Zuleika Dobson - or, An Oxford Love Story
by Max Beerbohm
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You are thinking, I know, of Mr. Sargent's famous portrait of him. Forget it. Tankerton Hall is open to the public on Wednesdays. Go there, and in the dining-hall stand to study well Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of the eleventh Duke. Imagine a man some twenty years younger than he whom you there behold, but having some such features and some such bearing, and clad in just such robes. Sublimate the dignity of that bearing and of those features, and you will then have seen the fourteenth Duke somewhat as he stood reflected in the mirror of his room. Resist your impulse to pass on to the painting which hangs next but two to Lawrence's. It deserves, I know, all that you said about it when (at the very time of the events in this chronicle) it was hanging in Burlington House. Marvellous, I grant you, are those passes of the swirling brush by which the velvet of the mantle is rendered—passes so light and seemingly so fortuitous, yet, seen at the right distance, so absolute in their power to create an illusion of the actual velvet. Sheen of white satin and silk, glint of gold, glitter of diamonds—never were such things caught by surer hand obedient to more voracious eye. Yes, all the splendid surface of everything is there. Yet must you not look. The soul is not there. An expensive, very new costume is there, but no evocation of the high antique things it stands for; whereas by the Duke it was just these things that were evoked to make an aura round him, a warm symbolic glow sharpening the outlines of his own particular magnificence. Reflecting him, the mirror reflected, in due subordination, the history of England. There is nothing of that on Mr. Sargent's canvas. Obtruded instead is the astounding slickness of Mr. Sargent's technique: not the sitter, but the painter, is master here. Nay, though I hate to say it, there is in the portrayal of the Duke's attitude and expression a hint of something like mockery—unintentional, I am sure, but to a sensitive eye discernible. And—but it is clumsy of me to be reminding you of the very picture I would have you forget.

Long stood the Duke gazing, immobile. One thing alone ruffled his deep inward calm. This was the thought that he must presently put off from him all his splendour, and be his normal self.

The shadow passed from his brow. He would go forth as he was. He would be true to the motto he wore, and true to himself. A dandy he had lived. In the full pomp and radiance of his dandyism he would die.

His soul rose from calm to triumph. A smile lit his face, and he held his head higher than ever. He had brought nothing into this world and could take nothing out of it? Well, what he loved best he could carry with him to the very end; and in death they would not be divided.

The smile was still on his face as he passed out from his room. Down the stairs he passed, and "Oh," every stair creaked faintly, "I ought to have been marble!"

And it did indeed seem that Mrs. Batch and Katie, who had hurried out into the hall, were turned to some kind of stone at sight of the descending apparition. A moment ago, Mrs. Batch had been hoping she might yet at the last speak motherly words. A hopeless mute now! A moment ago, Katie's eyelids had been red with much weeping. Even from them the colour suddenly ebbed now. Dead-white her face was between the black pearl and the pink. "And this is the man of whom I dared once for an instant hope that he loved me!"—it was thus that the Duke, quite correctly, interpreted her gaze.

To her and to her mother he gave an inclusive bow as he swept slowly by. Stone was the matron, and stone the maid.

Stone, too, the Emperors over the way; and the more poignantly thereby was the Duke a sight to anguish them, being the very incarnation of what themselves had erst been, or tried to be. But in this bitterness they did not forget their sorrow at his doom. They were in a mood to forgive him the one fault they had ever found in him—his indifference to their Katie. And now—o mirum mirorum—even this one fault was wiped out.

For, stung by memory of a gibe lately cast at him by himself, the Duke had paused and, impulsively looking back into the hall, had beckoned Katie to him; and she had come (she knew not how) to him; and there, standing on the doorstep whose whiteness was the symbol of her love, he—very lightly, it is true, and on the upmost confines of the brow, but quite perceptibly—had kissed her.


And now he had passed under the little arch between the eighth and the ninth Emperor, rounded the Sheldonian, and been lost to sight of Katie, whom, as he was equally glad and sorry he had kissed her, he was able to dismiss from his mind.

In the quadrangle of the Old Schools he glanced round at the familiar labels, blue and gold, over the iron-studded doors,—Schola Theologiae et Antiquae Philosophiae; Museum Arundelianum; Schola Musicae. And Bibliotheca Bodleiana—he paused there, to feel for the last time the vague thrill he had always felt at sight of the small and devious portal that had lured to itself, and would always lure, so many scholars from the ends of the earth, scholars famous and scholars obscure, scholars polyglot and of the most diverse bents, but none of them not stirred in heart somewhat on the found threshold of the treasure-house. "How deep, how perfect, the effect made here by refusal to make any effect whatsoever!" thought the Duke. Perhaps, after all... but no: one could lay down no general rule. He flung his mantle a little wider from his breast, and proceeded into Radcliffe Square.

Another farewell look he gave to the old vast horse-chestnut that is called Bishop Heber's tree. Certainly, no: there was no general rule. With its towering and bulging masses of verdure tricked out all over in their annual finery of catkins, Bishop Heber's tree stood for the very type of ingenuous ostentation. And who should dare cavil? who not be gladdened? Yet awful, more than gladdening, was the effect that the tree made to-day. Strangely pale was the verdure against the black sky; and the multitudinous catkins had a look almost ghostly. The Duke remembered the legend that every one of these fair white spires of blossom is the spirit of some dead man who, having loved Oxford much and well, is suffered thus to revisit her, for a brief while, year by year. And it pleased him to doubt not that on one of the topmost branches, next Spring, his own spirit would be.

"Oh, look!" cried a young lady emerging with her brother and her aunt through the gate of Brasenose.

"For heaven's sake, Jessie, try to behave yourself," hissed her brother. "Aunt Mabel, for heaven's sake don't stare." He compelled the pair to walk on with him. "Jessie, if you look round over your shoulder... No, it is NOT the Vice-Chancellor. It's Dorset, of Judas—the Duke of Dorset... Why on earth shouldn't he?... No, it isn't odd in the least... No, I'm NOT losing my temper. Only, don't call me your dear boy... No, we will NOT walk slowly so as to let him pass us... Jessie, if you look round..."

Poor fellow! However fond an undergraduate be of his womenfolk, at Oxford they keep him in a painful state of tension: at any moment they may somehow disgrace him. And if throughout the long day he shall have had the added strain of guarding them from the knowledge that he is about to commit suicide, a certain measure of irritability must be condoned.

Poor Jessie and Aunt Mabel! They were destined to remember that Harold had been "very peculiar" all day. They had arrived in the morning, happy and eager despite the menace of the sky, and—well, they were destined to reproach themselves for having felt that Harold was "really rather impossible." Oh, if he had only confided in them! They could have reasoned with him, saved him—surely they could have saved him! When he told them that the "First Division" of the races was always very dull, and that they had much better let him go to it alone,—when he told them that it was always very rowdy, and that ladies were not supposed to be there—oh, why had they not guessed and clung to him, and kept him away from the river?

Well, here they were, walking on Harold's either side, blind to fate, and only longing to look back at the gorgeous personage behind them. Aunt Mabel had inwardly calculated that the velvet of the mantle alone could not have cost less than four guineas a yard. One good look back, and she would be able to calculate how many yards there were... She followed the example of Lot's wife; and Jessie followed hers.

"Very well," said Harold. "That settles it. I go alone." And he was gone like an arrow, across the High, down Oriel Street.

The two women stood staring ruefully at each other.

"Pardon me," said the Duke, with a sweep of his plumed hat. "I observe you are stranded; and, if I read your thoughts aright, you are impugning the courtesy of that young runagate. Neither of you, I am very sure, is as one of those ladies who in Imperial Rome took a saucy pleasure in the spectacle of death. Neither of you can have been warned by your escort that you were on the way to see him die, of his own accord, in company with many hundreds of other lads, myself included. Therefore, regard his flight from you as an act not of unkindness, but of tardy compunction. The hint you have had from him let me turn into a counsel. Go back, both of you, to the place whence you came."

"Thank you SO much," said Aunt Mabel, with what she took to be great presence of mind. "MOST kind of you. We'll do JUST what you tell us. Come, Jessie dear," and she hurried her niece away with her.

Something in her manner of fixing him with her eye had made the Duke suspect what was in her mind. Well, she would find out her mistake soon enough, poor woman. He desired, however, that her mistake should be made by no one else. He would give no more warnings.

Tragic it was for him, in Merton Street, to see among the crowd converging to the meadows so many women, young and old, all imprescient, troubled by nothing but the thunder that was in the air, that was on the brows of their escorts. He knew not whether it was for their escorts or for them that he felt the greater pity; and an added load for his heart was the sense of his partial responsibility for what impended. But his lips were sealed now. Why should he not enjoy the effect he was creating?

