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Frivolous Cupid by Anthony Hope [Hawkins]

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"No," she answered. "I--I think it might happen though he wasn't
a fool."

She sat with her hands in her lap for a moment or two, then she
went on, in a lower voice:

"I'm going to make him find out afterward."

I felt her glance on me, but I looked straight in front of me.

"What, after he's married the shallow girl?"

"Yes," said Miss Liston.

"Rather too late, isn't it? At least, if you mean there is to be
a happy ending."

Miss Liston enlaced her fingers.

"I haven't decided about the ending yet," said she.

"If you're intent to be tragical--which is the fashion--you'll do
as you stand," said I.

"Yes," she answered slowly, "if I'm tragical, I shall do as I

There was another pause, and rather a long one; the wheels of the
carriage were audible on the gravel of the front drive. Miss
Liston stood up. I rose and held out my hand.

"Of course," said Miss Liston, still intent on her novel, "I
could----" She stopped again, and looked apprehensively at me.
My face, I believe, expressed nothing more than polite attention
and friendly interest.

"Of course," she began again, "the shallow girl--his wife--
might--might die, Mr. Wynne."

"In novels," said I with a smile, "while there's death, there's

"Yes, in novels," she answered, giving me her hand.

The poor little woman was very unhappy. Unwisely, I dare say, I
pressed her hand. It was enough, the tears leaped to her
eyes; she gave my great fist a hurried squeeze--I have seldom
been more touched by any thanks, how ever warm or eloquent--and
hurried away.



I must confess at once that at first, at least, I very much
admired the curate. I am not referring to my admiration of his
fine figure--six feet high and straight as an arrow--nor of his
handsome, open, ingenuous countenance, or his candid blue eye, or
his thick curly hair. No; what won my heart from an early period
of my visit to my cousins, the Poltons, of Poltons Park, was the
fervent, undisguised, unashamed, confident, and altogether
matter-of-course manner in which he made love to Miss Beatrice
Queenborough, only daughter and heiress of the wealthy shipowner,
Sir Wagstaff Queenborough, Bart., and Eleanor, his
wife. It was purely the manner of the curate's advances that
took my fancy; in the mere fact of them there was nothing
remarkable. For all the men in the house (and a good many
outside) made covert, stealthy, and indirect steps in the same
direction; for Trix (as her friends called her) was, if not wise,
at least pretty and witty, displaying to the material eye a
charming figure, and to the mental a delicate heartlessness--both
attributes which challenge a self-respecting man's best efforts.
But then came the fatal obstacle. From heiresses in reason a
gentleman need neither shrink nor let himself be driven; but when
it comes to something like twenty thousand a year--the reported
amount of Trix's dot--he distrusts his own motives almost as
much as the lady's relatives distrust them for him. We all felt
this--Stanton, Rippleby, and I; and, although I will not swear
that we spoke no tender words and gave no meaning glances, yet we
reduced such concessions to natural weakness to a minimum,
not only when Lady Queenborough was by, but at all times. To say
truth, we had no desire to see our scalps affixed to Miss Trix's
pretty belt, nor to have our hearts broken (like that of the
young man in the poem) before she went to Homburg in the autumn.

With the curate it was otherwise. He--Jack Ives, by the way, was
his name--appeared to rush, not only upon his fate, but in the
face of all possibility and of Lady Queenborough. My cousin and
hostess, Dora Polton, was very much distressed about him. She
said that he was such a nice young fellow, and that it was a
great pity to see him preparing such unhappiness for himself.
Nay, I happen to know that she spoke very seriously to Trix,
pointing out the wickedness of trifling with him; whereupon Trix,
who maintained a bowing acquaintance with her conscience, avoided
him for a whole afternoon and endangered all Algy Stanton's
prudent resolutions by taking him out in the Canadian canoe.
This demonstration in no way perturbed the curate. He
observed that, as there was nothing better to do, we might as
well play billiards, and proceeded to defeat me in three games of
a hundred up (no, it is quite immaterial whether we played for
anything or not), after which he told Dora that the vicar was
taking the evening service--it happened to be the day when there
was one at the parish church--a piece of information only
relevant in so far as it suggested that Mr. Ives could accept an
invitation to dinner if one were proffered him. Dora, very
weakly, rose to the bait. Jack Ives, airily remarking that there
was no use in ceremony among friends, seized the place next to
Trix at dinner (her mother was just opposite) and walked on the
terrace after dinner with her in the moonlight. When the ladies
retired he came into the smoking room, drank a whisky and soda,
said that Miss Queenborough was really a very charming companion,
and apologized for leaving us early, on the ground that his
sermon was still unwritten. My good cousin, the squire,
suggested rather grimly that a discourse on the vanity of human
wishes might be appropriate.

"I shall preach," said Mr. Ives thoughtfully, "on the
opportunities of wealth."

This resolution he carried out on the next day but one, that
being a Sunday. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Miss Trix,
and I watched her with some interest as Mr. Ives developed his
theme. I will not try to reproduce the sermon, which would have
seemed by no means a bad one had any of our party been able to
ignore the personal application which we read into it; for its
main burden was no other than this--that wealth should be used by
those who were fortunate enough to possess it (here Trix looked
down and fidgeted with her Prayer-book) as a means of promoting
greater union between themselves and the less richly endowed, and
not--as, alas! had too often been the case--as though it were a
new barrier set up between them and their fellow-creatures (here
Miss Trix blushed slightly, and had recourse to her
smelling-bottle). "You," said the curate, waxing rhetorical as
he addressed an imaginary, but bloated, capitalist, "have no more
right to your money than I have. It is intrusted to you to be
shared with me." At this point I heard Lady Queenborough sniff
and Algy Stanton snigger. I stole a glance at Trix and detected
a slight waver in the admirable lines of her mouth.

"A very good sermon, didn't you think?" I said to her, as we
walked home.

"Oh, very!" she replied demurely.

"Ah, if we followed all we heard in church!" I sighed.

Miss Trix walked in silence for a few yards. By dint of never
becoming anything else, we had become very good friends; and
presently she remarked, quite confidentially:

"He's very silly, isn't he?"

"Then you ought to snub him," I said severely.

"So I do--sometimes. He's rather amusing, though."

"Of course, if you're prepared to make the sacrifice

"Oh, what nonsense!"

"Then you've no business to amuse yourself with him."

"Dear, dear! how moral you are!" said Trix.

The next development in the situation was this: My cousin Dora
received a letter from the Marquis of Newhaven, with whom she was
acquainted, praying her to allow him to run down to Poltons for a
few days; he reminded her that she had once given him a general
invitation; if it would not be inconvenient--and so forth. The
meaning of this communication did not, of course, escape my
cousin, who had witnessed the writer's attentions to Trix in the
preceding season, nor did it escape the rest of us (who had
talked over the said attentions at the club) when she told us
about it, and announced that Lord Newhaven would arrive in the
middle of the next day. Trix affected dense unconsciousness; her
mother allowed herself a mysterious smile--which, however,
speedily vanished when the curate (he was taking lunch with us)
observed in a cheerful tone:

"Newhaven! Oh, I remember the chap at the House--plowed twice in
Smalls--stumpy fellow, isn't he? Not a bad chap, though, you
know, barring his looks. I'm glad he's coming."

"You won't be soon, young man," Lady Queenborough's angry eye
seemed to say.

"I remember him," pursued Jack; "awfully smitten with a
tobacconist's daughter in the Corn--oh, it's all RIGHT, Lady
Queenborough--she wouldn't look at him."

This quasi apology was called forth by the fact of Lady
Queenborough pushing back her chair and making for the door. It
did not at all appease her to hear of the scorn of the
tobacconist's daughter. She glanced sternly at Jack and
disappeared. He turned to Trix and reminded her--without
diffidence and coram populo, as his habit was--that she
had promised him a stroll in the west wood.

What happened on that stroll I do not know; but meeting Miss Trix
on the stairs later in the afternoon, I ventured to remark:

"I hope you broke it to him gently, Miss Queenborough?"

"I don't know what you mean," replied Trix haughtily.

"You were out nearly two hours," said I.

"Were we?" asked Trix, with a start. "Good gracious! Where was
mamma, Mr. Wynne?"

"On the lawn--watch in hand."

Miss Trix went slowly upstairs, and there is not the least doubt
that something serious passed between her and her mother, for
both of them were in the most atrocious of humors that evening.
Fortunately, the curate was not there; he had a Bible class.

The next day Lord Newhaven arrived. I found him on the lawn when
I strolled up, after a spell of letter-writing, about four
o'clock. Lawn tennis was the order of the day, and we were
all in flannels.

"Oh, here's Mark!" cried Dora, seeing me. "Now, Mark, you and
Mr. Ives had better play against Trix and Lord Newhaven. That'll
make a very good set."

