PHILIP’S SAFETY RAZOR

Up to the time of Philip’s obsession there cannot have been in all the
world a happier couple than he and his wife. As everybody knows, the
ecstasy of life has its home in the imagination, and Philip and Phœbe
Partington lived almost exclusively in those realms which were illumined
by the light that never was on sea or land. I do not absolutely affirm
that sea and land would have been the better for that light; all that I
insist on was that the Partington effulgence certainly never was there.
It was a remunerative light also, and out of the proceeds they bought a
quantity of false Elizabethan furniture and a motor-car. A spin in the
motor-car after the ecstatic labour of the morning cleared Phœbe’s head,
and they dined together in an Elizabethan room with rushes on the floor.
That cleared Phœbe’s head, too, for nothing in the world could be
remoter from the setting of her imaginative life than anything
Elizabethan. She and her husband lived in an opulent and lurid present,
which, in its turn, was just as remote from contemporary life as most
people know it, as were the “spacious days” that had left their spurious
traces on the dining-room.

They were the most industrious of artists and often had as many as three
_feuilletons_ running simultaneously in provincial papers, and the
manner of their activity was this. Every morning, directly after
breakfast, Philip sat in the dining-room, and until one o’clock
proceeded to turn into narrative the very complete and articulated
skeleton of the tale which Phœbe manufactured in the drawing-room. The
imaginative gift was hers; there was not a situation in the world which
she could not contemplate unwinking, like an eagle staring into the sun,
and these she passed on to her husband, whose power of putting them into
narrative was as unrivalled as his wife’s in conceiving them.

Picture him, then, with his plump, amiable face bent over Phœbe’s
imaginings, a perennial pipe in his mouth, and, invariably, two or three
little tufts of cotton-wool struck on to his cheek or chin, where he had
cut himself shaving that morning. Occasionally, but very rarely, he had
to go into the drawing-room to ask the elucidation of some situation:
how, for instance, was Algernon Montmorency to leap lightly out of the
window, and so regain his motor-car, when Phœbe had laid the scene in
the top room of the moated tower of Eagles Castle? But Phœbe could
always suggest a remedy which cost the minimum of readjustment, and ten
minutes afterwards Algernon would be thundering along the road with the
lurid Semitic moneylender in close pursuit. But for such occasional
interruption and the periodical lighting of his pipe he would not pause
for a second till the morning’s work was over. He never hesitated for a
word, for he had at his command the entire vocabulary of English
_clichés_, and he often got through two instalments before lunch. At one
precisely the parlourmaid came in, and groping through the fog of
tobacco-smoke, opened all the windows and began to lay the table. Upon
which Philip washed off his tufts of cotton-wool, snatched Phœbe from
her imaginative visions, and strolled in the garden with her till the
gong summoned them to the recuperative spell of a mutton chop and a
glass of blood-making Australian Burgundy.

After lunch they drove in the motor-car, returning for tea, and from tea
till dinner they read over aloud and discussed their morning’s work. In
this way Philip made acquaintance with the subject-matter he would be
employed on next morning, and Phœbe learned how that which she had
written yesterday had turned out. Philip had never any criticism to
make: his wife’s imagination seemed to him one of the most glorious
instruments ever devised for the delectation of the literary, and she
often said that of all contemporary novelists her husband was the only
man capable of handling the situations she poured out in this unending
flood. After dinner they played patience, went early to bed, and awoke
with an unquenchable zest for the labour and rewards of another day.

* * * * *

It is impossible to figure a happier or a more harmonious existence. In
imagination they roamed over the entire world without the expense or
inconvenience of foreign travel: their spirits ranged through the whole
gamut of human emotion, and whatever adversities the Algernon and Eva of
the moment went through, their creators and interpreters knew in their
heart of hearts that all was going to end well, for otherwise they would
speedily have lost their pinnacled eminence as writers of serial stories
in the daily press. It is true that Philip’s voice often shook as he
read, and that Phœbe’s eyes were dim as she listened to the written tale
of the remarkable disasters and misunderstandings through which the
children of her brain had to pass; but these were but luxurious and
sterile sorrows. In fact, the greatest trial that ever came to them
during these halcyon years was when the editor of one of the papers in
which the tale was running wrote to say that it was so popular that he
insisted on having at least another fortnight of it, instead of bringing
it to an end in two more instalments.

