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Title: Lalage's Lovers
Author: Birmingham, George A., 1865-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lalage's Lovers" ***

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LALAGE'S LOVERS

By George A. Birmingham

Copyright, 1911 By George H. Doran Company



CHAPTER I

I had, I suppose, some reason for calling on Canon Beresford, but I have
totally forgotten what it was. In all probability my mother sent me to
discuss some matter connected with the management of the parish or the
maintenance of the fabric of the church. I was then, and still am,
a church warden. The office is hereditary in my family. My son--Miss
Pettigrew recommended my having several sons--will hold it when I am
gone. My mother has always kept me up to the mark in the performance of
my duties. Without her at my elbow I should, I am afraid, be inclined
to neglect them. I am bored, not interested as a churchwarden should
be, when the wall of the graveyard crumbles unexpectedly. I fail to
find either pleasure or excitement in appointing a new sexton. Canon
Beresford, our rector, is no more enthusiastic about such things than
I am. He and I are very good friends, but when he suspects me of paying
him a business visit he goes out to fish. There are, I believe, trout
in the stream which flows at the bottom of the glebe land, but I never
heard of Canon Beresford catching any of them.

It must have been business of some sort which took me to the rectory
that afternoon, for Canon Beresford had gone out with his rod. Miss
Battersby told me this and added, as a justification of her own
agreeable solitude, that Lalage was with her father. Miss Battersby is
Lalage's governess, and she would not consider it right to spend the
afternoon over a novel unless she felt sure that her pupil was being
properly looked after. In this case she was misinformed. Lalage was not
with her father. She was perched on one of the highest branches of a
horse-chestnut tree. I heard her before I saw her, for the chestnut tree
was in full leaf and Lalage had to hail me three or four times before I
discovered where she was. I always liked Lalage, and even in those days
she had a friendly feeling for me. I doubt, however, whether a simple
desire for my conversation would have brought her down from her nest. I
might have passed without being hailed if it had not happened that I was
riding a new bicycle. In those days bicycles were still rare in the west
of Ireland. Mine was a new toy and Lalage had never seen it before. She
climbed from her tree top with remarkable agility and swung herself from
the lowest branch with such skill and activity that she alighted on her
feet close beside the bicycle. She was at that time a little more than
fourteen years of age. She asked at once to be allowed to ride the
bicycle. I was a young man then, active and vigorous; but I was hot,
breathless, and exhausted before Lalage had enough of learning to ride.
I doubt whether she would have given in even after an hour's hard work
if we had not met with a serious accident. We charged into a strong
laurel bush. Lalage's frock was torn. The rent was a long one, extending
diagonally from the waistband to the bottom hem. I knew, even while I
offered one from the back of my tie, that a pin would be no use.

"Cattersby," said Lalage, "will be mad--raging mad. She's always at me
because things will tear my clothes. Horrid nuisance clothes are, aren't
they? But Cattersby doesn't think so of course. She likes them."

The lady's name is Battersby, not Cattersby. She held the position of
governess to Lalage for more than a year and is therefore entitled to
respect. Her predecessor, a Miss Thomas, resigned after six weeks. It
was my mother who recommended Miss Battersby to Canon Beresford. I felt
that I ought to protest against Lalage's irreverent way of speaking. In
mere loyalty to my mother, apart altogether from the respect which, as a
landed proprietor, I naturally entertain for all forms of law and order,
I was absolutely bound to say something.

"You should speak of her as Miss Battersby," I said firmly.

"I call her Cattersby," said Lalage, "because that is her nature."

I said that I understood what this marker meant; but Lalage, who even
then had a remarkable faculty for getting at the naked truth of things,
did not even pretend to believe me.

"Come along," she said, "and I'll show you why."

I followed her meekly, leading my bicycle, which, like Lalage's frock,
had suffered in its contest with the laurel. We passed through the
stable yard and I stopped to put my bicycle into the coach house. An
Irish terrier, Lalage's property, barked at me furiously, thinking, I
suppose, that I intended to steal Canon Beresford's cart. Lalage chose
to regard this as a ridiculous affectation on the part of the dog and
shut him up in the stable as a punishment for folly. Then we climbed a
stile, paddled round a large manure heap, crossed an ash pit, and came
at last to a pigsty. There were no pigs in it, and it was, for a pigsty,
very clean. Lalage opened the gate and we entered the small enclosure
in which the pigs, if there had been pigs, would have taken food and
exercise.

"You'll have to stoop down now and crawl," said Lalage. "You needn't be
afraid. The pigs were sold last week."

I realized that I was being invited to enter the actual home, the
private sleeping room, of the departed swine. The door of it had been
newly painted. While I knelt in front of it I read a notice which
stretched across it in large white letters, done, apparently, with
chalk:

          The Office of the Anti-cat
     Editor: Miss Lalage Beresford, B. A.
          Sub-Editor: Ditto.    Ditto.

Underneath this inscription was a carefully executed drawing of a spear
with a large, a disproportionately large, and vicious looking barb. A
sort of banner depended from its shaft, with these words on it: "For Use
on Cattersby. Revenge is sweet!" I looked round at Lalage, who was on
her hands and knees behind me.

I intended asking for some explanation of the extraordinarily vindictive
spirit displayed by the spear and the banner. Lalage forestalled my
question and explained something else.

"I have the office here," she said, "because it's the only place where I
can be quite sure she won't follow me."

This time I understood thoroughly what was said to me. Cattersby--that
is to say, Miss Battersby--if she were the sort of person who mourned
over torn frocks, and if, as Lalage suggested, she liked clothes, would
be very unwilling to follow any one into the recesses of the pigsty.
Even a bower in the upper branches of a tree would be less secure from
her intrusion. We crawled in. Against the far wall of the chamber stood
the trough from which the pigs, now no doubt deceased, used to eat.

"It was put there," said Lalage, who seemed to know that I was thinking
of the trough, "after they had done cleaning out the sty, so that it
wouldn't go rotten in the wet before we got some more young pigs."

"Was that Miss Battersby's idea?"

"No, it wasn't. Cattersby wouldn't think of anything half so useful.
All she cares about is sums and history and lessony things. It was Tom
Kitterick who put it there, and I helped him. Tom Kitterick is the boy
who cleans the boots and pumps the water. It was that time," she
added, "that I got paint all over my blue dress. She said it was Tom
Kitterick's fault."

"It may have been," I said, "partly. Anyhow Tom Kitterick is a
red-haired, freckly youth. It wouldn't do him any harm to be slanged a
bit for something."

"It's a jolly sight better to have freckles, even if you come out all
over like a turkey egg, than to go rubbing stinking stuff on your face
at night. That's what Cattersby does. I caught her at it."

Miss Battersby has a nice, smooth complexion and is, 'no doubt, quite
justified in doing her best to preserve it. But I did not argue the
point with Lalage. A discussion might have led to further revelations of
intimate details of the lady's toilet. I was young in those days and I
rather prided myself on being a gentleman. I changed the subject.

"Perhaps," I said, "you will now tell me why you have brought me here.
Are we to have a picnic tea in the pigs' trough?"

Lalage crawled past me. She had to crawl, for there was not room in
the sty for even a child to stand upright. She took out of the trough
a bundle of papers, pierced at the top left-hand corner and tied with a
slightly soiled blue ribbon. She handed it to me and I looked it over.
It was, apparently, a manuscript magazine modelled on those sold at
railway bookstalls for sixpence. It was called, as I might have guessed,
the _Anti-Cat_. The table of contents promised the following reading
matter:

     1. Editor's Chat.

     2. Poetry--A Farewell.   To be recited in her presence.

     3.  The Ignominy of Having a Governess.

     4.  Prize Competition for the Best Insult Story.

"You can enter for that if you like," said Lalage, who had been
following my eyes down the page.

"I shall," I said, "if she insults me; but she never has yet."

"Nor she won't," said Lalage. "She'll be honey to you. That's one of the
worst things about her. She's a hypocrite. I loathe hypocrites, don't
you?"

I returned to the table of contents:

     5.  On Sneaking--First Example.

     6.  Our Tactics, by the Editor.

"She won't insult you," said Lalage. "She simply crawls to any grown-up.
You should hear her talking to father and pretending that she thinks
fishing nice."

"She's perfectly right to do that. After all, Lalage, your father is a
canon and a certain measure of respect is due to his recreations as well
as to his serious work. Besides----"

"It's never right to crawl to any one."

"Besides," I said, "what you call crawling may in reality be sympathy.
I'm sure Miss Battersby has a sympathetic disposition. It is very
difficult to draw the line between proper respect, flavoured with
appreciative sympathy, and what you object to as sycophancy."

"If you're going to try and show off," said Lalage, "by using ghastly
long words which nobody could possibly understand you'd better go and
do it to the Cat. She'll like it. I'm not going to sit here all day
listening to you. Either read the magazine or don't, whichever you like.
I don't care whether you do or not, but I won't be jawed."

This subdued me at once. I began with the poem:

     "Fair Cattersby I weep to see
          You haste away by train,
     As yet that Latin exercise
          Has not been done again.
     Stay, stay,
          Until amo, I say.
          (To be continued in our next)"

"There was a difficulty about the last three lines, I suppose," I said.

"Yes," said Lalage. "I couldn't remember how they went, and Cattersby
had the book. She pretends she likes reading poetry, though she doesn't
really, and she makes me learn off whole chunks of it."

"You can't deny that it comes in useful occasionally. I don't see how
you could have composed that parody if she hadn't made you learn----"

"She didn't. That's not the sort of poetry she makes me learn. If it was
I might do it. She finds out rotten things about 'Little Lamb, who made
you?' 'We are Seven,' and stuff of that sort. Not what I call poetry at
all."

I had the good sense while at Oxford to attend some lectures given by
the professor of poetry. I also belonged for a time to an association
modestly called "The Brotherhood of Rhyme." We used to meet in my rooms
and read original compositions to each other until none of us could
stand it any longer. I am therefore thoroughly well qualified to discuss
poetry with any one.

I should, under ordinary circumstances, have taken a pleasure in
defending the reputations of Blake and Wordsworth, but I shrank from
attempting to do so in a pigsty with Lalage Beresford as an opponent, I
turned to the last page of the _Anti-Cat_ and read the article entitled
"Our Tactics." It was exceedingly short, but it struck me as able. I
began to have a great deal of pity for Miss Battersby.

"Calm" (or Balm. There was an uncertainty about the first letter) "and
haughty _in her presence_. Let yourself out _behind her back_."

"What about your going in for the competition?" said Lalage. "Even if
she doesn't insult you you could easily invent something. You've seen
her and you know quite well the sort she is. You might get the prize."

"May I read the story you've got?" I asked. "If it's not very good I
might perhaps try; but it is probably quite superior to anything I could
possibly produce, and in that case there would be no use my attempting
to compete."

"It is good," said Lalage, "but yours might be good too, and then I
should divide the prize, or you could give a second prize; a box of
Turkish Delight would do."

This encouraged me and I read the "Insult Story."

"I did my lessons studiously, as good as I could.", Lalage was a
remarkably good speller for her age. Many much older people would have
staggered over "studiously." She took it, so to speak, in her stride.

"I wrote out a lot of questions on the history and answered them all
without looking at the book. I knew it perfectly. The morning came and
with it history. I answered all the questions except one--the character
of Mary. The insulter repeated it, commanding me to 'Say it now.' I
said it with a bland smile upon my face, as I thought how well I knew my
history."

"Laiage," I said, pausing in the narrative, "did you make that smile
bland simply because you knew your history or was its blandness part of
the tactics, 'Balm and haughty in her presence?'"

"Calm," said Lalage, "calm, not balm. Never mind about that. Go on."

"The insulter," I read, "turned crimson with rage and shrieked demnation
and stamped about the floor. Cooling down a bit, she said, 'You shall
write it out ten times this afternoon.' Naturally I was astonished, for
I had said it perfectly correctly when she told me. I had, however,
a better control over my temper than she had, and managed, despite my
passionate thoughts, to smile blandly all through, though it made her
ten times worse."

"Well?" said Lalage when I had finished.

"I am a little confused," I said. "I thought the story was to be about
an insult offered by Miss Battersby to some one else, you, or perhaps
me." "It is," said Lalage. "That's what the prize is for, the best
insult."

"But this seems to me to be about an insult applied by the author to
Miss Battersby. I couldn't conscientiously go in for a competition in
which I should represent myself as doing a thing of that sort."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Lalage. "I didn't insult
her. She insulted me."

"Come now, Lalage, honour bright! That smile of yours! How would you
like any one to make you ten times worse by smiling blandly at you when
you happened to be stamping about the floor crimson in the face and
shrieking----"

"I wouldn't. I don't use words of that sort even when I'm angry."

"It might be better if you did. A frank outburst of that kind is at
times less culpable than a balmy smile. I have a much greater respect
and liking for the person who says plainly what she means than----"

"She didn't. She wouldn't think it ladylike." "Didn't what?"

"Didn't say straight out what she meant."

"She can't have meant more," I said. "After all, we must be reasonable.
There isn't any more that any one could mean."

"You're very stupid," said Lalage. "I keep on telling you she didn't say
it. She's far too great a hypocrite."

"Do you mean to say that she didn't stamp about the floor and say----"

I hesitated. I have been very carefully brought up and I am a
churchwarden. Besides, there is a Latin tag which Canon Beresford, who
has a taste for tags, quotes occasionally, about the great reverence due
to boys. Obviously a much greater reverence must be due to girls. I
did not want my conscience to have an opportunity for reproaching me.
Therefore I hesitated when it came to the point of saying out loud a
word which Lelage ought certainly not to hear.

She came to my rescue and finished my sentence for me in a way which
got me out of my difficulty. Very likely she felt that she ought not to
corrupt me.

"That word," she said.

"Thanks! We'll put it that way. Am I to understand that she didn't say
that word?"

"Certainly not," said Lalage. "She couldn't if she tried. I should--I
really think I should quite like her if she did."

I felt that this was as far as I was at all likely to get in bringing
Lalage to a better frame of mind. Her attitude toward her governess was
very far indeed from that enjoined in the Church Catechism, but I lacked
the courage to tell her so. Nor do I think I should have effected much
even if I had been as brave in rebuke as an archdeacon or a bishop.
Besides, I felt that I had accomplished something. Lalage had committed
herself to an approval of a hypothetical Miss Battersby. If a governess
could be found in the world who would stamp about the floor and shriek
that word, or if Miss Battersby would learn the habit of violent
profanity, Lalage would quite like her. It was a definite concession. I
had a mental vision of the changed Miss Battersby, a lady freckled from
head to foot, magnificently contemptuous of glycerine and cucumber, who
hated clothes and tore them when she could, who rejoiced to see blue
dresses with blobs of bright red paint on them, who scoffed openly at
Blake's poetry, who had been to sea or companied with private soldiers
on the battlefield, and so garnered a store of scorching blasphemies. I
imagined Lalage taking this paragon to her heart, clinging to her with
warm affection, leading her into pigstys for confidential chats, and, if
she published a magazine at all, calling it _Our Feline Friend_. But the
dream faded, as such dreams do. Miss Battersby was plainly incapable of
rising to the heights required.

It is to my credit that in the end I did make an effort to soften
Lalage.

"I wish," I said, "that you'd try and call her Pussy instead of Cat."

"Why? What's the difference?"

"The meaning is the same," I said. "But it's a much kinder way of
putting it. You ought to try and be kind, Lalage."

She pondered this advice for a while and then said:

"I would, if only she'd stop kissing me."

"Does she do it often?"

"Every morning and every evening and sometimes during the day."

That settled it. I could not press my point. Once, years afterward, Miss
Battersby very nearly kissed me, but even before there was any chance
of such a thing I was able to sympathize with Lalage. I crept out of the
pigsty and went home again, leading my injured bicycle.



CHAPTER II

There is a short cut which leads from my house to the church, and
therefore, of course, to the rectory, which stands, as rectories often
do, close to the church. The path--it can only be used by those who
walk--leads past the garden and through a wood to the high road. It was
on this path, a quarter of a mile or so from the road, that I met Canon
Beresford, about ten days after my interview with Lalage in the pigsty.
Certain wood pigeons of low morality had been attacking our gooseberry
bushes. My mother, instigated by the gardener, demanded their
destruction, and so I went out with a gun. I shot two of the worst
offenders. The gardener discovered half digested fruit in the dead
bodies, so I am sure that I got the right birds and did not unjustly
execute the innocent. Then I met the Canon. He displayed no interest
whatever in the destruction of the wood pigeons, although his garden
must have suffered quite as much as ours. I remarked that it was nearly
luncheon time and asked him to return with me and share the meal. He was
distraught and nervous, but he managed to quote Horace by way of reply:

     "Destrictus ensis cui super impia
     Cervice pendet, non Siculae dapes. . . ."

The Canon's fondness for Horace accounts, I suppose, for the name he
gave his daughter. His habit of quoting is troublesome to me; because
I cannot always translate what he says. But he has a feeling for my
infirmity and a tactful way of saving my self-respect.

"If you had a heavy, two-handed sword hanging over your head by a
hair," he explained, "you would be thinking about something else besides
luncheon."

"What has the Archdeacon been doing?" I asked.

The Archdeacon is a man with a thirst for information about church
affairs, and he collects what he wants by means of questions printed
on sheets of paper which he expects other people to answer. Canon
Beresford, who never has statistics at hand, and consequently has
to invent his answers to the questions, suffers a good deal from the
Archdeacon.

"It's not the Archdeacon this time," he said. "I wish it was. The fact
is I am in trouble again about Lalage. I am on my way up to consult your
mother."

"Has Miss Battersby been complaining?"

"She's leaving," said the Canon, at once. "Leaving, so to speak,
vigorously."

"I was afraid it would come to that. She wasn't the sort of woman who'd
readily take to swearing."

"I very nearly did," said the Canon. "She cried. It's curious, but she
really seems fond of Lalage."

"Did she by any chance force her way into the pigsty and find the
_Anti-Cat?_"

Canon Beresford looked at me and a smile hovered about his mouth. "So
you've seen that production?" he said. "I call it rather good."

"But you can hardly blame Miss Battersby for leaving, can you?"

"She didn't see it," said the Canon, "thank goodness."

"Then why on earth is she leaving? What else can she have to complain
of?"

"There was trouble. The sort of trouble nobody could possibly foresee or
guard against. You know Tom Kitterick, don't you?"

"The boy who cleans your boots? Yes, I do. A freckly faced brat."

"Exactly. Well, it appears that Miss Battersby is rather particular
about her complexion, and----"

"Lalage tried the stuff on Tom Kitterick, I suppose."

"Yes. She used the whole bottle, and Miss Battersby found out what had
happened and complained to me. She was extremely nice about it, but she
said that the incident had made her position as Lalage's governess quite
impossible."

"Lalage, of course, smiled balmily."

"Calmly," said the Canon. "She told me herself that the word was calm,
though it looked rather like 'balm.' Anyhow, that was the last straw.
Miss Battersby goes next week. The Archdeacon----"

"I thought he'd come in before we'd done."

"He did his best to be sympathetic and helpful. He said yesterday, just
before he went to Dublin, that what Lalage requires is a firm hand over
her. That's the sort of thing a bachelor with no children of his own
does say, and means of course. Any man who had ever tried to bring up
a girl would know that firm hands are totally useless, and, besides, I
haven't got any. '_Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno...._' Don't try to
translate that if you'd rather not. It simply means that I'm not the man
I used to be. I hate trying to cope with these domestic broils. That's
why I'm going up to see your mother."

The drawn sword did not really interfere with the Canon's appetite, but
he refused to smoke a cigar after luncheon. I went off by myself to the
library. He followed my mother into the drawing-room. I waited, although
I had a good many things to do, until he joined me. He sighed heavily as
he sat down.

"Lalage is to go to school after summer," he said.

"My mother," I replied with conviction, "is sure to be right about a
matter like that."

"I suppose she is; but Lalage won't like it."

The Canon sighed again, heavily. I tried to cheer him up.

"She'll enjoy the companionship of the other girls," I said. "I daresay
she won't have a bad time. After all, a girl of fourteen ought to have
friends of her own age. It will be far better for her to be running
about with a skipping rope in a crowd of other damsels than to be
climbing chestnut trees and writing parodies in lonely pigstys."

"That's very much what your mother said. I wish I could think so. I'm
dreadfully afraid that, brought up as she has been, she'll have a bad
time of it."

"Anyhow, she won't have half, as bad a time as the schoolmistress."

I had hit upon the true line of consolation. The Canon smiled feebly,
and I pursued my subject.

"There won't, of course, be pigstys in the school, but----"

"I don't think a pigsty is absolutely essential to Lalage's comfort."

"Probably not. Lalage isn't the sort of girl who is dependent for her
happiness on the accident of outward circumstance. You know, Canon,
that our surroundings are not the things which really matter most. The
philosophic mind----"

I had unthinkingly given the Canon his opportunity. I could see a
well-known quotation actually trembling on his lips. I stopped him
ruthlessly.

"I know that ode," I said. "It's one I learned at school, but it doesn't
apply to Lalage. She isn't in the least content with things as she finds
them. That's her great charm. She's more like Milton's Satan."

I can quote too, though only English poets, unless after special
preparation beforehand. I intended to shoot off some lines out of
"Paradise Lost" at the Canon, but he would not listen. He may not have
liked the comparison suggested.

"I have to be off," he said. "Lalage is waiting to hear what your mother
has settled. I mustn't keep her too long."

"Did you tell her you were coming up here for advice?"

"Of course I did. She quite agreed with me that it was the best thing
to do. She always says that your mother is the only person she knows who
has any sense. Miss Battersby's sudden resignation was rather a shock to
her. She was in a curiously chastened mood this morning."

"She'll get over that all right," I said. "She'll be bringing out
another number of the _Anti-Cat_ in a couple of days."

I spent two hours after the Canon left me watching the building of a new
lodge at my back gate. My mother professes to believe that work of this
kind, indeed of any kind, is better done if I go and look at it.
In reality I think she is anxious to provide me with some sort of
occupation and to interest me in the management of such property as
recent legislation has left to an Irish landlord. But she may be right
in supposing that the builders build better when I am watching them.
They certainly build less rapidly. The foreman is a pleasant fellow,
with a store of interesting anecdotes. I give him tobacco in some form
and he narrates his experiences. The other workmen listen and grin
appreciatively. Thus a certain sedateness of progress is ensured and all
danger of hasty building, which is, I understand, called jerry building,
is avoided.

At five o'clock, after I had heard some twenty or thirty stories and the
builders had placed in position about the same number of stones, I went
home in search of afternoon tea. My mother was in the drawing-room, and
Miss Battersby was with her. She too, had come to ask advice. I am sure
she needed it, poor woman. What she said about Lalage I do not know, for
the subject was dropped when I entered the room, but Miss Battersby's
position evidently commanded my mother's sympathy. Shortly after leaving
the rectory she was established, on my mother's recommendation, in
Thormanby Park. Lord Thormanby, who is my uncle, has three daughters,
all of them nice, well-disposed girls, not the least like Lalage.
Miss Battersby got on well with them, taught them everything which
well-educated girls in their position ought to know. She finally settled
down as a sort of private secretary to Lord Thormanby. He needed some
one of the sort, for as he grew older he became more and more addicted
to public business. He is at present about sixty-five. If he lives to be
seventy and goes on as he is going, Miss Battersby will have to
retire in favour of some one who can write shorthand and manipulate a
typewriter. She will then, I have no doubt, play a blameless part in
life by settling flowers for Lady Thormanby. But all this is still a
long way off.

I was naturally anxious to hear Miss Battersby's version of the
experimental treatment of Tom Kitterick's complexion. I hoped that
my mother would have told me the story voluntarily. She did not, so I
approached the subject obliquely after dinner.

"The Archdeacon," I said, "was lamenting to me this morning that Mrs.
Beresford died while Lalage was still a baby."

My mother seemed a little surprised to hear this.

"He takes the greatest interest in Lalage," I added. "She's a very
attractive little girl."

"Very," said my mother. "But I thought the Archdeacon went to Dublin
yesterday. He certainly told me he was going. Did he come back at once?"

"So far as I know he hasn't come back."

"Then when did he say----"

"He didn't actually say it at all. He hardly ever says anything to me. I
so seldom see him, you know."

This at least was true. Although the seat of the archdeaconry is in
Drumbo, a town which contains our nearest railway station and which is
our chief centre for local shopping, I had not spoken to the Archdeacon
for more than three months. My mother seemed to be waiting for an
explanation of my original remark. I gave her one at once.

"But it's exactly the kind of thing the Archdeacon would have said if he
hadn't been in Dublin and if I had met him and if our conversation had
happened to turn on Lalage Beresford."

My mother admitted frankly that this was true; but she seemed to think
my explanation incomplete. I added to it.

"He went on to speak at some length," I said. "That is to say he would
have gone on to speak at some length about the great importance of a
mother's influence during the early years of a girl's life."

My mother still looked at me and her face still wore a questioning
expression. It was evident to me that I must further justify myself.

"So I'm not doing the Archdeacon any wrong," I went on, "in putting
into his mouth words and sentiments which he would certainly approve. I
happen to have forestalled him in giving them expression, but he would
readily endorse them. You know yourself that he's great on subjects like
the sacred home influence of a good woman."

"I suppose," said my mother after a pause, "that you want to hear the
whole account of Lalage's latest escapade?"

"Miss Battersby's version of it," I said. "I heard the Canon's after
luncheon."

"And that story of yours about the Archdeacon----"

"That," I said, "was my way of introducing the subject without
displaying what might strike you as vulgar curiosity. I have too much
respect for you to heckle you with aggressive inquiries as if you were a
Chief Secretary for Ireland and I were a Member of Parliament. Besides,
I don't like the feeling that I'm asking blunt questions about Miss
Battersby's private affairs. After all, she's a lady. I'm sure you'll
appreciate my feelings."

"Lalage," said my mother, "is an extremely naughty little girl who will
be a great deal better at school."

"But have you considered the plan from the point of view of the school
you're sending her to?"

"Miss Pettigrew is an old friend of mine and----"

"Is she the schoolmistress?"

"The principal," said my mother, "and she's quite capable of dealing
with Lalage."

"I wasn't thinking of her. As I told the Canon this afternoon, Lalage
will probably be very good for her."

"She'll certainly be very good for Lalage."

"I'm not saying anything the least derogatory to Miss Pettigrew.
Schoolmasters are just the same. So are the heads of colleges. The
position tends to develop certain quite trifling defects of character
for which Lalage will be an almost certain cure."

"You don't know Miss Pettigrew."

"No, I don't. That's the reason I'm trying not to talk of her. What I'm
considering and what you ought to be considering is the effect of Lalage
on the other girls. Think of those nice, innocent young creatures, fresh
from their sheltered homes----"

"My dear boy," said my mother, "what on earth do you know about little
girls?"

"Nothing," I said, "but I've always been led to believe that they are
sweet and innocent."

"Let me tell you then," said my mother, "that Lalage has a career of
real usefulness before her in that school. Most girls of her age are
inclined to be sentimental and occasionally priggish. Lalage will do
them all the good in the world."

I wonder why it is that so many able women have an incurably low
opinion of their own sex? My mother would not say things like that about
schoolboys, though they are at least equally sentimental and most of
them more priggish. She is extremely kind to people like Miss Battersby,
although she regards them as pitiably incompetent when their cosmetics
are used on stable-boys. Yet she would not despise me or regard it as my
fault if some one took my shaving soap and washed a kitchen maid's face
with it.

"So," I said, "Lalage is to go forth as a missionary of anarchy, a
ravening wolf into the midst of a sheepfold."

"The Archdeacon was saying to me this morning," said my mother, "that if
you----"

"May I interrupt you one moment?" I said. "I understood that the
Archdeacon was in Dublin."

"This," said my mother, "is another of the things which the Archdeacon
would have said if he had been at home."

"Oh," I said, "in that case I should particularly like to hear it."

"He said, or would have said, that if you allow your habit of flippant
talking to grow on you you'll lose all hold on the solemn realities of
life and become a totally useless member of society."

"I quite admit," I said, "that the Archdeacon would have put it in
pretty nearly those words if he had said it. I particularly admire that
part about the solemn realities of life. But the Archdeacon's a just man
and he would not have made a remark of that kind. He knows the facts.
I hold a commission in the militia, which is one of the armed forces of
the Crown; auxiliary is, I think, the word properly applied to it. I am
a justice of the peace and every Wednesday I sit on the judgment seat
in Drumbo and agree with the stipendiary magistrate in administering
justice. I am also a churchwarden and the Archdeacon is well aware of
what that means. He would be the first to admit that these are
solemn realities. I don't see what more I can do, unless I stand for
Parliament. I suppose a constituency might be found somewhere which
would value a man with a good temper and a little money to spare."

"Perhaps," said my mother smiling, "we'll find that constituency for you
some day."

This was the first hint I ever got of my unfortunate destiny. It gave
me a feeling of chill. There is nothing I want less than a seat in
Parliament; but nothing seems more certain now than that I shall get
one. Even then, when my mother made her first smiling reference to the
subject, I knew in my heart that there was no escape for me.



CHAPTER III

Lalage's departure from our midst took place early in September and
happened on a Wednesday, the day of the Drumbo Petty Sessions. Our list
of malefactors that week was a particularly short one and I was able
to leave the court house in good time to see Lalage off at the railway
station. I was in fact, in very good time and arrived half an hour
before the train was advertised to leave. Canon Beresford and Lalage
were there before me. The Canon, when I came upon them, was pressing
Lalage to help herself to chocolate creams from a large box which he
held open in his hand. He greeted me with an apologetic quotation:

     "Nunc vino peilite curas
     Cras ingens iterabimus sequor."

"When you come home for the Christmas holidays, Lalage," I said, "you'll
be able to translate that. In the meanwhile I may as well tell you that
it means----"

"You needn't," said Lalage. "Father has told me four times already. He
has been saying it over and over ever since breakfast. It means that I
may as well eat as much as I can now because I shall be sick to-morrow
any way. But that's all humbug, of course. I shouldn't be sick if I
ate the whole box. Last Christmas I ate three boxes as well as plum
pudding."

I felt snubbed. So, I think, did the Canon. Lalage smiled at us, but
more in pity than in balm.

"I call this rather a scoop for me," said Lalage.

"I'm glad of that," I said, "for I've brought a bottle of French plums
from my mother and a box of Turkish Delight which I bought out of my own
money."

"Thanks," said Lalage. "But it wasn't the chocolates I was thinking
of. The scoop I mean is going to school. It's a jolly sight better than
rotting about here with a beastly governess."

"You can't expect any governess to enjoy being robbed of her glycerine
and cucumber," I said. "You wouldn't like it yourself."

"That wasn't the real reason," said Lalage. "Even Cattersby had more
sense than that."

"She means," said the Canon, "that it didn't begin there."

"No," I said, "it began with the character of Mary."

"It didn't," said Lalage. "She'd forgotten all about that and so had I.
What really began it was my birthday. For three weeks I had suggested a
holiday for that day from the tyrant. Her answer had ever been: 'A half
will do you nicely.' If pressed: 'You are very ungrateful. I may not
give you even that.' So I acted boldly. It was breakfast time and we
were eating fish----"

"Trout," said the Canon. "I remember the morning perfectly. Tom
Kitterick caught them the day before. I took him out with me. The
Archdeacon had been over to see me."

"Laying down my fork," Lalage went on, "I said to no one in
particular----"

"Excuse me, Lalage," I said, "but is this a quotation from the last
number of the _Anti-Cat?_"

"It is. I had an article about it. How did you guess?"

"There was something in the style of the narrative, a certain quite
appreciable literary flavour which suggested the _Anti-Cat_; but please
go on and keep to the words of the article as far as possible. You had
just got to where you spoke to no one in particular."

"Laying down my fork, I said to no one in particular: 'Of course I get
a holiday for my birthday.' 'I think a half----' began she. 'Of course,'
said father loudly, 'a holiday on such a great occasion.' Her face fell.
Her scowl deepened. To hide her rage she blew her nose. There was a
revengeful glitter in her eye."

Lalage paused.

"I need scarcely tell you," said the Canon, "that I had no idea when I
spoke that there had been any previous discussion of the subject."

"The article ends there, I suppose," I said.

"Yes," said Lalage. "She had it in for me after that worse than ever,
knowing that I had jolly well scored off her."

"And in the end she broke out over your effort to improve Tom
Kitterick's complexion?"

"She sneaked," said Lalage; "sneaked to father. I wrote an article about
that. It's in my box if you'd like to see it."

The Canon's eyes met mine. Then we both looked at our watches. We had
still ten minutes before the train started.

"It's about halfway down," said Lalage, "on the left-hand side."

"I think we might----" I said.

"Yes," said the Canon. "In fact we must."

We moved together across the platform toward the porter's barrow, on
which Lalage's trunk lay.

"I should like to see the article," I said, fumbling with the strap.

"It isn't so much that," said the Canon. "Somebody is sure to unpack her
box for her to-night, and if Miss Pettigrew came on the thing and read
it----"

"She would be prejudiced against Lalage."

"I'd like the poor child to start fair, anyhow," said the Canon,
"whatever happens later on."

We unpacked a good many of Lalage's clothes and came on the second
number of the _Anti-Cat_. Lalage took possession of it and turned over
the pages, while the Canon and I refolded a blue serge dress and wedged
it into its place with boots.

"Here you are," said Lalage, when I had finished tugging at the straps.
"'Sneaking, Second Example. The Latest Move of Cattersby. Such a move! A
disgrace to any properly run society, a further disgrace to the already
disgraceful tactics of the Cat! How even that base enemy could do such a
thing is more than we honourable citizens can understand.'"

"The other honourable citizen," I said, "is Tom Kitterick, I suppose."

"No," said Lalage. "There was only me, but that's the way editors
always talk. Father told me so once.--'Yet she did it. She sneaked. Yes,
sneaked to the grown-up society, complained, as the now extinct Tommy
used to do."

"The allusion," I said, "escapes me. Who was the now extinct Tommy?"

"The one before the Cat," said Lalage.

"Her name," said the Canon feebly, "was Miss Thomas. She did complain a
good deal about Lalage during the six weeks she was with us."

"Is that the whole of the article?" I asked. "It's very short."

"There was nothing more to say," said Lalage; "so what was the good of
going on?"

"I thought," I said, "and hoped that there might have been something in
it about the effect the stuff had on Tom Kitterick. I have never been
able to find out anything about that."

"It didn't do much to Tom Kitterick," said Lalage. "He was just as
turkey eggy afterward as he was before. It didn't even smart, though I
rubbed it in for nearly half an hour, and Tom Kitterick said I'd have
the skin off his face, which just shows the silly sort of stuff it was.
Not that I'd expect the Cat to have anything else except silly stuff.
That's the kind she is. Anybody would know it by simply looking at her.
Father, I don't believe you've got my ticket. Hadn't you better go and
see about it?"

The Canon went in search of the station master and found him at last
digging potatoes in a plot of ground beyond the signal box. It took some
time to persuade him to part with anything so valuable as a ticket to
Dublin.

"Lalage," I said, while the Canon was arguing with the station master,
"I want you to write to me from school and tell me how you are getting
on."

"I have a lot of letters to write," she said. "I'm not sure I can write
to you."

"Try. I particularly want to know what Miss Pettigrew thinks of your
English composition. I should mark you high for it myself."

"I have to write to father every week, and I've promised to answer Tom
Kitterick when he lets me know how the new pigs are getting on."

"Still you might manage a line to me in between. If you do I'll send you
a long answer or a picture postcard, whichever you like."

"I can't read your writing," said Lalage, "so I'd rather have the
postcard."

The Canon returned just as the train steamed in. We put Lalage into a
second-class compartment. Then I slipped away and gave the guard half
a crown, charging him to look after Lalage and to see that no mischief
happened to her on the way to Dublin. To my surprise he was unwilling
to receive the tip. He told me that the Canon had already given him
two shillings and he seemed to think that he was being overpaid for a
simple, not very onerous, duty. I pressed my half crown into his hand
and assured him that before he got to Dublin he would, if he really
looked after Lalage, have earned more than four and sixpence.

"In fact," I said, "four and sixpence won't be nearly enough to
compensate you for the amount of worry and anxiety you will go through.
You must allow me to add another half crown and make seven shillings of
it.'"

The man was a good deal surprised and seemed inclined to protest.

"You needn't hesitate," I said. "I wouldn't take on the job myself for
double the money."

"It could be," said the guard pocketing my second half crown, "that the
young lady might be for getting out at the wrong station. There's some
of them does."

"Nothing so simple as that," I said. "Any ordinary young lady would get
out at a wrong station, and a couple of shillings would be plenty to
offer you for chasing her in again. This one----"

I hesitated, for I really did not know what Lalage was likely to do.

"I'll lock the door on her, anyway," said the guard.

"You may, but don't flatter yourself that you'll have her safe then.
The only thing you can calculate on in the case of this particular
young lady is that whatever she does will be something that you couldn't
possibly guess beforehand. Not that there's any real harm in her. She's
simply possessed of an adventurous spirit and striking originality.
Good-bye."

I had just time to shake hands with Lalage before the train started. She
waved her pocket handkerchief cheerily to us as we stood together on
the platform. I caught a glimpse of the guard's face while his van swept
past us. It wore a set expression, like that of a man determined in
the cause of duty to go steadily forward into the unknown facing dread
things bravely. I was satisfied that I had made a deep impression on
him and I felt sorry that I had not made up his tip to an even half
sovereign.

The Canon was depressed as we drove home together. I felt it my duty to
cheer him up as much as I could.

"After all," I said, "you've nothing to reproach yourself with.
Miss Battersby has got another situation. She'll be far happier at
Thormanby's than she ever could have been with you. His girls are
thoroughly well brought up."

"She was very fond of Lalage," said the Canon.

"Still, they didn't suit each other. Miss Battersby will get over any
feeling of regret she may have at first. She'll be far more at home with
quiet, well-tamed girls like Thormanby's."

The Canon was not listening to me. I judged from this that it was not
anxiety about Miss Battersby's future that was preying on his mind. I
tried again.

"If it's the thought of that bottle of glycerine and cucumber which is
worrying you," I said, "don't let it. Send her another. Send her two.
Make Tom Kitterick carry them over to Thormanby Park and present them on
bended knee, clad only in his shirt and with a halter round his neck."

The Canon's gloom merely deepened.

"I don't think," I said, "that you need fret about Miss Pettigrew. After
all, it's her job. She must meet plenty of high-spirited girls."

"I wasn't thinking of her," said the Canon.

Then he began to murmur to himself and I was barely able, by leaning
over toward him, to catch the quotation.

     "Miserarum est neque amori dare ludem.  .  .  ."

He saw that I was listening and lapsed into English. "There's a
translation of that ode," he said, "into something quite like the
original metre":

     "'How unhappy is the maiden who with Cupid may not play,
     And who may not touch the wine cup, but must listen all the day
     To an uncle and the scourging of his tongue'"

"Come now, Canon," I said, "Lalage is a precocious child, I know. But
she won't feel those particular deprivations yet awhile. She didn't try
to flirt with Tom Kitterick, did she?"

"It's all the same thing really," said the Canon. "The confinement and
discipline will be just as severe on her as they were on that girl of
Horace's, though, of course, they will take a different form. She's
been accustomed to a good deal of freedom and independence."

"According to the Archdeacon," I said, "to more than was good for her."

"I couldn't help that."

"No, you couldn't. Nobody could. My mother thinks Miss Pettigrew may,
but I don't believe it myself. Lalage will break out all right as soon
as she gets a chance."

For the first time since we left the station the Canon smiled and seemed
a little more cheerful.

