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Title: Love,—And the Philosopher
Author: Corelli, Marie
Language: English
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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.

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                              LOVE,--AND
                            THE PHILOSOPHER

                             MARIE CORELLI



                              LOVE,--AND
                            THE PHILOSOPHER

                        _A Study in Sentiment_

                                  BY

                             MARIE CORELLI

                               AUTHOR OF

            _“Thelma,” “Barrabas,” “The Sorrows of Satan,”
                  “The Life Everlasting,” “Innocent,”
                       “The Young Diana,” etc._

                           THE RYERSON PRESS
                                TORONTO


                           COPYRIGHT, 1923,
                      By GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

                            [Illustration]

                    LOVE,--AND THE PHILOSOPHER. II

                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



FOREWORD


The following story is of the simplest character, purposely so designed.
It has no “abnormal” or “neurotic” episodes; no “problems” and no
“psychoanalysis.” Its “sentiment” is of an ordinary, everyday type,
common to quiet English homes where the “sensational” press finds no
admittance, and where a girl may live her life as innocent of evil as a
rose;--where even the most selfish of cynical “philosophers” may
gradually evolve something better than Self. There are no “thrills,” no
“brain storms,” no “doubtful moralities”--no unnatural overstrained
“emotionalisms,” whatever. The personages who figure in the tale are
drawn absolutely from life--“still life” I might call it--and are fit to
make the acquaintance of any “Young Person” of either sex. I have hopes
that the “Philosopher,” though selfish, may be liked, when he is known,
for his _un_selfishness,--and that the “Sentimentalist” may waken a
sister-sympathy among those many charming women, who though wishing to
be gentle and just to their admirers, do not always know their own minds
in affairs of love. Whether my heroine chose the right partner for life
is for my readers to determine. I myself am not more sure about it than
she was!

RIGHT
M. C.



LOVE,--AND THE PHILOSOPHER



CHAPTER I


“You women are always so sentimental!” said the Philosopher, leaning
back in a comfortable garden chair and lazily flicking off the ash from
an excellent cigar;--“You overdo the thing. You carry every emotion to
an extreme limit. It shows a lamentable lack of judgment.”

She listened to him with the tiniest quiver of a smile, but offered no
reply. She did not even look at the Philosopher. There were many other
things which (apparently) engaged her attention, so that unless you knew
her very well, you might have said she was not even aware of the
Philosopher’s existence. This would have been a mistake,--but no matter!
However, there was the garden, to begin with. It was a lovely garden,
full of sweet-smelling, old-fashioned flowers. There were roses in such
lavish quantity that they seemed to literally blaze upon the old brick
walls and rustic pergolas which surrounded and hemmed in the numerous
beds and borders set in among the grass. Then there were two white doves
strutting on the neatly kept path and declaring their loves, doubts or
special mislikings in their own curiously monotonous manner. There was
also a thrush perched on a spray of emerald green leaves and singing to
his own heart’s content, oblivious of an audience. All these trifles of
a summer’s day pleased her;--but then, she was easily pleased.

“You magnify trifles into momentous incidents,” went on the Philosopher,
placidly smoking. “Look at the way you behaved about that dead robin
yesterday! Found it lying in the garden path,--picked it up and actually
cried over it! Now think of the hundreds of men and women starving to
death in London! You never cry over _them_! No! Like all women you must
see a dead robin before you can cry!”

She turned her eyes towards him. They were soft eyes, with a rather
pleading look just now in their blue depths.

“The poor bird!” she murmured. “Such an innocent little thing! It was
sad to see it lying dead in the bright sunshine.”

“Innocent! Sad! Poor!” exclaimed the Philosopher. “Good heavens! What of
the human beings who are poor and sad and innocent and all the rest of
it, and who die uncared for every day? Besides, how do you know a robin
is innocent or sad? I’ve watched the rascal, I tell you, many a time! He
fights with all the other birds as hard as he can,--he is spiteful,--he
is cruel,--and he positively trades on his red breast. Trades on it, I
tell you! You women again! If he hadn’t a red breast you would never be
sorry for him. You wouldn’t weep for a sparrow. I tell you, as I’ve
often told you before, that you women overdo sentiment and make too much
fuss about nothing.”

She perceived that his cigar had gone out, and handed him a match from a
small box on a garden table near them. He accepted it condescendingly.

“If you ever fall in love--” pursued the Philosopher. Here he paused,
and striking the match she had given him, relighted his cigar and began
to puff out smoke with evident enjoyment. She stood patiently watching
him.

“If you ever fall in love--” he went on, ... Now it was very strange
that the Philosopher should pause again. He was seldom at a loss for
words, but for the moment his profuse vocabulary appeared to have given
out.

“If you ever fall in love--” he murmured.

Again that tiny quiver of a smile appeared on her face.

“Well! Go on!” she said.

The Philosopher nerved himself to an effort.

“If you ever fall in love,” he continued, “never try on sentiment with a
man. He won’t like it. He won’t understand it. No man ever does.”

The little quivering smile deepened.

“I’m sure you are quite right!” she answered, in a voice that was almost
dove-like in its humility.

The Philosopher was silent for a moment. He seemed nonplussed. There is
perhaps nothing that so completely bewilders and confuses even a
philosopher as an agreeable acquiescence in all his opinions, whether
such opinions be sagacious or erroneous.

“Well!” he added, somewhat lamely--“Don’t you forget it!”

She moved a step or two from his side.

“I should never dream of forgetting it!” she said.

Her back was now turned to him. Furtively, and one would almost have
said with an air of timidity, the Philosopher peeped at her sideways.
Decidedly her back was not unpleasing. The folds of her skirt fell
exactly as the Philosopher would have had them fall could he have stood
in the shoes of Worth or Paquin,--her hair was arranged in precisely the
way he considered becoming. The garden hat, ... but no!... no
philosopher is capable of describing a woman’s garden hat. There
followed a silence which was embarrassing,--not to her, but to him.
Presently he said:

“Are you going?”

She turned her head, ever so slightly.

“Do you wish me to go?”

Another silence, more embarrassing than the previous one.

“I like to see you about,” said the Philosopher at last. “You give a
touch to the landscape which is--which is natural and agreeable.”

She moved slowly away, her back still turned towards him, and presently
stepped lightly among the flower borders, lifting a trailing rose here
or setting aside a straying branch there, and looking, in her simple
white gown, like the presiding goddess of the garden, as indeed she was.
The Philosopher heaved a sigh,--whether of relief or vexation he hardly
knew. He had a book to read,--a rather dull and drily written volume of
profound essays, entitled “The Natural Evolution and Decay of Nations,”
and, opening it at the place he had left off, he endeavoured to immerse
himself in its contents. Nevertheless, now and again his attention
wandered. His eyes roved away from the printed page and followed the
slow gliding of the white-robed figure through the garden. He liked to
watch it,--and yet in a curious way was half ashamed of his liking.
Needless to say the Philosopher was a very well-balanced,
self-restrained man. He was a profound student of logic and prided
himself on his sound reasoning ability. He was also a good orator, and
had astonished numerous audiences by his eloquence on the general
inability of the human being to understand reason. The human being was,
in his opinion, a poor creature at best, and sometimes he quite forgot
that he was a human being himself. The feminine human being came into
his calculations as the merest appendage to the intricate and mysterious
scheme of existence--an appendage which, though apparently necessary,
seemed a little unfortunate,--except--well!--except when it wore a white
gown and a fascinating garden hat and moved gracefully among flowering
plants and was not too much in the way. He began to think in a curious
desultory fashion about incidents and circumstances which had nothing
whatever to do with “The Natural Evolution and Decay of Nations.”

“She’s really quite gentle and amenable,” he said to himself--“if it
were not for that sentiment of hers! She has too much of it altogether.
If I allowed myself to fall in love with her she would make my life a
burden--a positive burden! If I ever did anything that seemed to suggest
indifference to, or neglect of her--such as reading a book like this,
for example,--or a newspaper,--her eyes would fill with tears and she
would say: ‘Ah! You don’t love me any more!’ She would! All women do
that sort of thing! It’s the most fatal mistake in the world! But they
all make it!”

Here his attention was distracted by the swinging noise of an opening
gate, and turning his looks in the direction indicated, he saw a young
man walking with a breezy air up the garden path to the place where the
white figure with the pretty hat strolled by itself among the flowers.
This young man had no eyes for the Philosopher;--he was bent on one
goal, and made straight for it.

“Hello! How are you?” he called, in much too robust a voice for the
Philosopher’s delicate sense of hearing. “Charming afternoon, isn’t it?
Can I help you to prune the roses?”

The white figure paused. The Philosopher saw a little hand stretched out
in welcome to the owner of the robust voice and heard a laugh ripple on
the air.

“It isn’t the pruning season,” she answered. “But you can come and help
me gather a few for the drawing-room.”

“Nothing I should like better!”--and the young man immediately joined
her, thus presenting to the Philosopher the picture of two figures
walking among the flowers instead of one.

Somehow the prospect was not so agreeable. The Philosopher shut out the
scene by holding his book well up before his eyes and severely scanning
the printed page which told him about the “Natural Evolution and Decay
of Nations.” Every now and again he heard that robustious laugh which
almost shattered his nerves, accompanied by a little silvery ripple of
merriment, which gave his heart a rather unusual thrill. “The Natural
Evolution and Decay of Nations” was fast becoming a bore. He puffed at
his cigar. It had gone out. He shook the match-box on the table--there
was not a match left in it. He felt in his pocket--no matches there.
Whereupon he leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh and looked
forlornly at the dull end of his Havana.

“What a confounded bore!” he murmured. “If that ass were not here I’d
call her--and she would come,--I’m sure she’d come!--and she’d get me a
match directly.”

He thought a little, then laid the half-smoked cigar down. Sitting bolt
upright he watched the two figures strolling among the flower-borders.

“How she can put up with that insufferable idiot passes my
comprehension!” he ejaculated. “But women are all like that! The fool
can talk a little sentiment--quotes poetry--talks about dewdrops and
sunsets,--and that always goes down. Heigh-ho!”

Here he fell upon “The Natural Evolution and Decay of Nations” with a
kind of avidity, and perused page after page with the sternest
attention.

“I’m afraid you’ve no matches!” said a sweet voice near him. “Shall I
get you some?”

He started.

“If you would be so kind,” he murmured, with elaborate courtesy.

A light movement and she was gone. Another light movement and she was
back again with the box of matches desired. The Philosopher looked up as
he took them from her hand.

“You have a visitor this afternoon?”

“Only Jack,” she replied.

“Jack seems a good deal about here,” remarked the Philosopher, airily.

“Yes,” she said, with gentle unconcern. “Quite harmless, I assure you!”

He laughed despite himself. There was something quaint in the accent of
her voice.

“He’s a sentimental sort of boy,” she went on. “He’s very fond of
gardening, and he attaches the greatest possible importance to trifles.
For instance, I gave him a rose a week ago and he tells me he has
pressed it in a book of favourite poems so that he may keep it for
ever.”

“Young noodle!” growled the Philosopher. “Spoiling the book with messy
crushed petals which are sure to stain it. I wouldn’t do such a thing
for the world.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” she agreed, calmly.

He glanced at “The Natural Evolution and Decay of Nations,” marked the
place where he had been reading, and shut it up.

“You know you like all that sort of thing,” he said, settling himself
in his chair ready for an argument. “Has he gone?”

“Yes!”

“Well, he didn’t stay long,” admitted the Philosopher, rather
reluctantly. “Did he take another rose to damage a book with?”

She laughed.

“I’m afraid he did!”

“Come now, you’re not afraid he did. You _know_ he did! And you know you
gave it to him.”

The Philosopher’s voice was decidedly raspy. She raised her eyes to
his,--her face was dimpled with smiles.

“Well, if I must be accurate--” she began.

“Of course you must!” snapped the Philosopher. “Accuracy is always
desirable, and accuracy is what you women always fail in! Briefly,--to
be perfectly accurate, you gave him a rose. Didn’t you?”

She nodded with a charmingly assumed air of mock penitence.

“To a noodle like that,” said the Philosopher, sternly, “the gift of a
rose from you means encouragement. You have given him an inch--he will
take an ell. Of course if you _wish_ to encourage him--”

“Encourage him in what?” she asked, demurely.

“In--in--his attentions to you,” said the Philosopher.

She smiled sweetly, but said nothing.

“I don’t consider it a good match,” went on the Philosopher.

“Oh! Wouldn’t it light?” she asked, innocently. “I thought it was a wax
one--not one of those things that must have its own box.”

The Philosopher’s mouth twitched under his moustache and his eyes
sparkled. But he maintained a dignified demeanour.

“I wasn’t speaking of either a Vesta or of a Bryant and May,” he said.
“And you know I wasn’t.”

She drew a small rustic bench towards him and sat down very nearly at
his feet,--then looked up from under her garden hat.

“What are you reading?” she asked.

The Philosopher wished her eyes would not swim in such liquid blue, and
that the garden hat was not quite so becoming.

“Nothing that you would care for,” he answered, with condescending
politeness. “It’s called ‘The Natural Evolution and Decay of Nations’.”

She nodded sagaciously.

“_I_ know!” she said. “It’s all the same thing and it all seems no use.
Nations begin and grow and progress, and then just like fruit they get
over-ripe and the wasps begin to eat them and they rot and fall off the
tree. Oh, yes! It can all be said in quite a few lines. There’s really
no occasion to write a thick book about it; unless the man wants to show
himself off.”

The Philosopher gasped and glared.

“The man! Show himself off! You foolish child! The man is a Fellow of
Balliol and a most profound scholar.”

“Is he?” And she shrugged her pretty shoulders indifferently. “Well, I
suppose he wants the public to know it.”

The Philosopher was for the moment rendered speechless. He looked down
at her, but her face was bent and he could only see the crown of the
garden hat; there was a most absurd little knot of ribbon on that crown,
perfectly useless and half lost in a twisted mist of pale blue chiffon.

“I suppose you don’t care much about poetry?” she said, raising her head
so suddenly that the light of her eyes quite dazzled him. “It would be
too sentimental for you. But if you did, I could tell you some lines
that would quite cover the ground.”

“Could you?” he murmured.

“Yes! Shall I say them?”

The Philosopher was conscious of an uncomfortable nervousness.

“If you like,” he answered, rather slowly. “But poetry is not in my
line.”

“I know it isn’t,” she agreed emphatically. “But just listen!”

And in a soft musical voice she repeated slowly and with well-modulated
emphasis and intonation:

   “Hence pageant history!--hence gilded cheat!
    Swart planet in the universe of deeds!”

“Keats!” murmured the Philosopher, dreamily. “Honey and water!”

   “Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
    Along the pebbled shores of memory!
    Many old rotten-timbered boats there be
    Upon thy vaporous bosom magnified
    To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
    And golden-keeled, is left unlaunched and dry!
    But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly
    About the great Athenian admiral’s mast
    The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
    Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
    The glutted Cyclops, what care?...”

“Not in the least!” interposed the Philosopher. “What do you know about
‘glutted Cyclops’?”

She continued:

                      “Juliet leaning
    Amid her window-flowers--sighing--weaning
    Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
    Doth more avail than these: ...”

“Ah! Of course you like that,” interrupted the Philosopher.

She went on, calmly:

                      “the silver flow
    Of Hero’s tears, the swoon of Imogen,
    Fair Pastorella in the bandit’s den,
    Are things to brood on with more urgency
    Than the death-day of empires.”

The sweet voice ceased. The Philosopher’s hand inadvertently fell at his
side and came in contact with a deliciously soft arm.

“Have you done?” he enquired, in mild accents.

“Yes!” was the reply.

“Well,” he observed, “you spoke your lines very prettily,--that’s all I
can say. Your quotation is from ‘Endymion,’ and I suppose you realise
that ‘Endymion’ is utterly spoilt by its excess of cloying
sentimentality. Yet--”

Absent-mindedly he began to stroke the soft arm up and down with a light
caress such as he would have bestowed on a child.

“What I should like to explain,” he said, with an argumentative air,
“and what you women will never understand, is that any exaggeration of
feeling is always bad form, both in literature and in life. You’ve got
plenty of intelligence and you ought to grapple with and master this
fact. Certain things are taken for granted and it is not necessary to
dwell upon them. Outward displays of emotion should always be
suppressed. The brave man hides his wound,--and of course in matters of
love the one who says least loves most.”

“I thought,” she interposed, in the most dulcet accents, “that to be in
really good form one should never love at all.”

Her eyes were full of the most melting enquiry. The Philosopher began to
feel a little confusion in his head. But he rallied his forces.

“Regard and esteem,” he said, sententiously, “are safer emotions than
what is called love, which is a term often used to cover the lowest
passions. An affection founded on mutual respect is dignified, sober and
acceptable and generally leads to great tranquillity and happiness in
marriage.”

She sprang up laughing.

“How dull!” she exclaimed. “I’m sure you are quite right! You always are
quite right; but, oh, how dull! Dull, dull, dismally dull!” And
throwing herself into one of the most picturesque attitudes imaginable,
she uttered a soft call, apparently to the air, whereupon in swift
response one of the white doves on the garden path flew up and settled
on her outstretched hand.

The Philosopher gazed, as well he might. Such a charming curve to the
back! Such a fall and flow of the white garments!--such a sudden tilt of
the garden hat, showing the clustering hair underneath it, and, oh, dear
me! such a very small hand,--as white as the dove that had settled upon
it. She made a perfect picture in which “The Natural Evolution and Decay
of Nations” had no part. She was a living, breathing embodiment of joy,
and there was no reasoning her away. The Philosopher took refuge in a
kind of hypocrisy.

“Do you want any more roses gathered?” he asked, with a deep sigh.

She smiled.

“Come and choose one for yourself,” she answered.

Now the Philosopher did not want a rose. He was the last man in the
world to wear a flower in his coat, and as for gathering a rose for
himself--the idea was perfectly monstrous. However, he left his chair
quite obediently and followed his fair guide, with the dove still
perched on her hand, through the intertwisting pergolas, wondering
vaguely what they all meant and where they would lead to. A bright idea
presently struck the profound recesses of his brain, and this was that
he would actually gather a rose on his own account and offer it to her!
She might press it in a book--who could tell? Women are always so
sentimental! He perceived a beautiful dewy blush-pink bud, and made for
it at once, recklessly plunging his hand awkwardly through the bush to
get at its stalk. Suddenly he uttered a piercing howl:

“Damnation!”

This was a rude word. It was one he was rather fond of using. A thorn
had scratched him mercilessly, drawing blood.

“Look here!” he cried, loudly. “Here’s a pretty business. My hand’s
disfigured for life!”

She ran to his side, her face full of the prettiest sympathy.

“Oh! You poor thing!” she murmured. “But it’s only a scratch!”

“Only a scratch! Come, I like that! The most awful cases of
blood-poisoning have been set up by a scratch. I may be dead in three
days! Don’t you know that? Look at the blood! Why, it’s horrible!”

She drew out the daintiest handkerchief, and dipping it in a cool spring
of water that bubbled in a nook of the old rose-covered wall, bathed the
wounded hand gently, though her face was dimpled all over with smiles.

“‘Outward displays of emotion should always be suppressed,’” she said,
in a soft small voice that shook with restrained laughter. “‘The brave
man hides his wound’--doesn’t he?” Here she peeped up at him in the most
fascinating manner. “‘Certain things,’--like scratches--‘are taken for
granted and it is not necessary to dwell on them!’ Isn’t that right?
There!” And she tied the handkerchief deftly round the “disfigured”
hand. “It will be all right in a very little while.”

“Not at all!” said the Philosopher, drearily, with almost a wail. “It
won’t be all right--it will be all wrong! _You_ call it a scratch. You
women never pay attention to anything that’s really serious, though you
make no end of a fuss over trifles. This is a positive scar! and it’s
most painful--most painful, I tell you! Why, it’s quite hot and
throbbing!”

She smiled up into his eyes.

“Is it? I’m so sorry! But,--do think of Napoleon’s march to Moscow!”

The Philosopher’s brow clouded.

“What’s that to do with it?” he demanded, sharply.

“Well!--the poor soldiers were starved and frozen to death,” she said,
“and you are only scratched by a rose thorn. Of course the march to
Moscow happened a long time ago--but _that_ doesn’t matter!--you ought
to feel it just as much--so much that your scratch should seem nothing
but purest joy if you had the _right_ sort of sentiment.”

A reluctant smile overspread his face and presently shone so broadly
that in spite of his being a Philosopher he became almost good-looking.

“Don’t play!” he urged. “I’m in earnest--I am really!”

“About what?” she asked, mirthfully.

“About the scratch--and--perhaps--about you,” he said, suddenly, moved
by an impulse he could not understand. “I don’t know whether you come
before the scratch or after. You see I wanted to get you a rose--”

“Most kind of you,” she murmured, pretending not to be aware that his
arm had somehow got round her waist. “Why?”

“I don’t know why,” he said. “Oh, that scratch! Really, joking apart,
it’s very painful!”

She unbound the handkerchief and looked at the damage critically.
Suddenly, and with a fleeting blush, she stooped and kissed it.

“There!” she said. “That’s what _we women_ do to--babies! Kiss the place
and make it well! All _sentiment_! Better now?”

“Positively I think it is!” admitted the Philosopher, his eyes beginning
to shine in quite a human and unphilosophical manner. “But what a goose
you are! The absurdity--”

“Yes!” she interrupted quickly. “I quite agree with you! The absurdity
of a clever man,--a learned man,--a distinguished man,--giving way to
his emotions on account of a scratch! Well! But that’s the way you men
always go on! You neglect the most serious things of life and you fret
and fidget yourselves over the merest trifles! You are the slaves of
your feelings! Even swearing! Oh! Now if it had been Jack--”

“Hang Jack!” said the Philosopher. “You’re always trotting him out!
You’d better marry him!”

“Would you like me to?” she asked, demurely.

His arm was still round her waist. For a Philosopher he felt fairly
comfortable. He peered under the garden hat--and found an expression of
face that pleased him. Proud of his discovery he enjoyed it in silence
for a while.

“Would I like you to marry Jack?” he repeated. “Well! Let me
consider--you know these sort of questions take a long time to answer!
‘Would I like you to marry Jack?’ No!--I don’t think so--not just yet!”



CHAPTER II


“One thing I will say of you,” remarked the Philosopher,
condescendingly, “and that is--you are not a Nagger!”

He and she were walking together across a meadow full of buttercups and
daisies, and they had just been on the point of what the middle-classes
politely call “words.” He was not without temper--she was not without
spirit--hence the little breeze that had for the moment ruffled the calm
of their platonic friendship. Her “sentimentalism,” however, had saved
the situation. When she perceived that his irritability was fast
developing into downright bearishness, she had suddenly raised her eyes
and shown them full of tears.

“Don’t be cross,” she had murmured, cooingly--“it’s so ugly!”

Whereat the Philosopher’s set mouth had relaxed into a rather grieved
smile, and he had casually observed:

“You seem to have caught a cold. Your eyes are red!”

But to this she had made no answer,--and merely swallowing an
uncomfortable lump in her throat had walked on quietly, light-footed and
serene. And it was this swiftly attained composure of hers that had
moved him to the implied compliment he had just uttered: “You are not a
Nagger!”

She did not speak--so he went on.

“Of all detestable things in this world a Nagger is the worst!
Once--years ago--I knew one.”

She turned her head towards him.

“Man or woman?” she asked.

“Woman, of course! Foolish child! Did you ever hear of a male nagger?
The type is essentially feminine!”

She smiled, but was silent.

“This woman,” he continued, “was by way of being a domestic martyr. A
sort of self-created aureole of glory shone over her head--and one heard
the rustle of heavenly palm branches where’er she walked. ‘Pray don’t
mind me!’ she would observe, with mournful sweetness, at times when she
was most confoundedly in the way--‘I’m so accustomed to take a second,
even a _third_ place, that it really doesn’t matter!’ And if she and her
belongings had a little difference”--here he hesitated--“such as you and
I have been having--she would shed torrents of tears. ‘All my life,’ she
would wail, dismally, ‘I’ve done more than my duty to you! Money could
not buy such devotion as mine! And this is my reward!’ And on she would
go like a flowing stream, the victim to circumstances--the ‘buffer’ of
cruel mischance. Men fled from her as from the eye of Medusa, though she
was not bad-looking, and had managed to secure a husband.”

“What was her husband like?”

“Oh, he was quite a decent sort of chap--a hard-working, easy-going,
scientific man. She had her waves of sentiment, too,--they came rolling
over her in the most unexpected places. For example, one morning, having
nagged her husband till he put both hands to his head in an effort to
keep his trembling scalp in its place, she suddenly altered her tone and
asked him if she should bring him the ‘cure-all’ for his corns! There
now!--I thought you would laugh!”

She certainly did laugh; a pretty little laugh full of subdued
merriment.

“It’s much better to laugh than to cry,” said the Philosopher,
sententiously. “Men don’t understand women’s tears. They’re so--so wet
and uncomfortable! This Nagger I’m telling you of was always shedding
them--a regular water-barrel with the tap forever turned on.”

“How unfeeling you are!” she said, reproachfully. “Poor woman!”

“Poor woman! Poor man, you mean! Think of her husband!--working hard all
day and a great part of the night as well--and getting no sympathy in
his aims, no touch of interest in his work--nothing but stories of
domestic martyrdom nobly endured for duty’s sake, and copious weeping!
Now if you were married, you wouldn’t behave like that, would you?”

“No, I shouldn’t!” she replied. “But _we women_ are not _all_ alike,
though _you men_ generally think so!”

“Confound it all!” and the Philosopher, suddenly stopped short in his
walk, trying to rekindle his pipe. A soft wind played about the vesta he
had struck and puffed it out as though in fun. “Can’t get the cursed
thing to light anyhow!”

She came close up to him, and held a pair of little hands curved like a
couple of shells round the bowl of his briar, while he lit a fresh vesta
and made another essay,--this time successfully.

“Thanks!” he said, curtly. “You really can be very useful when you
like!”

She laughed and moved away, stepping quickly over the grass as though
bent on making distance between herself and him.

“Where are you going?” called the Philosopher, irritably. “Don’t skip
about like that! Can’t you be quiet for five minutes?”

She came back slowly and stood still, with a quaint air of mock
humility.

“You’re playing!” said the Philosopher, severely. “And I’m not always in
a playing mood.”

“No?”

The question slid through a little round O of a mouth that suggested
kisses. The Philosopher quickly averted his eyes.

“No!” he answered, with increased sternness. “I’m in a thinking mood
to-day.”

He walked on, and she walked with him; her soft linen gown made a little
“frou-frou” sound among the grasses that was pleasant and companionable.
Her footsteps were too light to be heard at all, and presently the
Philosopher, through two whiffs of his pipe, caught himself smiling.

“What a little goose it is!” he half murmured. “Dear little sentimental
goose!”

Here he coughed loudly--quite an ugly cough.

“Are you tired?” he demanded.

“Not at all!”

“You women generally get tired after half an hour’s walking,” he said.
“Would you like to sit on that stile and look at the scenery?”

“No, thanks! I would rather go on.”

The Philosopher’s face fell. The stile he had alluded to was quite a
tempting thing. It was situated under an ancient tree whose broad
branches spread out sheltering foliage on all sides, and it would have
been very agreeable to him to sit there and rest for a few minutes, even
with a “sentimental goose” for his companion. But this goose would
rather go on. And she did go on;--she was over the stile, too, before he
could so much as assist her, and he only caught a glimpse of a frilled
flounce and the point of a buckled shoe. This was really too bad!

“You’re in such a hurry this morning,” he grumbled. “And we’ve come out
for a sociable walk.”

“Oh, no, we haven’t!” she said. “Much more than that! You want to think,
you know!”

“Well, a man must think sometimes,” he observed.

“Indeed he must!” she agreed, emphatically. “Not only sometimes, but
always! Then he will know what he is doing!”

“_Then he will know what he is doing!_” echoed the Philosopher, grimly.
“That’s deep,--very deep! Quite beyond me! Are there ever any
occasions,--setting drink aside,--when he _doesn’t_ know what he is
doing?”

She gave him a fleeting glance.

“Oh, yes! Many!”

“Indeed! You are developing a very singular perspicuity! Could you name
one of those occasions?”

She laughed.

“Well! Let us say when he’s in love!”

“In love!” The Philosopher almost snorted contempt. “In love! You women
think of nothing but love! Do you know--have you ever realised--that
being ‘in love’ as you call it, is the least and most unimportant part
of a man’s career?”

She looked up at him.

“Is it?”

The Philosopher rather winced as she put the question. He was conscious
of a little quicker beating of the heart (which, of course, might be
attributed to indigestion)--and he studied the aspect of the sky
critically, in order to avoid her eyes.

“Well! Perhaps I need not go so far as that,” he remarked, mildly.

“No!” And her voice was very sweet and thrilling. “I don’t think you
should--if you are really a wise man--go so far as that!”

He drew his pipe slowly from his mouth--it was out again. He looked at
it forlornly, and put it in his pocket. He realised that they had
mutually crossed swords, and that she held him at the point of her
steel. But he rose to the occasion and slipped his arm coaxingly through
hers.

“Let us talk about the weather!” he said, cheerfully. “It’s a beautiful
day!”

“Lovely!” she answered.

“And you are not a Nagger?”

“I hope not!”

“You will not tell me you are a martyr to the cause of--”

“Philosophy?” she suggested.

He laughed good-humouredly.

“If you like! You will not say you have toiled years and years
ungrudgingly to make everybody happy, despite your own utter misery?
That you are a heroine,--an angel and what not? You will not cry and say
nobody cares for you--”

“No! I won’t say that!” she interrupted, with a mischievous smile.

“You won’t?”

“No! Because it wouldn’t be true!”

“It wouldn’t be true,--it wouldn’t--”

“No! Lots of people care for me--people you don’t even know! There’s
Jack--but you know _him_!”

“Always cropping up!” murmured the Philosopher.

“Then there’s Willie, and Claude, and Fred--and--”

“No women in the list? Are they _all_ men?”

“Well, I like men best,” she confessed.

The Philosopher emitted a curious sound between a grunt and a growl.

“Of course you do! Trust you! ‘’Twas John and Dick and Joe and Jack and
Humphrey with his flail!’ And I suppose you’re ‘Kitty, the charming
girl, to carry the milking pail’?”

She gave his arm a delighted little squeeze.

“Fancy you knowing that dear old song!” she exclaimed. “Oh! And you
_such_ a learned man! I should have thought it so much beneath you!”

He stroked down his moustache to hide a smile.

“Dear child!” he said, with mock-parental gravity. “I trust I am not yet
out of all sympathy with the colt-like gambols of the young and foolish!
I _may_ be bordering on the sere and yellow leaf, but I still look upon
the tender sprouting green of unformed minds with indulgence and
compassion!”

She tried to pull her arm away, but he held it firmly.

“Now, now!” he remonstrated. “Don’t hurt yourself. Whatever my faults
and failings are, my muscular strength is unquestionably superior to
yours!”

She looked at him appealingly.

“Oh, how can you talk as you do!” she said. “Such nonsense!”

“I suit myself to your temperament!” he said, with a grand air. “You are
full of infantile sentiment,--I try to meet it half way.”

“How good of you!” she said, and this time she succeeded in withdrawing
her arm from his hold. “Is the effort exhausting?”

“Very!” And the moustache drooped over a whimsical but rather attractive
smile.

She stood for a moment with her eyes downcast.

“Then why do you do it?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“Try to meet me half way?”

“I thought it might make it easier for you,” he said. “Don’t you see?
Easier for you to--”

“Rise to your height!” she suggested.

“Or sink to my level,” he answered, meekly--“whichever you prefer!”

“I would rather rise to your height,” she said. “A man is always
superior to a woman.”

“Oh, specious flattery!” exclaimed the Philosopher. “Are you not a
Suffragette?”

Her eyes flashed.

“I? A Suffragette? How dare you suggest such a thing!”

The Philosopher linked his arm in hers again without being repulsed.

“Thank Heaven for all its mercies!” he ejaculated, piously. “You are
neither a Suffragette nor a Nagger--you are--what are you?”

“Whatever you choose to call me,” she answered, laughingly.

“These things take time,” he said. “I will consider. You are--you
are--let me see--a woman! That is unfortunate.”

“You think so!” And her eyes were full of dancing merriment.

“Yes--I think so. Unfortunate for yourself, I mean. Not unfortunate for
_me_.”

“Oh! Not unfortunate for you?”

“Not exactly. Sometimes I feel it might perhaps have been better had you
been a man--there are occasions--”

He paused.

“My pipe is not quite smoked out,” he said, pathetically. “Would you put
your hand in my pocket--the one nearest to you--I don’t want to move my
arm--and give it to me?”

She obeyed.

He sighed.

“I must move my arm after all!” he said, drearily. “What a bore! You
don’t mind?”

“Mind? Certainly not!”

She stood apart from him while he went through the usual business of
rekindling his tobacco.

“A pipe,” he murmured, “is such a convenient thing! It fills in awkward
lapses of conversation--when--when one feels one can get no further.”

She smiled demurely, and walked slowly on.

“You see,” he said, moving easily beside her, “if you were a man it
would be different.”

“It would certainly!” she agreed.

“A man would not want any attention,” he said.

“Nor do I!” she said. “You give it without being asked for it.”

“Do I?” He appeared mildly surprised. “Now that’s curious,--v-e-r-y
curious!”

He seemed quite entranced in the contemplation of this novel phase of
his own conduct. He glanced at her sideways when she was not looking at
him.

“Delicious!” he murmured.

She turned her head quickly.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“I? Nothing!” He puffed at his pipe enjoyingly, then he went on after a
pause--“What I was _going_ to say is, that if you were a man you
wouldn’t mind my looking at the scenery instead of at you!”

She laughed outright.

“Oh, my good sir! _Do_ I mind?”

“You _must_ mind!” he said, argumentatively. “Being a woman you are
compelled to mind! No woman can forgive a man for looking at trees and
skies instead of looking at _her_. She feels she should be the centre of
his thoughts. She _is_ very often.”

“Is she?”

“There!” And the Philosopher sighed. “I _knew_ you would ask that
question! Yes,--if you _will_ have it, she is. But a centre implies a
surrounding--and if a woman _does_ happen to be the centre of a man’s
thoughts she should realise that she is only the pin’s point round which
the mightier forces of life revolve. Round which the mightier forces of
life revolve!” The Philosopher took the pipe out of his mouth in order
to let this sentence roll over his tongue like a luscious jujube or
chocolate cream. “_Do_ you understand?”

“Quite!” she replied.

He gave her an oblique glance in which there was something of fun
mingled with fire.

“Well, you are a very good girl!” he said, suddenly. “You may do what
you like now!” And he slipped his arm through hers again--“I have had a
slight attack of gout. I need a little support.”

She turned her face towards his, dimpling with smiles.

“Are you sure it’s gout?” she asked.

“Quite sure!” he answered, gravely. “It was the death of my father, and
my grandfather, and my great-grandfather. It will be the death of me.”

Her brows clouded. Then catching the humorous gleam in his eyes, she
laughed.

“I believe you’re joking!” she said. “You want to make me anxious.”

“_Would_ you be anxious?” he asked. “Not really?”

She was silent.

“If I had the gout,” he resumed; “if I were laid up with a burning toe,
would you be sorry?”

“Of course I should!” she answered, promptly. “I’m always sorry for a
man who is ill: he gets so easily frightened and bears it so badly.”

“_That_ all?” he exclaimed. “You would only feel sorry if I was
frightened! Not because I suffered? Well! You women beat everything!”

“Your fright would be worse than your suffering in any case!” she said,
firmly. “I know it would! If you were laid up with a burning big toe, as
you say, you would at once imagine that the trouble in the toe was bound
to fly to the head--then you would turn up some dreadful medical book
which would coldly inform you that gout in the head is always
fatal--then you would begin to tremble inwardly,--you would pass
sleepless nights thinking it out till you pictured your last end
in the blackest colours--you would almost see the undertaker
arriving--you would, as it were, witness your own procession to the
grave--and--and--and perhaps you might feel the grief of all your
friends--”

Here she turned her head, and the Philosopher heard a curious little
_tremolo_ sound--he would have almost sworn it was a suppressed sob if
he had not made up his mind that it was nothing but laughter. Stimulated
by sudden interest he put his hand under her chin and moved her head
gently round till the blue eyes looked straight into his own. A very
slight smile lifted the corners of his lips.

“You have really caught a bad cold!” he said, softly. “Your eyes are
quite wet!”

She lowered them promptly till he could only see glistening lashes on
flushed cheeks.

“Why,” he asked, almost coaxingly, “should you think me such an absurd
idiot as to be capable of imagining all those things about myself?”

She gave him a fleeting glance in which a smile danced like a sunbeam.

“Why? Because--because you are a Philosopher!” she answered. “Philosophy
is all very well in theory--but in practice--oh, the mockery of it!”

He still kept his hand under her chin.

“‘Adversity’s sweet milk, Philosophy!’” he quoted, musingly. “That’s
Shakespeare! Can you give me the lines which follow?”

She made no answer. He smiled again.

“Perhaps you haven’t a very good memory,” he said, patiently. “Now
listen:

      ‘Hang up Philosophy!
    Unless Philosophy can make a Juliet!’ etc., etc.

That’s the kind of thing _you women_ like! The learning of the ages, the
equipoise of the mind, the balance and calm reasoning powers of the
brain, these all go for nothing--”

“In an attack of the gout?” she suggested.

He laughed and loosed his hold of her little white chin.

“Dry your eyes!” he said, masterfully. “I’m not dead yet! And in our
instructive walk of to-day I have discovered one thing,--that you would
be rather sorry if I were! _That’s_ curious! And not altogether
unpleasing! Now I wonder why--”

“And I wonder,” she interrupted, quickly, “whether you would be sorry
if--”

“Now, now! Take care!” he exclaimed. “There are certain subjects I will
not have mentioned--subjects which you women love to harp upon! I know
exactly what you are going to say. Would I be sorry if you were resolved
into your original exquisite atoms of matter? Yes--I should be sorry,
because there would be a blank--” Here he suddenly stopped in his walk
and looked up at the fair sky with its fleecy clouds lazily sailing
along the blue. “There would be a decided blank,” he repeated slowly,
“where there is just now a very great centre of interest--a subject for
study and--er--contemplation--and--er--considerable entertainment!”

Their glances met, but flashed away from each other instantly,--and they
continued their walk through the fields, leaving the buttercups and
daisies in a glistening trail of gold and silver behind them as they
passed.



CHAPTER III


“I cannot understand,” said Jack, irritably; “no, I can_not_ for my life
understand what you see in him!”

She laughed a little.

“You dear, good Jack! Nor can I!”

They were sitting on a smooth thyme-scented bank close to the river--a
lovely river meandering slowly under pale green tresses of willow, and
gurgling softly among reeds and water-lilies,--and it was a perfect
summer’s afternoon. She,--always the sentimentalist,--had been for some
minutes lost in a reverie--a kind of waking dream of delight in all the
exquisite things of nature about her--the ripple of the water, the swirl
of the swaying leaves above her head, and the delicious blue of the sky.
She was herself an exquisite thing, but she did not realise it. That was
left to Jack.

“Well, if you can’t,” he pursued, “why on earth do you humour him in all
his whims and fads--”

“He’s a very learned man!” she interrupted, demurely. “Most frightfully
learned! He knows every thing!--or he thinks he knows!”

“Oh! That’s another story!” said Jack. “He _thinks_ he knows! _I_ might
‘think’ I know!--but I shouldn’t know for all that! _I_ hate a human
encyclopædia!”

“Then, he’s a Philosopher,” she went on, her smile dimpling the corners
of her mouth in the most enchanting way. “He is never put out--never
excited--takes everything as it comes quite calmly--”

“Except when it happens to hurt _himself_,” exclaimed Jack. “Then he can
roar like the Biblical bulls of Bashan! I’ve heard him! Oh, yes, I grant
you he’s never put out by other folks’ worries--he wouldn’t stir a
finger to help any one out of a fix--not even _you_! Can’t you see how
utterly selfish the man is?”

She considered,--resting her chin in the hollow of her little white
hand. She looked very pretty in that attitude, and Jack was glad he had
her company all to himself.

“Yes,” she said, at last, “I suppose--I’m afraid he _is_! But, you see,
Jack, that’s because he’s such a philosopher! They are mostly all like
that. Think of Diogenes in his tub!”

Jack laughed aloud.

“You dear, sweet, little girl!” he said, recklessly and with fervour.
“You say such quaint, funny things! Diogenes was an old horror, of
course!--and really, if you would only see him as he is, so is your--”

She held up a warning finger.

“Now, Jack! He’s not as bad as Diogenes! No! You can’t say that! It’s
true that he’s often rude--and very indifferent to the happiness of
others--and rough--and unkind--”

“To _you_!” cried Jack in sudden excitement.

She hesitated.

“Well!--perhaps--sometimes! But I don’t mind!”

“I _do_!” declared Jack, with uncommon emphasis. “Let me catch him at
it! Let me catch him, I say!--he’s years older than I am,--but
I’ll--I’ll knock him down!”

She peeped at him from under the brim of her hat.

“You are a dear boy!” she said, patronisingly. “But you mustn’t think of
such a thing!”

“Why not?”

“Well--why not?” She still smiled. “First, because he’s old. Yes--quite
old, really. I dare say he’ll never see fifty again--”

“Too old to make love to _you_,” said Jack, loftily. “That’s certain!”

“He _doesn’t_ make love to me,” she replied. “Oh, dear!--you won’t
understand! He doesn’t make love at all!”

“Then what _does_ he do?” demanded Jack. “I should jolly well like to
know!”

