Part 1 out of 5
This Etext prepared by Judy Boss, of Omaha, NE
OR AN OXFORD LOVE STORY
NOTE to the 1922 edition
I was in Italy when this book was first published.
A year later (1912) I visited London, and I found
that most of my friends and acquaintances spoke to
me of Zu-like-a -- a name which I hardly recognised
and thoroughly disapproved. I had always thought
of the lady as Zu-leek-a. Surely it was thus that
Joseph thought of his Wife, and Selim of his Bride?
And I do hope that it is thus that any reader of
these pages will think of Miss Dobson.
ILLI ALMAE MATRI
That old bell, presage of a train, had just sounded through Oxford
station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures
in tweed or flannel, moved to the margin of the platform and gazed
idly up the line. Young and careless, in the glow of the afternoon
sunshine, they struck a sharp note of incongruity with the worn boards
they stood on, with the fading signals and grey eternal walls of that
antique station, which, familiar to them and insignificant, does yet
whisper to the tourist the last enchantments of the Middle Age.
At the door of the first-class waiting-room, aloof and venerable,
stood the Warden of Judas. An ebon pillar of tradition seemed he, in
his garb of old-fashioned cleric. Aloft, between the wide brim of his
silk hat and the white extent of his shirt-front, appeared those eyes
which hawks, that nose which eagles, had often envied. He supported
his years on an ebon stick. He alone was worthy of the background.
Came a whistle from the distance. The breast of an engine was
descried, and a long train curving after it, under a flight of smoke.
It grew and grew. Louder and louder, its noise foreran it. It became a
furious, enormous monster, and, with an instinct for safety, all men
receded from the platform's margin. (Yet came there with it, unknown
to them, a danger far more terrible than itself.) Into the station it
came blustering, with cloud and clangour. Ere it had yet stopped, the
door of one carriage flew open, and from it, in a white travelling
dress, in a toque a-twinkle with fine diamonds, a lithe and radiant
creature slipped nimbly down to the platform.
A cynosure indeed! A hundred eyes were fixed on her, and half as many
hearts lost to her. The Warden of Judas himself had mounted on his
nose a pair of black-rimmed glasses. Him espying, the nymph darted in
his direction. The throng made way for her. She was at his side.
"Grandpapa!" she cried, and kissed the old man on either cheek. (Not a
youth there but would have bartered fifty years of his future for that
"My dear Zuleika," he said, "welcome to Oxford! Have you no luggage?"
"Heaps!" she answered. "And a maid who will find it."
"Then," said the Warden, "let us drive straight to College." He
offered her his arm, and they proceeded slowly to the entrance. She
chatted gaily, blushing not in the long avenue of eyes she passed
through. All the youths, under her spell, were now quite oblivious of
the relatives they had come to meet. Parents, sisters, cousins, ran
unclaimed about the platform. Undutiful, all the youths were forming a
serried suite to their enchantress. In silence they followed her. They
saw her leap into the Warden's landau, they saw the Warden seat
himself upon her left. Nor was it until the landau was lost to sight
that they turned--how slowly, and with how bad a grace!--to look for
Through those slums which connect Oxford with the world, the landau
rolled on towards Judas. Not many youths occurred, for nearly all--it
was the Monday of Eights Week--were down by the river, cheering the
crews. There did, however, come spurring by, on a polo-pony, a very
splendid youth. His straw hat was encircled with a riband of blue and
white, and he raised it to the Warden.
"That," said the Warden, "is the Duke of Dorset, a member of my
College. He dines at my table to-night."
Zuleika, turning to regard his Grace, saw that he had not reined in
and was not even glancing back at her over his shoulder. She gave a
little start of dismay, but scarcely had her lips pouted ere they
curved to a smile--a smile with no malice in its corners.
As the landau rolled into "the Corn," another youth--a pedestrian, and
very different--saluted the Warden. He wore a black jacket, rusty and
amorphous. His trousers were too short, and he himself was too short:
almost a dwarf. His face was as plain as his gait was undistinguished.
He squinted behind spectacles.
"And who is that?" asked Zuleika.
A deep flush overspread the cheek of the Warden. "That," he said, "is
also a member of Judas. His name, I believe, is Noaks."
"Is he dining with us to-night?" asked Zuleika.
"Certainly not," said the Warden. "Most decidedly not."
Noaks, unlike the Duke, had stopped for an ardent retrospect. He gazed
till the landau was out of his short sight; then, sighing, resumed his
The landau was rolling into "the Broad," over that ground which had
once blackened under the fagots lit for Latimer and Ridley. It rolled
past the portals of Balliol and of Trinity, past the Ashmolean. From
those pedestals which intersperse the railing of the Sheldonian, the
high grim busts of the Roman Emperors stared down at the fair stranger
in the equipage. Zuleika returned their stare with but a casual
glance. The inanimate had little charm for her.
A moment later, a certain old don emerged from Blackwell's, where he
had been buying books. Looking across the road, he saw, to his
amazement, great beads of perspiration glistening on the brows of
those Emperors. He trembled, and hurried away. That evening, in Common
Room, he told what he had seen; and no amount of polite scepticism
would convince him that it was but the hallucination of one who had
been reading too much Mommsen. He persisted that he had seen what he
described. It was not until two days had elapsed that some credence
was accorded him.
Yes, as the landau rolled by, sweat started from the brows of the
Emperors. They, at least, foresaw the peril that was overhanging
Oxford, and they gave such warning as they could. Let that be
remembered to their credit. Let that incline us to think more gently
of them. In their lives we know, they were infamous, some of them--
"nihil non commiserunt stupri, saevitiae, impietatis." But are they
too little punished, after all? Here in Oxford, exposed eternally and
inexorably to heat and frost, to the four winds that lash them and the
rains that wear them away, they are expiating, in effigy, the
abominations of their pride and cruelty and lust. Who were lechers,
they are without bodies; who were tyrants, they are crowned never but
with crowns of snow; who made themselves even with the gods, they are
by American visitors frequently mistaken for the Twelve Apostles. It
is but a little way down the road that the two Bishops perished for
their faith, and even now we do never pass the spot without a tear for
them. Yet how quickly they died in the flames! To these Emperors, for
whom none weeps, time will give no surcease. Surely, it is sign of
some grace in them that they rejoiced not, this bright afternoon, in
the evil that was to befall the city of their penance.
The sun streamed through the bay-window of a "best" bedroom in the
Warden's house, and glorified the pale crayon-portraits on the wall,
the dimity curtains, the old fresh chintz. He invaded the many trunks
which--all painted Z. D.--gaped, in various stages of excavation,
around the room. The doors of the huge wardrobe stood, like the doors
of Janus' temple in time of war, majestically open; and the sun seized
this opportunity of exploring the mahogany recesses. But the carpet,
which had faded under his immemorial visitations, was now almost
ENTIRELY hidden from him, hidden under layers of fair fine linen,
layers of silk, brocade, satin, chiffon, muslin. All the colours of
the rainbow, materialised by modistes, were there. Stacked on chairs
were I know not what of sachets, glove-cases, fan-cases. There were
innumerable packages in silver-paper and pink ribands. There was a
pyramid of bandboxes. There was a virgin forest of boot-trees. And
rustling quickly hither and thither, in and out of this profusion,
with armfuls of finery, was an obviously French maid. Alert, unerring,
like a swallow she dipped and darted. Nothing escaped her, and she
never rested. She had the air of the born unpacker--swift and firm,
yet withal tender. Scarce had her arms been laden but their loads were
lying lightly between shelves or tightly in drawers. To calculate,
catch, distribute, seemed in her but a single process. She was one of
those who are born to make chaos cosmic.
Insomuch that ere the loud chapel-clock tolled another hour all the
trunks had been sent empty away. The carpet was unflecked by any scrap
of silver-paper. From the mantelpiece, photographs of Zuleika surveyed
the room with a possessive air. Zuleika's pincushion, a-bristle with
new pins, lay on the dimity-flounced toilet-table, and round it stood
a multitude of multiform glass vessels, domed, all of them, with dull
gold, on which Z. D., in zianites and diamonds, was encrusted. On a
small table stood a great casket of malachite, initialled in like
fashion. On another small table stood Zuleika's library. Both books
were in covers of dull gold. On the back of one cover BRADSHAW, in
beryls, was encrusted; on the back of the other, A.B.C. GUIDE, in
amethysts, beryls, chrysoprases, and garnets. And Zuleika's great
cheval-glass stood ready to reflect her. Always it travelled with her,
in a great case specially made for it. It was framed in ivory, and of
fluted ivory were the slim columns it swung between. Of gold were its
twin sconces, and four tall tapers stood in each of them.
The door opened, and the Warden, with hospitable words, left his
grand-daughter at the threshold.
Zuleika wandered to her mirror. "Undress me, Melisande," she said.
Like all who are wont to appear by night before the public, she had
the habit of resting towards sunset.
Presently Melisande withdrew. Her mistress, in a white peignoir tied
with a blue sash, lay in a great chintz chair, gazing out of the
bay-window. The quadrangle below was very beautiful, with its walls of
rugged grey, its cloisters, its grass carpet. But to her it was of no
more interest than if it had been the rattling court-yard to one of
those hotels in which she spent her life. She saw it, but heeded it
not. She seemed to be thinking of herself, or of something she
desired, or of some one she had never met. There was ennui, and there
was wistfulness, in her gaze. Yet one would have guessed these things
to be transient--to be no more than the little shadows that sometimes
pass between a bright mirror and the brightness it reflects.
Zuleika was not strictly beautiful. Her eyes were a trifle large, and
their lashes longer than they need have been. An anarchy of small
curls was her chevelure, a dark upland of misrule, every hair
asserting its rights over a not discreditable brow. For the rest, her
features were not at all original. They seemed to have been derived
rather from a gallimaufry of familiar models. From Madame la Marquise
de Saint-Ouen came the shapely tilt of the nose. The mouth was a mere
replica of Cupid's bow, lacquered scarlet and strung with the littlest
pearls. No apple-tree, no wall of peaches, had not been robbed, nor
any Tyrian rose-garden, for the glory of Miss Dobson's cheeks. Her
neck was imitation-marble. Her hands and feet were of very mean
proportions. She had no waist to speak of.
Yet, though a Greek would have railed at her asymmetry, and an
Elizabethan have called her "gipsy," Miss Dobson now, in the midst of
the Edvardian Era, was the toast of two hemispheres. Late in her
'teens she had become an orphan and a governess. Her grandfather had
refused her appeal for a home or an allowance, on the ground that he
would not be burdened with the upshot of a marriage which he had once
forbidden and not yet forgiven. Lately, however, prompted by curiosity
or by remorse, he had asked her to spend a week or so of his declining
years with him. And she, "resting" between two engagements--one at
Hammerstein's Victoria, N.Y.C., the other at the Folies Bergeres,
Paris--and having never been in Oxford, had so far let bygones be
bygones as to come and gratify the old man's whim.
It may be that she still resented his indifference to those early
struggles which, even now, she shuddered to recall. For a governess'
life she had been, indeed, notably unfit. Hard she had thought it,
that penury should force her back into the school-room she was scarce
out of, there to champion the sums and maps and conjugations she had
never tried to master. Hating her work, she had failed signally to
pick up any learning from her little pupils, and had been driven from
house to house, a sullen and most ineffectual maiden. The sequence of
her situations was the swifter by reason of her pretty face. Was there
a grown-up son, always he fell in love with her, and she would let his
eyes trifle boldly with hers across the dinner-table. When he offered
her his hand, she would refuse it--not because she "knew her place,"
but because she did not love him. Even had she been a good teacher,
her presence could not have been tolerated thereafter. Her corded
trunk, heavier by another packet of billets-doux and a month's salary
in advance, was soon carried up the stairs of some other house.