"If I thought that----" he said.

"You may be perfectly sure of it, but I don't think you ought actually
to hope it. The Archdeacon is a very wise man and I'm sure that, if he
contemplates the possibility at all, he fears it."

"I suppose so," said the Canon, sighing again. "It will all be a great
change for Lalage, whatever happens."



CHAPTER IV

I feared at first that Lalage was not going to write to me. Nearly three
weeks passed before I got a letter from her and I was inclined to
blame her for neglect of an old friend. When the letter did arrive I
imderstood that I had no right to be angry. Lalage was better than I had
dared to hope. She kept a kind of irregular diary in an exercise book
and sent it to me. It was, like all diaries, in disconnected paragraphs,
evidently written down when the mood for recording experiences was on
Lalage. There were no dates attached, but the first entry must, I think,
embody the result of a very early series of impressions. One, at least,
of the opinions expressed in it was modified later on:

"When I arrived I was hustled into a room by a small fat lady dressed in
purple; not the old Pet, which is what we call Miss Pettigrew. I waited
for ten minutes. Then I was hustled upstairs by the same purple-clothed
lady, and shown a locker, Number 73. There I stayed for about five
minutes and then was driven down again by the purple-clothed lacly and
pushed into the same room as I had been before. Again I was herded off
(after about five minutes), needless to say by the purple-robed woman,
and shoved into a waiting-room."

Lalage's patience must by this time have been wearing thin. It is
noticeable that the "lady" had become a mere "woman" in the last
sentence.

"There I stayed twenty minutes, a long twenty minutes, and lo! there
came the purple-dressed woman unto me and bore me away to be examined.
She slung me at the mercy of a mistress who gave me a desk (with a chair
clamped to the ground) paper, pen and examination papers. Could you
answer the following: Who succeeded (a) Stephen, (b) John, (c) Edward
III? I said to the old Pet, 'This is all rotten.' (By the way, I had
been sent off to her when I had done.) And she replied, 'Oh, that's not
at all a nice word for a young lady to use. We can't have that here.'
She's rather an ass.

"I was made to feel exactly like Lady Macbeth to-day at algebra. When
Miss Campbell turned her back, another girl dared me to put my pen
in Miss Campbell's red ink. (This is strictly against the law.) So
of course I did. But instead of mopping it straight off like a fool I
displayed it with pride. Consequently it fell all over my hands. Miss
Campbell was just coming up so I had to hide them murmuring 'Out, damned
spot!' etc. Luckily she didn't see, for she's just the sort that would
report you like a shot."

"The names of suburban houses are awfully funny."

This entry evidently followed one of Lalage's first outings. I felt
acutely the contrast between the pleasant chestnut tree, the fragrant
sty, and the paved footways along which she is now condemned to tramp.

"An awful, staring, backgardenly looking house, with muslin curtains,
frilly and a jumpy looking pattern on the side is called 'Sans Souci!'
One ass calls his stable Cliftonville, although I bet he's never seen
Clifton. Ardenbough and Honeysuckle Arbour are common.

"To-day we heard a frightful row in the corridor, laughing, talking,
and trampling. Miss Campbell half rose and said: 'I must put a stop to
this.' Before she could, the door was flung open and in bounced--the old
Pet and three visitors! After a moment's conversation with Miss Campbell
she retired, banging the door in a way she'd expel any one else for.

"This letter _is_ lasting on. Hilda gets sixpence every time she is
top, threepence second, and twopence third, but does not get any regular
pocket money. She's very rich at present, as she's been top three times
running. How I'd like to play Rugby football. It looks enticing to be
let knock a person down. It _is_ a pity girls can't, only lucky boys. I
wonder why I feel poorer here than at home and yet have more money."

The Canon had, I am sure, provided Lalage with a suitable amount of
pocket money. I myself gave her five shillings the day before she
left home. She ought not to feel poor. Compared to Hilda, who has
one-and-sixpence, earned in the sweat of her brow, Lalage must seem a
millionaire.

"Do you know the kind of person who you hate and yet can't help loving
although you are afraid of her? That is the sort the old Pet is. As I
was going into school to-day she was standing at the door. The beast
promptly spotted the fact that I had no hair ribbon, and remarked in
awe-inspiring tones, 'Lalage, where is your hair ribbon?' 'Forgot it,'
said I, and took a lecture with a polite grin. The old Pet may be a
beast, but is _not_ an ass. I hope the weather will improve soon.

"There is no doubt that I am of a persevering nature or I would not
continue to write this letter. I fear it is so long that you'll never
get through it, though I did not know it until now. I know a girl who is
learning Greek. She's awful, and so clever. She is in my Latin class and
prime favourite with Carpy.

"Your affect.

"Lalage."


Carpy cannot be the real name of the lady who teaches Latin to Lalage
and Greek to the awful girl. I have tried to reconstruct her name from
its corruption, but have hitherto failed to satisfy myself. She may be
a Miss Chartres. Perhaps she is the purple-gowned woman who hustled,
pushed, herded and slung Lalage on the day of her arrival. She cannot,
in any case, be identified with the mathematician who uses red ink. No
ingenuity in nicknaming could extract Carpy from Campbell.

There was, in spite of its great length, a postscript to Lalage's
letter. There was also an enclosure.

"P.S. What does 'flippant' mean? The old Pet said my comp. was flippant,
and I don't know what that is. It was my first comp."

I unfolded the "comp." and read it carefully:

Composition on Politeness by Lalage Beresford

Politeness is a very difficult art to acquire. It is altogether an
acquired art, for no one is polite when he is born. Some sorts of
politeness are sensible and they are comparatively easy to learn.
Begging a person's pardon when we tread on their toes is polite and is a
reasonable thing to do. But there are many silly things to learn before
we become really polite. For instance, a boy must learn to open the door
for ladies and walk after them always. This does the ladies no good and
is sometimes very inconvenient for the boy. He may be in a hurry. It is
not polite for a girl to sit with her legs crossed and her head leaning
aback on her hands. This is a position which does no one any harm, so it
is absurd that it should be considered unpolite. In old days politeness
was carried to much greater extremities than it is now. In the days
when they used to fight duels, when two gentlemen felt really annoyed,
instead of one of them saying to the other, "Go and get your sword
and let me kill you," and the other replying, "All right, I shall be
delighted to kill a man whom I detest," they demanded "satisfaction"
of each other in most polite tones and parted with low bows and polite,
though sneering, smiles. Politeness is a very good thing in moderation,
but not if carried too far.

Skeat traces the word "flippant" back through "flip" and the old
Northumbrian present participle ending "an" to the Icelandic "fleipa,"
which means to prattle--I found this out in a dictionary and copied it
down for Lalage. Miss Pettigrew was not, I think, justified in applying
the word, supposing that she used it in its strict etymological sense,
to Lalage's composition. There was more in the essay than mere prattle.
But Miss Pettigrew may have had reasons of her own, reasons which I can
only guess, for wishing to depreciate this particular essay. It is quite
possible that she was herself the person who told Lalage that it is rude
for a girl to sit with her lees crossed. My mother, to whom I showed the
composition when I consulted her about the probable meaning of flippant,
refused to entertain this suggestion. She knows Miss Pettigrew and
does not think she is the kind of person who would attach excessive
importance to the position of Lalage's legs. She thinks that the maxim
referred to by Lalage--there evidently was a maxim in her mind when
she wrote--must have fallen from the lips of Miss Campbell, the
mathematician, Carpy, or the purple-gowned woman. If she is right, I
can only suppose that Miss Pettigrew in using the word flippant meant
to support the authority of her subordinates and to snub Lalage for
attempting to rebel against time-honoured tradition.

I walked across to the rectory after luncheon, intending to show my
letter and the composition on politeness to the Canon. I found him
seriously upset. He had received a letter from Lalage, and he had also
enjoyed a visit from the Archdeacon. He was ill-advised in showing the
letter to the Archdeacon. I should have had more sense. I suppose he
thought that, dealing as it did almost entirely with religious subjects,
it was likely to interest the Archdeacon. It did interest him. It
interested him excessively, to an extent which occasioned a good deal of
trouble.

"Dear Father: I have read nearly the whole of the 'Earthly Paradise'
since I came here. It is an awfully jolly book. ('Little Folks' is
Miss Campbell's idea of literature for the young; but that's all rot
of course.) Who wrote the Litany? If you do not know please ask the
Archdeacon when you see him. I've come to the conclusion that some of it
is very well written."

"I did ask the Archdeacon," said the Canon, looking up from the letter,
"and he said he'd hunt up the point when he went home."

"Lalage," I said, "has quite a remarkable feeling for style. See the way
she writes about the 'Earthly Paradise.' It must be the way you brought
her up on quotations from Horace. Miss Campbell hardly appreciates her,
I'm afraid. But of course you can't expect a mathematician to rise much
above 'Little Folks' in the way of literature. I suppose the Archdeacon
was greatly pleased with that conundrum about the Litany."

"It was what followed," said the Canon, "which excited him."

He began to read again:

"There is a clergyman who comes once a week to give us a scripture
lesson. He is only a curate and looks very shy. We had a most exciting
time with him yesterday. We all shied paper wads, and he moved nearly
every one up and sent one girl out of the room."

"He can't," I said, "have been as shy as he looked. But I'm beginning to
understand why the Archdeacon was shocked."

"He didn't mind that," said the Canon; "at least not much."

Lalage's letter went on:

"I was glad, that it wasn't me, who was just as bad, that he didn't what
he calls 'make an example of.' Even that didn't calm the excited
class and he said, 'Next person who laughs will be reported to Miss
Pettigrew.' It was not me, but the girl next me, Eileen Fraser. I was
the innocent cause of the offence. (A mere wink at Hilda when I had my
belt round her neck.) She was not, however, reported, even to Carpy."

"By the way," I said, "who is Carpy? She comes into my letter too."

The Canon did not know and seemed uninterested in the point. He went on
reading:

"Another day he committed an unforgivable offence. He said to us, 'You
must stand up when quoting the words of the Bible.'"

"Isn't that always considered essential?" I asked. "The unforgivable
offence," said the Canon, "is in the next sentence."

"But _he_ sat with his feet on the fender, the pig. I do hate that
sort. Even when Hilda said that Ananias told a lie and was turned into
a pillar of salt he did not laugh. He said he'd turn one girl out of the
room to-day for nothing but dropping her pen."

"The Archdeacon," I said, "could of course sympathize with that curate."

"It wasn't that which made him really angry," said the Canon, "although
he didn't like it."

"There must be something pretty bad coming, if it's worse than that."

The Canon sighed heavily and went on reading

"Hilda taught me the two-step at rec. Another girl (also in my class and
jolly nice) played them."

The Canon looked up with a puzzled expression. I explained as well as I
could.

"The two-step," I said, "is a dance. What the jolly, nice girl played
is a little obscure, but I think it must have been tunes suitable to the
performance of the two-step. 'Rec.' is a shortened form of recreation.
Lalage is fond of these contractions. She writes to me about her comp."

The canon read: "On the other days, the old Pet takes us herself at
Scrip: We were at Genesis, and she read out, 'In the beginning God
created the heaven, and the earth.' 'But of course you all know He
didn't. Modern science teaches us----' Then she went on with a lot of
rot about gases and forces and nebulous things."

"The Archdeacon," said the Canon, "is going to write to the Archbishop
of Dublin about it. He says that kind of teaching ought not to be
allowed."

"We must head him off somehow," I said, "if he really means it. But he
hardly can. I don't expect he'll run into extremes. He certainly
won't without taking advice. The Archdeacon isn't a man to do anything
definite in a hurry. He's told me over and over again that he deprecates
precipitancy of action."

"He feels very strongly about the Higher Criticism. Very strongly
indeed. He says it's poisoning the wells of religion in the home."

"Last time he lunched with us he said it was sapping the foundations.
Still I scarcely think he'll want to institute a heresy prosecution
against Miss Pettigrew."

"I'm very much afraid--he seemed most determined----"

"We must switch him off on to some other track," I said. "If you funk
tackling him----"

"I did my best."

"I suppose that I'd better try him. It's a nuisance. I hate arguing with
archdeacons; but of course we can't have Lalage put into a witness box
and ballyragged by archbishops and people of that kind, and she'd be
the only available witness. Hilda can't be in a position to give a clear
account of what happened, considering that she was half strangled by
Lalage's belt at the time."

"It was at the curate's class that the belt incident occurred," said the
Canon, "just after they had been throwing paper wads."

"So it was. All the same I don't think Hilda would be much use as a
witness. The memory of that choking would be constantly with her and
would render every scripture lesson a confused nightmare for months
afterward. The other girls would probably lose their heads. It's all
well enough to pelt curates with paper wads. Any one could do that. It's
quite a different thing to stand up before an ecclesiastical court and
answer a string of questions about nebulous things. That Archbishop will
find himself relying entirely on Lalage to prove the Archdeacon's case,
which won't be a nice position for her. I'll go home now and drive over
at once to see the Archdeacon."

"Do," said the Canon. "I'd go with you only I hate this kind of fuss.
Some men like it. The Archdeacon, for instance. Curious, isn't it, how
differently we're made, though we all look very much alike from the
outside. 'Sunt quos cumculo----'" I did not wait to hear the end of the
quotation.

I approached the Archdeacon hopefully, relying, I confess, less on the
intrinsic weight of the arguments I meant to use than on the respect
which I knew the Archdeacon entertained for my position in the county.
My mother is the sister of the present Lord Thormanby, a fact which
by itself predisposes the Archdeacon in my favour. My father was a
distinguished soldier. My grandfather was a still more distinguished
soldier, and there are pictures of his most successful battle hanging
in my dining-room. The Archdeacon has often seen them and I am sure
appreciates them. I am also, for an Irish landlord, a well-off man. I
might, so I believed, have trusted entirely to these facts to persuade
the Archdeacon to give up the idea of communicating Miss Pettigrew's
lapse into heterodoxy to the Archbishop. But I worked out a couple of
sound arguments as well, and I was greatly surprised to find that I
produced no effect whatever on the Archdeacon. He bluntly refused to
modify his plan of action.

I quoted to him the proverb which warns us to let sleeping dogs lie.
Under any ordinary circumstances this would have appealed strongly to
the Archdeacon. It was just the kind of wisdom by which he guides his
life. I was taken aback when he replied that Miss Petti-grew, so far
from being a sleeping dog, was a roaring lion. A moment later he called
her a ravenous evening wolf; so I gave up my proverb as useless. I then
reminded him that Lalage was evidently quite unaffected by the teaching
which she received, had in fact described modern science as a lot of
rot. The Archdeacon replied that, though Lalage escaped, others might
be affected; and that he was not quite sure even about Lalage, because
insidious poisons are most to be feared when they lie dormant in the
system for a time.

This brought me to the end of my two arguments and I had to invent
another on the spot. I am always rather ashamed to think of the one I
actually used, but I was driven against the wall and the position seemed
almost desperate. I suggested that Lalage's account of the scripture
lesson was in all probability quite unreliable.

"You know, Archdeacon," I said, "that all little girls are horrid
liars."

The insinuation that Lalage ever spoke anything but the truth was
treacherous and abominable. She has her faults; but I have not the
slightest doubt in my mind that her description of Miss Pettigrew's
scripture lesson was a perfectly honest account of the impression it
produced on her mind. The Archdeacon hesitated, and, hoping for the
best, I plunged deeper.

"Lalage in particular," I said, "is absolutely reckless about the
truth."

The Archdeacon shook his head mournfully.

"I wish I could think so," he said. "I should be glad, indeed, if I
could take your view of the matter; but in these days when the Higher
Criticism is invading our pulpits and our school rooms----"

His voice faded away into the melancholy silence and he continued
shaking his head.

This shows how much more important dogmatic truth is than the ordinary
everyday correspondence between statement and fact. To the Archdeacon a
lie of Lalage's would have been a minor evil in every way preferable,
if it came to a choice between the two, to Miss Pettigrew's unorthodox
interpretation of the Mosaic narrative. I could argue the matter no more
and fell back upon a last plan.

"Archdeacon," I said, "come out and dine with us to-night. Talk the
whole business over with my mother before you take any definite action."

The Archdeacon agreed to do this. I went home at once and prepared my
mother for the conflict.

"You must use all your influence," I said. "It is a most serious
business."

"My dear boy," said my mother, "it's quite the most ridiculous storm in
a tea cup of which I've ever heard."

"No," I said solemnly, "it's not. If the Archdeacon makes his charge
formally the Archbishop will be obliged to take it up. Miss Pettigrew
will be hauled up before him----"

"Miss Pettigrew," said my mother, "would simply laugh. She's not in the
very least the sort of woman----"

"I know. She's one of those people that you hate awfully and yet can't
help loving though you are rather afraid of her. It's for her sake more
than Lalage's that I'm asking you to interfere."

"If I interfere at all it will be for the Archdeacon's sake. It's a pity
to allow him to make a fool of himself."

I do not know what line my mother actually took with the Archdeacon.
I left them together after dinner and when the time came for saying
good-night I found that the Archdeacon had been persuaded not to attempt
a formal protest against Miss Pettigrew's teaching. He has never,
however, trusted her since then and he still shakes his head doubtfully
at the mention of her name.

I wrote to Lalage next day and told her not to send home any more
accounts of scripture lessons. English compositions, I said, we should
be glad to receive. Latin exercises would always be welcome, and algebra
sums, especially if worked in Miss Campbell's red ink, would be regarded
as treasured possessions.

"All letters," I added, "suspected of containing ecclesiastical news of
any kind will be returned to you unopened."

I also called on the Canon and spoke plainly to him about the danger and
folly of showing letters to the Archdeacon.

"I was wrong," said the Canon apologetically. "I can see now that I was
wrong, but I thought at the time that he'd enjoy the joke."

"You ought," said I severely, "to have had more sense. The Archdeacon
expects to be a bishop some day. He can't afford to enjoy jokes of that
kind. By the way, did he tell you who wrote the Litany?"



CHAPTER V

It must have been about three weeks after the pacification of the
Archdeacon by my mother that a crisis occurred in my affairs. I am not a
person of any importance, although I shall be, I fear, some day; and
my affairs up to the present are not particularly interesting even to
myself. I record the crisis because it explains the fact that I lost
touch with Lalage for nearly four years and know little or nothing about
her development during that time. I wish I knew more. Some day, when I
have a little leisure, I mean to have a long talk with Miss Pettigrew.
She saw more of Lalage in those days than any one else did, and I think
she must have some very interesting, perhaps exciting, things to tell.
To a sympathetic listener Miss Pettigrew would talk freely. She has
a sense of humour, and like all people who are capable of laughing
themselves, takes a pleasure in telling good stories.

It was my uncle, Lord Thormanby, who was mainly responsible for my
private crisis. My mother, I daresay, goaded him on; but he has always
taken the credit for arranging that I should join the British embassy
in Lisbon as a kind of unpaid attaché. My uncle used his private and
political influence to secure this desirable post for me. I do not know
exactly whom he worried. Perhaps it was a sympathetic Prime Minister,
perhaps the Ambassador himself, a nobleman distantly connected with
Lady Thonnanby. At all events, the thing was done and Thonnanby was
enormously proud of the achievement. He gave me a short lecture by way
of a send-off, in which he dwelt a good deal on his own interest in my
future and told me that my appointment might lead on to something big.
It has not done so, up to the present, but that I daresay is my own
fault.

The Canon, who seemed sorry to say good-bye to me, gave me a present of
an English translation of the works of the philosopher Epictetus, with
several passages, favourites of his own, marked in red ink. One of
these I used frequently to read and still think about occasionally, not
because I have the slightest intention of trying to live in the spirit
of it, but because it always reminds me of the Canon himself, and
so makes me smile. "Is a little of your oil spilt, or a little wine
stolen?" said this philosopher. "Then say to yourself: 'For so much
peace is bought. This is the price of tranquillity.' For nothing can
be gained without paying for it." It is by this wisdom that the man who
happened to be Lalage's father was able to live without worrying himself
into frequent fevers.

The Archdeacon dined with us a short time before I left home and gave me
a very fine valedictory address. He said that I was about to follow the
example of my ancestors and devote myself to the service of my country.
He had every hope that I would acquit myself as nobly as they did. This
was a very affecting thing to say, particularly in our dining-room,
with the pictures of my grandfather's battles hanging round the walls.
I looked at them while he spoke, but I did not venture to look at my
mother. Her eyes have a way of twinkling when the Archdeacon is at
his best which always upsets me. The Archdeacon, his face still raised
toward the large battle picture, added that there is nothing finer
than the service of one's country, nothing more inspiring for a man and
nothing more likely to lead to fame. I felt at the time that this is
very likely to be true in the case of any one who has a country to
serve. I, unfortunately, have none. The recent developments of Irish
life, the revivals of various kinds, the books which people keep on
writing, and the general atmosphere of the country have robbed me and
others like me of the belief, held comfortably by our fathers, that we
are Englishmen. On the other hand, nobody, least of all the patriotic
politicians who make speeches, will admit that we are Irish. We are
thus, without any fault of our own, left poised in a state of quivering
uncertainty like the poor Samaritans whom the Jews despised as Gentiles
and the Gentiles did not like because they seemed to be Jews. I found
it difficult, while I listened to the Archdeacon, to decide what
country had a claim on me for service. Perhaps Portugal--I was going to
Lisbon--would mark me for her own.

For more than three years I saw nothing of Lalage. My holidays, snatched
with difficulty from a press of ridiculously unimportant duties, never
corresponded with hers. I heard very little of her. The Canon never
wrote to me at all about Lalage or anything else. My mother merely
chronicled her scholastic successes, which included several prizes for
English composition.

The one really interesting piece of information which I got about
her came, curiously enough, from the Archdeacon. He wrote to me for a
subscription to a fund for something, rebuilding the bishop's palace
I think. At the end of his letter he mentioned an incident in Lalage's
career which he described as deplorable. It appeared that a clergyman, a
man of some eminence according to the Archdeacon and so, presumably, not
the original curate had set an examination paper intended to test the
religious knowledge of Lalage and others. In it he quoted some words
from one of St Paul's epistles: "I keep my body under and have it
in subjection," and asked what they meant. Lalage submitted a novel
interpretation. "St. Paul," she wrote, "is here speaking of that
mystical body which is the Church. It ought always to be kept under and
had in subjection."

As a diplomatist--I suppose I am a diplomatist of a minor kind--whose
lot is cast among the Latin peoples, I am inclined to think that
Lalage's interpretation may one day be universally accepted as the true
one and so honoured with the crown of orthodoxy. It would even to-day
strike a Portuguese journalist as a simple statement of an obvious
truth. The Archdeacon regarded it as deplorable, and I understood from
his letter that the old charge of flippancy had been revived against
Lalage. She must, I suppose, have disliked the man who set the
examination paper. I cannot otherwise account for the viciously
anti-clerical spirit of her answer.

The next important news I got of Lalage reached me in the spring of the
fourth year I spent in the service of somebody else's country. It came
in a letter from Lalage herself, written on paper headed by the letters
A.T.R.S. embossed in red. She wrote:

"You'll be glad to hear that I entered Trinity College last October and
since then have been enjoying 'the spacious times of great Elizabeth.'
Our society, girls, is called the Elizabethan. That's the point of the
quotation."

I glanced at the head of the paper, but failed to see how A.T.R.S. could
possibly stand for Elizabethan Society. Lalage's letter continued:

"There is nothing equal to a university life for broadening out the mind
and enlarging one's horizon. I have just founded a new society called
the A.T.R.S., and the committee (Hilda, myself, and a boy called
Selby-Harrison, who got a junior ex: and is _very_ clever) is on the
lookout for members, subscription--a year, paid in advance, or life
members one pound. Our object is to check by every legitimate means the
spread of tommyrot in this country and the world generally. There is a
great deal too much of it and something ought to be done to make people
jolly well ashamed of themselves before it is too late. If the matter
is not taken in hand vigorously the country will be submerged and all
sensible people will die."

I began to get at the meaning of the red letters. T.R. S. plainly stood
for Tommy Rot Society. The preliminary "A" could indicate nothing else
but the particle anti. The prospect before us, if Lalage is anything of
a judge, and I suppose she must be, is sufficiently serious to justify
the existence of the society.

"Each member of the committee is pledged to expose in the press by
means of scathing articles, and thus hound out of public life any man,
whatever his position, who is caught talking tommyrot. This will be done
anonymously, so as to establish a reign of terror under which no man of
any eminence will feel safe. The committee intends to begin with bishops
of all denominations. I thought this would interest you now that you are
an ambassador and engaged in fostering international complications."

I read this with a feeling of discomfort similar to that of the
gentleman who set the examination paper on St. Paul's epistles. There,
seemed to me to be a veiled threat in the last sentence. The committee
intended to begin with bishops, but there cannot be above sixty or
seventy bishops in Ireland altogether, even including the ex-moderators
of the Presbyterian General Assembly, not more than a hundred. An
energetic committee would certainly be able to deal with them in less
than three months. Whose turn would come next? Quite possibly the
diplomatists. I do not particularly object to the prospect of being
hounded out of public life by means of scathing articles; but I feel
that I should not be the only victim. Some of the others would certainly
resent Lalage's action and then there would be a fuss. I have always
hated fuss of any kind.

"Only members of the committee are expected to take part in the active
propaganda of the society. Ordinary members merely subscribe. I am
sending this appeal to father, Lord Thormanby, Miss Battersby, who is
still there, and the Archdeacon, as well as to you."

I breathed a sigh of great relief. Lalage was not threatening my
colleagues with exposure in the press.

She was merely asking for a subscription. I wrote at once, warmly
commending the objects and methods of the society. I enclosed a cheque
for five pounds with a request that I should be enrolled as five
ordinary life members. I underlined the word ordinary, and added a
postscript in which I expressly refused to act on the committee even if
elected. Lalage did not answer this letter or acknowledge the cheque. I
suppose the bishops kept her very busy.

In August that year I met Lalage again for the first time since I had
seen her off to school from the station at Drumbo. I did not recognize
her at first. Four years make a great difference in a girl when she is
passing from the age of fourteen onward. Besides, I was not in the least
expecting to see her.

Mont 'Estoril is a watering place near the mouth of the Tagus. In spite
of the fact that some misguided people advertise its attractions and
call it the Riviera of Portugal, it is a pleasant spot to live in when
Lisbon is very hot. There are several excellent hotels there and I have
found it a good plan to migrate from the capital and settle down in Mont
'Estoril for June, July and August. I have to go into Lisbon every day,
but this is no great hardship, for there is a convenient train service.
I usually catch what the Portuguese call a train of "great velocity" and
arrive at the Caes da Sodre railway station a few minutes after eleven
o'clock. From that I go, partly on foot, partly in a tram, to the
embassy and spend my time there in the usual way.

One morning--I have kept a note of the date; it was the ninth of
August--I saw a large crowd of people, plainly tourists, standing
together on the footpath, waiting for a tram. The sight was common
enough. Every ten days or so an enterprising steamboat company lands a
bevy of these worthy people in Lisbon. This crowd was a little larger
than usual. It was kept together by three guides who were in charge of
the party and who galloped, barking furiously, along the outskirts of
the herd whenever a wild or frightened tourist made any attempt to break
away. On the opposite side of the road were two young girls. One of
them, very prettily dressed in bright blue, was adjusting a hand camera
with the intention of photographing the tourists and attendant watchdog
guides. She did not succeed, because one of the guides recognized her
as a member of his flock and crossed the road to where she stood. I know
the man slightly. He is a cosmopolitan, a linguist of great skill, who
speaks good English, with Portuguese suavity of manner, in times of
calm, but bad English, with French excitability of gesture, when he is
annoyed. He reasoned, most politely I'm sure, with the two girls. He
wanted them to cross the road and take their places among the other
tourists. The girl in blue handed the camera to her companion, took
the cosmopolitan guide by the shoulders, pushed him across the road and
posed him in a picturesque attitude on the outskirts of the crowd. Then
she went back to take her picture. The guide, of course, followed her,
and I could see by the vehemence of his shrugs and gesticulations that
his temper had given way. I guessed that his English must have been
almost unintelligible. The scene interested me and I stood still to see
how it would end. The girl in the blue dress changed her intention and
tried to photograph the excited interpreter while he gesticulated. I
sympathized with her wish. His attitudes were all well worth preserving.
If she had been armed with phonograph as well as a camera she might have
secured a really valuable record. The man, to my knowledge, speaks eight
languages, all equally badly, and when he mixes them he is well worth
listening to. In order to get him into focus the girl in the blue dress
kept backing away from him, holding the camera level and gazing into the
view finder. The man, gesticulating more wildly than ever, followed
her. She moved more and more rapidly away from him until at last she
was proceeding backward along the street at a rapid trot. In the end she
bumped against me. I staggered and clutched at my hat. She turned, and,
without appearing in the least put out, began to apologize. Then her
face lit with a sudden smile of recognition.

"Oh," she said, "it's you?"

I recognized the voice and then the face. I also retained my presence of
mind.

"Begging a person's pardon," I said, "when we tread on their toes is a
polite and reasonable thing to do."

Lalage may have recognized the quotation, although I do not think I had
it quite right. She certainly smiled agreeably. But she had no time to
waste on exchanging reminiscences.

"Just make that idiot stand where he is for a moment," she said, "till
I get him photographed. I wouldn't miss him for pounds. He's quite
unique."

The interpreter protested volubly in Portuguese mixed with Spanish and
French. He was, so he told me, placed in charge of the tourists by the
steamboat company which had brought them to Lisbon. If one of them got
lost he would have to answer for it, answer for it with his head, and
the senora, the two exceedingly headstrong senoras, would get lost
unless they could be penned in with the rest of his flock.

I glanced at Lalage several times while the interpreter harangued us,
and noticed that she had grown into an extremely pretty girl. She, it
seemed, was also taking stock of me.

"You've improved," she said. "Your moustache has broadened out. If that
monkey on a stick won't be photographed I wish you'd hunt him away out
of this. I don't know any Portuguese swears or I'd do it myself."

I explained to the interpreter that he need be under no anxiety about
the headstrong senoras. I myself would be responsible for them, and
would, if necessary, answer for their safety with my head. He departed,
doubtful and ill content. He was probably satisfied that I was capable
of looking after Laiage, but he dreaded the effect of her example on the
rest of his flock. They too might escape.

"This," said Lalage, leading me up to the other girl, who wore a pink
dress, "is Hilda. You've heard of Hilda."

Hilda's name was printed on my memory. She is one of the three members
of the committee of the A.T.R.S. I shook hands with her and asked for
Selby-Harrison.

"You haven't surely," I said, "come without Selby-Harrison, who won the
junior ex.? The committee ought to hold together."

"We intended to bring him," said Lalage, "but there were difficulties.
The Archdeacon heard about it----"

"That Archdeacon again!" I said.

"And told father that it wouldn't do at all. Did you ever hear such
nonsense? I shouldn't have minded that, but Hilda's mother struck too.
It ended in our having to bring poor old Pussy with us as chaperon."

"Pussy?"

"Yes, The original Cat, Miss Battersby. You can't have forgotten her,
surely? It happened that she was getting her holidays just as we had
arranged to start, so we took her instead of Selby-Harrison, which
satisfied the Archdeacon and Hilda's mother."

"I am so glad to hear you call her 'Pussy' now," I said-"I always hoped
you would."

"She's really not a bad sort," said Lalage, "when you get to know her.
She did us very little harm on the steamer. She was sick the whole
way out, so we just put her in the top berth of our cabin and left her
there."

"Is she there still?"

Hilda giggled. Lalage looked slightly annoyed.

"Of course not," she said. "We aren't cruel. We hauled her out this
morning and dressed her. It was rather a job but we did it. We took her
ashore with us--each holding one arm, for she was frightfully staggery
at first--and made her smuggle our cigarettes for us through the
custom-house. No one would suspect her of having cigarettes. By the way,
she has them still. They're in a large pocket which I sewed on the
inside of her petticoat. She's over there in the crowd. Would you very
much mind getting----?"

"I couldn't possibly," I said hastily. "She'd be almost certain to
object, especially with all those people standing round. You must wait
till you get to an hotel and then undress her again yourselves."

"Don't be an ass," said Lalage. "I don't want you to get the cigarettes.
I want you to rescue Pussy herself. It wouldn't be at all fair to allow
her to be swept away in that crowd. We'd never see her again."

I did not much care for undertaking this task either, though it was
certainly easier than the other. The polyglot guide would, I felt sure,
deeply resent the rape of another of his charges.

"Couldn't Hilda do that?" I said. "After all, she's a member of the
committee. I'm not. And you told me distinctly that ordinary members
were not expected to do anything except subscribe."

"Go on, Hilda," said Lalage.

I suppose Lalage must be president of the A.T.R.S. and be possessed
of autocratic powers. Hilda crossed the road without a murmur.
Selby-Harrison, I have no doubt, would have acted in the same way if he
had been here.

"And now, Lalage," I said, "you must tell me what brings you to
Portugal."

"To see you," said Lalage promptly.

"It's very nice of you to say that," I said, "and I feel greatly
flattered."

"Hilda was all for Oberammergau, and Selby-Harrison wanted Normandy.
He said there were churches and things there but I think churches are
rather rot, don't you?"

"Besides," I said, "after the way the society has been treating bishops
it would hardly be decent to accept their hospitality by wandering about
through their churches. Any bishop, especially if he'd been driven out
of public life by a series of scathing articles, published anonymously,
would have a genuine grievance if you----"

"It was really that which decided us on coming here," said Lalage.

"Quite right. There is a most superior kind of bishop here, a Patriarch,
and I am sure that anything you publish about him in the Portuguese
papers----"

"You don't understand what I mean. You're getting stupid, I think. I'm
not talking about bishops. I'm talking about you."

"Don't bother about taking up my case until you've quite finished the
bishops. I am a young man still, with years and years before me in which
I shall no doubt talk a lot of tommyrot. It would be a pity to drive
me out of public life before I've said anything which you can really
scathe."

"We thought," said Lalage, "that as it didn't much matter to us where we
went we might as well come out to see you. You were the only person who
gave a decent 'sub' to the society. I'll explain our new idea to you
later on."

"I'm very glad I did," I said. "If another fiver would bring
Selby-Harrison by the next steamer--Hullo! Here's Hilda back with Miss
Battersby. I hardly thought she'd have succeeded in getting her. How do
you do, Miss Battersby? I'm delighted to welcome you to Lisbon, and I
must do my best for you now you're here. I'm quite at your disposal for
the day."

Miss Battersby smiled feebly. She had not yet recovered from the effects
of the sea voyage.

"First," said Lalage, "we'll go to an hotel."

"Of course," I said, "to get the cigarettes."

"No," said Lalage; "to let Miss Battersby get to bed. She wants to get
to bed, doesn't she, Hilda?"

Hilda, who was supporting Miss Battersby, and so in a position to judge
of her condition, nodded.

"She's frightfully weak," said Lalage to me, "on account of not having
eaten anything except two water biscuits and an apple for nearly a
week."

"In that case," I said, "a little luncheon----"

"Could you eat luncheon?" said Lalage to Miss Battersby.

Miss Battersby seemed to wish to try.

"Could she, Hilda?" said Lalage. "It's a long time since she has."

"She must make a beginning some day," I said.

"I still think she'd be better in bed," said Lalage.

"After lunch," I said firmly, "You ought not to be vindictive, Lalage.
It's a long time since that trouble about the character of Mary."

"I'm not thinking of that," said Lalage.

"And she's not a bishop. Why should you starve her?"

"Very well," said Lalage. "Do whatever you like, but don't blame me
afterward if she's---- she was, on the steamer, horribly."

We fed Miss Battersby on some soup, a fragment of fried fish and a glass
of light wine. She evidently wanted to eat an omelette as well, but
Lalage forbade this. Whether she was actually put to bed afterward or
merely laid down I do not know. She must have been at least partially
undressed, for Lalage and Hilda were plentifully supplied with
cigarettes during the afternoon.



CHAPTER VI

Lalage, Hilda, and I went for a drive in one of the attractive carriages
which ply for hire in the Lisbon streets. We drove up one side of the
Avenida de Liberdade and down the other. I did the duty of a good
cicerone by pointing out the fountains, trees and other objects of
interest which Lalage and Hilda were sure to see for themselves. When we
had exhausted the Avenida I suggested going on to Belem. Lalage did not
seem pleased. She said that driving was not her idea of pleasure. She
wanted something more active and exciting. I agreed.

"We'll go in a tram," I said.

"Where to?"

"Belem."

"Belem's a church, isn't it, Hilda?"

Hilda and I both admitted that it was.

"Then we can't go there," said Lalage decidedly.

"Why not?" I ventured to ask.

"You said yourself that it wouldn't be decent."

"Oh!" I said, "you're thinking of those poor bishops; but you haven't
done anything to the Portuguese patriarch yet. Besides, only half of
Belem is a church. The other half is a school, quite secular."

"The only things I really want to see," said Lalage, "are the dead
Portuguese kings in glass cases."

"The what?"

"The dead kings. Stuffed, I suppose. Do you mean to say you've been here
nearly four years and don't yet know the way they keep their kings,
like natural history specimens in a museum? Why, that was the very first
thing Hilda found out in the guide book."

"I didn't," said Hilda. "It was you."

"Let's credit Selby-Harrison with the discovery," I said soothingly. "I
remember now about those kings. But the exhibition has been closed to
the public now for some years. We shan't be able to get in."

"What's the use of being an ambassador," said Lalage, "if you can't
step in to see a dead king whenever you like?"

An ambassador may be able to claim audiences with deceased royalties,
but I was not an ambassador. I offered Lalage as an alternative the
nearest thing at my command to dead kings.

"The English cemetery," I said, "is considered one of the sights of
Lisbon. If you are really interested in corpses we might go there."

"I hate Englishmen," said Lalage. "All Englishmen."

"That's why I suggested their cemetery. It will be immensely gratifying
to you to realize what a lot of them have died. The place is nearly full
and there are lots of yew trees."

Lalage did me the honour of laughing. Hilda, after a minute's
consideration, also laughed. But they were not to be distracted from the
dead kings.

"We'll go back to the hotel," said Lalage, "and rout out poor Pussy.
She'll be wanting more food by this time. You can go and call on the
present King or the Queen Mother, or whoever it is who keep the key of
that mausoleum and then come back for us. By the way, before you go,
just tell me the Portuguese for an ice. It's desperately hot."

I told her and then got out of the carriage. I did not call upon either
the King or his mother. They were in Cintra, so I should not have had
time to get at them even if I had wished. I saw my chief, and, with the
fear of Lalage before my eyes, worried him until he gave me a letter
to a high official. From him I obtained with great difficulty the
permission I wanted. I returned to the hotel. Miss Battersby, though
recovering rapidly, was still too feeble to accompany us; so Lalage,
Hilda, and I set off without her.

The dead kings were a disappointment. Hilda's nerve failed her on
the doorstep and she declined to go in. Lalage and I went through the
exhibition alone. I observed, without surprise, that Lalage turned her
eyes away from the objects she had come to inspect. I ventured, when
we got out, to suggest that we might perhaps have spent a pleasanter
afternoon at Belem. Lalage snubbed me sharply.

"Certainly not," she said. "I'm going in for the Vice-Chancellor's prize
for English verse next year and the subject is mortality. I shall simply
knock spots out of the other competitors when I work in those kings.

    "'Sceptre  and  crown
    Must tumble down,'

You know the sort of thing I mean."

"That's not original," I said. "I remember it distinctly in the 'Golden
Treasury,' though I have forgotten the author's name."

"It wasn't meant to be original. I quoted it simply as an indication of
the sort of line I mean to take in my poem."