That entailed a vast deal of work, for Phœbe had to search the file to
find out by what constructive carpentering she could engineer an episode
that would be of the requisite length; for the last instalment of all,
when the severed were reunited, must naturally be left for the end. But
she never failed to manage it somehow, and even when tribulation was
great, and for the moment she could not conceive how to spin the story
out, her cloud had a silver lining, for all this difficult work was due
to the story’s amazing popularity. Or sometimes some ill-mannered reader
would write to the newspaper office to point out that St. Peter’s Church
at Rome did not stand on a “commanding eminence,” or ask more
information about the “glittering spires” on the Acropolis at Athens, or
demur to the “pellucid waters of the Nile in flood, as it rolled down in
blue cataracts studded with milk-white foam.” But otherwise their life
flowed on in an unbroken succession of literary triumphs and domestic
happiness.

Then suddenly without any warning whatever the curtain was rung up on a
psychological tragedy; for Philip, by some species of spiritual
infection from his wife, began to develop an imagination. It did not at
first threaten to attack what Phœbe in a Gallic moment had once called
their “_vie intérieure_,” by which she meant their literary labours, but
was directly concerned only with the present of a safety razor which she
had made him on his birthday, in order to save cotton-wool and his
life-blood. This safety razor consisted of a neat little sort of a rake
into which razor blades were fitted. Each of these, when blunted by use,
was to be thrown away and a fresh one inserted, and that morning,
Philip, finding that his blade had begun to lose its edge, tossed it
lightly and airily out of his dressing-room window, from which it fell
into a herbaceous border which ran along the house. The new blade gave
the utmost satisfaction, and precisely at nine-thirty he lit his first
pipe and began his work for the day on Phœbe’s scenario.

The dining-room was just below his dressing-room, and at that moment
there came a rustle from the herbaceous bed, and Phœbe’s adorable
Persian cat leaped on to the window-sill from outside, and proceeded to
make its toilet in the warm May sunshine. And at that precise and fatal
moment Philip Partington’s imagination began to work. It stirred within
him like the first faint pang of a toothache. For some quarter of an
hour he refused to recognize its existence, and proceeded to clothe in
suitable language the flight of Eva up the frozen Thames in an ice-ship.
Not knowing exactly what an ice-ship was, and being aware that his
readers would be similarly ignorant, he evolved a beautiful one out of
his inner consciousness that “skimmed along” on a single runner like a
skate. It was not, he reflected, any less likely that it should keep its
balance than that a bicycle should….

Suddenly he laid down his pen. His imagination was beginning to hurt
him. It would be a terrible thing if Phœbe’s cat, while it prowled
though the herbaceous bed, stepped on the blade of the safety razor.
Blunt though it was for shaving purposes, it would easily inflict a
cruel wound on Tommy’s paw. When his work was done, he must really hunt
for the blade, and bestow it in some safer place.

He took up his pen again and wrote, “Ever faster through the deepening
winter twilight sped the ice-ship, and Eva controlling the tiller in her
long taper fingers, watched the dusky banks fly past her. ‘Oh, God,’ she
murmured, ‘grant that I may be in time!’ The woods of Richmond….”

The cat had finished its toilet and jumped down again into the
herbaceous bed. Philip heard a faint mew, and his awaking imagination
told him that Tommy had cut his foot already. With a spasm of remorse he
ran out into the garden and began a frenzied search for the razor-blade
which with such culpable carelessness he had thrown away. A quarter of
an hour’s search was rewarded by its discovery, and as there was no
blood on the edge of it he thankfully assumed that he had not been
punished (nor Tommy either) for his thoughtlessness. He unfortunately
stepped on a fine calceolaria, and regained the gravel path with the
blade in his hand.

He locked it up in the drawer of his knee-hole table, where he kept his
will and his pass-book and his cheque book, and with a free mind
returned to Eva, perilously voyaging on the ice past the woods of
Richmond, and praying that she should be “in time.” But suddenly, and
for the first time in their dual and prosperous career as _feuilleton_
writers, Philip found himself finding a certain want of actuality in
Phœbe’s imaginings. They lacked the bite of such realism as he had found
illustrated in the poignancy of his own search for the discarded
razor-blade in the herbaceous border. There was emotion, real human
emotion, though only concerned with the paws of a cat and a razor,
whereas Eva’s taper fingers on the tiller of this remarkable craft
seemed to want the solidity of mortal experience. But it would never do
to lose faith in Phœbe’s inventions, for it was his faith in them that
lent him his unique skill as interpreter and chronicler of them. And,
anyhow, the razor-blade was safely inaccessible now to any cat on its
pleasure excursions, and he turned his mind back to the woods of
Richmond.

