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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Fortunate Youth By William John Locke Characters: 33105

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

THE London physician arrived, sat up with Paul most of the night, and went away the next morning saying that he was a dead man. Dr. Fuller, however, advanced the uncontrovertible opinion that a man was not dead till he died; and Paul was not dead yet. As a matter of fact, Paul did not die. If he had done so, there would have been an end of him and this history would never have been written. He lay for many days at the gates of Death, and Miss Winwood, terribly fearful lest they should open and the mysterious, unconscious shape of beauty and youth should pass through, had all the trouble promised her by the doctor. But the gates remained shut. When Paul took a turn for the better, the London physician came down again and declared that he was living in defiance of all the laws of pathology, and with a graceful compliment left the case in the hands of Dr. Fuller. When his life was out of danger, Dr. Fuller attributed the miracle to the nurses; Ursula Winwood attributed it to Dr. Fuller; the London physician to Paul's superb constitution; and Paul himself, perhaps the most wisely, to the pleasant-faced, masterful lady who had concentrated on his illness all the resources of womanly tenderness.

But it was a long time before Paul was capable of formulating such an opinion. It was a long time before he could formulate any opinion at all. When not delirious or comatose, he had the devil of pleurisy tearing at the wall of his lung like a wild cat. Only gradually did he begin to observe and to question. That noiseless woman in coot blue and white was a nurse. He knew that. So he must be in hospital. But the room was much smaller than a hospital ward; and where were the other patients? The question worried him for a whole morning. Then there was a pink-faced man in gold spectacles, Obviously the doctor. Then there was a sort of nurse whom he liked very much, but she was not in uniform. Who could she be? He realized that he was ill, as weak as a butterfly; and the pain when he coughed was agonizing. It was all very odd. How had he come here? He remembered walking along a dusty road in the blazing sun, his head bursting, every limb a moving ache. He also vaguely remembered being awakened at night by a thunder storm as he lay snugly asleep beneath a hedge. The German Ocean had fallen down upon him. He was quite sure it was the German Ocean, because he had fixed it in his head by repeating "the North Sea or German Ocean." Mixing up delirious dream with fact, he clearly remembered the green waves rearing themselves up first, an immeasurable wall, then spreading a translucent canopy beneath the firmament and then descending in awful deluge. He had a confused memory of morning sunshine, of a cottage, of a hard-featured woman, of sitting before a fire with a blanket round his shoulders, of a toddling child smeared to the eyebrows with dirt and treacle whom he had wanted to wash. Over and over again, lately, he had wanted to wash that child, but it had always eluded his efforts. Once he had thought of scraping it with a bit of hoof-iron, but it had turned into a Stilton cheese. It was all very puzzling. Then he had gone on tramping along the high road. What was that about bacon and eggs? The horrible smell offended his nostrils. It must have been a wayside inn; and a woman twenty feet high with a face like a cauliflower-or was it spinach?-or Brussels sprouts?-silly not to remember-one of the three, certainly-desired to murder him with a thousand eggs bubbling up against rank reefs of bacon. He had escaped from her somehow, and he had been very lucky. His star had saved him. It had also saved him from a devil on a red-hot bicycle. He had stood quite still, calm and undismayed, in the awful path of the straddling Apollyon whose head was girt around with yellow fire, and had seen him swerve madly and fall off the machine. And when the devil had picked himself up, he had tried to blast him with the Great Curse of the Underworld; but Paul had shown him his cornelian heart, his talisman, and the devil had remounted his glowing vehicle and had ridden away in a spume of flame. The Father of Lies had tried to pass himself off as a postman. The memory of the shallow pretence tickled Paul so that he laughed; and then he half fainted in pleuritic agony.

After the interlude with the devil he could recollect little. He was going up to London to make his fortune. A princess was waiting for him at the golden gate of London, with a fortune piled up in a coach-and-six. But being very sick and dizzy, he thought he would sit down and rest in a great green cathedral whose doors stood invitingly open ... and now he found himself in the hospital ward. Sometimes he felt a desire to question the blue-and-white nurse, but it seemed too much trouble to move his lips. Then in a flash came the solution of the puzzle, and he chuckled to himself over his cunning. Of course it was a dream. The nurse was a dream-nurse, who wanted to make him believe that she was real. But she was not clever enough. The best way to pay her out for her deception was to take no notice of her whatsoever. So comforted, he would go to sleep.

