Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Babe, B.A.
Author: Benson, E. F. (Edward Frederic)
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 "The Babe, B.A." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



          [Illustration: ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL, FROM THE BACKS.]



                            THE BABE, B.A.

                    BEING THE UNEVENTFUL HISTORY OF
                    A YOUNG GENTLEMAN AT CAMBRIDGE
                              UNIVERSITY


                          BY EDWARD F. BENSON

                    AUTHOR OF “DODO” “LIMITATIONS”


                        WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS


                        LONDON & NEW YORK G. P.
                          PUTNAM’S SONS 1897

                     _Entered at Stationers’ Hall_



DEDICATION.


_DEAR TOBY_:

_It is fitting, and I hope you will not feel it otherwise, that your
name should appear on the forefront of this little book, for you know
best how much good humour went to the making of it, and how when it
was read piecemeal, as it was written, to you, your native politeness,
which I cannot admire too much, more than once prompted you to laugh.
(Advt.) You will remember, too, when I first mentioned the idea of it
to you, that with some solemnity we procured a large sheet of foolscap
paper, and a blue pencil, and then and there set ourselves to put down
all the remarkable and stirring events which happened to us in those
four years we spent together at Cambridge; how we failed egregiously
to recollect anything remarkable or stirring--pardon me, we remembered
one stirring event, but decided not to treat the world to it--which
had come within our personal experience, and thereupon cast, or as you
said, “speired” about for any remarkable and stirring incident, which
had happened, not, alas, to us, but to anybody else soever. Here again
I may recall to you that we drew blank, and our sheet of paper was
still virgin white, our blue pencil as sharp as ever, and the book no
nearer conception than before._

_Then it was that the uncomfortable conviction dawned on us, gradually
illuminating our minds as some cloudy rain-slanted morning grows clear
to half-wakened eyes, that in the majority of cases, remarkable and
stirring events do not befall the undergraduate, and that if the book
was to be made at all, it must be made of homely, and I hope wholesome,
ingredients, a cricket ball, a canoe, a football, a tripos, a don, a
croquet mallet, a few undergraduates, a Greek play, some work, and so
forth. For it seemed to us that the superficial enquirer--and you, I
vow, are even more superficially-minded than I--finds that these things
are common to the experience of most men, but that when you begin to
deal in spiritualities, heroes, century-making captains of eleven,
chess blues, and higher aspirations, you desert the normal plane for
the super-normal, where people like you and me have no business to
intrude._

_So that, now it is complete, you will find therein neither births,
deaths, nor marriages, and though the =Babe= himself may have waxed
a little out of proportion to our original scheme--he ought, for
instance, never to have played Rugby for his University, as savouring
too much of the hero--I have retained for him to the end that futility
of mind, and girt him about with that flippant atmosphere, in which the
truly heroic chokes and stifles. About the other characters I have no
such confessions to make; they have successfully steered clear of all
distinctions, bodily or mental; I have even omitted to state =Ealing’s=
place in the tripos, and for this reason. He ought to have done better
than the =Babe=, but the =Babe= got a second, and this leaves only one
class where Ealing’s name would reasonably appear, and I altogether
refuse to let him take a first._

_Good-bye for the present: but you will be home for leave, will you
not, in a month?_

                    _Believe me, my dear Toby,

                         Ever your sincere friend,

                                  E. F. BENSON._

_P. S.--I apologise for what I have said about your superficialness. It
is, however, perfectly true._



CONTENTS.


                                                                    PAGE

I.--TO INTRODUCE                                                       1

II.--IN FELLOWS’ BUILDINGS                                            14

III.--THE BABE                                                        30

IV.--_vs._ BLACKHEATH                                                 47

V.--THE WORK-CLUB                                                     63

VI.--THE BABE’S PICNIC                                                76

VII.--THE BABE’S “SAPPING”                                            93

VIII.--CROQUET                                                       111

IX.--TEA AT THE PITT                                                 122

X.--ROYAL VISITORS                                                   134

XI.--THE REHEARSAL                                                   146

XII.--A COLLEGE SUNDAY                                               162

XIII.--KING’S CHAPEL                                                 176

XIV.--A VARIETY ENTERTAINMENT                                        183

XV.--CLYTEMNESTRISMOS                                                198

XVI.--AFTER LUNCH                                                    212

XVII.--A LITTLE GAME                                                 223

XVIII.--THE CONFESSION                                               236

XIX.--IN THE FIFTIES                                                 246

XX.--THE BABE’S MINOR DIVERSIONS                                     261

XXI.--A DAY IN THE LENT TERM                                         270

XXII.--BEFORE THE TRIPOS                                             283

XXIII.--THE LISTS                                                    299



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL, FROM THE BACKS   _Frontispiece._

TRINITY BRIDGE, FROM THE BACKS      _Facing p.  76_

KINGS COLLEGE, SCREEN AND GATEWAY      “   _p. 176_

KING’S PARADE AND CAIUS COLLEGE        “   _p. 212_

THE BACKS                              “   _p. 111_

CLARE COLLEGE AND BRIDGE               “   _p. 246_



THE BABE, B.A.



I.--TO INTRODUCE.

    The time has come, the showman said,
    To look at many things,
    At Deans and tea and men and Babes
    At Cambridge and at King’s.
              LIGHT-BLUE LYRICS.


“And I maintain,” said Reggie, flourishing the Britannia-metal
teapot (in order, it is supposed, to lend a spurious emphasis to the
_banalité_ of his sentiment), “that it’s better to have played and lost
than never--”

The teapot--one of those in which the handle is invariably the hottest
part--had just been filled up with boiling water, and a clear and
fervid amber stream flew bounteously out of its spout on to the bare
knees of one of those who had played and lost. Thereupon a confused
noise arose, and Reggie’s sentence has never been finished.

After a short but violent interlude, the confused noise ceased by tacit
consent, as suddenly as it had begun; Ealing helped Reggie to pick up
the broken fragments that remained, and the latter had to drink his tea
out of a pint glass.

“To think that a mere game of football should lead to such disastrous
consequences,” he remarked. “Why does tea out of a glass taste like hot
Gregory powder?”

“I never drank hot Gregory powder; what does it taste like?”

“Why, like tea out of a glass,” said Reggie brilliantly.

“Reggie, if you want to rag again, you’ve only got to say so.”

Ealing threw into a corner the napkin with which he had been drying his
knees and stocking after the tea-deluge, and as he had finished, took
out a pipe, and proceeded to fill it.

“That pig of a half-back caught me a frightful hack on the shin,” he
said.

“Well, you kicked him in the stomach later on,” said Reggie
consolingly. “That’s always something to fall back on. Besides he did
it by accident, and it certainly looked as if you did it on purpose. Of
course it may only have been sheer clumsiness.”

“Dry up. You didn’t funk as much as usual this afternoon.”

“I tried to, but I never had time. And I can funk as quickly as any man
in England. Jack, it’s time for you to say something.”

Jack Marsden was the only one of the three who looked in the least like
a gentleman at that moment. Ealing and Reggie were both in change, they
both wore villainously muddy flannel knickerbockers, short enough to
disclose villainously muddy knees, old blazers, and strong, useful,
football boots with bars. Jack, who had taken no part in the confused
noise, was sitting in a low chair reading _Alice in Wonderland_, and
eating cake in the manner of a man who does not think about dinner.

“I wasn’t asleep,” he remarked. “I heard every word you fellows were
saying.”

“Dormouse,” explained Ealing.

“Dormouse it is. Give me some more tea, Reggie.”

“I call it so jolly sociable to read a book when you come to tea,”
remarked Reggie.

“So do I. Thanks. And another piece of cake.”

“Football’s a beastly game,” said Ealing.

“Especially when one is beaten. Here we are out of the Cup ties in the
first round, and what one is to do now I don’t know. I can’t think why
people ever play football.”

“I shall work,” said Ealing. “Have you seen the list of the subjects
for the Mays? I think it must be meant for a joke. They have set all
the classical authors I ever heard of, and nearly all I haven’t ever
heard of.”

“I want a clean cup,” quoted Jack.

“You want a clean--” began Reggie slowly in a tone of virulent
condemnation. But being unable to finish his sentence in an adequately
insulting manner, he left Jack’s deficiencies to the imagination.

“He wants a clean pipe,” remarked Ealing. “It sounds like a kettle
boiling.”

Jack shut up his book and yawned.

“You fellows are beastly funny,” he said. “I’m going back to Trinity to
work. For why? I am dining with the Babe to-night.”

“The Babe has got markedly madder and several years younger since last
term,” said Ealing. “And he was neither sane nor old to begin with.
Tell him so with my love. Or I dare say Reggie and I will come round
later.”

“Do. It is November the fifth. The Babe observes all feasts, whether
civil or ecclesiastical. He says it would be a thousand pities to let
these curious old customs lapse into disuse.”

“I wish the Babe wouldn’t use such beautiful language,” said Ealing.

“He only does it in his less lucid intervals. Good-bye. I’ll tell him
you’re coming round about ten.”

Jack picked up his hat and stick and went off to his rooms in Trinity,
where till half-past seven he drifted helplessly about like a
ship-wrecked mariner, to whom no sail breaks the limitless horizon,
in Thucydides’s graphic account of the Peloponnesian war. To Jack,
however, it appeared that its chief characteristic was its length,
rather than its interest, a criticism, the truth of which is rendered
more and more probable every year by an enormous mass of perfectly
independent, unbiassed critics. But being a short and stout young man,
by no means infirm of purpose, he regarded that merely as a reason the
more for beginning at once.

Reggie Bristow and Ealing sat on for an hour or so by the fire. They
were old friends, and so they did not need to talk much. Reggie was a
year the younger of the two, and he was now half-way through his first
term at King’s. They had been at Eton five years together, where they
had both extracted a good deal of amusement out of life, and perhaps
a little profit. They were both exceedingly healthy, to judge by the
superficial standards of examinations, rather stupid, and, in the
opinion of those who knew them, on a much more important matter, very
liveable-with. Furthermore, they both played games rather well, and,
as was right, neither of them ever troubled his head about abstract
questions of any sort or kind. Living was pleasant, and they proceeded
to live.

Reggie had been performing this precarious feat with admirable
steadiness for just nineteen years. Nature had gifted him with a
pleasant face, and a healthy appetite had enabled him to show it to
eminent advantage on the top of a tall body. He preferred talking to
working, cricket to football, and lying in bed to “signing in”
at 8 A.M. in the morning. He smoked a good many pipes every
day, and blew smoke rings creditably. He played the piano a little,
but his friends did not encourage him to take the necessary practice
whereby he might play it any better. He was in fact perfectly normal,
which is always the best thing to be.

“It’s a great bore, our being beaten,” he said, after a long pause,
during which he had succeeded in blowing one smoke ring through
another. “We were the best side really.”

“Of course we were, although we are blessed with a goal-keeper who
hides behind the goal-posts, until a man has had his shot.”

“He stopped rather a hot one to-day.”

“Purely by accident. He peeped out from the goal-post too soon, and
it struck him in the stomach. I hate being beaten by Pemmer, though
I shouldn’t have minded if we’d lost to Trinity. The ground was in a
filthy state too. One couldn’t get off.”

Reggie sighed.

“I’ve got to write to my father to-morrow,” he said, “and tell him my
impressions of Cambridge. It will be a little difficult, because I
haven’t got any.”

“Of course you haven’t. Only people in books have impressions. Describe
the match to-day.”

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t interest him.”

“Well, describe King’s Chapel.”

“I might do that; perhaps he’s forgotten what it is like. Oh, yes, and
I might describe some of the dons. I’m expected to be very earnest, you
know, and the worst of it is I don’t know how.”

“Do you suppose one will ever become a responsible being?” asked Ealing.

“No, never,” said Reggie emphatically. “I grow sillier and sillier
every day.”

“Well, you can’t get much sillier.”

Reggie shook his head.

“You wait a year or two,” he said. “I don’t suppose you can form the
slightest impression of how foolish I can be if I like.”

“What are you going to do when you go down?”

“The Lord knows,” said Reggie. “I was considered remarkably bright for
my age at one time.”

“Long ago?”

“Ages ago. I don’t suppose I’ve been considered bright for the last six
years. Oh, by the way, they’ve put me into the Pitt.”

“How very imprudent of them!”

“Yes. There was a young man in the Pitt.”

“Well?”

“That’s all. It’s me, you know.”

Ealing got up and stretched slowly and luxuriously.

“I must go and change. I believe one oughtn’t to sit in wet things. But
if one does it frequently enough, it doesn’t seem to hurt one, and the
same remark applies to muffins.”

“I shall try sitting in a muffin,” said Reggie thoughtfully. “I never
thought of it before.”

“Do. Are you going into Hall to-night?”

“Yes, unless you ask me to dinner.”

“I have no intention whatever of doing that,” said Ealing.

“Then we’ll both go into Hall. I propose to drink champagne out of a
silver mug to make up for the tea out of a glass.”

“‘Not what I wish but what I want,’ as the Babe said the other day when
he ordered six pairs of silk pyjamas.”

“Oh, the Babe has his points,” said Reggie.

Reggie’s rooms looked out on to a small court, bounded on two sides by
the new college buildings, on one by that pellucid river, from which,
as Wordsworth might have said, “Cambridge has borrowed its name,” and
on the other by four or five big elm-trees. Beyond these lay the back
lawn, growing a little rank just now with autumn rains, and above that
the main buildings of the college, and the Chapel, which is quite worth
describing even to the length of four sides of that smaller size of
note-paper, which is found so eminently convenient a basis for the
purpose of writing letters to relations.

His two rooms were on the third floor, opening the one into the other,
and like all college rooms, were very thoughtfully supplied with an
outer door which could only be opened from the inside, and by means of
which the laborious student can shut himself off from sight and sound
of the busy world around. During Reggie’s short stay at Cambridge it
had, as far as he knew, only been used once, and on that occasion a
playful friend, mistaking its real use, had shut him out, having
previously ascertained that he had lost the key. This feat has at least
the merit of simplicity, and it appears to lose none of its fascination
however constantly repeated.

Inside, they were furnished with a small bookcase, occupied by
débutant-looking classical books, several low chairs, which may best
be described as rather groggy, and had been taken on from the previous
owner at a high valuation, a piano of a harsh and astringent quality
of tone, but plenty of it, several high chairs, and two tables. The
smaller of these Reggie preferred to call his working table, the only
explanation of which seemed to lie in the fact that somebody often sat
on the edge of it when the chairs were full. Two or three school groups
and a couple of engravings hung on the walls, and the chimney-piece was
littered with things which reminded one of the delightfully vague word
“remnants,” and consisted of candlesticks, pipes, old letters, loose
matches, an ash tray, a clock which for the last month had been under
the delusion that it was always ten minutes to four, an invitation to
play in the Freshman’s football match, and another to see the Dean at
five minutes to seven, a watch and watch-chain, sixpence, a lawn-tennis
ball, a small wooden doll in hideous nakedness (no explanation
forthcoming), a pen, and a cigarette.

It was a cold evening, and Reggie wandered in and out of his bedroom,
in a state of betwixt and between, now clad only in a bath towel,
later on in a pair of trousers and socks, in the fulness of time
completely clothed. It still wanted five or ten minutes to seven, and
he stood in front of the fire warming himself till Hall time, feeling
in that deliciously half-tired, half-lazy mood which is the inimitable
result of violent exercise. He rummaged aimlessly in the débris on the
mantel-piece, and suffering the deserved fate of idle hands, found the
Dean’s note about which he had genuinely forgotten. He gave vent to a
resigned little sound, about half-way between a sigh and a swear, took
up his gown and left the room.



II.--IN FELLOWS’ BUILDINGS.

    King, nine, twa, do you play them so?
    Whae’s that a-calling?
    I dinna ken, and I do not know
    Whae’s that a-calling sae sweet.
              ON THE BORDER.

    And one clear call for me.
          TENNYSON.


Those Fellows of colleges, who live in college are, for obvious
reasons, debarred from the matrimonial state, and should inspire
greater respect in reflective minds than almost any other class of
persons in this naughty world. For the most part they combine the
morality of married men with the innocence of ideal bachelors. Their
lives are for nine months or so of the year lived in the sequestered
shades of pious and ancient foundations, unspotted by the world. Those
who have relations fill their places in the domestic circle where
their absence has no doubt rendered them doubly dear, at Christmas and
Easter, or join those who have not, and pass their long vacation on the
lower slopes of the Alps, or at quiet little sea-side places; some of
them visit cathedrals during their unoccupied months, some the lakes,
few or none, London, or if London, chiefly the reading-room at the
British Museum. But there are exceptions to the most desirable rules,
and even among Fellows of colleges there are a few who are reported to
know “a thing or two.”

On Saturday night it often happened that Fellows of King’s asked their
colleagues from other colleges to dine with them. After dinner they
sat in the Combination Room for an hour or so, or they would break up
into parties, which spent the evening at one or other of the Fellows’
rooms, and indulged in the mild dissipation of whist at three-penny
points, which they seemed to find strangely exhilarating. One such
party adjourned directly after dinner to the room of the Dean, Mr.
Collins, who two hours before had remonstrated with Reggie for not
attending a larger percentage of early Chapels or their equivalent.
To undergraduates he was scholastic and austere, but among his own
contemporaries he not infrequently relaxed into positive playfulness.

Mr. Stewart, a history tutor from Trinity, was one of his guests
to-night, and Mr. Longridge, a Dean of the same college, another.
About Mr. Longridge, all that need be said at present is that in body
he was insignificant, and in mind, incoherent. But Mr. Stewart was a
more conspicuous person both bodily and mentally: he was in fact one of
the exceptions to the general run of his class, and he was credited,
by report at least, with knowing not only a thing or two, but lots of
things.

Just now, his long, languid form, attired altogether elegantly, was
spread over a considerable area of arm-chair, his feet rested on the
fender, and he was holding forth on certain subjects of the day, about
which he was perfectly qualified to speak. The man with the incoherent
mind was sitting near him, listening with ill-concealed impatience to
his sonorous periods, and getting in a word edgewise occasionally. Mr.
Collins was busy attending to the wants of his guests, and two of
his friends from the same college, were sitting together on the sofa,
resigned but replete.

“The luxury of modern times,” Mr. Stewart was saying, “is
disgusting,--Chartreuse, please--simply disgusting. What business have
men to clothe their floors in fabrics from Persia, their walls in other
fabrics from Cairo and Algiers, or stamped leather, and paintings by
Turner and Reynolds and, and Orchardson, their lamp-shades in lace and
Liberty fabrics--Lace and Liberty sounds like a party catch-word--and
leave their minds naked and unashamed? I myself aim at a studious
simplicity--Thank you, I have brought my own cigarettes. Won’t you have
one? They are straight from Constantinople--a studious simplicity. I
live at Cambridge, while my natural sphere is London and Paris. I get
up at seven, while nature bids me stay in bed till ten. I--”

Mr. Longridge could not bear it any longer. He sprang out of his chair
as a cuckoo flies out of a cuckoo clock on the stroke of the hour, and
adjusted his spectacles.

“Well, take the case of a man who, say, lived at Oxford. Supposing--or
well, take another case--”

Mr. Stewart took advantage of a momentary pause to continue.

“Yes, of course, very interesting,” he said. “A delightful town,
Oxford. A shadow of the romance of mediævalism still lingers about its
grey streets, which is quite absent from the new red-brick buildings
of St. John’s College, Cambridge. I remember walking there one morning
with dear George Meredith, and your mention of Oxford recalled to me
what he said. Poor dear fellow! He is the most lucid of men, but as
soon as he puts pen to paper he is like an elephant that is lost in a
jungle, and goes trumpeting and trampling along through wreaths and
tangled festoons of an exotic style. Lord Granchester was staying there
at the time--Sir Reginald Bristow he was then--”

“I had the pleasure of speaking to his son just before Hall,” remarked
Mr. Stewart in professional accents.

“Reggie, is dear Reggie up here? How delightful! I remember him six or
seven years ago. He was like one of Raphael’s angels.”

“What-was-it-that-George-Meredith-said?” asked the incoherent man, all
in one word.

“One of Raphael’s angels,” pursued Mr. Stewart, taking not the
slightest notice. “A face like an opening flower.”

“The flower has a stem six feet high now,” remarked Mr. Collins.

“Dear Reggie! And--and is he as fascinating as ever?”

Mr. Collins laughed.

“I have not known him long, so I cannot say how fascinating he is
capable of being. And as a rule Deans and undergraduates don’t put out
their full power of fascination in dealing with each other.”

“But whose fault is that?” said Mr. Stewart in a slow unctuous
voice. “Surely we ought to be brothers, dear elder brothers to the
undergraduates. I remember--”

Mr. Collins, who was obviously sceptical about George Meredith’s
remark, and hoped that Stewart was going back to it, brightened up and
interrogated, “Yes?” in an intelligent manner.

“I remember,” said Mr. Stewart still sublimely oblivious, “I remember
that I myself used always to make friends, dear friends of the
undergraduates when I was Dean. If one of them did not attend Chapel
often enough, as often, that is, as our odious regulations require, I
used to ask him to call for me on his way, and we used to go to Chapel
together. One had a rich, lovely tenor voice. I--I forget his name, and
I think he is dead.”

Mr. Longridge laughed monosyllabically but unkindly.

“It was very pleasant, very pleasant indeed, but to be Dean brings one
into the wrong relation with undergraduates,” said Mr. Stewart. “And
talking of music, I had a charming time at Bayreuth last year. We had
_Parsifal_ and _Tannhäuser_ and the _Meistersingers_. _Tannhäuser_ is
the most wonderful creation. Like all of us, but more successfully
than most, Wagner welds into one harmonious whole, the ugliness of sin
and the beauty of holiness.”

Mr. Longridge--there is no other word--bridled.

“The beauty of holiness,” continued Mr. Stewart, chewing and
masticating his words, so as to get the full flavour out of them,
“a human soul capable of anything. Venusberg and Rome are alike
interludes to him. He goes on his sublimely humorous way from Venusberg
to Elizabeth, from Elizabeth to Venusberg, and neither produces any
lasting effect. And how supremely natural the end is! He has left an
almond rod at Rome, and because one of the pilgrims, one of a dowdy
crew of middle-class pilgrims shows him an almond rod in blossom,
he rushes to the conclusion that it is his. How illogical, but how
natural! And he who has never had the courage of his opinions either
at Venusberg or Rome, is ‘struck of a heap,’ as they say in suburban
places, by the flowering almond rod, and instantly gives up the ghost.
Maskelyne and Cooke could produce a bundle of flowering almond rods in
half the time. We pay five shillings to see them all. Tannhäuser paid
his life to see one. He died of joy at the sight of that flowering
almond rod. And after all it was only artificial flowers twined round a
stick.”

“Well, of course, if you choose to look at it in that way,” ejaculated
Mr. Longridge.

“My dear Longridge,” said Mr. Stewart very slowly, “there is only one
way to look at things, only one way.”

“Not at all, though you might very fairly say that there was only one
man to look at in one way. _Quot homines, tot sententiæ._”

“Dear old Longridge,” said Stewart with unctuous affection.

“You might just as well say,” continued Mr. Longridge, “that because
there are people who are colour-blind, we none of us know green from
red.”

There was perhaps nothing in the world which Mr. Longridge enjoyed
so heartily as what he called a good, sharp argument. This usually
consisted in his putting forward a great quantity of indefensible
and irrelevant propositions himself, and then proceeding to show how
indefensible they were: their irrelevancy needed no demonstration. He
was a man of mixed mind.

“Dear old Longridge,” repeated Stewart. “Some people have the
misfortune to be born colour-blind, and no doubt in the next world they
will be extraordinarily keen-sighted. But until we have finished with
this world, and I have not, we can leave colour-blind people altogether
out of the question, can we not? In fact, I don’t know how they found
their way in. Some things are green, others red, and if you call them
by their wrong names, even your own friends must allow that you are no
judge of colour.”

Mr. Longridge who was very near-sighted, seemed disposed to take this
personally.

“But because I differ from you, _in toto_ I may say, that is no proof
that I am colour-blind. You might just as well say--well, to take
another instance--”

“To take another instance,” said Mr. Stewart, “because you are sleepy,
that is no reason why I should go to bed. In fact, I will have just
a glass more of Chartreuse. What a lovely colour it is. A decadent,
abnormal colour, the colour of a spoiled piece of soul-fabric. Yes,
quite delicious. I spent a fortnight once in the monastery at Fécamp,
full of dear, delightful, ascetic monks. I think they all put boiled
peas in their shoes during the day, which must be horribly squashy,
but they all drink Chartreuse after dinner, so they end happily. Dear,
impossible Charles Kingsley used always to abuse monks--I suppose
because he was tinged with asceticism himself. But I fancy there is
no real objection to their marrying. Monks marry nuns, I think. How
delightful to receive an invitation card--‘Monk and Nun Stewart.’”

The two other Fellows of King’s had subsided into the background
altogether, and were discussing the chances of their various pupils
in the next tripos. They had both refused Chartreuse, and took their
coffee in a mixture of half and half with hot milk. The integral
calculus on one side balanced an exceptional skill at Greek Iambics on
the other, and they prattled on politely and innocently. It must be
conceded that they felt but little interest in what they were talking
about, but their interest on all subjects was diminutive and bird-like.
They pecked and hopped away.

“But he showed me a copy of Iambics the other day,” said one, “with two
final Cretics in it.”

Mr. Stewart caught the last words.

“What an epigram that ought to make!” he said, smiling broadly and
benignly. “The insidious and final Cretic. I see him as a lean, spare
man, with a cast in his eye.”

“It’s merely a false foot in Greek Iambics they are talking of,” said
Longridge breathlessly.

“And a false foot,” continued Stewart, “cunningly concealed by patent
leather boots. Thank you, Longridge, the picture is complete. And I
have a Victor Hugo class in my room at half-past ten. We are reading
_Les Misérables_--a--a prose epic. I must literally be going.”

“I should like to see a figurative going,” said Mr. Longridge,
spitefully.

Mr. Stewart turned on him with mild forbearance.

“You can say you must be going and then stop,” he said. “Good night,
good night. A most pleasant evening.”

There were now only four of them, so at their host’s proposal they
settled down to whist. Mr. Longridge enquired eagerly whether it was
to be long whist or short whist, but as no one had ever heard of
either, it is to be presumed that they played medium, and it is certain
they played mediocre whist. Mr. Longridge during the first deal,
demonstrated quite conclusively that whist markers could be used either
for whist or backgammon or bézique, always supposing you knew how to
multiply by ten, or with somewhat less ease for registering the votes
in the present election. This latter, however, appeared, as far as it
was possible to follow him, to imply a knowledge of how to multiply
by thirteen and divide by twenty-nine, a feat which all his hearers,
with the exception of the mathematician, were hopelessly incapable of
performing. This, however, was no detraction whatever from the abstract
value of such a discovery.

Longridge was partner to Mr. Campbell, one of the hitherto silent
guests, and Collins to Currey, who was cursed with the final Cretic
pupil. And herein lay the sting of the affair, for Longridge’s studies
in whist had got as far as the call for trumps, while his partner’s
knowledge was confined to a complete acquaintance with the ordinal
value of individual cards. Collins, however, was a sound player,
and the only one present, excepting Longridge, who knew what a call
for trumps meant. Longridge consequently stripped his hand naked,
as it were, for the sole benefit of his adversary. The rest were as
Teiresias, struck blind by the sight of five trumps unveiled.

With his habitual acumen the Dean of Trinity perceived this during
the second rubber, and without communicating his discovery, as he was
strongly tempted to do, played the higher of two cards instead of the
lower so persistently in the first round, in order to deceive his
adversary on the right, that before the game was three deals old he
had irrevocably revoked. Holding the knave and nine of clubs he played
the higher of the two on to the queen third hand, and deceived by his
own acuteness supposed he had no more, and trumped the second round.
Whereby his adversaries went out, a treble.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reggie and Ealing, meantime, had spent a charming evening. Reggie had
been pressed not to play the piano after Hall, and, instead, they had
played billiards till just before ten, and then gone round to Malcolm
Street to come down to dessert at the Babe’s dinner party.

As it was Guy Fawkes’s day, their course, so to speak, was mapped out
for them beyond possibility of error, and Reggie had the prospect of
being exactly six shillings and eight-pence poorer than he otherwise
would have been, at about 10.30 on Monday morning.



III.--THE BABE.

    O bitter world, where one who longs
    To be recorded unforgiven,
    Bewitched and wild, is called a child
    Fit to be seen in any heaven.
               HOTCHPOTCH VERSES.


The Babe was a cynical old gentleman of twenty years of age, who played
the banjo charmingly. In his less genial moments he spoke querulously
of the monotony of the services of the Church of England, and of the
hopeless respectability of M. Zola. His particular forte was dinner
parties for six, skirt dancing and acting, and the performances of
the duties of half-back at Rugby football. His dinner parties were
selected with the utmost carelessness, his usual plan being to ask the
first five people he met, provided he did not know them too intimately.
With a wig of fair hair, hardly any rouge, and an ingénue dress, he
was the image of Vesta Collins, and that graceful young lady might
have practised before him, as before a mirror. But far the most
remarkable point about the Babe, considering his outward appearance and
other tastes, was his brilliance as a Rugby football player. He was
extraordinarily quick with the ball, his passing was like a beautiful
dream, and he dodged, as was universally known, like the devil. It was
a sight for sore eyes to see the seraphic, smooth-faced Babe waltzing
gaily about among rough-bearded barbarians, pretending to pass and
doing nothing of the kind, dropping neatly out of what looked like the
middle of the scrimmage, or flickering about in a crowd which seemed to
be unable to touch him with a finger.

Last night the Babe had been completely in his element. His dinner
party consisted of a rowing-blue, a man who had been sent down from
Oxford, a Dean who was to preach the University sermon next day, and
was the Babe’s uncle, Jack Marsden, a gentleman from Corpus, who had
a very rosy chance, so said his friends, of representing Cambridge
against Oxford at chess, and himself. Later on, Reggie and Ealing had
come in, who with the help of the rowing man broke both his sofas;
the gentleman from Oxford had insisted, to the obvious discomfort of
the Dean, on talking to him about predestination, a subject of which
the Dean seemed to know nothing whatever; the chess-man had played
bézique with Jack, and the Babe had presided over them all with
infantine cynicism. A little later on, when the Dean had gone away, he
had danced a skirt-dance in a sheet and a night-gown, and they ended
up the evening by what the Babe called “a set piece” from his window,
consisting of a catherine wheel, and four Roman candles, not counting
the rocket which exploded backwards through the Babe’s chandelier,
narrowly missing the head of the man from Corpus, whose chance of
getting his chess-blue would, if it had hit, have been totally
extinguished. In order to lend verisimilitude to the proceedings Reggie
had gone into the street and called “Oh-h-h-h,” at intervals, and as he
had left his cap and gown in the Babe’s room, he was very promptly and
properly proctorised.

The Babe breakfasted next morning at the civilised hour of ten, and
observed with a faint smile that the rocket stick was deeply imbedded
in the ceiling, and he ate his eggs and bacon with a serene sense of
the successful incongruity of his little party the night before. The
gentleman from Oxford who was staying with him had not yet appeared,
but the Babe waited for no man, when he was hungry.

The furniture of his rooms was as various and as diverse as his
accomplishments. Several of Mr. Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations from
the Yellow Book, clustering round a large photograph of Botticelli’s
Primavera, which the Babe had never seen, hung above one of the broken
sofas, and in his bookcase several numbers of the Yellow Book, which
the Babe declared bitterly had turned grey in a single night, since
the former artist had ceased to draw for it, were ranged side by side
with Butler’s _Analogies_, Mr. Sponge’s _Sporting Tour_, and Miss Marie
Corelli’s _Barabbas_. It is, however, only fair to the Babe to say
that Bishop Butler’s volume had been part of the “set piece” for his
Littlego, and that he referred to Miss Corelli as the arch humourist
of English literature. A pair of dumb-bells, each weighing fifty-six
pounds, stood by the fireplace, but these the Babe had never been known
to use in order to further his muscular development; he only rolled
them over the floor with the patient look of one who had the destinies
of the world on his shoulders, whenever the lodger below played the
piano. It may be remarked that the two were not on speaking terms.

