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An Unsocial Socialist by George Bernard Shaw

Part 5 out of 6

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he had given to the conversation, and poising her cue for a
stroke. "Oh! I am as bad as you; that was the worst stroke I ever
made, I think. I beg your pardon; you said something just now."

"I forget. Nothing of any consequence." And he groaned at his own
cowardice.

"Suppose we stop," she said. "There is no use in finishing the
game if our hands are out. I am rather tired of it."

"Certainly--if you wish it"

"I will finish if you like."

"Not at all. What pleases you, pleases me."

Gertrude made him a little bow, and idly knocked the balls about
with her cue. Erskine's eyes wandered, and his lip moved
irresolutely. He had settled with himself that his declaration
should be a frank one--heart to heart. He had pictured himself in
the act of taking her hand delicately, and saying, "Gertrude, I
love you. May I tell you so again?" But this scheme did not now
seem practicable.

"Miss Lindsay."

Gertrude, bending over the table, looked up in alarm.

"The present is as good an opportunity as I will--as I shall--as
I will."

"Shall," said Gertrude.

"I beg your pardon?"

"SHALL," repeated Gertrude. "Did you ever study the doctrine of
necessity?"

"The doctrine of necessity?" he said, bewildered.

Gertrude went to the other side of the table in pursuit of a
ball. She now guessed what was coming, and was willing that it
should come; not because she intended to accept, but because,
like other young ladies experienced in such scenes, she counted
the proposals of marriage she received as a Red Indian counts the
scalps he takes.

"We have had a very pleasant time of it here," he said, giving up
as inexplicable the relevance of the doctrine of necessity. "At
least, I have."

"Well," said Gertrude, quick to resent a fancied allusion to her
private discontent, "so have I."

"I am glad of that--more so than I can convey by words."

"Is it any business of yours?" she said, following the
disagreeable vein he had unconsciously struck upon, and
suspecting pity in his efforts to be sympathetic.

"I wish I dared hope so. The happiness of my visit has been due
to you entirely."

"Indeed," said Gertrude, wincing as all the hard things Trefusis
had told her of herself came into her mind at the heels of
Erskine's unfortunate allusion to her power of enjoying herself.

"I hope I am not paining you," he said earnestly.

"I don't know what you are talking about," she said, standing
erect with sudden impatience. "You seem to think that it is very
easy to pain me."

"No," he said timidly, puzzled by the effect he had produced. "I
fear you misunderstand me. I am very awkward. Perhaps I had
better say no more, Gertrude, by turning away to put up her cue,
signified that that was a point for him to consider; she not
intending to trouble herself about it. When she faced him again,
he was motionless and dejected, with a wistful expression like
that of a dog that has proffered a caress and received a kick.
Remorse, and a vague sense that there was something base in her
attitude towards him, overcame her. She looked at him for an
instant and left the room.

The look excited him. He did not understand it, nor attempt to
understand it; but it was a look that he had never before seen in
her face or in that of any other woman. It struck him as a
momentary revelation of what he had written of in "The Patriot
Martyrs" as

"The glorious mystery of a woman's heart,"

and it made him feel unfit for ordinary social intercourse. He
hastened from the house, walked swiftly down the avenue to the
lodge, where he kept his bicycle, left word there that he was
going for an excursion and should probably not return in time for
dinner, mounted, and sped away recklessly along the Riverside
Road. In less than two minutes he passed the gate of Sallust's
House, where he nearly ran over an old woman laden with a basket
of coals, who put down her burthen to scream curses after him.
Warned by this that his headlong pace was dangerous, he slackened
it a little, and presently saw Trefusis lying prone on the river
bank, with his cheeks propped on his elbows, reading intently.
Erskine, who had presented him, a few days before, with a copy of
"The Patriot Martyrs and other Poems," tried to catch a glimpse
of the book over which Trefusis was so serious. It was a Blue
Book, full of figures. Erskine rode on in disgust, consoling
himself with the recollection of Gertrude's face.

The highway now swerved inland from the river, and rose to a
steep acclivity, at the brow of which he turned and looked back.
The light was growing ruddy, and the shadows were lengthening.
Trefusis was still prostrate in the meadow, and the old woman was
in a field, gathering hemlock.

Erskine raced down the hill at full speed, and did not look
behind him again until he found himself at nightfall on the
skirts of a town, where he purchased some beer and a sandwich,
which he ate with little appetite. Gertrude had set up a
disturbance within him which made him impatient of eating.

It was now dark. He was many miles from Brandon Beeches, and not
sure of the way back. Suddenly he resolved to complete his
unfinished declaration that evening. He now could not ride back
fast enough to satisfy his impatience. He tried a short cut, lost
himself, spent nearly an hour seeking the highroad, and at last
came upon a railway station just in time to catch a train that
brought him within a mile of his destination.

When he rose from the cushions of the railway carriage he found
himself somewhat fatigued, and he mounted the bicycle stiffly.
But his resolution was as ardent as ever, and his heart beat
strongly as, after leaving his bicycle at the lodge, he walked up
the avenue through the deep gloom beneath the beeches. Near the
house, the first notes of "Grudel perche finora" reached him, and
he stepped softly on to the turf lest his footsteps on the gravel
should rouse the dogs and make them mar the harmony by barking. A
rustle made him stop and listen. Then Gertrude's voice whispered
through the darkness:

"What did you mean by what you said to me within?"

An extraordinary sensation shook Erskine; confused ideas of
fairyland ran through his imagination. A bitter disappointment,
like that of waking from a happy dream, followed as Trefusis's
voice, more finely tuned than he had ever heard it before,
answered,

"Merely that the expanse of stars above us is not more
illimitable than my contempt for Miss Lindsay, nor brighter than
my hopes of Gertrude."

"Miss Lindsay always to you, if you please, Mr. Trefusis."

"Miss Lindsay never to me, but only to those who cannot see
through her to the soul within, which is Gertrude. There are a
thousand Miss Lindsays in the world, formal and false. There is
but one Gertrude."

"I am an unprotected girl, Mr. Trefusis, and you can call me what
you please."

It occurred to Erskine that this was a fit occasion to rush
forward and give Trefusis, whose figure he could now dimly
discern, a black eye. But he hesitated, and the opportunity
passed.

"Unprotected!" said Trefusis. "Why, you are fenced round and
barred in with conventions, laws, and lies that would frighten
the truth from the lips of any man whose faith in Gertrude was
less strong than mine. Go to Sir Charles and tell him what I have
said to Miss Lindsay, and within ten minutes I shall have passed
these gates with a warning never to approach them again. I am in
your power, and were I in Miss Lindsay's power alone, my shrift
would be short. Happily, Gertrude, though she sees as yet but
darkly, feels that Miss Lindsay is her bitterest foe."

"It is ridiculous. I am not two persons; I am only one. What does
it matter to me if your contempt for me is as illimitable as the
stars?"

"Ah, you remember that, do you? Whenever you hear a man talking
about the stars you may conclude that he is either an astronomer
or a fool. But you and a fine starry night would make a fool of
any man."

"I don't understand you. I try to, but I cannot; or, if I guess,
I cannot tell whether you are in earnest or not."

"I am very much in earnest. Abandon at once and for ever all
misgivings that I am trifling with you, or passing an idle hour
as men do when they find themselves in the company of beautiful
women. I mean what I say literally, and in the deepest sense. You
doubt me; we have brought society to such a state that we all
suspect one another. But whatever is true will command belief
sooner or later from those who have wit enough to comprehend
truth. Now let me recall Miss Lindsay to consciousness by
remarking that we have been out for ten minutes, and that our
hostess is not the woman to allow our absence to pass without
comment."

"Let us go in. Thank you for reminding me."

"Thank you for forgetting."

Erskine heard their footsteps retreating, and presently saw the
two enter the glow of light that shone from the open window of
the billiard room, through which they went indoors. Trefusis, a
man whom he had seen that day in a beautiful landscape, blind to
everything except a row of figures in a Blue Book, was his
successful rival, although it was plain from the very sound of
his voice that he did not--could not--love Gertrude. Only a poet
could do that. Trefusis was no poet, but a sordid brute unlikely
to inspire interest in anything more human than a public meeting,
much less in a woman, much less again in a woman so ethereal as
Gertrude. She was proud too, yet she had allowed the fellow to
insult her--had forgiven him for the sake of a few broad
compliments. Erskine grew angry and cynical. The situation did
not suit his poetry. Instead of being stricken to the heart with
a solemn sorrow, as a Patriot Martyr would have been under
similar circumstances, he felt slighted and ridiculous. He was
hardly convinced of what had seemed at first the most obvious
feature of the case, Trefusis's inferiority to himself.

He stood under the trees until Trefusis reappeared on his way
home, making, Erskine thought, as much noise with his heels on
the gravel as a regiment of delicately bred men would have done.
He stopped for a moment to make inquiry at the lodge as he went
out; then his footsteps died away in the distance.

Erskine, chilled, stiff, and with a sensation of a bad cold
coming on, went into the house, and was relieved to find that
Gertrude had retired, and that Lady Brandon, though she had been
sure that he had ridden into the river in the dark, had
nevertheless provided a warm supper for him.

CHAPTER XV

Erskine soon found plenty of themes for his newly begotten
cynicism. Gertrude's manner towards him softened so much that he,
believing her heart given to his rival, concluded that she was
tempting him to make a proposal which she had no intention of
accepting. Sir Charles, to whom he told what he had overheard in
the avenue, professed sympathy, but was evidently pleased to
learn that there was nothing serious in the attentions Trefusis
paid to Agatha. Erskine wrote three bitter sonnets on hollow
friendship and showed them to Sir Charles, who, failing to apply
them to himself, praised them highly and showed them to Trefusis
without asking the author's permission. Trefusis remarked that in
a corrupt society expressions of dissatisfaction were always
creditable to a writer's sensibility; but he did not say much in
praise of the verse.

