**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Question Of Light
by [?]

“They’re not necessary.”

“But they’re much more fun. Perhaps they’ll have some old ones of Vesuvius you can work in. Well, good-bye.” And she drifted out.

I went on thinking.

“No,” I said to myself, “I’m on the wrong tack.” So I began again:–


Lecture delivered before the Blanktown Literary and Philosophical Society, Tuesday, December 8th.

My Lord Mayor, my Lords–“

“I don’t want to interrupt,” said Celia coming in suddenly, “but–oh, what’s a pot-hole?”

“A curious underground cavern sometimes found in the North.”

“Aren’t caverns always underground? But you’re busy. Will you be in for lunch?”

“I shall be writing my lecture all day,” I said busily.

At lunch I decided to have a little financial talk with Celia.

“What I feel is this,” I said. “At most I can ask ten guineas for my lecture. Now my expense all the way to the North, with a night at an hotel, will be at least five pounds.”

“Five-pounds-ten profit,” said Celia. “Not bad.”

“Ah, but wait. I have never spoken in public before. In an immense hall, whose acoustics–“

“Who are they?”

“Well, never mind. What I mean is that I shall want some elocution lessons. Say five, at a guinea each.”

“That still leaves five shillings.”

“If only it left that, it might be worth it. But there’s a new white waistcoat. An audience soon gets tired of a lecture, and then there’s nothing for the wakeful ones to concentrate on but the white waistcoat of the lecturer. It must be of a virgin whiteness. Say thirty-five shillings. So I lose thirty shillings by it. Can I afford so much?”

“But you gain the acoustics and the waistcoat.”

“True. Of course, if you insist–“

“Oh, you must,” said Celia.

So I returned to the library. By tea-time I had got as far as this:–


Lecture delivered before the Blanktown Literary and Philo–“

And then I had an idea. This time a brilliant one.

“Celia,” I said at tea, “I have been wondering whether I ought to take advantage of your generosity.”

“What generosity?”

“In letting me deliver this lecture.”

“It isn’t generosity, it’s swank. I want to be able to tell everybody.”

“Ah, but the sacrifices you are making.”

“Am I?” said Celia, with interest.

“Of course you are. Consider. I ask a fee of ten guineas. They cannot possibly charge more than a shilling a head to listen to me. It would be robbery. So that if there is to be a profit at all, as presumably they anticipate, I shall have a gate of at least two hundred and fifty.”

“I should hope so.”

“Two hundred and fifty. And what does that mean? It means that at seven-thirty o’clock on the night of December the 8th two hundred and fifty residents of Blanktown will turn out the electric lights in their drawing-rooms … PERHAPS EVEN IN THEIR HALLS … and proceed to the lecture-room. True, the lecture-room will be lit up–a small compensation–but not for long. When the slides of Vesuvius are thrown upon the screen–“

Celia was going pale.

“But if it’s not you,” she faltered, “it will be somebody else.”

“No; if I refuse, it will be too late then to get a substitute. Besides, they must have tried everybody else before they got down to me… Celia it is noble of you to sacrifice–“

“Don’t go!” she cried in anguish.

I gave a deep sigh.

“For your sake,” I said, “I won’t.”

So that settles it. If my lecture on “First Principles in Homoeopathy” is ever to be delivered, it must be delivered elsewhere.