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   Chapter 12 No.12

Our Friend the Charlatan By George Gissing Characters: 36422

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Though Mrs. Toplady seldom rose much before midday, it was not the mere luxury of repose that kept her in her chamber. As a rule, she awoke from refreshing sleep at eight o'clock. A touch on the electric button near her hand summoned a maid, who appeared with tea, the morning's post, and a mass of printed matter: newspapers, reviews, magazines, volumes, which had arrived by various channels since noon on the previous day. Apparatus of perfected ingenuity, speedily attached to the bed, enabled her to read or write in any position that she found easiest. First of all she went through her letters, always numerous, never disquieting-for Mrs. Toplady had no personal attachments which could for a moment disturb her pulse, and her financial security stood on the firmest attainable basis. Such letters as demanded a reply, she answered at once, and with brevity which in her hands had become an art. Appeals for money, public or private, she carefully considered, responding with a cheque only when she saw some distinct advantage-such as prestige or influence-to be gained by the pecuniary sacrifice. Another touch on the button, and there entered a graceful woman of discreet visage, with whom Mrs. Toplady held colloquy for half an hour; in that time a vast variety of concerns, personal, domestic, mundane, was discussed and set in order. Left to herself again, Mrs. Toplady took up the newspapers; thence she passed to the bulkier periodicals; lastly, to literature in volume. Her manner of reading betokened the quick-witted woman who sees at a glance the thing she cares for, and refuses to spend a moment on anything not immediately attractive. People marvelled at the extent of her acquaintance with current writing; in truth, she never read a book, but skimmed the pages just sufficiently for her amusement and her social credit. In the world of laborious idleness, Mrs. Toplady had a repute for erudition; she was often spoken of as a studious and learned woman; and this estimate of herself she inclined to accept. Having daily opportunity of observing the fathomless ignorance of polite persons, she made it her pride to keep abreast with the day's culture. Genuine curiosity, too, supplied her with a motive, for she had a certain thin, supple, restless intelligence, which took wide surveys of superficial life, and was ever seeking matter for mirth or disdain in the doings of men.

Her first marriage was for love. It cost her seven years of poverty and wretchedness; it cost her, moreover, all the ideals of her youth, and made her a scheming cynic. Having, by natural power and great good fortune, got the world at her feet, she both enjoyed and despised what seemed to her to have been won so easily. The softer emotions were allowed no place in her nature; by careful self-discipline, she had enabled herself wholly to disregard the unhappy side of life, to pass without the least twinge of sympathy all human sorrows and pains. If reminded of them against her will, she hardened herself with the bitter memory of her early years, when, as she said, she had suffered quite enough for one lifetime. The habit of her mind was to regard existence as an entertaining spectacle. She had a most comfortable seat, and flattered herself that few people could appreciate so well as she the comedy going on before her. When she found an opportunity for intervention; when, with little or no trouble to herself, she could rearrange a scene or prepare a novel situation; so much the better was she pleased, and all the more disdain did she feel for the fussy, pompous mortals who were so easily manipulated.

At present she had her eyes upon a personage who amused her considerably. He answered to the name of Dyce Lashmar, and fell under the general description of charlatan. Not for a moment had Mrs. Toplady been in doubt as to this classification; but Dyce Lashmar was not quite an ordinary charlatan, and seemed to be worth the observing. She meant to know him thoroughly, to understand what he really aimed at-whether he harboured merely a gross design on Lady Ogram's wealth, or in truth believed himself strong enough to win a place among those grave comedians who rule the world. He was a very young man; he had not altogether got rid of youth's ingenuousness; if his ideas were his own (she doubted it) he had evidently a certain mental equipment, which would aid him-up to a certain point; in every case, he excelled in intellectual plausibility. Perhaps he might get into Parliament; for the amusement of the thing, she would try to help him in that direction. On returning from Rivenoak, she had at once begun to spread rumours of a Coming man, a new light in the political world, that it behooved one to keep an eye on. So seldom did Mrs. Toplady risk her reputation by rash prophecy, that those who heard of Mr. Lashmar were disposed to take him with all seriousness. Certain of Mrs. Toplady's intimates begged, and were promised, the privilege of meeting him. To that end, a ceremonious evening was appointed in Pont Street.

Meanwhile, Lashmar had called, and met with a very gracious reception. He was bidden to luncheon on a day in the same week. On arriving, he found with surprise that he was the sole guest.

