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Part 10


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« on: December 24, 2022, 03:32:03 am »

Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness,
Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport;
Both grace and faults are loved of more and less;
Thou makst faults graces that to thee resort.

---William Shakespeare

It would seem, at first sight, as though, in an episode witnessed by so many people and lasting altogether about an hour (counting, that is, from the first alarm in Tudor to the refitting of the final fuse) it should have been easy to find alibis for all the innocent. In practice, it was not so at all, chiefly owing to the stubborn refusal of human beings to stay where they are put. It was the very multiplicity of witnesses that made the difficulty; for it seemed likely that the culprit had mixed with the crowd over and over again in the dark. Some alibis were established for certain: Harriet and the Dean had been standing together when the lights were extinguished on the Northeast angle of the New Quad; the Warden had not left her own house till after the uproar had started, as her household staff could attest; the two porters were vouched for by their respective wives, and had, in fact, never been suspected, since on various earlier occasions disturbances had occurred while they were at their posts; the Infirmarian and the Infirmary maid had also been together the whole time. Miss Hudson, the student who had been considered a 'possible,' had been at a coffee-party when the trouble began, and was clear; Miss Lydgate also, to Harriet's great relief, had been in Queen Elizabeth, enjoying the hospitality of a party of Third Years; she had just risen to say good night, remarking that it was past her usual time, when the lights had gone out. She had then been caught up in the throng and, as soon as she could free herself, had run hastily up to her own room to rescue her proofs.

Other members of the S.C.R. were less fortunately placed. The case of Miss Barton was exciting and mysterious. According to her own account, she had been sitting working when the fuse was pulled out in Tudor. After trying the wall-switch, she had looked out of the window, seen the figure hastening across the quad, and gone immediately in pursuit. The figure had dodged her round Burleigh twice, and had then suddenly come upon her from behind, flung her against the wall 'with extraordinary strength' and knocked her torch from her hand. Before she could recover herself, the evil-doer had extinguished the Burleigh lights and gone again. Miss Barton could give no description of this person, except that it wore 'something dark' and ran very fast. She had not seen its face. The only proof of this story was that Miss Barton certainly had received a heavy bruise on the side of the face where, so she said, she had been flung against an angle of the building. She had remained where she lay for a few minutes after receiving the blow; by that time the excitement had spread to the New Quad. Here she had certainly been seen for a few seconds together by a pair of students. She had then run to look for the Dean, found her room empty, run out again and joined Harriet and the rest in the West Staircase.

Miss Chilperic's story was equally difficult of proof. When the cry of 'There she goes!' had been raised at Tudor, she had been among the first to run out, but, having no torch, and being too much excited to notice where she was going, she had tripped and fallen down the steps of the terrace, twisting her foot slightly. This had made her late in arriving on the scene. She had come up with the crowd at Queen Elizabeth, been carried in with it through the portico and run straight into the New Quadrangle Buildings. She had thought she heard footsteps scurrying along to her right, and had followed them, when the lights had gone out and, not knowing the building at all well, she had wandered about in some confusion, till at last she found the way out into the quad. Nobody seemed able to remember seeing Miss Chilperic at all after she left Tudor; she was that kind of person.

The Treasurer had been sitting up at work on the term's accounts. The lights in her building had been the last to go out, and her windows looked outward upon the road and not upon the quad, so that she had known nothing about the affair till a late stage in the proceedings. When the darkness fell on her she went (so she said) to the Bursar's set opposite, electrical replacements being in the Bursar's department. The Bursar was not in her bedroom or office; but as Miss Allison came out from looking for her, she emerged from the place where the fuse-boxes were, to announce the disappearance of the main fuse. Treasurer and Bursar had then joined the crowd in the quadrangle.

The account given by Miss Pyke of her movements seemed to be the most incredible of all. She lived above the Treasurer and had been working at an article for a learned Society's transactions. When her lights had gone out, she had said, 'Bother!', taken a pair of candles from a stock which she kept for such emergencies, and gone quietly on working.