“And herein,” said the Babe, when he explained the use of the
dumb-bells the evening before, “herein lies half the bitterness of
human life.”

He was pressed to explain further, but only replied sadly,

“So near and yet so far,” and showed how it was possible to imitate the
experience of a sea-sick passenger on the channel, by means of “that
simple, and I may add, delicious fruit, the common orange.”

It was a most realistic and spirited performance, and all that the Dean
could do was to ejaculate feebly, “Do stop, Babe,” between his spasms
of laughter.

The Babe had finished his breakfast, which he ate with a good appetite,
heartily, before the gentleman from Oxford appeared, and proceeded
to skim the _Sunday Times_. When he did appear he looked a little
disconsolately at the breakfast table, and lifting up a dish-cover
found some cold bacon, at which he blanched visibly, and demanded soda
water.

“What did you eat for breakfast, Babe?” he asked.

The Babe looked up apologetically.

“I’m afraid I ate all the eggs, and the bacon must be cold by now,” he
said. “But I’ll send for some more.”

“No thanks. Where’s the tea?”

The Babe rang the bell.

“It’ll be here in a moment. I drank cocoa.”

Leamington finished his soda water, and sat down.

“There is no end to your greatness. Cocoa! Great Scot! My tongue is the
colour of mortar.”

“I’m so sorry. I feel quite well, thanks. Will you have some Eno’s
fruit salts? I know my landlady’s got some, because she offered me them
the other day when I had a cold. Here’s your tea. Do you ever read the
Pink ’un? It’s funny without being prudish.”

Leamington poured out some tea.

“Don’t read, Babe; it’s unsociable. Talk to me while I eat.”

The Babe put down the current copy of the _Sunday Times_, and laid
himself out to be pleasant.

“There are some people coming to lunch at two,” he said. “I rather
think I asked Reggie. Poor Reggie, he got dropped on in a minute by the
Proggins. Oh, yes, and so is Stewart. Do you know Stewart? He’s a don
at Trinity, and is supposed to be wicked. I wish someone would suppose
me to be wicked. But I’m beginning to be afraid they never will.”

“You must lose your look of injured innocence or rather cultivate the
injury at the expense of the innocence. Grow a moustache; no one looks
battered and world-weary without a moustache.”

“I can’t. I bought some Allen’s Hair Restorer the other day, but it
only smarted. I wonder if they made a mistake and gave me Allen’s
Antifat?”

“You don’t look as if they had,” said Leamington, “at least it doesn’t
look as if it had had much effect. Wouldn’t it take?”

“Not a bit,” said the Babe. “I applied it night and morning to my upper
lip, and it only smelt and smarted. I suppose you can’t restore a thing
that has never existed. I think I shall be a clergyman, because all
clergymen cut their moustaches off, and to do that you must have one.”

“I see. But isn’t that rather elaborate?”

“No means are elaborate if you desire the end enough,” said the Babe
sententiously. “I shall marry too, because married people are bald, and
I’m sure I don’t wonder.”

“So are babies.”

“Not in the same way, and don’t be personal. I can’t think of any
other means of losing the appearance of innocence. Suggest some: you’ve
been rusticated.”

“Why don’t you--”

“I’ve tried that, and it’s no use.”

“But you don’t know what I was going to say,” objected Leamington.

“I know I don’t. But I’ve tried it,” said the wicked Babe. “I’ve even
read the Yellow Book through from cover to cover, and as you see,
framed the pictures by Aubrey Beardsley. The Yellow Book is said to
add twenty years per volume to any one’s life. Not at all. It has left
me precisely where it found me, whereas, according to that, as I’ve
read five volumes, I ought to be, let’s see--five times twenty, plus
twenty--a hundred and twenty. I don’t look it, you know. It’s no use
your telling me I do, because I don’t. I have no illusions whatever
about the matter.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you anything of the kind,” said Leamington.
“But you should take yourself more seriously. I believe that is very
aging.”

The Babe opened his eyes in the wildest astonishment.

“Why I take myself like Gospels and Epistles,” he said. “The fault is
that no one else takes me seriously. You would hardly believe,” he
continued with some warmth, “that the other night I was proctorised,
and that when the Proctor saw who I was--he’s a Trinity man--he
said, ‘Oh, it’s only you. Go home at once, Babe.’ It is perfectly
disheartening. I offered to let him search me to see whether I had
such a thing as a cap or a gown concealed anywhere about me. And the
bull-dogs grinned. How can I be a devil of a fellow, if I’m treated
like that?”

“I should have thought a Rugby blue could have insisted on being
treated properly.”

“No, that’s all part of the joke,” shrieked the infuriated Babe. “It’s
supposed to add a relish to the silly pointless joke of treating me
like a child and calling me ‘Babe.’ I’ve never been called anything but
Babe since I can remember. And when I try to be proctorised the very
bull-dogs come about me, making mouths at me.”

“Rough luck. Try it on again.”

“It’s a pure waste of time,” said the Babe disconsolately. “I might
go out for a drive with all the bed-makers of this college in a
tandem, and no one would take the slightest notice of me. Besides I
can never make a tandem go straight. The leader always turns round
and winks at me. It knows perfectly well that I’m only the Babe,
bless its heart. I edited a perfectly scandalous magazine here last
term you know, every day during the May week. It simply teemed with
scurrilous suggestiveness. It insulted directly every one with whom I
was acquainted, and many people with whom I was not. It compared the
Vice-Chancellor to an old toothbrush, and drew a trenchant parallel
between the Proctors and the town drainage. It suggested that the
antechapel of King’s should be turned into a shooting-gallery, and
the side chapels into billiard-rooms. It proposed that I should be
appointed Master of Magdalen, I forget why at this moment. It contained
the results of a _plébiscite_ as to who should be Vice-Chancellor for
the next year, and the under-porter of King’s got in easily, with Jack
Marsden as a bad second. It proposed the substitution of dominoes and
hopscotch--I haven’t the least idea what hopscotch is, but it sounds
to me simply obscene--for the inter-university contests at cricket and
rowing. And that magazine,” said the Babe dramatically, rising from his
chair, and addressing Primavera, “that magazine was welcomed, welcomed,
Madam, by all classes. The innocent lambs, whose reputation I ought
to have ruined came bleating after me and said how they had enjoyed
it. It sold by hundreds, when it ought to have been suppressed: people
thought it funny, whereas it was only hopelessly foolish and vulgar,
though I say it who shouldn’t; while those few people who had the sense
to see how despicable the whole production really was, told each other
that ‘it was only Me.’ Me! I’m almost sick of the word. I was put ‘in
Authority’ in the Granta, when I ought to have been sent down--The
Vice-Chancellor asked me to dinner on the very day when I published
a most infernal and libellous lampoon about him, and I have already
told you how the Proctors treat me. It is enough,” said the Babe in
conclusion, “to make one take the veil, I mean the tonsure, and dry up
the milk of human kindness within one.”

“Hear, hear,” shouted Leamington. “Good old Babe.”

The Babe glared at him a moment, with wide, indignant eyes and then
went on rather shrilly:

“Look at Reggie. I’m older than he is, at least I think so, and any one
with a grain of sense would say that I therefore ought to know better,
and what is excusable in him, is not excusable in me, but he goes and
says ‘Oh’ in the street and he is treated as a dangerous character,
sent home, and will be fined. I might say ‘Oh’ till Oscar Browning got
into Parliament, and do you suppose they would ever consider me a
dangerous character? Not they. (Here the Babe laughed in a hollow and
scornful manner.) They would treat me with that infernal familiarity
which I so deprecate, and say, ‘Go home, Babe.’ Babe indeed!”

The Babe’s voice broke, and he flung himself into his chair after the
manner of Sarah Bernhardt, and hissed out “_Misérables! Comme je les
déteste!_”

Leamington applauded this histrionic effort, and feeling a little
better after breakfast, lit a cigarette. The maidservant came to clear
breakfast away, and as she left the room the Babe resumed in the
gentle, melancholy tones, which were natural to him:

“If I thought it would do any good, I would go and snatch a kiss from
that horrid, rat-faced girl as she is carrying the tray down stairs.
But it wouldn’t, you know; it wouldn’t do any good at all. She wouldn’t
complain to the landlady, or if she did it would only end in my giving
her half-a-crown. Besides, I don’t in the least want to kiss her--I
wouldn’t do it if she gave me half-a-crown. I wonder what George Moore
would do if he were me. We’ll ask Stewart when he comes to lunch. He is
intimate with all notable people. George Moore is notable isn’t he? I
fancy W. H. Smith & Son boycotted him. Stewart said the other day that
the Emperor of Germany was one of the nicest emperors he had ever seen.”

“That’s nothing,” said Leamington. “There’s a don at Oxford who
has written a book called _Princes I have Persecuted without
Encouragement_.”

The Babe laughed.

“A companion volume to Stewart’s _Monarchs I have Met_. Not that he has
written such a book. Stewart is perfectly charming, but he thinks a lot
of a Prince. If he hasn’t written _Monarchs I have Met_, he ought to
have.”

“We all ought to have done a lot of things we haven’t done,” said
Leamington.

“We had a butler once,” said the Babe, “who never would say the
General Confession, because he said he hadn’t left undone the things he
ought to have done, and it went against his conscience to say he had.
He got the sack soon after for leaving the door of the cellar undone,
and for getting drunk.”

“So he was undone himself.”

“When I grow up,” said the Babe with less bitterness, but returning
like a burned moth to the sore subject--no charge for mixed
metaphors--“I shall live exclusively in the society of archdeacons.
Perhaps they might think me wicked. Yet I don’t know--my uncle whom you
met last night thinks I’m such a good boy, and he’s a dean.”

“I doubt if they would. The other day some one sent a telegram to the
Archdeacon of Basingstoke, a man of whom he knew nothing except that he
was a teetotaller and an anti-vivisectionist, saying, ‘Fly at once, all
is discovered.’ The Archdeacon flew, and has never been heard of since.
No one has the slightest idea where he has gone or what he had done.
You know you wouldn’t fly, Babe, if you were sent telegrams like that
by the hundred.”

“How little you know me,” said the Babe dramatically. “I should fly
like fun. Don’t you see if one flew, one’s character for wickedness
would be established beyond all doubt. I might send a telegram to
myself, telling me to fly. Then I should fly, but leave the telegram
lying about in a conspicuous position. After a year’s absence I should
return, but my character would be gone beyond all hopes of recovery,
and the world would do me justice at last.”

“Poor misunderstood Babe! Why don’t you go to Oxford, saying you’ve
been sent down from Cambridge? What time do we lunch?”

“Oh, about two, and it’s half-past twelve already. Let’s go round to
the Pitt. This evening we will go to Trinity Chapel. A little walk is
very wholesome after breakfast. Besides I shall go in a bowler, and
perhaps we shall meet at Proggins. I shall insult him if we do.”



IV.--_VS._ BLACKHEATH.

        For he was very fast,
        And he ran and he passed,
    And the sun and the moon and the stars
    Tried to catch him by the tail,
    But they one and all did fail,
    And Venus broke her nose ’gainst Mars.
              HOTCHPOTCH VERSES.


The Babe hurt his knee playing against the Old Leysians, and his
language was Aristophanic and savoured strongly of faint praise. Also
one of the Old Leysians had grossly insulted him during the course
of the game. The Babe was careering about with the ball behind their
touch-line, attempting to get a try straight behind the goal-posts,
instead of being content with one a reasonable distance off, for he was
fastidious in these little matters and liked to do things well, when
he was caught up bodily by one of the opposing team and carried safely
out into the field again. A roar of appreciative laughter, and shouts
of “Good old Babe” went up from all the field, and the Babe’s feelings
were hurt. He had the satisfaction of dropping a goal a little later
on, but he asked pathetically, “Could aught atone?”

Before “Time” was called he had hurt his knee, and as already mentioned
he was Aristophanic for a few days.

The next match was against Blackheath, and the Babe had not yet
recovered sufficiently to play. He had bought an Inverness cloak “so
loud,” he said, “that you could scarcely hear yourself speak,” and a
cross-eyed bull-pup, in order to dispel that universal but distressing
illusion about his childishness, which so vexed his soul, and he was
going to lunch with Reggie and look at the match afterwards. Bill
Sykes, the bull-dog, was coming too, in order to be seen with the Babe
by as many people as possible, and his master drove to King’s gate with
his Inverness and his bull-dog, and his seraphic smile, in the best of
tempers. It was necessary to smuggle Mr. Sykes, as the Babe insisted
that strangers should call him, through the court without his being
seen, and the Babe hobbled along, still being rather lame, presenting
a curious lopsided appearance which was caused by Mr. Sykes, who was
tucked away beneath the Inverness. A confused growling sound issued at
intervals from somewhere below his left arm, drowning even the loudness
of the Inverness, and the Babe murmured encouragement and threats
alternately. The porter stared suspiciously at this odd figure as it
passed, but the serenity of the Babe’s smile was as infinite as ever.

The Babe’s hansom had been told to wait at the back gate of King’s, but
it had apparently found waiting tedious, and as there were no others
about, they had to walk. Mr. Sykes, however, took this opportunity to
behave, as the Babe said, “like the dog of a real blood,” and had a
delightful turn-up with a mongrel gentleman of his acquaintance, which
did him much credit.

The game had not yet begun when they reached the Corpus ground, and
both Sykes and the Babe’s cloak can hardly have failed to be noticed.
The Babe hobbled about among the two teams who were kicking about
before the game began, and said it was much pleasanter looking on than
playing, and that he meant to give it up, as it was a game more suited
to savages than gentlemen. Two of the home team resented these remarks,
and removed him, kindly but firmly, beyond the touch-line.

He and Reggie had secured chairs towards the centre of the ground,
and it pleased the Babe to affect a childlike ignorance of everything
connected with the rules and regulations of Rugby football, and he kept
up a flow of fatuous remarks.

“Look how they are throwing the ball about! Why do they do that,
Reggie? Which side is getting the best of it? Look at that funny little
man with a flag, why do they all stop when he holds it up? I suppose it
must be the captain. Have they got any try-downs yet, or do you call
them touches? Oh, the ball’s coming over here. I wish they’d take more
care; it might easily have hit me. Why don’t they have a better one?
It’s got all out of shape; it isn’t a bit round. Mr. Sykes wants to
play too. What a darling! Bite it then! How rough they are! Why did
Hargreaves stamp on that man so?”

The effect of Hargreaves’ “stamping on that man” was that he got the
ball and a nice clear run. He was playing three quarters on the right,
and when he got fairly off he was as fast as any man in England. His
weak point, however, was starting: he could not start full speed as
the Babe did, being heavy and a trifle clumsy. But he got twenty
yards clear now, and making the most of it he was well off before the
Blackheath team realised what was happening.

The Babe’s fatuities died away as Hargreaves started and he stood
silent a moment. It was clear that there was a good opening to hand,
barring accidents. The game was close to the University twenty-five
on the far side of the ground, and the Blackheath three-quarters were
for the moment much too close to the scrimmage. It was impossible to
get through even with the most finished passing on that side, and
Hargreaves ran right across parallel to the goal disregarding the
possibility of being collared in the centre of the ground opposite to
the home goal, but trusting to his own speed. The outside Blackheath
three-quarters came racing along, running slightly back in order to
tackle him as he turned, but in a few moments it was clear that he was
outpaced. Hargreaves ran clear round him as a yacht clears the buoy
with a few yards to spare.

“Oh, well run,” shouted the Babe. “Don’t pass; get in yourself.”

Hargreaves and the Blackheath back were now close to each other about
the level of the Blackheath twenty-five, and nearly in the middle of
the ground. The Varsity centre three-quarters had run straight up the
ground while Hargreaves ran round, and was now in a position to be
passed to again, but two Blackheath three-quarters were close to him.
Then, by a fatal error, Hargreaves wavered a moment, instead of again
trusting to his pace, got tackled, and in that moment of slack speed
his own centre three-quarters got in front of him. He passed wildly
and forward. An appeal, a whistle, a flag, and a free kick.

“Damn,” said the Babe in a loud, angry voice.

The game flickered about between the two twenty-fives for the next ten
minutes, going fast and loose, with a good deal of dribbling on the
part of the forwards, and a corresponding amount of self-immolation on
the part of the halves, who hurled themselves recklessly on the ball in
the face of the fastest rushes, and seemed to the unaccustomed eye to
be feverishly courting a swift and muddy death. Hargreaves made a few
futile attempts to run through and failed egregiously.

Half-time was called shortly afterwards, neither team having scored.
The Babe hobbled out into the field to make himself unpleasant to
his side. Mr. Sykes followed, wheezing pathetically, and the Babe’s
Inverness cloak came in for renewed comments and reproof.

“They are weak on the outside,” said the sage Babe to Hargreaves, “and
a great man like you can run round as easy as perdition. You ought to
stand much wider, and if you think you can get through the centre you
are wrong. Stoddard could stop fifty of you. Good-bye.”

The Blackheath team had come to the same conclusion as the Babe, and
they kept the game tight. They had quite realised that the Varsity
three-quarters on the left was weak, and that Hargreaves on the right
was abominably fast. In consequence they did their best to screw the
scrimmage round to Hargreaves’ side, so as to hamper him by not leaving
him room to get off. Time after time his half fed him persistently, and
time after time he was unable to get round between the touch-line and
the forwards. Meantime, the Blackheath pack, which were heavier and
rather better together than Cambridge, were working their way slowly
and steadily down the ground, keeping the ball close and comfortable
among them. Hargreaves again and again, following the Babe’s advice,
stood right away on the left of the scrimmage when it approached the
right touch-line, but his _vis-à-vis_ as regularly stood close to him,
and embraced him affectionately but roughly as soon as the ball got to
him and before he had time to pass; but for the next quarter the game
was very tight, and with the exception of a couple of free kicks given
for offside play among the Blackheath forwards, the ball rarely left
the scrimmage. Even these were returned by the back into touch, and the
forwards settled down on the ball again like swarming bees.

The Babe, meantime, had been insolent to the referee, who was an old
friend, and also an old hand. He had gone so far as to leave the game
to take care of itself for a moment to tell the Babe candidly and in a
loud, clear voice that he should be severely treated afterwards, adding
as a further insult, “Of course we all know it’s only you.” The Babe
was furious but impotent. The glory of the ulster and the bull-pup was
entirely neutralised.

But he soon forgot these insolences; there were only ten minutes
left, and neither side had scored more than minor points. To the
unprofessional eye it seemed likely that they might go on playing for
hours like this without either side scoring. The Blackheath forwards
gained ground very slowly, but this was made up for with tiresome
monotony by the quick punting of the University halves whenever
they got the chance. The three-quarters stood and shivered, and the
University back declared bitterly and audibly that he might as well
have stopped at home.

But the professional Babe knew better. If once the ball came fairly
out, the three-quarters would have a look in, and for himself he placed
his money on Hargreaves. And in defiance of law, order, and decorum he
shouted his advice to the half who was playing substitute for him.

“Don’t punt,” he shouted, “but pass.”

The half at that moment was busy punting, and the Babe repeated his
advice. Two minutes afterwards the half took it, as an exceptional
opportunity presented itself, and passed to his centre three-quarters,
and the Babe stood on his chair. Centre ran a short way and passed to
the left, who passed back to centre, and centre to right. It was as
pretty a piece of passing as one would wish to see on a winter’s day.

This was the moment for which the Babe was waiting. The field was
broken up and Hargreaves had the ball. He ran: they all ran. He ran
fastest--there is nothing like simple language for epical events. He
got a try which was not converted into a goal. But as no other points
were scored, Cambridge won the match by one point to _nil_.

The Babe and Mr. Sykes went back to take their tea with Reggie, and
Ealing who had been playing the Eton game, joined them. The Babe
ate three muffins with a rapt air, and Mr. Sykes drank his tea out
of the slop-basin like a Christian. He took cream and three lumps
of sugar. His idea of how to eat muffins was a little sketchy, but
otherwise be behaved charmingly. But, as the Babe said, to put pieces
of half-masticated muffin on the carpet while you drink your tea, is a
thing seldom, if ever, done in the best houses.

Ealing himself eschewed muffin on the ground of its being “bad
training,” and the Babe, who held peculiar views on training, proceeded
to express them.

“One does every thing best,” he said, “when one is most content.
Personally I am most content when I have eaten a large lunch. Nobody
could play Rugger in the morning. Why? Simply because no one is in a
good temper in the morning, except those under-vitalised people who
are never in a bad one, and who also never play games. Of course after
a very large lunch one cannot run quite so fast, but one is serene,
and serenity has much more to do with winning a match than pace. Yes,
another cup of tea, please. Now Hargreaves is most content when he has
had a little bread and marmalade and water. Every one to his taste. I
hate water except when it’s a hot bath. Water is meant not to drink,
but to heat and wash in.”

“Babe, do you mean to say you have hot baths in the morning?”

“Invariably when the weather is cold, and a cigarette, whatever
the weather is. I am no Charles Kingsley, though I used to collect
butterflies when I was a child.”

“But when you became a Babe, you put away childish things,” suggested
Ealing.

A malignant light beamed from the Babe’s eye.

“I ask you: do Babes have bull-pups?”

“I know one who has. I daresay he’s an exception, though.”

“When I was at a private school,” remarked the Babe severely, “and a
chap said a thing like that, we used to call him a funny ass.”

Reggie shouted.

“Good old Babe. Has the referee caught you yet? He belongs to this
college, and he may be in any minute. In fact, I asked him to come to
tea. I don’t know why he hasn’t.”

“If you want me to go, say so,” said the Babe.

“Not a bit of it. It was only for your sake I suggested it. Smoke.”

The Babe was limping about the room and came upon a set of chessmen.

“I want to play chess,” he said. “Chess is the most delightful game if
you treat it as a game of pure chance. You ought to move your queen
into the middle of the board and then see what happens. To reduce
it to the level of a sum in advanced mathematics, is a scandal and
an outrage. To calculate the effect of a move takes away all the
excitement.”

“You may always calculate it wrong.”

“In that case it becomes a nuisance. Reggie, will you play?”

“No.”

“Ealing?”

“I can’t. I don’t know the moves.”

“Nor do I. We should be about equal. Supposing you set two Heathen
Chinese to play chess, which would win?”

“Is it a riddle?”

The Babe sank down again in his chair.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If it is, I give up. By the way what are you
two chaps doing to-morrow?”

“Stop in bed till ten,” said Reggie, “it being the Day of Rest: Chapel.
Breakfast. Lunch. Pitt. Tea. Pitt. Sunday Club.”

“Do you belong to that? I thought it was semi-clerical.”

“Yes, we are all lay readers.”

“I went once,” said the Babe. “We ate what is described as a cold
collation. Then we all sat round, and somebody made jokes and we
all laughed. I made jokes too, but nobody sat round me. There was a
delightful, decorous gaiety about the proceedings. I think we sang
hymns afterwards, or else we looked at photographs of cathedrals, I
forget which. Hymns and photographs are so much alike.”

“O Lord, what do you mean?” asked Reggie.

“They are both like Sunday evening, and things which are like the same
thing are like one another. At eleven we parted.”

“The wicked old Babe doesn’t care for simple pleasures,” said Ealing.
“Oh, he knows a thing or two.”

“It’s always absurd for a lot of people to meet like that,” continued
the Babe. “The whole point of dining clubs ought to be to have a lot
of members with utterly different tastes. Then you see they can’t all
talk about their tastes, they can’t all sit round and do one thing,
and consequently they all talk rot, which is the only rational form of
conversation. If there is one thing I detest more than another it is
cliques. Individually I love most of the members of the Sunday Club,
collectively I cannot even like them. And the same thing applies to the
Athenæum.”

“Then why do you belong?”

“In order to go to Chapel in a pink and white tie, and also because
I love the members individually. I must go. Where’s Bill? Come along
under my ulster. Good-bye, you people.”



V.--THE WORK-CLUB.

    For men must work.
              KINGSLEY.


Reggie and Ealing were working together. They had formed a work club
consisting only of themselves, and it was to meet for the first time
this morning. In order to ensure the success of the first meeting they
had had a heavy breakfast at a quarter to nine, because, as Reggie
said, brain work is more exhausting than anything else, after which
they had played a little snob-cricket in the archway between the two
halves of Fellows’ Buildings, in order to clear the brain, until their
names were taken by the porter and entered in the report book. So they
adjourned to the bridge for a little to finish their pipes, and about a
quarter to eleven sat down one at each side of Reggie’s larger table,
with a box of cigarettes and a tobacco jar between them, Reggie’s
alarum clock, which had been induced to go, two copies of Professor
Jebb’s _Œdipus Tyrannus_, at which they were both working, one small
_Liddell & Scott_, and a translation of the play as edited in Mr.
Bohn’s helpful series of classical authors, in case Professor Jebb
proved too free in his translation, “for the difficulties,” as Reggie
acutely observed, “of rendering Greek both literally and elegantly
cannot be over-stated: indeed, it is to be feared that some of our best
English scholars sacrifice literal rendering to the latter.”

So Ealing threw a sofa cushion at his head, and the alarum clock was
knocked over on the floor, and instantly went off. The noise was
terrific, and they had to stifle it in a college gown, and put it in
the gyp cupboard. Then they began.

For ten minutes or so there was silence, and then Ealing in an
abstracted voice asked for the _Liddell & Scott_, and Reggie, not
to be behind-hand, underlined one of Professor Jebb’s notes with a
purple indelible pencil. The point was blunt, and he tried to make it
sharper by the aid of a dinner knife. This only resulted in a gradual
shortening of the pencil. Also the point became slightly notchier.

Ealing, finding it impossible to go on, while this was being done, had
been watching the proceeding at first with deep interest, which passed
into a state of wild, unreasonable impatience.

“How clumsy you are,” he said at length. “Here, pass it to me. Fancy
not being able to sharpen a pencil.”

There is, as every one knows, only one individual in the world who can
sharpen pencils, and that is oneself. The same remark applies to poking
fires. So Reggie replied airily--

“Oh, never mind, old chap. Get on with your work. I can do it
beautifully.”

But the pencil got rapidly shorter, and in order to prove to his own
satisfaction that nobody else in the world could do it, he passed
it over to Ealing with the dinner knife. His fingers were purple,
and should have been so indelibly, but he hopefully retired into his
bedroom to see if it could be washed off.

It was clear at once to Ealing that Reggie’s method was altogether at
fault, and he rough-hewed the pencil again so as to be able to set
to work properly. Then the clock on the mantelpiece, which had been
set going, after the alarum became derelict, struck eleven and Reggie
returned from his bedroom.

“Of course that clock is fast,” said Ealing.

“It’s ten minutes slow. Why should you think it was fast?”

“We must have been working longer than I thought. We had breakfast at
half-past eight and we began working almost immediately after, didn’t
we?”

“Yes. We knocked up a bit in the arch, you know.”

“Only about ten minutes. I should say we had set to work well before
ten.”

“Perhaps we did,” said Reggie, “but I haven’t got through much yet.
How’s the pencil getting on?”

“Oh, pretty well: but you went the wrong way about it at first!”

“There won’t be much left to write with, will there?” asked Reggie,
looking at it doubtfully.

“It will last you for weeks with proper care,” said Ealing. “I think I
never saw so blunt a knife. Why haven’t you got a proper knife?”

Reggie got up from the table, and strolled across to the window, and
looked out.

“Be quick, old chap,” he said. “I can’t go on till it’s ready. I’m in
the middle of underlining something.”

He saw an acquaintance below, and called to him.

“The work club’s started this morning,” he shouted. “We’re getting on
beautifully.”

(Confused sound from below, inaudible to Ealing.)

“Yes, he’s just sharpening my pencil. Isn’t it kind of him? He says
he’s getting on with it pretty well.”

(Murmur.)

“No, not very far, but I’m in the middle of a chorus, and I’m reading
Jebb’s notes and marking them.”

(Murmur.)

“Oh, hours; ever since about half-past nine or so.”

(Murmur.)

“What?”

(Murmur.)

“Yes, Jebb’s not literal enough for me. I like to get at the real
meaning of---- Oh!”

The sofa cushion flew out of the window and lay on the grass below.
When Reggie turned round Ealing was absorbed in his book.

“Where’s the pencil?” asked Reggie.

“There isn’t any,” said Ealing.

“Well, I must go and pick that cushion up. What a lot of time you’ve
made me waste. Also go to Severs’s and buy a new pencil. I can’t work
without.”

“This is all the thanks I get,” said Ealing bitterly.

“No, I’m awfully obliged to you, but it hasn’t done me much good, you
know. You see you acted with the best intention, which is always fatal.
Where’s my cap?”

“I should think you could borrow a pencil,” said Ealing.

Reggie considered a moment, with his head on one side.

“I think not. It would be better to get one of my own. Then I shall
have one, you see. Come with me?”

The two went down together. As the cushion was lying on the grass, it
was necessary to take shots in turn at Reggie’s open window, to avoid
going upstairs again. This was much more amusing but it took a little
longer than the other would have done, and the University clock struck
half-past eleven in a slow regretful manner. The successful shot,
about which an even sixpence was laid, was made by Ealing, and they
crossed King’s parade to buy a pencil. As they got to the lodge they
were further gratified by the sight of the Babe in the road opposite
on a bicycle, which he rode exceedingly badly and with a curious,
swoopy, wobbly motion. Mr. Sykes trotted along at a distance of some
twenty yards off, with the air of not belonging to anybody, thoroughly
ashamed of his master. They called to the Babe, and he being rash
enough to try to wave his hand to them, ran straight into the curbstone
opposite King’s gate, and dismounted hurriedly, stepping into a large
puddle. His face was flushed with his exertions, but, as he wrung the
water out from the bottom of his trousers, he said genially:

“This is dry work, though it doesn’t look it. A small whiskey and soda,
Reggie, would not hurt me. No doubt you have such a thing in your room.”

“What about Bill Sykes?”

The Babe thought for a moment and mopped his forehead, but in a few
seconds a smile of solution lighted his face.

“William shall be chained to the bicycle,” he said. “Thus no one will
steal the bicycle for fear of William, and William will not venture to
run away, as he wouldn’t be seen going about the streets with a bicycle
in tow for anything. He despises the bicycle. I can hardly make him
follow. Come here, darling.”

But Mr. Sykes required threats and coaxing. From the first, so the Babe
said, he was utterly opposed to the idea of the bicycle, and had, when
he thought himself unobserved, been seen to bite it maliciously.

It struck a quarter to twelve.

The Babe was in a peculiarly sociable humour this morning, and after a
whiskey and soda, “a cigarette” as he remarked, “would not be amiss,”
and it was not till he had smoked two, and been told with brutal
plainness that he was not wanted in the least, that Reggie discovered
that he had forgotten to buy his pencil. This necessitated his and
Ealing’s making another journey to King’s parade, and the Babe, who
bore no malice whatsoever at being told to go away, took an arm of
each, and insisted in walking across the grass in the hard, convincing
light of noonday.

It was now seven minutes past twelve, and opposite the fountain they
met the Provost, at the sight of whom the Babe assumed his most affable
manner, and they talked together very pleasantly for a minute or two.

“Indeed,” as he remarked as they went on their way, “this little
meeting should quite take the sting out of the fact that the Porter
of your colleges has just retired into his hole in the gate, with the
object no doubt, of reporting you both for walking across the grass.
And as you have already been reported for playing squash, this will
make twice.”

Bill Sykes meantime had been the object of much attention on the part
of the casual passers-by, and he was sitting there chattering with
impotent rage, the centre of a ring of people, in the humiliating
position of being chained to a bicycle, which he despised and detested.
At the sight of the Babe, however, he forgot for the moment about the
bicycle, jumped up, and tried to run towards him. Thus it was not
unnatural that the bicycle toppled heavily over onto the top of him.
Mr. Sykes was very angry, the bell rang loudly, and one handle of the
bicycle was bent.

