IN his early boyhood Soames had been given to the circus. He had outgrown it; 'Circuses' were now to him little short of an abomination. Jubilees and Pageants, that recurrent decimal, the Lord Mayor's show, Earl's Court, Olympia, Wembley--he disliked all. He could not stand a lot of people with their mouths open. Dressing up was to him a symptom of weak-mindedness, and the collective excitement of a crowd an extravagance which offended his reticent individualism. Though not deeply versed in history, he had an idea, too, that nations who went in for 'circuses' were decadent. Queen Victoria's funeral, indeed, had impressed him --there had been a feeling in the air that day; but ever since, things had gone from bad to worse. They made everything into a 'circus' now; A man couldn't commit a murder without the whole paper-reading population--himself included--looking over each other's shoulders; and as to these football-matches, and rodeos--they interfered with the traffic and the normal course of conversation; people were so crazy about them!
Of course, 'circuses' had their use. They kept the people quiet. Violence by proxy, for instance, was obviously a political principle of some value. It was difficult to gape at the shedding of blood and shed it at the same time; the more people stood in rows to see others being hurt, the less trouble would they take to hurt others, and the sounder Soames could sleep by night. Still, sensation- hunting had become a disease, in his opinion, and no one was being inoculated for it, so far as he could see!
As the weeks went on and the cases before it in the List went off, the 'circus' they were proposing to make of his daughter appeared to him more and more monstrous. He had an instinctive distrust of Scotchmen--they called themselves Scotsmen nowadays, as if it helped their character!--they never let go, and he could not approve in other people a quality native to himself. Besides, 'Scotchmen' were so--so exuberant--always either dour