"I wanted to have a real talk with you," said the hostess, as she received him in her magnificent drawing-room. "I have been thinking a great deal about things you said at Rivenoak."

Her fire of glances perceived that the young man, though agreeably touched and full of expectancy, was to a certain extent on his guard. He, too, no doubt, had power of reading faces, of discerning motives. She did not desire him to be too facile a victim of cajolery; it would take from the interest she felt in his ambitions. At table, they talked at first of bio-sociology, Mrs. Toplady, with the adroitness which distinguished her, seeming thoroughly to grasp a subject of which she knew nothing, and which, if she had tried to think about it, would have bored her unspeakably. But she soon diverged to things personal, spoke of people whom she wished Lashmar to meet, and asked whether a date she had in mind would suit his convenience.

"I think you know Lord Dymchurch?"

"Very well," answered Dyce, blandly.

"I should like to meet him I have heard he is most interesting."

"He certainly is," said Lashmar, "but no man is so hard to get hold of. I never ventured to try to take him anywhere; he very much dislikes meeting strangers."

"Tell me about him, will you?"

Dyce could speak only of Lord Dymchurch's personal and mental characteristics; of his circumstances he knew nothing more than could be gathered from rumour.

"Let me make a suggestion," said Mrs. Toplady, with a flatteringly intimate air. "Suppose you give a quiet little dinner to a few of your friends, say at one of the restaurants. Don't you think Lord Dymchurch might be willing to come? If I may propose myself-" The roguish smile was lost in a radiant archness. "Half a dozen of us just to talk over the political situation."

Lashmar looked delighted. In reality he was seized with anxious thought as to whom he could invite for such an important occasion. As is commonly the case with men of great self-esteem and modest resources, he had made friends with the poorer and less ambitious of his acquaintances, and these were not the sort of people to present either to Mrs. Toplady or to Lord Dymchurch. However, he knew a man pretty well placed in the Home Office. He knew also-

"Would you like to ask our friend Mrs. Woolstan?" let fall the hostess, shooting one swift glance at his busy forehead.

"Yes-certainly-"

"She's charming," pursued Mrs. Toplady, with her kindest air, "and I'm sure your views interest her."

"Mrs. Woolstan spoke of them?"

"Oh, yes! She called here, as I told you, the day before I went down to Rivenoak, and, as we were talking, I happened to mention where I was going. 'Oh then,' she said, 'you'll see my friend Mr. Lashmar!' 'I told her that Lady Ogram had specially asked me to meet you.' Of course it delighted me to hear that you knew each other so well. I have always thought Mrs. Woolstan a very clever little woman. And she looks at things from such a high point of view-a thorough idealist. Do let us have her.-Then, if I might propose another guest-?"

She paused, as if afraid of presuming on Lashmar's good-nature.

"Pray do! I couldn't possibly have a better adviser."

Dyce was trying to strike his note of easy comradeship, but found it very difficult. Mrs. Toplady had so vast an advantage of him in manner, in social resources, and, for all her amiability, must needs regard him from a higher ground.

"It's very nice of you to say that," she resumed; "I was thinking of Mr. Roach, the Member for Belper. You don't happen to know him? Oh, that doesn't matter. He's delightful; about your own age, I think. Come and meet him here at five o'clock on Sunday; have a talk and then send him your invitation. He, too, is a thorough idealist; you're sure to like him."

Before Lashmar left the house, all the details of this little dinner were neatly settled, the only point necessarily left uncertain being whether Lord Dymchurch could be counted upon. Of course Mrs. Toplady had dictated everything, even to the choice of restaurant and the very room that was to be engaged; Lashmar would have the pleasure of ordering the dinner, and of paying the bill. He thanked his stars again for Mrs. Woolstan's cheque.

On the strength of that same cheque, he had quitted his rooms near St. Pancras Church, and was now lodging, with more dignity, but doubtful advantage as to comfort, in Devonshire Street, Portland Place. The address, he felt, sounded tolerably well. Only in the vaguest way had he troubled to compute his annual outlay on this new basis. He was become an adventurer, and in common self-respect must cultivate the true adventurous spirit. Once or twice he half reproached himself for not striking out yet more boldly into the currents of ambition, for it was plain that a twelvemonth must see him either made or ruined, and probably everything depended on the quality of his courage. Now, he began to wonder whether Mrs. Toplady's favour would be likely to manifest itself in any still more practical way; but of this his reflection offered him no assurance. The probability was that in Lady Ogram lay his only reasonable hope. On the spur of such feeling, he addressed a letter to Rivenoak, giving an account of his luncheon in Pont Street, and thanking the old autocrat more fervently than he yet had done for all her good offices.

