The Autocracy of Mr. Parham, by H. G. Wells

Book the First

The Hopeful Friendship


Introduces Mr. Parham and Sir Bussy Woodcock

For a time Mr. Parham was extremely coy about Sir Bussy Woodcock’s invitation to assist at a séance.

Mr. Parham did not want to be drawn into this séance business. At the same time he did not want to fall out of touch with Sir Bussy Woodcock.

Sir Bussy Woodcock was one of those crude plutocrats with whom men of commanding intelligence, if they have the slightest ambition to be more than lookers-on at the spectacle of life, are obliged to associate nowadays. These rich adventurers are, under modern conditions, the necessary interpreters between high thought and low reality. It is regrettable that such difficult and debasing intervention should be unavoidable, but it seems to be so in this inexplicable world. Man of thought and man of action are mutually necessary — or, at any rate, the cooperation seems to be necessary to the man of thought. Plato, Confucius, Machiavelli had all to seek their princes. Nowadays, when the stuffing is out of princes, men of thought must do their best to use rich men.

Rich men amenable to use are hard to find and often very intractable when found. There was much in Sir Bussy, for example, that a fine intelligence, were it not equipped with a magnificent self-restraint, might easily have found insupportable. He was a short ruddy freckled man with a nose sculptured in the abrupt modern style and a mouth like a careless gash; he was thickset, a thing irritating in itself to an associate of long slender lines, and he moved with an impulsive rapidity of movement that was startling often and testified always to a total lack of such inhibitions as are inseparable from a cultivated mind. His manners were — voracious. When you talked to him he would jump suddenly into your pauses, and Mr. Parham, having long been accustomed to talk to muted undergraduates, had, if anything, developed his pauses. Half the good had gone from Mr. Parham if you robbed him of these significant silences. But Sir Bussy had no sense of significant silences. When you came to a significant silence, he would ask, “Meantersay?” in an entirely devastating manner. And he was always saying, “Gaw.” Continually he said it with a variety of intonations, and it never seemed to be addressed to anyone in particular. It meant nothing, or, what was more annoying, it might mean anything.

The fellow was of lowly extraction. His father had driven a hansom cab in London, while his mother was a nurse in a consumption hospital at Hampstead — the “Bussy” came from one of her more interesting patients — and their son, already ambitious at fourteen, had given up a strenuous course of Extension Lectures for an all-time job with a garrulous advertisement contractor, because, said he, there was “no GO in the other stuff.” The other “stuff,” if you please, was Wordsworth, the Reformation, Vegetable Morphology, and Economic History as interpreted by fastidious-minded and obscurely satirical young gentlemen from the elder universities.

Mr. Parham, tolerant, broad-minded, and deliberately quite modern, was always trying to forget these things. He never really forgot them, but whenever he and Sir Bussy were together he was always trying very hard to do so. Sir Bussy’s rise to wealth and power from such beginnings was one of the endless romances of modern business. Mr. Parham made a point of knowing as little about it as possible.

There the man was. In a little less than a quarter of a century, while Mr. Parham had been occupied chiefly with imperishable things — and marking examination papers upon them — Sir Bussy had become the master of a vast quantity of transitory but tangible phenomena which included a great advertising organization, an important part of the retail provision trade, a group of hotels, plantations in the tropics, cinema theatres, and many other things felt rather than known by Mr. Parham. Over these ephemerons Sir Bussy presided during those parts of his days that were withdrawn from social life, and occasionally even when he was existing socially he was summoned to telephones or indulged in inaudible asides to mysterious young men who sprang from nowhere on their account. As a consequence of these activities, always rather obscure to Mr. Parham, Sir Bussy lived in the midst of a quite terrific comfort and splendour surrounded by an obedience and a dignified obsequiousness that might have overawed a weaker or a vulgarer mind than Mr. Parham’s altogether. He appeared in a doorway at night, and marvellous chauffeurs sprang out of the darkness to the salute at his appearance; he said “Gaw,” and great butlers were ashamed. In a more luminous world things might have been different, but in this one Sir Bussy’s chauffeurs plainly regarded Mr. Parham as a rather unaccountable parcel which Sir Bussy was pleased to send about, and though the household manservants at Buntincombe, Carfex House, Marmion House, and the Hangar treated Mr. Parham as a gentleman, manifestly they did so rather through training than perception. A continual miracle, Sir Bussy was. He had acquired a colossal power of ordering people about, and it was evident to Mr. Parham that he had not the slightest idea what on the whole he wanted them to do. Meanwhile he just ordered them about. It was natural for Mr. Parham to think, “If I had the power he has, what wonderful things I could achieve.”

For instance, Sir Bussy might make history.

Mr. Parham was a lifelong student and exponent of history and philosophy. He had produced several studies — mainly round and about Richelieu and going more deeply into the mind of Richelieu than anyone has ever done before — and given short special courses upon historical themes; he had written a small volume of essays; he was general editor of Fosdyke’s popular “Philosophy of History” series, and he would sometimes write reviews upon works of scholarly distinction, reviews that appeared (often shockingly cut and mutilated) in the Empire, the Weekly Philosopher, and the Georgian Review. No one could deal with a new idea struggling to take form and wave it out of existence again more neatly and smilingly than Mr. Parham. And loving history and philosophy as he did, it was a trouble to his mind to feel how completely out of tune was the confusion of current events with anything that one could properly call fine history or fine philosophy. The Great War he realized was History, though very lumpish, brutalized, and unmanageable, and the Conference of Versailles was history also — in further declination. One could still put that Conference as a drama between this Power and that, talk of the conflict for “ascendency,” explain the “policy” of this or that man or this or that foreign office subtly and logically.

But from about 1919 onward everything had gone from bad to worse. Persons, events, had been deprived of more and more significance. Discordance, a disarray of values, invaded the flow of occurrence. Take Mr. Lloyd George, for example. How was one to treat a man like that? After a climax of the Versailles type the proper way was to culminate and let the historians get to work, as Woodrow Wilson indeed had done, and as Lincoln or Sulla or Cæsar or Alexander did before him. They culminated and rounded off, inconvenient facts fell off them bit by bit, and more and more surely could they be treated HISTORICALLY. The reality of history broke through superficial appearance; the logic of events was made visible.

But now, where were the Powers and what were the forces? In the face of such things as happen today this trained historian felt like a skilled carver who was asked to cut up soup. Where were the bones? — any bones? A man like Sir Bussy ought to be playing a part in a great struggle between the New Rich and the Older Oligarchy; he ought to be an Equestrian pitted against the Patricians. He ought to round off the Close of Electoral Democracy. He ought to embody the New Phase in British affairs — the New Empire. But did he? Did he stand for anything at all? There were times when Mr. Parham felt that if he could not make Sir Bussy stand for something, something definitely, formally and historically significant, his mind would give way altogether.

Surely the ancient and time-honoured processes of history were going on still — surely they were going on. Or what could be going on? Security and predominance — in Europe, in Asia, in finance — were gravely discussed by Mr. Parham and his kindred souls in the more serious weekly and monthly reviews. There were still governments and foreign offices everywhere, and they went through the motions of a struggle for world ascendency according to the rules, decently and in order. Nothing of the slightest importance occurred now between the Powers that was not strictly confidential. Espionage had never been so universal, conscientious, and respected, and the double cross of Christian diplomacy ruled the skies from Washington to Tokio. Britain and France, America, Germany, Moscow cultivated navies and armies and carried on high dignified diplomacies and made secret agreements with and against each other just as though there had never been that stupid talk about “a war to end war.” Bolshevik Moscow, after an alarming opening phase, had settled down into the best tradition of the Czar’s Foreign Office. If Mr. Parham had been privileged to enjoy the intimacy of statesmen like Sir Austen Chamberlain and Mr. Winston Churchill or M. Poincaré, and if he could have dined with some of them, he felt sure that after dinner, with the curtains drawn and the port and the cigars moving with a pensive irregularity like chess pieces upon the reflective mahogany, things would be said, a tone would be established that would bring him back warmly and comfortably again into his complete belief in history as he had learnt it and taught it.

But somehow, in spite of his vivid illuminating books and able and sometimes quite important articles, such social occasions did not come to his assistance.

Failing such reassurances, a strange persuasion in his mind arose and gathered strength, that round and about the present appearances of historical continuity something else quite different and novel and not so much menacing as dematerializing these appearances was happening. It is hard to define what this something else was. Essentially it was a vast and increasing inattention. It was the way everybody was going on, as if all the serious things in life were no longer serious. And as if other things were. And in the more recent years of Mr. Parham’s life it had been, in particular, Sir Bussy.

One night Mr. Parham asked himself a heart-searching question. It was doubtful to him afterwards whether he had had a meditation or a nightmare, whether he had thought or dreamt he thought. Suppose, so it was put to him, that statesmen, diplomatists, princes, professors of economics, military and naval experts, and in fact all the present heirs of history, were to bring about a situation, complex, difficult, dangerous, with notes, counter notes, utterances — and even ultimatums — rising towards a declaration of war about some “question.” And suppose — oh, horror! — suppose people in general, and Sir Bussy in particular, just looked at it and said, “Gaw,” or “Meantersay?” and turned away. Turned away and went on with the things they were doing, the silly things unfit for history! What would the heirs of history do? Would the soldiers dare to hold a pistol at Sir Bussy, or the statesmen push him aside? Suppose he refused to be pushed aside and resisted in some queer circumventing way of his own. Suppose he were to say, “Cut all this right out — now.” And suppose they found they had to cut it out!

