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   Chapter 1 (I)

None Other Gods By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 51784

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


"I think you're behaving like an absolute idiot," said Jack Kirkby indignantly.

Frank grinned pleasantly, and added his left foot to his right one in the broad window-seat.

These two young men were sitting in one of the most pleasant places in all the world in which to sit on a summer evening-in a ground-floor room looking out upon the Great Court of Trinity College, Cambridge. It was in that short space of time, between six and seven, during which the Great Court is largely deserted. The athletes and the dawdlers have not yet returned from field and river; and Fellows and other persons, young enough to know better, who think that a summer evening was created for the reading of books, have not yet emerged from their retreats. A white-aproned cook or two moves across the cobbled spaces with trays upon their heads; a tradesman's boy comes out of the corner entrance from the hostel; a cat or two stretches himself on the grass; but, for the rest, the court lies in broad sunshine; the shadows slope eastwards, and the fitful splash and trickle of the fountain asserts itself clearly above the gentle rumble of Trinity Street.

Within, the room in which these two sat was much like other rooms of the same standing; only, in this one case the walls were paneled with white-painted deal. Three doors led out of it-two into a tiny bedroom and a tinier dining-room respectively; the third on to the passage leading to the lecture-rooms. Frank found it very convenient, since he thus was enabled, at every hour of the morning when the lectures broke up, to have the best possible excuse for conversing with his friends through the window.

The room was furnished really well. Above the mantelpiece, where rested an array of smoking-materials and a large silver cigarette-box, hung an ancestral-looking portrait, in a dull gilded frame, of an aged man, with a ruff round his neck, purchased for one guinea; there was a sofa and a set of chairs upholstered in a good damask: a black piano by Broadwood; a large oval gate-leg table; a bureau; shelves filled with very indiscriminate literature-law books, novels, Badminton, magazines and ancient school editions of the classics; a mahogany glass-fronted bookcase packed with volumes of esthetic appearance-green-backed poetry books with white labels; old leather tomes, and all the rest of the specimens usual to a man who has once thought himself literary. Then there were engravings, well framed, round the walls; a black iron-work lamp, fitted for electric light, hung from the ceiling; there were a couple of oak chests, curiously carved. On the stained floor lay three or four mellow rugs, and the window-boxes outside blazed with geraniums. The débris of tea rested on the window-seat nearest the outer door.

Frank Guiseley, too, lolling in the window-seat in a white silk shirt, unbuttoned at the throat, and gray flannel trousers, and one white shoe, was very pleasant to look upon. His hair was as black and curly as a Neapolitan's; he had a smiling, humorous mouth, and black eyes-of an extraordinary twinkling alertness. His clean-shaven face, brown in its proper complexion as well as with healthy sunburning (he had played very vigorous lawn-tennis for the last two months), looked like a boy's, except for the very determined mouth and the short, straight nose. He was a little below middle height-well-knit and active; and though, properly speaking, he was not exactly handsome, he was quite exceptionally delightful to look at.

Jack Kirkby, sitting in an arm-chair a yard away, and in the same sort of costume-except that he wore both his shoes and a Third Trinity blazer-was a complete contrast in appearance. The other had something of a Southern Europe look; Jack was obviously English-wholesome red cheeks, fair hair and a small mustache resembling spun silk. He was, also, closely on six feet in height.

He was anxious just now, and, therefore, looked rather cross, fingering the very minute hairs of his mustache whenever he could spare the time from smoking, and looking determinedly away from Frank upon the floor. For the last week he had talked over this affair, ever since the amazing announcement; and had come to the conclusion that once more, in this preposterous scheme, Frank really meant what he said.

Frank had a terrible way of meaning what he said-he reflected with dismay. There was the affair of the bread and butter three years ago, before either of them had learned manners. This had consisted in the fastening up in separate brown-paper parcels innumerable pieces of bread and butter, addressing each with the name of the Reverend Junior Dean (who had annoyed Frank in some way), and the leaving of the parcels about in every corner of Cambridge, in hansom cabs, on seats, on shop-counters and on the pavements-with the result that for the next two or three days the dean's staircase was crowded with messenger boys and unemployables, anxious to return apparently lost property.

Then there had been the matter of the flagging of a fast Northern train in the middle of the fens with a red pocket-handkerchief, to find out if it were really true that the train would stop, followed by a rapid retreat on bicycles so soon as it had been ascertained that it was true; the Affair of the German Prince traveling incognito, into which the Mayor himself had been drawn; and the Affair of the Nun who smoked a short black pipe in the Great Court shortly before midnight, before gathering up her skirts and vanishing on noiseless india-rubber-shod feet round the kitchen quarters into the gloom of Neville's Court, as the horrified porter descended from his signal-box.

Now many minds could have conceived these things; a smaller number of people would have announced their intention of doing them: but there were very few persons who would actually carry them all out to the very end: in fact, Jack reflected, Frank Guiseley was about the only man of his acquaintance who could possibly have done them. And he had done them all on his own sole responsibility.

He had remembered, too, during the past week, certain incidents of the same nature at Eton. There was the master who had rashly inquired, with deep sarcasm, on the fourth or fifth occasion in one week when Frank had come in a little late for five-o'clock school, whether "Guiseley would not like to have tea before pursuing his studies." Frank, with a radiant smile of gratitude, and extraordinary rapidity, had answered that he would like it very much indeed, and had vanished through the still half-open door before another word could be uttered, returning with a look of childlike innocence at about five-and-twenty minutes to six.

