Published in Scribner's Magazine, December 1902
(First read 28/07/2014)
Either you like stories of romance set in the supremely idle world of Edwardian England ... or you don't. If you do, you'll love this.
Jack, Dick, and Margery have been friends, relatives and neighbours since childhood; they're now aged 22, 22 and 20 respectively. They call themselves 'The Alliance of Laughter' because their whole life has just been one long succession of games (golf, pea-rifles*, etc.)
'Somewhat unusual', did you say? ~ pfffftt! Through 2014 eyes the three of them are practically circus-freaks, so immature and virginal are they. Anyway, we shouldn't judge a story written 112 years ago by today's standards. (No, we shouldn't.) So the inevitable happens: both chaps fall in love with Margery at the same time and agree that no matter what happens, no matter which one of them she chooses, nothing will get in the way of their friendship. And lo! it comes to pass.Thus from the days of school where the boys had been together first at Eton, then at Sandhurst, returning for the holidays to find Margery waiting eagerly for the games and laughter which filled the days, the three had grown up equals in age, and comrades together without a break. Till then, at any rate, all had retained to a somewhat unusual extent the absolute insouciance of childhood, taking each day exactly as it came, utterly ignorant of the deeper and tenderer needs which come soon or late to all men and women.
Benson later recycled this story ~ large parts of it word for word ~ in the 'May' section of The Book of Months (1903), where, beefed up and back-filled somewhat, and with a tragic sequel tacked on, it doesn't seem quite so silly.
You can read it online here.
*Whatever that is.