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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDoctor Claudius - Chapter 5
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Doctor Claudius - Chapter 5 Post by :kayani1 Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :May 2012 Read :3269

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Doctor Claudius - Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

On the following day Claudius and Mr. Barker received each a note. These communications were in square, rough envelopes, and directed in a large feminine handwriting. The contents intimated that the Countess Margaret would be glad to see them at dinner at half-past seven on Thursday.

"That is to-morrow," said Mr. Barker pensively.

Claudius, who was generally the calmest of the calm, made a remark in German to the effect that he fervently desired a thousand million bushels of thunder-weather to fly away with him that very instant.

"Did you say anything, Professor?" inquired Mr. Barker blandly.

"I did. I swore," answered Claudius. "I have half a mind to swear again."

"Do it. Profanity is the safety-valve of great minds. Swear loudly, and put your whole mind to it."

Claudius strode to the window of their sitting-room and looked out.

"It is extremely awkward, upon my word," he said.

"What is awkward, Professor? The invitation?"

"Yes--very."

"Why, pray? I should think you would be very much pleased."

"Exactly--I should be: but there is a drawback."

"Of what nature? Anything I can do?"

"Not exactly. I cannot wear one of your coats."

"Oh! is that it?" said Mr. Barker; and a pleasant little thrill of triumph manifested itself, as he pushed out his jaw and exhibited his circular wrinkle. "Of course--how stupid of me! You are here as a pedestrian, and you have no evening dress. Well, the sooner we go and see a tailor the better, in that case. I will ring for a carriage." He did so, remarking internally that he had scored one in putting the Doctor into a position which forced him to dress like a Christian.

"Do you never walk?" asked Claudius, putting a handful of cigarettes into his pocket.

"No," said the American, "I never walk. If man were intended by an all-wise Providence to do much walking he would have four legs."

The tailor promised upon his faith as a gentleman to make Claudius presentable by the following evening. Baden tailors are used to providing clothes at short notice; and the man kept his word.

Pending the event, Barker remarked to Claudius that it was a pity they might not call again before the dinner. Claudius said in some countries he thought it would be the proper thing; but that in Germany Barker was undoubtedly right--it would not do at all.

"Customs vary so much in society," said Barker; "now in America we have such a pretty habit."

"What is that?"

"Sending flowers--we send them to ladies on the smallest provocation."

"But is not the Countess an American?" asked Claudius.

"Yes, certainly. Old Southern family settled north."

"In that case," said Claudius, "the provocation is sufficient. Let us send flowers immediately." And he took his hat from the table.

Thought Mr. Barker, "My show Doctor is going it;" but he translated his thoughts into English.

"I think that is a good idea. I will send for a carriage."

"It is only a step," said Claudius, "we had much better walk."

"Well, anything to oblige you."

Claudius had good taste in such things, and the flowers he sent were just enough to form a beautiful _ensemble_, without producing an impression of lavish extravagance. As Mr. Barker had said, the sending of flowers is a "pretty habit,"--a graceful and gentle fashion most peculiar to America. There is no country where the custom is carried to the same extent; there is no other country where on certain occasions it is requested, by advertisement in the newspapers, "that no flowers be sent." Countess Margaret was charmed, and though Miss Skeat, who loved roses and lilies, poor thing, offered to arrange them and put them in water, the dark lady would not let her touch them. She was jealous of their beauty.

The time seemed long to Claudius, though he went in the meanwhile with Barker and the British aristocracy to certain races. He rather liked the racing, though he would not bet. The Duke lost some money, and Barker won a few hundred francs from a Russian acquaintance. The Duke drank curacao and potass water, and Mr. Barker drank champagne, while Claudius smoked innumerable cigarettes. There were a great many bright dresses, there was a great deal of shouting, and the congregation of the horse-cads was gathered together.

"It does not look much like Newmarket, does it?" said the Duke.

"More like the Paris Exposition, without the exposition," said Barker.

