shall get down again safely, with Our Lady's assistance."
So they reached at last the great crevasse. My father and one of
the Englishmen got over without difficulty; but the other Englishman
slipped; his footing failed him; and he was sinking, sinking, down,
down, down, slipping quickly into the deep dark green abyss below.
My uncle stretched out his hand over the edge: the Englishman caught
it; and then my uncle missed his foothold, they both fell together
and were lost to sight at once completely, in the invisible depths
of the great glacier!'

'Well,' Herbert Le Breton said, as the man paused a moment. 'Is
that all?'

'No,' the guide answered, with a tone of deep solemnity.  'That is
not all. The glacier went on moving, moving, slowly, slowly, but
always downward, for years and years.  Yet no one ever heard anything
more of the two lost bodies.  At last one day, when I was seven
years old, I went out playing with my brother, among the pine-woods,
near the waterfall that rushes below there, from under the glacier.
We saw something lying in the ice-cold water, just beneath the
bottom of the ice-sheet. We climbed over the moraine; and there,
oh heaven! we could see two dead bodies. They were drowned, just
drowned, we thought: it might have been yesterday. One of them
was short and thick-set, with the face of an Englishman: he was
close-shaven, and, what seemed odd to us, he had on clothes which,
though we were but children, we knew at once for the clothes of
a long past fashion--in fact, a suit of the Louis dix-huit style.
Tha other was a tall and handsome man, dressed in the unchangeable
blue coat and brown velvet breeches of our own canton, of the
Graubunden. We were very frightened about it, and so we ran away
trembling and told an old woman who lived close by; her name was
Cathrein, and her  grandchildren used to play with us, though she
herself was about the age of my father, for my father married very
late. Old Cathrein came out with us to look; and the moment she
saw the bodies, she cried out with a great cry, "It is he! It is
Andreas! It is my betrothed, who was lost on the very day week when
I was to be married. I should know him at once among ten thousand.
It is many, many years now, but I have not forgotten his face--ah,
my God, that face; I know it well!" And she took his hand in hers,
that fair white young hand in her own old brown withered one, and
kissed it gently. "And yet," she said, "he is five years older than
me, this fair young man here; five years older than me!" We were
frightened to hear her talk so, for we said to ourselves, "She
must be mad;" so we ran home and brought our father. He looked at
the dead bodies and at old Cathrein, and he said, "It is indeed
true. He is my brother." Ah, monsieur, you would not have forgotten
it if you had seen those two old people standing there beside
the fresh corpses they had not seen for all those winters! They
themselves had meanwhile grown old and grey and wrinkled; but the
ice of the glacier had kept those others young, and fresh, and
fair, and beautiful as on the day they were first engulfed in it.
It was terrible to look at!'

'A most ghastly story, indeed,' Herbert Le Breton said, yawning;
'and now I think we'd better be getting under way again, hadn't
we, Oswald?'

Harry Oswald rose from his seat on the block of ice unwillingly, and
proceeded on his road up the mountain with a distinct and decided
feeling of nervousness. Was it the guide's story that made his knees
tremble slightly? was it his own inexperience in climbing? or was
it the cold and the fatigue of the first ascent of the season to
a man not yet in full pedestrian Alpine training? He did not feel
at all sure about it in his own mind: but this much he knew with
perfect certainty, that his footing was not nearly so secure under
him as it had been during the earlier part of the climb over the
lower end of the glacier.

By-and-by they reached the long sheer snowy slope near the Three
Brothers. This slope is liable to slip, and requires careful walking,
so the guides began roping them together.  'The stout monsieur
in front, next after me,' said the chief guide, knotting the rope
soundly round Herbert Le Breton: 'then Kaspar; then you, monsieur,'
to Harry Oswald, 'and finally Paolo, to bring up the rear. The
thin monsieur is nervous, I think; it's best to place him most in
the middle.'

'If you really ARE nervous, Oswald,' Herbert said, not unkindly,
'you'd better stop behind, I think, and let me go on with two of the
guides. The really hard work, you know, has scarcely begun yet.'

'Oh dear, no,' Harry answered lightly (he didn't care to confess
his timidity before Herbert Le Breton of all men in the world): 'I
do feel just a little groggy about the knees, I admit; but it's not
nervousness, it's only want of training.  I haven't got accustomed
to glacier-work yet, and the best way to overcome it is by constant
practice. "Solvitur ambulando," you know, as Aldrich says about
Achilles and the tortoise.'

'Very good,' Herbert answered drily; 'only mind, whatever you do,
for Heaven's sake don't go and stumble and pull ME down on the top
of you. It's the clear duty of a good citizen to respect the lives
of the other men who are roped together with him on the side of a
mountain.'

They set to work again, in single file, with cautious steps planted
firmly on the treacherous snow, to scale the great white slope that
stretched so temptingly before them. Harry felt his knees becoming
at every step more and more ungovernable,  while Herbert didn't
improve matters by calling out to him from time to time, 'Now, then,
look out for a hard bit here,' or 'Mind that loose piece of ice
there,' or 'Be very careful how you put your foot down by the yielding
edge yonder,' and so forth. At last, they had almost reached the
top of the slope, and were just above the bare gulley on the side,
when Harry's insecure footing on a stray scrap of ice gave way
suddenly, and he begain to slip rapidly down the sheer slope of
the mountain. In a second he had knocked against Paolo, and Paolo
had begun to slip too, so that both were pulling with all their
weight against Kaspar and the others in front. 'For Heaven's sake,
man,' Herbert cried hastily, 'dig your alpenstock deep into the
snow.' At the same instant, the chief guide shouted in Roumansch
to the same effect to Kaspar. But even as they spoke, Kaspar,
pushing his feet hard against the snow, began to give way too; and
the whole party seemed about to slip together down over the sheer
rocky precipice of the great gulley on the right. It was a moment
of supreme anxiety; but Herbert Le Breton, looking back with blood
almost unstirred and calmly observant eye, saw at once the full
scope of the threatening danger. 'There's only one chance,' he
said to himself quietly. 'Oswald is lost already! Unless the rope
breaks, we are all lost together!' At that very second, Harry Oswald,
throwing his arms up wildly, had reached the edge of the terrible
precipice; he went over with a piercing cry into the abyss, with
the last guide beside him, and Kaspar following him close in mute
terror. Then Herbert Le Breton felt the rope straining, straining,
straining, upon the sharp frozen edge of the rock; for an inappreciable
point of time it strained and crackled: one loud snap, and it was
gone for ever. Herbert and the chief guide, almost upset by the
sudden release from the heavy pull that was steadily dragging them
over, threw themselves flat on their faces in the drifted snow,
and checked their fall by a powerful muscular effort. The rope
was broken and their lives were saved, but what had become of the
three others?

They crept cautiously on hands and knees to the most practicable
spot at the edge of the precipice, and the guide peered over into
the great white blank below with eager eyes of horrid premonition.
As he did so, he recoiled with awe, and made a rapid gesture with
his hands, half prayer, half speechless terror. 'What do you see?'
asked Herbert, not daring himself to look down upon the blank
beneath him, lest he should be tempted to throw himself over in a
giddy moment.

'Jesu, Maria,' cried the guide, crossing himself instinctively
over and over again, 'they have all fallen to the very foot of the
second precipice! They are lying, all three, huddled together on
the ledge there just above the great glacier. They are dead, quite
dead, dead before they reached the ground even. Great God, it is
too terrible!'

Herbert Le Breton looked at the white-faced guide with just the
faintest suspicion of a sneering curl upon his handsome features.
The excitement of the danger was over now, and he had at once
recovered his usual philosophic equanimity. 'Quite dead,' he said,
in French, 'quite dead, are they? Then we can't be of any further
use to them.  But I suppose we must go down again at once to help
recover the dead bodies!'

The guide gazed at him blankly with simple open-mouthed undisguised
amazement. 'Naturally,' he said, in a very quiet voice of utter
disgust and loathing. 'You wouldn't leave them lying there alone
on the cold snow, would you?'

'This is really most annoying,' thought Herbert Le Breton to himself,
in his rational philosophic fashion: 'here we are, almost at the
summit, and now we shall have to turn back again from the very
threshold of our goal, without having seen the view for which we've
climbed up, and risked our lives too--all for a purely sentimental
reason, because we won't leave those three dead men alone on the
snow for an hour or two longer! it's a very short climb to the
top now, and I could manage it by myself in twenty minutes. If
only the chief guide had slid over with the others, I should have
gone on alone, and had the view at least for my trouble. I could
have pretended the accident happened on the way down again. As it
is, I shall have to turn back ingloriously, re infecta. The guide
will tell everybody at Pontresina that I went on, in spite of the
accident; and then it would get into the English papers, and all
the world would say that I was so dreadfully cruel and heartless.
People are always so irrational in their ethical judgments. Oswald's
quite dead, that's certain; nobody could fall over such a precipice
as that without being killed a dozen times over before he even
reached the bottom. A very painless and easy death too; I couldn't
myself wish for a better one.  We can't do them the slightest good
by picking up their lifeless bodies, and yet a foolishly sentimental
public opinion positively compels one to do it. Poor Oswald! Upon
my soul I'm sorry for him, and for that pretty little sister of his
too; but what's the use of bothering about it? The thing's done,
and nothing that I can do or say will ever make it any better.'

So they turned once more in single file down by the great glacier,
and retraced their way to Pontresina without exchanging another word.
To say the truth, the chief guide felt appalled and frightened by
the presence of this impassive, unemotional British traveller, and
did not even care to conceal his feelings. But then he wasn't an
educated philosopher and man of culture like Herbert Le Breton.

Late that evening a party of twelve villagers brought back three
stiff and mangled corpses on loose cattle hurdles into the village
of Pontresina. Two of them were the bodies of two local Swiss guides,
and the third, with its delicate face unscathed by the fall, and
turned calmly upwards to the clear moonlight, was the body of Harry
Oswald. Alas, alas, Gilboa! The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy
high places.



CHAPTER XIV.

'WHAT DO THESE HEBREWS HERE?'


From Calcombe Pomeroy Ernest had returned, not to Dunbude, but to
meet the Exmoor party in London. There he had managed somehow--he
hardly knew how himself--to live through a whole season without an
explosion in his employer's family. That an explosion must come,
sooner or later, he felt pretty sure in his own mind for several
reasons: his whole existence there was a mistake and an anomaly,
and he could no more mix in the end with the Exmoor family than oil
can mix with vinegar, or vice versa. The round of dances and dinners
to which he had to accompany his pupil was utterly distasteful to
him. Lynmouth never learnt anything; so Ernest felt his own function
in the household a perfectly useless one; and he was always on the
eve of a declaration that he couldn't any longer put up with this,
that, or the other 'gross immorality' in which Lynmouth was actively
or passively encouraged by his father and mother. Still, there were
two things which indefinitely postponed the smouldering outbreak.
In the first place, Ernest wrote to, and heard from, Edie every
day; and he believed he ought for Edie's sake to give the situation
a fair trial, as long as he was able, or at least till he saw some
other opening, which might make it possible within some reasonable
period to marry her. In the second place, Lady Hilda had perceived
with her intuitive quickness the probability  that a cause of
dispute might arise between her father and Ernest, and had made
up her mind as far as in her lay to prevent its ever coming to a
head. She didn't wish Ernest to leave his post in the household--so
much originality  was hardly again to be secured in a hurry--and
therefore  she laid herself out with all her ingenuity to smooth
over all the possible openings for a difference of opinion whenever
they occurred. If Ernest's scruples were getting the upper hand
of his calmer judgment, Lady Hilda read the change in his face at
once, and managed dexterously to draw off Lynmouth, or to talk over
her mother quietly to acquiesce in Ernest's view of the question.
If Lord Exmoor was beginning to think that this young man's confounded
fads were really getting quite unbearable, Lady Hilda  interposed
some casual remark about how much better Lynmouth was kept out of
the way now than he used to be in Mr.  Walsh's time. Ernest himself
never even suspected this unobtrusive diplomatist and peacemaker;
but as a matter of fact it was mainly owing to Lady Hilda's constant
interposition  that he contrived to stop in Wilton Place through
all that dreary and penitential London season.

At last, to Ernest's intense joy, the season began to show premonitory
symptoms of collapsing from inanition. The twelfth of August was
drawing nigh, and the coming-of-age of grouse, that most important
of annual events in the orthodox British social calendar, would
soon set free Lord Exmoor and his brother hereditary legislators
from their arduous duty of acting as constitutional drag on the
general advance of a great, tolerant, and easy-going nation. Soon
the family would be off again to Dunbude, or away to its other moors
in Scotland; and among the rocks and the heather Ernest felt he
could endure Lord Exmoor and Lord Lynmouth a little more resignedly
than among the reiterated polite platitudes and monotonous gaieties
of the vacuous London drawing-rooms.

Lady Hilda, too, was longing in her own way for the season to be
over. She had gone through another of them, thank goodness, she
said to herself at times with a rare tinge of pensiveness, only to
discover that the Hughs, and the Guys, and the Algies, and the Montys
were just as fatuously inane as ever; and were just as anxious as
before to make her share their fatuous inanity for a whole lifetime.
Only fancy living with an unadulterated Monty from the time you
were twenty to the time you were seventy-five--at which latter date
he, being doubtless some five years older than one-self to begin
with, would probably drop off quietly with suppressed gout, and
leave you a mourning widow to deplore his untimely and lamented
extinction for the rest of your existence! Why, long before that
time you would have got to know his very thoughts by heart (if he
had any, poor fellow!) and would be able to finish all his sentences
and eke out all his stories for him, the moment he began them.
Much better marry a respectable pork-butcher outright, and have
at least the healthful exercise of chopping sausage-meat to fill
up the stray gaps in the conversation. In that condition of life,
they say, people are at any rate perfectly safe from the terrors
of ennui. However, the season was over at last, thank Heaven; and
in a week or so more they would be at dear old ugly Dunbude again
for the whole winter. There Hilda would go sketching once more on
the moorland, and if this time she didn't make that stupid fellow
Ernest see what she was driving at, why, then her name certainly
wasn't Hilda Tregellis.

A day or two before the legal period fixed for the beginning  of
the general grouse-slaughter, Ernest was sitting reading in the
breakfast room at Wilton Place, when  Lynmouth burst unexpectedly
into the room in his usual boisterous fashion.

'Oh, I say, Mr. Le Breton,' he began, holding the door in his hand
like one in a hurry, 'I want leave to miss work this morning. Gerald
Talfourd has called for me in his dog-cart, and wants me to go out
with him now immediately.'

'Not to-day, Lynmouth,' Ernest answered quietly.  'You were out
twice last week, you know, and you hardly ever get your full hours
for work at all since we came to London.'

'Oh, but look here, you know, Mr. Le Breton; I really MUST go
to-day, because Talfourd has made an appointment for me. It's awful
fun--he's going to have some pigeon-shooting.'

Ernest's countenance fell a little, and he answered in a graver
voice than before, 'If that's what you want to go for, Lynmouth, I
certainly can't let you go. You shall never have leave from me to
go pigeon-shooting.'

'Why not?' Lynmouth asked, still holding the door-handle at the
most significant angle.

'Because it's a cruel and brutal sport,' Ernest replied, looking
him in the face steadily; 'and as long as you're under my charge
I can't allow you to take part in it.'

'Oh, you can't,' said Lynmouth mischievously, with a gentle touch
of satire in his tone. 'You can't, can't you!  Very well, then,
never mind about it.' And he shut the door after him with a bang,
and ran off upstairs without further remonstrance.

'It's time for study, Lynmouth,' Ernest called out, opening the
door and speaking to him as he retreated.  'Come down again at
once, please, will you?'

But Lynmouth made no answer, and went straight off upstairs to
the drawing-room. In a few minutes more he came back, and said in
a tone of suppressed triumph, 'Well, Mr. Le Breton, I'm going with
Talfourd. I've been up to papa, and he says I may "if I like to."'

Ernest bit his lip in a moment's hesitation. If it had been any
ordinary question, he would have pocketed the contradiction of
his authority--after all, if it didn't matter to them, it didn't
matter to him--and let Lynmouth go wherever they allowed him. But
the pigeon-shooting was a question of principle. As long as the
boy was still nominally his pupil, he couldn't allow him to take
any part in any such wicked and brutal amusement, as he thought it.
So he answered back quietly, 'No, Lynmouth, you are not to go.  I
don't think your father can have understood that I had forbidden
you.'

'Oh!' Lynmouth said again, without a word of remonstrance,  and
went up a second time to the drawing-room.

In a few minutes a servant came down and spoke to Ernest. 'My lord
would like to see you upstairs for a few minutes, if you please,
sir.'

Ernest followed the man up with a vague foreboding that the deferred
explosion was at last about to take place. Lord Exmoor was sitting
on the sofa. 'Oh, I say, Le Breton,' he began in his good-humoured
way, 'what's this that Lynmouth's been telling me about
the pigeon-shooting? He says you won't let him go out with Gerald
Talfourd.'

'Yes,' Ernest answered; 'he wanted to miss his morning's  work,
and I told him I couldn't allow him to do so.'

'But I said he might if he liked, Le Breton. Young Talfourd has
called for him to go pigeon-shooting. And now Lynmouth tells me
you refuse to let him go, after I've given him leave. Is that so?'

'Certainly,' said Ernest. 'I said he couldn't go, because before he
asked you I had refused him permission, and I supposed you didn't
know he was asking you to reverse my decision.'

'Oh, of course,' Lord Exmoor answered, for he was not an unreasonable
man after his lights. 'You're quite right, Le Breton, quite right,
certainly. Discipline's discipline, we all know, and must be kept
up under any circumstances.  You should have told me, Lynmouth, that
Mr. Le Breton had forbidden you to go. However, as young Talfourd
has made the engagement, I suppose you don't mind letting him have
a holiday now, at my request, Le Breton, do you?'

Here was a dilemma indeed for Ernest. He hardly knew what to
answer. He looked by chance at Lady Hilda, seated on the ottoman
in the corner; and Lady Hilda, catching his eye, pursed up her lips
visibly into the one word, 'Do.' But Ernest was inexorable. If he
could possibly prevent it, he would not let those innocent pigeons
be mangled and slaughtered for a lazy boy's cruel gratification.
That was the one clear duty before him; and whether he offended
Lord Exmoor or not, he had no choice save to pursue it.

'No, Lord Exmoor,' he said resolutely, after a long pause. 'I should
have no objection to giving him a holiday, but I can't allow him
to go pigeon-shooting.'

'Why not?' asked Lord Exmoor warmly.

Ernest did not answer.

'He says it's a cruel, brutal sport, papa,' Lynmouth put in
parenthetically, in spite of an angry glance from Hilda; 'and he
won't let me go while I'm his pupil.'

Lord Exmoor's face grew very red indeed, and he rose from the sofa
angrily. 'So that's it, Mr. Le Breton!' he said, in a short sharp
fashion. 'You think pigeon-shooting cruel and brutal, do you? Will
you have the goodness to tell me, sir, do you know that I myself
am in the habit of shooting pigeons at matches?'

'Yes,' Ernest answered, without flinching a muscle.

'Yes!' cried Lord Exmoor, growing redder and redder.  'You knew
that, Mr. Le Breton, and yet you told my son you considered the
practice brutal and cruel! Is that the way you teach him to honour
his parents? Who are you, sir, that you dare set yourself up
as a judge of me and my conduct? How dare you speak to him of his
father in that manner? How dare you stir him up to disobedience
and insubordination against his elders? How dare you, sir; how dare
you?'

Ernest's face began to get red in return, and he answered with
unwonted heat, 'How dare you address me so, yourself, Lord Exmoor?
How dare you speak to me in that imperious  manner? You're forgetting
yourself, I think, and I had better leave you for the present, till
you remember how to be more careful in your language. But Lynmouth
is not to go pigeon-shooting. I object to his going, because the
sport is a cruel and a brutal one, whoever may practise it.  If
I have any authority over him, I insist upon it that he shall not
go. If he goes, I shall not stop here any longer.  You can do as
you like about it, of course, but you have my final word upon the
matter. Lynmouth, go down to the study.'

'Stop, Lynmouth,' cried his father, boiling over visibly with
indignation: 'Stop. Never mind what Mr. Le Breton says to you; do
you hear me? Go out if you choose with Gerald Talfourd.'

Lynmouth didn't wait a moment for any further permission.  He ran
downstairs at once and banged the front door soundly after him
with a resounding clatter. Lady Hilda looked imploringly at Ernest,
and whispered half audibly, 'Now you've done it.' Ernest stood a
second irresolute, while the Earl tramped angrily up and down the
drawing-room, and then he said in a calmer voice, 'When would it
be convenient, Lord Exmoor, that I should leave you?'

'Whenever you like,' Lord Exmoor answered violently.  'To-day if
you can manage to get your things together.  This is intolerable,
absolutely intolerable! Gross and  palpable impertinence; in my
own house, too! "Cruel and brutal," indeed! "Cruel and brutal."
Fiddlesticks! Why, it's not a bit different from partridge-shooting!'
And he went out, closely followed by Ernest, leaving Lady Hilda
alone and frightened in the drawing-room.

Ernest ran lightly upstairs to his own little study sitting-room.
'I've done it this time, certainly, as Lady Hilda said,' he thought
to himself; 'but I don't see how I could possibly have avoided it.
Even now, when all's done, I haven't succeeded in saving the lives
of the poor innocent tortured pigeons. They'll be mangled and hunted
for their poor frightened lives, anyhow. Well, now I must look out
for that imaginary schoolmastership, and see what I can do for dear
Edie. I shan't be sorry to get out of this after all, for the place
was an impossible one for me from the very beginning. I shall sit
down this moment and write to Edie, and after that I shall take out
my portmanteau and get the man to help me put my luggage up to go
away this very evening. Another day in the house after this would
be obviously impossible.'

At that moment there came a knock at the door--a timid, tentative
sort of knock, and somebody put her head  inquiringly halfway through
the doorway. Ernest looked up in sudden surprise. It was Lady Hilda.

'Mr. Le Breton,' she said, coming over towards the table where
Ernest had just laid out his blotting-book and writing-paper: 'I
couldn't prevent myself from coming up to tell you how much I admire
your conduct in standing up so against papa for what you thought
was right and proper. I can't say how greatly I admire it. I'm so
glad you did as you did do. You have acted nobly.' And Hilda looked
straight into his eyes with the most speaking and most melting
of glances. 'Now,' she said to herself, 'according to all correct
precedents, he ought to seize my hand fervently with a gentle
pressure, and thank me with tears in his eyes for my kind sympathy.'

But Ernest, only looking puzzled and astonished, answered  in the
quietest of voices, 'Thank you very much, Lady Hilda: but I assure
you there was really nothing at all noble, nothing at all to admire,
in what I said or did in any way. In fact, I'm rather afraid,
now I come to think of it, that I lost my temper with your father
dreadfully.'

'Then you won't go away?' Hilda put in quickly. 'You think better
of it now, do you? You'll apologise to papa, and go with us to
Dunbude for the autumn? Do say you will, please, Mr. Le Breton.'

'Oh dear, no,' Ernest answered, smiling quietly at the bare idea
of his apologising to Lord Exmoor. 'I certainly won't do that,
whatever I do. To tell you the truth, Lady Hilda, I have not been
very anxious to stop with Lynmouth all along: I've found it a most
unprofitable tutorship--no sense of any duty performed, or any
work done for society: and I'm not at all sorry that this accident
should have broken up the engagement unexpectedly. At the same time,
it's very kind of you to come up and speak to me about it, though
I'm really quite ashamed you should have thought there was anything
particularly praiseworthy or commendable  in my standing out against
such an obviously cruel sport as pigeon-shooting.'

'Ah, but I do think so, whatever you may say, Mr. Le Breton,' Hilda
went on eagerly. 'I do think so, and I think it was very good of
you to fight it out so against papa for what you believe is right
and proper. For my own part, you know, I don't see any particular
harm in pigeon-shooting.  Of course it's very dreadful that the
poor dear little things should be shot and wounded and winged and
so forth; but then everything, almost, gets shot, you see--rabbits,
and grouse, and partridges, and everything; so that really it's
hardly worth while, it seems to me, making a fuss about it. Still,
that's not the real question. You think it's wrong; which is very
original and nice and proper of you; and as you think it's wrong,
you won't countenance it in any way. I don't care, myself, whether
it's wrong or not--I'm not called upon, thank goodness, to decide
the question; but I do care very much that you should suffer for
what you think the right course of action.' And Lady Hilda in her
earnestness almost laid her hand upon his arm, and looked up to
him in the most unmistakable and appealing fashion.

'You're very good, I'm sure, Lady Hilda,' Ernest replied,  half
hesitatingly, wondering much in his own mind what on earth she
could be driving at.

There was a moment's pause, and then Hilda said pensively,  'And
so we shall never walk together at Dunbude on the Clatter any more,
Mr. Le Breton! We shall never climb again among the big boulders
on those Devonshire hillsides! We shall never watch the red deer
from the big pool on top of the sheep-walk! I'm sorry for it, Mr.
Le Breton, very sorry for it. Oh, I do wish you weren't going to
leave us!'

Ernest began to feel that this was really growing embarrassing.  'I
dare say we shall often see one another,' he said evasively; for
simple-minded as he was, a vague  suspicion of what Lady Hilda wanted
him to say had somehow forced itself timidly upon him. 'London's
a very big place, no doubt; but still, people are always running
together  unexpectedly in it.'

Hilda sighed and looked at him again intently without speaking.
She stood so, face to face with him across the table for fully two
minutes; and then, seeming suddenly to awake from a reverie, she
started and sighed once more, and turned at last reluctantly to leave
the little study. 'I must go,' she said hastily; 'mamma would be
very angry indeed with me if she knew I'd come here; but I couldn't
let you leave the house without coming up to tell you how greatly
I admire your spirit, and how very, very much I shall always miss
you, Mr. Le Breton. Will you take this, and keep it as a memento?'
As she spoke, she laid an envelope upon the table, and glided
quietly out of the room.

Ernest took the envelope up with a smile, and opened it with some
curiosity. It contained a photograph, with a brief inscription on
the back, 'E. L. B., from Hilda  Tregellis.'

As he did so, Hilda Tregellis, red and pale by turns, had rushed
into her own room, locked the door wildly, and flung herself in a
perfect tempest of tears on her own bed, where she lay and tossed
about in a burning agony of shame and self-pity for twenty minutes.
'He doesn't love me,' she said to herself bitterly; 'he doesn't
love me, and he doesn't care to love me, or want to marry me either!
I'm sure he understood  what I meant, this time; and there was no
response in his eyes, no answer, no sympathy. He's like a block
of wood--a cold, impassive, immovable, lifeless creature! And yet
I could love him--oh, if only he would say a word to me in answer,
how I could love him! I loved him when he stood up there and bearded
papa in his own drawing-room, and asked him how dare he speak so,
how dare he address him in such a manner; I KNEW then that I really
loved him. If only he would let me! But he won't! To think that I
could have half the Algies and Berties in London at my feet for the
faintest encouragement, and I can't have this one poor penniless Ernest
Le Breton, though I go down on my knees before him and absolutely
ask him to marry me!  That's the worst of it! I've humiliated myself
before him by letting him see, oh, ever so much too plainly, that
I wanted him to ask me; and I've been repulsed, rejected, positively
refused and slighted by him! And yet I love him! I shall never love
any other man as I love Ernest Le Breton.'

Poor Lady Hilda Tregellis! Even she too had, at times, her sentimental
moments! And there she lay till her eyes were red and swollen with
crying, and till it was quite  hopeless to expect she could ever
manage to make herself  presentable for the Cecil Faunthorpes'
garden-party that  afternoon at Twickenham.



CHAPTER XV.

EVIL TIDINGS.


Ernest had packed his portmanteau, and ordered a hansom, meaning
to take temporary refuge at Number 28 Epsilon Terrace; and he went
down again for a few minutes to wait in the breakfast-room, where
he saw the 'Times' lying casually on the little table by the front
window. He took it up, half dreamily, by way of having something to
do, and was skimming the telegrams in an unconcerned manner, when
his attention was suddenly arrested by the name Le Breton, printed
in conspicuous type near the bottom of the third column. He looked
closer at the paragraph, and saw that it was headed 'Accident
to British Tourists in Switzerland.' A strange tremor seized him
immediately.  Could anything have happened, then, to Herbert? He
read the telegram through at once, and found this bald and concise
summary before him of the fatal Pontresina accident:--

'As Mr. H. Oswald, F.R.S., of Oriel College, Oxford, and Mr.
Le Breton, Fellow and Bursar of St. Aldate's College,  along with
three guides, were making the ascent of the Piz Margatsch, in the
Bernina Alps, this morning, one of the party happened to slip near
the great gulley known as the Gouffre. Mr. Oswald and two of the
guides were precipitated  over the edge of the cliff and killed
immediately: the breaking of the rope at a critical moment alone
saved the lives of Mr. Le Breton and the remaining guide. The bodies
have been recovered this evening, and brought back to Pontresina.'

Ernest laid down the paper with a thrill of horror. Poor Edie! How
absolutely his own small difficulties with Lord Exmoor faded out
of has memory at once in the face of that terrible, irretrievable
calamity. Harry dead! The hope and mainstay of the family--the
one great pride and glory of all the Oswalds, on whom their whole
lives and affections centred, taken from them unexpectedly, without
a chance of respite, without a moment's warning! Worst of all, they
would probably learn it, as he did, for the first time by reading
it accidentally in the curt language of the daily papers. Pray
heaven the shock might not kill poor Edie!

There was only a minute in which to make up his mind, but in that
minute Ernest had fully decided what he ought to do, and how to
do it. He must go at once down to Calcombe  Pomeroy, and try to
lighten this great affliction for poor little Edie. Nay, lighten
it he could not, but at least he could sympathise with her in it,
and that, though little, was still some faint shade better than
nothing at all. How fortunate that his difference with the Exmoors
allowed him to go that very evening without a moment's delay. When
the hansom arrived at the door, Ernest told the cabman to drive
at once to Paddington Station. Almost before he had had time to
realise the full meaning of the situation, he had taken a third-class
ticket for Calcombe Road, and was rushing  out of London by the
Plymouth express, in one of the convenient and commodious little
wooden horse-boxes which the Great Western Railway Company provide
as a wholesome deterrent for economical people minded to save half
their fare by going third instead of first or second.

Didcot, Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Newton Abbot, all followed
one after another, and by the time Ernest had reached Calcombe
Road Station he had begun to frame for himself a definite plan of
future action. He would stop at the Red Lion Inn that evening, send
a telegram from Exeter beforehand to Edie, to say he was coming
next day, and find out as much as possible about the way the family
had borne the shock before he ventured actually to see them.

The Calcombe omnibus, drawn by two lean and weary horses, toiled
its way slowly up the long steep incline for six miles to the
Cross Foxes, and then rattled down the opposite slope, steaming and
groaning, till it drew up at last with a sudden jerk and a general
collapse in front of the old Red Lion Inn in the middle of the
High Street. There Ernest put up for the present, having seen by
the shutters at the grocer's shop on his way down that the Oswalds
had already heard of Harry's accident. He had dinner by himself,
with a sick heart, in the gloomy, close little coffee-room of the
village inn, and after dinner he managed to draw in the landlord
in person for a glass of sherry and half an hour's conversation.

'Very sad thing, sir, this 'ere causality in Switzerland,' said
the red-faced landlord, coming round at once to the topic of the
day at Calcombe, after a few unimportant  preliminary generalities.
'Young Mr. Oswald, as has been killed, he lived here, sir;
leastways his parents do. He was a very promising young gentleman
up at Oxford, they do tell me--not much of a judge of horses, I
should say, but still, I understand, quite the gentleman for all
that. Very sad thing, the causality, sir, for all his family. 'Pears
he was climbing up some of these 'ere Alps they have over there in
them parts, covered with snow from head to foot in the manner of
speaking, and there was another gentleman from Oxford with him, a
Mr. Le Breton----'

'My brother,' Ernest put in, interrupting him; for he thought it
best to let the landlord know at once who he was talking to.

'Oh, your brother, sir!' said the red-faced landlord, with a gleam
of recognition, growing redder and hotter than ever; 'well, now you
mention it, sir, I find I remember your face somehow. No offence,
sir, but you're the young gentleman as come down in the spring to
see young Mr.  Oswald, aren't you?'

Ernest nodded assent.

'Ah, well, sir,' the landlord went on more freely--for of course
all Calcombe had heard long since that Ernest was engaged to Edie
Oswald--'you're one of the family like, in that case, if I may make
bold to say so. Well, sir, this is a shocking trouble for poor old
Mr. Oswald, and no mistake.  The old gentleman was sort of centred
on his son, you see, as the saying is: never thought of nobody else
hardly, he didn't. Old Mr. Oswald, sir, was always a wonderful hand
at figgers hisself, and powerful fond of measurements and such kinds
of things. I've heard tell, indeed, as how he knew more mathematics,
and trigononomy, and that, than the rector and the schoolmaster both
put together. There's not one in fifty as knows as much mathematics
as he do, I'll warrant. Well, you see, he brought up this son of
his, little Harry as was--I can remember him now, running to and
from the school, and figgerin' away on the slates, doin' the sums in
algemer for the other boys when they went a-mitchin'--he brought
him up like a gentleman, as you know very well, sir, and sent him to
Oxford College: "to develop his mathematical talents, Mr. Legge,"
his father says to me here in this very parlour. What's the
consequence? He develops that boy's talent sure enough, sir, till
he comes to be a Fellow of Oxford College, they tell me, and even
admitted into the Royal Society up in London. But this is how he
did it, sir: and as you're a friend of the family like, and want
to know all about it, no doubt, I don't mind tellin' you on the
strict confidential, in the manner of speakin'.' Here the landlord
drew his chair closer, and sipped the last drop in his glass of sherry
with a mysterious air of very private and important disclosures.
Ernest listened to his roundabout story with painful attention.

'Well, sir,' the landlord went on after a short and pensive pause,
'old Mr. Oswald's business ain't never been a prosperous  one--though
he was such a clover hand at figgers, he never made it remunerative;
a bare livin' for the family, I don't mind sayin'; and he always
spent more'n he ought to 'a done on Mr. Harry, and on the young
lady too, sir, savin' your presence. So when Mr. Harry was goin' to
Oxford to college, he come to me, and he says to me, "Mr. Legge,"
says he, "it's a very expensive thing sending my boy to the University,"
says he, "and I'm going to borrow money to send him with." "Don't
you go a-doin' that, Mr. Oswald," says I; "your business don't
justify you in doin' it, sir," says I. For you see, I knowed all
the ins and outs of that there business, and I knowed he hadn't
never made more'n enough just to keep things goin' decent like, as
you may say, without any money saved or put by against a emergence.
"Yes, I will, Mr. Legge," says he; "I can trust confidentially  in
my son's abilities," says he; "and I feel confidential  he'll be
in a position to repay me before long." So he borrowed the money on
an insurance of Mr. Harry's life.  Mr. Harry he always acted very
honourable, sir; he was a perfect gentleman in every way, as YOU
know, sir; and he began repayin' his father the loan as fast as
he was able, and I daresay doin' a great deal for the family, and
especially for the young lady, sir, out of his own pocket besides.
But he still owed his father a couple of hundred pound an' more
when this causality happened, while the business, I know, had been
a-goin' to rack and ruin for the last three year.  To-day I seen the
agent of the insurance, and he says to me, "Legge," says he, most
private like, "this is a bad job about young Oswald, I'm afeard,
worse'n they know for." "Why, sir?" says I. "Well, Legge," says
he, "they'll never get a penny of that there insurance, and the
old gentleman'll have to pay up the defissit on his own account,"
says he. "How's that, Mr. Micklethwaite?" says I. "Because," says
he, "there's a clause in the policy agin exceptional risks, in
which is included naval and military services, furrin  residences,
topical voyages, and mountain-climbin'," says he; "and you mark my
words," says he, "they'll never get a penny of it." In which case,
sir, it's my opinion that old Mr. Oswald'll be clean broke, for he
can't never make up the defissit out of his own business, can he
now?'

Ernest listened with sad forebodings to the red-faced landlord's
pitiful story, and feared in his heart that it was a bad look-out
for the poor Oswalds. He didn't sleep much that evening, and next
day he went round early to see Edie. The telegram he found would
be a useless precaution, for the gossip of Calcombe Pomeroy had
recognised him at once, and news had reached the Oswalds almost
as soon as he arrived that young Mr. Le Breton was stopping that
evening at the Red Lion.

Edie opened the door for him herself, pale of face and with eyes
reddened by tears, yet looking beautiful even so in her simple black
morning dress, her mourning of course hadn't yet come home--and
her deep white linen collar.  'It's very good of you to have come
so soon, Mr. Le Breton,' she said, taking his hand quietly--he
respected her sorrow too deeply to think of kissing her; 'he will
be back with us to-morrow. Your brother is bringing him back to us,
to lay him in our little churchyard, and we are all so very very
grateful to him for it.'

Ernest was more than half surprised to hear it. It was an unusual
act of kindly thoughtfulness on the part of Herbert.

Next day the body came home as Edie had said, and Ernest helped
to lay it reverently to rest in Calcombe  churchyard. Poor old Mr.
Oswald, standing bowed and  broken-hearted by the open grave side,
looked as though he could never outlive that solemn burial of all
his hopes and aspirations  in a single narrow coffin. Yet it was
wonderful to Ernest to see how much comfort he took, even in this
terrible grief, from the leader which appeared in the 'Times' that
morning on the subject of the Pontresina accident. It contained
only a few of the stock newspaper platitudes of regret at the loss
of a distinguished and rising young light of science--the ordinary
glib commonplaces of obituary notices which a practised journalist
knows so well how to adapt almost mechanically to the passing event
of the moment; but they seemed to afford the shattered old country
grocer an amount of consolation and solemn relief that no mere
spoken  condolences could ever possibly have carried with them. 'See
what a wonderful lot they thought of our boy up in London, Mr. Le
Breton,' he said, looking up from the paper tearfully, and wiping
his big gold spectacles, dim with moisture. 'See what the "Times"
says about him: "One of the ablest among our young academical
mathematicians, a man who, if his life had been spared to us, might
probably have attained the highest distinction in his own department
of pure science." That's our Harry, Mr. Le Breton; that's what
the "Times" says about our dear, dead Harry! I wish he could have
lived to read it himself, Edie--"a scholar of singularly  profound
attainments, whose abilities had recently secured him a place upon
the historic roll of the Royal Society, and whom even the French
Academy of Sciences had held worthy out of all the competitors
of the civilised world, to be adjudged the highest mathematical
honours of the present season." My poor boy! my poor, dear, lost
boy! I wish you could have lived to hear it! We must keep the paper,
Edie: we must keep all the papers; they'll show us at least what
people who are real judges of these things thought about our dear,
loved, lost Harry.'

Ernest dared hardly glance towards poor Edie, with the tears trickling
slowly down her face; but he felt thankful that the broken-hearted
old father could derive so much incomprehensible consolation from
those cold and stereotyped conventional phrases. Truly a wonderful
power there is in mere printer's ink properly daubed on plain
absorbent white paper. And truly the human heart, full to bursting
and just ready to break will allow itself to be cheated and cajoled
in marvellous fashions by extraordinary cordials and inexplicable
little social palliatives. The concentrated hopes of that old man's
life were blasted and blighted for ever; and he found a temporary
relief from that stunning shock in the artificial and insincere
condolences of a stock leader-writer on a daily paper!

Walking back by himself in such sad meditations to the Red Lion,
and sitting there by the open window, Ernest overheard a tremulous
chattering voice mumbling out a few incoherent words at the Rector's
doorway opposite. 'Oh, yes,' chirped out the voice in a tone of
cheerful resignation, 'it's very sad indeed, very sad and shocking,
and I'm  naturally very sorry for it, of course. I always knew
how it would be: I warned them of it; but they're a pig-headed,
heedless, unmannerly family, and they wouldn't be guided by me. I
said to him, "Now, Oswald, this is all very wrong and foolish of
you. You go and put your son to Oxford, when he ought to be stopping
at home, minding the shop and learning your business. You borrow
money foolishly  to send him there with. He'll go to Oxford; he'll
fall in with a lot of wealthy young gentlemen--people above his
own natural station--he'll take up expensive, extravagant ways, and
in the end he'll completely ruin himself. He won't pay you back a
penny, you may depend upon it--these boys never do, when you make
fine gentlemen of them; they think only of their cigars and their
horses, and their dog-carts and so forth, and neglect their poor
old fathers and mothers, that brought them up and scraped and saved
to make fine gentlemen of them. You just take my advice, Oswald, and
don't send him to college." But Oswald was always a presumptuous,
high-headed, independent sort of man, and instead of listening to
me, what does he do but go and send this sharp boy of his up to
Oxford. Well, now the boy's gone to Switzerland with one of the
young Le Bretons--brother of the poor young man they've inveigled
into what they call an engagement with Miss Edith, or Miss Jemima,
or whatever the girl's name is--very well-connected people, the Le
Bretons, and personal friends of the Archdeacon's--and there he's
thrown himself over a precipice or something of the sort, no doubt
to avoid his money-matters and debts and difficulties. At any
rate, Micklethwaite tells me the poor old father'll have to pay
up a couple of hundred pound to the insurance company:  and how on
earth he's ever to do it _I_ don't know, for to my certain knowledge
the rent of the shop is in arrears half-a-year already. But it's
no business of mine, thank goodness!--and I only hope that exposure
will serve to open that poor young Le Breton's eyes, and to warn him
against having anything further to say to Miss Jemima. A  designing
young minx, if ever there was one! Poor young Le Breton's come down
here for the funeral, I hear, which I must say was very friendly
and proper and honourable of him; but now it's over, I hope he'll
go back again, and see Miss Jemima in her true colours.'

Ernest turned back into the stuffy little coffee-room with his face
on fire and his ears tingling with mingled shame and indignation.
'Whatever happens,' he thought to himself, 'I can't permit Edie
to be subjected any longer to such insolence as this! Poor, dear,
guileless, sorrowing little maiden! One would have thought her
childish innocence and her terrible loss would have softened the
heart even of such a cantankerous, virulent old harridan as that,
till a few weeks were over, at least. She spoke of the Archdeacon:
it must be old Miss Luttrell! Whoever it is, though, Edie shan't
much longer be left where she can possibly come in contact with
such a loathsome mass of incredible and  unprovoked malice. That
Edie should lose her dearly-loved brother is terrible enough; but
that she should be exposed afterwards to be triumphed over in her
most sacred grief by that bad old woman's querulous "I told you
so" is simply intolerable!' And he paced up and down the room with
a boiling heart, unable to keep down his righteous anger.



CHAPTER XVI.

FLAT REBELLION.


For the next fortnight Ernest remained at the Red Lion, though
painfully conscious that he was sadly wasting his little reserve of
funds from his late tutorship, in order to find out exactly what
the Oswalds' position would be after the loss of poor Harry. Towards
the end of that time he took Edie, pale and pretty in her simple
new mourning, out once more into the Bourne Close for half an hour's
quiet conversation.  Very delicate and sweet and refined that tiny
girlish face and figure looked in the plain unostentatious black
and white of her great sorrow, and Ernest felt as he walked along
by her side that she seemed to lean upon him naturally now; the
loss of her main support and chief advisor in life seemed to draw
her closer and closer every day to her one remaining prop and future
husband.

'Edie,' he said to her, as they rested once more beside the
old wooden bridge across the little river, 'I think it's time now
we should begin to talk definitely over our common plans for the
future. I know you'd naturally rather wait a little longer before
discussing them; I wish for both our sakes we could have deferred
it; but time presses, and I'm afraid from what I hear in the village
that things won't go on henceforth exactly as they used to do with
your dear father and mother.'

Edie coloured slightly as she answered, 'Then you've heard of all
that already, Ernest'--she was learning to call him 'Ernest' now
quite naturally. 'The Calcombe tattle has got round to you so soon!
I'm glad of it, though, for it saves me the pain of having to tell
you. Yes, it's quite true, and I'm afraid it will be a terrible,
dreadful struggle for poor darling father and mother.' And the
tears came up afresh, as she spoke, into her big black eyes--too
familiar with them of late to make her even try to brush them away
hastily from Ernest's sight with her little handkerchief.

'I'm sorry to know it's true,' Ernest said, taking her hand gently;
'very, very sorry. We must do what we can to lighten the trouble
for them.'

'Yes,' Edie replied, looking at him through her tears; 'I mean to
try. At any rate, I won't be a burden to them myself any longer.
I've written already up to an agency in London to see whether they
can manage to get me a place as a  nursery-governess.'

'You a governess, Edie!' Ernest exclaimed hastily, with a gesture
of deprecation. 'You a governess! Why, my own precious darling,
you would never do for it!'

'Oh yes, indeed,' Edie answered quickly, 'I really think I could,
Ernest. Of course I don't know very much--not judged by a standard
like yours or our dear Harry's.  Harry used to say all a woman
could ever know was to find out how ignorant she was. Dear fellow!
he was so very learned himself he couldn't understand the  complacency
of little perky, half-educated schoolmistresses.  But still, I know
quite as much, I think, in my little way, as a great many girls
who get good places in London as governesses. I can speak French
fairly well, you know, and read German decently; and then dear
Harry took such a lot of pains to make me get up books that he
thought were good for me--history and so forth--and even to teach
me a little, a very little, Latin. Of course I know I'm dreadfully
ignorant; but not more so, I really believe, than  a great many
girls whom people consider quite well-educated enough to teach
their daughters. After all, the daughters themselves are only women,
too, you see, Ernest, and don't expect more than a smattering of
book-knowledge, and a few showy fashionable accomplishments.'

'My dear Edie,' Ernest answered, smiling at her gently in spite
of her tearful earnestness; 'you quite misunderstand me. It wasn't
THAT I was thinking of at all. There are very few governesses and
very few women anywhere who have half the knowledge and accomplishments
and literary taste and artistic culture that you have; very few
who have had the advantage of associating daily with such a man as
poor Harry; and if you really wanted to get a place of the sort,
the mere fact that you're Harry's sister, and that he interested
himself in superintending your education, ought, by itself, to
ensure your getting a very good one. But what I meant was rather
this--I couldn't endure to think that you should be put to all the
petty slights and small humiliations that a governess has always
to endure in rich families. You don't know what it is, Edie; you
can't imagine the endless devices for making her feel her dependence
and her artificial  inferiority that these great people have devised
in their  cleverness and their Christian condescension. You don't
know what it is, Edie, and I pray heaven you may never know; but
_I_ do, for I've seen it--and, darling, I CAN'T let you expose
yourself to it.'

To say the truth, at that moment there rose very vividly before
Ernest's eyes the picture of poor shy Miss Merivale, the governess
at Dunbude to little Lady Sybil, Lynmouth's younger sister. Miss
Merivale was a rector's daughter--an orphan, and a very nice girl
in her way; and Ernest had often thought to himself while he lived
at the Exmoors', 'With just the slightest turn of Fortune's wheel
that might be my own Edie.' Now, for himself he had never felt any
sense of social inferiority at all at Dunbude; he was an Oxford
man, and by the ordinary courtesy of English society he was always
treated accordingly in every way as an equal.  But there were
galling distinctions made in Miss Merivale's case which he could
not think of even at the time without a blush of ingenuous shame,
and which he did not like now even to mention to pretty, shrinking,
eager little Edie. One thing alone was enough to make his cheeks burn
whenever he thought of it--a little thing, and yet how unendurable!
Miss Merivale lunched with the family and with her pupil in the
middle of the day, but she did not dine with them in the evening.
She had tea by herself instead in Lady Sybil's little school-room.
Many a time when Ernest had been out  walking with her on the
terrace just before dinner, and the dressing-gong sounded, he had
felt almost too ashamed to go in at the summons and leave the poor
little governess out there alone with her social disabilities.
The gong seemed to raise such a hideous artificial barrier between
himself and that delicately-bred, sensitive, cultivated English
lady. That Edie should be subjected to such a life of affronts as
that was simply unendurable. True, there are social distinctions
of the sort which even Ernest Le Breton, communist as he was,
could not practically get over; but then they were distinctions
familiarised to the sufferers from childhood upward, and so perhaps
a little less insupportable. But that Harry Oswald's sister--that
Edie, his own precious delicate little Edie, a dainty English
wild-flower of the tenderest, should be transplanted from her own
appreciative home to such a chilly and ungenial soil as that--the
very idea of it was horribly unspeakable.

'But, Ernest,' Edie answered, breaking in upon his bitter meditation,
'I assure you I wouldn't mind it a bit. I know--it's very dreadful,
but then,'--and here she blushed one of her pretty apologetic little
blushes--'you know I'm used to it. People in business always are.
They expect to be treated just like servant--now THAT, I know you'll
say, is itself a piece of hubris, the expression of a horrid class
prejudice. And so it is, no doubt. But they do, for all that.  As
dear Harry used to say, even the polypes in aristocratic useless
sponges at the sea-bottom won't have anything to say to the sponges
of commerce. I'm sure nobody I could meet in a governess's place
could possibly be worse in that respect than poor old Miss Catherine
Luttrell.'

'That may be true, Edie darling,' Ernest answered, not caring
to let her know that he had overheard a specimen of the Calcombe
squirearchy, 'but in any case I don't want you to be troubled now,
either with old Miss Luttrell or any other bitter old busybodies.
I want to speak seriously to you about a very different project.
Just look at this  advertisement.'

He took a scrap of paper from his pocket and handed it to Edie. It
ran thus:--


    'WANTED at Pilbury Regis Grammar School, Dorset, a
    Third Classical Master. Must be a Graduate of Oxford or
    Cambridge; University Prizeman preferred. If unmarried,
    to take house duty. Commence September 20th. Salary,
    200L a year. Apply, as above, to the Rev. J. Greatrex,
    D.D., Head Master.'


Edie read it through slowly. 'Well, Ernest?' she said, looking up
from it into his face. 'Do you think of taking this mastership?'

'If I can get it,' Ernest answered. 'You see, I'm not a University
Prizeman, and that may be a difficulty in the way; but otherwise
I'm not unlikely to suit the requirements.  Herbert knows something
of the school--he's been down there to examine; and Mrs. Greatrex
had a sort of distant bowing acquaintance with my mother; so I hope
their influence might help me into it.'

'Well, Ernest?' Edie cried again, feeling pretty certain in her
own heart what was coming next, and reddening  accordingly.

'Well, Edie, in that case, would you care to marry at once, and try
the experiment of beginning life with me upon two hundred a year?
I know it's very little, darling, for our wants and necessities,
brought up as you and I have been: but Herr Max says, you know,
it's as much as any one family ought ever to spend upon its own
gratifications; and at any rate I dare say you and I could manage
to be very happy upon it, at least for the present. In any case it
wnuld be better than being a governess. Will you risk it, Edie?'

'To me, Ernest,' Edie answered with her unaffected simplicity,
'it really seems quite a magnificent income. I don't suppose any
of our friends or neighbours in Calcombe spend nearly as much as
two hundred a year upon their own families.'

'Ah, yes, they do, darling. But that isn't the only thing.  Two
hundred a year is a very different matter in quiet,  old-world,
little Calcombe and in a fashionable modern  watering-place like
Pilbury Regis. We shall have to live in lodgings, Edie, and live
very quietly indeed; but epen so I think it will be better than for
you to go out and endure the humiliation of becoming a governess.
Then I may understand that, if I can get this mastership, you'll
consent to be married, Edie, before the end of September?'

'Oh, Ernest, that's dreadfully soon!'

'Yes, it is, darling; but you must have a very quiet wedding; and
I can't bear to leave you here now any longer without Harry to
cheer and protect you. Shall we look upon it as settled?'

Edie blushed and looked down as she answered almost  inaudibly,
'As you think best, dear Ernest.'

So that very evening Ernest sent off an application to Pilbury
Regis, together with such testimonials as he had by him, mentioning
at the same time his intention to marry, and his recent engagement
at Lord Exmoor's. 'I hope they  won't make a point about the
University Prize, Edie,' he said timidly; 'but I rather think they
don't mean to  insist upon it. I'm afraid it may be put in to some
extent mainly as a bait to attract parents. Advertisements are often
so very dishonest. At any rate, we can only try; and if I get it,
I shall be able to call you my little wife in September.'

So soon after poor Harry's death he hardly liked to say much about
how happy that consciousness would make him; but he sent off the
letter with a beating heart, and waited anxiously for the head
master's answer.

'Maria,' said Dr. Greatrex to his wife next morning, turning over
the pile of letters at the breakfast table, 'who do you think has
applied for the third mastership? Very lucky, really, isn't it?'

'Considering that there are some thirty millions of people
in England, I believe, Dr. Greatrex,' said his wife with dignity,
'that some seventy of those have answered your advertisement, and
that you haven't yet given me an opportunity even of guessing which
it is of them all, I'm sure I can't say so far whether it's lucky
or otherwise.'

'You're pleased to be satirical, my dear,' the doctor answered
blandly; he was in too good a humour to pursue the opening further.
'But no matter. Well, I'll tell you, then; it's young Le Breton.'

'Not Lady Le Breton's son!' cried Mrs. Greatrex, forgetting  her
dignity in her surprise. 'Well, that certainly is very lucky. Now,
if we could only get her to come down and stay with us for a week
sometimes, after he's been here a little while, what a splendid
advertisement it would be for the place, to be sure, Joseph!'

'Capital!' the head master said, eyeing the letter complacently
as he sipped his coffee. 'A perfect jewel of a master, I should
say, from every possible point of view.  Just the sort of person
to attract parents and pupils.  "Allow me to introduce you to our
third master, Mr. Le Breton; I hope Lady Le Breton was quite well
when you heard from her last, Le Breton?" and all that sort of
thing.  Depend upon it, Maria, there's nothing in the world that
makes a middle-class parent--and our parents are unfortunately
all middle-class--prick up his ears like the faintest suspicion or
echo of a title. "Very good school," he goes back and says to his
wife immediately; "we'll send Tommy there; they have a master who's
an honourable or something  of the sort; sure to give the boys a
thoroughly high gentlemanly tone." It's snobbery, I admit, sheer
snobbery: but between ourselves, Maria, most people are snobs,
and  we have to live, professionally, by accommodating ourselves
to their foolish prejudices.'

'At the same time, doctor,' said his wife severely, 'I don't think
we ought to allow it too freely, at least with the door open.'