With the unexpectedness of a clock loudly chiming, his imagination began
to work again. What if he should suddenly die even as he sat there at
his table! Phœbe alone knew where his will was kept, and he saw her,
blind with tears, unlocking the drawer and groping with trembling hand
among its contents. Suddenly she would start back with a cry of pain,
and withdraw her hand, on which the fast-flowing blood denoted that she
had severed an artery or two, and would bleed to death in a few seconds,
as had happened to a most obnoxious Marquis in the tale, “Kind hearts
are more than coronets.”

Next moment he had unlocked the drawer, and gingerly holding the dread
instrument of Phœbe’s death between finger and thumb, looked wildly
round for some secure asylum for the hateful thing. Long he stood there
in hesitation; then, mounting a set of “library steps,” deposited it on
the top of the tall bookcase which held the complete file of all the
newspapers in which their tales had appeared. Then he set to work again
on Eva, who presently ran her ice-boat ashore below the Star and Garter
hotel. But half the morning had already gone, and he had scarcely yet
made a beginning of the morning’s work.

Phœbe was unusually buoyant at lunch time to-day, but for once her
cheerfulness failed in shedding sunshine on Philip.

“My dear, I have got over such a difficult point,” she said. “Do you
remember how Moses Isaacson got Algernon to sign the paper which
acknowledged that he was not Lord St. Austell’s legitimate son?”

“Yes, yes,” said Philip feverishly, trying to recall the exact happening
of those miserable events.

“Well, all that was written in invisible ink, and all he thought he
signed was the lease of Eagles Castle. There! And look, here is the
first dish of asparagus.”

“And how about the lease?” asked Philip.

“It was written in water-colour ink, and, of course, Moses Isaacson
washed it off afterwards.”

“Capital!” said Philip. “That does the trick.”

There was silence for a minute or two as the novelists ate the fresh
asparagus, and then Phœbe said:

“To-morrow, dear, you will have to come and work with me in the
drawing-room. The maids must begin their spring cleaning, and indeed it
should have been done a month ago. We will have lunch and dinner in the
hall while they do this room, and the day after they will do the
drawing-room, and I will do my work with you here.”

Philip’s fingers were stealing towards the last stick of asparagus, but
at this they were suddenly arrested.

“Ah, spring cleaning!” he said with assumed cheerfulness. “They just
dust the books, I suppose, and sweep the floor.”

She laughed. She had Eva’s celebrated laugh, which was like a peal of
silver bells.

“Indeed, they do much more than that,” she said. “Every book is taken
out and dusted; they move all the furniture, and clean it all, back and
front and top and bottom. But you won’t know a thing about it, except
that our dear Elizabethan dining-room will look so spick and span that
Elizabeth herself might have dinner in it. Some day we must do an
historical novel, you and I. Think what a setting we have here!”

Though the day was so deliciously warm, it felt rather chilly in the
evening, or so Philip thought, and a fire was lit in the drawing-room.
Phœbe had a slight headache, and thus it was quite natural that she
should go to bed early, leaving her husband sitting up. As soon as he
had heard the door of her bedroom close, he went softly to the
dining-room, and again mounting the library-steps, took down the
razor-blade from the _cache_ which this morning had seemed so secure,
and went back with it into the drawing-room. It would have been terrible
if Jane, the housemaid, who always sang at her work, should to-morrow
have suddenly interrupted her warblings with a wild scream, as she
dusted the top of the bookcase. Perhaps the razor-blade would have
embedded itself in her hand; perhaps, even more tragically, her flapping
duster would have flicked it into her smiling and songful face, and have
buried it deep in her eye or her open mouth. But now this gruesome
domestic tragedy had been averted by Philip’s ingenious perception of
the chilliness of the evening, and with a sigh of relief he dropped the
fatal blade into the core of the fire.

He went softly up to bed, feeling very tired after this emotional day.
Now that his anxiety was allayed he would have liked to tell Phœbe how
silly he had been, for never before had he had a secret from her. But
then one of Phœbe’s most sacred idols in life was her husband’s stern
masculine common sense that (like Algernon’s) was never the prey of
foolish fears and unfounded tremors. He hated the idea of smashing up
this cherished image of Phœbe’s, and determined to keep his
unaccountable failing to himself. Phœbe should never know. Besides, it
would vex her very much to be told that her present to him had
occasioned him such uneasiness.