“What does he do?” she repeated, musingly. Then she suddenly laughed
joyously: “Oh, Jack!--I don’t believe I know! He reads the papers and
smokes--and writes a little--then he wants to go for a walk and asks me
to go with him--and we talk-and--and that’s all!”

“That’s all!” and Jack looked whole volumes of incredulity. “And just to
read the papers and smoke and take walks with you he comes down here
miles away from London to stay with you and your father whole weeks
together! A regular sponge _I_ call him! Yes!--a sponge!”

“Dad likes him,” she said, briefly.

“I daresay! Your Dad likes any one who’ll talk history and politics to
him by the hour. But _you_!--_you_ don’t want history and politics!”

“Don’t I?”--and her eyes sparkled prettily. Then I’m like the poet
Keats--

   ‘Hence, pageant History! hence, gilded cheat;
    Swart planet in the universe of deeds!’”

“Ah, that’s poetry,” said Jack. “I don’t care very much about it!”

“Nor does _he_!” she replied. “I quoted those lines to him the other day
and he said Keats was honey and water.”

“Never mind what ‘he’ said,” and Jack’s voice took on a raspy tone. “I
daresay you’ll think me an impertinent sort of chap but--but you know
I’m very fond of you--”

She stretched out a little white hand towards him, and he took it
tenderly in his own large strong palm.

“Yes, I _do_ know!” she said, sweetly. “And--and it’s kind of you--”

“Kind!” echoed Jack. “Kind! There’s nothing kind about it! Nobody could
help being fond of you--but I--I’m just a rough chap--and I’ve no
settled position yet and no money--and it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to
marry me”--here his clasp tightened involuntarily on the soft fingers he
held--“but I want you to, all the same!”

She laughed.

“Do you? Really?” she queried, with a bewitching uplift of her pretty
eyebrows. “Oh, Jack! Marriage is such a dreadful business! Just think of
the married people _we_ know! Take the Simmonses--”

Jack whistled,--a dismal, dubious whistle.

“What of them?” he said. “_You_ could never be like Mrs. Simmons--and
I’m sure I shall never be like Mr.!”

“And the Blakes, and the Foxes, and the Meedons,” she went on,
enumerating the different names on her little white fingers. “They’re
all married people, and they just bore one another to death! Now you and
I--we’re not married--we’re not even engaged--we’re just the best
friends in the world, and we _don’t_ bore each other to death!”

“Nor likely to,” said Jack. “But I tell you who would bore you to death
if you married him!--your old Philosopher!”

She nodded.

“Yes, I’m sure he would! He bores me often now! But--Jack--that’s just
the fun of it! He thinks himself the wisest, wittiest, most wonderful
man alive,--and he wants me to think it too. And then there’s another
funny thing--oh, _such_ a funny thing!”

“Well, what is it?” Jack demanded, rather gruffly.

“Don’t be snappy, Jack dear! The funny thing is that he feels he’s
falling a little bit in love with me!--just a _little_ bit!--and he
doesn’t want to! That’s what amuses me!”

“Oh!” Jack looked slightly puzzled. “And how long is the game to last?”

Her eyes sparkled mischievously.

“I don’t know! It depends! The ‘game’ as you call it is more fun than
getting married would be!”

Jack pulled a serious face.

“Look here!” he said. “You mustn’t play too much at that sort of thing!
You’ll be getting ‘entangled’ with that selfish old brute, and he’ll
wriggle out of everything that could compromise himself. He won’t bother
about _you_. You see I’m an American--”

“Good for you!” she interpolated, smiling.

“Yes, I’m proud of it. But, being one, I shouldn’t allow any woman to do
menial things for me. Your Philosopher _does_ allow it. I’ve seen you
run from one end of the garden to another to fetch a pipe which the lazy
beggar has left lying about somewhere,--or to get him a chair--or find
his hat and walking-stick--”

“He’s old,” she said.

“Old be hanged! He’s not decrepit. Does he ever do anything for _you_?
Fetch _you_ a chair? Help _you_ to find anything? Try to give _you_ any
pleasure apart from his own dull company? Now, _does_ he?”

She made a little pink bud of her mouth as she replied, meekly--

“I’m afraid he doesn’t! You see--you see he’s so absorbed in thought!”

“I’d absorb him if I had the chance!” said Jack. “Have you ever read
George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’?”

“Some of it,” she answered. “I couldn’t get through it all.”

“Nor could I,” he confessed. “But I remember old Casaubon. Dorothea
married him because she thought he would be such a clever husband to
have--and so he was! Too clever by half! Something like your
Philosopher.”

“Not quite!” she demurred. “Casaubon had no sense of humour. My
Philosopher has quite a humorous turn sometimes.”

“At other folks’ expense,” said Jack. “Oh, yes--I daresay! I’ve caught
him sneering at _me_ now and then!”

She laughed.

“That’s only because he’s jealous!”

“Jealous?”

“Yes. Jealous of _you_!”

Jack drew himself up and patted his own broad chest with a smile of
self-satisfaction.

“_That’s_ good news anyhow!” he said. “I’m glad I can irritate the old
rascal--”

“Jack!”

“Mustn’t I call him an old rascal? All right, I won’t! But he _is_, you
know! There are lots of his sort in London and in University towns.
There are, really--only you won’t believe it--you’re a lovely lady of
rose-gardens and country associations, and you don’t understand what
these ‘philosophers’ are who moralise on life without having the pluck
to _live_ it!”

Her blue eyes lifted towards him with a look of surprise and
questioning.

“Why, Jack, you talk quite nobly!” she exclaimed, and laughed. “Like a
sort of hero in a book! But even a Philosopher who’ll never see fifty
again must have ‘lived’ his life somehow?”

“On other people, no doubt,” said Jack. “The tedious old thing that
comes down here so often and persuades you to make such a fuss about him
and his learning has very little earning power in him I’ll swear!
Besides--I could tell you a thing or two--only you won’t listen.”

“Yes, I will!” she answered, quickly. “Tell me!”

“Well, you ask him one day if he hadn’t a good old aunt, who, when he
was a boy spoiled him to death, gave him all he wanted, and left him all
her fortune,--a pretty decent one too. He led her an awful life I’ve
heard--shook her in bed when she was dying like Queen Elizabeth shaking
the woman who failed to give her Essex’s ring--and since he got the
money has grown so mean that he can scarcely bear to part with sixpence.
That’s why he lives on his friends and lets them pay for him.”

She looked vaguely amused.

“Jack, I think this is a yarn!” she said. “You are _too_ brilliant, dear
boy! You don’t _know_ all this for a fact?”

“I don’t _know_ it,” he answered. “But I’ve heard it, and I’m sure it’s
true. Why, you can prove it for yourself! When you went with him the
other day to the Cinema did he pay for your seat?”

She laughed.

“No, he didn’t! I paid for him and myself as well! But that was
nothing!”

“Nothing?” Jack gave a short grunt of disgust. “No, it was nothing in
the way of expenditure but it was something in the way of character! How
he could _let_ you pay! How you _could_ pay for him!”

Her pretty dimples came into play again.

“Oh, well! He was very funny about it. He said he felt like a little boy
being taken out by his governess for a treat. He really _has_ a sense of
humour!”

“I’m sure he has!” spluttered Jack. “By Jove! I should say he found it
‘humorous’ in the highest degree to have a woman pay for him! Suit him
down to the ground!”

She stretched her rounded white arms above her head and gave a tiny
yawn.

“Dear Jack, you are really exhausting!” she said. “Let’s talk of
something else. Look at that dear little moor-hen!”

He followed her gaze and watched the dainty little bird breasting its
way across the shining river, then said, moodily:

“I suppose he’s really a fixture just now?”

“The Philosopher? Oh, I hope not! He’s just staying with Dad. They’re
doing a book together.”

“What sort of a book?”

“The sort of book that no one ever, _ever_ reads,” she replied. “A work
of _such_ genius that it will never, _never_ sell! The title is--let me
see!--it’s so long and learned,--quite difficult to remember.”

“Then don’t bother to think about it,” said Jack.

“Oh, but I’d like to tell you!” She considered. “Yes!” she went on.
“It’s this--‘The Deterioration of Language Invariably Perceived as a
Precursor to the Decadence of Civilisation.’”

“Oh, Great Scott!” and Jack fell back on the grassy bank as though
suddenly knocked flat.

She laughed, merrily.

“It _is_ heavy, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s all about things that people
don’t really care for,--for instance, how language gets spoilt by slang
and ungrammatical expressions when people lose the sense of rectitude
and honour--”

“Yes!” nodded Jack. “When they get to the low level of allowing women to
pay for their amusements!”

She made a merry little grimace.

“There, Jack! You always turn the conversation back on personalities!
Dear boy, it’s bad form! You should never be personal!”

He smiled. There was something so appealing in the sweet eyes uplifted
to his, that the expression they conveyed gave him a sense of
masterfulness, and he felt he must be very tolerant with this charming
bit of wayward feminine feeling.

“Dear little lady,” he said, with quite a patronising air, “I won’t be
anything you don’t want me to be! Only just try and think about
commonplace facts now and then,--and don’t take your pretty ideals for
realities. You have put a glamour on your old Philosopher--you think
he’s so clever that he can’t afford to be anything else. But I tell you
cleverness isn’t everything and most learned men are bores! Selfish
bores, too--cynics and--whatd’ye-call-’em--iconoclasts. There’s a word
for you!--such a mouthful!--it means--”

“Breakers of idols,” she said, softly and musingly. “Destroyers of hope
and faith!--cruel mockers of noble effort--”

“That’s it!” and Jack got up from the grass, and stretched his supple,
elegant figure of which he might have been proud,--but he wasn’t. “And
you’ll find your Philosopher comes up to the scratch in all those
particulars when you put him through his paces. ‘The Deterioration of
Language Invariably Perceived’ is nothing to the Deterioration of a Man
who thinks himself superior to all other men.”

She rose from her bank of moss and thyme and stood for a minute, looking
at the river.

“How lovely it is here!” she said. “I should like to stay here for
hours!”

“So should I,” agreed Jack, “with _you_!”

She laughed, and looking up at him, flushed a pretty rose-colour.

“You’re bold!” she said.

“As brass!” he responded, gaily. “I’m not a Philosopher!”

She lowered her eyes, and they began to walk homeward together. After a
pause, Jack suddenly laid an entreating hand on her arm.

“You’ll not marry him?” he pleaded.

“He won’t ask me to!” she rejoined, with a smile.

“But--if he did?” persisted Jack.

“Oh, Jack! Can’t you see? He’s far too much of a Philosopher to marry!
A wife would bore him to death!”

“And he’d bore a wife to death, that’s certain!” said Jack. “Well!--I
suppose I must hope for the best! Anyway--you’ll try--yes, try to like
me a little?”

“No need to try!” she answered, sweetly. “I like you very, _very_ much!
Oh, Jack, yes! We must always be the very best friends in the world!
Swear it!”

She extended her pretty little ungloved hand, and Jack, moved by the
spirit of the occasion, took off his hat, dropped on one knee and kissed
it.

“I swear!” he said.

Her gay laughter rippled out on the air.

“Splendid! Like a knight in a fairy tale!”

“Fairy tales sometimes come true,” he said, as he sprang up from his
chivalric attitude. “I’ve made a vow, and I mean to keep it!”

She peeped at him under her golden eyelashes.

“Good Jack!” she said. “You ought to be very, very rich,--oh, immensely
rich!”

“Why?”

“Because you would do so many kind things with your money,” she
answered. “You couldn’t help doing them!”

“True!” he declared, with a grandiloquent air. “I would even pay for you
to go to a Cinema! I _would_!”

Her delightful laughter was like that of a happy child. They went on,
pacing slowly over the warm short grass, a pretty pair to look at, such
as Herrick might have sung of, or Shakespeare, when he carolled of “the
ring-time and the spring-time” and of “sweet lovers” who love the
spring. Only they were not lovers. The pretty Sentimentalist loved Love
in the abstract, and feared disillusion in its reality.



CHAPTER IV


“I saw him,” said the Philosopher, sternly. “I saw him kneeling at your
feet! I saw him with my own eyes!”

She laughed.

“Really! Well, you could not see him with any one else’s eyes, could
you?”

“That answer is merely flippant,” retorted the Philosopher. “Flippant--I
might say rude!”

“Oh-h-h!” She made a little whistling round of her mouth, and her blue
eyes flashed.

“Rude!” he repeated, rather raspily. “And I venture to say that in an
open field, within a few yards of the public road, a man who is such a
fool as to drop on one knee at a woman’s feet ought to be--ought to
be”--here he waved one arm magisterially--“removed--forcibly removed to
Hanwell or Colney Hatch! He is not responsible for his actions!”

“No,” she interposed, mischievously. “No man in love is!”

“In love!” The Philosopher snorted. “You call that love? To make a
ridiculous exposure of himself and you in full view of spectators--”

She pointed a little finger at him.

“Only one spectator,--you!” she said. “And where _were_ you?”

He gave another snort.

“I was--I was behind a tree,” he said. “I thought I saw you going
towards the river--I imagined you were alone--”

“I was at first,” she said. “Jack came on later. So you must have been
watching quite a long time! What a bore for you! Why did you do it?”

The Philosopher blinked his eyes and frowned.

“Why did I do it? Because--because”--he hesitated--“yes!--because I like
to study the deceptive attributes of your sex and the pitfalls they
prepare for unwary men! This Jack of yours is a perfect ass!”

“Why didn’t you say Jackass at once and have done with it?” she
demanded, mirthfully. “You would have been nearly funny then!”

The Philosopher looked at her with what he meant to be a withering
expression. She, however, did not wither.

“Nearly funny!” he echoed. “Silly child, do you really think I have not
sufficient acumen to perceive an obvious play upon words, suggesting
stupidity rather than humour?”

A smile dimpled her cheeks in one or two becoming places, but she said
nothing.

“Am I to infer that you approved of the man’s attitude in the field?” he
demanded.

The portentous air with which he put this question made her laugh
outright.

“Yes!--yes, indeed!” she answered. “The man’s attitude in the field--oh,
dear me!--was simply _de_lightful!” And she clapped her hands
ecstatically. “You see, he’s such a _good_ figure!--and he can drop on
one knee gracefully--really gracefully!--and he meant it as well!--he
was swearing eternal friendship!”

“Eternal fiddlesticks!” snarled the Philosopher. “Where’s my pipe?”

They were in the library, a cosy room with a big window fronting the
west where the last golden lines of the sunset were vanishing one by
one,--and it wanted about an hour to dinner time. She moved away and
went searching to and fro, on various tables and shelves, her light
figure in its dainty evening attire of pale blue and white fluttering
hither and thither like an embodied flower, till presently she came back
towards him holding out, at a respectful distance from herself, a rather
dirty briar.

“Come along, come along!” said the Philosopher, testily. “Make haste! It
won’t bite you!”

“No,” and she handed him the repulsive looking object. “But it
smells--horrid! If you had a wife she would not allow you to come near
her with such a smell!”

“Oh, wouldn’t she?” And the Philosopher stuck the pipe between his teeth
with a defiant air. “If I had a wife--which, thank God, I haven’t--”

“Yes, thank God you haven’t!” she interpolated, demurely.

He looked at her again in his “withering” way, but she only smiled.

“If I had a wife,” he continued, sucking the stem of his pipe somewhat
noisily, “she would have to allow anything _I_ pleased and be glad of
the privilege! A man must be master in his own house,--and a wise woman
knows how to keep her place.”

She sank gracefully into a low easy-chair, with the soft movement of a
bird descending into its nest, and looked up at him with a tolerantly
amused air.

“The days of Abraham are past!” she said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that the Lord doesn’t favour women-crushers so much as in the
times of Moses and Aaron,” she murmured lazily. “You see, Abraham was
such a ‘master in his own house’ that, after making all the use he could
of Hagar, he turned her out into the wilderness to starve. Plenty of
modern Abrahams would do the same thing with all the pleasure in
life--but--it’s likely the modern Hagars are more than a match for them!
And I’m glad--oh, so glad, that women are going to have their day--at
last!”

The Philosopher had stuffed his pipe with tobacco while she spoke, and
now prodded it in with a very yellow finger. He looked uneasily about
him for matches, but she did not offer to find them. He discovered them
presently and lit his ‘fragrant weed’ without asking her permission.

“Women are going to have their day!” he echoed, ironically. “What sort
of a day do you suppose it will be? Confusion worse confounded!”

She was silent.

“Woman’s day,” he went on sententiously, “means Man. Man at morn,--man
at noon,--man at night. Woman adores man,--licks his boots
metaphorically whenever he gives her the chance. A Man and a new
Hat--that’s enough for Woman’s day!”

She laughed.

“What a funny old person you are!” she exclaimed. “You have such fossil
ideas!--positively fossil!--embedded in rock!--and they’ll never change!
That’s the worst of being over-learned in one direction,--I’m sure it
narrows the mind!”

He began to feel irritated,--yes, really irritated with this bunch of
blue and white femininity seated opposite to him in such graceful ease.

“My mind is _not_ narrow,” he said, stiffly. “And though it may please
you to consider me a fossil--”

“I didn’t say _you_ were a fossil,” she interposed. “I said you had
fossil ideas--”

“It is the same thing,” he retorted. “A man and his ideas are one. I
certainly have not a mind adapted to examine the trifling sentiments
which affect your sex, but the opinions I have formed are based on long
experience. You express a childish pleasure in the fancy that women are
going to have their day,--now I maintain that they have always had it,
to the fullest extent of their very limited capabilities. Any wider
range of effort would bring them nothing but disaster.”

With this he clapped a misshapen old “Homburg” hat on his head, opened
the window, which was really a glass door, and went out into the garden,
puffing at his briar. He had not a good figure--it was inclined to be
stumpy, but there was a certain pathetic droop of his shoulders which
betrayed both weariness and age, and the pretty Sentimentalist, quick to
observe this, was suddenly touched and compassionate. She sprang up and
ran after him.

“Don’t be cross!” she said. “I’m sorry I called your ideas fossils!
But--you know--fossils are really wonderful things!”

Her laughing blue eyes, her tossing fair hair, and the bewildering
“frou-frou” of her dainty blue and white silk and chiffon garments made
quite a stir in the calm evening silence of the garden,--and for the
moment the self-centred, self-opiniated, self-styled “Philosopher” felt
a sudden twinge of shamed conscience. In his own heart he knew he was
what he would call “amusing himself” with a bright feminine creature who
took the world on trust and accepted him at his own inflated
valuation,--he found it convenient and agreeable to stay at her father’s
house and enjoy the luxuries of a well-equipped home without paying for
it--especially when he could talk to a pretty hostess and subtly
insinuate a kind of love-making without any reality in it. Her mother
was dead--she was alone to receive and entertain such guests as her
pedantic father invited to flatter him on his personal belief in himself
as a great philologist,--she was,--(in that undefended condition)--“fair
game” to such a man as the Philosopher. There was Jack--Jack was
certainly a bore--but after all he was merely a neighbour, the eldest
son of what the Philosopher called a “doubtful” American, who had taken
a small cottage some little way down the river for the fishing season.
Jack really didn’t count for much. So the Philosopher smoothed his
furrowed brow and pretended to be appeased, as he replied to the soft
voice ringing in his ears--

“_I’m_ not cross,” he said. “I’m _never_ cross! I _never_ quarrel! It’s
_you_! You! You fly into a tantrum directly you are contradicted. You
can’t bear to be contradicted. And you call me a fossil! Nice way to
talk! Never mind!--I forgive you!”

With which grandiloquent assurance he took her hand and patted it. She
withdrew it gently,--she felt he was unjust. She knew she had not “flown
into a tantrum” and that what she had said was merely playful and
without any thought of “quarrel.” She walked beside him in the glamour
of the late after-glow for a few paces in silence,--and he was
uncomfortably conscious that the delicate subtlety of her personality
expressed an unspoken but nevertheless decisive lessening of her
appreciation of him as a man.

“And so,” he said, presently, with a laboured attempt at lightness--“you
approve of Jack as a modern Knight-errant swearing eternal fidelity?”

“I approve of Jack entirely--as Jack,” she answered, quietly. “He’s a
good fellow, and very unselfish.”

The Philosopher gave her a blinking, side-long glance.

“Really! Has he managed to impress that favourable view of himself upon
your credulous mind?”

“I don’t think he has tried to impress anything at all upon me,” she
said. “Only I notice that he always considers the pleasure of other
people more than his own.”

“Exceedingly quixotic,” commented the Philosopher, drily. “And all the
merest affectation. The man who is always looking after the pleasure of
other people attracts attention to himself--which is what he seeks. The
man who looks after his own comfort passes without notice,--which is the
right attitude. To call people’s attention to yourself by any action
whatsoever is very bad form.”

She looked at him in wondering enquiry.

“The man,” pursued the Philosopher, hugging himself as it were in the
wrapping of his own theories--“who persists in handing round
bread-and-butter and cake at a tea-table instead of sitting still, is a
nuisance. His plain business is to help himself, and let others take
care of their own needs. It is _not_ his business to see whether the
women get _their_ bread-and-butter and cake--in these days of female
emancipation they can look after themselves. He is a much more sensible
creature when he does not obtrude himself upon them by tiresome and
needless attentions. The same rule should apply to door-opening. There
are men who invariably disturb conversation by jumping up to open a door
for a woman to pass out. Detestable! I have had many a good story of
mine spoilt by this atrocious habit,--Americans always do it.”

“Americans are very kind to women,” she said. “I like their ways.”

He sniffed, as though offended by some noxious odour.

“You do, do you?” he retorted. “Well--I don’t.”

There was a pause. Presently--

“How are you and Dad getting on with the book?” she asked. “Is there
much more work to do?”

He drew his pipe from his mouth, and knocked its ashes out against the
stump of a tree.

“A great deal,” he replied. “A _very_ great deal more! Our researches
lead us deeper and deeper--into the most astonishing intricacies of
language--indeed one can positively say that language makes history.
Language creates dynasties and destroys them,--Language crowns kings and
equally decapitates them--Language--”

The sonorous clanging of a bell sounded persistently at this moment.

“Dinner,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. “That is a language every
one understands! I think dinner, or the lack of it, has made more
dynasties than anything! Are you coming?”

“I follow you,” he said, moved by a sort of obstinacy which led him to
avoid the courtesy of accompanying her. She thereupon sprang away from
him into the house, where she took her seat at the dinner table opposite
her father, a choleric old gentleman who had already begun guzzling the
soup. He ‘never waited for anybody’ as he informed all whom it might
concern; and when the Philosopher sauntered in, a few minutes late as he
always did for every meal, to the mute disgust of the parlourmaid, there
was very little soup left. At this the fair Sentimentalist was not
ill-pleased. It was naughty, she said to herself, to be quite glad that
there was so little soup for so learned a man--still, learned as he was,
he made ugly noises when he ate soup, and it was just as well that
there was not much to make a noise with. She found the dinner rather
boresome on this particular evening,--the Philosopher and her father
prosed and prosed along in the dreariest dry ruts of conversation, now
and then telling each other what they considered “good” stories, old as
the oldest inhabitant of the most ancient jest-book. The Philosopher, in
his assertive superiority of intelligence, had an aggravating way of
prefacing any special story of his own by the question “Are you
listening?” and, if the response was not entirely submissive and
satisfactory, he would sniff a whole nest of embryo influenzas up his
nose and remark, cuttingly, “Then I’ll wait!” The wrathful wretchedness
of the persons who thus held him sniffing and “waiting” can only be
imagined by discerning students of human nature. And the Sentimentalist,
a little less patient with his ways than usual, felt a great relief when
she could escape from the dinner table to the solitude of her own quiet
room. Once there, she leaned out from the open window and looked at the
bright stars, sprinkling the sky like big dewdrops,--and wondered, a
trifle sadly, how life was going to turn out for her. From early
childhood she had devoted every wish, every thought, every hope to her
father,--and he was getting very old, very gouty and very cross. Lately
he had found a certain solace for his constant irritability in the study
of philology and the society of the Philosopher who assumed the same
bent of research,--and, to a certain extent, she was grateful for this
distraction to his frequently self-torturing mind. But she was rather a
lonely little person,--and when the Philosopher first appeared on her
limited horizon, she had hailed his presence with an unreasoning joy,
because she loved books, and understood that he loved them too. She
pictured the delightful talks she would have with this gifted personage
about the authors they both admired,--and she was certain he would have
a splendid character--generous, noble, patient, kind--because--oh,
well!--because he had studied so much, and knew so much, and because he
was a Philosopher. So she had idealised him in her mind, and accepted
him at the ideal valuation,--a condition of pure romantic sentimentalism
which amused him because it is rare to find nowadays, and when found, is
so easy to destroy. From the merely physical and absolutely sensual side
of things he was disposed to make love to her. The tentative efforts he
had put forth in that direction had moved her, first to wonder, then to
the faintest, half-compassionate response. He was old, she thought--and
he seemed to have no one who cared for him. And she was touched to find
so learned a man expressing any liking for her even by a look,--though
her own intellectual ability was higher than his, had she known it. She
was sorry for him too, in a way--he appeared to be a neglected sort of
creature, albeit an authority on dull subjects in dull weekly journals
and monthly magazines,--his coats were shabby, his shirt-cuffs frayed at
the edges,--and he never at any time was what is called “well-groomed.”
She did not realise that his generally unkempt condition was part of
his particular “philosophic” manner,--a kind of advertised contempt for
conventional cleanliness. He could be very agreeable when he
chose,--almost lovable;--he could be amusing, entertaining and witty by
turns; and when strangers first met him, they generally received a most
favourable impression. The second meeting, however, unfortunately
swamped the effect of the first,--and when he stayed on and on in a
house, as he was doing now, there were times when his room was more
desired than his company. But a kind of glamour,--a reflex glitter of
genius in him,--had somewhat blinded the Sentimentalist to any clear
perception of his true character as a man, apart altogether from his
literary distinction,--and though she had begun to be uneasy and dubious
as to his sincerity and good feeling, she would not give way to these
thoughts, no matter how urgently they pressed upon her. And while she
mused, and looked up at the stars, they seemed to look responsively down
upon her in a winking, twinkling way of bright suggestiveness.

“What a quaint little soul it is!” so they might have expressed
themselves in a couple of light-flashes. “Here it lives, tricking itself
into thinking an egotist a great man! _We_ know better!”

And they sparkled their emphatic meaning through the dark veil of air,
while she, leaving her window-post of observation, took her embroidery
and went down to the billiard-room there to sit in silent patience while
her father and the Philosopher played a long game, as they did every
night with an unwearying pertinacity till bed-time. They did not
consider whether _she_ was amused or bored by what to themselves was
their own consummate skill in handling the cue, and she would gladly
have stayed away but that her father expected her to act as “marker” if
desired, and otherwise make herself useful. The whole business was
frightfully dull as far as she was concerned--she was tired to death of
the continuous click of the billiard balls, and sometimes heard them in
her dreams, so incessantly were they rolled about night after night. The
oddest thing to her mind was that the Philosopher never seemed tired of
the game. He never spoke to her while engaged in it--or, for that
matter, to her father except in monosyllables,--round and round the
table he strutted, cue in hand, pipe in mouth, without a thought for
anything or anybody but himself. He played more skilfully than his host,
and never lost an opportunity of asserting the fact,--and sometimes when
the gentle Sentimentalist saw her father getting redder and more
congested in the face with suppressed annoyance at his various “misses”
she was both sorry and anxious lest his restrained feeling should
culminate in an attack of illness. However, it was no use for her to
confide these fears to the Philosopher; he had the greatest contempt for
illness that affected anybody but himself. But--after all!--she decided
it was something of an advantage to know a man who could always
get anarticle into the big “Reviews” provided it were only dull
enough,--it was surely a privilege to associate with such a powerful
personage!--and it was an understood thing that gifted
men--Philosophers--were apt to become self-centred. Now Jack,--oh, Jack
was not self-centred--but then he was not clever--he was--well!--he was
just “Jack”!



CHAPTER V


On a warm August morning it is not altogether unpleasant to recline on a
long lounge chair in the deep soft shadow of full-foliaged trees and
resign one’s self to meditation which may or may not be profitable. The
Philosopher was in this condition of _dolce far niente_, and though he
did not present an altogether elegant appearance in the recumbent
attitude he was for the moment more concerned with inward comfort than
exterior effect. He was in a thinking mood. He was taking himself
seriously to task and considering whether he should marry. He was not
really a marrying man, but it occurred to him now and then that he was
no longer young, and that it might be necessary to have some one to take
care of him. No one was so well adapted to “take care” of an ageing,
gouty, grumpy man with a touch of intellectuality about him as a wife. A
wife with a sufficiency of good looks to be agreeable to the eye,--a
wife with a sufficiency of money in her own right to save her husband
all extra exertion in the business of living. Now the Philosopher had
just by chance found out that his little friend and hostess, the
Sentimentalist, had or would have money. He thought, with pleasing
placidity, of a college friend of his own, who had married a woman with
money, and who had gleefully rejoiced in his position, with refreshing
candour, saying,--“A Plum I tell you! A regular Plum! Ripe and
ready!--fell into my mouth with a bang!”

The Philosopher was by no means certain that the Sentimentalist was a
Plum. She was very kind to him,--she had pretty, docile, winsome ways,
and seemed disposed to “play” with him as a kitten plays with a ball of
wool,--she was evidently amused when he held her hand, or patted her
shoulder,--but he felt more than positive that she would not “fall into
his mouth with a bang!” Her father had confided to him that he meant to
leave her a considerable fortune,--“and,” mused the Philosopher,
dreamily,--“the old gentleman is getting very shaky. Memory going
too,--sense of proportion quite lost.” He yawned, and drove off a
bouncing bumble-bee that just then presumed to come too near his rather
prominent nose,--then, stretching himself lazily half rose from his
reclining attitude as he perceived a little white figure approaching him
from the further garden, with a newspaper in its hand. He waited, a
trifle impatiently.

“Dear me, what a time she is!” he complained _sotto voce_. “She doesn’t
read newspapers as a rule. What’s in the wind now?”

For she had looked up suddenly, and seeing him, began to run. For a mere
Sentimentalist she ran well,--gracefully and swiftly.

“Such news!” she cried, as she approached him. “Such terrible news!
England has declared war with Germany!”

“Fiddlesticks!” said the Philosopher, emphatically. “I don’t believe a
word of it!”

A little breathless with her run she swept some straying curls of gold
from her eyes, and handed him the paper. There was the announcement sure
enough--the brief, curt statement that was to drench Europe with blood.
But the Philosopher was obstinate.

“All twaddle!” he declared. “Newspaper lies and twaddle!”

Her blue eyes rested upon him with something of wonder and sadness.

“You think so? I hope you may be right!” she said, earnestly. “Oh, I do
hope you may be right!”

“Of course, I’m right,” he declared. “I’ve got some common sense. I know
how these things are worked up I tell you! What’s it all about?” Here he
scanned the newspaper again. “Belgium? What on earth have we got to do
with Belgium! Nice muddle we make of everything! Belgium wants to
protect France from invasion?--well, let her! There’s no need for _us_
to put our fingers into the pie! Let them all settle their own affairs!”

“But--honour?--” she suggested.

“Honour? It depends on what’s called honour. A hundred years ago we were
fighting the French at Waterloo--now we want to defend them. Why? We
didn’t help them in the Franco-German war. We let them fight it out. So
we should now. Twaddle, I tell you!--all twaddle!”

She smiled and sighed.

“Well, it seems to me very serious news,” she said. “It has quite spoilt
the day for me.”

“Why should it spoil the day?” he demanded. “What have _you_ got to do
with it? Here you are in a nice garden,--lovely weather--and I believe
you’ve got a new hat on. What else can any woman want?”

She gave a tiny shrug of her shoulders, which implied that he was not
worth the trouble of answering. He continued, pleased with his own
remarks:

“Women know nothing about war or politics,” he said. “They are not
expected to know. They have their homes and their home duties--”

“And their men,” she interposed. “Their husbands and brothers and
lovers,--in war these have to go and fight--”

“Of course they have,” agreed the Philosopher. “Most of them are only
fit for cannon-fodder.”

She flushed angrily.

“Oh! Do you _mean_ that?” she exclaimed.

“Of course I mean it! Ordinary men are exceedingly stupid--they have
just two predominating ideas, food and money. The world loses nothing
when this sort of eating, spending microbes are cleared out by a big
war--on the contrary things go on better without them after they are
killed off.”

“And the women who loved them?” she asked, indignantly.

He smiled.

“You are a dear little goose!” he said, quite kindly. “You are always
thinking about people who ‘love’ each other. How many of them do you
suppose there are?”

She made no reply.

“Love,” went on the Philosopher, “is a rare thing. In fact it is so rare
that it may be said not to exist,--except in romantic novels and
poetry,--two very unreliable forms of literature. What is called ‘love’
is merely the attraction of opposite sexes--the ordinary procedure of
the world of nature.” He paused. He was much inclined to discourse on
the propagation of species, but somehow he found it difficult. The
graceful little figure beside him hardly suited his ideas of intended
comparison with the rest of the animal world. Strictly speaking, she was
of course an animal of the female gender, as he was an animal of the
male,--but he could not fit in his discourse on natural selection with a
bunch of white frippery, fair hair and a winsome smile. “Love,” he
concluded, lamely, “is a poet’s dream.”

“I wonder you admit it is as much as that!” she said,--and her eyes
flashed. “I agree with you to some extent--but to me it is God’s dream
of the world!”

He gazed at her, amused.

“Very far-fetched!” he said. “Did you get that out of a book? Of course
you did! Well, all I can say is that if there is a God dreaming anything
about the world, the dream is something of a nightmare. You’re a woman
and you don’t think. Have you ever seen a London slum? No. Well, men and
women herd there together like brutes, wives striking husbands and
husbands kicking wives, while little sentimentalists like you live in
the country among roses and talk about ‘love.’ Love! Fiddlesticks! Very
young people--girls and boys,--imagine they ‘love’ like Romeo and
Juliet,--but have you ever thought how Romeo and Juliet would have got
on as Mr. and Mrs. Montagu?”

She laughed--she could not help laughing.

“No, indeed!” she answered. “I’ve never gone so far as that!”

“Gone so far!” echoed the Philosopher, ironically. “That’s not going
far! That’s simply the plain commonplace line of conduct. To live
together as Mr. and Mrs. Montagu would have entailed far more heroism
than to swallow poison or stab one’s self with a dagger after a romantic
soliloquy. Mrs. Montagu would have had to order the dinner and Mr.
Montagu in his turn would have had to pay the bills. All the nonsense
they talked out of window to each other would have been clean forgotten.
He would have shown himself in slippers and she in a dressing gown. The
silks and velvets they wore as two precocious young humbugs at old
Capulet’s ball--or rather the silks and velvets the actors wear who
impersonate them nowadays, would have had very little place in their
wardrobe. They would have settled down to the plain routine of
life,--perfect commonplace, without any sentiment.”

She stood, looking at him earnestly.

“I _am_ sorry for you!” she said. “Your outlook is so very dreary! It’s
like opening a window on a back-yard!”

He was not displeased.

“Back-yards are useful and necessary,” he observed, complacently. “So
are dust-holes. Sentiment and silliness are _not_ necessary.”

Suddenly she laughed merrily.

“I really think you ought to get married!” she said. “You are such an
admirer of the commonplace that you ought to try matrimony!”

He smiled, a superior smile.

“Possibly I _may_ try it,” he answered, “if circumstances are
favourable! But I would never play a Romeo.”

Her laughter rang out again.

“I should think not!” she exclaimed. “You couldn’t! Oh, dear, no! Fancy
_you_ under a balcony ‘sighing like a furnace’ and saying:

   “‘Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand
    That I might touch that cheek!’

or--

                            “‘She speaks,--
    Oh, speak again, bright angel for thou art
    As glorious to this night, being o’er my head
    As is a winged messenger of heaven
    Unto the white, upturned, wondering eyes
    Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
    When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
    And sails upon the bosom of the air!’”

She spoke the exquisite lines with a delicious intonation of feeling,
and the Philosopher nodded his head to and fro with the rhythm of the
blank verse like a Chinese mandarin.

“Very good!” he said. “I notice you are fond of declamation. You should
study for the stage.”

A flush swept over her features,--she was indignant, but refrained from
any outward expression of her thoughts.

“Thank you!” she said, curtly.

The Philosopher felt that he had somehow stumbled into a mistake. His
remark was evidently not of a kind that was pleasing to the
Sentimentalist. But, like all self-centred, self-opiniated men, he went
a little further into the quagmire.

“My remark was meant as a compliment,” he explained, laboriously.
“Actresses are the only really successful women nowadays. They are
petted and praised and their touched-up glorified portraits are in all
the weekly journals--”

“Do you call _that_ success?” she interrupted him, in coolly
contemptuous tones. “Or even simple womanliness?”

He laughed quite pleasantly.

“You really are a very quaint child!” he said. “Simple womanliness! All
that sort of thing went out with the second half of the reign of
Victoria. I was going to say it is as extinct as the Dodo,--but that has
been said before--to give it a smack of originality, let me assure you
it is as extinct as Benson’s Dodo.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said, still coldly. “You are too
clever for me.”

He took her hand and patted it condescendingly.

“Let us leave it at that!” he said. “We’ll go and look at the roses! And
the bees! ‘How doth the little busy bee’! You know the verse? And do you
also know it is a much more familiar ‘poem’ to the public than the
‘Paradise Lost’? You _do_ know that? Good! Then you are a sensible girl!
And we can wait for the newspapers to fall into cackles of contradictory
rumour before we believe in the war,--and for Mr. and Mrs. Montagu to
come forward as a married couple before we believe in love!”

He smiled,--for a Philosopher he had quite an attractive smile,--and now
and then he had a curious passing tenderness of manner that never failed
to make an impression on the hearts of credulous and sympathetic women.
The Sentimentalist began to think she had judged him rather hastily and
hardly,--he read her thoughts in the wistful expression of her upturned
blue eyes, and straightway responded by adopting for himself a quietly
resigned and patient air. She grew more and more self-reproachful,--he
more and more bland and condescending, and by the time they had reached
the rose-walk she was in the position of a charming penitent, though she
had committed no fault; and he had assumed the kindly manner of a father
confessor who had just granted absolution. He pulled his black and
corroded pipe from his pocket.

“I may smoke?” he queried, half coaxingly.

She nodded,--and yet she could not help wondering why he wanted to smoke
just as they reached the lovely trellis work of roses that clambered and
twined, and hung down their graceful heads laden with delicious perfume.
The moment the fumes of tobacco were puffed into the air, all the
sweetness of the exquisite blossoms would be spoilt; but she made no
protest, and stood silently watching him at his old trick of prodding
the “Navy-cut” into the bowl of his briar with the usual yellow finger.
And she did not conceal from herself that it was an ugly performance. In
due time and after some fidgeting, the pipe was lit, and the natural
sweet incense of the roses was smothered by the smoke which the
Philosopher emitted like a human chimney. He had the habit of opening
his mouth in a studied round O, in order to make “rings” of smoke in the
air as he puffed away,--it was not a habit that became him, but he was
fortunately not aware of the satyr-like aspect he presented while
engaged in what he considered artistry in smoking.

“Now,” he said, comfortably, after having successfully accomplished
several “rings,”--“let’s talk! What does your father say of this
morning’s news?”

“Dad! Oh, he isn’t at all surprised. He says it is what we all ought to
have seen coming years ago, and that the country should have been
prepared.”

“Oh, most sagacious Dad! Why isn’t he Prime Minister! Of course we
knew!--of course every body knew!” And the Philosopher gave a short,
grunting laugh. “Especially a good old gentleman living in the country
and passing his time between dictionaries and cucumber-frames! If he
_didn’t_ know, who should? ‘Who dies if England lives!’ By the way what
a piece of utter nonsense _that_ is! The world would get on very well
without England!”

She gave a little cry.

“Oh, how can you say so! And you an Englishman!”

“Dear child, my nationality is a mere accident of birth. I might just as
well have been a kangaroo! Chance gave me English parents--and I’m not
ungrateful to chance. But simply because I’m an Englishman, born in
England, I’m not such a fool as to suppose my country the only
respectable one in the world.”

“It’s the greatest, the noblest, the most glorious!” she said, her
breast heaving and her eyes flashing. “I would die for it to-morrow if I
were a man!”

He smiled.

“What’s the good of dying for it?” he queried. “Much better to live for
it, and do useful work for it! Surely you agree? Suppose you--or I--or
any one--dies for it--you or I or that ‘any one’ must become absolutely
useless,--a mere lump of dead matter, burnt or buried and forgotten in a
week! What does England gain by that? Dear child, do be reasonable!
England is a charming country, and if any of us who are alive to-day can
assist in adding to its charm by either our talents or our
personalities, so much the better. But to die for it!--just think, by
way of example, how much grace your presence gives to this garden!--a
presence which, if removed, it would be difficult to replace!”

His eyes twinkled humorously,--and she hardly knew whether to be
flattered or annoyed.

“If the news of the coming war be true,” she said, “many presences will
be removed, never to be replaced.”