'You're quite right, my dear,' the head master answered submissively,
rising at the same time to shut the door.  'But what makes this
particular application all the better is that young Le Breton would
come here straight from the Earl of Exmoor's where he has been
acting as tutor to the son and heir, Viscount Lynmouth. That's
really admirable, now, isn't it? Just consider the advantages of
the situation.  A doubtful parent comes to inspect the arrangements;
sniffs at the dormitories, takes the gauge of the studies, snorts
over the playground, condescends to approve of the fives courts.
Then, after doing the usual Christian principles business and
working in the high moral tone a little, we invite him to lunch,
and young Le Breton to meet him. You remark casually in the most
unconscious and natural fashion--I admit, my dear, that you do these
little things much better than I do--"Oh, talking of cricket, Mr.
Le Breton, your old pupil, Lord Lynmouth, made a splendid score the
other day at the Eton and Harrow." Fixes the wavering parent like
a shot. "Third master something or other in the peerage,  and has
been tutor to a son of Lord Exmoor's. Place to send your boys to
if you want to make perfect gentlemen of them." I think we'd better
close at once with this young man's offer, Maria. He's got a very
decent degree, too; a first in Mods and Greats; really very decent.'

'But will he take a house-mastership do you think, doctor?' asked
the careful lady.

'No, he won't; he's married or soon going to be. We must let him
off the house duty.'

'Married!' said Mrs. Greatrex, turning it over cautiously.  'Who's
he going to marry, I wonder? I hope somebody presentable.'

'Why, of course!' Dr. Greatrex answered, as who should feel shocked
at the bare suggestion that a young man of Ernest Le Breton's
antecedents could conceivably marry otherwise.

'His wife, or rather his wife that is to be, is a sister, he tells
me, of that poor Mr. Oswald--the famous mathematician,  you know,
of Oriel--who got killed, you remember, by falling off the Matterhorn
or somewhere, just the other day.  You must have seen about it in
the "Times."'

'I remember,' Mrs. Greatrex answered, in placid contentment;  'and
I should say you can't do better than take him immediately. It'd
be an excellent thing for the school, certainly. As the third
mastership's worth only two hundred a year, of course he can't
intend to marry upon THAT; so he must have means of his own, which
is always a good thing to encourage in an under-master: or if his
wife has money, that comes in the end to the same thing. They'll take
a house of their own, no doubt; and she'll probably entertain--very
quietly, I daresay; still, a small dinner now and then gives a very
excellent tone to the school in its own way. Social considerations,
as I always say, Joseph, are all-important in school management;
and I think we may take it for granted that Mr. Le Breton would be
socially a real acquisition.'

So it was shortly settled that Dr. Greatrex should write back
accepting Ernest Le Breton as third master; and Mrs.  Greatrex
began immediately dropping stray allusions to 'Lady Le Breton, our
new master's mother, you know,' among her various acquaintance,
especially those with rising young families. The doctor and she
thought a good deal of this catch they were making in the person of
Ernest Le Breton. Poor souls, they little knew what sort of social
qualities they were letting themselves in for. A firebrand or a
bombshell would really have been a less remarkable guest to drop
down straight into the prim and proper  orthodox society of Pilbury
Regis.

When Ernest received the letter in which Dr. Greatrex informed him
that he might have the third mastership, he hardly knew how to contain
his joy. He kissed Edie a dozen times over in his excitement, and
sat up late making plans with her which would have been delightful
but for poor Edie's lasting sorrow. In a short time it was all duly
arranged, and Ernest began to think that he must go back to London
for a day or two, to let Lady Le Breton hear of his change of plans,
and got everything in order for their quiet wedding. He grudged the
journey sadly, for he was beginning to understand now that he must
take care of the pence for Edie's sake as well as for humanity's--his
abstraction  was individualising itself in concrete form--but
he felt so much at least was demanded of him by filial duty, and,
besides, he had one or two little matters to settle at Epsilon
Terrace which could not so well be managed in his absence even
by his trusty deputy, Ronald. So he ran up to town once more in a
hurry, and dropped in as if nothing had happened, at his mother's
house. It was no unusual matter for him to pass a fortnight at
Wilton Place without finding time to call round at Epsilon Terrace
to see Ronald, and his mother had not heard at all as yet of his
recent change of engagement.

Lady Le Breton listened with severe displeasure to Ernest's account of
his quarrel with Lord Exmoor. It was quite unnecessary and wrong,
she said, to prevent  Lynmnouth from his innocent boyish amusements.
Pigeon-shooting was practised by the very best people, and she was
quite sure, therefore, there could be no harm of any sort in it.
She believed the sport was countenanced, not only by bishops, but
even by princes. Pigeons, she supposed, had been specially created
by Providence for our use and enjoyment--'their final cause
being apparently the manufacture of pigeon-pie,' Ronald suggested
parenthetically: but we couldn't use them without killing them,
unfortunately; and shooting was probably as painless a form of
killing as any other. Peter or somebody, she distinctly remembered,
had been specially commanded to arise, kill, and eat. To object to
pigeon-shooting indeed, in Lady Le Breton's opinion, was clearly
flying in the face of Providence. Of Ronald's muttered reference
to five sparrows being sold for two farthings, and yet not one of
them being forgotten, she would not condescend to take any notice.
However, thank goodness, the fault was none of hers; she could
wash her hands entirely of all responsibility in the matter. She
had done her best to secure Ernest a good place in a thoroughly
nice family, and if he chose to throw it up at a moment's notice
for one of his own absurd communistical fads, it was happily none
of her business. She was glad, at any rate, that he'd got another
berth, with a conscientious, earnest, Christian man like Dr.
Greatrex. 'And indeed, Ernest,' she said, returning once more to
the pigeon-shooting question,  'even your poor dear papa, who was
full of such absurd religious fancies, didn't think that sport
was unchristian, I'm certain; for I remember once, when we were
quartered at Moozuffernugger in the North-West Provinces, he went
out into a nullah near our compound one day, and with his own hand
shot a man-eating tiger, which had carried off three little native
children from the thanah; so that shows that he couldn't really
object to sport; and I hope you don't mean to cast disrespect upon
the memory of your own poor father!'. All of which profound moral
and religious  observations Ernest, as in duty bound, received with
the most respectful and acquiescent silence.

And now he had to approach the more difficult task of breaking
to his mother his approaching marriage with Edie Oswald. He began
the subject as delicately as he could, dwelling strongly upon poor
Harry Oswald's excellent  position as an Oxford tutor, and upon
Herbert's visit with him to Switzerland--he knew his mother too
well to suppose that the real merits of the Oswald family would
impress her in any way, as compared with their accidental social
status; and then he went on to speak as gently as possible about
his engagement with little Edie. At this point, to his exceeding
discomfiture, Lady Le Breton adopted the unusual tactics of bursting
suddenly into a flood of tears.

'Oh, Ernest,' she sobbed out inarticulately through her scented
cambric handkerchief, 'for heaven's sake don't tell me that you've
gone and engaged yourself to that designing girl! Oh, my poor,
poor, misguided boy! Is there really no way to save you?'

'No way to save me!' exclaimed Ernest, astonished and disconcerted
by this unexpected outburst.

'Yes, yes!' Lady Le Breton went on, almost passionately.  'Can't
you manage somehow to get yourself out of it? I hope you haven't
utterly compromised yourself! Couldn't dear Herbert go down
to What's-his-name Pomeroy, and induce the father--a grocer, if
I remember right--induce him, somehow or other, to compromise the
matter?'

'Compromise!' cried Ernest, uncertain whether to laugh or be angry.

'Yes, compromise it!' Lady Le Breton answered, endeavouring  to
calm herself. 'Of course that Machiavellian girl has tried to drag
you into it; and the family have aided and abetted her; and you've
been weak and foolish--though not, I trust, wicked--and allowed them
to get their net closed almost imperceptibly around you. But it
isn't too late to withdraw even now, my poor, dear, deluded Ernest.
It isn't too late to withdraw even now. Think of the disgrace and
shame to the family! Think of your dear brothers and their blighted
prospects! Don't allow this designing girl to draw you helplessly
into such an ill-assorted marriage!  Reflect upon your own future
happiness! Consider what it will be to drag on years of your life
with a woman, no longer perhaps externally attractive, whom you
could never possibly respect or love for her own internal qualities!
Don't go and wreck your own life, and your brothers' lives, for any
mistaken and Quixotic notions of false honour! You mayn't like to
throw her over, after you've once been inveigled into saying "Yes"
(and the feeling, though foolish, does your heart credit); but
reflect, my dear boy, such a promise, so obtained, can hardly be
considered binding upon your  conscience! I've no doubt dear Herbert,
who's a capital man of business, would get them readily enough to
agree to a compromise or a compensation.'

'My dear mother,'said Ernest white with indignation, but speaking
very quietly, as soon as he could edge in a word, 'you quite
misunderstand the whole question. Edie Oswald is a lady by nature,
with all a lady's best feelings--I hate the word because of its
false implications, but I can't use any other that will convey to
you my meaning--and I love and admire and respect and worship her
with all my heart and with all my soul. She hasn't inveigled me or
set her cap at me, as you call it, in any way; she's the sweetest,
timidest, most shrinking little thing that ever existed; on the contrary,
it is I who have humbly asked her to accept me, because I know no
other woman to whom I could give my whole heart so unreservedly.
To tell you the truth, mother, with my ideas and opinions, I could
hardly be happy with any girl of the class that you would call
distinctively ladies: their class prejudices and their social
predilections would jar and grate upon me at every turn. But Edie
Oswald's a girl whom I could worship and love without any reserve--whom
I can reverence for her beautiful character, her goodness, and her
delicacy of feeling. She has honoured me by accepting me, and I'm
going to marry her at the end of this month, and I want, if possible,
to get your consent to the marriage before I do so. She's a wife
of whom I shall be proud in every way; I wish I could think she
would have equal cause to be proud of her husband.'

Lady Le Breton threw herself once more into a paroxysm of tears.
'Oh, Ernest,' she cried, 'do spare me! do spare me! This is too
wicked, too unfeeling, too cruel of you  altogether! I knew already
you were very selfish and heartless and headstrong, but I didn't
know you were quite so unmanageable and so unkind as this. I appeal
to your better nature--for you HAVE a better nature--I'm sure you
have a better nature: you're MY son, and you can't be utterly devoid
of good impulses. I appeal confidently to your better nature to
throw off this unhappy, designing,  wicked girl before it is too
late! She has made you forget your duty to your mother, but not,
I hope,  irrevocably. Oh, my poor, dear, wandering boy, won't you
listen to the voice of reason? won't you return once more like the
prodigal son, to your neglected mother and your forgotten duty?'

'My dear mother,' Ernest said, hardly knowing how to answer, 'you
WILL persist in completely misunderstanding me. I love Edie Oswald
with all my heart; I have promised to marry her, because she has
done me the great and  undeserved honour of accepting me as her
future husband; and even if I wanted to break off the engagement
(which it would break my own heart to do), I certainly couldn't
break it off now without the most disgraceful and dishonourable
wickedness. That is quite fixed and certain, and I can't go back
upon it in any way.'

'Then you insist, you unnatural boy,' said Lady Le Breton, wiping
her eyes, and assuming the air of an injured parent, 'you insist,
against my express wish, in marrying this girl Osborne, or whatever
you call her?'

'Yes, I do, mother,' Ernest answered quietly.

'In that case,' said Lady Le Breton, coldly, 'I must beg of you
that you won't bring this lady, whether as your wife or otherwise,
under my roof. I haven't been accustomed to associate with the
daughters of tradesmen, and I don't wish to associate with them
now in any way.'

'If so,' Ernest said, very softly, 'I can't remain under your roof
myself any longer. I can go nowhere at all where my future wife
will not be received on exactly the same terms that I am.'

'Then you had bettor go,' said Lady Le Breton, in her chilliest
manner. 'Ronald, do me the favour to ring ihe bell for a cab for
your brother Ernest.'

'I shall walk, thank you, mother,' said Ernest quietly.  'Good
morning, dear Ronald.'

Ronald rose solemnly and opened the door for him.  'Therefore shall
a man leave his father and mother,' he said in his clear, soft
voice, 'and shall cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be
one flesh. Amen.'

Lady Le Breton darted a withering glance at her younger son as
Ernest shut the door after him, and burst once more into a sudden
flood of uncontrollable tears.



CHAPTER XVII.

'COME YE OUT AND BE YE SEPARATE.'


Arthur Berkeley's London lodgings were wonderfully snug and
comfortable for the second floor of a second-rate house in a small
retired side street near the Embankment at Chelsea. He had made
the most of the four modest little rooms, with his quick taste and
his deft, cunning fingers:--four rooms, or rather boxes, one might
almost call them; a bedroom each for himself and the Progenitor;
a wee sitting-room for meals and music--the two Berkeleys would
doubtless as soon have gone without the one as the other; and a tiny
study where Arthur might work undisturbed at his own desk upon his
new and original magnum opus, destined  to form the great attraction
of the coming season at the lately-opened Ambiguities Theatre. Things
had prospered well with the former Oxford curate during the last
twelve-month. His cantata at Leeds had proved a wonderful success,
and had finally induced him to remove to London, and take to
composing as a regular profession. He had his qualms about it, to
be sure, as one who had put his hand to the plough and then turned
back; he did not feel quite certain in his own mind how far he
was justified in giving up the more spiritual for the more worldly
calling; but natures like Arthur Berkeley's move rather upon passing
feeling than upon deeper sentiment; and had he not ample ground, he
asked himself, for this reconsideration of the monetary position?
He had the Progenitor's happiness to insure before thinking of the
possible injury to his non-existent parishioners. If he was doing
Whippingham Parva or Norton-cum-Sutton out of an eloquent and
valuable potential rector, if he was depriving the Church in the
next half-century of a dignified and portly prospective archdeacon,
he is at least making his father's last days brighter and more
comfortable than his early ones had ever been. And then, was not
music, too, in its own way, a service, a liturgy, a worship? Surely
he could do higher good to men's souls--as they call them--to
whatever little spark of nobler and better fire there might lurk
within those dull clods of common clay he saw all around him--by
writing such a work as his Leeds cantata, than by stringing together
for ever those pretty centos of seventeenth-century conceits and
nineteenth-century doubts or hesitations which he was accustomed
to call his sermons! Whatever came of it, he must give up the
miserable pittance of a curacy, and embrace the career open to the
musical talents.

So he fitted up his little Chelsea rooms in his own economically
sumptuous fashion with some bits of wall paper, a few jugs and vases,
and an etching or two after Meissonier; planted the Progenitor down
comfortably in a large easy-chair, with a melodious fiddle before
him; and set to work himself to do what he could towards elevating
the British stage and pocketing a reasonable profit on his own
account from that familiar and ever-rejuvenescent process. He was
quite in earnest, now, about producing a totally new effect of his
own; and believing in his work, as a good workman ought to do,
he wrought at it indefatigably and well in the retirement of a
second-pair back, overlooking a yardful of fluttering clothes, and
a fine skyline vista of bare, yellowish brick chimneys.

'What part are you working at to-day, Artie?' said the old shoemaker,
looking over his son's shoulder at the blank music paper before
him. 'Quartette of Biological Professors, eh?'

'Yes, father,' Berkeley answered with a smile. 'How do you think
it runs now?' and he hummed over a few lines of his own words, set
with a quaint lilt to his own  inimitable and irresistible music:--


    And though in unanimous chorus
    We mourn that from ages before us
    No single enaliosaurus
        To-day should survive,

    Yet joyfully may we bethink us,
    With the earliest mammal to link us,
    We still have the ornithorhyncus
        Extant and alive!


'How do you think the score does for that, father, eh?  Catching
air rather, isn't it?'

'Not a better air in the whole piece, Artie; but, my boy, who do
you think will ever understand the meaning of the words. The gods
themselves won't know what you're driving at.'

'But I'm going to strike out a new line, Daddie dear.  I'm not going
to play to the gallery; I mean to play to the stalls and boxes.'

'Was there ever such a born aristocrat as this young parson is!' cried
the old man, lifting up both his hands with a playful gesture of
mock-deprecation. 'He's hopeless!  He's terrible! He's incorrigible!
Why, you unworthy son of a respectable Paddington shoemaker, if even
the intelligent  British artizans in the gallery don't understand
you, how the dickens do you suppose the oiled and curled Assyrian
bulls in the stalls and boxes will have a glimmering idea of what
you're driving at? The supposition's an insult to the popular
intelligence--in other words, to me, sir, your Progenitor.'

Berkeley laughed. 'I don't know about that, father,' he said, holding
up the page of manuscript music at arm's length admiringly before
him; 'but I do know one thing: this comic opera of mine is going
to be a triumphant success.'

'So I've thought ever since you began it, Artie. You see, my boy,
there's a great many points in its favour. In the first place you
can write your own libretto, or whatever you call it; and you know
I've always held that though that Wagner man was wrong in practice--a
most inflated thunder-bomb, his Lohengrin--yet he was right in
theory, right in theory, Artie; every composer ought to be his own
poet.  Well, then, again, you've got a certain peculiar vein of
humour of your own, a kind of delicate semi-serious burlesque  turn
about you that's quite original, both in writing and in composing;
you're a humourist in verse and a humourist in music, that's the
long and the short of it.  Now, you've hit upon a fresh lode of
dramatic ore in this opera of yours, and if my judgment goes for
anything, it'll bring the house down the first evening. I'm a bit
of a critic, Artie; by hook or by crook, you know, paper or money,
I've heard every good opera, comic or serious, that's been given
in London these last thirty years, and I flatter myself I know
something by this time about operatic criticism.'

'You're wrong about Wagner, father,' said Arthur, still glancing
with paternal partiality at his sheet of manuscript: 'Lohengrin's
a very fine work, a grand work, I assure you.  I won't let you run
it down. But, barring that, I think you're pretty nearly right in
your main judgment. I'm not modest, and it strikes me somehow that
I've invented a genre.  That's about what it comes to.'

'If you'd confine yourself to your native tongue, Mr.  Parson,
your ignorant old father might have some chance of agreeing or
disagreeing with you; but as he doesn't even know what the thingumbob
you say you've invented may happen to be, he can't profitably
continue the discussion of that subject. However, my only fear is
that you may perhaps  be writing above the heads of the audience.
Not in the music, Artie; they can't fail to catch that; it rings
in one's head like the song of a hedge warbler--tirree, tirree,
lu-lu-lu, la-la, tirree, tu-whit, tu-whoo, tra-la-la--but in the
words and the action. I'm half afraid that'll be over their heads,
even in the gallery. What do you think you'll finally call it?'

'I'm hesitating, Daddy, between "Evolution" and "The Primate of
Fiji." Which do you recommend--tell me?'

'The Primate, by all means,' said the old man gaily.  'And you
still mean to open with the debate in the Fijian Parliament on the
Deceased Grandmother's Second Cousin Bill?'

'No, I don't, Daddy. I've written a new first scene this week, in
which the President of the Board of Trade remonstrates  with the
mermaids on their remissness in sending their little ones to the
Fijian Board Schools, in order to receive primary instruction in the
art of swimming. I've got a capital chorus of mermaids to balance
the other chorus of Biological Professors on the Challenger Expedition.
I consider it's a happy cross between Ariosto and Aristophanes.
If you like, I'll give you the score, and read over the words to
you.' 'Do,' said the old man, settling himself down in comfort in
his son's easy-chair, and assuming the sternest air of an impartial
critic. Arthur Berkeley read on dramatically,  in his own clever
airy fashion, suiting accent and gesture to the subject matter
through the whole first three acts of that exquisitely humorous
opera, the Primate of Fiji. Sometimes he hummed the tune over to
himself as he went; sometimes he played a few notes upon his flute
by way of striking the key-note; sometimes he rose from his seat in
his animation, and half acted the part he was reading with almost
unconscious and spontaneous mimicry. He read through the famous
song of the President of the Local Government Board, that everybody
has since heard played by every German band at the street corners;
through the marvellously catching chorus of the superannuated
tide-waiters; through the culminating dialogue between the London
Missionary Society's Agent and the Hereditary Grand Sacrificer to
the King of Fiji. Of course the recital lacked everything of the
scenery and dresses that give it so much vogue upon the stage; but
it had at least the charmingly  suggestive music, the wonderful
linking of sound to sense, the droll and inimitable intermixture
of the plausible and the impossible which everybody has admired
and laughed at in the acted piece.

The old shoemaker listened in breathless silence, keeping his eye
fixed steadily all the time upon the clean copy of the score. Only
once he made a wry face to himself, and that was in the chorus to
the debate in the Fijian Parliament on the proposal to leave off
the practice of obligatory cannibalism.  The conservative party
were of opinion that if you began by burying instead of eating your
deceased wife, you might end by the atrocious practice of marrying
your deceased wife's sister; and they opposed the revolutionary
measure in that well known refrain:--


    Of change like this we're naturally chary,
    Nolumus leges Fijiae mutari.


That passage evidently gave the Progenitor deep pain.

'Stick to your own language, my boy,' he murmured; 'stick to your
own language. The Latin may be very fine, but the gallery wil never
understand it.' However, when Arthur finished at last, he drew a
long breath, and laid down the roll of manuscript with an involuntary
little cry of half-stifled applause.

'Artie,' he said rising from the chair slowly, 'Artie, that's not
so bad for a parson, I can tell you. I hope the Archbishop won't
be tempted to cite you for displaying an amount of originality
unworthy of your cloth.'

'Father,' said Arthur, suddenly, after a short pause, with a tinge
of pensiveness in his tone that was not usual with him, in speaking
at least; 'Father, I often think I ought never to have become a
parson at all.'

'Well, my boy,' said the old man, looking up at him sharply with
his keen eyes, 'I knew that long ago. You've never really believed
in the thing, and you oughtn't to have gone in for it from the very
beginning. It was the music, and the dresses, and the decorations
that enticed you, Artie, and not the doctrine.'

Arthur turned towards him with a pained expression.  'Father,' he
said, half reproachfully, 'Father, dear father, dou't talk to me
like that. Don't think I'm so shallow or so dishonest as to subscribe
to opinions I don't believe in.  It's a curious thing to say, a
curious thing in this unbelieving age, and I'm half ashamed to say
it, even to you; but do you know, father, I really do believe it:
in my very heart of hearts, I fancy I believe every word of it.'

The old man listened to him compassionately and tenderly, as
a woman listens to the fears and troubles of a little child.  To
him, that plain confession of faith was, in truth, a wonder and a
stumbling-block. Good, simple-hearted, easy-going, logical-minded,
sceptical shoemaker that he was, with his head all stuffed full of
Malthus, and John Stuart Mill, and political economy, and the hard
facts of life and science, how could he hope to understand the
complex labyrinth of metaphysical thinking, and childlike faith,
and aesthetic attraction, and historical authority, which made a
sensitive man like Arthur Berkeley, in his wayward, half-serious,
emotional fashion, turn back lovingly and regretfully to the fair
old creed that his father had so long deserted? How strange that
Artie, a full-grown male person, with all the learning of the schools
behind him, should relapse at last into these childish and exploded
mediaeval superstitions!  How incredible that, after having been
brought up from his babyhood upward on the strong meat of the agnostic
philosophers, he should fall back in his manhood on the milk for
babes administered to him by orthodox theology!  The simple-minded
old sceptic could hardly credit it, now that Arthur told him so
with his own lips, though he had more than once suspected it when he
heard him playing sacred music with that last touch of earnestness
in his execution which only the sincerest conviction and most intimate
realisation of its import can ever give. Ah well, ah well, good
sceptical old shoemaker; there are perhaps more things in heaven
and earth and in the deep soul of man than are dreamt of in your
philosophy.

Still, though the avowal shocked and disappointed him a little, the
old man could not find it in his heart to say one word of sorrow
or disapproval, far less of ridicule or banter, to his dearly loved
boy. He felt instinctively, what Herbert Le Breton could not feel,
that this sentimental tendency of his son's, as he thought it,
lay far too deep and seemed far too sacred for mere argument or
common discussion.  'Perhaps,' he said to himself softly, 'Artie's
emotional side has got the better of his intellectual. I brought
him up without telling him any thing of these things, except
negatively, and by way of warning against superstitious tendencies;
and when he went to Oxford, and saw the doctrines tricked out in
all the authority of a great hierarchy, with its cathedrals, and
chapels, and choirs, and altars, and robes, and fal-lal finery,
it got the better of him; got the better of him, very naturally.
Artie's a cleverer fellow than his old father--had more education,
and so on; and I'm fond of him, very fond of him; but his logical
faculty isn't quite straight, somehow: he lets his feelings have
too much weight and prominence against his calmer reason! I can
easily understand how, with his tastes and leanings, the clericals
should have managed to get a hold over him. The clericals are such
insinuating cunning fellows. A very impressionable boy Artie was,
always; the poetical temperament and the artistic temperament
always is impressionable, I suppose; but shoemaking certainly does
develop the logical faculties. Seems as though the logical faculties
were situated in the fore-part of the brain, as they mark them
out on the phrenological heads; and the leaning forward that gives
us the shoemaker's forehead must tend to enlarge them--give them
plenty of room to expand and develop!' Saying which thing to himself
musingly, the father took his son's hand gently in his, and only
smoothed it quietly as he looked deep into Arthur's eyes, without
uttering a single word.

As for Arthur Berkeley, he sat silent, too, half averting his face
from his father's gaze, and feeling a little blush of shame upon his
cheek at having been surprised unexpectedly into such an unwonted
avowal. How could he ever expect his father to understand the nature
of his feelings! To him, good old man that he was, all these things
were just matters of priestcraft and obscurantism--fables invented
by the ecclesiastical mind as a means of getting fat livings and
comfortable deaneries out of the public pocket. And, indeed, Arthur
was well accustomed at Oxford to keeping his own opinions to himself
on such subjects. What chance of sympathy or response was there for
such a man as he in that coldly critical and calmly deliberative
learned society? Not, of course, that all Oxford was wholly given
over even then to extreme agnosticism. There were High Churchmen,
and Low Churchmen, and Broad Churchmen enough, to be sure: men
learned in the Fathers, and the Canons, and the Acts of the General
Councils; men ready to argue on the intermediate  state, or on the
three witnesses, or on the heretical nature of the Old Catholic
schism; men prepared with minute dogmatic opinions upon every
conceivable or inconceivable point of abstract theology. There were
people who could trace the Apostolic succession of the old Cornish
bishops, and people who could pronounce authoritatively upon the
exact distinction between justification and remission of sins. But
for all these things Arthur Berkeley cared nothing. Where, then,
among those learned exegetical theologians, was there room for one
whose belief was a matter, not of reason and argument, but of feeling
and of sympathy? He did not want to learn what the Council of Trent
had said about such and such a dogma; he wanted to be conscious
of an inner truth, to find the world permeated by an informing
righteousness, to know himself at one with the inner essence of
the entire universe. And though he could never feel sure whether
it was all illusion or not, he had hungered and thirsted after
believing it, till, as he told his father timidly that day, he
actually did believe it somehow in his heart of hearts. Let us not
seek to probe too deeply into those inner recesses, whose abysmal
secrets are never perfectly clear even to the introspective eyes
of the conscious self-dissector himself.

After a pause Arthur spoke again. He spoke this time in a very low
voice, as one afraid to open his soul too much, even to his father.
'Dear, dear father,' he said, releasing his hand softly, 'you don't
quite understand what I mean about it. It isn't because I don't
believe, or try to believe, or hope I believe, that I think I ought
never to have become a parson. In my way, as in a glass, darkly,
I do strive my best to believe, though perhaps my belief is hardly
more in its way than Ernest Le Breton's unbelieving. I do want to
think that this great universe we see around us isn't all a mistake
and an abortion. I want to find a mind and an order and a purpose
in it; and, perhaps because I want it, I make myself believe that
I have really found it. In that hope and belief, with the ultimate
object of helping on whatever is best and truest in the world, I
took orders.  But I feel now that it was an error for me. I'm not
the right man to make a parson. There are men who are born for that
role; men who know how to conduct themselves in it decently and
in seemly fashion; men who can quietly endure all its restraints,
and can fairly rise to the height of all its duties. But I can't.
I was intended for something lighter and less onerous than that.
If I stop in the Church I shall do no good to myself or to it; if
I come out of it, I shall make both parties freer, and shall be able
to do more good in my own generation. And so, father, for the very
same reasons that made me go into it, I mean to come out again. Not
in any quarrel with it, nor as turning my back upon it, but just
as the simple acknowledgment of a  mistaken calling. It wouldn't
be seemly, for example, for a parson to write comic operas. But
I feel I can do more good by writing comic operas than by talking
dogmatically about things I hardly understand to people who hardly
understand me. So before I get this opera acted I mean to leave off
my white tie, and be known in future, henceforth and for ever, as
plain Arthur Berkeley.'

The old shoemaker listened in respectful silence. 'It isn't for me,
Artie,' he said, as his son finished, 'to stand between a man and
his conscience. As John Stuart Mill says in his essay on "Liberty,"
we must allow full play to every man's individuality. Wonderful
man, John Stuart Mill; I understand his grandfather was a shoemaker.
Well, I won't talk with you about the matter of conviction; but I
never wanted you to be a parson, and I shall feel all the happier
myself when you've ceased to be one.'

'And I,' said Arthur, 'shall feel all the freer; but if I had been
able to remain where I was, I should have felt all the worthier,
for all that.'



CHAPTER XVIII.

A QUIET WEDDING.


Fate was adverse for the moment to Arthur Berkeley's well meant
designs for shuffling off the trammels of his ecclesiastical  habit.
He was destined to appear in public at least once more, not only in
the black coat and white tie of his everyday professional costume,
but even in the flowing snowy surplice of a solemn and decorous
spiritual function.  The very next morning's post brought him
a little note from Ernest Le Breton specially begging him, in his
own name and Edie's, to come down to Calcombe Pomeroy, and officiate
as parson at their approaching wedding. The note had cost Ernest
a conscientious struggle, for he would have personally preferred
to be married at a Registry Office, as being more in accordance
with the duties of a good citizen, and savouring less of effete
ecclesiastical  superstition; but he felt he couldn't even propose
such a step to Edie; she wouldn't have considered herself married
at all, unless she were married quite regularly by a duly qualified
clerk in holy orders of the Church of England as by law established.
Already, indeed, Ernest was beginning to recognise with a sigh
that if he was going to live in the world at all, he must do so by
making at least a partial sacrifice of political consistency. You
may step out of your own century, if you choose, yourself, but you
can't get all the men and women with whom you come in contact to
step out of it also in unison just to please you.

So Ernest had sat down reluctantly to his desk, and  consented
to ask Arthur Berkeley to assist at the important ceremony in his
professional clerical capacity. If he was going to have a medicine
man or a priest at all to marry him to the girl of his choice--a
barbaric survival, at the best, he thought it--he would, at any
rate, prefer having his friend Arthur--a good man and true--to
having the fat, easy-going, purse-proud rector of the parish; the
younger son of a wealthy family who had gone into the Church for
the sake of the living, and who rolled sumptuously down the long
hilly High Street every day in his comfortable carriage, leaning
back with his fat hands folded complacently over his ample knees,
and gazing abstractedly, with his little pigs'-eyes half buried
in his cheek, at the beautiful prospect afforded him by the broad
livery-covered backs of his coachman and his footman.  Ernest could
never have consented to lot that lazy, overfed, useless encumbrance
on a long-suffering commonwealth,  that idle gorger of dainty meats
and choice wines from the tithes of the tolling, suffering people,
bear any part in what was after all the most solemn and serious
contract of his whole lifetime. And, to say the truth, Edie quite
agreed with him on that point, too. Though her moral indignation
against poor, useless, empty-headed old Mr. Walters didn't burn
quite so fierce or so clear as Ernest's--she regarded the fat
old parson, indeed, rather from the social point of view, as a
ludicrously self-satisfied specimen of the lower stages of humanity,
than from the political point of view, as a greedy swallower of
large revenues for small work inefficiently performed--she would
still have felt that his presence at her wedding jarred and grated
on all the finer sensibilities of her nature, as out of accord
with the solemn and tender associations of that supreme moment.
To have been married by prosy old Mr. Walters, to have taken the
final benediction on the greatest act of her life from those big
white fat fingers, would have spoilt the reminiscence of the wedding
day for her as long as she lived. But when Ernest suggested Arthur
Berkeley's name to her, she acquiesced with all her heart in the
happy  selection. She liked Berkeley better than anybody else she
had ever met, except Ernest; and she knew that his presence would
rather add one more bright association to the day than detract from
it in the coming years. Her poor little wedding would want all the
additions that friends could make to its cheerfulness, to get over
the lasting gloom and blank of dear Harry's absence.

'You will come and help us, I know, Berkeley,' Ernest wrote to
Arthur in his serious fashion. 'We feel there is nobody else we
should so like to have present at our wedding as yourself. Come
soon, too, for there are lots of things I want to talk over with
you. It's a very solemn responsibility,  getting married: you
have to take upon yourself the duty of raising up future citizens
for the state; and with our present knowledge of how nature works
through the laws of heredity, you have to think whether you two
who contemplate marriage are well fitted to act as parents to the
generations that are to be. When I remember that all my own faults
and failings may be handed on relentlessly to those that come after
us--built up in the very fibre of their being--I am half appalled
at my own temerity. Then, again, there is the inexorable question
of money; is it prudent or is it wrong of us to marry on such
an  uncertainty? I'm afraid that Schurz and Malthas would tell us
--very wrong. I have turned over these things by myself till I'm
tired of arguing them out in my own head, and I want you to come
down beforehand, so as to cheer me up a bit with your lighter and
brighter philosophy. On the very eve of my marriage, I'm somehow
getting dreadfully pessimistic.'

Arthur read the letter through impatiently and crumpled it up in his
hands with a gesture of despondency. 'Poor little Miss Butterfly,'
he said to himself, pityingly, 'was there ever such an abstraction
of an ethical unit as this good, solemn, self-torturing Ernest! How
will she ever live with him? How will he ever live with her? Poor
little soul! Harry is gone like the sunshine out of her life; and
now this well-meaning, gloomy, conscientious cloud comes caressingly
to overspread her with the shadowing pall of its endless serious
doubts and hesitations.  Fancy a man who has won little Miss
Butterfly's heart--dear little Miss Butterfly's gay, laughing,
tender little heart--writing such a letter as that to the friend
who's going to marry them! Upon my word, I've half a mind to go
into the concientious scruples business on my own account! Have I
any right to be a party to fettering poor airy fairy little Miss
Butterfly, with a heavy iron chain for life and always, to this
great lumbering elephantine moral Ernest? Am I justified in tying
the cable round her dainty little neck with a silken thread, and
then fastening it round his big leg with rivets of hardened steel
on the patent Bessemer process? If a couple of persons, duly called
by banns in their own respective parishes, or furnished with the
right reverend's  perquisite, a licence, come to me, a clerk in holy
orders, and ask me to marry them, I've a vague idea that unless I
comply I lay myself open to the penalties of praemunire, or something
else equally awful and mysterious. But if the couple write and
ask me to come down into Devonshire and marry them, that's quite
another matter. I can lawfully answer, 'Non possumus.' There's a
fine ecclesiastical ring, by the way, about answering 'Non possumus;'
it sums up the entire position of the Church in a nutshell! Well,
I doubt whether I ought to go; but as a matter of friendship, I'll
throw overboard my poor conscience. It's used to the process  by
this time, no doubt, like eels to skinning; and as Hudibras says,


    However tender it may be,
    'Tis passing blind where 'twill not see.


If she'd only have taken ME, now, who knows but I might in time
have risen to be a Prebendary or even a Dean?  'They that have used
the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree,'
Paul wrote to Timothy once; but it's not so now, it's not so now;
preferment goes by favour, and the deacon must e'en shift as best
he can on his own account.' So, in the end, Arthur packed up his
surplice  in his little handbag, and took his way peacefully down
to Calcombe Pomeroy.

It was a very quiet, almost a sombre wedding, for the poor Oswalds
were still enveloped in the lasting gloom of their great loss,
and not much outward show or preparation, such as the female heart
naturally delights in, could possibly be made under these painful
circumstances. Still, all the world of Calcombe came to see little
Miss Oswald married to the grave gentleman from Oxford; and most
of them gave her their hearty good wishes, for Edie was a general
favourite with gentle and simple throughout the whole borough.
Herbert was there, like a decorous gentleman, to represent the
bridegroom's family, and so was Ronald, who had slipped away from
London without telling Lady Le Breton, for fear of another distressful
scone at the last moment. Arthur Berkeley read the service in
his beautiful impressive manner, and looked his part well in his
flowing white surplice. But as he uttered the solemn words, 'Whom
God hath joined together, let no man put asunder,' the musical
ring of his own voice sounded to his heart like the knell of his
own one love--the funeral service over the only romance he could
ever mix in throughout his whole lifetime. Poor fellow, he had
taken the duty upon him with all friendly heartiness; but he felt
an awful and lonely feeling steal over him when it was all finished,
and when he knew that his little Miss Butterfly was now Ernest Le
Breton's lawful wife for ever and ever.

In the vestry, after signing the books, Herbert and Ronald and
some of the others insisted on their ancient right of kissing the
bride in good old English fashion. But Arthur did not. It would
not have been loyal. He felt in his heart that he had loved little
Miss Butterfly too deeply himself for that; to claim a kiss would
be abusing the formal dues of his momentary position. Henceforth
he would not even think of her to himself in that little pet name
of his brief Oxford dream: he would call her nothing in his own
mind but Mrs. Le Breton.

Edie's simple little presents were all arranged in the tiny parlour
behind the shop. Most of them were from her own personal friends:
a few were from the gentry of the surrounding neighbourhood: but
there were two handsomer than the rest: they came from outside the
narrow little circle of Calcombe Pomeroy society. One was a plain
gold bracelet from Arthur Berkeley; and on the gold of the inner
face, though neither Edie nor Ernest noticed it, he had lightly
cut with his knife on the soft metal the one word, 'Frustra.' The
other was a dressing-case, with a little card inside, 'Miss Oswald,
from Lady Hilda Tregellis.' Hilda had heard of Ernest's approaching
wedding from Herbert (who took an early opportunity of casually
lunching at Dunbude,  in order to show that he mustn't be identified
with his socialistic brother); and the news had strangely proved a
slight salve to poor Hilda's wounded vanity--or, perhaps it would
be fairer to say, to her slighted higher instincts. 'A country
grocer's daughter!' she said to herself: 'the sister of a great
mathematical scholar! How very original of him to think of marrying
a grocer's daughter! Why, of course, he must have been engaged to
her all along before he came here!  And even if he hadn't been,
one might have known at once that such a man as he is would never
go and marry a girl whose name's in the peerage, when he could strike
out a line for himself by marrying a grocer's daughter. I really
like him better than ever for it. I must positively send her a
little present. They'll be as poor as church mice, I've no doubt.
I ought to send her something that'll be practically useful.' And
by way of sending something practically useful, Lady Hilda chose
at last a handsome silver-topped Russia leather dressing-case.

It was not such a wedding as Edie had pictured to herself  in her
first sweet maidenly fancies; but still, when they drove away alone
in the landau from the side-door of the Red Lion to Calcombe Road
Station, she felt a quiet pride and security in her heart from the
fact that she was now the wedded wife of a man she loved so dearly
as Ernest Le Breton. And even Ernest so far conquered his social
scruples that he took first-class tickets, for the first time in
his life, to Ilfracombe, where they were to spend their brief and
hasty fragment of a poor little honeymoon. It's so  extremely hard
to be a consistent socialist where women are concerned, especially
on the very day of your own wedding!



CHAPTER XIX.

INTO THE FIRE.


'Let me see, Le Breton,' Dr. Greatrex observed to the new master,
'you've taken rooms for yourself in West Street for the present--you'll
take a house on the parade by-and-by, no doubt. Now, which church
do you mean to go to?'

'Well, really,' Ernest answered, taken a little aback at the
suddenness of the question, 'I haven't had time to think about it
yet.'

The doctor frowned slightly. 'Not had time to think about it,'
he repeated, rather severely. 'Not had time to think about such
a serious question as your particular place of worship! You quite
surprise me. Well, if you'll allow me to make a suggestion in the
matter it would be that you and Mrs. Le Breton should take seats,
for the present at least, at St. Martha's. The parish church is high,
decidedly high, and I wouldn't recommend you to go there; most of
our parents don't approve of it. You're an Oxford man, I know, and
so I suppose you're rather high yourself; but in this particular
matter I would strongly advise you to  subordinate your own personal
feelings to the parents' wishes.  Then there's St. Jude's; St.
Jude's is distinctly low--quite Evangelical in fact: indeed, I may
say, scarcely what I should consider sound church principles at
all in any way; and I think you ought most certainly to avoid it
sedulously.  Evangelicism is on the decline at present in Pilbury
Regis.  As to St. Barnabas--Barabbas they call it generally, a most
irreverent joke, but, of course, inevitable--Barabbas is  absolutely
Ritualistic. Many of our parents object to it most strongly. But
St. Martha's is a quiet, moderate, inoffensive church in every
respect--sound and sensible, and free from all extremes. You can
give no umbrage to anybody, even the most cantankerous, by going
to St. Martha's. The High Church people fraternise with it on the
one hand, and the moderate church people fraternise with it on the
other, while as to the Evangelicals and the dissenters, they hardly
contribute any boys to the school, or if they do, they don't object
to unobtrusive church principles. Indeed, my  experience has been,
Le Breton, that even the most rabid dissenters prefer to have their
sons educated by a sound, moderate, high-principled, and, if I may
say so, neutral-tinted church clergyman.' And the doctor complacently
pulled his white tie straight before the big gilt-framed  drawing-room
mirror.

'Then, again,' the doctor went on placidly in a bland tone of
mild persuasion, 'there's the question of politics.  Politics are
a very ticklish matter, I can assure you, in  Pilbury Regis. Have
you any fixed political opinions of your own, Le Breton, or are
you waiting to form them till you've had some little experience in
your profession?'

'My opinions,' Ernest answered timidly, 'so far as they can be
classed under any of the existing political formulas at all, are
decidedly Liberal--I may even say Radical.'

The doctor bit his lip and frowned severely. 'Radical,' he said,
slowly, with a certain delicate tinge of acerbity in his tone.
'That's bad. If you will allow me to interpose in the matter, I
should strongly advise you, for your own sake, to change them at
once and entirely. I don't object to moderate Liberalism--perhaps
as many as one-third of our parents are moderate Liberals;
but decidedly the most desirable form of political belief for a
successful schoolmaster  is a quiet and gentlemanly, but unswerving
Conservatism.  I don't say you ought to be an uncompromising
old-fashioned Tory--far from it: that alienates not only the
dissenters, but even the respectable middle-class Liberals.  What
is above all things expected in a schoolmaster is a central position
in politics, so to speak--a careful avoidance of all extremes--a
readiness to welcome all reasonable progress,  while opposing in
a conciliatory spirit all revolutionary or excessive changes--in
short, an attitude of studied  moderation. That, if you will allow
me to advise you, Le Breton, is the sort of thing, you may depend
upon it, that most usually meets the wishes of the largest possible
number of pupils' parents.'

'I'm afraid,' Ernest answered, as respectfully as possible, 'my
political convictions are too deeply seated to be  subordinated to
my professional interests.'

'Eh! What!' the doctor cried sharply. 'Subordinate your principles
to your personal interests! Oh, pray don't mistake me so utterly
as that! Not at all, not at all, my dear Le Breton. I don't mean
that for the shadow of a second. What I mean is rather this,' and
here the doctor cleared his throat and pulled round his white tie
a second time, 'that a schoolmaster, considering attentively what
is best for his pupils, mark you--we all exist for our pupils, you
know, my dear fellow, don't we?--a schoolmaster should avoid such
action as may give any unnecessary scandal, you see, or seem to
clash with the ordinary opinion of the pupils' parents. Of course, if
your views are fully formed, and are of a mildly Liberal complexion
(put it so, I beg of you, and don't use that distressful word
Radical), I wouldn't for the world have you act contrary to them.
But I wouldn't have you obtrude them too ostentatiously--for your
own sake, Le Breton, for your own sake, I assure you. Remember,
you're a very young man yet: you have plenty of time before you to
modify your opinions in: as you go on, you'll modify them--moderate
them--bring them into harmony with the average opinions of ordinary
parents. Don't commit yourself  at present--that's all I would
say to you--don't commit yourself at present. When you're as old
as I am, my dear fellow, you'll see through all these youthful
extravagances.'

'And as to the church, Mr. Le Breton,' said Mrs.  Greatrex, with
bland suggestiveness from the ottoman, 'of course, we regard the
present very unsatisfactory arrangement  as only temporary. The
doctor hopes in time to get a chapel built, which is much nicer
for the boys, and also more convenient for the masters and their
families--they all have seats, of course, in the chancel. At Charlton
College, where the doctor was an assistant for some years, before
we came to Pilbury, there was one of the under-masters, a young man
of very good family, who took such an interest in the place that
he not only contributed a hundred pounds out of his own pocket
towards building a chapel, but also got ever so many of his wealthy
friends elsewhere to subscribe, first to that, and then to the organ
and stained-glass window.  We've got up a small building fund here
ourselves already, of which the doctor's treasurer, and we hope
before many years to have a really nice chapel, with good music
and service well done--the kind of thing that'll be of use to the
school, and have an excellent moral effect upon the boys in the
way of religious training.'

'No doubt,' Ernest answered evasively, 'you'll soon manage to raise
the money in such a place as Pilbury.'

'No doubt,' the doctor replied, looking at him with a searching
glance, and evidently harbouring an uncomfortable suspicion,
already, that this young man had not got the moral and religious
welfare of the boys quite so deeply at heart as was desirable in
a model junior assistant master.  'Well, well, we shall see you at
school to-morrow morning, Le Breton: till then I hope you'll find
yourselves quite comfortable in your new lodgings.'

Ernest went back from this visit of ceremony with a doubtful heart,
and left Dr. and Mrs. Greatrex alone to discuss their new acquisition.

'Well, Maria,' said the doctor, in a dubious tone of voice, as soon
as Ernest was fairly out of hearing, 'what do you think of him?'

'Think!' answered Mrs. Greatrex, energetically. 'Why, I don't think
at all. I feel sure he'll never, never, never make a schoolmaster!'

'I'm afraid not,' the doctor responded, pensively. 'I'm afraid
not, Maria. He's got ideas of his own, I regret to say; and, what's
worse, they're not the right ones.'

'Oh, he'll never do,' Mrs. Greatrex continued, scornfully.  'Nothing
at all professional about him in any way.  No interest or enthusiasm
in the matter of the chapel; not a spark of responsiveness even
about the stained-glass window; hardly a trace of moral or religious
earnestness, of care for the welfare and happiness of the dear boys.
He wouldn't in the least impress intending parents--or, rather, I
feel sure he'd impress them most unfavourably. The best thing we
can do, now we've got him, is to play off his name on relations in
society, but to keep the young man himself as far as possible in
the background. I confess he's a disappointment--a very great and
distressing disappointment.'

'He is, he is certainly,' the doctor acquiesced, with a sigh of
regretfulness. 'I'm afraid we shall never be able to make much of
him. But we must do our best--for his own sake, and the sake of the
boys and parents, it's our duty, Maria, to do our best with him.'

'Oh, of course,' Mrs. Greatrex replied, languidly: 'but I'm bound
to say, I'm sure it'll prove a very thankless piece of duty. Young
men of his sort have never any proper sense of gratitude.'

Meanwhile, Edie, in the little lodgings in a side street near the
school-house, had run out quickly to open the door for Ernest, and
waited anxiously to hear his report upon their new employers.

'Well, Ernest dear,' she asked, with something of the old childish
brightness in her eager manner, 'and what do you think of them?'

'Why, Edie,' Ernest answered, kissing her white forehead  gently,
'I don't want to judge them too hastily, but I'm inclined to
fancy, on first sight, that both the doctor and his wife are most
egregious and unmitigated humbugs.'

'Humbugs, Ernest! why, how do you mean?'

'Well, Edie, they've got the moral and religious welfare of the
boys at their very finger ends; and, do you know--I don't want to
be uncharitable--but I somehow imagine they haven't got it at heart
as well. However, we must do our best, and try to fall in with
them.'

And for a whole year Ernest and Edie did try to fall in with them
to the best of their ability. It was hard work, for though the
doctor himself was really at bottom a kind-hearted man, with a mere
thick veneer of professional  humbug inseparable from his unhappy
calling, Mrs. Greatrex was a veritable thorn in the flesh to poor
little natural honest-hearted Edie. When she found that the Le
Bretons didn't mean to take a house on the Parade or elsewhere,
but were to live ingloriously in wee side street lodgings, her
disappointment was severe and extreme; but when she incidentally
discovered that Mrs. Le Breton was positively a grocer's daughter
from a small country town, her moral indignation against the baseness
of mankind rose almost to white heat.  To think that young Le Breton
should have insinuated himself  into the position of third master
under false pretences--should have held out as qualifications for
the post his respectable connections, when he knew perfectly well
all the time that he was going to marry somebody who was not in
Society--it was really quite too awfully wicked and deceptive and
unprincipled of him! A very bad, dishonest young man, she was very
much afraid; a young man with no sense of truth or honour about
him, though, of course, she wouldn't say so for the world before
any of the parents, or do anything to injure the poor young fellow's
future prospects if she could possibly help it. But Mrs. Greatrex
felt sure that Ernest had come to Pilbury of malice prepense, as
part of a deep-laid scheme to injure and ruin the doctor by his
horrid revolutionary notions. 'He does it on purpose,' she used to
say; 'he talks in that way because he knows it positively shocks
and annoys us. He pretends to be very innocent all the time; but
at heart he's a malignant, jealous, uncharitable creature. I'm sure
I wish he had never come to Pilbury Regis! And to go quarrelling
with his own mother, too--the unnatural man! The only respectable
relation he had, and the only one at all likely to produce any good
or salutary effect upon intending parents!'

'My dear,' the doctor would answer apologetically, 'you're really
quite too hard upon young Le Breton. As far as school-work goes, he's
a capital master, I assure you--so conscientious, and hard-working,
and systematic. He does his very best with the boys, even with that
stupid lout, Blenkinsopp major; and he has managed to din something
into them in mathematics somehow, so that I'm sure the fifth form
will pass a better examination this term than any term since we
first came here. Now that, you know, is really a great thing, even
if he doesn't quite fall in with our preconceived social requirements.'

'I'm sure I don't know about the mathematics or the fifth form,
Joseph,' Mrs. Geatrex used to reply, with great dignity.  'That
sort of thing falls under your department, I'm aware, not under
mine. But I'm sure that for all social purposes, Mr.  Le Breton
is really a great deal worse than useless. A more unchristian,
disagreeable, self-opinionated, wrong-headed, objectionable young
man I never came across in the whole course of my experience. However,
you wouldn't listen to my advice upon the subject, so it's no use
talking any longer about it. I always advised you not to take him
without further enquiry into his antecedents; and you overbore me:
you said he was so well-connected, and so forth, and would hear
nothing against him; so I wish you joy now of your precious bargain.
The only thing left for us is to find some good opportunity of
getting rid of him.'

'I like the young man, as far as he goes,' Dr. Greatrex replied
once, with unwonted spirit, 'and I won't get rid of him at all, my
dear, unless he obliges me to. He's really well meaning, in spite
of all his absurdities, and upon my word, Maria, I believe he's
thoroughly honest in his opinions.'

Mrs. Greatrex only met this flat rebellion by an indirect remark
to the effect that some people seemed absolutely  destitute of the
very faintest glimmering power of judging human character.



CHAPTER XX.

LITERATURE, MUSIC, AND THE DRAMA.


'The Primate of Fiji' was duly accepted and put into rehearsal by
the astute and enterprising manager of the Ambiguities Theatre.
'It's a risk,' he said candidly, when he read the manuscript over,
'a decided risk, Mr. Berkeley; I acknowledge the riskiness, but I
don't mind trying it for all that. You see, you've staked everything
upon the doubtful  supposition that the Public possesses a certain
amount of elementary intelligence, and a certain appreciation
of genuine original wit and humour. Your play's literature, good
literature;  and that's rather a speculative element to introduce
into the regular theatre nowadays. Illegitimate, I should call it;
decidedly illegitimate--but still, perhaps, worth  trying. Do you
know the story about old Simon Burbury, the horsedealer? Young Simon
says to him one morning, "Father, don't you think we might manage
to conduct this business of ours without always telling quite
so many downright lies about it?" The old man looks back at him
reproachfully, and says with a solemn shake of the head, "Ah, Simon,
Simon, little did I ever think I should live to see a son of mine
go in for speculation!" Well, my dear sir, that's pretty much how
a modern manager feels about the literary element in the drama.
The Public isn't accustomed  to it, and there's no knowing how they
may take it.  Shakespeare, now, they stand readily enough, because
he's an old-established and perfectly respectable family purveyor.
Sheridan, too, of course, and one play of Goldsmith's, and a trifle
or so of George Colman--all recognised and all tolerated because
of their old prescriptive respectability.  But for a new author to
aim at being literary's rather  presumptuous; now tell me yourself,
isn't it? Seems as if he was setting himself up for a heaven-sent
genius, and trying to sit upon the older dramatists of the present
generation.  Melodrama, sensation, burlesque--that's all right
enough--perfectly legitimate; but a real literary comic opera, with
good words and good music--it IS a little strong, for a beginner,
Mr. Berkeley, you WILL acknowledge.'

'But don't you think,' Arthur answered, smiling good-humouredly at
his cynical frankness, 'an educated and  cultured Public is beginning
to grow up that may, perhaps, really prefer a little literature,
provided it's made light enough and attractive enough for their
rapid digestion?  Don't you think intelligent people are beginning
to get just a trifle sick of burlesque, and spectacle, and sensation,
and melodrama?'

'Why, my dear sir,' the manager answered promptly, 'that's the exact
chance on which I'm calculating when I venture to accept your comic
opera from an unknown beginner. It's clever, there's no denying
that, and I hope the fact won't be allowed to tell against it: but
the music's bright and lively; the songs are quaint and catching;
the dialogue's brisk and not too witty; and there's plenty of
business--plenty of business in it. I incline to think we can get
together a house at the Ambiguities that'll enter into the humour
of the thing, and see what your play's driving at. How did you learn
all about stage requirements, though?  I never saw a beginner's
play with so little in it that was absolutely impossible.'

