“This is very sincere, this request. I shall not be offended if you think it isn’t, but I shall feel that there is no more light in the sky. I’d got resigned to failure when I read your lectures, and they wakened me to hope again, because they showed me that I’ve done every possible thing wrong. If you do come, please write a very long time in advance because we are thirty miles from the station and only go in for letters occasionally. If you can’t come, I’ll go on worrying with the lectures until I understand without you.
MARCELLA LASHCAIRN FARNE.”
She fastened the letter up in between two books. It was three months before she read in a week-old Sydney “Sunday Times” that Professor Kraill, the eminent biologist, “whose fame in his newer field of research had preceded him to the Antipodes,” was to lecture at Sydney University during the next three months. Marcella did not open the letter; she posted it to Sydney University and left the issue in the hands of the forces that had made her write it.
Professor Kraill got it when he was being bored to death in Sydney and he rather discredited the sincerity of it for he was being wearied to death by lion-hunters. Eminene men from the Old Country either get feted or cut in the Colonies. He was feted because he happened to arrive at a time when “culture” was fashionable, and Shakespeare Societies, Ibsen Evenings, History Saturday Afternoons and Science Sundays were the rage. Foreign legations and Government officials gave him dinners as deadly as any in England. He saw that he was to appear in character at these dinners. He was expected to wear a phylactery on his forehead inscribed “I AM A BIOLOGIST.” He was expected to talk biology to the government ladies, who hoped he would say things that were “rather daring” but quotable. In fact, they hoped that he himself would be “rather daring”—but quotable! They talked about Shackleton’s expedition, which was the affair of the moment, and thought that they were being flatteringly and intelligently biological when they asked him how seals lived under ice. There was a dance on the flagship which, thanks to the snotties, was quite alive. Then came a month’s interim in the lectures when more festivities were threatened. Professor Kraill read Marcella’s letter and thought she was probably a rather emotional, rather intense and rather original lion-hunter. But she had the redeeming feature of living in the Bush, thirty miles from anywhere. Conceivably, thirty miles from anywhere, there would be no festivities. He tossed up between the City and the Bush, and the Bush won. Giving out that he felt very unwell after the round of gaieties, he basely deserted, got into the most uncomfortable train in the world and, two days later, threw himself on the hospitality of the landlord of the bosker hotel at Cook’s Wall, entirely omitting to let Marcella know that he was coming.