Miss Burrows asserted that she had been having a bath when the Burleigh Building Lights failed, and, by an extraordinary coincidence, had found, on getting hastily out of it, that she had left her towel in her bedroom. She did not possess a self-contained set with a private bathroom and so was obliged to grope, with her dressing-gown clutched about her dripping body, along the passage to her bedroom, and there dry and dress herself in the dark. This had taken a surprisingly long time and, when she came up with the main party, most of the fun was over. No proof, except the undoubted presence of soapy water in a bathroom on her floor.

Miss Shaw's set was over the Bursar's, and her bedroom looked out on St. Cross Road. She had gone to bed and to sleep, being very tired, and knew nothing about it till it was all over. The same story was told by Mrs. Goodwin, who had returned to College only that day, rather exhausted by sick-nursing. As for Miss Hillyard and Miss de Vine, living above Miss Lydgate; their lights had never gone out at all, and, their windows facing on the road, they had never known that anything was wrong, putting down a vague noise in the quad to the natural cussedness of undergraduates.

It had only been after Padgett had sat for about five minutes in vain at the mouse-hole, that Harriet had done what she should have done earlier, and attempted to make a count of the Senior Common Room. She had then found them all in the places where, by their subsequent accounts of themselves, they should have been. But to collect them all into one lighted room and keep them there was not so easy. She established Miss Lydgate in her own room and went to look for the rest, asking them to go straight down to Miss Lydgate's room and stay there. The Warden, meanwhile, had arrived and was addressing the students, imploring them also to stay where they were and keep quiet. Unfortunately, just as it began to seem possible to make sure of everybody's whereabouts, some inquisitive person, who had broken away from the rest and gone roaming through the Old Quad, arrived, breathless, to announce the tale of damage in the Hall. Instantly, pandemonium broke loose again. Dons who were trotting like lambs into the sheep-fold suddenly lost their heads and raced with the students into the darkness. Miss Burrows screamed 'The Library!' and tore away, and the Bursar, with an anguished cry for the College property, dashed after her. The Dean called, 'Stop them!' and Miss Pyke and Miss Hillyard, taking the command to themselves, rushed out and disappeared. In the resulting confusion, everybody got lost twenty times over; and by the time the fuses were replaced and the community at last gathered and numbered, the damage had all been done.

---

It is surprising how much can be done in a very few minutes. Harriet calculated that the Hall had probably been wrecked first of all, being in a detached wing, where noise was not likely to attract much attention; all that was done there could have been done in a couple of minutes. From the extinguishing of the first lights in Tudor to that of the last lights in the New Quad, rather less than ten minutes had elapsed. The third, and longest part of the business--the wrecking of the rooms in the darkened buildings, had taken anything from a quarter to half an hour.

---

The Warden addressed the College after Chapel, again enjoining discretion, begging the culprit to come forward, and promising that all possible measures should be taken to identify her in case she did not confess.

'I have no intention,' said Dr. Baring, 'of inflicting any restriction or punishment upon the college in general for the act of one irresponsible person. I will ask any one who has any suggestion to make or any evidence to offer with regard to the identity of this foolish practical joker to come privately, either to the Dean or myself, and make the communication in strict confidence.'

She added a few words about the solidarity of the College and departed with a grave face, her gown floating behind her.

The glaziers were already at work restoring damaged window-panes. In the Hall, the Bursar was affixing neat cards in the places of portraits whose glass had been broken: 'Portrait of Miss Matheson: Warden 1899-1912. Removed for cleaning.' Broken crockery was being swept from the grass of the Old Quad. The College was engaged in presenting a serene face to the world.

It did not improve anybody's temper to discover a printed message, consisting of 'HA! HA!' and a vulgar epithet, pasted across the mirror in the Senior Common Room, shortly before lunch. The Common Room had been empty from 9 o'clock onwards, so far as was known. The Common Room maid, going in at lunch-time with the coffee-cups, had been the first to see the notice; and it had by then dried hard. The Bursar, who had missed her pot of Gloy after the night's excitement, found it placed neatly in the centre of the S.C.R. mantelpiece.

---

The feeling in the Senior Common Room after this episode underwent a subtle alteration. Tongues were sharpened; the veneer of detachment began to wear thin; the uneasiness of suspicion began to make itself felt; only Miss Lydgate and the Dean, being proved innocent, remained unmoved.