"Why has he taken to writing in this vein?" he said. "Has he been
disappointed in any way of late? Has he proposed to Miss Lindsay
and been rejected?"

"No," said Sir Charles surprised by this blunt reference to a
subject they had never before discussed. "He does not intend to
propose to Miss Lindsay."

"But he did intend to."

"He certainly did, but he has given up the idea."

"Why?" said Trefusis, apparently disapproving strongly of the
renunciation.

Sir Charles shrugged his shoulders and did not reply.

"I am sorry to hear it. I wish you could induce him to change his
mind. He is a nice fellow, with enough to live on comfortably,
whilst he is yet what is called a poor man, so that she could
feel perfectly disinterested in marrying him. It will do her good
to marry without making a pecuniary profit by it; she will
respect herself the more afterwards, and will neither want bread
and butter nor be ashamed of her husband's origin, in spite of
having married for love alone. Make a match of it if you can. I
take an interest in the girl; she has good instincts."

Sir Charles's suspicion that Trefusis was really paying court to
Agatha returned after this conversation, which he repeated to
Erskine, who, much annoyed because his poems had been shown to a
reader of Blue Books, thought it only a blind for Trefusis's
design upon Gertrude. Sir Charles pooh-poohed this view, and the
two friends were sharp with one another in discussing it. After
dinner, when the ladies had left them, Sir Charles, repentant and
cordial, urged Erskine to speak to Gertrude without troubling
himself as to the sincerity of Trefusis. But Erskine, knowing
himself ill able to brook a refusal, was loth to expose himself
to o

278

"If you had heard the tone of her voice when she asked him
whether he was in earnest, you would not talk to me like this,"
he said despondently. "I wish he had never come here."

"Well, that, at least, was no fault of mine, my dear fellow,"
said Sir Charles. "He came among us against my will. And now that
he appears to have been in the right--legally--about the field,
it would look like spite if I cut him. Besides, he really isn't a
bad man if he would only let the women alone."

"If he trifles with Miss Lindsay, I shall ask him to cross the
Channel, and have a shot at him."

"I don't think he'd go," said Sir Charles dubiously. "If I were
you, I would try my luck with Gertrude at once. In spite of what
you heard, I don't believe she would marry a man of his origin.
His money gives him an advantage, certainly, but Gertrude has
sent richer men to the rightabout."

"Let the fellow have fair play," said Erskine. "I may be wrong,
of course; all men are liable to err in judging themselves, but I
think I could make her happier than he can."

Sir Charles was not so sure of that, but he cheerfully responded,
"Certainly. He is not the man for her at all, and you are. He
knows it, too."

"Hmf!" muttered Erskine, rising dejectedly. "Let's go upstairs."

"By-the-bye, we are to call on him to-morrow, to go through his
house, and his collection of photographs. Photographs! Ha, ha"
Damn his house!" said Erskine.

Next day they went together to Sallust's House. It stood in the
midst of an acre of land, waste except a little kitchen garden at
the rear. The lodge at the entrance was uninhabited, and the
gates stood open, with dust and fallen leaves heaped up against
them. Free ingress had thus been afforded to two stray ponies, a
goat, and a tramp, who lay asleep in the grass. His wife sat
near, watching him.

"I have a mind to turn back," said Sir Charles, looking about him
in disgust. " The place is scandalously neglected. Look at that
rascal asleep within full view of the windows."

"I admire his cheek," said Erskine. "Nice pair of ponies, too."

Sallust's House was square and painted cinnamon color. Beneath
the cornice was a yellow frieze with figures of dancing children,
imitated from the works of Donatello, and very unskilfully
executed. There was a meagre portico of four columns, painted
red, and a plain pediment, painted yellow. The colors, meant to
match those of the walls, contrasted disagreeably with them,
having been applied more recently, apparently by a color-blind
artist. The door beneath the portico stood open. Sir Charles rang
the bell, and an elderly woman answered it; but before they could
address her, Trefusis appeared, clad in a painter's jacket of
white jean. Following him in, they found that the house was a
hollow square, enclosing a courtyard with a bath sunk in the
middle, and a fountain in the centre of the bath. The courtyard,
formerly open to the sky, was now roofed in with dusty glass; the
nymph that had once poured out the water of the fountain was
barren and mutilated; and the bath was partly covered in with
loose boards, the exposed part accommodating a heap of coals in
one corner, a heap of potatoes in another, a beer barrel, some
old carpets, a tarpaulin, and a broken canoe. The marble pavement
extended to the outer walls of the house, and was roofed in at
the sides by the upper stories,which were supported by fluted
stone columns, much stained and chipped. The staircase, towards
which Trefusis led his visitors, was a broad one at the end
opposite the door, and gave access to a gallery leading to the
upper rooms.

"This house was built in 11780 by an ancestor of my mother," said
Trefusis. "He passed for a man of exquisite taste. He wished the
place to be maintained forever--he actually used that expression
in his will--as the family seat, and he collected a fine library
here, which I found useful, as all the books came into my hands
in good condition, most of them with the leaves uncut. Some
people prize uncut copies of old editions; a dealer gave me three
hundred and fifty pounds for a lot of them. I came into
possession of a number of family fetishes--heirlooms, as they are
called. There was a sword that one of my forbears wore at
Edgehill and other battles in Charles the First's time. We fought
on the wrong side, of course, but the sword fetched thirty-five
shillings nevertheless. You will hardly believe that I was
offered one hundred and fifty pounds for a gold cup worth about
twenty-five, merely because Queen Elizabeth once drank from it.
This is my study. It was designed for a banqueting hall."

They entered a room as long as the wall of the house, pierced on
one side by four tall windows, between which square pillars, with
Corinthian capitals supporting the cornice, were half sunk in the
wall. There were similar pillars on the opposite side, but
between them, instead of windows, were arched niches in which
stood life-size plaster statues, chipped, broken, and defaced in
an extraordinary fashion. The flooring, of diagonally set narrow
boards, was uncarpeted and unpolished. The ceiling was adorned
with frescoes, which at once excited Sir Charles's interest, and
he noted with indignation that a large portion of the painting at
the northern end had been destroyed and some glass roofing
inserted. In another place bolts had been driven in to support
the ropes of a trapeze and a few other pieces of gymnastic
apparatus. The walls were whitewashed, and at about four feet
from the ground a dark band appeared, produced by pencil
memoranda and little sketches scribbled on the whitewash. One end
of the apartment was unfurnished, except by the gymnastic
apparatus, a photographer's camera, a ladder in the corner, and a
common deal table with oil cans and paint pots upon it. At the
other end a comparatively luxurious show was made by a large
bookcase, an elaborate combination of bureau and writing desk, a
rack with a rifle, a set of foils, and an umbrella in it, several
folio albums on a table, some comfortable chairs and sofas, and a
thick carpet under foot. Close by, and seeming much out of place,
was a carpenter's bench with the usual implements and a number of
boards of various thicknesses.

"This is a sort of comfort beyond the reach of any but a rich
man," said Trefusis, turning and surprising his visitors in the
act of exchanging glances of astonishment at his taste. " I keep
a drawing-room of the usual kind for receiving strangers with
whom it is necessary to be conventional, but I never enter it
except on such occasions. What do you think of this for a study?"

"On my soul, Trefusis, I think you are mad," said Sir Charles.
"The place looks as if it had stood a siege. How did you manage
to break the statues and chip the walls so outrageously?"

Trefusis took a newspaper from the table and said, "Listen to
this:

'In spite of the unfavorable nature of the weather, the sport of
the Emperor and his guests in Styria has been successful. In
three days 52 chamois and 79 stags and deer fell to 19
single-barrelled rifles, the Emperor allowing no more on this
occasion.'

"I share the Emperor's delight in shooting, but I am no butcher,
and do not need the royal relish of blood to my sport. And I do
not share my ancestors' taste in statuary. Hence--" Here Trefusis
opened a drawer, took out a pistol, and fired at the Hebe in the
farthest niche.

"Well done!" said Erskine coolly, as the last fragment of Hebe's
head crumbled at the touch of the bullet.

"Very fruitlessly done," said Trefusis. "I am a good shot, but of
what use is it to me? None. I once met a gamekeeper who was a
Methodist. He was a most eloquent speaker, but A bad shot. If he
could have swapped talents with me I would have given him ten
thousand pounds to boot willingly, although he would have
profited as much as I by the exchange alone. I have no more
desire or need to be a good shot than to be king of England, or
owner of a Derby winner, or anything else equally ridiculous, and
yet I never missed my aim in my life--thank blind fortune for
nothing!"

"King of England!" said Erskine, with a scornful laugh, to show
Trefusis that other people were as liberty-loving as he. "Is it
not absurd to hear a nation boasting of its freedom and
tolerating a king?"

"Oh, hang your republicanism, Chester!" said Sir Charles, who
privately held a low opinion of the political side of the Patriot
Martyrs.

"I won't he put down on that point," said Erskine. "I admire a
man that kills a king. You will agree with me there, Trefusis,
won't you?"