'I was a Shooting Star at Oxford,' Berkeley answered simply,
'so that I know something--like a despised amateur--about stage
necessities; and I've written one or two little pieces before for
private acting. Besides, Watkiss has helped me with all the technical
arrangements of the little opera.'

'It'll do,' the manager answered, more confidently; 'I won't predict
a success, because you know a manager should never prophesy unless
he knows; but I think there's a Public in London that'll take it
in, just as they took in "Caste" and "Society," twenty years back,
at the Prince of Wales's.  Anyhow, I'm quite prepared to give it
a fair trial.'

On the first night, Arthur Berkeley and the Progenitor went down
in fear and trembling to the stage door of the Ambiguities. There
was a full house, and the critics were all present, in some surprise
at the temerity of this new man; for it was noised abroad already
by those who had seen the rehearsals that 'The Primate of Fiji' was
a fresh departure, after its own fashion, in the matter of English
comic opera.  The curtain rose upon the chorus of mermaids, and
the first song was a decided hit. Still the Public, as becomes a
first night, maintained a dignified and critical reserve. When the
President of the Board of Trade, in full court costume, appeared
upon the scene, in the midst of the very realistic long-haired
sea-ladies, the audience was half shocked for a moment by the
utter incongruity of the situation; but after a while they began
to discover that the incongruity was part of the joke, and they
laughed quietly a sedate and moderate laugh of suspended judgment.
As the Progenitor had predicted,  the gods were the first to enter
into the spirit of the fun, and to give a hand to the Primate's
first sermon. The scuntific professors on the Challenger Expedition
took the fancy of the house a little more decidedly; and even the
stalls thawed visibly when the professor of biology delivered his
famous exposition of the evolution hypothesis to the assembled
chiefs of Raratouga. But it was the one feeble second-hand old joke
of the piece that really brought pit and boxes down together in a
sudden fit of inextinguishable laughter. The professor of political
economy enquired  diligently, with note book in hand, of the Princess
of Fiji, whether she thought the influence of the missionaries
beneficial or otherwise; whether she considered these preachers
of a new religion really good or not; to which the unsophisticated
child of nature responded naively, 'Good, very good--roasted; but
not quite so good boiled,' and the professor gravely entered the
answer in his philosophic note-book. It was a very ancient jest
indeed, but it tickled the ribs of the house mightily, as ancient
jests usually do, and they burst forthwith into a hearty roar of
genuine approval. Then Arthur began to breathe more freely. After
that the house toned down again quietly, and gave no decided token
of approbation till the end of the piece. When the curtain dropped
there was a lull of hushed expectation for poor Arthur Berkeley;
and at its close the house broke out into a storm of applause, and
'The Primate of Fiji' had firmly secured its position as the one
great theatrical success of the present generation.

There was a loud cry of 'Author! Author!' and Arthur Berkeley,
hardly knowing how he got there, or what he was standing on, found
himself pushed from behind by friendly hands, on to the narrow
space between the curtain and the footlights. He became aware that
a very hot and red body, presumably himself, was bowing mechanically
to a seething and clapping mass of hands and faces over the whole
theatre.  Backing out again, in the same semi-conscious fashion,
with the universe generally reeling on more than one distinct axis
all around him, he was seized and hand-shaken violently, first
by the Progenitor, then by the manager, and then by half a dozen
other miscellaneous and unknown persons. At last, after a lot more
revolutions of the universe, he found himself comfortably pitched
into a convenient hansom, with the Progenitor by his side; and
hardly knew anything further till he discovered his own quiet supper
table at the Chelsea lodgings, and saw his father mixing a strong
glass of brandy and seltzer for him. to counteract the strength of
the excitement.

Next morning Arthur Berkeley 'awoke, and found himself  famous.'
'The Primate of Fiji' was the rage of the moment. Everybody went to
hear it--everybody played its tunes at their own pianos--everybody
quoted it, and adapted it, and used its clever catchwords as the
pet fashionable slang expressions of the next three seasons. Arthur
Berkeley was the lion of the hour; and the mantelpiece of the
quiet little Chelsea study was ranged three rows deep with cards
of invitation from people whose very names Arthur had never heard
of six months before, and whom the Progenitor declared it was a
sin and shame for any  respectable young man of sound economical
education even to countenance. There were countesses, and marchionesses,
too, among the senders of those coronetted parallelograms of waste
pasteboard, as the Progenitor called them--nay, there was even one
invitation on the mantelpiece that bore the three strawberry leaves
and other insignia of Her Grace the Duchess of Leicestershire.

'Can't you give us just ONE evening, Mr. Berkeley,' said Lady
Hilda Tregellis, as she sat on the centre ottoman in Mrs. Campbell
Moncrieff's drawing-room with Arthur Berkeley talking lightly
to her about the nothings which constitute polite conversation in
the nineteenth century.  'Just one evening, any day after the next
fortnight? We should be so delighted if you could manage to favour
us.'

'No, I'm afraid I can't, Lady Hilda,' Arthur answered.  'My evenings
are so dreadfully full just now; and besides, you know, I'm not
accustomed to so much society, and it unsettles me for my daily work.
After all, you see, I'm a journeyman playwright now, and I have to
labour at my unholy calling just like the theatrical carpenter.'

'How delightfully frank,' thought Lady Hilda. 'Really I like him
quite immensely.--Not even the afternoon on Wednesday fortnight?'
she went on aloud. 'You might come to our garden party on Wednesday
fortnight.'

'Quite impossible,' Arthur Berkeley answered. 'That's my regular
day at Pilbury Regis.'

'Pilbury Regis!' cried Lady Hilda, starting a little.  'You don't
mean to say you have engagements, and in the thick of the season,
too, at Pilbury Regis!'

'Yes, I have, every Wednesday fortnight,' Berkeley answered, with
a smile. 'I go there regularly. You see, Lady Hilda, Wednesday's
a half-holiday at Pilbury Grammar School; so every second week I
run down for the day to visit an old friend of mine, who's also an
acquaintance of yours, I believe,--Ernest Le Breton. He's married
now, you know, and has got a mastership at the Pilbury Grammar
School.'

'Then you know Mr. Le Breton!' cried Lady Hilda, charmed at this
rapprochement of two delightfully original men. 'He is so nice.
I like him immensely, and I'm so glad you're a friend of his. And
Mrs. Le Breton, too; wasn't it nice of him? Tell me, Mr. Berkeley,
was she really and truly a grocer's daughter?'

Berkeley's voice grew a little stiffer and colder as he answered,
'She was a sister of Oswald of Oriel, the great mathematician, who
was killed last year by falling from the summit of a peak in the
Bernina.'

'Oh, yes, yes, I know all about that, of course,' said Lady Hilda,
quickly and carelessly. 'I know her brother was very clever and
all that sort of thing; but then there are so many men who are very
clever, aren't there? The really original thing about it all, you
know, was that he actually married a grocer's daughter. That was
really quite too delightfully original. I was charmed when I heard
about it: I thought it was so exactly like dear Mr. Le Breton.
He's so deliciously unconventional in every way. He was Lynmouth's
tutor for a while, as you've heard, of course; and then he went
away from us, at a moment's notice, so nicely, because he wouldn't
stand papa's abominable behaviour,  and quite right, too, when it
was a matter of conscience--I dare say he's told you all about it,
that horrid pigeon-shooting business. Well, and so you know Mrs.
Le Breton--do tell me, what sort of person is she?'

'She's very nice, and very good, and very pretty, and very clever,'
Arthur answered, a little constrainedly. 'I don't know that I can
tell you anything more about her than that.'

'Then you really like her?' said Lady Hilda, warmly.  'You think
her a fit wife for Mr. Le Breton, do you?'

'I think him a very lucky fellow indeed to have married such a
charming and beautiful woman,' Arthur answered, quietly.

Lady Hilda noticed his manner, and read through it at once with a
woman's quickness. 'Aha!' she said to herself: 'the wind blows that
way, does it? What a very remarkable  girl she must be, really,
to have attracted two such men as Mr. Berkeley and Mr. Le Breton.
I've lost one of them to her; I can't very well lose the other,
too: for after Ernest Le Breton, I've never seen any man I should
care to marry so much as Mr. Arthur Berkeley.'

'Lady Hilda,' said the hostess, coming up to her at that moment,
'you'll play us something, won't you? You know you promised to
bring your music.'

Hilda rose at once with stately alacrity. Nothing could have pleased
her better. She went to the piano, and, to the awe and astonishment
of Mrs. Campbell Moncrieff, took out an arrangement of the Fijian
war-dance from 'The Primate of Fiji.' It suited her brilliant
slap-dash style of execution admirably; and she felt she had never
played so well in her life before. The presence of the composer,
which would have frightened and unnerved most girls of her age, only
made Hilda Tregellis the bolder and the more ambitious.  Here was
somebody at least who knew something about it; none of your ordinary
fashionable amateurs and mere soulless professional performers,
but the very man who had made the music--the man in whose brain the
notes had first gathered themselves together into speaking melody,
and who could really judge the comparative merits of her rapid
execution.  She played with wonderful verve and spirit, so that
Lady Exmoor, seated on the side sofa opposite, though shocked at
first at Hilda's choice of a piece, glanced more than once at the
wealthiest young commoner present (she had long since mentally
resigned herself to the prospect of a commoner for that poor dear
foolish Hilda), and closely watched his face to see what effect
this unwonted outburst of musical talent might succeed in producing
upon his latent  susceptibilities. But Lady Hilda herself wasn't
thinking of the wealthy commoner; she was playing straight at Arthur
Berkeley: and when she saw that Arthur Berkeley's mouth had melted
slowly into an approving smile, she played even more brilliantly
and better than ever, after her bold, smart, vehement fashion. As
she left the piano, Arthur said, 'Thank you; I have never heard
the piece better rendered.' And Lady Hilda felt that that was a
triumph which far outweighed any number of inane compliments from
a whole regiment of simpering Algies, Monties, and Berties.

'You can't say any evening, then, Mr. Berkeley?' she said once
more, as she held out her hand to him to say 'Good-night' a little
later: 'not any evening at all, or part of an evening? You might
really reconsider your engagements.'

Arthur hesitated visibly. 'Well, possibly I might manage it,' he
said, wavering, 'though, I assure you, my evenings are very much
more than full already.'

'Then don't make it an evening,' said Lady Hilda, pressingly.
'Make it lunch. After all, Mr. Berkeley, it's we ourselves who want
to see you; not to show you off as a curiosity to all the rest of
London. We have silly people enough in the evenings; but if you'll
come to lunch with us alone one day, we shall have an opportunity
of talking to you on our own account.'

Lady Hilda was tall and beautiful, and Lady Hilda spoke.  as she
always used to speak, with manifest sincerity. Now, it is not in
human nature not to feel flattered when a  beautiful woman pays
one genuine homage; and Arthur Berkeley was quite as human, after
all, as most other people. 'You're very kind,' he said, smiling.
'I must make it lunch, then, though I really ought to be working
in the mornings instead of running about merely to amuse myself.
What day will suit you best?'

'Oh, not to amuse yourself, Mr. Berkeley,' Hilda answered pointedly,
'but to gratify us. That, you know, is a work of benevolence. Say
Monday next, then, at two o'clock. Will that do for you?'

'Perfectly,' Berkeley answered, taking her proffered hand extended
to him with just that indefinable air of  frankness which Lady
Hilda knew so well how to throw into all her actions. 'Good evening.
Wilton Place, isn't it!--Gracious heavens!' he thought to himself,
as he glanced after her satin train sweeping slowly down the grand
staircase,  'what on earth would the dear old Progenitor say if only
he saw me in the midst of these meaningless aristocratic orgies. I
am positively half-wheedled, it seems, into making love to an earl's
daughter! If this sort of thing continues, I shall find myself,
before I know it, connected by marriage with two-thirds of the
British peerage. A beautiful woman, really, and quite queen-like
in her manner when she doesn't choose rather to be unaffectedly
gracious. How she sat upon that tall young man with the brown
moustaches over by the mantelpiece! I didn't hear what she said
to him, but I could see he was utterly crushed by the way he slank
away with his tail between his legs, like a whipped spaniel.  A
splendid woman--and no doubt about it; looks as if she'd stepped
straight out of the canvas of Titian, with the pearls in her hair
and everything else exactly as he painted them.  The handsomest
girl I ever saw in my life--but not like Edie Le Breton. They say
a man can only fall in love once in a lifetime. I wonder whether
there's any truth in it! Well, well, you won't often see a finer
woman in her own style than Lady Hilda Tregellis. Monday next, at
two precisely; I needn't make a note of it--no fear of my forgetting.'

'I really do think,' Lady Hilda said to herself as she unrolled
the pearls from her thick hair in her own room that winter evening,
'I almost like him better than I did Ernest Le Breton. The very
first night I saw him at Lady Mary's I fell quite in love with his
appearance, before I knew even who he was; and now that I've found
out all about him, I never did hear anything so absolutely and
delightfully original.  His father a common shoemaker! That, to
begin with, throws Ernest Le Breton quite into the shade! HIS father
was a general in the Indian army--nothing could be more BANAL.
Then Mr. Berkeley began life as a clergyman; but now he's taken off
his white choker, and wears a suit of grey tweed like any ordinary
English gentleman. So delightfully unconventional, isn't it? At
last, to crown it all, he not only composes delicious music, but
goes and writes a comic opera--such a comic opera! And the best
of it is, success hasn't turned his head one atom. He doesn't run
with vulgar eagerness after the great people, like your ordinary
everyday successful  nobody. He took no more notice of me, myself,
at first, because I was Lady Hilda Tregellis, than if I'd been a
common milkmaid;  and he wouldn't come to our garden party because
he wanted to go down to Pilbury Regis to visit the Le Bretons at
their charity school or something! It was only after I played the
war-dance arrangement so well--I never played so brilliantly  in my
life before--that he began to alter and soften a little. Certainly,
these pearls do thoroughly become me. I think he looked after me
when I was leaving the room just a tiny bit, as if he was really
pleased with me for my own sake, and not merely because I happen
to be called Lady Hilda Tregellis.'



CHAPTER XXI.

OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE.


'It's really very annoying, this letter from Selah,' Herbert Le
Breton murmured to himself, as he carefully burnt the compromising
document, envelope and all, with a fusee from his oriental silver
pocket match-case. 'I had hoped the thing had all been forgotten
by this time, after her long silence, and my last two judiciously
chilly letters--a sort of slow refrigerating process for poor
shivering naked little Cupid. But here, just at the very moment
when I fancied the affair had quite blown over, comes this most
objectionable letter, telling me that Selah has actually betaken
herself to London to meet me; and what makes it more annoying
still, I wanted to go up myself this week to dine at home with
Ethel Faucit. Mother's plan about Ethel Faucit is  exceedingly
commendable; a girl with eight hundred a year, cultivated tastes,
and no father or other encumbrances dragging after her. I always
said I should like to marry a poor orphan. A very desirable young
woman to annex in every way! And now, here's Selah Briggs--ugh!
how could I ever have gone and entangled myself in my foolish days
with a young woman burdened by such a cognomen!--here's Selah
Briggs must needs run away from Hastings, and try to hunt me up on
her own account in London. If I dared, I wouldn't go up to see her
at all, and would let the thing die a natural death of inanition--sine
Cerere et Baccho, and so forth--(I'm afraid, poor girl, she'll be
more likely to find Bacchus than Ceres if she sticks in London);
but the plain fact is, I don't dare--that's the long and the short
of it.  If I did, Selah'd be tracking me to earth here in Oxford,
and a nice mess that'd make of it! She doesn't know my name, to
be sure; but as soon as she called at college and found nobody of
the name of Walters was known there, she'd lie in wait for me about
the gates, as sure as my name's Herbert Le Breton, and sooner or
later she'd take it out of me, one way or the other. Selah has as
many devils in her as the Gergesene who dwelt among the tombs, I'll
be sworn to it; and if she's provoked, she'll let them all loose in
a legion to crush me. I'd better see her and have it out quietly,
once for all, than try to shirk it here in Oxford and let myself
in at the end for the worse condemnation.'

Under this impression, Herbert Le Breton, leaning back in his
well-padded oak armchair, ordered his scout to pack his portmanteau,
and set off by the very first fast train for Paddington station.
He would get over his interview with Selah Briggs in the afternoon,
and return to Epsilon Terrace in good time for Lady Le Breton's
dinner. Say what you like of it, Ethel Faucit and eight hundred a
year, certe redditum, was a thing in no wise to be sneezed at by
a judicious and discriminating person.

Herbert left his portmanteau in the cloakroom at Paddington,  and
drove off in a hansom to the queer address which Selah had given
him. It was a fishy lodging of the commoner sort in a back street
at Notting Hill, not far from the Portobello Road. At the top of the
stairs, Selah stood waiting to meet him, and seemed much astonished
when, instead of kissing her, as was his wont, he only shook her
hand somewhat coolly. But she thought to herself that probably
he didn't wish to be too demonstrative before the eyes of the
lodging-house people, and so took no further notice of it.

'Well, Selah,' Herbert said, as soon as he entered the room, and
seated himself quietly on one of the  straight-backed wooden chairs,
'why on earth have you come to London?'

'Goodness gracious, Herbert,' Selah answered, letting loose the
floodgates of her rapid speech after a week's silence, 'don't you
go and ask me why I've done it. Ask me rather why I didn't go and
do it long ago. Father, he's got more and more aggravating every
day for the last twelve-month, till at last I couldn't atand him any
longer. Prayer meetings, missionary meetings, convention meetings,
all that sort of thing I could put up with somehow; but when it
came to private exhortations and prayer over me with three or four
of the godliest neighbours, I made up my mind not to put up with
it one day longer. So last week I packed up two or three little
things hurriedly, and left a note behind to say I felt I was too
unregenerate to live in such spiritual company any longer; and
came straight up here to London, and took these lodgings. Emily
Lucas, she wrote to me from Hastings--she's the daughter of the
hairdresser in our street, you know, and I told her to write to me
to the Post-office. Emily Lucas wrote to me that there was weeping
and gnashing of teeth, and swearing almost, when they found out
I'd really left them. And well there might be, indeed, for I did
more work for them (mostly just to get away for a while from the
privileges) than they'll ever get a hired servant to do for them in
this world, Herbert.' Herbert moved uneasily  on his chair, as he
noticed how glibly she called him now by his Christian name instead
of saying 'Mr. Walters.' 'And Emily says,' Selah went on, without
stopping to take breath for a second, 'that father put an advertisement
at once into the "Christian Mirror"--pah, as if it was likely
I should go buying or reading the "Christian Mirror," indeed--to
say that if "S. B." would return at once to her affectionate  and
injured parents, the whole past would be forgotten  and forgiven.
Forgotten and forgiven! I should think it would, indeed! But he
didn't ask me whether their eternal bothering and plaguing of me
about my precious soul for twenty years past would also be forgotten
and forgiven!  He didn't ask me whether all their meetings, and
conventions,  and prayers, and all the rest of it, would be forgotten
and forgiven! My precious soul! In Turkey they say the women have
no souls! I often wished it had been my happy lot to be born in
Turkey, and then, perhaps, they wouldn't have worried me so much
about it. I'm sure I often said to them, "Oh don't bother on account
of my poor unfortunate misguided little soul any longer. It's lost
altogether, I don't doubt, and it doesn't in the least trouble me.
If it was somebody else's, I could understand your being in such
a fearful state of mind about it; but as it's only mine, you know,
I'm sure it really doesn't matter." And then they'd only go off
worse than ever,--mother doing hysterics, and so forth--and say I
was a wicked, bad, abominable scoffer, and that it made them horribly
frightened even to listen to me.  As if I wasn't more likely to
know the real value of my own soul than anybody else was!'

Herbert looked at her curiously and anxiously as she  delivered
this long harangue in a voluble stream, without a single pause
or break; and then he said, in his quiet voice, 'How old are you,
Selah?'

'Twenty-two,' Selah answered, carelessly. 'Why, Herbert?'

'Oh, nothing,' Herbert replied, turning away his eyes from her keen,
searching gaze uncomfortably. He  congratulated himself inwardly
on the lucky fact that she was fully of age, for then at least he
could only get into a row with her, and not with her parents. 'And
now, Selah, do you know what I strongly advise you?'

'To get married at once,' Selah put in promptly.

Herbert drew himself up stiffly, and looked at her cautiously
out of the corner of his eyes. 'No,' he said slowly, 'not to get
married, but to go back again for the present to your people at
Hastings. Consider, Selah, you've done a very foolish thing indeed
by coming here alone in this way.  You've compromised yourself,
and you've compromised me.  Indeed, if it weren't for the lasting
affection I bear you'--he put this in awkwardly, but he felt it
necessary to do so, for the flash of Selah's eyes fairly cowed him
for the moment--'I wouldn't have come here at all this afternoon
to see you. It might get us both into very serious trouble,
and--and--and delay the prospect of our marriage. You see, everything
depends upon my keeping my fellowship until I can get an appointment
to marry on. Anything that risks loss of the fellowship is really
a measurable danger for both of us.'

Selah looked at him very steadily with her big eyes, and Herbert
felt that he was quailing a little under their piercing, withering
inquisition. By Jove, what a splendid woman she was, though, when
she was angry! 'Herbert,' she said, rising from her chair and
standing her full height imperiously before him, 'Herbert, you're
deceiving me. I almost believe  you're shilly-shallying with me.
I almost believe you don't ever really mean to marry me.'

Herbert moved uneasily upon his wooden seat. What was he to do?
Should he make a clean breast of it forthwith,  and answer boldly,
'Well, Selah, you have exactly diagnosed my mental attitude'?
Or should he try to put her off a little with some meaningless
explanatory platitudes?  Or should he--by Jove, she was a very
splendid woman!--should he take her in his arms that moment, kiss
her doubts and fears away like a donkey, and boldly and sincerely
promise to marry her? Pooh! not such a fool as all that comes to!
not even with Selah before him now; for he was no boy any longer,
and not to be caught by the mere vulgar charms of a flashy,
self-asserting greengrocer's daughter.

'Selah,' he said at last, after a long pause, 'I strongly advise
you once more to return to Hastings for the present.  You'll find
it better for you in the end. If your people are quite unendurable--as
I don't doubt they are from what you tell me--you could look about
meanwhile for a temporary appointment, say as'--he checked himself
from uttering the word 'shop girl,' and substituted for it, 'draper's
assistant.'

Selah looked at him angrily. 'What fools you men are about such
things!' she said in a voice of utter scorn.  'When do you suppose
I ever learnt the drapery? Or who do you suppose would ever give me
a place in a shop of that sort without having learnt the drapery?
I dare say you think it takes ten years to make one of you fine
gentlemen at college, with your Greek and your Latin, but that the
drapery, or the millinery, or the confectionery, comes by nature!
However, that's not the question now. The question's  simply
this--Herbert Walters, do you or don't you mean to marry me?'

'I must temporise,' Herbert thought to himself, placidly.  'This
girl's quite too unreservedly categorical! She eliminates  modality
with a vengeance!' 'Well, Selah,' he said in his calmest and most
deliberate manner, 'we must take a great many points into consideration
before deciding on that matter.' And then he went on to tell her
what seemed to him the pros and cons of an immediate marriage.
Couldn't she get a place meanwhile of some sort? Couldn't she let
him have time to look about him? Couldn't she go back just for
a few days to Hastings, until he could hear of  something feasible
for either of them? Selah interrupted him more than once with
forcible interjectional observations such as 'bosh!' and 'rubbish!'
and when he had finished she burst out once more into a long and
voluble statement.

For more than an hour Herbert Le Breton and Selah Briggs fenced
with one another, each after their own fashion, in the little fishy
lodgings; and at every fresh thrust,  Herbert parried so much the
worse that at last Selah lost patience utterly, and rose in the
end to the dignity of the situation. 'Herbert Walters,' she said,
looking at him with unspeakable contempt, 'I see through your
flimsy excuses now, and I feel certain you don't mean to marry me!
You never did mean to marry me! You wanted to amuse yourself  by
making love to a poor girl in a country town, and now you'd like
to throw her overboard and leave her alone  to her own devices.
I knew you meant that when you didn't write to me; but I wouldn't
condemn you unheard; I gave you a chance to clear yourself. I see
now you were trying to drop the acquaintance quietly, and make it
seem as if I had backed out of it as well as you.'

Herbert felt the moment for breaking through all reserve had finally
arrived. 'You admirably interpret my motives in the matter, Selah,'
he said coldly. 'I don't think it would be just of me to interfere
with your prospects in life any longer. I can't say how long it
may be before I am able to afford marriage; and, meanwhile, I'm
preventing you from forming a natural alliance with some respectable
and estimable young man in your own station. I should be sorry to
stand in your way any further; but if I could offer you any small
pecuniary assistance at any time, either now or hereafter, you know
I'd be very happy indeed to do so, Selah.'

The angry girl turned upon him fiercely. 'Selah!' she cried in a
tone of crushing contempt. 'What do you mean by calling me Selah,
sir? How dare you speak to me by my Christian name in the same
breath you tell me you don't mean to marry me? How dare you have
the insolence and impertinence to offer me money! Never say another
word to me as long as you live, Herbert Walters; and leave me now,
for I don't want to have anything more to say to you or your money
for ever.'

Herbert took up his hat doubtfully. 'Selah!--Selah!--Miss Briggs,
I mean,' he said, falteringly, for at that moment Selah's face was
terrible to look at. 'I'm very sorry, I can assure you, that this
interview--and our pleasant acquaintance--should unfortunately
have had such a disagreeable  termination. For my own part'--Herbert
was always politic--'I should have wished to part with you in no
unfriendly spirit.  I should have wished to learn your plans for
the future, and to aid you in forming a suitable settlement in life
hereafter.  May I venture to ask, before I go, whether you mean
to remain in London or to return to Hastings? As one who has been
your sincere friend, I should at least like to know what are your
movements for the immediate present. How long do you mean to stop
here, and when you leave these rooms where do you think you will
next go to?'--'Confoundedly awkward,' he thought to himself, 'to
have her prowling about and dogging one's footsteps here in London.'

Selah read through his miserable transparent little  pretences at
once with a woman's quick instinctive insight.  'Ugh!' she cried,
pushing him away from her, figuratively, with a gesture of disgust,
'do you think, you poor suspicious creature, I want to go spying
you or following you all over London? Are you afraid, in your sordid
little respectable way, that I'll come up to Oxford to pry and peep
into that snug comfortable fellowship of yours? Do you suppose I'm
so much in love with you, Herbert Walters, that I can't let you go
without wanting to fawn upon you and run after you ever afterwards!
Pah! you miserable, pitiable, contemptible cur and coward, are you
afraid even of a woman! Go away, and don't be frightened. I never
want to see you or speak to you again as long as I live, you
wretched, lying, shuffling hypocrite. I'd rather go back to my own
people at Hastings a thousand times over than have anything more to
do with you. They may be narrow-minded, and bigoted, and ignorant,
and stupid, but at least they're honest--they're not liars and
hypocrites. Go this minute, Herbert Walters, go away this minute,
and don't stand there fiddling and quivering  with your hat like
a whipped schoolboy, but go at once, and take my eternal loathing
and contempt for a parting present with you!'

Herbert held the door gingerly ajar for half a second, trying to
think of a neat and appropriate epigram, but at that particular
moment, for the life of him, he couldn't hit on one.  So he closed
the door after him quietly, and walking out alone into the street,
immediately nailed a passing hansom.  'I didn't come out of that
dilemma very creditably to myself, I must admit,' he thought with
a burning face, as he rolled along quickly in the hansom; 'but
anyhow, now I'm well out of it. The coast's all clear at last for
Ethel Faucit. It's well to be off with the old love before you're
on with the new, as that horrid vulgar practical proverb justly
though somewhat coarsely puts it. Still, she's a perfectly magnificent
creature, is Selah; and by Jove, when she got into that towering
rage (and no wonder, for I won't be unjust to her in that respect),
her tone and attitude would have done credit to any theatre. I should
think Mrs. Siddons must have looked like that, say as Constance.
Poor girl, I'm really sorry for her; from the very bottom of my
heart, I'm really sorry for her. If it rested with me alone, hang
me if I don't think I would positively have married her. But after
all, the environment, you know, the environment is always too strong
for us!'

Meanwhile, in the shabby lodgings near the Portobello Road, poor
Selah, the excitement once over, was lying with her proud face
buried in the pillows, and crying her very life out in great sobs
of utter misery. The daydream of her whole existence was gone for
ever: the bubble was burst; and nothing stood before her but a
future of utter drudgery.  'The brute, the cur, the mean wretch,'
she said aloud  between her sobs; 'and yet I loved him. How beautifully
he talked, and how he made me love him. If it had only been a common
everyday Methodist sweetheart, now! but Herbert Walters! Oh, God,
how I hate him, and how I did love him!'

When Herbert reached his mother's house in Epsilon Terrace, Lady Le
Breton met him anxiously at the door.  'Herbert,' she said, almost
weeping, 'my dear boy, what on earth should I do if it were not
for you! You're the one comfort I have in all my children. Would
you believe it--no, you won't believe it--as I was walking back
here this  afternoon with Mrs. Faucit (Ethel's aunt, of all people
in the world), what do you think I saw, in our own main street,
too, but a young man, decently dressed, in his shirt sleeves. No
coat, I assure you, but only his shirt sleeves. Imagine my horror
when he came up to us--Mrs. Faucit, too, you know--and said to me
out loud, in the most unconcerned voice, "Well, mother!" I couldn't
believe my eyes. Herbert, but I solemnly declare to you it was
positively Ronald! You really could have knocked me down with a
feather.  Disgraceful, wasn't it, perfectly disgraceful!'

'How on earth did he come so?' asked Herbert, almost smiling in
spite of himself.

'Why, do you know, Herbert,' Lady Le Breton answered somewhat
obliquely, 'a few days since, I met him wheeling along a barrow full
of coals for a dirty, grimy, ragged little girl from some alley or
gutter somewhere. I believe they call the place the Mews--at the
back of the terrace, you  remember. He pretended the child wasn't
big enough to wheel the coals, which was absurd, of course, or else
her parents wouldn't have sent her; but I'm sure he really did it
on purpose to annoy me. He never does these things when I'm not by
to see; or if he does, I never see him. Now, that was bad enough in
all conscience, wasn't it? but to-day what he did was still more
outrageous. He met a poor man, as he calls him, in Westbourne
Grove, who was one of his Christian brethren (is that the right
expression?) and who declared he was next door to starving. So
what must Ronald do, but run into a pawnbroker's--I shouldn't have
thought he could ever have heard of such a place--and sell his
coat, or something of the sort, and give the man (who was doubtless
an impostor) all the money. Then he positively walked home in his
shirt sleeves. I call it a most unchristian thing to do--and to
walk straight into my very arms, too, as I was coming along with
Mrs. Faucit.'

Herbert offered at once such condolences as were in his power. 'And
are the Faucits coming to night?' he asked eagerly.

Lady Le Breton kissed him again gently on the forehead.  'Oh,
Herbert,' she said warmly, 'I can't tell you what a comfort you
always are to me. Oh yes, the Faucits are coming; and do you know,
Herbert, my dear boy, I'm quite sure that old Mr. Faucit, the uncle,
wouldn't at all object to the match, and that Ethel's really very
much disposed indeed to like you immensely. You've only to follow
up the advantage, my dear boy, and I don't for a moment think she'd
ever refuse you. And I've been talking to Sir Sydney Weatherhead
about your future, too, and he tells me (quite privately, of course)
that, with your position and honours at Oxford, he fully believes
he can easily push you into the first good vacant post at the
Education Office; only you must be careful to say nothing about it
beforehand, or the others will say it's a job, as they call it.
Oh, Herbert, I really and truly can't tell you what a joy and a
comfort you always are to me!'



CHAPTER XXII.

THE PHILISTINES TRIUMPH.


'My dear,' said Dr. Greatrex, looking up in alarm from the lunch
table one morning, in the third term of Ernest Le Breton's stay
at Pilbury, 'what an awful apparition! Do you know, I positively
see Mr. Blenkinsopp, father of that odious boy Blenkinsopp major,
distinctly visible to the naked eye, walking across the front lawn--on
the grass too--to our doorway. The pupil's parent is really the
very greatest bane of all the banes that beset a poor harassed
overdriven schoolmaster's unfortunate existence!'

'Blenkinsopp?' Mrs. Greatrex said reflectively.  'Blenkinsopp? Who
is he? Oh, I remember, a tobacco-pipe manufacturer somewhere in the
midland counties, isn't he?  Mr. Blenkinsopp, of Staffordshire, I
always say to other parents--not Brosely--Brosely sounds decidedly
commercial  and unpresentable. No nice people would naturally
like their sons to mix with miscellaneous boys from a place called
Brosely. Now, what on earth can he be coming here for, I wonder,
Joseph?'

'Oh, _I_ know,' the doctor answered with a deep-drawn sigh. 'I
know, Maria, only too well. It's the way of all parents. He's come
to inquire after Blenkinsopp major's health and progress. They
all do it. They seem to think the sole object of a head-master's
existence is to look after the comfort and morals of their own
particular Tommy, or Bobby, or Dicky, or Harry. For heaven's sake,
what form is Blenkinsopp major in? For heaven's sake, what's his
Christian name, and age last birthday, and place in French and
mathematics, and general state of health for past quarter? Where's
the prompt-book, with house-master's and form-master's report,
Maria? Oh, here it is, thank goodness! Let me see; let me see--he's
ringing at the door this very instant. "Blenkinsopp... major...
Charles Warrington... fifteen... fifth form... average,  twelfth boy
of twelve... idle, inattentive, naturally stupid; bad disposition...
health invariably excellent...  second eleven... bats well." That'll
do. Run my eye down once again, and I shall remember all about him.
How about the other? "Blenkinsopp... minor...  Cyril Anastasius
Guy Waterbury Macfarlane"--heavens, what a name!... "thirteen...
fourth form... average,  seventh boy of eighteen... industrious and
well-meaning, but heavy and ineffective... health good...  fourth
eleven... fields badly." Ah, that's the most  important one. Now I'm
primed. Blenkinsopp major I remember something about, for he's one
of the worst and most hopelessly stupid boys in the whole school--I've
caned him frequently this term, and that keeps a boy green in one's
memory; but Blenkinsopp minor, Cyril Anastasius Guy Thingumbob
Whatyoumaycallit,--I don't remember HIM a bit. I suppose he's one
of those inoffensive, mildly mediocre sort of boys who fail to
impress their individuality upon one in any way. My experience is
that you can always bear in mind the three cleverest boys at the
top of each form, and the three stupidest or most mischievous boys
at the bottom; but the nine or a dozen meritorious nobodies in the
middle of the class are all so like one another in every way that
you might as well try to discriminate between every individual
sheep of a flock in a pasture. And yet, such is the natural
contradictiousness and vexatious disposition of the British parent,
that you'll always find him coming to inquire after just one of
those very particular Tommies or Bobbies.  Charles Warrington:--Cyril
Anastasius Guy Whatyoumay--call it: that'll do: I shall remember now
all about them.' And the doctor arranged his hair before the looking
glass into the most professional stiffness, as a preparatory step
to facing Mr. Blenkinsopp's parental inquiries in the head-master's
study.

'What! Mr. Blenkinsopp! Yes, it is really. My dear sir, how DO you
do? This is a most unexpected pleasure.  We hadn't the least idea
you were in Pilbury. When did you come here?'

'I came last night, Dr. Greatrex,' answered the dreaded parent
respectfully: 'we've come down from Staffordshire for a week at
the seaside, and we thought we might as well be within hail of Guy
and Charlie.'

'Quite right, quite right, my dear sir,' said the doctor, mentally
noting that Blenkinsopp minor was familiarly known as Guy, not
Cyril; 'we're delighted to see you.  And now you want to know all
about our two young friends, don't you?'

'Well, yes, Dr. Greatrex; I SHOULD like to know how they are getting
on.'

'Ah, of course, of course. Very right. It's such a pleasure to us
when parents give us their active and hearty co-operation! You'd
hardly believe, Mr. Blenkinsopp, how little interest some parents
seem to feel in their boys'  progress. To us, you know, who devote
our whole time and energy assiduously to their ultimate welfare,
it's sometimes quite discouraging to see how very little the
parents  themselves seem to care about it. But your boys are both
doing capitally. The eldest--Blenkinsopp major, we call him; Charles
Warrington, isn't it? (His home name's Charlie, if I recollect
right. Ah, quite so.) Well, Charlie's the very picture of perfect
health, as usual.' ('Health is his only strong point, it seems to
me,' the doctor thought to himself instinctively. 'We must put that
first and foremost.') 'In excellent health and very good spirits.
He's in the second eleven now, and a capital batter: I've no doubt
he'll go into the first eleven next term, if we lose Biddlecomb
Tertius to the university. In work, as you know, he's not very
great; doesn't do his abilities full justice, Mr. Blenkinsopp,
through his dreadful inattention. He's generally near the bottom of
the form, I'm sorry to say; generally near the bottom of the form.'

'Well, I dare say there's no harm in that, sir,' said Mr.  Blenkinsopp,
senior, warmly. 'I was always at the bottom of the form at school
myself, Doctor, but I've picked it up in after life; I've picked
it up, sir, as you see, and I'm fully equal with most other people
nowadays, as you'll find if you inquire of any town councilman or
man of position down our way, at Brosely.'

'Ah, I dare say you were, Mr. Blenkinsopp,' the doctor answered
blandly, with just the faintest tinge of unconscious satire, peering
at his square unintelligent features as a fancier peers at the
face of a bull-dog; 'I dare say you were now.  After all, however
clever a set of boys may be, one of them MUST be at the bottom of
the form, in the nature of things, mustn't he? And your Charlie,
I think, is only fifteen. Ah, yes; well, well; he'll do better, no
doubt, if we keep him here a year or two longer. So then there's
the second: Guy, you call him, if I remember right--Cyril Anastasius
Guy--our Blenkinsopp minor. Guy's a good boy; an excellent boy: to
tell you the plain truth, Mr. Blenkinsopp, I don't know much of him
personally myself, which is a fact that tells greatly in his favour.
Charlie I must admit I have to call up some times for reproof: Guy,
never. Charlie's in the fifth form: Guy's seventh in the fourth.
A capital place for a boy of his age! He's very industrious, you
know--what we call a plodder. They call it a plodder, you see,
at thirteen, Mr. Blenkinsopp, but a man of ability at forty.' Dr.
Greatrex delivered that last effective shot point-blank at the eyes
of the inquiring parent, and felt in a moment that its delicate
generalised flattery had gone home straight to the parent's
susceptible heart.

'But there's one thing, Doctor,' Mr. Blenkinsopp began, after a
few minutes' further conversation on the merits and failings of Guy
and Charlie, 'there's one other thing I feel I should like to speak
to you about, and that's the teaching of your fifth form master,
Mr. Le Breton. From what Charlie tells me, I don't quite like that
young man's political ideas and opinions. It's said things to his
form sometimes that are quite horrifying, I assure you; things
about Property, and about our duty to the poor, and so on, that are
positively enough to appal you. Now, for example, he told them--I
don't quite like to repeat it, for it's sheer blasphemy I call
it--but he told them in a Greek Testament lesson that the Apostles
themselves were a sort of Republicans--Socialists, I think Charlie
said, or else Chartists, or dynamiters. I'm not sure he didn't say
St. Peter himself was a regular communist!'

Dr. Greatrex drew a long breath. 'I should think, Mr.  Blenkinsopp,'
he suggested blandly, 'Charlie must really have misunderstood Mr.
Le Breton. You see, they've been reading the Acts of the Apostles
in their Greek Testament this term. Now, of course, you remember that,
during the first days of the infant Church, while its necessities
were yet so great, as many as were possessors of lands or houses
sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
and laid them down at the apostles' feet; and distribution was
made unto every man according as he had need. You see, here's the
passage, Mr. Blenkinsopp, in the authorised version. I won't trouble
you with the original. You've forgotten most of your Greek, I dare
say: ah, I thought go. It doesn't stick to us like the Latin, does
it? Now, perhaps, in expounding that passage, Mr. Le Breton may have
referred in passing--as an illustration merely--to the unhappily
prevalent modern doctrines of socialism and communism. He may
have warned his boys, for example, against confounding a Christian
communism like this, if I may so style it, with the rapacious,
aggressive, immoral forms of communism now proposed to us, which are
based upon the forcible disregard of all Property and all vested
interests of every sort. I don't say he did, you know, for I
haven't conferred with him upon the subject: but he may have done
so; and he may even have used, as I have used, the phrase "Christian
communism," to define the temporary attitude of the apostles and
the early Church in this matter. That, perhaps, my dear sir, may
be the origin of the misapprehension.'

Mr. Blenkinsopp looked hard at the three verses in the big Bible
the doctor had handed him, with a somewhat  suspicious glare. He
was a self-made man, with land and houses of his own in plenty,
and he didn't quite like this suggestive talk about selling them
and laying the prices at the apostles' feet. It savoured to him both
of communism and priestcraft. 'That's an awkward text, you know,'
he said, looking up curiously from the Bible in his hand into the
doctor's face, 'a very awkward text; and I should say it was rather
a dangerous one to set too fully before young people.  It seems
to me to make too little altogether of Property.  You know, Dr.
Greatrex, at first sight it DOES look just a little like communism.'

'Precisely what Mr. Le Breton probably said,' the doctor answered,
following up his advantage quickly. 'At first sight, no doubt, but
at first sight only, I assure you, Mr.  Blenkinsopp. If you look
on to the fourth verse of the next chapter, you'll see that St.
Peter, at least, was no communist,--which is perhaps what Mr. Le
Breton really said. St.  Peter there argues in favour of purely
voluntary beneficence, you observe; as when you, Mr. Blenkinsopp,
contribute a guinea to our chapel window:--you see, we're grateful
to our kind benefactors: we don't forget them. And if you'll look
at the Thirty-eighth Article of the Church of England, my dear sir,
you'll find that the riches and goods of Christians are not common,
as touching the right, title, and possession of the same as certain
Anabaptists--(Gracious heavens, is he a Baptist, I wonder?--if
so, I've put my foot in it)--certain Anabaptists do falsely
boast--referring, of course, to sundry German fanatics of the
time--followers of one Kniperdoling, a crazy enthusiast, not to
the respectable English Baptist denomination; but that nevertheless
every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to
give alms to the poor. That, you see, is the doctrine of the Church
of England, and that, I've no doubt, is the doctrine that Mr.  Le
Breton pointed out to your boys as the true Christian communism of
St. Peter and the apostles.'

'Well, I hope so, Dr. Greatrex,' Mr. Blenkinsopp answered resignedly.
'I'm sure I hope so, for his own sake, as well as for his pupils'.
Still, in these days, you know, when infidelity and Radicalism
are so rife, one ought to be on one's guard against atheism and
revolution, and attacks on Property in every form; oughtn't one,
Doctor? These opinions are getting so rampant all around us, Property
itself isn't safe. One really hardly knows what people are coming
to nowadays. Why, last night I came down here and stopped at the
Royal Marine, on the Parade, and having nothing else to do, while
my wife was looking after the little ones, I turned into a hall
down in Combe Street, where I saw a lot of placards up about a
Grand National Social Democratic meeting. Well, I turned in, Dr.
Greatrex, and there I heard a German refugee fellow from London--a
white-haired man of the name of Schurts, or something of the
sort'--Mr.  Blenkinsopp pronounced it to rhyme with 'hurts'--'who
was declaiming away in a fashion to make your hair stand on end, and
frighten you half out of your wits with his dreadful  communistic
notions. I assure you, he positively took my breath away. I ran out
of the hall at last, while he was still speaking, for fear the roof
should fall in upon our heads and crush us to pieces. I declare to
you, sir, I quite expected a visible judgment!'

'Did you really now?' said Dr. Greatrex, languidly.  'Well, I dare
say, for I know there's a sad prevalence of revolutionary feeling
among our workmen here, Mr, Blenkinsopp. Now, what was this man
Schurz talking about?'

'Why, sheer communism, sir,' said Mr. Blenkinsopp, severely: 'sheer
communism, I can tell you. Co-operation of workmen to rob their
employers of profits; gross denunciation of capital and capitalists;
and regular inciting of them against the Property of the landlords,
by quoting Scripture, too, Doctor, by quoting the very words
of Scripture. They say the devil can quote Scripture to his own
destruction, don't they, Doctor? Well, he quoted something out of
the Bible about woe unto them that join field to field, or words
to that effect, to make themselves a solitude in the midst of the
earth. Do you know, it strikes me that it's a very dangerous book,
the Bible--in the hands of these socialistic demagogues, I mean.
Look now, at that passage, and at what Mr. Le Breton said about
Christian communism!'

'But, my dear Mr. Blenkinsopp,' the doctor cried, in a tone of
gentle deprecation, 'I hope you don't confound a person like this
man Schurz, a German refugee of the worst type, with our Mr. Le
Breton, an Oxford graduate and an English gentleman of excellent
family. I know Schurz by name through the papers: he's the author
of a dreadful book called "Gold and the Proletariate," or something
of that sort--a revolutionary work like Tom Paine's "Age of Reason,"
I believe--and he goes about the country now and then, lecturing
and agitating, to make money, no doubt, out of the poor, misguided,
credulous workmen. You quite pain me when you mention him in the
same breath with a hard-working, conscientious, able teacher like
our Mr. Le Breton.'

'Oh,' Mr. Blenkinsopp went on, a little mollified, 'then Mr. Le
Breton's of a good family, is he? That's a great safeguard, at any
rate, for you don't find people of good family running recklessly
after these bloodthirsty doctrines, and disregarding the claims of
Property.'

'My dear sir,' the doctor continued, 'we know his mother, Lady
Le Breton, personally. His father, Sir Owen, was a distinguished
officer-general in the Indian army in fact; and all his people are
extremely well connected with some of our best county families.
Nothing wrong about him in any way, I can answer for it. He came
here direct from Lord Exmoor's, where he'd been acting as tutor
to Viscount Lynmouth, the eldest son of the Tregellis family: and
you may be sure THEY wouldn't have anybody about them in any capacity
who wasn't thoroughly and perfectly responsible,  and free from
any prejudice against the just rights of property.'

At each successive step of this collective guarantee to Ernest
Le Breton's perfect respectability, Mr. Blenkinsopp's square face
beamed brighter and brighter, till at last when the name of Lord
Exmour was finally reached, his mouth relaxed slowly into a broad
smile, and he felt that he might implicitly trust the education
of his boys to a person so intimately bound up with the best and
highest interests of religion and Property in this kingdom. 'Of
course,' he said placidly, 'that puts quite a different complexion
upon the matter, Dr. Greatrex. I'm very glad to hear young Mr. Le
Breton's such an excellent and trustworthy person. But the fact
is, that Schurts man gave me quite a turn for the moment, with
his sanguinary notions. I wish you could see the man, sir; a long
white-haired, savage-bearded, fierce-eyed old revolutionist if ever
there was one. It made me shudder to look at him, not raving and
ranting like a  madman--I shouldn't have minded so much if he'd a
done that; but talking as cool and calm and collected, Doctor, about
"eliminating the capitalist"--cutting off my head, in fact--as we
two are talking here together at this moment. His very words were,
sir, "we must eliminate the capitalist." Why, bless my soul,'--and
here Mr. Blenkinsopp rushed to the window excitedly--'who on earth's
this coming across your lawn, here, arm in arm with Mr. Le Breton,
into the school-house? Man alive, Dr. Greatrex, whatever you choose
to say, hanged if it isn't realty that German cut-throat fellow
himself, and no mistake at all about it!'

Dr. Greatrex rose from his magisterial chair and glanced with
dignified composure out of the window. Yes, there was positively no
denying it! Ernest Le Breton, in cap and gown, with Edie by his side,
was walking arm in arm up to the school-house with a long-bearded,
large-headed German-looking man, whose placid powerful face the Doctor
immediately  recognised as the one he had seen in the illustrated
papers above the name of Max Schurz, the defendant in the coming state
trial for unlawfully uttering a seditious libel!  He could hardly
believe his eyes. Though he knew Ernest's opinions were dreadfully
advanced, he could not have suspected him of thus consorting with
positive murderous political criminals. In spite of his natural and
kindly desire to screen his own junior master, he felt that this
public  exhibition of irreconcilable views was quite unpardonable
and irretrievable. 'Mr. Blenkinsopp,' he said gravely, turning to
the awe-struck tobacco-pipe manufacturer with an expression  of
sympathetic dismay upon his practised face, 'I must retract all
I have just been saying to you about our junior master. I was not
aware of this. Mr. Le Breton must no longer retain his post as an
assistant at Pilbury Regis  Grammar School.'

Mr. Blenkinsopp sank amazed into an easy-chair, and sat in dumb
astonishment to see the end of this extraordinary and unprecedented
adventure. The Doctor walked out severely to the school porch, and
stood there in solemn state to await the approach of the unsuspecting
offender.

'It's so delightful, dear Herr Max,' Ernest was saying at that exact
moment, 'to have you down here with us even for a single night.
You can't imagine what an oasis your coming has been to us both.
I'm sure Edie has enjoyed it just as much as I have, and is just
as anxious you should stop a little time here with us as I myself
could possibly be.

'Oh, yes, Herr Schurz,' Edie put in persuasively with her sweet
little pleading manner; 'do stay a little longer.  I don't know
when dear Ernest has enjoyed anything in the world so much as he
has enjoyed seeing you. You've no idea how dull it is down here for
him, and for me too, for that matter; everybody here is so borne,
and narrow-minded and self-centred; nothing expansive or sympathetic
about them, as there used to be about Ernest's set in dear, quiet,
peaceable old Oxford. It's been such a pleasure to us to hear some
conversation again that wasn't about the school, and the rector, and
the Haigh Park people, and the flower show, and old Mrs. Jenkins's
quarrel with the vicar of St.  Barnabas. Except when Mr. Berkeley
runs down sometimes  for a Saturday to Monday trip to see us, and
takes Ernest out for a good blow with him on the top of the breezy
downs over yonder, we really never hear anything at all except the
gossip and the small-talk of Pilbury Regis.'

'And what makes it worse, Herr Max,' said Ernest, looking up in
the old man's calm strong face with the same reverent almost filial
love and respect as ever, 'is the fact that I can't feel any real
interest and enthusiasm in the work that's set before me. I try
to do it as well as I can, and I believe Dr. Greatrex, who's a
kind-hearted good sort of man in his way, is perfectly satisfied
with it; but my heart isn't in it, you see, and can't be in it.
What sort of good is one doing the world by dinning the same foolish
round of Horace and Livy and Latin elegiacs into the heads of all
these useless,  eat-all, do-nothing young fellows, who'll only be
fit to fight or preach or idle as soon as we've finished cramming
them with our indigestible unserviceable nostrums!'

'Ah, Ernest, Ernest,' said Herr Max, nodding his heavy head gravely,
'you always WILL look too seriously altogether at your social
duties. I can't get other people to do it enough; and I can't get
you not to do it too much entirely.  Remember, my dear boy, my pet
old saying about a little leaven. You're doing more good by just
unobtrusively holding  your own opinions here at Pilbury, and getting
in the thin end of the wedge by slowly influencing the minds of
a few middle-class boys in your form, than you could possibly be
doing by making shoes or weaving clothes for the fractional benefit
of general humanity. Don't be so abstract, Ernest; concrete yourself a
little; isn't it enough that you're earning a livelihood for your
dear little wife here, whom I'm glad to know at last and to receive
as a worthy daughter? I may call you, Edie, mayn't I, my daughter?
So this is your school, is it? A pleasant building! And that
stern-looking old gentleman yonder, I suppose, is your head master?'

'Dr. Greatrex,' said Edie innocently, stepping up to him in her bright
elastic fashion, 'let me introduce you to our friend Herr Schurz,
whose name I dare say you know--the German political economist.
He's come down to Pilbury to deliver a lecture here, and we've been
fortunate enough to put him up at our little lodging.'

The doctor bowed very stiffly. 'I have heard of Herr Schurz's
reputation already,' he said with as much diplomatic  politeness
as he could command, fortunately bethinking  himself at the right
moment of the exact phrase that would cover the situation without
committing him to any further courtesy towards the terrible stranger.
'Will you excuse my saying, Mrs. Le Breton, that we're very busy
this afternoon, and I want to have a few words with your husband
in private immediately? Perhaps you'd better take Herr Schurz on
to the downs' ('safer there than on the Parade, at any rate,' he
thought to himself quickly), 'and Le Breton will join you in the
combe a little later in the afternoon. I'll take the fifth form
myself, and let him have a holiday with his friend here if he'd
like one. Le Breton, will you step this way please?' And lifting
his square cap with stern solemnity to Edie, the doctor disappeared
under the porch into the corridor, closely followed by poor frightened
and wondering Ernest.

Edie looked at Herr Max in dismay, for she saw clearly there was
something serious the matter with the doctor. The old man shook
his head sadly. 'It was very wrong of me,' he said bitterly: 'very
wrong and very thoughtless. I ought to have remembered it and
stopped away. I'm a caput lupinum, it seems, in Pilbury Regis, a
sort of moral scarecrow  or political leper, to be carefully avoided
like some horrid contagion by a respectable, prosperous head-master.
I might have known it, I might have known it, Edie; and now I'm
afraid by my stupidity I've got dear Ernest  unintentionally into
a pack of troubles. Come on, my child, my poor dear child, come on
to the downs, as he told us; I won't compromise you any longer by
being seen with you in the streets, in the decent decorous whited
sepulchres of Pilbury Regis.' And the grey old apostle, with two
tears trickling unreproved down his wrinkled cheek, took Edie's arm
tenderly in his, and led her like a father up to the green grassy
slope that overlooks the little seaward combe by the nestling
village of Nether Pilbury.

Meanwhile, Dr. Greatrex had taken Ernest into the breakfast-room--the
study was already monopolised by Mr. Blenkinsopp--and had seated himself
nervously, with his hands folded before him, on a straight-backed
chair There was a long and awkward pause, for the doctor didn't
care to begin the interview; but at last he sighed deeply and said
in a tone of genuine disappointment and difficulty, 'My dear Le
Breton, this is really very unpleasant.'

Ernest looked at him, and said nothing.

