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The Island Pharisees, by John Galsworthy by John Galsworthy

Part 2 out of 5

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"Rather!" murmured Shelton.

"That's an awfully good bit where the President steals her diamonds
There's old Benjy! Hallo, Benjy!"

"Hallo, Bill, old man!"

This Benjy was a young, clean-shaven creature, whose face and voice
and manner were a perfect blend of steel and geniality.

In addition to this young man who was so smooth and hard and cheery,
a grey, short-bearded gentleman, with misanthropic eyes, called
Stroud, came up; together with another man of Shelton's age, with a
moustache and a bald patch the size of a crown-piece, who might be
seen in the club any night of the year when there was no racing out
of reach of London.

"You know," began young Dennant, "that this bounder"--he slapped the
young man Benjy on the knee--"is going to be spliced to-morrow. Miss
Casserol--you know the Casserols--Muncaster Gate."

"By Jove!" said Shelton, delighted to be able to say something they
would understand.

"Young Champion's the best man, and I 'm the second best. I tell you
what, old chap, you 'd better come with me and get your eye in; you
won't get such another chance of practice. Benjy 'll give you a
card."

"Delighted!" murmured Benjy.

"Where is it?"

"St. Briabas; two-thirty. Come and see how they do the trick. I'll
call for you at one; we'll have some lunch and go together"; again he
patted Benjy's knee.

Shelton nodded his assent; the piquant callousness of the affair had
made him shiver, and furtively he eyed the steely Benjy, whose
suavity had never wavered, and who appeared to take a greater
interest in some approaching race than in his coming marriage. But
Shelton knew from his own sensations that this could not really be
the case; it was merely a question of "good form," the conceit of a
superior breeding, the duty not to give oneself away. And when in
turn he marked the eyes of Stroud fixed on Benjy, under shaggy brows,
and the curious greedy glances of the racing man, he felt somehow
sorry for him.

"Who 's that fellow with the game leg--I'm always seeing him about?"
asked the racing man.

And Shelton saw a sallow man, conspicuous for a want of parting in
his hair and a certain restlessness of attitude.

"His name is Bayes," said Stroud; "spends half his time among the
Chinese--must have a grudge against them! And now he 's got his leg
he can't go there any more."

"Chinese? What does he do to them?"

"Bibles or guns. Don't ask me! An adventurer."

"Looks a bit of a bounder," said the racing man.

Shelton gazed at the twitching eyebrows of old Stroud; he saw at once
how it must annoy a man who had a billet in the "Woods and Forests,"
and plenty of time for "bridge" and gossip at his club, to see these
people with untidy lives. A minute later the man with the "game leg"
passed close behind his chair, and Shelton perceived at once how
intelligible the resentment of his fellow-members was. He had eyes
which, not uncommon in this country, looked like fires behind steel
bars; he seemed the very kind of man to do all sorts of things that
were "bad form," a man who might even go as far as chivalry. He
looked straight at Shelton, and his uncompromising glance gave an
impression of fierce loneliness; altogether, an improper person to
belong to such. a club. Shelton remembered the words of an old
friend of his father's: "Yes, Dick, all sorts of fellows belong here,
and they come here for all sorts o' reasons, and a lot of em come
because they've nowhere else to go, poor beggars"; and, glancing from
the man with the "game leg" to Stroud, it occurred to Shelton that
even he, old Stroud, might be one of these poor beggars. One never
knew! A look at Benjy, contained and cheery, restored him. Ah, the
lucky devil! He would not have to come here any more! and the
thought of the last evening he himself would be spending before long
flooded his mind with a sweetness that was almost pain.

"Benjy, I'll play you a hundred up!" said young Bill Dennant.

Stroud and the racing man went to watch the game; Shelton was left
once more to reverie.

"Good form!" thought he; "that fellow must be made of steel. They'll
go on somewhere; stick about half the night playing poker, or some
such foolery."

He crossed over to the window. Rain had begun to fall; the streets
looked wild and draughty. The cabmen were putting on their coats.
Two women scurried by, huddled under one umbrella, and a thin-
clothed, dogged-looking scarecrow lounged past with a surly,
desperate step. Shelton, returning to his chair, threaded his way
amongst his fellow-members. A procession of old school and college
friends came up before his eyes. After all, what had there been in
his own education, or theirs, to give them any other standard than
this "good form"? What had there been to teach them anything of
life? Their imbecility was incredible when you came to think of it.
They had all the air of knowing everything, and really they knew
nothing--nothing of Nature, Art, or the Emotions; nothing of the
bonds that bind all men together. Why, even such words were not
"good form"; nothing outside their little circle was "good form."
They had a fixed point of view over life because they came of certain
schools, and colleges, and regiments! And they were those in charge
of the state, of laws, and science, of the army, and religion. Well,
it was their system--the system not to start too young, to form
healthy fibre, and let the after-life develop it!

"Successful!" he thought, nearly stumbling over a pair of patent-
leather boots belonging to a moon-faced, genial-looking member with
gold nose-nippers; "oh, it 's successful!"

Somebody came and picked up from the table the very volume which had
originally inspired this train of thought, and Shelton could see his
solemn pleasure as he read. In the white of his eye there was a
torpid and composed abstraction. There was nothing in that book to
startle him or make him think.

The moon-faced member with the patent boots came up and began talking
of his recent visit to the south of France. He had a scandalous
anecdote or two to tell, and his broad face beamed behind his gold
nose-nippers; he was a large man with such a store of easy, worldly
humour that it was impossible not to appreciate his gossip, he gave
so perfect an impression of enjoying life, and doing himself well.
"Well, good-night!" he murmured--" An engagement!"--and the
certainty he left behind that his engagement must be charming and
illicit was pleasant to the soul.

And, slowly taking up his glass, Shelton drank; the sense of well-
being was upon him. His superiority to these his fellow-members
soothed him. He saw through all the sham of this club life, the
meanness of this worship of success, the sham of kid-gloved
novelists, "good form," and the terrific decency of our education.
It was soothing thus to see through things, soothing thus to be
superior; and from the soft recesses of his chair he puffed out smoke
and stretched his limbs toward the fire; and the fire burned back at
him with a discreet and venerable glow.

CHAPTER VIII

THE WEDDING

Puncutal to his word, Bill Dennant called for Shelton at one o'clock.

"I bet old Benjy's feeling a bit cheap," said he, as they got out of
their cab at the church door and passed between the crowded files of
unelect, whose eyes, so curious and pitiful, devoured them from the
pavement.

The ashen face of a woman, with a baby in her arms and two more by
her side, looked as eager as if she had never experienced the pangs
of ragged matrimony. Shelton went in inexplicably uneasy; the price
of his tie was their board and lodging for a week. He followed his
future brother-in-law to a pew on the bridegroom's side, for, with
intuitive perception of the sexes' endless warfare, each of the
opposing parties to this contract had its serried battalion, the
arrows of whose suspicion kept glancing across and across the central
aisle.

Bill Dennant's eyes began to twinkle.

"There's old Benjy!" he whispered; and Shelton looked at the hero of
the day. A subdued pallor was traceable under the weathered
uniformity of his shaven face; but the well-bred, artificial smile he
bent upon the guests had its wonted steely suavity. About his dress
and his neat figure was that studied ease which lifts men from the
ruck of common bridegrooms. There were no holes in his armour
through which the impertinent might pry.

"Good old Benjy!" whispered young Dennant; "I say, they look a bit
short of class, those Casserols."

Shelton, who was acquainted with this family, smiled. The sensuous
sanctity all round had begun to influence him. A perfume of flowers
and dresses fought with the natural odour of the church; the rustle
of whisperings and skirts struck through the native silence of the
aisles, and Shelton idly fixed his eyes on a lady in the pew in
front; without in the least desiring to make a speculation of this
sort, he wondered whether her face was as charming as the lines of
her back in their delicate, skin-tight setting of pearl grey; his
glance wandered to the chancel with its stacks of flowers, to the
grave, business faces of the presiding priests, till the organ began
rolling out the wedding march.

"They're off!" whispered young Dermant.

Shelton was conscious of a shiver running through the audience which
reminded him of a bullfight he had seen in Spain. The bride came
slowly up the aisle. "Antonia will look like that," he thought, "and
the church will be filled with people like this . . . . She'll be
a show to them!" The bride was opposite him now, and by an instinct
of common chivalry he turned away his eyes; it seemed to him a shame
to look at that downcast head above the silver mystery of her perfect
raiment; the modest head full, doubtless, of devotion and pure
yearnings; the stately head where no such thought as "How am I
looking, this day of all days, before all London?" had ever entered;
the proud head, which no such fear as "How am I carrying it off?"
could surely be besmirching.

He saw below the surface of this drama played before his eyes, and
set his face, as a man might who found himself assisting at a
sacrifice. The words fell, unrelenting, on his ears: "For better,
for worse, for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health--" and
opening the Prayer Book he found the Marriage Service, which he had
not looked at since he was a boy, and as he read he had some very
curious sensations.

All this would soon be happening to himself! He went on reading in a
kind of stupor, until aroused by his companion whispering, "No luck!"
All around there rose a rustling of skirts; he saw a tall figure
mount the pulpit and stand motionless. Massive and high-featured,
sunken of eye, he towered, in snowy cambric and a crimson stole,
above the blackness of his rostrum; it seemed he had been chosen for
his beauty. Shelton was still gazing at the stitching of his gloves,
when once again the organ played the Wedding March. All were
smiling, and a few were weeping, craning their heads towards the
bride. "Carnival of second-hand emotions!" thought Shelton; and he,
too, craned his head and brushed his hat. Then, smirking at his
friends, he made his way towards the door.

In the Casserols' house he found himself at last going round the
presents with the eldest Casserol surviving, a tall girl in pale
violet, who had been chief bridesmaid.

