Platonic affection is the penalty which one pays in old age for procrastination in one’s youth. It is the phrase that one employs to restore one’s self-respect when suffering from the watchful care of a husband. It is the theory of a Greek Sophist to define the attitude of a sculptor in regard to his marble. It defines the attitude of the marble in regard to the sculptor. It was the attribute of Galatea just before she began to live, and it is the attitude of the moralist just before he begins to die. It is the triumph of Logic over Love. It is the consolation of the man who is content with roses cut out of tissue paper. It is the comfort of the woman who thinks that a quill and a glass of water make an entirely satisfactory substitute for a nightingale in June. It is the banquet of the Barmecides. It is the epitaph on the grave of manhood. It is the slab on the grave of womanhood. It is the phrase that is shrieked out every hour from the cuckoo clock. It is an ode by Sappho written in water. It is the egg-shell that is treasured by a man when some one else is eating the omelette. It is the affection of the Doge of Venice for the Adriatic. It is a salad without vinegar. It is the shortest way to the Divorce Court. It is a perpetual menace to a man and the severest threat that one can hold over the head of a woman. It is a lion with the toothache. It is the Sword of Damocles. It is Apollo in pyjamas. It is the fence upon which a man sits while he waits to see which way the cat will jump. It is a song the words of which have been lost and the music mislaid. It is entering on a property the title deeds of which are in the possession of some one else. It is offering a woman a loaf of bread when she is dying of thirst. It is offering a man a cup of water when he is dying of hunger. It is the smoke of an extinct volcano. It is the purchase price paid by a fool for the fee-simple of a Castle in Spain. It is the fraudulent prospectus of a bogus company. It is the only thing that Nature abhors more than a vacuum. It is the triumph of the Vacuum over Nature. It is the last refuge of the roue. It is presenting a diet of confectionery for carnivora. It is the experiment which my dear friend Amber Severn is trying in order that every one who knows her may be warned in time.”

She folded up the paper carefully and handed it to Amber saying:

“There is not only a definition but a whole treatise for you, my dear Amber. It is for you alone, however, and it is not written to dissuade you from your experiment.”

“My experiment? What is my experiment?” cried Amber.

Josephine looked at her and smiled vaguely, benevolently.

“The experiment of feeding carnivora on confectionery,” said she.

“You mean that—that—— Oh, no; you cannot say that, whatever happens, I have not improved them all.”

“I would not dare even to think so. If, however, you succeed in convincing any two of them that you are quite right in marrying the third you will have proved conclusively that confectionery is a most satisfactory diet.”

“I don’t believe that any one of the three wishes to marry me. Not one of them has even so much hinted at that. Oh, no; we are far too good friends ever to become lovers. They are all nice and are getting nicer every day.”

“I really think that they are. At any rate you were born to try experiments. You can no more avoid experimenting than your father can. Here comes an elementary principle with an empty notebook in his hand.”

A youth of twenty-four or twenty-five with a good figure and a pleasantly plain face and unusually large hands and feet sauntered up—the members of the class were trooping out, some of them handing in their time studies to Mr. Richmond who stood at the head of the room.

“How do you do, Miss West? How are you, Amber?” he said. “I saw you working like a gas-engine, Miss West. What on earth could you find to say on that subject?”

“What subject, Mr. Guy Overton?” said Josephine.

The young man looked puzzled—pleasantly puzzled.

“The subject you were writing about,” he replied cautiously.

“You don’t even remember the title of the time study,” said Amber severely.

“I don’t,” he cried defiantly. “What would be the good of remembering it? I saw at once that it was all Thomas.”

“All Thomas?” said Amber enquiringly.

“All Thomas—all Tommy rot. You didn’t bother yourself writing a big heap Injin about it yourself, my fine lady.”

“That was because she is really scientific in her methods, Mr. Overton,” said Josephine. “She doesn’t write out the result of an experiment until she has analysed the residuum in the crucible.”

The young man looked into her face very carefully. He was never quite sure of this particular girl. She required a lot of looking at, and even then he was never quite certain that she had not said something that would make him look like a fool if any one clever enough to understand her was at hand. Luckily for him there were, he knew, not many such people likely to be about.