Since his return from Rivenoak, he had not met Lord Dymchurch. He might of course write his invitation, but he fancied that it would have more chance of being accepted if he urged it orally, and, as he could not call upon the peer (whose private address, in books of reference, was merely the house in Somerset), he haunted the club with the hope of encountering him. On the second day fortune was propitious. Lord Dymchurch sat in his usual corner of the library, and, on Lashmar's approach, smiled his wonted greeting. After preliminary gossip, Dyce commanded himself to courageous utterance.

"I have been asked to come forward as Liberal candidate for a little borough in the Midlands-Hollingford. It's a Tory seat, and I don't know whether I shall stand any chance, but local people want to fight it, and they seem to think that I may be the man for them."

As he spoke, he felt that he wore an expression new to his visage, a sort of smile which his lips had not the habit of framing. Quite unconsciously, indeed, he had reproduced the smile of Mrs. Toplady; its ironic good-humour seemed to put him at ease, and to heighten his personal effectiveness.

"Hollingford?" Lord Dymchurch reflected. "I know the place by name only."

He looked at Lashmar with a new interest. Constantly worrying about his own inactive life, and what he deemed his culpable supineness as a citizen, the pinched peer envied any man to whom the Lower House offered its large possibilities.

"The idea is quite novel to me," Lashmar continued. "You know something of my views-my cast of mind; do you think I should do well to go in for practical politics?"

"I think any man does well who goes in for anything practical," was Lord Dymchurch's answer. "Stand, by all means, and I wish you success. Parliament isn't overcrowded with men of original views."

"That's very kind of you.-I don't want to presume upon your good-nature, but I wonder whether I could persuade you to dine with me, to meet a few friends of mine who are so good as to interest themselves in this matter? Quite an informal little dinner; one or two ladies-the Member for Belper-a Home Office man people who see things rather in my own way-"

He added place and date; then, with Mrs. Toplady's smile still on his lips, awaited the response. That Lord Dymchurch would much have preferred to excuse himself was visible enough in the pleasant, open countenance, little apt for dissembling; but no less evident was the amiability which made it difficult for him to refuse a favour, and which, in this instance, allied itself with something like a sense of duty. Lord Dymchurch had been considerably impressed by Lashmar's talk; the bio-sociological theory and all its consequences applied alike to his reason and his imagination; he had mused over this new philosophy, and the opportunity of being ever so little helpful to such a man as its originator should, he felt, be regarded as a privilege. That he could not altogether "take to" Lashmar was nothing to the point. How often had he rebuked himself for his incrustation of prejudices, social and personal, which interfered between him and the living, progressing world! Fie upon his finical spirit, which dwelt so vulgarly on a man's trivial defects!

"With pleasure," he replied; and, as if feeling it insufficient, he added, "with great pleasure!"

Dyce's lips forgot Mrs. Toplady; he smiled his own smile of genial satisfaction, and, as his way was when pleased, broke into effusive talk. He told of Lady Ogram, of the political situation at Hollingford, of editor Breakspeare, of the cantankerous Robb, and to all this Lord Dymchurch willingly lent ear.

"I should uncommonly like you to go down with me some day. You might find it amusing. Lady Ogram is, undeniably, a very remarkable woman."

Immediately after this conversation, Lashmar wrote off to Mrs. Toplady, half-a-dozen exultant lines, announcing his success No more wavering, he said to himself. Fate was on his side. He had but to disregard all paltry obstacles, and go straight on.

Yet one obstacle, and that not altogether paltry, continually haunted his mind. He could not forget Lady Ogram's obvious intention that he should marry Constance Bride; and such a marriage was altogether out of harmony with his ambition. If it brought him money-that is to say, a substantial fortune-he might be content to accept it, but it could not be more than a compromise; he aimed at a very different sort of alliance. Moreover, he knew nothing of Lady Ogram's real intentions with regard to Constance; her mysterious phrases merely perplexed and annoyed him as often as he thought of them. To marry Constance without a substantial fortune-that were disaster indeed! And what if Lady Ogram's favour depended upon it?