"Please, sir," he had said, "I thought you said I might go?"

"And have you had tea?"

"Why, certainly, sir; at Webber's."

Now all this kind of thing was a little disconcerting to remember now. Truly, the things in themselves had been admirably conceived and faithfully executed, but they seemed to show that Frank was the kind of person who really carried through what other people only talked about-and especially if he announced beforehand that he intended to do it.

It was a little dismaying, therefore, for his friend to reflect that upon the arrival of the famous letter from Lord Talgarth-Frank's father-six days previously, in which all the well-worn phrases occurred as to "darkening doors" and "roof" and "disgrace to the family," Frank had announced that he proposed to take his father at his word, sell up his property and set out like a prince in a fairy-tale to make his fortune.

* * *

Jack had argued till he was sick of it, and to no avail. Frank had a parry for every thrust. Why wouldn't he wait a bit until the governor had had time to cool down? Because the governor must learn, sooner or later, that words really meant something, and that he-Frank-was not going to stand it for one instant.

Why wouldn't he come and stay at Barham till further notice? They'd all be delighted to have him: It was only ten miles off Merefield, and perhaps-Because Frank was not going to sponge upon his friends. Neither was he going to skulk about near home. Well, if he was so damned obstinate, why didn't he go into the City-or even to the Bar? Because (1) he hadn't any money; and (2) he would infinitely sooner go on the tramp than sit on a stool. Well, why didn't he enlist, like a gentleman? Frank dared say he would some time, but he wanted to stand by himself a bit first and see the world.

"Let's see the letter again," said Jack at last. "Where is it?"

Frank reflected.

"I think it's in that tobacco-jar just behind your head," he said. "No, it isn't; it's in the pouch on the floor. I know I associated it somehow with smoking. And, by the way, give me a cigarette."

Jack tossed him his case, opened the pouch, took out the letter, and read it slowly through again.

"Merefield Court,

"near Harrogate.

"May 28th, Thursday.

"I am ashamed of you, sir. When you first told me of your intention, I warned you what would happen if you persisted, and I repeat it now. Since you have deliberately chosen, in spite of all that I have said, to go your own way, and to become a Papist, I will have no more to do with you. From this moment you cease to be my son. You shall not, while I live, darken my doors again, or sleep under my roof. I say nothing of what you have had from me in the past-your education and all the rest. And, since I do not wish to be unduly hard upon you, you can keep the remainder of your allowance up to July and the furniture of your rooms. But, after that, not one penny shall you have from me. You can go to your priests and get them to support you.

"I am only thankful that your poor mother has been spared this blow.

"T."

Jack made a small murmurous sound as he finished. Frank chuckled aloud.

"Pitches it in all right, doesn't he?" he observed dispassionately.

"If it had been my governor-" began Jack slowly.

"My dear man, it isn't your governor; it's mine. And I'm dashed if there's another man in the world who'd write such a letter as that nowadays. It's-it's too early-Victorian. They'd hardly stand it at the Adelphi! I could have put it so much better myself.... Poor old governor!"

"Have you answered it?"

"I ... I forget. I know I meant to.... No, I haven't. I remember now. And I shan't till I'm just off."

"Well, I shall," remarked Jack.

Frank turned a swift face upon him.

"If you do," he said, with sudden fierce gravity, "I'll never speak to you again. I mean it. It's my affair, and I shall run it my own way."

"But-"

"I mean it. Now! give me your word of honor-"

"I-"

"Your word of honor, this instant, or get out of my room!"

There was a pause. Then:

"All right," said Jack.

Then there fell a silence once more.

(II)

The news began to be rumored about, soon after the auction that Frank held of his effects a couple of days later. He carried out the scene admirably, entirely unassisted, even by Jack.

First, there appeared suddenly all over Cambridge, the evening before the sale, just as the crowds of undergraduates and female relations began to circulate about after tea and iced strawberries, a quantity of sandwich-men, bearing the following announcement, back and front:

TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE. The Hon. Frank Guiseley

has pleasure in announcing that on

June 7th (Saturday)

at half-past ten a.m. precisely

in Rooms 1, Letter J, Great Court, Trinity College,

he will positively offer for

SALE BY AUCTION

The household effects, furniture, books, etc., of the Hon. Frank Guiseley, including-

A piano by Broadwood (slightly out of tune); a magnificent suite of drawing-room furniture, upholstered in damask, the sofa only slightly stained with tea; one oak table and another; a bed; a chest of drawers (imitation walnut, and not a very good imitation); a mahogany glass-fronted bookcase, containing a set of suggestive-looking volumes bound in faint colors, with white labels; four oriental mats; a portrait of a gentleman (warranted a perfectly respectable ancestor); dining-room suite (odd chairs); numerous engravings of places of interest and noblemen's seats; a Silver Cigarette-box and fifteen Cigarettes in it (Melachrino and Mixed American); a cuckoo-clock (without cuckoo); five walking-sticks; numerous suits of clothes (one lot suitable for Charitable Purposes); some books-all very curious indeed-comprising the works of an Eminent Cambridge Professor, and other scholastic luminaries, as well as many other articles.

At Half-past Ten a.m. Precisely

All friends, and strangers, cordially invited.

No Reserve Price.

It served its purpose admirably, for by soon after ten o'clock quite a considerable crowd had begun to assemble; and it was only after a very serious conversation with the Dean that the sale was allowed to proceed. But it proceeded, with the distinct understanding that a college porter be present; that no riotous behavior should be allowed; that the sale was a genuine one, and that Mr. Guiseley would call upon the Dean with further explanations before leaving Cambridge.

