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NONE OTHER GODS

BY

ROBERT HUGH BENSON

AUTHOR OF "THE CONVENTIONALISTS," "THE NECROMANCERS," "A WINNOWING,"
ETC.




NONE OTHER GODS




DEDICATORY LETTER


MY DEAR JACK KIRKBY,

To whom can I dedicate this book but to you who were, not only the best
friend of the man I have written about, but one without whom the book
could not have been written? It is to you that I owe practically all the
materials necessary for the work: it was to you that Frank left the
greater part of his diary, such as it was (and I hope I have observed
your instructions properly as regards the use I have made of it); it was
you who took such trouble to identify the places he passed through; and
it was you, above all, who gave me so keen an impression of Frank
himself, that it seems to me I must myself have somehow known him
intimately, in spite of the fact that we never met.

I think I should say that it is this sense of intimacy, this
extraordinary interior accessibility (so to speak) of Frank, that made
him (as you and I both think) about the most lovable person we have ever
known. They were very extraordinary changes that passed over him, of
course--(and I suppose we cannot improve, even with all our modern
psychology, upon the old mystical names for such changes--Purgation,
Illumination and Union)--but, as theologians themselves tell us, that
mysterious thing which Catholics call the Grace of God does not
obliterate, but rather emphasizes and transfigures the natural
characteristics of every man upon whom it comes with power. It was the
same element in Frank, as it seems to me--the same root-principle, at
least--that made him do those preposterous things connected with bread
and butter and a railway train, that drove him from Cambridge in
defiance of all common-sense and sweet reasonableness; that held him
still to that deplorable and lamentable journey with his two traveling
companions, and that ultimately led him to his death. I mean, it was the
same kind of unreasonable daring and purpose throughout, though it
issued in very different kinds of actions, and was inspired by very
different motives.

Well, it is not much good discussing Frank in public like this. The
people who are kind enough to read his life--or, rather, the six months
of it with which this book deals--must form their own opinion of him.
Probably a good many will think him a fool. I daresay he was; but I
think I like that kind of folly. Other people may think him simply
obstinate and tiresome. Well, I like obstinacy of that sort, and I do
not find him tiresome. Everyone must form their own views, and I have a
perfect right to form mine, which I am glad to know coincide with your
own. After all, you knew him better than anyone else.

I went to see Gertie Trustcott, as you suggested, but I didn't get any
help from her. I think she is the most suburban person I have ever met.
She could tell me nothing whatever new about him; she could only
corroborate what you yourself had told me, and what the diaries and
other papers contained. I did not stay long with Miss Trustcott.

And now, my dear friend, I must ask you to accept this book from me, and
to make the best of it. Of course, I have had to conjecture a great
deal, and to embroider even more; but it is no more than embroidery. I
have not touched the fabric itself which you put into my hands; and
anyone who cares to pull out the threads I have inserted can do so if
they will, without any fear of the thing falling to pieces.

I have to thank you for many pleasurable and even emotional hours. The
offering which I present to you now is the only return I can make.

I am,
Ever yours sincerely,
ROBERT HUGH BENSON.

P.S.--We've paneled a new room since you were last at Hare Street. Come
and see it soon and sleep in it. We want you badly. And I want to talk
a great deal more about Frank.

P.P.S.--I hear that her ladyship has gone back to live with her father;
she tried the Dower House in Westmoreland, but seems to have found it
lonely. Is that true? It'll be rather difficult for Dick, won't it?




NONE OTHER GODS




PART I




CHAPTER I


(I)

"I think you're behaving like an absolute idiot," said Jack Kirkby
indignantly.

Frank grinned pleasantly, and added his left foot to his right one in
the broad window-seat.

These two young men were sitting in one of the most pleasant places in
all the world in which to sit on a summer evening--in a ground-floor
room looking out upon the Great Court of Trinity College, Cambridge. It
was in that short space of time, between six and seven, during which the
Great Court is largely deserted. The athletes and the dawdlers have not
yet returned from field and river; and Fellows and other persons, young
enough to know better, who think that a summer evening was created for
the reading of books, have not yet emerged from their retreats. A
white-aproned cook or two moves across the cobbled spaces with trays
upon their heads; a tradesman's boy comes out of the corner entrance
from the hostel; a cat or two stretches himself on the grass; but, for
the rest, the court lies in broad sunshine; the shadows slope eastwards,
and the fitful splash and trickle of the fountain asserts itself clearly
above the gentle rumble of Trinity Street.

