Beasts and Super-Beasts
BASSET HARROWCLUFF returned to the home of his fathers, after an absence of four
years, distinctly well pleased with himself. He was only thirty-one, but he had put in
some useful service in an out-of-the-way, though not unimportant, corner of the world.
He had quieted a province, kept open a trade route, enforced the tradition of respect
which is worth the ransom of many kings in out-of-the-way regions, and done the whole
business on rather less expenditure than would be requisite for organising a charity in the
home country. In Whitehall and places where they think, they doubtless thought well of
him. It was not inconceivable, his father allowed himself to imagine, that Basset's name
might figure in the next list of Honours.
Basset was inclined to be rather contemptuous of his half-brother, Lucas, whom he found
feverishly engrossed in the same medley of elaborate futilities that had claimed his whole
time and energies, such as they were, four years ago, and almost as far back before that as
he could remember. It was the contempt of the man of action for the man of activities,
and it was probably reciprocated. Lucas was an over-well nourished individual, some
nine years Basset's senior, with a colouring that would have been accepted as a sign of
intensive culture in an asparagus, but probably meant in this case mere abstention from
exercise. His hair and forehead furnished a recessional note in a personality that was in
all other respects obtrusive and assertive. There was certainly no Semitic blood in Lucas's
parentage, but his appearance contrived to convey at least a suggestion of Jewish
extraction. Clovis Sangrail, who knew most of his associates by sight, said it was
undoubtedly a case of protective mimicry.
Two days after Basset's return, Lucas frisked in to lunch in a state of twittering
excitement that could not be restrained even for the immediate consideration of soup, but
had to be verbally discharged in spluttering competition with mouthfuls of vermicelli.
"I've got hold of an idea for something immense," he babbled, "something that is simply
Basset gave a short laugh that would have done equally well as a snort, if one had wanted
to make the exchange. His half-brother was in the habit of discovering futilities that were
"simply It" at frequently recurring intervals. The discovery generally meant that he flew
up to town, preceded by glowingly- worded telegrams, to see some one connected with
the stage or the publishing world, got together one or two momentous luncheon parties,
flitted in and out of "Gambrinus" for one or two evenings, and returned home with an air
of subdued importance and the asparagus tint slightly intensified. The great idea was
generally forgotten a few weeks later in the excitement of some new discovery.