Well, what would become then of our historical inheritance? Where would the Empire be, the Powers, our national traditions and policies? It was an alien idea, this idea that the sawdust was running out of the historical tradition, so alien indeed that it surely never entered Mr. Parham’s mind when it was fully awake. There was really nothing to support it there, no group of concepts to which it could attach itself congenially, and yet, once it had secured its footing, it kept worrying at Mr. Parham’s serenity like a silly tune that has established itself in one’s brain. “They won’t obey — when the time comes they won’t obey”; that was the refrain. The generals would say, “Haw,” but the people would say, “Gaw!” And Gaw would win! In the nightmare, anyhow, Gaw won. Life after that became inconceivable to Mr. Parham. Chaos!

In which somehow, he felt, Sir Bussy might still survive, transfigured, perhaps, but surviving. Horribly. Triumphantly.

Mr. Parham came vividly and certainly awake and lay awake until dawn.

The muse of History might tell of the rise of dynasties, the ascendency of this power or that, of the onset of nationalism with Macedonia, of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, of the age-long struggles of Islam and Christendom and of Latin and Greek Christianity, of the marvellous careers of Alexander and Cæsar and Napoleon, unfolding the magic scroll of their records, seeking to stir up Sir Bussy to play his part, his important if subservient part in this continuing drama of hers, and Sir Bussy would reflect almost sleepily over the narrative, would seem to think nothing of the narrative, would follow some train of thought of his own into regions inaccessible to Mr. Parham, and would say, “Gaw.”


Mr. Parham was becoming neurasthenic . . . .

And then, to add to his troubles, there was this damned nonsense now about going to a séance and taking mediums seriously, them and their nasty, disreputable, and irritatingly inexplicable phenomena.

About dawn Mr. Parham was thinking very seriously of giving up Sir Bussy. But he had thought of that several times before and always with a similar result. Finally he went to a séance, he went to a series of séances with Sir Bussy, as this narrative will in due course relate.


Tells How Sir Bussy and Mr. Parham Became Associated

When five years or more ago Mr. Parham had met Sir Bussy for the first time, the great financier had seemed to be really interested in the things of the mind, modestly but seriously interested.

Mr. Parham had talked of Michael Angelo and Botticelli at a man’s dinner given by Sebright Smith at the Rialto. It was what Mr. Parham called one of Sebright Smith’s marvellous feats of mixing and what Sebright Smith, less openly, called a “massacre.” Sebright Smith was always promising and incurring the liability for hospitality in a most careless manner, and when he had accumulated a sufficiency of obligations to bother him he gave ruthless dinners and lunches, machine-gun dinners and lunches, to work them off. Hence his secret name for these gatherings. He did not care whom he asked to meet whom, he trusted to champagne as a universal solvent, and Mr. Parham, with that liberal modern and yet cultivated mind of his, found these feasts delightfully catholic.

There is nothing like men who are not at their ease, for listening, and Mr. Parham, who was born well-informed, just let himself go. He said things about Botticelli that a more mercenary man might have made into a little book and got forty or fifty pounds for. Sir Bussy listened with an expression that anyone who did not know him might have considered malignant. But it was merely that when he was interested or when he was occupied with an idea for action he used to let the left-hand corner of his mouth hang down.

When there came a shift with the cigars and Negro singers sang Negro spirituals, Sir Bussy seized an opportunity and slipped into one of the two chairs that had become vacant on either side of Mr. Parham.

“You know about those things?” he asked, regardless of the abounding emotional richness of “Let my people go-o.”

Mr. Parham conveyed interrogation.

“Old masters, Art and all that.”

“They interest me,” said Mr. Parham, smiling with kindly friendliness, for he did not yet know the name or the power of the man to whom he was talking.

“They might have interested ME— but I cut it out. D’you ever lunch in the city?”

“Not often.”

“Well, if ever you are that way — next week, for example — ring me up at Marmion House.”

The name conveyed nothing to Mr. Parham.

“I’ll be delighted,” he said politely.

Sir Bussy, it seemed, was on his way to depart. He paused for a moment. “For all I know,” he said, “there may be a lot in Art. Do come. I was really interested.” He smiled, with a curious gleam of charm, turned off the charm, and departed briskly, in an interlude while Sebright Smith and the singers decided noisily about the next song.

Later Mr. Parham sought his host. “Who is the sturdy little man with a flushed face and wiry hair who went early?”

“Think I know everybody here?” said Sebright Smith.

“But he sat next to you!”

“Oh, THAT chap! That’s one of our conq-conquerors,” said Sebright Smith, who was drunk.

“Has he a name?”

“Has he not?” said Sebright Smith. “Sir Blasted Busy Bussy Buy-up-the-Universe Woodcock. He’s the sort of man who buys up everything. Shops and houses and factories. Estates and pot houses. Quarries. Whole trades. Buys things on the way to you. Fiddles about with them a bit before you get ’em. You can’t eat a pat of butter now in London before he’s bought and sold it. Railways he buys, hotels, cinemas and suburbs, men and women, soul and body. Mind he doesn’t buy you.”

“I’m not on the market.”

“Private treaty, I suppose,” said Sebright Smith, and realizing from Mr. Parham’s startled interrogative face that he had been guilty of some indelicacy, tried to tone it down with, “Have some more champagne?”

Mr. Parham caught the eye of an old friend and did not answer his host’s last remark. Indeed, he hardly saw any point to it, and the man was plainly drunk. He lifted a vertical hand to his friend as one might hail a cab and shouldered his way towards him.

In the course of the next few days Mr. Parham made a number of discreet inquiries about Sir Bussy, he looked him up in Who’s Who, where he found a very frank and rather self-conscious half column, and decided to accept that invitation to Marmion House in a decisive manner. If the man wanted tutoring in Art he should have tutoring in Art. Wasn’t it Lord Rosebery who said, “We must educate our masters”?

They would have a broad-minded, friendly tête-à-tête, Mr. Parham would open the golden world of Art to his host and incidentally introduce a long-cherished dream that it would cost Sir Bussy scarcely anything to make into a fine and delightful reality.

This dream, which was destined to hold Mr. Parham in resentful vassalage to Sir Bussy through long, long years of hope deferred, was the vision of a distinguished and authoritative weekly paper, with double columns and a restrained title heading, of which Mr. Parham would be the editor. It was to be one of those papers, not vulgarly gross in their circulation, but which influence opinion and direct current history throughout the civilized world. It was to be all that the Spectator, the Saturday Review, the Nation, and the New Statesman have ever been and more. It was to be largely the writing of Mr. Parham and of young men influenced and discovered by him. It was to arraign the whole spectacle of life, its public affairs, its “questions,” its science, art, and literature. It was to be understanding, advisory but always a little aloof. It was to be bold at times, stern at times, outspoken at times, but never shouting, never vulgar. As an editor one partakes of the nature of God; you are God with only one drawback, a Proprietor. But also, if you have played your cards well, you are God with a definite Agreement. And without God’s responsibility for the defects and errors of the universe you survey. You can smile and barb your wit as He cannot do. For He would be under suspicion of having led up to his own jokes.

Writing “Notes of the Week” is perhaps one of the purest pleasures life offers an intelligent, cultivated man. You encourage or you rebuke nations. You point out how Russia has erred and Germany taken your hint of the week before last. You discuss the motives of statesmen and warn bankers and colossal business adventurers. You judge judges. You have a word of kindly praise or mild contempt for the foolish multitude of writers. You compliment artists, sometimes left-handedly. The little brawling Correspondents play about your feet, writing their squabbling, protesting letters, needing sometimes your reproving pat. Every week you make or mar reputations. Criticizing everyone, you go uncriticized. You speak out of a cloud, glorious powerful and obscure. Few men are worthy of this great trust, but Mr. Parham had long felt himself among that elect minority. With difficulty he had guarded his secret, waiting for his paper as the cloistered virgin of the past waited for her lover. And here at last was Sir Bussy, Sir Bussy who could give this precious apotheosis to Mr. Parham with scarcely an effort.

He had only to say “Go” to the thing. Mr. Parham knew just where to go and just what to do. It was Sir Bussy’s great opportunity. He might evoke a God. He had neither the education nor the abilities to be a God, but he could bring a God into being.

Sir Bussy had bought all sorts of things but apparently he had never yet come into the splash and excitement of newspaper properties. It was time he did. It was time he tasted Power, Influence, and Knowledge brimming fresh from the source. His own source.

With such thoughts already pullulating in his mind Mr. Parham had gone to his first lunch at Marmion House.

Marmion House he found a busy place. It had been built by Sir Bussy. Eight and thirty companies had their offices there, and in the big archway of the Victoria Street entrance Mr. Parham was jostled by a great coming and going of swift-tripping clerks and stenographers seeking their midday refreshment. A populous lift shed passengers at every floor and left Mr. Parham alone with the lift boy for the top.