"Do you have much racing in America?" asked Claudius.

"Just one or two," answered Barker, "generally on wheels."

"Wheels?"

"Yes. Trotting. Ag'd nags in sulkies. See how fast they can go a mile," explained the Duke. "Lots of shekels on it too, very often."

At last the evening came, and Claudius appeared in Barker's room arrayed in full evening-dress. As Barker had predicted to himself, the result was surprising. Claudius was far beyond the ordinary stature of men, and the close-fitting costume showed off his athletic figure, while the pale, aquiline features, with the yellow heard that looked gold at night, contrasted in their refinement with the massive proportions of his frame, in a way that is rarely seen save in the races of the far north or the far south.

The Countess received them graciously, and Miss Skeat was animated. The flowers that Claudius had sent the day before were conspicuously placed on a table in the drawing-room. Mr. Barker, of course, took in the Countess, and Miss Skeat put her arm in that of Claudius, inwardly wondering how she could have overlooked the fact that he was so excessively handsome. They sat at a round table on which were flowers, and a large block of ice in a crystal dish.

"Do you understand Russian soups?" asked Margaret of Claudius, as she deposited a spoonful of a wonderful looking _pate in the middle of her _consomme_.

"Alas" said the Doctor, "I am no gastronome. At least my friend Mr. Barker tells me so, but I have great powers of adaptation. I shall follow your example, and shall doubtless fare sumptuously."

"Do not fear," said she, "you shall not have any more strange and Cossack things to eat. I like some Russian things, but they are so tremendous, that unless you have them first you cannot have them at all."

"I think it is rather a good plan," said Barker, "to begin with something characteristic. It settles the plan of action in one's mind, and helps the memory."

"Do you mean in things in general, or only in dinner?" asked the Countess.

"Oh, things in general, of course. I always generalise. In conversation, for instance. Take the traditional English stage father. He always devotes himself to everlasting perdition before he begins a sentence,--and then you know what to expect."

"On the principle of knowing the worst--I understand," said Margaret.

"As long as people understand each other," Claudius put in, "it is always better to plunge _in medias res from the first."

"Yes, Dr. Claudius, you understand that very well;" and Margaret turned towards him as she spoke.

"The Doctor understands many things," said Barker in parenthesis.

"You have not yet reported the progress of the crusade," continued the Countess, "I must know all about it at once."

"I have been plotting and planning in the spirit, while my body has been frequenting the frivolities of this over-masculine world," answered the Doctor. At this point Miss Skeat attacked Mr. Barker about the North American Indians, and the conversation paired off, as it will under such circumstances.

Claudius was in good spirits and talked wittily, half in jest, one would have thought, but really in earnest, about what was uppermost in his mind, and what he intended should be uppermost in the world. It was a singular conversation, in the course of which he sometimes spoke very seriously; but the Countess did not allow herself the luxury of being serious, though it was an effort to her to laugh at the enthusiasm of his language, for he had a strong vitality, and something of the gift which carries people away. But Margaret had an impression that Claudius was making love, and had chosen this attractive ground upon which to open his campaign. She could not wholly believe him different from other men--at least she would not believe so soon--and her instinct told her that the fair-haired student admired her greatly.

Claudius, for his part, wondered at himself, when he found a moment to reflect on what he had been saying. He tried to remember whether any of these thoughts had been formulated in his mind a month ago. He was, indeed, conscious that his high reverence for women in the abstract had been growing in him for years, but he had had no idea how strong his belief had grown in this reverence as an element in social affairs. Doubtless the Doctor had often questioned why it was that women had so little weight in the scale, why they did so little of all they might do, and he had read something of their doings across the ocean. But it had all been vague, thick, and foggy, whereas now it was all sharp and clean-edged. He had made the first step out of his dreams in that he had thought its realisation possible, and none but dreamers know how great and wide that step is. The first faint dawning, "It may be true, after all," is as different from the remote, listless view of the shadowy thought incapable of materialisation, as a landscape picture seen by candle-light is different from the glorious reality of the scene it represents. Therefore, when Claudius felt the awakening touch, and saw his ideal before him, urging him, by her very existence which made it possible, to begin the fight, he felt the blood run quickly in his veins, and his blue eyes flashed again, and the words came flowing easily and surely from his lips. But he wondered at his own eloquence, not seeing yet that the divine spark had kindled his genius into a broad flame, and not half understanding what he felt.