It was with a measured tread, as yesterday with Zuleika, that he entered the avenue of elms. The throng streamed past from behind him, parting wide, and marvelling as it streamed. Under the pall of this evil evening his splendour was the more inspiring. And, just as yesterday no man had questioned his right to be with Zuleika, so to-day there was none to deem him caparisoned too much. All the men felt at a glance that he, coming to meet death thus, did no more than the right homage to Zuleika—aye, and that he made them all partakers in his own glory, casting his great mantle over all commorients. Reverence forbade them to do more than glance. But the women with them were impelled by wonder to stare hard, uttering sharp little cries that mingled with the cawing of the rooks overhead. Thus did scores of men find themselves shamed like our friend Harold. But this, you say, was no more than a just return for their behaviour yesterday, when, in this very avenue, so many women were almost crushed to death by them in their insensate eagerness to see Miss Dobson.

To-day by scores of women it was calculated not only that the velvet of the Duke's mantle could not have cost less than four guineas a yard, but also that there must be quite twenty-five yards of it. Some of the fair mathematicians had, in the course of the past fortnight, visited the Royal Academy and seen there Mr. Sargent's portrait of the wearer, so that their estimate now was but the endorsement of an estimate already made. Yet their impression of the Duke was above all a spiritual one. The nobility of his face and bearing was what most thrilled them as they went by; and those of them who had heard the rumour that he was in love with that frightfully flashy-looking creature, Zuleika Dobson, were more than ever sure there wasn't a word of truth in it.

As he neared the end of the avenue, the Duke was conscious of a thinning in the procession on either side of him, and anon he was aware that not one undergraduate was therein. And he knew at once—did not need to look back to know—why this was. SHE was coming.

Yes, she had come into the avenue, her magnetism speeding before her, insomuch that all along the way the men immediately ahead of her looked round, beheld her, stood aside for her. With her walked The MacQuern, and a little bodyguard of other blest acquaintances; and behind her swayed the dense mass of the disorganised procession. And now the last rank between her and the Duke was broken, and at the revealed vision of him she faltered midway in some raillery she was addressing to The MacQuern. Her eyes were fixed, her lips were parted, her tread had become stealthy. With a brusque gesture of dismissal to the men beside her, she darted forward, and lightly overtook the Duke just as he was turning towards the barges.

"May I?" she whispered, smiling round into his face.

His shoulder-knots just perceptibly rose.

"There isn't a policeman in sight, John. You're at my mercy. No, no; I'm at yours. Tolerate me. You really do look quite wonderful. There, I won't be so impertinent as to praise you. Only let me be with you. Will you?"

The shoulder-knots repeated their answer.

"You needn't listen to me; needn't look at me—unless you care to use my eyes as mirrors. Only let me be seen with you. That's what I want. Not that your society isn't a boon in itself, John. Oh, I've been so bored since I left you. The MacQuern is too, too dull, and so are his friends. Oh, that meal with them in Balliol! As soon as I grew used to the thought that they were going to die for me, I simply couldn't stand them. Poor boys! it was as much as I could do not to tell them I wished them dead already. Indeed, when they brought me down for the first races, I did suggest that they might as well die now as later. Only they looked very solemn and said it couldn't possibly be done till after the final races. And oh, the tea with them! What have YOU been doing all the afternoon? Oh John, after THEM, I could almost love you again. Why can't one fall in love with a man's clothes? To think that all those splendid things you have on are going to be spoilt—all for me. Nominally for me, that is. It is very wonderful, John. I do appreciate it, really and truly, though I know you think I don't. John, if it weren't mere spite you feel for me—but it's no good talking about that. Come, let us be as cheerful as we may be. Is this the Judas house-boat?"

"The Judas barge," said the Duke, irritated by a mistake which but yesterday had rather charmed him.

As he followed his companion across the plank, there came dully from the hills the first low growl of the pent storm. The sound struck for him a strange contrast with the prattle he had perforce been listening to.

"Thunder," said Zuleika over her shoulder.

"Evidently," he answered.

Half-way up the stairs to the roof, she looked round. "Aren't you coming?" she asked.

He shook his head, and pointed to the raft in front of the barge. She quickly descended.

"Forgive me," he said, "my gesture was not a summons. The raft is for men."

"What do you want to do on it?"

"To wait there till the races are over."

"But—what do you mean? Aren't you coming up on to the roof at all? Yesterday—"

"Oh, I see," said the Duke, unable to repress a smile. "But to-day I am not dressed for a flying-leap."

Zuleika put a finger to her lips. "Don't talk so loud. Those women up there will hear you. No one must ever know I knew what was going to happen. What evidence should I have that I tried to prevent it? Only my own unsupported word—and the world is always against a woman. So do be careful. I've thought it all out. The whole thing must be SPRUNG on me. Don't look so horribly cynical... What was I saying? Oh yes; well, it doesn't really matter. I had it fixed in my mind that you—but no, of course, in that mantle you couldn't. But why not come up on the roof with me meanwhile, and then afterwards make some excuse and—" The rest of her whisper was lost in another growl of thunder.

"I would rather make my excuses forthwith," said the Duke. "And, as the races must be almost due now, I advise you to go straight up and secure a place against the railing."

"It will look very odd, my going all alone into a crowd of people whom I don't know. I'm an unmarried girl. I do think you might—"

"Good-bye," said the Duke.

Again Zuleika raised a warning finger.

"Good-bye, John," she whispered. "See, I am still wearing your studs. Good-bye. Don't forget to call my name in a loud voice. You promised."


"And," she added, after a pause, "remember this. I have loved but twice in my life; and none but you have I loved. This, too: if you hadn't forced me to kill my love, I would have died with you. And you know it is true."

"Yes." It was true enough.

Courteously he watched her up the stairs.

As she reached the roof, she cried down to him from the throng, "Then you will wait down there to take me home afterwards?"

He bowed silently.

The raft was even more crowded than yesterday, but way was made for him by Judasians past and present. He took his place in the centre of the front row.

At his feet flowed the fateful river. From the various barges the last punt-loads had been ferried across to the towing-path, and the last of the men who were to follow the boats in their course had vanished towards the starting-point. There remained, however, a fringe of lesser enthusiasts. Their figures stood outlined sharply in that strange dark clearness which immediately precedes a storm.

The thunder rumbled around the hills, and now and again there was a faint glare on the horizon.

Would Judas bump Magdalen? Opinion on the raft seemed to be divided. But the sanguine spirits were in a majority.

"If I were making a book on the event," said a middle-aged clergyman, with that air of breezy emancipation which is so distressing to the laity, "I'd bet two to one we bump."

"You demean your cloth, sir," the Duke would have said, "without cheating its disabilities," had not his mouth been stopped by a loud and prolonged thunder-clap.

In the hush thereafter, came the puny sound of a gunshot. The boats were starting. Would Judas bump Magdalen? Would Judas be head of the river?

Strange, thought the Duke, that for him, standing as he did on the peak of dandyism, on the brink of eternity, this trivial question of boats could have importance. And yet, and yet, for this it was that his heart was beating. A few minutes hence, an end to victors and vanquished alike; and yet...

A sudden white vertical streak slid down the sky. Then there was a consonance to split the drums of the world's ears, followed by a horrific rattling as of actual artillery—tens of thousands of gun-carriages simultaneously at the gallop, colliding, crashing, heeling over in the blackness.

Then, and yet more awful, silence; the little earth cowering voiceless under the heavens' menace. And, audible in the hush now, a faint sound; the sound of the runners on the towing-path cheering the crews forward, forward.

And there was another faint sound that came to the Duke's ears. It he understood when, a moment later, he saw the surface of the river alive with infinitesimal fountains.


His very mantle was aspersed. In another minute he would stand sodden, inglorious, a mock. He didn't hesitate.

"Zuleika!" he cried in a loud voice. Then he took a deep breath, and, burying his face in his mantle, plunged.

Full on the river lay the mantle outspread. Then it, too, went under. A great roll of water marked the spot. The plumed hat floated.

There was a confusion of shouts from the raft, of screams from the roof. Many youths—all the youths there—cried "Zuleika!" and leapt emulously headlong into the water. "Brave fellows!" shouted the elder men, supposing rescue-work. The rain pelted, the thunder pealed. Here and there was a glimpse of a young head above water—for an instant only.

Shouts and screams now from the infected barges on either side. A score of fresh plunges. "Splendid fellows!"

Meanwhile, what of the Duke? I am glad to say that he was alive and (but for the cold he had caught last night) well. Indeed, his mind had never worked more clearly than in this swift dim underworld. His mantle, the cords of it having come untied, had drifted off him, leaving his arms free. With breath well-pent, he steadily swam, scarcely less amused than annoyed that the gods had, after all, dictated the exact time at which he should seek death.

I am loth to interrupt my narrative at this rather exciting moment—a moment when the quick, tense style, exemplified in the last paragraph but one, is so very desirable. But in justice to the gods I must pause to put in a word of excuse for them. They had imagined that it was in mere irony that the Duke had said he could not die till after the bumping-races; and not until it seemed that he stood ready to make an end of himself had the signal been given by Zeus for the rain to fall. One is taught to refrain from irony, because mankind does tend to take it literally. In the hearing of the gods, who hear all, it is conversely unsafe to make a simple and direct statement. So what is one to do? The dilemma needs a whole volume to itself.

