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The Master-Girl

The Master-Girl
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Title: The Master-Girl
Release Date: 2019-03-09
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE MASTER-GIRL

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

MEMOIRS OF A PERSON OF QUALITY
AS IT HAPPENED
AN OLD SCORE
THE MISTAKES OF MISS MANISTY

pic

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

THE
MASTER-GIRL

BY

ASHTON HILLIERS

WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY
ARTHUR H. BUCKLAND

SECOND EDITION

METHUEN & CO, LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
LONDON

First Published      April 28th 1910

Second Edition            1910

TO MY CAVE MOTHER

Quarried from world-old gloom,
Yellow, brittle and dry,
Here, in our Science-Room,
Locked under glass they lie;
Bone to its bone brought nigh,
Bare to general view,
Bones that of yore were—you!
And, bone of your bone am I!
Nature her course has changed,
The sea-worm's lair is dry,
Your moon aloof, estranged,
Stares from an alien sky,
Levelled are low and high,
Mountains have rumbled down,
Here is a gas-lit town,
But bone of your bone am I.
Lords of the wild who reigned
By fear of fang and eye,
Antlered, tusked and maned,
Under the ooze they lie.
Mute is their hunting cry,
Their forests fall'n and gone,
Yet, the Soul that was you lives on,
And, bone of your bone am I.
Bend from your cavern-crypt,
Mother, a kindling eye,
Breathe thro' my manuscript
Strength of a day long by;
Colour, vitality,
Passion and laughter give!
Till the story's dry bones live,
For—bone of your bone am I!

A.H.

CONTENTS

Prologue 1
I. Love at First Sight 17
II. A Housekeeping 33
III. The Ghost-Bear 64
IV. Hard Need Mother of Invention 81
V. The Testing of the New Thing 110
VI. Renunciations 151
VII. Short, somewhat Dry, but Important 162
VIII. The Flitting, and the Forerunner 169
IX. The Home-coming 200
X. The Spear-Throwing 218
XI. The Passing of the Master-Girl 270
Epilogue 293

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Love at First Sight Frontispiece
The Ghost-Bear
Salving the Ghost-Bear's Skin
He threw short with a Gasp
Stale-mate
Pursued
The Forerunner
Drew Swiftly, and as Swiftly Loosed

[Pg 1]

THE MASTER-GIRL

PROLOGUE

He had come gently and observantly up the glen, tapping here andscratching there as he climbed, and ever and anon straightening anelderly back to deliver a small cough. Also at intervals he would turnhis face to the way by which he had come to rest the plantar musclesand study the lie of the land.

Chance-led he came and unadventurously, as one might say, and with nomore premonition of impending change, or of this being a White Dayin his life than had you, yourself, dear reader, when you left yourbreakfast-table this morning.

He was a little person in the clerical wideawake and dark tweeds ofa don in vacation,[Pg 2] elderly and grey, with heavy, lower-middle-classfeatures refined by expression as a sunset refines a dull street.

Something about the rounded shoulders and narrow chest bespoke thebookish man, the "scholar's slope," they used to call it. His handswere large and broad at the finger-tips, such must have done manuallabour in their time, pick-and-shovel work, possibly. At the momentof his walking into this story they were—I will not say dirty, butredolent of the soil, for as he went he would still be fumbling in aroomy wallet which pulled down his shoulder, and be taking therefromfor close and loving inspection this or that shapeless fragment ofstone which he would presently return to the society of its fellows.

"It never came here by accident—there is no such thing," he murmured,conversing with himself, thought discussing matters with thought,as do the thoughts of those of us who live the single life, orcherish[Pg 3] interests which are unshared by those with whom we cohabit."We have no example from this level," he went on, turning in handa something small and angular which he had picked up a few yardsdown the slope, a fragment of grey chert it was. "Three conchoidalfractures are sufficient, when associated with such patination. Hereare—six—eight minor flaws in these cutting edges, apart from thecross-fracture—(patinated too). Yes, undoubtedly a used-up flake. Andthe thing hasn't travelled half-a-mile from home.... Where's the floor?"

"And, to think," he went on, "that such evidence would be lost—wastedupon that young doctor-fellow. It is almost incredible, the crassignorance of our so-called scientific men.... Tried to interest him ...no use.... 'Out here to climb,' he says!... And with lovely things likethese under his feet.... Amazing!"

In fact, the professor exhibited the impatience which the man of oneidea feels[Pg 4] for the man of another, and had even the personal repulsionwhich a man with the Oxford manner experiences for one who begins allhis sentences with "M'yess!"

From which disjointed self-communings the reader will have alreadydeduced that the professor was an ethnologist, one of that small bandof heroes who during the past hundred years have quietly dug out andfitted together the buried past of the human race, pelted all the whileby Ignorance and Bigotry as they delved.

