corrected the Regius Professor.
He began to tease her. âOh, thereâs no dodging Midas! He just comes, he touches you, and you pay him several thousand per cent at once. Youâre goldâa young golden ladyâif he touches you.â
âI wonât be touched!â she cried, relapsing into her habitual frivolity.
âOh, but heâll touch you.â
Miss Beaumont took up her Virgil and smacked Ford over the head with it.
âEvelyn! Evelyn!â said Mrs Worters. âNow you are forgetting yourself. And you also forget my question. What good has Latin done you?â
âMr Fordâwhat good has Latin done you?â
âMr Inskipâwhat good has Latin done us?â
So I was let in for the classical controversy. The arguments for the study of Latin are perfectly sound, but they are difficult to remember, and the afternoon sun was hot, and I needed my tea. But I had to justify my existence as a coach, so I took off my eye-glasses and breathed on them and said, âMy dear Ford, what a question!â
âItâs all right for Jack,â said Mrs Worters. âJack has to pass his entrance examination. But whatâs the good of it for Evelyn? None at all.â
âNo, Mrs Worters,â I persisted, pointing my eye-glasses at her. âI cannot agree. Miss Beaumont isâin a senseânew to our civilization. She is entering it, and Latin is one of the subjects in her entrance examination also. No one can grasp modern life without some knowledge of its origins.â
âBut why should she grasp modern life?â said the tiresome woman.
âWell, there you are!â I retorted, and shut up my eye-glasses with a snap.
âMr Inskip, I am not there. Kindly tell me whatâs the good of it all. Oh, Iâve been through it myself: Jupiter, Venus, Juno, I know the lot of them. And many of the stories not at all proper.â
âClassical education,â I said dryly, âis not entirely confined to classical mythology. Though even the mythology has its value. Dreams if you like, but there is value in dreams.â
âI too have dreams,â said Mrs Worters, âbut I am not so foolish as to mention them afterwards.â
Mercifully we were interrupted. A rich virile voice close behind us said, âCherish your dreams!â We had been joined by our host, Harcourt WortersâMrs Wortersâ son, Miss Beaumontâs fiancÃ©, Fordâs guardian, my employer: I must speak of him as Mr Worters.
âLet us cherish our dreams!â he repeated. âAll day Iâve been fighting, haggling, bargaining. And to come out on to this lawn and see you all learning Latin, so happy, so passionless, so Arcadianââ
He did not finish the sentence, but sank into the chair next to Miss Beaumont, and possessed himself of her hand. As he did so she sang: âAh yoÃ¹ silly Ã ss, gods live in woods!â
âWhat have we here?â said Mr Worters with a slight frown.
With the other hand she pointed to me.
âVirgilââ I stammered. âColloquial translationââ
âOh, I see; a colloquial translation of poetry.â Then his smile returned. âPerhaps if gods live in woods, that is why woods are so dear. I have just bought Other Kingdom Copse!â
Loud exclamations of joy. Indeed, the beeches in that copse are as fine as any in Hertfordshire. Moreover, it, and the meadow by which it is approached, have always made an ugly notch in the rounded contours of the Worters estate. So we were all very glad that Mr Worters had purchased Other Kingdom. Only Ford kept silent, stroking his head where the Virgil had hit it, and smiling a little to himself as he did so.
âJudging from the price I paid, I should say there was a god in every tree. But price, this time, was no object.â He
Harry Fisch, Karen Moline