"Certainly not," said Trefusis. "A king nowadays is only a dummy
put up to draw your fire off the real oppressors of society, and
the fraction of his salary that he can spend as he likes is
usually far too small for his risk, his trouble, and the
condition of personal slavery to which he is reduced. What
private man in England is worse off than the constitutional
monarch? We deny him all privacy; he may not marry whom he
chooses, consort with whom he prefers, dress according to his
taste, or live where he pleases. I don't believe he may even eat
or drink what he likes best; a taste for tripe and onions on his
part would provoke a remonstrance from the Privy Council. We
dictate everything except his thoughts and dreams, and even these
he must keep to himself if they are not suitable, in our opinion,
to his condition. The work we impose on him has all the hardship
of mere task work; it is unfruitful, incessant, monotonous, and
has to be transacted for the most part with nervous bores. We
make his kingdom a treadmill to him, and drive him to and fro on
the face of it. Finally, having taken everything else that men
prize from him, we fall upon his character, and that of every
person to whom he ventures to show favor. We impose enormous
expenses on him, stint him, and then rail at his parsimony. We
use him as I use those statues--stick him up in the place of
honor for our greater convenience in disfiguring and abusing him.
We send him forth through our crowded cities, proclaiming that he
is the source of all good and evil in the nation, and he, knowing
that many people believe it, knowing that it is a lie, and that
he is powerless to shorten the working day by one hour, raise
wages one penny, or annul the smallest criminal sentence, however
unjust it may seem to him; knowing that every miner in the
kingdom can manufacture dynamite, and that revolvers are sold for
seven and sixpence apiece; knowing that he is not bullet proof,
and that every king in Europe has been shot at in the streets; he
must smile and bow and maintain an expression of gracious
enjoyment whilst the mayor and corporation inflict upon him the
twaddling address he has heard a thousand times before. I do not
ask you to be loyal, Erskine; but I expect you, in common
humanity, to sympathize with the chief figure in the pageant, who
is no more accountable for the manifold evils and abominations
that exist in his realm than the Lord Mayor is accountable for
the thefts of the pickpockets who follow his show on the ninth of
November."

Sir Charles laughed at the trouble Trefusis took to prove his
case, and said soothingly, "My dear fellow, kings are used to it,
and expect it, and like it."

"And probably do not see themselves as I see them, any more than
common people do," assented Trefusis.

"What an exquisite face!" exclaimed Erskine suddenly, catching
sight of a photograph in a rich gold and coral frame on a
miniature easel draped with ruby velvet. Trefusis turned quickly,
so evidently gratified that Sir Charles hastened to say,
"Charming!" Then, looking at the portrait, he added, as if a
little startled, "It certainly is an extraordinarily attractive
face."

"Years ago," said Trefusis, "when I saw that face for the first
time, I felt as you feel now."

Silence ensued, the two visitors looking at the portrait,
Trefusis looking at them.

"Curious style of beauty," said Sir Charles at last, not quite so
assuredly as before.

Trefusis laughed unpleasantly. "Do you recognize the artist--the
enthusiastic amateur--in her?" he said, opening another drawer
and taking out a bundle of drawings, which he handed to be
examined.

"Very clever. Very clever indeed," said Sir Charles. "I should
like to meet the lady."

"I have often been on the point of burning them," said Trefusis;
"but there they are, and there they are likely to remain. The
portrait has been much admired."

"Can you give us an introduction to the original, old fellow?"
said Erskine.

"No, happily. She is dead."

Disagreeably shocked, they looked at him for a moment with
aversion. Then Erskine, turning with pity and disappointment to
the picture, said, "Poor girl! Was she married?"

"Yes. To me."

"Mrs. Trefusis!" exclaimed Sir Charles. "Ah! Dear me!"

Erskine, with proof before him that it was possible for a
beautiful girl to accept Trefusis, said nothing.

"I keep her portrait constantly before me to correct my natural
amativeness. I fell in love with her and married her. I have
fallen in love once or twice since but a glance at my lost Hetty
has cured me of the slightest inclination to marry."

Sir Charles did not reply. It occurred to him that Lady Brandon's
portrait, if nothing else were left of her, might be useful in
the same way.

"Come, you will marry again one of these days," said Erskine, in
a forced tone of encouragement.

"It is possible. Men should marry, especially rich men. But I
assure you I have no present intention of doing so."

Erskine's color deepened, and he moved away to the table where
the albums lay.

"This is the collection of photographs I spoke of," said
Trefusis, following him and opening one of the books. "I took
many of them myself under great difficulties with regard to
light--the only difficulty that money could not always remove.
This is a view of my father's house--or rather one of his houses.
It cost seventy-five thousand pounds."

"Very handsome indeed," said Sir Charles, secretly disgusted at
being invited to admire a photograph, such as house agents
exhibit, of a vulgarly designed country house, merely because it
had cost seventy-five thousand pounds. The figures were actually
written beneath the picture.

"This is the drawing-room, and this one of the best bedrooms. In
the right-hand corner of the mount you will see a note of the
cost of the furniture, fittings, napery, and so forth. They were
of the most luxurious description."

"Very interesting," said Sir Charles, hardly disguising the irony
of the comment.

"Here is a view--this is the first of my own attempts--of the
apartment of one of the under servants. It is comfortable and
spacious, and solidly furnished."

"So I perceive."

"These are the stables. Are they not handsome?"

"Palatial. Quite palatial."

"There is every luxury that a horse could desire, including
plenty of valets to wait on him. You are noting the figures, I
hope. There is the cost of the building and the expenditure per
horse per annum."

"I see."

"Here is the exterior of a house. What do you think of it?"

"It is rather picturesque in its dilapidation."

"Picturesque! Would you like to live in it?"

"No," said Erskine. "I don't see anything very picturesque about
it. What induced you to photograph such a wretched old rookery?"

"Here is a view of the best room in it. Photography gives you a
fair idea of the broken flooring and patched windows, but you
must imagine the dirt and the odor of the place. Some of the
stains are weather stains, others came from smoke and filth. The
landlord of the house holds it from a peer and lets it out in
tenements. Three families occupied that room when I photographed
it. You will see by the figures in the corner that it is more
profitable to the landlord than an average house in Mayfair. Here
is the cellar, let to a family for one and sixpence a week, and
considered a bargain. The sun never shines there, of course. I
took it by artificial light. You may add to the rent the cost of
enough bad beer to make the tenant insensible to the filth of the
place. Beer is the chloroform that enables the laborer to endure
the severe operation of living; that is why we can always assure
one another over our wine that the rascal's misery is due to his
habit of drinking. We are down on him for it, because, if he
could bear his life without beer, we should save his
beer-money--get him for lower wages. In short, we should be
richer and he soberer. Here is the yard; the arrangements are
indescribable. Seven of the inhabitants of that house had worked
for years in my father's mill. That is, they had created a
considerable part of the vast sums of money for drawing your
attention to which you were disgusted with me just now."

"Not at all," said Sir Charles faintly.

"You can see how their condition contrasts with that of my
father's horses. The seven men to whom I have alluded, with three
hundred others, were thrown destitute upon the streets by this."
(Here he turned over a leaf and displayed a photograph of an
elaborate machine.) "It enabled my father to dispense with their
services, and to replace them by a handful of women and children.
He had bought the patent of the machine for fifty pounds from the
inventor, who was almost ruined by the expenses of his ingenuity,
and would have sacrificed anything for a handful of ready money.
Here is a portrait of my father in his masonic insignia. He
believed that freemasons generally get on in the world, and as
the main object of his life was to get on, he joined them, and
wanted me to do the same. But I object to pretended secret
societies and hocus pocus, and would not. You see what he was--a
portly, pushing, egotistical tradesman. Mark the successful man,
the merchant prince with argosies on every sea, the employer of
thousands of hands, the munificent contributor to public
charities, the churchwarden, the member of parliament, and the
generous patron of his relatives his self-approbation struggling
with the instinctive sense of baseness in the money-hunter, the
ignorant and greedy filcher of the labor of others, the seller of
his own mind and manhood for luxuries and delicacies that he was
too lowlived to enjoy, and for the society of people who made him
feel his inferiority at every turn."

"And the man to whom you owe everything you possess," said
Erskine boldly.

"I possess very little. Everything he left me, except a few
pictures, I spent long ago, and even that was made by his slaves
and not by him. My wealth comes day by day fresh from the labor
of the wretches who live in the dens I have just shown you, or of
a few aristocrats of labor who are within ten shillings a week of
being worse off. However, there is some excuse for my father.
Once, at an election riot, I got into a free fight. I am a
peaceful man, but as I had either to fight or be knocked down and
trampled upon, I exchanged blows with men who were perhaps as
peacefully disposed as I. My father, launched into a free
competition (free in the sense that the fight is free: that is,
lawless)--my father had to choose between being a slave himself
and enslaving others. He chose the latter, and as he was
applauded and made much of for succeeding, who dare blame him?
Not I. Besides, he did something to destroy the anarchy that
enabled him to plunder society with impunity. He furnished me,
its enemy, with the powerful weapon of a large fortune. Thus our
system of organizing industry sometimes hatches the eggs from
which its destroyers break. Does Lady Brandon wear much lace?"

"I--No; that is--How the deuce dO I know, Trefusis? What an
extraordinary question!"

"This is a photograph of a lace school. It was a filthy room,
twelve feet square. It was paved with brick, and the children
were not allowed to wear their boots, lest the lace should get
muddy. However, as there were twenty of them working there for
fifteen hours a day--all girls--they did not suffer much from
cold. They were pretty tightly packed--may be still, for aught I
know. They brought three or four shillings a week sometimes to
their fond parents; and they were very quick-fingered little
creatures, and stuck intensely to their work, as the overseer
always hit them when they looked up or--"

"Trefusis," said Sir Charles, turning away from the table, "I beg
your pardon, but I have no appetite for horrors. You really must
not ask me to go through your collection. It is no doubt very
interesting, but I can't stand it. Have you nothing pleasant to
entertain me with?"