The scene itself was most impressive.

Frank, in a structure resembling an auctioneer's box, erected on the hearth-rug, presided, with extraordinary gravity, hammer in hand, robed in a bachelor's gown and hood. Beneath him the room seethed with the company, male and female, all in an excellent humor, and quite tolerable prices were obtained. No public explanations were given of the need for the sale, and Jack, in the deepest dismay, looked in again that afternoon, about lunch-time, to find the room completely stripped, and Frank, very cheerful, still in his hood and gown, smoking a cigarette in the window-seat.

"Come in," he said. "And kindly ask me to lunch. The last porter's just gone."

Jack looked at him.

He seemed amazingly genial and natural, though just a little flushed, and such an air of drama as there was about him was obviously deliberate.

"Very well; come to lunch," said Jack. "Where are you going to dine and sleep?"

"I'm dining in hall, and I'm sleeping in a hammock. Go and look at my bedroom."

Jack went across the bare floor and looked in. A hammock was slung across from a couple of pegs, and there lay a small carpet-bag beneath it. A basin on an upturned box and a bath completed the furniture.

"You mad ass!" said Jack. "And is that all you have left?"

"Certainly. I'm going to leave the clothes I've got on to you, and you can fetch the hammock when I've gone."

"When do you start?"

"Mr. Guiseley will have his last interview and obtain his exeat from the Dean at half-past six this evening. He proposes to leave Cambridge in the early hours of to-morrow morning."

"You don't mean that!"

"Certainly I do."

"What are you going to wear?"

Frank extended two flanneled legs, ending in solid boots.

"These-a flannel shirt, no tie, a cap, a gray jacket."

Jack stood again in silence, looking at him.

"How much money did your sale make?"

"That's immaterial. Besides, I forget. The important fact is that when I've paid all my bills I shall have thirteen pounds eleven shillings and eightpence."

"What?"

"Thirteen pounds eleven shillings and eightpence."

Jack burst into a mirthless laugh.

"Well, come along to lunch," he said.

* * *

It seemed to Jack that he moved in a dreary kind of dream that afternoon as he went about with Frank from shop to shop, paying bills. Frank's trouser-pockets bulged and jingled a good deal as they started-he had drawn all his remaining money in gold from the bank-and they bulged and jingled considerably less as the two returned to tea in Jesus Lane. There, on the table, he spread out the coins. He had bought some tobacco, and two or three other things that afternoon, and the total amounted now but to twelve pounds nineteen shillings and fourpence.

"Call it thirteen pounds," said Frank. "There's many a poor man-"

"Don't be a damned fool!" said Jack.

"I'm being simply prudent," said Frank. "A contented heart-"

Jack thrust a cup of tea and the buttered buns before him.

* * *

These two were as nearly brothers as possible, in everything but blood. Their homes lay within ten miles of one another. They had gone to a private school together, to Eton, and to Trinity. They had ridden together in the holidays, shot, dawdled, bathed, skated, and all the rest. They were considerably more brothers to one another than were Frank and Archie, his actual elder brother, known to the world as Viscount Merefield. Jack did not particularly approve of Archie; he thought him a pompous ass, and occasionally said so.

For Frank he had quite an extraordinary affection, though he would not have expressed it so, to himself, for all the world, and a very real admiration of a quite indefinable kind. It was impossible to say why he admired him. Frank did nothing very well, but everything rather well; he played Rugby football just not well enough to represent his college; he had been in the Lower Boats at Eton, and the Lent Boat of his first year at Cambridge; then he had given up rowing and played lawn-tennis in the summer and fives in the Lent Term just well enough to make a brisk and interesting game. He was not at all learned; he had reached the First Hundred at Eton, and had read Law at Cambridge-that convenient branch of study which for the most part fills the vacuum for intelligent persons who have no particular bent and are heartily sick of classics; and he had taken a Third Class and his degree a day or two before. He was remarkably averaged, therefore; and yet, somehow or another, there was that in him which compelled Jack's admiration. I suppose it was that which is conveniently labeled "character." Certainly, nearly everybody who came into contact with him felt the same in some degree.

His becoming a Catholic had been an amazing shock to Jack, who had always supposed that Frank, like himself, took the ordinary sensible English view of religion. To be a professed unbeliever was bad form-it was like being a Little Englander or a Radical; to be pious was equally bad form-it resembled a violent devotion to the Union Jack. No; religion to Jack (and he had always hitherto supposed, to Frank) was a department of life in which one did not express any particular views: one did not say one's prayers; one attended chapel at the proper times; if one was musical, one occasionally went to King's on Sunday afternoon; in the country one went to church on Sunday morning as one went to the stables in the afternoon, and that was about all.

Frank had been, too, so extremely secretive about the whole thing. He had marched into Jack's rooms in Jesus Lane one morning nearly a fortnight ago.

"Come to mass at the Catholic Church," he said.

"Why, the-" began Jack.

"I've got to go. I'm a Catholic."

"What!"

"I became one last week."

Jack had stared at him, suddenly convinced that someone was mad. When he had verified that it was really a fact; that Frank had placed himself under instruction three months before, and had made his confession-(his confession!)-on Friday, and had been conditionally baptized; when he had certified himself of all these things, and had begun to find coherent language once more, he had demanded why Frank had done this.

"Because it's the true religion," said Frank. "Are you coming to mass or are you not?"

