Part 1 out of 8
Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading
I. CHILDREN OF LIGHT
II. THE COASTS OF THE GENTILES
III. MAGDALEN QUAD
IV. A LITTLE MUSIC
V. ASKELON VILLA, GATH
VI. DOWN THE RIVER
VII. GHOSTLY COUNSEL
VIII. IN THE CAMP OF THE PHILISTINES
IX. THE WOMEN OF THE LAND
X. THE DAUGHTERS OF CANAAN
XI. CULTURE AND CULTURE
XII. THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
XIII. YE MOUNTAINS OF GILBOA
XIV. WHAT DO THESE HEBREWS HERE
XV. EVIL TIDINGS
XVI. FLAT REBELLION
XVII. COME YE OUT AND BE YE SEPARATE!
XVIII. A QUIET WEDDING
XIX. INTO THE FIRE
XX. LITERATURE, MUSIC, AND THE DRAMA
XXI. OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE
XXII. THE PHILISTINES TRIUMPH
XXIII. THE STREETS OF ASKELON
XXIV. THE CLOUDS BEGIN TO BREAK
XXV. HARD PRESSED
XXVII. RONALD COMES OF AGE
XXVIII. TELL IT NOT IN GATH
XXIX. A MAN AND A MAID
XXX. THE ENVIRONMENT FINALLY TRIUMPHS
XXXI. DE PROFUNDIS
XXXII. PRECONTRACT OF MARRIAGE
XXXIII. A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE
XXXV. THE TIDE TURNS
XXXVI. OUT OF THE HAND OF THE PHILISTINES
XXXVII. LAND AT LAST: BUT WHAT LAND?
CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
It was Sunday evening, and on Sundays Max Schurz, the chief of the
London Socialists, always held his weekly receptions. That night
his cosmopolitan refugee friends were all at liberty; his French
disciples could pour in from the little lanes and courts in Soho,
where, since the Commune, they had plied their peaceful trades as
engravers, picture-framers, artists'-colourmen, models, pointers,
and so forth--for most of them were hangers-on in one way or another
of the artistic world; his German adherents could stroll round,
pipe in mouth, from their printing-houses, their ham-and-beef shops,
or their naturalists' chambers, where they stuffed birds or set up
exotic butterflies in little cabinets--for most of them were more
or less literary or scientific in their pursuits; and his few English
sympathisers, chiefly dissatisfied philosophical Radicals of the
upper classes, could drop in casually for a chat and a smoke, on
their way home from the churches to which they had been dutifully
escorting their un-emancipated wives and sisters. Max Schurz kept
open house for all on Sunday evenings, and there was not a drawing-room
in London better filled than his with the very advanced and not
undistinguished set who alone had the much-prized entrée of his
The salon itself did not form any component part of Max Schurz's
own private residence in any way. The great Socialist, the man whose
mandates shook the thrones of Russia and Austria, whose movements
spread terror in Paris and Berlin, whose dictates were even obeyed
in Kerry and in Chicago, occupied for his own use two small rooms
at the top of a shabby composite tenement in a doubtful district
of Marylebone. The little parlour where he carried on his trade of
a microscope-lens grinder would not have sufficed to hold one-tenth
of the eager half-washed crowd that pressed itself enthusiastically
upon him every Sunday. But a large room on the ground floor of the
tenement, opening towards the main street, was used during the
week by one of his French refugee friends as a dancing-saloon;
and in this room on every Sunday evening the uncrowned king of the
proletariate Socialists was permitted to hold his royal levees.
Thither all that was best and truest in the socially rebellions
classes domiciled in London used to make its way; and there men
calmly talked over the ultimate chances of social revolutions which
would have made the hair of respectable Philistine Marylebone stand
stiffly on end, had it only known the rank political heresies that
were quietly hatching in its unconscious midst.
While Max Schurz's hall was rapidly filling with the polyglot crowd
of democratic solidarists, Ernest Le Breton and his brother were
waiting in the chilly little drawing-room at Epsilon Terrrace,
Bayswater, for the expected arrival of Harry Oswald. Ernest had
promised to introduce Oswald to Max Schurz's reception; and it
was now past eight o'clock, getting rather a late hour for those
simple-minded, early-rising Communists. 'I'm afraid, Herbert,'
said Ernest to his brother, 'he forgets that Max is a working-man
who has to be at his trade again punctually by seven o'clock
to-morrow. He thinks he's going out to a regular society At Home,
where ten o'clock's considered just the beginning of the evening. Max
won't at all like his turning up so late; it smells of non-productivity.'
'If Herr Schurz wants to convert the world,' Herbert answered
chillily, rolling himself a tiny cigarette, 'he must convince the
unproductive as well as the proletariate before he can set things
fairly on the roll for better arrangement. The proletariate's
all very well in its way, no doubt, but the unproductive happen to
hold the key of the situation. One convert like you or me is worth
a thousand ignorant East-end labourers, with nothing but their
hands and their votes to count upon.'
'But you are not a convert, Herbert.'
'I didn't say I was. I'm a critic. There's no necessity to throw
oneself open-armed into the embrace of either party. The wise man
can wait and watch the progress of the game, backing the winner
for the time being at all the critical moments, and hedging if
necessary when the chances turn momentarily against the favourite.
There's a ring at the bell: that's Oswald; let's go down to the
door to meet him.'
Ernest ran down the stairs rapidly, as was his wont; Herbert
followed in a more leisurely fashion, still rolling the cigarette
between his delicate finger and thumb. 'Goodness gracious, Oswald!'
Ernest exclaimed as his friend stepped in, 'why, you've actually
come in evening dress! A white tie and all! What on earth will
Max say? He'll be perfectly scandalised at such a shocking and
unprecedented outrage. This will never do; you must dissemble
somehow or other.'
Oswald laughed. 'I had no idea,' he said, 'Herr Schurz was such
a truculent sans-culotte as that comes to. As it was an evening
reception I thought, of course, one ought to turn up in evening
'Evening clothes! My dear fellow, how on earth do you suppose a
set of poor Leicester Square outlaws are going to get themselves
correctly set up in black broadcloth coats and trousers? They might
wash their white ties themselves, to be sure; they mostly do their
own washing, I believe, in their own basins.' ('And not much at
that either,' put in Herbert, parenthetically.) 'But as to evening
clothes, why, they'd as soon think of arraying themselves for dinner
in full court dress as of putting on an obscurantist swallow-tail.
It's the badge of a class, a distinct aristocratic outrage; we must
alter it at once, I assure you, Oswald.'
'At any rate,' said Oswald laughing, 'I've had the pleasure of finding
myself accused for the first time in the course of my existence of
being aristocratic. It's quite worth while going to Max Schurz's
once in one's life, if it were only for the sake of that single
'Well, my dear fellow, we must rectify you, anyhow, before you go.
Let me see; luckily you've got your dust-coat on, and you needn't
take that off; it'll do splendidly to hide your coat and waistcoat.
I'll lend you a blue tie, which will at once transform your upper
man entirely. But you show the cloven hoof below; the trousers
will surely betray you. They're absolutely inadmissible under any
circumstances whatsoever, as the Court Circular says, and you must
positively wear a coloured pair of Herbert's instead of them. Run
upstairs quickly, there's a good fellow, and get rid of the mark
of the Beast as fast as you can.'
Oswald did as he was told without demur, and in about a minute more
presented himself again, with the mark of the Beast certainly most
effectually obliterated, at least so far as outer appearance went.
His blue tie, light dust-coat, and borrowed grey trousers, made up
an ensemble much more like an omnibus conductor out for a holiday
than a gentleman of the period in correct evening dress. 'Now
mind,' Ernest said seriously, as he opened the door, 'whatever you
do, Oswald, if you stew to death for it--and Schurz's rooms are
often very close and hot, I can assure you--don't for heaven's sake
go and unbutton your dust-coat. If you do they'll see at once you're
a wolf in sheep's clothing, and I shouldn't be at all surprised
if they were to turn and rend you. At least, I'm sure Max would be
very much annoyed with me for unsocially introducing a plutocratic
traitor into the bosom of the fold.'
They walked along briskly in the direction of Marylebone, and
stopped at last at a dull, yellow-washed house, which bore on
its door a very dingy brass plate, inscribed in red letters, 'M.
et Mdlle. Tirard. Salon de Danse.' Ernest opened the door without
ringing, and turned down the passage towards the salon. 'Remember,'
he said, turning to Harry Oswald by way of a last warning, with his
hand on the inner door-handle, 'coûte que coûte, my dear fellow,
don't on any account open your dust-coat. No anti-social opinions;
and please bear in mind that Max is, in his own way, a potentate.'
The big hall, badly lighted by a few contribution candles (for the
whole colony subscribed to the best of its ability for the support
of the weekly entertainment), was all alive with eager figures and
the mingled busy hum of earnest conversation. A few chairs ranged
round the wall were mostly occupied by Mdlle. Tirard and the other
ladies of the Socialist party; but the mass of the guests were
men, and they were almost all smoking, in utter indifference to the
scanty presence of the fair sex. Not that they were intentionally
rude or boorish; that they never were; except where an emperor or an
aristocrat is concerned, there is no being on earth more courteous,
kindly, and considerate for the feelings of others than your
exiled Socialist. He has suffered much himself in his own time, and
so miseris succurrere discit. Emperors he mentally classes with
cobras, tarantulas, and scorpions, as outside the pale of humanitarian
sympathies altogether; but, with this slight political exception,
he is the broadest and tenderest and most catholic in his feelings
of all living breathing creatures. However, the ladies of his party
have all been brought up from their childhood onward in a mingled
atmosphere of smoke and democracy; so that he no more thinks
of abstaining from tobacco in their presence than he thinks of
commiserating the poor fish for being so dreadfully wet, or the
unfortunate mole for his unpleasantly slimy diet of live earthworms.
'Herr Schurz,' said Ernest, singling out the great leader in the
gloom immediately, 'I've brought my brother Herbert here, whom
you know already, to see you, as well as another Oxford friend of
mind, Mr. Harry Oswald, Fellow and Lecturer of Oriel. He's almost
one of us at heart, I'm happy to say, and at any rate I'm sure
you'll be glad to make his acquaintance.'
The little spare wizened-up grey man, in the threadbare brown velveteen
jacket, who stood in the middle of the hall, caught Ernest's hand
warmly, and held it for a moment fettered in his iron grip. There
was an honesty in that grip and in those hazy blue-spectacled eyes
that nobody could for a second misunderstand. If an emperor had
been introduced to Max Schurz he might have felt a little abashed
one minute at the old Socialist's royal disdain, but he could not
have failed to say to himself as he looked at him from head to
foot, 'Here, at least, is a true man.' So Harry Oswald felt, as
the spare grey thinker took his hand in his, and grasped it firmly
with a kindly pressure, but less friendly than that with which he
had greeted his known admirer, Ernest Le Breton. As for Herbert, he
merely bowed to him politely from a little distance; and Herbert,
who had picked up at once with a Polish exile in a corner, returned
the bow frigidly without coming up to the host himself at all for
a moment's welcome.
'I'm always pleased to meet friends of the cause from Oxford,'
Herr Schurz said, in almost perfect English. 'We want recruits most
of all among the thinking classes. If we are ever to make headway
against the banded monopolies--against the place-holders, the
land-grabbers, the labour-taxers, the robbers of the poor--we must
first secure the perfect undivided confidence of the brain-workers,
the thinkers, and the writers. At present everything is against us;
we are but a little leaven, trying vainly in our helpless fashion
to leaven the whole lump. The capitalist journals carry off all
the writing talent in the world; they are timid, as capital must
always be; they tremble for their tens of thousands a year, and
their vast circulations among the propertied classes. We cannot
get at the heart of the people, save by the Archimedean lever of
the thinking world. For that reason, my dear Le Breton, I am always
glad to muster here your Oxford neophytes.'