But he had his little dinner to think of. He wrote to Mrs. Woolstan, who, by return of post, blithely accepted his invitation, begging him, at the same time, to come and see her before then, if he could possibly spare an hour. Dyce threw the letter aside impatiently. On Sunday he was in Pont Street, where he met the Parliamentary Mr. Roach, a young man fairly answering to Mrs. Toplady's description; an idealist of a mild type, whose favourite talk was of "altruism," and who, whilst affecting close attention to what other people said, was always absorbed in his own thoughts. Before Lashmar had been many minutes in the drawing-room, there entered Mrs. Woolstan, and she soon found an occasion for brief exchange of words with him.

"Why haven't you been to see me yet?"

"I'm so terribly busy. Of course I ought to have come. I thought of to-morrow-but now that we've met here, and are going to dine on the 27th-"

"Oh, I know you must be busy!" conceded Iris, with panting emphasis and gladness. "How splendidly everything's going! But I want to hear about it all, you know. Your letter about Rivenoak only made me eager to know more-"

"We'll have an afternoon presently. Ask Mrs. Toplady to introduce Mr. Roach-he dines with us on the 27th."

To make sure of the M. P., Lashmar invited him verbally, and received a dreamy acceptance-so dreamy that he resolved to send a note, to remind Mr. Roach of the engagement.

"So you are to be one of us, at Mr. Lashmar's dinner," said the hostess to Mrs. Woolstan. "A delightful evening-won't it be!"

And she watched the eager little face with eyes which read its every line remorselessly: her smile more pitiless in ironic mischief even than of wont.

On the morning of May the 28th, Lashmar wrote a full letter to Rivenoak. It told of a dinner successful beyond his hopes. Mrs. Toplady had surpassed herself in brilliant graciousness; Lord Dymchurch had broken through his reserve, and talked remarkably-most remarkably. "As for the host, why, he did what in him lay, and Mrs. Toplady was good enough to remark, as he handed her into her carriage, 'A few more dinners such as this, and all London will want to know the-' I won't finish her sentence. Joking apart, I think my friends enjoyed themselves, and they were certainly very encouraging with regard to our project."

At the same hour, Mrs. Toplady, propped with pillows, was also writing to Rivenoak.

"It came off very well indeed, and I see that we must take serious account of Mr. Lashmar. You know that, of course, and I didn't doubt your judgment, but intellectual distinction doesn't always go together with the qualities necessary to a political career. Beyond a doubt, he is our coming man! And now let me know when to

expect you in London. I look forward to the delight of seeing you, and of making the acquaintance of your niece, who must be very interesting. How lucky you are to have discovered at the same time two such brilliant young people! By the bye, I have not mentioned Miss Tomalin to any one; it occurred to me that silence in this matter was perhaps discretion. If I have been needlessly reticent, pray say so. Of course at a word from you, I can speak to the right people, but possibly you had rather nothing at all were said until the young lady has been seen. Myself, I see no reason whatever for explanations."

As she closed this letter, Mrs. Toplady's smile all but became a chuckle. Nothing had so much amused her for a twelvemonth past.

Lashmar had no reply from Rivenoak. This silence disappointed him. Ten days having elapsed, he thought of writing again, but there arrived a letter addressed in Miss Bride's hand, the contents a few lines in tremulous but bold character, signed "A. Ogram." He was invited to lunch, on the next day but one, at Bunting's Hotel, Albemarle Street.

This same afternoon, having nothing to do, he went to call upon Mrs. Woolstan. It was his second visit since the restaurant dinner, and Iris showed herself very grateful for his condescension. She regarded him anxiously; made inquiries about his health; was he not working too hard? His eyes looked rather heavy, as if he studied too late at night. Dyce, assuming the Toplady smile, admitted that he might have been rather over-zealous at his constitutional history of late; concession to practicality had led him to take up that subject. In his thoughts, he reproached himself for a freak of the previous evening, a little outbreak of folly, of no grave importance, which had doubtless resulted from the exciting tenor of his life recently. On the whole, it might serve a useful purpose, reminding him to be on guard against certain weaknesses of his temperament, likely to be fostered by ease and liberty.

"Lady Ogram is in town," he announced. "I lunch with her to-morrow."

The news agitated Mrs. Woolstan.

"Will she be alone?"

"I suppose so-except for her secretary, who of course is always with her."

Iris desired to know all about the secretary, and Lashmar described a neutral-tinted, pen-wielding young woman, much interested in social reform.

"Perhaps I shall come to know Lady Ogram," said Iris, modestly. "I may meet her at Mrs. Toplady's. That would be delightful! I should be able to follow everything much better."