“True!” he replied. “Unquestionably true! But the removal of a
considerable majority of useless persons is not so much a loss as a gain
to the world. I speak from the logical and philosophic standpoint. I do
not suppose the world at large is very much the worse for the
destruction of Pompeii, for example. It does not appear that any one of
particular note or service in the city had enough of high or singular
reputation to make his loss a lasting memorial of fame. See here!” and
taking her gently by the arm he stopped at an ant-hill raised in the
grass path along which they strolled. “There’s a busy world! Look at the
little brown citizens scampering here and there on the chief business of
life, eating and breeding! Now for an eruption of Vesuvius!”--and he
struck a fusee from a small box he carried, and flung it alight on the
ant-hill. “What a scrimmage! What heroic deaths! Look well!--” and, as
she stooped, watching the insect tragedy with keen interest and
pity,--“You occupy for the moment the position of a fair goddess
uplifted above the tortures of a race of beings with whom you have no
concern. You can see three or four brave warriors endeavouring to drag
the fusee out of the vortex in which it burns,--Horatius keeping the
bridge was never more heroic than they! They go to certain death--those
that perish are instantly replaced by others equally brave. Well!” and
he smiled as she raised her beautiful, blue, limpid eyes to his in
questioning wonder--“You look as though you asked for a meaning--it is
simply that my fusee was as an eruption of Vesuvius to this particular
ant-Pompeii,--and if, as the newspapers say, there is going to be a war
with Germany you may take it that God, or Fate, or whatever you choose
to call Natural Law, is merely flinging a fusee into an ant-hill.”

“Then you think human beings no more valuable than ants?” she demanded,
half angrily.

“Less valuable sometimes,” he responded placidly. “When they are greasy
multi-millionaires I give the preference to respectable ants. Every one
has different tastes of course--but personally, speaking for myself
alone, I would rather be an ant than a millionaire grocer.”

She laughed,--she found him thoroughly amusing,--and--yes!--he was
certainly cleverer and more entertaining than Jack! He watched her,
admiring with an artist’s eye the flecks of gold hair against the
whiteness of her neck. He took one or two puffs at his pipe.

“I like to hear you laugh!” he said. “You do it prettily!”

She gave him a quaint little curtsey.

“Thanks!”

“It’s not a compliment,” he went on, “so thanks are superfluous. You are
at your best in a pleasant humour. You have a charming smile and a
fascinating manner--when you are good! But when you are put out, you
look quite different--and you lose your charm.”

“That is the case with everybody,” she said.

“Not always. Some women look their best in a passion. Flashing eyes,
dishevelled hair, and general tantrums, make them diabolically
beautiful. But you, with your dove-like glance and soft bright hair are
of the elfin type--and I believe--if fairy tales are true!--that elves
are never angry.”

She looked at him and smiled. He was in his kindliest, most attractive
mood, and when he allowed himself the relaxation of perfect good temper,
he could be almost lovable.

“Elves,” he repeated, “are never angry. They are full of pranks and
wiles, but they are never unkind to their friends--”

“I am not unkind!” she interrupted quickly.

“Dear child, I never said you were! But your incorrigible sentiment
makes you hasty in judgment--quick to condemn. I’m quite sure you think
me a sort of masked traitor because I fail to see any virtue in dying
for England, and prefer to live for her. I’m equally positive you have
your doubts as to my sense of common humanity because I say and because
I mean that a very large number of people would be better out of the
world than in it. And so you misunderstand me. Your Jack now--”

“He’s not ‘my’ Jack,” she interposed, swiftly.

“Well, he’d like to be,” retorted the Philosopher. “And of course he’d
‘die’ for England--no!--for ‘America and the Old Glory!’--Delightful
bunkum! He’s all nobleness, patriotism, enthusiasm and heart! A nice
boy--_quite_ a nice boy,--but insufferably dull!”

She was silent.

“Dulness,” pursued the Philosopher, “is the only unforgivable sin. Now
you cannot say _I_ am dull!”

She peeped at him from under the brim of her hat,--an answer was on her
lips, but she would not utter it.

“I amuse you,” he went on. “I make you laugh! That is a great thing!
Isn’t it?”

She nodded, smilingly.

“I have,” went on the Philosopher, complacently, “an original turn of
mind. I say things in an original manner. People quote my remarks as
being new and funny. It’s a great help in social life to have a man
among your friends who may be relied upon to speak in a way which no one
else can imitate. It ‘lifts’ conversation. Don’t you agree with me?”

Her eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Well, I’m not sure!” she said. “There are some clever men who can be
duller than very stupid ones,--though of course they always think
themselves amusing. They tell the same stories over and over again--the
same old jokes and witticisms,--and it is very difficult to listen to,
them patiently and smile as if you were pleased, when really you’re
bored!”

He nodded his head.

“True!--very true! I have met many such men. I always avoid them when I
can. But the _moral_ of the whole thing is that one should know as few
people as possible and never keep up with those few longer than a month
or six weeks.”

She gave him an astonished look.

“Why, then we should have no friends!” she exclaimed.

He smiled indulgently.

“Have we any friends anyhow?” he asked. “What _are_ ‘friends’? Are they
not dear sweet people who abuse you behind your back and take an inward
deep pleasure in hearing of your faults and misfortunes? The friends of
your youth for example? I’m not speaking personally of _you_, for you
are still young--but if you have any so-called ‘friends’ now, and they
and you live a few years longer, you’ll have these dear creatures coming
along and saying, ‘Really, is it you? I shouldn’t have known you! Why
it’s years and years since I saw you!--ages!’--despite the fact that it
may be only five summers since you last met. But the expression ‘years
and years’ and ‘ages’ is used to let you feel how old you have grown
since then; _I_ know the kind of thing I tell you! And I have always
made it my business to forget schoolfellows and college
companions,--drop them altogether. I don’t want their ‘reminiscences’
and I’m sure they don’t want mine. The secret of happiness in this world
is to forget as you go along. Forget the past, live in the present, and
don’t worry about the future.”

She was silent. And she kept silence so long that he had time to finish
his pipe, knock out its ashes against a tree, and put it in his pocket.
Then he looked sideways at her, and saw that the winsome face was sad.
Without ceremony he took her arm, and walked on past all the roses to a
smooth stretch of greensward beyond.

“You see,” he resumed gently, “we are only on this interesting planet
for a short time, and it seems common sense--to me at least--that we
should endeavour to make that time as pleasant as possible. If we hold
on to friends who knew us as children we find them as changed as we
ourselves are changed, and that _isn’t_ pleasant. Therefore, why expose
ourselves to the shock? No greater mistake was ever made by the human
being--than to keep up his so-called ‘friends.’ It costs money and
wastes time--”

She lifted her head quickly.

“Then if you think love a mistake and friendship a bore, can you tell
what life is worth?” she asked.

“Dear elfin lady, I can! Life is worth living on account of the various
agreeable sensations it provides. It is all ‘sensation’--_not_
sentiment! Love is a ‘sensation’--a violent one--an attraction between
two persons of opposite sex which is quite exhilarating and
inspiring--for a short time. During that short time it has been known to
move poets to their best efforts--though as a rule these individuals
write their rhymes to the ‘sensation’--not to the person they imagine
they adore. Friendship is also a ‘sensation,’--the feeling that one had
found one’s ‘sympathy’--one’s _alter ego_--a most misleading idea as a
rule. But any ‘sensation’ is for the moment agreeable, provided it is
not physically painful--and these varying sensations are the _sum bonum_
of life.”

She sighed.

“I do not like your outlook,” she said. “It makes everything seem so
contemptible and worthless.”

He gave an airy gesture with his disengaged hand.

“What would you! Everything is contemptible and worthless, considered
from the strictly philosophical standpoint. Civilisations, like men, are
only born to die and be forgotten,--we trouble ourselves uselessly in
efforts to keep them alive after their appointed span. Certain races
attain to a high state of education and then begin to degenerate and
hark back to the old roots of savagery--”

“And what do you argue from all this?” she demanded.

“Why, that we should enjoy the present hour as I am doing,” he replied,
smiling agreeably. “And repel the symptoms of degeneracy in ourselves
and others as forcibly as we can!”

She sighed again, and pausing, withdrew her arm from his.

“Poor, pretty, elfin lady!” he said kindly. “You do not like my way of
looking at the world!”

“No! Most certainly not!” she answered, quickly. “If one _thought_ the
things you _say_, one would commit suicide!”

“Oh, no, one wouldn’t!” and he smiled. “Not as long as”--here he looked
about him--“not as long as a butterfly exists!”--and he pointed to one
just settling on a spray of clematis--“or a pretty woman!”

She moved on without a word, and he felt for his pipe in his pocket. She
looked back over her shoulder.

“I am going indoors,” she called. “Do you want anything before I go?”

He took a couple of leisurely strides and came up again beside her.

“No--I have my ‘notes’ and a pencil--simple things, but they suffice!
And you can leave me the newspaper--its news is false, its English
detestable and its self-advertisement appalling--like all the rest of
its class--but a printed Ananias always amuses me--I only regret it does
not fall dead like its mythical prototype!”

She had been holding the newspaper in one hand--she now gave it him with
a little wistful upward glance that somehow hurt him and made him feel
uncomfortable. He realised that his ‘philosophy’ had cast a yellow fog
on the sunny brightness of her day. He took her hand, looked at its
dimpled whiteness critically and then gravely kissed it.

“Cheer up!” he said. “It’s a nice little world--and--you’ve got a pretty
little hand! It makes life worth living--or it ought to!--for you. And
also for me.”

She laughed softly.

“Oh, how absurd you are!” she said. “I don’t think you mean half you
say!”

“Probably not!” he answered, mildly. “It is a very abstruse problem for
a man to find out exactly what he means. I doubt if any man has ever
done it--not even old Socrates. And I’m not Socrates--”

“No, indeed!” she interrupted him. “You are--you are--”

“Diogenes?” he suggested.

She laughed again, nodded and ran off.



CHAPTER VI


The ensuing weeks proved to the Philosopher beyond a doubt that so far
as the war news was concerned it was not “twaddle.” Needless to
recapitulate all the cruel and terrible happenings which are burned deep
into the nation’s brain, and graven ineffaceably on the recording stone
of History,--and the details of such lives lived like that of the
Philosopher, out of the reach of the enemy’s fire, hardly deserve to be
chronicled at all save for the curious fact that despite “battle, murder
and sudden death” these lives go on more or less placidly, unmoved by
good or ill report of what does not immediately concern themselves. Like
the old farmer pictured in “Punch” whose wife warned a visitor not to
speak of the war, “Cos ’e don’t bleeve there ain’t no war,” so the
Philosopher pursued the even tenor of his way, spending more and longer
time in the country, especially after “raids” began to affect London’s
social equanimity. He plunged deeper and deeper into labyrinths of
forgotten languages, delving for the “root” of this word and the
“branches” of that,--and taking care to delight his host (who daily
became more gouty and irritable) with the patience of his research and
the “flattering unction” he applied to the self-satisfaction of the good
old gentleman, who firmly believed that his great work--“The
Deterioriation of Language Invariably Perceived as a Precursor to the
Decadence of Civilisation” was destined to reform the world. His pet
theory was that if the language of a people could be preserved in
pristine purity and elegance of speech, without the introduction of
slang or flippant abbreviations, it would go a long way to check
degeneration and decay. There was no doubt something in it;--as the
Philosopher once sagely remarked, “there is always something in
everything,”--but it was a something not likely to appeal to the average
understanding. Anyway he was happy in his old age, pursuing a fox of a
word through the brushwood of centuries with hounds of argument, urged
on by the Philosopher,--and as long as they two could sit turning over
dictionaries and comparing notes, they paid little heed to the Great War
raging across Channel except as an echo of distant thunder. With the
pretty Sentimentalist it was different. She busied herself with a
thousand things. Punctiliously careful of her father’s household, and
attentive to all his wishes and caprices, she nevertheless found time to
help all sorts of “war charities,”--and as soon as she heard of a V.A.D.
hospital being started in the neighbourhood she offered her services for
so many hours each day,--services which were readily accepted. The
“Commandant,” a sour, stern, old, county lady with more wrinkles than
hairs, set her to do the dirtiest and most repulsive sort of work, for
several cogent reasons--first, because she was pretty,--secondly,
because her hands were white and well-kept, and as the “county” dame
remarked, with an impressive sniff to herself, “Do her good to get them
roughened a bit”--and thirdly, because she was a sensitive creature, and
ugly sights and smells made her sick. But she was quite docile and
obedient, and did all she was told to do with a patient sweetness which
might have softened any heart but that of the V.A.D. “commandant” whose
life-organ had apparently become tanned and hardened into a species of
human leather. She never told her father or his friend the Philosopher
anything about her hospital duties,--nor did they in their complete
self-absorption notice that she looked frail and tired in the evenings.

“Women _must_ have something to do,” said the Philosopher, comfortably.
“And it amuses them to go fussing over wounded men and putting bandages
on broken heads and limbs--it _saves_ them,--_saves_ them, I do assure
you! That V.A.D. hospital is a perfect godsend to the women of this
neighbourhood--gives them a fresh interest in life and stops their
horrible “bridge” for a time. To wipe the fevered manly brow and comb
the manly hair gives them a thrill of delightful excitement--it’s
something new; and the plainest old spectacled harridan that ever lived
likes to be called ‘Sister’ by a smart boy of twenty. Yes! the V.A.D. is
a boon and a blessing!--it serves a double purpose: sick-nursing and
matrimony. The blacksmith’s anvil at Gretna Green is not in it with a
bed in a convalescent ward, and a good-looking ‘sister’ about.”

His gouty host grumbled assent--the Sentimentalist listened without
comment. When the Philosopher talked in this sort of way she always
felt herself removed very far from him,--she realised, with a little
sense of pain that he and she had nothing in common. She had an
appreciation of what she imagined to be his “cleverness,” but she also
had a keen consciousness that he merely tolerated what he considered her
stupidity under the guise of “sentiment.”

One day on her way back from her work at the V.A.D. she met Jack. She
had not seen him for some time, and had lately wondered what kept him so
long away, but the moment she saw him she knew. He was in khaki,--and
very smart and well set up he looked. Yet there was an expression in his
handsome young face that altered it somehow--and her heart beat a little
more quickly as she held out her hand to him with a pleased utterance of
his name:

“Jack!”

He smiled tenderly into her uplifted eyes.

“Yes, it’s me!” he said. “I’ve joined up. I had to. I couldn’t rest day
or night till I did.”

“But--but you are an American!” she exclaimed.

“Yes. But I’m a man too, I hope! I couldn’t see all the brave blood of
Britain starting to kill the Hun Dragon without wanting to be a bit of
St. George myself. And America will be in the tussle presently. That’s
what I’ve told the old man--my father--and though I’m his only hopeful
(or hopeless!) he lets me go. I meant to see you somehow before
training. But I never get you alone for five minutes in the house.
Let’s have a stroll by the river.”

She turned, and walked slowly beside him, through a swing gate and along
a little side path just wide enough for two, which meandered across a
wide field to the water’s edge. It was full autumn--indeed verging on
winter,--the trees were almost leafless and a chill wind blew through
their branches. The river, so full of charm in the sunshine, had a dull
glassy glare of cold grey on its surface and a tiny shiver ran through
the veins of the Sentimentalist as she looked around her at the
dreariness of the landscape which had been so fair and sunshiny in the
spring.

“I hear you’ve been working at the V.A.D.,” he said, then, “Don’t you
tire yourself! I won’t have it!”

She smiled, but the tears were very near her eyes.

“Won’t you?”

“No, I won’t,” he repeated, emphatically. “Where’s that old Philosopher
of yours?”

“Oh, he’s at home, working at the dictionaries with Dad, as usual. He
likes being here--you see it’s not very nice in London just now.”

“It’s never nice in _my_ opinion,” replied Jack. “But if you mean
air-raids and that sort of thing I rather like them! I think it’s what
London wants. I shouldn’t mind if the whole place were bombed to
smithereens!”

“Jack!”

He laughed at her horrified tone.

“Dear little ‘rose-lady,’ you mustn’t be cross with me! You don’t know
London--I _do_! It’s a regular muck-heap--wants clearing badly. And
cleared it will have to be before this war finishes. If it hadn’t been
for muck-heap London, and muck-heap Berlin and other big cities like
them, full of filth we should have had no war, at all. That’s so!”

He spoke with a kind of repressed passion--she looked up at him
wonderingly and timidly. He met her sweet eyes, and his stern young face
relaxed.

“Yes, dear!” he said. “It’s wickedness that has brought the war on
us--wickedness in men, wickedness in women. The Supreme Being is tired
of looking at the muck-heaps. He wants a clean world. And we’ve all got
to help Him clean it!--with our blood and our lives!”

Timidly she put out her hand and touched his. He caught it and held it
in a warm, kind grasp.

“I shan’t be sent out to France yet,” he went on. “I’ve got to be
drilled into shape. And I mean to see you as often as I can before I go.
Do you mind?”

“Mind? Why, of course not! I shall want to see _you_ as much as you want
to see _me_!”

Jack smiled.

“Oh, no, you won’t!” he said. “Though it’s nice of you to say it. But
you _can’t_ really!--because you see I’m in love with you, and you’re
_not_ in love with me!”

She drooped her head.

“I’m not in love with any one,” she murmured. “I don’t know how it is--”

“_I_ know!” and Jack nodded his head sagaciously: “You can’t make up
your mind as to whether a man’s company for life would be possible of
endurance! I don’t blame you for the doubt--not a bit! But, if you _are_
hesitating I can tell you you’d have a cheerier time of it with me than
with your crusty old Philosopher!”

She laughed.

“Oh, Jack! I never think of the Philosopher _that_ way! I wouldn’t marry
him for all the world!”

“Well, that’s a comfort,” and Jack drew a long breath of relief. “That’s
a real balm in Gilead! But he’ll want to marry _you_, you take my word
for it! And when I’m gone he’ll have a clear field!”

She raised her eyes rather reproachfully.

“Then you don’t believe me’?”

“Yes, I do--of course I do!” and Jack pressed hard the little hand he
held. “But I’ve got a bit of imagination, fool though I am! I see a
thousand possibilities--your Dad may die--and then you’ll be all
alone--and Mr. Philosopher will step in to ‘protect and console the only
child of his dear dead friend!’--ugh!--I can hear him saying it!--and I
shall be the Lord knows where!--and you--you are such a dainty little
‘rose-lady’ with such docile, obedient ways--”

She flashed a sudden look at him.

“You don’t know me well enough!” she said. “I’ve got a will of my own!”

“Have you?” and Jack smiled indulgently. “Well! I hope you have! And
that you’ll say ‘No’ very firmly when Mr. Philosopher comes round after
you and your fortune--there!--don’t look so surprised!--I heard him say
he knew your father would leave you a big fortune!”

“Me?” and the astonishment was openly genuine. “Oh, Jack, you must be
dreaming! Dad isn’t rich at all--he always tells me he has the greatest
difficulty to make both ends meet!”

Jack laughed joyously.

“Jolly old dodger!” he said, irreverently. “But never mind! I daresay
he’s right!--he’s like _my_ father who swears he’s obliged to live down
here in the country with one manservant to look after him in his fishing
cottage by the river, because he can’t afford to live anywhere else! And
yet I’ve heard--but after all it’s only silly rumour.”

“What is?” she enquired.

“Why, I’ve heard he’s as rich as Crœsus--but I’m sure it can’t be true,
for ever since my mother died when I was a little chap of ten, we’ve
always been pretty hard up.”

“But you went to college?” she said. “And you travelled abroad with a
‘crack’ tutor?”

“Oh, yes!--all that! Nothing grudged so far as my training has gone. But
no superfluous cash about. And now I shan’t want anything from anybody
once I’m in the Army. I shall be clothed and fed and have my pay for
pocket-money! Jolly! Don’t you congratulate me?”

She looked full at him, frankly and sweetly.

“Yes, I _do_ congratulate you!” she said. “I congratulate you on the
right spirit you show, to voluntarily offer yourself to fight in the
great Cause! Personally I hate the very thought of War,--it seems to me
criminal, barbarous and a kind of God’s curse on the world--but if the
battle is for good then all good men should join in it. I shall miss you
dreadfully--”

She broke off--and a soft dew filled her pretty eyes. Jack saw,--and his
heart gave a quick bound. He raised the little hand that rested so
contentedly in his own and kissed it with the utmost tenderness.

“That’s enough for me!” he said. “‘I fear no foe in shining armour!’ But
do take care of yourself! Don’t muck about with the V.A.D. Hospital
under the orders of that virulent old dowager who has made herself
‘commandant’! If you _must_ do that sort of thing, why not train for a
real Army nurse?”

“I must not leave Dad,” she said simply. “He has only me.”

“And the Philosopher!” added Jack. “And the Deterioration of Language
Invariably Perceived!”

They both laughed merrily, and the conversation became lighter and more
playful. Before they parted the Sentimentalist had given him her promise
that she would not become engaged to any one without giving Jack fair
warning of his impending doom. And that in the meantime she would write
to him once a week wherever he might happen to be, and would think of
him often and kindly.

“And when you say your prayers,” he pleaded, gently, “don’t leave me
out!”

“Why, Jack! Of course not!”

He looked meditative.

“I know a fat Scotchwoman,” he said, “who makes it a rule to put people
into her prayers when they please _her_, and to take them out again when
they don’t! Her husband was taken ill at a friend’s house and couldn’t
be moved, and the friend nursed him tenderly, sent for a specialist and
paid him fifty guineas out of her own pocket, besides spending no end of
money on invalid food and luxuries,--and after the husband was cured and
returned home, this same fat Scotchwoman had a slight difference with
this very same loyal and devoted friend and promptly left her name out
of her prayers! There’s heavenly thoughts for you! _I_ always think she
got up a grudge because her husband was cured! He was a gruff old
customer, and rather a drawback to ‘home, sweet home.’ But that’s a true
story!”

“Let’s hope it’s an exceptional one!” and she smiled. “No ‘slight
difference’ could make me leave _you_ out of my prayers!”

“Bless you, dear little rose-lady!” he said, fervently. “These are not
King Arthur times or I should ask you for a glove or a ribbon to wear in
my ‘helmet’ though it’s only a khaki cap--but--”

“Will you have this?” and unfastening a small brooch in the shape of a
heart, where it held a chain in place round her neck, she gave it to
him. “It’s quite small--you can tuck it in under the band and no one
will ever see it--”

He was almost speechless with delight. Taking the little gold trifle he
at once fastened it in his cap, secretly and securely.

“My ‘mascot’!” he said, triumphantly. “It will mean--ah!--you don’t know
what it will mean to me! Everything in life!”

“Sentimental Jack!” and she smiled. “The Philosopher calls _me_
‘sentimental’--but you are more so than I!”

“Never mind what the Philosopher calls you,” responded Jack. “Just think
for a moment if you please of what _I_ call you--the dearest, sweetest
‘rose’ lady in the world!”

A lovely colour suffused her fair face--a true “rose” blush,--but she
passed over the endearing compliment with a light gesture of dissent,
and as they had unconsciously walked further along the bank of the river
than they had at first intended, they turned and retraced their steps
back to the open road. Here they shook hands and parted.

“You’ll hear from me very soon!” said Jack as he went, and he lifted his
cap and waved it in light adieu.

She watched his agile figure swinging along till it disappeared,--then
walking rather slowly herself, entered her own home in thoughtful mood.
On the threshold she met the Philosopher. His face wore a grim and
saturnine expression.

“Well!” and the exclamation sounded something like a snort. “Have you
done playing with wounded soldiers for to-day?”

She looked him full in the eyes.

“Yes,” she replied. He was rather taken aback. He had not expected so
simple an affirmative. She moved on to pass him by.

“Wait a moment,” he said. “Do you think you are really useful at that
V.A.D. place?”

“I try to be,” she answered. “None of us can do very much in cases of
great suffering, but every little helps.”

“Delightful platitudes!” and the Philosopher gave another snort.
“Personally, I think you are much more useful at home. Your father is
not very well this afternoon and has been asking for you. I left him on
the sofa in the library. He seems very irritable. I’m going for a walk.”

He strolled off, pausing a moment or two to light his pipe, and she
hurried to the library where she found her father on the sofa as the
Philosopher had said, in a state of highly nervous irritation brought on
by the gout.

“Where have you been?” he wailed, as he saw her. “Down at that d--d
hospital again? God bless my soul, what sort of a daughter are you to
neglect your poor old father for those miserable Tommies! All
ne’er-do-wells I’ll swear!--they would have been ‘on the road’ picking
and stealing and up to all sorts of mischief if they hadn’t gone into
the Army! And now you must dance attendance on them as if they were your
own flesh and blood--” Here he broke off with a sharp cry, wrung from
him by a twinge in his gouty toe.

“Poor Dad, I didn’t know you weren’t feeling well,” she said, tenderly.
“If I had I wouldn’t have gone--you know I wouldn’t! But there’s
nothing to be done for the gout, dear, is there?--you must rest--and
have the medicine the doctor ordered--”

“I don’t know where it is,” he growled. “The bottle has been carefully
put where it can’t be found!”

She smiled, with a gently breathed, “Oh, no, it hasn’t!” and opening a
cupboard by the fireplace, produced the desired palliative. He watched
her pour the measured dose into a wine-glass, and took it with a
puckered face like a naughty child.

“Horrid stuff!” he said, peevishly. “How do your Tommies take their
medicine?”

She laughed.

“_Quite_ nicely!--like good little boys!” she answered. “And they are
_so_ cheerful and patient! Some of the very bad cases are the most
enduring. Oh!--if you could only see one poor fellow--”

“I don’t want to see him!” growled her father. “And I don’t want to hear
about him! I’m worried out of my life by stories of these ‘poor fellows’
who make the ‘supreme sacrifice’ for their country,--hang it all! the
‘supreme sacrifice’ has got to be made by all of us some day anyhow--and
the men who make it before their naturally allotted span would no doubt
have wasted their lives in idleness and drink!”

Her eyes filled with a gentle reproach.

“Oh, dear Dad!--you talk like the Philosopher! Don’t get as callous as
he is!”

“He’s not callous,” snapped out the old gentleman. “And you’re a silly
little flibbertigibbet! Callous indeed! Why he’s full of feeling! He’s
not sentimental--and a good job too!--but he’s reasonable and--and
kind.”

“If he’s kind to _you_, that’s enough!” she said, smiling. “But I don’t
think he pays much attention to the war, and he never realises the awful
sufferings of the men who are fighting for us--”

“Why should he? God bless my soul! Why should a learned and brilliant
scholar bother to ‘realise’ what these fighting fools are about? He’s
got something else to do--”

“The Dictionary!” she hinted, smiling.

“Well, that’s one thing certainly. And I tell you what--ah!--you
may look surprised!--but if my ideas were carried out, and
language--language, I say!--preserved in refined forms, and no newspaper
slang allowed, there would be _no_ wars!--there _couldn’t_ be!”

The smile was still on her lips.

“Dear Dad, I daresay you are quite right!” she said. “But I’m afraid
it’s too late now to preserve what is lost. Elegant speech and graceful
manners are very rare.”

“Glad you know it!” and her father made another grimace as his burning
toe asserted its existence afresh. “You’ll appreciate my work when you
see it!”

“I’m sure I shall!” She hesitated,--then added irrelevantly:

“Jack has joined up.”

“Best thing he could do! He was always idling about, with no aim in life
as far as I could see--one of those stupid young men who want licking
into shape!”

She made no reply. Moving quietly about the room she put things tidy and
stirred the fire into a more cheerful blaze--then, seeing her father had
closed his eyes in preparation for a doze she slipped away. In the outer
hall she met the parlour-maid,--generally a trim, tidy little body, but
now with roughened hair and swollen eyes, crying bitterly.

“Why, Annie! What’s the matter?”

The girl gave a great sob.

“My only brother, miss--he’s killed!”

Killed! The word sounded butcher-like.

“Killed! How awful! Oh, you poor girl! I’m so sorry for you!”

Annie turned away her face and went, still weeping,--comfort there is
none in sudden bereavement, and to offer it is only intrusive. The
gentle little Sentimentalist felt this to the very core of her
responsive soul,--and her usually light step was slow and sad as she
entered her own special little sitting-room and looked out on the smooth
lawn and the flower-beds encircling it, brilliant just now with
goldenrod, dahlias, dwarf sunflowers and other glories of autumnal
bloom.

“I’m not in love with him a bit!” she murmured to the silence. “But ...
yes!--I’m sure I should almost break my heart if Jack were killed!”



CHAPTER VII


Winter closed in with a drizzling damp atmosphere far more trying to
both body and mind than frost and snow, and though the country in
November is seldom exhilarating except to fox-hunters and others whose
physical activities keep them always “on the go”--the Philosopher found
it more agreeable to spend his time in a comfortable old manor house
which was kept warm and cosy, than to wander between a London flat and
his club in a daily routine walk through the same streets at more or
less the same hour. So that when his host urged him to stay “a week or
two longer” he was not loth to accept the extended invitation; and if
any twinge of shame pricked his conscience at the barefaced manner in
which he allowed himself to be lodged and fed at other folks’ expense,
he salved it with the inward assurance that after all was said and done,
the old gentleman was gouty and ailing and that a companion of his own
sex was a good thing for him.

“And I am a unique person,” he said to himself. “I have humour and
originality--both qualities are worth more than gold. I make no charge
for my jokes--I ask no fee for being amusing, though I really ought to
do so. In the dulness created by average brains I am a kind of luminary;
and if I stay on here--avoiding the November fogs in London--I give as
much as I take--in fact more,--for if they feed _me_ materially I feed
_them_ intellectually!”

Truth to tell the Philosopher was pre-eminently known as what is called
a “sponge.” From his boyhood up he had always been paid for by other
people. Why this was so no one could tell. But so it was. He was not a
bread-winner. He had written a few books--books that resembled ancient
Brazil nuts, very hard to open, and very dried-up inside--books that he
wrote entirely for his own satisfaction, though for nobody else’s
pleasure. Naturally the books did not sell,--but according to his view
and that of many other unsuccessful dabblers in literature, that only
proved their brilliancy and excellence. The oft-quoted and worn-out
phrase, “The public is a hass,” expressed his opinion of that great
majority whose approval every man of note, whether in literature or
politics, is eager to win while openly denying its value,--and on one
occasion when an old college friend remarked:

“Nobody knows you ever wrote anything and nobody cares!” he accepted the
crushing statement with a bland smile and nod of acquiescence.

“Do I expect any one to know or to care?” he demanded. “Do I ask for the
undiscriminating applause of the vulgar? Do I write stories about silly
young women who fall in love with their guardians, and then when they
are married, elope with actors and stable-men? Do I take up the rag
remains of the ‘sex question’ and tear it into fresh shreds? No! Then
how is it possible the man or woman ‘in the street’ should appreciate
_me_? As well ask them to appreciate the Elgin marbles or the Parthenon!
I assure you I am perfectly satisfied to be as I am--unknown and uncared
for.”

The college friend looked sceptical.

“Then what’s the use of writing anything?” he asked. “And when you come
to that, what’s the use of living?”

“Really, my dear fellow, you are very simple!” said the Philosopher.
“Pathetically so! There is of course _no_ use in living. But, unhappily,
we have no choice in the matter. We are born,--without our own specific
consent--and we die--in the same attitude of non-volition. Apparently we
come into life for the purpose of propagating our kind--to no special
end. Those who decline to propagate human units are considered
ridiculous--even if they propagate thoughts,--through literature,
painting or music,--the world does not want literature, music or
painting so much as it wants squalling, guzzling babies who will grow up
into squalling, guzzling men and women--most of them having no aim in
life except to squall and guzzle. I have chosen a path for myself out of
the squall and guzzle track--I live my own life of studious
contemplation, and though I fully recognise its uselessness in common
with the general futility of things, I manage to endure existence
comfortably.”

His friend looked at him,--and was about to say, “At other people’s
expense!” but checked the remark in time.

“You don’t--er--you don’t--er seem to care about any one?” he hinted,
hesitatingly.

The Philosopher elevated his grizzled eyebrows ironically.

“Care?” he echoed. “Care about any one?... Surely a cryptic utterance!”

“I mean”--pursued the other man--“you’ve no woman--”

“Woman!” The Philosopher laughed. “My good fellow, what do you take me
for! Woman? Women? As well ask me if I keep midges for amusement! No,
no! I’ve ‘no woman’ as you rather clumsily put it--I _might_ marry--it
is possible--”

“Oh, really? You might?”

“Money--and good looks together might persuade me,” resumed the
Philosopher judiciously. “But I should endeavor to make myself very sure
that my own special manners and customs would not be interfered with by
the procedure. The first aim of life--considering its farcical
ineptitude--should be personal comfort,--anything that interfered with
that should be rigorously avoided.”

The friend went his way, lost in amazement at what he styled “the old
chap’s d--d selfishness”--but the Philosopher smoked a pipe enjoyingly,
convinced that his theories were beyond all refutation or argument, and
that so far from being selfish he was one of the most virtuous and
magnanimous of men. Encased in a hide of hardened egoism, tougher and
more leathery than that of rhinoceros or elephant, he was unable to
perceive any faults of character in himself though he was keen to mark
and to satirize the smallest flaw in the conduct of other people.

While he lingered on in the country, “sponging” on his host, he took it
into his head to assume a benevolence and kindness towards his host’s
daughter, which, in her rather solitary way of life, greatly appealed to
her over-sensitive nature. He could be an attractive personality when he
chose,--he had an agreeable voice, a pleasant smile, and a coaxing
manner,--and when all three were “in play” together, it was difficult
not to be deceived into thinking him an exceptionally charming man.
There was no doubt of his intellectuality; he was eminent in knowledge
of a varied kind,--he had read widely and he was a good _raconteur_. Yet
one got to the end of his stories in time, and he was apt to repeat them
too often. He had known and still knew many “famous” people,--both in
literary and political circles, and he could tell many amusing incidents
in connection with them,--yet even of these incidents one got tired
after hearing them for the twentieth time. What took the savour out of
them was that he always rounded them up by some unkind reflection as to
the stupidity of that person, the dulness of t’other, for in his whole
list of acquaintance there certainly was not one who came off unscathed
by his sarcasm or his ridicule.

The Sentimentalist thought of this often, and argued, sensibly enough,
that what he said of any one man or woman he was likely to say of any
other, so that a certain sense of uneasiness began to undermine all her
talks with him. With a touch of self-humiliation she felt she was “not
clever enough” to converse with him in the style he approved. As a
matter of fact, she was _too_ clever,--because she had that sure
feminine instinct which discovers insincerity before it positively
declares itself. And gradually, very gradually, she withdrew the
frankness of her nature, curling it up as it were like the leaves of the
“sensitive plant” at his touch,--and he, slow to perceive this
repulsion, or rather, too self-complacent to think such repulsion was
possible, became more and more patronising and “superior,” treating her
for the most part as a pleasing but foolish child, easily swayed by
passing emotions, and therefore capable of being “caught” by even the
simulation of affection if the “counterfeiting” were well done.

“And so”--said he, one chilly afternoon when a bitter east wind blew
suggestions of snow through the air--“your Jack is in khaki?”

She was sewing busily, and looked up from her work with eyes that
flashed warningly.

“He is not ‘my’ Jack,” she replied, coldly. “I have told you that
before.”

“Well, he is somebody’s Jack,” persisted the Philosopher, stretching out
his legs comfortably before the fire. “I suppose you’ll agree to that.
May I warm my feet?”

Without waiting for an answer he drew up his chair close to the fender,
and slipping off his shoes, extended his woollen-socked feet towards the
blaze. This sort of self-coddling was one of his “little ways”--those
“little ways” of blunt familiarity which distinguish the truly “great”
who make free with their friends’ houses. She glanced at him with just
the smallest quiver of contempt on the usually sweet lines of her mouth,
and went on sewing.

“This is a kind of domestic bliss!” he said, airily. “If you ever marry,
your husband will warm his feet like this!”

She was silent.

“But I really don’t think,” he went on, “that marriage would suit you. I
doubt if you would keep a husband six months!”

She stopped the flash of her needle through her work.

“I should not ‘keep’ a husband six days!” she said, quietly. “I should
expect him to keep himself!--and me!”

“So like a woman to twist a meaning out of what was never meant!”
retorted the Philosopher. “Your mind, being feminine, at once seizes on
the wrong view of the subject. My suggestion was that, being full of
sentiment, you would expect sentiment in a husband. You would not find
it--you would be disappointed,--or ‘wounded’--I think ‘wounded’ is the
favourite expression women use in regard to their feelings,--you would
consider him a brute, and he would consider you a bore--and it would be
all over!”

She nodded, resuming her sewing.

“Yes,” she agreed. “It would be all over.”

Her swift acquiescence irritated him.

“I’m glad you have the sense to see it--” he began, in a raspy voice.

“Why, of course!” she interrupted him, with a light laugh. “If I
considered him a brute and he considered me a bore, we should have
nothing in common, and we should separate and go our different ways.”

“Oh, that’s how you’d settle it!” and the Philosopher gave a dubious
grunt. “But, if you had a husband, he would be your master, and any
arrangement of that kind would have to be made to suit _him_, and not
_you_!”

“Yes?” and the pretty uplift of her eyebrows emphasized the question.
“Thank goodness I haven’t a husband yet!--and if your ideas of marriage
are likely to be true I hope I never shall have one!”

“You see,” said the Philosopher, folding his arms and hugging himself
comfortably, “you are a little person who cannot bear to be
contradicted, and a husband would probably contradict you twenty or
fifty times a day. His opinions would always differ from yours. The
man’s point of view is entirely the reverse of the woman’s. A man’s idea
of love--” He paused.

“It is difficult to explain, isn’t it?” she queried, sweetly. “I’m
afraid you couldn’t put it nicely!”

“Put it nicely?” he echoed. “What do you mean? Put it nicely?”

“Well, I’m afraid I couldn’t put it nicely myself,” she said, demurely,
“because--you see--sometimes a man’s idea of love isn’t nice!”

He unfolded his arms and stared at her.

“_Isn’t_ nice!” he repeated. “What is it then? Nasty?”

She laughed.

“Perhaps! Anyway it’s nearly always selfish!”

“Oh, that’s the way you look at it, is it? And is not woman’s idea of
love quite as selfish?”

“I think not,” she answered, quietly. “Women have to give all,--men are
free to take all.”

He was, for the moment, silent. It dawned upon him that the
Sentimentalist was not “a Plum,”--a Plum to fall into his mouth with a
bang. She might be ripe,--but she was not ready. With elaborate slowness
he withdrew his socked feet from the fender and slipped them into his
ungainly shoes.

“Very well,--it comes to this,” he said, resignedly, “Women are always
right, and men always wrong--in a woman’s opinion. As I have already
remarked, you cannot bear to be contradicted.”

She looked at him with eyes dancing merrily like sparkles of light.

“Oh--h-h!” and she held up a small reproachful finger. “Who is
contradicting anybody? There’s nothing to contradict! We were having
just a little friendly argument which started on your last piece of
rudeness.”

“Rudeness?” he exclaimed. “When and how have I been rude?”

“Don’t you think it was very rude to say that you doubted whether I
would keep a husband six months?”

“Nothing rude about it,” he declared, airily. “It was a frank
statement.”

“Suppose I made a ‘frank statement’ about _you_?” she suggested. “Do you
think you would care to hear it?”

“It depends entirely on the nature of the statement,” he replied. “I
should decline to listen to anything incorrect.”

Her light laugh rang out sweetly.

“Anything incorrect means anything against your own ideas,” she said. “I
see! Well, I won’t be as ‘rude’ as to make any statement at all about
you, to your face! One should never be personal.”

She resumed her sewing, and he walked slowly to the window, looked out
at the leafless branches of the trees swaying in the wind, and then
walked as slowly back again.

“I suppose you do think of getting married some day?” he queried.

“Oh, dear me! Haven’t I just said one should never be personal?” she
rejoined, smiling. “No,--I can’t say I have ever thought about it!”

He bent his eyes down upon her.

“‘Gather ye roses while ye may,’” he quoted sententiously. “‘Old Time is
still a-flying!’”

“Is a husband a rose?” she asked, merrily.

He wrinkled his fuzzy brows.

“Well, perhaps not altogether. He might be the useful cabbage or potato
in the soup. In any case for a woman, a man’s protection is necessary.”

“But does he protect? Doesn’t he often desert?”

“In the annals of the gutter press he does,--I grant you that. Life,
however, is something more than cheap sensationalism.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that!” and she raised her eyes, blue as blue
cornflowers, full of a lovely earnestness. “Life is such a beautiful,
holy thing!--and one feels such a desire to make it always more
beautiful and more holy!”

The Philosopher got up one of his ugly noisy coughs. The Sentimentalist
was becoming transcendental. He felt he must bring her down from the
rainbow empyrean.

“There’s nothing beautiful or holy about it,” he grunted. “Life is
life--two and two are four. A man is a man; a brute is a brute. Nature
cannot be altered. If a woman’s unlucky enough to marry a brute instead
of a man, she gets brutal treatment. Quite her own fault!--she should
have known better!”

“But how is one to find out the difference between a man and a brute?”
asked the Sentimentalist with an innocent air of enquiry.

He smiled--almost he laughed.

“Not bad!” he said. “I give you that! Not bad at all--for a woman!”

He walked up and down the room again, and finally resorting to his pipe,
lit it.

“All the same,” he presently resumed, “even if your powers of perception
failed to discern the brute in the man or the man in the brute, you
ought to marry.”

“Really! You think so?” And she looked up from her sewing with a little
mutinous air.

“Certainly I think so. An unmarried woman is a target for
scandal--unless she is very old and very plain--and even then she
doesn’t always escape. You,--having a fair amount of good looks, should
marry quickly.”

Her face brightened with sudden dimples of mirth.

“Perhaps I might,--if I could find any one rich enough to suit me,” she
said.

“Rich enough!” The Philosopher was taken aback. It had never occurred to
him that she, like himself, might have a fancy for the luxuries of life.

“Rich enough!” he echoed. “Surely you have no mercenary taint?--no
hankering after the flesh-pots of Egypt?”

She laughed, and made a little dab at him in the air with her needle.

“I’m not so sure!” she answered, gaily. “I like comfort and warmth, and
flowers and pretty furniture--and frocks--and jewels--oh!--how shocked
you look!”