It chanced that she came, at length, to be governess in a large family
that had Gibbs for its name and Notting Hill for its background.
Edward, the eldest son, was a clerk in the city, who spent his
evenings in the practice of amateur conjuring. He was a freckled
youth, with hair that bristled in places where it should have lain
smooth, and he fell in love with Zuleika duly, at first sight, during
high-tea. In the course of the evening, he sought to win her
admiration by a display of all his tricks. These were familiar to this
household, and the children had been sent to bed, the mother was
dozing, long before the seance was at an end. But Miss Dobson,
unaccustomed to any gaieties, sat fascinated by the young man's
sleight of hand, marvelling that a top-hat could hold so many
goldfish, and a handkerchief turn so swiftly into a silver florin. All
that night, she lay wide awake, haunted by the miracles he had
wrought. Next evening, when she asked him to repeat them, "Nay," he
whispered, "I cannot bear to deceive the girl I love. Permit me to
explain the tricks." So he explained them. His eyes sought hers across
the bowl of gold-fish, his fingers trembled as he taught her to
manipulate the magic canister. One by one, she mastered the paltry
secrets. Her respect for him waned with every revelation. He
complimented her on her skill. "I could not do it more neatly myself!"
he said. "Oh, dear Miss Dobson, will you but accept my hand, all these
things shall be yours--the cards, the canister, the goldfish, the
demon egg-cup--all yours!" Zuleika, with ravishing coyness, answered
that if he would give her them now, she would "think it over." The
swain consented, and at bed-time she retired with the gift under her
arm. In the light of her bedroom candle Marguerite hung not in greater
ecstasy over the jewel-casket than hung Zuleika over the box of
tricks. She clasped her hands over the tremendous possibilities it
held for her--manumission from her bondage, wealth, fame, power.
Stealthily, so soon as the house slumbered, she packed her small
outfit, embedding therein the precious gift. Noiselessly, she shut the
lid of her trunk, corded it, shouldered it, stole down the stairs with
it. Outside--how that chain had grated! and her shoulder, how it was
aching!--she soon found a cab. She took a night's sanctuary in some
railway-hotel. Next day, she moved into a small room in a lodging-
house off the Edgware Road, and there for a whole week she was
sedulous in the practice of her tricks. Then she inscribed her name on
the books of a "Juvenile Party Entertainments Agency."
The Christmas holidays were at hand, and before long she got an
engagement. It was a great evening for her. Her repertory was, it must
be confessed, old and obvious; but the children, in deference to their
hostess, pretended not to know how the tricks were done, and assumed
their prettiest airs of wonder and delight. One of them even pretended
to be frightened, and was led howling from the room. In fact, the
whole thing went off splendidly. The hostess was charmed, and told
Zuleika that a glass of lemonade would be served to her in the hall.
Other engagements soon followed. Zuleika was very, very happy. I
cannot claim for her that she had a genuine passion for her art. The
true conjurer finds his guerdon in the consciousness of work done
perfectly and for its own sake. Lucre and applause are not necessary
to him. If he were set down, with the materials of his art, on a
desert island, he would yet be quite happy. He would not cease to
produce the barber's-pole from his mouth. To the indifferent winds he
would still speak his patter, and even in the last throes of
starvation would not eat his live rabbit or his gold-fish. Zuleika, on
a desert island, would have spent most of her time in looking for a
man's foot-print. She was, indeed, far too human a creature to care
much for art. I do not say that she took her work lightly. She thought
she had genius, and she liked to be told that this was so. But mainly
she loved her work as a means of mere self-display. The frank
admiration which, into whatsoever house she entered, the grown-up sons
flashed on her; their eagerness to see her to the door; their
impressive way of putting her into her omnibus--these were the things
she revelled in. She was a nymph to whom men's admiration was the
greater part of life. By day, whenever she went into the streets, she
was conscious that no man passed her without a stare; and this
consciousness gave a sharp zest to her outings. Sometimes she was
followed to her door--crude flattery which she was too innocent to
fear. Even when she went into the haberdasher's to make some little
purchase of tape or riband, or into the grocer's--for she was an
epicure in her humble way--to buy a tin of potted meat for her supper,
the homage of the young men behind the counter did flatter and
exhilarate her. As the homage of men became for her, more and more, a
matter of course, the more subtly necessary was it to her happiness.
The more she won of it, the more she treasured it. She was alone in
the world, and it saved her from any moment of regret that she had
neither home nor friends. For her the streets that lay around her had
no squalor, since she paced them always in the gold nimbus of her
fascinations. Her bedroom seemed not mean nor lonely to her, since the
little square of glass, nailed above the wash-stand, was ever there to
reflect her face. Thereinto, indeed, she was ever peering. She would
droop her head from side to side, she would bend it forward and see
herself from beneath her eyelashes, then tilt it back and watch
herself over her supercilious chin. And she would smile, frown, pout,
languish--let all the emotions hover upon her face; and always she
seemed to herself lovelier than she had ever been.
Yet was there nothing Narcissine in her spirit. Her love for her own
image was not cold aestheticism. She valued that image not for its own
sake, but for sake of the glory it always won for her. In the little
remote music-hall, where she was soon appearing nightly as an "early
turn," she reaped glory in a nightly harvest. She could feel that all
the gallery-boys, because of her, were scornful of the sweethearts
wedged between them, and she knew that she had but to say "Will any
gentleman in the audience be so good as to lend me his hat?" for the
stalls to rise as one man and rush towards the platform. But greater
things were in store for her. She was engaged at two halls in the West
End. Her horizon was fast receding and expanding. Homage became
nightly tangible in bouquets, rings, brooches--things acceptable and
(luckier than their donors) accepted. Even Sunday was not barren for
Zuleika: modish hostesses gave her postprandially to their guests.
Came that Sunday night, notanda candidissimo calculo! when she
received certain guttural compliments which made absolute her vogue
and enabled her to command, thenceforth, whatever terms she asked for.
Already, indeed, she was rich. She was living at the most exorbitant
hotel in all Mayfair. She had innumerable gowns and no necessity to
buy jewels; and she also had, which pleased her most, the fine cheval-
glass I have described. At the close of the Season, Paris claimed her
for a month's engagement. Paris saw her and was prostrate. Boldini did
a portrait of her. Jules Bloch wrote a song about her; and this, for a
whole month, was howled up and down the cobbled alleys of Montmartre.
And all the little dandies were mad for "la Zuleika." The jewellers of
the Rue de la Paix soon had nothing left to put in their windows--
everything had been bought for "la Zuleika." For a whole month,
baccarat was not played at the Jockey Club--every member had succumbed
to a nobler passion. For a whole month, the whole demi-monde was
forgotten for one English virgin. Never, even in Paris, had a woman
triumphed so. When the day came for her departure, the city wore such
an air of sullen mourning as it had not worn since the Prussians
marched to its Elysee. Zuleika, quite untouched, would not linger in
the conquered city. Agents had come to her from every capital in
Europe, and, for a year, she ranged, in triumphal nomady, from one
capital to another. In Berlin, every night, the students escorted her
home with torches. Prince Vierfuenfsechs-Siebenachtneun offered her
his hand, and was condemned by the Kaiser to six months' confinement
in his little castle. In Yildiz Kiosk, the tyrant who still throve
there conferred on her the Order of Chastity, and offered her the
central couch in his seraglio. She gave her performance in the
Quirinal, and, from the Vatican, the Pope launched against her a Bull
which fell utterly flat. In Petersburg, the Grand Duke Salamander
Salamandrovitch fell enamoured of her. Of every article in the
apparatus of her conjuring-tricks he caused a replica to be made in
finest gold. These treasures he presented to her in that great
malachite casket which now stood on the little table in her room; and
thenceforth it was with these that she performed her wonders. They did
not mark the limit of the Grand Duke's generosity. He was for
bestowing on Zuleika the half of his immensurable estates. The Grand
Duchess appealed to the Tzar. Zuleika was conducted across the
frontier, by an escort of love-sick Cossacks. On the Sunday before she
left Madrid, a great bull-fight was held in her honour. Fifteen bulls
received the coup-de-grace, and Alvarez, the matador of matadors, died
in the arena with her name on his lips. He had tried to kill the last
bull without taking his eyes off la divina senorita. A prettier
compliment had never been paid her, and she was immensely pleased with
it. For that matter, she was immensely pleased with everything. She
moved proudly to the incessant music of a paean, aye! of a paean that
was always crescendo.
Its echoes followed her when she crossed the Atlantic, till they were
lost in the louder, deeper, more blatant paean that rose for her from
the shores beyond. All the stops of that "mighty organ, many-piped,"
the New York press, were pulled out simultaneously, as far as they
could be pulled, in Zuleika's honour. She delighted in the din. She
read every line that was printed about her, tasting her triumph as she
had never tasted it before. And how she revelled in the Brobdingnagian
drawings of her, which, printed in nineteen colours, towered between
the columns or sprawled across them! There she was, measuring herself
back to back with the Statue of Liberty; scudding through the
firmament on a comet, whilst a crowd of tiny men in evening-dress
stared up at her from the terrestrial globe; peering through a
microscope held by Cupid over a diminutive Uncle Sam; teaching the
American Eagle to stand on its head; and doing a hundred-and-one other
things--whatever suggested itself to the fancy of native art. And
through all this iridescent maze of symbolism were scattered many
little slabs of realism. At home, on the street, Zuleika was the
smiling target of all snap-shooters, and all the snap-shots were
snapped up by the press and reproduced with annotations: Zuleika
Dobson walking on Broadway in the sables gifted her by Grand Duke
Salamander--she says "You can bounce blizzards in them"; Zuleika
Dobson yawning over a love-letter from millionaire Edelweiss;
relishing a cup of clam-broth--she says "They don't use clams out
there"; ordering her maid to fix her a warm bath; finding a split in
the gloves she has just drawn on before starting for the musicale
given in her honour by Mrs. Suetonius X. Meistersinger, the most
exclusive woman in New York; chatting at the telephone to Miss Camille
Van Spook, the best-born girl in New York; laughing over the
recollection of a compliment made her by George Abimelech Post, the
best-groomed man in New York; meditating a new trick; admonishing a
waiter who has upset a cocktail over her skirt; having herself
manicured; drinking tea in bed. Thus was Zuleika enabled daily to be,
as one might say, a spectator of her own wonderful life. On her
departure from New York, the papers spoke no more than the truth when
they said she had had "a lovely time." The further she went West--
millionaire Edelweiss had loaned her his private car--the lovelier her
time was. Chicago drowned the echoes of New York; final Frisco dwarfed
the headlines of Chicago. Like one of its own prairie-fires, she swept
the country from end to end. Then she swept back, and sailed for
England. She was to return for a second season in the coming Fall. At
present, she was, as I have said, "resting."
As she sat here in the bay-window of her room, she was not reviewing
the splendid pageant of her past. She was a young person whose
reveries never were in retrospect. For her the past was no treasury of
distinct memories, all hoarded and classified, some brighter than
others and more highly valued. All memories were for her but as the
motes in one fused radiance that followed her and made more luminous
the pathway of her future. She was always looking forward. She was
looking forward now--that shade of ennui had passed from her face--to
the week she was to spend in Oxford. A new city was a new toy to her,
and--for it was youth's homage that she loved best--this city of
youths was a toy after her own heart.