It is late in the day to apostrophise love. It has been done too much by people who persuade themselves that they love because they say they do, and because it seems such a fine thing. Poets and cynics, and good men and bad, have had their will of the poor little god, and he has grown so shy and retiring that he would rather not be addressed, or described, or photographed in type, for the benefit of the profane. He is chary of using pointed shafts, and most of his target practice is done with heavy round-tipped arrows that leave an ugly black bruise where they strike, but do not draw the generous blood. He lurks in out-of-the-way places and mopes, and he rarely springs out suddenly on unwary youth and maid, as he used to in the good old days before Darwin and La Rochefoucauld destroyed the beauty of the body and the beauty of the soul,--or man's belief in them, which is nearly the same. Has not the one taught us to see the animal in the angel, and the other to detect the devil in the saint? And yet we talk of our loves as angels and our departed parents as saints, in a gentle, commonplace fashion, as we talk of our articles of faith. The only moderns who apostrophise love with any genuine success are those who smack their lips sensuously at his flesh and blood, because they are too blind to see the lovely soul that is enshrined therein, and they have too little wit to understand that soul and body are one.

Mr. Barker, who seemed to have the faculty of carrying on one conversation and listening to another at the same time, struck in when Claudius paused.

"The Professor, Countess," he began, "is one of those rare individuals who indulge in the most unbounded enthusiasm. At the present time I think, with all deference to his superior erudition, that he is running into a dead wall. We have seen something of the 'woman's rights' question in America. Let us take him over there and show him what it all means."

"My friend," answered Claudius, "you are one of those hardened sceptics for whom nothing can be hoped save a deathbed repentance. When you are mortally hit and have the alternative of marriage or death set before you in an adequately lively manner, you will, of course, elect to marry. Then your wife, if you get your deserts, will rule you with a rod of iron, and you will find, to your cost, that the woman who has got you has rights, whether you like it or not, and that she can use them."

"Dollars and cents," said Barker grimly, "that is all."

"No, it is not all," retorted Claudius. "A wise Providence has provided women in the world who can make it very uncomfortable for sinners like you, and if you do not reform and begin a regular course of worship, I hope that one of them will get you."

"Thanks. And if I repent and make a pilgrimage on my knees to every woman I know, what fate do you predict? what countless blessings are in store for me?"

The Countess was amused at the little skirmish, though she knew that Claudius was right. Barker, with all his extreme politeness and his pleasant speeches, had none of the knightly element in his character.

"You never can appreciate the 'countless blessings' until you are converted to woman-worship, my friend," said Claudius, evading the question. "But," he added, "perhaps the Countess might describe them to you."

But Margaret meant to do nothing of the kind. She did not want to continue the general conversation on the topic which seemed especially Claudius's own, particularly as Mr. Barker seemed inclined to laugh at the Doctor's enthusiasm. So she changed the subject, and began asking the American questions about the races on the previous day.

"Of course," she said, "I do not go anywhere now."

The dinner passed off very pleasantly. Miss Skeat was instructed in the Knickerbocker and Boston peerage, so to speak, by the intelligent Mr. Barker, who did not fail, however, to hint at the superiority of Debrett, who does not hesitate to tell, and boldly to print in black and white, those distinctions of rank which he considers necessary to the salvation of society; whereas the enterprising compilers of the "Boston Blue Book" and the "New York List" only divide society up into streets, mapping it out into so many square feet and so much frontage of dukes, marquesses, generals, and "people we don't know." Miss Skeat listened to the disquisition on the rights of birth with rapt attention, and the yellow candle-light played pleasantly on her old corners, and her ancient heart fluttered sympathetically. Margaret, on the other side, made Claudius talk about his youth, and took infinite pleasure in listening to his tales of the fresh Northern life he had led as a boy. The Doctor had the faculty of speech and told his stories with a certain vigour that savoured of the sea.