"You'll win the prize to a certainty. When you publish the poem
afterward with notes I hope you'll mention my name. Without me you
wouldn't have got at those kings."

"In the meanwhile," said Lalage, "I could do with some tea and another
ice. Couldn't you, Hilda?"

Hilda could and did. I took them to an excellent shop in the Rua Aurea,
where Hilda had three ices and Lalage four, after tea. I only had one.
Lalage twitted me with my want of appetite.

"I can't eat any more." I said. "The thought of poor Miss Battersby
sitting alone in that stuffy hotel has spoiled my appetite."

"The hotel is stuffy," said Lalage. "Where are you stopping?"

I mentioned Mont 'Estoril and Lalage at once proposed to move her whole
party out there.

There were difficulties with the Lisbon hotel keeper, who wanted to be
paid for the beds which Lalage and Hilda had not slept in as well as
for that which Miss Battersby had enjoyed during the afternoon. Lalage
argued with him in French, which he understood very imperfectly, and she
boasted afterward that she had convinced him of the unreasonableness of
his demand. I, privately, paid his bill.

There were also difficulties with Miss Battersby. She had, so Hilda told
me, the strongest possible objection to putting on her clothes again.
But Lalage was determined. In less than an hour after our return to the
hotel I was sitting opposite to Miss Battersby, who was swathed rather
than dressed, in a railway carriage, speeding along the northern shore
of the Tagus estuary.

I had, early in the summer, made friends with a Mr. and Mrs Dodds,
who were living in my hotel. Mr. Dodds was a Glasgow merchant and was
conducting the Portuguese side of his firm's business. Mrs. Dodds was
a native of Paisley. They were both very fond of bridge, and I had got
into the habit of playing with them every evening. We depended on chance
for a fourth member of our party, and just at the time of Lalage's visit
were particularly fortunate in securing a young English engineer who was
installing a service of electric light somewhere in the neighbourhood.
The Doddses were friendly people and I had gradually come to entertain
a warm regard for them in spite of the extreme severity of their bridge
and Mrs. Dodds's habit of speaking plainly about my mistakes. I would
not, except under great pressure, cause any inconvenience or annoyance
to the Doddses. But Lalage is great pressure. When she said that I was
to spend the evening talking to her I saw at once that the bridge must
be sacrificed. My plan was to apologize profusely to the Doddses, and
leave them condemned for one evening to sit bridgeless till bedtime.
But Lalage would not hear of this. She wanted, so she said, to talk
confidentially to me. Miss Battersby was an obstacle in her way, and
so she ordered me to introduce Miss Battersby as my substitute at the
bridge table.

If Miss Battersby had acted reasonably and gone to bed either before or
immediately after dinner this would have been unnecessary. But she did
not. She became immoderately cheerful and was most anxious to enjoy
herself. I set her down at the card table and then, as quickly as
possible, fled. Miss Battersby's bridge is of the most rudimentary and
irritating kind and she has a conscientious objection to paying for
the small stakes which usually gave a brightness to our game. It was
necessary for me to get out of earshot of the Doddses and the engineer
before they discovered these two facts about Miss Battersby. I thought
it probable that I should have to go to a new hotel next day in order
to escape the reproaches of my friends. But I did not want to move that
night, so I went into the hotel garden, hustling Hilda before me. There
was no need to hustle Lalage. She understood the need for haste even
better than I did. I knew Miss Battersby's capacity for bridge, having
occasionally played with her in my uncle's house. Lalage understood
how acutely the pain brought on by Miss Battersby's bridge would be
aggravated by the deprecating sweetness of Miss Battersby's manner. In
the hotel garden there were a number of chairs made, I expect, by a man
whose regular business in life was the manufacture of the old-fashioned
straw beehives. When forced by the introduction of the new wooden hives
to turn his hand to making chairs, he failed to shake himself free of
the tradition of his proper art. His chairs were as like beehives as it
is possible for chairs to be and anybody who sits back in one of them
is surrounded on all sides by walls and overshadowed by a hood of woven
wicker-work. When Lalage sat down I could see no more of her than the
glowing end of her cigarette and the toes of her shoes. Hilda was to
the same extent invisible. I was annoyed by this at first, for Lalage
is very pretty to look at and the night was not so dark when we sat down
but that I could, had she been in any ordinary chair, have traced the
outline of her figure. Later on, when our conversation reached its
most interesting point, I was thankful to recollect that I also was in
obscurity. I am not, owing to my training as a diplomatist, an easy man
to startle, but Lalage gave me a severe shock. I prefer to keep my face
in the shadow when I am moved to unexpected emotion.

"To-morrow," I said pleasantly, by way of opening the conversation, "we
shall have another long day's sight-seeing, mitigated with ices."

"I'm sorry to say," said Lalage, "that we go home to-morrow. The steamer
sails at 11 a.m."

"Surely there can be no real need for such hurry. Now that we have
Miss Battersby among us the Archdeacon and Hilda's mother will be quite
satisfied."

"It's not that in the least," said Lalage. "Is it, Hilda?"

Hilda said something about return tickets, but Lalage snubbed her. I
gathered that there was reason for precipitancy more serious than the
by-laws of the steamboat company.

"I am confident," I said, "that Selby-Harrison is capable of carrying on
the work of exterminating bishops."

"It's not that either," said Lalage. "The fact is that we have come
to Lisbon on business, not for pleasure. You've probably guessed that
already."

"I feared it. Of the two reasons you gave me this morning for coming
here----"

"I haven't told you any reason yet," said Lalage.

"Excuse me, but when we first met this morning you said distinctly that
you had come to see me. I hardly flattered myself that could really be
true."

"It was," said Lalage. "Quite true."

"It's very kind of you to say so and of course I quite believe you, but
then you afterward gave me to understand that your real object was to
work up the emotion caused by the appearance of a dead king with a view
to utilizing it to add intensity to a prize poem. That, of course, is
business of a very serious kind. That's why I meant to say a minute ago
that of the two reasons you gave me for coming here the second was the
more urgent."

"Don't ramble in that way," said Lalage. "It wastes time. Hilda, explain
the scheme which we have in mind at present."

Hilda threw away the greater part of a cigarette and sat up in her
beehive. I do not think that Hilda enjoys smoking cigarettes. She
probably does it to impress the public with the genuine devotion to
principle of the A.T.R.S.

"The society," said Hilda "has met with difficulties. Its objects----"

"He knows the objects," said Lalage. "Don't you?"

"To expose in the public press----" I began.

"That's just where we're stuck," said Lalage.

"Do you mean to tell me that the Irish newspapers have been so
incredibly stupid as not to publish the articles sent by you, Hilda, and
Selby-Harrison?"

"Not a single one of them," said Lalage.

"And the bishops," I said, "still wear their purple stocks, their
aprons, and their gaiters; and still talk tommyrot through the length
and breadth of the land."

"But we're not the least inclined to give in," said Lalage.

"Don't," I said. "Keep on pelting the editors with articles. Some day
one of them will be away from home and an inexperienced subordinate----"

"That would be no use," said Hilda.

"What we have determined to do," said Lalage, "is to start a paper of
our own."

"It ought," I said, "to be a huge success."

"I'm glad you agree with us there," said Lalage. "We've gone into the
matter minutely. Selby-Harrison worked it out and we don't see how we
could possibly make less than 12 per cent. Not that we want to make
money out of it. Our efforts are purely--what's that word, Hilda? You
found it in a book, but I always forget it."

"Altruistic," said Hilda.

"You understand that, I suppose?" said Lalage to me.

"Yes," I said, "I do. But I wasn't thinking of the financial side of the
enterprise when I spoke of its being an immense success. What I had in
mind----"

"Finance," said Lalage severely, "cannot possibly be ignored."

"All we want," said Hilda, "is some one to guarantee the working
expenses for the first three months."

"And I said," added Lalage, "that you'd do it if we came out here and
asked you."

I recollected hearing of an Englishman who started a daily paper which
afterward failed and it was said that he lost £300,000 by the venture. I
hesitated.

"What we ask," said Lalage, "is not money, but a guarantee, and we are
willing to pay 8 per cent, to whoever does it. The difference between
a guarantee and actual money is that in the one case you will probably
never have to pay at all, while in the other you will have to fork out
at once."

"Am I," I asked, "to get 8 per cent, on what I don't give, but merely
promise?"

"That's what it comes to," said Lalage. "I call it a good offer."

"It's one of the most generous I ever heard," I said. "May I ask if
Selby-Harrison----?"

"It was his suggestion," said Hilda. "Neither Lalage nor I are any good
at sums, specially decimals."

"And," said Lalage, "you'll get a copy of each number post free just the
same as if you were a regular subscriber!"

"We've got one advertiser already," said Hilda.

"And," said Lalage, "advertisments pay the whole cost of newspapers
nowadays. Any one who knows anything about the business side of the
press knows that. Selby-Harrison met a man the other day who reports
football matches and he said so."

"Is it cocoa," I asked, "or soap, or hair restorer?"

"No. It's a man who wants to buy second-hand feather beds. I can't
imagine what he means to do with them when he gets them, but that's his
business. We needn't worry ourselves so long as he pays us."

"Lalage," I said, "and Hilda, I am so thoroughly convinced of your
energy and enterprise, I feel so sure of Selby-Harrison's financial
ability and I am so deeply in sympathy with the objects of your, may
I say our, society, that if I possessed £300,000 you should have it
to-morrow; but, owing to, recent legislation affecting Irish land, the
ever-increasing burden of income tax and the death duties----"

"Don't start rambling again," said Lalage. "It isn't in the least funny,
and we're both beginning to get sleepy. Nobody wants £300,000."

"It takes that," I said, "to run a newspaper."

"What we want," said Lalage, "is thirty pounds, guaranteed--ten pounds a
month for three months. All you have to do is to sign a paper----"

"Did Selby-Harrison draw up the paper?"

"Yes. And Hilda has it upstairs in her trunk."

"That's enough," I said. "Anything Selby-Harrison has drawn up I'll
sign. Perhaps, Hilda, you'll be good enough--I wouldn't trouble you if I
knew where to find it myself."

"Get it, Hilda," said Lalage.

Hilda struggled out of her beehive and immediately stumbled into a bed
of stocks. It had become very dark while we talked, but I think the
scent of the flowers might have warned her of her danger. I picked her
up carefully and set her on the path.

"Perhaps," I said, "you won't mind taking off your shoes as you cross
the hall outside the drawing-room. Mr. and Mrs. Dodds must have found
out about Miss Battersby's bridge by this time."

I think Hilda winked. I did not actually see her wink. It was too dark
to see anything; but there was a feeling in the air as if somebody
winked and Lalage had nothing to wink about.

"If," I added, "they rush out and catch you, they will certainly ask
you where I am. You must be prepared for that. Would you very much mind
exaggerating a little, just for once?"

This time Hilda giggled audibly.

"You might say that Lalage and I had gone for a long walk and that you
do not know when we will be back."

"That wouldn't be true," said Lalage, "so of course it can't be said."

"We can easily make it true," I said. "I don't want to go for a walk
at this time of night and I'm sure you don't, after the exhausting day
you've had--but rather than put Hilda in an awkward position and set her
conscience gnawing at her during the night we might start at once, not
telling Hilda when we'll be back."

"All right," said Lalage. "Pussy will fuss afterward of course. But----"

"I entirely forgot Miss Battersby," I said. "She would fuss to a
certainty. She might write to the Archdeacon. After all, Hilda, you'll
have to chance it with your shoes off. But for goodness' sake don't
sneeze or fall or anything of that sort just outside the door."

Hilda returned in about ten minutes. She told us that she whistled
"Annie Laurie" on her way upstairs so as to give any one who might hear
her the impression that she was the boy employed by the hotel proprietor
to clean boots. The ruse, a brilliantly original one, was entirely
successful. The bridge party, as I learned next day, including Miss
Battersby, had gone to bed early. They did not play very much bridge.
Hilda brought Selby-Harrison's form of guarantee with her. It was
written on a sheet of blue foolscap paper and ornamented with a penny
stamp, necessary, so a footnote informed me, because the sum of money
involved was more than two pounds. I signed it with a fountain pen by
the light of a wax match which Lalage struck on the sole of her shoe and
obligingly held so that it did not quite burn my hair.



CHAPTER VII

It is only very gradually that one comes to appreciate Lalage. I had
known her since she was quite a small child. I even recollect her
insisting upon my wheeling her perambulator once when I was a schoolboy,
and naturally resented such an indignity. Yet I had failed to realize
the earnestness and vigour of her character. I did not expect anything
to come of the guarantee which I had signed for her. I might and
ought to have known better; but I was in fact greatly surprised when I
received by post the first copy of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_. It was
not a very large publication, but it contained more print than I should
have thought obtainable for the sum of ten pounds. Besides the title of
the magazine and a statement that this issue was Vol. I, No. I., there
was a picture of a young lady, clothed like the goddess Diana in the
illustrations of the classical dictionary, who was urging on several
large dogs of most ferocious appearance. In the distance, evidently
terrified by the dogs, were three animals of no recognized species,
but very disgusting in appearance, which bore on their sides the words
"Tommy Rot." The huntress was remarkably like Hilda in appearance and
the initials "L.B." at the bottom left-hand corner of the picture told
me that the artist was Lalage herself. One of the dogs was a highly
idealized portrait of a curly haired retriever belonging to my mother.
The objects of the chase I did not recognize as copies of any beasts
known to me; though there was something in the attitude of the worst of
them which reminded me slightly of the Archdeacon. I never heard what
Hilda's mother thought of this picture. If she is the kind of woman I
imagine her to be she probably resented the publication of a portrait of
her daughter dressed in a single garment only and that decidedly shorter
than an ordinary night dress.

Opening the magazine at page one, I came upon an editorial article. The
rapid increase of the habit of talking tommyrot was dwelt upon and the
necessity for prompt action was emphasized. The objects of the society
were set forth with a naked directness, likely, I feared, to cause
offence. Then came a paragraph, most disquieting to me, in which
the generous gentleman whose aid had rendered the publication of the
magazine possible was subjected to a good deal of praise. His name
was not actually mentioned, but he was described as a distinguished
diplomatist well known in an important continental court. This made me
uneasy. There are not very many distinguished diplomatists who would
finance a magazine of the kind. I felt that suspicion would fasten
almost at once upon me, in the event of there being any kind of public
inquiry. Next to the editorial article came a page devoted on one side
entirely to the advertisement of the gentleman who wanted second-hand
feather beds. The other side of it was announced as "To Let," and the
attention of advertisers was called to the unique opportunity offered
to them of making their wishes known to an intelligent and progressive
public. After that came the bishops.

Each bishop had at least half a page to himself. Some had much more, the
amount of space devoted to them being apparently regulated in accordance
with the enormity of their offences. There was a note in italics at the
end of each indictment which ran thus:

"All inquirers after the original sources of the information used in
this article are requested to apply to J. Selby-Harrison, Esq., 175
Trinity College, Dublin, by whom the research in the columns of the
daily papers has been conducted with much ability and disinterested
discretion. P.S.--J. Selby-Harrison has in all cases preserved notes of
the dates, etc., for purposes of verification." The working up of the
material thus collected was without doubt done by Lalage. I recognized
her style. Hilda probably corrected the proof.

In the letter which Lalage wrote to me at the time of the founding of
the A.T.R.S. she spoke of university life as broadening the mind and
enlarging the horizon. Either Oxford in this respect is inferior to
Trinity College, Dublin, or else my mind has narrowed again since I took
my degree and my horizon has shrunk. I did not feel that the episcopal
pronouncements quoted deserved the eminence to which Lalage promoted
them. They struck me as being simply commonplace. I had grown quite
accustomed to them and had come to regard them as proper and natural
things for bishops to say. For instance, the very first paragraph in
this pillory of Lalage's was devoted to a bishop, I forget his name and
territorial title, who had denounced Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe." Some
evil-minded person had put forward this novel as a suitable reading
book for Irish boys and girls in secondary schools, and the bishop had
objected strongly. Lalage was cheerfully contemptuous of him. Without
myself sharing his feeling, I can quite understand that he may have
found it his duty to protest against the deliberate encouragement of
such dangerous reading; and it is seldom right to laugh at a man for
doing his duty. I read "Ivanhoe" when I was a boy and I distinctly
remember that at least one eminent ecclesiastic is presented in a most
unfavourable light. If Irish boys and girls got into the way of thinking
of twelfth-century priors as gay dogs, the step onward to actual
disrespect for contemporary bishops would be quite a short one.

There was another bishop (he appeared a few pages further on in the
_Gazette_) who objected to the education of boys and girls under seven
years of age in the same infant schools. He said that this mixing of
the sexes would destroy the beautiful modesty of demeanour which
distinguishes Irish girls from those of other nations. Lalage poked
fun at this man for a page and a half. I hesitate to say that she was
actually wrong. My own experience of infant schools is very small. I
once went into one, but I did not stay there for more than five minutes,
hardly long enough to form an opinion about the wholesomeness of the
moral atmosphere. But in this case again I can enter into the feelings
of the bishop. He probably knows, having once been six years old
himself, that all boys of that age are horrid little beasts. He also
knows--he distinctly says so in the pastoral quoted by Lalage--that the
charm of maidenhood is a delicate thing, comparable to the bloom on a
peach or the gloss on a butterfly's wings. Even Miss Battersby, who
must know more about girls than any bishop, felt that Lalage had lost
something not to be regained when she became intimate enough with Tom
Kitterick to rub glycerine and cucumber into his cheeks.

Lalage was, in my opinion, herself guilty of something very like the sin
of tommyrot when she mocked another bishop for a sermon he had preached
on "Empire Day." He said that wherever the British flag flies there is
liberty for subject peoples and several other obviously true things of
the same kind. I do not see what else, under the circumstances, the poor
man could say. Nor do I blame him in the least for boldly demanding more
battleships to carry something--I think he said the Gospel--to still
remoter lands. Lalage chose to pretend that liberty and subjection are
contradictory terms, but this is plainly absurd. Lord Thormanby talked
over this part of the _Gazette_ with me some months later and gave it
as his opinion that a man whom he knew in the club had put the case very
well by saying that there are several quite distinct kinds of liberty.

I found myself still more puzzled by Lalage's attitude toward another
man who was not even, strictly speaking, a bishop. He was a moderator,
or an ex-moderator, of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.
He had made a speech in which he set forth reasons why he and others
like him should have a recognized place in the vice-regal court. I am
not myself passionately fond of vice-regal courts, but I know that many
people regard them with great reverence, and I do not see why a man
should be laughed at for wanting to walk through the state rooms in
Dublin Castle in front of somebody else. It is a harmless, perhaps a
laudable, ambition. Lalage chose to see something funny in it, and I am
bound to say that when I had finished her article I too began to catch a
glimpse of the amusing side of it.

I spent a long time over the _Gazette_. The more I read it the greater
my perplexity grew. Many things which I had accepted for years as solemn
and necessary parts of the divine ordering of the world were suddenly
seized, contorted, and made to grin like apes. I felt disquieted,
inclined, and yet half afraid, to laugh. I was rendered acutely
uncomfortable by an editorial note which followed the last jibe at the
last bishop: "The next number of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_ will
deal with politicians and may be expected to be lively. Subscribe at
once.--Ed."

I was so profoundy distrustful of my own judgment in delicate matters
that I determined to find out if I could what Dodds thought of Lalage's
opinions. Dodds is preeminently a man of the world, very sound,
unemotional and full of common sense. I did not produce the _Gazette_ or
mention Lalage's name, for Dodds has had a prejudice against her since
the evening on which he played bridge with Miss Battersby. Nor did I
make a special business of asking his advice. I waited until we sat
down to bridge together after dinner and then I put a few typical cases
before him in casual tones, as if they were occurring to me at the
moment.

"Dodds," I said, holding the cards in my hand, "supposing that a bishop
for whom you always had a respect on account of the dignity of his
office, were to say----"

"I wouldn't have any respect for a bishop on account of his office,"
said Dodds. "Why don't you deal?"

"We're Presbyterians," said Mrs. Dodds.

"That needn't prevent you considering this case, for the word bishop
is here used--that is to say, I am using it--to mean any eminent
ecclesiastic. All right, I'm dealing as fast as I can. Supposing that a
man of that kind, call him a bishop or anything else you like, were to
say that boys and girls ought not to read 'Ivanhoe' on account of the
danger to their faith and morals contained in that book, would you or
would you not say that he, the bishop, not 'Ivanhoe,' was talking what
in ordinary slang is called tommyrot?"

I finished dealing and, after glancing rather inattentively at my cards,
declared hearts.

Dodds, who was sitting on my left, picked up his hand and doubled my
hearts. He did so in a tone that convinced me that I had been rash in
my declaration. He paid no attention whatever to my question about the
bishop and "Ivanhoe." It turned out that he had a remarkably good hand
and he scored thirty-two below the line, which of course gave him the
game. Mrs. Dodds, who was my partner, seemed temporarily soured, and
while Dodds was explaining to us how well he had played, she took up the
question about the bishop.

"I'd be thinking," she said, "that that bishop of yours had very little
to do to be talking that way. I'd say he'd be the kind of man who'd
declare hearts with no more than one honour on his hand and that the
queen."

This rather nettled me, for I quite realized that my hand did not
justify a heart declaration. I had made it inadvertently my mind being
occupied with more important matters.

"Of course," I said, "you're prejudiced in favour of Sir Walter Scott.
You Scotch are all the same. A word against Sir Walter or Robbie
Burns is enough for you. But I'll put another case to you: Supposing a
bishop--understanding the word as I've explained it--were to say that
infant schools are a danger to public morality on account of the way
that boys and girls are mixed up together in the same classrooms, would
he, in your opinion----?"

Dodds has a horribly coarse mind. He stopped dealing and grinned. Then
he winked at the young engineer who sat opposite to him. He, I was
pleased to see, had the grace to look embarrassed. Mrs. Dodds, who of
course knows how her husband revels in anything which can be twisted
into impropriety, interrupted me with a question asked in a very biting
tone.

"Is it chess you think you are playing the now, or is it bridge?"

I had to let the next deal pass without any further attempt to discover
Dodds's opinion about tommyrot. I was trying to think out what Mrs.
Dodds meant by accusing me of wanting to play chess. It struck me as
an entirely gratuitous and, using the word in its original sense,
impertinent suggestion. Nothing I had said seemed in any way to imply
that I was thinking of chess. As a matter of fact, I detest the game and
never play it. I suppose I am slow-witted, but it did not occur to me
for quite a long time, that, being a Scotch Presbyterian, the mention
of bishops was more likely to call up to her mind the pieces which sidle
obliquely across a chessboard than living men of lordly degree. I was
not sure in the end that I had tracked her thought correctly, but I
know that I made several bad mistakes during the next and the following
hands.

When it worked round to my turn to deal again I gave out the cards very
slowly and made another attempt to find out whether Dodds did or did not
agree with Lalage about tommyrot.

"Supposing," I said, "that a clergyman, an ordinary clergyman, not
a bishop, the kind of clergyman whom you would perhaps describe as a
minister, were to preach a sermon about the British Empire and were to
say----"

"In our church," said Mrs. Dodds snappily, "the ministers preach the
Gospel."

"I am convinced of that," I said, "but you must surely admit that the
great idea of the imperial expansion of the race, Greater Britain beyond
the seas, and--the White Man's Burden, and all that kind of thing, are
not essentially anti-evangelical, when looked at from the proper point
of view. Suppose, for instance, that our hypothetical clergyman were to
take for his text----"

I laid down the last card in the pack on my own pile and looked
triumphantly at Dodds. I had, at all events, not made a misdeal. Dodds
put his hand down on his cards with a bang. He has large red hands,
which swell out between the knuckles and at the wrists. I saw by the
way his fingers were spread on the table that he was going to speak
strongly. I recollected then, when it was too late, that Dodds is an
advanced Radical and absolutely hates the idea of imperialism. I tried
to diminish his wrath by slipping in an apologetic explanation before he
found words to express his feelings.

"The clergyman I mean," I said, "isn't--he's purely imaginary, but if
he had any real existence he wouldn't belong to your church. He'd be a
bishop."

"He'd better," said Dodds grimly.

I felt so much depressed that I declared spades at once. I gathered
from the tone in which he spoke that if the clergyman who preached
imperialism came within the jurisdiction of Dodds, or for the matter
of that of Mrs. Dodds, it would be the worse for him. By far his
best chance of a peaceful life was to be a bishop and not to live in
Scotland. This was a great deal worse than Lalage's way of treating him.
She merely sported, pursuing him with gay ridicule, mangling his pet
quotations, smiling at his swelling rotundities. Dodds would have sent
him to the stake without an opportunity for recantation.

I lost altogether seven shillings during the evening, which represents
a considerable run of bad luck, for we never played for more than a
shilling for each hundred points. Mrs. Dodds, of course, lost the
same amount. I tried to make it up to her next day by sending her,
anonymously, six pairs of gloves. She must have known that they came
from me for she was very gracious and friendly next evening. But for a
long time afterward Dodds used to annoy her by proposing to talk about
bishops and infant schools whenever she happened to be my partner.



CHAPTER VIII

A week passed without my hearing anything from home about Lalage's
_Gazette_. My mother's weekly letter--she wrote regularly every Sunday
afternoon--contained nothing but the usual chronicle of minor events. I
had no other regular correspondent. The Archdeacon had written me eleven
letters since I left home, all of them dealing with church finance and
asking for subscriptions. Canon Beresford never wrote to me at all. I
was beginning to hope that the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_ had failed to
catch the eye--ought I to say the ear?--of the public. This would
of course be a disappointment to Lalage, perhaps also to Hilda and
Selby-Harrison, but it would be a great relief to me. The more I thought
of it the more I disliked the idea of being identified with the generous
gentleman whose timely aid had rendered the publication possible.

My hopes were shattered by the arrival of no less than six letters by
one post. One of them was addressed in my mother's writing, and I feared
the worst when I saw it. It was quite the wrong day for a letter from
her, and I knew that nothing except a serious disaster would induce
her to break through her regular rule of Sunday writing. Another of
the letters came from the Archdeacon. I knew his hand. Two of the other
envelopes bore handwritings which I did not recognize. The addresses of
the remaining two were typewritten. I turned them all over thoughtfully
and decided to open my mother's first. She made no attempt to soften the
shock I suffered by breaking her news to me gradually.

"Lalage appears to have excelled herself in her latest escapade. I only
heard about it this morning and have not had time to verify the details
of the story; but I think it better to write to you at once in case you
should hear an exaggerated version from some one else."

My mother is very thoughtful and kind; but in this particular case,
needlessly so. I was not in the least likely to hear an exaggerated
version of Lalage's performance from any source; because no one in
the world, not even a politician, could exaggerate the truth about the
_Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_.

My mother went on:

"You appear to be mixed up in the affair, and, on the whole, I advise
you to get out of it at once if you can. Your uncle, who takes these
matters very seriously, is greatly annoyed. Lalage appears to have
published something, a pamphlet probably, but report says variously a
book, a magazine, and a newspaper. I have not seen a copy myself, though
I telegraphed to Dublin for one as soon as the news of its publication
reached me. Your uncle, who heard about it at the club, says it is
scurrilous. He sent out for a copy, but was informed by the news agent
that the whole issue was sold out. The Archdeacon was the first to tell
me about it. He had been in Dublin attending a meeting of the Church
Representative Body and he says that the general opinion there is that
it is blasphemous. Even the Canon is a good deal upset and has gone away
for a holiday to the north of Scotland. I had a postcard from him to-day
with a picture of the town hall at Wick on the back of it. He wrote
nothing except the words, 'Virtute mea me unvolvo.' I have Latin enough
to guess that this--is it a quotation from his favourite Horace?--is a
description of his own attitude toward Lalage's performance. Miss
Pettigrew, who is greatly interested, and I think on the whole
sympathetic with Lalage, writes that eighteen bishops have already begun
actions for libel, and that three more are expected to do so as soon as
they recover from fits of nervous prostration brought on by Lalage's
attacks on them. A postscript to her letter gets nearer than anything
else I have come across to giving a coherent account of what has
actually taken place. 'Lalage,' she writes, 'has shown a positively
diabolical ingenuity in picking out for the pillory all the most
characteristically episcopal utterances for the last two years.' You
will understand better than I do what this means."

I did understand what Miss Pettigrew meant, but I do not think that
Lalage ought to be given: the whole credit. Selby-Harrison did the
research.

My mother went on:

"Father Maconchy, the P.P., stopped me on the road this afternoon to
say that he hoped there was no truth in the report that you are mixed up
in what he calls a disgraceful attempt at proselytizing. The Archdeacon
tells me that in ecclesiastical circles (his, not Father Maconchy's,
ecclesiastical circles) you are credited with having urged Lalage on,
and says he fears your reputation will suffer."

I put the letter down at this point and swore. Extreme stupidity always
makes me swear. It is almost the only thing in the world which does. The
Archdeacon, who has been acquainted with Lalage since her birth, ought
to have more sense than to suppose, or allow any one else to suppose,
that she ever required urging on. Even Father Maconchy's reading of the
situation was intelligent compared to that.

"Miss Pettigrew says that the Trinity College authorities have taken
the matter up and are strongly of opinion that you are financing the
publication. Thormanby tells me that the same rumour is current in the
club. He heard it from five or six different men, and says he has been
written to about the matter since he came home by people who are most
anxious about your connection with it. I do not know what to believe,
and I do not want to press my opinion on you, but if, without making
things worse for Lalage than they are at present, you can disclaim
responsibility for the publication, whatever it is, it will probably be
wise for you to do so."

It did not seem to me to matter, after reading what my mother said,
which of the other letters I took next. I tried one of the two which
bore typewritten addresses, in the hope that it might be nothing worse
than a bill. It was, as a matter of fact, a statement of accounts. The
first sheet ran thus:

                  Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette Guarantee Fund
     Trinity College, Dublin, No. 175, and at the rooms of the Elizabethan
                              Society

                    Debtor and Creditor Account
     To 8 per cent, due on one third of £80, being amount of
     guarantee for one month as per agreement signed August 9th,
     ult., equals 1s. 4d. (say, one shilling and fourpence).
     Examined and found correct

     J. Selby-Harrison.

     Stamps (1s. 4d.) enclosed to balance account.   Please
     acknowledge receipt.

It is very gratifying to a guarantor to receive interest on his promise
in this prompt and business-like way, but I am not sure that 8 per cent,
will be sufficient to compensate me for the trouble I shall have
in explaining my position to the Board of Trinity College, the
Representative Body of the Church of Ireland, the Standing Committee of
the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, the Presbyterian General Assembly, and the
committee of the Kildare Street Club. The next sheet of Selby-Harrison's
accounts was equally business-like in form.

     Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette Guarantee Fund Trinity College,
     Dublin, No. 175, and at the rooms of the Elizabethan Society
     Per Contra.

     By one third of £30, being amount of guarantee for one month
     as per agreement signed August 9th, ult., £10, less payment
     by advertiser for single insertion, being one twelfth of 75.
     9d.f contract price for year, 7.75 pence equals £9-19-4.25
     (say nine pounds nineteen shillings and fourpence farthing)
     now due by guarantor. Examined and found correct Kindly
     remit at once to avoid legal proceedings.

     J. Selby-Harrison.

The last thing in the world I wanted was further legal proceedings. With
eighteen libel actions pending and three more threatened in the near
future, the Irish courts would be kept busy enough without being forced
to deal with a writ issued by Selby-Harrison against me. I sat down at
once and remitted, making out my cheque for the round sum of £10, and
telling Selby-Harrison that he could set the extra 7.75 pence against
postage and petty cash. I pointed out at the same time that the
advertiser, considering the unexpectedly wide publicity which had
been given to his desire for second-hand feather beds, had got off
ridiculously cheap. I suggested that he might, if approached, agree to
pay the extra.25 of a penny.

I turned over the other three envelopes and chose for my next experiment
one addressed in a delicate female hand. It seemed to me scarcely
possible that letters formed as these were could convey sentiments of
any but a fragrant kind. I turned out to be mistaken. This letter was
more pitiless even than Selby-Harrison's stark mathematical statements.

"Owing to the incessant worry and annoyance of the last three days I am
prostrate with a bad attack of my old enemy and am obliged to dictate
this letter."

The signature, written with evident pain, told me that the dictator was
my Uncle Thormanby. The "old enemy" was, as I knew, gout.

"Miss Battersby is acting as my amanuensis."

For the fifth or sixth time in my life I felt sorry for Miss Battersby.

"Canon Beresford's girl has libelled eighty or ninety bishops in the
most outrageous way. I am not sure of the law, but I sincerely hope that
it may be found possible to send her to gaol with hard labour for a term
of years. Not that I care what she says about bishops. They probably
deserve all they get and in any case it's no business of mine. What
annoys me is that she has mixed you up in the scandal. Old Tollerton
was sniggering about the club in the most disgusting way the day before
yesterday, and telling every one that you were financing the minx. He
says he has it on the best authority.

"I found a letter waiting for me when I came home from the secretary of
the Conservative and Unionist Parliamentary Association, asking me if
the rumour was true. I had just arranged with them to put you up for the
East Connor division of Down at the general election and everything was
looking rosy. Then this confounded stinkpot of a bombshell burst in our
midst. That outrageous brat of Beresford's ought to be soundly whipped.
I always said so and it turns out now that I was perfectly right.

"I need scarcely tell you that if your name is connected with these
libel actions in any way your chance of election won't be worth two
pence. The Nationalist blackguards would make the most of it, of course,
and I don't see how our people could defend you without bringing the
parsons and Presbyterian ministers out like wasps.

"I have authoritatively denied that you have, or ever had, any
connection with or knowledge of the scurrilous print; so I beg that you
will at once withdraw the guarantee which I understand you have
given. If you don't do this my position, as well as your own, will be
infernally awkward. I wanted to get a hold of Beresford to-day, but
hear that he has gone to Iceland. Just like him I I thought I might
have bullied him into taking the responsibility and clearing you. The
Archdeacon won't. I tried him. Tollerton, who insisted on sitting next
me at luncheon in the club, says that you may be able to hush the thing
up by offering to build a new church for each of the bishops named. This
would cost thousands and cripple you for the rest of your life, so we
won't make any overtures in that direction till everything else fails.
Tollerton always makes the worst of everything. They say he has Bright's
disease. I shan't be sorry when he's gone; but if I have to go through
much more worry of this kind it's likely enough that he'll see me out."

With this letter was enclosed a small slip of paper bearing a message
which appeared to have been very hurriedly written.

     "_Please_ do not be too angry with Lalage. I'm sure she did
     not mean any harm. She is a very high-spirited girl, but
     most affectionate. I'm _so_ sorry about it all especially
     for your poor mother.

     "Amélie Battersby."

Miss Battersby need not have made her appeal. Even if I had been very
angry with Lalage my uncle's letter would have softened my heart
toward her. She deserved well and not ill of me. The decision of the
Conservative and Unionist Parliamentary Association came on me as a
shock. I had no idea that my uncle was negotiating with them on my
behalf. If Lalage's _Gazette_ disgusted them with me and made it obvious
that I could not succeed as a candidate in the East Connor Division of
County Down I should be greatly pleased, and my ten pounds, or whatever
larger sum might be required to pacify the fiercest of the bishops,
would be very well spent.

I opened the Archdeacon's letter next. It was, with the exception of
Selby-Harrison's, the shortest of the whole batch.

"I write, not in anger but in sorrow. Lalage, whom I can only think of
as a dear but misguided child, has been led away by the influence of
undesirable companions into a grievous mistake. I shrink from applying'
a severer word. As a man of the world I cannot shut my eyes to the fact
that the money, the considerable sum of money, which you have placed
at the disposal of these young people has proved a temptation, not to
Lalage, but to those with whom she has unfortunately associated herself.
In the event of your deciding, as I strongly urge you to do, to withdraw
your financial guarantee, these unscrupulous persons, seeing no prospect
of further profit, will no doubt cease to lead Lalage astray."

The idea in the Archdeacon's mind evidently was that Selby-Harrison
and Hilda had exploited Lalage, and obtained the money for unhallowed
revellings, from me. I should like to hear Hilda's mother's opinion of
the Archdeacon's view. Its injustice was of course quite evident to me.
I had Selby-Harrison's accounts before me, and nothing could be clearer
than they were. Besides I knew from my mother's letter that what the
Archdeacon now said about Selby-Harrison and Hilda he had originally
said about me. When the truth, the whole truth, about the publication
of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_ is published, it will be recognized that
Selby-Harrison, Hilda, and I, so far from urging Lalage on or leading
her astray, were from first to last little more than tools for her use,
clay in her potter's hands.

My fifth letter turned out to be from the Provost of Trinity College.
It was written in very courteous terms and was, on the whole, the most
encouraging I had yet read.

He wrote:

"You must forgive my meddling in your affairs, and accept the fact that
I am, in some sense, an old family friend, as my excuse for offering
you a word of advice. I knew your father before you were born, and as
a young man I often dined at your grandfather's table. This gives me a
kind of right to make a suggestion which I have no doubt you will take
in good part. Three young people, who as students in this college are
more or less under my charge, have got into a scrape which might very
well be serious but which, I hope, will turn out in the end to be merely
ridiculous. They have printed and published a small magazine in which no
less than twenty-one of the Irish bishops are fiercely attacked.

"It is only fair to say that they have been actuated by no sectarian
spirit. They are equally severe on Protestant and Roman Catholic
ecclesiastics. The publication was at once brought under my notice, and
I could do nothing else but send for the delinquents. Nothing could have
been more praiseworthy than their candour. They gave me an account of
the purpose of their society--they have formed a society--which showed
that their objects were not in any way vicious, although the means
they adopted for furthering them were highly culpable. I spoke to them
strongly, very strongly indeed, and I trust made some impression on
them. At the same time I must confess that one of them, Miss Lalage
Beresford, displayed the greatest determination and absolutely declined
to give me a promise that the publication of the magazine would be
discontinued, except on conditions which I could not possibly consider.
You will recognize at once that for Miss Lalage's own sake, as well
as for the sake of college discipline, I cannot have any further
publication of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_.

"At the same time I am unwilling to proceed to extremities against her
or either of the others. They are all young and will learn sense in
due time. It occurs to me that perhaps the simplest way out of the
difficulty will be for you to withdraw the guarantee of financial
assistance which, as I understand, you have given. If you are prepared
to support me in this way I may safely promise that no further notice of
the absurd publication will be taken by the college authorities. There
are rumours of libel actions pending, but I think we may disregard them.
No damages can be obtained from you beyond the amount of your original
guarantee, which, I understand, did not amount to more than £30. All
the other defendants are minors, dependent entirely on their parents for
their support, so the aggrieved parties will probably not proceed far
with their action. If you agree to stop supplies and so prevent the
possibility of further publication, I shall use my influence to have the
whole affair hushed up."

There remained only the fifth letter; the second of those which bore a
typewritten address. I opened it and found that it came from Lalage. She
wrote:

"We have only been able, to hire this typewriter for one week so I'm
practising hard at it. That is why I'm typing this letter. Please excuse
mistakes."

There were a good many mistakes but I excused them.

"Your copy of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_ went to you first thing.
Hilda nearly forgot to post it, but didn't quite, which was lucky, for
all the rest were seized from us, except nine, which Selby-Harrison gave
to a news agent, who sold them but didn't pay us, though he may yet.
Hard Luck, I call that. Don't you? Some ass sent a copy, marked, to the
Prov. and the next thing we knew was that both offices were raided by
college porters and our property stolen by force. We were furious, but
before we could take any action--we were going to consult a lawyer, a
K.C., whose son happens to be a friend of Selby-Harrison's on account of
being captain of Trinity 3rd A (hockey), in which Selby-Harrison plays
halfback--our doom was upon us and Selby-Harrison was sent for by the
Prov. He came back shattered, like that telescope man who got caught by
the Inquisition, having spent hours on the rack and nearly had his face
eaten off as well. Our turn came next. We (Hilda and I) had just time
to dart off on top of a tram to Trinity Hall (that's where we have our
rooms), you know, of course, and jump into our best frocks before 1 P.M.,
the hour of our summons to the august presence. Hilda's is a tussore
silk, frightfully sweet, and I had a blouse with a lot of Carrickmacross
lace on it.