"Did n't it go off well, Mr. Shelton?" she was saying

"Oh, awfully!"

"I always think it's so awkward for the man waiting up there for the
bride to come."

"Yes," murmured Shelton.

"Don't you think it's smart, the bridesmaids having no hats?"

Shelton had not noticed this improvement, but he agreed.

"That was my idea; I think it 's very chic. They 've had fifteen
tea-sets-so dull, is n't it?"

"By Jove!" Shelton hastened to remark.

"Oh, its fearfully useful to have a lot of things you don't want; of
course, you change them for those you do."

The whole of London seemed to have disgorged its shops into this
room; he looked at Miss Casserol's face, and was greatly struck by
the shrewd acquisitiveness of her small eyes.

"Is that your future brother-in-law?" she asked, pointing to Bill
Dennant with a little movement of her chin; "I think he's such a
bright boy. I want you both to come to dinner, and help to keep
things jolly. It's so deadly after a wedding."

And Shelton said they would.

They adjourned to the hall now, to wait for the bride's departure.
Her face as she came down the stairs was impassive, gay, with a
furtive trouble in the eyes, and once more Shelton had the odd
sensation of having sinned against his manhood. Jammed close to him
was her old nurse, whose puffy, yellow face was pouting with emotion,
while tears rolled from her eyes. She was trying to say something,
but in the hubbub her farewell was lost. There was a scamper to the
carriage, a flurry of rice and flowers; the shoe was flung against
the sharply drawn-up window. Then Benjy's shaven face was seen a
moment, bland and steely; the footman folded his arms, and with a
solemn crunch the brougham wheels rolled away. "How splendidly it
went off!" said a voice on Shelton's right. "She looked a little
pale," said a voice on Shelton's left. He put his hand up to his
forehead; behind him the old nurse sniffed.

"Dick," said young Dennant in his ear, "this isn't good enough; I
vote we bolt."

Shelton assenting, they walked towards the Park; nor could he tell
whether the slight nausea he experienced was due to afternoon
champagne or to the ceremony that had gone so well.

"What's up with you?" asked Dennant; "you look as glum as any
m-monkey."

"Nothing," said Shelton; "I was only thinking what humbugs we all
are!"

Bill Dennant stopped in the middle of the crossing, and clapped his
future brother-in-law upon the shoulder.

"Oh," said he, "if you're going to talk shop, I 'm off."

CHAPTER IX

THE DINNER

The dinner at the Casserols' was given to those of the bride's
friends who had been conspicuous in the day's festivities. Shelton
found himself between Miss Casserol and a lady undressed to much the
same degree. Opposite sat a man with a single diamond stud, a white
waistcoat, black moustache, and hawk-like face. This was, in fact,
one of those interesting houses occupied by people of the upper
middle class who have imbibed a taste for smart society. Its
inhabitants, by nature acquisitive and cautious, economical,
tenacious, had learnt to worship the word "smart." The result was a
kind of heavy froth, an air of thoroughly domestic vice. In addition
to the conventionally fast, Shelton had met there one or two ladies,
who, having been divorced, or having yet to be, still maintained
their position in "society." Divorced ladies who did not so maintain
their place were never to be found, for the Casserols had a great
respect for marriage. He had also met there American ladies who were
"too amusing"--never, of course, American men, Mesopotamians of the
financial or the racing type, and several of those gentlemen who had
been, or were about to be, engaged in a transaction which might or
again might not, "come off," and in conduct of an order which might,
or again might not be spotted. The line he knew, was always drawn at
those in any category who were actually found out, for the value of
these ladies and these gentlemen was not their claim to pity--nothing
so sentimental--but their "smartness," clothes, jokes, racing tips,
their "bridge parties," and their motors.

In sum, the house was one whose fundamental domesticity attracted and
sheltered those who were too "smart" to keep their heads for long
above the water.

His host, a grey, clean-shaven city man, with a long upper lip, was
trying to understand a lady the audacity of whose speech came ringing
down the table. Shelton himself had given up the effort with his
neighbours, and made love to his dinner, which, surviving the
incoherence of the atmosphere, emerged as a work of art. It was with
surprise that he found Miss Casserol addressing him.

"I always say that the great thing is to be jolly. If you can't find
anything to make you laugh, pretend you do; it's so much 'smarter to
be amusin'. Now don't you agree?"

The philosophy seemed excellent.

"We can't all be geniuses, but we can all look jolly."

Shelton hastened to look jolly.

"I tell the governor, when he 's glum, that I shall put up the
shutters and leave him. What's the good of mopin' and lookin'
miserable? Are you going to the Four-in-Hand Meet? We're making a
party. Such fun; all the smart people!"

The splendour of her shoulders, her frizzy hair (clearly not two
hours out of the barber's hands), might have made him doubtful; but
the frank shrewdness in her eyes, and her carefully clipped tone of
voice, were guarantees that she was part of the element at the table
which was really quite respectable. He had never realised before how
"smart" she was, and with an effort abandoned himself to a sort of
gaiety that would have killed a Frenchman.

And when she left him, he reflected upon the expression of her eyes
when they rested on a lady opposite, who was a true bird-of-prey.
"What is it," their envious, inquisitive glance had seemed to say,
"that makes you so really 'smart'?" And while still seeking for the
reason, he noticed his host pointing out the merits of his port to
the hawk-like man, with a deferential air quite pitiful to see, for
the hawk-like man was clearly a "bad hat." What in the name of
goodness did these staid bourgeois mean by making up to vice? Was it
a craving to be thought distinguished, a dread of being dull, or
merely an effect of overfeeding? Again he looked at his host, who
had not yet enumerated all the virtues of his port, and again felt
sorry for him.

"So you're going to marry Antonia Dennant?" said a voice on his
right, with that easy coarseness which is a mark of caste. "Pretty
girl! They've a nice place, the, Dennants. D' ye know, you're a
lucky feller!"

The speaker was an old baronet, with small eyes, a dusky, ruddy face,
and peculiar hail-fellow-well-met expression, at once morose and sly.
He was always hard up, but being a man of enterprise knew all the
best people, as well as all the worst, so that he dined out every
night.

"You're a lucky feller," he repeated; "he's got some deuced good
shootin', Dennant! They come too high for me, though; never touched
a feather last time I shot there. She's a pretty girl. You 're a
lucky feller!"

"I know that," said Shelton humbly.

"Wish I were in your shoes. Who was that sittin' on the other side
of you? I'm so dashed short-sighted. Mrs. Carruther? Oh, ay!" An
expression which, if he had not been a baronet, would have been a
leer, came on his lips.

Shelton felt that he was referring to the leaf in his mental pocket-
book covered with the anecdotes, figures, and facts about that lady.
"The old ogre means," thought he, "that I'm lucky because his leaf is
blank about Antonia." But the old baronet had turned, with his
smile, and his sardonic, well-bred air, to listen to a bit of scandal
on the other side.

The two men to Shelton's left were talking.

"What! You don't collect anything? How's that? Everybody collects
something. I should be lost without my pictures."

"No, I don't collect anything. Given it up; I was too awfully had
over my Walkers."

Shelton had expected a more lofty reason; he applied himself to the
Madeira in his glass. That, had been "collected" by his host, and
its price was going up! You couldn't get it every day; worth two
guineas a bottle! How precious the idea that other people couldn't
get it, made it seem! Liquid delight; the price was going up! Soon
there would be none left; immense! Absolutely no one, then, could
drink it!

"Wish I had some of this," said the old baronet, "but I have drunk
all mine."

"Poor old chap!" thought Shelton; "after all, he's not a bad old
boy. I wish I had his pluck. His liver must be splendid."

The drawing-room was full of people playing a game concerned with
horses ridden by jockeys with the latest seat. And Shelton was
compelled to help in carrying on this sport till early in the
morning. At last he left, exhausted by his animation.

He thought of the wedding; he thought over his dinner and the wine
that he had drunk. His mood of satisfaction fizzled out. These
people were incapable of being real, even the smartest, even the most
respectable; they seemed to weigh their pleasures in the scales and
to get the most that could be gotten for their money.

Between the dark, safe houses stretching for miles and miles, his
thoughts were of Antonia; and as he reached his rooms he was
overtaken by the moment when the town is born again. The first new
air had stolen down; the sky was living, but not yet alight; the
trees were quivering faintly; no living creature stirred, and nothing
spoke except his heart. Suddenly the city seemed to breathe, and
Shelton saw that he was not alone; an unconsidered trifle with
inferior boots was asleep upon his doorstep.

CHAPTER X

AN ALIEN

The individual on the doorstep had fallen into slumber over his own
knees. No greater air of prosperity clung about him than is conveyed
by a rusty overcoat and wisps of cloth in place of socks. Shelton
endeavoured to pass unseen, but the sleeper woke.

"Ah, it's you, monsieur!" he said "I received your letter this
evening, and have lost no time." He looked down at himself and
tittered, as though to say, "But what a state I 'm in!"

The young foreigner's condition was indeed more desperate than on the
occasion of their first meeting, and Shelton invited him upstairs.

"You can well understand," stammered Ferrand, following his host,
"that I did n't want to miss you this time. When one is like this--"
and a spasm gripped his face.

"I 'm very glad you came," said Shelton doubtfully.

His visitor's face had a week's growth of reddish beard; the deep tan
of his cheeks gave him a robust appearance at variance with the fit
of, trembling which had seized on him as soon as he had entered.

"Sit down-sit down," said Shelton; "you 're feeling ill!"

Ferrand smiled. "It's nothing," said he; "bad nourishment."

Shelton left him seated on the edge of an armchair, and brought him
in some whisky.

"Clothes," said Ferrand, when he had drunk, "are what I want. These
are really not good enough."

The statement was correct, and Shelton, placing some garments in the
bath-room, invited his visitor to make himself at home. While the
latter, then, was doing this, Shelton enjoyed the luxuries of self-
denial, hunting up things he did not want, and laying them in two
portmanteaus. This done, he waited for his visitor's return.

