or shall we hire a mule? The matrons—there's Mrs. Paley, by Jove!—share a carriage."
"That's where you'll go wrong," said Hirst. "Putting virgins among matrons."
"How long should you think that an expedition like that would take, Hirst?" asked Hewet.
"From twelve to sixteen hours I should say," said Hirst. "The time usually occupied by a first confinement."
"It will need considerable organisation," said Hewet. He was now padding softly round the room, and stopped to stir the books on the table. They lay heaped one upon another.
"We shall want some poets too," he remarked. "Not Gibbon; no; d'you happen to have Modern Love or John Donne? You see, I contemplate pauses when people get tired of looking at the view, and then it would be nice to read something rather difficult aloud."
"Mrs. Paley will enjoy herself," said Hirst.
"Mrs. Paley will enjoy it certainly," said Hewet. "It's one of the saddest things I know—the way elderly ladies cease to read poetry. And yet how appropriate this is:
I speak as one who plumbs
Life's dim profound,
One who at length can sound
Clear views and certain.
But—after love what comes?
A scene that lours,
A few sad vacant hours.
And then, the Curtain.
I daresay Mrs. Paley is the only one of us who can really understand that."
"We'll ask her," said Hirst. "Please, Hewet, if you must go to bed, draw my curtain. Few things distress me more than the moonlight."
Hewet retreated, pressing the poems of Thomas Hardy beneath his arm, and in their beds next door to each other both the young men were soon asleep.
Between the extinction of Hewet's candle and the rising of a dusky Spanish boy who was the first to survey the desolation of the hotel in the early morning, a few hours of silence inter-