'And yet, Herr Schurz,' said Ernest gently, 'you know we must not
after all despair. Look at the history of your own people! When
the cause of Jehovah seemed most hopeless, there were still seven
thousand left in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. We are
gaining strength every day, while they are losing it.'
'Ah yes, my friend. I know that too,' the old man answered, with a
solemn shake of the head; 'but the wheels move slowly, they move
slowly--very surely, but oh, so slowly. You are young, friend
Ernest, and I am growing old. You look forward to the future with
hope; I look back to the past with regret: so many years gone, so
little, so very little done. It will come, it will come as surely
as the next glacial period, but I shall not live to see it. I stand
like Moses on Pisgah; I see the promised land before me; I look
down upon the equally allotted vineyards, and the glebe flowing
with milk and honey in the distance; but I shall not lead you into
it; I shall not even lead you against the Canaanites; another than
I must lead you in. But I am an old man, Mr. Oswald, an old man
now, and I am talking all about myself--an anti-social trick we have
inherited from our fathers. What is your friend's special line at
Oxford, did you say, Ernest?'
'Oswald is a mathematician, sir,' said Ernest, 'perhaps the greatest
mathematician among the younger men in the whole University.'
'Ah! that is well. We want exact science. We want clear and definite
thinking. Biologists and physicists and mathematicians, those are
our best recruits, you may depend upon it. We need logic, not mere
gas. Our French friends and our Irish friends--I have nothing in
the world to say against them; they are useful men, ardent men,
full of fire, full of enthusiasm, ready to do and dare anything--but
they lack ballast. You can't take the kingdom of heaven by storm.
The social revolution is not to be accomplished by violence, it is
not even to be carried by the most vivid eloquence; the victory
will be in the end to the clearest brain and the subtlest intellect.
The orthodox political economists are clever sophists; they mask
and confuse the truth very speciously; we must have keen eyes and
sharp noses to spy out and scent out their tortuous fallacies. I'm
glad you're a mathematician, Mr. Oswald. And so you have thought
on social problems?'
'I have read "Gold and the Proletariate,"' Oswald answered modestly,
'and I learned much from it, and thought more. I won't say you have
quite converted me, Herr Schurz, but you have given me plenty of
food for future reflection.'
'That is well, said the old man, passing one skinny brown hand
gently up and down over the other. 'That is well. There's no hurry.
Don't make up your mind too fast. Don't jump at conclusions. It's
intellectual dishonesty to do that. Wait till you have convinced
yourself. Spell out your problems slowly; they are not easy ones;
try to see how the present complex system works; try to probe
its inequalities and injustices; try to compare it with the ideal
commonwealth: and you'll find the light in the end, you'll find
As he spoke, Herbert Le Breton lounged up quietly from his farther
corner towards the little group. 'Ah, your brother, Ernest!' said
Max Schurz, drawing himself up a little more stiffly; 'he has found
the light already, I believe, but he neglects it; still he is not
with us, and he that is not with us is against us. You hold aloof
always, Mr. Herbert, is it not so?'
'Well, not quite aloof, Herr Schurz, I'm certain, but not on
your side exactly either. I like to look on and hold the balance
evenly, not to throw my own weight too lightly into either stale.
The objective attitude of the mere spectator is after all the right
one for an impartial philosopher to take up.'
'Ah, Mr. Herbert, this philosophy of your Oxford contemplative
Radicals is only another name for a kind of social selfishness,
I fancy,' said the old man solemnly. 'It seems to me your head is
with us, but your heart, your heart is elsewhere.'
Herbert Le Breton played a moment quietly with the Roman aureus of
Domitian on his watch-chain; then he said slowly in his clear cold
voice, 'There may be something in that, no doubt, Herr Schurz, for
each of us has his own game to play, and while the world remains
unreformed, he must play it on his own gambit to a great extent,
without reference to the independent game of others. We all agree
that the board is too full of counters, and as each counter is not
responsible for its own presence and position on the board, having
been put there without previous consultation by the players, we
must each do the best we can for ourselves in our own fashion. My
sympathies, as you say, are on your side, but perhaps my interests
lie the other way, and after all, till you start your millennium,
we must all rattle along as well as we can in the box together,
jarring against one another in our old ugly round of competition,
and supply and demand, and survival of the fittest, and mutual
accommodation, and all the rest of it, to the end of the chapter.
Every man for himself and God for us all, you know. You have the
logic, to be sure, Herr Schurz, but the monopolists have the law
and the money.'
'Ah, yes,' said the old Socialist grimly; 'Demas, Demas; he and his
silver mine; you remember your Bunyan, don't you? Well, all faiths
and systems have their Demases. The cares of this world and the
deceitfulness of riches. He's bursar of his college, isn't he, Ernest?
I thought so. "He had the bag, and bare what was put therein." A
dangerous office, isn't it, Mr. Oswald? A very dangerous office.
You can't touch pitch or property without being defiled.'
'You at least, sir, said Ernest, reverentially, 'have kept yourself
unspotted from the world.'
The old man sighed, and turned for a moment to speak in French to
a tall, big-bearded new-comer who advanced to meet him. 'Impossible!'
he said quickly; 'I am truly distressed to hear it. It is very
imprudent, very unnecessary.'
'What is the news?' asked Ernest, also in French.
The new-comer answered him with a marked South Russian accent.
'There has been another attempt on the life of Alexander Nicolaiovitch.'
'You don't mean to say so!' cried Ernest in surprise.
'Yes, I do,' replied the Russian, 'and it has nearly succeeded
'An attempt on whom?' asked Oswald, who was new to the peculiar
vocabulary of the Socialists, and not particularly accustomed to
following spoken French.
'On Alexander Nicolaiovitch,' answered the red-bearded stranger.
'Not the Czar?' Oswald inquired of Ernest.
'Yes, the one whom you call Czar,' said the stranger, quickly, in
tolerable English. The confusion of tongues seemed to be treated as
a small matter at Max Schurz's receptions, for everybody appeared
to speak all languages at once, in the true spirit of solidarity,
as though Babel had never been.
Oswald did not attempt to conceal a slight gesture of horror. The
tall Russian looked down upon him commiseratingly. 'He is of the
Few?' he asked of Ernest, that being the slang of the initiated
for a member of the aristocratic and capitalist oligarchy.
'Not exactly,' Ernest answered with a smile; 'but he has not entirely
learned the way we here regard these penal measures. His sympathies
are one-sided as to Alexander, no doubt. He thinks merely of the
hunted, wretched life the man bears about with him, and he forgets
poor bleeding, groaning, down-trodden, long-suffering Russia. It
is the common way of Englishmen. They do not realise Siberia and
Poland and the Third Section, and all the rest of it; they think
only of Alexander as of the benevolent despot who freed the serf
and befriended the Bulgarian. They never remember that they have
all the freedom and privileges themselves which you poor Russians
ask for in vain; they do not bear in mind that he has only to sign
his name to a constitution, a very little constitution, and he
might walk abroad as light-hearted in St. Petersburg to-morrow as
you and I walk in Regent Street to-day. We are mostly lopsided,
we English, but you must bear with us in our obliquity; we have
had freedom ourselves so long that we hardly know how to make due
allowance for those unfortunate folks who are still in search of
'If you had an Alexander yourselves for half a day,' the Russian
said fiercely, turning to Oswald, 'you would soon see the difference.
You would forget your virtuous indignation against Nihilist assassins
in the white heat of your anger against unendurable tyranny. You
had a King Charles in England once--the mere shadow of a Russian
Czar--and you were not so very ceremonious with him, you order-loving
English, after all.'
'It is a foolish thing, Borodinsky,' said Max Schurz, looking up
from the long telegram the other had handed him, 'and I told Toroloff
as much a fortnight ago, when he spoke to me about the matter. You
can do no good by these constant attacks, and you only rouse the
minds of the oligarchy against you by your importunity. Bloodshed
will avail us nothing; the world cannot be regenerated by a baptism
like that. Every peasant won over, every student enrolled, every
mother engaged to feed her little ones on the gospel of Socialism
together with her own milk, is worth a thousand times more to
us and to the people than a dead Czar. If your friends had really
blown him up, what then? You would have had another Czar, and
another Third Section, and another reign of terror, and another
raid and massacre; and we should have lost twenty good men from our
poor little side for ever. We must not waste the salt of the earth
in that reckless fashion. Besides, I don't like this dynamite. It's
a bad argument, it smacks too much of the old royal and repressive
method. You know the motto Louis Quatorze used to cast on his
bronze cannon--"Ultima ratio regum." Well, we Socialists ought to
be able to find better logic for our opponents than that, oughtn't
'But in Russia,' cried the bearded man hotly, 'in poor stricken-down
groaning Russia, what other argument have they left us? Are we to
be hunted to death without real law or trial, tortured into sham
confessions, deluded with mock pardons, arraigned before hypocritical
tribunals, ensnared by all the chicanery, and lying, and treachery,
and ferreting of the false bureaucracy, with its spies, and its
bloodhounds, and its knout-bearing police-agents; and then are we
not to make war the only way we can--open war, mind you, with fair
declaration, and due formalities, and proper warning beforehand--against
the irresponsible autocrat and his wire-pulled office-puppets who
kill us off mercilessly? You are too hard upon us, Herr Schurz;
even you yourself have no sympathy at all for unhappy Russia.'
The old man looked up at him tenderly and regretfully. 'My poor
Borodinsky,' he said in a gentle tremulous voice, 'I have indeed
sympathy and pity in abundance for you. I do not blame you; you
will have enough and to spare to do that, even here in free England;
I would not say a harsh word against you or your terrible methods
for all the world. You have been hard-driven, and you stand at
bay like tigers. But I think you are going to work the wrong way,
not using your energies to the best possible advantage for the
proletariate. What we have really got to do is to gain over every
man, woman, and child of the working-classes individually, and to
array on our side all the learning and intellect and economical
science of the thinking classes individually; and then we can present
such a grand united front to the banded monopolists that for very
shame they will not dare to gainsay us. Indeed, if it comes to
that, we can leave them quietly alone, till for pure hunger they
will come and beg our assistance. When we have enticed away all
the workmen from their masters to our co-operative factories, the
masters may keep their rusty empty mills and looms and engines to
themselves as long as they like, but they must come to us in the
end, and ask us to give them the bread they used to refuse us. For
my part, I would kill no man and rob no man; but I would let no
man kill or rob another either.'
'And how about Alexander Nicolaiovitch, then?' persisted the
Russian, eagerly. 'Has he killed none in his loathsome prisons and
in his Siberian quicksilver mines? Has he robbed none of their own
hardly got earnings by his poisoned vodki and his autocratically
imposed taxes and imposts? Who gave him an absolute hereditary right
to put us to death, to throw us in prison, to take our money from
us against our will and without our leave, to treat us as if we
existed, body and soul, and wives and children, only as chattels
for the greater glory of his own orthodox imperial majesty? If we
may justly slay the highway robber who meets us, arms in hand, in
the outskirts of the city, and demands of us our money or our life,
may we not justly slay Alexander Nicolaiovitch, who comes to our
homes in the person of his tax-gatherers to take the bread out of
our children's mouths and to help himself to whatever he chooses by
the divine right of his Romanoff heirship? I tell you, Herr Max,
we may blamelessly lie in wait for him wherever we find him, and
whoso says us nay is siding with the wolf against the lambs, with
the robber and the slayer against the honest representative of
right and justice.'