The young foreigner at length emerged, unshaved indeed, and innocent
of boots, but having in other respects an air of gratifying
affluence.

"This is a little different," he said. "The boots, I fear"--and,
pulling down his, or rather Shelton's, socks he exhibited sores the
size of half a crown. "One does n't sow without reaping some harvest
or another. My stomach has shrunk," he added simply. "To see things
one must suffer. 'Voyager, c'est plus fort que moi'!"

Shelton failed to perceive that this was one way of disguising the
human animal's natural dislike of work--there was a touch of pathos,
a suggestion of God-knows-what-might-have-been, about this fellow.

"I have eaten my illusions," said the young foreigner, smoking a
cigarette. "When you've starved a few times, your eyes are opened.
'Savoir, c'est mon metier; mais remarquez ceci, monsieur': It 's not
always the intellectuals who succeed."

"When you get a job," said Shelton, "you throw it away, I suppose."

"You accuse me of restlessness? Shall I explain what I think about
that? I'm restless because of ambition; I want to reconquer an
independent position. I put all my soul into my trials, but as soon
as I see there's no future for me in that line, I give it up and go
elsewhere. 'Je ne veux pas etre rond de cuir,' breaking my back to
economise sixpence a day, and save enough after forty years to drag
out the remains of an exhausted existence. That's not in my
character." This ingenious paraphrase of the words "I soon get tired
of things" he pronounced with an air of letting Shelton into a
precious secret.

"Yes; it must be hard," agreed the latter.

Ferrand shrugged his shoulders.

"It's not all butter," he replied; "one is obliged to do things that
are not too delicate. There's nothing I pride myself on but
frankness."

Like a good chemist, however, he administered what Shelton could
stand in a judicious way. "Yes, yes," he seemed to say, "you'd like
me to think that you have a perfect knowledge of life: no morality,
no prejudices, no illusions; you'd like me to think that you feel
yourself on an equality with me, one human animal talking to another,
without any barriers of position, money, clothes, or the rest--'ca
c'est un peu trop fort'! You're as good an imitation as I 've come
across in your class, notwithstanding your unfortunate education, and
I 'm grateful to you, but to tell you everything, as it passes
through my mind would damage my prospects. You can hardly expect
that."

In one of Shelton's old frock-coats he was impressive, with his air
of natural, almost sensitive refinement. The room looked as if it
were accustomed to him, and more amazing still was the sense of
familiarity that he inspired, as, though he were a part of Shelton's
soul. It came as a shock to realise that this young foreign vagabond
had taken such a place within his thoughts. The pose of his limbs
and head, irregular but not ungraceful; his disillusioned lips; the
rings of smoke that issued from them--all signified rebellion, and
the overthrow of law and order. His thin, lopsided nose, the rapid
glances of his goggling, prominent eyes, were subtlety itself; he
stood for discontent with the accepted.

"How do I live when I am on the tramp?" he said. "well, there are
the consuls. The system is not delicate, but when it's a question of
starving, much is permissible; besides, these gentlemen were created
for the purpose. There's a coterie of German Jews in Paris living
entirely upon consuls." He hesitated for the fraction of a second,
and resumed: "Yes, monsieur; if you have papers that fit you, you can
try six or seven consuls in a single town. You must know a language
or two; but most of these gentlemen are not too well up in the
tongues of the country they represent. Obtaining money under false
pretences? Well, it is. But what's the difference at bottom between
all this honourable crowd of directors, fashionable physicians,
employers of labour, ferry-builders, military men, country priests,
and consuls themselves perhaps, who take money and give no value for
it, and poor devils who do the same at far greater risk? Necessity
makes the law. If those gentlemen were in my position, do you think
that they would hesitate?"

Shelton's face remaining doubtful, Ferrand went on instantly: "You're
right; they would, from fear, not principle. One must be hard
pressed before committing these indelicacies. Look deep enough, and
you will see what indelicate things are daily done by the respectable
for not half so good a reason as the want of meals."

Shelton also took a cigarette--his own income was derived from
property for which he gave no value in labour.

"I can give you an instance," said Ferrand, "of what can be done by
resolution. One day in a German town, 'etant dans la misere', I
decided to try the French consul. Well, as you know, I am a Fleming,
but something had to be screwed out somewhere. He refused to see me;
I sat down to wait. After about two hours a voice bellowed: 'Has n't
the brute gone?' and my consul appears. 'I 've nothing for fellows
like you,' says he; 'clear out!'

"'Monsieur,' I answered, 'I am skin and bone; I really must have
assistance.'

"'Clear out,' he says, 'or the police shall throw you out!'

"I don't budge. Another hour passes, and back he comes again.

"'Still here?' says he. 'Fetch a sergeant.'

"The sergeant comes.

"'Sergeant,' says the consul, 'turn this creature out.'

"'Sergeant,' I say, 'this house is France!' Naturally, I had
calculated upon that. In Germany they're not too fond of those who
undertake the business of the French.

"'He is right,' says the sergeant; 'I can do nothing.'

"'You refuse?'

"'Absolutely.' And he went away.

"'What do you think you'll get by staying?' says my consul.

"'I have nothing to eat or drink, and nowhere to sleep,' says I.

"'What will you go for?'

"'Ten marks.'

"'Here, then, get out!' I can tell you, monsieur, one must n't have a
thin skin if one wants to exploit consuls."

His yellow fingers slowly rolled the stump of his cigarette, his
ironical lips flickered. Shelton thought of his own ignorance of
life. He could not recollect ever having gone without a meal.

"I suppose," he said feebly, "you've often starved." For, having
always been so well fed, the idea of starvation was attractive.

Ferrand smiled.

"Four days is the longest," said he. "You won't believe that story.
. . . It was in Paris, and I had lost my money on the race-course.
There was some due from home which didn't come. Four days and nights
I lived on water. My clothes were excellent, and I had jewellery;
but I never even thought of pawning them. I suffered most from the
notion that people might guess my state. You don't recognise me
now?"

"How old were you then?" said Shelton.

"Seventeen; it's curious what one's like at that age."

By a flash of insight Shelton saw the well-dressed boy, with
sensitive, smooth face, always on the move about the streets of
Paris, for fear that people should observe the condition of his
stomach. The story was a valuable commentary. His thoughts were
brusquely interrupted; looking in Ferrand's face, he saw to his
dismay tears rolling down his cheeks.

"I 've suffered too much," he stammered; "what do I care now what
becomes of me?"

Shelton was disconcerted; he wished 'to say something sympathetic,'
but, being an Englishman, could only turn away his eyes.

"Your turn 's coming," he said at last.

"Ah! when you've lived my life," broke out his visitor, "nothing 's
any good. My heart's in rags. Find me anything worth keeping, in
this menagerie."

Moved though he was, Shelton wriggled in his chair, a prey to racial
instinct, to an ingrained over-tenderness, perhaps, of soul that
forbade him from exposing his emotions, and recoiled from the
revelation of other people's. He could stand it on the stage, he
could stand it in a book, but in real life he could not stand it.
When Ferrand had gone off with a portmanteau in each hand, he sat
down and told Antonia:

. . . The poor chap broke down and sat crying like a child; and
instead of making me feel sorry, it turned me into stone. The more
sympathetic I wanted to be, the gruffer I grew. Is it fear of
ridicule, independence, or consideration, for others that prevents
one from showing one's feelings?

He went on to tell her of Ferrand's starving four days sooner than
face a pawnbroker; and, reading the letter over before addressing it,
the faces of the three ladies round their snowy cloth arose before
him--Antonia's face, so fair and calm and wind-fresh; her mother's
face, a little creased by time and weather; the maiden aunt's
somewhat too thin-and they seemed to lean at him, alert and decorous,
and the words "That's rather nice!" rang in his ears. He went out to
post the letter, and buying a five-shilling order enclosed it to the
little barber, Carolan, as a reward for delivering his note to
Ferrand. He omitted to send his address with this donation, but
whether from delicacy or from caution he could not have said. Beyond
doubt, however, on receiving through Ferrand the following reply, he
felt ashamed and pleased

3, BLANK Row,
WESTMINSTER.

>From every well-born soul humanity is owing. A thousand thanks. I
received this morning your postal order; your heart henceforth for me
will be placed beyond all praise.

J. CAROLAN.

CHAPTER XI

THE VISION

A few days later he received a letter from Antonia which filled him
with excitement:

. . . Aunt Charlotte is ever so much better, so mother thinks we
can go home-hurrah! But she says that you and I must keep to our
arrangement not to see each other till July. There will be something
fine in being so near and having the strength to keep apart . . .
All the English are gone. I feel it so empty out here; these people
are so funny-all foreign and shallow. Oh, Dick! how splendid to
have an ideal to look up to! Write at once to Brewer's Hotel and
tell me you think the same . . . . We arrive at Charing Cross on
Sunday at half-past seven, stay at Brewer's for a couple of nights,
and go down on Tuesday to Holm Oaks.

Always your

ANTONIA.

"To-morrow!" he thought; "she's coming tomorrow!" and, leaving his
neglected breakfast, he started out to walk off his emotion. His
square ran into one of those slums that still rub shoulders with the
most distinguished situations, and in it he came upon a little crowd
assembled round a dogfight. One of the dogs was being mauled, but
the day was muddy, and Shelton, like any well-bred Englishman, had a
horror of making himself conspicuous even in a decent cause; he
looked for a policeman. One was standing by, to see fair play, and
Shelton made appeal to him. The official suggested that he should
not have brought out a fighting dog, and advised him to throw cold
water over them.

"It is n 't my dog," said Shelton.

"Then I should let 'em be," remarked the policeman with evident
surprise.

Shelton appealed indefinitely to the lower orders. The lower orders,
however, were afraid of being bitten.