Mr. Sykes was released, and the Babe who was not expert at mounting,
though he said he was the very devil when he got going, hopped slowly
down King’s Parade for a hundred yards or so with one foot on the step,
making ineffectual efforts to get into the saddle. There seemed to be
no reason to suppose that he would ever succeed, but about opposite
the north end of the Chapel, he accomplished this feat, and after
describing two or three graceful but involuntary swoops to the right
and left, secured the treadles, and settled comfortably down into one
of the tram lines. At this moment the tram came round the corner by
St. Mary’s, and the bicycle, with its precious burden, seemed doomed
to instant annihilation. The Babe, however, got off just in time, and
consoled himself by swearing at the driver, and he disappeared among
the traffic of Trinity Street still hopping.

“It’s like the White Knight riding,” said Ealing. “Look sharp, Reggie,
with that beastly pencil. It’s struck a quarter past.”

Between one thing and another, it was creditable that they were ready
to begin work again at half-past twelve. Reggie finished underlining
his note, the point of which he could not quite understand, and so put
a query in the margin, and Ealing went back to the word he was looking
out in _Liddell & Scott_, an hour and a quarter before.

Ten minutes later Reggie observed that the Babe had forgotten his
cover-coat, which was lying on a chair, and they debated with some heat
whether it had better be taken to him at once. Eventually they tossed
up, as to who should do it; Ealing lost the toss, and they both jumped
up with alacrity.

“It’s a beastly nuisance when one has just settled down to work again,”
he said.

“I won,” remarked Reggie, “and I am going. By Jove, there’s that
Varsity clock striking a quarter to one. Here, let’s both go. It’s
no use working for a quarter of an hour. One can’t do anything in a
quarter of an hour, and I must lunch at one, as I’m playing footer.”

“All right. Of course we work after tea for two hours more as we
settled. That will make five, and one more after Hall.”

“And six hours steady work a day,” said Reggie cheerfully, “is as much
as is good for any man. I begin not to attend after I have worked,
really worked, you know, for six hours.”



VI.--THE BABE’S PICNIC.

    Row, brothers, row,
    The stream runs slow,
    _We don’t know how to row_
    _And the oars stick so._
              LIGHT-BLUE LYRICS.


The Babe was no waterman, and he never pretended to be, but this did
not prevent his getting up a quiet picnic on the upper river one
delightful afternoon towards the end of May. There were only to be four
of them, not counting Mr. Sykes--though it was impossible not to count
Mr. Sykes, the others being Reggie, Ealing, and Jack Marsden.

Marsden, who had once, when a Freshman, been coached on the river, by
an angry man in shorts, and had been abandoned as hopeless after his
first trial, was naturally supposed by the Babe to be an accomplished
oarsman, and to have probed to its depths the nature of boats and
oars and stretchers, so he was deputed to find a boat which held four
people, several hampers, and a dog, and

[Illustration: TRINITY BRIDGE, FROM THE BACKS.]

which was warranted not to shy or bolt, and to be quiet with children.
It was understood that the Babe was not going to row or steer, his
office being merely to provide food for them all, and if possible
to prevent Mr. Sykes from leaping overboard when they passed the
bathing-sheds, and biting indiscriminately at the bathers, whom
for some reason of his own he regarded with peculiar but perfectly
ineradicable disfavour. The Babe had taken him up the river only the
week before, but opposite the town sheds Sykes had been unable to
restrain himself, had jumped off the boat into the water and chased to
land a bland and timid shopkeeper, to whom the Babe owed money, so it
looked as if it was a put-up job; the man had regained the steps of the
bathing-shed only just in time to save himself from being pinned in the
calf of the leg.

The Babe and Jack were to start from the raft by Trinity at three, and
pick up Reggie and Ealing opposite King’s. They were then to row up to
Byron’s Pool (so-called because there is no reason to suppose that
Byron was not extremely fond of it,) bathe and have tea, and afterwards
go a mile or so farther, and have dinner. The Babe who just now was
gated at ten, confidently hoped to be home at or before that hour, on
the sole ground that Napoleon had once said there was no such word as
impossible.

They paddled quietly up to the Mill just above the town, and here it
was necessary to haul the boat over the bank separating the upper
river from the lower. The Babe who was beautifully dressed in white
flannels, yellow boots, and a straw hat with a new riband, courteously
declined giving the smallest assistance to the others, but watched the
operation with interest and apparent approval, in consequence of which
he was advised by Reggie, who had got hot and rather dirty with his
exertions, to drop that infernally patronising attitude. Here too Mr.
Sykes first sniffed the prey, for he had caught sight of the bathers at
the town sheds across the fields, and was trotting quietly off in their
direction, secretly licking his lips, but outwardly pretending that he
was merely going for a little airy walk on his own account. The Babe
had to run after him and haul him back, for he affected to hear neither
whistling nor shouting, and on his return he kept smelling suspiciously
at the legs of casual passers-by as if he rather suspected that they
were going to bathe too.

Though the lower river is one of the foulest streams on the face of the
earth, the upper river is one of the fairest. It wanders up between
fresh green fields, bordered by tall yellow flags, loosestrife, and
creamy meadow-sweet, all unconscious of the fate that awaits it from
vile man below. Pollarded willows lean over the bank and listen to
the wind, and here and there a company of white poplars, the most
distinguished of trees, come trooping down to the water’s edge. The
stream itself carpeted with waving weeds strolls along clear and green
from the reflection of the trees, troops of bleak poise and dart in
the shallows, or shelter in the subaqueous forests, and the Babe said
he saw a trout, a statement to which no importance whatever need be
attached. Looking back across a mile of fields you see the pinnacles
of King’s rise grey and grave into the sky; and in front, Granchester,
with its old-fashioned garden-cradled houses, presided over by a church
tower on the top of which, as a surveyor once remarked, there is a plus
sign which is useful as a fixed point, nestles in a green windless
hollow.

But Bill, like Gallio, cared for none of those things. He knew
perfectly well that they were going to pass the town bathing-place
very shortly, and after half a mile or so more of uninteresting river,
the University bathing-place. The Babe had taken him up here once when
he had bathed himself, and though Mr. Sykes realised that he must not
bite his master, whatever foolish and ungentlemanly thing he chose to
do, he was very cold and reserved to him afterwards. But he meant to
behave exactly as he pleased at the town bathing-place, and a hundred
yards before they got there, he was standing in the bow of the boat,
uttering short malignant growls. The Babe, however, pulled him back by
the tail, and muffled him up in four towels, and Mr. Sykes rolled about
the bottom of the boat, and from within the towels came sounds of deep
dissatisfaction just as if there were a discontented bull-pup in the
middle of them.

Beyond the town bathing-place stands a detached garden, with bright
flower-beds cut out in a lawn of short green turf. Here the Babe
conceived a violent desire to land and have tea, which he was not
permitted to do; and above that runs a stretch of river, very properly
known as Paradise, seeing which the Babe had a fit of rusticity and
said he would go no farther, but live evermore under the trees with Mr.
Sykes, and grow a honey-coloured beard. He would encamp under the open
sky, and on fine afternoons would be seen sitting on the river bank
dabbling his feet in the water, and playing on a rustic pipe made of
reeds. He would keep a hen and a cow and a bed of strawberries, and it
should be always a summer afternoon. Indeed, had not a water-rat been
seen at the moment, which compelled him to throw Mr. Sykes overboard to
see whether he could catch it,--which he could not--there is no knowing
what developments this rustic phase would have undergone. So they went
slowly on, making a small detour up to the Granchester Mill, where the
water came hurrying out cool and foamy, and where the Babe asked an
elderly man, who was fishing intently on the bank, whether he had had
any bites, which seemed to infuriate him strangely, for he was fishing
with a fly; drifted down again under a big chestnut tree, all covered
with pyramids of white blossoms, and turned up the left arm of the
river. The water was shallower here, and now and then gravelly shoals
appeared above the surface. They frequently ran aground, and made no
less than three futile attempts to get round a sharp corner, where the
stream running swiftly took the nose of the boat into the bank, and the
Babe swore gently at them all, and told them to mark the finish, and
get their hands away.

A long lane of quiet shallow water leads to the tail of the pool, and
here the river spreads out into a broad deep basin. Grey sluice gates,
flanked with red brick form the head of it, and on one side stretches
out a green meadow, on the other there rises out of an undergrowth of
hazel and hemlock, a copse of tall trees, where the nightingales always
omit to sing. They ran the boat in at the edge of the copse, and Reggie
lighted the spirit lamp to boil the kettle for tea, while the Babe
tied up Mr. Sykes, lest he should forget himself at the sight of four
bathers.

Among sensuous pleasures, bathing on a hot day stands alone, and
Byron’s Pool is in the first flight of bathing places. There are some
who prefer Romney Weir, and say that bathing is nought unless you
plunge into a soda water of bubbles; some think that the essence of
bathing is a mere pickling of the human form in brine, and are not
happy except in the sea; to others the _joie de baigner_ consists of
flashing through the air much as M. Doré has pictured Satan falling
down from Heaven. But in Byron’s Pool the reflective, or what we may
call the garden bather is well off. He has clean water deep to the
edge, a grassy slope shadowed by trees to dry on, and a boat to take a
header from. Even Mr. Stevenson, a precisian in these matters, would
allow “that the imagination takes a share in such a cleansing.” And by
the time they were dressed, the kettle was boiling, and Fortune smiled
on them.

The Babe refused, however, to stir before he had drunk four cups of
tea, and in consequence the kettle had to be boiled again.

“Besides,” said he, “Mr. Sykes hasn’t had his second cup.”

It was generally felt that this was more important than the Babe’s
fourth cup, and Reggie filled the kettle.

“The Babe’s pensive,” he said, “What is it, Babe?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes I get pensive on fine days or on wet evenings,
but it doesn’t usually last long. I think I want to fall in love.”

“Well it’s May week next week.”

“One is always supposed to fall in love with each other’s sisters in
May week,” remarked the Babe with a fine disregard of grammar. “But the
sisters either die of consumption or else the Dean snaps them up, and
so it doesn’t come off. Besides one so seldom does what one is supposed
to do.”

“Not often. Byron was supposed to bathe here for instance, and you are
supposed to be in by ten to-night, Babe.”

“Napoleon said--” began the Babe.

“Dry up. Why did they gate you?”

“For repeated warnings, I believe. I never asked them to warn me. They
go and warn me,” said the Babe, getting a little shrill, “and then they
go and gate me for it. I have been allowed no voice whatever in the
matter.”

“What did they warn you about?”

“Oh, it was Bill and the bicycle between them, and the time, and the
place. Life is a sad business, and mine is a hard lot.”

“You are a bad lot,” suggested Jack.

“Jack, for God’s sake don’t be funny,” said Ealing.

“I thought the Babe wanted a little cheering up. I know he likes being
called a bad lot. He isn’t really.”

“It is quite true,” said the Babe in a hollow voice. “I have tried to
go to the devil, and I can’t. It is the most tedious process. Virtue
and simplicity are stamped on my face and my nature. I am like Queen
Elizabeth. I was really cut out to be a milkmaid. I don’t want to get
drunk, or to cultivate the lower female. The more wine I drink, the
sleepier I get; I have to pinch myself to keep awake, and I should
be sleeping like a dead pig long before I got the least intoxicated.
Even then if you woke me up I could say the most difficult words like
Ranjitsinghi without the least incoherence. And as for the lower
female--well, I had to wait at the station the other day for half an
hour, so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk to the barmaid at
the refreshment room. So I ordered a whiskey and soda and called her
‘Miss.’ I did indeed.”

“What a wicked Babe.”

“I did call her Miss. ‘Miss,’ I tell you,” shouted the Babe. “Then I
said it was a beautiful day, and she said ‘Yes, dear.’ She called me
‘dear,’ and I submitted. I didn’t throw the whiskey and soda at her, I
didn’t call for help or give her in charge. I determined to go through
with it. She was a mass of well-matured charms, and she breathed
heavily through her nose. Round her neck she had a massive silver
locket on with ‘Pizgah,’ or ‘Kibroth Hataavah,’ or ‘Jehovah Nisi’ upon
it.”

“Decree Nisi,” suggested Ealing.

“She looked affectionately at me,” continued the Babe, “and a cold
shudder ran through me. She asked me if I would treat her to a glass
of port, _port_, at a quarter-past four in the afternoon. I said, ‘By
all means,’ and she pulled a sort of lever, the kind of thing you put
a train into a siding with, and out came port, which she drank. Then
she said smilingly, ‘’Aven’t seen you for a long time,’ which was quite
true, as I’d never set foot in the place before, and she won’t see me
again for an equally long time. I waited there ten minutes, ten whole
ghastly minutes, and the words froze on my tongue, and the thoughts in
my brain. For the life of me I could not think of another thing to say.
She continued to smile at me all the time. She smiled for ten minutes
without stopping. And so we parted. The kettle is boiling, Reggie.”

The Babe mixed Mr. Sykes’s second cup for him and drank his fourth.

“It is no use,” he said. “I am irredeemably silly, and I have no other
characteristic whatever. My golden youth is slipping from me in the
meantime.”

Reggie shouted.

“The Babe thinks he is growing old. We don’t agree with him. Of course
he is old in everything else, but not in years. Babe, if you’re ready
we’ll go on. We’ve got to haul the boat over here.”

The Babe jumped up with sudden alacrity.

“All right. Mr. Sykes and I will get out. We shall only be in the way.
Come on, Bill.”

“No, Babe,” said Jack, “you shirked before. You shall at least carry
the hampers.”

“I shall do nothing of the kind,” said the Babe with dignity, and on
this point he was quite polite but perfectly firm.

They rowed a mile or so farther up, and the Babe selected a suitable
place for dinner, at the edge of a hayfield and under a willow tree,
and a smile of kind indulgence towards the world in general began to
overscore his fruitless regrets of the afternoon. It was after eight
when they began dinner, and the Babe’s commissariat was plentiful and
elaborate. The only dish that failed to give satisfaction was the
toasted cheese with which he insisted they should finish dinner. It was
made in the tea kettle, and when melted, poured out through the spout
on to biscuits. Mr. Sykes and the Babe alone attempted to eat it, and
Mr. Sykes who ate less than the Babe was excessively unwell shortly
afterwards.

“But for that,” said the Babe, drinking Chartreuse out of a tea-cup, “I
blame the lobster.”

The moon, as big as a bandbox, was just rising clear of the trees, and
the Babe produced cigars.

“For mine,” he said, “is one of those rare, generous natures that does
unto others what it would not do unto itself. It all comes in the
catechism. I will thank any one for a simple paper cigarette.”

“Speech,” said Ealing. “As Stewart.”

The Babe bowed, and began, drawling out his words in a low, slow,
musical voice.

“Mr. Sykes and gentlemen,” he said, “the May week is upon us, and
we, like the _Cambridge Review_, are at the end of another year of
University life and thought. Some of us--most of us in fact, have
experienced for two years the widening influence and varied duties
which are inseparable from the minds of any of those who embark upon
the harvest of University curriculum with any earnestness of purpose,
or seriousness of aim. I think, in fact, I am right in believing that
my friend Mr. Reginald Bristow alone--to continue a few of my less
mixed metaphors--has put out only a year’s space upon the sea of
those special features, which mark the career and are the hinge of
the prospects of those miners after perfectly useless knowledge who
seek to increase their general ignorance among the purlieus of Alma
Mater. Some of us have failed in attaining the objects of our various
ambitions, and I am happy to say that none of us have really tried to
do so. We have none of us gone to the devil, and he with characteristic
exclusiveness has kept aloof from us all. [Cheers] We none of us play
cricket for the University, though I once knew a man who got his extra
square at chess; he was a dear boy, but he is dead now, and there is
not the slightest fear that anything will prevent us from being unable
to fail in obtaining a very respectable place in our Triposes. Yes,
the May week, which occurs in June and lasts a fortnight, spoken of,
I may say sung of in the pages of the _Junior Dean_ and _The Fellow
of Trinity_, is upon us. Personally I detest the May week and I am
subscribing to the Grace testimonial fund simply and solely because
I abhor the boat procession, but before long our stately chapels and
storied urns [cheers] will echo to the sound of girlish laughter and
maternal feet. Gentlemen, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for
the very sincere way in which this toast has been received, and am
happy to declare that the Institution is now open, and the meeting
adjourned _sine die_.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Going home, the Babe had to stand in the bows to look out for snags
and shoals. He carried a lantern in his hand by the light of which he
scrutinised with agonised intentness the dark surface of the water.
Just above Byron’s Pool the boat ran into a sunken tree trunk and the
Babe and his lantern plunged heavily into the water. So he dressed
himself in the tablecloth, and his appearance was inimitable. He did
not stop in Cambridge for the May week.



VII.--THE BABE’S “SAPPING.”

    Lo, when an oyster, succulent and tender,
      Leagued with lemon, courted by cayenne,
    Makes its inevitable sweet surrender,
      Delicately dies, it knows not why or when,--

    “Could aught atone?” pathetically asked he,
      He whom ye wot, to find that unaware
    Oysters would be indubitably nasty,
      Natives or not, because July is here?
              ST. SWITHIN.


The Babe spent June and the first half of July in London. He painted
his bicycle white with Mr. Aspinall’s best enamel, and presented a very
elegant appearance on it every morning in Battersea Park. The elections
were on, and his father, who represented the Conservative interests of
a manufacturing town in the North of England, was absent from London,
in the hopes of representing them again. But party questions did not
interest his son, and the Babe, reflecting that whether the Liberals
or Conservatives governed the country, Battersea Park would still be
open to him and his bicycle, pursued his calm course on a moderately
evenly-balanced wheel.

So the Babe had a commodious house in Prince’s Gate at his disposal.
For he was the only child, and his mother, who was a keener politician
even than his father, accompanied the latter on his political errands.
It occurred to him that he might turn an honest penny by letting the
whole of the first floor for a week or two after the manner of Mr.
Somerset, when he found himself in possession of the Superfluous
Mansion, but after some consideration, he dismissed this as an unworthy
and inconvenient economy, and telegraphed to Reggie to leave Cambridge
and the May week to take care of themselves and join him. Reggie had
kept his term, so he obeyed, taking with him several classical books,
for the Babe, so he said in his telegram, meant to “sap.”

The Babe’s “sapping” was conducted on highly original principles. He
got up at eight, “in order,” he said, “to get a long morning,” had
a cup of tea, and then took his bicycle with him in his mother’s
victoria to Battersea Park, where he rode till ten, and then had
breakfast. He got back to Prince’s Gate about eleven in the victoria
which waited for him at the Park, had a bath and dressed, and usually
went off to Lord’s where he watched cricket till lunch time from the
top of the pavilion, and if the match was interesting stopped on till
about five. He then went to the Bath Club where he bathed and had tea,
returning home in time to dress for dinner, which he usually took at a
friend’s house. The evening was spent at a theatre or a music hall, and
he finished up if possible at a dance. If he had no dance to go to, he
read the evening paper at a club, and went to bed.

“In fact,” as he explained to Reggie, who arrived one evening about
seven, “we shall lead a simple and strenuous life even in the midst
of this modern Babylon. The bicycle and the Bath Club will minister
to the needs of the body, and our minds will minister to each other.
We take our dinner to-night at home, and after dinner it would be
rash not to see Miss Cecilia Loftus. She can dance like fun. I hope
you have brought some books, for otherwise you will have nothing to
do when I am working. It’s time to dress. I see my father made four
speeches yesterday. His energy is perfectly amazing. We will send for
the evening paper, for there are things of overwhelming interest in it,
I am told, apart from politics.”

The programme at the “Pavilion” waned in interest after the performance
of Miss Cecilia Loftus, and about eleven the Babe proposed an
adjournment. It was a warm clear night, and they started back, walking
along Piccadilly instead of taking a hansom. The streets were full,
and characteristically “London,” in other words they were crowded with
all sorts and conditions of men and women, who eyed one another with
suspicious reserve. In Paris the birds of night look at each other with
friendly interest, in London with mistrust and enmity.

The Babe was in an expansive mood, and like Byron, he bitterly
lamented his own loneliness in the crowd.

“Here am I,” he said, “a young man of pleasing manner, and amiable
disposition, and I feel like a solitary wayfarer in the desert of
Sahara. When the four men in the _New Arabian Nights_ left Prince
Florizel’s smoking divan, and plunged into the roaring streets, they
were engulfed by strange adventures before they had gone a hundred
yards. The Lady of the Superfluous Mansion annexed one, the Fair
Cuban another, the man with the chin beard a third. What could be
more delightful? And yet I might walk the streets till the crack of
doom, and the archangels would have to send me home at the last, still
adventureless.”

“Poor Babe,” said Reggie, “but perhaps every one else is in the same
plight; perhaps they are all longing for you to speak to them.”

“I don’t think so,” said the Babe, “they seem to me supremely
indifferent as to whether I speak to them or not. What are we to do,
Reggie? The night is yet young, but we are growing old. I think a
little supper, four or five dozen native lobsters, as Mrs. Nickleby
suggested, would not hurt us. I hear that there is a most commodious
restaurant at the Savoy Hotel. It would be well to be certain on
that point. We are walking in the wrong direction but we will do so
no longer. Let us take a hansom. Nothing will happen to us. But we
will give this wicked world one more chance. We will walk back across
Leicester Square. It is supposed to be the fountain-head of all
adventures, and the home of all adventurers. We will loiter there a few
moments.”

“What sort of adventures do you want, Babe?” asked Reggie.

“Why that’s exactly what I couldn’t tell you,” said the Babe, “the
point of an adventure is that it is absolutely unexpected. If I could
tell you what I wanted, it would cease to be unexpected, and therefore
cease to be an adventure. If you know what you are going to do, it is
no adventure. But it’s no use: unexpected things never happen. We will
take a cab and eat oysters. Perhaps the oysters will be stale, and if
so, it will be a kind of adventure, for they are invariably fresh at
the Savoy.”

The Babe selected a table in the balcony opening out of the restaurant;
below they could see the long gaslit line of embankment curving gently
towards Westminster, and the river flowing turbidly out with the ebbing
tide. In the middle distance the bridge of Charing Cross with one
great electric lamp high in the air, crossed to the Surrey side, and
every now and then a train shrieked across under the glass arch of the
station. In the street below there jingled by, from time to time, a
hansom, noiseless except for the bell, and the sharp-cut ring of the
horse’s hoofs. A party of shrill-voiced Americans took a table near
them, and discussed the relative merits of English and American cars,
with passionate partisanship. There were of course no oysters to be
had, as it was June, and native devilled kidneys had to take their
place. Tired-looking waiters flitted noiselessly about, and the Babe’s
face caught from the kidneys a livelier animation.

“To-morrow,” he said, “we will go even unto the Oval, and watch the
gentlemen and players. It is strange that to play cricket is the most
doleful of human pursuits, and to watch it one of the most delightful.
When I grow up I shall keep twenty-two men who shall play cricket
before me, as Salome danced before Herod. They shall play a perpetual
match, which shall never come to a world without end. Amen. Have some
more kidneys, Reggie? A few of our small kidneys would not hurt you.
Waiter, bring some more kidneys. Kidneys are not attractive to the eye,
but the proof of them is in the eating. I eat them because they are so
comfortable, as the Psalmist says. By the way, has Sir John Lubbock put
the eating of kidneys among his _Pleasures of Life_? I shall write a
book called _The Sorrows of Death_ as a companion volume.”

“Do; and have it set to music by Mendelssohn.”

“Mendelssohn is dead, and the kidneys are dead,” said the profane Babe.
“Hullo there’s Stewart. He looks like a man out of the _Yellow Book_ by
Aubrey Beardsley. I wish I could look as if Aubrey Beardsley had drawn
me; shall I ask him to supper, Reggie? I wonder what he’s doing at the
Savoy?”

But Mr. Stewart had got a Cabinet Minister in hand just for the
present, and it was half an hour or so before he joined them; even
then it took him ten minutes to get through the amiability of Cabinet
Ministers, before descending to more sublunary topics. But when he
descended, as the Babe said afterwards, he came down with a run, and
talked about music-halls and other things.

He was most sympathetic with the Babe’s misfortune in being unable
to stop up for May week, and inveighed against the government and
management of the University generally.

“It is incredible to me,” he said, “perfectly incredible that so much
pedantry and narrowness can be compressed into so small a place. There
is not a single one of my colleagues whom I could call a man of the
world. I was saying just now to my dear friend Abbotsbury who has been
very strongly urging me to stand for Cambridge in Parliament, that I am
really quite unfit, perfectly unfit to represent the University. I know
nothing whatever about my colleagues, and I disapprove of all I know
of them. Take your own case. You are of years of discretion, my dear
Babe, and if you choose to dress in a tablecloth, no one has any right
to prevent you. They wouldn’t have any right to stop you if you chose
to dress in two--less right in fact. I’m sure you looked charming in a
tablecloth. Why should the Dean of your college exercise jurisdiction
over your dress? He is no Prince Regent. For he dresses himself in a
cake hat and a tail coat, which is perhaps the least becoming style of
dress which can be conceived. Yet he isn’t sent down for it. Why should
he be allowed to make the Great Court of Trinity hideous, and you be
sent down for--for making it beautiful?”

“The Babe did a skirt dance down Malcolm Street,” remarked Reggie, “and
it was a windy night.”

“Well, the Babe isn’t to blame if it is a windy night,” said Mr.
Stewart. “They had probably been praying for wind in St. Mary’s, though
the only time in my life that I attended a University sermon there was
plenty of wind. The sermon was preached by a black missionary, who I
think said he came from Iceland, which I don’t believe. He literally
swept us away in a hurricane of inconsequent appeal. Really to assume
that the Babe is responsible for the wind, is almost profanity. What
a delicious night! It quite makes me think of the feasts of Tiberius
at Capri. The air is as soft as the air of Naples and all the waiters
here, as at Capri, are made in Germany. Germany itself, I believe, is
getting gradually depopulated, and I ‘m sure I don’t wonder. Yes, I
am staying here for a day or two. There is an expensive simplicity
about the Savoy, which almost lets me forget for the time the pompous
cheapness both literal and literary of University towns. Oxford is no
better. Dons think about croquet and Triposes at Cambridge, and about
Moderations and lawn tennis at Oxford. It is six of one and five and a
half of the other. And the _cuisine_ of the college kitchens is enough
to make Savarin turn in his grave. You order melted butter, and they
bring forth milk in a crockery dish.”

“I thought you were devoted to Cambridge,” said Reggie. “I’m sure I’ve
heard you say so.”

“Dear Reggie, let me ask you never to remember anything I say. But it
is true that I am devoted to what I consider to be the _raison d’être_
of Cambridge, that is the undergraduates, with their fresh bright
lives, and their _insouciance_, their costumes of tablecloths and
their frank contempt for the class to which I have the misfortune to
belong. That is why I always go up in the Long, dons for the time are
in eclipse: it is like a whole holiday. I am going there next week, to
stop for a month or so. I hope you are both coming.”

“Yes,” said the Babe, “we are both going up to work. I am to go in
for a tripos in history instead of a pass. I had a short and painful
interview with my father about it. Why are fathers so curt? Do you
suppose I shall get through?”

“A tripos,” remarked Mr. Stewart, “is a form of self-mutilation. To go
in for a tripos, if you are not by nature tripical, if I may coin a
word, and I may tell you that it is to your credit that you are not,
my dear Babe, implies a sacrifice of other branches of your nature.
Why cannot fathers be content to let their sons be, and not do? No one
yet has ever been able to tell me of any good thing that comes out of
triposes, except that it keeps the Examiners to their rooms for three
weeks afterwards. But they come out like pigmies refreshed with small
beer, and talk about quadratic calculus and deliberative genitives
with redoubled vigour. The test which triposes apply discovers
whether the candidates are possessed of a little knowledge, and so are
dangerous things. If they helped them to realise the beauty of ancient
Athens, or the picturesqueness of the French Revolution, it would be a
different matter and I, as I understood Longridge to do the other day
at a College meeting, should advocate having a tripos once a week and
twice on Sundays. But all they do is to instil into the minds of the
undergraduates a confused and it may be an incorrect idea, that all
Athenians were as great a bore as Thucydides and spoke as bad Greek,
and that there is a grave doubt whether, after all, Marie Antoinette
died by the guillotine, and was not carried off by an attack of acute
old age at the age of eighty-seven. Even if it was so, and it is far
from certain, why tell any one about it? History rightly considered is
a great and wonderful romance, and the methods employed at places of
education is to render sterile all the germs of romance it contains,
and condense the residue of facts into the smallest possible compass,
and Mr. Stanley Weyman then proceeds to write reliable blue books about
them, which his publisher libellously advertises as “New Novels,”
though they are neither new nor novel. One of my colleagues just
before the tripos, circulated among his pupils a half-sheet of paper,
not very closely printed. But that infernal half-sheet contained all
the procedure of the Athenian law courts, and if learned by heart,
quite unintelligently, as he recommended, would insure full marks on
any question that might be set on the subject. I had the misfortune
to be with him when one of his pupils returned from the examination,
and he literally danced for joy all over the Combination Room, though
he is a stout man, when he saw that three questions out of nine could
be completely answered from his repulsive little half-sheet. And the
tripos in the face of these revolting details, is called a test of
a man’s ability, and goes a long way to win him a Fellowship. You,
my dear Babe, are a man of far more liberal education than that
lamentable colleague of mine, though, I may say, in answer to your
question, that I would only take very long odds if I had to bet on your
chance of getting through.”

“I got through my last May’s,” remarked the Babe in self-defence.

“Yes, but without incriminating myself, my dear boy, I must remind you
that I looked over at least three of your papers, and the marks I gave
you were more for your capability of acquiring romantic and delightful
knowledge, and for a certain power of giving plausible and voluminous
answers to questions of which it was obvious you knew nothing whatever,
than the actual knowledge your papers displayed. However if you come
down to little half-sheets of useless and absurd facts, no doubt you
will be able to get through, and it is upon that, that I would take
only very long odds. From what I know of you, I do not think you will
come down to that. I am delighted to hear you are coming up in the
Long, and we will read some charming French memoirs together. They
are much more amusing, and much more picturesque than Zola’s tedious
pictures of the Second Empire. Reggie, you are classical, are you not?
Read, mark, and learn the _Phædrus_, and the _Symposium_. The former
you should read on the upper river under a plane tree if possible,
the latter after dining wisely and well in your rooms, and you will
know more of the essential Greek than all Mackintyre’s horrid little
half-sheets could ever teach you.”

“Then do you think the tripos is perfectly useless and valueless?”
asked the Babe.

“Absolutely so: and what makes it more ridiculous is that it is not
even ornamental. Most useless things have some beauty or charm about
them. The tripos alone, as far as I know, has none. I have only done
one thing in my life of which I am thoroughly ashamed, and that is that
I took a first in my tripos. Mackintyre of course did the same. It is
the thing in his life--he was Senior Classic I think--of which he is
most proud. However, to do him justice, I believe that of late years
what is called the Philatelic Society has usurped most of his leisure
time. No, it has nothing to do with telepathy; it means loving things
that are a long way off and is specialised to apply to collections of
postage stamps. To me the word denotes ‘Distance lends enchantment to
the view.’”

The Babe was continuing to eat strawberries with a pensive air while
Mr. Stewart spoke, and having finished the dish he looked round
plaintively, and Reggie caught his eye.

“You mustn’t eat any more, Babe,” he said, “it’s after twelve, and
we’re going out at eight to-morrow, and we have to get back to Prince’s
Gate.”

The Babe sighed.

“Mr. Sykes will be waiting up for us,” he said; “I suppose we ought to
go. He will lose his beauty-sleep.”

[Illustration: THE BACKS.]



VIII.--A GAME OF CROQUET.

    _Oswald._ Speak to me of this game croquet.
    _Odo._ It is the game of King’s.--OLD PLAY.


