Chapter 23

THE MANSERVANT WILLIAM came and set the chairs for the maids, and presently they filed in. First Christina's maid, then the cook, then the housemaid, then William, and then the coachman. I sat opposite them, and watched their faces as Theobald read a chapter from the Bible. They were nice people, but more absolute vacancy I never saw upon the countenances of human beings.

Theobald began by reading a few verses from the Old Testament, according to some system of his own. On this occasion the passage came from the fifteenth chapter of Numbers: it had no particular bearing that I could see upon anything which was going on just then, but the spirit which breathed throughout the whole seemed to me to be so like that of Theobald himself, that I could understand better after hearing it, how he came to think as he thought and act as he acted.

The verses are as follows-

`But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

`Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandments, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.

`And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day.

`And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

`And they put him in ward because it was not declared what should be done to him.

`And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

`And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

`And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

`Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue.

`And it shall be unto you a fringe, that ye may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes.

`That ye may remember and do all my commandments and be holy unto your God.

`I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.'

My thoughts wandered while Theobald was reading the above, and reverted to a little matter which I had observed in the course of the afternoon.

It happened that some years previously, a swarm of bees had taken up their abode in the roof of the house under the slates, and had multiplied so that the drawing-room was a good deal frequented by these bees during the summer, when the windows were open. The drawing-room paper was of a pattern which consisted of bunches of red and white roses, and I saw several bees at different times fly up to these bunches and try them, under the impression that they were real flowers; having tried one bunch, they tried the next, and the next, and the next, till they reached the one that was nearest the ceiling, then they went down bunch by bunch as they had ascended, till they were stopped by the back of the

  By PanEris using Melati.

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