"I would n't meddle with that there job if I was you," said one.

"Nasty breed o' dawg is that."

He was therefore obliged to cast away respectability, spoil his
trousers and his gloves, break his umbrella, drop his hat in the mud,
and separate the dogs. At the conclusion of the "job," the lower
orders said to him in a rather shamefaced spanner:

"Well, I never thought you'd have managed that, sir"; but, like all
men of inaction, Shelton after action was more dangerous.

"D----n it!" he said, "one can't let a dog be killed"; and he
marched off, towing the injured dog with his pocket-handkerchief, and
looking scornfully at harmless passers-by. Having satisfied for once
the smouldering fires within him, he felt entitled to hold a low
opinion of these men in the street. "The brutes," he thought, "won't
stir a finger to save a poor dumb creature, and as for policemen---"
But, growing cooler, he began to see that people weighted down by
"honest toil" could not afford to tear their trousers or get a bitten
hand, and that even the policeman, though he had looked so like a
demi-god, was absolutely made of flesh and blood. He took the dog
home, and, sending for a vet., had him sewn up.

He was already tortured by the doubt whether or no he might venture
to meet Antonia at the station, and, after sending his servant with
the dog to the address marked on its collar, he formed the resolve to
go and see his mother, with some vague notion that she might help him
to decide. She lived in Kensington, and, crossing the Brompton Road,
he was soon amongst that maze of houses into the fibre of whose
structure architects have wrought the motto: "Keep what you have--
wives, money, a good address, and all the blessings of a moral
state!"

Shelton pondered as he passed house after house of such intense
respectability that even dogs were known to bark at them. His blood
was still too hot; it is amazing what incidents will promote the
loftiest philosophy. He had been reading in his favourite review an
article eulogising the freedom and expansion which had made the upper
middle class so fine a body; and with eyes wandering from side to
side he nodded his head ironically. "Expansion and freedom," ran his
thoughts: "Freedom and expansion!"

Each house-front was cold and formal, the shell of an owner with from
three to five thousand pounds a year, and each one was armoured
against the opinion of its neighbours by a sort of daring regularity.
"Conscious of my rectitude; and by the strict observance of exactly
what is necessary and no more, I am enabled to hold my head up in the
world. The person who lives in me has only four thousand two hundred
and fifty-five pounds each year, after allowing for the income tax."
Such seemed the legend of these houses.

Shelton passed ladies in ones and twos and threes going out shopping,
or to classes of drawing, cooking, ambulance. Hardly any men were
seen, and they were mostly policemen; but a few disillusioned
children were being wheeled towards the Park by fresh-cheeked nurses,
accompanied by a great army of hairy or of hairless dogs.

There was something of her brother's large liberality about Mrs.
Shelton, a tiny lady with affectionate eyes, warm cheeks, and chilly
feet; fond as a cat of a chair by the fire, and full of the sympathy
that has no insight. She kissed her son at once with rapture, and,
as usual, began to talk of his engagement. For the first time a
tremor of doubt ran through her son; his mother's view of it grated
on him like the sight of a blue-pink dress; it was too rosy. Her
splendid optimism, damped him; it had too little traffic with the
reasoning powers.

"What right," he asked himself, "has she to be so certain? It seems
to me a kind of blasphemy."

"The dear!" she cooed. "And she is coming back to-morrow? Hurrah!
how I long to see her!"

"But you know, mother, we've agreed not to meet again until July."

Mrs. Shelton rocked her foot, and, holding her head on one side like
a little bird, looked at her son with shining eyes.

"Dear old Dick!" she said, "how happy you must be!"

Half a century of sympathy with weddings of all sorts--good, bad,
indifferent--beamed from her.

"I suppose," said Shelton gloomily, "I ought not to go and see her at
the station."

"Cheer up!" replied the mother, and her son felt dreadfully
depressed.

That "Cheer-up!"--the panacea which had carried her blind and bright
through every evil--was as void of meaning to him as wine without a
flavour.

"And how is your sciatica?" he asked.

"Oh, pretty bad," returned his mother; "I expect it's all right,
really. Cheer up!" She stretched her little figure, canting her
head still more.

"Wonderful woman!" Shelton thought. She had, in fact, like many of
her fellow-countrymen, mislaid the darker side of things, and,
enjoying the benefits of orthodoxy with an easy conscience, had kept
as young in heart as any girl of thirty.

Shelton left her house as doubtful whether he might meet Antonia as
when he entered it. He spent a restless afternoon.

The next day--that of her arrival--was a Sunday. He had made Ferrand
a promise to go with him to hear a sermon in the slums, and, catching
at any diversion which might allay excitement, he fulfilled it. The
preacher in question--an amateur, so Ferrand told him--had an
original method of distributing the funds that he obtained. To male
sheep he gave nothing, to ugly female sheep a very little, to pretty
female sheep the rest. Ferrand hazarded an inference, but he was a
foreigner. The Englishman preferred to look upon the preacher as
guided by a purely abstract love of beauty. His eloquence, at any
rate, was unquestionable, and Shelton came out feeling sick.

It was not yet seven o'clock, so, entering an Italian restaurant to
kill the half-hour before Antonia's arrival, he ordered a bottle of
wine for his companion, a cup of coffee for himself, and, lighting a
cigarette, compressed his lips. There was a strange, sweet sinking
in his heart. His companion, ignorant of this emotion, drank his
wine, crumbled his roll, and blew smoke through his nostrils,
glancing caustically at the rows of little tables, the cheap mirrors,
the hot, red velvet, the chandeliers. His juicy lips seemed to be
murmuring, "Ah! if you only knew of the dirt behind these feathers!"
Shelton watched him with disgust. Though his clothes were now so
nice, his nails were not quite clean, and his fingertips seemed
yellow to the bone. An anaemic waiter in a shirt some four days old,
with grease-spots on his garments and a crumpled napkin on his arm,
stood leaning an elbow amongst doubtful fruits, and reading an
Italian journal. Resting his tired feet in turn, he looked like
overwork personified, and when he moved, each limb accused the sordid
smartness of the walls. In the far corner sat a lady eating, and,
mirrored opposite, her feathered hat, her short, round face, its coat
of powder, and dark eyes, gave Shelton a shiver of disgust. His
companion's gaze rested long and subtly on her.

"Excuse me, monsieur," he said at length. "I think I know that
lady!" And, leaving his host, he crossed the room, bowed, accosted
her, and sat down. With Pharisaic delicacy, Shelton refrained from
looking. But presently Ferrand came back; the lady rose and left the
restaurant; she had been crying. The young foreigner was flushed,
his face contorted; he did not touch his wine.

"I was right," he said; "she is the wife of an old friend. I used to
know her well."

He was suffering from emotion, but someone less absorbed than Shelton
might have noticed a kind of relish in his voice, as though he were
savouring life's dishes, and glad to have something new, and spiced
with tragic sauce, to set before his patron.

"You can find her story by the hundred in your streets, but nothing
hinders these paragons of virtue"--he nodded at the stream of
carriages--"from turning up their eyes when they see ladies of her
sort pass. She came to London--just three years ago. After a year
one of her little boys took fever--the shop was avoided--her husband
caught it, and died. There she was, left with two children and
everything gone to pay the debts. She tried to get work; no one
helped her. There was no money to pay anyone to stay with the
children; all the work she could get in the house was not enough to
keep them alive. She's not a strong woman. Well, she put the
children out to nurse, and went to the streets. The first week was
frightful, but now she's used to it--one gets used to anything."

"Can nothing be done?" asked Shelton, startled.

"No," returned his companion. "I know that sort; if they once take
to it all's over. They get used to luxury. One does n't part with
luxury, after tasting destitution. She tells me she does very
nicely; the children are happy; she's able to pay well and see them
sometimes. She was a girl of good family, too, who loved her
husband, and gave up much for him. What would you have? Three
quarters of your virtuous ladies placed in her position would do the
same if they had the necessary looks."

It was evident that he felt the shock of this discovery, and Shelton
understood that personal acquaintance makes a difference, even in a
vagabond.

"This is her beat," said the young foreigner, as they passed the
illuminated crescent, where nightly the shadows of hypocrites and
women fall; and Shelton went from these comments on Christianity to
the station of Charing Cross. There, as he stood waiting in the
shadow, his heart was in his mouth; and it struck him as odd that he
should have come to this meeting fresh from a vagabond's society.

Presently, amongst the stream of travellers, he saw Antonia. She was
close to her mother, who was parleying with a footman; behind them
were a maid carrying a bandbox and a porter with the travelling-bags.
Antonia's figure, with its throat settled in the collar of her cape,
slender, tall, severe, looked impatient and remote amongst the
bustle. Her eyes, shadowed by the journey, glanced eagerly about,
welcoming all she saw; a wisp of hair was loose above her ear, her
cheeks glowed cold and rosy. She caught sight of Shelton, and
bending her neck, stag-like, stood looking at him; a brilliant smile
parted her lips, and Shelton trembled. Here was the embodiment of
all he had desired for weeks. He could not tell what was behind that
smile of hers--passionate aching or only some ideal, some chaste and
glacial intangibility. It seemed to be shining past him into the
gloomy station. There was no trembling and uncertainty, no rage of
possession in that brilliant smile; it had the gleam of fixedness,
like the smiling of a star. What did it matter? She was there,
beautiful as a young day, and smiling at him; and she was his, only
divided from him by a space of time. He took a step; her eyes fell
at once, her face regained aloofness; he saw her, encircled by
mother, footman, maid, and porter, take her seat and drive away.
It was over; she had seen him, she had smiled, but alongside his
delight lurked another feeling, and, by a bitter freak, not her face
came up before him but the face of that lady in the restaurant--
short, round, and powdered, with black-circled eyes. What right had
we to scorn them? Had they mothers, footmen, porters, maids? He
shivered, but this time with physical disgust; the powdered face with
dark-fringed eyes had vanished; the fair, remote figure of the
railway-station came back again.