So the Babe took Reggie’s queen, which for the last eight moves had
led a dog’s life, and Reggie lost his temper and upset the board
intentionally. Mr. Sykes who was lying on the hearth-rug, pretended
that the black king was a rat, though of course he knew it was not, and
proceeded to worry it.

In other words it was just after lunch on Monday the 7th of August.
They had lunched in Hall, and a Fellow of the college, who rejoiced in
the name of Gingham had asked them to play croquet afterwards in the
King’s garden at half-past two. There was no cricket going on, and it
was too hot to play tennis, so they very kindly consented.

The black king was rescued, and the Babe tucked Mr. Sykes under his arm
and shut him into Reggie’s gyp closet, as the sight of a croquet ball
always inspired him with a wild, chattering rage, and they strolled
out onto the bridge to wait for Gingham, who appeared before long
accompanied by a colleague from another college, of mean appearance,
who proved also to be of uncertain temper.

The limes down to the back gate were in full flower and resonant
with bees, and Mr. Gingham made a very felicitous quotation from the
fourth Georgic with gay facility. Beyond, the road along the Backs
lay cool and white beneath the enormous elms, and the Babe asserted
that he heard a nightingale, which Mr. Gingham’s friend said was
quite impossible, since it was the end of the first week in August.
But the Babe remarked with a fatuous smile, that he had been Senior
Ornithologist, and might be supposed to know. Upon which Mr. Gingham’s
friend said there was no such thing as an Ornithological tripos, and
the Babe replied: “That’s a Loring,” and refused to explain further.

Behind the railings the garden lay deliciously fresh and green. Long,
level plains of grass were spread about between the flower-beds, and
the whole place had an air of academic and cultivated repose. On
one of these stretches of lawn a game of tennis was in progress; the
performance was not of a very high class, but the players seemed to be
enjoying themselves.

Each game opened with a regularity which to the ordinary mind would
appear monotonous in incessant repetition. The first service delivered
by all the players was a swift, splendid fault served low into the net,
and this was invariably followed by a slow underhand service, always
perfectly faultless, but probably easy of execution. Then, however, a
pleasing diversity varied the progress of the rest. About sixty per
cent. of these services were returned, in which case the partner of the
server, who stood close up to the net, hit them cruelly out of court
and called the score in an angry, rasping voice, as if it had been
contradicted. The other forty per cent. came to an untimely end in the
meshes of the net. But the interest of the game to the Babe, who lagged
behind to watch it for a few minutes, was, that whereas most people who
play lawn-tennis indifferently are exactly like everybody else, these
four players seemed to him to be like nobody else. One of them was so
glaringly obscure that you would scarcely have known he was there, if
you had not seen him returning the balls; the second was more neglected
by nature than one would have thought a living man could be, and had
the sleeves of his shirt buttoned round his wrists; the third had a
face which resembled only the face of an emaciated man seen in the bowl
of a spoon, and the features of the fourth were obscured by a hat which
resembled a beehive in shape, and a frieze coat in texture, but on the
doctrine of probabilities, it seemed likely that, did we know all,
he would have proved to be as remarkable as his fellow sportsmen. He
whisked about with astonishing rapidity, though he was hardly ever in
his right place, and a handkerchief which dangled out of his trousers
pocket reminded the observer of a white, badly-trimmed tail.

The Babe’s curiosity to see his face grew unbearable, but, like the
Quangle-Wangle, his face was not to be seen. Once the Babe thought he
caught sight of a small, round, open mouth, but he could not be sure.

The name of Mr. Gingham’s colleague was Jones, and he and Gingham
played the Babe and Reggie. Jones began, but failed at the second hoop,
and the Babe having passed it, croquetted him cheerfully away into a
fine big bush about one hundred yards distant. He said to Jones, in his
genial way: “An enemy hath done this,” but got no reply. He then tried
to get into position for the third hoop, and it is doubtful whether
in all the annals of croquet, there was ever made so vilely futile a
stroke. Gingham followed, and as it was hopeless to mobilise with a
ball a hundred yards off, took a shot at the Babe’s ball, got through
the third hoop, and secured position for the cage. Reggie mobilised
with the Babe, and then there was a pause, broken by a confused but
angry murmur from inside a beautiful laurestinus now in full flower.
It is almost needless to explain that Jones could not find his ball.
When he did discover it, he took it out and made an extraordinarily
good attempt to get into position for the second hoop, but just hit the
wire, and lay in a bee-line with the opening. He lit a cigarette and
tried to kick the match with which he had lit it.

Then it was that Satan entered into the Babe’s soul, and from this
point an analysis of Jones’s strokes is worth recording.

(I.) Secured position for the second hoop.

(II.) Tried to regain position for the second hoop.

(III.) Wired for the second hoop.

(IV.) A curious stroke in which the cage was torn up and twisted as if
by some convulsion of Nature, and had to be replaced in position and
straightened.

(V.) Hit the Babe’s ball, but played out of turn. Ball replaced, and
stroke played again. No result, but left near the further stump.

(VI.) Failed to secure position for the second hoop.

(VII.) Secured position for the second hoop.

(VIII.) A cross-country hit from below the willow-tree into the same
beautiful laurestinus.

(IX.) Captured the Babe’s ball, and sent it to the feet of the man with
the beehive hat.

(X.)} Returned by stages to the second } (XI.)} hoop.

(XII.) Sent the Babe through the cage by accident.

(XIII.) Secured position for the second hoop.

At this point Mr. Jones gave vent to a most regrettable remark about
the Babe, and his nose swelled a little. Such a result was excusable,
for the Babe’s diabolical ingenuity in attacking him had only been
equalled by his diabolical luck. Twice,--for the ground was not
well-rolled--had his ball come skipping and hopping along, and had
pounced upon his adversary’s like a playful kitten, and twice he had
cannoned violently off a hoop onto it. But about this point his luck
had shown signs of failing, and he sheltered himself for a few strokes
near his partner, who together with Gingham had been plodding slowly
and steadily round the hoops. Altogether the game had been like “Air
with Variations,” the Babe and Mr. Jones taking brilliant firework
excursions across the theme. But for a little while it seemed as if
the cup of the Babe’s iniquities was full, and for ten minutes he kept
falling into the hand of his adversaries with the most surprising
persistence. But the end was not yet.

Half an hour later the position was as follows:

Reggie and Gingham were rovers, the Babe had not been through the cage
coming back, but Jones had only the two last hoops to pass, and it was
Jones’s turn. The Babe was getting a little excited, and the lust for
vengeance was on Jones. He had even gone so far as to advise the Babe
what to do on one occasion, and the Babe had answered him shortly in a
high, tremulous voice.

The Babe’s ball was in position for the cage, and theoretically Jones
was wired to him. But his ball, violently and maliciously struck,
curled in a complicated manner off the cage wires and hit the Babe’s.

“That’s a beastly fluke,” said that gentleman in an excited contralto.

Jones could afford to be generous.

“It did turn it off a little,” he said pacifically, “but I think it
would have hit it anyhow.”

“Then you think wrong,” said the Babe outwardly calm.

The laurestinus quivered.

Jones became a rover, and mobilised with his partner, but not very
close.

The Babe failed to mobilise with Reggie.

Gingham shot at his partner and missed.

Reggie mobilised successfully with the Babe.

_Quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat._ Jones ought to have separated
them but having hit his partner, he tried to put him out, failed, but
left himself and his partner both close to the stump.

The Babe smiled, and there was a tea-party of four. He smiled again
a little unkindly. He put Gingham out, and he hit Jones’s ball. A
moment afterwards a frenzied croquet ball bounded into the net of the
tennis-players, and caused the spoon-faced man, for the first time that
afternoon, to serve two consecutive faults. Then the Babe went back to
his hoop. Gingham was of a peaceful disposition but rather timid. He
had, however, caught a glimpse of Jones’s face as he walked off to the
lawn-tennis court, and it might reasonably, he said afterwards, have
frightened a bolder man than he. So he turned to the Babe.

“You know it’s only a game,” he said, and the Babe replied still rather
shrilly:

“Then watch me play it.”

Reggie and the Babe between them could easily keep Mr. Jones’s ball
safely off the ground, and the Babe plodded on till he too was a rover,
and Reggie and he went out in the next two turns.

“A very pleasant game,” said he smiling.

Jones was ill-advised enough to murmur:

“Insolent young ass.”

The Babe heard and his face turned pink, but his smile suffered no
diminution.

“A very pleasant game,” he repeated, “but only a game.”



IX.--TEA AT THE PITT.

    Dark house by which once more I stand
    Here in the long unlovely street.--TENNYSON.


The Babe was leaning out of the window of the rooms he had moved into
for the Long, which looked onto the Great Court of Trinity, and in his
hands was a simple sheet of foolscap paper rolled up big at one end and
small at the other. He applied his mouth intermittently to the small
end of this really elementary contrivance, and, in his hands, like the
sonnet in the hand of Milton, “the thing became a trumpet.” Unlike
Milton, however, he was in no way liable to censure for not using it
often enough.

He had been working for nearly two hours that morning, and it was only
just half-past eleven. He had got up at eight, breakfasted, and had
really been at it ever since. As a rule, criticisms on himself did not
make the least impression on him, but somehow or other Mr. Stewart’s
unwillingness to take any but the longest odds on the subject of his
getting through the tripos had struck root and grown up rankling
in his mind. He knew quite well that he had as much ability as many
undergraduates who tackle that examination successfully, and he
believed that if he chose he could acquire a sufficient portion of
their industry. Hence the early rising, the history books scattered on
the table, and indirectly the inter-mezzo on the foolscap thing.

However, at twelve he was going to his history coach for an hour, and
he allowed himself twenty minutes’ relaxation before this. He had
watched the porter take his name for making a row in court, so, as the
worst he could do was done, there was obviously no reason why he should
discontinue making a row, and it was not till the mouthpiece had got
sodden and the sides stuck together that he stopped.

The history coach, the Babe confessed, was rather a trial. He lived in
dusty, fusty rooms, and he himself was by far the dustiest, fustiest
thing in them. During the first lesson the Babe had had with him, he
had employed his hands in cleaning his nails with a button-hook,
which was, however, better than that he should not clean them at
all. On another occasion a spider had dropped down from the ceiling
onto the top of his head, and had walked down his nose, and from
there had let itself down onto the note-book which he was using. He
was short-sighted, and finishing the lesson at that moment and being
entirely unconscious of the spider, had shut it up with a bang in the
note-book, and the spider was a fleshy spider. The Babe had tried to
get Mr. Stewart to coach him, but that gentleman’s time was too deeply
engaged already. His own work, he said, “like topmost Gargarus,” took
the morning, and he imagined that neither he nor the Babe would care
to meet over history, however romantically treated, in the afternoon,
while social calls rendered the evening equally impossible for both of
them.

So the Babe went three times a week to Mr. Swotcham of the spider.
He was a young don, but the habits of incessant study had early bent
his back, bleared his eyes, and given him a weak, nervous manner.
He rarely took any exercise, and even when he did he only walked a
little way along the Trumpington Road. Out of his rooms he was like
a sheep that had gone astray, and coasted down the streets, keeping
close to the houses, as if afraid that, should he launch himself into
mid-pavement, he would lose himself irretrievably. He was a member of
an occult, some said obscure, club called the Apostles, the members of
which met in each other’s rooms in a shame-faced manner every Saturday
night, though there was really nothing in the least shameful about
their proceedings. In theory it was supposed that they set the world
straight once a week, but no doubt they lacked practical ability.
The Babe, whose varied acquaintance included several members of this
Society, used to ask them to dinner on Saturday night, in order to have
the pleasure of hearing them excuse themselves at a quarter to ten. The
excuse offered was always the same.

“I’m afraid I’ve got to go round and see a man.”

The Babe followed this up by asking who the man was, to which the
invariable reply was: “Oh, only a man I know.” Then the brutal Babe
throwing the mask aside would say: “Oh, you’re going to a meeting of
the Apostles, aren’t you?” Somehow the members seemed rather ashamed
of this fact being thus ruthlessly dragged into light, and the Babe in
his May week paper had informed the world that the Apostles were the
spiritual descendants of the old Hell-Fire Club of Medmenham Abbey,
and that their deeds grew darker and darker every year. For the most
part they were radical Agnostics, and they disestablished the English
Church about once a month. They affected red ties, to show that they
disapproved of everything.

Swotcham was not only an eminent Apostle, a sort of Peter among them,
but an eminent historian, and the Babe had the sense to attend to what
he said. It is true that this morning he watched with overpowering
interest the turning over of the leaves of Swotcham’s note-book, until
the corpse of the fleshy spider was discovered, blotching and staining
the articles of the Magna Charta, but when Swotcham had scratched it
off with a J nib, his attention wandered no more.

It was a hopelessly wet and sloppy afternoon, the sort of afternoon
when everything looks at its worst, and Cambridge worst of all. Grey
sheets of rain drifted and drizzled over the Great Court, driven
fretfully against the window panes by a cold easterly wind which
struck the spray of the fountain beyond the basin out sideways onto
the path. Outside the gate, the lime trees wept sooty tears and leaves
early-dead, and the asphalt of Trinity Street looked like the surface
of some stagnant dirty river, distortedly reflecting the dull-faced
houses on each side. A melancholy gurgle of water streamed into the
grating in the centre of the so-called Whewell’s Court, and its more
classical name seemed to be divinely apt. The air was close, cold, and
infinitely damp, and two or three terriers inhumanely left outside the
Pitt, appeared like a realistic rendering of discomfort personified.

So the judicious Babe betook himself to the smoking room of that club,
which always maintains a uniformity of gloom and comfort, whatever the
weather is, and thought to himself as he settled in a big armchair
that until he left, the weather could have no further depressing
influence. He took out of the library the inimitable _Ravenshoe_
which he already knew nearly by heart, and read with undiminished
enjoyment of how Napoleon and a colonial Bishop whose real name was
Jones, gave testimonials to a corn-cutter, who had them printed in his
advertisement, and of how Gus and Flora were naughty in church. Later
on, he proposed to have hot toast with his tea.

He had not been there long when Reggie came in, and as the Babe was not
disposed to talk, and merely grunted when he was sat on, he got out a
new book called _Gerald Eversley’s Friendship_, and proceeded to read
about the peculiarities which mark the boys at St. Anselm’s.

A short silence.

“Goozlemy, goozlemy, goozlemy,” quoted the Babe.

“Look here, Babe.”

“Well.”

“Harry Venniker produces from the bottom of his box a quantity of
sporting prints, and an enormous stag’s head--a ‘royal’ he called it.
Did you ever see a play-box that size?”

“No. There isn’t one. ‘My dear, there is going to be a collection, and
I have left my purse on the piano.’ I wish I knew Flora.”

Silence.

“‘After all, in this life the deepest, holiest feelings are
inexpressible.’ Oh, I draw the line somewhere--”

“Yes, if you don’t draw the line somewhere,” murmured the Babe, “where
are you to draw the line?”

“Gerald of course sobs violently on getting into bed, the first night
at St. Anselm’s, and Harry puts his hand on his shoulder, and says
he’ll be his friend for ever. Then ‘Gerald laid his head anew upon the
pillow, and was at peace.’ Good Lord! This was an ‘incident of which
the pale moon, throned in heaven, was the sole arbitress.’ He says so,”
shouted Reggie, “and it is a ‘study in real life.’ He says that too,
on the title-page, in capital letters. He says it very loud and plain,
several times.”

The Babe chuckled comfortably, and shut up _Ravenshoe_.

“I read it yesterday,” he said. “Turn on to about page 90 or so. I
think you’ll find the passage marked in pencil. He has to sing a song
in which a swear-word comes, and when he gets to it, he breaks down,
hides his face in his hands, and rushes from the hall.”

Reggie’s eyes grew rounder and rounder.

“So they propose to send him to Coventry for a month.”

“That’s the place my governor is member for,” remarked the Babe, “and
they make bicycles there.”

“The little brute--aged thirteen, Babe, about as old as you,” continued
Reggie, “reads books of science (particularly archæology), even sermons
and books of controversial divinity, in the college library. If that is
real life, give me fiction.”

“Quite a little Zola,” said the Babe, “our new, harmless, English
realist. A little later on a churchyard becomes an element in Gerald’s
life. Are churchyards elements in your life, Reggie?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Later on again,” continued the Babe, “he gets in a row for cribbing.
The author gets hold of such wonderfully new and original situations.
The evidence against him is overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming, and
the mystery is never cleared up. As you read, your suspense is only
equalled by the suspense of the author. He finds it almost unbearable.”

“I can’t read any more,” said Reggie. “Tell me what happens.”

“Oh, all the regular things. Harry gets into the eleven, and Gerald
Eversley turns into Robert Elsmere for a time. Then of course he falls
in love with Harry’s sister, who gallops away in consumption, and dies.
So Gerald determines to commit suicide, and leaves a note for Harry
saying what he is going to do, and just as he is preparing to jump
into a lake--he has previously thrown his coat with a stone wrapped
up in it, into the water--he feels a hand on his shoulder. It’s Harry
of course. Naturally he has found the letter, which tells him that the
writer will be a corpse when he finds it, which is a black lie, and
goes off just in time to the place where Gerald very prudently tells
him that the deed will be done. So Gerald goes to a town in the North
of England, probably Coventry again, and wears a locket of purest
enamel, with the name ‘Ethel’ on it. The book ends: ‘He is dead now.’”

Reggie was still turning over the leaves of the book.

“Who is Mr. Selby?”

“The good young master with a secret sorrow, to whom all the boys open
their hearts.”

“I see that Harry lies at death’s door, having caught inflammation of
the lungs in a football match. That’s another original situation.”

“Oh dear, yes, and old gentlemen cannot meet fifty years after they
have left school without saying: ‘You remember that catch? My dear
fellow, why did you let that ball go through your legs?’ I would sooner
be Babe all my life than live to be an old man like that.”

“And Harry gets the last goal just before time. The back’s leg
‘flashed.’ I’ve never seen your legs flash, Babe.”

“No--I’m only a half-back.”

“That accounts for it. Let’s have tea, and then we’ll play a game of
pills.”

“All right. Then you can dine in Hall with me. I can’t afford dinner in
my room, and we’ll work afterwards.”



X.--ROYAL VISITORS.

    “Prince and Princess!” he cried. “That means
     Will play at being kings and queens.”--HOTCH-POTCH VERSES.


Mr. Stewart, as has been indicated before, had a weakness, and that
was an amiable and harmless one. His weakness was for the aristocracy.
Compared with this, his feeling for royalty which was of the same
order, but vastly intensified, might also be called a total failure of
power, a sort of mental general paralysis. So when one day towards the
middle of August, the wife of the Heir Apparent of a certain European
country caused a telegram to be sent to him, to the effect that her
Royal Highness wished to visit Cambridge before leaving the country,
and would be graciously pleased to take her luncheon with him, Mr.
Stewart was naturally a proud man. He bought a long strip of brilliant
red carpet, he ordered a lunch from the kitchen that set the mouth of
the cook watering, “and altogether,” as the Babe very profanely and
improperly said, “made as much fuss as if the Virgin Mary had been
expected.” He also sent printed cards, “to have the honour of,” to
the Vice-chancellor, the heads of four colleges and their wives, and
also to another Fellow of his college, who only a term before, had
entertained at tea a regular royal queen, and had asked him to meet
her. And remembering that he had once met the Prince of Wales at a
dance in London given by the Babe’s mother, he also asked the Babe.
At the last moment, however, the Princess sent a telegram saying that
she was going to bring her husband with her, which would mean two more
places, one for him, and one for his gentleman-in-waiting, and Mr.
Stewart, whose table would not hold any more than fifteen conveniently,
sent a hurried message and apology to the Babe, saying that all
this was very upsetting, and unexpected, and uncomfortable, and
inconvenient, but that he was sure the Babe would see his difficulty.
He would, however, be delighted and charmed if the Babe would come in
afterwards, and at least take a cup of coffee, and a cigarette (for the
Princess did not mind smoking, and indeed once at Aix-les-Bains he had
seen her, etc., etc.), and sun himself in the smile of royalty.

The Babe received this message at half-past one; he had refused
an invitation to lunch at King’s on the strength of the previous
engagement, and he was rather cross. It was too late to go to King’s
now, but after a few moments’ thought, his face suddenly cleared and he
sent a note to Reggie saying that he would come round about half-past
two, adding that he had “got an idea,” which they would work out
together. He then ordered some lunch from the kitchen, which there was
little chance of his receiving for some time, for all the cooks and
kitchen boys who were not engaged in serving up Mr. Stewart’s lunch,
were busy making little excursions into the court, where they stood
about with trays on their heads, to give the impression that they were
going to or from some other rooms, in order to catch a sight of Mr.
Stewart’s illustrious guests as they crossed the court. However, the
Babe went to the kitchen himself as it did not come, and said bitter
things to the head cook who was a Frenchman, and asked him whether he
had already forgotten about Alsace and Lorraine.

He lunched alone and half-way through he nearly choked himself with
laughing suddenly, apparently at nothing at all, and when he had
finished he went round to King’s. He and Reggie talked together for
about an hour, and then went out shopping.

Later in the day Mr. Stewart called on the Babe, to express his
regret at what had happened, but his regret was largely tempered
with sober and loyal exultation at the success of his party. Their
Royal Highnesses had been the embodiment of royal graciousness and
amiability; they had written their names in his birthday book, and
promised to send their photographs. The conversation, it appeared, had
been carried on chiefly in French, a language with which Mr. Stewart
was perfectly acquainted, and which he spoke not only elegantly, but
what is better, intelligibly. The Princess was the most beautiful and
delightful of women, the Prince the handsomest and most charming of
men. Mr. Stewart, in fact, had quite lost his heart to them both, and
he had promised to look them up when he next happened to be travelling
in their country, which, thought the cynical Babe, would probably be
soon. Best of all, Mr. Medingway, the entertainer of queens, could
not talk French, though he was the first Arabic scholar in Europe, a
language, however, in which it was not possible for a mixed company to
converse, and he had necessarily been quite thrown into the shade.

The Babe received this all with the utmost interest and sympathy. He
regretted that he had not been able to come in afterwards, but he hoped
Mr. Stewart could come to breakfast next day at nine. Mr. Stewart
both could and would, and as soon as he had gone, the Babe danced the
_pas-de-quatre_ twice round the room.

That evening Reggie and the Babe went to call on Jack Marsden who had
come up for a week. Jack was very short, barely five feet high, but he
made up for that by being very stout. The Babe also got a fine nib,
and employed half an hour in copying something very carefully onto the
back of a plain black-edged envelope.

He was up in good time next morning, and he had three letters by the
post. One of these was black-edged, and had on the back of the envelope
a Royal Crown, and _Windsor Castle_. He opened them all, and left this
last face downwards on the table.

Mr. Stewart came in, still in the best of spirits, and walked about the
room, expatiating on the superiority of royal families, while the Babe
made tea.

“It makes a difference,” said Stewart, “it must make a difference, if
one’s fathers and forefathers have been kings. One would have the habit
and the right of command. I don’t know if I ever told you--”

His eye caught sight of the Royal Crown and Windsor Castle, and he
paused a moment.

“I don’t know if I ever told you of that very pleasant day I once spent
at Sandringham.”

“Yes, you told me about it yesterday,” said the Babe brutally.

“I suppose they are all up in Scotland now,” said Stewart.

“No, the Queen is at Windsor for a day or two,” said the Babe. “She
goes up early next week. Will you have a sole?”

“Thanks--not a whole one. I asked because I saw you had a letter here
from Windsor.”

The Babe looked up quickly and just changed colour--he could do it
quite naturally--and picked up his letters.

“Yes, it’s from my cousin,” he said. “She’s in waiting, just now.”

“Lady Julia?”

“Yes. Apparently they are not going straight up.”

The subject dropped, but a few minutes later the Babe said suddenly and
in an absent-minded way.

“I don’t think she’s ever been to Cambridge before.”

“Lady Julia?”

Again the Babe started.

“Yes, Lady Julia. She is thinking of coming up to--to see me on Monday.
Is there anything in the papers?”

“I only read the _Morning Post_,” said Mr. Stewart. “There is of course
a short account of the Prince’s visit here, but I saw nothing else.”

For the next day or two the Babe was very busy, too busy to do much
work. He went more than once with Reggie and Jack to the A.D.C. where
they looked up several dresses, and he had a long interview with the
proprieter of the Bull. He took a slip of paper to the printer’s, with
certain elaborate directions, and on Monday morning there arrived at
Trinity a Bath chair. Then he went to Mr. Stewart, who was his tutor,
and had a short talk, with the result that at a quarter to two, Mr.
Stewart was pacing agitatedly up and down his room, stopping always in
front of the window, from which he could see the staircase on which
were the Babe’s rooms, and on which now appeared a long strip of
crimson carpet. As luck would have it Mr. Medingway selected this time
for going to Mr. Stewart’s rooms to borrow a book and the two looked
out of the window together.

The Trinity clock had just struck two, when a smart carriage and pair
hired from the Bull stopped at the gate, and the Babe’s gyp, who had
been waiting at the porter’s lodge, wheeled the Bath chair up to it.
Out of it stepped first the Babe, next a short stout old lady dressed
in black, and last a very tall young woman elegantly dressed. She was
quite as tall as the Babe, and seemed the type of the English woman
of the upper class, who plays lawn-tennis and rides bicycles. The gyp
bowed low as he helped the old lady into the chair, and the Babe, hat
in hand until the old lady told him to put it on, and the tall girl
walked one on each side of it. The porter who was just going into the
lodge, stopped dead as they passed, and also took off his hat, and
the Bath chair passed down an inclined plane of boards which had been
arranged over the steps into the court.

Mr. Stewart, standing with Medingway at his bow window, saw them
enter, and in a voice trembling with suppressed excitement said to his
companion: “Here they are,” and though benedictions were not frequent
on his lips, added: “God bless her.”

He pressed Medingway to stop for lunch, and the two sat down together.

“Was it in the papers this morning?” asked the latter.

Mr. Stewart took the _Morning Post_ from the sofa.

“It is only announced that the Court will leave Windsor to-day. They
are expected at Balmoral on Wednesday, not Tuesday, you see. It does
not give their movements for to-day.”

Mr. Medingway was looking out of the window.

“They have got to the staircase,” he said. “And she is getting out. Are
we--is anyone going in afterwards?”

“I believe not. It is to be absolutely quiet, and strictly incognito.
They leave again by the 4.35.”

“An interesting, a unique occasion,” said Medingway.

“Yes; the Babe takes it all so easily. I wish I had been able to have
him to lunch last week.”

Mr. Medingway smiled, and helped himself to a slice of galantine.

“They wouldn’t perhaps take a cup of tea before going--”

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Stewart, who, if he was not playing the _beau
rôle_ to-day, at any rate had been in the confidence of him who was.
“The Babe was most urgent that I should not let it get about. Indeed, I
have committed a breach of confidence in telling you. Of course I know
it will go no further.”

Meantime, the Babe having successfully conveyed his party across the
court, and having taken the precaution of sporting his door, was having
lunch. Opposite to him sat Jack Marsden, dressed in a black silk gown;
on his right Reggie, attired in the height of fashion. He wore a blue
dress with very full sleeves, and a large picture hat. He was taking a
long draught of Lager beer.

“Stewart and Medingway both saw,” he said, “and they are both at
Stewart’s window now.”

“It was complete,” said the Babe solemnly, “wonderfully complete, and
the bogus copy of the _Morning Post_, which I substituted for his, was
completer still. It will also puzzle them to know how you get away,
for they are sure to wait there on the chance of seeing you again. I
shouldn’t wonder if Stewart went to the station. And now if you’ve
finished, you can change in my bedroom, and we’ll go round and get a
fourth to play tennis. Stewart must confess that I have gone one better
than either him or Medingway.”



XI.--THE REHEARSAL.

    They had a rustic woodland air
             --After WORDSWORTH.


Ealing had not been up in the Long, but Reggie and the Babe spent a
week with him early in October, before going up to Cambridge again.
They arrived on the last day of September, and from morn till eve on
the first day the silly pheasants fled before the Babe’s innocuous gun.
However, that gentleman said he liked aiming, without any thought of
ulterior consequences, and that this was the true essence of sport, and
as Reggie and Ealing were both good shots, it is to be presumed that
everyone, even including the keeper, was fairly contented.

The October term began as October terms always begin. There was, as
usual, a far larger number of Freshmen of unique brilliance than had
ever been heard of before, who were duly asked to coffee with men of
other years after Hall, and these ceremonies were neither more nor
less exciting than usual. There was the Freshman who wore spectacles,
and didn’t play games because he had a weak heart, and who when asked
from what school he came, said ‘Giggleswick,’ with almost incredible
coolness; there was the Freshman who had been captain of the eleven in
some obscure school, and already saw himself captain of the University
team; there were Freshmen who could play all kinds of music, the
Freshman who played the flute, and the Freshman who played the violin,
and probably the Freshman who could play the sackbut and psaltery;
the Freshman who already seemed to know half the University, and the
Freshman who knew nobody at all; the Freshman who called his tutor
“Sir,” and the Freshman who very kindly treated him as one man of the
world treats another. There were the usual trial games of football
played under a tropical sun, and the usual interminable lists of
tubbings put up in the Reading-Room.

But after a fortnight or so the world in general, with all its
sorts and conditions of men, settled down into its usual routine,
the Freshmen who had all started together diverged into the sets
where their particular tastes attracted them. Some joined musical
societies, and some were put up and blackballed at a meeting of the
old Giggleswickians; some played in the Freshmen’s matches, and some
bought college blazers, and passed contented and leisurely afternoons
in canoes on the Backs. Alan St. Aubyn published his annual humorous
libel on what he playfully called University Life, and the Babe moved
from Malcolm Street into the rooms he had occupied in the Long in the
Great Court Trinity, and Mr. Sykes signalised the occasion by killing
the under-porter’s best cat.

No doubt it was primarily the best cat’s fault, for she had taken an
independent and solitary walk on her own account down Trinity Street,
and Sykes who was waiting at the gate, quite quiet and as good as gold,
for the Babe, who had gone into his room to put down his cap and gown,
saw her returning. So he killed her. Of course he had to tell the Babe
about it, and he thought the best plan would be to take the mangled
corpse--she was not neatly killed--to the Babe’s rooms, which, though
he was not allowed in college, he happened to know, and the first thing
the porter saw was Mr. Sykes racing across the grass with his best cat
hopelessly defunct, dangling from his mouth. He followed, but Sykes got
there first, and was wagging his stumpy tail with a pleased air, as
he deposited his burden on the hearth-rug, when the infuriated porter
entered.

The porter said:

(I.) That Sykes had no business to kill his cat.

(II.) That he had, if possible, even less business in college.

(III.) That Sykes ought to be poisoned.

The Babe answered:

(I.) That there was no question of poisoning Sykes.

(II.) That the death must have taken place outside college, for he had
seen Sykes enter with the corpse in his mouth.

(III.) That the cat had no more business in Trinity Street than Sykes
had in college, so it was six of one and half a dozen of the other.

(IV.) That Sykes should be beaten.

(V.) That, though the cat was not worth it, sentiment went for
something, and there was such a thing as a sovereign.

So Sykes was beaten there and then with a rug strap, and the porter
had a sovereign, and the beaten Sykes was granted safe conduct out of
college again.

The Babe took a hansom down to the theatre, for he was going to
rehearse for the Greek play, and blew tobacco smoke at Sykes all the
way to show him he was in disgrace. He had not much wanted to act,
for it meant six weeks of rehearsing and learning his part, but he
had consented to read through the play and see whether the part of
Clytemnestra in the _Agamemnon_ did not recommend itself to him. This
had of course ended in his undertaking it, and he found that though he
had dropped Greek for two years, he did not experience much difficulty
in learning his part.