He fell asleep at once, and woke in the grey dawn of the morning to the
sound, as it were, of clashing cymbals of terror in his brain…. The
housemaid would clear up the fireplace in the drawing-room, and there
among the ashes, like a snake in the grass, would be the keen tooth of
the razor-blade. Perhaps already Philip was too late, and before he
could get down a cry of pain would ring through the silent house,
betokening that Jane’s life-blood was already spreading over the new
Kidderminster carpet, and he sprang from his bed and with bare feet went
hurriedly down to the drawing-room.

Thank God he was in time, and a minute afterwards he was on his way up
to bed again with the razor-blade still dusty with ashes, but as sharp
as ever, in an envelope taken from Phœbe’s table. Temporarily, he put it
between his mattresses, and, since it was still only half-past four,
climbed back into bed, and vainly attempted to compose himself to sleep.

* * * * *

Already he was behindhand with work that should have been done yesterday
morning, and when to-day, with the envelope containing the blade in his
breast-pocket, he tried to make up for lost time, he only succeeded in
losing more of it. There were other distractions as well, for owing to
the spring cleaning in progress in the dining-room, he sat with Phœbe in
the drawing-room, and she, quite recovered from her headache, and quite
undisturbed by his presence, was reeling off sheet after sheet in her
big, firm handwriting of the further trials that awaited Algernon.
Sometimes she looked up at him with a bright, glad smile, born of the
joy of creation; but for the most part her head was bent over her work,
and but a short peal of silver-bell laughter from time to time denoted
the ecstasy of invention. And falling more and more behind her, Philip
lumbered in her wake, with three-quarters of his mind entirely absorbed
in the awful problem regarding the contents of the envelope in his
breast-pocket.

Suddenly, brighter than the noonday outside, an idea illuminated him,
and he got up.

“I shall take ten minutes’ stroll, my dear,” he said. “_Solvitur
ambulando_, you know, and you have given me a difficult chapter to
write!”

She recalled herself with an effort to the real world.

“I think I won’t come with you, darling,” she said. “I am afraid of
breaking the golden thread, as you once called it. Let me see …” and
she grabbed the golden thread again.

At the bottom of the garden ran a swift chalk-stream that had often
figured in their joint works, and towards this Philip joyfully hurried.
He picked up half a dozen pebbles from the gravel path, put them into
the envelope which contained the instrument of death, tucked the flap
in, and threw it into the stream. There was a slight splash, and he saw
the white envelope shiningly sink through the water until it came to
rest at the bottom. He returned to Phœbe with the sense that he had
awoke from some strangling nightmare.

For a couple of days after that Philip enjoyed the ecstasy which
succeeds the removal of some haunting terror. Basking in the sunshine of
security, he could look down on the dark clouds through which he had
passed, and feel with thankfulness how completely (though narrowly) he
had escaped the misty fringe of some trouble of the brain, the claws and
teeth and pincers of a fixed idea. The simple expedient of throwing the
razor-blade into the stream had entirely dispersed those clouds, and
till then he had never known the sweetness and sanity of the sun. Then,
with tropical rapidity, the tempest closed in upon him again.

He and Phœbe had driven out in their motor-car one afternoon, and had
dismissed it two miles from home in order to have the pleasure of
walking back through the flowery lanes. Philip was something of a
botanist, and since he was now engaged on the chronicling of the
reunion of Eva and Algernon, which unexpectedly took place in a ruined
temple near Rome, he wanted to refresh his memory by the sight of the
glories of the early English summer, in order to deck the flowery fields
in which the ruined temple lay with the utmost possible lavishness of
floral tapestry.

“The ruin stands for the trial they have passed through, my dear,” he
explained to Phœbe, “and lo, all round Nature breaks into gladness!”

Phœbe gave a deep sigh.

* * * * *

“I think that’s lovely,” she said. “How you embellish my dry skeleton of
a tale, darling, covering it with strong muscles and lovely supple skin.
We _are_ happy, aren’t we? I wonder if Algernon and Eva were really as
happy, even at that moment, as we always are!”

They had come near to the stream that flowed by the bottom of the
garden, the bank of which was a tangle of flowers.

“Loosestrife, meadow-sweet, marsh-marigold, willow-herb,” said Philip.
“Delicious names, are they not?”

The sound of shrill juvenile voices was heard, and turning a bend in the
lane, they came opposite the pool where Philip had thrown the
razor-blade. There on the bank were half a dozen small boys in various
degrees of nudity, and rosy from their bathing.

