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   Chapter 2 CECILY DORAN

The Emancipated By George Gissing Characters: 34078

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Villa Sannazaro had no architectural beauty; it was a building of considerable size, irregular, in need of external repair. Through the middle of it ran a great archway, guarded by copies of the two Molossian hounds which stand before the Hall of Animals in the Vatican; beneath the arch, on the right-hand side, was the main entrance to the house. If you passed straight through, you came out upon a terrace, where grew a magnificent stone-pine and some robust agaves. The view hence was uninterrupted, embracing the line of the bay from Posillipo to Cape Minerva. From the parapet bordering the platform you looked over a descent of twenty feet, into a downward sloping vineyard. Formerly the residence of an old Neapolitan family, the villa had gone the way of many such ancestral abodes, and was now let out among several tenants.

The Spences were established here for the winter. On the occasion of his marriage, three years ago, Edward Spence relinquished his connection with a shipping firm, which he represented in Manchester, and went to live in London; a year and a half later he took his wife to Italy, where they had since remained. He was not wealthy, but had means sufficient to his demands and prospects. Thinking for himself in most matters, he chose to abandon money-making at the juncture when most men deem it incumbent upon them to press their efforts in that direction; business was repugnant to him, and he saw no reason why he should sacrifice his own existence to put a possible family in more than easy circumstances, He had the inclinations of a student, but was untroubled by any desire to distinguish himself, freedom from the demands of the office meant to him the possibility of living where he chose, and devoting to his books the best part of the day instead of its fragmentary leisure. His choice in marriage was most happy. Eleanor Spence had passed her maiden life in Manchester, but with parents of healthy mind and of more literature than generally falls to the lot of a commercial family. Pursuing a natural development, she allied herself with her husband's freedom of intellect, and found her nature's opportunities in the life which was to him most suitable. By a rare chance, she was the broader-minded of the two, the more truly impartial. Her emancipation from dogma had been so gradual, so unconfused by external pressure, that from her present standpoint she could look back with calmness and justice on all the stages she had left behind. With her cousin Miriam she could sympathize in a way impossible to Spence, who, by-the-bye, somewhat misrepresented his wife in the account he gave to Mallard of their Sunday experiences. Puritanism was familiar to her by more than speculation; in the compassion with which she regarded Miriam there was no mixture of contempt, as in her husband's case. On the other hand, she did not pretend to read completely her cousin's heart and mind; she knew that there was no simple key to Miriam's character, and the quiet study of its phases from day to day deeply interested her.

Cecily Doran had been known to Spence from childhood; her father was his intimate friend. But Eleanor had only made the girl's acquaintance in London, just after her marriage, when Cecily was spending a season there with her aunt, Mrs. Lessingham. Mallard's ward was then little more than fifteen; after several years of weak health, she had entered upon a vigorous maidenhood, and gave such promise of free, joyous, aspiring life as could not but strongly affect the sympathies of a woman like Eleanor. Three years prior to that, at the time of her father's death, Cecily was living with Mrs. Elgar, a widow, and her daughter Miriam, the latter on the point of marrying (at eighteen) one Mr. Baske, a pietistic mill-owner, aged fifty. It then seemed very doubtful whether Cecily would live to mature years; she had been motherless from infancy, and the difficulty with those who brought her up was to repress an activity of mind which seemed to be one cause of her bodily feebleness. In those days there was a strong affection between her and Miriam Elgar, and it showed no sign of diminution in either when, on Mrs. Elgar's death, a year and a half after Miriam's marriage, Cecily passed into the care of her father's sister, a lady of moderate fortune, of parts and attainments, and with a great love of cosmopolitan life. A few months more and Mrs. Baske was to be a widow, childless, left in possession of some eight hundred a year, her house at Bartles, and a local importance to which she was not indifferent. With the exception of her brother, away in London, she had no near kin. It would now have been a great solace to her if Cecily Doran could have been her companion; but the young girl was in Paris, or Berlin, or St. Petersburg, and, as Miriam was soon to learn, the material distance between them meant little in comparison with the spiritual remoteness which resulted from Cecily's education under Mrs. Lessingham. They corresponded, however, and at first frequently; but letters grew shorter on both sides, and arrived less often. The two were now to meet for the first time since Cecily was a child of fourteen.