But to return to the Duke. He had now been under water for a full minute, swimming down stream; and he calculated that he had yet another full minute of consciousness. Already the whole of his past life had vividly presented itself to him—myriads of tiny incidents, long forgotten, now standing out sharply in their due sequence. He had mastered this conspectus in a flash of time, and was already tired of it. How smooth and yielding were the weeds against his face! He wondered if Mrs. Batch had been in time to cash the cheque. If not, of course his executors would pay the amount, but there would be delays, long delays, Mrs. Batch in meshes of red tape. Red tape for her, green weeds for him—he smiled at this poor conceit, classifying it as a fair sample of merman's wit. He swam on through the quiet cool darkness, less quickly now. Not many more strokes now, he told himself; a few, only a few; then sleep. How was he come here? Some woman had sent him. Ever so many years ago, some woman. He forgave her. There was nothing to forgive her. It was the gods who had sent him—too soon, too soon. He let his arms rise in the water, and he floated up. There was air in that over-world, and something he needed to know there before he came down again to sleep.

He gasped the air into his lungs, and he remembered what it was that he needed to know.

Had he risen in mid-stream, the keel of the Magdalen boat might have killed him. The oars of Magdalen did all but graze his face. The eyes of the Magdalen cox met his. The cords of the Magdalen rudder slipped from the hands that held them; whereupon the Magdalen man who rowed "bow" missed his stroke.

An instant later, just where the line of barges begins, Judas had bumped Magdalen.

A crash of thunder deadened the din of the stamping and dancing crowd on the towing-path. The rain was a deluge making land and water as one.

And the conquered crew, and the conquering, both now had seen the face of the Duke. A white smiling face, anon it was gone. Dorset was gone down to his last sleep.

Victory and defeat alike forgotten, the crews staggered erect and flung themselves into the river, the slender boats capsizing and spinning futile around in a melley of oars.

From the towing-path—no more din there now, but great single cries of "Zuleika!"—leapt figures innumerable through rain to river. The arrested boats of the other crews drifted zigzag hither and thither. The dropped oars rocked and clashed, sank and rebounded, as the men plunged across them into the swirling stream.

And over all this confusion and concussion of men and man-made things crashed the vaster discords of the heavens; and the waters of the heavens fell ever denser and denser, as though to the aid of waters that could not in themselves envelop so many hundreds of struggling human forms.

All along the soaked towing-path lay strewn the horns, the rattles, the motor-hooters, that the youths had flung aside before they leapt. Here and there among these relics stood dazed elder men, staring through the storm. There was one of them—a grey-beard—who stripped off his blazer, plunged, grabbed at some live man, grappled him, was dragged under. He came up again further along stream, swam choking to the bank, clung to the grasses. He whimpered as he sought foot-hold in the slime. It was ill to be down in that abominable sink of death.

Abominable, yes, to them who discerned there death only; but sacramental and sweet enough to the men who were dying there for love. Any face that rose was smiling.

The thunder receded; the rain was less vehement: the boats and the oars had drifted against the banks. And always the patient river bore its awful burden towards Iffley.

As on the towing-path, so on the youth-bereft rafts of the barges, yonder, stood many stupefied elders, staring at the river, staring back from the river into one another's faces.

Dispeopled now were the roofs of the barges. Under the first drops of the rain most of the women had come huddling down for shelter inside; panic had presently driven down the rest. Yet on one roof one woman still was. A strange, drenched figure, she stood bright-eyed in the dimness; alone, as it was well she should be in her great hour; draining the lees of such homage as had come to no woman in history recorded.


Artistically, there is a good deal to be said for that old Greek friend of ours, the Messenger; and I dare say you blame me for having, as it were, made you an eye-witness of the death of the undergraduates, when I might so easily have brought some one in to tell you about it after it was all over... Some one? Whom? Are you not begging the question? I admit there were, that evening in Oxford, many people who, when they went home from the river, gave vivid reports of what they had seen. But among them was none who had seen more than a small portion of the whole affair. Certainly, I might have pieced together a dozen of the various accounts, and put them all into the mouth of one person. But credibility is not enough for Clio's servant. I aim at truth. And so, as I by my Zeus-given incorporeity was the one person who had a good view of the scene at large, you must pardon me for having withheld the veil of indirect narration.

"Too late," you will say if I offer you a Messenger now. But it was not thus that Mrs. Batch and Katie greeted Clarence when, lamentably soaked with rain, that Messenger appeared on the threshold of the kitchen. Katie was laying the table-cloth for seven o'clock supper. Neither she nor her mother was clairvoyante. Neither of them knew what had been happening. But, as Clarence had not come home since afternoon-school, they had assumed that he was at the river; and they now assumed from the look of him that something very unusual had been happening there. As to what this was, they were not quickly enlightened. Our old Greek friend, after a run of twenty miles, would always reel off a round hundred of graphic verses unimpeachable in scansion. Clarence was of degenerate mould. He collapsed on to a chair, and sat there gasping; and his recovery was rather delayed than hastened by his mother, who, in her solicitude, patted him vigorously between the shoulders.

"Let him alone, mother, do," cried Katie, wringing her hands.

"The Duke, he's drowned himself," presently gasped the Messenger.

Blank verse, yes, so far as it went; but delivered without the slightest regard for rhythm, and composed in stark defiance of those laws which should regulate the breaking of bad news. You, please remember, were carefully prepared by me against the shock of the Duke's death; and yet I hear you still mumbling that I didn't let the actual fact be told you by a Messenger. Come, do you really think your grievance against me is for a moment comparable with that of Mrs. and Miss Batch against Clarence? Did you feel faint at any moment in the foregoing chapter? No. But Katie, at Clarence's first words, fainted outright. Think a little more about this poor girl senseless on the floor, and a little less about your own paltry discomfort.

Mrs. Batch herself did not faint, but she was too much overwhelmed to notice that her daughter had done so.

"No! Mercy on us! Speak, boy, can't you?"

"The river," gasped Clarence. "Threw himself in. On purpose. I was on the towing-path. Saw him do it."

Mrs. Batch gave a low moan.

"Katie's fainted," added the Messenger, not without a touch of personal pride.

"Saw him do it," Mrs. Batch repeated dully. "Katie," she said, in the same voice, "get up this instant." But Katie did not hear her.

The mother was loth to have been outdone in sensibility by the daughter, and it was with some temper that she hastened to make the necessary ministrations.

"Where am I?" asked Katie, at length, echoing the words used in this very house, at a similar juncture, on this very day, by another lover of the Duke.

"Ah, you may well ask that," said Mrs. Batch, with more force than reason. "A mother's support indeed! Well! And as for you," she cried, turning on Clarence, "sending her off like that with your—" She was face to face again with the tragic news. Katie, remembering it simultaneously, uttered a loud sob. Mrs. Batch capped this with a much louder one. Clarence stood before the fire, slowly revolving on one heel. His clothes steamed briskly.

"It isn't true," said Katie. She rose and came uncertainly towards her brother, half threatening, half imploring.

"All right," said he, strong in his advantage. "Then I shan't tell either of you anything more."

Mrs. Batch through her tears called Katie a bad girl, and Clarence a bad boy.

"Where did you get THEM?" asked Clarence, pointing to the ear-rings worn by his sister.

"HE gave me them," said Katie. Clarence curbed the brotherly intention of telling her she looked "a sight" in them.

She stood staring into vacancy. "He didn't love HER," she murmured. "That was all over. I'll vow he didn't love HER."

"Who d'you mean by her?" asked Clarence.

"That Miss Dobson that's been here."

"What's her other name?"

"Zuleika," Katie enunciated with bitterest abhorrence.

"Well, then, he jolly well did love her. That's the name he called out just before he threw himself in. 'Zuleika!'—like that," added the boy, with a most infelicitous attempt to reproduce the Duke's manner.

Katie had shut her eyes, and clenched her hands.

"He hated her. He told me so," she said.

"I was always a mother to him," sobbed Mrs. Batch, rocking to and fro on a chair in a corner. "Why didn't he come to me in his trouble?"

"He kissed me," said Katie, as in a trance. "No other man shall ever do that."

"He did?" exclaimed Clarence. "And you let him?"

"You wretched little whipper-snapper!" flashed Katie.

"Oh, I am, am I?" shouted Clarence, squaring up to his sister. "Say that again, will you?"

There is no doubt that Katie would have said it again, had not her mother closed the scene with a prolonged wail of censure.

