“I believe you are right,” Lilian Rosenberg said, “I never thought the devil was half as bad as he was painted. The Park to-night gives the lie direct to the ethics of all religions, and to the boasted efforts of all governments, churches, chapels, hospitals, police, progress and civilization. There is no misery, I am sure, to vie with it in any pagan land, either now or at any other period in the world’s history.”
“True,” Kelson replied, “and why is it? It is because civilization has killed charity. Giving—in its true sense—if it exists at all—is rarely to be met with—giving in exchange—that is, in order to gain—flourishes everywhere. People will subscribe for the erection of monuments to kings and statesmen, or to well-known and, often, richly-endowed charitable institutes, in exchange for the pleasure of seeing, in the newspapers, a list of the subscribers’ names, and themselves included amongst those whom they consider a peg above them socially; or in exchange for votes, or notoriety, they will give liberally to the brutal strikers, or outings for poor.”
“I suppose, by the poor, you mean the pampered, ill-mannered and detestably conceited County Council children,” Lilian Rosenberg chimed in. “I wouldn’t give a farthing to such a miscalled charity, no—not if I were rolling in riches.”
“And I think you would be right,” Kelson replied. “But for these really poor Park refugees it is a different matter. Obviously, no one will make the slightest effort to work up the public interest on their behalf, simply because they are labelled ‘useless.’ They belong nowhere—they have no votes—they are too feeble to combine—they are even too feeble to commit an atrocious murder; consequently, for the help they would receive, they could give nothing in return. By the bye, I doubt if they could muster between them a pair of suspenders—a bootlace—a shirt-button, or even a—”
Lilian Rosenberg caught him by the arm. “Stop,” she said, “that’s enough. Don’t get too graphic. What’s the matter with that tree?”
They were now close beside the banks of the Serpentine; the moon had broken through its covering of black clouds, and they perceived some twenty yards ahead of them, a tall, isolated lime, that was rocking in a most peculiar manner.
[Illustration: THEY GAZED FASCINATED]
THE RIGHT GIRL TO MARRY
Though the wind was nothing more than the usual night breeze of early autumn, the lime-tree was swaying violently to and fro, as if under the influence of a stupendous hurricane. Lilian Rosenberg and Kelson were so fascinated that they stood and watched it in silence. At last it left off swaying and became absolutely motionless. They then noticed, for the first time, that there were three figures standing under its branches, and that one of the figures was a policeman.