Jack had gone then, and had come away more bewildered than ever as to what it was all about. He had attempted to make a few inquiries, but Frank had waved his hands at him, and repeated that obviously the Catholic religion was the true one, and that he couldn't be bothered. And now here they were at tea in Jesus Lane for the last time.

* * *

Of course, there was a little suppressed excitement about Frank. He drank three cups of tea and took the last (and the under) piece of buttered bun without apologies, and he talked a good deal, rather fast. It seemed that he had really no particular plans as to what he was going to do after he had walked out of Cambridge with his carpet-bag early next morning. He just meant, he said, to go along and see what happened. He had had a belt made, which pleased him exceedingly, into which his money could be put (it lay on the table between them during tea), and he proposed, naturally, to spend as little of that money as possible.... No; he would not take one penny piece from Jack; it would be simply scandalous if he-a public-school boy and an University man-couldn't keep body and soul together by his own labor. There would be hay-making presently, he supposed, and fruit-picking, and small jobs on farms. He would just go along and see what happened. Besides there were always casual wards, weren't there? if the worst came to the worst; and he'd meet other men, he supposed, who'd put him in the way of things. Oh! he'd get on all right.

Would he ever come to Barham? Well, if it came in the day's work he would. Yes: certainly he'd be most obliged if his letters might be sent there, and he could write for them when he wanted, or even call for them, if, as he said, it came in the day's work.

What was he going to do in the winter? He hadn't the slightest idea. He supposed, what other people did in the winter. Perhaps he'd have got a place by then-gamekeeper, perhaps-he'd like to be a gamekeeper.

At this Jack, mentally, threw up the sponge.

"You really mean to go on at this rotten idea of yours?"

Frank opened his eyes wide.

"Why, of course. Good Lord! did you think I was bluffing?"

"But ... but it's perfectly mad. Why on earth don't you get a proper situation somewhere-land-agent or something?"

"My dear man," said Frank, "if you will have it, it's because I want to do exactly what I'm going to do. No-I'm being perfectly serious. I've thought for ages that we're all wrong somehow. We're all so beastly artificial. I don't want to preach, but I want to test things for myself. My religion tells me-" He broke off. "No; this is fooling. I'm going to do it because I'm going to do it. And I'm really going to do it. I'm not going to be an amateur-like slumming. I'm going to find out things for myself."

"But on the roads-" expostulated Jack.

"Exactly. That's the very point. Back to the land."

Jack sat up.

"Good Lord!" he said. "Why, I never thought of it."

"What?"

"It's your old grandmother coming out."

Frank stared.

"Grandmother?"

"Yes-old Mrs. Kelly."

Frank laughed suddenly and loudly.

"By George!" he said, "I daresay it is. Old Grandmamma Kelly! She was a gipsy-so she was. I believe you've hit it, Jack. Let's see: she was my grandfather's second wife, wasn't she?"

Jack nodded.

"And he picked her up off the roads on his own estate. Wasn't she trespassing, or something?"

Jack nodded again.

"Yes," he said, "and he was a magistrate and ought to have committed her: And he married her instead. She was a girl, traveling with her parents."

Frank sat smiling genially.

"That's it," he said. "Then I'm bound to make a success of it."

And he took another cigarette.

Then one more thought came to Jack: he had determined already to make use of it if necessary, and somehow this seemed to be the moment.

"And Jenny Launton," he said "I suppose you've thought of her?"

A curious look came into Frank's eyes-a look of great gravity and tenderness-and the humor died out. He said nothing for an instant. Then he drew out of his breast-pocket a letter in an envelope, and tossed it gently over to Jack.

"I'm telling her in that," he said. "I'm going to post it to-night, after I've seen the Dean."

Jack glanced down at it.

"Miss Launton,

"The Rectory,

"Merefield, Yorks."

ran the inscription. He turned it over; it was fastened and sealed.

"I've told her we must wait a bit," said Frank, "and that I'll write again in a few weeks."

Jack was silent.

"And you think it's fair on her?" he asked deliberately.

Frank's face broke up into humor.

"That's for her to say," he observed. "And, to tell the truth, I'm not at all afraid."

"But a gamekeeper's wife! And you a Catholic!"

"Ah! you don't know Jenny," smiled Frank. "Jenny and I quite understand one another, thank you very much."

"But is it quite fair?"

"Good Lord!" shouted Frank, suddenly roused. "Fair! What the devil does it matter? Don't you know that all's fair-under certain circumstances? I do bar that rotten conventionalism. We're all rotten-rotten, I tell you; and I'm going to start fresh. So's Jenny. Kindly don't talk of what you don't understand."

He stood up, stretching. Then he threw the end of his cigarette away.

"I must go to the Dean," he said. "It's close on the half-hour."