"You ought to be thinking of ME, you wicked girl," said Mrs. Batch. Katie went across, and laid a gentle hand on her mother's shoulder. This, however, did but evoke a fresh flood of tears. Mrs. Batch had a keen sense of the deportment owed to tragedy. Katie, by bickering with Clarence, had thrown away the advantage she had gained by fainting. Mrs. Batch was not going to let her retrieve it by shining as a consoler. I hasten to add that this resolve was only sub-conscious in the good woman. Her grief was perfectly sincere. And it was not the less so because with it was mingled a certain joy in the greatness of the calamity. She came of good sound peasant stock. Abiding in her was the spirit of those old songs and ballads in which daisies and daffodillies and lovers' vows and smiles are so strangely inwoven with tombs and ghosts, with murders and all manner of grim things. She had not had education enough to spoil her nerve. She was able to take the rough with the smooth. She was able to take all life for her province, and death too.

The Duke was dead. This was the stupendous outline she had grasped: now let it be filled in. She had been stricken: now let her be racked. Soon after her daughter had moved away, Mrs. Batch dried her eyes, and bade Clarence tell just what had happened. She did not flinch. Modern Katie did.

Such had ever been the Duke's magic in the household that Clarence had at first forgotten to mention that any one else was dead. Of this omission he was glad. It promised him a new lease of importance. Meanwhile, he described in greater detail the Duke's plunge. Mrs. Batch's mind, while she listened, ran ahead, dog-like, into the immediate future, ranging around: "the family" would all be here to-morrow, the Duke's own room must be "put straight" to-night, "I was of speaking"...

Katie's mind harked back to the immediate past—to the tone of that voice, to that hand which she had kissed, to the touch of those lips on her brow, to the door-step she had made so white for him, day by day...

The sound of the rain had long ceased. There was the noise of a gathering wind.

"Then in went a lot of others," Clarence was saying. "And they all shouted out 'Zuleika!' just like he did. Then a lot more went in. First I thought it was some sort of fun. Not it!" And he told how, by inquiries further down the river, he had learned the extent of the disaster. "Hundreds and hundreds of them—ALL of them," he summed up. "And all for the love of HER," he added, as with a sulky salute to Romance.

Mrs. Batch had risen from her chair, the better to cope with such magnitude. She stood with wide-spread arms, silent, gaping. She seemed, by sheer force of sympathy, to be expanding to the dimensions of a crowd.

Intensive Katie recked little of all these other deaths. "I only know," she said, "that he hated her."

"Hundreds and hundreds—ALL," intoned Mrs. Batch, then gave a sudden start, as having remembered something. Mr. Noaks! He, too! She staggered to the door, leaving her actual offspring to their own devices, and went heavily up the stairs, her mind scampering again before her.... If he was safe and sound, dear young gentleman, heaven be praised! and she would break the awful news to him, very gradually. If not, there was another "family" to be solaced; "I'm a mother myself, Mrs. Noaks"...

The sitting-room door was closed. Twice did Mrs. Batch tap on the panel, receiving no answer. She went in, gazed around in the dimness, sighed deeply, and struck a match. Conspicuous on the table lay a piece of paper. She bent to examine it. A piece of lined paper, torn from an exercise book, it was neatly inscribed with the words "What is Life without Love?" The final word and the note of interrogation were somewhat blurred, as by a tear. The match had burnt itself out. The landlady lit another, and read the legend a second time, that she might take in the full pathos of it. Then she sat down in the arm-chair. For some minutes she wept there. Then, having no more, tears, she went out on tip-toe, closing the door very quietly.

As she descended the last flight of stairs, her daughter had just shut the front-door, and was coming along the hall.

"Poor Mr. Noaks—he's gone," said the mother.

"Has he?" said Katie listlessly.

"Yes he has, you heartless girl. What's that you've got in your hand? Why, if it isn't the black-leading! And what have you been doing with that?"

"Let me alone, mother, do," said poor Katie. She had done her lowly task. She had expressed her mourning, as best she could, there where she had been wont to express her love.


And Zuleika? She had done a wise thing, and was where it was best that she should be.

Her face lay upturned on the water's surface, and round it were the masses of her dark hair, half floating, half submerged. Her eyes were closed, and her lips were parted. Not Ophelia in the brook could have seemed more at peace.

"Like a creature native and indued Unto that element," tranquil Zuleika lay.

Gently to and fro her tresses drifted on the water, or under the water went ever ravelling and unravelling. Nothing else of her stirred.

What to her now the loves that she had inspired and played on? the lives lost for her? Little thought had she now of them. Aloof she lay.

Steadily rising from the water was a thick vapour that turned to dew on the window-pane. The air was heavy with scent of violets. These are the flowers of mourning; but their scent here and now signified nothing; for Eau de Violettes was the bath-essence that Zuleika always had.

The bath-room was not of the white-gleaming kind to which she was accustomed. The walls were papered, not tiled, and the bath itself was of japanned tin, framed in mahogany. These things, on the evening of her arrival at the Warden's, had rather distressed her. But she was the better able to bear them because of that well-remembered past when a bath-room was in itself a luxury pined for—days when a not-large and not-full can of not-hot water, slammed down at her bedroom door by a governess-resenting housemaid, was as much as the gods allowed her. And there was, to dulcify for her the bath of this evening, the yet sharper contrast with the plight she had just come home in, sopped, shivering, clung to by her clothes. Because this bath was not a mere luxury, but a necessary precaution, a sure means of salvation from chill, she did the more gratefully bask in it, till Melisande came back to her, laden with warmed towels.

A few minutes before eight o'clock she was fully ready to go down to dinner, with even more than the usual glow of health, and hungry beyond her wont.

Yet, as she went down, her heart somewhat misgave her. Indeed, by force of the wide experience she had had as a governess, she never did feel quite at her ease when she was staying in a private house: the fear of not giving satisfaction haunted her; she was always on her guard; the shadow of dismissal absurdly hovered. And to-night she could not tell herself, as she usually did, not to be so silly. If her grandfather knew already the motive by which those young men had been actuated, dinner with him might be a rather strained affair. He might tell her, in so many words, that he wished he had not invited her to Oxford.

Through the open door of the drawing room she saw him, standing majestic, draped in a voluminous black gown. Her instinct was to run away; but this she conquered. She went straight in, remembering not to smile.

"Ah, ah," said the Warden, shaking a forefinger at her with old-world playfulness. "And what have you to say for yourself?"

Relieved, she was also a trifle shocked. Was it possible that he, a responsible old man, could take things so lightly?

"Oh, grand-papa," she answered, hanging her head, "what CAN I say? It is—it is too, too, dreadful."

"There, there, my dear. I was but jesting. If you have had an agreeable time, you are forgiven for playing truant. Where have you been all day?"

She saw that she had misjudged him. "I have just come from the river," she said gravely.

"Yes? And did the College make its fourth bump to-night?"

"I—I don't know, grand-papa. There was so much happening. It—I will tell you all about it at dinner."

"Ah, but to-night," he said, indicating his gown, "I cannot be with you. The bump-supper, you know. I have to preside in Hall."

Zuleika had forgotten there was to be a bump-supper, and, though she was not very sure what a bump-supper was, she felt it would be a mockery to-night.

"But grand-papa—" she began.

"My dear, I cannot dissociate myself from the life of the College. And, alas," he said, looking at the clock, "I must leave you now. As soon as you have finished dinner, you might, if you would care to, come and peep down at us from the gallery. There is apt to be some measure of noise and racket, but all of it good-humoured and—boys will be boys—pardonable. Will you come?"

"Perhaps, grand-papa," she said awkwardly. Left alone, she hardly knew whether to laugh or cry. In a moment, the butler came to her rescue, telling her that dinner was served.

As the figure of the Warden emerged from Salt Cellar into the Front Quadrangle, a hush fell on the group of gowned Fellows outside the Hall. Most of them had only just been told the news, and (such is the force of routine in an University) were still sceptical of it. And in face of these doubts the three or four dons who had been down at the river were now half ready to believe that there must, after all, be some mistake, and that in this world of illusions they had to-night been specially tricked. To rebut this theory, there was the notable absence of undergraduates. Or was this an illusion, too? Men of thought, agile on the plane of ideas, devils of fellows among books, they groped feebly in this matter of actual life and death. The sight of their Warden heartened them. After all, he was the responsible person. He was father of the flock that had strayed, and grandfather of the beautiful Miss Zuleika.

Like her, they remembered not to smile in greeting him.

"Good evening, gentlemen," he said. "The storm seems to have passed."

There was a murmur of "Yes, Warden."

"And how did our boat acquit itself?"

There was a shuffling pause. Every one looked at the Sub-Warden: it was manifestly for him to break the news, or to report the hallucination. He was nudged forward—a large man, with a large beard at which he plucked nervously.

"Well, really, Warden," he said, "we—we hardly know,"* and he ended with what can only be described as a giggle. He fell low in the esteem of his fellows.

*Those of my readers who are interested in athletic sports will remember the long controversy that raged as to whether Judas had actually bumped Magdalen; and they will not need to be minded that it was mainly through the evidence of Mr. E. T. A. Cook, who had been on the towing-path at the time, that the O. U. B. C. decided the point in Judas' favour, and fixed the order of the boats for the following year accordingly.