'Do you know,' the doctor went on kindly after a minute, 'I really
do like you and sympathise with you.  But what am I to do after
this? I can't keep you at the school any longer, can I now? I put
it to your own common-sense. I'm afraid, Le Breton--it gives me
sincere pain to say so--but I'm afraid we must part at the end of
the quarter.'

Ernest only muttered that he was very sorry.

'But what are we to do about it, Le Breton?' the doctor continued
more kindly than ever. 'What are we ever to do about it? For my own
sake, and for the boys' sake, and for respectability's pake, it's
quite impossible to let you remain here any longer. The first thing
you must do is to send away this Schurz creature'--Ernest started
a little--'and then we must try to let it blow over as best we can.
Everybody'll be talking about it; you know the man's become quite
notorious lately; and it'll be quite necessary to say distinctly,
Le Breton, before the whole of Pilbury, that we've been obliged to
dismiss you summarily. So much we positively MUST do for our own
protection. But what on earth are we to do for you, my poor fellow?
I'm afraid you've cut your own throat, and I don't see any way on
earth out of it.'

'How so?' asked Ernest, half stunned by the suddenness of this
unexpected dismissal.

'Why, just look the thing in the face yourself, Le Breton. I can't
very well give you a recommendation to any other head master without
mentioning to him why I had to ask you for your resignation. And
I'm afraid if I told them, nobody else would ever take you.'

'Indeed?' said Ernest, very softly. 'Is it such a heinous offence
to know so good a man as Herr Schurz--the best follower of the
apostles I ever knew?'

'My dear fellow,' said the doctor, confidentially, with an unusual
burst of outspoken frankness, 'so far as my own private feelings
are concerned, I don't in the least object to your knowing Herr
Schurz or any other socialist whatsoever.  To tell you the truth,
I dare say he really is an excellent and most well-meaning person
at bottom. Between ourselves,  I've always thought that there was
nothing very heterodox in socialism; in fact, I often think, Le
Breton, the Bible's the most thoroughly democratic book that ever
was written. But we haven't got to deal in practice with first
principles; we have to deal with Society--with men and women as we
find them. Now, Society doesn't like your Herr Schurz, objects to
him, anathematises him, wants to imprison him. If you walk about
with him in public, Society won't send its sons to your school.
Therefore, you should disguise your affection, and if you want to
visit him, you should visit him, like Nicodemus, by night only.'

'I'm afraid,' said Ernest very fixedly, 'I shall never be able so
far to accommodate myself to the wishes of Society.'

'I'm afraid not, myself, Le Breton,' the doctor went on with
imperturbable good temper. 'I'm afraid not, and I'm sorry for
it. The fact is, you've chosen the wrong profession.  You haven't
pliability enough for a schoolmaster; you're too isolated, too much
out of the common run; your ideas are too peculiar. Now, you've got
me to-day into a dreadful pickle, and I might very easily be angry
with you about it, and part with you in bad blood; but I really
like you, Le Breton, and I don't want to do that; so I only tell
you plainly, you've mistaken your natural calling. What it can be
I don't know; but we must put our two heads together, and see what
we can do for you before the end of the quarter.  Now, go up to the
combe to your wife, and try to get that terrible bugbear of a German
out of Pilbury as quickly and as quietly as possible. Good-bye for
to-day, Le Breton; no coolness between us, for this, I hope, my
dear fellow.'

Ernest grasped his hand warmly. 'You're very kind, Dr. Greatrex,'
he said with genuine feeling. 'I see you mean well by me, and I'm
very, very sorry if I've  unintentionally caused you any embarrassment.'

'Not at all, not at all, my dear fellow. Don't mention it. We'll
tide it over somehow, and I'll see whether I can get you anything
else to do that you're better fitted for.'

As the door closed on Ernest, the doctor just gently wiped a certain
unusual dew off his gold spectacles with a corner of his spotless
handkerchief. 'He's a good fellow,' he murmured to himself,
'an excellent fellow; but he doesn't manage to combine with the
innocence of the dove the wisdom of the serpent. Poor boy, poor
boy, I'm afraid he'll sink, but we must do what we can to keep his
chin floating above the water. And now I must go back to the study
to have out my explanation with that detestable thick-headed old
pig of a Blenkinsopp! "Your views about young Le Breton," I must
say to him, "are unfortunately only too well founded; and I have
been compelled to dismiss him this very hour from Pilbury Grammar
School." Ugh--how humiliating! the profession's really enough to
give one a perfect sickening of life altogether!'



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE STREETS OF ASKELON.


Before the end of the quarter, two things occurred which made
almost as serious a difference to Ernest's and Edie's lives as the
dismissal from Pilbury Regis Grammar School.  It was about a week
or ten days after Herr Max's unfortunate visit that Ernest awoke
one morning with a very curious and unpleasant taste in his mouth,
accompanied by a violent fit of coughing. He knew what the taste
was well enough; and he mentioned the matter casually to Edie a
little later in the morning. Edie was naturally frightened at the
symptoms, and made him go to see the school doctor. The doctor felt
his pulse attentively, listened with his stethoscope at the chest,
punched and pummelled the patient all over in the most orthodox
fashion, and asked the usual inquisitorial personal questions about
all the other members of his family.  When he heard about Ronald's
predisposition, he shook his head seriously, and feared there was
really something in it.  Increased vocal resonance at the top of
the left lung, he must admit. Some tendency to tubercular deposit
there, and perhaps even a slight deep-seated cavity. Ernest must
take care of himself for the present, and keep himself as free as
possible from all kind of worry or anxiety.

'Is it consumption, do you think, Dr. Sanders?' Edie asked
breathlessly.

'Well, consumption, Mrs. Le Breton, is a very vague and indefinite
expression,' said the doctor, tapping his white shirtcuff with
his nail in his slowest and most deliberate manner. 'It may mean
a great deal, or it may mean very little. I don't want in any way
to alarm you, or to alarm your husband; but there's certainly a
marked incipient tendency towards tubercular deposit. Yes, tubercular
deposit... Well, if you ask me the question point-blank, I should
say so... certainly... I should say it was phthisis, very little
doubt of it... In short, what some people would call consumption.'

Ernest went home with Edie, comforting her all the way as well as
he was able, and trying to make light of it, but feeling in his own
heart that the look-out was decidedly beginning to gather blacker
and darker than ever before them. Through the rest of that term
he worked as well as he could; but Edie noticed every morning that
the cough was getting worse and worse; and long before the time
came for them to leave Pilbury he had begun to look distinctly
delicate. Care for Edie and for the future was telling on him: his
frame had never been very robust, and the anxieties of the last
year had brought out the same latent hereditary tendency which had
shown itself earlier and more markedly in the case of his brother
Ronald.

Meanwhile, Dr. Greatrex was assiduous in looking about for something
or other that Ernest could turn his hand to, and writing letters
with indefatigable kindness to all his colleagues and correspondents:
for though he was, as Ernest said, a most unmitigated humbug, that
was really his only fault; and when his sympathies were once really
aroused, as the Le Bretons had aroused them, there was no stone he
would leave unturned if only his energy could be of any service to
those whom he wished to benefit. But unfortunately  in this case
it couldn't. 'I'm at my wit's end what to do with you, Le Breton,'
he said kindly one morning  to Ernest: 'but how on earth I'm to
manage anything, I can't imagine. For my own part, you know, though
your conduct about that poor man Schurz (a well-meaning harmless
fanatic, I dare say) was really a public scandal--from the point
of view of parents I mean, my dear fellow, from the point of view
of parents--I should almost be inclined to keep you on here in
spite of it, and brave the public opinion of Pilbury Regis, if it
depended entirely upon my own  judgment. But in the management of
a school, my dear boy, as you yourself must be aware, a head master
isn't the sole and only authority; there are the governors, for
example, Le Breton, and--and--and, ur, there's Mrs. Greatrex. Now,
in all matters of social discipline and attitude, Mrs. Greatrex is
justly of equal authority with me; and Mrs. Greatrex thinks it would
never do to keep you at Pilbury. So, of course, that practically
settles the question. I'm awfully sorry, Le Breton, dreadfully sorry,
but I don't see my way out of it. The mischief's done already, to
some extent, for all Pilbury knows now that Schurz came down here
to stop with you at your lodgings: but if I were to keep you on
they'd say I didn't disapprove of Schurz's opinions, and that would
naturally be simple ruination for the school--simple ruination.'

Ernest thanked him sincerely for the trouble he had taken, but
wondered desperately in his own heart what sort of future could
ever be in store for them.

The second event was less unexpected, though quite equally
embarrassing under existing circumstances. Hardly more than a month
before the end of the quarter, a little black-eyed baby daughter
came to add to the prospective burdens of the Le Breton family.
She was a wee, fat, round-faced, dimpled Devonshire lass to look
at, as far  surpassing every previous baby in personal appearance
as each of those previous babies, by universal admission, had
surpassed all their earlier predecessors--a fact which, as Mr.
Sanders remarked, ought to be of most gratifying import both to
evolutionists and to philanthropists in general, as proving the
continuous and progressive amelioration of the human race: and
Edie was very proud of her indeed, as she lay placidly in her very
plain little white robes on the pillow of her simple wickerwork
cradle. But Ernest, though he learned to love the tiny intruder
dearly afterwards, had no heart just then to bear the conventional
congratulations of his friends and fellow-masters. Another mouth
to feed, another life dependent upon him, and little enough,
as it seemed, for him to feed it with. When Edie asked him what
they should name the baby--he had just received an adverse answer
to his application for a vacant secretaryship--he crumpled up the
envelope bitterly in his hand, and cried out in his misery, 'Call
her Pandora, Edie, call her Pandora; for we've got to the very
bottom of the casket, and there is nothing at all left for us now
but hope--and even of that very little!'

So they duly registered her name as Pandora; but her mother shortened
it familiarly into Dot; and as little Dot she was practically known
ever after.

Almost as soon as poor Edie was able to get about again, the time
came when they would have to leave Pilbury Regis.  The doctor's
search had been quite ineffectual, and he had heard of absolutely
nothing that was at all likely to suit Ernest Le Breton. He had
tried Government offices, Members of Parliament, colonial friends,
every body he knew in any way who miyht possibly know of vacant
posts or appointments, but each answer was only a fresh disappointment
for him and for Ernest. In the end, he was fain to advise his
peccant under-master, since nothing else remained for it, that
he had better go up to London for the present, take lodgings, and
engage in the precarious occupation known as 'looking about for
something to turn up.' On the morning when Edie and he were to
leave the town, Dr.  Greatrex saw Ernest privately in his own study.

'I wish very much I could have gone to the station to see you off,
Le Breton,' he said, pressing his hand warmly; 'but it wouldn't
do, you know, it wouldn't do, and Mrs. Greatrex wouldn't like it.
People would say I sympathised secretly with your political opinions,
which might offend Sir Matthew Ogle and others of our governors.
But I'm sorry to get rid of you, really and sincerely sorry, my dear
fellow; and apart from personal feeling, I'm sure you'd have made
a good master in most ways, if it weren't for your most unfortunate
socialistic notions. Get rid of them, Le Breton, I beg of you: do
get rid of them. Well, the only thing I can advise you now is to
try your hand, for the present only--till  something turns up, you
know--at literature and journalism. I shall be on the look-out for
you still, and shall tell you at once of anything I may happen to
hear of. But meanwhile, you must try to be earning something. And
if at any time, my dear friend, you should be temporarily in want
of money,'--the doctor said this in a shame-faced, hesitating sort
of way, with not a little humming and hawing--'in want of money
for immediate necessities merely, if you'll only be so kind as to
write and tell me, I should consider it a pleasure and a privilege
to lend you a ten pound note, you know--just for a short time, till
you saw your way clear before you.  Don't hesitate to ask me now,
be sure; and I may as well say, write to me at the school, Le
Breton, not at the school-house, so that even Mrs. Greatrex need
never know anything about it. In fact, if you'll excuse me, I've
put a small sum into this envelope--only twenty pounds--which
may be of service to you, as a loan, as a loan merely; if you'll
take it--only till something turns up, you know--you'll really be
conferring a great favour upon me. There, there, my dear boy; now
don't be offended: I've borrowed money myself at times, when I was
a young man like you, and I hadn't a wife and family then as an
excuse for it either. Put it in your pocket, there's a good fellow;
you'll need it for Mrs. Le Breton and the baby, you see; now do
please put it in your pocket.'

The tears rode fast and hot in Ernest's eyes, and he grasped the
doctor's other hand with grateful fervour. 'Dear Dr. Greatrex,'
he said as well as he was able, 'it's too kind of you, too kind of
you altogether. But I really can't take the money. Even after the
expenses of Edie's illness and of baby Dot's wardrobe, we have
a little sum, a very little sum laid by, that'll help us to tide
over the immediate present.  It's too good of you, too good of you
altogether. I shall remember your kindness for ever with the most
sincere and heartfelt gratitude.'

As Ernest looked into the doctor's half-averted eyes, swimming
and glistening just a little with sympathetic moisture, his heart
smote him when he thought that he had ever described that good,
kindly, generous man as an  unmitigated humbug. 'It shows how little
one can trust the mere outside shell of human beings,' he said to
Edie, self-reproachfully, as they sat together in their hare third-class
carriage an hour later. 'The humbug's just the conventional mask
of his profession--necessary enough, I suppose, for people who
are really going to live successfully in the world as we find it:
the heart within him's a thousand times warmer and truer and more
unspoiled than one could ever have imagined from the outer covering.
He offered me his twenty pounds so delicately and considerately that
but for my father's blood in me, Edie, for your sake, I believe I
could almost have taken it.'

When they got to London, Ernest wished to leave Edie and Dot
at Arthur Berkeley's rooms (he knew nowhere else to leave them),
while he went out by himself to look about for cheap lodgings. Edie
was still too weak, he said, to carry her baby about the streets
of London in search of apartments. But Edie wouldn't hear of this
arrangement; she didn't quite like going to Arthur's, and she felt
sure she could bargain with the London landladies a great deal
more effectually than a man like Ernest--which was an important
matter in the present very reduced condition of the family finances.
In the end it was agreed that they should both go out on the hunt
together, but that Ernest should be permitted to relieve Edie by
turns in taking care of the precious baby.

'They're dreadful people, I believe, London landladies,' said Edie,
in her most housewifely manner; 'regular cheats and skinflints,
I've always heard, who try to take you in on every conceivable point
and item. We must be very careful not to let them get the better
of us, Ernest, and to make full inquiries about all extras, and so
forth, beforehand.'

They turned towards Holloway and the northern district, to look
for cheap rooms, and they saw a great many, more or less dear, and
more or less dirty and unsuitable, until their poor hearts really
began to sink within them. At last, in despair, Edie turned up a
small side street in Holloway, and stopped at a tiny house with a
clean white curtain in its wee front bay window. 'This is awfully
small, Ernest,' she said, despondently, 'but perhaps, after all,
it might really suit us.'

The door was opened for them by a tall, raw-boned, hard-faced woman,
the very embodiment and personification of Edie's ideal skinflint
London landlady. Might they see the lodgings, Edie asked dubiously.
Yes, they might, indeed, mum, answered the hard-faced woman. Edie
glanced at Ernest significantly, as who should say that these would
really never do.

The lodgings were very small, but they were as clean as a new pin.
Edie began to relent, and thought, perhaps in spite of the landlady,
they might somehow manage to put up with them. 'What was the rent?'

The hard-faced landlady looked at Edie steadily, and then answered
'Fifteen shillings, mum.'

'Oh, that's too much for us, I'm afraid,' said Edie ruefully. 'We
don't want to go as high as that. We're very poor and quiet people.'

'Well, mum,' the landlady assented quickly, 'it is 'igh for the
rooms, perhaps, mum, though I've 'ad more; but it IS 'igh, mum. I
won't deny it. Still, for you, mum, and the baby, I wouldn't mind
making it twelve and sixpence.'

'Couldn't you say half-a-sovereign?' Edie asked timidly, emboldened
by success.

'Arf a suvveran, mum? Well, I 'ardly rightly know,' said the
hard-faced landlady deliberately. 'I can't say without askin' of
my 'usband whether he'll let me. Excuse me a minnit, mum; I'll just
run down and ask 'im.'

Edie glanced at Ernest, and whispered doubtfully, 'They'll do, but
I'm afraid she's a dreadful person.'

Meanwhile, the hard-faced landlady had run downstairs quickly,
and called out in a pleasant voice of childish  excitement to her
husband. 'John, John,' she cried--'drat that man, where's he gone
to. Oh, a smokin' of course, in the back kitching. Oh, John, there's
the sweetest little lady you ever set eyes on, all in black, with
a dear baby, a dear little speechless infant, and a invalid 'usband,
I should say by the look of 'im, 'as come to ask the price of the
ground floor lodgin's. And seein' she was so nice and kindlike, I
told her fifteen shillings, instead of a suvveran; and she says,
can't you let 'em for less? says she; and she was that pretty and
engagin' that I says, well, for you I'll make it twelve and sixpence,
mum, says I: and says she, you couldn't say 'arf a suvveran, could
you? and says I, I'll ask my 'usband: and oh, John, I DO wish you'd
let me take 'em at that, for a kinder, sweeter-lookin' dearer family
I never did, an' that I tell you.'

John drew his pipe slowly out of his mouth--he was a big, heavy,
coachman-built sort of person, in waistcoat and shirt-sleeves--and
answered with a kindly smile, 'Why, Martha, if you want to take 'em
for 'arf a suvveran, in course you'd ought to do it. Got a baby,
pore thing, 'ave she now? Well, there, there, you just go this very
minnit, and tell 'em as you'll take 'em.'

The hard-faced landlady went up the stairs again, only stopping a
moment to observe parenthetically that a sweeter little lady she
never did, and what was 'arf-a-crown a week to you and me, John?
and then, holding the corner of her apron in her hand, she informed
Edie that her 'usband was prepared to accept the ten shillings
weekly.

'I'll try to make you and the gentleman comfortable, mum,' she
said, eagerly; 'the gentleman don't look strong, now do he? We must
try to feed 'im up and keep 'im cheerful. And we've got plenty of
flowers to make the room bright, you see: I'm very fond of flowers
myself, mum: seems to me as if they was sort of company to one, like,
and when you water 'em and tend 'em always, I feel as if they was
alive, and got to know one again, I do, and that makes one love
'em, now don't it, mum? To see 'em brighten up after you've watered
'em, like that there maiden-'air fern there, why it's enough to
make one love 'em the same as if they was Christians, mum.' There
was a melting tenderness in her voice when she talked about the
flowers that half won over Edie's heart, even in spite of her hard
features.

'I'm glad you're so fond of flowers, Mrs.----. Oh, you haven't
told us your name yet,' Edie said, beginning vaguely to suspect that
perhaps the hard-faced landlady wasn't quite as bad as she looked
to a casual observer.

'Alliss, mum,' the landlady answered, filling up Edie's interrogatory
blank. 'My name is 'Alliss.'

'Alice what?' Edie asked again.

'Oh, no, mum, you don't rightly understand me,' the landlady replied,
getting very red, and muddling up her aspirates more decidedly
than ever, as people with her failing always do when they want to
be specially deliberate and emphatic: 'not Halice, but 'Alliss;
haitch, hay, hell, hell, hi, double hess--'Alliss: my full name's
Martha 'Alliss, mum; my 'usband's John 'Alliss. When would you like
to come in?'

'At once,' Edie answered. 'We've left our luggage at the cloak-room
at Waterloo, and my husband will go back and fetch it, while I stop
here with the baby.'

'Not that, he shan't, indeed, mum,' cried the hard-faced landlady,
hastily; 'beggin' your pardon for sayin' so. Our John shall go--that's
my 'usband, mum; and you shall give 'im the ticket. I wouldn't let
your good gentleman there go, and 'im so tired, too, not for the
world, I wouldn't.  Just you give me the ticket, mum, and John
shall go this very minnit and fetch it.'

'But perhaps your husband's busy,' said Ernest, reflecting  upon
the probable cost of cab hire; 'and he'll want a cab to fetch it
in.'

'Bless your 'eart, sir,' said the landlady, busily arranging  things
all round the room meanwhile for the better accommodation of the
baby, ''e ain't noways busy 'e ain't.  'E's a lazy man, nowadays, John
is: retired from business, 'e says, sir, and ain't got nothink to
do but clean the knives, and lay the fires, and split the firewood,
and such like.  John were a coachman, sir, in a gentleman's family
for most of 'is life, man and boy, these forty year, come Christmas;
and we've saved a bit o' money between us, so as we don't need for
nothink: and 'e don't want the cab, puttin' you to expense, sir,
onnecessary, to bring the luggage round in.  'E'll just borrer the
hand-barrer from the livery in the mews, sir, and wheel it round
'isself, in 'arf an hour, and make nothink of it. Just you give
me the ticket, and set you right down there, and I'll make you and
the lady a cup of tea at once, and John'll bring round the luggage
by the time you've got your things off.'

Ernest looked at Edie, and Edie looked at Ernest. Could they
have judged too hastily once more, after their determination  to
be lenient in first judgments for the future? So Ernest gave Mrs.
Halliss the cloak-room ticket, and Mrs.  Halliss ran downstairs
with it immediately. 'John,' the cried again, '--drat that man,
where's 'e gone to? Oh, there you are, dearie! Just you put on
your coat an' 'at as fast as ever you can, and borrer Tom Wood's
barrer, and run down to Waterloo, and fetch up them two portmanteaus,
will you? And you drop in on the way at the Waterfield.  dairy--not
Jenkins's: Jenkins's milk ain't good enough for them--and tell 'em
to send round two penn'orth of fresh this very minnit, do y'ear,
John, this very minnit, as it's extremely pertickler. And a good thing
I didn't give you them two eggs for your dinner, as is fresh-laid
by our own 'ens this mornin', and no others like 'em to be 'ad in
London for love or money; and they shall 'ave 'em boiled light for
their tea this very evenin'. And you look sharp, John,--drat the
man, 'ow long 'e is--for I tell yon, these is reel gentlefolk, and
them pore too, which makes it all the 'arder; and they've got to
be treated the same in every respect as if they was paying a 'ole
suvverin, bless their 'earts, the pore creechurs.'

'Pore,' said John, vainly endeavouring to tear on his coat with
becoming rapidity under the influence of Mrs. Halliss's voluble
exhortations. 'Pore are they, pore things? and so they may be. I've
knowed the sons of country gentlemen, and that baronights too,
Martha, as 'ad kep' their 'ounds, redooced to be that pore as
they couldn't have afforded to a took our lodgings, even 'umble as
they may be. Pore ain't nothink to do with it noways, as respecks
gentility.  I've lived forty years in gentlemen's families, up an'
down, Martha, and I think I'd ought to know somethink about the
'abits and manners of the aristocracy. Pore ain't in the question
at all, it ain't, as far as breedin' goes: and if they're pore, and
got to be gentlefolks too all the same'--John spoke of this last
serious disability in a tone of unfeigned pity--'why, Martha, wot
I says is, we'd ought to do the very best we can for 'em any 'ow,
now, oughtn't we?'

'Drat the man!' cried Mrs. Halliss again, impatiently; 'don't stand
talkin' and sermonin' about it there no longer like a poll parrot,
but just you run along and send in the milk, like a dear, will you?
or that dear little lady'll have to be waitin' for her tea--and her
with a month-old baby, too, the pretty thing, just to think of it!'

And indeed, long before John Halliss had got back again with the
two wee portmanteaus--'I could 'a carried that lot on my 'ead,' he
soliloquised when he saw them, 'without 'avin' troubled to wheel
round a onnecessary encumbrance in the way of a barrer'--Mrs. Halliss
had put the room tidy, and laid the baby carefully in a borrowed
cradle in the corner, and brought up Edie and Ernest a big square
tray covered by a snow-white napkin--'My own washin', mum'--and
conveying a good cup of tea, a couple of crisp rolls, and two
such delicious milky eggs as were never before known in the whole
previous history of the county of Middlesex.  And while they drank
their tea, Mrs. Halliss insisted upon taking the baby down into
the kitchen, so that they mightn't be bothered, pore things; for
the pore lady must be tired with nursin' of it herself the livelong
day, that she must: and when she got it into the kitchen, she was
compelled  to call over the back yard wall to Mrs. Bollond, the
greengrocer's wife next door, with the ultimate view to getting a
hare's brain for the dear baby to suck at through a handkerchief.
And Mrs. Bollond, being specially so  invited, came in by the area
door, and inspected the dear baby; and both together arrived at
the unanimous conclusion that little Dot was the very prettiest
and sweetest child that ever sucked its fat little fingers, Lord
bless her!

And in the neat wee parlour upstairs, Edie, pouring out tea from
the glittering tin teapot into one of the scrupulously clean small
whitey-gold teacups, was saying meanwhile to Ernest, 'Well, after
all, Ernest dear, perhaps London landladies  aren't all quite as
black as they're usually painted.' A conclusion which neither Edie
nor Ernest had ever after any occasion for altering in any way.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE CLOUDS BEGIN TO BREAK.


And now, what were Ernest and Edie to do for a living!  That was
the practical difficulty that stared them at last plainly in the
face--no mere abstract question of right and justice, of socialistic
ideals or of political economy, but the stern, uncompromising,
pressing domestic question of daily bread. They had come from
Pilbury Regis with a very small reserve indeed in their poor lean
little purses; and though Mrs. Halliss's lodgings might be cheap
enough as London lodgings go, their means wouldn't allow them to
stop there for many weeks together unless that hypothetical something
of which they were in search should happen to turn up with most
extraordinary and unprecedented rapidity.  As soon as they were
settled in at their tiny rooms, therefore, Ernest began a series
of weary journeys into town, in search of work of some sort or
another; and he hunted up all his old Oxford acquaintances in the
Temple or elsewhere, to see if they could give him any suggestions
towards a possible means of earning a livelihood. Most of them, he
found to his surprise, though they had been great chums of his at
college, seemed a little shy of him nowadays: one old Oxford friend,
in particular, an impeccable man in close-cut frock coat and hat
of shiny perfection, he overheard saying to another, he followed
him accidentally up a long staircase in King's Bench Walk, 'Ah,
yes, I met Le Breton in the Strand yesterday, when I was walking
with a Q.C., too; he's married badly, got no employment, and looks
awfully seedy.  So very embarrassing, you know, now wasn't it?' And
the other answered lightly, in the same unconcerned tone, 'Oh, of
course, dreadfully embarrassing, really.' Ernest slank down the
staircase again with a sinking heart, and tried to get no further
hints from the respectabilities of King's Bench Walk, at least in
this his utmost extremity.

Night after night, as the dusk was beginning to throw its pall
over the great lonely desert of London--one vast frigid expanse of
living souls that knew and cared nothing about him--Ernest turned
back, foot-sore and heart-sick, to the cheery little lodgings in
the short side-street at Holloway.  There good Mrs. Halliss, whose
hard face seemed to grow softer the longer you looked at it, had
a warm clip of tea always ready against his coming: and Edie, with
wee Dot sleeping placidly on her arm, stood at the door to welcome
him back again in wife-like fashion. The flowers in the window
bloomed bright and gay in the tiny parlour: and Edie, with her
motherly cares for little Dot, seemed more like herself than ever
she had done before since poor Harry's death had clouded the morning
of her happy lifetime. But to Ernest, even that pretty picture of
the young mother and her sleeping baby looked only like one more
reminder of the terrible burden he had unavoidably yet too lightly
taken upon him. Those two dear lives depended wholly upon him for
their daily bread, and where that daily bread was ever to come from
he had absolutely not the slightest notion.

There is no place in which it is more utterly dreary to be quite
friendless than in teeming London. Still, they were not absolutely
friendless even in that great lurid throng of jarring humanity,
all eagerly intent on its own business, and none of it troubling
its collective head about two such nonentities as Ernest and
Edie. Ronald used to come round daily to see them and cheer them
up with his quiet confidence  in the Disposer of all things: and
Arthur Berkeley, neglecting his West End invitations and his lady
admirers, used to drop in often of an evening for a friendly chat
and a rational suggestion or two.

'Why don't you try journalism, Le Breton?' he said to Ernest one
night, as they sat discussing possibilities for the future in the
little parlour together. 'Literature in some form or other's clearly
the best thing for a man like you to turn his hand to. It demands
less compliance with conventional  rules than any other profession.
No editor or publisher would ever dream of dismissing you, for
example, because you invited your firebrand friend Max Schurz to
dinner.  On the contrary, if it comes to that, he'd ask you what
Herr Max thought about the future of trades unions and the socialist
movement in Germany, and he'd advise you to turn it into a column
and a half of copy, with a large type  sensational heading, "A
Communistic Leader Interviewed. From our Special Correspondent."'

'But it's such a very useless, unsocialistic trade,' Ernest answered
doubtfully. 'Do you think it would be quite right, Arthur, for
a man to try and earn money by it? Of course it isn't much worse
than school-mastering, I dare say; nobody can say he's performing
a very useful function for the world by hammering a few lines of
Ovid into the skull of poor stupid Blenkinsopp major, who after
all will only use what he calls his education, if he uses it in
any way at all, to enable him to make rather more money than any
other tobacco-pipe manufacturer in the entire trade. Still, one
does feel for all that, that mere writing of books and papers is a
very unsatisfactory kind of work for an ethical being to perform for
humanity. How much better, now, if one could only be a farm-labourer
or a shoemaker!'

Arthur Berkeley looked across at him half angrily. 'My dear Ernest,'
he said, in a severer voice than he often used, 'the time has gone
by now for this economical puritanism of yours. It won't do any
longer. You have to think of your child and of Mrs. Le Breton.
Your first duty is to earn a livelihood for them and yourself;
when you've done that satisfactorily, you may begin to think of the
claims of humanity. Don't be vexed with me, my dear fellow, if I
speak to you very plainly. You've lost your place at  Pilbury because
you wouldn't be practical. You might have known they wouldn't let
you go hobnobbing publicly before the very eyes of boys and parents
with a firebrand German Socialist. Mind, I don't say anything
against Herr Schurz myself--what little I know about him is all in
his favour--that he's a thorn in the side of those odious prigs,
the political economists. I've often noticed that when a man wants
to dogmatise to his heart's content without fear of contradiction,
he invariably calls himself a political economist. Then if people
differ from him, he smiles at them the benign smile of superior
wisdom, and says superciliously, "Ah, I see you don't understand
political economy!" Now, your Herr Schurz is a dissenter among
economists, I believe--a sort of embryo Luther come to tilt with
a German toy lance against their economical infallibilities; and
I'm told he knows more about the subject than all the rest of them
put together. Of course, if you like him and respect him--and I know
you have one superstition left, my dear fellow--there's no reason
on earth why you shouldn't do so; but you mustn't parade him too
openly before the scandalised faces of respectable Pilbury. In
future, you must be practical. Turn your hand to whatever you can
get to do, and leave humanity at large to settle the debtor and
creditor account with you hereafter.'

'I'll do my best, Berkeley,' Ernest answered submissively;  'and if
you like, I'll strangle my conscience and try my hand at journalism.'

'Do, there's a good man,' Arthur Berkeley said, delighted at his
late conversion. 'I know two or three editor fellows pretty well,
and if you'll only turn off something, I'll ask them to have a look
at it.'

Next morning, at breakfast, Ernest discussed the possibilities
of this new venture very seriously with sympathising Edie. 'It's
a great risk,' he said, turning it over dubiously in his mind; 'a
great risk, and a great expense too, for nothing certain. Let me
see, there'll be a quire of white foolscap to start with; that'll
be a shilling--a lot of money as things go at present, Edie, isn't
it?'

'Why not begin with half a quire, Ernest?' said his little wife,
cautiously. 'That'd be only sixpence, you see.'

'Do they halve quires at the stationer's, I wonder?' Ernest went
on still mentally reckoning. 'Well, suppose we put it at sixpence.
Then we've got pens already by us, but not any ink--that's a
penny--and there's postage, say about twopence; total ninepence.
That's a lot of money, isn't it, now, for a pure uncertainty?'

'I'd try it, Ernest dear, if I were you,' Edie answered.  'We must
do something, mustn't we, dear, to earn our living.'

'We must,' Ernest said, sighing. 'I wish it were anything  but
that; but I suppose what must be must be. Well, I'll go out a walk
by myself in the quietest streets I can find, and try if I can
think of anything on earth a man can write about. Arthur Berkeley
says I ought to begin with a social article for a paper; he knows
the "Morning Intelligence" people, and he'll try to get them to
take something if I can manage to write it. I wonder what on earth
would do as a social article for the "Morning Intelligence"! If
only they'd let me write about socialism now! but Arthur says they
won't take that; the times aren't yet ripe for it. I wish they were,
Edie, I wish they were; and then perhaps you and I would find some
way to earn ourselves a decent living.'

So Ernest went out, and ruminated quietly by himself, as well as he
was able, in the least frequented streets of Holloway and Highgate.
After about half an hour's excogitation,  a brilliant idea at last
flashed across him; he had found in a tobacconist's window something
to write about!  Your practised journalist doesn't need to think at
all; he writes whatever comes uppermost without the unnecessarily
troublesome preliminary of deliberate thinking. But Ernest Le
Breton was only making his first experiment in the queer craft,
and he looked upon himself as a veritable Watt or Columbus when he
had actually discovered that hitherto unknown object, a thing to
write about. He went straight back to good Mrs. Halliss's with his
discovery whirling in his head, stopping only by the way at the
stationer's, to invest in half a quire of white foolscap. 'The
best's a shilling a quire, mister,' said the shopman; 'second best,
tenpence.' Communist as he was, Ernest couldn't help noticing the
unusual mode of address; but he took the  cheaper quality quietly,
and congratulated himself on his good luck in saving a penny upon
the original estimate.

When he got home, he sat down at the plain wooden table by the
window, and began with nervous haste to write away rapidly at his
first literary venture. Edie sat by in her little low chair and
watched him closely with breathless interest. Would it be a success
or a failure? That was the question they were both every moment
intently asking  themselves. It was not a very important piece
of literary  workmanship, to be sure; only a social leader for a
newspaper, to be carelessly skimmed to-day and used to light the
fire  to-morrow, if even that; and yet had it been the greatest
masterpiece ever produced by the human intellect Ernest could not
have worked at it with more conscientious care, or Edie watched
him with profounder admiration. When Shakespeare  sat down to write
'Hamlet,' it may be confidently asserted that neither Mistress Anne
Shakespeare nor anybody  else awaited the result of his literary
labours with such unbounded and feverish anxiety. By the time
Ernest had finished his second sheet of white foolscap--much erased
and interlined with interminable additions and corrections--Edie
ventured for a moment briefly to interrupt his creative efforts.
'Don't you think you've written as much as makes an ordinary leader
now, Ernest?' she asked, apologetically.  'I'm afraid you're making
it a good deal longer than it ought to be by rights.'

'I'm sure I don't know, Edie,' Ernest answered, gazing at the two
laboured sheets with infinite dubitation and searching of spirit.
'I suppose one ought properly to count the words in an average
leader, and make it the same length as they always are in the
"Morning Intelligence." I think they generally run to just a column.'

'Of course you ought, dear,' Edie answered. 'Run out this minute
and buy one before you go a single line further.'

Ernest looked back at his two pages of foolscap somewhat  ruefully.
'That's a dreadful bore,' he said, with a sigh: 'it'll just run
away with the whole penny I thought I'd managed to save in getting
the second quality of foolscap for fivepence. However, I suppose
it can't be helped, and after all, if the thing succeeds, one can
look upon the penny in the light of an investment. It's throwing
a sprat to catch a whale, as the proverb says: though I'm afraid
Herr Max would say that that was a very immoral capitalist proverb.
How horribly low we must be sinking, Edie, when we come to use the
anti-social language of those dreadful capitalists!'

'I don't think capitalists deal much in proverbs, dear,'  said Edie,
smiling in spite of herself; 'but you needn't go to the expense
of buying a "Morning Intelligence," I dare say, for perhaps Mrs.
Halliss may have an old one in the house; or if not, she might
be able to borrow one from a neighbour. She has a perfect genius
for borrowing, Mrs.  Halliss; she borrows everything I want from
somebody or other. I'll just run down to the kitchen this minute
and ask her.'

In a few seconds Edie returned in triumph with an old soiled and
torn copy of the 'Morning Intelligence,' duly  procured by the
ingenious Mrs. Halliss from the dairy opposite.  It was a decidedly
antiquated copy, and it had only too  obviously been employed by
its late possessor to wrap up a couple of kippered herrings; but
it was still entire, so far as regarded the leaders at least, and
it was perfectly legible in spite of its ancient and fish-like
smell. To ensure accuracy, Ernest and Edie took a leader apiece, and
carefully counted up the number of words that went to the column.
They came on an average to fifteen hundred. Then Ernest counted
his own manuscript with equal care--no easy task when one took
into consideration the interlined or erased passages--and, to his
infinite disgust, discovered that it only extended to seven hundred
and fifty words. 'Why, Edie,' he said, in a very disappointed
tone, 'how little it prints into! I should certainly have thought
I'd written at least a whole column. And the worst of it is, I
believe I've really said all I have to say about the subject.'

'What is it, Ernest dear?' asked Edie.

'Italian organ-boys,' Ernest answered. 'I saw on a placard in
the news shop that one of them had been taken to a hospital in a
starving condition.' He hardly liked to tell even Edie that he had
stood for ten minutes at a tobacconist's  window and read the case
in a sheet of 'Lloyd's News' conspicuously hung up there for public
perusal.

'Well, let me hear what you have written, Ernest dear, and then
see if you couldn't expand it.'

Ernest read it over most seriously and solemnly--it was only a
social leader, of the ordinary commonplace talky-talky sort; but
to those two poor young people it was a very serious and solemn
matter indeed--no less a matter than their own two lives and little
Dot's into the bargain. It began with the particular case of the
particular organ-boy who formed the peg on which the whole article
was to be hung; it went on to discourse on the lives and manners
of organ-boys in general; it digressed into the natural history of
the common guinea-pig, with an excursus on the scenery of the Lower
Apennines; and. it finished off with sundry abstract  observations
on the musical aspect of the barrel-organ and the aesthetic value of
hurdygurdy performances. Edie listened to it all with deep attention.

'It's very good, Ernest dear,' she said, with wifely admiration,
as soon as he had finished. 'Just like a real leader exactly; only,
do you know, there aren't any anecdotes  in it. I think a social
leader of that sort ought always to have a lot of anecdotes. Couldn't
you manage to bring in something about Fox and Sheridan, or about
George IV.  and Beau Brummel? They always do, you know, in most of
the papers.'

Ernest gazed at her in silent admiration. 'How clever of you, Edie,'
he said, 'to think of that! Why, of course there ought to be some
anecdotes. They're the very breath of life to this sort of meaningless
writing. Only, somehow, George IV. and Beau Brummel don't seem
exactly relevant to Italian organ-grinders, now do they?'

'I thought,' said Edie, with hardly a touch of unintentional  satire,
'that the best thing about anecdotes of that kind in a newspaper
was their utter irrelevancy. But if Beau Brummel won't do, couldn't
you manage to work in Guicciardini and the galleys? That's strictly
Italian, you know, and therefore relevant; and I'm sure the newspaper
leaders are extremely fond of that story about Guiccardini.'

'They are,' Ernest answered,'most undoubtedly; but perhaps for that
very reason readers may be beginning to get just a little tired of
it by this time.'

'I don't think the readers matter much,' said Edie, with a
brilliant, flash of practical common-sense; 'at least, not nearly
half as much, Ernest, as the editor.'

'Quite true,' Ernest replied, with another admiring look; 'but
probably the editor more or less consults the taste and feelings
of the readers. Well, I'll try to expand it a bit, and I'll manage
to drag in an anecdote or two  somehow--if not Guicciardini, at
least something or other else Italian. You see Italy's a tolerably
rich subject, because you can do any amount about Raffael, and Michael
Angelo, and Leonardo, and so forth, not to mention Botticelli. The
papers have made a dreadful run lately on Botticelli.'

So Ernest sat down once more at the table by the window, and began
to interlard the manuscript with such allusions to Italy and the
Italians as could suggest themselves  on the spur of the moment to
his anxious imagination.  At the end of half an hour--about the
time a practised hand would have occupied in writing the whole
article--he counted words once more, and found there were still
two hundred wanting. Two hundred more words to say about Italian
organ-boys! Alas for the untrained human fancy! A master leader
writer at the office of the 'Morning Intelligence'  could have run
on for ever on so fertile and suggestive  a theme--a theme pregnant
with unlimited openings for all the cheap commonplaces of abstract
journalistic philanthropy; but poor Ernest, a 'prentice hand at the
trade, had yet to learn the fluent trick of the accomplished news
purveyor; he absolutely could not write without thinking about
it. A third time he was obliged to recommit his manuscript, and a
third time to count the words over.  This time, oh joy, the reckoning
came out as close as possible to the even fifteen hundred. Ernest
gave a sigh of relief, and turned to read it all over again,
as finally enlarged and amended, to the critical ears of admiring
Edie.

There was anecdote enough now, in all conscience, in the article;
and allusions enough to stock a whole week's numbers of the 'Morning
Intelligence.' Edie listened to the whole tirade with an air of
the most severe and impartial criticism.  When Ernest had finished,
she rose up and kissed him. 'I'm sure it'll do, Ernest,' she said
confidently. 'It's exactly like a real leader. It's quite beautiful--a
great deal more beautiful,  in fact, than anything else I ever read
in a newspaper: it's good enough to print in a volume.'

'I hope the editor'll think so,' Ernest answered, dubiously.  'If
not, what a lot of valuable tenpenny foolscap wasted all for nothing!
Now I must write it all out again clean, Edie, on fresh pieces.'

Newspaper men, it must be candidly admitted, do not usually write
their articles twice over; indeed, to judge by the result, it may
be charitably believed that they do not even, as a rule, read them
through when written, to correct their frequent accidental slips
of logic or English; but Ernest wrote out his organ-boy leader in
his most legible and roundest hand, copperplate fashion, with as
much care and precision as if it were his first copy for presentation
to the stern writing-master of a Draconian board school. 'Editors
are more likely to read your manuscript if it's legible, I should
think, Edie,' he said, looking up at her with more of hope in his
face than had often been seen in it of late. 'I wonder, now, whether
they prefer it sent in a long envelope, folded in three; or in a
square envelope, folded twice over; or in a paper cover, open like
a pamphlet. There must be some recognised  professional way of doing
it, and I should think one's more likely to get it taken if one
sends it in the regular  professional fashion, than if one makes
it look too amateurish. I shall go in for the long envelope; at
any rate, if not journalistic,  it's at least official.'

The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence' is an important personage
in contemporary politics, and a man of more real weight in the
world than half-a-dozen Members of Parliament  for obscure country
boroughs; but even that mighty man himself would probably have been
a little surprised as well as amused (if he could have seen it) at
the way in which Ernest and Edie Le Breton anxiously endeavoured
to conciliate  beforehand his merest possible personal fads and
fancies.  As a matter of fact, the question of the particular paper
on which the article was written mattered to him absolutely less
than nothing, inasmuch as he never looked at anything whatsoever
until it had been set up in type for him to pass off-hand judgment
upon its faults or its merits. His time was far too valuable to be
lightly wasted on the task of deciphering crabbed manuscript.

In the afternoon, Berkeley called to see whether Ernest had followed
his suggestion, and was agreeably surprised to find a whole article
already finished. He glanced through the neatly written pages, and
was still more pleased to  discover that Ernest, with an unsuspected
outburst of practicality  and practicability, had really hit upon
a possible subject.  'This may do, Ernest,' he said with a sigh of
relief. 'I dare say it will. I know Lancaster wants leader writers,
and I think this is quite good enough to serve his turn. I've
spoken to him about you: come round with me now--he'll be at the
office by four o'clock--and we'll see what we can do for you. It's
absolutely useless sending anything to the editor of a daily paper
without an introduction. You might write with the pen of the angel
Gabriel, or turn out leaders which were a judicious mean between
Gladstone, Burke, and Herbert Spencer, and it would profit you
nothing, for the simple reason that he hasn't got the time to read
them. He would toss Junius and Montesquieu into the waste paper
basket, and accept copy on the shocking murder in the Borough
Road from one of his regular contributors instead.  He can't help
himself: and what you must do, Ernest, is to become one of the
regular ring, and combine to keep Junius and Montesquieu permanently
outside.'

'The struggle for existence gives no quarter,' Ernest said sadly
with half a sigh.

'And takes none,' Berkeley answered quickly. 'So for your wife's
sake you must try your best to fight your way through it on your
own account, for yourself and your family.'

The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence,' Mr. Hugh Lancaster, was
a short, thick-set, hard-headed sort of man, with a kindly twinkle
in his keen grey eyes, and a harassed smile playing continually
around the corners of his firm and dose mouth. He looked as though
he was naturally a  good-humoured benevolent person, overdriven
at the journalistic mill till half the life was worn out of him,
leaving the  benevolence as a wearied remnant, without energy
enough to express itself in any other fashion than by the perpetual
harassed smile. He saw Arthur Berkeley and Ernest Le Breton at once
in his own sanctum, and took the manuscript from their hands with
a languid air of perfect resignation.  'This is the friend you
spoke of, is it, Berkeley?' he said in a wearied way. 'Well, well,
we'll see what we can do for him.' At the same time he rang a tiny
hand-bell. A boy, rather the worse for printer's ink, appeared at
the summons.  Mr. Lancaster handed him Ernest's careful manuscript
unopened, with the laconic order, 'Press. Proof immediately.' The
boy took it without a word. 'I'm very busy now,' Mr.  Lancaster went
on in the same wearied dispirited manner: 'come again in thirty-five
minutes. Jones, show these  gentlemen into a room somewhere.' And
the editor fell back forthwith into his easy-chair and his original
attitude of listless indifference. Berkeley and Ernest followed
the boy into a bare back room, furnished only with a deal table and
two chairs, and there anxiously awaited the result of the editor's
critical examination.

'Don't be afraid of Lancaster, Ernest,' Arthur said kindly. 'His
manner's awfully cold, I know, but he means well, and I really
believe he'd go out of his way, rather than not, to do a kindness
for anybody he thought actually in want of occupation. With most
men, that's an excellent reason for not employing you: with Lancaster
I do truly think it's a genuine recommendation.'

At the end of thirty-five minutes the grimy-faced office-boy
returned with a friendly nod. 'Editor'll see you,' he said, with
the Spartan brevity of the journalistic world--nobody connected
with newspapers ever writes or speaks a single word unnecessarily,
if he isn't going to be paid for it at so much per thousand--and
Ernest followed him, trembling  from head to foot, into Mr.
Lancaster's private study.

The great editor took up the steaming hot proof that had just been
brought him, and glanced down it carelessly with a rapid scrutiny.
Then he turned to Ernest, and said in a dreamy fashion, 'This will
do. We'll print this to-morrow.  You may send us a middle very
occasionally. Come here at four o'clock, when a subject suggests
itself to you, and speak to me about it. My time's very fully
occupied. Good morning, Mr. Le Breton. Berkeley, stop a minute, I
want to talk with you.'

It was all done in a moment, and almost before Ernest knew what
had happened he was out in the street again, with tears filling his
eyes, and joy his heart, for here at last was bread, bread, bread,
for Edie and the baby! He ran without stopping all the way back
to Holloway, rushed headlong into the house and fell into Edie's
arms, calling out wildly, 'He's taken it! He's taken it!' Edie
kissed him half-a-dozen times over, and answered bravely, 'I knew
he would, Ernest. It was such a splendid article.' And yet thousands
of readers of the 'Morning Intelligence' next day skimmed lightly
over the leader on organ-boys in their ordinary casual fashion,
without even thinking what hopes and fears and doubts and terrors
had gone to the making of that very commonplace bit of newspaper
rhetoric. For if the truth must be told, Edie's first admiring
criticism was perfectly correct, and Ernest Le Breton's leader was
just for all the world exactly the same as anybody else's.

Meanwhile, Arthur Berkeley had stayed behind as requested in Mr.
Lancaster's study, and waited to hear what Mr. Lancaster had to say
to him. The editor looked up at him wearily from his chair, passed
his bread hand slowly across his bewildered forehead, and then said
the one word, 'Poor?'

'Nothing on earth to do,' Berkeley answered.

'He might make a journalist, perhaps,' the editor gaid, sleepily.
'This social's up to the average. At any rate, I'll do my very best
for him. But he can't live upon socials.  We have too many social
men already. What can he do?  That's the question. It won't do to
say he can write pretty nearly as well about anything that turns
up as any other man in England can do. I can get a hundred young
fellows in the Temple to do that, any day. The real question's this:
is there anything he can write about a great deal better than all
the other men in all England put together?'

'Yes, there is,' Berkeley answered with commendable promptitude,
undismayed by Mr. Lancaster's excessive requirements. 'He knows
more about communists, socialists,  and political exiles generally,
than anybody else in the whole of London.'

'Good,' the editor answered, brightening up, and speaking  for
a moment a little less languidly. 'That's good.  There's this man
Schurz, now, the German agitator. He's going to be tried soon for
a seditious libel it seems, and he'll be sent to prison, naturally.
Now, does your friend know anything at all of this fellow?'

'He knows him personally and intimately,' Berkeley replied,
delighted to find that the card which had proved so bad a one at
Pilbury Regis was turning up trumps in the more Bohemian neighbourhood
of the Temple and Fleet Street. 'He can give you any information
you want about Schurz or any of the rest of those people. He
has associated with them all familiarly for the last six or seven
years.'

'Then he takes an interest in politics,' said Mr. Lancaster,  almost
waking up now. 'That's good again. It's so very difficult to find
young men nowadays, able to write, who take a genuine interest in
politics. They all go off after literature and science and aesthetics,
and other dry  uninteresting subjects. Now, what does your average
intelligent daily paper reader care, I should like to know, about
literature  and science and aesthetics and so forth? Well, he'll do,
I've very little doubt: at any rate, I'll give him a trial.  Perhaps
he might be able to undertake this Great Widgerly disenfranchising
case. Stop! he's poor, isn't he? I daresay he'd just as soon not
wait for his money for this social. In the ordinary course, he
wouldn't get paid till the end of the quarter; but I'll give you a
cheque to take back to him now; perhaps he wants it. Poor fellow,
poor fellow! he really looks very delicate. Depend upon it, Berkeley,
I'll do anything on earth for him, if only he'll write tolerably.'

'You're awfully good,' Arthur said, taking the proffered cheque
gratefully. 'I'm sure the money will be of great use to him: and
it's very kind indeed of you to have thought of it.'

'Not at all, not at all,'the editor answered, collapsing dreamily.
'Good morning, good morning.'

At Mrs. Halliss's lodgings in Holloway, Edie was just saying to
Ernest over their simple tea, 'I wonder what they'll give you for
it, Ernest.' And Ernest had just answered, big with hope, 'Well,
I should think it would be quite ten shillings, but I shouldn't
be surprised, Edie, if it was as much as a pound;' when the door
opened, and in walked Arthur Berkeley, with a cheque in his hand,
which he laid by Edie's teacup. Edie took it up and gave a little
cry of delight and astonishment. Ernest caught it from her hand in
his eagerness, and gazed upon it with dazed and swimming vision.
Did he read the words aright, and could it be really, 'Pay E. Le
Breton, Esq., or order, three guineas'? Three guineas! Three guineas!
Three real actual positive gold and silver guineas! It was almost
too much for either of them to believe, and all for a single
morning's light labour!  What a perfect Eldorado of wealth and
happiness seemed now to be opening out unexpectedly before them!

So much Arthur Berkeley, his own eyes glistening too with a sympathetic
moisture, saw and heard before he went away in a happier mood and
left them to their own domestic congratulations. But he did not see
or know the reaction that came in the dead of night, after all that
day's unwonted excitement, to poor, sickening, weary, over-burdened
Ernest.  Even Edie never knew it all, for Ernest was careful to
hide it as much as possible from her knowledge. But he knew himself,
though he would not even light the candle to see it, that he had
got those three glorious guineas--the guineas they had so delighted
in--with something more than a morning's labour. He had had to pay
for them, not figuratively but literally, with some of his very
life-blood.



CHAPTER XXV.

HARD PRESSED.


A week or two later, while 'The Primate of Fiji' was still running
vigorously at the Ambiguities Theatre, Arthur Berkeley's second
opera, 'The Duke of Bermondsey; or, the Bold Buccaneers of the Isle
of Dogs,' was brought out with vast success and immense exultation
at the Marlborough.  There is always a strong tendency to criticise
a little severely the second work of a successful beginner: people
like to assume a knowing air, and to murmur self-complacently that
they felt sure from the beginning he couldn't keep up  permanently
to his first level. But in spite of that natural tendency of the
unregenerate human mind, and in spite, too, of a marked political
bias on the author's part, 'The Duke of Bermondsey' took the town
by storm almost as completely as 'The Primate of Fiji' had done before
it.  Everybody said that though the principles of the piece were
really quite atrocious, when one came to think of them seriously,
yet the music and the dialogue were crisp and brisk enough to float
any amount of social or economical heresy that that clever young
man, Mr. Arthur Berkeley, might choose to put into one of his
amusing and original operas.