"To be sure," was the rather dry response. "But I shall be surprised if the old lady stays long, or sees many people. Her health is of the shakiest, and London life would be a dangerous experiment, I should say. I don't at all know why she's coming, unless it is to see doctors."

"Oh, I do hope she'll be careful," panted Iris. "What a terrible thing it would be if she died suddenly-terrible for you, I mean. She ought to have some one to look well after her, indeed she ought. I wish"-this with a laugh-"she would take me as companion. Oh, wouldn't I have a care of her precious health!"

When he drove to Bunting's Hotel, he had no thought of seeing anyone but Lady Ogram and Constance; the possibility that there might be other guests at luncheon did not enter his mind. Conducted to a private drawing-room on the first floor, he became aware, as the door opened, of a handsome girl in animated conversation with his two friends; she seemed so very much at home that he experienced a little shock, as of the unaccountable, the disconcerting, and his eyes with difficulty turned from this new face to that of the venerable hostess. Here again a surprise awaited him; Lady Ogram looked so much younger than when he took leave of her at Rivenoak, that he marvelled at the transformation. Notwithstanding her appearance she spoke in a strained, feeble voice, often indistinct; one noticed, too, that she was harder of hearing. Having pressed his hand-a very faint pressure, though meant for cordial-Lady Ogram turned a look upon the bright young lady near her, and said, with a wheezy emphasis:

"Let me introduce you to my niece, Miss Tomalin."

Never had Lashmar known her so ceremonious; never had she appeared so observant of his demeanor during the social formality. Overcome with astonishment at what he heard, he bowed stiffly, but submissively. The autocrat watched him with severe eyes, and only when his salute was accomplished did the muscles of her visage again relax. Mechanically, he turned to bow in the same way to Miss Bride, but she at once offered her hand with a friendly, "'low do you do?"

"My niece, Miss Tomalin." Where on earth did this niece spring from? Everybody understood that Lady Ogram was alone in the world. Constance had expressly affirmed it-yet here was she smiling in the most natural way possible, as if nieces abounded at Rivenoak. Dyce managed to talk, but he heard not a word from his own lips, and his eyes, fixed on Lady Ogram's features, noted the indubitable fact that her complexion was artificial. This astounding old woman, at the age of four score, had begun to paint? So confused was Dyce's state of mind, that, on perceiving the truth of the matter, he all but uttered an exclamation. Perhaps only Miss Tomalin's voice arrested him.

"My aunt has told me all about your new Socialism, Mr. Lashmar. You can't think how it has put my mind at rest! One has so felt that one ought to be a Socialist, and yet there were so many things one couldn't accept. It's delightful to see everything reconciled-all one wants to keep and all the new things that must come!"

May had been developing. She spoke with a confidence which, on softer notes, emulated that of her aged relative; she carried her head with a conscious stateliness which might have been-perhaps was-deliberately studied after the portrait in the Rivenoak dining-room. Harmonious with this change was that in her attire; fashion had done its best to transform the aspiring young provincial into a metropolitan Grace; the result being that Miss Tomalin seemed to have grown in stature, to exhibit a more notable symmetry, so that she filled more space in the observer's eye than heretofore. For all that, she looked no older; her self-assertion, though more elaborate, was not a bit more impressive, and the phrases she used, the turn of her sentences, the colour of her speech, very little resembled anything that would have fallen from a damsel bred in the modish world. Her affectation was shot through with spontaneity; her impertinence had a juvenile seriousness which made it much more amusing than offensive; and a feminine charm in her, striving to prevail over incongruous elements, made clear appeal to the instincts of the other sex.

"That is very encouraging," was Lashmar's reply. "If only one's thoughts can be of any help to others-"

"What time is it?" broke in Lady Ogram. "Why doesn't that man come? What business has he to keep us waiting?"

"It's only just half-past one," said Miss Bride.

"Then he ought to be here." She turned to Lashmar. "I'm expecting a friend you've heard of-Sir William Amys. How long are we to sit here waiting for him, I wonder?"

"What do you think of Herbert Spencer, Mr. Lashmar?" inquired May.

Dyce's reply was rendered doubly unnecessary by the opening of the door, and the announcement of the awaited guest.

"Willy! Willy!" cried Lady Ogram, with indulgent reproof. "You always used to be so punctual."