“I look as I feel,” said the Philosopher, puffing slowly at his pipe. “I
thought you altogether different,--of a finer mould than the merely
frivolous woman--”

“Now! How can you say that?” she demanded. “When only the other day you
told me that I had a new hat on, and ought to be perfectly happy in
consequence!”

He looked sheepish for a moment, but soon recovered his assertiveness.

“True!--and quite unconsciously I hit upon a fact,” he said. “For now,
by your own admission, your tastes lead you in the direction of mere
frippery. Frocks! Jewels! Good heavens! Two frocks a year--a simple
brooch of unadorned gold, and a couple of plain hats, suffice for any
reasonable woman whose thoughts are trained and fixed--” he paused--then
repeated, “whose thoughts are trained and fixed--” He paused again.

“Yes?” she queried. “Whose thoughts are trained and fixed?--on what?”

“On the simple ideals of life,” he said. “On domestic economies--the
chemistry of the kitchen--the various useful arts by which a woman can
make herself indispensable to man--”

“_I_ know!” And she had such a dancing sparkle of mirth and mischief in
her blue eyes that he could not meet her glances. “The chief art of all
is to give him a good dinner! Sometimes--not always--that is why a man
gets married--that he may have a cook-housekeeper on the premises!” She
laughed merrily,--the Philosopher surveyed her with a kind of ironic
compassion.

“You think that funny!” he observed. “But it isn’t! Your worldly wisdom
is by no means profound--”

“Of course it isn’t!” she agreed. “It’s shallow--shallow as
a running brook!--but quite pleasant! I should hate to be
profound,--and--stagnant! And if I ever _do_ get married, I shall try to
marry a rich man, who would be kind to me and take pleasure in giving me
all sorts of lovely things--and I should not be mercenary, only I should
like _him_ to do things for _me_, and not want me to wait upon _him_! I
think it such a pity that our men always expect to be attended to first!
Americans are _quite_ different!--they always look after women in such
a courteous, friendly way! After all, kindness is the true chivalry.”

He dropped lazily into an armchair and began his favourite pastime of
puffing smoke-rings into the air, with the usual ugly distortions of
face which accompanied that effort.

“You are quite eloquent!” he observed, sardonically. “I notice you have
a special predilection for Americans. Why, I can’t imagine! Perhaps you
are looking out for an American millionaire?”

She nodded her fair little head mischievously.

“Perhaps!” she replied.

The Philosopher made a particularly hideous O of his unbeautiful mouth
at that moment, as he discharged a well-nigh perfect smoke-ring from its
cavity.

“The noble and high-minded Jack scarcely answers to your requirements,”
he said.

“No, poor fellow!” and she smiled. “I believe he has always been more or
less hard up. His father put him into some great engineering works, but
of course he had to pay to be taken at all--_he_ was not paid. But he
learned everything he could. Now he’s quite pleased he’s joined the
Army--you see he’s paid _there_!--and has his food and clothes as
well--so he’s happy and satisfied.”

“Fortunate youth!” said the Philosopher, yawning. “And doubly fortunate
to have secured so much interest in his doings as you bestow upon him!”

She was silent.

The Philosopher continued making smoke-rings and she wished he would
leave off. It was unreasonable of her to feel irritated with him, and
yet she could not help it. He, on his part, was conscious of having come
up against an obstacle in his mental plans of conquest,--a soft
obstacle, something like a sand-bag in the path of a bullet. On that
particular winter afternoon he had purposed “making a dash for it” as he
had said to himself, and risking an attempt at love-making. He had
thought of various ways of doing it, more or less approved. It was a
cold, bleak day--a day that was enough to make gentle ladies shiver and
draw near the fire,--if she had drawn near, he would have essayed--yes,
he thought he would have essayed slipping an arm round her waist as he
had done on that occasion when he had pricked or (as he would have
expressed it), “lacerated” his hand among the rose-bushes, and she had
“kissed the place and made it well.” Yes, she had actually done _that_!
And now, little by little, a curious, imperceptible shadow had arisen
like a dividing wall, so that she appeared to be on one side and he on
the other, and he felt by a strange, almost sullen instinct that were he
to “lacerate” his hand ever so severely, he would not be favoured by the
light, soft touch of those rosy lips again. Now, what mood possessed
her, he wondered? What fantastic feminine vagary had made her thus
capricious? Wrapped in a thick hide of intellectual egotism the
Philosopher could not see that he was in any sense to blame.

Had any one ventured to tell him that his ingrained selfishness and
utter indifference to the feelings of any other human entity than his
own, had profoundly affected the Sentimentalist and moved her to
reluctant aversion, tempered with pity, he would have been virtuously
indignant. For he had his own peculiar methods of estimating his own
conduct.

“I! I, selfish!” he would have exclaimed. “I, who am always trying to
amuse and please everybody! I give up my own wishes constantly in order
to suit other people! I am a perpetual entertainment to my friends when
they are too dull-witted to entertain themselves! I am really one of the
most unselfish and good-natured of men! I never ‘bore’ anybody!”

And he would have argued that to stay on week after week in an extremely
comfortable country house with all his food provided, was really a
magnanimous condescension on his part, inasmuch as he was assisting a
very irritable old gentleman to pursue literary work which interested
him, and at the same time impressing by his various qualifications a
very romantic and idealistic little lady who, unfortunately for herself,
had an idea that all clever men must be worth knowing.

Yes,--when he had “lacerated” his hand among the roses, her manner
towards him had been charmingly different from what it was now. She was
then still under the glamour and delusion of his reported renown as a
learned and brilliant personality. She looked at him with timid
interest; she listened to him with a pretty reverence. But now her blue
eyes studied him with a critical coolness,--and though she still
listened to his talk, she was not, as before, earnestly attentive.
Nothing seemed so impossible as to put his arm round her waist
_now_,--and yet that was exactly what he had hoped to do on this
winter’s afternoon by the fire. He took refuge in a few banalities.
Heaving a deep sigh, he said suddenly:

“You are not as kind to me as you used to be! In fact you are cold!”

She smiled.

“It _is_ cold!” she answered.

Here was a sort of five-barred gate, over which the ambling mule of the
Philosopher’s philosophy could not easily jump. He thought a moment.

“Have I been so unfortunate as to displease you?” he asked, in his
gentlest tone.

She was quite startled at the question and her sewing dropped from her
hands.

“Displease me? Oh, no!--pray do not think such a thing! I am so sorry if
I give you such an idea--you must not imagine--”

He watched her as he would have watched a butterfly writhing on a pin.

“I do not imagine,” he said. “Imagination is a kind of hysteria. I
_know_ there is something on your mind against me. Surely I may know
what it is?”

She hesitated a moment,--then raised her eyes, blue and steady in their
wistful, half-tender expression.

“It is nothing against you,” she said, quietly. “It is only sorrow that
you who have lived so long and seen so much, and studied such deep and
clever things, should be so hard and unfeeling for poor humanity. You
show such indifference to the sufferings of the men in this terrible
war--you never seem to consider the heart-break and agony of the women
left at home--the mothers, the wives, the sweethearts--and so--you
see”--she paused, with a slight tremble in her voice--“I am
disappointed, because when I heard you were considered a very great man
in your own line of learning, I thought you would probably be great in
other things as well.”

He looked at her in a kind of quizzical amusement.

“Dear child, that does not follow by any means!” he said. “Most
unfortunately for yourself you are an idealist, which means that you put
your own mind’s colour on a world’s common grey canvas. When the colour
comes off and the dull grey is seen, you are disappointed, and you feel
you will not try putting on the same tint again. I’m afraid your life
will be a repetition of this tiresome experience! And I’m sorry--yes,
very sorry, you have attempted to idealise _me_, for I couldn’t live up
to it!”

He rose from his chair and stood with his back to the fire, pipe in
hand.

“You find me indifferent to the war,” he went on. “I am. I freely
confess it. The war is a result of arrogance and stupidity--two human
defects for which I have unbounded contempt. The war also exhibits in
the most glaring manner the sheep-like tendency of men--they follow
where they are led without seeking to know the reason why. If every male
creature in every country flatly refused to be a soldier, tyrants and
governments would be at a loss for material wherewith to fall upon each
other--they could not coerce a whole world that had once made up its
mind. It is because there is no strength of will in the blind majority
that war is allowed still to exist--and you are right--I have no
sympathy with it. To me the ‘roll of honour’ is all bunkum!--and I have
no patience with people who smirk their thanks for a medal from the king
in exchange for the life of a slaughtered man. Pooh! Talk of the car of
the Juggernaut! The _abbatoir_ in Flanders is a thousand times worse,
because we are supposed to be a civilised, not a savage, people, though
to my notion we are more savage than the primal men who broke each
other’s skulls with stone hatchets. I can see no improvement--we are the
same old blood-thirsty, greedy race!”

He spoke with a fervour that was almost eloquence, and knocking the
ashes of his pipe out, he placed it on the mantel-shelf. Then bending
his eyes on the Sentimentalist, he smiled.

“There! Now you know!” he said. “I _am_ perfectly indifferent to the
war. I don’t care how many fools kill each other! I haven’t the least
sympathy with men who go to have themselves hacked about and disfigured
for life, or blown into atoms by shells. They would have shown much
better sense by treating the members of their stupid Governments to the
same sort of fate.”

“But”--and here the Sentimentalist plucked up courage to speak--“if we
did not fight, Germany would dominate the world!”

“And why didn’t we see that before?” he demanded. “Germany _was_
dominating the world in every corner of trade--‘peaceful penetration’ as
it was called,--and if the stagey Kaiser hadn’t jumped up like a
jack-in-the-box, under the demented notion that he was a new sort of
Charlemagne she _would_ have dominated it. And we should have gone on in
our comfortable idleness and luxury, getting lazier and lazier, and
allowing Germany to do everything for us, because it’s so much trouble
to do anything for ourselves--except--play tennis and football!”

She looked at him with a flash of indignation.

“Then what a good thing for us that we’ve been shaken up out of our
‘laze’!” she said.

“Perhaps--and perhaps not,” rejoined the Philosopher. “I never accept
things as ‘good’ till they prove not to be entirely bad.”

“And with all these pessimistic ideas of yours, are you happy?” she
asked.

“Entirely so!” And the Philosopher smiled. “Much happier than you are,
my dear child! For you expect so much from everybody and
everything!--and I expect--nothing! So I am never disappointed. You
_are_!”

“Yes, I _am_!” she agreed, and her sweet mouth trembled. “I am very
greatly disappointed!”

“And you always will be!” he said, pleasantly. Then reaching for his
pipe, he filled it. “The wind seems to have abated a little--I’ll go for
a walk before dinner.”

He paused an instant, wondering if he should say anything else?--a word
of tenderness?--or endearment? No, he thought not! An arm round the
waist was out of the question. He could whistle rather well, so prodding
his pipe, he lighted it, and whistled ‘Home they brought her warrior
dead,’ to which lively accompaniment he walked out of the room.

She sprang up when he had gone, indignantly conscious that tears were in
her eyes.

“I think--I really do think I hate him!” she said to the silence. “And I
used to be almost fond of him! Oh, he makes all life a blank for me!
There seems nothing worth doing, nothing worth living for!” She paced up
and down the room. “Sneer,--sneer!--nothing but sneer! And he’s supposed
to be so clever! Oh, I’d rather be _human_!--twenty times rather! And
yet--when he first came to stay with Dad he seemed so charming and
kindly! I thought he would be such a splendid friend to have!--but I
don’t believe he cares a rap for anybody but himself!”

In this she was perfectly right. But nothing is so difficult to a
Sentimentalist as to believe in the existence of an incurable Egotist.



CHAPTER VIII


Two or three days later Jack called to say good-bye.

“I’m off to France this week,” he explained, “and I shan’t have another
chance. I wanted to see you once more before--before crossing Channel.”

The Sentimentalist was in her own little morning-room busy with the
week’s household accounts. She pushed aside all the tradesmen’s books
and bills, and rose from her chair.

“Oh, Jack!” she said half whisperingly, and again, “Oh, Jack!” Then
suddenly: “Let us go out in the garden! We can’t talk here!”

She took up her hat which had been lying on a table near her, and threw
a fleecy wool scarf over her shoulders. It was a brilliant day, despite
the wintry season, and a few red leaves still clinging to the trees made
flashes of colour against the clear grey-blue of the sky.

“How’s Dad?” Jack asked, with a show of interest. “And ‘The
Deterioration of Language Invariably Perceived’?”

She laughed rather tremulously. “Oh, just the same! Dad is not very
well, I’m afraid. He says the war worries him so.”

“Worries him? Oh, by Jove! What has _he_ got to worry about?”

“Nothing, really! But that’s just why he worries!”

They were now in the leafless rosery, walking side by side under
intertwined boughs of thorns. Jack gave a quick comprehensive glance
around him.

“Looks rather different to what it did in summer,” he said.

The fair woman at his side looked up quickly.

“Ah, yes!” she murmured. “Everything is changed!”

“No, it isn’t!” he replied briskly. “_You’re_ not changed--and _I’m_ not
changed! You’ve got a touch of the ‘blues,’ dear little lady! It’s that
old V.A.D. commandant, I bet!”

“Oh, no! No, indeed; I don’t mind her snappy ways a bit! The wounded
boys make up to me for all her tantrums!”

“I should hope they did!” said Jack, approvingly. “I say! If I get
wounded I’ll try and get sent here, and you’ll nurse me!”

She smiled, but there was a rising of tears in her throat and she could
not speak. Jack saw just how she felt, and bravely repressed his own
emotion.

“You won’t mind seeing my father now and then?” he went on. “He said the
other day that he would take it kindly if you’d look in at the cottage
sometimes--”

“I will, certainly!” she interrupted, eagerly. “But is he really going
to stay down here all winter?”

“I think so! He’s a queer old chap and likes his own way of living,” and
Jack smiled. “But his heart’s in the right place! He said the other
day, ‘I’d rather feed the robins here, than dine at the Savoy!’ That’s
him all over!”

“Is he--is he sorry you’re going?” she asked.

“If he is, he doesn’t show it!” Here the young fellow laughed cheerily.
“Oh, he’s game, I can tell you! He told me he was giving me away like a
pound of tea!--thoughts running on the American war of independence, I
suppose!”

He laughed again, but she was very silent and serious. They had left the
rosery, now the thornery, and were walking in a thick little coppice of
fir-trees, where occasional gleams of the near river shone through. On a
sudden impulse he stopped, and taking her face between his two hands
turned it up to him.

“Dear little ‘rose-lady,’” he said, huskily, “say ‘God bless you, Jack!’
before I go!”

“Oh, I _do_ say it!” she answered, sobbingly. “I do say it, and I pray
it every night and morning! Jack, dear, believe me I do!”

Somehow or other he had his arms round her,--he had none of the
Philosopher’s doubts or hesitations,--and he drew her fondly to him.

“You dear!” he whispered. “But I won’t have you cry! No tears!--or
you’ll make a real coward of me! And just now I want to be a hero--for I
think, I really do think you care for me,--just a little!”

She was silent, but she put the tiniest little flutter of a kiss on the
hand that was nearest to her lips. He thrilled to that caress with all
the warm ardour of a Romeo, and releasing her from his hold, drew
himself up with an air of joy and pride.

“Now I’m worth twice what I was a minute ago!” he said. “And if I were a
sneak, I should ask you to engage yourself to me straight away! But I
won’t. You shall not be bound to a man who may be marked down by a Boche
sniper before the month is out. No, dear! But you know I love you!--and
you know I want to marry you!--when the war is over!”

“And you’ll wait till then?” she asked, suddenly with the prettiest air
of pique and wonder.

He looked at her, and his heart beat quickly.

“I’ll try to!” he answered. “Unless you tempt me too far!”

Some further development of this situation might have occurred had not
the sudden apparition of a misshaped “Homburg” hat and weedy-looking
overcoat startled them away several paces from each other.

“Don’t let me intrude!”--and the Philosopher, slowly approaching, spoke
in the mildest and most mellifluous of accents--“I have been taking a
stroll by the river,--and you--dear me, yes!--it _is_ you!” Here he
surveyed Jack with a kind of quizzical tolerance--“I should hardly have
known you in khaki had I met you by chance anywhere else!”

“I daresay not!” replied Jack airily. “It makes a fellow so much
better-looking.”

The Philosopher smiled.

“You think so? Ah! Well,--possibly our ideas do not coincide. I cannot
admit that mud-colour is becoming to any face or figure. And when are
you off?”

“This week.” The reply was brief and blunt.

The Philosopher nodded blandly.

“So soon? And no doubt you are full of pleasurable anticipation? When
one is young and has nothing very important to do, the idea of killing
Germans must be more thrilling than an invitation to a grouse moor!”

The Sentimentalist looked pained and vexed--she was about to speak, but
a glance from Jack silenced her.

“Quite so!” he agreed, amicably. “I’d rather kill Germans than grouse
any day!”

“I envy you your humane ideas!” said the Philosopher, smiling. “Allow me
to wish you a safe journey to France and all the excitement you want
when you get there! It’s a great thing to be a defender of the Empire--a
_ve-ry_ great thing!--for those who consider the Empire worth defending!
To a scholar and student of history, all empires are alike,--one is no
worse and no better than the other, and the well-balanced man would as
soon fight for Germany as Britain. Both are arrogant powers,--and it
entirely depends on which sort of arrogance one prefers--military or
commercial. But I forgot!--you are not British--you are American! Being
so, I rather wonder you should fight at all!”

“It _is_ curious, isn’t it!” and Jack treated him to a broad smile and a
glance which took in the battered “Homburg” hat, the weedy coat, and the
large boots of the learned man. “But--it amuses me!”

Something in the flash of the young man’s eyes--a lightning gleam of
boldness and mirth--struck with an unusual force through the leathery
consciousness of the Philosopher and made him feel uncomfortable just
for a moment. He knew well enough what this voluntary soldier was
prepared to meet,--the roar of guns, the crash of shells, the flying
bombs, each instrument carrying death where it fell--and the light
dismissal of danger in the phrase “It amuses me”--did for a brief
interval move the student of many books to a sense of reluctant
admiration as well as regret that he, too, was not young enough to fling
a defiance at the hurling blows of the enemy. But, as a matter of fact,
he had never been truly “young”--for even as a boy his utter
self-absorption had set him apart from his fellows. At college, his
aloofness had gained him many a “ragging,” though certain dry-as-dust
professors thought they foresaw the ripening of “genius” in his
unnatural self-satisfaction,--a mistake of course, and not the first by
any means that dry-as-dust professors have made in their estimation of
their students. There was not a touch of “genius” in him,--there was
only a very great ability, chiefly shown in the absorption of other
people’s ideas. Just now he took a couple of minutes to recover from the
slight rap Jack had unconsciously given to his carefully balanced
mentality--then he said, suavely and graciously--

“It is fortunate for the country that it can find young men who are
willing to be ‘amused’ by fighting for a cause which is not their own,”
and a small, grim smile furrowed his features. “In fact, I consider the
war a positive godsend to the youth of both sexes--a godsend, I tell
you! It makes a clearance of the useless under the name of ‘patriotism’
and it gives the idle--especially idle women--something to do.”

“Do you know any idle women?” Jack asked. “I’ve never met one.”

The Philosopher glared at him.

“Never met one?” he echoed, ironically. “Good heavens, where have you
lived? Idle women swarm in every town and village--positively swarm--”

“No, they don’t,” interrupted Jack brusquely. “I’d just like you, sir,
to do one day of a woman’s house-work!--you would not have much time for
thought! Rich or poor she’s on the go and the grind all
through!--especially if she has a husband and children to look after.
And if not,--why, my spinster aunt out in California hasn’t an idle
moment!”

“Wonderful!” and the Philosopher looked like a fluffy owl in the rain
with its head on one side. “What does she--the spinster aunt--do, for
example?”

Jack laughed, happily.

“What does she _not_ do!” he exclaimed. “She makes all the preserves and
sweets--mends the stockings--works in the garden--nurses sick
neighbours--looks after orphan children--but there!--you wouldn’t be
interested!”

“No, I’m afraid not!” and the Philosopher shook his head, gravely.
“Preserves and sweets _do_ appeal to me--but I prefer them manufactured
rather than home produced,--and as for the rest of her energies, I
think they might be better employed. However, we will not argue! I take
off my hat to you”--here he suited the action to the word--“as a
remarkable young man who has never met an idle woman! And I hope you
will have all the amusement you expect in France!”

He made a kind of salute which comprehensively included the
Sentimentalist as well as Jack and paced slowly on his way. Not till he
was well out of hearing did Jack give vent to his feelings. He caught
the little hand of the “rose-lady” conveniently near his own and give it
an ardent squeeze.

“Promise me!” he said. “You _have_ promised me;--but promise me again
that you will not marry that cynical, selfish, mocking, old brute! He
hasn’t an ounce of real feeling in his composition!”

She smiled rather sadly.

“Dear Jack, I shall not marry anybody!” she answered. “Certainly not
this ‘clever’ man! I’m afraid you’re right--he has no feeling--only the
other day he heard of the death of one of his oldest friends and all he
said was, ‘Dear me! I shall miss him rather when I want a game at
bowls!’”

“Don’t say you won’t marry anybody,” said Jack, “because, please heaven,
you’ll marry _me_! Won’t you? But there!--I won’t bind you!”

She said nothing; only her blue eyes had wells of sweetness in them in
which a poet might ask love to drown. He held her hand a little
closer--and drew himself up straightly with a resolute air.

“I must go now,” he said. “Good-bye, dear! I won’t bother you to think
of me or write to me--or any trouble of that sort--”

“Oh, Jack! It won’t be a trouble!”

“It might be!” and he set his lips hard. “The only thing I _do_ ask is
that you go and see my old Dad sometimes and let him come to see you.
He’ll have all my news--field service post cards and everything--”

He paused. The winsome face of the Sentimentalist was uplifted--her lips
were parted and tremulous--there were tears on her golden-brown lashes.
In a reckless moment, not thinking of anything but carried away by the
emotion of his soul, he caught her to his heart and kissed her once,
twice, thrice, passionately.

“Forgive me!” he whispered. “I can’t help it! God bless you, dear!
Good-bye!”

He turned with almost lightning suddenness, plunged through the
brushwood by the river and disappeared.

“Jack!” she called, plaintively.

There was no answer. He had gone. She stood for a moment,--pained,
bewildered, and yet thrilled by the fervour of that lover’s kiss,--the
first she had ever known. How abruptly he had left her!--it was perhaps
the best way--and yet,--would she ever see him again. The tears welled
up suddenly and fell down her cheeks.

“Oh, Jack!” she murmured, brokenly. “It _is_ hard! You need not go
really!--it is your own choice!--and I--I am so lonely!”



CHAPTER IX


That same evening the Philosopher took it into his head to be uncommonly
disagreeable and ill-mannered. He found fault with everything, even with
his dinner (which he had neither provided nor paid for) and he was
judicially severe on his host for allowing himself to be “done,” as he
put it, by his tradesmen.

“Call this mutton!” he said, viciously chopping at the meat on his
plate. “It’s leather!--and old leather too! No wonder you’ve got the
gout!--you’re eating gout now! You’ve got a cook, I suppose, and she
ought to be ashamed of herself for taking such mutton into the
house--she doesn’t know her business--”

The Sentimentalist interrupted him. Her cheeks were flushed with
indignation and embarrassment.

“I am the one to blame,” she said, coldly. “I am alone responsible for
the housekeeping. One cannot always command perfection. But please do
not irritate Dad--he is easily upset--”

“Upset? I should think so!” snorted the Philosopher. “He’s got to pay
for this beastly mutton!”

For one flashing second the blue eyes of his hostess swept over him in a
glance of immeasurable scorn. Then she rose from table and left the
room. Outside the door she met the parlourmaid.

“Well, I never, Miss!” observed that young woman. “If your Pa were in
his ’e’lth he ought to order that old curmudgeon out of the house! Call
_’im_ a friend! The cheek of ’im!”

The Sentimentalist could not answer. As mistress of the house she
smarted under the rudeness this “clever” man had inflicted upon her at
her own table. If the mutton was tough, she felt that he considered the
fault to be hers, though she, poor little woman, was neither the butcher
nor the cook. Moreover, the bad manners displayed in finding fault with
the food provided at a hospitable board on which he had “sponged” for
weeks together, proved, to her regret that though he might be a
distinguished University “light of learning,” he was not a gentleman.
This reflection calmed the hurry of her nerves--she re-entered the
dining-room and resumed her place, ignoring the quizzical and enquiring
look of the Philosopher as she did so.

“What did you go out of the room like that for?” grumbled her father.
“Anything important?”

She smiled.

“Yes--important to me. I had an order to give.”

“Oh! Couldn’t you have given it here?”

“No.”

Silence followed.

The Philosopher became aware that she was “queening” it. He tried to
start a subject of conversation--but his efforts fell flat. She neither
looked at him nor seemed to hear him. He therefore addressed himself
solely to his host, who replied somewhat disjointedly to his remarks.
Both men were made distinctly uncomfortable by the quiet air of
sovereign indifference maintained in the attitude and expression of the
charming mistress of the house, and though he was as adamant in his own
egoism the Philosopher for once wished he had controlled his emotions
concerning tough mutton.

Dessert and coffee served, the Sentimentalist left the “gentlemen” to
themselves, and, retiring to her own room began to think, and to wonder
how long the Philosopher like another “Old Man of the Sea” purposed
riding on the back of her little household.

“It seems very hard!” she mused. “I can’t imagine why Dad finds him so
necessary!--or why that awful book should be compiled at all!”

Then she looked back to the time when the Philosopher had been first
invited to come and stay--how ardently she had looked forward to meeting
this “clever” man,--how she had pictured the charming and intellectual
talks they might have together,--what a friend he would be to
“Dad”--such a brilliant, learned and--yes!--surely kind-hearted man! For
the Sentimentalist had a very erroneous notion fixed in her little
head,--and this was that men who were rich in knowledge must be likewise
rich in heart; because having learnt many things they would be sure to
have wise tolerance and pity for the mistakes and follies of the
ignorant,--so she thought. She was wrong of course--and she had to
discover the sad fact that many so-called “great” men are amazingly
small of character and petty in disposition. She blushed for very shame
now as she remembered that she had _almost_--not quite!--but almost
imagined herself growing attached to the Philosopher--“Yes!” she said
to her own soul, indignantly--“I actually did come near loving him for a
day or two!--when he was nice--and he _can_ be nice when he likes!--and
of course I _felt_ he was trying to make love to me!--and I thought it
such an _honour_! But, oh!”--here she gave herself a little
shake--“_What_ an awful, awful husband he would make!--what tempers he
would have!--and what nasty sarcastical things he would say if he felt
like saying them! He wouldn’t care how he hurt one!--no, not he! He
_likes_ to hurt people--positively _enjoys_ it!”

She gave herself another little shake,--then murmured irrelevantly,--

“Poor Jack!”

A sigh escaped her, and she went on talking to herself.

“Poor Jack! He’s not clever--no!--he often says the stupidest
things!--but--ah!--he wouldn’t hurt any one for all the world! I
think--yes, I’m sure!--I’d rather have a kind husband than a clever
one!”

She lost herself in meditation for a while. All at once she heard a tap
at her door.

“Come in!” she said.

And the Philosopher made his appearance.

“Where’s my pipe?” he asked.

Amazed at his cool effrontery she looked at him, hardly knowing whether
to laugh, or to order him out of the room.

“Come, come!” he went on testily. “You know where everything is in the
house and if anything is mislaid you can generally find it. I’ve lost
my pipe--it’s not in my coat pocket and I _don’t_ think I left it on the
seat by the river this afternoon--I _might_ have done so--”

“Perhaps you had better go and look,” she said, frigidly. “I believe
there’s a moon.”

“Or I can take a lantern,” he replied. “But do you mean to say you
haven’t seen it?”

“I certainly have _not_!”

“You are generally so kind!” he mumbled, in querulous tones. “Whenever
you see it lying about you put it where I can find it--”

“But I haven’t seen it lying about this time,” she said. “You had better
ask the servants.”

He stood on the threshold peering into the room.

“You have a nice little bower here,” he remarked, condescendingly. “Is
this where you play at housekeeping and settle domestic quarrels?”

She made no answer.

“I see you are on your high horse!” he went on. “A tall and stalking
quadruped! Can’t I assist you to alight?”

“I don’t know what you mean!” she said, looking full at him. “Please
explain!”

“You know very well what I mean,” he proceeded affably. “You resent my
recent observations on tough mutton for dinner. And you have mounted
your high horse accordingly.”

She bit her lips to avoid laughing. He was so absolute, so obstinate in
his own view of every incident, however trifling!

“I admit,” he went on, “that I was not polite. I might have expressed
myself less bluntly. I also admit that I was conscious of considerable
irritation. I--I apologise!”

She made a slight deprecating movement of her hand.

“Please say nothing more about it!” and her voice though soft, was very
cold in tone. “I wish to forget the incident.”

He leaned against the doorpost in a drooping and dejected attitude.

“But you accept my apology?”

“Oh, certainly!”

There was a pause.

“I wish,” he then said, mournfully, “I wish I could find my pipe!”

The mirthful side of her disposition was touched, and she laughed,--a
bright little laugh like that of a happy child. The Philosopher
straightened himself.

“That’s right!” he said, approvingly. “I like to hear you laugh! So much
better than prancing on your high horse!”

She laughed again.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” she exclaimed. “For such a learned man, you are
really very funny!”

“I hope so!” he answered. “Though ‘funny’ is scarcely the
word--‘amusing’ would be more accurate. Learned men _ought_ to be
amusing; if they are not so they are invariably dull. Now I am never
dull. My worst enemy could not accuse me of dulness,--if I had a wife
she would find me an amusing husband.”

“Really!”

The Sentimentalist’s blue eyes were still twinkling with merriment.

“Yes,--really. And that is a great thing--for husbands, like wives, too
often become monotonous. I wish”--here his voice sank again to
plaintiveness--“I do wish I could find my pipe! Your father wants a game
of billiards--”

“Where did you last have the pipe?” and the Sentimentalist rose from her
chair and prepared to leave the room on a search for the mislaid
“briar,” which was what the Philosopher wanted. “Have you looked in the
pocket of your overcoat?”

“No,” here the Philosopher laid a detaining hand on her arm; “but I
remember I had the overcoat on this morning when I met you and that
young man in khaki. And you are not on your high horse any more?”

She drew herself gently away.

“No.”

She went towards the billiard-room. He followed slowly, with a sense
that he had been worsted somehow in a mutual clashing of tempers, but in
what way he could not quite determine. But she was not a “plum” to be
easily gathered.

The most casual glance here and there sufficed to locate the missing
pipe; it was on a table in the hall. One might have imagined that the
Philosopher had purposely left it there. When it was handed to him he
accepted it dubiously as though it had belonged to somebody else. He
prodded the ash in its bowl with his little finger and looked at the
Sentimentalist.

“You’re coming, aren’t you?” he queried.

“Into the billiard-room? I think not,” she replied. “The game doesn’t
interest me.”

“A pity it doesn’t,” he retorted. “Sureness of eye, skill of
hand,--these are things a woman should learn.”

“No doubt!” and with this brief response she moved away.

The Philosopher, still prodding his pipe, ruminated. It would never
do!--he said within himself--_she_ would never do! As a wife she would
be “impossible.” It never occurred to him to think that as a husband he
might equally be “impossible.” And yet--she was really very attractive!
And she would have money:--and the comfortable old manor house would be
hers. He pictured himself settled for life--waited upon by a charming
woman, warming his feet by the great log-fire, with nothing to do but
write an occasional ponderous essay or article for one of the heavy
reviews, just to keep up the press-clique reputation he had managed to
obtain through his club acquaintances.

“I’ll try if I can make a dash for it,” he thought. “Give her one or two
days to get over the departure of that fool of a young man Jack--and
then I’ll see what can be done.”

He strolled into the billiard-room where his host was impatiently
awaiting him, and very soon the monotonous click-clack of the billiard
balls was the only sound that disturbed the silence.

Some mornings later a little old gentleman in a brown frieze suit called
to see the Sentimentalist, who welcomed him with a frank delight to
which he was not commonly accustomed.

“It’s because I’m Jack’s father!” he said, inwardly, with a chuckle--and
he was right. Jack’s father! That was it! The Sentimentalist had never
shown herself to better advantage--her eyes had never sparkled more
brightly or her smile been more winning than for this wizened old
personage who was reported to be the hardest, most close-fisted
curmudgeon alive.

“Well!” he said, after the first ordinary greetings were over. “Jack
went off all right--as chirpy as a cricket!”

“Yes? I’m so glad!” murmured the Sentimentalist. “I know he feels he is
doing the right thing!”

“Well!” and the ejaculation was repeated again with a strong American
drawl. “It may be so! _I_ don’t know! He does what he likes so long as
he don’t spend much money--and the army has taken him off my hands for
the present, which is all to the good. Boys like fighting, and I s’pose
he’ll get some!”

The Sentimentalist said nothing. She had known Jack’s father
intermittently for some months, and she was aware that his disposition
seemed to be more curious than kindly. And while she kept silence, his
small keen eyes studied her critically, and the shadow of a smile lurked
under his fuzzy white moustache.

“How is the Papa?” he enquired.

“About the same,” she answered, cheerfully. “Rather gouty, and always
busy with his book.”

“Oh! And is the old chap with him still?”

“You mean the Philosopher? Oh, yes! He is here--but I believe he’s going
to Oxford next week for--for a while.”

“Only for a while? Why don’t he stay there?”

“Well, you see he’s a great help to father--”

“Yes--yes! Jack told me. But the book will be finished some time, won’t
it?--say a month before the Judgment Day?”

She laughed.

“Oh, I hope so! But of course it’s heavy work, and takes a lot of time
and patience--”

“Wasted labour!” growled Jack’s father. “Like all the great useless
books packed up in big libraries; nobody reads them except a few old
curiosity hunters, and nobody wants to read them either--”

“As reference books,” suggested the Sentimentalist, “they are perhaps
necessary. You see”--and she sighed--“people cannot live on romance and
poetry.”

“No, they can’t, but lots of them try to!” and the old gentleman treated
her to a very wide smile and very narrow wink. “You, for instance--_you_
live on romance and poetry!”

Her blue eyes filled with amazement.

“I? Oh, no! Indeed, no! I like to think of beautiful things more than of
ugly ones--that’s all!”

“I’m afraid your thoughts run in a mistaken direction,” said Jack’s
father, rubbing his nose violently with a multi-coloured silk
handkerchief. “Beautiful things are rare,--ugly things are of every day.
Look at me for instance! I’m an ugly thing--”

She made a pretty gesture of smiling protest.

“I am!” he persisted. “But that Oxford chap is uglier!”

She laughed outright--then made a warning sign with a small uplifted
finger, as just then the Philosopher strolled into the room. Jack’s
father eyed him up and down.

“Good-morning, sir!” he said.

“Good-morning!” returned the Philosopher, condescendingly. “I think I
saw you engaged in the gentle piscatorial art during the summer,--in
short, fishing from a boat on the river--but I have not the pleasure--”

The Sentimentalist hastened to explain. He was the father of Jack. Oh,
indeed! That was it? This little, lean, gimlet-eyed old man was Jack’s
father! The Philosopher became cheerful--almost jocose.

“I congratulate you,” he said, “on the departure of your son for France.
It must be very gratifying to you!”

“It is!” and the sharp American glance “sized him up” as it were in a
second. “He’s my only--and I’m glad he’s got grit in him.”

The Philosopher winced. The expression “got grit” wounded his sensitive
ears. It was so rough--so unscholarly.

“Grit,” he remarked suavely, “I suppose implies the spirit which impels
a man to fight for a country not his own and to kill as many men as he
can of a nation which has never done him any personal harm.”

“You can put it that way,” said Jack’s father, “if you like! There’s all
sorts of ways of saying a thing--and that’s _your_ way.”

He gave vent to a sound between a chuckle and a snort. It might have
meant amusement or contempt, or both.

The Philosopher eyed him meditatively.

“Yes, that is my way,” he agreed. “I confess I have no sympathy with the
war fever. I dislike sheep tendencies in men. I do not admire their
blind obedience to the order of a possibly stupid government. It shows
that there is no originality of thought or character among them. A few
bold and independent men could stop war altogether.”

“Well, I differ from you, sir,” said Jack’s father. “I don’t think all
the saints that were ever calendared could prevent war. Why, everything
in nature fights, from birth to death! It’s all a battle. Birds, beasts,
insects,--even trees fight for room to expand. A good struggle against
wind and tide makes the voyage worth while.”

The Sentimentalist smiled.

“I think so too!” she gently ventured to say. “Life would be so dull and
monotonous without some sort of contest and opposition.”

The Philosopher bent an indulgent glance upon her.

“_You_ can afford to say that because you have never had either contest
or opposition,” he remarked, pleasantly. “You are a little lady
accustomed to have her own way in everything. And yet, you do not find
it dull--or monotonous! As long as the roses bloom and the butterflies
dance, you will be perfectly satisfied!”

His voice was quite musical,--his expression kind--and Jack’s father
began almost to like him. Certainly the Philosopher had his good points
like other people, though they were not often apparent. The conversation
now took another turn with the entrance of the master of the house,--the
author of “The Deterioration of Language Invariably Perceived”--who very
soon mounted on his hobby-horse and was not altogether uninteresting in
his discourse.

“You Americans,” he said, addressing Jack’s father, “are not nearly so
much to blame as we are in the spoiling of the English language. You
often use, quite unconsciously, very good old English words and
expressions which were common in Tudor times and are now fallen into
oblivion. But we are at one in the general crime of slang. The vulgar
exclamation ‘ripping’ uttered by men and women alike is a disgrace to
speech. Some person writing ‘society’ twaddle in one of the pictorials,
uses the lowest slang as profusely as a farm labourer scatters
manure,--creating a positive stink in the nostrils of any lover of good
English--yet she--it is a woman of course!--is admired for her ‘style’!
‘Style’!” and the old gentleman grunted his contempt. “‘Style’ perished
with Addison and Macaulay. If my daughter dared to use the word
‘ripping’ in my presence I’d--I’d disown her!”

And, pulling out a red handkerchief, he rubbed his nose violently, while
the Sentimentalist laughingly put her arm round him.

“Would you, Dad?” she asked. “Really and truly?”

He peered at her fair face and tender eyes, with a relenting smile.

“Well, perhaps not _quite_” he admitted. “But nearly!”

The Philosopher looked on and listened. He thought the Sentimentalist
charming in her pretty attitude of coaxing tolerance for her father,--he
wished she would put her arm round _his_ neck in the same sort of way.
But she never would--of that he felt pretty sure! And it was all the
fault of that confounded Jack!--or was it the affair of the mutton? He
was not clear as to which obstacle had arisen in the way of his very
dilatory wooing--but he found himself considering that after all there
might be a certain satisfaction in “caring about some one”--as his club
friend had once suggested, or rather, having some one to care about
yourself. He withdrew his interest from the general conversation as was
his habit when he was not the centre of it, and went to a corner table
where he pretended to write a letter. And he was surprised and not very
pleased to hear the lively talk and laughter which ensued on his
retreat. Even the gouty author of “The Deterioration of Language” made
merry! Jack’s father told good stories and evidently had the keenest
sense of humour. The old gentleman stayed a considerable time, and when
ready to go, asked the Sentimentalist to walk home with him, to which
proposition she readily assented. They left the room together, having
apparently forgotten all about the Philosopher or his presence in the
room. This was somewhat galling; especially as his host seemed likewise
to have forgotten him, for _he_ trotted slowly away back to his library,
whistling as he went. An uncomfortable sense of emptiness was in the
air,--and just for once in his self-absorbed existence the Philosopher
felt he was “not wanted.” He was mentally placed outside the gates of a
little family paradise where he plainly saw a notice put up--“No
Philosophers need apply.” And he found himself growing inwardly sad and
angry. Sitting down by the cheerful log fire he began to ask questions
of his intellectual _ego_,--as, for example, did much learning add to
the sum of human happiness? When one knew the scientific causes of every
happening, did such knowledge make sorrow easier to bear, or life more
tolerable? The answer, as certain leaders of the House of Commons would
say, was in the negative. And yet, on the other hand, love, or what is
called love, was, so the Philosopher asserted, only for very young
people.

“Like a teddy-bear for a baby!” he mused, grimly. “And how soon the baby
tires of the teddy-bear!”

Comfort,--physical and material comfort in life--that was, in his
opinion, the chief thing to aim at.

“And I doubt--I very much doubt,” he thought, “whether she”--here he
alluded to the Sentimentalist--“would be a comfort. She would more
likely be a worry and an embarrassment. She is charming, but erratic.
She has ideals--and they are absurd. She has feelings--equally absurd.
She would shed tears if her husband forgot to kiss her. More absurd than
absurdity itself! She would resent neglect. And I believe she has a
temper. Now a wife, to be satisfactory, should be docile and
submissive--she should keep her ‘feelings’ in the background, attend to
her household and be--well, yes!--a well-trained automaton. Then there
would be peace, and a well-ordered establishment, which I should not
object to. But a woman such as She is, with eyes that smile one moment
and weep the next, and emotions as changeful as the wind--she would be a
handful to manage!--if she _could_ be managed, which is open to serious
question! If that young ass Jack comes home and marries her I shall be
sorry for him!--yes, I shall be very sorry for him! But”--here he
settled himself more comfortably in his chair--“in all probability he
will not survive! He is just the kind of headstrong fool to make himself
a target for the German guns!”

And with this reflection, which moved him to smile quite pleasantly, he
composed himself for a quiet nap before luncheon.