The social and economical heresies, of course, were partly due
to Ernest Le Breton's insidious influence. At the same time that
Berkeley was engaged in partially converting Ernest, Ernest was
engaged in the counter process of partially converting Berkeley.
To say the truth, the conversion  was not a very difficult matter
to effect; the neophyte had in him implicitly already the chief
saving doctrines of the socialistic faith, or, if one must put it
conversely, the germs of the disease were constitutionally implanted
in his system, and only needed a little external encouragement
to cring the poison out fully in the most virulent form of the
complaint. The great point of 'The Duke of Bermondsey' consisted in
the ridiculous contrast it exhibited between the wealth, dignity,
and self-importance of the duke himself, and the squalid, miserable,
shrinking poverty of the East-end  purlieus from which he drew his
enormous revenues.  Ernest knew a little about the East-end from
practical experience; he had gone there often with Ronald, on his
rounds of mercy, and had seen with his own eyes those dens of misery
which most people have only heard or read about.  It was Ernest who
had suggested this light satirical treatment  of the great social
problem, whose more serious side he himself had learnt to look
at in Max Schurz's revolutionary salon; and it was to Ernest that
Arthur Berkeley owed the first hint of that famous scene where the
young Countess of Coalbrookdale converses familiarly on the natural
beauties of healthful labour with the chorus of intelligent colliery
hands, in the most realistic of grimy costumes, from her father's
estates in Staffordshire. The stalls hardly knew whether to laugh
or frown when the intelligent colliers respectfully invited the
countess, in her best Ascot flounces and furbelows, to enjoy the
lauded delights of healthful mine labour in propria persona: but
they quite recovered their good humour when the band of theatrical
buccaneers, got up by the duke in Spanish costumes, with intent
to deceive his lawless tenants in the East-end, came unexpectedly
face to face with the genuine buccaneers of the Isle of Dogs,
clothed in real costermonger caps and second-hand pilot-jackets
of the marine-storedealers' fashionable pattern.  It was all only
the ridiculous incongruity of our actual society represented in the
very faintest shades of caricature upon the stage; but it made the
incongruities more  incongruous still to see them crowded together
so closely in a single concentrated tableau. Unthinking people
laughed uproariously at the fun and nonsense of the piece; thinking
people laughed too, but not without an uncomfortable side twinge of
conscientious remorse at the pity of it all. Some wise heads even
observed with a shrug that when this sort of thing was applauded
upon the stage, the fine old institutions  of England were getting
into dangerous contact with these pernicious continental socialistic
theories. And no doubt those good people were really wise in their
generation.  'When Figaro came,' Arthur Berkeley said himself
to Ernest, 'the French revolution wasn't many paces behind on the
track of the ages.'

'Better even than the Primate, Mr. Berkeley,' said Hilda Tregellis,
as she met him in a London drawing-room a few days later. 'What
a delightful scene, that of the Countess of Coalbrookdale! You're
doing real good, I do believe, by making people think about
these things more seriously, you know. As poor dear Mr. Le Breton
would have said, you've got an ethical purpose--isn't that the
word?--underlying even your comic operas. By the way, do you ever
see the Le Bretons now? Poor souls, I hear they're doing very
badly. The elder brother, Herbert Le Breton--horrid wretch!--he's
here to-night; going to marry that pretty Miss Faucit, they say;
daughter of old Mr.  Faucit, the candle-maker--no, not candles,
soap I think it is--but it doesn't matter twopence nowadays, does
it?  Well, as I was saying, you're doing a great deal of good
with characters like this Countess of Coalbrookdale. We want more
mixture of classes, don't we? more free intercourse between them;
more familiarity of every sort. For my part, now, I should really
very much like to know more of the inner life of the working classes.'
'If only he'd ask me to go to lunch,' she thought, 'with his dear
old father, the superannuated shoemaker! so very romantic, really!'

But Arthur only smiled a sphinx-like smile, and answered lightly,
'You would probably object to their treatment of you as much as the
countess objected to the uupleasant griminess  of the too-realistic
coal galleries. Suppose you were to fall into the hands of a logical
old radical workman, for example, who tore you to pieces, mentally
speaking, with a shake or two of his big teeth, and calmly
informed you that in his opinion you were nothing more than a very
empty-headed,  pretentious, ignorant young woman--perhaps even,
after the plain-spoken vocabulary of hie kind, a regular downright
minx and hussey?'

'Charming,' Lady Hilda answered, with perfect candour; 'so very
different from the senseless adulation of all the Hughs, and Guys,
and Berties! What I do love in talking to clever men, Mr. Berkeley,
is their delicious frankness and transparency. If they think one
a fool, they tell one so plainly, or at least they let one see it
without any reserve.  Now that, you know, is really such a very
delightful trait in clever people's characters!'

'I don't know how you can have had the opportunity of judging, Lady
Hilda,' Arthur answered, looking at her handsome open face with a
momentary glance of passing admiration--Hilda Tregellis was improving
visibly as she matured--'for no one can possibly ever have thought
anything  of the sort with you, I'm certain: and that I can say
quite candidly, without the slightest tinge of flattery or adulation.'

'What! YOU don't think me a fool, Mr. Berkeley,' cried Lady Hilda,
delighted even with that very negative bit of favourable appreciation.
'Now, that I call a real compliment,  I assure you, because I know
you clever people pitch your standard of intelligence so very,
very high! You  consider everybody fools, I'm sure, except the few
people who are almost as clever as you yourselves are. However, to
return to the countess: I do think there ought to be more mixture
of classes in England, and somebody told me'--this  was a violent
effort to be literary on Hilda's part, by way of rising to the
height of the occasion--'somebody told me that Mr. Matthew Arnold,
who's so dreadfully satirical, and cultivated, and so forth,
thinks exactly the same thing, you know. Why shouldn't the Countess
of Coalbrookdale have really married the foreman of the colliers?
I daresay she'd have been a great deal happier with a kind-hearted
sensible man like him than with that lumbering, hunting,
pheasant-shooting, horse-racing lout of a Lord Coalbrookdale,  who
would go to Norway on a fishing tour without her--now  wouldn't
she?'

'Very probably,' Berkeley answered: 'but in these matters we don't
regard happiness only,--that, you see, would be mere base, vulgar,
commonplace utilitarianism:--we  regard much more that grand
impersonal overruling entity, that unseen code of social morals,
which we  commonly call the CONVENANCES. Proper people don't
take happiness into consideration at all, comparatively: they act
religiously after the fashion that the CONVENANCES impose upon
them.'

'Ah, but why, Mr. Berkeley,' Lady Hilda said, vehemently, 'why
should the whole world always take it for granted that because
a girl happens to be born the daughter of people whose name's in
the peerage, she must necessarily be the slave of the proprieties,
devoid of all higher or better instincts? Why should they take it
for granted that she's destitute of any appreciation for any kind
of greatness except the kind that's represented by a million and a
quarter in the three per cents., or a great-great-grandfather who
fought at the battle of Naseby? Why mayn't she have a spark of
originality? Why mayn't she be as much attracted by literature,
by science, by art, by... by... by beautiful music, as, say, the
daughter of a lawyer, a doctor, or, or, or a country shopkeeper?
What I want to know is just this, Mr. Berkeley: if people don't
believe in distinctions of birth, why on earth should they suppose
that Lady Mary, or Lady Betty, or Lady Winifred, must necessarily
be more banale and vulgar-minded, and common-place than plain Miss
Jones, or Miss Brown, or Miss Robinson? You admit that these other
girls may possibly care for higher subjects: then why on earth
shouldn't we, can you tell me?'

'Certainly,' Arthur Berkeley answered, looking down into Lady
Hilda's beautiful eyes after a dreamy fashion, 'certainly there's no
inherent reason why one person shouldn't have just as high tastes
by nature as another.  Everything depends, I suppose, upon inherited
qualities, variously mixed, and afterwards modified by society and
education.--It's very hot here, to-night, Lady Hilda, isn't it?'

'Very,' Lady Hilda echoed, taking his arm as she spoke.  'Shall we
go into the conservatory?'

'I was just going to propose it myself,' Berkeley said, with a faint
tremor thrilling in his voice. She was a very beautiful woman,
certainly, and her unfeigned appreciation of his plays and his
music was undeniably very flattering to him.

'Unless I bring him fairly to book this evening,' Hilda thought to
herself as she swept with him gracefully into the conservatory, 'I
shall have to fall back upon the red-haired hurlyburlying Scotch
professor, after all--if I don't want to end by getting into the
clutches of one of those horrid Monties or Algies!'



CHAPTER XXVI.

IRRECLAIMABLE.


The occasional social articles for the 'Morning Intelligence' supplied
Ernest with work enough for the time being to occupy part of his
leisure, and income enough to keep the ship floating somehow, if
not securely, at least in decent fair-weather fashion. His frequent
trips with Ronald into the East-end gave him something comparatively
fresh to write about, and though he was compelled to conceal his own
sentiments upon many points, in order to conform to that impersonal
conscience, 'the policy of the paper,' he was still able to deal
with subjects that really interested him, and in which he fancied
he might actually be doing a little good. A few days after he had
taken seriously to the new occupation, good Mrs. Halliss made her
appearance in the tiny sitting-room one morning, and with many
apologies and much humming and hawing ventured to make a slight
personal representation to wondering little Edie.

'If you please, mum,' she said nervously, fumbling all the while with
the corner of the table cloth she was folding on the breakfast-table,
'if I might make so bold, mum, without offence, I should like to
say as me an' John 'as been talkin' it hover, an' we think now as
your good gentleman 'as so much writin' to do, at 'is littery work,
mum, as I may make bold to call it, perhaps you wouldn't mind, so
as not to disturb 'im with the blessed baby--not as that dear child
couldn't never disturb nobody, bless 'er dear 'eart, the darling,
not even when she's cryin', she's that sweet and gentle,--but we
thought, mum, as littery gentlemen likes to 'ave the coast clear,
in the manner of speakin', and perhaps you wouldn't mind bein' so
good as to use the little front room upstairs, mum, for a sort o'
nursery, as I may call it, for the dear baby. It was our bedroom,
that was, where John an' me used to sleep; but we've been an'
putt our things into the front hattic, mum, as is very nice and
comfortable in every way, so as to make room for the dear baby. An'
if you won't take it as a liberty, mum, me an' John 'ud be more'n
glad if you'd kindly make use of that there room for a sort of
occasional nursery for the dear baby.'

Edie bit her lip hard in her momentary confusion. 'Oh, dear, Mrs.
Halliss,' she said, almost crying at the kindly meant offer, 'I'm
afraid we can't afford to have THREE rooms all for ourselves as
things go at present. How much do you propose to charge us for the
additional nursery?'

'Charge you for it, mum,' Mrs. Halliss echoed, almost indignantly;
'charge our lodgers for any little hextry accommodation like the
small front room upstairs, mum--now,  don't you go and say that to
John, mum, I beg of you; for 'is temper's rather short at times,
mum, thro' boin' asmatic and the rheumatiz, though you wouldn't
think it to look at 'im, that you wouldn't; an' I'm reely afraid,
mum, he might get angry if anybody was to holler 'im anythink for
a little bit of hextry accommodation like that there. Lord bless
your dear 'eart, mum, don't you say nothink more about that, I beg
of you; for if John was to 'ear of it, he'd go off in a downright
tearin' tantrum at the bare notion. An' about dinner, mum, you'll
'ave the cold mutton an' potatoes, and a bit of biled beetroot; and
I'll just run round to the  greengrocer's this moment to order it
for early dinner.' And before Edie had time to thank her, the good
woman was out of tha room again, and down in the kitchen at her
daily  preparations, with tears trickling slowly down both her hard
red cheeks in her own motherly fashion.

So from that time forth, Ernest had the small sitting-room  entirely
to himself, whenever he was engaged in his literary labours, while
Edie and Dot turned the front bedroom  on the first floor into
a neat and commodious nursery.  As other work did not turn up so
rapidly as might have been expected, and as Ernest grew tired after
a while of writing magazine articles on 'The Great Social Problem,'
which were invariably 'declined with thanks' so promptly as to lead
to a well-founded suspicion that they had never even been opened by
the editor, he determined to employ his spare time in the production
of an important economical volume, a treatise on the ultimate ethics
of a labouring community, to be entitled 'The Final Rule of Social
Right Living.' This valuable economical work he continued to toil
at for many months in the intervals of his other occupations; and
when at last it was duly completed, he read it over at full length
to dear little Edie, who considered it one of the most profoundly
logical and convincing political treatises ever written. The various
leading firms, however, to whom it was afterwards submitted with
a view to publication, would appear, oddly enough, to have doubted
its complete suitability  to the tastes and demands of the reading
public in the present century; for they invariably replied to Ernest's
inquiries that they would be happy to undertake its production
for the trilling sum of one hundred guineas, payable in advance;
but that they did not see their way to accepting the risk and
responsibility of floating so speculative a volume on their own
account. In the end, the unhappy manuscript, after many refusals,
was converted into cock-boats, hats, and paper dollies for little
Dot; and its various intermediate reverses need enter no further
into the main thread of this history. It kept Ernest busy in the
spare hours of several months, and prevented him from thinking too
much of his own immediate prospects, in his dreams for the golden
future of humanity; and insomuch it did actually subserve some
indirectly useful function; but on the other hand it wasted a
considerable quantity of valuable tenpenny foolscap, and provided
him after all with one more severe disappointment, to put on top of
all the others to which he was just then being subjected. Clearly,
the reading public took no paying interest in political economy; or
if they did, then the article practically affected by the eternal
laws of supply and demand was at least not the one meted out to
them from the enthusiastic  Schurzian pen of Ernest Le Breton.

One afternoon, not long after Ernest and Edie had taken rooms at
Mrs. Halliss's, they were somewhat surprised at receiving the honour
of a casual visit from a very unexpected and unusual quarter. Ronald
was with them, talking earnestly over the prospects of the situation,
when a knock came at the door, and to their great astonishment
the knock was quickly followed by the entrance of Herbert. He had
never been there before, and Ernest felt sure he had come now for
some very definite and sufficient purpose. And so he had indeed:
it was a strange one for him; but Herbert Le Breton was actually
bound upon a mission of charity.  We have all of us our feelings,
no doubt, and Herbert Le Breton, too, in his own fashion, had his.
Ernest was after all a good fellow enough at bottom, and his own
brother: (a man can't for very rospectability's sake let his own
brother go utterly to the dogs if he can possibly help it); and so
Herbert had made up his mind, much against his natural inclination,
to warn Ernest of the danger he incurred in having anything more
to do or say with this insane, disreputable old Schurz fellow. For
his own part, he hated giving advice; people never took it; and that
was a deadly offence against his amour propre and a gross insult to
his personal dignity; but still, in this case, for Ernest's sake,
he determined after an inward struggle to swallow his own private
scruples, and make an effort to check his brother on the edge of
the abyss. Not that he would come to the point at once; Herbert
was a careful diplomatic agent, and he didn't spoil his hand
by displaying all his cards too openly at the outset; he would
begin upon comparatively indifferent subjects, and lead round the
conversation gradually to the perils and errors of pure Schurzianism.
So he set out by admiring his niece's fat arms--a remarkable stretch
of kindliness on Herbert's part, for of course other people's babies
are well known to be really the most uninteresting objects in the
whole animate universe--and then he passed on by natural transitions
to Ernest's housekeeping arrangements, and to the prospects of
journalism  as a trade, and finally to the necessity for a journalist
to consult the tastes of his reading public. 'And by the way,
Ernest,' he said quietly at last, 'of course after this row at
Pilbury, you'll drop the acquaintance of your very problematical
German socialist.'

Edie started in surprise. 'What? Herr Schurz?' she said eagerly.
'Dear simple, kindly old Herr Schurz! Oh no, Herbert, that I'm sure
he won't; Ernest will never drop HIS acquaintance, whatever happens.'

Herbert coughed drily. 'Then there are two of them for me to contend
against,' he said to himself with an inward smile. 'I should really
hardly have expected that, now.  One would have said a priori
that the sound common-sense and practical regard for the dominant
feelings of society, which is so justly strong in most women,
would have kept HER at any rate--with her own social disabilities,
too--from aiding and abetting her husband in such a piece of
egregious folly'--'I'm sorry to hear it, Mrs. Le Breton,' he went
on aloud,--he never called her by her Christian name, and Edie was
somehow rather pleased that he didn't: 'for you know Herr Schurz
is far from being a desirable acquaintance.  Quite apart from his
own personal worth, of course--which is a question that I for my part
am not called upon to decide--he's a snare and a stumbling-block
in the eyes of society, and very likely indeed to injure Ernest's
future prospects, as he has certainly injured his career in the
past. You know he's going to be tried in a few weeks for a seditious
libel and for inciting to murder the Emperor of Russia. Now, you
will yourself admit, Mrs. Le Breton, that it's an awkward thing
to be mixed up with people who are tried on a criminal charge for
inciting to murder. Of course, we all allow that the Czar's a very
despotic and autocratic sovereign, that his existence is an anomaly,
and that the desire to blow him up is a very natural desire for
every intelligent Russian to harbour privately in the solitude of
his own bosom. If we were Russians ourselves, no doubt we'd try to
blow him up too, if we could conveniently do so without detection.
So much, every rational Englishman, who isn't blinded by  prejudice
or frightened by the mere sound of words, must at once frankly
acknowledge. But unfortunately, you see, the mass of Englishmen
ARE blinded by prejudice, and ARE frightened by the mere sound
of words. To them, blowing up a Czar is murder (though of course
blowing up any number of our own black people isn't); and inciting
to blow up the Czar, or doing what seems to most Englishmen
equivalent to such incitement, as for example, saying in print
that the Czar's government isn't quite ideally perfect and ought
gradually and tentatively to be abolished--why, that, I say,
is a criminal offence, and is naturally punishable by a term of
imprisonment. Now, is it worth while to mix oneself  up with people
like that, Ernest, when you can just as easily do without having
anything on earth to say to them?'

Edie's face burnt scarlet as she listened, but Ernest only answered
more quietly--he never allowed anything that Herbert said to disturb
his equanimity--'We don't think alike upon this subject, you know,
Herbert; and I'm afraid the disagreement is fundamental. It doesn't
matter so much to us what the world thinks as what is abstractly
right; and Edie would prefer to cling to Herr Schurz, through good
report and evil report, rather than to be applauded by your mass
of Englishmen for having nothing to do with inciting to murder. We
know that Herr Max never did anything of the kind; that he is the
gentlest and best of men; and that in Russian affairs he has always
been on the side of the more merciful methods, as against those
who would have meted out to the Czar the harsher measure of pure
justice.'

'Well,' Herbert answered bravely, with a virtuous determination not
to be angry at this open insult to his own opinion, but to persevere
in his friendly efforts for his brother's sake, 'we won't take Herr
Max into consideration at all, but will look merely at the general
question. The fact is, Ernest, you've chosen the wrong side. The
environment  is too strong for you; and if you set yourself up against
it, it'll crush you between the upper and the nether mill-stone.
It isn't your business to reform the world; it's your business to
live in it; and if you go on as you're doing now, it strikes me that
you'll fail at the outset in that very  necessary first particular.'

'If I fail,' Ernest answered with a heavy heart, 'I can only die
once; and after all every man can do no more than till to the best
of his ability the niche in nature that he finds already cut out
for him by circumstances.'

'My dear Ernest,' Herbert continued quietly, twisting himself
a cigarette with placid deliberateness, as a  preliminary to his
departure; 'your great mistake in life is that you WILL persist in
considering the universe as a cosmos.  Now the fact is, it isn't
a cosmos; it's a chaos, and a very poor one at that.'

'Ah, yes,' Ernest answered gravely; 'nobody recognises that fact
more absolutely than I do; but surely it's the duty of man to try
as far as in him lies to cosmise his own particular  little corner
of it.'

'In the abstract, certainly: as a race, most distinctly so; but as
individuals, why, the thing's clearly impossible.  There was one
man who once tried to do it, and his name was Don Quixote.'

'There was another, I always thought,' Ernest replied more solemnly,
'and after his name we've all been taught as children to call
ourselves Christians. At bottom, my ideal is only the Christian
ideal.'

'But, my dear fellow, don't you see that the survival of the fittest
must succeed in elbowing your ideal, for the present at least, out
of existence? Look here, Ernest, you're going the wrong way to work
altogether for your own happiness  and comfort. It doesn't matter
to me, of course; you can do as you like with yourself, and I oughtn't
to interfere with you; but I do it because I'm your brother, and
because I take a certain amount of interest in you accordingly.
Now, I quite grant with you that the world's in a very unjust social
condition at present. I'm not a fool, and I can't help seeing that
wealth is very badly distributed, and that happiness is very unequally
meted. But I don't feel called upon to make myself the martyr of
the cause of readjustment for all that. If I were a working man,
I should take up the side that you're taking up now; I should have
everything to gain, and nothing to lose by it. But your mistake
is just this, that when you might identify your own interests with
the side of the "haves," as I do, you go out of your way to identify
them with the side of the "have-nots," out of pure idealistic Utopian
philanthropy. You belong by birth to the small and intrinsically
weak minority of persons specially gifted by nature and by fortune;
and why do you lay yourself  out with all your might to hound on the
mass of your inferiors till they trample down and destroy whatever
gives any special importance, interest, or value to intellectual
superiority, vigour of character, political knowledge, or even
wealth? I can understand that the others should wish to do this;
I can understand that they will inevitably do it in the long run;
but why on earth do you, of all men, want to help them in pulling
down a platform on which you yourself might, if you chose, stand
well above their heads and shoulders?'

'Because I feel the platform's an unjust one,' Ernest answered,
warmly.

'An excellent answer for them,' Herbert chimed in, in his coldest
and calmest tone, 'but a very insufficient one for you. The injustice,
if any, tells all in your own favour.  As long as the mob doesn't
rise up and tear the platform down (as it will one day), why on
earth should you be more anxious about it than they are?'

'Because, Herbert, if there must be injustice, I would rather suffer
it than do it.'

'Well, go your own way,' Herbert answered, with a calm smile
of superior wisdom; 'go your own way and let it land you where it
will. For my part, I back the environment.  But it's no business
of mine; I have done my best to warn you. Liberavi animam meam. You
won't take my advice, and I must leave you to your own devices.'
And with just a touch of the hand to Edie, and a careless nod to
his two brothers, he sauntered out of the room without  another
word. 'As usual,' he thought to himself as he walked down the stairs,
'I go out of my way to give good advice to a fellow-creature, and
I get only the black ingratitude of a snubbing in return. This is
really almost enough to make even me turn utterly and completely
selfish!'

'I wonder, Ernest,' said Ronald, looking up as Herbert shut the
door gently behind him, 'how you and I ever came to have such a
brother as Herbert!'

'I think it's easy enough to understand, Ronald, on plain hereditary
principles.'

Ronald sighed. 'I see what you mean,' he said; 'it's poor mother's
strain--the Whitaker strain--coming out in him.'

'I often fancy, Ronald, I can see the same two strains in varying
intensity, running through all three of us alike. In Herbert the
Whitaker strain is uppermost, and the Le Breton comparatively in
abeyance; in me, they're both more or less blended; in you, the
Le Breton strain comes out almost  unadulterated. Yet even Herbert
has more of a Le Breton in him than one might imagine, for he's with
us intellectually; it's the emotional side only that's wanting to
him. Even when members of a family are externally very much unlike
one another in the mere surface features of their characters,
I believe you can generally see the family likeness underlying it
for all that.'

'Only you must know how to analyse the character to see it,' said
Edie. 'I don't think it ever struck me before that there was anything
in common between you and Herbert, Ernest, and yet now you point
it out I believe there really is something after all. I'm sorry
you told me, for I can't bear to think that you're like Herbert.'

'Oh, no,' Ronald put in hastily; 'it isn't Ernest who has something
in him like Herbert; it's Herbert who has something  in him like
Ernest. There's a great deal of difference between the one thing
and the other. Besides, he hasn't got enough of it, Edie, and Ernest
has.'



CHAPTER XXVII.

RONALD COMES OF AGE.


'Strange,' Ronald Le Breton thought to himself, as he walked
along the Embankment between Westminster and Waterloo, some weeks
later--the day of Herr Max's trial,--'I had a sort of impulse
to come down here alone this afternoon: I felt as if there was an
unseen Hand somehow impelling me.  Depend upon it, one doesn't have
instincts of that sort utterly for nothing. The Finger that guides
us guides us always aright for its own wise and unfathomable
purposes. What a blessing and a comfort it is to feel that one's
steps are  continually directed from above, and that even an
afternoon stroll through the great dreary town is appointed to us
for some fit and sufficient reason! Look at that poor girl over
there now, at the edge of the Embankment! I wonder what on earth
she can have come here for. Why...how pale and excited she looks.
What's she going so near the edge for? Gracious heavens! it can't
be...yes...it is...  no, no, but still it must be...that's what the
Finger was guiding me here for this afternoon. There's no denying
it.  The poor creature's tempted to destroy herself. My instinct
tells me so at once, and it never tells me wrong. Oh,  Inscrutable
Wisdom, help me, help me: give me light to act rightly! I must go
up this very moment and speak to her!'

The girl was walking moodily along the edge of the bank, and looking
in a dreamy fashion over the parapet into the sullen fast-flowing
brown water below. An eye less keen than Ronald's might have seen
in a moment, from her harassed weary face and her quick glance
to right and left after the disappearing policeman, that she was
turning over in her own mind something more desperate than any
common everyday venture. Ronald stepped up to her hastily, and,
firm in his conviction that the Finger was guiding him aright,
spoke out at once with boldness on the mere strength of his rapid
instinctive conjecture.

'Stop, stop,' he said, laying his hand gently on her shoulder: 'not
for a moment, I beg of you, not for a moment. Not till you've at
least told me what is your trouble.'

Selah turned round sharply and looked up in his face with a vague
feeling of indefinable wonder. 'What do you mean?' she asked, in
a husky voice. 'Don't do what?  How do you know I was going to do
anything?'

'You were going to throw yourself into the river,'Ronald answered
confidently; 'or at least you were debating about it in your own
soul. I know you were, because a sure Guide tells me so.'

Selah's lip curled a little at the sound of that familiar language.
'And suppose I was,' she replied, defiantly, in her reckless
fashion; 'suppose I was: what's that to you or anybody, I should
like to know? Are you your brother's keeper, as your own Bible puts
it? Well, yes, then, perhaps I WAS going to drown myself: and if I
choose, as soon as your back's turned, I shall go and do it still;
so there; and that's all I have to say about it.'

Ronald turned his face towards her with an expression of the
intensest interest, but before he could put in a single word, Selah
interrupted him.

'I know what you're going to say,' she went on, looking up at him
rebelliously. 'I know what you're going to say every bit as well
as if you'd said it. You're one of these city missionary sort of
people, you are; and you're going to tell me it's awfully wicked
of me to try and destroy myself, and ain't I afraid of a terrible
hereafter! Ugh! I hate and detest all that mummery.'

Ronald looked down upon her in return with a sort of silent
wondering pity. 'Awfully wicked,' he said slowly, 'awfully wicked!
How meaningless! How incomprehensible!  Awfully wicked to be
friendless, or poor, or wretched, or unhappy! Awfully wicked to be
driven by despair, or by heartlessness, to such a pitch of misery
or frenzy that you want to fling yourself wildly into the river,
only to be out of it all, anywhere, in a minute! Why you poor,
unhappy girl, how on earth can you possibly help it?'

There was something in the tone of his earnest voice that melted
for a moment even Selah Briggs's pride and vehemence.  It was very
impertinent of him to try and interfere with her purely personal
business, no doubt, but he seemed to do so in a genuinely
kindly rather than in a fussy interfering spirit.  At any rate he
didn't begin by talking to her that horrid cant about the attempt
to commit suicide being so extremely wicked! If he had done that,
Selah would have felt it was not only an unwarrantable intrusion
upon her liberty of action, but a grotesque insult to her natural
intelligence as well.

'I've a right to drown myself if I choose,' she faltered out,
leaning faintly as she spoke against the parapet, 'and nobody else
has any possible right to hinder or prevent me.  If you people make
laws against my rights in that matter, I shall set your laws aside
whenever and wherever it happens to suit my personal convenience.'

'Exactly so,' Ronald answered, in the same tone of gentle and
acquiescent persuasion. 'I quite agree with you. It's as clear
as daylight that every individual human being has a perfect right
to put an end to his own life whenever it  becomes irksome or
unpleasant to him; and nobody else has any right whatever to interfere
with him. The prohibitions that law puts upon our freedom in that
respect are only of a piece with the other absurd restrictions of
our existing  unchristian legislation--as opposed to the spirit of
the Word as the old rule that made us bury a suicide at four cross
roads with a hideously barbarous and brutal ceremonial. They're
all mere temporary survivals from a primitive paganism: the truth
shall make us free. But though we mayn't rightly interfere, we may
surely inquire in a brotherly spirit of interest, whether it isn't
possible for us to make life less  irksome for those who, unhappily,
want to get rid of it. After all, the causes of our discontent are
often quite removable.  Tell me, at least, what yours are, and let
me see whether I'm able to do anything towards removing them.'

Selah hung back a little sullenly. This was a wonderful mixture of
tongues that the strange young man was talking in! When he spoke
about the right and wrong of suicide, ethically considered, it
might have been Herbert Walters himself who was addressing her:
when he glided off sideways  to the truth and the Word, it might
have been her Primitive Methodist friends at Hastings, in full
meeting assembled. And, by the way, he reminded her strangely,
somehow, of Herbert Walters! What manner of man could he be, she
wondered, and what strange sort of new Gospel was this that he was
preaching to her?

'How do I know who you are?' she asked him, carelessly.  'How do
I know what you want to know my story for?  Perhaps you're only
trying to get something out of me.'

'Trust me,' Ronald said simply. 'By faith we live, you know. Only
trust me.'

Selah answered nothing.

'Come over here to the bench by the garden,' Ronald went on earnestly.
'We can talk there more at our leisure.  I don't like to see you
leaning so close to the parapet. It's a temptation; I know it's a
temptation.'

Seiah looked at him again inquiringly. She had never before met
anybody so curious, she fancied. 'Aren't you afraid of being seen
sitting with me like this,' she said, 'on the Embankment benches?
Some of your fine friends might come by and wonder who on earth you
had got here with you.' And, indeed, Selah's dress had grown vory
shabby and poor-looking during a long and often fruitless search
for casual work or employment in London.

But Ronald only surveyed her gently from head to foot with a quiet
smile, and answered softly, 'Oh, no; there's no reason on earth why
we shouldn't sit down and talk together; and even if there were,
my friends all know me far too well by this time to be surprised
at anything I may do, when the Hand guides me. If you will only sit
down and tell me your story, I should like to see whether I could
possibly do anything to help you.'

Selah let him lead her in his gentle half-womanly fashion to the
bench, and sat down beside him mechanically. Still, she made no
attempt to begin her pitiful story. Ronald suspected for a second
some special cause for her embarrassment, and ventured to suggest
a possible way out of it. 'Perhaps,' he said timidly, 'you would
rather speak to some older and more fatherly man about it, or to
some kind lady. If so, I have many good friends in London who would
listen to you with as much interest and attention as I should.'

The old spirit flared up in Selah for a second, as she answered
quickly, 'No, no, sir, it's nothing of that sort. I can tell YOU
as well as I can tell anybody. If I've been unfortunate, it's been
through no fault of my own, thank goodness, but only through the
hard-heartedness and  unkindness of other people. I'd rather speak
to you than to anyone else, because I feel somehow--why, I don't
know--as if you had something or other really good in you.'

'I beg your pardon,' Ronald said hastily, 'for even  suggesting it
but you see, I often have to meet a great many people who've been
unhappy through a great many different causes, and that leads one
occasionally for a time into  mistaken inferences. Let me hear all
your history, please, and I firmly believe, through the aid that
never forsakes us, I shall be able to do something or other to help
you in your difficulties.'

Thus adjured, Selah began and told her whole unhappy history
through, without pause or break, into Ronald's quietly sympathetic
ear. She told him quite frankly and fully how she had picked up
the acquaintance of a young Mr. Walters from Oxford at Hastings:
how this Mr. Walters had led her to believe he would marry her:
how she had left her home hurriedly, under the belief that he would
be induced to keep his promise: how he had thrown her over to her
own devices: and how she had ever since been trying to pick up a
precarious livelihood for herself in stray ways as a sempstress,
work for which she wag naturally very ill-fitted, and for which
she had no introductions. She slurred over nothing on either side
of the story; and especially she did not forget to describe the
full measure of her troubles and trials from her Methodist friends
at Hastings. Ronald shook his head sympathetically at this stage
of the story.  'Ah, I know, I know,' he muttered, half under his
breath; 'nasty pious people! Very well meaning, very devout, very
earnest, one may be sure of it--but oh! what terrible soul-killing
people to live among! I can understand all about it, for I've met
them often--Sabbath-keeping folks; preaching and praying folks;
worrying, bothering, fussy-religious folks: formalists, Pharisees,
mint-anise and-cummin Christians:  awfully anxious about your soul,
and so forth, and doing their very best to make you as miserable
all the time as a slave at the torture! I don't wonder you ran away
from them.'

'And I wasn't really going to drown myself, you know, when you
spoke to me.' Selah said, quite apologetically. 'I was only just
looking over into the beautiful brown water, and thinking how
delicious it would be to fling oneself in there, and be carried
off down to the sea, and rolled about for ever into pebbles on
the shingle, and there would be an end of one altogether--oh, how
lovely!'

'Very natural,' Ronald answered calmly. 'Very natural.  Of course
it would. I've often thought the same thing myself.  Still, one
oughtn't, if possible, to give way to these impulses: one ought to
do all that's in one's power to prevent  such a miserable termination
to one's divinely allotted existence. After all, it is His will,
you see, that we should be happy.'

When Selah had quite finished all her story, Ronald began drawing
circles in the road with the end of his stick, and perpending
within himself what had better be done about it, now that all was
told him. 'No work,' he said, half to himself; 'no money; no food.
Why, why, I suppose you must be hungry.'

Selah nodded assent.

'Will you allow me to offer you a little lunch?' he asked, hesitatingly,
with something of Herbert's stately politeness.  Even in this last
extremity, Ronald felt instinctively what was due to Selah Briggs's
natural sentiments of pride and delicacy. He must speak to her
deferentially as if she were a lady, not give her alms as if she
were a beggar.

Then for the first time that day Selah burst suddenly into tears.
'Oh, sir,' she said, sobbing, 'you are very kind to me.'

Ronald waited a moment or two till her eyes were dry, and then took
her across the gardens and into Gatti's. Any other man might have
chosen some other place of entertainment  under the circumstances,
but Ronald, in his perfect simplicity of heart, looked only for
the first shop where he could get Selah the food she needed. He
ordered something hot hastily, and, when it came, though he had had
his own lunch already, he played a little with a knife and fork
himself for show's sake, in order not to seem as if he were merely
looking on while Selah was eating. These little touches of feeling
were not lost upon Selah: she noticed them at once, and recognised
in what Ernest would have called her aboriginal unregenerate
vocabulary that she was dealing with a true gentleman.

'Walters,' Ronald said, pausing a second with a bit of chop poised
lightly on the end of his fork; 'let me see--Walters. I don't know
any man of that name, myself, but I've had two brothers at Oxford,
and perhaps one of them could tell me who he is. Walters--Walters.
You said your own name was Miss Briggs, I think, didn't you? My
name's Ronald Le Breton.'

'How curious,' Selah said, colouring up. 'I'm sure I remember Mr.
Walters talking more than once to me about his brother Ronald.'

'Indeed,' Ronald answered, without even a passing tinge of suspicion.
That any man should give a false name to other people with intent
to deceive was a thing that would never have entered into his simple
head--far less that his own brother Herbert should be guilty of
such a piece of  disgraceful meanness.

'I think,' Ronald went on, as soon as Selah had finished her lunch,
'you'd better come with me back to my mother's house for the present.
I suppose, now you've talked it over a little, you won't think of
throwing yourself into the river any more for to-day. You'll postpone
your intention for the present, won't you? Adjourn it sine die till
we can see what can be done for you.'

Selah smiled faintly. Even with the slight fresh spring of hope
that this chance rencontre had roused anew within her, it seemed
rather absurd and childish of her to have meditated suicide only
an hour ago. Besides, she had eaten and drunk since then, and the
profoundest philosophers have always frankly admitted that the
pessimistic side of human nature is greatly mitigated after a good
dinner.

Ronald called a hansom, and drove up rapidly to Epsilon Terrace.
When he got there, he took Selah into the little back breakfast
room, regardless of the proprieties, and began once more to consider
the prospects of the future.

'Is Lady Le Breton in?' he asked the servant: and Selah noticed
with surprise and wonder that this strange young man's mother was
actually 'a lady of title,' as she called it to herself in her
curious ordinary language.

'No, sir,' the girl answered; 'she have been gone out about an
hour.'

'Then I must leave you here while I go out and get you lodgings for
the present,' Ronald said, quietly; 'you won't object to my doing
that, of course: you can easily pay me back from your salary as
soon as we succeed in finding you some suitable occupation. Let
me see, where can I put you for the next fortnight? Naturally you
wouldn't like to live with religious people, would you?'

'I hate them,' Selah answered vigorously.

'Of course, of course,' Ronald went on, as if to himself.  'Perfectly
natural. She hates them! So should I if I'd been bothered and worried
out of my life by them in the way she has. I hate them myself--that
kind: or, rather, it's wrong to say that of them, poor creatures,
for they mean well, they really mean well at bottom, in their
blundering, formal, pettifogging way. They think they can take the
kingdom of Heaven, not by storm, but by petty compliances, like
servile servants who have to deal with a capricious,  exacting
master. Poor souls, they know no better. They measure the universe
by the reflection in their muddy mill-pond. Nasty pious people is
what I always call them; nasty pious people: little narrow souls,
trying hard to be Christians  after their lights, and only attaining,
after all, to a sort of second-hand diluted Judaism, a religion
of cup-washing, and phylacteries, and new moons, and sabbaths, and
daily sacrifices. However, that's neither here nor there. I won't
hand you over, Miss Briggs, to any of those poor  benighted people.
No, nor to any religious people at all. It wouldn't suit you: you
want to be well out of it. I know the very place for you. There
are the Baumanns: they'd be glad to let a room: Baumann's a German
refugee, and a friend of Ernest's: a good man, but a secularist.
THEY wouldn't bother you with any religion: poor things, they
haven't got any. Mrs. Baumann's an excellent woman--educated, too;
no objection at all in any way to the  Baumanns. They're people I
like and respect immensely--every good quality they have; and I'm
often grieved to think such excellent people should be deprived of
the comfort and pleasure of believing. But, then, so's my dear brother
Ernest; and you know, they're none the worse for it, apparently,
any of them: indeed, I don't know that there's anybody with whom
I can talk more sympathetically on spiritual matters than dear
Ernest. Depend upon it, most of the most spiritually-minded people
nowadays are outside all the churches altogether.'

Selah listened in blank amazement to this singular avowal of
heterodox opinion from an obviously religious person.  What Ronald
Le Breton could be she couldn't imagine; and she thought with
an inward smile of the very different way in which her friends at
Hastings would have discussed the spiritual character of a wicked
secularist.

Just at that moment a latch-key turned lightly in the street door,
and two sets of footsteps came down the passage to Lady Le Breton's
little back breakfast-room.  One set turned up the staircase, the
other halted for a second at the breakfast-room doorway. Then the
door opened gently, and Herbert Le Breton and Selah Briggs stood
face to face again in blank astonishment.

There was a moment's pause, as Selah rose with burning cheeks from
the chair where she was sitting; and neither spoke a word as they
looked with eyes of mutual suspicion and dislike into each other's
faces. At last Herbert Le Breton turned with some acerbity to his
brother Ronald, and asked in a voice of affected contempt, 'Who is
this woman?'

'This LADY'S name is Miss Briggs,' Ronald answered, pointedly, but,
of course, quite innocently.

'I needn't ask you who this man is,' Selah said, with bitter
emphasis. 'It's Herbert Walters.'

A horrible light burst in upon Ronald instantaneously as she uttered
the name; but he could not believe it; he would not believe it: it
was too terrible, too incredible. 'No, no,' he said falteringly,
turning to Selah; 'you must be mistaken. This is not Mr. Walters.
This is my brother, Herbert Le Breton.'

Selah gazed into Herbert's slinking eyes with a concentrated
expression of scorn and disgust. 'Then he gave me a false name,'
she said, slowly, fronting him like a tigress.  'He gave me a false
name, it seems, from the very beginning.  All through, the false
wretch, all through, he actually meant to deceive me. He laid his
vile scheme for it beforehand.  I never wish to see you again,
you miserable cur, Herbert Le Breton, if that's your real name at
last. I never wish to see you again: but I'm glad I've done it now
by accident, if it were only to inflict upon you the humiliation
of knowing that I have measured the utmost depth of your infamy!
You mean, common, false scoundrel, I have measured to the bottom
the depth of your infamy!'

'Oh, don't,' Ronald said imploringly, laying his hand upon her arm.
'He deserves it, no doubt; but don't glory over his humiliation.'
He had no need to ask whether she spoke the truth; his brother's
livid and scarlet face was  evidence enough against him.

Herbert, however, answered nothing. He merely turned angrily
to Ronald. 'I won't bandy words,' he said constrainedly  in his
coldest tone, 'with this infamous woman whom you have brought here
on purpose to insult me; but I must request you to ask her to leave
the house immediately.  Your mother's home is no place to which to
bring people of such a character.'

As he spoke, the door opened again, and Lady Le Breton, attracted
by the sound of angry voices, entered unexpectedly.  'What does all
this riot mean, Herbert?' she asked,  imperiously. 'Who on earth
is this young woman that Ronald has brought into my own house,
actually without my permission?'

Herbert whispered a few words quietly into her ear, and then left
the room hurriedly with a stiff and formal bow to his brother
Ronald. Lady Le Breton turned round to the culprit severely.

'Disgraceful, Ronald!' she cried in her sternest and most angry
voice; 'perfectly disgraceful! You aid and abet this wretched
creature--whose object is only to extort money by false pretences
out of your brother Herbert--you aid and abet her in her abominable
stratagems, and you even venture to introduce her clandestinely
into my own breakfast-room. I wonder you're not ashamed of yourself.
What on earth can you mean by such extraordinary, such  unChristian
conduct? Go to your own room this moment, sir, and ask this young
woman to leave the house immediately.'

'I shall go without being asked,' Selah said, proudly, her big eyes
flashing defiance haughtily into Lady Le Breton's.  'I don't know
who you all may be, or what this gentleman who brought me here may
have to do with you: but if you are in any way connected with that
wretch Herbert Le Breton, who called himself Herbert Walters for
the sake of deceiving me, I don't want to have anything further to
say to any of the whole pack of you. Please stand out of my way,'
she went on to Ronald, 'and I shall have done with you all together
this very instant. I wish to God I had never seen a single one of
you.'

'No, no, not just yet, please,' Ronald put in hastily.  'You mustn't
go just yet, I implore you, I beg of you, till I have explained to
my mother, before you, how this all  happened; and then, when you
go, I shall go with you. Though I have the misfortune to be the
brother of the man who gave you a false name in order to deceive
you, I trust you will still allow me to help you as far as I am
able, and to take you to my German friends of whom I spoke to you.'

'Ronald,' Lady Le Breton cried, in her most commanding  tone, 'you
must have taken leave of your senses. How dare you keep this person
a moment longer in my house against my wish, when even she herself
is anxious to quit it?  Let her go at once, let her go at once,
sir.'

'No, mother,' Ronald answered firmly. 'We are commanded  in the Word
to obey our parents in all things, "in the Lord." I think you've
forgotten that proviso, mother, "in the Lord." Now, mother, I will
tell you all about it.' And then, in a rapid sketch, Ronald, with
his back planted solidly against the door, told his mother briefly
all he knew about Selah Briggs, how he had found her, how he had
brought her home not knowing who she was, and how she had recognised
Herbert as her unfaithful lover. Lady Le Breton, when she saw
that escape was practically impossible, flung herself back in an
easy-chair, where she swayed herself backward and forward gently
all the while, without once lifting her eyes towards Ronald, and
sighed impatiently from time to time audibly, as if the story merely
bored her. As for poor Selah, she stood upright in front of Ronald
without a word, looking neither to the right nor to the left, and
waiting eagerly for the story to be finished.

When Ronald had said his say, Lady Le Breton looked up at last and
said simply, with a pretended yawn, 'Now, Ronald, will you go to
your own room?'

'I will not,' Ronald answered, in a soft whisper. 'I will go with
this lady to the rooms of which I have spoken to her.'

'Then,' Lady Le Breton said coldly, 'you shall not return here.
It seems I'm to lose all my children, one after another, by their
extraordinary rebelliousness!'

'By your own act--yes,' Ronald answered, very calmly.  'You
forgot that last Thursday was my birthday, I daresay, mother; but
I didn't forget it; it was; and I came of age then. I'm my own
master now. I've stopped here as long as I could, mother, because
of the commandment: but I can't stop here any longer. I shall go
to Ernest's for to-night as soon as I've got rooms for this lady.'

'Good evening,' Lady Le Breton said, bowing frigidly, without
another word.

'Good evening, mother,' Ronald replied, in his natural voice. 'Miss
Briggs, will you come with me? I'm very sorry that this unhappy
scene should have been inflicted upon you against my will; but I
hope and pray that you won't have lost all confidence in my wish
to help you, in spite of these unfortunate accidents.'

Selah followed him blindly, in a dazzled fashion, out on to the
flagstones of Epsilon Terrace.

'Dear me, dear me,' moaned Lady Le Breton, sinking back vacantly
once more, with an air of resignation after her efforts, into the
easy-chair: 'was there ever a mother so plagued and burdened with
unnatural and undutiful sons as I am? If it weren't for dear Herbert,
I'm sure I don't know what I should ever do between them. Ronald,
too, who always pretended to be so very, very religious! To think
that he should go and uphold the word of a miserable, abandoned,
improper adventuress against his own brother Herbert! Atrocious,
perfectly atrocious! Where on earth he can have picked up such a
woman I'm positively at a loss to imagine. But it's exactly like
his poor dear father: I remember once when we were stationed at
Moozuffernugger, in the North-West Provinces, with the 14th Bengal,
poor Owen absolutely insisted on taking up the case of some Eurasian
waman, who pretended she'd been badly treated by young Walker of
our regiment! I call it quite improper--almost unseemly--to meddle
in the affairs of such people. I daresay Herbert has had something
or other to say to this horrid girl; young men will be young men,
and in the army we know how to make allowances for that sort of
thing: but that Ronald should positively think of bringing such a
person into my breakfast-room is not to be heard of. Ronald's a pure
Le Breton--that's undeniable, thank goodness; not a single one of
the good Whitaker points to be found in all his nature. However,
poor dear Sir Owen, in spite of all his nonsense, was at least
an officer and a gentleman; whereas the nonsense these boys have
picked up at Oxford and among their German refugee people is both
irreligious, and, I may even say, indecent, or, to put it in the
mildest way, indecorous. I wish with all my heart I'd never sent
them to Oxford. I've always thought that if only Ernest had gone
in for a direct commission, he'd soon have got all that absurd
revolutionary rubbish knocked out of him in a mess-room!  But it's
a great comfort to me to think I have one real blessing in dear
Herbert, who's just such a son as any mother might well be thoroughly
proud of in every way!'

While Lady Le Breton was thus communing with herself in the
breakfast-room, and while Herbert was trying to patch up a hollow
truce with his own much-bruised self-respect in his own bedroom,
Ronald was taking poor dazed and wearied Selah round to the refuge
of the Baumanns' hospitable roof.  As soon as that matter was
temporarily arranged to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties
concerned, Ronald walked over alone to Ernest's little lodgings at
Holloway.  He would sleep there that night, and send round a letter
to Amelia, the housemaid, in the morning, asking her to pack up his
things and forward them at once to Mrs. Halliss's.  For himself,
he did not propose, unless circumstances  compelled it, again to
enter his mother's rooms, except by her own express invitation.
After all, he thought, even his little income, if clubbed with Edie
and Ernest's, would probably help them all to live now in tolerable
comfort.

So he told Edie all his story, and Edie listened to it with an
approving smile. 'I think, dear Ronald,' she said, taking his hand
in hers, 'you did quite right--quite as Ernest himself would have
done under the circumstances.'

'Where's Ernest?' asked Ronald, half smiling at that naive wifely
standard of right conduct.

'Gone with Mr. Berkeley to the trial,' Edie answered.

'The trial! What trial?'

'Oh, don't you know? Herr Max's. They're trying him to-day for
littering a seditious libel and inciting to murder the chief of
the Third Section at St. Petersburg.'

'But he said nothing at all,' Ronald cried in astonishment.  'I read
the article myself. He said nothing that any Englishman mightn't
have said under the same circumstances.  Why, I could have written
the libel, as they call it, myself, even, and I'm not much of a
politician either! They can't ever be trying him in a country like
England for  anything so ridiculously little as that!'

'But they are,' Edie answered quietly; 'and dear Ernest's dreadfully
afraid the verdict will go against him.'

'Nonsense,' Ronald answered with natural confidence.  'No English
jury would ever convict a man for speaking  up like that against
an odious and abominable tyranny.'

Very late in the afternoon, Ernest and Berkeley returned  to the
lodgings. Ernest's face was white with excitement,  and his lips
were trembling violently with suppressed emotion. His eyes were red
and swollen. Edie hardly needed to ask in a breathless whisper of
Arthur Berkeley, 'What verdict?'

'Guilty,' Arthur Berkeley answered with a look of unfeigned  horror
and indignation. He had learnt by this time quite to take the
communistic view of such questions.

'Guilty,' Ronald cried, jumping up from his chair in astonishment.
'Impossible! And what sentence?'

'Twelve months' hard labour,' Berkeley answered, slowly and
remorsefully.

'An atrocious sentence!' Ronald exclaimed, turning red with excitement.
'An abominable sentence! A most malignant and vindictive sentence!
Who was the judge, Arthur?'

'Bassenthwaite,' Berkeley replied half under his breath.

'And may the Lord have mercy upon his soul!' said Ronald solemnly,

But Ernest never said a single word. He only sat down and ate his
supper in silence, like one stunned and dazzled.  He didn't even
notice Ronald's coming. And Edie knew by his quick breath and his
face alternately flushed and pallid that there would be another
crisis in his gathering complaint before the next morning.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

TELL IT NOT IN OATH.


As they sat silent in that little sitting-room after supper, a double
knock at the door suddenly announced the arrival of a telegram
for Ernest. He opened it with trembling lingers.  It was from
Lancaster:--'Come down to the office at once.  Schurz has been
sentenced to a year's imprisonment, and we want a leader about
him for to-morrow.' The telegram roused Ernest at once from his
stupefied lethargy. Here was a chance at last of doing something
for Max Schurz and for the cause of freedom! Here was a chance
of waking up all England to a sense of the horrible crime it had
just  committed through the voice of its duly accredited judicial
mouthpiece! The country was trembling on the brink of an abyss, and
he, Ernest Le Breton, might just be in time to save it. The Home
Secretary must be compelled by the unanimous clamour of thirty
millions of free working people to redress the gross injustice of
the law in sending Max Sohurz, the greatest, noblest, and purest-minded
of  mankind, to a common felon's prison! Nothing else on earth could
have moved Ernest, jaded and dispirited as he was at that moment,
to the painful exertion of writing a newspaper leader after the
day's fatigues and excitements, except the thought that by doing so
he might not only blot out this national disgrace, as he considered
it, but might also help to release the martyr of the people's rights
from his incredible, unspeakable punishment. Flushed and feverish
though he was, he rose straight up from the table, handed the
telegram to Edie without a word, and started off alone to hail a
hansom cab and drive down immediately to the office. Arthur Berkeley,
fearful of what might happen to him in his present excited state,
stole out after him quietly, and followed him unperceived in another
hansom at a little distance.

When Ernest got to the 'Morning Intelligence' buildings,  he was
shown up at once into the editorial room. He expected to find Mr.
Lancaster at the same white heat of indignation as himself; but
to his immense surprise he actually found him in the usual sleepy
languid condition of apathetic impartiality. 'I wired for you, Le
Breton,' the impassive editor said calmly, 'because I understand
you know all about this man Schurz, who has just got his twelve
months' imprisonment this evening. I suppose, of course, you've
heard already all about it.'

'I've been at the trial all day,' Ernest answered, 'and myself
heard the verdict and sentence.'

'Good,' Mr. Lancaster said, with a dreamy touch of approval in his
tone. 'That's good journalism, certainly, and very smart of you.
Helps you to give local colour and realistic touches to the matter.
But you ought to have called in here to see me immediately. We
shall have a regular reporter's report of the trial, of course;
but reporters' reports are fearfully and wonderfully lifeless. If
you like, besides the leader, you might work up a striking headed
article on the Scene in Court. This is an important case, and we
want something more about it than mere writing, you know; a little
about the man himself and his personal history, which Berkeley tells
me you're well acquainted with. He's written something called "Gold
and the Proletariate," or whatever it is; just tell our readers
all about it. As to the leader, say what you like in it--of course
I shall look over the proof, and tone it down a bit to suit the
taste of our public--we appeal mainly to the mercantile middle class,
I need hardly say; but you know the general policy of the paper,
and you can just write what you think best, subject to subsequent
editorial revision.  Get to work at once, please, as the articles
are wanted immediately, and send down slips as fast as they're
written to the printers.'

Ernest could hardly contain his surprise at Mr. Lancaster's calmness
under such unheard-of circumstances, when the whole laborious
fabric of British liberties was tottering visibly to its base--but
he wisely concluded to himself that the editor had to see articles
written about every possible subject every evening--from a European
convulsion to a fire at a theatre,--and that use must have made
it in him a property of easiness. When a man's obliged to work
himself up perpetually into a state of artificial excitement about
every railway accident, explosion, shipwreck, earthquake, or volcanic
eruption, in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and the islands of the
Pacific Ocean, why then, Ernest charitably said to himself, his
sympathies must naturally end by getting a trifle callous, especially
when he's such a very apathetic person to start with as this laconic
editorial Lancaster. So he turned into the little bare box devoted
to his temporary use, and began writing with perfectly unexampled
and extraordinary rapidity at his leader and his article about the
injured and martyred apostle of the slighted communistic religion.

It was only a few months since Ernest had, with vast toil and
forethought, spun slowly out his maiden newspaper article on the
Italian organ-boy, and now he found himself, to his own immense
surprise, covering sheet after sheet of paper in feverish haste
with a long account of Max Schurz's splendid life and labours, and
with a really fervid and eloquent appeal to the English people not
to suffer such a man as he to go helplessly and hopelessly to an
English prison, at the bare bidding of a foreign despot. He never
stopped for one moment to take thought, or to correct what he had
written; in the excitement of the moment his pen travelled along
over the paper as if inspired, and he found the words and thoughts
thronging his brain almost faster than his lagging hand could
suffice to give them visible embodiment. As each page was thrown
off hurriedly, he sent it down, still pale and wet, to the printers
in the office; and before two o'clock in the morning, he had full
proofs of all he had written sent up to him for final correction. It
was a stirring and vigorous leader, he felt quite certain himself
as he read it over; and he thought with a swelling breast that
it would appear next day, with all the impersonal authority of
the 'Morning Intelligence' stamped upon its face, at ten thousand
English breakfast tables, where it might rouse the people in their
millions to protest sternly before it was too late against this
horrid violation of our cherished and boasted national hospitality.