(III)

The Reverend James Mackintosh was an excellent official of his college, and performed his duties with care and punctilium. He rose about half-past seven o'clock every morning, drank a cup of tea and went to chapel. After chapel he breakfasted, on Tuesdays and Thursdays with two undergraduates in their first year, selected in alphabetical order, seated at his table; on the other days of the week in solitude. At ten o'clock he lectured, usually on one of St. Paul's Epistles, on which subjects he possessed note-books filled with every conceivable piece of information that could be gathered together-grammatical, philological, topographical, industrial, social, biographical-with a few remarks on the fauna, flora, imports, characteristics and geological features of those countries to which those epistles were written, and in which they were composed. These notes, guaranteed to guide any student who really mastered them to success, and even distinction,

in his examinations, were the result of a lifetime of loving labor, and some day, no doubt, will be issued in the neat blue covers of the "Cambridge Bible for Schools." From eleven to twelve he lectured on Church history of the first five centuries-after which period, it will be remembered by all historical students, Church history practically ceased. At one he lunched; from two to four he walked rapidly (sometimes again in company with a serious theological student), along the course known as the Grantchester Grind, or to Coton and back. At four he had tea; at five he settled down to administer discipline to the college, by summoning and remonstrating with such undergraduates as had failed to comply with the various regulations; at half-past seven he dined in hall-a meek figure, clean shaven and spectacled, seated between an infidel philosopher and a socialist: he drank a single glass of wine afterwards in the Combination Room, smoked one cigarette, and retired again to his rooms to write letters to parents (if necessary), and to run over his notes for next day.

And he did this, with the usual mild variations of a University life, every weekday, for two-thirds of the year. Of the other third, he spent part in Switzerland, dressed in a neat gray Norfolk suit with knickerbockers, and the rest with clerical friends of the scholastic type. It was a very solemn thought to him how great were his responsibilities, and what a privilege it was to live in the whirl and stir of one of the intellectual centers of England!

* * *

Frank Guiseley was to Mr. Mackintosh a very great puzzle. He had certainly been insubordinate in his first year (Mr. Mackintosh gravely suspected him of the Bread-and-Butter affair, which had so annoyed his colleague), but he certainly had been very steady and even deferential ever since. (He always took off his hat, for example, to Mr. Mackintosh, with great politeness.) Certainly he was not very regular at chapel, and he did not dine in hall nearly so often as Mr. Mackintosh would have wished (for was it not part of the University idea that men of all grades of society should meet as equals under the college roof?). But, then, he had never been summoned for any very grave or disgraceful breach of the rules, and was never insolent or offensive to any of the Fellows. Finally, he came of a very distinguished family; and Mr. Mackintosh had the keenest remembrance still of his own single interview, three years ago, with the Earl of Talgarth.

Mr. Mackintosh wondered, then, exactly what he would have to say to Mr. Guiseley, and what Mr. Guiseley would have to say to him. He thought, if the young man were really going down for good, as he had understood this morning, it was only his plain duty to say a few tactful words about responsibility and steadiness. That ridiculous auction would serve as his text.

* * *

Mr. Mackintosh paused an instant, as he always did, before saying "Come in!" to the knock on the door (I think he thought it helped to create a little impression of importance). Then he said it; and Frank walked in.

"Good evening, Mr. Guiseley.... Yes; please sit down. I understood from you this morning that you wished for your exeat."

"Please," said Frank.

"Just so," said Mr. Mackintosh, drawing the exeat book-resembling the butt of a check-book-towards him. "And you are going down to-morrow?"

"Yes," said Frank.

"Going home?" murmured the Dean, inscribing Frank's name in his neat little handwriting.

"No," said Frank.

"Not?... To London, perhaps?"

"Well, not exactly," said Frank; "at least, not just yet."

Mr. Mackintosh blotted the book carefully, and extracted the exeat. He pushed it gently towards Frank.

"About that auction!" he said, smiling indulgently; "I did want to have a word with you about that. It was very unusual; and I wondered.... But I am happy to think that there was no disturbance.... But can you tell me exactly why you chose that form of ... of ..."

"I wanted to make as much money as ever I could," said Frank.

"Indeed!... Yes.... And ... and you were successful?"

"I cleared all my debts, anyhow," said Frank serenely. "I thought that very important."

Mr. Mackintosh smiled again. Certainly this young man was very well behaved and deferential.

"Well, that's satisfactory. And you are going to read at the Bar now? If you will let me say so, Mr. Guiseley, even at this late hour, I must say that I think that a Third Class might have been bettered. But no doubt your tutor has said all that?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Well, then, a little more application and energy now may perhaps make up for lost time. I suppose you will go to the Temple in October?"

Frank looked at him pensively a moment.

"No, Mr. Mackintosh," he said suddenly; "I'm going on the roads. I mean it, quite seriously. My father's disowned me. I'm starting out to-morrow to make my own living."

There was dead silence for an instant. The Dean's face was stricken, as though by horror. Yet Frank saw he had not in the least taken it in.

"Yes; that's really so," he said. "Please don't argue with me about it. I'm perfectly determined."

"Your father ... Lord Talgarth ... the roads ... your own living ... the college authorities ... responsibility!"

Words of this sort burst from Mr. Mackintosh's mouth.

"Yes ... it's because I've become a Catholic! I expect you've heard that, sir."

Mr. Mackintosh threw himself back (if so fierce a word may be used of so mild a manner)-threw himself back in his chair.

"Mr. Guiseley, kindly tell me all about it. I had not heard one word-not one word."

* * *

Frank made a great effort, and told the story, quite fairly and quite politely. He described his convictions as well as he could, the various steps he had taken, and the climax of the letter from his father. Then he braced himself, to hear what would be said; or, rather, he retired within himself, and, so to speak, shut the door and pulled down the blinds.

It was all said exactly as he knew it would be. Mr. Mackintosh touched upon a loving father's impatience, the son's youth and impetuosity, the shock to an ancient family, the responsibilities of membership in that family, the dangers of rash decisions, and, finally, the obvious errors of the Church of Rome. He began several sentences with the phrase: "No thinking man at the present day ..."

