This text is in the Public Domain.
Text prepared in May 1993 by
Mrs. Packletide's Tiger
The Stampeding of Lady Bastable
Hermann the Irascible
The Jesting of Arlington Stringham
The Easter Egg
The Music on the Hill
The Story of St. Vespaluus
The Way to the Dairy
The Peace Offering
The Peace of Mowsle Barton
The Talking-out of Tarrington
The Hounds of fate
A Matter of Sentiment
The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope
``Ministers of Grace''
The Remoulding of Groby Lington
``All hunting stories are the same,'' said Clovis; ``just
as all Turf stories are the same, and all---''
``My hunting story isn't a bit like any you've ever
heard,'' said the Baroness. ``It happened quite a while
ago, when I was about twenty-three. I wasn't living apart
from my husband then; you see, neither of us could afford to
make the other a separate allowance. In spite of everything
that proverbs may say, poverty keeps together more homes
than it breaks up. But we always hunted with different
packs. All this has nothing to do with the story.''
``We haven't arrived at the meet yet. I suppose there was
a meet,'' said Clovis.
``Of course there was a meet,'' said the Baroness; ``all
the usual crowd were there, especially Constance Broddle.
Constance is one of those strapping florid girls that go so
well with autumn scenery or Christmas decorations in church.
`I feel a presentiment that something dreadful is going to
happen,' she said to me; `am I looking pale?'
``She was looking about as pale as a beetroot that has
suddenly heard bad news.
`` `You're looking nicer than usual,' I said, `but that's
so easy for you.' Before she had got the right bearings of
this remark we had settled down to business; hounds had
found a fox lying out in some gorse-bushes.''
``I knew it,'' said Clovis; ``in every fox-hunting story
that I've ever heard there's been a fox and some
``Constance and I were well mounted,'' continued the
Baroness serenely, ``and we had no difficulty in keeping
ourselves in the first flight, though it was a fairly stiff
run. Towards the finish, however, we must have held rather
too independent a line, for we lost the hounds, and found
ourselves plodding aimlessly along miles away from anywhere.
It was fairly exasperating, and my temper was beginning to
let itself go by inches, when on pushing our way through an
accommodating hedge we were gladdened by the sight of hounds
in full cry in a hollow just beneath us.
`` `There they go,' cried Constance, and then added in a
gasp, 'In Heaven's name, what are they hunting?'
``It was certainly no mortal fox. It stood more than
twice as high, had a short, ugly head, and an enormous thick
`` `It's a hyna,' I cried; `it must have escaped from
Lord Pabham's Park.'
``At that moment the hunted beast turned and faced its
pursuers, and the hounds (there were only about six couple
of them) stood round in a half-circle and looked foolish.
Evidently they had broken away from the rest of the pack on
the trail of this alien scent, and were not quite sure how
to treat their quarry now they had got him.
``The hyna hailed our approach with unmistakable
relief and demonstrations of friendliness. It had probably
been accustomed to uniform kindness from humans, while its
first experience of a pack of hounds had left a bad
impression. The hounds looked more than ever embarrassed as
their quarry paraded its sudden intimacy with us, and the
faint toot of a horn in the distance was seized on as a
welcome signal for unobtrusive departure. Constance and I
and the hyna were left alone in the gathering twilight.
`` `What are we to do?' asked Constance.
`` `What a person you are for questions,' I said.
`` `Well, we can't stay here all night with a hyna,'
`` `I don't know what your ideas of comfort are,' I said;
`but I shouldn't think of staying here all night even
without a hyna. My home may be an unhappy one, but at
least it has hot and cold water laid on, and domestic
service, and other conveniences which we shouldn't find
here. We had better make for that ridge of trees to the
right; I imagine the Crowley road is just beyond.'
``We trotted off slowly along a faintly marked cart-track,
with the beast following cheerfully at our heels.
`` `What on earth are we to do with the hyna?' came
the inevitable question.
`` `What does one generally do with hynas?' I asked
`` `I've never had anything to do with one before,' said
`` `Well, neither have I. If we even knew its sex we might
give it a name. Perhaps we might call it Esm. That
would do in either case.
``There was still sufficient daylight for us to
distinguish wayside objects, and our listless spirits gave
an upward perk as we came upon a small half-naked gipsy brat
picking blackberries from a low-growing bush. The sudden
apparition of two horsewomen and a hyna set it off
crying, and in any case we should scarcely have gleaned any
useful geographical information from that source; but there
was a probability that we might strike a gipsy encampment
somewhere along our route. We rode on hopefully but
uneventfully for another mile or so.
`` `I wonder what the child was doing there,' said
`` `Picking blackberries. Obviously.'
`` `I don't like the way it cried,' pursued Constance;
`somehow its wail keeps ringing in my ears.'
``I did not chide Constance for her morbid fancies; as a
matter of fact the same sensation, of being pursued by a
persistent fretful wail, had been forcing itself on my
rather over-tired nerves. For company's sake I hulloed to
Esm, who had lagged somewhat behind. With a few springy
bounds he drew up level, and then shot past us.
``The wailing accompaniment was explained. The gipsy
child was firmly, and I expect painfully, held in his jaws.
`` `Merciful Heaven!' screamed Constance, `what on earth
shall we do? What are we to do?'
``I am perfectly certain that at the Last Judgment
Constance will ask more questions than any of the examining
`` `Can't we do something?' she persisted tearfully, as
Esm cantered easily along in front of our tired horses.
``Personally I was doing everything that occurred to me at
the moment. I stormed and scolded and coaxed in English and
French and gamekeeper language; I made absurd, ineffectual
cuts in the air with my thongless hunting-crop; I hurled my
sandwich case at the brute; in fact, I really don't know
what more I could have done. And still we lumbered on
through the deepening dusk, with that dark uncouth shape
lumbering ahead of us, and a drone of lugubrious music
floating in our ears. Suddenly Esm bounded aside into
some thick bushes, where we could not follow; the wail rose
to a shriek and then stopped altogether. This part of the
story I always hurry over, because it is really rather
horrible. When the beast joined us again, after an absence
of a few minutes, there was an air of patient understanding
about him, as though he knew that he had done something of
which we disapproved, but which he felt to be thoroughly
`` `How can you let that ravening beast trot by your
side?' asked Constance. She was looking more than ever like
an albino beetroot.
`` `In the first place, I can't prevent it,' I said; `and
in the second place, whatever else he may be, I doubt if
he's ravening at the present moment.'
``Constance shuddered. `Do you think the poor little
thing suffered much?' came another of her futile questions.
`` `The indications were all that way,' I said; `on the
other hand, of course, it may have been crying from sheer
temper. Children sometimes do.'
``It was nearly pitch-dark when we emerged suddenly into
the high road. A flash of lights and the whir of a motor
went past us at the same moment at uncomfortably close
quarters. A thud and a sharp screeching yell followed a
second later. The car drew up, and when I had ridden back
to the spot I found a young man bending over a dark
motionless mass lying by the roadside.
`` `You have killed my Esm,' I exclaimed bitterly.
`` `I'm so awfully sorry,' said the young man; `I keep
dogs myself, so I know what you must feel about it. I'll do
anything I can in reparation.'
`` `Please bury him at once,' I said; `that much I think I
may ask of you.
`` `Bring the spade, William,' he called to the chauffeur.
Evidently hasty roadside interments were contingencies that
had been provided against.
``The digging of a sufficiently large grave took some
little time. `I say, what a magnificent fellow,' said the
motorist as the corpse was rolled over into the trench.
`I'm afraid he must have been rather a valuable animal.'
`` `He took second in the puppy class at Birmingham last
year,' I said resolutely.
Constance snorted loudly.
`` `Don't cry, dear,' I said brokenly; `it was all over in
a moment. He couldn't have suffered much.'
`` `Look here,' said the young fellow desperately, `you
simply must let me do something by way of reparation.'
``I refused sweetly, but as he persisted I let him have my
``Of course, we kept our own counsel as to the earlier
episodes of the evening. Lord Pabham never advertised the
loss of his hyna; when a strictly fruit-eating animal
strayed from his park a year or two previously he was called
upon to give compensation in eleven cases of sheep-worrying
and practically to re-stock his neighbours' poultry-yards,
and an escaped hyna would have mounted up to something
on the scale of a Government grant. The gipsies were
equally unobtrusive over their missing offspring; I don't
suppose in large encampments they really know to a child or
two how many they've got.''
The Baroness paused reflectively, and then continued:
``There was a sequel to the adventure, though. I got
through the post a charming little diamond broach, with the
name Esm set in a sprig of rosemary. Incidentally, too,
I lost the friendship of Constance Broddle. You see, when I
sold the brooch I quite properly refused to give her any
share of the proceeds. I pointed out that the Esm part
of the affair was my own invention, and the hyna part of
it belonged to Lord Pabham, if it really was his hyna,
of which, of course, I've no proof.''
The grill-room clock struck eleven with the respectful
unobtrusiveness of one whose mission in life is to be
ignored. When the flight of time should really have
rendered abstinence and migration imperative the lighting
apparatus would signal the fact in the usual way.
Six minutes later Clovis approached the supper-table, in
the blessed expectancy of one who has dined sketchily and
``I'm starving,'' he announced, making an effort to sit
down gracefully and read the menu at the same time.
``So I gathered,'' said his host, ``from the fact that you
were nearly punctual. I ought to have told you that I'm a
Food Reformer. I've ordered two bowls of bread-and-milk and
some health biscuits. I hope you don't mind.''
Clovis pretended afterwards that he didn't go white above
the collar-line for the fraction of a second.
``All the same,'' he said, ``you ought not to joke about
such things. There really are such people. I've known
people who've met them. To think of all the adorable things
there are to eat in the world, and then to go through life
munching sawdust and being proud of it.''
``They're like the Flagellants of the Middle Ages, who
went about mortifying themselves.''
``They had some excuse,'' said Clovis. ``They did it to
save their immortal souls, didn't they? You needn't tell me
that a man who doesn't love oysters and asparagus and good
wines has got a soul, or a stomach either. He's simply got
the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.''
Clovis relapsed for a few golden moments into tender
intimacies with a succession of rapidly disappearing
``I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion,''
he resumed presently. ``They not only forgive our
unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on
being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at the
supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit
of the thing. There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism
that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an
oyster. Do you like my new waistcoat? I'm wearing it for
the first time tonight.''
``It looks like a great many others you've had lately,
only worse. New dinner waistcoats are becoming a habit with
``They say one always pays for the excesses of one's
youth; mercifully that isn't true about one's clothes. My
mother is thinking of getting married.''
``It's the first time.''
``Of course, you ought to know. I was under the
impression that she'd been married once or twice at least.''