It was not to be the pleasant little tête-à-tête Mr. Parham had expected when he had telephoned in the morning. He found Sir Bussy in a large dining room with a long table surrounded by quite a number of people who Mr. Parham felt from the very outset were hangers-on and parasites of the worst description. Later he was to realize that a few of them were in a sense reputable and connected with this or that of the eight and thirty companies Sir Bussy had grouped about him, but that was not the first impression. There was a gravely alert stenographer on Sir Bussy’s left-hand side whom Mr. Parham considered much too dignified in her manner and much too graceful and well dressed for her position, and there were two very young women with grossly familiar manners who called Sir Bussy “Bussy dear” and stared at Mr. Parham as though he were some kind of foreigner. Later on in the acquaintanceship Mr. Parham was to realize that these girls were Sir Bussy’s pet nieces by marriage — he had no children of his own — but at the time Mr. Parham thought the very worst of them. They were painted. There was a very, very convex, buoyant man wearing light tweeds and with an insinuating voice who asked Mr. Parham suddenly whether he didn’t think something ought to be done about Westernhanger and then slipped off into an obscure joke with one of the nieces while Mr. Parham was still wondering who or what Westernhanger might be. And there was a small, preoccupied-looking man with that sort of cylinder forehead one really ought to take off before sitting down to lunch, who Mr. Parham learnt was Sir Titus Knowles of Harley Street. There was no serious conversation at lunch but only a throwing about of remarks. A quiet man sitting between Mr. Parham and Sir Bussy asked Mr. Parham whether he did not find the architecture of the city abominable.

“Consider New York,” he said.

Mr. Parham weighed it. “New York is different.”

The quiet man after a pause for reflection said that was true but still . . . .

Sir Bussy had greeted Mr. Parham’s arrival with his flash of charm and had told him to “sit down anywhere.” Then after a little obscure badinage across the table with one of the pretty painted girls about the possibility of her playing “real tennis” in London, the host subsided into his own thoughts. Once he said, “Gaw!”— about nothing.

The lunch had none of the quiet orderliness of a West–End lunch party. Three or four young men, brisk but not dignified, in white linen jackets did the service. There were steak-and-kidney pudding and roast beef, celery for everyone in the American fashion, and a sideboard with all manner of cold meat, cold fruit tarts, and bottles of drink thereon. On the table were jugs of some sort of cup. Mr. Parham thought it best became a simple scholar and a gentleman to disdain the plutocrat’s wines and drink plain beer from a tankard. When the eating was over half the party melted away, including the graceful secretary whose face Mr. Parham was beginning to find interesting, and the rest moved with Sir Bussy into a large low lounge where there were cigars and cigarettes, coffee and liqueurs.

“We’re going to this tennis place with Tremayne,” the pretty girls announced together.

“Not Lord Tremayne!” thought Mr. Parham and regarded the abdominal case with a new interest. The fellow had been at C. C. C.

“If he tries to play tennis with clubs and solid balls after the lunch he’s eaten, he’ll drop dead,” said Sir Bussy.

“You don’t know my powers of assimilation,” said the very convex gentleman.

“Have some brandy, Tremayne, and make a job of it,” said Sir Bussy.

“Brandy,” said Tremayne to a passing servitor. “A double brandy.”

“Get his lordship some old brandy,” said Sir Bussy.

So it really was Lord Tremayne! But how inflated! Mr. Parham was already a tutor when Lord Tremayne had come up, a beautifully slender youth. He came up and he was sent down. But in the interval he had been greatly admired.

The three departed, and Sir Bussy came to Mr. Parham.

“Got anything to do this afternoon?” he asked.

Mr. Parham had nothing of a compelling nature.

“Let’s go and look at some pictures,” said Sir Bussy. “I want to. D’you mind? You seem to have ideas about them.”

“There’s so MANY pictures,” said Mr. Parham in rather a jolly tone and smiling.

“National Gallery, I mean. And the Tate, perhaps. Academy’s still open. Dealers’ shows if necessary. We ought to get round as much as we need to in the afternoon. It’s a general idea I want. And how it looks to you.”

As Sir Bussy’s Rolls–Royce went its slick, swift way westward through the afternoon traffic he made their objective clearer. “I want to LOOK at this painting,” he said, with his voice going up at the ‘look.’ “What’s it all ABOUT? What’s it all FOR? How did it get there? What does it all amount to?”

The corner of his mouth went down and he searched his companion’s face with an extraordinary mixture of hostility and appeal in his eyes.

Mr. Parham would have liked to have had notice of the question. He gave Sir Bussy his profile.

“What is Art?” questioned Mr. Parham, playing for time. “A big question.”

“Not Art — just this painting,” corrected Sir Bussy.

“It’s Art,” said Mr. Parham. “Art in its nature. One and Indivisible.”

“Gaw,” said Sir Bussy softly and became still more earnestly expectant.

“A sort of QUINTESSENCE, I suppose,” Mr. Parham tried. He waved a hand with a gesture that had earned him the unjust and unpleasant nickname of “Bunch of Fingers” among his undergraduates. For his hands were really very beautifully proportioned. “A kind of getting the concentrated quality of loveliness, of beauty, out of common experience.”

“That we certainly got to look for,” injected Sir Bussy.

“And fixing it. Making it permanent.”

Sir Bussy spoke again after a pause for reflection. He spoke with an air of confiding thoughts long suppressed. “Sure these painters haven’t been putting it over us a bit? I thought — the other night — while you were talking . . . Just an idea . . . .”

Mr. Parham regarded his host slantingly. “No,” he said slowly and judiciously, “I don’t think they’ve been PUTTING IT OVER US.” Just the least little stress on the last four words — imperceptible to Sir Bussy.

“Well, that’s what we got to see.”

A queer beginning for a queer afternoon — an afternoon with a Barbarian. But indisputably, as Sebright Smith had said, “one of our conquerors.” He wasn’t a Barbarian to be sniffed away. He fought for his barbarism like a bulldog. Mr. Parham had been taken by surprise. He wished more and more that he had had notice of the question that was pressed upon him as the afternoon wore on. Then he could have chosen his pictures and made an orderly course of it. As it was he got to work haphazard, and instead of fighting a set battle for Art and the wonder and sublimity of it, Mr. Parham found himself in the position of a commander who is called upon with the enemy already in his camp. It was a piecemeal discussion.

Sir Bussy’s attitude so far as Mr. Parham could make it out from his fragmentary and illiterate method of expressing himself, was one of skeptical inquiry. The man was uncultivated — indeed, he was glaringly uncultivated — but there was much natural intelligence in his make-up. He had evidently been impressed profoundly by the honour paid to the names of the great Princes of pictorial art by all men of taste and intelligence, and he could not see why they were exalted to such heights. So he wanted it explained to him. He had evidently vast curiosities. To-day it was Michael Angelo and Titian he questioned. To-morrow it might be Beethoven or Shakespeare. He wasn’t to be fobbed off by authority. He didn’t admit authority. He had to be met as though the acquiescence and approval of generations to these forms of greatness had never been given.

He went up the steps from the entrance to the National Gallery with such a swift assurance that the thought occurred to Mr. Parham that he had already paid a visit there. He made at once for the Italians.

“Now, here’s pictures,” he said, sweeping on through one room to another and only slowing down in the largest gallery of all. “They’re fairly interesting and amoosing. The most part. A lot of them are bright. They might be brighter, but I suppose none of them are exactly fast colour. You can see the fun the chaps have had painting them. I grant all that. I wouldn’t object to having quite a lot of them about in Carfex House. I’d like to swipe about with a brush myself a bit. But when it comes to making out they’re something more than that and speaking of them in a sort of hushed religious way as though those chaps knew something special about heaven and just let it out, I don’t get you. I don’t for the life of me get you.”

“But here, for instance,” said Mr. Parham, “this Francesca — the sweetness and delicacy — surely DIVINE isn’t too much for it.”

“Sweetness and delicacy. Divine! Well, take a spring day in England, take the little feathers on a pheasant’s breast, or bits of a sunset, or the morning light through a tumbler of flowers on a window sill. Surely things of that sort are no end sweeter and more delicate and more divine and all the rest of it than this — this PICKLED stuff.”

“Pickled!” For a moment Mr. Parham was overcome.

“Pickled prettiness,” said Sir Bussy defiantly. “Pickled loveliness, if you like. . . . And a lot of it not very lovely and not so marvellously well pickled.”

Sir Bussy continued hitting Mr. Parham while he was down. “All these Madonnas. Did they WANT to paint them or were they obliged? Who ever thought a woman sitting up on a throne like that was any catch?”

“Pickled!” Mr. Parham clung to the main theme. “NO!”

Sir Bussy, abruptly expectant, dropped the corner of his mouth and brought his face sideways towards Mr. Parham.

Mr. Parham waved his hand about and found the word he wanted. “Selected.”

He got it still better. “Selected and fixed. These men went about the world seeing — seeing with all their might. Seeing with gifts. Born to see. And they tried — and I think succeeded — in seizing something of their most intense impressions. For us. The Madonna was often — was usually — no more than an excuse . . . .”

Sir Bussy’s mouth resumed its more normal condition, and he turned with an appearance of greater respect towards the pictures again. He would give them a chance under that plea. But his scrutiny did not last for long.

“That thing,” he said, returning to the object of their original remarks.

“Francesca’s Baptism,” breathed Mr. Parham.

“To my mind it’s not a selection: it’s an assembly. Things he liked painting. The background is jolly, but only because it reminds you of things you’ve seen. I’m not going to lie down in front of it and worship. And most of this —”

He seemed to indicate the entire national collection.

“— is just painting.”

“I must contest,” said Mr. Parham. “I must contest.”

He pleaded the subtle colouring of Filippo Lippi, the elation and grace and classic loveliness of Botticelli; he spoke of richness, anatomical dexterity, virtuosity, and culminated at last in the infinite solemnity of Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks. “The mystery, the serene mystery of that shadowed woman’s face; the sweet wisdom of the Angel’s self-content,” said Mr. Parham. “Painting! It’s Revelation.”

“Gaw,” said Sir Bussy, head on one side.