In fact, Mr. Mackintosh was, so soon as he had recovered from the first shock, extraordinarily sensible and reasonable. He said all the proper things, all the sensible and reasonable and common-sense things, and he said them, not offensively or contemptuously, but tactfully and persuasively. And he put into it the whole of his personality, such as it was. He even quoted St. Paul.

He perspired a little, gently, towards the end: so he took off his glasses and wiped them, looking, still with a smile, through kind, short-sighted eyes, at this young man who sat so still. For Frank was so quiet that the Dean thought him already half persuaded. Then once more he summed up, when his glasses were fixed again; he ran through his arguments lightly and efficiently, and ended by a quiet little assumption that Frank was going to be reasonable, to write to his father once more, and to wait at least a week. He even called him "my dear boy!"

"Thanks very much," said Frank.

"Then you'll think it over quietly, my dear boy. Come and talk to me again. I've given you your exeat, but you needn't use it. Come in to-morrow evening after hall."

Frank stood up.

"Thanks, very much, Mr. Mackintosh. I'll ... I'll certainly remember what you've said." He took up his exeat as if mechanically.

"Then you can leave that for the present," smiled the Dean, pointing at it. "I can write you another, you know."

Frank put it down quickly.

"Oh, certainly!" he said.

"Well, good-night, Mr. Guiseley.... I ... I can't tell you how glad I am that you confided in me. Young men are a little unwise and impetuous sometimes, you know. Good-night ... good-night. I shall expect you to-morrow."

When Frank reached the court below he stood waiting a moment. Then a large smile broke out on his face, and he hurried across to a passage opposite, found a friend's door open, and rushed in. The room was empty. He flew across to the window and crouched down, peeping over the sill at the opening on the other side of the court leading to Mr. Mackintosh's staircase.

He was rewarded almost instantly. Even as he settled himself on the window seat a black figure, with gown ballooning behind, hurried out and whisked through the archway leading towards the street. He gave him twenty seconds, and then ran out himself, and went in pursuit. Half-way up the lane he sighted him once more, and, following cautiously on tiptoe, with a handkerchief up to his face, was in time to behold Mr. Mackintosh disappear into the little telegraph office on the left of Trinity Street.

"That settles it, then," observed Frank, almost aloud. "Poor Jack-I'm afraid I shan't be able to breakfast with him after all!"

(IV)

It was a little after four o'clock on the following morning that a policeman, pacing with slow, flat feet along the little lane that leads from Trinity Hall to Trinity College, yawning as he went, and entirely unconscious of the divine morning air, bright as wine and clear as water, beheld a remarkable spectacle.

There first appeared, suddenly tossed on to the spikes that top the gate that guards the hostel, a species of pad that hung over on both sides of the formidable array of points. Upon this, more cautiously, was placed by invisible hands a very old saddle without any stirrups.

The policeman stepped back a little, and flattened himself-comparatively speaking-against the outer wall of the hostel itself. There followed a silence.

Suddenly, without any warning, a heavy body, discernible a moment later as a small carpet-bag, filled to bursting, fell abruptly on to the pavement; and, again, a moment later, two capable-looking hands made their appearance, grasping with extreme care the central rod on which the spikes were supposed to revolve, on either side of the saddle.

Still the policeman did not make any sign; he only sidled a step or two nearer and stood waiting.

When he looked up again, a young gentleman, in flannel trousers, gray jacket, boots, and an old deerstalker, was seated astride of the saddle, with his back to the observer. There was a pause while the rider looked to this side and that; and then, with a sudden movement, he had dropped clear of the wall, and come down on feet and hands to the pavement.

"Good morning, officer!" said the young gentleman, rising and dusting his hands, "it's all right. Like to see my exeat? Or perhaps half a crown-"

(V)

About six o'clock in the morning, Jack Kirkby awoke suddenly in his bedroom in Jesus Lane.

This was very unusual, and he wondered what it was all about. He thought of Frank almost instantly, with a jerk, and after looking at his watch, very properly turned over and tried to go to sleep again. But the attempt was useless; there were far too many things to think about; and he framed so many speeches to be delivered with convincing force at breakfast to his misguided friend, that by seven o'clock he made up his mind that he would get up, go and take Frank to bathe, and have breakfast with him at half-past eight instead of nine. He would have longer time, too, for his speeches. He got out of bed and pulled up his blind, and the sight of the towers of Sidney Sussex College, gilded with sunshine, determined him finally.

When you go to bathe before breakfast at Cambridge you naturally put on as few clothes as possible and do not-even if you do so at other times-say your prayers. So Jack put on a sweater, trousers, socks, canvas shoes, and a blazer, and went immediately down the oilcloth-covered stairs. As he undid the door he noticed a white thing lying beneath it, and took it up. It was a note addressed to himself in Frank's handwriting; and there, standing on the steps, he read it through; and his heart turned suddenly sick.

* * *

There is all the difference in the world between knowing that a catastrophe is going to happen, and knowing that it has happened. Jack knew-at least, with all his reasonable part-that Frank was going to leave Cambridge in the preposterous manner described, after breakfast with himself; and it was partly because of this very knowledge that he had got up earlier in order to have an extra hour with Frank before the final severance came. Yet there was something in him-the same thing that had urged him to rehearse little speeches in bed just now-that told him that until it had actually happened, it had not happened, and, just conceivably, might not happen after all. And he had had no idea how strong this hopeful strain had been in him-nor, for that matter, how very deeply and almost romantically he was attached to Frank-until he felt his throat hammering and his head becoming stupid, as he read the terse little note in the fresh morning air of Jesus Lane.