Meanwhile, Arthur Berkeley had stopped at the office, and run in
hastily for five minutes' talk with the terrible editor. 'Don't
say anything to shock Le Breton, I beg of you, Lancaster,' he said,
'about this poor man Schurz who has just been sent for a year to
prison. It's a very hard case, and I'm awfully sorry for the man
myself, though that's neither here nor there. I can see from your
face that you, for your part, don't sympathise with him; but at
any rate, don't say anything about it to hurt Le Breton's feelings.
He's in a dreadfully feverish and excited condition this evening;
Max Schurz has always been to him almost like a father, and he
naturally takes his sentence very bitterly to heart. To tell you
the truth, I regret it a great deal myself, I know a little of
Schurz, through Le Breton, and I know what a well-meaning, ardent,
enthusiastic person he really is, and how much good actually
underlies all his chaotic socialistic notions. But at any rate, I
do beg of you, don't say anything to further excite and hurt poor
Le Breton.'

'Certainly not,' the editor answered, smoothing his large hands
softly one over the other. 'Certainly not; though I confess, as a
practical man, I don't sympathise in the least with this preposterous
German refugee fellow. So far as I can learn, he's been at the
bottom of half the revolutionary and insurrectionary movements of
the last twenty years--a regular out-and-out professional socialistic
incendiary.'

'You wouldn't say so,' Berkeley replied quietly, 'if you'd seen
more of him, Lancaster.' But being a man of the world, and having
come mainly on Ernest's account, he didn't care to press the abstract
question of Herr Max's political sincerity any further.

'Well,' the editor went on, a little testily, 'be that as it may, I
won't discuss the subject with your friend Le Breton, who's really
a nice, enthusiastic young fellow, I think, as far as I've seen
him. I'll simply let him write to-night whatever he pleases, and
make the necessary alterations in proof afterwards, without talking
it over with him personally at all. That'll avoid any needless
discussion and ruffling of his supersensitive communistic feelings.
Poor fellow, he looks very ill indeed to-night. I'm really extremely
sorry for him.'

'When will he be finished?' asked Arthur.

'At two,' the editor answered.

'I'll send a cab for him,' Arthur said; 'there'll be none about
at that hour, probably. Will you kindly tell him it's waiting for
him?'

At two o'clock or a little after, Ernest drove home with his heart
on fire, full of eagerness and swelling hope for to-morrow morning.
He found Edie waiting for him, late as it was, with a little bottle
of wine--an unknown luxury at Mrs. Halliss's lodgings--and such
light supper as she thought he could manage to swallow in his
excitement. Ernest drank a glass of the wine, but left the supper
untasted. Then he went to bed, and tossed about uneasily till
morning. He couldn't sleep through his anxiety to see his great
leader appear in all the added dignity of printer's ink and rouse
the slumbering world of England up to a due sense of Max Schurz's
wrongs and the law's incomprehensible iniquity.

Before seven, he rose very quietly, dressed himself without
saying a word, and stole out to buy an early copy of the 'Morning
Intelligence.' He got one at the small tobacconist's shop round the
corner, where he had taken his first hint for the Italian organ-boy
leader. It was with difficulty that he could contain himself till
he was back in Mrs. Halliss's little front parlour; and there
he tore open the paper eagerly, and turned to the well-remembered
words at the beginning of his desperate appealing article. He could
recollect the very run of every clause and word he had written: 'No
Englishman can read without a thrill of righteous indignation,' it
began,'the sentence passed last night upon Max Schurz, the author
of that remarkable economical work, "Gold and the Proletariate."
Herr Schurz is one of those numerous refugees from German despotism
who have taken advantage of the hospitable welcome usually afforded
by England to the oppressed of all creeds or nations'--and so forth,
and so forth. Where was it now? Yes, that was it, in the place of
honour, of course--the first leader under the clock in the 'Morning
Intelligence.' His eye caught at once the opening key-words, 'No
Englishman.' Sinking down into the easy-chair by the flowers in the
window he prepared to run it through at his leisure with breathless
anxiety.

'No Englishman can read without a feeling of the highest approval
the sentence passed last night upon Max Schurz, the author of that
misguided economical work, "Gold and the Proletariate." Herr Schurz
is one of those numerous refugees from German authority, who have
taken advantage of the hospitable welcome usually afforded by England
to the oppressed of all creeds or nations, in order to hatch plots
in security against the peace of sovereigns or governments with
which we desire always to maintain the most amicable and cordial
relations.' Ernest's eyes seemed to fail him. The type on the paper
swam wildly before his bewildered vision.  What on earth could
this mean? It was his own leader, indeed, with the very rhythm and
cadence of the sentences accurately preserved, but with all the
adjectives and epithets so ingeniously altered that it was turned
into a crushing condemnation of Max Schurz, his principles,
his conduct, and his ethical theories. From beginning to end, the
article appealed to the common-sense of intelligent Englishmen to
admire the dignity of the law in thus vindicating itself against
the atrocious schemes of a dangerous and ungrateful political exile
who had abused the hospitality of a great fres country to concoct
vile plots against the persons of friendly sovereigns and innocent
ministers on the European continent.

Ernest laid down the paper dreamily, and leant back for a moment
in his chair, to let his brain recover a little from the reeling
dizziness of that crushing disappointment. Then he turned in a
giddy mechanical fashion to the headed article on the fourth page.
There the self-same style of treatment met once more his astonished
gaze. All the minute facts as to Max Schurz's history and personality
were carefully preserved; the description of his simple artisan
life, his modest household, his Sunday evening receptions, his great
following of earnest and enthusiastic refugees--every word of all
this, which hardly anyone else could have equally well supplied,
was retained intact in the published copy; yet the whole spirit
of the thing had utterly evaporated, or rather had been perverted
into the exact opposite unsympathetic channel. Where Ernest had
written 'enthusiasm,' Lancaster had simply altered the word to
'fanaticism;' where Ernest had spoken of Herr Max's 'single-hearted
devotion,' Lancaster had merely changed the phrase into 'undisguised
revolutionary ardour.' The whole paper was one long sermon against
Max Schurz's Utopian schemes, imputing to him not only folly but
even positive criminality as well. We all know how we all in England
look upon the foreign political refugee--a man to be hit again with
impunity, because he has no friends; but to Ernest, who had lived
so long in his own little socialistic set, the discovery that people
could openly say such things against his chosen apostle at the very
moment of his martyrdom, was a hideous and blinding disillusionment.
He put the paper down upon the table once more, and buried his face
helplessly between his burning hands.

The worst of it all was this: if Herr Max ever saw those articles
he would naturally conclude that Ernest had been guilty of the
basest treachery, and that too on the very day when he most needed
the aid and sympathy of all his followers. With a thrill of horror
he thought in his own soul that the great leader might suspect him
for an hour of being the venal Judas of the little sect.

How Ernest ever got through that weary day he did not know himself;
nothing kept him up through it except his burning indignation
against Lancaster's abominable conduct.  About eleven o'clock,
Arthur Berkeley called in to see him.  'I'm afraid you've been a
little disappointed,' he said, 'about the turn Lancaster has given
to your two articles.  He told me he meant to alter the tone so
as to suit the policy of the paper, and I see he's done so very
thoroughly.  You can't look for much sympathy from commonplace,
cold, calculating Englishmen for enthusiastic natures like Herr
Max's.'

Ernest turned to him in blank amazement. He had expected Berkeley
to be as angry as himself at Lancaster's shameful mutilation of his
appealing leader; and he found now that even Berkeley accepted it
as an ordinary incident in the course of journalistic business. His
heart sank within him as he thought how little hope there could be
of Herr Max's liberation, when even his own familiar friend Berkeley
looked upon the matter in such a casual careless fashion.

'I shall never write another word for the "Morning Intelligence,"'
he cried vehemently, after a moment's pause.  'If we starve for
it, I shall never write another word in that wicked, abominable,
dishonourable paper. I can die easily enough, heaven knows, without
a murmur: but I can't be disloyal to dear Herr Max, and to all my
innate ingrained principles.'

'Don't say that, Ernest,' Berkeley answered gently.  'Think of
Mrs. Le Breton and the baby. The luxury of starvation for the sake
of a cause is one you might venture to allow yourself if you were
alone in the world as I am, but not one which you ought to force
unwillingly upon your wife and children. You've been getting a
trifle more practical of late under the spur of necessity; don't go
and turn  impossible again at the supreme moment. Whatever happens,
it's your plain duty to go on writing for the "Morning Intelligence."
You say with your own hand only what you think and believe yourself:
the editor alone is responsible for the final policy of the paper.'

Ernest only muttered slowly to himself,--'Never, never, never!'

Still, though the first attempt had failed, Ernest did not wholly
give up his hopes of doing something towards the release of Herr Max
from that unutterable imprisonment.  He drew up a form of petition
to the Home Secretary, in which he pointed out the reasons for
setting aside the course of the law in the case of this particular
political prisoner.  With feverish anxiety he ran about London
for the next two days, trying to get influential signatures to his
petition, and to rouse the people in their millions to demand the
release of the popular martyr. Alas for the stolid indifference of
the British public! The people in their millions sat down to eat
and drink, and rose up to play, exactly as if nothing unusual in
any way had happened. Most of them had never heard at all of Herr
Max, or of 'Gold and the Proletariate,' and those who had heard
understood for the most part that he was a bad lot who was imprisoned
for trying nefariously to blow up the Emperor of Rooshia. Crowds
of people nightly besieged the doors of the Ambiguities and the
Marlborough, to hear the fate of 'The Primate of Fiji' and 'The Duke
of Bermondsey;' but very few among the millions took the trouble to
sign their names to Ernest Le Breton's despairing petition. Even
the advanced radicals of the market-place, the men who figured
largely at Trafalgar Square meetings and Agricultural Labourers'
Unions, feared to damage their reputation for moderation and sobriety
by getting themselves mixed up with a continental agitator like
this man Schurz that people were talking about. The Irish members
expressed a pious horror of the very word dynamite: the working-man
leaders hemmed and hawed, and regretted their inability, in their
very delicate position, to do anything which might seem like
countenancing Russian nihilism. In the end, Ernest sent, in his
petition with only half a dozen unknown signatures; and the Home
Secretary's private prompter threw it into the waste-paper basket
entire,  without even taking the trouble to mention its existence
to his harassed and overburdened chief. Just a Marylebone communist
refugee in prison! How could a statesman with half the bores and
faddists of England on his troubled hands, find time to look at
uninfluential petitions about an  insignificant worthless nobody
like that?

So gentle, noble-natured, learned Herr Max went to prison and served
his year there uncomplainingly, like any other social malefactor;
and Society talked about his case with languid interest for nearly
a fortnight, and then  straightway found a new sensation, and forgot
all about him. But there are three hundred and sixty-five days of
twenty-four hours each in every year; and for every one of those days
Herr Max and Herr Max's friends never forgot for an hour together
that he was in prison.

And at the end of the week Ernest got a letter from Lancaster,
enclosing a cheque for eight guineas. That is a vast sum of money,
eight guineas: just think of all the bread, and meat, and tea,
and clothing one can buy with it for a small family! 'My dear Le
Breton,' the editor wrote--in his own hand, too; a rare honour;
for he was a kindly man, and he had learned, much to his surprise,
from Arthur Berkeley, that Ernest was angry at his treatment of the
Schurzian leader: 'My dear Le Breton, I enclose cheque for eight
guineas, for your two articles. I hope you didn't mind the way
I was obliged to cut them up in some unessential  details, so as
to suit the policy of the paper. I kept whatever was really most
distinctive as embodying special information in them. You know
we are above all things strictly moderate. Please send us another
social shortly.'

It was a kind letter, undoubtedly a kind and kindly-meant letter:
but Ernest flung it from him as though he had been stung by a
serpent or a scorpion. Then he handed the cheque to Edie in solemn
silence, to see what she would do with it. He merely wanted to try
her constancy. For himself,  he would have felt like a Judas indeed
if he had taken and used their thirty pieces of silver.

Edie looked at the cheque intently and sighed a deep sigh of regret.
How could she do otherwise? They were so very poor, and it was
such an immense sum of money! Then she rose quietly without saying
a word, and lighted a match from the box on the mantelpiece. She
held the cheque firmly between her finger and thumb till it was
nearly burnt, end let it drop slowly at last into the empty fireplace.
Ernest rose up and kissed her tenderly. The leaden weight of the
thirty pieces of silver was fairly off their united conscience.  They
had made what reparation they could for the evil of that unhappy,
undesigned leader. After all Ernest had wasted the last remnant of
his energy on one eventful evening, all for nothing.

As Edie sat looking wistfully at the smouldering fragments  of the
burnt cheque, Ernest roused her again by saying quietly, 'To-day's
Saturday. Have we got anything for to-morrow's dinner, Edie?'

'Nothing,' Edie answered, simply. 'How much money have you left,
Ernest?'

'Sixpence,' Ernest said, without needing to consult his empty
purse for confirmation--he had counted the pence, as they went, too
carefully for that already. 'Edie, I'm afraid we must go at last
to the poor man's banker till I can get some more money.'

'Oh, Ernest--not--not--not the pawnbroker!'

'Yes, Edie, the pawnbroker.'

The tears came quickly into Edie's eyes, but she answered nothing.
They must have food, and there was no other way open before them.
They rose together and went quietly into the bedroom. There they
gathered together the few little trinkets and other things that might
be of use to them, and Ernest took down his hat from the stand to
go out with them to the pawnbroker's.

As he turned out he was met energetically on the landing by a
stout barricade from good Mrs. Halliss. 'No, sir, not you, sir,'
the landlady said firmly, trying to take the parcel from him as he
went towards the door. 'I beg your pardon, sir, for 'avin' over'eard
what wasn't meant for me to 'ear, no doubt, but I couldn't 'elp it,
sir, and John an' me can't allow nothink of this sort, we can't.
We're used to this sort o' things, sir, John and me is; but you
and the dear lady isn't used to 'em, sir, and didn't nought to be
neither, and John an' me can't allow it, not anyhow.'

Ernest turned scarlet with shame, but could say nothing.  Edie only
whispered softly, 'Dear, dear Mrs. Halliss, we're so sorry, but we
can't help it.'

''Elp it, ma'am,' said Mrs. Halliss, herself almost crying, 'nor
there ain't no reason why you should try to 'elp it neither. As I
says to John, "John," says I, "there ain't no 'arm in it, noways,"
says I, "but I can't stand by," says I, "and see them two poor dear
young creechurs," meanin' no offence, ma'am, "a-pawning of their
own jewelry and things to go and pay for their Sunday's dinner."
And John, 'e says, says 'e, "Quite right, Martha," says 'e; "don't
let 'em, my dear," says 'e. "The Lord has prospered us a bit in our
'umble way, Martha," says 'e, "and we ain't got no cause to want,
we ain't; and if the dear lady and the good gentleman wouldn't
take it as a liberty," says 'e, "it 'ud be better they should just
borrer a pound or two for a week from us," says 'e, beggin' your
pardon, ma'am, for 'intin' of it, "than that there Mr. Le Breting,
as ain't accustomed to such places nohow, should go a-makin'
acquaintance, for the fust time of his life, as you may say, with
the inside of a pawnbroker's shop," says 'e. "John," says I, "it's
my belief the lady and gentleman 'ud be insulted," says I, "though
they ARE the sweetest unassoomin'est young gentlefolk I ever did
see," says I, "if we were to go as tin' them to accept the loan
of money from the likes of you and me, John, as is no better, by
the side of them, nor old servants, in the manner o' speakin'."
"Insulted," says 'e; "not a bit of it, they needn't, Martha,"
says 'e, "for I knows the ways of the aristocracy," says 'e, "and
I knows as there's many a gentleman  as owns 'is own 'osses and
'is own 'ounds as isn't afraid to borrer a pound or so from 'is own
coachman, or even from 'is own groom--not but what to borrer from
a groom is lowerin'," says 'e, "in a tempory emergency. Mind you,
Martha," says 'e, "a tempory emergency is a thing as may 'appen
to landed gentlefolks any day," says 'e. "It's like a 'ole in your
coat made by a tear," says 'e; "a haccident as may 'appen to-morrer
to the Prince of Wales 'isself upon the 'untin' field," 'e says.
"Well, then, John," says I, "I'll just go an' speak to 'em about
it, this very minnit," says I, and if I might make so bold, ma'am,
without seemin' too  presumptious, I should be very glad if you'd
kindly allow me, ma'am, to lend Mr. Le Breting a few suvverins till
'e gets 'is next remittances, ma'am.'

Edie looked at Ernest, and Ernest looked at Edie and the landlady;
and then they all three burst out crying together without further
apology. Perhaps it was the old Adam left in Ernest a little;
but though he could stand kindness from Dr. Greatrex or from Mr.
Lancaster stoically enough, he couldn't watch the humble devotion
of those two honest-hearted simple old servants without a mingled
thrill of shame and tenderness. 'Mrs. Halliss,' he said, catching
up the landlady's hard red hand gratefully in his own, 'you are too
good and too kind, and too considerate for us altogether. I feel
we have done nothing to deserve such great kindness from you. But
I really don't think it would be right of us to borrow from you when
we don't even know how long it may be before we're able to return
your money or whether we shall ever be able to return it at all.
We're so much obliged to you, so very very much obliged to you,
dear Mrs. Halliss, but I think we ought as a matter of duty to pawn
these few little things rather than run into debt which we've no
fair prospect at present of ever redeeming.'

'HAS you please, sir,' Mrs. Halliss said gently, wiping her eyes
with her snow-white apron, for she saw at once that Ernest really
meant what he said. 'Not that John an' me would think of it for a
minnit, sir, so long as you wouldn't mind our takin' the liberty;
but any'ow, sir, we can't allow you to go out yourself and go to
the pawnbroker's. It ain't no fit place for the likes of you, sir,
a pawnbroker's ain't, in all that low company; and I don't suppose
you'd rightly know 'ow much to hask on the articles, neither.
John, 'e ain't afeard of goin'; an' 'e says, 'e insists upon it as
'e's to go, for 'e don't think, sir, for the honour of the 'ouse,
'e says, sir, as a lodger of ours ought to be seen a-goin' to the
pawnbroker's. Just you give them things right over to John, sir,
and 'e'll get you a better price on 'em by a long way nor they'd
ever think of giving a gentleman like you, sir.'

Ernest fought off the question in a half-hearted fashion for a
little while, but Mrs. Halliss insisted upon it, and after a short
time Ernest gave way, for to say the truth he had very vague ideas
himself as to how he ought to proceed in a pawnbroking expedition.
Mrs. Halliss ran down the kitchen stairs quickly, for fear he
should change his mind as soon as her back was turned, and called
out gaily to her husband in the first delight of her unexpected
triumph.

'John,' she cried, '--drat that man, where is 'e? John, dear, you
just putt your 'at on, and purtend to run round the corner a bit
to Aston's the pawnbroker's. The Lord have mercy upon me for the
stories I've been a-tellin' of 'em, but I couldn't bear to see them
two pore things a-pawnin' their little bits of jewelry and sich,
and Mr. Le Breting, too, 'im as ain't fit to go knockin' together
with underbred folks like pawnbrokers. So I told 'im as you'd take
'em round and pawn 'em for 'im yourself; not as I don't suppose
you've never pawned nothink in your 'ole life, John, leastways not
since ever you an' me kep' company, for afore that I suppose you
was purty much like other young men is, John, for all you shakes
your 'ead at it now so innocent like.  But you just run round,
there's a dear, and make as if you was goin' to the pawnbroker's,
and then you come straight 'ome again unbeknown to 'em. I ain't
a goin' to let them two pore dears go pawnin' their things for a
dinner nohow.  You take them two suvverins out of your box, John,
and putt away these 'ere little things for the present time till
the pore souls is able to pay us, and if they never don't, small
matter neither. Now you go fast, John, there's a dear, and come
back, and mind you give them two suvverins to Mr. Le Breting as
natural like as ever you're able.'

'Pawn 'em,' John said in a pitying voice, 'no indeed, it ain't
come to that yet, I should 'ope, that they need go a-pawnin' their
effects while we've got a suvverin or two laid by in our box,
Martha. Not as anybody need be ashamed of pawnin' on occasions, for
that matter,--I don't say as a reg'lar thing, but now an' then on
occasions, as you may call it; for even in the best dookal families,
I've 'eard tell they DO sometimes 'ave to pawn the dimonds, so
that pawnin' ain't in the runnin' noways, bless you, as respects
gentility.  Not as I'd like to go into a pawnshop myself, Martha,
as I've always been brought up respectable; but when you send for
Mr. Hattenborough to your own ressydence and say quite commandin'
like, "'Er Grace 'ud be obleeged if you'd wait upon 'er in Belgrave
Square to hinspeck 'er dimonds as I want to raise the wind on 'em,"
why, that's quite another matter nat'rally.'

When honest John came back in a few minutes and handed the
two sovereigns over to Ernest, he did it with such an unblushing
face as might have won him applause on any stage for its perfect
naturalness. 'Lor' bless your 'eart, sir,' he said in answer to
Ernest's shamefaced thanks, touching the place where his hat ought
to be mechanically, 'it ain't nothing, sir, that ain't. If it
weren't for the dookal families of England, sir, it's my belief the
pawnbrokin' business wouldn't be worth mentioning in the manner o'
speakin'.'

That evening, Ernest paced up and down the little parlour rather
moodily for half an hour with three words ringing perpetually in his
dizzy ears-the 'Never, never, never,' he had used so short a tune
since about the 'Morning  Intelligence.' He must get money somehow
for Dot and Edie! he must get money somehow to pay good Mrs.  Halliss
for their board and lodging! There was only one way possible.
Fight against it as he would, in the end he must come back to that
inevitable conclusion. At last he sat down with a gloomy face at
the centre table, and pulled out a sheet of blank foolscap.

'What are you going to do, Ernest?' Edie asked him.

Ernest groaned. 'I'm writing a social for the "Morning Intelligence,"
Edie,' he answered bitterly.

'Oh, Ernest!' Edie said with a face of horror and surprise.  'Not
after the shameful way they've treated poor Max Schurz!'

Ernest groaned again. 'There's nothing else to be done, Edie,' he
said, looking up at her despondently. 'I must earn money somehow
to keep the house going.'

It is the business of the truthful historian to narrate facts, not
to palliate or extenuate the conduct of the various actors.  Whether
Ernest did right or wrong, at least he did it; he wrote a playful
social for Monday's 'Morning Intelligence,' and carried it into
the office on Sunday afternoon himself, beause there was no postal
delivery in the London district.

That night, he lay awake once more for hours together, tossing
and turning, and reflecting bitterly on his own  baseness and his
final moral downfall. Herbert was right, after all. The environment
was beginning to conquer. He could hold out no longer. Herr Max
was in prison; the world was profoundly indifferent; he himself
had fallen away like Peter; and there was nothing left for him now
but to look about and find himself a dishonourable grave.

And Dot? And Edie? What was to become of them after? Ah me, for
the pity of it when a man cannot even crawl quietly into a corner
and die in peace like a dog, without being tortured by fears
and terrors beforehand as to what will come to those he loves far
better than life when he himself is quietly dead and buried out of
the turmoil!



CHAPTER XXIX.

A MAN AND A MAID.


IF Ernest and Edie had permitted it, Ronald Le Breton would have
gone at once, after his coming of age, to club income and expenditure
with his brother's household. But, as Edie justly remarked, when
he proposed it, such a course would pretty nearly have amounted to
clubbing HIS income with THEIR expenditure; and even in their last
extreme of poverty that was an injustice which neither she nor her
husband could possibly permit. Ronald needed all his little fortune
for his own simple wants, and though they themselves  starved,
they couldn't bear to deprive him of the small luxuries which had
grown into absolute necessaries for one so feeble and weak. Indeed,
ill as Ernest himself now was, he had never outgrown the fixed
habit of regarding Ronald as the invalid of the family; and to have
taken anything, though in the direst straits, from him, would have
seemed like robbing the helpless poor of their bare necessities.
So Ronald was fain at last to take lodgings for himself with
a neighbour of good Mrs. Halliss's, and only to share in Ernest's
troubles to the small extent of an occasional loan, which Edie
would have repaid to time if she had to go without their own poor
little dinner for the sake of the repayment.

Meanwhile, Ronald had another interest on hand which to his
enthusiastic nature seemed directly imposed upon him by the finger
of Providence--to provide a home and occupation  for poor Selah,
whom Herbert had cast aside as a legacy to him. As soon as he
had got settled down to his own new mode of life in the Holloway
lodgings, he began to look about for a fit place for the homeless
girl--a place, he thought to himself, which must combine several
special advantages; plenty of work--she wanted that to take her
mind off brooding; good, honest, upright people; and above all, no
religion. Ronald recognised that last undoubted requirement as of
absolutely paramount importance. 'She'll stand any amount of talk
or anything else from me,' he said to himself often, 'because she
knows I'm really in earnest; but she wouldn't stand it for a moment
from those well-meaning, undiscriminating, religious busy-bodies,
who are so awfully anxious about other people's souls, though
they never seem for a single minute to consider in any way other
people's feelings.' After a little careful hunting among his
various acquaintances, however, he found at last a place that would
exactly suit Selah at a stationer's in Netting Hill; and there he
put her--with full confidence that Selah would do the work entrusted
to her well and ably, if not from conscientiousness, at least from
personal pride, 'which, after all,' Roland soliloquised dreamily,
'is as good a  substitute for the genuine article as one can
reasonably expect to find in poor fallen human nature.'

'I wish, Mr. Le Breton,' Selah said, quite timidly for her (maidenly
reserve, it must be admitted, was not one of Selah Briggs's strong
points), 'that I wasn't going to be quite so far from you as Notting
Hill. If I could see you sometimes, you know, I should feel that
it might keep me more straight--keep me away from the river in
future, I mean. I can't stand most people's preaching, but somehow,
your preaching seems to do me more good than harm, really, which is
just the exact opposite way, it seems to me, from everybody else's.'

Ronald smiled sedately. 'I'm glad you want to see me sometimes,'
he said, with a touch of something very like gallantry in his tone
that was wholly unusual with him. 'I shall walk over every now and
then, and look you up at your lodgings over yonder; and besides,
you can come on Sundays to dear Edie's, and I shall be able to
meet you there once a fortnight or thereabouts. But I'm not going
to let you call me Mr. Le Breton any longer; it isn't friendly:
and, what's more, it isn't Christian. Why should there be these
artificial barriers between soul and soul, eh, Selah? I shall
call you Selah in future: it seems more genuine and heartfelt, and
unencumbered with needless  conventions, than your misters and
misses. After all, why should we keep up such idle formalities
between brethren and fellow-workers?'

Selah started a little--she knew better than Ronald  himself did
what such first advances really led to. 'Oh, Mr. Le Breton,' she
said quickly, 'I really can't call you Ronald. I can never call
any other man by his Christian name as long as I live, after--your
brother.'

'You mistake me, Selah,' Ronald put in hastily, with his quaint
gravity. 'I mean it merely as a sign of  confidence and a mark of
Christian friendship. Sisters call their brothers by their Christian
names, don't they? So there can be no harm in that, surely. It seems
to me that if you call me Mr. Le Breton, you're putting me on the
footing  of a man merely; if you call me Ronald, you're putting me
on the footing of a brother, which is really a much more harmless
and unequivocal position for me to stand in. Do, please, Selah,
call me Ronald.'

'I'm afraid I can't,' Selah answered. 'I daren't. I mustn't.' But
she faltered a little for a moment,  notwithstanding.

'You must, Selah,' Ronald said, with all the force of his enthusiastic
nature, fixing his piercing eyes full upon her.  'You must, I tell
you. Call me Ronald.'

'Very well--Ronald,' Selah said at last, after a long pause.
'Good-bye, now. I must be going. Good-bye, and thank you. Thank
you. Thank you.' There was a tear quivering even in Selah Briggs's
eye, as she held his hand lingeringly a moment in hers before
releasing it. He was a very good fellow, really, and he had been
so very kind, too, in interesting himself about her future.

'What a marvellous thread of sameness,' Ronald thought to himself,
as he walked back rapidly to his solitary lodgings, 'runs through
the warp and woof of a single family, after all! What an underlying
unity of texture there must be throughout, in all its members,
however outwardly dissimilar  they may seem to be from one another!
One would say at first sight there was very little, if anything,
in common between me and Herbert. And yet this girl interests  me
wonderfully. Of course I'm not in love with her--the notion of
MY falling in love with anybody is clearly too ridiculous. But I'm
attracted by her, drawn towards her, fascinated as it were; I feel
a sort of curious spell upon me whenever I look into her deep big
eyes, flashing out upon one with their strange luminousness. It
isn't merely that the Hand has thrown her in my way: that counts
for something, no doubt, but not for everything. Besides, the
Hand doesn't act blindly--nay, rather, acts with supreme wisdom,
surpassing the powers or the comprehension of man. When it threw
Selah Briggs in my way, depend upon it, it was because the Infinite
saw in me something that was specially adapted to her, and in her
something that was specially adapted to me. The instrument is duly
shaped by inscrutable Wisdom for its own proper work. Now, whatever
interests ME in her, must have also interested Herbert in her
equally and for the same reason. We're drawn towards her, clearly;
she exercises over both of us some curious electric power that she
doesn't exercise,  presumably, over other people. For Herbert must
have been really in love with her--not that I'm in love with her,
of course; but still, the phenomena are analogous, even if on
a slightly different plane--Herbert must have been really in love
with her, I'm sure, or such a prudent man as he is would never have
let himself get into what he would  consider such a dangerous and
difficult entanglement. Yes, clearly, there's something in Selah
Briggs that seems to possess a singular polarity, as Ernest would
call it, for the Le Breton character and individuality!

'And then, it cuts both ways, too, for Selah was once desperately
in love with Herbert: of that I'm certain. She must have been, to
judge from the mere strength of the final revulsion. She's a girl
of intensely deep passions--I like people to have some depth to
their character, even if it's only in the way of passion--and she'd
never have loved him at all without loving him fervently and almost
wildly: hers is a fervent, wild, indomitable nature. Yes, she was
certainly in love with Herbert; and now, though of course I don't
mean to say she's in love with me (I hope it isn't wrong to think
in this way about an unmarried girl), still I can't help seeing
that I have a certain influence over her in return--that she pays
much attention to what I say and think, considers me a person
worth considering, which she doesn't do, I'm sure, with most other
people. Ah, well, there's a vast deal of truth, no doubt, in these
new hereditary  doctrines of Darwin's and Galton's that Herbert
and Ernest talk about so much; a family's a family, that's certain,
not a mere stray collection of casual acquaintances.  How the
likeness runs through the very inmost structure of our hearts and
natures! I see in Selah very much what Herbert saw in Selah: Selah
sees in me very much what she saw in Herbert. Extraordinary insight
into human nature men like Darwin and Galton have, to be sure? And
David, too, what a marvellous thinker he was, really! What  unfathomed
depths of meaning lie unexpected in that simple sentence of his,
"I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Fearfully and wonderfully,
indeed, when one remembers that from one father and mother Herbert
and I have both been compounded, so unlike in some things that we
scarcely seem to be comparable with one another (look at Herbert's
splendid intellect beside mine!), so like in others that Selah
Briggs--goodness gracious, what am I thinking of? I was just going
to say that Selah Briggs falls in love first with one of us and
then with the other. I do hope and trust it isn't wrong of me to
fill my poor distracted head so much with these odd thoughts about
that unfortunate girl, Selah!'



CHAPTER XXX.

THE ENVIRONMENT FINALLY TRIUMPHS.


Winter had come, and on a bitter cold winter's night, Ernest
Le Breton once more received an unexpected telegram asking him to
hurry down without a moment's delay on important business to the
'Morning Intelligence' office.  The telegram didn't state at all
what the business was; it merely said it was urgent and immediate
without in any way specifying its nature. Ernest sallied forth
in some perturbation,  for his memories of the last occasion when
the 'Morning  Intelligence' required his aid on important business
were far from pleasant ones; but for Edie's sake he felt he must
go, and so he went without a murmur.

'Sit down, Le Breton,' Mr. Lancaster said slowly when Ernest
entered. 'The matter I want to see you about's a very peculiar one.
I understand from some of my friends that you're a son of Sir Owen
Le Breton, the Indian general.'

'Yes, I am,' Ernest answered, wondering within himself to what
end this curious preamble could possibly be leading up. If there's
any one profession, he thought, which is absolutely free from the
slightest genealogical interest in the persons of its professors,
surely that particular calling ought to be the profession of
journalism.

'Well, so I hear, Le Breton. Now, I believe I'm right in saying,
am I not, that it was your father who first subdued and organised
a certain refractory hill-tribe on the Tibetan frontier, known as
the Bodahls, wasn't it?'

'Quite right,' Ernest replied, with a glimmering idea slowly rising
in his mind as to what Mr. Lancaster was now driving at.

'Ah, that's good, very good indeed, certainly. Well, tell me,
Le Breton, do you yourself happen to know anything on earth about
these precious insignificant people?'

'I know all about them,' Ernest answered quickly. 'I've read all
my father's papers and despatches, and seen his maps and plans and
reports in our house at home from my boyhood upward. I know as much
about the Bodahls, in fact, as I know about Bayswater, or Holborn,
or Fleet Street.'

'Capital, capital,' the editor said, fondling his big hands softly;
'that'll exactly suit us. And could you get at these plans and papers
now, this very evening, just to refresh the gaps in your memory?'

'I could have them all down here,' Ernest answered, 'at an hour's
notice.'

'Good,' the editor said again. 'I'll send a boy for them with a
cab. Meanwhile, you'd better be perpending this telegram from our
Simla correspondent, just received. It's going to be the question
of the moment, and we should very much like you to give us a leader
of a full column about the matter.'

Ernest took the telegram and read it over carefully. It ran in the
usual very abbreviated newspaper fashion:  'Russian agents revolted
Bodahls Tibetan frontier. Advices Peshawur state Russian army
marching on Merv. Bodahls attacked Commissioner, declared independence
British raj.'

'Will you write us a leader?' the editor asked, simply.

Ernest drew a long breath. Three guineas! Edie, Dot, an empty
exchequer! If he could only have five minutes to make his mind up!
But he couldn't. After all, what did it matter what he said about
these poor unknown Bodahls? If HE didn't write the leader, somebody
else who knew far less about the subject than he did would be sure
to do it. He wasn't responsible for that impalpable entity 'the
policy of the paper.' Beside the great social power of the 'Morning
Intelligence,' of the united English people, what was he, Ernest
Le Breton, but a miserable solitary misplaced unit? One way or the
other, he could do very little indeed, for good or for evil. After
half a minute's internal struggle, he answered back the editor
faintly, 'Yes, I will.' 'For Edie,' he muttered half audibly to
himself; 'I must do it for dear Edie.'

'And you'll allow me to make whatever alterations I think necessary
in the article to suit the policy of the paper?' the editor asked
once more, looking through him with his sleepy keen grey eyes.
'You see, Le Breton, I don't want to annoy you, and I know your
own principles are rather peculiar; but of course all we want you
for is just to give us the correct statement of facts about these
outlandish people.  All that concerns our own attitude towards them
as a nation falls naturally under the head of editorial matter.
You must see yourself that it's quite impossible for us to let any
one single contributor dictate from his own standpoint the policy
of the paper.'

Ernest bent his head slowly. 'You're very kind to argue out the
matter with me so, Mr. Lancaster,' he said, trembling with excitement.
'Yes, I suppose I must bury my scruples.  I'll write a leader about
these Bodahls, and let you deal with it afterwards as you think
proper.'

They showed him into the bare little back room, and sent a boy
up with a hastily written note to Ronald for the maps and papers.
There Ernest sat for an hour or two, writing away for very life,
and putting on paper everything that he knew about the poor Bodahls.
By two o'clock, the proofs had all come up to him, and he took
his hat in a shamefaced manner to sally out into the cold street,
where he hoped to hide his rising remorse and agony under cover of
the solitary night. He knew too well what 'the policy of the paper'
would be, to venture upon asking any questions about it. As he
left the office, a boy brought him down a sealed envelope from Mr.
Lancaster. With his usual kindly thoughtfulness the editor had sent
him at once the customary cheque for three guineas. Ernest folded
it up with quivering  fingers, and felt the blood burn in his cheeks
as he put it away in his waistcoat pocket. That accursed money!
For it he had that night sold his dearest principles! And yet, not
for it, not for it, not for it--oh, no, not for it, but for Dot
and Edie!

The boy had a duplicate proof in his other hand, and Ernest saw at
once that it was his own leader, as altered and corrected by Mr.
Lancaster. He asked the boy whether he might see it; and the boy,
knowing it was Ernest's own writing, handed it to him at once
without further question.  Ernest did not dare to look at it then
and there for fear he should break down utterly before the boy; he
put it for the moment into his inner pocket, and buttoned his thin
overcoat  tightly around him. It was colder still in the frosty air
of early morning, and the contrast to the heated atmosphere of the
printing house struck him with ominous chill as he issued slowly
forth into the silent precincts of unpeopled Fleet Street.

It was a terrible memorable night, that awful Tuesday; the coldest
night known for many years in any English winter. Snow lay deep upon
the ground, and a few flakes were falling still from the cloudy
sky, for it was in the second week of January. The wind was drifting
it in gusty eddies down the long streets, and driving the drifts
before it like whirling dust in an August storm. Not a cab was to
be seen anywhere, not even a stray hansom crawling home from clubs
or theatres; and Ernest set out with a rueful countenance to walk
as best he might alone through the snow all the way to Holloway.
It is a long and dreary trudge at any time; it seemed very long
and dreary indeed to Ernest Le Breton, with his delicate frame and
weak chest, battling against the fierce wind on a dark and snowy
winter's night, and with the fever of a great anxiety and a great
remorse silently torturing his distracted bosom. At each step he
took through the snow, he almost fancied himself a hunted Bodahl.
Would British soldiers drive those poor savage women and children
to die so of cold and hunger on their snowy hilltops? Would English
fathers and mothers, at home at their ease, applaud the act with
careless  thoughtlessness as a piece of our famous spirited foreign
policy?  And would his own article, written with his own poor thin
cold fingers in that day's 'Morning Intelligence,' help to spur
them on upon that wicked and unnecessary war? What right had we to
conquer the Bodahls? What right had we to hold them in subjection
or to punish them for revolting?  And above all, what right had
he, Ernest Le Breton, upon whose head the hereditary guilt of the
first conquest ought properly to have weighed with such personal
heaviness--what right had he, of all men, directly or indirectly,
to aid or abet the English people in their immoral and inhuman
resolve?  Oh, God, his sin was worse than theirs; for they sinned,
thinking they did justly; but as for him, he sinned against the
light; he knew the better, and, bribed by gold, he did the worse.
At that moment, the little slip of printed paper in his waistcoat
pocket seemed to burn through all the frosts of that awful evening
like a chain of molten steel into his very marrow!

Trudging on slowly through the white stainless snow, step by
step,--snow that cast a sheet of pure white even over the narrow
lanes behind the Farringdon Road,--cold at foot and hot at heart,
he reached at last the wide corner by the Angel at Islington. The
lights in the windows were all out long ago, of course, but the
lamps outside were still flaring brightly, and a solitary policeman
was standing under one of them, trying to warm his frozen hands by
breathing rapidly on the curved and distorted fingers. Ernest was
very tired of his tramp by that time, and emboldened by companionship
he stopped awhile to rest himself in the snow and wind under the
opposite lamplight. Putting his back against the post, he drew the
altered proof of his article slowly out of his inner pocket. It
had a strange fascination for him, and yet he dreaded to look at
it. With an effort, he unfolded it in his stiff fingers, and held
the paper up to the light, regardless of the fact that the policeman
was watching his proceedings with the interest naturally due from
a man of his profession to a suspicious-looking character who
was probably a convicted pickpocket. The first sentence once more
told him the worst. There was no doubt at all about it. The three
guineas in his pocket were the price of blood!

'The insult to British prestige in the East,' ran that terrible
opening paragraph, 'implied in the brief telegram which we publish
this morning from our own Correspondent at Simla, calls for a speedy
and a severe retribution. It must be washed out in blood.' Blood,
blood, blood! The letters swam before his eyes. It was this, then,
that he, the disciple of peace-loving Max Schurz, the hater of war
and conquest, the foe of unjust British domination over inferior
races--it was this that he had helped to make plausible with his
special knowledge and his ready pen! Oh, heaven, what reparation
could he make for this horrid crime he had knowingly and wilfully
committed? What could he do to avoid the guilt of those poor
savages' blood upon his devoted head? In one moment he thought out
a hundred scenes of massacre and pillage--scenes such as he knew
only too well always precede and accompany the blessings of British
rule in distant  dependencies. The temptation had been strong--the
money had been sorely wanted--there was very little food in
the house; but how could he ever have yielded to such a depth of
premeditated wickedness! He folded the piece of paper into his
pocket once more, and buried his face in his hands for a whole
minute. The policeman now began to suspect that he was not so much
a pickpocket as an escaped lunatic.

And so he was, no doubt. Of course we who are practical men of
the world know very well that all this foolish feeling on Ernest
Le Breton's part was very womanish and weak and overwrought; that
he ought to have done the work that was set before him, asking no
questions for conscience' sake; and that he might honestly have
pocketed the three guineas, letting his supposed duty to a few
naked brown people somewhere  up in the Indian hill-country take
care of itself, as all the rest of us always do. But some allowance
must naturally be made for his peculiar temperament and for his
particular state of health. Consumptive people are apt to take a
somewhat  hectic view of life in every way; they lack the common-sense
ballast that makes most of us able to value the lives of a few
hundred poor distant savages at their proper infinitesimal  figure.
At any rate, Ernest Le Breton, as a matter of fact, rightly or
wrongly, did take this curious standpoint about things in general;
and did then and there turn back through the deep snow, all his
soul burning within him, fired with dire remorse, and filled only
with one idea--how to prevent this wicked article to which he had
contributed so many facts and opinions from getting printed in
to-morrow's paper. True, it was not he who had put in the usual
newspaper platitudes about the might of England, and the insult to
the British flag, and the immediate necessity for a stern retaliation;
but all that vapouring wicked talk (as he thought it) would go
forth to the world fortified by the value of his special facts and
his obviously intimate acquaintance  with the whole past history of
the Bodahl people. So he turned back and battled once more with the
wind and snow as far as Fleet Street; and then he rushed excitedly
into the 'Morning Intelligence' office, and asked with the wildness
of despair to see the editor.

Mr. Lancaster had gone home an hour since, the porter said; but
Mr. Wilks, the sub-editor, was still there,  superintending the
printing of the paper, and if Ernest liked, Mr.  Wilks would see
him immediately.

Ernest nodded assent at once, and was forthwith ushered up into Mr.
Wilks's private sanctum. The sub-editor was a dry, grizzly-bearded
man, with a prevailing wolfish greyness of demeanour about his whole
person; and he shook Ernest's proffered hand solemnly, in the dreary
fashion that is always begotten of the systematic transposition of
night and day.

'For heaven's sake, Mr. Wilks,' Ernest cried imploringly, 'I want
to know whether you can possibly suppress or at least alter my
leader on the Bodahl insurrection!'

Mr. Wilks looked at him curiously, as one might look at a person
who had suddenly developed violent symptoms of dangerous insanity.
'Suppress the Bodahl leader,' he said slowly like one dreaming.
'Suppress the Bodahl leader!  Impossible! Why, it's the largest type
heading in the whole of to-day's paper, is this Bodahl business.
"Shocking  Outrage upon a British Commissioner on the Indian
Frontier.  Revolt of the Entire Bodahl Tribe. Russian Intrigue
in Central Asia. Dangerous Position of the Viceroy at Simla." Oh,
dear me, no; not to have a leader upon THAT, my dear sir, would be
simply suicidal!'

'But can't you cut out my part of it, at least,' Ernest said
anxiously. 'Oh, Mr. Wilks, you don't know what I've suffered to-night
on account of this dreadful unmerited leader. It's wicked, it's
unjust, it's abominable, and I can't bear to think that I have had
anything to do with sending it out into the world to inflame the
passions of unthinking people! Do please try to let my part of it
be left out, and only Mr. Lancaster's, at least, be printed.'

Mr. Wilks looked at him again with the intensest suspicion.

'A sub-editor,' he answered evasively, 'has nothing at all to do with
the politics of a paper. The editor alone manages that department
on his own responsibility. But what on earth would you have me do?
I can't stop the machines for half an hour, can I, just to let you
have the chance of doctoring your leader? If you thought it wrong
to write it, you ought never to have written it; now it's written
it must certainly stand.'

Ernest sank into a chair, and said nothing; but he turned so deadly
pale that Mr. Wilks was fain to have recourse to a little brown
flask he kept stowed away in a corner of his desk, and to administer
a prompt dose of brandy and water.

'There, there,' he said, in the kindest manner of which he was
capable, 'what are you going to do now? You can't be going out
again in this state and in this weather, can you?'

'Yes, I am,' Ernest answered feebly. 'I'm going to walk home at
once to Holloway.'

'To Holloway!' the sub-editor said in a tone of comparative
horror. 'Oh! no, I can't allow that. Wait here an hour or two till
the workmen's trains begin running. Or, stay; Lancaster left his
brougham here for me to-night, as I have to be off early to-morrow
on business; I'll send you home in that, and let Hawkins get me a
cab from the mews by order.'

Ernest made no resistance; and so the sub-editor sent him home at
once in Lancaster's brougham.

When he got home in the early grey of morning, he found Edie still
sitting up for him in her chair, and  wondering what could be
detaining him so long at the newspaper office. He threw himself
wildly at her feet, and, in such broken sentences as he was able
to command, he told her all the pitiful story. Edie soothed him
and kissed him as he went along, but never said a word for good or
evil till he had finished.

'It was a terrible temptation, darling,' she said softly: 'a terrible
temptation, indeed, and I don't wonder you gave way to it; but we
mustn't touch the three guineas. As you say rightly, it's blood-money.'

Ernest drew the cheque slowly from his pocket, and held it hesitatingly
a moment in his hand. Edie looked at him curiously.

'What are you going to do with it, darling?' she asked in a low
voice, as he gazed vacantly at the last dying embers in the little
smouldering fireplace.

'Nothing, Edie dearest,' Ernest answered huskily, folding  it
up and putting it away in the drawer by the window.  They neither
of them dared to look the other in the face, but they bad not the
heart to burn it boldly. It was blood-money, to be sure; but three
guineas are really so very useful!

Four days later, little Dot was taken with a sudden illness.  Ernest
and Edie sat watching by her little cradle throughout the night,
and saw with heavy hearts that she was rapidly growing feebler. Poor
wee soul, they had nothing to keep her for: it would be better,
perhaps, if she were gone; and yet, the human heart cannot be stifled
by such calm deliverances of practical reason; it WILL let its hot
emotions overcome the cold calculations of better and worse supplied
it by the unbiassed intellect.

All night long they sat there tearfully, fearing she would not
live till morning; and in the early dawn they sent round hastily
for a neighbouring doctor. They had no money to pay him with, to
be sure; but that didn't much matter; they could leave it over for
the present, and perhaps some day before long Ernest might write
another social, and earn an honest three guineas. Anyhow, it was
a question of life and death, and they could not help sending for
the doctor, whatever difficulty they might afterwards find in paying
him.

The doctor came, and looked with the usual professional seriousness
at the baby patient. Did they feed her entirely on London milk? he
asked doubtfully. Yes, entirely. Ah!  then that was the sole root
of the entire mischief. She was very dangerously ill, no doubt,
and he didn't know whether he could pull her through anyhow; but
if anything would do it, it was a change to goat's milk. There was
a man who sold goat's milk round the corner. He would show Ernest
where to find him.

Ernest looked doubtfully at Edie, and Edie looked back again
at Ernest. One thought rose at once in both their minds. They had
no money to pay for it with, except--except that dreadful cheque.
For four days it had lain,  burning a hole in Ernest's heart from
its drawer by the window, and he had not dared to change it. Now
he rose without saying a word, and opened the drawer in a solemn,
hesitating fashion. He looked once more at Edie inquiringly; Edie
nodded a faint approval. Ernest, pale as death, put on his hat,
and went out totteringly with the doctor. He stopped on the way
to change the cheque at the baker's where they usually dealt, and
then went on to the goat's milk shop.  How that sovereign he flung
upon the counter seemed to ring the knell of his seif-respect! The
man who changed it noticed the strangeness of Ernest's look, and
knew at once he had not come by the money honestly. He rang it twice
to make sure it was good, and then gave the change to Ernest. But
Dot, at least, was saved; that was a great thing. The milk arrived
duly every morning for some weeks, and, after a severe struggle,
Dot grew gradually better.  While the danger lasted, neither of
them dared think much of the cheque; but when Dot had got quite
well again, Ernest was concious of a certain unwonted awkwardness
of manner in talking to Edie. He knew perfectly well what it meant;
they were both accomplices in crime together.

When Ernest wrote his 'social' after Max Schurz's affair, he felt
he had already touched the lowest depths of degradation. He knew
now that he had touched a still lower one. Oh! horrible abyss of
self-abasement!--he had taken the blood-money. And yet, it was to
save Dot's life!  Herbert was right, after all: quite right. Yes,
yes, all hope was gone: the environment had finally triumphed.

In the awful self-reproach of that deadly remorse for the acceptance
of the blood-money, Ernest Le Breton felt at last in his heart
that surely the bitterness of death was past. It would be better
for them all to die together than to live on through such a life of
shame and misery. Ah, Peter, Peter, you are not the only one that
has denied his Lord and Master!

And yet, Ernest Le Breton had only written part of a newspaper
leader about a small revolt of the Bodahls. And he suffered more
agony for it than many a sensitive man, even, has suffered for the
commission of some obvious crime.

'I say, Berkeley,' Lancaster droned out in the lobby of their club
one afternoon shortly afterwards, 'what on earth am I ever to do
about that socialistic friend of yours, Le Breton? I can't ever
give him any political work again, you know. Just fancy! first, you
remember, I set him upon the Schurz imprisonment business, and he
nearly went mad then because I didn't back up Schurz for wanting to
murder the Emperor of Russia. After that, just now the other day,
I tried him on the Bodahl business, and hang me if he didn't have
qualms of conscience about it afterwards, and trudge back through
all the snow that awful Tuesday, to see if he couldn't induce Wilks
to stop the press, and let him cut it all out at the last moment!
He's as mad as a March hare, you know, and if it weren't that I'm
really sorry for him I wouldn't go on taking socials from him any
longer. But I will; I'll give him work as long as he'll do it for
me on any terms; though, of course, it's obviously impossible under
the circumstances to let him have another go at politics, isn't
it?'

'You're really awfully kind, Lancaster,' Berkeley answered warmly.
'No other fellow would do as much for Le Breton as you do. I admit
he's absolutely impracticable, but I would give more than I can
tell you if only I thought he could be made to pull through somehow.'

'Impracticable!' the editor said shortly, 'I believe you, indeed.
Why, do you remember that ridiculous Schurz business? Well, I sent
Le Breton a cheque for eight guineas for that lot, and can you
credit it, it's remained  uncashed from that day to this. I really
think he must have destroyed it.'

'No doubt,' Arthur answered, with a smile. 'And the Bodahls? What
about them?'

'Oh! he kept that cheque for a few days uncashed--though I'm sure
he wanted money at the time; but in the end, I'm happy to say, he
cashed it.'

Arthur's countenance fell ominously.

'He did!' he said gloomily. 'He cashed it! That's bad news indeed,
then. I must go and see them to-morrow morning early. I'm afraid
they must be at the last pitch of poverty before they'd consent to
do that. And yet, Solomon says, men do not despise a thief if he
steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry. And Le Breton, after
all, has a wife and child to think of.'

Lancaster stared at him blankly, and turned aside to glance at
the telegrams, saying to himself meanwhile, that all these young
fellows of the new school alike were really quite too incomprehensible
for a sensible, practical man like himself to deal with comfortably.



CHAPTER XXXI.

DE PROFUNDIS.


After all Ernest didn't get many more socials to write for the
'Morning Intelligence,' as it happened; for the war that came on
shortly after crowded such trifles as socials fairly out of all the
papers, and he had harder work than ever to pick up a precarious
living somehow by the most casual possible contributions. Of course
he tried many other channels; but he had few introductions, and then
his views were really so absurdly ultra that no reasonable editor
could ever be expected to put up with them. He got tired at last of
seeing his well-meant papers return to him,  morning after morning,
with the unvarying legend, 'Declined with thanks;' and he might have
gone to the wall utterly but for the kindly interest which Arthur
Berkeley still took in his and Edie's future. On the very day
after his  conversation with Lancaster at the club Arthur dropped
round casually at Holloway, and brought with him a proposal which
he said had just been made him by a colonial newsagent.  It was a
transparent little ruse enough; but Ernest and Edie were not learned
in the ways of the world and did not suspect it so readily as older
and wiser heads might probably have done. Would Ernest supply a
fortnightly letter, to go by the Australian mail, to the Paramatta
'Chronicle and News,' containing London political and social gossip
of a commonplace kind--just the petty chit-chat he could pick up
easily out of 'Truth' and the 'World'--for the small sum of thirty
shillings a letter?

Yes, Ernest thought he could manage that.

Very well, then. The letter must be sent on alternate Wednesdays
to the colonial newsagent's address, and it would be duly forwarded
by mail to the office of the Paramatta  'Chronicle.' A little
suspicious, that item, Berkeley thought, but Ernest swallowed it
like a child and made no comment. It must be addressed to 'Paramatta,
care of Lane & Co.,' and the payments would be made fortnightly
through the same agency. Arthur watched his friend's face narrowly
at this point again; but Ernest in his simple-minded, unsuspecting
wasy, never noticed the obvious meaning of this little deception.
He thanked Arthur over and over again for his kindness, but he
never guessed how far it  extended. The letters kept him employed
for two days a  week, or thereabouts, and though they never got
to Paramatta, nor any farther than Arthur Berkeley's own study in
the little house he had taken for himself at Chelsea, they were
regularly paid for through the colonial newsagents, by means of
a cheque which really owed its ultimate origin to Arthur Berkeley
himsslf. Fifteen shillings a week is not a large fortune, certainly;
but still it is considerably better than nothing, when you come to
try both methods of living by practical experience.