"Hilda was in a pea-blue funk when it came to the moment and kept
pulling at her left glove until she tore the button off. I was a bit
jellyfishy myself down the back; but I needn't have been. The minute I
got into the room I could see that the old Prov. was a perfect pet and
didn't really mean anything, though he tried to look as if he did."

I have always disliked the modern system of co-education and after
reading Lalage's letter I was strongly inclined to agree with the bishop
who wants to stamp it out, beginning with the infant schools. I do not
agree with his reasoning. My objection--it applies particularly to the
admission of grown-up young women to universities--is that even-handed
justice is never administered. The girls get off cheap. Some day,
perhaps, we shall have a lady presiding as provost over one of our great
universities. Then the inequalities of our present arrangements will
be balanced by others. The Lalages and Hildas of those days will spend
hours upon the rack. If they are fools enough to jump into tussore
frocks and blouses with Carrickmacross lace on them before being
admitted to the august presence, they will have their faces eaten off as
well. On the other hand, the Selby-Harrisons, if reasonably good-looking
young men, will find the Prov. a perfect pet, who doesn't really mean
anything; who, perhaps, will not even try to look as if she does.

"He jawed a lot, of course, but we did not mind that a bit; at least I
didn't, for I knew he only did it because he had to. In the end he asked
us to promise not to annoy bishops any more. Hilda promised. Rather base
of her, I call it; but by that time she had dragged the second button
off her glove and would have promised simply anything. I stuck on and
said I wouldn't. He seemed a bit put out, and he'd been such a dear
about the whole thing that I hated having to refuse him. You know the
sort of way you feel when somebody, that you want frightfully to do
things for, will clamour on for what you know is wrong. That's the way
I was and at last I couldn't stand it any more, so I said I'd promise
on condition that the bishops all undertook not to say any more silly
things except in church. That was as far as I could well go and I
thought the Prov. would have jumped at the offer. Instead of which he
first scowled in a very peculiar way and then his face all wrinkled up
and got quite red so that I thought he was going to get some kind of
fit. Without saying another word he in a sort of way hustled us out
of the room. That was the only really rude thing he did to us; but
Selby-Harrison sticks to it that he was perfectly awful to him. We don't
quite know what will happen next, but both the other two think that we'd
better not have the college porters arrested for stealing the magazines.
I'd like to, but, of course, they are two to one. Selby-Harrison is
looking like a sick turkey and is constantly sighing. He says he thinks
he'll have to be a doctor now. He had meant to go into the Divinity
School and be ordained but after what the Provost said to him he doesn't
see how he can. Rather rough luck on him, having to fall back on the
medical; but I don't think he'll mind much in the end, except that
he doubts whether his father can afford the fees. That will be a
difficulty, if true."

I wonder what the fees amount to. I am inclined to think that it is my
duty to see Selby-Harrison through. I should not like to think of his
whole career being wrecked. At the same time I am inclined to think that
it would be waste to turn him into a doctor. He ought to make his mark
as a chartered accountant if he gets a chance. I shall speak to my
mother about him when I go home and see what she suggests.

"Hilda's mother has written saying that Hilda is not to spend next hols
with me; which was all arranged before the fuss began. I can't see what
objection she can possibly have. Anyhow it is frightful tyranny and of
course we don't mean to stand it. Selby-Harrison says that perhaps if
you wrote to her she would give in; but I don't want you to do this. I
hate crawling, especially to Hilda's mother and people like that, but if
you like to do it you can. Selby-Harrison says that your mother being an
honourable, will make a lot of difference, though I don't see what that
has to do with me. Still if you think it will be any use there's no
reason why you shouldn't mention it. Hilda has cried buckets full since
the letter came."

I am sorry for Hilda but I shall not write to her mother. I have enough
on my hands without that. Besides, as Lalage says, I do not see the
connection between my mother's position in society and Hilda's mother's
schemes for her daughter's holidays.

"P.S. I hope you got your 8 per cent, all right. I told Selby-Harrison
to send it. We were all three stony at the time and had to borrow it
from another girl who is going in for logic honours, but she's quite
rich, so it doesn't matter. Hilda didn't want to, and said she'd
give her two gold safety pins, which she got last Christmas, if
Selby-Harrison would pawn them for her. But he wouldn't, and I thought
it was hardly worth while for the sake of one and fourpence, besides
making her mother more furious than ever. We ought not to have had to
borrow more than fourpence, for Selby-Harrison had a shilling the night
before, but went and spent it on having a Turkish bath. Rather a rotten
thing to do, I think, when we owed it. But he said he'd forgotten about
the 8 per cent, and had to have the Turkish bath on account of the way
the Prov. talked to him. That was yesterday, of course, not to-day."

I was glad when I read this that I had made out my cheque for the whole
ten pounds. Selby-Harrison will be in a position to pay the other girl
back. She may be quite rich, but she will not like being done out of her
money. The fact that she is going in for logic honours shows me that
she has a precise kind of mind and a good deal of quiet determination.
I should be surprised if she submitted meekly to the loss of one and
fourpence.

"P.P.S. I always forget to tell you that Pussy (Miss Battersby) says
she left a hat pin with a silver swallow on the end of it in that first
hotel in Lisbon. Would you mind going in the next day you are passing
and asking for it? I hate to bother you and I wouldn't, only that we
don't any of us remember the name of the hotel and so can't write."

I rather shrank from asking that hotel keeper for a pin supposed to have
been dropped in one of his bedrooms during the previous August. But
Miss Battersby, at least, does not deserve to suffer. I spent a long
afternoon going round the jewellers' shops in Lisbon and in the end
secured a pin with two silver doves and a heart on it. I sent this
to Miss Battersby and explained that it was the nearest thing to her
original swallow which the hotel keeper had been able to find. She is,
fortunately, quite an easy person to please. She wrote thanking me for
the trouble I had taken.



CHAPTER IX

My friends were singularly successful in their negotiations on my
behalf. Not a single bishop proceeded with his libel action against
Lalage. Nor was I forced to buy any of them off by building even a small
cathedral. I attribute our escape from their vengeance entirely to the
Provost. His clear statement of the impossibility of obtaining damages
by any legal process must have had its effect.

Gossip too died away with remarkable suddenness. I heard afterward that
old Tollerton got rapidly worse and succumbed to his disease, whatever
it was, very shortly after his last interview with my uncle. I have
no doubt that his death had a good deal to do with the decay of public
interest in the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_. The Archdeacon, who also was
inclined to talk a good deal, had his mind distracted by other events.
The bishop of our diocese had a paralytic stroke. He was not one of
those whom Lalage libelled, so the blame for his misfortune cannot be
laid on us. The Archdeacon was, in consequence, very fully occupied in
the management of diocesan affairs and forgot all about the _Gazette_.
Canon Beresford ventured back to his parish after a stay of six weeks in
Wick. He would not have dared to return if there had been the slightest
chance of the Archdeacon's reverting to the painful subject in
conversation. Had there been even the slightest reference to it in the
newspapers, Canon Beresford, instead of returning home, would have gone
farther afield to an Orkney Island or the Shetland group, or, perhaps,
to one of those called Faroe, which do not appear on ordinary maps but
are believed by geographers to exist. Thus when my mother, in the course
of one of her letters, mentioned casually that Canon Beresford had
lunched with her, I knew, as Noah did when the dove no longer returned
to him, that the flood had abated.

My uncle was also successful, too successful, in his effort. His
definite denial of my connection with the _Anti-Tommy-Rot Gazette_
obtained credence with the Committee of the Conservative and Unionist
Parliamentary Association. My name retained its place on their books
and they continued to put me forward as a candidate for the East Connor
division of Down at the General Election.

I only found this fact out by degrees, for nobody seemed to think it
worth while to tell me. My uncle said afterward that my ignorance, in
which he found it very difficult to believe, was entirely my own fault.
I cannot deny this: though I still hold that I ought to have been
plainly informed of my destiny and not left to infer it from the figures
in the accounts which were sent to me from time to time. When I went to
Portugal I left my money affairs very much in the hands of my mother and
my uncle. I had what I wanted. They spent what they thought right in
the management of my estate, in subscriptions and so forth. The accounts
which they sent me, very different indeed from the spirited statements
of Selby-Harrison, bored me, and I did not realize for some time that I
was subscribing handsomely to a large number of local objects in places
of which I had never even heard the names. I now know that they are
towns and villages in the East Connor division of Down, and my uncle
has told me that this kind of expenditure is called nursing the
constituency.

The first definite news of my candidature came to me, curiously enough,
from Lalage. She wrote me a letter during the Christmas holidays:

"There was a party (flappers, with dancing and a sit-down supper, not
a Christmas tree) at Thormanby Park last night. I got a bit fed up with
'the dear girls' (Cattersby's expression) at about nine o'clock and
slipped off with Hilda in hope of a cigarette. (Hilda's mother's cook
got scarlatina, so she had to give in about Hilda coming here for the
hols after all. Rather a climb down for her, I should say.) It was jolly
lucky we did, as it turned out, though we didn't succeed in getting the
whiff. Lord Thormanby and the Archdeacon were in the smoking room, so we
pretended we'd come to look for Hilda's pocket snuffler. The Archdeacon
came to the party with a niece, in a green dress, who's over from
London, and stiff with swank, though what about I don't know, for she
can't play hockey a bit, has only read the most rotten books, and isn't
much to look at, though the green dress is rather sweet, with a lace
yoke and sequins on the skirt. Why didn't you tell me you were going
into Parliament? I'm frightfully keen on elections and mean to go and
help you. So does Hilda now that she knows about it, and I wrote to
Selby-Harrison this morning. We've changed the name of the society to
the Association for the Suppression of Public Lying (A.S.P.L.). Rather
appropriate, isn't it, with a general election just coming on? Of course
you're still a life member. The change of name isn't a constitutional
alteration. Selby-Harrison made sure of that before we did it, so it
doesn't break up the continuity, which is most important for us all.
Lord Thormanby and the Archdeacon were jawing away like anything while
we were searching about for the hanker, and took no notice of us,
although the Archdeacon is frightfully polite now as a rule, quite
different from what he used to be. They said the election was a soft
thing for you unless somebody went and put up a third man. I rather hope
they will, don't you? Dead certs are so rottenly unsporting. I'll have
a meeting of the committee as soon as I get back to Dublin. This will be
just the chance we want, for we haven't had any sort of a look in since
they suppressed the _Gazette._"

I put this letter of Lalage's aside and did not answer it for some time.
I thought that she and Hilda might have misunderstood what my uncle
and the Archdeacon were saying. I did not regard it as possible that
an important matter of the kind should be settled without my knowing
anything about it; and I expected that Lalage would find out her mistake
for herself. It turned out in the end that she had not made a mistake.
Early in January I got three letters, all marked urgent. One was from
my uncle, one from the secretary of the Conservative and Unionist
Association and one from a Mr. Titherington, who seemed to be a person
of some importance in the East Connor division of County Down. They all
three told me the same news. I had been unanimously chosen by the
local association as Conservative candidate at the forthcoming general
election. They all insisted that I should go home at once. I did so, but
before starting I answered Lalage's letter. I foresaw that the active
assistance of the Association for the Suppression of Public Lying in the
campaign before me might have very complicated results, and would
almost certainly bring on worry. The local conservative association,
for instance, might not care for Lalage. Hardly any local conservative
association would. Mr. Titherington might not hit it off with
Selby-Harrison, and I realized from the way he wrote, that Mr.
Titherington was a man of strong character. I worded my letter to Lalage
very carefully. I did not want to hurt her feelings by refusing an offer
which was kindly meant.

I wrote,

"I need scarcely tell you, how gladly I should welcome the assistance
offered by the A.S.P.L., if I had nothing but my own feelings to
consider. Speeches from you and Hilda would brighten up what threatens
to be a dull affair. Selby-Harrison's advice would be invaluable. But
I cannot, in fairness to others, accept the offer unconditionally.
Selby-Harrison's father ought to be consulted. He has already been put
to great expense through his son's expulsion from the Divinity School,
and I would not like, now that he has, I suppose, paid some, at least,
of the fees for medical training, to put him to fresh expense by
involving his son in an enterprise which may very well result in his
being driven from the dissecting room. Then we must think of Hilda's
mother. If she insisted on Miss Battersby accompanying her daughter
to Portugal in the capacity of chaperon, she is almost certain to have
prejudices against electioneering as a sport for young girls.

"Perhaps circumstances have altered since I last heard from you in
such a way as to make the consultations I suggest unnecessary. Mr.
Selby-Harrison senior and Hilda's mother may both have died, prematurely
worn out by great anxiety. In that case I do not press for any
consideration of their wishes. But if they still linger on I should
particularly wish to obtain their approval before definitely accepting
the offer of the A.S.P.L."

I thought that a good letter. It was possible that Mr. Selby-Harrison
had died, but I felt sure, judging from what I had heard of her, that
Hilda's mother was a woman of vigour and determination who would live
as long as was humanly possible. I was not even slightly disquieted by a
telegram handed to me just before I left Lisbon.

     "Letter received. Scruples strictly respected. Other
     arrangements in contemplation.

     "Lalage."

I forgot all about the Association for the Suppression of Public Lying
and its offer of help when I arrived in Ireland. Mr. Titherington came
up to Dublin to meet me and showed every sign of keeping me very
busy indeed. He turned out to be a timber merchant by profession, who
organized elections by way of recreation whenever opportunity offered. I
was told in the office of the Conservative and Unionist Association that
no man living was more crafty in electioneering than Mr. Titherington,
and that I should do well to trust myself entirely to his guidance. I
made up my mind to do so. My uncle who also met me in Dublin, had been
making inquiries of his own about Mr. Titherington and gave me the
results of them in series of phrases which, I felt sure, he had picked
up from somebody else. "Titherington," he said, "has his finger on
the pulse of the constituency." "There isn't a trick of the trade but
Titherington is thoroughly up to it." "For taking the wind out of
the sails of the other side Titherington is absolutely A1." All this
confirmed me in my determination to follow Mr. Titherington, blindfold.

The first time I met him he told me that we were going to have a sharp
contest and gave me the impression that he was greatly pleased. A
third candidate had taken the field, a man in himself despicable, whose
election was an impossibility; but capable perhaps of detaching from me
a number of votes sufficient to put the Nationalist in the majority.

"And O'Donoghue, let me tell you," said Titherington, "is a smart man
and a right good speaker."

"I'm not," I said.

"I can see that."

I do not profess to know how he saw it. So far as I know, inability to
make speeches does not show on a man's face, and Titherington had no
other means of judging at that time except the appearance of my face. No
one in fact, not even my mother, could have been sure then that I was a
bad speaker. I had never spoken at a public meeting.

"But," said Titherington, "we'll pull you through all right. That
blackguard Vittie can't poll more than a couple of hundred."

"Vittie," I said "is, I suppose, the tertium quid, not the Nationalist.
I'm sorry to trouble you with inquiries of this kind, but in case of
accident it's better for me to know exactly who my opponents are."

"He calls himself a Liberal. He's going baldheaded for some temperance
fad and is backed by a score or so of Presbyterian ministers. We'll have
to call canny about temperance."

"If you want me to wear any kind of glass button on the lapel of my
coat, I'll do it; but I'm not going to sign a total abstinence pledge.
I'd rather not be elected."

Titherington was himself drinking whiskey and water while we talked. He
grinned broadly and I felt reassured. We had dined together in my hotel,
and Titherington had consumed the greater part of a bottle of champagne,
a glass of port, and a liqueur with his coffee. It was after dinner that
he demanded whiskey and water. It seemed unlikely that he would ask me
even to wear a button.

"As we're on the subject of temperance," he said, "you may as well sign
a couple of letters. I have them ready for you and I can post them as I
go home to-night." He picked up a despatch box which he had brought with
him and kept beside him during dinner. It gave me a shock to see the box
opened. It actually overflowed with papers and I felt sure that they
all concerned my election. Titherington tossed several bundles of them
aside, and came at last upon a small parcel kept together by an elastic
band.

"This," he said, handing me a long typewritten document, "is from the
Amalgamated Association of Licensed Publicans. You needn't read it. It
simply asks you to pledge yourself to oppose all legislation calculated
to injure the trade. This is your answer."

He handed me another typewritten document.

"Shall I read it?" I asked.

"You needn't unless you like. All I require is your signature."

I have learned caution in the diplomatic service. I read my letter
before signing it, although I intended to sign it whatever it might
commit me to. I had promised my uncle and given the Conservative and
Unionist Parliamentary Association to understand that I would place
myself unreservedly in Titherington's hands.

"I see," I said, "that I pledge myself----"

"You give the Amalgamated Association to understand that you pledge
yourself," said Titherington.

"The same thing, I suppose?"

"Not quite," said Titherington grinning again.

"Anyhow," I said, "it's the proper thing, the usual thing to do?"

"O'Donoghue has done it, and I expect that ruffian Vittie will have to
in the end, little as he'll like it."

I signed.

"Here," said Titherington, "is the letter of the joint committee of the
Temperance Societies."

"There appear to be twenty-three of them," I said, glancing at the
signatures.

"There are; and if there were only ten voters in each it would be more
than we could afford to lose. Vittie thinks he has them all safe in his
breeches pocket, but I have a letter here which will put his hair out of
curl for a while."

"I hate men with curly hair," I said. "It's so effeminate."

Titherington seemed to think this remark foolish, though I meant it as
an additional evidence of my determination to oppose Vittie to the last.

"Read the letter," he said.

I read it. If such a thing had been physically possible it would have
put my hair into curl. It did, I feel almost certain, make it rise up
and stand on end.

"I see by this letter," I said, "that I am pledging myself to support
some very radical temperance legislation."

"You're giving them to understand that you pledge yourself. There's a
difference, as I told you before."

"I may find myself in rather an awkward position if----"

"You'll, be in a much awkwarder one if Vittie gets those votes and lets
O'Donoghue in!"

Titherington spoke in such a determined tone that I signed the letter at
once.

"Is there anything else?" I asked. "Now that I am pledging myself in
this wholesale way there's no particular reason why I shouldn't go on."

Titherington shuffled his papers about.

"Most of the rest of them," he said, "are just the ordinary things. We
needn't worry about them. There's only one other letter--ah! here it is.
By the way, have you any opinions about woman's suffrage?"

"Not one," I said, "but I don't, of course, want to be ragged if it can
be avoided. Shall I pledge myself to get votes for all the unmarried
women in the constituency, or ought I to go further?"

Titherington looked at me severely. Then he said:

"It won't do us any harm if Vittie is made to smell hell by a few
militant Suffragettes."

"After the hole he's put us in about temperance," I said, "he'll deserve
the worst they can do to him."

"In any ordinary case I'd hesitate; for women are a nuisance, a d----d
nuisance. But this is going to be such an infernally near thing that I'm
half inclined---- It's nuts and apples to them to get their knives into
any one calling himself a Liberal, which shows they have some sense.
Besides, the offer has, so to speak, dropped right into our mouths. It
would be sinning against our mercies and flying in the face of
Providence not to consider it."

I had, up to that moment, no reason for suspecting Titherington of
any exaggerated respect for Providence. But there are queer veins of
religious feeling in the most hard-headed men. I saw that Titherington
had a theological side to his character and I respected him all the more
for it.

"Here's a letter," he said, "from one of the suffrage societies,
offering to send down speakers to help us. As I said before, women are
a nuisance, but it's just possible that there may be a few cranks
among that temperance lot. You'll notice that if a man has one fad he
generally runs to a dozen, and there may be a few who really want women
to get votes. We can't afford to chuck away any chances. If I could get
deputations from the Anti-Vaccinationists and the Anti-Gamblers I would.
But I'd be afraid of their going back on us and supporting Vittie.
Anyhow, if these women are the right sort they'll pursue Vittie round
and round the constituency and yell at him every time he opens his
mouth."

I took the letter from Titherington. It was headed A.S.P.L. and signed
Lalage Beresford.

"Are you quite sure," I said, "that the A.S.P.L. is a woman's suffrage
society?"

"It must be," said Titherington. "The letter's signed by a woman, at
least I suppose Lalage is a woman's name. It certainly isn't a man's."

"Still----"

"And what the devil would women be writing to us for if they weren't
Suffragettes?"

"But A.S.P.L. doesn't stand for----"

"It must," said Titherington. "S stands for Suffrage, doesn't it? The
rest is some fancy conglomeration. I tell you that there are so many of
these societies nowadays that it's pretty hard for a new one to find a
name at all."

"All the same----"

"There's no use arguing about their name. The question we have to
decide is whether it's worth our while importing Suffragettes into the
constituency or not."

If Titherington had not interrupted me so often and if he had not
displayed such complete self-confidence I should have told him what the
A.S.P.L. really was and warned him to be very careful about enlisting
Lalage's aid. But I was nettled by his manner and felt that it would
be very good for him to find out his mistake for himself. I remained
silent.

"I think the best thing I can do," he said, "is to interview the lady. I
can judge then whether she's likely to be any use to us."

I felt very pleased to think that Titherington would learn his mistake
from Lalage herself. He will be much less arrogant afterward.

"If she is simply an old frump with a bee in her bonnet," he said, "who
wants to bore people, I'll head her off at once. If she's a sporting
sort of girl who'll take on Vittie at his own meetings and make things
hum generally, I think I'll engage her and her lot. I don't happen to be
a magistrate myself, but most of them are your supporters. There won't
be a bit of use his trying to have her up for rioting. We'll simply
laugh at him and she'll be worse afterward. Let me see now. She's in
Dublin. 'Trinity Hall,' whatever that is. If I write to-night she'll get
the letter in the morning. Suppose I say 11 a.m."

"I should rather like to be present at the interview," I said.

"You needn't trouble yourself. I sha'n't commit you to anything and the
whole thing will be verbal. There won't be a scrap of paper for her to
show afterward, even if she turns nasty."

It seemed to me likely that there would be paper to show afterward. If
Lalage has Selby-Harrison behind her she will go to that interview with
an agreement in her pocket ready for signature.

"All the same," I said, "I'd like to be there simply out of curiosity."

Titherington shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well," he said, "but let me do the talking. I don't want you to
get yourself tied up in some impossible knot. You'd far better leave it
to me."

I assured him that I did not in the least want to talk, but I persisted
in my determination to be present at the interview. Titherington had
bullied me enough for one evening and my promise to put myself entirely
in his hands was never meant to extend to the limiting of my intercourse
with Lalage. Besides, I enjoyed the prospect of seeing him tied up in
some impossible knot, and I believed that Lalage was just the girl to
tie him.



CHAPTER X

Titherington had a room, temporarily set apart for his use as an office,
in the house of the Conservative and Unionist Parliamentary Association.
Here he was at liberty to spread about on a large table all the papers
he carried in his despatch box and many others. The profusion was most
impressive, and would, I am sure, have struck a chill into the soul of
Vittie had he seen it. Here were composed and written the letters which
I afterward signed, wonderful letters, which like the witches in Macbeth
"paltered in a double sense." Here Titherington entered into agreements
with bill printers and poster artists, for my election was to be
conducted on the best possible system with all the modern improvements,
an object lesson to the rest of Ireland. Here also the interview with
Lalage took place. The room was a great convenience to us. Our proper
headquarters were, of course, in Ballygore, the principal town in the
East Connor division of Down. But a great deal of business had to be
done in Dublin and we could hardly have got on without an office.

I walked into this room a few minutes before eleven on the morning after
I had entertained Titherington in my hotel.

"The lady hasn't arrived yet," I said.

"She's gone," said Titherington. "She was here at half-past eight
o'clock."

I noticed that Titherington spoke in a subdued way and that his eyes had
a furtive expression I had never seen in them before. I felt encouraged
to give expression to the annoyance which I felt. I told Titherington
plainly that I thought he ought not to have changed the hour of the
interview without telling me. It seemed to me that he had played me
a mean trick and I resented it. Greatly to my surprise Titherington
apologized meekly.

"It wasn't my fault," he said, "and I hadn't time to communicate with
you. I only got this at twenty minutes past eight and had no more than
time to get here myself."

He handed me a telegram.

"Eleven quite impossible. Say 8.30. Jun. Soph. Ord. begins at 9.30.
Lalage Beresford."

"I was just sitting down to breakfast," said Titherington, "and I had to
get up without swallowing so much as a cup of tea and hop on to a car.
She's a tremendously prompt young woman."

"She is," I said, "and always was."

"You know her then?"

"I've known her slightly since she was quite a little girl."

"Why didn't you tell me so last night?"

"I tried to," I said, "but you kept on interrupting me, so I gave up."

Titherington's conscience may have pricked him. He was certainly in a
chastened mood, but he showed no sign of wishing to make any further
apologies. On the contrary he began to recover something of his habitual
self-assertiveness.

"If you know her," he said, "perhaps you can tell me what a Jun. Soph.
Ord. is?"

"No, I can't. She was always, even as a child, fond of using
contractions. I remember her writing to me about a 'comp.' and she
habitually used 'hols' and 'rec.' for holidays and recreation."

"It sounds to me," said Titherington, "like a police court."

"You don't mean to say that you think she's been arrested for anything?"

"I hope so."

"Why?" I asked. "Was she too much for you this morning?"

Titherington ignored the second question.

"I hope so," he said, "because if she's the sort of girl who gets
arrested, she'll be most useful to us. She was quite on for annoying
Vittie. She says she's been looking up his speeches and that he's one of
the worst liars she ever came across. She's quite right there."

"I wish," I said, "that you'd go and bail her out. Her father's
a clergyman and it will be a horrible thing if there's any public
scandal."

"I hinted at that as delicately as I could. I didn't actually mention
bail, because I wasn't quite sure that a Jun. Soph. Ord. mightn't be
something in the Probate and Divorce Court. She simply laughed at me and
said she didn't want any help. She told me that she and Hilda, whoever
Hilda is, are sure to be all right, because the Puffin is always
a lamb--I suppose the Puffin is some name they have for the
magistrate--but that a Miss Harrison would probably be stuck."

"She can't have said Miss Harrison."

"No. She said Selly, or Selby-Harrison, short for Selina I thought."

"As a matter of fact, Selby-Harrison--it's a hyphenated surname--is a
man."

"Oh, is it?" said Titherington, using the neuter pronoun because, I
suppose, he was still uncertain about Selby-Harrison's sex.

"I wish," I said, "that I knew exactly what they've done."

"It doesn't in the least matter to us. So long as she's the kind of
young woman who does something we shall be satisfied."

"Oh, she's that."

"So I saw. And she's an uncommonly good-looking girl. The crowd will be
all on her side when she starts breaking up Vittie's meetings."

"You accepted her offer of help then?"

"Certainly," said Titherington. "She's to speak at a meeting of yours on
the twenty-first."

Titherington was by this time talking with all his usual buoyant
confidence, but I still caught the furtive look in his eyes which I had
noticed at first. He seemed to me to have something to conceal, to be
challenging criticism and to be preparing to defend himself. Now a man
who is on the defensive and who wants to conceal something has generally
acted in a way of which he is ashamed. I felt encouraged.

"You didn't commit me in any way, I hope," I said.

"Certainly not. I didn't have to. She was as keen as nuts on helping
us and didn't ask a single question about your views on the suffrage
question. I needn't say I didn't introduce the subject."

"You didn't sign anything, I suppose?"

Titherington became visibly embarrassed. He hesitated.

"I rather expected you'd have to," I said.

"It wasn't anything of the slightest importance."

"Selby-Harrison drew it up, I expect."

"So she said. But it didn't matter in the least. If it had been anything
that tied us down I shouldn't have signed it."

"You would," I said. "Whatever it was you'd have signed it."

"She rather rushed me. She's a most remarkable young woman. However
that's all the better for us. If she's capable of rushing me,"
Titherington's chest swelled again as he spoke, "she'll simply make hay
of Vittie. It would be worth going to hear her heckling that beast on
votes for women. Believe me, he won't like it."

"She had you at a disadvantage," I said. "You hadn't breakfasted."

Titherington became suddenly thoughtful.

"I wish I knew more about ordinary law," he said. "I'm all right
on Corrupt Practices and that kind of thing, but I don't know the
phraseology outside of electioneering. Do you think a Jun. Soph. Ord.
can be any process in a libel action?"

"It might be. Why do you ask?"

"Well, the paper I signed was a sort of agreement to indemnify them in
case of proceedings for libel. I signed because I didn't think a girl
like that would be likely to say anything which Vittie would regard as a
libel. He's a thick-skinned hound."

"She once libelled twenty-three bishops, she and Hilda and
Selby-Harrison between them."

"After all," said Titherington, "you can say pretty near anything you
like at an election. Nobody minds. I think we're pretty safe. I'll see
that anything she says at our meetings is kept out of the papers, and
she won't get the chance of making regular speeches at Vittie's."

I felt quite sorry for Titherington. The interview with Lalage had
evidently been even more drastic than I expected.

"Perhaps," I said soothingly, "they'll give her six weeks for the Jun.
Soph. Ord., whatever it is, and then the whole election will be over
before she gets out."

"We can't allow that," said Titherington. "It would be a downright
scandal to subject a girl like that--why, she's quite young and--and
actually beautiful."

"We must hope that the Puffin may prove, as she expects, to be a
disguised lamb."

"I wish I knew who he is. I might get at him."

"It's too late to do anything now," I said, "but I'll try and find
out in the course of the morning. If I can't, we'll get it all in the
evening papers. They're sure to report a case of the sort pretty fully."

I left Titherington and walked across toward the club. I met the
Archdeacon in St. Stephen's Green. I might, and under ordinary
circumstances I should, have slipped past him without stopping, for I
do not think he saw me. But I was anxious about Lalage and I thought it
likely that he would have some news of her. I hailed him and shook hands
warmly.

"Up for a holiday?" I asked.

"No," said the Archdeacon. "I have eight meetings to attend to-day."

"I mustn't keep you then. How is everybody at home? Canon Beresford and
Lalage quite well?"

"I saw Lalage Beresford this morning. I was passing through college
on my way to one of my meetings and I saw her standing outside the big
hall. She's in her first junior sophister examination to-day."

"Ord?" I said.

"What?"

"Ord?" I repeated. "You said Jun. Soph., didn't you?"

"I said junior sophister."

"Quite so, and it would be Ord., wouldn't it?"

"It's an ordinary, if that's what you mean."

"An ordinary," I said, "is, I suppose, an examination of a commonplace
kind."

"It's one that you must get through, not an honour examination."

"I'm so glad I met you. You've relieved my mind immensely. I was afraid
it might be an indictable offence. Without your help I should never have
guessed!"

The Archdeacon looked at me suspiciously.

"I hope she'll pass," he said, "but I'm rather doubtful."

"Oh, she'll pass all right, she and Hilda. Selby-Harrison may possibly
be stuck."

"She's very weak in astronomy."

"Still," I said, "the Puffin is a perfect lamb. I think we may count on
that."

The Archdeacon eyed me even more suspiciously than before. I could see
that he thought I had been drinking heavily.

"Titherington told me that about the Puffin," I said. "He wanted to bail
her out. He'll be just as glad as I am when he hears the truth."

The Archdeacon held out his hand stiffly. I do not blame him in the
least for wanting to get away from me. A church dignitary has to
consider appearances, and it does not do to stand talking to an
intoxicated man in a public street, especially early in the day.

"I think we may take it for granted," I said, "that the Puffin is the
man who sets the paper in astronomy."

The Archdeacon left me abruptly, without shaking hands. I lit a
cigarette and thought with pleasure of the careful and sympathetic way
in which he would break the sad news of my failing to Lord Thormanby.
When I reached the club I despatched four telegrams. The first was to
Titherington.

"No further cause for anxiety. Jun. Soph. Ord. not a crime but a
college examination. The Puffin probably the Astronomer Royal, but some
uncertainty prevails on this point. Shall see lady this afternoon and
complete arrangements."

I knew that the last sentence would annoy Titherington. I put it in for
that purpose. Titherington had wantonly annoyed me.

My other three telegrams were all to Lalage. I addressed one to the
rooms of the Elizabethan Society, one to 175 Trinity College, which was,
I recollected, the alternative address of the _Anti-Tommy Rot Gazette_,
and one to Trinity Hall, where Lalage resided. In this way I hoped to
make sure of catching her. I invited her, Hilda, and Selby-Harrison to
take tea with me at five o'clock in my hotel. I supposed that by
that time the Jun. Soph. Ord. would have run its course. I wished to
emphasize the fact that I wanted Lalage to bring Selby-Harrison, whom
I had never seen. I underlined his name; but the hall porter to whom I
gave the telegram told me that the post-office regulations do not allow
the underlining of words. If Titherington succeeds in making me a Member
of Parliament, I shall ask the Postmaster-General some nasty questions
on this point. It seems to me a vexatious limitation of the rights of
the public.



CHAPTER XI

I had luncheon in the club and then, without waiting even for a cup of
coffee and a cigarette, went back to my hotel. I felt that I must make
the most perfect possible arrangements for my tea party. The violence
of my invitations would naturally raise Lalage's expectations to the
highest pitch. I sent for the head waiter, who had struck me as an able
and intelligent man.

"I am expecting some ladies this afternoon," I said, "and I shall have
tea in my sitting room at five o'clock. I want everything to be as nice
as possible, fresh flowers and that kind of thing."

The man nodded sympathetically and gave me the impression that long
practice had familiarized him with the procedure of tea parties for
ladies.

"These ladies are young," I said, "quite young, and so the cakes must be
of the most sumptuous possible kind, not ordinary slices cut off large
cakes, but small creations, each complete in itself and wrapped in a
little paper frill. Do you understand what I mean?"

He said he did, thoroughly.

"I need scarcely say," I added, "that many if not all of the cakes must
be coated with sugar. Some ought to be filled with whipped cream. The
others should contain or be contained by almond icing."

The head waiter asked for information about the size of the party.

"There are only two ladies," I said, "but they are bringing a young man
with them. We may, as he is not here, describe him as a boy. Therefore
there must be a large number of cakes, say four dozen."

The head waiter's eyebrows went up slightly. It was the first sign of
emotion he had shown.

"I sha'n't eat more than two myself," I said, "so four dozen ought to be
enough. I also want ices, twelve ices."

This time the head waiter gasped. It was a cold, a remarkably cold, day,
with an east wind and a feeling in the air as if snow was imminent.

"You mustn't understand from that," I said, "that the fire is to be
allowed to go out. Quite the contrary. I want a particularly good fire.
When the others are eating ices I shall feel the need of it."

The head waiter asked if I had a preference for any particular kind of
ice.

"Strawberry," I said, "vanilla, and coffee. Three of each, and three
neapolitan. That will make up the dozen. I shall want a whole box of
wafers. The ices can be brought in after tea, say at twenty minutes past
five. It wouldn't do to have them melting while we were at the cakes,
and I insist on a good fire."

The head waiter recapitulated my orders to make sure that he had got
them right and then left me.

At twenty minutes to five Lalage and Hilda arrived. They looked very
hot, which pleased me. I had been feeling a little nervous about the
ices. They explained breathlessly that they were sorry for being late. I
reassured them.

"So far from being late," I said "you're twenty minutes too early. I'm
delighted to see you, but it's only twenty minutes to five."

"There now, Hilda," said Lalage, "I told you that your old chronometer
had most likely darted on again. I should have had lots and lots of time
to do my hair. Hilda's watch," she explained to me, "was left to her in
her grandmother's will, so of course it goes too fast. It often gains as
much as two hours in the course of the morning."

"I wonder you trust it," I said.

"We don't. When we got your first 'gram in the Elizabethan we looked
at the clock and saw that we had heaps of time. When your second
came--Selby-Harrison sent it over from number 175--we began to think
that Hilda's watch might be right after all and that the college clock
had stopped. We went back _ventre à terre_ on the top of a tram to
Trinity Hall and found your third 'gram waiting for us. That made us
dead certain that we were late. So we slung on any rags that came handy
and simply flew. We didn't even stay to hook up Hilda's back. I jabbed
three pins into it in the train."

"I'm sorry," I said, "that you troubled to change your frocks. I didn't
expect that you'd have to do that."

"Of course we had. Didn't you know we were in for an exam this morning?"

"I did know that; but I thought you'd have had on your very best so as
to soften the Puffin's heart."

"The poor old Puffin," said Lalage, "wouldn't be any the wiser if we
turned up in our night dresses. He thinks of nothing but parallaxes.
Does he, Hilda?"

Hilda did not answer. She was wriggling her shoulders about, and was
sitting bolt upright in her chair. She leaned back once and when she did
so a spasm of acute pain distorted her face. It occurred to me that one
of the three pins might have been jabbed in too far or not precisely in
the right direction. Lalage could not fairly be blamed, for it must be
difficult to regulate a pin thrust when a tram is in rapid motion, I did
not like the idea of watching Hilda's sufferings during tea, so I
cast about for the most delicate way of suggesting that she should be
relieved. Lalage was beforehand with me.

"Turn round, Hilda," she said, "and I'll hook you up."

"Perhaps," I said, "I'd better ring and get a housemaid."

"What for?" said Lalage.

"I thought perhaps that Hilda might prefer to go to a bedroom. I don't
matter, of course, but Selby-Harrison may be here at any moment."

"Selby-Harrison isn't coming. Turn round, Hilda, and do stand still."

A waiter came in just then with the tea, I regret to say that he
grinned. I turned my back on him and looked out of the window.

"Selby-Harrison," said Lalage, "is on Trinity 3rd A., inside left, and
there's a cup match on to-day, so of course he couldn't come."

"This," I said, "is a great disappointment to me. I've been looking
forward for years to making Selby-Harrison's acquaintance, and every
time I seem to be anywhere near it, something comes and snatches him
away. I'm beginning to think that there isn't really any such person as
Selby-Harrison."

Hilda giggled thickly. She seemed to be quite comfortable again. Lalage
snubbed me severely.

"I must say for you," she said, "that when you choose to go in for
pretending to be an ass you can be more funerally idiotic than any one
I ever met. No wonder the Archdeacon said you'd be beaten in your
election."

"Did he say that?"

"Yes. We were talking to him this morning, Hilda and I and
Selby-Harrison, outside the exam hall. We told him we were going down to
make speeches for you."

"Was it before or after you told him that he said I'd be beaten?"

"Before," said Lalage firmly.

"Oh, Lalage! How can you? You know----"

I interrupted Hilda because I did not want to have the harmony of my
party destroyed by recrimination and argument.

"Suppose," I said, "that we have tea."

"I must say," said Lalage, "that you've collected a middling good show
of cakes, hasn't he, Hilda?"

Hilda looked critically at the tea table. She was evidently an expert in
cakes.

"You can't have got all those out of one shop," she said. "There isn't a
place in Dublin that has so many varieties!"

"I'm glad you like the look of them. Which of you will pour out the
tea?"

"Hilda's birthday was last month," said Lalage. "Mine isn't till July."

This settled the point of precedence. Hilda took her seat opposite the
teapot.

"There are ices coming," I said a few minutes later, "twelve of them. I
mention it in case----"

"Oh, that's all right," said Lalage. "We shall be able to manage the
ices. There isn't really much in these cakes."

If Selby-Harrison had come there would, I think, have been cakes enough;
but there would not have been any to spare. I only ate two myself. When
we had finished the ices we gave ourselves to conversation.

