IT was a calm, lovely evening. The moon was rising over the sea, and the sea was slowly silvering under it. A soft breeze breathed gently, full of the scents of flowers; and in the low sky of the west there yet lingered a tender peach-colour.

The ladies were sitting about on chairs, grouped together, but with several little groups within the group; and amongst them all was Dr. Jenkinson, making himself particularly agreeable to Mrs. Sinclair. When the gentlemen emerged there was a general stir, and Lady Ambrose, shutting up a volume of St.-Simon’s Memoirs, said, ‘Well, Mr. Laurence, we have been talking most industriously about the future.’

Laurence was standing with Mr. Luke on the step of the dining-room window, and both were looking out gravely on the tranquil scene.

‘Do you remember,’ said Laurence, ‘that it was here, three years ago, that you composed the lines that stand last in your published volumes?’

‘I remember,’ said Mr. Luke dreamily. ‘What an evening that was!’

‘I wish you would repeat them,’ said Laurence.

‘What is the good?’ said Mr. Luke; ‘why rouse again the voices that haunt

About the mouldered lodges of the past?’

‘Mr. Luke,’ said Lady Ambrose appealingly, ‘I do so wish you would.’

‘Is Mr. Luke going to recite poetry?’ said Mrs. Sinclair, coming languidly up to them. ‘How delicious!’ She was looking lovely in the dim light, with a diamond star shining in her dark hair; and for a mortal bard there was positively no resisting her appeal.

Mr. Luke, with a silent composure, pressed his hands for a moment against his forehead; he gave one hem; and then in a clear melodious voice began as follows:—

‘Softly the evening descends,
Violet and soft. The sea
Adds to the silence, below
Pleasant and cool on the beach
Breaking; yes, and a breeze
Calm as the twilight itself
Furtively sighs through the dusk,
Listlessly lifting my hair,
Fanning my thought-wearied brow.
  Thus I stand in the gloom
Watching the moon-track begin
Quivering to die like a dream
Over the far sea-line
To the unknown region beyond.

  ‘So for ages hath man
Gazed on the ocean of time
From the shores of his birth, and, turning
His eyes from the quays, the thronged
Marts, the noise and the din
To the far horizon, hath dreamed
Of a timeless country beyond.
  Vainly: for how should he pass,
Being on foot, o’er the wet
Ways of the unplumbed waves?
How, without ship, should he pass
Over the shipless sea
To the timeless country beyond?

  ‘Ah, but once—once long ago,
Came there a ship white-sailed
From the country beyond, with bright
Oarsmen, and men that sang;
Came to Humanity’s coasts,
Called to the men on the shore,
Joyously touched at the port.
  Then did time-weary man
Climb the bulwarks, the deck
Eagerly crowding. Anon
With jubilant voices raised,
And singing, “When Israel came
Out of Egypt” and whatso else
In the psalm is written, they passed
Out of the ken of the land,
Over the far sea-line,
To the unknown region beyond.

  ‘Where are they now, then—they
That were borne out of sight by the ship-
Our brothers, of times gone by?
Why have they left us here
Solemn, dejected, alone,
Gathered in groups on the shore?
Why? For we, too, have gazed
O’er the waste of waters, and watched
For a sail as keenly as they.
Ah, wretched men that we are!
On our haggard faces and brows
Aching, a wild breeze fawns
Full of the scents of the sea,
Redolent of regions beyond.
Why, then, tarries the ship?
When will her white sail rise
Like a star on the sea-line? When?

  ‘When?—And the answer comes
From the sailless face of the sea,
” Ah, vain watchers, what boots
The calm of the evening?
Have ye not watched through the day
Turbulent waves, the expanse
Endless, shaken with storm,
And ask ye where is the ship?
Deeper than plummet can dive
She is bedded deep in the ooze,
And over her tall mast floats
The purple plain of the calm.”

‘Yes—and never a ship
Since this is sunken, will come
Ever again o’er the waves—
Nay, not even the craft with the fierce
Steersman, him of the marsh
Livid, with wheels of flame
Circling his eyes, to smite
The lingering soul with his oar.
—Not that even. But we
Drop where we stand one by one
On the shingles and sands of time,
And cover in taciturn gloom,
With only perhaps some tear,
Each for his brother the hushed
Heart and the limitless dreams
With a little gift of sand.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Luke, so much,’ said Lady Ambrose. ‘How charming! I am always so fond of poems about the sea.’