``Three times, to be mathematically exact. I meant that
it was the first time she'd thought about getting married;
the other times she did it without thinking. As a matter of
fact, it's really I who am doing the thinking for her in
this case. You see, it's quite two years since her last
``You evidently think that brevity is the soul of
``Well, it struck me that she was getting moped, and
beginning to settle down, which wouldn't suit her a bit.
The first symptom that I noticed was when she began to
complain that we were living beyond our income. All decent
people live beyond their incomes nowadays, and those who
aren't respectable live beyond other people's. A few gifted
individuals manage to do both.''
``It's hardly so much a gift as an industry.''
``The crisis came,'' returned Clovis, ``when she suddenly
started the theory that late hours were bad for one, and
wanted me to be in by one o'clock every night. Imagine that
sort of thing for me, who was eighteen on my last
``On your last two birthdays, to be mathematically
``Oh, well, that's not my fault. I'm not going to arrive
at nineteen as long as my mother remains at thirty-seven.
One must have some regard for appearances.''
``Perhaps your mother would age a little in the process of
``That's the last thing she'd think of. Feminine
reformations always start in on the failings of other
people. That's why I was so keen on the husband idea.''
``Did you go as far as to select the gentleman, or did you
merely throw out a general idea, and trust to the force of
``If one wants a thing done in a hurry one must see to it
oneself. I found a military Johnny hanging round on a loose
end at the club, and took him home to lunch once or twice.
He'd spent most of his life on the Indian frontier, building
roads, and relieving famines and minimizing earthquakes, and
all that sort of thing that one does do on frontiers. He
could talk sense to a peevish cobra in fifteen native
languages, and probably knew what to do if you found a rogue
elephant on your croquet-lawn; but he was shy and diffident
with women. I told my mother privately that he was an
absolute woman-hater; so, of course, she laid herself out to
flirt all she knew, which isn't a little.''
``And was the gentleman responsive?''
``I hear he told some one at the club that he was looking
out for a Colonial job, with plenty of hard work, for a
young friend of his, so I gather that he has some idea of
marrying into the family.''
``You seem destined to be the victim of the reformation,
Clovis wiped the trace of Turkish coffee and the beginnings
of a smile from his lips, and slowly lowered his dexter
eyelid. Which, being interpreted, probably meant, ``I don't
It was a chill, rain-washed afternoon of a late August
day, that indefinite season when partridges are still in
security or cold storage, and there is nothing to
hunt---unless one is bounded on the north by the Bristol
Channel, in which case one may lawfully gallop after fat red
stags. Lady Blemley's house-party was not bounded on the
north by the Bristol Channel, hence there was a full
gathering of her guests round the tea-table on this
particular afternoon. And, in spite of the blankness of the
season and the triteness of the occasion, there was no trace
in the company of that fatigued restlessness which means a
dread of the pianola and a subdued hankering for auction
bridge. The undisguised open-mouthed attention of the
entire party was fixed on the homely negative personality of
Mr. Cornelius Appin. Of all her guests, he was the one who
had come to Lady Blemley with the vaguest reputation. Some
one had said he was ``clever,'' and he had got his
invitation in the moderate expectation, on the part of his
hostess, that some portion at least of his cleverness would
be contributed to the general entertainment. Until tea-time
that day she had been unable to discover in what direction,
if any, his cleverness lay. He was neither a wit nor a
croquet champion, a hypnotic force nor a begetter of amateur
theatricals. Neither did his exterior suggest the sort of
man in whom women are willing to pardon a generous measure
of mental deficiency. He had subsided into mere Mr. Appin,
and the Cornelius seemed a piece of transparent baptismal
bluff. And now he was claiming to have launched on the
world a discovery beside which the invention of gunpowder,
of the printing-press, and of steam locomotion were
inconsiderable trifles. Science had made bewildering
strides in many directions during recent decades, but this
thing seemed to belong to the domain of miracle rather than
to scientific achievement.
``And do you really ask us to believe,'' Sir Wilfrid was
saying, ``that you have discovered a means for instructing
animals in the art of human speech, and that dear old
Tobermory has proved your first successful pupil?''
``It is a problem at which I have worked for the last
seventeen years,'' said Mr. Appin, ``but only during the
last eight or nine months have I been rewarded with
glimmerings of success. Of course I have experimented with
thousands of animals, but latterly only with cats, those
wonderful creatures which have assimilated themselves so
marvellously with our civilization while retaining all their
highly developed feral instincts. Here and there among cats
one comes across an outstanding superior intellect, just as
one does among the ruck of human beings, and when I made the
acquaintance of Tobermory a week ago I saw at once that I
was in contact with a `Beyond-cat' of extraordinary
intelligence. I had gone far along the road to success in
recent experiments; with Tobermory, as you call him, I have
reached the goal.''
Mr. Appin concluded his remarkable statement in a voice
which he strove to divest of a triumphant inflection. No
one said ``Rats,'' though Clovis's lips moved in a
monosyllabic contortion which probably invoked those rodents
``And do you mean to say,'' asked Miss Resker, after a
slight pause, ``that you have taught Tobermory to say and
understand easy sentences of one syllable?''
``My dear Miss Resker,'' said the wonder-worker patiently,
``one teaches little children and savages and backward
adults in that piecemeal fashion; when one has once solved
the problem of making a beginning with an animal of highly
developed intelligence one has no need for those halting
methods. Tobermory can speak our language with perfect
This time Clovis very distinctly said, ``Beyond-rats!''
Sir Wilfrid was more polite, but equally sceptical.
``Hadn't we better have the cat in and judge for
ourselves?'' suggested Lady Blemley.
Sir Wilfrid went in search of the animal, and the company
settled themselves down to the languid expectation of
witnessing some more or less adroit drawing-room
In a minute Sir Wilfrid was back in the room, his face
white beneath its tan and his eyes dilated with excitement.
``By Gad, it's true!''
His agitation was unmistakably genuine, and his hearers
started forward in a thrill of awakened interest.
Collapsing into an armchair he continued breathlessly: ``I
found him dozing in the smoking-room and called out to him
to come for his tea. He blinked at me in his usual way, and
I said, `Come on, Toby; don't keep us waiting'; and, by Gad!
he drawled out in a most horribly natural voice that he'd
come when he dashed well pleased! I nearly jumped out of my
Appin had preached to absolutely incredulous hearers; Sir
Wilfred's statement carried instant conviction. A
Babel-like chorus of startled exclamation arose, amid which
the scientist sat mutely enjoying the first fruit of his
In the midst of the clamour Tobermory entered the room and
made his way with velvet tread and studied unconcern across
to the group seated round the tea-table.
A sudden hush of awkwardness and constraint fell on the
company. Somehow there seemed an element of embarrassment
in addressing on equal terms a domestic cat of acknowledged
``Will you have some milk, Tobermory?'' asked Lady Blemley
in a rather strained voice.
``I don't mind if I do,'' was the response, couched in a
tone of even indifference. A shiver of suppressed
excitement went through the listeners, and Lady Blemley
might be excused for pouring out the saucerful of milk
``I'm afraid I've spilt a good deal of it,'' she said
``After all, it's not my Axminster,'' was Tobermory's
Another silence fell on the group, and then Miss Resker,
in her best district-visitor manner, asked if the human
language had been difficult to learn. Tobermory looked
squarely at her for a moment and then fixed his gaze
serenely on the middle distance. It was obvious that boring
questions lay outside his scheme of life.
``What do you think of human intelligence?'' asked Mavis
``Of whose intelligence in particular?'' asked Tobermory
``Oh, well, mine for instance,'' said Mavis, with a feeble
``You put me in an embarrassing position,'' said
Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest
a shred of embarrassment. ``When your inclusion in this
house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you
were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that
there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the
care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your
lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned
you your invitation, as you were the only person she could
think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car.
You know, the one they call `The Envy of Sisyphus,' because
it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it.''
Lady Blemley's protestations would have had greater effect
if she had not casually suggested to Mavis only that morning
that the car in question would be just the thing for her
down at her Devonshire home.
Major Barfield plunged in heavily to effect a diversion.
``How about your carryings-on with the tortoise-shell puss
up at the stables, eh?''
The moment he had said it every one realized the blunder.
``One does not usually discuss these matters in public,''
said Tobermory frigidly. ``From a slight observation of
your ways since you've been in this house I should imagine
you'd find it inconvenient if I were to shift the
conversation on to your own little affairs.''
The panic which ensued was not confined to the Major.
``Would you like to go and see if cook has got your dinner
ready?'' suggested Lady Blemley hurriedly, affecting to
ignore the fact that it wanted at least two hours to
``Thanks,'' said Tobermory, ``not quite so soon after my
tea. I don't want to die of indigestion.''
``Cats have nine lives, you know,'' said Sir Wilfrid
``Possibly'', answered Tobermory; ``but only one liver.''
``Adelaide!'' said Mrs. Cornett, ``do you mean to
encourage that cat to go out and gossip about us in the
The panic had indeed become general. A narrow ornamental
balustrade ran in front of most of the bedroom windows at
the Towers, and it was recalled with dismay that this had
formed a favourite promenade for Tobermory at all hours,
whence he could watch the pigeons---and heaven knew what
else besides. If he intended to become reminiscent in his
present outspoken strain the effect would be something more
than disconcerting. Mrs. Cornett, who spent much time at
her toilet table, and whose complexion was reputed to be of
a nomadic though punctual disposition, looked as ill at ease
as the Major. Miss Scrawen, who wrote fiercely sensuous
poetry and led a blameless life, merely displayed
irritation; if you are methodical and virtuous in private
you don't necessarily want every one to know it. Bertie van
Tahn, who was so depraved at seventeen that he had long ago
given up trying to be any worse, turned a dull shade of
gardenia white, but he did not commit the error of dashing
out of the room like Odo Finsberry, a young gentleman who
was understood to be reading for the Church and who was
possibly disturbed at the thought of scandals he might hear
concerning other people. Clovis had the presence of mind to
maintain a composed exterior; privately he was calculating
how long it would take to procure a box of fancy mice
through the agency of the Exchange and Mart as a species of
Even in a delicate situation like the present, Agnes
Resker could not endure to remain too long in the
``Why did I ever come down here?'' she asked dramatically.
Tobermory immediately accepted the opening.
``Judging by what you said to Mrs. Cornett on the
croquet-lawn yesterday, you were out for food. You
described the Blemleys as the dullest people to stay with
that you knew, but said they were clever enough to employ a
first-rate cook; otherwise they'd find it difficult to get
any one to come down a second time.''
``There's not a word of truth in it! I appeal to Mrs.
Cornett---'' exclaimed the discomfited Agnes.