Even so, however, Ernest and Edie had a hard struggle, with their
habits of life and Ernest's delicate health, to make both ends meet
upon that modest income. They found the necessity for recourse to
the imaginary  pawnbroker growing upon them with alarming rapidity;
and though the few small articles that they sent out for that purpose
never really went beyond kind Mrs. Halliss's kitchen dresser, yet
so far as Ernest and Edie were concerned, the effect was much the
same as if they had been really pledged to the licensed broker.
The good woman hid them away carefully in the back drawers of the
dresser, sending up as much money for the poor little trinkets as
she thought it at all credible that any man in his senses could
possibly advance--if she had given altogether too much, she thought
it probable that even the unsuspicious Le Bretons would detect the
kindly deception--at the time remarking to John that 'if ever them
pore dear young creechurs was able to redeem 'em again, why, well
an' good; an' if not, why, they could just find some excuse to
give 'em back to the dear lady after pore Mr. Le Breting was dead
an' gone, as he must be, no doubt, afore many months was over.'
What wretched stuff that is that some narrow-minded cynics love
to talk, after their cheap moralising fashion, about the coldness
and cruelty of the world! The world is not cold and cruel; it is
brimming over everywhere with kindliness and warmth of heart; and
you have only got to put yourself into the proper circumstances
in order to call forth at once on every hand, and in all classes,
its tenderest and truest sympathies. None but selfish, unsympathetic
people themselves ever find it otherwise in the day of trouble. It
is not the world that is cold and heartless--it is not the individual
members of the world that are cruel and unkind--it is the relentless
march of  circumstances--the faulty organisation which none of us
can  control, and for which none of us is personally responsible,
that grinds us to powder under its Juggernaut wheels.  Private
kindliness is for ever trying, feebly and unsuccessfully,  but with
its best efforts, to undo the evil that general mismanagement is
for ever perpetrating in its fateful course.

One day, a few weeks later, Arthur Berkeley called in again, and on
the stairs he met a child playing--a neighbour's  child whom good
Mrs. Halliss allowed to come in and amuse herself while the mother
went out charing. The girl had a bright gold object in her hand;
and Arthur, wondering  how she came by it, took it from her and
looked at it curiously. He recognised it in a moment for what it
was--a gold bracelet, a well remembered gold bracelet--the very
one that he himself had given as a wedding present to poor Edie.
He turned it over and looked closely at the inside: cut into the
soft gold he saw the one word 'Frustra,' that he himself had carved
into it with his penknife the night before the memorable wedding.

'Where did you get this?' he asked the child.

'Mrs. 'Alliss give it me,' the little one answered, beginning  to
cry.

Arthur ran lightly down the steps again, and knocked at the door of
Mrs. Halliss's kitchen, with the tell-tale  bracelet in his hand.
Mrs. Halliss opened the dcor to him respectfully, and after a faint
attempt at innocent prevarication,  felt bound to let out all the
pitiful little secret without further preamble. So Arthur, good,
kind-hearted, delicate-souled Arthur, took his seat sadly upon one
of the hard wooden kitchen chairs, and waited patiently while Mrs.
Halliss and honest John, in their roundabout inarticulate fashion,
slowly unfolded the story how them two pore young creechurs upstairs
had been druv that low through want of funs that Mrs. Le Breting,
God bless 'er 'eart, 'ad 'ad to pawn her poor little bits of
jewelry and such like: and how they 'adn't 'ad the face to go an'
pawn it for her, and so 'ad locked it up in their drawers, and
waited hopefully for better times. Arthur listened to all this with
an aching heart, and went home alone to ponder on the best way of
still further assisting them.

The only thing that occurred to him was a plan for giving Edie,
too, a little relief, in the way of what she might suppose to be
money-getting occupation. She used to paint a little in water-colours,
he remembered, in the old days; so he put an advertisement in a
morning paper, which he got Mrs. Halliss to show Edie, asking for
drawings of orchids, the flowers to be supplied and accurately copied
by an amateur at a reasonable price. Edie fell into the harmless
friendly trap readily enough, and was duly supplied with orchids by
a florist in Regent Street, who professed to receive his instructions
from the advertiser. The pictures were all produced in due time,
and were sent to a fixed address, where a gentleman in a hansom used
to call for them at regular intervals. Arthur Berkeley kept those
poor little water-colours long afterwards locked up in a certain
drawer all by themselves: they were sacred mementoes to him of that
old hopeless love for the little Miss Butterfly of his Oxford days.

With the very first three guineas that Edie earned, carefully
saved and hoarded out of her payments for the water-colours, she
insisted in the pride of her heart that Ernest should go and visit
a great London consulting physician.  Sir Antony Wraxall was the
best specialist in town on the subject of consumption, she had heard,
and she was quite sure so clever a man must do Ernest a great deal
of good, if he didn't even permanently cure him.

'It's no use, Edie darling,' Ernest said to her imploringly.  'You'll
only be wasting your hard-earned money. What I want is not advice
or medicine; I want what no doctor on earth can possibly give
me--relief from this terrible crushing responsibility.'

But Edie would bear no refusal. It was HER money, she said, the
first she had ever earned in her whole life, and she should certainly
do as she herself liked with it. Sir Antony Wraxall, she was quite
confident, would soon be able to make him better.

So Ernest, overborne by her intreaties, yielded at last, and made
an appointment with Sir Antony Wraxall. He took his quarter-hour in
due form, and told the great physician all his symptoms as though
he believed in the foolish farce. Sir Antony held his head solemnly
on one side, weighed him with puritanical scrupulosity to a quarter
of an ounce on his delicate balance, listened attentively at the
chest with his silver-mounted stethoscope, and perpended the net
result of his investigation with professional gravity; then he gave
Edie his full advice and opinion to the maximum  extent of five
minutes.

'Your husband's case is not a hopeful one, Mrs. Le Breton,' he said
solemnly, 'but still, a great deal may be done for him.' Edie's face
brightened visibly. 'With care, his life may be prolonged for many
years,--I may even say, indeed, quite indefinitely.' Edie smiled
with joy and  gratitude. 'But you must strictly observe my rules
and  directions--the same that I've just given in a similar case to
the Crown Prince of Servia who was here before you. In the first
place, your husband must give up work altogether. He must be
content to live perfectly and absolutely idle. Then, secondly, he
must live quite away from England. I should recommend the Engadine
in summer, and Algeria or the Nile trip every winter; but, if that's
beyond your means--and I understand from Mr. Le Breton that you're
in somewhat straitened circumstances--I don't object to Catania,
or Malaga, or even Mentone and the Riviera. You can rent furnished
villas for very little on the Riviera. But he must in no case come
farther north, even in summer, than the Lake of Geneva. That, I
assure you, is quite indispensable, if he wishes to live another
twelvemonth. Take him south at once, in a coupe-lit of course, and
break the journey once or twice at Lyons and Marseilles. Next, as
to diet, he must live generously--very generously. Don't let him
drink claret; claret's poor sour stuff; a pint of good  champagne
daily, or a good, full-bodied, genial vintage Burgundy would be
far better and more digestible for him. Oysters, game, sweetbreads,
red mullet, any little delicacy of that sort as much as possible.
Don't let him walk; let him have carriage exercise daily; you can
hire carriages for a mere trifle monthly at Cannes and Mentone.
Above all things, give him perfect freedom from anxiety. Allow him
to concentrate  his whole attention on the act of getting well,
and you'll find he'll improve astonishingly in no time. But if you
keep him here in England and feed him badly and neglect my directions,
I can't answer for his getting through another winter....Don't
disturb yourself, I beg of you; don't, pray, give way to tears;
there is really no occasion for it, my dear madam, no occasion for
it at all, if you'll only do as I tell you....Quite right, thank
you. Good morning.--Next case, McFarlane.--Good morning. Good
morning.'

So that was the end of weeping little Edie's poor hardly-spared
three guineas.

The very next day Arthur Berkeley happened to mount the stairs
quietly, at an earlier hour than usual, and knocked at the door
of Ernest's lodging. There was no answer, so he turned the handle,
and entered by himself. The remains of breakfast lay upon the
table. Arthur did not want to spy, but he couldn't help remarking
that these remains were extremely meagre and scanty. Half a loaf
of bread stood upon a solitary plate in the centre; a teapot and
two cups occupied one side; and--that was all. In spite of himself,
he couldn't restrain his curiosity, and he looked more closely at
the knives and plates. Not a mark of anything but crumbs upon them,
not even butter! He looked into the cups.  Nothing but milkless
tea at the bottom! Yes, the truth was only too evident; they had
had no meat for breakfast, no butter, no milk, no sugar; it was
quite clear that the meal had consisted entirely of dry bread with
plain tea--call it hot water--and that for a dying man and a delicate
over-worked lady! Arthur looked at that pitiable breakfast-table with
a twinge of remorse, and the tears rose sharply and involuntarily
into his eyes. He had not done enough for them, then; he had not
done enough for them.

Poor little Miss Butterfly! and had it really come to this! You,
so bright, so light, so airy, in want, in positive want, in hunger
even, with your good, impossible,  impracticable Ernest! Had it
come to this! Bread and water; dry bread and water! Down tears,
down; a man must be a man; but, oh, what a bitter sight for Arthur
Berkeley! And yet, what could he do to mend it? Money they would
not take; he dare not even offer it; and he was at his wit's end
for any other contrivance for serving them without their knowledge.
He must do what he could; but how he was to do it, he couldn't
imagine.

As he stood there, ruminating bitterly over that poor bare table,
he thought he heard sounds above, as of Edie coming downstairs
with Dot on her shoulder. He knew she would not like to know that
he had surprised the secret of their dire poverty; and he turned
silently and cautiously to descend the stair. There was only just
time enough to get away, for Edie was even then opening the door
of the nursery. Noiselessly, with cat-like tread, he crept down
the steps once more, and heard Edie descending, and singing as she
came down to Dot. It was a plaintive little song, in a sad key--a
plaintive little song of his own--but not wholly distressful,
Arthur thought; she could still sing, then, to her baby! With the
hot tears rising a second time to his eyes, he groped his way to
the foot of the staircase. There he brushed them hurriedly aside
with his hand, and turned out into the open street. The children
were playing and tumbling in the sun, and a languid young man
in a faultless frock coat and smooth silk hat was buying a showy
button-hole flower from the little suburban florist's opposite.

With a heavy heart Arthur Berkeley turned homeward to his own cosy
little cottage; that modest palace of art which he had once hoped
little Miss Butterfly might have shared with him. He went up the
steps, and turned quickly into his own small study. The Progenitor
was there, sitting reading in an easy-chair. 'At least,' Arthur
thought to  himself, 'I have made HIS old age happy. If I could only
do as much for little Miss Butterfly! for little Miss Butterfly!
for little Miss Butterfly! If I could only do as much for her, oh,
how happy and contented I should be!'

He flung himself down on his own sofa, and brushed big eyes nervously
with his handkerchief before he dared lookup again towards the
Progenitor. 'Father,' he said, clutching his watchchain hard and
playing with it nervously to keep down his emotion, 'I'm afraid
those poor Le Bretons are in an awfully bad way. I'm afraid, do you
know, that they actually haven't enough to eat! I went into their
rooms just now, and, would you believe it, I found nothing on the
table for breakfast but dry bread and tea!'

The Progenitor looked up quietly from the volume of Morley's 'Voltaire'
which he was at that moment placidly engaged in devouring. 'Nothing
but dry bread and tea,' he said, in what seemed to Arthur a horribly
unconcerned tone.  'Really, hadn't they? Well, I dare say they ARE
very badly off, poor people. But after all, you know, Artie, they
can't be really poor, for Le Breton told me himself he was generally
earning fifteen shillings or a pound a week, and that, you see, is
really for three people a very good income, now isn't it?'

Arthur, delicate-minded, gentle, chivalrous Arthur, gazed in surprise
and sudden distress at that dear, good, unselfish old father of
his. How extraordinary that the kindly old man couldn't grasp the
full horror of the situation! How strange that he, who would himself
have been so tender, so considerate, so womanly in his care and
sympathy towards anything that seemed to him like real poverty
or real suffering,  should have been so blinded by his long hard
workingman  life towards the peculiar difficulties and trials of
classes other than his own as not to recognise the true meaning of
that dreadful disclosure! Arthur was not angry with him--he felt
too fully at that moment what depths of genuine silent hardship
uncomplainingly endured were implied in the stoically calm frame
of mind which could treat Edie Le Breton's penury of luxuries as
a comparatively slight matter: after all, his father was right at
bottom; such mere sentimental  middle-class poverty is as nothing
to the privations of the really poor; yet he could not help feeling
a little  disappointed for all that. He wanted sympathy in his
pity, and he could clearly expect none here. 'Why, father,' he
cried bitterly, 'you don't throw yourself into the position as you
ought to do. A pound a week, paid regularly, would be a splendid
income of course for people brought up like you or me. But just
consider how those two young people have been brought up! Consider
their wants and their habits!  Consider the luxury they have been
accustomed to! And then think of their being obliged to want now
almost for food in their last extremity!'

His father answered in the same quiet tone--not hardly, but calmly,
as though he were discussing a problem in  political economy instead
of the problem of Edie Le Breton's happiness--'Well, you see, it's
all a matter of the standard of comfort. These two friends of yours
have been brought up above their future; and now that they're got
to come down to their natural level, why, of course, they feel it,
depend upon it, they feel it. Their parents, of course, shouldn't
have accustomed them to a style of life above their station. Good
dry bread, not too stale, does nobody any harm: still, I dare say
they don't like coming down to it.  But bless your heart, Artie,
if you'd seen the real want and poverty that I've seen, my boy--the
actual hunger and cold and nakedness that I've known honest working
people brought down to by no work, and nothing but the House open
before them, or not that even, you wouldn't think so much of the
sentimental grievances of people who are earning fifteen shillings
a week in ease and comfort.'

'But, Father,' Arthur went on, scarcely able to keep down the
rising tone of indignation at such seeming  heartlessness, 'Ernest
doesn't earn even that always. Sometimes he earns nothing, or next
to nothing; and it's the  uncertainty and insecurity that tells
upon them even more than the poverty itself. Oh, Father, Father,
you who have always been so good and kind, I never heard you speak
so cruelly about anyone before as you're speaking now about that
poor, friendless, helpless, penniless, heart-broken little woman!'

The old shoemaker caught at the word suddenly, and looking him
through and through with an unexpected gleam of discovery, laid
down the life of Voltaire on the table with a bang, and sat straight
upright in his chair, nodding his head, and muttering slowly to
himself, 'Little woman--he said "little woman!" Poor Artie, Poor
Artie!' in a tone of inexpressible pity. At last he turned to Arthur
and cried with a voice of womanly tenderness, 'My boy, my boy, I
didn't know before it was the lassie you were thinking of; I thought
it was only poor young Le Breton. I see it all now; I've surprised
your secret; you've let it out to me without knowing it. Oh, Artie,
if that's She, I'm sorry for her, and I'm sorry for you, my boy,
from the bottom of my heart. If that's She, Artie, we'll put our
heads together, and see what plan we can manage to save her from
what she has never been accustomed to. Don't think too hardly of
your old Progenitor, Artie; he hasn't mixed with these people all
his life, and learned to sympathise with them as you've done, my
son; he doesn't understand them or know their troubles as you do:
but if that's her that you told me about one day, we shall find the
means to make her happy and comfortable yet, if we have to starve
for it. Dear Arthur, do not think I could be harsh or unfeeling
for a moment to the woman that you ever once in passing fixed your
heart upon. Let's talk it over and think it over, and sooner or
later we'll surely find the way to accomplish it.'



CHAPTER XXXII.

PRECONTRACT OF MARRIAGE.


Whether Ronald Le Breton's abstruse speculations on the theory of
heredity were well founded or not, it certainly did happen, at any
rate, that the more he saw of Selah Briggs the better he liked her;
and the more Selah saw of him the better she liked him in return.
Curiously enough, too, Selah did actually recognise in him what
he fancied he  recognised in himself, that part of his brother's
nature (not all wholly assumed) which was just what Selah had
first been drawn to admire in Herbert himself. It wasn't merely
the originality of his general point of view: it was something more
deep-seated and undefinable than that--in a word, his idiosyncrasy.
Selah Briggs, with her peculiar fiery soul and rebellious nature,
found in both the Le Bretons something that seemed at once to satisfy
her wants, to fulfil her desires, to saturate her affinities: and
with Ronald, as with Herbert before, she was conscious of a certain
awe and respect which was all the more pleasant to her because
her untamed spirit had never felt anything like it with any other
human being.  She didn't understand them, and she didn't want to
understand  them: that constituted just the very charm of their
whole personality to her peculiar fancy. All the other people she
had ever met were as transparent as glass, for good or for evil;
she could see through all their faults and virtues as easily as
one sees through a window: the Le Bretons were to her inscrutable,
novel, incomprehensible, inexplicable, and she prized them for
their very inscrutability.  And so it came to pass, that almost by
a process of natural and imperceptible transference, she passed on
at last to Ronald's account very much the same intensity of feeling
that she had formerly felt towards his brother Herbert.

But at the same time, Selah never for a moment let him see it. She
was too proud to confess now that she could ever love another man:
the Mr. Walters she had once believed  in had never, never, never
existed: and she would raise no other idol in future to take the
place of that vanished ideal. She was grateful to Ronald, and even
fond of him: but that was all-outwardly at least. She never let him
see, by word or act, that in her heart of hearts she was  beginning
to love him. And yet Ronald instinctively knew it.  He himself
could not have told you why; but he knew it.  Even a woman cannot
hide a secret from a man with that peculiarly penetrating intuitive
temperament which belongs to sensitive, delicate types like Ronald
Le Breton's.

One Sunday evening, when Selah had been spending a few hours at
Edie's lodgings (Ronald always made it an  excuse for finding them
a supper, on the ground that Selah was really his guest, though he
could not conveniently ask her to his own rooms), he walked home
towards Notting Hill with Selah; and as they crossed the Regent's
Park, he took the opportunity to say something to her that he had
had upon his mind for a few weeks past, in some vague,  indefinite,
half-unconscious fashion.

'Selah,' he began, a little timidly, 'don't you think it's very
probable we shan't have Ernest here much longer with us?'

'I'm afraid it is, Ronald,' Selah answered. She had got quite
accustomed now to calling him Ronald. With such a poor, weak, sickly
fellow as that, why really, after all, it did not much matter.

'Well, Selah,' Ronald went on, gravely, his eyes filling with
tears as he spoke, 'in that case, you know, I can't think what's
to become of poor Edie. It's a dreadful  contingency to talk about,
Selah, and I can't bear talking about it; but we MUST face these
things, however terrible, mustn't we? and in this case one's
absolutely bound to face it for poor Edie's sake as well as for
Ernest's. Selah, she must have a home to go to, when dear Ernest's
taken from us.'

'I'm very sorry for her, Ronald,' Selah answered, with unusual
softness of manner, 'but I really don't see how a home can possibly
be provided for her.'

'I do,' Ronald answered, more calmly; 'and for their sakes, Selah,
I want you to help me in trying to provide it.'

'How?' Selah asked, looking up in his face curiously, as they passed
into a ray of lamplight.

'Listen, Selah, and I'll tell you. Why, by marrying me.'

'Never?' Selah answered, firmly, and with a decided tinge of the old
Adam in her trembling voice. 'Never, Ronald! Never, never, never!'

'Wait a minute, Selah,' Ronald pleaded, 'till you've heard the
end of what I have to say to you. Consider that when dear Ernest's
gone (oh! Selah, you must excuse me; it makes me cry so to think
of it), there'll be nowhere on earth for poor little Edie and Dot
to go to.'

'Did ever a man propose to a girl so extraordinarily in all this
world,' Selah thought to herself, angrily. 'He actually expects me
to marry him in order to provide a home for his precious sister-in-law.
That's really carrying  unselfishness a step too far, I call it.'

'Edie couldn't come and live with me, of course,' Ronald went on,
quickly, 'if I were a bachelor; but if I were married, why then,
naturally, she and Dot could come and live with us; and she could
earn a little money somehow, no doubt; and, at any rate, it'd be
better for her than starvation.'

Selah stopped a minute, and tapped the hard ground two or three
times angrily with the point of her umbrella. 'And me, Ronald?'
she said in a curious defiant voice. 'And ME?  I suppose you've
forgotten all about ME. You don't ask me to marry you because
you love me; you don't ask me whether I love you or not; you only
propose to me that I should quietly turn domestic housekeeper for
Mrs. Ernest Le Breton.  And for my part, I answer you plainly, once
for all, that I'm not going to do it--no, never, never, never!'

She spoke haughtily, flashing her eyes at him in the fierce old
fashion, and Ronald was almost frightened at the angry intensity
of her contemptuous gestures. 'Selah,' he cried, trying to take
her hand, which she tore away from him hurriedly: 'Selah, you
misunderstand me. I only approached the subject that way because
I didn't want to seem overweening  and presumptuous. It's a very
great piece of vanity, it seems to me, for any man to ask a woman
whether she loves him. I'm too conscious of all my own faults and
failings,  Selah, to venture upon asking you ever to love me; but
I do love you, Selah, I'm sure I do love you; and I hoped, I somehow
fancied--it may have been mere fancy, but I DID imagine--that I
detected, I can't say how, that you did really love me, too, just
a very very little. Oh, Selah, it's because I really love you that
I ask you whether you'll marry me, such as I am; I know I'm a poor
sort of person to marry, but I ventured to hope you might love me
just a little for all that.'

He looked so frail and gentle as he stood there pleading in the
pale moonlight, that Selah could have taken him to her bosom then
and there and fondled him as one would pet a sick child, for pure
womanliness; but the devil in her blood kept her from doing it, and
she answered haughtily, instead: 'Ronald, if you wanted to marry
me, you ought to have asked me for my own sake. Now that you've
asked me for another's, you can't expect me to give you an answer.
Keep your money, my poor boy; you'll want it all for you and her
hereafter; don't go sharing it and spending it on perfect strangers
such as me. And don't go talking to me again about this business
as long as your sister-in-law is unprovided for. I'm not going to
take the bread out of her mouth, and I'm not going to marry a man
who doesn't utterly and  entirely love me.'

'But I do,' Ronald answered, earnestly; 'I do, Selah; I love you
truly and faithfully from the very bottom of my heart.'

'Leave off, Roland,' Selah said in the same angry tone.  'If you
ever talk to me of this again, I give you my word of honour about
it, I'll never speak another word to you.'

And Ronald, who deeply respected the sanctity of a promise, were
it only a threat, bided his time, and said no more about it for
the present.

Next day, as Ronald sat reading in his own rooms, he was much
surprised at hearing a well-known voice at the door, inquiring
with some asperity whether Mr. Le Breton was at home. He listened
to the voice in intense astonishment. It was his mother's.

'Ronald,' Lady Le Breton began, the moment she had been shown into
his little sitting-room, 'I didn't think, after your undutiful,
ungrateful conduct--with that abominable woman, too--that I should
ever have come to see you, unless you came first, as you ought
clearly to do, and begged my pardon penitently for your disgraceful
behaviour. It's hard, I know, to acknowledge oneself in the wrong,
but every Christian ought to be above vindictiveness and obstinate
self-will; and I expect you, therefore, sooner or later, to come
and ask forgiveness for your dreadful unkindness to me. Till then,
as I said, I didn't expect to call upon you in any way.  But I've
felt compelled to-day to come and speak to you about a matter
of duty, and as a matter of duty strictly I regard it, not as any
relaxation of my just attitude of indignant  expectancy towards
yourself; no parent ought rightly to  overlook such conduct as
yours on the part of a son.' Ronald inclined his head respectfully.
'Well, what I've come to speak to you about to-day, Ronald, is
about your poor  misguided brother Ernest. He, too, as you know,
has behaved very badly to me.'

'No,' Ronald answered stoutly, without further note or comment.
Where the matter touched himself only he could maintain a decent
silence, but where it touched poor dying Ernest he couldn't possibly
restrain himself, even from a sense of filial obligation.

'Very badly to me,' Lady Le Breton went on sternly, without in any
way noticing the brief interruption, 'and I can't, of course, go
to see him either, especially not as I should by so doing expose
myself to meeting the person whom he has chosen to make his wife.
Still, as I hear that Ernest a in a very serious or even dangerous
condition----'

'He's dying,' Ronald answered, the quick tears once more finding
the easy road to his eyes as usual.

'I considered, as a mother, it was my duty to warn him to take a
little thought about his soul.'

'His soul!' Ronald exclaimed in astonishment. 'Ernest's soul! Why,
mother, dear Ernest has no need to look after his soul. He doesn't
take that sordid, petty, limited view of our relations with
eternity, and of our relations with the  Infinite, which makes them
all consist of the miserable, selfish, squalid desire to save our
own poor personal little souls at all hazards. Ernest has something
better and nobler to think of, I can assure you, than such a mere
self-centred idea as that.'

'Ronald!' Lady Breton exclaimed, drawing herself up with much
dignity; 'how on earth you, who have always pretended to be a
religious person, can utter such a shocking and wicked sentiment
as that, really passes my comprehension.  What in the world is
religion for, I should like to know, if it isn't to teach us how
to save our own souls? But the particular  thing I want to speak
to you about is just this: couldn't you manage to induce Ernest to
see the Archdeacon a little, and let the Archdeacon speak to him
about his deplorable spiritual condition? I thought about you both
so much at church yesterday, when the dear Archdeacon was preaching
such a beautiful sermon; his text was like this, as far as I can
remember it. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but
the end thereof are the ways of death." I couldn't help thinking
all the time of my own two poor rebellious boys, and of the path
that their misguided notions were leading them on. For I believe
Ernest does really somehow persuade himself  that he's in the
right--it's inconceivable, but it's the fact; and I'm afraid the end
thereof will be the ways of death; and then, as the dear Archdeacon
said, "After death the judgment." Oh, Ronald, when I think of your
poor dear brother Ernest's open unbelief, it makes me tremble for
his future, so that I couldn't rest upon my bed until I'd been to
see you and urged you to go and try to save him.'

'Mother,' Ronald said with that tone in which he was well accustomed
to answering Lady Le Breton's religious harangues; 'I don't think
you need feel any uneasiness whatever on dear Ernest's account,
so far as all that's  concerned. What does HE want with saving
his soul, mother?  "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it."
Remember what is written: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord,
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."'

'But, Ronald,' Lady Le Breton continued, half angrily, 'consider
his unbelief, his dreadful opinions, his errors of doctrine! How
on earth can we be happy about him when we think of those?'

'I don't think, Mother,' Ronald answered gently, 'that Infinite
Justice and Infinite Love take much account of a man's opinions.
They take account of his life and soul only, not of the correctness
of his propositions in dogmatic theology; "Other sheep have I which
are not of this fold--them also must I bring."'

'It seems to me, Ronald,' Lady Le Breton rejoined coldly, 'that
you don't in the least care for whatever is most distinctive and
characteristic in the whole of Christian  doctrine. You talk so
very very differently on religious subjects from that dear, good,
excellent Archdeacon.'



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE.


Lady Hilda Tregellis rang the bell resolutely. 'I shall have no
more nonsense about it,' she said to herself in her most decisive
and determined manner. 'Whether mamma wishes it or not, I shall go
and see them this very day  without another word upon the subject.'

The servant answered the bell and stood waiting for his orders by
the doorway.

'Harris, will you tell Jenkins at once that I shall want
the carriage at half-past eleven?'

'Yes, my lady.'

'All right then. That'll do. Don't stand staring at me there like
an image, but go this minute and do as I tell you.'

'Beg pardon, my lady, but her ladyship said she wanted the carriage
herself at twelve puncshual.'

'She can't have it, then, Harris. That's all. Go and give my message
to Jenkins at once, and I'll settle about the carriage with my lady
myself.'

'She's the rummest young lady ever I come across,' the man murmured
to himself in a dissatisfied fashion, as he went down the stairs
again: 'but there, it's none of my business, thank goodness. The
places and the people she does go and hunt up when she's got the
fit on are truly ridic'lous: blest if she didn't acshally make Mr.
Jenkins drive her down into Camberwell the other mornin', to see
'ow the poor lived, she said; as if it mattered tuppence to us in
our circles of society 'ow the poor live. I wonder what little game
she's up to now? Well, well, what the aristocracy is coming to in
these days is more'n I can fathom, as sure as my name's William
'Arris.'

The little game that Lady Hilda was up to that morning was one that
a gentleman in Mr. Harris's position was  certainly hardly like to
appreciate or sympathise with.

The evening before, she had met Arthur Berkeley once more at a small
At Home, and had learned from him full particulars as to the dire
straits into which the poor Le Bretons had finally fallen. Now,
Hilda Tregellis was a kind-hearted girl at bottom, and when she
heard all about it, she said at once to Arthur, 'I shall go and
see them  myself to-morrow, Mr. Berkeley, whether mamma allows me
or not.'

'What good will it do?' Arthur had answered her quickly. 'You
can't find work for poor Le Breton, can you? and of course if you
can't do that you can be of no earthly use in any way to the poor
creatures.'

'I don't know about that,' Hilda responded warmly.  'Sympathy's
always something, isn't it, Mr. Berkeley?  Nobody ought to know that
better than you do. Besides, there's no saying when one may happen
to turn up useful.  Of course, I've never been of the slightest use
to anybody in all my life, myself, I know, and I dare say I never
shall be, but at least there's no harm in trying, is there? I'm on
speaking terms with such an awful lot of people, all of them rich
and many of them influential--Parliament, and Government  offices,
and all that sort of nonsense, you know--people who have no end
of things to give away, and can't tell who on earth they'd better
give them to, for fear of offending all the others, that I might
possibly hear of something or other.'

'I'm afraid, Lady Hilda,' Berkeley answered smiling, 'none of those
people would have anything to offer that could possibly be of the
slightest use to poor Le Breton. If he's to be saved at all, he
must be saved in his own time and by his own methods. For my own
part, I don't see what conceivable chance of success in life there
is left for him.  You can't imagine a man like him making money
and living comfortably. It's a tragedy--all the dramas of real life
always ARE tragedies; but I'm terribly afraid there's no  conceivable
way out of it.'

Lady Hilda only looked at him with bold good humour.  'Nonsense,'
she said bravely. 'All pure rubbishing pessimistic  nonsense. (I
hope pessimistic's the right word--it's a very good word, anyhow,
even if it isn't in the proper place.) Well, I don't agree with you
at all about this question, Mr. Berkeley. I'm very fond of Mr. Le
Breton, really very fond of him; and I believe there's a corner
somewhere for every man if only he can jog down properly into his
own corner instead of being squeezed forcibly into somebody else's.
The worst of it is, all the holes are round, and Mr.  Le Breton's
a square man, I allow: he wants all the angles cutting down off
him.'

'But you can't cut them off; that's the very trouble,' Arthur answered,
with just a faint rising suspicion that he was half jealous of the
interest Hilda showed even in poor lonely Ernest Le Breton. Gracious
heavens! could he be playing false at last to the long-cherished
memory of little Miss Butterfly? could he be really beginning to
fall just a little in love, after all, with this bold beautiful
Lady Hilda Tregellis? He didn't know, and yet he somehow hardly
liked himself to think it. And while Edie was still so poor too!

'No, you can't cut them off; I know that perfectly well,' Hilda
rejoined quickly. 'I wouldn't care twopence for him if I thought
you could. It's the angles that give him all his charming delicious
originality. But you can look out a square hole for him somewhere,
you know, and that of course would be a great deal better. Depend
upon it, Mr. Berkeley, there are square holes up and down in the
world, if only we knew where to look for them; and the mistake
that everybody  has made in poor Mr. Le Breton's case has been that
instead of finding one to suit him, they've gone on trying to poke
him down anyhow by main force into one of the round ones. That
goes against the grain, you know; besides which I call it a clear
waste of the very valuable solid mahogany corners.'

Arthur Berkeley looked at her silently for a moment, as if a gleam
of light had burst suddenly in upon him. Then he said to her slowly
and deliberately, 'Perhaps you're right, Lady Hilda, though I never
thought of it quite in that light before. But one thing certainly
strikes me now, and that is that you're a great deal cleverer after
all than I ever thought you.'

Lady Hilda made a little mock curtsey. 'It's very good of you to
say so,' she answered, half-saucily. 'Only the compliment is rather
double-edged, you must confess, because it implies that up to now
you've had a dreadfully low opinion of my poor little intelligence.'

So after that conversation Lady Hilda made up her mind that she
would certainly go the very next day and call as soon as possible
upon Edie Le Breton. Nobody could tell what good might possibly
come of it; but at least there could come no harm. And so, when the
carriage drew up it the door at half-past eleven, Hilda Tregellis
stepped into it with a vague consciousness of an important mission,
and ordered Jenkins to drive at once to the side street in  Holloway,
whose address Arthur Berkeley had last night given her. Jenkins
touched his hat with mechanical respect, but inwardly wondered what
the dickens my lady would think if only she came to know of these
'ere extrornary goin's on.

At the door of the lodgings Hilda alighted and rang the bell herself.
Good Mrs. Halliss opened the door, and answered quickly that Mrs.
Le Breton was at home. Her woman's eye detected at once the coronet
on the carriage, and she was ready to burst with delight when the
tall visitor handed her a card for Edie, bearing the name of Lady
Hilda Tregellis. It was almost the first time that Edie had had
any lady callers; certainly the first time she had had any of such
social distinction; and Mrs. Halliss made haste to usher her up in
due form, and then ran down hastily to communicate the good news
to honest John, who in his capacity of past coachman was already
gazing out of the area window with deep interest at the carriage
and horses.

'There, John dear,' she cried, with tears of joy in her eyes,
forgetting in her excitement to drat the man for not being in the
back kitchen, 'to think that we should see a carriage an' pair like
that there a-drawin' up in front of out own very 'ouse, and Lady
'Ilder Tergellis, or summat o' the sort, a-comin' 'ere to see that
dear little lady in the parlour, why, it's enough to make one's
'eart burst, nearly, just you see now if it reelly isn't. You could
a' knocked me down with a feather, a'most, when that there Lady
'Ilder 'anded me 'er curd, and asked so sweet-like if Mrs. Le
Breting was at 'ome. Mr. Le Breting's people is comin' round, you
may be sure of it; 'is mother's a lady of title, that much we know
for certing; and she wouldn't go and let 'er own flesh an' blood
die 'ere of downright poverty, as they're like to do and won't let
us 'elp it, pore dears, without sendin' round to inquire and assist
'em. Married against 'er will, I understand, from what that dear
Mr. Berkeley, bless 'is kind 'eart, do tell me; not as I can believe
'e married beneath 'im, no, not no ways; for a sweeter, dearer,
nicer little lady than our Mrs. Le Breting I never did, an' that
I tell you. Sweeter manners you never did see yourself, John, for
all you've lived among the aristocracy: an' I always knew 'is people
'ud come round at last, and do what was right by 'im. An' you may
depend upon it, John, this 'ere Lady 'Ilder's one of his relations,
an' she's come round on a message from Lady Le Breting, to begin
a reconciliation. And though we should be sorry to lose 'em, as
'as stood by 'em through all their troubles, I'm glad to 'ear it,
John, that I am, for I can't a-bear to see that dear young fellow
a-eatin' 'is life out with care and anxiety.' And Mrs. Halliss, who
had always felt convinced in her own mind that Ernest must really
be the unacknowledged heir to a splendid fortune, began to wipe
her eyes violently in her delight at this evident realisation of
her wildest fancies and wishes.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the little parlour, Edie had risen in some
trepidation as Mrs. Halliss placed in her hands Lady Hilda Tregellis's
card. Ernest was out, gone to walk feebly around the streets of
Holloway, and she hardly knew at first what to say to so unexpected
a visitor. But Lady Hilda put her almost at her ease at once
by coming up to her with both her arms outstretched, as to an old
friend, and saying, with one of her pleasantest smiles:

'You must forgive me, Mrs. Le Breton, for never having come to
call on you before; but I have been long meaning to, and doubting
whether you would care to see me or not. You know, I'm a very old
friend of your husband's--he was SO kind to me always when he was
down at our place in dear old Devonshire. (You're a Devonshire girl
yourself, aren't you?  just as I am. I thought so. I'm so glad of
it. I always get on so well with the dear old Devonshire folk.)
Well, I've been meaning to come for ever so long, and putting
it off, and putting it off, and putting it off, as one WILL put
things off, you know, when you're not quite sure about them, until
last evening. And then our friend, Mr. Arthur Berkeley, who knows
everybody, talked to me about your husband and you, and told me
he thought you wouldn't mind my coming to see you, for he fancied
you hadn't much society up here that you cared for or sympathised
with: though, of course, I'm dreadfully afraid of coming to call
upon you, because I know you're the sister of that very clever Mr.
Oswald, whose sad death we were all so sorry to hear about in the
papers; and naturally, as you've lived so much with him and with
Mr. Le Breton, you must be so awfully learned and all that sort of
thing, and no doubt despise ignorant people like myself dreadfully.
But you really mustn't despise me, Mrs. Le Breton, because, you
see, I haven't had all the advantages that you've had; indeed, the
only clever people I've ever met in all my life are your husband
and Mr. Arthur Berkeley, except, of course, Cabinet ministers and
so forth, and they don't count,  because they're political, and so
very old, and solemn, and grand, and won't take any notice of us
girls, except to sit upon us. So that's what's made me rather afraid
to call upon you, because I thought you'd be quite too much in
the higher education way for a girl like me; and I haven't got any
education at all, except in rubbish, as your husband used always
to tell me. And now I want you to tell me all about Mr. Le Breton,
and the baby--Dot, you call her, Mr. Berkeley told me--and yourself,
too; for, though I've never seen you before, I feel, of course,
like an old friend of the family, having known your husband so very
intimately.'

Lady Hilda designedly delivered all this long harangue straight
off without a break, in her go-ahead, breathless, voluble fashion,
because she felt sure Edie wouldn't feel perfectly at her ease at
first, and she wanted to give her time to recover from the first
foolish awe of that meaningless prefix, Lady. Moreover, Lady Hilda,
in spite of her offhand manner was a good psychologist, and a true
woman: and she had concocted her little speech on the spur of the
moment with some cleverness, so as just to suit her instinctive
reading of Edie's small personal peculiarities. She saw in a moment
that that slight, pale, delicate girl was lost in London, far from
her own home and surroundings; and that the passing allusion to
their common Devonshire origin would please and conciliate her, as
it always does with the clannish, warm-hearted, simple-minded West
Country folk. Then again, the deft hints as to their friendship
with Arthur Berkeley, as to Ernest's stay at Dunbude, and as to
her own fear lest Edie should be too learned for her, all tended
to bring out whatever  points of interest they had together: while
the casual touch about poor Harry's reputation, and the final
mention of little Dot by name, completed the conquest of Edie's
simple, gentle little woman's heart. So this was the great Lady
Hilda Tregellis, she thought, of whom she had heard so much, and
whom she had dreaded so greatly as a grand rival!  Why, after all,
she was exactly like any other Devonshire girl in Calcombe Pomeroy,
except, perhaps, that she was easier to get on with, and smiled a
great deal more pleasantly than ten out of a dozen.

'It's very kind indeed of you to come,' Edie answered, smiling back
as well as she was able the first moment that Lady Hilda allowed
her a chance to edge in a word sideways.  'Ernest will be so very
very sorry that he's missed you when he comes in. He's spoken to
me a great deal about you ever so many times.'

'No, has he really?' Lady Hilda asked quickly, with unmistakable
interest and pleasure. 'Well, now, I'm so glad of that, for to tell
you the truth, Mrs. Le Breton, though he was really always very
kind to me, and so patient with all my stupidity, I more than
half fancied he didn't exactly like me.  In fact, I was dreadfully
afraid he thought me a perfect nuisance. I'm so sorry he isn't in,
because the truth is, I came partly to see him as well as to see
you, and I should be awfully disappointed if I had to miss him.
Where's he gone, if I may ask? Perhaps I may be able to wait and
see him.'

'Oh, he's only out walking somewhere--ur--somewhere about Holloway,'
Edie answered, half blushing at the nature of their neighbourhood,
and glancing round the little room to see how it was likely to
strike so grand a person as Lady Hilda Tregellis.

Hilda noticed the glance, and made as if she did not notice it. Her
heart had begun to warm at once to this poor, pale, eager-looking
little woman, who had had the doubtful happiness of winning Ernest
Le Breton's love.  'Then I shall certainly wait and see him, Mrs. Le
Breton.' she said cordially. 'What a dear cosy little room you've
got here, to be sure. I do so love those nice bright little
cottage parlours, with their pretty pots of flowers and  cheerful
furniture--so much warmer and more comfortable, you know, than the
great dreary empty barns that most people go and do penance by
living in. If ever I marry--which I don't suppose I ever shall do,
for nobody'll have me, I'm sorry to say: at least, nobody but stupid
people in the peerage, Algies and Berties and Monties I always call
them--well, if I ever do marry, I shall have a cosy little house
just like this one, with no unnecessary space to walk over every
time you come in or out, and with a chance of keeping yourself
warm without having to crone over the fire in order to get safely
out of the horrid draughts. And Dot, now let me see, how old is
she by this time? I ought to remember, I'm sure, for Mr. Berkeley
told me all about her at the time; and I said should I write and
ask if I might stand as godmother; and Mr. Berkeley laughed at
me, and said what could I be dreaming of, and did I think you were
going to make your baby liable to fine and imprisonment if it ever
published works hereafter on philosophy or something of the sort.
So delightfully original of all of you, really.'

Once started on that fertile theme of female conversation, Edie and
Hilda got on well enough in all conscience to satisfy the most
exacting mind. Dot was duly brought in and exhibited by Mrs. Halliss;
and was pronounced to be the very sweetest, dearest, darlingest
little duck ever seen on earth since the beginning of all things.
Her various points of likeness to all her relations were duly
discussed; and Hilda took particular pains to observe that she
didn't in the very faintest degree resemble that old horror, Lady
Le Breton. Then her whole past history was fully related, she had
been fed on, and what illnesses she had had, and how many teeth
she had got, and all the other delightful nothings so perennially
interesting to the maternal heart.  Hilda listened to the whole
account with unfeigned attention,  and begged leave to be allowed
to dance Dot in her own strong arms, and tickled her fat cheek with
her slender forefinger, and laughed with genuine delight when the
baby smiled again at her and turned her face to be tickled a second
time. Gradually Hilda brought the conversation round to Ernest's
journalistic experiences, and at last she said very quietly, 'I'm
sorry to learn from Mr. Berkeley, dear, that your husband doesn't
get quite as much work to do as he would like to have.'

Edie's tender eyes filled at once with swimming tears.  That one
word 'dear,' said so naturally and simply, touched her heart at
once with its genuine half unspoken sympathy.  'Oh, Lady Hilda,'
she answered falteringly, 'please don't make me talk about that.
We are so very, very, very poor.  I can't bear to talk about it to
you. Please, please don't make me.'

Hilda looked at her with the moisture welling up in her own eyes
too, and said softly, 'I'm SO sorry: dear, dear little Mrs. Le
Breton, I'm so very, very, very sorry for you! from the bottom of
my heart I'm sorry for you.'

'It isn't for myself, you know,' Edie answered quickly: 'for
myself, of course, I could stand anything; but it's the trouble
and privations for darling Ernest. Oh, Lady Hilda, I can't bear to
say it, but he's dying, he's dying.'

Hilda took the pretty small hand affectionately in hers.  'Don't,
dear, don't,' she said, brushing away a tear from her own eyes at
the same time. 'He isn't, believe me, he isn't.  And don't call
me by that horrid stiff name, dear, please don't. Call me Hilda.
I should be so pleased and flattered if you would call me Hilda.
And may I call you Edie? I know your husband calls you Edie, because
Mr. Ronald Le Breton told me so. I want to be a friend of yours;
and I feel sure, if only you will let me, that we might be very
good and helpful friends indeed together.'

Edie pressed her hand softly. How very different from the imaginary
Lady Hilda she had. pictured to herself in her timid, girlish fancy!
How much even dear Ernest had been mistaken as to what there was
of womanly really in her. 'Oh, don't speak so kindly to me,' she
said imploringly; 'don't speak so kindly, or else you'll make me
cry. I can't bear to hear you speak so kindly.'

'Cry, dear,' Lady Hilda whispered in a gentle tone, kissing her
forehead delicately as she spoke: 'cry and relieve yourself. There'a
nothing gives one so much comfort when one's heart is bursting as a
regular good downright cry.' And, suiting the action to the word,
forthwith Lady Hilda laid her own statuesque head down beside Edie's,
and so those two weeping women, rivals once in a vague way, and
now bound to one another by a new-found tie, mingled their tears
silently together for ten minutes in unuttered sympathy.

As they sat there, both tearful and speechless, with Lady Hilda
soothing Edie's wan hand tenderly in hers, and leaning above her,
and stroking her hair softly with a sister's fondness, the door
opened very quietly, and Arthur Berkeley stood for a moment pausing
in the passage, and looking in without a word upon the unexpected
sight that greeted his wondering vision. He had come to call upon
Ernest about some possible opening for a new writer on a paper lately
started; and hearing the sound of sobs within had opened the door
quietly and tentatively. He could hardly believe his own eyes when
he actually saw Lady Hilda Tregellis sitting there side by side
with Edie Le Breton, kissing her pale forehead a dozen times in
a minute, and crying over her like a child with unwonted tears of
unmistakable sympathy. For ten seconds Arthur held the door ajar
in his hands, and gazed silently with the awe of chivalrous respect
upon the tearful, beautiful picture. Then he shut the door again
noiselessly and unperceived, and stole softly out into the street
to wait alone for Ernest's return. It was not for him to intrude
his unbidden presence upon the sacred sorrow of those two weeping
sister-women.

He lighted a cigar outside, and walked up and down a neighbouring
street feverishly till he thought it likely the call would be
finished. 'Dear little Mrs. Le Breton,' he said to himself softly,
'dear little Miss Butterfly of the days that are dead; softened
and sweetened still more by suffering, with the beauty of holiness
glowing in your face, how I wish some good for you could unexpectedly
come out of this curious visit. Though I don't see how it's
possible: I don't see how it's possible. The stream carries us all
down unresistingly before its senseless flood, and sweeps us at
last, sooner or later, like helpless logs, into the unknown sea.
Poor Ernest is drifting fast thitherwards before the current, and
nothing on earth, it seems to me, can conceivably stop him!'

He paced up and down a little, with a quick, unsteady tread, and
took a puff or two again at his cigar abstractedly.  Then he held
it thoughtfully between his fingers for a while and began to hum
a few bars from his own new opera then in course of composition--a
stately long-drawn air, it was.  something like the rustle of Hilda
Tregellis's satin train as she swept queenlike down the broad marble
staircase of some great Elizabethan country palace. 'And dear Lady
Hilda too,' he went on, musingly: 'dear, kind, sympathising Lady
Hilda. Who on earth would ever have thought she had it in her to
comfort that poor, weeping, sorrowing girl as I just now saw her
doing? Dear Lady Hilda! Kind Lady Hilda!  I have undervalued you
and overlooked you, because of the mere accident of your titled
birth, but I could have kissed you myself, for pure gratitude,
that very minute, Hilda Tregellis, when I saw you stooping down and
kissing that dear white forehead that looked so pale and womanly
and beautiful. Yes, Hilda, I could have kissed you. I could have
kissed your own grand, smooth, white marble forehead.  And no very
great trial of endurance, either, Arthur Berkeley, if it comes to
that; for say what you will of her, she's a beautiful, stately,
queenlike woman indeed; and it somehow strikes me she's a truer
and better woman, too, than you have ever yet in your shallow
superficiality imagined. Not like little Miss Butterfly! Oh, no,
not like little Miss Butterfly! But still, there are keys and keys
in music; and if every tune was pitched to the self-same key, even
the tenderest, what a monotonous, dreary world it would be to live
and sing in after all. Perhaps a man might make himself a little
shrine not wholly without sweet savour of pure incense for beautiful,
stately, queenlike  Hilda Tregellis too! But no; I mustn't think
of it.  I have no other duty or prospect in life possible as yet
while dear little Miss Butterfly still remains practically unprovided
for!'



CHAPTER XXXIV.

HOPE.


From Edie Le Breton's lodgings, Hilda Tregellis drove straight,
without stopping all the way, to Arthur Berkeley's house at Chelsea;
for Arthur had long since risen to the dignity of an enfranchised
householder, and had bought himself a pretty cottage near the
Embankment, with room enough for himself and the Progenitor, and
even for any possible future domestic contingency in the way of
wife and children. It was a very unconventional thing for her to
do, no doubt; but Lady Hilda was certainly not the person to be
deterred from doing anything she contemplated on the bare ground
of its extreme unconventionally; and so far was she from objecting
personally to her visit on this score, that before she rang the
Berkeleys' bell she looked quietly at her little bijou watch, and
said with a bland smile to the suspicious Mr. Jenkins, 'Let me see,
Jenkins; it's one o'clock. I shall lunch with my friends here this
morning; so you may take the carriage home now for my lady, and I
shall cab it back, or come round by Metropolitan.' Jenkins was too
much accustcmed to Lady Hilda's unaccountable vagaries to express
any surprise at her wildest resolutions, even if she had proposed
to go home on a costermonger's barrow; so he only touched his hat
respectfully, in his marionette fashion, and drove away at once
without further colloquy.

'Is Mr. Berkeley at home?' Hilda asked of the pretty servant girl
who opened the door to her, mentally taking note at the same time
that Arthur's aesthetic tendencies evidently extended even to his
human surroundings.

'Which Mr. Berkeley?' the girl asked in reply. 'Mr.  Berkeley
senerer, 'e's at 'ome, but Mr. Arthur, 'e's gone up this mornin'
to 'Olloway.'

Hilda seized with avidity upon this unexpected and almost providential
opening. 'No, is he?' she said, delighted.  'Then I'll go in and see
Mr. Berkeley senior. No card, thank you: no name: tell him merely
a lady would like to see him. I dare say Mr. Arthur'll be back
before long from Holloway.'

The girl hesitated a moment as if in doubt, and surveyed Lady Hilda
from head to foot. Hilda, whose eyes were still red from crying,
couldn't help laughing outright at the obvious cause of the girl's
hesitation. 'Do as I tell you,' she said in her imperious way. 'Who
on earth do you take me for, my good girl? That's my card, see: but
you needn't give it to Mr. Berkeley senior. Now go and tell him at
once that a lady is waiting to see him.'

The innate respect of the English working classes for the kind of
nobility that is supposed to be represented by the British peerage
made the girl drop an instinctive curtsey as she looked at the card,
and answer in a voice of hushed surprise, 'Yes, my lady.' She had
heard Lady Hilda Tregellis spoken of more than once at her master's
table, and she knew, of course, that so great a personage as that
could do no wrong. So she merely ushered her visitor at once into
Arthur Berkeley's beautiful little study, with its delicate grey
pomegranate wall paper and its exquisite  unpolished oak fittings,
and said simply, in an overawed manner, 'A lady wishes to speak to
you, sir.'

The old shoemaker looked up from the English translation of Ribot's
'Psychologie Anglaise Contemporaine,' with whose intricacies he
was manfully struggling, and rose with native politeness to welcome
Hilda.

'Good morning,' Hilda said, extending her hand to him with one of
her beaming disarming smiles, and annihilating all that was most
obtrusively democratic in him at once by her pleasant manner. 'I'm
a friend of your son's, Mr.  Berkeley, and I've come here to see
him about very particular private business--in short, on an errand
of charity.  Will he be long gone, do you know?'

'Not very,' the Progenitor answered, in a somewhat  embarrassed
manner, surveying her curiously. 'At least, I should think not.
He's gone to Holloway for an hour or two, but I fancy he'll be back
for two o'clock luncheon, Miss----ur, I don't think I caught your
name, did I?'

'To Holloway,' Hilda echoed, taking no notice of his suggested
query. 'Oh, then he's gone to see the poor dear Le Bretons, of
course. Why, that's just what I wanted to see him about. If you'll
allow me then, I'll just stop and have lunch with you.'

'The dickens you will,' the Progenitor thought to himself  in speechless
astonishment. 'That's really awfully cool of you. However, I dare
say it's usual to invite oneself in the state of life that that boy
Artie has gone and hoisted himself into, most unnaturally. A fine
lady, no doubt, of their modern pattern; but in my day, up in
Paddington, we should have called her a brazen hussey.--Certainly,
if you will,' he added aloud. 'If you've come on any errand that
will do any good to the Le Bretons, I'm sure my son'll be delighted
to see you. He's greatly grieved at their unhappy condition.'

'I'm afraid I've nothing much to suggest of any very practical
sort,' Hilda answered, with a slight sigh; 'but at least I should
like to talk with him about the matter.  Something must be done
for these two poor young people, you know, Mr. Berkeley. Something
must really be done to help them.'

'Then you're interested in them, Miss--ur--ur--ah, yes--are you?'

'Look at my eyes,' Hilda said plumply. 'Are they very red, Mr.
Berkeley?'

'Well....ur...yes, if I may venture to say so to a lady,' the old
shoemaker answered hesitatingly, with unwonted  gallantry. 'I should
say they were a trifle, ur, just a trifle roseate, you know.'

'Quite so,' Hilda went on, seriously. 'That's it. They're red with
crying. I've been crying like a baby all the morning with that
poor, dear, sweet little angel of a Mrs.  Le Breton.'

'Then you're a great friend of hers, I suppose,' the Progenitor
suggested mildly.

'Never set eyes on her in my life before this morning, on the
contrary,' Hilda continued in her garrulous fashion.  'But, oh, Mr.
Berkeley, if you'd only seen that dear little woman, crying as if
her heart would break, and telling me that dear Ernest was dying,
actually dying; why--there--excuse me--I can't help it, you know;
we women are always crying about something or other, aren't we?'

The old man laid his hand on hers quietly. 'Don't mind ME, my
dear,' he said with genuine tenderness. 'Don't mind me a bit; I'm
only an old shoemaker, as I dare say you've heard before now; but
I know you'll be the better for crying--women always are--and tears
shed on somebody  else's account are never thrown away, my dear,
are they?'