He looked at her very carefully and then turned to Amber saying:

“I came across a chippie of a cornstalk yesterday who says his dad used to know Sir Creighton before he went to Australia. May I bring him with me one day?”

“Of course you may,” cried Amber, her face brightening. Josephine knew that her face brightened at the prospect of acquiring some fresh materials for her laboratory. “What is his name?”

“His name is Winwood—Pierce Winwood, if it so please you.”

“I’ll ask the pater, and keep him up to the date,” said Amber. “I suppose his father’s name was Winwood too.”

“Why shouldn’t it be? Oh, there’s nothing the matter with him. My dad used to know his dad out there. They were in the same colony and pretty nearly cleaned it out between them. But Winwood died worth a good bit more than my poor old dad. Oh, he’s all right.”

“I’m sure you have said enough to convince any one that the son is all right,” said Josephine.

“Three-quarters of a million at least,” remarked Guy Overton with the wink of sagacity.

“What, so right as all that?” exclaimed Josephine with the uplifted eyebrows of incredulity.

“Every penny,” said the youth with the emphasis of pride.

“Oh, money is nothing!” said Amber with the head shake of indifference.

“Nothing in the world,” acquiesced Guy, with a heartiness that carried with it absolute conviction of insincerity to the critical ears.

“Have you made any progress, Guy?” enquired Amber.

“Among this racket?” he asked. “Not much. I think if I’ve made any progress it’s backwards. Two months ago I could read a novel—if it was the right sort—without trouble. But since I have been shown the parts of the machine that turns them out, blest if I can get beyond the first page.”

“That’s a good sign; it shows that you are becoming critical,” cried Amber.

“Does it? Well... I don’t know. If attending a Technical School of Novel-writing makes a chippie incapable of reading a book, I don’t think the show can be called a success. Anyway I don’t believe that prose fiction—that’s how it’s called—is the department for me. I believe that the poetry shop is the one I’m meant to shine in. You see, there’s only one sort of poetry nowadays, and it’s easily taught; whereas there are a dozen forms of prose fiction—I never guessed that the business was so complicated before I came here. Oh, yes, I’ll join the poetry shop next week.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort: it’s twice as complicated as this,” said Amber severely.

“Don’t tell me that,” he retorted. “I’ve heard the best poetry of the day—yes, in the Music Halls, and I believe that with a little practice I could turn it out by the web. All the people want is three verses and a good kick in the chorus—something you remember easily, with a good word about Tommy Atkins and two for good old Mother England. I know the swing of the thing. Oh, yes; I’ll get seconded to the poetry shop. Here comes Barnum himself.”

His final words were delivered in a furtive whisper while Mr. Richmond strolled across the room to the group—it was the last group that remained.

When he had come up Mr. Guy Overton was extremely respectful in his attitude to Mr. Richmond and called him “Sir.” He looked at his watch, however, a moment later and said he was an hour late for a particular appointment that he had, so he reckoned he should make himself distant.

Mr. Richmond smiled socially, not officially, and added a nod, before turning to greet the girls. He was not very impressive while saying that he felt greatly honoured to see Miss West in the class-room. He was sure that she understood his aims. Then Miss West said she was certain that it must be a great pleasure to him to lecture before a sympathetic audience. He evaded her evasion and enquired of Miss Severn if he might include her among the sympathetic members of his audience, and Miss Severn declared that she had learned more in ten minutes from him respecting the literary value of certain Scotch words than she had acquired by reading the two novels in the Scotch tongue which she had mastered in the previous four years of her life, and she hoped Mr. Richmond considered the attendance satisfactory. He assured her that sanguine though he had been as to the number of persons anxious to write novels the attendance at the fiction class amazed him.

“And many who were present to-day were actually attentive,” remarked Josephine.

“And one of the ladies defines Platonic Friendship as the reason why Brutus killed Cæsar—I hold the document in my hand,” said the master.

Both girls cried “How funny!” and smiled their way to the door, which Mr. Richmond held open for them.

On the way to Kensington Palace Gardens they agreed that the Khaki frocks then so popular would not survive another season.

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