``Mrs. Cornett repeated your remark afterwards to Bertie
van Tahn,'' continued Tobermory, ``and said, `That woman is
a regular Hunger Marcher; she'd go anywhere for four square
meals a day,' and Bertie van Tahn said---''
At this point the chronicle mercifully ceased. Tobermory
had caught a glimpse of the big yellow Tom from the Rectory
working his way through the shrubbery towards the stable
wing. In a flash he had vanished through the open French
With the disappearance of his too brilliant pupil
Cornelius Appin found himself beset by a hurricane of bitter
upbraiding, anxious inquiry, and frightened entreaty. The
responsibility for the situation lay with him, and he must
prevent matters from becoming worse. Could Tobermory impart
his dangerous gift to other cats? was the first question he
had to answer. It was possible, he replied, that he might
have initiated his intimate friend the stable puss into his
new accomplishment, but it was unlikely that his teaching
could have taken a wider range as yet.
``Then,'' said Mrs. Cornett, ``Tobermory may be a valuable
cat and a great pet; but I'm sure you'll agree, Adelaide,
that both he and the stable cat must be done away with
``You don't suppose I've enjoyed the last quarter of an
hour, do you?'' said Lady Blemley bitterly. ``My husband and
I are very fond of Tobermory---at least, we were before this
horrible accomplishment was infused into him; but now, of
course, the only thing is to have him destroyed as soon as
``We can put some strychnine in the scraps he always gets
at dinner-time,'' said Sir Wilfrid, ``and I will go and
drown the stable cat myself. The coachman will be very sore
at losing his pet, but I'll say a very catching form of
mange has broken out in both cats and we're afraid of its
spreading to the kennels.''
``But my great discovery!'' expostulated Mr. Appin;
``after all my years of research and experiment---''
``You can go and experiment on the short-horns at the
farm, who are under proper control,'' said Mrs. Cornett,
``or the elephants at the Zoological Gardens. They're said
to be highly intelligent, and they have this recommendation,
that they don't come creeping about our bedrooms and under
chairs, and so forth.''
An archangel ecstatically proclaiming the Millennium, and
then finding that it clashed unpardonably with Henley and
would have to be indefinitely postponed, could hardly have
felt more crestfallen than Cornelius Appin at the reception
of his wonderful achievement. Public opinion, however, was
against him---in fact, had the general voice been consulted
on the subject it is probable that a strong minority vote
would have been in favour of including him in the strychnine
Defective train arrangements and a nervous desire to see
matters brought to a finish prevented an immediate dispersal
of the party, but dinner that evening was not a social
success. Sir Wilfrid had had rather a trying time with the
stable cat and subsequently with the coachman. Agnes Resker
ostentatiously limited her repast to a morsel of dry toast,
which she bit as though it were a personal enemy; while
Mavis Pellington maintained a vindictive silence throughout
the meal. Lady Blemley kept up a flow of what she hoped was
conversation, but her attention was fixed on the doorway. A
plateful of carefully dosed fish scraps was in readiness on
the sideboard, but sweets and savoury and dessert went their
way, and no Tobermory appeared either in the dining-room or
The sepulchral dinner was cheerful compared with the
subsequent vigil in the smoking-room. Eating and drinking
had at least supplied a distraction and cloak to the
prevailing embarrassment. Bridge was out of the question in
the general tension of nerves and tempers, and after Odo
Finsberry had given a lugubrious rendering of ``Mlisande
in the Wood'' to a frigid audience, music was tacitly
avoided. At eleven the servants went to bed, announcing
that the small window in the pantry had been left open as
usual for Tobermory's private use. The guests read steadily
through the current batch of magazines, and fell back
gradually on the ``Badminton Library'' and bound volumes of
Punch. Lady Blemley made periodic visits to the pantry,
returning each time with an expression of listless
depression which forestalled questioning.
At two o'clock Clovis broke the dominating silence.
``He won't turn up tonight. He's probably in the local
newspaper office at the present moment, dictating the first
instalment of his reminiscences. Lady What's-her-name's
book won't be in it. It will be the event of the day.''
Having made this contribution to the general cheerfulness,
Clovis went to bed. At long intervals the various members
of the house-party followed his example.
The servants taking round the early tea made a uniform
announcement in reply to a uniform question. Tobermory had
Breakfast was, if anything, a more unpleasant function
than dinner had been, but before its conclusion the
situation was relieved. Tobermory's corpse was brought in
from the shrubbery, where a gardener had just discovered it.
From the bites on his throat and the yellow fur which coated
his claws it was evident that he had fallen in unequal
combat with the big Tom from the Rectory.
By midday most of the guests had quitted the Towers, and
after lunch Lady Blemley had sufficiently recovered her
spirits to write an extremely nasty letter to the Rectory
about the loss of her valuable pet.
Tobermory had been Appin's one successful pupil, and he
was destined to have no successor. A few weeks later an
elephant in the Dresden Zoological Garden, which had shown
no previous signs of irritability, broke loose and killed an
Englishman who had apparently been teasing it. The victim's
name was variously reported in the papers as Oppin and
Eppelin, but his front name was faithfully rendered
``If he was trying German irregular verbs on the poor
beast,'' said Clovis, ``he deserved all he got.''
MRS. PACKLETIDE'S TIGER
It was Mrs. Packletide's pleasure and intention that she should
shoot a tiger. Not that the lust to kill had suddenly descended on
her, or that she felt that she would leave India safer and more
wholesome than she had found it, with one fraction less of wild
beast per million of inhabitants. The compelling motive for her sudden
deviation towards the footsteps of Nimrod was the fact that
Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an
aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked of nothing else; only a
personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of Press photographs
could successfully counter that sort of thing. Mrs. Packletide
had already arranged in her mind the lunch she would give at her
house in Curzon Street, ostensibly in Loona Bimberton's honour,
with a tiger-skin rug occupying most of the foreground and all of
the conversation. She had also already designed in her mind the
tiger-claw broach that she was going to give Loona Bimberton on
her next birthday. In a world that is supposed to be chiefly swayed
by hunger and by love Mrs. Packletide was an exception; her
movements and motives were largely governed by dislike of Loona
Circumstances proved propitious. Mrs. Packletide had offered a
thousand rupees for the opportunity of shooting a tiger without over-much
risk or exertion, and it so happened that a neighbouring
village could boast of being the favoured rendezvous of an animal
of respectable antecedents, which had been driven by the increasing
infirmities of age to abandon game-killing and confine its appetite
to the smaller domestic animals. The prospect of earning the
thousand rupees had stimulated the sporting and commercial instinct
of the villagers; children were posted night and day on the
outskirts of the local jungle to head the tiger back in the unlikely
event of his attempting to roam away to fresh hunting-grounds, and
the cheaper kinds of goats were left about with elaborate carelessness
to keep him satisfied with his present quarters. The one great
anxiety was lest he should die of old age before the date appointed
for the memsahib's shoot. Mothers carrying their babies home
through the jungle after the day's work in the fields hushed their
singing lest they might curtail the restful sleep of the venerable
The great night duly arrived, moonlit and cloudless. A platform
had been constructed in a comfortable and conveniently placed
tree, and thereon crouched Mrs. Packletide and her paid companion,
Miss Mebbin. A goat, gifted with a particularly persistent
bleat, such as even a partially deaf tiger might be reasonably expected
to hear on a still night, was tethered at the correct distance.
With an accurately sighted rifle and a thumb-nail pack of
patience cards the sportswoman awaited the coming of the quarry.
``I suppose we are in some danger?'' said Miss Mebbin.
She was not actually nervous about the wild beast, but she had
a morbid dread of performing an atom more service than she had
been paid for.
``Nonsense,'' said Mrs. Packletide; ``it's a very old tiger. It couldn't
spring up here even if it wanted to.''
``If it's an old tiger I think you ought to get it cheaper. A thousand
rupees is a lot of money.''
Louisa Mebbin adopted a protective elder-sister attitude towards
money in general, irrespective of nationality or denomination. Her
energetic intervention had saved many a rouble from dissipating itself
in tips in some Moscow hotel, and francs and centimes clung
to her instinctively under circumstances which would have driven
them headlong from less sympathetic hands. Her speculations as to
the market depreciation of tiger remnants were cut short by the
appearance on the scene of the animal itself. As soon as it caught
sight of the tethered goat it lay flat on the earth, seemingly less from
a desire to take advantage of all available cover than for the purpose
of snatching a short rest before commencing the grand attack.
``I believe it's ill,'' said Louisa Mebbin, loudly in Hindustani, for
the benefit of the village headman, who was in ambush in a neighbouring
``Hush!'' said Mrs. Packletide, and at that moment the tiger commenced
ambling towards his victim.
``Now, now!'' urged Miss Mebbin with some excitement; ``if he
doesn't touch the goat we needn't pay for it.'' (The bait was an
The rifle flashed out with a loud report, and the great tawny
beast sprang to one side and then rolled over in the stillness of
death. In a moment a crowd of excited natives had swarmed on
to the scene, and their shouting speedily carried the glad news
to the village, where a thumping of tom-toms took up the chorus
of triumph. And their triumph and rejoicing found a ready echo in
the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that luncheon-party in Curzon
Street seemed immeasurably nearer.
It was Louisa Mebbin who drew attention to the fact that the
goat was in death-throes from a mortal bullet-wound, while no
trace of the rifle's deadly work could be found on the tiger. Evidently
the wrong animal had been hit, and the beast of prey had
succumbed to heart-failure, caused by the sudden report of the rifle,
accelerated by senile decay. Mrs. Packletide was pardonably annoyed
at the discovery; but, at any rate, she was the possessor of a
dead tiger, and the villagers, anxious for their thousand rupees,
gladly connived at the fiction that she had shot the beast. And
Miss Mebbin was a paid companion. Therefore did Mrs. Packletide
face the cameras with a light heart, and her pictured fame reached
from the pages of the _Texas Weekly Snapshot_ to the illustrated
Monday supplement of the _Novoe Vremya_. As for Loona Bimberton,
she refused to look at an illustrated paper for weeks, and her
letter of thanks for the gift of a tiger-claw brooch was a model of
repressed emotions. The luncheon-party she declined; there
are limits beyond which repressed emotions become dangerous.
From Curzon Street the tiger-skin rug travelled down to the
Manor House, and was duly inspected and admired by the
county, and it seemed a fitting and appropriate thing when
Mrs. Packletide went to the County Costume Ball in the
character of Diana. She refused to fall in, however, with
Clovis's tempting suggestion of a primeval dance party, at
which every one should wear the skins of beasts they had
recently slain. ``I should be in rather a Baby Bunting
condition,'' confessed Clovis, ``with a miserable
rabbit-skin or two to wrap up in, but then,'' he added, with
a rather malicious glance at Diana's proportions, ``my
figure is quite as good as that Russian dancing boy's.''