'I never met a Nihilist before,' said Oswald to Ernest, in a
half-undertone,' and it never struck me to think what they might
have to say for themselves from their own side of the question.'
'That's one of the uses of coming here to Herr Schurz's,' Ernest
answered quickly. 'You may not agree with all you hear, but at
least you learn to see others as they see themselves; whereas if
you mix always in English society, and read only English papers,
you will see them only as we English see them.'
'But just fancy,' Oswald went on, as they both stood back a little
to make way for others who wished for interviews with the great
man, 'just fancy that this Borodinsky, or whatever his name may be,
has himself very likely helped in dynamite plots, or manufactured
nitro-glycerine cartridges to blow up the Czar; and yet we stand
here talking with him as coolly as if he were an ordinary respectable
'What of that?' Ernest answered, smiling. 'Didn't we meet Prince
Strelinoffsky at Oriel last term, and didn't we talk with him too,
as if he was an honest, hard-working, bread-earning Christian? and
yet we knew he was a member of the St. Petersburg office clique,
and at the bottom of half the trouble in Poland for the last ten
years or so. Grant even that Borodinsky is quite wrong in his way
of dealing with noxious autocrats, and yet which do you think is
the worst criminal of the two--he with his little honest glazier's
shop in a back slum of Paddington, or Strelinoffsky with his jewelled
fingers calmly signing accursed warrants to send childing Polish
women to die of cold and hunger and ill-treatment on the way to
'Well, really, Le Breton, you know I'm a passably good Radical,
but you're positively just one stage too Radical even for me.'
'Come here oftener,' answered Ernest; 'and perhaps you'll begin to
think a little differently about some things.'
An hour later in the evening Max Schurz found Ernest alone in a
quiet corner. 'One moment, my dear Le Breton,' he said; 'you know
I always like to find out all about people's political antecedents;
it helps one to fathom the potentialities of their characters. From
what social stratum, now, do we get your clever friend, Mr. Oswald?'
'His father's a petty tradesman in a country town in Devonshire,
I believe,' Ernest answered; 'and he himself is a good general
democrat, without any very pronounced socialistic colouring.'
'A petty tradesman! Hum, I thought so. He has rather the mental
bearing and equipment of a man from the petite bourgeoisie. I have
been talking to him, and drawing him out. Clever, very, and with
good instincts, but not wholly and entirely sound. A fibre wrong
somewhere, socially speaking, a false note suspected in his ideas
of life; too much acquiescence in the thing that is, and too little
faith or enthusiasm for the thing that ought to be. But we shall
make something of him yet. He has read "Gold" and understands it.
That is already a beginning. Bring him again. I shall always be
glad to see him here.'
'I will,' said Ernest, 'and I believe the more you know him, Herr
Max, the better you will like him.'
'And what did you think of the sons of the prophets?' asked Herbert
Le Breton of Oswald as they left the salon at the close of the
'Frankly speaking,' answered Oswald, looking half aside at Ernest,
'I didn't quite care for all of them--the Nihilists and Communards
took my breath away at first; but as to Max Schurz himself I think
there can be only one opinion possible about him.'
'And that is----?'
'That he's a magnificent old man, with a genuine apostolic
inspiration. I don't care twopence whether he is right or wrong,
but he's a perfectly splendid old fellow, as honest and transparent
as the day's long. He believes in it all, and would give his life
for it freely, if he thought he could forward the cause a single
inch by doing it.'
'You're quite right,' said Herbert calmly. 'He's an Elijah thrown
blankly upon these prosaic latter days; and what's more, his
gospel's all true; but it doesn't matter a sou to you or me, for
it will never come about in our time, no nor for a century after.
"Post nos millennium." So what on earth's the good of our troubling
our poor overworked heads about it?'
'He's the only really great man I ever knew,' said Ernest
enthusiastically, 'and I consider that his friendship's the one
thing in my life that has been really and truly worth living for.
If a pessimist were to ask me what was the use of human existence,
I should give him a card of introduction to go to Max Schurz's.'
'Excuse my interrupting your rhapsody, Ernest,' Herbert put in
blandly, 'but will you have your own trousers tonight, Oswald, or
will you wear mine back to your lodgings now, and I'll send one of
the servants round with yours for them in the morning?'
'Thanks,' said Harry Oswald, slapping the sides of the unopened
dust-coat; 'I think I'll go home as I am at present, and I'll recover
the marks of the Beast again to-morrow. You see, I didn't betray
my evening waistcoat after all, now did I?'
And they parted at the corner, each of them going his own way in
his own mood and manner.
THE COASTS OF THE GENTILES.
The decayed and disfranchised borough of Calcombe Pomeroy, or
Calcombe-on-the-Sea, is one of the prettiest and quietest little
out-of-the-way watering-places in the whole smiling southern slope
of the county of Devon. Thank heaven, the Great Western Railway,
when planning its organised devastations along the beautiful rural
region of the South Hams, left poor little Calcombe out in the cold;
and the consequence is that those few people who still love to
linger in the uncontaminated rustic England of our wiser forefathers
can here find a beach unspoiled by goat-carriages or black-faced
minstrels, a tiny parade uninvaded by stucco terraces or German
brass bands, and an ancient stone pier off which swimmers may take
a header direct, in the early morning, before the sumptuary edicts
of his worship the Mayor compel them to resort to the use of
bathing-machines and the decent covering of an approved costume,
between the hours of eight and eight. A board beside the mouth of
the harbour, signed by a Secretary of State to his late Majesty
King William the Fourth, still announces to a heedless world the
tolls to be paid for entry by the ships that never arrive; and a
superannuated official in a wooden leg and a gold cap-band retains
the honourable sinecure of a harbour-mastership, with a hypothetical
salary nominally payable from the non-existent fees and port dues.
The little river Cale, at the bottom of whose combe the wee town
nestles snugly, has cut itself a deep valley in the soft sandstone
hills; and the gap in the cliffs formed by its mouth gives room
for the few hundred yards of level on which the antiquated little
parade is warmly ensconced. On either hand tall bluffs of brilliant
red marl raise their honeycombed faces fronting the sea; and in the
distance the sheeny grey rocks of the harder Devonian promontories
gleam like watered satin in the slant rays of the afternoon sun.
Altogether a very sleepy little old-world place is Calcombe Pomeroy,
specially reserved by the overruling chance of the universe to be
a summer retreat for quiet, peace-loving, old-world people.
The Londoner who escapes for a while from the great teeming human
ant-hill, with its dark foggy lanes and solid firmament of hanging
smoke, to draw in a little unadulterated atmosphere at Calcombe
Pomeroy, finds himself landed by the Plymouth slow train at Calcombe
Road Station, twelve miles by cross-country highway from his final
destination. The little grey box, described in the time-tables
as a commodious omnibus, which takes him on for the rest of his
journey, crawls slowly up the first six miles to the summit of
the intervening range at the Cross Foxes Inn, and jolts swiftly
down the other six miles, with red hot drag creaking and groaning
lugubriously, till it seems to topple over sheer into the sea
at the clambering High Street of the old borough. As you turn to
descend the seaward slope at the Cross Foxes, you appear to leave
modern industrial England and the nineteenth century well behind
you on the north, and you go down into a little isolated primaeval
dale, cut off from all the outer world by the high ridge that girds
it round on every side, and turned only on the southern front
towards the open Channel and the backing sun. Half-way down the
steep cobble-paved High Street, just after you pass the big dull
russet church, a small shop on the left-hand side bears a signboard
with the painted legend, 'Oswald, Family Grocer and Provision
Dealer.' In the front bay window of that red-brick house, built
out just over the shop, Harry Oswald, Fellow and Lecturer of Oriel
College, Oxford, kept his big oak writing-desk; and at that desk
he might be seen reading or writing on most mornings during the
long vacation, after the end of his three weeks' stay at a London
West-end lodging-house, from which he had paid his first visit to
Max Schurz's Sunday evening receptions.
'Two pounds of best black tea, good quality--yours is generally
atrocious, Mrs. Oswald--that's the next thing on the list,' said
poor trembling, shaky Miss Luttrell, the Squire's sister, a palsied
old lady with a quavering, querulous, rasping voice. 'Two pounds
of best black tea, and mind you don't send it all dust, as you usually
do. No good tea to be got nowadays, since they took the duties off
and ruined the country. And I see a tall young man lounging about
the place sometimes, and never touching his hat to me as he ought
to do. Young people have no manners in these times, Mrs. Oswald, as
they used to have when you and I were young. Your son, I suppose,
come home from sea or something? He's in the fish-curing line,
isn't he, I think I've heard you say?'
'I don't rightly know who 'ee may mean, Miss Luttrell,' replied
the mother proudly, 'by a young man lounging about the place; but
my son's at home from Oxford at present for his vacations, and he
isn't in the fish-curing line at all, ma'am, but he's a Fellow of
his college, as I've told 'ee more than once already; but you're
getting old, I see, Miss Luttrell, and your memory isn't just what
it had used to be, dost know.'
'Oh, at Oxford, is he?' Miss Luttrell chimed on vacantly, wagging
her wrinkled old head in solemn deprecation of tke evil omen. She
knew it as well as Mrs. Oswald herself did, having heard the fact
at least a thousand times before; but she made it a matter of
principle never to encourage these upstart pretensions on the part
of the lower orders, and just to keep them rigorously at their
proper level she always made a feint of forgetting any steps in
advance which they might have been bold enough to take, without
humbly obtaining her previous permission, out of their original
and natural obscurity. 'Fellow of his college is he, really? Fellow
of a college! Dear me, how completely Oxford is going to the dogs.
Admitting all kinds of odd people into the University, I understand.
Why, my second brother--the Archdeacon, you know--was a Fellow of
Magdalen for some time in his younger days. You surprise me, quite.
Fellow of a college! You're perfectly sure he isn't a National
schoolmaster at Oxford instead, and that you and his father haven't
got the two things mixed up together in your heads, Mrs. Oswald?'
'No, ma'am, we'in perfectly sure of it, and we haven't got the
things mixed up in our heads at all, no more nor you have, Miss
Luttrell. He was a scholar of Trinity first, and now he's got
a Fellowship at Oriel. You must mind hearing all about it at the
time, only you're getting so forgetful like now, with years and
such like.' Mrs. Oswald knew there was nothing that annoyed the old
lady so much as any allusion to her increasing age or infirmities,
and she took her revenge out of her in that simple retributive
'A scholar of Trinity, was he? Ah, yes, patronage will do a great
deal in these days, for certain. The Rector took a wonderful
interest in your boy, I think, Mrs. Oswald. He went to Plymouth
Grammar School, I remember now, with a nomination no doubt; and
there, I dare say, he attracted some attention, being a decent,
hard-working lad, and got sent to Oxford with a sizarship, or
something of the sort; there are all kinds of arrangements like
that at the Universities, I believe, to encourage poor young men
of respectable character. They become missionaries or ushers in
the end, and often get very good salaries, considering everything,
'There you're wrong, again, ma'am,' put in Mrs. Oswald, stoutly.
'My husband, he sent Harry to Plymouth School at our own expense;
and after that he got an exhibition from the school, and an open
scholarship, I think they call it, at the college; and he's been no
more beholden to patronage, ma'am, than your brother the Archdeacon
was, nor for the matter o' that not so much neither; for I've a'ways
understood the old Squire sent him first to the Charterhouse, and
afterwards he got a living through Lord Modbury's influence, as
the Squire voted regular with the Modbury people for the borough
and county. But George was always independent, Miss Luttrell, and
beholden to neither Luttrells nor Modburies, and that I tell 'ee
to your face, ma'am, and no shame of it either.'