Within, the room in which these two sat was much like other rooms of the
same standing; only, in this one case the walls were paneled with
white-painted deal. Three doors led out of it--two into a tiny bedroom
and a tinier dining-room respectively; the third on to the passage
leading to the lecture-rooms. Frank found it very convenient, since he
thus was enabled, at every hour of the morning when the lectures broke
up, to have the best possible excuse for conversing with his friends
through the window.

The room was furnished really well. Above the mantelpiece, where rested
an array of smoking-materials and a large silver cigarette-box, hung an
ancestral-looking portrait, in a dull gilded frame, of an aged man, with
a ruff round his neck, purchased for one guinea; there was a sofa and a
set of chairs upholstered in a good damask: a black piano by Broadwood;
a large oval gate-leg table; a bureau; shelves filled with very
indiscriminate literature--law books, novels, Badminton, magazines and
ancient school editions of the classics; a mahogany glass-fronted
bookcase packed with volumes of esthetic appearance--green-backed poetry
books with white labels; old leather tomes, and all the rest of the
specimens usual to a man who has once thought himself literary. Then
there were engravings, well framed, round the walls; a black iron-work
lamp, fitted for electric light, hung from the ceiling; there were a
couple of oak chests, curiously carved. On the stained floor lay three
or four mellow rugs, and the window-boxes outside blazed with geraniums.
The débris of tea rested on the window-seat nearest the outer door.

Frank Guiseley, too, lolling in the window-seat in a white silk shirt,
unbuttoned at the throat, and gray flannel trousers, and one white shoe,
was very pleasant to look upon. His hair was as black and curly as a
Neapolitan's; he had a smiling, humorous mouth, and black eyes--of an
extraordinary twinkling alertness. His clean-shaven face, brown in its
proper complexion as well as with healthy sunburning (he had played very
vigorous lawn-tennis for the last two months), looked like a boy's,
except for the very determined mouth and the short, straight nose. He
was a little below middle height--well-knit and active; and though,
properly speaking, he was not exactly handsome, he was quite
exceptionally delightful to look at.

Jack Kirkby, sitting in an arm-chair a yard away, and in the same sort
of costume--except that he wore both his shoes and a Third Trinity
blazer--was a complete contrast in appearance. The other had something
of a Southern Europe look; Jack was obviously English--wholesome red
cheeks, fair hair and a small mustache resembling spun silk. He was,
also, closely on six feet in height.

He was anxious just now, and, therefore, looked rather cross, fingering
the very minute hairs of his mustache whenever he could spare the time
from smoking, and looking determinedly away from Frank upon the floor.
For the last week he had talked over this affair, ever since the amazing
announcement; and had come to the conclusion that once more, in this
preposterous scheme, Frank really meant what he said.

Frank had a terrible way of meaning what he said--he reflected with
dismay. There was the affair of the bread and butter three years ago,
before either of them had learned manners. This had consisted in the
fastening up in separate brown-paper parcels innumerable pieces of bread
and butter, addressing each with the name of the Reverend Junior Dean
(who had annoyed Frank in some way), and the leaving of the parcels
about in every corner of Cambridge, in hansom cabs, on seats, on
shop-counters and on the pavements--with the result that for the next
two or three days the dean's staircase was crowded with messenger boys
and unemployables, anxious to return apparently lost property.

Then there had been the matter of the flagging of a fast Northern train
in the middle of the fens with a red pocket-handkerchief, to find out if
it were really true that the train would stop, followed by a rapid
retreat on bicycles so soon as it had been ascertained that it was true;
the Affair of the German Prince traveling incognito, into which the
Mayor himself had been drawn; and the Affair of the Nun who smoked a
short black pipe in the Great Court shortly before midnight, before
gathering up her skirts and vanishing on noiseless india-rubber-shod
feet round the kitchen quarters into the gloom of Neville's Court, as
the horrified porter descended from his signal-box.

Now many minds could have conceived these things; a smaller number of
people would have announced their intention of doing them: but there
were very few persons who would actually carry them all out to the very
end: in fact, Jack reflected, Frank Guiseley was about the only man of
his acquaintance who could possibly have done them.



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Keywords: extraordinary, people, trinity, window-seat, really, before, cambridge, butter, kirkby, anxious
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