"No, no, Mrs. Polton," said Jack Ives. "They wouldn't have a
chance. Look here, I'll play with Miss Queenborough against Lord
Newhaven and Wynne."

Newhaven--whose appearance, by the way, though hardly
distinguished, was not quite so unornamental as the curate had
led us to expect--looked slightly displeased, but Jack gave him
no time for remonstrance. He whisked Trix off and began to serve
all in a moment. I had a vision of Lady Queenborough approaching
from the house with face aghast. The set went on; and, owing
entirely to Newhaven's absurd chivalry in sending all the balls
to Jack Ives instead of following the well-known maxim to "pound
away at the lady," they beat us. Jack wiped his brow,
strolled up to the tea table with Trix, and remarked in exultant

"We make a perfect couple, Miss Queenborough; we ought never to
be separated."

Dora did not ask the curate to dinner that night, but he dropped
in about nine o'clock to ask her opinion as to the hymns on
Sunday; and finding Miss Trix and Newhaven in the small drawing
room, he sat down and talked to them. This was too much for
Trix; she had treated him very kindly and had allowed him to
amuse her; but it was impossible to put up with presumption of
that kind. Difficult as it was to discourage Mr. Ives, she did
it, and he went away with a disconsolate, puzzled expression. At
the last moment, however, Trix so far relented as to express a
hope that he was coming to tennis to-morrow, at which he
brightened up a little. I do not wish to be uncharitable--least
of all to a charming young lady---but my opinion is that Miss
Trix did not wish to set the curate altogether adrift. I
think, however, that Lady Queenborough must have spoken again,
for when Jack did come to tennis, Trix treated him with most
freezing civility and a hardly disguised disdain, and devoted
herself to Lord Newhaven with as much assiduity as her mother
could wish. We men, over our pipes, expressed the opinion that
Jack Ives' little hour of sunshine was past, and that nothing was
left to us but to look on at the prosperous, uneventful course of
Lord Newhaven's wooing. Trix had had her fun (so Algy Stanton
bluntly phrased it) and would now settle down to business.

"I believe, though," he added, "that she likes the curate a bit,
you know."

During the whole of the next day--Wednesday--Jack Ives kept away;
he had, apparently, accepted the inevitable, and was healing his
wounded heart by a strict attention to his parochial duties.
Newhaven remarked on his absence with an air of relief, and Miss
Trix treated it as a matter of no importance; Lady
Queenborough was all smiles; and Dora Polton restricted herself
to exclaiming, as I sat by her at tea, in a low tone and a
propos of nothing in particular, "Oh, well--poor Mr. Ives!"

But on Thursday there occurred an event, the significance of
which passed at the moment unperceived, but which had, in fact,
most important results. This was no other than the arrival of
little Mrs. Wentworth, an intimate friend of Dora's. Mrs.
Wentworth had been left a widow early in life; she possessed a
comfortable competence; she was not handsome, but she was
vivacious, amusing, and, above all, sympathetic. She sympathized
at once with Lady Queenborough in her maternal anxieties, with
Trix on her charming romance, with Newhaven on his sweet
devotedness, with the rest of us in our obvious desolation--and,
after a confidential chat with Dora, she sympathized most
strongly with poor Mr. Ives on his unfortunate attachment.
Nothing would satisfy her, so Dora told me, except the
opportunity of plying Mr. Ives with her soothing balm; and Dora
was about to sit down and write him a note, when he strolled in
through the drawing room window, and announced that his cook's
mother was ill, and that he should be very much obliged if Mrs.
Polton would give him some dinner that evening. Trix and
Newhaven happened to enter by the door at the same moment, and
Jack darted up to them, and shook hands with the greatest
effusion. He had evidently buried all unkindness--and with it,
we hoped, his mistaken folly. However that might be, he made no
effort to engross Trix, but took his seat most docilely by his
hostess--and she, of course, introduced him to Mrs. Wentworth.
His behavior was, in fact, so exemplary that even Lady
Queenborough relaxed her severity, and condescended to cross-
examine him on the morals and manners of the old women of the
parish. "Oh, the vicar looks after them," said Jack; and he
turned to Mrs. Wentworth again.

There can be no doubt that Mrs. Wentworth had a remarkable power
of sympathy. I took her in to dinner, and she was deep in the
subject of my "noble and inspiring art" before the soup was off
the table. Indeed, I'm sure that my life's ambitions would have
been an open book to her by the time that the joint arrived, had
not Jack Ives, who was sitting on the lady's other side, cut into
the conversation just as Mrs. Wentworth was comparing my early
struggles with those of Mr. Carlyle. After this intervention of
Jack's I had not a chance. I ate my dinner without the sauce of
sympathy, substituting for it a certain amusement which I
derived from studying the face of Miss Trix Queenborough, who was
placed on the opposite side of the table. And if Trix did look
now and again at Mrs. Wentworth and Jack Ives, I cannot say that
her conduct was unnatural. To tell the truth, Jack was so
obviously delighted with his new friend that it was quite
pleasant--and, as I say, under the circumstances, rather
amusing--to watch them. We felt that the squire was justified in
having a hit at Jack when Jack said, in the smoking room, that he
found himself rather at a loss for a subject for his next sermon.

"What do you say," suggested my cousin, puffing at his pipe, "to
taking constancy as your text?"

Jack considered the idea for a moment, but then he shook his

"No. I think," he said reflectively, "that I shall preach on the
power of sympathy."

That sermon afforded me--I must confess it, at the risk of
seeming frivolous--very great entertainment. Again I secured a
place by Miss Trix--on her left, Newhaven being on her right, and
her face was worth study when Jack Ives gave us a most eloquent
description of the wonderful gift in question. It was, he said,
the essence and the crown of true womanliness, and it showed
itself--well, to put it quite plainly, it showed itself,
according to Jack Ives, in exactly that sort of manner and
bearing which so honorably and gracefully distinguished Mrs.
Wentworth. The lady was not, of course, named, but she was
clearly indicated. "Your gift, your precious gift," cried the
curate, apostrophizing the impersonation of sympathy, "is given
to you, not for your profit, but for mine. It is yours, but it
is a trust to be used for me. It is yours, in fact, to share
with me." At this climax, which must have struck upon her ear
with a certain familiarity, Miss Trix Queenborough,
notwithstanding the place and occasion, tossed her pretty head
and whispered to me, "What horrid stuff!"

In the ensuing week Jack Ives was our constant companion; the
continued illness of his servant's mother left him stranded, and
Dora's kind heart at once offered him the hospitality of her
roof. For my part I was glad, for the little drama which now
began was not without its interest. It was a pleasant change to
see Jack genially polite to Trix Queenborough, but quite
indifferent to her presence or absence, and content to allow
her to take Newhaven for her partner at tennis as often as she
pleased. He himself was often an absentee from our games. Mrs.
Wentworth did not play, and Jack would sit under the trees with
her, or take her out in the canoe. What Trix thought I did not
know, but it is a fact that she treated poor Newhaven like dirt
beneath her feet, and that Lady Queenborough's face began to lose
its transiently pleasant expression. I had a vague idea that a
retribution was working itself out, and disposed myself to see
the process with all the complacency induced by the spectacle of
others receiving punishment for their sins.

A little scene which occurred after lunch one day was
significant. I was sitting on the terrace, ready booted and
breeched, waiting for my horse to be brought round. Trix came
out and sat down by me.

"Where's Newhaven?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't always want Lord Newhaven!" she exclaimed
petulantly. "I sent him off for a walk--I'm going out in the
Canadian canoe with Mr. Ives."

"Oh, you are, are you?" said I, smiling. As I spoke, Jack Ives
ran up to us.

"I say, Miss Queenborough," he cried, "I've just got your message
saying you'd let me take you on the lake."

"Is it a great bore?" asked Trix, with a glance--a glance that
meant mischief.

"I should like it awfully, of course," said Jack; "but the fact
is I've promised to take Mrs. Wentworth--before I got your
message, you know."

Trix drew herself up.

"Of course, if Mrs. Wentworth----" she began.

"I'm very sorry," said Jack.

Then Miss Queenborough, forgetting--as I hope--or choosing to
disregard my presence, leaned forward and asked, in her most
coaxing tones:

"Don't you ever forget a promise, Mr. Ives?"

Jack looked at her. I suppose her dainty prettiness struck him
afresh, for he wavered and hesitated.

"She's gone upstairs," pursued the tempter, "and we shall be safe
away before she comes down again."

Jack shuffled with one foot on the gravel.

"I tell you what," he said; "I'll ask her if she minds me taking
you for a little while before I----"

I believe he really thought that he had hit upon a compromise
satisfactory to all parties. If so, he was speedily undeceived.
Trix flushed red and answered angrily:

"Pray don't trouble. I don't want to go."

