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Zuleika Dobson, or, an Oxford love story

Produced by Judy Boss

ZULEIKA DOBSON

or, AN OXFORD LOVE STORY

By Max Beerbohm

NOTE to the 1922 edition

I was in Italy when this book was first published. A year later (1912) I visited London, and I found that most of my friends and acquaintances spoke to me of Zu-like-a--a name which I hardly recognised and thoroughly disapproved. I had always thought of the lady as Zu-leek-a. Surely it was thus that Joseph thought of his Wife, and Selim of his Bride? And I do hope that it is thus that any reader of these pages will think of Miss Dobson.

M.B. Rapallo, 1922.

ILLI ALMAE MATRI

ZULEIKA DOBSON

I

That old bell, presage of a train, had just sounded through Oxford station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures in tweed or flannel, moved to the margin of the platform and gazed idly up the line. Young and careless, in the glow of the afternoon sunshine, they struck a sharp note of incongruity with the worn boards they stood on, with the fading signals and grey eternal walls of that antique station, which, familiar to them and insignificant, does yet whisper to the tourist the last enchantments of the Middle Age.

At the door of the first-class waiting-room, aloof and venerable, stood the Warden of Judas. An ebon pillar of tradition seemed he, in his garb of old-fashioned cleric. Aloft, between the wide brim of his silk hat and the white extent of his shirt-front, appeared those eyes which hawks, that nose which eagles, had often envied. He supported his years on an ebon stick. He alone was worthy of the background.

Came a whistle from the distance. The breast of an engine was descried, and a long train curving after it, under a flight of smoke. It grew and grew. Louder and louder, its noise foreran it. It became a furious, enormous monster, and, with an instinct for safety, all men receded from the platform's margin. (Yet came there with it, unknown to them, a danger far more terrible than itself.) Into the station it came blustering, with cloud and clangour. Ere it had yet stopped, the door of one carriage flew open, and from it, in a white travelling dress, in a toque a-twinkle with fine diamonds, a lithe and radiant creature slipped nimbly down to the platform.

A cynosure indeed! A hundred eyes were fixed on her, and half as many hearts lost to her. The Warden of Judas himself had mounted on his nose a pair of black-rimmed glasses. Him espying, the nymph darted in his direction. The throng made way for her. She was at his side.

"Grandpapa!" she cried, and kissed the old man on either cheek. (Not a youth there but would have bartered fifty years of his future for that salute.)


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