"That Tithers man," said Lalage, "seems to be a fairly good sort."

"Is Tithers another name for the Puffin?"

"No," said Lalage. "Tithers is Joey P."

"He signed his letter Joseph P.," said Hilda, "so at first we called him
that."

Titherington usually signs himself Joseph P. I inferred that he was
Tithers.

"You liked him?" I said.

"In some ways he's rather an ass," said Lalage, "'and just at first I
thought he was inclined to have too good an opinion of himself. But that
was only his manner. In the end he turned out to be a fairly good sort.
I thought he was going to kick up a bit when I asked him to sign the
agreement, but he did it all right when I explained to him that he'd
have to."

"Lalage," I said, "I'd like very much to see that agreement."

"Hilda has it. Hilda, trot out the agreement." Hilda trotted it out of
a small bag which she carried attached to her waist by a chain. I opened
it and read aloud:

"Memorandum of an agreement made this tenth day of February between the
Members of the A.S.P.L., hereinafter called the Speakers, of the one
part, and Joseph P. Titherington, election agent, of the other."

"I call that rather good," said Lalage.

"Very," I said, "Selby-Harrison did it, I suppose?"

"Of course," said Lalage.

"(1) The Speakers are to deliver for the said election agent . . .
speeches before the tenth of March."

"I told Tithers to fill in the number of speeches he wanted," said
Lalage, "but he seems to have forgotten."

"(2) The Speakers hereby agree to assign to the said election agent,
his successors and assigns, and the said election agent hereby agrees to
enjoy, the sole benefit of the above speeches in the British Empire.

"(3) When the demand for such speeches has evidently ceased the said
election agent shall be at liberty----"

I paused. There was something which struck me as familiar about the
wording of this agreement. I recollected suddenly that the Archdeacon
had once consulted me about an agreement which ran very much on the same
lines. It came from the office of a well-known publisher. The Archdeacon
was at that time bringing out his "Lectures to Confirmation Candidates."

"Has Selby-Harrison," I asked, "been publishing a book?"

"No," said Lalage, "but his father has." "Ah," I said, "that accounts
for this agreement form." "Quite so," said Lalage, "he copied it from
that, making the necessary changes. Rather piffle, I call that part
about enjoying the speeches in the British Empire. It isn't likely that
Tithers would want to enjoy them anywhere else. But there's a good bit
coming. Skip on to number eight." I skipped and then read again.

"(8) The Speakers agree that the said speeches shall be in no way
a violation of existing copyright and the said agent agrees to hold
harmless the said speakers from all suits, claims, and proceedings
which may be taken on the ground that the said speeches contain anything
libellous."

"That's important," said Lalage.

"It is," I said, "very. I notice that Selby-Harrison has a note at the
bottom of the page to the effect that a penny stamp is required if the
amount is over two pounds. He seems rather fond of that. I recollect he
had it in the agreement he drew up for me."

"It wasn't in the original," said Lalage. "He put it in because we all
thought it would be safer."

"You were right. After the narrow shave you had with the bishops you
can't be too careful. And the amount is almost certain to be over two
pounds. Even Vittie's character must be worth more than that."

"Vittie," said Lalage, "appears to be the very kind of man we want to
get at. I've been reading his speeches."

"I expect," I said, "that you'll enjoy O'Donoghue too. But Vittie is to
be your chief prey. I wonder Mr. Titherington didn't insist on inserting
a clause to that effect in the agreement."

"Tither's hated signing it. I was obliged to keep prodding him on or he
wouldn't have done it. Selby-Harrison said that either you or he must,
so of course it had to be him. We couldn't go for you in any way because
we'd promised to respect your scruples."

I recollected the telegram I had received just before leaving Lisbon.

"I wish," I said, "that I felt sure you had respected my scruples. What
about Selby-Harrison's father? Has he been consulted?"

"Selby-Harrison isn't coming, only me and Hilda."

"Why?"

"Well, for one thing he's in the Divinity School now."

"That needn't stop him," I said. "My constituency is full of parsons,
priests, and Presbyterian ministers, all rampant. Selby-Harrison will be
in good company. But how did he get into the Divinity School? I thought
the Provost said he must take up medicine on account of that trouble
with the bishops."

"Oh, that's all blown over long ago. And being a divinity student
wasn't his only reason for not coming. The fact is his father lives down
there."

"Ah," I said, "That's more serious."

"He wrote to his father and told him to be sure to vote for you. That
was as far as he cared to go in the matter."

"It was very good of him to do so much. And now about your mother,
Hilda. Has she given her consent?"

"Not quite," said Hilda. "But she hasn't forbidden me.

"We haven't told her," said Lalage.

"Lalage, you haven't respected my scruples and you promised you would.
You promised in the most solemn way in a telegram which must have cost
you twopence a word."

"We have respected them," said Lalage.

"You have not. My chief scruple was Hilda's mother."

"My point is that you haven't had anything to do with the business. We
arranged it all with Tithers and you weren't even asked to give your
consent. I don't see what more could have been done for your scruples."

"Hilda's mother might have been asked."

"I can't stop here arguing with you all afternoon," said Lalage. "Come
on, Hilda."

"Don't go just yet. I promise not to mention Hilda's mother again."

"We can't possibly stay, can we, Hilda? We have our viva to-morrow."

"Viva!"

"Voce," said Lalage. "You must know what that means. The kind of exam
you don't write."

I got viva into its natural connection with voce and grasped at Lalage's
meaning.

"Part of the Jun. Soph. Ord.?" I said.

"Of course," said Lalage. "What else could it be?"

"In that case I mustn't keep you. You'll be wanting to look up your
astronomy. But you must allow me to parcel up the rest of the cakes for
you. I should like you to have them and you're sure to be hungry again
before bedtime."

"Won't you want them yourself?"

"No, I won't. And even if I did I wouldn't eat them. It would hardly be
fair to Mr. Titherington. He's doing his best for me and he'll naturally
expect me to keep as fit as possible."

"Very well," said Lalage, "rather than to leave them here to rot or be
eaten by mice we'll take them. Hilda, pack them up in that biscuit tin
and take care that the creamy ones don't get squashed."

Hilda tried to pack them up, but the biscuit tin would not hold them
all. We had not finished the wafers which it originally contained. I
rang for the waiter and made him bring us a cardboard box. We laid the
cakes in it very tenderly. We tied on the lid with string and then made
a loop in the string for Hilda's hand. It was she who carried both the
box and the biscuit tin.

"Good-bye," said Lalage. "We'll meet again on the twenty-first."

It was not until after they were gone that I understood why we should
meet again on the twenty-first. That was the day of my first meeting in
East Connor, and Lalage had promised to speak at it. I felt very uneasy.
It was utterly impossible to guess at what might happen when Lalage
appeared in the constituency. I sat down and wrote a letter to Canon
Beresford. I did not expect him to do anything, but it relieved my
mind to write. After all, it was his business, not mine, to look after
Lalage. Three days later I got an answer from him, which said:

"I shall not be at all surprised, if Lalage turns out to be a good
platform speaker. She has, I understand, had a good deal of practice
in some college debating society and has acquired a certain fluency of
utterance. She always had something to say, even as a child. I wish I
could run up to County Down and hear her, but it is a long journey and
the weather is miserably cold. The Archdeacon told me yesterday that you
meant to employ her in this election of yours. He seemed to dislike the
idea very much and wanted me to 'put my foot down.' (The phrase, I need
scarcely say, is his.) I explained to him that if I put my foot down
Lalage would immediately tread on it, which would hurt me and not even
trip her. Besides, I do not see why I should. If Lalage finds that kind
of thing amusing she ought to be allowed to enjoy it. You have my best
wishes for your success with the _turba Quiritium_. I am glad, very,
that it is you who have to face them, not I. I do not know anything in
the world that I should dislike more."



CHAPTER XII

Titherington took rooms for me in the better of the two hotels in
Ballygore and I went down there on the day on which he told me I ought
to go. I had as travelling companion a very pleasant man, the only other
occupant of the compartment in which I was. He was chatty and agreeable
at first and did not so much as mention the general election. After we
passed Drogheda his manner changed. He became silent, and when I spoke
to him answered snappily. His face got more and more flushed. At last he
asked me to shut the window beside me, which I did, although I wanted
to keep it open. I noticed that he was wriggling in a curious way
which reminded me of Hilda when her dress was fastened on with pins.
He fumbled about a good deal with one of his hands which he had thrust
inside his waistcoat. I watched him with great curiosity and discovered
at last that he was taking his temperature with a clinical thermometer.
Each time he took it he sighed and became more restless and miserable
looking than before.

On the 19th of February I developed a sharp attack of influenza.
Titherington flew to my side at once, which was the thing, of all
possible things, that I most wanted him not to do. He aggravated my
sufferings greatly by speaking as if my condition were my own fault. I
was too feverish to argue coherently. All I could do was to swear at him
occasionally. No man has any right to be as stupid as Titherington is.
It is utterly ridiculous to suppose that I should undergo racking pains
in my limbs, a violent headache and extreme general discomfort if
I could possibly avoid it. Titherington ought to have seen this for
himself. He did not. He scolded me and would, I am sure, have gone on
scolding me until I cried if what he took for a brilliant idea had not
suddenly occurred to him.

"It's an ill wind," he said cheerfully, "which can't be made to blow any
good. I think I see my way to getting something out of this miserable
collapse of yours. I'll call in McMeekin."

"If McMeekin is a doctor, get him. He may not be able to do me any good,
but he'll give orders that I'm to be left quiet and that's all I want."

"McMeekin's no damned use as a doctor; but he'll----"

"Then get some one else. Surely he's not the only one there is."

"There are two others, but they're both sure to support you in any case,
whereas McMeekin----"

The way Titherington was discussing my illness annoyed me. I interrupted
him and tried my best to insult him.

"I don't want to be supported. I want to be cured. Not that any of them
can do that. I simply can't and won't have another blithering idiot let
loose at me. One's enough."

I thought that would outrage Titherington and drive him from my room.
But he made allowances for my condition and refused to take offence.

"McMeekin," he said, "sets up to be a blasted Radical, and is Vittie's
strongest supporter."

"In that case send for him at once. He'll probably poison me on purpose
and then this will be over."

"He's not such an idiot as to do that. He knows that if anything
happened to you we'd get another candidate."

Titherington's tone suggested that the other candidate would certainly
be my superior and that Vittie's chances against me were better than
they would be against any one else. I turned round with a groan and lay
with my face to the wall. Titherington went on talking.

"If you give McMeekin a good fee," he said, "say a couple of guineas,
he'll think twice about taking the chair at Vittie's meeting on the
twenty-fourth. I don't see why he shouldn't pay you a visit every day
from this to the election, and that, at two guineas a time, ought to
shut his mouth if it doesn't actually secure his vote."

I twisted my neck round and scowled at Titherington. He left the room
without shutting the door. I spent the next hour in hoping vehemently
that he would get the influenza himself. I would have gone on hoping
this if I had not been interrupted by the arrival of McMeekin. He did
all the usual things with stethoscopes and thermometers and he asked
me all the usual offensive questions. It seemed to me that he spent far
more than the usual time over this revolting ritual. I kept as firm a
grip on my temper as I could and as soon as he had finished asked him in
a perfectly calm and reasonable tone to be kind enough to put me out of
my misery at once with prussic acid. Instead of doing what I, asked or
making any kind of sane excuse for refusing, he said he would telegraph
to Dublin for a nurse. She could not, he seemed to think, arrive until
the next day, so he said he would take a bed in the hotel and look after
me himself during the night. This was more than I, or any one else,
could stand. I saw the necessity for making a determined effort.

"I am," I said, "perfectly well. Except for a slight cold in the head
which makes me a bit stupid there's nothing the matter with me. I intend
to get up at once and go out canvassing. Would you mind ringing the bell
and asking for some hot water?"

McMeekin rang the bell, muttering as he did so something about a
temperature of 104 degrees. A redheaded maid with a freckled face
answered the summons. Before I could say anything to her McMeekin gave
orders that a second bed should be brought into my room and that she,
the red-haired, freckled girl, should sit beside me and not take her
eyes off me for a moment while he went home to get his bag. I forgot all
about Titherington then and concentrated my remaining strength on a hope
that McMeekin would get the influenza. It is one of the few diseases
which doctors do get. I planned that when he got it I would search
Ireland for red-headed girls with freckled faces, and pay hundreds of
them, all I could collect in the four provinces, to sit beside him and
not take their eyes off him while I went to get a bag. My bag, as I
arranged, would be fetched by long sea from Tasmania.

That evening McMeekin and Titherington both settled down in my bedroom.
I was so angry with them that I could not take in what they said to
each other, though I was dimly conscious that they were discussing the
election. I learned afterward that McMeekin promised to be present at
my meeting on the 21st in order to hear Lalage speak. I suppose that
the amount of torture he inflicted on me induced a mood of joyous
intoxication in which he would have promised anything. I lay in bed and
did my best, by breathing hard, to shoot germs from my lungs across the
room at Titherington and McMeekin. Their talk, which must have lasted
about eighteen hours, was interrupted at last by a tap at the door.
The red-haired girl with a freckled face came in, carrying a loathsome
looking bowl and a spoon which I felt certain was filthy dirty. McMeekin
took them from her hands and approached me. In spite of my absolutely
sickening disgust, I felt with a ferocious joy that my opportunity had
at last come. McMeekin tried to persuade me to eat some sticky yellow
liquid out of the bowl. I refused, of course. As I had foreseen, he
began to shovel the stuff into my mouth with the spoon. Titherington
came over to my bedside. He pretended that he came to hold me up while
McMeekin fed me. In reality he came to gloat. But I had my revenge. I
pawed McMeekin with my hands and breathed full into his face. I also
clutched Titherington's coat and pawed him. After that I felt easier,
for I began to hope that I had thoroughly infected them both. My
recollections of the next day are confused. Titherington and McMeekin
were constantly passing in and out of the room and at some time or other
a strange woman arrived who paid a deference which struck me as
perfectly ridiculous to McMeekin. To me she made herself most offensive.
I found out afterward that she was the nurse whom McMeekin had summoned
by telegraph. What she said to McMeekin or what he said to her I cannot
remember. Of my own actions during the day I can say nothing certainly
except this: I asked McMeekin, not once or twice, but every time I saw
him, how long it took for influenza to develop its full strength in a
man who had thoroughly imbibed the infection. McMeekin either would not
or could not answer this simple question. He talked vague nonsense about
periods of incubation, whereas I wanted to know the earliest date at
which I might expect to see him and Titherington stricken down, I hated
McMeekin worse than ever for his dogged stupidity.

The next day McMeekin said I was better, which showed me that
Titherington was right in saying that he was no damned use as a doctor.
I was very distinctly worse. I was, in fact, so bad that when the nurse
insisted on arranging the bedclothes I burst into tears and sobbed
afterward for many hours. That ought to have shown her that arranging
bedclothes was particularly bad for me. But she was an utterly callous
woman. She arranged them again at about eight o'clock and told me to go
to sleep. I had not slept at all since I got the influenza and I could
not sleep then, but I thought it better to pretend to sleep and I lay as
still as I could. After I had been pretending for a long while, at some
hour in the very middle of the night, Titherington burst into my room
in a noisy way. He was in evening dress and his shirt front had a broad
wrinkle across it. I have never seen a more unutterably abhorrent sight
than Titherington in evening dress. The nurse rebuked him for having
wakened me, which showed me that she was a fool as well as a wantonly
cruel woman. I had not been asleep and any nurse who knew her business
would have seen that I was only pretending. Titherington took no notice
of her. He was bubbling over with something he wanted to say, and twenty
nurses would not have stopped him.

"We had a great meeting," he said. "The hall was absolutely packed and
the boys at the back nearly killed a man who wanted to ask questions."

"McMeekin, I hope," I said feebly.

"No. McMeekin was on the platform--mind that now--on the platform. I
gave him a hint beforehand that we were thinking of calling in another
man if you didn't improve. He simply bounded on to the platform after
that. It'll be an uncommonly nasty jar for Vittie. The speaking wasn't
up to much, most of it; but I wish you'd heard the cheers when I
apologized for your absence and told them you were ill in bed. It would
have done you good. I wouldn't give tuppence for Vittie's chances
of getting a dozen votes in this part of the division. We had two
temperance secretaries, damned asses, to propose votes of thanks."

"For my influenza?"

"You're getting better," said Titherington, "not a doubt of it. I'll
send you round a dozen of champagne to-morrow, proper stuff, and by the
time you've swallowed it you'll be chirrupping like a grasshopper."

"I'm not getting better, and that brute McMeekin wouldn't let me look at
champagne. He gives me gruel and a vile slop he calls beef tea."

"If he doesn't give you something to buck you up," said Titherington,
"I'll set Miss Beresford on him. She'll make him hop."

The mention of Lalage reminded me that the meeting was the occasion of
her first speech.

I found myself beginning to take a slight interest in what Titherington
was saying. It did not really matter to me how things had gone, for I
knew that I was going to die almost at once. But even with that prospect
before me I wanted to hear how Lalage's maiden speech had been received.

"Did Miss Beresford speak at the meeting?" I asked.

The nurse came over to my bed and insisted on slipping her thermometer
under my arm. It was a useless and insulting thing to do, but I bore it
in silence because I wanted to hear about Lalage's speech. Titherington
did not answer at once, and when he did it was in an unsatisfactory way.

"Oh, she spoke all right," he said.

"You may just as well tell me the truth."

"The speech was a good speech, I'll not deny that, a thundering good
speech."

The nurse came at me again and retrieved her abominable thermometer.
She twisted it about in the light of the lamp and then whispered to
Titherington.

"Don't shuffle," I said to him. "I can see perfectly well that you're
keeping something back from me. Did McMeekin insult Miss Beresford in
any way? For if he did----"

"Not at all," said Titherington. "But I've been talking long enough.
I'll tell you all the rest to-morrow."

Without giving me a chance of protesting he left the room. I felt that
I was going to break down again; but I restrained myself and told the
nurse plainly what I thought of her.

"I don't know," I said, "whether it is in accordance with the etiquette
of your profession to thwart the wishes of a dying man, but that's what
you've just done. You know perfectly well that I shall not be alive
to-morrow morning and you could see that the only thing I really wanted
was to hear something about the meeting. Even a murderer is given some
indulgence on the morning of his execution. But just because I have,
through no fault of my own, contracted a disease which neither you nor
McMeekin know how to cure, I am not allowed to ask a simple question.
You may think, I have no doubt you do think, that you have acted with
firmness and tact. In reality you have been guilty of blood-curdling
cruelty of a kind probably unmatched in the annals of the Spanish
Inquisition."

I think my words produced a good deal of effect on her. She did not
attempt to make any answer; but she covered up my shoulder with the
bedclothes. I shook them off again at once and scowled at her with such
bitterness that she left my bedside and sat down near the fire. I saw
that she was watching me, so again pretended to go to sleep.

McMeekin came to see me next morning, and had the effrontery to
repeat the statement that I was better. I was not, and I told him so
distinctly. After he was gone Titherington came with a large bag in his
hand. He sent the nurse out of the room and unpacked the bag. He took
out of it a dozen small bottles of champagne. He locked the door and
then we drank one of the bottles between us. Titherington used my
medicine glass. I had the tumbler off the wash-hand-stand. The nurse
knocked at the door before we had finished. But Titherington, with
a rudeness which made me really like him, again told her to go away
because we were talking business. After I had drunk the champagne I
began to feel that McMeekin might have been right after all. I was
slightly better. Titherington put the empty bottle in the pocket of
his overcoat and packed up the eleven full bottles in the bag again. He
locked the bag and then pushed it as far as he could under my bed with
his foot. He knew, just as well as I did, that either the nurse or
McMeekin would steal the champagne if they saw it lying about.

"Now," he said, "you're not feeling so chippy."

"No, I'm not. Tell me about Miss Beresford's speech."

"It began well," said Titherington. "It began infernally well. She
stood up and, without by your leave or with your leave, said that all
politicians were damned liars."

"Damned?"

"Well, bloody," said Titherington, with the air of a man who makes a
concession.

"Was Hilda there?"

"She was, cheering like mad, the same as the rest of us."

"I'm sorry for that. Hilda is, or was, a nice, innocent girl. Her mother
won't like her hearing that sort of language."

"Bloody wasn't the word she used," said Titherington, "but she gave us
all the impression that it was what she meant!"

"Go on."

"Of course I thought, in fact we all thought, that she was referring to
Vittie and O'Donoghue, especially Vittie. The boys at the back of the
hall, who hate Vittie worse than the devil, nearly raised the roof off
with the way they shouted. I could see that McMeekin didn't half like
it. He's rather given himself away by supporting Vittie. Well, as long
as the cheering went on Miss Beresford stood and smiled at them. She's
a remarkably well set up girl so the boys went on cheering just for
the pleasure of looking at her. When they couldn't cheer any more she
started off to prove what she said. She began with O'Donoghue and she
got in on him. She had a list as long as your arm of the whoppers he
and the rest of that pack of blackguards are perpetually ramming down
people's throats. Home Rule, you know, and all that sort of blasted rot.
Then she took the skin off Vittie for about ten minutes. Man, but it
would have done you good to hear her. The most innocent sort of remark
Vittie ever made in his life she got a twist on it so that it came out
a regular howling lie. She finished him off by saying that Ananias and
Sapphira were a gentleman and a lady compared to the ordinary Liberal,
because they had the decency to drop down dead when they'd finished,
whereas Vittie's friends simply went on and told more. By that time
there wasn't one in the hall could do more than croak, they'd got so
hoarse with all the cheering. I might have been in a bath myself with
the way the sweat was running off me, hot sweat."

Titherington paused, for the nurse knocked at the door again. This time
he got up and let her in. Then he went on with his story.

"The next minute," he said, "it was frozen on me."

"The sweat?"

Titherington nodded.

"Go on," I said.

"She went on all right. You'll hardly believe it, but when she'd
finished with O'Donoghue and Vittie she went on to----"

"Me, I suppose."

"No. Me," said Titherington. "She said she didn't blame you in the
least because she didn't think you had sense enough to lie like a
real politician, and that those two letters about the Temperance
Question----"

"She'd got ahold of those?"

"They were in the papers, of course, and she said I'd written them.
Well, for just half a minute I wasn't quite sure whether the boys were
going to rush the platform or not. There wouldn't have been much left of
Miss Beresford if they had. But she's a damned good-looking girl. That
saved her. Instead of mobbing her every man in the place started to
laugh. I tell you there were fellows there with stitches in their sides
from laughing so that they'd have given a five-pound note to be able to
stop. But they couldn't. Every time they looked at me and saw me sitting
there with a kind of a cast-iron grin on my face--and every time they
looked at the two temperance secretaries who were gaping like stuck
pigs, they started off laughing again. Charlie Sanderson, the butcher,
who's a stoutish kind of man, tumbled off his chair and might have
broken his neck. I never saw such a scene in my life."

I saw the nurse poking about to find her thermometer. Titherington saw
her too and knew what was coming.

"It was all well enough for once," he said, "but we can't have it
again."

"How do you propose to stop it?" I asked.

"My idea," said Titherington, "is that you should see her and explain to
her that we've had enough of that sort of thing and that for the future
she'd better stick entirely to Vittie."

I am always glad to see Lalage. Nothing, even in my miserable condition,
would have pleased me better than a visit from her, But I am not
prepared at any time to explain things to her, especially when the
explanation is meant to influence her action. I am particularly unfitted
for the task when I am in a state of convalescence. I interrupted
Titherington.

"Nurse," I said, "have you got that thermometer? I'm nearly sure my
temperature is up again."

Titherington scowled, but he knew he was helpless. As he left the room
he stopped for a moment and turned to me. "What beats me about the
whole performance," he said, "is that she never said a single word
about woman's suffrage from start to finish. I never met one of that lot
before who could keep off the subject for as much as ten minutes at a
time even in private conversation."



CHAPTER XIII

I entered next day on what proved to be the most disagreeable stage
of my illness. McMeekin called on me in the morning. He performed some
silly tricks with a stethoscope and felt my pulse with an air of rapt
attention which did not in the least deceive me. Then he intimated that
I might sit up for an hour or two after luncheon. The way he made this
announcement was irritating enough. Instead of saying straightforwardly,
"You can get out of bed if you like," or words to that effect, he
smirked at the nurse and said to her, "I think we may be allowed to sit
up in a nice comfortable armchair for our afternoon tea to-day." But the
permission itself was far worse than the manner in which it was given. I
did not in the least want to get up. Bed was beginning to feel tolerably
comfortable. I hated the thought of an armchair. I hated still more
bitterly the idea of having to walk across the floor. I suppose McMeekin
saw by my face that I did not want to get up. He tried, after his own
foolish fashion, to cheer and encourage me.

"Poor Vittie's got it too," he said. "I was called in to see him last
night."

"Influenza?"

"Yes. It's becoming a perfect epidemic in the district. I have forty
cases on my list."

"If Vittie's got it," I said, "there's no reason in the world why I
should get up."

McMeekin is a singularly stupid man. He did not see what I meant. I had
to explain myself.

"The only object I should have in getting up," I said, speaking very
slowly and distinctly, "would be to prevent Vittie going round the
constituency when I couldn't be after him. Now that he's down himself
he can't do anything more than I can; so I may just as well stay where I
am."

Even then McMeekin failed to catch my point.

"You'll have to get up some time or other," he said. "You may just as
well start to-day."

When he had left the room I appealed to the nurse.

"Did you ever," I said, "hear a more inane remark than that? In the
first place I have pretty well made up my mind never to get up again. It
isn't worth while for all the good I ever get by being up. In the second
place it's ridiculous to say that because one has to do a thing sometime
one may as well do it at once. You have to be buried sometime, but you
wouldn't like it if McMeekin told you that you might just as well be
buried to-day."

I hold that this was a perfectly sound argument which knocked the bottom
out of McMeekin's absurd statement, but it did not convince the nurse.
As I might have known beforehand she was in league with McMeekin.
Instead of agreeing with me that the man was a fool, she smiled at me in
that particularly trying way called bright and cheery.

"But wouldn't it be nice to sit up for a little?" she said.

"No, it wouldn't."

"It would be a change for you, and you'd sleep better afterward."

"I've got on capitally without sleep for nearly a week and I don't see
any use in reacquiring a habit, a wasteful habit, which I've succeeded
in breaking."

She said something about the doctor's orders.

"The doctor," I replied, "did not give any orders. He gave permission,
which is a very different thing."

I spent some time in explaining the difference between an order and a
permission. I used simple illustrations and made my meaning so plain
that no one could possibly have missed it. The nurse, instead of
admitting that I had convinced her, went out of the room. She came back
again with a cupful of beef tea which she offered me with another bright
smile. If I were not a man with a very high sense of the courtesy due
to women I should have taken the cup and thrown it at her head. It is,
I think, very much to my credit that I drank the beef tea and then did
nothing worse than turn my face to the wall.

At two o'clock she got my dressing gown and somewhat ostentatiously
spread it out on a chair in front of the fire. I lay still and said
nothing, though I saw that she still clung to the idea of getting me
out of bed. Then she rang the bell and made the red-haired girl bring a
dilapidated armchair into the room. She pummelled its cushions with her
fists for some time and then put a pillow on it. This showed me that
she fully expected to succeed in making me sit up. I was perfectly
determined to stay where I was. I pretended to go to sleep and even went
the length of snoring in a long-drawn, satisfied kind of way. She came
over and looked at me. I very slightly opened the corner of one eye and
saw by the expression of her face that she did not believe I was really
asleep. I prepared for the final struggle by gripping the bedclothes
tightly with both hands and poking my feet between the bars at the
bottom of the bed.

At three o'clock she had me seated in the armchair, clothed in my
dressing gown, with a rug wrapped round my legs. I was tingling with
suppressed rage and flushed with a feeling of degradation. I intended,
as soon as I regained my self control, to say some really nasty things
to her. Before I had made up my mind which of several possible remarks
she would dislike most, Titherington came into the room. The nurse does
not like Titherington. She has never liked him since the day that he
kept her outside the door while we drank champagne. She always smoothes
her apron with both hands when she sees him, which is a sign that she
would like to do him a bodily injury if she could. On this occasion,
alter smoothing her apron and shoving a protruding hair pin into the
back of her hair, she marched out of the room.

"McMeekin tells me," I said to Titherington, "that Vittie has got the
influenza. Is it true?"

"He says he has," said Titherington, with strong emphasis on the word
"says."

"Then I wish you'd go round and offer him the use of my nurse. I don't
want her."

"He has two aunts, and besides----"

I was not going to allow Vittie's aunts to stand in my way. I
interrupted Titherington with an argument which I felt sure he would
appreciate.

"He may have twenty aunts," I said; "that's not my point. What I'm
thinking of is the excellent effect it will produce in the constituency
if I publicly sacrifice myself by handing over my nurse to my political
opponent. The amount of electioneering capital which could be made
out of an act of heroism of that kind--why, it would catch the popular
imagination more than if I jumped into a mill race to save Vittie from a
runaway horse, and everybody knows that if you can bring off a spoof of
that sort an election is as good as won."

Titherington growled.

"All the papers would have it," I said. "Even the Nationalists would
be obliged to admit that I'd done a particularly noble thing." "I don't
believe Vittie has the influenza."

"McMeekin said so."

"It would be just like Vittie," said Titherington, "to pretend he had
it so as to get an excuse for calling in McMeekin. He knows McMeekin has
been wobbling ever since you got ill."

This silenced me. If Vittie is crafty enough to devise such a
complicated scheme-for bribing McMeekin without bringing himself within
the meshes of the Corrupt Practices Act he is certainly too wise to
allow himself to be subjected to my nurse.

"Anyway," said Titherington, "it's not Vittie's influenza I came here to
talk about."

"Have you got the key of your bag with you?"

Titherington was in a bad temper, but he allowed himself to grin. He
went down on his hands and knees and dragged the bag from its hiding
place under the bed.

We opened two half bottles, but although Titherington drank a great deal
more than his share he remained morose.

"That girl," he said, "is playing old hookey with the constituency. I
won't be answerable for the consequences unless she's stopped at once."

"I suppose you're speaking about Miss Beresford?"

"Instead of talking rot about woman's suffrage," said Titherington
savagely, "and ragging Vittie, which is what we brought her here for,
she's going round calling everybody a liar. And it won't do. I tell you
it won't do at all."

"You said it was a good speech," I reminded him.

"I shouldn't have minded that speech. It's what she's been at since
then. She spent all day yesterday and the whole of this morning going
round from house to house gassing about the way nobody in political life
ever speaks the truth. She has a lot of young fools worked up to such a
state that I can scarcely show my face in the streets, and I hear that
they mobbed a man up at the railway station who came down to support
O'Donoghue. He deserved it, of course, but it's impossible to say who
they'll attack next. Half the town is going about with yards of white
ribbon pinned on to them."

"What on earth for?"

"Some foolery. It's the badge of some blasted society she's started.
There's A.S.P.L. on the ribbons."

"I told you at the start," I said, "that the letters A.S.P.L. couldn't
stand for votes for women, but you would have it that they did."

"She has the whole town placarded with notices of a meeting she's going
to hold to-morrow night. We can't possibly have that, you know."

"Well, why don't you stop her?"

"Stop her! I've done every damned thing I could to stop her. I went
round to her this morning and told her you'd sign any pledge she
liked about woman's suffrage if she'd only clear out of this and go
to Belfast. She as good as told me to my face that she wouldn't give a
tinker's curse for any pledge I had a hand in giving. My own impression
is that she doesn't care if she never got a vote, or any other woman
either. All she wants is to turn the place into a bear garden and spoil
the whole election. I've come here to tell you plain that if you don't
interfere I'll wash my hands of the whole affair."

"Don't do that," I said. "Think of the position I'd be in if you
deserted me."

"Then stop her."

"I would. I would stop her at once if I hadn't got the influenza. You
see yourself the state I'm in. The nurse wouldn't let me do it even if
McMeekin agreed."

"Damn the nurse!"

"I quite agree; and if you'd do as I suggest and cart her off to
Vittie----"

"Look here," said Titherington. "It's all very well you're talking like
that, but this is serious. The whole election's becoming a farce. Miss
Beresford----"

"It's a well-known fact that there is nothing so uncontrollable as a
tiger once it has got the taste of human blood, and Miss Beresford,
having found out how nice it is to call you and Vittie and O'Donoghue
liars, isn't likely to be persuaded----"

"What are you going to do?" said Titherington truculently.

"I? I'm going back to bed as soon as I can, and when once back I'm going
to stay there."

Titherington looked so angry that I began to feel afraid. I was quite
helpless and I did not want him to revenge himself on me by carrying off
the champagne or sending for a second nurse.

"There's just one idea which occurs to me," I said. "I doubt whether it
will be much use, but you might try it if you're regularly stuck. Write
to Hilda's mother."

"Who the devil's Hilda's mother?"

"I don't know, but you might find out. She strongly disapproves of
Hilda's making speeches, and if she knew what is going on here I expect
she'd stop it. She'd stop Hilda anyhow."

"Is Hilda the other one."

"Yes," I said. "The minor one."

Titherington got out a note book and a pencil.

"What's her address?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Never mind. I'll hunt all the directories till I find her. What's her
name?"

"I don't know."

"Well, what's the girl's name? I suppose the mother's is the same unless
she's married again."

"Hilda," I said. "I've told you that three or four times."

"Hilda what?"

"I don't know. I never heard her called anything but Hilda."

Titherington shut his note book and swore. Then he dropped his pencil on
the floor. I felt quite sorry for him. If I had known Hilda's surname I
should have told it to him at once.

"It's just possible," I said, "that Selby-Harrison's father might know.
He lives down in these parts somewhere. Perhaps you've met him."

"There's only one Selby-Harrison here. He's on your committee, a warm
supporter of yours."

"That's the man. Selby-Harrison, the son I mean, said he'd write to
the old gentleman and tell him to vote for me. I expect he went on my
committee after that."

"And you think he can get at this young woman's mother?"

"No. I don't think anything of the sort. All I say is that he may
possibly know the name of Hilda's mother."

"Can't I get at Miss Beresford's mother?"

"No, you can't. She's been dead for twenty years."

"A good job for her," said Titherington.

"The Archdeacon would agree with you there."

"What Archdeacon?"

I saw that I had made an unfortunate admission. Titherington, in his
present mood, would be quite capable of bringing the Archdeacon down on
us here. I would almost rather have a second nurse. I hastened to cover
my mistake.

"Any Archdeacon," I said. "You know what Archdeacons are. There isn't
one of them belonging to any church who wouldn't disapprove strongly of
Miss Beresford."

Titherington grunted.

"If I thought an Archdeacon would be any use," he said, "I'd get a dozen
if I had to pay them fifty pounds apiece."

"They wouldn't help in the slightest. Miss Beresford and Hilda have
libelled twenty-three bishops in their day. They'd simply laugh at your
Archdeacons."

"Well," said Titherington, "I suppose that's all I am to get out of
you."

"That's all. If there was anything else I could suggest----"

Titherington picked up his pencil again.

"I'll try Selby-Harrison," he said, "and if he knows the name----"

"If he doesn't, get him to wire to his son for it. He certainly knows."

"I will."

"I needn't tell you," I added, "that the telegram must be cautiously
worded."

"What do you mean?"

"Merely that if Selby-Harrison, the son, suspects that you and the
father want to worry Hilda or Miss Beresford in any way he'll lie low
and not answer the telegram. He's on the committee of the A.S.P.L., so of
course he won't want the work of the society to be interfered with."

"If he doesn't answer, I'll go up to Dublin to-night and drag it out
of the young pup by force. It'll be a comfort anyhow to be dealing with
somebody I can kick. These girls are the very devil."

"No. 175 Trinity College is the address," I said. "J is the initial. If
he's not in his rooms when you call just ask where the 3rd A. happens to
be playing."

"The what?"

"It's a hockey eleven and it's called the 3rd A. Miss Beresford told me
so and I think we may rely on it that she, at least, speaks the truth.
Selby-Harrison sometimes plays halfback and sometimes inside left, but
anybody would point him out to you."

Titherington took several careful notes in his book.

"It's not much of a chance," I said, "but it will keep you busy for a
while and anything is better than sitting still and repining."

"In the infernal fix we're in," said Titherington, "anything is worth
trying."



CHAPTER XIV

During the time that Titherington and I were thrown together I learned
to respect and admire him, but I never cared for him as a companion.
Only once, so far as I recollect, did I actually wish to see him. The
day after I gave him the hint about Hilda's mother I waited for him
anxiously. I was full of curiosity. I wanted to know what Hilda's
surname was, a matter long obscure to me, which Titherington, if any man
living, would find out. I also wanted to know how Hilda's mother took
the news of her daughter's political activity. I waited for him all day
but he did not visit me. Toward evening I came to the conclusion that
he must have found himself obliged to go up to Dublin in pursuit of
Selby-Harrison, junior. I spent a pleasant hour or two in picturing
to myself the interview between them. Titherington had spoken of using
violent means of persuasion, of dragging the surname of Hilda out of the
young man. He might, so I liked to think, chase Selby-Harrison round
the College Park with a drawn sword in his hand. Then there would
be complications. The Provost and senior fellows, not understanding
Titherington's desperate plight, would resent his show of violence,
which would strike them as unseemly in their academic groves. Swift,
muscular porters would be sent in pursuit of Titherington, who would,
himself, still pursue Selby-Harrison. The great bell of the Campanile
would ring furious alarm peals. The Dublin metropolitan police would at
last be called in, for Titherington, when in a determined mood, would be
very difficult to overpower.

All this was pleasant to think about at first; but there came a
time when my mind was chiefly occupied in resenting Titherington's
thoughtlessness. He had no right to go off on a long expedition without
leaving me the key of the bag in which we kept the champagne. I felt the
need of a stimulant so badly that I ventured to ask McMeekin, who
called just before I went to bed, to allow me half a glass of Burgundy.
Burgundy would not have been nearly as good for me as champagne, but it
would have been better than nothing. McMeekin sternly forbade anything
of the sort, and I heard him tell the nurse to give me barley water when
I asked for a drink. This is another proof that McMeekin ought to be
in an asylum for idiots. Barley water would depress me and make me
miserable even if I were in perfect health.

As a set-off against Titherington's thoughtlessness and McMeekin's
imbecility, I noticed that during the day the nurse became gradually
less obnoxious. I began to see that she had some good points and that
she meant well by me, though she still did things of which I could not
possibly approve. She insisted, for instance, that I should wash my
face, a wholly unnecessary exertion which exhausted me greatly and might
easily have given me cold. Still I disliked her less than I did before,
and felt, toward evening that she was becoming quite tolerable. I always
like to give praise to any one who deserves it, especially if I have
been obliged previously to speak in a different way. After I got
into bed I congratulated her on the improvement I had noticed in her
character and disposition. She replied that she was delighted to see
that I was beginning to pick up a little. The idea in her mind evidently
was that no change had taken place in her but that I was shaking off a
mood of irritable pessimism, one of the symptoms of my disease. I did
not argue with her though I knew that she was quite wrong. There really
was a change in her and I had all along kept a careful watch over my
temper.

The day after that, being, I believe, the eighth of my illness, I got up
at eleven o'clock and put on a pair of trousers under my dressing-gown.
McMeekin, backed by the nurse, insisted on my sending for a barber to
shave me. I did not like the barber, for, like all his tribe, he
was garrulous and I had to appeal to the nurse to stop him talking.
Afterward I was very glad I had endured him. Lalage and Hilda called
on me at two o'clock, and I should not have liked them to see me in
the state I was in before the barber came. They both looked fresh and
vigorous. Electioneering evidently agreed with them.

