(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Mr. Bracknel, an Irish businessman, was disgusted with his family, for he felt that they all tried to oppose his wishes merely for the sake of displeasing him. The members of his family felt, however, that he was unduly tyrannical. Alfred Bracknel, the oldest child, had a place in his father’s business, but he paid little attention to his work. Instead, he preferred to spend his time and thought on gambling, drinking, and women, much to his father’s disgust. Seventeen-year-old Denis, the youngest child, displeased his father with his interest in everything mystical. Mr. Bracknel prided himself upon being a very practical person.

May, the oldest daughter, gave her father the least trouble, but Amy, a very sensual girl, constantly fell in love with undesirable young men whom her father had to discourage. Mrs. Bracknel annoyed her husband because she was sickly. Although only forty-six years old, she seemed much older, while her husband was still a lusty man.

The entire family thought that Denis was a little mad because of his interest in the occult. He had been sent away to school in England. After his career there had ended in failure, a series of tutors had not been able to cope with him. At last, a physician who specialized in mental cases recommended to Mr. Bracknel that he hire Hubert Rusk, a young Englishman, as a tutor for the boy. The doctor knew Rusk and felt that he could depend on the young man to be careful of the boy’s mental condition.

The girls in the family, particularly Amy, looked forward to the arrival of the young tutor, for their father tried to keep them from social contacts with young men. Even before his arrival, Amy expressed a real interest in Hubert Rusk.

Rusk, a deferential and easygoing man, made himself quickly at home with the Bracknels, all of whom seemed anxious to have him as a confidant. Upon his arrival, he found that Denis had a wide knowledge of occult subjects but knew virtually nothing in other fields. He also found that his charge was an extremely odd young man who had been driven inward by the failure of the family to understand him.

On his first night at the Bracknel home, Rusk observed that Denis went out for a walk late at night. Later, he discovered that Denis, obsessed with moon worship, had discovered an ancient pagan altar in a wood near the house. At the ancient altar, Denis performed ceremonies in honor of the moon, including the sacrifice on occasion of small animals.

Before long, the two daughters of the house became rivals for Rusk’s attentions. Amy, the more sensual of the two, intimidated her sister into letting her have what attentions the oblivious tutor gave. He, on his part, was unaware of the attraction he had for the girls, except that he did not like to have Amy constantly interrupting the lessons he was giving her younger brother. ..FT.-During Rusk’s stay with the Bracknels, Alfred gave his father a great deal of...

(The entire section is 1210 words.)