At last one morning he woke, a miserably weak but perfectly sane man, and he turned his head from side to side and looked wonderingly at the fresh and exquisite room. A bowl of Morning Glow roses stood by his bedside, gracious things for fevered eyes to rest upon. A few large photographs of famous pictures hung on the walls. In front of him was the Santa Barbara of Palma Vecchio, which he recognized with a smile. He had read about it, and knew that the original was in Venice. Knowledge of things like that was comforting.

The nurse, noticing the change, came up to him and spoke in a soothing voice. "Are you feeling better?"

"I think so," said Paul. "I suppose I've been very ill."

"Very ill," said the nurse.

"This can't be a hospital?"

"Oh, no. It's the house of some very kind, good friends. You don't know them," she added quickly, seeing him knit a perplexed brow. "You stumbled into their garden and fainted. And they're very anxious for you to get well and strong."

"Who are they?" asked Paul.

"Colonel and Miss Winwood. They will be so glad to see you better-at least Miss Winwood will; the Colonel's not at home."

She lifted his head gently and smoothed his pillows, and ordained silence. Presently the doctor came, and spoke kindly. "You've had a narrow shave, my friend, and you're not out of the wood yet," said he. "And you'll have to go slow and take things for granted for some time."

Then came Miss Winwood, whom he recognized as the puzzling but pleasant nurse out of uniform.

"I don't know how to thank you for taking me in, a stranger, like this," said Paul.

She smiled. "It's Providence, not me, that you must thank. You might have been taken ill by the roadside far away from anybody. Providence guided you here."

"Providence or Destiny," murmured Paul, closing his eyes. It was absurd to feel so weak.

"That's a theological question on which we won't enter," laughed Miss Winwood. "Anyhow, thank God, you're better."

A little later she came to him again. "I've been so anxious about your people-you see, we've had no means of communicating with them."

"My people?" asked Paul, surprised.

"Yes. They must be wondering what has become of you."

"I have no people," said Paul.

"No people? What do you mean?" she asked sharply, for the moment forgetful of the sick room. She herself had hundreds of relations. The branches of her family tree were common to half the country families of England. "Have you no parents-brothers or sisters-?"

"None that I know of," said Paul. "I'm quite alone in the world."

"Have you no friends to whom I could write about you?"

He shook his head, and his great eyes, all the greater and more lustrous through illness, smiled into hers. "No. None that count. At least-there are two friends, but I've lost sight of them for years. No-there's nobody who would be in the least interested to know. Please don't trouble. I shall be all right."

Miss Winwood put her cool hand on his forehead and bent over him. "You? You, alone like that? My poor boy!"

She turned away. It was almost incredible. It was monstrously pathetic. The phenomenon baffled her. Tears came into her eyes. She had imagined him the darling of mother and sisters; the gay centre of troops of friends. And he was alone on the earth. Who was he? She turned again.

"Will you tell me your name?"

"Savelli. Paul Savelli."

"I thought so. It was in the two books in your knapsack. A historical Italian name."

"Yes," said Paul. "Noble. All dead."

He lay back, exhausted. Suddenly a thought smote him. He beckoned. She approached. "My heart-is it safe?" he whispered.

"Your heart?"

"At the end of my watch-chain."

"Quite safe."

"Could I have it near me?"

"Of course."

