Grant Allen

Part 3 out of 8

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

'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.



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

'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

'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

'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

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

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

'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!



'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

'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.



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 régime 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 nécessité, 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

'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 évidence,
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!'



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-à-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 clientèle 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 Caffè 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'hôte 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

'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

'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

'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

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.



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 versâ. 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

'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,

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

'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

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


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