‘Ah,’ said Mr. Luke, turning to Mrs. Sinclair, ‘these are emotions scarcely worth describing.’

‘Certainly not,’ muttered Mr. Storks, half aloud as he moved off to discover Lady Grace.

Mr. Luke stood apart, and surveyed the party with a look of pensive pity. On Mr. Storks, however, whose last remark he had overheard, his eyes rested with an expression somewhat more contemptuous. The brightening moonlight fell softly on the group before him, giving it a particularly picturesque effect, as it touched the many colours and folds of the ladies’ dresses, and struck here and there a furtive flash from a gem on wrist or throat. The tranquil hour seemed to have a tranquillising effect on nearly everyone; and the conversation reached Mr. Luke’s ears as a low murmur, broken only by the deep sound of Mr. Storks’s voice, and the occasional high notes of Mr. Saunders, who seemed to Mr. Luke, in his present frame of mind, to be like a shrill cock crowing to the world before the sunrise of universal philistinism.

Laurence meanwhile had caught Miss Merton’s eyes looking at him with a grave regard; and this had brought him instantly to her side, when Mr. Luke had ended his recital.

‘We didn’t spare the times we live in, to-night, did we?’ he said slowly to her in a low voice. ‘Well, well—I wonder what it is all coming to—we and our times together! We are certainly a curious medley here, all of us. I suppose no age but ours could have produced one like it—at least, let us hope so, for the credit of the ages in general.’

‘I must say,’ said Miss Merton, smiling, ‘that you seem to take to the age very kindly, and to be very happy amongst your friends. But you did not tell us very much of what you thought yourself.’

‘I don’t often say what I think,’ said Laurence, ‘because I don’t often know what I think; but I know a great many things that I don’t think; and I confess I take a pleasure in saying these, and in hearing others say them; so the society that I choose as a rule represents not the things I think I approve, but the things I am sure I repudiate.’

‘I confess,’ said Miss Merton, ‘I don’t quite understand that.’

‘Shall I tell you,’ said Laurence, ‘why I live so much in society—amongst my friends, as you call them? Simply because I feel, in my life, as a child does in a dark room; and I must have some one to talk to, or else I think I should go mad. What one says is little matter, so long as one makes a noise of some sort, and forgets the ghosts that in one’s heart one is shuddering at.’

Miss Merton was silent for a moment, and looked up into the sky in which the stars were now one by one appearing.

‘I suppose,’ she said presently, ‘you think it is a very poor affair—life’s whole business. And yet I don’t see why you should.’

‘Not see why I should?’ repeated Laurence. ‘Ah, that shows how little you, from your position, can sympathise with ours. I am not surprised at it. Of course, it is out of the question that you should. You, happy in some sustaining faith, can see a meaning in all life, and all life’s affections. You can endure—you can even welcome its sorrows. The clouds of ennui themselves for you have silver linings. For your religion is a kind of philosopher’s stone, turning whatever it touches into something precious. But we—we can only remember that for us, too, things had a meaning once; but they have it no longer. Life stares at us now, all blank and expressionless, like the eyes of a lost friend, who is not dead, but who has turned an idiot. Perhaps you never read Clough’s Poems, did you? Scarcely a day passes in which I do not echo to myself his words:—

Ah well-a-day, for we are souls bereaved!
Of all the creatures under heaven’s wide cope,
We are most hopeless who had once most hope,
And most beliefless who had once believed.’

‘And do you think,’ said Miss Merton in a low tone, ‘that belief in these days brings no painful perplexities too? Do you think that we can look out on the state of the world now, and think about its future, without anxiety? But really,’ she went on, raising her voice, ‘if I, like you, thought that Christianity was not true, I should not waste my time in lamenting over it. I should rather be glad that I had got free from a gigantic and awful imposition.’

‘What!’ exclaimed Laurence, ‘should we rejoice at our old guide dropping dead amongst the mountains, even though he had lost his way; if so we are left hopeless, and without any guide at all?’

‘You have your consciences,’ said Miss Merton, with some decision in her voice; ‘you surely don’t mean to say that you have lost them?’

‘As for our consciences,’ said Leslie, who was standing close by, ‘we revere them so much that we fancy they possess some power. But conscience, in most souls, is like an English Sovereign—it reigns, but it does not govern. Its function is merely to give a formal assent to the Bills passed by the passions; and it knows, if it opposes what those are really bent upon, that ten to one it will be obliged to abdicate.’