The theatre where the _Agamemnon_ was to be performed was a curiously
shabby building, resembling an overgrown barn, one of the “greater
barns,” so said the Babe, mentioned in a parable. A low tunnel,
resembling the subway in Metropolitan underground stations led into it
from the street, and from the tunnel opened various doors, which led
into rooms resembling economically constructed kennels. One of these,
humorously called the smoking-room, presumably because the audience
invariably smoked in the passage, was rendered additionally alluring by
a long, low plank, like those supplied to third class waiting-rooms,
which ran down the length of it. The outer wall, in all its unveiled
glory of brick and mortar, was further decorated by photographs of the
Compton Company, in which actors and actresses alike seemed devoured
by a futile endeavour to acquire those casts of expression which are
associated with “persons of genius and sensibility.” A man was engaged
in kindling reluctant footlights when the Babe entered, and he had
time to bestow the minutest attention on the very vivid drop-scene
which was down, before the others appeared. It represented a gloomy
and nameless marsh, in the corner of which was moored a magenta boat,
into which a young lady in a green bonnet was being assisted by a
young gentleman of abhorrent demeanour and odiously familiar manner.
He wore a straw hat and a blue frock-coat, and was smoking an enormous
cigar. Over their heads hovered a gigantic bird of prey, probably a
vulture, confident no doubt that the fatal exhalations from the marsh,
or their own unfitness to live, would soon supply him with a delicate
supper composed of the remains of this ill-attired pair. A painted but
unexplained Venetian mast--in popular language, a barber’s pole--stuck
out of the bulrushes in the middle distance, and behind, the sun
appeared to have just set in a gory sky over the mountains, which stood
up brilliantly blue in the background.

It was a miserably cold morning, and Clytemnestra sat in a thick ulster
with a bull-dog on her knees, till it was time for her to appear, and
watched a curiously dressed chorus of Argive elders headed by Reggie in
flannels and a blazer, for he had been playing tennis, manœuvre round a
stage director, whom a vivid imagination construed into an altar. Two
other stage directors quarrelled with each other in the background,
till the conductor who was directing the chorus asked them to be quiet.
Thus he secured for himself the hostility of all the stage directors,
who resented the attack made on their class, and who lay in wait to
contradict him rudely on the earliest possible occasion.

The Babe, meantime, had wandered off the stage into the wings, in
search of a fire, and Mr. Sykes, left to himself, recognised Reggie as
a friend among the heterogeneous elders, and trotted across to him,
wheezing pathetically. The conductor had stopped the chorus in order to
point out some mistake the tenors had made, and was singing the passage
himself in a fruity falsetto voice, and Reggie, who was a bass, was
patting Sykes, when the voice of one of the hostile stage directors
broke in--

“The rehearsal,” he said firmly, “will proceed when the leader of the
Argive elders has quite finished playing with a bull-dog. Please send
the bull-dog out of the theatre.”

“It’s Clytemnestra’s,” said Reggie.

The Babe re-appeared at this moment.

“Where’s Bill?” he asked. “Oh, there he is. Come here, darling. Oh, are
you waiting for me?”

The conductor laid down his baton.

“Settle it among yourselves,” he said, “and tell me when you are ready.
I may remark that I am very busy, and that my time is not my own.”

Mr. Sykes meantime was sniffing suspiciously round the heels of the
altar, and the altar was getting visibly nervous.

The Babe supposing that his entrance had come, began reciting his first
lines in a loud voice, and the stage directors and the conductors made
common cause against him.

“If Clytemnestra would kindly be quiet,” said one.

“And take away her horrible dog,” put in the altar.

“The chorus might proceed,” shouted the conductor.

The Babe with a look of injured innocence on his face retired to his
chair, followed reluctantly by Sykes, who was not satisfied about the
altar, and the practice went on.

But the truce between the conductor and the stage directors was only an
armed neutrality. One of them in particular, a bustling little man with
a honey-coloured moustache and a Paderewski head of hair, was waiting
to fall upon him. He was a student of all branches of what Stewart
would have called “delightful and useless knowledge”; on such subjects
he has perhaps a wider and more elaborately specialised information
than any man in England. He could have told you with the most minute
particulars the exact shape of the earrings worn by Greek
women of the fifth century B.C., the particular way in which
athletes of the fourth century brushed their hair, the conformation
of the lobe of the ear in female statues of the third century, or
the proportionate length of the little finger nail to the eye-socket
in bronzes of the Hadrian epoch. He could have prescribed you the
ingredients which made the red in Botticelli’s Tobias, lasting, through
the want of which Turner’s sunsets paled almost as fast as the sunsets
themselves; he had penetrated into the dens of the forgers at Rome
which lie in the street which no one can find between the Via Nazionale
and the Capitol; he had been twice round the world, and spoke five
dialects of Mexican; he had looked on the city of Mecca, and kodaked
the interior of the mosque of the Seven Curses of the Prophet; he had
dived for pearls in the Coromandel Sea, and evaded by a hair-breadth
the jaws of the blue-nosed shark as it rolled over on its back to snap
him in two; he knew intimately a lineal descendant of Adamo di Brescia,
the coiner of the Inferno, and asserted that in all probability the
forefather was a clumsier workman than his son, or he would never
have been detected. And on all these subjects and many others equally
abstruse he could give you statistics, as dry as the facts themselves
were interesting. Once or twice, it is true, he had been caught in
an apparent error, but he had always been able to give a perfectly
satisfactory explanation of it afterwards, with hardly any time for
reflection. Such qualifications had eminently fitted him for the part
of stage-manager in a Greek play, and he certainly added to these,
immense zeal and industry. His name was Propert, and his college was
Peterhouse.

For some minutes he stood grasping his hair with both hands in an
incipient frenzy, as the chorus proceeded, but at last he could stand
it no longer, and he clapped his hands loudly.

“It is all wrong,” he said, “you have not got the spirit of it. You
do not sound the note of fate. Those last bars should be a long low
wail, prophetic of woe, and _pianissimo--pianissimo ma con smorgando
tremuloso_.”

He patted the air in front of Reggie, with an eloquent gesture.

“They are marked _ff._,” said the leader of the Argive elders in good
plain English.

“Well, you must erase your double forte,” said Dr. Propert.

The conductor folded his arms, and waited till Dr. Propert had retired
up O. P.

“We will now begin again four bars back, at the double forte,” he
remarked.

“Yes, _pianissimo_,” said the doctor turning round.

The Argive elders looked puzzled. Diplomacy, to judge by their
speeches, was not their strong point.

“Are we to do it double forte or _pianissimo_?” asked Reggie of the
conductor.

“I presume that Doctor Propert has informed Professor Damien of the
alterations he has thought fit to make in the music,” he remarked
bitterly.

But as Doctor Propert was already employed in showing Agamemnon,
who was about to enter, how to lean against a door in the attitude
of a Sophoclean adult, the sarcasm fell innocuous, and the practice
proceeded _fortissimo_ without further interruption.

Agamemnon had forgotten his first line, and at Dr. Propert’s suggestion
said “Boble, boble, boble,” until he remembered the second or third
lines, and the chorus grouped themselves round the watchmen and smoked,
while the altar, relieved of its localising duties, quarrelled with the
other unemployed directors, and prompted Agamemnon intermittently.

But as the scene between Agamemnon and Clytemnestra proceeded and
the Babe warmed to his work, other conversation drooped and died.
He found it bored him simply to say the part, and throughout the
rehearsals, even when he had to read his part, he acted it all. But
at this stage in rehearsal he knew it by heart, and in looking at him
one quite forgot his deerstalker cap and long, loud ulster. The stage
directors were reconciled and murmured approbation, the conductor
ceased talking to the watchmen, and the thing began to take shape.
Even the subsequent appearance of Mr. Sykes, who sat down in the middle
of the stage and smiled at the chorus, caused no interruption. He fell
perfectly flat, and no one took the slightest notice of him.

Once only was there an interruption, and that was made by the Babe
himself. Dr. Propert was busy hauling a metope on to the stage, and
letting go of it for a moment, it fell resonantly onto its back. The
Babe stopped dead, and turned round.

“If you make such a horrible row again, while I’m on,” he said, “you
may take the part of Clytemnestra yourself. I shall begin again,” he
added severely, “at the beginning of my speech.”

The conductor could have embraced the Babe on the spot, and the other
stage managers giggled. The Babe waited till they had quite finished,
and then began again thirty-four lines back.

The truth was that all the Babe’s flippancy and foolishness left him
when he was acting, and only then, for acting was the one thing he
took quite seriously. He ceased to be himself, for he threw himself
completely into the character he was impersonating. He was in fact not
an amateur, but an actor, and these two have nothing whatever to do
with one another. If a man has dramatic power, he may become an actor
with training, without it he cannot. And most amateurs have not got it.

So the play proceeded with vigour till Clytemnestra went off with
Ægisthus, and shortly after in a hansom with Mr. Sykes. The cold
drizzle of the morning had turned to snow, and the melting snow in the
streets looked like thin coffee ice. The Babe was playing in a college
match that afternoon, and the prospect filled him with a mild despair.



XII.--A COLLEGE SUNDAY.

    “This gloomy tone,” he said, “is far too rife;
     I’ll demonstrate the loveliness of life.”--HOTCH-POTCH VERSES.


Reggie and Ealing had moved into a set of rooms in Fellows’ Buildings,
which they shared together. The set consisted of three rooms, two inner
and smaller ones, and one large room looking out on to the front court
of King’s. The two smaller rooms they used as bedrooms, but as they
each had folding Eton beds, by half-past nine or so every morning,
provided that they got up in reasonable time, they were converted for
the day into sitting-rooms. The outer room was furnished more with
regard to what furniture they had, than what furniture it required.
Thus there were two pianos, tuned about a quarter of a tone apart from
each other, two grandfather’s clocks, and a most deficient supply of
chairs. “However,” as Reggie said, “one can always sit on the piano.”

Ealing’s powers of execution on the piano were limited. He could play
hymn-tunes, or other compositions, where the next chord to the one he
was engaged on followed as a corollary from it, and anything in the
world which went so slowly as to enable him to glance from the music
to his hands between each chord, however complicated it was, provided
it did not contain a double sharp, which he always played wrong. He
could also, by dint of long practice, play “Father O’Flynn” and the
first verse of “Off to Philadelphia in the Morning”; and there seemed
to be no reason why, with industry, he should not be able to acquire
the power of playing the other verses, in which he considered the
chords to be most irregular and unexpected, deserting the air at the
most crucial points. Reggie, however, was far more accomplished. He had
got past hymn-tunes. The Intermezzo in _Cavaleria Rusticana_--even the
palpitating part--was from force of repetition mere child’s play to
him, and he aspired to the slow movements out of Beethoven’s Sonatas.

The hours in which each might practise, therefore, demanded careful
arrangement. College regulations forbade the use of the pianos
altogether between nine in the morning, and two in the afternoon, since
it was popularly supposed by the authorities who framed this rule--and
who shall say them nay--that all undergraduates worked between these
hours, and that the sound of a piano would disturb them.
Consequently, Ealing was allowed to play between eight A.M.
and nine A.M., every morning, a privilege which he used
intermittently during breakfast, and by which he drove Reggie,
daily, to the verge of insanity, and Reggie between two P.M.
and three P.M. Ealing again might play between three and
five, and Reggie from five to seven. During these hours the temporary
captain of the pianos, even if he did not wish to play himself, might
stop the other from playing except with the soft pedal down. It had
been found impossible to regulate the hours after dinner, and they
often played simultaneously on their several pianos, and produced
thereby very curious and interesting effects, which sounded Wagnerian
at a sufficient distance. Finally, the use of the piano was totally
prohibited by common consent between two A.M. and eight
A.M.

The Babe, like mournful Œnone, “hither came at noon” one Sunday
morning. Chapel at King’s was at half-past ten, and that English habit
of mind which weds indissolubly together Sunday morning and lying in
bed, was responsible for the fact that on Sunday Reggie and Ealing
always breakfasted after chapel. But the Babe, unlike that young lady,
was in the best of spirits, and as Ealing and Reggie were not yet back
from chapel, made tea and began breakfast without them. They came in a
few minutes later, both rather cross.

“When there is going to be a sermon,” said Reggie severely, taking off
his surplice, “I consider that I have a right to be told. Morning,
Babe.”

“Oh, have you had a sermon?” said the Babe sweetly. “Who preached?”

“The Dean. He preached for half-an-hour.”

“More than half-an-hour,” said Ealing. “Totally inaudible, of course,
but lengthy to make up for that.”

“Pour me out some tea, Babe, if you’ve had the sense to make it.”

“Sermons are trying if one hasn’t breakfasted,” said the Babe. “They
are sermons in stones when one asks for bread.”

“What do you mean?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. I hoped that perhaps one of you would
know. Why should I know what I mean? It’s other people’s business to
find out. And they for the most part neglect it shamefully.”

“Shut up, Babe,” growled Reggie. “I wish you wouldn’t talk when I’m
eating.”

“Can’t you hear yourself eat?” asked the Babe sympathetically.

“Wild horses shall not drag me to Chapel this afternoon,” said Ealing.
“We’ll go for a walk, Reggie.”

“I daresay: at present I can’t think of anything but food. Babe, you
greedy hog, give me some fish.”

“And very good fish it is,” said the Babe genially. “By the way, Sykes
is far from well this morning.”

“What’s the matter with him?”

“He partook too freely of the anchovies of the Chitchat last night. You
will find that in French conversation books.”

“I saw him indulging as I thought unwisely,” said Ealing. “Then it was
surely imprudent of him to drink Moselle cup.”

“He wished to drown care, but it only gave him a stomach-ache. Stewart
impressed him so with the fact that we were all Atlases with the burden
of the world on our shoulders, that he had recourse to the cup.”

“And the burden of us all was on Stewart.”

“Yes. Don’t you remember he said that he felt personally responsible
for every undergraduate whom he had ever spoken to? His idea is
that each don ought to have an unlimited influence, and that the
whole future of England in the next generation lay on each of them,
particularly himself. No wonder his eyelids were a little weary, as
Mr. Pater says. But after you went he took the other side, and said
that the undergraduates were the _raison d’être_ of the University, and
that the dons existed only by their sufferance.”

“Did Longridge stop?”

“Yes. He was a little less coherent than usual. I know he took the case
of a man at Oxford who threw stones at the deer in Magdalen, though
what conclusion he drew from it, I can’t say.”

“Probably that the deer were really responsible for the undergraduates.”

The Babe sighed.

“I have to read a paper next week. I think it shall be on some aspects
of Longridge. That is sure to give rise to a discussion if he is there.
Give me a cigarette, Reggie.”

The Babe established himself in a big chair by the fireplace, while the
others finished breakfast.

“I am going to found a club,” he said, “called the S.C.D. or Society
for the Cultivation of Dons. Stewart says he will be vice-president,
as he doesn’t consider himself a don. We are going to call on obscure
dons every afternoon and speak to them of the loveliness of life,
for, as Stewart says, the majority of them have no conception of it.
Their lives are bounded by narrow horizons, and the only glimpse they
catch of the great world, is their bed-maker as she carries out their
slop-pail from their bedrooms. They live like the Niebelungs in dark
holes and eat roots, and though they are merely animals, they have no
animal spirits. He says he knew a don once who by a sort of process of
spontaneous combustion, became a dictionary, but all the interesting
words, the sort of words one looks out in a Bible dictionary, you know,
were missing. So they used him to light fires with, for which he was
admirably adapted, being very dry, and in the manner of King Alexander,
who, as Stewart asserted, became the bung in a wine cork, other dons
now warm themselves at him. Stewart was very entertaining last night,
and rather improper. He said that a Don Juan or two was wanted among
the dons, by way of compensation, and he enlarged on the subject.”

“Give us his enlargements.”

“I can’t. He enlarged in a way that belongs to the hour after midnight
on Saturday, when you know that when you wake up it will be Sunday.
He was very Saturday-night. He called it working off the arrears of
the week, and complained that he hadn’t heard a mouth-filling oath for
more than a month. He never swears himself, but he likes to hear other
people do it; for he says he is in a morbid terror of the millennium
beginning without his knowing it. He skipped about in short skirted
epigrams, and pink-tight phrases. At least that was his account of his
own conversation when we parted. Oh yes, and he said he didn’t mind
saying these things to me because I was a man of the world.”

“He knows your weak points, Babe,” said Reggie.

“Not at all. He referred to that as my strong point.”

“Good old Clytemnestra! I’m better now, thank you, after my breakfast,
and it’s ‘The Sorrows of Death’ this afternoon. I shall go to chapel
again.”

Reggie lit a pipe, and picked out the first few bars on the piano.

“The watchman was a tiresome sort of man to have about,” he said. “When
they asked him if it was nearly morning, he only said, ‘Though the
morning will come, the night will come also.’ Of course they knew that
already, and besides it wasn’t the question. I should have dismissed
him on the spot. So the soprano has to tell them, which he does on the
top A mainly.”

“When I was a child I could sing the upper upper Z,” said the Babe
fatuously. “Then my voice broke, and the moral is ‘Deeper and deeper
yet.’ Don’t rag: I apologise.”

Ealing finished breakfast last, and strolled across to the window.

“It’s a heavenly morning,” he said. “Let’s go out. We needn’t go far.”

“I will walk no further than the King’s field,” said the Babe.

“Very well, and we can sit outside the pavilion. I’m lunching out at
half-past one.”

“Meals do run together so on Sunday. Sunday is really one long attack
of confluent mastication,” said the Babe. “It’s a pity one can’t take
them simultaneously.”

Though November had already begun, the air was deliciously warm and
mild, and had it not been for the fast yellowing trees, one would have
guessed it to be May. But there was a shouting wind overhead, which
stripped off the leaves by hundreds and blew the rooks about the sky.
Already the tops of the trees were bare, and the nests of last spring
swung empty and half ruined high up among the forks of the branches.
During the last week a good deal of rain had fallen, and the Cam was
swirling down, yellow and turbid. The willow by the river was already
quite bare, and its thin feathery branches lashed themselves against
the stone coping of the bridge.

They went through the Fellows’ gardens, for Reggie by some means had
got hold of a key; there a few bushes of draggled Michaelmas daisies
were making pretence that the summer was not quite dead yet, but they
only succeeded in calling attention to the long, desolate beds. The
grass was growing rank and matted under the autumn rains, and little
eddies of leaves had drifted up against the wires of the disused
croquet-hoops. But the day itself seemed stolen from off the lap of
spring, and two thrushes were singing in the bushes after an excellent
breakfast of succulent worms.

“We play you to-morrow at Rugger,” remarked the Babe as they walked
across the field, “and we play on this ground. It’s sticky enough, and
I shall vex the soul of the half opposite me, because I like a sticky
ground, and he is certain not to. In fact,” said he confidently, “I
purpose to get two tries off my own bat, and generally to sit on this
royal and ancient foundation.”

“The Babe has never yet been called modest,” said Ealing.

“If I have, I am not aware of it,” said the Babe.

“We’ve got three blues,” remarked Reggie.

“I am delighted to hear it,” said the Babe. “You will need them all.
And you may tell our mutual friend Hargreave that if he attempts to
collar me round the ancles again, I shall make no efforts whatever to
avoid kicking him in the face. He did it last time we played you, and I
spoke to him about it more in sorrow than in anger.”

“Upon which the referee warned you for using sorrowful language.”

“He did take that liberty,” conceded the Babe. “Let’s sit down outside
the pavilion. I wish we could kick about. The Sabbath is made for man,
and so is Sunday, and so are footballs.”

“But on Sunday the pavilion is locked up by man, and the footballs put
inside.”

“It appears so. English people take Sunday too seriously, just as they
take everything else, except me.”

“Anyhow, Stewart says you are a man of the world,” said Ealing.

“He does, and who are we to contradict him? Good Lord, there’s one
o’clock striking. I must go home. There’s somebody coming to lunch at
half-past. Reggie, get me a ticket for King’s this afternoon, will
you?”



XIII.--KING’S CHAPEL.

    Music, when soft voices die,
    Vibrates in the memory.
              SHELLEY.


Reggie and the Babe got into chapel just after the voluntary had begun,
and slow soft notes came floating drowsily down from the echoes in the
roof. The chapel and ante-chapel were both full, and from the door
in the dim, mellow half-darkness, a sea of heads stretched up to the
black wooden screen, through which streamed the light from the chapel
itself. In the roof one could just see the delicate fan-shaped lines
of vaulting springing across like lotus leaves from wall to wall, and
the windows on the south side gleamed with dark, rich colour from the
sky already turning red with the southwestern setting sun. As they went
up the ante-chapel the Babe saw a seat still unoccupied, and preferred
stopping there to going into the chapel.

[Illustration: KING’S COLLEGE. SCREEN AND GATEWAY.]

Reggie’s seat was just east of the choir opposite to the window
representing Christ standing in the garden after the resurrection. To
the right kneels Mary Magdalene gaudily dressed, just having turned
and seeing that he was not, as she supposed, only the gardener. To the
left rises a green hill, on the top of which, below a row of brown,
ragged rocks, stands the empty tomb, with the women round it. By a
quaint but curiously felicitous idea of the artist, the figure of
Christ is holding a spade in his hand, as if to give colour to Mary’s
mistake. His face is Divine, but graciously human, and he waits for the
recognition.

The whole place had an air of tranquil repose, of remoteness from
worldliness, hurry, and unprofitable strivings that perhaps has a
certain value, which is not necessarily diminished because it is
impossible to account for it statistically or categorically. There is
something in spacious grey buildings and perfect Gothic architecture,
shared too by broad grass lawns and studious, quiet places and
uneventful lives, that cannot be altogether left out of the reckoning
when one adds up the total value of a University as compared with
a modern endowed plan of education, or the admirable schemes of
University extension.

And the choir which walked slowly up the aisle into their
places, though composed of ordinary little boys, lay clerks, and
undergraduates, somehow brought themselves into harmony with it.
On week days the little boys no doubt were entirely human, and
probably concealed surreptitious sweet stuff in their pockets; the
lay clerks wore bowler hats and tail coats, and belonged to the most
unprepossessing class which England produces, and the undergraduates
were only undergraduates. But for the time they were part of a
wonderful idea, and were performing the office set apart for them by a
royal founder.

The last echo from the roof died away, and the service began, and
though Reggie was not conscious of attending very closely to it, he was
still aware of the good and kindly atmosphere about him, an atmosphere
which soothed and quieted, and drove the thoughts inward. He had often
felt it before, on other winter afternoons in chapel, and as far as
he knew, for he did not consciously think about it, it had made no
difference to him. But as no impression is without its effects, we must
presume that it had made a difference to him, though he had not been
aware of it.

Not long before, the organ had been repaired, and in great part
renewed, and it was worthy of its surroundings and its appearance.
Golden sheaves of pipes gleamed out between the dark wooden case, and
on top of the two turrets looking west, stood two great angels with
brazen trumpets to their mouths, and when the “tuba” speaks, one cannot
help imagining that it is their trumpets which are sounding. To-day
“The Lord thundered out of heaven,” and one could think that the air
for a moment grew thick with sound, which increased till it shattered
the growing darkness, splitting it with lightning made audible.

By the end of the Psalms it had grown quite dark outside, and the
windows showed black between the delicate tracery. From the lectern
came the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, “of the watcher and the Holy
One,” and afterwards of the Holy One who watched alone among the olives
in the Garden of Gethsemane, a king, not of Babylon, but of the whole
earth, who had not where to lay his head.

The stalls and sub-stalls were all full of members of the college, in
surplices, but the black crowd beyond stretched up to the steps of the
altar, and when the three bars of introduction to the solo began, every
one stood up. Mendelssohn, so often only correct, so often ruined by
his fatal prettiness, has here struck the right note, full and firm.
Even Reggie ceased to think of the evasiveness of the watchman, and
only listened, till the repeated call of the minor died away into a
long pause before the soprano answered, and the choir took up the full
chorus.

Outside in the ante-chapel, though only for a little while, the Babe
ceased from his customary futility of thought, and the slow opening of
the carved wooden doors in the screen, and the drawing of the crimson
curtain, at the end of service, still found him meditative.

As the choir came out, framed in a long shaft of light, the organ was
played quietly, and then paused for a moment, while a great pedal
note made the air shake and quiver in sensation rather than sound.
Then the full organ burst out with the _Occasional Overture_, as the
congregation from the chapel streamed out after the members of the
college. The first movement marched, and marching marshalled whole
armies of sound, which stood waiting while the second rippled and
laughed and sang with all the breezes of heaven behind it, and the
third dwelt dreamily on what had gone, and thought of what was to come.

Then in the last movement, battalion after battalion of major chords,
from choir and swell and great organ, grew and multiplied in all their
forces, the flutes and piccolos, the twelfths and fifteenths as flying
squadrons on the wings, and the diapasons the lords of sound in the
centre, an exceeding great army. Then at the second repeat the “tuba”
woke in the “huge house of sounds,” and the thing was complete, a fixed
star for ever in the heavens of harmony.



XIV.--A VARIETY ENTERTAINMENT.

                      In truth
    I know of noone so adaptable.
              OLD PLAY.


That evening the Babe dined as a guest with the T.A.F. (which means
Twice A Fortnight, and is a synonym for O.A.W. or Once A Week, and
implies a frankly purposeless and purely social club consisting of
about a dozen members, chiefly undergraduates, who dined together
every Sunday night) and spent a pleasant evening of innocent mirth
and a little music. After dinner one member sang some Scotch songs in
a baritone voice, another played the Pilgrim’s March in _Tannhäuser_
exceedingly badly, omitting the Venus motif, but repeating the Chorus
in a palpitating manner in the higher octave, to make up for it, and
two others recalled to their minds the _Occasional Overture_ which
had been played in chapel that afternoon. A fifth imitated in the
most natural and life-like manner the speech and manners of a don of
the college, three or four read books gloomily in corners, being of a
more serious turn of mind, and the wilder section of the party pressed
the Babe to give them a little skirt-dancing, which he very properly
refused to do, feeling justly enough that it would not be in keeping
with the general character of the proceedings. Later he very unwisely
offered to play picquet with anybody, a proposition which was received
in awkward silence, and hurriedly covered with a buzz of conversation.
Another guest, however, contributed to the harmony of the evening by
describing at great length, the state of the lower classes in Russia,
Germany, Austria, and Turkey in Asia, with realistic and revolting
details. By degrees the other members of the party left their books
and their music, and sat round him in enthusiastic silence. For so
stirring a man, so thought the Babe, there was no excuse and no hope,
for he was not less than thirty years old, and should have known
better. Then he reverted, also at length, to the vastly superior
conditions of our own agricultural labourers and proceeded, still
monologising, by easy transitions, to the prospect of an European war.
On this point his prophecies were most patriotic, and went perfectly
to the tune of “Rule Britannia,” and so afforded everyone present the
greatest satisfaction when they reflected that they were Englishmen.
Metaphorically speaking he slapped them on the back, and filled them
full of roast beef and racial admiration. All his sentiments were
worthy of the highest praise, and it may only have been the personality
of the speaker that inspired the Babe with such speechless horror. He
was just describing the apparatus for shooting torpedoes from submerged
tubes on the _Majestic_, which, in some obscure manner the passport of
Prince Niktivoffski, which he happened to have about him, had enabled
him to inspect, and was saying that no other nation had got anything of
the kind and that they would blow all other navies of the world into a
million of atoms in a moment of time, when the breaking point came for
the Babe, and he rose and said good-night.

He had not got more than half way across the court, when he heard other
sounds of revelry from some rooms on the right, belonging as he knew
to a don of his acquaintance, who was widely and justly famed for his
Sunday evenings at home, and the pleasure-seeking Babe determined to
go in for a few minutes, for like the rest of the University, he had a
standing invitation to come as often as he could. He found himself in a
luxuriously furnished room, quite full of people and of mixed tobacco
smoke. His host greeted him effusively, and gave him to understand that
his cup of happiness was now quite full.

The gathering was meant to be, and succeeded in being, altogether
heterogeneous, and though eminently respectable, had a curious but
unmistakable flavour of ultra-Bohemianism about it. Mr. Swotcham was
sitting on the sofa near the fire talking excitedly to two shaggy
individuals, whom the Babe rightly guessed to be members of the
club, which he had libellously informed the world was the modern
representative of the Hell-fire Club of Medmenham Abbey. He smiled
benignantly at Swotcham, and as he turned away caught the words
“standpoint of determinism.” He had not the slightest idea what they
meant, but they sounded bad. By the table, nibbling biscuits and
helping themselves to tea out of a brass Russian samovar, were standing
three little men, with little moustaches, talking earnestly together,
whose only characteristic seemed to be entire ineffectiveness. Further
on a highly-coloured Italian was expressing fervid thoughts in bad
English, to two young gentlemen who wore their hair in a great frizzled
tuft over their foreheads. This latter type was familiar to the Babe,
and afforded him almost infinite delight; it went to the stalls in the
theatre, where, dressed in Norfolk jackets, it talked together in dark
allusiveness of music-hall _artistes_. It might also be seen in the
streets, in a very short and ragged gown, a broken-backed cap with
the cardboard showing at the edges, not the result of age, but of fell
and evil design, smoking pipes. It gave the world to understand that
it was the very devil of a type, but the world, with a charity that is
rare, considered that though odious, it was not morally so black as its
self-depreciation led it to paint itself.

Arundel prints hung on the walls, and somehow looked as incongruous
there as Mrs. Chant at a music-hall, for the whole atmosphere was
quite extraordinarily secular. Against the wall stood three or four
large bookcases, on the top of which were arranged several admirable
reproductions of antique bronzes and marbles. In one corner on the top
of a scagliola pedestal stood the bust of the young Augustus in marble,
and close to him a bronze Narcissus leaned and held up a listening
finger. On each side of the clock on the mantel-piece was a nude figure
of a youth in bronze, and Botticelli’s Madonna of the Magnificat looked
down at them in mild surprise and seemed to be wondering to what sort
of a place she had come. From a door on the right came the sounds
of the slow movement of Beethoven’s _Sonata Pathétique_, arranged
not as the composer mean it to be played, but for a cello, a violin
and a piano; the piano was a little ahead, but the violin and cello
which were running neck to neck, caught up to it in the scherzo that
followed, and they all finished up amid indescribable indifference on
the part of all present, a dead heat. Everyone talked loudly during the
performance, and took not the slightest notice when it was over, with
the exception of the genial host, who patted all three executants on
the back and said “Awfully jolly, Charlie,” to the cellist. The duty of
a good host, without doubt, is to make everybody talk, and certainly
the musicians and Mr. Waddilove between them succeeded to admiration.
The latter was as ubiquitous and as deft as Mr. Maskelyne’s hands when
he is spinning plates, now giving a touch to the discussion on the
standpoint of determinism, now spurring the Italian on to fresh deeds
of violence towards the Queen’s English, now telling the Babe how he
too, in his earlier years, once acted Clytemnestra with unparalleled
success, and now persuading Charlie to give him another taste of his
cello. In fact, the only group he did not speak to was that of the
three earnest biscuit-nibblers, who had been joined by a fourth, and
who appeared to be of no consequence whatever, as indeed they were not.

Beyond the room where the music was going on, lay another smaller one,
entirely lined with bookcases from floor to ceiling. In one corner
stood a screen, and the Babe having the curiosity to peep over it, saw
behind, Mr. Waddilove’s bed, presided over by a bronze reproduction
of the head of “Sleep” from the British Museum. On the table stood a
liqueur decanter containing a pale pink fluid of which the Babe took
a glass. It reminded him vaguely of almonds and orange peel dissolved
in cherry blossom scent, and Mr. Waddilove entering at the moment told
him it was made exclusively on the estate of Count Zamboletto near
Taormina in Sicily, where he himself had often stayed.

Fresh arrivals kept streaming in; among them two or three members of
the T.A.F., who wandered about looking as if they did not know why they
had come, including the performer of the overture to _Tannhaüser_,
who sat down at the piano, without being asked, and did it again.
He appeared to rouse little or no enthusiasm, and left immediately
afterwards.