He sat long over dinner, drinking, dreaming; he sat long after,
smoking, dreaming, and when at length he drove away, wine and dreams
fumed in his brain. The dance of lamps, the cream-cheese moon, the
rays of clean wet light on his horse's harness, the jingling of the
cab bell, the whirring wheels, the night air and the branches--it was
all so good! He threw back the hansom doors to feel the touch of the
warm breeze. The crowds on the pavement gave him strange delight;
they were like shadows, in some great illusion, happy shadows,
thronging, wheeling round the single figure of his world.

CHAPTER XII

ROTTEN ROW

With a headache and a sense of restlessness, hopeful and unhappy,
Shelton mounted his hack next morning for a gallop in the Park.

In the sky was mingled all the languor and the violence of the
spring. The trees and flowers wore an awakened look in the gleams of
light that came stealing down from behind the purple of the clouds.
The air was rain-washed, and the passers by seemed to wear an air of
tranquil carelessness, as if anxiety were paralysed by their
responsibility of the firmament.

Thronged by riders, the Row was all astir.

Near to Hyde Park Corner a figure by the rails caught Shelton's eye.
Straight and thin, one shoulder humped a little, as if its owner were
reflecting, clothed in a frock-coat and a brown felt hat pinched up
in lawless fashion, this figure was so detached from its surroundings
that it would have been noticeable anywhere. It belonged to Ferrand,
obviously waiting till it was time to breakfast with his patron.
Shelton found pleasure in thus observing him unseen, and sat quietly
on his horse, hidden behind a tree.

It was just at that spot where riders, unable to get further, are for
ever wheeling their horses for another turn; and there Ferrand, the
bird of passage, with his head a little to one side, watched them
cantering, trotting, wheeling up and down.

Three men walking along the rails were snatching off their hats
before a horsewoman at exactly the same angle and with precisely the
same air, as though in the modish performance of this ancient rite
they were satisfying some instinct very dear to them.

Shelton noted the curl of Ferrand's lip as he watched this sight.
"Many thanks, gentlemen," it seemed to say; "in that charming little
action you have shown me all your souls."

What a singular gift the fellow had of divesting things and people of
their garments, of tearing away their veil of shams, and their
phylacteries! Shelton turned and cantered on; his thoughts were with
Antonia, and he did not want the glamour stripped away.

He was glancing at the sky, that every moment threatened to discharge
a violent shower of rain, when suddenly he heard his name called from
behind, and who should ride up to him on either side but Bill Dennant
and--Antonia herself!

They had been galloping; and she was flushed--flushed as when she
stood on the old tower at Hyeres, but with a joyful radiance
different from the calm and conquering radiance of that other moment.
To Shelton's delight they fell into line with him, and all three went
galloping along the strip between the trees and rails. The look she
gave him seemed to say, "I don't care if it is forbidden!" but she
did not speak. He could not take his eyes off her. How lovely she
looked, with the resolute curve of her figure, the glimpse of gold
under her hat, the glorious colour in her cheeks, as if she had been
kissed.

"It 's so splendid to be at home! Let 's go faster, faster!" she
cried out.

"Take a pull. We shall get run in," grumbled her brother, with a
chuckle.

They reined in round the bend and jogged more soberly down on the far
side; still not a word from her to Shelton, and Shelton in his turn
spoke only to Bill Dennant. He was afraid to speak to her, for he
knew that her mind was dwelling on this chance forbidden meeting in a
way quite different from his own.

Approaching Hyde Park Corner, where Ferrand was still standing
against the rails, Shelton, who had forgotten his existence, suffered
a shock when his eyes fell suddenly on that impassive figure. He was
about to raise his hand, when he saw that the young foreigner, noting
his instinctive feeling, had at once adapted himself to it. They
passed again without a greeting, unless that swift inquisition;
followed by unconsciousness in Ferrand's eyes, could so be called.
But the feeling of idiotic happiness left Shelton; he grew irritated
at this silence. It tantalised him more and more, for Bill Dennant
had lagged behind to chatter to a friend; Shelton and Antonia were
alone, walking their horses, without a word, not even looking at each
other. At one moment he thought of galloping ahead and leaving her,
then of breaking the vow of muteness she seemed to be imposing on
him, and he kept thinking: "It ought to be either one thing or the
other. I can't stand this." Her calmness was getting on his nerves;
she seemed to have determined just how far she meant to go, to have
fixed cold-bloodedly a limit. In her happy young beauty and radiant
coolness she summed up that sane consistent something existing in
nine out of ten of the people Shelton knew. "I can't stand it long,"
he thought, and all of a sudden spoke; but as he did so she frowned
and cantered on. When he caught her she was smiling, lifting her
face to catch the raindrops which were falling fast. She gave him
just a nod, and waved her hand as a sign for him to go; and when he
would not, she frowned. He saw Bill Dennant, posting after them,
and, seized by a sense of the ridiculous, lifted his hat, and
galloped off.

The rain was coming down in torrents now, and every one was scurrying
for shelter. He looked back from the bend, and could still make out
Antonia riding leisurely, her face upturned, and revelling in the
shower. Why had n't she either cut him altogether or taken the
sweets the gods had sent? It seemed wicked to have wasted such a
chance, and, ploughing back to Hyde Park Corner, he turned his head
to see if by any chance she had relented.

His irritation was soon gone, but his longing stayed. Was ever
anything so beautiful as she had looked with her face turned to the
rain? She seemed to love the rain. It suited her--suited her ever
so much better than the sunshine of the South. Yes, she was very
English! Puzzling and fretting, he reached his rooms. Ferrand had
not arrived, in fact did not turn up that day. His non-appearance
afforded Shelton another proof of the delicacy that went hand in hand
with the young vagrant's cynicism. In the afternoon he received a
note.

. . . You see, Dick [he read], I ought to have cut you; but I felt
too crazy--everything seems so jolly at home, even this stuffy old
London. Of course, I wanted to talk to you badly--there are heaps of
things one can't say by letter--but I should have been sorry
afterwards. I told mother. She said I was quite right, but I don't
think she took it in. Don't you feel that the only thing that really
matters is to have an ideal, and to keep it so safe that you can
always look forward and feel that you have been--I can't exactly
express my meaning.

Shelton lit a cigarette and frowned. It seemed to him queer that she
should set more store by an "ideal" than by the fact that they had
met for the first and only time in many weeks.

"I suppose she 's right," he thoughts--"I suppose she 's right. I
ought not to have tried to speak to her!" As a matter of fact, he
did not at all feel that she was right.

CHAPTER XIII

AN "AT HOME"

On Tuesday morning he wandered off to Paddington, hoping for a chance
view of her on her way down to Holm Oaks; but the sense of the
ridiculous, on which he had been nurtured, was strong enough to keep
him from actually entering the station and lurking about until she
came. With a pang of disappointment he retraced his steps from Praed
Street to the Park, and once there tried no further to waylay her.
He paid a round of calls in the afternoon, mostly on her relations;
and, seeking out Aunt Charlotte, he dolorously related his encounter
in the Row. But she found it "rather nice," and on his pressing her
with his views, she murmured that it was "quite romantic, don't you
know."

"Still, it's very hard," said Shelton; and he went away disconsolate.

As he was dressing for dinner his eye fell on a card announcing the
"at home" of one of his own cousins. Her husband was a composer, and
he had a vague idea that he would find at the house of a composer
some quite unusually free kind of atmosphere. After dining at the
club, therefore, he set out for Chelsea. The party was held in a
large room on the ground-floor, which was already crowded with people
when Shelton entered. They stood or sat about in groups with smiles
fixed on their lips, and the light from balloon-like lamps fell in
patches on their heads and hands and shoulders. Someone had just
finished rendering on the piano a composition of his own. An expert
could at once have picked out from amongst the applauding company
those who were musicians by profession, for their eyes sparkled, and
a certain acidity pervaded their enthusiasm. This freemasonry of
professional intolerance flew from one to the other like a breath of
unanimity, and the faint shrugging of shoulders was as harmonious as
though one of the high windows had been opened suddenly, admitting a
draught of chill May air.

Shelton made his way up to his cousin--a fragile, grey-haired woman
in black velvet and Venetian lace, whose starry eyes beamed at him,
until her duties, after the custom of these social gatherings,
obliged her to break off conversation just as it began to interest
him. He was passed on to another lady who was already talking to two
gentlemen, and, their volubility being greater than his own, he fell
into the position of observer. Instead of the profound questions he
had somehow expected to hear raised, everybody seemed gossiping, or
searching the heart of such topics as where to go this summer, or how
to get new servants. Trifling with coffee-cups, they dissected their
fellow artists in the same way as his society friends of the other
night had dissected the fellow--"smart"; and the varnish on the
floor, the pictures, and the piano were reflected on all the faces
around. Shelton moved from group to group disconsolate.

A tall, imposing person stood under a Japanese print holding the palm
of one hand outspread; his unwieldy trunk and thin legs wobbled in
concert to his ingratiating voice.

"War," he was saying, "is not necessary. War is not necessary. I
hope I make myself clear. War is not necessary; it depends on
nationality, but nationality is not necessary." He inclined his head
to one side, "Why do we have nationality? Let us do away with
boundaries--let us have the warfare of commerce. If I see France
looking at Brighton"--he laid his head upon one side, and beamed at
Shelton,--"what do I do? Do I say 'Hands off'? No. 'Take it,'
I say--take it!'" He archly smiled. "But do you think they would?"

And the softness of his contours fascinated Shelton.