"I hope you will both come and see me," said the Countess, as the two men took their departure; but as she spoke she looked at Barker.

Half an hour later they sat in their sitting-room at the hotel, and Barker sipped a little champagne while Claudius smoked cigarettes, as usual. As usual, also, they were talking. It was natural that two individuals endowed with the faculty of expressing their thoughts, and holding views for the most part diametrically opposed, should have a good deal to say to each other. The one knew a great deal, and the other had seen a great deal; both were given to looking at life rather seriously than the reverse. Barker never deceived himself for a moment about the reality of things, and spent much of his time in the practical adaptation of means to ends he had in view; he was superficial in his knowledge, but profound in his actions. Claudius was an intellectual seeker after an outward and visible expression of an inward and spiritual truth which he felt must exist, though he knew he might spend a lifetime in the preliminary steps towards its attainment. Just now they were talking of marriage.

"It is detestable," said Claudius, "to think how mercenary the marriage contract is, in all civilised and uncivilised countries. It ought not to be so--it is wrong from the very beginning."

"Yes, it is wrong of course," answered Barker, who was always ready to admit the existence and even the beauty of an ideal, though he never took the ideal into consideration for a moment in his doings. "Of course it is wrong; but it cannot be helped. It crops up everywhere, as the question of dollars and cents will in every kind of business; and I believe it is better to be done with it at first. Now you have to pay a Frenchman cash down before he will marry your daughter."

"I know," said Claudius, "and I loathe the idea."

"I respect your loathing, but there it is, and it has the great advantage that it is all over, and there is no more talk about it. Now the trouble in our country is that people marry for love, and when they get through loving they have got to live, and then somebody must pay the bills. Supposing the son of one rich father marries the daughter of another rich father; by the time they have got rid of the novelty of the thing the bills begin to come in, and they spend the remainder of their amiable lives in trying to shove the expense off on to each other. With an old-fashioned marriage contract to tie them up, that would not happen, because the wife is bound to provide so many clothes, and the husband has to give her just so much to eat, and there is an end of it. See?"

"No, I do not see," returned Claudius. "If they really loved each other--"

"Get out!" interrupted Barker, merrily. "If you mean to take the immutability of the human affections as a basis of argument, I have done."

"There your cynicism comes in," said the other, "and denies you the pleasure and profit of contemplating an ideal, and of following it up to its full development."

"Is it cynical to see things as they are instead of as they might be in an imaginary world?"

"Provided you really see them as they are--no," said Claudius. "But if you begin with an idea that things, as they are, are not very good, you will very soon be judging them by your own inherent standard of badness, and you will produce a bad ideal as I produce a good one, farther still from the truth, and extremely depressing to contemplate."

"Why?" retorted Barker; "why should it be depressing to look at everything as it is, or to try to? Why should my naturally gay disposition suffer on making the discovery that the millennium is not begun yet? The world may be bad, but it is a merry little place while it lasts."

"You are a hopeless case," said Claudius, laughing; "if you had a conscience and some little feeling for humanity, you would feel uncomfortable in a bad world."

"Exactly. I am moderately comfortable because I know that I am just like everybody else. I would rather, I am sure."

"I am not sure that you are," said Claudius thoughtfully.

"Oh! not as you imagine everybody else, certainly. Medieval persons who have a hankering after tournaments and crawl about worshipping women."

"I do not deny the softer impeachment," answered the Doctor, "but I hardly think I crawl much."

