society, we are subjected to the insulting inquisitorial eyes of the Society papers; if we attempt anything in literature, we are cut to pieces by critics who know nothing of the subject to which we have devoted our lives. No, Beavis, a man with self-respect should shut himself up in a walled garden and never leave it, but die there of ennui.’
‘And the enthusiasm of youth is given us only to drive us to disenchantment and disbelief.’
‘That is all.’
‘You look on life, really, from this point of view?’
‘Yes, ever since my disenchantment. Let me alone, Beavis. It may be pleasure to you to anatomise me, but I have no desire to be the subject of your vivisection.’
‘It is no pleasure to me to vivisect you,’ answered Beavis Worthivale. ‘I speak strongly because I feel strongly. Here is Kingsbridge vacant, and you are the right person to represent it. I speak out what everyone thinks. The Duke, I am sure, wishes it.’
‘I have told you, I am no politician.’
‘But, surely, you could master the subjects of debate as well as another. Where there is a will there is a way.’
‘Exactly—but I have not the will.’
‘You are not the only man who has been at me to-day. Look at my uncle Edward’s letter, if you like; it lies on the table.’
Beavis took it up, and read it with growing interest. When he came to the end a slight agitation overcame him.
‘What is it?’ asked the Marquess, who had been watching him. The young man coloured.
‘Oh, Saltcombe,’ he said, ‘the chance has come at last. You must not delay. Why are you now here smoking and reading a book? Have you told Robert to pack your portmanteau? You must catch the next train.’
‘I do not like to be brought up to Glastonbury to have my uncle and aunt show me an heiress, and say, “There, look at her coat, how glossy; her hoofs are sound, so is her wind, and she is worth her weight in money.” She knows she is on show. I know I am there to criticise. The situation is detestable. We both look absurd, and the natural result is, we dislike each other, and fly in opposite directions. Besides, I do not want to marry.’
‘You must accept Lord Edward’s invitation. He would