``How amused every one would be if they knew what really
happened,'' said Louisa Mebbin a few days after the ball.
``What do you mean?'' asked Mrs. Packletide quickly.
``How you shot the goat and frightened the tiger to
death,'' said Miss Mebbin, with her disagreeably pleasant
``No one would believe it,'' said Mrs. Packletide, her
face changing colour as rapidly as though it were going
through a book of patterns before post-time.
``Loona Bimberton would,'' said Miss Mebbin. Mrs.
Packletide's face settled on an unbecoming shade of greenish
``You surely wouldn't give me away?'' she asked.
``I've seen a week-end cottage near Darking that I should
rather like to buy,'' said Miss Mebbin with seeming
irrelevance. ``Six hundred and eighty, freehold. Quite a
bargain, only I don't happen to have the money.''
Louisa Mebbin's pretty week-end cottage, christened by her
``Les Fauves,'' and gay in summer-time with its garden
borders of tiger-lilies, is the wonder and admiration of her
``It is a marvel how Louisa manages to do it,'' is the
Mrs. Packletide indulges in no more big-game shooting.
``The incidental expenses are so heavy,'' she confides to
THE STAMPEDING OF LADY BASTABLE
``It would be rather nice if you would put Clovis up for
another six days while I go up north to the MacGregors',''
said Mrs. Sangrail sleepily across the breakfast-table. It
was her invariable plan to speak in a sleepy, comfortable
voice whenever she was unusually keen about anything; it put
people off their guard, and they frequently fell in with her
wishes before they had realized that she was really asking
for anything. Lady Bastable, however, was not so easily
taken unawares; possibly she knew that voice and what it
betokened--- at any rate, she knew Clovis.
She frowned at a piece of toast and ate it very slowly, as
though she wished to convey the impression that the process
hurt her more than it hurt the toast; but no extension of
hospitality on Clovis's behalf rose to her lips.
``It would be a great convenience to me,'' pursued Mrs.
Sangrail, abandoning the careless tone. ``I particularly
don't want to take him to the MacGregors', and it will only
be for six days.''
``It will seem longer,'' said Lady Bastable dismally.
``The last time he stayed here for a week---''
``I know,'' interrupted the other hastily, ``but that was
nearly two years ago. He was younger then.''
``But he hasn't improved,'' said her hostess; ``it's no
use growing older if you only learn new ways of misbehaving
Mrs. Sangrail was unable to argue the point; since Clovis
had reached the age of seventeen she had never ceased to
bewail his irrepressible waywardness to all her circle of
acquaintances, and a polite scepticism would have greeted
the slightest hint at a prospective reformation. She
discarded the fruitless effort at cajolery and resorted to
``If you'll have him here for these six days I'll cancel
that outstanding bridge account.''
It was only for forty-nine shillings, but Lady Bastable
loved shillings with a great, strong love. To lose money at
bridge and not to have to pay it was one of those rare
experiences which gave the card-table a glamour in her eyes
which it could never otherwise have possessed. Mrs.
Sangrail was almost equally devoted to her card winnings,
but the prospect of conveniently warehousing her offspring
for six days, and incidentally saving his railway fare to
the north, reconciled her to the sacrifice; when Clovis made
a belated appearance at the breakfast-table the bargain had
``Just think,'' said Mrs. Sangrail sleepily; ``Lady
Bastable has very kindly asked you to stay on here while I
go to the MacGregors'.''
Clovis said suitable things in a highly unsuitable manner,
and proceeded to make punitive expeditions among the
breakfast dishes with a scowl on his face that would have
driven the purr out of a peace conference. The arrangement
that had been concluded behind his back was doubly
distasteful to him. In the first place, he particularly
wanted to teach the MacGregor boys, who could well afford
the knowledge, how to play poker-patience; secondly, the
Bastable catering was of the kind that is classified as a
rude plenty, which Clovis translated as a plenty that gives
rise to rude remarks. Watching him from behind
ostentatiously sleepy lids, his mother realized, in the
light of long experience, that any rejoicing over the
success of her manuvre would be distinctly premature.
It was one thing to fit Clovis into a convenient niche of
the domestic jig-saw puzzle; it was quite another matter to
get him to stay there.
Lady Bastable was wont to retire in state to the
morning-room immediately after breakfast and spend a quiet
hour in skimming through the papers; they were there, so she
might as well get their money's worth out of them. Politics
did not greatly interest her, but she was obsessed with a
favourite foreboding that one of these days there would be a
great social upheaval, in which everybody would be killed by
everybody else. ``It will come sooner than we think,'' she
would observe darkly; a mathematical expert of exceptionally
high powers would have been puzzled to work out the
approximate date from the slender and confusing groundwork
which this assertion afforded.
On this particular morning the sight of Lady Bastable
enthroned among her papers gave Clovis the hint towards
which his mind had been groping all breakfast time. His
mother had gone upstairs to supervise packing operations,
and he was alone on the ground-floor with his hostess---and
the servants. The latter were the key to the situation.
Bursting wildly into the kitchen quarters, Clovis screamed a
frantic though strictly non-committal summons: ``Poor Lady
Bastable! In the morning-room! Oh, quick!'' The next moment
the butler, cook, page-boy, two or three maids, and a
gardener who had happened to be in one of the outer kitchens
were following in a hot scurry after Clovis as he headed
back for the morning-room. Lady Bastable was roused from
the world of newspaper lore by hearing a Japanese screen in
the hall go down with a crash. Then the door leading from
the ball flew open and her young guest tore madly through
the room, shrieked at her in passing, ``The jacquerie!
They're on us!'' and dashed like an escaping hawk out
through the French window. The scared mob of servants burst
in on his heels, the gardener still clutching the sickle
with which he had been trimming hedges, and the impetus of
their headlong haste carried them, slipping and sliding,
over the smooth parquet flooring towards the chair where
their mistress sat in panic-stricken amazement. If she had
had a moment granted her for reflection she would have
behaved, as she afterwards explained, with considerable
dignity. It was probably the sickle which decided her, but
anyway she followed the lead that Clovis had given her
through the French window, and ran well and far across the
lawn before the eyes of her astonished retainers.
Lost dignity is not a possession which can be restored at
a moment's notice, and both Lady Bastable and the butler
found the process of returning to normal conditions almost as
painful as a slow recovery from drowning. A jacquerie, even
if carried out with the most respectful of intentions,
cannot fail to leave some traces of embarrassment behind it.
By lunch-time, however, decorum had reasserted itself with
enhanced rigour as a natural rebound from its recent
overthrow, and the meal was served in a frigid stateliness
that might have been framed on a Byzantine model. Half-way
through its duration Mrs. Sangrail was solemnly presented
with an envelope lying on a silver salver. It contained a
cheque for forty-nine shillings.
The MacGregor boys learned how to play poker-patience;
after all, they could afford to.
``That woman's art-jargon tires me,'' said Clovis to his
journalist friend. ``She's so fond of talking of certain
pictures as `growing on one,' as though they were a sort of
``That reminds me,'' said the journalist, ``of the story
of Henri Deplis. Have I ever told it you?''
Clovis shook his head.
``Henri Deplis was by birth a native of the Grand Duchy of
Luxemburg. On maturer reflection he became a commercial
traveller. His business activities frequently took him
beyond the limits of the Grand Duchy, and he was stopping in
a small town of Northern Italy when news reached him from
home that a legacy from a distant and deceased relative had
fallen to his share.
``It was not a large legacy, even from the modest
standpoint of Henri Deplis, but it impelled him towards some
seemingly harmless extravagances. In particular it led him
to patronize local art as represented by the tattoo-needles
of Signor Andreas Pincini. Signor Pincini was, perhaps, the
most brilliant master of tattoo craft that Italy had ever
known, but his circumstances were decidedly impoverished,
and for the sum of six hundred francs he gladly undertook to
cover his client's back, from the collar-bone down to the
waist-line, with a glowing representation of the Fall of
Icarus. The design, when finally developed, was a slight
disappointment to Monsieur Deplis, who had suspected Icarus
of being a fortress taken by Wallenstein in the Thirty
Years' War, but he was more than satisfied with the
execution of the work, which was acclaimed by all who had
the privilege of seeing it as Pincini's masterpiece.
``It was his greatest effort, and his last. Without even
waiting to be paid, the illustrious craftsman departed this
life, and was buried under an ornate tombstone, whose winged
cherubs would have afforded singularly little scope for the
exercise of his favourite art. There remained, however, the
widow Pincini, to whom the six hundred francs were due. And
thereupon arose the great crisis in the life of Henri
Deplis, traveller of commerce. The legacy, under the stress
of numerous little calls on its substance, had dwindled to
very insignificant proportions, and when a pressing wine
bill and sundry other current accounts had been paid, there
remained little more than 430 francs to offer to the widow.
The lady was properly indignant, not wholly, as she volubly
explained, on account of the suggested writing-off of 170
francs, but also at the attempt to depreciate the value of
her late husband's acknowledged masterpiece. In a week's
time Deplis was obliged to reduce his offer to 405 francs,
which circumstance fanned the widow's indignation into a
fury. She cancelled the sale of the work of art, and a few
days later Deplis learned with a sense of consternation that
she bad presented it to the municipality of Bergamo, which
had gratefully accepted it. He left the neighbourhood as
unobtrusively as possible, and was genuinely relieved when
his business commands took him to Rome, where he hoped his
identity and that of the famous picture might be lost sight
``But he bore on his back the burden of the dead man's
genius. On presenting himself one day in the steaming
corridor of a vapour bath, he was at once hustled back into
his clothes by the proprietor, who was a North Italian, and
who emphatically refused to allow the celebrated Fall of
Icarus to be publicly on view without the permission of the
municipality of Bergamo. Public interest and official
vigilance increased as the matter became more widely known,
and Deplis was unable to take a simple dip in the sea or
river on the hottest afternoon unless clothed up to the
collar-bone in a substantial bathing garment. Later on the
authorities of Bergamo conceived the idea that salt water
might be injurious to the masterpiece, and a perpetual
injunction was obtained which debarred the muchly harassed
commercial traveller from sea bathing under any
circumstances. Altogether, he was fervently thankful when
his firm of employers found him a new range of activities in
the neighbourhood of Bordeaux. His thankfulness, however,
ceased abruptly at the Franco-Italian frontier. An imposing
array of official force barred his departure, and he was
sternly reminded of the stringent law which forbids the
exportation of Italian works of art.
A diplomatic parley ensued between the Luxemburgian and
Italian Governments, and at one time the European situation
became overcast with the possibilities of trouble. But the
Italian Government stood firm; it declined to concern itself
in the least with the fortunes or even the existence of
Henri Deplis, commercial traveller, but was immovable in its
decision that the Fall of Icarus (by the late Pincini,
Andreas) at present the property of the municipality of
Bergamo, should not leave the country.
