‘Gracious, no, child. Why do you ask?’

‘I didn’t; I only wondered. And even your philanthropy, practised in a world where everything is based on competition, must have a debit as well as a credit account. The young ravens cry for food.’

‘And are fed.’

‘Exactly. Which presupposes that something else is fed upon.’

‘Oh, you’re simply exasperating. You’ve been reading Nietzsche till you haven’t got any sense of moral proportion left. May I ask if you are governed by any laws of conduct whatever?’

‘There are certain fixed rules that one observes for one’s own comfort. For instance, never be flippantly rude to any inoffensive, grey-bearded stranger that you may meet in pine forests or hotel smoking-rooms on the Continent. It always turns out to be the King of Sweden.’

‘The restraint must be dreadfully irksome to you. When I was younger, boys of your age used to be nice and innocent.’

‘Now we are only nice. One must specialise in these days. Which reminds me of the man I read of in some sacred book who was given a choice of what he most desired. And because he didn’t ask for titles and honours and dignities, but only for immense wealth, these other things came to him also.’

‘I am sure you didn’t read about him in any sacred book.’

‘Yes; I fancy you will find him in Debrett.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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