The ladies arrived at the villa about eleven o'clock. Miriam had shown herself indisposed to speak of them, both last evening, when Mallard was present, and again this morning when alone with her relatives; at breakfast she was even more taciturn than usual, and kept her room for an hour after the meal. Then, however, she came to sit with Eleanor, and remained when the visitors were announced.

Mrs. Lessingham did not answer to the common idea of a strong-minded woman. At forty-seven she preserved much natural grace of bearing, a good complexion, pleasantly mobile features. Her dress was in excellent taste, tending to elaboration, such as becomes a lady who makes some figure in the world of ease. Little wrinkles at the outer corners of her eyes assisted her look of placid thoughtfulness; when she spoke, these were wont to disappear, and the expression of her face became an animated intelligence, an eager curiosity, or a vivacious good-humour, Her lips gave a hint of sarcasm, but this was reserved for special occasions; as a rule her habit of speech was suave, much observant of amenities. One might have imagined that she had enjoyed a calm life, but this was far from being the case. The daughter of a country solicitor, she married early-for love, and the issue was disastrous. Above her right temple, just at the roots of the hair, a scar was discoverable; it was the memento of an occasion on which her husband aimed a blow at her with a mantelpiece ornament, and came within an ace of murder. Intimates of the household said that the provocation was great-that Mrs. Lessingham's gift of sarcasm had that morning displayed itself much too brilliantly. Still, the missile was an extreme retort, and on the whole it could not be wondered at that husband and wife resolved to live apart in future. Mr. Lessingham was, in fact, an aristocratic boor, and his wife never puzzled so much over any intellectual difficulty as she did over the question how, as a girl, she came to imagine herself enamoured of him. She was not, perhaps, singular in her concernment with such a personal problem.

"It is six years since I was in Italy," she said, when greetings were over, and she had seated herself. "Don't you envy me my companion, Mrs. Spence? If anything could revive one's first enjoyment, it would be the sight of Cecily's."

Cecily was sitting by Miriam, whose hand she had only just relinquished. Her anxious and affectionate inquiries moved Miriam to a smile which seemed rather of indulgence than warm kindness.

"How little we thought where our next meeting would be!" Cecily was saying, when the eyes of the others turned upon her at her aunt's remark.

Noble beauty can scarcely be dissociated from harmony of utterance; voice and visage are the correspondent means whereby spirit addresses itself to the ear and eye. One who had heard Cecily Doran speaking where he could not see her, must have turned in that direction, have listened eagerly for the sounds to repeat themselves, and then have moved forward to discover the speaker. The divinest singer may leave one unaffected by the tone of her speech. Cecily could not sing, but her voice declared her of those who think in song, whose minds are modulated to the poetry, not to the prose, of life.

Her enunciation had the peculiar finish which is acquired in intercourse with the best cosmopolitan society, the best in a worthy sense. Four years ago, when she left Lancashire, she had a touch of provincial accent,-Miriam, though she spoke well, was not wholly free from it,-but now it was impossible to discover by listening to her from what part of England she came. Mrs. Lessingham, whose admirable tact and adaptability rendered her unimpeachable in such details, had devoted herself with artistic zeal to her niece's training for the world; the pupil's natural aptitude ensured perfection in the result. Cecily's manner accorded with her utterance; it had every charm derivable from youth, yet nothing of immaturity. She was as completely at her ease as Mrs. Lessingham, and as much more graceful in her self-control as the advantages of nature made inevitable.

Miriam looked very cold, very severe, very English, by the side of this brilliant girl. The thinness and pallor of her features became more noticeable; the provincial faults of her dress were painfully obvious. Cecily was not robust, but her form lacked no development appropriate to her years, and its beauty was displayed by Parisian handiwork. In this respect, too, she had changed remarkably since Miriam last saw her, when she was such a frail child. Her hair of dark gold showed itself beneath a hat which Eleanor Spence kept regarding with frank admiration, so novel it was in style, and so perfectly suitable to its wearer. Her gloves, her shoes, were no less perfect; from head to foot nothing was to be found that did not become her, that was not faultless in its kind.