"Perhaps afterward you might," suggested the curate, but now
rather timidly.

"I'm going out with Lord Newhaven," said she. And she added, in
an access of uncontrollable annoyance. "Go, please go. I--I
don't want you."

Jack sheered off, with a look of puzzled shamefacedness. He
disappeared into the house. Nothing passed between Miss
Trix and myself. A moment later Newhaven came out.

"Why, Miss Queenborough," said he, in apparent surprise, "Ives is
going with Mrs. Wentworth in the canoe!"

In an instant I saw what she had done. In rash presumption she
had told Newhaven that she was going with the curate--and now the
curate had refused to take her--and Ives had met him in search of
Mrs. Wentworth. What could she do? Well, she rose--or fell--to
the occasion. In the coldest of voices she said;

"I thought you'd gone for your walk."

"I was just starting," he answered apologetically, "when I met
Ives. But, as you weren't going with him----" He paused, an
inquiring look in his eyes. He was evidently asking himself why
she had not gone with the curate.

"I'd rather be left alone, if you don't mind," said she. And
then, flushing red again, she added. "I changed my mind and
refused to go with Mr. Ives. So he went off to get Mrs.
Wentworth instead."

I started. Newhaven looked at her for an instant, and then
turned on his heel. She turned to me, quick as lightning, and
with her face all aflame.

"If you tell, I'll never speak to you again," she whispered.

After this there was silence for some minutes.

"Well?" she said, without looking at me.

"I have no remark to offer, Miss Queenborough," I returned.

"I suppose that was a lie, wasn't it?" she asked defiantly.

"It's not my business to say what it was," was my discreet

"I know what you're thinking."

"I was thinking," said I, "which I would rather be--the man you
will marry, or the man you would like----"

"How dare you! It's not true. Oh Mr. Wynne, indeed it's not

Whether it were true or not I did not know. But if it had
been, Miss Trix Queenborough might have been expected to act very
much in the way in which she proceeded to act: that is to say, to
be extravagantly attentive to Lord Newhaven when Jack Ives was
present, and markedly neglectful of him in the curate's absence.
It also fitted in very well with the theory which I had ventured
to hint that her bearing toward Mrs. Wentworth was distinguished
by a stately civility, and her remarks about that lady by a
superfluity of laudation; for if these be not two distinguishing
marks of rivalry in the well-bred, I must go back to my favorite
books and learn from them--more folly. And if Trix's manners
were all that they should be, praise no less high must be
accorded to Mrs. Wentworth's; she attained an altitude of
admirable unconsciousness and conducted her flirtation (the
poverty of language forces me to the word, but it is over-
flippant) with the curate in a staid, quasi-maternal way. She
called him a delightful boy, and said that she was intensely
interested in all his aims and hopes.

"What does she want?" I asked Dora despairingly. "She can't want
to marry him." I was referring to Trix Queenborough, not to Mrs.

"Good gracious, no!" answered Dora, irritably. "It's simple
jealousy. She won't let the poor boy alone till he's in love
with her again. It's a horrible shame!"

"Oh, well, he has great recuperative power," said I.

"She'd better be careful, though. It's a very dangerous game.
How do you suppose Lord Newhaven likes it?"

Accident gave me that very day a hint how little Lord Newhaven
liked it, and a glimpse of the risk Miss Trix was running.
Entering the library suddenly, I heard Newhaven's voice raised
above his ordinary tones.

"I won't stand it!" he was declaring. "I never know how she'll
treat me from one minute to the next."

My entrance, of course, stopped the conversation very
abruptly. Newhaven had come to a stand in the middle of the
room, and Lady Queenborough sat on the sofa, a formidable frown
on her brow. Withdrawing myself as rapidly as possible, I argued
the probability of a severe lecture for Miss Trix, ending in a
command to try her noble suitor's patience no longer. I hope all
this happened, for I, not seeing why Mrs. Wentworth should
monopolize the grace of sympathy, took the liberty of extending
mine to Newhaven. He was certainly in love with Trix, not with
her money, and the treatment he underwent must have been as
trying to his feelings as it was galling to his pride.

My sympathy was not premature, for Miss Trix's fascinations,
which were indubitably great, began to have their effect. The
scene about the canoe was re-enacted, but with a different
denouement. This time the promise was forgotten, and the
widow forsaken. Then Mrs. Wentworth put on her armor. We had,
in fact, reached this very absurd situation, that these two
ladies were contending for the favors of, or the domination
over, such an obscure, poverty-stricken, hopelessly ineligible
person as the curate of Poltons undoubtedly was. The position
seemed to me then, and still seems, to indicate some remarkable
qualities in that young man.

At last Newhaven made a move. At breakfast, on Wednesday
morning, he announced that, reluctant as he should be to leave
Poltons Park, he was due at his aunt's place, in Kent, on
Saturday evening, and must, therefore, make his arrangements to
leave by noon on that day. The significance was apparent. Had
he come down to breakfast with "Now or Never!" stamped in fiery
letters across his brow, it would have been more obtrusive,
indeed, but not a whit plainer. We all looked down at our
plates, except Jack Ives. He flung one glance (I saw it out of
the corner of my left eye) at Newhaven, another at Trix; then he
remarked kindly:

"We shall be uncommonly sorry to lose you, Newhaven."

Events began to happen now, and I will tell them as well as I am
able, supplementing my own knowledge by what I learned afterward
from Dora--she having learned it from the actors in the scene.
In spite of the solemn warning conveyed in Newhaven's intimation,
Trix, greatly daring, went off immediately after lunch for what
she described as "a long ramble" with Mr. Ives. There was,
indeed, the excuse of an old woman at the end of the ramble, and
Trix provided Jack with a small basket of comforts for the useful
old body; but the ramble was, we felt, the thing, and I was much
annoyed at not being able to accompany the walkers in the cloak
of darkness or other invisible contrivance. The ramble consumed
three hours--full measure. Indeed, it was half-past six before
Trix, alone, walked up the drive. Newhaven, a solitary figure,
paced up and down the terrace fronting the drive. Trix came on,
her head thrown back and a steady smile on her lips. She saw
Newhaven; he stood looking at her for a moment with what she
afterward described as an indescribable smile on his face, but
not, as Dora understood from her, by any means a pleasant one.
Yet, if not pleasant, there is not the least doubt in the world
that it was highly significant, for she cried out nervously:
"Why are you looking at me like that? What's the matter?"

Newhaven, still saying nothing, turned his back on her, and made
as if he would walk into the house and leave her there, ignored,
discarded, done with. She, realizing the crisis which had come,
forgetting everything except the imminent danger of losing him
once for all, without time for long explanation or any round-
about seductions, ran forward, laying her hand on his arm and
blurting out:

"But I've refused him."

I do not know what Newhaven thinks now, but I sometimes doubt
whether he would not have been wiser to shake off the detaining
hand, and pursue his lonely way, first into the house, and
ultimately to his aunt's. But (to say nothing of the twenty
thousand a year, which, after all, and be you as romantic as you
may please to be, is not a thing to be sneezed at) Trix's face,
its mingled eagerness and shame, its flushed cheeks and shining
eyes, the piquancy of its unwonted humility, overcame him. He
stopped dead.

"I--I was obliged to give him an--an opportunity," said Miss
Trix, having the grace to stumble a little in her speech. "And--
and it's all your fault."

The war was thus, by happy audacity, carried into Newhaven's own

"My fault!" he exclaimed. "My fault that you walk all day with
that curate!"

Then Miss Trix--and let no irrelevant considerations mar the
appreciation of fine acting--dropped her eyes and murmured

"I--I was so terribly afraid of seeming to expect YOU."

Wherewith she (and not he) ran away lightly up the stairs,
turning just one glance downward as she reached the landing.
Newhaven was looking up from below with an "enchanted" smile--the
word is Trix's own; I should probably have used a different one.

Was then the curate of Poltons utterly defeated--brought to his
knees, only to be spurned? It seemed so; and he came down to
dinner that night with a subdued and melancholy expression.
Trix, on the other hand, was brilliant and talkative to the last
degree, and the gayety spread from her all around the table,
leaving untouched only the rejected lover and Mrs. Wentworth; for
the last named lady, true to her distinguishing quality, had
begun to talk to poor Jack Ives in low, soothing tones.

After dinner Trix was not visible; but the door of the little
boudoir beyond stood half-open, and very soon Newhaven edged his
way through. Almost at the same moment Jack Ives and Mrs.
Wentworth passed out of the window and began to walk up and down
the gravel. Nobody but myself appeared to notice these
remarkable occurrences, but I watched them with keen interest.
Half an hour passed, and then there smote on my watchful ear the
sound of a low laugh from the boudoir. It was followed almost
immediately by a stranger sound from the gravel walk. Then, all
in a moment, two things happened. The boudoir door opened, and
Trix, followed by Newhaven, came in, smiling; from the window
entered Jack Ives and Mrs. Wentworth. My eyes were on the
curate. He gave one sudden, comprehending glance toward the
other couple; then he took the widow's hand, led her up to Dora,
and said, in low yet penetrating tones.