"The soldier," the person underneath the print resumed, "is
necessarily on a lower plane--intellectually--oh, intellectually--
than the philanthropist. His sufferings are less acute; he enjoys
the compensations of advertisement--you admit that?" he breathed
persuasively. "For instance--I am quite impersonal--I suffer; but do
I talk about it?" But, someone gazing at his well-filled waistcoat,
he put his thesis in another form: "I have one acre and one cow, my
brother has one acre and one cow: do I seek to take them away from
him?"

Shelton hazarded, "Perhaps you 're weaker than your brother."

"Come, come! Take the case of women: now, I consider our marriage
laws are barbarous."

For the first time Shelton conceived respect for them; he made a
comprehensive gesture, and edged himself into the conversation of
another group, for fear of having all his prejudices overturned.
Here an Irish sculptor, standing in a curve, was saying furiously,
"Bees are not bhumpkins, d---n their sowls! "A Scotch painter, who
listened with a curly smile, seemed trying to compromise this
proposition, which appeared to have relation to the middle classes;
and though agreeing with the Irishman, Shelton felt nervous over his
discharge of electricity. Next to them two American ladies,
assembled under the tent of hair belonging to a writer of songs, were
discussing the emotions aroused in them by Wagner's operas.

"They produce a strange condition of affairs in me," said the thinner
one.

"They 're just divine," said the fatter.

"I don't know if you can call the fleshly lusts divine," replied the
thinner, looking into the eyes of the writer of the songs.

Amidst all the hum of voices and the fumes of smoke, a sense of
formality was haunting Shelton. Sandwiched between a Dutchman and a
Prussian poet, he could understand neither of his neighbours; so,
assuming an intelligent expression, he fell to thinking that an
assemblage of free spirits is as much bound by the convention of
exchanging their ideas as commonplace people are by the convention of
having no ideas to traffic in. He could not help wondering whether,
in the bulk, they were not just as dependent on each other as the
inhabitants of Kensington; whether, like locomotives, they could run
at all without these opportunities for blowing off the steam, and
what would be left when the steam had all escaped. Somebody ceased
playing the violin, and close to him a group began discussing ethics.
Aspirations were in the air all round, like a lot of hungry ghosts.
He realised that, if tongue be given to them, the flavour vanishes
from ideas which haunt the soul.

Again the violinist played.

"Cock gracious!" said the Prussian poet, falling into English as the
fiddle ceased: "Colossal! 'Aber, wie er ist grossartig'!"

"Have you read that thing of Besom's?" asked shrill voice behind.

"Oh, my dear fellow! too horrid for words; he ought to be hanged!"

"The man's dreadful," pursued the voice, shriller than ever; "nothing
but a volcanic eruption would cure him."

Shelton turned in alarm to look at the authors of these statements.
They were two men of letters talking of a third.

"'C'est un grand naif, vous savez,'" said the second speaker.

"These fellows don't exist," resumed the first; his small eyes
gleamed with a green light, his whole face had a look as if he gnawed
himself. Though not a man of letters, Shelton could not help
recognising from those eyes what joy it was to say those words:
"These fellows don't exist!"

"Poor Besom! You know what Moulter said . . ."

Shelton turned away, as if he had been too close to one whose hair
smelt of cantharides; and, looking round the room, he frowned. With
the exception of his cousin, he seemed the only person there of
English blood. Americans, Mesopotamians, Irish, Italians, Germans,
Scotch, and Russians. He was not contemptuous of them for being
foreigners; it was simply that God and the climate had made him
different by a skin or so.

But at this point his conclusions were denied (as will sometimes
happen) by his introduction to an Englishman--a Major Somebody, who,
with smooth hair and blond moustache, neat eyes and neater clothes,
seemed a little anxious at his own presence there. Shelton took a
liking to him, partly from a fellow-feeling, and partly because of
the gentle smile with which he was looking at his wife. Almost
before he had said "How do you do?" he was plunged into a discussion
on imperialism.

"Admitting all that," said Shelton, "what I hate is the humbug with
which we pride ourselves on benefiting the whole world by our so-
called civilising methods."

The soldier turned his reasonable eyes.

"But is it humbug?"

Shelton saw his argument in peril. If we really thought it, was it
humbug? He replied, however:

"Why should we, a small portion of the world's population, assume
that our standards are the proper ones for every kind of race? If
it 's not humbug, it 's sheer stupidity."

The soldier, without taking his hands out of his pockets, but by a
forward movement of his face showing that he was both sincere and
just, re-replied:

"Well, it must be a good sort of stupidity; it makes us the nation
that we are."

Shelton felt dazed. The conversation buzzed around him; he heard the
smiling prophet saying, "Altruism, altruism," and in his voice a
something seemed to murmur, "Oh, I do so hope I make a good
impression!"

He looked at the soldier's clear-cut head with its well-opened eyes,
the tiny crow's-feet at their corners, the conventional moustache; he
envied the certainty of the convictions lying under that well-parted
hair.

"I would rather we were men first and then Englishmen," he muttered;
"I think it's all a sort of national illusion, and I can't stand
illusions."

"If you come to that," said the soldier, "the world lives by
illusions. I mean, if you look at history, you'll see that the
creation of illusions has always been her business, don't you know."

This Shelton was unable to deny.

"So," continued the soldier (who was evidently a highly cultivated
man), "if you admit that movement, labour, progress, and all that
have been properly given to building up these illusions, that--er--in
fact, they're what you might call--er--the outcome of the world's
crescendo," he rushed his voice over this phrase as if ashamed of it
--"why do you want to destroy them?"

Shelton thought a moment, then, squeezing his body with his folded
arms, replied:

"The past has made us what we are, of course, and cannot be
destroyed; but how about the future? It 's surely time to let in
air. Cathedrals are very fine, and everybody likes the smell of
incense; but when they 've been for centuries without ventilation you
know what the atmosphere gets like."

The soldier smiled.

"By your own admission," he said, "you'll only be creating a fresh
set of illusions."

"Yes," answered Shelton, "but at all events they'll be the honest
necessities of the present."

The pupils of the soldier's eyes contracted; he evidently felt the
conversation slipping into generalities; he answered:

"I can't see how thinking small beer of ourselves is going to do us
any good!"

An "At Home!"

Shelton felt in danger of being thought unpractical in giving vent to
the remark:

"One must trust one's reason; I never can persuade myself that I
believe in what I don't."

A minute later, with a cordial handshake, the soldier left, and
Shelton watched his courteous figure shepherding his wife away.

"Dick, may I introduce you to Mr. Wilfrid Curly?" said his cousin's
voice behind, and he found his hand being diffidently shaken by a
fresh-cheeked youth with a dome-like forehead, who was saying
nervously:

"How do you do? Yes, I am very well, thank you!"

He now remembered that when he had first come in he had watched this
youth, who had been standing in a corner indulging himself in private
smiles. He had an uncommon look, as though he were in love with
life--as though he regarded it as a creature to whom one could put
questions to the very end--interesting, humorous, earnest questions.
He looked diffident, and amiable, and independent, and he, too, was
evidently English.

"Are you good at argument?" said Shelton, at a loss for a remark.

The youth smiled, blushed, and, putting back his hair, replied:

"Yes--no--I don't know; I think my brain does n't work fast enough
for argument. You know how many motions of the brain-cells go to
each remark. It 's awfully interesting"; and, bending from the waist
in a mathematical position, he extended the palm of one hand, and
started to explain.

Shelton stared at the youth's hand, at his frowns and the taps he
gave his forehead while he found the expression of his meaning; he
was intensely interested. The youth broke off, looked at his watch,
and, blushing brightly, said:

"I 'm afraid I have to go; I have to be at the 'Den' before eleven."

"I must be off, too," said Shelton. Making their adieux together,
they sought their hats and coats.

CHAPTER XIV

THE NIGHT CLUB

"May I ask," said Shelton, as he and the youth came out into the
chilly street, "What it is you call the 'Den'?"

His companion smilingly answered:

"Oh, the night club. We take it in turns. Thursday is my night.
Would you like to come? You see a lot of types. It's only round the
corner."

Shelton digested a momentary doubt, and answered:

"Yes, immensely."

They reached the corner house in an angle of a, dismal street,
through the open door of which two men had just gone in. Following,
they ascended some wooden, fresh-washed stairs, and entered a large
boarded room smelling of sawdust, gas, stale coffee, and old clothes.
It was furnished with a bagatelle board, two or three wooden tables,
some wooden forms, and a wooden bookcase. Seated on these wooden
chairs, or standing up, were youths, and older men of the working
class, who seemed to Shelton to be peculiarly dejected. One was
reading, one against the wall was drinking coffee with a
disillusioned air, two were playing chess, and a group of four made a
ceaseless clatter with the bagatelle.

A little man in a dark suit, with a pale face, thin lips, and deep-
set, black-encircled eyes, who was obviously in charge, came up with
an anaemic smile.

"You 're rather late," he said to Curly, and, looking ascetically at
Shelton, asked, without waiting for an introduction: "Do you play
chess? There 's young Smith wants a game."

A youth with a wooden face, already seated before a fly-blown chess-
board, asked him drearily if he would have black or white. Shelton
took white; he was oppressed by the virtuous odour of this room.

The little man with the deep blue eyes came up, stood in an uneasy
attitude, and watched:

"Your play's improving, young Smith," he said; "I should think you'd
be able to give Banks a knight." His eyes rested on Shelton,
fanatical and dreary; his monotonous voice was suffering and nasal;
he was continually sucking in his lips, as though determined to
subdue 'the flesh. "You should come here often," he said to Shelton,
as the latter received checkmate; "you 'd get some good practice.
We've several very fair players. You're not as good as Jones or
Bartholomew," he added to Shelton's opponent, as though he felt it a
duty to put the latter in his place. "You ought to come here often,"
he repeated to Shelton; "we have a lot of very good young fellows";
and, with a touch of complacence, he glanced around the dismal room.
"There are not so many here tonight as usual. Where are Toombs and
Body?"

Shelton, too, looked anxiously around. He could not help feeling
sympathy with Toombs and Body.