"Pooh! you are squeamish. However, as you are a novice, let us
put off the rest until you are seasoned. The pictures are not all
horrible. Each book refers to a different country. That one
contains illustrations of modern civilization in Germany, for
instance. That one is France; that, British India. Here you have
the United States of America, home of liberty, theatre of manhood
suffrage, kingless and lordless land of Protection,
Republicanism, and the realized Radical Programme, where all the
black chattel slaves were turned into wage-slaves (like my
father's white fellows) at a cost of 800,000 lives and wealth
incalculable. You and I are paupers in comparison with the great
capitalists of that country, where the laborers fight for bones
with the Chinamen, like dogs. Some of these great men presented
me with photographs of their yachts and palaces, not anticipating
the use to which I would put them. Here are some portraits that
will not harrow your feelings. This is my mother, a woman of good
family, every inch a lady. Here is a Lancashire lass, the
daughter of a common pitman. She has exactly the same physical
characteristics as my well-born mother--the same small head,
delicate features, and so forth; they might be sisters. This
villainous-looking pair might be twin brothers, except that there
is a trace of good humor about the one to the right. The
good-humored one is a bargee on the Lyvern Canal. The other is
one of the senior noblemen of the British Peerage. They
illustrate the fact that Nature, even when perverted by
generations of famine fever, ignores the distinctions we set up
between men. This group of men and women, all tolerably
intelligent and thoughtful looking, are so-called enemies of
society--Nihilists, Anarchists, Communards, members of the
International,and so on. These other poor devils, worried, stiff,
strumous, awkward, vapid, and rather coarse, with here and there
a passably pretty woman, are European kings, queens, grand-dukes,
and the like. Here are ship-captains, criminals, poets, men of
science, peers, peasants, political economists, and
representatives of dozens of degrees. The object of the
collection is to illustrate the natural inequality of man, and
the failure of our artificial inequality to correspond with it."

"It seems to me a sort of infernal collection for the upsetting
of people's ideas," said Erskine. "You ought to label it 'A
Portfolio of Paradoxes.'"

"In a rational state of society they would be paradoxes; but now
the time gives them proof--like Hamlet's paradox. It is, however,
a collection of facts; and I will give no fanciful name to it.
You dislike figures, don't you?"

"Unless they are by Phidias, yes."

"Here are a few, not by Phidias. This is the balance sheet of an
attempt I made some years ago to carry out the idea of an
International Association of Laborers--commonly known as THE
International--or union of all workmen throughout the world in
defence of the interests of labor. You see the result.
Expenditure, four thousand five hundred pounds. Subscriptions
received from working-men, twenty-two pounds seven and ten pence
halfpenny. The British workmen showed their sense of my efforts
to emancipate them by accusing me of making a good thing out of
the Association for my own pocket, and by mobbing and stoning me
twice. I now help them only when they show some disposition to
help themselves. I occupy myself partly in working out a scheme
for the reorganization of industry, and partly in attacking my
own class, women and all, as I am attacking you."

"There is little use in attacking us, I fear," said Sir Charles.

"Great use," said Trefusis confidently. "You have a very
different opinion of our boasted civilization now from that which
you held when I broke your wall down and invited those Land
Nationalization zealots to march across your pleasure ground. You
have seen in my album something you had not seen an hour ago, and
you are consequently not quite the same man you were an hour ago.
My pictures stick in the mind longer than your scratchy etchings,
or the leaden things in which you fancy you see tender harmonies
in gray. Erskine's next drama may be about liberty, but its
Patriot Martyrs will have something better to do than spout
balderdash against figure-head kings who in all their lives never
secretly plotted as much dastardly meanness, greed, cruelty, and
tyranny as is openly voted for in London by every half-yearly
meeting of dividend-consuming vermin whose miserable wage-slaves
drudge sixteen hours out of the twenty-four."

"What is going to be the end of it all?" said Sir Charles, a
little dazed.

"Socialism or Smash. Socialism if the race has at last evolved
the faculty of coordinating the functions of a society too
crowded and complex to be worked any longer on the old haphazard
private-property system. Unless we reorganize our society
socialistically--humanly a most arduous and magnificent
enterprise, economically a most simple and sound one--Free Trade
by itself will ruin England, and I will tell you exactly how.
When my father made his fortune we had the start of all other
nations in the organization of our industry and in our access to
iron and coal. Other nations bought our products for less than
they must have spent to raise them at home, and yet for so much
more than they cost us, that profits rolled in Atlantic waves
upon our capitalists. When the workers, by their trades-unions,
demanded a share of the luck in the form of advanced wages, it
paid better to give them the little they dared to ask than to
stop gold-gathering to fight and crush them. But now our
customers have set up in their own countries improved copies of
our industrial organization, and have discovered places where
iron and coal are even handier than they are by this time in
England. They produce for themselves, or buy elsewhere, what they
formerly bought from us. Our profits are vanishing, our machinery
is standing idle, our workmen are locked out. It pays now to stop
the mills and fight and crush the unions when the men strike, no
longer for an advance, but against a reduction. Now that these
unions are beaten, helpless, and drifting to bankruptcy as the
proportion of unemployed men in their ranks becomes greater, they
are being petted and made much of by our class; an infallible
sign that they are making no further progress in their duty of
destroying us. The small capitalists are left stranded by the
ebb; the big ones will follow the tide across the water, and
rebuild their factories where steam power, water power, labor
power, and transport are now cheaper than in England, where they
used to be cheapest. The workers will emigrate in pursuit of the
factory, but they will multiply faster than they emigrate, and be
told that their own exorbitant demand for wages is driving
capital abroad, and must continue to do so whilst there is a
Chinaman or a Hindoo unemployed to underbid them. As the British
factories are shut up, they will be replaced by villas; the
manufacturing districts will become fashionable resorts for
capitalists living on the interest of foreign investments; the
farms and sheep runs will be cleared for deer forests. All
products that can in the nature of things be manufactured
elsewhere than where they are consumed will be imported in
payment of deer-forest rents from foreign sportsmen, or of
dividends due to shareholders resident in England, but holding
shares in companies abroad, and these imports will not be paid
for by ex ports, because rent and interest are not paid for at
all--a fact which the Free Traders do not yet see, or at any rate
do not mention, although it is the key to the whole mystery of
their opponents. The cry for Protection will become wild, but no
one will dare resort to a demonstrably absurd measure that must
raise prices before it raises wages, and that has everywhere
failed to benefit the worker. There will be no employment for
anyone except in doing things that must be done on the spot, such
as unpacking and distributing the imports, ministering to the
proprietors as domestic servants, or by acting, preaching,
paving, lighting, housebuilding, and the rest; and some of these,
as the capitalist comes to regard ostentation as vulgar, and to
enjoy a simpler life, will employ fewer and fewer people. A vast
proletariat, beginning with a nucleus of those formerly employed
in export trades, with their multiplying progeny, will be out of
employment permanently. They will demand access to the land and
machinery to produce for themselves. They will be refused. They
will break a few windows and be dispersed with a warning to their
leaders. They will burn a few houses and murder a policeman or
two, and then an example will be made of the warned. They will
revolt, and be shot down with
machine-guns--emigrated--exterminated anyhow and everyhow; for
the proprietary classes have no idea of any other means of
dealing with the full claims of labor. You yourself, though you
would give fifty pounds to Jansenius's emigration fund readily
enough, would call for the police, the military, and the Riot
Act, if the people came to Brandon Beeches and bade you turn out
and work for your living with the rest. Well, the superfluous
proletariat destroyed, there will remain a population of
capitalists living on gratuitous imports and served by a
disaffected retinue. One day the gratuitous imports will stop in
consequence of the occurrence abroad of revolution and
repudiation, fall in the rate of interest, purchase of industries
by governments for lump sums, not reinvestable, or what not. Our
capitalist community is then thrown on the remains of the last
dividend, which it consumes long before it can rehabilitate its
extinct machinery of production in order to support itself with
its own hands. Horses, dogs, cats, rats, blackberries, mushrooms,
and cannibalism only postpone--"

"Ha! ha! ha!" shouted Sir Charles. "On my honor, I thought you
were serious at first, Trefusis. Come, confess, old chap; it's
all a fad of yours. I half suspected you of being a bit of a
crank." And he winked at Erskine.

"What I have described to you is the inevitable outcome of our
present Free Trade policy without Socialism. The theory of Free
Trade is only applicable to systems of exchange, not to systems
of spoliation. Our system is one of spoliation, and if we don't
abandon it, we must either return to Protection or go to smash by
the road I have just mapped. Now, sooner than let the
Protectionists triumph, the Cobden Club itself would blow the
gaff and point out to the workers that Protection only means
compelling the proprietors of England to employ slaves resident
in England and therefore presumably--though by no means
necessarily--Englishmen. This would open the eyes of the nation
at last to the fact that England is not their property. Once let
them understand that and they would soon make it so. When England
is made the property of its inhabitants collectively, England
becomes socialistic. Artificial inequality will vanish then
before real freedom of contract; freedom of competition, or
unhampered emulation, will keep us moving ahead; and Free Trade
will fulfil its promises at last."

"And the idlers and loafers," said Erskine. "What of them?"

"You and I, in fact," said Trefusis, "die of starvation, I
suppose, unless we choose to work, or unless they give us a
little out-door relief in consideration of our bad bringing-up."

"Do you mean that they will plunder us?" said Sir Charles.

"I mean that they will make us stop plundering them. If they
hesitate to strip us naked, or to cut our throats if we offer
them the smallest resistance, they will show us more mercy than
we ever showed them. Consider what we have done to get our rents
in Ireland and Scotland, and our dividends in Egypt, if you have
already forgotten my photographs and their lesson in our
atrocities at home. Why, man, we murder the great mass of these
toilers with overwork and hardship; their average lifetime is not
half as long as ours. Human nature is the same in them as in us.
If we resist them, and succeed in restoring order, as we call it,
we will punish them mercilessly for their insubordination, as we
did in Paris in 1871, where, by-the-bye, we taught them the folly
of giving their enemies quarter. If they beat us, we shall catch
it, and serve us right. Far better turn honest at once and avert
bloodshed. Eh, Erskine?"

