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Chapter XVI 


What a sane man should be doing carrying about with him a woman's petticoat and silk stockings, may well be a puzzle to the most intelligent reader.

Whim, sir, whim! and few human actions admit of more satisfactory solution. Like Shylock, I'll say "It is my humour." But no! I'll be more explanatory. This madcap quest of mine, was it not understood between us from the beginning to be a fantastic whim, a poetical wild-goose chase, conceived entirely as an excuse for being some time in each other's company? To be whimsical, therefore, in pursuit of a whim, fanciful in the chase of a fancy, is surely but to maintain the spirit of the game. Now, for the purpose, therefore, of a romance that makes no pretence to reasonableness, I had very good reasons for buying that petticoat, which (the reasons, not the petticoat) I will now lay before you.

I have been conscious all the way along through this pilgrimage of its inevitable vagueness of direction, of my need of something definite, some place, some name, anything at all, however slight, which I might associate, if only for a time, with the object of my quest, a definite something to seek, a definite goal for my feet.

Now, when I saw that mysterious petticoat, and realised that its wearer would probably be pretty and young and generally charming, and that probably her name was somewhere on the waistband, the spirit of whim rejoiced within me. "Why not," it said, "buy the petticoat, find out the name of its owner, and, instead of seeking a vague Golden Girl, make up your mind doggedly to find and marry her, or, failing that, carry the petticoat with you, as a sort of Cinderella's slipper, try it on any girl you happen to fancy, and marry her it exactly fits?"

Now, I confess, that seemed to me quite a pretty idea, and I hope the reader will think so too. If not, I'm afraid I can offer him no better explanation; and in fact I am all impatience to open my knapsack, and inform myself of the name of her to the discovery of whom my wanderings are henceforth to be devoted.

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