‘Let us hope that the constitutions of most souls are more stable than that,’ said Miss Merton. ‘As far as morality goes, I expect you have quite enough to guide you; and if you think religion false, I don’t see why its loss should trouble you. And life itself, remember, has plenty of pleasures. It is full of things worth living for.’

‘Is it?’ exclaimed Leslie with sudden emphasis, and he looked into Miss Merton’s face with an expression half absent and half wondering. ‘Is there anything in life that you really think is, for its own sake, worth living for? To me it seems that we are haunted with the power of imagining that there might be, and are pursued with the knowledge that there never is. Look at that lovely water before us, with its floods of moonlight—how it ripples, how it sparkles away into the distance! What happiness sights like these suggest to one! How happy they might make us—might, but they never do! They only madden us with a vague pain, that I is like the sense of something lost for ever.’

‘Still,’ said Miss Merton, ‘life is not all moonlight. Surely friendship and affection are worth having?’

‘Let me beg you, Miss Merton,’ said Leslie, replying to her tone rather than to her words, ‘not to think that I am always pining and bemoaning myself. Fortunately the deeper part of one’s nature will often go to sleep, and then the surface can enjoy itself. We can even laugh with our lips at the very things that our hearts in silence are breaking for. But as for happiness, that is always like prophecy, it is only fulfilled in the future; or else it is a miracle—it only exists in the past. The actual things we wish for we may very likely get, but they always come too late or too soon. When the boy is in love, he tries to feel like a man; when the man is in love, he tries to feel like a boy; and both in vain.’

‘Ah,’ exclaimed Laurence, ‘I think very differently from that. I know,’ he said, turning to Miss Merton, ‘that friendship and affection are things worth having; and if only pain and anxiety would leave me, I could enjoy the taste of happiness.’

‘Could you?’ said Leslie. ‘When I look at what we are and what the world is, I can fancy no more melancholy spectacle than a happy man; though I admit,’ he added as he moved slowly away, ‘that there is none more amusing than a man who tries to be melancholy.’

‘Leslie is oddly changed,’ said Laurence, ‘since I saw him last. I am distressed with life because I cannot find out its worth. He is indignant at it, it seems, because he thinks he has found out its worthlessness. And yet—I envy him his temperament. He never lets any melancholy subdue him. He can always laugh it down in a moment; and he will trample bravely on any of his sentiments if he is on the road to anything he is proud of aiming at.’

Laurence was silent for a moment, and then said abruptly:—

‘I dare say you think me very morbid; but perhaps you can hardly realise the intense restless misery that a man endures when he can find nothing to do which he really feels worth doing. Could I only find some one thing— one great cause to labour for—one great idea—I could devote my whole self to it, and be happy: for labour, after all, is the only thing that never palls on a man. But such a cause, such an idea—I can find it nowhere. Politics have turned into a petty, weary game; religion is dead. Our new prophets only offer us Humanity, in place of the God of which they have deprived us. And Humanity makes a very poor Deity, since it is every day disgracing itself, and is never of the same mind from one week’s end to another. And so here I am utterly alone—friendless, and with nothing to help me; feeling that, were it not for the petty contemptible interests I manufacture for myself from day to day, life would be quite unbearable.’

‘And yet,’ said Miss Merton, ‘you have much to make you happy—much that you would be sorry to lose.’

‘I have a certain position,’ said Laurence, ‘and a certain amount of wealth, and I would not willingly lose anything of either of these; but that is not because, in my heart, I value them; but because, if I lost them, I might in my heart cease to despise them.’

‘Surely,’ said Miss Merton, ‘there is a better way of looking at the matter. You came into the world with all your lower ambitions satisfied for you. The ground therefore is quite clear for the higher ambitions. That is why I think an aristocracy, as a rule, must always be the best governors of men, for their ambitions, as a rule, are the only genuine ones. Think, too, what an advantage mere wealth is. The highest labour will never produce money, but generally requires it.’

‘That is just the difficulty,’ said Laurence. ‘What shall I labour for? I am almost maddened sometimes, as I sit all the day idle, and seem to hear the hateful wasted moments slipping away from me. And I could do something, I am sure. I feel I have powers.’