Erskine was considering what reply he should make, when Trefusis
disconcerted him by ringing a bell. Presently the elderly woman
appeared, pushing before her an oblong table mounted on wheels,
like a barrow.

"Thank you," said Trefusis, and dismissed her. "Here is some good
wine, some good water, some good fruit, and some good bread. I
know that you cling to wine as to a good familiar creature. As
for me, I make no distinction between it and other vegetable
poisons. I abstain from them all. Water for serenity, wine for
excitement. I, having boiling springs of excitement within
myself, am never at a loss for it, and have only to seek
serenity. However," (here he drew a cork), "a generous goblet of
this will make you feel like gods for half an hour at least.
Shall we drink to your conversion to Socialism?"

Sir Charles shook his head.

"Come, Mr. Donovan Brown, the great artist, is a Socialist, and
why should not you be one?"

"Donovan Brown!" exclaimed Sir Charles with interest. "Is it
possible? Do you know him personally?"

"Here are several letters from him. You may read them; the mere
autograph of such a man is interesting."

Sir Charles took the letters and read them earnestly, Erskine
reading over his shoulder.

"I most cordially agree with everything he says here," said Sir
Charles. "It is quite true, quite true."

"Of course you agree with us. Donovan Brown's eminence as an
artist has gained me one recruit, and yours as a baronet will
gain me some more."

"But--"

"But what?" said Trefusis, deftly opening one of the albums at a
photograph of a loathsome room.

"You are against that, are you not? Donovan Brown is against it,
and I am against it. You may disagree with us in everything else,
but there you are at one with us. Is it not so?"

"But that may be the result of drunkenness, improvidence, or--"

"My father's income was fifty times as great as that of Donovan
Brown. Do you believe that Donovan Brown is fifty times as
drunken and improvident as my father was?"

"Certainly not. I do not deny that there is much in what you
urge. Still, you ask me to take a rather important step."

"Not a bit of it. I don't ask you to subscribe to, join, or in
any way pledge yourself to any society or conspiracy whatsoever.
I only want your name for private mention to cowards who think
Socialism right, but will not say so because they do not think it
respectable. They will not be ashamed of their convictions when
they learn that a baronet shares them. Socialism offers you
something already, you see; a good use for your hitherto useless
title."

Sir Charles colored a little, conscious that the example of his
favorite painter had influenced him more than his own conviction
or the arguments of Trefusis.

"What do you think, Chester?" he said. "Will you join?"

"Erskine is already committed to the cause of liberty by his
published writings," said Trefusis. "Three of the pamphlets on
that shelf contain quotations from 'The Patriot Martyrs.'"

Erskine blushed, flattered by being quoted; an attention that had
been shown him only once before, and then by a reviewer with the
object of proving that the Patriot Martyrs were slovenly in their
grammar.

"Come!" said Trefusis. "Shall I write to Donovan Brown that his
letters have gained the cordial assent and sympathy of Sir
Charles Brandon?"

"Certainly, certainly. That is, if my unknown name would be of
the least interest to him."

"Good," said Trefusis, filling his glass with water. "Erskine,
let us drink to our brother Social Democrat."

Erskine laughed loudly, but not heartily. "What an ass you are,
Brandon!" he said. "You, with a large landed estate, and bags of
gold invested in railways, calling yourself a Social Democrat!
Are you going to sell out and distribute--to sell all that thou
hast and give to the poor?"

"Not a penny," replied Trefusis for him promptly. "A man cannot
be a Christian in this country. I have tried it and found it
impossible both in law and in fact. I am a capitalist and a
landholder. I have railway shares, mining shares, building
shares, bank shares, and stock of most kinds; and a great trouble
they are to me. But these shares do not represent wealth actually
in existence; they are a mortgage on the labor of unborn
generations of laborers, who must work to keep me and mine in
idleness and luxury. If I sold them, would the mortgage be
cancelled and the unborn generations released from its thrall?
No. It would only pass into the hands of some other capitalist,
and the working class would be no better off for my
self-sacrifice. Sir Charles cannot obey the command of Christ; I
defy him to do it. Let him give his land for a public park; only
the richer classes will have leisure to enjoy it. Plant it at the
very doors of the poor, so that they may at last breathe its air,
and it will raise the value of the neighboring houses and drive
the poor away. Let him endow a school for the poor, like Eton or
Christ's Hospital, and the rich will take it for their own
children as they do in the two instances I have named. Sir
Charles does not want to minister to poverty, but to abolish it.
No matter how much you give to the poor, everything except a bare
subsistence wage will be taken from them again by force. All talk
of practicing Christianity, or even bare justice, is at present
mere waste of words. How can you justly reward the laborer when
you cannot ascertain the value of what he makes, owing to the
prevalent custom of stealing it? I know this by experience. I
wanted to pay a just price for my wife's tomb, but I could not
find out its value, and never shall. The principle on which we
farm out our national industry to private marauders, who
recompense themselves by black-mail, so corrupts and paralyzes us
that we cannot be honest even when we want to. And the reason we
bear it so calmly is that very few of us really want to."

"I must study this question of value," said Sir Charles
dubiously, refilling his goblet. "Can you recommend me a good
book on the subject?"

"Any good treatise on political economy will do," said Trefusis.
"In economics all roads lead to Socialism, although in nine cases
out of ten, so far, the economist doesn't recognize his
destination, and incurs the malediction pronounced by Jeremiah on
those who justify the wicked for reward. I will look you out a
book or two. And if you will call on Donovan Brown the next time
you are in London, he will be delighted, I know. He meets with
very few who are capable of sympathizing with him from both his
points of view--social and artistic."

Sir Charles brightened on being reminded of Donovan Brown. "I
shall esteem an introduction to him a great honor," he said. "I
had no idea that he was a friend of yours."

"I was a very practical young Socialist when I first met him,"
said Trefusis. "When Brown was an unknown and wretchedly poor
man, my mother, at the petition of a friend of his, charitably
bought one of his pictures for thirty pounds, which he was very
glad to get. Years afterwards, when my mother was dead, and Brown
famous, I was offered eight hundred pounds for this picture,
which was, by-the-bye, a very bad one in my opinion. Now, after
making the usual unjust allowance for interest on thirty pounds
for twelve years or so that had elapsed, the sale of the picture
would have brought me in a profit of over seven hundred and fifty
pounds, an unearned increment to which I had no righteous claim.
My solicitor, to whom I mentioned the matter, was of opinion that
I might justifiably pocket the seven hundred and fifty pounds as
reward for my mother's benevolence in buying a presumably
worthless picture from an obscure painter. But he failed to
convince me that I ought to be paid for my mother's virtues,
though we agreed that neither I nor my mother had received any
return in the shape of pleasure in contemplating the work, which
had deteriorated considerably by the fading of the colors since
its purchase. At last I went to Brown's studio with the picture,
and told him that it was worth nothing to me, as I thought it a
particularly bad one, and that he might have it back again for
fifteen pounds, half the first price. He at once told me that I
could get from any dealer more for it than he could afford to
give me; but he told me too that I had no right to make a profit
out of his work, and that he would give me the original price of
thirty pounds. I took it, and then sent him the man who had
offered me the eight hundred. To my discomfiture Brown refused to
sell it on any terms, because he considered it unworthy of his
reputation. The man bid up to fifteen hundred, but Brown held
out; and I found that instead of putting seven hundred and
seventy pounds into his pocket I had taken thirty out of it. I
accordingly offered to return the thirty pieces. Brown, taking
the offer as an insult, declined all further communication with
me. I then insisted on the matter being submitted to arbitration,
and demanded fifteen hundred pounds as the full exchange value of
the picture. All the arbitrators agreed that this was monstrous,
whereupon I contended that if they denied my right to the value
in exchange, they must admit my right to the value in use. They
assented to this after putting off their decision for a fortnight
in order to read Adam Smith and discover what on earth I meant by
my values in use and exchange. I now showed that the picture had
no value in use to me, as I disliked it, and that therefore I was
entitled to nothing, and that Brown must take back the thirty
pounds. They were glad to concede this also to me, as they were
all artist friends of Brown, and wished him not to lose money by
the transaction, though they of course privately thought that the
picture was, as I described it, a bad one. After that Brown and I
became very good friends. He tolerated my advances, at first lest
it should seem that he was annoyed by my disparagement of his
work. Subsequently he fell into my views much as you have done."

"That is very interesting," said Sir Charles. "What a noble
thing--refusing fifteen hundred pounds! He could ill afford it,
probably."

"Heroic--according to nineteenth century notions of heroism.
Voluntarily to throw away a chance of making money! that is the
ne plus ultra of martyrdom. Brown's wife was extremely angry with
him for doing it."

"It is an interesting story--or might be made so," said Erskine.
"But you make my head spin with your confounded exchange values
and stuff. Everything is a question of figures with you."

"That comes of my not being a poet," said Trefusis. "But we
Socialists need to study the romantic side of our movement to
interest women in it. If you want to make a cause grow, instruct
every woman you meet in it. She is or will one day be a wife, and
will contradict her husband with scraps of your arguments. A
squabble will follow. The son will listen, and will be set
thinking if he be capable of thought. And so the mind of the
people gets leavened. I have converted many young women. Most of
them know no more of the economic theory of Socialism than they
know of Chaldee; but they no longer fear or condemn its name. Oh,
I assure you that much can be done in that way by men who are not
afraid of women, and who are not in too great a hurry to see the
harvest they have sown for."