'Your bad luck seems to have repeated itself, Miss Barton,' observed Miss Pyke, acidly, 'Both in the Library affair and in this last outbreak, you seem to have been first on the spot and yet unhappily prevented from securing the culprit.'

'Yes,' said Miss Barton. 'It's very unfortunate. If next time my gown gets taken as well, the College sleuth will begin to smell a rat.'

'Very trying for you, Mrs. Goodwin,' said Miss Hillyard, 'to come back to all this upset, just when you needed a rest. I trust your little boy is better. It is particularly tiresome, because all the time you were away we had no disturbance at all.'

'It's most annoying,' said Mrs. Goodwin. 'The poor creature who does these things must be quite demented. Of course these disorders do tend to occur in celibate, or chiefly celibate communities. It is a kind of compensation, I suppose, for the lack of other excitements.'

'The great mistake,' said Miss Burrows, 'was, of course, our not keeping together. Naturally I wanted to see if any damage had been done in the Library--but why so many people should have come pelting after me--'

'The Hall was my concern,' said the Bursar.

'Oh! you did get to the Hall? I completely lost sight of you in the quad.'

'That,' said Miss Hillyard, 'was exactly the catastrophe I was trying to avoid when I pursued you. I called loudly to you to stop. You must have heard me.'

'There was too much noise to hear anything,' said Miss Stevens.

'I came to Miss Lydgate's room,' said Miss Shaw, 'the moment I could get dressed, understanding that everybody was to be there. But there was really nobody. I thought I must have misunderstood, so I tried to find Miss Vane, but she seemed to have gone off into the Ewigkeit.'

'It must have taken you a remarkably long time to dress,' said Miss Burrows. 'Anybody could run three times round College in the time it takes you to pull your stockings on.'

'Somebody,' said Miss Shaw, 'apparently did.'

---

'They're beginning to get fractious,' said Harriet to the Dean.

'What can you expect? The silly cuckoos! If they'd only sat tight on their little behinds last night, we could have cleared the whole business up. It's not your fault. You couldn't be everywhere at once. How we can expect discipline from the students, when a whole bunch of middle-aged seniors behave like a flock of hens in a crisis, I can't think. Who's that out there, conducting that strident conversation with a top window? Oh! I think it's Baker's young man. Well, discipline must be observed, I suppose. Give me the house telephone, would you? Thanks. I don't see how we're to prevent this last outbreak from getting--Oh! Martha! The Dean's compliments, if you please, to Miss Baker, and will she kindly bear in mind the rule about morning visitors--And the students are getting rather annoyed about the destruction of their property. I think they're actually getting worked up to calling a J.C.R. meeting, and it's very unfair on them, poor lambs, to let them go on suspecting one another, but what can we do about it? Thank God, it's the last week of term! I suppose we're not making a ghastly mistake? It must be one of us, and not a student or a scout.'

'We seem to have eliminated the students--unless it's a conspiracy between two of them. It might be that. Hudson and Cattermole together. But as for the scouts--I can show you this, now, I suppose. Would any of the scouts quote Virgil?'

'No,' said the Dean, examining the 'Harpy' passage. 'No; it doesn't seem likely. Oh, dear!'

---

The reply to Harriet's letter arrived by return.

My dear Harriet,
It is exceedingly good of you to be bothered with my graceless nephew. I am afraid the episode must have left you with an unfortunate impression of both of us.

I am very fond of the boy, and he is, as you say, attractive; but he is rather easily led, and my brother is not, in my opinion, handling him in the wisest way. Considering his expectations, Gerald is kept absurdly short of money, and naturally he feels he has a right to anything he can lay hands on. Still, he must learn to draw the line between carelessness and dishonesty. I have offered to augment his allowance myself, but the suggestion was not well received at home. His parents, I know, feel that I am stealing his confidence from them; but if I refused to help him, he would go elsewhere and get himself into worse trouble. Though I do not like the position into which I am forced of 'Codlin is the friend, not Short,' I still think it better that he should turn to me than to an outsider. I call this family pride; it may be mere vanity; I know it is vexation of spirit. Let me assure you that so far, when I have trusted Gerald with anything, he has not let me down. He is amenable to some of the shibboleths. But he is not amenable to a discipline of alternate indulgence and severity; and indeed I do not know who is.