At the same time, nothing that suggested idle expense or vanity. To dwell at all upon the subject would be a disproportion, but for the note of contrast that was struck. In an assembly of well-dressed people, no one would have remarked Cecily's attire, unless to praise its quiet distinction. In the Spences' sitting-room it became another matter; it gave emphasis to differences of character; it distinguished the atmosphere of Cecily's life from that breathed by her old friends.

"We are going to read together Goethe's 'Italienische Reise,'" continued Mrs. Lessingham. "It was of quite infinite value to me when I first was here. In each town I tuned my thoughts by it, to use a phrase which sounds like affectation, but has a very real significance."

"It was much the same with me," observed Spence.

"Yes, but you had the inestimable advantage of knowing the classics. And Cecily, I am thankful to say, at least has something of Latin; an ode of Horace, which I look at with fretfulness, yields her its meaning. Last night, when I was tired and willing to be flattered, she tried to make me believe it was not yet too late to learn."

"Surely not," said Eleanor, gracefully.

"But Goethe-you remember he says that the desire to see Italy had become an illness with him. I know so well what that means. Cecily will never know; the happiness has come before longing for it had ceased to be a pleasure."

It was not so much affection as pride that her voice expressed when she referred to her niece; the same in her look, which was less tender than gratified and admiring. Cecily smiled in return, but was not wholly attentive; her eyes constantly turned to Miriam, endeavouring, though vainly, to exchange a glance.

Mrs. Lessingham was well aware of the difficulty of addressing to Mrs. Baske any remark on natural topics which could engage her sympathy, yet to ignore her presence was impossible.

"Do you think of seeing Rome and the northern cities when your health is established?" she inquired, in a voice which skilfully avoided any presumption of the reply. "Or shall you return by sea?"

"I am not a very good sailor," answered Miriam, with sufficient suavity, "and I shall probably go back by land. But I don't think I shall stop anywhere."

"It will be wiser, no doubt," said Mrs. Lessingham, "to leave the rest of Italy for another visit. To see Naples first, and then go north, is very much like taking dessert before one's substantial dinner. I'm a little sorry that Cecily begins here; but it was better to come and enjoy Naples with her friends this winter. I hope we shall spend most of our time in Italy for a year or two."

Conversation took its natural course, and presently turned to the subject-inexhaustible at Naples-of the relative advantages of this and that situation for an abode. Mrs. Lessingham, turning to the window, expressed her admiration of the view it afforded.

"I think it is still better from Mrs. Baske's sitting-room," said Eleanor, who had been watching Cecily, and thought that she might be glad of an opportunity of private talk with Miriam. And Cecily at once availed herself of the suggestion.

"Would you let me see it, Miriam?" she asked. "If it is not troublesome-"

Miriam rose, and they went out together. In silence they passed along the corridor, and when they had entered her room Miriam walked at once to the window. Then she half turned, and her eyes fell before Cecily's earnest gaze.

"I did so wish to be with you in your illness!" said the girl, with affectionate warmth. "Indeed, I would have come if I could have been of any use. After all the trouble you used to have with my wretched headaches and ailments-"

"You never have anything of the kind now," said Miriam, with her indulgent smile.

"Never. I am in what Mr. Mallard calls aggressive health. But it shocks me to see how pale you still are Miriam. I thought the voyage and these ten days at Naples-And you have such a careworn look. Cannot you throw off your troubles under this sky?"

"You know that the sky matters very little to me, Cecily."

"If I could give you only half my delight! I was awake before dawn this morning, and it was impossible to lie still I dressed and stood at the open window. I couldn't see the sun itself as it rose, but I watched the first beams strike on Capri and the sea; and I tried to make a drawing of the island as it then looked,-a poor little daub, but it will be precious in bringing back to my mind all I felt when I was busy with it. Such feeling I have never known; as if every nerve in me had received an exquisite new sense. I keep saying to myself, 'Is this really Naples?' Let us go on to the balcony. Oh, you must be glad with me!"