Aye, and it was youths who gave homage to her most freely. She was of
that high-stepping and flamboyant type that captivates youth most
surely. Old men and men of middle age admired her, but she had not
that flower-like quality of shyness and helplessness, that look of
innocence, so dear to men who carry life's secrets in their heads. Yet
Zuleika WAS very innocent, really. She was as pure as that young
shepherdess Marcella, who, all unguarded, roved the mountains and was
by all the shepherds adored. Like Marcella, she had given her heart to
no man, had preferred none. Youths were reputed to have died for love
of her, as Chrysostom died for love of the shepherdess; and she, like
the shepherdess, had shed no tear. When Chrysostom was lying on his
bier in the valley, and Marcella looked down from the high rock,
Ambrosio, the dead man's comrade, cried out on her, upbraiding her
with bitter words--"Oh basilisk of our mountains!" Nor do I think
Ambrosio spoke too strongly. Marcella cared nothing for men's
admiration, and yet, instead of retiring to one of those nunneries
which are founded for her kind, she chose to rove the mountains,
causing despair to all the shepherds. Zuleika, with her peculiar
temperament, would have gone mad in a nunnery. "But," you may argue,
"ought not she to have taken the veil, even at the cost of her reason,
rather than cause so much despair in the world? If Marcella was a
basilisk, as you seem to think, how about Miss Dobson?" Ah, but
Marcella knew quite well, boasted even, that she never would or could
love any man. Zuleika, on the other hand, was a woman of really
passionate fibre. She may not have had that conscious, separate, and
quite explicit desire to be a mother with which modern playwrights
credit every unmated member of her sex. But she did know that she
could love. And, surely, no woman who knows that of herself can be
rightly censured for not recluding herself from the world: it is only
women without the power to love who have no right to provoke men's
Though Zuleika had never given her heart, strong in her were the
desire and the need that it should be given. Whithersoever she had
fared, she had seen nothing but youths fatuously prostrate to her--not
one upright figure which she could respect. There were the middle-aged
men, the old men, who did not bow down to her; but from middle-age, as
from eld, she had a sanguine aversion. She could love none but a
youth. Nor--though she herself, womanly, would utterly abase herself
before her ideal--could she love one who fell prone before her. And
before her all youths always did fall prone. She was an empress, and
all youths were her slaves. Their bondage delighted her, as I have
said. But no empress who has any pride can adore one of her slaves.
Whom, then, could proud Zuleika adore? It was a question which
sometimes troubled her. There were even moments when, looking into her
cheval-glass, she cried out against that arrangement in comely lines
and tints which got for her the dulia she delighted in. To be able to
love once--would not that be better than all the homage in the world?
But would she ever meet whom, looking up to him, she could love--she,
the omnisubjugant? Would she ever, ever meet him?
It was when she wondered thus, that the wistfulness came into her
eyes. Even now, as she sat by the window, that shadow returned to
them. She was wondering, shyly, had she met him at length? That young
equestrian who had not turned to look at her; whom she was to meet at
dinner to-night . . . was it he? The ends of her blue sash lay across
her lap, and she was lazily unravelling their fringes. "Blue and
white!" she remembered. "They were the colours he wore round his hat."
And she gave a little laugh of coquetry. She laughed, and, long after,
her lips were still parted in a smile.
So did she sit, smiling, wondering, with the fringes of her sash
between her fingers, while the sun sank behind the opposite wall of
the quadrangle, and the shadows crept out across the grass, thirsty
for the dew.
The clock in the Warden's drawing-room had just struck eight, and
already the ducal feet were beautiful on the white bearskin hearthrug.
So slim and long were they, of instep so nobly arched, that only with
a pair of glazed ox-tongues on a breakfast-table were they comparable.
Incomparable quite, the figure and face and vesture of him who ended
The Warden was talking to him, with all the deference of elderly
commoner to patrician boy. The other guests--an Oriel don and his
wife--were listening with earnest smile and submissive droop, at a
slight distance. Now and again, to put themselves at their ease, they
exchanged in undertone a word or two about the weather.
"The young lady whom you may have noticed with me," the Warden was
saying, "is my orphaned grand-daughter." (The wife of the Oriel don
discarded her smile, and sighed, with a glance at the Duke, who was
himself an orphan.) "She has come to stay with me." (The Duke glanced
quickly round the room.) "I cannot think why she is not down yet."
(The Oriel don fixed his eyes on the clock, as though he suspected it
of being fast.) "I must ask you to forgive her. She appears to be a
bright, pleasant young woman."
"Married?" asked the Duke.
"No," said the Warden; and a cloud of annoyance crossed the boy's
face. "No; she devotes her life entirely to good works."
"A hospital nurse?" the Duke murmured.
"No, Zuleika's appointed task is to induce delightful wonder rather
than to alleviate pain. She performs conjuring-tricks."
"Not--not Miss Zuleika Dobson?" cried the Duke.
"Ah yes. I forgot that she had achieved some fame in the outer world.
Perhaps she has already met you?"
"Never," said the young man coldly. "But of course I have heard of
Miss Dobson. I did not know she was related to you."
The Duke had an intense horror of unmarried girls. All his vacations
were spent in eluding them and their chaperons. That he should be
confronted with one of them--with such an one of them!--in Oxford,
seemed to him sheer violation of sanctuary. The tone, therefore, in
which he said "I shall be charmed," in answer to the Warden's request
that he would take Zuleika into dinner, was very glacial. So was his
gaze when, a moment later, the young lady made her entry.
"She did not look like an orphan," said the wife of the Oriel don,
subsequently, on the way home. The criticism was a just one. Zuleika
would have looked singular in one of those lowly double-files of
straw-bonnets and drab cloaks which are so steadying a feature of our
social system. Tall and lissom, she was sheathed from the bosom
downwards in flamingo silk, and she was liberally festooned with
emeralds. Her dark hair was not even strained back from her forehead
and behind her ears, as an orphan's should be. Parted somewhere at the
side, it fell in an avalanche of curls upon one eyebrow. From her
right ear drooped heavily a black pearl, from her left a pink; and
their difference gave an odd, bewildering witchery to the little face
Was the young Duke bewitched? Instantly, utterly. But none could have
guessed as much from his cold stare, his easy and impassive bow.
Throughout dinner, none guessed that his shirt-front was but the
screen of a fierce warfare waged between pride and passion. Zuleika,
at the foot of the table, fondly supposed him indifferent to her.
Though he sat on her right, not one word or glance would he give her.
All his conversation was addressed to the unassuming lady who sat on
his other side, next to the Warden. Her he edified and flustered
beyond measure by his insistent courtesy. Her husband, alone on the
other side of the table, was mortified by his utter failure to engage
Zuleika in small-talk. Zuleika was sitting with her profile turned to
him--the profile with the pink pearl--and was gazing full at the young
Duke. She was hardly more affable than a cameo. "Yes," "No," "I don't
know," were the only answers she would vouchsafe to his questions. A
vague "Oh really?" was all he got for his timid little offerings of
information. In vain he started the topic of modern conjuring-tricks
as compared with the conjuring-tricks performed by the ancient
Egyptians. Zuleika did not even say "Oh really?" when he told her
about the metamorphosis of the bulls in the Temple of Osiris. He
primed himself with a glass of sherry, cleared his throat. "And what,"
he asked, with a note of firmness, "did you think of our cousins
across the water?" Zuleika said "Yes;" and then he gave in. Nor was
she conscious that he ceased talking to her. At intervals throughout
the rest of dinner, she murmured "Yes," and "No," and "Oh really?"
though the poor little don was now listening silently to the Duke and
She was in a trance of sheer happiness. At last, she thought, her hope
was fulfilled--that hope which, although she had seldom remembered it
in the joy of her constant triumphs, had been always lurking in her,
lying near to her heart and chafing her, like the shift of sackcloth
which that young brilliant girl, loved and lost of Giacopone di Todi,
wore always in secret submission to her own soul, under the fair soft
robes and the rubies men saw on her. At last, here was the youth who
would not bow down to her; whom, looking up to him, she could adore.
She ate and drank automatically, never taking her gaze from him. She
felt not one touch of pique at his behaviour. She was tremulous with a
joy that was new to her, greater than any joy she had known. Her soul
was as a flower in its opetide. She was in love. Rapt, she studied
every lineament of the pale and perfect face--the brow from which
bronze-coloured hair rose in tiers of burnished ripples; the large
steel-coloured eyes, with their carven lids; the carven nose, and the
plastic lips. She noted how long and slim were his fingers, and how
slender his wrists. She noted the glint cast by the candles upon his
shirt-front. The two large white pearls there seemed to her symbols of
his nature. They were like two moons: cold, remote, radiant. Even when
she gazed at the Duke's face, she was aware of them in her vision.
Nor was the Duke unconscious, as he seemed to be, of her scrutiny.
Though he kept his head averse, he knew that always her eyes were
watching him. Obliquely, he saw them; saw, too, the contour of the
face, and the black pearl and the pink; could not blind himself, try
as he would. And he knew that he was in love.
Like Zuleika herself, this young Duke was in love for the first time.
Wooed though he had been by almost as many maidens as she by youths,
his heart, like hers, had remained cold. But he had never felt, as she
had, the desire to love. He was not now rejoicing, as she was, in the
sensation of first love; nay, he was furiously mortified by it, and
struggled with all his might against it. He had always fancied himself
secure against any so vulgar peril; always fancied that by him at
least, the proud old motto of his family--"Pas si bete"--would not be
belied. And I daresay, indeed, that had he never met Zuleika, the
irresistible, he would have lived, and at a very ripe old age died, a
dandy without reproach. For in him the dandiacal temper had been
absolute hitherto, quite untainted and unruffled. He was too much
concerned with his own perfection ever to think of admiring any one
else. Different from Zuleika, he cared for his wardrobe and his
toilet-table not as a means to making others admire him the more, but
merely as a means through which he could intensify, a ritual in which
to express and realise, his own idolatry. At Eton he had been called
"Peacock," and this nick-name had followed him up to Oxford. It was
not wholly apposite, however. For, whereas the peacock is a fool even
among birds, the Duke had already taken (besides a particularly
brilliant First in Mods) the Stanhope, the Newdigate, the Lothian, and
the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse. And these things he had achieved
currente calamo, "wielding his pen," as Scott said of Byron, "with the
easy negligence of a nobleman." He was now in his third year of
residence, and was reading, a little, for Literae Humaniores. There is
no doubt that but for his untimely death he would have taken a
particularly brilliant First in that school also.
For the rest, he had many accomplishments. He was adroit in the
killing of all birds and fishes, stags and foxes. He played polo,
cricket, racquets, chess, and billiards as well as such things can be
played. He was fluent in all modern languages, had a very real talent
in water-colour, and was accounted, by those who had had the privilege
of hearing him, the best amateur pianist on this side of the Tweed.
Little wonder, then, that he was idolised by the undergraduates of his
day. He did not, however, honour many of them with his friendship. He
had a theoretic liking for them as a class, as the "young barbarians
all at play" in that little antique city; but individually they jarred
on him, and he saw little of them. Yet he sympathised with them
always, and, on occasion, would actively take their part against the
dons. In the middle of his second year, he had gone so far that a
College Meeting had to be held, and he was sent down for the rest of
term. The Warden placed his own landau at the disposal of the
illustrious young exile, who therein was driven to the station,
followed by a long, vociferous procession of undergraduates in cabs.