Thinking of that past Sub-Warden whose fame was linked with the sun-dial, the Warden eyed this one keenly.

"Well, gentlemen," he presently said, "our young men seem to be already at table. Shall we follow their example?" And he led the way up the steps.

Already at table? The dons' dubiety toyed with this hypothesis. But the aspect of the Hall's interior was hard to explain away. Here were the three long tables, stretching white towards the dais, and laden with the usual crockery and cutlery, and with pots of flowers in honour of the occasion. And here, ranged along either wall, was the usual array of scouts, motionless, with napkins across their arms. But that was all.

It became clear to the Warden that some organised prank or protest was afoot. Dignity required that he should take no heed whatsoever. Looking neither to the right nor to the left, stately he approached the dais, his Fellows to heel.

In Judas, as in other Colleges, grace before meat is read by the Senior Scholar. The Judas grace (composed, they say, by Christopher Whitrid himself) is noted for its length and for the excellence of its Latinity. Who was to read it to-night? The Warden, having searched his mind vainly for a precedent, was driven to create one.

"The Junior Fellow," he said, "will read grace."

Blushing to the roots of his hair, and with crablike gait, Mr. Pedby, the Junior Fellow, went and unhooked from the wall that little shield of wood on which the words of the grace are carven. Mr. Pedby was—Mr. Pedby is—a mathematician. His treatise on the Higher Theory of Short Division by Decimals had already won for him an European reputation. Judas was—Judas is—proud of Pedby. Nor is it denied that in undertaking the duty thrust on him he quickly controlled his nerves and read the Latin out in ringing accents. Better for him had he not done so. The false quantities he made were so excruciating and so many that, while the very scouts exchanged glances, the dons at the high table lost all command of their features, and made horrible noises in the effort to contain themselves. The very Warden dared not look from his plate.

In every breast around the high table, behind every shirt-front or black silk waistcoat, glowed the recognition of a new birth. Suddenly, unheralded, a thing of highest destiny had fallen into their academic midst. The stock of Common Room talk had to-night been re-inforced and enriched for all time. Summers and winters would come and go, old faces would vanish, giving place to new, but the story of Pedby's grace would be told always. Here was a tradition that generations of dons yet unborn would cherish and chuckle over. Something akin to awe mingled itself with the subsiding merriment. And the dons, having finished their soup, sipped in silence the dry brown sherry.

Those who sat opposite to the Warden, with their backs to the void, were oblivious of the matter that had so recently teased them. They were conscious only of an agreeable hush, in which they peered down the vistas of the future, watching the tradition of Pedby's grace as it rolled brighter and ever brighter down to eternity.

The pop of a champagne cork startled them to remembrance that this was a bump-supper, and a bump-supper of a peculiar kind. The turbot that came after the soup, the champagne that succeeded the sherry, helped to quicken in these men of thought the power to grapple with a reality. The aforesaid three or four who had been down at the river recovered their lost belief in the evidence of their eyes and ears. In the rest was a spirit of receptivity which, as the meal went on, mounted to conviction. The Sub-Warden made a second and more determined attempt to enlighten the Warden; but the Warden's eye met his with a suspicion so cruelly pointed that he again floundered and gave in.

All adown those empty other tables gleamed the undisturbed cutlery, and the flowers in the pots innocently bloomed. And all adown either wall, unneeded but undisbanded, the scouts remained. Some of the elder ones stood with closed eyes and heads sunk forward, now and again jerking themselves erect, and blinking around, wondering, remembering.

And for a while this scene was looked down on by a not disinterested stranger. For a while, her chin propped on her hands, Zuleika leaned over the rail of the gallery, just as she had lately leaned over the barge's rail, staring down and along. But there was no spark of triumph now in her eyes; only a deep melancholy; and in her mouth a taste as of dust and ashes. She thought of last night, and of all the buoyant life that this Hall had held. Of the Duke she thought, and of the whole vivid and eager throng of his fellows in love. Her will, their will, had been done. But, there rose to her lips the old, old question that withers victory—"To what end?" Her eyes ranged along the tables, and an appalling sense of loneliness swept over her. She turned away, wrapping the folds of her cloak closer across her breast. Not in this College only, but through and through Oxford, there was no heart that beat for her—no, not one, she told herself, with that instinct for self-torture which comes to souls in torment. She was utterly alone to-night in the midst of a vast indifference. She! She! Was it possible? Were the gods so merciless? Ah no, surely...

Down at the high table the feast drew to its close, and very different was the mood of the feasters from that of the young woman whose glance had for a moment rested on their unromantic heads. Generations of undergraduates had said that Oxford would be all very well but for the dons. Do you suppose that the dons had had no answering sentiment? Youth is a very good thing to possess, no doubt; but it is a tiresome setting for maturity. Youth all around prancing, vociferating, mocking; callow and alien youth, having to be looked after and studied and taught, as though nothing but it mattered, term after term—and now, all of a sudden, in mid-term, peace, ataraxy, a profound and leisured stillness. No lectures to deliver to-morrow; no "essays" to hear and criticise; time for the unvexed pursuit of pure learning...

As the Fellows passed out on their way to Common Room, there to tackle with a fresh appetite Pedby's grace, they paused, as was their wont, on the steps of the Hall, looking up at the sky, envisaging the weather. The wind had dropped. There was even a glimpse of the moon riding behind the clouds. And now, a solemn and plangent token of Oxford's perpetuity, the first stroke of Great Tom sounded.


Stroke by stroke, the great familiar monody of that incomparable curfew rose and fell in the stillness.

Nothing of Oxford lingers more surely than it in the memory of Oxford men; and to one revisiting these groves nothing is more eloquent of that scrupulous historic economy whereby his own particular past is utilised as the general present and future. "All's as it was, all's as it will be," says Great Tom; and that is what he stubbornly said on the evening I here record.

Stroke by measured and leisured stroke, the old euphonious clangour pervaded Oxford, spreading out over the meadows, along the river, audible in Iffley. But to the dim groups gathering and dispersing on either bank, and to the silent workers in the boats, the bell's message came softened, equivocal; came as a requiem for these dead.

Over the closed gates of Iffley lock, the water gushed down, eager for the sacrament of the sea. Among the supine in the field hard by, there was one whose breast bore a faint-gleaming star. And bending over him, looking down at him with much love and pity in her eyes, was the shade of Nellie O'Mora, that "fairest witch," to whose memory he had to-day atoned.

And yonder, "sitting upon the river-bank o'ergrown," with questioning eyes, was another shade, more habituated to these haunts—the shade known so well to bathers "in the abandoned lasher," and to dancers "around the Fyfield elm in May." At the bell's final stroke, the Scholar Gipsy rose, letting fall on the water his gathered wild-flowers, and passed towards Cumnor.

And now, duly, throughout Oxford, the gates of the Colleges were closed, and closed were the doors of the lodging-houses. Every night, for many years, at this hour precisely, Mrs. Batch had come out from her kitchen, to turn the key in the front-door. The function had long ago become automatic. To-night, however, it was the cue for further tears. These did not cease at her return to the kitchen, where she had gathered about her some sympathetic neighbours—women of her own age and kind, capacious of tragedy; women who might be relied on; founts of ejaculation, wells of surmise, downpours of remembered premonitions.

With his elbows on the kitchen table, and his knuckles to his brow, sat Clarence, intent on belated "prep." Even an eye-witness of disaster may pall if he repeat his story too often. Clarence had noted in the last recital that he was losing his hold on his audience. So now he sat committing to memory the names of the cantons of Switzerland, and waving aside with a harsh gesture such questions as were still put to him by the women.

Katie had sought refuge in the need for "putting the gentlemen's rooms straight," against the arrival of the two families to-morrow. Duster in hand, and by the light of a single candle that barely survived the draught from the open window, she moved to and fro about the Duke's room, a wan and listless figure, casting queerest shadows on the ceiling. There were other candles that she might have lit, but this ambiguous gloom suited her sullen humour. Yes, I am sorry to say, Katie was sullen. She had not ceased to mourn the Duke; but it was even more anger than grief that she felt at his dying. She was as sure as ever that he had not loved Miss Dobson; but this only made it the more outrageous that he had died because of her. What was there in this woman that men should so demean themselves for her? Katie, as you know, had at first been unaffected by the death of the undergraduates at large. But, because they too had died for Zuleika, she was bitterly incensed against them now. What could they have admired in such a woman? She didn't even look like a lady. Katie caught the dim reflection of herself in the mirror. She took the candle from the table, and examined the reflection closely. She was sure she was just as pretty as Miss Dobson. It was only the clothes that made the difference—the clothes and the behaviour. Katie threw back her head, and smiled brilliantly, hand on hip. She nodded reassuringly at herself; and the black pearl and the pink danced a duet. She put the candle down, and undid her hair, roughly parting it on one side, and letting it sweep down over the further eyebrow. She fixed it in that fashion, and posed accordingly. Now! But gradually her smile relaxed, and a mist came to her eyes. For she had to admit that even so, after all, she hadn't just that something which somehow Miss Dobson had. She put away from her the hasty dream she had had of a whole future generation of undergraduates drowning themselves, every one, in honour of her. She went wearily on with her work.