Freed from the constraint of formal colloquy, and overcoming the slight embarrassment caused by what she knew of Miriam's thoughts, Cecily revealed her nature as it lay beneath the graces with which education had endowed her. This enthusiasm was no new discovery to Miriam, but in the early days it had attached itself to far other things. Cecily seemed to have forgotten that she was ever in sympathy with the mood which imposed silence on her friend. Her eyes drank light from the landscape; her beauty was transfigured by passionate reception of all the influences this scene could exercise upon heart and mind. She leaned on the railing of the balcony, and gazed until tears of ecstasy made her sight dim.

"Let us see much of each other whilst we are here," she said suddenly, turning to Miriam. "I could never have dreamt of our being together in Italy; it is a happy fate, and gives me all kinds of hope. We will be often alone together in glorious places. We will talk it over; that is better than writing. You shall understand me, Miriam. You shall get as well and strong as I am, and know what I mean when I speak of the joy of living. We shall be sisters again, like we used to be."

Miriam smiled and shook her head.

"Tell me about things at home. Is Miss Baske well?"

"Quite well. I have had two letters from her since I was here. She wished me to give you her love."

"I will write to her. And is old Don still alive?"

"Yes, but very feeble, poor old fellow. He forgets even to be angry with the baker's boy."

Cecily laughed with a moved playfulness.

"He has forgotten me. I don't like to be forgotten by any one who ever cared for me."

There was a pause. They came back into the room, and Cecily, with a look of hesitation, asked quietly,-

"Have you heard of late from Reuben?"

Miriam, with averted eyes, answered simply, "No." Again there was silence, until Cecily, moving about the room, came to the "St. Cecilia."

"So my patron saint is always before you. I am glad of that. Where is the original of this picture, Miriam? I forget."

"I never knew."

"Oh, I wished to speak to you of Mr. Mallar

d. You met him yesterday. Had you much conversation?"

"A good deal. He dined with us."

"Did he? I thought it possible. And do you like him?"

"I couldn't say until I knew him better."

"It isn't easy to know him, I think," said Cecily, in a reflective and perfectly natural tone, smiling thoughtfully. "But he is a very interesting man, and I wish he would be more friendly with me. I tried hard to win his confidence on the journey from Genoa, but I didn't seem to have much success. I fancy"-she laughed-"that he is still in the habit of regarding me as a little girl, who wouldn't quite understand him if he spoke of serious things. When I wished to talk of his painting, he would only joke. That annoyed me a little, and I tried to let him see that it did, with the result that he refused to speak of anything for a long time."

"What does Mr. Mallard paint?" Miriam asked, half absently.

"Landscape," was the reply, given with veiled surprise. "Did you never see anything of his?"

"I remember; the Bradshaws have a picture by him in their dining-room. They showed it me when I was last in Manchester. I'm afraid I looked at it very inattentively, for it has never re-entered my mind from that day to this. But I was ill at the time."

"His pictures are neglected," said Cecily, "but people who understand them say they have great value. If he has anything accepted by the Academy, it is sure to be hung out of sight. I think he is wrong to exhibit there at all. Academies are foolish things, and always give most encouragement to the men who are worth least. When there is talk of such subjects, I never lose an opportunity of mentioning Mr. Mallard's name, and telling all I can about his work. Some day I shall, perhaps, be able to help him. I will insist on every friend of mine who buys pictures at all possessing at least one of Mr. Mallard's; then, perhaps, he will condescend to talk with me of serious things."

She added the last sentence merrily, meeting Miriam's look with the frankest eyes.

"Does Mrs. Lessingham hold the same opinion?" Miriam inquired.

"Oh yes! Aunt, of course, knows far more about art than I do, and she thinks very highly indeed of Mr. Mallard. Not long ago she met M. Lambert at a friend's house in Paris-the French critic who has just been writing about English landscape-and he mentioned Mr. Mallard with great respect. That was splendid, wasn't it?"