I must again apologise for troubling you with our family affairs. What on earth are you doing in Oxford? Have you retired from the world to pursue the contemplative life? I will not attempt to dissuade you now, but shall address you on the subject in the usual form on the 1st April next.

Yours in all gratitude, P.D.B.W.

I had forgotten to say, thank-you for telling me about the accident and reassuring me as to its results. It was the first I had heard of it--as old James Forsyte says, 'Nobody ever tells me anything.' I will oblige with a few kind words.

'Poor old Peter!' said Harriet.

The remark probably deserves to be included in an anthology of Great First Occasions.

---

Lord Saint-George, when she went to pay him a parting visit, was considerably improved in appearance; but his expression was worried. His bed strewn with untidy papers, he seemed to be trying to cope with his affairs, and to be making but heavy weather of it. He brightened up considerably at sight of Harriet.

'Oh, look! You're just the person I've been praying for. I've no head for this kind of thing, and all the beastly bills keep sliding off the bed. I can write my name pretty well, but I can't keep track of things. I'm sure I've paid some of these brutes twice over.'

'Let me help; can I?'

'I hoped you'd say that. It's so nice of you to spoil me, isn't it? I can't think how things mount up so. They rook one shockingly at these places. But one must have something to eat, mustn't one? And belong to a few clubs. And play a game or two. Of course polo comes a bit expensive, but it's rather done just now. It's nothing, really. Of course, the mistake was going round with that bunch in Town last vac. Mother imagines they're O.K. because they're in the stud-book, but they're pretty hot, really. She'll be no end surprised if they end up in gaol, and her white-headed boy with them. Sad degeneracy of old landed families, and that kind of thing. Solemn rebuke by learned judge. I somehow got behindhand with things about the New Year, and never caught up again. It looks to me as though Uncle Peter was going to get a bit of a shock. He's written, by the way. Much more like himself.'

He tossed the letter over.

Dear Jerry,
Of all the thundering nuisances that ever embittered the lives of their long-suffering relatives, you are the worst. For God's sake put down that bloody Alfa before you kill yourself; strange as it may appear, I still retain some lingering remnants of affection for you. I hope they take your licence away for life, and I hope you feel like hell. You probably do. Don't worry any more about the money.

I am writing to thank Miss Vane for her kindness to you. She is a person whose good opinion I value, so be merciful to my feelings as a man and an uncle.

Bunter has just found three silver threads among the gold. He is incredibly shocked. He begs to tender you his respectful commiserations, and advises scalp-massage (for me, I mean).

When you can manage it, send a line to report progress to your querulous and rapidly-decaying uncle,
    ---P.W.

'He'll get a whole crop of silver threads when he realises that I hadn't paid up the insurance,' said the viscount, callously, as he took the letter back.

'What!'

'Fortunately there was nobody else involved, and the police weren't on the spot. But I suppose I shall hear from the Post Office about their blasted telegraph pole. If I have to go before the magistrates and the Governor hears of it, he'll be annoyed. It'll cost a bit to get the car put right. I'd throw the damned thing away, only Dad gave it to me in one of his generous fits. And of course, about the first thing he asked when I came out from under was whether the insurance was all right. And being in no state to argue, I said Yes. If only it doesn't get into the papers about the insurance, we're all right--only the repairs will make a nice little item in Uncle Peter's total.'

'Is it fair to make him pay for that?'

'Damned unfair,' said Lord Saint-George, cheerfully. 'The Governor ought to pay the insurance himself. He's like the Old Man of ThermopylŠ--never does anything properly. If you come to that, it isn't fair to make Uncle Peter pay for all the horses that fall down when one backs them. Or for all the rotten little gold-diggers one carts around, either--I shall have to lump them together under "Sundries." And he'll say, "Ah yes! Postage stamps, telephone calls and live wires." And then I shall lose my head and say, "Well, Uncle--" I hate those sentences that start with "Well, Uncle." They always seem to go on and on and lead anywhere.'

'I don't suppose he'll ask for details, if you don't volunteer them. Look! I've got all these bills sorted. Shall I write out the cheques for you to sign?'

