`I see there is some writing there, but I cannot make it out,' I replied.

`Take this magnifying-glass and try,' said Erskine, with the same sad smile still playing about his mouth.

I took the glass, and moving the lamp a little nearer, I began to spell out the crabbed sixteenth-century handwriting. `To the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets.'... `Good heavens! I cried, `is this Shakespeare's Mr. W. H.?'

`Cyril Graham used to say so,' muttered Erskine.

`But it is not a bit like Lord Pembroke,' I answered. `I know the Penshurst portraits very well. I was staying near there a few weeks ago.'

`Do you really believe then that the Sonnets are addressed to Lord Pembroke?' he asked.

`I am sure of it,' I answered. `Pembroke, Shakespeare, and Mrs. Mary Fitton are the three personages of the Sonnets; there is no doubt at all about it.'

`Well, I agree with you,' said Erskine, `but I did not always think so. I used to believe well, I suppose I used to believe in Cyril Graham and his theory.'

`And what was that?' I asked, looking at the wonderful portrait, which had already begun to have a strange fascination for me.

`It is a long story,' said Erskine, taking the picture away from me rather abruptly I thought at the time - `a very long story; but if you care to hear it, I will tell it to you.'

`I love theories about the Sonnets,' I cried; `but I don't think I am likely to be converted to any new idea. The matter has ceased to be a mystery to any one. Indeed, I wonder that it ever was a mystery.'

`As I don't believe in the theory, I am not likely to convert you to it,' said Erskine, laughing; `but it may interest you.'

`Tell it to me, of course,' I answered. `If it is half as delightful as the picture, I shall be more than satisfied.'

`Well,' said Erskine, lighting a cigarette, `I must begin by telling you about Cyril Graham himself He and I were at the same house at Eton. I was a year or two older than he was, but we were immense friends, and did all our work and all our play together. There was, of course, a good deal more play than work, but I cannot say that I am sorry for that. It is always an advantage not to have received a sound commercial education, and what I learned in the playing fields at Eton has been quite as useful to me as anything I was taught at Cambridge. I should tell you that Cyril's father and mother were both dead. They had been drowned in a horrible yachting accident off the Isle of Wight. His father had been in the diplomatic service, and had married a daughter, the only daughter, in fact, of old Lord Crediton, who became Cyril's guardian after the death of his parents. I don't think that Lord Crediton cared very much for Cyril. He had never really forgiven his daughter for marrying a man who had not a title. He was an extraordinary old aristocrat, who swore like a coster-monger, and had the manners of a farmer. I remember seeing him once on Speech-day. He growled at me, gave me a sovereign, and told me not to grow up "a damned Radical" like my father. Cyril had very little affection for him, and was only too glad to spend most of his holidays with us in Scotland. They never really got on together at all. Cyril thought him a bear, and he thought Cyril effeminate. He was effeminate, I suppose, in some things, though he was a very good rider and a capital fencer. In fact he got the foils before he left Eton. But he was very languid in his manner, and not a little vain of his good looks, and had a strong objection to football. The two things that really gave him pleasure were poetry and acting. At Eton he was always dressing up and reciting Shakespeare, and when we went up to Trinity he became a member of the A.D.C. his first term. I remember I was always very jealous of his acting. I was absurdly devoted to him; I suppose because we were so

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