She spoke with joyous spiritedness. However modern, Cecily, it was clear, had caught nothing of the disease of pococurantism. Into whatever pleased her or enlisted her sympathies, she threw all the glad energies of her being. The scornful remark on the Royal Academy was, one could see, not so much a mere echo of advanced opinion, as a piece of championship in a friend's cause. The respect with which she mentioned the name of the French critic, her exultation in his dictum, were notes of a youthful idealism which interpreted the world nobly, and took its stand on generous beliefs.

"Mr. Mallard will help you to see Naples, no doubt," said Miriam.

"Indeed, I wish he would. But he distinctly told us that he has no time. He is going to Amalfi in a few days, to work. I begged him at least to go to Pompeii with us, but he frowned-as he so often does-and seemed unwilling to be persuaded; so I said no more. There again, I feel sure he was afraid of being annoyed by trifling talk in such places. But one mustn't judge an artist like other men. To be sure, anything I could say or think would be trivial compared with what is in his mind."

"But isn't it rather discourteous?" Miriam observed impartially.

"Oh, I could never think of it in that way! An artist is privileged; he must defend his time and his sensibilities. The common terms of society have no application to him. Don't you feel that, Miriam?"

"I know so little of art and artists. But such a claim seems to me very strange."

Cecily laughed.

"This is one of a thousand things we will talk about. Art is the grandest thing in the world; it means everything that is strong and beautiful-statues, pictures, poetry, music. How could one live without art? The artist is born a prince among men. What has he to do with the rules by which common people must direct their lives? Before long, you will feel this as deeply as I do, Miriam. We are in Italy, Italy!"

"Shall we go back to the others?" Miriam suggested, in a voice which contrasted curiously with that exultant cry.

"Yes; it is time."

Cecily's eyes fell on the plans of the chapel, which were still lying open.

"What is this?" she asked. "Something in Naples? Oh no!"

"It's nothing," said Miriam, carelessly. "Come, Cecily."

The visitors took their leave just as the midday cannon boomed from Sant' Elmo. They had promised to come and dine in a day or two. After their departure, Miriam showed as little disposition to make comments as she had to indulge in expectation before their arrival. Eleanor and her husband put less restraint upon themselves.

"Heavens!" cried Spence, when they were alone; "what astounding capacity of growth was in that child!"

"She is a swift and beautiful creature!" said Eleanor, in a warm undertone characteristic of her when she expressed admiration.

"I wish I could have overheard the interview in Miriam's room."

"I never felt more curiosity about anything. Pity one is not a psychological artist. I should have stolen to the keyhole and committed eavesdropping with a glow of self-approval."

"I half understand our friend Mallard."

"So do I, Ned."

They looked at each other and smiled significantly.

That evening Spence again had a walk with the artist. He returned to the villa alone, and only just in time to dress for dinner. Guests were expected, Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw of Manchester, old acquaintances of the Spences and of Miriam. When it had become known that Mrs. Baske, advised to pass the winter in a mild climate, was about to accept an invitation from her cousin and go by sea to Naples, the Bradshaws, to the astonishment of all their friends, offered to accompany her. It was the first time that either of them had left England, and they seemed most unlikely people to be suddenly affected with a zeal for foreign travel. Miriam gladly welcomed their proposal, and it was put into execution.

When Spence entered the room his friends had already arrived. Mr. Bradshaw stood in the attitude familiar to him when on his own hearthrug, his back turned to that part of the wall where in England would have been a fireplace, and one hand thrust into the pocket of his evening coat.

"I tell you what it is, Spence!" he exclaimed, "I'm very much afraid I shall be committing an assault. Certainly I shall if I don't soon learn some good racy Italian. I must make out a little list of sentences, and get you or Mrs. Spence to translate them. Such as 'Do you take me for a fool?' or 'Be off, you scoundrel!' or 'I'll break every bone in your body!' That's the kind of thing practically needed in Naples, I find."

"Been in conflict with coachmen again?" asked Spence, laughing.