The gentleman thus familiarly addressed had grey hair and walked with a stoop in the shoulders. His age was sixty, but he looked rather older. Lady Ogram, who had known him as a boy, still saw him in that light. His pleasant face, full of sagacity and good-humour, wore a gently deprecating smile as he stepped forward, and whether intentionally or not-he smoothed with one hand his long, grizzled beard.

"This is military!" he exclaimed. "Are not a few minutes' grace granted to a man of peace, when he comes to eat your salt?-And how are you, my dear lady? How are you?"

"Never was better in my life, Willy!" shrilled Lady Ogram, her voice slipping out of control in her excitement. "Do you know who this is?"

"I could make a guess. The face speaks for itself."

"Ha! You see the likeness!-May, shake hands with Sir William, and make friends with him; he and I knew each other a lifetime before you were born.-And this is Mr. Lashmar, our future Member for Hollingford."

"If the voters are as kind to me as Lady Ogram," said Dyce, laughing.

The baronet gave his hand, and regarded the young man with shrewd observation. Sir William had no part in public life, and was not predisposed in favour of parliamentary ambitions; he lived quietly in a London suburb, knowing only a few congenial people, occupying himself with the history of art, on which he was something of an authority. His father had been a friend of Sir Quentin Ogram; and thus arose his early familiarity with the lady of Rivenoak.

They went to table in an adjoining room, and for a few minutes there was talk between the hostess and Sir William about common acquaintances. Lashmar, the while, kept turning his look towards Miss Tomalin. With his astonishment had begun to mingle feelings of interest and attraction. He compared Miss Tomalin's personal appearance with that of Constance Bride, and at once so hardened towards the latter that he could not bring his eyes to regard her again. At the same time he perceived, with gratification, that Lady Ogram's niece was not heedless of his presence; once at least their looks come to the encounter, with quick self-recovery on the young lady's part, and a conscious smile. Dyce began to think her very good-looking indeed. Sir William's remark recurred to him, and he saw an undeniable resemblance in the girl's features to those of Lady Ogram's early portrait. He grew nervously desirous to know something about her.

Presently conversation directed itself towards the subject with which Lashmar was connected. Sir William appeared by no means eager to discuss political or social themes, but May Tomalin could not rest till they were brought forward, and her aunt, who seemed to have no desire but to please her and put her into prominence, helped them on.

"Are you going to stand as a Socialist?" asked the baronet of Lashmar, with some surprise, when May's talk had sufficiently confused him.

Dyce quietly explained (a shadow of the Toplady smile about his lips) that his Socialism was not Social-democracy.

"For my own part," declared Sir William, "I want to hear a little more of men, and a little less of government. That we're moving into Socialism of one kind or another is plain enough, and it goes against the grain with me. I'm afraid we're losing our vigour as individuals. It's all very well to be a good citizen, but it's more important, don't you think, to be a man?"

"I quite see your point, Sir William," said Lashmar, his eyes brightening as they always did when he found his opportunity for borrowed argument and learning. "Clearly there's an excess to be avoided; individuality mustn't be lost sight of. But I can make absolutely no distinction between the terms Man and Citizen. To my mind they are synonymous, for Man only came into being when he ceased to be animal by developing the idea of citizenship. In my view, the source of all our troubles is found in that commonly accepted duality. He didn't exist in the progressive ancient world. The dualism of Man and State began with the decline of Graeco-Roman civilisation, and was perpetuated by the teaching of Christianity. The philosophy of Epicurus and of Zeno an utter detachment from the business of mankind-prepared the way for the spirit of the Gospels. So, at length, we get our notion of Church and State-a separation ruinous to religion and making impossible anything like perfection in politics; it has thoroughly rooted in people's minds that fatal distinction between Man as a responsible soul and Man as a member of society. Our work is to restore the old monism. Very, very slowly, mankind is working towards it. A revolution greater than any of those commonly spoken of-so wide and deep that it isn't easily taken in even by students of history-a revolution which is the only hope of civilisation, has been going on since the close of the thirteenth century. We are just beginning to be dimly conscious of it. Perhaps in another century it will form the principle of Liberalism."

The baronet heard all this with some surprise; he had not been prepared for such solidity of doctrine from Lady Ogram's candidate, and at the luncheon table. As for May Tomalin, she had listened delightedly. Her lips savoured the words "dualism" and "monism" of which she resolved to make brave use in her own argumentative displays. The first to speak was Constance.