'Well, well, Mrs. Oswald,' said the old lady, shaking her head more
violently than ever at this direct discomfiture, 'I don't want to
argue with you about the matter. I dare say your son's a very worthy
young man, and has worked his way up into a position he wasn't
intended for by Providence. But it's no business of mine, thank
heaven, it's no business of mine, for I'm not responsible for all
the vagaries of all the tradespeople on my brother's estate, nor
don't want to be. There's Mrs. Figgins, now, the baker's wife; her
daughter has just chosen to get married to a bank clerk in London;
and I said to her this morning, "Well, Mrs. Figgins, so you've let
your Polly go and pick up with some young fellow from town that
you've never seen before, haven't you? And that's the way of all you
people. You marry your girls to bank clerks without a reference, for
the sake of getting 'em off your hands, and what's the consequence?
They rob their employers to keep up a pretty household for their
wives, as if they were fine ladies; and then at last the thing's
discovered, there comes a smash, they run away to America, and you
have your daughters and their children thrown back again penniless
upon your hands." That's what I said to her, Mrs. Oswald. And how's
YOUR daughter, by the way--Jemima I think you call her; how's she,
eh, tell me?'
'I beg your pardon, Miss Luttrell, but her name's not Jemima; it's
'Oh, Edith, is it? Well to be sure! The grand names girls have
dangling about with them nowadays! My name's plain Catherine, and
it's good enough for me, thank goodness. But these young ladies
of the new style must be Ediths and Eleanors and Ophelias, and all
that heathenish kind of thing, as if they were princesses of the
blood or play-actresses, instead of being good Christian Susans
and Janes and Betties, like their grandmothers were before them.
And Miss Edith, now, what is SHE doing?'
'She's doing nothing in particular at this moment, Miss Luttrell,
leastways not so far as I know of; but she's going up to Oxford
part of this term on a visit to her brother.'
'Going up to Oxford, my good woman! Why, heaven bless the girl,
she'd much better stop at home and learn her catechism. She should
try to do her duty in that station of life to which it has pleased
Providence to call her, instead of running after young gentlemen
above her own rank and place in society at Oxford. Tell her so
from me, Mrs. Oswald, and mind you don't send the tea dusty. Two
pounds of your best, if you please, as soon as you can send it.
Good-morning.' And Miss Luttrell, having discovered the absolute
truth of the shocking rumour which had reached her about Edith's
projected visit, the confirmation of which was the sole object of
her colloquy, wagged her way out of the shop again successfully,
and was duly assisted by the page-boy into her shambling little
'That was all the old cat came about, you warr'nt you,' muttered
Mr. Oswald himself from behind his biscuit-boxes. 'Must have heard
it from the Rector's wife, and wanted to find out if it was true,
to go and tell Mrs. Walters o' such a bit o' turble presumptiousness.'
Meanwhile, in the little study with the bow-window over the shop,
Harry and Edie Oswald were busily discussing the necessary preparations
for Edie's long-promised visit to the University.
'I hope you've got everything nice in the way of dress, you know,
Edie,' said Harry. 'You'll want a decent dinner dress, of course,
for you'll be asked out to dine at least once or twice; and I want
you to have everything exceedingly proper and pretty.'
'I think I've got all I need in that way, Harry; I've my dark poplin,
cut square in the bodice, for one dinner dress, and my high black
silk to fall back upon for another. Worn open in front, with a lace
handkerchief and a locket, it does really very nicely. Then I've
got three afternoon dresses, the grey you gave me, the sage-greeny
aesthetic one, and the peacock-blue with the satin box-pleats. It's
a charming dress, the peacock-blue; it looks as if it might have
stepped straight out of a genuine Titian. It came home from Miss
Wells's this morning. Wait five minutes, like a dear boy, and I'll
run and put it on and let you see me in it.'
'That's a good girl, do. I'm so anxious you should have all your
clothes the exact pink of perfection, Popsy. Though I'm afraid I'm
a very poor critic in that matter--if you were only a problem in
space of four dimensions, now! Yet, after all, every man or woman
is more of a problem than anything in x square plus y square you
can possibly set yourself.'
Edie ran lightly up into her own room, and soon reappeared clad
resplendent in the new peacock-blue dress, with hat and parasol
to match, and a little creamy lamb's-wool scarf thrown with artful
carelessness around her pretty neck and shoulders. Harry looked at
her with unfeigned admiration. Indeed, you would not easily find
many lighter or more fairly-like little girls than Edie Oswald,
even in the beautiful half-Celtic South Hams of Devon. In figure
she was rather small than short, for though she was but a wee thing,
her form was so exactly and delicately modelled that she might have
looked tall if she stood alone at a little distance. She never
walked, but seemed to dance about from place to place, so buoyant
and light, that Harry doubted whether in her case gravitation could
really vary as the square of the distance--it seemed, in fact,
to be almost diminished in the proportions of the cube. Her hair
and eyes--such big bright eyes!--were dark; but her complexion
was scarcely brunette, and the colour in her cheeks was rich and
peach-like, after the true Devonian type. She was dimpled whenever
she smiled, and she smiled often; her full lips giving a peculiar
ripe look to her laughing mouth that suited admirably with her
light and delicate style of beauty. Perhaps some people might have
thought them too full; certainly they irresistibly suggested to
a critical eye the distinct notion of kissability. As she stood
there, faintly blushing, waiting to be admired by her brother, in
her neatly fitting dainty blue dress, her lips half parted, and her
arms held carelessly at her side, she looked about as much like a
fairy picture as it is given to mere human flesh and blood to look.
'It's delicious, Edie,' said Harry, surveying her from, head
to foot with a smile of satisfaction which made her blush deepen;
'it's simply delicious. Where on earth did you get the idea of it?'
'Well, it's partly the present style,' said Edie; 'but I took the
notion of the bodice partly too from that Vandyck, you know, in
the Palazzo Bossi at Genoa.'
'I remember, I remember,' Harry answered, contemplating her with
an admiring eye. 'Now just turn round and show me how it sits
behind, Edie. You recollect Théophile Gautier says the one great
advantage which a beautiful woman possesses over a beautiful statue
is this, that while a man has to walk round the beautiful statue
in order to see it from every side, he can ask the beautiful woman
to turn herself round and let him see her, without requiring to
take that trouble.'
'Théophile Gautier was a horrid man, and if anybody but my brother
quoted such a thing as that to me I should be very angry with him
'Théophile Gautier was quite as horrid as you consider him to be,
and if you were anybody but my sister it isn't probable I should
have quoted him to you. But if there is any statue on earth prettier
or more graceful than you are in that dress at this moment, Edie,
then the Venus of Milo ought immediately to be pulverised to ultimate
atoms for a rank artistic impostor.'
'Thank you, Harry, for the compliment. What pretty things you must
be capable of saying to somebody else's sister, when you're so
polite and courtly to your own.'
'On the contrary, Popsy, when it comes to somebody else's sister
I'm much too nervous and funky to say anything of the kind. But
you must at least do Gautier the justice to observe that if I had
described a circle round you, instead of allowing you to revolve
once on your own axis, I shouldn't have been able to get the gloss
on the satin in the sunlight as I do now that you turn the panniers
toward the window. That, you must admit, is a very important
'Oh, of course it's essentially a sunshiny dress,' said Edie,
smiling. 'It's meant to be worn out of doors, on a fine afternoon,
when the light is falling slantwise, you know, just as it does now
through the low window. That's the light painters always choose
for doing satin in.'
'It's certainly very pretty,' Harry went on, musing; 'but I'm afraid
Le Breton would say it was a serious piece of economic hubris.'
'Piece of what?' asked Edie quickly.
'Piece of hubris--an economical outrage, don't you see; a gross
anti-social and individualist demonstration. Hubris, you know, is
Greek for insolence; at least, not quite insolence, but a sort
of pride and overweening rebelliousness against the gods, the kind
of arrogance that brings Nemesis after it, you understand. It was
hubris in Agamemnon and Xerxes to go swelling about and ruffling
themselves like turkey-cocks, because they were great conquerors
and all that sort of thing; and it was their Nemesis to get murdered
by Clytemnestra, or jolly well beaten by the Athenians at Salamis.
Well, Le Breton always uses the word for anything that he thinks
socially wrong--and he thinks a good many things socially wrong,
I can tell you--anything that partakes of the nature of a class
distinction, or a mere vulgar ostentation of wealth, or a useless
waste of good, serviceable, labour-gotten material. He would call
it hubris to have silver spoons when electroplate would do just as
well; or to keep a valet for your own personal attendant, making
one man into the mere bodily appanage of another; or to buy anything
you didn't really need, causing somebody else to do work for you
which might otherwise have been avoided.'
'Which Mr. Le Breton--the elder or the younger one?'
'Oh, the younger--Ernest. As for Herbert, the Fellow of St. Aldate's,
he's not troubled with any such scruples; he takes the world as he
'They've both gone in for their degrees, haven't they?'
'Yes, Herbert has got a fellowship; Ernest's up in residence still
looking about for one.'
'It's Ernest that would think my dress a piece of what-you-may-call-it?'
'Then I'm sure I shan't like him. I should insist upon every woman's
natural right to wear the dress or hat or bonnet that suits her
'You can't tell, Edie, till you've met him. He's a very good
fellow; and of one thing I'm certain, whatever he thinks right he
does, and sticks to it.'
'But do YOU think, Harry, I oughtn't to wear a new peacock-blue
camel-hair dress on my first visit up to Oxford?'
'Well, Edie dear, I don't quite know what my own opinions are
exactly upon that matter. I'm not an economist, you see, I'm a man
of science. When I look at you, standing there so pretty in that
pretty dress, I feel inclined to say to myself, "Every woman ought
to do her best to make herself look as beautiful as she can for the
common delectation of all humanity." Your beauty, a Greek would
have said, is a gift from the gods to us all, and we ought all
gratefully to make the most of it. I'm sure _I_ do.'
'Thank you, Harry, again. You're in your politest humour this
'But then, on the other hand, I know if Le Breton were here he'd
soon argue me over to the other side. He has the enthusiasm of
humanity so strong upon him that you can't help agreeing with him
as long as he's talking to you.'
'Then if he were here you'd probably make me put away the peacock-blue,
for fear of hubris and Nemesis and so forth, and go up to Oxford
a perfect fright in my shabby old Indian tussore!'
'I don't know that I should do that, even then, Edie. In the first
place, nothing on earth could make you look a perfect fright, or
anything like one, Popsy dear; and in the second place, I don't
know that I'm Socialist enough myself ever to have the courage of
my opinions as Le Breton has. Certainly, I should never attempt to
force them unwillingly upon others. You must remember, Edie, it's
one thing for Le Breton to be so communistic as all that comes to,
and quite another thing for you and me. Le Breton's father was a
general and a knight, you see; and people will never forget that
his mother's Lady Le Breton still, whatever he does. He may do
what he likes in the way of social eccentricities, and the world
will only say he's such a very strange advanced young fellow. But
if I were to take you up to Oxford badly dressed, or out of the
fashion, or looking peculiar in any way, the world wouldn't put it
down to our political beliefs, but would say we were mere country
tradespeople by birth, and didn't know any better. That makes a
lot of difference, you know.'
'You're quite right, Harry; and yet, do you know, I think there must
be something, too, in sticking to one's own opinions, like Mr. Le
Breton. I should stick to mine, I'm sure, and wear whatever dress
I liked, in spite of anybody. It's a sweet thing, really, isn't
it?' And she turned herself round, craning over her shoulder to look
at the effect, in a vain attempt to assume an objective attitude
towards her own back.