"Will you wish us joy, Mrs. Polton?"

The squire, Rippleby, and Algy Stanton were round them in an
instant. I kept my place, watching now the face of Trix
Queenborough. She turned first flaming red, then very pale. I
saw her turn to Newhaven and speak one or two urgent, imperative
words to him. Then, drawing herself up to her full height,
she crossed the room to where the group was assembled round Mrs.
Wentworth and Jack Ives.

"What's the matter? What are you saying?" she asked.

Mrs. Wentworth's eyes were modestly cast down, but a smile played
round her mouth. No one spoke for a moment. Then Jack Ives

"Mrs. Wentworth has promised to be my wife, Miss Queenborough."

For a moment, hardly perceptible, Trix hesitated; then, with the
most winning, touching, sweetest smile in the world, she said:

"So you took my advice, and our afternoon walk was not wasted,
after all?"

Mrs. Polton is not used to these fine flights of diplomacy; she
had heard before dinner something of what had actually happened
in the afternoon; and the simple woman positively jumped. Jack
Ives met Trix's scornful eyes full and square.

"Not at all wasted," said he, with a smile. "Not only has
it shown me where my true happiness lies, but it has also given
me a juster idea of the value and sincerity of your regard for
me, Miss Queenborough."

"It is as real, Mr. Ives, as it is sincere," said she.

"It is like yourself, Miss Queenborough," said he, with a little
bow; and he turned from her and began to talk to his fiancee.

Trix Queenborough moved slowly toward where I sat. Newhaven was
watching her from where he stood alone on the other side of the

"And have you no news for us?" I asked in low tones.

"Thank you," she said haughtily; "I don't care that mine should
be a pendent to the great tidings about the little widow and

After a moment's pause she went on:

"He lost no time, did he? He was wise to secure her before what
happened this afternoon could leak out. Nobody can tell her

"This afternoon?"

"He asked me to marry him this afternoon."

"And you refused?"


"Well, his behavior is in outrageously bad taste, but----"

She laid a hand on my arm, and said in calm, level tones.

"I refused him because I dared not have him; but I told him I
cared for him, and he said he loved me. And I let him kiss me.
Good-night, Mr. Wynne."

I sat still and silent. Newhaven came across to us. Trix put up
her hand and caught him by the sleeve.

"Fred," she said, "my dear, honest old Fred; you love me, don't

Newhaven, much embarrassed and surprised, looked at me in alarm.
But her hand was in his now, and her eyes imploring him.

"I should rather think I did, my dear," said he.

I really hope that Lord and Lady Newhaven will not be very
unhappy, while Mrs. Ives quite worships her husband, and is
convinced that she eclipsed the brilliant and wealthy Miss

Perhaps she did--perhaps not.

There are, as I have said, great qualities in the curate of
Poltons, but I have not quite made up my mind precisely what they
are. I ought, however, to say that Dora takes a more favorable
view of him and a less lenient view of Trix than I.

That is perhaps natural. Besides, Dora does not know the precise
manner in which the curate was refused. By the way, he preached
next Sunday on the text, "The children of this world are wiser in
their generation than the children of light."



It was a charmingly mild and balmy day. The sun shone beyond the
orchard, and the shade was cool inside. A light breeze stirred
the boughs of the old apple tree under which the philosopher sat.

None of these things did the philosopher notice, unless it might
be when the wind blew about the leaves of the large volume on his
knees, and he had to find his place again. Then he would exclaim
against the wind, shuffle the leaves till he got the right page,
and settle to his reading. The book was a treatise on ontology;
it was written by another philosopher, a friend of this
philosopher's; it bristled with fallacies, and this philosopher
was discovering them all, and noting them on the fly leaf at the
end. He was not going to review the book (as some might have
thought from his behavior), or even to answer it in a work of his
own. It was just that he found a pleasure in stripping any poor
fallacy naked and crucifying it.

Presently a girl in a white frock came into the orchard. She
picked up an apple, bit it, and found it ripe. Holding it in her
hand she walked up to where the philosopher sat, and looked at
him. He did not stir. She took a bite out of the apple, munched
it, and swallowed it. The philosopher crucified a fallacy on the
fly leaf. The girl flung the apple away.

"Mr. Jerningham," said she, "are you very busy?"

The philosopher, pencil in hand, looked up.

"No, Miss May," said he, "not very."

"Because I want your opinion."

"In one moment," said the philosopher apologetically.

He turned back to the fly leaf and began to nail the last fallacy
a little tighter to the cross. The girl regarded him, first with
amused impatience, then with a vexed frown, finally with a
wistful regret. He was so very old for his age, she thought; he
could not be much beyond thirty; his hair was thick and full of
waves, his eyes bright and clear, his complexion not yet divested
of all youth's relics.

"Now, Miss May, I am at your service," said the philosopher, with
a lingering look at his impaled fallacy. And he closed the book,
keeping it, however, on his knee.

The girl sat down just opposite to him.

"It's a very important thing I want to ask you," she began,
tugging at a tuft of grass, "and it's very--difficult, and you
mustn't tell anyone I asked you; at least, I'd rather you

"I shall not speak of it; indeed, I shall probably not remember
it," said the philosopher.

"And you mustn't look at me, please, while I'm asking you."

"I don't think I was looking at you, but if I was I beg your
pardon," said the philosopher apologetically.

She pulled the tuft of grass right out of the ground and flung it
from her with all her force.

"Suppose a man----" she began. "No, that's not right."

"You can take any hypothesis you please," observed the
philosopher, "but you must verify it afterward, of course."

"Oh, do let me go on. Suppose a girl, Mr. Jerningham--I wish you
wouldn't nod."

"It was only to show that I followed you."

"Oh, of course you `follow me,' as you call it. Suppose a girl
had two lovers--you're nodding again--or, I ought to say, suppose
there were two men who might be in love with a girl."

"Only two?" asked the philosopher. "You see, any number of men
MIGHT be in love with----"

"Oh, we can leave the rest out," said Miss May, with a sudden
dimple; "they don't matter."

"Very well," said the philosopher. "If they are irrelevant, we
will put them aside."

"Suppose, then, that one of these men was--oh, AWFULLY in love
with the girl--and--and proposed, you know----"

"A moment!" said the philosopher, opening a notebook. "Let me
take down his proposition. What was it?"

"Why, proposed to her--asked her to marry him," said the girl,
with a stare.

"Dear me! How stupid of me! I forgot that special use of the
word. Yes?"

"The girl likes him pretty well, and her people approve of him
and all that, you know."

"That simplifies the problem," said the philosopher, nodding

"But she's not in--in love with him, you know. She doesn't
REALLY care for him--MUCH. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly. It is a most natural state of mind."

"Well, then, suppose that there's another man--what are you

"I only put down (B.)--like that," pleaded the philosopher,
meekly exhibiting his notebook.

She looked at him in a sort of helpless exasperation, with just a
smile somewhere in the background of it.

"Oh, you really are----" she exclaimed. "But let me go on. The
other man is a friend of the girl's; he's very clever--oh,
fearfully clever; and he's rather handsome. You needn't put that

"It is certainly not very material," admitted the philosopher,
and he crossed out "handsome." "Clever" he left.

"And the girl is most awfully--she admires him tremendously; she
thinks him just the greatest man that ever lived, you know. And
she--she----" The girl paused.

"I'm following," said the philosopher, with pencil poised.

"She'd think it better than the whole world if--if she could be
anything to him, you know."

"You mean become his wife?"

"Well, of course I do--at least suppose I do."

"You spoke rather vaguely, you know."

The girl cast one glance at the philosopher as she replied:

"Well, yes. I did mean, become his wife."

"Yes. Well?"

"But," continued the girl, starting on another tuft of grass, "he
doesn't think much about those things. He likes her. I think he
likes her----"

"Well, doesn't dislike her?" suggested the philosopher. "Shall
we call him indifferent?"

"I don't know. Yes, rather indifferent. I don't think he thinks
about it, you know. But she--she's pretty. You needn't put that

"I was not about to do so," observed the philosopher.

"She thinks life with him would be just heaven; and--and she
thinks she would make him awfully happy. She would--would be so
proud of him, you see."

"I see. Yes!"

"And--I don't know how to put it, quite--she thinks that, if he
ever thought about it all, he might care for her; because he
doesn't care for anybody else; and she's pretty----"

"You said that before."

"Oh, dear! I dare say I did. And most men care for somebody,
don't they? Some girl, I mean."

"Most men, no doubt," conceded the philosopher.