``The excitement died down in time, but the unfortunate
Deplis, who was of a constitutionally retiring disposition,
found himself a few months later once more the storm-centre
of a furious controversy. A certain German art expert, who
had obtained from the municipality of Bergamo permission to
inspect the famous masterpiece, declared it to be a spurious
Pincini, probably the work of some pupil whom he had
employed in his declining years. The evidence of Deplis on
the subject was obviously worthless, as he had been under
the influence of the customary narcotics during the long
process of pricking in the design. The editor of an Italian
art journal refuted the contentions of the German expert and
undertook to prove that his private life did not conform to
any modern standard of decency. The whole of Italy and
Germany were drawn into the dispute, and the rest of Europe
was soon involved in the quarrel. There were stormy scenes
in the Spanish Parliament, and the University of Copenhagen
bestowed a gold medal on the German expert (afterwards
sending a commission to examine his proofs on the spot),
while two Polish schoolboys in Paris committed suicide to
show what _they_ thought of the matter.
``Meanwhile, the unhappy human background fared no better
than before, and it was not surprising that he drifted into
the ranks of Italian anarchists. Four times at least he was
escorted to the frontier as a dangerous and undesirable
foreigner, but he was always brought back as the Fall of
Icarus (attributed to Pincini, Andreas, early Twentieth
Century). And then one day, at an anarchist congress at
Genoa, a fellow-worker, in the heat of debate, broke a phial
full of corrosive liquid over his back. The red shirt that
he was wearing mitigated the effects, but the Icarus was
ruined beyond recognition. His assailant was severely
reprimanded for assaulting a fellow-anarchist and received
seven years' imprisonment for defacing a national art
treasure. As soon as he was able to leave the hospital
Henri Deplis was put across the frontier as an undesirable
``In the quieter streets of Paris, especially in the
neighbourhood of the Ministry of Fine Arts, you may
sometimes meet a depressed, anxious-looking man, who, if you
pass him the time of day, will answer you with a slight
Luxemburgian accent. He nurses the illusion that he is one
of the lost arms of the Venus de Milo, and hopes that the
French Government may be persuaded to buy him. On all other
subjects I believe he is tolerably sane.''
HERMANN THE IRASCIBLE---A STORY OF THE GREAT WEEP
It was in the second decade of the Twentieth Century,
after the Great Plague had devastated England, that Hermann
the Irascible, nicknamed also the Wise, sat on the British
throne. The Mortal Sickness had swept away the entire Royal
Family, unto the third and fourth generations, and thus it
came to pass that Hermann the Fourteenth of
Saxe-Drachsen-Wachtelstein, who had stood thirtieth in the
order of succession, found himself one day ruler of the
British dominions within and beyond the seas. He was one of
the unexpected things that happen in polities, and he
happened with great thoroughness. In many ways he was the
most progressive monarch who had sat on an important throne;
before people knew where they were, they were somewhere
else. Even his Ministers, progressive though they were by
tradition, found it difficult to keep pace with his
``As a matter of fact,'' admitted the Prime Minister, ``we
are hampered by these votes-for-women creatures; they
disturb our meetings throughout the country, and they try to
turn Downing Street into a sort of political picnic-ground.''
``They must be dealt with'' said Hermann.
``Dealt with,'' said the Prime Minister; ``exactly, just
so; but how?''
``I will draft you a Bill,'' said the King, sitting down
at his type-writing machine, ``enacting that women shall
vote at all future elections. _Shall_ vote, you observe; or,
to put it plainer, must. Voting will remain optional, as
before, for male electors; but every woman between the ages
of twenty-one and seventy will be obliged to vote, not only
at elections for Parliament, county councils, district
boards, parish-councils, and municipalities, but for
coroners, school inspectors, churchwardens, curators of
museums, sanitary authorities, police-court interpreters,
swimming-bath instructors, contractors, choir-masters,
market superintendents, art-school teachers, cathedral
vergers, and other local functionaries whose names I will
add as they occur to me. All these offices will become
elective, and failure to vote at any election falling within
her area of residence will involve the female elector in a
penalty of 10. Absence, unsupported by an adequate
medical certificate, will not be accepted as an excuse.
Pass this Bill through the two Houses of Parliament and
bring it to me for signature the day after tomorrow.''
From the very outset the Compulsory Female Franchise
produced little or no elation even in circles which had been
loudest in demanding the vote. The bulk of the women of the
country had been indifferent or hostile to the franchise
agitation, and the most fanatical Suffragettes began to
wonder what they had found so attractive in the prospect of
putting ballot-papers into a box. In the country districts
the task of carrying out the provisions of the new Act was
irksome enough; in the towns and cities it became an
incubus. There seemed no end to the elections. Laundresses
and seamstresses had to hurry away from their work to vote,
often for a candidate whose name they hadn't heard before,
and whom they selected at haphazard; female clerks and
waitresses got up extra early to get their voting done
before starting off to their places of business. Society
women found their arrangements impeded and upset by the
continual necessity for attending the polling stations, and
week-end parties and summer holidays became gradually a
masculine luxury. As for Cairo and the Riviera, they were
possible only for genuine invalids or people of enormous
wealth, for the accumulation of 10 fines during a
prolonged absence was a contingency that even ordinarily
wealthy folk could hardly afford to risk.
It was not wonderful that the female disfranchisement
agitation became a formidable movement. The
No-Votes-for-Women League numbered its feminine adherents by
the million; its colours, citron and old Dutch-madder, were
flaunted everywhere, and its battle hymn, ``We Don't Want to
Vote,'' became a popular refrain. As the Government showed
no signs of being impressed by peaceful persuasion, more
violent methods came into vogue. Meetings were disturbed,
Ministers were mobbed, policemen were bitten, and ordinary
prison fare rejected, and on the eve of the anniversary of
Trafalgar women bound themselves in tiers up the entire
length of the Nelson column so that its customary floral
decoration had to be abandoned. Still the Government
obstinately adhered to its conviction that women ought to
have the vote.
Then, as a last resort, some woman wit hit upon an
expedient which it was strange that no one had thought of
before. The Great Weep was organized. Relays of women, ten
thousand at a time, wept continuously in the public places
of the Metropolis. They wept in railway stations, in tubes
and omnibuses, in the National Gallery, at the Army and Navy
Stores, in St. James's Park, at ballad concerts, at Prince's
and in the Burlington Arcade. The hitherto unbroken success
of the brilliant farcical comedy ``Henry's Rabbit'' was
imperilled by the presence of drearily weeping women in
stalls and circle and gallery, and one of the brightest
divorce cases that had been tried for many years was robbed
of much of its sparkle by the lachrymose behaviour of a
section of the audience.
``What are we to do?'' asked the Prime Minister, whose
cook had wept into all the breakfast dishes and whose
nursemaid had gone out, crying quietly and miserably, to
take the children for a walk in the Park.
``There is a time for everything,'' said the King; ``there
is a time to yield. Pass a measure through the two Houses
depriving women of the right to vote, and bring it to me for
the Royal assent the day after tomorrow.''
As the Minister withdrew, Hermann the Irascible, who was
also nicknamed the Wise, gave a profound chuckle.
``There are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it
with cream,'' he quoted, ``but I'm not sure,'' he added
``that it's not the best way.''
On the rack in the railway carriage immediately opposite
Clovis was a solidly wrought travelling bag, with a
carefully written label, on which was inscribed, ``J. P.
Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough.''
Immediately below the rack sat the human embodiment of the
label, a solid, sedate individual, sedately dressed,
sedately conversational. Even without his conversation
(which was addressed to a friend seated by his side, and
touched chiefly on such topics as the backwardness of Roman
hyacinths and the prevalence of measles at the Rectory), one
could have gauged fairly accurately the temperament and
mental outlook of the travelling bag's owner. But he seemed
unwilling to leave anything to the imagination of a casual
observer, and his talk grew presently personal and
``I don't know how it is,'' he told his friend, ``I'm not
much over forty, but I seem to have settled down into a deep
groove of elderly middle-age. My sister shows the same
tendency. We like everything to be exactly in its
accustomed place; we like things to happen exactly at their
appointed times; we like everything to be usual, orderly,
punctual, methodical, to a hair's breadth, to a minute. It
distresses and upsets us if it is not so. For instance, to
take a very trifling matter, a thrush has built its nest
year after year in the catkin-tree on the lawn; this year,
for no obvious reason, it is building in the ivy on the
garden wall. We have said very little about it, but I think
we both feel that the change is unnecessary, and just a
``Perhaps,'' said the friend, ``it is a different
``We have suspected that,'' said J. P. Huddle, ``and I
think it gives us even more cause for annoyance. We don't
feel that we want a change of thrush at our time of life;
and yet, as I have said, we have scarcely reached an age
when these things should make themselves seriously felt.''
``What you want,'' said the friend, ``is an Unrest-cure.''
``An Unrest-cure? I've never heard of such a thing.''
``You've heard of Rest-cures for people who've broken down
under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well,
you're suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you
need the opposite kind of treatment.''
``But where would one go for such a thing?''
``Well, you might stand as an Orange candidate for
Kilkenny, or do a course of district visiting in one of the
Apache quarters of Paris, or give lectures in Berlin to
prove that most of Wagner's music was written by Gambetta;
and there's always the interior of Morocco to travel in.
But, to be really effective, the Unrest-cure ought to be
tried in the home. How you would do it I haven't the
It was at this point in the conversation that Clovis
became galvanized into alert attention. After all, his two
days' visit to an elderly relative at Slowborough did not
promise much excitement. Before the train had stopped he
had decorated his sinister shirt-cuff with the inscription,
``J. P. Huddle, The Warren, Tilfield, near Slowborough.''
Two mornings later Mr. Huddle broke in on his sister's
privacy as she sat reading Country Life in the morning room.
It was her day and hour and place for reading Country Life,
and the intrusion was absolutely irregular; but he bore in
his hand a telegram, and in that household telegrams were
recognized as happening by the hand of God. This particular
telegram partook of the nature of a thunderbolt. ``Bishop
examining confirmation class in neighbourhood unable stay
rectory on account measles invokes your hospitality sending
``I scarcely know the Bishop; I've only spoken to him
once,'' exclaimed J. P. Huddle, with the exculpating air of
one who realizes too late the indiscretion of speaking to
strange Bishops. Miss Huddle was the first to rally; she
disliked thunderbolts as fervently as her brother did, but
the womanly instinct in her told her that thunderbolts must
``We can curry the cold duck,'' she said. It was not the
appointed day for curry, but the little orange envelope
involved a certain departure from rule and custom. Her
brother said nothing, but his eyes thanked her for being
``A young gentleman to see you,'' announced the
``The secretary!'' murmured the Huddles in unison; they
instantly stiffened into a demeanour which proclaimed that,
though they held all strangers to be guilty, they were
willing to hear anything they might have to say in their
defence. The young gentleman, who came into the room with a
certain elegant haughtiness, was not at all Huddle's idea of
a bishop's secretary; he had not supposed that the episcopal
establishment could have afforded such an expensively
upholstered article when there were so many other claims on
its resources. The face was fleetingly familiar; if he had
bestowed more attention on the fellow-traveller sitting
opposite him in the railway carriage two days before he
might have recognized Clovis in his present visitor.