CHAPTER X


Up to the present moment it has seemed hardly necessary to mention the
name of the Sentimentalist. She was so distinctly a Sentimentalist that
the appellation bestowed upon her by her godfathers and godmothers at
the baptismal font always seemed superfluous. Yet it was quite a pretty
name,--and in a subtle way suggested her nature and surroundings. It was
Sylvia. It was a name the Philosopher found objectionable as soon as he
knew her well enough to display his contentious and “criss-cross”
humours.

“Sylvia is a name that belongs to the age of decadent romantic fiction,”
he told her, with a kind of derisive sternness. “You might as well be
called Amanda!”

“True!” she laughed. “I wonder why I wasn’t!”

“Amanda,” he went on, “is the name of a feeble heroine in an old, very
old and very stupid novel called ‘The Children of the Forest.’ She was a
young person who was for ever weeping, or, when not weeping, fainting in
the arms of a man. There was a villain in the piece who always pursued
her--(why, no sane creature can imagine) and never, thanks to a kindly
Providence, succeeded in winning her. Then there was the ‘noble’ lover
of course!--a pattern of all the virtues, and an unmitigated nuisance--a
fellow who shed tears with his Amanda and drew a useless sword on the
smallest provocation--altogether a sickly rhodomontade of sickly
sentiment and twaddle--”

“Why did you read it?” she asked.

“I was very young,” he replied with a brief snort of contempt for his
unsophisticated past. “Terribly young! But quite old enough to find
‘Amanda’ a bore!”

She smiled.

“Well, I’m not Amanda!” she said, gaily. “Nobody thought of giving me
_that_ name! But I’m sorry you don’t like the name of Sylvia!--I rather
fancy it myself!”

The Philosopher made no further comment just then. This conversation had
taken place in the very early days of his acquaintance with the
Sentimentalist, and he was careful of his ground. Greatly as he admired
his own rudeness (which he considered clever and amusing) he knew it was
not advisable to display his inherent bad manners to a hostess before
making himself sure of her amiable tolerance; as a more or less
“distinguished” man of literary attainment he had established a
convenient reputation for eccentricity which allowed him a certain
latitude of behaviour,--he could say things which nobody else said, and
do things nobody else did. His acrid observations on men and things were
condoned because “he’s so clever, you know!” people would declare, with
the foolish giggle wherewith they accept monstrosities at a country
fair. And his professed objection to the name of Sylvia wore down in
time, being in truth an objection that never existed at all save in the
inconsistent and crotchety tendency of his own brain. Two or three times
he had found occasion to sniff and snort his irritation when Jack, now
happily removed for a time from the social scene, had essayed to sing
“Who is Sylvia, what is she?” in a voice which was unfortunate in
_timbre_ and guiltless of training,--but he had refrained from any
positive comment on that young man’s vocal efforts. And a long period
had elapsed or had seemed to elapse between then and now. The mild peace
of the English countryside had been harried by “alarums and
excursions”;--War, the wicked--War, the barbaric--had arisen in mad
ferocity like a brute beast from its lair, and its destructive force and
evil influence was felt everywhere, even in the little sequestered
village where the Sentimentalist had her pretty home, and where she had
been accustomed to see little save the beauty of an untroubled Nature.
The long white building temporarily erected as a Voluntary Aid Hospital
for the wounded made its suggestive presence felt on the land where it
stood sheltered by a belt of beautiful old trees,--and the
Sentimentalist’s time was divided between it and the care of her father
in a manner that left her little leisure to attend to the Philosopher
when he came (as he persistently did) to assist in the continuance of
the great philological work which was intended to propound an entirely
new idea of civilisation to a waiting and expectant world. Dr. Maynard,
the venerable author, was growing more and more feeble, and the gout was
laying a faster grip on his weary limbs, and had it not been for the
interest he took in his literary research and the patient indulgence
maintained by his devoted daughter for all his whims and fancies he
might have “gone under” more rapidly than was anticipated. This was
indeed the reason why the Philosopher was tolerated and even
encouraged,--for the poor little Sentimentalist dreaded being left
entirely alone with her father, and “The Deterioration of Language.” As
long as the old gentleman was kept amused and occupied the gout was
partially held in check, and this desirable result was all she sought.
For herself and her own happiness she had little care,--her naturally
bright spirit was clouded by sorrows she could not alleviate,--sorrows
wrought by the war, and coming fast one upon the other like clouds
rolling up in a storm. Day after day the wounded were brought to the
hospital among the trees,--day after day she saw terrible sights of
suffering which she, as the little “rose-lady” of Jack’s adoration had
never expected to see,--and what was worst of all to _her_, day after
day of utter silence and suspense racked her nerves in the longing for
news that never came. In the first year of the war, old John Durham,
Jack’s father,--had received letters and “field cards” with tolerable
regularity--his son wrote that he was “well” and “in fine form”--and
Sylvia had a card or two expressed with the usual military reticence.
But after a while and all suddenly a great silence fell, and enquiries
at the War Office only elicited the ominous word “Missing.” The blow was
a heavy one to the father of the cheery young fellow who had so
gallantly resolved to risk his life in the service of a country not his
own, and he crept about more or less feebly, with bent head and drooping
shoulders, only bracing himself up whenever he saw Sylvia, who made it
one of her special duties to look after him as much as possible--“for
Jack’s sake” as she would whisper to herself sadly when alone. Not that
she ever gave up hope. No,--the word “Missing” held out fair promise to
her pure and prayerful soul. She was sure--yes, quite sure, that Jack
was not killed--that he would return just the same joyous-hearted Jack
as ever! So she told his father--her sweet, loving, blue eyes sparkling
with tears, as she spoke;--and he,--well!--somehow he found it difficult
to speak, and only pressed her little hand till it was almost crushed in
his own rough palm.

Among these characters and influences one would have thought the
Philosopher--the learned Walter Craig, F.R.S.A., LL.D., and as many
other letters of the alphabet as various Universities can tack on to one
small mortal name--would have found himself out of place. In strict
accordance with his own theories he ought to have been “bored”--but he
wasn’t. As a matter of fact after young Jack Durham had been reported as
“Missing” he had experienced a greater interest in the whole situation.
There was nothing to disturb his general equanimity. His work with the
querulous and ailing old Dr. Maynard was intricate and more or less
amusing; he had comfortable quarters in a pretty and well-ordered
house--and he had no twinges of conscience in performing the part of a
“sponge,” because he felt (and in this he was right) that in keeping his
invalid host occupied with his “great work” he was performing a real
service, for which he might justly claim board and lodging. And as the
war was going on and things were very uncomfortable in London, he took
his chance of ease and safety as long as he could get it. The only fly
in his amber was old John Durham. With all his heart he detested this
wiry wizened American with eyes as sharp as gimlets and a face like a
nut-cracker. He grudged the affectionate solicitude with which
Sentimentalist Sylvia regarded him--the anxiety she evinced concerning
his health and general well-being all, forsooth!--because he was Jack’s
father, and Jack himself was “Missing.” To him there was nothing
pathetic in the gradual droop of the old man’s physical frame, or the
lines of sorrow and suspense that delved themselves round his whole
countenance,--all that he saw was that Sylvia rather allowed herself to
be monopolised by him in the intervals when she was not in attendance on
her father or working at the Hospital; and one day the startling notion
seized him that perhaps,--Jack being “missing,”--his father might “make
tracks” (an expression old Durham often used) for Sylvia himself! This
idea buzzed in his brain like a persistent bumblebee on a window-pane.

“Old men marry young women every day--” he argued with himself.
“Especially when they feel lonely. Then, from all I can gather, this
American has got money, and _she_ may not be indifferent to that! Of
course his great asset is that he’s ‘Jack’s father’!” Here the
Philosopher snorted contempt. “Little goose as she is!--little
sentimental goose! I wonder if Maynard has any suspicion of the
intentions of this ancient courtier--”

Here another brilliant suggestion struck illumination on his brain.

“I’m not as old as Durham,--certainly _not_!” he thought. “Ah!--not by a
good six or seven years! Then why--”

His meditations here began to gallop along strange and unaccustomed
routes,--stray reflections of _couleur de rose_ wavered across the grey
monotony of his learned mentality, and almost he was conscious of a
faint sense of returning youth.

“I’m not as old as Durham!” he repeated, with a kind of inward
jubilation. “Then why should not _I_ take a bold step? My peace of mind
would probably be destroyed, and I should have to put up with many
annoyances and small absurdities--still, take her for what she is,
there’s a charm about her rather rare to find nowadays among modern
women. I know what I’ll do! I’ll give a gentle hint--quite gentle,--to
Maynard himself. He might be glad to have his daughter’s future safely
assured--it would make him easier in his mind.”

But--for the moment--none of his ideas or resolutions matured into
action. The days went on,--each day bringing its dreadful toll of young
brave lives crushed out on the fields of Flanders,--and in the pretty
old Manor-house the famous “Deterioration of Language” also went on as
relentlessly as the war. Quietly the Sentimentalist performed all her
rounds of duty, growing visibly paler and thinner, but making no
complaint. Only when she was alone in her bedroom at night and when she
looked out of its quaint latticed window at the thick battalions of
stars in the dark space, did she weep a little and wonder at the cruelty
of men to one another,--at the selfishness of statesmen who make
war--and at the solemn silence of that vast Ruling Power to whom all the
generations of mankind have in turn appealed in various
forms,--apparently in vain! Was it wicked to think that it was “in
vain”--she questioned herself? To pursue such an enquiry was futile, for
she constantly pictured to herself the helpless, stiffening forms of
brave boys stretched out on the sodden battlefield, whose lives might
have been the joy and pride of their parents; and in these sad
reflections she failed to see anything but the direct injustice, nor
could she admit that there was a “divine Providence” in the ordainment
of such disaster. She recognised clearly enough that the mischief was
the work of man and man only, but in a simple, blind way she would think
that if indeed a good God ruled the world He might have stopped it in
the beginning. And she prayed to be forgiven if her thought was wrong.

One quiet evening when an unusually glorious sunset had showered its
glowing crimson on the river and woods and had shed a warm and tender
light on the pile of books and manuscript on the table in Dr. Maynard’s
library where he and the Philosopher sat at work, the author of the
“Deterioration of Language” showed signs of fatigue and irritation,
whereat the Philosopher suggested a break in their studies.

“Let’s talk!” he said, affably, as he assisted in pushing Dr. Maynard’s
chair nearer the window from which could be seen a charming peep of the
garden. “We’ve done enough hard work for to-day. You’re tired.”

“I’m always tired,” replied the old gentleman, querulously. “This
infernal gout is killing me!”

“No doubt!” agreed the Philosopher, suavely. “But it’s doing it quite
gently! Twinges of the toe--yes!--of course. Still things might be
worse. You might have had cancer!”

“That’s no consolation!” growled old Maynard. “What I _might_ have had
doesn’t matter. It’s what I’ve _got_!”

The distinguished Walter Craig, LL.D., F.S.A., nodded his head blandly.

“My dear fellow, I know that! It’s what you’ve _got_! True! But we all
‘get’ something, sooner or later, otherwise we should never grow old and
never die. The latest science tells us there’s no such thing as
‘natural’ death. We ‘get’ something that is unnatural which forces our
exit when we would rather stay where we find ourselves.”

“What do _you_ expect to ‘get’?” Maynard demanded.

“Much the same as yourself,” the Philosopher replied, with smiling
equanimity. “Gout. It is an aristocratic illness,--it comes down to one
like one’s coat-of-arms. It’s a case of the sins of the fathers. What
the fathers did for me I don’t quite know--but they left me their
disease in the most generous way. It has not affected me much yet--but
it will.”

“It will--you may depend on that!” and Dr. Maynard’s voice had quite a
ring of cheerfulness as he spoke. “It never lets go its prey! I fought
it off for years--but I’ve had to give in.” Here he peered anxiously
through the window across the garden. “I wonder where Sylvia is? She’s
always out of the way when I want her!”

The Philosopher glanced at the clock.

“It’s not quite the time for her to return from the Hospital--” he said.

“Hospital? Hospital? It’s always the Hospital! I’m sure _I_ ought to be
there, attended to and looked after quite as well as half of those
strong young men with a bit of shell in their legs, or an arm off, or
something of that kind! Such a fuss about nothing! God bless my soul! In
Nelson’s time the fighting fellows cut their own limbs off and stuck
their stumps into boiling tar! That was something like hospital stuff!
No molly-coddling _there_!” The old gentleman chuckled with a curiously
malevolent pleasure. “But now we have all the girls and women bandaging,
poulticing and feeding every young man with a scratch--and the
better-looking the young man happens to be, the longer the scratch takes
to heal!” Here he chuckled again. “That girl of mine passes nearly all
her time at the Hospital--I can’t imagine what she’ll do without it
when the war’s over.”

“Ah!” And the Philosopher stroked his moustache meditatively. “Has it
ever occurred to you to think what she will do without _you_ when _you_
are over?”

Old Maynard’s face grew suddenly pale, and a cowering fear gleamed in
his eyes.

“What do you mean?” he queried half angrily. “I’m not over yet! And I
don’t intend to be ‘over’!”

“Good! Quite good!” and the Philosopher smiled amicably. “But--you
know--_l’homme propose et Dieu dispose_! It is always well to prepare
for emergencies. I consider that you should make sure of your daughter’s
future comfort in this world before you leave it.”

“Future comfort? God bless my soul!” snapped Maynard testily. “Do you
suppose I’m a man to neglect the care of my own child? Future comfort?
She’ll have everything I possess--and that’s more than anybody knows of
I can tell you!”

Craig, F.S.A., LL.D., listened complacently. He was right in his
surmise,--the girl would have plenty of money! Plenty of money! He
almost smacked his lips as he thought of that friend of his who had
secured a “Plum” in the matrimonial orchard--a “Plum” that had “dropped
into his mouth with a bang!” Sylvia would not “drop” so--but she might
be gathered gently off the parent tree with a careful hand. He thought a
little before speaking again. Then he said:

“She’s a charming girl. She ought to marry.”

“Why?” And a twinge of pain caused the old Doctor to make a wry face as
he put the question. “Why should she take up a husband to worry her for
the rest of her life? She’s perfectly happy as she is.”

The Philosopher assumed a grave and considerate air.

“A woman--especially a pretty woman,” he said, “needs protection and
support in this world. Without a man’s care and guardianship she is
invariably misjudged, slandered and suspected of some moral drawback--”

“Is she though!” and Dr. Maynard sniffed scornful incredulity. “Nowadays
she seems to me to run amok more thoroughly when she’s married than when
she’s single! She gets tired of her husband in six months or he gets
tired of her--and the whole thing turns out a ghastly failure.”

“You are thinking of extreme cases,” said the Philosopher, mildly. “Yet
I presume your own marriage was a success?”

A sudden smile of tenderness gave extraordinary light to the old man’s
furrowed countenance.

“It was!” he answered. “But that was in the old days! My wife was
‘old-fashioned.’ Home and love, husband and child were all the world to
her--she never wanted anything else, bless her dear heart! Ah! The
sunshine has never seemed quite so bright to me since she died.”

The Philosopher was silent for a few minutes. There was a quiet pathos
and simplicity in Maynard’s words that had an effect even on the
india-rubber toughness of his academic disposition.

“Your daughter is probably like her mother in nature and tastes,” he
observed, presently. “And if so, this is all the more reason why she
should not be deprived of a life that would be suited to her, apart
altogether from the security and _status_ of marriage.”

Maynard grew a trifle restive under the searching gaze of the
Philosopher’s eyes seen through rather unbecoming spectacles.

“It’s all very well to talk!” he grumbled. “Who’s to marry the girl?
There’s nobody in this village to suit her. They’re all ‘butchers and
bakers and candlestick-makers’ _here_--very small tradesmen all round.
There’s the county Squire--he’s a widower with an idiot son who had to
be put away in an asylum--and there’s a miserable little curate with a
chronic cough. Of course there are a lot of wounded chaps at the
Hospital,--mostly Tommies--I don’t think she’s likely to fancy one of
_them_--”

“What about old John Durham?” suddenly suggested the Philosopher, the
corners of his moustache going up in a little quizzical smile.

“Old John Durham!” exclaimed Maynard. “Why he might be her grandfather!
Now if you had said _young_ John Durham,--Jack--there might be something
in it--though he was always a silly ass--but he’s gone--‘missing,’ they
say--”

“Dead without a doubt,” said the Philosopher, pleasantly. “Killed in
Flanders, quite needlessly. He was not called upon to fight at all--but
being an American he was bound to indulge in a bit of braggadocio and
offer to do battle for the ‘old country,’ and he’s had his way. It has
struck me that his father, being left solitary, might think of marrying
again. Rumour says he is a wealthy man--and Sylvia is a little creature
who is accustomed to comfort, not to say luxury--”

“Of course she is!” and Dr. Maynard got flushed and excited. “Why
shouldn’t she be? She’s always had plenty of money--she’ll always have
it! She’s not obliged to marry an old sallow face like Durham to live
like a princess if she wants to! God bless my soul, Craig--what _are_
you driving at?”

The Philosopher smiled soothingly.

“My dear fellow, don’t lose your self-control over a trifling
suggestion! All I have said is in the way of friendship and--and
admiration for your young daughter. I think it would be very sad for her
if at some time or other--far distant let us hope!--she were left alone
in the world--even with plenty of money--having no one to advise her or
to guard her interests. And I repeat that she ought to marry.” Here he
paused--then added, “I am very fond of her myself!”

Dr. Maynard turned slowly round in his chair and surveyed him with a
fixed stare of wonder.

“_You?_”

The Philosopher did not flinch.

“Yes. I!”

And then the old gentleman began to laugh,--a deep half-suppressed laugh
of thorough enjoyment,--a laugh that shook his shoulders and wrinkled
up his eyes in all sorts of curious deep furrows.

“May and December!” he chuckled. “Or December and May! She might as well
take old Durham and have done with it!”

The Philosopher maintained equanimity. He smiled,--and as people often
noticed, there was something very attractive in his smile,--a flash of
youth and humour.

“I think,” he said, mildly, “you would find Sylvia likely to prefer me
to old Durham. I think so!--of course I cannot be sure!”

Dr. Maynard lifted himself in his chair, gripping its sides with both
hands, and surveyed his friend and literary coadjutor for a couple of
minutes in silence.

“Now look here, Craig,” he said. “You don’t mean to insinuate that my
little girl is in love with _you_? Why, man, she couldn’t be such a
fool!”

The Philosopher winced, and Maynard went on rather heatedly.

“She’s a clever child and would make a good wife for a clever man, but
you’re _too_ clever! Too obstinate--too ‘set’ in your own way--and
you’re too old to change your habits. You’re a splendid scholar, but
you’re deep in the ruts of learning--no wife could ever pull you out!
You’ve no sentiment--and Sylvia is all sentiment from head to
heels!--full of fancies and romantic notions. You’d have to be young to
understand her--and I don’t believe you ever _were_ young!”

“Thank you!” murmured the Philosopher. “Let us drop the subject! I
spoke in a friendly desire to ease your mind of a possible anxiety as to
your daughter’s future,--with me as a husband and protector she would be
safely guarded--”

“And happy?” There was a slight tremor in Maynard’s voice as he put the
question. “Would she be happy?”

“If she were not it would be her own fault,” answered the Philosopher.
“I should do my best to make her so. But let us say no more of it!”

He took up a book and turned it over with apparently sudden interest.
Dr. Maynard looked at him, and a twinge of the gout affected him
unpleasantly. He tried to picture the learned Walter Craig as his
son-in-law,--but somehow failed in the effort. And yet!--Craig was a man
of distinctive ability and reputation--he had his own special literary
“clique” who called him “a Master,” and his position in the world of
letters was unassailable--numbers of people were proud to know him. His
wife--if he had a wife--would occupy a position of honour and some
dignity. But Sylvia!--little Sylvia as Mrs. Walter Craig!--Even the
compiler of “The Deterioriation of Language” could not forbear a passing
thought as to “The Deterioration of a Woman’s Life!” He fidgeted on his
chair and cast an appealing glance at the Philosopher.

“Craig,” he faltered, nervously, “I believe you are thinking that I may
die any time--”

“My good fellow, of course you may!” blandly replied the Philosopher.
“And so may I. My gout is not so ripe and well advanced as yours, but
as Shakespeare’s Mercutio observed, ‘’Twill serve!’ Should it finish
you off before me your daughter will be left comparatively unprotected.
She has no relatives, so you once told me, but a divorced aunt. A
divorced aunt is hardly a suitable companion. Now if I become her
husband she at once steps to a platform of safety, and I can look after
her till my own time comes; she will be then old enough and experienced
enough to manage her own affairs.”

Maynard listened, with something of a distressed foreboding in his mind.
There was truth, harsh truth, and cold reason in the Philosopher’s plain
view of the possible circumstances--but, at the same time a cloud of
depression darkened the poor old scholar’s soul. Almost he could have
whimpered, like a hurt child. At last he summoned up a show of
resolution.

“Have you ever spoken to Sylvia on--on--this subject?” he asked,
tremulously.

“Never!” And the Philosopher assumed a truly “noble” aspect. “Can you
imagine it! I should not dream of doing so without your permission.”

The old Doctor sighed.

“Thank you!” he said, meekly.

A pause ensued.

Then came the sound of a light step on the gravel path outside the
window, and both men looked through the vista of shrubs and flowers to
see the Sentimentalist returning from her hospital work. She moved
quickly, checking the wild gambols of a rough Airedale terrier to whom
her presence was the acme of all earthly bliss,--but there was a little
indefinable air of lassitude and fatigue about her which had not been
any part of her aspect before the “silly ass” Jack Durham was known to
be “missing.” Her father looked at her wistfully as she went past the
window; then suddenly laid his hand on the Philosopher’s arm.

“I want her to be happy!” he said, pathetically. “She is a sensitive
little creature! I want her to be loved and understood! There are too
many wretched martyrs of married life in the world!--Heaven forbid the
child should be one of them! But--if she has any affection for you--(it
would be very strange!)--but if she has, I won’t stand in the way! You
must find it out for yourself,--you can speak to her if you like, and
put all the pros and cons before her. No one can beat you at that sort
of thing! Tell her she’ll be lonesome when her old Dad dies”--he paused
to swallow a lump in his throat--“and that you’ll try to take his place!
Tell her that you will love her and make a pet of her!--that she’ll
never hear a word of unkindness--tell her you love her now--that is,
_if_ you do! A woman will do anything to be loved!--it’s the nature of
the creature. I should never have thought that _you_ could love
anybody!--but the strangest things happen oftenest--and the notion of
your falling in love with my girl is one of those strangest things! I
have said--and I repeat it--I won’t stand in the way!”

The Philosopher shrank a little from the pressure of his friend’s hand
on his arm. Maynard was taking too sentimental a view of the case--much
too sentimental a view! Because he had not really “fallen in love” with
Sylvia--such a notion was absurd! quite absurd as applied to him, the
Philosopher. Nevertheless he recognised the futility of argument on so
delicate a matter, especially as he had gained his point in so far that
he had permission to speak to Sylvia. He hummed and hawed a little--his
ugly cough threatened explosion, but he restrained it.

“Thanks very much!” he said, reservedly. “You must not over-rate
my--my--sense of attraction for--or attachment to--your daughter. My
emotions are well under control--and when I speak to her on what I
consider this very vital subject I shall take care to ground my approach
on a strong basis of reason as well as--as affection. I am not in the
flush of youth--”

“No, that you’re not!” interpolated Dr. Maynard, with a shake of his
head. “That’s a rosy colour we’ve both done with!”

“I am not in the flush of youth,” repeated the Philosopher, laboriously.
“But I have experience, patience and sound common sense. And from all I
hear and read, it seems to me that these are valuable attributes in a
husband. They are seldom evidenced by a wife. Wherefore I argue that a
man possessing experience, patience and common sense is the proper
guardian for a charming but inexperienced woman whose errors are all on
the side of sentiment. Pretty sentiment--delightful sentiment!--still
Sentiment--and Sentiment is a dangerous guide--”

“Well, leave it at that!” said Dr. Maynard,--and a whimsical smile
brightened his worn features. “Leave it at that! It won’t guide _you_
anywhere too fast or too far!”



CHAPTER XI


Sunday was always the pleasantest day in the week for the
Sentimentalist. She loved the peace of it,--the hush that seemed to fall
on all the traffic and business of the world,--the slow, soft chiming of
the village church bells at the morning and afternoon hours of service,
and the comparative respite from her work at the hospital, which she
never attended on Sundays, except when, moved by her own sympathies, she
went to read to the wounded for an hour or so, or write letters for them
to their homes. But, for the most part she spent the day at home, after
attending church in the morning, devoting herself chiefly to her father,
with whom she chatted cheerfully on the smaller affairs of the time,
avoiding as much as possible all distressful subjects, and almost
allowing him to think with the old farmer in “Punch”--“There ain’t no
war!” She generally found time on this “holy” day to run down to the
quaint old cottage rented by John Durham for his pet “sport” of fishing,
and see for herself how “Jack’s father” was getting on, for it pained
her beyond all words to notice his “broken” air, and the evident mental
suffering he was undergoing, though he bravely repressed all outward
sign of it. Concerning the Philosopher she troubled herself little. She
had convinced herself that he was of that singularly strong and
leathery constitution which is the frequent accompaniment of all
persons who are well seasoned in selfishness, and that he required no
particular attention beyond what he was an adept in securing for
himself. So long as he was a companionable literary assistant to her
father she had nothing to say either for or against him, albeit she was
disappointed that her former notions concerning him as a distinguished
writer and would-be instructor of less advanced mankind, were hopelessly
dispelled. Sometimes she turned for reference to one or two books he had
written,--books that were admired by press “cliques” and pushed into the
reluctant notice of the public without any successful result,--and she
marvelled at the lofty utterances and didactic phrases which inculcated
so much, from the pen of a man who never attempted to practise what he
preached. And her meditations on this incongruity generally ended in a
little shake of her fair head and a whimsical smile at her own folly for
having imagined--once upon a time!--that such a man could have a heart
for the sorrows or joys of his fellow-men.

Sunday, as already stated, was her peaceful day;--her “stay-at-home”
day, when she allowed herself some rest,--when, if the weather was fine,
she would sit in the garden among the roses--the very roses where “Jack”
was accustomed to look for some special bud which he thought fitting for
the adornment of the “rose-lady,” and where the Philosopher had
scratched his hand, to the imminent danger (according to his own
diagnosis) of blood-poisoning. Just now the pretty “bosquet” was a sad
place--there were no roses out, and though the sun shone, the wind was
cold. Nevertheless she went there with a book, moved to distract her
thoughts from sickness and wounds and death, if only for a brief
interval. From the window of the drawing-room the Philosopher saw
her,--and, first of all filling his pipe and putting a box of matches in
his pocket, strolled slowly out to make her aware of his presence. He
was in an agreeable mood, and his smile was a pleasant one.

“You are reading,” he said. “Am I in the way?”

She looked up.

“Oh, no!” she replied, gently. “I am not reading seriously--it is only
what I call a ‘peep-in’ book.”

He took it from her hand.

“Verse, I see!” he remarked. “Selections from the productions of various
verse-mongers. Well!... and you ‘peep in’ at the general show! Not a
bad expression that!--a ‘peep-in’ book. Most books merit no more than a
‘peep-in.’” Here he turned over the pages. “Dear, dear! It is
astonishing that so much rhymed rubbish still goes on being printed!
Dear, dear!

   “‘As the flight of a river
    That flows to the sea,
    So my soul rushes ever
    In tumult to thee!’

Bulwer’s twaddle!--Lytton Bulwer or Bulwer Lytton! Curious person!--How
he could reconcile his conscience to rhyming ‘ever’ with ‘river’ I
cannot imagine! And of course his soul didn’t ‘rush in tumult’ to any
one. He was the worst husband in the world,--Rosina Lady Lytton led a
miserable life with him.”

Sentimentalist Sylvia smiled.

“I quite believe it!” she said. “Poets are all the same--they write
about love because they don’t feel it. If they felt it, they couldn’t
write about it.”

“Wise child!” And the Philosopher, with his most attractively kindly
glance, closed the book and returned it to her. “You really say very apt
things now and then!”

She was silent.

“It’s not a very pleasant day for sitting out in the garden with a
book,” he went on. “Especially a book of verse. A book of verse demands
rather more sunshine and a less chilly wind. Don’t you think so?”

She looked up and was pleasantly conscious of the agreeable smile which
at times made him appear almost handsome.

“I haven’t thought about it,” she said. “I just came out for a little
rest in the fresh air--”

“Ah, yes!--you are tired!--I can see that!” he remarked. “You do too
much altogether, too much at the Hospital to begin with, and you add to
your burdens by rushing down to see that old gentleman at his cottage
who can very well look after himself--I mean Mr. Durham, who follows the
pursuit of Izaak Walton. Why not leave him to the gods and little
fishes?”

He smiled again, and spying a garden chair, brought it to her side and
sat down upon it.

“Why not,” he repeated affably, “leave him to the gods and little
fishes? He is not an attractive person,--and he is quite likely to
occupy your time more than he should. Perhaps you imagine him to be
ailing in some way--but from his general physical _contour_ I should say
he is tough as leather--tougher, possibly. He’s the perfect type of a
tanned and dried American,--self-preserved in a thick dollar hide!”

A swift flush of colour swept over Sylvia’s fair face.

“You mistake him,” she said, gently. “Indeed you do! He has a very warm
heart, and he is always ready to do good wherever he can. People think
he is rich,--but he isn’t really.”

“Oh! You think he isn’t really?” The Philosopher pulled out his pipe and
match box. “He isn’t really! Now--how do you know he isn’t?”

The Sentimentalist hesitated.

“His son told me so,” she said, at last.

There was a pause while the Philosopher lit his pipe.

“Well! A son seldom knows his father’s affairs,” he said, “not if the
father is a wise man! And I should say old Durham was very wise,--almost
cunning! That is, if I am anything of a judge of character.”

The pretty Sylvia looked at him sideways, wondering whether he
considered himself such a “judge.” He had all the air of a clever man,
and just at the moment his rather worn features had an expression of
benevolence and kindly interest which rendered them more than usually
pleasing.

“He can be quite nice and charming if he likes,” she thought. “But how
seldom he _does_ like!”

“I should not wonder,” resumed the Philosopher, “if he were to marry.”

Sylvia laughed.

“Marry? Mr. Durham?--What an impossible idea!”

“Nothing is impossible,” said the Philosopher, “to a man if he makes up
his mind. Americans in particular are notorious for their habit of doing
so-called ‘impossible’ things. From rolling over Niagara Falls in a
barrel to reaching the moon by rocket, they assert and assume capability
for creating and overcoming difficulties. In affairs of marriage they
tie and untie the knot with a celerity which can only be compared to the
skill of the Davenport brothers. You have heard of those worthies? They
used to allow themselves to be bound hand and foot inside a
cupboard--members of their audience would tie the cords in the most
frightfully exhausting manner,--and then when they had been fastened up
as tightly as possible and the cupboard shut upon them, in one minute
they stepped out untied and at liberty. An American marriage is just
like that,--you take your man and woman, tie them up and shut them in a
cupboard--and lo!--before you know where you are they have stepped out,
separated and free! Amazingly clever!--and one can seldom see how the
trick is done!”

The Sentimentalist was amused.

“All that may be very true,” she said, “but it has nothing to do with
poor old Mr. Durham. The idea of _his_ marrying! Whatever put such a
thing into your head?”

“Common sense and reason combined,” replied the Philosopher, blandly. “I
do not want to touch upon a painful subject--but Mr. Durham is at the
present time conscious of solitude,--loneliness--”

“Ah, yes!” sighed Sylvia. “He is very lonely.”

“Exactly! Now loneliness, though welcome and desirable to a man of
intellectual ability, is not always so to persons whose intelligence
appears limited to the sport of fishing. It is possible to grow weary of
rod and line if nothing else presents itself on the mental horizon. Even
the crazed creatures who play golf or tennis all day and every day do so
in a certain radius of companionship. Mr. Durham appears to have no
acquaintances except your father and yourself.”

Sylvia thought a moment.

“No,--he is rather mistrustful of society,” she said, at last. “I have
often heard him say he would rather have no friends at all than
pretended ones. He is very blunt--and he hates anybody or anything that
seems insincere or hypocritical.”

Walter Craig, F.S.A., took to his favourite amusement of puffing round
O’s in smoke from his mouth as he enjoyed his pipe.

“Well, then, very naturally he is left to himself,” he said, “because
there are no human beings in the world who are sincere,--nobody can
afford to be honest. To satisfy social convention you must be a
hypocrite. Otherwise you get yourself disliked.”

She gave a little shrug of her shoulders.

“Does it matter?”

“To get yourself disliked? Well, that depends upon circumstances. Some
people get on all the better for being disliked--others do not. For
instance, I am a plain-dealing man,--I speak the brutal
truth,--therefore I am disliked.”

She laughed a little.

“Oh, how can you say so? Have you not often told me that you are amusing
and clever, and that you are sought after because you can tell good
stories and are witty?”

He puffed out a very large and successful O.

“Have I told you as much as that? All about myself? Dear me!” He seemed
blandly surprised. “I have really gone very far in my confidences! But I
don’t retract. I _am_ amusing,--when I like. No one can be more so. I am
never dull. Occasionally I am sleepy--that is, when I am bored. I find
myself in that condition when Mr. Durham is here. I am never at my best
in his company.”

“I’m sorry!” said the Sentimentalist, gently. “He is really such a kind
old man!”

The philosopher nodded tolerantly.

“Naturally! To you he would appear a kind old man. To me kind old men no
longer appeal. I have nothing to give them. I shake my head at them and
say ‘Go away.’”

She smiled.

“You really are very funny!” she said. “Nothing seems _quite_ to please
you!”

“Why, no!--of course not!” he rejoined. “To be ‘quite’ pleased at
anything, or with anybody, implies a bovine spirit--a kind of animal
chewing-of-the-cud--which eliminates the brain and is concentrated on
the stomach. I was never of that disposition. As for the kind old man,
Durham, I am certainly not ‘quite’ pleased with him because I consider
him too ‘quite’ pleased with _you_!”

She started and the book of verse she held fell from her hand.

“With me?” she exclaimed.

He stooped to pick up the book, and returned it to her.

“With you,” he repeated. “I will not say that his ‘soul rushes ever in
tumult to thee,’ because I imagine his soul has long ago done with
tumult--but I think he is very fond of you.”

She suddenly perceived his drift, and her expression grew cold, with a
touch of hauteur.

“I hope he is!” she said, quietly. “I wish him to be fond of me!”

The Philosopher felt himself to be on rather dangerous ground.

“Do you, really?” he murmured placidly. “Well! I’m sure your wish is
realised!” He paused--then, with an elephantine effort at playfulness he
added, “After all, who would not be fond of you! Even I am fond of you!”

She laughed merrily.

“Even!” she echoed. “Even you!”

“It’s a great concession for me to make--” he said, slowly--and his
whimsical smile lighted up his whole face in an attractive manner. “But
I make it freely! I find you a very lovable, charming little
lady--wilful certainly, yet not unpleasantly so. Sometimes you and I
have disagreed--have nearly quarrelled, in fact--but this has given zest
to my feelings, and deepened your own charm. Dear me! My pipe has gone
out!” He fumbled for his matches, found them, and re-lit his malodorous
briar. “Yes--er!--what was I saying?--Deepened your own
charm,--yes!--quite true. Therefore you must not be surprised if I
rather object to your wasting so much of your sweetness on the desert
air,--the desert air being a figure of speech for the dry and dusty
personality of Mr. Durham,--and find him distinctly in the way.”

A mischievous twinkle sparkled in Sylvia’s eyes. She pointed a small
finger at him.

“You are jealous!” she said.

“Jealous?” He ruminated. “You think so? I have never, to my knowledge,
experienced the sensation,--but you may be right! It would be curious
and--er--interesting! You may perhaps recall that once--once upon a
time--in this very garden--you asked me if I would like you to marry
Jack Durham,--and I believe I answered, ‘Not just yet.’ You were very
kind to me in those days--much kinder than you are now. I suppose you
had not perceived my bad points. Anyhow, when I said ‘Not just yet’--as
applied to young Durham, I would say the same again, only more
emphatically, with regard to old Durham--”

She rose from her chair amazed.

“Mr. Craig!” Her voice thrilled with vexation and hurt. “How can you
imagine--”

“That old Durham might wish to marry you and leave you the vast fortune
he is rumoured to possess?” finished the Philosopher, placidly. “Nothing
more natural and simple, his son being dead--”

She put up her hands to her ears.

“No,” she exclaimed, with quick intensity. “He is not dead! I am sure of
it! Please do not say that word again!”

“I will not if you find it objectionable--” he said, gently. “But here
again you allow your sentiment to run away with you. You imagine--or let
us say you hope for, news that you are not likely to hear. I am--yes, I
admit I am rather surprised that you concern yourself so much with that
‘missing’ young man.”

She said nothing.

“Anyway,” he resumed with a patiently resigned air, “you must own that
Papa Durham is very attentive, and there is no doubt he is extremely
fond of you. I also am very attentive--surely you notice that?--and I am
very fond of you too!--so really you have nothing to complain of. Now,
have you?”

A little wistful smile quivered on her lips.

“No!” she answered. “I should be sorry to complain.”

“That’s right! You know”--here he knocked the ashes out of his pipe and
prepared to fill it afresh--“you know--or you might try to understand
that I really want to be nice to you--”

Her eyes sparkled mischievously.

“Do you? Really and truly?”

“Of course I do! Naturally I have my own ways of being nice; and they
are not like the ways of ordinary people. I have seen life, and I know
that it is rather difficult to live it,--with satisfaction to one’s
self. For a solitary man it is hard,--but for a solitary woman it is
harder.”

“Yes?” There was the slightest inflection of doubt in her voice as she
put the query.

“Yes? Certainly, yes! Very much yes! A woman alone in the world occupies
a perplexing and awkward position,--people don’t know what to make of
her;--she is an anomaly,--neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red
herring. Her solitude implies that she has either left some man or been
left by him--there’s no alternative--not in the opinion of society.”

“Poor society!” she said. “Its opinion is always very stupid and
erroneous--not worth considering. I have heard you say so often.”

“True!” He stroked his moustache thoughtfully with one hand, holding his
pipe in the other and gazing at it as though it were a long way off.
“But a literary man--a scholar--may say and may think things which do
not meet with general acceptance. He can defy convention,--a woman
cannot. Now, suppose you are left alone in the world, have you ever
thought what you are going to do with yourself?”

She looked startled--the colour rushed to her face, then ebbed away,
leaving her very pale.

“You mean--if Dad should die,” she said, in a low, sad tone. “No--I have
never thought--I do not want to think--”

“So like a woman!” declared the Philosopher, almost triumphantly.
“Doesn’t want to think! Of course not! But you _should_ think! You
should always be ready for any event--any disagreeable emergency--”

“Are _you_?” she asked.

He was for a moment taken a little aback.

“I--I think so,” he answered, slowly. “I generally prepare my way to a
goal of some sort and foresee possible obstacles--”

Suddenly, much to his surprise, she laughed--one of her prettiest little
laughs, clear and sweet as a silver bell.

“I quite understand!” she said, while enchanting little dimples of mirth
danced about her cheeks and chin. “You are preparing your way now, and
you foresee possible obstacles! Yes!--you know you do! You are just
wonderful!--and I want to be nice to you just as you want to be nice to
me! But”--here she laid a little soft white hand on the amazed
Philosopher’s coat-sleeve--“we won’t go on with it just at present, will
we? There’s not any time! Dad will be expecting me to give him his
medicine--and then--then I have other things to do!” Her bright face was
radiant with its happy smile. “But I’m sure you mean to be kind and
pleasant,--and--and--oh, do take ever so long preparing your way!--you
must, you know!--in case--in case you should overlook some obstacle that
might upset you very much!”

Here she rose from her garden-chair, holding the condemned “book of
verse” close to her breast. “It might be ‘the flight of a river’--or a
‘soul tumult’!--who can tell--!”

He stopped her light “badinage” with a look, and in a sudden masterful
manner, laid his hands on hers.

“You are playing!” he said. “And you can play as long as you like. I
don’t mind! But I happen--for once in my life--to be in earnest!
However--as you don’t wish it--we will not go on with the subject--shall
we call it the ‘prep’? just now. It can wait. _I_ can wait! We will
return to it another day!”

He released her hands and stood aside to let her pass. She looked up at
him in something of wonder, not unmixed with a novel sense of
admiration. Being “in earnest” had given him quite a new
expression,--some of the grim furrows in his face had for the moment
disappeared--there was an unwonted light in his eyes, and he smiled--a
positively winning smile, thus seeming less of a scholar, but more of a
man!



CHAPTER XII


“Ah! There be’s many a woman wot’s ’appy to know ’er man’s gone an’ not
likely to come back--many on ’em, I sez!--reg’lar flim-flammeries an’
gad-abouts wot ain’t wuth ’arf-a-crown a week for keep an’ yet Gov’nment
lets them draw more money than their men wot’s doin’ the fightin’! Real
tom-foolery _that_ is!--I calls it settin’ a premium on bigamy!”

The individual who delivered himself of these oracular remarks was a
certain Samuel Rikewood, locally known as “Riverside Sam”--because he
was never found elsewhere than _on_ the river or _near_ the river,
though up to the present he had escaped being _in_ the river, which was
something of a marvel. For he was wont to paddle about in a crazy old
wherry, cracked in many places, and apparently out of all balance,
looking more like a disused tub than a boat, and with this uneasy craft
he wobbled to and fro, offering his services to such stray tourists and
visitors who might seek to indulge themselves in the mild and meditative
sport of fishing. In the pursuit of his chosen calling and election he
made himself useful and necessary to old John Durham, who had grown to
like him for the quaintness of his speech and bluntness of his manner,
while “Riverside Sam” had in his turn “taken to the American man” as he
expressed it, and more especially since sorrow had struck him in the
uncertainty which the War Office message of “Missing” had created in his
mind concerning the fate of his son. Sam had liked the cheery and
good-looking young fellow who had humoured his father’s whims, showing
himself always ready to fall in with his plans whatever they were,
whether for fishing or taking long, rambling walks over hill and dale,
and in his unexpressive way was honestly grieved at the loss of the
bright boyish spirit which had brightened the dullest day, and with all
his heart pitied the old man left lonely.