"Well, then, what ought she to do? It's not a real thing, you
know, Mr. Jerningham. It's in--in a novel I was reading." She
said this hastily, and blushed as she spoke.

"Dear me! And it's quite an interesting case! Yes, I see. The
question is, Will she act most wisely in accepting the offer of
the man who loves her exceedingly, but for whom she entertains
only a moderate affection----"

"Yes. Just a liking. He's just a friend."

"Exactly. Or in marrying the other, whom she loves ex----"

"That's not it. How can she marry him? He hasn't--he hasn't
asked her, you see."

"True. I forgot. Let us assume, though, for the moment, that he
has asked her. She would then have to consider which marriage
would probably be productive of the greater sum total of----"

"Oh, but you needn't consider that."

"But it seems the best logical order. We can afterward make
allowance for the element of uncertainty caused by----"

"Oh, no! I don't want it like that. I know perfectly well which
she'd do if he--the other man, you know--asked her."

"You apprehend that----"

"Never mind what I `apprehend.' Take it just as I told you."

"Very good. A has asked her hand, B has not."


"May I take it that, but for the disturbing influence of B, A
would be a satisfactory--er--candidate?"

"Ye--es. I think so."

"She, therefore, enjoys a certainty of considerable happiness if
she marries A?"

"Ye--es. Not perfect, because of--B, you know."

"Quite so, quite so; but still a fair amount of happiness. Is it
not so?"

"I don't--well, perhaps."

"On the other hand, if B did ask her, we are to postulate a
higher degree of happiness for her?"

"Yes, please, Mr. Jerningham--much higher."

"For both of them?"

"For her. Never mind him."

"Very well. That again simplifies the problem. But his asking
her is a contingency only?"

"Yes, that's all."

The philosopher spread out his hands.

"My dear young lady," he said, "it becomes a question of
degree. How probable or improbable is it?"

"I don't know. Not very probable--unless--unless----"


"Unless he did happen to notice, you know."

"Ah, yes. We supposed that, if he thought of it, he would
probably take the desired step--at least that he might be led to
do so. Could she not--er--indicate her preference?"

"She might try--no, she couldn't do much. You see, he--he
doesn't think about such things."

"I understand precisely. And it seems to me, Miss May, that in
that very fact we find our solution."

"Do we?" she asked.

"I think so. He has evidently no natural inclination toward
her--perhaps not toward marriage at all. Any feeling aroused in
him would be necessarily shallow and in a measure artificial--and
in all likelihood purely temporary. Moreover, if she took steps
to arouse his attention, one of two things would be likely
to happen. Are you following me?"

"Yes, Mr. Jerningham."

"Either he would be repelled by her overtures--which you must
admit is not improbable--and then the position would be
unpleasant, and even degrading, for her. Or, on the other hand,
he might, through a misplaced feeling of gallantry----"

"Through what?"

"Through a mistaken idea of politeness, or a mistaken view of
what was kind, allow himself to be drawn into a connection for
which he had no genuine liking. You agree with me that one or
other of these things would be likely?"

"Yes, I suppose they would, unless he did come to care for her."

"Ah, you return to that hypothesis. I think it's an extremely
fanciful one. No. She needn't marry A, but she must let B

The philosopher closed his book, took off his glasses, wiped
them, replaced them, and leaned back against the trunk of
the apple tree. The girl picked a dandelion in pieces. After a
long pause she asked:

"You think B's feelings wouldn't be at all likely to--to change?"

"That depends on the sort of man he is. But if he is an able
man, with intellectual interests which engross him--a man who has
chosen his path in life--a man to whom women's society is not a

"He's just like that," said the girl, and she bit the head off a

"Then," said the philosopher, "I see not the least reason for
supposing that his feelings will change."

"And would you advise her to marry the other--A?"

"Well, on the whole, I should. A is a good fellow (I think we
made A a good fellow); he is a suitable match; his love for her
is true and genuine----"

"It's tremendous!"

"Yes--and--er--extreme. She likes him. There is every reason to
hope that her liking will develop into a sufficiently deep
and stable affection. She will get rid of her folly about B and
make A a good wife. Yes, Miss May, if I were the author of your
novel, I should make her marry A, and I should call that a happy

A silence followed. It was broken by the philosopher.

"Is that all you wanted my opinion about, Miss May?" he asked,
with his finger between the leaves of the treatise on ontology.

"Yes, I think so. I hope I haven't bored you?"

"I've enjoyed the discussion extremely. I had no idea that
novels raised points of such psychological interest. I must find
time to read one."

The girl had shifted her position till, instead of her full face,
her profile was turned toward him. Looking away toward the
paddock that lay brilliant in sunshine on the skirts of the apple
orchard, she asked, in low, slow tones, twisting her hands in her

"Don't you think that perhaps, if B found out afterward--
when she had married A, you know--that she had cared for him so
very, very much, he might be a little sorry?"

"If he were a gentleman, he would regret it deeply."

"I mean--sorry on his own account; that--that he had thrown away
all that, you know?"

The professor looked meditative.

"I think," he pronounced, "that it is very possible he would. I
can well imagine it."

"He might never find anybody to love him like that again," she
said, gazing on the gleaming paddock.

"He probably would not," agreed the philosopher.

"And--and most people like being loved, don't they?"

"To crave for love is an almost universal instinct, Miss May."

"Yes, almost," she said, with a dreary little smile. "You see,
he'll get old and--and have no one to look after him."

"He will."

"And no home."

"Well, in a sense none," corrected the philosopher, smiling.
"But really, you'll frighten me. I'm a bachelor myself, you
know, Miss May."

"Yes," she whispered just audibly.

"And all your terrors are before me."

"Well, unless----"

"Oh, we needn't have that `unless,'" laughed the philosopher
cheerfully. "There's no `unless' about it, Miss May."

The girl jumped to her feet; for an instant she looked at the
philosopher. She opened her lips as if to speak, and, at the
thought of what lay at her tongue's tip, her face grew red. But
the philosopher was gazing past her, and his eyes rested in calm
contemplation on the gleaming paddock.

"A beautiful thing, sunshine, to be sure," said he.

Her blush faded away into paleness; her lips closed. Without
speaking she turned and walked slowly away, her head drooping.
The philosopher heard the rustle of her skirt in the long grass
of the orchard; he watched her for a few moments.

"A pretty, graceful creature," said he, with a smile. Then he
opened his book, took his pencil in his hand, and slipped in a
careful forefinger to mark the fly leaf.

The sun had passed mid-heaven, and began to decline westward
before he finished the book. Then he stretched himself and
looked at his watch.

"Good gracious, two o'clock! I shall be late for lunch!" and he
hurried to his feet.

He was very late for lunch.

"Everything's cold," wailed his hostess. "Where have you been,
Mr. Jerningham?"

"Only in the orchard--reading."

"And you've missed May!"

"Missed Miss May? How do you mean? I had a long talk with her
this morning--a most interesting talk."

"But you weren't here to say goodby. Now, you don't mean to say
that you forgot that she was leaving by the two o'clock
train? What a man you are!"

"Dear me! To think of my forgetting it!" said the philosopher

"She told me to say good-by to you for her."

"She's very kind. I can't forgive myself."

His hostess looked at him for a moment; then she sighed, and
smiled, and sighed again.

"Have you everything you want?" she asked.

"Everything, thank you," said he, sitting down opposite the
cheese, and propping his book (he thought he would just run
through the last chapter again) against the loaf; "everything in
the world that I want, thanks."

His hostess did not tell him that the girl had come in from the
apple orchard, and run hastily upstairs lest her friend should
see what her friend did see in her eyes. So that he had no
suspicion at all that he had received an offer of marriage--and
refused it. And he did not refer to anything of that sort
when he paused once in his reading and exclaimed:

"I'm really sorry I missed Miss May. That was an interesting
case of hers. But I gave the right answer. The girl ought to
marry A."

And so the girl did.



It is a most anxious thing to be an absolute ruler," said Duke
Deodonato, "but I have made up my mind. The Doctor has convinced
me [here Dr. Fusbius, Ph. D., bowed very low] that marriage is
the best, noblest, wholesomest, and happiest of human

"Your Highness will remember----" began the President of the

"My lord, I have made up my mind," said Duke Deodonato.

Thus speaking, the Duke took a large sheet of foolscap paper, and
wrote rapidly for a moment or two.

"There," he said, pushing the paper over to the President, "is
the decree."

"The decree, sir?"

"I think three weeks afford ample space," said Duke Deodonato.

"Three weeks, sir?"

"For every man over twenty-one years of age in this Duchy to find
himself a wife."

"Your Highness," observed Dr. Fusbius, with deference, "will
consider that between an abstract proposition and a practical

"There is to the logical mind no stopping place," interrupted
Duke Deodonato.