‘I think,’ said Miss Merton, ‘that all I should say to you is, find something to do. The power to find or make an object is, I think, a great part of genius. However,’ she said, with some sympathy in her voice, ‘if you are in difficulties, I am sure I wish I could help you.’

‘Well,’ said Laurence in a subdued voice, ‘I’m sure I beg your pardon for my egoism. I never talked so long about myself in my whole life before; and I promise never to do so again.’

Leslie meanwhile had moved away towards Mrs. Sinclair, who, looking particularly fascinating, was still commanding the attentions of Dr. Jenkinson. The Doctor was standing by her, all deferent gallantry, and, to Leslie’s surprise, was saying something to her about Sappho.

‘And now,’ said Mrs. Sinclair, with a little appealing dainty smile, ‘I want to ask you something about the Greek Anthology too. I can’t read much Greek myself: but a gentleman who used to be rather kind to me, translated me a good deal of Greek poetry, once upon a time—when my husband,’ she said, with a little shrug of the shoulders, ‘used to go to sleep after his dinner.’

Dr. Jenkinson here glanced suspiciously at Mrs. Sinclair.

‘Now, what I want you to tell me,’ she said, ‘is something about some little—ahem—little love songs, I think they were—ἐρωτικ-something or other—I really can’t pronounce the name.’

The Doctor started.

‘And, Dr. Jenkinson, please,’ Mrs. Sinclair went on in a voice of plaintive innocence, ‘not to think me a terrible blue-stocking, because I ask you these questions; for I really hardly know any Greek myself—except perhaps a verse or two of the New Testament; and that’s not very good Greek, I believe, is it? But the gentleman who translated so much to me, when he came to these little poems I speak of, was continually, though he was a very good scholar, quite unable to translate them. Now, why should that have been, I want to know? Are Greek love-poems very hard?’

‘Well,’ said the Doctor, stammering, yet re-assured by Mrs. Sinclair’s manner, ‘they were probably—your friend perhaps—well— they were a little obscure perhaps—much Greek is—or—’

‘Corrupt?’ suggested Mrs. Sinclair naively.

The word was a simple one: but it sufficed to work a miracle on Dr. Jenkinson. For the first time in his life to a lady who united the two charms of beauty and fashion, to both of which he was eminently susceptible, Dr. Jenkinson was rude. He turned abruptly away, and staring hard at the moon, not at Mrs. Sinclair, said simply, ‘I don’t know,’ with the most chilling intonation of which those words are capable. He then moved a pace away, and sat down on a chair close to Miss Merton.

Mrs. Sinclair turned to Leslie, with a flash in her eyes of soft suppressed laughter.

‘How lovely the evening is!’ murmured Leslie, responding to the smile.

‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Sinclair, looking out dreamily over the sea, ‘it almost realises one’s idea of perfect beauty.’

‘Really, Mrs. Sinclair,’ said Leslie, ‘you are certainly most Hellenic. First you talk of Sappho, now of Ideas of Beauty. Are you a Platonist?’

‘Mr. Leslie, of course I am,’ said Mrs. Sinclair, somewhat misapprehending his meaning. ‘I never heard such an impertinent question. Platonism, however, is a very rare philosophy in these days, I’m afraid.’

‘Ah, and so you too think we are all of us very bad, do you?’ said Leslie. ‘It may be so, of course; and yet men at least often generalise very hastily and very wrongly, I am sure. How often, for instance, do we say that all wives nowadays are inconstant, simply because such are the only ones we remember, not because they are the only ones we know.’

This speech was quite in Mrs. Sinclair’s own manner, and she looked at Leslie with a smile of appreciation half humorous and half sentimental,

‘Ah,’ she began to say, in a voice that had just a touch of sadness in it, ‘if we could but all of us love only when we ought, and where we ought—’ But here she paused. Her voice died away, and she leaned her head upon her hand in silence.

Leslie was going to have spoken; but he was suddenly arrested by the sound of Dr. Jenkinson, close beside him, talking to Miss Merton in a tone of unusual earnestness.

‘I don’t wonder,’ he was saying, ‘that you should feel in perplexity sometimes; whichever way we look at things there will be perplexities. But there is such a thing as goodness; and goodness in the end must triumph, and so in this large faith let us rest.’