"Take care. Some of your lady proselytes may get the better of
you some day. The future husband to be contradicted may be Sidney
Trefusis. Ha! ha! ha!" Sir Charles had emptied a second large
goblet of wine, and was a little flushed and boisterous.

"No," said Trefusis, "I have had enough of love myself, and am
not likely to inspire it. Women do not care for men to whom, as
Erskine says, everything is a question of figures. I used to
flirt with women; now I lecture them, and abhor a man-flirt worse
than I do a woman one. Some more wine? Oh, you must not waste the
remainder of this bottle."

"I think we had better go, Brandon," said Erskine, his mistrust
of Trefusis growing. "We promised to be back before two."

"So you shall," said Trefusis. "It is not yet a quarter past one.
By-the-bye, I have not shown you Donovan Brown's pet instrument
for the regeneration of society. Here it is. A monster petition
praying that the holding back from the laborer of any portion of
the net value produced by his labor be declared a felony. That is
all."

Erskine nudged Sir Charles, who said hastily, "Thank you, but I
had rather not sign anything."

"A baronet sign such a petition!" exclaimed Trefusis. "I did not
think of asking you. I only show it to you as an interesting
historical document, containing the autographs of a few artists
and poets. There is Donovan Brown's for example. It was he who
suggested the petition, which is not likely to do much good, as
the thing cannot be done in any such fashion However, I have
promised Brown to get as many signatures as I can; so you may as
well sign it, Erskine. It says nothing in blank verse about the
holiness of slaying a tyrant, but it is a step in the right
direction. You will not stick at such a trifle--unless the
reviews have frightened you. Come, your name and address."

Erskine shook his head.

"Do you then only commit yourself to revolutionary sentiments
when there is a chance of winning fame as a poet by them?"

"I will not sign, simply because I do not choose to," said
Erskine warmly.

"My dear fellow," said Trefusis, almost affectionately, "if a man
has a conscience he can have no choice in matters of conviction.
I have read somewhere in your book that the man who will not shed
his blood for the liberty of his brothers is a coward and a
slave. Will you not shed a drop of ink--my ink, too--for the
right of your brothers to the work of their hands? I at first
sight did not care to sign this petition, because I would as soon
petition a tiger to share his prey with me as our rulers to relax
their grip of the stolen labor they live on. But Donovan Brown
said to me, 'You have no choice. Either you believe that the
laborer should have the fruit of his labor or you do not. If you
do, put your conviction on record, even if it should be as
useless as Pilate's washing his hands.' So I signed."

"Donovan Brown was right," said Sir Charles. "I will sign." And
he did so with a flourish.

"Brown will be delighted," said Trefusis. "I will write to him
to-day that I have got another good signature for him."

"Two more," said Sir Charles. "You shall sign, Erskine; hang me
if you shan't! It is only against rascals that run away without
paying their men their wages."

"Or that don't pay them in full," observed Trefusis, with a
curious smile. "But do not sign if you feel uncomfortable about
it."

"If you don't sign after me, you are a sneak, Chester," said Sir
Charles.

"I don't know what it means," said Erskine, wavering. "I don't
understand petitions."

"It means what it says; you cannot be held responsible for any
meaning that is not expressed in it," said Trefusis. "But never
mind. You mistrust me a little, I fancy, and would rather not
meddle with my petitions; but you will think better of that as
you grow used to me. Meanwhile, there is no hurry. Don't sign
yet."

"Nonsense! I don't doubt your good faith," said Erskine, hastily
disavowing suspicions which he felt but could not account for.
"Here goes!" And he signed.

"Well done!" said Trefusis. "This will make Brown happy for the
rest of the month."

"It is time for us to go now," said Erskine gloomily.

"Look in upon me at any time; you shall be welcome," said
Trefusis. "You need not stand upon any sort of ceremony."

Then they parted; Sir Charles assuring Trefusis that he had never
spent a more interesting morning, and shaking hands with him at
considerable length three times. Erskine said little until he was
in the Riverside Road with his friend, when he suddenly burst
out:

"What the devil do you mean by drinking two tumblers of such
staggering stuff at one o'clock in the day in the house of a
dangerous man like that? I am very sorry I went into the fellow's
place. I had misgivings about it, and they have been fully borne
out."

"How so?" said Sir Charles, taken aback.

"He has overreached us. I was a deuced fool to sign that paper,
and so were you. It was for that that he invited us."

"Rubbish, my dear boy. It was not his paper, but Donovan
Brown's."

"I doubt it. Most likely he talked Brown into signing it just as
he talked us. I tell you his ways are all crooked, like his
ideas. Did you hear how he lied about Miss Lindsay?"

"Oh, you were mistaken about that. He does not care two straws
for her or for anyone."

"Well, if you are satisfied, I am not. You would not be in such
high spirits over it if you had taken as little wine as I."

"Pshaw! you're too ridiculous. It was capital wine. Do you mean
to say I am drunk?"

"No. But you would not have signed if you had not taken that
second goblet. If you had not forced me--I could not get out of
it after you set the example--I would have seen him d--d sooner
than have had anything to do with his petition."

"I don't see what harm can come of it," said Sir Charles, braving
out some secret disquietude.

"I will never go into his house again," said Erskine moodily. "We
were just like two flies in a spider's web."

Meanwhile, Trefusis was fulfilling his promise to write to
Donovan Brown.

"Sallust's House.

"Dear Brown: I have spent the forenoon angling for a couple of
very young fish, and have landed them with more trouble than they
are worth. One has gaudy scales: he is a baronet, and an amateur
artist, save the mark. All my arguments and my little museum of
photographs were lost on him; but when I mentioned your name, and
promised him an introduction to you, he gorged the bait greedily.
He was half drunk when he signed; and I should not have let him
touch the paper if I had not convinced myself beforehand that he
means well, and that my wine had only freed his natural
generosity from his conventional cowardice and prejudice. We must
get his name published in as many journals as possible as a
signatory to the great petition; it will draw on others as your
name drew him. The second novice, Chichester Erskine, is a young
poet. He will not be of much use to us, though he is a devoted
champion of liberty in blank verse, and dedicates his works to
Mazzini, etc. He signed reluctantly. All this hesitation is the
uncertainty that comes of ignorance;they have not found out the
truth for themselves, and are afraid to trust me, matters having
come to the pass at which no man dares trust his fellow.

"I have met a pretty young lady here who might serve you as a
model for Hypatia. She is crammed with all the prejudices of the
peerage, but I am effecting a cure. I have set my heart on
marrying her to Erskine, who, thinking that I am making love to
her on my own account, is jealous. The weather is pleasant here,
and I am having a merry life of it, but I find myself too idle.
Etc., etc., etc."

CHAPTER XVI

One sunny forenoon, as Agatha sat reading on the doorstep of the
conservatory, the shadow of her parasol deepened, and she,
looking up for something denser than the silk of it, saw
Trefusis.

"Oh!"

She offered him no further greeting, having fallen in with his
habit of dispensing, as far as possible, with salutations and
ceremonies. He seemed in no hurry to speak, and so, after a
pause, she began, "Sir Charles--"

"Is gone to town," he said. "Erskine is out on his bicycle. Lady
Brandon and Miss Lindsay have gone to the village in the
wagonette, and you have come out here to enjoy the summer sun and
read rubbish. I know all your news already."

"You are very clever, and, as usual, wrong. Sir Charles has not
gone to town. He has only gone to the railway station for some
papers; he will be back for luncheon. How do you know so much of
our affairs?"

"I was on the roof of my house with a field-glass. I saw you come
out and sit down here. Then Sir Charles passed. Then Erskine.
Then Lady Brandon, driving with great energy, and presenting a
remarkable contrast to the disdainful repose of Gertrude."

"Gertrude! I like your cheek."

"You mean that you dislike my presumption."

"No, I think cheek a more expressive word than presumption; and I
mean that I like it--that it amuses me."

"Really! What are you reading?"

"Rubbish, you said just now. A novel."

"That is, a lying story of two people who never existed, and who
would have acted very differently if they had existed."

"Just so."

"Could you not imagine something just as amusing for yourself?"

"Perhaps so; but it would be too much trouble. Besides, cooking
takes away one's appetite for eating. I should not relish stories
of my own confection."

"Which volume are you at?"

"The third."

"Then the hero and heroine are on the point of being united?"

"I really don't know. This is one of your clever novels. I wish
the characters would not talk so much."

"No matter. Two of them are in love with one another, are they
not?"

"Yes. It would not be a novel without that."

"Do you believe, in your secret soul, Agatha--I take the liberty
of using your Christian name because I wish to be very solemn--do
you really believe that any human being was ever unselfish enough
to love another in the story-book fashion?"

"Of course. At least I suppose so. I have never thought much
about it."

"I doubt it. My own belief is that no latter-day man has any
faith in the thoroughness or permanence of his affection for his
mate. Yet he does not doubt the sincerity of her professions, and
he conceals the hollowness of his own from her, partly because he
is ashamed of it, and partly out of pity for her. And she, on the
other side, is playing exactly the same comedy."

"I believe that is what men do, but not women."

"Indeed! Pray do you remember pretending to be very much in love
with me once when--"

Agatha reddened and placed her palm on the step as if about to
spring up. But she checked herself and said: "Stop, Mr. Trefusis.
If you talk about that I shall go away. I wonder at you! Have you
no taste?',

"None whatever. And as I was the aggrieved party on that--stay,
don't go. I will never allude to it again. I am growing afraid of
you. You used to be afraid of me."

"Yes; and you used to bully me. You have a habit of bullying
women who are weak enough to fear you. You are a great deal
cleverer than I, and know much more, I dare say; but I am not in
the least afraid of you now."