He was led from picture to picture like an obstinate child. “I’m not saying the stuff’s BAD,” he repeated; “I’m not saying it isn’t interesting; but I don’t see the call for superlatives. It’s being reminded of things, and it’s you really that has the things. Taking it altogether,” and he surveyed the collection, “I’ll admit it’s clever, sensitive work, but I’m damned if I see anything divine.”

Also he made a curiously ungracious concession to culture. “After a bit,” he said, “one certainly gets one’s eye in. Like being in the dark in a cinema.”

But it would be tedious to record all his crude reactions to loveliness that have become the dearest heritage of our minds. He said Raphael was “dam’ genteel.” He rebelled at El Greco. “Byzantine solemnity,” he repeated after Mr. Parham, “it’s more like faces seen in the back of a spoon.” But he came near cheering Tintoretto’s Origin of the Milky Way. “Gaw,” he said warmly. “Now THAT! It isn’t decent but it’s damn fine.”

He went back to it.

It was in vain that Mr. Parham tried to beguile him past the Rokeby Venus.

“Who did that?” he asked, as if he suspected Mr. Parham.


“Well, what’s the essential difference between that and a good big photograph of a naked woman tinted and posed to excite you?”

Mr. Parham was a little ashamed to find himself arguing an issue so crude in a public place and audibly, but Sir Bussy was regarding him with that unconscious menace of his which compelled replies.

“The two things aren’t in the same world. The photograph is material, factual, personal, individual. Here the beauty, the long delightful lines of a slender human body, are merely the theme of a perfect composition. The body becomes transcendental. It is sublimated. It is robbed of all individual defect and individual coarseness.”

“Nonsense! that girl’s individualized enough for — anybody.”

“I do NOT agree. Profoundly I do NOT agree.”

“Gaw! I’m not quarrelling with the picture, only I don’t see the force of all this transcending and sublimating. I like it — just as I like that Tintoretto. But a pretty naked young woman is beautiful anywhere and anyhow, especially if you’re in the mood, and I don’t see why a poor little smut seller in the street should be run in for selling just exactly what anyone in the world can come here to see — and buy photographs of in the vestibule. It isn’t Art I’m objecting to, but the Airs Art gives itself. It’s just as if Art had been asked to dinner at Buckingham Palace and didn’t want to be seen about with its poor relations. Who got just as much right to live.”

Mr. Parham moved on with an expression of face — as if the discussion had decayed unpleasantly.

“I wonder if there is time to get on to the Tate,” he considered. “There you’ll find the British school and the wild uncharted young.” He could not refrain from a delicate, almost imperceptible sneer. “Their pictures are newer. You may find them brighter and more pleasing on that account.”

They did go on to the Tate Gallery. But Sir Bussy found no further objections to art there nor any reconciliation. His chief judgment was to ascribe “cheek” to Mr. Augustus John. As he and Mr. Parham left the building he seemed to reflect, and then he delivered himself of what was evidently his matured answer to his self-posed question for that afternoon.

“I don’t see that this Painting gets you out to anything. I don’t see that it gets you out of anything. It’s not discovery and it’s not escape. People talk as if it was a door out of this damned world. Well — IS it?”

“It has given colour and interest to thousands — myriads — of quietly observant lives.”

“Cricket can do that,” said Sir Bussy.

Mr. Parham had no answer to such a remark. For some brief moments it seemed to him that the afternoon had been a failure. He had done his best, but this was an obdurate mind, difficult to dominate, and he had, he felt, failed completely to put the idea of Art over to it. They stood side by side in silence in the evening glow, waiting for Sir Bussy’s chauffeur to realize that they had emerged. This plutocrat, thought Mr. Parham, will never understand me, never understand the objectives of a true civilization, never endow the paper I need. I must keep polite and smiling as a gentleman should, but I have wasted time and hope on him.

In the car, however, Sir Bussy displayed an unexpected gratitude, and Mr. Parham realized his pessimism had been premature.

“Well,” said Sir Bussy, “I got a lot out of this afternoon. It’s been a Great Time. You’ve interested me. I shall remember all sorts of things you’ve said about this Art. We held on fine. We looked and we looked. I think I got your point of view; I really think I have. That other evening I said, ‘I must get that chap’s point of view. He’s amazing.’ I hope this is only the first of quite a lot of times when I’m going to have the pleasure of meeting you and getting your point of view. . . . Like pretty women?”

“Eh?” said Mr. Parham.

“Like pretty women?”

“Man is mortal,” said Mr. Parham with the air of a confession.

“I’d love to see you at a party I’m giving at the Savoy. Thursday next. Supper and keep on with it. Everything fit to look at on the London stage and most of it showing. Dancing.”

“I’m not a dancing man, you know.”

“Nor me. But YOU ought to take lessons. You’ve got the sort of long leg to do it. Anyhow, we might sit in a corner together and you tell me something about Women. Like you’ve been telling me about Art. I been so busy, but I’ve always wanted to know. And you can take people down to supper whenever you feel dullish. Any number of them ready to be taken down to supper. Again and again and again and again, as the poem says. We don’t stint the supper.”


Mr. Parham Among the Gayer Rich

It was not clear to Mr. Parham that he would get his newspaper, but it was quite clear that he had a reasonable prospect of becoming a sort of Mentor to Sir Bussy. Just what sort of Mentor it was still too early to guess. If you will imagine Socrates as tall and formally good-looking and Alcibiades as short and energetic, and if you will suppose that unfortunate expedition to Syracuse replaced under sound advice by a masterful consolidation of Greece; if indeed you will flatten that parallel to the verge of extinction without actually obliterating it, you will get something of the flavour of Mr. Parham’s anticipations. Or perhaps Aristotle and Alexander will better serve our purpose. It is one of the endless advantages of a sound classical education that you need never see, you can never see, a human relationship in its vulgar simplicity; there is always the enrichment of these regurgitated factors. You lose all sense of current events; you simply get such history as you have swallowed repeating itself.

In this party at the Savoy Mr. Parham saw Sir Bussy seriously engaged in expenditure for the first time. A common mind would have been mightily impressed by the evident height, width, depth, and velocity of the flow, and even Mr. Parham found himself doing little sums and estimates to get an idea of what this one evening must be costing his new acquaintance. It would, Mr. Parham reckoned, have maintained a weekly of the very highest class for three years or more.

Mr. Parham made it his rule to dress correctly and well for every social occasion. He did not believe in that benefit of clergy which is used as an excuse by men of learning and intellectual distinction for low collars on high occasions and antiquated smoking jackets at dances. He thought it better to let people understand that on occasion a philosopher is fully equal to being a man of the world. His tallness permitted a drooping urbanity, a little suggestive of Lord Balfour, and on the whole he knew himself with his fine and fastidious features to be anything but ill-looking. His Gibus hat, a trifle old-fashioned in these slovenly times, kept his bunch of fingers within bounds, and his fine gold chain was plainly ancestral.

The entire Savoy had placed itself at the disposal of Sir Bussy. Its servants were his servants. In their gray plush breeches and yellow waistcoats they looked like inherited family servitors. In the cloakroom he found Sir Titus Knowles of the stupendous brow divesting himself of an extremely small black hat and a huge cloak.

“Hullo!” said Sir Titus. “YOU here!”

“Apparently,” said Mr. Parham taking it in good part.

“Ah,” said Sir Titus.

“No need for a ticket, Sir Titus,” said the receiver of cloaks. “Too well known, sir.”

Sir Titus disappeared, smiling faintly.

But Mr. Parham received a ticket for his overcoat.

He drifted past the men waiting for their womankind towards a dazzling crowd of lovely and extremely expensive-looking ladies with shining arms and shoulders and backs and a considerable variety of men. There was talk like a great and greatly fluctuating wind blowing through tin leaved trees. A sort of reception was in progress. Sir Bussy appeared abruptly.

“Good,” he said with gusto. “We must have a talk. You know Pomander Poole? She’s dying to meet you.”

He vanished, and that evening Mr. Parham never had opportunity to exchange more than two or three missile sentences with him, though he had endless glimpses of him at a distance, moodily active or artificially gay.

Miss Pomander Poole began very seriously by asking Mr. Parham his name, which Sir Bussy, through inadvertency or a momentary forgetfulness, had never mentioned. “Parham is the name of the man you are dying to meet,” said Mr. Parham, and did a dazzling smile with all his excellent teeth, except, of course, the molars at the back.

“Bussy’s more like a flea than ever to-night,” said Miss Pomander Poole. “He ought to be called the Quest. Or the little wee Grail. I’ve seen six people trying to catch him.”

She was a dark, handsome lady with tormented-looking eyes and more breadth than is fashionable. Her voice was rich and fine. She surveyed the long room before them. “Why in heaven he gives these parties I can’t imagine,” she said, and sighed and became still, to show she had finished her part in the conversation.

Mr. Parham hung fire. The name of Pomander Poole was very familiar to him, but for the life of him at that moment he could not connect it with books, articles, plays, pictures, scandals, society gossip, or the music-hall stage with any of the precision necessary if he was to talk in the easy, helpful, rather amused way becoming to a philosopher in his man-of-the-world mood. So he had to resort to what was almost questioning.

“I’ve known our host only very recently,” said Mr. Parham, plainly inviting comment.

“He doesn’t exist,” she said.

Apparently we were going to be brilliant, and if so Mr. Parham was not the man to miss his cues. “We’ve met a sort of simulacrum,” he protested.

She disregarded Mr. Parham’s words altogether. “He doesn’t exist,” she sighed. “So not only can no-one else catch him, he can’t catch himself. He’s always turning back the bedclothes and having a good look for himself, but it’s never any good.”

The lady certainly had breadth.