“It’s a bit ’ard,” he said, on one occasion, “to ’ave to go an’ die for
one’s own country, but when ye gits blowed to bits for a country which
ain’t yours it’s ’arder still. Now Mister Jack ’adn’t no orders to go--”

John Durham raised his hand with a silencing gesture.

“Yes, he had, Sam!” he answered. “He had orders from his own brave soul
and conscience. Yes,--I knew that! And, Sam!--let me tell you this!--if
you once get that kind of orders you cannot--you _dare_ not--disobey
them!”

Sam looked faintly surprised and by no means convinced. He returned
doggedly to the point.

“’Merriker ’adn’t no business to come in,” he said. “’Merriker’s got
enough to do with her own affairs. Why, I knows a chap that went out to
’Merriker an’ got naturalised, so he shouldn’t ’ave to fight!--an’ he’s
divorced his wife that’s over ’ere an’ ain’t done nothin’ to deserve it
an’ he’s livin’ the life of a free Injun with a blanket an’ a tub, an’
as many wimin as he can take on! Catch _’im_ fightin’!”

Durham smiled.

“Well! I suppose he’s happy in his own way,” he said. “And after all,
Sam, happiness is what every man is after. It’s a kind of
fly-fishing--you think you’ve got something at the end of your line, but
when you pull in you find nothing! But we go on fishing all our lives
long. It often seems rather a useless business!”

He sighed and passed his hand through his grey hair. Sam looked at him
sympathetically.

“It do, sir, it do!” he agreed. “And there’s worse troubles than either
you or I ’ave ’ad to put up with. There’s a pal o’ mine in the village
wot is stiff as a poker with rheumaticks an’ ’is wife’s gone off it in a
’sylum--yet he was as straight an’ smart as you make ’em, an’ _she_ was
the merriest lass alive once on a time! Some of us _do_ get it ’ot from
the Almighty! nor knows we the reason why! That’s wot beats me! If the
Lord would be pleased to speak a bit an’ say, ‘Look ’ere, Sam, you’re a
no-good anyway an’ once or twice you’ve been as drunk as a profiteer an’
I’m goin’ to punish ye for all ye’re worth!’ why then I’d answer ‘Quite
right too!’--an’ suffer the worst willin’ an’ joyful--but when you ain’t
done nothin’ as you knows on, an’ ye gits beat black an’ blue, it’s a
bit perplexin’. Perplexin’s the word--that it is now!”

Durham sighed again, and watched his garrulous companion draw in the
fishing-boat to shore and fasten it to the moss-green and rickety stump
which served as a sort of anchorage near his cottage. He was beginning
to find his favourite sport monotonous, and his rather wearied mind was
stimulated by a sudden thrill of excitement when “Riverside Sam” went on
slowly:

“There’s that little lady up yonder at the Manor frettin’ ’er ’art out
an’ makin’ ’er eyes red with cryin’ on the quiet, an’ we all knows wot
it’s for though ’tain’t our place to say wot we thinks. But _you_ knows
as well as I knows wot’s the trouble! Ah, he wor a fine-lookin’
lad!--there, don’t mind me, sir!--I’m sorry I spoke if it ’urts ye, onny
I can’t abide to think o’ that pretty soul ’avin’ to marry the old
clever chap with a pipe wot’s always ’angin’ round old Doctor Maynard--”

“God bless me!” ejaculated Durham with amazing vivacity. “_He_ marry
_her_! Impossible! Preposterous! Where did you hear such a thing
mentioned?”

Sam straightened himself and stood up in the boat he was pushing to
shore.

“I ain’t heard nothing _mentioned_,” he said. “I onny puts two an’ two
together an’ makes ’em four. T’other day the old chap comes down to the
river edge an’ he sez, ‘Good-mornin’, Sam!’ ‘Good-mornin’,’ sez I. ‘Are
you married?’ sez he. ‘I am,’ sez I. ‘An’ do you like it?’ sez he. ‘Wal,
if I don’t like it now I never will,’ sez I. ‘I’ve been married these
forty year.’ That seemed to puzzle an’ bother ’im a bit for ’e sucked at
’is pipe like a baby at its bottle, an’ ’e sez, ‘That’s a long time,
Sam!’ I sez ‘It is, sir!’ ‘If I was to marry now,’ sez ’e, ‘I couldn’t
manage forty year--I shouldn’t live so long.’ ‘That’s right!’ sez I. ‘So
if you’re goin’ to do it you’d better lose no time!’ That seemed to
strike ’im, an’ ’e stood thinkin’--then he sez, ‘All right, Sam!--I’ll
take your advice!’ an’ off ’e went.”

“Well, well!” said John Durham impatiently. “All this has nothing to do
with Miss Maynard--”

Sam shut up one filmy eye knowingly.

“Don’t ye be too sure o’ that!” he chuckled. “There’s onny one little
bird on the ground wheer ’e is, an’ she’s worth ’avin’ a shot at! Lor’,
sir! the old boys are as darin’ in matrimony as the young--more so, I’m
thinkin’, special when there’s a bit of money about!”

Durham took in all this rambling talk with no real conviction, yet with
a certain sense of uneasiness. Before a couple of hours had passed he
started to worry himself over a number of possibilities. He knew well
enough that his son--the blithe young fellow now marked as “Missing” had
been deeply in love with Sylvia Maynard, and though, he, as the lad’s
father, had said nothing for or against the pretty love-idyll which he
saw expanding under his eyes, in his own heart he approved of it, and
rejoiced that his son’s choice had fallen upon so sweet and dainty a
flower of pure maidenhood. And the idea that the distinguished and
erudite scholar, Walter Craig, F.S.A., LL.D., should actually entertain,
even remotely, matrimonial intentions towards this selected “pearl of
price” irritated him almost beyond endurance.

“I’ll speak to Maynard about it!” he resolved. “Obsessed as he is by his
dictionary craze, I’ll make him give me his attention. He can’t be
altogether such an old fool as to allow his only child’s life and
happiness to be spoiled by such a marriage as this would be. Poor child!
What a destiny for her! I’d ... yes!... I’d rather marry her myself!”

And, strengthened by this reflection, he took the earliest opportunity
of paying an afternoon call on Dr. Maynard on a day when he happened to
hear that the Philosopher had gone to London on one of his occasional
expeditions to visit his publishers.

He found the old gentleman rather tired, rather irritable, and in a
despondent humour generally, and therefore more or less pleased to see
him as one to whom he could talk freely.

“It’s very good of you to come,” he said, as he rose from his chair and
shook hands. “I’m all alone to-day,--that is, until Sylvia comes in.
Craig is in town.”

“Ah!” commented Durham, gruffly. “Why don’t he stay there?”

Dr. Maynard looked a trifle uneasy and embarrassed, but answered
nothing.

“Why don’t he stay there?” Durham repeated, with increased asperity.
“That book of yours on ‘The Deterioration of Language’ ought to have
been done with months ago,--only he won’t let it be done with! He’s a
human sponge,--that’s what _he_ is. You’re paying him for his work--”

“Not as much as he could demand if he liked,” interrupted the old
Doctor, quickly. “He’s really giving me the benefit of his great
scholarship for a mere song in regard to terms--I couldn’t afford to pay
him his just price,--the price he could get anywhere--”

“But you throw in food and lodging,” said Durham. “Food of the best and
lodging of the greatest comfort. You also throw in the companionship of
your pretty daughter and allow him to make love to her!”

“I don’t!... I don’t!” exclaimed Maynard, excitedly. “I know he admires
the child--”

“You bet he does!” and Durham wrinkled up his forehead in a saturnine
frown. “And also admires the house she lives in and the fortune you are
likely to leave her! You bet! He wasn’t made a sponge for nothing. His
business is to soak up things. He has soaked up enough learning; and now
he wants to soak up a few creature comforts for his old age! Maynard,
keep your eyes open!”

“I do, I do!” exclaimed the poor old scholar, in evident distress. “But
I can’t help it if Craig falls in love with the girl, can I?”

“Falls in love? He? That pragmatical, self-conscious, learned prig! He
couldn’t fall in love if he tried--I don’t suppose he ever _has_ tried,
not even when he was young, if he ever _was_ young! I could do the
business better myself!”

Maynard sank back in his chair, amazed.

“_You!_” he murmured, faintly. “_You!_ God bless my soul!”

Durham’s small, steely, grey eyes sparkled with a monkeyish glitter.

“Well, what now?” he demanded. “Why do you cry out ‘God bless my soul’
as if I had sent a bullet through you? I say I could do the falling in
love business better than Craig--”

Dr. Maynard lifted a hand and pointed a shaking finger at him.

“That’s just what Craig told me!” he faltered. “And he said you were
doing it!”

“He did, did he?” and Durham’s rather sallow countenance reddened. “Damn
his impudence!”

Old Maynard looked at him protestingly.

“Don’t--don’t be violent!” he said, anxiously. “It’s bad for you! We are
both old men--”

“And don’t we know it?” snapped out Durham raspily. “But we needn’t
dwell on the fact! There’s a third old man who is older than either of
us--”

“Not in years, if you mean Craig,” put in Maynard. “He is
considered--and he considers himself--in the prime of life.”

Durham laughed--a little cross, crackling laugh.

“‘A violet in the youth of primy nature,’ I suppose!” he said. “Now,
look here, Maynard! Putting all nonsense aside, do you really mean to
make a miserable martyr of your daughter--your only child--by marrying
her to Professor Craig?”

A little smile, half pathetic, half humorous lifted the wrinkles round
the old Doctor’s eyes.

“You’d rather marry her yourself, wouldn’t you?” he said gently.
“Just--for Jack’s sake!”

Impulsively Durham’s hand fell on that of Maynard--and they gripped
together in a clasp more eloquent than words. Then Durham spoke in a
voice which he tried to keep steady, but which now and then trembled in
spite of himself.

“For Jack’s sake,” he said, “I would do a great deal! I thought it all
out last night. I was always a bit hard on the boy--drove him with a
bearing rein--but he never complained. I’m sorry now! I know he just
worshipped your girl--and if I could save her from that old Dry-as-Dust,
I’d marry her and keep her sacred like an angel in a shrine till--till
Jack comes home! A sort of marriage by proxy, you know! And then--when
he returns, I could easily make myself scarce--get out of the way
quietly--no publicity--no fuss--just a little dose--and a long
go-to-bye-bye--”

“My dear old fellow!” exclaimed Maynard, deeply moved. “Don’t talk that
way! You’ve been worrying yourself, and you’re unnerved! I tell you
what!--I think we are two old fools together,--in this matter we are
forgetting the girl herself--Sylvia. We are disposing of her as if she
had no will of her own! But I give you my word she’s not disposed of so
easily! Let things take their course! She’s no more likely to marry
Craig than you! Not a bit of it! God bless my soul! I don’t think I’m
altogether finished yet--and I, too, have a will of my own!--”

“_Have_ you?” interposed Durham, with a touch of cynicism, yet smiling a
little. “And--if you have, do you exert it?”

“Well, well! Perhaps not, perhaps not! Perhaps I’m rather bound hand and
foot by the gout--but I’m quite capable of making an effort should
necessity arise. Just now, believe me, there’s _no_ necessity. If Craig
were to propose to my girl she’d refuse him point-blank. I shouldn’t
mind his trying his luck....”

“You wouldn’t mind?” echoed Durham, indignantly. “You’d let him make
love to her?”

A twinkling smile lit up Maynard’s old eyes.

“He _couldn’t_ make love!” he answered. “He wouldn’t know how! And I’d
let him try, because he’d make such a fool of himself! And Sylvia is the
very girl to show him his folly and take the conceit out of him! _That_
would do him good! Clever as he is there’s no doubt he’s conceited. It
wouldn’t hurt him to put his pride down a peg or two!”

“Maynard,” said Durham, solemnly, “you might as soon detach the bones
from a live herring as get the conceit out of that Professor of yours!
Why, man, his self-satisfaction is his life!--his blood, his veins, his
marrow!--and if he proposed to your girl and she refused him, it would
make no more effect on him than the pressure of a finger-nail on a
fossil! He would merely say that she is a fool, and he the wise man and
hero of a lucky escape!”

Dr. Maynard laughed. The conversation with his American friend had
roused and amused him--his interest was awakened by the movement of the
little romance playing round the attractive personality of his pretty
daughter, and he felt brighter, better and younger (because less
absorbed in himself) than he had for many a long day.

“Very likely you are right!” he said. “We’ll leave it all at
that--and--to Sylvia! She’ll settle the matter better than either you or
I! And I--I--think she was fond of your son Jack!”

“_Is_ fond,” corrected Durham. “Not _was_--_is_!”

“_Is!_” agreed Maynard, gently. “And if she is fond of Jack she’s not
likely to change her mind--in his absence.”

Durham looked at him steadily.

“That’s true!” he said. “She’s a loyal little soul--she’s not likely to
change. Not likely! Unless--”

“Unless--we will not speculate on unless!” said Maynard cheerfully. “We
will hope for the best--and leave things as they are for the present--to
God!--and to Sylvia!”



CHAPTER XIII


And now the Sentimentalist became, unconsciously to herself, the central
figure of a curious little drama, wherein three elderly gentlemen were
the active performers, with a mystic Shadow in the background,--the
shadow of a personality which, though considered as “Missing,”
nevertheless remained a vital part of the play. A dreary autumn and
still drearier winter had passed, and spring half-tearful, half-smiling
had begun to dress the trees in tiny rosette-buds of green,--some early
mating thrushes were piping their joyous love-notes among the growing
greenness of copse and hedge,--and with these signs of hope came rumours
of the speedy ending of the long and wicked war in a victory for England
and her Allies. “Too good to be true,” was the verdict of the pessimists
on these flying reports; but they had the effect of cheering depressed
people and awakening renewed heart for fresh effort. Old Dr. Maynard had
become wonderfully alert and vivacious of late,--his gout troubled him
less, and his famous “Deterioration of Language” was positively nearing
completion. Fewer wounded arrived at the V.A.D. Hospital where Sylvia
gave her services, and she had much more time on her hands than she
cared to have, owing to the fact that whenever he perceived her alone
and at leisure the Philosopher, like the fatuous hero of “The Children
of the Forest,” that ancient novel he despised, “pursued her” and seemed
to consider that whenever she had nothing else to do she was bound to
talk to him, or at least to allow _him_ to talk to _her_. And he
noticed, with a certain odd self-congratulation, that she avoided
him,--quite gently, but no less decisively. He thought he knew why, and
flattered himself singularly on what he imagined to be his discovery.

“She is just a little frightened,” he said to himself. “Quite
natural--quite proper! It’s much better that a woman should be timid
about a proposal of marriage than that she should hurl herself at it
like a bull in a china shop! I can’t say she is encouraging--she doesn’t
lead me on--in fact she rather puts me off! But that’s so like a
woman!--always doing the very reverse of what she wishes to do!”

So he argued, in the spirit of that profound masculine egotism which is
the heritage of every “lord of creation,” whether it be the rowdy of a
motor char-à-bancs, or the self-contained intellectual of University
honours and degrees. Every man grown to manhood is confident that he
understands women,--absolutely confident even when, among his peers, he
declares them to be incomprehensible. Of his power to please and subdue
them he never has a doubt. The fallacy is inherited from the days of
pre-historic savagery, and savagery is not by any means yet overcome by
civilisation.

One rather chilly evening, when despite the melodious assurances of a
thrush singing outside the window, one felt that a nip of winter had
returned to provoke the sweet temper of the spring, the Philosopher
found the Sentimentalist nestled in a chair by a sparkling fire in the
cosy drawing-room, peacefully working at a dainty strip of floral
embroidery. A branch of wild roses was visibly blossoming under the
swift manipulation of her little white fingers, and the glitter of her
tiny gold thimble flashed like the gleam of the sun on the growing
flowers. She made a pretty picture as she sat, the flames of the fire
now and again touching into more vivid colour the warm amber of her hair
and the pale blue of her dress,--she was always a pretty picture, but
somehow on this particular evening the Philosopher thought she made a
prettier one than usual. As he approached she looked up and smiled,--she
did not rise and go away as had been rather her habit of late. This was
an encouraging sign,--and yet, strange to say, the distinguished man of
letters became suddenly and uncomfortably conscious of “nerves.” With an
effort he mastered them, and selecting an easy chair which he had
frequently tried before and found satisfactory, he drew it and himself
up to the fire and stretched out his legs with a sigh of deep content.

“Heigh-ho!” and he turned the sigh into something of a yawn. “This is
very comfortable! There’s a detestable east wind whizzing round the
house--nothing like an east wind for prying into every corner--and it’s
much pleasanter inside than out. This room is the very abode of
comfort!--an ‘interior’ of perfect domestic bliss!”

The pretty smile deepened and dimpled round the kissable mouth of the
Sentimentalist but she said nothing. Her needle twinkled faster among
the wild roses she embroidered.

“Your father seems wonderfully better,” pursued the Philosopher,
thoughtfully. “He is much more mentally keen and observant. He takes
greater interest in things that are purely mundane.”

She looked up.

“I’m so glad!” she said. “Poor, dear Dad! He was really _too_ taken up
with ‘The Deterioration of Language’--don’t you think so? I mean, he
seemed to treat it _too_ seriously!--because, after all, it doesn’t very
much matter!”

“Doesn’t it?” The Philosopher gave her an amused, half-tolerant glance.
“Not perhaps in your opinion! But you are a woman--and young--and your
ideas are necessarily limited. You see nothing to deplore in the
breaking-down of fine forms of speech--which are really as necessary to
the _status_ of a people as fine forms of conduct and manner--”

She stopped her sewing and listened, needle in hand.

“Fine forms of conduct and manner,” he proceeded, with an academical
air. “The inroads of slang upon the splendid English used by our
forefathers are rather like the vulgar rush of noisy, half-tipsy folk
into a beautiful garden full of well-kept trees and flowers. Dr. Maynard
is quite right in his views.”

“Oh, yes, I am sure of that!” said Sylvia quickly and eagerly. “But do
you really think it is any use for him to teach, or try to teach people
these higher views of life and language when they all show so plainly
that they don’t want to learn?”

He bent his brows kindly upon her, with a smile.

“Well, if you come to that,” he answered. “Nothing is of any use!
Neither language nor literature! I’m sorry to state the fact, but fact
it is. Civilisation itself is no use. History will convince you of that.
What has become of Babylon, Nineveh, Thebes? They all had language and
literature doubtless,--no use! You see? If once you begin to question
the uses of any learning you run up against the blank wall of positive
negation!”

She looked up.

“Ah, that is only your way of looking at it!” she said. “It is your
philosophy!”

“It is every man’s philosophy if he is a philosopher at all,” he
replied. “Nothing can alter facts--facts which are proven and plain. A
bit of Egyptian papyrus scrawled with hieroglyphs speaks more eloquently
for ‘The Deterioration of Language’ than a thousand of our printed
volumes.”

She drew a quick little sigh.

“Oh, dear me!” she murmured. “It is all very sad! In your outlook on
life nothing seems good or commendable! What’s the good of living at
all!”

He turned towards her, his eyes twinkling with unusual pleasantness.

“Dear child, I often ask myself that question!” he said. “And as yet I
have found no answer. None of us _asked_ to be born! Had _I_ been
consulted I should certainly have declined the honour! But there are
certain compensations afforded us for the trouble of existence,--as I
told you once before, we are allowed to experience pleasurable
sensations which we call by pretty names--such as idealism, patriotism,
conscience, honour, friendship, and--and love. I suppose”--here he
hesitated--“I suppose love is really the most agreeable sensation of
all! You remember when you quoted some lines of Keats to me on one
occasion, you seemed to think so!”

“I think so still,” she replied, softly.

“I’m sure you do! You are unchanged in your sentiment--and for yourself
it is a pity! But you are a woman, and it cannot be helped! Women overdo
sentiment altogether--they _live_ on it! A mistake--and yet--”

He stopped abruptly.

She looked at him.

“And yet?” she suggested.

“And yet? Well, I was about to say I should not like a woman _without_
sentiment. For example,--if I had any sentiment for her, I should wish
her to have sentiment for _me_!”

She laughed softly.

“Why, of course! Naturally!”

He moved a little uneasily.

“Do you think it at all possible?”

“What?”

“For a woman to have sentiment for me?”

A pretty rose-flush coloured her cheeks.

“When you are your best self, yes! Certainly!” she said with a quick
frankness. “But when you are your worst self, no!”

He smiled,--he was amused.

“You can say that to every human being,” he averred. “I can say it to
_you_! When you are on level ground, sweetly normal, you are a most
engaging little lady--but when you are on your high horse--well, well!
But after all, you seldom take a very long prance on that tall
quadruped!”

Her blue eyes flashed,--but she made no reply.

“You object to any mention of the high horse?” he said, and his voice
had a kind tone that was almost irresistible. Turning her head towards
him she could not help smiling,--he had one of his attractive moods on,
and his features, always intellectual, were softened and made almost
good-looking by an expression of tender solicitude seldom seen upon
them.

“I object to nothing you wish to say,” she answered, gently.

“How charming of you! Ah!” and he sighed. “If that were always the
case--if it were only true!”

He broke off. His heart was not given to inordinate fluttering, but he
felt it distinctly fluttering just then. He waited a couple of minutes
to recover himself. She had resumed her swift sewing, and her little
gold thimble flashed to and fro like a tiny star. The logs in the bright
fire crackled and sparkled,--one of them falling into a brilliant flame.
He straightened himself in his chair, and, as it were, pulled himself
together.

“Returning to the subject of your father’s important work,” he said,
slowly, “I think it will soon be finished.”

“Really!” she exclaimed. “How glad I shall be!”

“Will you? Yes--I suppose you will! But--I shall be sorry!”

She paused in her sewing and looked at him kindly.

“It’s nice of you to say so,” she said. “For I’m sure you must have been
tired of it often! And tired of us, too! We must seem so monotonous to a
clever man like you!”

He considered this observation with a thoughtful air,--then smiled.

“No,” he averred, with an air of tolerance. “No. Strange to say, though
I find most things monotonous I have not found _you_ so!” Here he
laughed quite pleasantly. “Dear child, whatever your faults, sameness is
not one of them! You are as variable--as--as an English summer!”

Her eyes sparkled merrily.

“Thanks ever so much!” she said. “I should hate to be always in one
humour!”

“It would be dull--undoubtedly it would be dull!” admitted the
Philosopher. “Safe certainly--but dull! Unalterable good temper,--what?
It might be trying! After about a year of it, one might welcome a little
flash--just a _leetle_ flash of anger!”

He paused. She said nothing. Presently he resumed.

“Yes--you are very variable! Yet--at the same time you are equable. That
sounds very paradoxical, doesn’t it?”

“Perhaps it does!” she admitted.

“A paradox is that which though appearing to be contradictory is
nevertheless true,” he continued, amicably. “And according to that
definition I myself am a paradox.”

She laughed.

“Are you?”

“I think so! I am very generally misunderstood. Even _you_ misunderstand
me.”

She laid down her work and looked at him.

“Do I? Oh, I am very sorry!”

He gave a little nervous cough.

“Thank you! I do not suppose you can help yourself--all women judge by
appearances. I am not an Adonis--never was,--and I’m getting old--and I
confess to an irritability of temper occasionally--”

Her tenderly sympathetic nature sprang up at once to defend him against
his own indictment.

“Oh, but you are not often disagreeable!” she said, in the frankest
manner. “You can be perfectly charming if you like! When you first came
to stay with us and help Dad I thought you a perfectly delightful
man!--so brilliant and companionable!”

“Ah, those were in the early days!” he said, with a sigh. “The golden
days of first acquaintance! You were very kind to me then,--though we
had our little differences! But you didn’t mind helping me to light my
pipe,--do you remember?--and once we had a pleasant walk across the
fields. And you talked a great deal about love--”

“That was before the war!” she interposed.

“Before the war? Of course--certainly! Everything worth having was
_before_ the war,--love, hope, confidence--_before_ the war--the world
was better to live in _before_ the war. I grant you all that! We can, if
we feel disposed to be poetical, look back and see a happy garden of
Eden in England _before_ the war--but now the gates are closed and a
sword turns every way forbidding re-entrance!”

“Ah, you _do_ think that!” she said.

“Naturally I do. And naturally I must. It does not actually surprise me,
for war is a devastator of minds and morals. You thought me very harsh
and unsympathetic at the time war was declared--and I know you
considered me unpatriotic. Well, if it is unpatriotic to dislike the
idea of men being slaughtered like animals in a meat-packer’s factory
all for the pleasure of rival governments I _am_ unpatriotic, and glory
in the fact! I have no sentiment on these matters. The waving of a flag
does not excite me--I don’t think any man should fight for any other
man. Let each one manage his own business.”

She was silent.

“You don’t like my point of view?” he queried, after a pause.

“I think you have a great deal of right and sense on your side,” she
said, slowly. “But if nations did not fight for their existence where
would they be?”

“They would settle down,” said the Philosopher, complacently. “Believe
me they would settle down! It’s all a repetition of the Cain and Abel
story--one brother is jealous of the other and commits murder. Why
should such a precedent be maintained?”

“Why, indeed?” she murmured.

“We were all happy enough and contented enough before the war,” pursued
the Philosopher. “And we were immoral enough. If the war was intended to
punish us for our immorality, it has failed in effect, for we are much
more immoral now.”

She began to work again at her embroidery, keeping her eyes bent upon
it. The Philosopher did not pursue the theme he had started; in some
subtle way he was made aware that immorality was not a subject on which
to engage the attention of the Sentimentalist. There are very few men
who, in the presence of real purity and refinement expressed in a
woman’s personality, do not hesitate to bring forward topics which
however reasonable, are at the same time questionable in taste. With a
mannish, smoking woman the Philosopher would have swung into brilliant
diatribes concerning sex and its demands, but with this sweet, composed,
dainty little lady of sentiment, he was not sure of his ground,
especially in the immediate state of his own emotions. Emotions? Had he
any? It seemed so,--anyway he was beginning to feel as if he had.

“Yes,” he said, deliberately. “You were very kind to me before the war.
Before the war I scratched my hand among your rose-bushes, and you--you
kissed the place and made it well! You may forget that generous
action--”

“Oh, no!” she interrupted, laughingly. “I remember it! I would do it
again!”

He straightened himself in his chair with an abrupt movement.

“You would? You would do it again?”

“Of course I would! Why shouldn’t I? Especially if you were frightened,
and thought you were going to be blood-poisoned!”

He regarded her with a smile.

“I was _not_ frightened!” he said. “I did _not_ think I was going to be
blood-poisoned! I’m not such a fool! I only wanted you to be--to be--”

Her eyes sparkled a trifle mischievously.

“To be--to be--what?” she asked.

“Kind to me!”

“Well, and was I not kind?”

“You were! And I want you to be kind to me now!”

She looked at him half-timidly, half-warningly.

“And am I not so?”

“You are--you are!” and the erudite Walter Craig, F.S.A., became all at
once confused, and felt an extraordinary furnace-like heat flushing his
face. “But--but--but not quite kind enough! I want you to be kinder--I
want you to--to--”

She dropped her embroidery suddenly, and rising came over to him in the
prettiest way imaginable and knelt beside him like a child asking a
favour.

“I know--I know!” she said, softly and coaxingly. “But don’t say what
you want!--like a good, kind man, don’t say it!”

His eyes opened wide in amazement. He stooped towards her and took her
hand in his own.

“Don’t say it?” he echoed. “Why--why shouldn’t I say it?”

Her sweet face lightened with an expression of tenderness, regret and
sympathy all commingled.

“Because it’s so much better not to!” she declared. “You are such a
clever, clever man!--and I’m such a silly little woman!--but all the
same let us be friends! Oh, you know what I mean!”

Yes, he knew! And his heart gave a big “dunt” in his chest, of nervous
disappointment and chagrin, yet--with those frank blue eyes looking
trustfully into his own, he could but respond to their confidence. He
pressed the little hand he held more closely and smiled. As already
hinted, his smile was particularly attractive, and just now with a touch
of pathos in it was more so than ever.

“I think I do!” he replied. “But I don’t like ‘hedging.’ I’m a bit of a
coward in most things,--but when the worst comes to the worst or the
best to the best, I’d rather face the music than run away. I know what I
want; and _you_ know what I want. I want to marry you!”

There was a tense pause. She still knelt at his feet,--still looked
sweetly up into his face, but she said nothing.

“And,” he continued, steadily, “you don’t want to marry _me_! There!
It’s all out! Isn’t it?”

She smiled.

“Not quite!” she said. “I do know you want to marry me--and--when I
first knew you--I rather fancied--yes!--I thought I should like to marry
_you_!”

“You did?--you did?” he exclaimed, a wave of extraordinary youthfulness
sweeping over him.

She held up a small warning finger.

“Yes, I did!” she averred. “You seemed so clever--and so kind!
But--but--when the kindness was lost in the cleverness--then--then I
thought differently!”

He withdrew his hand from hers, and a shadow darkened his features.

“You see,” she went on, in gentle coaxing accents, “when you first came
here to help Dad, you were charming!--yes, perfectly charming! And I
took you for walks to all the pretty places about here, and we got on so
well together that I used to say to myself, what an honour it would be
if such a brilliant man were to care enough for me to marry me! Yes, I
really did! But when, little by little, you dropped the ‘company
manners’ as children say, and showed me another side altogether, I felt
then that you were _too_ brilliant!--_too_ clever to be always kind to a
silly little woman like myself whose ‘sentiment’ always outruns her
brains. And I--I think”--her voice sank softly--“that in marriage
kindliness is better than cleverness.”

He did not speak. She ventured to touch his hand in a caressing way as a
child might do.

“I like you very much still!” she said. “I don’t mind your sarcasm as
much as I did--and when you say rough things I try to forget them. But
if I were married to you I don’t think I _could_ forget them! They would
hurt! And when you _are_ sarcastic you can be very rude! Yes, indeed!
And I would not be able to stand that either! Because, as you have
often said, I ‘overdo the sentiment,’ and if I loved you, and you were
unkind, I should be utterly miserable! So what a fortunate thing it is
that I _don’t_ love you and _wouldn’t_ marry you for all the world!--and
that I just ‘like’ you, and admire you as a very, very clever man! For
so we can always be the best of friends!”

“Cold comfort, applied with sweet eloquence!” said the Philosopher,
rousing himself from his momentary abstraction. “I understand! And you
may be right! My experience of men and things has not mellowed my
disposition--I have grown a crust upon myself, and honestly, I enjoy my
own crustiness. But you, dear child!--if you only made more allowance
for this, you would find it is all on the surface, and _only_ on the
surface. Now you have been perfectly frank with me up to a certain
point,--why do you not declare at once honestly the real obstacle that
prevents your marrying me? Why?”

She was silent. Her head drooped, and he stroked her bright hair.

“Why?” he repeated, in a tone of bland argument. “I don’t think I should
make a bad husband, I should have my ‘moods’ undoubtedly--and I should
expect them to be humoured and tolerated. And you--you would most
certainly mount your ‘high horse’ occasionally, and I should permit you
to prance upon it like a child on rockers till you were tired. You would
soon be tired, and so should I! But I would take every care of you--I am
old enough to fill your father’s place should he be taken from you, and
I could give you a position in cultured society--not the society of
American millionaires, but the society of art and letters. And I would
promise not to be ‘rude’ or ‘sarcastic’ more than I could possibly
help--”

She rose from her pretty appealing attitude at his knee, and smiling,
shook her head at him regretfully.

“Ah, you would never be able to help it!” she said. “It is your nature!
I should have fallen in love with you if it hadn’t been!”

Goaded to retort by her tone, and more or less vexed at the airy
aloofness of her figure as she stood upright now and a little apart from
him, he said:

“If it hadn’t been? You mean if it hadn’t been--for Jack!”



CHAPTER XIV


She raised her eyes and looked at him full and frankly.

“Yes,” she said simply, and there was a thrill of pain in her gentle
voice. “I should have put that first. If it hadn’t been for Jack!”

And now the criss-cross pattern of the Philosopher’s awkward temperament
began to urge itself into prominence. He made a feeble effort to assume
a patience which he did not possess, and only succeeded in pricking up
the ugly little lines of satire which ran through his nature as the
veins run through a leaf. He gave a short cough and a sniff in one.

“I thought as much!” he remarked. “And I wondered why you didn’t mention
it at once. However--now you _have_ mentioned it, may I, _dare_ I ask
whether you were engaged to that ‘missing’ young man?”

She kept her eyes steadily fixed upon him.

“No. I was not engaged.”

“Not engaged? Then--pardon me!--but why should his ghost stand in the
way?”

A little tremor seemed to pass over her like a cold wind.

“Not his ghost--oh, no!” she murmured. “He is not dead--I am sure he is
not dead!”

The Philosopher twisted himself round in his chair with a movement of
irritation.

“How can you be sure?” he demanded. “You go by sentiment as usual! All
wrong! Facts are the only props to lean on. When the War Office declares
a man is ‘missing’ in this deplorable war, facts plainly point out the
evidence that he is dead. You don’t want to believe it of course--your
‘sentiment’ refuses to believe it; but sentiment is a false
guide--especially for women. It leads them into a morass of mistaken
ideals and--and--er--wasted affection.”

“Yes,” she said, simply. “I am very wrong, I know--and you are--you must
be--always right.”

His eyelids twitched with a quiver of irritation.

“Is that sarcastic?” he asked.

She started.

“Sarcastic? Oh, no! Did it seem so? I’m sorry!”

“You need not be sorry,” he said equably. “It is only your usual way of
leaving facts for fiction. You are not ‘very wrong’--you are merely
sentimental; and I am not, nor am I bound to be, ‘always right’--I am
only endowed with a little common sense. And my common sense protests
against your posing as a sort of war widow.”

He had scarcely said this when he would have given a great deal not to
have said it. Her glance swept over him with an expression of regret,
pain, anger and pity all commingled in one bright flash. She moved away
from him and resumed her seat, bending her head anew over her embroidery
to hide the tears that despite her efforts had sprung to her eyes at the
rough touch he had laid on a smarting wound. Annoyed with himself--he
nevertheless went on in the track suggested by his evil demon--

“A war widow is an interesting personality,” he said, in rasping tones.
“I grant you that! Just now she is the ‘rage’--the pivot of smart
society! She gets herself up in the most attractive way--wears the most
enchanting headgear adorned with a long, flowing, airy, black veil, and
when she has a pretty face looks a pathetic picture. And she goes on
posing with the pathos and the veil, till she finds another man to
replace the one she has lost. All very natural and nice! But I don’t see
why _you_ should ‘pose’ in the fashionable attitude! You were not
engaged to the missing Jack--and if we take it for granted--as we
must--that he is dead, _you_ have no occasion to seek for some one in
his stead. You have the offer of a husband who would be kind to you and
protect you to the utmost of his power--who would love you--”

She looked up, her eyes wet and sorrowful.

“Ah, no!” she said in a thrilling voice. “Not love! You do not know what
love is or you would not hurt me!”

He was taken aback for a moment--her accents were so plaintive.

“Have I hurt you?” And he was conscious of a sense of shame. “Really?
Well--I apologise! Of course you think me a clumsy brute--I dare say I
am--I can’t help myself--”

“You _could_ help yourself!” she said, almost passionately. “Yes, you
could if you tried! You could help being cruel! You _are_ cruel in your
cold, sharp words!--your cynical estimate of all that makes life worth
living! As for Jack, if you had once realised the awfulness of war--if
you could, with all your cleverness, reading and learning, get
imagination enough to picture him or any other brave young man lying
dead on the battle-field, half trampled in mud, all the beautiful, gay,
strong spirit of him gone for ever,--oh!--you surely would have _some_
sort of feeling!--even for _me_!--for his poor father!--you would not,
_could_ not put it aside as a light matter for ill-placed jesting! You
know--yes, you know very well that I would never ‘pose’ as a war
widow,--so why do you say such an unkind thing?”

Her sweet face, quivering with suppressed pain moved him more than her
words. He rose from his comfortable chair, stretched himself and
smiled,--then came over to her where she sat.

“We are getting melodramatic,” he said, “and that will never do! As I
before said, I apologise! You are not a war widow. And you will not
‘pose’ as one. Good! That’s settled. You will put the missing Jack in a
shrine of your own fancy and surround his image with the incense of a
sentimental faith. And you will not marry me? No, certainly not! Not
yet! But--perhaps--some day! I do not lose hope--I am not disheartened!
Dear child, I am very sorry to have said anything to vex you--try to
forget it! But when you are calm again--when you are quite normal--I
want you to think quietly to yourself--think sensibly in a perfectly
matter-of-fact way--that life is not as the vulgar put it ‘all beer and
skittles’--nor is it all honey and roses, and women have more or less a
difficult time of it if they are alone in the world. They ought to be
treated kindly; but they are not. Now I offer myself as a sort of
wall,--the kind of wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe--(that is to
say, Sentiment and Folly) may just peer at intervals--a wall against
which you may lean without any fear of knocking it down. A wall is not a
pretty thing--but it is sometimes useful. In short”--here he very gently
laid his hand on her bent head--“I am here if you want me,--I don’t
hesitate to say that I shall be glad if you _do_ want me!--but,--if you
don’t--why then I must just grin and bear it!--and do my best to be
unselfish!”

A sudden surprise smote her, touched with remorse. There were “points”
in his curious temperament and character which she had not recognised,
and to which she had scarcely done justice. One of these “points” was
that being selfish he knew that he had that failing. It is a great
achievement for any man, especially a “philosopher,”--to know and to
recognise his chief fault, even while still persisting in it. She looked
up from under the touch of his hand on her head and smiled.

“What a pleasant man you might be if you liked!” she said, impulsively.
“Only--”

“Only I don’t like!” he finished, placidly. “Quite true! I don’t like
‘being pleasant.’ You see I’ve journeyed fairly well on in life and my
experience has proved to me that so-called ‘pleasant’ people are
generally consummate bores and wholly devoid of intelligence. They are
generally cowards too,--in a moral sense. That is to say that they
would rather be ‘pleasant’ than honest. Now I would rather be honest
than pleasant. You see?” He smiled. “And that’s why I’m rude,
crusty,--and selfish!”

She could not bear to hear him running himself down in this way, and
impulsively rising from her chair she laid both her little hands on his.

“No, you’re not!” she declared. “I won’t have you say so! You’re a very
charming man,--or you _can_ be--if you choose!--and I dare say I have
often misunderstood you. And perhaps--perhaps you’ll marry some nice
woman some day--and you’ll _have_ to be always charming then!--for _her_
sake!”

He laughed outright.

“I think I see myself at it!” he said. “Charming for _her_ sake!--the
‘nice woman’! Oh, ye gods! My dear child, have you ever thought what a
‘nice woman’ is, in the full meaning of that common term? A man flies
from her as from the plague! Propriety and commonplace in one! You’re
not a ‘nice woman’!--if you were--”

She echoed his laughter, still resting her hands on his.

“If I were, what then?”

“Why then”--and his voice vibrated with an emotion he really felt--“I
should never have grown so fond of you as I am nor should I have dared
to ask you to marry me as I have done!”

Poor little Sentimentalist! The grave tenderness of his tone made her
gentle heart beat quickly--she looked up and met his eyes bent down upon
her with a protective kindness that was wonderfully moving;--she could
not help being touched by the thought that this “clever” man, this light
of a literary “clique” actually found her lovable; and for the moment
all his odd brusqueries, rudenesses and cynicisms were forgotten.
Almost--yes!--almost she could have loved him! The swift doubt crossed
her brain,--was she wise to refuse him? Her thoughts seemed drifting to
and fro like leaves in a storm,--then, all suddenly she stooped and
kissed one of the hands on which her own lay.

“I cannot kiss the place and make it well!” she said in a tremulous
little way. “For I suppose ‘the place’ this time is in your heart!--or
you would say so! But do please believe that I am very grateful for your
affection!--and--and--that I am deeply sensible of the honour you have
done me!”

He drew his hands away from hers.

“That’s like a bit of Jane Austen,” he said. “Prosy Jane Austen whom all
the critics have agreed to praise because she can no longer gain any
advantage from their approval! I suppose you know,--you ought to if you
don’t,--that, nine out of ten of the so-called ‘literary’ oracles
haven’t read a line of Jane Austen and wouldn’t for their lives! She’s a
sort of refuge where they take shelter when they want to shy stones at
modern novelists,--they cower under her wing and say, ‘We turn with
relief to the delicate delineations of Jane Austen’--when they all know
there isn’t a single character of Jane Austen that ‘lives,’--or if one
_did_ live, he or she would be such a confounded prig and bore that the
rest of society would run away from the very contact. No, my dear
child!--please don’t ‘be sensible of the honour I have done you’--it’s
no particular ‘honour’ to a pretty woman to ask her to become the life
companion of an elderly and by no means good-looking man. I have likened
myself unto a wall--a wall of safety and protection--and if ever you
find such a wall necessary or useful--well!--here I stand!”

She lifted her pretty blue eyes to his trustfully.

“Thank you!” she said,--then, after a pause she added--“I am sorry
if--if I have ever misunderstood you in any way!”