Paul closed his eyes contentedly. With his talisman in his hand, all would be well. For the present he need take thought of nothing. His presence in the beautiful room being explained, there was an end of the perplexity of his semi-delirium. Of payment for evident devoted service there could be no question. Time enough when he grew well and able to fare forth again, to consider the immediate future. He was too weak to lift his head, and something inside him hurt like the devil when he moved. Why worry about outer and unimportant matters? The long days of pain and illness slipped gradually away. Miss Winwood sat by his bedside and talked; but not until he was much stronger did she question him as to his antecedents. The Archdeacon had gone away after a week's visit without being able to hold any converse with Paul; Colonel Winwood was still at Contrexeville, whence he wrote sceptically of the rare bird whom Ursula had discovered; and Ursula was alone in the house, save for a girl friend who had no traffic with the sick-chamber. She had, therefore, much leisure to devote to Paul. Her brother's scepticism most naturally strengthened her belief in him. He was her discovery. He grew almost to be her invention. Just consider. Here was a young Greek god-everyone who had a bowing acquaintance with ancient sculpture immediately likened Paul to a Greek god, and Ursula was not so far different from her cultured fellow mortals as to liken him to anything else-here was a young Phoebus Apollo, all the more Olympian because of his freedom from earthly ties, fallen straight from the clouds. He had fallen at her feet. His beauty had stirred her. His starlike loneliness had touched her heart. His swift intelligence, growing more manifest each day as he grew stronger, moved her admiration. He had, too, she realized, a sunny and sensuous nature, alive to beauty-even the beauty of the trivial things in his sickroom. He had an odd, poetical trick of phrase. He was a paragon of young Greek gods. She had discovered him; and women don't discover even mortal paragons every day in the week. Also, she was a woman of forty-three, which, after all, is not wrinkled and withered eld; and she was not a soured woman; she radiated health and sweetness; she had loved once in her life, very dearly. Romance touched her with his golden feather and, in the most sensible and the most unreprehensible way in the world, she fell in love with Paul.

"I wonder what made you put that Santa Barbara of Palma Vecchio just opposite the bed," he said one day. He had advanced so far toward recovery as to be able to sit up against his pillows.

"Don't you like it?" She turned in her chair by his bedside.

"I worship it. Do you know, she has a strange look of you? When I was half off my head I used to mix you up together. She has such a generous and holy bigness-the generosity of the All-woman."

Ursula flushed at the personal tribute, but let it pass without comment. "It's not a bad photograph; but the original-that is too lovely."

"It's in the Church of Santa Maria Formosa in Venice," said Paul quickly.

He had passed through a period of wild enthusiasm for Italian painting, and had haunted the National Gallery, and knew by heart Sir Charles Eastlake's edition of Kugler's unique textbook.

"Ah, you know it?" said Ursula.

"I've never been to Venice," replied Paul, with a sigh. "It's the dream of my life to go there."

She straightened herself on her chair. "How do you know the name of the church?"

Paul smiled and looked round the walls, and reflected for a moment. "Yes," said he in answer to his own questioning, "I think I can tell you where all these pictures are, though I've never seen them, except one. The two angels by Melozzo da Forli are in St. Peter's at Rome. The Sposalia of Raphael is in the Breza, Milan. The Andrea del Sarto is in the Louvre. That's the one I've seen. That little child of Heaven, playing the lute, is in the predella of an altar-piece by Vittore Carpaccio in the-in the-please don't tell me-in the Academia of Venice. Am I right?"

"Absolutely right," said Miss Winwood.

He laughed, delighted. At three and twenty, one-thank goodness!-is very young. One hungers for recognition of the wonder-inspiring self that lies hidden beneath the commonplace mask of clay. "And that," said he-"the Madonna being crowned-the Botticelli-is in the Uffizi at Florence. Walter Pater talks about it-you know-in his 'Renaissance'-the pen dropping from her hand-'the high, cold words that have no meaning for her-the intolerable honour'! Oh, it's enormous, isn't it?"

"I'm afraid I've not read my Pater as I ought," said Miss Winwood.

"But, you must!" cried Paul, with the gloriously audacious faith of youth which has just discovered a true apostle. "Pater puts you on to the inner meaning of everything-in art, I mean. He doesn't wander about in the air like Ruskin, though, of course, if you get your mental winnowing machine in proper working order you can get the good grain out of Ruskin. 'The Stones of Venice' and 'The Seven Lamps' have taught me a lot. But you always have to be saying to yourself, 'Is this gorgeous nonsense or isn't it?' whereas in Pater there's no nonsense at all. You're simply carried along on a full stream of Beauty straight into the open Sea of Truth."