“He acquires wealth,” said Mr. Parham.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” she said with the weariness of one who answers a familiar catechism. She was looking about her with her sombre, appealing eyes as she spoke, as if she were looking for someone to relieve her of Mr. Parham.

“To-night the vacuum is full of interesting people.”

“I don’t know a tithe of them.”

“I’m sufficiently unworldly to find their appearances interesting.”

“I’m sufficiently worldly to build no hopes on that.”

A second phase of awkwardness hung between Mr. Parham and his companion. He wished she could be just wiped out of existence and somebody easier put in her place. But she it was who saved the situation. “I suppose it’s too early to begin going down to supper,” she said; “down or up or wherever it is. These vacuum parties provoke feelings of extraordinary emptiness in me.”

“Well, let’s explore,” said Mr. Parham, doing his smile again and taking the lady in tow.

“I’m sure I’ve heard you lecture at the Royal Institution,” she opened.

“Never been there,” said Mr. Parham.

“I’ve seen you there. Usually two or three of you. You’re a man of science.”

“Classical, dear lady. Academic. With a few old and tested ideas like favourite pipes that I brood over again and again — and an inky forefinger.”

Now that wasn’t so bad. Miss Poole looked at him as though she had just observed his existence for the first time. A ray of interest shone and then dissolved into other preoccupations.

When we say that Mr. Parham took the lady in tow and found the supper room we defer rather to the way in which he would have liked to have it put. But in fact, as they made their way through the brilliant multitude, she was usually leading in a distraught yet purposive manner by anything between two yards and six. Supper had indeed begun noisily and vigorously, and Miss Poole, still leading, was hailed by a group of people who seemed to be not so much supping as laying in provisions. “What are you saying to-night, Pomander?” cried a handsome young man, and she melted into the centre of the group without any attempt to introduce Mr. Parham. “I’m doubting Bussy’s real existence,” answered Miss Poole, “and craving for his food.”

“Like a modern Christian and his God,” said someone.

Mr. Parham travelled round the outskirts of the group and came to the glittering tablecloth. The board was bountiful, and the only drink, it seemed to Mr. Parham, was champagne, poured from glass jugs. He tried to get drink for Miss Poole, but she was already supplied, so he drank himself, pretended to participate in the conversation of the backs that were turned towards him, looked amused, and ate a couple of chicken sandwiches with an air of careless ease. Miss Poole had brightened considerably. She smacked a large ham-faced Jew on the cheek with a pâté de foie gras sandwich — for no apparent reason. Perhaps she liked him. Or perhaps it was just playfulness. She led up to and repeated her picture of Sir Bussy looking for himself in the bedclothes, and it was hailed with wild delight. Amidst the applause a small blonde youth turned round with every appearance of extreme caution, repeated the delightful invention carefully to Mr. Parham, and then forgot him again instantly.

Mr. Parham tried not to feel that the group had — as Mr. Aldous Huxley, in that physiological manner of his, might say — excreted him, but that was very much his feeling, and he was bearing up against it with a second glass of champagne when he discovered Sir Titus Knowles close beside him and evidently also undergoing elimination from an adjacent group of bright young things. “Hullo,” he said. “YOU here?”

“Rather fun,” said Sir Titus insincerely, and then out of nowhere came the most ravishing of youthful blondes, all warmth and loveliness, pretending to be out of breath and addressing herself particularly to the great consultant.

“Gentleman of the name of Parham, Sir Titus,” she said in a warm husky voice. “Meanwhile something to eat, please.”

Her immediate need was supplied. “When I asked Bussy what’s he like, he said, ‘Oh, you’ll know him when you see him.’ I got to find him, take him, and make him dance. He bet me. Parham. Shall I go round singing it? I suppose there’s about a million people here. I’ll be thrown out for accosting.”

She glanced at Sir Titus, detected a directive grimace, became alert to the situation, and faced Mr. Parham. “Of course!” she said with her mouth full. “Right in one. My name’s Gaby Greuze. You’re the handsomest man here. I might have known Bussy wouldn’t put me off with anything cheap.”

Mr. Parham’s expression mingled delight and candid disavowal. “You’ll never make me dance,” he said.

The accidental pressures of the crowd about them brought her extremely close to him. What a lovely face it was, seen so nearly! Impudent, blue eyed! The modelling of the eyelids was exquisite. The little soft corner of the drooping mouth! “I’ll make you dance. I c’d make you do no end of things. Cause why?”

She took a healthy mouthful of ham and munched.

“I like you.”

She nodded confirmation. Mr. Parham’s brilliant smile came unbidden. “I’m not going to resist for a moment, I can assure you,” he said and added with the air of a redoubtable character, “Trust me.” Like her! He could have eaten her. Yes, this was something better than the apparently premeditated brilliance of Miss Pomander Poole. He forgot that disconcerting person ostentatiously there and then. She might hit them all with sandwiches and dig everybody in the ribs with chocolate éclairs for all he cared.

Miss Gaby Greuze addressed herself to her task with deliberation and intelligence. There is nothing so private and intimate in the world as a duologue in a crowd engaged in eating and talking. The sounds of Sir Bussy’s party have already been compared to a wind in a forest of metallic leaves. Plates, knives, and dishes were added now to the orchestra. These woven sounds, this metallic tissue in the air seemed to make an arbour, a hiding place for Mr. Parham and his lovely companion. From this secret bower he had but to thrust an arm and get more champagne, salads of diverse sorts in little dishes, everything nice in aspic and fruits in their season and out of it. Then he held out his winnings to her and she smiled her thanks at him with those incredibly lovely eyes and partook. Afterwards they went off with arms entwined, roguishly seeking a “quiet corner” where she could teach him his elements before he made his début on the dancing floor. They got on together wonderfully. His fine classical face bending down to say airy nothings was caressed by the natural silk of her hair.

There was something in this experience that reminded Mr. Parham of Horace and the naughtier side of the Latin poets, and anything that reminded him of Horace and the naughtier side of the Latin poets could not, he felt, be altogether vulgar or bad. And there was a moment or so when nothing but his classical training, his high literary and university standing, his sense of the extraordinary number of unexpected corners, casual mirrors, and observant attendants in the Savoy, and also, we must add, something stern and purposeful in himself, restrained him from seizing this most provocative young woman and showing her what a man of learning and spirit could do in the way of passionate pressure with his lips. He was flushed now and none the worse looking for that.

“Don’t forget what I’ve told you,” said Miss Gaby Greuze, guiding him back towards the more frequented regions of the party; “keep your head — best keep it in your heels — and the next dance is ours. Let’s go and sit and look at them, and I’ll have a lemonade.”

Mr. Parham smiled to think what some of his undergraduates would make of it if they could see him now. He sat by his partner with his hand just a little familiarly on the back of her chair and talked like an intimate.

“I find Sir Bussy a marvel,” he said, blinking at the throng.

“He’s a very Teasing Marvel,” she said. “One of these days he’ll get his little face smacked.”

“I hope not.”

“It won’t get that damned grin of his off. He ought to find something better in life than pulling people’s legs — all the money he’s got.”

“I’ve only just been drawn into the vortex.”

But something missed fire in that remark, because she said, “It’s one of the selectest clubs in London, I believe,” and seemed to respect him more.

“And NOW,” she said, standing up, and prepared to carry Mr. Parham into the dance so soon as sufficient couples had accumulated to veil the naked bareness of the floor. She had strong arms, Mr. Parham realized with amazement, a strong will, and her instructions had been explicit. Mr. Parham had got as near as he was ever likely to get to modern dancing. “Bussy’s over there,” she said and cut a corner towards their host.

He was standing quite alone near the gesticulating black and brown band, concentrated, it would seem, upon their elusive transitions. His hands were deep in his pockets and his head swayed dreamily. Mr. Parham and his partner circled smiling about him twice before he became aware of them.

“Gaw!” said Sir Bussy, looking up at last. “It hasn’t taken you an hour!”

“This him?” she demanded triumphantly.

“That’s him,” said Sir Bussy.

“You’ve lost.”

“No. It’s you have won. I’m quite content. I congratulate you on your dancing, Parham. I knew you’d make a dancer directly I saw you. Given a proper dancing mistress. Life’s full of lessons for all of us. How d’you like her? Puts old Velasquez in his place. A young mistress is better than an old master, eh?”

“After that insult I’ll go and eat you out of house and home,” Miss Greuze retorted, missing the point of a remark for the second time that night, and she made Mr. Parham take her down to supper again without completing the dance. He would have liked to go on dancing with her forever, but apparently the dance had served her purpose.

She became curiously angry. “Bussy never leaves you with the feel of winning,” she said, “even when you’ve won. I’ll do him down one of these days — if I have to bust everything to do it. He puts ideas into one’s head.”

“What ideas?” asked Mr. Parham.

“I wonder if I told you . . .” she speculated with a strange sudden expression in her eyes, and she seemed to measure Mr. Parham.

“You can tell me anything,” said he.

“Sometimes telling means a lot. No — not just yet, anyhow. Very likely never.”

“I can hope,” said Mr. Parham, feeling that might mean anything or nothing.

At supper Mr. Parham lost her. He lost her while he was thinking over this queer little passage. He was not to learn what this idea of hers was for quite a long time. A sudden tide of young things like herself, but not so perfectly beautiful, poured round and over her and submerged and took possession of her, caressing her most intimately and calling her pet names: Gaby Sweet! Gaby Perfect! Gaby Darling! some sort of professional sisterhood of dancers or young actresses. He drifted off and was almost entangled again with Miss Pomander Poole, before he realized his danger.