"No, but the people you imagine do--the male population of this merry globe, as you represent it to the Countess."

"I think Countess Margaret understands me very well."

"Yes," said Barker, "she understands you very well." He did not emphasise the remark, and his voice was high and monotonous; but the repetition was so forcible that Claudius looked at his companion rather curiously, and was silent. Barker was examining the cork of his little pint bottle of champagne--"just one square drink," as he would have expressed it--and his face was a blank.

"Don't you think, Professor," he said at last, "that with your views about the rights of women you might make some interesting studies in America?"

"Decidedly."

"You might write a book."

"I might," said Claudius.

"You and the Countess might write a book together."

"Are you joking?"

"No. What I have heard you saying to each other this evening and the other day when we called would make a very interesting book, though I disagree with you both from beginning to end. It would sell, though."

"It seems to me you rather take things for granted when you infer that the Countess would be willing to undertake anything of the kind."

Barker looked at the Doctor steadily, and smiled.

"Do you really think so? Do you imagine that if you would do the work she would have any objection whatever to giving you the benefit of her views and experience?"

"In other words," Claudius said, "you are referring to the possibility of a journey to America, in the company of the charming woman to whom you have introduced me."

"You are improving, Professor; that is exactly what I mean. Let us adjourn from the bowers of Baden to the wind-swept cliffs of Newport--we can be there before the season is over. But I forgot, you thought you would not like Newport."

"I am not sure," said Claudius. "Do you think the Countess would go?"

"If you will call there assiduously, and explain to her the glorious future that awaits your joint literary enterprise, I believe she might be induced."

Claudius went to bed that night with his head full of this new idea, just as Mr. Barker had intended. He dreamed he was writing with the Countess, and travelling with her and talking to her; and he woke up with the determination that the thing should be done if it were possible. Why not? She often made a trip to her native country, as she herself had told him, and why should she not make another? For aught he knew, she might be thinking of it even now.

Then he had a reaction of despondency. He knew nothing of her ties or of her way of life. A woman in her position probably made engagements long beforehand, and mapped out her year among her friends. She would have promised a week here and a month there in visits all over Europe, and the idea that she would give up her plans and consent, at the instance of a two days' acquaintance, to go to America was preposterous. Then again, he said to himself, as he came back from his morning walk in the woods, there was nothing like trying. He would call as soon as it was decent after the dinner, and he would call again.

Mr. Barker was a man in whom a considerable experience of men supplemented a considerable natural astuteness. He was not always right in the judgments he formed of people and their aims, but he was more often right than wrong. His way of dealing with men was calculated on the majority, and he knew that there are no complete exceptions to be found in the world's characters. But his standard was necessarily somewhat low, and he lacked the sympathetic element which enables one high nature to understand another better than it understands its inferiors. Barker would know how to deal with the people he met; Claudius could understand a hero if he ever met one, but he bore himself toward ordinary people by fixed rules of his own, not caring or attempting to comprehend the principles on which they acted.

If any one had asked the Doctor if he loved the Countess, he would have answered that he certainly did not. That she was the most beautiful woman in the world, that she represented to him his highest ideal, and that he was certain she came up to that ideal, although he knew her so little, for he felt sure of that. But love, the Doctor thought, was quite a different affair. What he felt for Margaret bore no resemblance to what he had been used to call love. Besides, he would have said, did ever a man fall in love at such short notice? Only in books. But as no one asked him the question, he did not ask it of himself, but only went on thinking a great deal of her, and recalling all she said. He was in an unknown region, but he was happy and he asked no questions. Nevertheless his nature comprehended hers, and when he began to go often to the beautiful little villa, he knew perfectly well that Barker was mistaken, and that the dark Countess would think twice and three times before she would be persuaded to go to America, or to write a book, or to do anything in the world for Claudius, except like him and show him that he was welcome. She would have changed the subject had Claudius proposed to her to do any of the things he seemed to think she was ready to do, and Claudius knew it instinctively. He was bold with women, but he never transgressed, and his manner allowed him to say many things that would have sounded oddly enough in Mr. Barker's mouth. He impressed women with a sense of confidence that he might be trusted to honour them and respect them under any circumstances.