Presently, after a last look round, she went up the creaking stairs, to do Mr. Noaks' room.

She found on the table that screed which her mother had recited so often this evening. She put it in the waste-paper basket.

Also on the table were a lexicon, a Thucydides, and some note-books. These she took and shelved without a tear for the closed labours they bore witness to.

The next disorder that met her eye was one that gave her pause—seemed, indeed, to transfix her.

Mr. Noaks had never, since he came to lodge here, possessed more than one pair of boots. This fact had been for her a lasting source of annoyance; for it meant that she had to polish Mr. Noaks' boots always in the early morning, when there were so many other things to be done, instead of choosing her own time. Her annoyance had been all the keener because Mr. Noaks' boots more than made up in size for what they lacked in number. Either of them singly took more time and polish than any other pair imaginable. She would have recognised them, at a glance, anywhere. Even so now, it was at a glance that she recognised the toes of them protruding from beneath the window-curtain. She dismissed the theory that Mr. Noaks might have gone utterly unshod to the river. She scouted the hypothesis that his ghost could be shod thus. By process of elimination she arrived at the truth. "Mr. Noaks," she said quietly, "come out of there."

There was a slight quiver of the curtain; no more. Katie repeated her words. There was a pause, then a convulsion of the curtain. Noaks stood forth.

Always, in polishing his boots, Katie had found herself thinking of him as a man of prodigious stature, well though she knew him to be quite tiny. Even so now, at recognition of his boots, she had fixed her eyes to meet his, when he should emerge, a full yard too high. With a sharp drop she focussed him.

"By what right," he asked, "do you come prying about my room?"

This was a stroke so unexpected that it left Katie mute. It equally surprised Noaks, who had been about to throw himself on his knees and implore this girl not to betray him. He was quick, though, to clinch his advantage.

"This," he said, "is the first time I have caught you. Let it be the last."

Was this the little man she had so long despised, and so superciliously served? His very smallness gave him an air of concentrated force. She remembered having read that all the greatest men in history had been of less than the middle height. And—oh, her heart leapt—here was the one man who had scorned to die for Miss Dobson. He alone had held out against the folly of his fellows. Sole and splendid survivor he stood, rock-footed, before her. And impulsively she abased herself, kneeling at his feet as at the great double altar of some dark new faith.

"You are great, sir, you are wonderful," she said, gazing up to him, rapt. It was the first time she had ever called him "sir."

It is easier, as Michelet suggested, for a woman to change her opinion of a man than for him to change his opinion of himself. Noaks, despite the presence of mind he had shown a few moments ago, still saw himself as he had seen himself during the past hours: that is, as an arrant little coward—one who by his fear to die had put himself outside the pale of decent manhood. He had meant to escape from the house at dead of night and, under an assumed name, work his passage out to Australia—a land which had always made strong appeal to his imagination. No one, he had reflected, would suppose because his body was not retrieved from the water that he had not perished with the rest. And he had looked to Australia to make a man of him yet: in Encounter Bay, perhaps, or in the Gulf of Carpentaria, he might yet end nobly.

Thus Katie's behaviour was as much an embarrassment as a relief; and he asked her in what way he was great and wonderful.

"Modest, like all heroes!" she cried, and, still kneeling, proceeded to sing his praises with a so infectious fervour that Noaks did begin to feel he had done a fine thing in not dying. After all, was it not moral cowardice as much as love that had tempted him to die? He had wrestled with it, thrown it. "Yes," said he, when her rhapsody was over, "perhaps I am modest."

"And that is why you hid yourself just now?"

"Yes," he gladly said. "I hid myself for the same reason," he added, "when I heard your mother's footstep."

"But," she faltered, with a sudden doubt, "that bit of writing which Mother found on the table—"

"That? Oh, that was only a general reflection, copied out of a book."

"Oh, won't poor Mother be glad when she knows!"

"I don't want her to know," said Noaks, with a return of nervousness. "You mustn't tell any one. I—the fact is—"

"Ah, that is so like you!" the girl said tenderly. "I suppose it was your modesty that all this while blinded me. Please, sir, I have a confession to make to you. Never till to-night have I loved you."

Exquisite was the shock of these words to one who, not without reason, had always assumed that no woman would ever love him. Before he knew what he was doing, he had bent down and kissed the sweet upturned face. It was the first kiss he had ever given outside his family circle. It was an artless and a resounding kiss.

He started back, dazed. What manner of man, he wondered, was he? A coward, piling profligacy on poltroonery? Or a hero, claiming exemption from moral law? What was done could not be undone; but it could be righted. He drew off from the little finger of his left hand that iron ring which, after a twinge of rheumatism, he had to-day resumed.

"Wear it," he said.

"You mean—?" She leapt to her feet.

"That we are engaged. I hope you don't think we have any choice?"

She clapped her hands, like the child she was, and adjusted the ring.

"It is very pretty," she said.

"It is very simple," he answered lightly. "But," he added, with a change of tone, "it is very durable. And that is the important thing. For I shall not be in a position to marry before I am forty."

A shadow of disappointment hovered over Katie's clear young brow, but was instantly chased away by the thought that to be engaged was almost as splendid as to be married.

"Recently," said her lover, "I meditated leaving Oxford for Australia. But now that you have come into my life, I am compelled to drop that notion, and to carve out the career I had first set for myself. A year hence, if I get a Second in Greats—and I SHALL" he said, with a fierce look that entranced her—"I shall have a very good chance of an assistant-mastership in a good private school. In eighteen years, if I am careful—and, with you waiting for me, I SHALL be careful—my savings will enable me to start a small school of my own, and to take a wife. Even then it would be more prudent to wait another five years, no doubt. But there was always a streak of madness in the Noakses. I say 'Prudence to the winds!'"

"Ah, don't say that!" exclaimed Katie, laying a hand on his sleeve.

"You are right. Never hesitate to curb me. And," he said, touching the ring, "an idea has just occurred to me. When the time comes, let this be the wedding-ring. Gold is gaudy—not at all the thing for a schoolmaster's bride. It is a pity," he muttered, examining her through his spectacles, "that your hair is so golden. A schoolmaster's bride should—Good heavens! Those ear-rings! Where did you get THEM?"

"They were given to me to-day," Katie faltered. "The Duke gave me them."


"Please, sir, he gave me them as a memento."

"And that memento shall immediately be handed over to his executors."

"Yes, sir."

"I should think so!" was on the tip of Noaks' tongue, but suddenly he ceased to see the pearls as trinkets finite and inapposite—saw them, in a flash, as things transmutable by sale hereafter into desks, forms, black-boards, maps, lockers, cubicles, gravel soil, diet unlimited, and special attention to backward pupils. Simultaneously, he saw how mean had been his motive for repudiating the gift. What more despicable than jealousy of a man deceased? What sillier than to cast pearls before executors? Sped by nothing but the pulse of his hot youth, he had wooed and won this girl. Why flinch from her unsought dowry?

He told her his vision. Her eyes opened wide to it. "And oh," she cried, "then we can be married as soon as you take your degree!"

He bade her not be so foolish. Who ever heard of a head-master aged three-and-twenty? What parent or guardian would trust a stripling? The engagement must run its course. "And," he said, fidgeting, "do you know that I have hardly done any reading to-day?"

"You want to read NOW—TO-NIGHT?"

"I must put in a good two hours. Where are the books that were on my table?"

Reverently—he was indeed a king of men—she took the books down from the shelf, and placed them where she had found them. And she knew not which thrilled her the more—the kiss he gave her at parting, or the tone in which he told her that the one thing he could not and would not stand was having his books disturbed.

Still less than before attuned to the lugubrious session downstairs, she went straight up to her attic, and did a little dance there in the dark. She threw open the lattice of the dormer-window, and leaned out, smiling, throbbing.

The Emperors, gazing up, saw her happy, and wondered; saw Noaks' ring on her finger, and would fain have shaken their grey heads.

Presently she was aware of a protrusion from the window beneath hers. The head of her beloved! Fondly she watched it, wished she could reach down to stroke it. She loved him for having, after all, left his books. It was sweet to be his excuse. Should she call softly to him? No, it might shame him to be caught truant. He had already chidden her for prying. So she did but gaze down on his head silently, wondering whether in eighteen years it would be bald, wondering whether her own hair would still have the fault of being golden. Most of all, she wondered whether he loved her half so much as she loved him.