'I wish you would. No, he won't ask. He'll only sit looking harmless till I tell him. I suppose that's the way he gets criminals to come across with it. It's not a nice characteristic. Have you got that note from Levy? That's the main thing. And there's a letter from a chap called Cartwright that's rather important. I borrowed a bit from him up in Town once or twice. What's he make it come to?... Oh, rot! It can't be as much as that ... Let's see ... Well, I suppose he's right ... and Archie Campbell--he's my bookmaker--God! what a lot of screws! they oughtn't to allow the poor beasts out. And the odds-and-ends here? What a marvellously neat way you have with these things, haven't you? Shall we tot them all up and see where we get to? Then if I faint, you can ring the bell for Nurse.'

'I'm not very good at arithmetic. You'd better check this up. It looks a bit unlikely, but I can't make it come any less.'

'Add on, say a hundred and fifty, estimated repairs to car, and then we'll see. Oh, hell! what have we here?'

'The portrait of a blinking idiot,' said Harriet, irresistibly.

'Amazin' fellow, Shakespeare. The apt word for all occasions. Yes; there's a "Well Uncle" look about this, all right. Of course, I get my quarter's allowance at the end of the month, but there's the vac. to get through and all next term. One thing, I'll have to go home and be good; can't get about the place much like this. The Governor more or less hinted that I ought to pay my own doctor's bill, but I wasn't taking the hint. Mother blames Uncle Peter for the whole thing.

'Why on earth?'

'Setting me a bad example of furious driving. He is a bit hot, of course, but he never seems to get my foul luck.'

'Can he possibly be a better driver?'

'Darling Harriet, that's unkind. You don't mind my calling you Harriet?'

'As a matter of fact, I do, rather.'

'But I can't keep on saying "Miss Vane" to a person who knows all my hideous secrets. Perhaps I'd better accustom myself to saying "Aunt Harriet" ... What's wrong with that? You simply can't refuse to be an adopted aunt to me. My Aunt Mary has gone all domestic and hasn't time for me, and my mother's sisters are the original gorgons. I'm dreadfully unappreciated and quite auntless for all practical purposes.'

'You deserve neither aunts nor uncles, considering how you treat them. Do you mean to finish these cheques to-day? Because, if not, I have other things to do.'

'Very well. We will continue to rob Peter to pay all. It's wonderful what a good influence you have over me. Unbending devotion to duty. If you'd only take me in hand I might turn out quite well after all.'

'Sign, please.'

'But you don't seem very susceptible. Poor Uncle Peter!'

'It will be poor Uncle Peter by the time you've finished.'

'That's what I mean. Fifty-three, nineteen, four--it's shocking the way other people smoke one's fags, and I'm sure my scout bags half of them. Twenty-six, twelve, eight. Nineteen, seven, two. A hundred quid gone before you've time to look at it. Thirty-one, fourteen. Twelve, nine, six. Five, fifteen, three. What's all this tale about ghosts playing merry hell in Shrewsbury?'

Harriet jumped. 'Damn! which of our little beasts told you about that?'

'None of 'em told me. I don't encourage women students. Nice girls, no doubt, but too grubby. There's a chap on my staircase who came up to-day with a story.... I forgot, he told me not to mention it. What's it all about? And why the hush-hush?'

'Oh, dear! and they were implored not to talk. They never think of the harm this kind of thing does to the College.'

'Well, but it's only a rag, isn't it?'

'I'm afraid it's a bit more than that. Look here, if I tell you why it's hush-hush, will you promise not to pass it on?'

'Well,' said Lord Saint-George, candidly, 'you know how my tongue runs away with me. I'm not very dependable.'

'Your uncle says you are.'

'Uncle Peter? Good lord! he must be potty. Sad to see a fine brain going to rack and ruin. Of course, he's not as young as he was.... You're looking very sober about it.'

'It is rather grim, really. We're afraid the trouble's caused by somebody who's not quite right in her head. Not a student--but of course we can't very well tell the students that, especially when we don't know who it is.'

The viscount stared. 'Good lord! How beastly for you! I quite see your point. Naturally you don't want a thing like that to get about. Well, I'll not say a word--honestly, I won't. And if anybody mentions it I'll register a concentrated expression of no enthusiasm. I say! Do you know, I wonder if I've seen your ghost.'