The Countess was accustomed to have men at her feet, but she had never treated a man unjustly, and if they had sometimes lost their heads it was not her fault. She was a loyal woman, and had loved her husband as much as most good wives, though with an honest determination to love him better; for she was young when they married, and she thought her love stronger than it really was. She had mourned him sincerely, but the wound had healed, and being a brave woman, with no morbid sensitiveness of herself, she had contemplated the possibility of marrying again, without, however, connecting the idea with any individual. She had liked Claudius from the first, and there had been something semi-romantic about their meeting in the Schloss at Heidelberg. On nearer acquaintance she liked him better, though she knew that he admired her, and by the time a fortnight had passed Claudius had become an institution. They read together and they walked together, and once she took him with her in the black phaeton, whereupon Barker remarked that it was "an immense thing on wheels."

Mr. Barker, seeing that his companion was safe for the present, left Baden for a time and lighted on his friend the Duke at Como, where the latter had discovered some attractive metal. The Duke remarked that Como would be a very decent place if the scenery wasn't so confoundedly bad. "I could beat it on my own place in the west," he added.

The British aristocracy liked Mr. Barker, because he was always inventing original ways of passing the time, and because, though he was so rich, he never talked about money except in a vague way as "lots of shekels," or "piles of tin." So they said they would go back to Baden together, which they did, and as they had talked a good deal about Claudius, they called on the Countess the same afternoon, and there, sure enough, was the Swede, sitting by the Countess's side in the garden, and expounding the works of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Barker and the Duke remained half an hour, and Claudius would have gone with them, but Margaret insisted upon finishing the chapter, so he stayed behind.

"He's a gone 'coon, Duke," remarked Barker, beginning to smoke as soon as he was in the Victoria.

"I should say he was pretty hard hit, myself. I guess nothing better could have happened." The Duke, in virtue of his possessions in America, affected to "guess" a little now and then when none of those horrid people were about.

"Come on, Duke," said Barker, "let us go home, and take them with us."

"I could not go just now. Next month. Autumn, you know. Glories of the forest and those sort of things."

"Think they would go?"

"Don't know," said the Duke. "Take them over in the yacht, if they like."

"All right. We can play poker while they bay the moon."

"Hold on, though; she won't go without some other woman, you know. It would be in all the papers."

"She has a lady-companion," said Barker.

"That won't do for respectability."

"It is rather awkward, then." There was silence for a few moments.

"Stop a bit," said the Duke suddenly. "It just strikes me. I have got a sister somewhere. I'll look her up. She is never ill at sea, and they have sent her husband off to Kamtchatka, or some such place."

"That's the very thing," said Barker. "I will talk to Claudius. Can you manage the Countess, do you think? Have you known her long?"

"Rather. Ever since she married poor Alexis."

"All right, then. You ask her." And they reached their hotel.

So these two gentlemen settled things between them. They both wanted to go to America, and they were not in a hurry, so that the prospect of a pleasant party, with all the liberty and home feeling there is on board of a yacht, was an immense attraction. Barker, of course, was amused and interested by his scheme for making Claudius and the Countess fall in love with each other, and he depended on the dark lady for his show. Claudius would not have been easily induced to leave Europe by argument or persuasion, but there was little doubt that he would follow the Countess, if she could be induced to lead. The Duke, on the other hand, thought only of making up a well-arranged party of people who wanted to make the journey in any case, and would not be on his hands after he landed. So two or three days later he called on the Countess to open the campaign. It was not altogether new ground, as they had crossed together once before. The Duke was not very good at leading the conversation up to his points, so he immediately began talking about America, in order to be sure of hitting somewhere near the mark.