This happened to be precisely what he himself was wondering. Not that he wished himself free. He was one of those in whom the will does not, except under very great pressure, oppose the conscience. What pressure here? Miss Batch was a superior girl; she would grace any station in life. He had always been rather in awe of her. It was a fine thing to be suddenly loved by her, to be in a position to over-rule her every whim. Plighting his troth, he had feared she would be an encumbrance, only to find she was a lever. But—was he deeply in love with her? How was it that he could not at this moment recall her features, or the tone of her voice, while of deplorable Miss Dobson, every lineament, every accent, so vividly haunted him? Try as he would to beat off these memories, he failed, and—some very great pressure here!—was glad he failed; glad though he found himself relapsing to the self-contempt from which Miss Batch had raised him. He scorned himself for being alive. And again, he scorned himself for his infidelity. Yet he was glad he could not forget that face, that voice—that queen. She had smiled at him when she borrowed the ring. She had said "Thank you." Oh, and now, at this very moment, sleeping or waking, actually she was somewhere—she! herself! This was an incredible, an indubitable, an all-magical fact for the little fellow.

From the street below came a faint cry that was as the cry of his own heart, uttered by her own lips. Quaking, he peered down, and dimly saw, over the way, a cloaked woman.

She—yes, it was she herself—came gliding to the middle of the road, gazing up at him.

"At last!" he heard her say. His instinct was to hide himself from the queen he had not died for. Yet he could not move.

"Or," she quavered, "are you a phantom sent to mock me? Speak!"

"Good evening," he said huskily.

"I knew," she murmured, "I knew the gods were not so cruel. Oh man of my need," she cried, stretching out her arms to him, "oh heaven-sent, I see you only as a dark outline against the light of your room. But I know you. Your name is Noaks, isn't it? Dobson is mine. I am your Warden's grand-daughter. I am faint and foot-sore. I have ranged this desert city in search of—of YOU. Let me hear from your own lips that you love me. Tell me in your own words—" She broke off with a little scream, and did not stand with forefinger pointed at him, gazing, gasping.

"Listen, Miss Dobson," he stammered, writhing under what he took to be the lash of her irony. "Give me time to explain. You see me here—"

"Hush," she cried, "man of my greater, my deeper and nobler need! Oh hush, ideal which not consciously I was out for to-night—ideal vouchsafed to me by a crowning mercy! I sought a lover, I find a master. I sought but a live youth, was blind to what his survival would betoken. Oh master, you think me light and wicked. You stare coldly down at me through your spectacles, whose glint I faintly discern now that the moon peeps forth. You would be readier to forgive me the havoc I have wrought if you could for the life of you understand what charm your friends found in me. You marvel, as at the skull of Helen of Troy. No, you don't think me hideous: you simply think me plain. There was a time when I thought YOU plain—you whose face, now that the moon shines full on it, is seen to be of a beauty that is flawless without being insipid. Oh that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek! You shudder at the notion of such contact. My voice grates on you. You try to silence me with frantic though exquisite gestures, and with noises inarticulate but divine. I bow to your will, master. Chasten me with your tongue."

"I am not what you think me," gibbered Noaks. "I was not afraid to die for you. I love you. I was on my way to the river this afternoon, but I—I tripped and sprained my ankle, and—and jarred my spine. They carried me back here. I am still very weak. I can't put my foot to the ground. As soon as I can—"

Just then Zuleika heard a little sharp sound which, for the fraction of an instant, before she knew it to be a clink of metal on the pavement, she thought was the breaking of the heart within her. Looking quickly down, she heard a shrill girlish laugh aloft. Looking quickly up, she descried at the unlit window above her lover's a face which she remembered as that of the land-lady's daughter.

"Find it, Miss Dobson," laughed the girl. "Crawl for it. It can't have rolled far, and it's the only engagement-ring you'll get from HIM," she said, pointing to the livid face twisted painfully up at her from the lower window. "Grovel for it, Miss Dobson. Ask him to step down and help you. Oh, he can! That was all lies about his spine and ankle. Afraid, that's what he was—I see it all now—afraid of the water. I wish you'd found him as I did—skulking behind the curtain. Oh, you're welcome to him."

"Don't listen," Noaks cried down. "Don't listen to that person. I admit I have trifled with her affections. This is her revenge—these wicked untruths—these—these—"

Zuleika silenced him with a gesture. "Your tone to me," she said up to Katie, "is not without offence; but the stamp of truth is on what you tell me. We have both been deceived in this man, and are, in some sort, sisters."

"Sisters?" cried Katie. "Your sisters are the snake and the spider, though neither of them wishes it known. I loathe you. And the Duke loathed you, too."

"What's that?" gasped Zuleika.

"Didn't he tell you? He told me. And I warrant he told you, too."

"He died for love of me: d'you hear?"

"Ah, you'd like people to think so, wouldn't you? Does a man who loves a woman give away the keepsake she gave him? Look!" Katie leaned forward, pointing to her ear-rings. "He loved ME," she cried. "He put them in with his own hands—told me to wear them always. And he kissed me—kissed me good-bye in the street, where every one could see. He kissed me," she sobbed. "No other man shall ever do that."

"Ah, that he did!" said a voice level with Zuleika. It was the voice of Mrs. Batch, who a few moments ago had opened the door for her departing guests.

"Ah, that he did!" echoed the guests.

"Never mind them, Miss Dobson," cried Noaks, and at the sound of his voice Mrs. Batch rushed into the middle of the road, to gaze up. "I love you. Think what you will of me. I—"

"You!" flashed Zuleika. "As for you, little Sir Lily Liver, leaning out there, and, I frankly tell you, looking like nothing so much as a gargoyle hewn by a drunken stone-mason for the adornment of a Methodist Chapel in one of the vilest suburbs of Leeds or Wigan, I do but felicitate the river-god and his nymphs that their water was saved to-day by your cowardice from the contamination of your plunge."

"Shame on you, Mr. Noaks," said Mrs. Batch, "making believe you were dead—"

"Shame!" screamed Clarence, who had darted out into the fray.

"I found him hiding behind the curtain," chimed in Katie.

"And I a mother to him!" said Mrs. Batch, shaking her fist. "'What is life without love?' indeed! Oh, the cowardly, underhand—"

"Wretch," prompted her cronies.

"Let's kick him out of the house!" suggested Clarence, dancing for joy.

Zuleika, smiling brilliantly down at the boy, said "Just you run up and fight him!"

"Right you are," he answered, with a look of knightly devotion, and darted back into the house.

"No escape!" she cried up to Noaks. "You've got to fight him now. He and you are just about evenly matched, I fancy."

But, grimly enough, Zuleika's estimate was never put to the test. Is it harder for a coward to fight with his fists than to kill himself? Or again, is it easier for him to die than to endure a prolonged cross-fire of women's wrath and scorn? This I know: that in the life of even the least and meanest of us there is somewhere one fine moment—one high chance not missed. I like to think it was by operation of this law that Noaks had now clambered out upon the window-sill, silencing, sickening, scattering like chaff the women beneath him.

He was already not there when Clarence bounded into the room. "Come on!" yelled the boy, first thrusting his head behind the door, then diving beneath the table, then plucking aside either window-curtain, vowing vengeance.

Vengeance was not his. Down on the road without, not yet looked at but by the steadfast eyes of the Emperors, the last of the undergraduates lay dead; and fleet-footed Zuleika, with her fingers still pressed to her ears, had taken full toll now.


Twisting and turning in her flight, with wild eyes that fearfully retained the image of that small man gathering himself to spring, Zuleika found herself suddenly where she could no further go.

She was in that grim ravine by which you approach New College. At sight of the great shut gate before her, she halted, and swerved to the wall. She set her brow and the palms of her hands against the cold stones. She threw back her head, and beat the stones with her fists.

It was not only what she had seen, it was what she had barely saved herself from seeing, and what she had not quite saved herself from hearing, that she strove so piteously to forget. She was sorrier for herself, angrier, than she had been last night when the Duke laid hands on her. Why should every day have a horrible ending? Last night she had avenged herself. To-night's outrage was all the more foul and mean because of its certain immunity. And the fact that she had in some measure brought it on herself did but whip her rage. What a fool she had been to taunt the man! Yet no, how could she have foreseen that he would—do THAT? How could she have guessed that he, who had not dared seemly death for her in the gentle river, would dare—THAT?

She shuddered the more as she now remembered that this very day, in that very house, she had invited for her very self a similar fate. What if the Duke had taken her word? Strange! she wouldn't have flinched then. She had felt no horror at the notion of such a death. And thus she now saw Noaks' conduct in a new light—saw that he had but wished to prove his love, not at all to affront her. This understanding quickly steadied her nerves. She did not need now to forget what she had seen; and, not needing to forget it—thus are our brains fashioned—she was able to forget it.

But by removal of one load her soul was but bared for a more grievous other. Her memory harked back to what had preceded the crisis. She recalled those moments of doomed rapture in which her heart had soared up to the apocalyptic window—recalled how, all the while she was speaking to the man there, she had been chafed by the inadequacy of language. Oh, how much more she had meant than she could express! Oh, the ecstasy of that self-surrender! And the brevity of it! the sudden odious awakening! Thrice in this Oxford she had been duped. Thrice all that was fine and sweet in her had leapt forth, only to be scourged back into hiding. Poor heart inhibited! She gazed about her. The stone alley she had come into, the terrible shut gate, were for her a visible symbol of the destiny she had to put up with. Wringing her hands, she hastened along the way she had come. She vowed she would never again set foot in Oxford. She wished herself out of the hateful little city to-night. She even wished herself dead.