"You have no reason to be, and never had any. Henrietta, if she
were alive, could testify that it there is a defect in my
relations with women, it arises from my excessive amiability. I
could not refuse a woman anything she had set her heart
upon--except my hand in marriage. As long as your sex are content
to stop short of that they can do as they please with me."

"How cruel! I thought you were nearly engaged to Gertrude."

"The usual interpretation of a friendship between a man and a
woman! I have never thought of such a thing; and I am sure she
never has. We are not half so intimate as you and Sir Charles."

"Oh, Sir Charles is married. And I advise you to get married if
you wish to avoid creating misunderstandings by your
friendships."

Trefusis was struck. Instead of answering, he stood, after one
startled glance at her, looking intently at the knuckle of his
forefinger.

"Do take pity on our poor sex," said Agatha maliciously. "You are
so rich, and so very clever, and really so nice looking that you
ought to share yourself with somebody. Gertrude would be only too
happy.

Trefusis grinned and shook his head, slowly but emphatically.

"I suppose _I_ should have no chance," continued Agatha
pathetically.

"I should be delighted, of course," he replied with simulated
confusion, but with a lurking gleam in his eye that might have
checked her, had she noticed it.

"Do marry me, Mr. Trefusis," she pleaded, clasping her hands in a
rapture of mischievous raillery. "Pray do."

"Thank you," said Trefusis determinedly; "I will."

"I am very sure you shan't," said Agatha, after an incredulous
pause, springing up and gathering her skirt as if to run away.
"You do not suppose I was in earnest, do you?"

"Undoubtedly I do. _I_ am in earnest."

Agatha hesitated, uncertain whether he might not be playing with
her as she had just been playing with him. "Take care," she said.
"I may change my mind and be in earnest, too; and then how will
you feel, Mr. Trefusis?"

"I think, under our altered relations, you had better call me
Sidney."

"I think we had better drop the joke. It was in rather bad taste,
and I should not have made it, perhaps."

"It would be an execrable joke; therefore I have no intention of
regarding it as one. You shall be held to your offer, Agatha. Are
you in love with me?"

"Not in the least. Not the very smallest bit in the world. I do
not know anybody with whom I am less in love or less likely to be
in love."

"Then you must marry me. If you were in love with me, I should
run away. My sainted Henrietta adored me, and I proved unworthy
of adoration--though I was immensely flattered."

"Yes; exactly! The way you treated your first wife ought to be
sufficient to warn any woman against becoming your second."

"Any woman who loved me, you mean. But you do not love me, and if
I run away you will have the advantage of being rid of me. Our
settlements can be drawn so as to secure you half my fortune in
such an event."

"You will never have a chance of running away from me."

"I shall not want to. I am not so squeamish as I was. No; I do
not think I shall run away from you."

"I do not think so either."

"Well, when shall we be married?"

"Never," said Agatha, and fled. But before she had gone a step he
caught her.

"Don't," she said breathlessly. "Take your arm away. How dare
you?"

He released her and shut the door of the conservatory. "Now," he
said, "if you want to run away you will have to run in the open."

"You are very impertinent. Let me go in immediately."

"Do you want me to beg you to marry me after you have offered to
do it freely?"

"But I was only joking; I don't care for you," she said, looking
round for an outlet.

"Agatha," he said, with grim patience, " half an hour ago I had
no more intention of marrying you than of making a voyage to the
moon. But when you made the suggestion I felt all its force in an
instant, and now nothing will satisfy me but your keeping your
word. Of all the women I know, you are the only one not quite a
fool."

"I should be a great fool if--"

"If you married me, you were going to say; but I don't think so.
I am the only man, not quite an ass, of your acquaintance. I know
my value, and yours. And I loved you long ago, when I had no
right to."

Agatha frowned. "No," she said. "There is no use in saying
anything more about it. It is out of the question."

"Come, don't be vindictive. I was more sincere then than you
were. But that has nothing to do with the present. You have spent
our renewed acquaintance on the defensive against me, retorting
upon me, teasing and tempting me. Be generous for once, and say
Yes with a good will."

"Oh, I NEVER tempted you," cried Agatha. "I did not. It is not
true." He said nothing, but offered his hand. "No; go away; I
will not." He persisted, and she felt her power of resistance
suddenly wane. Terror-stricken, she said hastily, "There is not
the least use in bothering me; I will tell you nothing to-day."

"Promise me on your honor that you will say Yes to-morrow, and I
will leave you in peace until then."

"I will not."

"The deuce take your sex," he said plaintively.

"You know my mind now, and I have to stand here coquetting
because you don't know your own. If I cared for my comfort I
should remain a bachelor."

"I advise you to do so," she said, stealing backward towards the
door. "You are a very interesting widower. A wife would spoil
you. Consider the troubles of domesticity, too."

"I like troubles. They strengthen--Aha!" (she had snatched at the
knob of the door, and he swiftly put his hand on hers and stayed
her). "Not yet, if you please. Can you not speak out like a
woman--like a man, I mean? You may withhold a bone from Max until
he stands on his hind legs to beg for it, but you should not
treat me like a dog. Say Yes frankly, and do not keep me
begging."

"What in the world do you want to marry me for?"

"Because I was made to carry a house on my shoulders, and will do
so. I want to do the best I can for myself, and I shall never
have such a chance again. And I cannot help myself, and don't
know why; that is the plain truth of the matter. You will marry
someone some day." She shook her head. "Yes, you will. Why not
marry me?"

Agatha bit her nether lip, looked ruefully at the ground, and,
after a long pause, said reluctantly, "Very well. But mind, I
think you are acting very foolishly, and if you are disappointed
afterwards, you must not blame ME."

"I take the risk of my bargain," he said, releasing her hand, and
leaning against the door as he took out his pocket diary. "You
will have to take the risk of yours, which I hope may not prove
the worse of the two. This is the seventeenth of June. What date
before the twenty-fourth of July will suit you?"

"You mean the twenty-fourth of July next year, I presume?"

"No; I mean this year. I am going abroad on that date, married or
not, to attend a conference at Geneva, and I want you to come
with me. I will show you a lot of places and things that you have
never seen before. It is your right to name the day, but you have
no serious business to provide for, and I have."

"But you don't know all the things I shall--I should have to
provide. You had better wait until you come back from the
continent."

"There is nothing to be provided on your part but settlements and
your trousseau. The trousseau is all nonsense; and Jansenius
knows me of old in the matter of settlements. I got married in
six weeks before."

"Yes," said Agatha sharply, "but I am not Henrietta."

"No, thank Heaven," he assented placidly.

Agatha was struck with remorse. "That was a vile thing for me to
say," she said; "and for you too."

"Whatever is true is to the purpose, vile or not. Will you come
to Geneva on the twenty-fourth?"

"But--I really was not thinking when I--I did not intend to say
that I would--I--"

"I know. You will come if we are married."

"Yes. IF we are married."

"We shall be married. Do not write either to your mother or
Jansenius until I ask you."

"I don't intend to. I have nothing to write about."

"Wretch that you are! And do not be jealous if you catch me
making love to Lady Brandon. I always do so; she expects it."

"You may make love to whom you please. It is no concern of mine."

"Here comes the wagonette with Lady Brandon and Ger--and Miss
Lindsay. I mustn't call her Gertrude now except when you are not
by. Before they interrupt us, let me remind you of the three
points we are agreed upon. I love you. You do not love me. We are
to be married before the twenty-fourth of next month. Now I must
fly to help her ladyship to alight."

He hastened to the house door, at which the wagonette had just
stopped. Agatha, bewildered, and ashamed to face her friends,
went in through the conservatory, and locked herself in her room.

Trefusis went into the library with Gertrude whilst Lady Brandon
loitered in the hall to take off her gloves and ask questions of
the servants. When she followed, she found the two standing
together at the window. Gertrude was listening to him with the
patient expression she now often wore when he talked. He was
smiling, but it struck Jane that he was not quite at ease. "I was
just beginning to tell Miss Lindsay," he said, "of an
extraordinary thing that has happened during your absence."

"I know," exclaimed Jane, with sudden conviction. "The heater in
the conservatory has cracked."

"Possibly," said Trefusis; "but, if so, I have not heard of it."

"If it hasn't cracked, it will," said Jane gloomily. Then,
assuming with some effort an interest in Trefusis's news, she
added: "Well, what has happened?"

"I was chatting with Miss Wylie just now, when a singular idea
occurred to us. We discussed it for some time; and the upshot is
that we are to be married before the end of next month."

Jane reddened and stared at him; and he looked keenly back at
her. Gertrude, though unobserved, did not suffer her expression
of patient happiness to change in the least; but a greenish-white
color suddenly appeared in her face, and only gave place very
slowly to her usual complexion.

"Do you mean to say that you are going to marry AGATHA?" said
Lady Brandon incredulously, after a pause.

"Yes. I had no intention of doing so when I last saw you or I
should have told you."

"I never heard of such a thing in my life! You fell in love with
one another in five minutes, I suppose."

"Good Heavens, no! we are not in love with one another. Can you
believe that I would marry for such a frivolous reason? No. The
subject turned up accidentally, and the advantage of a match
between us struck me forcibly. I was fortunate enough to convert
her to my opinion."

"Yes; she wanted a lot of pressing, I dare say," said Jane,
glancing at Gertrude, who was smiling unmeaningly.

"As you imply," said Trefusis coolly, "her reluctance may have
been affected, and she only too glad to get such a charming
husband. Assuming that to be the case, she dissembled remarkably
well."

Gertrude took off her bonnet, and left the room without speaking.

"This is my revenge upon you for marrying Brandon," he said then,
approaching Jane.

"Oh, yes," she retorted ironically. "I believe all that, of
course."

"You have the same security for its truth as for that of all the
foolish things I confess to you. There!" He pointed to a panel of
looking glass, in which Jane's figure was reflected at full
length.