Now, it happened that this was a time of political excitement in
London. The Liberals, who were in power, had passed through the House
of Commons a measure more than usually socialistic; and this measure
was down for its second reading in the Lords on the very day that the
Duke left Oxford, an exile. It was but a few weeks since he had taken
his seat in the Lords; and this afternoon, for the want of anything
better to do, he strayed in. The Leader of the House was already
droning his speech for the bill, and the Duke found himself on one of
the opposite benches. There sat his compeers, sullenly waiting to vote
for a bill which every one of them detested. As the speaker subsided,
the Duke, for the fun of the thing, rose. He made a long speech
against the bill. His gibes at the Government were so scathing, so
utterly destructive his criticism of the bill itself, so lofty and so
irresistible the flights of his eloquence, that, when he resumed his
seat, there was only one course left to the Leader of the House. He
rose and, in a few husky phrases, moved that the bill "be read this
day six months." All England rang with the name of the young Duke. He
himself seemed to be the one person unmoved by his exploit. He did not
re-appear in the Upper Chamber, and was heard to speak in slighting
terms of its architecture, as well as of its upholstery. Nevertheless,
the Prime Minister became so nervous that he procured for him, a month
later, the Sovereign's offer of a Garter which had just fallen vacant.
The Duke accepted it. He was, I understand, the only undergraduate on
whom this Order had ever been conferred. He was very much pleased with
the insignia, and when, on great occasions, he wore them, no one dared
say that the Prime Minister's choice was not fully justified. But you
must not imagine that he cared for them as symbols of achievement and
power. The dark blue riband, and the star scintillating to eight
points, the heavy mantle of blue velvet, with its lining of taffeta
and shoulder-knots of white satin, the crimson surcoat, the great
embullioned tassels, and the chain of linked gold, and the plumes of
ostrich and heron uprising from the black velvet hat--these things had
for him little significance save as a fine setting, a finer setting
than the most elaborate smoking-suit, for that perfection of aspect
which the gods had given him. This was indeed the gift he valued
beyond all others. He knew well, however, that women care little for a
man's appearance, and that what they seek in a man is strength of
character, and rank, and wealth. These three gifts the Duke had in a
high degree, and he was by women much courted because of them.
Conscious that every maiden he met was eager to be his Duchess, he had
assumed always a manner of high austerity among maidens, and even if
he had wished to flirt with Zuleika he would hardly have known how to
do it. But he did not wish to flirt with her. That she had bewitched
him did but make it the more needful that he should shun all converse
with her. It was imperative that he should banish her from his mind,
quickly. He must not dilute his own soul's essence. He must not
surrender to any passion his dandihood. The dandy must be celibate,
cloistral; is, indeed, but a monk with a mirror for beads and breviary
--an anchorite, mortifying his soul that his body may be perfect. Till
he met Zuleika, the Duke had not known the meaning of temptation. He
fought now, a St. Anthony, against the apparition. He would not look
at her, and he hated her. He loved her, and he could not help seeing
her. The black pearl and the pink seemed to dangle ever nearer and
clearer to him, mocking him and beguiling. Inexpellible was her image.
So fierce was the conflict in him that his outward nonchalance
gradually gave way. As dinner drew to its close, his conversation with
the wife of the Oriel don flagged and halted. He sank, at length, into
a deep silence. He sat with downcast eyes, utterly distracted.
Suddenly, something fell, plump! into the dark whirlpool of his
thoughts. He started. The Warden was leaning forward, had just said
something to him.
"I beg your pardon?" asked the Duke. Dessert, he noticed, was on the
table, and he was paring an apple. The Oriel don was looking at him
with sympathy, as at one who had swooned and was just "coming to."
"Is it true, my dear Duke," the Warden repeated, "that you have been
persuaded to play to-morrow evening at the Judas concert?"
"Ah yes, I am going to play something."
Zuleika bent suddenly forward, addressed him. "Oh," she cried,
clasping her hands beneath her chin, "will you let me come and turn
over the leaves for you?"
He looked her full in the face. It was like seeing suddenly at close
quarters some great bright monument that one has long known only as a
sun-caught speck in the distance. He saw the large violet eyes open to
him, and their lashes curling to him; the vivid parted lips; and the
black pearl, and the pink.
"You are very kind," he murmured, in a voice which sounded to him
quite far away. "But I always play without notes."
Zuleika blushed. Not with shame, but with delirious pleasure. For that
snub she would just then have bartered all the homage she had hoarded.
This, she felt, was the climax. She would not outstay it. She rose,
smiling to the wife of the Oriel don. Every one rose. The Oriel don
held open the door, and the two ladies passed out of the room.
The Duke drew out his cigarette case. As he looked down at the
cigarettes, he was vaguely conscious of some strange phenomenon
somewhere between them and his eyes. Foredone by the agitation of the
past hour, he did not at once realise what it was that he saw. His
impression was of something in bad taste, some discord in his costume
. . . a black pearl and a pink pearl in his shirt-front!
Just for a moment, absurdly over-estimating poor Zuleika's skill, he
supposed himself a victim of legerdemain. Another moment, and the
import of the studs revealed itself. He staggered up from his chair,
covering his breast with one arm, and murmured that he was faint. As
he hurried from the room, the Oriel don was pouring out a tumbler of
water and suggesting burnt feathers. The Warden, solicitous, followed
him into the hall. He snatched up his hat, gasping that he had spent a
delightful evening--was very sorry--was subject to these attacks. Once
outside, he took frankly to his heels.
At the corner of the Broad, he looked back over his shoulder. He had
half expected a scarlet figure skimming in pursuit. There was nothing.
He halted. Before him, the Broad lay empty beneath the moon. He went
slowly, mechanically, to his rooms.
The high grim busts of the Emperors stared down at him, their faces
more than ever tragically cavernous and distorted. They saw and read
in that moonlight the symbols on his breast. As he stood on his
doorstep, waiting for the door to be opened, he must have seemed to
them a thing for infinite compassion. For were they not privy to the
doom that the morrow, or the morrow's morrow, held for him--held not
indeed for him alone, yet for him especially, as it were, and for him
The breakfast-things were not yet cleared away. A plate freaked with
fine strains of marmalade, an empty toast-rack, a broken roll--these
and other things bore witness to a day inaugurated in the right
Away from them, reclining along his window-seat, was the Duke. Blue
spirals rose from his cigarette, nothing in the still air to trouble
them. From their railing, across the road, the Emperors gazed at him.
For a young man, sleep is a sure solvent of distress. There whirls not
for him in the night any so hideous a phantasmagoria as will not
become, in the clarity of next morning, a spruce procession for him to
lead. Brief the vague horror of his awakening; memory sweeps back to
him, and he sees nothing dreadful after all. "Why not?" is the sun's
bright message to him, and "Why not indeed?" his answer. After hours
of agony and doubt prolonged to cock-crow, sleep had stolen to the
Duke's bed-side. He awoke late, with a heavy sense of disaster; but
lo! when he remembered, everything took on a new aspect. He was in
love. "Why not?" He mocked himself for the morbid vigil he had spent
in probing and vainly binding the wounds of his false pride. The old
life was done with. He laughed as he stepped into his bath. Why should
the disseizin of his soul have seemed shameful to him? He had had no
soul till it passed out of his keeping. His body thrilled to the cold
water, his soul as to a new sacrament. He was in love, and that was
all he wished for . . . There, on the dressing-table, lay the two
studs, visible symbols of his love. Dear to him, now, the colours of
them! He took them in his hand, one by one, fondling them. He wished
he could wear them in the day-time; but this, of course, was
impossible. His toilet finished, he dropped them into the left pocket
of his waistcoat.
Therein, near to his heart, they were lying now, as he looked out at
the changed world--the world that had become Zuleika. "Zuleika!" his
recurrent murmur, was really an apostrophe to the whole world.
Piled against the wall were certain boxes of black japanned tin, which
had just been sent to him from London. At any other time he would
certainly not have left them unopened. For they contained his robes of
the Garter. Thursday, the day after to-morrow, was the date fixed for
the investiture of a foreign king who was now visiting England: and
the full chapter of Knights had been commanded to Windsor for the
ceremony. Yesterday the Duke had looked keenly forward to his
excursion. It was only in those too rarely required robes that he had
the sense of being fully dressed. But to-day not a thought had he of
Some clock clove with silver the stillness of the morning. Ere came
the second stroke, another and nearer clock was striking. And now
there were others chiming in. The air was confused with the sweet
babel of its many spires, some of them booming deep, measured
sequences, some tinkling impatiently and outwitting others which had
begun before them. And when this anthem of jealous antiphonies and
uneven rhythms had dwindled quite away and fainted in one last
solitary note of silver, there started somewhere another sequence; and
this, almost at its last stroke, was interrupted by yet another, which
went on to tell the hour of noon in its own way, quite slowly and
significantly, as though none knew it.
And now Oxford was astir with footsteps and laughter--the laughter and
quick footsteps of youths released from lecture-rooms. The Duke
shifted from the window. Somehow, he did not care to be observed,
though it was usually at this hour that he showed himself for the
setting of some new fashion in costume. Many an undergraduate, looking
up, missed the picture in the window-frame.
The Duke paced to and fro, smiling ecstatically. He took the two studs
from his pocket and gazed at them. He looked in the glass, as one
seeking the sympathy of a familiar. For the first time in his life, he
turned impatiently aside. It was a new kind of sympathy he needed
The front door slammed, and the staircase creaked to the ascent of two
heavy boots. The Duke listened, waited irresolute. The boots passed
his door, were already clumping up the next flight. "Noaks!" he cried.
The boots paused, then clumped down again. The door opened and
disclosed that homely figure which Zuleika had seen on her way to
Sensitive reader, start not at the apparition! Oxford is a plexus of
anomalies. These two youths were (odd as it may seem to you) subject
to the same Statutes, affiliated to the same College, reading for the
same School; aye! and though the one had inherited half a score of
noble and castellated roofs, whose mere repairs cost him annually
thousands and thousands of pounds, and the other's people had but one
little mean square of lead, from which the fireworks of the Crystal
Palace were clearly visible every Thursday evening, in Oxford one roof
sheltered both of them. Furthermore, there was even some measure of
intimacy between them. It was the Duke's whim to condescend further in
the direction of Noaks than in any other. He saw in Noaks his own foil
and antithesis, and made a point of walking up the High with him at
least once in every term. Noaks, for his part, regarded the Duke with
feelings mingled of idolatry and disapproval. The Duke's First in Mods
oppressed him (who, by dint of dogged industry, had scraped a Second)
more than all the other differences between them. But the dullard's
envy of brilliant men is always assuaged by the suspicion that they
will come to a bad end. Noaks may have regarded the Duke as a rather
pathetic figure, on the whole.
"Come in, Noaks," said the Duke. "You have been to a lecture?"
"Aristotle's Politics," nodded Noaks.
"And what were they?" asked the Duke. He was eager for sympathy in his
love. But so little used was he to seeking sympathy that he could not
unburden himself. He temporised. Noaks muttered something about
getting back to work, and fumbled with the door-handle.
"Oh, my dear fellow, don't go," said the Duke. "Sit down. Our Schools
don't come on for another year. A few minutes can't make a difference
in your Class. I want to--to tell you something, Noaks. Do sit down."