'Met her?'

'Yes. I certainly met somebody who didn't seem quite all there. It scared me a bit. You'll be the first person I've told about it.'

'When was this? Tell me about it.'

'End of last term. I was awfully short of cash, and I'd had a bet with a man that I'd get into Shrewsbury and--' He stopped and looked up at her with the smile that was so uncannily not his own. 'What do you know about that?'

'If you mean that bit of the wall by the private gate, it's having a set of spikes put on it. The revolving sort.'

'Ah! all is known. Well, it wasn't an awfully good night for it--full moon and all that--but it seemed about the last chance to get that ten quid, so I hopped over. There's a bit of a garden there.'

'The Fellows' Garden. Yes.'

'Yes. Well, I was just pushing along there, when somebody hopped out from behind a bush and grabbed me. My heart nearly shot right out of my mouth on to the lawn. I wanted to do a bunk.'

'What was the person like?'

'It was in black and had a bit of black stuff sort of twisted round its head. I couldn't see anything but its eyes, and they looked beastly. So I said, "Oh, gosh!" and she said, "Which of 'em do you want?" in a horrid voice, like glue. Well, that wasn't nice and not what I expected. I don't pretend to be a good boy, but such were not my intentions at the time. So I said, "Nothing of that sort; I only made a bet I wouldn't be caught, and I have been caught, so I'll go away and I'm sorry." So she said, "Yes, go away. We murder beautiful boys like you and eat their hearts out." So I said, "Good God! how very unpleasant!" I didn't like it a bit.'

'Are you making all this up?'

'Honestly, I'm not. Then she said, "The other one had fair hair, too." And I said, "No, did he really?" And she said something, I forget what--it seemed to me she had a kind of hungry look about her, if you know what I mean--and anyhow, it was all most uncomfortable, and I said, "Excuse me, I think I'd better be getting along," and I pulled free (she was uncommonly strong in the wrists) and legged it over the wall like one, John Smith.'

Harriet looked at him, but he appeared to be perfectly serious.

'How tall was she?'

'About your height, I should think, or a bit less. Honestly, I was too scared to notice much. I couldn't recognise her again, I don't think. She didn't give me the impression of being a young thing, and that's about all I can tell you.'

'And you say you've kept this remarkable story to yourself?'

'Yes. Doesn't sound like me, does it? But there was something about it--I don't know. If I'd told any of the men, they'd have thought it howlingly funny. But it wasn't. So I didn't mention it. It didn't seem the right thing, somehow.'

'I'm glad you didn't want it laughed at.'

'No. The boy has quite nice instincts. Well, that's all. Twenty-five, eleven, nine; that blasted car simply eats oil and petrol--all those big engines do. It's going to be awfully awkward about that insurance. Please, dear Aunt Harriet, need I do any more of these? They depress me.'

'You can leave them till I've gone, and write all the cheques and envelopes yourself.'

'Slave-driver. I shall burst into tears.'

'I'll fetch you a handkerchief.'

'You are the most unwomanly woman I ever met. Uncle Peter has my sincere sympathy. Look at this! Sixty-nine, fifteen--account rendered; I wonder what it was all about.'

Harriet said nothing, but continued to make out the cheques.

'One thing, there doesn't seem to be much at Blackwell's. A mere trifle of six pounds twelve.'

'One halfpennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack.'

'Did you catch that habit of quotation from Uncle Peter?'

'You needn't lay any more burdens on your Uncle's shoulders.'

'Must you rub it in? There's practically nothing at the wine-merchant's either. Hard drinking has quite gone out. Isn't that satisfactory? Of course, the Governor obliges with a bottle or two from time to time. Did you like that Niersteiner the other day? Uncle Peter obliged with that. How many more of these things are there?'

'Quite a few.'

'Oh! My arm aches horribly.'

'If you're really too tired--'

'No. I can manage.'

Half an hour later, Harriet said. 'That's the lot.'

'Thank God! Now talk prettily to me.'

'No; I must get back now. I'll post these on my way.'

'You're not really going? Right away?'

'Yes; right away to London.'

'Wish I was you. Shall you be up next term?'

'I don't know.'