``You are the Bishop's secretary?'' asked Huddle, becoming
``His confidential secretary,'' answered Clovis. ``You may
call me Stanislaus; my other name doesn't matter. The
Bishop and Colonel Alberti may be here to lunch. I shall be
here in any case.''
It sounded rather like the programme of a Royal visit.
``The Bishop is examining a confirmation class in the
neighbourhood, isn't he?'' asked Miss Huddle.
``Ostensibly,'' was the dark reply, followed by a request
for a large-scale map of the locality.
Clovis was still immersed in a seemingly profound study of
the map when another telegram arrived. It was addressed to
``Prince Stanislaus, care of Huddle, The Warren, etc.''
Clovis glanced at the contents and announced: ``The Bishop
and Alberti won't be here till late in the afternoon.'' Then
he returned to his scrutiny of the map.
The luncheon was not a very festive function. The
princely secretary ate and drank with fair appetite, but
severely discouraged conversation. At the finish of the
meal he broke suddenly into a radiant smile, thanked his
hostess for a charming repast, and kissed her hand with
deferential rapture. Miss Huddle was unable to decide in
her mind whether the action savoured of Louis Quatorzian
courtliness or the reprehensible Roman attitude towards the
Sabine women. It was not her day for having a headache, but
she felt that the circumstances excused her, and retired to
her room to have as much headache as was possible before the
Bishop's arrival. Clovis, having asked the way to the
nearest telegraph office, disappeared presently down the
carriage drive. Mr. Huddle met him in the hall some two
hours later, and asked when the Bishop would arrive.
``He is in the library with Alberti,'' was the reply.
``But why wasn't I told? I never knew he had come!''
``No one knows he is here,'' said Clovis; ``the quieter we
can keep matters the better. And on no account disturb him
in the library. Those are his orders.''
``But what is all this mystery about? And who is Alberti?
And isn't the Bishop going to have tea?''
``The Bishop is out for blood, not tea.''
``Blood!'' gasped Huddle, who did not find that the
thunderbolt improved on acquaintance.
``Tonight is going to be a great night in the history of
Christendom,'' said Clovis. ``We are going to massacre every
Jew in the neighbourhood.''
``To massacre the Jews!'' said Huddle indignantly. ``Do
you mean to tell me there's a general rising against them?''
``No, it's the Bishop's own idea. He's in there arranging
all the details now.''
``But---the Bishop is such a tolerant, humane man.''
``That is precisely what will heighten the effect of his
action. The sensation will be enormous.''
That at least Huddle could believe.
``He will be hanged!'' he exclaimed with conviction.
``A motor is waiting to carry him to the coast, where a
steam yacht is in readiness.''
``But there aren't thirty Jews in the whole
neighbourhood,'' protested Huddle, whose brain, under the
repeated shocks of the day, was operating with the
uncertainty of a telegraph wire during earthquake
``We have twenty-six on our list,'' said Clovis, referring
to a bundle of notes. ``We shall be able to deal with them
all the more thoroughly.''
``Do you mean to tell me that you are meditating violence
against a man like Sir Leon Birberry,'' stammered Huddle;
``he's one of the most respected men in the country.''
``He's down on our list,'' said Clovis carelessly; ``after
all, we've got men we can trust to do our job, so we shan't
have to rely on local assistance. And we've got some
Boy-scouts helping us as auxiliaries.''
``Yes; when they understood there was real killing to be
done they were even keener than the men.''
``This thing will be a blot on the Twentieth Century!''
``And your house will be the blotting-pad. Have you
realized that half the papers of Europe and the United
States will publish pictures of it? By the way, I've sent
some photographs of you and your sister, that I found in the
library, to the _Matin_ and _Die Woche_; I hope you don't
mind. Also a sketch of the staircase; most of the killing
will probably be done on the staircase.''
The emotions that were surging in J. P. Huddle's brain
were almost too intense to be disclosed in speech, but he
managed to gasp out: ``There aren't any Jews in this
``Not at present,'' said Clovis.
``I shall go to the police,'' shouted Huddle with sudden
``In the shrubbery,'' said Clovis, ``are posted ten men,
who have orders to fire on any one who leaves the house
without my signal of permission. Another armed picquet is
in ambush near the front gate. The Boy-scouts watch the
At this moment the cheerful hoot of a motor-horn was heard
from the drive. Huddle rushed to the hall door with the
feeling of a man half-awakened from a nightmare, and beheld
Sir Leon Birberry, who had driven himself over in his car.
``I got your telegram,'' he said; ``what's up?''
Telegram? It seemed to be a day of telegrams.
``Come here at once. Urgent. James Huddle,'' was the
purport of the message displayed before Huddle's bewildered
``I see it all!'' he exclaimed suddenly in a voice shaken
with agitation, and with a look of agony in the direction of
the shrubbery he hauled the astonished Birberry into the
house. Tea had just been laid in the hall, but the now
thoroughly panic-stricken Huddle dragged his protesting
guest upstairs, and in a few minutes' time the entire
household had been summoned to that region of momentary
safety. Clovis alone graced the tea-table with his
presence; the fanatics in the library were evidently too
immersed in their monstrous machinations to dally with the
solace of teacup and hot toast. Once the youth rose, in
answer to the summons of the front-door bell, and admitted
Mr. Paul Isaacs, shoemaker and parish councillor, who had
also received a pressing invitation to The Warren. With an
atrocious assumption of courtesy, which a Borgia could
hardly have outdone, the secretary escorted this new captive
of his net to the head of the stairway, where his
involuntary host awaited him.
And then ensued a long ghastly vigil of watching and
waiting. Once or twice Clovis left the house to stroll
across to the shrubbery, returning always to the library,
for the purpose evidently of making a brief report. Once he
took in the letters from the evening postman, and brought
them to the top of the stairs with punctilious politeness.
After his next absence he came half-way up the stairs to
make an announcement.
``The Boy-scouts mistook my signal, and have killed the
postman. I've had very little practice in this sort of
thing, you see. Another time I shall do better.''
The housemaid, who was engaged to be married to the
evening postman, gave way to clamorous grief.
``Remember that your mistress has a headache,'' said J. P.
Huddle. (Miss Huddle's headache was worse.)
Clovis hastened downstairs, and after a short visit to the
library returned with another message:
``The Bishop is sorry to hear that Miss Huddle has a
headache. He is issuing orders that as far as possible no
firearms shall be used near the house; any killing that is
necessary on the premises will be done with cold steel. The
Bishop does not see why a man should not be a gentleman as
well as a Christian.''
That was the last they saw of Clovis; it was nearly seven
o'clock, and his elderly relative liked him to dress for
dinner. But, though he had left them for ever, the lurking
suggestion of his presence haunted the lower regions of the
house during the long hours of the wakeful night, and every
creak of the stairway, every rustle of wind through the
shrubbery, was fraught with horrible meaning. At about
seven next morning the gardener's boy and the early postman
finally convinced the watchers that the Twentieth Century
was still unblotted.
``I don't suppose,'' mused Clovis, as an early train bore
him townwards, ``that they will be in the least grateful for
THE JESTING OF ARLINGTON STRINGHAM
Arlington Stringham made a joke in the House of Commons. It
was a thin House, and a very thin joke; something about the
Anglo-Saxon race having a great many angles. It is possible
that it was unintentional, but a fellow-member, who did not
wish it to be supposed that he was asleep because his eyes
were shut, laughed. One or two of the papers noted ``a
laugh'' in brackets, and another, which was notorious for
the carelessness of its political news, mentioned
``laughter.'' Things often begin in that way.
``Arlington made a joke in the House last night,'' said
Eleanor Stringham to her mother; ``in all the years we've
been married neither of us has made jokes, and I don't like
it now. I'm afraid it's the beginning of the rift in the
``What lute?'' said her mother.
``It's a quotation,'' said Eleanor.
To say that anything was a quotation was an excellent
method, in Eleanor's eyes, for withdrawing it from
discussion, just as you could always defend indifferent lamb
late in the season by saying ``It's mutton.''
And, of course, Arlington Stringham continued to tread the
thorny path of conscious humour into which Fate had beckoned
``The country's looking very green, but, after all, that's
what it's there for,'' he remarked to his wife two days
``That's very modern, and I daresay very clever, but I'm
afraid it's wasted on me,'' she observed coldly. If she had
known how much effort it had cost him to make the remark she
might have greeted it in a kinder spirit. It is the tragedy
of human endeavour that it works so often unseen and
Arlington said nothing, not from injured pride, but
because he was thinking hard for something to say. Eleanor
mistook his silence for an assumption of tolerant
superiority, and her anger prompted her to a further gibe.
``You had better tell it to Lady Isobel. I've no doubt
she would appreciate it.''
Lady Isobel was seen everywhere with a fawn-coloured
collie at a time when every one else kept nothing but
Pekinese, and she had once eaten four green apples at an
afternoon tea in the Botanical Gardens, so she was widely
credited with a rather unpleasant wit. The censorious said
she slept in a hammock and understood Yeats's poems, but her
family denied both stories.
``The rift is widening to an abyss,'' said Eleanor to her
mother that afternoon.
``I should not tell that to any one,'' remarked her
mother, after long reflection.
``Naturally, I should not talk about it very much,'' said
Eleanor, ``but why shouldn't I mention it to any one?''
``Because you can't have an abyss in a lute. There isn't
Eleanor's outlook on life did not improve as the afternoon
wore on. The page-boy had brought from the library _By Mere
and Wold_ instead of _By Mere Chance_, the book which every
one denied having read. The unwelcome substitute appeared
to be a collection of nature notes contributed by the author
to the pages of some Northern weekly, and when one had been
prepared to plunge with disapproving mind into a regrettable
chronicle of ill-spent lives it was intensely irritating to
read ``the dainty yellow-hammers are now with us, and flaunt
their jaundiced livery from every bush and hillock.''
Besides, the thing was so obviously untrue; either there
must be hardly any bushes or hillocks in those parts or the
country must be fearfully overstocked with yellow-hammers.
The thing scarcely seemed worth telling such a lie about.