For a time he was lonely, seeking but failing to restore contact with his all too popular Gaby. By some fatality during this period he seemed always to be drifting towards Pomander Poole, and an equal fatality drove her towards him. An unconscious dramatic urge in her, a mechanical trick of thinking in gestures, made it all too plain to him how little she wanted to resume their conversation. It looked as if she talked to herself also, but happily he was never quite close enough to hear. Then Lord Tremayne turned up, bright and hearty, with “You never told me what you thought about Westernhanger.”

Mr. Parham’s momentary tension was relieved when the young man added, “It’s too late now, so don’t let’s bother about it. I call it a Disgrace. . . . I doubt if you know many people in this shallow, glittering world. Eh? Ask me for anyone you fancy. I know the blessed lot.”

He then proceeded to introduce Mr. Parham to two countesses and his sister-inlaw, Lady Judy Percival, who happened to be handy, and so departed upon some quest of his own. The introductions, as people say of vaccinations, didn’t “take” very well, the three ladies fell into a talk among themselves, and Mr. Parham had a quiet, thoughtful time for a while, surveying the multitude. The elation of his success with Gabrielle Greuze had a little abated. Later on perhaps he would be able to detach her again and resume their talk. He noted Sir Titus in the distance wearing his forehead, he thought, just a trifle too much over one eye and with his arm manifestly about the waist of a slender, dark lady in green. It helped to remind Mr. Parham of his own dignity. He leant against a wall and became observantly still.

Strange to reflect that physically this night party given by a London plutocrat in a smart hotel was probably ten times as luminous, multitudinous, healthy, and lovely as any court pageant of Elizabethan or Jacobean days. Twenty times. How small and dusky such an occasion would seem if it could be trailed across this evening’s stirring spectacle! Brocades and wired dresses, none of them too fresh and clean, lit by candles and torches. Astounding, the material exuberance of our times. Yet that dim little assembly had its Shakespeare, its Bacon, its Burleigh, and its Essex. It had become history through and through. It was an everlasting fount of book writing, “studies,” comments, allusions. The lightest caresses of the Virgin queen were matters now for the gravest of scholars. Narrow rooms, perhaps, but spacious times.

But all this present thrust and gaiety! — where did it lead? Could it ever become history in any sense of the word? In the court of Queen Elizabeth they moulded the beginnings of America, they laid the foundations of modern science, they forged the English language which these people here with their slang and curt knowingness of phrase were rapidly turning to dust. A few artists there might be here, a stripling maker of modern comedies. Mr. Parham would grant something for the people who might be unknown to him, and still the balance against this parade was terrible.

The jazz music came out of the background and began to pound and massage his nerves. It beat about the gathering monstrously, as though it were looking for him, and then it would seem to discover him and come and rock him. It smote suddenly into his heart with jungle cries of infinite melancholy and then took refuge in dithering trivialities and a pretence of never having been anything but trivial. It became intimate; it became suggestively obscene. Drums and bone clappers and buzzers. He realized how necessary it was to keep on dancing or talking here, talking fast and loud, to sustain one’s self against that black cluster of musicians. How alien they were, almost of another species, with their shining exultant faces, their urgent gestures! What would the Virgin Queen, what would her dear and most faithful Burleigh have made of that bronze-faced conductor?

Queer to think it was she who had, so to speak, sown the seed of that Virginia from which in all probability he came. He seemed now to be hounding on these whites to some mysterious self-effacement and self-destruction. They moved like marionettes to his exertions . . . .

Such exercises of an observant, thoughtful, well stored mind were interrupted by the reappearance of Lord Tremayne, encumbered with one of the countesses he had already once introduced to Mr. Parham.

“Here’s the very man,” he cried joyously. “You know my cousin Lady Glassglade! If anyone can tell you all about Westernhanger, HE can. He talked about it MARVELLOUSLY the other day. Marvellously!”

Mr. Parham was left with Lady Glassglade.

The Glassglades had a place in Worcestershire and were decidedly people to know. Though what the lady could be doing here was perplexing. Sir Bussy’s social range was astonishing. She was a little smiling lady with slightly bleached hair and infinite self-possession. Mr. Parham bowed gracefully. “We are too near the band for talking,” he said. “Would you care to go down to the supper room?”

“There was such a crowd. I couldn’t get anything,” said the lady.

Mr. Parham intimated that all that could be changed.

“And I came on here because I was hungry!”

Charming! They got on very well together, and he saw that she had all she needed. He was quietly firm about it. They talked of the place in Worcestershire and of the peculiar ENGLISH charm of Oxfordshire, and then they talked of their host. Lady Glassglade thought Sir Bussy was “simply wonderful.” His judgments in business, she was told, were instinctive, so swift he was able to seize on things while other men were just going about and asking questions. He must be worth eight or ten millions.

“And yet he strikes me as a LONELY figure,” said Mr. Parham. “Lonely and detached.”

Lady Glassglade agreed that he was detached.

“We haven’t assimilated him,” said Mr. Parham, using his face to express a finely constituted social system suffering from indigestion.

“We have not,” said Lady Glassglade.

“I’ve met him quite recently,” said Mr. Parham. “He seems strangely typical of the times. All this new wealth, so sure, so bold and so incomparably lacking in noblesse oblige.”

“It IS rather like that,” said Lady Glassglade.

They both replenished their glasses with more of Sir Bussy’s champagne.

“When one considers the sense of obligation our old territorial families displayed . . .”

“Exactly,” said Lady Glassglade sadly.

And then recovering her spirits, “All the same, he’s rather fun.”

Mr. Parham looked wider and further. He glanced down the corridors of history and faced the dark menace of the future. “I wonder,” he said.

It was quite a time before he and Lady Glassglade got dissociated. Mr. Parham was wistfully humorous about a project of Oxford offering “post graduate courses” for the nouveau riche. Lady Glassglade seemed to be greatly amused by the idea.

“With tennis, table manners, grouse shooting and professional golf.”

Lady Glassglade laughed that well known merry laugh of hers. Mr. Parham was encouraged to elaborate the idea. He invented a Ritz College and a Claridge’s College and a Majestic all competing against each other. Loud speakers from the lecture rooms by each bedside.

As the night drew on Mr. Parham’s memories of Sir Bussy’s party lost the sharp distinctness of his earlier impressions. In some way he must have lost Lady Glassglade, because when he was talking of the duty under which even a nominal aristocracy lay to provide leadership for the masses, he looked round to see if she appreciated his point, and she had evidently been gone some time. A sort of golden gloom, a massive and yet humorous solemnity, had slowly but surely replaced the rhythmic glittering of his earlier mental state. He talked to strange people about their host. “He is,” said Mr. Parham, “a lonely and leaderless soul. Why? Because he has no tradition.”

He remembered standing quite quite still for a very long time, admiring and pitying a very beautiful tall and slender woman with a quiet face, who was alone and who seemed to be watching for someone who did not come. He was moved to go up to her and say very softly and clearly to her, “Why so pensive?”

Then, as startled and surprised she turned those lovely violet eyes to him, he would overwhelm her with a torrent of brilliant conversation. He would weave fact and fancy together. He would compare Sir Bussy to Trimalchio. He would give a brief but vivid account of the work of Petronius. He would go on to relate all sorts of curious impish facts about Queen Elizabeth and Cleopatra and people like that, and she would be fascinated.

“Tell me,” he said to a young man with an eye-glass who had drifted near him, and repeated, “Tell me.”

He found something queer and interesting had happened to his fingers as he gesticulated, and for a time this held his attention to the exclusion of other matters.

The young man’s expression changed from impatience to interest and sympathy. “Tell you WHAT?” he asked, getting first Mr. Parham’s almost autonomous hand and then Mr. Parham himself well into the focus of the eye-glass.

“Who is that perfect lovely lady in black and — I think they are called sequins, over there?”

“That, sir, is the Duchess of Hichester.”

“Your servant,” said Mr. Parham.

His mood had changed. He was weary of this foolish, noisy, shallow, nocturnal, glittering great party. Monstrous party. Party outside history, beginning nowhere, going nowhere. All mixed up. Duchesses and dancers. Professors, plutocrats, and parasites. He wanted to go. Only one thing delayed him for a time; he had completely lost his Gibus hat. He patted his pockets; he surveyed the circumjacent floor. It had gone.


Far off he saw a man carrying a Gibus hat, an unmistakable Gibus. Should he whip it out of his hand with a stern “Excuse me?”

But how was Mr. Parham to prove it was his Gibus hat?



Mr. Parham woke up with a start. He remembered now quite clearly that he had put down his Gibus hat on the table in the supper room. Some officious attendant had no doubt whisked it aside. He must write to the Savoy people about it in the morning.

“Sir” or “Dear Sirs” or “Mr. Parham presents his compliments.” Not too austere. Not too familiar. . . . Ta ra ra — ink a-poo poo.

If he had left his Gibus he seemed to have brought home the greater part of the jazz band. He had got it now in his head, and there, with all the irrepressible vigour of the Negro musician, it was still energetically at work. It had a large circular brassy headache for a band stand. Since it rendered sleep impossible and reading for some reason undesirable, Mr. Parham thought it best to lie still in the dark — or rather the faint dawn — abandoning himself to the train of thought it trailed after it.

It had been a SILLY evening.

Oh! a silly evening!

Mr. Parham found himself filled with a sense of missed opportunities, of distractions foolishly pursued, of a lack of continuity and self-control.

That girl Gaby Greuze — she had been laughing at him. Anyhow, she might have been laughing at him. HAD she been laughing at him?