"I have not been over since the autumn," he said, "and I really ought to go."

"When will you start?" asked Margaret.

"I meant to go next month. I think I will take the yacht."

"I wonder you do not always do that. It is so much pleasanter, and you feel as if you never had gone out of your own house."

"The fact is," said he, plunging, "I am going to take my sister, and I would like to have a little party. Will you not join us yourself, Countess, and Miss Skeat?"

"Really, Duke, you are very kind. But I was not thinking of going home just yet."

"It is a long time since you have been there. Not since--"

"Yes, I know," said Margaret gravely. "And perhaps that is why I hesitate to go now."

"But would it not be different if we all went together? Do you not think it would be much nicer?"

"Did you say your sister was going?"

"Oh yes, she will certainly go."

"Well," said the Countess after a moment's thought, "I will not say just yet. I need not make up my mind yet; need I? Then I will take a few days to think of it."

"I am sure you will decide to join us," said the Duke pressingly.

"Perhaps I ought to go, and it is so kind of you, really, to give me such a delightful chance." She had a presentiment that before long she would he on her way to join the yacht, though at first sight it seemed rather improbable, for, as Claudius had guessed, she had a great many engagements for visits. If any one had suggested to her that morning that she might make a trip to America, she would have said it was quite impossible. The idea of the disagreeable journey, the horror of being cast among an immense crowd of unknown travellers; or, still worse, of being thrown into the society of some chance acquaintance who would make the most of knowing her--it was all sufficient, even in the absence of other reasons, to deter her from undertaking the journey. But in the party proposed by the Duke it was all very different. He was a gentleman, besides being a peer, and he was an old friend. His sister was a kind-hearted gentlewoman of narrow views but broad humanity; and not least, the yacht was sure to be perfection, and she would be the honoured guest. She would be sorry to leave Baden for some reasons; she liked Claudius very much, and he made her feel that she was leading an intellectual life. But she had not entirely realised him yet. He was to her always the quiet student whom she had met in Heidelberg, and during the month past the feeling she entertained for him had developed more in the direction of intellectual sympathy than of personal friendship. She would not mind parting with him any more than she would mind laying down an interesting book before she had half read it. Still that was something, and the feeling had weight.

"Miss Skeat," she said, when they were alone, "you have never been in America?"

"No, dear Countess, I have never been there, and until lately I have never thought I would care to go."

"Would you like to go now?"

"Oh!" exclaimed the ancient one, "I would like it of all things!"

"I am thinking of going over next month," said Margaret, "and of course I would like you to go with me. Do you mind the sea very much?"

"Oh dear, no! I used to sail a great deal when I was a girl, and the Atlantic cannot be worse than our coast."

Miss Skeat's assent was a matter of real importance to Margaret, for the old gentlewoman was sincerely attached to her, and Margaret would have been very unwilling to turn her faithful companion adrift, even for a time, besides the minor consideration that without a companion she would not go at all. The end of it was that by dinner-time she had made up her mind to write excuses to all the people who expected her, and to accept the Duke's invitation. After all, it was not until next month, and she could finish the book she was reading with Claudius before that. She postponed writing to the Duke until the following day, in order to make a show of having considered the matter somewhat longer. But her resolution did not change, and in the morning she despatched a friendly little note to the effect that she found her engagements would permit her, etc. etc.

When Margaret told Miss Skeat that they were going in one of the finest yachts afloat, with the Duke and his sister, her companion fairly crackled with joy.

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Doctor Claudius - Chapter 4
CHAPTER IVThe summer breath of the roses blew sweetly in through the long windows of the Countess's morning-room from the little garden outside as Barker and Claudius entered. There was an air of inhabited luxury which was evidently congenial to the American, for he rubbed his hands softly together and touched one or two objects caressingly while waiting for the lady of the house. Claudius glanced at the table and took up a book, with that singular student habit that is never lost. It was a volume of English verse, and in a moment he was reading, just as he stood,
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