“Oh, I’m easily misunderstood!” he said, airily. “I rather like it! When
people understand you, you are on their level,--now I don’t want to be
on anybody’s level. I flatter myself I’ve got a little bit of rising
ground on my own--just a little bit of course, but it’s not absolutely
flat.” Here he bethought himself of his pipe as a convenient distraction
from the conversation, and went to the mantelpiece where he had left it.
“Of course it’s only a little bit,--I don’t brag of it--but it’s off the
beaten track.” He began to fill his pipe slowly, moved by his evil
genius to do it in a peculiarly irritating manner, prodding the tobacco
into the bowl with his forefinger much too tightly for it to “draw”
successfully--“and, as regards my being a wall, naturally I’m not the
only sort of wall you might have--if you chose--to lean upon; you
might”--here his evil genius pressed him harder than ever--“you might
have an American millionaire wall!--and--after all--he’s only a few
years older than I am!”

Her face flushed,--then grew pale.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said, quietly. “At least I hope I
don’t. If you allude to Mr. Durham--”

He nodded sagaciously.

“Then,” she continued, “he is not a millionaire. And if his son has been
killed in this wicked war, I shall be glad to do all in my power to try
and console him,--just as if I were his daughter--” She broke off, too
troubled by her own emotion to say more.

“Daughter is a good relationship,” said the Philosopher calmly, pursuing
his demon track. “A daughter can inherit if the son is dead. And you say
he is not a millionaire? He doesn’t look it, I admit--but looks are
deceptive. The showy man generally lives on his wits, having nothing
else to live on,--but the shabby, out-at-elbows fellow is almost sure to
have a big balance at his banker’s. One learns these interesting things
as one goes on in life,--they add to the charm of philosophy! Not a
millionaire? Good! But millionaire or pauper he makes another very good
‘wall’ for you should you need one--and if you prefer him to me--”

She clasped her hands in a kind of worried desperation.

“Oh, why will you go on talking like this!” she exclaimed. “I want
nothing--I need no protection from anybody! I could make my own living
by myself if I were driven to it,--and I would rather be left utterly
alone in the world than to marry a man I did not love!”

The Philosopher struck a fusee and tried to light his pipe but
failed--it was too tightly packed.

“Love again!” he commented. “You think of nothing else! I’ve told you
often that what you accept as ‘love’ is mere sentiment. For example,
take _me_,--I have a great affection for you,--so great that I have
asked you to marry me,--but the very variable emotion which boys and
girls call ‘love’ doesn’t move me a jot. I don’t believe in it. Out of a
hundred couples who marry for ‘love’ ninety-nine of them regret their
folly before the honeymoon is over!”

She was silent. He went on pleasantly--

“All the old novels used to end in the union of the hero and the heroine
who were supposed to ‘live happy ever after.’ We know now that they
_don’t_ live happy ever after. That bubble of illusion is broken. The
common conclusion according to hard fact is that they live _un_happy
ever after! There are exceptions of course--but exceptions prove the
rule. A really fortunate marriage is one where the contracting parties
are good friends--without any sentiment. This sort of sensible people go
jogging along comfortably and often celebrate their ‘Golden Wedding,’
whereas the silly ‘love’ business usually ends in the divorce court. Do
you follow my line of argument?”

She was watching his futile efforts to light his pipe.

“Quite!” she said, and a tiny smile uplifted the corners of her mouth.
“It’s quite easy to follow!--much easier than to light a pipe when the
bowl is crammed too full! Let me do it for you!”

She took the briar from his unresisting hand and deftly loosened the
tobacco with the point of her embroidery scissors, shaking some of it
into the fireplace, whereat he groaned.

“What a waste!” he commented. “So like a woman! To throw away what she
doesn’t want--”

“What _he_ doesn’t want, you mean!” she said, laughing as she handed him
back his pipe. “There!” and she lit a fusee. “You’ll find that all right
now.”

Slowly and morosely he drew a whiff or two.

“Yes--it’s all right,” he admitted. “But look at what you have cast away
in the grate! Enough for a half refill!”

“And whose fault?” she queried. “Who over-filled the bowl?”

He was silent a minute or two.

“I suppose I did,” he admitted after a while. “My own cup--the cup of
bitterness,--was over-filled and unconsciously I matched my pipe with
it. Ah, you may laugh!--but that’s a fact!” He paused again,--then
resumed: “And though you’re not a war widow you still are resolved to
play the part of one--that is to say, you’ll remain unmarried--”

“Till I know the real truth,” she interposed gently. “Till I am sure
Jack is no longer in this world! You see”--she hesitated, then went
on--“Jack was--_is_--very fond of me--and I--I was not fond of him a bit
till _you_ came!”

The Philosopher drew his pipe from his mouth and stared at her, amazed.

“Till _I_ came!” he echoed. “What in the name of all the gods and
goddesses did _I_ do to make you fond of him?”

A pretty rose-colour flushed her cheeks, and she smiled; then she went
on steadily:

“I was beginning to be fond of _you_!” she said. “Yes, I was! I don’t
mind telling you now. I thought you delightfully clever--and you seemed
kind--and I was quite proud that you liked my companionship. That was at
first, you know! But afterwards when you were rude--and when you said
unkind things you need never have said--well!--then I began to think
about you in a different way. I loved your little eccentricities and
grumpishness--but that sort of thing can be carried too far
sometimes!--and bitter words never sweeten friendship. You were harsh
and cynical--Jack was always tender and gentle--and though Jack is not
clever and you are!--dreadfully clever!--I felt that love is better than
all the cleverness in the world!” She paused,--there was a dewy sparkle
as of tears in her eyes. “You see how it happened?” she went on again.
“I should hardly have loved Jack so much if I had not contrasted him
with _you_! Do you understand?”

The Philosopher gave a resigned gesture.

“I understand!” he said. “I over-filled the bowl! And of course the pipe
doesn’t ‘draw.’ Well, well! I must accept my fate,--the inevitable
result of the strange humours of women! Could anything be more fantastic
than your beginning to care for me ‘at first’ and then starting to care
for young Durham ‘at second’ because I failed to come up to your
standard of good temper and mild manners! Merciful Providence!” The
Philosopher shot out this exclamation like a dart from an air-gun. “Who
can fathom the mysterious pools of the feminine mind! Child, do you want
perfection in a man? If you do you won’t get it!--make no mistake about
that!”

“I don’t want perfection,” she answered mildly, her rosy underlip
quivering just a little. “I never thought of such a thing! But I _do_
want--kindness!”

She turned her face away quickly lest he should see the tears in her
eyes which now brimmed over and fell. He was silent a moment, then--

“Kindness? Kindness can be overdone. It then becomes mawkish
sentimentality. Like politeness, it can be a bore. The man who is always
bowing and saying ‘Pardon me!’ is the very chap who’ll give you a good
deal to pardon him for in the long run. It’s the same thing with
kindness--if you are always kind to people you’ll find them always
cruel--it’s the necessity of contrast. You can’t say I have ever been
really unkind to _you_--now can you?”

She hesitated.

“You’ve been rough--and rude!” she murmured, at last.

“Granted! Well, what then?”

She peeped timidly at him.

“Then? Why then--I was disillusioned!” she said. “That’s all!”

He paced two or three times up and down the room.

“Oh! That’s all!” he echoed. “And you think perhaps that I’m the only
sort of man that proves a ‘disillusion’? You dear little goose! I’m
sorry for you! You make ‘ideals’ which no man can ever come up to--and
then you are vexed when they fail! If you’ve made an ideal of young
Durham--”

“Oh, no, I haven’t _ever_ made an ideal of _him_!” she said,
emphatically. “He never professed to be clever--he’s just
ordinary--nothing particular about him--but he wouldn’t _hurt_ any one
by saying unkind things--”

The Philosopher stopped abruptly in his pacing up and down.

“Dear child, the folks who allow themselves to be ‘hurt’ by what they
consider an unkind thing, are silly and conceited folks at best. I don’t
think _you_ are silly or conceited--but if you feel ‘hurt’ at anything I
have said to you or at anything anybody has said, then you haven’t as
big a spirit as I thought you had! I may be rough--I may be rude--but
you, in your youth and strength should make allowances for age in a
man,--for disappointments and difficulties and disillusions far worse
than _your_ disillusionment--disillusions extending over a long life of
study and thought--study of human nature, which teaches you not to
expect the best but always the worst--”

“That’s where you are wrong!” she exclaimed. “You should expect the
best!--the best always!”

He came up to her and taking her hand, patted it soothingly.

“Charming!--charming!” he said. “You are a true sentimentalist; but a
very sweet little lady all the same! And now what you have to do is to
put your precept into practice!--expect the best!--the best
always!--even the best of _Me_!”



CHAPTER XV


On the day of the famous “Armistice,” old Mr. Durham did what was for
him an unusual thing--he went to London. Moreover he rose so early and
went off so surreptitiously that “Riverside Sam” opined “there must be
something in the wind.” What that “something” was could not be divined,
but the pretty little “Sentimentalist,” finding him gone when she
called, as was her morning custom, at his cottage, was made somewhat
anxious by his sudden departure. However there was no means of allaying
her anxiety, as the one old cook-housekeeper who “managed” the cottage
for him “didn’t know nothink” as she averred, except that “he’d got up,
’ad his coffee and went out,” telling her not to expect him home till
the following day as he was going to town on business. The fair Sylvia
heard this explanation, but was scarcely satisfied. It was not like him,
she thought, to rush off suddenly to London without at least calling to
see Dr. Maynard and telling him of his intended absence for a couple of
days. And she,--like “Riverside Sam,”--felt there must be “something in
the wind.”

On this particular day she happened to be very much alone. The
Philosopher had taken himself off to Oxford almost as suddenly as old
Durham had taken himself off to London,--her father was engrossed in the
writing of an article for the dullest of monthly magazines, and the
whole house was curiously silent. Far away in the great metropolis the
sirens and guns had announced the “Armistice,”--that cessation of battle
which appeared to make the German foe consider himself the victor,--but
here in the heart of a quiet country there was a wonderful
stillness--the lovely stillness of far-stretching fields and the
slow-winding river,--a stillness too which suggested the monotony of
life without some stirring action or emotion to vibrate through its
tranquillity. And, for some inexplicable reason the usually well-braced
and cheerful spirit of the Sentimentalist began to droop,--a cloud of
melancholy darkened her mind, and she pictured herself alone--always
alone!--alone in the old Manor house, stitching at her embroidery or
working in her garden, with nothing further to look forward to but just
placid comfort and well-being for the rest of her days! Surely she could
never stand it! Better to marry the Philosopher and rub up against all
his odd humours and eccentricities, than have nothing whatever to move
her out of the rut of the easy commonplace! Better perhaps to become a
“loud” woman like some of the modern vulgar,--women who stoop to the
baseness of betraying their friends’ confidences and publishing them in
“rag” newspapers for so much cash down,--better to be a “film” star (or
tallow-dip!) than live wholly without any sort of “sensation”! And
yet!--she raised her eyes and saw a warm shaft of the sun strike on a
bunch of brown sedges near the river, flecking the whole plant with
gold, and close by on a leafless twig, a robin perched, looking at her
with its fearless bright eyes, and ruffling its bonny crimson breast,
and as she saw this little “phrase” of nature, this wordless speech
which means so much to the simple heart and pure mind, her mood changed
and brightened.

“After all I’d rather live a dull life than a low one!” she said to
herself. “I’d rather be honest than mean! I wouldn’t like to look at
myself in the glass and know that I was a despicable little
scandal-monger, raking up stories about my friends and sneering at them
and taking money for doing it! That sort of thing may be ‘sensational’
but it’s disgraceful! And as for films and ‘stars,’ I hope they’ll all
go out one day and never come back! And I’ll be content as I am--I’ve so
much to be thankful for!--and if Jack ever comes home--”

She broke off in her musings here, being called by her father. She ran
off to obey the summons, and was soon busy with the various trifles he
wanted in the way of string, sealing-wax and a long envelope in which to
enclose his magazine article for the post. The old gentleman looked very
cheerful, and rubbed his hands joyously over “Armistice Day.”

“They’ve stopped killing each other for the time being,” he said. “And
_that’s_ a mercy! Dear, dear! What fools men are, to be sure! As if any
Governmental quarrel should be settled by the murdering of innocent men!
There’s no sense of justice in it.”

“But is there any justice in anything?” queried Sylvia, with sadness in
her tone as she put the question. “It doesn’t seem to me that there is!”

Her father looked at her tenderly.

“Anything the matter, little girl?” he asked. “You don’t seem very
bright! What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,--really nothing!” she answered, quickly. “Only--I find it hard
to believe in justice when such dreadful cruelties happen as have been
happening in the war,--when innocent people are killed, and men torture
each other in every imaginable way--”

“Yet justice is done,” said Dr. Maynard, gravely. “Sooner or
later,--believe that, my dear! For all the lives wasted there will be a
reckoning--not in _our_ way, but in God’s way! We must not doubt that
Right is the ruling power, always bound to come uppermost!”

“It seems very long in coming sometimes,” she murmured, then suddenly
and in a timid voice she said: “Dad dear!--do you know--can you
imagine--that Mr. Craig has asked me to marry him?”

Dr. Maynard smiled.

“Oh, he has, has he? Well, I’m not surprised! And you,--what did you say
to him?”

“I said ‘No,’” she replied. “I asked him not to go on with
it--but--but--of course--I feel he has done me a great honour.”

The old scholar looked meditative.

“Um--um--perhaps he has--and perhaps he hasn’t! We men are apt to think
too much of ourselves, and you women are prone to think too much of us!
Craig is a clever fellow--but--well!--he’s a _leetle_ old for you, my
pretty one!--just a _leetle_ worn and battered in the battle of life to
be the husband of a small fairy like you! So that the ‘honour’ of his
asking you to marry him doesn’t seem so great to my mind as the ‘honour’
of your accepting him--if you _did_!--which you won’t!”

“Which I won’t!” and she slipped a loving arm round his neck. “You’re
sure of that, Dad? How do you know?”

He put one hand under her chin and turned her sweet face up to his own.

“How do I know?” he echoed, and laughed as he spoke. “Why, because
you’re not in love with him! God bless my soul! Do you think I’m such an
old noodle as not to know when a girl’s in love?--and my own little
girlie too! There, there! You can’t play bo-peep with _me_! He has
proposed to you--well and good!--it’s a bit of a cheek on his part, but
never mind that!--and you’ve thought it might be a good thing for you to
be established in life as the wife of a distinguished Oxford
man,--but--see here, my child!” And his bantering tone changed to one of
earnest and tender gravity. “We are living in queer times--this old
world has got a shock straight to the heart in this war, and men and
women are drifting away from the faith of their forefathers--the faith
and right principle which made Britain ‘Great.’ Don’t go with the fatal
‘swim,’ Sylvia!--it’s bound to end in a whirlpool of trouble. Keep to
the straight lines of life,--and one of those straight lines is love.
Love, my little one!--nothing but real, pure love can make a woman happy
in marriage.”

Sylvia nestled close to him.

“Dear Dad! You are quite eloquent!” she said, and smiled up into his
eyes. “And you don’t think I’m in love with your distinguished friend?”

He laughed.

“Not a bit!” he replied. “Nor is he really in love with you! He thinks
you a pretty little armful of charms--which you _are_--but he wouldn’t
know how to treat you as a wife, nor would he know how to treat _any_
wife! He’s past all that. His habits are settled, and he wouldn’t change
them to please any woman!”

“No, I suppose he wouldn’t!” she murmured meditatively. “And those
habits are rather trying--sometimes!”

Her father laughed again.

“Of course they are! The habits of bookworms are always trying! _I’m_ a
bookworm. _My_ habits are trying!”

“No, they’re not!” And she linked her arms round his neck and hugged
him. “No, Dad, you’re just the dearest and best man in the world to me!
You know that, don’t you?”

“Well, you make me believe so!” he answered, submitting to her caresses
with a very good grace. “But when the gout is on me--”

“Ah, that’s not _you_!” she declared, lovingly. “That’s the gout _only_!
You’re not in it!”

“I wish I were not!” he responded. “But I tell you what, Sylvia,--it’s
less violent than it was. Craig has certainly helped me to ignore it--if
he hadn’t kept me at work--”

“Ah, yes! ‘The Deterioration of Language!’” smiled Sylvia. “You must
both be sorry that it is nearly finished--that great book!”

“It _is_ a great book!” he agreed, triumphantly. “And it’s a book that’s
wanted. Language is getting more and more deteriorated every day. When
you see the press circulating the vilest slang--such as ‘the blinkin’
this, that, or t’other’--the ‘bally’ rag of some special thing, and
women, passing for ‘ladies,’ talk of ‘tommy rot’ in ordinary
conversation, surely it’s time some protest was made! A slangy nation is
always a decadent one--purity of speech is the result of purity of
thought, while coarse language expresses coarseness of mind and morals.”

The old scholar was wandering off on his favourite theme and turned to
get a book to confirm what he was saying. His daughter stood watching
him for a moment,--then suddenly, in a hushed tone she said:

“Dad, do you think Jack Durham is really killed?”

He looked at her thoughtfully and kindly.

“Do I think so? My dear, I don’t know what to think--but so far as my
own impressions go, I rather feel that he’s alive. Of course all the
facts are against me,--all the same I cannot realise anything else. It
seems to me impossible that he should be dead. I know there are
thousands of young fellows like him who are gone--more’s the
pity!--but”--here he paused and stretching out a hand drew his daughter
tenderly towards him--“I suppose you were really fond of him?”

She hesitated, then spoke in rather a hushed tone.

“Yes, Dad--I think I was,--I think I _am_! And yet--do you know I never
thought of being fond of him till your friend, the Philosopher”--and she
smiled--“came on the scene. I really was quite taken with _him_!--he
rather made a sort of love to me for a time, and I was quite proud that
such a clever man should even _seem_ to like me. But after a while, such
ugly sides of his character began to show--he could be so rough and
rude--and--and--_selfish_! that I began to dislike him, as much as I had
once liked him. And Jack--”

“Well?” interpolated her father, gently. “And Jack?’

“Jack was always kind,” she said, “and quite _un_selfish. He told me
before he went away that he was fond of me--but he would not bind me to
any promise or engagement--he left me quite free. Only one thing seemed
to trouble him a little--he hoped I would not marry the Philosopher!”

“And yet you had some vague idea of doing it!” laughed her father.

“Only vague!” she responded. “Very vague!”

“Suppose the worst--that Jack is really gone--would you marry Craig?”

She thought a moment, then answered--

“No, I don’t think I could!”

“Right! You’d be a fool if you did! Dear child, you know what I’ve told
you before this--there’s only one right way of marriage and that is
great love on both sides. It’s no good playing with a sacrament. The
thousands of miserable marriages and divorces are ample proofs of the
mistakes men and women make in taking each other for better or worse on
the strength of a mere ‘fancy,’ or by way of monetary convenience. Now
I”--he paused--“I _loved_ your mother!--loved her above everything in
the world!--and I know she loved _me_! She gave me YOU!--and though I
may be a testy old fellow at times I love you next best to Her. And I
want you to be happy, my little girl!--and for your sake I hope Jack
Durham is _not_ killed. He’s not particularly clever--but I believe his
heart is in the right place, and that he would make you a kind husband.
Kindness is better than all the intellectual brilliancy in the world!”

He kissed her with lingering fondness, and then with an air of shaking
off his mood of seriousness, resumed his groping among his books.

“And so Durham has gone to town?” he suddenly queried, looking round.

“Yes. So his housekeeper at the cottage told me this morning.”

“Some sudden business, I suppose! Craig won’t be back till to-morrow, so
you’ll have to pass a quiet evening with me all alone! Poor little
Sylvia! I’m afraid it’s very dull for you here sometimes.”

“It’s _not_,” she declared with emphasis. “When I find my own dear Dad’s
company ‘dull’--I deserve to be branded as an ungrateful little brute!
How can you think such a thing!”

His old eyes rested upon her sorrowfully.

“Ah, my dear! Times have changed!” he said. “In the old days ‘home’ was
a happy abiding place for the young folk who honoured their old
folk--but now, thanks to the stupid governments under which the people
pay taxes and groan their lives away, ‘homes’ are broken up and old folk
made mock of while the young are encouraged to run a wild life as they
will, without faith in God or trust in any good save for themselves.
_You_ are not of these--I have brought you up differently--but it’s an
‘old-fashioned’ bringing-up, Sylvia!--and you are not a ‘modern’ minded
girl. Perhaps you’ll thank me for that some day--perhaps not!--but I
maintain that an ‘old fashion’ which built up the homes of the nation
and taught the people to believe in God and live clean, loyal, loving
lives, was a ‘fashion’ worth following. No ‘new’ fashion will ever equal
or surpass it!”



CHAPTER XVI


Next morning came a brief note from the Philosopher,--he prided himself
on never writing a word more than was absolutely necessary.

“Coming back to-morrow afternoon. Bringing a friend to tea.”

This, scrawled on what is called a “correspondence card” and signed with
the almost illegible hieroglyph which he made of his initials, was all.

Dr. Maynard turned it over and over--then glanced at his daughter.

“This means that he will be here to-day,” he said. “Probably about four
or five o’clock. I think the friend he alludes to is an Oxford
publisher.”

“Yes?” queried Sylvia tentatively.

“Yes,--quite an enterprising man who is likely to take my ‘The
Deterioration of Language,’ and launch it well. Of course we shall have
to talk it over.”

“Of course!” and the Sentimentalist did her best to seem interested.
“You will have to settle terms, and all that sort of thing.”

“Terms?” The old scholar shook his head. “My dear child, I don’t build
any hopes in _that_ direction! If I can find a publisher to take the
book at all I shall be fortunate--”

“But it’s such a _wonderful_ work!” she said, with all the tender
indulgence she truly felt. “You’ve had so much patience and spent so
much time over it!”

“Very true!” and Maynard smiled. “But publishers don’t care about that.
They think of trade. ‘Will it sell?’ is their one demand. If it won’t,
what’s the good of it? Think of Milton gratefully accepting Five Pounds
for ‘Paradise Lost’! There’s a life’s lesson!” He looked at the
Philosopher’s note again and a little smile hovered round his lips.
“Yes! I should say Craig has found a likely man and is bringing him
along.”

“Well, I’ll have a nice tea ready for them when they come,” said Sylvia.
“That will help to put them in a good humour.”

She went off then on her various household duties, and presently
bethought herself that though it was chill November there was one warm
corner in the garden where a few monthly roses still found courage to
bloom. One or two of these would brighten the tea-table, she decided,
and putting on her hat and cloak she ran out in search of them. They
were all in a little pink group together--drooping rather on their
stems, yet not without soft fragrance, and she was almost reluctant to
gather them. She remembered how Jack Durham had called her a
“rose-lady,” and quick tears sprang to her eyes as the pretty name
chimed in her memory like a fairy bell. Slowly and very tenderly she
plucked three or four of what were indeed the “last roses of
summer”--and as she did so was startled by a gruff voice speaking on the
other side of the hedge.

“Missy! Missy Maynard!”

She looked up and saw the unkempt head and rough brown face of
“Riverside Sam” peering at her through a tangle of leaves.

“Don’t be skeered, Miss! It’s only me!” he said in a kind of hoarse
whisper. “I say! Look ’ere! I thought ye might like to know Mr. Durham’s
back. He got ’ome early this mornin’. Yes--he’s ’ome--all well an’
’arty!”

“I’m very glad!” said Sylvia, gently. “Thanks, Sam! It’s kind of you to
come and tell me. I shouldn’t have known unless you had, as I can’t go
down to the cottage to-day--we have visitors this afternoon.”

“Have ye?” And Sam grinned through the aperture he had made in the hedge
somewhat in the fashion of a yokel at a country fair grinning through a
horse-collar. “Visitors comin’, eh? From Oxford mebbe?”

Sylvia nodded carelessly, a little surprised at his exceptionally
friendly familiarity.

“The old gentleman ain’t arf bad!” went on Sam. “For all ’is larnin’ an’
queer talk ’e’s got a bit of ’art in the right place! I’ve taken to
likin’ ’im now--I usen’t to. He’s not much sport about ’im--skeered of
’is life at a water-rat, an’ all that sort o’ thing. I s’pose ’e’ll be
comin’ back from Oxford to-day?”

“Yes--I think so!” Sylvia answered, still perplexed by something in his
manner which she could not understand. “Do you want to see him?”

“Not pertikerly,” and Sam grinned again. “‘E don’t owe me nothing. ’E
ain’t very fond of the river,--fishin’ ain’t in ’is line. An’ Lor’
bless ye, the river ain’t much to look at now--all brown an’ muddy with
a few whistlin’ reeds on the banks--very different to the days when you
an’ _pore_ Mr. Jack used to walk along by the path as prutty to see as
two birds on the ’op! Ah! _pore_ Mr. Jack!--he was a good lad! as good
as ye’ll find anywhere! An’ to think the Germans ’ave got ’im!”

Sylvia moved restlessly.

“I must be going, Sam,” she said. “Is there anything you want? Anything
I can do for you?”

“No, Miss Maynard, no! Thank you all the same! No one wishes ye better
luck than I do! That’s why I came up ’ere this mornin’--just to tell ye
that old Mr. Durham is back safe so as ye mightn’t worry!”

And with that he drew his head back from the aperture in the hedge and
went off, while the Sentimentalist stood inert for a moment, with the
roses she had gathered in her hand, wondering whether she would have
time before luncheon to run down to Mr. Durham’s cottage and see how he
was, and what news he brought from London. News? What news _could_ he
bring? Except just a description of how the ‘armistice’ was hailed by
the great city’s multitudes. That would be interesting--but it could
wait. She decided it would be best to remain at home, and let Mr. Durham
take his own time for a visit to her father during the day.

“And if he comes when Mr. Craig and the publisher are here talking
business with Dad, I’ll manage to take him off and entertain him in
another room,” she said to herself. “For of course if the great ‘Book’
is to be discussed, nothing must be allowed to interfere!”

She smiled, and hummed a little tune under her breath as she went back
from the garden into the house and set her roses in a crystal vase,
which so enhanced their beauty that they seemed to cheer up and look
almost as fair as they were accustomed to do in summer. And the hours
swept on glidingly till a flare of deep scarlet and gold in the west
spread itself out in all the glory of a November sunset. The glow of a
big log fire shed bright reflections all over the charming drawing-room
of the Manor house, sparkling on the daintily set out tea-table with its
polished silver and delicate china, and the Sentimentalist surveyed her
preparations with pardonable pride.

“I _do_ love pretty things!” she said, inwardly. “And luxurious things
too! The Philosopher would say there is no necessity for either beauty
or comfort,--but I know no one who loves the good ‘tastes’ of life more
than he does! He always chooses the easiest chair to sit in,--ah, that
reminds me!” And she forthwith began to place the chairs in the most
comfortable and friendly positions near the tea-table. “Now they can
talk without straining themselves!” and she smiled. “Dad and Mr. Craig
and the publisher! I’ll be out of it--for of course as soon as I’ve
poured out tea I’ll leave them together. Women are never wanted in
‘business’ by the men--and yet I think they often manage better than the
men when they get a chance!”

Just then a bell rang, sending a deep musical echo through the house.

“There they are!” she said. “I’ll run upstairs just to see if my hair
looks tidy!”

This was always her little excuse for taking a peep at herself in the
mirror before presenting an appearance to visitors. As a matter of fact
her hair was seldom actually “tidy,” being of too wilful, curly and
“fluffy” a disposition. It rambled all over her head in fair bright
tendrils of warm brown-gold, and curled knowingly and becomingly on the
nape of her neck like feathery flecks of sunshine. The polished
smoothness of the modern “transformation” peruke was nowhere in
evidence. Still, it was just as well to have a glance in the
looking-glass as not,--and she was not altogether dissatisfied with the
reflection of herself as she saw it. She put a light hairpin or two in a
rebellious tress that strayed too freely over her forehead, and then
hastened downstairs, wondering why the parlourmaid had not announced the
arrival of visitors. Entering the drawing-room now lit only by the
sparkle of the fire and the red glow of the sunset, she saw a man
standing with his back towards her,--one man,--not the Philosopher--not
her “Dad”--just one man. Was it the publisher? She stopped short, with a
curious hesitation,--her heart beat quickly--then she heard a muffled
voice speaking--

“Don’t be frightened!--now don’t! It’s only me!”

“JACK!!” she cried, and rushed forward, almost falling as the “one man”
turned round and caught her in his arms.

“JACK!!” she exclaimed, sobbingly again. “Oh, Jack! Is it really, really
you?”

There was no audible answer. But the silence was more eloquent than
speech,--the silence of that intense joy which only too seldom lifts
poor humanity above its daily care and weariness and moves it to thank
God for the dear possession of love.



CHAPTER XVII


“Yes, it’s really me!” said Jack at last, lifting his head from among
the soft fair curls that nestled against his breast. “Yes, you precious
little ‘rose-lady’! Really me! And it’s all the Philosopher.”

Sylvia started out of his caressing arms with a shock of surprise.

“The Philosopher?” she echoed.

“Just him!” And Jack, grown thinner, but not less good-looking, shed a
whole sun-ray of tenderness upon her from his clear, brave, blue eyes.
“You wouldn’t have thought it--but he’s a regular brick! A brick? He’s
an entire edifice!”

The Sentimentalist clasped her little white hands together and gazed at
him in rapture--she could hardly believe he was there before her
actually living and well!

“Oh, Jack, do tell me!” she exclaimed. “What do you mean? What has the
Philosopher done?”

Jack put his arm round her waist and drew her to the sofa where he sat
down by her side.

“He has done everything, dear!” he said. “He’s the trump card of the
whole game! He discovered me!”

“Discovered you?” Sylvia gazed at him in bewilderment.

“Yes--he found out the prison the Boches had put me into. It wasn’t an
easy matter either! But these learned professors always hang together,
and he has a friend high up in the diplomatic service of Germany, who
is, like himself, a sort of book-worm--and _he_ started the search for
me and found me. And then--” Here Jack broke off, evidently overcome by
emotion. His “rose-lady” caught at his hand and kissed it.

“Yes, Jack!--and then?”

“Well--he found me pretty well done for! But just because the
Philosopher, as we call him, had been a boyhood’s friend of his, he got
me out of the awful hole I was in, and as I was ill and half starved--”

“Oh, Jack!” and the Sentimentalist gave a little cry of pain.

“Yes!--but it’s all over now,” and Jack kissed her tenderly. “As I say,
this first-class old German got me out and took me to his own house,
where I was nursed as if I had been his son. And that’s not all. He
managed to send me to England--and that’s where the Philosopher comes
in!”

Sylvia listened almost breathlessly.

“The Philosopher met me at the boat and took me himself to a private
hospital in London--a real A-1. You couldn’t imagine his doing all he
_did_ do!”

“Oh!” cried Sylvia. “Then he knew you were alive all the time!”

“He knew I was alive but he didn’t know how soon I should be dead!” Jack
replied. “I was very, very ill, dear! I had been wounded as well as
starved--and there was plenty of reason for thinking I should never
pull round. So the good old chap kept his own counsel. He did not tell
my father or any one that I was alive and in England. Nobody knew. If
the War Office knew, it didn’t tell! And the Philosopher made up his
mind to keep his own counsel.”

“Oh, he might have let us know!” cried Sylvia almost indignantly. “He
might have relieved all our sorrow and suspense!”

Jack caught and clasped her hands in his own.

“Now, now, Sylvia!” he said. “Don’t you mistake the old boy! I used to
hate him!--but I know he’s one of the finest fellows living! Yes, truly!
He used to come and see me, and talk to me--when I was able to
listen--and he told me all about my father and about you--and he would
say--‘If I explain things they’ll want to come and nurse you--and you’ll
be nursed to death! If I hold my tongue they’ll be none the worse--and
you’ll be spared all the emotional excitement and worry, and you’ll get
well. And while you’re getting well I’ll be a sort of Cupid’s
messenger.’”

Here Jack laughed, but there were tears in his eyes.

“Yes--a Cupid’s messenger,” he went on. “That meant that he would bring
me all the news of _you_ whenever he could! He was a queer old ‘Cupid’s
Messenger!’ but there couldn’t be a kinder sort of ‘Cupid’ anywhere! I
was pretty slow in recovering--but it’s been ‘slow and sure’ with
me--and with all the care and good things the learned Craig has been
showering on me, why! I’m as fit as ever I was! And I certainly owe it
to your old ‘Philosopher’--the man I begged you not to marry while I was
away--do you remember?”

Sylvia looked up. Her lovely blue eyes were wet and sparkling but there
was a glint of mischief in her smile.

“Shall I marry him now you are home again?” she asked.

For answer he caught her in his arms and held her close and fondly.

“You’ll marry me and no one but me!” he said, tenderly. “That’s
settled!”

There was a brief silence. The firelight flickered and leaped into
flame, sending a warm glow through the room--the hues of the sunset seen
through the window had paled into delicate amber like the petals of a
daffodil. The restful pause was broken by quite an ugly sound,--a cough
distinctly harsh and irritating. A gruff voice followed the cough.

“Dear me!” said the voice, querulously. “Humanity can never be
original!--it always imitates! The old, old story!”

And the Philosopher, rather “hunchy” of shoulder and somewhat shambling
about the feet looked into the room with a quizzical air of enquiry.

The Sentimentalist rushed at him with the light swoop of a bird flying
from heaven to earth.

“Oh, how _could_ you!” she exclaimed, half laughing and half crying
together. “How _could_ you--”

“Well, well! Now what’s the matter?” And the Philosopher fenced off
with one arm her eager little hands ready to embrace his coat sleeve.
“Be calm! Be normal! How could I--what?”

“How could you be so _wicked_!” she went on. “Yes!--so wicked!--and
so--so--_good_!”

“I couldn’t,” and the Philosopher smiled quite a superior smile. “I
couldn’t be wicked and good at the same moment! Sentiment again, you
see! Dear child, you _will_ overdo the thing! You must really try to be
less emotional! And how do you find your young man looking?”

For answer to this he found his hand caught and kissed, despite his
efforts to avoid the impulsive caress.

“There, there!” he said, gently. “That will do, you foolish little girl!
Durham, you’ll have your work cut out for you when you take her in hand!
Now what about tea?”

“It’s ready!” and Sylvia pulled him along towards the daintily spread
table. “All but the making--and I’ll see to that directly--”

“Well, begin at once,” said the Philosopher. “You needn’t wait for Dad.
Both Dads are on their way across the garden--but they wanted you to
meet the Oxford publisher first!”

He gave a short gruff laugh, and feigned to be more bored than pleased
when Jack Durham grasped his hand, saying in a low tone: “I can never
thank you enough, sir!”

And, at that moment “the two Dads” came in, making a complete “joy”
party of happy hearts and radiant faces, while Sylvia, her fair cheeks
flushing like roses with her inward delight, made the tea and dispensed
it, Jack performing the duty of handing it round to the three elderly
gentlemen who, like pleased spectators at a charming comedy, watched the
proceedings with the absorbed interest of conspirators rejoicing in the
successful result of a ripened plot.

“I should never have thought it possible,” said old Mr. Durham, breaking
through the light desultory chatter presently with measured, drawling
accents, “that you could have lent yourself”--here he fixed his eyes on
the Philosopher who had just taken his cup of tea from the fair
Sentimentalist’s hand.

“Lent myself?” and Craig smiled. “Why don’t you say gave myself? I gave
myself to my own scheme--if that’s what you mean--and it seems to have
turned out pretty well!”

“Yes, that’s right, Dad!” interposed Jack. “He gave himself--literally
_gave_ himself body and soul to the business of getting me well and
about again!--and here I am!”

His father looked at him with eyes in which age had not burnt out
tenderness.

“Here you are--thank God!” he said. “But what I find hard to
understand--”

“_I_ know!” interposed Dr. Maynard. “But we won’t say anything about
it--”

“Oh, yes, we will!” and the Philosopher munched a piece of toast and
washed it down with tea. “We will ask ourselves how it is that we who
profess to know a great deal, know next to nothing about character!
Character!--_your_ character--_my_ character!--everybody’s character!
The duality of ourselves, as it were! What you don’t understand, my good
Mr. Durham, is why I should have taken trouble over your son--who is
nothing to me”--here he waved his tea-cup melodramatically--“literally
nothing! Merely a worthy young man--an American--and I have very little
use for Americans,--who was taken prisoner by the Germans. Now I have
more friends among Germans than I have among Americans. Never mind that!
It occurred to me that a German friend might be useful to the American
young man under the circumstances; and--and--well!--there’s the whole
story!”

“Not the whole story by any means!” broke out Jack, impetuously. “Not
the care, the kindness, the attention, the patient watchfulness--”

The Philosopher held up his hand.

“Now, Jack!--you see I call you ‘Jack’ quite familiarly--I never thought
I should! That’s quite enough! Don’t harp on the subject! Remember I
hate sentiment!”

Here he gulped down his tea with an ugly gurgle and passed his cup to
Sylvia for more.

“I hate sentiment!” he repeated, then paused as old Dr. Maynard pointed
a finger at him and said:

“Yes, you do!--when your own sentiment is not in question! Then it’s
quite another matter! You’ll go any length for it! Yes, Craig!--you know
you will! God bless me! Don’t I know it! I’ll give you away--sentiment
and all!--yes, I will! I’ve been in your scheme all along--I’ve known
your plot! Sentiment? I should think so! Why you’d do anything for
Sylvia!”

There was a moment’s silence--an awkward pause. But the Philosopher was
not embarrassed. On the contrary he lifted his head and looked round
with quite a defiant air.

“Quite so!” he said. “You put it rather bluntly, Maynard!--but you’re
right! I certainly would do anything for Sylvia! And--crusty and selfish
old bear as I am--I’ve done my best!”



CHAPTER XVIII


It is a curious, but undisputed fact that when our most ardent wishes
are suddenly gratified, an unaccountable sense of dissatisfaction is apt
to set in. Who can explain it? Anxiety is over--the tension of nerves is
relaxed; and yet--and yet! We are all ungrateful creatures, often sad
when there is no cause for sadness, and disappointed with good fortune
when it smiles upon us,--we would always have a “something else” though
we are unable to explain what that “something else” should be. It is a
question of “temperament” we must suppose,--and probably it was a
“temperamental” condition that moved pretty Sylvia Maynard to go, after
the pleasant little tea-party was over and the men had retired to smoke
in the old Doctor’s library, up to her own little bedroom and there give
way to a passion of weeping. The tears and sobs came in a storm--a
doctor would have said “hysteria” and advised the administration of cold
water--but the emotional tempest in her mind was rather beyond physical
remedy. She was brought face to face with the unexpected,--the
Philosopher whom she had thought absorbed in self and the things of self
had proved to be of different mettle altogether; and she now began to
deplore the erroneous estimate she had made of his character. She had
judged him by his crusty whims and cranks of temper, and had been unable
to realise that these were not the real qualities of the man. But who
could have imagined,--she demanded this quite desperately of
herself--who _could_ have imagined it possible for him to play the part
he had taken in the rescue of Jack Durham, when all the time he was
asserting that young man’s probable death, and rather sneering--yes,
_sneering!_ at her as a sort of prospective war widow! And not only
that--he had practically proposed to her himself! It was a bewildering
puzzle to her brain--though clear out of the tangle stood the fact that
the Philosopher had assuredly justified himself as a friend and an
unselfish one. And every now and again the poor little Sentimentalist
was troubled by the thought--a wicked thought, she called it!--as to
whether, after all, she had done wisely in refusing to marry him! Was
Jack the better choice? At the very suggestion a hot blush burned her
cheeks.

“Oh, what an ungrateful little _wretch_ I am!” she said to herself,
dashing away her tears. “I _love_ Jack!--of course I love him!--and he
loves _me_! After all, _that_ is the great thing--his love for _me_!”

And what of the Philosopher’s love for her? Dared she consider it? It
shone forth now in a new and beautiful light,--for it was surely love
for Her that had moved him to do so much for Jack! Yes,--there could be
no doubt he had done it all for _her_ sake--in the wish to make _her_
happy. Was that not love?--the very best kind of love? _And she had let
that go!_ Was she glad or sorry? “You cannot eat your cake and have it,”
says an old proverb, but for the moment it seemed as though she wished
to do both!

It took her some little time to compose herself, and she was only
brought to a realisation of things as they now were by her father’s
voice calling her.

“Sylvia! Sylvia!”

“Yes, Dad!”

“They’ll all stay to dine--Jack and his father, with Craig. It’s quite
right, I suppose?”

“Yes!--of course!” and she ran to the top of the stairs to answer.
“Dinner will be ready at eight o’clock.”

Her father retired again within his sanctum, and she hastily proceeded
to bathe her tear-stained face and swollen eyes. Looking at herself in
the glass she was angry that she had so spoilt her appearance by what
she justly termed “an ugly cry.”

“And whatever did I cry for?” she asked herself. “I ought to be
perfectly happy! I’ve been fretting about Jack for months, and now here
he is, home again safe and well--and--and I’m going to be married to
him. Married to him!--just think of it!--I wonder when!”

The prospect was, for a moment, almost alarming. Quickly she strove to
put away the thought, and busied herself in brushing and arranging her
lovely hair, though with a curious lack of interest. She was conscious
that she ought to look her best on this special evening, and from a
sense of positive duty in this respect she chose one of her prettiest
evening gowns,--a mysterious “creation” of delicate ivory and pale
blue,--yet do what she would her eyes remained heavy and her face pale.

“Poor Jack!” she soliloquised softly. “He has been through such a lot
of suffering! I must try and make him very happy--if I can!” Her
meditation broke off with a snap here,--and she sighed--“Poor
Philosopher! I wish I could make him happy too!”