Noaks sat down on the edge of a chair. The Duke leaned against the
mantel-piece, facing him. "I suppose, Noaks," he said, "you have never
been in love."
"Why shouldn't I have been in love?" asked the little man, angrily.
"I can't imagine you in love," said the Duke, smiling.
"And I can't imagine YOU. You're too pleased with yourself," growled
"Spur your imagination, Noaks," said his friend. "I AM in love."
"So am I," was an unexpected answer, and the Duke (whose need of
sympathy was too new to have taught him sympathy with others) laughed
aloud. "Whom do you love?" he asked, throwing himself into an
"I don't know who she is," was another unexpected answer.
"When did you meet her?" asked the Duke. "Where? What did you say to
"Yesterday. In the Corn. I didn't SAY anything to her."
"Is she beautiful?"
"Yes. What's that to you?"
"Dark or fair?"
"She's dark. She looks like a foreigner. She looks like--like one of
those photographs in the shop-windows."
"A rhapsody, Noaks! What became of her? Was she alone?"
"She was with the old Warden, in his carriage."
Zuleika--Noaks! The Duke started, as at an affront, and glared. Next
moment, he saw the absurdity of the situation. He relapsed into his
chair, smiling. "She's the Warden's niece," he said. "I dined at the
Warden's last night."
Noaks sat still, peering across at the Duke. For the first time in his
life, he was resentful of the Duke's great elegance and average
stature, his high lineage and incomputable wealth. Hitherto, these
things had been too remote for envy. But now, suddenly, they seemed
near to him--nearer and more overpowering than the First in Mods had
ever been. "And of course she's in love with you?" he snarled.
Really, this was for the Duke a new issue. So salient was his own
passion that he had not had time to wonder whether it were returned.
Zuleika's behaviour during dinner . . . But that was how so many young
women had behaved. It was no sign of disinterested love. It might mean
merely . . . Yet no! Surely, looking into her eyes, he had seen there
a radiance finer than could have been lit by common ambition. Love,
none other, must have lit in those purple depths the torches whose
clear flames had leapt out to him. She loved him. She, the beautiful,
the wonderful, had not tried to conceal her love for him. She had
shown him all--had shown all, poor darling! only to be snubbed by a
prig, driven away by a boor, fled from by a fool. To the nethermost
corner of his soul, he cursed himself for what he had done, and for
all he had left undone. He would go to her on his knees. He would
implore her to impose on him insufferable penances. There was no
penance, how bittersweet soever, could make him a little worthy of
"Come in!" he cried mechanically. Entered the landlady's daughter.
"A lady downstairs," she said, "asking to see your Grace. Says she'll
step round again later if your Grace is busy."
"What is her name?" asked the Duke, vacantly. He was gazing at the
girl with pain-shot eyes.
"Miss Zuleika Dobson," pronounced the girl.
"Show Miss Dobson up," he said.
Noaks had darted to the looking-glass and was smoothing his hair with
a tremulous, enormous hand.
"Go!" said the Duke, pointing to the door. Noaks went, quickly. Echoes
of his boots fell from the upper stairs and met the ascending susurrus
of a silk skirt.
The lovers met. There was an interchange of ordinary greetings: from
the Duke, a comment on the weather; from Zuleika, a hope that he was
well again--they had been so sorry to lose him last night. Then came a
pause. The landlady's daughter was clearing away the breakfast-things.
Zuleika glanced comprehensively at the room, and the Duke gazed at the
hearthrug. The landlady's daughter clattered out with her freight.
They were alone.
"How pretty!" said Zuleika. She was looking at his star of the Garter,
which sparkled from a litter of books and papers on a small
"Yes," he answered. "It is pretty, isn't it?"
"Awfully pretty!" she rejoined.
This dialogue led them to another hollow pause. The Duke's heart beat
violently within him. Why had he not asked her to take the star and
keep it as a gift? Too late now! Why could he not throw himself at her
feet? Here were two beings, lovers of each other, with none by. And
yet . . .
She was examining a water-colour on the wall, seemed to be absorbed by
it. He watched her. She was even lovelier than he had remembered; or
rather her loveliness had been, in some subtle way, transmuted.
Something had given to her a graver, nobler beauty. Last night's nymph
had become the Madonna of this morning. Despite her dress, which was
of a tremendous tartan, she diffused the pale authentic radiance of a
spirituality most high, most simple. The Duke wondered where lay the
change in her. He could not understand. Suddenly she turned to him,
and he understood. No longer the black pearl and the pink, but two
white pearls! . . . He thrilled to his heart's core.
"I hope," said Zuleika, "you aren't awfully vexed with me for coming
"Not at all," said the Duke. "I am delighted to see you." How
inadequate the words sounded, how formal and stupid!
"The fact is," she continued, "I don't know a soul in Oxford. And I
thought perhaps you'd give me luncheon, and take me to see the
boat-races. Will you?"
"I shall be charmed," he said, pulling the bell-rope. Poor fool! he
attributed the shade of disappointment on Zuleika's face to the
coldness of his tone. He would dispel that shade. He would avow
himself. He would leave her no longer in this false position. So soon
as he had told them about the meal, he would proclaim his passion.
The bell was answered by the landlady's daughter.
"Miss Dobson will stay to luncheon," said the Duke. The girl withdrew.
He wished he could have asked her not to.
He steeled himself. "Miss Dobson," he said, "I wish to apologise to
Zuleika looked at him eagerly. "You can't give me luncheon? You've got
something better to do?"
"No. I wish to ask you to forgive me for my behaviour last night."
"There is nothing to forgive."
"There is. My manners were vile. I know well what happened. Though
you, too, cannot have forgotten, I won't spare myself the recital. You
were my hostess, and I ignored you. Magnanimous, you paid me the
prettiest compliment woman ever paid to man, and I insulted you. I
left the house in order that I might not see you again. To the
doorsteps down which he should have kicked me, your grandfather
followed me with words of kindliest courtesy. If he had sped me with a
kick so skilful that my skull had been shattered on the kerb, neither
would he have outstepped those bounds set to the conduct of English
gentlemen, nor would you have garnered more than a trifle on account
of your proper reckoning. I do not say that you are the first person
whom I have wantonly injured. But it is a fact that I, in whom pride
has ever been the topmost quality, have never expressed sorrow to any
one for anything. Thus, I might urge that my present abjectness must
be intolerably painful to me, and should incline you to forgive. But
such an argument were specious merely. I will be quite frank with you.
I will confess to you that, in this humbling of myself before you, I
take a pleasure as passionate as it is strange. A confusion of
feelings? Yet you, with a woman's instinct, will have already caught
the clue to it. It needs no mirror to assure me that the clue is here
for you, in my eyes. It needs no dictionary of quotations to remind me
that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And I know that from two
open windows my soul has been leaning and signalling to you, in a code
far more definitive and swifter than words of mine, that I love you."
Zuleika, listening to him, had grown gradually paler and paler. She
had raised her hands and cowered as though he were about to strike
her. And then, as he pronounced the last three words, she had clasped
her hands to her face and with a wild sob darted away from him. She
was leaning now against the window, her head bowed and her shoulders
The Duke came softly behind her. "Why should you cry? Why should you
turn away from me? Did I frighten you with the suddenness of my words?
I am not versed in the tricks of wooing. I should have been more
patient. But I love you so much that I could hardly have waited. A
secret hope that you loved me too emboldened me, compelled me. You DO
love me. I know it. And, knowing it, I do but ask you to give yourself
to me, to be my wife. Why should you cry? Why should you shrink from
me? Dear, if there were anything . . . any secret . . . if you had
ever loved and been deceived, do you think I should honour you the
less deeply, should not cherish you the more tenderly? Enough for me,
that you are mine. Do you think I should ever reproach you for
anything that may have--"
Zuleika turned on him. "How dare you?" she gasped. "How dare you speak
to me like that?"
The Duke reeled back. Horror had come into his eyes. "You do not love
me!" he cried.
"LOVE you?" she retorted. "YOU?"
"You no longer love me. Why? Why?"
"What do you mean?"
"You loved me. Don't trifle with me. You came to me loving me with all
"How do you know?"
"Look in the glass." She went at his bidding. He followed her. "You
see them?" he said, after a long pause. Zuleika nodded. The two pearls
quivered to her nod.
"They were white when you came to me," he sighed. "They were white
because you loved me. From them it was that I knew you loved me even
as I loved you. But their old colours have come back to them. That is
how I know that your love for me is dead."
Zuleika stood gazing pensively, twitching the two pearls between her
fingers. Tears gathered in her eyes. She met the reflection of her
lover's eyes, and her tears brimmed over. She buried her face in her
hands, and sobbed like a child.
Like a child's, her sobbing ceased quite suddenly. She groped for her
handkerchief, angrily dried her eyes, and straightened and smoothed
"Now I'm going," she said.
"You came here of your own accord, because you loved me," said the
Duke. "And you shall not go till you have told me why you have left
off loving me."
"How did you know I loved you?" she asked after a pause. "How did you
know I hadn't simply put on another pair of ear-rings?"
The Duke, with a melancholy laugh, drew the two studs from his
waistcoat-pocket. "These are the studs I wore last night," he said.
Zuleika gazed at them. "I see," she said; then, looking up, "When did
they become like that?"
"It was when you left the dining-room that I saw the change in them."
"How strange! It was when I went into the drawing-room that I noticed
mine. I was looking in the glass, and"-- She started. "Then you were
in love with me last night?"
"I began to be in love with you from the moment I saw you."
"Then how could you have behaved as you did?"
"Because I was a pedant. I tried to ignore you, as pedants always do
try to ignore any fact they cannot fit into their pet system. The
basis of my pet system was celibacy. I don't mean the mere state of
being a bachelor. I mean celibacy of the soul--egoism, in fact. You
have converted me from that. I am now a confirmed tuist."
"How dared you insult me?" she cried, with a stamp of her foot. "How
dared you make a fool of me before those people? Oh, it is too
"I have already asked you to forgive me for that. You said there was
nothing to forgive."
"I didn't dream that you were in love with me."
"What difference can that make?"
"All the difference! All the difference in life!"
"Sit down! You bewilder me," said the Duke. "Explain yourself!" he
"Isn't that rather much for a man to ask of a woman?"
"I don't know. I have no experience of women. In the abstract, it
seems to me that every man has a right to some explanation from the
woman who has ruined his life."
"You are frightfully sorry for yourself," said Zuleika, with a bitter
laugh. "Of course it doesn't occur to you that _I_ am at all to be
pitied. No! you are blind with selfishness. You love me--I don't love
you: that is all you can realise. Probably you think you are the first
man who has ever fallen on such a plight."
Said the Duke, bowing over a deprecatory hand, "If there were to pass
my window one tithe of them whose hearts have been lost to Miss
Dobson, I should win no solace from that interminable parade."
Zuleika blushed. "Yet," she said more gently, "be sure they would all
be not a little envious of YOU! Not one of them ever touched the
surface of my heart. You stirred my heart to its very depths. Yes, you
made me love you madly. The pearls told you no lie. You were my
idol--the one thing in the wide world to me. You were so different
from any man I had ever seen except in dreams. You did not make a fool
of yourself. I admired you. I respected you. I was all afire with
adoration of you. And now," she passed her hand across her eyes, "now
it is all over. The idol has come sliding down its pedestal to fawn
and grovel with all the other infatuates in the dust about my feet."
The Duke looked thoughtfully at her. "I thought," he said, "that you
revelled in your power over men's hearts. I had always heard that you
lived for admiration."