"But, sir," cried the President, "imagine the consternation which

"Let it be gazetted to-night," said Duke Deodonato.

"I would venture," said the President, "to remind your Highness
that you are yourself a bachelor."

"Laws," said Duke Deodonato, "do not bind the Crown unless the
Crown is expressly mentioned."

"True, sir; but I humbly conceive that it would be pessimi

"You are right; I will marry myself," said Duke Deodonato.

"But, sir, three weeks! The hand of a princess cannot be
requested and granted in----"

"Then find me somebody else," said Deodonato; "and pray leave me.

I would be alone;" and Duke Deodonato waved his hand to the door.

Outside the door the President said to the Doctor:

"I could wish, sir, that you had not convinced his Highness."

"My lord," rejoined the Doctor, "truth is my only preoccupation."

"Sir," said the President, "are you married?"

"My lord," answered the Doctor, "I am not."

"I thought not," said the President, as he folded up the decree
and put it in his pocket.

It is useless to deny that Duke Deodonato's decree caused
considerable disturbance in the Duchy. In the first place,
the Crown lawyers raised a puzzle of law. Did the word "man" as
used in the decree, include "woman"? The President shook his
head, and referred the question to his Highness.

"It seems immaterial," observed the Duke. "If a man marries, a
woman marries."

"Ex vi terminorum," assented the Doctor.

"But, sir," said the President, "there are more women than men in
the Duchy."

Duke Deodonato threw down his pen.

"This is very provoking," said he. "Why was it allowed? I'm
sure it happened before _I_ came to the throne."

The Doctor was about to point out that it could hardly have been
guarded against, when the President (who was a better courtier)
anticipated him.

"We did not foresee that your Highness, in your Highness' wisdom,
would issue this decree," he said humbly.

"True," said Duke Deodonato, who was a just man.

"Would your Highness vouchsafe any explanation----"

"What are the Judges for?" asked Duke Deodonato. "There is the
law--let them interpret it."

Whereupon the Judges held that a "man" was not a "woman," and
that although every man must marry, no woman need.

"It will make no difference," said the President.

"None at all," said Dr. Fusbius.

Nor, perhaps, would it, seeing that women are ever kind and in no
way by nature averse from marriage, had it not become known that
Duke Deodonato himself intended to choose a wife from the ladies
of his own dominions, and to choose her (according to the advice
of Dr. Fusbius, who, in truth, saw little whither his counsel
would in the end carry the Duke) without regard to such
adventitious matters as rank or wealth, and purely for her
beauty, talent, and virtue.

Which resolve being proclaimed, straightway all the ladies of the
Duchy, of whatsoever station, calling, age, appearance, wit,
or character, conceiving each of them that she, and no other,
should become the Duchess, sturdily refused all offers of
marriage (although they were many of them as desperately enamored
as virtuous ladies may be), and did nought else than walk, drive,
ride, and display their charms in the park before the windows of
the ducal palace. And thus it fell out that when a week had gone
by, no man had obeyed Duke Deodonato's decree, and they were,
from sheer want of brides, like to fall into contempt of the law
and under the high displeasure of the Duke.

Upon this the President and Dr. Fusbius sought audience of his
Highness and humbly laid before him the unforeseen obstacle which
had occurred.

"Woman is ever ambitious," said Dr. Fusbius.

"Nay," corrected the President, "they have seen his Highness'
person as his Highness has ridden through the city."

Duke Deodonato threw down his pen.

"This is very tiresome," said he, knitting his brows. "My lord,
I would be further advised on this matter. Return at the same
hour to-morrow."

The next day, Duke Deodonato's forehead had regained its
customary smoothness, and his manner was tranquil and assured.

"Our pleasure is," said he to the President, "that, albeit no
woman shall be compelled to marry if so be that she be not
invited thereunto; yet, if bidden, she shall in no wise refuse,
but straightway espouse that man who first after the date of
these presents shall solicit her hand."

The President bowed in admiration.

"It is, if I may humbly say so, a practical and wise solution,
sir," he said.

"I apprehend that it will remedy the mischief," said Duke
Deodonato, not ill pleased.

And doubtless it would have had an effect as altogether
satisfactory, excellent, beneficial, salutary, and universal
as the wisdom of Duke Deodonato had anticipated from it, had it
not fallen out that, on the promulgation of the decree, all the
aforesaid ladies of the Duchy, of whatsoever station, calling,
age, appearance, wit, or character, straightway, and so swiftly
that no man had time wherein to pay his court to them, fled to
and shut and bottled and barricaded themselves in houses,
castles, cupboards, cellars, stables, lofts, churches, chapels,
chests, and every other kind of receptacle whatsoever, and there
remained beyond reach of any man, be he whom he would, lest haply
one, coming, should ask their hand in marriage, and thus they
should lose all prospect of wedding the Duke.

When Duke Deodonato was apprised of this lamentable action on the
part of the ladies of the Duchy, he frowned and laid down his

"This is very annoying," said he. "There appears to be a
disposition to thwart Our endeavors for the public good."

"It is gross contumacy," said Dr. Fusbius.

"Yet," remarked the President, "inspired by a natural, if ill-
disciplined, admiration for his Highness' person."

"The decree is now a fortnight old," observed Duke Deodonato.
"Leave me. I will consider further of this matter."

Now even as his Highness spoke a mighty uproar arose under the
palace windows, and Duke Deodonato, looking out of the window
(which, be it remembered, but for the guidance of Heaven he might
not have done), beheld a maiden of wonderful charms struggling in
the clutches of two halberdiers of the guard, who were haling her
off to prison.

"Bring hither that damsel," said Deodonato.

Presently the damsel, still held by the soldiers, entered the
room. Her robe was disheveled and rent, her golden hair hung
loose on her shoulders, and her eyes were full of tears.

"At whose suit is she arrested?" asked Deodonato.

"At the suit of the most learned Dr. Fusbius, may it please your

"Sir," said Dr. Fusbius, "it is true. This lady, grossly
contemning your Highness' decree, has refused my hand in

"Is it true, damsel?" asked Duke Deodonato.

"Hear me, your Highness!" answered she. "I left my dwelling but
an instant, for we were in sore straits for----"

"Bread?" asked Deodonato, a touch of sympathy in his voice.

"May it please your Highness, no--pins wherewith to fasten our
hair. And, as I ran to the merchant's, this aged man----"

"I am but turned of fifty," interrupted Fusbius.

"And have not yet learned silence!" asked Deodonato severely.
"Damsel, proceed!"

"Caught me by my gown as I ran, and----"

"I proposed marriage to her," said Fusbius.

"Nay, if you proposed marriage," she shall marry you," said
Deodonato. "By the crown of my fathers, she shall marry you!
But what said he, damsel?"

"May it please your Highness, he said that I had the prettiest
face in all the Duchy, and that he would have no wife but me; and
thereupon he kissed me; and I would have none of him, and I
struck him and escaped."

"Send for the Judges," said Duke Deodonato. "And meanwhile keep
this damsel and let no man propose marriage to her until Our
pleasure be known."

Now, when the Judges were come, and the maiden was brought in and
set over against them on the right hand, and the learned Doctor
took his stand on the left, Deodonato prayed the Judges that they
would perpend carefully and anxiously of the question--using all
lore, research, wisdom, discretion, and justice--whether Dr.
Fusbius had proposed marriage unto the maiden or no.

"Thus shall Our mind be informed, and we shall deal profitably
with this matter," concluded Duke Deodonato.

Upon which arose great debate. For there was one part of the
learned men which leaned upon the letter and found no invitation
to marriage in the words of Dr. Fusbius; while another part would
have it that in all things the spirit and mind of the utterer
must be regarded, and that it sorted not with the years, virtues,
learning, and position of the said most learned Doctor to suppose
that he had spoken such words and sealed the same with a kiss,
save under the firm impression, thought, and conviction that he
was offering his hand in marriage; which said impression,
thought, and conviction were fully and reasonably declared and
evident in his actions, manner, bearing, air, and conduct.

"This is very perplexing," said Duke Deodonato, and he knit his
brows; for as he gazed upon the beauty of the damsel, it seemed
to him a thing unnatural, undesirable, unpalatable, unpleasant,
and unendurable, that she should wed Dr. Fusbius.

Yet if such were the law--Duke Deodonato sighed, and he glanced
at the damsel: and it chanced that the damsel glanced at Duke
Deodonato, and, seeing that he was a proper man and comely, and
that his eye spoke his admiration of her, she blushed; and her
cheek that had gone white when those of the judges who favored
the learned Doctor were speaking, went red as a rose again, and
she strove to order her hair, and to conceal the rent that was in
her robe. And Duke Deodonato sighed again.

"My lord," he said to the President, "we have heard these wise
and erudite men; and, for as much as the matter is difficult,
they are divided among themselves, and the staff whereon we
leaned is broken. Speak, therefore, your mind."