"We looked in," said Lalage, "because we thought you might want to be
cheered up a bit. You can't have many visitors now that poor Tithers is
gone."

"Dead?"

"Oh, no, not yet at least, and we hope he won't. Tithers means well and
I daresay it's not his fault if he don't speak the truth."

"They've put him in prison, I suppose. I hardly thought they'd allow him
to chop up Selby-Harrison in the College Park."

Hilda gaped at me. Lalage went over to the nurse and whispered something
in her ear. The nurse shook her head and said that my temperature was
normal.

"If you're not raving," said Lalage, "you're deliberately talking
nonsense. I don't know what you mean, nor does Hilda."

"It ought to be fairly obvious," I said, "that I'm alluding to
Mr. Titherington's attempt to find out Hilda's surname from young
Selby-Harrison."

Hilda giggled convulsively. Then she got out her pocket handkerchief and
choked.

"Tithers," said Lalage, "is past caring about anybody's name. He's got
influenza. It came on him the night before last at twelve o'clock. He's
pretty bad."

"I'm glad to hear that. I was afraid he might have been arrested in
Dublin. If it's only influenza there's no reason why he shouldn't send
me the key of the bag. I suppose you'll be going round to see him in the
course of the afternoon, Lalage."

"We hadn't thought of doing that," said Lalage, "but of course we can if
you particularly want us to."

"I wish you would, and tell him to send me the key of the bag at once.
You could bring it back with you."

"Certainly," said Lalage. "Is that all?"

"That's all I want; but it would be civil to ask how he is."

"There's no use making a special, formal visit for a trifle like that.
Hilda will run round at once. It won't take her ten minutes."

Hilda hesitated.

"Run along, Hilda," said Lalage.

Hilda still hesitated. It occurred to me that she might not know where
Titherington's house was.

"Turn to the right," I said, "as soon as you get out of the hotel.
Then go on to the end of the street. Mr. Titherington's house is at
the corner and stands a little way back. It has 'Sandringham' in gilt
letters on the gate. You can't miss it. In fact, you can see it from the
door of the hotel. Nurse will show it to you."

Even then Hilda did not start.

"The key of what bag?" she asked.

"Is it any particular bag?" said Lalage.

"Of course it is," I said. "What on earth would be the use----?"

"Will Tithers knows what bag you mean?" said Lalage.

"He will. Now that he has influenza himself he can't help knowing."

"Off with you, Hilda."

This time Hilda started, slowly. The nurse, who evidently thought that
Hilda was being badly treated, went with her. She certainly took her as
far as the hotel door. She may have gone all the way to Titherington's
house. Lalage sat down opposite me and lit a cigarette.

"We are having a high old time," she said. "Now that Tithers is gone and
O'Donoghue, who appears to be rather an ass, professes to have a sore
throat----"

She winked at me.

"Do you suspect him of having influenza?" I asked.

"Of course, but he won't own up if he can help it."

"Vittie is only shamming," I said. "Titherington told me so, he may
emerge at any moment."

"It's just like Tithers to say that. The one thing he cannot do is speak
the truth. As a matter of fact Vittie is in a dangerous condition. His
aunt told me so."

"Have you been to see him."

"No. The aunt came round to us this morning with tears in her eyes, and
begged us to spare Vittie."

"I suppose the things you have been saying about him have made him
worse."

"According to his aunt they keep him in such an excitable state that he
can't sleep. I told her I was jolly glad to hear it. That just shows the
amount of good the A.S.P.L. is doing in the district. It's making its
power felt in every direction."

"If Vittie dies------"

"He won't. That sort of man never does. I'm sorry for the aunt of
course. She seemed a quiet, respectable sort of woman and, curiously
enough, very fond of Vittie. I told her that I'd do anything I
conscientiously could to lull off Vittie, but that I had my duty to
perform. And I have, you know. I'm clearing the air."

"It wants it badly. McMeekin told me two days ago he had forty cases and
there are evidently a lot more now."

"I'm not talking about microbes," said Lalage. "What I'm talking about
is the moral 'at'."

I thought for a moment.

--"titude?" I ventured to suggest.

"No," said Lalage, "--mosphere. It wants it far worse than the other
air. I had no idea till I took on this job that politics are such utter
sinks as they are. What you tell me now about Vittie is just another
example of what I mean. I dare say now it will turn out that he went
to bed in the hope of escaping my exposure of the way he's been telling
lies."

"Titherington hinted," I said, "that he did it in the hope of
influencing McMeekin's vote. Fees, you know."

"That's worse."

"A great deal worse."

"Funk," said Lalage, "which is what I did suspect him of, is
comparatively honest, but a stratagem of the kind you suggest, is as bad
as felony. I shall certainly have at him for that."

"Titherington will be tremendously pleased if you do."

"I'm not trying to please Tithers. I'm acting in the interests of public
morality."

"Still," I said, "there's no harm in pleasing Tithers incidentally."

"I have a big meeting on to-night. Hilda takes the chair, and I'll
rub it in about Vittie shamming sick. I never heard anything more
disgraceful. Can Tithers be playing the same game, do you think?"

"I don't know," I said. "Hilda will be able to tell us that when she
comes back."

Hilda came back so soon that I think she must have run part of the way
at least. Probably she ran back, when the nurse was not with her.

"He won't send you the key," she said, "but he wants you to send him the
bag."

"Is he shamming?" said Lalage, "or has he really got it?"

"I don't know. I didn't see him."

"If you didn't see him," I said hopefully, "you may be wrong after all
about his wanting the bag. He can't be so selfish."

"Who did you see?" said Lalage.

"Mrs. Titherington," said Hilda. "She----"

"Fancy there being a Mrs. Tithers," said Lalage. "How frightfully funny!
What was she like to look at?"

"Never mind that for the present, Hilda," I said. "Just tell me about
the key."

"She took your message up to him," said Hilda, "and came down again in a
minute looking very red in the face."

"Titherington must have sworn at her," I said. "What a brute that man
is!"

"You'd better take him round the bag at once," said Lalage. "Where is
it?"

"He shan't have the bag," I said. "There are only eight bottles left and
I want them myself."

"Bottles of what?"

"Champagne, of course."

"His or yours?" asked Lalage.

"They were his at first. They're mine now, for he gave them to me, and
I'm going to keep them."

"I don't see what all the fuss is about," said Lalage. "Do you, Hilda? I
suppose you and Tithers can both afford to buy a few more bottles if you
want them."

"You don't understand," I said. "I'm quite ready to give a sovereign
a bottle if necessary, and I'm sure that Titherington would, too. The
point is that my nurse won't let me have any, and I don't suppose
Titherington's wife will let him. That ass McMeekin insists on poisoning
me with barley water, and Titherington's doctor, whoever he is, is most
likely doing the same."

"I see," said Lalage. "This just bears out what I've been saying all
along about the utter want of common honesty in political life. Here are
you and Tithers actually quarrelling about which of you is to be allowed
to lie continuously. You are deliberately deceiving your doctor and
nurse. Tithers wants to deceive his wife, which is, if anything, a shade
worse. Hilda, find that bag."

"Lalage," I said, "you're not going to give it to Titherington, are you?
It wouldn't be good for him, it wouldn't really."

"Make your mind quite easy about that," said Lalage. "I'm not going to
give it to either of you. Hilda, look under the bed. That's just the
idiotic sort of place Tithers would hide a thing."

I heard Hilda grovelling about on the floor. A minute later she was
dragging the bag out.

"What are you going to do with it, Lalage?"

"Take it away and keep it myself till you're both well."

"We never shall be," I said. "We shall die. Please, Lalage, please
don't."

"It's the only honest course," said Lalage.

I made an effort to assert myself, though I knew it was useless.

"There is such a thing," I said, "as carrying honesty too far. All
extremes are wrong. There are lots of occasions on which it isn't at all
right to tell the literal truth."

"None," said Lalage.

"Suppose a robber was robbing you, and you had a five-pound note inside
your sock and suppose he said to you, 'Have you any more money?'"

"That has nothing to do with the way you and Tithers have conspired
together to deceive the very people who are trying to do you good."

"Lalage," I said, "I've subscribed liberally to the funds of the
society. I'll subscribe again. I did my best for you at the time of
the bishop row. I don't think you ought to turn on me now because I'm
adopting the only means in my power of resisting a frightful tyranny.
You might just as well call it dishonest of a prisoner to try to escape
because he doesn't tell the gaoler beforehand how he's going to do it."

"Hilda," said Lalage, "collar that bag and come on."

"Lalage," I said sternly, "if you take that bag I'll write straight to
the Archdeacon."

Hilda was already outside the door. Lalage turned.

"It will be much more unpleasant for you than for me," she said, "if you
bring the Archdeacon down here. I'm not afraid of him. You are."

"I'll write to Miss Battersby. I'll write to the Provost, and to Miss
Pettigrew. I'll write to Hilda's mother. I'll get Selby-Harrison to
write, too. I'll----"

Lalage was gone. I rang the bell savagely and told the nurse to get my
pens, ink, and paper. I thoroughly agreed with Titherington. Lalage's
proceedings must be stopped at once.



CHAPTER XV

I wrote the first page of a letter to the Archdeacon and expressed
myself, so far as I could in that limited space, strongly. I gave him
to understand that Lalage must be either enticed or forced to leave
Bally-gore. I intended to go onto a description of the sort of things
Lalage had been doing, of Titherington's helplessness and Vittie's
peril. But I was brought up short at the end of the first page by the
want of blotting paper. The nurse brought me two pens, a good sized
bottle of ink, several quires of paper and about fifty envelopes. Then
she went out for her afternoon walk, and I did not discover until after
she had gone that I had no blotting paper. The only course open to me
was to wait, as patiently as I could, until the first page of the letter
dried. It took a long time to dry, because I was very angry when I began
to write and had pressed heavily on the pen. The crosses of my t's were
like short broad canals. The loops of the e's, Fs and such letters were
deep pools, and I had underlined one word with some vigour. I waved the
sheet to and fro in the air. When I got tired of waving it I propped it
up against the fender and let the heat of the fire play on it.

While I was waiting my anger gradually cooled and I began to see that
Lalage was perfectly right in saying that I should suffer most if the
Archdeacon came to our rescue. The story of the champagne in the bag
would leak out at once. The Archdeacon, as I recollected, already
suspected me of intemperance. When he heard that I was drinking secretly
and keeping a private supply of wine he would be greatly shocked and
would probably feel that it was his duty to act firmly. He would, almost
certainly, hold a consultation with McMeekin. McMeekin is just the sort
of man to resent anything in the way of a professional slight from
one of his patients. Goaded on by the Archdeacon he would invent
some horrible punishment for me. In mediaeval times, so I am given to
understand, the clergy tortured people, in cells, for the good of their
souls, and any one who had a private enemy denounced him to the Grand
Inquisitor. Faith has nowadays given way before the assaults of science
and it is the doctors who possess the powers of the rack. Instead of
being suspected of heresy a man is now accused of having an abscess on
his appendix. His doom is much the same, to have his stomach cut open
with knives, though the name given to it is different. It is now
called an operation. The older term, rather more expressive, was
disembowelling. Four hundred years ago McMeekin, if he had a grievance
against me, would have denounced me to the Archdeacon. Now, things have
changed so far that it is the Archdeacon who denounces me to McMeekin.
The result for me is much the same. I do not suppose that my case would
either then or now be one for extreme penalties. I am not the stuff of
which obstinate heretics are made, nor have I any heroic tumour which
would render me liable to the knife. Slow starvation, a diet of barley
water, beef tea, and milk puddings, would meet the requirements of my
case. But I did not want any more barley water and beef tea. I have
always, from my childhood up, hated milk puddings. I thought over my
position carefully and by the time the first sheet of my letter to the
Archdeacon was dry, I had arrived at the conclusion that I had better
not go on with it. I burned it.

Lalage's meeting, held that night, was an immense success. The town hall
was packed to its utmost capacity and I am told that Lalage spoke very
well indeed. She certainly had a good subject and a fine opportunity.
Vittie, O'Donoghue, and I were all in bed. Our chief supporters,
Titherington and the others, were helpless, with temperatures ranging
from 102 to 105 degrees. But even if we had all been quite well and
in full possession of our fighting powers we could not have made any
effective defence against Lalage. She had an astonishingly good case.
Titherington, for instance, might have talked his best, but he could not
have produced even a plausible explanation of those two letters of ours
on the temperance question. O'Donoghue was in a worse case. He had
made statements about budgets and things of that kind which Lalage's
favourite word only feebly describes. Vittie, apart altogether from
any question of the genuineness of his influenza, was in the narrowest
straits of us all. He appears to have lied with an abandon and a
recklessness far superior to O'Donoghue's or mine. Lalage, so I heard
afterward, spent an hour and a half denouncing us and devoted about
two-thirds of the time to Vittie. His aunts must have had a trying
time with him that night unless McMeekin came to their rescue with an
unusually powerful sleeping draught.

What Lalage said did not keep me awake; but the immediate results of her
meeting broke in upon a sleep which I needed very badly. My nurse left
me for the night and I dropped off into a pleasant doze. I dreamed, I
recollect, that the Archdeacon was bringing me bottles of whiskey in
Titherington's bag and that Hilda was standing beside me with the key. I
was roused, just as I was about to open the bag, by a terrific noise
of bands in the streets. It was nearly eleven o'clock, and even during
elections, bands at that hour are unusual. Besides, the bands which I
heard were playing more confusedly than even the most excited bands do.
It occurred to me that there might possibly be a riot going on and that
the musicians were urging forward the combatants. I crawled out of bed
and stumbled across the room. I was just in time to see a torchlight
procession passing my hotel. The night was windy and the torches flared
most successfully, giving quite enough light to make everything plainly
visible.

At the head of the procession were two bands a good deal mixed up
together. I at once recognized the uniform of the Loyal True Blue Fife
and Drums, whose members were my supporters to a man, and who possess
many more drums than fifes. The bright-green peaked caps of the other
players told me that they were the Wolfe Tone Invincible Brass Band.
It usually played tunes favourable to O'Donoghue. Vittie did not own
a band. If his supporters had been musical, and if there had been any
tunes in the world which expressed their political convictions, there
would, no doubt, have been three bands in the procession. The True Blues
and the Wolfe Tones were, when they passed me, playing different tunes.
In every other respect the utmost harmony prevailed between them. The
chief drummer of the True Blues and the cornet player of the Wolfe
Tones stopped just under my windows to exchange instruments, an act of
courtesy which must be unparalleled in Irish history. I was not able
to hear distinctly what sort of attempt my supporter made at the cornet
part of "God Save Ireland." But O'Donoghue's friend beat time to
"The Protestant Boys" on the drum with an accuracy quite surprising
considering that he cannot often have practised the tune. Behind the
bands closely surrounded by torch bearers came a confused crowd of men
dragging and pushing a wagonette, from which the horses had been taken.
In the wagonette were Lalage and Hilda. Lalage was standing up in the
driver's seat, a most perilous position. She had in one hand a large
roll of white ribbon, the now well-known symbol of the Association
for the Suppression of Public Lying, and in her other hand a pair of
scissors. She snipped off bits of the ribbon and allowed them to go
fluttering away from her in the wind. The crowd scrambled eagerly for
them, and it was plain that the association was enrolling members in
hundreds. Hilda seemed less happy. She was crouching in the body of the
wagonette and looked frightened. Perhaps she was thinking of her mother.
I crept back to bed when the procession had passed and felt deeply
thankful that I was laid up with influenza. Lalage's meeting was,
without doubt, an unqualified success.

Newspapers are, as a rule, busy enough about what happens even in quite
obscure constituencies during by-elections. If ours had been one of
those occasional contests the subject of public lying, Lalage's portrait
and the story of the two bands men would have been quite familiar to
all readers. During a general election very few details of particular
campaigns can be printed. Editors are kept busy enough chronicling the
results and keeping up to date the various clocks, ladders, kites and
other devices with which they inform their readers of the state
of parties. I was therefore quite hopeful that our performances in
Ballygore would escape notice. They did not. Some miserably efficient
and enterprising reporter strayed into the town on the very evening of
Lalage's meeting and wrote an account of her torchlight procession. The
whole thing appeared next morning in the paper which he represented.
Other papers copied his paragraphs, and very soon hundreds of them in
all parts of the three kingdoms were making merry over the plight of the
candidates who lay in bed groaning while a piratical young woman took
away their characters. I did not in the least mind being laughed at.
I have always laughed at myself and am quite pleased that other people
should share my amusement. But I greatly feared that complications of
various kinds would follow the publicity which was given to our affairs.
Vittie almost certainly, O'Donoghue probably, would resent being made
to look ridiculous. Hilda's mother and the Archdeacon might not care for
the way in which Lalage emphasized the joke.

My fellow candidates were the first to object. I received letters from
them both, written by secretaries and signed very shakily, asking me
to cooperate with them in suppressing Lalage. O'Donoghue, who was
apparently not quite so ill as Vittie was, also suggested that we should
publish, over our three names, a dignified rejoinder to the mirth of the
press. He enclosed a rough draft of the dignified rejoinder and invited
criticism and amendment from me. My proper course of action was obvious
enough. I made my nurse reply with a bulletin, dictated by me, signed by
her and McMeekin, to the effect that I was too ill to read letters and
totally incapable of answering them. I gave McMeekin twenty-five pounds
for medical attendance up to date, just before I asked him to sign the
bulletin. I also presented the nurse with a brooch of gold filagree
work, which I had brought home with me from Portugal, intending to give
it to my mother. It would have been churlish of them, afterward, to
refuse to sign my bulletin.

This disposed of Vittie and O'Donoghue for the time. But I knew that
there was more trouble before me. I was scarcely surprised when Canon
Beresford walked into my room one evening at about nine o'clock. He
looked harassed, shaken, and nervous. I asked him at once if he were an
influenza convalescent.

"No," he said, "I'm not. I wish I were."

"There are worse things than influenza. I used not to think so at first,
but now I know there are. Why don't you get it? I suppose you've come to
see me in hope of infection."

"No. I came to warn you. We've just this moment arrived and you may
expect us on you to-morrow morning."

"You and the Archdeacon?"

"No. Thank goodness, nothing so bad as that. The Archdeacon is at home."

"I wonder at that. I fully expected he'd have been here."

"He would have been if he could. He wanted to come, but of course it was
impossible. You heard I suppose, that the bishop is dead."

"No, I didn't hear. Influenza?"

"Pneumonia, and that ties the Archdeacon."

"What a providential thing! But you said 'we.' Is Thormanby here?"

"No, Thormanby told me yesterday that he'd washed his hands of the whole
affair."

"That's exactly what I've done," I said. "It's by far the most sensible
thing to do. I wonder you didn't."

"I tried to," said the Canon piteously. "I did my best. I have engaged
a berth on a steamer going to Brazil, one that hasn't got a wireless
telegraphic installation, and I've secured a _locum tenens_ for the
parish. But I shan't be able to go. You can guess why."

"The Archdeacon?"

The Canon nodded sadly. I did not care to make more inquiries about the
Archdeacon.

"Well," I said, "if neither he nor Thormanby is with you, who is?"

"Miss Battersby for one. She volunteered."

I felt relieved. Miss Battersby is never formidable.

"She won't matter," I said. "Lalage and Hilda will put her to bed and
keep her there. That's what they did with her on the way to Lisbon."

"And Miss Pettigrew," said the Canon.

"How on earth does she come to be mixed up in it?"

"Your mother telegraphed to her and begged her to come down with us
to see what she could do. She's supposed to have some influence with
Lalage."

"What sort of woman is she? I don't know her personally. Lalage says
she's the kind of person that you hate and yet can't help rather loving,
although you're afraid of her. Is that your impression of her?"

"She has a strongly developed sense of humour," said the Canon, "and I'm
afraid she's rather determined."

"What do you expect to do?"

"I don't myself expect to do anything," said the Canon.

"I meant to say what is the ostensible object of the expedition?"

"The Archdeacon spoke of our rescuing Lalage from an equivocal position."

"You ought to make that man bishop," I said.

"Miss Battersby kept on assuring us all the way down in the train that
Lalage is a most lovable child, very gentle and tractable if taken the
right way, but high spirited."

"That won't help her much, because she's no nearer now than she was ten
years ago to finding out what is the right way to take Lalage. What are
Miss Petti-grew's views?"

"She varies," said the Canon, "between chuckling over your position and
wishing that Lalage was safely married with some babies to look after.
She says there'll be no peace in Ireland until that happens."

"That's an utterly silly scheme. There's nobody here to marry her except
Vittie, and I'm perfectly certain his aunts wouldn't let him. He has two
aunts. If that is all Miss Pettigrew has to suggest she might as well
have stopped at home."

The Canon sighed.

"I'm afraid I must be going," he said, "I promised Miss Pettigrew that
I'd be back in half an hour. We're going to see Lalage at once."

"Lalage will be in bed by the time you get there; if she's not
organizing another torchlight procession. You'd far better stop where
you are."

"I'd like to, but----"

"You can get a bed here and send over for your things. Your two ladies
are in the other hotel, I suppose."

"Yes. We knew you were here and Miss Battersby seemed a little afraid of
catching influenza, so we went to the other."

"That's all right. You'll be quite safe for the night if you stop here."

"I wish I could, but----"

"You'll not do any good by talking to Lalage. You know that."

"I know that of course; but----"

"It won't be at all pleasant for you when Miss Pettigrew comes out with
that plan of hers for marrying Lalage to Vittie. There'll be a horrid
row. From what I know of Lalage I feel sure that she'll resent the
suggestion. There'll be immense scope for language in the argument which
follows and they'll all feel freer to speak out if there isn't a church
dignitary standing there listening."

"I know all that, but still----"

"You don't surely mean to say that you _want_ to go and wrangle with
Lalage?"

"Of course not. I hate that kind of thing and always did; but----"

"Out with it, Canon. You stick at that 'but' every time."

"I promised Miss Pettigrew I'd go back."

"Is that all?"

"Not quite. The fact is--you don't know Miss Pettigrew, so you won't
understand."

"You're afraid of her?" I said.

"Well, yes, I am. Besides, the Archdeacon said some stiff things to me
before we started, uncommonly stiff things. Stiff isn't the word I want,
but you'll probably know what I mean."

"Prickly," I suggested.

"Yes, prickly. Prickly things about the responsibility of fatherhood and
the authority of parents. I really must go."

"Very well. If you must, you must, of course. But don't drag me into
it. Remember that I've got influenza and if Miss Pettigrew and Miss
Battersby come here I'll infect them. I rely on you to nip in the bud
any suggestion that I've anything to do with the affair one way or
the other. I tell you plainly that I'd rather see Lalage heading a
torchlight procession every day in the week than married to Vittie."

"The Archdeacon says that you are the person chiefly responsible for
what he calls Lalage's compromising position."

"The Archdeacon may say what he likes. I'm not responsible. Good
heavens, Canon, how can you suppose for an instant that anybody could,
be responsible for Lalage?"

"I didn't suppose it. I was only quoting the Archdeacon."

"I wish to goodness the Archdeacon would mind his own business!"

"That's what he's doing," said the Canon. "If he wasn't he'd be here
now. He wanted to come. If the poor old bishop had held out another week
he would have come."

The Canon left me after that.



CHAPTER XVI

I fully expected a visit from Miss Pettigrew in the course of the next
day. I was not disappointed. She arrived at three o'clock, bringing
the Canon with her. I was greatly impressed by her appearance. She has
bright eyes which twinkled, and she holds her head very straight, pushed
well back on her shoulders so that a good deal of her neck is visible
below her chin. I felt at once that she was the sort of woman who could
do what she liked at me. I attempted my only possible line of defence.

"Aren't you afraid of influenza?" I said. "Is it wise----?

"I'm not in the least afraid," said Miss Pettigrew.

"Not for yourself, of course," I said. "But you might carry it back to
Miss Battersby. I'm horribly infectious just now. Even the nurse washes
herself in Condy's Fluid after being near me."

"Miss Battersby must take her chance like the rest of us. I've come to
talk about Lalage."

"I told the Canon last night," I said, "that I'm not capable of dealing
with Lalage. I really am not. I know because I've often tried."

"Listen to me for a minute," said Miss Pettigrew. "We've got to get
Lalage out of this. I'm not given to taking conventional views of things
and I'm the last woman in Ireland to want to make girls conform to the
standard of what's called ladylikeness. But Lalage has gone too far. The
newspapers are full of her and that's not good for any girl."

"I'm sure," I said, "that if you represent that view of the case to
Lalage----"

"We have. We spent two hours with her last night and three hours this
morning. We didn't produce the slightest effect."

"Hilda cried," said the Canon.

"After all," I said, "that's something. I couldn't have made Hilda cry."

"Hilda doesn't count," said Miss Pettigrew. "She's a dear girl but
anybody could manage her. We didn't make Lalage cry."

"No," I said, "you couldn't, of course. In fact, I expect, Lalage made
you laugh."

Miss Pettigrew smiled and then checked herself. Amusement struggled with
a certain grimness for expression on her face. In the end she smiled
again.

"Lalage has always made me laugh," she said, "ever since she was quite a
little girl. That's what makes it so difficult to manage her."

"Why try?" I said. "Lord Thormanby has washed his hands of her. So have
I. The Canon wants to. Wouldn't it be simpler if you did too?"

"It would be much simpler," said Miss Pettigrew. "But I'm not going to
do it. I have a very strong affection for Lalage."

"We all have," I said. "No one, not even the Canon has a stronger
affection than I have; but I don't see how that helps us much. Something
more is required. If sincere affection would have saved Lalage from the
equivocal position in which she now is----"

Miss Pettigrew looked at me in a curious way which made me feel hot and
very uncomfortable even before I imderstood what she was thinking about.
Her eyes twinkled most brilliantly. The smile which had hovered about
her lips before broadened. I recollected what the Canon told me the
night before. Miss Pettigrew had suggested marriage for Lalage. I had
at once thought of Vittie. Miss Pettigrew was not thinking of Vittie. I
felt myself getting red in the face as she looked at me.

"I couldn't," I said at last. "This influenza has completely unstrung
me. I shouldn't have the nerve. You must admit, Miss Pettigrew, that it
would require nerve."

"I'm not suggesting your doing it to-day," said Miss Pettigrew.

"Nor any other day," I said. "I shouldn't be able to screw myself up to
the pitch. I'm not that kind of man at all. What you want is some one
more of the Young Lochinvar type, or a buccaneer. They're all dashing
men who shrink from nothing. Why not advertise for a buccaneer?"

"I don't suppose she'd marry you if you did ask her," said Miss
Pettigrew.

"I am sure she wouldn't, so we needn't go on talking about that. Won't
you let me ring and get you a cup of tea? They make quite good tea in
this hotel!"

"It's too early for tea, and I want to discuss this business of Lalage's
seriously. The position has become quite impossible."

"It's been that for more than a week--but it still goes on. That's the
worst of impossible positions. Nobody can ever stop them. Titherington
said it was impossible the day before he got influenza. You don't know
Titherington, nor does the Canon. But if you did you'd realize that he's
not the kind of man to let an impossible position alone and yet he was
baffled. I had letters yesterday morning from Vittie and O'Don-oghue
asking me to cooperate with them in suppressing Lalage They see that
the position is impossible just as plainly as you do. But they can't do
anything. In fact they've gone to bed."

"I'm not going to bed," said Miss Pettigrew. "I'm going to bring Lalage
home with me."

"How?"

"I rather hoped," said Miss Pettigrew, "that you might have some
suggestion that would help us."

"I made my only suggestion to Titherington a week ago and it didn't come
off. There's no use my making it again!"

"What was it? Perhaps I could work it out."

"It wasn't much of a suggestion really. It was only Hilda's mother."

"I've wired to her and she'll be here to-morrow. I've no doubt that
she'll carry off Hilda, but she has no authority over Lalage."

"Nobody has," said the Canon despondingly. "I've said that all along."

"What about the Provost of Trinity College?" I said. "He tackled her
over the bishops. You might try him."

"He won't interfere," said the Canon. "I asked him."

"Well," I said, "I can do no more. You can see for yourself, Miss
Pettigrew, that I'm not in a state to make suggestions. I'm completely
exhausted already and any further mental exertion will bring on a
relapse. Do let me ring for tea. I want it myself."

The door opened as I spoke. I hoped that my nurse or McMeekin had
arrived and would insist on my being left in peace. I was surprised and,
in spite of my exhaustion, pleased to see Lalage and Hilda walk in.

"Father," said Lalage, "why didn't you tell me last night that the
bishop is dead?"

"I didn't think it would interest you," said the Canon.

"Of course it interests me. When poor old Pussy mentioned it to me just
now I simply hopped out of my shoes with excitement and delight. So did
Hilda."

"Did you hate the bishop that much?" I asked. "Worse than other
bishops?"

"Not at all," said Lalage. "I never saw him except once and then I
thought he was quite a lamb."

"Hilda," I said, "why did you hop out of your shoes with excitement and
delight when you heard of the death of an old gentleman who never did
you any harm?"

"We'll have to elect another, won't we?" said Lalage.

A horrible dread turned me quite cold. I glanced at Miss Pettigrew. Her
eyes had stopped twinkling. I read fear, actual fear, in the expression
of her face. We both shrank from saying anything which might lead to the
confirming of our worst anticipations. It was the Canon who spoke next.
What he said showed that he was nearly desperate.

"Lalage," he said, "will you come with me for a tour to Brazil? I've
booked one berth and I can easily get another!"

"I can't possibly go to Brazil," said Lalage, "and you certainly ought
not to think of it till the bishopric election is over."

"I'll take Hilda, too," said the Canon. "I should like to have Hilda.
You and she would have great fun together.

"I'll give Selby-Harrison a present of his ticket," I added, "and pay
his hotel expenses. It would be a delightful trip."

"Brazil," said Miss Pettigrew, "is one of the most interesting countries
in the world. I can lend you a book on the natural history."

"Hilda's mother wouldn't let her go," said Lalage. "Would she, Hilda?"

"I'm afraid not," said Hilda. "She thinks I ought to be more at home."

"Miss Pettigrew will talk her over," I said. "It's a great chance for
Hilda. She oughtn't to miss it."

"And Selby-Harrison has just entered the Divinity School," said Lalage.
"He couldn't possibly afford the time."

"The long days on the steamer," I said, "would be perfectly invaluable
to him. He could read theology from morning to night. There'd be
nothing, except an occasional albatross, to distract his attention."

"Those South American republics," said Miss Pettigrew, "are continually
having revolutions."

Miss Pettigrew is certainly a very clever woman. Her suggestion was
the first thing which caused Lalage to waver. A revolution must be
very attractive to a girl of her temperament; and revolutions are
comparatively rare on this side of the Atlantic. Lalage certainly
hesitated.

"What do you think, Hilda?" she asked.

For one moment I dared to hope.

"There's been a lot of gun-running done out there lately," I said, "and
I heard of a new submarine on the Amazon."

I am afraid I overdid it. Miss Pettigrew certainly frowned at me.

"Mother would never let me," said Hilda.

I had forgotten Hilda's mother for the moment. I saw at once that the
idea of gun-running would frighten her and she would not like to think
of her daughter ploughing the bottom of the Amazon in a submarine.

"Besides," said Lalage, "it wouldn't be right. It's our duty, our plain
duty, to see this bishopric election through. I'm inclined to think that
the Archdeacon is the proper man."

"When do you start for the scene of action?" I asked.

"At once," said Lalage. "There's a train at six o'clock this evening.
We left poor Pussy packing her bag and ran round to tell Miss Pettigrew
about the change in our plans. I'm dead sick of this old election of
yours, anyhow. Aren't you?"

"I am," I said fervently. "I'm so sick of it that I don't care if I
never stand for Parliament again. By the way, Lalage, now that you're
turning your attention to church affairs wouldn't it be as well to
change the name of the society again. You might call it the Episcopal
Election Association. E. E. A. would look well at the head of your
notepaper and might be worked up into a monogram."

"I daresay we shall make a change," said Lalage, "but if we do we'll be
a guild, not a society or an association. Guild is the proper word for
anything connected with the church, or high-class furniture, or art
needlework. Selby-Harrison will look into the matter for us. But in any
case it will be all right about you. You'll still be a life member. Come
along, Hilda. We have a lot of people to see before we start. I have to
give out badges to about fifty new members."

"Will that be necessary now?" I asked.

"Of course. If anything, more."

"But if you're changing the name of the society?"

"That won't matter in the least. Do come on, Hilda. We shan't have time
if you dawdle on here. In any case Pussy will have to pack our clothes
for us."

They swept out of the room. Miss Pettigrew got up and shut the door
after them. The Canon was too much upset to move.

"I congratulate you, Miss Pettigrew," I said. "You've succeeded after
all in getting Lalage out of this. I hardly thought you would."

"This," said the Canon, "is worse, infinitely worse."

"I'm not quite sure," said Miss Pettigrew, "about the procedure in these
cases. Who elects bishops?"

"The Diocesan Synod," I said. "Isn't that right, Canon?"

"Yes," he said, gloomily.

"And who constitutes the Diocesan Synod?" said Miss Pettigrew.

"A lot of parsons," I said. "All the parsons there are, and some dear
old country gentlemen of blameless lives. Just the people really to
appreciate Lalage."

"We shall have more trouble," said Miss Pettigrew.

"Plenty," I said. "And Thormanby will be in the thick of it. He won't
find it so easy to wash his hands this time."

"Nor will you," said Miss Pettigrew smiling, but I think maliciously.

"I shall simply stay here," I said, "and go on having influenza."

I have so much respect for Miss Pettigrew that I do not like to say she
grinned at me but she certainly employed a smile which an enemy might
have described as a grin.

"The election here," she said, "your election takes place, as I
understand, early next week. Your mother will expect you home after
that."

"Mothers are often disappointed," I said. "Look at Hilda's, for
instance. And in any case my mother is a reasonable woman. She'll
respect a doctor's certificate, and McMeekin will give me that if I ask
him."

The Canon had evidently not been attending to what Miss Pettigrew and I
were saying to one another. He broke in rather abruptly:

"Is there any other place more attractive than Brazil?"

He was thinking of Lalage, not of himself. I do not think he cared much
where he went so long as he got far from Ireland.

"There are, I believe," I said, "still a few cannibal tribes left in the
interior of Borneo. There are certainly head hunters there."

"Dyaks," said Miss Pettigrew.

"I might try her with them," said the Canon.

"If Miss Pettigrew," I suggested, "will manage Hilda's mother, the
thing might possibly be arranged. Selby-Harrison could practise being a
missionary."

"I shouldn't like Hilda to be eaten," said Miss Pettigrew.

"There's no fear of that," I said. "Lalage is well able to protect her
from any cannibal."

"I'll make the offer," said the Canon. "Anything would be better than
having Lalage attempting to make speeches at the Diocesan Synod."

Miss Pettigrew had her packing to do and left shortly afterward. The
Canon, who seemed to be really depressed, sat on with me and made plans
for Lalage's immediate future. From time to time, after I exposed
the hollow mockery of each plan, he complained of the tyranny of
circumstance.

"If only the bishop hadn't died," he said.

The dregs of the influenza were still hanging about me. I lost my temper
with the Canon in the end.

"If only," I said, "you'd brought up Lalage properly."

"I tried governesses," he said, "and I tried school."

"The only thing you did not try," I said, "was what the Archdeacon
recommended, a firm hand."

"The Archdeacon never married," said the Canon. "I'm often sorry he
didn't. He wouldn't say things like that if he had a child of his own."



CHAPTER XVII

There was a great deal of angry feeling in Ballygore and indeed all
through the constituency when Lalage went home. It was generally
believed that O'Donoghue, Vittie, and I had somehow driven her away,
but this was quite unjust to us and we all three felt it. We felt it
particularly when, one night at about twelve o'clock, a large crowd
visited us in turn and groaned under our windows. O'Donoghue and Vittie,
with a view to ingratiating themselves with the electors, wrote letters
to the papers solemnly declaring that they sincerely wished Lalage to
return. Nobody believed them. Lalage's teaching had sunk so deep into
the popular mind that nobody would have believed anything O'Donoghue and
Vittie said even if they had sworn its truth. Titherington, who was
beginning to recover, published a counter blast to their letters. He was
always quick to seize opportunities and he hoped to increase my
popularity by associating me closely with Lalage. He said that I had
originally brought her to Ballygore and he left it to be understood that
I was an ardent member of the Association for the Suppression of Public
Lying. Unfortunately nobody believed him. Lalage's crusade had produced
an extraordinary effect. Nobody any longer believed anything, not even
the advertisements. My nurse, among others, became affected with the
prevailing feeling of scepticism and refused to accept my word for it
that I was still seriously ill. Even when I succeeded, by placing it
against the hot water bottle in the bottom of my bed, in running up her
thermometer to 103 degrees, she merely smiled. And yet a temperature of
that kind ought to have convinced her that I really had violent pains
somewhere.

The election itself showed unmistakably the popular hatred of public
lying. There were just over four thousand electors in the division,
but only 530 of them recorded their votes. A good many more, nearly a
thousand more, went to the polling booths and deliberately spoiled their
voting papers. The returning officer, who kindly came round to my hotel
to announce the result, told me that he had never seen so many spoiled
votes at any election. The usual way of invalidating the voting paper
was to bracket the three names and write "All of them liars" across the
paper. Sometimes the word "liars" was qualified by a profane adjective.
Sometimes distinctions were made between the candidates and one of us
was declared to be a more skilful or determined liar than the other
two. O'Donoghue was sometimes placed in the position of the superlative
degree of comparison. So was I. But Vittie suffered most frequently in
this way. Lalage had always displayed a special virulence in dealing
with Vittie's public utterances. The remaining voters, 2470 of them or
thereabouts, made a silent protest against our deceitfulness by staying
away from the polling booths altogether.

O'Donoghue was elected. He secured 262 of the votes which were not
spoiled. I ran him very close, having 260 votes to my credit. Vittie
came a bad third, with only eight votes. Vittie, as Titherington told me
from the first, never had a chance of success. He was only nominated in
the hope that he might take some votes away from me. I hope his friends
were satisfied with the result. Three of his eight votes would have
given me a majority. Titherington wrote me a long letter some time
afterward, as soon, in fact, as he was well enough to do sums. He said
that originally, before Lalage came on the scene, I had 1800 firm and
reliable supporters, men who would have walked miles through snowstorms
to cast their votes for me. O'Donoghue had about the same number who
would have acted with equal self-denial on his behalf. Vittie was
tolerably sure of two hundred voters and there were about two hundred
others who hesitated between Vittie and me, but would rather cut off
their right hands than vote for O'Donoghue. I ought, therefore, to have
been elected, and I would have been elected, if Lalage had not turned
the minds of the voters away from serious political thought. "I do not
know," Titherington wrote in a sort of parenthesis, "whether these women
hope to advance their cause by tactics of this kind. If they do they
are making a bad mistake. No right-thinking man will ever consent to
the enfranchisement of a sex capable of treating political life with the
levity displayed here by Miss Beresford." It is very curious how hard
Titherington finds it to believe that he has made a mistake. He will
probably go down to his grave maintaining that the letters A.S.P.L.
stand for woman's suffrage, although I pointed out to him more than once
that they do not.