‘And,’ said Donald Gordon in his soft deferential voice, which always sounded as if he was saying something deeply devotional, ‘don’t you think it is a higher thing to be good for good’s own sake than for God’s? and, whatever men may believe about having another life, and a beautiful heaven, with gold streets, and with jewelled fortifications, don’t you think that morality really is after all its own reward?’

‘But what of those poor people,’ said Miss Merton, ‘who cannot be moral—whom circumstances have kept from being ever anything but brutalised? I dare say,’ she said, turning to the Doctor, quite forgetting his sacred character, ‘that I shall hardly be able to make you understand such a notion as that of living for God’s glory. But still, if there be not a God for whose glory we can live, and who in his turn will not leave us all to ourselves, what then? Think of all those who, in spite of hard surroundings, have just had strength enough to struggle to be good, but to struggle only—whose whole moral being has been left writhing in the road of life, like an animal that a cart-wheel has gone over, just lifting its eyes up with a piteous appeal at us who will not help it—’

Miss Merton looked at Dr. Jenkinson and paused. The moon shone tenderly on his silver hair, and his keen eyes had something very like moisture in them.

‘Yes,’ he said; ‘these are great, great difficulties. But there is another life in store for us—another life, and a God. And don’t think that the world is growing to disbelieve in these. Remember how many intelligent laymen count themselves members of the Church of England, simply because they believe in these two doctrines.’

‘It has always been inexplicable to me,’ said Mr. Storks, who had been attracted by the sound of the Doctor’s voice, ‘whence this longing for a future life could have arisen. I suppose there are few things the very possibility of which science so conclusively disproves.’

‘And yet,’ said Laurence, who had been speaking for a moment to Mrs. Sinclair, ‘I can’t help thinking at certain times that there may be a whole world of things undreamed of by our scientific philosophy. Such a feeling is touched by the sight of an “Ora pro animâ mea,” or a “Resurgam,” on a quiet tombstone, or the sign of the cross made by a mother in hope and in sorrow on the forehead of her dead child.’

Miss Merton looked at Laurence with some wonder in her large expressive eyes, Mr. Storks snorted, and Dr. Jenkinson blinked.

‘See,’ said Donald Goidon,’ the moonlight grows brighter and brighter every moment. It is almost bewildering in its dazzling paleness.’

‘And there,’ said Laurence, ‘do you catch it?—that is the light-ship on the horizon, like a large low star.’ Laurence seated himself on the balustrade, and, leaning on his elbow, looked up into the clear hollow skies.

‘World upon world,’ he exclaimed at last, ‘and each one crowded, very likely, with beings like ourselves, wondering what this whole great universe is!’

‘And the vast majority of them believing in a wise and just God,’ said Leslie, ‘for I see no reason why ours should be the stupidest world in all creation.’

‘Yes,’ said Laurence, ‘and in each world a small select band, that has pierced through such a husk of lies, and has discovered the all-golden truth, that the universe is aimless, and that for good and evil the end is all one.’

Dr. Jenkinson had a sensible horror of the stars: and as soon as they were mentioned, he turned round in his chair, giving his back to the group, Miss Merton included; whilst Mr. Storks walked away, not without dignity,

‘Mrs. Sinclair is going to sing in a moment,’ said Laurence; ‘some one is gone to fetch her guitar.’

‘Hush!’ exclaimed Miss Merton, ‘do just listen to this.’

‘Good gracious!’ said Laurence in a whisper, ‘Mr. Storks is at my aunt at last.’

Mr. Storks had been watching ever since dinner for an opportunity of discussing with Lady Grace the true position of woman, as settled by modern science. He was peculiarly full of this subject just now, having received only that morning a letter from a celebrated American physician, who stated very strongly as his opinion, that the strain of what is called the higher education was most prejudicial to the functions of maternity, and that the rights of woman might very probably be fatal to the existence of man. As soon as he got hold of Lady Grace, he led up to this point with startling rapidity; having been perfectly charmed at starting to find that she fully agreed with him that the prejudices of the present day were doing more harm to woman’s true interests than anything else.

‘It is a pleasure,’ said Mr. Storks, ‘to discuss these matters with a person so thoroughly enlightened as yourself. You will of course see from what Dr. Boston says how entirely suicidal is the scheme of turning woman into a female man. Nature has marked out her mission for her plainly enough; and so our old friend Milton was right in his meaning after all, when he says that man is made for God, and woman for God through him, though of course the expression is antiquated.’