She deserved to suffer, you say? Maybe. I merely state that she did suffer.

Emerging into Catherine Street, she knew whereabouts she was, and made straight for Judas, turning away her eyes as she skirted the Broad, that place of mocked hopes and shattered ideals.

Coming into Judas Street, she remembered the scene of yesterday—the happy man with her, the noise of the vast happy crowd. She suffered in a worse form what she had suffered in the gallery of the Hall. For now—did I not say she was not without imagination?—her self-pity was sharpened by remorse for the hundreds of homes robbed. She realised the truth of what the poor Duke had once said to her: she was a danger in the world... Aye, and all the more dire now. What if the youth of all Europe were moved by Oxford's example? That was a horribly possible thing. It must be reckoned with. It must be averted. She must not show herself to men. She must find some hiding-place, and there abide. Were this a hardship? she asked herself. Was she not sickened for ever of men's homage? And was it not clear now that the absorbing need in her soul, the need to love, would never—except for a brief while, now and then, and by an unfortunate misunderstanding—be fulfilled?

So long ago that you may not remember, I compared her favourably with the shepherdess Marcella, and pleaded her capacity for passion as an excuse for her remaining at large. I hope you will now, despite your rather evident animus against her, set this to her credit: that she did, so soon as she realised the hopelessness of her case, make just that decision which I blamed Marcella for not making at the outset. It was as she stood on the Warden's door-step that she decided to take the veil.

With something of a conventual hush in her voice, she said to the butler, "Please tell my maid that we are leaving by a very early train to-morrow, and that she must pack my things to-night."

"Very well, Miss," said the butler. "The Warden," he added, "is in the study, Miss, and was asking for you."

She could face her grandfather without a tremour—now. She would hear meekly whatever reproaches he might have for her, but their sting was already drawn by the surprise she had in store for him.

It was he who seemed a trifle nervous. In his

"Well, did you come and peep down from the gallery?" there was a distinct tremour.

Throwing aside her cloak, she went quickly to him, and laid a hand on the lapel of his coat. "Poor grand-papa!" she said.

"Nonsense, my dear child," he replied, disengaging himself. "I didn't give it a thought. If the young men chose to be so silly as to stay away, I—I—"

"Grand-papa, haven't you been told YET?"

"Told? I am a Gallio for such follies. I didn't inquire."

"But (forgive me, grand-papa, if I seem to you, for the moment, pert) you are Warden here. It is your duty, even your privilege, to GUARD. Is it not? Well, I grant you the adage that it is useless to bolt the stable door when the horse has been stolen. But what shall be said of the ostler who doesn't know—won't even 'inquire' whether—the horse HAS been stolen, grand-papa?"

"You speak in riddles, Zuleika."

"I wish with all my heart I need not tell you the answers. I think I have a very real grievance against your staff—or whatever it is you call your subordinates here. I go so far as to dub them dodderers. And I shall the better justify that term by not shirking the duty they have left undone. The reason why there were no undergraduates in your Hall to-night is that they were all dead."

"Dead?" he gasped. "Dead? It is disgraceful that I was not told. What did they die of?"

"Of me."

"Of you?"

"Yes. I am an epidemic, grand-papa, a scourge, such as the world has not known. Those young men drowned themselves for love of me."

He came towards her. "Do you realise, girl, what this means to me? I am an old man. For more than half a century I have known this College. To it, when my wife died, I gave all that there was of heart left in me. For thirty years I have been Warden; and in that charge has been all my pride. I have had no thought but for this great College, its honour and prosperity. More than once lately have I asked myself whether my eyes were growing dim, my hand less steady. 'No' was my answer, and again 'No.' And thus it is that I have lingered on to let Judas be struck down from its high eminence, shamed in the eyes of England—a College for ever tainted, and of evil omen." He raised his head. "The disgrace to myself is nothing. I care not how parents shall rage against me, and the Heads of other Colleges make merry over my decrepitude. It is because you have wrought the downfall of Judas that I am about to lay my undying curse on you."

"You mustn't do that!" she cried. "It would be a sort of sacrilege. I am going to be a nun. Besides, why should you? I can quite well understand your feeling for Judas. But how is Judas more disgraced than any other College? If it were only the Judas undergraduates who had—"

"There were others?" cried the Warden. "How many?"

"All. All the boys from all the Colleges."

The Warden heaved a deep sigh. "Of course," he said, "this changes the aspect of the whole matter. I wish you had made it clear at once. You gave me a very great shock," he said sinking into his arm-chair, "and I have not yet recovered. You must study the art of exposition."

"That will depend on the rules of the convent."

"Ah, I forgot that you were going into a convent. Anglican, I hope?"

Anglican, she supposed.

"As a young man," he said, "I saw much of dear old Dr. Pusey. It might have somewhat reconciled him to my marriage if he had known that my grand-daughter would take the veil." He adjusted his glasses, and looked at her. "Are you sure you have a vocation?"

"Yes. I want to be out of the world. I want to do no more harm."

He eyed her musingly. "That," he said, "is rather a revulsion than a vocation. I remember that I ventured to point out to Dr. Pusey the difference between those two things, when he was almost persuading me to enter a Brotherhood founded by one of his friends. It may be that the world would be well rid of you, my dear child. But it is not the world only that we must consider. Would you grace the recesses of the Church?"

"I could but try," said Zuleika.

"'You could but try' are the very words Dr. Pusey used to me. I ventured to say that in such a matter effort itself was a stigma of unfitness. For all my moods of revulsion, I knew that my place was in the world. I stayed there."

"But suppose, grand-papa"—and, seeing in fancy the vast agitated flotilla of crinolines, she could not forbear a smile—"suppose all the young ladies of that period had drowned themselves for love of you?"

Her smile seemed to nettle the Warden. "I was greatly admired," he said. "Greatly," he repeated.

"And you liked that, grand-papa?"

"Yes, my dear. Yes, I am afraid I did. But I never encouraged it."

"Your own heart was never touched?"

"Never, until I met Laura Frith."

"Who was she?"

"She was my future wife."

"And how was it you singled her out from the rest? Was she very beautiful?"

"No. It cannot be said that she was beautiful. Indeed, she was accounted plain. I think it was her great dignity that attracted me. She did not smile archly at me, nor shake her ringlets. In those days it was the fashion for young ladies to embroider slippers for such men in holy orders as best pleased their fancy. I received hundreds—thousands—of such slippers. But never a pair from Laura Frith."

"She did not love you?" asked Zuleika, who had seated herself on the floor at her grandfather's feet.

I concluded that she did not. It interested me very greatly. It fired me.

"Was she incapable of love?"

"No, it was notorious in her circle that she had loved often, but loved in vain."

"Why did she marry you?"

"I think she was fatigued by my importunities. She was not very strong. But it may be that she married me out of pique. She never told me. I did not inquire."

"Yet you were very happy with her?"

"While she lived, I was ideally happy."

The young woman stretched out a hand, and laid it on the clasped hands of the old man. He sat gazing into the past. She was silent for a while; and in her eyes, still fixed intently on his face, there were tears.

"Grand-papa dear"—but there were tears in her voice, too.

"My child, you don't understand. If I had needed pity—"

"I do understand—so well. I wasn't pitying you, dear, I was envying you a little."

"Me?—an old man with only the remembrance of happiness?"

"You, who have had happiness granted to you. That isn't what made me cry, though. I cried because I was glad. You and I, with all this great span of years between us, and yet—so wonderfully alike! I had always thought of myself as a creature utterly apart."

"Ah, that is how all young people think of themselves. It wears off. Tell me about this wonderful resemblance of ours."

He sat attentive while she described her heart to him. But when, at the close of her confidences, she said, "So you see it's a case of sheer heredity, grand-papa," the word "Fiddlesticks!" would out.

"Forgive me, my dear," he said, patting her hand. "I was very much interested. But I do believe young people are even more staggered by themselves than they were in my day. And then, all these grand theories they fall back on! Heredity... as if there were something to baffle us in the fact of a young woman liking to be admired! And as if it were passing strange of her to reserve her heart for a man she can respect and look up to! And as if a man's indifference to her were not of all things the likeliest to give her a sense of inferiority to him! You and I, my dear, may in some respects be very queer people, but in the matter of the affections we are ordinary enough."

"Oh grand-papa, do you really mean that?" she cried eagerly.

"At my age, a man husbands his resources. He says nothing that he does not really mean. The indifference between you and other young women is that which lay also between me and other young men: a special attractiveness... Thousands of slippers, did I say? Tens of thousands. I had hoarded them with a fatuous pride. On the evening of my betrothal I made a bonfire of them, visible from three counties. I danced round it all night." And from his old eyes darted even now the reflections of those flames.

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