It ran as follows:

"Dear Jack,

"It's no good, and I'm off early! That ass Mackintosh went and wired to my people directly I left him. I tracked him down. And there'll be the devil to pay unless I clear out. So I can't come to breakfast. Sorry.

"Yours,

"F.G.

"P.S.-By the way, you might as well go round to the little man and try to keep him quiet. Tell him it'll make a scandal for Trinity College, Cambridge, if he makes a fuss. That'll stop him, perhaps. And you might try to rescue my saddle from the porter. He's probably got it by now."

Three minutes later a figure in a sweater, gray trousers, canvas shoes, Third Trinity blazer and no cap, stood, very inarticulate with breathlessness, at the door of the Senior Dean's rooms, demanding of a scandalized bed-maker to see the official in question.

"'E's in his barth, sir!" expostulated the old woman.

"Then he must come out of it!" panted Jack.

"-That is, if 'e's out o' bed."

"Then he can stop in it, if he isn't.... I tell you-"

Jack gave up arguing. He took the old lady firmly by the shoulders, and placed her in the doorway of the audience-room; then he was up the inner stairs in three strides, through the sitting-room, and was tapping at the door of the bedroom. A faint sound of splashing ceased.

"Who's there? Don't-"

"It's me, sir-Kirkby! I'm sorry to disturb you, but-"

"Don't come in!" cried an agitated voice, with a renewed sound of water, as if someone had hastily scrambled out of the bath.

Jack cautiously turned the handle and opened the door a crack. A cry of dismay answered his move, followed by a tremendous commotion and swishing of linen.

"I'm coming in, sir," said Jack, struggling between agitation and laughter. It was obvious from the sounds that the clergyman had got into bed again, wet, and as God made him. There was no answer, and Jack pushed the door wider and went in.

It was as he had thought. His unwilling host had climbed back into bed as hastily as possible, and the bed-clothes, wildly disordered, were gathered round his person. A face, with wet hair, looking very odd and childlike without his glasses, regarded him with the look of one who sees sacrilege done. A long flannel nightgown lay on the ground between the steaming bath and the bed, and a quantity of water lay about on the floor, in footprints and otherwise.

"May I ask what is the meaning of this disgraceful-"

"I'm sorry, sir," said Jack briefly, "but Frank Guiseley's bolted. I've just found this note." It did not occur to him, as he handed the note to a bare arm, coyly protruded from the tangled bed-clothes, that this very officer of the college was referred to in it as "that ass" and "the little man." ... All his attention, not occupied with Frank, was fixed on the surprising new discovery that deans had bodies and used real baths like other people. Somehow that had never occurred to him he had never imagined them except in smooth, black clothes and white linen. His discovery seemed to make Mr. Mackintosh more human, somehow.

The Dean read the note through as modestly as possible, holding it very close to his nose, as his glasses were unattainable, with an arm of which not more than the wrist appeared. He swallowed in his throat once or twice, and seemed to taste something with his lips, as his manner was.

"This is terrible!" said the Dean. "Had you any idea-"

"I knew he was going some time to-day," said Jack, "and understood that you knew too."

"But I had no idea-"

"You did telegraph, didn't you, sir?"

"I certainly telegraphed. Yes; to Lord Talgarth. It was my duty. But-"

"Well; he spotted it. That's all. And now he's gone. What's to be done?"

Mr. Mackintosh considered a moment or two. Jack made an impatient movement.

"I must telegraph again," said the Dean, with the air of one who has exhausted the resources of civilization.

"But, good Lord! sir-"

"Yes. I must telegraph again. As soon as I'm dressed. Or perhaps you would-"

"Office doesn't open till eight. That's no good. He'll be miles away by then."

"It's the only thing to be done," said the Dean with sudden energy. "I forbid you to take any other steps, Mr. Kirkby. I am responsible-"

"But-"

"We must not make a scandal.... What else did you propose?"

"Why-fifty things. Motor-cars; police-"

"Certainly not. We must make no scandal as he ... as he very properly says." (The Dean swallowed in his throat again. Jack thought afterwards that it must have been the memory of certain other phrases in the letter.) "So if you will be good enough to leave me instantly, Mr. Kirkby, I will finish my dressing and deal with the matter."

* * *

Jack wheeled and went out of the room.

* * *

It was a miserable breakfast to which he sat down half an hour later-still in flannels, and without his bath. Frank's place was laid, in accordance with the instructions he had given his landlady last night, and he had not the heart to push the things aside. There were soles for two, and four boiled eggs; there was coffee and marmalade and toast and rolls and fruit; and the comfortable appearance of the table simply mocked him.

He had had very confused ideas just now as to what was possible with regard to the pursuit of Frank; a general vision of twenty motor-cars, each with a keen-eyed chauffeur and an observant policeman, was all that had presented itself to his imagination; but he had begun to realize by now that you cannot, after all, abduct a young man who has committed no crime, and carry him back unwillingly, even to Cambridge! Neither the Dean of Trinity nor a father possesses quite unlimited power over the freedom of a pupil and a son. And, after all, Frank had only taken his father at his word!

These reflections, however, did not improve the situation. He felt quite certain, in theory, that something more could be done than feebly to send another telegram or two; the only difficulty was to identify that something. He had vague ideas, himself, of hiring a motor-car by the day, and proceeding to scour the country round Cambridge. But even this did not stand scrutiny. If he had failed to persuade Frank to remain in Cambridge, it was improbable that he could succeed in persuading him to return-even if he found him. About eight important roads run out of Cambridge, and he had not a glimmer of an idea as to which of these he had taken. It was possible, even, that he had not taken any of them, and was walking across country. That would be quite characteristic of Frank.

