BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner


The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley


Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe


A Christmas garland

by Sir Max Beerbohm

Excerpt:

PERKINS AND MANKIND

Chapter XX

81

IT was the Christmas party at Heighton that was one of the turning-points in Perkins1 life. The Duchess had sent him a three-page wire in the hyperbolical style of her class, conveying a vague impression that she and the Duke had arranged to commit suicide together if Perkins didn't "chuck11 any previous engagement he had made. And Perkins had felt in a slipshod sort of way—for at this period he was incapable of ordered thought—he might as well be at Heighton as anywhere ....

The enormous house was almost full. There must have been upwards of fifty people sitting down to every meal. Many of these were members of the family. Perkins was able to recognise them by their unconvoluted ears—the well-known Griflbrd ear, transmitted from one generation to another. For the rest there were the usual lot from the Front Benches and the Embassies. Evesham was there, clutching at the lapels of his coat; and the Prescotts—he with his massive mask of * face, and she with her quick, hawk-like ways, talking about two things at a time; old Tommy Strickland, with his monocle and his dropped g's, telling you what he had once said to Mr. Disraeli; Boubou Seaforth and his American wife; John Pirram, ardent and elegant, spouting old French lyrics; and a score of others.

Perkins had got used to them by now. He no longer wondered what they were " up to," for he knew they were up to nothing whatever. He reflected, while he was dressing for dinner on Christmas night, how odd it was he had ever thought of Using them. He might as well have hoped to Use the Dresden shepherds and shepherdesses that grinned out in the last stages of refinement at him from the glazed cabinets in the drawing-rooms .... Or the Labour Members themselves ....

True there was Evesham. He had shown an exquisitely open mind about the whole thing. He had at once grasped the underlying principles, thrown out some amazingly luminous suggestions. Oh yes, Evesham was a statesman, right enough. But had even he ever really believed in the idea of a Provisional Government of England by the Female Foundlings?

To Perkins the whole thing had seemed so simple, so imminent—a thing that needed only a little general good-will to bring it about. And now . . . Suppose his Bill had passed its Second Reading, suppose it had become Law, would this poor old England be by way of functioning decently — after all? Foundlings were sometimes naughty. . . .

What was the matter with the whole human race? He remembered again those words of Scragson's that had had such a depressing effect on him at the Cambridge Union—" Look here, you know! It's all a huge nasty mess, and we're trying to swab it up with a pocket handkerchief.11 Well, he'd given up trying to do that. . . .

§2.

During dinner his eyes wandered furtively up and down the endless ornate table, and he felt he had been, in a sort of way, right in thinking these people were the handiest instrument to prise open the national conscience with. The shining red faces of the men, the shining white necks and arms of the women, the fearless eyes, the general free-and-easiness and spaciousness, the look of late hours counteracted by fresh air and exercise and the best things to eat and drink—what mightn't be made of these people, if they'd only Submit?

Perkins looked behind them, at the solemn young footmen passing and repassing, noiselessly, in blue and white liveries. They had Submitted. And it was just because they had been able to that they were no good.

"Damn !" said Perkins, under his breath.

§3.

One of the big conifers from the park had been erected in the hall, and this, after dinner, was found to be all lighted up with electric bulbs and hung with packages in tissue paper.


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