"They 're getting slack, I'm afraid," said the little deep-eyed man.
"Our principle is to amuse everyone. Excuse me a minute; I see that
Carpenter is doing nothing." He crossed over to the man who had been
drinking coffee, but Shelton had barely time to glance at his
opponent and try to think of a remark, before the little man was
back. "Do you know anything about astronomy?" he asked of Shelton.
"We have several very interested in astronomy; if you could talk to
them a little it would help."

Shelton made a motion of alarm.

"Please-no," said he; "I---"

"I wish you'd come sometimes on Wednesdays; we have most interesting
talks, and a service afterwards. We're always anxious to get new
blood"; and his eyes searched Shelton's brown, rather tough-looking
face, as though trying to see how much blood there was in it. "Young
Curly says you 've just been around the world; you could describe
your travels."

"May I ask," said Shelton, "how your club is made up?"

Again a look of complacency, and blessed assuagement, visited the
little man.

"Oh," he said, "we take anybody, unless there 's anything against
them. The Day Society sees to that. Of course, we shouldn't take
anyone if they were to report against them. You ought to come to our
committee meetings; they're on Mondays at seven. The women's side,
too---"

"Thank you," said Shelton; "you 're very kind---"

"We should be pleased," said the little man; and his face seemed to
suffer more than ever. "They 're mostly young fellows here to-night,
but we have married men, too. Of course, we 're very careful about
that," he added hastily, as though he might have injured Shelton's
prejudices--"that, and drink, and anything criminal, you know."

"And do you give pecuniary assistance, too?"

"Oh yes," replied the little man; "if you were to come to our
committee meetings you would see for yourself. Everything is most
carefully gone into; we endeavour to sift the wheat from the chaff."

"I suppose," said Shelton, "you find a great deal of chaff?"

The little man smiled a suffering smile. The twang of his toneless
voice sounded a trifle shriller.

"I was obliged to refuse a man to-day--a man and a woman, quite young
people, with three small children. He was ill and out of work; but
on inquiry we found that they were not man and wife."

There was a slight pause; the little man's eyes were fastened on his
nails, and, with an appearance of enjoyment, he began to bite them.
Shelton's face had grown a trifle red.

"And what becomes of the woman and the children in a case like that?"
he said.

The little man's eyes began to smoulder.

"We make a point of not encouraging sin, of course. Excuse me a
minute; I see they've finished bagatelle."

He hurried off, and in a moment the clack of bagatelle began again.
He himself was playing with a cold and spurious energy, running after
the balls and exhorting the other players, upon whom a wooden
acquiescence seemed to fall.

Shelton crossed the room, and went up to young Curly. He was sitting
on a bench, smiling to himself his private smiles.

"Are you staying here much longer?" Shelton asked.

Young Curly rose with nervous haste.

"I 'm afraid," he said, "there 's nobody very interesting here to-
night."

"Oh, not at all!" said Shelton; "on the contrary. Only I 've had a
rather tiring day, and somehow I don't feel up to the standard here."

His new acquaintance smiled.

"Oh, really! do you think--that is--"

But he had not time to finish before the clack of bagatelle balls
ceased, and the voice of the little deep-eyed man was heard saying:
"Anybody who wants a book will put his name down. There will be the
usual prayer-meeting on Wednesday next. Will you all go quietly?
I am going to turn the lights out."

One gas-jet vanished, and the remaining jet flared suddenly. By its
harder glare the wooden room looked harder too, and disenchanting.
The figures of its occupants began filing through the door. The
little man was left in the centre of the room, his deep eyes
smouldering upon the backs of the retreating members, his thumb and
finger raised to the turncock of the metre.

"Do you know this part?" asked young Curly as they emerged into the
street. "It 's really jolly; one of the darkest bits in London--it
is really. If you care, I can take you through an awfully dangerous
place where the police never go." He seemed so anxious for the
honour that Shelton was loath to disappoint him. "I come here pretty
often," he went on, as they ascended a sort of alley rambling darkly
between a wall and row of houses.

"Why?" asked Shelton; "it does n't smell too nice."

The young man threw up his nose and sniffed, as if eager to add any
new scent that might be about to his knowledge of life.

"No, that's one of the reasons, you know," he said; "one must find
out. The darkness is jolly, too; anything might happen here. Last
week there was a murder; there 's always the chance of one."

Shelton stared; but the charge of morbidness would not lie against
this fresh-cheeked stripling.

"There's a splendid drain just here," his guide resumed; "the people
are dying like flies of typhoid in those three houses"; and under the
first light he turned his grave, cherubic face to indicate the
houses. "If we were in the East End, I could show you other places
quite as good. There's a coffee-stall keeper in one that knows all
the thieves in London; he 's a splendid type, but," he added, looking
a little anxiously at Shelton, "it might n't be safe for you. With
me it's different; they 're beginning to know me. I've nothing to
take, you see."

"I'm afraid it can't be to-night," said Shelton; "I must get back."

"Do you mind if I walk with you? It's so jolly now the stars are
out."

"Delighted," said Shelton; "do you often go to that club?"

His companion raised his hat, and ran his fingers through his hair.

"They 're rather too high-class for me," he said. "I like to go
where you can see people eat--school treats, or somewhere in the
country. It does one good to see them eat. They don't get enough,
you see, as a rule, to make bone; it's all used up for brain and
muscle. There are some places in the winter where they give them
bread and cocoa; I like to go to those."

"I went once," said Shelton, "but I felt ashamed for putting my nose
in."

"Oh, they don't mind; most of them are half-dead with cold, you know.
You see splendid types; lots of dipsomaniacs . . . . It 's useful
to me," he went on as they passed a police-station, "to walk about at
night; one can take so much more notice. I had a jolly night last
week in Hyde Park; a chance to study human nature there."

"And do you find it interesting?" asked Shelton.

His companion smiled.

"Awfully," he replied; "I saw a fellow pick three pockets."

" What did you do?"

"I had a jolly talk with him."

Shelton thought of the little deep-eyed man; who made a point of not
encouraging sin.

"He was one of the professionals from Notting Hill, you know; told me
his life. Never had a chance, of course. The most interesting part
was telling him I 'd seen him pick three pockets--like creeping into
a cave, when you can't tell what 's inside."

"Well?"

"He showed me what he 'd got--only fivepence halfpenny."

"And what became of your friend?" asked Shelton.

"Oh, went off; he had a splendidly low forehead."

They had reached Shelton's rooms.

"Will you come in," said the latter, "and have a drink?"

The youth smiled, blushed, and shook his head.

"No, thank you," he said; "I have to walk to Whitechapel. I 'm
living on porridge now; splendid stuff for making bone. I generally
live on porridge for a week at the end of every month. It 's the
best diet if you're hard up"; once more blushing and smiling, he was
gone.

Shelton went upstairs and sat down on his bed. He felt a little
miserable. Sitting there, slowly pulling out the ends of his white
tie, disconsolate, he had a vision of Antonia with her gaze fixed
wonderingly on him. And this wonder of hers came as a revelation--
just as that morning, when, looking from his window, he had seen a
passer-by stop suddenly and scratch his leg; and it had come upon him
in a flash that that man had thoughts and feelings of his own. He
would never know what Antonia really felt and thought. "Till I saw
her at the station, I did n't know how much I loved her or how little
I knew her"; and, sighing deeply, he hurried into bed.

CHAPTER XV

POLE TO POLE

The waiting in London for July to come was daily more unbearable to
Shelton, and if it had not been for Ferrand, who still came to
breakfast, he would have deserted the Metropolis. On June first the
latter presented himself rather later than was his custom, and
announced that, through a friend, he had heard of a position as
interpreter to an hotel at Folkestone.

"If I had money to face the first necessities, he said, swiftly
turning over a collection of smeared papers with his yellow fingers,
as if searching for his own identity, "I 'd leave today. This London
blackens my spirit."

"Are you certain to get this place," asked Shelton.

"I think so," the young foreigner replied; "I 've got some good
enough recommendations."

Shelton could not help a dubious glance at the papers in his hand. A
hurt look passed on to Ferrand's curly lips beneath his nascent red
moustache.

"You mean that to have false papers is as bad as theft. No, no; I
shall never be a thief--I 've had too many opportunities," said he,
with pride and bitterness. "That's not in my character. I never do
harm to anyone. This"--he touched the papers--"is not delicate, but
it does harm to no one. If you have no money you must have papers;
they stand between you and starvation. Society, has an excellent eye
for the helpless--it never treads on people unless they 're really
down." He looked at Shelton.

"You 've made me what I am, amongst you," he seemed to say; "now put
up with me!"

"But there are always the workhouses," Shelton remarked at last.

"Workhouses!" returned Ferrand; "certainly there are--regular
palaces: I will tell you one thing: I've never been in places so
discouraging as your workhouses; they take one's very heart out."

"I always understood," said Shelton coldly; "that our system was
better than that of other countries."

Ferrand leaned over in his chair, an elbow on his knee, his favourite
attitude when particularly certain of his point.

"Well," he replied, "it 's always permissible to think well of your own
country. But, frankly, I've come out of those places here with
little strength and no heart at all, and I can tell you why." His
lips lost their bitterness, and he became an artist expressing the
result of his experience. "You spend your money freely, you have
fine buildings, self-respecting officers, but you lack the spirit of
hospitality. The reason is plain; you have a horror of the needy.
You invite us--and when we come you treat us justly enough, but as if
we were numbers, criminals, beneath contempt--as if we had inflicted
a personal injury on you; and when we get out again, we are naturally
degraded."

Shelton bit his lips.

"How much money will you want for your ticket, and to make a start?"
he asked.

The nervous gesture escaping Ferrand at this juncture betrayed how
far the most independent thinkers are dependent when they have no
money in their pockets. He took the note that Shelton proffered him.