"Oh," said Zuleika, "of course I like being admired. Oh yes, I like
all that very much indeed. In a way, I suppose, I'm even pleased that
YOU admire me. But oh, what a little miserable pleasure that is in
comparison with the rapture I have forfeited! I had never known the
rapture of being in love. I had longed for it, but I had never guessed
how wonderfully wonderful it was. It came to me. I shuddered and
wavered like a fountain in the wind. I was more helpless and flew
lightlier than a shred of thistledown among the stars. All night long,
I could not sleep for love of you; nor had I any desire of sleep, save
that it might take me to you in a dream. I remember nothing that
happened to me this morning before I found myself at your door."
"Why did you ring the bell? Why didn't you walk away?"
"Why? I had come to see you, to be near you, to be WITH you."
"To force yourself on me."
"You know the meaning of the term 'effective occupation'? Having
marched in, how could you have held your position, unless"--
"Oh, a man doesn't necessarily drive a woman away because he isn't in
love with her."
"Yet that was what you thought I had done to you last night."
"Yes, but I didn't suppose you would take the trouble to do it again.
And if you had, I should have only loved you the more. I thought you
would most likely be rather amused, rather touched, by my importunity.
I thought you would take a listless advantage, make a plaything of me
--the diversion of a few idle hours in summer, and then, when you had
tired of me, would cast me aside, forget me, break my heart. I desired
nothing better than that. That is what I must have been vaguely hoping
for. But I had no definite scheme. I wanted to be with you and I came
to you. It seems years ago, now! How my heart beat as I waited on the
doorstep! 'Is his Grace at home?' 'I don't know. I'll inquire. What
name shall I say?' I saw in the girl's eyes that she, too, loved you.
Have YOU seen that?"
"I have never looked at her," said the Duke.
"No wonder, then, that she loves you," sighed Zuleika. "She read my
secret at a glance. Women who love the same man have a kind of bitter
freemasonry. We resented each other. She envied me my beauty, my
dress. I envied the little fool her privilege of being always near to
you. Loving you, I could conceive no life sweeter than hers--to be
always near you; to black your boots, carry up your coals, scrub your
doorstep; always to be working for you, hard and humbly and without
thanks. If you had refused to see me, I would have bribed that girl
with all my jewels to cede me her position."
The Duke made a step towards her. "You would do it still," he said in
a low voice.
Zuleika raised her eyebrows. "I would not offer her one garnet," she
"You SHALL love me again," he cried. "I will force you to. You said
just now that you had ceased to love me because I was just like other
men. I am not. My heart is no tablet of mere wax, from which an
instant's heat can dissolve whatever impress it may bear, leaving it
blank and soft for another impress, and another, and another. My heart
is a bright hard gem, proof against any die. Came Cupid, with one of
his arrow-points for graver, and what he cut on the gem's surface
never can be effaced. There, deeply and forever, your image is
intagliated. No years, nor fires, nor cataclysm of total Nature, can
efface from that great gem your image."
"My dear Duke," said Zuleika, "don't be so silly. Look at the matter
sensibly. I know that lovers don't try to regulate their emotions
according to logic; but they do, nevertheless, unconsciously conform
with some sort of logical system. I left off loving you when I found
that you loved me. There is the premiss. Very well! Is it likely that
I shall begin to love you again because you can't leave off loving
The Duke groaned. There was a clatter of plates outside, and she whom
Zuleika had envied came to lay the table for luncheon.
A smile flickered across Zuleika's lips; and "Not one garnet!" she
Luncheon passed in almost unbroken silence. Both Zuleika and the Duke
were ravenously hungry, as people always are after the stress of any
great emotional crisis. Between them, they made very short work of a
cold chicken, a salad, a gooseberry-tart and a Camembert. The Duke
filled his glass again and again. The cold classicism of his face had
been routed by the new romantic movement which had swept over his
soul. He looked two or three months older than when first I showed him
to my reader.
He drank his coffee at one draught, pushed back his chair, threw away
the cigarette he had just lit. "Listen!" he said.
Zuleika folded her hands on her lap.
"You do not love me. I accept as final your hint that you never will
love me. I need not say--could not, indeed, ever say--how deeply,
deeply you have pained me. As lover, I am rejected. But that
rejection," he continued, striking the table, "is no stopper to my
suit. It does but drive me to the use of arguments. My pride shrinks
from them. Love, however, is greater than pride; and I, John, Albert,
Edward, Claude, Orde, Angus, Tankerton,* Tanville-Tankerton,**
fourteenth Duke of Dorset, Marquis of Dorset, Earl of Grove, Earl of
Chastermaine, Viscount Brewsby, Baron Grove, Baron Petstrap, and Baron
Wolock, in the Peerage of England, offer you my hand. Do not interrupt
me. Do not toss your head. Consider well what I am saying. Weigh the
advantages you would gain by acceptance of my hand. Indeed, they are
manifold and tremendous. They are also obvious: do not shut your eyes
to them. You, Miss Dobson, what are you? A conjurer, and a vagrant;
without means, save such as you can earn by the sleight of your hand;
without position; without a home; all unguarded but by your own self-
respect. That you follow an honourable calling, I do not for one
moment deny. I do, however, ask you to consider how great are its
perils and hardships, its fatigues and inconveniences. From all these
evils I offer you instant refuge. I offer you, Miss Dobson, a refuge
more glorious and more augustly gilded than you, in your airiest
flights of fancy, can ever have hoped for or imagined. I own about
340,000 acres. My town-residence is in St. James's Square. Tankerton,
of which you may have seen photographs, is the chief of my country-
seats. It is a Tudor house, set on the ridge of a valley. The valley,
its park, is halved by a stream so narrow that the deer leap across.
The gardens are estraded upon the slope. Round the house runs a wide
paven terrace. There are always two or three peacocks trailing their
sheathed feathers along the balustrade, and stepping how stiffly! as
though they had just been unharnessed from Juno's chariot. Two flights
of shallow steps lead down to the flowers and fountains. Oh, the
gardens are wonderful. There is a Jacobean garden of white roses.
Between the ends of two pleached alleys, under a dome of branches, is
a little lake, with a Triton of black marble, and with water-lilies.
Hither and thither under the archipelago of water-lilies, dart gold-
fish--tongues of flame in the dark water. There is also a long strait
alley of clipped yew. It ends in an alcove for a pagoda of painted
porcelain which the Prince Regent--peace be to his ashes!--presented
to my great-grandfather. There are many twisting paths, and sudden
aspects, and devious, fantastic arbours. Are you fond of horses? In my
stables of pine-wood and plated-silver seventy are installed. Not all
of them together could vie in power with one of the meanest of my
*Pronounced as Tacton.
**Pronounced as Tavvle-Tacton.
"Oh, I never go in motors," said Zuleika. "They make one look like
nothing on earth, and like everybody else."
"I myself," said the Duke, "use them little for that very reason. Are
you interested in farming? At Tankerton there is a model farm which
would at any rate amuse you, with its heifers and hens and pigs that
are like so many big new toys. There is a tiny dairy, which is called
'Her Grace's.' You could make, therein, real butter with your own
hands, and round it into little pats, and press every pat with a
different device. The boudoir that would be yours is a blue room. Four
Watteaus hang in it. In the dining-hall hang portraits of my
forefathers--in petto, your forefathers-in-law--by many masters. Are
you fond of peasants? My tenantry are delightful creatures, and there
is not one of them who remembers the bringing of the news of the
Battle of Waterloo. When a new Duchess is brought to Tankerton, the
oldest elm in the park must be felled. That is one of many strange old
customs. As she is driven through the village, the children of the
tenantry must strew the road with daisies. The bridal chamber must be
lighted with as many candles as years have elapsed since the creation
of the Dukedom. If you came into it, there would be"--and the youth,
closing his eyes, made a rapid calculation--"exactly three hundred and
eighty-eight candles. On the eve of the death of a Duke of Dorset, two
black owls come and perch on the battlements. They remain there
through the night, hooting. At dawn they fly away, none knows whither.
On the eve of the death of any other Tanville-Tankerton, comes (no
matter what be the time of year) a cuckoo. It stays for an hour,
cooing, then flies away, none knows whither. Whenever this portent
occurs, my steward telegraphs to me, that I, as head of the family, be
not unsteeled against the shock of a bereavement, and that my
authority be sooner given for the unsealing and garnishing of the
family-vault. Not every forefather of mine rests quiet beneath his
escutcheoned marble. There are they who revisit, in their wrath or
their remorse, the places wherein erst they suffered or wrought evil.
There is one who, every Halloween, flits into the dining-hall, and
hovers before the portrait which Hans Holbein made of him, and flings
his diaphanous grey form against the canvas, hoping, maybe, to catch
from it the fiery flesh-tints and the solid limbs that were his, and
so to be re-incarnate. He flies against the painting, only to find
himself t'other side of the wall it hangs on. There are five ghosts
permanently residing in the right wing of the house, two in the left,
and eleven in the park. But all are quite noiseless and quite
harmless. My servants, when they meet them in the corridors or on the
stairs, stand aside to let them pass, thus paying them the respect due
to guests of mine; but not even the rawest housemaid ever screams or
flees at sight of them. I, their host, often waylay them and try to
commune with them; but always they glide past me. And how gracefully
they glide, these ghosts! It is a pleasure to watch them. It is a
lesson in deportment. May they never be laid! Of all my household-
pets, they are the dearest to me. I am Duke of Strathsporran and
Cairngorm, Marquis of Sorby, and Earl Cairngorm, in the Peerage of
Scotland. In the glens of the hills about Strathsporran are many noble
and nimble stags. But I have never set foot in my house there, for it
is carpeted throughout with the tartan of my clan. You seem to like
tartan. What tartan is it you are wearing?"
Zuleika looked down at her skirt. "I don't know," she said. "I got it
"Well," said the Duke, "it is very ugly. The Dalbraith tartan is
harmonious in comparison, and has, at least, the excuse of history. If
you married me, you would have the right to wear it. You would have
many strange and fascinating rights. You would go to Court. I admit
that the Hanoverian Court is not much. Still, it is better than
nothing. At your presentation, moreover, you would be given the
entree. Is that nothing to you? You would be driven to Court in my
statecoach. It is swung so high that the streetsters can hardly see
its occupant. It is lined with rose-silk; and on its panels, and on
its hammer-cloth, my arms are emblazoned--no one has ever been able to
count the quarterings. You would be wearing the family-jewels,
reluctantly surrendered to you by my aunt. They are many and
marvellous, in their antique settings. I don't want to brag. It
humiliates me to speak to you as I am speaking. But I am heart-set on
you, and to win you there is not a precious stone I would leave
unturned. Conceive a parure all of white stones--diamonds, white
sapphires, white topazes, tourmalines. Another, of rubies and
amethysts, set in gold filigree. Rings that once were poison-combs on
Florentine fingers. Red roses for your hair--every petal a hollowed
ruby. Amulets and ape-buckles, zones and fillets. Aye! know that you
would be weeping for wonder before you had seen a tithe of these
gauds. Know, too, Miss Dobson, that in the Peerage of France I am Duc
d'Etretat et de la Roche Guillaume. Louis Napoleon gave the title to
my father for not cutting him in the Bois. I have a house in the
Champs Elysees. There is a Swiss in its courtyard. He stands six-foot-
seven in his stockings, and the chasseurs are hardly less tall than
he. Wherever I go, there are two chefs in my retinue. Both are masters
in their art, and furiously jealous of each other. When I compliment
either of them on some dish, the other challenges him. They fight with
rapiers, next morning, in the garden of whatever house I am occupying.