'I'm glad I'm going to Oxford at last, Harry,' she said, after a
short pause. 'I HAVE so longed to go all these years while you were
an undergraduate; and I'm dying to have got there, now the chance
has really come at last, after all. I shall glory in the place,
I'm certain; and it'll be so nice to make the acquaintance of all
your clever friends.'
'Well, Edie,' said her brother, smiling gently at the light, joyous,
tremulous little figure, 'I think I've done right in putting it
off till now. It's just as well you haven't gone up to Oxford till
after your trip on the Continent with me. That three months in
Paris, and Switzerland, and Venice, and Florence, did you a lot of
good, you see; improved you, and gave you tone, and supplied you
with things to talk about.'
'Why, you oughtn't to think I needed any improvement at all, sir,'
Edie answered, pouting; 'and as to talking, I'm not aware I had ever
any dearth of subjects for conversation even before I went on the
Continent. There are things enough to be said about heaven and earth
in England, surely, without one having to hurry through France and
Italy, like Cook's excursionists, just to hunt up something fresh
to chatter about. It's my belief that a person who can't find
anything new to say about the every-day world around her won't
discover much suggestive matter for conversation in a Continental
Bradshaw. It's like that feeble watery lady I met at the table
d'hote at Geneva. From something she said I gathered she'd been
in India, and I asked her how she liked it. "Oh," she said, "it's
very hot." I told her I had heard so before. Presently she said
something casually about having been in Brazil. I asked her what
sort of place Brazil was. "Oh." she said, "it's dreadfully hot."
I told her I'd heard that too. By-and-by she began to talk again
about Barbadoes. "What did you think of the West Indies?" I said.
"Oh," said she, "they're terribly hot, really." I told her I had
gathered as much from previous travellers. And that was positively
all in the end I ever got out of her, for all her travels.'
'My dear Edie, I've always admitted that you were simply perfect,'
Harry said, glancing at her with visible admiration, 'and I
don't think anything on earth could possibly improve you--except
perhaps a judicious course of differential and integral calculus,
which might possibly serve to tone down slightly your exuberant
and excessive vitality. Still, you know, from the point of view
of society, which is a force we have always to reckon with--a
constant, in fact, that we may call Pi--there can be no doubt in
the world that to have been on the Continent is a differentiating
factor in one's social position. It doesn't matter in the least
what your own private evaluation of Pi may be; if you don't happen
to know the particular things and places that Pi knows, Pi's evaluation
of you will be approximately a minimum, of that you may be certain.'
'Well, for my part, I don't care twopence about Pi as you call it,'
said Edie, tossing her pretty little head contemptuously; 'but
I'm very glad indeed to have been on the Continent for my own sake,
because of the pictures, and palaces, and mountains, and waterfalls
we've seen, and not because of Pi's opinion of me for having seen
them. I would have been the same person really whether I'd seen
them or not; but I'm so much the richer myself for that view from
the top of the Col de Balme, and for that Murillo--oh, do you
remember the flood of light on that Murillo?--in the far corner
of that delicious gallery at Bologna. Why, mother darling, what on
earth has been vexing you?'
'Nothing at all, Edie dear; leastways, that is, nothing to speak
of,' said her mother, coming up from the shop hot and flurried from
her desperate encounter with the redoubtable Miss Luttrell.
'Oh, I know just what it is, darling,' cried the girl, putting her
arm around her mother's waist caressingly, and drawing her down to
kiss her face half a dozen times over in her outburst of sympathy.
'That horrid old Miss Catherine has been here again, I'm sure, for
I saw her going out of the shop just now, and she's been saying
something or other spiteful, as she always does, to vex my dearie.
What did she say to you to-day, now do tell us, duckie mother?'
'Well, there,' said Mrs. Oswald, half laughing and half crying, 'I
can't tell 'ee exactly what she did say, but it was just the kind
of thing that she mostly does, impudent like, just to hurt a body's
feelings. She said you'd better not go to Oxford, Edie, but stop
at home and learn your catechism.'
'You might have pointed out to her, mother dear,' said the young
man, smoothing her hair softly with his hand, and kissing her
forehead, 'that in the most advanced intellectual centres the Church
catechism is perhaps no longer regarded as the absolute ultimatum
of the highest and deepest economical wisdom.'
'Bless your heart, Harry, what'd be the good of talking that way
to the likes of she? She wouldn't understand a single word of what
you were driving at. It must be all plain sailing with her, without
it's in the way of spite, and then she sees her chance to tack round
the hardest corner with half a wind in her sails only, as soon as
look at it. Her sharpness goes all off toward ill-nature, that it
do. Why, she said you'd got on at Oxford by good patronage!'
'There, you see, Edie,' cried Harry demonstratively, 'that's
an infinitesimal fraction of Pi; that's a minute decimal of this
great, sneering, ugly aggregate "society" that we have to deal with
whether we will or no, and that rends us and grinds us to powder
if only it can once get in the thin end of a chance. Take shaky
bitter old Miss Catherine for your unit, multiply her to the nth,
and there you see the irreducible power we have to fight against.
All one's political economy is very well in its way; but the
practical master of the situation is Pi, sitting autocratically in
many-headed judgment on our poor solitary little individualities,
and crushing us irretrievably with the dead weight of its inexorable
cumulative nothingness. And to think that that quivering old mass of
perambulating jealousy--that living incarnation of envy, hatred,
malice, and all uncharitableness--should be able to make you
uncomfortable for a single moment, mother darling, with her petty,
dribbling, doddering venom, why, it's simply unendurable.'
'There now, Harry,' said Mrs. Oswald, relenting, 'you mustn't be
too hard, neither, on poor old Miss Catherine. She's a bit soured,
you see, by disappointments and one thing and another. She doesn't
mean it, really, but it's just her nature. Folks can't be blamed
for their nature, now, can they?'
'It occurs to me,' said Harry quietly, 'that vipers only sting because
it's their nature; and Dr. Watts has made a similar observation
with regard to the growling and fighting of bears and lions. But
I'm not aware that anybody has yet proposed to get up a Society
for the protection of those much-misunderstood creatures, on the
ground that they are not really responsible for their own inherited
dispositions. Mr. William Sikes had a nature (no doubt congenital)
which impelled him to beat his wife--I'm not sure that she was
even his wife at all, now I come to think of it, but that's a mere
detail--and to kick his familiar acquaintances casually about the
head. We, on the other hand, have natures which impel us, when we
catch Mr. William Sikes indulging in these innate idiosyncrasies
by way of recreation, to clap him promptly into prison, and even,
under certain aggravating conditions, to cause him to be hanged
by the neck till he be dead. This may be a regrettable incident of
our own peculiar dispositions, mother dear, but it has at least
the same justification as Mr. Sikes's or the bears' and lions',
that 'tis our nature to. And I feel pretty much the same way about
old Miss Luttrell.'
'Well, there,' said his mother, kissing him gently, 'you're a bad
rebellious boy to be calling names, like a chatter-mag, and I won't
listen to you any longer. How pretty Edie do look in her new dress,
to be sure, Harry. I'll warr'nt there won't be a prettier girl
in Oxford next week than what she is; no, nor a better one and a
sweeter one neither.'
Harry put his arms round both their waists at once, with an
affectionate pressure; and they went down to their old-fashioned
tea together in the little parlour behind the shop, looking out over
the garden, and the beach, and the great cliffs beyond on either
hand, to the very farthest edge of the distant clear-cut blue
The Reverend Arthur Collingham Berkeley, curate of St. Fredegond's,
lounged lazily in his own neatly padded wickerwork easy-chair,
opposite the large lattice-paned windows of his pretty little
first-floor rooms in the front quad of Magdalen.
'There's a great deal to be said, Le Breton, in favour of October
term,' he observed, in his soft, musical voice, as he gazed pensively
across the central grass-plot to the crimson drapery of the Founder's
Tower. 'Just look at that magnificent Virginia creeper over there,
now; just look at the way the red on it melts imperceptibly into
Tyrian purple and cloth of gold! Isn't that in itself argument
enough to fling at Hartmann's head, if he ventured to come here
sprinkling about his heresies, with his affected little spray-shooter,
in the midst of a drowsy Oxford autumn? The Cardinal never saw
Virginia creeper, I suppose; a man of his taste wouldn't have been
guilty of committing such a gross practical anachronism as that,
any more than he would have smoked a cigarette before tobacco was
invented; but if only he could have seen the October effect on that
tower yonder, he'd have acknowledged that his own hat and robe were
positively nowhere in the running, for colour, wouldn't he?'
'Well,' answered Herbert, putting down the Venetian glass goblet
he had been examining closely with due care into its niche in the
over-mantel, 'I've no doubt Wolsey had too much historical sense
ever to step entirely out of his own century, like my brother Ernest,
for instance; but I've never heard his opinion on the subject of
colour-harmonies, and I should suspect it of having been distinctly
tinged with nascent symptoms of renaissance vulgarity. This is a
lovely bit of Venetian, really, Berkeley. How the dickens do you
manage to pick up all these pretty things, I wonder? Why can't I
afford them, now?'
'What a question for the endowed and established to put to a poor
starving devil of a curate like me!' said Berkeley lightly. 'You,
an incarnate sinecure and vested interest, a creature revelling in
an unearned income of fabulous Oriental magnificence--I dare say,
putting one thing with another, fully as much as five hundred a
year--to ask me, the unbeneficed and insignificant, with my wretched
pittance of eighty pounds per annum and my three pass-men a term
for classical mods, how I scrape together the few miserable, hoarded
ha'pence which I grudgingly invest in my pots and pipkins! I save
them from my dinner, Mr. Bursar--I save them. If the Church only
recognised modest merit as it ought to do!--if the bishops only
listened with due attention to the sound and scholarly exegesis of
my Sunday evening discourses at St. Fredegond's!--then, indeed, I
might be disposed to regard things through a more satisfied medium
--the medium of a nice, fat, juicy country living. But for you,
Le Breton--you, sir, a pluralist and a sanguisorb of the deepest
dye--to reproach me with my Franciscan poverty--oh, it's too
'I'm an abuse, I know,' Herbert answered, smiling and waving his
hand gracefully. 'I at once admit it. Abuses exist, unhappily; and
while they continue do so, isn't it better they should envisage
themselves as me than as some other and probably less deserving
'No, it's not, decidedly. I should much prefer that one of them
envisaged itself as me.'
'Ah, of course. From your own strictly subjective point of view
that's very natural. I also look at the question abstractly from
the side of the empirical ego, and correctly deduce a corresponding
conclusion. Only then, you see, the terms of the minor premiss are
'Well, my dear fellow,' said the curate, 'the fact about the
tea-things is this. You eat up your income, devour your substance
in riotous living; I prefer to feast my eyes and ears to my grosser
senses. You dine at high table, and fare sumptuously every day;
I take a commons of cold beef for lunch, and have tea off an egg
and roll in my own rooms at seven. You drink St. Emilion or still
hock; I drink water from the well or the cup that cheers but
not obfuscates. The difference goes to pay for the crockery. Do
likewise, and with your untold wealth you might play Aunt Sally at
Oriental blue, and take cock-shots with a boot-jack at hawthorn-pattern
'At any rate, Berkeley, you always manage to get your money's worth
of amusement out of your money.'
'Of course, because I lay myself out to do it. Buy a bottle of
champagne, drink it off, and there you have to show for your total
permanent investment on the transaction the memory of a noisy evening
and a headache the next morning. Buy a flute, or a book of poems,
or a little picture, or a Palissy platter, and you have something
to turn to with delight and admiration for half a lifetime.'