"I don't see anything to admire," said Jane, looking at herself
with no great favor. "There is plenty of me, if you admire that."

"It is impossible to have too much of a good thing. But I must
not look any more. Though Agatha says she does not love me, I am
not sure that she would be pleased if I were to look for love
from anyone else."

"Says she does not love you! Don't believe her; she has taken
trouble enough to catch you."

"I am flattered. You caught me without any trouble, and yet you
would not have me."

"It is manners to wait to be asked. I think you have treated
Gertrude shamefully--I hope you won't be offended with me for
saying so. I blame Agatha most. She is an awfully double-faced
girl."

"How so?" said Trefusis, surprised. "What has Miss Lindsay to do
with it?"

"You know very well."

"I assure you I do not. If you were speaking of yourself I could
understand you."

"Oh, you can get out of it cleverly, like all men; but you can't
hoodwink me. You shouldn't have pretended to like Gertrude when
you were really pulling a cord with Agatha. And she, too,
pretending to flirt with Sir Charles--as if he would care
twopence for her!"

Trefusis seemed N little disturbed. "I hope Miss Lindsay had no
such--but she could not."

"Oh, couldn't she? You will soon see whether she had or not."

"You misunderstood us, Lady Brandon; Miss Lindsay knows better.
Remember, too, that this proposal of mine was quite
unpremeditated. This morning I had no tender thoughts of anyone
except one whom it would be improper to name."

"Oh, that is all talk. It won't do now."

"I will talk no more at present. I must be off to the village to
telegraph to my solicitor. If I meet Erskine I will tell him the
good news."

"He will be delighted. He thought, as we all did, that you were
cutting him out with Gertrude."

Trefusis smiled, shook his head, and, with a glance of admiring
homage to Jane's charms, went out. Jane was contemplating herself
in the glass when a servant begged her to come and speak to
Master Charles and Miss Fanny. She hurried upstairs to the
nursery, where her boy and girl, disputing each other's prior
right to torture the baby, had come to blows. They were somewhat
frightened, but not at all appeased, by Jane's entrance. She
scolded, coaxed, threatened, bribed, quoted Dr. Watts, appealed
to the nurse and then insulted her, demanded of the children
whether they loved one another, whether they loved mamma, and
whether they wanted a right good whipping. At last, exasperated
by her own inability to restore order, she seized the baby, which
had cried incessantly throughout, and, declaring that it was
doing it on purpose and should have something real to cry for,
gave it an exemplary smacking, and ordered the others to bed. The
boy, awed by the fate of his infant brother, offered, by way of
compromise, to be good if Miss Wylie would come and play with
him, a proposal which provoked from his jealous mother a box on
the ear that sent him howling to his cot. Then she left the room,
pausing on the threshold to remark that if she heard another
sound from them that day, they might expect the worst from her.
On descending, heated and angry, to the drawing-room, she found
Agatha there alone, looking out of window as if the landscape
were especially unsatisfactory this time.

"Selfish little beasts!" exclaimed Jane, making a miniature
whirlwind with her skirts as she came in. "Charlie is a perfect
little fiend. He spends all his time thinking how he can annoy
me. Ugh! He's just like his father."

"Thank you, my dear," said Sir Charles from the doorway.

Jane laughed. "I knew you were there," she said. "Where's
Gertrude?"

"She has gone out," said Sir Charles.

"Nonsense! She has only just come in from driving with me."

"I do not know what you mean by nonsense," said Sir Charles,
chafing. " I saw her walking along the Riverside Road. I was in
the village road, and she did not see me. She seemed in a hurry."

"I met her on the stairs and spoke to her," said Agatha, "but she
didn't hear me."

"I hope she is not going to throw herself into the river," said
Jane. Then, turning to her husband, she added: "Have you heard
the news?"

"The only news I have heard is from this paper," said Sir
Charles, taking out a journal and flinging it on the table.
"There is a paragraph in it stating that I have joined some
infernal Socialistic league, and I am told that there is an
article in the 'Times' on the spread of Socialism, in which my
name is mentioned. This is all due to Trefusis; and I think he
has played me a most dishonorable trick. I will tell him so, too,
when next I see him."

"You had better be careful what you say of him before Agatha,"
said Jane. "Oh, you need not be alarmed, Agatha; I know all about
it. He told us in the library. We went out this morning--Gertrude
and I--and when we came back we found Mr. Trefusis and Agatha
talking very lovingly to one another on the conservatory steps,
newly engaged."

"Indeed!" said Sir Charles, disconcerted and displeased, but
trying to smile. "I may then congratulate you, Miss Wylie?"

"You need not," said Agatha, keeping her countenance as well as
she could. "It was only a joke. At least it came about in a jest.
He has no right to say that we are engaged."

"Stuff and nonsense," said Jane. "That won't do, Agatha. He has
gone off to telegraph to his solicitor. He is quite in earnest."

"I am a great fool," said Agatha, sitting down and twisting her
hands perplexedly. "I believe I said something; but I really did
not intend to. He surprised me into speaking before I knew what I
was saying. A pretty mess I have got myself into!"

"I am glad you have been outwitted at last," said Jane, laughing
spitefully. "You never had any pity for me when I could not think
of the proper thing to say at a moment's notice."

Agatha let the taunt pass unheeded. Her gaze wandered anxiously,
and at last settled appealingly upon Sir Charles. "What shall I
do?" she said to him.

"Well, Miss Wylie," he said gravely, "if you did not mean to
marry him you should not have promised. I don't wish to be
unsympathetic, and I know that it is very hard to get rid of
Trefusis when he makes up his mind to act something out of you,
but still--"

"Never mind her," said Jane, interrupting him. "She wants to
marry him just as badly as he wants to marry her. You would be
preciously disappointed if he cried off, Agatha; for all your
interesting reluctance."

"That is not so, really," said Agatha earnestly. "I wish I had
taken time to think about it. I suppose he has told everybody by
this time."

"May we then regard it as settled?" said Sir Charles.

"Of course you may," said Jane contemptuously.

"Pray allow Miss Wylie to speak for herself, Jane. I confess I do
not understand why you are still in doubt--if you have really
engaged yourself to him."

"I suppose I am in for it," said Agatha. "I feel as if there were
some fatal objection, if I could only remember what it is. I wish
I had never seen him."

Sir Charles was puzzled. "I do not understand ladies' ways in
these matters," he said. "However, as there seems to be no doubt
that you and Trefusis are engaged, I shall of course say nothing
that would make it unpleasant for him to visit here; but I must
say that he has--to say the least--been inconsiderate to me
personally. I signed a paper at his house on the implicit
understanding that it was strictly private, and now he has
trumpeted it forth to the whole world, and publicly associated my
name not only with his own, but with those of persons of whom I
know nothing except that I would rather not be connected with
them in any way."

"What does it matter?" said Jane. "Nobody cares twopence."

"_I_ care," said Sir Charles angrily. "No sensible person can
accuse me of exaggerating my own importance because I value my
reputation sufficiently to object to my approval being publicly
cited in support of a cause with which I have no sympathy."

"Perhaps Mr. Trefusis has had nothing to do with it," said
Agatha. "The papers publish whatever they please, don't they?"

"That's right, Agatha," said Jane maliciously. "Don't let anyone
speak ill of him."

"I am not speaking ill of him," said Sir Charles, before Agatha
could retort. "It is a mere matter of feeling, and I should not
have mentioned it had I known the altered relations between him
and Miss Wylie."

"Pray don't speak of them," said Agatha. "I have a mind to run
away by the next train."

Sir Charles, to change the subject, suggested a duet.

Meanwhile Erskine, returning through the village from his morning
ride, had met Trefusis, and attempted to pass him with a nod. But
Trefusis called to him to stop, and he dismounted reluctantly.

"Just a word to say that I am going to be married," said
Trefusis.

"To--?" Erskine could not add Gertrude's name.

"To one of our friends at the Beeches. Guess to which."

"To Miss Lindsay, I presume."

"What in the fiend's name has put it into all your heads that
Miss Lindsay and I are particularly attached to one another?"
exclaimed Trefusis. "YOU have always appeared to me to be the man
for Miss Lindsay. I am going to marry Miss Wylie."

"Really!" exclaimed Erskine, with a sensation of suddenly thawing
after a bitter frost.

"Of course. And now, Erskine, you have the advantage of being a
poor man. Do not let that splendid girl marry for money. If you
go further you are likely to fare worse; and so is she." Then he
nodded and walked away, leaving the other staring after him.

"If he has jilted her, he is a scoundrel," said Erskine. "I am
sorry I didn't tell him so."

He mounted and rode slowly along the Riverside Road, partly
suspecting Trefusis of some mystification, but inclining to
believe in him, and, in any case, to take his advice as to
Gertrude. The conversation he had overheard in the avenue still
perplexed him. He could not reconcile it with Trefusis's
profession of disinterestedness towards her.

His bicycle carried him noiselessly on its india-rubber tires to
the place by which the hemlock grew and there he saw Gertrude
sitting on the low earthen wall that separated the field from the
road. Her straw bag, with her scissors in it, lay beside her. Her
fingers were interlaced, and her hands rested, palms downwards,
on her knee. Her expression was rather vacant, and so little
suggestive of any serious emotion that Erskine laughed as he
alighted close to her.

"Are you tired?" he said.

"No," she replied, not startled, and smiling mechanically--an
unusual condescension on her part.

"Indulging in a day-dream?"

"No." She moved a little to one side and concealed the basket
with her dress.

He began to fear that something was wrong. "Is it possible that
you have ventured among those poisonous plants again?" he said.
"Are you ill?"

"Not at all," she replied, rousing herself a little. "Your
solicitude is quite thrown away. I am perfectly well."

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