"Slightly! Never got into such a helpless rage in my life. Two fellows kept up with me this afternoon for a couple of miles or so. Now, what makes me so mad is the assumption of these blackguards that I don't know my own mind. I go out for a stroll, and the first cabby I pass wants to take me to Pozzuoli or Vesuvius-or Jericho, for aught I know. It's no use showing him that I haven't the slightest intention of going to any such place. What the deuce! does the fellow suppose he can persuade me or badger me into doing what I've no mind to do? Does he take me for an ass? It's the insult of the thing that riles me! The same if I look in at a shop window; out rushes a gabbling swindler, and wants to drag me in-"

"Only to take you in, Mr. Bradshaw," interjected Eleanor.

"Good! To take me in, with a vengeance. Why, if I've a mind to buy, shan't I go in of my own accord? And isn't it a sure and certain thing that I shall never spend a halfpenny with a scoundrel who attacks me like that?"

"How can you expect foreigners to reason, Jacob?" exclaimed Mrs. Bradshaw.

"You should take these things as compliments," remarked Spence. "They see an Englishman coming along, and as a matter of course they consider him a person of wealth and leisure, who will be grateful to any one for suggesting how he can kill time. Having nothing in the world to do but enjoy himself, why shouldn't the English lord drive to Baiae and back, just to get an appetite?"

"Lord, eh?" growled Mr. Bradshaw, rising on his toes, and smiling with a certain satisfaction.

Threescore years all but two sat lightly on Jacob Bush Bradshaw. His cheek was ruddy, his eyes had the lustre of health; in the wrinkled forehead you saw activity of brain, and on his lips the stubborn independence of a Lancashire employer of labour. Prosperity had set its mark upon him, that peculiarly English prosperity which is so intimately associated with spotless linen, with a good cut of clothes, with scant but valuable jewellery, with the absence of any perfume save that which suggests the morning tub. He was a manufacturer of silk. The provincial accent notwithstanding, his conversation on general subjects soon declared him a man of logical mind and of much homely information. A sufficient self-esteem allied itself with his force of character, but robust amiability prevented this from becoming offensive; he had the sense of humour, and enjoyed a laugh at himself as well as at other people. Though his life had been absorbed in the pursuit of solid gain, he was no scorner of the attainments which lay beyond his own scope, and in these latter years, now that the fierce struggle was decided in his favour, he often gave proof of a liberal curiosity. With regard to art and learning, he had the intelligence to be aware of his own defects; where he did not enjoy, he at least knew that he ought to have done so, and he had a suspicion that herein also progress could be made by stubborn effort, as in the material world. Finding himself abroad, he had set himself to observe and learn, with results now and then not a little amusing. The consciousness of wealth disposed him to intellectual generosity; standing on so firm a pedestal, he did not mind admitting that others might have a wider outlook. Italy was an impecunious country; personally and patriotically he had a pleasure in recognizing the fact, and this made it easier for him to concede the points of superiority which he had heard attributed to her. Jacob was rigidly sincere; he had no touch of the snobbery which shows itself in sham admiration. If he liked a thing he said so, and strongly; if he felt no liking where his guide-book directed him to be enthusiastic, he kept silence and cudgelled his brains.

Equally ingenuous was his wife, but with results that argued a shallower nature. Mrs. Bradshaw had the heartiest and frankest contempt for all things foreign; in Italy she deemed herself among a people so inferior to the English that even to discuss the relative merits of the two nations would have been ludicrous. Life "abroad" she could not take as a serious thing; it amused or disgusted her, as the case might be-never occasioned her a grave thought. The proposal of this excursion, when first made to her, she received with mockery; when she saw that her husband meant something more than a joke, she took time to consider, and at length accepted the notion as a freak which possibly would be entertaining, and might at all events be indulged after a lifetime of sobriety. Entertainment she found in abundance. Though natural beauty made little if any appeal to her, she interested herself greatly in Vesuvius, regarding it as a serio-comic phenomenon which could only exist in a country inhabited by childish triflers. Her memory was storing all manner of Italian absurdities-everything being an absurdity which differed from English habit and custom-to furnish her with matter for mirthful talk when she got safely back to Manchester and civilization. With respect to the things which Jacob was constraining himself to study-antiquities, sculptures, paintings, stored in the Naples museum-her attitude was one of jocose indifference or of half-tolerant contempt. Puritanism diluted with worldliness and a measure of common sense directed her views of art in general. Works such as the Farnese Hercules and the group about the Bull she looked upon much as she regarded the wall-scribbling of some dirty-minded urchin; the robust matron is not horrified by such indecencies, but to be sure will not stand and examine them. "Oh, come along, Jacob!" she exclaimed to her husband, when, at their first visit to the Museum, he went to work at the antiques with his Murray. "I've no patience you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