And Ursula Winwood, to whom Archbishops had been deferential and Cabinet Ministers had come for, guidance, meekly promised to send at once for Pater's 'Renaissance' and so fill in a most lamentable gap in her education.

"My uncle, the Archdeacon," she said, after a while, "reminded me that the great Savelli was a Venetian general-of Roman family; and, strangely enough, his name, too, was Paul. Perhaps that's how you got the name."

"That must be how," said Paul dreamily. He had not heard of the great general. He had seen the name of Savelli somewhere-also that of Torelli-and had hesitated between the two. Thinking it no great harm, he wove into words the clamour of his cherished romance. "My parents died when I was quite young-a baby-and then I was brought to England. So you see"-he smiled in his winning way-"I'm absolutely English."

"But you've kept your Italian love of beauty."

"I hope so," said Paul.

"Then I suppose you were brought up by guardians," said Ursula.

"A guardian," said Paul, anxious to cut down to a minimum the mythical personages that might be connected with his career. "But I seldom saw him. He lived in Paris chiefly. He's dead now."

"What a poor little uncared-for waif you must have been."

Paul laughed. "Oh, don't pity me. I've had to think for myself a good deal, it is true. But it has done me good. Don't you find it's the things one learns for oneself-whether they are about life or old china-that are the most valuable?"

"Of course," said Miss Winwood. But she sighed, womanlike, at the thought of the little Paul-(how beautiful he must have been as a child!)-being brought up by servants and hirelings in a lonely house, his very guardian taking no concern in his welfare.

Thus it came about that, from the exiguous material supplied by Paul, Miss Winwood, not doubting his gentle birth and breeding, constructed for him a wholly fictitious set of antecedents. Paul invented as little as possible and gratefully accepted her suggestions. They worked together unconsciously. Paul had to give some account of himself. He had blotted Bludston and his modeldom out of his existence. The passionate belief in his high and romantic birth was part of his being, and Miss Winwood's

recognition was a splendid confirmation of his faith. It was rather the suppressio veri of which he was guilty than the propositio falsi. So between them his childhood was invested with a vague semblance of reality in which the fact of his isolation stood out most prominent.

They had many talks together, not only on books and art, but on the social subjects in which Ursula was so deeply interested. She found him well informed, with a curiously detailed knowledge of the everyday lives of the poor. It did not occur to her that this knowledge came from his personal experience. She attributed it to the many-sided genius of her paragon.

"When you get well you must help us. There's an infinite amount to be done."

"I shall be delighted," said Paul politely.

"You'll find I'm a terrible person to deal with when once I've laid my hands on anybody," she said with a smile. "I drag in all kinds of people, and they can't escape. I sent young Harry Gostling-Lord Ruthmere's son, you know-to look into a working girls' club in the Isle of Dogs that was going wrong. He hated it at first, but now he's as keen as possible. And you'll be keen too."

It was flattering to be classified with leisured and opulent young Guardsmen; but what, Paul reflected with a qualm, would the kind lady say if she learned the real state of his present fortunes? He thought of the guinea that lay between him and starvation, and was amused by the irony of her proposition. Miss Winwood evidently took it for granted that he was in easy circumstances, living on the patrimony administered during his boyhood by a careless guardian. He shrank from undeceiving her. His dream was beginning to come true. He was accepted by one of the high caste as belonging to the world where princes and princesses dwelt serene. If only he could put the theatre behind him, as he had put the rest, and make a stepping-stone of his dead actor self! But that was impossible, or at least the question would have to be fought out between himself and fortune after he had left Drane's Court. In the meanwhile he glowed with the ambition to leave it in his newly acquired splendour, drums beating, banners flying, the young prince returning to his romantic and mysterious solitude.