'Ah, but it isn't everybody who can isolate himself so utterly
from the workaday world and live so completely in his own little
paradise of art as you can, my dear fellow. Non omnia possumus
omnes. You seem to be always up in the aesthetic clouds, with your
own music automatically laid on, and no need of cherubim or seraphim
to chant continually for your gratification. Play me something of
your own on your flute now, like a good fellow.'
'No, I won't; because the spirit doesn't move me. It's treachery
to the divine gift to play when you don't want to. Besides, what's
the use of playing before YOU when you're not the dean of a musical
cathedral? David was wiser; he played only before Saul, who had
of course all the livings in his own gift, no doubt. I've got a
new thing running in my head this very minute that you shall hear
though, all the same, as soon as I've hammered it into shape--a
sort of villanette in music, a little whiff of country freshness,
suggested by the new ethereal acquisition, little Miss Butterfly.
Have you seen Miss Butterfly yet?'
'Not by that name, at any rate. Who is she?'
'Oh, the name's my own invention. Mademoiselle Volauvent, I
mean--the little bit of whirligig thistledown from Devonshire,
Oswald's sister, you know, of Oriel.'
'Ah, that one! Yes; just caught a glimpse of her in the High on
Thursday. Very pretty, certainly, and as airy as a humming-bird.'
'That's her! She's coming here to lunch this morning. If you're
a good boy, and will promise not to say anything naughty, you may
stop and meet her. She's a nice little thing, but rather timid at
seeing so many fresh faces. You mustn't frighten her by discussing
the Absolute and the Unconditioned, or bore her by talking about
Aristotle's Politics, or the revolutions in Corcyra. For you know,
my dear Le Breton, if you HAVE a fault, it is that you're such a
consummate and irrepressible prig; now aren't you really?'
'I'm hardly a fair judge on that subject, I suppose, Berkeley; but
if YOU have a rudimentary glimmering of a virtue, it is that you're
such a deliciously frank and yet considerate critic. I'll pocket
your rudeness though, and eat your lunch, in spite of it. Is Miss
Butterfly, as you call her, as stand-off as her brother?'
'Not at all. She's accueillante to the last degree.'
'Very restricted, I suppose--a country girl of the first water?
Horizon absolutely bounded by the high hedges of her native parish?'
'Oh dear no! Anything but that. She's like her brother, naturally
quick and adaptive.'
'Oswald's an excellent fellow in his way,' said Herbert, button-holing
his own waistcoat; 'but he's spoilt by two bad traits. In the first
place, he's so dreadfully conscious of the fact that he has risen
from a lower position; and then, again, he's so engrossingly and
pervadingly mathematical. X square seems to have seized upon him
bodily, and to have wormed its fatal way into his very marrow.'
'Ah, you must remember, he's true to his first love. Culture came
to him first, while yet he abode in Philistia, under the playful
disguise of a conic section. He scaled his way out of Gath by means
of a treatise on elementary trigonometry, and evaded Askelon on
the wings of an undulatory theory of light. It is different with
us, you know, who have emerged from the land of darkness by the
regular classical and literary highway. We feed upon Rabelais and
Burton; he flits carelessly from flower to flower of the theory of
Quantics. If he were an idealist painter, like Rossetti, he would
paint great allegorical pictures for us, representing an asymptotic
curve appearing to him in a dream, and introducing that blushing
maiden, Hyperbola, to his affectionate consideration.'
As Berkeley spoke, a rap sounded on the oak, and Ernest Le Breton
entered the room.
'What, you here, Herbert?' he said with a shade of displeasure in
his tone. 'Are you, too, of the bidden?'
'Berkeley has asked me to stop and lunch with him, if that's what
'We shall be quite a party,' said Ernest, seating himself, and looking
abstractedly round the room. 'Why, Berkeley,' as his eye fell upon
the Venetian vase, 'you've positively got some more gew-gaws here.
This one's new, isn't it? Eh!'
'Yes. I picked it up for a song, this long, at a stranded village
in the Apennines. Literally for a song, for it cost me just what
I got from Fradelli for that last little piece of mine. It's very
pretty, isn't it?'
'Very; exquisite, really; the blending of the tones is so perfect.
I wish I knew what to think about these things. I can't make up
my mind about them. Sometimes I think it's all right to make them
and buy them; sometimes I think it's all wrong.'
'Oh, if that's your difficulty,' said Berkeley, pulling his white
tie straight at the tiny round looking-glass, 'I can easily reassure
you. Do you think a hundred and eighty pounds a year an excessive
sum for one person to spend upon his own entire living?'
'It doesn't seem so, as expenses go amongst US,' said Ernest, seriously,
'though I dare say it would look like shocking extravagance to a
working man with a wife and family.'
'Very well, that's the very outside I ever spend upon myself in
any one year, for the excellent reason that it's all I ever get to
spend in any way. Now, why shouldn't I spend it on the things that
please me best and are joys for ever, instead of on the things that
disappear at once and perish in the using?'
'Ah, but that's not the whole question,' Ernest answered, looking
at the curate fixedly. 'What right have you and I to spend so much
when others are wanting for bread? And what right have you or I
to make other people work at producing these useless trinkets for
our sole selfish gratification?'
'Well now, Le Breton,' said the parson, assuming a more serious tone,
'you know you're a reasonable creature, so I don't mind discussing
this question with you. You've got an ethical foundation to
your nature, and you want to see things done on decent grounds of
distributive justice. There I am one with you. But you've also got
an aesthetic side to your nature, which makes you worth arguing
with upon the matter. I won't argue with your vulgar materialised
socialist, who would break up the frieze of the Parthenon for road
metal, or pull down Giotto's frescoes because they represent scenes
in the fabulous lives of saints and martyrs. You know what a work
of art is when you see it; and therefore you're worth arguing
with, which your vulgar Continental socialist really isn't. The
one cogent argument for him is the whiff of grape-shot.'
'I recognise,' said Ernest, 'that the works of art, of poetry, or
of music, which we possess are a grand inheritance from the past;
and I would do all I could to preserve them intact for those that
come after us.'
'I'm sure you would. No restoration or tinkering in you, I'm
certain. Well, then, would you give anything for a world which
hadn't got this aesthetic side to its corporate existence? Would
you give anything for a world which didn't care at all for painting,
sculpture, music, poetry? I wouldn't. I don't want such a world.
I won't countenance such a world. I'll do nothing to further or
advance such a world. It's utterly repugnant to me, and I banish
it, as Themistocles banished the Athenians.'
'But consider,' said Ernest, 'we live in a world where men and women
are actually starving. How can we reconcile to our consciences the
spending of one penny on one useless thing when others are dying
of sheer want, and cold, and nakedness? That's the great question
that's always oppressing my poor dissatisfied conscience.'
'So it does everybody's--except Herbert's: he explains it all on
biological grounds as the beautiful discriminative action of natural
selection. Simple, but not consolatory. Still, look at the other
side of the question. Suppose you and everybody else were to give
up all superfluities, and confine all your energies to the unlimited
production of bare necessaries. Suppose you occupy every acre
of land with your corn-fields, or your piggeries; and sweep away
all the parks, and woods, and heaths, and moorlands in England.
Suppose you keep on letting your population multiply as fast as it
chooses--and it WILL multiply, you know, in that ugly, reckless,
anti-Malthusian fashion of its own--till every rood of ground
maintains its man, and only just maintains him; and what will you
have got then?'
'A dead level of abject pauperism,' put in Herbert blandly; 'a
reductio ad absurdum of all your visionary Schurzian philosophy,
my dear Ernest. Look at it another way, now, and just consider.
Which really and truly matters most to you and me, a great work
of art or a highly respectable horny-handed son of toil, whose
acquaintance we have never had the pleasure of personally making?
Suppose you read in the Times that the respectable horny-handed
one has fallen off a scaffolding and broken his neck; and that the
Dresden Madonna has been burnt by an unexpected accident; which
of the two items of intelligence affects you the most acutely? My
dear fellow, you may push your humanitarian enthusiasm as far as
ever you like; but in your heart of hearts you know as well as I
do that you'll deeply regret the loss of the Madonna, and you'll
never think again about the fate of the respectable horny-handed,
his wife or children.'
Ernest's answer, if he had any to make, was effectually nipped in
the bud by the entrance of the scout, who came in to announce Mr.
and Miss Oswald and Mrs. Martindale. Edie wore the grey dress,
her brother's present, and flitted into the room after her joyous
fashion, full of her first fresh delight at the cloistered quad of
'What a delicious college, Mr. Berkeley!' she said, holding out
her hand to him brightly. 'Good-morning, Mr. Le Breton; this is
your brother, I know by the likeness. I thought New College very
beautiful, but nothing I've seen is quite as beautiful as Magdalen.
What a privilege to live always in such a place! And what an
exquisite view from your window here!'
'Yes,' said Berkeley, moving a few music-books from the seat in the
window-sill; 'come and sit by it, Miss Oswald. Mrs. Martindale,
won't you put your shawl down? How's the Professor to-day? So sorry
he couldn't come.'
'Ah, he had to go to sit on one of his Boards,' said the old lady,
seating herself. 'But you know I'm quite accustomed to going out
Arthur Berkeley knew as much; indeed, being a person of minute
strategical intellect, he had purposely looked out a day on which
the Professor had to attend a meeting of the delegates of something
or other, so as to secure Mrs. Martindale's services without the
supplementary drawback of that prodigious bore. Not that he was
particularly anxious for Mrs. Martindale's own society, which was
of the most strictly negative character; but he didn't wish Edie
to be the one lady in a party of four men, and he invited the
Professor's wife as an excellent neutral figure-head, to keep her
in countenance. Ladies were scarcer then in Oxford than they are
nowadays. The married fellow was still a tentative problematical
experiment in those years, and the invasion of the Parks by young
couples had hardly yet begun in earnest. So female society was
still at a considerable local premium, and Berkeley was glad enough
to secure even colourless old Mrs. Martindale to square his party
at any price.
'And how do you like Oxford, Miss Oswald?' asked Ernest, making
his way towards the window.
'My dear Le Breton, what a question to put to her!' said Berkeley,
smiling. 'As if Oxford were a place to be appraised offhand, on
three days' acquaintance. You remind me of the American who went
to look at Niagara, and made an approving note in his memorandum
book to say that he found it really a very elegant cataract.'
'Oh, but you MUST form some opinion of it at least, at first sight,'
cried Edie; 'you can't help having an impression of a place from
the first moment, even if you haven't a judgment on it, can you
now? I think it really surpasses my expectations, Mr. Le Breton,
which is always a pleasant surprise. Venice fell below them; Florence
just came up to them; but Oxford, I think, really surpasses them.'
'We have three beautiful towns in Britain,' Berkeley said. ('As if
he were a Welsh Triad,' suggested Herbert Le Breton, parenthetically.)
'Torquay, Oxford, Edinburgh. Torquay is all nature, spoilt by what
I won't call art; Oxford is all art, superimposed on a swamp that
I won't call nature; Edinburgh is both nature and art, working pretty
harmoniously together, to make up a unique and exquisite picture.'
'Just like Naples, Venice, and Heidelberg,' said Edie, half to
herself; but Berkeley caught at the words quickly as she said them.
'Yes,' he answered; 'a very good parallel, only Oxford has a trifle
more nature about it than Venice. The lagoon, without the palaces,
would be simply hideous; the Oseney flats, without the colleges,
would be nothing worse than merely dull.'