I do not know whether you are greedy? If so, it may interest you to
learn that I have a third chef, who makes only souffles, and an
Italian pastry-cook; to say nothing of a Spaniard for salads, an
Englishwoman for roasts, and an Abyssinian for coffee. You found no
trace of their handiwork in the meal you have just had with me? No;
for in Oxford it is a whim of mine--I may say a point of honour--to
lead the ordinary life of an undergraduate. What I eat in this room is
cooked by the heavy and unaided hand of Mrs. Batch, my landlady. It is
set before me by the unaided and--or are you in error?--loving hand of
her daughter. Other ministers have I none here. I dispense with my
private secretaries. I am unattended by a single valet. So simple a
way of life repels you? You would never be called upon to share it. If
you married me, I should take my name off the books of my College. I
propose that we should spend our honeymoon at Baiae. I have a villa at
Baiae. It is there that I keep my grandfather's collection of
majolica. The sun shines there always. A long olive-grove secretes the
garden from the sea. When you walk in the garden, you know the sea
only in blue glimpses through the vacillating leaves. White-gleaming
from the bosky shade of this grove are several goddesses. Do you care
for Canova? I don't myself. If you do, these figures will appeal to
you: they are in his best manner. Do you love the sea? This is not the
only house of mine that looks out on it. On the coast of County Clare
--am I not Earl of Enniskerry and Baron Shandrin in the Peerage of
Ireland?--I have an ancient castle. Sheer from a rock stands it, and
the sea has always raged up against its walls. Many ships lie wrecked
under that loud implacable sea. But mine is a brave strong castle. No
storm affrights it; and not the centuries, clustering houris, with
their caresses can seduce it from its hard austerity. I have several
titles which for the moment escape me. Baron Llffthwchl am I, and
. . . and . . . but you can find them for yourself in Debrett. In me
you behold a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, and a Knight of the Most
Noble Order of the Garter. Look well at me! I am Hereditary Comber of
the Queen's Lap-Dogs. I am young. I am handsome. My temper is sweet,
and my character without blemish. In fine, Miss Dobson, I am a most
"But," said Zuleika, "I don't love you."
The Duke stamped his foot. "I beg your pardon," he said hastily. "I ought not to have done
that. But--you seem to have entirely missed the point of what I was
"No, I haven't," said Zuleika.
"Then what," cried the Duke, standing over her, "what is your reply?"
Said Zuleika, looking up at him, "My reply is that I think you are an
The Duke turned on his heel, and strode to the other end of the room.
There he stood for some moments, his back to Zuleika.
"I think," she resumed in a slow, meditative voice, "that you are,
with the possible exception of a Mr. Edelweiss, THE most awful snob I
have ever met."
he Duke looked back over his shoulder. He gave Zuleika the stinging
reprimand of silence. She was sorry, and showed it in her eyes. She
felt she had gone too far. True, he was nothing to her now. But she
had loved him once. She could not forget that.
"Come!" she said. "Let us be good friends. Give me your hand!" He came
to her, slowly. "There!"
The Duke withdrew his fingers before she unclasped them. That twice-
flung taunt rankled still. It was monstrous to have been called a
snob. A snob!--he, whose readiness to form what would certainly be
regarded as a shocking misalliance ought to have stifled the charge,
not merely vindicated him from it! He had forgotten, in the blindness
of his love, how shocking the misalliance would be. Perhaps she,
unloving, had not been so forgetful? Perhaps her refusal had been
made, generously, for his own sake. Nay, rather for her own.
Evidently, she had felt that the high sphere from which he beckoned
was no place for the likes of her. Evidently, she feared she would
pine away among those strange splendours, never be acclimatised,
always be unworthy. He had thought to overwhelm her, and he had done
his work too thoroughly. Now he must try to lighten the load he had
Seating himself opposite to her, "You remember," he said, "that there
is a dairy at Tankerton?"
"A dairy? Oh yes."
"Do you remember what it is called?"
Zuleika knit her brows.
He helped her out. "It is called 'Her Grace's'."
"Oh, of course!" said Zuleika.
"Do you know WHY it is called so?"
"Well, let's see . . . I know you told me."
"Did I? I think not. I will tell you now . . . That cool out-house
dates from the middle of the eighteenth century. My great-great-
grandfather, when he was a very old man, married en troisiemes noces a
dairy-maid on the Tankerton estate. Meg Speedwell was her name. He had
seen her walking across a field, not many months after the interment
of his second Duchess, Maria, that great and gifted lady. I know not
whether it was that her bonny mien fanned in him some embers of his
youth, or that he was loth to be outdone in gracious eccentricity by
his crony the Duke of Dewlap, who himself had just taken a bride from
a dairy. (You have read Meredith's account of that affair? No? You
should.) Whether it was veritable love or mere modishness that formed
my ancestor's resolve, presently the bells were ringing out, and the
oldest elm in the park was being felled, in Meg Speedwell's honour,
and the children were strewing daisies on which Meg Speedwell trod, a
proud young hoyden of a bride, with her head in the air and her heart
in the seventh heaven. The Duke had given her already a horde of fine
gifts; but these, he had said, were nothing--trash in comparison with
the gift that was to ensure for her a perdurable felicity. After the
wedding-breakfast, when all the squires had ridden away on their cobs,
and all the squires' ladies in their coaches, the Duke led his bride
forth from the hall, leaning on her arm, till they came to a little
edifice of new white stone, very spick and span, with two lattice-
windows and a bright green door between. This he bade her enter.
A-flutter with excitement, she turned the handle. In a moment she
flounced back, red with shame and anger--flounced forth from the
fairest, whitest, dapperest dairy, wherein was all of the best that
the keenest dairy-maid might need. The Duke bade her dry her eyes, for
that it ill befitted a great lady to be weeping on her wedding-day.
'As for gratitude,' he chuckled, 'zounds! that is a wine all the
better for the keeping.' Duchess Meg soon forgot this unworthy
wedding-gift, such was her rapture in the other, the so august,
appurtenances of her new life. What with her fine silk gowns and
farthingales, and her powder-closet, and the canopied bed she slept
in--a bed bigger far than the room she had slept in with her sisters,
and standing in a room far bigger than her father's cottage; and what
with Betty, her maid, who had pinched and teased her at the
village-school, but now waited on her so meekly and trembled so
fearfully at a scolding; and what with the fine hot dishes that were
set before her every day, and the gallant speeches and glances of the
fine young gentlemen whom the Duke invited from London, Duchess Meg
was quite the happiest Duchess in all England. For a while, she was
like a child in a hay-rick. But anon, as the sheer delight of novelty
wore away, she began to take a more serious view of her position. She
began to realise her responsibilities. She was determined to do all
that a great lady ought to do. Twice every day she assumed the
vapours. She schooled herself in the mysteries of Ombre, of Macao. She
spent hours over the tambour-frame. She rode out on horse-back, with a
riding-master. She had a music-master to teach her the spinet; a
dancing-master, too, to teach her the Minuet and the Triumph and the
Gaudy. All these accomplishments she found mighty hard. She was afraid
of her horse. All the morning, she dreaded the hour when it would be
brought round from the stables. She dreaded her dancing-lesson. Try as
she would, she could but stamp her feet flat on the parquet, as though
it had been the village-green. She dreaded her music-lesson. Her
fingers, disobedient to her ambition, clumsily thumped the keys of the
spinet, and by the notes of the score propped up before her she was as
cruelly perplexed as by the black and red pips of the cards she conned
at the gaming-table, or by the red and gold threads that were always
straying and snapping on her tambour-frame. Still she persevered. Day
in, day out, sullenly, she worked hard to be a great lady. But skill
came not to her, and hope dwindled; only the dull effort remained. One
accomplishment she did master--to wit, the vapours: they became for
her a dreadful reality. She lost her appetite for the fine hot dishes.
All night long she lay awake, restless, tearful, under the fine silk
canopy, till dawn stared her into slumber. She seldom scolded Betty.
She who had been so lusty and so blooming saw in her mirror that she
was pale and thin now; and the fine young gentlemen, seeing it too,
paid more heed now to their wine and their dice than to her. And
always, when she met him, the Duke smiled the same mocking smile.
Duchess Meg was pining slowly and surely away . . . One morning, in
Spring-time, she altogether vanished. Betty, bringing the cup of
chocolate to the bedside, found the bed empty. She raised the alarm
among her fellows. They searched high and low. Nowhere was their
mistress. The news was broken to their master, who, without comment,
rose, bade his man dress him, and presently walked out to the place
where he knew he would find her. And there, to be sure, she was,
churning, churning for dear life. Her sleeves were rolled above her
elbows, and her skirt was kilted high; and, as she looked back over
her shoulder and saw the Duke, there was the flush of roses in her
cheeks, and the light of a thousand thanks in her eyes. 'Oh,' she
cried, 'what a curtsey I would drop you, but that to let go the handle
were to spoil all!' And every morning, ever after, she woke when the
birds woke, rose when they rose, and went singing through the dawn to
the dairy, there to practise for her pleasure that sweet and lowly
handicraft which she had once practised for her need. And every
evening, with her milking-stool under her arm, and her milk-pail in
her hand, she went into the field and called the cows to her, as she
had been wont to do. To those other, those so august, accomplishments
she no more pretended. She gave them the go-by. And all the old zest
and joyousness of her life came back to her. Soundlier than ever slept
she, and sweetlier dreamed, under the fine silk canopy, till the birds
called her to her work. Greater than ever was her love of the fine
furbelows that were hers to flaunt in, and sharper her appetite for
the fine hot dishes, and more tempestuous her scolding of Betty, poor
maid. She was more than ever now the cynosure, the adored, of the fine
young gentlemen. And as for her husband, she looked up to him as the
wisest, kindest man in all the world."
"And the fine young gentlemen," said Zuleika, "did she fall in love
with any of them?"
"You forget," said the Duke coldly, "she was married to a member of my
"Oh, I beg your pardon. But tell me: did they ALL adore her?"
"Yes. Every one of them, wildly, madly."
"Ah," murmured Zuleika, with a smile of understanding. A shadow
crossed her face, "Even so," she said, with some pique, "I don't
suppose she had so very many adorers. She never went out into the
"Tankerton," said the Duke drily, "is a large house, and my great-
great-grandfather was the most hospitable of men. However," he added,
marvelling that she had again missed the point so utterly, "my purpose
was not to confront you with a past rival in conquest, but to set at
rest a fear which I had, I think, roused in you by my somewhat full
description of the high majestic life to which you, as my bride, would
"A fear? What sort of a fear?"
"That you would not breathe freely--that you would starve (if I may
use a somewhat fantastic figure) among those strawberry-leaves. And so
I told you the story of Meg Speedwell, and how she lived happily ever
after. Nay, hear me out! The blood of Meg Speedwell's lord flows in my
veins. I think I may boast that I have inherited something of his
sagacity. In any case, I can profit by his example. Do not fear that
I, if you were to wed me, should demand a metamorphosis of your
present self. I should take you as you are, gladly. I should encourage
you to be always exactly as you are--a radiant, irresistible member of
the upper middle-class, with a certain freedom of manner acquired
through a life of peculiar liberty. Can you guess what would be my
principal wedding-gift to you? Meg Speedwell had her dairy. For you,
would be built another outhouse--a neat hall wherein you would perform
your conjuring-tricks, every evening except Sunday, before me and my
tenants and my servants, and before such of my neighbours as might
care to come. None would respect you the less, seeing that I approved.