"We are getting on very quickly," she said, in her driest and most practical tone, "towards one ideal of Socialism. Look at the way in which municipalities are beginning to undertake, and sometimes monopolise, work which used to be left to private enterprize. Before long we shall have local authorities engaged in banking, pawnbroking, coal-supplying, tailoring, estate agency, printing-all these, and other undertakings, are already proposed."

May cast a glance of good-natured envy at the speaker. How she wished she could display such acquaintance with public life. But the information was stored for future use.

"Why, there you are!" exclaimed the baronet. "That's just what I'm afraid of. It's the beginning of tyranny. It'll mean the bad work of a monopoly, instead of the good to be had by free competition. You favour this kind of thing, Mr. Lashmar?"

"In so far as it signifies growth of the ideas of citizenship, and of association. But it interests me much less than purely educational questions. Whatever influence I may gain will be used towards a thorough reconstruction of our system of popular schooling. I believe nothing serious can be done until we have a truly civic education for the masses of the people."

This was the outcome of Lashmar's resolve to be practical, whilst adhering to his philosophy. He knew that it sounded well, this demand for educational reform; however vague in reality, it gave the ordinary hearer a quasi-intelligible phrase to remember and repeat. Sir William Amys was not proof against the plausibility of such words: he admitted that one might do worse than devote oneself to that question; popular schooling, heaven knew, being much in need of common-sense reform. Dyce tactfully pressed his advantage. He ridiculed the extravagance of educationalism run mad, its waste of public money, the harm it does from a social point of view; and, the longer he spoke, the better pleased was Sir William to hear him. Their hostess, silent and closely attentive, smiled with satisfaction. Constance, meanwhile, noted the countenance of May Tomalin, which exhibited the same kind of pleased approval.-Only a day or two ago, May, speaking on this subject, had expressed views diametrically opposite.

After luncheon, Lady Ogram held Lashmar in talk, whilst the two young ladies conversed with the baronet apart. Dyce had hoped for a little gossip with Miss Tomalin, but no chance offered; discretion bade him take leave before Sir William had given sign of rising.

"I don't know how long we shall be in town," said Lady Ogram, who did not seek to detain him, "but of course we shall see you again. We shall generally be at home at five o'clock."

He had hoped for a more definite and a more cordial invitation. Issuing into Albemarle Street, he looked vaguely about him, and wondered how he should get through the rest of the afternoon. A dull sky hastened the failure of his spirits; when, in a few minutes, rain began to fall, he walked on under his umbrella, thoroughly cheerless and objectless. Then it struck him that he would go presently to Pont Street; Mrs. Toplady might help him to solve the mystery of Lady Ogram's niece.

Confound Lady Ogram's niece! Her appearance could not have been more inopportune. The old woman was obviously quite taken up with her, and, as likely as not, would lose all her interest in politics. Here was the explanation of her not having answered his last long letter. Confound Miss-what was her foolish name?-Tomalin!

And yet-and yet-there glimmered another aspect of the matter. Suppose Miss Tomalin followed her aunt's example, and saw in him a coming man, and seriously interested herself in his fortunes? Then, indeed, she would be by no means a superfluous young person; for who could say to what such interest might lead? Miss Tomalin would be her aunt's heiress, or so one might reasonably suppose. And she was a very pretty girl, as well as intelligent.

Could it be that the real course of his destiny was only just beginning to reveal itself?

By this time, he felt better. To pass an hour, he went into his club, read the papers, and looked, vainly, for Lord Dymchurch.

Greatly to his surprise, he found the world-shunning nobleman in Mrs. Toplady's drawing-room; the hostess and he alone together-it was early-and seeming to have been engaged in rather intimate talk.

"Oh, this is nice!" exclaimed Mrs. Toplady. "What have you to tell us?"

"Little of interest, I'm afraid-except that I have lunched to-day with Lady Ogram and made the acquaintance of her niece."

"We were speaking of her," said the hostess, with very pronounced mischief at the corner of her lips, and eyes excessively gracious.

"You know Miss Tomalin?" Lashmar inquired, rather abruptly, of Lord Dymchurch.

"I have met her once," was the colourless reply.

Dyce wished to ask where and when, but of course could not. He resented this advantage of Lord Dymchurch.

"She is very clever," the hostess was saying, "and quite charming. A Canadian, you know, by birth. Such a fresh way of looking at things; so bright and-"

Other callers were announced. Lord Dymchurch looked his desire to escape, but sat on. You would have thought him a man with a troubled conscience.

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