The time was approaching when he should get up. He sent for his luggage. The battered trunk and portmanteau plastered with the labels of queer provincial towns did not betray great wealth. Nor did the contents, taken out by the man-servant and arranged in drawers by the nurse. His toilet paraphernalia was of the simplest and scantiest. His stock of frayed linen and darned underclothes made rather a poor little heap on the chair. He watched the unpacking somewhat wistfully from his bed; and, like many another poor man, inwardly resented his poverty being laid bare to the eyes of the servants of the rich.

The only thing that the man seemed to handle respectfully-as a recognized totem of a superior caste-was a brown canvas case of golf clubs, which he stood up in a conspicuous corner of the room. Paul had taken to the Ancient and Royal game when first he went on tour, and it had been a health-giving resource during the listless days when there was no rehearsal or no matinee-hundreds of provincial actors, to say nothing of retired colonels and such-like derelicts, owe their salvation of body and soul to the absurd but hygienic pastime-and with a naturally true eye and a harmonious body trained to all demands on its suppleness in the gymnasium, proficiency had come with little trouble. He was a born golfer; for the physically perfect human is a born anything physical you please. But he had not played for a long time. Half-crowns had been very scarce on this last disastrous tour, and comrades who included golf in their horizon of human possibilities had been rarer. When would he play again? Heaven knew! So he looked wistfully, too, at his set of golf clubs. He remembered how he had bought them-one by one.

"Do you want this on the dressing table?" The nurse held up a little oblong case.

It was his make-up box, luckily tied round with string.

"Good heavens, no!" he exclaimed. He wished he could have told her to burn it. He felt happier when all his belongings were stowed away out of sight and the old trunk and portmanteau hauled out of the room.

Colonel Winwood came home and asked his sister pertinent questions. He was a bald, sad-looking man with a long grizzling moustache that drooped despondently. But he had a square, obstinate chin, and his eyes, though they seldom smiled, were keen and direct, like Miss Winwood's. Romance had passed him by long since. He did not believe in paragons.

"I gather, my dear Ursula," said he in a dry voice, "that our guest is an orphan, of good Italian family, brought up in England by a guardian now dead who lived in France. Also that he is of prepossessing exterior, of agreeable manners, of considerable cultivation, and apparently of no acquaintance. But what I can't make out is: what he does for a living, how he came to be half-starved on his walking tour-the doctor said so, you remember-where he was going from and where he is going to when he leaves our house. In fact, he seems to be a very vague and mysterious person, of whom, for a woman of your character and peculiar training, you know singularly little."

Miss Winwood replied that she could not pry into the lad's private affairs. Her brother retorted that a youth, in his physically helpless condition, who was really ingenuous, would have poured out his life's history into the ears of so sympathetic a woman, and have bored her to tears with the inner secrets of his soul.

"He has high aspirations. He has told me of them. But he hasn't bored me a bit," said Ursula.

"What does he aspire to?"

"What does any brilliant young fellow of two or three and twenty aspire to? Anything, everything. He has only to find his path."

"Yes, but what is his path?"

"I wish you weren't so much like Uncle Edward, James," said Ursula.

"He's a damned clever old man," said Colonel Winwood, "and I wish he had stayed here long enough to be able to put our young friend through a searching cross-examination."

Ursula lifted her finger-bowl an inch from the doiley and carefully put it down again. It was the evening of Colonel Winwood's arrival, and they were lingering over coffee in the great, picture-hung and softly lighted dining room. Having fixed the bowl in the exact centre of the doiley, she flashed round on her brother. "My dear James, do you think I'm an idiot?"

He took his cigar from his lips and looked at her with not unhumorous dryness. "When the world was very young, my dear," said he, "I've no doubt I called you so. But not since."

She stretched out her hand and tapped his. She was very fond of him. "You can't help being a man, my poor boy, and thinking manly thoughts of me, a woman. But I'm not an idiot. Our young friend, as you call him, is as poor as a church mouse. I know it. No, don't say, 'How?' like Uncle Edward. He hasn't told me, but Nurse has-a heart-breaking history of socks and things. There's the doctor's diagnosis, too. I haven't forgotten. But the boy is too proud to cry poverty among strangers. He keeps his end up like a man. To hear him talk, one would think he not only hadn't a care in the world, but that he commanded the earth. How can one help admiring the boy's pluck and-that's where my reticence comes in-respecting the boy's reserve?"