Hilda took his hand between hers, and wiping her eyes once more
whispered softly, 'No, Mr. Berkeley, no; perhaps they're not; but
oh, they're so useless; so very, very, very useless. Do you know,
I never felt my own powerlessness and helplessness in all my life
so much as I did at that dear, patient little Mrs. Le Breton's
this very morning. There I sat, knowing she was in dire need of
money for her poor husband, and wanting sufficient food and drink,
perhaps, for herself, and him, and the dear darling baby; and in
my hand in my muff I had my purse there with five tenners--Bank of
England ten-pound uotes, you know--fifty pounds altogether, rolled
up inside it; and I would have given anything if only I could have
pulled them out and made them a present to her then and there; and
I couldn't, you see: and, oh, Mr.  Berkeley, isn't it terrible to
look at them? And then, before I left, poor Mr. Le Breton himself
came in, and I was quite shocked to see him. I used to know him a
few years ago, and even then he wasn't what you'd call robust by
any means; but now, oh, dear me, he does look so awfully ill and
haggard and miserable that it quite made me break down again, and I
cried about him before his very face; and the moment I got away, I
said to the coachman, "Jenkins,  drive straight off to the Embankment
at Chelsea;" and here I am, you see, waiting to talk with your
clever son about it; for, really, Mr. Berkeley, the poor Le Bretons
haven't got a single friend anywhere like your son Arthur.'

And then Lady Hilda went on to praise Arthur's music to the
Progenitor, and to speak of how much admired he was everywhere,
and to hint that so much genius and musical power must of course be
largely hereditary. Whereat the old man, not unmoved by her gentle
insinuating flattery, at last confessed to his own lifelong musical
tastes, and even casually acknowledged that the motive for one or
two of the minor songs in the famous operas was not entirely of
Arthur's own unaided invention. And so, from one subject to another,
they passed on so quickly, and hit it off with one another so exactly
(for Hilda had a wonderful knack of leading up to everybody's strong
points), that long before lunch was ready, the Progenitor had been
quite won over by the fascinations of the brazen hussey, and was
prepared to admit that she was really a very nice, kind, tender-hearted,
intelligent, appreciative, and discriminating young lady. True,
she had not read Mill or Fawcett, and was ignorant of the very name
of Herbert Spencer; but she had a vast admiration for his dear boy
Artie, and she saw that he himself knew a thing or two in his own
modest way, though he was only what the grand world she moved in
would doubtless call an old superannuated journeyman shoemaker.

'Ah, yes, a shoemaker! so I've heard somewhere, I fancy,' Lady
Hilda remarked brightly, when for the third time in the course of
their conversation he informed her with great dignity of the interesting
fact; 'how very delightful and charming that is, really, now isn't
it? So original, you know, to make shoes instead of going into some
useless  profession, especially when you're such a great reader
and student and thinker as you are--for I see you're a philosopher
and a psychologist already, Mr. Berkeley'--Hilda considered it rather
a bold effort on her part to pronounce the word 'psychologist' at
the very first trial without stumbling; but though she was a little
doubtful about the exact pronunciation  of that fearful vocable,
she felt quite at her ease about the fact at least, because
she carefully noticed him lay down Ribot on the table beside him,
name upward; 'one can't help finding that much out on a very short
acquaintance, can one? Though, indeed, now I come to think of it,
I believe I've heard often that men of your calling generally ARE
very fond of reading, and are very philosophical, and clever, and
political, and all that sort of thing; and they say that's the
reason, of course, why Northampton's such an exceptionally intelligent
constituency, and always returns such thoroughgoing able logical
Radicals.'

The old man's eyes beamed, as she spoke, with inexpressible  pride
and pleasure. 'I'm very glad indeed to hear you say so,' he answered
promptly with a complacent self-satisfied  smile, 'and I believe
you're right too, Miss, ur--ur--ur--quite so. The practice of
shoemaking undoubtedly tends to develop a very high and exceptional
level of general intelligence and logical power.'

'I'm sure of it,' Hilda answered demurely, in a tone of the deepest
and sincerest conviction; 'and when I heard somebody say somewhere,
that your son was...--well, WAS your son, I said to myself at once,
"Ah, well, there now, that quite accounts, of course, for young
Mr. Berkeley's very extraordinary and unusual abilities!"'

'She's really a most sensible, well-informed young woman, whoever
she is,' the Progenitor thought to himself silently; 'and it's
certainly a pity that dear Artie couldn't take a fancy to some nice,
appreciative, kind-hearted, practical girl like that now, instead
of wearing away all the best days of his life in useless regret
for that poor slender, unsubstantial nonentity of a watery little
Mrs. Le Breton.'

By two o'clock lunch was ready, and just as it had been announced,
Arthur Berkeley ran up the front steps, and let himself in with
his proprietory latch-key. Turning straight into the dining-room,
he was just in time to see his own father walking into lunch arm
in arm with Lady Hilda Tregellis.  As Mrs. Hallis had graphically
expressed it, he felt as if you might have knocked him down with
a feather!  Was she absolutely ubiquitous, then, this pervasive
Lady Hilda? and was he destined wherever he went to come upon her
suddenly in the most unexpected and incomprehensible situations?

'Will you sit down here, my dear,' the Progenitor was saying to
Hilda at the exact moment he entered, 'or would you prefer your
back to the fire?'

Arthur Berkeley opened his eyes wide with unspeakable amazement.
'What, YOU here,' he exclaimed, coming forward  suddenly to shake
hands with Hilda; 'why, I saw you only a couple of hours since at
the Le Bretons' at Holloway.'

'You did!' Hilda cried with almost equal astonishment, 'Why, how
was that? I never saw YOU.'

Arthur sighed quietly. 'No,' he answered, with a curious look at
the Progenitor; 'you were engaged when I opened the door, and I
didn't like to disturb you. You were--you were speaking with poor
little Mrs. Le Breton. But I'm so much obliged to you for your
kindness to them, Lady Hilda; so very much obliged to you for your
great kindness to them.'

It was the Progenitor's turn now to start in surprise.  'What! Lady
Hilda!' he cried with a bewildered look.  'Lady Hilda! Did I hear
you say "Lady Hilda"? Is this Lady Hilda Tregellis, then, that I've
heard you talk about so often, Artie?'

'Why, of course, Father. You didn't know who it was, then, didn't
you? Lady Hilda, I'm afraid you've been stealing a march upon the
poor unsuspecting hostile  Progenitor.'

'Not quite that, Mr. Berkeley,' Hilda replied, laughing; 'only
after the very truculent character I had heard of your father as
a regular red-hot militant Radical, I thought I'd better not send
in my name to him at once for fear it might prejudice him against
me before first acquaintance.'

The Progenitor looked at her steadfastly from head to foot, standing
before him there in her queenly beauty, as if she were some strange
wild beast that he had been requested to inspect and report upon
for a scientific purpose. 'Lady Hilda Tregellis!' he said slowly
and deliberately; 'Lady Hilda Tregellis! So this is Lady Hilda
Tregellis, is it?  Well, all I can say is this, then, that as far as
I can judge her, Lady Hilda Tregellis is a very sensible, modest,
intelligent, well-conducted young woman, which is more than I
could possibly have expected from a person of her unfortunate  and
distressing hereditary antecedents. But you know, my dear, it was
a very mean trick of you to go and take an old man's heart by guile
and stratagem in that way!'

Hilda laughed a little uneasily. The Progenitor's manner was perhaps
a trifle too open and unconventional even for her. 'It wasn't for
that I came, Mr. Berkeley,' she said again with one of her sunny
smiles, which brought the  Progenitor metaphorically to her feet
again, 'but to talk over this matter of the poor Le Bretons with
your son. Oh, Mr.  Arthur, something must really be done to help
them. I know you say there's nothing to be done; but there must be;
we must find it out; we must invent it; we must compel it.  When
I sat there this morning with that dear little woman and saw
her breaking her full heart over her husband's trouble, I said to
myself, somehow, Hilda Tregellis, if you can't find a way out of
this, you're not worth your salt in this world, and you'd better
make haste and take a rapid through-ticket at once to the next, if
there is one.'

'Which is more than doubtful, really,' the Progenitor muttered
softly half under his breath; 'which, as Strauss has conclusively
shown, is certainly a good deal more than doubtful.'

Arthur took no notice of the interruption, but merely answered
imploringly, with a despairing gesture of his hands, 'What are we
to do, Lady Hilda? What can we possibly do?'

'Why, sit down and have some lunch first,' Hilda rejoined  with
practical common-sense, 'and then talk it over rationally afterwards,
instead of wringing our hands helplessly  like a pair of Frenchmen
in a street difficulty.' (Hilda had a fine old crusted English
contempt, by the way, for those vastly inferior and foolish creatures
known as foreigners.)

Thus adjured, Berkeley sat down promptly, and they proceeded to take
counsel together in this hard matter over the cutlets and claret
provided before them. 'Ernest and Mrs. Le Breton told me all about
your visit,' Arthur went on, soon after; 'and they're so much obliged
to you for having taken the trouble to look them up in their sore
distress. Do you know, Lady Hilda, I think you've quite made a
conquest of our dear little friend, Mrs. Le Breton.'

'I don't know about that,' Hilda responded with a smile, 'but I'm
sure, at any rate, that the sweet little woman quite made a conquest
of me, Mr. Berkeley. In fact, I can't say what you think, but for
my part I'm determined an effort must be made one way or another
to save them.'

'It's no use,' Arthur answered, shaking his head sadly; 'it can't
be done. There's nothing for it but to let them float down helplessly
with the tide, wherever it may bear them.'

'Stuff and nonsense,' Hilda replied energetically. 'All rubbish,
utter rubbish, and if I were a man as you are, Mr.  Berkeley, I
should be ashamed to take such a desponding view of the situation.
If we say it's got to be done, it will be done, and that's an end
of it. Work must and can be found for him somehow or somewhere.'

'But the man's dying,' Arthur interrupted with a vehement  gesture.
'There's no more work left in him. The only thing that's any use
is to send him off to Madeira, or Egypt, or Catania, or somewhere
of that sort, and let him die quietly among the palms and cactuses
and aloes. That's Sir Antony Wraxall's opinion, and surely nobody
in London can know half as well as he does about the matter.'

'Sir Antony's a fool,' Hilda responded with refreshing bluntness.
'He knows nothing on earth at all about it.  He's accustomed to
prescribing for a lot of us idle good-for-nothing rich people'--('Very
true,' the Progenitor assented parenthetically;) 'and he's got
into a fixed habit of prescribing  a Nile voyage, just as he's got
into a fixed habit of prescribing old wine, and carriage exercise,
and ten thousand a year to all his patients. What Mr. Le Breton
really wants is not Egypt, or old wine, or Sir Antony, or anything
of the sort, but relief from this pressing load of anxiety and
responsibility. Put him in my hands for six months, and I'll back
myself at a hundred to six against Sir Antony to cure him for a
monkey.'

'For a what!' the Progenitor asked with a puzzled expression  of
countenance.

'Back myself for a monkey, you know,' Hilda answered, without
perceiving the cause of the old man's innocent confusion.

The Progenitor was evidently none the wiser still for Hilda's
answer, though he forbore to pursue the subject any farther, lest
he should betray his obvious ignorance of aristocratic manners and
dialect.

But Arthur looked up at Lady Hilda with something like the gleam of
a new-born hope on his distressed features.  'Lady Hilda,' he said
almost cheerfully, 'you really speak as if you had some practicable
plan actually in prospect. It seems to me, if anybody can pull
them through, you can, because you've got such a grand reserve of
faith and energy.  What is it, now, you think of doing?'

'Well,' Hilda answered, taken a little aback at this practical
question, 'I've hardly got my plan matured yet; but I've got a
plan; and I thought it all out as far as it went as I came along
here just now in the carriage. The great thing is, we must inspire
Mr. Le Breton with a new  confidence; we must begin by showing him
we believe in him, and letting him see that he may still manage
in some way or other to retrieve himself. He has lost all hope: we
must begin with him over again. I've got an idea, but it'll take
money. Now, I can give up half my allowance for the next year--the
Le Bretons need never know anything about it--that'll be something:
you're a rich man now, I believe, Mr.  Berkeley; will you make up
as much as I do, if my plan seems a feasible one to you for retrieving
the position?'

The Progenitor answered quickly for him: 'Miss Tregellis,'  he
said, with a little tremor in his voice, '--you'll excuse me, my
dear, but it's against my principles to call anybody my lady:--he
will, I know he will; and if he wouldn't, why, my dear, I'd go
back to my cobbling and earn it myself rather than that you or your
friends should go without it for a single minute.'

Arthur said nothing, but he bowed his head silently.  What a lot of
good there was really in that splendid woman, and what a commanding,
energetic, masterful way she had about her! To a feckless, undecided,
faltering man like Arthur Berkeley there was something wonderfully
attractive and magnificent, after all, in such an imperious resolute
woman as Lady Hilda.

'Then this is my plan,' Hilda went on hastily. 'We must do
something that'll take Mr. Le Breton out of himself  for a short
time entirely--that'll give him occupation of a kind he thinks
right, and at the same time put money in his pocket. Now, he's
always talking about this socialistic business of his; but why
doesn't he tell us what he has actually seen about the life and
habits of the really poor?  Mrs. Le Breton tells me he knows the
East End well: why doesn't he sit down and give us a good rattling,
rousing, frightening description of all that's in it? Of course,
I don't care twopence about the poor myself--not in the lump, I
mean--I beg your pardon, Mr. Berkeley,'--for the Progenitor  gave
a start of surprise and astonishment--'you know we women are nothing
if not concrete; we never care for anything in the abstract, Mr. Le
Breton used to tell me; we want the particular case brought home
to our sympathies before we can interest ourselves about it. After
all, even YOU who are men don't feel very much for all the miserable
wretched people there are in China, you know; they're too far away
for even you to bother your heads about. But I DO care about the
Le Bretons, and it strikes me we might help them a little in this
way. I know a lot of artists, Mr.  Berkeley; and I know one who
I think would just do for the very work I want to set him. (He's
poor, too, by the way, and I don't mind giving him a lift at the
same time and killing two birds with one stone.) Very well, then;
I go to him, and say, "Mr. Verney," I say,--there now, I didn't mean
to tell you his name, but no matter; "Mr. Verney," I shall say, "a
friend of mine in the writing line is going to pay some visits to
the very poor quarters in the East End, and write about it, which
will make a great noise in the world as sure as midday."'

'But how do you know it will?' asked the Progenitor, simply.

Hilda turned round upon him with an unfeigned look of startled
astonishment. 'How do I know it will?' she said confidently. 'Why,
because I mean it to, Mr. Berkeley.  Because I say it shall. Because
I choose to make it. Two Cabinet ministers shall quote it in the
House, and a duke shall write letters to the "Times" denouncing it
as an intensely wicked and revolutionary publication. If I choose
to float it, I WILL float it.--Well, "Mr. Verney," I say for example,
"will you undertake to accompany him and make sketches? It'll be
unpleasant work, I know, because I've been there myself to see,
and the places don't smell nice at all--worse than Genoa or the
old town at Nice even, I can tell you: but it'll make you a name;
and in any case the publisher who's getting it up'll pay you well
for it." Of course, Mr. Verney says "Yes." Then we go on to Mr.
Le Breton and say, "A young artist of my acquaintance is making a
pilgrimage into the East End to see for himself how the people live,
and to make pictures of them to stir up the sluggish consciences of
the lazy aristocrats"--that's me and my people, of course: that'll
be the way to work it.  Play upon Mr. Le Breton's tenderest feelings.
Make him feel he's fighting for the Cause; and he'll be ready to
throw himself, heart and soul, into the spirit of the project. I
don't care twopence about the Cause myself, of course, so that's
flat, and I don't pretend to, either, Mr. Berkeley; but I care a
great deal for the misery of that poor, dear, pale little woman,
sitting there with me this morning and regularly  sobbing her heart
out; and if I can do anything to help her, why, I shall be only
too delighted.'

'Le Breton's a well-meaning young fellow, certainly,' the Progenitor
murmured gently in a voice of graceful concession; 'and I believe
his heart's really in the Cause, as you call it; but you know, my
dear, he's very far from being sound in his economical views as to
the relations of capital and labour. Far from sound, as John Stuart
Mill would have judged the question, I can solemnly assure you.'

'Very well,' Hilda went on, almost without noticing the interruption.
'We shall say to him, or rather we shall get our publisher to say
to him, that as he's interested in the matter, and knows the East
End well, he has been selected--shall we put it on somebody's
recommendation?--to accompany  the artist, and to supply the reading
matter, the letter-press I think you call it; in fact, to write up
to our  illustrator's pictures; and that he is to be decently paid
for his trouble. He must do something graphic, something stirring,
something to wake up lazy people in the West End to a passing
sense of what he calls their responsibilities. That'll seem like
real work to Mr. Le Breton. It'll put new heart into him; he'll take
up the matter vigorously; he'll do it well; he'll write a splendid
book; and I shall guarantee its making a stir in the world this
very dull season. What's the use of knowing half the odiously
commonplace bores and prigs in all London if you can't float a
single little heterodox pamphlet for a particular purpose? What do
you think of it, Mr.  Berkeley?'

Arthur sighed again. 'It seems to me, Lady Hilda,' he said, regretfully,
'a very slender straw indeed to hang Ernest Le Breton's life on:
but any straw is better than nothing to a drowning man. And you
have so much faith yourself, and mean to fling yourself into it so
earnestly, that I shouldn't be wholly surprised if you were somehow
to pull it through.  If you do, Lady Hilda--if you manage to save
these two poor young people from the verge of starvation--you'll
have done a very great good work in your day, and you'll have made
me personally eternally your debtor.'

Was it mere fancy, the Progenitor wondered, or did Hilda cast her
eyes down a little and half blush as she answered in a lower and
more tremulous tone than usual, 'I hope I shall, Mr. Berkeley;
for their sakes, I hope I shall.' The Progenitor didn't feel quite
certain about it, but somehow, more than once that evening, as he
sat reading Spencer's 'Data of Ethics' in his easy-chair, a curious
vision of Lady Hilda as a future daughter-in-law floated vaguely
with singular persistence before the old shoemaker's bewildered
eyes. 'It'd be a shocking falling away on Artie's part from his
father's principles,' he muttered inarticulately to himself several
times over; 'and yet, on the other hand, I can't deny that this bit
of a Tregellis girl is really a very tidy, good-looking, respectable,
well-meaning, intelligent, and appreciative sort of a young woman,
who'd, maybe, make Artie as good a wife as anybody else he'd be
likely to pitch on.'



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE TIDE TURNS.


When Ernest Le Breton got a letter from the business house of a
well-known publishing firm, asking him whether he would consent to
supply appropriate letterpress for an illustrated work on the poor
of London, then in course of preparation, his delight and relief
were positively  unbounded. That anyone should come and ask him for
work, instead of his asking them, was in itself a singular matter
for surprise and congratulation; that the request should be based
on the avowed ground of his known political and social opinions
was almost incredible. Ernest felt that it was a triumph, not only
for him, but for his dearly-loved principles and beliefs as well.
For the first time in his life, he was going to undertake a piece
of work which he not only thought not wrong, but even considered
hopeful and praise-worthy. Arthur Berkeley, who called round as if
by accident the same morning, saw with delight that Lady Hilda's
prognostication seemed likely to be fulfilled, and that if only
Ernest could be given some congenial occupation there was still
a chance, after all, for his permanent recovery; for it was clear
enough that as there was hope, there must be a little life yet left
in him.

It was Lady Hilda who, as she herself expressively phrased it,
had squared the publishers. She had called upon the head of the
well-known house in person, and had told him fully and frankly
exactly what was the nature of the interest she took in the poor
of London. At first the publisher was scandalised and obdurate: the
thing was not regular, he said--not in the ordinary way of business;
his firm couldn't go writing letters of that sort to unknown young
authors and artists. If she wanted the work done, she must let them
give her own name as the promoter of the undertaking. But Hilda
persevered, as she always did; she smiled, pleaded, cajoled,
threatened, and made desperate love to the publisher to gain his
acquiescence in her  benevolent scheme. After all, even publishers
are only human (though authors have been frequently known to deny
the fact); and human nature, especially in England, is apt to
be very little proof against the entreaties of a pretty girl who
happens also to be an earl's daughter. So in the end, when Lady Hilda
said most bewitchingly, 'I put it upon the grounds of a personal
favour, Mr. Percival,' the obdurate publisher gave way at last,
and consented to do her bidding gladly.

For six weeks Ernest went daily with Ronald and the young artist into
the familiar slums of Bethnal Green, and Bermondsey, and Lambeth,
whose ins and outs he was  beginning to know with painful accuracy;
and every night he came back, and wrote down with a glowing pen all
that he had seen and heard of distressing and terrible during his
day's peregrination. It was an awful task from one point of view,
for the scenes he had to visit and describe were often heart-rending;
and Arthur feared more than once that the air of so many loathsome
and noxious dens might still further accelerate the progress of
Ernest's disease; but Lady Hilda said emphatically, No; and somehow
Arthur was beginning now to conceive an immense respect for the
practical value of Lady Hilda's vehement opinions. As a matter of
fact, indeed, Ernest did not visibly suffer at all either from the
unwonted hard work or from the strain upon mind and body to which
he had been so little accustomed.  Distressing as it all was, it
was change, it was variety, it was occupation, it was relief from
that terrible killing round of perpetual personal responsibility.
Above all, Ernest really believed that here at last was an
opportunity of doing some practical good in his generation, and he
threw himself into it with all the passionate ardour of a naturally
eager and vivid nature. The enthusiasm of humanity was upon him, and
it kept him going at high-pressure rate, with no apparent loss of
strength and vigour throughout the whole ordeal. To Arthur Berkeley's
intense delight, he was even visibly fatter to the naked eye at the
end of his six weeks' exploration of the most dreary and desolate
slums in all London.

The book was written at white heat, as the best of such books always
are, and it was engraved and printed at the very shortest possible
notice. Terrible and ghastly it  certainly was at last--instinct
with all the grim local colouring of those narrow, squalid,
fever-stricken dens, where  misfortune and crime huddle together
indiscriminately in dirt and misery--a book to make one's blood run
cold with awe and disgust, and to stir up even the callous apathy
of the great rich capitalist West End to a passing moment's
ineffective remorse; but very clever and very graphic after its
own sort beyond the shadow of a question, for all its horror.  When
Arthur Berkeley turned over the first proof-sheets of 'London's
Shame,' with its simple yet thrilling recital of true tales taken
down from the very lips of outcast children or stranded women, with
its awful woodcuts and still more awful descriptions--word-pictures
reeking with the vice and filth and degradation of the most
pestilent, overcrowded, undrained tenements--he felt instinctively
that Ernest Le Breton's book would not need the artificial aid of
Lady Hilda's influential friends in order to make it successful
and even famous. The Cabinet ministers might be as silent as they
chose, the indignant duke might confine his denunciations to the
attentive and sympathetic ear of his friend Lord Connemara; but
nothing on earth could prevent Ernest Le Breton's fiery and scathing
diatribe from immediately  enthralling the public attention. Lady
Hilda had hit upon the exact subject which best suited his peculiar
character and temperament, and he had done himself full justice in
it.  Not that Ernest had ever thought of himself, or even of his
style, or the effect he was producing by his narrative; it was just
the very non-self-consciousness of the thing that gave it its power.
He wrote down the simple thoughts that came up into his own eager
mind at the sight of so much inequality and injustice; and the
motto that Arthur prefixed upon the title-page, 'Facit indignatio
versum,' aptly described  the key-note of that fierce and angry
final denunciation.  'Yes, Lady Hilda had certainly hit the right
nail on the head,' Arthur Berkeley said to himself more than once:
'A wonderful woman, truly, that beautiful, stately, uncompromising,
brilliant, and still really tender Hilda Tregellis.'

Hilda, on her part, worked hard and well for the success of Ernest's
book as soon as it appeared. Nay, she even condescended (not being
what Ernest himself would have described as an ethical unit) to
practise a little gentle hypocrisy in suiting her recommendations
of 'London's Shame' to the tastes and feelings of her various
acquaintances.  To her Radical Cabinet minister friend, she openly
praised its outspoken zeal for the cause of the people, and its
value as a wonderful storehouse of useful facts at first hand for
political purposes in the increasingly important  outlying Metropolitan
boroughs. 'Just think, Sir Edmund,' she said, persuasively, 'how
you could crush any  Conservative candidate for Hackney or the Tower
Hamlets out of that awful chapter on the East End match-makers;'
while with the Duke, to whom she presented a marked copy as a
sample of what our revolutionary thinkers were really coming to,
she insisted rather upon its wicked interference with the natural
rights of landlords, and its abominable insinuation (so subversive
of all truly English ideas as to liberty and property) that they
were bound not to poison their tenants by total neglect of sanitary
precautions. 'If I were you, now,' she said to the Duke in the
most seemingly simple-minded manner possible, 'I'd just quote those
passages  I've marked in pencil in the House to-night on the Small
Urban Holdings Bill, and point out how the wave of Continental
Socialism is at last invading England with its devastating flood.'
And the Duke, who was a complacent, thick-headed, obstinate old
gentleman, congenitally incapable  of looking at any question from
any other point of view whatsoever except that of his own order,
fell headlong passively into Lady Hilda's cruel little trap, and
murmured to himself as he rolled down luxuriously to the august
society of his peers that evening, 'Tremendous clever girl, Hilda
Tregellis, really. "Wave of Continental Socialism at last invading
England with its what-you-may-call-it flood," she said, if I remember
rightly. Capital sentence to end off one's speech with, I declare.
Devizes'll positively wonder where I got it from. I'd no idea before
that girl took such an intelligent interest in political questions.
So they want their cottages whitewashed, do they? What'll they ask
for next, I wonder? Do they think we're to be content at last with
one and a-half per cent, upon the fee-simple value of our estates,
I should like to know? Why, some of the places this writer-fellow
talks about are on my own property in The Rookery--"one of the most
noisome court-yards in all London," he actually calls it. Whitewash
their cottages, indeed! The lazy improvident creatures! They'll
be asking us to put down encaustic tiles upon the floors next, and
to paper their walls with Japanese leather or fashionable  dados.
Really, the general ignorance that prevails among the working classes
as to the clearest principles of political economy is something
absolutely appalling,  absolutely appalling.' And his Grace scribbled
a note in his memorandum-book of Hilda's ready-made peroration, for
fear he should forget its precise wording before he began to give
the House the benefit of his views that night upon the political
economy of Small Urban Holdings.

Next morning, all London was talking of the curious coincidence
by which a book from the pen of an unknown author, published only
one day previously, had been quoted and debated upon simultaneously
in both Houses of Parliament  on a single evening. In the Commons,
Sir Edmund Calverley, the distinguished Radical minister, had read
a dozen pages from the unknown work in his declamatory theatrical
fashion, and had so electrified the House with its graphic and
horrible details that even Mr. Fitzgerald-Grenville, the well-known
member for the Baroness Drummond-Lloyd (whose rotten or at least
decomposing borough of Cherbury Minor he faithfully represented in
three  successive Parliaments), had mumbled out a few half-inaudible
apologetic sentences about this state of things being truly
deplorable, and about the necessity for meeting such a  distressing
social crisis by the prompt and vigorous application of that excellent
specific and familiar panacea, a spirited foreign policy. In the
Lords, the Duke himself, by some untoward coincidence, had been
moved to make a few quotations, accompanied by a running fire of
essentially ducal criticism, from the very selfsame obscure author;
and to his immense surprise, even the members of his own party
moved uneasily in their seats during the course of his speech; while
later in the evening, Lord Devizes muttered to him angrily in the
robing-room, 'Look here, Duke, you've been and put your foot in it,
I assure you, about that Radical book you were ill-advised enough
to quote from. You ought never to have treated the Small Urban
Holdings Bill in the way you did; and just you mark my words,
the papers'll all be down upon you to-morrow morning, as sure as
daylight.  You've given the "Bystander" such an opening against
you as you'll never forget till your dying day, I can tell you.'
And as the Duke drove back again after his arduous legislative
efforts that evening, he said to himself between the puffs at his
Havana, 'This comes, now, of allowing oneself to be made a fool
of by a handsome woman. How the dooce I could ever have gone and
taken Hilda Tregellis's advice on a political question is really
more than I can fathom:--and at my time of life too! And yet, all
the same, there's no denying that she's a devilish fine woman, by
Jove, if ever there was one.'

Of course, everybody asked themselves next day what this book
'London's Shame' was like, and who on earth its author could be;
so much so, indeed, that a large edition was completely exhausted
within a fortnight. It was the great sensational success of that
London season. Everybody  read it, discussed it, dissected it,
corroborated it, refuted it, fought over it, and wrote lengthy
letters to all the daily papers about its faults and its merits.
Imitators added their sincerest flattery: rivals proclaimed themselves
the original discoverers of 'London's Shame': one enterprising  author
even thought of going to law about it as a question of copyright.
Owners of noisome lanes in the East End trembled in their shoes,
and sent their agents to inquire into the precise degree of squalor
to be found in the filthy courts and alleys where they didn't care
to trust their own sensitive aristocratic noses. It even seemed as
if a little real good was going to come at last out of Ernest Le
Breton's impassioned pleading--as if the sensation were going to
fall not quite flat at the end of its short run in the clubs and
drawing-rooms of London as a nine days' wonder.

And Ernest Le Breton? and Edie? In the little lodgings  at Holloway,
they sat first trembling for the result, and ready to burst with
excitement when Lady Hilda, up at the unwonted hour of six in the
morning, tore into their rooms with an early copy of the 'Times'
to show them the Duke's speech, and Sir Edmund's quotations, and
the editorial leader in which even that most dignified and reticent
of British journals condescended to speak with studiously moderated
praise of the immense collection of facts so ably strung together
by Mr. Ernest Le Breton (in all the legible glory of small capitals,
too,) as to the undoubtedly disgraceful  condition of some at
least among our London alleys.  How Edie clung around Lady Hilda
and kissed her! and how Lady Hilda kissed her back and cried over
her with tears of happier augury! and how they both kissed and
cried over unconscious wondering little Dot! And how Lady Hilda
could almost have fallen upon Ernest, too, as he sat gazing in
blank astonishment and delight at his own name in the magnificent
small capitals of a 'Times' leader.  Between crying and laughing,
with much efficient aid in both from good Mrs. Halliss, they hardly
knew how they ever got through the long delightful hours of that
memorable epoch-making  morning.

And then there came the gradual awakening to the fact that this
was really fame--fame, and perhaps also competence.  First in the
field, of course, was the editor of the 'Cosmopolitan Review,'
with a polite request that Ernest would give the readers of that
intensely hot-and-hot and thoughtful periodical the opportunity of
reading his valuable views on the East End outcast question, before
they had had time to be worth nothing for journalistic purposes,
through the natural and inevitable cooling of the public interest
in this new sensation. Then his old friends of the 'Morning
Intelligence' once more begged that he would be good enough to
contribute a series of signed and headed articles to their columns,
on the slums and fever dens of poverty-stricken London. Next,
an illustrated weekly asked him to join with his artist friend in
getting up another pilgrimage into yet undiscovered metropolitan
plague-spots. And so, before the end of a month, Ernest Le Breton,
for the first time in his life, had really got more work to do
than he could easily manage, and work, too, that he felt he could
throw his whole life and soul into with perfect honesty.

When the first edition of 'London's Shame' was exhausted,  there
was already a handsome balance to go to Ernest and his artist
coadjutor, who, by the terms of the agreement, were to divide
between them half the profits.  The other half, for appearance'
sake, Lady Hilda and Arthur had been naturally compelled to reserve
for themselves: for of course it would not have been probable that
any publisher would have undertaken the work without any hope of
profit in any way. Arthur called upon Hilda at Lord Exmoor's house
in Wilton Place to show her the first balance-sheet and accompanying
cheque. 'What on earth can we do with it?' he asked seriously. 'We
can't divide it between us: and yet we can't give it to the poor
Le Bretons. I don't see how we're to manage.'

'Why, of course,' Hilda answered promptly. 'Put it into the Consols
or whatever you call it, for the benefit of little Dot.'

'The very thing!' Arthur answered in a tone of obvious admiration.
'What a wonderfully practical person you really are, Lady Hilda.'

As to Ernest and Edie, when they got their own cheque for their
quarter of the proceeds, they gazed in awe and astonishment at the
bigness of the figure; and then they sat down and cried together
like two children, with their hands locked in one another's.

'And you'll get well, now, Ernest dear,' Edie whispered gently.
'Why, you're ever so much fatter, darling, already.  I'm sure you'll
get well in no time, now, Ernest.'

'Upon my word, Edie,' Ernest answered, kissing her white forehead
tenderly, 'I really and truly believe I shall.  It's my opinion
that Sir Antony Wraxall's an unmitigated ignorant humbug.'

A few weeks later, when Ernest's remarkable article on 'How to Improve
the Homes of the Poor' appeared in one of the leading magazines,
Mr. Herbert Le Breton of the Education Office looked up from his
cup of post-prandial coffee in his comfortable dining-room at South
Kensington, and said musingly to his young wife, 'Do you know,
Ethel, it seems to me that my brother Ernest's going to score a
success at last with this slum-hunting business that he's lately
invented. There's an awful lot about it now in all the papers
and reviews. Perhaps it might be as well, after all, to scrape an
acquaintance with him again, especially as he's my own brother.
There's no knowing, really, when a man of his peculiar ill-regulated
mercurial temperament may be going to turn out famous. Don't you
think you'd better find out where they're living now--they've left
Holloway, no doubt, since this turn of the tide--and go and call
upon Mrs.  Ernest?'

Whereto Mrs. Herbert Le Breton, raising her eyes for a moment from
the pages of her last new novel, answered languidly: 'Don't you
think, Herbert, it'd be better to wait a little while and see how
things turn out with them in the long run, you know, before we
commit ourselves by going to call upon them? One swallow, you see,
doesn't make a summer, does it, dear, ever?' Whence the acute and
intelligent reader will doubtless conclude that Mrs.  Herbert Le
Breton was a very prudent sensible young woman, and that perhaps
even Herbert himself had met at last with his fitting Nemesis. For
what worse purgatory could his bitterest foe wish for a selfishly
prudent and cold-hearted man, than that he should pass his whole
lifetime in congenial intercourse with a selfishly prudent and
cold-hearted wife, exactly after his own pattern?



CHAPTER XXXVI.

OUT OF THE HAND OP THE PHILISTINES.


Ernest's unexpected success with 'London's Shame' was not, as Arthur
Berkeley at first feared it might be, the mere last dying flicker
of a weak and failing life. Arthur was quite right, indeed, when
he said one day to Lady Hilda that its very brilliancy and fervour
had the hectic glow about it, as of a man who was burning himself
out too fiercely and rapidly; you could read the feverish eagerness
of the writer in every line; but still, Lady Hilda answered with
her  ordinary calm assurance that it was all going well, and that
Ernest only needed the sense of security to pull him round again;
and as usual, Lady Hilda's practical sagacity was not at fault.
The big pamphlet--for it was hardly more than that--soon proved
an opening for further work, in procuring which Hilda and Arthur
were again partially instrumental.  An advanced Radical member
of Parliament, famous for his declamations against the capitalist
faction, and his enormous holding of English railway stock, was
induced to come  forward as the founder of a new weekly paper,
'in the interest of social reform.' Of course the thing was got
up solely with an idea to utilising Ernest as editor, for, said
the great anti-capitalist with his usual charming frankness, 'the
young fellow has a positive money-value, now, if he's taken in hand
at once before the sensation's over, and there can be no harm in
turning an honest penny by exploiting him, you know, and starting
a popular paper.' When Ernest was offered the post of editor to
the new periodical, at a salary which almost alarmed him by its
plutocratic magnificence (for it was  positively no less than six
hundred a year), he felt for a moment some conscientious scruples
about accepting so splendid a post. And when Lady Hilda in her
emphatic fashion promptly over-ruled these nascent scruples by the
application  of the very simple solvent formula, 'Bosh!' he felt
bound at least to stipulate that he should be at perfect liberty
to say whatever he liked in the new paper, without interference or
supervision from the capitalist proprietor.  To which the Radical
member, in his business capacity,  immediately responded, 'Why,
certainly. What we want to pay you for is just your power of startling
people, which, in its proper place, is a very useful marketable
commodity.  Every pig has its value--if only you sell it in the
best market.'

'The Social Reformer, a Weekly Advocate of the New Economy,' achieved
at once an immense success among the working classes, and grew
before long to be one of the most popular journals of the second
rank in all London. The interest that Ernest had aroused by his big
pamphlet was carried on to his new venture, which soon managed to
gain many readers by its own intrinsic merits. 'Seen your brother's
revolutionary broadsheet, Le Breton?' asked a friend at the club
of Herbert not many weeks later--he was the same person who had
found it 'so very embarrassing' to recognise Ernest--in his shabby
days when walking with a Q.C.--'It's a dreadful tissue of the
reddest French communism,  I believe, but still, it's scored the
biggest success of its sort in journalism, I'm told, since the
days of Kenealy's "Englishman." Bradbury, who's found the money to
start it--deuced clever fellow in his way, Bradbury!--is making an
awful lot out of the speculation, they say. What do you think of
the paper, eh?'

Herbert drew himself up grimly. 'To tell you the truth,' he said
in his stiffest style, 'I haven't yet had time to look at a copy.
Ernest Le Breton's not a man in whose affairs I feel called upon to
take any special interest; and I haven't put myself to the trouble
of reading his second-hand political lucubrations. Faint echoes of
Max Schurz, all of it, no doubt; and having read and disposed of
Schurz himself long ago, I don't feel inclined now to go in for a
second supplementary course of Schurz and water.'

'Well, well, that may be so,' the friend answered, turning  over the
pages of the peccant periodical carelessly; 'but all the same I'm
afraid your brother's really going to do an awful lot of mischief
in the way of setting class against class, and stirring up the
dangerous orders to recognise their own power. You see, Le Breton,
the real danger of this sort of thing lies in the fact that your
brother Ernest's a more or less educated and cultivated person. I
don't say he's really got any genuine depth of culture--would you
believe it, he told me once he'd never read Rabelais, and didn't
want to?--and of course a man of true culture in the grain, like
you and me now, my dear fellow, would never dream of going and
mistaking these will-o'-the-wisps of socialism for the real guiding
light of regenerated humanity--of course not. But the dangerous
symptom at the present day lies just in the fact that while the
papers written for the mob used to be written by vulgar, noisy,
self-made, half-educated demagogues,  they're sent out now with all
the authority and specious respectability of decently instructed
and comparatively  literary English gentlemen. Now, nobody can
deny that that's a thing very seriously to be regretted; and for my
part I'm extremely sorry your brother has been ill-advised enough
to join the mob that's trying to pull down our  comfortably built
and after all eminently respectable, even if somewhat patched up,
old British constitution.'

'The subject's one,' Herbert answered curtly, 'in which I for my
part cannot pretend to feel the remotest personal interest.'

Ernest and Edie, howerer, in the little lodgings up at Holloway,
which they couldn't bear to desert even now in this sudden burst
of incredible prosperity, went their own way as self-containedly
as usual, wholly unconcerned by the non-arrival of Mrs. Herbert
on a visit of ceremony, or the failure of the 'Social Reformer' to
pierce the lofty ethereal regions of abstract contemplation where
Herbert himself sat throned like an Epicurean god in the pure halo
of cultivated pococurantism. Every day, as that eminent medical
authority, Hilda Tregellis, had truly prophesied, Ernest's cheeks
grew less and less sunken, and a little colour returned slowly
to their midst; while Edie's face was less pale than of old, and
her smile began to recover something of its old-fashioned girlish
joyousness. She danced about once more as of old, and Arthur Berkeley,
when he dropped in of a Sunday afternoon for a chat with Ernest,
noticed with pleasure that little Miss Butterfly was beginning to
flit round again almost as naturally  as in the old days when he
first saw her light little form among the grey old pillars of Magdalen
Cloisters. Yet he couldn't help observing, too, that his feeling
towards her was more one of mere benevolence now, and less of tender
regret, than it used to be even a few short months before, in the
darkest days of Edie's troubles. Could it be, he asked himself
more than once, that the tall stately picture of Hilda Tregellis
was overshadowing in his heart the natural photograph  of that
unwedded Edie Oswald that he once imagined was so firmly imprinted
there? Ah well, ah well, it may be true that a man can love really
but once in his whole  lifetime; and yet, the second spurious
imitation is positively sometimes a very good facsimile of the
genuine first impression,  for all that.

As the months went slowly round, too, the time came in the end for
good Herr Max to be released at last from his long imprisonment.
On the day that he came out, there was a public banquet at the
Marylebone dancing saloon; and all the socialists and communards
were there, and all the Russian nihilists, and all the other
wicked revolutionary plotters in all London: and in the chair sat
Ernest Le Breton, now the editor of an important social paper, while
at his left hand, to balance the guest of the evening, sat Arthur
Berkeley, the well-known dramatic author, who was himself more than
suspected of being the timid Nicodemus of the new faith.  And when
Ernest announced that Herr Schurz had consented to aid him on the
'Social Reformer,' and to add the wisdom of age to the impetuosity
of youth in conducting its future, the simple enthusiasm of the wicked
revolutionists knew no bounds. And they cried 'Hoch!' and 'Viva!'
and 'Hooray!' and many other like inarticulate shouts in many
varieties of interjectional dialect all the evening; and  everybody
agreed that after all Herr Max was VERY little grayer than before
the trial, in spite of his long and terrible term of imprisonment.

He WAS a little embittered by his troubles, no doubt;--what can
you expect if you clap men in prison for the  expression of their
honest political convictions?--but Ernest tried to keep his eye
steadily rather on the future than on the past; and with greater
ease and unwonted comforts the old man's cheerfulness as well as
his enthusiasm gradually returned. 'I'm too old now to do anything
more worth doing myself before I die,' he used to say, holding
Ernest's arm tightly in his vice-like grip: 'but I have great hopes
in spite of everything for friend Ernest; I have very great hopes
indeed for friend Ernest here. There's no knowing yet what he may
accomplish.'

Ernest only smiled a trifle sadly, and murmured half to himself that
this was a hard world, and he began himself to fear there was no
fitting feeling for a social reformer except one of a brave despair.
'We can do little or nothing, after all,' he said slowly; 'and
our only consolation must be that even that little is perhaps just
worth doing.'



CHAPTER XXXVII.

LAND AT LAST: BUT WHAT LAND?


Long before the 'Social Reformer' had fully made its mark in the
world, another event had happened of no less importance  to some
of the chief actors in the little drama whose natural termination
it seemed to form. While the pamphlet and the paper were in course
of maturation, Arthur Berkeley had been running daily in and out
of the house in Wilton Place in what Lady Exmoor several times
described as a positively disgraceful and unseemly manner.  ('What
Hilda can mean,' her ladyship observed to her husband more than
once, 'by encouraging that odd young man's extraordinary advances
in the way she does is really more than I can understand even in
her.') But when the Le Bretons were fairly launched at last on the
favourable flood of full prosperity, both Hilda and Arthur began to
feel as though they had suddenly been deprived of a very pleasant
common interest. After all, benevolent counsel on behalf of other
people is not so entirely innocent and impersonal in certain cases
as it seems to be at first sight.  'Do you know, Lady Hilda,'
Berkeley said one afternoon, when he had come to pay, as it were,
a sort of farewell visit, on the final completion of their joint
schemes for restoring happiness to the home of the Le Bretons,
'our intercourse together has been very delightful, and I'm quite
sorry to think that in future we must see so much less of one another
than we've been in the habit of doing for the last month or so.'

Hilda looked at him straight and said in her own frank unaffected
fashion, 'So am I, Mr. Berkeley, very sorry, very sorry indeed.'

Arthur looked back at her once more, and their eyes met.  His
look was full of admiration, and Hilda saw it. She moved a little
uneasily upon the ottoman, waiting apparently as though she expected
Arthur to say something else. But Arthur looked at her long and
steadfastly, and said nothing.

At last he seemed to wake from his reverie, and make up his mind
for a desperate venture. Could he be mistaken?  Could he have read
either record wrong--his own heart, or Hilda's eyes? No, no, both
of them spoke to him too plainly and evidently. His heart was
fluttering like a wind-shaken aspen-leaf; and Hilda's eyes were
dimming visibly with a tender moisture. Yes, yes, yes, there was
no  misreading possible. He knew he loved her! he knew she loved
him!

Bending over towards where Hilda sat, he took her hand in
his dreamily: and Hilda let him take it without a  movement. Then
he looked deeply into her eyes, and felt a curious speechlessness
coming over him, deep down in the ball of his throat.

'Lady Hilda,' he began at last with an effort, in a low voice, not
wholly untinged with natural timidity, 'Lady Hilda, is a working
man's son----'

Hilda looked back at him with a sudden look of earnest deprecation.
'Not that way, Mr. Berkeley,' she said quietly: 'not that way,
please: you'll hurt me if you do: you know that's not the way _I_
look at the matter. Why not simply "Hilda"?'

Berkeley clasped her hand eagerly and raised it to his lips. 'Hilda,
then,' he said, kissing it twice over. 'It SHALL be Hilda.'

Hilda rose and stood before him erect in all her queenlike  beauty.
'So now that's settled,' she said, with a vain endeavour to control
her tears of joy. 'Don't let's talk about it any more, now; I can't
bear to talk about it: there's nothing to arrange, Arthur. Whenever
you like will suit me. But, oh, I'm so happy, so happy, so happy--I
never thought I could be so happy.'

'Nor I,' Arthur answered, holding her hand a moment in his tenderly.

'How strange,' Hilda said again, after a minute's delicious  silence;
'it's the poor Le Bretons who have brought us two thus together.
And yet, they were both once our dearest rivals. YOU were in love
with Edie Le Breton: _I_ was half in love with Ernest Le Breton:
and now--why, now, Arthur, I DO believe we're both utterly in love
with one another. What a curious little comedy of errors!'

'And yet only a few months ago it came very near being a tragedy,
rather,' Arthur put in softly.

'Never mind!' Hilda answered in her brightest and most joyous tone,
as she wiped the joyful tears from her eyes. 'It isn't a tragedy,
now, after all, Arthur, and all's well that ends well!'

When the Countess heard of Hilda's determination--Hilda didn't
pretend to go through the domestic farce of asking her mother's
consent to her approaching marriage--she said that so far as she
was concerned a more shocking or un-Christian piece of conduct on
the part of a well-brought-up girl had never yet been brought to
her knowledge. To refuse Lord Connemara, and then go and marry the
son of a common cobbler! But the Earl only puffed away vigorously
at his cheroot, and observed philosophically that for his part he
just considered himself jolly well out of it. This young fellow
Berkeley mightn't be a man of the sort of family Hilda would
naturally expect to marry into, but he was decently educated and
in good society, and above all, a gentleman, you know, don't you
know: and, hang it all, in these days that's really everything.
Besides, Berkeley was making a pot of money out of these operas
of his, the Earl understood, and as he had always expected that
Hilda'd marry some penniless painter or somebody of that sort, and
be a perpetual drag upon the family exchequer, he really didn't see
why they need trouble their heads very much about it. By George,
if it came to that, he rather  congratulated himself that the girl
hadn't taken it into her nonsensical head to run away with the groom
or the stable-boy! As to Lynmouth, he merely remarked succinctly in
his own dialect, 'Go it, Hilda, go it, my beauty! You always were
a one-er, you know, and it's my belief you always will be.'

It was somewhere about the same time that Ronald Le Breton, coming
back gladdened in soul from a cheerful talk with Ernest, called
round of an evening in somewhat unwonted exultation at Selah's
lodgings. 'Selah,' he said to her calmly, as she met him at the door
to let him in herself, 'I want to have a little talk with you.'

'What is it about, Ronald?' Selah asked, with a perfect consciousness
in her own mind of what the subject he wished to discourse about
was likely to be.

'Why, Selah,' Ronald went on in his quiet, matter-of-fact, unobtrusive
manner, 'do you know, I think we may fairly consider Ernest and
Edie out of danger now.'

'I hope so, Ronald,' Selah answered imperturbably.  'I've no doubt
your brother'll get along all right in future, and I'm sure at least
that he's getting stronger, for he looks ten per cent. better than
he did three months ago.'

'Well, Selah!'

'Well, Ronald!'

'Why, in that case, you see, your objection falls to the ground.
There can be no possible reason on either side why you should any
longer put off marrying me. We needn't consider Edie now; and you
can't have any reasonable doubt that I want to marry you for your
own sake this time.'

'What a nuisance the man is!' Selah cried impetuously.  'Always
bothering a body out of her nine senses to go and marry him. Have
you never read what Paul says, that it's good for the unmarried
and widows to abide? He was always dead against the advisability
of marriage, Paul was.'

'Brother Paul was an able and earnest preacher,' Ronald murmured
gravely, 'from whose authority I should be sorry to dissent except
for sufficient and weighty reason; but you must admit that on this
particular question he was prejudiced, Selah, decidedly prejudiced,
and that the balance of the best opinion goes distinctly the other
way.'

Selah laughed lightly. 'Oh, does it?' she said, in her provoking,
mocking manner. 'Then you propose to marry me, I suppose, on the
balance of the best Scriptural opinion.'

'Not at all, Selah,' Ronald replied without a touch of anything
but grave earnestness in his tone--it must be admitted Ronald was
distinctly lacking in the sense of humour. 'Not at all, I assure
you. I propose to marry you because I love you, and I believe in
your heart of hearts you love me, too, you provoking girl, though
you're too proud or too incomprehensible ever to acknowledge it.'

'And even if I do?' Selah asked. 'What then?'

'Why, then, Selah,' Ronald answered confidently, taking her hand
boldly in his own and actually kissing her--yes, kissing her; 'why,
then, Selah, suppose we say Monday fortnight?'

'It's awfully soon,' Selah replied, half grumbling. 'You don't give
a body time to think it over.'

'Certainly not,' Ronald responded, quickly, taking the handsome
face firmly between his two spare hands, and kissing her lips half
a dozen times over in rapid succession.

'Let me go, Ronald,' Selah cried, struggling to be free, and trying
in vain to tear down his thin wiry arms with her own strong shapely
hands. 'Let me go at once,--there's a good boy, and I'll marry you
on Monday fortnight, or do anything else you like, just to keep
you quiet. After all, you're a kind-hearted fellow enough, and you
want looking after and taking care of, and if you insist upon it,
I don't mind giving way to you in this small matter.'

Ronald stepped back a pace or two, and stood looking at her a little
sadly with his hands folded. 'Oh, Selah,' he cried in a tone of
bitter disappointment, 'don't speak like that to me, don't, please.
Don't, don't tell me that you don't really love me--that you're
going to marry me for nothing else but out of mere compassion for
my weakness and helplessness!'

Selah burst at once into a wild flood of uncontrollable tears: 'Oh,
Ronald,' she cried in her old almost fiercely passionate manner,
flinging her arms around his neck and covering him with kisses;
'Oh, Ronald, how can you ever ask me whether I really really love
you! You know I love you! You know I love you! You've given me back
life and everything that's dear in it, and I never want to live
for  anything any longer except to love you, and wait upon you,
and make you happy. I'm stronger than you, Ronald, and I shall be
able to do a little to make you happy, I do believe.  My ways are
not your ways, nor my thoughts your thoughts, my darling; but I
love you all the better for that, Ronald, I love you all the better
for that; and if you were to kick me, beat me, trample on me now,
Ronald, I should love you, love you, love you for ever still.'

So they two were quietly married, with no audience save Ernest and
Edie, on that very Monday fortnight.

When Herbert Le Breton heard of it from his mother a few days later,
he went home at once to his own eminently cultured home and told
Mrs. Le Breton the news, of course without much detailed allusion
to Selah's earlier antecedents.  'And do you know, Ethel,' he added
significantly, 'I think it was an excellent thing that you decided
not to call after all upon Ernest's wife, for I'm sure it'll be
a great deal safer for you and me to have nothing to say in any
way to the whole faction of them. A greengrocer's daughter, you
know--quite unpresentable. They'll be all mixed up together in
future, which'll make it quite impossible to know the one without
at the same time knowing the other. Now, it'd be just practicable
for you to call upon Mrs. Ernest, I must admit, but to call upon
Mrs. Ronald would be really and truly too inconceivable.'

At the end of the first year of the 'Social Reformer,' the annual
balance was duly audited, and it showed a very considerable and
solid surplus to go into the pocket of the enterprising Radical
proprietor. Ernest and Herr Max scanned it closely together, and
even Ernest could not refrain from a smile of pleasure when he saw
how thoroughly successful the doubtful venture had finally turned
out.  'And yet,' he said regretfully, as he looked at the heavy
balance-sheet, 'what a strange occupation after all for the author
of "Gold and the Proletariate," to be looking carefully  over the
sum-total of a capitalist's final balance! To think, too, that all
that money has come out of the hard-earned scraped-up pennies of
the toiling poor! I often wish, Herr Max, that even so I had been
brought up an honest shoemaker! But whether I'm really earning my
salt at the hands of humanity now or not is a deep problem I often
have many an uncomfortable internal sigh over to this day.'

'There is work and work, friend Ernest,' Herr Max answered, as gently
as had been his wont in older years; 'and for my part it seems to
me you are better here writing your Social Reformers than making
shoes for a single generation.  One man builds for to-day, another
man builds for to-morrow; and he that plants a fruit tree for his
children to eat of is doing as much good work in the world as he
that sows the corn in spring to be reaped and eaten at this autumn's
harvest.'

'Perhaps so,' Ernest answered softly. 'I wish I could think so.
But after all I'm not quite sure whether, if we had all starved
eighteen months ago together, as seemed so likely then, it wouldn't
have been the most right thing in the end that could possibly have
happened to all of us. As things are constituted now, there seems
only one life that's really worth living for an honest man, and
that's a martyr's.  A martyr's or else a worker's. And I, I greatly
fear, have managed somehow to miss being either. The wind carries
us this way and that, and when we would do that which is right, it
drifts us away incontinently into that which is only profitable.'

'Dear Ernest,' Edie cried in her bright old-fashioned manner from
the ofice door, 'Dot has come in her new frock to bring Daddy home
for her birthday dinner as she was promised. Come quick, or your
little daughter'll be very angry with you. And Lady Hilda Berkeley
has come, too, to drive us back in her own brougham. Now don't
be a silly, there's a dear, or say that you can't drive away from
the office of the "Social Reformer" in Lady Hilda's brougham!'




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