Then the President of the Council looked earnestly at Duke
Deodonato, but the Duke veiled his face with his hand.

"Answer truly," said he, "without fear or favor. So shall you
fulfill Our pleasure."

And the President, looking round upon the company, said:

"It is, your Highness, by all reasonable, honest, just, proper,
and honorable intendment, as good, sound, full, and explicit an
offer of marriage as hath ever been had in this duchy."

"So be it," said Duke Deodonato; and Dr. Fusbius smiled in
triumph, while the maiden grew pale again.

"And," pursued the President, "it binds, controls, and rules
every man, woman, and child in these your Highness' dominions,
and hath the force of law over all."

"So be it," said Deodonato again.

"Saving," added the President, "your Highness only."

There was a movement among the company.

"For," pursued the President, "by the ancient laws, customs,
manners, and observances of the Duchy, no decree or law shall in
any way whatsoever impair, alter, lessen, or derogate from
the high rights, powers, and prerogatives of your Highness, whom
may Heaven long preserve. Although, therefore, it be, by and
pursuant to your Highness' decree, the sure right of every man in
this Duchy to be accepted in marriage of any damsel whom he shall
invite thereunto, yet is this right in all respects subject to
and controlled by the natural, legal, inalienable, unalterable,
and sovereign prerogative of your Highness to marry what damsel
soever it shall be your pleasure to bid share your throne. Hence
I, in obedience to your Highness' commands, pronounce and declare
that this damsel is lawfully and irrevocably bound and affianced
to the learned Dr. Fusbius, unless and until it shall please your
Highness yourself to demand her hand in marriage. May what I
have spoken please your Highness!" And the President sat down.

Duke Deodonato sat a while in thought, and there was silence in
the hall. Then he spoke:

"Let all withdraw, saving the damsel only."

And they one and all withdrew, and Duke Deodonato was left alone
with the damsel.

Then he arose and gazed long on the damsel; but the damsel would
not look on Duke Deodonato.

"How are you called, lady?" asked Duke Deodonato.

"I am called Dulcissima," said she.

"Well named!" said Deodonato softly, and he went to the damsel,
and he laid his hand, full gently, on her robe, and he said:

"Dulcissima, you have the prettiest face in all the Duchy, and I
will have no wife but you;" and Duke Deodonato kissed the damsel.

The damsel forbore to strike Duke Deodonato, as she had struck
Dr. Fusbius. Again her cheek went red, and again pale, and she

"I wed no man on compulsion."

"Madam, I am your Sovereign," said Duke Deodonato; and his eyes
were on the damsel.

"If you were an Archangel----" cried the damsel.

"Our house is not wont to be scorned of ladies," said Deodonato.
"Am I crooked, or baseborn, or a fool?"

"This day in your Duchy women are slaves, and men their masters
by your will," said she.

"It is the order of nature," said Deodonato.

"It is not my pleasure," said the damsel.

Then Deodonato laid his hand on his silver bell, for he was very

"Fusbius waits without," said he.

"I will wed him and kill him," cried Dulcissima.

Deodonato gazed on her.

"You had no chance of using the pins," said he, "and the rent in
your gown is very sore."

And upon this the eyes of the damsel lost their fire and sought
the floor; and she plucked at her girdle, and would not look on
Deodonato. And they said outside:

"It is very still in the Hall of the Duke."

Then said Deodonato:

"Dulcissima, what would you?"

"That you repeal your decrees," said she.

Deodonato's brow grew dark; he did not love to go back.

"What I have decreed, I have decreed," said he.

"And what I have resolved, I have resolved," said she.

Deodonato drew near to her.

"And if I repeal the decrees?" said he.

"You will do well," said she.

"And you will wed----"

"Whom I will," said she.

Deodonato turned to the window, and for a space he looked out;
and the damsel smoothed her hair and drew her robe, where it was
whole, across the rent; and she looked on Deodonato as he stood,
and her bosom rose and fell. And she prayed a prayer that no man
heard, or, if he heard, might be so base as to tell. But she saw
the dark locks of Deodonato's hair and his form, straight as
an arrow and tall as a six-foot wand, in the window. And again,
outside, they said:

"It is strangely still in the Hall of the Duke."

Then Deodonato turned, and he pressed with his hand on the silver
bell, and straightway the Hall was filled with the Councilors,
the Judges, and the halberdiers, attentive to hear the will of
Deodonato and the fate of the damsel. And the small eyes of
Fusbius glowed, and the calm eyes of the President smiled.

"My Cousins, Gentlemen, and my faithful Guard," said Deodonato,
"Time, which is Heaven's mighty Instrument, brings counsel. Say!
what the Duke has done, shall any man undo?"

Then cried they all, save one:

"No man!"

And the President said:

"Saving the Duke."

"The decrees which I made," said Deodonato, "I unmake.
Henceforth let men and maidens in my Duchy marry or not
marry as they will, and God give them joy of it."

And all, save Fusbius, cried "Amen!" But Fusbius cried:

"Your Highness, it is demonstrated beyond cavil; ay, to the
satisfaction of your Highness----"

"This is very tedious," said Deodonato. "Let him speak no more!"

And again he drew near to Dulcissima, and there, before them all,
he fell on his knee. And a murmur ran through the hall.

"Madam," said Deodonato, "if you love me, wed me. And, if you
love me not, depart in peace and in honor; and I, Deodonato, will
live my life alone."

Then the damsel trembled, and barely did Deodonato catch her

"There are many men here," said she.

"It is not given to Princes," said Deodonato, "to be alone.
Nevertheless, if you will, leave me alone." And the damsel bent
low, so that the breath of her mouth stirred the hair on
Deodonato's head, and he shivered as he knelt.

"My Prince and my King!" said she.

And Deodonato shot to his feet, and before them all he kissed
her, and, turning, spoke:

"As I have wooed, let every man in this Duchy woo. As I have
won, let every man that is worthy win. For, unless he so woo,
and unless he so win, vain is his wooing, and vain is his
winning, and a fig for his wedding, say I, Deodonato! I, that
was Deodonato, and now am--Deodonato and Dulcissima."

And a great cheer rang out in the Hall, and Fusbius fled to the
door; and they tore his gown as he went and cursed him for a
knave. But the President raised his voice aloud and cried:

"May Heaven preserve your Highnesses--and here's a blessing on
all windows!"

And that is the reason why you will find (if you travel
there, as I trust you may, for nowhere are the ladies fairer or
the men so gallant) more windows in the Duchy of Deodonato than
anywhere in the wide world besides. For the more windows, the
wider the view; and the wider the view, the more pretty damsels
do you see; and the more pretty damsels you see, the more jocund
a thing is life--and that is what the men of the Duchy love--and
not least, Duke Deodonato, whom, with his bride Dulcissima, may
Heaven long preserve!



There was once--the date is of no moment--a Sultan, and he had a
Vizier named Ashimullah. This minister was a wise man, much
trusted by his master; but he was held in some suspicion and
dislike at the court because he had been born--or, if that be
doubtful, had at least been bred--a Christian, and had been
originally a prisoner of the Sultan's armies.

But Ashimullah, for reasons which intimately concerned his own
head, but need not concern anybody else's, promptly found the
true path; and, having professed a ready conversion to
the tenets of Islam, rose rapidly to a high place in the service
of the Sultan, so that his promotion never ceased until he was
installed in the office of Grand Vizier. Yet, remembering his
discreditable past, the Sultan was accustomed to exact from him
the fullest and most minute observance of his religious duties.
To such observance Ashimullah submitted, comforting himself with
the example of Naaman the Syrian; for Ashimullah was still, in
secret, a Christian, and his adherence to Islam was only a polite
concession to public feeling. But there was one point on which
his conscience struck him sorely, and this was no other than the
question of wives. Ashimullah had one wife, a lady of great
beauty and remarkable accomplishments, and for the life of him he
could not see how, consistently with the religion which he held
in his heart and with the honor that he owed to the lady, he
could take any other wife. Such an act appeared to him to
be a deadly sin, for it was most plainly held and laid down by
the rules of his religion, and had moreover been amply proved by
experience, that one wife was enough for any man. Therefore when
the Sultan, hearing that Ashimullah had but one wife, and
considering the thing very suspicious and unnatural, sent for
him, and required him to order his establishment on a scale more
befitting his present exalted position, Ashimullah was in sad
perplexity. To obey was to sin, to refuse was likely to cost him
his life; for if his master suspected the sincerity of his
conversion, his shrift would be short. In this quandary
Ashimullah sought about for excuses.

"O Commander of the Faithful, I am a poor man, and wives are
sources of expense," said Ashimullah.

"My treasury is open to the most faithful of my servants," said
the Sultan.

"A multitude of women in a house breeds strife," urged

"He who governs an empire should be able to govern his own
house," remarked the Sultan.