"H'm!" said Colonel Winwood.

"But, good gracious, Jim, dear, supposing you-or any of us-men, I mean-had been in this boy's extraordinary position-would you have acted differently? You would have died rather than give your poverty away to absolute strangers to whom you were indebted, in the way this boy is indebted to us. Good God, Jim"-she sent her dessert knife skimming across the table-"don't you see? Any reference to poverty would be an invitation-a veiled request for further help. To a gentleman like Paul Savelli, the thing's unthinkable."

Colonel Winwood selected a fresh cigar, clipped off the end, and lit it from a silver spirit lamp by his side. He blew out the first exquisite puff-the smoker's paradise would be the one first full and fragrant, virginal puff of an infinite succession of perfect cigars-looked anxiously at the glowing point to see that it was exactly lighted, and leaned back in his chair.

"What you say, dear," said he, "is plausible. Plausible almost to the point of conviction. But there's a hole somewhere in your argument, I'm sure, and I'm too tired after my journey to find it."

Thus, as the stars in their courses fought against Sisera, so did they fight for Paul; and in both cases they used a woman as their instrument.

Colonel Winwood, in spite of a masculine air of superiority, joined with the Archbishops and Cabinet Ministers above referred to in their appreciation of his sister's judgment. After all, what business of his were the private affairs of his involuntary guest? He paid him a visit the next day, and found him lying on a couch by the sunny window, clad in dressing gown and slippers. Paul rose politely, though he winced with pain.

"Don't get up, please. I'm Colonel Winwood."

They shook hands. Paul began to wheel an armchair from the bedside, but Colonel Winwood insisted on his lying down again and drew up the chair himself. "I'm afraid," said Paul, "I've been a sad trespasser on your hospitality. Miss Winwood must have told you it has scarcely been my fault; but I don't know how to express my thanks."

As Paul made it, the little speech could not have been better. Colonel Winwood, who (like the seniors of every age) deplored the lack of manners of the rising generation, was pleased by the ever so little elaborate courtesy.

"I'm only too glad we've pulled you round. You've had a bad time, I hear."

Paul smiled. "Pretty bad. If it hadn't been for Miss Winwood and all she has done for me, I should have pegged out."

"My sister's a notable woman," said the Colonel. "When she sets out to do a thing she does it thoroughly."

"I owe her my life," said Paul simply.

There was a pause. The two men, both bright-eyed, looked at each other for the fraction of a second. One, the aristocrat secure of his wealth, of his position, of himself, with no illusion left him save pride of birth, no dream save that of an England mighty and prosperous under continuous centuries of Tory rule, no memories but of stainless honour-he had fought gallantly for his Queen, he had lived like a noble gentleman, he had done his country disinterested service-no ambition but to keep himself on the level of the ideal which he had long since attained; the other the creation of nothing but of dreams, the child of the gutter, the adventurer, the vagabond, with no address, not even a back room over a sweetstuff shop in wide England, the possessor of a few suits of old clothes and one pound, one shilling and a penny, with nothing in front of him but the vast blankness of 'life, nothing behind him save memories of sordid struggle, with nothing to guide him, nothing to set him on his way with thrilling pulse and quivering fibres save the Vision Splendid, the glorious Hope, the unconquerable Faith. In the older man's eyes Paul read the calm, stern certainty of things both born to and achieved; and Colonel Winwood saw in the young man's eyes, as in a glass darkly, the reflection of the Vision.

"And yours is a very young life," said he. "Gad! it must be wonderful to be twenty. 'Rich in the glory of my rising sun.' You know your Thackeray?"

"'Riche de ma jeunesse,'" laughed Paul. "Thackeray went one better than Beranger, that time."

"I forgot," said Colonel Winwood. "My sister told me. You go about with Beranger as a sort of pocket Bible."

Paul laughed again. "When one is on the tramp one's choice of books is limited by their cubical content. One couldn't take Gibbon, for instance, or a complete Balzac."