In the music-room the President of the Union had got hold of Mr.
Waddilove for a moment, and was discussing the sanitary arrangements
of the Union with him, and particularly whether it was possible to
stop the thefts of nail-scissors which went on so extensively in the
lavatory, and which for no explicable reason, he was inclined to hold
the Indians responsible for. He thought that perhaps they collected
them, in order to barter with them among savage tribes when they went
home. Mr. Waddilove seemed to take but a faint interest in these petty
larcenies, but humourously suggested that they should employ some
lady bicyclists from Slater’s detective agency to see if they could
catch the thieves. That failing, he suggested that they should try
chaining the scissors to the table or to the looking-glass, after
the manner of Bibles in old churches. Close beside them stood the
Senior Wrangler of the last year, talking Psychical Research with
the sub-organist of Trinity. An archdeacon, who looked like a sheep
that had gone very badly astray, was turning over the pages of Max
Nordau’s _Degeneration_, and close to him an undergraduate, with
eyebrows meeting over his nose and the face of a truculent rabbit, was
demonstrating the absurdity of the Christian Faith to two frightened
Freshmen, who seemed willing to agree to anything he might suggest. As
the Babe passed, he heard the words “so-called Resurrection,” and his
smile grew a shade more seraphic.

The Babe wandered back to the outer room, where the discussion on the
standpoint of determinism or some similar subject was still proceeding
shrilly. Mr. Swotcham for the moment had the ear of the house, and he
was speaking rapidly and excitedly in a sort of cracked treble voice,
and apparently endeavouring to tie his fingers into hard knots. They
had been joined by three more disputants whom the Babe conjectured
to be in the running for the Apostles, for the other three evidently
regarded them as promising amateurs rather than professionals.

He made his way across to the window, where he saw Mr. Stewart sitting
with a somewhat isolated air.

“This is a very interesting sight, Babe,” he said, “and I was looking
out for someone to whom I could talk about it. I feel a trifle like St.
Anthony in the desert, with all sorts of half-understood temptations
beckoning to me. On one side I hear the siren voice of philosophy
calling me to leave the world, and live in the realms of pure theory;
on the other side of the table stand three joyous Freshmen in the
heyday of youth and animal spirits drinking whisky and water, and a
fourth, with a temerity which I envy, a curious pink liqueur; on the
right you may observe two members of the Footlights Club, who are
slaves, so they tell each other, to their divine mistress, Art, to whom
they offer sacrificial burlesques twice a year. An archdeacon, with
the face of a mediæval saint from a painted glass window, has just
gone through into the next room, where he will hear a pupil of mine
preaching atheism--”

“I heard someone just now allude to the ‘so-called Resurrection.’”

“The chances are a thousand to one that that was he,” said Stewart.
“Just behind you an Italian is singing the joys of the back streets of
Naples to two tuft-haired absurdities, who are sighing to see a little
‘life.’ Meantime, through the open door I can hear our sub-organist
playing the overture to _Parsifal_. He thinks that if he goes on long
enough and plays loud enough the conversation will get a little lower.
He is wrong. The louder he plays, the louder will everybody talk. In
fact he is laying up for them all a store of sore throats to-morrow
morning. And our host, whose moral digestion most surely resembles that
of an ostrich, turns from one to another, and is appropriate to all.
There was also a member of the Upper House here just now, but he did
not stop. He had mistaken the character of the entertainment and had
come in evening clothes like you, but unlike you had brought his wife
décolletée. His entry was pompous, his exit precipitous. As for you, I
have long ceased to be surprised at anything you do. But do tell me why
you are here?”

The Babe looked round appreciatively.

“I don’t know, I’m sure. I came here because I had been dining at the
T.A.F. in King’s.”

“Ah, purely antidotal,” said Mr. Stewart.

“Not consciously; and I stopped, I suppose, because it amused me.
Surely that is a very good reason.”

“The best of reasons, my dear Babe. And when it ceases to amuse you,
you will go away, and I will come with you. And I came because it
was Sunday, and here one can shake off the impression that it is
Sunday, though I don’t know why one should be able to do so with such
conspicuous success as one does. Somehow in my own rooms everything
looks different on Sunday and in consequence they are hardly habitable.
I suppose it is the influence of heredity: the rooms are accustomed to
generations of dons who always wear black coats on Sundays, and have a
cold lunch. Ah, here is the archdeacon. I suppose he has been getting
his mind out of its Sunday clothes too. Archdeacons are venerable,
are they not? How do you address them, ‘Your Veneration’ or ‘Your
Venerance’? Your uncle is a Dean, is he not, Babe? Don’t you know?”

“I think it’s ‘Your Veneree,’” said the Babe, “on the analogy of
referee. Look, he’s talking to the ‘so-called Resurrection.’”

“Then he is probably learning a thing or two,” said Mr. Stewart. “That
young man never comes to see me without instructing me on the whole
duty of a tutor, which appears to be, to do what one intolerable
undergraduate tells him. For he is intolerable, neither more nor less.
I think I have never met a young man who inspired me with a more
searching abhorrence.”

The Babe looked at his watch.

“I suppose I shall be gated if I don’t go back to Trinity soon,” he
said.

“It is not unlikely. I will come with you. I am drunk with impressions,
and I want a little moral soda-water. As we walk, Babe, you shall speak
to me of Rugby football, and drop kicks. That I hope will restore my
equilibrium. I understand now why you play football; hitherto it has
been a mystery to me. It must be very calming to the moral nature. So
tell me what a Punt is.”



XV.--CLYTEMNESTRISMOS.

    Thy warrior comes in regal state,
      What words of welcome for him, wife?
    The lips of love, the heart of hate,
      The bath, the net, the knife.
              STORIES OF MYCENÆ.


Between his own tripos work, which he stuck to steadily and grimly,
and found by mere force of routine less disagreeable than he expected,
Rugby football, the storm and stress of social duties, as he called
them--which meant dining out or having people to dinner five nights
out of the seven--and constant rehearsals for the Greek play, the
Babe’s time was very fully taken up. Furthermore, on Mr. Gladstone’s
principle, though otherwise their principles had nothing in common, he
always slept for eight and a half hours every night, and if, as often
happened, he did not go to bed till two, the hours of the morning were
somewhat curtailed. The Babe, however, did not object to this, as the
morning seemed to him the really disagreeable part of the day. There
was something crude and raw about the air until lunch-time, which made
itself felt, whatever one was doing. It was necessary of course to
get through the morning in order to arrive at the afternoon, but the
shorter it was made the better, and by breakfasting late and lunching
early one could make it very short indeed.

He worked at the Greek play with extraordinary zeal and perseverance.
The happy band of directors had begun to see that he knew more about
acting than all the rest of them put together, though one had seen two
hundred and thirty-seven different French plays, mostly improper, and
the Babe was present throughout every rehearsal, sitting in the stalls
when he was not on the stage himself, and making suggestions whenever
they occurred to him. Mr. Mackay, the second stage director, had very
strong and original ideas on the subject of Cassandra, whom he made his
special care, and he had mapped out exceedingly carefully the gestures,
tones, postures, and faces she was to make as the prophetic afflatus
gradually gained possession over her. She was a tall young gentleman
with a most lovely girlish face, and about as much knowledge of the
dramatic art as of the lunar theory. But Mackay was indefatigable in
coaching her. She was to point down with both hands outstretched on
the word “blood”; she was to roll her eyes and stare at the centre of
the fourth row of stalls at the word “Apollo”; she was to make a noise
in her throat resembling gargling on the second “Alas”; she was to
stagger on the third, and palpitate on the fourth. She was to gaze with
agonised questioning at the Ophicleide when Clytemnestra told her she
was mad, as if to ask whether he too agreed with her, and breathe as
if she had just come to the surface after a prolonged dive; and from
that point onwards she was to cast restraint to the winds. She was
mad; let the audience know it. Mad people were incoherent and throaty;
what she said was incoherent, let her mode of saying it be as throaty
as possible. She must continually gargle, gurgle, mule, puke, croak,
creak, hoop, and hawk, and if then she didn’t bring down the house,
well,--the fault was not hers.

Cassandra, who at any rate had a good memory, and did blindly what
she was told to do, had just been through her part with faultless
accuracy, and was a little hoarse after it, and no wonder. She had
screamed, croaked, gurgled, gargled with pitiless precision, and on the
last word she uttered, her voice, by an entirely unrehearsed effort,
had cracked like a banjo string in a hot room. Mackay thought this
particularly effective, and when he heard it was unpremeditated, urged
her to practise it. He patted her on the back as she came off, and
implied that if she acted like that in the performances, they would be
very helpful to Æschylus’s reputation. The other two stage directors,
it is true, had intermittently indulged in unkind laughter during the
performance, but Cassandra had not heard them, and if she had, she
would not have cared.

At the end of the rehearsal the Babe stayed behind for a few moments
to see about his dress, and passing across the stage again on his way
out, found the three stage directors like the King, the Queen, and the
Executioner in _Alice in Wonderland_ in hot discussion. Like Alice, he
was instantly appealed to by all three, and asked to give his opinion
about Cassandra.

“Do you want me to say exactly what I think?” he asked.

“By all means,” said Mackay, confidently.

The Babe hesitated a moment.

“I haven’t criticised Cassandra at all,” he said, “because I understood
she was, so to speak, preserved. Also she is rather slow, and there
would hardly be time for her to learn her part in the way I should
suggest, and it would be a pity to confuse her mind farther. But if you
ask what I think, she only reminds me of a strong young lady battling
for reason against the clutches of delirium tremens.”

The stage director who had seen so many French plays, smiled.

“I said drunk,” he said.

“Drunk, certainly, and also I think beset by the black-beetle visions,”
said the Babe. “I daresay inspiration by Apollo may be like that, but I
am afraid to an English audience it will suggest D. T.”

“I thought she was splendid this morning,” said Mackay.

“Well, I’ve told you what I think,” said the Babe.

“What do you advise?”

“If there is time, I should advise her to remodel herself a little. Not
to choke so much; she spits at me like a llama, you know. Not to be so
inspired. There is too much saliva in her madness, I think.”

“My dear fellow,” broke in Mackay, “you miss the whole conception of
the part. She is mad, stark, staring mad.”

“I daresay I’m wrong,” said the Babe.

There was an awkward pause, broken by Mackay who picked up his coat
abruptly.

“Very well,” said he. “Take her in hand yourselves. I must be going. We
rehearse again at five, I think.”

A moment’s silence followed and they all looked at each other with the
air of detected conspirators.

“Will you help us?” asked Dr. Propert at length of the Babe.

“Do you mean, will I coach Cassandra?”

“Yes.”

The Babe hesitated.

“I don’t want to interfere,” he said, “but certainly there is room
for improvement in Cassandra. And I don’t want Mackay to think I am
meddling with him. I would much sooner not.”

“I think Mackay wishes it,” said Propert, “only he didn’t like saying
so.”

The Babe shrugged his shoulders.

“I didn’t gather that from his manner, but if you can assure me of it,
I will do my best with her.”

Dr. Propert heaved a sigh of relief.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” he said magnanimously. “We have too
many stage directors. We all of us really want you to manage the whole
thing. Some one will say your part this afternoon--I will myself--if
you will take the rehearsal alone. Besides, the architecture of the
palace is all wrong, and I have found a fifth century statue with
sandals on. There is a cast of it in the Museum, and I must get it
copied. We have our hands too full.”

So that afternoon Dr. Propert read out Clytemnestra’s part, and the
two other stage directors sat meekly in corners, and busied themselves
with sandals, and from the centre of the stalls the Babe issued his
orders, while Dr. Propert read his part in a fine sonorous voice
and in a modern Greek accent, which made the Iambic lines, so said
Mackay, who had made a special study of ancient metres, sound like
minor Galliambics. Cassandra exhibited mild surprise when the Babe
stopped her gurgling, and when he forbade her to ogle the place where
the Ophicleide should be, she felt like an unanchored ship, drifting
helplessly about among quicksands. So the Babe reserved her for private
instruction, and told Agamemnon not to go like Agag.

There was only a fortnight more before the performance, and the
Babe worked like a horse, and like Hans Müller made miracles. The
casual visitor to his rooms was likely to be confronted with a raging
prophetess or a credulous king, in front of whom stood the Babe showing
them how to rage or how to express the extremes of credulity. Dr.
Propert found enough to do in superintending the stage properties and
the second stage director became a sort of benignant elderly Mercury to
the Babe. Mackay alone held slightly aloof.

On the night of the first performance, there was a thick, palpable
atmosphere of nerves abroad, like a London fog. Agamemnon kept
repeating his first line over and over again and wiping his hands on
his himation, and tried to remember that, whatever he did, he must not
clear his throat before he began to speak. The calm and prosy Argive
elders put by their prosiness and became peppery; Dr. Propert flew
about with altar wreaths in his hands, which he deposited carefully
in safe places and then forgot where he had put them. Even the
placid, moon-faced Cassandra pricked her fingers violently with her
fifth-century brooch. As for the watchman it was a serious matter for
doubt whether his shaking knees would ever take him safely down his
somewhat ricketty watch-tower. The Babe alone, on whom really the whole
responsibility as well as the heaviest part rested, towered head and
shoulders above the nervous fog, and was absolutely his own silly self.
He caught up Agamemnon three minutes before the curtain was to rise and
tried to induce him to dance a _pas de quatre_ out of the palace, and
when Agamemnon trembled so that there was imminent risk of the sandals
coming off, let alone dancing, danced a _pas seul_ himself. He set Mr.
Sykes upon the altar and crowned him with roses. He said he couldn’t
remember a word of his part, and proposed to act the execution of Mary
Queen of Scots instead or send the audience empty away. He peeped
through the spy-hole of the curtain and said the conductor hadn’t come,
which sent Dr. Propert flying round to see what had happened, whereas
he had been in his place for ten minutes. In fact, he crowded, as he
said, into five minutes of glorious life, the fatuities of years. The
effect of all this was that the rest of the company were so completely
taken up with deploring his behaviour, that they quite forgot to be
nervous, which was precisely the end which the Babe had in view.

The performance rose to the level of excellence, and Cassandra
maintained it, but Clytemnestra----the pens of the critics failed
before Clytemnestra. They couldn’t, they confessed, do her justice.
She was a creation, a revelation, an incarnation; she was wonderful,
marvellous, stupendous, gorgeous, inimitable, irresistible,
unapproachable, inexplicable. She held the mirror up to Nature, the
κἁτοπτρον up to art, and the _speculum_ up to drama--this was a
little involved, and Dr. Propert is responsible. A shaggy student
from Heidelberg who represented his university, thought she was a
woman, and, heedless of Agamemnon’s doom, fell in love with her on
the spot, and was disposed to take it as a personal insult that the
Babe was of the sex that Nature made him. However, as marriage was out
of the question, he wrote an appreciative article in the Heidelberg
_Mittheilungen_ on Clytemnestrismos (made in Germany), contrasting it
with Agamemnonismos, with a great deal about the standpoint of the
subjective Ego, in the presence of objective archaism. She held the
house, she entranced the audience, she dominated their imaginations;
she tore away the veil of realism from in front of idealism (whatever
that may mean); she gilded Æschylus’s conception, and enriched his
execution. She was Clytemnestra. And then they began all over again
with variations.

Every night at the fall of the curtain, the Babe was called back again
and again, every night the whole house rose at him like one man, and
the florist outside the theatre must have realised a competence for the
rest of his days. It had been a rather dull and uneventful term, the
University wanted something to go mad about, and stark staring mad
it went. If Cambridge had not been in a Christian country, it would
have had a Babe-cult on the spot. His photograph, taken at the great
moment when he came out with “murder beaming from every line of his
countenance” as the _Cambridge Daily News_ finely observed, and slowly
wrung his hands free of the blood that dripped from them, was in half
the shops in the town. For the second time--a unique distinction--he
was in authority in the “Granta,” and the _Cambridge Review_ had a long
article entirely about him, beginning, “It must surely have occurred
to any thoughtful critic.” Night after night the cry of “Speech”--what
could have been less appropriate than that Clytemnestra should make an
English speech after a Greek play?--went up from a crowded house, and
as regularly the Babe bowed and smiled and shook his black-wigged head,
and gracefully declined. Once--it was most indecorous and improper--he
went so far as to whistle to Sykes who was always in attendance, and
made him bark, but otherwise the attempt to get a speech from the Babe
was as unprofitable as trying to get water out of a stone. And his
performance was the more remarkable in that he did not repeat himself
slavishly: acting was an instinct with him, and each night he acted
as his mood prompted him. For instance, his manner of entry after the
murder, changed every night. Once he stood at the palace door quite
silent for nearly a couple of minutes, until Dr. Propert turned quite
pale with the thought that perhaps the prompter might think that he
wanted prompting, and spoil the moment, wiping his hands slowly, and
smiling a ghastly smile at the chorus; once he came out quickly and
threw the axe away from him and plunged into his speech; once, and an
audible horror ran round the house as he did it, he broke into the
silence by a mirthless laugh as he fondled the axe with which he had
done the deed, like a mother nursing her child. In a word, he made it
clear, that Æschylus was a most excellent dramatist, and that he was a
most excellent actor.



XVI.--AFTER LUNCH.

    I shall be by the fire, suppose.
              BROWNING.


There were only three weeks more to the end of the term, but as soon
as the play was over, the Babe at once settled down again to his
social and historical duties. With December a hard frost had set in,
and football for a time was at a standstill. But next to football as
an after lunch amusement, the Babe preferred above everything else a
warm room, a large chair, and congenial company. With these objects in
view he asked Reggie and Ealing to lunch with him one day, and entirely
refused to go out afterwards. Reggie, who had a sort of traditional
notion that people always went out after lunch, or else they were ill,
was overruled by the Babe, who sent his gyp out to order muffins for
tea, and drew his chair close up to the fire.

[Illustration: KING’S PARADE AND CAIUS COLLEGE.]

“But it’s such a jolly day, Babe,” said Reggie, who was only half
persuaded.

The Babe looked out of the window and shuddered.

“By that you mean that there is a horrid smell of frost in the air,
that the sun looks like a copper plate, and that by walking very
fast and putting on woollen gloves you can get completely warm, with
the exception of the end of your nose. I hate woollen gloves, I hate
walking fast, and I hate the tip of my nose to be cold. I avoid all
these things by sitting by the fire.”

“Fuggy brute.”

“About my being a brute,” said the Babe, “there may be two opinions.
But fuggy, as you call it, I am. I confess it, and I glory in it. At
the same time I’m no fuggier than you. If you had your way you would
go a nasty walk in order to get fuggy. We both want to be fuggy, and I
merely adopt the easiest method of becoming so. Dear Reggie, you are so
very English. You love taking the greatest possible trouble to secure
your object. That is called the Sporting Instinct. Personally I am
not troubled with a sluggish liver, but if I was I should take a pill.
That would not suit English people at all: instead of taking a pill,
they take exercise, purely medicinally, and they always adopt the most
circuitous ways of taking it. What can be a more elaborate method of
guarding against a sluggish liver than spending three thousand pounds
on building a tennis court, which can only be used by two people at a
time?”

“What do you play Rugger for, then?”

“Why, because it is the most expeditious way possible of getting
exercise. You concentrate into an hour the exercise you couldn’t get
under half a day if you went a walk.”

“I have known you get keen about it,” said Reggie. “Was that only
because you admired the expedition with which you were getting
exercise?”

The Babe yawned.

“We’ll change the subject,” he said. “I’ve been asked to your Comby on
the 6th. I don’t know why a college should celebrate the birthday of
their founder by making scurrilous rhymes about each other, but I’m
quite glad that they should, and I have very kindly consented to come.”

“Thanks, awfully,” said Ealing.

“Don’t mention it. But really it’s a very interesting point, as
Longridge would say. You all go to chapel, and they sing ‘Zadok the
priest.’ Then you have a big feed in Hall, and the whole college
assembles together, and they libel each other in decasyllable couplets.
Luckily there’s no rhyme to Babe.”

“There are heaps,” said Reggie precipitously.

“I think none. Talking of Longridge, he is supposed to be perfecting a
plan by which, as you walk up to your door you tread on a spring, and
the door flies open. He says it is so tiresome to open a door when your
hands are full. And his hands always are full.”

“It sounds very pleasant,” said Reggie. “Has he tried it yet?”

“Only once. That time his door was already open, and when he trod on
the spring, it shut with, I believe, quite incredible violence and
knocked all his books out of his hands, besides hurting him very much
and breaking his spectacles. You’d think that would stop him? Not a
bit. He merely rose on the stepping-stone of his dead self to higher
things. It only gave him another new idea. He is going to have a second
spring inside the door, which, when trodden on will shut it again after
you. At least that’s what he means to do, when he is fit to walk about
again. At present he is incapacitated. I went to see him yesterday; his
nose is in splints. I am so glad I haven’t an ingenious mind.”

“I wouldn’t be Longridge’s bed-maker, if I was paid for it.”

“Bed-makers are paid for it,” said the Babe. “Besides, as he truly
says, if you can have a dumb waiter why not have a dumb bed-maker made
of some stronger material?”

“He never said anything of the kind, Babe,” said Ealing.

“My dear chap, he has said lots of things of the kind. You force me to
contradict you. He hardly ever says anything of any other kind.”

“Babe, will you or will you not come out?” demanded Reggie.

“I will not come out. I’m not going to spoil my tea by going for a
horrid walk.”

“I wish you would listen to reason.”

The Babe murmured something inaudible about there being no reason to
listen, but when pressed, confessed that he had been reading the _Green
Carnation_ and it had affected his brains.

But Reggie, following, as the Babe said, “that blind instinct which
makes us Englishmen what we are”--he was taking liberties with the
remarks made by his fellow-guest at the T.A.F.--insisted on going out
and taking Ealing with him, though promising to come back for tea, and
the Babe was left to himself.

He was conscious of feeling a little flat, now that the Greek play was
over, and he half wondered to himself what he had done before it began,
to get through the time. For instance, to-day it was barely half-past
three, he was not going to dine till eight, and he had already done as
much work as he meant to do. He thought bitterly that Dr. Watts had
very much overrated Satan’s powers of invention. The upshot was that
he fell asleep and Reggie and Ealing returning an hour later found him
stewing contentedly in front of the fire.

The Babe was rather cross at being awakened, and he said they smelt
horribly frosty. Also he wished the door to be shut, and he was very
hungry. Why were they so unkind, and what had he done to deserve this?
But the muffins came before long, and the Babe recovered his admirable
serenity under the cheering influence of most of them.

“And though your muffin,” he remarked, “is said to destroy the coats
of the stomach, no such ill effects will be experienced if the patient
takes enough of them. My only misgiving is that I have not taken
enough. And yet I have taken all.”

“How much dinner do you suppose you will be able to eat?” asked Reggie,
who was still gazing incredulously at the empty dish which the Babe had
put on the table close to him.

“As much as Stewart will be kind enough to give me. And his board is
usually plentifully spread. If he asks me to dinner much oftener I
shall feel bound in common gratitude to tell him the truth about my
royal visitor in the Long. I wish I’d had a photograph of the group
taken, Jack really looked too splendid.”

“Jack has the makings of a comedian about him,” said Reggie, “but
just now he’s very serious. There is an epidemic of sapping abroad,
but if it wasn’t sapping, it would probably be influenza, so we can’t
complain. You’re touched with it, Babe, and Jack’s got it badly. I went
to see him yesterday, and he was analysing the second Punic war in a
large square note-book with notes on the Wasps at the other end.”

“I know. And he was quite angry when I ventured to speak
disrespectfully of Hannibal. He called me a funny ass, and implied that
Hannibal was more than a father to him. Also he has taken to red ink
which is one of the worst signs. I went into his room in the dark one
day last week, and upset something. It proved to be a stone bottle of
red ink, rather larger than a ginger-beer bottle and quite full. Also
the cork was out, and after that there was no further need for the
cork. It would have been like locking the stable door when the steed
was spilt--I mean, stolen. I pointed that out to him, for it was surely
consoling to know that no more red ink could be spilt in his rooms,
unless he was rash enough to buy some more, in which case, so to speak,
it would have been on his own head, which would be worse than on the
carpet, but he only murmured, ‘Caius Flaminius Secundus,’ and asked if
I was sitting on his classical dictionary.”

“And were you?”

“I think it turned out that he was. So I called him a sap, and went
away.”

“I hate a sap,” said Reggie with a certain dignity.

“We used to call a sap a groutbags at my private school,” said Ealing.

“Why?”

“I don’t know what else you could call them. I was a groutbags once
myself.”

The Babe yawned.

“I feel rather futile,” he said. “I wanted to be amused, and you
fellows would go for a walk. Let’s play ‘Kiss in the slipper,’ or
something.”

“I hear you played Van John till two this morning,” said Reggie.

The Babe stopped in the middle of his yawn.

“Yes, a little after two, I think. We played Van John and other things.
I lost six pounds. Blow the expense. Do you know Feltham of this
college?”

“No, why?”

“Oh, nothing. He was there, that’s all.”

“Nice chap?”

“Nothing particular. Oh, yes, quite nice, I should think, but he went
away as soon as we shut up playing. I hardly know him--in fact I never
met him before. Hullo, it’s seven. I must go.”

“Where are you going?”

“Only to see a man I know, as the Apostles say. Are either of you
dining with Stewart to-night?”

“Yes, I am,” said Reggie. “At eight, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Be punctual, because I’m so hungry.”



XVII.--A LITTLE GAME.

    Whist is slow, but baccarat bites,
      Baccarat bites, and we want to be bit;
    Late comes dawn on these winter nights,
      And you need no knowledge to play at it.
              HOTCH-POTCH VERSES.


In all his life for two years and a half at Cambridge, and he had
associated with very many classes there, the Babe had never come across
any man whom he would suspect of being capable of doing that which
necessitated his going to see “the man” he knew on such an errand
as this, and he concluded rightly that though such people no doubt
occurred, they were not to be looked for, with any chance of finding
them, at university towns. His errand was not a pleasant one, and it
was far from being an easy one, and when he knocked at Feltham’s door a
few minutes afterwards, he could not have hazarded the vaguest guess as
to what manner of exit he would make.

The Babe was, unfortunately, strongly possessed by the gambling
instinct, and when the night before a friend of his had come in
after Hall, and proposed whist if they could get a four, the Babe
said that if they were going to play cards, they might as well play
something more amusing than whist, which seemed to him as a peculiarly
unexhilarating mode of enjoying oneself, and which he regarded as a
practical application of unmixed mathematics. If Broxton would raise
two people to play at something more biting than whist, the Babe would
raise two others.

The Babe raised his two without much delay, but Broxton returned with
only one. However, he said he had met a chap called Feltham, who, he
knew, played, and should he see whether he could come?

The Babe would have played cards with old Gooseberry himself, if he
could not get anyone else, so Broxton went off to see whether Feltham
would play, found him in and willing, and they played Van John for a
while, until the Babe began to yawn and complained he had only lost
three and six. Did they know Marmara, which was indifferently called
“Only-a-penny,” chiefly because it dealt with sums usually much larger
than that.

Some of them, and among these was Feltham, did know Marmara, and the
others were willing to learn it. So the Babe, assuring them that no
previous knowledge was required, proceeded to enlighten them. Everyone
placed a small sum, say sixpence, or its equivalent in counters, in the
pool, and the dealer thereupon dealt three cards face downwards all
around, and three to himself. He then turned up the next card, and you
had all your premises.

Thus--if, for instance, the card turned up happened to be a four of
diamonds, each player in turn had to bet, before looking at his three
cards which lay face downwards on the table, whether they contained a
diamond higher than the four. His stake was only limited by the sum
in the pool unless they chose to fix a smaller limit. Thus with the
four turned up, it would probably appear to each player that there was
a fair chance of his holding a higher card of the same suit, and he
would in all likelihood stake pretty well as high as he could. He would
then turn up his cards, and if his hand held a diamond higher than the
four, he would have the pleasure of taking the amount of his stake out
of the pool, if not, the pain of paying into the pool the same sum.

The game, so said the Babe, was amusing, owing to the fact that it was
pure hazard, and also because the pool mounted up in a way that would
seem to the uninitiated simply incredible. An example of this occurred
at the fifth deal. At the beginning of this deal the pool contained
four shillings. The Babe dealt, and turned up the two of spades.
The first player naturally enough went the pool, but his hand very
curiously contained only diamonds, and he paid four shillings into the
pool, thus raising it to eight. Even more naturally, since the first
player had held no spades, the second player again staked the pool.
His hand contained two hearts and a club, and the pool became sixteen
shillings. It would have been midsummer madness in the third player,
who was Broxton, not to stake the pool, and as it was November and he
was perfectly sane, he did so. His hand revealed three splendid hearts,
and the pool rose to thirty-two shillings. The chances were thus
enormously in favour of the fourth player clearing the pool, and he
accordingly staked it. But as he held a diamond and two clubs, he paid
the pool the equivalent of thirty-two shillings, in mean bone counters,
belonging to the Babe. There was nothing left for the fifth player, who
was Feltham, to do but to stake the pool, which he did. His hand, oddly
enough, contained the seven, eight, and nine of clubs, and he remarked
quite unreasonably, as he paid sixty-four shillings into the pool, that
the cards had not been shuffled. Thus the Babe, who had dealt, had a
pool of sixty-four shillings to win or lose. He staked the pool, but
he held one diamond, one club, and the ace of spades, which counted
below the two, and he wrote an I O U for sixty-four shillings, as he
had not got enough counters, and paid it into the pool, remarking that
this was better than whist at three penny points. Then the pool in one
deal had mounted from four shillings, to one hundred and twenty-eight
shillings, and it was obvious that if a similar deal occurred again
now, there would be a very considerable sum in the pool at the end of
it.

The Babe in these matters was, like the Athenians, somewhat
superstitious, and he said cheerfully that it was a mounting pool,
and they would have some amusement. The pool showed by its subsequent
conduct that he was right, and at the end of an hour it held about £50,
about half of which had been contributed by Feltham, whose luck had
been abominable. This, as they were playing at present, might be won by
anybody, since there was no limit to the stakes, and the Babe, with the
best possible motives, since he was the only one present who would not
be somewhat embarrassed by the total loss of his contribution to the
pool, proposed setting a limit, of, say, twenty-five shillings to the
stake. Feltham objected strongly, and the alteration was vetoed.

Everyone, with the exception perhaps of the Babe, was a little excited
and on edge, for when two or three are gathered together to gamble they
often generate spontaneously between them--this is a sober fact--a
little demon which hovers about and unsettles their nerves. Feltham
especially hardly spoke, except to name his stake, and sometimes to
swear when he lost it, and the Babe felt that they were all taking it
too seriously and quite spoiling his pleasure. For himself, he liked
a “little game” because it happened to amuse him, but the others were
behaving as if they cared whether they won money or lost money, and
this, to the Babe’s thinking, spoilt the whole thing. The point of
gambling, according to him, was not whether you won money or lost
money, but the moment when it was uncertain whether you were going to
win (in the abstract) or lose (in the abstract). The view is wholly
unreasonable, and so is the gambling instinct.

It was Broxton’s turn to deal. He dealt badly, holding the pack from
which he dealt nearly a foot above the table, so that if any of them
happened to be looking at the cards as they were dealt to him, the
chances were that he would get a glimpse or a hint of what the under
one was, and once before that evening the Babe had demanded a fresh
deal, because as his cards were dealt him, he could not help seeing
the corner of a picture card. This time, however, he was handing a
cigarette to Feltham, who sat on his right. But as Feltham’s cards were
dealt him the Babe saw him look up quickly, and he himself saw the
face of one of them, so far, at least, that he would have been ready
to swear it was a picture card in clubs. Feltham at the moment seemed
to him to open his mouth to speak, but said nothing and only glanced
hurriedly at the Babe, who did not look at him again during the game.
The turn-up card was the nine of clubs.

The first two players naturally enough, as there were only four cards
out of fifty-two which could beat the nine, staked a nominal stake
merely, and turned up their cards. One of them held the king of
clubs, and this would have won, leaving only three cards in the pack
which could win. He took a shilling, the amount of his stake, out of
the pool, and said he wished he had trusted to his instinct. It was
Feltham’s turn. He staked £20, which was madness. His hand contained
the queen of clubs and he won.