The endocranial orchestra had evoked the figure of Sir Bussy, alone and unprotected, standing, waving his head to its subtropical exuberances. Moody he had seemed, mentally vacant for the moment. It would of course have been perfectly easy to catch him in that phase, caught him and got hold of him. Mr. Parham could have gone up to him and said something pregnant to him, quietly but clearly.

“Vanitas vanitatum,” he could have said, for example, and, since one never knows where one may not strike upon virgin ignorance in these new men, a translation might have been added tactfully and at once: “Vanity of vanities.”

And why? Because he had no past. Because he had lost touch with the past. A man who has no past has no future. And so on to the forward-looking attitude — and the influential weekly.

But instead of telling this to Sir Bussy himself, straight and plain, Mr. Parham had just wandered about telling it to Gaby Greuze, to Lady Glassglade, to casual strangers, any old people. “I am not used to action,” groaned Mr. Parham to his God. “I am not direct. And opportunity passes me by.”

For a time he lay and wondered if it would not be good for all scholars and men of thought to be OBLIGED to take decisive action of some sort at least once a day. Then their wills would become nervous and muscular. But then —? Would they lose critical acuteness? Would they become crude?

After a time he was back arguing in imagination with Sir Bussy.

“You think this life is pleasure,” he would say. “It is not. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is efflorescence.”

“Efflorescence.” A good word. This was an Age of Efflorescence. If a parallel was wanted one must read Petronius. When Rome was still devouring the world. That too was an Age of Efflorescence. Everywhere a hastening from one meretricious pleasure to another. Old fashions abandoned for the mere love of novelty. These ridiculous little black evening hats, for instance, instead of the stately Gibus. (Come to think of it, it was hardly worth while to recover that Gibus. He would have to get one of these evening slouches.) No precedence. No restriction. Duchesses, countesses, diplomatists, fashionable physicians, rubbing shoulders with pretty chorus girls, inky adventuresses, artists, tradesmen, actors, movie stars, coloured singers, Casanovas and Cagliostros — PLEASED to mingle with them — no order, no sense of function. One had to say to fellows like Sir Bussy, “Through some strange dance of accident power has come to you. But beware of power that does not carry on and develop tradition. Think of the grave high figures of the past: Cæsar, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth, Richelieu (you should read my little book), Napoleon, Washington, Garibaldi, Lincoln, William Ewart Gladstone, kings, priests and prophets, statesmen and thinkers, builders of Powers; the increasing purpose, the onward march! Think of great armoured angels and beautiful intent symbolic faces! Our Imperial Destinies! The Destiny of France! Our Glorious Navy! Embattled flags! Here now is the sword of power in your hands! Is it to do nothing more than cut innumerable sandwiches for supper?”

Again Mr. Parham spoke aloud in the night. “Nay!” he said.

He was suddenly reminded of the champagne.

Efflorescence was really a very good word. No, NOT effervescence, efflorescence. If only one had a weekly, what a scathing series of articles reviewing modern tendencies might there not be under that general title! People would ask, “Have you seen ‘Efflorescence’ again in the Paramount Weekly? Pitiless!”

It was a bother that the band inside his headache did not know when to leave off. It went so and it went so. . . . What a lot of champagne there had been! Efflorescence and effervescence.

He saw himself giving a little book to Sir Bussy almost sacramentally. “Here,” he would say, “is a book to set you thinking. I know it is too much to ask you to read it through, short though it is, but at least read the title, The Undying Past. Does that convey nothing to you?”

He saw himself standing gravely while Sir Bussy tried uneasily to get past him.

After all efflorescence, as the chemists had taught us to use the word nowadays, implies a considerable amount of original stuff still undecayed. Beneath this glittering froth, this levity, this champagne drinking and jazz dancing, this careless mixing of incompatible social elements, far beneath was the old enduring matter of human life, the toil, the sustained purpose, the precedences, the loyalties, the controls. On the surface the artist of life might seem to be a slightly negroid Fragonard, but below stern spirits were planning the outline of stupendous destinies. Governments and foreign offices were still at their immemorial work; the soldiers gathered in their barracks and the great battleships ploughed remorselessly the vainly slapping waves. Religious teachers inculcated loyalty and obedience; the business men ordered their argosies across the oceans, and the social conflicts muttered about the factories. There was likely to be grave economic trouble this winter. “The grim spectre of want.” Sir Bussy indeed lived in a dream world of uninterrupted indulgence. But all dreams come to an end.

The spirit of Carlyle, the spirit of the Hebrew prophets entered into Mr. Parham. It was like some obscure stern sect coming to a meeting in a back-street chapel. One by one they came. High above the severe lines of that little back-street facade, the red planet Mars ruled his sky. The band in his headache played wilder, more threatening airs.

“Verily,” he whispered and, “Repent. . . . Yesss.”

The real stern things of life gathered unobtrusively but surely, prepared when the time came to blow their clarions, prepared to rouse this trivial world again to fresh effort and grim resolve, to unbend the fluttering flag, to exalt and test the souls of men, to ennoble them by sacrifice and suffering.

The wailing multitude would call for guidance. What could men like Sir Bussy give it?

“And yet I would have stood by your side,” Mr. Parham would say. “I would have stood by your side.”

For a time Mr. Parham’s mind seemed to be full of marching troops, host by host, corps by corps, regiment after regiment, company upon company. They marched to the rhythm of the Negro band, and as they marched they receded. Down a long vista they receded and the music receded.

The face of Mr. Parham became firm and hard and calm in the darkness. Stern resolve brooded over the troubled frothing of his thoughts and subdued them. The champagne made one last faint protest.

Presently his lips relaxed. His mouth fell a little open . . . .

A deep, regular, increasing sawing of his breath told the mouse behind the skirting that Mr. Parham was asleep.


The Devious Pursuit

Such were the opening phases of the friendship of Mr. Parham and Sir Bussy Woodcock. It was destined to last nearly six years. The two men attracted and repelled each other in about equal measure, and in that perhaps lay the sustaining interest of their association. In its more general form in Mr. Parham’s mind, the relationship was a struggle to subdue this mysteriously able, lucky adventurer to the Parham conception of the universe, to involve him in political affairs and advise and direct him when these affairs became perplexing, to build him up into a great and central figure (with a twin star) in the story of the Empire and the world. In its more special aspect the relationship was to be one of financial support for Mr. Parham and the group of writers and university teachers he would gather round him, to steer the world — as it had always been steered. When the history of the next half century came to be written people would say, “There was the finger of Parham,” or, “He was one of Parham’s Young Men.” But how difficult it was to lead this financial rhinoceros, as Mr. Parham, in the secrecy of his own thoughts, would sometimes style his friend, towards any definite conception of a rôle and a policy outside the now almost automatic process of buying up everything and selling it for more.

At times the creature seemed quite haphazard, a reckless spendthrift who could gain more than he spent. He would say, “Gaw! I’m going to have a lark,” and one had either to drop out of the world about him or hang on to him into the oddest and strangest of places.

There were phases of passionate resentment in Mr. Parham’s experience, but then again there were phases of clear and reasonable hope. Sir Bussy would suddenly talk about political parties with a knowledge, a shrewdness that amazed his friend. “Fun to push ’em all over,” he would say. And once or twice he talked of Rothermere, Beaverbrook, Burnham, Riddel, with curiosity and something like envy. Late at night on each occasion it was, other people, people one suspected, were present, and Mr. Parham could not bring him to the point of a proposal.

Then off went everything like dead leaves before a gale, a vast hired yacht to the Baltic, to Maine, Newfoundland, and the Saint Lawrence River, and the strangest people packed aboard. Or Mr. Parham found himself surveying the Mediterranean from a Nice hotel of which Sir Bussy had taken a floor for Christmas. Once or twice he would come most unexpectedly to his Mentor, so full of purpose in his eyes, that Mr. Parham felt the moment had come. Once he took him suddenly just they two, to see Stravinsky’s Noces at Monte Carlo and once in London a similar humility of approach preluded a visit to hear the Lener Quartette.

“Pleasant,” said Sir Bussy, coming away. “Pleasant sounds. It cleans and soothes. And more. It’s —” his poor untrained mind, all destitute of classical precedents, sought for an image —“it’s like putting your head down a rabbit hole and hearing a fairy world going on. A world neither here nor there. Is there anything more to it than that?”

“Oh!” said Mr. Parham, as though he cried to God; “windows upon heaven!”


“We went there — we went there SAILCLOTH. It turned us to silk.”

“Well — DID it? It sounds as if it was telling you something, but does it tell you anything? This music. It gets excited and joyous, for no reason, just as you get excited and joyous in dreams; it’s sad and tender — about nothing. They’re burying a dead beetle in fairyland. It stirs up appropriate memories. Your mind runs along according to the rhythm. But all to no effect. It doesn’t give you anything real. It doesn’t let you out. Just a finer sort of smoking,” said Sir Bussy.

Mr. Parham shrugged his shoulders. No good to get this savage books on “How to Listen to Music.” He did listen, and this was what he made of it.

But one sentence lingered in Mr. Parham’s mind: “It doesn’t,” said Sir Bussy, “LET YOU OUT.”

Did he want to be let out of this gracious splendid world of ours, built foursquare on the pillars of history, with its honours, its precedences, its mighty traditions? Could he mean that?