‘Surely,’ said Lady Grace with animation, ‘not only the expression is antiquated, but the meaning also is contrary to all true fairness and enlightment.’

‘I confess, I don’t see that,’ said Mr. Storks with a look of smiling deference.

‘What!’ cried Lady Grace, ‘is it not contrary to reason—let me put it to your own candour—for a man who knows that his wife, ages hence, will be a seraph singing before the throne of God, to consider her only made for God through him—to consider her, indeed, as a thing made simply for her husband’s use?’

This answer of Lady Grace’s took Mr. Storks quite aback. He knew not how to comport himself. His jaw fell—he stared— he said nothing. He felt as though he had been assassinated. But luckily at this very moment, liquid and clear, and exquisitely modulated, were heard the sounds of Mrs. Sinclair’s voice, singing the following song—

Darling, can you endure the liquid weather,
  The jasmine-scented twilights, oh my dear?
Or do you still remember how together
  We read the sad sweet Idyll ‘Guinevere,’
      Love, in one last year’s twilight?

Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse. 1

Ah, the flowers smelt sweet, and all unheeding
  Did I read to you that tender tale,
Oh my love, until my voice, in reading
  How those lovers greeted ‘passion-pale,’
      Trembled in the soft twilight.

Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.

Then our eyes met, and then all was over —
  All the world receded cold and far;
And your lips were on my lips, my lover;
  And above us shook a silver star,
      Through depths of melting twilight.

Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.

Darling, no July will ever find us
  On this earth, together, more. Our fates
Were but a moment cheated. Then, behind us
  Shrilled his voice for whom Caïna 2 waits,
      Shattering our one sweet twilight.

Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.

I shall know no more of summer weather,
  Nought will be for me of glad or fair,
Till I join my darling, and together
  We go for ever on the accursed air, 3
      There in the dawnless twilight.

Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.

‘What a lovely voice!’ said Laurence to Miss Merton. ‘I wonder how she will sound singing before the throne.’

‘She will be obliged to take lessons in a rather different style,’ said Miss Merton, unable to suppress a smile; and then she suddenly checked herself, and looked grave. ‘Mrs. Sinclair has always interested me,’ she said. ‘I often come across her in London, but I hardly know her.’

‘Mr. Laurence,’ said Mrs. Sinclair, ‘you must now make Mr. Leslie sing, for I discover that he can play the guitar too.’

Leslie was of course pressed, and with some reluctance consented.

‘I suppose,’ he said, ‘we are all of us more or less moon-struck to-night, so I had best sing the silliest thing I know; and as I don’t think anything can be sillier than a song I once wrote myself, I will sing that.’

He touched a few chords carelessly, and yet with the manner of a practised player; paused for a moment, and then again striking the instrument began to sing. He was watched at first with merely a languid curiosity; and Miss Prattle whispered to Lady Ambrose that his attitude was very affected; but curiosity and criticism were both lost in surprise at the first sound of his rich and flexible voice, and still more so at the real passion which he breathed into the following words, rude and artless as they were:—

    Oh, her cheek, her cheek was pale,
    Her voice was hardly musical;
But your proud grey eyes grew tender,
    Child, when mine they met,
With a piteous self-surrender,

    Child, what have I done to thee?
    Child, what hast thou done to me?
How you froze me with your tone
    That last day we met!
Your sad eyes then were cold as stone,

    Oh, it all now seems to me
    A far-off weary mystery!
Yet—and yet, her last sad frown
    Awes me still, and yet—
In vain I laugh your memory down,

Leslie received loud thanks from many voices, especially from Lady Ambrose. Some, however, were almost silent from surprise at the feeling, which he seemed quite unconsciously to have betrayed. Mrs. Sinclair held out her hand to him, when no one was looking, and said quietly, ‘Thank you so much, I can’t tell you how I like your song.’

‘Well,’ said Laurence, as the party moved indoors into the lighted drawing-room, ‘we have been all of us very sentimental to-night, and if we can’t get better now, I hope we shall sleep it off, and wake up well and sane to-morrow morning.’

This being Saturday night, there sprang up some vague mention of church. The nearest church however was some miles distant, and a rumour arose amongst the guests that Dr. Jenkinson would perform the service and preach a sermon in the private chapel.

1 Dante, Inferno, v. 137.

2 Ibid, v. 107.

3 Dante, Inferno, v. 31.