“Little darlings!” said Phœbe sympathetically. “What a jolly time they
have been having in the water!”

“Willow-herb, marsh-marigold,” murmured Philip mechanically, looking
round for the traces of blood on the stream-bank….

He took a firm hold of himself, and managed to walk across the wooden
bridge that led to the bottom of the garden with some show of
steadiness. But he almost reeled and fell when, looking into the pool,
he saw the razor-blade, its encompassing envelope having been destroyed
by the water, shining on the pebbly bottom of the stream like tragic
Rhinegold.

When they had had tea, he made some lame excuse of studying flowers a
little longer and slipped down again to the stream. The boys had gone,
and taking off his shoes and socks, and rolling his trousers up to the
knee, he waded out over the sharp pebbles to where his doom flickered in
the sunshine. With the aid of his stick he propelled it into shallower
waters and picked it up. Then, shivering from the brisk water, and
tearing his socks as he pulled them over his wet feet, he returned with
it to the house in a state of more miserable dejection than Algernon had
ever been, even when he sat down on the ruins of the Roman temple,
unaware that Eva was just about to come round the corner with April in
her eyes.

For the next week Philip carried the razor-blade about with him in a
stud-box that during the day never left his pocket, and at night reposed
under his pillow. He made several attempts to get rid of it in a way
that commended itself to his conscience, which seethed with scruples and
imaginary terrors, burying it once in the garden, and at another time
throwing it into the ash-bin. But the sight of his terrier digging in
the potato patch for a suitable hiding place for his bone, caused him to
disinter it from the first of these, and the second entailed a dismal
midnight visit to the dust-bin, when, one evening, Phœbe casually
alluded to the dustman’s approaching visit.

On another occasion he was fired with the original notion of embedding
it in the interstices of the rough bark of the ilex at the end of the
garden, well out of reach of curious fingers, and with the stud-box in
his pocket, climbed with infinite difficulty up into its lower branches.
But while wedging it into a suitable crevice the bough on which his
weight rested suddenly gave way, and he fell heavily to the ground,
while the blade flashed through the air like Excalibur and plunged into
a bramble-bush. It was, of course, necessary to get it out, and this
prickly business, combined with a sprained ankle, brought him almost
aground in the shoals of despair. He began contemplating enlisting as a
private in the British army, though well over the military age and of
obese figure. Perhaps he would find some opportunity in Flanders of
throwing it, suitably weighted, into a German trench. Only the thought
of Phœbe left alone and making up interminable plots, with no one to
turn them into narrative for her, kept him from this desperate step.

Meantime his work halted and languished, for sleepless nights and
nightmare days miserably affected his power of composition, his style
and even such matters as punctuation and spelling. Phœbe grew anxious
about him, and recommended a holiday, but he had the wisdom to know that
the only thing that kept him on the safe side of the frontier between
sanity and madness was determined application to work, however poor the
output was. He felt that he might just as well pack his boxes and go
straight to Bedlam instead of making a circuitous journey there _via_
the Malvern Hills.

It was when his condition was at its worst that there gleamed a light
through the tunnel of his despair. The editor of the _Yorkshire
Telegraph_, who wanted another story by the Partingtons, with the
shortest possible delay, wrote to him suggesting in the most delicate
manner that life in New York would present an admirable setting for a
tale, especially since the United States had come into the war, and
offering to pay his passage to that salubrious city if he would
favourably consider this proposal. And all at once Philip remembered
having read in some book of physical geography, studied by him in
happier boyish days, that the Atlantic in certain places was not less
than seven miles deep….

He read this amiable epistle to his wife.

“Upon my word, it sounds a very good plan,” he said brightly. “What do
you say, Phœbe? It will give me the holiday of which you think I stand
in need.”

Phœbe shook her head.

“Do you propose that I should come with you?” she asked. “Why should a
holiday among the submarines do you more good than the Malvern Hills?”

The thought of the deep holes in the Atlantic grew ever more rosy to
Philip’s mind. Even the hideous notion of being torpedoed failed to take
the colour out of it.

“My dear, these are days in which a man must not mind taking risks,” he
said.

She smiled at him.

“I know your fearless nature, darling,” she said; “but what is the point
of running unnecessary risks?”

“Local colour. There is a great deal in Mr. Etherington’s remarks.”

“I don’t agree. I should think with our experience we ought to be able
to describe New York without going there. We didn’t find it necessary to
go to Athens, or Khartoum, or Mexico.”