Mr. Parham was reminded of another scene when Sir Bussy had betrayed very much that same thought. They were recrossing the Atlantic to the Azores after visiting Newfoundland. The night was gloriously calm and warm. Before turning in Mr. Parham, who had been flirting rather audaciously with one of the pretty young women who adorned Sir Bussy’s parties so abundantly, came out on the promenade deck to cool his nerves and recall some lines of Horace that had somehow got bent in his memory and would return to him only in a queerly distorted form. He had had a moment of daring, and the young thing had pretended fright and gone to bed. Fun — and essentially innocent.

At the rail Mr. Parham discovered his host, black and exceedingly little against the enormous deep-blue sky.

“Phosphorescence?” asked Mr. Parham in an encouraging tenor.

Sir Bussy did not seem to hear. His hands were deep in his trouser-pockets. “Gaw,” he said. “Look at all this wet — under that GHASTLY moon!”

At times his attitudes took Mr. Parham’s breath away. One might think the moon had just appeared, that it had no established position, that it was not Diana and Astarte, Isis and a thousand sweet and lovely things.

“Curious,” this strange creature went on. “We’re half outside the world here. We are. We’re actually on a bulge, Parham. That way you go down a curve to America, and THAT way you go down a curve to your old Europe — and all that frowsty old art and history of yours.”

“It was ‘frowsty old Europe,’ as you call it, sent this yacht up here.”

“No fear! it got away.”

“It can’t stay here. It has to go back.”

“This time,” said Sir Bussy after a pause.

He stared for a moment or so at the moon with, if anything, an increasing distaste, made a gesture of his hand as if to dismiss it, and then, slowly and meditatively, went below, taking no further notice of Mr. Parham.

But Mr. Parham remained.

What was it this extravagant little monster wanted, in this quite admirable world? Why trouble one’s mind about a man who could show ingratitude for that gracious orb of pale caressing light? It fell upon the world like the silver and gossamer robes of an Indian harem. It caressed and provoked the luminosities that flashed and flickered in the water. It stirred with an infinite gentleness. It incited to delicately sensuous adventure.

Mr. Parham pushed his yachting cap back from his forehead in a very doggish manner, thrust his hands into the pockets of his immaculate ducks and paced the deck, half hoping to hear a rustle or a giggle that would have confessed that earlier retreat insincere. But she really had turned in, and it was only when Mr. Parham had done likewise that he began to think over Sir Bussy and his ocean of “wet — under that GHASTLY moon.” . . .

But this work, it is well to remind ourselves and the reader, is the story of a metapsychic séance and its stupendous consequences, and our interest in these two contrasted characters must not let it become a chronicle of the travels and excursions of Sir Bussy and Mr. Parham. They went once in a multitudinous party to Henley, and twice they visited Oxford together to get the flavour. How Mr. Parham’s fellow dons fell over each other to get on good terms with Sir Bussy, and how Mr. Parham despised them! But bringing Sir Bussy down made a real difference to Mr. Parham’s standing at Oxford. For a time Sir Bussy trifled with the Turf. The large strange parties he assembled at the Hangar and at Buntingcombe and Carfex House perpetually renewed Mr. Parham’s amazement that he should know so many different sorts of people and such queer people and be at such pains to entertain them and so tolerant of some of the things they did. They got up to all sorts of things, and he let them. It seemed to Mr. Parham he was chiefly curious to know what they got out of what they got up to. Several times they discussed it together.

“Not a horse on the Turf,” said Sir Bussy, “is being run absolutely straight.”

“But surely —!”

“Honourable men there, certainly. They keep the rules because there’d be no fun in it if they didn’t. It would just go to pieces, and nobody wants it to go to pieces. But do you think they run a horse all out to win every time? Nobody dreams of such a thing.”

“You mean that every horse is pulled?”

“No. No. NO. But it isn’t allowed to strain itself unduly at the beginning. That’s quite a different thing.”

Mr. Parham’s face expressed his comprehension of the point. Poor human nature!

“Why do you bother about it?”

“My father the cab driver used to drive broken-down race horses he said, and was always backing Certs. It interfered with my education. I’ve always wanted to see this end of it. And I inherit an immense instinct for human weakness from my mother.”

“But it’s costly?”

“Not a bit of it,” said Sir Bussy, with a sigh. “I seem always to see what they are up to. Before they see I see it. I make money on the Turf. I ALWAYS make money.”

His face seemed to accuse the universe, and Mr. Parham made a sympathetic noise.

When Mr. Parham went to Newmarket or a race meeting with Sir Bussy he saw to it that his own costume was exactly right. At Ascot he would be in a silky gray morning coat and white spatterdashes and a gray top hat with a black band; the most sporting figure there he was; and when they went to Henley he was in perfect flannels and an Old Arvonian blazer, not a new one but one a little faded and grubby and with one patch of tar. He was a perfect yachtsman on yachts, and at Cannes he never failed to have that just-left-the-tennis-round-the-corner touch, which is the proper touch for Cannes. His was one of those rare figures that could wear plus-fours with distinction. His sweaters were chosen with care, for even a chameleon can be correct. Never did he disfigure a party; often, indeed, he would pull one together and define its place and purpose.

The yachtsman ensemble was the hardest to preserve because Mr. Parham had more than an average disposition towards seasickness. There he differed from Sir Bussy, who was the better pleased the rougher the water and the smaller the boat. “I can’t help it,” said Sir Bussy. “It’s the law of my nature. What I get I keep.”

But if Mr. Parham’s reactions were prompt they were cheerful. “Nelson,” he would say, after his time of crisis. “He would be sick for two or three days every time he went to sea. That consoles me. The spirit indeed is unwilling but the flesh is weak.”

Sir Bussy seemed to appreciate that.

By thus falling into line with things, by refusing to be that social misfit, the intractable and untidy don, Mr. Parham avoided any appearance of parasitism in his relations with Sir Bussy and kept his own self-respect unimpaired. He was “RIGHT THERE”; he was not an intrusion. He had never dressed well before, though he had often wanted to do so, and this care for his costume made rather serious inroads upon his modest capital, but he kept his aim steadily in view. If one is to edit a weekly that will sway the world one must surely look man of the world enough to do it. And there came a phase in his relations with Sir Bussy when he had to play the rôle of a man of the world all he knew how.

It has to be told, though for some reasons it would be pleasanter to omit it. But it is necessary to illuminate the factors of antagonism and strife within this strange association with its mutual scrutiny, its masked and hidden criticisms.

Perhaps — if the reader is young . . .

Yet even the young reader may want to know.

Let us admit that this next section, though illuminating, is not absolutely essential to the understanding of the story. It is not improper, it is not coarse, but frankly — it envisages something — shall we call it “Eighteenth Century”? — in Mr. Parham’s morals. If it is not an essential part of the story it is at any rate very necessary to our portrait of Mr. Parham.


An Indiscretion

Happily we need not enter into details. The method and manner of the affair are quite secondary. We can draw a veil directly the latchkey of Miss Gaby Greuze clicks against the latch of Miss Gaby Greuze’s sumptuous flat, and it need not be withdrawn again until Mr. Parham re-emerges from that same flat looking as respectable as a suburban embezzler going to church. As respectable? Except for a certain glory. An exaltation. Such as no mere thief of money ever knew.

Fragments of a conversation follow, a conversation it is undesirable to locate.

“I’ve always liked you since first we met,” said Gaby . . . .

“It was a sort of promise.” . . .

“How quick you were to understand. You ARE quick! I see you watching people — summing them up.” . . .

“It must be wonderful to know all you know,” said Gaby, “and think all you think. You make me feel — so shallow!”

“What need have YOU for the helm of Athene?” Mr. Parham exclaimed.

“Well, a woman likes to feel at the helm now and then,” said Gaby, with her usual infelicity of apprehension, and for a time she seemed moody.

But she said Mr. Parham was very beautifully made. His smile when she said it lit the flat. And so strong. Did he take much exercise? Tennis. She would play tennis if she wasn’t afraid of muscle in the wrong place. Exercise, she said, was ever so much better than taking exercises except for that. Of course, there WERE exercises one took. Some that made one supple and were good for one’s carriage and figure. Had Mr. Parham ever seen her sort of exercises? Well . . .

They were lovely exercises.

She patted his cheek and said, “NICE man!” She said that several times.

And she said, “You are what I should call simple.”

“Delicate,” she added, noting a question in his face, “but not complex.”

She said this with a distant, pensive look in her eyes. She was admiring the sheen on her beautiful arm and wrist, and then she said, “And when one is being as lovely as one can be to you, whatever else you do or say, anyhow, you don’t say, ‘Gaw!’”

She compressed her lips and nodded. “Gaw!” she repeated; “as though he had found you out in something that not for a minute you had ever felt or intended.

“Making you feel — like some insect.”

She began to weep unrestrainedly, and suddenly she threw herself once more into Mr. Parham’s arms.

Poor, poor little woman, sensitive, ardent, generous, and so misunderstood! . . .

When Mr. Parham met the unsuspecting Sir Bussy again after this adventure a great pride and elation filled him. Touched with a not unpleasant remorse. He had to put an extra restraint upon his disposition towards condescension. But afterwards he found Sir Bussy looking at him curiously, and feelings of a less agreeable kind, a faint apprehension, mingled with his glory.

When Mr. Parham encountered Gaby Greuze once more, and it is notable how difficult it became to meet her again except in the most transitory way, this glory of his glowed with a passionate warmth that called for the utmost self-control. But always a man of honour respects a modest woman’s innate craving for secrecy. Not even the roses in her bosom must suspect. She was evasive; she wished to be evasive. Delicately and subtly Mr. Parham came to realize that for him and his fellow sinner it was best that it should be as if this bright delicious outbreak of passion had never occurred.

Nevertheless, there it was; he was one up on Sir Bussy.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02