'We owe a great deal,' said Ernest, gazing out towards the quadrangle,
'to the forgotten mass of labouring humanity who piled all those
blocks of shapeless stone into beautiful forms for us who come after
to admire and worship. I often wonder, when I sit here in Berkeley's
window-seat, and look across the quad to the carved pinnacles on
the Founder's Tower there, whether any of us can ever hope to leave
behind to our successors any legacy at all comparable to the one
left us by those nameless old mediaeval masons. It's a very saddening
thought that we for whom all these beautiful things have been put
together--we whom labouring humanity has pampered and petted from
our cradles upward, feeding us on its whitest bread, and toiling
for us with all its weary sinews--that we probably will never do
anything at all for it and for the world in return, but will simply
eat our way through life aimlessly, and die forgotten in the end like
the beasts that perish. It ought to make us, as a class, terribly
ashamed of our own utter and abject inutility.'
Edie looked at him with a sort of hushed surprise; she was accustomed
to hear Harry talk radical talk enough after his own fashion, but
radicalism of this particular pensive tinge she was not accustomed
to. It interested her, and made her wonder what sort of man Mr. Le
Breton might really be.
'Well, you know, Mr. Le Breton,' said old Mrs. Martindale,
complacently, 'we must remember that Providence has wisely ordained
that we shouldn't all of us be masons or carpenters. Some of us are
clergymen, now, and look what a useful, valuable life a clergyman's
is, after all, isn't it, Mr. Berkeley?' Berkeley smiled a faint
smile of amusement, but said nothing. 'Others are squires and
landed gentry; and I'm sure the landed gentry are very desirable
in keeping up the tone of the country districts, and setting a
pattern of virtue and refinement to their poorer neighbours. What
would the country villages be, for example, if it weren't for the
centres of culture afforded by the rectory and the hall, eh, Miss
Oswald.' Edith thought of quavering old Miss Catherine Luttrell
gossiping with the rector's wife, and held her peace. 'You may depend
upon it Providence has ordained these distinctions of classes for
its own wise purposes, and we needn't trouble our heads at all
about trying to alter them.'
'I've always observed,' said Harry Oswald, 'that Providence is
supposed to have ordained the existing order for the time being,
whatever it may be, but not the order that is at that exact moment
endeavouring to supplant it. If I were to visit Central Africa,
I should confidently expect to be told by the rain-doctors that
Providence had ordained the absolute power of the chief, and the
custom of massacring his wives and slaves at his open grave side.
I believe in Russia it's usually allowed that Providence has placed
the orthodox Czar at the head of the nation, and that any attempt
to obtain a constitution from him is simply flat rebellion and
flying in the face of Providence. In England we had a King John
once, and we extracted a constitution out of him and sundry other
kings by main force; and here, it's acquiescence in the present
limited aristocratic government that makes up obedience to
the Providential arrangement of things apparently. But how about
America? eh, Mrs. Martindale? Did Providence ordain that George
Washington was to rebel against his most sacred majesty King George
III., or did it not? And did it ordain that George Washington was
to knock his most sacred majesty's troops into a cocked hat, or
did it not? And did it ordain that Abraham Lincoln was to free the
slaves, or did it not? What I want to know is this: can it be said
that Providence has ordained every class distinction in the whole
world, from Dahomey to San Francisco? And has it ordained every
Government, past and present, from the Chinese Empire to the French
Convention? Did it ordain, for example, the revolution of '89?
That's the question I should like to have answered.'
'Dear me, Mr. Oswald,' said the old lady meekly, taken aback by
Harry's voluble vehemence: 'I suppose Providence permits some things
and ordains others.'
'And does it permit American democracy or ordain it?' asked the
'Don't you see, Mrs. Martindale,' put in Berkeley, coming gently
to her rescue, 'your principle amounts in effect to saying that
whatever is, is right.'
'Exactly,' said the old lady, forgetting at once all about Dahomey
or the Convention, and coming back mentally to her squires and
rectors. 'The existing order is wisely arranged by Providence, and
we mustn't try to set ourselves up against it.'
'But if whatever is, is right,' Edie said, laughing, 'then Mr. Le
Breton's socialism must be right too, you see, because it exists
in him no doubt for some wise purpose of Providence; and if he and
those who think with him can succeed in changing things generally
according to their own pattern, then the new system that they
introduce will be the one that Providence has shown by the result
to be the favoured one.'
'In short,' said Ernest, musingly, 'Mrs. Martindale's principle
sanctifies success. It's the old theory of "treason never
prospers--what's the reason? Because whene'er it prospers 'tis not
treason." If we could only introduce a socialist republic, then it
would be the reactionaries who would be setting themselves up against
constituted authority, and so flying in the face of Providence.'
'Fancy lecturing a recalcitrant archbishop and a remonstrant
ci-devant duchess,' cried Berkeley, lightly, 'upon the moral guilt
and religious sinfulness of rebellion against the constituted
authority of a communist phalanstery. It would be simply charming.
I can imagine myself composing a dignified exhortation to deliver
to his grace, entirely compiled out of his own printed pastorals, on
the duty of submission and the danger of harbouring an insubordinate
spirit. Do make me chaplain-in-ordinary to your house of correction
for irreclaimable aristocrats, Le Breton, as soon as you once get
your coming socialist republic fairly under way.'
'Luncheon is on the table, sir,' said the scout, breaking in
unceremoniously upon their discussion.
If Arthur Berkeley lunched by himself upon a solitary commons of
cold beef, he certainly did not treat his friends and guests in
corresponding fashion. His little entertainment was of the daintiest
and airiest character, so airy that, as Edie herself observed
afterwards to Harry, it took away all the sense of meat and drink
altogether, and left one only a pleased consciousness of full
artistic gratification. Even Ernest, though he had his scruples
about the aspic jelly, might eat the famous Magdalen chicken cutlets,
his brother said, 'with a distinct feeling of exalted gratitude to
the arduous culinary evolution of collective humanity.'
'Consider,' said Herbert, balancing neatly a little pyramid of
whip cream and apricot jam upon his fork, 'consider what ages of
slow endeavour must have gone to the development of such a complex
mixture as this, Ernest, and thank your stars that you were born
in this nineteenth century of Soyer and Francatelli, instead of
being condemned to devour a Homeric feast with the unsophisticated
aid of your own five fingers.'
'But do tell me, Mr. Le Breton,' asked Edie, with one of her pretty
smiles, 'what will this socialist republic of yours be like when
it actually comes about? I'm dying to know all about it.'
'Really, Miss Oswald,' Ernest answered, in a half-embarrassed tone,
'I don't quite know how to reply to such a very wide and indefinite
question. I haven't got any cut-and-dried constitutional scheme of
my own for reorganising the whole system of society, any distinct
panacea to cure all the ills that collective flesh is heir to. I
leave the details of the future order to your brother Harry. The
thing that troubles me is not so much how to reform the world at
large as how to shape one's own individual course aright in the
actual midst of it. As a single unit of the whole, I want rather
guidance for my private conduct than a scheme for redressing the
universal dislocation of things in general. It seems to me, every
man's first duty is to see that he himself is in the right attitude
towards society, and afterwards he may proceed to enquire whether
society is in the right attitude towards him and all its other
members. But if we were all to begin by redressing ourselves,
there would be nothing left to redress, I imagine, when we turned
to attack the second half of our problem. The great difficulty I
myself experience is this, that _I_ can't discover any adequate
social justification for my own personal existence. But I really
oughtn't to bore other people with my private embarrassments upon
'You see,' said Herbert Le Breton, carelessly, 'my brother represents
the ethical element in the socialist movement, Miss Oswald, while
Harry represents the political element. Each is valuable in its
way; but Oswald's is the more practical. You can move great masses
into demanding their rights; you can't so easily move them into
cordially recognising their duties. Hammer, hammer, hammer at the
most obvious abuses; that's the way all the political victories
are finally won. If I were a radical at all, I should go with you,
Oswald. But happily I'm not one; I prefer the calm philosophic
attitude of perfectly objective neutrality.'
'And if I were a radical,' said Berkeley, with a tinge of sadness
in his voice as he poured himself out a glass of hock, 'I should
go with Le Breton. But unfortunately I'm not one, Miss Oswald, I'm
only a parson.'
A LITTLE MUSIC.
After lunch, Herbert Le Breton went off for his afternoon ride--a
grave social misdemeanour, Ernest thought it--and Arthur Berkeley
took Edie round to show her about the college and the shady gardens.
Ernest would have liked to walk with her himself, for there was
something in her that began to interest him somewhat; and besides,
she was so pretty, and so graceful, and so sympathetic: but he
felt he must not take her away from her host for the time being,
who had a sort of proprietary right in the pleasing duty of acting
as showman to her over his own college. So he dropped behind with
Harry Oswald and old Mrs. Martindale, and endeavoured to simulate
a polite interest in the old lady's scraps of conversation upon
the heads of houses, their wives and families.
'This is Addison's Walk, Miss Oswald,' said Berkeley, taking her
through the gate into the wooded path beside the Cherwell; 'so
called because the ingenious Mr. Addison is said to have specially
patronised it. As he was an undergraduate of this college, and a
singularly lazy person, it's very probable that he really did so;
every other undergraduate certainly does, for it's the nearest walk
an idle man can get without ever taking the trouble to go outside
the grounds of Magdalen.'
'The ingenious Mr. Addison was quite right then,' Edie answered,
smiling; 'for he couldn't have chosen a lovelier place on earth to
stroll in. How exquisite it looks just now, with the mellow light
falling down upon the path through this beautiful autumnal foliage!
It's just a natural cathedral aisle, with a lot of pale straw-coloured
glass in the painted windows, like that splendid one we went to
see the other day at Merton Chapel.'
'Yes, there are certainly tones in that window I never saw in any
other,' Berkeley said, 'and the walk to-day is very much the same
in its delicate colouring. You're fond of colour, I should think,
Miss Oswald, from what you say.'
'Oh, nobody could help being struck by the autumn colouring of the
Thames valley, I should fancy,' said Edie, blushing. 'We noticed
it all the way up as we came in the train from Reading, a perfect
glow of crimson and orange at Pangbourne, Goring, Mapledurham, and
Nuneham. I always thought the Dart in October the loveliest blaze
of warm reds and yellows I had ever seen anywhere in nature, but
the Thames valley beats it hollow, as Harry says. This walk to-day
is just one's ideal picture of Milton's Vallombrosa.'
'Ah, yes, I always look forward to the first days of October term,'
said Berkeley, slowly, 'as one of the greatest and purest treats
in the whole round workaday twelvemonth. When the creeper on the
Founder's Tower first begins to redden and crimson in the autumn,
I could sit all day long by my open window, and just look at that
glorious sight alone instead of having my dinner. But I'm very fond
of these walks in full summer time too. I often stop up alone all
through the long (being tied to my curacy here permanently, you
know), and then I have the run of the place entirely to myself.
Sometimes I take my flute out, and sit under the shade here and
compose some of my little pieces.'
'I can easily understand that they were composed here,' said Edie
quickly. 'They've caught exactly the flavour of the place--especially
your exquisite little Penseroso.'
'Ah, you know my music, then, Miss Oswald?'
'Oh yes, Harry always brings me home all your pieces whenever he
comes back at the end of term. I can play every one of them without
the notes. But the Penseroso is my special favourite.'
'It's mine, too. I'm so glad you like it. But I'm working away at
a little thing now which you shall hear as soon as I've finished
it; something lighter and daintier than anything else I've ever
attempted. I shall call it the Butterfly Canzonet.'
'Why don't you publish your music under your own name, Mr. Berkeley?'