       *       *       *       *       *

Very soon after, the Babe renewed his proposition that they should
limit the stakes, and this time there was no opposition, and as it was
already after one, they settled to stop as soon as the pool had been
emptied. The pool, seeing them change their tactics, also changed its
own, and instead of mounting continued to sink steadily. Every now and
then it would go up again by a couple of limit stakes, but the constant
tendency was to sink, and in three-quarters of an hour it was empty.
Broxton gathered up the cards and counters, and Feltham and two of the
others said “Good-night,” and left the room, but Anstruther and the
Babe sat down and waited. The Babe helped himself to whisky, tore up
his own I O U’s which he had paid for, and there was a long awkward
silence.

Broxton got up, closed the door, and came and stood in front of the
fire.

“That fellow cheated,” he said at last. “I saw him, twice. Did you
notice, Babe?”

“I thought he saw the cards which were dealt him once. The turn-up
was a nine of clubs and he staked £20. It struck me as unusual,
particularly as the king was already out.”

“Then he cheated twice, as Jim said,” answered Anstruther. “I am
convinced he saw his cards once before, both times when Jim was
dealing.”

“Jim, you damned fool,” said the Babe, “why can’t you manage to deal
properly?”

“We’re all damned fools, I think,” said Broxton. “What business have
we got to ask a fellow to play whom we don’t know, and who probably
can’t afford it.”

“Nor can I,” said Anstruther, “but I don’t cheat.”

“Are we quite sure he did cheat?” asked the Babe.

“Personally, I am,” said Broxton, “aren’t you, Anstruther?”

“Good Lord, yes.”

“Well, what’s to be done?” asked the Babe.

“The men who play with him ought to know,” said Anstruther.

The Babe got up, and threw his torn-up I O U’s into the fire.

“Rot,” he said. “We can’t possibly be certain. And I’m not going to ask
him to play again in order to watch him. That seems to me perhaps one
degree lower than cheating oneself. It’s our own fault, as Jim said,
for asking him.”

“My dear Babe, we can’t leave it as it is.”

“No, I don’t want to do that. I only meant that we couldn’t tell other
people what we suspected, unless we were certain, and not even then.
And we can’t be certain unless we play with him again, and that I don’t
mean to do.”

“What _do_ you propose to do then?”

“I propose that one of us tells him what we thought we saw.”

“And if he denies it?”

“The matter ends there. At the same time to make it clear to him that
three people separately thought they saw him.”

“Thought they saw him!” said Broxton.

“Certainly. Thought they saw him. I daresay he isn’t a bad chap. I
daresay he was playing for far more than he could afford. It is even
possible he will confess he did cheat, and it is quite possible that
we are all wrong and that he didn’t. Personally I certainly thought he
did, but I wouldn’t take my oath on it.”

“Who’s to ask him?”

There was a short silence. Then--

“I will, if you like,” said the Babe.

“Thanks, Babe,” said Jim, “you’d do it better than either of us.”

The Babe lit a cigarette, and finished his whisky.

“I’m off to bed,” he said, “I would sooner have played ‘old maid’ than
that this should have happened. Of course none of us say a word about
it? Good-night, you chaps.”

Anstruther and Broxton sat on for a bit after the Babe had gone.

“It’s a devilish business,” said the latter at length. “But I’m sure
the Babe will manage it as well as it can be managed.”

“The Babe isn’t half a bad chap,” said Anstruther.

“No, I don’t think he is. In fact, I don’t think I ever knew a better.
Are you off? Good-night.”

The Babe wrote a note to Feltham next morning asking him if he would be
in at seven that evening, and receiving an affirmative answer, it thus
came about that he tapped at his door at that hour.



XVIII.--THE CONFESSION.

    Qui s’accuse, s’excuse.
              FROM THE FRENCH.


The Babe’s supposition that Feltham “perhaps wasn’t a bad chap” was
perfectly correct. At the same time it is perfectly true that he had
cheated at cards, which, quite rightly, is one of the few social crimes
for which a man is ostracised.

He had cheated, and he knew it, and he was thoroughly, honestly, and
unreservedly ashamed of it. He did not try to console himself by the
fact that he had never done it before, and by the knowledge that he
would never do it again, because he knew that he would fail to find
the slightest consolation in that, though it was perfectly true. The
thing was done and it was past mending. Twice he had seen the cards, or
at any rate had a suspicion of one of them, when they were dealt him,
without saying anything. On one of these occasions what he had seen
did not help him, for he saw only a card of another suit, but once,
when he had seen the queen of clubs, he traded on it, and swindled the
company of £20.

How he had come to do it, he did not know. He thought the devil must
have taken possession of him, and he was probably quite right. The
temptation was the stronger because he had lost, as the Babe had
suggested, much more than he could afford, and the thing was done
almost before he meant to do it. He more than half suspected that the
Babe had noticed it, but to do him justice this suspicion weighed very
light in his mind, compared with the fact that he had cheated.

Next morning the Babe’s note came, and his suspicion that the Babe had
noticed it took definite form. It was no manner of use refusing to see
him, but what he could not make up his mind about, was what answer he
should give him. To confess it would not help him to make reparation,
and to return, as he honestly wanted to do, the £20 he had won and
besides it did not seem, in anticipation, particularly an easy thing to
do. And when the Babe knocked at his door, he was still as much in the
dark as ever, as to what, if the Babe’s errand was what he suspected,
he should say to him.

The Babe accepted a cigarette, and sat down rather elaborately. He had
determined not to remark upon the weather or the prospects of an early
dissolution, or make any foolish attempts to lead up to the subject,
and after a moment he spoke.

“I am awfully sorry,” he said, “to have to say what I am going to. In
two words it is this: Three men with whom you were playing last night
at Marmara, thought that once or twice you saw your cards, or one of
your cards, before you staked. I am one of them myself, and we decided
that the only fair and proper thing to do was to ask you whether this
was so. I am very sorry to have to say this.”

The Babe behaved like the gentleman he was, and instead of looking
at Feltham to see whether his face indicated anything, kept his eyes
steadily away from him.

Feltham stood a moment without answering and if the Babe had chosen
to look at him he would have seen that he paused because he could not
command his voice. But the Babe did not choose to do so. Feltham would
have given anything that moment to have been able to say “It is true,”
but it seemed to him a physical impossibility. On the other hand he
felt it equally impossible to take the high line, to threaten to kick
the Babe out of the room unless he went in double quick time etc.,
etc.,--to do any of those things which thorough-paced swindlers are
supposed to do when their honour is quite properly called in question.

“It is a damned lie,” he said at length, quite quietly and without
conviction.

The Babe got up at once, and stepped across to where Feltham was
standing.

“Then I wish to apologise most sincerely both for myself and the
other two fellows,” he said, “and if you would like to knock me down,
you may. I shall of course tell them at once we were mistaken, and I
believe what you say entirely. Will you shake hands?”

Feltham let the Babe take his hand, and as the latter turned to leave
the room, sat limply down in the chair from which the Babe had got up.

But the Babe had hardly got half-way across the room, when Feltham
spoke again.

The Babe’s utter frankness had suddenly made it impossible for Feltham
to let him go without telling him, but to tell him now was not made
easier by having lied about it.

“Please wait a minute,” he said.

The Babe’s cigarette had gone out, and he lit it again over the lamp.
Then he sat down in the window seat and waited. Outside, the grass
was sparkling with frost and the clock chimed a quarter past seven.
Simultaneously Feltham spoke:

“I have lied to you as well,” he said. “What you saw was perfectly
true. I cheated twice, at least I saw one of the cards dealt me twice,
and said nothing about it. Once the card happened to be immaterial, and
once I staked £20 knowing I should win. I have told you all.”

The Babe was a person of infinite variety, and if those who knew him
best had seen him now, they would hardly have believed it was he. He
sat down on the arm of the chair where Feltham was sitting, and to
himself cursed the whole pack of cards from ace to king, and above all
Jim Broxton. Then aloud--

“My poor dear fellow,” he said. “I’m devilish sorry for you.”

Feltham, who had been expecting to hear a few biting remarks or else
merely the door slam behind the Babe, looked up. The Babe was looking
at him, quite kindly, quite naturally, as if he was condoling with him
on some misfortune.

Feltham began, “Damn it all--” then stopped, and without a moment’s
warning burst out crying.

The Babe got up, went to the door and sported it. Then he sat down
again on the arm of the chair.

“Poor chap,” he said. “It’s beastly hard lines, and I fully expect it’s
as much our fault as yours. You needn’t trouble to tell me you never
did it before: of course you didn’t. I fully believe that. People who
would confess that sort of thing don’t do that sort of thing twice.
It was like this perhaps--we were playing for far more than you could
afford, and you didn’t mean to do it, until somehow it was done. Money
is a devilish contrivance.”

“Yes, it was just like that,” said Feltham. “As I told you, the first
time I saw a card, it didn’t make any difference, though of course I
ought to have said so. But the second time it did, and before I knew
what I had done, I had cheated. Why don’t you call me a swindler and
tell me I’m not fit to associate with gentlemen? It’s God’s truth.”

The corners of the Babe’s mouth twitched.

“It’s not my concern then. What would be the good of saying that?”

He paused a moment, hoping that Feltham would make a certain
suggestion, and he was not disappointed.

“Look here, there’s the twenty pounds: what can I do with it? Can you
help me?”

The Babe thought a moment.

“Yes, give it me. I’ll see that the other fellows get it somehow, if
you’ll leave it to my discretion. And, you know, it sounds absurd for a
fool like me to give advice, but if I were you I shouldn’t play cards
for money again. It’s no use running one’s head into danger. If it’s
not rude, what is your allowance?”

“Two hundred and fifty.”

“You bally ass! Yet I don’t know. It’s our fault. You couldn’t tell
that the pool would behave in that manner, and I know, personally, I
should find it out of the question to say one was playing for more than
one could afford. Some people call it moral cowardice, it seems to me a
perfectly natural reticence.”

“Of course I won’t play again,” said Feltham. “Why have you been so
awfully good to me?”

“I haven’t. What else was I to do? Oh, yes, and I think I respected
you for telling the truth. Most fellows would have lied like George
Washington.”

Feltham smiled feebly.

“All that remains is this,” said the Babe. “Of course I must tell those
other two fellows about it, the two I mean with whom I talked, but you
can trust them absolutely. It is impossible that anyone else should
ever know about it.”

“You don’t think--oughtn’t I to tell them all?” stammered Feltham.

The Babe frowned.

“Of course you ought not. Why the deuce should you? About the money--it
must be divided up between us all. Six into twenty, about three pound
ten each. Rather an awkward sum.”

“Why six?”

“Because there were six of us.”

“I can’t take any.”

“Your feelings have nothing to do with it,” remarked the Babe. “The
money in the pool of course belongs to everyone. You return the others’
shares of that £20 and keep your own. Well, I’ll manage it somehow. I
will make absurd bets, seventy to one in shillings. That will surprise
nobody: I often do it. Good Lord, it’s a quarter to eight. If you’re
going into Hall, you’ll be very late, and so shall I for my dinner. I
must go. Oh, by the way, did you lose much altogether?”

“About twenty-five pounds.”

“Is it, is it”--began the Babe. “I mean, are you in a hole? If so, I
wish you’d let me lend you some money. Why shouldn’t you? No? Are you
sure you don’t want some? It’s no use receiving unpleasant letters from
one’s father, when there’s no need. Well as you like. Good-night. Come
round and look me up some time: I’m on the next stair-case.”

Feltham followed him to the door.

“I can’t tell you what I feel,” he said huskily, “but I am not
ungrateful. Half an hour ago you asked me to shake hands with you. Will
you shake hands with me?”

“Why, surely,” said the Babe.



XIX.--IN THE FIFTIES.

    He sailed his little paper boats,
      And when the folk thought scorn of that,
    He spudded up the waiting worm
      And yearned towards the master’s hat.
              HOTCH-POTCH VERSES.


The Babe went off to dress for dinner much relieved in mind. Now that
it was over he confessed to himself that he had been quite certain
that Feltham had cheated, but that he should own up to it, was fine,
and the Babe who considered himself totally devoid of anything which
could possibly be construed into moral courage, respected him for it.
He also registered a vow that never to the crack of doom--which cracked
three days afterwards--would he play unlimited Marmara again, and told
himself that he was not cut out for the sort of thing that he had just
been through, and that he was glad it was over. He went round at once
to tell Broxton and Anstruther what had happened, and after that shook
the whole

[Illustration: CLARE COLLEGE AND BRIDGE.]

affair from his mind, as a puppy shakes itself after being in the water.

He was, naturally, late for dinner, and Mr. Stewart who knew the value
of soup and also the habits of the Babe, had not waited. When he did
appear, he was, of course, perfectly unabashed, and took the bottom of
the table with unassuming grace.

“The psychology of punctuality,” he remarked, “is a most interesting
study. Some day I mean to study it, and I shall write a little
monograph on the subject uniform with those which Sherlock Holmes wrote
on tobacco ash and the tails of cart horses. I think there must be a
punctuality bacillus, something like a death-watch, always ticking, and
if there isn’t one, I shall invent it. It doesn’t take to me. I am too
healthy.”

“My dear Babe,” said the Stewart, “you have disappointed me. I always
hoped that you were the one person I have been looking for so long, who
has never been punctual; But you have been punctual to my knowledge
twice, once on an occasion in the Long----”

“When was that?” interrupted the Babe. “I don’t believe it.”

“On a memorable occasion. At lunch in your own rooms.”

The Babe caught Reggie’s eye, and looked away.

“Oh, yes.”

“And as Clytemnestra, you always killed Agamemnon with ruthless
punctuality. I was always hoping to hear him scream during the next
Chorus but one.”

“I did the screaming for him,” said the Babe complacently, “except on
the first night. He could only scream like an empty syphon.”

“There is nothing more tragic or blood-curdling than the scream of an
empty syphon,” said Stewart. “It shrieks to you, like a banshee of all
the whisky and soda you have drunk. The only thing that could shriek
worse would be an empty whisky bottle, and that can’t shriek at all.
If he really could scream like that, you robbed him of a chance of
greatness by screaming for him, although you screamed very well.”

“There are syphons and syphons,” said the Babe, “he screamed like an
empty but undervitalised one, which had never really been full.”

“Babe, if you talk about undervitalised syphons during fish,” said
Reggie, “you will drive us all mad, before the end of dinner.”

“Going mad,” said Mr. Stewart, “is an effort of will. I could go mad
in a minute if I wished, and the Babe certainly determined to go mad
when he was yet a boy. No offence meant, Babe. I can confidently state
that during the three years I have known him, he has never for a moment
seemed to be really sane.”

“I was perfectly sane when I settled to go in for the tripos,” said the
Babe.

“You never settled to do anything of the kind. You think you did and it
is one of your wildest delusions.”

“Secondly I was sane,” said the Babe, “when I--”

“No you weren’t,” put in Reggie.

“Reggie, don’t be like Longridge. But you are quite right. I wasn’t
sane then, though I thought I was for the moment.”

“Longridge is better, though he still has a large piece of sticking
plaster over his nose,” said Mr. Stewart. “He came to see me to-day.
He insisted on arguing with me in spite of my expostulations. When
he talks, I always want to cover him up, as one covers up a chirping
canary.”

“I wish you would do it some day. With a piece of green baize you know,
and a hole in it where the handle of the cage comes out.”

“He would continue to make confused noises within,” said Reggie.

“He always makes confused noises,” said Mr. Stewart wearily. “Confused,
ingenious, noises. Babe, tell me if that champagne is drinkable.”

The Babe drank off his glass.

“Obviously,” he said. “But it’s no use asking me: all champagne seems
to me delicious. I drink Miller’s cheapest for choice.”

A small withered don who was sitting next the Babe, and had not
previously spoken, here looked up.

“A nice, dry, light wine,” he said.

The Babe started violently, and if he had not just emptied his glass of
champagne, he would certainly have spilled it. He explained afterwards
that he really had forgotten that anyone was occupying the chair on the
right.

This curious old gentlemen, one of the few surviving specimens of this
particular type of elderly don had the classical name of Moffat, and
Mr. Stewart at once introduced him to the Babe, a ceremony which had
escaped his memory before, and Mr. Moffat who had been shivering on the
brink of conversation all dinner, decided to plunge in.

“I saw your performance of the _Agamemnon_ last week,” he said.

“I hope you enjoyed it,” said the Babe politely.

“The stage is not what it was in me young days,” said Mr. Moffat.

The Babe looked interested and waited for further criticisms, but
the old gentleman returned to his dinner without offering any. His
face looked as if it was made of cast iron, painted with Aspinall’s
buff-coloured enamel.

There was a short silence, and Mr. Stewart, looking up, saw that the
Babe was fighting like a man against an inward convulsion of laughter.
His face changed from pink to red, and a vein stood out on his usually
unwrinkled brow. Stewart knew that when the Babe had a fit of the
giggles it was, so to speak, no laughing matter, and he made things
worse by asking Mr. Moffat how his sister was. At this point the Babe
left the room with a rapid, uneven step, and he was heard to plunge
violently into the dishes outside. Stewart had been particularly
unfortunate in his choice of a subject, because what had started the
Babe off, was the very thought that Mr. Moffat’s sister was no doubt
the original Miss Moffat, and he had been rashly indulging in wild
conjectures as to what would happen if he said suddenly:

“I believe your sister doesn’t like spiders.”

Mr. Moffat had resumed the subject of the Greek play when the Babe
returned--he seemed not to have noticed his ill-mannered exit--and was
finding fault with the chorus, particularly with the leader, who, in
the person of Reggie, was sitting opposite him. Of this, however, he
had not the slightest idea.

“I call them a dowdy crew,” he said. “They were dressed like old baize
doors. Not me idea of a chorus at all. But it was all very creditable,
very creditable indeed, and we have to thank me young friend here for
a very fine performance of Clytemnestra. Why, me sister”--here the
Babe gasped for a moment like a drowning man, but recovered himself
bravely--“me sister came down next morning at breakfast, and said
she’d hardly been able to sleep a wink, hardly a wink, for thinking of
Clytemnestra.”

The Babe made a violent effort and checked himself.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, with his most engaging manner. “I hope you
will apologise to her for me.”

“Not at all, not at all,” said Mr. Moffat. “It’s me own opinion she
slept far more than she knew. But she was always nervous,”--the Babe
bit his tongue--“easily upset. A very good pheasant, Mr. Stewart, a
very good pheasant. Thank ye, yes, a glass of champagne. A glass of
wine with you, heh, heh, Clytemnestra.”

Mr. Moffat, as the Babe allowed afterwards, was a very pleasant old
gentleman. When dinner was over and he had settled himself into an
arm-chair by the fire, smoking one of Stewart’s strongest cigars, he
told several stories about the old generation of dons whom he had known.

“There was an old fellow of King’s” he was saying, “in me undergraduate
days, who must have been eighty, and never a night had he spent out of
Cambridge since he came up as an undergraduate. An infidel old lot he
was. Many a time I’ve seen him in the evening, when the worms were come
out on the grass plot, hobbling about and trying to kill them with the
point of his stick. He used to talk to them and make faces at them
and say, ‘Ah, damn you. You haven’t got me yet.’ A queer lot they all
were, not the worms I mean, heh, heh, but the old dons. There were two
others who had been great mathematicians in their time, and they used
to spend their evenings together doing, what do you think? Making paper
boats, sir, which they went and sailed on the Cam next day. They would
start them from the King’s bridge, and sail them down to the willow at
the other end of the lawn. And such quarrels as they had over which
had won! One of them one morning, his name was Jenkinson, if I’m not
mistaken, an old Yorkshireman, got so heated over it,--for he said the
other boat had fouled his, as if they were racing for a cup,--that he
went for the other man, by gad, sir, he went for him, and tried to push
him into the river. But the other--his name was Keggs--was too quick
for him, and stepped out of the way, and head over ears into the river
went Jenkinson himself, being unable to stop himself, sir, by reason of
the impetus he had got up. The river isn’t over deep, there, as you
know, perhaps two feet deep, and he stood up as soon as he could find
his feet and bawled out: ‘Ah misdoot ye’ve drooned me, Keggs.’”

The Babe was delighted.

“Do tell me some more,” he said, when Mr. Moffat had finished laughing
himself, which he did in a silent, internal manner.

“Ah, some of those old fellows did things not quite fit for boys to
hear about. _Maxima reverentia_, eh, Mr. Stewart? But there was an
Irishman, a fellow of Clare too, in my time. I might tell you about
him; he used to live in the rooms above the gate. He had a quarrel with
the Master, and as often as the Master went in and out of the gate,
egad, the old chap would try to spit on his head. If the Master was
out to dinner, he would wait up, sitting in his window till he came
back, be it eleven o’clock or twelve, or later than that. At last the
Master had to put up an umbrella when he walked under the gate of his
own college and then the old fellow would shout out, ‘Come, out o’
that, ye ould divil, and let me get at ye.’ A disreputable old crew
they were!--Ah well, it’s half-past ten. Eleven’s me bedtime, and I
must be going. Good-night to you Mr. Stewart, and many thanks for your
kind hospitality. And good-night to you, sir,” he said turning to the
Babe; “I heard them shout ‘Clytemnestra, good old Clytemnestra,’ after
you all down the street. And you deserved an ovation, sir, you richly
deserved an ovation, and I’m glad you got it.”

After Mr. Moffat’s departure, they settled down again, and Stewart
remarked:

“You’ve made a conquest, Babe. But you behaved abominably during
dinner.”

“I couldn’t help it. I could think of nothing but Miss Moffat. On the
top of that you enquired about his sister. I ask you, what was I to do?”

“You needn’t have danced in the dishes outside,” said Reggie.

“I only danced in the soup, and we’d finished with the soup. And
there’s a soupçon of it on my--”

“Shut up.”

“Pumps,” continued the Babe. “May I have some whisky? Thanks. For what
I’m going to receive. What a funny undergraduate Moffat must have been.”

“I believe he was born like that,” said Stewart. “I know when I came
up, ten years ago, he was just the same. That’s the best of getting old
early: you don’t change any more.”

“That’s one for you, Babe,” remarked Reggie.

“The Babe is the imperishable child,” said Stewart.

“You called me a man of the world the other day,” said the Babe in
self-defence.

“I think not.”

“You did really. However, we’ll pass it over.”

“By the way, Babe, you are corrupting the youth of the college. Two
men went into their lodgings last night at ten minutes past two. It
transpired that they had been playing cards with you.”

“Well, it is true that I was playing cards last night. But they could
have gone away earlier if they had wished.”

“Your fascinations were probably too strong,” said Reggie.

“Now you’re being personal, and possibly sarcastic,” said the Babe with
dignity. “I must go to bed. I was late last night.”

“The night is yet young, Babe,” said Stewart.

“So am I. But if I don’t go, I shall continue to drink whisky and soda,
and smoke.”

“You are welcome. How is the tripos work progressing?”

“Oh, it’s getting on,” said the Babe, hopefully. “A little at a time,
you know, but often. I’m not one of those people who can work five
hours at a stretch.”

“I suppose not. Is it to be a second or a third?”

“I believe there are three classes in the tripos,” said the Babe
stiffly. “You have only mentioned two. Well, yes, perhaps one of your
small cigarettes would not hurt me. But I must go at eleven, because I
am sapping. Oh, isn’t that the _Shop Girl_ on the table? There are some
awfully good songs in it. May I go and get my banjo?”

“Do. I got it expressly for you to sing.”

The Babe slept his usual eight and a half hours that night. He did not
awake till 10.30.



XX.--THE BABE’S MINOR DIVERSIONS.

    Where three times slipping from the outside edge
    I bumped the ice into three several stars.
              TENNYSON.


The frost continued, black and clean, and the Babe, like the Polar
Bear, thought it would be nice to practise skating. He bought himself
a pair of Dowler blades with Mount Charles fittings, which he was
assured by an enthusiastic friend were the only skates with which it
was possible to preserve one’s self-respect, and fondly hoped that
self-respect was a synonym for balance. Hitherto his accomplishments in
this particular line had been limited to what is popularly known as a
little outside edge, but Reggie who was a first-rate skater undertook
his education. The Babe, however, refused to leave his work altogether
alone, for he was beginning to be seriously touched with the sapping
epidemic, and he and Reggie used to set off about one, taking lunch
with them, to the skating club, of which Reggie was a member, and of
which the Babe was not.

Sykes only went with them once, and he would not have gone then, had it
been possible to foresee that he would put skates in the same category
as croquet balls and bathers, but it was soon clear that he did. He
made a bee-line for the unemployed leg of Professor Robertson, who was
conscious of having done the counter rocking turn for the first time in
his life without the semblance of a scrape, and brought him down like a
rabbit shot through the head. The Babe hurried across to the assistance
of the disabled scientist, and dragged Sykes away. But Sykes had his
principles, and as he dared not use threats to the Babe, he implored,
almost commanded him not to put on his skates.

“Sykes, dear, you are a little unreasonable,” said the Babe
pacifically. “Reggie, what are we to do with Sykes? There was nearly
one scientist the less in this naughty world.”

The cab in which they had driven up, was still waiting, and at Reggie’s
suggestion Sykes was put inside and driven back to the stable where he
slept.

The Babe wobbled industriously about, trying to skate large, and not
deceive himself into thinking that a three was finished as soon as he
had made the turn, and Reggie practised by himself round an orange,
waiting for a four to be made up, until the Babe ate it.

About the third day the Babe was hopelessly down with the skating
fever, which went badly with the sapping epidemic. He took his skates
round to King’s in the evening, after skating all day, for the sapping
epidemic was rapidly fleeing from him like a beautiful dream at the
awakening, and skated on the fountain; he slid about his carpet trying
to get his pose right; he put his looking-glass on the floor and
corrected the position of the unemployed foot; he traced grapevines
with a fork on the tablecloth and loops with wineglasses; he dreamed
that he covered a pond with alternate brackets and rocking turns, and
woke up to find it was not true; he even watered the pavement outside
his rooms in order to get a little piece of ice big enough for a turn,
with the only result that the bed-maker, coming in next morning, fell
heavily over it, barking her elbow, and breaking the greater part of
the china she was carrying, which, as the Babe said, was happily not
his. Unfortunately, however, the porter discovered it, as he brought
round letters, and ruthlessly spread salt thickly over it, while the
baffled Babe looked angrily on from the window.

Snow fell after this, and the Babe proposed tobogganing down Market
Hill. He talked it over with Reggie, and they quarrelled as to which
was the top of the hill and which the bottom, “for it would never do,”
said the scrupulous Babe, “to be seen tobogganing up hill,” and on
referring the matter to a third person, it was decided that the hill
was perfectly level, so that they were both right and both wrong,
whichever way you chose to look at the question.

The King’s Comby (which is an abbreviation for Combination and
means Junior Combination Room, but takes place in quite a different
apartment) went off satisfactorily. The Babe, secure in the knowledge
that there was no rhyme to Babe in the English language (his other
name, which I have omitted to mention before, was Arbuthnot, and it
would require an excess of ingenuity to find a rhyme even to that),
made scurrilous allusions, most of them quite unfounded, about his
friends, in vile decasyllables, and enjoyed himself very much. Later
in the evening he with two of the performers in the original play
acted a short skit on the _Agamemnon_, in which he parodied himself
with the most ruthlessly realistic accuracy, and killed Agamemnon in
a sponging tin with the aid of a landing net and a pair of scissors.
Last of all he disgraced himself by stamping out in the snow, in
enormous letters, the initials of a popular and widely known don of the
college, with such thoroughness, that the grass has never grown since,
and the initials are to be seen to this day, to witness if I lie. The
proceedings terminated about three in the morning, and the Babe was
left waiting for some minutes outside the porter’s lodge at Trinity,
while that indignant official got out of bed to open the gate to him.

The Babe ought to have caught a bad cold, but with an indefensible
miscarriage of justice, it was the porter who caught cold, and not he,
and the Babe observed cynically, when he heard of it, that the memory
of the dog in the nursery rhyme, that bit a man from Islington in the
leg, and then died itself, had at last been avenged.

Christmas, the Babe announced, fell early that year, and consequently
he with several others stayed up till Christmas Eve, when they were
allowed to stay no longer. He had gone up to town for two days to play
in the University Rugby match, which he had been largely instrumental
in winning, for the ground was like a buttered ballroom floor, a state
of things which the Babe for some occult reason delighted in, and for
an hour’s space he proceeded to slip and slide and gloom and glance in
a way that seemed to paralyse his opponents, and resulted in Cambridge
winning by two tries and a dropped goal. The dropped goal was the
Babe’s doing: theoretically it had been impossible, for he appeared to
drop it out of the middle of a scrimmage, but it counted just the same,
and he had also secured one of the tries. The _Sportsman_ for December
15th gives a full account of the match; also the Babe’s portrait, in
which he looks like a cross between a forger and a parricide.

On returning to Cambridge, in order to be up to date, he and some
friends went out carol-singing one night, visiting the heads of
colleges, and the houses of the married fellows. The Babe acted as
showman and spoke broad Somersetshire, which interested a certain
philologist, who had no suspicion that they were not town people, very
much. The Babe declared that his father and grandfather had lived in
Barnwell all their lives, and that he himself had never even attempted
to set foot out of Cambridgeshire except once on the August Bank
Holiday, when he had intended to go to Hunstanton but had missed the
train. At this point, however, the philologist winked and said: “Mr.
Arbuthnot, I believe.” They collected in all seventeen shillings and
eightpence, which they settled should be given to a local charity, but
the Babe, as he counted the amount over with trembling, avaricious
fingers, looked up with a brilliant smile as he announced the total and
exclaimed: “Not a penny of that shall the poor ever see.” They also
got what Rudyard Kipling calls “lashings of beer” at several houses,
and Bill Sykes who had been coached to carry a small tin into which
offerings of money were put by the open-handed householder, was without
a shadow of reason filled with so uncontrollable a fit of rage at the
sight of the cook at one of the houses in Selwyn Gardens, who patted
him on the head, and called him a pretty dear, that he dropped the tin
mug, and nipped her shrewdly in the parts about the ankle.

Reggie parted from the Babe at the station, the latter going to London,
and Reggie to Lincolnshire. The Babe travelled first because he said
Sykes refused to go second or third, but that intelligent animal,
poking his nose out from under the seat just as the guard was taking
the tickets, was ignominiously hauled out, and compelled to go in the
van, which cannot be considered as a class at all.



XXI.--A DAY IN THE LENT TERM.

    O this drear March month.
                KINGSLEY.


Jack Marsden stopped for a moment under the Babe’s window and called

[Illustration: Musical notation: Ba-abe]

and the Babe’s face looked out vindictively.

“If you call me like that I sha’n’t answer,” he said. “You’re not in
Clare.”

So Jack went in, and found the Babe curled up again in a large
chair, close to the fire, working. The month was February, which is
equivalent, at Cambridge, to saying that it was raining--cold, sleety,
impossible rain. As the exact day of the month was the sixteenth, it
followed as a corollary that it had been raining for at least sixteen
days, and, as it was leap year, it would continue to rain thirteen
more.

“Well?” said the Babe unencouragingly. He had gone to bed early the
night before, and the consequent length of the morning made him rather
cross.

“Oh nothing. It’s raining, you know. The _Sportsman_ says that Jupiter
Pluvius is in the ascendant still.”

    “He sends the snow in summer,
     He sends the frost in May
     To nip the apple-blossoms,
     And spoil our games of play,”

quoted the Babe.

“Just so, and he doesn’t neglect to send the rain in February. I’ve
just come back from King’s. Reggie’s in a bad temper, almost as bad as
you.”

“Why?”

“Weather, chiefly. He says it would be grovelling flattery to call it
beastly.”

“Reggie is given to making truisms,” said the Babe turning over the
page. “Jack, I wish you’d go away. I want to work. Besides, you’re so
devilish cheerful, and I’m not.”

“Sorry to hear it. Oh, yes, and Reggie told me to remind you that you
are playing tennis with him at twelve. He’s got the New Court.”

The Babe brightened up: there was an hour less of morning.