The latter part of Titherington's letter was devoted to a carefully
reasoned explanation of the actual victory of O'Donoghue. He accounted
for it in two ways. O'Donoghue's supporters, being inferior in
education and general intelligence to mine, were less likely to be
affected by new and heretical doctrines such as Lalage's. A certain
amount of mental activity is required in order to go wrong. Also,
Lalage's professed admiration for truth made its strongest appeal to
my supporters, because O'Donoghue's friends were naturally addicted
to lying and loved falsehood for its own sake. My side was, in fact,
beaten--I have noticed that this is the case in many elections--because
it was intellectually and morally the better side. This theory would
have been very consoling to me if I had wanted consolation. I did not. I
was far from grudging O'Donoghue his victory. He, so far as I can learn,
is just the man to enjoy hearing other people make long speeches. I have
never developed a taste for that form of amusement.

The day after the declaration of the result of the election a really
serious misfortune befell me. McMeekin himself took influenza. There was
a time when I wished very much to hear that he was writhing in the grip
of the disease. But those feelings had long passed away from my mind. I
no longer wished any ill to McMeekin. I valued him highly as a medical
attendant, and I particularly needed his skill just when he was snatched
away from me, because my nurse was becoming restive. She hinted at
first, and then roundly asserted that I was perfectly well. Nothing
but McMeekin's determined diagnosis of obscure affections of my heart,
lungs, and viscera kept her to her duties. She made more than one
attempt to take me out for a drive. I resisted her, knowing that a drive
would, in the end, take me to the railway station and from that home to
be embroiled in the contest between Lalage and the Diocesan Synod. I had
a letter from my mother urging me to return home at once and hinting at
the possibility of unpleasantness over the election of the new bishop.
This made me the more determined to stay where I was, and so McMeekin's
illness was a very serious blow to me.

I satisfied myself by inquiry that he was not likely to get well
immediately and then I sent for another doctor. This man turned out to
be one of my original supporters and I think his feelings must have been
hurt by my calling in McMeekin. He had also, I could see, been greatly
influenced by Lalage. He told me, with insulting directness of speech,
that there was nothing the matter with me. I could not remember the
names of the diseases which McMeekin said I had or might develop. The
nurse, who could have remembered them if she liked, would not. The new
doctor, an aggressive, red-faced young man, repeated his statement that
I was perfectly well. He emphasized it by refusing to take a fee. My
nurse, with evident delight, packed her box and left by the next train.
After that there was nothing for me but to go home.

My mother must have been disappointed at the result of the East Connor
election. She believed, I fear she still believes, that I am fitted to
make laws and would be happy in the work. But she has great tact. She
did not, by either word or glance, condole with me over my defeat.

I also possess a little tact, so I did not exult or express any
gratification in her presence. We neither of us mentioned the subject of
the election. My uncle Thormanby, on the other hand, has no tact at all.
He came over to luncheon the day after I arrived home. We had scarcely
sat down at table when he began to jeer.

"Well," he said, speaking in his usual hearty full-throated way, "better
luck next time."

"I am not sure," I said, with dignified coolness, "that there will be a
next time."

"Oh, yes, there will. 'He who fights and runs away will live to fight
another day.'"

I did not see how the proverb applied to me.

"Do you mean the influenza?" I said. "That was scarcely my fault. My
temperature was 104."

"All the same," said Thormanby, "you didn't exactly stand up to her, did
you?"

I understood then that he was thinking about La-lage.

"Nor did O'Donoghue," I said. "And Vittie really was shamming.
Titherington told me so."

"Influenza or no influenza, I shouldn't have sat down under the things
that girl was saying about you."

"What would you have done?"

"I should have put her in her place pretty quick. I'm sorry I wasn't
there."

As a matter of fact Thormanby had taken very good care not to be
there. He had washed his hands and put the whole responsibility on the
shoulders of Miss Battersby and Miss Pettigrew. I felt it my duty to
bring this home to his conscience.

"Why didn't you come?" I asked. "We'd have been very pleased to see
you."

"Peers," he replied, "are not allowed to interfere in elections."

This, of course, was a mere subterfuge. I was not inclined to let
Thormanby escape.

"You'll have every opportunity," I said, "of putting her in her place
without running your head against the British constitution. She means to
take an active part in electing the new bishop."

"Nonsense. There's no part for her to take. That's a matter for the
synod of the diocese and she won't be allowed into its meetings."

"All the same she'll manage to get in. But of course that won't matter.
You'll put her in her place pretty quick."

Thormanby's tone was distinctly less confident when he next spoke.

"Do you happen to know," he asked, "what she means to do?"

"No, I don't."

"Could you possibly find out? She might tell you if you asked her."

"I don't intend to ask her. I have washed my hands of the whole affair."

My mother came into the conversation at this point.

"Lalage hasn't confided in me," she said, "but she has told Miss
Battersby----"

"Ah!" I said, "Miss Battersby is so wonderfully sympathetic. Anybody
would confide in her."

"She told Miss Battersby," my mother went on, "that she was studying the
situation and looking into the law of the matter."

"Let her stick to that," said Thormanby.

"Are Hilda and Selby-Harrison down here?" I asked.

"Hilda is," said my mother. "I don't know about the other. Who is he or
she?"

"He," I said, "is the third member of the committee of the Episcopal
Election Guild. He's particularly good at drawing up agreements. I
expect the Archdeacon will have to sign one. By the way, I suppose he's
the proper man to vote for?"

"I'm supporting him," said Thormanby, "so I suppose you will." I do not
like being hustled in this way. "I shall study the situation," I said,
"before I make up my mind. I am a life member of the Episcopal Election
Guild and I must allow myself to be guided to some extent by the
decision of the committee."

"Do you mean to tell me," said Thormanby, "that you've given that girl
money again?"

"Not again. My original subscription carries me on from one society to
another. Selby-Harrison arranged about that."

"I should have thought," said Thormanby sulkily, "that you'd had
warnings enough. You will never learn sense even if you live to be a
hundred."

I saw the Archdeacon next day. He tackled the subject of my defeat in
East Connor without hesitation. He has even less tact than Thormanby.

"I'm sorry for you, my dear boy," he said, wringing my hand, "more sorry
than I can tell you. These disappointments are very hard to bear at your
age. When you are as old as I am and know how many of them life has in
store for all of us, you will not feel them nearly so acutely."

"I'm trying to bear up," I said.

"Your defeat is a public loss. I feel that very strongly. After your
diplomatic experience and with your knowledge of foreign affairs your
advice would have been invaluable in all questions of imperial policy."

"I'm greatly gratified to hear you say that. I was afraid you thought I
had taken to drink."

"My dear boy," said the Archdeacon with pained surprise, "what can have
put such an idea into your head?"

"I couldn't help knowing what was in your mind that day in Dublin when I
spoke to you about Lalage's Jun. Soph. Ord."

I could see that the Archdeacon was uncomfortable. He had certainly
entertained suspicions when we parted in St. Stephen's Green, though he
might now pretend to have forgotten them.

"You thought so then," I went on, "though it was quite early in the
day."

"Not at all. I happened to be in a hurry. That is all. I knew perfectly
well it was only your manner."

"I don't blame you in the least. Anybody might have thought just as you
did."

"But I didn't. I knew you were upset at the time. You were anxious
about Lalage Beresford. She's a charming girl, with a very good heart,
but----"

The Archdeacon hesitated.

"But----" I said, encouraging him to go on.

"Did you hear," he said, anxiously, "that she intends to take part in
the episcopal election? A rumour to that effect has reached me."

"I have it on the best authority that she does."

"Tut, tut," said the Archdeacon. "Do you tell me so? Tut, tut. But
that is quite impossible and most undesirable, for her own sake most
undesirable."

"We're all relying on you to prevent scandal."

"Your uncle, Lord Thormanby----"

"He'll put her in her place. He's promised to do so. And that will be
all right as far as it goes. But the question is will she stay there.
That's where you come in, Archdeacon. Once she's in her place it will be
your business, as Archdeacon, to keep her there."

"I'll speak to her father about it," said the Archdeacon. "Beresford
must put his foot down."

"He's going to Brazil. He told me so."

"We can't have that. He must stay here. It's perfectly impossible for
him to leave the country at present. I'll see him this evening."

I told my mother that night that I had studied the situation long enough
and was fully determined to cast my vote for the Archdeacon.

"He is thoroughly well fitted to be a bishop," I said. "He told me
to-day that my knowledge of foreign affairs would be most valuable to
the government whenever questions of imperial policy turned up."

My mother seemed a little puzzled.

"What has that got to do with the bishopric?" she asked.

"The remark," I said, "shows me the kind of man the Archdeacon is. No
one who was not full of suave dignity and sympathetic diplomacy could
have said a thing like that. What more do you want in a bishop?"

"A great deal more," said my mother, who takes these church questions
seriously.

"He also undertook," I said, "to keep Lalage in her place once she is
put there."

"If he does that----"

"I quite agree with you. If he does that he ought to be a bishop, or a
Metropolitan, if not a Patriarch. That's why I'm going to vote for him."



CHAPTER XVIII

My mother appeared to think that I had grown lazy since I recovered from
my attack of influenza. She continually pressed me to take exercise and
invented a hundred different excuses for getting me out of doors. When
I saw that her heart was really set on seeing me walk I did what I could
to gratify her. I promised to go over to the rectory after luncheon on
the very next fine day. There seemed no prospect of a fine day for at
least a month, and so I felt tolerably safe in making the promise. But
there is nothing so unreliable as weather, especially Irish weather. I
had no sooner made my promise than the clouds began to break. At twelve
o'clock it stopped raining. At one the sun was shining with provoking
brilliancy. I tried to ignore the change and at luncheon complained
bitterly of the cold. My mother, by way of reply, remarked on the
cheerful brightness of the sunshine. She did not, in so many words, ask
me to redeem my promise, but I knew what was in her mind.

"All right," I said, "I'm going. I shall put on a pair of thick boots. I
should prefer driving, but of course----"

"Walking will be much better for you." "That's just what I was going to
say, I shall run a certain amount of risk, of course. I may drop down
exhausted. I am still very weak; weaker than I look. Or I may get
overheated. Or I may get too cold."

My mother, curiously enough, for she was very fond of me, did not seem
frightened.

"McMeekin told me," I went on, "that a relapse after influenza is nearly
always fatal. However, I have made my will and I fully intend to walk."

I did walk as far as the gate lodge and about a hundred yards beyond
it. It was not in any way my fault that I got no farther. I was actually
beginning to like walking and should certainly have gone on if Lalage
had not stopped me. She and Hilda were in the Canon's pony trap, driving
furiously. Lalage held the reins. Hilda clung with both hands to the
side of the trap. The pony was galloping hard and foaming at the mouth.
I stepped aside when I saw them coming and climbed more than halfway up
a large wooden gate which happened to be near me at the time. The road
was very muddy and I did not want to be splashed from head to foot.
Besides, there was a risk of being run over. When Lalage caught sight of
me she pulled up the pony with a jerk.

"We were just going to see you," she said. "It's great luck catching you
like this. What's simony?"

I climbed down from the gate, slowly, so as to get time to think.
The question surprised me and I was not prepared to give, offhand, a
definition of simony.

"I don't know," I said at last, "but I think, in fact I'm nearly sure,
that it is some kind of ecclesiastical offence, perhaps a heresy. Were
you coming to see me in order to find out?"

"Yes, That's the reason we were in such a terrific hurry."

"Quite so," I said. "I was a little surprised at first to see you
galloping, but now I understand."

"Would it," said Lalage, "be simony to cheek an Archdeacon?"

"It might. It very well might. Is that what you've done, Hilda?"

"I didn't," said Hilda.

"You did, just as much as me," said Lalage, "and it was to you he said
it, so he evidently meant you. Not that either of us did cheek him
really."

"Why didn't you ask your father?" I said. "He's a Canon and he'd be
almost sure to know."

"I didn't like to speak to him about it until I knew what it was. It
might turn out to be something that I wouldn't care to talk to him
about, something--you know the kind of thing I mean."

"Improper?"

"Not quite so bad as that, but the same sort."

"Risqué? But surely the Archdeacon wouldn't say anything the least----"

"You never know," said Lalage.

"And if it had been that Hilda would never have done it."

"I didn't," said Hilda.

"Of course if it's nothing worse than ordinary cheek," said Lalage, "I
shouldn't have minded talking to father about it in the least. But I
don't see how it could be that, for we didn't cheek him. Did we, Hilda?"

"I didn't," said Hilda.

"If there'd been anything of the other sort about it--and it sounds
rather like that, doesn't it?"

"Very," I said; "but you can't trust sounds."

"Anyhow, we thought it safer to come to you," said Lalage.

"That was nice of you both."

"I don't see anything nice about it one way or the other," said Lalage.
"We simply thought that if it was anything--anything not quite ladylike,
you'd be sure to know all about it."

I do not know why Lalage should saddle me with a reputation of this
kind. I have never done anything to deserve it. My feelings were hurt.

"As it turns out not to be improper," I said, "there's no use coming to
me."

I spoke severely, in cold tones, with great stiffness of manner. Lalage
was not in the least snubbed.

"Have you any book in the house that would tell you?" she asked.

"I have a dictionary."

"Stupid of me," said Lalage, "not to have thought of a dictionary, and
frightfully stupid of you, Hilda. You ought to have thought of it. You
were always fonder of dictionaries than I was. There are two or three
of them in the rectory. We might have gone straight there and looked it
out. We'll go now."

"If it's a really pressing matter," I said, "you'll save a few minutes
by coming back with me. You're fully a quarter of a mile from the
rectory this minute."

"Right," said Lalage. "Let down the back of the trap and hop up. We'll
drive you."

I let down the seat and then hopped. I hopped quite a long way before
I succeeded in getting up. For Lalage started before I was nearly ready
and urged the pony to a gallop at once. When we reached the house I sent
the unfortunate animal round to the stable yard, with orders that he
was to be carefully rubbed down and then walked about until he was cool.
Lalage, followed by Hilda and afterward by me, went into the library.

"Now," she said, "trot out your best dictionary."

I collected five, one of them an immense work in four volumes, and laid
them in a row on the table.

"Hilda," said Lalage, "look it out."

Hilda chose, the largest dictionary and after a short hesitation picked
up the volume labelled "Jab to Sli." She stared at the word without
speaking for some time after she found it. Lalage and I looked over her
shoulder and, when we saw the definition, stared too. It was Lalage who
read it out in the end:

"Simony from Simon Magus, Acts VIII. The crime of buying or selling
ecclesiastical preferment or the corrupt presentation of any one to an
ecclesiastical benefice for money or reward."

I own that I was puzzled. Lalage is a person of great originality and
daring, but I did not see how even she could possibly have committed
simony. She and Hilda looked at each other. There was an expression of
genuine astonishment on their faces.

"Do you think," said Lalage at last, "that the Archdeacon could by any
chance have gone suddenly dotty in the head?"

"He was quite sane the day before yesterday," I said. "I was talking to
him."

"Well, then, I don't understand it. Whatever else we did we didn't do
that or anything like it. Did we, Hilda?"

"I didn't," said Hilda, who seemed as unwilling as ever to answer for
Lalage.

"For one thing," said Lalage, "we hadn't got any ecclesiastical
preferments to sell and we hadn't any money to buy them, so we couldn't
have simonied even if we'd wanted to. But he certainly said we had. Just
tell exactly what he did say, Hilda. It was to you he said it."

Hilda, with a very fair imitation of the Archdeacon's manner, repeated
his words:

"'Young lady, are you aware that this is the sin of simony?'"

I took the dictionary in my hand.

"There's a bit more," I said, "that you didn't read. Perhaps there is
some secondary meaning in the word. I'll go on: 'By stat: 31 Elizabeth
C. Vn. Severe penalties are enacted against this crime. In the church of
Scotland simonaical practices----' Well, we're not in Scotland anyhow,
so we needn't go into that. I wonder if stat: 31 Elizabeth C. VII runs
in this country. Some don't; but it sounds to me rather as if it would.
If it does, you're in a nasty fix, Lalage; you and Hilda. Several
penalties can hardly mean less than imprisonment with hard labour.

"But we didn't do it," said Lalage.

"The Archdeacon appears to think you did," I said, "both of you,
especially Hilda. You must have done something. You'd better tell me
exactly what occurred from the beginning of the interview until the end.
I'll try and pick out what struck the Archdeacon as simonaical. I don't
want to see either of you run in for severe penalties if we can help it.
I expect the best thing will be to repent and apologize at once."

"Repent of what?" said Lalage.

"That's what I want to find out. Begin at the beginning now and give me
the whole story."

"We drove over this morning," said Lalage, "to see the Archdeacon. I
didn't want to go a bit, for the Archdeacon is particularly horrid when
he's nice, as he is just at present. But Selby-Harrison said we ought."

"Is Selby-Harrison here?"

"No. He wrote from Dublin. He's been looking up the subject of bishops
in the college library so that we'd know exactly what we ought to do."

"He should have looked up simony first thing. I can't forgive
Selby-Harrison for letting you in for those severe penalties."

"There wasn't a bit of harm in what he said. It was nearly all out of
the Bible and the ancient Fathers of the Church and Councils and things.
It couldn't have been simony. You have his letter, haven't you, Hilda?
Read it out."

Hilda opened the small bag she always carries and took out the letter.
It looked to me a very long one.

"I don't know," I said, "that Selby-Harrison's letter really matters
unless you read it out to the Archdeacon."

"We didn't get the chance," said Lalage, "although we meant to."

"Then you needn't read it to me."

"We must. Otherwise you won't know why we went to see the Archdeacon."

"Couldn't you give me in a few words a general idea of the contents of
the letter?"

"You do that, Hilda," said Lalage.

"It was nothing," said Hilda, "but a list of the things a bishop ought
to be."

"Qualifications for the office," said Lalage.

"And you went over to the Archdeacon to find out whether he came up to
the standard. I'm beginning to understand."

"I thought at the time," said Hilda, "that it was rather cheek."

"It was," I said, "but it doesn't seem to me, so far, to amount to
actual simony."

"It was a perfectly natural and straightforward thing to do," said
Lalage. "How could we possibly support the Archdeacon in the election
unless we'd satisfied ourselves that he had the proper qualifications?"

"Anyhow," I said, "whether the Archdeacon mistook it for cheek or
not--and I can quite understand that he might--it wasn't simony."

"That's just what bothers us," said Lalage. "Do you think that
dictionary of yours could possibly be wrong?"

"It might," I said. "Let's try another."

Hilda tried three others. The wording of their definitions varied, but
they were all in substantial agreement with the first.

"There must," I said, "have been something in the questions which you
put to the Archdeacon which suggested simony to his mind. What did you
ask him?"

"I didn't ask him anything. I intended to but I hadn't time. He was on
top of us with his old simony before I opened my mouth."

"You did say one thing," said Hilda.

"Then that must have been it," I said.

"It wasn't in the least simonious," said Lalage. "In fact it
wasn't anything at all. It was merely a polite way of beginning the
conversation."

"All the same," I said. "It was simony. It must have been, for there was
nothing else. What was it?"

"It wasn't of any importance," said Lalage. "I simply said--just in the
way you might say you hoped his cold was better without meaning anything
in particular--that I supposed if he was elected bishop he'd make father
archdeacon."

"Ah!" I said.

"He flew out at that straight away. Rather ridiculous of him, wasn't it?
He can't be both bishop and archdeacon, so he needn't try. He must give
up the second job to some one or other. I'd have thought he'd have seen
that at once."

I referred to the dictionary.

"'Or the corrupt presentation of any one to an eccelesiastical benefice
for money or reward.' That's where he has you, Lalage. You were offering
to present him----"

"I wasn't. How could I?"

"He thought you were, any how, And the reward in this case evidently was
that your father should be made into an archdeacon."

"That's the greatest nonsense I ever heard. It wouldn't be a reward.
Father would simply hate it."

"The Archdeacon couldn't be expected to understand that. Having held the
office for so long himself he naturally regards it as highly desirable."

"What about the penalties?" said Hilda nervously.

"By far the best thing you can do," I said, "is to grovel profusely.
If you both cast ashes on your heads and let the tears run down your
cheeks----"

"If the Archdeacon is such a fool as you're trying to make out," said
Lalage, "I shall simply write to him and say that nothing on earth would
induce me to allow my father to parade the country dressed up in an
apron and a pair of tight black gaiters."

"If you say things like that to him," I said, "he'll exact the
penalties. See stat: 31 Elizabeth C. VII. You may not mind, but Hilda's
mother will."

"Yes," said Hilda, "she'll be frightfully angry."

At this moment my mother came into the library.

"Thank goodness," said Lalage, "we have some one at last who can talk
sense."

My mother looked questioningly at me. I offered her an explanation of
the position in the smallest possible number of words.

"The Archdeacon," I said, "is going to put Lalage and Hilda into prison
for simony."

"He can't," said Lalage, "for we didn't do it."

"They did," I said, "both of them. They offered to present the
Archdeacon corruptly to an ecclesiastical benefice for a reward."

"It wasn't a reward."

"Lalage," said my mother, "have you been meddling with this bishopric
election?"

"I simply tried," said Lalage, "to find out whether he was properly
qualified."

"You did more than that," I said; "you tried to get a reward."

"If you take my advice----" said my mother.

"I will," said Lalage, "and so will Hilda."

That threatening statute of Queen Elizabeth's must have frightened
Lalage. I never before knew her so meek.

"Then leave the question of the Archdeacon's qualifications," said my
mother, "to those who have to elect him."

"Not to me," I said hurriedly. "I couldn't work through that list of
Selby-Harrison's. Try my uncle. Try Lord Thormanby. He'll like it."

"There's one thing----" said Lalage.

"Leave it to the synod," said my mother.

"Or to Lord Thormanby," I said.

"Very well," said Lalage. "I will. But perhaps he won't care to go into
it, and if he doesn't I shall have to act myself."

"He will," I said. "He has a perfectly tremendous sense of
responsibility."

"And now," said my mother, "come along, all of you, to the drawing-room
and have tea."

"Is it all right?" said Hilda anxiously to me as we left the room.

"Quite," I said; "there'll be no prosecution. My mother can do anything
she likes with the Archdeacon, just as she does with Lalage. He'll not
enforce a single penalty."

"She's wonderful," said Hilda.

I quite agreed. She is. Even Miss Pettigrew could not do as much. It was
more by good luck than anything else that she succeeded in luring Lalage
away from Ballygore.



CHAPTER XIX

I congratulated my mother that night on her success in dealing with
Lalage.

"Your combination," I said, "of tact, firmness, sympathy, and
reasonableness was most masterly."

My mother smiled gently. I somehow gathered from her way of smiling that
she thought my congratulations premature.

"Surely," I said, "you don't think she'll break out again. She made you
a definite promise."

"She'll keep her promise to the letter," said my mother, still smiling
in the same way.

"If she does," I said, "she can't do anything very bad."

It turned out--it always does--that my mother was right and I was wrong.
The next morning at breakfast a note was handed to me by the footman.
He said it had been brought over from Thormanby Park by a groom on
horseback. It was marked "Urgent" in red ink.

Thormanby acts at times in a violent and impulsive manner. If I were
his uncle, and so qualified by relationship to give him the advice
he frequently gives me, I should recommend him to cultivate repose of
manner and leisurely dignity of action. He is a peer of this realm, and
has, besides, been selected by his fellow peers to represent them in
the House of Lords. He ought not to send grooms scouring the country at
breakfast time, carrying letters which look, on the outside, as if they
announced the discovery of dangerous conspiracies. I said this and more
to my mother before opening the envelope, and she seemed to agree with
me that the political and social decay of our aristocracy is to some
extent to be traced to their excitability and lack of self-control. By
way of demonstrating my own calm, I laid the envelope down beside my
plate and refrained from opening it until I had finished the kidney I
was eating at the time. The letter, when I did read it, turned out to be
quite as hysterical as the manner of its arrival. Thormanby summoned me
to his presence--there is no other way of describing the style in which
he wrote--and ordered me to start immediately.

"I can't imagine what has gone wrong," I said. "Do you think that Miss
Battersby can have gone suddenly mad and assaulted one of the girls with
a battle axe?"

"It is far more likely that Lalage has done something," said my mother.

"After her promise to you what could she have done?"

"She might have kept it."

I thought this over and got a grip on the meaning by degrees.

"You mean," I said, "that she has appealed to my uncle on some point
about the Archdeacon's qualifications."

"Exactly."

"But that wouldn't upset him so much."

"It depends on what the point is."

"She's extraordinarily ingenious," I said. "Perhaps I'd better go over
to Thormanby Park and see."

"Finish your breakfast," said my mother. "I'll order the trap for you."

I arrived at Thormanby Park shortly after ten o'clock. The door was
opened to me by Miss Battersby. She confessed that she had been watching
for me from the window of the morning room which looks out over the
drive. She squeezed my hand when greeting me and held it so long that
I was sure she was suffering from some acute anxiety. She also spoke
breathlessly, in a sort of gasping whisper, as if she had been running
hard. She had not, of course, run at all. The gasps were due to
excitement and agony.

"I'm so glad you've come," she said. "I knew you would. Lord Thormanby
is waiting for you in the library. I do hope you won't say anything to
make it worse. You'll try not to, won't you?"

I gathered from this that it, whatever it was, must be very bad already.

"Lalage?" I said.

Miss Battersby nodded solemnly.

"My mother told me it must be that, before I started."

"If you could," said Miss Battersby persuasively, "and if you would----"

"I can and will," I said. "What is it?"

"I don't know. But I can't bear to think of poor little Lalage bearing
all the blame."

"I can't well take the blame," I said, "although I'm perfectly willing
to do so, unless I can find out what it is she's done."

"I don't know. I wish I did. There was a letter from her this morning to
Lord Thormanby, but he didn't show it to me."

"If it's in her handwriting," I said, "there's no use my saying I wrote
it. He wouldn't believe me. But if it's typewritten and not signed, I'll
say it's mine."

"Oh, I wouldn't ask you to do so much as that. Besides, it wouldn't be
true."

"It won't be true in any case," I said, "if I take even part of the
blame."

"But you mustn't say what isn't true."

Miss Battersby is unreasonable, though she means well. It is clearly
impossible for me to be strictly truthful and at the same time to claim,
as my own, misdeeds of which I do not even know the nature. I walked
across the hall in the direction of the library door. Miss Battersby
followed me with her hand on my arm.

"Do your best for her," she whispered pleadingly.

Thormanby was certainly in a very bad temper. He was sitting at the far
side of a large writing table when I entered the room. He did not rise
or shake hands with me. He simply pushed a letter across the table
toward me with the end of a paper knife. His action gave me the
impression that the letter was highly infectious.

"Look at that," he said.

I looked and saw at once that it was in Lalage's handwriting. I was
obliged to give up the idea of claiming it as mine.

"Why don't you read it?" said Thormanby.

"I didn't know you wanted me to. Do you?"

"How the deuce are you to know what's in it if you don't read it?"

"It's quite safe, I suppose?"

"Safe? Safe? What do you mean?"

"When I saw you poking at it with that paper knife I thought it might be
poisoned."

Thormanby growled and I took up the letter. Lalage has a courteous but
perfectly lucid style. I read:

"Dear Lord Thormanby, as a member of the Diocesan Synod you are, I feel
sure, quite as anxious as I am that only a really suitable man should
be elected bishop. I therefore enclose a carefully drawn list of the
necessary and desirable qualifications for that office."

"You have the list?" I said.

"Yes. She sent the thing. She has cheek enough for anything."

"Selby-Harrison drew it up, so if there's anything objectionable in it
he's the person you ought to blame, not Lalage."

I felt that I was keeping my promise to Miss Battersby. I had succeeded
in implicating another culprit. Not more than half the blame was now
Lalage's.

"The _sine qua nons_," the letter went on, "are marked with red crosses,
the _desiderata_ in black."

"I'm glad," I said, "that she got one plural right. By the way, I wonder
what the plural of that phrase really is. It can't be _sines qua non_,
and yet _sine quibus_ sounds pedantic."

I said this in the hope of mitigating Thormanby's wrath by turning his
thoughts into another channel.

I failed. He merely growled again. I went on reading the letter:

"You will observe at once that the Archdeacon, whom we should all like
to have as our new bishop, possesses every requirement for the office
except one, number fifteen on the enclosed list, marked for convenience
of reference, with a violet asterisk."

"What is the missing _sine qua?_" I asked. "Don't tell me if it's
private."

"It's--it's--damn it all, look for yourself." He flung a typewritten
sheet of foolscap at me. I picked my way carefully among the red and
black crosses until I came to the violet asterisk.

"No. 15. 'A bishop must be the husband of one wife'--I Tim: III."

"That's rather a poser," I said, "if true. It seems to me to put the
Archdeacon out of the running straight off."

"No. It doesn't," said Thormanby. "That's where the girl's infernal
insolence comes in."

I read:

"This obstacle, though under the present circumstances an absolute bar,
is fortunately remedial."

"I wish Lalage would be more careful," I said, "she ought to have
written 'remediable.' However her meaning is quite plain."

"It gets plainer further on," said Thormanby grinning.

This was the first time I had seen him grin since I came into the room.
I took it for an encouraging sign.

Lalage's letter went on:

"The suggestion of the obvious remedy, must be made by some one, for
the Archdeacon has evidently not thought of it himself. It would come
particularly well from you, occupying as you do a leading position in
the diocese. Unfortunately the time at our disposal is very short,
and it will hardly do to leave the Archdeacon without some practical
suggestion for the immediate-remedying of the sad defect. What you will
have to offer him is a scheme thoroughly worked out and perfect in every
detail. The name of Miss Battersby will probably occur to you at once. I
need not remind you of her sweet and lovable disposition. You have been
long acquainted with her, and will recognize in her a lady peculiarly
well suited to share an episcopal throne."

Thormanby became almost purple in the face as I read out the final
sentences of the letter. I saw that he was struggling with some strong
emotion and suspected that he wanted very much to laugh. If he did he
suppressed the desire manfully. His forehead was actually furrowed with
a frown when I had finished. I laid the letter down on the table and
tapped it impressively with my forefinger.

"That," I said, "strikes me as a remarkably good suggestion."

Thormanby exploded.

"Of all the damned idiots I've ever met," he said, "you're the worst.
Do you mean to say that you expect me to drag Miss Battersby over to the
Archdeacon's house and dump her down there in a white satin dress with
a wedding ring tied round her neck by a ribbon and a stodgy cake tucked
under her arm?"

"I haven't actually worked out all the details," I said. "I am thinking
more of the plan in its broad outlines. After all, the Archdeacon isn't
married. We can't get over that. If that text of First Timothy is really
binding--I don't myself know whether it is or not, but I'm inclined
to take Selby-Harrison's word for it that it is. He's in the Divinity
School and has been making a special study of the subject. If he's
right, there's no use our electing the Archdeacon and then having the
Local Government Board coming down on us afterward for appointing an
unqualified man. You remember the fuss they made when the Urban District
Council took on a cookery instructress who hadn't got her diploma."

"That wasn't the Local Government Board. It was the Department of
Agriculture. But in any case neither the one nor the other of them has
anything in the world to do with bishops."

"Don't you be too sure of that. I expect you'll find they have if you
appoint a man who isn't properly qualified, and the law on the subject
is perfectly plain."

"Rot! Lots of bishops aren't married. Texts of that sort never mean what
they seem to mean."

"What's the good of running risks," I said, "when the remedy is in our
own hands? I don't see that the Archdeacon could do better than Miss
Battersby. She's wonderfully sympathetic."

"You'd better go and tell him so yourself."

"I would, I'd go like a shot, only most unluckily he's got it into his
head that I've taken to drink. He might think, just at first, that I
wasn't quite myself if I went to him with a suggestion of that sort."

"There'd be some excuse for him if he did," said Thormanby.

"Whereas, if you, who have always been strictly temperate----"

"I didn't send for you," said Thormanby, "to stand there talking like a
born fool. What I want you to do----"

He paused and blew his nose with some violence.

"Yes?" I said.

"Is to go and put a muzzle on that girl of Beresford's."

"If you're offering me a choice," I said, "I'd a great deal rather drag
Miss Battersby over to the Archdeacon's house and dump her down there in
a wedding ring with a white satin dress tied round her neck by a ribbon.
I might manage that, but I'm constitutionally unfitted to deal with
Lalage. It was you who said you would put her in her place. I told the
Archdeacon he could count on you."

"I'll see Beresford to-day, anyhow."

"Not the least use. He's going to one of the South American republics
where there's no extradition."

"I'll speak to your mother about it."

"As a matter of fact," I said, "Lalage is acting strictly in accordance
with my mother's instructions in referring this matter to you. Why not
try Miss Pettigrew?"

"I will. Who is she?"

"She used to be Lalage's schoolmistress."

"Does she use the cane?"

"This," I said, "is entirely your affair. I've washed my hands of it
so I'm not even offering advice, but if I were you I'd be careful about
anything in the way of physical violence. Remember that Lalage has
Selby-Harrison behind her and he knows the law. You can see for yourself
by the way he ferreted out that text of First Timothy that he has the
brain of a first-rate solicitor."

I left the room after that. In the hall Miss Battersby waylaid me again.

"Is it all right?" she asked anxiously.

"Not quite. My uncle is writing to Miss Pettigrew."

"She won't come. I'm sure she won't. She told me herself when we were in
Ballygore that for the future she intends to watch Lalage's performances
from a distance."

"She may make an exception in this case," I said. "If my uncle states
it at all fully in his letter it can scarcely fail to make an appeal to
her."

Miss Battersby sighed. She was evidently not hopeful.

"Lalage is such a dear girl," she said. "It is a sad pity that she
will----"

"She's always trying to do right."

"Always," said Miss Battersby fervently.

"That's why it's generally so difficult for other people."

"The world," said Miss Battersby, "is very hard."

"And desperately wicked. If it were even moderately straightforward and
honest Lalage would have been canonized long ago."

"She's a little foolish sometimes."

"All great reformers," I said, "appear foolish to the people of their
own generation. It's only afterward that their worth is recognized."

Miss Battersby sighed again. Then she shook hands with me.

"I must go to Lord Thormanby," she said, "He'll want me to write his
letters for him."

"He won't want you to write that one to Miss Pettigrew. He has his
faults of temper, but he's essentially a gentleman, and he wouldn't
dream of asking you to write that particular letter for him. I don't
think you need go to him yet. Stay and talk to me about Lalage and the
hardness of the world."

"If he doesn't want me," she said, "I ought to settle the flowers."

It really is a pity that Thormanby will not persuade the Archdeacon to
marry Miss Battersby. Besides being sweet and lovable, as Lalage pointed
out, she has a strong sense of duty which would be quite invaluable
in the diocese. Very few people after an agitating morning would go
straight off to settle flowers.



CHAPTER XX

I looked at my watch as I got into my trap and found that it was eleven
o'clock, not more than two hours since my uncle's letter had been handed
to me at the breakfast table. Yet I felt thoroughly tired. No one who
has only just recovered from influenza ought to be called upon to face
a crisis. At the best of times a crisis of any magnitude is too much for
me. When I am weak anything of the sort exhausts me rapidly. It is most
unfair that I should be beset with crises as I am. Other men, men who
like excitement and unexpected calls for exertion, are condemned to
years of unbroken monotony. I, who desire nothing so much as peace,
have tumult and turmoil thrust upon me. I drove down the long avenue of
Thormanby Park and determined to get home as quickly as possible. There
is a greenhouse at the bottom of our garden which at that time was quite
unfrequented because something had gone wrong with the heating apparatus
and the more delicate plants had been removed from it. I intended to
retire to it as soon as I got home with a hammock chair and a novel. I
had every hope of being left in peace for an hour or so.

That was my plan. It proved, as all my plans do, unworkable; but, as
is always the case, through no fault of my own. At the gate lodge of
Thormanby Park I met Lalage. She was riding a bicycle and jumped down as
soon as she saw me. I pulled up my pony, of course. Even if Lalage
had not jumped down I should have pulled up the pony. Lalage is a sure
harbinger of trouble. Crises attend her course through life. Yet I
cannot help stopping to talk to her when I get the chance. I suppose I
am moved by some obscure instinct which makes me wish to know the worst
in store for me as soon as possible.

"I'm darting on," said Lalage, "to secure Pussy Battersby, but I
stopped for a moment to tell you to go straight to the rectory."

"You can't get Miss Battersby now. She's settling flowers."

"I must. She's of the utmost importance. I must bring her back with me."

"Has the Archdeacon arrived unexpectedly?"

"No. What on earth put that into your head? Good-bye."

"Wait a minute, Lalage. Take my advice and don't go on. It's not safe.
My uncle is threatening you with all sorts of violence. You can guess
the sort of temper he's in."

"Gout?"

"No. Your letter."

"My letter? Oh, yes. I'd forgotten that letter for the moment. You mean
the one I wrote to him about the Archdeacon's marriage."

"Now you know why you'd better not go near him for a day or two."

"Silly old ass, isn't he, to lose his temper about that? But I can't
stop to argue. I must get Pussy Battersby at once. There isn't a moment
to spare."

"If the Archdeacon hasn't turned up, what on earth do you want her for?"

"The fact is," said Lalage, "that Hilda's mother is at the rectory."

"I thought she'd arrive some day. You couldn't expect to keep her at bay
forever. The wonder is that she didn't come long ago."

"She travelled by the night mail and was rather dishevelled when she
arrived, hair a bit tousled, a smut on the end of her nose and a general
look of crinklyness about her clothes. Hilda has been in floods of tears
and sobbing like a steam engine all morning."

"I don't wonder at all. Any nice-minded girl would. It can't be pleasant
for her to see her mother in such a state."

"Don't drivel," said Lalage. "Hilda isn't crying for that. She's not a
perfect idiot, whatever you may say."

"I didn't say anything of the sort. I said she was a nice-minded girl."

"Same thing," said Lalage, "and she's not either the one or the other."

"Then why is she crying?"

"Because her mother is taking her home. That's the reason I'm going for
Pussy Battersby."

"She'll be a poor substitute for Hilda," I said. "She'll boggle at
simony every time."

"What are you talking about now?"

"Miss Battersby. I'm trying to explain that she'll hardly be able to
take Hilda's place as the companion of your revels."

"What I'm getting her for," said Lalage severely, "is to restore the
confidence of Hilda's mother. She doesn't trust me one bit, silly
of her, isn't it? And she's ragged poor father into a condition of
incoherence."

"Will Miss Battersby be any use? I should hardly have thought her the
sort of person who would deal successfully with a frantic mother."

"She's tremendously respectable," said Lalage, "and Hilda's mother will
have absolute confidence in her the moment she sees her. Remember how
she agreed to that Portugal trip once she knew Pussy was to be with
us, and she hadn't even seen her then. When I trot her out there'll be
absolutely no further trouble. Good-bye, I must be darting on."

Lalage put her foot on the pedal and balanced the bicycle.

I stopped her again.

"You said something about my going to the rectory," I said. "What am I
to do when I get there?"

"Attend to Hilda's mother of course."

"Do you mean that I'm to take a basin of hot water and a sponge and wash
her nose? I couldn't possibly. I don't know her nearly well enough. I'd
hardly venture to do such a thing to Hilda herself."

"I wasn't thinking of the smut on her nose," said Lalage. "What I want
you to do is to keep her in play till I get back. I sha'n't be long, but
it's not possible to start Pussy Battersby off on the first hop. She'll
want to titivate a little."

"If you think I'll be any use----"

"Of course you will. You're very nearly as respectable to look at as
Pussy Battersby."

"I shall hate to see Hilda crying."

"Then cheer her up. Good-bye for the present."

This time Lalage really did mount the bicycle. I drove on in the
direction of the rectory, turning over in my mind various plans for
keeping Hilda's mother in play. Some of them were very good plans which
I think would have been successful, but I shall never be certain about
that because I did not have the chance of putting them to the test.

