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The Eternal Moment
by [?]

"Here is the Custom House," said Colonel Leyland, changing the subject.

They had come to the land of Ach and Ja. Miss Raby sighed; for she loved the Latins, as every one must who is not pressed for time. But Colonel Leyland, a military man, respected Teutonia.

"They still talk Italian for seven miles," she said, comforting herself like a child.

"German is the coming language," answered Colonel Leyland. "All the important books on any subject are written in it. "

"But all the books on any important subject are written in Italian. Elizabeth—tell me an important subject. "

"Human nature, ma’am," said the maid, half shy, half impertinent.

" Elizabeth is a novelist, like her mistress," said Colonel Leyland. He turned away to look at the scenery, for he did not like being entangled in a mixed conversation. He noted that the farms were more prosperous, that begging had stopped, that the women were uglier and the men more rotund, that more nourishing food was being eaten outside the wayside inns.

"Colonel Leyland, shall we go to the Grand Hôtel des Alpes, to the Hôtel de Londres, to the Pension Liebig, to the Pension Atherley-Simon, to the Pension Belle Vue, to the Pension Old England, or to the Albergo Biscione?"

"I suppose you would prefer the Biscione. "

"I really shouldn’t mind the Grand Hôtel des Alpes. The Biscione people own both, I hear. They have become quite rich. "

"You should have a splendid reception—if such people know what gratitude is. "

For Miss Raby’s novel, The Eternal Moment, which had made her reputation, had also made the reputation of Vorta.

"Oh, I was properly thanked. Signor Cantù wrote to me about three years after I had published. The letter struck me as a little pathetic, though it was very prosperous: I don’t like transfiguring people’s lives. I wonder whether they live in their old house or in the new one. "

Colonel Leyland had come to Vorta to be with Miss Raby; but he was very willing that they should be in different hotels. She, indifferent to such subtleties, saw no reason why they should not stop under the same roof, just as she could not see why they should not travel in the same carriage. On the other hand, she hated anything smart. He had decided on the Grand Hôtel des Alpes, and she was drifting towards the Biscione, when the tiresome Elizabeth said "My friend’s lady is staying at the Alpes. "

"Oh! if Elizabeth’s friend is there that settles it: we’ll all go. "

"Very well’m," said Elizabeth, studiously avoiding even the appearance of gratitude. Colonel Leyland’s face grew severe over the want of discipline.

"You spoil her," he murmured, when they had all descended to walk up a hill.

"There speaks the military man. "

"Certainly I have had too much to do with Tommies to enter into what you call ‘human relations.’ A little sentimentality, and the whole army would go to pieces. "

"I know; but the whole world isn’t an army. So why should I pretend I’m an officer. You remind me of my Anglo-Indian friends, who were so shocked when I would be pleasant to some natives. They proved, quite conclusively, that it would never do for them, and have never seen that the proof didn’t apply. The unlucky people here are always trying to lead the lucky; and it must be stopped. You’ve been unlucky: all your life you’ve had to command men, and exact prompt obedience and other unprofitable virtues. I’m lucky: I needn’t do the same—and I won’t. "

"Don’t then," he said smiling. "But take care that the world isn’t an army after all. And take care, besides, that you aren’t being unjust to the unlucky people: we’re fairly kind to your beloved lower orders, for instance. "