'Oh, dear, oh, dear! Well, kiss me good-bye nicely.'

Since she could think of no form of refusal that might not provoke some nerve-shattering comment, Harriet sedately complied. She was turning to go, when the nurse arrived to announce another visitor. This was a young woman, dressed in the more foolish extreme of the current fashion, with an intoxicated-looking hat and bright purple finger-nails, who advanced, crying sympathetically:

'Oh, darling Jerry! How too ruinously shattering!'

'Good lord, Gillian!' said the viscount, without very much enthusiasm. 'How did you--?'

'My lamb! You don't sound very pleased to see me.'

Harriet escaped, and found the nurse in the passage, putting an armful of roses in a bowl.

'I hope I haven't tired your patient too much with all that business.'

'I'm glad you came to help him out with it; it was on his mind. Aren't these roses beautiful? The young lady brought them from London. He gets a lot of visitors. But you can't wonder, can you? He's a dear boy, and the things he says to Sister! It's as much as one can do to keep a straight face. He's looking a lot better now, don't you think? Mr. Whybrow's made a beautiful job of the cut on his head. He's got his stitches out now--oh, yes! it'll hardly show at all. It is a mercy, isn't it? Because he's ever so handsome.'

'Yes; he's a very good-looking young man.'

'He takes after his father. Do you know the Duke of Denver? He's ever so handsome, too. I shouldn't call the Duchess good-looking; more distinguished. She was terribly afraid he might be disfigured for life, and it would have been a pity. But Mr. Whybrow's a splendid surgeon. You'll see he'll be quite all right. Sister's ever so pleased--we tell her she's quite lost her heart to Number Fifteen. I'm sure we shall all be sorry to say good-bye to him; he keeps us all lively.'

'I expect he does.'

'And the way he pulls Matron's leg. Impudent young monkey, she calls him, but she can't help laughing at his ways. Oh, dear! there's Number Seventeen ringing again. I expect she wants a bed-pan. You know your way out, don't you?'

Harriet departed; feeling that it might be rather an onerous position to be aunt to Lord Saint-George.

---

'Of course,' said the Dean, 'if anything should happen in vacation--'

'I rather doubt if it will,' said Harriet. 'Not a big enough audience. A public scandal is the thing aimed at, I imagine. But if another episode should occur, it will narrow the field.'

'Yes; most of the S.C.R. will be away. Next term, what with the Warden, Miss Lydgate and myself definitely clear of suspicion, we ought to be able to patrol the place better. What are you going to do?'

'I don't know. I've been rather thinking of coming back to Oxford altogether for a time, to do some work. This place gets you. It's so completely uncommercial. I think I'm getting a little shrill in my mind. I need a mellowing.'

'Why not work for a B.Litt.?'

'That would be rather fun. I'm afraid they wouldn't accept Lefanu, would they? It would have to be somebody duller. I should enjoy a little dullness. One would have to go on writing novels for bread and butter, but I'd like an academic and meaty egg to my tea for a change.'

'Well, I hope you'll come back for part of next term, anyway. You can't leave Miss Lydgate now till those proofs are in the printer's hands.'

'I'm almost afraid to set her loose this vac. She is dissatisfied with her chapter on Gerard Manley Hopkins; she feels she may have attacked him from the wrong angle altogether.'

'Oh, no!'

'I'm afraid it's Oh, yes!... Well, I'll cope with that, anyway. And the rest--well, we shall see what happens.'

Harriet left Oxford just after lunch. As she was putting her suit-case in the car, Padgett came up to her.

'Excuse me, miss, but the Dean thinks you would like to see this, miss. In Miss de Vine's fireplace it was found this morning, miss.'

Harriet looked at the half-burnt sheet of crumpled newspaper. Letters had been cut out from the advertising columns.

'Is Miss de Vine still in College?'

'She left by the 10.10, miss.'

'I'll keep this, Padgett, thank you. Does Miss de Vine usually read the Daily Trumpet?'

'I shouldn't think so, miss. It would be more likely the Times or Telegraph. But you could easy find out.'

'Of course, anybody might have dropped this in the fireplace. It proves nothing. But I'm very glad to have seen it. Good afternoon, Padgett.'

'Good afternoon, miss.'
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