A mile from the rectory gate I met a car. There was a good deal of
luggage piled on the well, and two ladies sat together on one side. I
recognized Hilda at once. The other lady I supposed, quite rightly, to
be her mother. I ought, I saw afterward, to have made some effort, even
at that eleventh hour, to keep her in play. I do not think I could have
succeeded, but it was certainly my duty to try. My nerve unfortunately
failed and I simply drove past, raising my hat and bowing sorrowfully to
Hilda.

When the car was out of sight I stopped to consider my position. There
was nothing to prevent my returning home at once and settling down, as
I had originally planned, in the corner of the deserted greenhouse. My
inclination was, of course, to do this, but it occurred to me that it
would be a charitable and kindly action to comfort Canon Beresford. He
had, so Lalage told me, been reduced to a condition of incoherence by
the ragging of Hilda's mother. He was also likely to have been a good
deal distressed by the sight of Hilda's tears and the sound of her sobs.
He would probably be sorry to lose Hilda. In spite of anything Lalage
might say I still believed Hilda to be a nice-minded girl, the sort of
girl that any man would like to have staying in his house. For all three
reasons the Canon would require sympathy and comfort. I drove on to the
rectory.

There I had, once more, to reconsider my position. The Canon was
comforting himself. He had, so the maid informed me, gone out fishing.
My first impulse was to start for home with a sigh of relief.. Then
I remembered that some one would have to explain to Lalage and Miss
Battersby that Hilda and her mother had really gone. The Canon would not
be able to do this because he had gone out fishing before they left. The
maid was obviously a stupid girl. It seemed to be my duty to wait for
Lalage and tell her, soothingly, what had happened. I went into the
Canon's study and made myself comfortable with a pipe.

At about one o'clock Lalage arrived without Miss Battersby. She made
no comment at first on the absence of Hilda's mother. Her mind had
evidently been turned away from that subject. She flung herself into a
chair, and dragged furiously at the pins which fastened on her hat. When
she had worked them loose she threw the hat itself on the floor.

"Great Scott!" she said. "I've had a time of it!"

"I rather thought you would."

"Curious, isn't it? For he can be a perfect pet when he likes. Glad I
don't get gout."

"You know perfectly well that it wasn't gout which was the matter with
him this time."

"It can't have been all my letter, can it?"

"It was," I said.

"Of course I wasn't going to stand that sort of thing," said Lalage.

"What sort of thing?"

"The way he talked, or, rather, tried to talk. I soon stopped him.
That's what makes me so hot. I wish you'd seen poor Pussy's face. I was
afraid every minute he'd mention her name and then she would have died
of shame. That's just the kind of thing which would make Pussy really
ill."

"What did you say to him?"

"I told him that it was his plain duty to put the matter before the
Archdeacon and that if he didn't do it I should simply get some one else
and then he'd jolly well feel ashamed of himself and be afraid to look
any one in the face for weeks and weeks. I didn't mention that Pussy
was the future wife, of course. I'm much too fond of her to hurt her
feelings."

I should have liked to hear a description of the expression on Miss
Battersby's face. I should also have liked to hear what my uncle said in
reply to Lalage's remarks, but I felt an anxiety so acute as greatly to
dull my curiosity.

"Had you any one particular in your mind," I asked, "when you said that
you'd get somebody else to go to the Archdeacon?"

"Of course I had," said Lalage. "You."

"I was just afraid you might be thinking of that."

"You'll do it of course."

"No," I said, "I won't. There are reasons which I gave to my uncle this
morning which made it quite impossible for me----"

"You're not thinking of marrying her yourself, are you?"

"Certainly not."

"Then there can't be any real reason----"

"Lalage," I said, "there is. I don't like to mention the subject to you;
but the fact is----"

"If it's anything disagreeable I'd much rather not hear it."

"It is, very; though it's not true."

"You appear to me to be getting into a tangle," said Lalage, "so you'd
better not go on. If you're afraid of the Archdeacon--and I suppose that
is what your excuses will come to in the end--I'll do it myself. After
all, you'd most likely have made a mess of it."

I bore the insult meekly. I was anxious, if possible, to persuade Lalage
to drop the idea of marrying the Archdeacon to Miss Battersby.

"Remember your promise to my mother," I said.

"I've kept it. I submitted the matter to Lord Thormanby just as I said I
would. If he won't act I can't help it."

"The Archdeacon will be frightfully angry."

Lalage sniffed slightly. I could see that the thought of the
Archdeacon's wrath did not frighten her. I should have been surprised if
it had. After facing Thormanby in the morning the Archdeacon would seem
nothing. I adopted another line.

"Are you perfectly certain," I said, "about that text? Don't you think
that if it's really in the Bible the Archdeacon would have seen it?"

"He might have overlooked it," said Lalage; "in fact, he must have
overlooked it. If he'd come across it he'd have got married at once.
Anybody can see that he wants to be a bishop."

This seemed unanswerable. Yet I could not believe that the Archdeacon,
who has been a clergyman for many years, could have failed to read the
epistle in which the verse occurs. I made another effort.

"Most likely," I said, "that text means something quite different."

"It can't. The words are as plain as possible."

"Have you looked at the original Greek?"

"No, I haven't. What would be the good of doing that? And, besides, I
don't know Greek."

"Then you may be sure," I said, "that the original Greek alters the
whole thing. I've noticed hundreds of times that when a text seems to
be saying anything which doesn't work out in practice the original Greek
sets it right."

"I know that," said Lalage. "At least I've often heard it. But it
doesn't apply to cases like this. What on earth else could this mean in
the original Greek or any other language you like to translate it into?
'A bishop is to be the husband of one wife.' I looked it out myself to
make sure that Selby-Harrison had made no mistake."

The text certainly seemed uncompromising. I had talked bravely about the
original Greek, but I doubted in my own mind whether even it would offer
a loophole of escape for the Archdeacon.

"It may," I said, desperately, "merely mean that a bishop mayn't have
two wives."

"Do talk sense," said Lalage. "What would be the point of saying that
a bishop mayn't have two? It's hard enough to get a man like the
Archdeacon to have one. Besides, if that's what it means, then other
people, not bishops, are allowed to have two wives, which is perfectly
absurd. It would be bigamy and that's far worse than what the Archdeacon
said I'd done. Where's Hilda?"

Lalage's way of dismissing a subject of which she is tired is abrupt but
unmistakable. I told her that Hilda and her mother had gone.

"That's a pity," said Lalage. "I should have liked to take Hilda with me
this afternoon."

"Are you going to do it so soon?"

"The election is next week," said Lalage, "so we haven't a moment to
lose."

"Well," I said, "if you're really going to do it, I shall be greatly
obliged if you'll let me know afterward exactly what the Archdeacon
says."

"I will if you like," said Lalage, "but there won't be anything to tell
you. He'll simply thank me for bringing the point under his notice."

"I'm not a betting man, but if I were I'd wager a pretty large sum that
whatever the Archdeacon does he won't thank you."

"Have you any reason to suppose that he has a special objection to Pussy
Battersby?"

"None in the world. I'm sure he respects her. We all do."

"Then I don't see what you mean by saying that he won't thank me. He's
a tiresome old thing, especially when he tries to be polite, which he's
always doing, but he's not by any means a fool where his own interests
are concerned. He'll see at once that I'm doing him a kindness."

I found nothing more to say, so I left Lalage. I had at all events, done
my best. I drove home.



CHAPTER XXI

I was late for luncheon, very late. My mother had left the dining-room
when I got home, but I found her and she readily agreed to leave the
letters she was writing and to sit beside me while I ate. It was not, as
I discovered, sympathy for my exhaustion and hunger which induced her to
do this. She was full of curiosity.

"Well," she said, as I helped myself to some cold pie, "what was it?"

"It was Lalage," I said. "You guessed that before I started."

There was a short pause during which I ate some of the cold pie and
found out that it was made, partly at least, of veal. Then my mother
asked another question:

"Has she hit on anything unexpected?"

"Quite. She wants Thormanby to insist on the Archdeacon marrying Miss
Battersby."

Even my mother was startled. She gave utterance to an exclamation. If she
had been a man she would have sworn. I soothed her.

"It's not really a bad scheme," I said, "when you get over the first
shock. The Archdeacon, it appears, is bound to marry."

"Why?"

"Timothy says so or seems to say so. Perhaps he didn't really. What is
the proper, regularly received interpretation of that text which says
that a bishop is to be the husband of one wife?"

"There are several."

"The Archdeacon is sure to know them, I suppose."

"Oh, yes. He's certain to know them."

"He'll want them all this afternoon. Lalage is going to him with that
text drawn in her hand. She's also taking Miss Battersby, a wedding
ring, a cake, and a white satin dress. I'm speaking figuratively of
course."

"I hope so. But however figurative your way of putting it may be, I'm
afraid that the Archdeacon won't be pleased."

"So I told Lalage. But she's quite certain that he will. I should say
myself that he'd dislike it several degrees more than he did the simony.
I often think it's a pity the Archdeacon hasn't any sense of humour."

"No sense of humour would enable him to see that joke."

"Thormanby," I said, "has been employed all morning in writing letters
and appealing telegrams to Miss Petti-grew; but even if she comes it
will be too late."

"I hope Miss Battersby hasn't been told."

"Not by Lalage. She felt that there would be a certain want of delicacy
about mentioning the subject to her before the Archdeacon had spoken."

My mother sighed.

"I'm very fond of Lalage," she said, "but I sometimes wish she was----"

"That's just what Miss Battersby was saying this morning. I quite agree
with you both that life would be simpler if she was, but of course she
isn't."

"What Lalage wants is some steadying influence."

"Miss Pettigrew," I said, "suggested marriage and babies. I don't think
she mentioned the number of babies, but several would be required."

My mother looked at me in much the same curious way that Miss Pettigrew
did on the afternoon when she and Canon Beresford visited me in
Ballygore. I felt the same unpleasant sense of embarrassment. I finished
my glass of claret hurriedly, and without waiting for coffee, which
would probably have been cold, left the room.

I went about the house and made a collection of the articles I was
likely to want during the afternoon. I got a hammock chair with a leg
rest, four cushions, a pipe, a tin of tobacco, three boxes of matches,
and a novel called "Sword Play." With these in my arms I staggered
across the garden and made for the nook to which I had been looking
forward all day. A greenhouse which is not sacrificed to flowers is
a very pleasant place at certain seasons of the year. In Spring, for
instance, when the sun is shining, I am tempted to go out of doors. But
in Spring there are cold winds which drive me in again. In a greenhouse
the sun is available and the winds are excluded. If the heating
apparatus is out of order, as it fortunately was in the case of my
greenhouse, the temperature is warm without stuffiness. I shut the door,
pulled a tree fern in a heavy pot out of my way, and then found out by
experiment which of the angles of all at which a hammock chair can be
set is the most comfortable. Then I placed my four cushions just where
I like them, one under my head, one to give support to the small of my
back, one under my knees, and one beside my left elbow. I lit my pipe
and put the three boxes of matches in different places, so that when I
lost one I should, while searching for it, be pretty sure of coming on
another.

I opened my novel. It was about a gentleman of title who in his day
was the best swordsman in Europe. He loved a scornful lady with great
devotion. I read a hundred pages with dwindling attention and at last
found that I had failed to be excited by the story of a prolonged duel
fought on the brink of a precipice under the shadow of an ancient castle
from the battlements of which the scornful lady was looking down. I was
vexed with myself, for I ought to have enjoyed the scene. I turned back
and read the whole chapter through a second time. Again I somehow missed
the emotion of it. My mind kept wandering from the lunging figures
on the edge of the cliff to a vision of Lalage in a dark green dress
speeding along the road on her bicycle.

I laid down the novel and set myself the pleasant task of constructing
imaginary interviews between Lalage and the Archdeacon. As a rule I
enjoy the meanderings of my own imagination, and in this particular
case I had provided it with material to work on much more likely to be
entertaining than the gambols of the expert swordsman or the scorn of
the lady above him. But my imagination failed me. It pictured Lalage
well enough. But the Archdeacon, for some reason, would not take
shape. I tried again and again with no better success. The image of the
Archdeacon got fainter and fainter, until I could no longer visualize
even his apron.

At some time, perhaps an hour after I had settled down, I went to sleep.
I cannot fix, or make any attempt at fixing, the exact moment at which
the conscious effort of my imagination passed into the unconscious
romance building of dream. But I know that the Archdeacon totally
disappeared, while Lalage, a pleasantly stimulating personality, haunted
me. I may have slept for an hour, perhaps for an hour and a half.
Looking back on the afternoon, and arranging its chronology to fit
between two fixed points of time, I am certain that I did not sleep for
more than an hour and a half. It was a few minutes after two o'clock
when I sat down to luncheon. I am sure of this, because my mother's eyes
sought the clock on the chimney piece when we entered the dining-room
together and mine followed them. It was half-past five when I saw her
again in the drawing-room. I am equally sure of this because she kissed
me three times rather effusively and I was obliged to look at my watch
to hide my embarrassment. Between two o'clock and half-past five I
lunched, smoked, read, slept, and played a part in certain other events.
This makes it tolerably certain that I did not sleep for more than an
hour and a half.

I was wakened by a most violent opening of the greenhouse door and a
tempestuous rustling of the fronds of the tree fern which I had moved.
Then Lalage burst upon me. My first impulse was to struggle out of my
chair and offer it to her. She made a motion of excited refusal and I
sank back again. I noticed, while she stood before me, that her face
was unusually flushed. It seemed to me that she was passing through what
McMeekin used to describe as a nerve storm. I leaped to the conclusion
that the Archdeacon had not taken kindly to the idea of a marriage with
Miss Battersby.

"How did it go off?" I asked.

"Where's your mother?" said Lalage.

"She's not here. You ought to know better than to expect her to be
here. Is she the sort of person who'd waste an afternoon in a disused
greenhouse? She's probably doing something useful. Did you ask if she
was covering pots of marmalade?"

"I've searched everywhere."

"Never mind. She's certain to turn up for tea."

Lalage stamped her foot.

"I want her at once," she said. "I want to talk to her."

"I'm a very poor substitute for my mother, of course; but if you can't
find her----"

"I've something to tell her," said Lalage; "something that I simply must
tell to somebody."

"I shall be delighted to listen."

Lalage hesitated. She was drumming with her fingers on the edge of an
empty flower pot as if she were playing a very rapid fantasia on the
piano. This seemed to me a further symptom of nerve storm. I encouraged
her to speak, as tactfully as I could.

"Has Miss Battersby," I asked, "rebelled against her destiny?"

Lalage's face suddenly puckered up in a very curious way. I should have
supposed that she was on the verge of tears if there existed any record
of her ever having shed tears. But no one, not even her most intimate
friend ever heard of her crying; so I came to the conclusion that she
wanted to laugh. I felt uneasy, for Lalage usually laughs without any
preliminary puckerings of her face.

"Perhaps," I said, "you're thinking of the Archdeacon."

"I am," said Lalage.

She spoke with a kind of gulp which in the case of Hilda would certainly
have been a premonitory symptom of tears.

"Did he make himself particularly disagreeable?"

Greatly to my relief Lalage laughed. It was an excited, unnatural laugh;
and it was not very far from crying. Still it was a laugh.

"No," she said. "He made himself particularly agreeable, too agreeable;
at least he tried to."

Then she laughed again and this time the laughing did her good. She
became calmer and sat down on the edge of an iron water tank which stood
in the corner of the greenhouse. I warned her of the danger of falling
in backward. I also offered her one of my cushions to put on the edge
of the tank, which looked to me hard. She laughed in reply. My cigarette
case was, very fortunately, in my pocket. I fished it out and asked her
if she would like to smoke. She took a cigarette and lit it. I could see
that it helped to calm her still further.

"Go on with your story," I said.

"Where was I?"

She spoke quite naturally. The laughter and the cigarette, between them,
had saved her from the attack which for some time was threatening.

"You hadn't actually begun," I said. "You had only mentioned that the
Archdeacon was, or tried to be, unusually, even excessively, agreeable."

"He was writing letters in his study," said Lalage, "when I knocked at
the door and walked in on him. I apologized at once for interrupting
him."

"You were quite right to do that."

"He said he didn't mind a bit; in fact, liked it. Then he looked like a
sheep. You know the sort of way a sheep looks?"

"Woolly?"

"Yes, frightfully, and worse. If I'd had a single grain of sense I
should have bolted at once. Anybody might have known what was coming."

"I shouldn't. In fact, even now that I know something came, I can't
guess what it was."

"Instead of bolting I brought out that text of Selby-Harrison's. He took
it like a lamb."

"Woolly again, only a softer kind of wool."

"No," said Lalage, "just meekly; though of course he went on being
woolly."

"There are several authorized interpretations of that text. My mother
told me so this afternoon. I suppose the Archdeacon trotted them all out
one by one?"

"No. I told you he took it like a lamb. Why won't you try to
understand?"

"Anyhow," I said, "his demeanour was most encouraging to you. I suppose
you suggested Miss Battersby to him at once?"

"No, I didn't. I couldn't."

Lalage hesitated again. She was not speaking with her usual fluency. I
tried to help her out.

"Something in the glare of his eyes stopped you," I said. "I have always
heard that the human eye possesses remarkable power."

"There was something in his eye," said Lalage, "but not that."

"It stopped you though, whatever it was."

"No, it didn't. I wish it had. I might have cleared out at once if it
had."

"If it wasn't a glare, what was it? I can't imagine a better opportunity
for mentioning Miss Battersby."

"He didn't give me time."

"Do you mean to say he pushed you out of the room?"

"No."

"Did he swear? I once heard of an Archdeacon swearing under great
provocation."

"No."

"I can't guess any more, Lalage. I really can't. You'll have to tell me
what it was."

"He said he'd get married with pleasure."

"But not to Miss Battersby. I'm beginning to see now. Who is the
fortunate lady?"

"Me," said Lalage.

"Good heavens, Lalage! You don't mean to say you're going to marry the
Archdeacon?"

"You're as bad as he was," said Lalage angrily. "I won't have such
horrid things said to me. I don't see why I should be insulted by every
one I meet. I wish I hadn't told you. I ought not to have told you. I
ought to have gone on looking for your mother until I found her."

I was immensely, unreasonably relieved. The idea of Lalage marrying the
Archdeacon had been a severe shock to me.

"The Archdeacon's proposal----" I said. "By the way, you couldn't
possibly have been mistaken about it, could you? He really did?"

Lalage blushed hotly.

"He did," she said, "really."

"That just shows," I said, "what a tremendous impression you made on him
with Selby-Harrison's text."

"It wasn't the text at all. He said it had been the dearest wish of his
heart for years. Can you imagine anything more silly?"

"I see now," I said, "why he always took such an interest in everything
you did and went out of his way to try to keep you from getting into
mischief. I think better of the Archdeacon than I ever did before."

"He's a horrid old beast.'"

"You can't altogether blame him, though."

"I can.

"You oughtn't to, for you don't know----"

"I do know."

"No, you don't. Not what I mean."

"What do you mean? I don't believe you mean anything."

"You don't know the temptation."

Lalage stared at me.

"I've often felt it myself," I said.

Lalage still stared. She was usually quick witted, but on this occasion
she seemed to me to be positively dull. I suppose that the nerve storm
through which she had passed had temporarily paralyzed the gray matter
of her brain. I made an effort to explain myself.

"You must surely realize," I said, "that the Archdeacon isn't the only
man in the world who would like--any man would--in fact every man must,
unless he's married already, and in that case he's extremely sorry he
can't. I certainly do."

Lalage grew gradually more and more crimson in the face while I spoke.
At my last words she started violently, and for an instant I thought she
was going to fall into the tank.

"Do be careful," I said. "I don't want to have to dive in after you and
drag you, in a state of suspended animation, to the shore."

Lalage recovered both her balance and her self-possession.

"Don't you?" she said, with a peculiar smile.

"No, I don't."

"I should have thought," she said, "that any man would. According to you
every man must, unless he is married already, and then he'd be extremely
sorry that he couldn't."

"In that sense of the words," I said, "of course I do. Please fall in."

"I daresay that the words don't really mean what they seem to mean,"
said Lalage. "Lots of those words don't. I must look them out in the
original Greek."

After this our conversation became greatly confused. It had been
slightly confused before. The reference to the original Greek completed
the process. It seems to me, looking back on it now, that we sat there,
Lalage on the edge of the water tank, I in my hammock chair, and flung
illusive phrases and half finished sentences at each other, getting hot
by turns, and sometimes both together. At last Lalage left me, quite as
abruptly as she had come. I did not know what to make of the situation.
There had been nothing but conversation between us. I always understood
that under certain circumstances there is more than conversation,
sometimes a great deal more. I picked up "Sword Play," which lay on the
ground beside me. It was the only authority to hand at the moment. I
turned to the last chapter and found that the fencing professor and
the haughty lady had not stopped short at conversation. When the lady
finally unbent she did so in a very thorough way and things had passed
between her and the gentleman which it made me hotter than ever to read
about. I had not stirred from my chair nor Lalage from the edge of the
tank while we talked. I was greatly perplexed. It was quite plain the
history of the swordsman and his lady was not the only one which made
me sure of this--that my love-making had not run the normal course. In
every single record of such doings which I had ever read a stage had
been reached at which the feelings of the performers had been expressed
in action rather than in words. Lalage and I had not got beyond words,
therefore I doubted whether I had really been love-making. I had
certainly got no definite statement from Lalage. She had not murmured
anything in low, sweet tones; nor had she allowed her head to droop
forward upon my breast in a manner eloquent of complete surrender. I was
far from blaming her for this omission. My hammock chair was adjusted
at such an angle that unless she had actually stood on her head I do not
see how she could have laid it against my breast, and if she had done
that her attitude would have been far from eloquent, besides being most
uncomfortable for me. Still the fact remained that I had not got by
word or attitude any clear indication from Lalage that my love-making,
supposing that I had been love-making, was agreeable to her.

Nor could I flatter myself that Lalage was any better off than I was. I
had fully intended to make myself quite clear. The Archdeacon's example
had nerved me. I distinctly remembered the sensation of determining that
this one crisis at least should be brought to a definite issue, but I
was not at all sure that I had succeeded. The gentleman of title whose
exploits filled the three hundred pages of "Sword Play" said: "I love
you and have always loved you more than life"; and though he spoke in
a voice which was hoarse with passion, his meaning must have been
perfectly plain. I had not said, nor could I imagine that I ever should
say, anything half so heroic. Had I said anything at all or was Lalage
as perplexed as I was? This question troubled me, unnecessarily; for, as
it turned out afterward, Lalage was not at all perplexed.



CHAPTER XXII

My mind concentrated on one question: Was I to consider myself as
engaged to be married to Lalage? The phrase, with its flavour of
vulgarity, set my teeth on edge; but no other way of expression
occurred to me and I was too deeply anxious to spend time in pursuit
of elegancies. It was absurd that I could not answer my question. A man
ought to know whether he has or has not committed himself to a proposal
of marriage. The Archdeacon, I felt perfectly certain, knew what he had
done. And I ought to know whether Lalage had accepted or rejected the
proposal. The Archdeacon can have had few if any doubts when Lalage
left him. I made up my mind at last to lay the case before my mother. I
determined to repeat to her, as nearly as possible, verbatim, the whole
conversation which had taken place in the greenhouse. I knew that I
should feel foolish while making these confidences. I should, indeed,
appear positively ridiculous when I asked my mother to settle the
question which troubled me. But my mother is extraordinarily sympathetic
and, in any case, it was better to suffer as a fool than to continue to
be the prey of perplexity. I sighed a little when I recollected that my
mother had a keen sense of the ridiculous and that my dilemma was very
likely indeed to appeal to it.

I found my mother in the drawing-room with the remains of afternoon tea
still spread on a small table before her. I had just time to notice
that two people had been drinking tea and that the second cup, balanced
precariously on the arm of a chair, was half full. Then my mother
crossed the room rapidly and kissed me three times. She may have done
such a thing before. I think it likely that she did when I was a baby.
She certainly never kissed me more than once at a time since I was old
enough to remember what she did.

"I'm so delighted," she said, "so very delighted. I can't tell you how
glad I am."

This remark, taken in connection with the kisses which preceded it,
could only have one meaning. I realized at once that I actually was
going to marry Lalage. I was not exactly surprised, but the news was so
very important that I felt it right to make absolutely certain of its
truth.

"You're quite sure, I suppose?" I said.

"Lalage has been here with me. She has only just gone."

"Then we may regard it as settled."

"You silly boy! Haven't you been settling it for the last hour?"

"That's exactly what I want to know. Have I? I mean to say, have we?"

"Lalage seems to think you have."

"That's all right then. She'd be sure to know."

"How can you talk like that when you've arranged everything down to the
minutest details?"

This startled me. I felt it necessary to ask for more information.

"Would you mind recapitulating the details? I'm a little confused about
them."

"You're to wait till the Archdeacon is actually bishop," said my mother,
"and then he's to marry you."

"Is that your plan or Lalage's?"

"Lalage's, of course. I suppose it's yours too."

"I'm sorry," I said, "to find that Lalage is so vindictive. I hoped that
she'd have been more ready to forgive and forget."

"I know what you're thinking about, because Lalage told me. She doesn't
mean to be vindictive in the least. She seemed to think----"

"Surely not that the Archdeacon will like it?"

"Hardly that; but that under the circumstances his feelings would be
hurt if any one else was asked to perform the ceremony."

"After all," I said, "there's still Miss Battersby. He can't complain."

"She's to be a bridesmaid. So is Hilda, of course."

"Selby-Harrison shall be best man," I said.

"Oh!" said my mother, "I gathered from Lalage that you were to ask----"

"I know she doesn't want me to get into touch with Selby-Harrison.
I've been trying to make his acquaintance for years and she keeps on
concealing him. But this time I'm determined. I'll have Selby-Harrison
or no one."

"I gathered from Lalage that she'd prefer----"

"Very well," I said, "I'll have two best men. I don't see why I
shouldn't. Who's the other?"

"Lalage mentioned a Mr. Tithers."

"Titherington is his name," I said, "and if I have him I don't see how I
can very well leave out Vittie, O'Donoghue, and McMeekin. I don't
know how you feel about the matter, but I rather object to being made a
public show of with five best men."

"I'm so delighted about it," said my mother, "that I don't mind if you
go on talking nonsense about it all the evening. Lalage will be exactly
the wife you want. She'll shake you up out of your lazy ways and make
something of you in the end."

"Has she settled that?"

"No. She and I are to have a long talk about that, sometime, soon."

I was about to protest, when the door opened and Miss Battersby
staggered breathlessly into the room. She was highly flushed and
evidently greatly excited. She made straight for me. I thought she was
going to kiss me, I still think that she meant to. I pushed my mother
forward and got into a corner behind the tea table. Miss Battersby
worked off the worst of her emotion on my mother. She must have kissed
her eighteen or twenty times. After that she did not want to do more
than to shake hands with me.

"Lalage has just told me," she said, "and I'm so glad. I happened to be
at the rectory when she came home. She had been looking for me in the
morning, and as soon as I could I went over to her."

"Has she telegraphed to Miss Pettigrew?" I asked.

"Not that I know of," said Miss Battersby; "in fact, I'm sure she
hasn't."

"Then I'll do it myself. I don't see why Lalage should be the only one
to break the news. I'd send a wire to Hilda too if I knew her
surname; but I've never been able to find that out. I wish she'd
marry Selby-Harrison. Then I'd know how to address her when I want to
telegraph or write to her."

"Won't you stay for dinner?" said my mother to Miss Battersby. "We can
send you home afterward."

"Oh, no. The car is waiting for me at the rectory. I told the man to put
up. Lord Thormanby----"

"You might break it to him," I said.

"He'll be greatly delighted," said Miss Battersby.

"No, he won't," I said. "At least I shall be very much surprised if he
is. He told me this morning that I was to go and muzzle Lalage."

"He didn't mean it," said Miss Battersby.

"Besides," said my mother, "you will."

I reflected on this. My mother and Miss Pettigrew are intimate friends.
They must have talked over La-lage's future together many times. I knew
what Miss Pettigrew's views were and I suspect that my mother was in
full agreement with them. Owing to the emotional strain to which I had
been subjected I may have been in a hypersensitive condition. I
seemed to detect in my mother's confident prophecy an allusion to Miss
Pettigrew's plans. Women, even women like my mother, are greatly wanting
in delicacy. I was so much afraid of her saying something more on the
subject that I bade Miss Battersby good-bye, hurriedly, and left the
room.

After dinner my mother again took up the subject of my engagement.

"You'll have to go over and see Canon Beresford early to-morrow
morning," she said.

"Of course. But I know what he'll say to me."

"I'm sure he'll be as pleased as I am," said iny mother.

"He won't say so."

My mother looked questioningly at me. I answered her.

"He'll quote that line of Horace," I said, "about a _placens uxor_, but
it won't be true."

"What does that mean?"

"A placid wife," I said, "a gentle, quiet, peaceable sort of wife, who
sits beside the fire and knits, purring gently. When he has finished
that quotation he'll blow his nose and give me the piece out of
Epictetus about the 'price of tranquillity.' He'll mean by that, that
sorry as he is to lose Lalage, the future will hold some compensating
joys. He won't be obliged to dart off at a moment's notice to Wick, or
Brazil, or Borneo. The Canon is, after all, a thoroughly selfish man.
He won't care a bit about something being made of me by Lalage, and if I
try to explain my position to him he'll go out fishing at once."



CHAPTER XXIII

The fuss which preceded our wedding was very considerable indeed.
Presents abounded. Even in my house, which is a large one, they got
greatly in the way. There was, for instance, a large picture sent by
Titherington. I do not think he had any malicious intention. He probably
gave an order to a dealer without any details of the kind of work of
art to be supplied. It turned out be a finely coloured photographic
reproduction of a picture which had been very popular a few years
before, called "The Ministering Angel." It represented a hospital nurse
in the act of exulting over her patient. It reminded me so unpleasantly
of my time in Ballygore that I gave orders to have it set up with its
face to the wall in a passage. There I used to trip over it nearly every
day. Canon Beresford's position was worse than mine, for his house was
smaller and Lalage's presents were both numerous and larger than those
sent to me.

I also suffered great inconvenience from the paperers and painters who
came down from Dublin in large numbers and pervaded my favourite rooms.
It was my mother who invited them. She said that the house was in a
disgraceful condition. Lalage took the keenest interest in these men
and their work. She used to come over every morning and harangue them
vehemently.

This was some consolation to me for the paperers and painters certainly
did not like it. I used to enjoy hearing what they said to each after
Lalage had finished with them. Before and after she dealt with the men
she used to consult with my mother about clothes. Miss Battersby was
admitted to these council meetings. I never was. Patterns of materials
arrived from the most distant shops. Some came direct to my mother. I
used to see them piled up behind the letters on the breakfast table.
Others came to Miss Battersby, who brought them over in the Thormanby's
pony trap. Still more were addressed to Lalage at the rectory. I used to
send for these in the morning and it was while she waited for them that
Laiage gave the paperers and painters her opinion of their incompetence.

It seemed to me quite impossible that any one, during those frenzied six
weeks, could have thought calmly on any serious subject. But Lalage is
a very wonderful young woman and my mother is able to retain her
self-possession under the most trying circumstances. They managed
somehow to snatch an hour or two for that long talk about my future of
which my mother had spoken to me. I do not know whether Miss Battersby's
advice was asked. Mine certainly was not. Nor was I told at the time the
result of the deliberations. That leaked out long afterward, when the
wedding was over and we had returned home to settle down, I scarcely
hoped, in peace. I suspected, of course, that I should be made to do
something, and I was agreeably surprised that no form of labour was
directly imposed on me for some time. Lalage, acting no doubt on my
mother's advice, decided to shepherd rather than goad me along the way
on which it was decided that I should go.

She began by saying in a casual way, one night after dinner, that she
did not think I had any real taste for political life. I agreed with
her heartily. Then she and my mother smiled at each other in a way which
made me certain that they had some other career for me in mind. Shortly
afterward they took to talking a great deal about books, especially at
meal times, and several literary papers appeared regularly on my study
table. I came to the conclusion that they wished me to become a patron
of literature, perhaps to collect a library or to invite poets to spend
their holidays with us. I was quite willing to fall in with this plan,
but I determined, privately, only to become acquainted with poets of
a peaceable kind who wrote pastorals or elegies and went out for long,
solitary walks to commune with nature. In my eagerness to please Lalage
I went so far as to write to Selby-Harrison, asking him to make out for
me a list of the leading poets of the meditative and mystical schools. I
also gave an order to a bookseller for all the books of original poetry
published during that autumn. The number of volumes I received surprised
me. I used to exhibit them with great pride to my mother and Lalage. I
once offered to read out extracts from them in the evening.

"The bent of your genius," said Lalage, "is evidently literary."

My mother backed her up of course.

"It is," I said, "and always was. It's a great pity that it wasn't found
out sooner. Think of the time I wasted in Portugal and of that wretched
episode in East Connor. However, there's no use going back on past
mistakes."

"They weren't altogether mistakes," said Lalage. "We couldn't have known
that you were literary until we found out that you weren't any good at
anything else."

"That view of literature," I said, "as the last refuge of the
incompetent, is quite unworthy of you, Lalage. Recollect that you
once edited a magazine yourself. You should have more respect for the
profession of letters."

"Don't argue," said Lalage. "All we say is that if you can't do anything
else you must be able to write."

Then the truth began to become clear to me. My dream of a life of
cultured ease, spent, with intervals for recreation, in the society of
gentle poets, faded.

"Do you mean," I said, "that I'm to----?"

"Certainly," said Lalage.

"To write a book?" I said desperately.

"That's the reason," said Lalage, "why I refurnished your study and
bought that perfectly sweet Dutch marquetry bureau and hung up the
picture of Milton dictating 'Paradise Lost' to his two daughters."

I have hated that picture since the day it first appeared in in my
study. I only agreed to letting it in because I knew the alternative was
Titherington's hospital nurse. The Dutch bureau, if it is Dutch, is most
uncomfortable to write at. There was no use, however, wrangling about
details. I brought forward the one strong objection to the plan which
occurred to me at the moment.

"Has my uncle been consulted?" I asked. "From what I know of Thormanby
I should say he's not at all likely to agree to my spending my life in
writing poetry."

"His idea," said my mother, "is that you should bring out a
comprehensive work on the economic condition of Ireland in the twentieth
century."

"He thinks," Lalage added, "that when you do go into Parliament it will
be a great advantage to you to be a recognized authority on something,
even if it's only Irish economics."

I knew, of course, that I should have to give in to a certain extent
in the end; but I was not prepared to fall in with Thormanby's absurd
suggestion.

"Very well," I said, "I shall write a book. I shall write my
reminiscences."

"Reminiscences," said Lalage, "are rather rot as a rule."

"The bent of my genius," I said, "is entirely reminiscent."

Rather to my surprise Lalage accepted the reminiscences as a tolerable
substitute for the economic treatise. I suppose she did not really care
what I wrote so long as I wrote something.

"Very well," she said. "We'll give you six months."

I had, I am bound to say, a very pleasant and undisturbed life during
the six months allowed me by Lalage. I did my writing, for the most
part, in the morning, working at the Dutch marquetry bureau from ten
o'clock until shortly after noon. I soon came to find a great deal of
pleasure in my work. The only thing which ever put me out of temper was
the picture of Milton dictating to two plump young women who had taken
off their bodices in order to write with more freedom. If there are any
peevish or ill-humoured passages in my book they are to be attributed
entirely to the influence of that picture, chiefly to the tousled look
of the younger daughter. The fact that her father was blind was no
excuse for her neglecting to do her hair when she got up in the morning.

I have secured, by the help of Selby-Harrison, a publisher for the book.
He insists on bringing it out as a novel and refuses to allow it to
be called "Memories of My Early Life," the title I chose. "Lalage's
Lovers," the name under which it appears in his list of forthcoming
fiction, seems to me misleading. It suggests a sentimental narrative and
will, I fear, give rise to some disappointment. However, I suppose
that the book may sell better if we pretend that it is not true. But
in Ireland, at least, this device will be vain. The things with which I
deal were not done in a corner. There are many bishops who still smart
from Lalage's attack on them, and Titherington, at all events, is not
likely to forget last year's epidemic of influenza. I shall, indeed,
be very glad if the publisher's ruse succeeds and the public generally
believes that I have invented the whole story. Now that the moment of
publication comes near and I am engaged in adding a few final sentences
to the last chapter I am beginning to feel nervous and uncomfortable.
There may be a good deal of trouble and annoyance when the book comes
out.

I have set down nothing except the truth and this ought to please
Lalage; but I am not at all sure that it will. I have noticed that of
late she has shown signs of disliking any mention of the _Anti-Tommy-Rot
Gazette_ or the campaign of the Association for the Suppression of
Public Lying in East Connor. She pulled me up very abruptly yesterday
when I asked her what Hilda's surname really is. I wanted it in order
to make my book as complete as possible. Lalage seemed to think that I
intended to annoy her by talking over past events.

"I wish," she said, "that you wouldn't always try to make yourself out a
fool. You've known Hilda intimately since she was quite a girl."

That, of course, was my difficulty all along. I have known Hilda too
intimately. If our friendship had been more formal or had begun more
formally, I should, at first at all events, have called her "Miss"
something instead of simply "Hilda." Then I should not be in my present
awkward position.

I am also doubtful about Thormanby's reception of the book. He ought
to be pleased, for he appears in my pages as a bluff, straightforward
nobleman, devoted to the public good and full of sound common-sense
though slightly choleric. This is exactly what he is; but I have
noticed that people are not always pleased with faithful portraits of
themselves.

The case of the Archdeacon, now bishop, is more serious. He has not yet
married Miss Battersby, although Lalage has done her best to throw them
together and the advantages of the match become every day more obvious.
It is just possible that the publication of my reminiscences may create
an awkwardness--a constraint of manner on the part of the bishop, a
modest shrinking in Miss Battersby, which will tend to put off the final
settlement of the affair. I ventured to hint to Lalage that it might
be well to bring the business to a head, if possible, before my book is
published. Lalage expressed considerable surprise.

"What on earth has your book got to do with their marriage?" she said.

I saw no good in anticipating what is likely to be an evil day by
offering a premature explanation.

"Nothing," I said, "nothing at all."

"Then why do you want to have them married before the book comes out?"

"I don't," I said. "I merely want them to be engaged. My idea is to give
them the book as a wedding present, nicely bound in calf of course."

"Poor Pussy," said Lalage; "I intend to give her something better than
that."

Lalage has not read my book. It was a bargain from the very first that
neither she nor my mother should ask to see the manuscript. She cannot
know, therefore, whether it will be better or worse than the silver
teapot which I expect she has in mind for Miss Battersby's wedding
present.

Another thing which troubles me is the future of Selby-Harrison. It
has been arranged, chiefly by Lalage, that the bishop, who used to be
Archdeacon, is to ordain Selby-Harrison as curate assistant to Canon
Beresford. There are incidents in the career of Selby-Harrison of which
no bishop can be expected to approve. His part in Lalage's various
crusades has not hitherto been forced upon the attention of the public.
My book will, I fear, make it plain that he was an active power in
the various reforming societies which caused so much annoyance to
many people. If I could, I would leave Selby-Harrison out of the book
altogether, but to do so would render unintelligible the whole sequence
of events which resulted from the discovery of that text in First
Timothy. Besides, it would scarcely be fair to deprive the young man of
the credit he certainly deserves for the masterly way in which he drew
up the agreements which Titherington and I signed.

All this causes me to hesitate, even now at the eleventh hour, about
publishing the book at all. One consideration, however, decides me to go
on and face the consequences, whatever they may be. This is not the kind
of book which will encourage Thormanby to drive me into Parliament. That
plan, at all events, will be dropped when my reminiscences appear.





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