The two girls left Sir Creighton Severn’s house in Kensington Palace Gardens, and the dainty little motor Victoria made its way eastwards under the skilful guidance of a young coachman engineer trained by Sir Creighton himself.

Every one has heard of Sir Creighton Severn, the great inventor. A large number of people, if asked what Sir Creighton had invented, would reply “Electricity,” so closely has his name become associated with the development of this power and its adaptation to the various necessities of modern life.

Some time ago there was a general feeling throughout the country that he had gone too far in this direction. There should surely be a limit, people said, to the many humiliations to which scientific men were subjecting that power which after all was nothing less than lightning made captive, and under that name, the most imposing attribute of great Jove himself. It was not so bad to ask it to light a well-appointed drawing-room or to annihilate distance when applied to the end of a few thousand miles of telegraph cable—there was a heroic aspect of its employment in such ways: there was something of the dignity of an international treaty in the relationship existing between civilisation and electricity up to a certain point; but it was going quite too far to set it to cook chump chops for the servants’ dinner, or to heat the irons in the laundry.

People began to feel for electricity, just as they did when they heard the story of King Alfred in the swineherd’s cottage. If the nations had ceased to offer oblations to the leven of Jove that was no reason why it should be degraded to the level of a very scullion.

But when Sir Creighton, after inventing the electric kitchener, and the electric ironer, brought out an electric knife cleaner, an electric boot-black, and an electric mouse trap—nay, when he destroyed the very black-beetles in the kitchen by electricity, people ceased to protest. They only shook their heads and said no good could come of such things.

Of course, these adaptations of the power of which Sir Creighton was looked upon as the legitimate owner in succession to Jupiter (deceased), represented only his hours of relaxation. They were the gleanings, so to speak, of his electric harvest—the heel-taps of his electric banquet: they only brought him in about five thousand a year in royalties. The really great adaptations for which he was responsible filled the world with admiration and his own pockets with money. He had lived so long in close association with electricity that he had come to know every little phase of its nature just as a man—after thirty years or so of married life—comes to have an inkling of his wife’s character. He had invented the electric ship that picked up broken cables at sea by merely passing over where they were laid. He had invented the air purifier which instantly destroyed every injurious element in the atmosphere of large manufacturing towns, making them as pleasant to live in as London itself. He had also produced a fog disperser; but he was not sufficiently satisfied with its operation to give it to the public. It was quite equal to the duty of giving fresh air and sunshine to his own house and gardens, at times when people outside were choking with sulphur and knocking their heads against lamp posts, but this was not enough for Sir Creighton, and he withheld his discovery until he should have so perfected it as to make it applicable to the widest areas.

He had sufficient confidence in his powers and in the ductility of his partner—he had long ago come to allude to electricity as his conjux placens—to feel certain that in the course of a year or two, he would be in a position to clear the Atlantic Ocean of fogs and even to do something with London itself.

But there was another discovery which Sir Creighton hoped he was on the eve of perfecting—the greatest of all the long list already standing to his credit—this was the Electric Digester. He had proved to the satisfaction of every one except himself the possibility of treating not only flesh meat but every form of diet in such a way as practically to obviate the necessity for it to undergo the various tedious processes of digestion before it became assimilated with the system.

He had early in life become impressed with the need of making a departure from the old-fashioned methods of preparing food for human consumption. In the early days of man—he put the date roughly at 150000 b. c., though he admitted that the recent discovery of a fossil scorpion in the Silurian rocks left him about a million years to come and go upon—there was probably no need for an Artificial Digestive. The early man had plenty of exercise. It is quite conceivable that, with such things as the Mammoth, the Mastodon, the Pterodactyl and the Ichtheosaurus roaming about with empty stomachs, the human race should have a good deal of exercise (Scoffers said that the human race was properly so called). But the human race had won the race, and had then settled down for a period of well-earned repose.

This was all very well, but their doing so had changed the most important of the conditions under which they had lived, until, as civilisation strengthened the human digestion had weakened. But instead of openly acknowledging this fact and acting accordingly, physicians had kept trying to tinker up the obsolete machinery with, naturally, the most deplorable results. Instead of frankly acknowledging that man’s digestion had gone the way of the tail, the supplemental stomach, and the muscle that moved the ears, attempts were daily made to stimulate the obsolete processes of digestion, but the result was not stimulating.

Sir Creighton Severn, however, frankly assumed that man had got rid of his digestion to make way for his civilisation, and set about the task of accommodating his diet to his altered conditions of life.

He had not yet succeeded in satisfying himself that his invention of the Electric Digester would do all that he meant it to do; so, in spite of the bitter cry that came from the great pie regions of North America, imploring him to help them, he withheld it from the world for the present.

Sir Creighton was wise enough to make a fool of himself every now and again, and the fools said in their haste that his daughter was the agency which he usually employed for effecting his purpose in this direction. But while some said that it was his daughter who made a fool of him others said that it was he who made a fool of his daughter.

No one seemed to fancy that it was quite possible for both statements to be correct.

However this may be it may at once be said that Sir Creighton treated his daughter as if she were a rational person, capable of thinking for herself and of pronouncing a moderately accurate judgment of such minor problems of life as were suggested to her. Without knowing why—though her father could have told her all about it—she was most pleased when she was trying certain experiments—not in electricity, but in sociology.

And yet people said, simply because they saw that she was invariably well dressed, that she had no scientific tendencies.

She had a certain indefinite beauty of her own that made people—some people: mostly men—wonder where they had seen a flower like her—a lily, they were nearly sure it was—or perhaps it was a white clematis—the one with the star centre that swung so gracefully. They continued looking at her and thinking of flowers, and happy is the girl who makes people think of flowers when they see her!

Having very few delusions she knew that there was something of a flower about her nature. And being well aware that flowers are the most practical things in Nature, she had aspirations as boundless as those of a lily.

That was why she was delighted when she attracted to her various forms of idle insect life, male and female. Her aspirations were to attract rather than to retain, for she had the lily’s instincts as well as the lily’s industry. She knew that when youth made a bee-line to her (speaking in a phrase of the garden) they did so for their own advantage. And she awaited their departure with interest, knowing as she did that it is when the insect leaves the lily that the latter is most benefited; but without prejudice to the possibilities of the insect being also benefited. She had no sympathy with the insectivorous plants of womankind, though at the same time she knew that she was born with a passion for experiments. She hoped, however, that her curiosity was founded on a scientific basis.

She had, as it were, taken Love into her father’s laboratory, and with his assistance subjected it to the most careful analysis. She was able to assign to it a chemical symbol, and so she fancied that she knew all there was to be known about love.

She knew a good deal less about it than does the flower of the lily when the summer is at its height.

And now this offspring of the most modern spirit of investigation and the most ancient femininity that existed before the scorpion found his way into the Silurian rocks to sting, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years, the biologists who had nailed their faith to a theory—this blend of the perfume of the lily and the fumes of hydrochlorate of potassium, was chatting to her friend Josephine West as her motor-victoria threaded its silent way through the traffic of Oxford Street to that region where Mr. Richmond had established his Technical School of Literature.

Josephine West was the daughter of the right honourable Joseph West, Under Secretary of State for the Department of Arbitration.

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