“The Accessories before the Fact decline to answer any questions,”
I gravely replied. “And they reserve their defence.”
“Well then, turn Queen’s Evidence, please! The flowers have
disappeared in the night,” she went on, turning to Arthur, “and we are
quite sure no one in the house has meddled with them. Somebody must
have entered by the window–”
“But the fastenings have not been tampered with,” said the Earl.
“It must have been while you were dining, my Lady,” said the housekeeper.
“That was it, said the Earl. “The thief must have seen you bring the
flowers,” turning to me, “and have noticed that you did not take them
away. And he must have known their great value–they are simply
priceless!” he exclaimed, in sudden excitement.
“And you never told us how you got them!” said Lady Muriel.
“Some day,” I stammered, “I may be free to tell you. Just now, would
you excuse me?”
The Earl looked disappointed, but kindly said “Very well, we will ask
[Image…Five o’clock tea]
“But we consider you a very bad Queen’s Evidence,” Lady Muriel
added playfully, as we entered the arbour. “We pronounce you to be an
accomplice: and we sentence you to solitary confinement, and to be fed
on bread and butter. Do you take sugar?”
“It is disquieting, certainly,” she resumed, when all ‘creature-comforts’
had been duly supplied, “to find that the house has been entered by a
thief in this out-of-the-way place. If only the flowers had been eatables,
one might have suspected a thief of quite another shape–”
“You mean that universal explanation for all mysterious disappearances,
‘the cat did it’?” said Arthur.
“Yes,” she replied. “What a convenient thing it would be if all
thieves had the same shape! It’s so confusing to have some of them
quadrupeds and others bipeds!”
“It has occurred to me,” said Arthur, “as a curious problem in Teleology–
the Science of Final Causes,” he added, in answer to an enquiring look
from Lady Muriel.
“And a Final Cause is–?”
“Well, suppose we say–the last of a series of connected events–each
of the series being the cause of the next–for whose sake the first
event takes place.”
“But the last event is practically an effect of the first, isn’t it?
And yet you call it a cause of it!”
Arthur pondered a moment. “The words are rather confusing, I grant
you,” he said. “Will this do? The last event is an effect of the
first: but the necessity for that event is a cause of the necessity for
“That seems clear enough,” said Lady Muriel. “Now let us have the
“It’s merely this. What object can we imagine in the arrangement by
which each different size (roughly speaking) of living creatures has
its special shape? For instance, the human race has one kind of
shape–bipeds. Another set, ranging from the lion to the mouse,
are quadrupeds. Go down a step or two further, and you come to insects
with six legs–hexapods–a beautiful name, is it not? But beauty, in
our sense of the word, seems to diminish as we go down: the creature
becomes more–I won’t say ‘ugly’ of any of God’s creatures–more uncouth.
And, when we take the microscope, and go a few steps lower still,
we come upon animalculae, terribly uncouth, and with a terrible
number of legs!”
“The other alternative,” said the Earl, “would be a diminuendo series
of repetitions of the same type. Never mind the monotony of it: let’s
see how it would work in other ways. Begin with the race of men, and
the creatures they require: let us say horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs
we don’t exactly require frogs and spiders, do we, Muriel?”
Lady Muriel shuddered perceptibly: it was evidently a painful subject.
“We can dispense with them,” she said gravely.
“Well, then we’ll have a second race of men, half-a-yard high–”
“–who would have one source of exquisite enjoyment, not possessed by
ordinary men!” Arthur interrupted.
“What source?” said the Earl.
“Why, the grandeur of scenery! Surely the grandeur of a mountain, to me,
depends on its size, relative to me? Double the height of the mountain,
and of course it’s twice as grand. Halve my height, and you produce the