She glanced again at her own reflection in the mirror with a deep sense
of disparagement and shame. It was simply dreadful, she declared to
herself, to be fond of _both_ men! She was troubled by the most
contradictory cross-currents of feeling,--Jack, she knew, was devoted to
her, and he was charming,--young, good-looking and in every way one of
the best of brave fellows; on the other hand, the Philosopher, Walter
Craig, shining light of a select and learned circle, and distinguished
for many brilliant intellectual attainments, was elderly, cranky and
uncertain of temper as well as uncouth and rude of behaviour,--yet he
also was devoted to her and had proved his devotion by a perfect
unselfishness. She worried her little inconsistent sentimental self over
what seemed to her a tangle of perplexing possibilities and
uncertainties, out of which came the clear and sharp reproach to her own
conscience of having mistaken the character of a man who was much above
the average of men, as men go--while Jack--was _he_ above the average?
Oh, she could not, she would not think any more about it!

“I shall marry Jack,” she said, resolutely. “I _must_ marry him, because
he _wants_ to marry me. He has made up his mind for it. Mr. Craig is too
old to marry,--he would be miserable with a wife! He wouldn’t get on
with her at all--certainly not with one like _me_! I’m such a little
fool!”

“Yes, Sylvia!--perhaps you are!” agreed her subconscious self. But,
after all, she was no more of a little fool than thousands of other
girls as good and sweet and well-meaning as she, who take their impulses
for deep emotions and their sentiment for real life!

She made herself very charming that evening at dinner,--bewilderingly so
to Jack, who in his lover-like pride and ecstasy could hardly take his
eyes away from her. The Philosopher, on the contrary, appeared to be
very hungry,--he studied his plate with critical attention, and
manifested a well-nigh greedy satisfaction with his food. When Dr.
Maynard ordered a bottle of extra choice champagne to be opened in
honour of Jack’s return, the Philosopher smiled knowingly.

“You keep this for special occasions, eh, Maynard?” he said. “Hope
you’ve got some for the wedding day!”

Sylvia uttered a little exclamation.

“Oh, don’t talk about that!” she said, pleadingly. “No--please don’t!
Not yet!”

“Not yet indeed!” said old Mr. Durham, drawing his fuzzy brows together
in an attempted frown. “I should think not! Why, where’s the money
coming from?”

“Money?” echoed Sylvia, wonderingly.

“Ah! Money! Money to marry on--money to keep house with! Don’t you ever
think of that, little woman?”

A warm flush crimsoned her cheeks,--she glanced appealingly at Jack.

“Oh, it’s no use your looking sweet at that harum-scarum fellow!” went
on Durham, with evident enjoyment in his own remarks. “He’s out of the
fighting now--can’t play the hero any more--and hasn’t a penny to bless
himself with! He’s got to depend on his poor old father! Eh, Jack? His
poor old father! What a rascal he is, eh?”

Jack smiled, and looked across the table at his “poor old father”
cheerily enough.

“I shall soon get to work,” he said. “The Boches haven’t crippled me,
though they tried hard at it. There’s plenty for me to do, and I’ll do
it.”

The Philosopher put on his glasses and surveyed him critically.

“I presume you are familiar with the special line of ‘plenty’ on which
to spend your energies?” he said. “Is it oil or nuggets?”

Jack laughed gaily.

“Both, perhaps!” he answered. “Dad knows best! He had me trained as an
engineer of all sorts--I’m not very good at it, but I know a thing or
two. Anyhow I shall soon earn enough to marry on.”

“Oh, you will, will you?” and his father lifted his glass of champagne
and waved it towards him. “Well, here’s to your luck, my boy!--and God
be thanked I’ve got you back again!”

The earnestness of his words, voice and manner created an emotional
pause in the conversation, and Sylvia drank her wine quickly to stop the
tears that threatened to fall.

“And about that Oxford publisher,” said Dr. Maynard, suddenly.

They all laughed, except the Philosopher, who turned a reproving eye
upon his friend.

“That Oxford publisher is a fact,” he said. “You apparently doubt his
existence, Maynard! Nor am I likely, I, of all men--to advance a mere
figment as a publisher? He is no airy vision!--he is a hard, inexorable
_fact_! He will be here to-morrow.”

“Positively, Craig, you are a wonderful fellow!” said Dr. Maynard, with
a smile. “You seem to manage everything your own way!”

The Philosopher gave a little shrug of his shoulders.

“Not quite!” he said. “But probably if I had everything my own way it
would be very bad for me. As concerns the Oxford publisher I have
nothing to do with him except persuading him to come here and ‘consider’
the publication of your great work. For a publisher to ‘consider’
anything is a great concession. A publisher is a majestic being. He
holds, as it were, the fate of the future in his hands. For if the
Publisher will not publish the author what becomes of the Author’s work?
Horrible to contemplate! It may perish! The dear little child of six
years who has just committed the crime of writing verses which its
parents pay a press-man to ‘boom,’ may be denied a full hearing! Think
of it! Though truly as long as the author _pays_ for being published, it
will be all right. But you, my dear Maynard, will not pay--”

“Cannot!” interposed the old Doctor.

“True! Cannot. Then,--whether it will be all right or all wrong, nobody
can predict.”

“It will be all right,” interposed Jack, suddenly and with fervour, “if
_you’ve_ taken it in hand!”

The Philosopher almost blushed. Certainly a pale red suffused the higher
portion of his cheek-bones. Then he waved his hand deprecatingly.

“You over-rate my poor powers!” he said. “But--‘sufficient for the day
is the evil thereof.’ The Publisher may not be made of adamant--many
publishers are!--possibly when he sees Miss Maynard--”

“Oh!” exclaimed Sylvia, “_I_ could never persuade a publisher, I’m
sure!”

“How can you be sure?” queried the Philosopher, blandly. “Your
persuasion--quite unconscious, no doubt! has persuaded a far more
difficult type of being!”

“Yes?” and she made the query wonderingly.

“Yes!--and very much yes!” and he smiled,--then, as she rose from the
dinner table and prepared to leave the men to their smoke--“You are
going? We shall be swift to follow--at all events _one_ of us will!”

His smile broke into a kindly laugh as Jack sprang up and held open the
dining-room door for his “rose-lady” to pass out. His adoring eyes fixed
upon her as she went made her nervous, and she was glad to get away by
herself into the seclusion of her own little morning-room where, as she
now remembered with a whimsical touch of regret, the Philosopher had
found her, as he declared, on her “high horse.” It was a long time
since she had mounted that “tall quadruped,”--the spirit of doing so had
rather deserted her.

“I don’t think I shall ever ride the high horse again!” she said, with a
little sigh. “I couldn’t do it with Jack--he’s too kind. He never rubs
one up the wrong way. Yet, of course,--sometimes--”

Yes! Sometimes it does one good to be rubbed up the wrong way! It starts
the electricity in pussy-cat’s fur, and wakes the half-asleep
individuality in a human being. She thought about this for some few
minutes--she also tried to recall the Philosopher’s various rudenesses,
cynicisms, and ugly, unbecoming ways--but, considered in the recent
light in which he had shown his character, they were not so very
bad,--they all “seemed now in the waste of years, such a very little
thing!”

“I’m sorry!” she said, half aloud to the silence around her. “Sorry I
misunderstood his temperament! But he _was_,--he _could_ be quite odious
and snappy!--and I’m sure he would have been twenty times worse as a
husband!”

Here her meditations came to an end--for a pleading voice said:

“My ‘rose-lady’! All alone? May I come in?”

And Jack entered, holding out his hand, in the palm of which lay a
little heart-shaped gold brooch.

“I’ve brought this back to you, dear!” he said, his voice tremulous as
he spoke. “I managed to keep it all through everything,--you remember
giving it to me? It’s been my safe-conduct!--yes!--I used to feel I
couldn’t lose my grip on life as long as I had it with me. Now let me
put it back on this dear little neck”--and kneeling in front of her he
pinned it carefully among the lace of her gown. “There! It has seen a
lot of fighting!--but I’ve brought it home to its sweet and beautiful
native peace. And now--”

She was silent, but tears filled her eyes--and, as he knelt before her,
his face upturned to hers, she gently put her arms round his neck and
kissed him. With that she sealed her fate and settled her future.



CHAPTER XIX


The next day,--oh, that next day! A day never to be forgotten by the
pretty little Sentimentalist, though it left the Philosopher unmoved,
or, as the slangy newspapers say, “cold.” He “knew it all the time,” he
declared, and maintained an ineffable composure when Sylvia was called
into her father’s study to receive the news. The worthy old doctor was
slightly nervous.

“My dear,” he began, and his voice trembled,--then again--“My dear!”

“Yes, Dad! What is it?” And Sylvia, wondering a little at his tone and
manner, put her arm about him, and repeated: “What is it?”

“My dear!” said her father again, possessing himself of the little hand
that lay caressingly on his shoulder. “You are a lucky little girl! What
do you think? Jack--your Jack--is a very rich young man! _Very_ rich! Do
you understand?”

Her blue eyes opened wide.

“Very rich? Dad, what do you mean?”

“Mr. Durham told me all last night,” went on Dr. Maynard, now feeling
more secure of his ground, “after you had gone to bed. Sylvia, Mr.
Durham is a millionaire!”

“A millionaire!” echoed Sylvia, with a little gasp. “Oh, Dad! And
Jack--”

“Jack is to have everything his father can give him,” continued
Maynard. “Yes, everything! His father is making him the head of his
business in the States; and his marriage settlement--well!--my dear
child!--it is amazing!--most generous and magnificent! He told me he had
determined to do nothing for his son till he had ‘proved his
mettle’--but now!--now, since the boy went to fight of his own free will
and choice, and nearly sacrificed his life in the war, he has no
hesitation in making him the sharer of all his wealth. And
you--you”--his voice trembled, and he put out his arms and drew her
closely to him--“you will be a rich woman, my child!--safe from all care
and harm,--thank God for that!--you will have all the comfort and charm
of life such as you should have--and when I am gone--”

“Oh, but you’re not going, Dad!” she exclaimed, half laughing and crying
together. “If I am rich, really rich, the first thing to be done is to
publish your great book!--yes, Dad!--the very first thing! That Oxford
publisher will take it all right now!”

Her affectionate delight in this idea was irresistible, and as she clung
tenderly round her father’s neck and kissed him again and yet again she
might have been a mere child in the simplicity of her joy at the thought
of being able to launch the ponderous “Deterioration of Language” on an
indifferent world.

“I must go and tell Mr. Craig,” she said, then--“I must let him know
that there will be no difficulty, and no expense spared.” Here she
clapped her hands. “No expense spared! Just think of it!”

Dr. Maynard smiled.

“My dear, my dear!” he remonstrated. “You must ask Jack--”

“Jack will do anything I tell him!” she declared. “And he’ll be
proud--ever so proud, to help publish your great, _great_ book! Of
course he’ll be proud! Who wouldn’t be!”

“My dear child!” and her father shook his head at her deprecatingly.
“You don’t seem to grasp the position! Here you are, engaged to marry
the heir to millions of dollars and you think of nothing but my tiresome
old book! Very sweet of you, but not very reasonable, is it? Jack may
prefer to buy a few diamonds for you, rather than pay for the printing
and publishing of work which is certain not to be favoured by the
general public--”

She interrupted him with a kiss.

“Diamonds!” she exclaimed. “Diamonds for _me_! Absurd! Just think of it!
I don’t want them, Dad! They wouldn’t suit me--I’d rather have--roses!”

She ran off gaily and sought the Philosopher, whom she found smoking in
the loggia which led out of the drawing-room into the garden. As he saw
her coming he held up a warning hand.

“Now, don’t!” he said. “Don’t rush at me with your news because I know
it already! I told you--or rather I hinted--that old Durham was a
millionaire. His nut-cracker face expressed it. A hard old,
close-fisted, never-give-in, American grasper and grabber!” Here he
smiled benevolently. “And now he’s loosened the strings of his
money-bags in favour of his only son, as he should do, during that
son’s life-time--an eminently practical arrangement--saves all the death
duties. And _you_”--here he bent his fuzzy brows and looked searchingly
at her--“you will be one of the richest little ladies in the
world!--dear, dear me! I wonder how you’ll stand it!”

She came close to his side and stood looking at him wistfully. Somehow,
despite his rather shabby old coat and not very well arranged hair his
personality had a singular attractiveness,--a something quite out of the
common. Out of the common!--yes--that was it! Intellectuality had graven
certain distinctive marks on his features not found among “ordinary”
men, and she bethought herself that she had seen these very lines of
thought, study and attainment smooth out into an almost boyish softness
when his eyes had rested on herself, or when she had looked up at him in
quiet attention as she was looking now.

“You wonder how I’ll stand it!” she said. “Being rich? Yes,--I wonder
how I will! Not very wisely, I’m afraid! I’ve never been rich,--and just
now I can only realise one advantage of it--I can pay all the expenses
of publishing Dad’s book!”

The Philosopher drew his pipe slowly from his mouth and looked at it.

“Oh, that’s what you want to do, is it?” he remarked, somewhat gruffly.
“Well! I’m not surprised! Very sentimental, and very like _you_! To put
your first big pocket-money into the ready maw of a publisher is just
what I expected of you!”

She came a little closer, and touched his hand timidly.

“You are trying to be sarcastic,” she said. “But you know you’re not,
_really_! You know it’s right for me to help Dad,--and you know it’s a
pleasure--”

“Dad’s not a pauper,” he interrupted. “To hear you talk one would think
he was! Why, my dear child, he’s been paying _me_ for my services in the
revision and completion of his work--”

“I know he has!” and she lifted her eyes trustfully to his face. “But he
couldn’t very well afford it. You see, you’ve been very kind and
patient, and no doubt you have made it easy for him--but now--now--”

“Now--now--what?” and the Philosopher wrinkled his face up in an
alarming frown. “_Now_ you propose to foot the bill? Nothing of the
kind! I won’t have it! Do you understand? Sentiment can go too far--it
always does with _you_!--but in this particular case I won’t have it! I
decline to be affronted,--even by _you_!”

“Affronted? Oh, I wouldn’t vex you for the world!” And quick tears
sprang to her eyes. “Indeed I wouldn’t! I want to tell you how sorry I
am--very, very sorry!”

“Sorry for what?”

And the words were more like a snap than a phrase.

Her little hand pressed closer on his arm.

“For many things!” she murmured, penitently. “I’m sure--I see now that I
have often quite misunderstood you--”

“Naturally!” he interrupted. “I’m not easy to understand! I should
despise myself if I were! ‘To be great is to be misunderstood.’ You’ll
find that in Emerson’s Essays.”

She gazed at him wonderingly.

“That’s clever talk,” she said. “Or I suppose it is. I’m talking just
simply--I want to say what I feel--”

“Never do that!” and he smiled. “People who say what they feel never
have any friends!”

She gave a little movement of impatience.

“Oh, you won’t be serious!” she exclaimed. “I really do wish to make you
see what I mean! You’ve been so very, very good and kind to Jack--you’ve
done so many generous things--and I thought you were quite different,--I
thought you were selfish--”

“So I am!” he declared. “Thoroughly, hopelessly selfish! Now listen to
me, you funny child!--listen, and you’ll see how selfish I am!” Here he
took the little hand that lay on his arm and looked at it. “Not wearing
an engagement ring yet? No? Ah, but you’ll have it on to-day some time,
mark my words! And I thank heaven _I’m_ not the man to give it to you!”

Her soft blue eyes questioned him silently.

“Don’t look at me like that!” he said, gruffly. “It makes no effect upon
me! It’s very pretty--but I’m not to be ‘drawn’! I say I thank heaven
I’m not the man who will put an engagement ring on that little finger of
yours! I might have been!--it was a near thing at one time, wasn’t
it?--that was when I thought it was all up with Jack and that you might
be left all alone in the world. In that case I should have _had_ to
marry you!”

“_Had_ to marry me?” she echoed,--and she withdrew her hand from his.
“Surely there was no compulsion?”

“Oh, wasn’t there!” and he nodded portentously. “To my mind there was!
Duty, duty! I considered myself bound to look after you. Why? Because
you are a little sentimentalist, likely to be duped and ‘done’ by every
one that ‘speaks you fair.’ You are bound to be protected and defended
from a mischievous world. I was prepared to do it--I would have made the
sacrifice--I would have submitted to the rack!”

“Oh!” And she lifted her head a trifle proudly. “Then, out of
kindness--or pity--you would have married me against your own
inclination?”

He sought for his tobacco pouch and began refilling his pipe. A little
smile was on his lips.

“Against my own inclination? I should think so!--very much against it!
God bless my soul! Think of my having to give up my splendid solitude,
my days and nights of peace and happiness, just to be at the beck and
call of a little woman who doesn’t know her own mind clearly for two
days together! I doubt if you are even now quite sure as to which man
would make you the best husband--I or Jack!”

She flushed a sudden crimson--tears sprang to her eyes--and she turned
away her head. Quietly and almost tenderly he took her hand in his own
and patted it.

“There, there!” he said. “I know you better than you know yourself! You
are tormenting your mind with all sorts of foolish ideas,--sentimental
ideas,--I’ve always told you that you _will_ overdo the sentiment! You
are thinking that perhaps you have treated me a little unfairly,--that
when I ventured to suggest myself as a kind of protective wall,--that is
to say a husband--between you and a rough world--your refusal
disappointed me--or hurt me. You are quite mistaken! I was”--here he
drew a long breath--“yes!--I was _thankful_! The relief was simply
immense! If you had accepted my proposition--well!--I should have been
utterly miserable! Yes!--I should have done my duty of course--I should
have resigned myself to the slavery of married life with my usual
philosophy--I should not have complained--and--and--I should have tried
to be kind to you--but my life would have been a slow martyrdom! A fact!
Ah, you may look at me as long as you like with those baby blue eyes of
yours!--you will never discover anything in me but what you always saw
and recognised from the first--sheer, downright selfishness! That’s it!
What do you suppose I took so much trouble over Jack Durham for? Simply
that he might get home and marry _you_--and so relieve my mind of a
great burden. Many a time I was afraid he would die--and in that case I
should have got in for it!--all up with me!--an elderly Benedick--”

She took her hand away from his.

“You really mean it?” she asked.

“Mean,--what?”

“That it would have been a great misery for you to have married me?”

She spoke so wistfully and her sweet upturned face expressed such
innocent wonder that with all his best effort he had much ado to keep
his self-possession. As she had released his hand, he took to fumbling
in his tobacco pouch.

“I will not say ‘a great misery,’” he replied. “That is _too_ strong!
But it would have been--yes!--a great inconvenience!”

She was silent a minute,--then she said:

“Well, I’m very glad you have been so frank with me! I was rather
unhappy--because--because--you’ve been so good, and I have misunderstood
you. You have really saved Jack’s life--”

“For my own selfish purposes,” he put in.

“You may say that if you like!” and she gave a little gesture of
incredulity. “But even if he had not lived, you need not have married
me, surely! That is such a strange idea of yours! I should have refused
you all the time!”

“Would you?” His eyes met hers for one second, then he turned away and
lit his pipe. “I dare say you would! Anyhow as things have turned out,
all is for the best! Jack is alive and well--Jack is a millionaire--and
you are going to marry him, and publish your father’s book. Nothing
could be more satisfactory. And you will be a happy, fortunate,
brilliant little lady,--much loved and well taken care of--and I--”

“Yes? What of you?”

He smiled into her questioning eyes.

“I? I shall live in my usual way--a placid, comfortable, easy way--a
selfish way--the life of a student and philosopher. I suppose I shall
see you sometimes--”

“Oh, very often!” she said, quickly.

“Well!--very often then!” he agreed. “And I shall be glad to see you
happy--”

“And will you be happy yourself?” she asked.

“Most assuredly! Why should I not be so? No wife, no household cares, no
domestic squabbles,--just myself to consider and only myself. There
now!--you look quite incredulous!--and why are you incredulous? Simply
because you have too much sentiment. You imagine that happiness consists
in being loved,--perhaps it does--for a time--”

“Only for a time?” she queried, with uplifted eyebrows.

“Of course--everything is only for a time--life itself is only for a
time. Love--or what is called love, is more transitory than life. Look
at the war widows! They were supposed to ‘love’ their husbands--but they
are quite ready and eager to take on new men. No, my dear
child!--there’s no such thing as what _you_ imagine to be ‘love.’ And
you need not for one moment make me an object of compassion in your
mind--because I know that fact and accept it. Possibly when I was
younger, a woman might have liked me, or I might have liked a woman for
a month or so--”

She laughed.

“As you like _me_!--or thought you did!” she said. “And you would have
married me on that basis--if I would have had you!”

He smiled--that peculiarly attractive smile of his which made the plain,
hard, intellectual lines of his face soften and become handsome.

“True! If you would have had me!” he echoed. “And I should have done my
duty in taking care of you,--lest the winds of heaven should visit your
face too roughly.” His voice was for the moment almost musical in its
tone of kindness. Then he took her hand. “There, little girl! Don’t
worry yourself or give another thought to this grumpy old fellow! You
may make yourself quite sure that I am entirely happy--happy to have
known you, for you are a winsome little creature!--and happier still to
have been useful in bringing back the man you love and who loves you, to
his home and good fortune. And”--here he paused for a moment
meditatively--“if I am perfectly candid with you--brutally candid!--I am
happiest of all in the positive knowledge that you are marrying Jack,
and not me! That’s a great mercy! I thank heaven for my freedom!”

She gave him one flashing upward glance, half of doubt, half of anger,
and pulled her hand away from his,--then, turning with a swift little
rush of her light feet and soft garments she ran out of the room.

He looked after her,--and his whimsical, indulgent smile brightened his
features like a glimpse of the sun. Then he heaved a long sigh.

“That’s over!” he said, soliloquising to the air. “She’ll be all right
now! No more sentimentality on _my_ behalf! And I think--yes, I really
do think I have told enough lies for one day!”



CHAPTER XX


Time has a trick of flying when most we wish it to linger, and with
Sylvia the three months’ interval between Jack’s return and her wedding
day seemed little more than a few moments. She had everything to think
of--everything to do--and hardest of all, everything to resign that she
had held dear and precious in the simple home life of her maidenhood
which had now come to an end. Jack was the tenderest and most devoted of
lovers; the knowledge, which had surprised himself, of his father’s
great wealth and his own participation in it made no difference in his
simple boyish ways, and frank unassuming demeanour, and all he seemed to
think about it was that he could give his “rose-lady” the comforts,
luxuries and prettinesses of life which she, in his mind, above all
other women, deserved. When he set his engagement ring in a star of the
purest diamonds on her little white finger and she mildly protested at
the evident costliness of the gems, he said fervently--

“What were they ever made for except to shine for _you_! They are only
bits of carbon after all--hardly worth _your_ wearing!”

And, seeing him thus “far gone,” she said no more. But often when the
brilliant flash of the jewels on her hand caught her eyes she was
conscious of a sadness inexplicable to herself,--the ring was a symbol
of the end of one life and the beginning of another--the end of the
simple, quiet “monotonous” country life she had led with her
father,--and the beginning of a new and strange existence in which
wealth would almost enforce social excitements and pleasures for which
she had no great avidity.

“I had better have been the wife of an Oxford professor!” she said to
herself, once in a little shame-faced way. “Only I’m not clever enough!”

And she took solitary farewell walks round the garden, and daily sat
with her “Dad” in his study, moved by a vague sorrow and regret which
she could not express without seeming more or less ungrateful to Jack
and his father, both of whom vied with each other in “surprise” gifts
and plans for her special pleasure. She knew she was a fortunate
girl--she ought to consider herself so, as being beloved, honoured and
safe for life; and yet--such are the curious contradictions and
hesitations of human nature--she was not sure whether it would not have
been better for her to be less fortunate,--to be one of those who
“welcome each rebuff, that turns earth’s smoothness rough.”

Not even the delightful business of choosing her “trousseau” which she
was careful to make as simple and inexpensive as possible, quite charmed
away the shadow of depression that now and then clouded her mind.

“I ought really to have married quite a poor man,” she reflected,
seriously. “I never dreamed Jack would be rich. I could always manage a
simple house and simple ways of living--now if I were the wife of an
Oxford professor--” She broke off in her meditations with a little sigh.
“Only I never should be clever enough!”

During this time the “Philosopher” was an absentee,--he had undertaken
to partially revise the proofs of “The Deterioration of Language” before
bringing them on to Dr. Maynard for final correction, and he had
installed himself in his own collegiate rooms for this purpose. The
“great Book” was well on its way to be launched, like a literary
Leviathan on the uneasy waters of public favour; the accepting
publishers being fully nerved to the task by the “no expense to be
spared” orders of the author’s prospective son-in-law, Jack Durham. And
so the days and weeks went round in a swift circle till April showed a
nymph-like face of tears and laughter through budding boughs of green
and snowy garlands of wild cherry and pear-blossom, and the sunny
morning dawned at last when the little “rose-lady” stepped forth from
her maiden home to be married. Very sweet she looked in her soft
garments of white--very serious, too, with blue eyes more full of tears
than smiles; and among the few intimate friends asked to the wedding
there was not one who had not some under-consciousness of the real
gravity of marriage for a girl who had led so quiet and simple a life as
Sylvia Maynard. Always in the country,--always the one companion of her
father--completely contented to be without “social gaieties”
so-called,--what a change from such a peaceful little home and routine
of daily duties to be the wife of a millionaire!

Probably the thoughts of Walter Craig, F.S.A., who was, against his own
inclination and protest, selected as “best man” by the bridegroom,
wandered in this direction if one might form any opinion by the
expression of his face. Once during the ceremony he caught a fleeting,
almost frightened glance from the little “sentimentalist” bride; and a
most insane desire possessed him to take her up in his arms as
Shakespeare’s Petruchio took his Katherine and run away with her,--but
his furrowed features and formal demeanour showed nothing of the strife
within him. He placed the “philosophic” curb on his emotions, and
feigned an almost frigid indifference when with other friends in the
vestry at the signing of the marriage register he was permitted to kiss
the bride. All the village turned out to see the wedding, and as the
happy pair came through the old church doorway the school children
scattered a shower of spring blossoms at their feet, and, led by
“Riverside Sam,” broke into a hearty cheer. A silver rain of new
sixpences flung broadcast by old Mr. Durham rewarded their enthusiasm,
whereat the Philosopher moralised somewhat after the style of the
“melancholy Jaques”--“Money’s the only wear!” And then,--in another two
or three hours, which seemed to her less than minutes, the little bride,
half sobbing, yet checking her tears as much as she could, clung fondly
to her father in a farewell embrace, whispering, “I shall came back as
soon as possible! You mustn’t feel lonely!” while she turned appealingly
to the “Philosopher” saying--“Do stay with him for a little! Take care
of him!” And with this she entered the beautiful “limousine” car, which
was one of old Mr. Durham’s wedding gifts to his daughter-in-law, and
was whirled away amid a shower of blossoms on her honeymoon with her
proud and adoring young husband. A small group of friends gathered on
the steps of the old Manor house to watch their departure,--more
interested in the reported wealth of the bridegroom and the bridegroom’s
father than in anything else--and as they dispersed, some of them made
remarks to one another such as: “Artful little girl! Quiet, but clever
enough to catch a millionaire!” or “She must have known her game all the
time!” and “A pity we did not know more of that dull old man in the
fishing cottage! He pretended to be deadly poor--” “And that’s why we
didn’t call!” observed one more honest than the rest.

And so on, and so on. Perhaps the Philosopher--great light of Oxford,
whom nobody present knew much about,--caught some of these _sotto voce_
observations,--perhaps not,--anyway his facial expression became more
and more saturnine and forbidding as he helped to “speed the parting
guests.” The “dull old man in the fishing cottage,” millionaire Durham,
did certainly gather up a few crumbs of “social” comment, and now and
again a sardonic smile made extra wrinkles in his furrowed countenance,
especially when one self-important personage, the local brewer, laid a
patronising paw upon his shoulder, saying, “We must see more of you, Mr.
Durham! Come and dine with us one day this week, will you?”

Whereat Durham replied slowly in a strong, nasal drawl:

“Thank you! I guess not! I’ve been living here over two years and have
never been asked out to dine before--it would seem kinder strange to me
to be doing it now!”

And the brewer retired discomfited, feeling the poignant flash of satire
in the old man’s eyes more keenly than the blunt refusal of his
invitation.

The April evening closed in with sweet moisture and warm scent of
flowers, and the old Manor house, full of bridal blossoms and
“remainders” of the wedding, looked, despite its floral garlanding,
strangely empty and deserted, bereft of the flitting presence of its
fair little mistress who was its chief charm. Vainly old Dr. Maynard
strove to be cheerful, but it was an evident effort, and though he said
little, his sudden loneliness made him deeply grateful for the society
of the Philosopher, who had decided to stay on at the Manor for a day or
two;--the Sentimentalist’s parting words “Take care of him!” had laid a
sort of trust upon his mind which he was not disposed to ignore. Durham
remained late, smoking and chatting till the moon lifted a silver round
above the trees, and lighted the path to his cottage by the river; he
was full of eager plans for the happy future of the just-wedded pair,
and gave himself away quite unreservedly. Nothing was too good for
them,--a beautiful house in town,--a flat in Paris--and other luxurious
“fitments” of life which somehow, in the mind of the Philosopher at
least, seemed unsuitable to the tastes and the temperament of the little
“rose-lady,”--a creature “toned to finest melodies, unheard by grosser
ears.” But he made no comment. It would have seemed ungracious to check
the flow of affection and ungrudging munificence of a father for an only
son by so much as a word. Yet he was in a sense relieved when the
millionaire took his departure and left him alone with Dr. Maynard. “The
Deterioration of Language” was a ponderous piece of work, but it had
formed a link between them of interest and scholarship; it had brought
them together in pleasant and intimate relations, and it had been the
means of letting a little light in upon his hitherto strictly locked and
darkened prison-house of human motion,--such light as had, at odd
moments, blinded him into a faint belief that he was still young. On
this particular night, after all the joyous stir of the wedding, and the
subsequent silence and desertion of the house, he felt old--older than
he cared to feel. He and the old doctor sat together in the study,
smoking their pipes by a cheerful log fire,--for the April evenings were
chilly,--and for some time they had hardly exchanged a word. A somewhat
heavy sigh from Maynard roused the Philosopher to attention.

“Don’t ‘grouse’!” he said with a half smile. “That’s slang, I know, and
I never use it--but if you sigh like a schoolboy, you merit a
schoolboy’s reproach. It’s no use regretting,--it’s no use grumbling.”

“I don’t regret,--I don’t grumble,” Maynard replied. “No, Craig! It’s
not that. It’s the emptiness of things without her--the silence--the
solitude--” His voice trembled--then failed.

Craig was silent for a minute. Then he said:

“Of course! I quite see your point,--I understand. I feel it myself.
Possibly you don’t realise that, eh? I feel it myself!”

Dr. Maynard’s hand went over his eyes, shading them from the fire.

“Such a bright little girl!” he murmured. “Always about the
house--always with a smile and kind word for every one! I don’t know how
I shall get on without her!”

The vision of a fair little face--the memory of a hand pressure and
whispered word “Take care of him,” came over the mind of the
Philosopher, and he rose to the occasion.

“How you’ll get on without her?” he echoed. “Why, you’ll get on famously
for the short time you’re asked to do it. God bless me! One would think
the girl had gone for good! She’ll be back again in a fortnight--trust
her for that! And you’ll walk about triumphantly as the proud papa of a
millionairess. How will you like that?”

The old doctor looked up at him rather wistfully.

“I don’t think the part will suit me!” he said. “For one thing, Craig--I
can tell you I’ve put by enough money to leave Sylvia quite well off on
her own account--she would not have needed all this wealth--”

The Philosopher gave himself a mental rap. “I always thought so!” he
said, inwardly. “The old boy has plenty--I knew he had!”

“I never spent much on myself,” went on Maynard. “I meant to afford the
expenses of my book--though I felt it would be robbing Sylvia of some of
her heritage--but when she showed such delight at doing it for me--”

“Exactly!” commented the Philosopher. “She has thought you a sort of
literary pauper--that’s her ‘sentiment’! I always told her she was
wrong! Just as I told her old Durham was an American Crœsus. I was
right--but she wouldn’t believe me. You two fathers are artful dodgers
in _my_ opinion! You’ve both been playing poverty--regular old humbugs!
I always thought you were!” Here he smiled, genially. “But I felt that
if circumstances compelled me to marry Sylvia I should marry quite a
nice little fortune!”

Maynard gave him a quick, reproachful glance.

“Craig!” he exclaimed. “Was that your idea when--when--”

“When I proposed to her?” finished the Philosopher, equably. “Of course!
What else should I have had in the way of an idea? Love?” Here he gave a
sort of growling laugh. “Love? I’m too old--too ugly!--too battered and
bruised in the battle of life to be conscious of any remedy for my
disfigurements and disabilities,--but I’m quite capable of appreciating
the comfort of a warm fireside, a pretty woman to look after me, and
money to pay for these luxuries. I had all this in view when I suggested
myself as a wall--”

“A wall?” repeated Maynard, bewildered. “What--”

“What meaning have I?” and the Philosopher gave another odd laugh. “I
say a wall! ‘A sweet and lovely wall, that stand’st between her father’s
ground and mine’--to quote the ever-quotable Shakespeare. I might say ‘I
am that same wall’--who was willing to stand between your little girl
and the roaring lion of the world--that is, if things had come to the
worst,--if young Durham had died--if _you_ had died--and _she_ had been
left alone,--then perhaps I--I might have been useful!” He paused a
moment--Dr. Maynard was regarding him fixedly. “Now as matters have
turned out, the ‘wall’ is unnecessary--Durham is all right, and _you_
are all right--_I_ am all right!”

Here he put his pipe in his mouth and drew a long whiff. Dr. Maynard
leaned forward in his chair.

“Craig,” he said, slowly. “You are not altogether an open book--but I
think I can read you!”

The Philosopher avoided his direct gaze.

“I dare say you can!” he murmured, abstractedly. “I don’t mind if you
do! I’m an uncouth phrase in ‘The Deterioration of Language’!”

The old doctor’s eyes rested on him with intently sympathetic kindness.

“I believe,” he said, “I believe you loved my little girl! Yes,
Craig!--it was rather late in your day for love--but I believe you
really loved her!”

The Philosopher drew his pipe from his mouth, looked down at it and
smiled.

“Why use the past tense?” he queried, lazily. “Let’s revert to
Shakespeare--‘Love is not Love, which alters when it alteration finds;
oh, no, it is an ever fixèd mark, that looks on tempests and is never
shaken.’ That’s me! I’m an ‘ever fixèd mark’! Moreover, at my age, I’m
not likely to change.”

“Is it as bad as all that?” and Maynard’s voice was almost
compassionate.

“Not at all--it’s as good as it can be!” and the Philosopher lifted
himself out of his sunken attitude in his armchair with a swift
movement. “Nothing bad about it! I have built a little shrine in the
recesses of my mind, and I’ve put a little Madonna inside. I shall say
prayers to her now and then--and when I feel disposed to hate all
mankind, I shall mutter an ‘Ave’ or a ‘Peccavi’ and pull myself
together. My Madonna will always be just a pure little English maid
among roses, with sentimental ideas about love and life in general--but
she will serve me as well as most Madonnas--even the Madonna of Cimabue
could never have been treated with more tenderness than I would have
treated her--I mean, than I _will_ treat her in my thoughts.”

He paused,--his pipe had gone out, and he struck a match and re-lit it.
“You see, Maynard! That’s my late--very late!--idea of love!”

The old doctor was silent for some minutes--then he laid a hand, with
gentlest touch, on that of his friend and literary co-adjutor.

“Such an idea is never too late!” he said. “Unselfish--beautiful--and
romantic in these unromantic days! But it’s not an idea that would
satisfy most men!”

“I’m not of the company of ‘most’ men,” put in Craig. “I claim to be
original!”

“Ah, dear me!” sighed Maynard. “Age--age!--what joys it steals away from
us!--now if you had been younger--she might have cared--”

Craig laughed.

“She might--she might!” he echoed. “My good fellow age has nothing to do
with it! Men of seventy and eighty are young and frisky and marry the
most charming women! I certainly feel myself to be a bit in the ‘sere
and yellow’--especially tonight,” here he rose from his chair and
stretched himself, yawning as he did so, “but not so much so that I
wouldn’t have risked taking care of Sylvia if the better man hadn’t
turned up in time--”

“I wonder if he _is_ the better man!” interrupted Maynard, suddenly.
“He’s a worthy young fellow enough--”

“And I’m an unworthy old fellow!” responded the Philosopher quietly.
“Stop it at that! Talk no more about it! You get off to bed--you’ve had
a trying day. And to-morrow we’ll take a run together to Oxford and look
after your publisher and your proofs. Push everything else aside for the
present--”

“Oxford?” exclaimed Maynard, wonderingly. “Am I to go to Oxford?”

“Of course you are!” and the Philosopher bent his brows commandingly.
“You’re wanted there to attend to business. And this is your opportunity
while your daughter is away--you don’t need to stay here in her
absence. Besides, business is business. You can share my rooms and
welcome. You want a change.”

“Oxford!” repeated the old scholar, dreamily. “It is many years since I
was there! I shall like to see it again!”

“Of course you will!” responded Craig. “Who doesn’t like to see
Oxford!--the abode of Age and Youth pleasantly combined! The age part of
it is dry as dust, the youth raw as green cucumbers--but they make an
amusing mixture. The bones of classic authors rattle in the air of the
old University town--and the rampant flesh and blood of the non-classic
‘rising generation’ make uncouth noises as of vampires who have sucked
out the strength of the dead. Yes!--Oxford is full of suggestiveness--you
will enjoy it!”

The old doctor smiled.

“I believe it’s all your good-natured idea to prevent my feeling
lonely!” he said. “But I’ll go with you if you like--”

“If you don’t you’ll be carried!” returned Craig, firmly. “Make up your
mind to that! And now let’s get to bed--you’re tired and I’m tired!
Weddings are very exhausting affairs for all concerned--even for the
bride and bridegroom.”

They left the study together and at the foot of the staircase which led
to the upper rooms, Dr. Maynard paused--

“Craig,” he said, with pathetic earnestness. “Do you think she will be
happy?”

The Philosopher looked at the old, frail figure compassionately. “Of
course she will!” he replied. “Why shouldn’t she be? She has everything
to make her so!”

“Yes--yes! That’s all very well!” and Maynard gave a half deprecating
gesture. “But when the years go on, when the novelty has worn off--will
she be able to live the life of social excitement wealth entails?--will
she realise the wonderful love she has dreamed of? For she has always
been a little dreamer of ideals--beautiful ideals all!--ideals such as
the world loves to pull down into ruin!”

The Philosopher felt a little pang. Too well he knew the “ideals” of the
little “Sentimentalist,” and too well he was aware that he himself had
discouraged them and striven to pull them down--and yet--and yet--he had
done his utmost to give her the “ideal” love he imagined she recognised
in Jack Durham. He pulled himself together.

“We must leave all that to her husband,” he said. “He adores her--and
depend upon it he will make her happy--that is as happy as any woman can
be. You must bear in mind, Maynard”--here he became almost academical in
tone--“that _no_ woman is ever happy for long! It isn’t in her nature to
be satisfied. When she has got one thing she wants another--and so on to
the end of the chapter. But Sylvia has too good and sweet a character to
be as variable and restless as most of her sex. Having Jack she has her
heart’s desire--she doesn’t want _Me_!--or any other man! Good night!”

They parted then; but when he had locked himself in his bedroom the
Philosopher went to its old-fashioned lattice window and threw it widely
open. The night was beautiful; clear moonlight flooded the whole garden
space, and he could see the winding alley of the rose-walk where on one
never-to-be-forgotten day he had “lacerated” his hand in trying to
gather a blush rose-bud for the “rose-lady” and she had “kissed the
place and made it well.” It was a trifling incident, but to the would-be
stoical and grimly cynical mind of the “Philosopher” it had meant a
great deal. And now! Well!--now this was the first night of her
honeymoon;--this was her marriage moonlight; and he--he stood outside
the garden of Eden with no more roses to gather! Learning and
scholarship, fame itself, seemed utterly worthless in comparison with
the union of hearts beating with and for each other--the wisdom of the
ages was dull, wearisome and all unsatisfying measured against the
enchantment of tender eyes and caressing hands; and it was with
something of a sharp mental pang that he recalled the sound of a sweet
voice softly reciting from “Endymion” the “honey and water” lines--

                          “The silver flow
    Of Hero’s tears, the swoon of Imogen,
    Fair Pastorella in the bandit’s den,
    Are things to brood on with more urgency
    Than the death-day of empires!”

“True enough!” he murmured, addressing the quiet air. “When one is
young--true enough! But when one is old--”

The run of his thoughts checked itself abruptly. He looked out on the
peaceful night with a sense of reverence and humility not usual to his
nature. As in a magic mirror he saw his past life lying behind him,--a
bare road tramped in the dusty pursuit of fame--fame the foolish, fame
the variable, fame the most unsatisfying of earthly rewards, bringing in
its train the vulgar inquisitiveness of mobs, the censoriousness of the
envious and the detraction of rivals, inasmuch as even the greatest of
men, like Shakespeare, are remembered chiefly to be calumniated,--and
anon, he gazed forward into the future which for him meant nothing but
increasing loneliness and gradual sinking away from life and its
brighter pleasures; then he lifted up his eyes to the lovely heavens and
saw one bright star shining in the trail of the moon.

   “Is it the tender star of love
    The star of love and dreams?
    Oh, no! From that blue tent above
    A hero’s armour gleams!”

A brief sigh escaped.

“I’m no hero!” he said. “But old as I am, I’m glad I’m man enough to be
capable of a great love!--and--a great sacrifice!”


THE END





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