"A thousand thanks," said he; "I shall never forget what you have
done for me"; and Shelton could not help feeling that there was true
emotion behind his titter of farewell.

He stood at the window watching Ferrand start into the world again;
then looked back at his own comfortable room, with the number of
things that had accumulated somehow--the photographs of countless
friends, the old arm-chairs, the stock of coloured pipes. Into him
restlessness had passed with the farewell clasp of the foreigner's
damp hand. To wait about in London was unbearable.

He took his hat, and, heedless of direction, walked towards the
river. It was a clear, bright day, with a bleak wind driving showers
before it. During one of such Shelton found himself in Little Blank
Street. "I wonder how that little Frenchman that I saw is getting
on!" he thought. On a fine day he would probably have passed by on
the other side; he now entered and tapped upon the wicket.

No. 3 Little Blank Street had abated nothing of its stone-flagged
dreariness; the same blowsy woman answered his inquiry. Yes, Carolan
was always in; you could never catch him out--seemed afraid to go
into the street! To her call the little Frenchman made his
appearance as punctually as if he had been the rabbit of a conjurer.
His face was as yellow as a guinea.

"Ah! it's you, monsieur!" he said.

"Yes," said Shelton; "and how are you?"

"It 's five days since I came out of hospital," muttered the little
Frenchman, tapping on his chest; "a crisis of this bad atmosphere.
I live here, shut up in a box; it does me harm, being from the South.
If there's anything I can do for you, monsieur, it will give me
pleasure."

"Nothing," replied Shelton, "I was just passing, and thought I should
like to hear how you were getting on."

"Come into the kitchen,--monsieur, there is nobody in there. 'Brr!
Il fait un froid etonnant'!"

"What sort of customers have you just now?" asked Shelton, as they
passed into the kitchen.

"Always the same clientele," replied the little man; "not so
numerous, of course, it being summer."

"Could n't you find anything better than this to do?"

The barber's crow's-feet radiated irony.

"When I first came to London," said he, "I secured an engagement at
one of your public institutions. I thought my fortune made.
Imagine, monsieur, in that sacred place I was obliged to shave at the
rate of ten a penny! Here, it's true, they don't pay me half the
time; but when I'm paid, I 'm paid. In this, climate, and being
'poitrinaire', one doesn't make experiments. I shall finish my days
here. Have you seen that young man who interested you? There 's
another! He has spirit, as I had once--'il fait de la philosophie',
as I do--and you will see, monsieur, it will finish him. In this
world what you want is to have no spirit. Spirit ruins you."

Shelton looked sideways at the little man with his sardonic, yellow,
half-dead face, and the incongruity of the word "spirit" in his mouth
struck him so sharply that he smiled a smile with more pity in it
than any burst of tears.

"Shall we 'sit down?" he said, offering a cigarette.

"Merci, monsieur, it is always a pleasure to smoke a good cigarette.
You remember, that old actor who gave you a Jeremiad? Well, he's
dead. I was the only one at his bedside; 'un vrai drole'. He was
another who had spirit. And you will see, monsieur, that young man
in whom you take an interest, he'll die in a hospital, or in some.
hole or other, or even on the highroad; having closed his eyes once
too often some cold night; and all because he has something in him
which will not accept things as they are, believing always that they
should be better. 'Il n'y a riens de plus tragique'!"

"According to you, then," said Shelton--and the conversation seemed
to him of a sudden to have taken too personal a turn--"rebellion of
any sort is fatal."

"Ah!" replied the little man, with the eagerness of one whose ideal
it is to sit under the awning of a cafe and talk life upside down,
"you pose me a great problem there! If one makes rebellion; it is
always probable that one will do no good to any one and harm one's
self. The law of the majority arranges that. But I would draw your
attention to this"--and he paused; as if it were a real discovery to
blow smoke through his nose--"if you rebel it is in all likelihood
because you are forced by your nature to rebel; this is one of the
most certain things in life. In any case, it is necessary to avoid
falling between two stools--which is unpardonable," he ended with
complacence.

Shelton thought he had never seen a man who looked more completely as
if he had fallen between two stools, and he had inspiration enough to
feel that the little barber's intellectual rebellion and the action
logically required by it had no more than a bowing acquaintanceship.

"By nature," went on the little man, "I am an optimist; it is in
consequence of this that I now make pessimism. I have always had
ideals; seeing myself cut off from them for ever, I must complain; to
complain, monsieur, is very sweet!"

Shelton wondered what these ideals had been, but had no answer ready;
so he nodded, and again held out his cigarettes, for, like a true
Southerner, the little man had thrown the first away, half smoked.

"The greatest pleasure in life," continued the Frenchman, with a bow,
"is to talk a little to a being who is capable of understanding you.
At present we have no one here, now that that old actor's dead. Ah!
there was a man who was rebellion incarnate! He made rebellion as
other men make money, 'c'etait son metier'; when he was no longer
capable of active revolution, he made it getting drunk. At the last
this was his only way of protesting against Society. An interesting
personality, 'je le regrette beaucoup'. But, as you see, he died in
great distress, without a soul to wave him farewell, because as you
can well understand, monsieur, I don't count myself. He died drunk.
'C'etait un homme'!"

Shelton had continued staring kindly at the little man; the barber
added hastily:

"It's difficult to make an end like that one has moments of
weakness."

"Yes," assented Shelton, "one has indeed."

The little barber looked at him with cynical discretion.

"Oh!" he said, "it 's to the destitute that such things are
important. When one has money, all these matters---"

He shrugged his shoulders. A smile had lodged amongst his crow's-
feet; he waved his hand as though to end the subject.

A sense of having been exposed came over Shelton.

"You think, then," said he, "that discontent is peculiar to the
destitute?"

"Monsieur," replied the little barber, "a plutocrat knows too well
that if he mixes in that 'galere' there 's not a dog in the streets
more lost than he."

Shelton rose.

"The rain is over. I hope you 'll soon be better; perhaps you 'll
accept this in memory of that old actor," and he slipped a sovereign
into the little Frenchman's hand.

The latter bowed.

"Whenever you are passing, monsieur," he said eagerly, "I shall be
charmed to see you."

And Shelton walked away. "'Not a dog in the streets more lost,'"
thought he; "now what did he mean by that?"

Something of that "lost dog" feeling had gripped his spirit. Another
month of waiting would kill all the savour of anticipation, might
even kill his love. In the excitement of his senses and his nerves,
caused by this strain of waiting, everything seemed too vivid; all
was beyond life size; like Art--whose truths; too strong for daily
use, are thus, unpopular with healthy people. As will the, bones in
a worn face, the spirit underlying things had reached the surface;
the meanness and intolerable measure of hard facts, were too
apparent. Some craving for help, some instinct, drove him into
Kensington, for he found himself before his, mother's house.
Providence seemed bent on flinging him from pole to pole.

Mrs. Shelton was in town; and, though it was the first of June, sat
warming her feet before a fire; her face, with its pleasant colour,
was crow's-footed like the little barber's, but from optimism, not
rebellion. She, smiled when she saw her son; and the wrinkles round
her eyes twinkled, with vitality.

"Well, my dear boy," she said, "it's lovely to see you. And how is
that sweet girl?"

"Very well, thank you," replied Shelton.

"She must be such a dear!"

"Mother," stammered Shelton, "I must give it up."

"Give it up? My dear Dick, give what up? You look quite worried.
Come and sit down, and have a cosy chat. Cheer up!" And Mrs.
Shelton; with her head askew, gazed at her son quite irrepressibly.

Mother," said Shelton, who, confronted by her optimism, had never,
since his time of trial began, felt so wretchedly dejected, "I can't
go on waiting about like this."

"My dear boy, what is the matter?";

"Everything is wrong!

"Wrong?" cried Mrs. Shelton. "Come, tell me all, about it!"

But Shelton, shook his head.

"You surely have not had a quarrel----"

Mrs. Shelton stopped; the question seemed so vulgar--one might have
asked it of a groom.

"No," said Shelton, and his answer sounded like a groan.

"You know, my dear old Dick," murmured his mother, "it seems a little
mad."

"I know it seems mad."

"Come!" said Mrs. Shelton, taking his hand between her own; "you
never used to be like this."

"No," said Shelton, with a laugh; "I never used to be like this."

Mrs. Shelton snuggled in her Chuda shawl.

"Oh," she said, with cheery sympathy, "I know exactly how you feel!"

Shelton, holding his head, stared at the fire, which played and
bubbled like his mother's face.

"But you're so fond of each other," she began again. "Such a sweet
girl!"

"You don't understand," muttered Shelton gloomily; "it 's not her--
it's nothing--it's--myself!"

Mrs. Shelton again seized his hand, and this time pressed it to her
soft, warm cheek, that had lost the elasticity of youth.

"Oh!" she cried again; "I understand. I know exactly what you 're
feeling." But Shelton saw from the fixed beam in her eyes that she
had not an inkling. To do him justice, he was not so foolish as to
try to give her one. Mrs. Shelton sighed. "It would be so lovely if
you could wake up
to-morrow and think differently. If I were you, my dear, I would
have a good long walk, and then a Turkish bath; and then I would just
write to her, and tell her all about it, and you'll see how
beautifully it'll all come straight"; and in the enthusiasm of advice
Mrs. Shelton rose, and, with a faint stretch of her tiny figure,
still so young, clasped her hands together. "Now do, that 's a dear
old Dick! You 'll just see how lovely it'll be!" Shelton smiled; he
had not the heart to chase away this vision. "And give her my
warmest love, and tell her I 'm longing for the wedding. Come, now,
my dear boy, promise me that's what you 'll do."

And Shelton said: "I'll think about it."

Mrs. Shelton had taken up her stand with one foot on the fender, in
spite of her sciatica.

"Cheer up!" she cried; her eyes beamed as if intoxicated by her
sympathy.

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