“Hurrah! that will suit me excellently. Many thanks, and please go
away. Good-bye.”

Stewart confessed that the Babe had surprised him. Most people who knew
the Babe were never surprised at him, because they always expected
him to do something unexpected. But no one had ever supposed that he
would do anything so unexpected as to work steadily every day. It
would not have been so surprising if he had worked twelve hours a day
twice a week, but that he should work four hours every day, upset all
preconceived ideas about him. He had done so for a full month, and
really there seemed no reason now why he should stop. He got up before
nine, and he worked from ten till one: at one he would be himself again
till six, but he would work from six till seven. Stewart considered
this exhibition as a striking imitation by Nature of Mr. R. L.
Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde: he had not clearly realised before that
the Babe had a dual nature. Just now he considered Hyde to be painfully
predominant, for that the Babe should cease being absurd for four hours
a day seemed to him a sacrifice of the best possibilities of his nature.

But the Babe, like Mr. Gladstone in one thing more, threw off all
thoughts of such matters, except during work hours, and having
determined to put in an extra hour in the afternoon, to make up for
tennis in the morning, he trotted off through the dripping, drizzling
rain to the tennis court in the best of spirits.

He went back to lunch with Reggie in King’s Hall and as, contrary to
all precedent, the rain had stopped, they went for a walk afterwards
round two or three football grounds, to see what was going on, and
give Mr. Sykes an airing. Scratch games seemed the order of the day,
and they “took situations” on outside wings opposite each other for a
few minutes in the game on the King’s ground, until Reggie charged
the Babe and knocked him down, after which they retired, dirty, but
invigorated. Then they turned into the tennis court again for a while,
and so by Burrell’s Walk across the town bridge, and back into Trinity
Street, looked in at the shop windows, which are perhaps less alluring
than any others in the kingdom, and admired the preparations for
diverting the sewerage of the town from the Cam.

“But how,” said the Babe, “our college boats will be able to row in a
perfectly empty river bed, is more than I feel fit to tell you.”

“They’ll keep up the water by shutting the locks,” said Reggie, vaguely.

“But no shutting of locks, Reggie, will ever repair the drought caused
by the cessation of the drains. There’s the Master of Trinity. Take off
your hat: he won’t see you. I really wish Sykes wouldn’t always smell
Masters of colleges. It makes them nervous; they think indirectly that
it’s my fault. Bill, you idiot, come here!”

Bill having come to the conclusion that there were not sufficient
grounds to warrant the Master’s arrest, reluctantly dismissed the case,
though he would have liked bail, and trotted after the Babe. The latter
had just discovered that life was not worth living without a minimum
thermometer which he saw in a chemist’s window, and had to go and buy
it.

They passed up to the left of Whewell’s Court, by the churchyard
without a church, and into Jesus Lane in order to deposit Sykes again
at his stables, and then, as tea-time was approaching, turned back
towards Trinity.

“And for our tea,” said the Babe, “we will go to the Pitt, where it
may be had cheaply and comfortably, and we can read the telegrams,
which as far as I have observed, deal exclusively with steeplechase
races, and the state of the money market. I noticed that money was
easier yesterday. I am so glad. It has been terribly difficult lately.
But if it is easier, no doubt the financial crisis between me and my
father, which I expect at the end of this term, will be more capable
of adjustment. At present I fear my creditors will find me like moist
sugar, fourpence the pound. Do you suppose there are any races going
on at Newmarket? We might drive over: I feel as if a little carriage
exercise would do me good. Here’s Jim. Jim always knows about races. He
was born, I mean dropped, at Esher. Jim, is there any racing going on
at Newmarket? Why do you look so disgusted?”

“It’s so likely that flat races should be going on now,” said Jim.

“Oh, well, it can’t be helped,” said the Babe. “What nice brown boots
you’ve got. Have you been out on your gee-gee?”

“Looks rather like it.”

“I thought so,” said the Babe. “We’re going to have tea. Do you know
Reggie? Jim, Reggie, Reggie, Jim.”

“Met before,” said Jim. “Ta, ta, Babe. I’ve got a coach at four.”

The Babe according to custom weighed and measured himself, found as
usual that no change had taken place since yesterday, put his hat on
the head of the bust of Pitt, whence it clattered on to the floor, let
the door into the smoking room swing to in Reggie’s face, and ordered
tea. A group of three or four men before the fire were talking about
someone called Pocohantas, who turned out on enquiry to be a horse, and
the Babe expressed himself willing to lay current odds about anything
in the world.

He and Reggie strolled back in the dusk, and parted at the gate of
Trinity. The Babe went to work till Hall, and after Hall played picquet
with Anstruther, whom he fleeced, capotting him once and repiquing him
twice in an hour, and discussed with him the extraordinary dulness of
the Lent term, and the impossibility of making it any livelier.

“It’s a sort of close time,” said the Babe, “for things of interest.
I don’t know why it should be so, but every day is exactly like every
other day, and they are all dull. I feel eclipsed all the Lent term.
I make a show of gaiety, but it is all hollow. I suppose really one
does depend a good deal on things like cricket and football, and fine
weather. One doesn’t know it at the time, but one misses them when they
are not there.”

“You’ve taken to sapping: you oughtn’t to mind.”

“On the contrary I mind all the more. When I’ve done a morning’s work,
I come out fizzing with being corked up so long, and nothing happens to
my fizz. It loses itself in the empty and infinite air.”

“Don’t be poetical, Babe.”

“For instance,” continued the Babe, “what am I to do now? I’ve had
enough picquet, and I’ve got nothing to say, and I’ve worked enough,
and I don’t want to go to bed.”

“All right, don’t go to bed. Sit and talk to me.”

“But I don’t want to talk,” said the Babe volubly. “There’s nothing
to talk about. I’ve played tennis, I’ve worked, I’ve taken Sykes for
a walk, and that’s all. Really one must be extraordinarily clever to
be able to talk day after day all one’s life. How does one do it? _A
priori_, one would expect to have said all the things one has got to
say by the time one was twenty, and I’m twenty-one. Yet I am not dumb
yet. One doesn’t talk about things that happen, and most people, and I
am one myself, never think at all, so they can’t talk about what they
are thinking about. Give me some whisky and soda; perhaps, as Mulvaney
says, it will put a thought into me. I hate Mulvaney worse than I hate
Learoyd, and that is worse than I hate Ortheris. As for Mrs. Hawksbee,
that’s another story. Soda is like a solution of pin points. It
pricks one all over the mouth. I wonder if it would do as well to put
ordinary pins into water. I shall ask Longridge what he thinks about
it. Now he’s an exception, he does nothing but think; you can hear the
machinery clicking inside him. He thinks about all the ingenious things
he’s going to do and all the ingenious things nobody else would think
of doing. They don’t come off mostly, because the door hits him in
the face, or the gum won’t stick. Thanks. When! Do you know Stewart
is beginning to think I shall get through the tripos, and he warned
me not to work too much. He says that I shall, by all precedents in
such matters, get brain fever and consumption, and that my sorrowing
friends will kneel round my expiring bedside--you see what I mean--on
the morning the tripos lists are announced and shout out above the
increasing clamour of my death rattle, ‘You are Senior Historian,’ and
that my reform from the wild young spark to the pale emaciated student,
will all date from one evening last year at the Savoy, when he said
he would only take the longest odds if he had to bet on my getting
through.”

“And did you give him long odds?”

“No: I wouldn’t have bet against myself even then, for the simple
reason that one never knows how much one can try until one has tried.
If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will believe in you. Not
that I do believe in myself for a moment, any more than I believe in,
in anybody else. You see, six months ago I shouldn’t have believed
it possible that I should work steadily four hours or more a day. I
think I shall take to spectacles, and go for grinds on the Grantchester
road; I believe that’s the _chic_ thing to do in sapping circles. Fancy
waking up some morning to find oneself in a sapping circle. I wonder
what Saps think about.”

“Sap, probably. Oh, yes, certainly sap. Either Thucydides, or binomial
theories, or is it theorems or aortas. Babe, let us meditate on aortas
for a time.”

“By all means. I wonder what an aorta is. Yes, thanks, but only a
mouthful, as Reggie says. That’s because he has such a big mouth. I
say, I wish I had an object in life: it must be so interesting.”

“Liver,” said Anstruther brutally, “take a pill. What do you want an
object in life for?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It would be something to play about with, when one
didn’t want to talk or see other people. I suppose a conscience would
do as well. I haven’t either.”

“You said ten minutes ago that you didn’t want to talk. Since then I
have only been able to get in an occasional word edgewise.”

The Babe laughed, and finished his whisky.

“Yes, I’m very sorry. It’s a great misfortune not to be able to be
silent. It’s not my fault. I sha’n’t take a pill; I shall go to bed
instead. I always used to think that ‘the grave as little as my bed’
was an independent sentence and meant literally what it said. Not that
it meant much. Do you ever lie awake?”

“No, of course not: I can understand the difficulty of keeping awake,
but not of going to sleep.”

“I lay awake nearly five minutes last night,” said the Babe, “and so I
thought I was going to be ill! But I wasn’t, at least not at present. I
suppose people who lie awake, think.”

“I always fancied they only swore.”

“In that case there would be nothing gained. I’m getting silly.
Good-night.”



XXII.--BEFORE THE TRIPOS.

    And when the bowler sent a ball
      Off which none else would try to score,
    He did not seem to care at all,
      But hit it very high for four.
                    HOTCH-POTCH VERSES.


The Babe was lying at the bottom of a Canadian canoe on his back,
singing low to his beloved. At least he was not exactly singing, but
swearing gently at Sykes, who had laid himself down on his stomach and
the day was too hot to have bulldogs on one’s stomach. The Babe about
an hour ago had landed to see if Reggie was in, and finding his rooms
empty and ungarnished, tied his canoe up to the bank to sleep and read
a little _Ravenshoe_ for an hour, but it had slipped its cable and as
he had left the paddle on the bank it had required only a few moments
reflection to convince him that he was hopelessly and completely at the
mercy of the winds and waters, like Danaë, the mother of Perseus, in
her wooden chest, and that his destiny was no longer in his own hands.
As then, there was nothing whatever to be done, he did nothing in
serene content. He would soon bump against the arches of Clare Bridge,
but until that happened there was no step he could possibly take.

It was just three days before his tripos began, and the Babe, with a
wisdom beyond his years, was taking three complete holidays. He argued
that as it already seemed to him that his brain was one turbid mass
of undigested facts and dates, the best thing he could do was not
to swallow more, but to let what he had settle down a little. For a
fortnight before he had been working really hard, going over the ground
again, and for the next three days he meant neither to think nor do
anything whatever. As he expressed it himself after last Sunday morning
chapel, “I am going,” he said “to eat and sleep and do and be simply
that which pleases me.”

He was roused by a loud injured voice not far off shouting, “Look
ahead, sir,” and he sat up. His boat, as is the ineradicable habit
of Canadian canoes, had drifted broadside across the river and was
fouling the course of an outrigger which was wanting to come up.

“I’m very sorry,” shouted the Babe, “but I’ve lost my paddle. Hallo,
Feltham, is that you?”

“It’s me, Babe. What can I do for you, and what do you mean by fouling
my waterway? Where is your paddle?”

The Babe looked round.

“Oh, it’s up there on the bank, by the King’s Bridge. Can’t I catch
hold of the tail of your boat, then you might tow me up there?”

“All right, but don’t call it a tail, as some rowing man will hear you
and have a fit. Let me get clear. Are you slacking, to-day?”

“Yes, and for the next two days. My tripos begins on Monday, and I
think that if I do nothing for a day or two I may be able to remember
again who the Electric Sophia was.”

“Is she important? She sounds as if she might be the wife of the man
who discovered lightning.”

“Don’t confuse me further,” said the Babe. “Where are you off to?”

“Oh, up the river. There’s no cricket to-day.”

“I didn’t know that people who played cricket ever rowed.”

“They don’t for the most part: but I don’t consider that a reason for
not doing so if I wish.”

“Are you playing for the ‘Varsity on Monday?”

“They have been polite enough to ask me.”

“And you have very civilly consented. Well, good-bye.”

The Babe sat in his canoe for half an hour or more, and got through a
little _Ravenshoe_, and a little meditation. The meditation concerned
itself chiefly with Feltham, who, as was universally acknowledged,
was the best of good fellows, quiet, steady, thoroughbred. And these
things gave the Babe some pleasure not ill-deserved, to think over, for
Feltham had been known primarily as a friend of his. And when he was
tired of meditating he tied up his canoe again and walked up to the
King’s field, for his college was playing King’s and he was certain of
finding company, whichever side was in. It turned out that King’s was
in that enviable position, and of King’s, Reggie and a careful little
man in spectacles. Reggie could not by the most partial of his friends
be called a cricketer, but the most impartial of his enemies would have
had to confess that he often made a great many runs. He had a good eye,
he saw the ball and he helped it to fulfil its destiny by hitting it
hard. More particularly did he hit balls on the off which ought to be
left alone, and he always hit them high in the air over long slip’s
head. It really did not seem to matter where long slip was placed,
for he always hit the ball over his head, and out of reach. Straight
balls he subjected to a curious but very vigorous mowing process, which
took them swiftly past the umpire’s nose. A straight yorker invariably
got him out, if he knew it was a yorker and tried to play it, so that
when he saw one coming he held his bat perfectly firm and rigid and
quenched it, but if it did not occur to him that the ball was a yorker
he treated it with cheerful contempt and hit it somewhere, which
surprised no one more than himself. It seemed to be the recognised
thing that he should be given three lives as at pool, and, as at pool,
if he used them up quickly, he was frequently allowed to star, and
have two more. A sort of extra square leg, specially designed for his
undoing, had just given him his fourth life when the Babe appeared, and
Reggie scored three runs over it. The field luckily could be arranged
solely with a view to catching him, for the careful little man in
spectacles only scored singles, and those by hitting balls with extreme
caution just out of reach of cover-point.

The Babe enjoyed watching cricket, especially the sort of game that
was going on now. One bowler was extremely fast, the other incredibly
slow, and Reggie hit them both in the air with perfect impartiality,
and the careful little man played them both with as much precision and
delicacy, as if he was playing spillikins.

However, a few overs later, though his own score was small, he did
Reggie, and so, indirectly his side, a signal service. The latter had
hit a fast ball almost quite straight up in the air and extremely high,
and they both started on a forlorn run. Point and wicket-keep both ran
to it, and the careful little man charged violently in between them
exactly at the crucial moment, as they were both standing in front of
his wickets, with the result that out of the midst of chaotic confusion
the ball fell innocuously to the ground. The careful little man went to
the pavilion for a new pair of spectacles after being given “not out”
for obstructing the field, which he certainly had been doing, and point
and wicket-keep cursed him and each other, and Reggie thanked them all.

This was the last ball of the over, so Reggie still had the bowling.
The slow bowler prepared for him a ball with an immeasurable break
from the off upon it, but Reggie very wisely danced gaily out onto
the middle of the pitch, turned straight round and hit it so severe a
blow that the wicket-keep in whose direction it was travelling had
only just time to get out of the way. It narrowly missed Reggie’s own
wicket, but a miss is as good as four runs when it is hit hard enough,
and this one was.

But the service he often did his side, and was doing now, could not
be fairly measured merely by the runs he scored, for the demoralising
effect he always had on the field was worth fifty extra. After a
certain number of catches have been missed, and a large number of
balls hit high in the air just out of reach of a field, a side begins
unconsciously to think “Kismet” and withal to grow discontented, and a
side that thinks “Kismet” is lost.

Reggie was out seventh wicket down, having made sixty-two, and as there
was only another half-hour to the drawing of stumps, he left the game,
and walked down with the Babe. They were going to dine together and go
to the theatre to see a touring _Mrs. Tanqueray_. To the Babe’s great
delight the “theatrical tuft-hair” was in great force, and between the
acts he wandered about in the passage listening rapturously to the
fragments of their conversation.

There was one in particular, who had sat next the Babe, markedly worthy
of study. His gown was about eighteen inches long, and his cap, out
of which he had carefully abstracted every particle of board, drooped
gracefully at all its corners. He was in dress clothes with a smoking
coat (not in a Norfolk jacket,) and he wore a large diamond solitaire,
and a red cummerbund. He was evidently a king among his kind, and
several of them crowded round him as he came out between the acts and
admired him. They called him “Johnny,” and he called them “Johnny”
individually, and “Johnnies” collectively, and the Babe listened to
them with a seraphic expression of face.

“Arfly parful, isn’t it? I say, Johnny, give me a light.”

“Old Redfarn’s put up a notice about not smoking in the passage. I
shall rag him about it.”

“That gurl’s pretty good, isn’t she? Looks rather nice too.”

“You’re quite mashed on her, old chappie. But she’s not a patch on Mrs.
Pat.”

“Johnny can’t think of anything but Mrs. Pat. I say, let’s go and have
a drink.”

“All right. Johnny stands drinks. The gurl at the bar’s an awful
clipper.”

“Johnny will drop his pipe and get her to pick it up for him.”

“Well, come on, you Johnnies. There’s only ten minutes. Keep an eye on
Johnny.”

The Babe’s eye followed them as they walked off to the bar, with
rapturous enjoyment.

“Aren’t they heavenly?” said he to Reggie. “Oh, I wish I was like
that! It must be so nice to feel that one is the light and leading
of the whole place and really knows what life is. I wish I knew what
life was. I wonder how they get their hair to stick out like that. How
I have wasted my time! I too might have been a Johnny by now, if I’d
cultivated them. Reggie, do come to the bar: I want to gaze and gaze on
them.”

But Reggie refused: he said they made him sick, and the Babe told him
that he regarded things from the wrong standpoint.

“You know,” said the Babe, “they’ve persuaded each other that they are
the very devils of fellows. They really believe it. What a thing it is
to have faith. They will talk quite fluently to the barmaid. I remember
so well trying to see whether I could. I couldn’t: I knew I couldn’t
all the time. I have never felt so hopelessly bored in so few minutes.
They think it’s wicked; and they think that they rag their tutors. The
poor tutors are men of no perception, for they haven’t the least idea
they are being ragged. There they all come again. Their faces shine
with deviltry. Did you hear them talk about Mrs. Pat? They meant Mrs.
Patrick Campbell you know--”

“You’re no better, Babe,” said Reggie, “you used to want people to
think you wicked.”

“Oh, but that’s quite different. You can’t say that I was ever the
least like a Johnny. I never had the courage. Fancy being as brave as
they are, and oh, fancy deliberately sitting down and taking all the
stuffing out of your cap in order to be a blood!”

“I’ll take yours out, if you’ll take mine, Babe. There’s the bell. We
must go in again.”

The Babe went to see Stewart when he went back to Trinity. The latter
thoroughly approved of his holiday.

“You are giving yourself a little space,” he said, “in which it may
be hoped you will forget, or rather assimilate, a few of the useless
and ugly things which our system of examinations has compelled you
to learn. A historian is not a person who knows masses of facts and
dates, but a man who has built a structure upon them. The facts are
the scaffold, which disappears when the house is built. And the
tripos turns out a quantity of promising young men who can only build
scaffolds. I wish I was examining. There should be no questions with
dates in them, and they should all begin “Trace the tendency,” or
“Indicate in a great many words the influence.”

“I wish I felt more certain about my scaffold.”

“My dear Babe, don’t vex your soul. Possess it in peace. I would give
long odds on your getting through. What I did not expect was that you
should have taken the distasteful steps that lead to so immaterial a
result. You got a second in your last May’s didn’t you? Do let us talk
of something a little more interesting than triposes.”

“Well, I didn’t introduce the subject,” said the Babe.

“What have you been doing this evening?”

“I’ve just been to the _Second Mrs. Tanqueray_ with Reggie.”

“An interesting medical case,” remarked Stewart. “I believe the author
consulted an eminent nerve doctor, as to how many months’ living
with Aubrey Tanqueray would drive an excitable female to suicide. He
thought six, but as the author wished her to do it in less, he had to
introduce other incentives. Aubrey Tanqueray would drive me to madness
in a week, and to suicide in eight days. He handed her toast at the
scene at breakfast, as if he was giving her a slice of some cardinal
virtue with the blessing of the Pope spread on it like butter. The real
_motif_ of the play, though the British public haven’t known it, is her
growing despair at being wedded to him, and the immediate cause is the
_Second Mr. Tanqueray’s_ noble forgiveness of her when she was found to
have tampered with the letter bag. He treated her like a candidate for
confirmation, instead of boxing her ears, and said that the incident
only served to draw them closer together, or something of the kind.
Apparently if you commit a sufficiently mean action towards a person
who really loves you, he will be delighted, and love you the more for
it. It sounds a little Jesuitical, baldly stated. Who wrote the play?
Pinero wasn’t it. Pinero is obviously the future from ‘Pinsum,’ I am a
pin.”

The Babe laughed.

“I didn’t attend to the play much,” he said. “There was an
undergraduate sitting next me, who was more interesting. He wore a red
cummerbund.”

“Ah, yes,” murmured Mr. Stewart. “The kind that talks to the female in
tobacconists’ shops, and sits on the counter as it does so. Its father
is usually one of nature’s gentlemen, who has married a perfect lady.
The two always marry each other, and in the next generation the females
dress in Liberty fabric, and the males congregate at the smaller
colleges. They are on the increase. I suppose it’s an instance of the
survival of the filthiest.”

Mr. Stewart rose from his chair, and crossed over to the window-seat
where the Babe was sitting.

“What can I do to amuse you, Babe?” he said. “I feel that it is the
duty of all your friends to distract your thoughts from all subjects
for the next two days. Shall I play cards with you--you shall teach
me--or shall we talk about the Epsom meeting, or the A.D.C.? I suppose
you are going to act in the May week? Why not act _Hamlet_, and we
will persuade Longridge to be Ophelia. There is something sublimely
inconsequent in the way Ophelia distributes artificial flowers to the
company which reminds me of Longridge in his soberer moments. I have
been very much tried by Longridge to-night. He asked me to help him to
sing glees in the Roundabout. Can you imagine Longridge and me sitting
side by side in the Roundabout singing “Three Blind Mice?” I could
imagine it so vividly that I didn’t go.”

The Babe laughed.

“You can give me whisky and soda, and then I shall go to bed. It is
twelve, and I must practise being dressed and breakfasted by nine. Does
it require much practice?”

“I should think about twenty minutes every morning. What is the use of
doing a thing you have got to do, before you have got to do it? It is
like cutting yourself with a knife to accustom yourself to a surgical
operation.”

“There are points of similarity,” said the Babe. “I shall go to bed now
for all that, as soon as I’ve drunk this.”



XXIII.--THE LISTS.

    List, O list.
              SHAKESPEARE.


The Babe and Reggie were sitting outside the pavilion at Fenner’s
watching the University against the gentlemen of England, who as
the Babe said, so far from sitting at home at ease were running out
to Feltham’s slow bowling and getting caught and stumped, with very
enjoyable frequency. The cricket was a delightful mixture of a fine
bowling performance and very hard hitting, which to the uneducated
spectator is perhaps the most lively of all to watch. Feltham had in
fact, from the Babe’s point of view, just sent down the ideal over.
The first ball was hit out of the ground for six, the second bowled
the hitter round his legs. The third ball was hit by the incomer for
four, and the fourth for four. The fifth ball he also attempted to hit
as hard as he could to square leg, and he was caught at point, in the
manner of a catch at the wicket.

The Babe tilted his hat over his eyes, and gave a happy little sigh.

“Reggie, the tripos is the secret of life,” he said. “If you want to
get a real feeling of leisure and independence, a feeling that you have
been told privately by the archangels to amuse yourself and do nothing
whatever else, go in for the tripos, or rather wait till you come out.
I suppose that considering my years I have wasted more time than most
people, and I thought I knew what it felt like. But I didn’t. I had no
idea how godlike it is to do nothing. To have breakfast, and feel that
it won’t be lunch-time for four hours, and after that to have the whole
afternoon before you.”

“When are the lists out?”

“Oh, in about ten days now. Don’t talk about lists. Tell me how long
you worked this morning. Tell me about the man in your college who
works ten hours every day and eleven hours every night. Tell me of the
difficulty of learning by heart the Roman emperors or the kings of
Israel and Judah. Assure me that by knowing the angle of the sun above
the horizon and the length of Feltham’s shadow, you could find out how
tall the umpire is.”

“He’s about five foot ten,” said Reggie.

“That’s like the answers I used to give to the questions about the
hands of a watch,” said the Babe. “They tell you that if the hands of
a watch are together at twelve--there’s no ‘if’ about it, it is never
otherwise,--when will they be together next. I always said about five
minutes past one. It seems absurdly simple. I’ve often noticed them
together-then: and the same remark applies to about ten minutes past
two. That reminds me,” added the Babe, looking at his watch, “that it’s
twenty-five minutes past five. The hour hand seems to have gained a
little.”

“Oh, I remember,” said Reggie. “The hour hand gains seven-elevenths.”

“Seven-elevenths of what?”

“I don’t know. Of the answer, I suppose. I shouldn’t have thought it
was five yet.”

“But it is, and that compels us to decide between tea and cricket.”

“We can get tea in the pavilion. There’s another four.”

“You shall give me a hundred to one that the next ball is not a
wicket,” said the Babe.

“In pennies, and make it fifty.”

“Done.”

A very audible click, and an appeal. Reggie got up and felt in his
pockets.

“I should have been ashamed to get out to a ball like that. You’ll have
to pay for tea, Babe. There you are.”

“Twopence more,” said the Babe.

“Not if I went to the stake for it, Hullo, Ealing, where are you from?
Ealing’s got a glorious post-tripos face too. He really deserves to be
able to play ‘Praise the Lord, ye heavens, adore Him,’ but he can’t
even now.”

“Composed by Mr. Haydn,” said Ealing, “and performed by Mr. Ealing. It
contains a very difficult passage. Your left hand has to go to the
left, and your right hand to the right. You feel all pulled in two.
Babe, the tripos is the noblest of inventions. I think I shall go in
for a second part. I can quite understand how the lower classes get in
such boisterous spirits on bank holidays that they change hats with
each other.”

“I’d change hats with--with a bishop,” said the Babe, looking wildly
about for suggestions.

“So would I. Or with Longridge. He wears a blue cake hat. Hullo,
they’re all out.”

“Come and have tea, then,” said Reggie. “The Babe stands tea.”

“Hang the expense,” said the Babe, recklessly. “When a man’s got some
tin, what can he do better than to give his pals a real blow out? I’ve
got four shillings. Tea for three, and bread and butter for two. The
fortune of the Rothschilds sprang from these small economies. Bread and
butter for two will be plenty. I’m sure none of us can be very hungry
on so warm a day. Oh, there’s a tuft-hair drinking out of a tall glass.
I expect it’s gin-sling. What is gin-sling? In any case you can’t say
it ten times. Ging-slin.”

“I thought you could always say Ranjitsinghi, Babe.”

“I can when other people are just unable to. Sufficient champagne gives
me a wonderful lucidity, followed by sleepiness. There’s Stewart. I
didn’t know he came to cricket matches.”

Stewart was delighted to see them.

“But you, Babe, are not fit for the society of ordinary people,” he
said, “your extreme cheerfulness since your tripos argues a want of
consideration for others. What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been looking at cricket, and also talking.”

“You don’t say so.”

“I have, indeed,” said the Babe. “What effect does champagne have on
you?”

“Why do you ask these sudden questions?” said Stewart wearily. “It
makes the wings of my soul sprout.”

“The principle is the same. I ate lobster salad the other day and
drank port. It did not give me indigestion, but acute remorse.”

“Remorse for having done so?”

“No, a vague searching remorse for all the foolish things I had done,
and all the foolish things I meant to do, and for being what I was.
Food doesn’t affect your body, it affects your soul. Conversely,
sermons which are supposed to affect your soul make you hungry.”

Stewart lit a match thoughtfully against the sleeve of his coat.

“The Babe has hit on a great truth,” he said. “A curious instance
occurred to my knowledge two years ago. A strong healthy man read
_Robert Elsmere_. It gave him so severe an attack of dyspepsia that
he had to spend the ensuing winter on the Riviera and eat pepsine
instead of salt for eighteen months. Then he died. The phenomenon is
well established. Poor Simpson, the fellow of my college, as you know,
broke his leg the other day. It was supposed to have happened because
he tripped and fell downstairs. But he told me himself that he was
just leaving his room, and that as he walked down stairs he read the
first few pages of _Stephen Remarx_. It was that, of course, that broke
his leg, and so he fell down stairs as soon as he tried to put it to
the ground. The Babe is quite right. Sermons, as he told us, make him
hungry and lobster and port remorseful. In the same way, high tea, if
frequently taken, will make anyone a non-conformist, in the same way as
incense induces Roman Catholicism. But, Babe, don’t tell Longridge.”

“Why not?”

“He will want to talk about it to me, and then I shall be taken with
melancholy madness. Are you coming up for another year, Babe?”

“I don’t know. I should like to. Of course it will depend on my getting
through. If I do, I think a note from my tutor to my father might have
a wholesome effect.”

“Your tutor will do whatever you wish him to,” said Stewart. “At
present he is going back to college. I have a hansom waiting because I
hate walking. Do any of you want a lift?”

The others stayed up till stumps were drawn, and walked down together.
The tea no doubt had affected the Babe’s soul in some subtle manner,
producing acute fatuity.

The Babe spent the remaining ten days in assiduous inaction. He sat
in canoes, he sat on benches watching cricket, he ate, he slept. He
appeared at the Senate house on the morning when the lists were read
out, in pumps, in pink pyjamas, a long great-coat, and a straw hat.
Reggie, who stood next him, thought he detected signs of nervousness,
when the names began to be read, but it is probable that he was
mistaken, for the Babe had never before been known to be afflicted with
that distressing malady. A large number of his more intimate friends
were there, and an air of suspense was abroad. But it was over sooner
than any one anticipated, for the Babe, contrary to the expectation
of even the most sanguine of them all, and that was himself, came
out first in the second class. There was one moment’s pause of
astonishment, not unmingled with awe, and then a wild disorderly scene
of riot and shouting arose, in which the Babe was seized and taken
back to Trinity in a triumphal procession, which carried him over the
grass in the great court, wholly disregarding the porters who gibbered
helplessly around them, until Stewart appeared, who, however, instead
of instantly stopping it, seemed to take sympathetic interest in the
proceeding.

Later in the day he wrote a charming letter to the Babe’s father, in
which he congratulated him on his son’s brilliant success, alluded to
his keen historical instinct and his vivid grasp of events--whatever a
vivid grasp may be--and stated (which was undoubtedly true), that if
certain five men out of the whole University had not happened to go in
for the same tripos the same year, the Babe would infallibly have been
Senior Historian.

An answer came later to Stewart and the Babe. The latter’s was short
but satisfactory. Reggie was breakfasting with him when the post came
in, or rather he was waiting without any excess of patience while the
Babe, whom he had just pulled out of bed, explained precisely how it
was that he was not dressed yet, and urged him not to begin, or if he
insisted on doing so, to play fair.

At this moment the porter entered with the letter, and the Babe
snatched it from his hand, tore it open, and executed a _pas seul_
round the room, until he stepped on the kettle lid, and hurt himself
very much.

“The Babe B.A. will be in residence another year,” he shouted. “You may
eat all the breakfast, if you like.”

Reggie had a healthy appetite, and the Babe was rather plaintive about
it.

Stewart, who had received a letter from the Babe’s father by the same
post, looked in after breakfast with congratulations.

“I am delighted,” he said, “but, in a way, disappointed, and for this
reason: I was looking forward to your _denoûement_ with some interest,
and I should have found a melancholy pleasure in seeing how you would
make your exit from Cambridge, and what piece of extraordinary folly
would have been your last. It seems I shall have to wait another year
for that.”

“Oh, don’t mind me,” said the Babe, shrilly. “Say you’re sorry I’m
coming up again straight out, if you like.”

“No. On the whole, I don’t mind waiting another year,” said Stewart.


THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Babe, B.A." ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home