Colonel Winwood tugged at his drooping moustache and again scrutinized the frank and exceedingly attractive youth. His astonishing perfection of feature was obvious to anybody. Yet any inconsiderable human-a peasant of the Campagna, a Venetian gondolier, a swaggering brigand of Macedonia-could be astonishingly beautiful. And, being astonishingly beautiful, that was the beginning and end of him. But behind this merely physical attractiveness of his guest glowed a lambent intelligence, quick as lightning. There was humorous challenge in those laughing and lucent dark eyes.

"Do you know your Balzac?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," said Paul.

"I wonder if you do," said Colonel Winwood. "I'm rather a Balzacian myself."

"I can't say I've read all Balzac. That's a colossal order," said Paul, rather excited-for, in his limited acquaintance with cultivated folk, Colonel Winwood was the only human being who could claim acquaintance with one of the literary gods of his idolatry-"but I know him pretty well. I can't stand his 'Theatre'-that's footle-but the big things-'Le Pere Goriot,' 'La Cousine Bette,' 'Cesar Birotteau'-what a great book 'Cesar Birotteau' is!-"

"You're right," said Colonel Winwood, forgetful of any possible barriers between himself and the young enthusiast. "It's one of the four or five great books, and very few people recognize it."

"'Le Lys dans la Vallee,'" said Paul.

"There's another-"

And they talked for half an hour of the Baron Nucingen, and Rastignac, and Hulot, and Bixiou, and Lousteau, and Gobsec, and Gaudissart, and Vautrin, and many another vivid personage in the human comedy.

"That man could have gone on writing for a hundred years," cried Paul, "and he could have exhausted all the possibilities of human life."

Colonel Winwood smiled courteously. "We have a bond in Balzac," said he. "But I must go. My sister said I mustn't tire you." He rose. "We're having a lot of people down here this week for the shooting. There'll be good sport. Pity you're not well enough to join us."

Paul smiled. He had one of his flashes of tact, "I'm afraid," said he modestly, "that I've never fired off a gun in my life."

"What?" cried the Colonel.

"It's true."

Colonel Winwood looked at him once more. "It's not many young men," said he, "who would dare to make such a confession."

"But what is the good of lying?" asked Paul, with the eyes of a cherub.

"None that I know of," replied the Colonel. He returned to his chair and rested his hand on the back. "You play golf, anyhow," said he, pointing to the brown canvas bag in the corner.

"Oh, yes," said Paul.

"Any good?"

"Fair to middling."

"What's your handicap?" asked the Colonel, an enthusiastic though inglorious practitioner of the game.

"One," said Paul.

"The deuce it is!" cried the Colonel. "Mine is fifteen. You must give me a lesson or two when you pull round. We've a capital course here."

"That's very kind of you," said Paul, "but I'm afraid I shall be well enough for ordinary purposes long before I'm able to handle a golf club."

"What do you mean?"

"This silly pleurisy. It will hang about for ages!"


"I'll have to go my ways from here long before I can play."

"Any great hurry?"

"I can't go on accepting your wonderful hospitality indefinitely," said Paul.

"That's nonsense. Stay as long as ever you like."

"If I did that," said Paul, "I would stay on forever."

The Colonel smiled and shook hands with him. In the ordinary way of social life this was quite an unnecessary thing to do. But he acted according to the impulses common to a thousand of his type-and a fine type-in England. Setting aside the mere romantic exterior of a Macedonian brigand, here was a young man of the period with astonishingly courteous manners, of-and this was of secondary consideration-of frank and winning charm, with a free-and-easy intimacy with Balzac, of fearless truthfulness regarding his deficiencies, and with a golf handicap of one. The Colonel's hand and heart went out in instinctive coordination. The Colonel Winwoods of this country are not gods; they are very humanly fallible; but of such is the Kingdom of England.

"At any rate," said he, "you mustn't dream of leaving us yet."

He went downstairs and met his sister in the hall.

"Well?" she asked, with just a gleam of quizzicality in her eyes, for she knew whence he had come.

"One of these days I'll take him out and teach him to shoot," said the Colonel.

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