“True,” said he; “but perhaps my descriptions might have gained in
veracity if we had. That was a tiresome letter to the _Yorkshire
Telegraph_ about the spires on the Acropolis. If we had been there, we
should have known that there weren’t any.”

He fingered the stud-box in his pocket for a moment, and his fingers
itched to drop it over a ship’s side.

“My part of our joint work might gain in true artistic feeling,” he
said, “if I described what I had actually seen. Art holds the mirror up
to nature, you know.”

“Yes, darling; but do you think Shakespeare meant that Art must hold the
mirror up to New York?” asked she. “I fancy there is very little nature
in New York.”

He took a turn or two up and down the room, while the box positively
burned his finger-tips.

“I can’t help feeling as I do about it,” he said. “And, Phœbe, one of
our earliest vows to each other was that each of us should respect the
other’s literary conscience!”

She got up.

“You disarm me, dear,” she said. “Apply for your passport, and if they
give it you, go. I only ask you to respect my feminine weakness and not
make me come with you among all those horrid submarines.”

They sealed their compact with a kiss.

By the time Phœbe had interviewed her cook, her husband had already
written his letter applying for his passport, on the grounds of artistic
necessity in his profession. She read it through with high approval.

“Very dignified and proper,” she said. “By the way, dear, there will be
no work for us this morning. We are going over the factory for
explosives with kind Captain Traill. You and I must observe the
processes very carefully, as we want all the information we can get for
‘The Hero of Ypres.’”

He jumped up with something of his old alacrity.

“Aha, there speaks your artistic conscience,” he said. “And don’t let me
see too many soft glances between you and kind Captain Traill.”

Phœbe looked hugely delighted and returned the compliment.

“And there are some very pretty girls working there,” she observed
slyly.

An hour afterwards they were padding in felt slippers round the room
where bombs were packed with a fatal grey treacle, one spoonful of which
was sufficient to blow them and the whole building into a million
fragments. A new type of bomb was being made there, consisting of a
cast-iron shell fitted with a hole through which the grey treacle was
poured; an iron stopper was then screwed into the hole. There were
hundreds of those empty shells, which slid along grooved ways to where
the treacle was put into them, and they then were passed on to the
girls, who fixed their stoppers. It was all soft, silent, deadly work,
and Philip recorded a hundred impressions on his retentive memory.

Phœbe and Captain Traill were walking just ahead of him, when suddenly a
great light broke, so vividly illuminating his brain that he almost
thought some terrific explosion, seen and not heard, had occurred.
Stealthily he drew from his pocket the stud-case, stealthily he opened
it and took out the razor-blade. Then, bending over an empty bomb-case
as if to examine it, he dropped the blade into it. It fell inside with a
slight chink, which nobody noticed.

A couple of minutes afterwards the bomb-case had passed through the
hands of the dispenser of treacle, and had its stopper screwed in.

“And where are all those little surprise packets going?” asked Philip
airily.

“To aeroplanes on the west front,” said kind Captain Traill. “We’re
sending off a lot to-night. Perhaps that one”–and he pointed to the
identical bomb which Philip had had a hand in filling–“will make a mess
in Mannheim next week.”

“I hope so,” said Philip fervently.

The only thing, now that Philip had disposed of the razor-blade, that
clouded his complete content was the fear that his passport would be
granted him, and that he would have to make a journey to America.
Happily no such unnerving calamity occurred, for a week later he
received a polite intimation from the passport office that the object
for which he wanted to go there did not seem of sufficient importance to
warrant the granting of a permit; so, wreathed in smiles, he passed this
letter over to Phœbe.

“There’s the end of that,” he said.

“Philistines! Barbarians!” she said indignantly.

“I suppose they are acting to the best of their judgment,” said he. “I
dare say they have never heard of me.”

“My dear, don’t be so cynical,” said Phœbe.

“Well, well! Certainly I am bitterly disappointed.”

He took up the morning paper.

“Bitterly!” he said again. “Hallo! Our airmen bombed Mannheim two nights
ago, and dropped three tons of high explosives. Well, that is very
interesting. Captain Traill said that perhaps some of those bombs which
we saw being filled would make a mess in Mannheim. I hope they were
those actual ones.”

“So do I,” said Phœbe. “Was there much damage done?”

“The German account says that there was hardly any, but of course that
is the German account. A few people were wounded and cut by fragments of
the bombs. Cut!”

He got up and could hardly refrain from dancing round the table among
the rushes.

“Some deep cuts, I shouldn’t wonder,” he said.

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