And the page-boy stood there, with his sleekly brushed and
parted hair, and his air of chaste and callous indifference
to the desires and passions of the world. Eleanor hated
boys, and she would have liked to have whipped this one long
and often. It was perhaps the yearning of a woman who had
no children of her own.
She turned at random to another paragraph. ``Lie quietly
concealed in the fern and bramble in the gap by the old
rowan tree, and you may see, almost every evening during
early summer, a pair of lesser whitethroats creeping up and
down the nettles and hedge-growth that mask their
The insufferable monotony of the proposed recreation!
Eleanor would not have watched the most brilliant
performance at His Majesty's Theatre for a single evening
under such uncomfortable circumstances, and to be asked to
watch lesser whitethroats creeping up and down a nettle
``almost every evening'' during the height of the season
struck her as an imputation on her intelligence that was
positively offensive. Impatiently she transferred her
attention to the dinner menu, which the boy had thoughtfully
brought in as an alternative to the more solid literary
fare. ``Rabbit curry,'' met her eye, and the lines of
disapproval deepened on her already puckered brow. The cook
was a great believer in the influence of environment, and
nourished an obstinate conviction that if you brought rabbit
and curry-powder together in one dish a rabbit curry would
be the result. And Clovis and the odious Bertie van Tahn
were coming to dinner. Surely, thought Eleanor, if
Arlington knew how much she had had that day to try her, he
would refrain from joke-making.
At dinner that night it was Eleanor herself who mentioned
the name of a certain statesman, who may be decently covered
under the disguise of X.
``X.,'' said Arlington Stringham, ``has the soul of a
It was a useful remark to have on hand, because it applied
equally well to four prominent statesmen of the day, which
quadrupled the opportunities for using it.
``Meringues haven't got souls,'' said Eleanor's mother.
``It's a mercy that they haven't,'' said Clovis; ``they
would be always losing them, and people like my aunt would
get up missions to meringues, and say it was wonderful how
much one could teach them and how much more one could learn
``What could you learn from a meringue?'' asked Eleanor's
``My aunt has been known to learn humility from an
ex-Viceroy,'' said Clovis.
``I wish cook would learn to make curry, or have the sense
to leave it alone,'' said Arlington, suddenly and savagely.
Eleanor's face softened. It was like one of his old
remarks in the days when there was no abyss between them.
It was during the debate on the Foreign Office vote that
Stringham made his great remark that ``the people of Crete
unfortunately make more history than they can consume
locally.'' It was not brilliant, but it came in the middle
of a dull speech, and the House was quite pleased with it.
Old gentlemen with bad memories said it reminded them of
It was Eleanor's friend, Gertrude Ilpton, who drew her
attention to Arlington's newest outbreak. Eleanor in these
days avoided the morning papers.
``It's very modern, and I suppose very clever,'' she
``Of course it's clever,'' said Gertrude; ``all Lady
Isobel's sayings are clever, and luckily they bear
``Are you sure it's one of her sayings?'' asked Eleanor.
``My dear, I've heard her say it dozens of times.''
``So that is where he gets his humour,'' said Eleanor
slowly, and the hard lines deepened round her mouth.
The death of Eleanor Stringham from an overdose of
chloral, occurring at the end of a rather uneventful season,
excited a certain amount of unobtrusive speculation.
Clovis, who perhaps exaggerated the importance of curry in
the home, hinted at domestic sorrow.
And of course Arlington never knew. It was the tragedy of
his life that he should miss the fullest effect of his
Conradin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced
his professional opinion that the boy would not live another
five years. The doctor was silky and effete, and counted
for little, but his opinion was endorsed by Mrs. De Ropp,
who counted for nearly everything. Mrs. De Ropp was
Conradin's cousin and guardian, and in his eyes she
represented those three-fifths of the world that are
necessary and disagreeable and real; the other two-fifths,
in perpetual antagonism to the foregoing, were summed up in
himself and his imagination. One of these days Conradin
supposed he would succumb to the mastering pressure of
wearisome necessary things---such as illnesses and coddling
restrictions and drawn-out dulness. Without his
imagination, which was rampant under the spur of loneliness,
he would have succumbed long ago.
Mrs. De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have
confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she
might have been dimly aware that thwarting him ``for his
good'' was a duty which she did not find particularly
irksome. Conradin hated her with a desperate sincerity
which he was perfectly able to mask. Such few pleasures as
he could contrive for himself gained an added relish from
the likelihood that they would be displeasing to his
guardian, and from the realm of his imagination she was
locked out---an unclean thing, which should find no
In the dull, cheerless garden, overlooked by so many
windows that were ready to open with a message not to do
this or that, or a reminder that medicines were due, he
found little attraction. The few fruit-trees that it
contained were set jealously apart from his plucking, as
though they were rare specimens of their kind blooming in an
arid waste; it would probably have been difficult to find a
market-gardener who would have offered ten shillings for
their entire yearly produce. In a forgotten corner,
however, almost hidden behind a dismal shrubbery, was a
disused tool-shed of respectable proportions, and within its
walls Conradin found a haven, something that took on the
varying aspects of a playroom and a cathedral. He had
peopled it with a legion of familiar phantoms, evoked partly
from fragments of history and partly from his own brain, but
it also boasted two inmates of flesh and blood. In one
corner lived a ragged-plumaged Houdan hen, on which the boy
lavished an affection that had scarcely another outlet.
Further back in the gloom stood a large hutch, divided into
two compartments, one of which was fronted with close iron
bars. This was the abode of a large polecat-ferret, which a
friendly butcher-boy had once smuggled, cage and all, into
its present quarters, in exchange for a long-secreted hoard
of small silver. Conradin was dreadfully afraid of the
lithe, sharp-fanged beast, but it was his most treasured
possession. Its very presence in the tool-shed was a secret
and fearful joy, to be kept scrupulously from the knowledge
of the Woman, as he privately dubbed his cousin. And one
day, out of Heaven knows what material, he spun the beast a
wonderful name, and from that moment it grew into a god and
a religion. The Woman indulged in religion once a week at a
church near by, and took Conradin with her, but to him the
church service was an alien rite in the House of Rimmon.
Every Thursday, in the dim and musty silence of the
tool-shed, he worshipped with mystic and elaborate
ceremonial before the wooden hutch where dwelt Sredni
Vashtar, the great ferret. Red flowers in their season and
scarlet berries in the winter-time were offered at his
shrine, for he was a god who laid some special stress on the
fierce impatient side of things, as opposed to the Woman's
religion, which, as far as Conradin could observe, went to
great lengths in the contrary direction. And on great
festivals powdered nutmeg was strewn in front of his hutch,
an important feature of the offering being that the nutmeg
had to be stolen. These festivals were of irregular
occurrence, and were chiefly appointed to celebrate some
passing event. On one occasion, when Mrs. De Ropp suffered
from acute toothache for three days, Conradin kept up the
festival during the entire three days, and almost succeeded
in persuading himself that Sredni Vashtar was personally
responsible for the toothache. If the malady had lasted for
another day the supply of nutmeg would have given out.
The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni
Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an
Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest
knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately
hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. Mrs. De
Ropp was the ground plan on which he based and detested all
After a while Conradin's absorption in the tool-shed began
to attract the notice of his guardian. ``It is not good for
him to be pottering down there in all weathers,'' she
promptly decided, and at breakfast one morning she announced
that the Houdan hen had been sold and taken away overnight.
With her short-sighted eyes she peered at Conradin, waiting
for an outbreak of rage and sorrow, which she was ready to
rebuke with a flow of excellent precepts and reasoning. But
Conradin said nothing: there was nothing to be said.
Something perhaps in his white set face gave her a momentary
qualm, for at tea that afternoon there was toast on the
table, a delicacy which she usually banned on the ground
that it was bad for him; also because the making of it
``gave trouble,'' a deadly offence in the middle-class
``I thought you liked toast,'' she exclaimed, with an
injured air, observing that he did not touch it.
``Sometimes,'' said Conradin.
In the shed that evening there was an innovation in the
worship of the hutch-god. Conradin had been wont to chant
his praises, tonight be asked a boon.
``Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.''
The thing was not specified. As Sredni Vashtar was a god
he must be supposed to know. And choking back a sob as he
looked at that other empty comer, Conradin went back to the
world he so hated.
And every night, in the welcome darkness of his bedroom,
and every evening in the dusk of the tool-shed, Conradin's
bitter litany went up: ``Do one thing for me, Sredni
Mrs. De Ropp noticed that the visits to the shed did not
cease, and one day she made a further journey of inspection.
``What are you keeping in that locked hutch?'' she asked.
``I believe it's guinea-pigs. I'll have them all cleared
Conradin shut his lips tight, but the Woman ransacked his
bedroom till she found the carefully hidden key, and
forthwith marched down to the shed to complete her
discovery. It was a cold afternoon, and Conradin had been
bidden to keep to the house. From the furthest window of
the dining-room the door of the shed could just be seen
beyond the corner of the shrubbery, and there Conradin
stationed himself. He saw the Woman enter, and then be
imagined her opening the door of the sacred hutch and
peering down with her short-sighted eyes into the thick
straw bed where his god lay hidden. Perhaps she would prod
at the straw in her clumsy impatience. And Conradin
fervently breathed his prayer for the last time. But he
knew as he prayed that he did not believe. He knew that the
Woman would come out presently with that pursed smile he
loathed so well on her face, and that in an hour or two the
gardener would carry away his wonderful god, a god no
longer, but a simple brown ferret in a hutch. And he knew
that the Woman would triumph always as she triumphed now,
and that he would grow ever more sickly under her pestering
and domineering and superior wisdom, till one day nothing
would matter much more with him, and the doctor would be
proved right. And in the sting and misery of his defeat, he
began to chant loudly and defiantly the hymn of his
Sredni Vashtar went forth,
His thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white.
His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death.
Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.
And then of a sudden he stopped his chanting and drew
closer to the window-pane. The door of the shed still stood
ajar as it had been left, and the minutes were slipping by.
They were long minutes, but they slipped by nevertheless.
He watched the starlings running and flying in little
parties across the lawn; he counted them over and over
again, with one eye always on that swinging door. A
sour-faced maid came in to lay the table for tea, and still
Conradin stood and waited and watched. Hope had crept by
inches into his heart, and now a look of triumph began to
blaze in his eyes that had only known the wistful patience
of defeat. Under his breath, with a furtive exultation, he
began once again the pan of victory and devastation.
And presently his eyes were rewarded: out through that
doorway came a long, low, yellow-and-brown beast, with eyes
a-blink at the waning daylight, and dark wet stains around
the fur of jaws and throat. Conradin dropped on his knees.
The great polecat-ferret made its way down to a small brook
at the foot of the garden, drank for a moment, then crossed
a little plank bridge and was lost to sight in the bushes.