* * *

He finished breakfast dismally, and blew through an empty pipe, staring lackadaisically out of the window at the wall of Sidney Sussex for two or three minutes before lighting up. Cambridge seemed an extraordinary flat and stupid place now that Frank was no longer within it. Really there was nothing particular to do. It had become almost a regular engagement for him to step round to the Great Court about eleven, and see what was to be done. Sometimes Frank wanted lawn-tennis-sometimes a canoe on the Backs-at any rate, they would either lunch or dine together. And if they didn't-well, at any rate, Frank was there!

He tried to picture to himself what Frank was doing; he had visions of a sunlit road running across a fen, with a figure tramping up it; of a little wayside inn, and Frank drinking beer in the shade. But it seemed an amazing waste of company that the figure should always be alone. Why hadn't he proposed to go with him himself? He didn't know; except, that it certainly would not have been accepted. And yet they could have had quite a pleasant time for a couple of months; and, after a couple of months, surely Frank would have had enough of it!

But, again-would he?... Frank seemed really in earnest about making his living permanently; and when Frank said that he was going do a thing, he usually did it! And Jack Kirkby did not see himself leaving his own mother and sisters indefinitely until Frank had learned not to be a fool.

He lit his pipe at last; and then remembered the commission with regard to the saddle-whatever that might mean. He would stroll round presently and talk to the porter about it ... Yes, he would go at once; and he would just look in at Frank's rooms again. There was the hammock to fetch, too.

But it was a dreary little visit. He went round as he was, his hands deep in his pockets, trying to whistle between his teeth and smoke simultaneously; and he had to hold his pipe in his hand out of respect for rules, as he conversed with the stately Mr. Hoppett in Trinity gateway. Mr. Hoppett knew nothing about any saddle-at least, not for public communication-but his air of deep and diplomatic suspiciousness belied his words.

"It's all right," said Jack pleasantly, "I had nothing to do with the elopement. The Dean knows all about it."

"I know nothing about that, sir," said Mr. Hoppett judicially.

"Then you've not got the saddle?"

"I have not, sir."

Frank's outer door was open as Jack came to the familiar staircase, and his heart leaped in spite of himself, as he peered in and heard footsteps in the bedroom beyond. But it was the bed-maker with a mop, and a disapproving countenance, who looked out presently.

"He's gone, Mrs. Jillings," said Jack.

Mrs. Jillings sniffed. She had heard tales of the auction and thought it a very improper thing for so pleasant a young gentleman to do.

"Yes, sir."

"There isn't a saddle here, is there?"

"Saddle, sir? No, sir. What should there be a saddle here for?"

"Oh, well," said Jack vaguely. "I've come to fetch away the hammock, anyhow."

Certainly the rooms looked desolate. Even the carpets were gone, and the unstained boards in the middle seemed suggestive of peculiar dreariness. It was really very difficult to believe that these were the rooms where he and Frank had had such pleasant times-little friendly bridge-parties, and dinners, and absurd theatricals, in which Frank had sustained, with extreme rapidity, with the aid of hardly any properties except a rouge-pot, a burnt cork and three or four wisps of hair of various shades, the part of almost any eminent authority in the University of Cambridge that you cared to name. There were long histories, invented by Frank himself, of the darker sides of the lives of the more respectable members of the Senate-histories that grew, like legends, term by term-in which the most desperate deeds were done. The Master of Trinity, for example, in these Sagas, would pass through extraordinary love adventures, or discover the North Pole, or give a lecture, with practical examples, of the art of flying; the Provost of King's would conspire with the President of Queen's College, to murder the Vice-Chancellor and usurp his dignities. And these histories would be enacted with astonishing realism, chiefly by Frank himself, with the help of a zealous friend or two who were content to obey.

And these were all over now; and that was the very door through which the Vice-Chancellor was accustomed to escape from his assassins!

* * *

Jack sighed again; passed through, picked up the parcel of clothes that lay in the window-seat, unhitched the hammock in which Frank had slept last night (he noticed the ends of three cigarettes placed on the cover of a convenient biscuit-tin), and went off resembling a retiarius. Mrs. Jillings sniffed again as she looked after him up the court. She didn't understand those young gentlemen at all; and frequently said so.

(VI)

At half-past six o'clock that morning-about the time that Jack awoke in Cambridge-John Harris, laborer, emerged, very sleepy and frowsy-for he had sat up late last night at the "Spotted Dog"-from the door of a small cottage on the Ely road, in the middle of Grunty Fen. He looked this way and that, wondering whether it were as late as his kitchen-clock informed him, and observing the sun, that hung now lamentably high up in that enormous dome of summer sky that sat on the fenland like a dish-cover on a dish. And as he turned southwards he became aware of a young gentleman carrying a carpet-bag in one hand, and a gray jacket over his other arm, coming up to him, not twenty yards away. As he came nearer, Mr. Harris noticed that his face was badly bruised as by a blow.

"Good morning," said the young gentleman. "Hot work."

John Harris made some observation.

"I want some work to do," said the young gentleman, disregarding the observation. "I'm willing and capable. Do you know of any? I mean, work that I shall be paid for. Or perhaps some breakfast would do as a beginning."

John Harris regarded the young gentleman in silence.

* * *

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