The Bradshaws were staying at the pension selected by Mrs. Lessingham. Naturally the conversation at dinner turned much on that lady and her niece. With Cecily's father Mr. Bradshaw had been well acquainted, but Cecily herself he had not seen since her childhood, and his astonishment at meeting her as Miss Doran was great.

"What kind of society do they live among?" he asked of Spence. "Tip-top people, I suppose?"

"Not exactly what we understand by tip-top in England. Mrs. Lessingham's family connections are aristocratic, but she prefers the society of authors, artists-that kind of thing."

"Queer people for a young girl to make friends of, eh?"

"Well, there's Mallard, for instance."

"Ah, Mallard, to be sure."

Mrs. Bradshaw looked at her hostess and smiled knowingly.

"Miss Doran is rather fond of talking about Mr. Mallard," she remarked. "Did you notice that, Miriam?"

"Yes, I did."

Jacob broke the silence.

"How does he get on with his painting?" he asked-and it sounded very much as though the reference were to a man busy on the front door.

"He's never likely to be very popular," replied Spence, adapting his remarks to the level of his guests' understanding. "There was something of his in this year's Academy, and it sold at a tolerable price."

"That thing of his that I bought, you remember-I find people don't see much in it. They complain that the colour's so dull. But then, as I always say, what else could you expect on a bit of Yorkshire moor in winter? Is he going to paint anything here? Now, if he'd do me a bit of the bay, with Vesuvius smoking."

"That would be something like!" assented Mrs. Bradshaw.

When the ladies had left the dining-room, Mr. Bradshaw, over his cigarette, reverted to the subject of Cecily.

"I suppose the lass has had a first-rate education?"

"Of the very newest fashion for girls. I am told she reads Latin."

"By Jove!" cried the other, with sudden animation. "That reminds me of something I wanted to talk about. When I was leaving Manchester, I got together a few hooks, you know, that were likely to be useful over here. My friend Lomax, the bookseller, suggested them. 'Got a classical dictionary?' says he. 'Not I!' As you know, my schooling never went much beyond the three R's, and hanged if I knew what a classical dictionary was. 'Better take one,' says Lomax. 'You'll want to look up your gods and goddesses.' So I took it, and I've been looking into it these last few days."

"Well?"

Jacob had a comical look of perplexity and indignation. He thumped the table.

"Do you mean to tell me that's the kind of stuff boys are set to learn at school?"

"A good deal of it comes in."

"Then all I can say is, no wonder the colleges turn out such a lot of young blackguards. Why, man, I could scarcely believe my eyes! You mean to say that, if I'd had a son, he'd have been brought up on that kind of literature, and without me knowing anything about it? Why, I've locked the book up; I was ashamed to let it lay on the table."

"It's the old Lempriere, I suppose," said Spence, vastly amused. "The new dictionaries are toned down a good deal; they weren't so squeamish in the old days."

"But the lads still read the books these things come out of, eh?"

"Oh yes. It has always been one of the most laughable inconsistencies in English morality. Anything you could find in the dictionary is milk for babes compared with several Greek plays that have to be read for examinations."

"It fair caps me, Spence! Classical education that is, eh? That's what parsons are bred on? And, by the Lord, you say they're beginning it with girls?"

"Very zealously."

"Nay-!"

Jacob threw up his arms, and abandoned the effort to express himself.

Later, when the guests were gone, Spence remembered this, and, to Eleanor's surprise, he broke into uproarious laughter.

"One of the best jokes I ever heard! A fresh, first-hand judgment on the morality of the Classics by a plain-minded English man of business." He told the story. "And Bradshaw's perfectly right; that's the best of it."

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