"I have no pleasure in the society of women," pleaded Ashimullah.

"It is not a question of pleasure," said the Sultan solemnly, and
Ashimullah thought that he saw signs of suspicion on his master's
august face. Therefore he prostrated himself, crying that he
submitted to the imperial will, and would straightway take
another wife.

"I do not love a grudging obedience," said the Sultan.

"I will take two!" cried Ashimullah.

"Take three," said the Sultan; and with this he dismissed
Ashimullah, giving him the space of a week in which to fulfill
the command laid upon him.

"Surely I am a most unhappy man," mused Ashimullah. "For if I do
not obey, I shall be put to death; and if I do obey, I fear
greatly that I shall be damned." And he went home looking so
sorrowful and perplexed that all men conceived that he was
out of favor with the Sultan.

Now Ashimullah, being come to his house, went immediately to his
wife, and told her of the Sultan's commands, adding that the
matter was a sore grief to him, and not less on her account than
on his own. "For you know well, Star of my Heart," said he,
"that I desire no wife but you!"

"I know it well, Ashimullah," answered Lallakalla tenderly.

"Moreover, I fear that I shall be damned," whispered Ashimullah.

"I'm sure you would," said Lallakalla.

Three days later it was reported through all the city, on the
authority of Hassan, the chief and confidential servant of the
Vizier, that Ashimullah, having procured three slaves of great
beauty at an immense cost, had wedded them all, and thus
completed the number of wives allowed to him by the Law of the
Prophet. The first was rosy-cheeked with golden hair; the
second's complexion was olive, and her locks black as night;
the third had a wonderful pallor, and tresses like burnished

"Thus," added Hassan, "since my lady Lallakalla's hair is brown,
his Highness the Vizier enjoys, as is his most just due, all
varieties of beauty."

When these things came to the ears of the Sultan, he was greatly
pleased with the prompt obedience of Ashimullah, and sent him a
large sum of money and his own miniature, magnificently set in
diamonds. Moreover, he approved highly of the taste that
Ashimullah had displayed in his choice, and regretted very deeply
that he could not behold the charms of the wives of the Vizier.
Nay, so great was his anxiety concerning them that he determined
to send one of his Sultanas to pay a visit to the harem of
Ashimullah, in order that, while seeming to render honor to
Ashimullah, she might report to him of the beauty of Ashimullah's

"We must make ready for the visit of the Sultana," observed
Lallakalla, with a smile.

When the Sultana returned from her visit, the Sultan came to her
without delay, and she said:

"O Most Translucent Majesty, wonderful indeed are the wives of
Ashimullah! For as they came before me, one after another, I did
not know which of them to call most beautiful; for the brown
hair, the golden, the black, and the ruddy are all most fair to
see. I would that your Majesty could behold them!"

"I would that I could!" said the Sultan, stroking his beard.

"Yet, O Sultan, since all men are mortal, and it is not given to
any to be perfectly happy in this world, know that there is an
alloy in the happiness of Ashimullah the Vizier. For these most
lovely ladies have, each and all of them, so strong and vehement
a temper and so great a reciprocal hatred, that Ashimullah is
compelled to keep them apart, each in her own chamber, and by no
means can they be allowed to come together for an instant.
Not even my presence would have restrained them, and therefore I
saw each alone."

"I do not object to a little temper," observed the Sultan,
stroking his beard again. "It is a sauce to beauty, and keeps a
man alive."

"It is only toward one another that they are fierce," said the
Sultana. "For all spoke with the greatest love of Ashimullah,
and with the most dutiful respect."

"I do not see on what account they are so fond of Ashimullah,"
said the Sultan, frowning.

That night the Sultan did not once close his eyes, for he could
think of nothing save the marvelous and varied beauty of the
wives of the Vizier; and between the rival charms of the black,
the brown, the ruddy, and the golden, his Majesty was so torn and
tossed about that, when he rose, his brow was troubled and his
cheek pale. And being no longer able to endure the torment that
he suffered, he sent the Sultana again to visit the house of
Ashimullah, bidding her observe most carefully which of the
ladies was in truth most beautiful. But the Sultana, having
returned, professed herself entirely unable to set any one of
Ashimullah's wives above any other in any point of beauty. "For
they are all," said she, "and each in her own way, houris for

"And this man was a Christian dog once!" murmured the Sultan.
Then his brow suddenly grew smooth, and he observed:

"Ashimullah himself will know; and, indeed, it is time that I
gave a new sign of my favor to my trusted servant Ashimullah."

Therefore he sent for Ashimullah, and spoke to him with unbounded

"Ashimullah, my faithful servant," said he, "I am mindful to
confer upon you a great and signal favor; desiring to recognize
not only your services to my throne, but also and more especially
your ready and willing obedience in the matter of your wives.
Therefore I have decided to exalt you and your household in
the eyes of all the Faithful, and of the whole world, by taking
from your house a wife for myself."

When Ashimullah heard this he went very pale, although, in truth,
what the Sultan proposed to do was always held the highest of

"And since so good and loyal a servant," pursued the Sultan,
"would desire to offer to his Sovereign nothing but the best of
all that he has, tell me, O Ashimullah, which of your wives is
fairest, that I may take her and exalt her as I have proposed."

Ashimullah was now in great agitation, and he stammered in his

"My wives are indeed fair; but, O Most Potent and Fearful
Majesty, they have, one and all, most diabolical tempers."

"Surely by now I have learned how to deal with the tempers of
women," said the Sultan, raising his brows. "Come, Ashimullah;
tell me which is fairest."

Then Ashimullah, being at his wits' end, and catching at any
straw in order to secure a little delay, declared that it was
utterly impossible to say that any one of his wives was fairer
than any other, for they were all perfectly beautiful.

"But describe them to me, one by one," commanded the Sultan.

So Ashimullah described his wives one by one to the Sultan, using
most exalted eloquence, and employing every simile, metaphor,
image, figure, and trope that language contains, in the vain
attempt to express adequately the surpassing beauty of those
ladies; yet he was most careful to set no one above any other and
to distribute the said similes, metaphors, images, figures, and
tropes, with absolute impartiality and equality among them.

"By Allah, it is difficult!" said the Sultan, pulling his beard
fretfully. "I will consider your several descriptions, and send
for you again in a few days, Ashimullah."

So Ashimullah went home and told Lallakalla all that had
passed between the Sultan and himself, and how the Sultan
proposed to take one of his wives, but could not make up his mind
which lady he should prefer.

"But, alas! it is all one to me, whichever he chooses," cried
Ashimullah, in despair.

"It is all one to me also," cried Lallakalla. "But, be sure,
dear Ashimullah, that the Sultan has some purpose in this delay.
Let us wait and see what he does. It may be that we need not yet

But Ashimullah would not be comforted, and cried out that he had
done better never to forswear his religion, but to have died at
once, as a holy martyr.

"It is too late to think of that," said Lallakalla.

Now, had not the Sultan been most lamentably bewildered and most
amazingly dazzled by the conflicting charms of the wives of
Ashimullah, beyond doubt he would not have entertained nor
carried out a project so impious and irreligious as that which
his curiosity and passion now led him into. But being
unable to eat or drink or rest until he was at ease on the
matter, he determined, all piety and law and decorum to the
contrary notwithstanding, to look upon the faces of Ashimullah's
wives with his own eyes, and determine for himself to whom the
crown of beauty belonged, and whether the brown or the black, or
the golden or the ruddy, might most properly and truthfully lay
claim to it. But this resolution he ventured to communicate to
nobody, save to the faithful and dutiful wife whom he had sent
before to visit the house of Ashimullah. She, amazed, tried
earnestly to dissuade him, but seeing he was not to be turned, at
last agreed to second his designs, and enable him to fulfill his
purpose. "Though I fear no good will come of it," she sighed.

"I wonder which is in truth the fairest!" murmured the Sultan.
And he sent word to Ashimullah that the Sultana would visit his
wives on the evening of that day.

"All will be ready for her," said Lallakalla, when she received
the message from her husband.

But in the afternoon the Sultan sent men into the bazaar, and
these men caught Hassan, Ashimullah's servant, as he came to make
his daily purchases, and carried him to the Sultan, with whom he
was closeted for hard on an hour. When he came out Hassan
returned home, shaking his head sorrowfully, but patting his
purse comfortably; whence it appears that he suffered from a
conflict of feelings, his mind being ill at ease, but his purse
heavier. And when in the evening the Sultana came, attended only
by one tall, formidable, and inky-black attendant, Hassan ushered
her into the reception room of the harem, telling her that
Lallakalla, the first wife of his master, would attend her
immediately. Then he went out, and, having brought in the big
black slave very secretly, set him in the antechamber of the room
where the Sultana was, and hid him there, behind a high screen.

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