Such was the passing of Sredni Vashtar.
``Tea is ready,'' said the sour-faced maid; ``where is the
mistress?'' ``She went down to the shed some time ago,''
said Conradin. And while the maid went to summon her
mistress to tea, Conradin fished a toasting-fork out of the
sideboard drawer and proceeded to toast himself a piece of
bread. And during the toasting of it and the buttering of
it with much butter and the slow enjoyment of eating it,
Conradin listened to the noises and silences which fell in
quick spasms beyond the dining-room door. The loud foolish
screaming of the maid, the answering chorus of wondering
ejaculations from the kitchen region, the scuttering
footsteps and hurried embassies for outside help, and then,
after a lull, the scared sobbings and the shuffling tread of
those who bore a heavy burden into the house.
``Whoever will break it to the poor child? I couldn't for
the life of me!'' exclaimed a shrill voice. And while they
debated the matter among themselves, Conradin made himself
another piece of toast.
A Chapter in Acclimatization
His baptismal register spoke of him pessimistically as
John Henry, but he had left that behind with the other
maladies of infancy, and his friends knew him under the
front-name of Adrian. His mother lived in Bethnal Green,
which was not altogether his fault; one can discourage too
much history in one's family, but one cannot always prevent
geography. And, after all, the Bethnal Green habit has this
virtue---that it is seldom transmitted to the next
generation. Adrian lived in a roomlet which came under the
auspicious constellation of W.
How he lived was to a great extent a mystery even to
himself; his struggle for existence probably coincided in
many material details with the rather dramatic accounts he
gave of it to sympathetic acquaintances. All that is
definitely known is that he now and then emerged from the
struggle to dine at the Ritz or Carlton, correctly garbed
and with a correctly critical appetite. On these occasions
he was usually the guest of Lucas Croyden, an amiable
worldling, who had three thousand a year and a taste for
introducing impossible people to irreproachable cookery.
Like most men who combine three thousand a year with an
uncertain digestion, Lucas was a Socialist, and he argued
that you cannot hope to elevate the masses until you have
brought plovers' eggs into their lives and taught them to
appreciate the difference between coupe Jacques and
Macdoine de fruits. His friends pointed out that it was
a doubtful kindness to initiate a boy from behind a drapery
counter into the blessedness of the higher catering, to
which Lucas invariably replied that all kindnesses were
doubtful. Which was perhaps true.
It was after one of his Adrian evenings that Lucas met
his aunt, Mrs. Mebberley, at a fashionable teashop, where
the lamp of family life is still kept burning and you meet
relatives who might otherwise have slipped your memory.
``Who was that good-looking boy who was dining with you
last night?'' she asked. ``He looked much too nice to be
thrown away upon you.''
Susan Mebberley was a charming woman, but she was also an
``Who are his people?'' she continued, when the
protg's name (revised version) had been given her.
``His mother lives at Beth---''
Lucas checked himself on the threshold of what was perhaps
a social indiscretion.
``Beth? Where is it? It sounds like Asia Minor. Is she
mixed up with Consular people?''
``Oh, no. Her work lies among the poor.''
This was a side-slip into truth. The mother of Adrian was
employed in a laundry.
``I see,'' said Mrs. Mebberley, ``mission work of some
sort. And meanwhile the boy has no one to look after him.
It's obviously my duty to see that he doesn't come to harm.
Bring him to call on me.''
``My dear Aunt Susan,'' expostulated Lucas, ``I really
know very little about him. He may not be at all nice, you
know, on further acquaintance.''
``He has delightful hair and a weak mouth. I shall take
him with me to Homburg or Cairo.''
``It's the maddest thing I ever heard of,'' said Lucas
``Well, there is a strong strain of madness in our family.
If you haven't noticed it yourself all your friends must
``One is so dreadfully under everybody's eyes at Homburg.
At least you might give him a preliminary trial at
``And be surrounded by Americans trying to talk French?
No, thank you. I love Americans, but not when they try to
talk French. What a blessing it is that they never try to
talk English. Tomorrow at five you can bring your young
friend to call on me.''
And Lucas, realizing that Susan Mebberley was a woman as
well as an aunt, saw that she would have to be allowed to
have her own way.
Adrian was duly carried abroad under the Mebberley wing;
but as a reluctant concession to sanity Homburg and other
inconveniently fashionable resorts were given a wide berth,
and the Mebberley establishment planted itself down in the
best hotel at Dohledorf, an Alpine townlet somewhere at the
back of the Engadine. It was the usual kind of resort, with
the usual type of visitors, that one finds over the greater
part of Switzerland during the summer season, but to Adrian
it was all unusual. The mountain air, the certainty of
regular and abundant meals, and in particular the social
atmosphere, affected him much as the indiscriminating
fervour of a forcing-house might affect a weed that had
strayed within its limits. He had been brought up in a world
where breakages were regarded as crimes and expiated as
such; it was something new and altogether exhilarating to
find that you were considered rather amusing if you smashed
things in the right manner and at the recognized hours.
Susan Mebberley had expressed the intention of showing
Adrian a bit of the world; the particular bit of the world
represented by Dohledorf began to be shown a good deal of
Lucas got occasional glimpses of the Alpine sojourn, not
from his aunt or Adrian, but from the industrious pen of
Clovis, who was also moving as a satellite in the Mebberley
``The entertainment which Susan got up last night ended in
disaster. I thought it would. The Grobmayer child, a
particularly loathsome five-year-old, had appeared as
`Bubbles' during the early part of the evening, and been put
to bed during the interval. Adrian watched his opportunity
and kidnapped it when the nurse was downstairs, and
introduced it during the second half of the entertainment,
thinly disguised as a performing pig. It certainly looked
very like a pig, and grunted and slobbered just like the
real article; no one knew exactly what it was, but every one
said it was awfully clever, especially the Grobmayers. At
the third curtain Adrian pinched it too hard, and it yelled
`Marmar'! I am supposed to be good at descriptions, but
don't ask me to describe the sayings and doings of the
Grobmayers at that moment; it was like one of the angrier
Psalms set to Strauss's music. We have moved to an hotel
higher up the valley.''
Clovis's next letter arrived five days later, and was
written from the Hotel Steinbock.
``We left the Hotel Victoria this morning. It was fairly
comfortable and quiet---at least there was an air of repose
about it when we arrived. Before we had been in residence
twenty-four hours most of the repose had vanished `like a
dutiful bream,' as Adrian expressed it. However, nothing
unduly outrageous happened till last night, when Adrian had
a fit of insomnia and amused himself by unscrewing and
transposing all the bedroom numbers on his floor. He
transferred the bathroom label to the adjoining bedroom
door, which happened to be that of Frau Hofrath Schilling,
and this morning from seven o'clock onwards the old lady had
a stream of involuntary visitors; she was too horrified and
scandalized it seems to get up and lock her door. The
would-be bathers flew back in confusion to their rooms, and,
of course, the change of numbers led them astray again, and
the corridor gradually filled with panic-stricken, scantily
robed humans, dashing wildly about like rabbits in a
ferret-infested warren. It took nearly an hour before the
guests were all sorted into their respective rooms, and the
Frau Hofrath's condition was still causing some anxiety when
we left. Susan is beginning to look a little worried. She
can't very well turn the boy adrift, as he hasn't got any
money, and she can't send him to his people as she doesn't
know where they are. Adrian says his mother moves about a
good deal and he's lost her address. Probably, if the truth
were known, he's had a row at home. So many boys nowadays
seem to think that quarrelling with one's family is a
Lucas's next communication from the travellers took the
form of a telegram from Mrs. Mebberley herself. It was sent
``reply prepaid,'' and consisted of a single sentence: ``In
Heaven's name, where is Beth?''
A strange stillness hung over the restaurant; it was one
of those rare moments when the orchestra was not discoursing
the strains of the Ice-cream Sailor waltz.
``Did I ever tell you,'' asked Clovis of his friend, ``the
tragedy of music at mealtimes?
``It was a gala evening at the Grand Sybaris Hotel, and a
special dinner was being served in the Amethyst dining-hall.
The Amethyst dining-hall had almost a European reputation,
especially with that section of Europe which is historically
identified with the Jordan Valley. Its cooking was beyond
reproach, and its orchestra was sufficiently highly salaried
to be above criticism. Thither came in shoals the intensely
musical and the almost intensely musical, who are very many,
and in still greater numbers the merely musical, who know
how Tschaikowsky's name is pronounced and can recognize
several of Chopin's nocturnes if you give them due warning;
these eat in the nervous, detached manner of roebuck feeding
in the open, and keep anxious ears cocked towards the
orchestra for the first hint of a recognizable melody.
`` `Ah, yes, Pagliacci,' they murmur, as the opening
strains follow hot upon the soup, and if no contradiction is
forthcoming from any better-informed quarter they break
forth into subdued humming by way of supplementing the
efforts of the musicians. Sometimes the melody starts on
level terms with the soup, in which case the banqueters
contrive somehow to hum between the spoonfuls; the facial
expression of enthusiasts who are punctuating potage St.
Germain with Pagliacci is not beautiful, but it should be
seen by those who are bent on observing all sides of life.
One cannot discount the unpleasant things of this world
merely by looking the other way.
``In addition to the aforementioned types the restaurant
was patronized by a fair sprinkling of the absolutely
non-musical; their presence in the dining-hall could only be
explained on the supposition that they had come there to
``The earlier stages of the dinner had worn off. The wine
lists had been consulted, by some with the blank
embarrassment of a school-boy suddenly called on to locate a
Minor Prophet in the tangled hinterland of the Old
Testament, by others with the severe scrutiny which suggests
that they have visited most of the higher-priced wines in
their own homes and probed their family weaknesses. The
diners who chose their wine in the latter fashion always
gave their orders in a penetrating voice, with a plentiful
garnishing of stage directions. By insisting on having your
bottle pointing to the north when the cork is being drawn,
and calling the waiter Max, you may induce an impression on
your guests which hours of laboured boasting might be
powerless to achieve. For this purpose, however, the guests
must be chosen as carefully as the wine.
``Standing aside from the revellers in the shadow of a
massive pillar was an interested spectator who was assuredly
of the feast, and yet not in it. Monsieur Aristide Saucourt
was the chef of the Grand Sybaris Hotel, and if he had an
equal in his profession he had never acknowledged the fact.
In his own domain he was a potentate, hedged around with the
cold brutality that Genius expects rather than excuses in
her children; he never forgave, and those who served him
were careful that there should be little to forgive. In the
outer world, the world which devoured his creations, he was
an influence; how profound or how shallow an influence he
never attempted to guess. It is the penalty and the
safeguard of genius that it computes itself by troy weight
in a world that measures by vulgar hundredweights.