The little grey professor had come in for his share of pelting: notvery recently, for his science has won her right to exist and speakher mind. Dogma, which would have burned the ethnologist some timeback, and more recently did her best to starve him, has of latelifted the boycott. He is now merely glanced at with a pitying shrugand passed over when anything good is going, as "Eminent in his ownline, but—peculiar," and forthwith, the good thing goes[Pg 5] to a safeman, someone who never did anything, nor ever will. This is Dogma'sway of coming round. The sons of the men who pelted us will build oursepulchres, never fear, whilst themselves making a cock-shy of someother poor devil whom their sons will canonise in turn: for the bigots,and the poor, ye have always with you.

So it had come to pass that the professor by dint of giving tofossil-grubbing the forty-five years of life which he might have givento money-grubbing, and spending upon the collection and verificationof tiny fragments of unpopular evidence the time which he might havespent more profitably in the delivery of sermons in St Mary's, whichwould have delighted the stupid by the "safety" of what they didn'tsee the bottom of, and amused the clever by the preacher's address inskating upon cat-ice, had come to know as much as was known about theMagdalanian Period.

[Pg 6]

Others worked at River-drift, Thames gravels and the terraces north ofAmiens: and other some questioned the Plateaux deposits for eolithsand got but uncertain answers, as to which our professor reserved hisjudgment, unconvinced, but not wishing to be found sitting in the seatof the scornful at the Last Day. Neoliths he pretended to know nothingabout whilst knowing everything that had been written. It was the menof the Madelaine Cave, the giant hunters of Mentone and their artistfellows to whom he had given his life.

Now some studies can be pursued by the fireside, the mathematics ofa boomerang, for instance, or why a breakfast egg, if you set itspinning vigorously upon its side, will presently arise and spin uponits end. For the collation of Syriac gospels the neighbourhood of theBodleian is as good a neighbourhood as any, but our professor, whosefireside was within a stone's-throw[Pg 7] of the Bodleian, cared for neithermathematics nor codices, and as regards his own particular study hadlong since known that to prosecute it as it should be prosecutedentailed days and weeks in clammy dark caverns long miles fromanywhere, and subsequent months put in with a series of little sievesand acids and gelatine and what not, cleaning-out and piecing togetherthe uncleanly little bits of brittle rubbish which eventually wouldconstitute a New Fact and take a place in the growing chain of evidence.

"To anybody capable of weighing testimony," muttered the professor,"this flake, which can only have been brought eighty miles up-streamby human agency, is as good evidence of Early Man at this end of thevalley as if I had projected myself back a thousand centuries and seenthe fellow break his tool and drop it."

He was somewhat out of breath with his climb, moreover the going wasnone of the[Pg 8] best; there was no path, and the slope was clothed witha tall growth of flowering weeds, mountain coltsfoot, and the greatpurple gentian, dogwood, juniper and aconite. He replaced his hatafter wiping his forehead, and, turning, parted the brush to findhimself faced by a low bluff, an outcrop of the underlying bedrock,jutting through the rough slope of débris into which the at-one-timeprecipitous sides of the glen had broken down. The bluff bore aludicrous resemblance to the countenance of some ancient person asleepand half buried in bedclothes; there aloft was a massive nose andreceding rocky forehead, nearer an upper lip overhung a transversefissure, an open mouth, nearly filled with a tongue of soapy-lookingbrown stalagmite resting upon a lower jaw of the same material hiddenby a growth of Martagon lilies. The professor, unaware of what Fate hadin store for him, and, to tell the truth, expecting nothing out of theway, for a man[Pg 9] of his years and experiences is past being sanguine,peered through the lush greenery and saw beneath the edge of that lowerlip a jumble of small broken stone loosely cemented like ill-compactedconcrete into which water has percolated (which was precisely what thematerial was and what had befallen it).

And, peering thus, a Something caught the professor's eye. Now theThing, whatever it might turn out to be, could not fly away, nor wasits finder a callow novice that he should howk out his trove at sightand, maybe, destroy evidence in so doing, so he made himself a mentalrough sketch of its surroundings before disturbing them.

"A lot of weathering just here," he muttered. "Glen half filled-upsince the watershed was cut back and the stream diverted. This wasa cliff once upon a time, and this was a cave. Roof fallen in andcemented down to an ancient stalagmite [Pg 10]floor ... breccia beneath with,apparently, a layer of charcoal in it.... If you please!" this to thelilies; they did please, or at least made way for him; he was downupon his elderly knees in the moist dirt breaking away the perishedflooring of the old cave with his hammer; interested, of course, forthe case was exactly in his line, but still without enthusiasm, when(see how our best things approach us unsought) the man made his greatfind, the chance of his lifetime came to him, such a trove as he hadceased to expect, for, despite many long vacations and snatched Eastersspent in patient and systematic grubbing, the man had not been oneof the successful cave explorers. But this was his day; a plate ofstalagmite came away, and the disintegrated breccia beneath it gave tohis cautious and practised handling, and lo, he drew forth the wholeand perfect shoulder-blade of a Cave Bear, the mighty Ursus spelæushimself, glazed all over back and front with a transparent film ofcarbonate of lime.

[Pg 11]

The relic bore abundant marks of the chert knife, a shard of whichwas cemented down to it; but, what raised its

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