Thus in you would the pleasant history of Meg Speedwell repeat itself.
You, practising for your pleasure--nay, hear me out!--that sweet and
lowly handicraft which--"
"I won't listen to another word!" cried Zuleika. "You are the most
insolent person I have ever met. I happen to come of a particularly
good family. I move in the best society. My manners are absolutely
perfect. If I found myself in the shoes of twenty Duchesses
simultaneously, I should know quite well how to behave. As for the one
pair you can offer me, I kick them away--so. I kick them back at you.
I tell you--"
"Hush," said the Duke, "hush! You are over-excited. There will be a
crowd under my window. There, there! I am sorry. I thought--"
"Oh, I know what you thought," said Zuleika, in a quieter tone. "I am
sure you meant well. I am sorry I lost my temper. Only, you might have
given me credit for meaning what I said: that I would not marry you,
because I did not love you. I daresay there would be great advantages
in being your Duchess. But the fact is, I have no worldly wisdom. To
me, marriage is a sacrament. I could no more marry a man about whom I
could not make a fool of myself than I could marry one who made a fool
of himself about me. Else had I long ceased to be a spinster. Oh my
friend, do not imagine that I have not rejected, in my day, a score of
suitors quite as eligible as you."
"As eligible? Who were they?" frowned the Duke.
"Oh, Archduke this, and Grand Duke that, and His Serene Highness the
other. I have a wretched memory for names."
"And my name, too, will soon escape you, perhaps?"
"No. Oh, no. I shall always remember yours. You see, I was in love
with you. You deceived me into loving you . . ." She sighed. "Oh, had
you but been as strong as I thought you . . . Still, a swain the more.
That is something." She leaned forward, smiling archly. "Those
studs--show me them again."
The Duke displayed them in the hollow of his hand. She touched them
lightly, reverently, as a tourist touches a sacred relic in a church.
At length, "Do give me them," she said. "I will keep them in a little
secret partition of my jewel-case." The Duke had closed his fist.
"Do!" she pleaded. "My other jewels--they have no separate meanings
for me. I never remember who gave me this one or that. These would be
quite different. I should always remember their history . . . Do!"
"Ask me for anything else," said the Duke. "These are the one thing I
could not part with--even to you, for whose sake they are hallowed."
Zuleika pouted. On the verge of persisting, she changed her mind, and
"Well!" she said abruptly, "how about these races? Are you going to
take me to see them?"
"Races? What races?" murmured the Duke. "Oh yes. I had forgotten. Do
you really mean that you want to see them?"
"Why, of course! They are great fun, aren't they?"
"And you are in a mood for great fun? Well, there is plenty of time.
The Second Division is not rowed till half-past four."
"The Second Division? Why not take me to the First?"
"That is not rowed till six."
"Isn't this rather an odd arrangement?"
"No doubt. But Oxford never pretended to be strong in mathematics."
"Why, it's not yet three!" cried Zuleika, with a woebegone stare at
the clock. "What is to be done in the meantime?"
"Am not I sufficiently diverting?" asked the Duke bitterly.
"Quite candidly, no. Have you any friend lodging with you here?"
"One, overhead. A man named Noaks."
"A small man, with spectacles?"
"Very small, with very large spectacles."
"He was pointed out to me yesterday, as I was driving from the Station
. . . No, I don't think I want to meet him. What can you have in
common with him?"
"One frailty, at least: he, too, Miss Dobson, loves you."
"But of course he does. He saw me drive past. Very few of the others,"
she said, rising and shaking herself, "have set eyes on me. Do let us
go out and look at the Colleges. I do need change of scene. If you
were a doctor, you would have prescribed that long ago. It is very bad
for me to be here, a kind of Cinderella, moping over the ashes of my
love for you. Where is your hat?"
Looking round, she caught sight of herself in the glass. "Oh," she
cried, "what a fright I do look! I must never be seen like this!"
"You look very beautiful."
"I don't. That is a lover's illusion. You yourself told me that this
tartan was perfectly hideous. There was no need to tell me that. I
came thus because I was coming to see you. I chose this frock in the
deliberate fear that you, if I made myself presentable, might succumb
at second sight of me. I would have sent out for a sack and dressed
myself in that, I would have blacked my face all over with burnt cork,
only I was afraid of being mobbed on the way to you."
"Even so, you would but have been mobbed for your incorrigible
"My beauty! How I hate it!" sighed Zuleika. "Still, here it is, and I
must needs make the best of it. Come! Take me to Judas. I will change
my things. Then I shall be fit for the races."
As these two emerged, side by side, into the street, the Emperors
exchanged stony sidelong glances. For they saw the more than normal
pallor of the Duke's face, and something very like desperation in his
eyes. They saw the tragedy progressing to its foreseen close. Unable
to stay its course, they were grimly fascinated now.
"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with
their bones." At any rate, the sinner has a better chance than the
saint of being hereafter remembered. We, in whom original sin
preponderates, find him easier to understand. He is near to us, clear
to us. The saint is remote, dim. A very great saint may, of course, be
remembered through some sheer force of originality in him; and then
the very mystery that involves him for us makes him the harder to
forget: he haunts us the more surely because we shall never understand
him. But the ordinary saints grow faint to posterity; whilst quite
ordinary sinners pass vividly down the ages.
Of the disciples of Jesus, which is he that is most often remembered
and cited by us? Not the disciple whom Jesus loved; neither of the
Boanerges, nor any other of them who so steadfastly followed Him and
served Him; but the disciple who betrayed Him for thirty pieces of
silver. Judas Iscariot it is who outstands, overshadowing those other
fishermen. And perhaps it was by reason of this precedence that
Christopher Whitrid, Knight, in the reign of Henry VI., gave the name
of Judas to the College which he had founded. Or perhaps it was
because he felt that in a Christian community not even the meanest and
basest of men should be accounted beneath contempt, beyond redemption.
At any rate, thus he named his foundation. And, though for Oxford men
the savour of the name itself has long evaporated through its local
connexion, many things show that for the Founder himself it was no
empty vocable. In a niche above the gate stands a rudely carved statue
of Judas, holding a money-bag in his right hand. Among the original
statutes of the College is one by which the Bursar is enjoined to
distribute in Passion Week thirty pieces of silver among the needier
scholars "for saike of atonynge." The meadow adjoining the back of the
College has been called from time immemorial "the Potter's Field." And
the name of Salt Cellar is not less ancient and significant.
Salt Cellar, that grey and green quadrangle visible from the room
assigned to Zuleika, is very beautiful, as I have said. So tranquil is
it as to seem remote not merely from the world, but even from Oxford,
so deeply is it hidden away in the core of Oxford's heart. So tranquil
is it, one would guess that nothing had ever happened in it. For five
centuries these walls have stood, and during that time have beheld,
one would say, no sight less seemly than the good work of weeding,
mowing, rolling, that has made, at length, so exemplary the lawn.
These cloisters that grace the south and east sides--five centuries
have passed through them, leaving in them no echo, leaving on them no
sign, of all that the outer world, for good or evil, has been doing so
fiercely, so raucously.
And yet, if you are versed in the antiquities of Oxford, you know that
this small, still quadrangle has played its part in the rough-and-
tumble of history, and has been the background of high passions and
strange fates. The sun-dial in its midst has told the hours to more
than one bygone King. Charles I. lay for twelve nights in Judas; and
it was here, in this very quadrangle, that he heard from the lips of a
breathless and blood-stained messenger the news of Chalgrove Field.
Sixty years later, James, his son, came hither, black with threats,
and from one of the hind-windows of the Warden's house--maybe, from
the very room where now Zuleika was changing her frock--addressed the
Fellows, and presented to them the Papist by him chosen to be their
Warden, instead of the Protestant whom they had elected. They were not
of so stern a stuff as the Fellows of Magdalen, who, despite His
Majesty's menaces, had just rejected Bishop Farmer. The Papist was
elected, there and then, al fresco, without dissent. Cannot one see
them, these Fellows of Judas, huddled together round the sun-dial,
like so many sheep in a storm? The King's wrath, according to a
contemporary record, was so appeased by their pliancy that he deigned
to lie for two nights in Judas, and at a grand refection in Hall "was
gracious and merrie." Perhaps it was in lingering gratitude for such
patronage that Judas remained so pious to his memory even after smug
Herrenhausen had been dumped down on us for ever. Certainly, of all
the Colleges none was more ardent than Judas for James Stuart. Thither
it was that young Sir Harry Esson led, under cover of night, three-
score recruits whom he had enlisted in the surrounding villages. The
cloisters of Salt Cellar were piled with arms and stores; and on its
grass--its sacred grass!--the squad was incessantly drilled, against
the good day when Ormond should land his men in Devon. For a whole
month Salt Cellar was a secret camp. But somehow, at length--woe to
"lost causes and impossible loyalties"--Herrenhausen had wind of it;
and one night, when the soldiers of the white cockade lay snoring
beneath the stars, stealthily the white-faced Warden unbarred his
postern--that very postern through which now Zuleika had passed on the
way to her bedroom--and stealthily through it, one by one on tip-toe,
came the King's foot-guards. Not many shots rang out, nor many swords
clashed, in the night air, before the trick was won for law and order.
Most of the rebels were overpowered in their sleep; and those who had
time to snatch arms were too dazed to make good resistance. Sir Harry
Esson himself was the only one who did not live to be hanged. He had
sprung up alert, sword in hand, at the first alarm, setting his back
to the cloisters. There he fought calmly, ferociously, till a bullet
went through his chest. "By God, this College is well-named!" were the
words he uttered as he fell forward and died.
Comparatively tame was the scene now being enacted in this place. The
Duke, with bowed head, was pacing the path between the lawn and the
cloisters. Two other undergraduates stood watching him, whispering to
each other, under the archway that leads to the Front Quadrangle.
Presently, in a sheepish way, they approached him. He halted and
"I say," stammered the spokesman.
"Well?" asked the Duke. Both youths were slightly acquainted with him;
but he was not used to being spoken to by those whom he had not first
addressed. Moreover, he was loth to be thus disturbed in his sombre
reverie. His manner was not encouraging.
"Isn't it a lovely day for the Eights?" faltered the spokesman.
"I conceive," the Duke said, "that you hold back some other question."
The spokesman smiled weakly. Nudged by the other, he muttered "Ask him
The Duke diverted his gaze to the other, who, with an angry look at
the one, cleared his throat, and said "I was going to ask if you
thought Miss Dobson would come and have luncheon with me to-morrow?"
"A sister of mine will be there," explained the one, knowing the Duke
to be a precisian.
"If you are acquainted with Miss Dobson, a direct invitation should be
sent to her," said the Duke. "If you are not--" The aposiopesis was
"Well, you see," said the other of the two, "that is just the
difficulty. I AM acquainted with her. But is she acquainted with ME? I
met her at breakfast this morning, at the Warden's."
"So did I," added the one.
"But she--well," continued the other, "she didn't take much notice of
us. She seemed to be in a sort of dream."
"Ah!" murmured the Duke, with melancholy interest.
"The only time she opened her lips," said the other, "was when she
asked us whether we took tea or coffee."
"She put hot milk in my tea," volunteered the one, "and upset the cup
over my hand, and smiled vaguely."
"And smiled vaguely," sighed the Duke.
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