'Oh, because it would never do. I'm a parson now, and I must
keep up the dignity of the cloth by fighting shy of any aesthetic
heterodoxies. It would be professional suicide for me to be suspected
of artistic leanings. All very well in an archdeacon, you know,
to cultivate his tastes for chants and anthems, but for a simple
curate!--and secular songs too!--why, it would be sheer contumacy.
His chances of a living would shrink at once to what your brother
would call a vanishing quantity.'
'Well, you can't imagine how much I admire your songs and airs,
Mr. Berkeley. I was so pleased when you invited us, to think I was
going to lunch with a real composer. There's no music I love so
much as yours.'
'I'm very glad to hear it, Miss Oswald, I assure you. But I'm only
a beginner and a trifler yet. Some day I mean to produce something
that will be worth listening to. Only, do you remember what some
French novelist once said?--"A poet's sweetest poem is always
the one he has never been able to compose." I often think that's
true of music, too. Away up in the higher stories of one's brain
somewhere, there's a tune floating about, or rather a whole oratorio
full of them, that one can never catch and fix upon ruled paper.
The idea's there, such a beautiful and vague idea, so familiar to
one, but so utterly unrealisable on any known instrument--a sort
of musical Ariel, flitting before one and tantalising one for
ever, but never allowing one to come up with it and see its real
features. I'm always dissatisfied with what I've actually written,
and longing to crystallise into a score the imaginary airs I can
never catch. Except in this last piece of mine; that's the only
thing I've ever done that thoroughly and completely pleases me.
Come and see me next week, and I'll play it over to you.'
They walked all round the meadows, and back again beside the arches
of the beautiful bridge, and then returned to Berkeley's rooms once
more for a cup of afternoon tea, and an air or two of Berkeley's
own composing. Edie enjoyed the walk and the talk immensely; she
enjoyed the music even more. In a way, it was all so new to her.
For though she had always seen much of Harry, and though Harry, who
was the kindest and proudest of brothers, had always instinctively
kept her up to his own level of thought and conversation, still,
she wasn't used to seeing so many intelligent and educated young
men together, and the novelty of their society was delightfully
exhilarating to her eager little mind. To a bright girl of nineteen,
wherever she may come from, the atmosphere of Oxford has a wonderfully
cheering and stimulating effect; to a country tradesman's daughter
from a tiny west-country village it is like a little paradise on
earth with a ceaseless round of intensely enjoyable breakfasts,
luncheons, dinners, and water-parties.
Ernest, for his part, was not so well pleased. He wanted to have a
little conversation with Oswald's sister; and he was compelled by
politeness to give her up in favour of Arthur Berkeley. However, he
made up for it when he returned, and monopolised the pretty little
visitor himself for almost the entire tea-hour.
As soon as they had gone, Arthur Berkeley sported his oak, and sat
down by himself in his comfortable crimson-covered basket chair.
'I won't let anybody come and disturb me this evening,' he said to
himself moodily. 'I won't let any of these noisy Magdalen men come
with their racket and riot to cut off the memory of that bright little
dream. No desecration after she has gone. Little Miss Butterfly!
What a pretty, airy, dainty, delicate little morsel it is! How she
flits, and sips, and natters about every possible subject, just
touching the tip of it so gracefully with her tiny white fingers,
and blushing so unfeignedly when she thinks she's paid you a
compliment, or you've paid her one. How she blushed when she said
she liked my music! How she blushed when I said she had a splendid
ear for minute discrimination! Somehow, if I were a falling-in-love
sort of fellow, I half fancy I could manage to fall in love with her
on the spot. Or rather, if I were a good analytical psychologist,
perhaps I ought more correctly to say I AM in love with her already.'
He sat down idly at the piano and played a few bars softly
to himself--a beautiful, airy sort of melody, as it shaped itself
vaguely in his head at the moment, with a little of the new wine of
first love running like a trill through the midst of its fast-flowing
quavers and dainty undulations. 'That will do,' he said to himself
approvingly. 'That will do very well; that's little Miss Butterfly.
Here she flits, flits, flits, flickers, sip, sip, sip, at her
honeyed flowers; twirl away, whirl away, off in the sunshine--there
you go, Miss Butterfly, eddying and circling with your painted
mate. Flirt, flirt, flirt, coquetting and curvetting, in your
pretty rhythmical aërial quadrille. Down again, down to the hare-bell
on the hill side; sip at it, sip at it, sip at it, sweet little
honey-drops, clear little honey-drops, bright little honey-drops;
oh, for a song to be set to the melody! Tra-la-la, tro-lo-lo, up
again, Butterfly. Little silk handkerchief, little lace neckerchief,
fluttering, fluttering! Feathery wings of her, bright little eyes
of her, flit, flit, flicker! Now, she blushes, blushes, blushes;
deep crimson; oh, what a colour! Paint it, painter! Now she speaks.
Oh, what laughter! Silvery, silvery, treble, treble, treble; trill
away, trill away, silvery treble. Musical, beautiful; beautiful,
musical; little Miss Butterfly--fly--fly--fly away!' And he brought
his fingers down upon the gamut at last, with a hasty, flickering
touch that seemed really as delicate as Edie's own.
'I can never get words for it in English,' he said again, half
speaking with his parted lips; 'it's too dactylic in rhythm for
English verse to go to it. Béranger might have written a lilt for
it, as far as mere syllables go, but Béranger to write about Miss
Butterfly!--pho, no Frenchman could possibly catch it. Swinburne
could fit the metres, I dare say, but he couldn't fit the feeling.
It shall be a song without words, unless I write some Italian lines
for it myself. Animula, blandula vagula--that's the sort of ring
for it, but Latin's mostly too heavy. Io, Hymen, Hymenae, Io; Io,
Hymen, Hymenae! What's that? A wedding song of Catullus--absit omen.
I must be in love with her indeed.' He got up from the piano, and
paced quickly and feverishly up and down the room.
'And yet,' he went on, 'if only I weren't bound down so by this
unprofitable trade of parson! A curate on eighty pounds a year,
and a few pupils! The presumptuousness of the man in venturing to
think of falling in love, as if he were actually one of the beneficed
clergy! What are deacons coming to, I wonder! And yet, hath not a
deacon eyes; hath not a deacon hands, organs, dimensions, senses,
affections, passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle
us, do we not laugh? And if you show us a little Miss Butterfly,
beautiful to the finger-ends, do we not fall in love with her at
least as unaffectedly as if we were canons residentiary or rural
deans? Fancy little Miss Butterfly a rural deaness! the notion's
too ridiculous. Fly away, little Miss Butterfly; fly away, sweet
little frolicsome, laughsome creature. I won't try to tie you down
to a man in a black clerical coat with a very distant hypothetical
reversionary prospect of a dull and dingy country parsonage. Flit
elsewhere, little Miss Butterfly, flit elsewhere, and find yourself
a gayer, gaudier-coloured mate!'
He sat down again, and strummed a few more bars of his half-composed,
half-extemporised melody. Then he leant back on the music-stool,
and said gently to himself once more: 'Still, if it were possible,
how happy I should try to make her! Bright little Miss Butterfly,
I would try never to let a cold cloud pass chillily over your
sunshiny head! I would live for you, and work for you, and write
songs for your sake, all full of you, you, you, and so all full of
life and grace and thrilling music. What's my life good for, to me
or to the world? "A clergyman's life is such a useful one," that
amiable old conventionality gurgled out this morning; what's the
good of mine, as it stands now, to its owner or to anybody else,
I should like to know, except the dear old Progenitor? A mere bit
of cracked blue china, a fanciful air from a comic opera, masquerading
in black and white as a piece of sacred music! What good am I to
anyone on earth but the Progenitor (God bless him!), and when he's
gone, dear old fellow, what on earth shall I have left to live
for. A selfish blank, that's all. But with HER, ah, how different!
With her to live for and to cherish, with an object to set before
oneself as worth one's consideration, what mightn't I do at last?
Make her happy--after all, that's the great thing. Make her fond
of my music, that music that floats and evades me now, but would
harden into scores as if by magic with her to help one to spell it
out--I know it would, at last, I know it would. Ah, well, perhaps
some day I may be able; perhaps some day the dream will realise
itself; till then, work, work, work; let me try to work towards
making it possible, a living or a livelihood, no matter which. But
not a breath of it to you meanwhile, Miss Butterfly; flit about
freely and joyously while you may; I would not spoil your untrammelled
flight for worlds by trying to tether it too soon around the fixed
centre of my own poor doubtful diaconal destinies.'
At the same moment while Arthur Berkeley was thus garrulously conversing
with his heated fancy, Harry and Edie Oswald were strolling lazily
down the High, to Edie's lodgings.
'Well, what do you think now of Berkeley and Le Breton, Edie?'
asked her brother. 'Which of them do you like the best?'
'I like them both immensely, Harry; I really can't choose between
them. When Mr. Berkeley plays, he almost makes me fall in love with
him; and when Mr. Le Breton talks, he almost makes me transfer my
affections to him instead... But Mr. Berkeley plays divinely... And
Mr. Le Breton talks beautifully... You know, I've never seen such
clever men before--except you, of course, Harry dear, for you're
cleverer and nicer than anybody. Oh, do let me look at those lovely
silks over there?' And she danced across the road before he could
answer her, like a tripping sylph in a painter's dreamland.
'Mr. Le Breton's very nice,' she went on, after she had duly examined
and classified the silks, 'but I don't exactly understand what it
is he's got on his conscience.'
'Nothing whatsoever, except the fact of his own existence,' Harry
answered with a laugh. 'He has conscientious scruples against the
existence of idle people in the community--do-nothings and eat-alls--and
therefore he has conscientious scruples against himself for not
immediately committing suicide. I believe, if he did exactly what
he thought was abstractly right, he'd go away and cut his own throat
incontinently for an unprofitable, unproductive, useless citizen.'
'Oh, dear, I hope he'll do nothing of the sort,' cried Edie hastily.
'I think I shall really ask him not to for my sake, if not for
'He'd be very much flattered indeed by your interposition on his
behalf, no doubt, Popsy; but I'm afraid it wouldn't produce much
effect upon his ultimate decision.'
'Tell me, Harry, is Mr. Berkeley High Church?'
'Oh dear no, I shouldn't say so. I don't suppose he ever gave the
subject a single moment's consideration.'
'But St. Fredegond's is very High Church, I'm told.'
'Ah, yes; but Berkeley's curate of St. Fredegond's, not in virtue
of his theology--I never heard he'd got any to speak of--but in
virtue of his musical talents. He went into the Church, I suppose,
on purely aesthetic grounds. He liked a musical service, and it
seemed natural to him to take part in one, just as it seemed natural
to a mediaeval Italian with artistic tendencies to paint Madonnas
and St. Sebastians. There's nothing more in his clerical coat than
that, I fancy, Edie. He probably never thought twice about it on
'Oh, but that's very wrong of him, Harry. I don't mean having
no particular theological beliefs, of course; one expects that
nowadays; but going into the Church without them.'
'Well, you see, Edie, you mustn't judge Berkeley in quite the same
way as you'd judge other people. In his mind, the aesthetic side
is always uppermost; the logical side is comparatively in abeyance.
Questions of creed, questions of philosophical belief, questions
of science don't interest him at all; he looks at all of them from
the point of view of the impression alone. What he sees in the
Church is not a body of dogmas, like the High Churchmen, nor a set
of opinions, like the Low Churchmen, but a close corporation of
educated and cultivated gentlemen, charged with the duty of caring
for a number of beautiful mediaeval architectural monuments,
and of carrying on a set of grand and impressive musical or oral
services. To him, a cathedral is a magnificent historical heritage;
a sermon is a sort of ingenious literary exercise; and a hymn is
a capital vehicle for very solemn emotional music. That's all; and